please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Monday, November 26, 2007

Family Tradition

Here's a nice juxtaposition I found on some website associated with the University of Istanbul, I guess. Personally, I don't really see much resemblance, but the image itself I find calming, somehow.
Ozzy and Cher came up in the same phase of popular music history, of course, but that's pretty much where the similarities end.

Or do they? I mean, neither of them have struck me as being the swiftest barrel in the shed, if you will. Whenever La Cher tried to make a Really Profound Comment about something, she ended up sounding like...Well, like someone who wasn't entirely in control of their own reasoning, and had no editing process. In short, like Ozzy.

The written work of John "Ozzy" Osbourne stretches back to the year o' my birth (although he claims to be celebrating his fortieth year of performing, as of 2007), and is overloaded with things that, in the hands of other writers, would be weirdly clumsy metaphors. In Ozzy's hands, I'm pretty sure one may assume he means these metaphorical-sounding things one hundred per cent.

I mean, he begins his career as any number of people did in those days: a vaguely Jesus-y hippie who has already smoked wayyy too much pot. He believes war to be Bad, but in Ozzy's case there's another wrinkle: Nuclear warfare is directly attributable to Satan.
Oh, okay. Well, nothing really wrong with that, as such. It would take only the most doctrinaire anti-war activist to say that that sort of thing is exactly what the military-industrial complex wants your stoned ass to believe, sure.
The fact that Mr. Osbourne began his career by unleashing no less than three songs (!) on this subject, spread out over three albums, is pretty fucking incredible. The song "After Forever" from Masters of Reality (1971), is nothing short of a wholesale defense of religion, albeit delivered by a deeply stupid man.

By the time we get to Black Sabbath's Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath (1973), he is far less concerned with the pernicious influence of Satan, and has decided that God is actually some sort of celestial Big Brother figure that is deeply insecure and likely to lash out at humanity in general for no particular reason. Other People are no less to blame, though, and this forms the backbone (along with the importance of smoking marijuana, and astral projection) of his entire catalogue, to say nothing of most heavy metal bands that followed in their path.

Debut albums are often the greatest albums of them all; the young, snotty and unafraid band comes charging out of the gates. Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath: all of them had great first albums marred only by the open stupidity of their lead singers.
Black Sabbath's Black Sabbath (1970; featuring the song "Black Sabbath", I needn't remind you) wasn't just the young, angry statement of your average freshmen; it changed the game. All doomy minor chords and abuse of the low E string, it was brutal, and had no kind words for humanity at all. Psychedelic rock was dead, Death Rock was born, and O what things it would later birth.

Along the way, the music just kept getting better and better (or if not always better, certainly more experimental), and Ozzy just kept on delivering these odd little statements that he knew, deep down, he had an audience for. Kept on telling the kids to smoke pot and not give a shit what other people thought, to forsake evil...Though exactly what that was kept changing. An overwhelming picture of an aging adolescent was emerging, with no idea of what to do.
His audience was right with him on that one, too. They too had been promised better things, or had promised themselves better things, and instead, all they had were empty anthems about being Oneself, above all else. Hm.
And Ozzy just kept on getting more and more fucked up, and finally, in 1979, he left Sabbath for good.

It is a matter of myth that he bit the head off a bat. Versions of this story range from him picking the thing up from the stage, thinking it to be made of rubber, and finding out way too late that it wasn't, to the entire event being a fabrication (I mean, who brings a bat to a concert?). It is a matter of history, however, that at the first meeting between a newly solo Ozzy and his overlords at RCA records, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a dove, which he then bit the head off of. Who brings a dove to a meeting?
So, his career off to a fast start, he changes the game again. And again, the innovation lies in the music, not the lyrics. Randy Rhoads, late of the as-yet-unknown L.A. band Quiet Riot, had a guitar vocabulary that ranged from beautifully intricate classical (check the song "Dee" on Blizzard of Ozz) to beyond-Hendrix constructions that just didn't seem possible. All this being done in the rock idiom, and sure to be accepted by the already-loving masses, not feared as a new thing.
Because of his contributions, I rate Diary of A Madman amongst those that belong on the Periodic Table of My Favorite Albums. And he was done in by an idiot pilot who felt the need to offer both Randy and the hairdresser on that tour a ride in his plane, which then was buzzing the tour bus, and crashed into it, killing all aboard (the plane, that is). Mr. Rhoads is now in that pantheon of Dead Stars and Oh, What Ifs, while I've always felt it was sort of wrong that no one ever mentions the hairdresser's name.

So, at this late stage in the game, Ozzy has potent tradition and sentimentality on his side. He has tribute bands, one of which is captained by a co-worker of mine, and an audience that doesn't exactly seem to be getting younger, but at the same time, the Ozz Fests (tm) of the last fifteen years have featured enough bands that young people actually wanted to see that Ozzy may never fall from notice.
He did the last one free of charge, mind you, so rich is he. I mean, he paid the people who worked for him, but if you wanted a ticket, you walked right on in.

And more importantly, do you remember the old days when parents were scared of this goof? That this Oz-zy was going to be the thing that finally made kids bite off their parents' heads and go attempt astral projection somewhere together, whilst smoking tons of The Pot?
(Quick story: the year is 1985, and I'm watching the Ozzy/Motley Crue show at the Memorial Coliseum. The guys next to me are smoking weed out of a small brass pipe, and are hardly the only ones doing so. Security personnel materializes out of seemingly nowhere, and asks the guys, "Hey! Is that marijuana?", which causes the one holding the pipe to pause thoughtfully before finally saying, "No." The security guy says, "Okay!" and leaves. The guys next to me shrug their shoulders and continue smoking.)
But in the wake of all that has transpired in popular culture and the world since the early Eighties, Ozzy is a particularly sweet trip down memory lane for many. People like the pot smokers in the above story have long since had kids of their own, and they bring them to the show now. It's a piece of living rock history: something that draws families together.

It's all that Arena Rock shit I thought was totally dead, too: endless, masturbatory guitar solos and flashpots. I was talking to Ozzy's pyrotechnics guy when they were here the other night . He said that he'd joined this rolling fun show in 1994. First thing I did was check the hands: he still had all his fingers.
Zakk Wylde, the guitarist (you sir, are no Randy Rhoads. You're not even Jake E. Lee!), dedicated a signed guitar pick to a shrine of sorts to a co-worker of mine who died earlier this year, and Ozzy stopped and genuflected at the damn thing, too. There was a large group of people who had paid over a thousand dollars a head to get backstage, being led around by some fish from the local classic rock station. They seemed lost, still holding their autographed portraits, and kept stopping in a big, ugly flock.

The demographic makeup of the group was equally Under Fifteen and Over Forty. They had spent their Hard Earned to be led around what amounts to a Very Large Garage by some flunkies who barely gave a shit, utterly missing the Rob Zombie show (which was quite good). They had spent this money to meet a man who no longer remembers his lyrics so well, but has plenty of people in the audience who do, and often falls back on the whole "EVERY-BODY! LOUD-AHHH!!!" thing.
They came to see this man that has been so many things, ultimately ending up as this sort of Carol Channing of heavy metal: his diction, while singing, genuinely resembles hers for one, and also the same question gets asked about both of them..."People really like him/her, but why, exactly?"

Well, he's one of us. This is the first show I can remember where most stagehands made it a point to actually watch the show. Ozzy isn't a former stagehand (unlike Lemmy from Motorhead), but he's still very much like lots of people you know, at least partially because there was an Ozzy for them to try to be like, in the first place.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Young Bachelor and the Tarp

Aw man. Nothin' ever goes right for me. Lately, the damage has been manifold. To wit:

My lapped-top computer box had parasites, causing me and mine to be unable to do much of anything internetted, over the last several weeks. My praise, as always, to the good folks at Fix My Dead PC.

Then, my phone stopped doing what it ought. It kept on making the noise it made when it was about to power down. This, even when it had plenty of juice and was in a place with decent coverage. It just lost the will to live.
The man at the Cingular store (well, a pasty, acne-d boy: let's be fair) sadly noted that though I had the most reliable of all LG phones (why had I not heard of this company until a year ago? I'm askin'), they had been phased out by the company, and could not possibly be replaced.
This is untrue. I got another one just like it, but run by my old employers, AT&T. When I worked there, they were AT&T, and shortly before they were to be purchased by Cingular, they went on a hiring spree. Now, lo these three years later, no one trusts Cingular at all, and they've decided to break out that old Death Star logo that everybody trusts so much; that of AT&T Wireless.

Then the brakes on my brand new truck decided to start squealing at me. This is odd, since supposedly those nice people at the used car dealership I bought The Squeezle from claimed to have just redone the brakes right before I bought it.
This was untrue. But now they work, and all I gotta do is deal with the leakin' tranny. This brings us to my knee.

My knee was injured the other night, getting rid of the Disney On Ice (or, 'Mice On Ice') tour. Dig, if you will, the picture: About 150 stagehands are wandering around, carrying heavy/expensive things...On Ice. There is no graceful way of going about this, and people are falling on their asses left and right.
I understand that my employers cannot just buy 150 sets of ice spikes just for one night of work, but this just seems like a massive workman's comp claim waiting to happen. At one point Del, the amiable bossman around the Rose Garden, comes out with a mop, which I find deeply funny.
"Yeah. Somebody spilled ice all over this place. You'd better get that," I said.

I didn't fall, but slipped-and-then-caught-myself a couple times. Then, two days later, I'm laying around watching Buffalo Bill and The Indians (an only so-so Altman flick), when my knee suddenly starts to hurt.
After a day or so, I can barely walk, and I'm limping embarrassingly. I've always said; you can be the ugliest motherfucker in the world, but with charm, all things are yours. But if you have an irregular gait, forget it.

At least this finally got me to go to a doctor. I've been wanting to get myself a primary care physician for a couple years, and I think I may be on the road to one. I have been set up on what amounts to a Medical Blind Date with a doctor about my age, by the doctor who examined my knee.
She had asked, "What do you do for fun?". I said, "What do you mean?"
Before long, we got it sorted out. I just want a medical professional who will listen to me, is empathetic, and the younger the better, since the closer to med school they are, the more they still give a shit. I have an appointment with someone who seems to fit this description, the day before Thanksgiving.

Then, the big windstorm of Yesterday hit. I love windstorms, particularly when I am free to lay in a warm bed listening to the damn thing, and not having to work in it. But I had awakened around 2:30 A.M., because I knew damn well what I was hearing.
Yep, the Improvised Tarp Shelter I'd constructed in the driveway was done violence by the gale force winds. The meaningless, cheap tent poles that came with the thing were laying on their sides in the rain, not even somewhat ballasted by the cinder blocks filled with cement poured by me, dammit, that they were sunk into.

So I found myself out there yesterday, tying knots (clove hitches, if you must know) and trying to settle what amounted to a giant sail...In gale force winds, I remind you. It was the most frustrating couple of hours I've spent in a good long while.
In my mind, I could hear any number of old-school stagehands giving me shit about my crap knot tying ability, and my only so-so construction skills. But hey: most stage construction is modular. It comes off the truck in the same way in each city, to be assembled in stages, in exactly the same way each time, with creativity kept to a minimum. I'm not building a house, I'm building a temporary structure.
Unfortunately, this translates to my relative success with around-the-house projects: they're temporary. But I was just trying to make a place for Bee and I to be able to go smoke when it's raining, so it will only need to last until oh, say, the middle of next June.

Well, various alter-egos of mine have been hard at work:
Satan, over at The Darkness Reaching Out For The Darkness (how E. Howard Hunt described Richard Nixon, I needn't remind you), is tired of having to explain how he's not gay, despite what those bastards in the advertising game might have you believe. His evil girlfriend Stacy, as always, finds the whole thing fiendishly funny, which worries Satan, a bore of the highest stripe.

Mister White (whose actual name is Loyalty P. Manhood), after already having apologized to The Women, the Blacks, the non-Christians, the Indians, the Gays and the Other White Men and for the Money and the Popular Music, finally gets around to sort of apologizing to his ex-wife, the Earth. Catch it all at Your Weekly Apology From The Man.
Most people seem to have not caught this one. The only person who has ever commented was a guy from Denver named Alex Headrick. He has a pretty funny blog called It's What's Between, which is entirely about sandwiches. It sort of reminds me of The Impulsive Buy, except that it's only about sandwiches, or perhaps the late, lamented 'zine, Beer Frame, except that it's only about sandwiches.

Rear Admiral Dick Wheeler and his sister-in-law/co-editor Mrs. Dr. Florna Boddington have been doing a crap job, of late, keeping up the Obituaries. We'll try to keep up on that. People just keep on dying, and they will be missed.

Matter o' fact, it's been a while since we've heard from either Aunty Christ, or The Agony Antagonist. What the fuck?

I've thought lately about actually starting the "Periodic Table of My Favorite Albums" blog, since I've already written several pieces on it for one, and for two I don't like to take up all the space that it takes to thoroughly assess one's feelings about an album in this one.
Also, I've had an idea, probably not a good one, for a blog written by a fictional woman named Rachael, possibly called "This Is A Very Important Time For Us In Our Lives". It would be me finally speaking from the narrative voice of a woman, and even better, me writing down the thoughts of an awful woman.

The problem with that though, of course, is that it's hard to do this particular character without actually using audio. And, for that matter-without being sexist about it-the way women are terrible versus the way men are terrible are pretty different, generally, though you wouldn't think so to hear most people tell it.
I think that I would have to make the Rachael character (surnamed 'Concomitant', I think, for no particular reason) be one of those women who injects many 'Uhhhmm' s into her speech, to show how deeply she is thinking. She is at least partially inspired by Maria Bamford's thoughts about Portland women:
"Yes, I work at J. Jill, and my evening hours are my own." Heh heh.

Maybe it was just what she said about any women in any city she happened to be in, but the indication was strongly in favor of Right Here, since whatever she was parodying was spending half of its time stuck in fatuous generalizations and the other willfully not making any sense at all, and so very proud of itself the entire time.

Oh hell, let's give you some of that, on our way out:

You're welcome.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Requiem For A Pickup Truck

Daddy Frank, my 1987 Mazda B2000, has been sold to an auto scrapper, for the insulting sum of $180.00 USD. The damn thing saw me through far more miles than I ever figured it would, sporting a hood only barely held down by a motorcycle strap (which acted as a sort of unhelpful sail in heavy wind conditions) and one windshield wiper, which functioned only intermittently. The lift gate, in recent months, also chose to stop working.

In his place (my cars, unlike most vessels, are always male, for some reason) is a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo. What it lacks in character, it makes up for in superior safety and handling. We're struggling, around the house, trying to come up with a proper name for it.
I just called a neighborhood auto repair place that recently sent out a bunch of people selling what would seem to be thousands of dollars worth of vehicle maintenance for a one-time price of a mere $79.95. Bee purchased said book of coupons with a check, fully expecting to stop payment on the thing within days.

But it turns out it really was legit, even though the guy on the other end of the phone this afternoon saw fit to put serious doubt in my mind.
"How was he?" was the first question dude at the shop asked. I pointed out that I hadn't dealt with the service rep/poor schmuck workin' door to door: that had been my girlfriend's work.
"Did she call the office before she wrote the check?" No: she called after, and had confirmed that the offer was indeed genuine.
This sort of thing went on and on until he, just as strangely, busted up laughing and said, "I'm jus' grillin' ya', bro'."

Well yes, yes you are, for some reason, I thought, but said that he was right to ask. "Sounded like a scam to me, too."
And it is, but only in the classic sense of automotive repair. I brought in my car for a routine check, and tomorrow I'm gettin' the brakes done. "As it stands, it isn't safe to drive," said the nice man at the desk, who had just been grillin' me, the day before.

Hey: here's my favorite commercial of recent months:

I love the uneven power dynamic between the two dudes in suits. It is reminiscent of the Sesame Street animated short along the same lines with the tiny guy who sits atop the far larger guy, screaming, "TOP TOP TOPPPP!!!", while the one below keeps on glumly responding, "...bottom...", until inevitably he tops the top.
It is a well-worn comedic trope that the little guy actually runs the show. Witness how the tall guy is clueless on how to deal with the open weirdness of the ruse...Which the little guy completely stays with, even going so far as to 'end' the fictional conversation he is having, and then throws his phone to the floor. For that, he gets "twooo" pieces of Minty Sweet.

There are two other versions of this commercial, but this one is the best. I couldn't find that particular Sesame Street clip, though there's many others that are true classics. And of course: just go over to YouTube and type in 'top and bottom'. I dare ya'.

Something strange happened, too. Along with the friend of my ex-girlfriend who has a cookie making party each holiday season called "the cookie party", last year saw the release of one of the best albums so far of the Oughts: TV On The Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain.
Now, the girl who throws those parties has a slight speech impediment, so whenever she is waxing enthusiastic about her get-together, she gets all excited about "D' COOKIE POWTY!"

So...Late the other evening I'm kinda drunk and watching Sarah Silverman. And for a moment, I wondered if it was all some wonderful dream...
The only relevant part of this clip is the first fifteen seconds or so, but it's all pretty damn good:

I suppose that it's not that weird that this show would just happen to hit a note that I've been making jokes about for the last year or so: there's only so many comedic ideas. But still...
The host/ess is named "Miniature Coffee", by the way. "The Mustangs'" names are 'Stencil' and 'JoJo'. The cookie muppet-thing is named Ookie, but he looks like a Squeezle.

Oh, and what's that? Well, that's my favorite fictional animal. The way I envision it, it'd be six feet tall, covered with pink fur, with fangs and claws in the neighborhood of one and a half feet long.
It's also what Anthony Bourdain was told he would be receiving for lunch on the Vietnam episode of his latest show. He spends a good ten or fifteen minutes having no one around who is adequately conversant in English to explain what a Squeezle is, and is happily chowing down a thick, hearty stew, until he finds a sharp thing in it. It's a porcupine quill.
The Squeezle, it turns out, is what the rest of us call a 'porcupine'. I wish I had video of this, but that Travel Channel site is no help.

So name ideas for the truck include:
Cookie Party
Miniature Coffee
The Squeezle
Minty Sweet

And a number of others, having nothing to do with the above. Ah...Good to be writin' again.