Don’t You Ever Wash That Thing?

1. While there are still some i’s to dot and t’s to cross, it appears that we have a buyer for our home in Latham. Conceptualizing the relocation to Iowa just became orders of magnitude easier.

2. I don’t watch much television, other than feature films that I nab from pay-per-view. Currently, the only serial show that I enjoy is “Breaking Bad,” and a few shows and shorts on Cartoon Network that I watch when I’m bored. I do find, however, that I can park myself in front of the television happily and vegetate whenever there’s an NFL game on. The only other regular sporting event that appeals to me in similar fashion is the NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. While watching the Bills-Giants game yesterday (and not enjoying the outcome), I got to thinking about why these sporting events appeal to me, when other related ones (e.g college football and NBA basketball) don’t. In the case of football, I think it comes down to my absolute antipathy against the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), and the myriad evils inflicted in its name. Other than the Army-Navy and Navy-Notre Dame games each year, there are really no other college football games that do much for me, although I might get excited if it ever comes to pass that two non-BCS schools end up playing for the (so-called) national championship within the rotten BCS structure. In the case of basketball, I think it’s because I like the length and tempo of the college game (two 20-minute halves) much more than I like the length and tempo of the pro game (four twelve-minute quarters). I also watch college players and generally feel like I am observing a sport played by human beings, whereas NBA games occur at such an ethereal level of performance that they don’t look as spectacular as the games played by smaller, slower college students. The pros make it looks easy, and easy is boring to me.

3. I mentioned earlier that I’m ready to part with my rather large CD, DVD and music book collections as part of our move. I am targeting the evening of Wednesday, November 2nd to hold a big movie and music sale accordingly. If you’re interested in participating, shoot me an e-mail offline. It’ll be a cheap way to add all sorts of weirdness to your own collection.

4. There are a number of classic albums from the ’80s and early ’90s that have remained incomprehensibly unavailable in CD or digital formats over the years, among them Human Sexual Response’s In a Roman Mood and the entire Tragic Mulatto catalog. I was delighted recently to discover that another series of lost classic albums is now readily and legally available from iTunes: Andy Prieboy’s solo albums and the last two studio albums he recorded with Wall of Voodoo. Now . . . I know that when I say “Wall of Voodoo,” you say “I wanna go to . . . Tee-ah-WAHN-ah . . . eat some bar-bee-cued ee-GUAN-ah.” That’s a shame, since “Mexican Radio” doesn’t really do justice to the clattering first incarnation of the band, which imploded soon after that release when nasal singer-songwriter Stanard Ridgway and pots-and-pans drummer Joe Nanini (now deceased) left the group. Wall of Voodoo soldiered on after that, though, with two studio albums and a contractual-obligation live album featuring new singer-songwriter Andy Prieboy and his longtime accomplice, drummer Ned Leukhardt, along with returning prodigal bass player Bruce Moreland and stalwarts Chas T. Gray and Marc Moreland (immortalized in Concrete Blonde’s hit “Joey,” and also now deceased) on keyboards and guitar respectively. Personally, I consider the two Prieboy-fronted albums, Seven Days In Sammystown (which featured the MTV demi/alt-hit “Far Side of Crazy“) and Happy Planet, to be the group’s greatest work, offering some brilliantly lyrical and melodic songwriting and powerful, charismatic baritone vocals from Prieboy. Wall of Voodoo’s rhythm section also became much stronger with Bruce Moreland and Leukhardt anchoring the proceedings, while Marc Moreland and Gray maintained the group’s signature spaghetti western soundtrack flavor. There’s not a clunker among either album, and I consider “The Grass is Greener,” “Don’t Spill My Courage,” “Elvis Bought Dora a Cadillac” and “Blackboard Sky” to be among my favorite songs from that era. If having those albums available wasn’t exciting enough, Prieboy has also issued a two volume set of albums (Volume I, Big Rock Finish: 1990-1993 and Volume II, When The Dream Is Over: 1993-1995) that summarize the best bits of his first two solo albums and related singles from those years. The first set features two of his best known songs: the exquisite “Loving the Highwayman” (covered by Linda Ronstadt and Emilylou Harris) and “Tomorrow Wendy” (originally a duet with Johnette Napolitano, and later covered by her band, Concrete Blonde), but the deep catalog is equally remarkable, covering an insane amount of stylistic ground, with dozens of earworms that will stick in your brain as soon as they penetrate it. I most highly recommend scoring these four albums (legally, not by downloading the samples I linked above) to get a taste of one of the most talented, though largely under-appreciated, performers and songwriters of the period.

My Crazy Feral Bachelor Weekend

This was my first of five weekends alone in my house, as Marcia and Katelin left for Des Moines on Thursday. It was quiet, and lonely, but as a student of American film-making, I understand that it is my sworn manly duty to take advantage of my temporary bachelorhood by engaging in all sorts of bad behavior, ideally while talking about really filthy stuff with my best friend, Seth Rogan. It took me a little while to get into the spirit of the thing, but I feel like I am catching on, as evidenced by the following deplorable behaviors that featured at Chateau J. Eric Solo this weekend:

  1. I cancelled a DVR taping of “The Good Wife” to watch the Packers-Falcons game.
  2. I parked in the very middle of the garage. Well . . . not quite the very middle, but not quite as close to the wall as I have historically parked, anyway.
  3. Instead of making my usual house salad for dinner (greens, sunflower seeds, bacon bits), I just ate the bacon bits out of the jar.
  4. I drank straight out of my water bottle without pouring it in a glass. Then, I got really crazy . . . and I drank straight out of Marcia’s water bottle.
  5. I put a pot in the dishwasher instead of washing it by hand in the sink.
  6. I threw away a Macy’s One-Day Sale Flyer without even looking at it.
  7. I sat in the hot tub four times in a day, instead of my usual three.
  8. I put Napalm Death on the Family iPod.
  9. I washed my colors and my lights together in one load, and even put a towel in with them.
  10. I turned the heat down to 62 at night, instead of the usual 64.
  11. I talked to the cats more than I talked to other human beings.

I’m feeling pretty depraved and debauched right now, as you can well imagine, after a crazy-ass bachelor weekend like that one! Next weekend, I’m thinking about really going over the top, maybe by sitting on Marcia and Katelin’s couch in the T.V. room when I watch the football game, rather than laying on the floor, as I did last night. I figure that ought to be enough to get my other best friend, Will Farrell, to come over so we can go run around the neighborhood in our ill-fitting tidy-whitey underwear while screaming and blubbering and stuff.

I sure am glad that I have Hollywood to show me what it means to be a man in America today!

Entrance Of The Central Scrutinizer

1. At noon today, Marcia left our home of 12 years for the last time, heading west for Des Moines, so I am officially a geographic bachelor for the next five weeks. Soap and toothpaste and shaving are optional at this point, I guess. I’m excited for us all by the opportunities to come in the weeks, months and years ahead, though I’m not so sure that I’m going to like this upcoming limbo period, neither here (in spirit) nor there (in body). Fortunately, I’ll be doing some traveling on most weekends (including one trip to Iowa), so that should make things move along more quickly, I hope. If I seem grumpier than usual through October, you’ll understand why.

2. I began my “Eat the House” campaign today, with no food purchases to be made until I consume everything edible that’s already here. Tonight’s entree was a casserole of sorts, made from pre-cooked lasagna noodles, Knorr’s Parma Rosa Sauce (dry), and American Cheese Food Product. The results were, uhhhhh . . . interesting, shall we say. Tomorrow night, I am planning fake crab sticks, hummus and caviar. Mmmmm . . . fishy!

3. I’m selling my ARP Solus Synthesizer before I go west. It’s a classic analog synth, one of the last ones that ARP made, and you can get a taste of what it’s capable of here. I would prefer to have it go to someone I know in the local music community who will use it well in the market, so if interested, or if you know anybody else who might be, shoot me a note via e-mail and I can get you more information. I’ll also be holding the Big C.D. Blowout Night at some point in the next couple of weeks, so watch this space.

4. I very much agree with S. Connick’s recent ruminations on the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon, and I feel like whatever validity may (or may not) exist at the heart of it is woefully undermined by stupid P.R. tricks like the widely-covered March of the Corporate Zombies. I’m not a big fan of the whole zombie genre to start with, but using money-eating walking dead as a metaphor for the super wealthy in this country seems particularly stupid to me, since the super wealthy are more likely to be canny and shrewd and opportunistic in their money-making than they are likely to be mindless, robotic, unresponsive gobblers of cash. Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett and others of their stratospheric economic status didn’t get where they are by being stupid, slow and unthinking. Quite the contrary, in fact. While I’m sure it was fun for these folks to dress up funky and get their pictures in the paper, I don’t think their cute photo op did much to explain what it is they think they are entitled to, nor why they think the super wealthy should pay for it. Symbols are only powerful when they’re meaningful.

5. Two weeks from tonight, I will be heading to Annapolis for my 25th Naval Academy Reunion, for which I am the coordinator. I’ve been working on this event for the better part of four years now, so I am very ready to move beyond the planning and contracting and fundraising stages and into the execution stage. The central event of the weekend is a massive tailgater, held under tents in the parking lot of Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, with six hours of fabulous all you can eat Maryland-style chow (e.g. lots of fresh seafood), and a bottomless beer truck. We’ve got about 900 people registered for that, and 350 more for other, smaller events, and the total take is over $100,000 at this point, so it’s quite the logistical undertaking, needless to say. It’s been nice over the past dozen years (I was involved in planning our 15th and 20th reunions as well) to use the event planning skills I’ve developed in my professional life to the benefit of my classmates and friends, but I’m glad and ready to say that this one is going to be the last one that I have a hand in bringing off. At the 30th reunion, I just want to party without worry about weather, or caterers, or gate-crashers, or shuttle buses, or dodgy online registration systems. I’m overdue on that front, I think.

Ealdorman Tondberht of South Gyrwas

My place in the history books is but a small one:
I ruled the fen-dwelling Angles of South Gyrwas
and married Ethelreda, princess of East Anglia,
who was morbidly devoted to her own virginity,
which she had pledged, she told me, to our Savior.
Soon thereafter I died, one tiny line in Bede’s chronicle,
a footnote to Ethelreda’s impressively chaste tale.
She later married King Egfrith of Northumbia,
and they lived together as though brother and sister,
until, twelve years later, he demanded consummation
and she fled him to found the monastery at Ely.
She lived out her days there, and was later made a saint.
I missed all that, though, long dead from a broken heart.

The Back Story: I’ve been going through old journals as I’m cleaning things up for the move to Iowa, and I found this poem, and liked it more today than I did when I wrote it. I have always loved character studies about the dead and dying, probably because of the tremendously influential role of Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology in my early intellectual development, sparked during a summer theater camp at Hofstra University back when I was in junior high school. This one is a true story from seventh century England. There’s loads and loads of information online about St. Ethelreda . . . but Tondberht only gets mentioned as the first man who married her. The spin on her tale is generally that it was a good thing that he died so soon, sparing her the ongoing burdens of matrimony. And maybe that was the case, maybe he was a bad and lecherous and abusive man. But what if he wasn’t? What if he was a sensitive, caring guy who was baffled by his wife’s behavior? What if it was her coldness that killed him, as he slept alone in his drafty castle in the swamp while Ethelreda prayed with her handmaidens? Even historical footnotes can have feelings, and I like to ponder them. Inspired by Spoon River, I always enjoy the fanciful concept of the dead rising to tell their tales, including the bits that their biographers might have missed. Like this one.