Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Songs I Dig By Bands I Don't

This past weekend, the Secret Mixed Tape Society met at Jeff's house for one last night of grilling out before the warm season comes to a close. It was also time to swap our latest compilations. It should be noted that Songs I Dig By Bands I Don't would be our last musical venture of the year. SIDBBID was another serious undertaking. Not to be confused with a comp of ten guilty pleasures, which has already been done (Guilty As Charged, Spring 2005). Its lists will not be posted here for obvious reasons. Rather, SIBBID represents a dilemma we all face: bands or artists, detested by the listener, who happens to put out a song that you like. The reasons vary. In my particular case, it had a lot to do with memories that are attached.

When I first heard "Still The Same" by Bob Seger, way back when, did I ever realize I would grow up to loathe the artist who created it? Was it even an issue back then? The first time I ever heard "Dreams" by the Cranberries, I liked it because it reminded me of The Sundays. After that, every single they released made me nauseous. Then there's Journey. Who doesn't get riled-up at the opening cords of "Don't Stop Believing?" And the particular song by Michelle Branch is...well...kind of a guilty pleasure. Genesis, a band who I appreciate for their early material with Peter Gabriel up front, is represented here by a song that was produced during their decline in the eighties. "Land Of Confusion," to me, is the only good thing that came out of this particular period. Even when I was a child, I didn't appreciate it quite like I do today. Lisa insists it has more to do with my memories of the music video. She may be right. I was quite fond of puppets back then.

If you notice the bad design, typographical errors and incorrect listings in the above image, they're there for a reason. Since we began this series, I've dreamed of designing a really bad cover. I figured this collection was the best time to do so. In order to do it properly, I had to get into the mind of an idiot. No offense to anybody who actually likes any of these bands.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Chip Off The Old Block

Laura sent us a couple of photos taken of Audrey and Thomas this morning. Apparently, she had given them some shaving cream in order to "finger-paint." Audrey was reluctant at first, but she really seemed to get into it.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Don't Get Fired!

My Art room at Fairfax once served as an Occupational Studies class. That is, it was a mandatory course for the students that consists of learning the basics of careers. When I first started setting the room up, I found boxes and boxes of textbooks, magazines and pamphlets that focused on this. These texts are more or less written specifically for at-risk youth. As I peruse through their contents, I happen upon sections dedicated primarily to keeping a job, staying out of trouble, and the like. My favorite of all of these is one called Don't Get Fired! The beauty of this specific book is, not just the scenarios that are set-up, but the fact that they are all written in script-form.

I've held onto these books, not only for my own amusement, but so that the students have material to use for their artwork. I encourage them to find photos and drawings that they can turn around and use again in mixed media pieces or collages. The greatest "story" in Don't Get Fired!, by far, is the one presented here. It's called "Don't Talk Back To Your Boss." The piece itself is actually a bit more lengthy and, as I clipped certain highlights out for my sketchbook, I chose to focus more on the reprimanding of the protagonist. Antagonist? You decide.

"Don't Talk Back To Your Boss" is the tale of a young man, Mike, who is comfortably employed by a cleaning company, where he buffs floors during the graveyard shift. Like most young men with no social skills, a bad attitude and barely any G.E.D., Mike likes to do his job and be left alone. Enter Mr. Lee (i.e., "The Man"). Mr. Lee, who is anxious to meet this promising young upstart that
apparently he's heard people speaking of around the water cooler, finally finds the time to visit the job site. As it turns out, Mr. Lee isn't all too impressed with Mike's habit of working topless.

As I read this passage, as a 34-year-old father/former slacker with a thriving career, I can't help but feel empathy for both of them. On the one hand, you have Mr. Lee, who wants things to be done his way. The last thing he wants to deal with is an employee's bad attitude. Then there's Mike. I can certainly relate to the notion of finally getting that dream job. And to make things ever better, I get to work by myself in the middle of the night, so I can strip if need-be. Because who really gives a damn anyway? Well, apparently, Mr. Lee does. This specific scenario hits especially close to home for me as I reminisce of key incidents between myself and a certain owner of a catfish-themed restaurant.

Not only is Don't Get Fired! entertaining as a whole, but it makes me realize just how much heartache I might have saved myself had it fallen into my hands some twenty years ago.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Timeline (1972-2004)

In December of 2004, the Secret Mixed Tape Society embarked on their second assignment. This was known as Timeline and the idea was to find ten songs and/or bands who would map out each individuals musical journey throughout their life up to that point. This was hard to do, but with a goal of only ten entries, the selections would have to be important and very landmark. Here's the list:

Hello It's Me / Todd Rundgren (1970's)
I never liked anything by Todd Rundgren other than the song listed here. But it was chosen because of its relevance to my childhood. Whenever I hear "Hello, It's Me," I think of late night rides home with the family. All was well as I sat in the backseat and looked out the window. For the lead off track for Timeline, it was a toss up between this song and a dozen others. Specifically one of a handful of tracks off of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. Fleetwood makes me think of sitting in front of my parents' stereo with those enormous headphones attached to my ears (like cassette tapes, these enormous headphones are nostalgic and will always hold a special place in my heart. A place where today's ear buds will never have any business being). I decided to go with "Hello, It's Me" because there are too many Fleetwood songs to choose from. That and they're bound to emerge on another comp down the road.

Head Over Heels / Tears For Fears (1985)
The only jump I can possibly make from early childhood to my early stages of personal music enthusiasm. Tears For Fears, although still merely nostalgic to me, is known as the first band who held my attention just enough to explore their back catalog, as well as the very album (Songs From The Big Chair) that spawned the handful of singles I was hearing on the radio at that time. It was the first cassette tape I remember buying, but so was Weird Al Yankovic's In 3-D, as well as Knee Deep In The Hoopla by Starship. But "Like A Surgeon" and "We Built This City" would suck within this particular mix. Again, I hear "Head Over Heels" and I think of sleepovers with my best friend.

Walk This Way / Run DMC (1986)
I was in seventh grade and had already discovered LL Cool J's Radio the year before, and had heard UTFO's self-titled album in the basement of Trevor Harbert (before that) and "Rockit" by Herbie Hancock (still before all of that). Although Raising Hell wasn't the first Hip Hop album I ever bought, it was the one that is most relevant to me today. It could have been this or Licensed To Ill, but I'd already used the Beasties on the comp before. Raising Hell is still a much better selection, in my opinion (knowing that Public Enemy's debut, Yo! Bum Rush The Show, had surfaced only a year later made this decision even more difficult). This group is largely responsible for my "everlasting" love affair with Hip Hop.

Thunderstruck / AC/DC (1990)
My "'everlasting' love affair with Hip Hop" died a slow death in 1990. Gangsta Rap had come and gone and, as exciting as that was at the time, it had worn out its welcome. The G-Funk era was on the horizon and I didn't like the sound of it. After I said goodbye to Rap music, I wasn't sure where to turn. Jeff had been listening to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and I was thankful to have something to turn to. But AC/DC is the band who would eventually help me to pick up the pieces. On December 7, 1990, I attended my very first concert--AC/DC's "The Razor's Edge Tour." The group had an impact on me and I still consider their live performance to be in my Top Ten Of All Time. Today, I would site only "Bon Scott era" AC/DC (1974-1979) as true-to-my-heart, but I'll always have that particular concert from my senior year in high school.

Nearly Lost You / Screaming Trees (1992)
Naturally, Hard Rock beget Seattle Grunge music. But, let's face it. It's the same thing but with different clothes and stage shows. I was into Pearl Jam as much as the next guy and I will swear today just how excited I was at the prospect of this band when they first appeared in 1991. In due time, I began to grow bored with them and now they're not so much a nostalgic memory as they are an utter annoyance. There was no way in hell I was picking something off Ten to represent this embarrassing era of music. And I was never really too much into Soundgarden or Alice In Chains. The one band who I can still appreciate from this time is Screaming Trees. It was hard to pick a song to represent them, what with so many to choose from. I decided to go with "Nearly Lost You," if only, for its connection to the Cameron Crowe movie, Singles. Another embarrassment, but another artifact from this time.

Someday I Will Treat You Good / Sparklehorse (1995)
When I think of Sparklehorse, I think of those years living with Terry in The Bachelor Pad. I had just finished my four year stint at JCCC, where I earned my Associates Degree. I was working at the hospital and had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had pretty much abandoned my art, with the exception of my sketchbook. I heard "Someday I Will Treat You Good" on The Lazer one night while driving home alone from a show in Lawrence. It was around 3:00 in the morning and raining out. This particular song came on the radio and I took notice, and I had to know who sang it. Thankfully at the end, the DJ credited Sparklehorse and then went on to play another song by another band (probably Spacehog). That was the one and only time I ever heard Sparklehorse on the radio, but I was fortunate enough to find Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot at Recycled Sounds that following weekend.

Suspicious Minds / Elvis Presley (1997)
It late was early August and my friend, Craig, mentioned to me that he would be making the trek to Memphis for the twenty year anniversary of The King's death. I offered to go along, if only, for the irony. I wasn't an Elvis fan, but I never disliked him either. This trip was life changing for me. It was during this six day experience where I became a devoted follower of Elvis Presley. I came home with an agenda: to obtain everything Elvis-related. I thank Elvis, today, for opening my eyes to other "Oldies" bands, as well as old school Country and Blues. They say that you're either a "Beatles person" or an "Elvis person." I take pride in being the latter. One of only a few in a snobby music scene such as ours.

If You Must / Del The Funky Homosapien (2000)
It was during the late nineties that I rediscovered Hip Hop. For years, I had shrugged it off as bad music, only because of what I was hearing and seeing on MTV (in retrospect, it's hard to believe I felt this way after having defended it so much for those few years). It was just after I started Graphic Design school that I heard "If You Must," by Del. With this I realized there was still talent to be sought out in this industry. But, like the early days, I had to dig for it. Underground Hip Hop had been alive and well that entire time, I had just chosen not to look beyond what I was being exposed to. This is also when I looked back to those years where I wasn't into the scene. I discovered groups such as Black Sheep, DJ Shadow and KMD. Although Del isn't necessarily the "Run DMC" of my twenties, he is partly responsible for Hip Hop's re-emergence in my life. And for this, I'm grateful.

Take Five / Dave Brubeck (2002)
There are two factors that turned me toward Jazz music. The first, and most obvious, is Hip Hop's affiliation with it. What makes Underground Hip Hop what it is--aside from the often unusual and experimental sounds-- is the Jazz flavor that's added to the mix. The other reason is due to the cover designs by the legendary Reid Miles. After obsessing over these record designs, I found time to listen to what was inside and have been truly moved ever since. Artists like Dave Brubeck, Grant Green and John Coltrane have led me to discovering even more experimental Jazz artists like John Zorn (who happened to be the other choice for the coveted "track 9" position), Sun Ra and the later works of Miles Davis.

Nature Boy / Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (2004)
Most people know of my obsession with everything-Nick Cave, but it's a pretty recent obsession. At the time we started The Mixed Tape club, I had only been into him for a year or so. The excellent 2004 double album, Abattoir Blues/ The Lyre Of Orpheus contains the gem, "Nature Boy" plus a handful of others.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Elmo Vs. Andrea Bocelli

This duet between Elmo and opera vocalist, Andrea Bocelli, is Audrey's current favorite video on YouTube. It's a parody of a song called "Time To Say Goodbye." I have no idea where it originates from, but it certainly isn't Phantom Of The Opera.

I've always gotten a kick out of seeing real actors (or, in this case, a musician), interacting with one of Jim Henson's Muppets. Something about seeing professionals working opposite, what is essentially, a person's hand.

Monday, September 03, 2007

An All-Consuming Work In Progress

Yes, it's been way too long since I've written here on the blog. It's not so much the pressures of my all-too time-consuming job. It actually has more to do with the fact that there are simply too many things to write about. When I started this a year ago, things in my life had just shifted from neutral to first gear. Stuff was happening, but it was at a rate where I could stand back and take note of it all. I would like to be in a place where I can share some anecdotes about some of my students and colleagues. There is simply too much to say right now.

What about my sketchbook works? Illustrations? You make a good point, Devoted Reader. I used to make a habit of scanning a fair number of my drawings at a single time. Therefore, when I find that I have little time (or energy) in which to write, I simply sit down and post a drawing. The problem with this is that, sooner or later, the drawings I've scanned and stored have all been used, thus forcing me to sit down and scan a whole lot more. One thing I will never have is a shortage of sketchbook pages (2-3 sketchbooks a year since around 1995. Do the math). So just so long as these journals don't see a tragic fate, I'll always have something to post here. Just be sure and poke me with a stick if you don't hear anything from me in a while. Special thanks go out to Pete for taking the liberty.

As I sit and write this, it's Labor Day. September 3rd. Brandon and Paige are coming over in a few hours to grill some chicken and dogs with us. They'll have Little Ainsley ("Applesauce") with them. Audrey's pal. Jeff and Gaby should be returning from Florida, where they were visiting Gaby's sister, Lorena, her husband, Sergio, and their new baby, Marcelo. Matt, Kathy and the kids were out over the weekend and returned home yesterday. Today is Matt's birthday so send him a card.

Hope all is well with you, Devoted Reader.