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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: October 12-November 13, 2005

Tuesday, November 1, 2005:

As part of our ongoing Halloween/Day of the Dead celebration (which has involved tacking glow-in-the-dark spiderwebs up in our hallway, watching Donnie Darko again, and purchasing a motion-activated raven that inexplicably sings Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record)" in the voice of Vincent Price, but did not involve giving candy to children), Bev and I watched the CBS Sunday movie Vampire Bats, starring Lucy Lawless. You may remember that last spring, Lucy starred in another CBS Sunday Movie entitled Locusts, a masterpiece in which she played an evolutionary biologist who was trying to save the world from a mutated swarm of locusts before the deadline given by the hawkish military officials who were itching to nuke the Midwest to get rid of the bugs. I've been kicking myself for not taping it ever since, much as lonely onanists across the land have been kicking themselves for not taping Lucy's appearance as the national anthem chanteuse at that one Red Wings game.

Naturally, once Bev and I saw a commercial for Vampire Bats last week, it was clearly going to be the centerpiece of our Sunday night activities. And as it happens, it's an honest-to-goodness sequel to Locusts! Lucy is the same evolutionary biologist she was before, with the same high-pitched invertebrate husband! Although she's still fighting a mutated swarm of flying critters this time around, the stakes are a little lower: rather than trying to save the entire planet, Lucy just has to save a Louisiana college town that's not really worth saving, and while the actions of the hotheaded local officials obviously don't work, Lucy's just doing research and not putting any plans into action herself while the authorities are farting around with tracking collars and poisons, so no time is really lost. However, what Vampire Bats lacks in scope it makes up for in quality. It's the sort of made-for-TV gem in which a Sum 41-intensive party on a frathouse lawn is described as an "underground rave," and in which you can count on instance after instance of dialogue like the following:

XENA: Vampire bats actually killing their victims is unprecedented!
STUDENT: Unprecedented... until now.

The bats themselves looked like winged Madballs, and the close-ups of their attacks showed them hilariously French-kissing their victims' dripping wounds. And how my heart soared like a vampire bat to see a Botoxed-up Brett Butler forced to slum it as Lucy's buttinsky sister-in-law! Oh, I loved it, loved it, loved it. If I were placing an ad for Vampire Bats in the real estate section, it'd be the ad that contains the words "must see to appreciate" in bold with like five exclamation points.

There was one move in the show that was genuinely fraught with subtext, however, and that's the casting of Timothy Bottoms as the mayor of the town. He's the actor whose uncanny resemblance to Dubya got him the title role on That's My Bush! In Vampire Bats, Tim's hair is unconvincingly dyed black to detract from the similarities (or maybe to add a touch of Jeb), but he's clearly still doing his impression of the ol' malaproppin' wood-seller. Early on in the program, as Mayor Dubya is seeking easy answers and apathetically allowing Lucy's biologist to become involved in a murder investigation to a degree that pretty much ensures that any attempt to charge anyone could be defeated on grounds of due process, I was flabbergasted that the producers had the nerve to take such an awesomely blatant swipe at The Man. However, the big twist in the third act is that, despite Brett Butler's suspicions, the mayor himself not only isn't involved in the illegal dumping that caused the bats to mutate in the first place (don't ask), but he's been covertly working with a corporate whistleblower to bring the guilty parties to justice.

The hell?! I'm reluctant to think the hidden message here is that Dubya is actually tough on corporate crime and a friend of the environment- that'd be like having a character based on Kwame Kilpatrick committing ritual seppuku because of his shame at discovering that someone in his administration had been cooking the books- but it's alarming that they went to the trouble of casting a Bush family lookalike to play a government official and build him up as a bumbling, borderline corrupt nimrod and then attempt to redeem him with a cheap "there's more to him than meets the eye" reversal. Not that the character is exactly redeemed in the end, mind you: all the big revelation ultimately reveals is that he's aware that there are dangerously unethical people working directly under him, and he's still inept in all other respects. Furthermore, I suspect that I'm ascribing a bit too much political savvy to the writers of the teleplay. Particularly since the film also features a goat named Shenehneh. And it may very well be that I'm just extremely paranoid and the only real message here is "Timothy Bottoms still needs to work, dammit, regardless of whether he happens to look like some oblivious jackoff who twice cheated his way into the White House." Fine. But it's more fun to be puzzled, so make of it what you will.

CURRENT MUSIC: Automagic by Worm is Green.
CURRENT MOOD:
I'm a goofy goober.
CURRENT READING:
Just Checking: Scenes from the Life of an Obsessive-Compulsive by Emily Colas. It's alright. Colas doesn't even pretend to be informative about her disorder, instead just stringing together a couple hundred OCD-related anecdotes too brief to even be described as "bite-size." It's a book of individual-Frito-sized stories and observations about the obstacles her brain placed in front of her until she finally got herself properly medicated. It's neither as ignorant and exploitative as As Good as It Gets nor as thoroughly funny and affecting as Mark Prindle's Only the Good Die Young, but it's breezy enough that you can get through it in a couple hours, and I giggled intermittently throughout. Not that I'll remember any of it a week from now. But then, I don't think David Sedaris is as hilarious as everyone seems to find him either (and he gives a glowing blurb on the "hustle the casual browser" page inside the cover), so do whatever you want with my opinion. At your peril.
TIME:
12:18 PM.

Doot? | |

Saturday, October 29, 2005:

I am disclaimerwill@aol.com. If my life was a game of Jeopardy! my seven dream categories would be:

Lately I've been unable to sleep.

That may be overstating things, but the fact remains: for the past month or so, I've been lucky to get three or four hours of sleep every night. Sleep aids from Tylenol PM to Killian's Irish Red have failed. On the nights I've been able to drift off relatively easily, I've been rudely awoken by a myoclonic jerk within 20 minutes. My dreams have been frustrating murder mysteries without an ending, like an M. Night Shyamalan film that burns up before the climax/denouement: boring, creepy crap that goes nowhere but features the shite acting of Bruce Willis.

However, I think I've finally found the solution. [SPOILER ALERT] I've been taking a long, hot bath before bed each night, and it's helped me sleep. I don't think it's necessarily the bath itself that's been helping me, though, so much as my pre-bath routine. See, Bev and I have a gigantic tub with whirlpool jets, and a really awesome bathroom whose floor is paved with aesthetically pleasing slate squares, and the water pressure in our bathtub faucet is pretty low. It takes no fewer than 20 minutes to fill the tub to a reasonable bath level.

Thus, I've rediscovered a habit I fell into as soon as my parents decided I was old enough to start taking pre-prime time baths on my own. As the tub fills, I sit on the floofy green bathmat beside the tub, back against the cool, gray wall, and read. There's something ineffably comforting about sitting on the floor with a book on my knees (most recently, The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson), goosebumps appearing everywhere as I lean against the corner where the tub meets the wall, steam slowly filling the rest of the room, fogging the windows and mirrors... Back when my age was still in single digits (as opposed to the quarter-century geezer I am now), I used to do the same thing: I'd turn the tub faucets up as hot as they'd go and run them until the hot water (for which my parents paid) ran out, sitting against the tub and letting the warm vapor press against my chest as the porcelain's coolness flowed into my back. The feeling that results is incredible. It's like you're simultaneously being pushed and pulled by contradictory Mega Man villains.

It's one of the best feelings in the world. It feels like a hug from God, to put it in its most grandiose terms. Like being rescued seconds after you've resigned yourself to being eternally lost. Some sort of surprising redemption.

Then I can climb into the bath and actually spend a significant amount of time reading books as bubbles do little SpongeBob gymnastics around me. I don't have any more excuses for not actively reading while I'm lying there: I can't watch TV, can't click on Homestar Runner cartoons that I've already memorized... and that's all I do outside of the washroom anyway. I actually improve my mind! English majors almost never do that! Even when I'm just reading an entry in the Acme Novelty Library, I feel fancy because I'm in the bathtub. All I'm missing is a top hat.

So then I can hop outta there with lobster-red feet and crawl into the sack, quickly dropping off into whatever misanthropic nightmare my brain has planned for me! Um, was that the point of this thing? I really, truly can't remember. I guess you should all send me Christmas presents now, just to be safe. (South Park season 6, Arrested Development season 2, Simpsons season 7 once it's out, Friends season 10, the new Dandy Warhols album, Oz seasons two through five, the new Supergrass album, and so on.)

CURRENT MUSIC: Sorry in Pig Minor by The Cows. It's kind of freaking Novi out.
CURRENT MOOD:
Sometimes I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion.
CURRENT JEOPARDY! DISAPPOINTMENT:
I embarrassed myself in front of Bev by failing to come up with Monica Seles's name. I should've known that!
TIME:
6:40 PM.

Doot? | |

Saturday, October 22, 2005:

It's been awhile since I've done anything positive for... well, anyone except #1 here (urine), so I'm feeling fairly decent-ish about a couple new developments here in the Greater Bangor Area. First off, I've become an on-air reader for Maine AIRS (the Maine Audio Information and Reading Service), which provides audio versions of stories from local newspapers for the blind to listen to. Since I've frequently been told that I have not only a voice that's appropriate for radio but also a "face for radio," this seemed like a natural fit when one of Bev's coworkers mentioned it as an opportunity. For my part, I've learned that it's not necessary to "talk really loud and slow, like you would to a dog" when reading for the blind, as I initially thought and repeatedly proclaimed during my interview.

(Kidding! It's not like they're reading this! Shhh!)

Seriously, the station I'm on is pretty nifty. The station manager encourages the readers to essentially act out the feature stories as you would an old-timey radio drama, and during the audition process in which he tossed me a bunch of five-dollar-word-intensive news stories to sight-read, he told me that I was the first applicant ever to correctly pronounce the word numismatist on the first try, so yay me!

Today, I also began the orientation process as a volunteer at WERU, the community radio station in the area. Eventually, I hope to have a radio show there, during which I can inflict my fondness for The Dead Milkmen and Roxette upon defenseless listeners. The process of getting on the air will take a few months there, and it's still an unpaid position, but I'll keep y'all updated, and most of my fellow orientatertots seemed to be more interested in either working in a non-DJ position or hosting public affairs programs than in using the community-owned airwaves to plug The Other Leading Brand the way I am. So I'm hoping that the station will shove their schedule around to make way for Willie!

Also, I recently visited the Brewer Public Library to get my library card, and although it's a tinier book depository than any I've been in except possibly for that of Ferndale, Michigan, it's very well maintained and the librarians clearly take great pride in its stock, which I think is really cool. When I filled out my card application, I wrote "music critic" in the "occupation" blank because that's far less humiliating than "moocher," and the librarian to whom I turned it in proudly pointed the library's CD section out to me. The thing is... although they have a record collection that's 400 strong, most of it is garbage. From The Eagles' Greatest Hits to assorted Ricky Martin CDs, there was virtually nothing I'd voluntarily listen to, so I've decided to take the library under my arrogant-ass wing and start taking up a collection of good CDs that I can find cheap, which I'll turn around and donate.

I remember reading an interview with Kurt Cobain in which he defended the censored version of In Utero (in which the cover art was amended and the piece-of-crap song "Rape Me"'s title was converted to "Waif Me," if memory serves) by stating that he'd grown up knowing a lot of kids whose only local CD dealer was Wal-Mart or some such chain that wouldn't carry albums they considered "dirty," so he changed his album a little because he didn't want that demographic to lose out in any way. Whether their lives would've been enriched by the absence of In Utero is obviously up for debate- though the answer is yes- but those kids are sort of the ones that came to mind as I went through the Brewer Library's CD section: although there are some great record stores around here (Bull Moose chief among them), I think that having some really great Clear Channel rejects available free of charge in the local library might help broaden a mind or two. Particularly since a cursory stroll through half.com's virtual bargain bin will yield a lot of 75-cent masterpieces like Supergrass's I Should Coco, Sugar's Copper Blue, and Odds' Good Weird Feeling, to name only three.

And this is where you come in. Here's my plea: If you have any good/listenable albums lying around that you don't want, or if you're record shopping and stumble across one of your favorite albums for an insanely low low price (and you don't want to sell them for the usual $3.50 to your local used record store or donate them to your own library), send 'em to me! I will then toss 'em over to the Brewer Library, which I hope may eventually boast a record section that's a virtual indie music primer. You'll feel better about yourself and maybe we can nurture a Brewer "scene" among the kids who grow up on such things! If you feel like it, send your submissions to:

Disclaimer Library Project Thing
PO Box 3655
Brewer, ME 04412
USA

I'm trying to redeem myself. Your help is appreciated.

CURRENT MUSIC: Project Infinity by Man... Or Astro-Man? and The Raincoats' self-titled thing.
CURRENT MOOD:
My Name is Earl.
CURRENT FAVORITE MISSPELLING ON A LOCAL SIGN: An Exxon on Union St. is advertising an "EARLY BiRLDS SPECIAL." Yup.
TIME:
6:12 PM.

Doot? | |

Wednesday, October 12, 2005:

For some reason, this morning seemed like a good time to put together lists of my five (current, i.e., this particular minute) favorite songs from a lot of my favorite bands. As it happens, this was not a good idea, but here are the lists nonetheless.

Apples in Stereo:
"20 Cases Suggestive Of..."
"Seems So"
"Dots 1-2-3"
"Rainfall"
"Stream Running Over"

Barbara Manning:
"The Arsonist Story" (all four tracks' worth)
"Every Pretty Girl"
"Here Comes Love"
"B4 We Go Under"
"How Did You Know?" (on the SF Seals' Truth Walks in Sleepy Shadows album)

Beatles: (unnecessary, but here it is anyhow)
"Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!"
"Run for Your Life"
"The Fool on the Hill"
"Strawberry Fields Forever"
"Eleanor Rigby"

Beck:
"Minus"
"We Live Again"
"Asshole"
"Guess I'm Doing Fine"
"Beercan"

Belle & Sebastian:
"La Pastie de la Bourgeoisie"
"Piazza, New York Catcher"
"Sleep the Clock Around"
"The Boy Done Wrong Again"
"It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career"

Brian Eno:
"Baby's on Fire" (sorry, Oleg)
"Golden Hours"
"Iced World"
"The True Wheel"
"Mea Culpa" (with David Byrne)

Butthole Surfers:
"Birds"
"Perry"
"Kuntz"
Track 1 on Hairway to Steven, whatever it's called
"Human Cannonball"

Camper Van Beethoven:
"Seven Languages"
"Might Makes Right"
"Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China"
"She Divines Water"
"When I Win the Lottery"

Crowded House:
"There Goes God"
"Don't Dream It's Over"
"Private Universe"
"Help is Coming"
"Sister Madly" (Recurring Dream live version)

David Bowie:
"Space Oddity"
"Ashes to Ashes"
"The Man Who Sold the World"
"Ziggy Stardust"
"Sound + Vision"

Dead Milkmen:
"Punk Rock Girl"
"Big Deal"
"Serrated Edge"
"The Puking Song"
"Take Me to the Specialist"

Death Cab for Cutie:
"President of What?"
"Information Travels Faster"
"Tiny Vessels"
"I Will Follow You Into the Dark"
"405"

Devo:
"Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA"
"Mechanical Man"
"Mongoloid"
"Mr. B's Ballroom"
"Big Mess"

Dump:
"Daily Affirmation"
"On the Right Track Now" (13th Floor Elevators cover)
"The Words Get Stuck in My Throat" (some Japanese band cover)
"Superpowerless"
"Clarity"

Elvis Costello:
"Radio Radio"
"Lipstick Vogue"
"Beyond Belief"
"Welcome to the Working Week"
"I Want You"

The Fall (I've heard, like, maybe a quarter of their output):
"Lay of the Land"
"I'm Frank"
"The Classical"
"Couldn't Get Ahead"
"15 Ways"

Flaming Lips:
"Waitin' for a Superman" (remix at the end of The Soft Bulletin)
"Pilot Can at the Queer of God"
"You Have to be Joking (Autopsy of the Devil's Brain)"
"Lightning Strikes the Postman"
"Christmas at the Zoo"

Gomez:
"Shot Shot"
"Get Myself Arrested"
"In Our Gun"
"Buena Vista"
"We Don't Know Where We're Going"

Guided by Voices:
"To Remake the Young Flyer"
"I Am a Scientist"
"Mute Superstar"
"As We Go Up, We Go Down"
"Hold on Hope"

Jazz Butcher:
"Mr. Odd"
"Get It Wrong"
"Tough Priest"
"Penguins"
"Caroline Wheeler's Birthday Present"

King Missile:
"Pickaxe"
"Hamsters"
"Jesus Was Way Cool"
"Detachable Penis"
"The Way to Salvation"

Kraftwerk:
"Radio-Activity" (live)
"Pocket Calculator"
"The Telephone Call"
"The Robots"
"The Man-Machine"

Lambchop:
"Give Me Your Love (Love Song)" (Curtis Mayfield cover)
"Your Fucking Sunny Day"
"The Man Who Loved Beer"
"Love TKO" (Teddy Pendergrass cover)
"Art Lover" (Kinks cover)

Magnetic Fields:
"Lonely Highway"
"You're My Only Home"
"I Thought You Were My Boyfriend"
"I Shatter"
"All You Ever Do is Walk Away"

Meat Puppets:
"Sam"
"Enchanted Pork Fist"
"Plateau"
"Things"
"I Quit"

Mouse on Mars:
"Actionist Respoke"
"Albion Rose"
"Spaceship"
"Owai"
"Scat"

Of Montreal:
"Jennifer Louise"
"Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree"
"If I Faltered Slightly Twice"
"Little Viola Hidden in the Orchestra"
"Lysergic Bliss"

Pernice Brothers/Joe Pernice/Scud Mountain Boys/Chappaquiddick Skyline (I think it's fair, since songs from all are played at Pernice Brothers shows):
"Grudgefuck"
"Bum Leg"
"Everyone Else is Evolving"
"Baby in Two"
"7:30"

Pet Shop Boys:
"Can You Forgive Her?"
"Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"
"It's a Sin"
"Bet She's Not Your Girlfriend"
"Shopping"

Pixies:
"Planet of Sound"
"Cactus"
"Debaser"
"Dead"
"Motorway to Roswell"

R.E.M.
"Find the River"
"Carnival of Sorts (Boxcars)"
"So. Central Rain"
"These Days"
"Driver 8"

Radiohead:
"Street Spirit (Fade Out)"
"How to Disappear Completely"
"Sit Down. Stand Up."
"Let Down"
"Exit Music (for a Film)"

Ramones:
"Commando"
"She Talks to Rainbows"
"Wart Hog"
"Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment"
"Slug"

Robyn Hitchcock/The Soft Boys:
"Queen of Eyes"
"Wey Wey Hep Uh Hole"
"My Wife and My Dead Wife"
"Uncorrected Personality Traits"
"Devil's Radio"

Sloan:
"Underwhelmed"
"Autobiography"
"The Other Man"
"Everything You've Done Wrong"
"Snowsuit Sound"

Split Enz:
"Bold as Brass"
"I Got You"
"Bullet Brain and Cactus Head"
"Nobody Takes Me Seriously"
"I See Red"

Stereolab:
"The Noise of Carpet"
"Parsec"
"Jenny Ondioline"
"How to Play Your Internal Organs Overnight"
"The Seeming and the Meaning"

Super Furry Animals:
"The Man Don't Give a Fuck"
"Ysbeidiau Heulog"
"Wherever I Lay My Phone (That's My Home)"
"Juxtapozed with U"
"The Turning Tide"

Supergrass (I don't have their new album yet):
"20 ft. Halo"
"Alright"
"Brecon Beacons"
"Pumping on Your Stereo"
"She's So Loose"

Talking Heads:
"This Must be the Place (Naive Melody)"
"Road to Nowhere"
"The Great Curve" (The Name of This Band is Talking Heads version)
"Life During Wartime" (Stop Making Sense version)
"The Lady Don't Mind"

They Might Be Giants:
"Ana Ng"
"I Should Be Allowed to Think"
"Metal Detector"
"Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head"
"Weep Day"

Ween:
"The Argus"
"Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony?"
"Don't Laugh (I Love You)"
"Flutes of Chi"
"Dr. Rock"

XTC:
"Punch and Judy"
"Making Plans for Nigel"
"The Mayor of Simpleton"
"This World Over"
"Dear Madam Barnum"

Yo La Tengo:
"Flying Lesson (Hot Chicken #1)"
"Moby Octopad"
"Yellow Sarong" (The Scene is Now cover)
"Double Dare"
"Shaker"

CURRENT MOOD: Nepotism.
CURRENT GRIPE: I've got this SpongeBob SquarePants box of Puffs brand Kleenex, right? And there are a bunch of "fun" math problems on the back of the box, right? Well, the answer key is all wrong, because it doesn't take the order of operations into account. I'm wondering whether I should e-mail them in the hopes of getting a bunch of free Puffs, or just let it go and admit I'm a hopeless dork.
TIME:
10:44 AM.

Doot? | |

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