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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: November 2-November 16, 2003

Thursday, November 13, 2003:

At work, Jon mentioned that made-for-TV movie The Electric Grandmother that everyone our age loved as a kid, and it reminded me of a funny story I'd forgotten about: in third or fourth grade, the teachers of several classes in my elementary school decided that it would be a good day to pacify us kids with a movie, and The Electric Grandmother was deemed a decent choice. So one of them went to pick up the video, and we were all ushered into this little circular meeting place between the classrooms. (They called that place a "centrum" for no clear reason. I remember therefore thinking it had something to do with vitamins.)

Anyway, we started watching the video while the teachers huddled in a corner and chatted, when some kid pointed out that we weren't watching The Electric Grandmother. It was some Hallmark- or Hallmark-esque- TV movie that had the word grandmother in the title, but this one didn't shoot orange juice from her finger or perform any other feats that required a current running through her body. Instead, she was just an ordinary grandmother who was really nice to her kids and grandkids, but hardly ever got a chance to see them because she wasn't appreciated, and was treated shabbily when the family did show up.

"Just watch it anyway," was the teachers' collective response.

So the movie took forever, and it was relentlessly depressing. Saintly Grandma basically being pissed on by her ungrateful family, for at least an hour. Finally, at the end, Grandma made some enormously loving gesture so one of her kids finally got the message, and wrote a really long, thoughtful letter to her, profusely apologizing for having been so uncaring and neglectful and worthless all these years, and telling her that she's appreciated and loved and so forth.

And the final shot of the movie was the mailman delivering that letter to Grandma's house, as paramedics rush in the front door, because Grandma's lifeless body had just been discovered by a neighbor. Fade to black.

Much stunned silence from the 60 or 70 kids who were gathered 'round, broken by the occasional sob.

I remember looking over at the teachers, and they were giving each other hilarious "Guess we blew that one" glances as they tried to think of some way to get the rest of the day back on track, after traumatizing everyone in attendance. At the time, I was horrified, but it's pretty funny now that I think back on it.

Did you know Ray Bradbury, of all people, wrote The Electric Grandmother? I sure didn't! Not that I especially care, never having read anything by Mr. Bradbury, but it's still weird. Like finding out that Roald Dahl wrote You Only Live Twice.

Queer as Folk may have the best soundtrack in the history of any television series shy of 120 Minutes or at least Gilmore Girls. I'm halfway through the second season on DVD, and I've already heard songs by the Buzzcocks, the Magnetic Fields, the Stranglers, the Soft Boys, the Dandy Warhols, and the New Pornographers. (And I think the last episode I watched had an unreleased Pet Shop Boys track in it! I'm fairly sure it was Neil Tennant singing, at any rate.)

I really hope you haven't visited this journal looking for any sort of emotional content or insight for the past couple months... From here on out, it seems it's all about pop-culture and funny things my friends have said. Because my life is otherwise empty.

CURRENT MOOD: Exhausted.
Mad City. I actually saw that!
TIME: 6:03 PM.

Doot? | |

Tuesday, November 11, 2003:

Rachael Ray's 30-Minute Meals program makes for excellent TV viewing when you just woke up from a nap. Her enthusiasm is so infectious it'll wake you right back up, only she doesn't get it across in an Emeril-esque "MY VOICE HAS ONLY ONE VOLUME AND IT'S LOUD!" sort of way; she just takes so much obvious pride in what she does (even when, as today, she's simply re-creating a recipe from some Italian cooking magazine that she admitted to only partially understanding) that it's hard not to get excited for her. The set is very colorful, and she's so thoroughly unpretentious and amiably brassy that it's like watching one of your friends cook. The only recipe of hers that I've actually attempted was the cheesy orzo- and it's delicious- but her food usually looks like it'd be great. Not fussy, not an acquired taste, just nice, yummy, accessible food. I need to remember to watch her show more often, because I love it.

And, on the Food Network, she's followed by Martha Stewart's Kitchen, which is basically a 180 from Rachael's easygoing, charmingly clumsy style. I'd like to see Martha and Rachael together at some sort of dinner party, with Rachael a little tipsy, because I have the feeling she'd verbally take Martha down in a second. Rachael seems like a very nice person, but one who doesn't stand for condescending bullshit of the sort Martha tends to dole out.

Ween were at the State Theatre last night, and Jon and I were totally there, as was my friend Nick from Music Babble. What a show. They played 32 songs in three straight hours of sweaty, messy, weird-ass rock, and it was among the most unique concert experiences I've ever had. And such a great, random song selection! They played only two songs from their new album ("The Argus" and "Happy Colored Marbles"), instead pulling out wonderful, left-field surprises from their back catalog like "The Goin' Gets Tough from the Getgo," "I'm Dancing in the Show Tonight" (featuring delightfully offensive, Downs Syndrome-styled vocals by Gener), and "Sorry Charlie."

The crowd wasn't bad, either, surprisingly; although Ween attracted a large contingent from any number of irritating subcultures (jocks, hippies, stoner engineering students, dorky high schoolers, hipsters, etc.) they all pretty much canceled each other out and the crowd became one big, rowdy ball of energy who totally gave it up for the band. And the band gave it right back, to the point of playing crowd-pleasers like "The Blarney Stone" and "Buenas Tardes Amigo," which I understand they generally hate playing. Also, Jon, Nick, and I counted four guys getting thrown out of the show for unruly behavior, which was very rock 'n' roll.

I went to the men's room during "Baby Bitch," because I sensed that we weren't going to be getting any intermissions and that seemed as good a time as any. Some three-year-old girl was in a stall with her dad, and she kept asking, "How come they're saying 'Baby Bitch'? Why's it called 'Baby Bitch'?" over and over. Responsible parenting! I wonder if he was barraged with similar questions an hour or so later, when the band launched into a scorching version of "You Fucked Up."

So yeah. Loved it.

Jessica Lynch's new (and, God willing, only) book came out today, and it's entitled I Am a Soldier, Too. Now, I might be wrong, but isn't the inclusion of that comma incorrect or at least unnecessary? According to this article, it's correct punctuation, but the author grudgingly admits that it's really not common usage anymore. And this guy says it doesn't matter either way. I personally think it looks stupid, because if you read it aloud, the comma indicates a slight pause in the sentence that makes the whole thing sound awkward... unless she's speaking to her good friend Lillian Too, in which case the whole sentence would have a different- though at least reasonable- inflection. Technically correct though the title may be, it makes the book look like the product of a comma-happy eight-year-old. Of course, it doesn't help that the title is ambiguous to begin with; it's hard to tell whether she's saying that she's a soldier in addition to all the other things she happens to be (e.g., a woman, a teenager, a hopeless failure in the field of cartology: I Am a Soldier as Well), that she's a soldier in addition to all the other people who are soldiers (I, Too, Am a Soldier), or that she's sick of your implications that she isn't a soldier (I Am Too a Soldier!). Ten seconds of grammatical polishing could've made it clear and not bothered me. But I suppose the fact that the book exists would irk me regardless... She sucks.

I also discovered today that, if you accidentally put your car's remote keyless entry clicker through the washing machine, it'll still work afterward!

CURRENT MOOD: Flattered by Guy Peters's kind review of my album.
Ladie's Pisss [sic]. It's from Brazil or some other South American country; in one of my college film classes, we watched a commercial for it. It's basically a disposable funnel that allows women to pee standing up. In the commercial, the camera pans along the floor of a women's restroom, revealing women's skirts and pants draped around their ankles in each of the stalls... until it reaches a stall where there's a woman in high heels, facing the toilet! And then there's the sound of a scratched record or something to indicate a "whuh?" moment, and I imagine this product existed for about 20 minutes.
8:13 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, November 9, 2003:

Spent the day working on my song for the WRC Christmas compilation, "A Wish for Wings that Work." (Should that be capitalized? I forget the rules.) Thus far, it qualifies as a Christmas song only in the same tenuous way that Die Hard counts as a Christmas movie, but I'm planning on tossing in some sleigh bells.

"Sexual Harassment... Panda!"
6:24 PM.


Saturday, November 8, 2003:

Jess, Aimee, and I went to see Belle and Sebastian last night at the State Theatre in Detroit. Great show, though I don't have many amusing (or, depending upon your point of view, interminable) anecdotes about this one. I spent most of the evening in the grip of that paralyzing hopeless-depression-horror that gets ahold of me sometimes and makes me bitter and reticent, so for most of the evening, Aimee and Jess chatted and I silently moped and plotted my escape from Michigan. I'm not up for a full concert review, but I'll quickly summarize:

Rasputina opened and ruled. Great, dark cello-based music that made me think they'd be better served as an opener for Nick Cave. B&S were obviously having loads of fun. They performed a seemingly impromptu cover of some Jackson 5 song (I don't know the name of it, but you'd recognize it if you heard it; it's not "ABC," but it sounds kind of similar), with guitarist Steve Jackson- presumably no relation- doing an uncanny falsetto impersonation of young Michael Jackson. And they played the two songs I was most hoping to hear: "Piazza, New York Catcher" (better than the studio version, thanks to Jackson's harmonies) and "Sleep the Clock Around" (an effervescent set closer). So yay. Definitely worth checking them out, if you get a chance.

Saw Mystic River today. Liked it. Even liked Kevin Bacon. Went to East Alley Records to cheer myself up. Got CDs by Q-Burns Abstract Message, The Tyde, and the Golden Palominos. Feeling a little better.

Here are some pictures from Lorenzo's Halloween party a couple weeks ago, brought to you in new, ultra-slow-loading High Res-o-Vision for hours of dial-up fun!

On the left is my friend Trevor. This costume totally fooled everyone; we were all wondering why Lorenzo had invited some pseudo-Ronnie Dobbs to the party until he started talking and we recognized him. We were all very drunk by the time he arrived. Then, in the trench coat is Ashleigh. She was dressed as a flasher. (Not pictured: her boyfriend Donnie, who wore a pair of sunglasses and proclaimed that he was dressed as Corey Hart's hit single "Sunglasses at Night.") The '80s aerobics instructor is Rita, who seriously would have been an aerobics instructor if she'd grown up in a different time and place, so cheerful and energetic is she. I am the soused-looking member of Devo. I wish I could blame my pasty white arms on an over-powerful camera flash, but nope. The line forms to the left, ladies.

Again, from left: Lorenzo dressed as Neo from the Matrix movie series-and-cola-promotion juggernaut. Lorenzo has never seen The Matrix. So why dress up as Neo, you ask? Because it's Lorenzo. That explanation won't make much sense to anyone who doesn't know him personally, but it's perfectly in character for him. In the pink dress is Erica, dressed as a disco chick. (At one point, she and her boyfriend Hugh had flour smeared beneath their noses, but none of those pictures came out well.) Then Rita again. Hee! Behind Rita, holding the forty, is Erica's sister, Andrea, who was supposed to be "Evil Cupid." She's wearing wings that you can't see here, as well as awesome contact lenses that make her irises white, so you can see only her pupils.

It occurs to me that, when my friends and I go out somewhere, it's quite probable that I'm referred to as "the ugly one" (if at all) when strangers across the room are discussing us. I have attractive friends.

CURRENT MUSIC: Re-Routed by Q-Burns Abstract Message.
Hating life, myself, the world, everyone, etc. Except you. You're alllllllllll-right!
Burning leaves, from a few miles away. It's nice.
6:57 PM.

Doot? | |

Sunday, November 2, 2003:

Out of boredom, I made myself a mix CD of my favorite songs from this year. I know the year's not close to being over yet, but I had to make enough tough choices as it was to fit all these songs on one CD. (I had to cut Death Cab for Cutie, Super Furry Animals, Outkast, Grandaddy, Denali, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Yo La Tengo, and a few others, so it's safe to say all the songs that made it are indispensable.) It's entitled Whiskey-Soaked Dalai Lama: The Best of 2003, and I didn't really feel a need to give it its own page in the mix section, but if you want to send me your own suggestions for a best of 2003 mix, totally do it! If I get some tracklists, maybe I will give it a page. So anyway, here's what I have:

1. White Stripes- "Seven Nation Army" (Yes, I ordinarily loathe the White Stripes, and Elephant is no exception, but I guess the blind pig found an acorn with this one.)
2. Idlewild- "You Held the World in Your Arms" (Yeah, it's technically from 2002, but it wasn't released till this year in the US, and I like it.)
3. They Might Be Giants- "Am I Awake?"
4. Pernice Brothers- "Baby in Two"
5. Delgados- "The Drowning Years"
6. Mike Doughty- "Cash Cow"
7. The Postal Service- "Nothing Better"
8. The Northern State- "Dying in Stereo"
9. Ween- "The Argus"
10. Radiohead- "Sit Down. Stand Up."
11. New Pornographers- "The Laws Have Changed"
12. Goldfrapp- "Train"
13. Dandy Warhols- "Scientist"
14. Starlight Mints- "Pages"
15. The Incredible Moses Leroy (with Miho Hatori)- "The Color of Sky"
16. Cat Power- "He War"
17. Fountains of Wayne- "Stacey's Mom"
18. Yeah Yeah Yeahs- "Tick"
19. Belle & Sebastian- "Piazza, New York Catcher"
20. Dump- "Daily Affirmation"

CURRENT MUSIC: The above mix.
The beginnings of a headache, I think.
Coffee, and lots of it.
10:24 AM.

Doot? | |

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