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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: July 9-July 30, 2007

Monday, July 16, 2007:

E-mail from T-Bone:

MVP Baseball 2005 came in the mail today. I'm pretty excited. It's supposed to be the best console baseball game out there--and I used to love playing those things on Nintendo. The best part of this one is that if there's a close play, you can hit the triangle button and your manager will come out and argue (and if it's a legit argument, your team gets a boost...if not, they lose morale), but if you get him ejected, then the computer manages your team the rest of the game. So you can't tell it when to make pitching changes and stuff. I think that's pretty funny. I've always thought that the arguments in games like this should be like they were in Monkey Island, where you actually get to select what your guy says. Imagine being in a baseball game and being able to pick from:

A) You spit on me!
B) Did anyone ever tell you that you look like a penis with a little hat on?
C) I do not think that that was a good call.

It'd be great.

CURRENT MUSIC: Back to the Drawing Board by The Rubinoos. You know, as much as I'd like them to shut Avril Lavigne down, I don't think the similarities between their "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and Lavigne's "Girlfriend" are severe enough to necessitate a lawsuit. If I were a Rubinoo, I think I'd rather try my best to downplay any elements the two songs share in an effort to convince the public that my own songwriting instincts are entirely distinct from those of the Avril Lavigne EZ-Punk Song-Assembly Team Unit.
4:50 p.m.

Doot? | |

Friday, July 13, 2007:

The transcription work I've been doing is all confidential, so I unfortunately can't share some of the really funny or absurd things I've had to take down over the past couple weeks, but I think it would be okay to issue a warning to everyone. Based on what I've gleaned from certain recordings, I believe I've stumbled across the next huge, annoying buzzword and assault against intelligent and thoughtful discourse that will be slithering forth from the business world, to join "thinking outside the box" and people who use "myself" every single time they need a first-person pronoun in the mistaken belief that it makes them sound literate or professional (it's fucking obnoxious to say, "Come see Dale or myself if you need the Febreze"; I don't care whether Webster ties itself in knots to find it acceptable). Ready?

Using "leadership" in place of "management."

Not to refer to a quality or activity, but to the top tier of people within an organization. And I'm not talking about coming up with twee little Silicon Valley names for a collective of bosses, like "the leadership team" or "leadership gurus"; I'm talking straight-facedly, condescendingly referring to themselves as "leadership."

As in, "We need to determine leadership's official position with regard to our CFO appearing on Extreme Makeover to get dozens of Neuticles implanted all over his body."

As in, "Until the culprit comes forward, employees will require permission from leadership to wear any sort of orthopedic or corrective device."

As in, "Neil Cavuto has hand-picked the following techniques to help leadership to duck the shadowy influence of the AFL-CIO."

It's another bit of meaningless linguistic batting that fools only those who use it, but which underlings would be obligated to put up with anyhow, which is what leads me to believe it'll spread like wildfire across hotcakes. I don't know whether it has already infiltrated the minds and mouths of many pseudo-businesspeople, since I'm lucky not to have many of those in my world, and my dad retired around the heyday of "do your due diligence." Luckily, I can report that I haven't yet heard this one on any of the reality shows I watch, and those make pretty reliable barometers of what's going on out there. So this is just a heads-up for now...

CURRENT MUSIC: The Else by They Might Be Giants.
What's for Dinner? The most distinctively Canadian show I've seen since Kids in the Hall.
6:08 p.m.

Doot? | |

Monday, July 9, 2007:

I watched Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston last weekend, needing a break from transcribing a frustratingly mumbly interview. It was very good. I've never thought much of Daniel Johnston as a songwriter, and he's hopeless as a performer except as the sort of outsider curio that you feel kind of guilty for indulging. Even when I've enjoyed other artists' covers of his songs (Sparklehorse's "Hey Joe," the Eels' "Living Life," etc.), I've felt the credit belonged to the interpreters for reading complexity, melody, or insight into Johnston's compositions that simply isn't there. I'm not trying to bag on the guy too much, because he's clearly worked for what fame he has with singleminded devotion for most of his life, and it's all the more impressive that he's done so despite severe bipolar disorder, but... I don't think the unusual sincerity of his songs is enough to carry them, and I don't think they have much else going for themselves.

The movie, however, is a summary of Johnston's life and career, and is fascinating, at least until the lengthy "present day" segment that wraps things up. (Things are fairly routine and not so interesting nowadays, it seems.) Feuerzeig's interviews with Johnston apparently didn't yield much usable footage- the sorry entertainer seems pretty dazed during these brief bits- but the judicious use of archival footage from the Johnston family's personal collection provides as close a peek into his life as you'd likely want: it's a deluge of tortured cartoons, rambling audiocassette monologues, and films from a seemingly ever-running videocamera that Daniel has kept trained on himself since he was a kid. Half the time, you're not sure who is filming him or why, but for whatever reason, Daniel has brought you into his life, just as he wanted.

While you're there, the compulsive video documentation often makes you privy to scads more than Johnston likely intended, just as that habit proved damning to the titular family in Capturing the Friedmans. It's a side effect that reaches its apex during the troubling segment in which Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo have to scour New York City in search of Daniel, who freaked out on drummer Steve Shelley and then went AWOL. (Daniel accused Shelley of being in league with Satan- fire-and-brimstone proselytizing was a common theme during his psychotic breaks- because Shelley thought Daniel should go back home to his parents' place. By the end of the evening, Shelley was so disturbed he couldn't bring himself to participate in the search for Daniel.) There are plenty of disconcerting anecdotes throughout the film, but the bits with firsthand video or audio are more immediately sad and scary than much else you've hopefully seen in your life.

My favorite bit was more lighthearted, though. During one of his numerous institutionalizations, Johnston became obsessed with the idea of becoming a spokesman for Mountain Dew, and we get to hear a phone message he left for his then-manager, singing the jingle he'd composed: "We were drowning deep in sin, away from Mountain Dew," it begins. (I can't remember how the melody goes, exactly, but I think that lyric is especially pleasing if you sing it to the tune of the iambic opening line to "The Teddy Bears' Picnic.") The demo concludes with Daniel singing, "Mountain DeeeeeewwwwwwooooooOOOOAAAAGGGH the demons are coming out! The demons are drinking Mountain Dew!" The manager claims that he sent the tape to PepsiCo, but never heard back.

It's even more amusing than the dream I had the other night that featured a Game Boy commercial in which the slogan was "Personal hygiene without any tricks!"

I do wish the film had a greater diversity of interviewees from within the artistic community. I think it might be more illuminating, and make a better case for Daniel's supposed prodigious talent, to hear the perspective of people who are themselves considered "characters" rather than mostly limiting the commentators to family and longtime friends the way Feuerzeig does, because the exceptions are telling. Daniel doesn't seem quite so uniquely out-there, for instance, after listening to the similarly spacey Fair brothers from Half Japanese, or following a funny bit in which Gibby Haynes is interviewed while getting his teeth drilled. I personally would have found more of that context useful, because The Devil and Daniel Johnston still didn't do much to convince me that Daniel Johnston possesses any sort of artistic gift. I still think he's more Mattie Stepanek than Syd Barrett or even Brian Wilson. However, the film did convince me that there's a lot to admire about him regardless of the quality of his work, and I'd rank it up near the Flaming Lips documentary Fearless Freaks in the list of rock films that bring you closest to their subjects.

On another topic, I'm beta-testing a mix I made for Jess & Tim (they're getting married in two weeks, so they're getting an ampersand in lieu of a tangible wedding gift). I'm enjoying it so much I think I might make a copy for myself. Here's an Instructables-style do-it-yourself guide to its raw materials, if you'd like to make one of your very own. It's called Gouda-Filled Double Stufs.

1. Pretty Things: "Private Sorrow"
2. Bob Mould: "Circles"
3. Malcolm Middleton: "No Modest Bear"
4. Twink: "Slush Bunny"
5. ELO: "Do Ya"
6. Songs: Ohia: "Dogwood Gap"
7. Frank Black: "Los Angeles"
8. Replacements: "Waitress in the Sky"
9. Punkles: "Run for Your Life"
10. Mike & Rich: "Eggy Toast"
11. Dead Milkmen: "Serrated Edge"
12. Sean Paul: "Temperature"
13. Butthole Surfers: "The Last Astronaut"
14. Jonathan King: "Everyone's Gone to the Moon"
15. Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club: "Flying Man"
16. Fannypack: "So Stylistic"
17. The Lover Speaks: "Every Lover's Sign"
18. Sun City Girls: "The Shining Path"
19. Johnny Parry: "Little Prayer No. 5"
20. Ladytron: "International Dateline"
21. The Robot Ate Me: "Lately"
22. Charles Mingus: "Profile of Jackie"

Cora's Corner: Our puppy's favorite game involves crouching on the bed and waiting for me to either drum on the comforter with my hands in various spots, or use my fingers as tiny "legs" to make my hands scuttle across the bed like Thing. She tries to pounce and catch me, but she's so keyed up that she usually just winds up flailing her paws around in a state of uncoordinated excitement. The funniest part, though, is that Cora really wants to glom onto my fingers with her mouth (that's how she scores a point), but she's so careful about not wanting to hurt me that she curls her lips in, over her teeth, so she won't bite me accidentally. Bev calls it her "granny mouth." I frequently let her (Cora, not Bev) catch me, just because the feeling of her victoriously, gently gumming my hand makes me smile.

Also, I've decided that Cora's middle name is Butterworth.

CURRENT MUSIC: Pictures by Timo Maas.
Rapidly fading denial about not having caught Bev's cold.
Bev and I recently watched Spiders II, and I thought of that old Hollywood joke: "They made [name of sequel to crappy film] because the original left so many unanswered questions." To which comedian was that joke originally attributed? I feel like it was Gilbert Gottfried, but I can't find any confirmation one way or the other. (Extra credit question: in the original joke, which movie franchise was being discussed?)
8:23 p.m.

Doot? | |

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