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Willie's Off-Brand Web Journal: August 27-September 13, 2005

Tuesday, September 6, 2005:

This here picture, in addition to making my chest look oddly puffy and displaying my increasingly "Weird Al"-esque hairdo, exhibits why Amanda and Ben are two of my very best friends in the world. The shirt is my birthday gift from Amanda, and it made me giggle a lot as soon as I opened the package. Kind of an inside joke, but the short version is that "Rationalization Man" is the superhero name that Ben gave me when it became clear that my most prominent talent is the ability to come up with numerous reasons to encourage my friends to make questionable life decisions that they clearly want to make. Also, orange is one of my favorite colors. So I immediately love this shirt.

It also makes me feel extremely lucky, because the number of people I can classify under the rubric "my very best friends in the world" runs well into the double digits, now that I think about it. If you think you might conceivably be one of those people (and if you read this journal regularly, chances are you count), please know that I love you. If not, why must you leech my bandwidth by reading this when I don't even know you, shitbag?!

Bev, Bev's mom, and I went to the Blue Hill Fair yesterday, and it was the most impressive city/county fair I've ever attended. Great food (I had four deep-fried portabella mushrooms on a stick as well as teensy bites of Bev's delish garlic-fried tofu, crab roll, and fries), fun animal demonstrations (some guy smugly attempted to get his horses to walk backwards, and it not only took longer than the track of incidental music on the CD he was playing, but his assistant had to run onto the track as the "master" yanked the reins and yelled until his face turned red, and I laughed harder than I have in quite some time), and the photos that Bev and I entered in the photography exhibit won two first prizes and two second prizes. We won $14! So here are a couple of the winning photos:

The winner in the "human interest" category was a picture of Dubya at a podium, and I managed not to deface it, so I think I earned several thousand "Freedom of Speech Even If the Speaker is a Total Queef" points.

I finished reading Alex Robinson's Tricked this afternoon, after starting it late last night, and it's fantastic. However, one thing I cannot emphasize enough: if you're someone who might want to read this book (i.e., Jon and Ben and maybe others): DO NOT READ THE BACK COVER COPY BEFORE READING THE BOOK. Whoever wrote it should be fired from whatever position he holds, because it gives pretty much everything away. I mean, there are twists along the way, and the main joy of the book lies in the characters' developing relationships rather than the plot- and Robinson is clearly leading you along the way- but still, if you go into the book with the expectations provided by the jacket copy, it's going to be less effective than it would be if you went in clean. Not ineffective, mind you; it's just that I'd read the cover and even though the climax was masterful, the denoument left something to be desired as a result. So please just trust me that it's a worthwhile read and don't rely on the Top Shelf Publications design lackeys to convince you.

Because it really is a great book. As with Box Office Poison, the prose is rife with insight and pop-culture allusions (Simpsons, TMBG, Talking Heads, Mr. Show, et al), but the story itself is much more taut, with every self-contained nugget of characterization matched by a vital panel of Chris Nolan-style neo-noir plot detail. If you think you might be tempted to read the back of Tricked, then you may as well read the rest of this entry:

-Kevin Spacey's character is Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects.
-"Rosebud" was C.F. Kane's sled.
-Kevin Costner's character was actually a commie spy in No Way Out.
-Tim Robbins is framing Jeff Bridges for a terrorist attack the entire time in Arlington Road.
-Bruce Willis's character was murdered by the New Kid on the Block in the opening of The Sixth Sense (also, Samuel L. Jackson was responsible for the train wreck in Unbreakable, the aliens are hydro intolerant in Signs, The Village actually takes place in modern times, and M. Night Shyamalan is not a particularly good director).
-The chick in The Crying Game is really a man.
-I mean, man, is that a good movie.

CURRENT MUSIC: Math and Science by Math and Science.
CURRENT MOOD:
Newark.
CURRENT FAVORITE GUITAR EFFECT PEDAL: Delay.
TIME:
3:34 PM.

Doot? | |

Saturday, September 3, 2005:

I called my mom today, and she broke down in tears of frustration at the way Bush has neglected to give a fuck about the folks in New Orleans and the other hurricane-affected areas. I give thanks to Allison, who directed me to Tom Tomorrow's blog, in which he articulates all the anger and frustration of the situation in a way I could never hope to do. Read it and seethe, America.

My favorite charity at the moment is the Tubey's Kids Katrina Classroom Care Donation Drive. God bless the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, and I don't want to denigrate all the good they're doing, but I'm just incredibly happy that someone is thinking about the aftermath rather than the present, which has been irretrievably bungled.

My athiest/agnostic friends can justifiably flip me the bird at this point, and I really don't want this to sound insensitive, but because my Lexapro has forced the tinest kernel of optimism to the surface, I'm gonna say what occurred to me when I couldn't sleep last night: although I don't believe that God caused Katrina and Her Waves, I hope He is using the tragedy to point out the hypocrisy of Dubya and eventually get the neo-cons out of power entirely. The so-called Homeland Security Department has diverted so many resources (including the NATIONAL GUARD, going against what those words mean, technically if you want to get technical) to an idiotic, unjustifiable war in Iraq that will benefit twelve people that it could not protect this nation's citizens against a natural disaster about which we had four days' warning (i.e., what happens if we actually get attacked by actual terrorists unexpectedly, you assholes?!). My gut feeling, naive though it still may be, is that God's first attempt at shutting Bush down was the war, because it was so clearly illegal, immoral, and selfish. Didn't work. Morons nationwide still defended the administration's determination to make a little bit of money by slaughtering several hundred thousand Iraqis and a few thousand Americans. Because they'd been effectively frightened by FOX News and the fancypants color chart. It's so aesthetically pleasing that if it were wrong, many Vanity Fair subscribers wouldn't want to be right!

Now it's happening on our turf, and Bush still couldn't care less, as Kanye West pointed out last night. (Auntie Tom Condi Rice spent most of the week shopping for shoes and playing tennis before declaring that she felt everyone's pain because she's a "southern American," FYI.) Because they're mostly poor brown people. And now Americans are finally starting to perk up their fuckin' ears. People are noticing that our MILLIONAIRE "president" has done little more than shake a couple women's hands, pledging that the Salvation Army would help them (while thousands more were dumped unceremoniously on the damn interstate). People are noticing that even though FEMA drilled for this very event last year, the official relief effort is as bafflingly twisted and ineffectual as a macrame quilt designed by a day camp for the retarded.

And if this doesn't work, look out, Dallas, if God is thinking the way I am.

And how could He not?! I rule!

I suppose at this point I should explain how I think God can be in charge of the good bits and not the bad. I'll admit it seems a little self-serving- if not outright defensive- to say this, but I think of God's role on Earth as mostly hands-off. You know how you feel when you want to see how your car's steering mechanism is functioning, and you try to drive as far as you can without touching the steering wheel? That's how I hope God operates. The world goes several hundred thousand miles without divine intervention, and then He sort of tentatively nudges the wheel back the other way to keep it from landing in a ditch, and then it goes several hundred thousand more miles until it becomes a hazard to oncoming traffic, so He nudges the wheel a little bit the other way. And so on. If you're riding shotgun with someone who's doing that, you might freak out from time to time, because it seems dangerous, but ultimately, the driver truly is paying close attention and has everything under control, though it may not be the way you'd have things go if you had your druthers. In the end, though, you'll admit He got you where you needed to go, so who cares how the trip itself was?

I'm not saying I have the only answer, but that's how I get through the day. That and booze.

(My mom laughed at that line, I should point out. God love 'er.)

CURRENT MUSIC: The Angels of Light Sing Other People by Angels of Light.
CURRENT MOOD:
Helpless.
CURRENT SONG IN MY HEAD:
"Pinhead" by the Ramones.
TIME:
5:23 PM!

Doot? | |

Tuesday, August 30, 2005:

I just spoke with Pete from Shut Eye Records, who was incredibly nice and hugely apologetic about the typo in my song title, and was even more generous about redressing it than I'd hoped. So thanks to everyone who encouraged me to bring it to his attention, because I'm feeling much better now. I should also emphasize that I didn't intend to imply that I felt Shut Eye was incompetent or anything in my previous entry. Typos happen, and since the Shut Eye folks deal with unfamiliar song titles all the time, mistakes may not leap out at them no matter how careful they are, unless something is clearly misspelled. After a year of proofreading galleys at Math Reviews, I can totally understand how something like that might slip through. (Particularly since I just noticed that I initially typed "mistakes may not leap out of them" above.) Also, I'm really liking a lot of stuff on the Buzzlighter disc, so you still may want to check it out. Though I did pay for the privilege of being included, the Shut Eyes apparently extend that offer only to bands they themselves enjoy, so there's not much chaff. It's not like they're releasing the musical equivalent of Who's Who Among American High School Students or anything, y'know? This may sound like I'm just sucking up because Pete was so friendly and helpful, but once I reread the previous entry, I realized that I may have unintentionally made Shut Eye sound like a shoddy operation, which isn't the case at all. I do hope to work with them again.

Bev and I attempted to watch Prison Break's premiere last night, but gave up after about 15 minutes. Can't stand up to Oz. I know not much can, but still. So Oz we watched, because Bev had never seen it. She said that Dino Ortolani was hot (which wasn't a pun on the fact that he got burned SPOILER ALERT alive), while Ryan O'Reily did nothing for her. Which means she's as big a weirdo as I am, and is therefore further confirmation that we were meant for one another. Though I still think O'Reily is pretty hot, while Ortolani is a frickin' greaseball. Guess the tiebreaker will be whether she hates Omar White within the first ten seconds of his inaugural appearance as she should.

CURRENT MUSIC: Ace of Spades by Motorhead.
CURRENT MOOD:
Destitute.
NEXT THING I'LL PURCHASE:
Tricked, the new graphic novel by Alex Robinson, author of the masterpiece Box Office Poison. You should buy them both. Or loot them, if you're in New Orleans. (That last sentence included for entertainment purposes only.)
TIME:
2:25 PM.

Doot? | |

Saturday, August 27, 2005:

"...so get dressed and go fetch me a flagon of ale!"

Lots to address.

My song "You Ruined Everything" is now available on the compilation Buzzlighter 10: Direct Connections from Shut Eye Records. I'm not entirely sure how to get ahold of it, but their website says you can do so practically for free, and the couple songs I've listened to so far have been worth hearing. However, on the back cover, my song is erroneously listed as "You Ruining Everything." Which makes me sound like a Japanese punk band. A description that is a bit of an oversimplification, to say the least. My question to you all is this: should I make a big deal of it? I paid quite a bit (by my standards) for the song's inclusion on the compilation, and Shut Eye got the title right in the liner notes, so I'm certain it was their error and not the result of a careless mistake when I filled out a form or anything. And since I haven't yet heard anything in response to my job interview two weeks ago, every dollar matters to a depressing degree. Not a degree that was an obstacle to my purchase of the new New Pornographers album, which is awesome, but still, a degree that's larger than I'd like.

I wasn't particularly upset when Bev pointed this boner out to me or anything (it's a minor mistake compared with the initial pressing of Airbag, where the printing company misspelled the name of the band as "Disclaim" on 2,500 copies), but my worry is this: on the slim chance some radio station receives the compilation and decides my song is deserving of airplay, the DJ may announce the incorrect title. Thus, on the even slimmer chance that some listener then wants to check out my album, if they do a Google search for "You Ruining Everything," they're not going to find any Disclaimer-related information. Except possibly this entry. So, while I certainly don't think I'm entitled to a full refund or anything, this mistake could theoretically be really counterproductive to what I'd hoped buying a slot on the compilation would accomplish. Or am I blowing this out of proportion? What do you all think?

Of course it goes without saying that I now fully plan to record a song called "You Ruining Everything." Just as I've been referring to my brother- both publicly and privately- as "T-Bone" since the All Music Guide inexplicably credited him as such. How I love the folly of man!

Bev and I went to Portland a couple days ago to see the Pernice Brothers. They played at this neat little "alternative arts venue" called Space, which is sometimes an art gallery and sometimes a concert place, and which has benches and is therefore better than a lot of indie-rock clubs. The first opener was Jose Ayerve, the Pernice Brothers' road manager and member of the bands Spouse and the Nuclear Waste Management Club. I liked his music. Some of it was in Spanish, and still struck me on a more emotional level than most bands who sing in English can accomplish.

After Jose came Cloud Room, who reminded me just how sick I am of these boring, hookless hipster bands whose lead singers think they're a version of Lou Reed who's even more concerned with the possibility of anonymous groupie sex. They're one of those bands whose every kick of the bass drum makes you acutely aware of each second of your life that's passing you by as you sit through their fucking dentist's waiting room of a set. To steal a joke from Todd Barry, if you asked Cloud Room's A&R representative what they sound like, he'd say, "They're really hard to describe." You'd say, "Try me," and he'd say, "Alright: they sound sorta like The Strokes, but crossed with Television and The Velvet Underground and a poppier version of... the New Bomb Turks, maybe?" To which you'd say, "Oh. So they sound like The Strokes."

The Pernice Brothers were predictably, typically amazing. This was the sixth or seventh time I've seen them live, and it was quite possibly their best show I've seen. Impeccable sound (even during the harmony bit at the end of "7:30," which rarely sounds right live), a setlist that included every song I especially wanted to hear except "Everyone Else is Evolving,"

,

and a fun anecdote, when Bev went to use the ladies' and came upon Peyton Pinkerton and James Walbourne yelling through a door at Joe Pernice for taking way too long in the men's room. She offered to let them go ahead of her in the women's room and they laughed.

During the "Joe solo" bit of the encore listed above, following a killer version of "Bum Leg," Joe told us the story behind the Scud Mountain Boys masterpiece "Grudgefuck": "I used to have a girlfriend who was obsessed with the old Gin Blossoms song 'Hey Jealousy'- which is a fine song, I must confess. But she would play it for me over and over and tell me to listen to the lyrics and say, 'You see what he's saying? You can't just leave and come back and leave and come back,' and I said, 'No- that guy is clearly just trying to get laid. That's what the song is about.' And I liked that, so I wrote 'Grudgefuck' as kind of a companion piece to 'Hey Jealousy.'" Which just makes it all the cooler, in my book.

Portland itself was also very cool. Great record stores. Also, Bev and I stopped in an Asian food market and bought some goodies. Or, rather, she bought some goodies while I bought a melon-flavored Japanese soda in a bottle that contained a marble to prevent you from taking more than one sip at a time:

.

Its label contains the phrase "For even more delicious this drink chill before drinking," so there's no comprehensible explanation for why the marble is there, but it sucks and I hate it. Also, the local pigeons seemed resistant to Bev's attempt to favor them with the seaweed-rice crackers she'd purchased at the same store. Lousy stuck-up pigeons. Think they're so big.

Also in Portland, we picked up a free paper called The West End News, and it contained a hilarious "heard around town" column that featured the following entry on one of their delivery boys: "PaperBoy is usually very safety-conscious because he really believes the odds will eventually catch up with him, but he was riding the WestEndNewsCycle down High Street the wrong way the other day when some guy in a crappy little car coming up the hill gave him a disapproving look and stuck out his finger at him. Of course, PaperBoy didn't respond, because he is mature enough to realize that some people have bad manners, some people are envious, and some people are road hogs, and some people are all of the above."

In the past week, Bev and I have also seen the Monmouth Community Players' productions of The Taming of the Shrew and Love's Labours Lost. I'd never seen or read either play, and although both productions were fabulous, creative, and enjoyable, the last ten minutes of the former were so misogynous that it left the worst taste I've had in my mouth since I stopped eating cube steak. I like 10 Things I Hate About You much better. And Clueless better still, though that's probably not really related. Love's Labours Lost was a treat from start to finish, though.

For those of you with Netflix, the Flaming Lips documentary Fearless Freaks is the best non-Stop Making Sense rock 'n' roll film I've ever seen. Sure, it fawns over its subjects, but it also features self-effacing interviews with the band about their early incarnations, a hilariously bitter interview with Gibby Haynes from the Butthole Surfers (alongside more complimentary ones from Liz Phair and the Starlight Mints), and as its centerpiece, a remarkably straightforward interview with Stephen Drozd about his heroin addiction as he's shooting up. For those of you who understandably think of Wayne Coyne as a self-indulgent megalomaniac, this film may change your mind. For those of you without Netflix, why not? You can get great DVDs like Wild Strawberries, Incident at Oglala, and Hell House, which will make you a much better person than you are.

Finally, here's a fun quotation from the book You Are Worthless by Scott Dikkers: "Lonely? Have kids. They'll be like an Alzheimer's patient at first, then they'll be like a high-maintenance pet, then they'll be like your worst enemy, then they might call once in a while. Finally, in your old age, they'll neglect you. By the way, this whole de-lonelification process will cost you a few hundred thousand dollars." Exactly.

CURRENT MUSIC: We Are All Natural Disasters by Hanalei.
CURRENT MOOD:
In midlife crisis mode. I'm blessed with a nice, full head of hair, and I'd never had any gray hairs until a couple days ago, when suddenly there were dozens visible among the brown, all at once. Isn't that sort of thing supposed to happen only if you get struck by lightning or accidentally step on a leprechaun or something?
NEWEST DISCOVERY ABOUT NOVI THE COCKATIEL:
In addition to hating it when I sing Beck's "Novacane" to her as "Novi-cane," she hates it when I sing ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You" to her as "Novi Me, Novi You." She hisses.
TIME:
4:54 PM.

Doot? | |

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