Friday, March 30, 2007

grumpy guy and sunshine

So, I've been trying to get more organized lately. You know, like a post-birthday resolution. It's easy to fuck away the day sitting at home, diddling on the computer. So now I'm trying to go to a cafe in the morning and work on creative stuff (a rewrite of my teen novel, bulking up of a book proposal), and then go to a different cafe or home to do work (Rickshaw booking, article writing, nose picking).

So far, so good. Except for Fridays. Fridays are just too hard to do much, especially creatively. The weekend starts staring me down, like a cougar eyeing a gazelle (or something, my nature knowledge is legendarily sketchy). So I've started doing comics again on Fridays, especially those when I have to work at night. Makes me feel like I've gotten something interesting accomplished, even if it's relatively minor.

This is how Grumpy Guy and Sunshine got started. It's about a grumpy guy and a hippie girl. They sit around, they talk, they drink coffee. I'll put them up here on occasion. Be forewarned: they're super lo-fi and maybe a bit off the cuff. We're talking no pencil, no editing, just right to the notebook.

Here's the first one, entitled "Shoe-in."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rock 'n' Roll never forgets

If you would've told me 10 years ago that I'd be having a great time watching a Bob Seger cover band, I'd have thought you were nuts. But there I was at the Hemlock on Saturday, rocking out to Total BS, a tribute outfit comprised of hipsters from Harold Ray: Live In Concert, Comets on Fire, and Drunk Horse.

"Rock 'n' Roll Never Forgets," "Hollywood Hills," "Night Moves," "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." I loved them all.

It's freaking weird how the times -- and people -- change. When I was growing up, all I knew was classic rock and Top 40, save for what little jazz and weird noise came in fuzzily from a nearby college station. I listened to all that '70s stuff like Boston and Styx and Bob Seger, along with the hippie shit my dad turned me onto. But somewhere around 1984, I started discovering stranger artists like the Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and Kate Bush. They felt like home to me, like I was some foster child visiting my birth parents' house for the first time. In my small town, I always felt like an outsider, like everyone thought I was an idiot for reading books or watching Casablanca or eating whole wheat bread. But these songs were like a beacon, like some message from aliens telling me that the mothership would eventually find me. (I'm sure it's easier today, where some miserable kid in Iowa can tune into the Internet and discover there's plenty of freaks just like him.)

Anyway, after I discovered indie-rock, I started equating classic rock with the small-mindedness of my hometown and therefore hating on it. Only recently did I come to re-appreciate some of the songs of my childhood, although I still felt guilty about liking them.

Late last year, upon Chris' suggestion, a bunch of us made CDs of our 10 favorite guilty pleasure songs. It got me thinking a lot about what made something sound good now. Why, for instance, did Bon Jovi still sound awful to me, while Bob Seger did not? Why was Billy Joel more embarrassing than Steve Miller? Was Kenny Loggins a genius or a hack? And was there anything remotely forgivable about the Spin Doctors? (Answer to that last one: Still no, but wait a few years.)

Well, here's what I came up with for the GP disc, expanded to 15 songs. I've tried to say why I like them and why I'm embarrassed by them.

1. Bob Seger - "Night Moves." Yeah, I just said how great he is, but he's also kind of silly, here, talking about being a teenager and working on his night moves. The track's like a commercial approximation of Van Morrison's Celtic soul and Bruce Springsteen's adolescent poetry, but it's so epic I just don't care.

2. Billy Joel - "Only the Good Die Young." A bizarre appropriation of doo wop, more adolescent angst (a pattern forming?), euphoric in its snotty white boy soul.

3. John Cougar (before he was Mellencamp) - "Hurt So Good." God, what a hook, the kind made for air guitar marathons. Decadent and romantic and stoopid, with tons of handclaps.

4. .38 Special - "Hold On Loosely." I have very little tolerance for southern rock. The good liberal in me can't forgive them for that whole slavery thing, the continuing waving of the Confederate flag, their desertion of the Democratic Party. But for some reason, I'm a sucker for this hook.

5. Kenny Loggins - "Footloose." Ugh, those synthesized drums, that organ, that voice. Sooo bad it hurts. But so happy too. I mean, he's rebelling against a preacher who won't allow dancing. How can you not get behind that?

6. Olivia Newton John - "Physical." I was going to go with "Xanadu" because when I was in seventh grade the music class teacher asked us to introduce ourselves by saying what our favorite song was, and I chose that synth-pop soundtrack hit and was completely shocked by the rest of the class' hooting reaction. How could they not love Olivia the way I did? But I listened to the song again and it didn't hold up, not the way "Physical" did. Still gets me hottt.

7. Ready for the World - "Oh Sheila." More bad '80s drums, a fake British accent, and pseudo-Prince grunts. Way over the top, way catchy.

8. Mr. Big - "To Be With You." Okay, this is the most embarrassing one. A trashy acoustic ballad by an '80s hair metal band. I can't explain it, I really can't.

9. Bobby McFerrin - "Don't Worry Be Happy." Yes, we're going chronological. And yes if I have any hipster cred left, it's gone now. Come on, imagine if that guy from the Police Academy movies was a singer -- this is what he'd sound like.

10. Easy-E - "Gimme Dat Nut." I played this seriously misogynist rap tune at a TKS party. I don't know what I was thinking, except that it's soooo catchy.

11. Montell Jordan - "This Is How We Do It." Quite possibly the whitest black rapper ever. When he says "shorties" and "faded," he sounds like Sam on that episode of Cheers when he rapped the sports news. Hell of a groove though.

12. Sheryl Crow - "All I Wanna Do." I am a sucker for Rickie Lee Jones knock offs -- you know, the kind of sexy female singer who seems like she'd be fun to drink a bottle of whiskey with.

13. Lil' Kim - "Tongue Song." I am also a sucker for raunchy female rappers. Honestly, if I ever find a woman who loves this kind of stuff as much as she loves Belle & Sebastian, I will marry her.

14. The Killers - "Mr. Brightside." I've skipped most of the '90s, but here's a modern rock fave from the '00s. Big dumb emoriffic fun. Whiny and unstoppable.

15. T-Pain - "I’m N Luv Wit a Stripper." Bad spelling, minimalist hook, and a moronic lyrics ("she pop and she roll and she rollin'/ she climbin' that pole,'n"). One of the most bizarre ballads to hit the Top 10 in years. So wrong on so many levels, but after you've seen a bunch of 15 year olds singing it, it's hard not to love.

Monday, March 19, 2007

March (Donut) Madness

Danapalooza II's Great Temescal Donut Challege was a raging success (although, if you're like me, you had to endure a major sugar come down afterwards). Here's how it worked: I procured tasty treats from three local donuterias and then placed them unlabeled on plates. Attendees then tried all three kinds of either glazed raised, glazed old-fashioned, chocolate glazed, or crumb, and then rated them from one to five. The real masochists also compared them to the dozen from Krispy Kreme and Colonial Donuts, which partygoers brought on their own. And here are the final results:

Glazed Old Fashioned:
Golden Gate Donuts (42nd and Telegraph) - 18 ("A darker coloring.")
Lee's Donuts (40th and Telegraph) - 16 ("Somewhat whimsical aroma of deep fry.")
Lee's Donuts (Broadway and 45th) - 10 ("Light & crumbly -- wow!")

Chocolate Covered:
GG - 28 ("When you sink your teeth into this one you think, 'I'm really eating a donut at this moment!'")
Lee's 40th - 26 ("A totally average donut.")
Lee's Bway - 13 ("Terrible. Stale. Out of a box?")

Glazed Raised:
GG - 25 ("Light and sticky sweet. This is what plain glazed should be like.")
Lee's 40th - 20.5 ("Tasted old but was okay.")
Lee's Bway - 18 ("Bad donut.")

GG - 21 ("The best! Soft inside, crystally borderline crunchy coating.")
Lee's 40th - 22 ("The best!")
Lee's Bway - 16 ("Meh.")

So there you have it. Golden Gate takes three out of four. One other thought: Krispy Kremes taste the best the next day, although Colonial's chocolate cake donut was surprisingly fresh as well.

As for the Photo Contest, here's some suggestions for the identity of the sharply dressed man in the front door photo:

"He used to live here. … At night, he and Dan bongo together at Lake Merritt."
"Many music journalists claim he has been a pivotal figure in the history of rock 'n' roll."
"Leonard Nimoy. Or a guy from Ottawa who teaches ceramics and sings tenor."
"Insurance agent by day, Turkish undercover cop by night, ladies man through and through."
"His name could be Waldo [sic] or Harold."
"This is a photo of my first boyfriend, Stan Bernowitz. He really took advantage of me. … I had been unable to have an orgasm because my clitoris was not in my throat, like Stan said."


Other highlights of the week:
Watching Jeffrey Lewis sing songs that he illustrated with his own comics. Meeting a union organizer/burlesque artist with an MBA from the London School of Economics.
Seeing Eric's ecstatic look when he started dancing to his old DAT tapes of the Big Wu (and seeing Elly's stomach-pat hippie dance). Hanging out with Shana and Victoria for too brief a time. Drinking Botswanan liquer, eating BYOW homemade cupcakes, tossing back good tequila while listening to Stereo Total at the Make-Out Room, having a whole back room full of friends at Suriya Thai. Discovering that soccer and shotgunned beer is a good hangover cure. Total present capture, as Laura called it. Understanding that getting older is weird, but it can be fun too.

I could say something mushy about how my friends make life worth living but I won't. That'd be too corny.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Why do I have to be Mr. Pink?

Friday was one of the weirdest Rickshaw nights ever. Weirder than Robin Williams partying with the Club ID boys. Weirder than frat hippies drinking shots from a ski contraption. Weirder than Bobby rolling under a pile of coats on New Year's Eve.

See, the Russians were back in town. Previously, the promoter had brought us the Russian Tom Waits, the Russian Bob Marley, and the Russian Melissa Etheridge. (Only the first artist was actually billed that way; the others were how we came to describe them. This activity got a bit out of control, as you will see.)

This time it was supposed to be RTW coming back, with the added excitement of a 16-year-old's birthday party. But the US government, in its infinite wisdom, felt that it would send a message. Nothing says "We're tougher than you" than not letting a Tom Waits impersonator into your country.

So, instead we got the Russian Bob Mould. Seriously. He was big and bald and made a huge racket even though he was playing solo. Just like Bob Mould. The crowd ate him up. Of course, the crowd was heavily lubricated. I bet most of the people there had never been to New York, but they sure knew about Long Island.

One guy -- with his shirt unbuttoned farther than most guys in Long Island -- got a bit too wasted. So wasted that it was rather comical. He couldn't decide which he'd rather do: fight a guy or drink his beer. He kept grappling with one and then switching to the other. Even though he was only 5'2", it took three guys to toss him out (and only one girl to step on his glasses).

After Russian Bob finished, the night got weirder. The birthday girl's parents had hired a DJ to play what sounded like bad candy raver psi-trance from 1993. The Russians immediately ran for their credit cards like Gavin Newsom for a bottle blonde (or a good bottle of merlot). And the teenagers? They stayed upstairs, played strip foosball, and committed some of the most vigorous and disturbing dry humping to grace our harrowed halls.

Finally, it was time to go home. As I was taking out the recycling, the Russian Steve Buscemi stumbled up to me, mumbling something. "I'm sorry, what?" I asked. He leaned in and slurred, "I want to thank you for the kind service." Well, I couldn't shake hands since both hands were full, and he seemed to want to thank me physically. So he leaned in further, and I realized that he was going to do some continental air kiss, like in the movies or in France. (The one time I had gone to visit Chris in Paris in 1999, I had made a fool of myself by kissing cheek instead of air. I had hated the air kiss ever since. If you're going to kiss, kiss like the Italians. Full on.) Only, the Russian Steve Buscemi wasn't interested in an air kiss. He planted one right on my left cheek.

The Russian Steve Buscemi had surprisingly soft lips.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Beuller, Beuller, Beuller...

I had a very Brent-like moment at the last night of Noise Pop. I was tending bar, and this woman came up and ordered a glass of wine. Then she stopped.

"Wait, I know you," she said.

I looked at her doubtfully.

"Yeah, we made out once."

I looked some more. Nope, nothing at all in the memory banks. "Sorry," I said, "I don't think so, I've got a pretty good memory for that."

"Yes," she said, "we did. We went to Ocean Beach at 4 in the morning. It was freezing. My name is Kelly."

You know that moment in Secrets and Lies where the mom remembers that she could in fact be the mom of this black woman because she did actually have a one-night stand with a black man? Well, that's probably what my face looked like.

"Oh, heyyyyy," I said, "you used to live in Berkeley, right?"

We had met at a party at Victoria's massive Mission Street loft. She was one of the few women I've ever successfully picked up at a party. We had made out - and more - over two occasions, including that night on a blanket on Ocean Beach and another time after a bizarre Oakland warehouse party in which Jake's friend Hans played stand-up bass to accompany his trapeze artist girlfriend. And she'd been going to school with Rolf in his Psych program, and had tried hitting on him and Chris a week after we met.

And here she was. I couldn't see the same person in her at all, save for the long blonde hair. She looked heavier, more conservative, older (duh), and, well, shorter than I remembered. But I didn't say any of that. I was the model of restraint for once. I gave her the wine for free, and I didn't see her again the rest of the night. It made me wonder how many other people I've "made out" with are wandering around the Rickshaw, or other places I frequent. I just read about how spouses are GPSing each other's cars these days, trying to catch each other at infidelities. Soon, we'll be able to map out our entire lives on a big video screen. I thought about making a map of SF, showing all the spots I've eaten dinner or gone to bars or made out with people.

Oh yeah, the Spinto Band ruled. They were the perfect embodiment of a TKS band: bouncy, cute, clever, and catchy, full of fun covers and goofy energy. Like the Muppets if they were college kids from Delaware. And I have a new favorite local band: The Old Fashioned Way, a 7-piece indie-pop orchestra of boys and girls with a main singer Asian guy with a super-deep voice. Like Stephin Merritt fronting Architecture in Helsinki. Very high school band atmosphere, in the best way.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Pinheads and Noise Pop

It's Noise Pop, all the time this week. Last night, I decided to skip the festival for the first time in days, and I actually dreamt that John Vanderslice was popping all around me.

Okay, not really. But it wouldn't have surprised me.

Tuesday at Mezzanine w/ Freedm:

Freedm is just another word for nothing left to lose, and, um, Doc Martens. Really, this '90s revival is getting out of hand. What's next, free flannel shirts at shows? At least Doc M brought along a free photo booth, which I took part with two loverly former editors from West Coast Performer.

David Cross: I couldn't hear him when he was MCing. He djed a very Three Kinds of Stupid set though - highlighted by "Jet Boy Jet Girl" - and came upstairs to stand next to me for about an hour while he chatted up some girl he'd met at All Tomorrow's Parties.

Extra Action Marching Band: This was one of their more sedate performances, which made me want to go see them tonight at Balazo Gallery, where they'd get really sweaty and freaky. They seem like old friends now, even though I don't know any of them. Remember that Thanksgiving dinner show where they zapped a turkey with one of those orb things? And the trapezee artists were all on mushrooms and suddenly Brent was holding hands with a strange woman? Good times.

Har Mar Superstar: He seems fatter from the balcony.

Tapes n Tapes: Don't recall, much at all.

Wednesday at Swedish Music Hall:

It still smells like cat pee, and $3 for a cup of hot chocolate mix with water is annoying, but what great acoustics!

Laura Gibson: Dynomite! Is it wussy if I say I had shivers several times? I did! I know I've ranted about her before, but she was just as fantastic live as on record. What a freaking voice! And she told little anecdotes in an adorably nervous way, and played that beat up guitar like it was a Stradivarius.

Etienne: When good he's real good; when bad he's real boring. Funnier than expected, tho, especially that song about the Brain that's a Bro.

Josh Ritter: I thought he was very talented and very un-San Francisco in that he didn't hide behind irony or floppy hair. But I'm not so into poetic songwriters who turn great phrases that mean nothing to me and maybe everything to him or maybe nothing to him but a pretty phrase. When he did a John Prine song, I thought, 'Yeah, that's the kind of songwriter I like.'

Tonight, maybe some NP happy hour action, but then off to Rickshaw for Club Loaded with German DJs and one of the dudes from Junior Senior. And tomorrow: the Spinto Band! Oh Mandy.

If you can't tell, I got a new computer with one of those cameras where you can distort the view. Chris came over and we tried it out. Here he looks like one of those knights that go "nih!" or a villian from Flash Gordon.