Sunday, January 27, 2008

Foreign Affairs

I really want to vote for Obama. I just wish he would be a little more specific about how he's going to bring about all this change. I mean, it'd be nice to have a president who was actually inspirational (even Caroline Kennedy compared him to her dad recently), but I'd also like to think he actually had plans for the future. Maybe he's just being vague so his opponents -- now and after the primaries -- can't call him on them. And all this "reach across the aisle" crap better just be schtick to win a general election. I'm okay having a Democratic president who reaches across, as long as he does it with a steel-toed boot. Some of these right wing nutcases got to learn there's a new sheriff in town. Listen, we saw what they did to old Bill Clinton. These people will take your outreached hand and twist it up your rectum.

Over across the pond, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has started a brouhaha over … well, what exactly? Apparently, he dumped his wife for Carla Bruni, a former model and rumored "pal" of Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, and, um, Donald Trump. Hello, she's a hot, she's Italian, she can sing the feathers off a myna bird, and she likes to read books on the floor without any underwear on -- why is this a scandal?

It seems people are shocked at how open he's been about his paramour, rather than keeping her on the, how you say, down low. Jeez, I'd much rather see her prancing around in a bathing suit than Laura Bush. (This is the same country going nuts for this nude pic of Simone Beauvoir, taken in Chicago in 1950. Note that she's wearing her high heels, even when naked in the bathroom. That's class.)

Speaking of class -- bad transition, I know -- Tracie hooked me up with some CD-swapping people. Each coupled months they pick a theme and make a disc to trade. Next month's theme is Sad Songs. Got any thoughts? I'm trying to pick 15 of the most miserable, loneliest, sad-bastardy tunes of all time.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Movie Madness

Have you been to the new Kabuki Theater yet? You know, the one that Robert Redford and Sundance bought up and made into a high-end cinema experience? I kid you not, there are now catalogs for wrought-iron windchimes on every table. And you have to pay $1-3 extra (depending on the time of your showing) per ticket for "an amenity fee." I asked the sullen ticket clerk -- thank god some things never change -- what it was for, and he said, "blatant robbery. No, ha ha, just kidding. It goes to keeping the theater green, which is really expensive." Huh.

Apparently, the carpet is made of recycled materials. The carpet that they put in, after tearing up the old one. Okay. And they use potato utensils, which is good, especially if you bring your own Bunsen burner and can melt them down (because there's no compost bins for them that I could see). Can you get $2 off if you bring your own coffee mug or fork? Um, no. Well, it says on the web site that one of the upsides of the experience is that there are no commercials, just previews. My god, do we have to actually pay more for something we don't want to have in the first place? (I guess, sadly, we do.) And also it's all reserve seating, which I'm supposed to like why? I guess it makes it easier to walk into another film and watch it, since no one is there to take your ticket at the doorway. (But doesn't that save them money on staffing?) And you can get your tickets online ahead of time and make sure all your friends get to sit near each other. Unless someone shows up that you didn't expect and doesn't have a ticket and therefore has to get one way across the theater from you. And who knows exactly where they want to sit before seeing the theater, anyway? And what if a big tall lady with a giant floppy hat sits in front of you? You're screwed.

Then there's the balcony bar. I'm all for being able to drink at the movies -- the Parkway rules! -- but the Kabuki's bar only looks out over one of its many theaters. So if you want to watch something else you're going to have to chug a $9 glass of wine at the bar beforehand or go as sober as George Bush at a prayer meeting.

All this doesn't mean I won't go there. Just that it puts more pressure on the film to be good. Sort of like when a baseball player making $10 million a year hits a bad streak -- you feel more pissed at him than usual.

I've got one suggestion, but I'm sure it'll never happen. Better previews, ie shorter previews. Like the movie I saw, The Savages. It was pretty much ruined by the preview. Almost every single surprise had been sucked out of the film, which was kind of slight to begin with (which is odd considering it's about death and family reconciliation). I think it would've been endearingly sad rather than nice but forgettable if I hadn't heard all the best lines.

For a nice rebuttal to all this carping, check out this Kabuki employee's post.

Oh yeah, and I'm really bummed I missed out on the No Pants 2k8 BART ride recently. Looks like a lot of fun.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Messing around

Random thoughts from my holiday trip back east:

My mother and her wife drink a lot of milk. For some reason, this seems odd to me. Not that my mom has a wife, but that they drink a lot of milk. No one else I know does.

I had only one bad moment with my mom. I made the mistake of telling her about my new zen approach to dealing with my parents (no, I didn't phrase it like that). It's this easy: I don't let the little things bother me. That would've been okay to say, but then I gave an example of when we were in New Haven this summer, and Denise was trying to parallel park and my mother had her redo it six times, even though three out of the first five were fine, and I just looked out the window and tried not to get angry because it didn't matter. It was their dynamic, and if Denise wanted to be bullied, that was fine. Well, my mom stormed out the room, saying we were picking on her. She sure is sensitive, that one.

You know what should be outlawed? That thing where you have to hold hands at dinner and say something you're thankful for. Especially when your step-mother's nice-if-mildly-homophobic brother is over, and you just know he's going to make bad jokes about having to hold your hand.

My 20-year-old brother Gabe was home for the holidays. He had been out in LA until his program ran out of money. Apparently, girls were flying all the way across the country to sleep with him. Which isn't much of a surprise. When he came to visit at 15, he was already 6'3" with a big white-boy afro and clothes all of orange, and he was stopping cars dead on Market Street. While we were waiting for a bus, this beautiful Brazilian woman screeched to a halt and invited Gabe to compete in a teen modeling contest with a $250,000 grand prize. "You're exactly what we're looking for," she said. He didn't go, because he's a small town boy and it seemed weird to him. Yes, a quarter of a million dollars is weird. No, hot Brazilian women aren't. (Just ask 25-year-old brother Joel, who married one last year.) Oh yeah, and Kristina and Kathleen still talk about him in a tone that is a little frightening.

Anyway, upon my return east, I discovered that Gabe had changed. For one thing, his "death stare" had blossomed.

The death stare is one of the many fine features our father passed down to us. It is an intense, unwavering, slightly unnerving eye-lock that bores down upon its recipients. It is not malicious in intent; in fact, the user is usually just paying close attention to what the speaker is saying. But something about that gaze is a bit too much for some folks. Hell, even I find my dad's stare disconcerting at times.

I used to have the stare. Back in the mid-90s I remember a few girls telling me that I made them all squirrelly with my intent gaze. (Secretly, however, they seemed to like it.) But then I must've stopped or maybe the girls got hardier, because no one mentioned for years. Only recently did a friend bring it up. Maybe the death stare has returned?

Well, I relayed this information to the whole family, and everyone got excited about trying on their death stares. This is what entertainment amounts to in snowy Western Mass. (Secretly, I like it.)

Some Strachotas haven't quite got the stare down yet.

My dad told me two stories about him and my step-mom, Ellen. At a Christmas many years ago, when they were first seeing each other, my dad opened a present he didn't like or he owned already. And he said exactly that, which led her to think, "What the hell am I doing here? Who are these horrible people who tell the truth about their Christmas presents?"

I also asked him about how exactly he'd approached Ellen. Because at the time they first started seeing each other, they were both married (him not to my mom, but to wife number two, Gabe & Joel's mother). I wanted to know how he'd taken that leap of faith, considering that she also worked with him at the same school. It could've been a real disaster. But he explained that he always liked to jump into things -- whether it be relationships or work or piles of leaves -- because even if it turned into a mess, it would be an interesting mess.

So, I decided to take that as my mantra for the new year, and maybe you should to. I here proclaim 2008 the year of the interesting mess.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A little less conversation

It's the new year, when a boy's mind turns to … top 10 lists. Well, I'll get to that, if I must, but first I'm going to give you some liner notes. Because, well, I made a year-end mix, and Karen asked what was the deal with that Elvis song, and I realized that many of them had stories behind them. These weren't necessarily the best songs of the year or the songs from my favorite albums; instead, they were just songs that meant something special. So here you go: If you've got a copy, you'll now understand them better; if you don't -- and you want one -- let me know.

A Little Less Conversation - Dan's End of 2007 Mix

1. Bob Andy - "Games People Play" - This can be found on a 3-CD box set of reggae covers of country songs by Trojan Records artists. What sounds like a horrible idea proves genius, as ska and rock steady artists make even the lamest of 70s soft-rock sound awesome.

2. Rilo Kiley - "Breakin' Up" - What could be worse than being in a band with your ex? Having her write a song in which she sings "Ooh, it feels good to be free" over and over. Chris says this album is a horrible major label sell-out, but I think it's half a genius major label sell-out (and half dullsville). This song out-discos Feist by a mile and should be required playing for anyone escaping a relationship.

3. MC Chris - "I Want Candy" - I have a large space in my heart for novelty rap, a category that houses this track from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force soundtrack. The guy played Rickshaw last year, and even though he's 5' 2" with a squeaky voice and a Boston accent, he had complete control of his rabid, stoned teenage audience.

4. The Honey Cone - "Want Ads" - At some point I downloaded the entire 10-cd Have a Nice Decade box set just so I could get this song.

5. The Mixers - "Love Hurts" - At another point I decided that I was going to quit KALX when I turned 40, so I should go thru all of my CDs and pull out the best songs to play before I left. That's how I discovered this '80s gem from the TV Personalities-sponsored UK comp, Waam Bam Thank You Dan.

6. The Morning Benders - "Damnit Anna" - Local boys, including Matt's cousin. It'd be a shame if they didn't get as big as the Kinks, or at least the Strokes.

7. MVP - "Stockholm Doesn't Belong to Me" - No story, just a great Swedish pop tune. Why do they do childlike melancholy so well? Must be all that sun.

8. Vetty - "Nicolas" - A crazy kid-pop French tune from the third Pop a Paris compilation. Someone needs to collect all these.

9. Eleni Mandell - "Make-Out King" From Miracle of Five, this Angelino's latest. Apparently she went to grammar school with Michele, and Tom Waits loves her. If she lived up here, I'd have a big honking crush on her.

10. Wire - "Mannequin" From UK punk band's first disc, Pink Flag, which I bought ages ago and didn't listen to much, until Matt's bachelor party, at which Eric -- and all of Continental -- went on and on about their greatness. Turns out they were right.

11. Ingrid Lucia & the Flying Nutrinos - "Love Is Coming Back" - This was one of the requested songs at a wedding Brent and I DJed at. I meant to play it as the bride and groom came down the stairs, but I played "Somebody's Baby" instead. Oops. Got a laugh, though.

12. Shout Out Louds - "Tonight I Have to Leave It (Russian Futurists remix)" - Remember when we didn't have the internet and we couldn't find remixes that make awesome songs more awesome? Remember when we didn't say "awesome" so much?

13. Laura Veirs - "Saltbreakers" - Waldo put this on an ipod mix at work, and I thought it sounded like a Breeders b-side. Instead, it's by a slip of a hippie girl from Seattle, who really couldn't be further from Kim Deal.

14. Flight of the Conchords - "Business Time" - Greatest musical spoof TV show starring a pair of New Zealanders ever!

15. Los Campesinos! - "C Is the Heavenly Option" - Another example that the '90s indie-rock scene is coming back into vogue, as it's a cover of Heavenly.

16. Magic Carpet - "Black Cat" - Sometimes you walk into Aquarius Music and find gold, like this '60s UK sitar-psych band's one album.

17. Elvis Presley - "A Little Less Conversation" - Okay, Alan played the remix of this at a Tease-o-Rama party, along with "Mambo No. 5," and I'd never heard either. So I went back and found the original, which has great lyrics and comes from a hilarious scene in which the King tries to put a fur coat on Ann Margaret at a pool party. Who thought this shit up?

18. Or, The Whale - "Call and Response" - The older I get, the more country I like. Especially if it comes with two cute girl singers and some serious tambourine work.

19. Emily Jane White - "Time on Your Side" - Stop asking, "Is it Cat Power?" She's local, she's a pal of Yuri's, add her to the list of artists who ended up in Rolling Stone after asking Russ to drum for them.

20. Stone - "Le Jouer La Nuit" - More French pop, here a Beatles cover.

21. Speck Mountain - "Hey Moon" People really like that Bat For Lashes woman, but I think these two girls sing better and make more arresting music. But I also thought that Low made some of the best sex music ever.

Alright, now here's my favorite albums of the year:

Peter, Bjorn, & John - Writer's Block
Jens Lekman - Night Falls on Kortedala
Vampire Weekend - Demo
The Lodger - Grown-Ups
Eleni Mandell - Miracle of Five
Parson Red Heads - King Giraffe
Eilen Jewell - Letters from Sinners & Strangers
The Black Lips - Good Bad Not Evil
Taken By Trees - Open Field
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black
Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight
Various Artists - THE DARJEELING LIMITED Soundtrack