Music Television (Or as We Call it Now: YouTube)

Lately I’ve been trying to transfer most of my music library from iTunes to Windows media so’s I can put it all on my new Galaxy S III (possibly the finest electronic device conceived by the mind of man, BTW) and it occurred to me that there’s sooooooo much good stuff out there that I love that many people have never even heard of, or at least they’ve forgotten about it.  That’s easy, the forgetting part.  Radio plays the hits (I know, bub.  That’s how I earn my livin’.) And Mtv long ago dropped the “Music Television” from their logo.  Yep.  Go look it up.  I’ll wait.

Done?  Good.  And yes, there are apps like Pandora and Spotify that do an okay job of throwing “similar” music into the mix, but you always run the risk of pigeon-holing yourself musically.  You’re listening to your Classic Country playlist/station and it might throw in a Conway Twitty that you’d never heard, but you’re totally missing Hank III.  “Wait!”  You scream as the internet bus pulls away from the virtual curb. “Hank III isn’t classic country!  He plays hellbilly and metal!”  He also does some numbers that sound more “country” than anything by that nitwit Kenny Chesney, so shut yer yap or I’ll come over there and spit some Beech-Nut in yer eye. P’TANNNNGGG!!!!

I digress.  I figured since we’re all friends here, I’d introduce you to some of my all-time faves and maybe throw in a couple of more recent selections.  This way you can spruce up your playlist a bit, yes?  ‘Cause it needs some sprucing.  You know this.  Also, note:  Ima try and find the album versions of these songs unless there’s a great video/concert video.  I want you to hear these like they’ll sound on your iPod, phone, etc. We’ll start with one of my all-time favorites.  So much so that I actually have the lyrics inked on my body.  That’s legit, folks.

Rancid. I was late to the party on these guys, first hearing about them when they truly broke in the great punk revival of 1994.  I’d heard Operation Ivy, but somehow missed that two of that band’s original members had formed “Rancid.”  Blew. Me. Away.  I like this song for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it was written by Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day. (Which is awesome, because Green Day have always done a great cover of Op Ivy’s “Knowledge.”)  This song is pop punk with a little more snarl than most “pop” acts.  Is Tim Armstrong (no relation to Billy Joe, BTW) drunk?  Is he handicapped?  Maybe both.  And it’s awesome.

The next selection is from one of the greatest “Alternative” albums of the early nineties. Concrete Blonde doesn’t get any love in the mainstream world, but you probably heard a snippet of one of their songs in Point Break and their amazing version of Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows” in Pump Up The Volume.

The closest this band ever came to a “hit” was the single “Joey” from the same album, Bloodletting.  There’s not a bad song on this album, however, and I recommend you download the entire thing.  Vampire fans should note that this was a sort of concept album, with the Anne Rice vampire saga as the backdrop.  Not every song drips with blood, venom, and mossy trees in the French Quarter, but the album as a whole sure does.  Check it.

Now for something more contemporary:

This song was like a virus of truth.  My friend Ray called me, excited and panting, saying “Dude.  Dude!  You MUST check out Volbeat!  My God…you’ll love them.  They’re like…like Social Distortion meets Metallica meets Johnny Cash and Elvis.  I can’t…just listen to Sad Man’s Tongue.  You’ll thank me.” Of course, Ray is sort of misguided prophet, and he and I have been on many adventures, from pissing in a cop’s driveway in the dead of night in Chicago to nearly being abducted by hot rockabilly chicks in Indianapolis.  I trust Ray.  Ray was right again.  This song really is the best example of the Volbeat sound, and yes, they do range from straight metal riffage to simple acoustic country tunes.  This song has it all, and everyone I’ve ever played it for has immediately gone and acquired every piece of the Volbeat discography. Do likewise.

I’ve got one more for ya.  I have to stop, or you’ll be scrolling this baby  until your mouse wheel wears out.  Or your touch screen.  Whatevs.  Canada’s The Real McKenzies liked the Celtic flavor of Dropkick Murphys and Flogging Molly, but apparently felt that neither was Scottish enough.  The results are delightful.

What’s a cattieyote?  From what I’ve been able to glean from the interwebs, it’s a cross between a coyote and a feral cat.  I don’t know if such a thing is actually possible, but there you go.  The McKenzie’s version of Loch Lomond is also a rollicking affair, and I have been dying to use the phrase “rollicking affair” for so damned long, it’s great to finally have a reason to do so.

So there’s a starter pack for you.  That oughtta keep you downloadin’ and streamin’ for quite a while.  Get to it and rock on.


I have been neglecting this blog.  No, really.  Life is crazy and sometimes demands my attention.  But I must confess, I have been recently distracted by something that I usually don’t give a whole lot of time:  television.  I know.  I am so, so sorry.  But I figure you may as well get to know what exactly has been dragging me away from the internets, so here we go…

The Presidential Debates

I must admit, I didn’t even watch the first Presidential Debate.  From what I’ve gathered, Romney won that one cleanly.  Not that it ultimately matters to me, because I seriously doubt either candidate is going to sway my vote at this point, but now and then how they answer or DON’T answer a particular question informs much about their character.  Sometimes you gauge their reaction and say to yourself “hmmm…that’s not the answer I expected.” I did catch some of the VP debate, and was underwhelmed.  Plus, the VP contest is always a chance for the Number Twos to act out and play dirty so that the Number Ones can distance themselves from hateful rhetoric. Meh.  I like Biden.  Don’t know if he’s Presidential Material, but he’s funny.   I was curious to see what sort of tone the second Presidential debate would take, and HO-LEE SHIT.  God DAMN that was entertaining!  Man!  It was literally like watching a heavyweight prize fight.  Several times during this matchup both men were literally on their feet and circling each other like they wanted to throw a punch.  Their eyes measured one another, looking for an opening, waiting patiently for the killing strike.  Ice lasers flew from Obama’s eyes, while in the background Romney’s brood clenched their jaws and threw pure hatred onto the stage. It. Was. AWESOME.  Obama seemed to carry the day, thereby forcing a Game Seven and guaranteeing that I’d tune in for the final act.  Good stuff.

This was seriously about 80% of the debate.

American Horror Story 2: The Creepy Old Rusty Place

I didn’t watch any of the first season, and everyone tells me that I totally missed out.  The show was described by various friends as “Creepy” and “unsettling” to “downright terrifying.”  I need some more terror in my life, so the wife and I settled in to catch the premier this past week.  After watching, I have another word to describe the series, and it is “yawn.”  Sure, it’s the first episode and I know that it takes time to build characters and story.  But it just seems like the producers are counting on the setting (an old 1960’s insane asylum) to do all the heavy lifting.  That, and showing buttocks.  Lots and lots of buttocks on this show.  Here’s the plot: a serial killer is on the lose in the 60’s and this one kid is a suspect so they throw him in an insane asylum where there’s also this reporter lady being held for “ASKING QUESTIONS!” and also Cloe Sevigny loves sex. Oh, and James Cromwell experiments on inmates and Jessica Lange is a hot GILF nun.  The end.  And pro tip/spoiler alert:  if you’re in an old, abandoned, supposedly haunted asylum and you go sticking your arm through an opening in an old cast-iron cell door, expect bad shit to happen.  I wonder if this was somehow supposed to be “Silent Hill: The Series” and they just decided “fuck it” or what, but so far everything is very, very predictable and clichéd. I hope it gets better.  Speaking of getting better…

BTW, this is the SAFEST picture I found after Googling “sexy nun.”


Boy, did I want this show to be excellent.  J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau teaming up for a post-apocalyptic survival story?  Hells yes.  But then I saw the first episode…and the second…and the third…and…and I just about quit.  I like making analogies (see above re: Silent Hill) and Revolution started reminding me a lot of a television adaptation of Kevin Costner’s “The Postman.”  I mean, down to the friggin’ horses and militias.  I was depressed.  But then it started getting a tiny bit better.  The backstories help a lot, and I know they’re trying to draw this story out into something epic, but here’s the problem:  new shows get MAYBE six episodes to establish an audience.  You’d better make me care about these motherfuckers stumbling through Northern Indiana right away.  It’s finally happening, and I like that at least one character that you think is there for the long haul has been killed off.  Good. That adds concern for everyone except the fat neckbeard guy (how the hell are you still fat?!?!  You’re growing you own food now and working your fingers to the bone to survive!!  I call this the Hurley from Lost syndrome) and the annoying Katniss wannabe lead character.  She’s really bad.  Then again, Carl from the Walking Dead was terrible for the first couple of seasons but has finally started to grow into a decent member of the cast (I call this the Wesley Crusher syndrome.) Giancarlo Esposito is wonderful as always, and the C. Thomas Howell-meets-Seth MacFarlane friendly badass uncle is okay.  I’ll give it a couple of more episodes.  And so might the network.

Goddam Apple maps…

The Motherfuckin’ Walking DEAD!!!

THIS is how you do it.  I have enjoyed every season thus far, even as I admit that there have been a few low points.  Basically, every episode set at Herschel’s farm was  drag because, you know…it’s a fucking farm.  I love farms.  I love the smell of corn and soybeans.  Tractors. I fucking LOVE tractors.  However, um…see…there’s this farmhouse and out there across the field are zombies and (spoiler!) Ol’ Farmer Herschel loves keepin’ a crop o’ walkers up yonder in the barn. The characters SIT there. To make another Star Trek reference (because that’s what I DO) this part of the series reminded me of Deep Space Nine.  See, DS9 was great and had loads of wonderful characters, but the whole thing about Star Trek is that that they boldly GO.  On DS9 they boldly SAT THERE. That’s why Walking Dead had to end the last season in such grand style.  It wasn’t just a big ol’ zombie attack, and it wasn’t just a chance to move the story and characters literally and figuratively forward:  it was a metaphor.  Two main characters died, and the good ol’ (somewhat) reliable RV was abandoned to the walker horde. The characters are once again in the wilderness, relying on their skills and one another to survive.  When they finally do settle down again, it’s in a goddam prison.  THAT’S a location with built-in drama.  You know how I mentioned that American Horror Story relied on the setting to create drama?  Shit, son: you ever see “Oz?”  Or “Shawshank Redemption?”  Plus, the metaphor of being safe while also being imprisoned is rich.  It takes on greater significance when you find out that The Governor has basically turned a sleepy small town into a prison.  Oh, TOPSY-TURVY!!  DOWN IS UP!! RIGHT IS WRONG!!  LEFT IS RIGHT!!  NOTHING MAKES SENSE ANYMORE!!  The first episode was great, and I can’t wait to see how the new characters, settings, and developments pan out on-screen.

Carl will never not be in there again.

Okay, there’s my explanation (excuse) for the absence of new blog posts of late.  I’ll try to be better, more attentive to your needs in the future. And I’ll leave you with this fun little prank;  my lovely wife, Heidi, actually did find American Horror Story a bit scary. After the first episode’s conclusion, I went downstairs before her to take a dump.  As a little surprise, I took this creepy baby doll thing that my kids play with and propped it up against the wall at the bottom of the stairs to greet my love with unblinking, lifeless eyes in the semi-dark gloom of our house at nighttime.

Play with me, mommy…

Let’s just say she freaking LOVED it.  My bruises can attest to this.


Boy, I love zombies.  So much so that I can’t wait for the new season of The Walking Dead, starting this Sunday.  I’m really excited to see if they can continue the momentum that the show built at the end of last season, especially since A) they’re moving into what I call the “good part” of the story from the amazing comic series. Sure, there have been some discrepancies in the television version, but the basic plot lines are fairly intact, and B) the first half of last season was fairly lackluster.  Enough with the fucking farm already.

You know who’s NOT in the house? Fucking Carl, that’s who.

But I digress.

Zombies have taken over the public subconscious so much that it’s almost a running joke.  When you’re at the hardware store with a buddy to pick up a new Estwing roofing hammer, you will invariably pass some sort of garden implement or power tool that will cause one of you to remark “Heh…this would be pretty handy in the zombie apocalypse, eh?”  It’s like we all know it’s coming, so we just try and stay as prepared as possible, except that, you know, IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN.  And if it did happen, Cracked actually outlined how quickly it would fail in this article.   Of course, they double-down and tell you exactly how it could happen here.

Why all the zombie stuff? And to be clear, I’m including the non-traditional style 28 Days Later-style outbreaks in this discussion.  Why now?  Why zombies and not killing machines, like the Terminator?  (Heads-up: all this will change once Spielberg’s adaptation of the incredible “Robopocalypse” novel hits theaters in 2014.  Then, lookout, zombies: there’s a new boogeyman in town.)

One word: Martians.

Pictured: the face of national paranoia as experienced during the House Un-American Activities Committee campaign.

“Wait,” you say to me, holding your hand out in the classic ‘stop’ position. “Martians ain’t zombies.  Unless it’s some B-movie hybrid from the mind of Ed Wood, Jr. or on SyFy.”  True, but you see, the modern zombie infestation is exactly the same as the martian threat of yesteryear.  Why?  Because they are both the analog, the manifestation if you will, of our modern-day fears.
Back in the post-WWII days in the early 50’s, there was something weighing heavily on the minds of every American citizen: hot atomic death at the hands of the damned Communists. This spawned a bunch of “atomic monster” movies, like “THEM!” which were actually really fucking good. (Also, the only country ever nuked…twice…churned out a shload of these films, beginning with the classic “Gojira.”  Not that we should feel guilty about all that unpleasantness.)

Japan has managed to even the score, however, with a metric shit-ton of unsettling weird shit.

Hiding, sneaking behind the obvious “Oh, god!!  Nuclear bombs!” threat was the more sinister, lurking threat of invasion.  Not the obvious “Red Dawn” style invasion, but the subversive “get your kids to like Socialism” sort of invasion.  McCarthyism had everyone checking on their neighbors, and paranoia was rampant.  Movies like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Invaders From Mars” played on that subconscious fear:  My God, what if the new guy at work is one of THEM!?!  They look like us and act like us, but something is just…off.  It was a trend that eventually evolved and sometimes even questioned the logic of this nationwide witch-hunt for Commies.  Films like “It Came From Outer Space” made us look in the mirror a little bit.  See, in that film the “alien menace” was just an alien whose ship had crashed and the alien dude was just trying to fix it up so he could go home.  Eventually this sort of theme carried over into more modern films like “E.T.” and “Super 8” where they actually go so far as to make the Big Military/Government Machine look like the bad guys.

Not cool, internet. NOT. COOL.

Which brings us to now.  “28 Days Later” premiered in 2002, almost a year after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  If you haven’t seen the movie, a guy wakes out of a coma to find the world he knew to be a desolate place filled with formerly-normal humans filled with hate and rage, intent on killing. Every time you get rid of one of ’em, there seems to be a thousand of them right behind, willing to do whatever it takes to end the lives of peaceful humans.


Lighthearted fare like “Zombieland” would come later, along with the big-budget remake of “Dawn of the Dead” and the comic/graphic novels like “The Walking Dead” plus a billion other shoddy zombie flicks.  Ladies and gentlemen, I present the theory (I’m surely not the first) that the recent zombie-hype has been driven largely by the national panic and paranoia that has existed in some form since 9/11.  Sure, once a couple of films made money, Hollywood decided to churn out as much similar product as possible.  That’s normal.  But beyond that, there is a whole sub-culture of zombie jokes, zombie costumes, zombie video games, zombie ammunition (it should really be billed as ANTI-zombie ammunition, but whatever) and so on.  Think about the last week that went by that you didn’t see/hear/read some sort of zombie reference.  Impossible since 9/11. This wave of shambling undead has even infected hyped-up news stories like the infamous “Bath Salts Zombies” this past summer. How often did zombies get mentioned before that fateful day in Septmber eleven years ago?  Um..maybe when you played Resident Evil?

Admit it, you shit your pants the first time this happened.

Let’s go back to that video game idea.  The Resident Evil franchise was huge, beginning with the original Playstation One game and seemingly a dozen sequels. But that was pretty much it.  Now you have Left 4 Dead, Dead Island, Dead Rising, and the “zombie mode” add-ons and DLC for every single first-person shooter on the market today.  Wow.  We got kinda carried away, didn’t we, folks?  Several video game reviewers have mentioned that zombies are perfect video game fodder.  Before zombies took over, the only “safe” bad guy in games and movies was Nazi Germany. But even then, either someone had to be the Nazis in multiplayer (which still feels weird to me) or you had to gloss over the fact that these soldiers might not be rank-and-file Aryans, but maybe conscripts from Poland who just want to live to see their families again.  (I tend to over-think the character-development of video game figures.)  Zombies?  Hell, they’re already dead!  Blow their fuckin’ heads off!

Full disclosure: I just couldn’t go an entire blog without some sort of Star Trek reference.

As we move further and further away from the events of 9/11, I’m sure the zombie trend will lose its luster.  Even now, kids don’t have any idea how or why 9/11 happened.  They just know that it’s fun to watch zombies’ arms fall off.  They don’t understand the feeling of vulnerability, like every time you get on that public transportation there might be death waiting for you at the end of your ride.  The all-encompassing fear of the unknown, that your life could end at any moment, at the hands of an enemy you never saw until it was too late.  They don’t get why we sometimes feel like zombies ourselves, so much cattle shuffling through the line at the TSA gate. It’s lost on them.  Perhaps it’s the same way most of you feel when you watch “Independence Day.”  You’ve never lived under the long, cold shadow of impending doom at the hands of the USSR and their millions of megatons of thermonuclear holocaust aimed right at the heart of the good ol’ U-S-of-A.  You just want to see the good guys beat the crap out of the bad guys and maybe see some really cool explosions.  Fair enough.  I’m happy for you.  You get to enjoy those themes without a context.  A new generation of kids has lived safely and securely in the days since September 11th and has no reason to flinch at the specter of a jet airplane on approach that seems to be a little too close to the ground.  They don’t turn a wary eye to the somewhat ethnic guy reading a newspaper at the airport with one earbud in, listening to…something. They live in a world without fear, except those damn zombies on the eighth wave on COD.  Those suckers are brutal!!

Seriously, guys? Did you just re-skin an old Terminator game? Because that’s totally what it looks like.

And you know what?  Good for them.  Because one day their world will be shaken, and some new multi-media meme or theme will crop up and they’ll get to explain to their kids why it’s so poignant and scary. The robot uprising.  It’s coming, man.  It’s coming.

(Seriously, though. Read this book.)