Thursday, July 24, 2014

Song: "Soldier Through"

I wrote this song for anyone going through a rough patch.  I was aiming for the feel of a Stooges b-side.  The static on the recording is by design, so there is nothing wrong with your speakers or your broadband connection.  It popped up as an Audacity error, so I decided to make use of it.  Percussion this time is provided by a pair of old boots.  The everpopular mouthbass provides the bassline, such as it is.  I found a cool MIDI synth that I intended to conjure bass sounds out of, but it didn't play well with Audacity.  Maybe next time I can get it to work.  You can check out the MP3 here.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I got hired, and I got shit on.
I got fired, and I got spit on.
I got sick, and no one cared.
I threw up, and everyone just stared.

But I'm going to soldier . . . I'm going to soldier through,
so I can find my way . . . find my way through.

It was my turn, and I got ignored.
I told my story, and everyone looked bored.
So now it's one foot in front of the other.
I will not cry out for my mother.

If I'm in Hell, I'm going to keep going.
That's the only way out, and that's the only thing worth knowing.
Some people say that I should give up,
but marching on is the only way to sip from the victory cup.

Written July 2014
Recorded July 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Wred's Reading: Bridge Of Sighs by Richard Russo

I was in Chicago this April for the national Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference.  As part of the registration material, I received a free book about movies made in Berlin.  It looked like a very nice book, but I had no great interest in Berlin's film legacy and I had a six-month stack of books back home waiting to be read, so I wasn't too thrilled to get it.  Still, it was free; how could I complain?  I noticed that some of my fellow conferencegoers also felt the way I did about the book as they had dumped their copies of the book on the freebie table, but if everyone at the conference had it already, then who was going to pick it up there? I wanted my copy to find a better fate than just getting swept in the trash after the conference.

Fortunately, I saw in The Chicago Reader that they were holding a book swap at The Old Town School Of Folk Music one evening when I was in town, so I popped in and left the Berlin book there.  I hope that it found a good home.  Given all the intellectuals (or at least people wearing glasses) at the event, I figured that someone who dug movies and Berlin would be there and dig it.

What a cool event the book swap was!  A little folk band was playing, and people were on the free books like crows on fresh roadkill.  Some people appeared to be attempting to achieve personal bests in weightlifting given how many books they were taking, but I just wanted to swap my little Berlin book for one that I was more interested in reading.

I picked Bridge Of Sighs, a novel by Richard Russo.  I had read some of Russo's other novels such as Empire Falls, Mohawk, and Straight Man and enjoyed all of them, so I figured it was a good bet.  I've just started it now.  I think I will especially enjoy the portions set in Venice, Italy since I would like to go there next year.

And if you do the math, now I only have a three-month stack of books!  So my summer reading is actually my spring reading, but I am getting caught up.

I'm sure that you are just as excited as I am.

Apparently, the book swap is held annually, so if you're in Chicago next April and you like books, then maybe keep an eye out for it.

If I'm there and I'm caught up on my reading, look for me to be one of the weightlifter people. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Films Of Edward Burns

I was delighted to stumble across The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, a new film by Edward Burns, at the library.  Burns's films are never great, but they're almost always good (a tendency towards schmaltz in the narrative and a lack of cinematic style tends to keep a lid on how good his films get), which is sort of amazing since he seems to film his movies on the Hollywood equivalent of a fifty-cent budget.  The films are typically set in New York City and feature Irish-American characters.  They tend towards slice-of-life stories.  His strength is definitely characterization (you don't want to think too much about the plots or you will usually like his movies less).  The Christmas movie is in line with his previous work.  It's about a large Irish-American family whose estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to spend one last Christmas with the family he abandoned decades earlier.  Since there are about a dozen family members seemingly, there are about a dozen storylines underneath that main story.  Some viewers may not like that, but I enjoyed the weaving of the storylines and how the characters interacted with one another.  For a fairly realistic film, I didn't like the ending, which I didn't find very realistic, but it's a Christmas movie, so it would probably be too much a violation of the genre to have anything other than a happy ending (as happy as an ending can get anyway when one of the characters is dying).  Given Burns's tendency towards schmaltz, such an ending was almost inevitable in any case.  I probably will forget this film by next Christmas, but I enjoyed watching it, and I will likely again be delighted to encounter another film by Burns.  He's no Martin Scorsese, but, unlike Woody Allen and Spike Lee (to mention a few New York-centered filmmakers), who produced quality films early in their careers and then the law of diminishing returns kicked in (I won't watch Allen films anymore, and I think I'm at that point with Lee as I have no interest in seeing his remake of Oldboy), Burns's work remains remarkably consistent.  More people should check out his work.  Maybe then, he'd get a seventy-five cent budget for the next film and be able to create a great one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Say No To Lawn Chemicals; Say Yes To Blackberries


So, I'll be sitting on my futon in the living room by the big window doing a spot of morning reading when a truck filled with chemicals pulls up outside, and a dude in a hazmat suit gets out and sprays my neighbors' yard with only God knows what.

That's definitely a buzzkill to the easy early morning isn't life grand vibe.

Either my neighbors really hate dandelions (to which I will quote William Niering, "There is nothing wrong with dandelions; there is something wrong with people.") or they fell for one of the many direct mail solicitations that I get as well which attempt to make people feel neurotic about their lawns.  I'm pretty live as let live, but their paying to put potentially health-damaging chemicals on the lawn makes me think I live near some stupid people (on top of that, they seem to run an under the table daycare service there as well--let's play on the lawn and get cancer, kids!).  I just hope none of that crap gets over on my property or gets the other neighbor's cat, who loves to roam, sick.

Meanwhile, across the street in my yard is a lawn chemical company's worst nightmare.  Not only do I not pay them anything, I let just about anything grow (I draw the line at poison ivy, Canadian thistle--I like Canadians but these ones should be deported--and a few other plants) in the lawn, and I don't care how it looks, thereby puncturing the local conformity in yard appearance that they use to pressure people with (furthermore, I only mow the thing as often as I do because the city would fine me if I didn't, and I use a reel mower--no gasoline or electricity needed).  As a result, I get plants such as blackberries sprouting up, blackberries that have just started ripening (they are the black ones in the picture--the net is there to slow down the birds from eating all the fruit before I can get to it; by the way, if any bird is reading this, please eat the other berries that grow in the yard and not the ones that humans can consume, and if you get caught in the net, don't peck at me when I fish you out to free you) and blackberries that I will be eating as part of my lunch today and for probably about the next month.  But this isn't about how great I am (though I am pretty great, only my modesty keeps me from telling you more about that--ha!), this post is about how great blackberries in the yard are.

I'll be blunt.  People, don't be stupid.  Stop paying people to spray potentially-hazardous stuff on your lawn if you are doing it, and don't start doing so if you aren't, and maybe you too will someday be able to walk out in the lawn and chow down on delicious fruit, delicious fruit that you didn't even plant, delicious fruit that just showed up to say, "Thank you for not being the type of idiot who is obsessed with a narrow conception of nature.  Eat me for free."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Song: "Smooth Jazz Riot"

I wrote this song from the perspective of a frustrated white collar worker.  Imagine an administrative assistant or accountant who likes to listen to smooth jazz in the office and everyone else makes fun of her or him for doing so.  It's sort of "Pirate Jenny" set in a suburban office park.  It's certainly far from autobiographical; if I had to pick a least favorite type of music, then smooth jazz might be it.  You can check out the MP3 here.  I successfully resisted the tempting Audacity effects this time except for the sexy echo, whom I just couldn't say no to.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

Hey, black metaller,
you think you're scary
because you worship Satan,
but I'll show you scary; I worship Kenny G.
Hey, hip-hopper,
you think you're tough
'cause you're in a gang,
but I'll show you tough; I work forty hours a week.

Quiet!
Quiet!
I'm listening for the smooth jazz riot.

Hey, punk rocker,
you think you're a rebel
because you have a lot of tattoos,
but I'll show you rebellion:  I don't have any tattoos.
Hey, honky-tonker,
you say you like to party
because you drink a lot of alcohol,
but I'll show you a party, and I don't need any alcohol.

We're tired of being ridiculed
for liking pleasant music,
doing our jobs, and being polite.
That makes us angry, so very angry that we want to riot.
Imagine the streets filed with smooth jazz fans.
Imagine if we didn't show up for work.
I apologize for being crude,
but imagine just how fucked you'd be.

Hey, classical music snob,
you think you have good taste
because you go to the big symphony hall,
but I'll show you good taste that you can whistle along with in the elevator.
Hey, teeny bopper,
you think you're so hot
because you like what's popular,
but I'll show you that being cool is better, and it has nothing to do with how many people like something.

Written July 2014
Recorded July 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Best Garage Sale Ever!

As a child, I sold at flea markets, which meant I shopped at garage sales to buy stuff to sell at flea markets.  Since one of my favorite things as a child was comic books, I always dreamed of finding some comics at a garage sale.  When I did, it was always a great day, and I often kept them instead of selling them.  Though my appetite for comics is not quite the same as when I was ten years old, I still was delighted last year to attend Tony Isabella's garage sale since it pretty much was a garage sale of nothing but comics.  This year, Tony is making his wonderful garage sale even better by planning to host a comics convention in his driveway after his garage sale on July 26th.  I doubt I'll make it, but if you are anywhere near Medina, Ohio USA and like comics, then you should.  Not only will you likely get to chat with the creator of a Justice League member (Black Lightning), but I bet you'll find some great deals!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic The Prescriptive Grammarian

A few years back, I saw "Weird Al" Yankovic in concert.  It was great fun.  He still makes records as well.  His latest effort features a song called "Word Crimes", which has a very funny video (it should be embedded below).  In it, he ridicules various language usages which are regarded as erroneous by those who like to police the language, who will politely be called here prescriptive grammarians (since they like to prescribe how people should use language--they are often contrasted against linguists who tend to be more often descriptive grammarians and merely describing how people use language) and not, as I saw one commentator on the video call them, Grammar Nazis.  Admittedly, most people, including myself, have strong feelings about language and its use, but I tend to fall on the more permissive side of the debate.  For example, if I ask you how you are and you say "good", I won't tsk tsk you because you didn't say "well".  As long as the meaning has been understood by both parties, clearly the language usage was successful.  Other people, particularly other English teachers, are not so permissive and seem to derive much satisfaction from using language in a particular manner and correcting that of others whose usage is found wanting.  I suspect, like Thorstein Veblen argues, that this sort of language policing is related to social class issues and conspicuous consumption (if you haven't read The Theory Of The Leisure Class, then I recommend that you do so if you get an opportunity; for a century-old book, it still explains a lot about American life today).  Most prescriptive grammarians decry such an accusation of snobbery; they usually claim they instead are defending standards of clear communication (ask them who set the standards then and their argument usually collapses, though they seldom will admit it).  At least, "Weird Al" can hide his prescriptive grammarianness behind the mask of art; when I complain about someone not knowing the difference between "it's" and "its", I'm just being a jerk.  I am with him on the "I could care less" issues and a few others.  More people should think about language.*

*Note to prescriptive grammarians.  Punctuation marks such as commas and periods are located outside the quotation marks because I prefer the British standard on this convention and not because I don't know what I'm doing.  You will just have to focus on my other linguistic deficiencies instead.