“Not many people know I was the first person to own a radio in Springfield. Weren’t much on the airwaves those days, just Edison reciting the alphabet. ‘A,’ he’d say, then ‘B’… ‘C’ would usually follow…” – Abraham Simpson

The last time I wrote anything here was January 28th. Anything interesting happen lately? Anything, say, of global impact that for some reason only the USA sees as a political issue?

I’ve been fortunate enough to still be working and to be able to do it from home. Although soon my office will be expecting to have us back, of course. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about that. I live in the part of Missouri that presently has the most cases of the virus in the state–it’s literally my CITY, not just my region. Personally I’ve been taking this very seriously and I’ve gone since March 20th without being in the same room as anyone else. I’d be much happier to KEEP it that way until there’s a confirmed vaccine. But so it goes.

In the meantime, let’s do some catching-up, in the usual way…

  1. WordPress has changed the way you make new posts. I don’t like it. Nothing’s where it should be and there is severe lag between typing and it showing up on the screen. (In music-tech we call it “latency” but I don’t know if it’s the same for this…but it sucks.)
  2. I released a new solo album in April called “Departure.” It’s entirely instrumental stuff and I’m really proud of it. It’s available at Bandcamp, per usual, and of course you can get it for free by entering $0.00 as your purchase price, or more if you’re feeling generous. But don’t worry. If you take it for free I won’t know you did. It tells me how many downloads there were, but not who downloaded it. I’m just glad people are listening.
  3. I have a plumber coming over tomorrow. I have a crack in one of the main stacks and a drip in a shutoff valve for the toilet connected to it. (I caused the latter trying to turn off the water flow to the toilet. Of course.) I hate having plumbers and stuff like that over–I don’t like the disruption. Because this won’t be a one-and-done visit. I’m 100% sure the stack will need to be replaced. And (long story) there’s also going to have to be some new flooring put in in that bathroom. So it’s going to be a very big project and will probably result in me having to sleep and shower elsewhere for a while. I’m not happy. And I wish it could wait one more week so I could live at home during my birthday.
  4. And that’s something. I’ll be turning 40 on Friday. Then it’s just the long roll down the hill to the grave, I suppose. I’ll be celebrating it with just a Zoom call to the family. No going out. No party. COVID-19 is a bigger deal than Derek 40. I’m fine with that. I’m pro-social distancing and sheltering in place. It’s fucking stupid that anyone’s opposed. It’s the most selfish thing in the world to go out right now. And since I’m not a shitty person who is also probably not washing my hands (although isn’t it interesting no one’s protesting THAT), I’ll be turning 40 at home. Or wherever I’m staying while the fucking plumber will be ripping out my bathroom floor.
  5. I’m working on other music, apart from the Departure release. Probably going to release something else this year, but don’t know when. I’m barely into the demo-stage of less than half of a full album. So it’ll be a while.
  6. I also have to renew my driver’s license. This week I guess. Although with the plumber here I’m not sure when I’m supposed to make that work either. I wish they could just do that online. All I have to do is identify six road signs, pay a fee, and get my picture taken. We should be able to do that over the internet by now. Instead I’ve got to go to the DMV in the middle of a pandemic, in the area with the most infections in the state. That’s just how the timing always seems to work for me.
  7. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Who. Saw them in St. Louis a year ago (well…a year and two days as I’m writing this) and it popped up in my Facebook memories. I recently bought a new stereo receiver with Bluetooth, so I listened to a massive Who playlist I’ve got on my phone–it’s almost 7 hours long with no songs repeated–and there are still about a dozen I left off! I’ll post that playlist at the end for no good reason.
  8. I’ve talked about most of the stuff I’ve been watching and whatnot on my podcast lately. In brief I’ve gotten into the TV show Community and don’t know how I missed it when it was on. Also I’ve gotten all caught up on the movies of Kevin Smith that I’d not seen, with the exception of Cop Out, which I’ll get to someday eventually maybe. I’ve enjoyed having the extra time for stuff like that.
  9. My diet has been difficult to maintain in quarantine. It’s tough to eat healthy amidst the hoarders who have no idea why they’re buying fresh vegetables who are then ordering pizza. So I haven’t really lost any weight during this–ideally I still need to drop about 10-15 pounds to be the right weight for my height. But the good news is I also haven’t really been gaining either. On bad weeks I’ll fluctuate within about 5 pounds from where I was when this who lockdown started. So that’s good.
  10. I bought a new guitar for my birthday. It’s a Gretsch 12 string electric. If I can figure out how to put a picture into this post with this new horrible interface you’ll see it here. If not, then fuck WordPress.
  11. I mentioned my podcast above. I wasn’t able to get an episode together this week because I was prepping for the plumber to come over. I’m a very bad housekeeper and there were several days worth of work needed to get someone in here even on a semi-emergency. It’ll be back next week. I think.
  12. Seriously…if they don’t fix the lag with this interface, this might be my last post. If that happens then you know what caused it. I don’t know why people can’t just leave something that works ALONE. (I counted while watching that last sentence type itself after I stopped typing…8 seconds! Unacceptable.)

…and I don’t know…I need a haircut and I miss going to the record store and hanging out with my family. But otherwise I have most of the stuff I like in my house and I’ve been having everything else (including groceries) delivered. There are a lot of aspects of it I’ve actually really liked. This post seems to read otherwise though. Oh well.

Here’s that Who playlist I promised you. I’m only now realizing it’s exactly 100 tracks!

  1. Pete Dialogue (from the “Maximum R&B” Box Set. It’s just Pete yelling at the crowd to shut up for about 40 seconds.)
  2. Overture
  3. It’s a Boy
  4. I Can’t Explain
  5. 5:15
  6. Sea and Sand
  7. The Seeker
  8. It’s Not Enough
  9. The Real Me
  10. Quadrophenia
  11. Another Tricky Day
  12. Leaving Here
  13. Heaven and Hell
  14. Cut My Hair
  15. Love Ain’t for Keeping
  16. Eyesight to the Blind
  17. The Punk and the Godfather
  18. Street Song
  19. A Legal Matter
  20. Shout and Shimmy
  21. Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand
  22. Going Mobile
  23. Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
  24. Baba O’Riley
  25. Beads on One String
  26. Sensation
  27. Studio Dialogue (from the “Maximum R&B” set–an outtake/false-start of “Behind Blue Eyes” that’s pretty funny.
  28. Behind Blue Eyes
  29. God Speaks to Marty Robbins
  30. Dreaming from the Waist
  31. Tattoo
  32. Fortune Teller
  33. Pure and Easy
  34. Real Good Looking Boy
  35. In the Ether
  36. Wire & Glass
  37. Baby Don’t You Do It
  38. Relay
  39. Naked Eye
  40. Mike Post Theme
  41. Who Are You
  42. Break the News
  43. A Man in a Purple Dress
  44. They Are All in Love
  45. How Many Friends
  46. Eminence Front
  47. Sister Disco
  48. Getting in Tune
  49. Ball and Chain
  50. Doctor Jimmy
  51. Be Lucky
  52. Fragments
  53. All This Music Must Fae
  54. Slip Kid
  55. The Kids Are Alright
  56. Pictures of Lily
  57. I Can See for Miles
  58. So Sad About Us
  59. Blue, Red and Grey
  60. Don’t Let Go the Coat
  61. Old Red Wine
  62. Music Must Change
  63. Happy Jack
  64. Squeeze Box
  65. Long Live Rock
  66. Under My Thumb
  67. Let’s See Action
  68. Welcome
  69. I’m One
  70. Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting
  71. I’m the Face
  72. The Dirty Jobs
  73. New Song
  74. Young Man Blues
  75. I’m Free
  76. Magic Bus
  77. The Last Time
  78. My Generation
  79. Substitute
  80. A Quick One While He’s Away
  81. Imagine a Man
  82. My Wife
  83. I’m a Boy
  84. Drowned
  85. The Song is Over
  86. Pinball Wizard
  87. Bargain
  88. Too Much of Anything
  89. Amazing Journey
  90. Sparks
  91. You Better You Bet
  92. I’ve Had Enough
  93. Water
  94. Join Together
  95. Won’t Get Fooled Again
  96. The Rock
  97. Love, Reign O’er Me
  98. We’re Not Gonna Take It
  99. See Me, Feel Me
  100. Tea & Theatre

High Fidelity – The Music, The Misery, and the Playlist

If you’re anything like me you’ve seen High Fidelity (the 2000 movie starring John Cusack) or read the book, or both. If you’re a lot like me, you’ve wanted to make a playlist of the music in the movie, have bought the soundtrack, and over the years have slowly grown your collection from there to include more of the stuff not on the CD. And if you want a list of the songs in the movie, they’re all listed in the credits very clearly and it’s easy enough to pause on them and jot it all down.

But, if you’re pretty much JUST me, you’ve also wanted a definitive list of the music referenced but NOT played in the movie. The songs and artists they just talk about. The t-shirts they wear and the posters so clearly visible in Rob’s apartment. The major record sleeves and labels clearly visible in significant ways or that glaringly stick out in the background. The stuff that most of the audience should never care about because why the hell WOULD they?

Well, Me…I’ve made you a list. I’ve seen the movie probably dozens of times. But I rewatched it this past weekend with a notebook resting on my lap and was furiously making a list of the above items. There are surely some I missed. Some of the record-store shots pass by so quickly and there are so many records on the shelves that I would’ve been making the list for weeks if I had to freeze frame all of it. And although something tells me that one day I’ll do exactly that if I ever take a vacation…for now, I’ve just listed what I saw and heard. Even if there are some missing it’s still a hell of a lot more than anyone else has done!

So, we’ll start with the easy part for those who just want to save this in a note in their phone and check off what they want. (Of COURSE I’ve got that note in my phone.) We’ll start with the stuff listed in the credits…then we’ll get nuts.  I even looked into the deleted scenes, kids…and I looked into a few I didn’t know anything about because some of them might’ve been music JUST used for the movie–or in a couple of very odd cases bands and albums that were completely made up and never existed at all! So I did the hard work for you, basically, and I explain that where it’s relevant.

I know this post isn’t for everybody. I’ll be a little surprised if it’s for anybody. But here we go. (And yes, I also intend to re-read the book at a later date and make a list from that too since it’s mostly different artists–but one step at a time…)

Songs As Listed in the Credits:

  • 13th Floor Elevators – “You’re Gonna Miss Me”
  • Bow Wow Wow – “I Want Candy”
  • Elton John – “Crocodile Rock”
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – “Crimson and Clover”
  • Belle and Sebastian – “Seymour Stein”
  • Rush – “Jacob’s Ladder” (Barry is singing the guitar solo when he enters the store for the first time in the movie.)
  • Katrina and the Waves – “Walking on Sunshine”
  • Liz Phair – “Baby Got Going”
  • Brother JT3 – “Little Did I Know” (Musician local to Pennsylvania–couldn’t find much more about him.)
  • John Wesley Harding – “I’m Wrong About Everything”
  • Ann Peebles – “I Can’t Stand the Rain”
  • Bruce Springsteen – “The River”
  • Peter Frampton – “Baby I Love Your Way” (Although obviously not performed by Frampton in the movie–it’s performed the Marie DeSalle character.)
  • The Vaselines – “Jesus Don’t Want Me for a Sunbeam”
  • Smog – “Cold Blooded Old Times”
  • Edith Frost – “On Hold”
  • Goldie – “Hyena 1”
  • Barry White – “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More Babe”
  • Love – “Always See Your Face”
  • Plush – “Soaring and Boring”
  • The Chemical Brothers – “Leave Home”
  • John Etkin-Bell – “Four to the Floor”
  • Toby Bricheno and Jan Cryka – “Loopfest”
  • Velvet Underground – “Who Loves the Sun”
  • Illinois Jacquet – “Robbin’s Nest”
  • Aretha Franklin – “Rock Steady”
  • Stiff Little Fingers – “Suspect Device”
  • Beta Band – “Dry the Rain”
  • Queen – “We Are the Champions”
  • Al Green – “I’m Glad You’re Mine”
  • Love – “Your Friend and Mine”
  • Elvis Costello – “Shipbuilding”
  • Bob Dylan – “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”
  • Grand Funk Railroad – “Get it Together”
  • Shelia Nicholls – “Fallen for You”
  • Velvet Underground – “Oh! Sweet Nuthin'”
  • Harbhajhn Singh – “This India”
  • De La Soul – “Tread Water”
  • Harry Nilsson – “The Moonbeam Song”
  • Eric B. & Rakim – “Juice (Know the Ledge)”
  • Apartment 26 – “Doing It Anyway”
  • Eric B. & Rakim – “What’s On Your Mind”
  • Sy Smith – “Good and Strong”
  • Sir Douglas Quintet – “Mendocino”
  • Royal Trux – “The Inside Game”
  • Paper Lace – “The Night Chicago Died” (In parody form, sung by Barry as “The Night Laura’s Daddy Died.”)
  • Dick Walter – “Chapel of Rest”
  • Bob Dylan – “Most of the Time”
  • Jackie Wilson – “I Get the Sweetest Feeling”
  • Stereolab – “Lo Boob Oscillator”
  • The Roots – “The Anti-Circle”
  • The Kinks – “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy”
  • High Llamas – “Homespun Remix”
  • Rupert Gregson-Williams – “Hit the Street”
  • Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get it On”
  • Stevie Wonder – “I Believe (When I Fall in Love with You it Will be Forever)”
  • Love (written by Burt Bacharach) “My Little Red Book”

Music Referenced in Dialogue (But Not Actually Played in the Movie):

  • Carly Simon
  • James Taylor
  • Carol King
  • Cat Stevens
  • The Smiths
  • Frank Zappa
  • Licorice Comfits – “Testament of Youth” / “Pop Girls, Etc.” (Per this article, this is a fake band invented for the dialogue of the movie–which they do a couple times in the movie, so convincingly you might think they’re real. It’s a weird device that is made weirder by how much real music is openly discussed in the movie with some level of authority. And also, in the movie, I’m pretty sure he says “Licorice Confidence.” But whatever.)
  • Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and/or The Righteous Brothers – “Little Latin Lupe Lu”
  • Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit”
  • Johnny Cash
  • Stevie Wonder – “I Just Called to Say I Love You”
  • Deep Purple
  • Howlin’ Wolf
  • Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”
  • “#4 With A Smile” – (A fake song also invented for the dialogue. I’ve had this argument and I’m right. Google it. There’s not a song called that. I don’t care if you’re sure you’ve seen it on a shelf or heard it. You’re wrong. It’s fake.)
  • The Clash – “Janie Jones”
  • Kansas – “Point of Know Return”
  • Velvet Underground – “White Light/White Heat”
  • Massive Attack – “Radiation Ruling the Nation”
  • Beatles
  • Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony
  • Captain Beefheart – “Safe As Milk”
  • Supertramp
  • Echo and the Bunnymen – “The Killing Moon EP”
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • Green Day
  • Bob Dylan – “Blonde on Blonde”
  • Minutemen – “Double Nickels on the Dime” (I’m pretty sure that’s the album. It’s one of the albums stolen from the shop that you see when it’s put on the ground by the thieves. Technically not in dialogue, but important enough to the scene that I’m mentioning it here rather than as a background image.)
  • Brian Eno – “Music for [something]” – I’m not sure which of the “Music for” albums it is, as the title is obscured. Same scene. Same reason for listing it here.
  • Sigue Sigue Sputnik (Same scene, but actually mentioned.)
  • Ryuici Sakamoto (Same scene, but mentioned.)
  • Breakbeats (Same scene, mentioned in dialogue. But this might be a fake band or a compilation. I can’t find any info online.)
  • Serge Gainsbourg (Same scene, mentioned.)
  • Joni Mitchell (Same scene, mentioned.)
  • Charlie Rich – “Behind Closed Doors”
  • Chrissie Hynde
  • Sex Pistols
  • David Byrne
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Wilson Pickett
  • Solomon Burke
  • Rolling Stones
  • Otis Redding
  • The Memphis Horns
  • Pop Abrams and the Smurfs (Although in real life it’s actually Father Abraham and The Smurfs. Unsure if it was a flubbed line or an intentional reference to Papa Smurf or a weird series of coincidences, but it’s possible that they were actually trying to make up a fake band name.)
  • Kraftwerk
  • Falco
  • David Hasselhoff – (He really did have a singing career and was beloved in Germany. Not everybody knows that in 2020, or in the year 2000 when the movie came out, I bet.)
  • The Shangri-Las – “The Leader of the Pack”
  • Jan & Dean – “Dead Man’s Curve”
  • Ray Peterson – “Tell Laura I Love Her”
  • Madness – “One Step Beyond”
  • Rolling Stones – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”
  • Gordon Lightfoot – “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”
  • Jimmy Cliff – “Many Rivers to Cross”
  • Gladys Knight – “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me”
  • Art Garfunkel
  • Neil Sedaka – “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” (Debatable–but I think it was an intentional reference right at the end of the movie.)

Music Referenced in the Deleted Scenes (But not Played–No music was played in the deleted scenes):

  • James Cotton – “My Baby” – (Record label that was focused on. Integral enough I’m counting it here.)
  • Roy Orbison – “Only the Lonely” – (Same.)
  • Sex Pistols – “God Save the Queen” (Same.)
  • Otis Redding
  • Flying Burrito Brothers – “Sin City”
  • The Damned – “New Rose”
  • Funkadelic – “Hit It and Quit It”
  • Elvis Costello – “Shipbuilding”
  • Elvis Presley – “Mystery Train”
  • Sly and the Family Stone – “Spaced Cowboy”
  • Blue Cheer – “Summertime Blues”
  • Lee Scratch Perry – “The Upsetter”
  • Led Zeppelin (I assume) – “Moby Dick”
  • Skip Spence
  • Minutemen
  • Zombies
  • David Bowie – “Sound & Vision”
  • The Standells – “Dirty Water”
  • Patti Smith – “Dancing Barefoot”
  • WAR – “Me & My Baby Brother”
  • Bill Withers – “Grandma’s Hands”
  • Tina Turner

Noticeable in the Background or on T-Shirts/Posters:

  • Of Montreal
  • Bauhaus
  • Pretenders
  • Sex Pistols
  • The Damned
  • Juliana Hatfield
  • Solomon Burke
  • Miles Davis
  • Ladybug Transistor
  • Claudia Malibu
  • Pavement
  • MC5
  • Rolling Stones
  • Motorhead
  • Love & Rockets
  • The Falling Wallendas (One of my all time top five band names. They’re local to Chicago if memory serves. I’m unclear on if they’re still together.)
  • Urge Overkill
  • Yanni
  • NOFX

Well that took too long. Thanks for taking too long with me. Next time I’ll write something that someone else might potentially care about reading. 🙂

————

Current Listening: I’ve been working my way through the complete Rush discography ever since Neil Peart died.  I did an episode of my podcast all about that on the day it happened. Go listen to that. Neil’s work was very important to me and it still bums me out that he’s gone.

Diet? I Hardly Even Know It.

A lot of people know about this already and I’ve even written about it on the blog recently…but I wanted to dedicate a post to writing about my diet. So this is that.

In July I weighed over 240 pounds. I don’t know how much more. Nobody weighs themselves at their heaviest. But I was north of 240, based on when I know I started losing weight, how much weight I’ve been losing on average in a day, and doing the math backwards. Let’s say 245. It seems fair. At the time of writing I’m in the 175 range. Let’s call that 70 pounds. That seems fair, too. Because that’s what 245 minus 175 is…

I’d wanted to lose weight for at least 3 years. Longer for sure. I got fat in and after college, like everybody else. When I was a kid/teenager I was rail-thin. Until my 20s I checked in around 125-150. If anything a little LIGHT for my height (I’m 5’9″). Then came the overeating, the stress eating, and a whole lot of sitting down all day long. And I got fat, eventually to the point that I decided I needed to do something about it. It took too long to start–it always does. I knew I HAD to do something when I saw the scale cross 225. Hell, I knew I SHOULD the first time I learned I was over 200. But laziness, salt, fat, and sugar are all dangerous drugs, especially when you combine them in the same cocktail everyday–you’re probably doing it now and some ad-wizard told you it’s one of your three squares you “need.” So it took until three years ago. That’s when I started looking at exercise bikes and asking questions of coworkers who’d recently lost weight. Yet I still didn’t pull the trigger when I first “wanted” to. Basically, I wanted to lose weight, but like everybody else in the country I didn’t want to do the work. Naturally.

So what broke the camel’s back? Because it wasn’t when I found myself going to concerts and saying, “I’d like a XXL” to the t-shirt vendor. And it wasn’t when I sat down in a theatre, complained that the seats were tighter than I remembered them being from past events and a good friend pointed out that it wasn’t the seats that had shrunk. (People think they have the shitty right to do that just because they know you.) It wasn’t that I’d gone up a size in BELTS. It was that in May I needed to buy some new jeans and khakis and I walked into three department stores and was unable to find my size of waist in any of them, in any color. Stores no longer stocked the size of pants I wore. That was devastating.

It also doesn’t make much sense, as a sidebar. I think we can agree that as a country the USA is the fattest it’s ever been, overall. Everybody you know is overweight at least by a little, and most of us by a LOT. And yet the current fashion is skinny jeans, tight fits, and slim waists. In an age where it’s not even healthy to eat vegan anymore since they figured out how to make vegan hamburgers, the stores aren’t selling pants that fit anyone (although XXL shirts are pretty easy to find). So I don’t know that it should have been a major wake-up call that they weren’t selling pants to fit ME…but nevertheless it was the thing I needed to see.

The first time you HAVE to special order pants online should change you, I think… It should make you realize the same thing I did. And that thing is still hard to think about. It’s not that I wasn’t skinny like a teenager anymore. It wasn’t that I wasn’t my college weight. It wasn’t that I wasn’t the same weight I was when I started at my present day-job anymore. It wasn’t even realizing that I was (and still kind of am) fat. It was realizing that I WASN’T fat. I was obese. And that’s a very different word from “fat.” Obese has “fat” in it, sure… But once you’re obese, you’ve got hard work to do just to get down to “fat.”

Even after that, it took a couple of months. Food is just too present and too tempting to avoid if you’re not consciously working at it. Even when you really WANT to eat better, people are throwing food in your face. Next time you’re driving to work, count how many ads and signs for food you encounter. Maybe it’s the sign for a restaurant, or maybe it’s a billboard, or maybe it’s a radio ad, or maybe it’s the wrapper of the McFuckyou you bought on your way. If you keep an accurate count, you’ll hit triple-digits in no time. Trust me. I actually counted. (“Well, but they HAVE TO have a sign on the restaurant don’t they?” Of course…that’s not the point. Shut up.)

And that’s just the drive to work. Don’t even try to keep track of the people in your life actually trying to push food on you. The coworker who brings in the box of donuts. The friend who wants to “grab a burger” as an excuse to spend time together. (Although most of them really just want the burger and you’re their means to an end–don’t think otherwise.) The “business lunch” meeting where neither of you says a word about business. The family member who insists that you get seconds or have pie because it’s Thanksgiving. The neighbor who gave you Christmas cookies. The uncle that gives you a candy cane.

Everyone WANTS you to eat. You have to want to stop pretty badly to pull it off. And even then, you’re going to fail. You’re going to be out late and pressed for time and someone will stop at Wendy’s and you’ll eat the Dave’s Doublefuckyou and you’ll wonder why you put on a half-pound overnight when “all I had was the burger, I didn’t even eat the fries” (because Wendy’s fries suck). You didn’t have a burger. You had processed fat, salt, oil, and sugar–and I don’t care if Wendy herself swears it on a stack of Bibles, that shit was frozen for a month before it hit the wrapper, guaranteed and most of it wasn’t even MEAT. (Even if I’m wrong and it really is “fresh, never frozen” everything else I said about it is Gospel.)

Additional sidebar — Wendy’s “funny” social media presence that picks on people who tell the truth about them is a disgrace. Dave Thomas was a good man and he would be ashamed of what the company has become.

Anyway…

It’s hard to escape food. Here’s how I’ve done it…

I had to change EVERYTHING about how I eat. I can’t do “portion control.” That’s bullshit. And if you’ve ever tried it, you know I’m right. You’ll eat the entire fucking ham. You will. Don’t lie to yourself. Portion control is for people who don’t want to change and just want to make conversation. I knew that was a losing arrangement. Portion control was out.

I also haven’t exercised. Not at all. I’ve remained active. I’ve kept my same routine. But I did not add even so much as a sit-up. Exercise is bullshit when it comes to weight loss too. It’s good for BODYBUILDING. And exercise is a very healthy thing to do–once I get down to my goal weight I will start a routine. But exercise has nothing to do with weight loss and in many cases it’s a hindrance. Muscle legitimately DOES weigh more than fat. And when you’re working out you’re burning a TON of calories and carbs and…other shit I don’t know about because I’m not a nutritionist…and you’re going to end up eating (or drinking) things to supplement that. So you’re going to hit the gym then be shocked that you’re not losing anything…because your diet matters more than how much you bench. I bench 0 and I’ve lost 70 pounds. Diet is for weight loss. Exercise is for muscle building. Exercise is important too…but it won’t make you skinny. It just won’t. I knew that wasn’t the right route to take.

I was hitting fast food or the microwave every day. None of that is good for you. And I knew it and so do you. Even when I’d “cook” 99% of my food came out of a can or with microwave instructions on the back of a cardboard box with shrink-wrap over the entree. Not good. Maybe some of it was okay in moderation. But it wasn’t meant to be a lifestyle…and it’s all any of us eat. Now…I’m sure there’s a way to do that and be somewhat healthy. I’m sure there’s a way to do that and be thin, too…but in my case, that shit had to GO. So did the chips, the pretzels, the salsas, the candy, the SODA… In fact, fuck snacking in general. I don’t SNACK anymore. I eat when I need to eat. Snacking is just another word for “I don’t know what to do when I’m not eating.” It serves no purpose. It doesn’t help.

So the snacking stopped. The refrigerator got cleared out. Pretty much if it had microwave directions, it went in the trash. There wasn’t much left. I had to eat something other than what I was eating before…and this is where Penn Jillette enters my story.

As readers of the blog will know, I recently went through some bad stuff personally. I won’t go into all that…but it factors in here. It was a time bad enough that I didn’t really WANT to eat much, so I was somewhat on a “depression diet” anyway toward the middle of August. And in the midst of that I was avoiding a LOT of things I normally like. Because I didn’t want to associate stuff I liked with a bad time in my life. So I wasn’t eating as much (though it was still TOO much) and I wasn’t really listening to music or watching TV. I got pretty bored, as you can imagine, so I started looking for things that were just a little outside of my usual rhythm to entertain myself. So I went to YouTube and started watching magicians.

I’ve always liked magic, but it’s never been something I’ve actively gone out of my way to watch. I’m not even sure what made me start watching it on YouTube–probably an ad for Fool Us or something. Nevertheless. one of my favorite magic teams has always been Penn & Teller, so I was gravitating to their stuff online. And I started to notice that in recent years, Penn has lost a TON of weight. He looks great. I wondered about the how/why and started researching his weight loss. Long-story-short, he had a bad blood pressure problem and needed to lose 100 pounds. So he did it. And he has been very open about what he did both in interviews and in his book “Presto.” I watched the former and bought the latter and applied what worked for me… This is probably the only time I’ll ever say it, and I don’t recommend it to anyone else…but in a lot of ways the “depression diet” was helpful. I’d already started eating differently by volume. So when I came out of that stage, it was easy to just change WHAT I ate.

From here out, I might sound a little crazy. It’s okay. Change always sounds crazy. Somebody doing something you’re not doing always sounds nuts…and in this case it’s also stuff you might not even *consider* doing. At least, not until stores don’t have your size of pants anymore… To that end, please bear in mind that Penn Jillette is always careful to warn people that he is not a nutritionist, he’s a Vegas magician. And I’ve heard him indemnify himself by saying a few dozen times, “If you take health advice from a Vegas magician, you are an asshole who deserves to die.” Well…that makes me an asshole who deserves to die. And if YOU take health advice from an asshole who deserves to die, then you deserve to be reincarnated as a member of the Trump family (probably Eric). Okay? Let me state clearly that you should consult your physician before making any changes. I’m not telling you to do what I did. I’m just telling you what I did.

Now here’s how you can do what I did.

After exploring Penn’s diet in which he basically started by eating nothing but potatoes (with nothing on them–not even oil or salt on the skin) for two weeks then went to a low-calorie vegetarian/vegan plan I decided to give a similar plan a shot. It’s not identical. There are parts of Penn’s plan that wouldn’t work for me…but at the core, there are some parts that I thought were really great. And not just because I happen to really like potatoes…

My diet now is mostly composed of whole plants. And by “whole plants” I don’t mean I eat an entire geranium every meal. I mean that my food is made up of ACTUAL PLANTS (Vegetables) bought in a produce department that look like they looked when they were pulled out of the ground. Not canned, not processed, not dipped in butter. Spinach, potatoes, mushrooms, corn, brussel sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots…  PLANTS. And fruits. And grains like rice and beans–red beans and rice has become a favorite lately. Things like that. Red meat and chicken VERY RARELY make it into my diet (more on that in a moment). Still no snacking–not even using vegetables. And I’ve limited myself to what is called a “fed window,” which means there are only certain times during the day during which I can eat. In other words, I only eat about once a day between the hours of 5-9 pm. And instead of soda, I drink water–as much as I want with no ill effects! If I’m feeling adventurous I’ll have some milk, too, just for the Vitamin D.

Crazy, right? Again. I’ve lost 70 pounds. Crazy fucking WORKS.

And I don’t feel bad. I’m not constantly hungry. My stomach growls once in a while, but it did that when I was eating non-stop too. (It’s almost like that’s not a sign of starvation.) I’m not lightheaded, I’m not any crankier than usual, I’m not weak from lack of food, I’m not going through ketosis (Keto diets are a scam), I’m not overly tired…  None of the questions you have apply. I changed to a diet that is actively helping me lose weight, and it’s not killing me, like you’re afraid that it would if you did it.

Everything about how you eat is a habit, and most of those habits were born from marketing, and marketing is always always always a scam. Why do you eat three meals a day? Because somebody (probably your parents–and THEY’RE super on the ball, right?) told you you needed to in order to be healthy. In a country where everybody is fat and unhealthy.

Why do you get hungry before meal times? Because you’ve trained your body to expect food around those times. And those times weren’t even established by YOU, they were established by someone else. The entire world shuts down at noon because it agreed to be “lunchtime.” And yet you want to NOT be fat like everybody else? If you want to be different, you need to behave–stay with me–DIFFERENTLY.

Why do you eat so much meat? For the protein, right? Because the beef counsel convinced everybody it’s the only way to get protein? As though there’s no protein in plants? As though the animals you’re eating aren’t eating the plants and getting THEIR protein from them? Almost every vegetable you pick up is full of protein. Maybe DIFFERENT protein. But protein. Your body knows what to do with it. The only thing really lacking from a vegetarian/vegan diet is Vitamin B, and if worse comes to worse you can take a supplement. Personally I’m too lazy for that so I’ll put some chicken in a salad or have some beef in a burrito once in a while…but hey, that’s me.

The point is, there are a LOT of food practices you have not because you NEED them, but because you’ve just always DONE them. I set out to break as many of those habits as I could. You’re talking to a guy who stopped drinking for five years just because he thought he might SOMEDAY develop a problem that he didn’t have at the time. Habits are stupid and I try to avoid them. I fail at it a lot. But isn’t the journey the reward? So yeah…no junk food, no soda, no frying in fat and grease, no donuts, no candy canes, etc…

Except for when I decide to have that stuff. Because this program (or should I say “lifestyle?”) has “Rare and Appropriate” days as a part of it.

You know how most people on diets will at some point suck the will to live out of you a little bit by having a piece of cake and then saying, “I’m being BAD because this is my CHEAT DAY!!!!!!” and then they laugh like they just heard Carlin’s 7-words bit for the first time? Those people suck. Cheating sucks. We’ve agreed on that, right? You cheat on your wife, she divorces your ass. You cheat on your taxes, they fine or imprison your ass. You cheat on your diet, you add 5 pounds to your ass. Cheating is bullshit. I don’t cheat.

I have days AS PART OF MY PROGRAM where I’m allowed to have food that is more decadent. Days that are RARE–about once every 4-6 weeks–and in circumstances where it would be APPROPRIATE to indulge. So…not every Saturday just because “it’s the weekend so I’m being SO BAD aren’tIafuckingrebel?” But once in a while. When it’s Christmas and someone worked their ass off on preparing a full meal then invited you over. It’s not only appropriate to make a full plate, it would be INAPPROPRIATE not to. Or if you’re at the movies and your kid wants to split a bag of popcorn and it’s been a few weeks of potatoes and salads, EAT THE FUCKING POPCORN. Then eat right the other 40-60 days. Go nuts at a buffet. Once. Eat a whole donut (fuck people who cut them in half and leave them in the box, by the way) and dunk the bastard in chocolate and coffee. One time this month. You’re not cheating if you’re allowed to do it. No one’s going to divorce you, fine you, put you in prison, or do anything to your ass. Unless you ask nicely and we’re all clear on consent.

Otherwise…eat stuff that’s good for you. And look forward to the days where you can’t. Your cravings for the bad shit shift so much anyway, by the time you get to a Rare & Appropriate day you might find yourself thinking, “Eh…a baked potato and a salad will be fine.” Seriously. In the past I’ve gone through days that included thinking that on my way home I might stop and pick up either a pizza, hot wings, a burger, a burrito, or fried fish, or one of EACH; my tastes changed that rapidly throughout a work day. Now, yeah sometimes I want that stuff…but more often I find myself thinking, “What would be good in my baked potato tonight?” (Last night I had a baked potato with habanero hummus, mushrooms, and sweet peppers–it was aces! Don’t overlook the value and flavor of a good mushroom or pepper, man.) You’d be surprised how quick you’d be to settle into the new foods.

I’m sure it helped that I’ve always liked vegetables. It’s probably a bigger struggle if you don’t. But I’m happy making a meal out of broccoli and cauliflower. There’s a company that sells bags of broccoli, cauliflower, and baby carrots at my grocery store. And you take that bag, throw it in the microwave (I’ve recently discovered that real vegetables are fine to put in the microwave!) for about 4 minutes and you’ve got a full bag of steamed veggies that’s flavorful and good for you. I’ve never been able to eat a full bag, yet it’s like 100 calories and I’ve typically lost weight in the morning. Vegetables are filling and also tasty. And you’re an adult. Stop pretending you’re five and they’re a problem. And by the way–vegetables are cheaper than pizza rolls. I’ve cut my grocery bill in HALF doing this.

Most of the time, my diet hasn’t been a major challenge. I wake up most mornings having lost weight. Usually ounces, not pounds…but on average I’m losing 2-3 pounds in a week. And that’s pretty damn good. But if I’m honest there are times it’s difficult.

I come from a fast food family. I don’t think any of us would state otherwise. So when I get together with my brother on Friday night and neither of us has eaten yet (in his case dinner, in my case I’ve not eaten all day) we’ll often stop someplace with a drive-thru. Although in recent days, Dave has been trying to eat a little healthier too, so we’ve had a lot of soup and salad at places like McAllister’s or Bread Co (Panera). But even then, those places still use fatty meats and a lot of salty, sugary crap to cover up the fatty meat. That can be a struggle.

Or my Dad and I have dinner together every Sunday night. And sometimes that’s not easy. Dad’s not on a diet. In fact after his recent health concerns if anything he needed to put a few pounds ON. Neither of us is cooking, and frankly the stuff I cook on my diet probably wouldn’t be to Dad’s taste. So more often than is rare or appropriate I’ve had fast food. I gained a full pound and a half the night we got Chinese food and I only ate a half portion of what I would’ve normally eaten from there in the past.

And Christmas? Fuck me. Between the ham and turkey and other things that have been around this is the first week in four months that I’ve ended HEAVIER than I was when I started it. Which was very soul crushing and made me want to just give up. The 70 pounds gone suddenly didn’t feel like an accomplishment when I put two back on. (People who don’t diet will never understand that.) But instead of giving up, I’ve put out a notice on social media (so you KNOW I mean it) that no one is to offer me any food that is not a whole plant that I prepared for myself. (Although today I’m having rice and beans because it’s what I had available…but same principle. I know the calorie count.) I don’t know what that means for dinner with Dad on Sunday…but maybe McAllister’s can give me JUST a potato with no salt or oil or so on…or maybe I can bring one from home, like an idiot.

Sometimes when you diet you have to do shit that makes you look like an idiot to keep it going. Everybody else in the world wants you do have a “rare and appropriate” day every time they see you. That’s the hardest part. It’s easy when you just go home and fend for yourself. Social eating? That’s what really kills you. And it sucks to turn it down sometimes. Because it’s MY diet and it shouldn’t be anybody else’s problem. And even though saying, “I’m on a diet and I can’t eat that” SHOULDN’T hurt anyone’s feelings, it does–which is more about them than you, but it still sucks. It just sucks.

But…in general, the diet has gone very well and I think will continue to do so. I’m not too far away from my goal weight now. Although my goal weight has already changed a little because I thought I’d be happy at a certain number, but there was still a gut there (and also I’d miscalculated based on my height–whoops) so I moved it down a little. If I hit the next goal and there’s still a gut it might get moved again. But I’m hoping to wrap this thing up before St. Patrick’s Day, anyway. Probably much sooner. I’m really not far away.

Then comes the tricky part. Staying thin for the rest of my life.

Honestly the thing I’m most worried about is eating too LITTLE once I hit my goal. It’s easy to not go back for more and to develop a routine of knowing “If I eat this much, I’ll lose weight.” I’m not sure what “maintaining” amounts of food are. I’ve only ever known gaining and losing. So that’ll probably bounce around by 5-10 pounds for a while.

But 5-10 is way better than 70. Or maybe more like 80-90 by the time I’m finished.

Okay…I think we’ve done good work here today. I explained my diet, called a lot of things bullshit, and wasted a lot of time I could’ve spent being productive on something else in my life. That’s a successful blog post.

In closing…once again…don’t take my advice. Find what works for you. This is just what worked for me. But even so, I think I can close by saying this, because it’s probably true for all of us…

Eat better. You’ll thank yourself for it.

Top Ten Albums of 2019 (And Runners Up)

2019 top 10Well here we are. Another top ten in another year. Some of this year’s choices surprised even me, and I’m the guy doing the choosing. I had a hard time with this list because while a lot of stuff got my attention, not as much grabbed me in a way that I thought it was a top-ten contender. But those that got there got there in a big way–some of them released within a week or two of compiling the list! As in past years, I’m about to be WAY too wordy about it, but in brief, here’s the list.

Top Ten of 2019:

  1. Amanda Palmer – “There Will Be No Intermission”
  2. The Who – “WHO”
  3.  The Cranberries – “In the End”
  4. Leonard Cohen – “Thanks for the Dance”
  5.  Guided By Voices (three releases/tie) – “Zeppelin Over China,” “Warp and Woof,” & “Sweating the Plague”
  6. The Get Up Kids – “Problems”
  7. Joe Jackson – “Fool”
  8. Eli “Paperboy” Reed – “99 Cent Dreams”
  9. The Hold Steady – “Thrashing Thru the Passion”
  10. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – “Infest the Rats’ Nest”

Favorite Concert of the Year: The Who in St. Louis back in May. But seeing Cheap Trick for the first time in maybe close to 10 years was a lot of fun, too.

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LET’S TALK:

As I said, this year had a LOT of releases I liked but only some that were ever really in the running. As the year wore on I started to get worried that I might not even have ten. Maybe I’d only be doing a top 5. But the list eventually rounded itself out and I’ve even got another ten I want to talk about below, making it a “top 20” of sorts, even though the latter 10 aren’t really in a particular order, and I’m going to be very brief about them. But first the top ten.

Even though it wasn’t a release I was initially very excited about and even though I knew there was a Who album coming later in the year, Amanda Palmer’s “There Will Be No Intermission” knocked me on the floor the first time I heard it and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten back up. It’s very sparse–some songs being only piano and vocal or her signature ukulele and vocal–and that’s part of the appeal because it vastly helps the delivery. But what’s really going on here is some of the most gripping lyrics I’ve heard in several years, delivered by a woman who goes back and forth between nearly shouting and nearly crying at every line.

Calling it an “emotional listen” is a massive undersell. This album sets a new standard for self-revealing lyrics as Palmer (AKA “Amanda Fucking Palmer” to fans) writes about being unsure of if she’s a good parent in “A Mother’s Confession.” And it also sets a new standard for how to address abortion not only as an artist, but a friend in “Voicemail for Jill.” I can’t honestly say that I’m going to listen to it a lot because it’s genuinely devastating in places. But I can say this is hands-down the most important thing that came out all year. That the cover is Amanda in the nude, raising a sword above her head is a perfect metaphor for the work she did here. And it’s also the most Amanda Fucking Palmer album cover I’ve ever seen.

It’s of some surprise to me that anything in the world could’ve placed higher on a Derek Brink Top Ten list than a new album by The Who but the Palmer album is untouchable just in terms of social relevance. Nevertheless, in at #2 is The Who – “WHO.” In their first album since 2006’s “The Endless Wire” (which apparently was written exclusively for me) The Who returns with a corker! The first time I played it, I played it as loud as I could stand it and the low end of the album is so present it shook the room. They mixed this like they MEANT it. Less thematic than some of their best known work and with really only one track I might consider skipping (the last one), it’s an explosive, meaningful listen that is 100% The Who. (As a side note–I can’t believe I’m saying this–but I prefer the standard edition to the one with the bonus tracks!)

Daltrey’s vocals still soar above the mix like no other singer could hope to do. Townshend’s backing vocals still add a ton of depth and his guitar still screams almost as loud as Roger–maybe sometimes louder. And the current band does a great job keeping it all together, but still leaving enough room that it all might fall apart at any moment. And that’s why we love The Who–the music sounds like it’s dangerous. Though it just barely didn’t reach the top spot, “WHO” will definitely be the album that I listen to the most from the year’s releases. I have so much more I want to say about this one, but for the sake of space, let’s move on.

And we’re moving somewhere a lot safer, though also in many ways sadder, as we come to my choice for #3 in The Cranberries – “In the End.” It’s sad because this is definitively their final album, following the untimely and accidental death of lead singer and principle songwriter Dolores O’Riordan in 2018. Thankfully she’d done enough work on the new album before passing away that the rest of the band was able to complete it. And it stands as a wonderful tribute to her life and work. Sad and sweet lyrics that were always her forte, but become much more poignant with her passing. Catchy hooks that have kept fans tuned in ever since the first time they heard “Linger” (or “Zombie” or whatever). This is a perfect Cranberries record. If they had to go out, this was a good way to go. We’ll miss you forever, Dolores.

Another person we’re going to miss forever is Leonard Cohen, whose new/final album “Thanks for the Dance” also came out this year. (This list gets sad in that way.) When I first heard about it I was afraid it would be a cobbled together “outtakes” album, but the Cohen family assured fans that this isn’t an album of leftovers but is instead “the master’s final collection of songs.” And thank goodness for that. It’s a chilling and moving farewell from a poet and writer who has done more to shape my philosophy than any theologian. I don’t know if it’s an entry point for anyone who doesn’t know his work…I think it works better if you have a relationship with Cohen’s songs and then view it as a goodbye letter. But it is haunting and beautiful. And I regret that I bought it on CD instead of vinyl. (Might have to correct that.) Sparse with the main thrust of the mix being Leonard’s deep, soulfully sad voice, it wraps around the listener the way a final hug before getting in the car for the long drive home should.

But let’s cheer up a bit… I’m cheating with my choice for #5. Because I’ve had to number them “5a, 5b, and 5c.” Because that’s really the only way to deal with Guided By Voices, who’ve released three full-length albums this year in “Zeppelin Over China,” “Warp and Woof,” and “Sweating the Plague.” Of the three, “Plague” is the best and most focused in my opinion. But all three are good rock albums invoking tones of Bowie while still being rooted in 90s lo-fi. And really if you took all three, brushed away the chaff and made a compilation of just the BEST songs off each album, you’d have one fucking GREAT one. So that’s how I’m justifying putting all three into one entry on the list.

In at #6 is The Get Up Kids with their new record “Problems.” I’ve been a Get Up Kids fan for probably close to 20 years. Followed them through their hiatus and into the reunion. Didn’t love the first album after they got back together, but I love this one. Part of the appeal of the GUK’s for me is that their lyrics often seem to intersect with specific details in my own life that they couldn’t have possibly known about. And that’s all over this album. It’s punky but also sentimental without ever losing its sense of fun. Good stuff.

One of the albums I wouldn’t have imagined being on the list or even imagined BUYING when the year started without being prompted comes in at #7. I’ve never been too big a Joe Jackson fan, previously only being familiar with 80s radio single “Is She Really Going Out With Him,” but that all changed this year with the release of “Fool.” It turns out my brother Dave is a huge Joe Jackson fan. He told me recently that Joe Jackson is to him what Elvis Costello is to me. So I get it. He highly recommended Joe’s new one and I gave it a shot…and it shot into the top 10. The thing that blows me away about it is that the mix sounds like you’re right there in the room with the band at ANY VOLUME. Trust me, that’s hard to do. The songs bounce back and forth between fun and lighthearted and deeply serious but all sound like they’re from the same spirit. That’s hard to do too. Clearly still rooted in 80s structure, but feeling wholly modern in tone, “Fool” is a big winner for me and has made me dig deeper into Jackson’s back catalogue. Thanks for the recommendation, Dave.

One of the other big surprises of the year was Eli “Paperboy” Reed’s “99 Cent Dreams.” I obtained it because I signed up for YepRoc records’ “Completist Club” where they send you everything they put out on the label for the year. I ended up being very underwhelmed by not only many of the releases but also by the service of the label and empty promises made…but that’s a different subject. What did knock me off my feet was Reed’s latest release. Rooted in a different generation’s danceable pop music, Reed is a throwback to a time I hope music can revisit again soon, where people actually enjoy listening to it. Fun and upbeat retro-rock that had me bouncing up and down while I did my dishes the first time I listened and has been a fun one to go back to ever since.

Another one I’ve been returning to a lot since it came out is The Hold Steady’s “Thrashing Thru the Passion” which came in at #9. Dumb title aside, it touches all of the beats that I’ve loved on THS’s other releases, all in one package. Meaningful lyrics, uptempo rock songs you’d die to defend, and some quiet moments you’ll ponder over your glass of whiskey (or whatever’s your poison). Part of me feels like the album should be ineligible because half of it came out as singles the year before, but I’m overlooking that because there’s enough new material to justify it and also because shut up.

And that brings us to the final record in our top ten, which came out of nowhere for me and for a whole bunch of other people too. I’ve heard of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard in past years, but had assumed them either to be a jam-band (aka a waste of time) or a throwback 60s revival that I might like but not enough to get into. Turns out they’re a weird group that is trying to explore as many genres as possible as quickly as possible. They’ve only been together since 2010 with their first album coming out in 2012, and “Infest the Rats’ Nest” is their 15th album (and second this year). On this album, they delivered a full on thrash-metal record that comes very close to being a masterpiece. Evoking early (“before they sold out”) Metallica, Slayer, and others, this album shreds from moment one, and it was very nice to hear as a long time metal fan who’s grown disenchanted with a landscape of good bands with silly corpse vocals that suck.

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TEN MORE (Briefly):

So that was the top ten, but I’ve got several more I just want to briefly talk about because I don’t think I have anywhere else in most cases. There’s no particular order to this, but if it helps you to think of them as 11-20, go nuts.

11-20

  • Son Volt – “Union” – First Son Volt album I’ve liked since the “reunion” (which is just Jay Farrar using the name with none of the other original members). Back to the folky tone that I fell in love with. This was at #10 before King Gizz and the Wiz Liz Fizz Bizz Kidz fell into my hands.
  • The Highwomen – “The Highwomen” – (This is the ONE where I won’t be brief.) I WANTED this to be in the top ten. I really did. And maybe it SHOULD be… It’s an important record for women in rock and country (mostly country) and I really, really like it.
    The Highwomen is a more or less “supergroup” formed by Amanda Shires, Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, and Maren Morris in the tradition of Cash, Nelson, Jennings, and Kristofferson forming The Highwaymen, after which this group is lovingly named. And…that’s actually the problem for me. Because no matter how great the record is, I would struggle with putting a “supergroup” that I know isn’t anyone’s primary focus on the list. (Damn Yankees wouldn’t have made it in the 90s, either.) But also…to open the album they do a version of “Highwayman” changing it to “Highwomen” (not a word!) with new lyrics focused on their own gender and struggles. and it’s just kind of a shrug of the shoulders for me. Plus, “Highwomen” sounds like a drug reference (which it isn’t) and that’s problematic.
    But all that aside, the primary thing that made me move this off the list was pretty simple. When you compare the lyrics on this one which are basically, “I’m a wife and mom with a job” to the lyrics on Amanda Palmer’s record, it’s clear in a heartbeat which one makes the list and which doesn’t. And once you’ve made that decision…frankly I just liked the stuff that DID make the list more. BUT I really do like “Highwomen” and I’ll be listening to the album for years to come. And believe me I’m THRILLED about the success they’ve been enjoying. It’s just that the above reasons are why it didn’t make the list, and on this one I really felt the need to explain it.
  • The Specials – “Encore” – One of the few ska based acts I stand by. They hadn’t put out an album in 18 years and I consider “Encore” a pretty strong comeback.
  • The Pixies – “Beneath the Eyrie” – Like it a lot and it’s the Pixies sounding like the Pixies, with more involvement from Paz than on prior records. We all know the band is just Black Francis’ (or Frank Black or Charles Thompson) solo act now…but “Beneath the Eyrie” belongs in your collection if you’re a fan.
  • The National – “I Am Easy to Find” – This album is everything that “Sleep Well Beast” wasn’t. The prior record was okay, but nothing special. This one is special. That the album cover evokes memories of “High Violet” and the title, memories of “Trouble Will Find Me” is very very appropriate.
  • Bob Mould – “Sunshine Rock” – Really good, punky listen with the vocals buried so deep in the mix you can’t make them out. If Bob could fix that, we’d have a top ten record here. (But that seems to be how he likes things mixed now… “Beauty and Ruin” and “Patch the Sky” aren’t much better mixed.)
  • The Muffs – “No Holiday” – Coincidentally and depressingly released about a week after bandleader Kim Schattuck died, it’s a heck of a send-off. If it weren’t her final album, I’d say it was a little too long and would benefit from losing some of the losable songs…but with things how they are, I’m glad everything is on it.
  • Dream Theater – “Distance Over Time” – Been a DT fan for close to 30 years. This one doesn’t disappoint.
  • Tegan & Sara – “Hey, I’m Just Like You” – Fun pop music with a little bit of the acoustic tones that have been missing from their last few albums. Danceable but with a little more depth than you might expect.
  • Mary Prankster – “Thickly Settled” – First one Mary’s put out since 2004 (or more like 2002 since the 04 release was a live album). Good return. The music is fun and energetic. But…she’s lost some of her lyrical edge. From the woman who brought you “Mercyfuck” and lyrics like, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck / You’re not my problem, I’m my problem” having a record you could pretty much safely play in front of your kids or grandmother is a little disappointing. But that said, I still bought a shirt.

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Stuff I liked but don’t feel the need to talk about:

These are just honorable mentions…

  • Tyler Childers – Country Squire
  • The Rubinoos – “From Home”
  • Eleni Mandell – “Wake Up Again”
  • Mandolin Orange – “Tides of a Teardrop”
  • Michaela Anne – “Desert Dove”
  • Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – “Turn Off the News (Build a Garden)”
  • Willie Nelson – “Ride Me Back Home”
  • The Alarm – “Sigma”
  • The Mountain Goats – “In League with Dragons”
  • Over the Rhine – “Love & Salvation”
  • Refused – “War Music”
  • Last in Line – “II”
  • Neil Young – “Colorado”

————

Stuff I Didn’t Like (and I feel like I need to explain why):

  • The Minus Five – “Stroke Manor” – One of the YepRoc releases. The leader of the band suffered a stroke and was told he’d never perform again. While in recovery he wrote this album. Which is a FUCKING AWESOME STORY. I wish I felt the same about the album. I really, really do. Because that was a miracle and I wish him nothing but the best.
  • Jenny Lewis – “On the Line” – I’ve liked a lot of stuff from Jenny’s career going back to Rilo Kiley. But this one fell short. Very short. My abiding memory of it is, “I fell in love with a poppy, doot doo doo. Just because.” And when the most memorable song on the album is that unintentionally fucking stupid, that taints the experience. But I also seem to be the only person I know who feels that way about this record, with most hailing it a masterpiece. Maybe my feelings will change on it over time.
  • Devin Townsend – “Empath” – I wanted to like this so badly it hurts because I think Devin is brilliant. But between a VERY quiet, uneven mix and songs that just don’t ever seem to focus, this one was a miss for me. (It genuinely sounds like he just plain forgot to master it. It’s demo-tape levels of quiet.) But I bet I like the next thing he does.
  • Bruce Springsteen – “Western Stars” – It’s not BAD…but it sounds like he wrote a movie soundtrack (because he did) and just didn’t finish the songs (because he didn’t). Most of them just kind of stop before they go anywhere and would benefit from the full E Street treatment. But I bet I like the next thing he does, too.
  • Slipknot – “We Are Not Your Kind” – Corey Taylor’s current mask is a perfect metaphor for this album. It does the job, but there’s a little too much of it and I was hoping for something else.
  • Frank Turner – “No Man’s Land” – I seem to like every other album with Frank. This is one of the ones I don’t. It just doesn’t seem to have his usual energy or wit. But maybe it’s me.

Okay. I’ve rambled on long enough. Hope that was fun. Tell me your list sometime, too!

Top Ten of the Past Ten Years

It’s coming up to the “end of year” list season. You’ll get my top 10 (or so) of 2019 within the next couple of weeks, but I wanted to post something different going into it. At the time of writing, the 2019 list is not complete. The Who’s new record isn’t out yet, after all.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are taking time to also talk about their favorites from the past decade, since we’re about to roll over into the 20s. I like the idea and am going to do something similar in this post. As anyone who’s been reading this blog over the years knows, I always publish a “top ten records” list. You could just go back and find what I listed as #1 each year yourself if you wanted to…but I’ll save your lazy ass the trouble and do it for you here. (Sorry about what I said about your ass being lazy just there.)

But here’s the thing…it’s not as simple as telling you what my #1 was in each year. Time and perspective would knock some of them out of that position ten years later–sometimes only 1-2 years later. Plus, a lot of thought goes into these lists…sometimes I’ll make something #1 because of artistic merit or because of the statement it made rather than my actual fondness for it. Maybe my #1 from 2011 was my favorite album that year…but maybe if I re-evaluated I’d move up #5 because it was a major statement from that artist. Or maybe in hindsight I’ve simply not listened to the #1 from 2014 as much as I thought I would at the time, and while I stand by the placement it might not even be on the list of my ultimate favorites for the last 10 years. Or maybe I got it right each and every year because I’m great. (Nope!) There’s a TON of room for me to be a hypocrite here. And for the purposes of the below list, I think I’m weighting it much more by personal significance than any other metric.

So…let’s start like this…  Here’s what I chose as my top ten each year from 2010-2018:

  • 2010: Shooter Jennings & Heirophant – “Black Ribbons”
  • 2011: Foo Fighters – “Wastin Light”
  • 2012: Metric – “Synthetica”
  • 2013: Jason Isbell – “Southeastern”
  • 2014: Manchester Orchestra – “Cope”
  • 2015: Father John Misty – “I Love You, Honeybear”
  • 2016: David Bowie – “Blackstar”
  • 2017: Ryan Adams – “Prisoner”
  • 2018: Sloan – “12”

Yeah. Good list. But I also went back and re-read each year’s post because I’m nuts. And it’s not as simple as just putting those in order and saying “Come back later to see where this year’s #1 ends up!” No…it’s me…you know it’s not that easy. Some of those aren’t going to make the top ten for the whole decade, much less #1. For example, Ryan Adams is immediately being removed from contention because even though I enjoyed the record I’m not going to have someone who’s presently under investigation for an alleged sex offense on my list for the decade. Foo Fighters? Love that album…but I love some of the runners up from different years (and even that SAME year) more in hindsight. We’ve got some work to do, and that’s without even factoring in THIS year’s releases!

Looking back on 2010-2018, here are the albums in play for my top ten for the decade (again, excluding anything that came out this year), not counting the above…

  • The Hold Steady – “Heaven is Whenever”
  • Rufus Wainwright – “All Days Are Nights”
  • Drive-By Truckers – “The Big To-Do”
  • Flogging Molly – “Speed of Darkness”
  • Lou Reed and Metallica – “Lulu”
  • Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
  • …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – “Lost Songs”
  • David Bowie – “The Next Day”
  • The National – “Trouble Will Find Me”
  • Prince – “Plectrum Electrum”
  • Prince – “Art Official Age”
  • Jason Isbell – “Something More Than Free”
  • Bottle Rockets – “South Broadway Athletic Club
  • Amanda Shires – “My Piece of Land”
  • Drive-By Truckers – “American Band”
  • The Tragically Hip – “Man Machine Poem”
  • Jason Isbell – “The Nashville Sound”
  • Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness”
  • Manchester Orchestra – “A Black Mile to the Surface”
  • Guided By Voices – “How Do You Spell Heaven”
  • Elvis Costello – “Look Now”

I want to talk about ALL those albums in detail.  Fortunately I already have in the past…so you can search those in the search box to the left if you want to read about them.

But you’re here for my top ten of the decade (I guess).  So let’s just do that…  Here they are, from 10 to 1. And it feels weird not to include this year…so just assume that this year’s #1 would be #11 on this list.  (Let me say in advance that it was HEARTBREAKING to cut off each of the above records from the top 10. Except Ryan Adams, pending investigation.)

Okay. (All cover art lovingly lifted from Amazon.)

#10 – Drive-By Truckers – “American Band” (#3 on 2016’s List)

DBT

I’ll be honest and say that a lot of DBT’s run post-Isbell has been hit and miss. That doesn’t mean they haven’t been consistently among my favorite records in those years. And that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a TON of songs that are part of my personal soundtrack from those years. It just means that it’s a little difficult to point to one from those years where you can say, “There’s the one. There’s the best DBT album of this era.”

That changed in 2016.

“American Band” isn’t just a great rock record, it’s a snapshot of the Tr*mp years in real time. It captures the desperation and fear we all feel beautifully, but also offers a big dose of hope because you know that at least we’re not alone. From school shootings to BLM to flat out talking about Ferguson and “what it means” when another black kid is mowed down by another fucking white cop (or other asshole), this record is insanely important in a way not everybody is willing to be. And it has come to mean a lot to me.

#9 – Rush – “Clockwork Angels” (#6 on 2012’s List)

Rush

I’ll admit that I’m a little surprised to have come around on this one as much as I have. Sure, it was on 2016’s list, but I still thought of it as “a latter-day Rush album” and didn’t LOVE it in the same way I did “Counterparts” (my favorite Rush album) or the stuff older than that. But this one has grown to be in that same club in the last couple of years.

I love a good concept album…and while this one is only hazily a concept album, that was an immediate point in its favor. (People will argue that there’s nothing “hazy” about it, but come on…if you have to write a literal NOVEL to explain it, it’s a weak concept.) But there’s enough to hang onto in the story that it works for me. And the lyrical depth is there. The questioning of the “Watchmaker” looking over everyone, but not really caring is a strong metaphor I deeply identify with. Dark, but again with a little bit of hope…this is a great Rush album that you’ve got to spend some real time with to absorb.  I’m glad I have.

Plus…the music just fucking RIPS, man.

#8 – Aimee Mann – “Mental Illness” (#3 on 2017’s List)

Aimee

I adore Aimee Mann and this might be the most Aimee Mann record Aimee Mann has ever Aimee Manned. Beautiful acoustic tones and arrangements. Lots of background vocals to keep you listening closer. Heart-shattering lyrics. Sad and sweet, just how I like it.

I was in love with this album before I owned it. Aimee performed “Goose Snow Cone” on Colbert the week before the album released and by the time she hit the line “gotta keep it together when your friends come by” I was teary-eyed. When release day came I took it home on vinyl and CD as well, and I’m glad I did. I’ve just about worn out both. Maybe Aimee’s best work. And that’s saying a lot, because I am willing to fight the shit out of you over how great “The Forgotten Arm” is.

#7 – The Bottle Rockets – “South Broadway Athletic Club” (#2 on 2015’s List)

Bottle Rockets

My brother had my favorite review of this album and it still makes me smile to think about it. On the day the album was released, The Bottle Rockets played a set at Vintage Vinyl here in St. Louis (they’re from here). They played the whole album front to back and Dave and I met the guys and got autographs after the set. Having heard them perform the whole thing, Dave was standing there with the album in-hand, still in the shrink-wrap and said, “This is one of my favorite albums of the year and I haven’t even listened to it yet.” Gold.

I love the guitar tones on this record. I love them so much I almost immediately went out and bought the same model of Rickenbacker that lead singer/guitarist Brian played at the in-store. This album changed my tone as a player. I decided to start taking my sound more seriously because of it–especially the clean tone. And every song on it is catchy as hell. Great record, and I owe a lot to it.

#6 – Lou Reed & Metallica – “Lulu” (#5 on 2011’s List)

Lulu

I know. But you’re wrong.

The problem isn’t the music. The problem is that people expected it to be a Metallica album instead of a Lou Reed album. I will grant you that this is not a good Metallica album. But it is a FUCKING PHENOMENAL Lou Reed album. It should have been billed as “Lou Reed featuring Metallica” instead of a collaboration.  This album is all Lou’s, even though I know Metallica had a hand in the writing.

I don’t know if it’s fair to call this the darkest album of Lou’s career. That’s REALLY hard to qualify for a guy who had an early release about a dude taking a hooker to a drugged out party, then she overdoses and they drag her body out to the street and leave her there, to the tune of the lyric, “It’s a universal truth, somebody turns that blue, you know the bitch will never fuck again.”  But it still might be. It’s definitely the heaviest thing he’s done. And he needed a Metallica there to push him where he needed to go, sonically. But then there’s also “Junior Dad,” which is quiet and beautiful and has a 10 minute outro that would fit in as well with his album of songs meant for meditation as with anything else.

This was the last record Lou ever did. One of his most intense and definitely one of his most challenging. It’s art on a level he hadn’t done before, and Metallica DAMN sure hadn’t either. It’s a masterpiece. And you and your “I am the table” memes need to show it some fucking respect.

#5 – The Hold Steady – “Heaven is Whenever” (#2 on 2010’s List)

ths

I think this is my favorite Hold Steady album, even though it doesn’t have my favorite song on it.  (Favorite song is “Constructive Summer” off “Stay Positive.”)  This is one of those albums where I can’t even pinpoint what it is about it that speaks to me so deeply. I mean, yeah…the lyrics…but you can have great lyrics and still make a mediocre or bad record. This one fires on all cylinders. Something about the first few pedal-steel (lap steel? just a guitar with a slide?) notes makes it feel like an old friend right out of the gate.

I’m not sure when this one snuck into being one of my favorites of the last ten years. Sure it was #2 in 2010. Okay. Fine. But a lot of stuff in the past ten years was #2 and not all of them remained a decade-defining record for me. “Heaven is Forever” did.

“You can’t get every girl. You’ll get the ones you love the best. You won’t get every girl. You’ll love the ones you get the best. You can’t kiss every girl. You’ve gotta trust me on this one.”

Best advice any band gave me in the last 10 years.

#4 – Manchester Orchestra – “A Black Mile to the Surface” (#2 on 2017’s List)

manchester

Manchester Orchestra has been on a couple lists. They were #1 in 2014 with “Cope.” But “Black Mile” is the one that made the list.

A relatively recent release compared to some others on the list–especially the ones this high up. But this one got its hooks into me DEEP. It’s a great “depression” record, if you get what I mean. There are layers of beauty to this record that I can’t explain. And some of them occur while there’s flat-out screaming going on. They captured a mood and a mental landscape in a way I don’t think I’ve heard anyone else do in this generation of musicians. Heavy but melodic and gentle all at once.

I said in 2017 that I had trouble picking out a standout track on this record because in the era of singles they wrote an ALBUM. And I stand by that. I only listen to this one in its entirety. It’s one of the few that I’ve had a “driveway moment” with in recent years, where I’ve gotten home, but the record isn’t over yet, so I just sit in the driveway and listen to the rest of it.

I’m still irritated with myself that I didn’t go to see this tour. And it’s also weird that I haven’t bought it on vinyl yet.  I could probably change the latter this weekend.

#3 – Shooter Jennings & Hierophant – “Black Ribbons” (#1 on 2010’s List)

shooter

I recently talked about this one on my podcast. It’s one of my favorite concept albums, but also one of my favorite ALBUMS. It’s a story of the government taking away so much of our freedom that even speech is relegated and the radio is shutting down. Stephen King is featured on the album as the voice of the last free radio station. And the story of the album plays out like one of his books, only much more terrifyingly real.

Genre-bending and destroying in tone. Politically charged in concept. Brilliant on all points. It was written coming out of the Bush years where we thought it couldn’t get any worse. Now that we’re stuck with the fucking impotent, gutless, shameless, hypocritical, spineless, useless, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, urine-soaked, traitorous, motherfucking lunatic Antichrist we WILLINGLY GODDAMN ELECTED in 2016, this album is only getting more and more applicable. You need to track it down if you haven’t heard it.

#2 – Jason Isbell – “Southeastern” (#1 on 2013’s List)

isbell

In many ways, Jason Isbell’s career is on par with The Who for me in terms of personal meaning and depth. The guy writes some of the best songs you could possibly ask anybody to write and for me the love affair with his solo career really took off with “Southeastern.” (Although I’d been a fan of his work since he was in the Drive-By Truckers.) This album is one that is clearly personal for him (although, aren’t they all?) but rather than being inaccessible as a result, it makes it all the more relatable.

The tone of the album being so personal lends itself very well to the mostly acoustic vibe of the album. I remember when I saw Isbell touring in support of the album, he got to a block of songs from this record and exchanged his electric for an acoustic, then I don’t think he took it off for 30 minutes just hitting this song list as hard as he could. It was wonderful.

This is one of those albums that is always going to be a go-to for me. It’s up there with “Harvest” or “Quadrophenia.” I just ALWAYS want to hear this album. I’m floundering to find things to say about it other than that. I just ALWAYS want to hear “Southeastern.” Might spin it tonight, in fact. Join me, won’t you?

#1 – David Bowie – “Blackstar” (#1 on 2016’s List)

bowie

I doubt that there was much question that this would be number 1.

I’ve got a lot of albums on this list that connected with me in a personal way. I don’t know if there’s a more personal connection possible than the death-letter Bowie left for all of his fans in “Blackstar.” It hits all the right personal emotional beats for me, but there’s so much more than that, too.

Bowie knew he was dying. He’d been quietly fighting cancer and the writing was on the wall.  Most fans had been hearing rumors of him being sick for about 10 years, but with no real substantiation. But in the last year of his life, Bowie knew. And he turned it into art. “Blackstar” was released on Bowie’s birthday–I bought it on CD and vinyl that same day. Then two days later, Bowie was gone. And the whole album with it’s sparse, dark mood with songs so clearly about saying goodbye clicked in the head of everyone who’d heard it and we all knew this album would be the closest thing we’d ever get to Bowie telling us we’d be okay without him and he’d miss us.

What could be sadder? What could be more beautiful?

“Blackstar” isn’t necessarily the album on this list that I’m going to listen to the most–in true Bowie fashion, his final piece demands a lot of the listener. But it is the album that I will always remember where I was when I first heard it, and I’ll always remember it as the first thing I listened to when I heard the news. It was the only thing that made sense at the time.

Fuck, I still miss him.

————

So…a lot of stuff that was #1 for the year wasn’t even on this list. And apparently I liked 2016 and 2017 more than most years. It’s funny how things change.

So…what did we learn from all this? Not a damn thing.

See you soon with the top ten of 2019!

“Just Because I Don’t Care Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Understand” – Homer Simpson

Hi. Remember me? I haven’t written since August 22, and even then it was…let’s say enigmatic.  Sorry.  Not very.  But sorry.

A lot has happened. A lot hasn’t. I can’t really remember where we left off. Let’s write stuff as it comes to mind…

  1. An update on Dad. He eventually got out of the hospital from the issues I wrote about back in July. But more has kept happening. He’s had another smaller-concern hospital stay related to a blood pressure issue. As of the time of writing, he’s still in there, which seems like it’s been two days too many for a simple thing that they identified and just need to figure out how to treat. It’s the kind of thing that if he’d talked to his GP it would’ve been at MOST an outpatient visit. But he went in Monday night and by the time this posts it will be Friday. In general he’s doing much better though. I’m sure he wishes all of this was behind him more than anyone else. UPDATE/EDIT: Dad was released on Friday night. I wrote this on Thursday.
  2. I’ve lost 50 pounds. On purpose. I decided that when I turn 40 (this upcoming May) I didn’t want to be obese anymore. And that’s what I was. I was at a weight/height ratio that qualified as OBESE. Not just fat. So I radically changed my diet, and I’m 50 pounds down from obese.  Now I’m just fat.  But soon I’ll be a healthy weight for my height. I started somewhere north of 240 and I’m presently 187, as of this morning. I can walk up stairs without being winded again and my pants fit–and I can actually find my SIZE of pants in the store now, too. It’s kinda nice.
    And I didn’t exercise. There’s no fucking Fitbit or Dipshit or any of that involved. No gym membership. Not even any running in place. I’ve kept my EXACT SAME routine and just changed diets. Exercise is for BODY BUILDING, not for weight loss. I’m planning on exercising too, once I hit my goal weight…but so many people go to gyms then get upset that they’re not seeing results while still eating cheeseburgers every day–that’s because IT DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY. I switched to a largely plant-based diet (though I do still enjoy meat occasionally) and have kept an eye on calories. That’s IT. That’s ALL I did. And there’s no reason you can’t if you want to (unless there’s some weird-ass medical reason).
    Healthy for my height is anywhere between 144-176. When this started I thought, “I’d be happy at 180.” Now that I’m close and can see the results, but also the remaining gut…I’m thinking 165. Shouldn’t be too tough. I was 240+ in July.
  3. I had a surprise trip to the dentist last week when one of my front teeth just cracked in half while I was sitting at my desk at work. I wasn’t eating or anything. Just felt some pressure poked it with my tongue, and the next thing I knew half my tooth was in my hand. So they rushed me in same day and filled it in. I hadn’t been to the dentist since I had the oral surgeries in what I now realize was 2017(!). I forgot that afterward my mouth feels weird for up to two weeks because it’s not used to having a guy’s whole hand in it, moving my lips around. (Well…not on a weekday…) So I’m kinda feeling twitchy in my face this week.  Oh well. At least there’s a tooth where there’s supposed to be one.
  4. I’ve gotten pretty seriously into Bob Dylan in recent weeks.  I’d avoided doing so for years. But he keeps coming up in my life where I expect him the least so I gave in to fate.  I bought the “complete collection” boxed set that came out in 2013.  And a few other things. No collection is ever really “complete,” especially when the artist is still working. It’s been a fun journey. I decided to log it at a different blog, where I go into more detail. It’s here, if you’re interested–I hope you are.
  5. You may also be wondering what the hell happened to my podcast, Empty Checking. Well…the same thing that happened to this blog. Personal shit took the fun out of it, so it kinda went on hiatus. But it’ll be back. I’m toying with an episode right now, and soon enough it’ll be uploaded.
  6. I’ve been reading a lot lately. I’d almost stopped picking up books for a very long time when I started getting migraines. But with those having seemingly largely receded (which I think has been mostly due to GREATLY reducing my caffeine intake), I’ve started reading again.  Here’s what I’ve had my nose in:
    1. “Presto!” by Penn Jillette – This book has been a big help in my weight loss journey and I mostly started it because I just wanted to know more about Penn and how he got so thin. It’s a great read even if you don’t want to lose weight.
    2. “The Unseen World” by Liz Moore – I love Liz Moore. Possibly too much–although I’ve never Googled her interests or photograph, so I feel like it’s not TOO too much… She wrote a book in the early 2000s called “The Words to Every Song” that I bumped into in a Borders bookstore (RIP) and learned that she’d also written a CD called “Backyards,” which I immediately snapped up as well because the book was great. Then I lost track of her for too long and when I looked her up again she’d written two more books with a third on the way.
      I bought both of the ones that are out and I’ve completed this one. It’s beautiful. It’s misleadingly described about being about artificial intelligence, and yes that’s IN the book…but it’s actually the story of a daughter’s relationship with her father who is dying with Alzheimers and has a mysterious past. It’s a story about love, the lies we tell each other, forgiveness, hurt, and a little bit of artificial intelligence right at the end. Highly recommended. Looking forward to reading the other book as well (“Heft”) but haven’t cracked it open yet. She’s got a new one coming out in January that I’m excited about, too. I just wish she’d also do another album…
    3. “Saturday” by Ian McEwan – Abandoned. For the second time. I picked it up when it was new in hardback and tried to get into it but just couldn’t. Decided to try again because I’m a different person than I was in 2005…but I don’t think I even made it as far into the first chapter as I did 14 years ago. I had the feeling that everything I was reading would ultimately have no bearing on the overall plot and was just in there so McEwan could show people how well he could describe a fucking room. Tedious. And I know I’m the only person in the world who’s ever called it that…but damn… Authors, it doesn’t matter how beautifully you write if you never get around to telling your fucking STORY. (That said, I want to give one of his other books a fair shot sometime.)
    4. “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins – In progress and enjoying it. I’m told there’s a movie of it, too, and I’ll probably watch that after I’ve finished. The book struggles with jumping around in time either too much or not enough to be a good gimmick. You forget that you’re supposed to be paying attention to the dates so you know where you are in the timeline–and that gimmick kinda sucks in print. Especially when the events are only separated by a couple MONTHS instead of years or decades…  (Even if the chapters started with “two months ago” instead of “September 15th” it would be an improvement.) But beyond that, it’s a very good story and I like it. I’d say more, but I don’t feel like I have enough of a handle on it to get into the plot.
    5. “Unfaithful Music” by Elvis Costello – Declan MacManus’ autobiography. (Yes, I know his real name without Googling it.) I’m a big fan of Costello’s and waited way too long to read his book. It’s very good in that every chapter feels like it could’ve started the book and you get lots of cool life-stories from Elvis along the way. It’s not quite linear and reads more like you’re just listening to him answer questions about his life and tell stories. And those stories are very entertaining. Good insight into what was going on in his head during some of the big periods of his career and elsewhere.
    6. I’ve also got Tegan & Sara’s new book, but I’m only a little bit into it. So I don’t know what I think yet. And I’m still unclear on which one is Tegan and which Sara, but it’s like that with twins.
    7. Pending – Pete Townshend’s new novel “The Age of Anxiety” is sitting on my coffee table, waiting until it can have more of my full attention. Also Nicole Krauss’ recent book in sitting quite near to it, right on top of some George Saunders I haven’t quite gotten around to yet…
  7. I’m writing some new music. I’ve got an album’s worth that will be put together for some time in 2020. Should be a good one. A bitter and angry one. But a good one. Details to come on that when more happens.
  8. Seeing Sloan tomorrow night. Canadian rock band that my brother has liked for a long time, but he just got me into a few years ago. They’re really good if you’re unfamiliar. They always put on a good show. Should be fun.

I feel like there’s a more serious post to be written about all the stuff I have been avoiding writing about since posting my depressing little poem in August. (Which has since become a song you can download here.) But it also feels like that’s not anyone’s damned business and I don’t want to write about it.  So…we’ll leave it there.

Poem

I first shared this on Facebook yesterday. Didn’t get a ton of reaction but those who cared seemed to care a lot. So I’m posting it here too. In case anyone else cares. Presently untitled. And it’s the closest thing I can come up with to describe things at the moment.

No one can ever be sure.
It seems doubt is all we were made for.
But if doubt hits a drought
there’s no need to shout.
If we’re out, I can always make more.
I’ve doubts in amounts no one can ignore.
But You’ve heard this all before.

I’m tired of losing.
I’m tired of loss,
and all that You’ve taken from me.
You want my prayers?
I want fucking answers.
I want something I can believe.

I’ve tried to hold up my end,
but it feels like I’ve been dragging Yours.
It’s not that I don’t believe in You,
it’s that I can’t carry much more.
The thing about doubt
is you first must have faith.
That’s the only way it works.
I’ve got faith enough to call Your bluff.
Why must everything hurt?
(Live long enough and everything hurts.)

If You test my faith,
expect spit in Your face.
Not every test benefits You.
You want my worship?
I want my life back.
What are You trying to prove?

There are those who say
that the only true way
is to turn to You in prayer.
But I’ve folded my hands ’til they’ve bled
and every word that I’ve said
seemed to vanish into thin air.
They say there’s nothing I can’t say to You
because You always understand.
But who do I turn to when God’s not enough
and I need human hands?
When I reach out, where are YOUR hands?

I know it won’t ever be easy.
You didn’t promise to use a light touch.
The only promise You made
comes after the grave.
And after this, You OWE me that much.
But when I face my end,
can I call You my friend
and trust that You will do the same?
I don’t want to die still wondering
if You ever knew my name.