I was at the Black Cat the other night (this is the nation's capital, home base to the Axis Powers of WWIII and there's really only two bars to go to) with my friend from work and some of her friends from jobs past. After thirty, you don't make friends unless they're your coworkers, neighbors, or they're couples that you and your lady can hang out with and talk a little trash on afterwards.
I digress. So my friend from work introduces me to her friend who looks a lot like my friend Heather in LA. I met Heather when I was in college, back when you could just make friends without needing an excuse or a getting a paycheck. And, as another aside, there are 6 or 7 billion people on earth (half of whom were waiting for a drink at the Black Cat) and only a million or two different kinds of faces. So it's natural that one person would look a lot like another. But that wasn't it -- my friends' friend looked so familiar it was making the back of my brain itch.
I automatically began flipping through the Rolodex of faces in my head, Robocop-style, glowing green crosshairs matching over eye shapes, lip curves, the way her nose's shadow fell on the "angel's thumbprint" under her nose -- the match was blurry at best.
"Maybe I just know you from MySpace" I said. "Yeah, that's probably it," she replied. "Or, I have a blog that's on the DC Blogs Feed." That was the match. I knew her from her blog and from MySpace.
Then this guy comes up to me. We chat for a bit, then he starts freaking. Out. Hard. "I know this guy, I know this guy!" He can't stop hollering about it, pumping my hand up and down the whole time. I had no idea who this was.
Turns out he's been leaving really positive comments on my blog for months -- he's a fan! I'm a fan, too -- nice to meet you in real life, Lonnie. We talked about sailing, stuff I'd written, I bitched about the DC Blog scene... We bonded. It was awesome.
Then I'm in the coffee shop today and I see this couple sitting at a table. The guy is talking excitedly, he's got the nervous flow of a guy stoked to be on an early date -- and the woman is leaning in and listening, smiling. I recognize her. I'd know her face anywhere. She has a blog that I freaking HATE, where she describes in intimate, poorly spelled detail how she chews men and passes them on like so many husks of corn in a pig's shit. And I can't help but think "I may think I know her from the internet, but he DEFINITELY doesn't."
And then I think again -- it's been a good several months since she updated that blog. Maybe she's learned since then, or she's trying to turn a corner. Or maybe he doesn't care. Maybe I've got no business at all thinking I know something about someone based on their life online. Most blogs are hasty, scribbled sketches of a moment in time. MySpace profiles are just collections of likes and dislikes. We color those sketches with our own imaginations, and who's to say that we're always right?
What color is green to a colorblind person? Can I be sure that the blue I am seeing has the same vivid hue as the blue the people on my "friends list" sees?
The fabric of reality is gauzy and permeable as hell. We're experiencing a major culture shift right now, a serious future shock. We get more information about people and their ideas on a daily basis than ever before, and there's no way it can't be influencing our lives. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad -- but it's just pixels on a screen playing into our own prejudices and hopes, enhancing our own mind's ability to make judgments and jump to conclusions. There is no real, just warring perceptions and the winner of the war on reality is the one with the most followers.
I need someone to tell me I'm wrong and tell me I'm not paranoid. But they've got to do a pretty convincing job of it... because as much as I want to believe it, I don't think it's true.
This is my first attempt at an audio post using Blogger's new cellphone enabled podcasting technology, which is powered by unicorns high on magic dust sprinting on a treadmill. I have no idea how they do this for real, but the end result is potentially awesome. Now you can HEAR me examine the contents of my navel while I am walking down a busy street!
Anyway, take a listen, leave a comment, or just ignore it all and shop online.
In case you hadn't noticed, I'm kind of a huge nerd. It's 9 am, Sunday, and I can't sleep. Reading hasn't helped any, so I'm poking around on YouTube here, and look what I've found: footage from Spiderman 3. This isn't from the official trailer that caused uber geeks like me to salivate last week.
It shows Venom in pretty stunning, rapid detail -- we can see his drooling nasty teeth, him kicking Spidey and menacing Kirsten Dunst. It seems that the Green Goblin's son is taking some revenge on Spidey in an ill-advised gold version of the Green Goblin suit.
Here's the vid itself -- I think this has been leaked so I wouldn't be surprised if it gets yanked:
I can't stop thinking about Bob. It's driving me a little nuts, and the thing is, I wasn't that close to him. We;d worked together maybe 8 months, been friends pretty much the whole time, but he'd helped shape some of my peers' whole careers. He'd left work a few months back with a quiet, surreptitious farewell, and in all likelihood, I was never going to see him again. He was 44, married with kids in the Maryland 'burbs. It's not like we were going to run into each other at the Black Cat.
But man, he really touched me. He helped mentor me at work when I really, really needed it, and was a friendly face in what can be a very socially complicated environment. When I needed Bob, really needed him, he was there, every time. It's a rare person that's there for you every time you need them, and rarer still that they'd be so pleasant about it.
As I mentioned before, here and elsewhere, Bob was taken by a car while skateboarding with his son. The Head Butler has a far better tribute to Bob up than I could ever hope to write. Here's the quote that brought it home for me:
"He looks into the hearts of damaged people and sees how to make them whole, and then he says the words that help them heal. And he never asks for credit, and he never gets it."
This one also hits me:
"This is the first death of a close friend for a lot of people, and feelings are raw.
This is the first, closest death I have ever experienced. My grandparents are all alive, at least the ones that were alive when I was born. My parents, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins and close friends all answer at roll call. So this has me pretty shaken, and what really has be scared is that it can only get worse from here. And it's going to go one of two ways, neither of which are exactly comforting.
If this is being read by a member of the Wooldridge family, you may want to stop now. It's morbid, and you really have had enough. But I've got to get this out.
The reaper is either going to circle me, and all of us, slowly, first nipping away colleagues and coworkers, then moving in to college friends, neighbors, culling family members and finally us -- and we're going to have to watch in horror and live through each death until we are, finally, all alone.
Or: it's going to happen suddenly, arrhythmically, and totally at random. It could be us on that skateboard, our parents in a car accident, or god knows what else. It may only strike when we think everything is all right for once, finally. Being on guard is no good, and neither is being nervous.
According to Alan Moore's Rorschach in the Watchmen, "This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces." It's not how good you are or what you avoid that shapes the way you pass. But being a good person, a great guy like Bob was -- you leave a hell of a legacy behind for the rest of us when your number comes up. That's all I got this far. Hopefully none of us reading these words will learn anything else this heavy anytime soon, either.
I remember seeing the video for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" and being so blown away that it actually made me like the song. Remember that? With the dude wearing the suit made of stars marching through the room made of stars through an open door? Tell me you don't think about that shit every time you hear that horn riff. Stop lying, you know you do.
A video can actually make a song good. Exhibit B: Genesis' "Land of Confusion." Genesis SUCKS, they sucked then and they suck now, and the whole world knows it. But that Spitting Image video was so cool that it actually made the song cool to this day. I still leave the radio on "Land of Confusion" if nobody's around -- I just shut my eyes, bite my upper lip like a white man dancing and rock out to mental visions of scary rubber puppets.
Chris Cunnigham has directed some of the most perfect, crucial music videos ever -- including Aphex Twin's 'Windowlicker' and 'Come to Daddy" as well as Squarepusher's "Come On My Selector."
He's back from a 7 year music video hiatus with a video for The Horrors' "Sheena Is A Parasite." Rumor has it that he found the band via MySpace. Even if you think the song is no good (and you are barking mad, my man, because that bass line is HAUNTING), the video will make you hum it all month. Cunningham's video for "Sheena" has combines the best elements of all music videos:
1) beautiful lady 2) low budget 3) smoking song 4) completely terrifying
My prediction is that this video will help the single be for horror-themed garage-punk what Myspace was for Gnarls Barkley. Here goes the video itself. Just click the image below:
I used to wonder how come my parents and older folks in general didn't get into gory, morbid movies and TV like I did. I used to wonder why my dad got up and left so early whenever Six Feet Under came on, always transfixed during the opening death sequence and then retreating immediately after the fade to white, muttering disgusted sounds under his breath.
Now I get it. Eventually you get touched too much by that kind of stuff in real life, and it just seems cheap and hideous on real TV. I got my first taste of that yesterday when I heard that my friend, peer, editor and occasional mentor Bob Wooldridge died in a tragic, demented accident.
He had decided, at the age of 42, to take up skateboarding. He'd started a blog about it. I don't have the heart to hunt it down. My friend Kenny had been talking to Bob via IM the day before the accident, telling him that skating was dangerous and to be careful. Twenty-four hours later, Bob was skateboarding with his son when he was struck by a car and killed.
Fade to white. When I'm not thinking about Bob himself -- his humor, his savage, hilarious cussing, and his wililngness to take a confused new guy under his wing for a little while -- I keep seeing a Hollywood version of the accident in my head. It ends with a fade to white and the first bloom of music from the Six Feet Under theme.
Plenty of people knew Bob better than me and are way worse off than I am right now. My heart and prayers really actually do go out to them right now. It's not some lame phrase that people say when pther people die. I get it.
I wrote a tribute to Bob on my work blog, which you can see here. My coworkers Joe and Jamie also have their tributes up. Check 'em out if you're inclined.
If you read anything in the Post last week about a dead cyclist's insect-covered corpse found in the bushes along the W&OD trail -- that cyclist was not me. I cycled roughly 30 miles to work, worked a full day and rode right home again with no lapses in consciousness at all. I feel as though I won something, but nobody has offered me a medal yet.
I must have been completely insufferable at work. It was all I could do not to announce to everyone "I rode 30 miles to work today" in a mass inter-office email. It's a good thing nobody gave a presentation about blogging and then said
"Jeff, what do you think,"
because I definitely would have said
"I don't know about all that, but I rode 30 miles to work today."
I go in phases of trying to take off the peanut butter wetsuit, keep dipping my feet into the pool and jumping back out again. It'll be all weights and stationary stuff at the gym, feeling healthy but also like I live on a space station, and then I'll just slack completely. But man, something about fresh air and feeling yourself move through thick ropes of humid DC air and the odd exhalation fresh from a grive of trees, seeing running water, deer and beavers in the trail -- beats the dog-shit out of being a round a lot of uptight DC people thudding away on the treadmill, sweating, grimacing and never ever talking.
This is just my new little fetish, a fixation to drive myself with for a while. I know myself too well, and I get bored or tired or something before fully diving deep into too much. 'Shove me into the shallow water before I get too deep," said Eydie Brickell. She and her Bohemians may have dropped right off the pop map, but that lyric stuck with me, man.
All I know is that I'm not happy unless I'm doing something kind of nuts. And right now, cycling is a healthy antidot to whacking huge amounts of time spent behind a glowing screen pushing pixels. Since turning thirty I'm gripped with this new zest for life. I'm a hybrid engine powered by passion and terror -- passion for whatever thrills me now, and the very real fear that I'll stop feeling passion. I'm scared of being completely happy, scared of having my needs met in a way that's close enough but not quite really actually what I wanted. So many people, they settle down, roll over, give up the fight for what they believe in or just the fight against being boring and give in to whatever's closest.
Unfortunately, a lot of those people are happy. The happiest people make do with what they have rather than go out and grab all that they want. Me, I'm just doing something just beyond my limits at the moment, and for the meantime, it's making me happy.
Syd Barrett died July 7 at the age of sixty. Best known as a founding member of Pink Floyd, Barrett descended into mental illness shortly after the band's inception. The internet is crackling with material about Syd Barrett, and you can find a pretty good summation of his life, work, and last years here at good old Wikipedia.
Apart from being uncontrollably psychedelic in both incarnations, Pink Floyd's best known works could not have sounded more different after he left the band. Perhaps because I am an indie hipster music snob, or perhaps because I was forced to sing "Wish You Were Here" too damn many times at a vaguely Christian summer camp, but I like Barrett-era Floyd much better.
Here are two clips of Pink Floyd, with Barrett, playing my favorite song of theirs: Interstellar Overdrive. This first clip is pretty short, roughly seven minutes long. The second is well worth the watch, but over half an hour. It also features footage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono before Yoko was synonymous in the common consciousness as such an unholy pain in the ass, both personally and artistically.
It's not that I'm way out of shape at all. For real. I've been lifting weights and doing cardio and all that for years -- it's just that I've got a thick wetsuit of peanut butter over top of all this gym-built muscle. I think of it as the peanut butter wetsuit.
Near as I can tell, I put the wetsuit on one weekend at a time, pulilng on a thin layer of fat molecules every time I sip bourbon, go to the Florida Avenue Grill or eat at Ben's Chili Bowl. I'm thinking the fact that they actually apply butter to grits WITH A LADLE at the Grill might bein conflict with my exercise routine Just a smidge.
Maybe it's the fact that I write for the gay channel at AOL, and am exposed to a level of physical self-awareness that I thought only existed in prom queens and seriously unpleasant people. Or maybe it's that I just turned thirty and realized that unless I stage a serious intervention, this is as good as I'm gonna get, physically -- and it ain't Men's Health cover material. But something must be done.
So on the one hand, I have the peanut butter wetsuit. Such a ZINGY rhythm that phrase has, like music! On the other hand, I also know that I can never be truly happy unless I am doing something completely crazy. So my man Ryan and I decided to slap those hands together, and starting at dawn tomorrow, we're cycling to work together.
Those of you that know me well know that I work in Ashburn, and live in Washington, D.C. Those of you that don't know the area need to understand that it's twenty miles from my bedroom to my cubicle. This, my friends, is gonna hurt. Hurt so good, I hope. If I can just do this twice a week, that peanut butter wetsuit is gonna be a little thong made out of rubbing alcohol in about two months.
I actually bought a racing bike for this express purpose a month or two ago, and have been steadily training up to it. As long as nobody gets eaten by a bear tomorrow, I think we'll be cool The operative work here is THINK.
But you know who will be cool: you guys. Because adventure, true adventure, is another person's extreme discomfort, related to you in a humorous and engaging way. I've been in my little cubicle at the Death Star, as I call my corporate megaplex, for too long. The wetsuit is too thick. Hopefully if I don't enjoy taking off the peanut butter wetsuit, at least y'all will laugh at my pathetic attempts.
A brief note about this photo -- it's from this Flickr set, found via BoingBoing< as all great things are. The photographer is the mother of the two toddlers in the set, who turned her back on the kids JUST long enough for them to open a jar of peanut butter and dump it all over each other. It's disgusting, hilarious, and cute all at once, which is just the way I want to be most of the time.
This label rep from Ace Fu records emailed me straight out of the middle of nowhere last week, saying that not only was she promoting a loud, metal-influenced rock band, but she happened to LIKE my blog.
When it comes to this blog, flattery, no matter how transparent, will get you everywhere, people. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that she saw my Wolfmother writeup and the little masthead I put up there and confused this blog with one that is read by legions of adoring fans. Nevertheless, she sent me a free cd -- which, coupled with the compliment, pretty much guaranteed my undivided attention.
And you know what? The band is really good, too! And no, I'm not just saying that because I was thoroughly buttered up. If the album sucked like most of the bands that contact me through Myspace, I'd have dropped it altogether.
Priestess is a metal/loud rock quartet from Montreal, the sort of child that Sabbath and Slayer would adopt together if they could be gay parents. I know it's hard for many of you to imagine Sabbath or Slayer as gay, but one of them would have to be female for them to naturally give birth to Priestess, and that ain't happening either.
Priestess's new album is called 'Hello Master', and the cover shows this giant disembodied orange wizard hand reaching out from a rocky horizon. It's totally a Trapper Keeper cover designed by that dude from high school that started taking art classes because shop was full. The album itself sounds EXACTLY like this photo looks -- loud, pounding guitar-driven metally rock.
As one reviewer said of their performance at South by Southwest: "If you like Led Zeppelin and Slayer and you smoked pot in the bathroom in high school, you'll like Priestess."
That pretty much sums it up. They're loud and aggressive, and they just sound like they whip their hair around lots when they play. Priestess's sound is hardly new or innovative at all, and I'll bet a lot of music reviewers dismiss them for that. It's true: they're not coming up with anything new here at all, but you know what? I don't care.
Priestess is a really great cheeseburger and a Miller High Life after a long day fixing the car. Sure, it's not new and the formula's pretty obvious, but there's a sort of magic when someone delivers the goods in the right way at the right time. And just like that meal, Priestess has that magic -- just the right amount of smoke, grease and beer to hit the spot.
You can tell these guys just SMOKE live, too. DC readers, or the overly wealthy and ambitious among you abroad can catch these guys at the Black Cat, backstage this Thursday, 7/13. I'll be there.
If you want to download a free track, click here. Although a perfectly good song and representative of Priestess's sound, it's not my favorite song from the album. I prefer the obligatory "woman-I-love-you-but-you-make-me-so-MAD" slow song that all metal albums must have -- a song called 'Time Will Cut You Down'. I NEVER like that song on any other loud rock album, either, but this one I've been humming in my head all week.
This link will take you to their Myspace page, where you can stream some more songs and see that album art I was talking about.
Otherwise, the story's pretty simple. If you like this sort of thing, Priestess is it. If not, hey, fair enough, but don't try to chew my ear off with some big long speech about how rock is dead, either.
I wrote the following letter immediately after my bathroom ceiling collapsed on the afternoon of July Fourth. It brims with righteous, asinine fury, and I never sent it to my property management company. Instead I contacted my sister, a property manager in another city who guided me through a professional, detached way of listing problems with my apartment, demands I had the right to make, and next steps to suggest. That letter was way less fun than the one you are about to read, and will not be published on this blog.
My sister was present for the actual ceiling collapse. Her boyfriend grew up in the projects in Brooklyn, and when she told him about the situation, he sucked his teeth and said "Damn. That never even happened in the PJs, man."
I can't move out, as our building is in the process of converting to condos -- for me to move out now would cause me to forfeit a sizable buyout fee, or a sizable discount on a much better apartment in my soon-to-be renovated building. I'm digging in my heels, but they're getting pret-ty slippery.
Here's the letter, after the photo.
To whom it may concern,
I live in Apt. XXXX, XXXX Apartments, located at XXXX St., NW, Washington, DC. On the afternoon of July 4th, 2006, my bathroom ceiling came crashing into my tub and toilet, rendering the bathroom totally unusable. We all know that lead paint has been used in the building for some time, and my apartment is now a hazardous area. Additionally, mold and mildew spores are circulating in the place, and it smells absolutely unholy.
I would like to be moved into another apartment in XXXX, free of charge, with no increase in rent for the duration of my stay in the building. I do not consider a basement apartment an option.
This, in my estimation, is the crescendo in a symphony of negligence XXXX management has been performing in my apartment for quite some time. Please review the following examples:
1) The duct tape that was used to hold the rotten rubber seal on the bottom of my refrigerator finally gave way while I was on vacation during the week of June 14th. This allowed the thin stream of cockroaches that regularly runs from the drain in my sink to trickle up into my refrigerator door in my absence. When I returned home, I opened the fridge to find cockroaches staging what appeared to be an extreme sports competition among my condiments. Once the door opened, they all scrabbled away into the interior of my refrigerator door.
When I requested that the broken fridge be replaced promptly, it was – with a refrigerator that was also broken, cooling my perishables no more effectively than a cardboard box of the same size. Eventually that refrigerator was replaced.
In review, the following things are wrong with that story:
• Cockroaches regularly run from my sink drain • XXXX Management considers duct tape a viable repair solution, as long as tenants cannot actually see it. • XXXX Management does not know or care to investigate the difference between a working and nonworking refrigerator.
These cockroaches are an incredible source of concern for me. I strive to keep a clean apartment, one that I would be happy to invite guests into. This infestation of vermin is not only disgusting, but may very well be prolonging my bachelorhood. When the exterminator visits, the cockroach population wanes for a week or so, regenerating to previous level shortly thereafter.
I know I’m not the only person in the building with a cockroach infestation, and I doubt I’m the only resident who is hesitant to have company in the kitchen, either. There is a nest of cockroaches somewhere in the building, and the ones that are scrabbling among the kitchens of XXXX are just the ones that are too brave, stupid, or slow to avoid detection. I have heard reports from a number of tenants regarding the same issue, and overheard more than one person complaining to the front desk staff.
2) A moldy, mildewy smell has been present in my apartment for the past year or so. I never brought it to the attention of XXXX Management, as I had been told in numerous tenants’ association meetings that the plumbing of the entire building was completely rotten, and often caused a foul smell to emit from the kitchen sink drains. Fellow tenants also explained that the rotten plumbing was the source of the deep gurgling sounds that often emanate from my kitchen sink.
No amount of air freshener or open windows has alleviated this fragrance.
As it turns out, that fungal fragrance stemmed from a leak in the plumbing above my apartment, causing my bathroom ceiling to come crashing into the floor this afternoon. If the smell was strong before, it is now tremendous and inarguably toxic.
Maintenance pointed out to my sister (who was present at the time of the collapse) that this sort of thing does not happen overnight – signs develop over time. He mentioned that I should have noticed unusual bulges in the ceiling or walls that were signs of leakage.
My apartment ceiling and walls are entirely comprised of bulges that have been plastered over. There are cracks, warps, bulges and boils covering most of the ceiling space and wall area in the living/bedroom. The plaster was like that when I moved in, and any developments were very well camouflaged.
There is a spot in the ceiling directly above my television that is also primed to plummet. It is wet to the touch, according to Maintenance, and could fall at any moment.
In review, the following things are wrong with this story:
• My apartment reeks. • The plumbing in XXXX is so rotten that it reeks. • I thought the stench in my apartment was from a known issue – but it wasn’t • My ceiling has collapsed, rendering my bathroom unusable and the air in my apartment unbreathable • XXXX has so many things wrong with it that on every serious problem masks many other serious problems – I.E. what I thought was the rotten plumbing was actually another leak – but probably stemming from the rotten plumbing. • I am apparently expected to know the difference between a benign and malignant bulge in my plaster walls • If all of those bulges in my plaster are malignant, my apartment may very well implode within a week’s time.
I do not consider my apartment livable by the standards one would expect in a developed nation, and I would like to be moved to a different apartment in XXXX completely free of charge, with no increase in rent for the duration of my stay. At the very least, I would like to be equipped with a comfortable gas mask so that I can safely sleep in my apartment until this situation is remedied. If giant steps are not taken toward this resolution on July 5, 2006, I will proceed to pay rent into escrow until this conflict is resolved to my satisfaction.
Furthermore, while it must certainly be tempting, in the face of a pending condo conversion and building sale, for the building's owners to continue to hold this building together with duct tape and false promises, I would strongly recommend against it.