Monday, April 28, 2008

Because there's always music

This past weekend was devoted entirely to packing for the move. But you know what? Packing's fucking boring, both to do and to read about. And I'm not really in the mood to find clever ways to make it funny. Besides, I'd already started this post, so enjoy....

So ever since eldest son was born, I've been pretty well out of touch with the world of music. It's not like I was writing for Pitchfork before or anything, but I at least knew when artists I liked were releasing new albums or touring, and I managed to pick up on some new artists every now and then. But less time and less money have rendered The Holmes one musically uninformed sum'bitch.

Which just means that the music I have managed to pick up on during this time is all the more important to me. For that, I have several sources to thank. First off, there's the generosity of friends and family. Then Paste Magazine pulled a Radiohead and gave out one year pay-what -you-wish subscription, which includes a mix CD full of new music with every issue. Oh, and of course Radiohead pulled a Radiohead, but we all knew about that. Then emusic hooked me up with a boatload of free downloads for no other reason than having been a customer two years ago.

So in the spirit of free music, I threw together a muxtape of some of the stuff I've been enjoying as of late. Here's a few words on what you'll find:

The Sword - Metal. Just metal. Pure metal. And metal from Austin, no less. My friends Brandon and Courtney have this wonderful habit of showing up with burned CD's of awesome music, which is the only reason why I know about bands like Wolfmother, Battles, and The Sword among others. With an album titled "Age of Winters" and songs like "The Horned Goddess" and "Lament for the Aurochs", The Sword definitely hangs from the Dungeons & Dragons branch of the heavy metal family tree. I'm pretty sure it's what wookies listen to.

Sia - The Ash and I fell in love with Sia on the basis of a single song, which we heard in the closing sequence of the final episode of "Six Feet Under." That song is forever linked to those amazing few moments of television, so when the local public radio station tried to use it in their ads, I'm pretty sure they lost all the "Six Feet Under" fans immediately. This isn't that song, but rather one that came with one of the mixes from Paste, which prompted us to download the rest of the album.

The Good, The Bad, and The Queen - Despite the fact that this album sold in huge numbers, I had never heard of this band until my brother in law gave us this CD as a gift. It's Damon Albarn's latest project, and I loved it immediately. I pretty much had it on repeat for at least a month and never got tired of it.

Future of the Left - I don't remember how I heard about this band, but their name stuck with me. So when I had bunch of free downloads on my hands and no idea what to do with them, I just downloaded it without even listening. This particular song has a nice bar-brawl whiskey swagger to it. In fact, I was walking down the street one evening when this song came on in the headphones. About halfway through, I realized that I was, in fact swaggering. And I haven't stopped since.

Dr. Dog - This is my favorite band right now. The first CD I got from Paste included a song by these guys that was so simple and unobtrusive that I played it probably a dozen times before I actually heard it. But once it pricked my ears, it just grabbed me. This isn't that song, but rather one off of their CD that I later downloaded and have been loving the hell out of ever since. It was not an easy decision picking just one track to put on this mix. The whole album just has this soulful, slightly buzzed quality that I've found really comforting lately. Incidentally, when the lineup for this year's Austin City Limits Festival was released, this band was originally listed, but I don't see them there anymore. Too bad.

Eddie Vedder - I'm surprised to find myself recommending an Eddie Vedder song. Nothing against him, it's just that I haven't really listened to Pearl Jam since "ten", though I freely admit that when "Alive" comes on the radio, I turn it up and air guitar with the solo. I haven't seen this movie yet, but this song, "Hard Sun", was all over the radio for about a week, and I loved it. So when I got a gift certificate to a local record store, I grabbed this one. Weirdly enough, it quickly became one of Henry's favorites.

Holy Fuck - I know what you're thinking, but the answer is no, this is not Christian sex music. But maybe it could be. During the last South by Southwest, I read an article about a party being hosted by Rachel Ray. Yes, that Rachel Ray, the one that has that bomb installed in her head by the Food Network that will detonate if she ever stops smiling. This was one of the bands that played her little shindig, which just seemed strange. I downloaded their album from emusic, and the next day at work, I put it on and immediately entered this hyper-productive trance that lasted the length of the album. I was knocking out work right and left, just checking things off the old to-do list, boom boom boom...until the album ended just a little over half an hour later. And since I have a strict one-listen-per-day policy, that was all the productivity I was able to muster that day.

State Radio - This was another Paste discovery. I love a song that tells a story.

Tom Waits - Yes, I know, this album came out like a year and a half ago, but I didn't get it until much later. This was a gift from my wife, a triple CD set with not a single wasted track. I don't remember who turned me on to Tom Waits originally, but God bless 'em.

Hank Vegas - Another Paste discovery. I actually thought this was My Morning Jacket the first time I heard it, and googled to see if MMJ's singer was working a side project. It took a while, but this song eventually grew on me.

Nortec Collective - Tejano gets the electronic treatment. I bought this album for a friend of mine a few years ago after seeing it on his wish list. I liked the samples that I heard on Amazon so much that, between the time that I bought the CD and the time that I gave it to him, I wrestled with the ethics of opening a gift CD to burn it prior to giving it to its final recipient. I ended up not doing it, but downloaded it from emusic and have been digging the hell out of it. Just try not to dance to this.

Sigur Rós - Another gift from the old brother in law. This song is just beautiful. I first heard it in the car on a slightly overcast day, and it just felt great to be alive.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Feel the love

A good portion of the last two weekends have been spent devoted to the celebratory arts, specifically those of the matrimonial nature, more specifically the marriage of my friends Jeff and Tara.

The wedding was this weekend, but the previous weekend found myself and the lads downtown hoisting multitudes of pints to Jeff's honor. Drinks were bought, backs were slapped, conversations were slurred, etc. I think it's safe to say we celebrated our friend quite soundly.

The next night was the ladies' turn to party, so I had the day to get past my hangover and be ready to take on both the kids solo. I've watched them both on my own before, and I've put each of them down to sleep separately, but I had never before been given the challenge of putting both of them down to sleep without any backup. I'm proud to report that my first evening of putting both kids down was a rousing success. There's nothing quite like getting one of your fatherhood duties right to put a little kick in your step.

And then the wedding. Sadly, The Ash could not attend because she was representing at her niece's wedding, which meant that I didn't get to see everybody fawn over Henry and Simon's matching outfits, nor did I get to see Henry dance his over-sugared little head off. But still, I think I got the better end of the deal. May I just toss out an observation? Weddings are a thousand times more fun when it's friends tying the knot rather than family. Family functions can be enjoyable, sure, but when it's your friends at the center of it, when you're able to celebrate among people you've actually chosen to associate with and your only duty is to be the person they know you to be, well then that's the kind of event where I keep finding myself thinking "Damn! I'm glad I'm here!" over and over and over again. There was a really nice moment near the end of the night where someone decided to get a picture of all the friends in attendance. There were several people who, for whatever reason, were not certain that their social standing among the group merited picture inclusion, but everyone started yelling for them to get their asses into the picture. It was just one of those nights where you could feel the love.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

First National Bank of Fucking With Me

Every morning, I stop by my bank's online branch to have a look at the old account and make sure there aren't any unpleasant surprises. Expected unpleasantness is one thing, but surprises in the old money bin I can do without. Like this morning, for example. I logged in and just about shit a brick to see the depths to which my balance had plunged.

"What the hell?" I thought. "Has my math gotten that bad?"

I had a look at the most recent transactions and found a check that had posted for a rather large amount, one that I did not remember writing. Suspicious.

"But hey wait a minute, didn't I...? Oh those fuckers!"

It turns out that when they posted the check, they posted it for 10 times the amount for which it was actually written. They literally tacked an additional zero onto the end of the amount. Looks like we found a glitch in their check-reading program.

I spent a relatively frustration-free twenty minutes on the phone with them and got it straightened out. Shit man, I don't need that kind of jolt in the morning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Loved Despite of Great Faults

In my quest for a title, I typed the world "fault" into the search bar of my iTunes, and only three songs came up, the first of which became the title of the post you see before you. I'd like to say it sums up the remainder of this post, but that would be a stretch. Still, I like it. Because really, any one who is loved by another is loved in spite of their faults, yeah?

I've figured a little something out about myself. I'm not a sports guy by any means, but I'm familiar with a superstition apparently common among baseball pitchers wherein if it looks like they may have a no-hitter in their immediate future, they won't talk about it, and they don't want their teammates to talk about it to them, a communal silence held intact by fear of The Mighty Jinx. As if giving breath to the looming possibility of something great is to ensure its certain demise. In some cases, I'm sure it's just an issue of maintaining focus and concentration, but come on; we all know sports are as riddled with superstitions as a back-porch conversation between old southerners.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think I carry something akin to this sort of jinx-based superstition deep within me. I am afraid to talk very much about a good thing that looks like it might happen, for fear that it won't. But it's not so much that I'm afraid of jinxing it. It's more that I dread the idea of getting my hopes up, of exciting others with my news, only to have to come back later with a disappointing update. And to dig a bit deeper than that, it's not the sharing of bad news that makes me cringe, but rather the thought of how that bad news reflects back upon me.

I absolutely do not believe that the only reason bad things happen to people is because they somehow deserve it. Sure, sometimes people bring shit on themselves, but when you start saying things like, oh I don't know, that an entire city was leveled by a hurricane because the people who live there were BAD, well then you're an idiot. And you're stupid. A stupid idiot. Oh, and mean. A mean stupid idiot bad person. Who will be punished! Oh wait, uh...

But all that aside, it seems that somewhere along the way, probably very early on, I internalized the idea that bad things happen to people solely as a result, be it direct or indirect, of their own moral wrongdoings. I don't believe it consciously, but below the surface, there it is, a completely unfounded unfair untrue wrong hateful judgmental proven-wrong-a-billion-times-over idea. Perhaps it was some of the hellfire and brimstone brand of religion that I was exposed to as a boy, the kind that sees sin and damnation in even the most beautiful that life has to offer. Plus I grew up in a family that routinely discussed a variety of superstitions, most of which seemed to call out strange events as the results of even stranger, seemingly unlinked actions. Like for example, if both of your shoes were untied, it meant that you'd either been telling lies or peeing in the road.

Whatever the cause, it seems that I have become a person who is hesitant to discuss good things that might happen, things that might go my way for fear that, if they don't, that if the scales tip the other way, then it will become apparent to all that I must have failed somehow. Whatever bad news I have will be a great big giant banner proclaiming to the world that I must have done something wrong to place myself in a position out of favor with the cosmos.

Which is just fucking stupid.

So in a challenge to these foolish little superstitions of mine, and in an attempt to pry them loose from that which makes up myself, I'm going to talk about the good news that just might happen for us. It's actually a pretty certain thing at this point, but the final bits of paperwork haven't been signed yet. I'm referring, of course, to the house we're buying. The link is to my wife's blog where she posted about this a few days ago. Even though the news has been out there for a little while, and many of you who know us in the flesh are already aware of this, I still get this giddy risk-taking feeling by putting this out there. Which is okay with me. But yes, we're buying a house, one that we've fallen absolutely in love with, one which meets all of our requirements, and falls well within our budget.

Like I said, it's a pretty certain thing at this point. But more importantly, it feels good to challenge this notion of mine that when things don't go my way, it's some indicator that I'm a failure and now everybody knows so cue the pointing and laughing. If you must point and laugh, do so because my fly is open, which of course is a sure sign that I've either been stealing fruit out of the farmer's orchard or playing with matches.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


So I left this little story in the comments of a post over at Terrible Mother's blog where she asked people to recount their embarrassing kid stories, but seeing as how the ratio of teary-eyed giggles per retelling of this story doesn't seem to be decreasing at a very accelerated rate for either Ashley or myself, I figured that perhaps it would enjoy a place in its very own post.

Ya see, Mr. Henry has this Thomas the Tank Engine video - yes, this story involves Thomas the Tank Engine, but stay with me on this one, I promise you a payoff - wherein one of the stories revolves around a friend of Thomas's, a green train named Percy. Foolish little train that he is, Percy loses control and crashes into a chocolate factory. It's a great big mess with chocolate kersplosions and everything, and at the end of it, poor Percy is completely covered in chocolate. Cute, right?

But then you take into account the fact that little Henry's pronunciation isn't always completely accurate, and you can completely understand why when two of my aunt's, Henry's great aunts, were at our house visiting, Henry asked them if they wanted to watch chocolate pussy. And why he then went on to ask me if I liked chocolate pussy.

It wasn't the first time Henry had brought up the subject of chocolate pussy. At Easter, he told everybody at his uncle's house about chocolate pussy. He likes to ask me if I'd like to watch chocolate pussy with him. He tells his mom to go get the chocolate pussy. I know it'll get old at some point, but Ash and I are 6th grade boys when it comes to this kind of thing, so that point's still way off on the other side of the horizon.

As for my aunts, I registered only the slightest of reactions with either of them, but I can tell you that I forced my laughter down and launched immediately into explanatory mode, even going so far as to jump up and grab the tape off of the shelf. "Look! It was totally innocent!"

Maturity: we needs it.