Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Murky Words Music Mix #3: Turkey Day Trip Mix

Two or three years ago, while bored at work, I burned a random mix of music onto a CD because I had nothing better to do. It actually turned out rather well, and in honor of it's anniversary I decided to post it here. To follow is the Turkey Day Trip Mix - tracks and commentary. You can either click on the track names to download the songs individually, or grab the zip file at the end of the post which is the mix in it's entirety. Either way, hurry up and get it as these tracks will be coming down VERY soon. Oh yeah, about the name. "Trip" in this case refers to one of the mental variety - not an actual car or plane ride. However, if you choose to use it for either of those purposes, more power to you. I should also point out that the only thing this mix has in common with Thanksgiving (Turkey Day) is the fact that I made it the day before. None of the songs were chosen with the actual holiday in mind. Had I done so, I'm pretty sure the results would have been disastrous. Gobble Gobble.

Massive Attack - Spying Glass (from the album Protection): Nice, low key way to start things off. This has been one of my favorite tunes since I first heard it back in the mid-90's. You know how certain songs take you back, rather wistfully, to a certain time or place? This song brings me to an alcohol induced haze in a sparsely populated dive bar in Boston's Back Bay - sometime during the fall of 1996. This isn't what you would normally categorize as "dive bar music", but for whatever reason it was on the jukebox, and one of the bar's other upstanding patrons played this tune repeatedly. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't have tolerated such tomfoolery, but because I really liked the song - and said patron was about 200 pounds heavier than me - I was perfectly happy to stare ahead, drink my swill, and immerse myself in the smoky, somewhat mysterious atmosphere of the tune. No wait, actually - that was the bar... I think.

Rage Against the Machine - Guerilla Radio (from the album The Battle of Los Angeles): This'll snap you out of that haze real quick. This tune could not be more different than the previous, but I suppose that's the point. I'm a jerk like that. Start you off by lulling you to sleep, and then wake you up rather loudly and rudely. Nothing mysterious about this one. If you're at all familiar with Rage you know that whenever they sing, they're pissed about something. I hate preaching in music (or in general) so I can only take these guys in measured doses, but man, talk about a brilliantly produced, angry jump around tune. Find a mosh pit and enjoy.

The Sugarcubes - Hit (from the album Stick Around For Joy): Before Bjork was the Bjork we all know now as the crazy woman who talks funny and wears geese as a fashion statement, she was the adorable lead singer of The Sugarcubes - a dysfunctional band if ever there was one. They didn't stick around too long, but they did manage to release three albums which were pretty well received in college and alternative radio circles (before alternative radio became a marketing scheme.) 'Hit' is from their 3rd release, and while not their best album, this is definitely one of their more enjoyable songs. It's kind of cute pop - bouncy with a fun melody. It could be (and perhaps already has been) the music played during the montage scene of a romantic comedy. It's funny - you listen to this and realize that at some point Bjork was a normal person. These days, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see her release an album called 'Dorsal', in which she does nothing but make dolphin sounds for 45 minutes - and because she's Bjork, the critics would all give it 5 stars. *sigh* I miss the old Bjork. Where have you gone, sweet lady?

Porno for Pyros - Tahitian Moon (from the album Good God's Urge): One of the worst named bands in history. Let that not deter you though, as this is a fine composition. It does a good job of waffling between chaos and serenity, starting out with a rolling, nerve wracking guitar and then hitting us over the head with a calm South Pacific mandolin beach like melody thingie. Then it's back to the guitar for a bit, before it decides to calm us down again. Back and forth it goes, much like Perry Farrell's sanity.

America - A Horse with No Name (from the album History: America's Greatest Hits): The very first "music videos" I ever saw as a kid were on The Muppet Show. They weren't what we know now as music videos, rather, they were often extravagant affairs in which any number of muppets would come out on stage and perform their rendition of a popular song. Therefore, when a song comes on the radio it's not terribly unlikely (although it might be considered somewhat worrisome) for me to have a mental image of various muppets performing it - regardless of whether or not they actually did so on the show. Where am I going with this? Well, listen to this song and then try and tell me that Scooter, that annoying 3rd wheel of a muppet, is not the lead singer. If you're at all familiar with the show, you'll recognize that the two voices bear an uncanny resemblance. I feel very strongly about this. It almost ruins the song for me. Secondly, this is the only tune I know of that has such a blatant grammatical error in the chorus, and yet no one seems to care. Lookee here: "in the desert, you can remember your name 'cause there ain't no one for to give you no pain." Why the (for) hell did they bother to (for) put the word (for) "for" in there? The only conclusion I can (for) come to is that they needed another word so (for) they'd have the proper number of syllables (for) to match the song's beat. THAT, my friends, is laziness. Couldn't they (for) have come up with a better lyric? What, do the rules of grammar not apply (for) to songwriting? Scooter better go back (for) to English class!

It's still a good song though. (For)

U2 - Two Hearts Beat As One (from the album War): I took no end of ribbing back in high school. Most of it was deserved - I was a dork's dork, after all, but some of it was not. Among the unworthy jibes thrown my way were those that originated as a result of my being a U2 fan. Said insults were almost exclusively the intellectual property of those who were die hard fans of Warrant, Winger & Poison. If you were one of those people, I just have a couple of questions for you. WHERE ARE YOUR PRECIOUS HAIR BANDS NOW? HOW DOES IT FEEL TO KNOW THAT YOU ONCE WORSHIPED A BAND THAT WORE LEOPARD SKIN TIGHTS, HAD BAD MULLETS, AND THE STAYING POWER OF A WET PAPER TOWEL?!? No, I don't accept your apology. You didn't know good music then, and it's unlikely you do now. Yeah, that's right. Every rose has it's thorn, jackass.

Pauline Taylor - Solo Flying Mystery Man (from the album Back to Mine): Never heard of this woman? Not surprised. I stumbled across this tune on a chillout compilation mixed by the electronic act Faithless and was blown away. This was back in 2001 or 2002. I've been looking for an album from her since then and have been rebuffed at every turn. Why on Earth has the other music this woman surely recorded not been released stateside? AllMusic has nothing. Amazon has some "imports" - none fewer than $25 - and when I once tried to buy one got a message from the seller saying that they were actually out - so sorry. Grrrrr. A perplexing conundrum, to say the least. We'll have to make do with this little gem.

Sonic Youth - 100% (from the album Dirty): I have heard Sonic Youth's music described as "skronk rock." Although I'm unsure what the term actually means, I still think that's about right. The album from which this track came is one of my guilty pleasures. There should be no reason on Earth why I like it as much as I do, and yet, I do. Particularly this track. Reminds me of my late adolescence - my Dawson's Creek years, if you will - when things were happily tolerable.

Blur - I Know (from the album Leisure): Not Blur's finest, but just listen to the boppin' bassline on this thing. This album (and tune) opened a door and showed me that there were British bands other than the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin that didn't actually suck. In fact, it exposed me (rather late as it turned out), to the whole Madchester music scene. Soon, I was fixated on bands like the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays and wearing headphones almost constantly - blissfully ignorant of everything else around me. 'Course I didn't go on many dates then either, so it had it's drawbacks, but just think - if I hadn't heard this song you'd have no mix before you now. Eh? Eh? See - it pays to an isolated basket case sometimes.

Hole - Celebrity Skin (from the album Celebrity Skin): It is SUCH a shame Courtney Love reverted back to her drug induced psychosis. When this tune and album of the same name were released, she was at her absolute peak (you can interpret that any way you want. I happened to mean musically.) I love this song. A hard rockin' cynical, smarmy rant against celebrity and the Hollywood establishment. The lyrics are simply splendid. If I ever needed an insult that cut right to the bone, I think I'd look for Ms. Love - circa 200o or 2001. This song predates Paris Hilton & Nicole Richie's fame by a couple of years. Shame they weren't paying attention back then.

A Tribe Called Quest - Luck of Lucien (from the album Anthology): Do you remember The Bloodhound Gang - that bit at the end of 3,2,1 Contact with the detectives? "Whenever there's trouble, we're there on the double. We're the Bloodhound Gaaaaang. If you've got the crime, we've got the time. We're the Bloodhound Gaaaaang!" Not only could they solve crimes, they were hip as all hell. If they'd had music in the background while they were solving their capers, I'd imagine it would sound something like this (minus the rap of course, which should not be discounted.) Some fantastic funk jazz samples under some great lyrics by Q-Tip. Good stuff.

iio - At The End (from the album At The End): This duo is huge in club circles, but hasn't really done much commercially, which is good because I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I like this song. This is cheesy dance pop with simply terrible lyrics, BUT it is beautifully layered, sonically magical and eminently danceable (at least in certain parts.) I don't really want to say much other than that. In fact, let's move on. I think I see a Warrant fan over there.

Green Day - Hitchin' A Ride (from the album International Superhits): We're all a little tired of Billy Jo and his antics, and yeah the band is a little passé at this point. But whatever - alcoholism never sounded so good.

Letters to Cleo - Awake (from the album Wholesale Meats and Fish): Boston band makes good by breaking onto the national stage. I ALMOST pegged Kay Hanley (lead singer) as my future wife, however I had to dock points for three things. 1) She was already married to the guitarist by the time I started paying attention. 2) This band disappeared for a long while. There was a significant time lapse between album one and album two. A guy can only stay ignored for so long. 3) She's somewhat guilty (at least on this track) of one of my musical pet peeves - namely sounding like a 12 year old when singing. All of these things led me to inevitably pick Shirley Manson instead (who also was married at the time but I chose to conveniently overlook it.) Still, Kay is both adorable and gorgeous and a fine musician to boot. She's released a few solo albums, all worthy of purchase. Oh, and she's a Red Sox fan. This track is lots of fun.

Mazzy Star - Mary of Silence (from the album So Tonight That I Might See): I LOOOOOOOVE this song. Very quiet, dark, brooding, and somewhat psychedelic. This tune could just as easily have been written in 1968 instead of 1993. The atmosphere and effects are just... *shiver* - man, I can't even find the appropriate words. I will say this, though. Yet again we have another outstanding female lead singer who has dropped off the face of the Earth. I would love to see Hope Sandoval put out another solo album but alas, she hasn't been heard from since 2002. Still - we're lucky we have this tune to enjoy. Listen to it in the dark. Maybe light some incense if you can stand the smell.

Leaves - Catch (from the album Breathe): We travel back to Iceland for some more Indie pop. The first time I heard these guys I thought they were Doves - another favorite band of mine. But, NO! They are Leaves - an odd name if ever there was one - but hey, they're Icelandic, so that's pretty cool. I don't know much about these guys other than this album and the fact that they played TT the Bears in Cambridge, MA a few years back and gave a solid live set. This particular tune is a catchy little number whose message appears to be "don't take anything for granted! Time stops for no one! Stop and smell the roses!" God. How original. How poignant... Anyone want to lay wagers on the video? $10 says it's full of sped up time lapse showing sunrises and sunsets, crowds of people walking through busy intersections, and flowers waking with the sun and wilting with the dusk. On second though, let's not. Just enjoy the song.

WHEW! And that, my friends, is the Turkey Day Trip Mix. I hope it proves worthy enough for your holiday feast and maybe even helps you digest. Anyway, whatever you do or don't have planned, I wish you all a wonderful holiday with good health and good times. Talk to you a little later.

Oh, and as promised, the mix in it's entirety via zip file:


Friday, November 17, 2006

M - I - crooked letter - crooked letter - I - crooked letter - crooked letter - I - humpback - humpback - I!

"Calluh... you on they ayuh."

The talk radio host's voice droned through the car speakers while cruising the highway in Jackson, MS. It was, perhaps, the 20th time we had heard it uttered. I was simply tickled.

"What's wrong with this gentleman? Has he had a stroke?" I turned and asked Miss Goofus, sitting in the passenger seat.

"Now, now. He's from the South" she replied, as if that explained everything, "we do things a little slower down here."

She was right. Granted, Mr. Talk Radio Host spoke even more slowly than many of his fellow Southerners, but to say that the pace of things below the Mason-Dixon is more leisurely would be the understatement of the year. In the Deep South, people move sloooooooow.

Or, it could just be that I move fast. I do everything quickly - sometimes too much so. Even other Bostonians occasionally take me to task for speaking too fast and they, irony of ironies, can't understand me. Whatever. Slow Southerners plus a fast Eric makes for a certain degree of confusion. But it was confusion I enjoyed, because like the Southern stereotype, it came with a certain amount of charm and hospitality.

I guess I should explain. Last week, in between the end of my previous job and the start of my new one, I ventured down south to New Orleans yet again to see the aforementioned Miss Goofus and embark on a road trip. Destination: Memphis, Tennessee where two friends of the Goof-monster were getting married. Several months ago, she'd received the invitation addressed to "Goofus and guest" and she asked me to play the role of "and guest." I had second thoughts about attending a wedding for two people I didn't know, and didn't particularly relish the idea of "making new acquaintances" (so, I'm a selfish isolator. What do you want from me? Huh? Leave me alone) but the idea of hanging out with m'girl Goofus in warm weather AND a subsequent road trip proved too much to resist. I arrived on Wednesday, enjoyed New Orleans for a few days, had some stupendous New Orleans cuisine at Jacque-Imoe's, and even attended a class at Tulane university (I am now qualified to tell people why they should/shouldn't make 'college professor' their career of choice - my advise to everybody would be 'run') before jumping in the car on Friday and hitting the road.

To be honest, I didn't expect much - not because I had low opinions of the South (although c'mon... Duck Hill, Mississippi? Why the hell would I want to go there? Charming town to drive through, as it turns out - and it has a kick ass name) but because we simply didn't have much time to do anything but drive and go to the wedding. But, we made the most of what extra time we did have. Our first stop was at Shoney's Restaurant in Jackson, MS. We stopped there largely because we were both starving, and we weren't exactly sure where else to go. Plus, I had fond memories of growing up and hearing my Dad talk about the Shoney's in his native Pennsylvania (back when it was called Shoney's Big Boy) and having never been to one before, I thought it worth a visit. From the get-go I was very pleasantly surprised. We were greeted by an extremely friendly waitress with a wide gap-toothed smile who exclaimed, "Hi there! Welcome to Shoney's! Two? Alrighty then, come with me. Here're your menus. Would y'all like any sweet tea or anythang?" This alone made it worthwhile. If such an encounter were to take place in Massachusetts, you'd be lucky to get waitstaff who did more than grunt and hack up a lung on your menus. (I'm exagerrating, yes, but the friendliness of this waitress was genuine, to the point where I started getting suspicious. I'm such a typical New Englander.) For dinner, Goof got the fish and chips and I.. heh.. well, I ordered the wondrous cheeseburger you see in the post below this one.

Now, let me set the record straight. I had NO idea I'd be getting a two patty grease burger smothered in processed cheese and fried in lard. The menu had two different types of burgers - the Grizzly Burger, and the Giant Grizzly Burger. Thinking the Grizzly your typical standard cheeseburger I ordered it and was greeted with the culinary delight you see below - and that was the smallest "adult" burger they offered. To get something normal, I suppose I should have gotten something from the kids menu. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this country. Anyway, I ate the whole thing - because I was on vacation and all. Not only was it delicious, but I could hear my arteries clogging for two hours hence.

The rest of the drive up proved somewhat uneventful. It was nighttime after all, so there wasn't much we could stop and see. We got caught in a VICIOUS thunderstorm with crazy rainfall (we found out later that there was a tornado watch in the area we drove through) that slowed our progress to that of the average Mississippian, and ended up getting into Memphis at around 1:00 AM.

I'll skip the gory details so as not to sound redundant (Goofus covers them in her own post, and really, I just wanted to write about the burger) but I'll just say that I enjoyed the few hours before the wedding when we got to explore Memphis a little bit and visit the Peabody Ducks, the Memphis Redbirds ballpark (where I got a medium long sleeved shirt), and Huey's, where patrons are encouraged to throw their toothpicks at the roof and see if they stick (our waitress there was just as friendly as the previously mentioned one, but the woman didn't provide us with any damn toothpicks. I tried to throw a carrot instead. It didn't work.) Sunday, we had lunch at Molly's La Casita with Goofus' best friend from childhood and her fiance, and then hit the road once again to go back to New Orleans.

The highlight of the trip back was cotton pickin'. In Sardis Lake, MS we passed by numerous cotton fields and after waffling back and forth on the idea, we finally decided to pull over to the side and pick some cotton (I did most of the waffling - I was envisioning us going into the cotton field, only to have some elderly Southern gentleman come bursting out of his cabin with a twelve gauge, screaming at me to "get off'n his here land, you no good Yankee boy" before taking a shot at us. No such event ended up occurring but I made sure to choose an isolated field all the same.) I grabbed a couple of swabs (or tufts, or whatever they're called when you pick 'em) and threw them in a baggy where they sit on display on my bookcase. Honestly, I don't know why this made me so happy. I can't imagine a cotton farmer getting this worked up about a visit to Boston in which he got to eat a baked bean. Anyway, we took our time getting back to New Orleans and arrived at around 10:00 PM. Sadly, I flew back to Boston the next morning.

But, it was a fun trip for lots of reasons, not least of which was the companionship. Fifteen hours driving in one weekend and not a single nasty glare. Pretty impressive, wouldn't you say?
And, in the extremely short time I got to see a few odd places, I was able to thoroughly enjoy myself while doing away with a few misconceptions. I still can't do a Southern accent (as Miss Goofus will remind anyone who comes within earshot) but that's OK. Even if I could, I'd probably speak too fast for them anyway.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sorry Y'all

Well, between finishing up my old job, starting my new job, and going on my Southern Fried road trip, I am just plumb tuckered out. I had every intention of posting a sort of post-trip travelogue this evening, but I ended up having to interview potential candidates for my old position at my former employer's instead (I'm working for them on a very part time basis until the person they get to replace me is hired and trained. In the meantime, they've asked me to help interview all the potential candidates. Whoopsie them.) In any event, I'm too tired and too zonked to post anything "legitimate" tonight - BUT I'll be sure to cover you this weekend.

In the meantime, as a sample of what's to come (and because Miss Goofus linked to it, thereby forcing my hand - she also offers her own recap of the trip's events there, by the way), I offer you a sample of some of the finer cuisine experienced on our travels. I consumed this little delicacy at the Shoney's in Jackson, Mississippi while en route to Memphis.

Yeeeeeeehaw cowpokes! Hungry yet?

See you this weekend.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sayonara y Buon Giorno!

Now I've done it. Uh Huh. I've up and switched jobs. Not an easy decision, but a good one, I think. But, before I go any further, allow me to apologize in advance, as this post will be somewhat deliberately vague. Although I've been known to throw out a few nuggets about my former workplace, and occasionally bitch about it from time to time, I've never mentioned either the name of the institution or anyone in it. If you read through previous posts, you'll be able to figure out that I do - er, did - computer work for a school that teaches lots of Japanese women (and that alone provides a huge clue - if you have too much free time and wanted to do some investigative work, I'm sure you could figure it out.) Anyway, Friday was my last day there after having worked there for four years and two months - pretty much the longest I've ever worked anywhere.

And, I really liked working there. It was hugely convenient, I learne... You know what? Why don't I just do what I do best? Create a list. How did I lo - I mean, really like thee? Let me count the ways.
  1. The ten minute drive to and from work.
  2. The low stress environment (on most days)
  3. The wild turkeys who jump out of trees onto the heads of unsuspecting passersby (no, I'm not kidding)
  4. Other area wildlife (turkeys aside - they're a nuisance and peck at people's cars. I don't like them) such as coyote's and hawks - all in the middle of a city environment.
  5. The fact that I learned a ton while I was there - from both a technical standpoint and about working with other people.
  6. Being able to leave for somewhat extended lunch breaks (shhhhh... don't tell anyone. I didn't abuse it. Really.)
  7. Having fun on the walkie-talkies with people who took themselves too seriously (I hated carrying the thing, thinking of it as more of an electronic dog leash, and would occasionally utter random shit into it. For example, about six months ago I decided to quote an old 80's rap song and yelled into it, "The ROOF! The ROOF! The roof is on FIIII-REEEE!!! The woman covering the front desk was pissed.)
  8. Making up excuses to some of the students as to why I couldn't fix their computers, knowing they probably wouldn't understand me anyway.
  9. The atmosphere of an academic environment. It's a completely different animal from the corporate world, and to try to explain the difference between the two would be a futile exercise in... well, futility. But I liked the world of academia. It's full of smart people.
  10. Being able to work with a fantastic group of people - and no, I'm not just saying that. The people there made it a pleasure to come to work each day.
That's ten reasons. There are plenty more, but I don't feel like listing them all. Suffice it to say, that I accepted a job with another company and will soon join the growing numbers of working folk in Metro-West. My new employer butters their bread in the medical science industry, and I'll be doing lots of application support and back end database work - which is a bit of a switch for me. There will be lots of new and challenging things to learn, but the position is largely one of training and learning for the first year, and for that I am quite excited. It's a great move from a career growth perspective, and that's the main reason I decided to take it.

Hopefully, things here won't change all that much. It's hard to imagine being any busier than I've been the past two weeks simply wrapping things up, so maybe I'll even be able to squeak in a few more posts than usual (although you don't expect me to make any guarantees, do you? Heh. You know me too well.) This week, however, I'm lucky enough to be on vacation. Things get into high gear tonight with the Patriots v. Colts game (I actually get to go to this game. I still can't believe it. I am a lucky lucky man) and then another trip down to NOLA on Wednesday to see Ms. Goofus and embark on a Southern road trip (we're attending a wedding in Memphis.) Three cheers for real grits and fried pickles! I'll update as time permits. Ciao for now, jazzcats.