Archive for October, 2014

“I can almost hear the hounds”

So say you’re Nabil Ayers, and I’m pitching you a band. It’s an approximately nine-piece Glam/Prog Rock band that has done two parts of an n-part rock opera based loosely on the Mega Man video game franchise.

Here’s the question: at what point in that last sentence did you start laughing me out of your office?

The plot twist, of course, is that the band in question is really fucking awesome. They’re called the Protomen, and they are a bunch of beautiful lunatics from Nashville, Tennessee. They played a few nights ago at El Corazon, in the weird interstitial between Downtown, SLU, Capitol Hill, and the hobo camps that line the Pike street I-5 on ramps.

It was a weird crowd, most of all because El Corazon is several shades tougher than the toughest person to have ever touched a Mega Man game. Or so I had assumed until I was half bro-hugging a proper metalhead with a beard to make Billy Gibbons jealous, who had clearly seen his share of mosh pits. This was reinforced when I found myself in a proper mosh pit for the first time since I entered a new decade of life. It’s a testament to the energy of the crowd that it suddenly felt as good to mosh at 30 as it had at 20.

The proximate opener, a band from Dallas called Urizen, managed to pack a huge amount of stagecraft into a thirty minute set. Between the faux-robots, the elaborately-lighted mind control devices, and the development, dispatch, return, and vanquishing of an evil scientist arch-villain, it was an impressive amount of DIY storytelling and staging to put an opening set. Of course all of this was set to some properly thrashing metal. Solid stuff.

As well as Urizen commanded the stage, they had nothing on the Protomen. It’s a bit unfortunate that the Protomen have chosen to sing paeans to such quintessentially geeky heroes. Because for all their nerd cred, they have crafted two-plus records of energetic, finely-crafted rock music, that only tangentially involves the story of Proto Man, Mega Man, Light, Wily, et al.

On the topic, though, Dr. Wiley, as portrayed on-stage by the Protomen’s Turbo Lover, is one of the most evocative villains in modern rock music. He is not cruel, simply cunning. He’s not monstrous, but rather deeply convicted against our moral intuitions. He isn’t driven by evil. Like all great monsters, he seems driven more by isolation and pain. He doesn’t want the destruction of Mankind. He doesn’t even seem to really want the subjugation he brought them. But they never cared enough to stand up to him. And so with his unrequited love interest dead, he instead seems more interested in his conflict with his erstwhile romantic opponent, the impossibly good Dr. Light. They’re two coins cast from the same mold, but with opposite views of the masses who will neither support nor oppose either one.

Were I crasser, I might be tempted to draw a socio-political allegory. But that’s probably the best part about the Protomen so far. There are no winners. “There are no heroes left in man.” Proto Man is not dead, but merely corrupted. His as-yet unnamed brother seems committed to the fight, but their patriarch, Dr. Light, is most decidedly not. The “evil” Dr. Wily seems to be the only one willing to ride out the fire and see where things go.

The Protomen give an unbelievably great live show. It’s incandescent and chaotic. They’re not trying so much to tell you a story as to drive it into your skull with the mallet of rock and roll. There’s definitely a complete narrative occurring somewhere, but it’s not important that the audience be privy to it. Instead, the onstage chemistry between the passionate Proto Man / Dr. Light / Anonymous Second Son and the impossibly glamorous Dr. Wily, set to a back drop of robotic masterpieces like K.I.L.R.O.Y and the Commander, is sufficient to convey the sense of narrative.

“Where were you when I was kind of this part of town?”

Belle & Sebastian, “The Party Line”, from their forthcoming ninth studio record, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

“Gonna be a rumble out on the promenade”

Allo Darlin’ covering Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”

“don’t fade away, just stay” (NSFW)

Elliphant (feat. MØ), “One More”

I don’t rightly know what’s going on in this video. It might well be that it’s an elaborate and misguided anti-narcotics PSA. Whatever it is, the sound track is catchy as hell.

“This might be the mess that we made”

Today on Aaron’s Nostalgia Happy Hour, mid-aughties perv-rockers Post Stardom Depression. Jeff Angell is playing it semi-legit now, playing with Duff McKagan of Guns n’ Roses and Barrett Martin of the Screaming Trees. But to me, he’ll always be the impossibly arch lead singer of weirdly sexy rock band from Seattle, come to grace my hometown with their presence.

After seeing a show by Angell & co. it was impossible to tell whether I needed a cigarette, a scorching hot shower, or a helpful adult.

“Wake up, it’s time to die”

I hadn’t been to the Comet since it closed down fairly suddenly a few months ago. The Old Comet was the haunt of aging metalheads and semi-pro alcoholics looking to move up to the “dying in a gutter” phase of their careers. In a way, the fact that they hosted local shows on a dilapidated stage gave the joint a thin veneer of respectability. Without earnest Seattle-area rockers stomping away in the back on second-rate equipment, the Comet’s only selling points would have been dim lights and cheap Rainier.

Since then, the bar has been closed, ostensibly for good, haggled over, refitted, and reopened. It says something about the tone and tenor of the Old Comet that when the previous owner changed the locks suddenly in the middle of the night (not even telling the people who were scheduled to work shifts the next day), the only thing they took was the sound system. They didn’t even bother to pull down the hundreds of one-dollar bills stabled to the ceiling.

They were probably afraid they’d catch something from them.

So it was an interesting experience stopping in to the Comet last night while I was waiting for a show to start at Neumo’s. The place has changed significantly. For one thing, I could see clearly, due both to sobriety and adequate lighting, two phenomena with which the Old Comet was completely unfamiliar. There were what appeared to be actual booths installed around the place and I even saw a few people eating what appeared to be palatable food. The old stage (that I once had to help physically haul a drunkard off of when he decided that the bassist in my friend’s band “really wanted a hug”) was gone. In its place was more seating and some arcade machines.

I would imagine the lifespan of an arcade machine in the old Comet would be measured on the order of hours, if not minutes.

The clientele had changed, seemingly over night, as well. Staggering, shouting crustoids had been replaced with what appeared to be a collection of models from a University Student Handbook. One or two even looked like they might have seen the boring end of a steady job.

All around, people laughed and enthused, and generally appeared to be the sort of people who had a life outside the orbit of the Comet. A life that contained goals more worthy than “try to get totally wasted off this $10 I found in a boot out back of Dick’s.” It seemed like it had turned into a genuinely nice place.

Next to me, at the bar, two impeccably assembled women groused over their microbrews. Two locals of the sort I’d never seen in my dozens of nights watching local metal shows in the Old Comet. “I miss the old Comet.” Said one. “It was so much more…” the second said, searching for a word, not even needing to raise her voice over the sounds of Classic Rock. “Real.” She finished.

“…space was taken…”

“In regards to the present narration, I feel compelled to defend myself against a certain sort of prejudice endemic to our times. ‘You,’ my gentle detractors will say, ‘who purport to tell the stories of these real men, are but a work of fiction.’ This I do not deny: I stand before you every bit as fictional as longitude and latitude, as the Roman calendar, as the sixty-second minute, and I encourage you to dispose with all of these to the extent that they offend you. The Prime Meridian, an act of imagination, runs over Arctic sea ice, Mediterranean waters, the sands of the Sahara. Do you doubt the sand because you doubt the line? For be assured, in the world I describe, space was taken. The fighters were heard by human ears, each word faithfully recorded. Real fingers ran over the stitches in Sean’s brow. Real tears fell down the face that watched him fall.

Now those who ask that I be as real as Sean have a curious faith in the ability of people with birth certificates and tax IDs to free themselves from the fetters of deception. My (admittedly neurotic) progenitor, on the other hand is so conscious of her own tendency toward self-confabulation that she hesitates to all anything she says of herself a fact. She has never known a real person who saw herself with even passable clarity; never known a storyteller who could tell of a trip to the supermarket without self-gratifying sins of omission. All narrators, I say, are fiction. All. The reliable ones have the decency to admit it.” – Kerry Howley, Thrown

1Q84: A Technically Accurate Synopsis

Three people are transported to an alternate reality. One of them kills a priest. The second has sex with a minor. The third desperately tries to bring the first two to justice.

Of course the reality is far weirder and more complex than that synopsis implies. A weird, wonderful, and highly recommended book.

Living in the Future: Smarter Cars Edition

Just in case you were wondering how far along our species is with the whole “autonomous automobile” project, check out this demo of the latest Tesla S, including the slick new autopilot.

Pretty wicked stuff.

“…you are looking at the ancient earth.”

“The canine breed we call the Afghan hound is doggish enough in its appearance and mannerisms that a parent would not correct a toddler who sees, points, and says “Dog”. When adults begin a philosophical conversation, the issue is not as certain. An Afghan hound is less an item of science and more a thought experiment: to see an Afghan hound is, if its particular haircut invites, to experience with immediacy an imagination of what terrible larger animal’s ghost it is.

If you search for “Afghan hound” on the internet, you will find many pictures. Humans who see fit to purchase possession of such an animal wield their freedom of life-ownership with creative expression. They cut and style the animal’s hair, or pay someone else to. You might see an Afghan hound with its fine soft hair in perfect straight shiny curtains which curl at the floor. You might see a poky twig of hair atop its head, with a pink ribbon bow endowing the animal with a gender identity. You might see the animal with short summer hair. This is where you know that the animal’s hair is not a single horse-mane which runs along its spine, waterfalling over either side: if you look at the animal’s legs, you will see its hairs poking out, dense like a raccoon’s tail fur. The animal’s hair is tight to its skin. The hair is tenacious. The hair appears as the animal’s clothes.

Dog connoisseurs will call pit bulls “pits”. They call dachshunds “wiener dogs”. In conversations about Afghan hounds, we often call them “creatures”. Mention an Afghan hound to, for example, an owner of a purebred Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and this person will maybe say, “Oh yes: those are wonderful creatures.” The Afghan hound transcends its form.

If you look at a live and breathing Afghan hound’s face, you are looking at the ancient earth. You are looking at evolution. This animal has as much in common with a pug or an English bulldog as it does with a sloth, a ferret, a zebra, and an elk. An Afghan hound has as much in common with a chihuahua as it does with a unicorn.

Witness a summer-clothes Afghan hound galloping across a field: here is the history of horses and humans. Witness a shiny formal-dress Afghan hound trotting at a dog show: here is an animal alone in an ocean of itself.” – Tim Rogers, “…A Personal History of the Afghan Hound Canine Breed”

As is often the case with Tim Rogers’ essays, the one quoted and linked above is only minimally about its supposed topic. I should mention that, depending on how prudish your workplace is, it might be consider NSFW. It is definitely, however, a compelling study of love, hope, fear, and (tangentially) Afghan Hounds.

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Magic Blue Smoke

House Rules:

1.) Carry out your own dead.
2.) No opium smoking in the elevators.
3.) In Competitions, during gunfire or while bombs are falling, players may take cover without penalty for ceasing play.
4.) A player whose stroke is affected by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb may play another ball from the same place.
4a.) Penalty one stroke.
5.) Pilsner should be in Roman type, and begin with a capital.
6.) Keep Calm and Kill It with Fire.
7.) Spammers will be fed to the Crabipede.