Friday, July 22, 2005

CELL-U-LIT-IS (clap, clap, clap clap clap) CELL-U-LIT-IS (clap, clap, clap clap clap)

Let's hear it for life-threatening skin infections, yeah!
So I've had a pretty crappy few days here. I noticed last weekend that I had this pretty bad mosquito bite on my ankle. It was big, red, and tender, but so is Clifford the Big Red Dog and he never hurt anyone, am I wrong? So I didn't think anything more of it. So this thing just keeps getting worse, and I'm beginning to get a bit worried and thinking that maybe I should go to the doctor. Then on Tuesday night I came down with a fever of 102 and couldn't really think too well. That scared me just a bit, so I took my ass on over to the emergency room to make sure that I wasn't going to die or lose my leg. Turns out either one could have happened!
It's called cellulitis. Basically it's an infection of a mosquito bite that, if left untreated, could result in the loss of my foot or death. So I'm kinda glad I went to the hospital. And I'm waiting for my damn superpowers like Tobey Maguire, but none seem to be coming. Although I don't know what superpowers one could get from a mutant mosquito. I certainly can't think of any desirable ones.
Oh, and the doctors thought it might be related to West Nile virus, which would have been money because then I'd be the only dude on my block with West Nile. Would make for an interesting story. But in order to ascertain that I'd have to get a spinal tap. Yes, they'd have to stick a needle in my spine and draw out fluid. So I decided that the novelty really wasn't worth it. Oh well.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Not dead

Hey everyone. I'm not dead. I will post something significant soon. Or now. Let's see ......

Is it just me or is the new season of Six Feet Under sucking ass so far?

And what's with this Princes of Malibu shit on Fox? Granted it's Fox, but still, I've never seen anything as transparently fake as this. Shameful.

I've begun playing tennis. I suck. But hopefully I'll get better soon and not look so much like I belong in the Special Olympics.

I just read this graphic novel called Blankets by Craig Thompson, and it was wonderful. Just the sweetest, most enlightening book on religion, love and adolescence I've ever read. It will nourish your soul.

I think my dog is depressed.

Screw Harry Potter up his wizard arse. I just don't care.

Brother Nat moved up to D.C. yesterday and starts work at the World Bank today. Wishing him the best in his new endeavor.

Is it just me or does this new picture posting process (that's called alliteration, bitches, I'll be here all night!) on Blogger suck ass worse than Six Feet Under? I can't figure this shit out. Either that or there are a bunch of pictures of Bruce Springsteen floating somewhere on Blogger's server.

Coffee is really neat.

The peach crop tastes particularly good so far this year. The cherry crop as well, although for some reason they are costing an arm and a leg down here.

Saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Kudos to Tim Burton. Non-kudos to Johnny Depp. Wasn't feeling his Wonka. Hmmm....nope, too easy, I'll leave it alone.

If anyone has heard the Fall's new BBC sessions box set, let me know if it's worth the cash.

Maybe some ice cream will cheer my dog up. But she always eats it too fast and gets brain freeze. No shit, it's the funniest, saddest thing I've ever seen. She starts whimpering and rubbing her paws all over her face. Tragic.

You know what I haven't heard in a while? "Mmmmm Mmmmm Mmmmm Mmmmm" by the Crash Test Dummies.

Family Guy last night was among the best I've seen.

Why is it that no good bagels exist outside the five boroughs?

A'ite, that's all I got.

Friday, July 08, 2005

In Defense of Bruce

It seems to me that folks in my generation regard Bruce Springsteen with a certain amount of scorn. "Sure, he used to be great and all that, but he became all rock star-ish and washed up, so why bother with him at all?" Why bother? Okay, if you're not going to bother with Bruce, then why bother with Bob, Joni, Neil, Mick 'n Kief, Van, or John Paul George and Ringo? With the exception of Joni and John, each of these artists has reached lower points in their music than Bruce ever has. Sure, I remember Human Touch and Lucky Town. I might be one of the five people in the world who does. But do you remember Self Portrait, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, Everybody's Rockin', Dirty Work, and Too Long in Exile? My point is that Bruce may have been boring at various points in his career (see his latest album, Devils and Dust, although it serves as one of his "somber storyteller" album, with Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad serving as much better precedents), but he has never released an album so bafflingly horrid as those mentioned above.
More importantly, Bruce has never told us anything but the naked truth. His unswerving refusal to allow irony to creep into his music, no matter what the flavor of the moment is (and he has survived some of the most ironic music of all time: disco, new wave, and 90's indie rock to name a few), makes him one of the few artists to rage against the machine and come out with his integrity intact. As a matter of fact, we could learn a lot from how Bruce has conducted himself throughout his career. So here are a few life lessons that I have learned from Bruce and his music. Enjoy!

1. Let them know you mean business.

Bruce released his first two albums within nine months of each other. Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, released in the first days of January 1973, hit rock critics with a blast of pure rock 'n roll that inspired nearly universal praise. Then, on September 11, 1973, he released The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, not only one of his best but one of the best rock albums of all time. Again, the critics raved. Bruce was becoming The Boss and the critics were noticing.

2. Timing is everything.

Unfortunately, the critics were the only ones who noticed those first two albums. For some reason they just didn't hit with the public. Bruce kept touring, though, and pretty soon the rock critics started clamoring so loudly that somebody finally took notice. Actually, two somebodies: Time and Newsweek. The whole thing started when rock critic Jon Landau gushed, "I saw rock and roll future, and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Taken in context the quote is less cheesy and more thoughtful, but Time and Newsweek didn't care about all that nonsense; they smelled a big story! And so, on October 27, 1975, Bruce's mug appeared on the covers of the two biggest newsweeklies in the United States. There was no way Born to Run could not be huge.

3. Always keep creative control over your output and potential.

So before Born to Run hit, Bruce made a little mistake. He let Manfred Mann's Earth Band cover "Blinded by the Light," one of the best songs from his debut album. And it sucked. Oh dear God, did it ever suck! The original is a Dylan-esque musing on summer, adolescence, and girls. Typical Springsteen poetry. Once Manfred Mann got hold of it, however, it became something else entirely. Not only did the song resemble disco more than a little bit, it changed the lyric "cut loose like a deuce" to "wrapped up like a douche" and was thereafter known as "that douche song." For shame, Manfred Mann!
The second part of this lesson was a little bit harder on Bruce. Between Born to Run and his next album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, Jon Landau (of "I saw rock and roll future" fame) became Bruce's new manager and producer. His old manager, Mike Appel, didn't like being cut out of the picture right when Bruce was becoming a major star and kept him tied up in legal battles for nearly two years. Bruce could not legally record anything during this time, although he did write one of his best songs, Because the Night, and gave it to Patti Smith to record. By the time it all got sorted out, the swell of popularity that resulted from Born to Run had abated and Bruce had learned a hard lesson.
I can't let this one go without saying, however, that this legal battle may have been the best thing that ever happened to Bruce. Judging by his rapid-fire output during his first year of recording, he might have been tempted to put out Born to Run Part II as quickly as he could to capitalize on his success. Instead, he had some little pissant pestering him for two years, and nothing brings out the creative vitriol better than some asshole trying to take what's yours. Darkness on the Edge of Town is a harrowing glimpse into Bruce's soul and, in my opinion, his most realized and realistic album. He poured into it every embattled emotion from three years of frustration and anger. Or maybe he just saw Reagan coming a mile away.

4. If you're feeling lost, bring it down to the bare essentials.

After Darkness on the Edge of Town, Bruce released The River, an uneven yet modestly successful double album. It contained his first hit single, Hungry Heart, and poised him once again on the brink of superstardom. Judging by the songs, however, Bruce didn't really know where he was as a songwriter. Half of the songs on The River are Bruce at his best and half of them are Bruce trying to be Bruce. I'm sure some of that had to do with the awful production (Bruce's voice is way back in the mix, and say what you want about him overdoing it sometimes, the guy can get some emotion across with those pipes, plus everything has too much echo, but hey that's just one guy's opinion), but he also seems unsure of where to go next. And when that happens, you go back to the source.
Nebraska is Bruce and a guitar, and it is fucking glorious. It's how every starry-eyed soul begin, just you and a guitar. The essentials. Done perfectly. And the songs. Oh the songs. I can't even write about it properly. Just listen to it on your next road trip. You're welcome in advance.

5. If you're gonna keep doing the same thing, do it LOUD!!!

Okay, I'll say it. Born in the U.S.A. was a great rock 'n roll swindle. Bruce took a few songs from Nebraska and added organs to them, took a few songs from The River and brought his voice up in the mix, took a few songs from Born to Run and replaced the keyboards with a second guitar, took a few songs from The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle and broadened the chords, and took a few songs from Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and added synth and backing vocals. It was the same thing he'd always done with a bit of spit and polish. It spawned seven Top 10 hits. Oh, and it sounded great loud. Just go back and listen to it. Put the headphones on. Crank it up to 10. And tell me you don't get a bit misty when those first chords come in.

6. Life is art. Art is life.

What do you do when you're the biggest rock star on the planet? If you're Bruce Springsteen, you make an album about the messy dissolution of your marriage. Tunnel of Love may have been the last thing that the millions of people who had bought Born in the U.S.A. were expecting, but by God they knew when they heard it that they were getting unadulterated Bruce. The album plays like he's sitting down with you over a beer and pouring his heart out: about how marriage is so much harder than he thought it would be, about how he thinks about other women all the time, about how he suspects that his wife is cheating on him, about how he just wants everything to go back to the way it was when they were first married, about how scared he is that he'll lose her. It's one of the greatest breakup albums of all time, right up there with Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker, Chris Isaak's Forever Blue, and Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Okay, nothing is as good as Blood on the Tracks, but it comes damn close!

7. You're never as good as you are with your friends.

Springsteen gave the E Street Band its walking papers after Tunnel of Love. Nobody really knows why. I guess maybe he just didn't see his new material as something that he should work with them on. Probably because his new material sucked ass.
With Human Touch and Lucky Town (go back up to the top of the post if you want the links), Bruce joined a less than illustrious tradition of artists releasing two separate albums simultaneously. That tradition consisted solely of Guns N' Roses releasing the Use Your Illusion albums the previous year. (If I ever get the motivation I will explain on these blog pages why those albums are unrecognized masterpieces.) More recently Nelly has done the same thing.
I don't know if it got Nelly to stop sucking, but it sure as hell got Bruce to start sucking. I maintain that it was because he ditched the E Street Band. Consider that he had been with these guys for his whole career up to this point (with a few minor tweaks). He had Nils Lofgren on guitar. The guy who brought the Born in the U.S.A. album to life. He had Max Weinberg on drums. Okay, Max Weinberg sucks, but whatever. But then he had Clarence Clemons on sax. If you're a skinny white kid from Jersey and you get a large black man to play sax in your band, you hang on to that dude no matter how big of a star you become.
Bottom line is, these were a bunch of guys from around the way who had helped Bruce get to where he was. I don't know if he was a dick about it or not, but the move to let them go baffles me. And he showed what a bad move it was with those albums.

8. Give your talent to something bigger than yourself and you will become more than you thought you could.

"Streets of Philadelphia" was one in a series of one-offs that Bruce did throughout his career (see Because the Night and Light of Day), but everyone knew it was more than that. It was the extra push needed to push a film about AIDS into the national spotlight and bring an epidemic into sharp focus for a populace being fed half-truths by people too lazy and/or afraid to dig deeper into the issue. And he got a buttload of Grammys for it.
And then there was The Rising. I've found myself trying to defend this album more than any other album or aspect of Bruce's career. One person with whom I was arguing commented that "if 9/11 hadn't happened, Springsteen would have invented it." Distance gives us the luxury of cynicism. Was the album opportune? Absolutely. Was it opportunistic? Absolutely not. The album, or those songs that even dealt with 9/11, was a personal response to an event that was larger than most people could comprehend. I'd wager that most people, when they strip away the cultural commentary that surrounds their memory of it, still can't comprehend the magnitude of it. Bruce was one man who felt a particularly strong reaction to it, New York being his adopted home for so many years. And getting beyond the 9/11 reaction (which really only takes up about 6 or 7 songs), the album is his first with the E Street Band since Tunnel of Love. Those who don't know what that means won't feel the power of the songs. That doesn't matter. But don't accuse it of being an artifact rather than an album if you don't know what you're talking about.

9. Stay out of politics. Unless you're trying to defeat George W. Bush.

Springsteen's letter to the editor of the New York Times says it all. There is a link to it on, a Springsteen fan site, but the site is down at the moment and I can't get at it. But seek it out. It's eloquent and inspiring.

10. Earn a nickname like "The Boss."

This one kind of speaks for itself.

So there you have it, my top ten reasons not to dump on Bruce. If I've changed one mind, it's been worth it. And stay tuned for the next crazy thing of which Cliff will try to convince you. Like the fact that all airplanes should be made of whatever material that indestructible little black box is made of. Or that Foghat was actually better than the Beatles.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Still painting....

Hey everyone. I am still down at the beach house painting my ass off. These past two days have been the best so far, sunny with no rain. I don't know how long that will hold out, though, as this Nags Head weather can be unpredictable sometimes. I have some pictures from the Fourth, but dial-up does not like image transfer, so I will wait until the end of the week when I can get back to my beloved cable connection. In the meantime, everyone should be listening to the new Pernice Brothers album, Discover a Lovelier You. It is a revelation. That's all I got right now. Check back soon for an extended treatise defending one of our nation's storytellers who I feel doesn't get a fair shake from our generation. Till then, my lovelies, sleep tight.
P.S. Check out my buddy Brad's blog. He's getting to be pretty hot stuff in the world of liberal blogging. Who knew there was such a world?

Friday, July 01, 2005


All right all you bitchez who been makin' smartass comments about me stoppin' my blizog! Step the fuck off, yo!! Yeah, it been a while, a'ite, I'll admit that. But callin' me by ladies' names? Rollin' up into my corner of the info'mashun supadupahighway an' spreadin' yo hate all across my shit? Dat shit is unakseptibul. So here we go....
Okay, this will take forever if I continue to write like that, so I'll switch back to my normal style. In way of an explanation: I had this great blog entry worked out detailing my adventures on Memorial Day weekend at the beach music festival in Manteo. I don't quite know how I ended up there, but there I was, and it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. Drunken white folks trying to dance is neat. So I had this whole expose planned, but as all of you fellow bloggers know, pictures can be a bitch sometimes to put up. So I kept putting it off and putting it off, and then my personal life got thrown into turmoil, and the blog just fell by the wayside. But now I'm back, and hopefully I will keep this party going this time.
Now for what has been happening to me. First the non-heavy stuff. My friend Brad now has his own blog which is a revelation to us all. Brad is a ridiculously intelligent uber-liberal living in Philadelphia with whom I raised all kinds of hell in high school. And he knows all the best spots for cheap Russian mp3's!
I also have managed to find an apartment! I will be moving in at the end of July, and I am quite excited about it. As soon as I get over there to begin chronicling the renovation I will post the pictures.
Cynthia and Kyle and I also went to Bonnaroo in early June, and it was such a blast! I also have a few pictures from that that I will share with all you crazy bloggers soon.
Now on to the heavier news. I turned 26. And that sucks a little worse than 25. And a few days before I turned 26, Cynthia and I decided to break up. It was a hard decision, but we both think it's the best one for right now, mainly because as soon as we decided to break up we were able to talk to each other more freely than we had in at least a month. So it sucks that it happened, but it's going to be a good thing that it did.
Well, I have to prepare for company now, so I must leave you. But I will be back very very soon! Much peace and respec', yo!