Monday, August 01, 2011

Click A Link, Win a Prize!

The prize you win is a brand spankin' new story I wrote and submitted to an online literary magazine called Forty Ounce Bachelors.

Actually, you win the entire online literary magazine. Poke around the August 2011 issue (Volume 1, Issue 3) and read the other offerings. But when you get to the fiction section, there I am!


For those of you who don't have time to poke around, here's the direct link to my story.


If you listen close, you can hear "Me and Julio Down by the School Yard"

Monday, July 11, 2011

A St. Louis Institution You've Probably Never Heard of Is Dead

Imagine, if you will, a bright-eyed and innocent eleven year old boy, awkwardly tall and skinny, with longish brown hair and a style one would equate with a person who was trying their best to be a hippie even though they didn't quite know what a hippie was or what they really looked like. That boy you are imagining is me, and I want you to imagine me as this boy on an unseasonably warm mid-February morning in 1994. Got it? Good.

I was in fifth grade at the time, a student in Mrs. Sach's class on the third floor of Avery Elementary, and Miss Payne, our music instructor, had just given us the information we needed to be ready to take our music placement tests for our pending transfer to Steger Sixth Grade Center, where we would either choose choir or band. For those of us making the smart decision to choose band, the placement test would determine whether or not we got our first, second or third choice of instrument or, failing that, if we would be assigned the flute. I knew that I wanted to play Trumpet. My older sister played saxophone and, being that as I understood brass players to be the rivals of woodwinds, and being that I wanted to remain my sister's rival because, at the time, I was eleven and she was 14 and we were required by the laws of nature to hate each other[citation needed], I knew I was making the right choice.

My father, a percussionist, drummer and high school band director in his own right, was heavily involved in my decision making process, in that he asked me which instrument I wanted to play and told me exactly what kind of trumpet I should rent to start out with and what kind he hoped he could buy me when I was older and could play really well. So before the placement test even happened, Dad announced he would take me to Mel Bay Music Center to rent me a trumpet, so I could get a jump start on the other kids. "But first," he told me on this particularly warm Saturday in February of 1994, "I have to run to the drum shop."

I had probably been in the drum shop before, I'm sure. My father used to go there all the time for drum heads, new sticks, marimba mallets, etc. I am almost positive that I'd been in there with him a few times. But something happened this time.

We walked into Drum Headquarters on Manchester Road and I stood stock still. Everywhere I looked, light glinted off of finished woods painted in the full spectrum of colors. To my right, cymbals shimmered golden under overhead spotlights. Men and boys were banging on drums and cymbals everywhere. Banging on them with sticks. I knew my dad played drums; I'd seen them in the basement. I'd seen him play dozens if not hundreds of concerts with a myriad of bands across every style of music conceivable. I had sat at my father's drum set, picked up sticks, and hit everything in sight with a fury unmatched by primal man in his day. I knew of this world, but when I walked into it that day, I discovered that I wanted to belong. My father found me hours later salivating under a Zildjian Paper Thin Crash. "Come on, we're picking you up a trumpet," he said, recognizing with fear the gleam in my eye. "How about," I said, "instead, I just get...a pair of...drumsticks...?" We never made it to the other store and I never learned how to play trumpet.

That was the magic of Drum Headquarters. Every time I entered the store, somebody was trying out a new snare drum or whacking a cymbal. Somewhere in the back a drum lesson was going on. A television mounted above the display models of top-of-the-line sets was always playing a video of Buddy Rich, Gene Krupa, Papa Jo Jones, Max Roach. The place was staffed by drummers who played out, who knew about the latest technological advances in bass drum pedal technology. It was noisy and colorful and wonderful every time you stepped in.

Throughout my teenage years, I was in the store at least once a week, picking up new sticks or new drum heads or scoping out a new hi-hat set. Birthdays and Christmases always provided DHQ gift certificates. I drooled over the Yamaha Stage Custom until I saw the Tama Swingstar, which I drooled over until the Rockstar came in, and then I couldn't decide and drooled over all three. I ended up with the Stage Custom but got to play a Swingstar in my high school Jazz Band. I only ever bought one piece of equipment from a store other than DHQ, and the experience made me never want to shop anywhere else but DHQ for my percussion needs.

Sadly, as I grew up and abandoned serious playing in favor of more casual musicianship, my visits became increasingly infrequent. In fact, the last time I was in there was probably two years ago, buying a new pair of drum sticks. I still felt that tingle, that excitement running through me. Being able not only to see the newest drums, but to feel them, run my fingers over the finish, give them each a good thwack if I feel like it; there's nothing like it.

This message was posted on the Drum Headquarters website last week:

Customers, friends and colleagues,

I regret to inform you that effective Thursday, July 7, Drum Headquarters is closed for business. These are difficult times for specialized retailers and of course, Drum Headquarters is no exception. Since purchasing the business in 2005, a perfect storm of events including epic negative economic conditions and the accelerating changes brought on by technology have produced a wave of challenges bigger than I could withstand. I've been a part of Drum Headquarters since 1983, so this is not an easy announcement to make. But, I've done everything in my power to keep the doors of Drum Headquarters open and it is no longer possible.

Customers with unfinished business will be contacted directly.

The Lesson program will continue through the month of July. You will be contacted with instructions by your teacher.

THERE IS NO LIQUIDATION SALE SCHEDULED AT THIS TIME. Please continue to monitor for updates.

You can communicate with us via email at

Thank you for 30 years of support, fun and friendship.

Jim Uding

We all know the economy is bad, but there are other factors alluded to. The growing technology changes, for instance, refer to the Internet. Look, I love the Internet. I am no Luddite when it comes to eCommerce. I get it; it's easier to purchase some things online. I will even admit, though I hate to, that buying books and music and movies online is not only cheaper but is often easier than going to a brick and mortar store, especially an independent one like the ones I frequent. But there are some things that just should NOT be purchased online. Like musical instruments. Even five hundred identical snare drums rolling off an assembly line will each sound slightly different. And without going to a store, how do you know what a certain drum (cymbal/guitar/trumpet/saxophone/violin/flute/oboe/mandolin etc) is supposed to sound like (this is something booksellers are complaining about, too, in that customers come to a brick and mortar store to look at a book and then purchase it online from Amazon, sometimes right there in the store with an iPhone)?

Since DHQ is now closed, there are only three or four places drummers can go to pick up a new set in the area: Fred Pierce's Drum Studio, a shop much like DHQ; Mozingo's Music, a more general shop that doesn't just specialize in drums; Guitar Center (a place I only have bad things to say about); and a Best Buy with the instrument shop (meh). Only a few years ago, we also had McMurray Music Center, which was the kind of independent shop Guitar Center is modeled on and which, sadly, became a Guitar Center. As these specialty shops disappear, they get replaced with stores who deal in volume sales. Sure, they're cheaper, but the staff are less knowledgeable, less helpful and less permanent. The guy behind the counter that day in 1994 was Jim, the man who purchased the shop six years ago and who had to shut down last week. Other staff members may have come and gone over the years, but they did so slowly, and almost always left for jobs in the music industry. These specialty shops are staffed by passionate professionals who really know what they're doing. And they're disappearing faster than we can blog about them.

Thank you, Drum Headquarters, for changing my life and helping me share one of my passions for many years. You will be missed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

To Do:

1. Update blog.

2. Continue to update blog.

3. Post a cute picture to lure readers back to my blog.

4. Write every day.

I can check numbers 1 and 3 off my list.

Juliette finds Amethyst; film at 11

Monday, May 09, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day 30 - Your Favorite Song at This Time Last Year

Without a doubt, the album I was driving Kathy crazy with at this time last year was my still recently acquired copy of the eponymous debut from Broken Bells. And if there's one track on that album I listened to repeatedly, it was the album's closing track.

So, I end my 30 Day Song Challenge with my favorite closing track of 2010, off my second favorite album of 2010. The band is Broken Bells, the album is Broken Bells and the song is "The Mall and Misery." My favorite track by far, parts of it feel like it could have emerged from a band like Tears for Fears in the 80's-but without the mullets and sweaters-and other parts feel more contemporary. And feel how instead of fading or ending it just kind of vanishes at the end. Ah! Enjoy.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Nine - A Song From Your Childhood

Hanging out and listening to music with my parents wasn't all childhood misogyny; many of my best memories include listening to music. And in accordance with it being Mother's Day and all, I'd like to say Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my wife, my grandma, my mother-in-law, my sister, and all the other moms out there. Seriously, Moms do good work.

Also in accordance with Mother's Day, and to refute the idea that all of my word and song associations which go with my mother relate through the lens of guilt, here's a bit of pure enjoyment I can recall: My mother, upon receiving a CD copy of this album, listened to it start to finish while singing along and dancing through the house. Especially vivid is the final track to this album, so that is what I'm picking.

The band is The Moody Blues, the album is Days of Future Passed and the song is "Nights in White Satin" so sit back, revel in the amazing prog-rockness of it all, and enjoy.

Other finalists: "Tuesday Afternoon" from the same album, "Little Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham and the Pharohs and pretty much anything off of Weird Al Yankovic's Dare to Be Stupid.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Eight - A Song That Makes You Feel Guilty

So, for years as a child I would bristle whenever I heard a woman singing a song on the radio. I would also call my mom out for singing along with a song if it was being sung by a guy. "Mom, that's a man singing, it's not supposed to be sung by a girl. I'm sure my mother was none too pleased about this. She probably feared I'd turn into some chauvinistic asshole who belittles his wife and crushes beer cans on his head. But I eventually got over it and plus, beer is meant to be consumed from special glasses which provide adequate surface area on which bubbles can form and proportioned openings so the aroma of the beer can fully penetrate your nasal passages while you drink. Duh. Pfft, cans.

Anyway, I got over it. I let my mother sing along with the radio. I even learned to love Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks, Janice Joplin and from them decided that some woman definitely know how to rock.

But every time I listen to a song sung by a female voice, I feel guilty about my preadolescent sexism. So today, you get to hear a song from kind of a super group of 90's girl band stars.

The band is Wild Flag, and the track is from the Future Crimes/Glass Tambourines 7" (released on Record Store Day 2011) and it's called "Future Crimes." And I hope you enjoy it. (my options for the video were this weird photo tribute or live videos with sub-par sound, so I chose audio quality)

Friday, May 06, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Seven - A Song That You Wish You Could Play

Every one. Every single song ever.

Maybe not...there's a lot of crap.

This song is from a band called The Slip, off their album Eisenhower which has the most unfortunate opening track ever, "The Children of December," which upon hearing I had to fight the urge to write off the entire rest of the record. But I had heard "Even Rats" on NPR's World Cafe so I knew there was likely to be at least one other gem. And I was right. The song in question is called "Airplane/Primitive" and the only reason I can't play it is because I've never actually tried to figure it out. One of these days, I will. I mean, come on, I can play "Stairway to Heaven" and I can stumble through "Dust in the Wind," I should be able to figure this one out. Right?

Thursday, May 05, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Six - A Song That You Can Play on An Instrument

For the record, instruments I can play in descending order of proficiency (not counting various tiny percussion toys): Drums, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard percussion (marimba, vibraphone, xylophone), harmonica, piano (very small amount of those last two).

Instruments on which I can play the forthcoming tune: Drums, guitar (but not the solo), bass.

I also have been known to sing occasionally, and singers often call their voice their "instrument." As for the song, I will only give one line of introduction.

This is a song about hope.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Five - A Song That Makes You Laugh

For the last verse especially, this song makes me chuckle.

The song is by Nerf Herder, off their 1996 self titled album, and the song is "Van Halen."

"Is this what you wanted?/Sammy Hagar?/Sammy Hagar/Is this what you wanted man?/Dave lost his hairline/But you lost your cool, buddy/Can't drive fifty-five/I'll never buy your lousy records again."

Also, happy Star Wars Day. May the 4th Be With You. Awesome how today coincided with day 25 of the challenge and I happened to pick a band whose name is inspired by a line from Star Wars.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Four - A Song That You Want to Play At Your Funeral

The syntax is all wrong. "A song that you want to play at your funeral." First off, I'll have nothing to do with any songs being played at my funeral. I'll be dead. Second off, I always think of a second thing to add to a list.

The year is 1970. The band is The Beatles. The song is "Let it Be" off of the aptly titled Let it Be. Please remember, everyone, that this was their last studio album. And possibly my favorite. Better than the White album, even. And, my daughter once fell asleep in my arms as I sang this song to her. My heart melted kind of a lot.

Monday, May 02, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Three - A Song That You Want To Play At Your Wedding

Considering I'm already married, I probably don't need to pick a new song.

Amongst the number of songs that were played at our wedding, our first dance as a couple was to Rod Stewart's version of "That's All" but my favorite bit of the dance was the last of the "wedding party" dances during which we invited everyone to dance.

Bobby Darin singing "Beyond the Sea." Because we're just awesome and classic like that.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty Two - A Song That You Listen To When You're Sad

Just listen to it. It's by The Antlers, off their 2009 debut Hospice. It's called "Kettering" and it's indicative of the entire amazing album.

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty One - A Song That You Listen to When You're Happy

Again, skipped a day. My bad.

I just like listening to music when I'm happy, any music. But I guess I have to come up with something, huh?

Alright then, I chose a song off Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' 2009 album Up From Below which I'm sure you've heard in six hundred car commercials, two dozen sitcoms and a limitless number of trailers for Indie films. It's called "Home" and it's a pretty positive and happy tune.

Best use of this song ever found here:

Friday, April 29, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twenty - A Song That You Listen To When You're Angry

Oh. My. Hm. I tend to, um, well...?

I just flipped through my iPod and pretended I was pissed off and stopped at the first song I would want to listen to, which just happens to be "How Soon is Now?" from 1985's Meat is Murder by The Smiths. So that's my answer this time. And you get the full nearly seven minute version, especially for readers of the blog!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

30 Day song Challenge Day Nineteen - A Song From Your Favorite Album

Okay, so I was trying really hard not to repeat any albums or even any bands. But, I've already played a song off my current favorite album, a song off my favorite album from last year, and my all time favorite album from my all time favorite band.

So instead, you're getting a song from my second-favorite album of the moment. It's called "Down By the Water" off The Decemberists' 2011 release The King is Dead. I think it's awesome and also kind of sounds like "The One I Love" from R.E.M.'s 1987 release Document.

You be the judge:

30 Day Song Challenge Day Eighteen - A Song That You Wish You Heard on The Radio

Woops, skipped a day. My bad.

Today's song is a brand new song, which is on an album that hasn't been released yet. But that's not why it's not on the radio. It's not on the radio because radio stations tend to not play music from this band, leastways not traditional commercial radio stations.

The song is called "Helplessness Blues" and it's off the upcoming Fleet Foxes album Helplessness Blues.

Also good for day four, a song that makes you sad. Also good for day 3, a song that makes you happy.

Seriously, I cried once today while listening to this song, and smiled all the way through it another time. But today was kind of a hard day. see here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Seventeen - A Song That You Hear Often on the Radio

This one was really hard.

And I don't fully understand the visuals in this video.

NPR's "All Things Considered" Theme Music, engage!

Monday, April 25, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Sixteen - A Song That You Used to Love But Now Hate

In 1995, I guess I was entering my "rebellious" phase, though I recently discovered that I wasn't so much rebelling as going through the acts of rebellion, because my parents weren't the type of parents that required rebellion. They were/are pretty awesome parents. I guess I just wanted them to set boundaries so I could push them. Anyway, I got into the band Everclear and in particular, their album Sparkle and Fade. I listened to the CD for something like four months straight.

As I got older, I stopped listening to it and then one day, I think just before college, I did a purge of my CD collection and sold a handful of discs to a used record shop (probably Vintage Vinyl as that was my store of choice in those days), including that Everclear CD. I had listened to each and every one of the CDs I had and I remember very definitely throwing this one in the "get rid of this crap" pile.

Actually, listening to it just now, I can say that while it's not a very good song, it's not a particularly terrible song, so maybe I just negated the whole "pick a song you used to love but now hate" but please let it be known that at one time I loved this song, then I hated it, and now I sort of listen to it with a hint of nostalgia and just a whiff of "what was I thinking?"

The song is "Strawberry" off Everclear's 1995 release Sparkle and Fade. I'ma go demand my parents set a curfew now, just so I can rebelliously break it by at least two hours.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Fifteen - A Song That Describes You

What follows is a transcript of the conversation preceding this post.

Elliot: Day fifteen, a song that describes me. Kathy?

Kathy: (with a pen between her teeth) "Teach me Tiger."

Elliot: about another one.

Kathy: ...

Elliot: Okay, if they have it on youtube, I'll post it.

By April Stevens, released in 1959 as a single.

I...don't know, readers. I just...don't...know.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Fourteen - A Song That No One Would Expect You to Love

Types of songs I hate:

Anything by Nicklecrack/Creed/any one of a dozen carbon copy bands; way-too-twangy country; manufactured corporate pop; the specific type of country song where the guy sings about how his woman done left him and took the dog and he's got tears in his eyes.

The exception: The Reverend Horton Heat, 1999, "Where In The Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush?" from Holy Roller.

Friday, April 22, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Thirteen - A Song That Is a Guilty Pleasure

The fact that I like the original song is a guilty enough pleasure, but I get so much enjoyment out of the Literal Video version of Tears For Fears' "Head Over Heels" off their 1985 Release Songs From the Big Chair.

"Now the rabbi's walking right behind me/I don't know why he is following me/maybe he wants this book?"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Twelve - A Song From A Band You Hate

Ugh. Don't care what album it's from. And you can figure it out. That's how much I hate this band.

FYI Nicklecrack: Doctor Hook and the Medicine Show did it way better:

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Eleven - A Song From Your Favorite Band

No. Brainer.

The first track off their first full length, I give you "Seven" by Sunny Day Real Estate, from Diary, 1994.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Ten - A Song That Makes You Fall Asleep

We had this on a Walt Disney Lullabies Volume II VHS tape when I was growing up. It's from the Disney Short "A Cowboy Needs a Horse" and is called, aptly, "A Cowboy Needs a Horse." Starts at about the :30 mark.

Monday, April 18, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Nine - A Song That You Can Dance To

This video kind of gives me the creeps. Why is this old dude filming this young dude dancing like Michael Jackson? WHY? The Band is Peter, Bjorn & John, the album is 2009's Living Thing and the song is "It Don't Move Me."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Eight - A Song That You Know All the Words To

The song is called "Darling Buds of May" and it's by a band from Slough, England who go by the name of Brother. And it's awesome.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Seven - A Song That Reminds You of a Certain Event

Spring 1999, Sunny Day Real Estate is on their How It Feels to Be Something On tour. They stop at Mississippi Nights on Laclede's Landing. I pressed my parental units to let me go, even though I was 16 and it was a Tuesday or Wednesday night. It's a testament to the type of relationship we had, that my parents allowed me to go; we talked about how much I loved Sunny Day Real Estate, and since I never tried to hide my music from my parents (I used to make them listen to it with me, and they often and still do like some of what I play for them), so I got to go. I saved enough money for tickets, a T-shirt, and I had enough to buy CDs from the opening bands in case I wanted them, or maybe another T-shirt. I had never heard of either of the opening bands.

The first was a group called MK Ultra, and I liked them enough to buy their latest CD (it came with a free poster, too!) and then I stepped into the restroom. I peed next to this really really tall dude, and that says something coming from me. I had to look up to see him. As we washed our hands, I asked him if he liked the first band. He said yes. I asked him if he had heard of the second band, and he said no. I said I hoped they were good, and he said he hoped so, too. So I get back out and work my way up front, and the second band gets up and plays this tune, and they blow my freaking mind away, especially the drummer. After their show, I ran up to the merch table and bought their record (they were out of CDs, and it was either a record then or pay for a CD and they'd mail it to me, I didn't trust that).

The most amazing part? THE TALL DUDE WAS THE DRUMMER.

The tune is called "Crystals" and it's off the self-titled release by Heroic Doses.

Friday, April 15, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Six - A Song that Reminds You of Somewhere

Remember that time we were in Boston, and we were driving down the Mass Pike listening to The Get Up Kids? And we were listening to the Red Letter Day EP, and there we were on the Mass Pike, and Zach was driving Martha's parents' van, and Martha was in the front seat having recently recovered from a second bout with a brain tumor, and we we were coming back from the beach where Zach's brother Fitz had gotten in a really funny jab at the other Elliot, and then the song "Mass Pike" came on, and we all sang it at the top of our lungs? That was abso-freaking-lutely aMAzing.

True story.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Five - A Song that Reminds You of Someone

This song will always and forever remind me of my daughter, Juliette, for the line at the 2:44 mark.

I've already shared this song on the blog, but here it is again because I will never get tired of it. The title track of last year's Grammy winning The Suburbs by indie rock giants Arcade Fire.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Four - A Song that Makes You Sad

Last year, before South by Southwest, NPR Music released a free sampler of music which included one song from each of the bands booked for their showcase at the festival. Among them was a song I had heard once before and had thought it was rather catchy, in a "Oh, neat melody and good harmony along with standard broken-hearted boy wants girl to love him lyrics." So, you know, good, but not great.

How wrong I was. I got the sampler and listened to the song and noticed...something. Something in the lyrics, so I listened to it again. And again. And again and again and again. I made Kathy listen to it, and she heard it the first time.

The song is called "Airplanes" and it's off 2010's Gorilla Manor, the debut album of a band called Local Natives. There is an official video posted on Youtube, but I want you to listen to this unfettered, and I want you to focus on the lyrics. And tell me if you get it, and tell me if you can see why this song makes me sad.

Official Video Here

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Three - A Song That Makes You Happy

I won't give you a whole list of what it could be but isn't today. Instead, I'll just give you one lyric from the song: "I'm So Happy Got Me Singin' La La La." How can you not love a lyric like that? Well, I guess it depends on the band that's singing it. Like, if it were some angst-ridden suburban white boy garage band singing it with mountains upon mountains of irony, then no, it would probably not be worth liking.

But this is by Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three. It's off their 2009 release Riverboat Soul which, by the way, just won Best Americana Album at the Independent Music Awards and it's called "La La Blues."

Check them out soon at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert Series which they played today, April 12, 2011. The video should be available by sometime next week I would guess...

***Editor's Note: Yes, there might a bit of nepotism going on here. My cousin is the harmonica player in this group, but that doesn't negate my choice. They are getting tremendous national and international buzz and just released a 7" on Jack White's Third Man Records. So my shameless plugging of family is justified on this occasion.

Happy Yuri's Night

50 Years ago today, a Soviet Cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth in a spacecraft. Today, we remember him not as a Soviet but as a citizen of the world.

For more info:

Yuri Gagarin on Wikipedia
Vostok-1, the spacecraft that took Yuri to space.
Yuri's Night

Monday, April 11, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day Two - Your Least Favorite Song

It could have been "How Far is Heaven" by Los Lonely Boys, a song famous in my household for an incident in which I vehemently changed the radio station while driving, sparking a spirited and lively debate between my wife in the passenger seat and myself. But it's not that.

Could be that terrible "Friday" song by Rebecca Black, but I don't blame her for its terribleness. She didn't write it, she just recorded it, so the blame goes squarely on the idiot who thought "Tomorrow is Saturday and afterwards comes Sunday" would ever be a good lyric. So it's not that.

It could be "Hot Dog" off of Led Zeppelin's In Through the Out Door, a song made worse by the fact that it's a terrible song by an awesome band on an otherwise good album. But not this time.

It could be any number of songs from the likes of that king of Twitter, he-who-shall-not-be-named (his initials are J.B. and Dwight from The Office thinks he's a crime fighting beaver), or some of the other terrible pop-music-factory cookie-cutter songs released since the invention of pop music (because let's not be too rosy-eyed nostalgic, crappy music came about only slightly after the invention of music itself), but it's not.

It's not even some angsty corporate "emo" like Panic! At the Disco or anything like that.

Nope, the song I picked is truly terrible because NOBODY who likes it seems to have paid any attention to the lyrics, and because of that we have all been subjected to it across various radio-station platforms from contemporary to top 40 to classic rock for the past thirty years.

But first, let me run something by you; it's a story I'm working on. The story is that this guy is in a relationship, and he is bored with the girl he's dating. Rather than talk to her about his problems, or even man up and just break the relationship off, he answers out a sleazy personal ad in the paper. He agrees to meet this new girl at a bar. When he gets there, he discovers that the person who responded to his ad is the girl he is already dating. What's more, she responded to the ad because she was bored with the relationship, and rather than talk to him about her problems or even woman up and just break the relationship off, she took out a sleazy personal ad in the paper. When this discovery is made, they just laugh about it and go off on a wild romantic getaway and have crazy rainy beach sex for a week.

The problem I'm running into here, and I'm sure you'll agree, is that I'm having a hard time making either of these characters likable. The guy is clearly an asshole for planning to cheat, but then the girl is also. They push each other away because they don't communicate. Also, at the end, neither of them is mad that the other one was planning to cheat. My thought is that this sows the seeds for both of them to cheat later, and that they've convinced themselves that it's okay because the other was planning infidelity anyway.

What, you want me to actually reveal the song.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge Day One - Your Favorite Song

So I heard about this thing that's happening on Facebook called the "30 Day Song Challenge" which is basically one of those internet meme things that gets you to post for 30 days straight on the same topic and, since it's been over thirty days since I've posted, I figured maybe I'd do that here instead of on Facebook, give you all something to look forward to every day. So here goes.

Day 1: Your Favorite Song

This is always a loaded thing for me. I don't really have a "Favorite Song" per se, as it changes all the time. Looking at the rest of the 30 day list, I can rule out a couple of my favorite songs because I can use them for later things very easily.

So instead, I'm going to share my favorite song that has been released so far in 2011. Again, even this is a toss-up. There have already been quite a few I've been really into, including "Darling Buds of May" by the band Brother (my current ear worm), "The Bizness" by (it kills me to have to type like this) tUnE-yArDs off the upcoming album W H O K I L L, "What I Must've Done" by The Rum Drum Ramblers off Mean Scene, not to mention any number of tracks off of Bright Eyes' The People's Key or The Decemberists' The King is Dead or "Second Chance" off Gimme Some by Peter, Bjorn and John. And now you've got tons to check out, right? Sweet.

But no, for this I've picked my favorite off 100 Lovers, the new album by gypsy-punk rockers/mariachi-rockers/indie-rockers DeVotchKa. The song is called "All the Sand in All The Sea" and it's got everything I love about this band. Give it a listen.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Review: Bambi, or, The Circle of Life pt. 1

After the relative success of Dumbo, Disney decided to stick with cute animals with 1943's Bambi and, in the process, broke the hearts of several generations of children.

Based on the novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Austrian Felix Salten, Disney began work on this project after the completion of Snow White. The project was postponed for several reasons; at first, Walt's insistence that the animation be more realistic pushed production back, and then he pulled animators off the project to work on Fantasia. But the project remained in progress from 1938 onward. When Dumbo was completed the studio turned their attention back to Bambi with earnest. Character animators spent days studying live forest animals so they could accurately capture their movements (which slowed the animation process down considerably) while background artists traveled to the forests of Maine and Vermont to help fully realize the setting.

The film was released at a terrible time, though. The European markets were all but closed due to the war, and many viewers were put off by the realistic animation and the depiction of man within the film. This, of course, meant that as far as financially successful films go, only two of the first five Disney Animated Features qualified after their original release. In 1947, Bambi was re-released, and turned a tidy profit. Critics have shown general praise for it, as well. And children everywhere cry about it all the time.

The original book, of course, as more to it than we get in the film, but the differences are actually fairly minor so I won't go into them. Let's just jump right on into the rest of the review.

The visuals in this film are stunning; the multiplane camera work on the backgrounds is astounding while the animals look amazingly realistic when compared to what had been seen in the past. And the story has its cute moments for sure; Bambi learning to walk, to talk, to slide around on ice, exploring the world around him, it's all fun. I can remember as a child watching the "Hey ma! What's all of that white stuff?" scene over and over.

I'm o.k., I'm all write: Charlie Sheen Free Since About Two Seconds Ago

But let me get down to my real gut feeling of this film; there is a sleeper villain nobody ever talks about and it bothers me.

The villain is "Man," I totally get it. Man is in the forest, which makes it dangerous for Bambi and his mother to be on the meadow. Man even (spoiler alert) kills Bambi's mother in the middle of winter, leaving poor Bambi frightened and alone. Man employs these really evil looking dogs to go after the forest animals and then burns the entire forest down. Man is evil.

Actually, let's talk about how effective this villain is. You never see any men. They are represented by the cawing of crows, gunshots, smoke, fire, and a pack of dogs. The dogs are probably the scariest of all; we've spent the entire movie feeling an emotional connection to these incredibly realistic animals and then they're being attacked by dogs, which is an animal we as a species have a generally pleasant feeling about. This is how this film gets you: the forest animals are very accurately detailed with the exception of their eyes. Their eyes are very human looking, all of them. The dogs, on the other hand (which we are used to seeing in animated films as friendly characters with anthropomorphic traits and human-like eyes) have scary, black and white beady animal eyes. It only would have been worse if the eyes had been blood red. The effect you get is that here is graphic animal-on-animal violence, and these dogs have clearly been brainwashed by evil man to do their evil bidding in an evil manner.

There is a great disturbance in the Forest

So we can all agree man creepy, dogs creepier. Good.

The sleeper villain of which I speak is none other than the good Prince of the Forest, AKA Bambi's absentee father. Look, I get that authentically, White Tail Deer bucks do not stick around and help raise the kids. I get it. But he could have at least shown some interest, yeah? He basically watched from on high while Bambi came into the world, then disappeared until one day Bambi saw him on the meadow. He doesn't even know it's his father, he just sees him and everybody else gets silent and reverent. His own mother doesn't even tell him, presumably on the orders of the Prince himself I guess. He didn't want it to be known. And then, when mom gets capped, Dad's all of a sudden got to take charge. And talk about a lack of tact. "Your mother can't be with you anymore," he says. "Come with me." Really? No further explanation. That bodes real well for your parenting skills, buddy. Your child definitely won't turn out to be conflicted or a drug addict or anything.

...good, Charlie Sheen didn't pop up again.

Especially now that I am a father, I have a hard time getting over this whole father-son relationship that happens in this movie. From what we see, they have four interactions; once on the meadow, once when Mom dies, at the very end when the two of them overlook the birth of Bambi's two children, and then once before this when Bambi has been shot. Again, no sympathy, his father just says, "Get up, Bambi." Like, come on dad, I've kind of been shot here? Also, why weren't you there, huh? When I was born? You could have stopped mom from naming me Bambi. Seriously, I feel like the Boy Named Sue here.

I understand that this all has to do with realism; Bucks don't take part in child rearing, that's fine, but you have some creative license here; it's an animated film in which animals speak English. And I mean, across species lines. That's pretty intense stepping outside the reality box. Why can't we have a little more fatherly involvement, hmm?

Also, Disney writers seemed to have forgotten this film existed for a time. What do I mean, you may ask? I'll tell you: this film opens with all the animals in a "kingdom" rushing to see the newborn prince. They get there and pay their respects. The prince then begins having childhood adventures, but before he can grow up and lead a normal royal animal life, he endures the loss of a parent and has to deal with those emotions. He then, in the course of growing up and finding himself, falls in love with a childhood friend, confronts a danger that threatens the very existence of his Kingdom, and then at the end, he takes his rightful place and watches over all the Kingdom's animals pay their respects to his newborn child.

It's the Circle of Life, and it Moves us All.

But that's a review for another day.


Once again, I visited the Wikipedia Entry for this film. And, once again, their reputation isn't always solid as a rock.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Group of Peers

My writing group met tonight at our dive bar. It's interesting to go there for a couple reasons; first off, I'm not using hyperbole when I tell you it's a dive bar; it's kind of a dive. It's moodily lit and there are regulars who languish at the bar and they've had the same wait staff for years and years. I've been going semi-regularly since about 2007, when I started going with a group of classmates from college. And that's why I've been going with recently. The difference is that we used to have a writing workshop and then go to our dive bar to relax, and now we go to our dive bar to have our workshop.

It's great to be doing this; once a month we meet up and workshop a short story (or last month, we workshopped the first twenty pages and a summary of the rest of my novel) and catch up. It keeps us all motivated to continue writing and reading and thinking critically.

Only, tonight, I got home from work late and Kathy had a wonderful dinner on the table. I had enough time to say hello, grab some stuff, and say goodbye before workshop. Life's sometimes like that, I guess.

This post is so unfocused because my brain hurts.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Short Story March: Day Four

A Children's Story about Ribs

Little Junior Colin Tibbs was very good at telling fibs.
His father, Senior Colin Tibbs, was very good at cooking ribs.
Cooked in sauce, cooked with smoke, rubbed with spice, and it's no joke;
Everyone for miles and miles came to Senior Tibbs' with smiles.

One day, Junior Colin Tibbs told the fibbiest of fibs;
The older Senior Colin's Ribs, were central to this massive fib.
"My father's cooking up some beans, the likes of which, you've never seens,
And ribs, of course, he's cooking, too, enough for you and you and you."

And people all throughout the town, got in their cars and drove on down
In front of Tibbs' house they planned to meet, to head 'round back and start to eat.
When Senior Tibbs saw the growing crowd, he looked and looked and looked around
For Junior Tibbs, who at that time, was hiding silent as a mime.

Tibbs went out front to address the crowd (who by this time had grown quite loud)
"My friends," he cried, "you've been deceived, there are no ribs you will receive."
Then one by one, the crowd grew mad, and shouted at the Junior's Dad
"Your son made promises, now, Tibbs; you'd better feed us all those ribs!"

From where he hid, the Junior one, laughed at this game, and thought it fun!
But the older Tibbs, on his front stoop, stood and let his shoulders droop;
In his garage, in his deep freeze, he had the meat to meet their needs
But not for a mob with appetites hardy; they were for next month's big block party!

"Make with the ribs!" some folks did cry, "It's almost noon, the sun is high!"
"It's dinner time," another said, a man with a knit cap on his head.
"We've come prepared," a neighbor chimed in, "to do otherwise would be a sin!"
"I've brought some slaw, I've brought some beans! And frank has got a new machine!"

"A device," said Frank, "that is supreme; it makes four kinds of cold ice cream!"
"And I've brought games!" said Mister Cruz. "Bocce ball, Frisbees, and horse shoes!"
And Senior Tibbs was quite impressed, he was no longer in distress!
"I've got the ribs, so come on back! I'll start by cooking up a rack!"

A picnic day, the neighbors had, hosted by young Junior's dad!
They played some games, they cooked the ribs, prepared by Senior Colin Tibbs!
But Junior Tibbs was not around, and none knew where he could be found.
When Senior Tibbs announced the feast, Junior felt an awful beast.

He knew his father had been saving (all the while the neighbors craving)
The ribs for that big special day, the one which comes at end of May.
And Junior knew his father's mood was likely soon to come to brood.
So Junior hid in his bedroom, and settled into quite a gloom.

At his door there came a knock, at quite precisely six o'clock.
It was his father, Senior Tibbs, with a heaping plate of slaw and ribs
And beans and chips and cookies, too; and Junior knew not what to do.
"I made this plate for you," dad said, "What are you doing there in bed?"

"Oh Daddy!" Junior Tibbs cried out, "I've been so bad!" he began to pout.
"I lied and told them all to come, I thought it would be such great fun!"
"And now," he said, "your big big plans have all come to such tragic ends!"
"I'm sorry, Dad, that's how I feel; you must think that I'm quite a heel."

"But Son," said dad, "while it is true this is not what I planned to do,
We're having fun, we're playing games! The new neighbors are learning names!"
He hugged his son and hugged him tight and said to him "It's quite all right."
"You should not lie, please know this, son. But really, this is lots of fun!"

"Come down and out, please join the crowd! Run and play and shout out loud!"
"And eat some ribs?" asked Junior Tibbs. "Of course," said Senior, "eat some ribs!"
"And eat some slaw! And chips and cake! There are a dozen mom did bake,
Plus all the others neighbors brought, come have a look, there's quite a lot!"

And so the two Tibbs boys went down to join the rest of the happy town.
They talked, and ate, and had a blast, like none had seen in days gone past!
And Junior Tibbs, well, he learned a lot about what he should say, and what he should not.
And punishment? Well, when all had supped...Junior Tibbs was there to clean it all up.


Yeah, okay, so, I don't know how well I can keep this up. Maybe a short story a day is a little ambitious when I am writing for three blogs, trying to complete a first draft of a novel by the end of the month, working full time, and being a husband/father. So maybe Short Story March lasted all of four days...

But I promise to try and blog every week day, even if it's just a little bit.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Short Story March: Day Three

The Sewer Lien: An Epistolary Tale


The Municipal Wastewater Board
23 Water Street

Dear Occupant,

Your account shows an unpaid balance for calender years 2001-2005. As of this time, we are owed $475 for services rendered. If this matter remains unsettled past January 31st of this year, a lien will be placed on your property for the unpaid amount plus late penalties.

If you feel our records are in error, please contact us immediately at the number on your quarterly bill. You can also reach us on the web at Have your seven digit account number ready when contacting our offices.

Thank You,

Alan Durst
Vice Executive Director
Municipal Wastewater Board


427 Paper Street

Dear Mr. Durst,

I am writing in response to your letter of 1/16/2006. I have made repeated attempts to contact your offices to clear up this matter, but nobody has returned my numerous phone calls. Your website shows it has not been updated since November 21st of 1999, as evidenced by the animated construction worker .gif. I can only assume this will find you, as you have had no trouble receiving and processing the checks I have sent you on a quarterly basis since the second quarter of 1994, when I purchased this home.

Attached, you will find photocopies of several bank statements and cancelled checks. I have taken the liberty of highlighting the pertinent information on these documents, including highlighting the lines on the bank statements which correspond to the attached cancelled checks, on which I have also highlighted the payee information (The Municipal Wastewater Board of Springfield), the dates, the amounts, and the account number printed on the memo line. Also attached you can see the back sides of the cancelled checks, which show they have been stamped by the Municipal Wastewater Board of Springfield.

I hope this clears this matter up. As for your obvious breakdown in communication between the office of accounts receivable and billing, I leave that to your organization to rectify.

Thank you,

Frederick Burton


The Municipal Wastewater Board
23 Water Street


Dear Mr. Burton,

Thank you for your letter of 1/20/2006. Please be assured we take all concerns seriously and are looking into your matter with the utmost care.

If you have any questions, please refer to the telephone number on your quarterly bill. You can also reach us at our new website, Have your seven digit account number ready when contacting our offices.

Thank you,

Alison Franklin
Customer Service
The Municipal Wastewater Board


The Municipal Wastewater Board
23 Water Street

Dear Mr. Burton or Current Occupant,

On January 16th of this month, we sent you a letter regarding payment due to your account. As of today we have not received contact from you. We are left with no recourse but to place a lien on your property in the amount of $475 plus a 5% annual interest rate until the balance is paid in full.

If you feel our records are in error, please contact us immediately at the number on your quarterly bill. You can also reach us on the web at Have your seven digit account number ready when contacting our offices.

Thank You,

Alan Durst
Vice Executive Director
Municipal Wastewater Board


427 Paper Street

Dear Mr. Durst,

Attached you will find more photocopies of the cancelled checks and bank statements I have already sent to you. Also, you will find a letter from Alison Franklin of the Municipal Wastewater Board's customer service department explaining that the matter was being looked into.

Incidentally, you may want to update the standard form letter you've have saved on your computer's desktop for the past few years; as you can see in Alison's letter, your web address has changed since last you proofread. The new website is better than the old; instead of an animated picture telling me the site is coming soon, the new site has a flash slideshow of city parks and waterways with men wearing hardhats and kids playing. While it is an improvement, it still lacks any kind of tools for your customers to manage their accounts. My guess is that since you are the only game in town, you've gotten lazy. That's not good business.

If you feel my records are in error, you can contact my bank and explain to them how somebody else is impersonating you and cashing checks for sewer service bills. I'll bet they'd be interested in knowing about it.

Thanks you,

Frederick Burton
Enraged Occupant


The Municipal Wastewater Board
23 Water Street

Dear Mr. Burton,

Our records indicate that we have not received the payments you insist have been paid to us. The fact that you have cancelled checks and bank statements claiming otherwise does not match the records in our accounting, billing, or service departments. Our customer service department has these records, but inquiries indicate that they received them via mail from you. As these are not originals, we can not accept them as proof.

We have contacted our lawyers and will begin the lien process forthwith.

If you feel our records are in error, please contact us immediately at the number on your quarterly bill. You can also reach us on the web at Have your seven digit account number ready when contacting our offices.

Thank You,

Alan Durst
Vice Executive Director
Municipal Wastewater Board


The Law Offices of Shank, Thurman, Thurman & Shank, LLC
922 High Street Suite 1322

Dear Mr. Burton,

This letter is to inform you of a lien being placed on your property in the amount of $475. This lien covers unpaid sewer service balances from 2002 until the most recent billing period.

A copy of the lien is on file at the County Recorder of Deeds Office at 100 High Street, Suite 210. A release will be filed once the full payment is received by the Accounts Receivable department of the Municipal Wastewater Board at 23 Water Street.

Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.

Yours Truly,
Richard Shank Thurman
Junior Partner, The Law Offices of Shank, Thurman, Thurman & Shank, LLC


427 Paper Street

Dear Mr. Durst,

Your continued lack of comprehension on this matter confuses me. Attached this time, I have included notarized copies of my bank statements and cancelled checks. If you check your records, I am sure you will see that the same date my bank statements say the money was debited from my account, your account will likely reflect a credit of the exact same amount. Put two and two together and please manage to arrive at an answer that is more than zero.

Frederick Burton
Befuddled Occupant


427 Paper Street

Richard Shank Thurman, Junior Partner;

I do not hold any ill will against you, as you are just a pawn in this game. I am sending you copies of all of my correspondence with the Municipal Wastewater Board as well as copies of my cancelled checks and bank statements. Maybe you can talk some sense into that idiot Alan Durst. I will thank you to release the lien immediately.

Frederick Burton


The Law Offices of Shank, Thurman, Thurman & Shank, LLC
922 High Street Suite 1322

Dear Mr. Burton,

Our apologies. In reviewing your records and consulting with the various departments of the Municipal Wastewater Board, we have concluded that your account is in good standing. It appears a clerical error occurred in a recent system upgrade, causing information for your account and several others to be reset. This error has been corrected. The release of lien has been filed and this should be the last you need worry about this matter.


Richard Shank Thurman
Junior Partner, The Law Offices of Shank, Thurman, Thurman & Shank


The Municipal Wastewater Board
23 Water Street

Dear Mr. Burton,

Our collections department has made repeated attempts to collect payment in the amount of $475 for services from 2001-2005. This will be your last warning before serious legal action will be taken.

If you feel our records are in error, please contact us immediately at the number on your quarterly bill. You can also reach us on the web at Have your seven digit account number ready when contacting our offices.

Thank You,

Steven Voss
Vice Executive Director
Municipal Wastewater Board


427 Paper Street Wastewater Production, LP
427 Paper Street

Dear Mr. Voss,

It has come to my attention that you have been receiving wastewater from this residence for many years without paying for your usage.

I understand you have sewage treatment plants that would otherwise sit idle without a steady stream of wastewater from producers such as myself. Yet you wantonly consume this wastewater without consideration for the work that has gone in to providing it to you.

Checking our records, it appears you have not paid for the use of this wastewater since the residence at 427 Paper Street was constructed in May of 1954. The total due with penalties and interest comes to $475.

As you have recently claimed that I owe you the same amount for services rendered from 2001-2005, I propose that we call our feud even. Though you should reflect that your rates are much higher than mine, and you may consider lowering your fees in the future.

Thank You,

Frederick Burton
Chief Wastewater Producer, 427 Paper Street Wastewater Production, LP


The Municipal Wastewater Board - Billing Department
23 Water Street Box 2

Dear Mr. Burton,

Thank you for your prompt payment of your Quarter One billing statement.

You can now manage your account online at


Amber Stevens
Billing Agent, Municipal Wastewater Board


Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Wow Plus Ouch Equals Wouch.

Writer's block made my brain hurt on that last one. A lot.

I need some help, readers. Give me suggestions for short stories this month. In the comment section, post me a link to a photo you think is interesting and I'll try and write something inspired by the photo. I think this month long venture will be good for me.

Side note: last night (Tuesday the first) when I got home from work, I very nearly took a picture of myself to post on the blog. Out of habit.

Pretty crazy, I know.

Short Story March: Day Two

American Made Big Block Chevrolet

Pavement under the wheels of the van, humming. Just humming, man. You can hear it from any part of the van.

None of the ones in the back ever know where we're going. We only know that we've been somewhere. The ones in front, they sure know the way. And the ones in the middle, man, they just don't devote any care to the notion of direction, or who's in front or who's in back, or anything. We just care to be in the middle, where it's easy to relax and talk quietly.

Sometimes, someone from the back joins us. And we welcome them, and often times they worry about their cohorts in the back of the van; they try and bring more up, and some follow, but most stay in back.

Sometimes, someone from the front will join us in the middle. We're wary of them, because in front they're in control of our fates, but we try to integrate them. They have a harder time adjusting than those from the back. It's very easier to move backward than it is to move forward, but it's easier on you to move forward than it is to move backward.

Sometimes, one of us will seize on the direction the van is headed, and demand to know why it's so. Inquiries will be made of the people in front, and usually this leads to a large group of us moving forward, to be replaced by people moving back. But those of us who stay in the middle know that it doesn't matter who's driving the van; we're always going in a direction we don't care to know.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Short Story March: Day One

The rules are: Write. Write write. Write write write.

Free write.

Elaborate on something I've already written.



The Sign-Off

Hank looked around the booth which had been his workplace for the last thirty five years. His producer in the adjacent booth was running the news tape over the air. Hank looked at his watch: 6:58 PM. For this night, the station manager and the production staff had pulled one of the studio's old record players from storage and given it a good going-over so it would be ready for airtime; new stylus, rebalanced tonearm. In two minutes, Hank would place a recording of Mahler's Titan symphony on the turntable. He was going to repeat his first night on the job for this, his last. Every single recording, on vinyl. He had three hours until the new format kicked in. The producer knocked on the window and pointed to the clock. Hank took his seat, fumbled in the box of records he had brought from home and got ready to sign on one last time.

A year ago, a company calling itself Caring Creatives started making the rounds of radio stations in the area. There was a lot of chatter in the community about what they were looking for. Word was they wanted a station with a strong signal but a small listener base which they could turn into a contemporary Christian Rock station. They looked at a couple of the local listener supported stations before moving on to the commercial stations. Hank and his cohorts at Classical 103.5 were dismissive of the suits wandering their halls one day in the late summer.

"It's not likely to happen to us," Hank said after the men walked through the break room, "we've been around for over forty years with this format. No other FM station can claim that." He took a bite of his turkey sandwich with lettuce. He frowned at the lack of mayonnaise, but his doctor had told him to watch what he ate, and Babette, his wife, had taken the doctor's word every afternoon while she packed Hank's dinner. First the cheese was gone, then the potato chips on the side were replaced with carrots, and now the mayo was gone.

"I don't know, Hank," Jeremy, one of the station's engineers said between gulps of coffee, "From what I hear in the marketing department, things aren't looking as rosy as they used to."

Hank waved the naysayer off. "Think of what we've got on the dial in Springfield," he said. "One NPR affiliate, two classic rock stations, two alternative stations, two talk radio stations, one oldies station, two contemporary easy listening stations, three top forty stations, a community public station and five, uh, rap, R and B hippy hop stations, and a low power jazz station, and us. We're fine, they'll take one of those rap stations." Hank eyed the tub of yogurt in his lunch bag. He stood up, fished some coins out of his pocket and walked to the vending machines.

"I wish I shared your optimism, Hank," Jeremy said. "You seem pretty sure about it. But our listeners aren't getting younger, and, well, I'm no farmer, but if you've got one old chicken who won't lay any more eggs, and five cows who can still produce milk, and you've got to kill one animal to make room for a sheep or something, uh, you're gonna kill the duck, right?" Jeremy was known for meandering metaphors.

"I suppose," Hank said, compromising with his inner Babette by selecting the pretzels over the saltier rippled chips. "But in five years, three of those rap stations will be gone, half the other stations will have switched formats, and we'll still be here. And it makes more sense to their 'mission' to remove a rap or a rock station than a classical station. Mark my words."

Over the next five months, there had been silence on the buyout front. Hank assumed Caring Creatives had given up their search. But in that sixth month, the rumblings began again. This time, more people came to the station, and this time, there was serious talk about the station being sold. Meredith, the station manager, called a staff meeting one morning.

"Will we all still have our jobs if this goes through?" Jeremy asked her. Others nodded in agreement. Hank sat back and watched. He knew it would not happen.

"Much of the support staff in marketing, sales, and production will be offered comparable positions with the new station under the proposed plan. Offers will be given to senior staff first." Meredith was noticeably shaking, which made Hank sit up.

"What about on-air staff?" somebody called out. Other voices joined.

"Half of the on-air staff will be retained, but the other half will be replaced with the new format." There was a commotion. Meredith raised her arms to quiet the group. "Hey, listen. Those who are retained will not be receiving their current salaries. You'll have to take a pay cut and you won't be broadcast over the air. They plan on moving the classical music to the internet, running from five in the morning until eleven."

This sparked more commotion. Hank stood and the room quieted a little. "Will the on-air staff retention be based on seniority as well?" He met Meredith's eyes and brushed his gray hair back form his temples. She looked to a packet of paper she had in front of her.

"I'm not sure," she said. "I would assume so, but, I don't know. Not off hand."

After the meeting, Jeremy came up to Hank. "I'm screwed," Jeremy said. "If everything is based on seniority like they say, I've been here the second shortest of the engineers. I'm cooked. And in this economy, too."

Hank put a hand on Jeremy's shoulder. "Take it easy; nothing's set in stone yet. The deal will never go through." Hank wanted to get home and do some reading before he came back for his 7-10 weekday shift. "I told you, they're going to buy out one of the other stations. Probably 98.3, they've been struggling for two years."

"Jesus, Hank, didn't you hear Meredith?" The two began walking to the elevator lobby. "Didn't you see the way she was shaking? This deal's probably already done, they're just waiting for FCC approval to announce it. Have you heard from anyone else in town? Are they looking at any of the other stations this time around? I'm telling you, we're fucked." They arrived in the lobby. Hank pressed the down button and Jeremy pressed the up button. "We're up a creek without a radio station, my friend. You, you're probably fine, you were here when Beethoven won the Grammy for best new artist, but me..." The up elevator door opened.

Jeremy had been correct; Caring Creatives had already closed the deal with station ownership. A month later, when the FCC approved the sale, the announcement was made that on July 17th, at the end of Hank's shift, the station would become Life 103.5 Christian Contemporary. A week after the announcement, offers were made to existing staff members. Hank waited patiently for his offer. He planned on saying no and taking the severance package, pithy as it was. He was approaching retirement anyway, and he and Babette had just planted a vegetable garden in the back yard the year before. He looked forward to walking out of there with his head held high and spending his golden years keeping squirrels away from his tomatoes.

After two weeks, his offer still hadn't come. By this time, the pink slips were starting to land on desks. One in each department the first day, the same on the second day, and so on. On the seventh day, a Tuesday, Hank found his slip. He marched with it into the new station manager's office. Meredith was still the manager of the classical side, but she now reported to Seth, a man who had studied to become a Lutheran Minister but who had abandoned that track for, as he had said in his first address to the staff, a "different call of service to the Lord." Hank had been silent about the buyout of the station and had a respect for Seth's work ethic. But he could not stand this. He waved the slip in front of Seth and Meredith.

"What's this?" he asked.

Seth leaned back in his chair and took off his glasses. He set them down on his desk and rubbed his eyes. "Meredith, could you leave us for a moment?" he asked.

Meredith stood, looked at Hank, then sat back down. She looked at her feet. "No," she said, "Hank is one of my employees, I think I should be here for this." She looked at Hank, who smiled at her, and then she looked at Seth.

Seth paused for a second. "Okay, sure," he said. "Look, Hank, we appreciate what you do for us here. But you're getting closer to retirement, and we figured you wouldn't want to work in Internet radio. And we don't have a place for you on air; we need young, hip DJ's to spin our tracks for us. Folks who can connect with the youth of the city, bring them in to hear what they need to hear to, to, to save them from what they are assailed with from the rest of the FM dial. Do you hear what I'm saying?" Seth smiled at Hank.

Hank forced his body to straighten as tall as it could. He agreed with part of Seth's reasoning, but another part inflamed him. "What I hear when I listen to the radio," he said, "is some of what you're talking about. But I also hear the free exchange of ideas. I hear passion and artistry. And right now, I'm hearing you say that the best way to 'save' the youth of the city from some of the filth you find on the radio is to take away one of their existing safe havens and replace it with another? Is that what you do when you fight the good fight? Do you push your allies out of the way? I hear in the music we play on this station some of the most exquisite and beautiful and joyous compositions man has ever produced, much of it by people who attributed their gifts not to themselves but to God himself! They celebrate the beauty of God's creation by adding to it! What could be a better compliment to your mission?"

Hank was shaking. Meredith was wide eyed. Seth was frowning. "Are you done, Hank?" Seth asked at last.

"No," Hank said. "Not until ten PM on July 17th." He turned around and opened Seth's office door. He looked back at Meredith, who winked at him, before stepping into the hall and letting the door shut behind him.

Within a few days, Hank had become a hero of sorts. Those who had been told they were being let go when the format changed stood to applaud him whenever he entered a room. Meredith and some of the other staffers who had accepted retention offers came back and rejected the offers. Some of those who were staying on told Seth they would stay on condition that Hank was allowed to serve until sign-off. The archivists found transcripts of his early shows and gave Hank photocopies, which gave him the idea of reprising his first broadcast. Jeremy had pulled the record player out of storage and integrated it with the digital soundboard in the broadcast booth.

Hank sat at the chair in front of the microphone. One minute to air time. The door opened and Jeremy stepped in. "Hey, Hank," he said.

Hank smiled. "Jeremy. Good luck with Seth here in the future." The shook hands.

"I don't think we got off on the best foot, he and I," Jeremy chuckled. "But I'm sure once you're gone, things will settle down. Troublemaker."

Hank's producer pushed the intercom button. "Fifteen seconds," he said.

"I'll get out of here," Jeremy said. "Just...knock 'em dead tonight."

"Absolutely I will," Hank said, getting the record ready on the turntable.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Facial Hair February: Final Day and Deconstruction

First, the full facial hair experience.

We have this thing called a Karma Wheel on our refrigerator. And Just before removing the beard, I spun it. It looks like I planned this, but Kathy can vouch for me.

It landed on Hair Loss, which is better than Salmonella or Annoying Phone Call for sure

And so it was to be.

The deconstruction began with removal of sideburns and sundry facial hairs.

And then, well, things got creepy.

But finally, I emerged as myself once again.

Of course now it's clear that I need a haircut. But I won't be blogging about that.

Starting tomorrow, a short story a day for an entire month. How about them apples? Also, Bambi review will be up by Wednesday. Got some stuff to do tomorrow for The Phosphene, which if you haven't checked out is turning out nicely so far. I'm excited about it, that's for sure!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Facial Hair February: The Penultimate Day

Penultimate is definitely a ten dollar word.

The Big Announcement

Writer's Note - Okay, so, I thought I had scheduled this to post last night, but it looks like I scheduled it to post tonight instead. Oops.

Alright, folks time for the big announcement!

I have launched a new blog! It's called The Phosphene and, rather than being a blog that I write exclusively, it's a team effort. I've assembled a team of folks to write about film, music, television, books, art, and other facets of pop culture. It should be fun...right?

The reasoning behind this is that I feel like I've been doing a lot of film and record reviews here on this blog, and while it stretches my writing muscles to do so, I want to return this blog to its original purpose, i.e. a blog about my writing, not a blog for my writing. So I'll go back to posting about my struggles with writer's block and doing stuff like the excerpts and maybe even the free-write Fridays. I will, however, continue my Disney Movie Reviews here, they'll just get simultaneously posted on the new blog.

So go check it out! Tell your friends! You can even follow the new blog on Twitter or even Like us on Facebook.

That's all for now!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Facial Hair February: Day 25

Today did not go as planned. Big announcement tomorrow.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Facial Hair February: Day 23

And stay tuned for a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT in the next few days.

No, I am not going to be a father again.

Review: Dumbo

Dumbo, the fourth film on my Disney Animated Film Adventure, which at one time vied with Robin Hood and Aladdin as my favorite of the Disney animated films, is a dramatically different kind of film than its three predecessors. Where Snow White, Pinocchio and Fantasia are visually complex, Dumbo is simple. Simple, too, is the storyline. Like Fantasia, this film is not based on a fairy tale as the first two films were, but of course Fantasia had rich source material from which to work, namely the pieces of music which were used. Dumbo is based on a rather simplistic prototype for a new toy called a "Roll-A-Book." The toy was developed using eight drawings and a few short lines of text describing what was happening in the book, when Disney writers took it and fleshed the story out. It's simple, basic and charming, without the heavily terrifying elements we've seen in the previous films.

The film starts with a lightning bolt and thunder and a voice crying "Through the snow, and sleet, and hail / Through the blizzard, through the gale / Through the wind and through the rain / Over mountain, over plain / Through the blinding lightning flash / And the mighty thunder crash / Ever faithful, ever true / Nothing stops him, he'll get through!" And then we find out he's talking about a Stork. Many storks, in fact, deliver a bunch of baby animals to a circus in Florida in what is one of the most cutest ever animated segments ever ever. Really.

The action starts when an elephant does not get a baby, and she's sad. She doesn't say she's sad, you just see it. In fact, there's very little dialog through the first part of this film. Finally, while the circus is packed onto the train, a stork shows up with a baby elephant. This baby elephant is our hero, though we don't know that until he gets dropped into his mother's trunk and his ears flap out in an explosive sneeze. Yup, those ears.

The poor guy is ridiculed something fierce for these big floppy ears, so much so that his protective mother (who loves him completely and unconditionally, something I totally understand) kind of freaks out on some boys and gets locked up, leaving Dumbo an outcast.

Enter Timothy Q. Mouse, Dumbo's only friend in the world. He tries to build up Dumbo's self-confidence by tricking the ringmaster into making Dumbo the climax of the "Pyramid of Pachyderms" circus attraction. But, as with all things, Dumbo's ears get in the way, creating havoc. The other circus elephants, already shunning Dumbo for his big ears and his crazy mother, completely disavow any knowledge of Dumbo, and he gets turned into a clown and has to jump off a burning tower into a vat of cream pie filling. Which, actually, is something I would totally enjoy, minus the burning part.

Timothy, always the good friend, tries to cheer Dumbo up by taking him to see his mother. This is one of the most beautiful moments in the film, with Mrs. Jumbo cradling Dumbo in her trunk through the bars of the elephant prison trailer (which, I guess, is a thing?) while the film's most beautiful song "Baby Mine" plays. Side note: my wife sings this song to my daughter every day, and it never fails to bring a smile to either of their faces.

After this, I guess the Fantasia animators wanted to get a little more bizzaro out of their systems, or maybe somebody was trying to point out how drinking is a bad thing, because Dumbo and Timothy accidentally drink some champagne, get totally wasted, and Dumbo blows a bubble out of his trunk. The bubble turns into a shared hallucination between the two; it turns into a pink elephant and we get a Technicolor Elephant Nightmare.

They let it into Disney Land at night to eat stragglers.

Actually, let me say at this point that although many of my friends would get creeped out by this part of the film, when I was a child this was my favorite part. I would often rewind and watch this part again and again while my friends waited nervously around the corner, behind the couch, or in the kitchen. Yeah, I was a little...different. But the colors! The song! The bizarre creatures created out of elephants! Elephant cars and trains! A Camel-Elephant hybrid which I call a Camelphant! What imaginations these animators had! What exquisite drugs they must have been taking!

So when Dumbo and Timothy wake up all hungover, they're in a tree. And a murder of crows sees them and wonders how they got up there while they smoke cigars, talk jive and get interpreted as a racial stereotype. Since you brought up the stereotype thing, let me just say this: these crows are incredibly smart. They're tough, sure, and they look rag-tag based on their clothes, but, um...they're crows. How did they even get clothes? I guess this is a universe of anthropomorphic animals but they still live in zoos and are attractions at circuses...but still. And when I say they're smart, I mean it. Listen to their song, which is full of clever wordplay and is meant not to mock Dumbo as EVERY OTHER CHARACTER BESIDES TIMOTHY AND MRS. JUMBO HAVE DONE but they do it to mock Timothy's insistence that Dumbo flew. But they help, and Dumbo gets off the ground. He returns to the circus and jumps off his burning tower. On the way down, he loses the feather. Timothy, who was riding in his hat, explains that the feather wasn't really magic, and that Dumbo can fly without it. Which, of course, he does, exacting revenge on the clowns, the ringmaster, and the elephants who shunned him. And then, I guess, he does the classic meteoric rise to fame thing, in which he gets super famous and makes a lot of money and yet somehow ends up right where he started? Well, not entirely. He uses his celebrity to get his mother released and to procure a fancy modern private car for the two of them (plus Timothy I would guess) on the train. But still...he's still in the circus? I guess if that's where the money is...

Because of the financial failures of the previous two films, Disney wanted a simple story that was easy to animate, and that's exactly what they got. At just over one hour, it's one of the shortest of the Disney animated features. In fact, RKO Pictures, the distributor of Disney's films, refused to release Dumbo at first, stating that it was too short and would either have to be lengthened, billed as a short subject or listed as B-movie (which, at the time, just meant the second/lesser known film of a double feature). But Disney held fast, and RKO finally agreed to distribute the film as a feature. Despite the war in Europe and the attack on Pearl Harbor just two months after this film's release, it still turned a profit and received critical success. Many saw it as a return to the roots of Disney with a simple, character driven animated story. Compared to Pinocchio and Fantasia, which many critics said were too ambitious or complex for the medium, Dumbo was easy to watch and joyful with great music. With this film, many of the Disney themes were established. While both Snow White and Pinocchio had original songs composed for the films, the Dumbo soundtrack contained seven original songs (Snow White had three and while Pinocchio had six, remember that this film is a full twenty minutes shorter). This is also the first Disney feature to have anthropomorphic animals as the main characters, something which became almost requisite thereafter.

One of the things I missed in my youth, and which I took special notice of upon this watching, is that the crows are incredibly smart and helpful. I already mentioned the word play, but when they help Dumbo fly, they give him a "magic feather." When I was a kid, I always thought that the feather really did have some magic in it, and that Dumbo needed it to fly at first but that the magic somehow passed into him so he didn't need it anymore after he dropped it. Of course now I know that's bogus; the crows used the feather as a mind-trick. And Timothy is in on it. When I realized that in my young-adulthood (when I was watching old Disney movies "ironically" except not ironically, more in an attempt to recapture my simpler youth because I was all angsty over some girl or something else that teenagers needlessly worry about OH GOD WHY DIDN'T SHE WANT TO GO TO THE DANCE WITH ME AND WHY CAN'T I BE POPULAR LIKE THE POPULAR KIDS WHY whoa...that was weird) it changed my whole perception of the crows. At first I was like, "Oh, so Dumbo didn't even need to meet the crows" and then later I realized, "Wait, yes he did." See, Timothy was a good friend, and a big dreamer, but he needed to know how to help Dumbo out. The crows saw an opportunity, and when they realized that Dumbo was too downtrodden to believe in himself, they gave Timothy the gift of the "magic" feather. It's just a feather, but to tell Dumbo it's magic, it gave him hope that it would make him fly. So, basically, the crows are doctors and they just prescribe Dumbo a placebo. And it works! It's all mind over matter. The whole film, for being only an hour long and such a simple story, is chock full of great story. And sure, stories with a moral are often times annoying. Moral stories can be really heavy-handed and over the top and so eye-rolling, head banging, groaningly sigh-inducing at times, but this one's better because the story is so simple. Be yourself, and believe in yourself, and you will accomplish something. It may not be what you set out to do, but take stock of your assets, your liabilities, and play to your strengths. And above all, listen to those who are trying to help, and ignore those who don't help. Chances are, you'll be able to dive bomb them and spit peanuts out of your trunk when you prevail, those bastards.

Once again, Wikipedia helped out. Revisions were most recently made by me so that what I tell you here matches what you read there.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Facial Hair February: Day 22

So today, I noticed that the facial hair has definitely progressed from scraggly to legit.

Hey, just so everyone can look forward to it, when all is done with FHF, the last post will be a deconstruction of the beard, from full to goatee to mustache to smoov. And yes, I am aware that I just misspelled smooth, but seriously guys, it's going to be so smooth it will be smoov.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Facial Hair February: Day 21

Jules is still awake. Looks like a long night ahead.

Seven. More. Days.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Facial Hair February: Day 20

Today was such a lovely day, we went for a walk in the park and had our windows open. All of my Minnesota friends were not so lucky, I hear. Sorry, guys...we'll try and send some of this weather up your way.