Didn’t I just say that I was going to post here twice a week? Um….yes. Yes I did. I also haven’t finished the song I was working on in March and my weight loss goals are unmet as well. I am not doing well at all at keeping up on this. I haven’t even been reading on the train. What gives?

Things have been kinda sucky lately. There’s been some ill health in the family, work has been rough, and…well, I guess that’s about it. I mean, other than the continuing horror show that is Our National Discourse, which I suppose I ought not discount. It’s not been a great month.

But…I can’t get back on track by not continuing to avoid this stuff, can I? So, here’s me trying to get going again.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to this month:

This is what happens when you listen to some stuff Warren Ellis suggested, you have some creative friends, you’re going to a really minor music festival in the middle of the desert, and you just finished re-reading all three volumes Phonogram. Some much for glitchy drones. The ear wants what it wants.

On a slightly more technical level, I’ve been really, really into interesting reverbs and how they sound with old synthesizers. I have two machines that have perfectly good-to-great delays built in, but some of the modern reverb pedals are just amazingly evocative. Some people say that effects are what people who can’t play use to sound interesting, and in my case they’re not wrong, but I’d really rather sound interesting than sound like what I sound like without effects, ya know?

I’ve broken more bones than I can remember, including one particularly memorable corkscrew break of a two combined with two dislocated joints. I’ve torn skin open to the bone, and I’ve split a tooth in half. But, nothing comes even close to the pain I experienced during one particularly nasty ear infection.

I am getting an ear infection. This does not please me.

This next week is going to be ugly and I don’t know how much good/interesting stuff I’m going to have time or energy for, but I do have a few posts queued up for this space. In the meantime, you might want to sign up for Max Romero’s The Beef newsletter. Max is someone you want to know and I say this on the authority of actually knowing him. That’s it for tonight as I am whupped. Take care of yourselves.


All of my new is now old

My favorite two musical periods are the 1989-91 era and the early 2000s. The former gave me Nine Inch Nails and Public Enemy and Pop Will Eat Itself and Bad Religion and They Might Be Giants and a stack of others I can’t recall right now. Some of them had earlier albums, but this time period marked my entry point for a lot of music that was new to me. It changed everything, to. I started dressing like Baphomet in The Wicked + The Divine, a look that I can no longer pull off for a multitude of reasons. I went to concerts, I went to dance clubs, and I did this all the time, and it was amazing

The early 2000s, on the other hand, were about re-discovering joy in music. Bands like Metric, The New Pornographers, Ted Leo + Pharmacists, Stellastarr*, The Arcade Fire, The Futureheads, MGMT, The Kaiser Chiefs, and most especially Ambulance, LTD, made concert-going fun again for me. It really was an amazing time, at least for me. It wasn’t particularly great dance music, but man, you could sing along with it at the top of your lungs and be guaranteed a great time (mileage for listeners who had to hear me do this may vary).

Part of the joy was not just in the discovery, but in the fact that I could still discover. Nothing makes you sound/feel/be old like saying “Music today sucks, it was so much better back when <insert your preferred touchstone here>.” In the grand scheme of things, that’s not the most self-defeating attitude there is, but it’s probably on the list.

But…2003 was a long time ago, wasn’t it? 16 years is forever in musical terms. It’s almost long enough that we’re due for a revival of some sort. How long is 16 years? The length of time between the first Rolling Stones album (The Rolling Stones, 1964) and their last real album (Tattoo You, 1981) was only 17 years. It’s six years longer than the entire career of Led Zeppelin. Beyoncé was still touring with Destiny’s Child in 2003. In 2003, Taylor Swift was in middle school and just learning to play guitar and Ariana Grande was singing karaoke on cruise ships.

It’s been a while, huh?

Music is how I mark time, so this all gets under my skin a little. Time to refocus a little and see what’s going on. There’s great music being made out there because there’s always great new music being made. You just have to be open to it.

Short 1989-91 playist.
Short early 2000s playist.

(Speaking of “open”, if y’all have any suggestions, I’m all, or at least mostly, ears.)

FP2: Beats of Rage, or, what the hell did I just watch and why did I enjoy it so much?

So, one of Nicole’s friends is really, really into The FP, a film that I haven’t seen yet so I won’t even try to describe it. When the sequel, FP2: Beats of Rage was playing in town, she absolutely insisted that we go and see it with her (even though she’d already seen it several times).

I’m glad we went. This was one of the oddest films I’ve ever seen. It’s the Mother of All High-Concept Films. In what is presumably a post-apocalyptic future, conflicts are settled by the bloodsport to end all bloodsports: A dance-based video game. If that sounds strange, well, you’re right, but it doesn’t play out the way you’re probably thinking.

Going in to this film, I was sarcastically wondering if I’d be able to follow the plot if I hadn’t seen the first one. As it turned out, I really do wish I’d seen the original and plan to do so soon. There’s a lot more world-building than you would probably expect from a film of this…genre?…and budget. Some of it seems to have come from The FP, but I get the sense that there’s more backstory here than ever makes it to the actual story in a weirdly Tolkien-esque sort of way.

FP2:BoR makes an explicit nod to Tolkien, and to The Empire Strikes Back, and Big Trouble in Little China, and Mad Max, and probably a bunch of other references I either didn’t get or missed from laughing so hard. This is a really, really funny movie, and it’s funny because this really sophomoric concept is played absolutely straight by everyone in the film. There’s no winking, there’s no irony, there’s just a bunch of actors playing out an epic as conceived by a teenager as though it was a serious film.

I found it hilarious. I can completely understand if some people don’t. I don’t think this film is for everyone. But for people who like this particular type of absurdist humor, writer/director/star Jason Trost really hit it out of the park.

Another word for "resolution"

I’m officially older-by-a-commonly-accepted-increment of one year now. After as many of these as I’ve had, they don’t pack the same wallop as they used to. That may be a temporary thing; it could well be that as they start to add up to some really big numbers, I may regard each one a bit more dearly. Mile markers are hard to judge when you don’t know where the destination is, I guess.

Nicole treated me to a lovely surprise on the morning of. She’s thoughtful to a fault…scratch that, as I’m not sure someone can be too thoughtful, but you get the idea. It’s nice, though. She never lets me feel anything less than appreciated and that’s the kind of feeling that keeps a body warm in these strange, bitterly cold days.

I’ve done my first home self-injection with the Scary New Drugs. It was a weirdly uneventful thing. Take a syringe out of the fridge, swab my side with something antiseptic, and stick the needle in. I understand that there’s risk in being too casual when it comes to needles. My doctor made damned sure that I understood this. So, I’ll make it a point to be careful.

It does seem to be having a positive effect. I’m still not going to be wearing short in public any time soon, but I can see the changes. It’s supposed to reach peak effectiveness six weeks after starting, so that puts me on course for mid-April for “as good as it’s going to get”. At this point, I don’t think the effectiveness has quite matched the quarterly steroid injections, but the trajectory seems good. We live in hope.

I saw my therapist this last weekend and it was an unusually focused session, and I mean that in a good way. We spent most of the time talking about trying to find personal value in a situation that I was becoming more and more detached from (yes, vague, I know, but for good reasons). Our brainstorming came up with some fine approaches, some things I can genuinely get excited about.

That alone was worth the price of admission, but we also talked about…I’m hesitant to call them “resolutions”, but that’s essentially what we’re talking about here. She used a different word because she’s a professional, but I can’t recall what it was. Anyway, the gist is there are three things I’m to work on:

  • Post 3 times a week (probably twice here as job #2 will qualify as one of the three).

  • Write 1 song per month.

  • Drop 4 pounds per month.

These are all very achievable things. She big on “achievable”. She’s pointed out, at length, that setting un-achievable targets is just giving yourself an excuse to give up. I can’t imagine why she’s point that out to me. Oh wait, yes I can. That’s totally something I would do, have done, and likely will do again.

Now, I’m nothing like a musicians. I can honestly say that, while I can pick up many musical instruments and make recognizable sounds with a great many of ‘em, I am not good at playing any of them. That makes it no less fun for me to do it. I have a lot to say on the subject that’ll have to wait, Yeah, that’s going to be a long-ish post, but I think it’ll be a good one.

Here is one of our beautiful snails on the back of a very grumpy sea turtle.

Here is one of our beautiful snails on the back of a very grumpy sea turtle.

Oof…that’s about it for now. Time to make dinner, and by that I mean “heat up the oven and that’s about it.”


One week into the new normal


It’s been a strange week. Last Wednesday, I did my first self-injection of a new-ish treatment called Dupixent that’s meant to bring some degree of normalcy to my skin. Every two weeks now I’ll be injecting this into my (fortunately voluminous) sides. In theory, the side effects are extremely minimal. That’s unusual for this kind of a treatment, but hey, I’ll take it.

The first thing I noticed, less than 48 hours after the injection, was that my skin had oil in it. I’ve had incredibly dry, crepe-like skin for some time now which is almost certainly contributing to my situation. Quite suddenly, I mean jarringly so, my skin felt…normal. Nicole noticed it as well. That was cool.

As far as the healing goes, it’s hard to tell. It’s getting better very slowly, or perhaps getting worse very slowly, or maybe staying exactly the same at a very high rate. I think there’s some healing going on. My “canaries”, the things that flare up first, seem to be doing better. I am cautiously optimistic.

The bad news is that this is not a cure. What we’re hoping for is just keeping the condition in check. So there’s no end to the treatment. If it works, though, then it’s well worth it. Hopefully it will remain so to my insurance company.

We did wind up having an absolutely lovely Valentine’s weekend. This may sound a little nekulturny, but we decided to stay in the first evening because we got a peach of a parking space and didn’t want to lose it. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to get things delivered these days. We got a feast-full of fruit, cheese, bread, and meats as well as some wine and didn’t miss going out at all.

It helped that the hotel room in The Lumen was embarrassingly large. It was bigger than our apartment, with a monstrous “living room” area that had a hanging 55” TV. Both sides of the place had floor-to-ceiling windows and the bathroom was appropriately decadent. I also ordered a Chromecast because I wanted one, but they are of no use in hotels that have decent network security (device isolation is a good thing, mind you) unless you want to put too much effort into it.

For our Big Night Out, we had reservations at Fearing’s which was a fairly typical pinkie-up kind of experience. We went full-on costumey with our attire. I went with my banded collar suit because I always do, with a bright red collarless shirt. Nicole…how do I describe this? A platinum wig with a backless red dress featuring a scandalous neckline, a fur wrap and a jeweled broach. Add to that picture the most sparkliest of lip and eye makeup and some seriously sparkly heels and you’re in the neighborhood. The food didn’t quite live up to our get-ups, but we make a spectacular couple. Mind you, she would have been spectacular on her own.

One brief work related thing: When my office does big events, there are usually custom t-shirts or hoodies created for everyone who attends. I have never been able to wear any of these because they would likely make my skin fall off. This year, they went out of their way and got me a jacket by a brand I can actually wear. It’s one of the coolest things they’ve ever done. Seriously. I let the Big Bosses know how much I appreciated their doing this. To protect the innocent (and the somewhat less-than-innocent as I’ve known these folks for a long time), I won’t name names, but y’all get the idea.



Austin, TX

This has been something of a lost week. Monday night, I was hit with what I refer to as “the dizzies”. We think it’s Meniere’s Disease, but it’s hard to get a solid diagnosis of something that hits once a year and comes on very, very quickly.

On Monday, I was sitting at our kitchen island, not doing much of anything, and Nicole, who was across from me, started moving from left to right very quickly. We’ve been through this just enough to know the routine, which is strictly a triage sort of thing. I get into be immediately and Nicole goes and gets me some motion-sickness meds. The pills serve two functions: They help a little with the sense of spinning and they also knock me out cold. That’s a very good thing in this case.

What i need to do in these cases is to stay in the dark, stay cool, and no matter what, not open my eyes. I’m nauseated, but I’ve never actually been sick. That’s a good thing because sitting up when I have one of these spells is difficult. Walking is out of the question. I can crawl, but that’s about it.

For the most part, after a nap of four hours or so, I’m good. Well, at least I’m not dizzy anymore. I am pretty physically wiped out at that point like I’ve just spent four hours doing cross fit. It can take me several days to really recover, which is a royal pain in the buttocks.

We’re not 100% sure what’s going on. It seems to be related to my hearing loss in my right ear. The initial reaction to that loss was “Huh. That’s weird. Let’s do an MRI and do some tests to see if you have cancer.” That was fun. It turned out that I did not have cancer, but the official explanation was “Damned if we know.”

The working theory is that there’s fluid or something that’s putting pressure on my inner ear on the right side. Not only does that make your hearing suck, but it causes a problem with the semi-circular canals. One of them is normal; the other is getting some pressure on it and isn’t sure what’s going on. The result is that my brain is getting two wildly different readings as to my orientation and it interprets this as “spinning”.

After the nap, the two sets of semi-circular canals have re-calibrated and come to an agreement as to where I am in relation to the rest of the world. That’s a nice feeling. Anyway, as you can imagine, this dominates my thoughts for a few days and thought I’d share what it feels like. There are worse things. There are many, many worse things. It’s just that, for a few hours, it doesn’t seem like it.


P.S. This morning (Friday) it hit me again. I’ve never had two back-to-back like this, and I’ve never had it start while I was asleep. This is annoying and worrying. If there’s another incident in the next week or so, it’s off to the doctor for Ridley. Yay!

another grey world

Austin, TX

We had a ridiculous amount of fog this morning, which made the pond look like a Bob Ross painting:


It finally (sort of) burned off this afternoon, so we saw a little sun for the first time this weekend. It’s still hazy out there and we can’t really see downtown without squinting, Doesn’t exactly encourage one to get out and about and do things. Plus, I’m “on call” this weekend, which is a buzzkill of the first order.

Not receiving pay stubs anymore, either as paper or email, has left me less aware of the amount of vacation time I have accumulated. I hadn’t looked in several months, so when I checked in last month, I discovered that I was effectively maxed out. That means that, going forward, I’m effectively donating my vacation time to the company which isn’t real high on my list of “ways to use vacation time”.

So I tried something different this quarter: Instead of blocking off a week, I took 2-3 days each month to give myself a little something to look forward to each month. It seems like a pretty good approach, especially in the winter when travel is a lot less attractive (I don’t ski, in case you were wondering). It’s nice to be able to recharge the batteries once a month but…once spring rolls around, I may have other ideas.

Job two is going remarkably well. Not in the “I am making good money” off of it way, but more in the “I’m starting to feel like I’m pretty good at this” sense. In general, I’ve found that optional second jobs can be a lot of fun. I haven’t done the math, but I can think of a couple of reasons for this. The obvious one is that, since you’re choosing to do it, there’s a pretty good chance that the second gig is something that’s interesting to you and/or something you enjoy.

Another possibility is that part of the enjoyment comes from the fact that you don’t need that job. You can leave any time you want without a huge impact on your financial situation (please remember I’m only discussing optional second jobs here; when you have to take a second job to pay the rent, that’s another animal entirely). This one’s interesting to me. I wonder how much job stress comes not strictly from the job itself but instead from the sense that you are not free to leave it? If it’s a good amount, and I suspect it is, then a lot of stress could could be alleviated just by having a more fluid system of employment and a better safety net. Even something as simple as universal healthcare (health insurance is one big reason why people feel they can’t leave their jobs) would improve a lot of people’s lives just by allowing them to feel a little less trapped by their jobs.

I write most of my what-might-generously-be-described-as music on piano because that’s the instrument I’m most comfortable with, but I do get into ruts with it sometimes. And by “ruts” I mean “whenever I get frustrated I go back to playing stuff I’ve played a gazillion times and then getting up and going for a soda. So, inspired by Behold! We May Rock You! I decided to do a little composing on guitar and see what happened.

The first thing that happened was a recollection of why I don’t write much on guitar. I am not very good at playing the guitar. I can awkwardly strum a barre chord with the best of ‘em, but beyond that? Pfffft. Nonetheless, I persisted and actually came up with a little something. It’s a little something that I think sounds better on the piano, but…it’s also something that I probably wouldn’t have ever tried. It was surprisingly rewarding. I haven’t recorded any demo-y bits yet, but I like the way it sounded, so we’ll see.

I guess that’s about it. I hope you had a lovely weekend and that you enjoy the football game if that’s you thing.


I was, in fact, rocked

In the interest of honest disclosure, I know the gentleman who wrote this book and count him as a friend.

However, if I am to be completely honest, I have read things by friends and acquaintances that I didn’t care a whit for. Some of it has been downright painful. So please understand that while I may be a friend of the author, I am also a reader and if I don’t care for what he has written, I will say so, or, more likely, I wouldn’t say anything at all.

Behold! We May Rock You!  by Jim Kuenzer is a very funny novel. Before we go any further, I ask to take a moment to consider how many genuinely funny novels you’ve read. Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett wrote quite a few, as has Christopher Moore. A Confederacy of Dunces was terrifically funny. But beyond those few, there aren’t many, are there? There are many, many humorous memoirs and collections of stories, but when it comes to novels? It’s a pretty short list, and Behold! We May Rock You! is now on it.

Not only is it funny, but it doesn’t read like an attempt to imitate any of giants of the genre. Kuenzer has his own, unique voice that will frequently make you laugh, or at least grin, without being exactly certain why. There’s no “hipper-than-thou” showboating, no attempt to be edgy. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite of edgy while being sublimely absurd at the same time. By the way, trying to describe humor is quite difficult and I’m certain that I’m not getting it exactly right, but I hope I’m somewhere in the ballpark.

Behold! We May Rock You! is the story of the least-likely success story in the history of music. You may think you’ve heard that story before, but this is even less likely than that one. The rise and…not so much fall as dilution of the band zips along with its own odd but somehow inevitable logic. It’s a quick read, far more importantly, it’s a fun read. You really ought to check it out.


P.S. I’m also inspired to write some softer, less aggressive music. No snide remarks about that not being possible, if you don’t mind.

try not to sleep

Austin, TX

As soon as I fall asleep, it will be Monday morning when I open my eyes. I rarely look forward to Monday mornings. Aside from the obvious reasons, part of it is that fact that there are people I work with who I only hear from on Sundays. That’s weird, right? I know they’re busy and all, but it’s the sort of the thing that turns Sunday into extended prologue to Monday and that’s no go.

I wrote a really fun post on Saturday, but it wasn’t really the sort of thing that goes here. That got me to thinking about doing a spring cleaning of my online presence and reorganizing what goes where. I don’t think Squarespace will be the platform for this Other Thing I’m thinking about, but I’m not sure what will be. I don’t enjoy using Blogger, I think I’m over WordPress, but there are some interesting new-ish options out there. Wix looks solid. Weebly seems functional, although it’s a little odd that it’s owned by Square (not Squarespace), isn’t it? I love the idea of Penzu, but it’s a poor fit for this other thing. Anyone have any experience with these, or any other suggestions?

There’s a freight train going by about 100 yards from our open window. On weekdays, commuter trains run on the line, but the transit authority only leases this stretch of rail. At nights and on weekends, huge freight trains rumble by, shaking our bed even though we’re four floors from ground level. I love those trains. At night, I can’t really see them but they sound (and feel) like I always imagined a stampede would.

There’s a song I recorded last year, a drone-y thing I made to showcase the ridiculous modifications that Switched On performed on my MG-1. I loved the sounds, but I grew to hate the drum track. It was an ugly snare and kick pattern that I messed with by changing it from 12/8 to 13/8 to 14/8 not because it made any sense, but because I wanted it to be disorienting. Honestly, it just sounded bad.

So…back to the laboratory! I ripped out the drums and shitcanned a high, tinkly piano thing that couldn’t have been more derivative. I replaced the drums with a tom and samples a 1960s drum machine to try to give it more of a bongo feel. The result is a much, much better track:

Ok, I am sitting here just getting angry that I can’t renamed my Chromebook. Someone stole my Google password earlier today. It did them no good as I have gazillion-factor login turned on, but I noticed something that had never occurred to me before: Google kept track of the computer names of the devices that had logged in using my password (yay), which meant it was easy to recognized a Windows computer that wasn’t one of mine. But…I also noticed that Chromebooks just show up as the make and model of the device. That’s fine if there’s only this one in the neighborhood, but we have dozens at the office. You’d think that being able to uniquely identify the machine would be a good thing, wouldn’t you? Grr…

And, if I’m talking about stuff like “not being able to rename a laptop makes me angry”, then it’s probably time for bed. G’night all, and thinks for sticking around while I try to work through a few things.


Late to the party: We finally see The Wolf of Wall Street

Austin, TX

For some reason, after a long drive, we decided to watch a movie at home. We narrowed it to two choices: Blade: Trinity or The Wolf of Wall Street. We chose poorly.

It was well-made. I mean, with Scorsese at the helm and with that cast, how could it not be? It was funny in parts, and the debauchery was jaw-dropping the first time we encountered it. But…I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored by a film. By the time it enters its third hour, I just wanted it to be over. In the past, I’ve criticized directors for taking shortcuts, for using montages to indicate a rising or falling action without actually taking you through the whole thing. I finally get why they do that.

For all the craftsmanship, this was a story so familiar that you could guess the beats from reading a one-sentence synopsis. Very little happened that you haven’t seen before, only it’s shown a with a good deal more graphic flare in The Wolf of Wall Street: He starts out naive, he starts from nothing, builds a massive fortune by breaking the rules, refuses to recognize the warning signs, and then is undone by his own hubris (sort of, since he never really gets any comeuppance and there’s no growth to his arc).

Naturally, he starts out with a loving, supportive wife who is “Hollywood homely” who will be dumped for a trophy wife midway through the film and never, ever even talked about again. I would say this was a spoiler, but the movie is five years old and, besides, if you didn’t see this coming, you have literally never seen a Hollywood movie.

Women are not treated well in this film. With the exception of the first wife and perhaps the second wife’s aunt, they’re just objects. This point is hammered home over and over, well beyond the threshold of “gratuitous”. There’s a little homophobia tossed in as well. I get that these guys were not meant to be thought of as “heroes”, but we got the point the first five or six times.

Of course, if they’re not meant to be heroes, then what are the guys in this film? They’re just “guys”, guys who cheat on their wives, spend all of their money on drugs and prostitutes, steal from their customers, screw each other over, and break the law without a second thought. It feels like, in an effort to distance himself from Oliver Stone’s preachy Wall Street, Scorsese refrained from passing any judgement whatsoever on his characters no matter how richly they deserved it.

Ultimately, though, the biggest sin of The Wolf of Wall Street is that it was just so boring. There was a good, sub-two hour film in there somewhere that would have been taut, funny, edgy, and, most importantly, would have ended without overstaying its welcome. I might have liked that film, but The Wolf of Wall Street was just an aimless mess of a film that wasn’t anywhere near funny enough to warrant its running time.


You haven't done well

Austin, TX

We had us quite a sunset the other day, didn’t we?

Has it been a couple weeks since I’ve posted here? Ugh. I guess so. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, mostly good, some less so. It’s been a mostly-garbage day as my body seems to be purging a lot of bile from the last week or so, which means I feel well off my game right now. I’m listening to Mogwai’s Rock Action right now in case you were wondering what kind of a mood I’m in tonight.

The worst allergy season in our neck of the woods is officially underway. The cedars (which I understand aren’t properly “cedars” at all) are in full rut and it’s making everything feel as though I’m slogging through deep sand. My dreams have been lousy of late, including one where my late father appeared and passed me a note reading “You haven’t done well.” I wonder if allergies affect dreams. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they did.

My wife Nicole is a treasure for many reasons, but not the least being her willingness to throw herself into the silliest of projects and turn them into something lovely. This is a long way of saying that she made a video for my Pieology jingle.

It’s a better video than the song deserves, and it was created entirely on her iPad. I’m thrilled to shared it and hope y’all enjoy.

So, my friend Jim Kuenzer has published his first novel, and it’s currently available for pre-order on Amazon. I’ve read quite a bit of his work and I can vouch that you’d be a loony not to check him out. The book is titled Behold! We May Rock You! and I’ll write more about it when it ‘s out, but I’ll tell you this: I enjoyed the daylights out of it. It literally has no daylights left.

Well, you’ve stuck around this long, so the least I can do is share some of the Mogwai with you. This one’s called “2 Rights Make 1 Wrong” and it builds into something huge and uncharacteristically beautiful for Mogwai and I love it very much. It’s also the wakeup music for my alarm.

Good night, and have a great week,


NYLO - The Starbucks of boutique hotels?

Plano, TX

We stayed up in Dallas for the New Year, attending a birthday party for an old friend of mine. I’ll likely write more about that later, but what I want to talk about before it slips my mind is the really unusual hotel we stayed: The NYLO hotel in Plano.

The NYLO is Hilton’s attempt to mass-produce the boutique hotel experience. I’d say that they did better than I expected, but there are still a few wrinkle that remind you that you’re staying in a big chain hotel and not a tiny one-off.

The name “NYLO” stands for “New York lofts”. That’s very much evident by the amount of concrete on display. The lobby is concrete. The meeting room is concrete. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the rooms are all concrete. Is there exposed plumbing? You bet! Uncovered lighting? Do you even have to ask?

But ya know, this isn’t a bad thing at all, even if it feels a little contrived. The big hotels have felt pretty much the same for as long as I can remember, which is a disturbingly long time. This is a very modern take on a hotel. The bed, which was comfy, is on a raised platform at the end of the room. There are curtains hanging from the concrete walls. And, hallelujah, there are electrical outlets everywhere. That one little feature makes more of a difference than I’d thought it would.

What didn’t work was the bathroom, which had a sliding door (fine) and a shower instead of a tub & shower (bummer, but not a big deal). The problem was that the walls of the bathroom didn’t reach the ceiling. This may well be “authentic”, but sometimes authenticity gets in the way of common sense. When there are two people (or more) in the room, you really, really want a bathroom area that is isolate. Also, weirdly enough, the toilet paper was awful. I’m sure it’s biodegradable or something, but it was super thin and very rough.

One thing I would strongly recommend they do, going forward, is to lose a little bit of their floor plan efficiency and break up the hallways a little so you don’t just have a bank of doors on either side of hall. If you’re trying to role-play as a boutique hotel, nothing breaks the illusion faster than those long, straight corridors.

The exterior has some of the same problems that the Rangers’ soon-to-be-replaced stadium does. It’s very retro and urban and, thus, completely out of place with its surroundings. It looks like it belongs downtown instead of in the middle of the Land of Corporate Headquarters in deep suburbia. It’s not a bad look; it just highlight’s the fact that this is a chain hotel in boutique drag.

The room was smaller than what you’re normally expect, but that was fine. We had a king-sized bed and enough room for our clothes and, unless you’re planning on entertaining, that’s more than enough. The price reflected the space savings: We paid under $100 for a king room on New Year’s Eve, so yay for that.

Would I stay there again? Absolutely. The price was right, the place was clean, the staff were good, and I appreciate the modernity, even it is to “boutique hotels” what Starbucks is to “neighborhood coffee shops”.

grumpy old man critiques list of top 100 "indie rock" albums of the 2000s

Plano, TX

While I’m sitting here waiting for 2019 to emerge from the womb and trying to figure out if anyone actually liked the song I posted last night, I’ve decided to pore through a list that Google thought I would enjoy: Treble Zine’s Top 100 Indie Rock Albums of the 2000s. I love lists, and 2000s* indie rock is pretty much my bailiwick, so this should be fun, right?

The whole list is here, but rather than go through it album by album, I’m just going to comment on each section of ten (which is how they’re organized on the Treble site) and offer up some albums I think were mistakenly omitted at the end. Let’s do it real time, so I can be surprised by their #1.


Lesser albums by The Strokes (Room on Fire), Phoenix (It’s Never Been Like That), and LCD Soundsystem (self-titled) show up at the bottom of the list, leading me to suspect we’ll be seeing these bands later on. Don’t really see Room on Fire as a top 100; The Strokes didn’t really live up to the hype in my opinion. Low’s Drums and Guns is on the list which is…odd. Let me check. OK, this list came out in 2017, so Double Negative wasn’t out yet, so Drums and Guns makes sense. Nice to see Neko Case (Fox Confessor Brings The Flood) and Belle and Sebastian (The Life Pursuit) get a nod, but since those are among their strongest works, I doubt we’ll be seeing them again.


Matador Records, represent! Cat Power’s You Are Free, Yo La Tengo’s I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass and Interpol’s Antics show up here. Kudos for the Interpol record, as I think it was an improvement on their debut (although I’m probably in the minority). Crystal Castles’ debut is in this section, but thinking about them just makes me feel skeevy for what Alice Glass went through. Bright Eyes I’m Wide Awake/It’s Morning is rated just about right. I’m not a huge fan, but it’s kind of hard to knock Conor Obert’s influence.


Some of the big ones from my concert going experiences finally arrive. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever To Tell and Ted Leo + Pharmacists’ The Tyranny of Distance are in about the right place. MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular, on the other hand, is way too low. History will not look kindly on that rating, or it wouldn’t, if history cared about lists like this.


Hey! Neko Case’s Blacklisted made it here, so she got a couple on the list at least. A lot of “OK, I guess, maybe” records here: Beruit’s Gulag Orkestar, The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife, and Titus Andronicus’ The Airing of Grievances are tough to argue with, but I’m not really feeling it. I’m hoping that Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor is somewhere a little higher on the list as I like both the music and the ambition better than their debut. Sonic Youth’s Murray Street, the second SY record on the list, feels way too high to me. Their best work was in the 90s in my opinion.


We’re getting into “no respectable list would leave these off” territory, which isn’t as much fun. Spoon’s Girls Can Tell isn’t my favorite of theirs, but it’s fine. Sleater-Kinney’s All Hands On The Bad One is right where it should be. TV on the Radio’s Dear Science might be a little lower than it ought to be, but let’s see the rest of the list before judging. Elliott Smith’s Figure 8 was going to be somewhere, just a matter of where, right?


Top half of the list! Sigur Ros’ () is at #50, which is too low in my book, but I can see that one being wildly divisive. We get Of Montreal (Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?), The Shins (Chutes Too Narrow), and The Killers (Hot Fuss) back to back to back, which is a pretty strong set, even if I liked Wincing The Night Away better. Death Cab For Cutie’s Plans clocks in here and there really had to be some Death Cab, didn’t there? A little surprised to see …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead’s Source Codes and Tags this high up the list, but I’ll take it.


Everything from here on up should be borderline-classic, and they do pretty will with this segment. Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavilion absolutely belongs and Spoon’s Kill The Moonlight is exactly right for Spoon’s best record. You can’t have any indie cred at all if you don’t list Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, so that box is ticked. The New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema is here, and it’s definitely top 40 material, but the problem with the NewPos is that damned near everything they did is just as worthy.


Twee is the order of the day in this segment. Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago and The Postal Service’s Give Up are like bookends for the era (Grizzly Bear, The National, and Fleet Foxes are in this section as well). TV On The Radio’s Return To Cookie Mountain is a classic, so yes, it’s rated about right, but I’m unconvinced of the Arctic Monkey’s debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. I know it was the hype record, but their recent stuff is miles better in my opinion.


Top 20 means pretty much album-of-the-year cred at this level….and I’m not on board with most of what’s here. Sure, Phoenix’ Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix rules the airwaves, so that’s fine. But, Death Cab’s Transatlanticism and Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga aren’t their best work and I don’t see them as anywhere near top 20 material. The top 2 here are Vampire Weekend’s self-titled debut and The Strokes’ Is This It and…nah man, I’ll pass. Maybe on the bottom half of the list, but they’re both essentially one-trick ponies who wore out their welcome pretty fast.


Ok, let’s start with the positives: Bloc Party’s Silent Alarm , Modest Mouse’s The Moon and Antarctica, Sufjan Stevens’ Come On Feel The Illinoise, and The Arcade Fire’s Funeral are all solid, top ten choices. There are a couple of impressive, idiosyncratic choices here as well. Sleater-Kinney’s The Woods and Fugazi’s The Argument are albums I loved and didn’t expect to see here. Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot was inevitable, and I can’t argue with it. But this section is bookended by Franz Ferdinand at 10 and Interpol’s Turn On The Bright Lights at #1. Franz Ferdinand ‘s debut was a solid, if monochromatic, record that got big due to a ton of payola, and while I like the Interpol record, is it the best album of the first 18 years of the millennium? Not even close, in my opinion. It’s not even Interpol’s best record.

There are a ton of records that I could nominate as worthy of top 100 recognition, but I’m going to stick with what I think were particularly egregious omissions.

Old World Underground (Where Are You Now?) by Metric-This Montreal outfit is the best of the Broken Social Scene offshoots, and they’re a lot more fun than anything BSS ever made. The debut is the new wave revival you never knew you needed. Should be in the 60-70 range.

Hearts of Oak by Ted Leo + Pharmacists-I’m a biased Ted Leo fanboy, so I can’t be objective, but I feel like this is The One for Ted Leo fans. Should be in the 30-40 range.

Stellastarr* by Stellastar*-This should be a favorite of everyone who loved late-era Talking Heads. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s smart, and the songwriting is, um, stellar. Sorry about that. Should be in the 50-60 range.

Employment by The Kaiser Chiefs-It feels weird to have other buzz bands like The Strokes and Franz Ferdinand on the list, but nothing by The Kaiser Chiefs. If you like big choruses, this is THE album for you. Great live show, too. Should be in the 70-80 range.

The Witching Hour by Ladytron-Synthwave before synthwave was popular. “Destroy Everything You Touch” was one of the best singles of the decade, not that anyone asked me. Should be in the 40-50 range.

We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed by Los Campesinos! - The tweexcore Arcade Fire, with a gazillion times more energy. Gazing at your navel has never been more fun. Some folks prefer Come On Now, Youngster, and fair game to them, but this is my commentary. Should be in the 60-70 range.

Electric Version and Challengers by The New Pornographers - for reasons given above.

LP by Ambulance, LTD-An absolutely flawless compendium of guitar-based soft rock, power pop, neopsychedelia, and everything things a band can do with guitar based indie rock. Every song is great. My favorite album of the millennium so far. Should be in the 1-5 range.

That’s about it. Anything I’m missing?


* 2000s indie rock is way better than the music from my high school years, or, more accurately, I enjoy it more. I reckon this makes me a generational traitor or something, but the ears want what they want.


Austin, TX

I’ve been working on this, on and off, for almost a month so I thought I’d share my progress before I put it away for a while. It’s a cover of Genesis’ “Afterglow”, one of their more lush and romantic songs, pure Tony Banks. It builds up to this huge ending, so it was their closer for live shows for over a decade. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the original:

It’s sort of a go-to for me to play on piano since it’s both easy (a must for me) and, I think, quite beautiful. One night, I think Nicole was at work, I was just playing it very slowly, with one chord per bar and no movement beyond that. I thought “Huh. This would make a really nice, sparse, glitchy, electronic thing and I bet I could do that.”

So that’s what I’ve been doing.

The performance of the parts was actually pretty straightforward. I know the song pretty well, and I had a clear idea of what I wanted. All of the chords hitting on the first beat a piano, albeit piano being clobbered by weird delays and stuff. The parts that were originally guitar parts are very thin synths. I did add a couple of real guitar tracks (only one is recognizable, I think), the rest is all synths and effects.

Here’s what I have so far:

I’m putting it away for a while because I’ve been messing with it for so long that I’m not really hearing it anymore. I’m pretty sure that I’m going to rip a lot of it out because it’s busier than I really want it to be, but I’m not sure what to remove. It’s not quite as “minimalist” as I’d like, but it’s not too far off, I don’t think.

So, this is anywhere from 70-90% done, depending on what I decide to change when I come back in a couple of months. It’s…not quite what I imagined when I got started, but it’s a good deal closer than I thought I’d be able to get, if that makes any sense. If you’re in to this sort of thing, enjoy! If not, then….endure?


P.S. The mix is stereo, but I’ll be honest, there’s a lot of guesswork involved as I am functionally deaf in one ear. The meters say there’s some interesting separation, but I have to take their word for it.

How To Change Your Mind: The best book I've read this year (and why it pisses me off)

Austin, TX

I finished reading Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind this evening, just in time for me to list it as the best book I read in 2018. It’s been a strange year from a reading standpoint. There of the standouts for me have been in the non-fiction category: How To Change Your Mind, Why We Sleep, and Other Minds. I don’t recall my favorites being quite so lopsided in this regard in the past, but there you have it. It was a good year for reading about brains, I suppose.

Back to Pollan’s book, because I really cannot recommend this one enough. Not only have I never used psychedelics, but I came to this book almost completely ignorant of their history and the research that’s been done to figure out how they work and if they can serve a therapeutic purpose. If you’re already pretty well versed in these things, then I don’t know that it will be as thrilling for you, but I wouldn’t rule it out. My therapist is reading it for the third time and I suspect she’s not unfamiliar with some of the contents.

The first section of the book discusses the history of these molecules, starting with Albert Hoffman and his accidental discovery. Within ten years or so, psilocybin was also introduced to the U.S. (at tremendous cost to the woman who let us in on the secret). At the time, psychedelics were not only legal but even somewhat respectable. A tremendous backlash, the blame for which Pollan lays squarely at the feet of one Dr. Leary, caused the cessation of psychedelic studies until the 1990s when they started to make a return to the “legitimate” medical community.

The middle section describes the author’s own experiences with psychedelics, which he hadn’t tried prior to his 60s. He details how he navigated the underground community and had the opportunity to try LSD, psilocybin, and 5-MeO DMT (“the toad”).He details his trips in about as engaging a fashion as one likely can, but nonetheless, they’re still descriptions of someone else’s drug experiences. I found this section the weakest of the book, but nonetheless you couldn’t write this book without this telling these stories.

The final section concerns current research and goes into detail describing studies using psychedelics to treat the terminally ill, the addicted and the depressed. The results of the tests are cause for cautious optimism. The terminally ill aren’t cured, but their quality of life over their remaining months can apparently be markedly improved by treatments including these drugs.

Of course, you can’t just give someone LSD and cure their smoking habit. That’s where it gets weird and it explains why scientific trials are so difficult. It’s not the drugs that help so much as the experience you have while on them. That means, for it work, you have a guide, and a setting, and you discuss intentions, and all kinds of quasi-shamanic stuff. It is really odd, and odd in a way that science struggles with.

For me, a person who’s never tried anything like this, I found the entire book fascinating. There’s so much history and science to go along with the drug talk that I felt like I was learning new things on every page. It helps that Pollan is both skeptical and grounded, so he doesn’t come across as someone advocating for people to go out and start shoving mushrooms down their gullets. He’s also a fine writer, which always helps when you’re writing a book.

The only thing that pisses me off, and it’s a big one, is this: These treatments would seem to be exactly what a couple of friends of mine, dear friends, could have used. It’s too late for them, and of course, I can’t know that treatment involving psychedelic drugs would have made any difference, but it might have, and that’s made it hard to sleep these last couple of nights.

Anyway, it’s a great book. It’s one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read and I would recommend to it pretty much anyone who has any curiosity about the mind and consciousness, or really any curiosity at all.


Holiday music, video, and a new tradition?

Austin, TX

A few years back, I decided that I was giving up the fight on “begging the question.” I know the correct use of the term, but it’s almost never used that way. Usage changes, and at some point you go from being “correct” to being “a pedantic asshole”, and that’s the time to give it up. I may not use “begs the question” to mean “raises the question” but realistically, that’s what it means now and that fight is over.

This year, I’m giving up on the goatee. The word “goatee” is usually used to describe any beard without sideburns. In ye olden days, that’s not what it meant:

FWIW, I think he looks quite dashing with that Van Dyke.

FWIW, I think he looks quite dashing with that Van Dyke.

I decided to give this one up while reading a thread on Twitter discussing which celebrities should and should not wear goatees. Properly speaking, none of them had goatees, but who cares? Everyone knew what they meant. Usage changes. As P.J. Fry once said: “Time makes fools of us all.” Henceforth, they’re all goatees. It was a dumb thing to take a stand about, wasn’t it?

I should make this a new Christmas tradition: Give up being a pedantic dork about terms that don’t mean what they used to mean, or maybe they do, but no one uses them that way and who cares anyway? I like that. Let’s circle back on that next year.

The new Lil Jon song featuring the Kool Aid Man is all the rage this year, and with good reason; it’s one of the best Christmas songs I’ve ever heard. There’s probably no better hype man for Lil Jon than the Kool Aid Man, and the song just confirms to me that Lil Jon is one of the chillest dudes out there.

Searching for other songs to put on the mix this year, I came across this gem by Slade. You may know them as the band who did the original (and vastly superior) versions of every Quiet Riot single. They’re also the best-dressed band of the seventies, if you’re into glam-meets-hard-rock-by-way-of-English-thrift-shops (and honestly, who isn’t?). I know it’s probably too late to add it to your rotation this year, but keep it in mind. You’ll be the coolest holiday DJ, especially if you’re showing the videos as well:

Here’s a video my wife put together featuring some highlights from our 2018. She’s awfully good at putting these things together and I wanted to share it with all 16 of you who are likely to see it. Happy whichever holiday you chose to celebrate. I hope you get what you want out of this winter, and that you’re happy and safe.


(If the video doesn’t play, you’ll want to pop it out into another window. Something to do with third-party cookies and Google Drive.)

approaching holiday perihelion


Austin, TX

These sunny, 70-ish days seriously lack the sort of atmospherics that put one in a holiday mood, don’t they? Fortunately, the fact that I have a few days off more than makes up for that. The middle of March would feel like a holiday with enough time off, wouldn’t it? Maybe I’ll test that theory this year.

I’m in bed, watching a bunch of kids on those motorized scooters that have been irresponsibly dumped on our streets in the middle of the night before the city could get around to making a law that would prohibit that sort of thing. That’s the business model of the disruptive startup, isn’t it? Do something that could/should/would be against the law and try to make it ubiquitous before anyone can do anything about it. Not that it would make any difference if the city were to pass laws against the cursed things; the state is thoroughly in the pocket of Uber and their ilk and will not hesitate to overrule any local ordinances that might hurt their business.

Yay democracy.

My experiment with the social network Vero is being put on hold until they get a user base that’s more useful to me. It wouldn’t hurt if they were to get a little less text-phobic. I can’t say anything on their site without first uploading an image or linking a song or video or, almost-ironically enough, a book. I can do that, sure, and I guess it fits the site’s aesthetic better if people aren’t treating it like Twitter, but it just seems kind of obtuse to discourage what I consider a key feature of social networking. Oh, and they could maybe stop trying to get me to follow Zack Snyder every time I log in. That would be nice.

So, anyway, back to trying to find a place that fills void caused by what feels like an eventually-inevitable departure from Facebook. Does it even need a replacement? Mmmmmaybe? I don’t know, but I’m not quite sure what the shape of that thing would be. It’s not shaped like Vero, for what that’s worth. Maybe Twitter plus keeping a blog is enough. It feels a little light to me, but that’s not an entirely unappealing thought.

Much of the holiday rigmarole is in the rear view mirror. Gifts and cards were launched into the ether, I saw my mother and sister last weekend, so it’s mostly a countdown at this point. We’re hunkered down here in the apartment doing amazing things with crafts and music and…OK, we’re playing a lot of video games. Is that what you wanted to hear?

Job #2 is going well right now, thank you very much. I’m in a weekly rhythm with it that’s working well for me and I think I’m doing a better job at it each week. Sure, it would be nice if the pay amounted to anything, but it’s one of those (and I canNOT believe I’m saying this) resume-builders that’s also a lot of fun for me, so I intend to keep at it and see if it goes anywhere (which is probably will not).

My big goal for the holiday is to finish the song I’m working on, or at the very least get all of the tracks on the laptop so I finish it there. I’ve only recently discovered the concept of “parameter modulation” in the effects section, which puts things into a semi-modular kind of territory that is ….wait, are there words I’m using even real words? They are, and there’s a real chance I’m using them correctly, but let me just say that there are some new toys in Reaper that I’m super-eager to play with because I think they’ll give me something very close to what I was imagining when I started this project.

One thing that living on the fourth floor, as opposed to the ground floor, offers us is the opportunity to leave the windows open at night. It is getting properly chilling in the deep parts of the night, which makes blankets feel that much better. It’s not like camping, but it does give the nights something of a “vacation bungalow” feeling sometimes. We both sleep better with the windows open, at least in the winter when the allergen-producing plants have the decency to keep it to themselves. There’s a full moon out there somewhere. I can’t see it, but I can see the shadows it’s casting. It’s a good night for sleeping, so I think I’ll do some of that now.


holiday road trip

Denton, TX

‘Tis the season of social obligations, isn’t it? They’re not all wanted, not all unwanted, but they undoubtedly “are”. Five in four days is a bit much, but it represents the killing of many birds with as few stones as possible. I’m staying with my mother tonight at my aunt’s house deep in a suburban labyrinth. I have reliable navigation skills, but trying to find my way through these identical houses on identical streets surrounded by identical everything is more than I can manage after spending a good chunk of the day on the road. I’m here, but I can’t distinguish “here” from anywhere else nearby.

I’m currently putting off going to sleep, which will occur on a twin bed that’s almost as tall as it is long. It’s weird.

Anyway, I’m not dreading any of these events, but I’m looking forward to having them behind me, if you know what I mean. Driving up here, I got to wondering just how often I’d made this four hour-ish trek over my lifetime. Somewhere between 75-100 times, I’d guess. That’s an awful lot of time and distance on a stretch of road that is dull, subject to construction delays, and absolutely unavoidable as there are simple no other reasonable routes between points “A” and “B”. I did see a structure that looked sort of like the beginnings of a reconstruction of Wardenclyffe.. Actually….let me look it up real quick…

Holy smokes! That’s pretty much exactly what it is. Perhaps I’ve been a little too quick to judge this drive as being dull. There are/were numerous curious features. The late, lamented Starship Pegasus is no more, but the Monolithic Dome Institute remains. And, of course, there’s the semi-famous Waco Memorial Funeral Home:


Sure are a lot of round/dome-related things on that stretch of highway, huh? I’ve done this drive so many times it’s like I’m not seeing it anymore. I almost wish I could forget the whole trip and see it with fresh eyes so I could appreciate it’s special-ness. And on that note, off to bed. G’night all.


cold and dark and yesterday

I’m perhaps a quarter of the way through Michael Pollan’s How To Change Your Mind. It’s been an engrossing read thus far, but one of the things that I’m finding most interesting is that it brings some of my favorite comics into a whole new context. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles is pretty obviously referencing some of the same experiences Pollan writes about, but it’s not like Morrison was ever coy about his influences. I suppose I always knew that Warren Ellis’ Planetary issue #21 was covering this territory, but I hadn’t recognized just how specific it was.

On an unrelated note, I’m currently working on absolutely mangling one of my favorite old Genesis songs. I’m not putting that way to be self-deprecating; “mangling” is a literal description of what I’m doing to the poor, helpless tune. It’s a simple, lush, and sentimental song and I’m trying to make it cold, distant, and mechanical and…I think it’s working? I dunno. We’ll know more in a week or two.

This has been the most fun, and most challenging thing I’ve worked on from a production standpoint. I’m still a complete newb when it comes to recording music. I’m not at all familiar with the tools, and the learning curve is steep. It’s like trying to express ideas with an extremely limited vocabulary. It’s difficult, but the fact that it forces you to be creative is rewarding. Today’s fun? Recording the drum parts as separate parts when there’s only one audio output on the machine. It worked, but I bet there are better ways to do it.

My brain feels reasonably bright and well-functioning right now, which would normally be an unreservedly good thing. But…I’m not a winter person, and the time between Thanksgiving and New Year gets my anxiety cooking. In some ways, a dull mind would probably be preferable, huh? Anyway, it’s going to be a busy, busy next couple of weeks or so. I’m going to go to parties. Plural. More than one. I’ll be among friends, or at the very least pleasant acquaintances, so it won’t be bad, but Mr. Brain isn’t having it. I should probably stab it with a Q-Tip or something.

We moved out of our last apartment complex in no small part because of the constant construction and repairs. What is the point of having a view of a pond when there’s scaffolding over your windows for over a year? Not that we could see the scaffolding, since there was also a plastic sheet of unknown purpose over the window as well. I say “unknown purpose” since it didn’t prevent paint or stucco from getting on the glass, nor did it prevent rain from getting inside.

Because we like the neighborhood, we didn’t move far. In fact, we only moved across a small service road from the old place. Can you guess where this is going? I bet you can! The construction at our old complex has moved from the building where our old apartment was to the one that is directly outside of our windows. So now, we see nothing but scaffolding and we hear hammering and drilling and the unmistakable beep beep beep for trucks backing up all day long.

In retrospect, perhaps we should have considered moving more than 50 yards away? We do like the neighborhood, and the view is lovely when the scaffolding is down.

I am saddened to report that the Vero experiment is not going particularly well. Ello was positively lively in comparison. They have a nice interface, but if I wanted to simply post things for my own benefit without any expectation that anyone would ever see them, I might as well just have a blog, right?


The Third Policeman and other funny books

(unnecessary note: I wrote this last night, but I’m pushing it today because I want to try something and it’s easier to test during the day. I’m sure you needed to know that….)

I picked up a copy of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman knowing nothing more about the novel or novelist than that the book had been name-checked in Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles. One of the characters refers to it as “…one of the greatest books in the English language.” That’s a hell of a claim, even coming from a fictional character (and one of dubious character at that), so I figured it was worth a read.

It was, in fact, worth a read. It’s a comedy that I’ve seen described as “sardonic”, which is the sort of funny that doesn’t make you laugh, so that’s a pretty good description. It is genuinely funny; it’s just a little on the grim side in its humor. It’s a difficult book to describe without spoilers since there’s a big twist near the end. It’s the sort of twist that was a lot more novel back in it’s day (O’Brien wrote it in 1940) but might be a little more transparent to modern readers. Still, no need to spoil it, right?

The language is lovely, and the condemnation of aspects of modernity still hit home. It’s absurd in a (and I hate myself for using this term) Kafka-esque fashion, so if that’s up your alley, I strongly, strongly recommend The Third Policeman to you. It’s short, but fairly dense, so it’s not a breezy read. As someone who has read The Invisibles a couple of hundred times, this adds a little flavor to the overall experience…and I’m not going to go into any more detail than that. Read it for yourself.

While we’re on the subject of funny novels, I wanted to list some of the books that I’ve found particularly amusing. It seems like writing a “funny” novel is really, really hard since so few writers have the knack. So, on the off chance you’re looking for some written drollery, these might scratch that itch:

  • Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman - This is at the top of the list for a reason. It’s the funniest novel I’ve ever read, combining the sensibilities of two of the titans of the field. Not all supergroups work, but this one produced a classic. Honestly, the entire Discworld series belongs on this list, too.

  • A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole - This was one of those classics I’d avoided because I didn’t really know anything about it other than that they made you read it in school. It’s genuinely laugh out loud funny and I’m ticked off that I took so long to get to it.

  • Lamb, Christopher Moore

  • Any Jeeves book, P.G. Wodehouse

  • Crooked Little Vein, Warren Ellis

  • Redshirts, John Scalzi

  • The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams

That’s not a complete list, of course, but if you work your way through these books, you’ll probably been in a pretty good mood. The fact that I don’t list The Master and Margarita on here is more of a personal failing than an indictment of the book. It didn’t work for me, but it did for many, many people, so I’m just going to assume the problem is on this end.