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Notes From The Flip Side: 07.06.2003

"There is only the tiniest area, thought Alison, in which one can stay peacefully, without hurting, without being hurt. The smallest space, the smallest cell. Let us stay in it a little longer, please God, she prayed, gazing at the enigmatic star. Let us fend off for a little longer the incursions."

Margaret Drabble

Take Lots With Alcohol ...

Last week was just ridiculous. I went in for an outpatient procedure on Thursday to attempt to resolve my neck and back problems which means that I couldn't take any blood thinning agents for two days. That knocked off aspirin, acetominephin and ibuprofen, leaving me with nothing but cyclobenzeprine and hydrocodone to block some of the pain. Both induce drowsiness. Neither is particularly appropriate to take at work. So I suffered until I arrived at the clinic for some epidurals, trigger point injections and facet blocks. In lay terms, that means that the doc knocked me out, filled horse needles with cortisone and lidocaine, and then proceeded to inject that cocktail into my neck and shoulders. The last thing I remember before the sedation hit was how nice the towel on my forehead felt. Then I woke up in recovery, loopy as hell, unsteady, sore and covered in band-aids.

With the help of my driver, I made it to the grocery store and stocked up on food for the next few days. I watched wrestling and passed out not long thereafter. I woke up on Friday morning feeling about as stiff as a corpse. By late Friday afternoon, the aches were beginning to wear off and I was starting to feel a little loose. And when I realized on Saturday that I could actually turn my head for the first time in a few months, I did little else but look around me ... just because I could.

Of course, it's a few days later and I'm falling apart again - acid reflux or some such annoying shit. Another visit to the doctor. More medicine. And more waiting until my health takes a turn for the better.

Scalia Blew The Call Again ...

If Antonin Scalia were an umpire, he would have followed Richie Phillips through MLB's doors. He has persistently shown the same sort of wrongheaded reasoning that Phillips and company did when they decided that quitting was a dandy way to force negotiations. However, Scalia makes decisions on a substantially different playing field, one in which he can view every case through a lens of Judeo-Christian morals.

The last time I checked, jurisprudence - particularly for the Supreme Court - has little to do with morality and everything to do with justice - unless you're Antonin Scalia (a devout Catholic who somehow finds it consistent with his faith to oppose the Pope's stand against the death penalty). In his recent dissenting opinion in Lawrence et al. v. Texas (beginning on page 31), a case which tossed Texas' sodomy law out the window, Justice Scalia effectively argues that justice exists to support moral behavior and that homosexuality, masturbation and obscenity are immoral and must be regulated by the state to preserve order.

And here I thought that these were things which merely needed to be fueled by alcohol to preserve a good time on a Saturday night. And frankly, Justice Scalia - with the limited amount of respect I have for anyone who aruges against privacy rights in such a fashion - could probably use a sound cornholing (hopefully dished out by Rick Santorum) because he's the most uptight asshole to pass down a decision in the past decade.

My issue is quite simple - I honestly don't care if a guy and a girl, two guys, two girls or the entire fucking Partridge Family with special guests Jenna Jameson and Brianna Banks are banging each other in the bedroom, living room, kitchen, bathroom or garage. It's none of my goddamned business. As long as I don't have to (pay to) watch, I don't care. For me, what it boils down to is simple - the church and the state are separate. It is the responsibility of pederastic priests who administer Scalia's particular brand of faith and other, perhaps less distasteful, religious leaders to govern morality. It is the responsibility of philandering legislators and porn-consuming justices to handle legality. They would all do well to remember that their houses are also made of glass while they're occupying their time with passing out bricks. They should also keep in mind that we are inheriting the world that they are so desperately trying to regulate, the world that they - and their influence - will soon leave.

And Hey Baby, It's The 4th Of July ...

The dog woke me up at six a.m. this morning. He kept snuggling closer - while this might not seem like something that would wake me up, he is a Great Dane and he does weigh more than some people I know. I got out of bed, grabbed a t-shirt and pair of shorts from the floor and let him outside. I fixed his breakfast, washed a few dishes and enjoyed a morning of no one stirring. I don't even think anyone is awake yet.

Last year, I had been unemployed for a few days on the 4th. My then girlfriend practically dragged me to another one of her family gatherings - another place I didn't want to be at a time when I didn't want to be there. This year, I'm taking the train up to Chicago.

I had the chance to see X in a small club some years ago. They weren't as good as the first time I had seen them, but they were 15 years older. After the show, I saw John Doe sitting in the back of the bar and, breaking my rule of trying not to disturb musicians when they're getting ready for or cooling down from a show, I walked up to him and introduced myself. Even though I know that Dave Alvin wrote it, I thanked him for "4th Of July"; sometimes, it's the singer, not the song. I told him my ritual - that I've woken up every 4th of July since that song was released and listened to it repeatedly (about 16 years now) because it reminds me what I'm fighting for.

On the surface, that may not seem like an obvious statement - "4th Of July" does seem to be about a relationship which is dying slowly and painfully, disintegrating amidst unspoken words and gradually increasing disconnection. It's a song about people who seem to have accepted this, people who do not seem okay with the situation but seem to have acquiesced to their lot. The refrain - "Hey baby / It's the 4th of July" seems like little more than a shrug, yet there are moments when it seems that even this surrender may yet be redeemed, that by singing "Whatever happened I apologize / Dry your tears and baby walk outside / It's the 4th of July" it may be possible to step out the door into the summer sun and somehow be okay.

But for me, the meaning of that song is deeper because I read more into it. I listen to John Doe singing "On the stairs I smoke a cigarette alone" and I know that alienation because I have spent the 4th of July smoking frustrated cigarettes on stairs while Mexican kids played soccer beneath me and I hated myself for not having the guts to end things with a broken, jagged shard of a girl. When he sings, "She gives me her cheek / When I want her lips," I connect with the frustration. I understand this tale of two people who might have had it together at one point but certainly don't anymore, whose best chance is an amicable parting to days without each other, because I've lived it. And, having done so, this song is about a hell of a lot more than a relationship to me.

It's about every shitty, fucked up choice I made for the wrong reasons. It's about every day that I wasted because I couldn't see the writing on the wall. It's about recognizing my own gradual trips down slippery slopes of acquiesence. It's about remembering my own compromises and surrenders - romantic and otherwise - so that I can make sure that I never give in again.

X gave me a song that has stayed with me for my entire life. I've given that song 16 years so far ... and counting. That seems fair to me. Thank you, John Doe, for the everlasting motivation that you gave me.

Begin The Day With A Friendly Voice ...

I was sitting at the station a few weeks ago, trying to figure out what I had played and in what order, puzzling through the strike-outs and arrows, the brackets and lines I had sketched as a visual reminder of the songs and their sequence. And then I realized that if my playlist didn't look like that, if it didn't resemble a preliminary map drawn by Lewis and Clark with all sorts of marks and scratched out lines, there would be something even more wrong with it. Like a mix tape or comp CD, a show should change and morph and evolve by the second. It should grow - DJs should always fly by the seat of their pants and be ready to radically shift directions at a moment's notice if it will improve the flow. There are no rules but one - follow the music.

The Seventh Inning Stretch ...

This is the longest update I've done in a while. If I spent as much time transcribing and adding old reviews and content as I do writing, the site would have broken 1,000 pages by now. Of course, if I had spent that time working on redesign and using the files that Josh Campbell provided, I might have a functioning site based in XML and CSS, but what am I to do? I've got a lot to say.

Every Thug Needs A Lady ...

I may be a piss-poor excuse of a thug, but this is what it all comes down to right now - wandering around the quad at the local college campus, watching rabbits and catching fireflies on Solstice. Making mix CDs of songs you've never heard but that make me think of you. Eating burritos in the rain. Staying up late to talk. And driving 15 minutes just for a kiss.

It seems that our days are filled with tenderness - brushing against each other, brief caresses, long hugs, sideways glances - these gentle signs of affection that mean so much to me. Life is complicated right now but you still bring moments of pure bliss and tranquility, moments in which I can forget everything else.

Your smile makes me feel whole again; when you blush it reminds me that I'm not really as old as I think and I'm ready to take on the entire goddamn world all over again because I know that no one will ever take us down as we linger in this cooling bath surrounded by flickering candles and the scent of melons.

You and I are all about stars and the hoods of cars in the middle of the night after drive-in movies at the tail end of tornado season and I swear to you that you're the best twister that ever tore apart my ramshackle trailer park of a heart, so will you take my face in your hands and kiss me open mouth tonight and every night for the rest of our lives?

(For now? Forever? For on and on and on?)

Off The Top Of My Head ...

  1. Two words. Fairweather. "Lusitania." I bought this record today - the day it came out. I'm listening to the album for the second time and if I still numbered my year-end picks, it would be in the top five with Give Up The Ghost, Elliott, The Blood Brothers, Rainer Maria, Ted Leo, Alkaline Trio and The Jealous Sound. Yeah. I know. I have eight albums in my top five. If you don't have at least eight albums in your top five of the year when the year is only half over, what kind of fan are you? At any rate, "Lusitania" totally blindsided me. After the optimistic shoegazing youthcore of "If They Move..." and the sonic progression into more aggressive and dissonant territories on "Alaska," Fairweather has completely unloaded every barrel with a guitar-driven album of stunning atmospheric beauty. Sure, it still features blazing guitar pyrotechnics, but there's a wealth of subtlety here, most of which will be lost on people who don't have a decent set of headphones (my personal recommendation is a pair of Sony MDR-CD780s - they're pricey but the most comfortable headphones you'll ever own). The first song alone reminds me of Gavin Bryars' "Sinking Of The Titanic" accompanied by My Bloody Valentine's dreamiest glide guitar and vocals that wouldn't have sounded out of place on any Pale Saints release (if you aren't familiar with these references, kindly correct that oversight at your first opportunity). From that jumping off point, "Lusitania" proceeds to thoroughly map the musical expanses hinted at by the previous releases as completely as if it were memorizing a lover's face with its fingertips and with as much passion as Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko's paintings ever displayed. You won't understand these things until you hear this record - and when you do, you just might realize that this album is both something which hasn't been done well in over a decade and a divergence from those older excursions which takes its cues from hardcore ... and a record which provides a roadmap for every heartbroken teenager who will someday start a band of their own.
  2. I think I missed the boat by such a large margin that I had to catch a fucking helicopter to make it, but Isis' "Oceanic" is astounding.
  3. The above comments notwithstanding, I've been all about the metal lately. I picked up the new Himsa album and it sounds like a cross between In Flames, Iron Maiden and Slayer. I finally got Converge's "Jane Doe" and it's pretty brutally heavy. The funny thing to me is that I never really liked Converge until now - too metallic, too heavy, too brutal, etc. I suppose a steady diet of the chaotic screamo stuff I've been listening to here has helped shape my ears and prepare them for appreciating this disc. That's not to say that Converge sounds anything like The Blood Brothers or JR Ewing, merely that those bands built a musical bridge for me to cross in order to prepare me for Converge. And I'm doubly grateful - both for the music that those bands have made which inspires me and for expanding my musical horizons.
  4. Sigur Ros. Those crazy Icelanders. "Agaetis Byrjun" is absolutely gorgeous drone-rock. High-pitched vocals (think Radiohead) blend with atmospherics, drones, traditional instrumentation ... sort of like MBV's glide guitar technique without the distortion and amps that go to 11. Make no mistake about it, this stuff is seriously tranquil, like the Spacemen 3 without the feedback. It defines languid. It's basically a musical narcotic. Need I note that it's stunningly beautiful and great?

Now Playing:

Fairweather. Himsa. Isis. X. Gary Wilson. Nobukazu Takemura. The American Analog Set. !!!. Converge. Kill Me Tomorrow. Cannonball Adderley. The New Pornographers. The Black Heart Procession. Kenny Dorham. Matmos. Julie Doiron. The Hidden Cameras. The Jealous Sound. Small Brown Bike. Ted Leo. Rocket From The Crypt. The Rachel's. Everything But The Girl. JR Ewing. Lucinda Williams. Sigur Ros. Crooked Fingers. Bitchin'. Leonard Cohen. Rebels Wrench. Alkaline Trio.

Now Reading:

Paul Avrich, "Anarchist Portraits"; Umberto Eco, "Island Of The Day Before"; Alan Lomax, "The Land Where The Blues Began"; Peter Guralnick, "Lost Highway" and "Sweet Soul Music"; Thomas Wolfe, "You Can't Go Home Again"; Andrew Feenberg, "Questioning Technology" and "Alternative Modernity"; Steven Heller, "Graphic Design History" (edited with Georgette Ballance); Gunnar Swanson, ed., "Graphic Design And Reading"; Daniel Guerin, "No Gods No Masters"

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Last modified on Wednesday, March 26, 2008