Friday, October 31, 2008

ain't supposed to die on a saturday night

I picked up an album yesterday, "The '59 Sound" by Gaslight Anthem. I had heard the two lead singles on the radio, and liked both a lot, good late-night driving music, so when I was at Best Buy last night looking for new music, I figured I would give it a chance.

It was a pretty good reminder of why A) I have listened to the radio so infrequently over the last five years, and B) why I never buy albums anymore based off a catchy song on the radio.

I hate to sound like an old person, but every damn song sounds the same. There is no variety. If you skip through the tracks and listen to the first five seconds, 2/3 of them could be easily mistaken for each other. They play actual notes here and there, which is a plus, I suppose, but the best we get are little loops of four or five notes repeated over and over, in front of your usual package of three power chords endlessly churning out. My usual annoyance applies just as it normally does - when you have a few power chords and no "solo" or any actual playing of your instruments, the songs will be boring as hell, and in this case, they all sound the same, too.

My biggest problem with the album is the vocals. They have this weird sheen effect laid over them, which was noticible on the radio, but surprisingly more prominent on the actual album. Effects are fine, but it is incredibly obvious that in this case they're being used to cover up the fact that the vocals are lacking something.

Which brings me to my point - when the hell did it become acceptable and popular to have bands with a lead singer who can't sing worth a damn? This guy half-sing-half-talks and sounds tone deaf half of the time, and people love it. Same goes for that Killers band - shitty effects trying to compensate for a singer who can't actually sing.

Back to Japanese and Finnish shit, I guess.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

i am so proud of you

It's a common thing to hear after meeting a famous person - "They're great, he's just a normal guy!"

I felt this after seeing Brendan Fraser a number of months ago. He walked in dressed casually, perhaps a bit young for his age, talked about films, stuff in general, and seemed like a really cool down-to-earth guy... for a celebrity. Were he actually an actual normal guy, he'd be the really cool one, who, while cool, wouldn't really have the time of day for you since everybody would be wanting to hang with him.

Don Hertzfeldt wound up being an actual normal guy. I thought he would be a bit cocky, perhaps even a bit egotistical, because there aren't many independent animators out there who are as well-known as he is, and who have been successful enough to never need a "real" job. It wound up the exact opposite, though. He is just a dude, the type of guy I could have seen myself hanging out with, bullshitting about movies with, having a beer with. Incredibly appreciative of fans and his success, very modest, quiet, well-mannered, intelligent, and just all around really, really nice.

After the screening of "I am so proud of you" (more on that in a bit) he stayed afterwards to hang out at the table-of-three-items-for-sale to sign some stuff, and by time we got to him, it had been over an hour. This was at the Music Box, so while there were a good number of people, it wasn't an amount that would normally take so long to get through (considering the rest of the line behind us it was probably another good half hour after we left) at an event like this. Instead of rushing people through, he was stopping to talk. If somebody had something to say, he'd listen, not giving a hint of "I need to move on to the next person in line," actually holding a small conversation, and never seeming anything other than perfectly happy to stick around and make sure he got to say hi to everybody. He was just a dude with an awesome job, happy to see that people love what he has made, and who wanted to make sure he let everybody know how much he appreciates it himself.

The film itself is great. It is directly a second chapter to "Everything will be ok," and while it has similarities, they are quite different. This one has a few more comedic moments than the last, is a bit longer, and also jumps around in time a bit, to great effect. I wouldn't dare spoil any of it, but I think it's just as amazing as the first.

The crowd was an interesting mix. You had normal people, you had anime / video game nerds who were there because of Rejected, you had the film snobs, you had the arthouse snobs, emo kids, long-haired hippy looking types, everybody you can think of, even a few metal kids. The internet-fans of Rejected (of which there were many) were a bit annoying though. They screened a couple older shorts before showing Ok and Proud, including Meaning of Life, during which maybe a third of the theater was laughing uproariously. It has a few funny moments, but people seemed compelled to laugh at stuff that I find to be overtly serious, simply because of "my spoon is too big." Rejected is brilliant, don't get me wrong, but it bugs the piss out of me when people automatically take everything else Don does as comedy. During what was probably the emotional climax of Proud, a few people were laughing, while I was shrinking down in my chair a bit in a futile attempt to hide the fact that I couldn't keep from crying. I guess I just managed to hit the nerd crowd. In line to meet Don the 40-something nerds behind me (dressed as late teens, one wearing 3d glasses) were having a heated, almost scholarly-sounding discussion on "AHnime," FFVI vs FFVII, and other stuff before I tuned them out.

Protip - If you ever want me to shove my fist into your mouth and tear your tongue out, raising your voice slightly so people around you can hear that you are pronouncing the term "anime" as "AHH-knee-may" is a quite effective way to do so

So anyway, it was a great experience. I hope he comes back to Chicago if he does Chapter 3. The night ended on two strange notes, though. One was this rush of creative inspiration that always comes with a night like this, but even moreso tonight when I was seeing an independent filmmaker who has found moderate success and has not gone corporate, only doing his own thing. The film got so many things flying around in my head, and talking to him briefly on being a film student interested in animation god many more things flying around - so many things I want to write, things I want to try to animate, music I want to record to write/animate to... but I can't really focus on any of this, since right now, focusing on work, stressful goingson at home, and especially the black hole of stress and anger that is finishing school in a program that is worthless and that I owe $100k to, really is too much to handle at once to have any free energy for creative drive. I literally don't have the time or energy for anything creative. Work is fine, but school and the health of my family is too draining. If I could somehow finish school tomorrow, I would be so excited about having time to dedicate to putting together something great- but that's not an option.

The second weird thing was that during the screening I got a voicemail from one of my two coworkers saying they're leaving the Genius Squad. He is a great guy, both to work with and to hang out with, and it'll suck not having him around. He always kept a good level of humor and joking sarcasm with people around the desk that made it much easier to get through the tough days, of which there have been many.

Friday, October 24, 2008

heard they'll do anything for a klondike, but i'll do anything for a blonde dyke

(I've honestly heard people saying Kayne is great with lyrics)

Occasionally I get hit with things that bother me seemingly out of nowhere. This time it was a person up at the Genius Squad talking to my coworker. They were talking about iPhones, and at some point I interjected with my annoyance at my continuing lack of one for myself. 

The girl says, "What, your parents won't get you one?"

I respond, "Not that, I have my own plan on AT&T that I pay for, my parents have a seperate plan, and I'm not a new customer so I'd have to spend $400 on the phone."

"Oh, I ran into a problem where my parents didn't want to get me one, but (I kept nagging blah blah I got it)..."

Going to an expensive school in an expensive neighborhood, I suppose you're supposed to expect stuff like this, but it still catches me off guard where somebody close to my own age has their parents buy them stuff like expensive iPhones, and automatically assume that the reason I don't have one is because my parents won't pay for the more expensive phone/plan. I most certainly wish my parents had the means to buy me an iPhone out of the blue, but even if they did have the means, they wouldn't do it... which I am acutally happy about, being spoiled by one's parents would grow tiring quickly... but I really do want an iPhone, lol.

Though, that Google's Android OS is quite awesome... we'll see what the state of Android vs iPhone is by the time my parents switch companies in January (cheaper for me to get a smartphone if I can be on a family plan again instead of my own - it's literally half the price).

Monday, October 20, 2008

awkwardly speaking with nothing to say

I've had a couple things happen over the last few weeks that have made me step back and take a look at myself, or rather how other people look at me.

I was hanging with the guys a few nights ago, watching the Hawks game and playing pool in my basement (which is a whole lot of fun, I need to twist their arms a bit and make it a regular thing). On our way to get food afterwards, somebody mentioned some Japanese song, "Marshmallow Strawberry Flower" or some shit, and a crazy video that accompanied it on YouTube. He assumed we knew it, which we didn't, but he was surprised that I didn't, saying "You don't know it? Aren't you the Japan freak?"

This caught me decisively off-guard. At the end of my high school career and the first year or two of college, I was really into anime, but I was never the hugely obsessive type who inexplicably finds it a good thing to identify as "otaku," I was simply somebody who appreciates a good show. I discovered an entirely new approach to storytelling that I hadn't been exposed to previously as an American, so I was eating it up. I also have listened to a good deal of Japanese music in recent years, and expressed a distaste for a large amount of modern American music.

I don't find myself to be a "Japan freak" in the least. I don't like Japanese media any more than American media; it's all just media to me, the media I consume just happens to come from a few different places. People seem to take these things as automatic signs of being an "otaku," however. I mention that I listen to Japanese music, and apparently, I'm automatically a mega-nerd. I understand how people can jump to that conclusion, but it still annoys me. What I don't get is why people I've known since I was 7 think I'm a "Japan freak" who must know obscure Japanese pop songs or memes.

I've found myself having a little bit of annoyance - hatred, even - with the anime club on campus. It's perfectly fine to have an anime club (though I would argue that the club does not fulfill it's goal of bring in socially inept kids and giving them people with similar interests so they will eventually branch out socially - in actuality it just gives socially inept people other friends who do have similar interests but are equally inept socially, and the person's only friends wind up being the other anime club members, to the point where they might not even try to make outside friends, and they wind up even worse off than before), but it gets on my nerves when society jumps the gun and assumes I'm a mega-nerd simply because I listen to Japanese music and I watch anime every now and then. Again, I understand why the gun is jumped - most people who appreciate Japanese media in the US are, in fact, horridly nerdy. It just ruins it for those of us who aren't horridly nerdy, but simply open to media from other cultures.

Sometimes I wonder what people "get" from me as a first impression (or for that matter just in general). I have long hair, I'm kinda pudgy. I dress casually, often jeans and a hoodie, sometimes a "nicer" button shirt with some graphic tee under it. Generically, I suppose. Not grungy-looking but not like I'm a college prep type or anything. I find myself to be normal in conversation. I can talk about movies, music, sports, games, computers, life, your average range of stuff. People just seem to find me very strange, though.

I wonder about this since I get a very certain type of girl hitting on me - the extremely quiet, timid, "homely"-looking (I'm not a shallow person but it's simply a fact that myself and others take looks into consideration - to an extent), hide-away-when-you-raise-your-voice, (seemingly) cripplingly nerdy type of girl. I see a thousand beautiful girls a day at this job, but the few times now and then when somebody is overtly hitting on me, it's always this type. They stop and awkwardly talk to carry conversation past the point where their computers are done being fixed.

One case about a month ago hit me hard. This incredibly shy, timid girl, who seemed to be fascinated by the fact that I was holding normal conversation with her (you could tell it was the type of person who expects to be treated poorly since has likely been picked on her entire life). She left her computer, came back, I gave it to her, she went and sat down at a lab computer, pretty routine... until she comes up, trying to seem happy when in actuality she was extremely nervous (this one I can say for sure; I have experience with the feeling), and hands me a post-it note with her number, saying she likes me and she'd love to get to know me more. I take it, not entirely knowing what to say and entirely caught off-guard, and she leaves.

Being me, this made me feel like utter shit, since a girl I had decisively zero interest in kind of just directly asked me out. Ultimately I kind of forgot about it after a few days and she hasn't been back, which makes me feel like a shitty person, but really, I'm simply not interested in the least, and I also have no real urge to make new friends at all at this late in the game.

However, the real problem... is that this was the first time I've ever been directly asked out by a girl. I've had a couple harmless flirting things here and there, where the possibility is there but neither party ever address it and it eventually passes, and a time where it went from acquaintance to friendship and then just kind of moved into more than that on it's own - but I had never been asked out. The first time I was by an unattractive and painfully timid girl when I was 22.

This is the kind of thing that fucks with your head the more you think about it. I know I'm not the most appealing guy around. I have many interests, but none that most girls want to talk about most of the time, and I'm not the most attractive guy around and have a shitty body but I don't think I'm flat-out unattractive, I'm overweight but I at least still have a neck and distinct joints. I like to think I have a good personality, but I'm not really aggressive when it comes to women, and the cliche of girls liking aggressive and backhandedly mean guys really seems to be fact, at least around here.

When you get hundreds of girls walking around you every day, in the kind of jeans girls tend to wear around here, and the only ones to show interest are the ones you have no interest in, it's hard to get thoughts like this out of your head.

Anyway. Job is hard lately. The higher-eschelon people in IS refuse to fix things as simple as the wireless instructions on the website (which effectively tell you how to crash your Mac every 15 minutes 100% of the time), which trickles down to lots of angry people taking stuff out on me that's not my fault. It makes for a stressful job, especially when home life is hellishly stressful, and school even more so.

I need a break, bad.

Monday, October 13, 2008

maybe tomorrow is a better day

My band's name will be Only in Theaters.

Our first album will be named TK-421.

Tracks one, two and four (of ten) will be released as singles.

The lead single, named "Tina Fey is a Bitch," will top charts and be called "bombastic."

While it will not be our most popular song, track eight will be widely regarded as the album's best.

Our sophomore album, A Scream of Wilhelm, will outsell the first, but will not be as critically acclaimed.

Our third album, Apple Crunch (You Can't Unhear It), will be considered a true return to formm and evolution.

...So maybe I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here. But I am actually writing some music. Mostly just the instruments, not much figured out yet as far as lyrics go.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008