Ramblings

Usually drunken.

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You’re out of time.

Jul 8, 2009, 9:34 am by Paul Stiverson

Unless you have been inhabiting a small crevasse under a large rock you have surely heard, over and over again, that Michael Jackson (a rather famous pop singer!) has died. Upon hearing the news I must say that I was not entirely surprised or grief-stricken, but I did fully expect to be bludgeoned from every media outlet for at least three days. Boy, was I wrong. For the last twelve days I have not been able to turn on a television without hearing at least some mention of the death of the king of pop. If not about the details surrounding his death, than about his links to other celebrities (or pseudo-celebrities), or his will and who will care for his children. Most recently MSNBC has pre-empted their evening programming to show the public memorial service from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. While I fully admit that Michael Jackson was an American pop-culture icon I cannot fathom that he should deserve to so fully dominate the news cycle. I can only think of one reason why he should, and it is quite… sinister.

I claim that the only way that MJ could so receive so much attention is if at least one major news outlet is in on a conspiracy to fake Michael Jackson’s death. The reason for this fakery is necessary is for a major comeback scheme that MJ himself masterminded over 25 years ago. That’s right, in about a month CNN or some other outlet will take a shortcut through the cemetery that holds Jackson’s grave, illustrating how many people are making the pilgrimage to see his final resting place when the unimaginable, nay, the impossible will happen.

ZOMBIE DANCE PARTY!

We are all fighting for our lives inside a killer thriller tonight. You will be missed, Michael.
Zombie Dance Party

Party like a Texas-Country Star

Apr 8, 2009, 10:08 am by Paul Stiverson

Stoney and the brisketI have a clear memory of the following, but should the accuracy of any of the following come into question my fellow blogger, John, can be contacted for corroboration: he was there and reliably sober.

Prelude

For those who are unaware, an event by the name of Chilifest occurred last weekend. Chilifest is a fairly large 2-day Texas-Country music festival, probably about 12 bands played, 70,000 fans watched, and each of them averaged about a 24 pack of beer. It’s a pretty big deal for this area, this year I elected to stay home and not get irreparably sunburned, and I’m certain I didn’t miss too terribly much. A fair number of local businesses try very hard to cash in on the obvious cash cow that is Chilifest, and The Hall is no exception. Each year they throw an after-party to ensnare the group of people that didn’t quite get enough excitement—or that hate their livers a little more than most. This year The Hall brought in a great act, The Doug Moreland Show. The show was outstanding, but poorly attended because about three quarters of the standard demographic for the hall had collapsed from exhaustion at this point. This post is not about Chilifest, The Hall, or The Dough Moreland Show, but rather the events that unfolded after the after-party. The names have not been changed: fuck the innocent.

The Doug Moreland Show

Doug Moreland is probably one of my favorite Texas Country Acts, John, my fellow blogger, is also a fan. As you may know from reading this blog John lives in Houston, but he comes in whenever there is something cool happening, and the night in question was no exception. When he comes to town he stays with a common friend and dance partner, Mallory: an energetic, outgoing, and generally pretty fun gal, who joined us on this magical night. During Doug’s show we notice a small entourage in a nearby area, and one of us recognizes that Stoney Larue, a fairly prominent character on the Texas-Country scene, and his band are that entourage. Occasionally we would see them perk up their ears as John and Mallory would start putting on their Jitterbug routine, and we agreed that it was pretty cool that the performers were enjoying our performances.

After Doug finished up the show we resolved that it was time to go home, John went to close the bar-tab, I went to greet Doug and his band, and Mallory vanished like a fart in the wind. When John and I approach the empty table we both notice a distinct absence of Mallory and set out to find her, I find that she left her phone at the table leaving us incommunicado. I track down one of the other girls in our party and get her to check the bathrooms, no Mal is forthcoming, at this point I am a little worried. I asked the bartender, he has no idea. I decide that she must have gone out to the car, not there; at this point I realize that John is now missing too, I am very worried. The last place that hasn’t been checked is Stoney Larue’s tour bus, which is sitting in the parking lot.

The Tour Bus

I snatch open the door to the bus and poke my head in to see Mal and Stoney’s bass player, Jesse, siting on the couch chatting, they notice me and invite me in where I find John sitting on the opposite couch. At this point my phone buzzes at me with a new text message from John: “In stoney’s bus” (1:50AM). Gee, thanks for the update. I sit next to John and we start in with some mindless banter. Stoney and his band are sponsored by Shiner, so Jesse offered us each a beer which we gladly accepted. There was general coolness going on as some of Doug’s band-mates and Doug himself came and went from the bus, aslo a couple groupie-type girls came on the bus and started pouring (horribly mixed) shots. Eventually Stoney himself emerged from the bowels of the bus and joined us.

There was a disposable pan on the counter that held about half a brisket—apparently donated by a fan—that Stoney was intermittently munching on and offering to the 6 of us on the bus (it is not an exaggeration when I say this is the best 2AM brisket I have ever had). At some point Stoney inexplicably took off his shirt (I think one of the groupie-type girls asked to see his tattoos or something stereotypical like that). While getting some more brisket Stoney impales the whole thing with the knife holds it up while making a pirate noise, it was pretty hilarious, but you could tell he was doing it to please himself (he was not looking at us, but rather the darkened window which was giving a small reflection). We continued talking about nonsense for a while; Stoney disappeared and re-emerged still topless but with a guitar. Now, I am not really a fan of Stoney’s music, I like it but I’m not going to go out of my way to hear it, but when he turned down the lights on the bus and started jamming out I really enjoyed it. It doesn’t come out in his stage shows, but Stoney is fairly talented on the guitar.

The Brisket

Toward the end of Stoney’s solo jam he hits the wrong fret and everybody’s ear cringe, Jesse calls him out and the two of them start joshing with each other, Jesse takes off his shirt and they—while on all fours—start circling each other like dogs trying to sniff each others asses. The pair stand up—in the process Jesse’s pants fell down, and, not one to be outdone, Stoney loses his pants too. Stoney grabs the brisket and throws it at Jesse, hitting him solidly on the chest and falling to the ground. Jesse laughs it off and hugs Stoney, the both of them are now greased up, and Stoney picks up the brisket. I though he was going to put it back in the pan, but he has a different idea: throw it at the mirror (you can see the mirror in question in the picture at the top of the post, pre brisket stain). Stoney picks up the brisket a third time, I thought one of the other people in the room was going to get a brisket to the chest, but instead he takes a bite, tearing it like a lion. One of the groupie-type girls thought this was pretty gross considering the circumstances, but everybody else saw no problem with the consumption and Stoney held it in front of everybody (one at a time) to allow us to tear a chunk off with our faces. Shortly after partaking in the brisket, Stoney passed around the salsa (which can also be seen in the image above) for everybody to take a swig from, only Stoney, Jesse, John and I were manly enough to drink it though. Also John, then later Mallory licked the brisket spot on the mirror.

Soon after the brisket incident everybody calmed down and we parted ways at about 4AM. Waking up the next morning I realized that it was not all a dream because of the chunk of brisket that was on my glasses. I can honestly say that this night was one of the strangest and most unexpected events of my life, and walking away from it I will forever be a Stoney Larue fan.
Stoney being pensive

iTunes and DRM

Jan 11, 2009, 10:10 am by Paul Stiverson

So, Apple announced that it is actively removing their version of Digital Rights Management (DRM) from their music store on iTunes. This decision lags significantly behind other online music stores moving away from restrictive DRM, and is long past due. Probably two years ago Apple introduced iTunes Plus which represented a class of songs that were available in higher quality than the standard iTunes, and were free of DRM. However, when they released it they were only making a limited selection of new music available on iTunes Plus; now they are going to retroactively make all songs iTunes Plus.

I’ll say that this decision makes me extremely happy, it probably won’t stop me from pirating music (the stuff that really isn’t worth buying), but I will likely double the number of albums I will legally buy in a year. Typically I would only buy albums at local shows (assuming I like the music, John can back me up on this one), or if it is an artist I really like. The notable exceptions are albums that are out of print, largely unavailable for piracy, and extremely desirable: those I would buy on iTunes. I’ll admit that I have bought DRM’d music, but as a rule I find the practice of limiting the use of legitimately purchased media to be ridiculous. I still prefer to get a hard-copy, but a DRM-free soft copy is nearly as good.

I’ll defend my piracy not because I like free (as in no cost), but because I like free (as in freedom), and as this XKCD points out, you can still be a criminal with legally acquired media.

Bonus: Check out Kyle Park if you get a chance.

2 great finds on saturday night

Jan 5, 2009, 1:49 pm by John

This past saturday night i got the pleasure of find 2 things that i love. a new band and a new music hall. i call it a music hall, though it is basically a long skinny store with a bar down the length of 1 wall.

the band is "Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers" and the music hall is "the continental club" in downtown houston.

mr. stiverson and i have had many conversations about what various bands were lacking. i think, he will correct me if i'm wrong, we've decided that most bands need a double bass, an steel guitar, or a fiddle. add in the drums and you have "Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers." I don't believe i had ever seen a country band that lacked an electric guitar but these guys didn't need one.

To add to the great band, who all knew how to play their instruments well, Miss leslie is a singer song writer, which is always the best. they did, however, cover some songs including johnny bush's "green snakes on the ceiling" and some patsy cline. they were definitely a texas swing band much like "asleep at the wheel." this makes their songs more difficult to dance to but perfect for just having a drink with some friends and listening to. despite this, there were several couples dancing in the small area in front of the stage.

the other great part of the evening was going to "the continental club." this place looks straight out of the 1960s, complete with shlitz in a can and lonestar on tap! i knew this place was going to be good when i walked in and saw that neon light fixtures, not neon light beer signs or any of that jazz, but actual fixtures made up the lighting of the whole place. to top it off they had some locals in the back with fresh cajun food. i didn't have any but looked and smelled delicious.

i had a very pleasant evening listening to some texas swing in one of the places, it appeared, where it was born. be sure to look up "miss leslie" and "the continental club," they won't disappoint.

Edit: I originally posted that the band had an electric guitar. It is actually a steel guitar. It's not easy to mix them up and I don't know what I was thinking. The band consisted of a steel guitar, double bass, fiddle and drums! Most excellent!

Wild Tales

Dec 9, 2008, 3:38 pm by Paul Stiverson

Foreword: I am writing this review about 35 years late… better late than never.

Over the summer I started listening to Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash (and Young)), I bought his first solo album Songs for Beginners and was quite impressed. After hearing several of the tracks off his second album Wild Tales I decided to purchase it too. WOW. I am not exaggerating when I say that this is probably the best album I have ever heard, from top to bottom it is a powerhouse of songwriting and lyricism. Each of the ten tracks is strong enough to be a single—one of them, “You’ll never be the same”, would have been quite comfortable on a country station.

“Prison Song” is a protest of drug laws, pointing out the inconsistencies of sentencing in different states. He offers two stories of people sent to jail for buying or selling marijuana (presumably), and notes the bias of judgments due to the offenders’ wealth: “There’s not a rich man there who couldn’t pay his way, and buy the freedom that’s a high price for the poor”. The harmonica makes gives the song a bluesy, in prison feel. “And So It Goes” tries to capture the common bond that we all share (in a very abstract hippie kind of way)—“We are loved and we are lonely, we are many, we are few; make it out of love and build a dream”.

“Oh! Camil”, my favorite track, is spirited waltz, although not one meant for dancing. It is a song for returning soldiers and their stories: “When you tell me your story are you making amends for all the hatred you saw? Will you tell all the people about the people who cry out for God, not for country or war?” “On the Line” is written with an interesting rhyme scheme, just about every line in each of the verses rhymes, it reminds me of “There’s Only One” from Songs for Beginners. The closing track, “Another Sleep Song”1, is gentle and hypnotic, a plea to be awaken.

Buy this album, you will not be disappointed.

Note:

  1. On his first album there was a track called “Sleep Song”, I don’t think the subject matter carries over, but it could have been written for the same person, who knows.

Sweeney Todd

Oct 30, 2008, 12:38 pm by Paul Stiverson

My FriendsLast night I had the great pleasure of watching a stage production of Sweeney Todd. My dance partner, Natalie, was kind enough to join me for what was an amazing performance—as well as an amazing interpretation of the musical. The entire cast was on stage for the whole show, and on top of singing and arranging the stage props, they were playing. All the actors were quite competent on at least one of the many instruments found on stage: Violin, Cello, Contrabass, Guitar, Flute, Clarinet, Trumpet, Baritone, Accordion, Piano, and a battery of percussion instruments (including a well used Triangle).

The company used a black wooden coffin as their primary prop, arranging it in every imaginable way to set scenes throughout the show. Chairs, and a ladder were used to allow the actors to elevate themselves over the stage as necessary. As cast members were killed off, they (being a vital part of the musical ensemble) couldn’t leave the stage, instead they donned bloodstained barber shirts and haunted the stage. The cast also made clever use of flashlights to indicate important movements, like that of the key to Johanna’s room moving from Judge Terpin to Anthony. There were some technical blunders in the show, a few microphone wires out of place (and Sweeney’s guitar mic fell off), but ultimately a grand performance.

The one shortcoming—for me at least—was the actor’s dancing. Briefly, during one of the numbers, Sweeney and Ms. Lovett waltz on stage, granted that the song was rather quick, and the footwear was less than desirable for the conditions; the waltzing was abysmal. I was entirely drawn into Johanna’s performance, when she was “offstage” (not at the forefront of a scene) she would affix her eyes to a point in the audience and wail on her cello, it was really creepy. Toby’s performance was also quite good, he was very Gollum-like in the way he would slink around the stage and reach out to the other characters.

If you think you are having déjà vu, relax, I have made a post about Sweeney Todd before (bitching about Johnny Depp’s ignorance of barbering procedure).

Blue Eyes

Sep 3, 2008, 4:23 pm by Paul Stiverson

Toward the end of the summer I broke down and bought the soundtrack to Garden State, it is a fantastic album each track is quite strong (with the exception of “I Just Don’t think I’ll Get Over You” I could do without that one, it hardly even made an appearance in the movie even). However the focus of this posting is the track “Blue Eyes”, by the Cary Brothers.

This is a beautiful song—like so many other beautiful songs—about a girl, and to make it even better it is a waltz. The singer is essentially professing his love for the unnamed ‘Blue Eyes’, saying “You’re the secret I keep”, and “You are all that I need”. This track would be my absolute favorite on the album if the writer had simply left out, replaced, or even revised one line, see if you can guess which.


’cause Blue Eyes
You are destiny’s scene
’cause Blue Eyes
I just wanna be the one

I just wanna sing a song with you
I just wanna get it on with you

’cause Blue Eyes
You’re the secret I keep

Now why would you spend three minutes and twenty-five seconds eloquently professing your love just to come out and say “I just wanna fuck you”. Way to fuck it up Cary Brothers.

Drunken Stuper

Aug 25, 2008, 1:02 pm by John

I made it up to College Station this past weekend and had a great time. All of my friends, who are still in school, are back in town and I got to see quite a few of them. Two of these people are contributers to this blog and we went out to our favorite hangout, the texas hall of fame, on saturday evening.

Highspeed Hayride was on the bill and they weren't bad at all. most of their songs sounded very similar but they were pretty good and they played covers well. they are a band that plays some purely country songs but even these have a rock influence. Anyway, after 3 lonestars, part of a pitcher of shiner, and several swigs from 2 young ladies' whiskey and cokes, i was feeling pretty good. just to point of slight dance floor stumbling but not even close to "oh crap i need to go to the bathr....". i was sitting in my chair, right off of the floor, slouching quite a bit, listening to the middle of some song i don't remember with the stage lights change colors from blue, to yellow, to pink and back to blue again. it was at this point, that i realized that i had been in this exact situation many times before and it was like Déjà vu all over again. there have been several times listening to this type of band, with this much alcohol in my system, that i begin to think about all of the concerts i had seen here and all of the people i had met and all the good times i've had. it was relaxing and surreal and amazing all at the same time. maybe it's just that i've graduated and realized that my good times at the hall may be fewer and further between, but it was one of my favorite nights surrounded by most of the people that made those memories happen.

Finally Home

Aug 22, 2008, 12:35 pm by Paul Stiverson

Well I’m finally back from California, I’ve been in Texas since late Sunday night, but I didn’t feel it would be appropriate to make a post about it until I really got home. Last night was Thursday and—as usual—we went to the hall. The very minute I walked in there and saw all my friends all the homesickness I had been feeling went right away.

There were a few changes at the hall, first they did some remodeling in the shadow box area (both sides have been done now). Next, they hired a new DJ, the old DJ, Ron, is now the manager. At first I thought the new DJ was going to be a problem—he was playing a bit more Nashville country than I would have liked—but when I approached him with my concerns he was receptive and fixed the problem. He also played an impressive number of waltzes which is an entirely welcome change. They are also taking out the platform at the center of the dancefloor, good riddance as far as I’m concerned, I hate all the showboating bullshit that goes on up there. However it was quite helpful to have the raised platform for dance lessons, oh well. Overall it was a pretty awesome night though, good to see the old crew (sans John).

Narrow Stairs

Aug 11, 2008, 10:26 am by Paul Stiverson

A few months ago Faith, a regular commentor on Ramblings, turned me on to The Postal Service; (the band, not the people who handle mail), and subsequently Death Cab for Cutie. I quickly became enamored with one of Death Cab’s albums, Plans. I recently decided to buy their latest album, Narrow Stairs, and I must say I am impressed.

I know that many of you longtime Death Cab fans will lambast me with claims that their old stuff was way better, and more power to you. I’m focussing this post on their current work.

Aside from a few extended instrumental parts that I could take or leave, the whole album is strong, but I have a few favorites. Lyrically—and lets face it, all of Ben Gibbard’s projects are stronger lyrically than musically—the strongest tracks are “Bixby Canyon Bridge”, “Cath…”, and “Grapevine Fires”. There is one track that really strikes a chord (lol) with me, “Your New Twin Sized Bed”. The singer describes a scenario wherein a queen-sized bed owner decides that—since the other side of it never gets used—that it should be dispensed with in favor of a more realistic size, namely a twin. It is essentially a song about giving up, I’m not sure why I like it so much, but I do (maybe it reflects my own defeatist attitude).

One thing I could do with is the hypnotic repeatitious parts of the album, such as those featured at the end of “Pity and Fear” and “Bixby Canyon Bridge” (once again, I’m sure longtime fans will have something to say here, but I don’t care for it). This complaint doesn’t extend to the 4 minute intro to “I Will Possess Your Heart” though, I think the radio edit loses a lot of the tension and anticipation that the album track has.

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