Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, Johnnyheads


Wanna hear a scaaaaaaaaaaaaaary story? Beware, kids, this one will chill you to the bone. Once upon a time there was a little boy named Johnny. Every October, Johnny would count the days to Halloween, putting great thought and care into each year's costume—even though he never deviated from the core group of Dracula, Bum, Han Solo, or Indiana Jones (read a riveting post about my Indy and Han Solo costumes here.)

As soon as he got home from school on the 31st, Johnny—along with his asshole brother, his best friend Brendan (who would become a pariah after getting diagnosed with lice in fifth grade) and his fully out-of-the-closet seven-year old neighbor, Tommy (the annual princess costume was a pretty clear sign)—would hit the neighborhood. "Trick or treat!" Johnny would excitedly announce at each house, as he held out his candy bag (in actuality, a pillowcase), thrilled every time he received his favorite candy bar in the whole wide world, Baby Ruth.

And every year, when Johnny arrived home afterward, his father would be waiting by the door. He'd ask him to dump out the contents of his candy bag. Then—I wish I was kidding—he would confiscate all of the Baby Ruths. Not because they were full of sugar or razor blades or cyanide. No, that old bastard took them because he also loved them. He loved those Baby Ruths more than he loved his little Johnny. He took all of them, every single fucking Baby Ruth, even the fun size ones.

Fuck you, Dad.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I've Seen Rock And Roll Future And Its Name Is Ryan Adams

Am I anointing Ryan Adams—whose new album, Cardinology, drops Tuesday—the next Bruce Springsteen? God, no. They are remarkably different artists. But, there are striking similarities—thus my borrowing Jon Landau's famously prophetic 1974 quote. For those unfamiliar, Landau, now Bruce’s manager, was a music critic for The Real Paper, a Boston
alternative weekly, when he wrote, “I’ve seen rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Columbia Records plucked the line from his review and plastered it just about every place they could, starting the hype that would lead to Bruce’s simultaneous appearance on the covers of Time and Newsweek in October 1975—the first artist ever to do so. You can read the review in its entirety here. (After you read my lengthy, self-indulgent post.)

Like Springsteen, Ryan Adams is a prolific songwriter. You get the feeling these two could write a song over a bowl of cereal. Bruce’s would be about the oats farmer facing foreclosure; Ryan’s would feature a broken-hearted guy drowning his sorrow in his un-Lucky Charms. Actually, prolific doesn't begin to describe the output of these two—despite the fact that Adams hates that label. "Writing songs is what I do," he said derisively/defensively in a recent interview. The difference is Springsteen keeps a lot of those tracks in the vaults while Adams, for the most part, does the opposite. In a 35-year recording career, Springsteen has released only 14 original studio albums. Adams, including records with alt-country pioneer, Whiskeytown, has released 13 (!) original studio albums in 13 years.

Whiskeytown, circa 1998

That's not to say Adams releases every single song he records. Nonetheless, like Springsteen, an incredible amount of Adams's unreleased material has made its way to fans via bootlegs and Internet machines. Some truly mind-blowing stuff—including a track so ass-kicking, the world's angriest and most unrestrained blog was named after it, Mega Superior Gold.

Still, it’s one thing to write prolifically (see Johnny, Spanish), it’s another thing to do it well, let alone brilliantly (see Springsteen, Bruce and Adams, Ryan). And it's yet another thing altogether to do it across multiple genres and styles. Springsteen—as comfortable with a Fender Telecaster as he is with a Takamine 12-Stringer—drifts effortlessly from rock to folk to country to what can only be described as hootenanny (if we’re acknowledging 2006’s cover album, The Seeger Sessions—which we're not). Adams, too, defies classification, in addition to convention. He has no problem straddling genres—as well as eras—ranging timelessly between rock, punk, folk, country, alt-country, even 70s Dead-esque jams and 80s Brit-pop. And while I still firmly believe that Bruce Springsteen is the best songwriter the world has ever known (in your face, Falco!), in some ways, I find Ryan Adams's songwriting more affecting—as if he's speaking directly to me. Maybe it's because we're almost the same age. Or maybe it's because he writes about women and relationships in a way that seems like he’s pulling the words and thoughts right out of my fucking head. Regardless, Ryan Adams sounds just like how I feel.

Well, everybody wants to go on forever
I just wanna burn up hard and bright
I just wanna be your firecracker
And maybe be your baby tonight
Maybe be your baby tonight

Those lyrics are from "Firecracker" from 2001's Gold, Adams's breakthrough album as a solo artist. Forgive my self-absorption for a moment, but as a twentysomething about to turn 30, those words had a profound effect on me. The song—the entire album, actually—was much more relevant and personal to my 29-year old self than say, "Glory Days" was to my seventh-grade self. As much as I loved that track back in 1984, its lyrics obviously meant something far different to me than to a laid-off Ford plant assembly line worker.

Firecracker


"Firecracker's" standout line, 'I just wanna burn up hard and bright,' really hits home when you think about the fact that Adams was abusing a shitload of hardcore drugs at the time and seemed like a sure candidate to soon join Kurt Cobain. We're not talking pills or booze. We're talking snorting heroin with coke, daily. Oh, plus pills and booze. The drug abuse was totally unlike Bruce and, at the risk of losing whatever limited credibility I have, totally cool and kickass in my book.

But, while it no doubt improved his songwriting and enhanced his myth, it turned his stage performances into wildly inconsistent hit or miss affairs. Brilliant and amiable one night, incoherent and petulant the next. (Famous side story: As you've no doubt noticed, Ryan Adams has a name eerily similar to noted 80s Canadian puss-rocker, Bryan Adams—he of the bad skin and even worse power ballads. Early in his solo career, more than a few concertgoers—including an indignant friend I took to a 2004 show featuring the aforementioned incoherent and petulant Adams—would yell out "Summer Of '69" between songs just to get a rise out of him. And, it almost always did—to the point of him hurling obscenities back at the audience and sulking/walking off stage more than once.) That, perhaps more than anything, is what separates Adams from Springsteen. In nearly 40 years of performing, I'll guarantee you Bruce has never, ever had an off night. Not once.

Today, Adams is two-years sober (that's cool, too...I guess) and it absolutely shows in his current tour. He and his backing band, the Cardinals, are playing fucking spectacular shows (available for download here). Jaw-dropping, vibrant, tight sets. And while the performances are no longer hit or miss, Adams—God bless him—is still more than capable of being an enormous prick onstage. Relentlessly condescending to his audience. Refusing to play a song if someone yells it out. Etc. And you know what? In some bizarre and twisted way, it makes me like him even more. You know those girls who always go for the asshole guys? Turns out, Johnny's one of those girls.


The supremely talented and bespectacled Cardinals


Five essential tracks to get you started:

Houses On The Hill



Gimme A Sign


Dear Chicago


Love Is Hell


Beautiful Sorta

Like what you hear? Then buy it here, you cheap fucks.

One last note: If the extraordinary music and rampant drug use weren't awesome enough to earn your respect, Ryan Adams also bangs really, really hot women. Here's a sampling:

And this guy thinks love is hell? Please.

One more one last note: After many years and many disappointments, Johnny finally found a worthy successor to the Kiss poster he had hanging in his
bedroom back in 1981. You know the one—the Gustav Klimt masterpiece depicting a couple sharing a kiss against a bronze background. So fucking badass! Take that, mom and dad! Johnny kids, of course. The Kiss poster stapled above
my bed featured all four band members' faces on a black background, each backlit in a different, surprisingly gay pastel color. And the worthy successor is actually not one solitary poster, but a whole fucking boatload from Ryan Adams & The Cardinals 2007 tour. Read 'em and weep, losers. Or rather, look at them and weep. You can check out the whole batch here. Provided you're done reading my post. Which you are. I can't believe you read the whole thing! That shit means the world to Johnny. All you Johnnyheads out there know that, right? To quote pockmarked 80s Canadian rocker, Bryan Adams, "Everything I do...I do it for you."






Monday, October 20, 2008

VAG•99B

Talk about an unfortunate license plate.

Johnny saw it on a black BMW X3 he was driving behind this weekend.
Where? New Jersey, of course. (Big surprise.)

Omitting the obviously unacceptable—ASS, CUM, TIT, etc.—I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a non-vanity plate worse than that. JIZ•69S? NIP•123? MUF•321? Or how about this double-whammy, HEB•666?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Subway Stories 3: "Pardon Me, Latino Man In The Ill-Fitting Suit..."

I'm on the 7 train heading toward Grand Central, sound-isolating headphones ("Don't you dare try to engage in polite conversation with me!") jammed way too deep into my ears. Minding my own business. Well, trying to. I notice a black—ahem, African-American—man wearing a ragged, authentic-looking United States Army uniform top with more than a few Special Forces badges stitched on the sleeves. He's also got thick, pointy sideburns that reach out toward his mustache and an enormous red pimp-esque fedora atop his 'fro—ahem, his afro. And, man, does he look pissed off. Like he just returned from 'Nam yesterday. But, he's not the story. Next to him, by the door, stands a twentysomething Latino guy in a brand new suit. How do I know it's brand new? Well, for starters, the designer label is still sewn to the outer sleeve. Oh, and the back flaps are still sewn together. (I believe those flaps are actually called the "vent," but Johnny didn't want to say that because Johnny thought it would make him sound gay. It did, didn't it? I knew it!) This guy is clearly on his way to a job interview. And some misplaced chivalrous/racist part of my self-satisfied, um, self is actually considering saying something to him. "Pardon me, Latino Man, but as the product of an upper middle class home, I was made well aware from my first Brooks Brothers suit that you're supposed to remove the sleeve label, as well as cut open the vent in the back. Obviously, being Latino, you could not have known of such things."

I decide not to say anything.

Maybe he wore it like that intentionally. Maybe that's how the kids are wearing their suits these days—like when they leave the tags on their baseball caps.

And maybe there's a reason Johnny wears those sound-isolating headphones—not to insulate me from strangers, but to insulate strangers from me.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hasta La Vulva



Bye bye, GOP.

And a fond adieu to you, milady.

Part of me was actually starting to look forward to staring at your pretty, retouched face for the next four years. (Guess which part.) I suppose Joe Biden's comely visage will have to suffice.

The sad thing is, we were just starting to get to know one another. You, the small town Alaskan girl who grew up to become a vicious right-wing, ultra-conservative cunt, and me a foul-mouthed blogger with a penchant for Seventies erotica—where, respectfully speaking, you would fit right in. Milady.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"In The Last Five Days, It Always Comes Down To A Knife Fight In A Telephone Booth.”

That's how Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant known for tough campaigns, brilliantly described where the Presidential race is headed in The New York Times. “At the end of the day, campaigns are campaigns.” And though McCain is a decorated war hero, I'd still have to give the edge to Obama in said booth bout. And it's not because Obama is black (and thus has greater familiarity with knives—not to menton Tyler Perry films, Maya Angelou poems and where to get good barbecue). Nor is it because McCain hobbles around like a cranky, decrepit old man. It's because of a prophetic vow Obama made at a Philadelphia fundraiser (third Philly post in a row!) back in June. “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.” In other words, bring it on, motherfuckers!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Come On Up For The Rising

Honestly, is there a greater person on the planet than Bruce Springsteen? This past Saturday in Philadelphia, Bruce appeared before a crowd of 50,000 people for the first of three swing-state rallies for Senator Barack Obama. 50,000 people! Absolutely remarkable. (Hmmm, I wonder how many people noted redneck asshole, Toby Keith, could draw for a McCain rally?) After Saturday's inspiring rally, Bruce appeared in Ohio on Sunday and Michigan today.

In addition to his 7-song, 45-minute performance, Bruce—as always—gave an eloquent, informed and impassioned speech, touching upon the promise of America and the disaster of the past 8 years. "I've spent most of my creative life measuring the distance between that American promise and American reality. For many Americans, who are today losing their jobs, their homes, seeing their retirement funds disappear, who have no health care, or who have been abandoned in our inner cities, the distance between that promise and that reality has never been greater or more painful."

You tell 'em, Boss.

And, to clarify, I was not kidding about my opening sentence. Johnny and former Four Seasons bellhop/current woodland recluse, Mega Superior Gold—another Springsteen devotee—have spent many an evening pondering our good fortune in choosing Bruce as our idol/hero/God so many, many years ago. I mean, most of our heroes fall from grace eventually, right? (Mine sure did. Dwight Gooden. Darryl Strawberry. Kurt Cobain. The senior captain of the football team I worshipped as a freshman but then saw working at the Texaco the following year.) Not Bruce. Not one misstep in 35 years of public life. Not because he's holier-than-thou, mind you. Because he's managed the apparently not-so-simple act of avoiding getting caught purchasing crack, beating up his wife or soliciting black male hookers.

Bruce also had the foresight back in 2003 to know that George W. Bush was not only a bona fide idiot, but a dangerous menace to our country and the rest of the world. At show after show, Bruce would "playfully" chant from the stage, "Im-peach-the-Pres-i-dent! Im-peach-the-Pres-i-dent!" A surprising amount of fans booed. (And no, they were not "Bruuuuuuucing," they were booing.) Shocking for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that if you were surprised by Bruce's actions, then clearly you haven't been listening to the lyrics of his songs all these years. He's only been leaning this way in his writing since, oh, 1973. And if you came to the show just to get fucked up, talk loudly during the songs and bop a beach ball around the stadium, then go see Jimmy Fucking Buffet.

Now, I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention that Bruce—along with Pearl Jam, R.E.M. and others—mounted the less-than-successful Vote For Change tour back in 2004, in support of wooden Caucasian-American, Senator John Kerry. And, similarly, he also appeared at rallies for Kerry in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida. Here's hoping the results are different this time around. Regardless, give it up for Bruce Springsteen, for once again standing up and showing us the way. After finishing a yearlong, 100-show world tour—and the sting of '04—he could've opted to sit this one out.

But, that's not Bruce. As he put it, "Our sacred house of dreams has been abused, looted, and left in a terrible state of disrepair. It needs care, it needs saving, it needs defending against those who would sell it down the river for power or a quick buck. It needs strong arms, hearts, and minds. It needs someone with Senator Obama's understanding, temperateness, deliberativeness, maturity, compassion, toughness, and faith, to help us rebuild our house once again. But most importantly, it needs us. You and me. To build that house with the generosity that is at the heart of the American spirit. A house that is truer and big enough to contain the hopes and dreams of all of our fellow citizens. That is where our future lies. We will rise or fall as a people by our ability to accomplish this task. Now I don't know about you, but I want that dream back, I want my America back, I want my country back. So now is the time to stand with Barack Obama and Joe Biden, roll up our sleeves, and come on up for the rising."

And that's why Bruce Springsteen is the greatest person on the planet.


Check out the speech, as well as a performance of "The Rising" here:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Will Smash Your Face Into A Jelly

And with those words began my addiction to FX's It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Uttered by bedraggled Charlie, one of the four brilliant lead characters, it perfectly encapsulates the tone of the show: silly, senseless, indignant, irreverent, riotous. If you're unfamiliar with the series, I beg of you to give it a look. The show's unassuming premise—four friends working at a Philadelphia bar—is actually quite refreshing in today's trying-too-hard bigamist, mentalist, forensic specialist TV landscape. And, ironically, its normalcy leads to much more bizarre and surreal situations than any other show on television.



Those four friends—and I use the term loosely, as they constantly bang each other's girlfriends and generally treat one another like shit—are collectively known as The Gang and they consist of Dennis (the self-absorbed), Mac (the self-professed brains), Charlie (the self-deluded wild card) and Dennis's twin sister, Dee (the self-doubting chick).

In The Gang's defense, while they often stab one another in the back, they were not indeed the ones who stabbed Charlie in the back with a fork (in Season 2's "Charlie Goes America All Over Everybody's Ass")—the perpetrator was one of the McPoyles, an incestuous, unibrowed family consisting mainly of two brothers who wear their bathrobes in public, love milk and loathe The Gang.

Hot McPoyle brother-on-McPoyle sister-on-McPoyle brother action

Season 4 premiered a couple weeks back and has not disappointed, focusing on cannibalism, bedwetting and a character known simply as Green Man (Charlie dressed up in skintight Lycra). More like It's Always Funny In Philadelphia, right? (I know what's going through your head—you think that attempt at wit was lame, don't you? And you're right. But, its very lameness makes it probably the most un-lame witticism of all time. Thus, making it the greatest witticism of all time, perhaps even elevated to "bon mot.") In all seriousness, why are you not watching this show? Do you not like funny things? Are you against laughter and puppy dogs and happiness? Because this show will make you happy. Perhaps not Blowjob While Eating Chocolate Peanut Butter Häagen Dazs And Listening To Bruce Springsteen Perform "Incident On 57th Street" As The Jets Win The Super Bowl happy, but pretty fucking happy nonetheless. Johnny knows his funny, and this show is funny, funny stuff—probably the second funniest show on TV right now (with first place belonging to the recent back-to-back Marlee Matlin-hosted episodes of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition featuring a blind man and his legally blind and/or deaf family members—hysterical stuff!).

Now, I know what you're thinking? "God, Johnny, you can be such a bastard sometimes." And that's certainly true. But, you're also thinking, "Johnny, I've seen posters and commercials for
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia that featured noted dwarf and 70s star, Danny DeVito. What's the deal with that?" Yes, Danny DeVito joined the cast in Season 2. Do not let this turn you away—he is not a major part of the show. In fact, I'm all but certain the network forced him into the show to give it some "star power." Which it did not need, especially with episode titles like these:

"The Gang Gets Racist"
"Charlie Wants an Abortion"
"Charlie Got Molested"
"Charlie Gets Crippled"
"The Gang Goes Jihad"
"Dennis and Dee Go On Welfare"
"Mac Bangs Dennis' Mom"
"The Gang Finds a Dumpster Baby"
"The Gang Solves the North Korea Situation"
"Frank Sets Sweet Dee on Fire"
"Sweet Dee Is Dating a Retarded Person"
"Mac Is a Serial Killer"
"Dennis Looks Like a Registered Sex Offender"

Truth is, Danny DeVito is not bad at all. In fact, he's quite entertaining. But the rest of the cast is so rich, so original, they can more than carry the show on their own. Don't believe me? Then check out the following clip:



Funny, right? What's that? You don't think it's funny? Fuck you. You wouldn't know funny if a clown shit on your head. Just do Johnny a favor. Watch the show this Thursday (10pm on FX). Watch it instead of wasting your time with another Thursday "comedy":
The Office. Holy Christ. I watched the season premiere last week and I will never get that hour back. I could've been baking my famous Apple Boysenberry Meringue Souffle! I could've been masturbating! I could've been baking my famous Apple Boysenberry Meringue Souffle while masturbating! Damn you, NBC! Honestly, I did not laugh once during that episode. That one-hour episode, I might add. They don't have enough material for thirty minutes, let alone sixty.

Now, I'm well aware my arch-rival/secret lover,
Mega Superior Gold, briefly touched upon this very topic a couple months back, but so what? I'm quite certain he stole most of his material from an email I sent him. Fuck that jerk.

Hard to believe, but there was a time when I liked
The Office. When I genuinely thought it was quite humorous. Sure, it never compared to the original British program—ahem, programme. After all, that series was all Ricky Gervais. You can't replicate that—though, Steve Carell was an inspired choice.
(Yes, this has been trod upon in blog territory before. Fuck you! Enough already! How many times do I have to apologize for not having a blog back then!?!) And after a bumpy, uninspired start (the first episodes were exact copies of the British scripts), the show took off, albeit with no one watching. So for a season or two, it was quite entertaining—until NBC started promoting it. And people starting watching it. Once NBC made it a mainstay of its Thursday night lineup, it went downhill, impossibly fast. Seems the writers and cast (some of whom are one and the same) bought into their own hype and started writing to the masses. Steve Carell says something inappropriate. The douche playing Jim looks knowingly to the camera. The double-douche playing Dwight falls for an inane prank. Repeat. Ugh. The British version's humor was based in reality. That's what made it so funny. The British Dwight, Gareth, would never fall for a time travel prank or actually believe that gaydar is real. (If he did, he'd use it to confirm how gay the American version of his show is.) That's not parody. That's cartoonery. And, no, that's not a word. More importantly, I swear to God, if I see the guy who plays Jim in person and he looks at me like that, I will punch him in the fucking face.

The "creators" (I use that term loosely because it kills me that Executive Producers Ben Silverman and Greg Daniels consider themselves the creators. Please. You took an existing brilliant show, Americanized it, and subsequently ruined it. Well done.) also seem to forget the premise of the show—that a documentary film crew is inexplicably capturing the goings-on at a Scranton paper company—whenever it becomes inconvenient. Like when Jim and Pam (whom Johnny would really, really like to bang, by the way) spend the night at Dwight's Bed & Breakfast (how wacky!). Jim gets up in the middle of the night and a cameraman just happens to be waiting in the hallway, wide awake, with the camera on to catch him as he opens the door and walks into the hall. Or just last week, when the camera crew somehow managed to film (SPOILER ALERT!) Jim proposing to Pam at a roadside rest stop (how ironically romantic, Jim!) from across four lanes of highway—with full audio. Utter ludicrousity. And, no, that's not a word either. SPOILER ALERT II: This show sucks!

Wow. That felt good.

Anyway, do Johnny a favor. Watch
It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia tonight.
And punch Jim in the face if you see him.



More Sunny funniness: