Thursday, February 28, 2013

Twit Links: February

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I posted a bunch of links on Twitter in February (not including personal pimpage). Here's an index of good long reads, cool tunes, news-worthy links, or other stupid shit...
Want to Have Music? Become a Music Writer [Vice]
Jon Fishman on Keith Moon: A Beat to Call His Own [Relix]
Audio: Dr. Seuss Sings Green Eggs and Ham [You Tube]
Audio: Profondu Gross by Greyboy All Stars [Sound Cloud]
Listening to My Bloody Valentine Three Ways [NPR]
Video: Rodriguez: The Rock icon You Don't Know [You Tube]
Video: Jerry Garcia band 3-17-78 [You Tube]

Sports and Poker
Does God Fix NFL Games? [Guy Code Blog]
A Call to Action (Contradictions about legalized gambling) [New Yorker]
Chad Millman Podcast: Soccer Betting Scandal [ESPN Radio]
Ashton Kutcher's Sportsbetting Story Checks Out [Linemakers]
The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis [ESPN OTL]
Poker is America [NY Times]
Journalistic Standards In Reporting the Manti T'eo Hoax []

Pop Culture, Lit & Films
Netflix, 'House of Cards,' and the Golden Age of Television [The Atlantic]
There Are Almost No Obituaries for Sylvia Plath [The Atlantic]
The Making of Pulp Fiction [Vanity Fair]
Don't Be a Stranger (Catfish and the loneliness of Facebook) [The New Inquiry]
Raymond Chandler on Writers in Hollywood [The Atlantic]
A Newspaper Can't Love You Back by David Simon [Esquire]
I'm a Shut-in. This Is My Story []
Christopher Hitchens at Moth [Moth tumblr]
Generation Why by Zadie Smith [NY Books]
When the Spec Script Was King in Hollywood [Vanity Fair]
Why Write? [Lit Reactor]

Crazy Tenderloin Fight with Transgenders [SF Weekly]
To battle a slithery enemy, US to air-drop mice laced with drugs toxic to Guam tree snakes [Washington Post]
The Gangster Pot Princess of Beverly Hills [Rolling Stone]
My Father the Dope Dealer [The Daily Beast]

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Surly Sully and the Crotch-Grabbing Remo (Fiction)

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

1951. When Remo drank when he was not working and penniless and couldn't score dope. He drank. Heavily. He hung out at Sully's bar because that's where most of the musicians hung out and Remo could mooch free shots of rye from one or two of them. If he could get them to play pool, before/after gigs then the slickster could hustle them for free drinks. He kept a bottle of cough syrup in his pocket, which he got at a drug store in Chinatown. The old lady behind the counter mixed batches of it in the back room. It was like a witches brew, but Chinese style. Who knows what she put in it. Morphine? Coedine? Opium? It tasted like cherries and smelled like a pig's ass. A couple of sips made ignited a three-story alarm fire inside your stomach. Rye and Pearl's syrup were the only things that helped Remo function when he was dope sick.

Surly Sully Sullivan, the shortempered war hero from the Battle of the Bulge was the proprietor of an unnamed watering hole on Ninth Avenue. Surly Sully felt Remo was a bum.

"The snake never has money. The minute that doper gets a gig, he blows his wages on dope. Never bothers to pay me back a nickel."

Remo owed Sully and owed half the regulars in the bar. Remo got shanked once because he ran up a hefty debt to a Puerto Rican smack dealer/pimp. The scar only drew more sympathy. Remo manipulated his friends with sad stories about his wife threatening to leave him, or how he was fired from Cotty's band unfairly. He really should have been a used car salesman instead of a junkie trumpet player, because he had a knack for getting people, even strangers, to give him their last dollar.

Whenever Remo got kicked out of a band, it was never his fault, when in fact he always did something to warrant a dismissal. He bent the truth about his unsympathetic band leaders and mislead people about his health (bleeding ulcers) only to make everyone feel sorry for him. The sadder the story or the greater the injustice, the more people bought him drinks. Remo had some chops but he never practiced. All he cared about was toking refer, eating donuts, scoring dope in Harlem, and beaver hunting. He showed up late to gigs. He showed up his bandmates on stage. He stole solos. He stole girlfriends. He stole cigarettes. If you fell asleep on a train while traveling with Remo, he'd pick your pockets and steal whatever he could get his grimy mitts on.

During WWII, a teenaged Remo did everything possible to flunk the psych exam but the Army recruiter knew he was purposely trying to seem insane, so Remo was declared psychological fit for service and he got shipped off to bootcamp. Remo didn't last three weeks before he stopped drilling and stayed in his bunk. He claimed he was a conscientious objector and due to religious and moral reasons, he couldn't kill another human being.

The shrink in charge of Remo's evaluation was convinced that Remo made up a nervous tick, but he booted him from the Army after he lunged at the shink's genitals on three separate occasions. The shrink was shocked the first time and was taken aback at the sheer ruthlessness of Remo's desire to get out of bootcamp. The Shrink tried to continue the exam, but Remo went for his family jewels a second time and the shrink connected an uppercut to Remo's jaw. He recoiled and slumped back in the chair. A few minutes later, Remo went for the shrink's crotch a third and final time. The shrink decked Remo and knocked him out cold. Remo was discharged the next day. He got his 4-F.

Sully was a surly ginger from Hoboken. He was an angry guy before the war, and everything he experienced overseas just made him meaner. Sully barely survived, but he gutted it out. That's what real men do. The Nazis tried to break his spirit, but he never relented. The Nazis crushed his arm (shell exploded in a tree and a branch nearly severed his entire arm) in the forests of Bastogne, and he almost bled to death, but he wasn't about to give them the satisfaction of dying on their home turf (even though he was entrenched in Belgium)  while surrounded by Panzer divisions during Hitler's counterattack in late 1944. Sully can give you the name and rank and nickname of every single member from his unit who died in Bastogne. All forty-two guys. Sully rose to the rank of Captain by the time he left the Army in late 1945, which is why most of the regulars called him "Major." Sully didn't mind the mix-up. A major was ranked higher than a Captain. Almost six years after the war ended, Sully was still bitter.

Sully felt bad for the guys who were listed as 4-F. His brother was blind in one eye, and although he  worked at a munitions plant in South Jersey, he felt guilty the entire time that he was the only kid from their hometown who wasn't fighting the Japs or Nazis. It was a bravado thing. The 4-F label meant you weren't a true man and unable to fight the enemy, especially if you wanted out for moral reasons.

Sully loathed conscientious objectors. The Brits called those guys "Conchy." Sully called them "chicken shit." No one was more chicken shit than Remo.

Sully hated the fact that Remo took advantage of the system in order to get out of combat duty. He felt Remo was unpatriotic louse, an unapologetic rat, and a lazy coward. Sully might have let it go if Remo had not bragged about skipping out on the war which gave him plenty of time sleeping with women whose husbands were off in the Pacific or somewhere in Europe. The rat bastard was bedding the wives of enlisted men. It was one of the lowest thing you could do.

Sully lured Remo up to the bar with an offer of a free shot of rye. When Remo rushed over, Sully dry-gulched Remo and almost blinded him with a pool cue. Both of the cops who showed up to break up the fight were vets who fought Nazis in Europe. When Sully gave them the lowdown on how Remo slept with GI's wives, the two cops handcuffed Remo and helped Sully nearly beat him to death. The tossed Remo's limp body in the alley. Sully 86'd the lowdown swine for life.

"Bindle punk, stay the fuck out!!"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Tico Tico, Procrastination, and 28 Pairs of Underwear

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Underwear. You can never have too many pairs. I specifically purchased 28 pairs of underwear so I would only have to do laundry once a month. I usually travel so it's rare that I go a full month without doing laundry. I finished a four week stretch at home, which is about right because I was in Vegas four-five weeks ago and I did laundry when I got back from that sojourn.

I know some folks that could make 28 pairs of underwear stretch into 2 months, or even 3. That sounds morbid or disgusting, but hey, some people have weird habits when it comes to undergarments.

My bud Schecky worked in rock and roll for many years as a road manager for a well-known 90s band. The band added fresh/clean underwear to its backstage rider. It wasn't just their band... but other bands often asked for a fresh batch of underwear. Bands didn't always eat the food and occasionally left some of the booze untouched, but they always took the clean underwear. The longer you're on the road, the more valuable an extra pair of skivvies can be.

Aside from books, the only bulk item I own is underwear. 28 pairs. I actually have 30, including two emergency pairs, one of which I wore all of Monday because I woke up and hopped in the shower and opened a drawer to see zero reserves, so I had to go to the "in case of emergency break glass" and wear one of two spare pairs of boxers. Without any underwear, I could not finish the day without doing laundry.

I also notice there's a correlation that I almost always do laundry whenever I'm on a collision course with multiple deadlines. Yeah, it's a weird coincidence that I'll finally break down and do laundry instead of working on a deadline. I'm actually in the middle of four different things I'm juggling and I have no one to blame other than myself for putting everyone off until now. Then again, I do my best work when I'm under the gun. I thrive under pressure.

Yeah, it's the end of the month and rent is due in a few days, which means I had to get off my ass and crank out a few freelance pieces (a column on Jerry Buss's passing) and finish off a project for the Frenchies, not to mention a baseball preview for Ocelot and fourteen other silly projects I thought I wanted to do, but never had the time to finish. Instead of writing, I'm jerking around doing shit I should not be doing (like laundry, or blogging, or listening to podcasts, or just see the list below). I even cleaned my closet and hung up shirts on hangars instead of leaving a small mountain of balled up clothes on the couch/futon in my office.

In college, I always cleaned my room during midterms because I felt compelled to do something constructive as a way to combat a wave of guilt that I had for not studying. That's why I cleaned my closet and did laundry on Monday instead of working on other stuff. It's not being lazy if I'm doing other stuff, right? I mean, I had to wash those 28 pairs of dirty boxers eventually.

I'm not someone who relishes material items aside from books and underwear. I own no furniture (everything is Nicky's save for the TV and a desk chair that Halli gave me as a memento from when we all had to leave the Ice Palace). The only thing I own that you could call excessive is... books... which does not seem odd for me. It's almost a given that I'll have a ton of books. I'm a writer. Books are like drugs, or like know-it-all and highly-entertaining friends with lush stories. Books are my druggie friends.

Whenever I visit someone, I carefully inspect their book shelf and their medicine cabinet. Yes, if you invite me to your home, I will snoop for your stash in your medicine cabinet. I'm a junkie, but not a thief. I won't steal your meds, but I will probably offer you a swap at some later date if you have some good stuff. You should be wary of strangers in your bathroom because not everyone is honest like me. Be careful of the millions of closet pillheads who won't think twice about pillaging your pill bottles.

You shouldn't care what other people think of you, and I won't be quick to judge someone based on their book shelf... especially in today's world of e-readers. I forgot who said it, maybe Capote or maybe it was Tom Wolfe, but they said something like don't sleep with someone who doesn't own any books. Of course, they're not talking about hookers, then again you'd be surprised to find there's a fair share of literate street walkers. Not everyone who sells pussy for cash or chugs cock for rock is an illiterate crack whore.

It's 2013. Maybe instead of shelves I should look on people's Kindles to see what they're reading. Kindles and Nooks are great for hiding embarrassing porn-like titles such as 50 Shades of Ass Fisting, a Nicholas Spark book from Oprah's club, or eye-rolling self-help books like Chicken Soup for the Soul or some terrible passive-aggressive new age trite like God Likes Me Better Than You Because I Do Yoga.

However, I'm surprised to visit other people and see how few books they own. You have no idea how many friends I have who tell me... "You're like one of the only writers I read." In a way, it's uber-flattering, but in another it makes me afraid of the future when people with advanced degrees barely read anymore. We're on our way to becoming a nation of illiterate Kardashian-worshipping klones and Honey Doo Doos. Sometimes I go to rich people's house and see a shelf with a lot of dust which tells me, 1) their maid is fucking lazy, and 2) those books are for show and they're not really an active reader. It's like the books are part of the decorations like a table or a vase, or it's just a ruse to keep up a nice appearance with a perfectly manicured lawn. You don't want your superficial neighbors to think you're a Philistine, right?

Then again, Nicky's book shelves haven't been touched much ever since she migrated to a Kindle. I looked one shelf the other day and was surprised to find a few gems that I'd like to read or re-read. On the other end of the spectrum, I found Liz Wurtzel's gutter-emo-memoir Prozac Nation, which was the rage like 15 years ago among Gen-X twenty-something femme fatales. Unfortunately, the most intelligent thing  to ever come out of Lizzie's mouth was David Foster Wallace's cock.

Reading never used to be a chore, but now it's become an ugly art form like annoying-loud opera singers. It's hard in today's age to be an avid reader of anything with substance. We spend so much time sifting through narcissistic updates and speed reading superficial articles from your favorite news aggregators excelling in churalism. Heck, even CNN has outsourced their sports department to a site synonymous with slide shows to tell a story.

I try to give away books that I think friends will enjoy. I'm just completing the cycle. I'm fortunate people give me books or recommend books, and I want to help reciprocate. What I really wish I could do was give someone a book that always comes with a 12-hour chunk of unfettered time so they can read the book. A book is anywhere from $10 to $20, but chunks of peaceful time is impossible to get. I have a lot of friends who used to be voracious readers, but they seriously lack the free time with real life hassles like work, relationships, kids, or migrating online to cultivate a lush virtual world and keeping up with the online Joneses.

The competition is fierce with addictive static of social media and cable TV and new movies and old TV shows and old movies being released every single day on Netflix. The entertainment world is dominated by auditory and visual nuggets which are easy to digest, so it's almost insulting to some people (who are used to having their entertainment spoon-fed to them) if you ask them to devote 10-15 minutes to read a piece of stellar longform journalism, let alone ask them to devote 12-15 hours to read a book. If you had six extra hours I can guarantee you'd probably opt for extra sleep, or use that surplus to spend time with something far more important like your family or significant other.

Anyway... let's get back to the real problem... my procrastination. I should be working my ass off and editing things, but instead, I'm farting around. You'd be surprised to find out how much stupid shit I did instead of sitting down to write. I should clarify... I wrote a lot, I just don't like to edit. It's the least favorite part of  the writing process. I remember having a long discussion with my friend Mean Gene over the editing process. He felt that was his favorite part of being a writer. I had the opposite affect... it was the most excruciating and painful part.

To avoid that searing pain of editing, I often embark on other things to procrastinate. For example in the last 24 hours or so...
1. I looked up the remaining schedule of every Lakers game and other teams that could be fighting for the #8 seed in the NBA playoffs (Houston, Portland, Dallas, and Utah). This is supposed to be research for an Ocelot Sports post that I wanted to put up last week.

2. Listened to 50 versions of Tico Tico and then settling upon a random organ video on YouTube, which I played five times yesterday... for shits and giggles.

3. I passed out on the couch while watching the recent episode ("Video Games") of Girls.

4. I watched the Catfish reunion show and must've cracked the same joke forty times about the lack of intelligence and blind will of the duped participants. "Man, I can't wait to call up these dumb fuckers and pitch them some stock." To Nicky's credit, she laughed at least 1/4 of the time, but hasn't laughed since the 35th time I made the joke.

5. I listened to all of Thom Yorke's new album Amok from his side project with Flea and decided that I miss Radiohead, and I'm convinced more than ever that Yorke is an alien.

6. I watched three innings of a Yankees preseason game, then spent an hour writing emails for a ongoing thread with a bunch of Yankees fans including my brother and Jerry, in which I said that the Yankees suck and that I wish A-Roid would get slashed by a wilding pack of teenage girls with razor blades.

7. I read my brother's thoughts on the win totals for all 30 major league baseball teams and tried to figure out which teams we might bet on. (Going way UNDER on Houston Atros).

8. I wrote about my take on win totals for all 30 MLB teams, and showed them to my brother, which eventually will get post on Ocelot Sports next week.

9. I read Jess Welman's tumblr and her hysterical story about being a seat filler at the SAG awards.

10. I caught up on a few hours of podcasts (including a sensational story about misplaced religion by Christopher Hitchens at a Moth show in 1999, a few hours of sportsbetting podcasts, and the B.S. Report from Bill Simmons, which I usually don't listen to but I wanted to hear Chris Connelly's take on the Oscars... oh, and I also fell alseep listening to conspiracy fodder by Clif High, the guy who created the infamous web bot project that tries to predict the future.)
Time to get back to work, but let me make a quick check to see if the lines moved in tonight's NBA games, and then I can finally get back to work.

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Music Remains the Same: Vinyl, Tapes, CDs, and MP3s

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Vinyl, Tapes, CDs, and MP3s. The music remains the same.

I'm a Gen X'er and was barely alive during the dreaded 8-track years. When I think of 8-tracks, I think of vans owned by swingers with bearskin carpets and a bottle of Quaaludes.When 8-Tracks became a quick fading fad like Pet Rocks, the world embraced the cassette tape for a couple of decades before CDs came along and made cassette's obsolete, and the digital revolution led to the creation of the MP3, which ave rise to the retro-feel of vinyl. Behold planned obsolescence.

In the days before MP3s (and FLACs) became an integral part of my daily listening pleasure, I was beholden to both cassette tapes and CDs. As an adult, I was too broke to establish a vinyl collection, but during high school I had a small collection of vinyl records, mostly singles. I originally had a ghetto blaster and single tape player in grammar school, but in high school for my 15th birthday I got a combo deck with a record player and dual tape deck. My mother had a decent collection of vinyl relics from the 60s deep in Motown, Helen Reddy, early Beatles, and calypso music like Harry Belafonte. For the most part the bulk of my music collection were cassette tapes, which I stored in an old Dellwood milk crate that I had stolen from behind the local grocery store.

Most of the tapes were duped copies of albums. During high school, we'd take the 6 train down to Canal Street and buy sleeves of blank cassettes for super cheap at these big electronics stores that sold knockoff goods. Every day I'd give a blank tape to one of the hipper kids in my class who had extensive music collections. A core group happily made copies for me and I offered trades of non-radio and non-conformist music for video games after I amassed decent collection of cracked Commodore 64 games including a heavily-sought after copy of Strip Poker which I sold for $5, or $10 to freshmen.

My apartment building was not yet wired for cable television, which meant no access to MTV. The only source of music came from the radio, which meant I was drowning in top 40 pop. The kids in my homeroom were a valuable source of music. Some of it I didn't like and I'd tape over it. Some of the stuff I loved and wore out. Most of it I grew out of. That's what happens. Tastes change and evolve. I'd hate to see the day when I stop seeking out new music and my tastes get shut off like a gated community in Florida with octogenarians living four decades in the past.

Mike B. lived in Staten Island and had a bitch of a commute to the Upper East Side of Manhattan ever day for school, but he killed the time on the ferry and subway by listening to music, which was one of the reasons he had the most extensive collections in my class. Mike B. turned me onto The Clash, The Smiths, The Lemonheads, The Cure, The Pixies, They Might Be Giants, and Sonic Youth. My buddy Giuseppe's dad was a low-ranking guy on Gotti's crew and his brother was a ticket scalper. His favorite band was Bon Jovi, but he was into some other heavy metal and industrial music like Metallica and Nine Inch Nails. Bobby Walsh had a ton of Rolling Stones and he was kind enough to copy all of their classic albums for me.

Enter the bourgeois girl I liked named Imogen1 who went to Chapin and she didn't like me that much, which made me want her even more, so I hung around her like a sad puppy dog. I was oblivious to the fact that her friend Gretchen was madly in love with me. I was clueless but gladly accepted the mixes she made for me with hand drawn playlists. Gretchen introduced me to Athens bands like R.E.M. and B-52s. She also got me into Australian bands like early INXS and Midnight Oil.

I acquired a CD player during my senior year in high school and my first-ever CD was the Grateful Dead's Skeletons from the Closet, which I purchased at Tower Records in the Village. A couple of weeks later, I picked up Doors' Greatest Hits. I didn't do drugs2... yet... but with both albums anchoring my new collection, you knew that it would be a matter of time before I ate some acid and dove down the rabbit hole. During my senior year I signed up for Columbia's CD club through an ad in Rolling Stone magazine. I slowly built a small collection of classic rock albums via the mail and I learned how companies make tons of money off of inherent laziness. I added a few more CDs from Tower Records and a couple of other indie stores on St. Marks. I also developed a taste for white boy rap like Beastie Boys and 3rd Bass, yet but exclusively listened to classic rock stations on the radio.

I graduated high school and moved to Atlanta for college. I took all of my CDs but only a handful of tapes (mostly Rolling Stones, random rap, and mix tapes with flowery doodles on the cover made by the Chapin girls).

During college, I collected Dead bootlegs... all on cassette tapes.... from different friends who went to stuffy prep schools in Connecticut and got their tapes from Trustafarians. My CD collection (mixed with mail-acquisitions and selections from the East Village) at college had a lot of turnover. I'd say at least 1/3 of it got stolen or destroyed in my fraternity house. I added a lot of local bands like Widespead Panic, Drivin N Cryin, The Grapes, and this band of freaks that would get super famous called The Black Crowes, who often played at my fraternity when they first started out.

The first Phish addition to my collection included a live bootleg from my bud Feldman. I was a huge Deadhead in college and if you'd ask me in Fall 1992, I'd say that I liked Widespread Panic a smidge more than Phish, only because I went to school in the South had seen more Panic shows at that time. I underwent a religious conversion in early 1993 after I saw three crazy, sick Roxy shows in Atlanta, and then Rift came out, which blew my mind because we were eating a ton of mushrooms that semester. Early 1993 was a watershed moment in my personal musical journey and Phish finally surpassed Panic in my eyes. The Vermont quartet were nipping at the heels of the Grateful Dead, but Phish took the top spot once Jerry died in 1995. Anyway, by the time I left college, I bought Phish's four out of Phish's five CDs, but after graduation I packed up my car and only had 2.5 (half of Junta's two-disc album was missing) Phish CDs.

I arrived in Atlanta to start college as a skinny and scared 17 year-old kid with a dozen CDs and 20 worn tapes of Rolling Stones albums and New Wave mixes. Four years later I left with over 100 CDs and 25 crisp Dead bootlegs including five shows from May 1977, when the Grateful Dead achieved perfection.

In my early 20s I moved back to NYC and added even more Dead bootlegs to my college -- all on cassette tapes. I befriended Bruce through work at the museum and he and his brother owned a massive collection in these wall-size wooden cases. Thousands of tapes. Thousands of hours of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band and other side projects like Old and In the Way. When I was in high school, I went to Chinatown to buy blank tapes to give them to friends and preppie girls to fill up with their favorite tunes. Five years later, I was going to Chinatown to buy blank tapes to give to Bruce so he could dupe his favorite Dead shows.

I worked with a bunch of musicians and they were in either jazz or punk bands. By sheer osmosis, I got a quick rundown of the best of the best in each genre. I added jazz CDs and lots of Iggy and the Stooges and the Talking Heads. When I moved to Park Slope in the mid 90s, my roommate Ursula had tons of obscure 70s Brit punk and 80s American punk albums that I happily gobbled up.

Before I moved to Seattle in 1997, I had a tough decision and could only take two dozen or so of my favorite Dead bootlegs (out of hundreds) and limited myself to 40 CDs or 20-25% of my collection. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.3

In Seattle, the CD collection tripled during my time in the Pacific Northwest, but before I left, I sold mostly 90% of it and only kept a handful of CDs. I retained most of my Dead bootlegs and added a dozen more from a group of hardcore Deadheads and old-school hippies I had met who grew herb and turned me onto DMT and liquid sunshine. I also acquired a couple of Phish bootlegs like both October 1995 shows at Key Arena, Sugarbush Vermont 1994, and Arrowhead Ranch 1991. My bud TC gave me a few smoking mix CDs with some of his DJ sets that include deep house and dub reggae.

When I moved back to NYC at the end of the 90s, I retrieved the bulk of my collection I left behind in storage at my mother's apartment when I moved to Seattle. I only took the best of the best with me to Seattle but only returned with a small portion of those elite albums because I sold them when I was broke as a joke and needed some cash to fund Phish shows in Las Vegas for Halloween 1998. Those were some of the best live concerts I had ever seen, so it was worth selling off a portion of my collection at the used stores in the U District.

Upon my return to NYC, I went through the old Dead bootlegs on tape and migrated the best of the best to CDs. Before the iPod was birthed, whenever I went on Phish tour (especially to Japan), I brought along a discman CD player and 24 CDs (because that's how many my "CD book" held). It was always tough to split up half the space between albums and Phish/Dead bootlegs. It was always an arduous process and I tortured myself over the specific six sets of Dead and six sets of Phish I wanted to take. Remember, these were rarely full sets and usually partial sets because CDs could only hold 74 mins. Choosing music was always a headache and drove me nuts. I coordinated my CD picks with travel mates to make sure we didn't double up.

After the millennium passed, I acquired my first Macbook and migrated more old bootlegs from cassette tape to CD, then from CD to MP3s. For the first time, I had the bulk of my collection on a laptop and iPod. When I got into poker and had to move to :as Vegas for my first major assignment, I didn't have to freak out and force myself to make painful Sophie's Choice-like decisions on which albums stay and which get to go. I actually bought a cheap Dell laptop and left my Macbook back in NYC with my brother so I wouldn't lose my entire music collection just in case I got robbed at the WSOP or jacked at the Redneck Riviera. I loaded up my iPod with a ton of music -- new and old -- and headed out West once again.

Between Nicky and myself (a collection spread out in NYC and California), we have no idea how many hours of music we have. Combined we probably have more than we could ever listen to for the rest of our lives.

To this day, a lot of old cassette tapes and CDs have found a (permanent) home in my childhood bedroom in my mother's apartment, which has become a storage and warehouse like the end scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark with boxes and boxes of artifacts from different points in my life. Whenever I visit NYC for the holidays during Christmas and the older I get, I find myself spending more and more time sifting through those boxes of my stuff... stepping back in time, and getting drunk on old memories, pictures, ticket stubs, notebooks, and Dead bootlegs.

 * * * *
1. Imogen sounds like a stripper name if you live in the South, but in snooty South Hampton circles, it was rather exotic.

2. I went to high school at the end of the 80s and it was more of a cocaine crazy time of excess. I toked weed a couple of times in high school during two specific periods: the summer between freshman/sophomore year, or the last half of senior year.

3. When I moved cross country to Seattle in 1997, some of the albums that made the cut included... Skeletons from the Closet (Grateful Dead, my first-ever CD for sentimental reasons), Highway 61 Revisited (Bob Dylan), Fear of Music (Talking Heads), Kind of Blue (Miles Davis), Picture of Nectar (Phish), Live at the Fillmore East (Allman Brothers), The Band (The Band), Stand! (Sly and the Family Stone), London Calling (The Clash), One from the Vault (Grateful Dead), 3 Feet High and Rising (De La Soul), Loaded (Velvet Underground), Sticky Fingers (The Rolling Stones), III (Led Zeppelin), The Harder They Come (Jimmy Cliff), Rubber Soul (The Beatles), Paul's Boutique (Beastie Boys), Welcome to the Canteen (Traffic), Blue Train (John Coltrane), Jerry Garcia (Jerry Garcia Band), and Odelay (Beck).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Week of Docs: Old Men Fighting, Digi-Revolution, Queens, and Herb/Dorothy

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I'm a voracious reader. On Tuesday, one book arrived at 8pm and by 4pm the next day, the book was done. I took me 20 hours to devour 300+ pages. During that brief time, I slept a few hours and sweated a couple of basketball games and endured a couple of writing sessions, but you get the gist. If it's a good book, I won't put it down and will read it straight through. If it's a shitty book, then I'll struggle to read the first 50 pages, then find excused not to read the next 50, before I give up. If I don't read the next 50 or 75 pages within a week, then the book is doomed and it gets tossed into a depressing pile of "started but never finished" books. Once a book gets banished to that pile, there's less than a 1 in 5 chance that I'll ever pick up one of the books again and finish it. I feel bad... but if I had more time (like if I was bedridden with a horrible disease or stuck in prison), then I would devote it to finishing more than half of those books. At this point... life gets in the way.

The technology has gotten to a point in which I have access to more documentary films than ever before. A few years ago, it was impossible to find any videos on YouTube that were longer than 10 minutes. The technology improved and now you can view monster vids (some in excess of four hours). I'm surprised how many full length documentaries you can find (in addition to a bevy of docs split up in 10 min increments or 9 or 10 parts) by just searching on YouTube. I've watched hundreds of documentaries, both good and bad, over the last year or so just sifting through the archives on YouTube. It's easy. If you like chess, then do a search for "chess documentary film" and maybe you'll stumble across an episode of a BBC broadcast about Bobby Fisher that someone uploaded. Search often. New videos are being uploaded and old ones are getting yanked by the YT police.

In addition to YouTube, there's a fair amount of documentaries on Vimeo. Do a thorough search. It's an amazing way to kill an evening rather than channel surfing on the boob tube and getting bombarded by endless advertising. Documentary films were created not to make money, but to educate the public on a specific topic or share the story about a special person(s). That's why docs are an invaluable tool to help educate your children without an ulterior motive or agenda by multi-national corporations. Those sites like YouTube and Vimeo, offer you freebies. If you're into Pirate Bay and other torrent sites, then you have access to an entire universe of docs.

If you have a subscription to Netflix, then take some time and look at their archives. Plenty of great docs in there, especially in the music department. If you are a member of Amazon's PRIME shipping club, then take advantage of the ability to stream TV shows and films from their free catalog. Amazon has a smaller collection, but you'd be surprised what you can find. I watched a random episode of Ken Burns' Baseball recently and at the end of the summer,  I revisited his entire series on Jazz.

Over this past week or so, I watched four documentaries of note that I highly recommend: Queen of Versailles, PressPausePlay, Shut Up Little Man, and Herb & Dorothy.

Nicky recommended Queen of Versailles. We saw a trailer over the summer and it was playing at a theatre nearby, but we never got off our asses to go see it. I think I saw Searching for Sugarman instead. Anyway, she eventually watched it whenever it came out on Netflix. It was in the queue for me and I finally broke down and watched it.

Queen of Versailles was originally pitched as a documentary chronicling the exploits of a trophy wife of real estate tycoon David Siegel (one of the wealthiest men in America), who set out to build the largest mansion in America that replicated the actual palace at Versailles. During the complicated construction of this behemoth property, the financial crisis of 2008 hit and the family eventually had to abandon the project while David Siegel scrambled to preserve what was left of his crumbling real estate empire. Lauren Greenfield directed the documentary and she shed the light on a dozen or so interesting side characters that she interviewed who could have had their own documentaries about them (from their limo driver to their maid and nanny). There's one scene involving a dead lizard and another about going to McDonalds in a limo. In one sense, this was a film about the drastic affects of the financial crisis, yet in another breath, it's an example of gross decadence, opulence and wealth.

I caught PressPausePlay, which you can find a complete version on YouTube. It's a documentary trying to explain how the digital revolution drastically altered pop culture and helped create an explosion in artistic endeavors -- both good and bad. For the first time ever, more artistic people have a chance to connect with other artists and find an audience without having to go through the "machine" (recording industry, film industry, publishing biz, etc.). However, the technological evolution has also led to a dearth of terrible content, which is worrisome because the fact that anyone can have access to a creative outlet has thereby lowered expectations of what is actually high-quality content. Our entire society's standards are sinking lower and lower as our culture becomes a cesspool of mediocrity. There's a slew of interviews with highly successful people who reached the pinnacle of their fields. You also get to see Seth Godin sitting on a gigantic couch, while sipping coffee and extolling the virtues of web marketing.

Last night, I stumbled upon a gem called Shut Up Little Man. If you enjoy my rambling posts about my neighbors, or you dig Nicky's tweets about our eccentric neighbors, then you'll love Shut Up Little Man. In 1987, two recent college grads split from the Midwest and relocated to San Francisco. They found a cheap and shitty apartment in the Lower Haight, which was super seedy back in the late 80s. The discovered why rent was so cheap... their next door neighbors were a couple of old drunks who got into vicious screaming matches and the occasional fist fight. The two kids started recording their fights, at first for their own safety and to document the incidents just in case something crazy happened and the police needed to be involved. After a while, they got addicted to recording the fights and after two years, they acquired a ton of content on cassette tapes. One of them added the most hysterical snippets to various mix tapes that got distributed and copied among their friends. When they expressed an interest in the "old men fighting" they started to distributed entire tapes of different snippets of their arguments. This was pre-internet so it took a while before the old men fighting caught on, but it became an underground sensation and inspired different artists, actors, and filmmakers. I can only wonder what would have happened to those old men if this happened in today's You Tue world?

After we watched Shut Up Little Man, Nicky and I spent a good hour or so watching neighbors fighting on You Tube. Thousands and thousands of videos of neighbors getting into fist fights and shouting arguments, yet none of them had the same passion and humor factor as the old men fighting in San Francisco.

Last week on Valentine's Day, Nicky and I watched Herb & Dorothy, a touching story about how two civil servants (a librarian and a postal worker) living on a modest income (in New York City) amassed one of the most valuable art collections in America. They began in the 1960s and actively collected minimalist art over the next five decades. Along the way, this adorable couple befriended many artists and became pseudo-celebrities in the snooty and pretentious art world as it evolved over the last half of the 20th Century. Instead of cashing in on the value of the art, they donated their entire collection to the National Gallery in Washington, DC.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Around the Horn: Slums, Music Memories, Bad Bands and Shit Bags

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In case you just woke up out of a coma, here is what you missed this past week on Tao of Pauly...
Permanent Records, Credit Scores, and Chocolate Conspiracy Theories - Nicky and I celebrated our anniversary. Yeah, shocker but I've been with my girlfriend for seven years! Oh, and whether we like it or not, banksters prey on the lazy ones looking to buy a shortcut to the American Dream.

Arbiters of Taste - Music is something that affects your memory whether we like it or not.

Bad Bands - I had fun writing this one about why nothing is worse than seeing a bad band.

The Slums' Swing - There's a huge difference between my neighbors in San Francisco and Los Angeles. More musings from the Slums of Beverly Hills.

Red Plastic Bag - Ever have to take a shit on an airplane? Disclaimer and Warning... this is a very disgusting post.

I wrote a couple of things for Ocelot Sports...
NBA: On the Eve of the Trade Deadline
Dock Ellis and the Electric Kool-Aid No Hitter

This week's writing music included...
Out to Lunch by Eric Dolphy
Clubhouse by Dexter Gordon
Sand by Phish

Friday, February 22, 2013

Red Plastic Bag

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

Taking a shit on airplanes is never an easy task. I traveled enough to know that defecating on airplanes is an arduous undertaking so I avoid the scenario as much as possible. The key to avoiding having to take a shit on an airplane is to do it before hand somewhere in the airport, but that means you have to take a shit in a huge public area. It's kind of a catch-22. Take a dump where the entire bathroom is a petri dish of every possible internationally-known fecal disease, or roll the dice and hope you don't have to take a dump at 35,000 feet while whizzing through the air in a metal tube.

My biggest problems happened on international flights, especially ones that were redeyes from NYC to Europe, or long-ass trans-pacific flights from LAX to Sydney, Australia. I couldn't fade a trip to the bathroom in those instances. I got good at holding my dump until I arrived in Europe, but I couldn't cut it too close because no one wants to shit themselves while standing in immigration. Luckily, I often connected in Amsterdam and immigration is efficient and went very fast.

One morning after a long flight from America, I wandered into the first toilet I could find at Schiphol Airport. The meal KLM served was a horrendous, lukewarm lasagna and I struggled and struggled and struggled to take a massive dump and after twenty minutes of a sweating it out, I only ejected a couple of pebble-shits. I was exhausted and in a Xannie haze and sweating my ass off and trying to hold my breath because a couple of Hungarians occupied the surrounding stalls and they launched an all out ass-bombing campaign, while I was saying Hail Marys in Latin and drenched in a waterfall of sweat.

I realized that those toilet battles were the last thing I should have doing upon landing, then wandering out sweating profusely and a ashen look over my face and a pair of big-ass glassy eyes. If anything, it looked like I was a drug courier shitting out bundles of smack wrapped in condoms.

So what's wrong about shitting on airplanes? For one, I get pretty nauseous whenever I'm on deck and anxiously waiting and then finally get my chance and rush into the bathroom and scrunch the folding door then catch a whiff at the remnants of someone's ass-bombing. Yeah, going into a toilet inside a phone booth after someone else dropped a deuce (and God knows how many people before you dropped a deuce) is one of the most disgusting aspects of air travel.

The worst seats on any airplane are in the row closest to a rear bathroom and the two or three aisles seats in the rows toward the back where you get stuck having to deal with a line of passengers waiting to use the shitter or pisser.

I thought about David Foster Wallace and his cruise ship piece, Shipping Out, when I heard about the broken-down cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico. I'm too much of a control freak and don't like being stuck on a boat for extended periods of time with spoiled people looking to be decadent and self-indulgent. Those are the last people you want to experience a disaster scenario with, because they'll just bitch and moan the entire time and act like selfish assholes instead of coming together as a group to overcome a terrible situation. One or two spoiled dickheads can make a break a large group before its all out mutiny. I can only imagine how crazy it got on that ship. I would love to find out if one of the survivors was a writer who penned a DFW-like essay about surviving the ship disaster and all those nasty red bags.

All of those cruise people had to shit in red plastic bags when the ship lost power and they were adrift at sea and the vacuum-system that sucked up all the human waste was not working. Even if the so-called housekeeping staff collected the shit bags, at some point they threw all the bags off the side when no one was looking. The Gulf of Mexico is destroyed after the BP oil spill, so what a few thousand tons of fecal matter going to make the different?

You know you reached a new low when you have to shit in a bag. Sadly, those folks paid for an exotic adventure... which included shitting in a bag.  

Today's activities include watercolor painting, shuffleboard, and a shitting in a bag contest. The fastest person to shit three pounds gets a free roll of toilet paper. 

I feel bad about those poor folks on that boat. Their dream vacation ended up a complete nightmare. Hell is stuck on a boat with other annoying, self-absorbed people and forced to shit in a bag.

Side note... I'm always afraid to take a dump at Denver Airport because of all the freaky occult artifacts and art strewn around the massive airport and I'm paranoid that some of the stalls are attached to secret passages, and as soon as you sit on the throne, you get sucked into the depths of the underground complex underneath DIA, where you get gassed and stacked in holding pen with other unsuspecting tourists, only to boiled in a vat of olive oil and fed to Reptilian overlords.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Slums' Swing

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

In San Francisco, we interacted with our neighbors frequently. We lived on the second floor of a Victorian. The woman downstairs, originally born in Ireland but a resident of San Francisco for over two decades, taught yoga down the street. She had a gigantic boxer who barked at everyone who walked up to the front door. Postal workers were scared shitless because of the beast. The funny thing is if you saw the dog in the street, it's the most chillaxed mutt you'd come across, but the moment you infringed upon their home, the dog would go berserk.

The upstairs neighbors were a rotating mix of Grade A San Francisco Hipsters and Burning Man converts who spent all year working on a Thai-vegan-taco truck, or teaching yoga down the street to Pacific Heights Xanax-chomping housewives so they can save up for Burning Man, and whenever you ran into them in front of the building, the only thing they can talk about is how many days it was until Burning Man or how they were diligently working on their complex, cosmic, ethereal Burning Man art installation and sewing hand-made costumes using real seashells and goat hair, and then upstairs was quite during the week they went to Burning Man and when they came back, they threw post-Burning Man parties with lots of weird half-naked people holding crystals and listening to dubstep.

We had to get to know our neighbors because we didn't want them to call the cops every Monday night when we played poker once a week in the infamous Ice Palace games hosted by Halli that would run until the wee hours and were lucky our neighbors put up with those shenanigans with glass breaking and me cranking up Jay-Z at 3am and people coming at odd hours and our friend The Wolf howling whenever he won or lost a pot which seemed like every ten minutes.

Generally speaking, the average resident of San Francisco might fall into the category of a hardcore hipster or someone with serous hippie tendencies, but they were much cooler and had more depth than anyone we encountered in the Slums of Beverly Hills. The thing about San Francisco... there was a prevailing sense of community with gregarious attitudes and hope for humanity, so you wanted to get to know your neighbors and help each other out whenever you could.

In Los Angeles, it was the complete opposite vibe. It was everyone man and woman for themselves in an competitive "me" conscious world where everyone you meet is desperately seeking their fifteen minutes of fame. You're surrounded by people who fabricate reality for a living... and their damn good at it... from plastic surgeons in Beverly Hills, to personal trainers in WeHo, to video editors hunched over their laptops in the dark and fighting off carpal tunnel while mainlining Red Bull.

In the Slums of Beverly Hills, your neighbors don't give a shit about you because everyone is too self-invovled to notice what your doing. It's the perfect place to disappear and be invisible, which is one of the few things I love about this place. I usually loathe it but on days when I want to disappear, it's easy. I just have to stand still and I'll get ignored. It's why my neighbors scream at the top of their lungs and have fights with their significant others without thinking twice about getting embarrassed if anyone hears them... because after all, nothing is more important than themselves and if anyone was listening, well shit, it's Hollywood... every wants an audience.

The nonstop sunshine and mixture of car pollution and chemtrails creates a soupy layer that hovers over the city and intoxicates the denizens of Southern California by preventing oxygen from flowing to their brains, so they get into this weird zombie-like trance. Or maybe it's the inertia from being stuck on the 405 for too long and you get freeway legs, just like cruise chip travelers get sea legs if their adrift for too long.

Everyone drives around everywhere in Los Angeles, totally distracted by cellphones or traffic-tilt, but they think they are invincible in protective little bubbles and spend most of their waking hours detached from reality because they're constantly cultivating their online persona. It's tough enough to try to be yourself and be cool in real life, try struggling with trying to be cool online as well. It's a stressful undertaking and I'm surprised more people don't snap and have MORE breakdowns/mental implosions on Facebook and Twitter.

It's hard to get to know your neighbors in LA when they are too self-absorbed, but then again, you don't have the time to develop an actual relationship. More than 33% of the tenants in our building turn over in six months. Within a year, it's 50%. They're gone. One day their car is no longer parked out front and there's a red and white FOR RENT sign dangling on the side of the building.

I'm sure those temporary neighbors hated our slumlord, or maybe they didn't want to pay his outrageous prices considering he never fixed anything?

Or maybe they loathe all the ruckus from the steady stream of homeless can farries digging through the dumpsters.

Or it's the illegal immigrant landscappers who showed up at the crack or dawn?

Or maybe it's Nicky bonging out in the afternoons and the luscious aroma of medicinal marijuana filled the alley?

Or they hate jazz music and get incensed when I cranked up Coltrane on full blast?

Or maybe it's the upstairs neighbor whenever she practiced her violin (which made a gargling echo like a cat getting stuck in a blender)?

Or it's gotta be the hysterical actress across the alley who practiced her eardrum-shattering vocals at the strangest of times, or screaming at her drunken no-good boyfriend?

Or maybe it's the hipster next door with his ukulele trying to impress OK Cupid dates with his vast knowledge of Vampire Weekend?

Or it's Middle Eastern cabbies who congregate in an apartment across the street for an unknown clandestine rendezvous?

Or the creepy 60-year old Hasidic who drives a white minivan and blocks the alley all the time and he's constantly berating his former teenage bride who birthed a dozen toddlers in ten years and they all have terrible vision and forced to wear thick Coke-bottled eye glasses, which means our alley is over run by half-blind, little, orthodox Jewish kids in white shirts, black vests, and black pants with payot sidelocks dangling down the sides of their heads and screeching at each other because they keep bumping into each other while playing in the alley?

The Slums of Beverly Hills is the kind of transient neighborhood where people stay for a while before they move on... hopefully to better things. Yet, I know this is just a stop over in the long journey of hopeless mediocrity, which housed millions of broken, unrealized dreams. Most of the time I assume those temporary neighbors get priced out and end up in the Valley or Koreatown. Or they figure out there's better places in the neighborhood than living in these particularly shitty dingbats. There's at least one apartment in our building and the two surrounding buildings that can never retain an occupant for more than a few months before the abruptly move out under 90 days. I assume it's either shitty plumbing or lack of light or a menacing ghost or pests or a draft or too much noise. The slumlords will never try to fix whatever is broken and keep renting the place out until they find someone passive enough who won't complain about whatever is fucked up.

Nicky and I are friendly with only one of our neighbors and she has seniority in our building as the neighbor who has been at our slummy dingbat here the longest. She's an artist in her late 50s or early 60s. She moved in here when she was around our age. She said she was the youngest tenant and everyone else was older couples or widowed women. They eventually died off over the last two decades and replaced by much younger people with lofty aspirations of hitting it big in Hollyweird. I think she's an art teacher somewhere but spends a lot of her time working on different landscapes. Nothing too fancy or mind-blowing, but she cranks out cheesy 12 inch by 12 inch paintings that you'll find hung in your aunt's bathrooms or kitchen.  She's laid back and polite and one of those people who live in LA that you know doesn't quite fit in here but can't figure out why she's here. She'd fit in more in San Francisco and not LA, but I don't know her that well enough to pry. She essentially leaves me and Nicky alone and doesn't bother us much. I catch her smoking cigarettes in the alley from time to time. I assume it's her only vice. The fact there's a real artist in one of the seven other apartments gives me hope, especially in this town.

* * * *

More posts about the denizens of the Slums of Beverly Hills....
Monday Morning Lurid Gaze
Neighborly Turbulence, Squabbles, and Brouhahas
Russian Daycare, Taxi Fleet, Chainsmokers, Dog Walkers, and the Old Couple in the Matching Track Suit
Echo Canyon
You can also check out the Slums of Beverly Hills tag. Scroll down a bit to view older posts I wrote pre-2011 about this crazy little hood on the fringe of Beverly Hills.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bad Bands

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I feel bad for bad bands. I'm not talking about the disaffected suburban kids who form punk bands to piss off their divorced parents and square neighbors, and they end up venting angst by barely learning 1.5 chords and getting blind drunk in basements and play so loud it sounds like roaring lions humping a washer machine. There's a ton of nobility in that pursuit. I'm talking about wanna-be bands with starry eyes gigging in big cities across America who that log endless hours and hours in the tightest of spaces practicing their asses off to get a gig in the divest of dive bars, only to shit themselves on stage by bombing a set.

It's one thing to know your band sucks ass and barely held together by a mixture of bad drugs and nowhere else to go. You know it's a glum situation, but the show must go on and you can only hope your bands' internal problems will disappear by the time you take the stage. But if you put in the prep time thinking you're much better than you are and really suck... well, that's one of the worst failures you can hope for. Lack of self-awareness has let to many humiliating nights. Nothing breaks up bands faster than a bad gig. So many bands inflict unnecessary torture upon themselves, because there's nothing more pathetic than a band sticking together that should have broken up two weeks before they started.

Most of the bad bands are bad because they don't practice. You cannot develop chemistry if you don't practice. You can't hone your craft if you don't practice. You can't create new stuff unless you practice and experiment with new things. Not every musician practices outside of practice. Laziness breeds mediocrity.

Weak links kill bands. There's someone in every band who is the weak link. You can overcome youth and inexperience by putting in the time, but you cannot overcome musicians who lack drive and ambition and give the band their full attention and devotion because they're bone-dead tired juggling a day jobs or other nagging things like disapproving parents, jealous girlfriends, baby mama's, or addicted to snorting Xanax. It's tough enough to get your own shit together and jump out of bed willing to stay on the same path and reach a specific goal to become a kick-ass band. Try getting three other people to do the same. Or four. Or five. Or if you have a huge band... ten or more. And then try convincing everyone's support group that each band member's individual sacrifice is worth the time and effort.

Bands will only go as far as their weakest link. And if they have a glimmer of talent and ruthless enough, they'll get rid of the one person holding them back. It's a fucked up thing to do... but a lot of bands get desperate after putting in years and years of hard work with nothing to show for it. The "love of music" and working hard to make your dreams come true can only carry you so far before you become a jaded, weary road warrior gigging in shitty-ass bars that smell like septic tanks exploded underneath the stage, or getting stiffed by slithery club owners, or ducking empty bottles thrown at you by shitfaced hooligans, or catching an STD from a buxom jail bait hottie. So if replacing your lazy bass player (who nods out most of the time and who's always late) with someone more talented and significantly more sober can get your "bar band" one step closer to landing a huge recording contract with potential radio play... they'll do it. In a heartbeat. Whack. Two to the back of the head. Sorry, you're fired. Especially if it's a slick L.A. suit from the music machine dangling fortune and fame in front of starving musicians.

I've seen plenty of bad bands by accident, you know, without intending to pay money to actually see them. This ranges from well-known bands to unknowns. I caught dozens of shitshows from so-called big bands at musical festivals (I really wanted to like Mars Volta at Vegoose but they were horrible, and REM at Langerado was one of the worst live performances I've ever seen), let's not forget about all those Grateful Dead shows I saw in 94-95 when Jerry Garcia was so strung out he stared at his feet the entire time (I swear he nodded out during Wharf Rat at Giants Stadium in 95). And how about the hundreds of shitty bands I saw only because they were opening up for a band I intended to see? I'm the schmuck who showed up early and got stuck listening to bad bands as one of eight people in the crowd which included the so-called girlfriends of the bad band (at least one of them was pregnant and another looked like a 50-year old biker chick), who both hit me up for blow ($50 worth in a swap for $20 and a "shit-load of methadone that could kill a dog").

Right after college, I moved back to NYC, and my circle of work friends from the museum were in a couple of bands. Pretty-dam good ones like Slab, Any 4, and Hot N' Hazy. Not to mention a couple of jazz groups with names and rotating band members that changed every other week. They gigged all over the East Village and the occasional club in Chinatown. But along the way, I sat through dozens and dozens of bad bands with horrible names like Cattle Twinkie, Loopy Muppet, and Zerg Stegasaurus and fronted by neophytes who hadn't been in New York for more than a few months and were trying to hit it big with their knock-off versions of Green Day or Talking Heads or Megadeath. Sure, some of them had better stage presence and schtick than others, but they all flat out sucked. No energy. No riots started. No faces melted. No orgasmic explosions. Just a steaming pile of turd on stage. Not all the practice in the world, or wearing snazzy outfits with drag-queen smeared makeup was going to make those bad bands sound any better.

The reality of the industry is harsh. If you can't sell records, you better be able to play live to earn some bread. And if you can't do both... you're totally fucked and need to give up and get a real job, or go find a new band, or spend some more time practicing. You have to be decent enough to draw good crowds otherwise venues and bars are not going to hire you, or you have to be mainstream-sounding enough to get a shot at recording something for the machine so they can make money. At the same time... being a bar band is not the end of the world. In fact it's what a lot of musicians strive to be after taking a shot and missing, because at least bar bands get free tabs and gigs. Sure it's lots of covers and lots of talkers, but you get to play in front of crowd and before/after any gig there's the opportunity to score some cheap thrills, cheap booze, cheap drugs and cheap sex.

During college we wanted to hire a band for a fraternity party, but all the local bands we liked were booked up or cost too much, so the social director hired a really really really bad band for next to no money (we used the surplus on booze). They had some really tragic name like Ten Below Zero, or Zero Below, or Alaska Station Zero, or something like that. They looked like a bunch of burned out heavy metal guys driving in a beat-up van who got stuck playing classic rock covers on college campuses.

After the sound check and during the pre-party, the drummer all dressed in black (black Chuck Taylors, black skinny jeans, black t-shirt) shot up in the bathroom stall. Riding the H train was pretty shocking, even for most of us college kids. Sure, we smoked a lot of dope and ate mushrooms once in a while, but the hardest shit we touched was drinking Jim Beam out of the bottle. We also got the lead singer stoned off a three-foot bong and he got so schwilly that he almost knocked it over and acted like a total jerkoff trying to pick up sweet girls from one of the southern sororities. He looked like a bloated Sammy Hagar wanna-be with stingy blonde hair that smelled like a wet dog. He bragged about all the coke he and his boys did back in LA in the 80s when his former band Nuclear Laceration was huge and had videos on MTV. He destroyed his nostrils so he had to shoot cocaine and made sure we understood the difference between snorting and shooting.

Why he was playing a random party for $280 with a bunch of long-haired junkies could be a great episode of Intervention someday. One moment, you're at the top of the world and getting rimjobs from silicone-stuffed starlets in the dressing room at the Viper Room, the next you're playing Light My Fire in the basement of a dilapidated mansion on frat row somewhere in a Atlanta for a couple hundred beer-guzzling, Jaegermeister-drenched college kids. Hey, it's not the Sunset Strip and his drummer is strung out, but at least he's working and scored some free weed, right?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Arbiters of Taste

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

I used to have two modes... switches, gear shifts, or whatever you want to call it. Those two modes were: living and writing. These days I have three: living, thinking, and writing. Most of 2012 was what I would call a deluge of deep thought during a thinking phase because for the first time in a decade, I wrote less than I had ever before and even published fewer things on the web (save for the fact freelance material I was paid to do and twenty or so Phish concert reviews). Yeah, if you're just like me and hate mostly everything I write, then we were both spared from logorrhea last year.

Alas, 2013 is a new year and I'm back to drowning myself in word shit after taking an extended break in San Francisco to think while I wandered the streets, rode buses, sat in parks, slumped in cafes whacked-out wasted and studying hipsters in their natural habitat. Now that I had some time to think about life and re-think new goals as a writer, it's time to get off my ass write (for play and for work, mostly work) for a while before I head back on the road in the summer and start living hard again.

For most of my 30s, I jumped back and forth between extended periods of living/writing. When I wasn't living, I was bogged down writing about it trying to remember everything crazy that happened. That's why Tao of Pauly (immensely valuable electronic notebook), other blogs, Twitter, pictures, notebooks, ticket stubs, and whatever mementos I accumulated (hotel room key, receipt, trinket, matchbook) to help me reconstruct a specific moment so I can write about it at a future date. The memory is fickle and the older you get, you struggle to recapture those memories. What was once vivid and clear in technicolor, has become fuzzy and soaked in sepia.

The memory is dangerous because it is something that allows people to hold grudges, and it allows people to let things go. The memory makes you nostalgic, but often for the wrong reasons, and doesn't allow you to evolve. The memory can be a pain in the ass, or a trickster. For most of my life, my own mother mixed up my name with my brother's and vice versa. Maybe it was the booze, maybe it was the mischievous memory fucking with her.

Sometimes it's impossible to figure out where your car keys are located, or what's the password for a random website, yet it takes the littlest things to jog the memory and give you instant flashbacks.

Music is one of the most powerful things to evoke a feeling or recreate a memory. It's why teenagers get even more angry or sad by listening to the same emotional song over and over and over again. It's why directors (e.g. early Marty Scorsese, PT Anderson, Tarantino) pick the perfect song to add more depth to a scene to help convey a particular mood in a film (e.g. Scorsese's use of the piano solo in Layla during Goodfellas as the cops find the corpses all the dead mob guys).

I rely on music as a necessary tool to write. The most popular usage is background music to drown out any potential distractions. I have that specifically in the early mornings in Los Angeles to keep me sane from losing my shit from all of the leaf blowers or construction. When I covered the WSOP in Vegas, and sat in a pressbox for seven weeks inside of a casino's convention hall, I made sure I had noise-cancelling headphones and a series of playlists to help block out everything.

Sometimes I listen to a specific set of songs/musicians to get me in the mood to write about a certain subject. In the mornings, I opt for jazz because it's low maintenance. I don't ever have to worry about getting hooked by a catchy sequence or have lyrics interrupt my train of thought.

Around the turn of the century (pre-iPod), for writing sessions I sought out five albums to load them in my CD player, but these CDs were full albums I could listen to from start to finish without wanting to skip over anything. You know how impossible it is to find a flawless album? Even the best albums had a few weak spots because it's really impossible to find a perfect album with as few lyrics/vocals as possible from start to finish? As much as I enjoyed Blue Train or Kind of Blue or Monk's Dream, I had grown tired of those CDs. But those two of those three classic jazz albums were perpetually inside my 5-disc changer. Yeah, I struggled to find two or three decent albums of background music, but then try to find 5? or how about 10 to keep things fresh? After a while, the playlist got stale and I struggled to find a new batch of inspiring albums.

Thankfully the technology improved and I got my first Macbook in 2002. iTunes helped solve my music problems and I took advantage of playlists. No more struggles searching for complete albums to write to. I had playlists. Hundreds of them. Over a decade later, I burned through a half dozen laptops and created almost a thousand playlists.

Whenever I worked on larger projects, I relied upon specific playlists to get me in the right frame of mood to write. For example, I've told anyone who asked that I wrote (and re-wrote and edited) the final chapter of Lost Vegas while listening to Tumbling Dice by The Rolling Stones. Just when I thought I was struggling with the final edit of book, Phish played that exact song on Halloween in 2009. I took that as a positive sign and it really fired me to finish the book on a strong note.

I spend mostly every morning listening to jazz music. Enthusiasts and hardcore jazz geeks uploaded entire ablums onto YouTube. I know, it's weird... YouTube is a video platform, but it's an awesome place to listen to almost any song for free. Just type any song from your teenage years into the search... "Dead Milkmen, Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant"... and viola! I spent plenty of late nights with Nicky looking up old music videos from MTV's heyday in the 80s.

Anyway, I found hundreds of old jazz albums on YouTube... no video, just the audio. The sound quality is sub-par, but I decided to buy my favorite ones via iTunes to acquire higher quality recordings. In the process, I created a playlist of entire jazz albums. Several of them had become writing music staples over the last decade or so (like Headhunters or Milestones or The Sidewinder). Instead of using iTunes, I can fire up YouTube and play a bunch in the background. A couple of weeks ago, I created a jazz writing music playlist. Every few days I add another new album to the list and it's slowly growing.

I'm lucky. I have a great group of friends who recommend new music and bands through a daily email thread or someone is passing off a new batch of tunes on Dropbox. The key to discovering good music (both old and new) is to rely on your friends, so find a core group of eclectic people (bonus if they're musicians, but any artsy types will do) whom you trust and then be very open to what they have to share.

Music lovers have always been stuck up about what they think is good or bad. Unfortunately those arbiters of taste are biased and often have auditory tunnel vision. It seems that during my journey through life, the more pretentious someone is abut music, the less they know. That's why it's important to have different avenues to explore music. The internet has made music more non-popular available to the masses than ever before. Combined with technology, music fans have been able to streamline specific content to create your own playlists (mixes or genres) for yourself or to share.

Over the last decade, the internet has become a bastion for passing along really shitty music. In the early days of music blogs, (I blame tech-geek hipsters for infiltrating the music scene) there was a race to pass along the most obscure indie bands. That mentality has trickled down into social media, so it's difficult to get anything of substance. Sure, you might find a gem in that pile of cow dung, but there's too much crap out there. The positive part about music and the intent, is that slew of online communities sprang up and became a valuable source to discovering new bands or connecting with like-minded people.

That's why your friends are important, especially if they are musicians and understand the difficult process at expressing yourself but making it palatable for the masses. They are like lab rats who try out a new wonder drug and croak or grow a third testicle. They'll sample the music and know your kind of tastes so they can cater their recommendations. These days there's so many diverse genres that most of them sound made up (e.g. glitch hop, Nu-disco).

Looking at my inbox over the last week, I'm fortunate for the Coventry crew (Joker, Jonas, and BTreotch, Broseph) continuously turning me onto new music I would have dismissed or never even knew existed. Most of the time, I'm super busy with work (aren't we all?), so I don't have chunks of free time to explore as much new music as I'd like, so I naturally gravitate to what I know and like. I devote any free time to reading, but music is a close second. You have to make time for music. It truly soothes the soul.

When I grew up, my original musical tastes were shaped by the radio and later TV. If my mother did not play old Motown records and listen to the Beatles (they were staples on the oldies stations), I would have never had that as a musical base and would have been stuck listening to nonstop rap. Like most of the kids from the 80s, I cherry-picked the coolest stuff from the radio. These days, I do not rely on corporate owned radio stations to determine what is cool and not. I also never listen to the radio in the car, so that's why I have no idea who are the current pop stars. I don't pay attention to what the music machine is forcing down the throats of America's youth. I never relied on MTV (wait do they even have videos anymore? the station has become reality TV catered at pre-teens and teens) to curtail my tastes, even though cable TV in the 80s-90s allowed the record industry as an alternative means to get youth hooked on bands through catchy visual cues and videos. The migration from radio to cable shifted after the tech boom. I don't rely on indie music blogs to give me clues on what I need to be listening to. And like anything on social media, you have to figure out which people's feeds cater to your needs/attention the best, that way you can follow who can turn you onto some new/old stuff.

Over the weekend, Nicky and I got our hands on an advanced copy of Amok, from Thom Yorke's side project Atoms for Peace. During my aimless web wanderings, I came across  Chuck Norris, Bitch! mix, which was the latest in a series of mixes (Motown, French pop, surf guitar, and soul) inspired by 60s exploitation films. Oh my... blending genres and nostalgia. Good shit.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Permanent Records, Credit Scores, and Chocolate Conspiracy Theories

By Pauly
Los Angeles, CA

The Man knows how to prey on your insecurities. It's how he and his friends entice you to buy stuff you don't need, yet subliminally desire. And if you don't have the money, the Man will set you up with his Bankster friends and they'll loan you the money (at redonkulously high interest) so you'll finally have enough money to fulfill your wildest dreams. They all profit from your internal struggles.

Homes. Cars. College degrees. Second homes. Third cars. Boats. Pristine lawns.

All crucial aspects towards fulfilling the American Dream. If you want it but cannot afford it by falling short for some reason (that reason being the inability to live within your means), then you can put up the appearance of being successful by borrowing the money.

Credit card. College loan. Car loans. Gas card. Mortgage. Grad/law/med school loan. Second gas card. Second credit card. Second mortgage. Third credit card. Borrow from rich aunt. Fourth credit card. Third mortgage. Fifth credit card.

Want. Buy. Consume. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

That's the Neo-American Dream. Not to be debt free and successful, but to have good enough of a credit score to acquire loans so you can put up the image of success. Just like Fernando, the Billy Crystal character from Saturday Night Live explaining 80s gross consumption, "It's better to look good, than to feel good."

When I was a kid, the powers that be tried to keep you in line by threatening you with a "permanent record." It's like a rap sheet for kids who stay out of jail, but sort of like that list Santa Claus makes every year... he's checking it twice to find out who's been naughty or nice. Of course, the permanent record scam was total horseshit and one of the many mechanisms that adults used to keep kids in line so they didn't go ape-shit crazy and take over the asylum.

When you get into your early 20s, the new means of control is your credit score. That's how Citibank scared the bejesus out of me. If I didn't pay my Visa card or my college loan, then it would affect my credit score and they will prevent me from getting future credit cards and loans for cars, mortgages, or potential loan for law school. Heck, some landlords might not even want to rent an apartment to you because you have a crappy credit score, which translates into risky behavior.

Your credit score was like a scarlet letter. Shitty scores were a huge red flag toward banking intuitions and potential landlords. You paid your bills and kept your nose clean to ensure you stayed in good favor with the Banksters.

You should want to pay your bills on time because it's an honorable thing to do, but moreso not to get  labeled as a deadbeat or brokedick. Centuries ago, they put you in prison if you ran up debts. The British crown emptied their jails filled with debtors and shipped them off to Australia. In modern-day America, you declare bankruptcy and get a new batch of credit cards.

In the poker world, I've seen some of the nicest guys (and gals) in the world get shunned by their peers because they were deadbeats who never paid their debts. It's a catch-22 in the gambling world... they can't earn money (and pay back debts) unless they have a bankroll, so they have to find someone to loan them money at high juice in order to get back in the game. It's not just with poker pros and sports bettors. It happens everyday down on Wall Street or out in the suburbs with real estate gurus (gurus, gamblers... same thing) begging banks to allow them to borrow enough money to keep their properties afloat like a dope-sick junkie trying to cut a deal with his ruthless dealer.

Every group of friends has that one guy (or girl) who is perpetually broke, but borrows constantly from friends with no intentions of paying them back. If your friends could hand out credit scores to each other, then you'd see that that person was a huge risk and you'd probably not lend out cash anymore, even if you doled it out in $20 increments.

While on path to fulfilling the American Dream, you have to get a car loan, school loan, or mortgage somewhere along the way. If you don't pay your bills, it could affect your future. You cannot start a family without a good credit score. In the days of heavily-regulated banking, you needed to walk the straight and narrow and show you're not a credit risk in order to be eligible for a housing loan. Otherwise, you needed some rich relative to co-sign the loan for you.

When Glass-Steagall Act got thrown out and other forms of banking regulation disappeared over night, banks quickly lowered the bar and offered sub-prime mortgages so anyone could get a loan. NO MONEY DOWN! Who needs one house? Let's get fourteen! NO MONEY DOWN!

The Banksters didn't even finish shoveling dirt on Glass-Steagall's coffin before shit got out of control. It didn't matter if you paid your bills or not because the sub-prime lenders had lowered the bar so low that they were turning away anyone with a shred of financial responsibility. They wanted the biggest fuck-ups out there just to fulfill a quota. After all, any shitty loan wouldn't be on that bank's books because they were waiting to ship them out to bigger banks who were going to bundle up all those shitty loans and use it as lunch meat with other fancy investments. That's how immigrants who couldn't speak English walked off the street into banks to secure a home loan. They weren't even in America a few months and they were leveraged to the hilt, but at least they were on the right path to home ownership and fulfilling the American Dream.

If you cannot afford to live the Dream, then you could borrow from unscrupulous Banksters to make it happen. The Man knows how to prey on your insecurities as he lowers that golden carrot in front of the donkey cart.

Enter Valentine's Day. Talk about a polarizing holiday that whips people into a frenzy. You would think that Americans could recognize the absurdity of over-consumption during Christmas, but we've all had fucked up childhoods at this point so it's pointless to try and change tradition. After all, it's a family holiday and nothing is as crazy as your particular family.

But Valentine's Day is not a family-oriented holiday like Turkey Day and Christmas. If you're single, it's a reminder from society that you have failed to find a "soul mate" or at least a fuck buddy. If you're with someone, it's a reminder from society that you're a shitty significant other so you better buy some shit (made in China) so they won't figure out that you really suck and they'll leave you for someone else.

It's truly the most absurd holiday when you think about it. Screw the couples. Make them pay. And while we're at it, let's totally mind fuck everyone else too.

Valentine's Day used to be called St. Valentine's Day. It was originally a Catholic holiday to celebrate a rogue priest willing to marry star crossed lovers. Makes you wonder if the Pope or Shakespeare wrote the original story of St. Valentine. Like mostly every other religious holiday, it got hijacked by the Don Drapers running Madison Avenue, who bent, stretched, and twisted the holiday through their massive media machines, and when the dust settled the sheeple were bombarded with advertisements reminding them that true love only comes in the form of blood diamonds from De Beers, or milk chocolate from Hershey's, or some other high ticket travel item that includes airfare and resort fees.

Here's the crux of the conspiracy... well, it's not really a conspiracy because everyone knows the truth... Valentine's Day is a fabricated holiday designed by Madison Avenue to increase chocolate sales for corporations (Hershey and Mars) in between Halloween and Easter, so they hijacked Valentine's Day.

These days, V-Day carries so much societal pressure that it drives people crazy. I've seen it first hand the last few years with the rise of social media. Man, you really see the anger bubbling to the surface starting about a week before and leading up to full-blown volcanic explosions on February 14th. Most of the time, guys think V-Day is moronically stupid because it's just another way for the Man to sink his hooks in us and take away our money by trying to trick us into thinking we're bad people for not buying into the hype. Women either love it, or hate it. Most of those lines are drawn between those with someone special, and those without. Everyone deep down likes attention. It's a drug. It's hard not to like a holiday that strokes the ego and provides you with free stuff (gifts). Most guys see V-Day as a monetary issue and a holiday forced upon us. Some women see it as a personal attack by the Man who preys on their self-image insecurities and there's not a worse day of the year for single women to feel horrible about their lack of a mate. Most people can rise about it, but it's not easy when you're bombarded with non-stop images and ads. Yeah, it's an evil holiday that corporations make people feel like shit just to turn a profit.

2013 Valentine's Day came and went without any problems. Nicky and I made Valentine's Day really mean something special for us, so we decided it would be the day we celebrated our anniversary. It was almost six years ago when I came up with the idea. Unless you're talking about a wedding anniversary and a set date of nuptials, non-married couples have to deal with an arbitrary date anyway. Some relationships have a clearly defined starting point. Others? A little more complicated. We weren't one of those couples who constantly broke up with each other and reveal an estimation of how long they've been together with a caveat "on and off." We started officially dating sometime around Valentine's Day in 2006, so it made sense that we picked that as the date to celebrate. It was a perfect coup because I was able to kill two birds with one stone. Valentine's Day wasn't a fake holiday the Man forced us to celebrate. It was a celebration day because we decided so. Feels awesome to hijack a holiday like that for your own purposes.

And and happy seventh anniversary to Nicky. Seven years? Cannot believe its been seven years. That's a story for another time.