MonthFebruary 2001

Assorted Trivialities

     Disclaimer: This turned out to be a pretty scatterbrained update, mainly because it was written in bits and pieces over the last week or so. Hopefully the next one will be a bit more coherent.

     So I’m back on my Guns N’ Roses Pinball kick again. To be fair – I never really stopped being on a Guns N’ Roses Pinball kick. A week or so ago I asked people to email me if they knew the location of any GNR Pinball machines. This was so I could begin work on the Ultimate GNR Pinball Location Guide. Unfortunately, I’ve only had three submissions, so it’s not exactly the ‘Ultimate’ GNR Pinball Location Guide yet. Click here for what I’ve got so far.

     Then there’s the wealth of extremely trivial GNR pinball information I unearthed, presented in descending order of interest. Found on a Slash fan site (More on this later):

Question from Jeff of Portland OR:
My question is regarding the GNR pinball machine. There are several GNR songs on there; however, there are other songs on there that are not on any GNR album. For example, the “SLASH solo guitar feature” or the song played on the “extra ball feature”. Did you actually record these songs for the pinball machine? I’ve also heard that there are other unreleased tracks on the machine. Is this true?

SLASH replies:
There are eight different original GNR recordings which were taken off the masters. An unreleased song is “Ain’t Goin’ Down” with no lyrics. If you see the Viper pinball game which I also did the music for, you’ll find “Speed Parade” there. It’s the sound the car makes.

     Here‘s a meticulously detailed document that covers the scoring and gameplay functions of the machine. This is probably only mildly interesting if you’ve played the game. A sample quotation:

“Match sequence: The animation shows a woman pulling her shirt off over her head. The picture then scrolls down, and she’s covering herself with a big card (on which is displayed the match number). If you don’t match, you get the very neat quote, “aww, dude!” If you do match, WAIT!!! You should know by now that you have to wait until the match animation finishes before the credit is actually awarded. This delay seems very long, compared to other recent DE pins.
There is an option in the menus called “Modesty Option.” Switching this OFF changes the match animation. The girl still pulls her shirt off, but when the picture scrolls down, she’s not covering herself, and one match digit appears on each breast.”

     Photos of most of the playing field and moving parts can be found here. This is noteworthy because the artwork is fucking hilarious.

     
Here‘s a meticulously detailed document that covers the repair of Data East pinball machines. This is only interesting if you are a very big nerd.

     While digging up all this GNR pinball info, I stumbled across the funniest websites in the world. The first one is a collection of video clips of GNR’s slash, featuring the most hilarious descriptions ever. They make Slash seem like a puppet, under the control of the author of the website or something. In the following excerpt, please note that the capitol letters are as they appear on the site.

Bang Your Head, SLASH!

Sing, SLASH!

LET ME STAND NEXT TO YOUR FIRE!

ROCK THOSE REPTILES!

Introduce Blues Ball, SLASH!

Bring It On Home, SLASH!

Play Us A Smooth Solo, SLASH!

Play That Steeler Fight Song, SLASH!

Show Them How to Rock, SLASH!

..and so on.

     Also from the same author: The Official Photos of Slash Relaxing Page.

     Rachel Leigh Cook pretending to sing lead in a faux pop-punk version of the Archie comics spin off Josie and the pussycats. I have not the words. Click here to see a video.

     So there’s this Japanese film that probably won’t ever see the light of day over here, called Battle Royale. The plot is basically a sadistic mutation of Survivor: A junior high school class (42 students) is sent to an island and given a set amount of time to trim the crop down to one winner. If more than one student is still alive at the end of the allotted time, they are all killed. Obviously this would be perfect fodder for the new presidential administration, and no studio in their right mind is going to touch it with a ten foot pole. AICN‘s Harry Knowles (Do the grammar and spelling oversights on AICN ever bug anyone else? because they sure do bug the shit out of me.) makes quite a case for the film’s merit in this article.

     Did you know Weird Al is getting married? So I guess there’s hope for everyone.

Mr. Kirksey Calling

     It seems like just about once a week since November 20th, something in relation to my brother’s accident will happen to get me really pissed off. Just last night I was thinking how quiet this week has been relative to the past few.

     That all changed this morning of course (My luck, and all). We got a call at about 9:30. It was one of those instances where you’re half-awakened by the ringing, but you know someone else will get it, and your body refuses to surrender to conciousness until the few functioning brain cells are sure it’s important. This is roughly the same thing that happened on the morning of November 20th, simply substitute knocking for ringing. You’d think by now, my body would know to just wake up, already.

     At any rate, it was the City of Livonia on the other end. It seems that the memorial that Chris’ friends and classmates have built for him at the intersection where he was killed has been found to be an ‘eyesore,’ a ‘nuisance,’ and a ‘hazard.’ Someone had called to complain, and on further examination, they’ve ordered us to remove it by Sunday night, or else they will have it removed.

     Just the fact that they would do this boggles my mind. We’ve been careful to keep it clean. We’ve had to take things home to avoid overflow into the street – Chris’ bed is overflowing with stuffed animals.

     If you live in Livonia, and you disagree with this decision, you can join others in leaving a candle at the intersection on Monday night (2/19). If they’re heartless enough to remove every trace of a community mourning the loss of a friend, the very least we can do is make it a pain in the ass to clean up.

     I had all sorts of fun popculture crap I was going to write about today – but I think this is enough for now. Maybe tommorrow.

 

Very Important Research

     If you are here because of the Steve Malkmus review on Pitchfork, here is the article to which Mr. Nick Mirov referred.

Since I don’t really have anything else to say today, a few more old features that don’t make me cringe are here, here and here.

Additionally: If you know the location of a Guns N’ Roses pinball machine anywhere on this fine earth, please send the name and location of the establishment in which it resides, along with the address (If possible, cross streets’ll do) to me. This is for very important research.

A collection of Barnes & Noble oddness

     Last sunday, there was a man sitting in the cafe with a nice-looking rectangle-style (Yeah, so I’m not up on my business person terminology. Sue me.) leather briefcase. This would not be unusual if the man hadn’t been both greasy and creepy. A closer examination revealed the contents of his briefcase:

  • cigarettes
  • cigarette lighter
  • two (2) volumes of an encyclopedia set.

     First – we don’t sell encyclopedias. So this greasy creepy guy was presumably visiting his local B&N in order to a.) smoke and b.) read his encyclopedias. It was reminiscent of a youngster ‘playing grown-up.’ Well, the briefcase and encyclopedias part, at least.

     Anyways, the same guy comes back in on the following Saturday and is asking about books on bombs and explosives. He generally makes it known that he is the resident ‘bomb guy’ to all the staff. This in addition to being creepy and greasy. Anyway, after firmly reenforcing his “I love explosives” rep, he leaves his briefcase sitting on a table and leaves. So everyone who is working thinks it’s a bomb. I was not working on this day or I would have chuckled heartily and said: “Wait! It is only cigarettes and encyclopedias!”

     I wasn’t working, though, so the police were called and after what I would imagine was some very unintelligent police-level-risk-taking, they decide “Well fuck! let’s just open the case!” and the store blows up.

     Just Kidding!

     Actually the case was empty. But the police were called and they did open the case, only to find it empty. Apparently his encyclopedias and cigarettes are too valuable to leave behind when psychologically toying with bookstore employees. So the next day is Sunday. I am working. I have not yet heard the ‘bomb threat’ story. He approaches the information kiosk.

Him: (pointing at nothing in particular) That’s mine.

Me: (pointing at a book) This?

Him: No.

Me: (pointing at different book) This?

Him: (Annoyed) No. (Dramatically making “air quotes”) The briefcase.

Me: Oh. (Hands him briefcase)

     So anyways, I think I disappointed him. He was trying to be all dramatic and ominous and play his ‘ha ha you pissant, you thought it was a bomb’ card, but I was totally oblivious to the whole ordeal at that point. Looking back, I kind of wish I could take the briefcase back and let him get it from a more informed employee. After all his planning and hard work, I had to come along and ruin the payoff.

     Oh yeah, there’s also the B&N pervert. This guy writes the typical bathroom graffitti:

Be here 12:30.
I give good blowjobs.

     But he actually shows up, and creepily follows any unsuspecting male customer who happens to have to piss at 12:30 into the bathroom.

     Did I mention he drilled a hole in the partition between two of the stalls so he could ‘peep?’

     The maintenance people put a bolt through the hole, with metal plates on either side, to which he responded in permanent marker: “Was this really necessary?”

     On the same day that I handed over the bombless briefcase, the rudest woman in the world came in. She is waiting at the info kiosk with her grade-school-aged daughter, who is remarkably polite considering her breeding. I will now revert to my preferred ‘screenplay’ recounting style:

Her: (Extremely pissed off) I just don’t understand you people! You leave to show people where a book is and then you’re so slow to come back!

Me: (Dumbfounded)… Well actually I haven’t been gone for more than a minute.. (My coworker walks up behind me) … and neither has she.

Her: (Insanely pissed off) Well whatever! I need ‘Call of the WIld’ by Jack London.

Me: (Thinking) You’re standing less than a foot away from a shelf that says ‘fiction, alphabetical by author’ and you can’t find Jack London? (speaking) O.K. it’ll be right this way.

     Apparently she didn’t hear me. She just stared at me in a “I hate everyone and I will destroy them by being rude until they die from it” sort of way. So I went to the section and grabbed the two different editions of ‘Call of the WIld’ that were in fiction. Meanwhile, she has remained at the information kiosk, raving like a madwoman about how I walked off in the middle of helping her because *I* was rude! My coworker is trying to convince her that I went to get her book.

     I arrive with the books. My coworker says, “See I told you he was helping you.” which only pisses her off more. She takes the two volumes from me. The first contains both ‘The Call of the Wild’ and ‘Whitefang.’

     “Did you ask me if I wanted more than one story in the book? No, you didn’t ask me that.”

     She looks at the second version. It’s annotated.

     “Did I ask for an annotated version? No I did not. These are way too thick. I want a thinner version.”

     At this point I’m pretty well pissed, primarily because this woman is going out of her way to be rude to me. Barely resisting the urge to point out that she didn’t specify that she did not want an anthology or annotated version, I take her to the children’s classics section and show her versions that are ‘thinner’ because they don’t contain ‘white fang’ or annotations. She wants a blue cover. There are three versions with a blue cover. She wants the thinnest version with a blue cover. She gets it.

     I ended up showing her at least 6 versions of Call of the Wild, and do you know what she did on her way out? She complained to my manager that I was inefficient. If I’d had a brick, I would have gleefully embedded it in her skull.

     Also: If you are buying something somewhere and your total is 19 dollars and something cents, you are not obligated to say “That was a good year.” No, really. You can stop. Especially if you’re old.

     Today a woman set off the security alarm thing on the way in. This happens ALL THE TIME. I don’t know why, I just know that it does. Most people just shrug it off, and probably pack their coats with books, knowing full well that we’ll wave them through when the alarm goes off on their departure. This woman however, was determined to find out what the hell was setting it off.

So she emptied her pockets and walked back through. Beep.

She set down her bag and walked through. Beep.

She set down her purse and walked through. Beep.

She took off her coat and walked through. Beep.

She took off her belt and walked through. Beep.

     Finally, a female coworker asked if it could be a new article of clothing. Suddenly, the woman realized she was wearing a relatively new bra.

     So she went into the bathroom, took off her bra, put it in her bag, and walked through. No beep.

Popular Music

     Doghouse records has released remastered versions of the Get-up Kids’ first full-length, and both EP’s (On one disc). The only problem I have with this is that they changed the artwork. Call me stubborn, but I disagree with changing the artwork to a full length album – just on principle. Doesn’t that strike anyone else as just plain wrong? Save your originals for a few years and sell them on eBay.

     Dolly Parton does a cover of Collective Soul’s “Shine” on her new album, ‘Little Sparrow.’ No, I’m not kidding.

     It seems that everyone in the world loves Icelanders Sigur Ros. I was initially turned off by their ‘Both English and Icelandic as languages are too unexpressive to communicate our grand message so here’s a new language, suckers’ stance, which is surprising because I’m usually a huge fan of pretension in rock. If you weren’t lucky enough to pick up something by them before “the Buzz” hit, you’re not likely to find too much in the shops, as it seems they have an unhealthy propensity for limited editions. I managed to find that film score they did on vinyl, but as my luck would have it, there’s a skip in my copy. It did, however, come with a coupon redeemable for a free limited edition print, which will surely be “ebay gold” in the months to come. You can listen to real audio samples of their work here.

…and speaking of pretension, here’s a loosely translated Dutch interview with Godspeed You Black Emperor!, in which they pretty well thrash Radiohead. A rebuttal from GYBE! guitarist Efrin follows the interview. [via Usagainstthem]

Dropout

     You may or may not have noticed that the updates have been pretty frequent around here lately. That probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’ve essentially dropped out of school for the semester.

     Yeah, I never thought I’d do it either. The reason I did, you see, is because I got stuck with one professor for three of my four classes this semester. In some cases, this might be a good thing, except you’ll notice that I used the phrase ‘Stuck with.’ See, this professor has a reputation. He prides himself on making one third of each class drop, and not passing another third. He’s been on ‘sabbatical’ for the last two years, and Wayne State’s Electrical Engineering department has had record graduating classes since he’s been gone, because people have waited to finish the program until they can do it without dealing with him.

     I thought I could handle him. This of course, was stupid of me. I lasted about two weeks before getting into two arguments with him in one day. He decided to give us a Tuesday pop quiz in two of my classes on homework that was due on Thursday.

     “The prepared student will have already started working on the homework,” he said.

     I wasn’t prepared. I had spent all weekend preparing, playing and recuperating from a benefit show in my brother‘s memory. The little bit of the homework I did manage to cover on Monday night (Which I worked on until 3 AM) was not covered on the quizzes.

     Needless to say, after the first quiz I argued about the validity of testing us on material that we technically were not yet required to know. He would hear none of it.

     By the time he handed out the pop quiz in the other class, I was already fuming. Looking up to his desk and seeing him smiling in my direction sealed it: I didn’t need to deal with this right now.

     I had scheduled my classes mere days before my brother was killed, and I had bitten off a pretty difficult semester. It is my firm belief that, given a different instructor, I could have done alright. Unfortunately, I got stuck with a power-tripping egomaniac who, naturally, has tenure.

     Anyway, long story short, the dean let me drop the classes, and I was unable to add any new ones. So here I am working almost full time, taking one techinical writing class, updating this site a lot, and most importantly: not being wound like a watch from the stress.

     Here‘s a pretty interesting, if extremely dorky discussion of whether or not humans are the only animals who conciously commit suicide.

…and Fred was nice enough to dig up the full text of the book Morrissey published on the New York Dolls.

The New Pornography

     I probably would have been a hell of a lot more interested in that New Pornographers record that just came out if someone had bothered to tell me that it was the brainchild of Carl Newman. “Who is this Carl Newman?” you might be asking. Carl Newman was the singer of a Vancouver based Sub Pop band named Zumpano who put out quite the gem of an album called ‘Look What the Rookie Did.’ If you don’t own it, consider your life incomplete.

     At any rate – Carl Newman is the male vocalist on this new recording and Neko Case handles the female vocals. It sounds a lot like Zumpano would have sounded in the transition between “Look What the Rookie Did” and “Goin’ Through Changes” (their second album), but if Neko Case were singing. I’ve only heard one song off of it (It’s on this month’s CMJ sampler. So is the Steve Malkmus song that was inspired by ‘Cabin Boy.’ So is a really good song by the band Spoon. They changed the way they package those free CD’s) but that one song was enough to convince me to buy it on sight.

     …and speaking of Zumpano – I distinctly remember reading an article last summer in one of those free Windsor weeklies that detailed how they were on hiatus until one of their songs got used in a movie trailer. Apparently the liscensing royalties for use of a song in a trailer are significantly greater than those paid for use in the movie proper. Based on their good fortune, members of the band said that a Third full-length would be forthcoming. This New Pornographers project doesn’t exactly bode well for my hopes of a third Zumpano album.

Some Zumpano Links:

  • An old interview with Michael Ledwidge, and a live review from the same source.
  • And hey, look, you can download the videos from their first album, courtesy of Sub Pop.
  • Wouldya look at that? MTV.com actually ran a version of the “third album” story in October of last year.
  • Hot damn! there was a japanese version of the second album that also had their two 7″ B-sides and two other songs I’ve never heard before. If you have this, please contact me. I just want those two songs.
  • Finally: I just found out that the New Pornographers will be at the Magic Stick on Friday the 16th, and I will be there.

     The Afghan Whigs officially broke up recently after 14 years of making good music. This doesn’t surprise me at all, because I’ve been on an absolutely wicked Afghan Whigs kick of late, and whenever that happens, the band invariably decides to break up. I’m glad I had the chance to see the live though, albeit only once. Looks like now we’re going to have to settle for “That sissy John Spencer,” because that Twilight Singers album was pretty piss poor. Here‘s a pretty good MP3 of a song that will never get the studio treatment from Mr. Dulli and Co.

     Loyal viewers of MTV’s Undressed should note that hometown boys Red Shirt Brigade were heard in the background of last night’s episode. Not surprisingly, MTV used an instrumental clip from “Strychnine Police / Death Arcade” to score a segue between two ‘relatively attractive people fighting and / or being overly dramatic’ scenes. Also featured in the episode were At the Drive-in’s “One Armed Scissor,” and that really bad song by Crazy Town. A video clip should appear soon on the Suburban Sprawl Music site which will be redesigned before you know it. The episode will be rerun in the wee hours of Sunday Night / Monday morning. And to think, if I didn’t watch the show religiously, they wouldn’t even know.

Random Stuff

     I don’t really have all that much to say today. Check back tommorrow or something.

     Jon Brion – producer extraordinaire (Fiona Apple, Magnolia Score, etc.) – has put out a solo album. I’ll probably end up buying it.

     In a tangentially related topic – I saw Fiona Apple’s video for her cover of the Beatles’ “Across the Universe,” and John C. Reilly is in it for a split second. That brings the known John C. Reilly music video appearances tally up to two: “Across the Universe” and the John Spencer Blues Explosion video from the Matador 10 compilation (I forget what it’s called). Also of note is that he is listed as playing ‘Happy Jack’ in Scorsese’s forthcoming “Gangs of New York.”

     Axl Rose made a triumphant return over the last few months. Unfortunately, he chose to do so shirtless. [thanks Mustafa]

Matters of the Hartman

     Literally days after the accident happened, the Tivo recorder I won from their website came in the mail. Out of a lack of anything better to occupy my suddenly ample free time, I hooked it up in the basement and promptly became addicted to it.

     For those uninitiated in the cult of Tivo, it primarily functions as a glorified VCR, with better picture quality and automatic programming. First, You hook it up to a phone line, and it calls and gets the cable listings for your area. Next, you tell it what you like. Then, it records your favorite shows every single time they air. My original list consisted of MST3K, Seinfeld, the Simpsons, and Jeopardy! (Which got taken off pretty quickly because it’s on twice a day and you can only watch so much Jeopardy! before it starts to get old. Well, maybe not old, but annoying.).

     At any rate, before the advent of the Tivo machine, I watched very little television. If I remembered, I might tune in to South Park or the Real World, but that was about it. Sitting in the basement half-drunk and watching sitcoms for about two weeks straight opened my eyes to something I never really noticed before: that death is a huge element in sitcom comedy, and in addition to the frequent references that pop up in an average thirty minutes, almost every single sitcom has a token ‘death’ episode. For some reason, I just happened to catch every single one of these over the course of that two week period. They didn’t have nearly as much of an effect on me as I would have thought, though. The sitcom atmosphere seemed to pretty well kept me from getting too upset.

     After picking up the bad habit of watching all this TV, I started looking for something to occupy myself with while I did it. I had always wanted to try building a mosaic of something out of legos, but had never tried it because of the cost and the overt dorkiness such an endeavor would involve. I ended up spending about $120.00 to build my mosaic, using roughly five tubs of legos that each contained 1200 pieces.

     One of the shows that I ended up adding to my ‘favorites’ list after removing Jeopardy! was Newsradio, a sitcom starring Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall fame, which somehow ended up with a daytime slot on A&E. I had never really seen the show before, and I only added it based on the merit of Dave Foley. Now, having around two months-worth of episodes under my belt, I can heartily recommend it as ‘pretty fucking good.’

     The reason I bring this show up is that it also starred Phil Hartman, and the first month or so I was watching, I was totally oblivious to the fact that Hartman died somewhere during the run of the show. It was the token ‘death’ episode of this sitcom that really got to me, because not only were the characters on-screen mourning the loss of a friend, but so were the actors.

     The episode aired on a day in late January that I had completely off, and everyone else in the house was at work. I had been working on the lego mosaic as I watched it, and so it took awhile for it to dawn on me that this wasn’t a gimmicky plot device. As the last shot of Phil Hartman’s empty chair faded to black, I sat alone in the basement where my brother and I would often watch DVDs together, and I broke down again, for the first time in what had been a relatively bearable few weeks.

Thirty-second reviews of movies I saw in the last few months

Castaway: I liked it. There’s not much else to say about this movie. Either Zemeckis got to you by dumping an uncalled-for amount of sap on towards the end, or he didn’t. And he got me.

MI2: Pretty Lame. I think that’s all I have to say about this one. Yep, it is.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: So good. Everyone in the world has already said it, but this was soooo good. I dragged a friend along who had been convinced by the trailers that it would be way too sappy, and in a way, it was towards the end, but I still liked it, and so did he. I still don’t quite understand that part where those three guys meet Jade Fox at midnight, and for some reason, one of them is tied to a tree, but I guess I’ll just let that go. And also: Better than the Matrix.

The Grinch: #1 in my worst movie of all time column (Also features Doom Generation, Bebe’s Kids, and Cabin Boy, in no particular order, and for different reasons. Incidentally, did anyone else read that interview with Steve Malkmus where he said that one of the songs on his forthcoming solo album was wholly inspired by Cabin Boy? That should be quite a song…). Jim Carrey is guilty of the tremendous ‘overplaying’ that he’d been hiding quite well of late. I think I sat through it without laughing once. It might have been because I just wasn’t in the holiday spirit this year, but I really don’t think that was it. Then I thought about how this is the first exposure to the ‘Grinch’ story (Which was unnecessarily altered in several parts of the movie) that some kids are going to have, and I got kinda pissed.

Chuck & Buck: A pretty disturbing movie. Until about half way through it, it seems like the most innocent movie of all time, but then it takes a pretty dark turn when you least expect it. Dangerous to watch around indie dorks, because Joey Waronker (Who was interviewed in last week’s Onion) scored it, and his indie rock cohorts (Members of That Dog, The Rentals, Beck’s back up band) pop up in various roles throughout. Also, all the vocals on the soundtrack were handled by Waronker’s sister, Anna (also of That Dog fame). If you’re still not sold, the lyrics to the main reprise are: ‘Oodilly Oodilly Oodilly Oodilly Oodilly Oodilly Fun Fun Fun.’

Snatch: Another great movie to come out in the last few weeks. Features a lot of criminals and almost no females at all. Brad Pitt is able to pull off an engaging role without ever uttering anything too intelligible. Whoever Guy Ritchie’s got as a film editor should be given a big fat gold star.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape: An old movie that I’ve rewatched twice now in as many months. So many good actors in this movie: John C. Rielly, Johnny Depp, Juliette Lewis, Leo DiCaprio, Crispin Glover, etc. Good actors, sappy story: sold!

Sixteen Candles: Another golden oldie that I started but haven’t finished yet.

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