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Saturday, January 28, 2012

I'm back...whether you like it or not

Hi folks, just checking in while I have a few minutes (or so I think...we shall see).

In an earlier post, I mentioned that, on Martin Luther King Day, we'd be going to the North American International Auto Show.  (Nothing honors Dr. King's legacy more than slobbering over new cars, eh?).  As it turns out, that trip was delayed until Saturday the 21st.  Half of the adventure was just getting to Cobo Center in Detroit.  We had trouble with our van's windshield washer that required us to pull over and fix it.  Then, as we were approaching Detroit via the Lodge Freeway, we were diverted off the freeway because of a car accident.  So all told, it probably took us an additional hour-and-a-half to get to Cobo Center. The auto show itself was insane--incredibly crowded.  It was fun to see all of the different cars from practically every auto manufacturer, foreign and domestic, you can imagine; but I dared not take my eyes off either one of my kids for more than a few seconds in the fear they'd be lost in the sea of people.

It's interesting how having kids will rekindle latent interests in certain subjects.  As a child, I loved cars.  I memorized the look of every car I saw way back in the early 1970s, and could easily tell the difference between different makes of Chevrolet, Buick, Pontiac, Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler, and you name it.  (I was more interested in domestic makes than foreign automobiles, since one didn't see that many foreign cars back in the early '70s).  I remember clearly my parents and grandparents cars like some people might remember pet dogs or cats from their childhood.  My maternal grandma has a sparkly gold 1965 Pontiac Bonneville and my paternal grandparents had a white 1968 Dodge Polara; my grandpa also tooled around in a beautiful white 1964 Ford Thunderbird with black interior.  I was heartbroken when he sold that car.

My two sons are now both car freaks.  Together we watch episodes of the wonderful British automotive television program Top Gear.  My youngest son is mainly obsessed with Italian performance cars such as Lamborghini and Pagani.  My eldest son is a little more into domestic muscle cars like the Dodge Challenger and Charger.  I have really enjoyed being a part of their wide-eyed fascination with the automotive world, and it has re-opened a personal interest that I thought had long ago had permanently ended (or at least placed on the backburner).


Finally finished Keith Richards' autobiography, Life.  It's hard to summarize the entire book, but some of Keith's observations were interesting and or fascinating.  Brian Jones comes across as a whining, needy, attention-seeking hypochondriac.  (The book has a long, fascinating--for Stones nuts like myself--passage about Keith, Brian, and Anita Pallenberg's trip to Morocco in 1967, and how Keith and Anita fell in love and left Morocco together in the dead of night, leaving Brian behind).  I also had no idea that Anita turned into a paranoid junky by the late '70s, but has thankfully cleaned up since.  Keith's relationship with Mick Jagger is much more complicated.  I suppose it would have to be when you consider that the two guys have known each other, and have been inextricably linked, for almost their entire lives.  Mick is portrayed as a social-climber, a bit emotionally guarded, and often jealous of Keith's other friendships (particularly the close bond that existed between Keith and Gram Parsons in the early '70s).  At the same time, Keith marvels at Mick's talent, and is dismayed that Mick has often doubted his own abilities.  This came as a surprise to me, as I never would have taken Mick Jagger as someone with an ounce of self-doubt.  Overall, Life was a wonderful read, and a must for any Stones fan.

(If you are a Rolling Stones obsessive like myself, and are more interested in the creative process than the tabloid, personal, tell-all details, Keith does write at length about the creation of Beggars' Banquet and Exile on Main St.  Lots of interesting tidbits about Exile's creation at Nellcote in the south of France).

I've got to say that Keith Richards has been, since I was about 19 years old, a hero of mine.  With his kohl-eyed rock 'n' roll pirate persona, he's the guy I'd love to be but could never be because if I transformed into Keith Richards, I'd probably be dead within 24 hours.  There's no way I could live that life--well, maybe I could live Keith's current life, but if I was Keith pre-1978, I'd be dead in a day.  So it's probably better that I live vicariously through Keith by listening to his music and miming slashing open chord air guitar in the safety of my living room.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Random thoughts: Dentists, tattoos, and Wes Anderson

Random thoughts on a Thursday evening:

I had to go the dentist yesterday for my semi-annual cleaning.  I do not enjoy going to the dentist, but not for the reasons you might think.  I can take the poking and prodding of my mouth with steel utensils.  Sure, it's not what one would consider pleasant, but it really doesn't bother me that much.  The main reason I dislike going to the dentist is the inevitable "flossing lecture" I receive from my somewhat high-strung and dentally pious hygienist.  The thing is, I really do floss, just not the three times daily that she demands.  Is there anyone in the world, outside of dentists, who actually flosses three times daily?  If there is, I would really like to meet this person (or persons). Anyway, the semi-annual flossing lectures are annoying, to say the very least.  I feel like saying, "I'm 43 years old, I'm set in my ways, I ain't changing.  If you don't like my teeth, I'll find someone else who does.  So there!"  I mean, really, don't these dentists realize that if everyone's teeth were perfectly clean, they wouldn't have jobs?


I was listening to sports talk radio this morning (as I must admit I frequently do on my drive to work), and the subject of tattoos came up.  The host was talking about an MSU football player who had received a tattoo of a "Spartan warrior" on his torso.  First of all, let me say that I have absolutely nothing against tattoos.  I think that, in many cases, they look quite good on people--and some of the designs are beautiful.  My wife has a few tattoos (I don't think she'd mind me saying that) and I like them.  (I should mention that my wife got her tattoos back in the '80s, long before tattoos became a fad). The problem with me is that I could never get a tattoo because I could never decide on an image that I was ready and willing to commit to for the rest of my life.  I mean, would I really want to get a Duran Duran tattoo when I was 14 years old?  At the time, yes--but over time, I don't think so. Sure, it might seem totally rad in 1982, but I have a sneaking suspicion that by 2012, it wouldn't seem like such a wonderful idea.

I do think that sometimes people go a little overboard with the tattoos.  I'm not really into the "tattoos all the way up and down the arm" look.  I'm not saying that people shouldn't do it, I wholeheartedly believe in "live and let live", it just seems that some people go a little too crazy on the tats.  And this leads me to another thing about tattoos, when did they become so popular?  One can't find a college or professional athlete who doesn't have multiple tattoos, and it even seems like every other soccer mom these days is going out with her gal pals for "tattoo parties".  When middle-aged women are getting tats, then you can safely say tattooing has jumped the shark.  Getting a tattoo used to be a sign of rebellion, now it's just another trendy fashion statement.  Hell, I feel rebellious for NOT getting a tattoo.


While I'm out taking walks during the day, I have many disparate trains of thought, and recently I pondered the next movie project for director Wes Anderson. He needs to do an adaptation of the young adult novel, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  It touches upon all of Mr. Anderson's obsessions: Gen X kids books (He filmed The Fantastic Mr. Fox), pampered angst-ridden suburban youth, 1960s/70s fashions and iconography, New York City and environs as a setting, and loads of philosophical and pseudo-philosophical dialogue.  (I actually like most of Wes Anderson's movies, but he does tend to get a little too precious in his films, particularly in The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).

Well, this concludes my Andy Rooneyesque ruminations.  Farewell for now...

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Rolling Stones, Tim Horton's, and cars

I made it through work today, and thankfully was not as tired as I feared when I wrote last night's post.  However, it would behoove me to get a bit more sleep tonight.

Well, what have I been up to, you may be asking yourself (or not)?  I am finally reading Keith Richards' autobiography, appropriately titled Life.  I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to it, perhaps I just wasn't in the mood when it was published last year, but now seemed like a good time and I'm really enjoying it. It's particularly fun to read it and imagine Keith is actually telling the story in his own nicotine-ravaged croak of a a voice, while smoking a Marlboro and nursing a tumbler of JD.  Keith is, unsurprisingly, quite a raconteur.  I've gotten to the point where he's just written "Satisfaction" and the Stones have recorded it in Hollywood.  The band is just about to break big in the summer of '65.  Lots of good juicy parts to follow, I'm sure.

This coincides with a couple of nice finds from the Lansing Library Book Burrow, which as I've mentioned before also sells old records.  I happened upon a cache of old Stones albums, and walked out of there with vinyl copies of Through the Past Darkly (Big Hits Volume 2), complete with octagonal sleeve, Metamorphosis (the 1975 rarities compilation released, against the band's wishes, by Andrew Loog Oldham), and Emotional Rescue (an album I'd previously owned on cassette but had been purged in The Great Cassette Purge of 2002).  I'm not a big fan of Emotional Rescue, but I couldn't pass up a pristine vinyl copy of it.  At this point, I pretty much own every Stones album worth owning.

(Brief intermission:  a Tim Horton's just opened last week in Okemos.  That's the sound of the "Hallelujah!" part of Handel's Messiah playing in the background as I write this.  Tim Horton's coffee is more addictive than heroin, and I am currently drinking a cup of it with exactly one cream and one sugar--pure heaven.  I made sure to take the freeway from Lansing to Okemos, giving me just enough time to get a Tim Horton's coffee AND make it to my youngest son's school in time to pick him up from car line).

Metamorphosis is quite wonderful.  My favorite songs so far, two that I amazingly never had heard until just last week (and I thought I was a big Stones fan), are "Family" and "I'm Going Down".  Both songs recorded during the band's golden period of '68-'69.  I may post Youtube clips of these tunes in Brainsplotch, and you  may judge for yourselves.  "Family" is sort of a dark, folk-rockish song with a tinge of the psychedelia that the band had visited in '67.  It features lyrics about a, shall we say, dysfunctional family with lots of issues.  "I'm Going Down" is more of a groove than a well-developed song, but the propulsive engine of Keith Richards (with one of his signature open-tuned riffs) and Charlie Watts (always brilliant on the drums) really get it cooking.  I can see why the Stones didn't give either song a proper release, but "I'm Going Down" might have found a nice home on Exile on Main St.

In non-music news, on MLK Day we are taking our automotive-obsessed six-year-old son to the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Hall in Detroit.  Our "not-quite-as-car-obsessed-but-still-a-car-fan-because-his-little-brother-is-a-car-fan" ten-year-old will be coming as well.  I'm looking forward to it because I've never been to the Detroit car show and will be interested to see what it's like.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Post-Holiday blahs

It's ridiculously late on a Sunday night, and I really should be going to bed because I need to wake up at 5:30 tomorrow morning to go to work, but here I am typing away on my laptop and watching the meaningless third quarter of the inconsequential Bowl (yes, that's really its name) featuring powerhouses Northern Illinois and Arkansas State.

The holidays are over and now begins the slog threw the the winter months.  The strange thing is we have no snow here, and it really feels more like late March than early January.

The immediate aftermath of the Christmas holiday is always difficult for me.  There is so much buildup and anticipation for Christmas, with all the attendant good cheer, bright lights, and general excitement.  Then once the holidays pass, I'm left thinking to myself, "That's it? It's over?  Wow, did that go quick.  Now what?"  I just took down the lights in front of our house and it left me feeling a bit melancholy.  I still have a sad looking Christmas tree in my living room that really needs to come down.  There are few things in life more pathetic than a Christmas tree that has outlasted its welcome, not to mention its natural lifespan.

I have no choice but to cut this post short right now.  It's now past midnight and I seriously need to get some sleep or I will absolutely hate myself at work tomorrow.