The Science Diaries #2

Keith's well-reviewed, heavily-advertised synopsis of

Keith’s well-reviewed, heavily-advertised synopsis of the October03 tour (see below) is a useful document for those who hunger after facts. In fact, it’s great — I wouldn’t presume to challenge even a word of it (excepting the last few sentences (of every paragraph)). And there will be those who’ll say that by writing this I’m making a rather shameful attempt at riding his piece’s coattails into the pantheon of literary glory and a similarly large-scale deal with Random House. And I see their point: same subject matter, same principal characters, same unfashionably sexist political platform. The thing is, Keith’s r

Bugles

Who knew the good folks over at General Mills continue to crank out Bugles, America’s favorite conical snack? They do, and what’s more they are available in the snack machine on my floor here at the Multi-Demonic International Visual Gag Facory, where I work.
Sniff of a freshly-opened bag and your reward is essence de glue — but that’s not a bad thing. It’s testimony to what a light, effemoral flavor the Bugle effects; so light that it’s easily overwhelmed by the woody but innocuous packaging adhesive. And light enough that it’s totally overwhelmed by the tuna salad sandwich I’ve chosen as its date to the mid-day dance.
On the back of the bag, there is this: “THE RED SPOON PROMISE: The Red Spoon is my promise of great taste, quality and convenience. This is a product you and your family will enjoy. I guarantee it.” That, signed by Betty Crocker herself. To her signature she appends her toll-free phone number, the hours when it’s okay to call, her web address, and her mailing address; all of this in case you should want to take issue with The Promise or talk smack with Betty about pallid Bugle immitators like Dorito’s 3-D. Giving out Betty Crocker’s personal contact info is, to me, a great idea. I’m not even sure Betty Crocker makes Bugles; I think she’s just a very satisfied fan with some industry clout who wants to help out the brand by throwing her weight behind it. And I’m all for Bugles getting big, getting the popular recognition they deserve, as I’m sure they soon will. But part of me, a rather shrill and strident part, is hoping Bugles will remain my little secret. Frankly, I love sliding a bag out of my shirt at a party, pulling it open and passing it around. And the ensuing chorus: “Bugles, eh? Why haven’t I ever heard of these fellas?”; “What is it? ‘Buggles’? I love these — [munch munch] — how come I’ve never heard of ’em?” And I’m the hero. Me. I am. Not some goddamn corporate vagary named Betty — ME. Not some sonofabitching Wizard of Oz bullshit robotic Betty Crocker figurehead who leapt onto the wagon only once it was fucking safe, but ME.

Holy smokes, guys. It's been

Holy smokes, guys. It’s been a while. There is no excuse for this. I mean, yes, for a while, a short while, we were on tour, and could really only get online in the case of a real emergency, like when we needed to look up the exact address of Baja Fresh’s Pasadena location. But, people, who’s kidding who – we got back from our tour like two weeks ago, and we’ve updated nothing but the reviews page, and that’s only because we so thoroughly enjoy being critical of others.
But so I had really wanted to keep a nice little tour journal, which I would have promptly posted up here with a slew of hi-res glamour shots of myself and the boys playing and pumping iron and waxing cars, shirtless, and whatnot, but, as it turns out, I kept no such journal, and we took no such photos. So now there’s only this, which is me, Keith, sitting at my computer at 3:15am, almost two weeks after the fact, my mind addled by the just-kicking-in sugar high from the Twizzlers I’ve been picking at, which Twizzlers were given to me by fans on the road. So, already, a pretty good tour.
Um, but what else? I’m trying to do this chronologically, but I’m having a hard time remembering what went on, way back in the day. We flew JetBlue, which grants each passenger three pieces of luggage plus two carry-ons, which mean that we could sort of unreasonably bring two clothing bags, two guitar cases, two smallish amplifiers, one large drum case, one medium-sized drum case, one rather smallish drum case, one cymbal bag, and two backpacks with no trouble at all. This fact absolutely astounded the members of every other touring band we played with on the tour, who often took us aside at several points the throughout the evening, demanding that we go ahead and explain to them this free-of-charge shipping-of-equipment policy of JetBlue’s. A good policy, to be sure. Also, JetBlue, as part of their in-flight snacking extravaganza, offers a frankly incredible product – Munchies, it’s called, and with good reason (it’s edible). But what this is, this pathetically-monikered little snack, is essentially a combination of Frito Lay’s four basic food groups, those being the Cheeto Group, the Dorito Group, the Sun Chip Group, and, um, the Pretzel Group. Holy fuck, it is a tremendous snack thing. If anyone ever flies JetBlue and gets those dry-ass animal crackers or (God forbid) those fucking blue potato chips instead of the Munchies, I will know about it, psychically, the way Luke “knows” that something terrible has happened to Leia, and I will find you and kill you. Also, if anyone knows where the members of We Are Scientists can find Munchies at an altitude below 30,000 feet, please do tell us. We asked for multiple bags of Munchies during our flights, but they’ve long been eaten, and it’s killing us.
But yes, so anyway, Jesus, as a tour diary, this already sucks. Um, I really don’t even want to get into the shows too much at this point. The real focus of this tour diary should be Greg Fishbein, friend of We Are Scientists (friend to all, really), who let us sleep on his floor for the better part of the week, giving us keys to his place and enduring our whining and our coming in and out at all hours of the day and of the night and also enduring the fact that I forgot to bring soap and so showered everyday with a bottle of his antibiotic hand soap, stolen from the downstairs bathroom, although, actually, I’m not sure that Greg is yet aware of this fact – maybe he just thought that We Are Scientists comprises a group of really avid hand-washers. I’m pretty sure that Chris was using this hand soap in the shower too, though, so let’s not just blame me, even though I pioneered the bathing style.
Um, but, so, big thanks to Greg. You know what – I’m going to just go ahead and make this little “diary” a big thank you list, with more detailed anecdotes inserted where appropriate. If I don’t thank you, it’s not because you don’t deserve thanks, but simply because you’re a jerkoff.
Um, okay. Thanks to Will Benham(sp?), better known to me as Willytron, and better known to the world as Professor Grapefruit Juice (I think – I could be getting this all wrong). Will lives in and books for the illustrious Grove House at Pitzer College, which (the Grove House) is We Are Scientists’ all-time favorite venue, which may seem odd, as it’s not an actual music venue per se, but is literally just a house – a house that we are somehow capable of always packing to the gills with really great and loving kids. Hence our enthusiasm. So, Will hooked us up with a headlining slot at Groove at the Grove, which is an annual outdoor musical event at Pitzer that we don’t really know the actual mechanics of, since we are not responsible for setting this thing up. But we did manage to catch a few of the bands that went on before us, which included an eerily spot-on ’90’s cover band (did we hear Stone Temple Pilots? Yes. Bush? Um, we think so. Weezer’s “Hash Pipe,” which is not actually from the 1990’s? Oddly, yes.) and the jam-bandy Evergreen Playground, whose guitarist, Ellis, is quite tall indeed, so that when he drunkenly (and charmingly) hugged me several times over the course of the evening, I felt as if a very friendly building were collapsing onto me. We Are Scientists was sort of rusty and jet-lagged and going through Munchies withdrawal, and my impression is that we came of as having no idea what we were doing. It’s hard to tell. I couldn’t hear a goddamned thing. I’d like to think that I made up for it by falling down and jumping off of Michael’s drum kit and trying to climb up Chris when I somehow fucked up my guitar set-up at the end of the set. Also, I should point out that we were in CA during those bizarre fires, and on the night in question, we were, you’ll remember, playing an outdoor show. While we performed, a pretty astoundingly heavy snow of ash was descending upon us, and while this may have looked sort of lovely, it was rather difficult on the lungs. These are my excuses.
Oh, big, BIG thanks to Adam Levin, who is the sort of selfless guy that you read about in the “Hometown” sections of the newspaper, always saving kittens from industrial fires and donating his kidneys in foil wrappers to local hospitals and hooking shitty NYC bands up, big time. Among many other things, Adam helped us get a show at Chain Reaction, which is a fine establishment situated next door to a even finer vintage clothing store, where the We Are Scientists, in a fashion move that was questionable at best, bought a matching trio of sweat-jackets, which advertise that the bearer is from Nigeria. Is it lame for all three of us to have the same jacket? Of course. Do we look damn good in them? Of course. Oh, also, both Michael and I quickly developed a searing crush on the proprietor(ess) of the store, and each later confessed to the other that we had been considering going back into the store to pretend to shop while actually gazing longingly at her from behind the racks of cheetah-printed fur coats. Chris was not polled on the matter of this saleswoman, but we should all assume that he loved her, too.
Thanks to the kids at CalTech, whom, we will admit, we’d initially written off. When we got to the courtyard where we were to be performing in literally 15 or so minutes, we found it entirely empty. Like, no sign that anyone had been there in many months. We all kind of gazed at each other sheepishly and decided to at least make the most of our trip out to the school by indulging in the $0.40 sodas (which may sound like a great deal, but please bear in mind that my can of 7-Up featured an advertisement for the first installment of the Lord of the Rings film series, which came out in, what, 1998, or something?). But so then, suddenly, at around midnight (the starting time for the show), a group of kids shows up with a PA, and by the time we’ve finished setting up, an few hundred kids have emerged, the way that, in Disney films, adorable woodland creatures often suddenly emerge, en masse, from the forest . Here is something that many people may not know about kids at CalTech – they can dance. And they will do so while you play music for them. And then they will moon you from the roof of their dorms. And then they will take off their pants in the name of getting a free We Are Scientists t-shirt. They rocked our asses. Afterward, we were invited to one student’s birthday party, where I reluctantly gave (unqualified) romantic advice to undergraduates while Michael played a still-unclear role in an incident in which one girl indulged in her first-ever alcoholic beverage, polishing off a good fifth of a handle of Johnny Walker, which left her prone and incoherent on the courtyard floor for the rest of the evening. Michael maintains his innocence.
Thank you to Claire Evans, who set up a show for us at Occidental College and then invited us to her house for the partying already in progress there. Most importantly, she and her large and boisterous and just generally awesome group of friends took us to the mysterious Eagle Rock all-night burrito truck, where we consumed super-messy quesadilla-things while sitting on the curb like the indigents that we are all likely to become within three years or so. Claire Evans and her friends are good people, but I should point out that their dog is a real mess. No offense, Claire. You rule.
Thanks to Kira, who tricked us into driving up to San Francisco with the promise of a big benefit show, only to cancel it at the last minute and replace it with a tiny show in some kid’s (Tito’s, if you’re interested) basement, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the tour. Tito had gone all-out for this Halloween party, and had decorated his basement with black garbage bags and streamers and candy (precious candy!) and a strobe light that I was pretty sure was going to induce epileptic fits. I’d borrowed Greg Fishbein’s acoustic guitar (thanks again, Greg) with the promise of replacing the strings, which I dutifully purchased and then dutifully proceeded to break, one by one. By the end of the show, the guitar bore only three strings, and that’s how I returned it to Greg. Sorry, dude. A new pack is forthcoming. Also, special thanks go out to Tito’s little brother, a thirteen-year-old who was forbidden by Tito from entering the basement, where the high school kids were hanging out and being cool and, as far as he knew, engaging in acts that this middle-schooler had only read about in filth-magazines. He was desperate to enter, and every time I stepped outside, he grilled me for information on the events unfolding within the basement. Poor little feller.
Thanks go out to the Big Sur killers, who spared our lives while we slept there. You guys have heard about the murders in Big Sur, which occurred mere nights before the We Are Scientists camped out there for the night, right? Of course you haven’t, because these murders were a figment of Michael Tapper’s demented imagination, which prompted him to divulge, approximately fifteen minutes before we arrived at an eerily deserted campsite in the dead of night, that “a friend” had told him that “a couple of bodies had been found there” a week earlier. Clearly, this was a goddamned lie, and Michael, who, remember, had had a mysterious hand in the near-alcohol-poisoning of an innocent kid earlier in the week, was just being evil and cruel. But then Chris chimed in and confessed that he’d always felt oddly vulnerable at this campsite (we’ve been there before), as it’s nothing more than a wide open field, and that he often imagines killers standing above him, knives poised to eviscerate, while he sleeps there, helpless on the ground. So, like, I didn’t believe Michael, but I have this thing about serial killers, which is that I hate them, and I’d prefer that they not kill me. So, what might have otherwise been a pleasant evening spent in the out-of-doors became a nightmare, my phobias convincing me that I’d better tell Chris and Michael (the rat) that I loved them, then and there, for, in the morning, our viscera would be spread around that field like so much grass seed. My comfort was not improved when, later in the evening, Chris was attacked by a parliament of fat-assed raccoons, prompting him to muse over the proper protocol in the event that a fang- or claw-bearing creature should decide to crawl into one’s sleeping bag and begin to slumber. This is why I never go camping.
Just to clear Michael’s name, I just did a bit of fact-checking and dug up this rather sobering bit: Two Women Found Dead at Big Sur Hotel. My apologies, Michael. You are an upstanding citizen, free of guilt in any alcohol-related incidents.
Thanks to Kate Brokaw, both in general and for writing this little piece on the band for The Student Life. The interview was conducted after I had consumed what Kate deemed a rather stiff gin and tonic (I thought it only “medium”), and she and Chris and I proceeded to imbibe several Ace’s Pear Ciders (the finest pear cider available, for We Are Scientists’ money). Suffice it to say that the fact that she was able to draw even moderately coherent quotes from either of us is a testament to her brilliance. Kate also threw an after-party for our show at Pomona College, which party began with a life-threatening ride on an illicitly-acquired campus security golf cart, which was piloted alternately by Michael and Chris, both of whom would have been jailed for the better part of their adult lives had they been operating an actual motor vehicle at their level of inebriation (as it is, they returned the cart with a broken headlight, which they both refrained from declaring mea culpa over, and I will back them 100% on this, even though I spent the entirety of the ride clinging to the back of the cart, focusing my attention on the rather daunting task of not getting Chris’ beer all over my clothing), and which ended (the after-party, remember?) with a rousing game of Cee-lo that saw Team Scientists (Chris and I) being debased and losing far too much cash to Team LLC (Misha Chellam and Kate, standing in for Dave Lowensohn, who had lent me much money during a game of Cee-lo earlier in the week, which money I lost with alarming alacrity. Sorry, Dave. Love you.). We don’t like to talk about this whole incident, as Misha is clearly a liar and a thief and a shitheel, and, while we’re at it:
Big, huge thanks go out to Misha Chellam, who set up an objectively spectacular show, which wrapped up the tour with an appropriate bang. Misha is a fantastic fellow, and we will vouch for him, anytime, anywhere. Also, we are going to kick his ass in Cee-lo when next we meet. We promise, Misha. You are going down.
Finally, thanks to On The Speakers, the phenomenal band with whom we shared the bill at the Pomona College show. Amazing musicians, this gang, and nice as hell. And good looking, too. Jesus, they have some nice faces on them. We want to be their best friends – hopefully, this show was just the first of many WAS/OTS split shows, although we should confess that when they began playing, we in the We Are Scientists immediately began to question the wisdom of having asked so tremendous a live band to play immediately preceding our set. They are amazing. See them. Buy their CD. Gaze longingly at their photos. Basically, treat them as you would treat the We Are Scientists.
Fuck. You know what? It’s 4:30 in the AM. I am going to sleep. Tomorrow’s Friday. I have a big day of indiscriminately choosing which newly-released movie to attend in the name of popcorn and Pepsi. Good day to you all.

The group of girls sitting to his left at a recent viewing of a lamentable romantic comedy

The group of girls sitting to his left at a recent viewing of a lamentable romantic comedy, which romantic comedy will, for obvious reasons, go unnamed, except to say that the only reason Keith went to this romantic comedy was because it features both Hugh Grant and That One Hot Girl From the Pirate Movie, either of whom is, independently, excuse enough for Keith to eat popcorn and Pepsi, that’s for sure, but also anyway, these girls, these interminably vocal girls, would deliver a huge, collective sigh at even the slightest romantic provocation from the film, like when this mousy little shit of a kid divulges to Liam Neeson (who, by the way, what the fuck happened to his career, is something else we should be reviewing at some point) that he (the kid) is not too young to be in love, to which this collective of lovelorn girls responded by practically barking “awwwwww!” in unison, like a cadre of goddamned seals before a bucket of chum, and they did this, loudly, roughly once every 4 minutes, depending on the relative sappiness of that particular portion of the film.
Keith will never, ever date one of those girls.

His desire for this bass amp

This bass amp
I think I want it pretty bad.
Actually, I’m not even sure the Fender Bassman 400 head with a 4×10 and 1×15 cabinet is really what I should get; mainly I think my desire is rooted in a fully-flagged enthusiasm for the amp I currently play on, Ampeg’s Shitbox 100, which sounds every bit as bad as it sounds, if you follow me.
But I think the Bassman has a great sound. I’ve played through it at Guitar Center many times, and once or twice at Sam Ash. Always I’m impressed by its warm, round trouncing of my current piece of shit amp.
Maybe my Ampeg Amp of Shit is fine. It’s certainly possible that general dissatisfaction or even dissatisfaction in a specific area of my life that has nothing to do with music is creating this sudden antsyness about the amp. But I think it’s actually because I just came upon $800 more or less unexpectedly and have to spend it within about a week or I’ll go crazy like Jack Nicholson in The Shining. This Scramble-to-Spend policy comes from a piece of financial advice I read in the Wall Street Journal or Highly Effective Habits… or the like a couple of years ago; it read, roughly, “If you come upon a chunk of money — whether through chance, hard work, or sneak thievery — you must quickly spend it on that thing which you think is very cool and has a good, warm sound, and will give you pleasure for the longest amount of time with the least risk of infection. A good time frame for expenditure is three to seven days.” So actually I’m fairly conservative, giving myself a week.
So I don’t know. How pure is my desire? I don’t know. Who knows. I don’t fucking know.

Looking Good/Feeling Good

OK, so my point is that there’s a relationship between looking good and feeling good and that this relationship is exploitable. One immediate snare that I’ve been trying to address all along is that who’s to say who is looking good at any particular time? I mean, is he looking good? Well, certainly yes. But is this guy looking good? Maybe not as good as he has, objectively speaking. But maybe some people will think otherwise. You see, that’s where my point comes in, as neither objectivity nor public opinion have any significant consequence here. The connection between looking good and feeling good lies with the person’s self-image, and that’s what allows a person to exploit the relationship for their own psychic benefit.
So, like the other day. I was feeling pretty bad: I didn’t get the big promotion at work; my kids were using drugs; the wife was seeing other men. So I wanted to look good. I put on about 15 layers, cause that’s how I do – dark undershirt, long sleeved undershirt, striped button-down, sweatervest, light jacket, etc., etc. I put on my tightpants. I got my dress shoes. The works. Now I’m feeling good. I don’t give a sweet shit what anybody else thinks, cause I’m looking good, you know? I’m looking good and feeling good. Like this guy right here. I saw it in the mirror. I know what’s going on. I can sit back, I can take it all in. Sip on a glass of JD, listen to the jukebox, talk to a stranger. In other words, I’m enjoying the finer things in life. Looking sharp. Feeling great. Or at least better.
Does that solve my problems? Probably not. Does it improve my quality of life? Definitely. Should I still pursue other banal pleasures? Why not. There is no downside to this, kids. Looking good to feel good is right up there with convincing that attractive stranger that you’re a legend in your home country (while feigning an exotic accent) – there’s absolutely no reason not to try.