Category Archives: Reviews

A few diction issues

Language is something I pay a lot of attention to and care a lot about, and so poor usage really bums me out. Few things needle me more than somebody using “cozen” when what he means is “cousin”, or “fathom” when what’s called for is “fat them”.
Following are a couple of mis-uses that I’ve been hearing a lot lately. If you or someone you love makes these mistakes, for the love of god, fix it. You’re hurting yourself, and, more importantly, you’re hurting me.

  • “This, that and the other” is a phrase with a very specific meaning. It is not a generic reference to non-specific “stuff”. It refers to the balloons, the stampbook, and the hash. Always. If you do not mean to invoke balloons, the stampbook, and the hash, then “this, that and the other” is not the phrase you want. E.g.:
    Now listen, I did not take this, that and the other; I only took a couple of stamps, like you said I could. And some of your underwear — I assumed you were complicit in the underwear theft, that it turned you on.

    Note: It has become acceptable in recent years to use “this, that and the other” to refer to condoms, the stampbook, and the hash.

  • An altimeter is a scientific instrument that guages altitude; it looks like a little clock with the wheeling arms and the little number jobbies. It does NOT mean “all them o’ therr” or “all of them over there”. Therefore,
    Check the altimeter, Jeff, if you want to know. Our height, I mean. Off the ground, that is.

    NOT

    Gimme… gimme… four reg’lar nightcrawler… uh… four squid-headed nightcrawler… three a them slimy yeller guys… ah, hell, just gimme altimeter.

  • Cuddlebug and scuttlebutt are not synonyms. A cuddlebug is a person or mammalian pet that likes to cuddle up against other people or pets, kind of nudging at them in an affectionate way using the head or face area to nudge and push. A scuttlebutt is an anal rape. So,
    Awwww, look at this little guy… What a cuddlebug! He’s got my vote!

    and

    The movie Irreversible contains one of the most graphic, brutal scuttlebutts you’re likely to ever see on film.

Great. Just remember: with a little attentiveness and determination, we can all stop looking like buffoons when we say things like, “It was him, officer, he’s the one I saw cuddlebugging my dog!” Because that’s like, hey officer, give this guy a medal — he’s really nice to dogs. He snuggles them.

This One Thing he Saw in a Mr. Magoo Cartoon

So, last night I was at a party in Brooklyn, and, as I am wont to do whenever it’s possible at social gatherings, I spent the bulk of the evening watching a silently projected broadcast of the Cartoon Network. If you’ve never seen a muted episode of The Smurfs scored to the ambient strains of The Pixies’ Trompe le Monde, please allow me to go ahead and recommend as much to you now. But that’s not my point. My point is this: it came to pass that a very special one-minute-long(?)(!) episode of Mr. Magoo was featured, in which Magoo, through what I am presuming were the ill-effects of an advanced case of glaucoma, or something, mistook an egg incubator for a billiards table and began racking up the eggs with a fishing rod (which, I guess, he thought was a cue). How Magoo unwittingly found himself at an egg hatchery and holding a fishing pole while in search of a good game of pool is beyond the scope of this article. In any case, Magoo lets fly with a few strokes of the fishing pole, and before he knows it, he’s inadvertently hatched a trio of baby chicks, who somehow manage to escape from the incubator. At the close of the piece, Magoo breaks the fourth wall for the first time, turning to the camera and speaking to us. His message went unheard by me (remember, the sound was off), but it wasn’t really important anyway. You see, no matter what he was saying, it couldn’t have been more compelling or informative than the fact that, unbeknownst to him, those three newborn chicks had somehow found their way atop his head, and, looking us – the audience – straight in the eye, were themselves chirping away (probably) inanely, effectively rendering Magoo’s point utterly moot.
The thought struck me – how similar is my world to the world of Magoo! How often have I been trapped in conversation with a blithering idiot who was all too happy to spend the evening holding forth with whatever faux-profundity his addled mind had most recently pieced together, presuming that he is dazzling me with his rare insights, while, in actuality, I’m mightily distracted by the parliament of chirping birdies (a spectre that, given my particular peer group, I’m afraid to admit, can be taken either figuratively or literally) that have taken roost upon his head with neither his knowledge or consent. Would that the real world were like Magoo’s world, where the conversational vampires at parties can be spotted by the bustling bird’s nest that rests atop their crown, where their empty-headed monologues are routinely drowned out by the e’er-present din of chirps, where an unbearable conversation can be aborted simply by tossing a handful of chicken scratch at their scalp and then stepping aside to avoid the ensuing bloodbath.
Magoo, I am ready to enter your world.

Paperclips

Everybody is familiar with the wonderful agglutinative properties of paperclips. If loose sheets of paper are heads of cattle (as has been argued convincingly), then paperclips are cowboys, forcing those cows into neat little stacks.
But often overlooked is the paperclip’s ability to poke holes in things. Paper, vellum, thin plastic, foil, even fabric: if you unfold a paperclip, you can push its tip through any of these things. Even brick.
There’s an energetic metaphor in this. Looking at a paperclip out of the box, you wouldn’t take it for much of a hole-poker — indeed, neither of its points are exposed; each is wrapped into the clip’s endemic curve. But disfigure that clip, and you give it new meaning, fresh powers. It exchanges the ability to bind with the ability to skewer. It becomes, for all intents and purposes, a really crappy awl.
Lesson being, if you get messed up, physically or psychologically, by a car crash or lost loved one or fall from height, consider the possibility that though you’re no longer able to complete tasks that formerly gave you little or no trouble — driving a car, sitting in a room by yourself without crying, putting on a glove — you may now be better suited to some new activity, such as being portrayed in a gritty documentary distributed by IFC that, while difficult to watch, ultimately purveys hope.

The events of Monday last

On Monday I got a new bass. Since on Monday I already owned a beautiful Musicman Stingray, that would seem indulgent — though hardly uncharacteristic of a musician, “musician” being most helpfully defined not as someone who plays music but rather as a person who FUCKING CANNOT OWN ENOUGH MUSICAL EQUIPMENT — if you didn’t know that when I opened my Stingray’s case for practice on Monday evening I found an altogether different instrument than the one I’ve played for the last 2 years. That may be overstating it, but I did find that my sweet little guy (still talking about the Stingray) had a nob broken off and, more crucially, a cracked neck. I have no idea when or how the damage was levied — the bass could have self-inficted it as some sort of grand gesture that I have yet to understand. Over the course of a 1 hr. practice, it went out of tune — this is an instrument that usually goes weeks without even the slightest detune. I knew I had to act fast, while the crack was still small, so I blocked out my emotions, went straight to Guitar Center, and got $750 in trade toward a Fender P-Bass — not a bad deal given that my Stingray retails for $1300 new, without a broken neck. It pleased me — perhaps immorally — to note that, as I had hoped, the Guitar Center guy’s inspection was too circumspect to uncover any problems beyond the missing nob.
The thing is, now that the dust has settled and my hot young sunburst P-Bass has moved into my apartment, I kinda feel like shit. Did I betray that Stingray? I think I may have. One little nob falls off, one little crack appears in the neck, and I’m off trolling for a flawless young thing to replace her. She barely has time to adjust to the light of day — she’s been out of her case for 2 hours tops — and she finds herself being handed over bodily to some Guitar Center scumbag, her injured neck giving her trouble as she cranes to watch me saunter out the front door carrying some trim-waisted dye job with perfect skin. What have I done?
The fact is, that Stingray was on her way out. A cracked neck is not an easy repair; the prognosis called for steadily diminishing health. But an attachment forms, doesn’t it? Even though things outside ourselves attain value only insofar as we invest them with it, it’s possible that being human consists in doing exactly that — when we stop believing that the stuff around us has intrinsic worth, something separate from the esteem we assign it, then everything becomes really fucking stale, like when you’ve been playing a video game all afternoon and you put down the controller and think, “How stupid was that? I have to go outside now.” To form relationships with inert objects is to be human.
But to be a human musician is to want desperately, desperately to fuck Guitar Center. It is to want that with your entire mind, such that often it’s all you can think about. “Well, this is the point in the evening when I recount to all of you a few anectdotes that I think the groom would prefer died a quick, quiet death, not unlike the many whores he’s known in Tijuana, right Bobby? Ha ha. But listen, first let me tell you about my plan to finally stick it to those heartless bastards over at the Guitar Center.”
That Stingray gave her life that I might fuck those shiftless, heartless bastards over at the Guitar Center. Think kindly on her once in a while, won’t you?
[Apologies to readers who work at Guitar Center or have a 35 year old son who works at Guitar Center living in their basement. Guitar Center is not as bad as all that. I really like when they have “green tag savings extravaganzas” and, in particular, “monster savings extravaganzas”. The prices during these times are unreal.]

Crack Cocaine

There’s been a lot of talk in recent years by pseudo-scientific persons and their chosen news outlets about the supposed negative effects of crack cocaine on the general health of its users. Let me tell you right now, the people who have been making these claims are — so to speak — on crack.
Let me relate what I feel is a rather revealing anecdote. I was sixteen and friendless, my self-esteem at an all-time low. My chances of getting a girl to look twice at me — much less get into a bed with me and let me put my penis into her, as was my goal at that time — were slim to none. And: my vision was poor, requiring me to wear corrective lenses. All in all, I felt that, like Job, I had been singled out by the Lord for some especially sadistic breed of test. Then I discovered crack cocaine, and I didn’t care about those things anymore. Were it not for criznack (or ‘crizzle-snack’, as I sometimes call it, affectionately), I seriously might not be here today, doing all this stuff, working these miracles with la gente.
What I love about doing crack, though, is that it almost gives me special powers. This one time, high as a goddamn space shuttle, and better armed, I was talking to this guy at a party. And he was like, “Man, I’ve been watching South Park since it first came on.” And, my eyes all bugged out like a goddamn preacher possessed by the Holy Spirit, I just looked at him for what was probably an uncomfortably long time. I was reading his mind. “Bullshit!” I whispered. He cocked his head to the side. “Bullshit, you, you…,” my third eye wandered like a divining rod across his very MIND, “you have never seen South Park. Isn’t that right.” I had looked into his very mind and perceived his entire consciousness, the whole damn thing, and there was no South Park there. “No, I’ve seen every episode,” he tried to tell me, but I was through with him, so I shot him right in his face, something I would never have thought to do had I not been so high that my brain was skipping across sanity like a flat stone side-armed over a whisper-still lake, like a small ejected passenger against the rubber-black tarmac, like chalk pushed at the wrong angle across a blackboard.

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.

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.