Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Interview With A Guy Who's So Hardcore You Don't Even Know

From time to time I meet people whose behavior, for whatever reason, catches my attention. Such was the case recently in the locker room at my health club.

Memphis Evans: Hello Guy Who's So Hardcore You Don't Even Know, and welcome to Memphis Evans: The Blog.

Guy Who's So Hardcore You Don't Even Know: (Gasping for breath, indistinct verbalizations)

ME: I couldn't help but notice that brightly colored, custom fit cyclist outfit you're wearing. Pretty snazzy!

GWSHYDEK: (Sits down on bench, continues gasping)

ME: Really, though, what'd that set ya back?

GWSHYDEK: You...don't...even...(breathes only slightly less heavily, as time slowly eases the trauma of his monster workout)

ME: Do you find your current behavior in any way embarrassing or overplayed?

GWSHYDEK: (Lies down on his back on the bench, closing his eyes, rubbing his face and continuing, essentially, to pant)

ME: I guess not. How about a hint as to how long you were in there? I assume you were spinning or some such thing?

GWSHYDEK: much more...than you...(abandoning conventional human speech, drops arms from bench to floor in horizontal version of crucifixion pose)

ME: Are you even from Minnesota? I would honestly be mortified to be as demonstrative as you are being right now. Even if I were that tired and worked myself that hard I would never lie down on the locker room bench, breathing like a sick animal. I don't even like using the locker room, if you really have to know. That's kind of why I use this out of the way room of it with no mirrors and usually no other people. Nevertheless, people like you fascinate me and I thank you for visiting ME:TB. Anyway, I hope you recover soon. I'm off to my 45 minutes of elliptical and 15 laps in the pool.

(ME exit)


(GWSHYDEK expires)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just A Few Links

I have some really great blog ideas but I don't have them with me. The next month or so should be a great one here at Memphis Evans, Inc. but in the meantime here are some fun links.

The Good Father Who Is Just Like Me

The Heartwarming, Seemingly Extemporaneous Holiday Message From William Shatner

Monday, December 22, 2008

I Hate This

Obama suggests that having Rick Warren speak at his inauguration represents his embracing of a diversity of ideas. (See nonsense for yourself)

"I think that it is no secret that I am a fierce advocate for equality for gay and lesbian Americans," Obama said. "It is something that I have been consistent on, and I intend to continue to be consistent on during my presidency."

This is true. Well, unless by equality one means the freedom to do the same things regardless of your sexual orientation. (See what I did there? Obama is actually lying.) Biden made very clear during the VP debates that neither he nor Obama is in favor of gay marriage. Equality means marriage. Full and total marriage, no different from straight people.

There is no true equality in "civil unions" only. It is the new segregation. Remember junior high history class? Remember Plessy vs. Ferguson? That U.S. Supreme Court decision preserved the segregation of White and Black public schools. Having civil unions for gays and marriage for straight people is exactly like that. The idea that schools can be separate but equal was struck down by Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. "Ways of being officially together" (for want of a better term) can not now be separate but equal any more than public schools could then. Until gays can get married just like straight people, in every state in the union, America and its president will continue to be dramatically in the wrong.

So fine. I knew this. I still liked Obama most. I voted for Obama. I learned my lesson about third party candidates in 2000 when I foolishly voted for Nader. I cried at Obama's acceptance speech. I hoped that he secretly wanted true equality, just kept it under wraps for political reasons. But after his choice of Rick Warren I must think that Obama really doesn't, in his heart, support gay marriage. His choice of Warren upsets me more than if he had chosen William Ayers or Jeremiah Wright.

Alright. Take a deep breath. Let's say it's 1960. Kennedy has just been elected. (That's John F., kids) Perhaps people are hoping that he will bring healing where there is hurt, for example, on the issue of civil rights, which at that time mostly meant the freedom for African Americans to do anything Whites could do. Then let's say Kennedy has an extreme segregationist, say Alabama governor George Wallace, come and speak at his inauguration. Is he representing a diversity of ideas? Is he just demonstrating "the magic of this country" which comes from the fact "that we are diverse and noisy and opinionated."? No, he is not. He is giving a national platform to a bigot.

No difference here. Disgusting. Hateful. Straightist.

Yes We Can. Unless you're gay. Then no, you can't.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Great Ideas From Fox News

I saw two things that made me sad. Then I moved to the elliptical machine at which a column blocks one's view of the tv showing Fox News. But here are the sad ideas that I must excoriate in this forum:

Drilling To Help Big Three?

The idea being that we destroy acres of American coastline and possibly bring a real life oil spill to, say, California or Florida, in order to add one ten-thousandth or so to the amount of oil produced, thereby lowering the price, causing people to rush out and buy big gas guzzling American cars like it was 2004 again. Wow. Do I even need to say anything about how dumb that is?

As I understand it, what we need are more American oil refineries. That would be fine. I am not particularly educated on this issue. Ultimately my question at the above suggestion was this: Does oil drilled from America only work in American cars? No? Okay then. We're done.

I am proud of the way America has reduced its dependence on foreign oil. Has anyone noticed the price drop by approximately two-thirds? $1.69 last time I checked. Drive less, get more fuel efficient vehicles, and the price goes down. Everybody wins. Oh, except for the sheiks in OPEC. I'm proud of us, America.

I forgot the other thing Fox News said that was dumb. I could go watch for ten seconds and get another one, but I don't let that filth in my home, which is where I am.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Coda to Culture Roundup

It's been a tough year for Barenaked Ladies. Some sort of problem with cocaine, cops, and fighting women or something like that on the eve of the tour promoting your first children's album is colossally bad timing. Then there was, I think, a plane crash. I'm not here for research, but anyway I think I remember some things like that. Not my business.

My point is that this morning we listened to Barenaked For The Holidays, the band's excellent seasonal CD. It is my second favorite Christmas album behind the super complete compilation of Elvis' Christmas recordings, If Every Day Was Like Christmas. Barenaked For The Holidays is great. I love that they took the time to really nail the Bono line of "Do They Know It's Christmas". (And tonight thank God it's them instead of you!) They do some funny, irreverent things, they do some poignant things, the music is varied and well thought out, and the sound is good. In other words, it's BNL at their best.

Movies? Yeah, I forgot about those. I don't see as many movies as I used to (a record of 55 in 1999 or one of those years like that) but Let The Right One In was quite good. It's in Swedish with subtitles if you can handle that. I loved the bleakness of the Stockholm suburb and the endless, relentless winter. I loved the basic decency of everyone in the film, trying their best to handle the tough situations they have been dealt. Plus, (Minor SPOILER ALERT! also perpetrated by the film's website) vampire!

And one more book. I finished the latest David Sedaris and started Jack Pendarvis' The Mysterious Secret of The Valuable Treasure. I've only read through the first story but I haven't laughed so hard since...well, since I just read David Sedaris, so that particular superlative phrase loses some power in this case. But I can heartily recommend the first ten pages of the Pendarvis.


I'd hate to discourage anyone from officially "following" this blog if they are so inclined. At the same time, I have to ask a question. Hey, Save WCAL! Who are you really and why are you following me?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Culture Roundup

First and foremost, I want to recommend to anyone who is a parent or anyone who is not that you immediately listen to (and/or purchase) the song "You're Gonna Miss This" from Greatest Hits II by Trace Adkins. A pompous band like Rage Against The Machine may kid themselves that they are "making a difference" while they line their pockets and those of the corporations they work for. Trace Adkins affects no such pretensions, but with this song he accomplishes what a thousand Rages don't. He makes people feel something that is true at the core of their existence. This song influences my behavior and makes me love my kids more. This song makes me appreciate my life for what it actually is - precious and fleeting. Cheers. Song of the Decade, I think.

Books? Yeah, I read. Book of Lies was good if you like Superman and his creator or thriller conspiracy novels. If, like me, you like both, the novel is a home run. I wish the chapters (and maybe the whole book) had been a little longer, but then I'm a Stephen King fan, too.

Also, if you haven't read David Sedaris, you probably should at least try him out. Should you start with his latest effort, When You Are Engulfed In Flames? Maybe, although I might recommend starting with his first book Barrel Fever. Or just get all the info you need and decide yourself.

So I like that one song, but an entire album of music? Yeah, I do that now and again. I have reached some kind of critical mass with the album Tropical Brainstorm by the late and much missed Kirsty MacColl. I've heard it enough times that I am hearing deeper, other things happening in the words and the music but not yet so many times it's like only hearing a memory of the meaning of the thing. Some stuff I didn't necessarily like at first I now maybe get it a little more. Good Lord, in checking out amazon it would appear that that album has gone out of print! Maybe it will be reissued like the rest of her albums were recently. It's a good time for obsessive completists like myself to get interested in Kirsty MacColl. Anyway, you should check that out and everything else I say.

Interesting thing that happens: Celebrities generally start young and make every effort to look young for a long, long time. Then they suddenly quit trying. For Bill Murray, it was his daring performance in the major motion picture Rushmore. For Kevin Costner it's Kevin Costner's celebrity playlist at iTunes and the accompanying publicity photo. Has he aged ten years since Swing Vote? Looks like it. (He also seems to think that Elvis wrote his own songs.) Interesting. Or not.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

And Another Show

A totally packed room of family, friends, and strangers watched a double bill of Doc's Kids and Great Uncle Helmer last night at St. Paul's Dunn Bros. Grand Avenue benefiting Toys For Tots. It was a really good show and by the end of the night there was a huge pile of donated toys. Chazz Vader gave me a big box with Star Wars lithographs, badges, and emblems for my birthday. I didn't open the individual boxes in the cramped confines of the Grand Ave. Dunn Bros. There are three and I think I'll open them gradually, savoring them over the course of the weekend.

Doc's Kids were great, of course. I think Tom Adams was particularly on tonight with his drum. I always want his vocals a little higher in the mix, too, but they weren't tonight either. Brian was dressed in a black smoking jacket and sunglasses. He was great. Tough act to follow. In trying, GUH played:

Ring-A-Ling Ding Ding Ding (good - the capo on fret two is the way to go live.)

California (which got some attention, as it does, but felt a little tired to me. I've realized I have trouble holding the high "a" steady as I wind up through the final, somewhat complex chord pattern. Karl was really good on harmonica.)

Behind The Curtain (on which we encouraged people to sing along yet forgot the second verse momentarily ourselves. It actually seemed kind of synchronized. We forgot the same thing at the same moment.)

Isolation For Christmas (which I explained, to avoid some of the disdain that greeted the song last year, as being about staying home with the people who are really important to you.)

Xanadu-Yeah (slow version)-When Will I Be Alive?-Introducing The Door (good)

Kansas City, Nebraska (where my bass solo continued to improve)

Cub Cubota (Karl didn't sing any of the whoa-oh-oh for some reason.)

Ron Cey (which went great, but felt a little long and repetitive, like "Here's this guitar riff I'm playing. Next I'll sing that line about it I sang that line and am playing this little fill around e minor 7" Which is another way of saying it went very smoothly. I was almost not there for the performance in a way.)

If You Can't Fall In Love At Christmas (I missed several chords on this challenging "hot jazz" number, but no one would know. Karl was great.)

POWERFUL STATEMENT (sadly became a train wreck as I forgot all the words for the last four choruses or so. Karl understandably gave up on the cue cards and I apologized.)

Overall I was having trouble hearing my guitar and my voice. Karl's guitar was quite loud in the monitor to my left. I was kind of growl-singing for much of the show. I was overplaying the guitar and worried about breaking a string. I used Brian's mike stand, which is straight up and down - not too good for playing guitar. If I had it to do over (and I imagine and hope I will next year) I would switch it out for a goose neck, even if we lost a minute or so. I realize we forgot Car Of Jonas even though Jonas was actually there. Crap. All of these factors did nothing to make the show less than good and really fun. We had some people hear us who wouldn't have heard us otherwise, and raised quite a pile of toys. Good enough!

If you are in St. Croix Falls, WI on Saturday you have your last chance to catch GUH this year.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Christmas Miracle

Last Saturday night Karl and I had a show scheduled for 7-9 p.m. at Eden Prairie Dunn Bros. in the historic Smith-Douglas-More House. We've had good shows there several times. When I arrived at 6 p.m. scads of teenagers were flocking in from their parents' minivans. Good so far. There were several of them with guitars, microphones, and speakers set up in the area where Karl and I have played before. Not so good. It looked to me as though music had been double-booked and GUH was SOL. I did not see Karl and thought perhaps I was losing my mind. While I sat in the parking lot I called everyone who I thought might be coming and told them to skip it unless they heard back from me. (I did not have Karl's cell number.)

Eventually Karl arrived and, still sitting in my car, I watched him walk in and scope out the situation and talk to the staff, which activity I had not felt up to, having gone in to a despair spiral upon seeing the raucous children. After he spoke to the staff he continued bringing in his instruments. (Ever the optimist, he had brought his guitar and ukelele in with him on his first trip in.) Seeing this, I warily brought in my guitar.

There was indeed a group of teenagers scheduled to play, but they were scheduled to be done at 7. When they did not stop near 7, the staff kid told us to tell them to stop. Not interested in this potentially unpleasant action, Karl asked him to tell them to stop, which he did. (He was significantly closer to their age.) With less time to set up than we anticipated and no one there to see us play except for the three family members Karl brought, it looked like a recipe for misery, or at least silliness. I asked whether Karl even wanted to bother setting up mikes. Wisely, he said he did.

We played a couple songs and Karl introduced us and said we were there as a benefit for Toys For Tots. He said he knew they could hear us in the other room. For this or some other unknown reason about ten teenagers filed in and sat looking at us expectantly. The show changed and I became nervous, but also excited that even at this marginally promoted show strangers were going to listen to and potentially enjoy our unique brand of music.

We played as one. Karl was really on and I felt good too. We did our Christmas songs from this year and next year (oh, yes, it is written! We are ahead of the game.) We played the Xanadu-Yeah (slow version)-When Will I Be Alive?-Introducing The Door "medley that nevertheless contains complete songs" to enthrall and delight. I was about to suggest POWERFUL STATEMENT when Karl suggested Car Of Jonas. I told them we would sing Car Of Jonas while I prepared to make a powerful statement. It seemed these teens really related to Karl's tale of difficulty maintaining a reliable vehicle (which was borrowed from a teen after all). That set them up for the sing-along (with cue cards) on POWERFUL STATEMENT, which all enjoyed immensely. The teens then filed past to shake our hands and left. It was exciting and fun.

Staying for the remainder of the duration were some old friends of ours from our old hometown of Northfield, the aforementioned family, and a couple that came in and seemed to enjoy what we were doing, or were at least too embarrassed by the idea of leaving to leave. It ended up being a really pretty great show and we raised a toy for the tots.

Just to see what miracle happens, you should probably go to tonight's show.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Need Some Of That Time Back

Solve This Mystery!

Hey, remember when I added all those hours to your life? I need you to do some quick research for me now. It won't take you nearly as long as I've saved you, so it all adds up and we're even-steven. At least.

I've played the piano for a long time. Two of my favorite pieces to play are by composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978). Both are listed as being "from "Adventures of Ivan"." I was recently on the internet and thought I would get a CD of (or at least bug the library to get a CD of) the complete music from "Adventures of Ivan". No dice. Hennepin County Library? No help. Amazon? Nope. Wikipedia? Absent. A comprehensive list of Khachaturian's complete works? Missing. So, my question to you is this:

What is "Adventures of Ivan" and why are two pieces for piano students by Aram Khachaturian listed as being "from" it?

If you figure this out and I am satisfied with your answer, you can get a free 2008 Toys For Tots CD and I will give the ten bucks to the cause for you.