While it is bedtime, the current plan is to get down to business, at least a little, on a mixtape for a long-distance pal. My main challenge right now is to resist the urge to weigh it down completely with cheesy ’70s rock, the like of which I’ve been rocking almost exclusively lately (with the notable exception of the Old Time Relijun albums I got a month ago).

I’ll give you a couple dreams I had this weekend, as relayed to a friend via email earlier. The preponderance of crash-and-burn dreams recently has been alarming but more exciting than anything; I’ll take most any dream I can remember, and it sure beats the spider hallucination.

1. J* and I go to a roadside amusement type place where you ride a ride that’s a cross between the Old Mill and the Log Jammer at Kennywood. Basically, you ride in a big canoe and it takes you up big hills then you go down the hills really fast into the water.

There’s one part where it sends you catapulting across a break in the track and you JUMP THE SHARK (it was actually a killer whale) that’s in a tank between the two parts of the track. Except our canoe missed and crashed right next to the tank, and crush Damon Che’s drum kit, which was sitting there. No one got hurt, and I couldn’t stop laughing about how we had just crashed into Damon Che’s drum kit, then we sorta hung out and some dudes from bands that we have played with recently showed up and that was that.

2. I’m in Oakland on a Saturday, and these two news choppers fly overhead, then at some point become airplanes, and crash — one into a field, one into the fourth floor of Hillman. I somehow know that no one is hurt, even though two airliners just crashed and people were actually jumping out of the second one. Everyone on the ground freaks and we’re crouching on the ground and people are telling us what to do, and I start crying — not because I’m worried about people being hurt or killed, but because I’m worried about the damage to our collection and the fact that I can’t get the job I applied for if there’s no fourth floor anymore.

I go to walk home and I think to call my mom and tell her I’m ok, and I have a bunch of messages from her on my Tracfone but it’s freaking out and I can’t get them all and I can’t call her. G* and G* take me to go eat somewhere in Oakland.

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Total recall today brought to mind the day I was in the Builder’s Square in the Braddock Hills Shopping Center with my dad, probably about 9 or 10 years old, and “Deacon Blues” was on the radio in the store, and it was the first time I paid attention to the song — like, REALLY paid attention. I had heard this song plenty of times, on the oldies and easy listening stations. All of a sudden I realized there were lyrics here about drinking and driving and dying as a result. I was at once both scandalized and enamored; I referred to it for a time after that with my sister as “the drunk driving song.”

At that point I got to the crux of what still appeals to me (and a lot of people) about Steely Dan. Beyond the obvious amazing hooks (see: “Reelin’ in the Years,” “My Old School”), there’s a weird creepiness, a subversive vibe within the songs that doesn’t usually make itself immediately apparent. Think about “Show Biz Kids,” the tour de force on “Countdown to Ecstacy” that made it to 61 on the Billboard charts (higher than “My Old School, actually): it’s a smooth partyish jam, but it criticizes the very coke party culture that made the Dan so big at the time. They go so far as to describe the spoiled rich party culture types they’re skewing as having “the shapely bodies” and “the Steely Dan t-shirt” (and briefly lampoon themselves, hitting the “Reelin’ in the Years” lick) (reminiscent of what The Beatles do with “She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah” in “All You Need is Love”).

A lot of people can level the complaint that the Dan represent everything that was bad about rock in the ’70s, everything that punk rebelled against. The recordings were overproduced, to be sure. The idea of being a “studio band” and not touring isn’t very rock’n’roll — but then, Steely Dan isn’t/wasn’t that rock’n’roll (they’re more jazz-rock than anything). Whatever you want to call what they are, they’re good at it, and they’ve never been completely complacent in the industry. (“Show Biz Kids” was the first single off of “Countdown,” their second album and the follow-up to the album with “Dirty Work” and “Do it Again,” and it had the line “Show biz kids makin movies of themselves/You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else” in it!)

I was still in when “Two Against Nature” came out in 1999 and won all those Grammies, then shortly after I became too damn punk to dig the Dan, then in 2001 I picked up a Punk Planet in which Lady Hopper discussed at length her love for the Dan and the Geto Boys, and she made enough good points that I again began to enjoy them.

Which brings me to today: they’re playing at the ridiculous Post-Gazette Pavilion at the end of August, and even with the Skunk attending to important matters of national security, I’ll probably go, and I’ll probably like it, and I won’t be embarrassed or think that I’m selling out my punk/rock’n’roll cred. It’s not a guilty pleasure, it’s an amazing band. Get into it.

Cultural artifacts consumed/given up on, ca. 6/24/06:

– Truman Capote’s Music for Chameleons, finished in its entirety. This was the first thing in quite a while that I really enjoyed reading, to the point where I didn’t want to put it down. Highlights included “Handcarved Coffins,” the veracity of which is apparently still totally in question, and the final dialogue of the last section, between Capote and Capote. The way he characterizes himself in his stories makes me portray him in my mind as Dennis Roddy.

– Gertrude Stein’s Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, begun, given up on after a few pages. Not exciting me right now. Sorry, Gert.

– Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman’s film Derrida watched. It has some good moments, but for the most part comes across as Derrida fanboys/girls trying to be “cool like Jacques” while at the same time making a film about him. It’s nice that he goes out of his way many times to point out the artificial nature of the film, and that they include it, but beyond that they don’t seem to have a whole lot of focus on what they want to say or show about him. Best moment: after a lecture, a sort of dorky grad-student-looking woman approaches Derrida and says “Hearing you speak just elucidates your texts SO MUCH!” Derrida says “Thank you, thank you” and the woman comes up blank for a moment or two, then says, “I just wanted to meet you . . . I’m really excited right now . . .” and he turns to talk to someone else and she looks at the woman next to her and does the “OH MY GOD I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST DID THAT!” thing.

– Philip Roth’s Operation Shylock, begun. I’m only a few pages in, but I intend to stay with this one.

Brown Angel last night hit the spot; I think it for better or worse that it takes a week of going in and out of distressing sullenness and panic attacks to fully appreciate Adam’s art. I snatched the last demo tape, just in case I need it sometime.

Of late, I have deemed both Yes albums I have acquired (Fragile and The Yes Album) to be truly righteous jams. I liked Yes a lot when I was about 10, then it sort of fell off and I began to think they were just ridiculous. They are ridiculous to an extent, to be sure, but not just ridiculous, methinks. Ridiculous and a whole lot more, perhaps.

Last night I saw Harangue play a really good set (with a sweet new tune) at the Brillobox with The Paper Chase, whom I hadn’t seen before. In my underinformed musical mind, they reminded me of The Apes, only not as exciting. But I also was tired and went home before the set was over. So much for my commitment to music scene supportiveness excellence.

Tonight, perhaps I may go see Z’s at Mofo with a bunch of hardcore bands? That seems like a fulfilling show. And tomorrow night, if you don’t do anything else I tell you to do, ever, do me this favor: come to the Mofo 5th anniversary party, which we are playing with Vale & Year, Benchwarmer, and Ludus Lovestyle, and then maybe go see YMD and Centipede at Gooski’s. Sounds like a summer weekendtastic night to me.

dirty lowdown

June 18, 2006

This weekend, I:

– Went to a Pirates game for the first time in five years. They were ahead for a while, then it was tied, then, of course, they lost. But I saw a two-run homer off Jack Wilson’s bat, and some fireworks, and the people around us (with the exception of the young professionals behind us who liked to use profanity and talk on the phone during the game) were cool. And it was my Father’s Day deal. And my father is still alive, approximately two years after he all but died, and I’m determined to do stuff like this with him while that’s the case. Not going back on the promises I made to myself driving to the ICU that day in June 2004.

– Attempted to even out my farmer’s tan, succeeding only in sunburning my pasty torso.

– Watched a show at Roboto that ended up being kind of fun, with some out of town bands that really appreciate the space, and the band with the “I Love Porno” song was pretty . . . amusing?

– &c. &c.

In other notes, I’m working on reconfiguring my internet habits, hopefully including more (and more meaningful) writing here, and I’ve cut down a great deal on visiting The Message Board. More Wikipedia, less bickering. Now if I could only get my diet under control again too.

Tonight, I’m taking my dad to the Pirates game. They’re playing the Twins. I haven’t known anything about the Twins since Kirby Puckett’s day. Who the hell is even on the Twins? Maybe that means we have a chance to win? I remember when I used to know about baseball. That was about fifteen years ago.

One thing I do know about baseball is that the two guys who were playing catch at the park outside the library today were definitely in it to win with the ladies, not to hone their fielding skills. The park has fast become a hot spot for tanning bikini-clad co-eds and their fitting counterparts, available dudes and leering old pervs. Today’s pitch-and-catch team were deliberately dropping catches in order to have to run close to the basking babes, and offering passing ladies a chance to catch the ball as if they were children. Then one chopper bounced off a sunbather’s back, and she had a few choice words with one of the men, and soon they were sitting in their lawn chairs (which they brought from home), gazing.

PS my band is playing a show on Tuesday (the 20th) at Garfield Artworks and Saturday (the 24th) at MoFo for their FIFTH ANNIVERSARY PARTY! Hit it.

Someone at the Tennessee Valley Authority (which is still in operation, much to my surprise) came to my blog by searching blogger for “Tennessee Valley Authority.” For whatever reason, this makes me feel a little better about sometimes vainly googling my own name — see? Even the TVA does it!

(What I secretly hope is that every government agency and authority employs one person to sit and keep tabs on what people are saying on the internet about it.)