My tweets of the last week:
Archives for October 2010
Last time I exposed my Behind the
Music Monitor lost year-and-a-half, during which my free time was entirely composed of playing City of Heroes while drinking Grey Goose martinis.
I shirked City of Heroes and plunged that same amount of time into being a musician, and within one year I joined an acappella group, wrote new songs, rebooted CK on WordPress, and nudged Arcati Crisis towards becoming a real band.
That was 2006. My geekdom laid low for the next four years. Sure, I got addicted to Battlestar Galactica, but sci-fi tv and movies have always been a shared domain of E and I (one of the many factors rendering her as “best wife ever”).
Otherwise, I just played a few tournaments of Lord of the Rings Risk against myself (don’t judge, I was an only child) and idly kept pace with Joss Whedon’s scripting run on Astonishing X-Men.
I even bought a Playstation 2, ostensibly to Dance Dance Revolution my way to fitness like Elise’s brother, but instead mostly played Katamari Damacy, and later X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance – both a safe comics fix so long as they were closed-loop RPGs and not MMORPGS like City of Heroes
Or so I thought.
We put in an offer on our house on May 5 and that weekend we were pretty stressed – I stressed myself sick by Monday. Grumpy and home alone, I ordered Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 to have something to new bash between haggling with our sellers.
MUA2 tells a pretty darn accurate story of Marvel’s 2006 Civil War saga, wherein Iron Man and Captain America got into a major spat over whether all heroes should be registered with the government. Their brotherly quarrel spills out into the entire Marvel Universe, resulting in some major changes to the status quo.
Or, at least, that’s what Wikipedia told me.
A few weeks later it was May 21st, the night before Gina, Wes and I planned to jump out of a plane. I was stressed-sick again, but dragged myself out to a happy hour for a co-worker, and wound up rambling down to MikeyIl’s Movement & Motion: One Night Art Show @ Brave New Worlds.
A comic book shop.
It had been a long time since I had been in one, and everything was foreign. Why was Wolverine on the cover of X-Force? What was Blackest Night?
Since nothing made sense, nothing was tempting. I wanted to support Brave New Worlds with some business, so I decided to pick up a trade paperback – a graphic novel collecting a run of several single comic books.
At a loss for what I’d be able to jump in on cold, I grabbed the most familiar thing – Civil War, and the accompanying tie-in with Ms. Marvel, an old favorite (I was amazed she had her own title!).
This was the beginning of the end … a four-month re-emergence of focused geekdom that in some respects would make my lost year of City of Heroes look like a serious addiction to gummy bears.
I’ll tell you about it next time, but suffice to say it has a lot to do with my Guide to Collecting X-Men TPBs, which – not coincidentally – was born on May 22nd.
I am not what you would call an active “cleaner.”
I’m a tidier. I’m an organizer. But, it takes a lot to move me into cleaning mode.
I have a certain fear of activating that particular urge, possibly because I come from a line of hard-core OCD scrubbers. Much as Bruce Banner turns from nerd to Hulk, when my inner-cleaner is invoked I go from laid back dude to my grandmother. I become intent on vacuuming the floor every time someone leaves the room to get a drink – vacuuming it until it is safe to eat mashed potatoes right off that rug.
E has learned to let that particular sleeping OCD monster lie on most occasions, because getting me involved in day-to-day cleaning is the nuclear option. The one time I have been entrusted with cleaning a bathroom the result resembled a demolition project.
The one area where E is willing to deploy the nuclear strike that is my genetic heritage of clean-freak-ness is mopping. I like a floor to be so well-mopped, so gleaming with elbow-greased shine, that you dare not mar the surface with your shadow after the mopping is done. I don’t trust other people to mop for me, because they don’t employ the five key phases of mopping required for a truly gleaming floor.
To say that I was invested in our mop purchase for the new house would be an understatement. “Invested” implies a degree of detached evaluation. No, our mop purchase was a matter of life or death – life with gleaming floors, or the relative half-life of dull ones.
At one point I was reduced to near tears in the middle of an aisle in Home Depot, wracked with indecision and guilt. Couldn’t we buy a sampling of four or five mops to do our own comparative test across multiple surfaces?
A test should not have been required. What I wanted was a rag mop with a solid wooden handle, and a bucket to wring it with and in. None of this Swiffer bullshit or tiny little dish sponges on the end of a flimsy plastic pole with a built-in wringer.
Home Depot has a wide, pleasing selection of wooden handled mops. What they had zero of were wringing buckets. They had one massive $100+ dollar custodian cart that came with its own “Caution: Wet Floors” sign in dual languages. I am a serious mopper, so the concept intrigued me, but I didn’t think the cart cornered well enough to get around the island in our kitchen.
Apparently wringing buckets are a rare item, which puzzles me seeing as non-wringing mops are pretty damned common. How do they get dry? Some Amazon shopping yielded the Behrens 412W Galvanized Mop Wringer Pail, but with shipping it totaled almost $40. Seriously? For a mop bucket?
As a result, I committed the cardinal sin of a committed mopper – I bought a plastic handled mop with a built-in wringer. I figured it could last me through three or four moppings – long enough to find a permanent solution.
I was wrong. Super wrong. I popped the wringer out of its plastic threading on my first wring. I began to wring six or seven times to get it dry during phases two and four, which caused the mop head to age six or seven times as fast, which resulted in a busted mop head on its second outing.
$20 dollars for two moppings. I know MY mopping skills are worth $10 a go (hello – I have FIVE PHASES), but I don’t know if the mop quality was equally as worthy.
This all came to a head on Sunday night. I had avoided mopping our kitchen since the mop gave up the ghost, but I caused a bottle of ginger salad dressing to explode across our entire kitchen. Spot-cleaning was not an option – this required mopping.
I dealt with the frustration of my devil mop for all of five minutes. So do you know what I did? Scrubbed the damn floor on my hands and knees. And dried it that way too.
I know I’m my grandmother’s child when I comes to clean floors, but is scrubbing by hand seriously my best recourse with all of the cleaning products in a Home Depot and across the internet at my disposal?
Should I really be having in-store panic attacks and 1000-word blog posts both on the topic of mops?
Am I missing some incredibly simple explanation about how mops get wrung? Do people wring with their bare hands (eewwwww)?
More importantly, what simple home cleaning or repair task drives you similarly up a wall? Please tell me I’m not alone in my insanity.
In my last installment I had given up pretty much all elements of boyish whimsy in favor of being REALLY SERIOUS about college, music, and dating, not always in that order.
Then came graduation. Or at least the specter of graduation on the horizon. I was zeroing in on a something-cum-laude diploma, my relationship with E was going well, and I was no longer maxing out my credit card to keep up with my new CD acquisitions.
In short, the pressure was off.
I let a little bit of whimsy back in to my life. When my mother bought a house I brought all my old comic books to my college apartment, slipping highlights to Erika and Gina under their doors. On a whim E and I bought Warcraft III, but our addiction was elastic – it never waylaid an assignment.
Then came what I refer to as my lost year. Actually, it was a year and a half. No, not the Behind the Music period with the evil girlfriend and all the vodka. (I’ve already blogged about that enough.)
I should have been so lucky. Nope, this time it was all me. Me, and City of Heroes.
Having drawn my comic collection back close to my bosom, I had gotten to wondering what was up with all of my former favorite heroes. In reading about their recent histories I also caught up with other industry news.
In my reading I kept catching rumors about a game that would totally immerse you in a comic-book world. I never retained the name. Whenever E and I would hit a mall I’d snoop around for said game, but I never saw it.
Then, smack in the middle of completing my Senior Project, I found myself reading an article about City of Heroes.
This was it – the superhero game. It was completely non-denominational – not Marvel or DC, but a continuity-free universe to plan your own hero in.
It was a long weekend at the end of April, and I decided to download the game client for a trial. It would be a way to let off steam between bouts with my Senior Project. I created some characters, including my sardonic superhero version of Rabi.
The next thing I remember is Autumn of 2005.
Okay, not really. Well, sort of really. I mean, I recall the rest of 2004 and most of 2005. I finished my Senior Project, graduated, moved in with Elise, and got a job. We moved into our house on Greenwich street and had a big party.
I just don’t recall anything else.
City of Heroes wasn’t a video game – it was liking living inside of a comic book. That’s what I always wanted – way back from my original comic book days when I was writing my Crisis Team novella on the bus.
I was playing it semi-professionally – like, 7.5 hours a day on the clock, double on weekends. I didn’t socialize. I didn’t write very many songs. Essentially, I worked, dated E, and played the game. THAT WAS IT.
I was known for showing up at 6pm on the dot with a martini in hand. My main character, the Rabi-derived Cassandra Lewis, was well-known to higher level folks on my server. I was a numbers guru, with lists and spreadsheets calculating damage and detailing game badges. I was a captain in my super-group. My under-bill consisted of dozens of other characters who – in my mind – all knew each other.
I even started talking about the game at work – a sure sign of deep, intractable addiction. In fact, on my lunch breaks I had begun penning a novella to tie all my characters together in a single sweeping narrative.
It all ground to a halt in the fall of 2005. The CoH staff made a big change to how they calculated data, and I realized that all of my spreadsheets and characters and stories didn’t really belong to me.
I was doing exactly the thing i swore never to do again when I started Crushing Krisis – write within someone else’s continuity, someone else’s editorial control. Quite suddenly my heroic bubble burst. I wrote a calm letter to the head game designer thanking him for 18-months of fun and went back to writing songs.
Thus came the second dark-age of my geekdom, which was spoiled this June by Mikeyil.
Tune in Thursday for the next installment in my saga. In the meantime, have you seen my Guide to Collecting X-Men Comics as Trade Paperbacks? That’s what started us down this whole geeky rabbit-hole of memory.
Things to Do In Philly is back for good (or, as for good as any feature is around here), thanks to all of your positive feedback about my trial run in September.
As before, this isn’t a definitive list of what’s happening in Philly in the next week. Instead, it’s just stuff that I can personally endorse as sounding or being cool happening in the next week or so.
Thursday, October 28
Who: Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
Details: 8:00pm, TLA, $29
Why? The scorching hot power of Grace’s set at Bonnaroo 2006 is still emblazoned on my brain and iPod. She dropped a middling poppy LP earlier this year, but surely her live fusion of alt-country and jam band could have only improved in the meantime? Do you have $29 that wants to know the answer?
Thursday, October 28
What: Pumpkin Tasting @ Hudson Beach Glass
Details: 6:30-8:30pm, 26 S. Strawberry Street, $40
Why? Do you live for seasonal brews and/or do you love the micros at Triumph Brewery? If either or both are a yes, hit this event. Yes, the $40 tag seems high, but you get a custom-blown pint glass and as many beer and appetizer samples as you can consume in two hours.
Friday, October 29
Who: Victoria Spaeth & The Spaeth Cadets / Cris Valkyria & The Opponents
Details: 10:00pm, Tin Angel, 22 S. 2nd Street, $10
Why? Vicky and Cris are two of my favorite female bandleaders in Philadelphia, and both of their last shows at the Tin were fantastic. Their bands unspool the pop side of alt-rock that’s coming back to radio, with the Opponents more electrified and the Cadets more harmony-laden. The chance to see them together at the Tin Angel late show for $10 is unbeatable.
Saturday, October 30
What: Cover band benefit for Mariposa Co-op
Details: 5:30pm, sliding scale donation from $5 (see invite for details)
Why? Want to party to rough-hewn covers of a ton of bands you love? This Halloween show dresses up local musicians as PJ Harvey, Dead Kennedys, Neutral Milk Hotel, Lady GaGa, and David Bowie, plus a lot more.
Saturday, October 30
Who: Andra Taylor / Andrea Nardello
Details: 10:00pm, Tin Angel, 22 S. 2nd Street, $10
Why? Andra Taylor is Arcati Crisis’s longterm folk girlfriend, merging articulate lyrics about lost film stars and dreams of a perfect country with chunky barre chords subverted for folk purposes. Andrea Nardello is a longtime friend whose songs alternate between heartfelt and funky. She’s reached a new peak of acoustic rock powers while touring behind her 2010 LP.
Sunday, October 31
Who: Matt Duke does Peter Gabriel
Details: 7:30 @ World Cafe Life, $14-20
Why? I’m going out on a limb to say this will be awesome. MadDragon Record’s artist Matt Duke has a voice the size of a house and knows when to deploy it as such (and when not to). Combine that with a one-time-only take on classic record (Gabriel’s So) and you have a show worth seeing.
I want to make a showing at all of these, but rehearsal and El Night Owl buses stand in the way of some of them. Oh, and my tickets to the Dresden Dolls’ 10-Year Anniversary Show. (!!!!!)
As always, if you know about an upcoming kick-ass event in Philly, leave a comment to let me know!
Saturday night E and I were excited to score a pair of tickets to see Phoenix at The Tower from awesome XPN local music blog The Key. The seats were prime – slightly forward of the soundboard, just off the left aisle.
Unfortunately, the concert was less than prime. Way less. (For a more positive spin, check out the review @ Phrequency, which includes some killer photos.)Read more…
The band came out swinging hard – a one-two punch of an intense “Lisztomania” and “Lasso,” followed shortly by a fantastic version of “Fences.” Vocalist Thomas Mars was a little lost in the mix against the heavy tom-focused drumming (two sets of them!), but it’s not like intelligibility is a trademark of the band. “Fences” is what made me most excited, as its subtler, trance-ish elements translated perfectly from the record.
With the opening salvo completed the Wolfgang fans in the crowd were quickly placated, but this is where a few things went awry.Read more…
The Phoenix show marks the first time I’ve ever left a concert before the encore when I was there to see the headlining act … and I’ve seen a lot of concerts. The performance itself was okay – nothing special – but I honestly don’t know how we could have possibly survived any more of that bass.
I’m not sure if it was a bum night of mixing, faulty equipment, bad acoustics in The Tower, or some other circumstance, but if not for the interlude from Jenny and Johnny it would have easily qualified as the worst big concert I’ve ever attended. If the band meant it to sound that way they’re idiots.
Much thanx to The Key for sponsoring this trip, even if it didn’t turn out as awesome as we had hoped. They’re a great blog! Read them!
A few weeks ago I had the chance to write a guide to Philly’s best songwriters for the new CBS Local website.
One of the songwriters on my list was Joshua Popejoy, an acoustic rocker who emerged from the Dave Matthews mold but no longer fits within it.
I wouldn’t bring Dave up, except the quickest way to orient you to what Joshua is is to explain what he isn’t. Yes, he’s got the acoustic aerobics, the big wailing chorus vocals, and even a full time string player in cellist Andrea Weber. He even plays some Dave covers. But his music gets to a place that a jam mentality usually doesn’t touch. It’s personal. It can be succinct. It’s cutting – sometimes scathing.
And it’s freaking catchy. Sample Till Then I”ll Wait (Live at Buckets).
From the moment I pitched my article I struggled with including Josh on the list. Josh is a friend of mine. That alone wouldn’t be a disqualifier, since I’m friends with a ton of local musicians, but I’ve also played shows with him and written promo material for him.
Probably not kosher I thought, so I went on compiling my list without him.
Joshua didn’t start out a friend, bill-sharer, or client. I originally met him as the host of the open mic at Buckets in East Falls. We weren’t fast friends in the bar environment, too busy drinking and banging out songs to try to catch the attention of the crowd.
It wasn’t until later, when I was hosting an open mic in a cafe, that I truly became a fan of Joshua’s. With the drown-out-the-crowd mentality by the wayside I was actually listening to his songs for the first time, and realizing just how many of them I was a fan of. Suddenly I was the one yelling out requests and singing harmony from the crowd.
Which brings me back to my list. Every time I tried to find another radio-ready singer-songwriter playing acoustic rock with aggressive acoustic guitars, carefully crafted lyrics, killer hooks, and fierce full band arrangements I came up empty. Why? Because in Philly Songwriter Jeopardy “Who is Joshua Popejoy?” is the definitive question to that answer.
After discarding three other potential acoustic rockers to fill that spot I called my contact at CBS to make sure including him was on the up and up, and then Joshua went on the list.
Last weekend E and I attended the CD release for Joshua’s After the Ash. He and his band were fantastic and surprisingly funky with bassist Gene Orlando and guitar from Jon Glaubitz – witness their shocking cover of Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” (that’s my trademark yelp at :54).
While the show was rock, the accompanying disc is stripped-down. Ash presents a cycle of songs in the order they were written, solo and acoustic – arranged and recorded DIY-style by Josh with the exception of some of the vocals, plus one track each of mandolin and cello.
I’ve grown accustomed to the band versions of this octet of tunes, but the stripped down acoustic takes on Ash destroy me. They are the Joshua Popejoy I fell in love with in a coffee shop. I’ll still love him when he is filling a room with sound playing with his amazing band, but when it comes to turning on a new listener I’ll play a song from After the Ash, every time.
Both After the Ash and Joshua’s debut EP Runway Lights are available from JoshuaPopejoy.com. You can Like Joshua on FB, but the best way to keep up with him is his mailing list – which offers occasional pithy messages and free downloads. For tons of free music from Joshua, check out his archive of live shows on Archive.org.
My tweets of the last week: