Saturday, February 28, 2009


There is a "note" circulating on Facebook that reads:
"Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life."
I normally don't participate in such things, but found this particular "note" to be an interesting look back at the music that helped "create" the "person" that I am today.

These middle seven of the fifteen are all from my three years of high school, some of the most important music years of my life...

by The Alarm

If Adam Ant's Friend or Foe was the gateway into a new world of music that was distinct from that of my parents and other adults, then The Alarm's Declaration was exactly what it's title claims. This was music for me to share with my peers. This was music to be listened to loudly. This music was anthemic. It felt working class and revolutionary and prophetic. It was about young men taking a stand, literally and lyrically. It was about going out in a "Blaze of Glory" that didn't sound like anything I had ever heard before. And it did it without being framed within the hardcore music scene (which was also important to the development of my musical self). This was guitar and bass and drums and harmonica and keyboards and vocals. It was hard rock folk.

Red Sails in the Sunset
by Midnight Oil

Growing up in an age of perceived nuclear threat, especially considering I lived near numerous military bases, made this my protest album. Midnight Oil were pop music and politics, without either sounding forced. In addition to the traditional rock instruments, dijeridu and brass and strings were employed. And no one could wail quite like Peter Garrett. This was music which was geographically knowledgeable, political, thoughtful, literate, liberal, local (Australia), and unapologetic about it all. This was thinking man's rock, and I was grateful for their willingness to challenge the (nuclear) powers-that-be.

The Method to Our Madness
by The Lords of the New Church

The Lords of the New Church were like neither The Alarm nor Midnight Oil in lyrical content, although they were musically similar to both. What set this apart was that it was dripping with sex and death, all delivered by the snotty lead vocals of bad boy Stiv Bator. I didn't quite know what to do with this album. It felt rebellious and "dangerous" in the way that the Gene Simmons solo album had. I felt like I shouldn't be listening to it and yet I felt compelled to listen to it. It was by turns melodic and brash, sexy and grotesque, profane and humorous. If there was ever a vinyl album that I almost destroyed by playing it too much, then this was it.

No Remorse
by Motörhead

Plain and simple, Motörhead kicked ass. This double vinyl LP collected the best of Motörhead to date and then some. It was loud, loud, loud heavy metal. It rocked. It was better than 95% of the hard rock and heavy metal that was being played on local radio stations. It was better than most of the heavy metal that any of the headbangers at school were listening to. Enough said.

Bad Music for Bad People
by The Cramps

I never got The Cramps. I bought this album because a bunch of my friends told me I just had to have it. Plus, it had the cool pseudo-skeletal fellow that adorned its piss yellow album cover. When I put it on my record player, however, psychobilly emanated from my speakers. I listened to the entire album once and placed it back into its sleeve. The next day, I took it back to Bill at Northwest Records and asked if I could return it. Bill owned Northwest Records, which at this time was the local place to buy music, especially if it came in the metal, punk, or hardcore varieties. He asked me if I had opened it. I told him that I had. He said that I absolutely couldn't return it then because I could have taped it. I assured him that I did not because I couldn't stand it. He looked me straight in the eyes and asked me why. I told him that I didn't get it. It wasn't my thing. He told me that he would never do this for me again, but that I could go ahead and exchange it. He added it to his collection of albums he played in the store. I exchanged it and bought another album as well. So Bad Music for Bad People ends up on my list of life-changing albums because it made me realize that I didn't have to like a particular album or band and I didn't have to have a reason or justify why. It also made me realize that there were people who understood that and loved music as much (or more) than I did. Bill of Northwest Records was one of those people.

New Day Rising
by Hüsker Dü

Along with Wire and Devo, Hüsker Dü is one of my top three all-time favorite bands. I grew up with them. Their music began as hardcore punk and slowly became more pop-oriented with each successive album. The growth felt natural. New Day Rising is one of the middle studio longplayer albums (number three of six). Therefore, it strikes the perfect balance between its hardcore roots and its pop-punk future. It also strikes the perfect balance between its two primary songwriters—Bob Mould and Grant Hart. The tension inherent in Hüsker Dü—musically, lyrically, amongst band personnel—is just enough and not too much. It also includes one of my all-time favorite songs: "Celebrated Summer."

Loose Nut
by Black Flag

I am a big fan of the band line up of Black Flag on Loose Nut—Henry Rollins on vocals, Greg Ginn on guitar, Kira Roessler on bass, and Bill Stevenson on drums. As far as I am concerned, this is classic Black Flag. By this point, the band is nearing the end of its run and knows how to pummel its listeners. This was music to skate to. This was music to blast out of the back of the Volkswagen Squareback. This was music to eat Crazy Eric's tacos to when I was supposed to be at school for my sixth period "Advanced Problems in Science" research class. It was loud and repetitive and slightly crazy. It was wonderful.




Friday, February 27, 2009


There is a "note" circulating on Facebook that reads:
"Think of 15 albums, CDs, LPs that had such a profound effect on you they changed your life."
I normally don't participate in such things, but found this particular "note" to be an interesting look back at the music that helped "create" the "person" that I am today.

The first four of the fifteen influenced my childhood prior to high school...

The Cars
by The Cars

I received a tape recorder as a birthday gift when I was a kid. One of the uncles had coordinated with the mother and the father and bought me The Cars on audio cassette. The uncle had married into the family, and, since his wife, the aunt, was a younger sibling of the father, he was also the extended family adult closest to me in age. His youth and love of music provided me with this gift that was listened to thousands of times. When the first notes of any of the songs from The Cars begin on the radio, I get a slight tingle of recognition that fires up my nervous system. Unfortunately, the aunt and the uncle divorced after a couple of years, so my musical apprenticeship was short-lived. Nevertheless, it was an important one.

Gene Simmons
by Gene Simmons

I received some money as a gift for my birthday and I now had a tape recorder. The Gene Simmons solo album from KISS was the first album purchase I ever made. I remember it sitting in a bargain bin at K-mart, the face of The Demon staring out at me. I was at K-mart because it was one of the few retail stores in the town I grew up in that sold music. The cassette was sitting in a bargain bin because the four solo albums from the members of KISS didn't sell very well. I knew none of this at the time. I only knew that Gene Simmons was "dangerous" and I was intrigued by both the cover and the vague rumblings of disapproval from adults that I occasionally gleaned from conversations about KISS. I eventually wore the cassette out through overplay. I don't know if this is a good album of the KISS pantheon because I am so biased. I like that it tries a lot of different things musically. Gene has no problem incorporating R&B background vocals, country riffs, and ballads into his hard rock. This album still sings to me.

Oh, No! It's Devo
by Devo

I was introduced to Devo in junior high school. Devo was weird and subversive. They sang about potatoes and monkeys and mutants. Surprisingly, I found that I could relate to all of these "characters." Oh, No! It's Devo just happens to be the Devo album that arrived at the perfect time in my life for me. I had also received a record player from The Parents shortly before receiving it, so it was one of my first vinyl LP albums. (I already owned Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Freedom of Choice on cassette tape.) And, I love songs like "I Desire" and "Deep Sleep" as much as I do the more popular "Peek-a-boo!" and "Big Mess." These strange songs were a perfect accompaniment for a time of trying to discover who I was and where I "fit in" amidst the challenge of hormone-addled brain and body.

Friend or Foe
Adam Ant

Friend or Foe was another album purchased from K-mart, although on vinyl this time. I had heard "Goody Two Shoes" on the radio and loved it. I was singing songs from the album when the mother asked me where I had heard them. I told her they were from my Adam Ant album, specifically from the song "Here Comes the Grump." Being somewhat naive, I didn't understand a lot of the sexual innuendo in the song, especially the play on the word "come." Needless to say, the mother confiscated the album and informed me that I was never going to get it back. This confused me because an album like Gene Simmons had never been confiscated and it seemed more in conflict with our family "morals" and Lutheran background than Friend or Foe (and filled with as many sexual references). Therefore, this album was a turning point for me. It showed me the power of music, specifically, and art, generally. On our next visit to K-mart, I bought the album again, and made sure that I hid it from the mother. I listened to it in my bedroom with the sound turned down or while wearing headphones. I made sure that the album cover was stashed away. I was cutting the ties that bound me to the mother. I now had secret music.




Monday, February 23, 2009


Hop Henge Experimental IPA, an India Pale Ale by Deschutes Brewery

22 ounce bottle.

I have had Hop Henge Imperial IPA from Deschutes Brewery in the past, but I don't remember it tasting quite like this. My previous Hop Henge experience was excellent. This Hop Henge experience was ecstatic.

The pour delivered a reddish-orange body, more red than orange, like sunset right before the sun sinks behind the mountains. Two fingers of white head filled the top of the tulip glass. Those two fingers dissipated somewhat slowly into half a finger that lingered. Crazy patterns of lacing were left behind.

The aroma: mostly orange, with a hint of apple, a whiff of caramel, and a playful leafiness that shifted from background to foreground and back again.

The flavor: bitter orange tinged with varnish and resin, bolstered by a light wood, grass, and leaf components. Whatever sweetness that was able to peek through was mostly caramel. Hop Henge Experimental IPA engages the entire mouth. It feels heavy on the tongue but is actually rather crisp and refreshing. The bitterness lingers for a long time after an intense finish.

As it warmed, the bitterness increased along with the alcohol "edge," represented by the varnish and resin flavors. My guess would be that some sort of wood cask was used in the brewing process, although I don't know if that is true.

This truly was an awesome ale, and an experience I hope to duplicate again very soon. It was strong, hoppy, and great. Find some, if you can.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Regarding Daniel Craig: please don't invite him back as a presenter. He seemed to be very unhappy in his role. Instead, let him sit in the audience and enjoy a few cocktails.


I really liked the presentation format for the Actress in a Supporting Role, Actor in a Supporting Role, Actress in a Leading Role, and Actor in a Leading Role categories. It really highlighted acting as a creative act. It also highlighted actors as a community of individuals. I only wish you had done the same for directing.

Really: Reese Witherspoon?


And it seems that you also shortchanged the category of Best Film, in the same manner that you shortchanged the category of Best Director. Yes, Steven Spielberg is a director, but couldn't you find five directors whose films has previously won in the Best Film category?

Or, perhaps, directors aren't the "pretty people" that you would like to have splashed across television screens.


The camera work during the annual "remembrance of the dead" was atrocious. Half the time I couldn't read the name of the deceased individual. This would have been a good time for a static camera. Did Baz Luhrmann and his crew film this section?


I liked "thinking through" the process of making a movie—pre-production, production, post-production—and tying it to the appropriate award categories.


I was really hoping that Mickey Rourke would win Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work in The Wrestler. He didn't. But he did win Best Male Lead at Film Independent's Spirit Awards the night before, so all is good.


Overall, it was a fairly good, if somewhat bland and subdued, celebration of the cinematic arts. I suppose this is the award ceremony we deserve during a time of economic turmoil and extended warfare.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Meta Books is a relatively new tenant to the core retail storefronts of the University of Washington, Tacoma campus. It stocks used books in a variety of categories—including literature, poetry, cooking, travel, history, and Tacoma/Pacific Northwest.

The space was somewhat small and intimate. The shelves were somewhat sparsely filled. After another three months of business, I assume that there will be more stock on the shelves.

It was fun to poke around and see what they had on the shelves, although my inner bookseller wanted to keep facing books out to fill some of the empty space.


It seems that Meta Books will be a nice complement to the new book offerings of the nearby UWT branch of the University Book Store. It also occupies a geographical middle ground between Tacoma Book Center and King's Books, which may allow it to thrive, although it won't keep me from patronizing either King's or TBC. In fact, I will still default to King's Books when looking for books in Tacoma.

But I will give Meta Books some time to grow and mature, hopefully gracefully so.

Friday, February 20, 2009

(1) Drain in the reflecting pool of the Museum of Glass.

(2) Remnants of artwork in the Woolworth Windows exhibition of Tacoma Contemporary (TaCo), which is currently between exhibitions.

(3) "Bike Jump: Life Defying Raditude : Gaytron the Imploder" at Tollbooth Gallery.

(4) Playbills and posters in the window of the Broadway Center for the Performing Arts.

(5) Four painted advertisements (restored by Ackerley Communications) on the side of the Pythian Temple, Commencement Lodge Number 7.

(6) Shortcut.

(7) "Windows" painted onto the side of a building, near Freighthouse Square.

(8) Detail of painted "windows."

Thursday, February 19, 2009


(1) Bookend #1. Trees at sunset, east end of Phase 2 of the Puyallup Riverwalk.

(2) Levi's 550s left to dry.

(3) Waist 40, length 30.

(4) Remnants of the New Year's flooding along the Puyallup River.

(5) One of the levees along Levee Road.

(6) Pipeline: do not anchor.

(7) Bookend #2. Trees at sunset, west end of Phase 2 of the Puyallup Riverwalk.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The importance of words:

Tonight, after work (and my "late night" at work at that), I found myself driving 47 miles roundtrip over a period of one hour and fifteen minutes to retrieve my winter coat. I had left it at a cabin the day prior where the staff of my workplace had an all-day retreat.

But I didn't drive there and back to simply retrieve my coat. If I had only left my coat there, then I probably would have just bid it adieu. It is a good coat and serves me well, but I would have left it behind.

I wanted what was in its pocket. There lurked my small composition book. It is filled with notes taken at art exhibitions, notes taken during beer tastings, lists of books I have read, lists of books I hope to read, general observations, germs of ideas for poems and prose.

And now it is retrieved and home and safe once more.


The bonus:

I had the opportunity to stand in the darkness at the edge of a lake peering up at the vast multitudes of stars and galaxies of the winter night sky. Whereas I normally only see a handful of lower magnitude stars due to the washout effect of suburban and urban lighting, I instead saw the sky filled with thousands upon thousands of stars. I felt small and lonely and alive.

Monday, February 16, 2009


"Ah, brown sugar, how come you taste so good?"
—from "Brown Sugar" by The Rolling Stones, as found on the album Sticky Fingers

Brown Shugga'
, a Barleywine by Lagunitas Brewing Company

Let's hear it for failed experiments that are given second lives! Hear, hear!

(According to the commercial description, this "aborted batch of [Lagunita's] Old Gnarleywine ended up tasting nearly as good as that they were hoping for, so they bottled it. God bless capitalism.")

Saturday night is steak night on the home front. New York steaks. Medium rare. A-1 sauce. Baked beans on the side. It doesn't get any better than this.

Brown Shugga' pours quiet and restrained, with little fanfare. The head is virtually nonexistent and leaves no lacing. This ale pours clear orangish-brown with an amber aura and a brief, thin skin of ivory.

The smell is very sweet—brown sugar, honey, and a sweet breadiness. The flavor is a little richer and more complex—brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, white bread (Wonder!), and alcohol. A light bitterness finishes and carries the spices through once the sweetness falls away.

Overall, Brown Shugga' is slightly understated and mellow. I like it a lot. It is fun to smell and even more fun to drink. And it nicely complemented the steak and the baked beans.

Woo hoo!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The child and I needed to get out of the house. We needed to escape being cooped up with our colds. So we went and got the bicycle out, attached it to the back of the car via its rack, and set out for Orting. We were soon pedaling away on the Foothills Trail for a day of bicycling, picnicking, sightseeing, geocaching, and general wandering.

A cow on a nearby farm drinks water from a muddy pool. One of the highlights for the child!
47º 05.917 N, 122º 11.651 W

The Carbon River.
47º 05.215 N, 122º 10.809 W

A male mallard duck takes a bath.
47º 05.206 N, 122º 11.115 W

Table for two? TWT assumes it is a picnic table that was washed downriver during the recent flooding.

Getting ready to examine the contents of a geocache.
47º 05.740 N, 122º 09.302 W

A tree bone rests upon the river bank.

The orange "dood" rock.
47º 05.735 N, 122º 09.295 W

Our companion for part of the journey. The child was intrigued by this shepherd that decided to hang with us for some time.
47º 05.917 N, 122º 09.151 W

"If you hear the lahar sirens, move quickly to high ground (at least 50 feet off the valley floor). Assist other trail users as best you can." When you stand near this sign and look to see where the "high ground" is located, you realize that if a lahar does occur you may as well take a few moments to say goodbye to yourself.
47º 05.746 N, 122º 09.281 W

Crossing over the Carbon River via bridge.

Old Glory waves in front of a recently logged hill. It appears that power lines are coming soon to previous wilderness areas.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I am reading Mario Vargas Llosa's The Bad Girl. I keep being reminded of Thomas Pynchon's V. and Steve Erickson's Zeroville. They are also stories of unrequited love that is perverse in its obsessiveness and power.

These two stories keep creeping into my consciousness, so much so that I turn to each. I thumb through them, searching for the passages that I seek. Zeroville is fairly easy because I read it less than a year ago and took notes.

is going to be more problematic. The Perennial Library paperback edition I have is just shy of 500 pages. Add to that, I never took notes or marked any pages in my book.

Normally, I would mark passages that struck me as interesting or important with Book Darts (as above left). That is because I don't write in books. (I never have and don't foresee a time when I will feel compelled to do such.) Instead, I slide one of the sleek copper darts next to the line or lines I am interested in and return to it later. Then I will type a set of notes, with page references, so that I can remove the book darts and use them in another book.

(That also allows me to read the book again and again, without being prejudiced by a previous reading, while still enjoying the luxury of notes to reference if I so desire.)

Except that as I thumbed through the pages of the novel, I realized that someone had lightly marked passages in pencil (as above right). The pencil marks are very light—a line running in the margins along a paragraph or a faint check mark. I bought the book years ago from Tacoma Book Center, one of the area's best purveyors of used books. It was in excellent condition.

I am certain that the pencil marks in the margins of V. were placed there by the previous owner. I don't remember noticing them before, but they had to have been present.

The amazing thing is that these traces of someone else's reading of the book are marking the passages that I was searching for. Over a section of twenty pages, a smattering of scattered marks highlight the sentences that connect my current reading of The Bad Girl with what I remember about V.

I usually cannot read a book or article if someone else has marked or highlighted passages because I feel like I am reading it through their biases, when I would rather read it through my own. But, in this case, it works perfectly.

Thank you, unknown previous owner of my book!