Saturday, November 20, 2004

A new millenium

We have officially cut the cord. Well, not yet, but by the end of the month our home will be free of traditional phone service. Ereck and I have brand new Nokia cell phones, and I can't resist telling you that my number spells NOW GLIB. How appropriate.

This feels weird and exciting. Can we live without a real phone? Will our opinions never be tabulated in presidential tracking polls? Why do I have to pay extra to have "Hot in Herre" as my ring tone?

Having made a series of fairly major consumer choices in the last couple of days--cell provider, phones, plan, plus cable TV and cable Internet--I can't help but worry whether we're getting screwed. I particularly fret that our cell plan doesn't have enough minutes, but we have a little bit of time to decide. Also, as Ereck knows, I research these sorts of things obsessively, so I feel reasonably confident that if we're getting screwed, then at least so is everybody else.

Our experience buying the phones at the East Towne US Cellular went smoothly. The woman who helped us seemed generally troubled by life but otherwise perfectly gracious and knowledgeable, and Ereck and I agreed that we had done well to randomly end up with her and not one of those type-A sales guys milling about.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

This just in

The date of the Danger's upcoming show at the Slipper Club is Dec. 10.

Headline in today's Daily Cardinal: "UW, city implement alcohol overseer."

Is that the same as a kegmaster?

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Rock that rocks

Last Saturday I went to the King Club to see the Hat Party and Colony of Watts, about whom I'll be writing in an upcoming Isthmus column. You can check that out when it hits the street, but meanwhile I want to tell you about the bill's third act, who completely blew me away: the Danger, a young Milwaukee band that combines power-pop hooks expertly played, neo-garage bombast, impish humor and boyish good looks.

The Danger cite British Invasion groups as influences, including the Beatles. Now many bands who claim Beatle influences take after the Fab Four's worst quality, their preciousness. But the Beatles I hear in the Danger's music is the groovy, rocking Beatles; I swear I heard the "Taxman" bass lick at least three times on Saturday.

And the Danger certainly take some stagecraft cues from the Who: bassist Michael Stanley does very convincing Pete Townshend windmills on his instrument, and singer Thomas Culkin whips his microphone cable around like Roger Daltrey (although in what is probably a fiscally smart move for a young band, Culkin removes the mic from the cable first). Also, some of the Danger's songs have pretty, strummed guitar chords that could be straight out of one of those instrumentals on the Who's great rock opera Tommy.

But what's really great about the Danger is their words. People from religious backgrounds often write the best lyrics, and it's clear that someone in the band has been to Bible school, because their tunes have lots of irreverant scriptural references. My favorite couplet is from their creepy, great song "The Pharoah": "Rippin' pages out of Genesis / All the way down to Memphis."

The Danger have a December date at the Slipper Club with the Hat Party, but I'm having trouble tracking down specifics. I'll keep you posted. You simply must see the Danger.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Living on the edge

Ereck and I are the last people in America who don't have cell phones, but we're thinking of breaking down and getting them. Which is the best provider?
Hail the bean

A scary thing happened some weeks back: I quit drinking coffee, and I couldn't write! I couldn't blog, I couldn't write breezy e-mails, and most distressingly, I couldn't write for the very kind people who pay me to write! Oh, I was able with much effort to squeeze out what I had to squeeze out, but it was torture.

Fortunately, I relapsed. First I started sneaking black tea, and now I'm back to my old regimen of two cups of strong black coffee per day. The writing has improved, as has my mood.

I dislike being chemically dependent, and when I don't get the dosage right coffee makes me absolutely insane. But I think I can live with that. Not drinking coffee was, at least for the month or so I was off the stuff, bad for business. I imagine if I had kept at it things eventually would have improved, and maybe I would have ended up even more productive than before: look at the Mormons.

But dammit: I love coffee. Who wants to join me in a cup? Do you think we'll fit?
Shame on me

I'm nosy, and one of my favorite nosy pursuits has long been eavesdropping on couples when they fight in public. But there's a new variation, in some ways a more fascinating one: eavesdropping on people when they are having emotional conversations on cell phones. In a drugstore just this week I overheard a young woman having a breakdown on the phone about her physics class, which is hard. I was transfixed.

Angry conversations also are interesting (as are romantically embittered ones).

Monday, November 15, 2004

Good word

''Rock journalism is people who can't write, interviewing people who can't talk, for people who can't read.''

--Frank Zappa

The holidays are nearly upon us, and the media deluge in all its weirdness is beginning. I'm definitely not the first to point this out, but it's remarkable how during the holidays, we get massively exposed to culture from periods that most people probably don't much think about the rest of the year: baroque music, a certain Victorian novelist, Bing Crosby.

Too bad we can't get massively exposed to this stuff all year round, but at least it's something.
Found a peanut

Every so often--never often enough--a song I like gets in rotation on country radio stations. There's one now: Gary Allan's "Nothing On but the Radio." It's a slow sex jam with a Latin beat, and the hook is hilarious.

More, Mr. Allan, more.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Good word

"Voting is nothing more than gathering and validating data on a huge scale, which these days is almost entirely the province of IT. And like many other really big IT projects, this touch screen voting thing came about as a knee-jerk reaction to some earlier problem, in this case the 2000 Florida election with its hanging chads and controversial outcome. Punch card voting was too unreliable, it was decided, so we needed something more complex and expensive because the response to any IT problem is to spend more money making things more complex."

--Robert X. Cringely