This Side B’s for Adam Yauch

Like most folk, when I think of certain music, my brain generally redirects to memories made during specific points in time. Neil Diamond’s “Forever in Bluejeans” will always be the song Mom and I played at full volume along the backroads of Texarkana in the Trans Am sans T-Tops, heh. WRR was the only radio station that played on my cubed, beloved Sony Dream Machine’s alarm clock — the backbone of my Carter years. And so on. When I accidentally saw the Beastie Boys open for Madonna in 1985, though, the musical barometer for the rest of my life was pegged. After that, there was never a Beastie Boys’ era for me, per se. They were always just there for the rest of the ride — the bad and the good stuff alike.

Russell woke me up this morning with the rotten news: “Adam Yauch is dead.” I knew MCA’d been battling cancer, but I thought it’d gone into remission and that he was going to make it. This was MY Beastie Boy. I hate to see him go. It’s heart-twisting, heavy-hitting. Through the years, MCA had become my old friend from the other side of the speakers.

Image

I told Russell that Adam’s band haphazardly managed to have always been in the background of my entire adolescence and adult years, like those guys’d made a deal with the devil or something. I knew them when every house still had a record player with its crappy original needle, when cassette became king, CD following shortly thereafter. I bought their music when we all started feverishly turning toward records again, but this time calling it “vinyl and wax.” It didn’t matter if they had a song in the Top 40; buying Beastie Boys at the record store was still cool, even for music snobs. After Al Gore invented the internet, erm, we didn’t have to dig for the rare stuff anymore; you could get the Beasties on mp3. Happy/sad. They stuck the course and adapted in their own way, often setting the tone for an entire culture. They taught us it was ok to be assholes as long as we were also morally conscious:

I want to say a little something that’s long overdue. The disrespect to women has got to be through. To all the mothers and the sisters and the wives and friends. I want to offer my love and respect to the end.

I had a fistful of records when I first heard the BBs. These days I can’t park my car in the garage because we’re overwhelmed by so much music in this house. I would be a fool to think Adam and Co. didn’t influence a lot of the stuff I love. After all, those three MCs have seen me through my entire musical journey, taking over exactly where my parents left off, weaving in and out between my pop, goth, PR, reggae, Americana, modern classical phases of life. They were there. Always.

In junior high I was playing “Brass Monkey” on my tape recorder when a boy on the school bus in the row across from mine decided to show everybody his dick. I can’t listen to that song now without thinking about being shocked by the sight of little Jackie Tarwater’s penis, the first one I ever saw. Gad. One minute I was a preacher’s daughter from a small town in northern Texas. The next minute I was trapped in an outtake from License to Ill. Magic.

My friend Anna’s parents used to let us borrow their gigantic camcorder when we were in high school and shortly thereafter. I still have several of those tapes — different nights in Deep Ellum and at friends’ parties. In all of those silly windows from our yonder years, the Beastie Boys were back there behind whatever was going on, busting rhymes while we’d lipsync dressed like Lady Miss Kier Kirby. Gag. We knew all the lyrics, all the samples, all the everythings. I was probably never cooler, looking back.

Lori and Gabe and I spent hours listening to Check Your Head. I remember an entire night staring at the evening’s clouds rolling past while we were lying on some kid’s trampoline. One of of us had ordered a lyric sheet from an address on the cassette, and we all took turns reading through the leaflet, reveling in the knowledge of mysteries unfolded: “It’s ‘I think you’re funny with the money that you flaunt,’ you guys.”

Ill Communication was California: mountains, ocean, my Mustang GT 5.0. That was when I turned into a bonafide grownup: married, about to have a kid, three states away from my comfort zone. The Beastie Boys, with this record, were also miles away from where they began. They were adults, having soldiered through their own rites of passages, and charging forward in musicianship. In the afternoons, I’d open all my windows and blare “Get It Together,” every version — and not a soul ever complained.

When Bella was born, she was unintentionally a Beastie baby. There wasn’t a frown “Intergalactic” couldn’t cure. Music during that time was so serious, except for this. And, man, that video sure was a relief from all the otherness on MTV during its time. We put “My name is: Hello Nasty” name tags across her diapered booty and watched her run around with her Teletubby toys. I shouldn’t have been so surprised last year when I was listening to Hot Sauce Committee, and Bella appeared from her room dancing and singing along, “Mom, I didn’t know you had this record.” Why would she say that? Because it was cool? Who was she talking to? Of course, I had that record. Pfft. Now the Beasties had crossed generational lines.

Like Star Wars.

And Apple.

A few weeks ago, when I was under the impression everything was going to be ok for MCA, “Sabotage” came on the radio. We’d been talking, but my fourteen-and-a-half-year-old Bella interrupted me.

“Sorry, Mom, but you know we can’t listen to this song unless it’s loud. Really loud.” And we turned it up and sang-yelled that thing so hardcore that I started to cry a little because it was so incredibly awesome to be doing that with my own teenaged daughter.

After Russell broke the news about Adam Yauch this morning, I realized how important MCA had been throughout my entire life. As obvious as that should have been, it never occurred to me. What a great rock star he was, a champion of goodwill amongst men, a mouthpiece for my generation. Tonight, I’ll drag out my paper thin B-Boys’ “Goodbye, Mr. Hand” t-shirt and celebrate the past twenty-seven years I’ve known a guy I never met. The guy who “never rocked a mic with the pantyhose” was right:

There’s somethin’ coming to the surface. There’s fire all around. But this is all illusion. I’ve seen better days than this one. I’ve seen better nights than this one. Tension is rebuilding. Something’s got to give. Someday we shall all be  one.

High five. See you on side B, Adam.

Advertisements

Read Banned Books

As a young mother, I took my daughter to the library for story hour at least twice a week for years. Without a doubt, it was the best way I could have ever helped her get a head start on just about everything. One thing always stood out for me most on our trips to the “Museum of Books” — the signs hanging all over the children’s section that told them to: “Read Banned Books.”

It was a brave thing, I thought, and a great point. If we don’t read banned books, we’re not living in a democracy where Freedom of Speech is respected. So, yes, at all costs read banned books!

Recently, reports surfaced that Republic High School (Republic, MO) banned Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five. Well, alright. That’s one way to get high school kids off of Facebook long enough to bend the spine of a GREAT piece of literature. After all, the fastest way to convince a teenager to try something is to label it “forbidden.”

On Friday, the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis responded by offering the students free copies of SH5. But there’s a “but”: The institution doesn’t have a fat wallet, and they are asking for your help. With only enough funding to provide Missouri students with 150 novels, plus shipping, the institution is requesting supporters and all those who find book-banning distasteful to make $5 donations via PayPal so that every student who requests a novel can be included.

And God bless you…Kurt Vonnegut! (For the nerds, heh.)

Sucklord, I failed you. Bah.

I know it’s a stretch for a MATURE AUDIENCE to actually be a MATURE AUDIENCE, so instead I’ll just ask Mom’s Bible study friends to skip this entry, along with anyone under the age of not-yet-out-of-junior-high-school. You know who you are and you’ve been warned.

Now…

I managed to neglect this gem from way back in August. To be fair, timeliness has never been one of my celebrated virtues.

What your mailbox looks like when nerds collide: the same present on the same day from NYC's Suckadelic.

After the whole excitement in July with the Great Westboro Baptist Church Summer Visit, the part of my brain bent toward vinyl toy-hoarding fixated on how cool it’d be if somebody produced a line of Westboro figs. From that, a series of endless conversations with likeminded pals erupted. We had some ideas, but lacked wherewithal.

Thinking Suckadelic and his bootleg appeal would be a good match, we barraged him with emails. He was a good sport about asking for the specific details we had in mind, so we delivered. Reading through some of the rapid replies from that thread, it seemed like the Phelps family and its Westboro yelling and screaming army was limitless in its never ending well of playtime options.

The highlights — verbatim from my inbox — are as follows (feel free to credit yourselves):

“Phelps with Barbie-style separate outfits: one gay bondage, one KKK outfit, one nice church suit that says “hypocrite” on the back jacket when it’s dropped in hot water (this is probably unfeasible but I have a big imagination);

“Phelps in a prison jumpsuit being sentenced to hell by Hitler;

“Phelps naked with his pants around his ankles, fucking a sheep;

“What about a trailer or van their action figures can ride around in….to show their behind the scenes life (so you could view from the top inside)….the van is full of empty beer bottles, containers of lube, rebel flags, kiddy porn, the kids are actually kept in cages rather than seats and forced to watch little video screens with Westboro propaganda…….you get the point;

“How about the Phelps Compound! It would look more like a cross between internment camp and terrorist training camp. Hostages would of course be segregated according to their sins. “All Jews line up for your bar code tattoo!” I could shout as I moved the Phelps family around. “All fags report to the sanctuary for confession and waterboarding,” shouts Mamma Phelps. It would come complete with a secret bunker Fred uses to keep all his gay porn, kool-aid, pink panties, and of course Twilight posters cause he is team Edward all the way.  The accesories would never end and offer hours of hate filled fun for kids of any age.”

After perusing the official Westboro website, etc., Sucklord opted for the, er, gentleman’s response to our psycho-religious freakout:

“These people are cockroaches and even a disparaging figure of them by Suckadelic is an honor they don’t deserve.

“That said, I will be there for those epic 45 minutes they are dedicating [at Comic-Con 2010] to this fools errand, and I plan to make them as uncomfortable as possible. (There will be video.)”

Comic-con ended, and Suckadelic made good on his promise, alright. When I asked him to send video, I was thinking he might grab fifteen seconds on a cell phone. I guess I should have known better after watching what he’s done on the Original Villains Network. Whatever the case, I don’t think he and Fred Phelps are going to be best friends any time soon, but I’m not ruling out rash judgment on my part, heh.

Clap-clap-clapping. Thanks, SL. Many hails from your friends in the Lone Star.

Return of Le Billet Cache

A few years ago, Russell and I cozied up under the covers and opened a slew of French Dunnys. It was like making out and binge eating and 9 and 1/2 Weeks and fantasy spree shopping all rolled-up together for two nerds in love.

Then Russell opened a blind box with a golden ticket enclosed, and everything came to a stand still. That was a great day.

A year later, KidRobot mailed our super-limited, totally awesome, completely radical prize: the 8″ Supakitch/Koralie French Dunny. When I unpacked her accessories — earbuds and a special Dunny iPod — I forgave KidRobot for anything they’ve ever done to irk me. High five, that was a great day.

Supakitch and Koralie have just finalized their mural for the Swedish Gothenburg Museum of World Culture, and, thanks to elr°y, there’s an outstanding film clip orchestrated to a track by D*L*i*d. It’s a great day. Again.

Here’s Supakitch, where you can “listen to [his] pictures.” And here’s Koralie’s equally entertaining web domain.

This concludes my American billet-doux for my favorite le billet cache squad.

Burnsy

Rare is the anticipated Friday night spent seated next to this motliest of crews:

  • Mom;
  • Mom’s super duper Republican, ultra-conservative Sunday school teacher;
  • Mom’s liberal, neighboring friend and photographer;
  • Bella;
  • Bella’s Hot Topic-loving, fashionably nerdy, film club BFF;
  • Russell, who’s got to be up the next morning at 6 a.m.;
  • Protestors.

This is what happens when Ken Burns comes to town.

Famous for his decades’ worth of stylized, American documentaries about the subjects and characters who’ve molded our culture, Burns was lauded by noted historian Stephen Ambrose, who said, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” Ken Burns has so efficiently worked his way into my subconscious that there’ve been times when I’ve realized I was thinking in Keith David’s voice…about whatever I was doing at the moment…and in third person. Ken’s a Jedi.

Of course, every Jedi has to have his battles. After numerous years spent whipping out documentaries many reviews charged as more focused on the persecutions of different races by white Americans rather than what the critics deemed more relevant to subject matter, Burns recently was labeled oppositely as a racist for the interview selection of his 2007 series about World War II. According to Burns, the filming team reported complete lack of involvement and response from Hispanic veterans, and, rather than seeking further cooperation, filmed the candidates who did respond. The outcome generated a massive outcry in the Mexican community for all public funding to be revoked from future filming. Burns responded by inviting empathetic, fellow filmmaker Hector Galan to film thirty minutes of additional footage, which focused on Latino involvement in the war. He defended the 900-minute documentary:

“We were not seeking any specific ethnic group. We were looking for universal experiences about battle. We spent five years in the four towns. We […] advertised our presence. Everyone who was possibly within our earshot knew we were there, and in the course of it not a single Hispanic came forward, nor did a single WAC or WAV, nor did a Submariner, nor did a Filipino-American or a German-American, who had a difficult experience — a much larger, in fact, one of the largest ethnic groups. We weren’t looking to tell every story. We wished to have […] forty people, really ten people, who would stand in for all the experiences. The Hispanic veterans who we found said, ‘We weren’t Hispanic; we were American.’ “

The New York Public Library hosted a fantastic, in depth conversation between brainiac storyteller Professor Robert Stone and Burns on FORA.tv. In the segment, Burns answers questions posed by Stone and the audience regarding everything from his musical selection processes to accusations of racism. If you’re not joining my multifarious army this evening, you should definitely check out the following video (if for no other reason than it took me forever to upload the monster in its entirety, heh).

Although tickets for the north Texan event were completely swiped up earlier this week, KERA is filming the onstage discussion with Think moderator Krys Boyd. Information about the nationally televised broadcast (and how to snag a no-show seat) available here.

Never Mind the Dog Bollocks!

I’ve arrived at a domestic intersection in my life where I enjoy doing stuff that would’ve made my stomach turn when I was fifteen. For example, now that I don’t have to spend nine billion dollars on super-important necessities like NaNa skull buckle boots and ten years’ worth of clown makeup every week, I can really wile away my adult existence “bargain hunting.”

Shiver.

I can’t be the only one who’s cut back on hair-dying in the bathtub with Kool-aid packets; my generation’s clearly been tagged as grownup consumers.

And, apparently, we shop at TJ MAXX for pet clothing.

I didn’t buy this for my punk rock kitten kats, but, man, I feel badly about making fun of Mom’s generation for selling out to Nike now. We were gonna televise the new revolution, but I never envisioned it quite like this.

What further proof do we need? Punks iz dead. (Don’t forget your matching pooper scooper when you take Fido on his fashion walk, friends!)

Crash worshipping my gray and silvers

Yesterday I spent about two hours shopping for important things we “needed” around the house:

  • Ralph Lauren hand towels for the cats’ bathroom;
  • recycled newspaper basket for the arts and craps room;
  • coordinating throw blanket for the living area;
  • magnetic reminder board for Bella’s room;
  • scented wax potpourri.

Pfft, what a douchebag list.

While debating between the two decorative pillows I was holding, my brain experienced a weird synapse and exploded into a vortex of the yesteryear spent Crash Worship-ing.

Really, Crash Worship couldn’t be any more on the opposite end of the spectrum from Ralph Lauren Hand Towels for the Cats’ Bathroom. As I stood in the middle of the home furnishing store — staring at those pillows in my hands and unexpectedly remembering the uncertainty of loud, indoor fireworks and body paint and scary masks and percussion until the end of the mind’s eye — I wondered, How the hell did I travel the roads between point A and point B and wind up at Decorative Throw Pillows?!

Clover can't believe the hype.

Don’t get me wrong: I never wanted to spend my life wearing blue and red body paint in the nude, but I don’t think I ever wanted to experience the kind of frivolous stress reserved for folks who look forward to joining AARP either. There’s gotta be a happy marriage somewhere that comes in the form of something unlike Crash Worship novelty pillows (somewhere on Etsy, such blasphemy surely reveals itself).

In the meantime, wet kitties everywhere deserve a dry towel and a soft pillow…and a little Crash Worship from time to time.