Friday, February 25, 2022

Overheard at Table 2: BJ's Brewhouse

BJ's Brewhouse, Beryland TX

Went to BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse after dropping off some jewelry to be repaired at the nearby Jarrod's.  Friday night, 6:00pm, the place was already bustling.  The obviously bored hostess told us it'd be a 20 minute wait.  She was spot on about the time, but when we asked to change our seating from 2 to 3 (because we decided to ask our son to join us), she appeared tremendously irritated.

When she finally took us to be seated, she showed us a table.  My wife asked if we could have a nearby booth.  She slapped the menus down on the table and said, "I'll guess I'll see what I can do" and walked off.  We sat.

After 5 minutes, she brought another family to the booth.  I told my wife, "I suppose that's a 'no,' then."

The waiter was much more friendly, but that's because he had the glassy-eyed looked of the pleasantly stoned.  He did seem a bit perplexed that we only were drinking water, though.  We ordered the Avocado rolls and a soup, a burger, and Mediterranean tacos.

Avocado rolls: tortillas well-crisped, and yes there was definitely avocado, but they were mushy.  Among us we determined that the unpleasantness came from lack of texture.  Texture, not many understand, is an important element in food.  Some more chunky tomatoes or carrot slices would help.

The burger was decent, although a bit on the greasy side.  I was quite pleased with the Mediterranean tacos, even though the yogurt sauce was more like water than what you normally expect with your gyro-style dishes.

When our waiter came to bag our food, he was surprised when we asked for the check.  He thought he'd already given it to us.  He might do well to lay off the doobage until after his shift.

All in all, it was food.  Decent price.  Service a bit dicey, but frankly, that's about as good as it gets these days.


Thursday, February 24, 2022

Overheard at Table 1: Russia Invades Ukraine

Billy: Russia just rolled into Ukraine today.

Joe: And so it begins.

Jim: Zelenskyy compared Putin to Hitler.

Bob: So Ukraine is Putin's Poland?

Billy: It's more like Putin's Czechoslovakia.

Joe: Poland is next.

Jim: So Poland will be Putin's Poland.

Bob: Exactly.

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Overheard at Table 1: Poem of the Day - Womb

Womb (a Poem from the Dad Who Didn't Meet You Until After You Were Born)


I would have liked to have met you
my lips placed against the walls
of your room,
hoping that you could
hear my voice, telling you

when it comes time to leave,
even though it may be cold
where you are going,

you will always have my arms
to keep you warm.



NOTE: This is the second write of the poem, because I couldn't find the first write, so I jotted this one down to be used as the poem at the end of the Dead Kandinskys song "Everbody's Favrite Place"

Upon thinking about the upcoming birthday of one of my children, I realized that I had not been there for the development of any of the three of them while they were in utero, neither the two children I raised from grade school, nor my biological son.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Overheard at Booth 1: Are There Any Real Albums Still Being Made?

A guy named "Dollar Bill" recently posed the question, "Is the album dead?"

He was lamenting the fact that musicians no longer seem to be producing music that is more than a simply a collection of singles, and the fact that he posted about Jefferson Airplane's "Surrealistic Pillow" indicated to me that he saw the Album as an art form, which is a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

So, I asked him if the last five years would be a decent time frame to explore to see if there were any albums out there ... and after spinning about 44 albums, I have found a few.  Short reviews to follow, but in summary, from what I can tell, the music being produced today seems truly to consist of artists who are exploring their own genre, rather than expanding their talents into something truly original.  And some genres have interesting ideas for theme albums, but their music sucks.  I'll identify some of those.

I did find a few surprises however, and so without further ado, let's start with the top five albums of the 44 I've listened to in the last couple of days

1. Sturgill Simpson - Sound and Fury.  This is a high-octane rocker that gets a bit smoother on the second half, like a road trip soundtrack where you are roaring out of the city and then when you get to the open road, you just chill on your smooth ride toward the distant mountains.  It is said that when he finished the album, he got some Anime directors to make a film to go along with the music.  That is a great idea: multimedia.

2. Vampire Weekend - Father of the Bride.  On all their other albums, they had some great songs but clunkers ... and the albums as a whole never truly stood out.  This one: all the songs are solid, and there is a nice ebb and flow throughout, like you are just floating on a raft in the waters of a bay.

3. The Black Keys - Delta Kream.  Man, this one blew me away.  Straight up Mississippi Delta Blues standards, but these guys approach it with both passion and power.  This is definitely a must for any Blues or Rock fan.

4. Chester Watson - A Japanese Horror Film.  Kinda sounds like a Lo-Fi Hip Hop Bon Iver.  A nice dreamscape.  A lot of times, Hip-Hop has great ideas for theme albums but the performances get boring.  This one seems like the type of album that you can really dig deeper into.

5. Calexico and Iron & Wine - Years to Burn.  Honestly, track 1 sucked so bad I nearly skipped it, but track 2 and the rest of the album is a great overall work.   There is a great flow on this, everything works together.  It reminded me of the times in the 70s when my parents would go over to friends' houses and they would play a new album as a sort of communal enjoyment.   This felt like one of those albums.  This one feels like it will get better with repeated listening.

Monday, February 14, 2022

Overheard at the Counter: The Different Types of News

The other day I heard on a local radio program an upcoming discussion about what exactly is journalism, now that there are so many people engaging in it.  Can it be impartial? Is it merely a bunch of content creators? etc.

The question itself angered me, because this program was a local NEWS program.

So, after mulling it over for about a day, I have come up with the following distinction between different types of news, using a common and familiar headline:

FACT: Cop Shoots Man.

JOURNALISM: White Cop Shoots Unarmed Black Man.

LEFT WING SPIN: White Cop with History of Using Excessive Force Shoots Defenseless Black Man.

RIGHT WING SPIN: Decorated Police Officer Shoots Man with Long Criminal Record.

LEFT WING PROPAGANDA: Cops Out of Control!  We must Defund the Police!

RIGHT WING PROPAGANDA: Crime Out of Control!  Libs Want to Take Your Guns!

FAKE NEWS: [there is no description here because there is no such thing as Fake News.  The term "Fake News" is a rhetorical device used by the Right to impugn Left Wing Spin, Journalism, and even Fact itself]

For me, I would only consider Fact, Journalism, and the Spins as "News"

Propaganda is not "News" - it merely masquerades as news.  It probably is the true "Fake News" but I wouldn't want to give that term any more credence than it already has.



Saturday, February 12, 2022

Overheard at Booth 1: The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window (2022)

My wife hates Kristen Bell.

Well, not the person herself, of course.  But the characters that Bell usually plays.  My wife has never been able to forget Sarah Marshall, or any of the other semi-cruel bimbettes that Bell has used to make her career.

But even my wife likes her in this role: Anna is a grieving mother so distraught and strung out on medication and wine that reality and fantasy have blended so much as to be indistinguishable.

Throughout this limited series, you, the audience, truly do not know all that is fantasy and all that is reality.  Some things are obvious: her dead child, seen speaking to her, and then her daydream fantasies of the new neighbor.  Yet, there are other aspects that surely must be fantasy, but which are passed off as reality, such as the handyman who is working on the same mailbox for three consecutive days.

Or the ridiculous story of how her daughter died.   So ridiculous that it seems like something she created in her fantasy world, until the same story is corroborated by another character.

Which then makes the death rather cruel. And stupid:


So, she says that her daughter was killed and eaten by a cannibalistic mass murderer three years before.

Seems ridiculous, until her ex-husband reiterates the story, as does the detective who is investigating Anna's claim that there has been a murder across the street.  That should have been my first clue into how disturbing this show was going to be: a child eaten while her dad had just stepped out of the room?  Seriously?  That seems way beyond the pale.

But then, it all became clear on the last episode, when the killer turns out to be the little girl across the street.  Half that episode is a ridiculous fight scene between Anna and the 9 year old, that went on so long and so comically that it seemed a little stomach churning.

What really was infuriating was reading one article in which the writers of the show dared to say that the made the kid the killer "because it's never been done before."

BALDERDASH!  They got this kid-as-killer from Glenn Close's 2017 film "Crooked House" (great movie BTW) ... the same Glenn Close that the same writers in the same article said they desperate wanted (and finally got) as a cameo in the final scene of the last episode.  So, a) they are fans of Close, ergo b) they would have been familiar with her work, including a movie with child-as-killer, and c) so they can NOT say that they did this because "it's never been done before"

What saddens me is the thought that the innocent-child-as-killer will soon become the next new trope in movies.  I mean, culturally speaking, we already have the complete breakdown of all norms, and children are committing loathsome murders because human beings are become more cruel, savage, and murderous as a whole, but I despair that now we are going to popularize yet another depravity.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.  Hey!  It's the new thing!  A nine year old murders Mommy because Mommy was pregnant and 9 didn't want a sibling.  HAHA!  That's SOOOO FUNNEEE!!!  TEE HEE!


It's fkn disgusting.

Terrible way to end the series, and if they were going to do that, at least they should have done it with the panache of Crooked House (which was extremely well-done).

And lastly, I have to say, that no matter if this becomes a new movie trope or not, no one will ever top Ray Bradbury's 1946 short story "The Small Assassin."  Now THERE'S a child-as-killer story that will stop your heart!


Friday, February 11, 2022

Overheard at Table 4: Rediscovering Bowie (Day 4)


23. Heathen (2002)

    Style: Art Pop

    Shapes up to be stronger than Hours, but still lackluster compared to Earthling.  Toward the 3/4 mark, it seems evident that we are missing the utter ferocious joy of the early 70s, and they won't ever return.  But this makes for a nice background music, but not something that invites deep exploration.

    Best Cuts: Took a Trip on a Gemini Spacecraft, A Better Future, Wood Jackson, Baby Loves that Way

    And again... the bonus tracks are the best cuts from the album.  I mean, seriously!  This makes what? four albums now?  or five?  What was Bowie doing in the post 70s albums?  It's like he was suddenly afraid to take any real risks (except for perhaps 1. Outside)

    Boggles the Mind

24. Reality (2003)

    Style: Art Pop

    Seems more upbeat and tight than Heathen, but a little uneven.

    Best Cuts: Pablo Picasso, The Loneliest Guy, She'll Drive the Big Car, Waterloo Sunset, Love Missile F1-11

    See the pattern here?  (best songs are the bonus tracks on subsequent re-releases)

25. The Next Day (2013)

    Style: Art Rock

    Starts off with a blistering title track, the other tracks seem to show a more easy, relaxed feel, as though he is finally making music that he just wanted to kick back and make.  Even the discordant "Valentine's Day" seems like he's saying, "Here, I can make a song like straight off of Ziggy, just cuz I want to, here ya go!"

    Seems like he's cycling through all his experimental phases and distilling them into solid songs.  Even though they may not flow through to each other, this album seems like a sort of internal review of his lifetime body of work.

    Knowing that by this time, Bowie was in his 60s, I just get the vision of him wandering around his studio home in New York, the mix of this album playing throughout every room, he and Iman just sipping wine and him comfortably knowing that all his early struggles were over and behind him - the constant touring, the fighting with bands, the fighting with music industry who wanted "the next Bowie hit," his own addictions, and just being satisfied knowing that he has survived all that, and life ... is fucking good.   [This paragraph I wrote while listening to "Boss of Me"]

    Best Cuts: Love is Lost, I'd Rather Be High, Boss of Me, Dancing Out in Space, Atomica, Plan, Like a Rocket Man

    As with so many others, the outtakes are still the best: for example, "Like a Rocket Man," which would have fit perfectly all the way back on his 1967 eponymous album.  That causes me to revisit my dream that his first album should have been completely re-recorded with the tech of the later decades (like the 90s).

26. Blackstar (2016)

    Style: Electronica

    Hard to critique an icon's swan song.  I mean, this is the last full album released by one of the world's most famous and beloved musicians and then the man dies two days later.  So, at least for this fan, objectivity is out the window.

    That said, this experimental little beauty rings like a soul singing from inside The Machine.  In other words, it sounds like the blend of man and machine.  When I think of Bowie's penchant to create personas/characters for his performances, I like to think that Blackstar is Bowie's way of going into one more character, that of a man who has wholly merged with music - not just with the sound of the music, but also with all the electronics and instrumentation that comprises music.  As though, he has become Music itself.

    ... and, in this way, he has conquered Death.  Knowing that he was going to die while shooting the videos for these songs, it was as though, by becoming Music, he could achieve immortality.

    And that's why I can't give an honest critique of Blackstar.   Maybe I will be able to when I get closer to 70.  We'll see then.

    Best Cuts: Blackstar, Dollar Days

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Overheard at Table 3: Rediscovering Bowie (Day 3)


17. Never Let Me Down - 1987

    Style: Synth Pop

    At first, sounds like most of the synth pop of the time, stylized, polished.  However, after only just three songs in, I noticed that I didn't really like how each song started, but that they seemed better toward the middle sections.  For synth pop, these tunes are very well done.

This album, even though panned as badly as Tonight, actually out-performs Tonight.  Seems stronger, more cohesive.

    Best cuts: Day-in Day-Out, Shining Star (Making my Love), '87 and Cry

18. Black Tie, White Noise - 1993

    Style: Adult Contemporary

    Seems like he's in fine form, vocal-wise, and the production is slick and solid, but there's really nothing here to cause any great sense of passion.  The two instrumentals are interesting though, and I find by this time that I wish he'd done a lot more instrumentals with saxophone, because those seem to be the songs where he really seems to let his hair down.  

    Final track "The Wedding Song" reminds me a bit of George Michael's album "Listen Without Prejudice Vol 1" - yet the Michael album was so much better.  Can't really express it, but I'd have to say it's probably passion and honesty.  Bowie could have really done well by getting the same straight-up passion that is so evident on the albums from 1969 through 1974.

    Best Cuts: The Wedding (Instrumental track 1), I Feel Free (Cream cover), Looking for Lester, The Wedding (Vocal final track) ... and also, tracks that were cut from the original release are some of the best: "Lucy Can't Dance" has that same sort of energy and passion that is lacking in the rest of the album.  Same goes for "Real Cool World"

19. Buddha of Suburbia - 1993

    Style: Synth heavy

    While I gotta appreciate Bowie's ability to go into the studio for a month and churn out an album (most people fret over theirs for years!), still, when his product is lackluster, it shows.  Title track is unlistenable. blech!  - 

t2 is good, but should be edited, t3 is a nice little instrumental - supporting my theory about his sax playing.  T5 also good ...

    boy was I wrong to start that first paragraph!  By the end of this album, I was amazed.  What a dreamscape.  I don't know what other reviewers heard to hate on this album so much, but the one I heard was great ... solid, interesting, entertaining, ethereal. 

    Most likely, the other reviewers never got through track 1.  If I had only heard that and not the full album, I would have said it was shite as well...

    Best Cuts: Sex and the Church, South Horizon, and pretty much everything after, especially Dead Against It and Untitled No. 1

20. 1. Outside (1995) 

    Style: Ambient/Experimental

    Anything that has Brian Eno associated with it certainly piques my interest.  Also, I was thinking that what Bowie needed by this time was to get back to a character that he could roam around in.  Like Ziggy, etc, a persona that he could inhabit, wear like a comfortable suit, and express himself in new ways.

    Gotta admit, the first view tracks are not really impressive (tks 2,3,4)

    The segue into "Hallo Spaceboy" and subsequent songs are quite nice.  Getting into the groove.  

    Best Cuts: No Control, Hallo Spaceboy, the segues.

21. Earthling (1997)

    First track is promising, second track even better,

    Reviews smacked this album for being just more of the same sound so prevalent in the 90s (i.e. Industrial/Grunge/with heavy drums), but seriously, Bowie frikkin' mastered the sound on this album.  Sure, he may not have been ahead of the game (this was '97), but he certainly cracked it.

    Best Cuts: Battle for Britain (The Letter), The Last Thing You Should Do, I'm Afraid of Americans, Law (Earthlings on Fire)


22. Hours (1999)

    Different sound from Earthling.  First two songs forgettable.  t3 shows promise, but doesn't really venture into any new territory.  t4 meh

    "Seven" does sound like it could come from Hunky Dory or the 1969 eponymous

    and... yet again, songs like "We All Go Through" ... why not released?  Also "1917" and "We Shall Go to Town"

    Best Cuts: Seven, What's Really Happening, The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell, Brilliant Adventure



Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Overheard at Table 2: Comedy Sketchbook "Winter Freeze"

Scene: a state governor's office.  A governor, in a wheelchair, surrounded by a few advisors.

Governor: OK, guys, we got this winter freeze coming up on Thursday.  Is the grid ready?

Advisor 1: It's ready as it'll ever be.

Governor: 'Cuz you remember what happened last year?  This state isn't usually prepared for a winter blast.  We got slammed by negative opinion polls.  That's not gonna happen again.

Advisor 2: Not gonna happen.  ERCOT has teams ready.

Governor: Goddammit man, I don't give a shit about ERCOT.  I'm talking the spin doctors.  I'm talking if 10 million homes don't have power, we can blame the windfarms or the providers, and if no one's power goes out, THIS OFFICE can take all the credit.

Advisor 3: Yes, sir.  We got everyone ready to push the message out, minute by minute, as the weather happens ... or doesn't happen.

Governor:  Now THAT's what I wanna hear!  [Governor begins to wheel himself toward a side door].  I'm gonna be in my room.  Someone send in that new intern.  She's 21, right?

Advisor 3: I believe she is, sir.

Governor: You mean you made damn sure she is, right?  Background check?

Advisor 3: Yes, sir.  We verified her age.

Governor: Good.  I don't wanna end up Gaetzed, if you know what I mean.

[Governor leaves the room.  The Advisors look at each other.]

Advisor 1: OK, let's get to work.

[Advisor 2 starts to make a call]

[Scene ends]