Friday, September 13, 2019

Albums That Made Me: Good Morning Spider

I don't remember how I first encountered Sparklehorse, though it was probably through or another internet site. I remember being put off by the name (one of my friends derisively called the band "Sparklepony") but there's a lot about Sparklehorse that's off-putting by design. Mark Linkous's modus operandi was writing pop songs and then fucking them up with lots of distortion and cheap keyboards. Take Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man: a great alt-rocker is more or less ruined by static simulating a radio station going in and out of range. Ghost of His Smile is another catchy tune coated in Linkous's signature sound. The whole album made me rethink presentation and quality. You don't need a three-thousand dollar keyboard to make great music; some of Linkous's favorite gear was stuff he found in the trash. Linkous committed suicide a couple years ago, which makes me very sad. He only released four albums, with the last one being a collaboration with Danger Mouse (is that guy still around?) and all are worth listening to, but Good Morning Spider is his best. All tracks are excellent, including the bizarre rocker Pig, the pop song Sick of Goodbyes, and the noise rock of Cruel Sun. My own approach to recording my vocals was influenced by Sparklehorse; like Linkous, I don't particularly like the sound of my voice, so I often distort my recordings. On my Soundcloud page, the song Cossacks probably owes the most to Sparklehorse, with its cheap drum beat and weird vocals. Some influences run deeper than appearances, however, for Sparklehorse is still one of my favorite artists.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Albums That Influenced Me: Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine probably isn't a band you'd figure influenced Theme Park Mistress, at least based on my Soundcloud page. None of the fifty-eight tracks available display fiery political raps or funk-metal riffing. Nevertheless, that debut album taught me how to play guitar. Tom Morello's unconventional guitar solos were cool, but his heavy single line riffs (played, somewhat surprisingly, on a telecaster) formed the meat of Rage's songs. From Bombtrack to Killing in the Name to Wake Up, Morello teaches a master's class on how to write catchy riffs. Most of these are written in E or drop-D, since Rage pretty much exclusively recorded in the keys of E, D, and A, prompting one friend of mine to complain that all their songs sounded the same. He had a point--AC/DC also had a fondness for the same three keys--but this is rock music, not opera. Simplicity has been built into the medium since Chuck Berry utilized the I-IV-V chord progression. As for the politics of this album, at the time I didn't really care or even know what Zack de la Rocha was talking about, even if I liked the delivery. Rap-Metal was an unholy fusion that resulted in some really bad music, but the fact the de la Rocha wasn't a white boy wearing a backwards baseball cap helped give Rage a level of authenticity that others of the same ilk lacked. And besides Faith No More, most of the the other nu-Metal rappers weren't influenced by the same bands as Rage--Korn and Limp Bizket's detuned sludge didn't evoke Public Enemy, Led Zeppelin, or MC5. So unlike their contemporaries, this album is still very listenable today, even if some of de la Rocha's political rants seem unfocused or random. Personally, I think it's a great album to pump iron to, which would probably make the band sick. Fun fact: I actually first bought this back in the day on cassette tape so I could listen to it out in the garage where I had my weight set.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

New Music: Heat Wave

Man this is an old song. It is possible that I wrote it ten years ago, at the tender age of twenty-four. It used to be a staple in the live version of Theme Park Mistress. This version was recorded with my stratocaster, giving it a snappy, percussive feel. I think I was playing Fallout 3 and reading The Road, and my thought at the time was "why not write a bunch of nuclear wasteland-themed songs?" I wrote about four and then lost interest.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Conan Brothers Q&A

Crippled&Miffled asks "How do you still train while injured?"

Dave: You train what doesn't hurt.

Arnold: My SI joint is giving me trouble right now on my left side, which means no heavy squatting. But I can still deadlift and do bodybuilding stuff like dumbbell split squats and leg extensions.

Dave: You won't lose your muscle mass.

Arnold: A lower body injury is a good excuse to really focus on your pressing and upper body. Bench day every day, in other words.

Dave: Upper body injuries are usually rare, excepting shoulder problems, and I find you can usually find a pressing angle that doesn't hurt.

Arnold: So yes, there is no reason not to train while injured. Injuries are to be expected. They are a consequence of training hard. You shouldn't endeavor to become injured, of course, but it's sort of a badge of honor.

Dave: Yes, limping around like a moron is a badge of honor.

Arnold: That's enough from you.


PoliticsBeforeAlcoholics asks "Who do you guys want to win the Democratic nomination?"

Dave: How dare you assume we're voting Democratic.

Arnold: Well, it's not like we could vote for an orange tub of blubbery dough even if we were racist and stupid.

Dave: I like Sanders or Warren. Might as well vote for someone that want to usher in some actual change.

Arnold: But what about electability, Dave! Isn't Joe Biden the only one who can save us?

Dave: Let's pin the future of our nation on another old-ass baby boomer.

Arnold: Sanders and Warren are both in their seventies.

Dave: But Uncle Joe just wants to return to the pre-Trump world. I don't think there's any coming back.

Arnold: You think someone will succeed the moron king if he loses? Take the mantle of authoritarianism and do some more damage?

Dave: That's the question, isn't it. What happens to the Republican Party sans Trump?

Arnold: We're getting ahead of ourselves, Dave. He could still win.

Dave: I think people overestimate his chances. He might have solidified his base, but his base has shrunk. I'm not saying the Electoral College couldn't fall his way again, but I don't think he'll get all the breaks that he did in 2016.

Arnold: Fucking emails, Dave.

Dave: I hate computers.


GetGood asks "What have you been playing lately?"

Dave: Besides the old skin flute? Well...

Arnold: Prey: Mooncrash which is awesome.

Dave: What Remains of Edith Finch. Man, that's some interesting storytelling.

Arnold: I didn't like playing as a baby drowning in a bathtub.

Dave: What about a shark ragdolling down a hill?

Arnold: The sequence with a guy in the cannery is amazing.

Dave: It's a game about the inevitability of death. I enjoyed it immensely.

Arnold: I always have a soft spot for walking simulators.

Dave: It's certainly the best one I've played.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

It's Hard to Get Anything Done besides Cleaning up Poo-poo

I google "baby" and this is one of the first images to pop up. WTF?

Well hello there. I see you were about to work on the computer for a bit. Before you do that, could you check my pants? I seem to have pooped them yet again.

Oh so you're disgusted. How do you think it feels to constantly have a stream of liquid waste flowing from your anus to collect in a diaper against your sensitive skin? All I can do is kick my arms and legs, asshole. If I could change my diaper, I would, believe you me.

Of course I'm going to occupy the majority of your time. I don't know why you would think otherwise. Mother carried me in her body for nine months; substantial resources were invested in my conception, rendering me rather important, so why shouldn't I be the focus of all your attention? Do you want me to turn out like the neighborhood hoodlums, smoking cigarettes on park steps, peppering my vocabulary with choice curses and slang? Then get off your ass and pick my ass up. I wish to be held. It soothes me.

If you could drag yourself away from the computer for a minute, would it be too much trouble to make sure that my brother does not wack me in the cranium with a dinosaur? I'd appreciate it. As I mentioned, you've already invested quite a lot in me, so it seems rather foolish to let me fall prey to fratricide. I'm sure brother means well, but he also frequently resembles a rabid Tasmanian devil, so it would probably be best to keep an eye on him at all times. Jealousy and all, you know. I'm sure you can keep up with the video game news some other time.

I forgot to mention that I am hungry. I know it seem inconceivable that something so small could eat so much and so frequently, but hey, I'm a miracle, don't you know? You seem to forget that fact when I wake you up in the middle of the night for a feeding. I expect to see joy on your face, not weariness and sloth. Come on, wake up. I'm your boy here. Didn't you always want a family? Well too late for second thoughts.

You best get Mother while you are up. She seems somewhat more competent than you. She never forgets to Vaseline my bottom. You forget to match the right socks together, for chrissakes. I'm really starting to doubt that you're going to be a good role model. Look at brother. He's dancing on the dog right now as though the thing isn't alive and ill-natured. You'd better do something about that before it all ends in tears. But first change my pants. Then get me a bottle. Oh, and hold me in your arms and give me your full attention. Or I'm going to grunt as loudly as I can until I erupt in a wailing fit that only Mother can soothe.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Diary of Mitch R. Singer

In the midnight hour

My eyes open and I awake. A snuffling is heard, a grunting that shares much in common with the vocalizations of a pig. Quietly, I get out of bed and move through the darkness to the nursery. There he lies, moving his legs and thrashing his arms, wrestling with inner demons and the soggy nature of his diaper. What will he become? I wonder. Politician, musician, garbage man? There is a long line of custodians in the Singer family. We do well near sewers or power plants. Waste is part of our lives, and we've never shied way from that fact. Somehow, I do not think the broom will be in his future. I lovingly caress his hooves and take him into my arms. The snuffling ceases, replaced by a deep, guttural purring.

After the midnight hour

Again my son's crying tears me awake. Sleeplessness is a peculiar kind of hell, a type of altered consciousness that pulls on your bones and rattles your memory. I've lived this hell before; in fact, I will live it again, a million more times until the sun supernovas and the rocky shell we call earth incinerates. Children are part of the natural cycle, hooves and all. Sometimes they come out hirsute, little bears waiting for open arms. Other times they come out with scales and gnashing teeth, hungry like prehistoric reptiles. I like my atavistic spawn. They remind me how far we have come and what we have left behind.

In the tender twilight

Goddamnit, why won't it sleep? Does it wish to crawl around in the darkness? Such is our natural aspect, yet the conventions of society demand we sleep during the night. I might wish to prowl the streets like a big cat, yet I must get my eight hours or I'll be incapable of performing my professional drudgery. Does the little beast not know who puts food into his mouth? Well technically the Spider-wife does, but I finance her staying at home to care for the brood! Somehow you remember and you forget. What a half-conscious existence we live.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Weightlifting: Back Injury Part Deux/365 Days of Brutality

All those empty cardboard boxes finally did him in.

I had a bad back injury that occurred late 2017 that set me back for about half a year, due mainly to my desire to return to squatting and deadlifting too soon. Several trips to the chiropractor and a lay-off from squatting and pulling helped get me back on track, and I've set a couple PRs this year, including squatting 360 lbs for five reps and deadlifting 390 for seven. About two weeks ago, I hurt my back while squatting a paltry 260 lbs. My lower spine felt a little weird before I worked out, but I kept on lifting, since it didn't really hurt, which was a big mistake. The next two weeks, I could barely move my lower back without pain. Abstaining from lower body training once again did the trick, but I guess two weeks wasn't enough. Yesterday, I did some light squats, and after a few warm up sets I felt my lower back painfully shift. Now I'm feeling that constant pain once more.The lesson here is not to rush back from injury. It pays off to be conservative. I haven't sworn off heavy lower body training forever, but I'm moving back to split squats and leg extensions for at least the next month. Time to embrace my inner bro and get those bench weights moving.

Powerlifter/Shit-stirrer Jamie Lewis of Chaos and Pain fame has released his so-called magnum opus entitled 365 Days of Brutality. It's fifty bucks for the ebook, which is crazy, but not really: 365 Days of Brutality is not so much a book as a collection of the training routines and peculiarities of some of the most interesting and accomplished people in strength training. I've been visiting Lewis's blog for years and consider it to be the best strength training resource on the net, despite the presence of some really gross porn and gore. I'm about halfway through, and the book's a more refined version of the blog, which makes it invaluable, really, if you're interesting in getting bigger and stronger. Click here to check it out.