Archive for June, 2010

The Last Chips of Allison Rose

June 27, 2010

It was almost 1:30 AM and the casino was nearly empty. I was the only one of the staff other than the manager who hadn’t been sent home for the night, and my only hand was dealing blackjack to a woman who had been coming nearly every night of this cruise. I knew her name was Allison, and she knew that mine was Jeremy. Jeremy Harding, if you’re curious.

She was like any other guest who spent any noticeable amount of time in the casino, which meant that she tended to talk about herself, drink a drop too much, and usually managed to make a mess or a nuisance of herself in some way at least once during the course of the evening. Her latest feat was spilling a drink on one of the blackjack tables, which we promptly had to close. She wasn’t what I would consider drunk at the time it happened, and it was merely an accidental wave of the arm that anyone, even myself, could have committed. But it was she who did it, and it was not much of a surprise.

From previous conversations I had learned that she lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, and that her daughter had just left for college. She said that she was unused to being in an empty house, and from both the fact that she mentioned it at all and the way she said it I gathered that she was divorced or a widow. I mention the second possibility only to be fair, but I personally have no doubt that she was divorced. Within the year, if you wanted me to make an exact guess. We don’t get widows on this ship until they are in their 60’s–late 50’s at the earliest. By my estimation she was just a hair past 45, and while I don’t reckon that I have any great skill with guessing ages, I have picked up the habit of studying faces, gestures, and generational colloquialisms which defy a woman’s desire for her vintage to remain ambiguous. Looking at people from the waist up for 10 hours a day will do that to you.

Our cheapest blackjack tables have a $25 minimum bet, but no one who comes on this ship wants to risk looking cheap, so nearly everyone plays at least $50-$100 per hand. She was no different in that respect, and while she occasionally wandered over to the craps table, or managed a few half-hearted pulls on one of the slot machines, she never stayed away from our semicircles of chance for long. She sometimes changed tables, but her reasons for doing so were known only to her. She was never very lucky with any one dealer for even a brief length of time, so she can’t have been chasing a talisman. She did not appear superstitious, unlike so many of our guests.

She suffered from what I and my colleagues describe as the slow death, in that her losing was a long and drawn out, but inevitable, affair that tended to last the course of three or four hours, depending on what point in the evening she arrived. She was often the last to leave the casino, but never the first. Each night she would pull around two or three thousand out of her small black handbag, and play until that she had run through that. She never pulled out more money in the same night, but she always came back the next with cash.  I wouldn’t venture a guess how she was funded.
Unlike any passenger that I have ever come across, Allison did not put on any weight during the course of the cruise. How could I know that she never once ate in public? Not so much as a cup of coffee, not a single visit to a buffet, not a single night in the dining room sitting opposite a charming 63 year old dance host who had been specifically provided by the ship for her dancing and conversational enjoyment. Not a single bite was she seen to take.

I never knew that the room stewardesses that had been assigned to her room, noon and night, had begun making conversation regarding this odd ghost of a lady. They took notice of her infrequent but precise room service requests, which required one brief phone call per day , delivered in a slow, slightly rasping voice. Three slices of pineapple, one fudge brownie (with nuts), one glass of Moét champagne. One club sandwich (three bites), no french fries, one whisky sour, one orange, dish of black olives (three eaten). One peach, one heineken. Cup of Earl Grey tea with lemon, (untouched).

I never knew that her stewardess was nearly in tears from trying to figure out when she should try and make up the room. Eventually the poor girl’s supervisor instructed her to wait until it was dark and the casino was open, and enter when no one responded to her gentle knock upon the stateroom door. I never knew that Allison left her stewardess a nice tip, despite the constant untidiness of the room. She often asked for more shampoo and extra towels via a note left on the dresser, but those meagre requests were the only communication they ever received from her. She would smile faintly but warmly as she passed them in the halls, on the few times it happened.

I never knew that she could not afford to be on this cruise. Not for even one night, much less eleven, not ever, not on this ship or any other. I had no idea that she found her husband in bed with his boss (the modern workforce in motion), and that she had not been lucky in the settlement. Her lawyer could not give her what he had promised, while her husband’s solicitor was more than capable in such a match.

I never knew she used 4 credit cards, all now over limit and already beginning to leave messages on home phone, to purchase this cruise, and that the cash she used each night had been secretly withdrawn from her daughter’s bank account, which she had helped her open when she was a minor and needed a parent to sign for. I never knew that the missing cash made itself known (or unknown, as it were), when the budding biology major went to purchase textbooks for the next semester and found her card swiftly retained by the cashier. I would never know the bitter phone call that would follow, and that another person would leave Allison’s life for good. She often laughed when she lost a hand that should have gone her way.
I never knew she wanted to jump across the table and shake me in my cheap maroon vest, to shout in my face that she deserved a better life than this, and that I am a worthless pathetic fuck to sit there with that smile across my face. I never knew that she wanted someone to tell her why she didn’t deserve this, why she shouldn’t have this instead of someone else. I never knew that she died every time one of these ageing trust fund inbred society bitches raked in their meaningless winnings as if they were coupons, cut from the Sunday paper.

I never knew what she wanted. I don’t think she knew herself. An answer, for starters, to the questions that were never asked, but screamed at me every night with blue eyes that seemed as calm as the sea. I dealt the cards, and took her money, and tried to smile. I was never good with jokes, so I never made any.

I never knew she went to her cabin and downed a copious mix of sleeping pills and tranquillisers with shots of vodka (bought at airport, hidden from stewardess), and slept until she roused and shuffled her body into the shower the following day, usually at dusk. She never once bothered to stand on her veranda and watch the sun set. It never crossed her mind, but I wished it had.

She placed her final three chips on the table, and I drew the hand. She stood on eighteen, (pair of nines, heart & spade). I drew a three card twenty. She looked at the cards for a moment. They lay there, perfectly grotesque in their awkward combination of ten, three, seven. A muffled sound escaped her throat. She gave a false laugh of inadequate strength. She made some small parting talk. She shook my hand and told me what a pleasure it had been, managing to thank me and stand to leave and walk out the door all without ever looking into my eyes. I never knew her last name, (It was Rose).

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Fame ‘n Name ‘n Shame

June 26, 2010

Let’s be honest: if you’re in a band or the music industry or, really, any other creative field where putting yourself and your ideas up for public and critical judgement is kinda part of the deal, then sooner or later you are gonna come up against someone who doesn’t like your stuff, whatever your “stuff” might be.  Hopefully, you’ll also run into some people and outlets that do like your stuff, and in the end it will either even out or quite possibly you will have established global artistic domination in conjunction with a totalitarian regime which vaccinates you against any and all chance of criticism.

This post is not to bitch about a bad review.  Not even a really bad review.  Nor are we here to gloat about some good press or even some really good press. Not even to share some pretty special mother flippin’ news. In the end, they are only opinions, and the negative ones are just as important as the positive.  No, this evening I felt the urge to try and expose, in my own way, a growing cancer of the online music world.  Namely, people and sites that actively seek you out and request your music, and then fail to review or even further acknowledge you or your music.  Maybe it doesn’t seem like much to you, but it’s just plain rude for someone to ask you to take the time to send out a CD and press kit (losing money, mind you), and then going to the post office  on sending it overseas (wasting even more money).  All to be ignored.

We’re used to being ignored.  That is hardly the issue.  If I send you an unsolicited email, no matter how finely or humbly written, I do not nor should I expect a reply from you.  If I do happen to hear back from you then I consider it a victory, however minor.  Even if you told me in gracious or hate-filled language that you weren’t interested, that would at least be a response, and one that I didn’t even deserve.  It’s rather like trying to pick up a date at a bar.  I have no right to expect anything from you, I’m just trying to get laid.

BUT, if you come up to me & whisper sweet nothings in my ear, give me your phone number, slip me your room key, and tell me to meet you in, say, 6-10 days, I DO have a right to expect something.  Namely, a review.  It implies that you are familiar enough with our music to want to hear more of it, in a concrete & permanent form.  God knows you must have come across us somehow, most likely one of the thousand of free music sites.   OR, you were just sending out random emails and took just enough time to put my name or the band name to make it sound personal.  Either way, that’s just low.

I think it’s laughable and naive of me to even mention “journalism” and “ethics” in today’s online music world of blog rock.  From what I can tell, the reviewers are really more computer and social networking geeks for whom music is a very big part of their background noise, but not something they have ever thought about in an objective or professional sense.  Truth be told, that’s probably good in many ways that the traditional gate-keepers have been side-stepped.  It’s certainly helped us more than it has hurt.  It is democracy with anarchic overtones, and I like it.

With all that being said, I’d really just like to use the power of the internet to crap on two sites that have shown a complete lack of integrity.  Not professional integrity mind you, just simple respect.  They are…

Leicester Bangs — I guess it’s good that they didn’t review us.  It’s a really bland site, but I didn’t mind that when they contacted me.  In fact, it’s usually on sites this bad that you’ll get some really glowing reviews (and they’re highly likely to WAY over do it).  Rude Pommie C—-s is what they are, and I wish I didn’t waste the international postage to find that useless fact out.  Ergo, don’t bloody write me and tell me you need a copy of the CD in the first place.

Ohh! So Famous! — This was just a waste of time.  Everything on this site says either “remix” or “breakcore”, so what the F–K was this doucher wanting our music for?  He didn’t even put us on a  list of “lame acts for the week”.  A real head scratcher.  The last time I checked up on the site, he had made the comment that “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” featured Leo’s WORST acting.  Huh?  Oh wait, you’re really a 12 year-old girl trapped inside a 23 year old male’s body.  Now it makes sense.  Once again, DON’T WASTE OUR TIME.  We didn’t ask you to contact us, and we wouldn’t have sent anything in the first place, but you asked and we did, so that makes you a certified dickhead.  That stat may or may not be a scientific fact.

If this is the new paradigm, then so be it.  I don’t mind at all, and in fact I rather like the populist and plebeian nature of the whole enterprise.  It means that music is getting highly personal, and the steps between you and the listener, reviewer, DJ, VJ, or label boss are almost non-existent.  This music revolution does not mean that you can start ACTING LIKE ROCK STARS and being dickheads.  If you take the time to ask, then make sure you mean it.

I am outta here, but feel somewhat lighter.  Must have been all my rock-squats….I’m toning up, you’ll see….

The Unexpected Guest

June 26, 2010

The Unexpected Guest

I.
How does one begin to speak of things that are but not begun?
How does one make stories from single moments?
What if those moments are an end?
How do I apologize?

To whom the salutation? What person, what voice, what tense?
How to find the stranger who was meant to be a guest?

II.
state all facts, known values, etc…
calculate, add variables
list possible outcomes according to their logical strength
at bottom those without
at top those within.

proceed hence.

data reads:

>you came

>you left

end.

–the matter admits of no explaination–

III.
Questions lie at facts’ end.
“What if, what if, what if?”
…ad et ex infinitum.

Silent footsteps…standing same.
In wait of a reception
(or some welcoming gesture)
but neither came and never would.

It’s not supposed to, but it does
now & then, somehow, to some;
and guests, despite possessing an invitation
find themselves to their hosts unintroduced.

In the end we acted in the least disruptive coarse
bodies slipping past the other, nearly but not quite a touch
…then you were gone for good.

A question borne in place, instead
for as long as we both shall live

IV.

Nodding both to hope and fear,
our attempt bears
two certainties inside a vessel
simply designed,
saturate adjacent chambers.

Until that day, be it never
rest in peace
and please forgive us.

V.
-epilogue-
This bastard ink concotion failed to survive its own birth
I survey in terms of damage done
In place of….
an empty vault stands instead.
More than hollow by the worth of what’s contained within.

I have made one long excuse
and am long filled with dread.
It does not one speck of good
but rather, only makes it worse.

26/6/2010
m.j.s.

A blog about blogs….part I

June 25, 2010

Bonjour!  G’day…..

That’s enough of that. I’m merely stretching my nearly non-existent international tongue and that’s as far as I got.

I have just returned from a reasonably lengthy time on the road and in the studio, and during the countless idle hours I collected a few ideas and notions that seemed at least marginally worth sharing.  Since I have some free time on my hands at long last I thought I might as well get down to it instead of putting it off and into the never-ending and ever growing list of “things to do”.  I looked at the list recently, and it includes such helpful notes as “write a hit song”, “write a frantic song in 6/4”, “re-write lyrics to ‘Flowers Return'”, “Love & Distance” (what the ?????), all scattered amongst set lists, laundry lists, & grocery lists.

I don’t know why, but I had the notion of sharing some of the blogs that I keep my eye on , for reasons entirely my own.  For starters, I must disclaim that I universally HATE 99.9% of music blogs.  I’m sure they were quite nice at some point, and maybe some still are.  But I want my blogs to be like an old fashioned fan ‘zine, not some rolling press machine.  Maybe I’m scarred from the countless hours spent and words shed on behalf of my band, or maybe I’ve been jaded because I noticed that they’re all talking about the same thing. Maybe I really don’t like music after all and am in denial. The only music blogs I DO like tend to be both highly personal and hype-free.  You can tell when someone is doing it alone and really likes their music with passion and individual taste versus blogs that have a clever title and a group of clever contributors and ads and writing that spews cynicism, bad jokes, shallow irony, and complete lack of imagination.  In my head there is a music blog pyramid where all the too-trendy music news starts with Pitchfork and repeats itself in an exponentially diminishing fashion until you just can’t care anymore, assuming you even wanted to in the first place.

However, in my search for blogs to contact I have found a few that I keep close to my heart.  The first is The Devil Has The Best Tuna.  I won’t divulge the author’s real name (not that it’s a big secret), but The Devil has a few things that endear him to me.  The first is that he rarely, if ever, features bands that are making the headlines, instead digging amongst the trenches in a slow and steady manner to bring new bands out to meet the public.  I don’t know what his readership is, but I imagine the numbers to be above average.  Like a librarian, he has a kindly habit of making honest and insightful comparisons & contrasts to better known bands, but not in a condescending or “I figured YOU guys out” way.  It seems to be driven from a listener’s perspective instead of the musical snobbery that is the norm.  Check it out and find some new music, sans hype.

It was during one of those eye dulling and spirit destroying trolling sessions in the middle of the night that I happened to stumble upon A Sweet Unrest, and it was like finding an blessed Irish glade in the middle of Times Square.  There’s something calming about this site, for reasons I can’t entirely explain.  The author shares her thoughts on a mix of music, poetry, & literature that follows her own whimsy like a leaf in the breeze, and that is a relief and rarity.  No hype and no agenda other than the sharing of small pieces that enrich her own world.  I was so surprised when I found the site that I filed it under my “literature” bookmarks instead of my normal “music blogs”.  It’s oddly pleasing to know that poetry lives on and touches people outside of academia, which is where it seems to have been trapped for the last 30 or so years.  That and poetry slams.  Check out the site and breathe for a moment.  It’s like yoga, but no one has to watch you doing it.

I find it hard to keep track of the world without finding myself wrapped up and caring about it.  I’m trying to cultivate a healthy curiosity about world news and politics, and perhaps the biggest asset that I have going for me is that I live in Australia and am no longer immersed in the world of U.S. news bytes.  I can filter things out as much as I like.  With that in mind, I have stumbled upon Unreasonable Faith.  Although it is an atheist blog, it is curious in that it was started by a former evangelical Christian, so there is a fair amount of social commentary along with the occasional political excursion.  It’s not a hard-core atheist site, so it tends to be about exposing idiocy and injustice.  It is also incredibly funny, so maybe I should confess and say that it speaks a language that I can understand.

This isn’t ALL I look at, but it’s not far from it.  Everything else is too common or repetitive for my tastes, but that’s not to say there aren’t heaps of good ones.  It’s just that I don’t care and don’t have the time to keep track of anything else.  Sometimes I’ll visit the New York Times online, but that’s not worth mentioning.

In case you need a laugh, I will leave you with Christian Nightmares.

I had more to share, but I can’t bring myself to type at the moment…..so much for my thrust of “can-do” attitude.  More later, perhaps….