October 31, 2006

Day VI

Got a late start -- all mail all the time

Music listened to:

"Little Playmate"

Miles Davis Quintet
1965 - 68
Disc 1

Astralwerks Collection

Elvis Presley
"The Lost Album"

Talk Talk
"Natural History"


# of tall kitchen garbage bags thrown away: 6

# of glass pop bottles recycled: 35

# of those still containing some liquid: 2

Weird find of the day: $25 gift card from Starbucks for posting an ad to
Monster.com for work.

Funny find of the day: I found out today that a neighbor's "Playboy"
magazine had been accidentally sent to me in August 2001. Contains
shots of a nude Belinda Carlisle.

Tomorrow has potential to be "interesting." I'll go over-and-through
one of (what I'm guessing is) a rat hotspot.

Quote of the Moment

"B1 - Well, I sure feel honored to be the first one to sign your
yearbook...I hate to mess up these neat clean pages...(I have this thing
about little dots...). Sir Bean's class was OK, I guess, although
sometimes a little BORE-ING! I'm really glad I got to know you through
good 'ole chemistry (And I *never* pulled A's in there!) and social
studies. I think you are one of the most together guys I've ever met; I
mean, you always seem like you've got everything so organized! Thanks
for going to Morp with me; even though we just got here, I *know* we'll
have a good time. I really can't say much more, cuz it's still too early
to write anything meaningful, know what I mean? Ask me to write some
more(?) like the last week of school, OK? I could probably say more
then cuz I'll know ya a little better, OK? Till then, Anne M." (sic)

-- Anne, in my junior year high school yearbook.

{This was our first date which also happened to be yearbook distribution
night. We ended up going out for about two years. Read while moving
my yearbook off my so organized sofa.}

Quote of the Moment

"First we played card games. Then we talked sex and pacts."

-- Written on a scrap of paper, in my hand, on the floor beneath my
dining room table. I have *no* idea what it means.

Rat Conversation with Bo3b†

A few days ago Bo3b and I were sharing a plate of smoked salmon at our
favorite fish restaurant. Our friendship, like all of my close friends,
relies heavily on story telling.

I take a sip of ice tea and start in, "So Bo3b, awhile back I came home
and there was this pop bottle top shredded in the middle of my hallway

He raises his hand, "You've got rats. You need to kill them all before
they destroy your place. Snap traps. Kill them." And he pops a chunk
of smoked salmon in his mouth.

So much for that story. No wonder I don't see him very much anymore.

†The "3" is silent.

Quote of the Moment

This note scribbled down on a piece of scrap paper from 1999 or so in
reference to the then-budding Internet (and newsgroups). I probably
wanted it as a reference for "geek radio" (sm) -- it's possible I even
used it. {The skeleton is still at www.geekradio.net if you want to
poke around, or google search against that site specifically.}

"If you're ready for a venture into poor taste and uninspired writing
masquerading on the cutting edge, dive right in."

-- Michael Levin, "Writer's Internet Source Book"

Day V

Music listened to today:

The Northwest Battle of the Bands, Volume 2
"Knock You Flat"
(Features Suttonhoo's dad on track 7. Too bad he wasn't the only person
who'd ever heard, "House of the Rising Sun," which he is blatantly
trying to knock off. Otherwise he might have made it. Then again, it's
too bad I never sired his grandchildren.)

"Pandora's Box," disc 1

(THIS is rat killing music. I should listen to nothing but KMFDM for
the next week, except I'm playing only found discs.)


# of tall kitchen trash bags thrown away: 6

# of CDs recovered from my dining table: 33

# of CDs recovered from the kitchen floor: 74

Amount of money found on my dining table: us$236

Amount of that that was in $2 bills: $220

Most telling item of the day: Quaker Oats box with an expiration date of
September 17, 1995.

Coolest found item of the day: 10,000 year old wolly mammoth hair.

Most unexplainable item of the day: A tube of personal lubricant --
Safeway house brand, no less -- with a crimp expiration date of 1995.
It was in a sack of audio cassette tapes that I'd brought back with me
when I moved back from England (1993). Wait! I just figured it out --
I used this under my wet suit when I swam from Alcatraz to keep from
chaffeing (you can't use vaseline or it'll eat the neoprene). Too funny
-- I had these images of my ex-wife getting all amped up to my "Mr.
Potato Head Turns 30!" audio tape. Wish I hadn't figured it out.

Unbelievably, the place actually looks worse now than when I started.
I'm playing a little bit of item Tetris by staging things on my couch
and "around" that will be moved further back into the apartment later.

One telling item today -- I'm pretty sure there was a bag with a couple
items from a fancy food show a few years ago that had been
"compromised." A bag of jelly beans and, get this, a bottle of beta
carotene had been removed and "transported" around two corners to a spot
about 15 feet away. Both appear to have been sampled, neither were
consumed in quantity.

For tomorrow I'll finish the first pass of the kitchen and dining area
and start in on the living room. Should get a ton of stuff done.

Rat count: nil

October 30, 2006

Rat Advice from B1-67er

I told my brother about my rat "situation." He's a hardcore cultivator of bonsai trees and imparted the following story to me:

My bonsai trees were being completely defoliated at an alarming rate, so I set out glue traps, not being sure what I would get.

Next morning, I go out and I've got one of my culprits: a wood rat. 'No problem,' I think, and set up a barrier of glue traps around my trees.

The next morning I go out and they've actually moved the glue traps to make a path, and have defoliated one of my trees.

I decide to up the stakes and go out and buy a snap trap.

The next morning I go out and sure enough, I've caught a wood rat. 'Great,' I think, and I set up a barrier of snap traps around my trees.

The next morning I go out and see that one of my trees has been defoliated. I look down, and there is a sprung snap trap, with all the bait eaten ... and in the trap itself? A branch gnawed off of the tree they defoliated.

This is very important: When you think of battling a rat, don't think 'rodent,' think 'monkey.'

An Open Letter to Mikkel

(mikkel -- this letter is a bit harder hitting than i'd like in light of mr. psychaiku's sudden rattling of the cage. but it took me quite awhile to form and i don't feel like re-writing it, especially with the clock ticking. thanks for your forced understanding, b1)

Dear Sir,

As we've talked about, both publicly and privately, you know I consider your site to be one of the best things on the Internet. My passion and enthusiasm for your Web site is unmatched relative to anything else in the 'blog world.

That's not to say that it is without its foibles.

If I had to pick one way in which the Äcres disappoints, it's in the general form of political writing (although I'm quick to admit that I don't care much for political discourse in general). And your worst subset of those are your pieces on the United States of America.

I feel like there would be something to learn from what you say, but your prose is so laced with sardonicism and innuendo that your message often gets lost because of the way you're trying to express it. Like a nanny on a playground, the shrill nature of your advisories only makes the kids more likely to ignore you (and ultimately get hit in the head by the merry-go-round).

Further, I get the impression that you write it, hit "Publish Post" and with smug self-assurance consider things to be somehow "done." But I don't see much else.

Let's face it, making fun of the American political system, especially when it comes to the general topic of foreign policy, is as easy as trying to hit a barn with a rock. You pick up a rock. You throw it at the barn. You hit it. You look at the dent. You laugh with your friends. But what have you proven?

In essence, what I see from you is a whole lot of talk, and very little action. And in that way, to me, you feel remarkably Swiss. You're better than that. You and I both know it.

Now I'm the first to admit that life is a busy thing, and if you throw yourself at any given cause or effort, there is none of you left to actually live. And everyone has complications -- your biggest is probably being on the verge of being a new Dad (congratulations on that, by the way).

So as to not fall into the all-talk-and-no-action crowd myself, I need to come up with an answer for you, right?

How about this ...

November 7, 2006 is a major US election. The even years in America are the biggies because the House of Representatives seats come open (determined by population size every two years) and this particular year is also a Senatorial seat (two per state, staggered, with six year terms) for the state of California. This is not a Presidential election year -- that will be 2008.

In my effort to help you make a difference, and to get a better understanding of the American system you seem so eager to criticize, I offering you a chance to cast my ballot.

My particular ballot is here.

Note this comes with a gigantic caveat: to take on this responsibility, you have to familiarize yourself with the issues and give me a real reason why you wish to cast every vote on the ballot. (Not casting a vote in any particular spot does not void the ballot.)

This isn't something I offer to you lightly.

I am 11th generation American. My surname anscestors were persecuted Quakers who fled England in the 17th century and immediately fell in cahoots with William Penn to establish a peaceful and unarmed form of liberty. The family lineage switched over to being Methodist (it was the way I was raised, but do not practice) and with the exception of my grandfather (WWI) and dad (Korea) we have remained human-rights, minimal-government (sometimes those two play against each other) pacifists.

My family political line has always been what is now best termed as Libertarian in the US (more "human rights" than the Republicans, less "social programs" than the Democrats), similar to the Liberal Democrats (not Labour) in the UK. I have two different uncles who have served on the US Supreme Court (those are lifetime appointments), one of them acting as Chief Justice and penning the first human rights comments for the court.

I have relatives (that I can actually name) who were beaten and tourtured, by their persective governments, merely so I could cast this vote in the upcoming election. We take voting, and especially understanding of the underlying issues, seriously. I always vote in all the major elections.

Now, technically, there may be "polling fraud" or somesuch associated with what I'm offering, so, just for the record to the world at large:

I have a great concern for the government of the United States where I currently live, vote and pay taxes. I'm also becoming more and more concerned about the influence this country is having on "foreign" governments -- especially in light of the willingness to openly violate the mandates of the United Nations and mobilize troops. To this end, I am asking a trusted representative of one of America's largest oil exporters his opinion on the upcoming election. It's advice which I may, or may not, take.

Thank you for your consideration and taking this in the spirit (if not the word) in which it was written. A tutorial follows if you're interested in following up on this.

I realize this goes beyond my "rat period" of writing, but I wanted to get this out now. I could put some weak similie in here, but I won't.

Best wishes to Sara and blessings for a healthy new addition,

Government cheat-sheet:

The United States is, technically, a federated republic. The "federal" government (US government) is responsible for the protection of its borders and trade. The "state" government (California in this case) is responsible for the moral care and well-being of its citizens (that's why you can't buy liquor on Sundays in Colorado, but can in California). The "county" government (Santa Clara in this case) mostly takes care of land partioning. The "city" government (also named Santa Clara, but it's smaller than the county) takes care of day-to-day running of the city.

Any given branch of the government can pass its powers down to one "below" it if they choose not to enforce an idea across-the-board. That's why prostitution is legal in some counties of Nevada (Pahrump), but not others (Las Vegas); or why you can't buy liquor in the very county Jack Daniel's is made in Tennessee.

The state of California is gigantic, holding 10% of the US population and is 1300km in length. The big industries (aside from typical finance stuff) are movies & television (LA), computers (here), shipping (San Diego and San Francisco), agriculture (everywhere -- earthquake zones are great fruit producers) and to a lesser extent the military. If the state of California were a country in its own right, it would be in the top 10 in the world as far as GNP/GDP goes.

The big issues for the state are immigration (a much hotter issue in the South than the North because of the Mexico border), water; and to a lesser extent health care and the environment. Earthquakes, fires and mudslides are the largest natural threats.

For purely statistical reasons, your vote holds more sway in the smaller political areas, less in the larger ones. So, technically, the city voting is more "important" than the state stuff.

I won't try to sway your opinion in any area except one. Much to the dismay (and probably to the outright denial) of most Democrats, Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing a very good job as governor.

In an unheard of event, Gray Davis, a world class spudnut, was recalled. He had many problems, but his largest in my eyes was he actually felt it was acceptable to put California on a system of "rolling brown outs" -- meaning that you'd lose your power on a predictable schedule (e.g. "Next Tuesday, from 14:00-18:00 you won't have power, sorry"). If you're a first world country, the idea of no power is unacceptable to begin with, but I live and work in the hub of the computer industry for the planet. A shortage like that is like not being able to get film stock in Hollywood, or steel in Detroit.

There was some huge deficit (I can't remember the exact amount) when he took office and Arnold claimed he would balance it without raising taxes. Amazingly, he did. The way he did it was going to the Indian Casinos within the state and asked them to voluntarily pay taxation on their gaming receipts. This is something they definitely did not have to do (Native American territories, technically, are sovreign nations and not part of the United States), and have never done anywhere in the country. Unbelievably, they agreed. It was a stroke of incredible brilliance, nerve and negotiating skill (and don't worry, by voting for him you aren't making the next President -- that person needs to be a natural born US Citizen, Arnie is Austrian by birth).

You probably haven't heard much about him since getting the governorship -- this is partially because the print and televised media in America has a decidely left bias. He hasn't been misstepping, so there's been no reason to put him in the news.

I don't watch television, so I have no idea how he's doing in the polls. I'd be surprised if he's not favored.

Oh, and since he's been the governor, we've had power the whole time.

Typically the government is more effiecient the closer it is to home. Unfortunately the Santa Clara city government is mildly corrupt, so it's not as good as it could be. Anything you can do to help torpedoe those coneheads is the right thing.

You can research any/all issues over the 'net. If there's anything in particular you want to know about, let me know and I'll help in any way I can. I can also put any of the ridiculous phone campaign messages on here, or scan any of the political junkmail I'm getting, if you'd like to see the current state of the political propaganda art.

October 29, 2006

Day IV

As predicted, nothing today.

Lots of cleaning tomorrow. Even more on Tuesday.

Rat Count: 0

October 28, 2006

Note to the Haiku Cafe, et al

As Mikkel has so accurately put it, you sir, are insane. And considering the times I'm in right now, that's precisely why I'm allowing all your comments through while weeding out others made to me in forms of support (including offers to be ridden like a bicycle).

There's a cure for the kind of madness you have, but it's fairly severe.


Day 2 Ratometer:

Nothing of consequence done today due to awkward timings of pre-war social functions. I did have two victories, however, both striking and significant:

1. I actually put my keys on the kitchen counter(!) and then didn't even have to look for them afterward(!!). First time I've been able to do that in six years.

2. This is the big big one: For the first time in a decade, I brought in my mail, took out the things I needed and filed them(!), and threw the rest away. All in the matter of three minutes. First time in at least a decade.


Probably won't get much done today and tomorrow, again due to social obligations. Expect fury next week.

October 27, 2006

Armed and Dangerous

I rode my exercise bicycle today for the first time in a couple of
years† and it put me in a part of my bedroom that I don't frequent.
While there I noticed some rat "signs" (a very few droppings and
something shredded that was green plastic) on top of a sweater on the

Now ...

That sweater has been in that general area for less than 2 years, which
in my geologic timeframe would definitely qualify as "recent," and that
exact spot for probably less than 2 months (I seem to remember moving
stuff there when I went fishing last Memorial day).

The droppings are still black, not grey (they change color over time) so
this is significant: not only are these the first true signs of a rat,

So I've upped the DefCon level one notch, and for the first time in
history, I have a live, baited rat snap trap in my place. I've put it
on an IRS envelope (of course -- likes attract likes) on top of the
existing stratum -- after "scenting" the envelope a bit first.

If that sucker goes off, it'll sound like an inner-city kid with his
first 38-special. I hope and pray that when it does I'm both in bed and
that there's a small spray of rat juice into the air. And you better
believe I'll take a big snort of victory.

As an aside, if betting line arise from this, and you can get anything
better than 2-to-1 that I'll actually trap myself by accident, that's a
good bet and you should take it.


†I quit exercising a couple of years ago, not out of laziness, but I
was seeing side-effects in the vision of my left eye -- when I'd hit an
aerobic level, my vision would noticeably darken. I quit because I
didn't want to antagonize the condition. Now I simply don't care.

(And to think, I said this would never be a blog about "things I did
today." It's no wonder I have rats.)

Day II

Day 1 Ratometer:

# of tall kitchen bags of trash thrown away: 4

# of boxes broken down and thrown away: 14

# of shirts found laundered and folded by the kitchen sink: 3

# of spice bottles thrown away: 25

# of CD's unearthed: 55

Coolest of those: "The James Bond Collection" 4 CD set

Gallons of juice in bottles thrown away: 4

Coolest found item of the day: Signed Frankie Laine "Hell Bent for
Leather!" album (includes the original version of "Rawhide")

Most telling item of the day: 1997 Yellow Pages on my kitchen floor

Music listened to while cleaning:
Big Joe Turner*, "Big Bad and Blue," Disc 1
(*wanted to listen to Ratt, "Ratt & Roll 8191," but, in what has to be a
case of foreshadowing, couldn't get the disc to play. Figured BJT had
probably both seen and killed rats in his life, so I played that

Quote from my travel journal to India while I was in Goa (this on my
dining room table):
March 27 - April 1, 1997
"The rest of the days here blur together like a watercolor in the rain
and that's okay because writing them down that way is more
representative of the way I felt during this time and avoids the endless
monotony of saying, 'Got up, ate breakfast, watched the ocean, ate
lunch, watched the ocean, ate dinner, watched the ocean, went to bed.'"

Mishap of the day: Broke the very first lightblub I changed.


The primary emphasis of my work for the next 3 or so days will be mail.
I'm taking the somewhat radical step of not keeping *anything* and
assuming all my financial records, as kept by the institutions, are
correct. The "proper" answer of filing and saving would be nightmarish
bordering on the impossible.

The first potential rat hot spot will come shortly thereafter -- the
bookcase in my living room. It's behind two boxes and several cases of
energy drinks.

Special K's New Bluetooth Handset -- Cupertino

I kid you not. Could be used to call an exterminator, por ejemplo.

Rat Haiku of the Moment

On a late-night walk
Raccoon scampers from storm drain
Thought you were a RAT

A Rat Story for You

As a freshman in college, I lived in the archetype (all-male) college
dorm. Striking with its Florentine towers and ivy covered walls.

Turns out that ivy was also a haven for rats. I never had a problem
with them, and only ever saw one feral on campus once, but a few of my
friends were up in arms about being repeatedly invaded by them (I have a
bit more empathy for their "situation" now than I did then).

Several complaints to the Chancellor's Office were answered in a
less-than-satisfactory manner, so they decided to take matters into
their own hands.

Somehow my pals were trapping rats live. Everytime they snagged one,
they'd put it in a large communal holding pen with food and water. Once
they got up to a couple dozen, they quit feeding them, but kept giving
them water. As you'd guess, in fairly short order, the rats began
killing, and eating, each other.

The rats were allowed to cannibalize until there were two left, at which
point the survivors were loose on the dormitory grounds. In a matter of
just a few days, the rat problem "went away."

Because, you see, once you've developed a taste for rat meat, and you
can go everywhere a they go, and you've learned how to kill them on the
hoof, well, it becomes your food of choice.

October 26, 2006

4 year Old Donut -- Santa Clara

Remarkably well preserved. Unbelievably hard.

Surprise of the Moment

Here's a tomato sauce can that's managed not only to have its product
eat through the bottom of the can, but also climb up the label.

That can was probably sitting on the shelf for 11 years. The only
reason I'm that far along is because I was looking for a spot to put my
peant butter/bait.

Day 1 Addendum

Forgot to say ...

Total number of rats seen, caught or heard since The Event: 0

Rat Haiku of the Moment

Lady on cell phone
Talks suggestively outside
"Hey girl, wanna RAT?"

Day I

The stage is set.

Glue traps:
1 along my sliding door blinds
3 in/around my "fireplace"
1 just outside my hallway
1 in hallway
1 in my bedroom

Snap traps -- all baited, but not set:
1 in my bedroom floor
1 in my bathroom
1 just outside the fireplace

2 boxes on patio

Normally I wouldn't use this much glue, but there may be mice about too
and that trap will work for both.

As part of the opening ceremonies, I've filled my 100oz "Kum & Go
huMUGous" (sic). That's right, more than 8 cans of soda in one blast.
A size so large they won't even look you in the eye when you are
standing in line holding it.

First thing I've done is buy replacement lightbulbs -- us$33 worth. If
light was a good enough start for the Judeo-Christian God, it's good
enough for me.

There's no telling what I'll unearth ... or throw away.

Already I've had offers from 2 women to help clean and 1 man to stuff
rats. If that doesn't say a lot about love, communal spirit, and the
difference between the sexes, I don't know what does.

October 24, 2006

A Pointless Letter for You

Dear Reader,

I've suspected I have a critter in and around my place for a little while now. Nothing overt, just an occasional little thing here or there. A couple of times I thought I heard rustling in the front room -- I go out and there's nothing.

Once after being gone for a week, there was a plastic screw top from a soda bottle that was shredded in the middle of the hallway. I looked closely at it, there were no teeth/claw marks of any kind, but the pieces weren't arranged in the pile out of a theoretical assembly order -- meaning it couldn't have been something I stepped on on the way out.

Another time I came into my place early in the morning and all the hair on my body just stood on end. It felt wrong. I thought, maybe maybe, that I could smell something just the tiniest bit "musty." I look around, nothing.

This brings us to last Saturday.

It's 01:00 and I've just drifted off to an early sleep. I'm exhausted and hit REM immediately. I'm dreaming I'm being held in a jail cell -- there's a person in the cell next to me that's trying to communicate by scratching on the wall. And somewhere, way back in the very most basal part of my brain, I realize this scratching sound isn't coming from my dream -- it's in my bedroom.

I wake up and sure enough there's a rustling on the far side of the room. I turn a light on, and sit up. It stops.

I wait. I wait. I look across the junkyard that is my bedroom floor. Nothing.

Then I think I see some movement out of the corner of my eye and when I look over, I see stopped and staring right at me, a rat.

A rat.

Not a mouse. A rat.

I'm shocked. Not only because, for the first time in my life I'm staring at a rat in a domicle that I live permanently in, but also because it doesn't look, "right." I expect a rat to be black and slimy and wet and repulsive. This one, however, is dark tan, with a white splotch on its chest. If rats could ever be considered "cuddly," this one would be top of the squeeze list.

We make eye contact for maybe a second tops and I make one of those subvocalizations like I do whenever I get dropped in a freefall from 500 feet and can feel my gonads retreating into my body cavity. "Hurhg."

That's when the unexpected happens: it leaps through the air, onto my bed, runs across it and rockets down the hall. It's doing this at a setting that is three notches above "fast." I've seen a lot of wildlife in my life and I have never seen anything move this fast. Not an antelope on the prairie, not a jackrabbit about to be mashed by a semi, not a mouse trying to make shelter before a hawk scoops it up. It's so fast in fact, that I find myself still physically looking at the spot where it was long after it's taken shelter in the front of my apartment.


Now what?

I was fortunate enough to have a scout master that had been a Green Beret in the Vietnam war. He was the lord-god-king of unshakeable. If I learned anything from that man, it was you can score super-hot chicks when you drive a GTO. If I learned anything else, it was the importance of having a cool head at times of extreme conflict -- it saved his life, it'll improve mine.

Calm. Calm. Calm.

Jesus. A rat. Right there.

Not only a rat, but some sort of genetic misfit that's both great looking and hideously fast. Probably a blood doper. Rats are capable of anything. Of all the rodents in the Silicon Valley (of which, at this very moment, I believe to be about 10 billion), I get the Flo-Jo of rats.

Calm. Calm. You're not being calm. Calm.

Right. Calm. Go go my happy place. My happy place, which by the way, has no rats.

What now?

It's a rat. We're actually even on the food chain. I'd gladly eat him (I assume it's a "he," because afterall, it's easier to hate male vermin) to be rid of 'im; he feels the same about me. I've got weight, height and reach advantage. He's got me on speed and agility. We've gotta be roughly the same in intelligence -- that's my penalty for watching The Brady Bunch during my formative years.

What now?

Lessee I know there's a rat in my apartment. I know I'm wearing only boxer briefs. I know that that verminous little bastard has just had a romp on my bed with me in it.

Gotta assess the situation. There may be a million of the little swine in my living room, just waiting to gang tackle me to the floor and then "have their way" with me.

One thing is clear: boxer briefs are not the right answer to this problem.

I throw on a robe that's thick enough that a wild elephant couldn't tusk through during a slow week of rutting season, put on a pair of neoprene shoes that would provide absolutely no protection of any kind, but look bitchin' (you've gotta look good to feel good), grab my Blackburn bicycle pump (with a lifetime guarantee against anything), and head to the living room.

There's an unbelievable gamey smell that's something close to a 10 hour old Big Mac that's been thrown back on the grill for reheating, only to be forgotten again. It takes a second before I realize that the smell isn't the rat, it's me. My body doing its best to find even footing with the little monster.

I hear him. He's moved back into my oh-so-stylish fake fireplace.

Go slow. Be careful. A cornered animal is nothing to fool with -- especially when its most noted ancestory managed to wipe out millions of mine with the plague.
I put my left hand on the fake spark arrestor of the fireplace and brandish the bike pump in my right. It occurs to me that if it wasn't for my shoes, I'd look pretty stupid right now.

I'll have to move quickly, because if I do this slow, I let him decide the next step at his own leisure.

I whip the curtain open.


No sound. No movement. No critter.

Okay, now the other side. My smell increases as I grab the curtain. This one's awkward because I have to open left-to-right with my left hand.

Pause. Pause. Be ready.



I turn off the lights in the living room and stand perfectly still for 15 minutes. Still nothing.

So ... what? Did it go up the fake chimney? Is that thing even open? And where did it come from? Did it sprint back past me as I went down the hall.


Oh great. Now what? It's 02:00 on a Saturday morning. Now what?

I go back to my bedroom in the too-telling silence. I'm going to lie down, go to sleep, and take care of this later in the morning.

I close my eyes for 15 seconds and realize there's no way I can sleep. No way. I've gotta do something now.

This is America. It's not like it's hopeless. You can get anything, any time of the day in America. It is the national strength. Maybe the only one, but it's there.

Think. Think think.

I know nothing about rats. I fire up the hiptop and browse the Web. I'm not even sure how you kill one, but I'm sure of this: that little bastard is going to die.

As I read I find my startled nature changing to raw hatred. Every bad thing that's ever happened to me in my life, every snotty thing a girlfriend ever said to me, every car that ever cut me off, every sales clerk that ever ignored me, every time I ordered a patty melt with cheddar cheese but they brought American -- they're all being focused between the eyes of that primitive little four legged bastard.

It becomes clear that the answer is rat traps. Like mouse traps with a glandular problem.

Okay, where?

24 hour shops. Where? Wal*mart. That's as low as common denominators get. And low common denominators will mean rat products. For sure.

I seem to remember Wal*mart having trouble with making profit from their 24 hour stores. No matter. There's six million people within a one hour drive from where my decay smelling carcass is sitting right this second.

Wal*mart Web site. They don't give store hours. Great. I'll call.

One. Nothing.

Two. Nothing.

Three. Nothing.

Four. Rings 10 times, "Hello, this is Wal*mart."

"Are you open?"

"No. We closed four hours ago."

"Is there a 24 hours store left in the Bay area?"

"Yeah. Union City."

Great. I'm not even going to call to see if they have rat traps because honestly I don't care. I need to get the hell out of this demonic Habitrail I live in. And even if they don't have rat traps, I'll come back here with a rubber tipped sledge or something and just start hammering the bejesus out of the place.

As I get out of my bed, I put my hand directly on top of my only pair of glasses -- I bend the frame severely enough that it pops a lens out.

And, mentally, I let go of that ledge some people call "sanity."


I grab my glasses, I force them crudely back into shape. All the while thinking about burning animals alive over a low flame.

Off goes the robe, on goes a sweat shirt and a pair of SWAT camoflague army fatigues. The bitchin' neoprene shoes stay.

What's that? You wanna know how a rat killer dresses? This is how they dress. I'm pissed. I'm way pissed. I grab my bicycle pump, stomp to the living room, and hammer on the fake fireplace and a few miscellaneous boxes a few times for good measure.

I'm beating a signal drum and this is what is says:

I'm leaving. I'll be gone for over an hour. When I come back, I will have things designed, very specifically, to kill you.

I drive to Union City Wal*mart. It's now 03:30 Saturday morning and the place is hoppin'. Three dozen clerks stocking items and maybe 150 customers. Mostly gangbangers, teenagers, and a class of citizen that thinks it's a good idea to have your kids at Wal*mart at this hour. Security here is armed and surly. The McDonald's in the store is 24 hours (and has customers in line).

I look spaced out, mildly retarded and suspiciously like the bridge I've been camping under has gone under re-construction. Which is to say, I fit right in.

I go up to a clerk, "Where are your ..." I can't say the word. I can't admit my shame to the public at large like this. Not when it's still this fresh. Especially when I look closer to "missing link" than to "human." "... mousetraps?"

Goddammit. A killer doesn't talk like this. A killer says, "Where're your fuckin' rat traps you bitch? What do you say me and you hit it over in a booth at the Mickey D's before I go back and get blood on my hands and chin?"

She points me toward the back of the store and I try walking like a killer, but I suspect it's coming off a bit more like slinking. I poke around, ask a few people, and get to the right spot (funnily enough, the next row over has fake mice and rats for your cats to play with).

Not good news. Mouse traps, mouse deterrents, mouse glue traps (think: "fly paper for small mammals"). Only one thing has the word "rat" on it: poison.

By this time I've read enough to know that rat poison is not at the top of the Tree of Good Ideas. Rats may or may not eat it, and if they do, and die in situ, I've got a stink problem.


I'm not going home empty handed. I am doing something and let me think. Which would I rather have: foul odor for two months or rats running across my bed every day for the rest of my life?

I get an extra large box.

"How're you doing today?" the clerk asks.

I just glare and point at what I'm buyin'. She shudders as the dopey smile leaves her face.


For the first time this morning, I find myself thinking with clarity on the drive home. You see, this small problem is actually a tip of a bigger problem.

I could just go to the landlords and say, "Rats!" but that's going to have a bad knock-on effect. I live in a place that is so junked up that they may well come in, take one look, and do something on the order of evict me. Seriously. And this is compounded by the fact that nothing says, "rat wins," like getting my ass kicked out of my own over-priced apartment.

I've got poison in the car. A new day dawns in three hours. What kinds of places will have rat killing machinery on a Saturday? I want to kill a rat. Where do I go? "Manly." Think manly.

Hardware store. Yes.

Okay, thinking back to the apartment now. I can see the answer. I know what to do. Clean it. Front to back. Side to side. Top to bottom.

Trash doesn't spontaneously generate rat flesh, but there are so many possible spots to hide. Safe harbor could be anywhere.

But the apartment is a daunting prospect. I got divorced a decade ago, this was followed by a girlfriend of five years whose place I essentially lived at, intersected by six years of jobs where I worked 90 hours a week. Weirdly, when you never go home, it actually gets messier.

I've got mail everywhere. Packing boxes. CD's. Junk. But I don't eat at home. Not ever. Never as in my refrigerator has been *completely* broken for over a week. All I did was throw everything away that was in it and put the frost in the planter of my lemon tree. I don't even have a trash can in the kitchen. Why bother?

So if I clean it all. I mean like spic-and-span clean, I can:

* Get my dishwasher fixed. Now big deal since I don't use it anyway, but it's been down for about six years.

* Replace that refrigerator.

* Get the shower fixed in my first bathroom.

* Re-claim my dining room table.

* Discover I have a living room table.

* Get the second bedroom re-calked.

* Actually be able to have people spend the night. Or for that matter, walk through the front door.

* Rat out the son-of-a-bitchin' rats.

But it's a huge task. Huge. Huge huge. It's taken 10 years of decay to get here. It'll take a least a fortnight of constant work to get out. At least. And I've got a million writing projects I'm supposed to be doing. And I just quit my own company, so it's not like I have income.

But I have rats. And I live in a boar's nest.

This is a sign. A sign from God. This is a do-better talk writ with vermin.

I will do it.

But I need to move off this mark I'm on right now.

I open the poison and, as if my set of nightmares in this Twilight Zone of a night are not enough, they're infested with termites. I'm so far gone down the one-way slide of destruction that I don't even care. I don't even flinch. Shake 'em out of the box, wash 'em down the drain, set the poison out, go to bed about 05:00 with the lights on.

I'm wide awake four hours later to some sound.

It's the fountain outside.

I put on the same clothes I wore last night, I don't shower or even comb what's left of my hair. I check the poison, it appears untouched, and beat on the fireplace anyway. I'm saying:

You have made a mistake. You're assuming that I won't "get it." You assume that just because I'm a bachelor, and pathetic, that I am therefore also defenseless in a sick-until-he-dies-or-goes-to-jail way. You're wrong. I'm going to hardware stores. I'm getting items to kill you. I'm finding things that are designed, specifically, to kill you. I am ignoring any killing mechanism or device that says "painless" or "humane." If I kill you, I will skin you, I will put your little ratty head on my fake mantelpiece and I will clip your toenails, grind them up and then smoke them. You're a pestilence carrying, beady eyed, wall hugging, rat bastard. People demonize their enemies to make them less-than-human. That's easy with you, you goddamn son of a bitch, because you're a rat. You're not even human. I will kill you every way possible. And then I will kill you again.

I get to the hardware store. "Rat traps." I can't even ask, I just say.

I get pointed to the lawn and garden department. Now we're talkin'. About half a dozen different ways to kill rats including some that are remarkably industrial strength. I want to buy 'em all, set 'em by my front door, and napalm the place.

Instead I buy 4 glue traps and 3 snap traps. The best 15 bucks I've ever spent in my life. I put glue in the fireplace and my room.

I bait the snap traps without setting them in my second bathroom. I'm treating this exactly the way you treat smart fish -- chum them, then kill them.

I'm a lifetime member of both the World and National Wildlife Federations, but this event has put me on an ecological rampage. I put the poison out on my porch. No, I don't care if I kill squirrels, or feral cats that eat mice that I've poisoned, or raptors that eat the rats that ate the grasshoppers that ate the termites that were living in my rat poison box, thanks for asking. In fact, if I can find a little DDT, I'll dump it directly into a drain going into the Bay.

I am fed up.

I am changing my lifestyle. I will not live with rats. I hate them. I hate the position I've put myself in. I've been a slovenly fat bastard and I'm ashamed of it. I've been ashamed of it and I've done nothing to correct it.

And now I've got rats.

I've brought myself to this point. I'm going to bring myself out. And I am never returning.

This is ridiculous.

And I have hatred and anger and violence and vitriol in my soul. And I've kept it penned up. And it's coming out. And it's coming out now. Just like a boil that needs to be popped to release the pain, the very pus of my being will ooze out. And it will be ugly and nasty and gross.

I will pray, every day, that rats die as a direct result of me. I am fighting a war that I will ultimately lose because the idiotic and stupid b1 series have seen fit in their comfortable little lives to not have genetic children. This means that, 100 years from now, there will be no more of us, but there will rats.

And this will only make me fight harder.

There is no enemy in the world more dangerous than that who has nothing to gain by winning because it means they are either: heartless, cruel, stupid, or self-righteous. I'm all these things.

Rats, if you're smart enough to read, consider yourself warned. And if you're not, then you'd better pray to Ganesh inside your temple that something the Hindus say is right.

I believe that sometimes lives are divided into two parts -- things that happen before an event, and things that happen after. You're essentially forcing me through a horizon that I need to cross, but don't want to. In the future I will thank you for it, but for now I hope I burn your very being with the temperature of my hatred.

You, dear reader, will find that I'm now moderating my comments. If they have nothing to do with rats, or cleaning, I'm not interested in them for the time being. Devotion to a cause requires focus. And for the short term, this is my life.

Hope you're well,

October 23, 2006

Bridge Benefit Concert Review -- Shoreline Amphitheatre -- Saturday, October 21, 2006

{suttonhoo has asked that i write a review of this show ... if i'm going to do the work, i might as well spit it up here ... and, believe me, she's not the kind of woman you should say "no" to ... note ever ... babe, this posting is a labor of love, especially for you.

do note that normally if i wrote something like this i'd research it to get all the details right, but i'm just banging stuff out and i didn't know i was going to be writing this up when i went to the show ... if, for some ungodly reason, you find something that piques your interest, please don't take my words verbatim -- do some poking, prodding and googling for yourself.}

Fun, Fun, Fun 'til Dave Matthews Takes Your Keyboard Away

Bridge School Backgrounder

The Bridge School is located on the peninsula of the San Francisco Bay area. It provides help and support for what now are commonly called"special needs" children (what we called "speds" in my neighborhood growing up). To be clear, these are seriously messed up kids, usually in neurological fashion, and are bad enough that (I'm guessing) a kid with Down's Syndrome would probably be considered to be way underqualified to get attention from Bridge.

I've heard tell that Neil Young has at least two kids with some kind of super-rare, very debilitating, and we-insist-it-isn't-genetic, neurological disorder. My guess is there's either something about the disorder that science doesn't understand correctly yet; or Neil and his wife have a collective hippie background that has done enough chromosomal/in-utero damage to put their offspring one gene this side of being amphibians.

Neil's kids attend the school and he's a huge, and very generous, promoter of it. The Bridge shows were started 20 years ago as fund raisers, musicians donate their time and efforts. The concerts run across a weekend, with the same bands (announced several months before) playing both days. Surprise guests are always a possibility: Pete Townsend (The Who), Paul McCartney (some band that I forget), Robin Williams and Elton John (of "Elton John" fame) have all shown up unannounced in the past.

Partially because of the time it was started (think MTV Unplugged) and partially due to Mr. Young's past, all musicians are required to play the show acoustic. If you're a music-head, this is both the wonder and the terror of the Bridge shows. Some bands merely play acoustic versions of their normal instrumentation; a few completely rearrange or re-apply techniques elsewhere. The lack of electric modification of the sound puts the talent (or lack thereof) right out on the table for everyone to see.

The Bridge crowd is always extremely forgiving -- it's very much a chill-out and party-down atmosphere -- but it can be super-intimidating for bands because they're being judged against many of the better, or most successful, English-speaking acts in the world (ones that would normally be top headliners in their own right); many of the bands will be well-out of their element. The super-cool, or ultra-hip-band-of-the-moment are often the most susceptible to crash-and-burn.

The physical layout is extremely simple. A group of kids sit in the wings (this year, they were in the back of the stage, facing the audience -- this creates added agony for first-time bands to the show: Will you really sing that song about "being fucked up on heroin" in front of a kid that's so messed up she needs a handler and a drool cup?). The stage has a minimal Bridge decoration. It's that easy.

19 of the 20 years have been at Shoreline (the stray was at the Oakland Coliseum) -- because Neil lives in the Bay area, the show never happens anywhere else. As the concert grows in reputation, the overall cailbre of the bands increases.

This year's announced line-up:
Devendra Banhart
Gillian Welch
Death Cab for Cutie
Trent Reznor
Foo Fighters
Brian Wilson
Pearl Jam
Dave Matthews Band
Neil Young

The Beastie Boys and Tom Petty are both playing in the immediate area. It's possible either of them could show up, the normal unsubtantiated rumor mill is burning hot about it.

I'm particularly interested in Brian Wilson and Trent Reznor, and they are the reason I'm going.

The show is solidly sold out at face ticket prices of $40 (lawn), $75 (back seats), $150 (front seats). The best seats have gone in Ticketmaster auction in the low thousands. Yes, it's a ton of money, but the big differences between this and some spudnut like Roger Waters are:

* You get to see a ton of bands and well over eight hours of music.

* The show you see here is truly unique. It's not some touring circus that does the same thing over-and-over.

* There's a fair amount of interplay between all the musicians in all the bands.

* Some of the money (I have no idea how much) is going to a good cause.

Don't get me wrong, I don't pay face value (I still think it's an obscene amount), but I understand it better than the average show.

My only complaint with the Bridge Benefit Concert, and Neil's involvement specifically, is I just hate it when a cause is chosen by a celebrity merely because that specific problem has touched their lives. There are a myriad of people who fight mountainous problems everyday and get no help, merely because they aren't celebrities. It kind of rubs me the wrong way, and at it's core, is the reason why something like Live 8 trumps the Bridge Concert (Bob Geldolf never had a relative die of starvation in Ethiopia).

It's Showtime

I get to the show a tad late (for reasons you'll find out in a later post), score a $20 lawn ticket immediately and go in. The lawn is already nearly filled, but there are picnic tables at the very back. After running into an old pal of mine, I stake the corner of a table in the dead center and it's great -- I have back support (I can lean against the wall of the venue), a place to sit between tedious set changes, and a table to txt and eat my barbecue beef sandwich on. It's a nice, warm, Fall afternoon. I'm already loving it.

Devendra Banhart

I got there late and missed him. Sorry, Devendra. Gimme a free ticket and I promise I'll go see you next time you're in Northern CA, Vegas or Denver.

Gillian Welch

Hot off a well-received appearance at the San Francisco Bluegrass Festival (free, and gigantic, in Golden Gate Park), she turns in a very strong set. Country and bluegrass artists are mildly favored in the all-acoustic and varied environment of Bridge -- partially because it's their native format, and also since the crowd isn't very conversant in country music -- it all sounds very new and fresh compared to the rest of the line-up.

Near the end of the set, Neil Young comes out and joins her on guitar and harmonica for a rendition of "Country Man." It's smokingly sweet and will end up being my favorite track of the entire day. Nice one, Gillian.

Death Cab for Cutie

The hip-and-cool band does in fact deteriorate on stage. They are clearly nervous and well out of their environment in acoustic only. They're bad enough that the Cab fans near me start the set by dancing but end up sitting back down on the grass and either talking to each other or making out. (Because, honestly, if it's a question of smooching or wincing as one of your favorite bands implodes, the answer is pretty obvious what you should do.)

My table-mate says to me in Spanish, "These guys suck." I respond with "Where is El Tri when you need them?" He laughs and smokes a joint the size of a Hebrew National in one toke. I offer him my bag of sour cream potato chips. We're now both the closest and best of friends.

The show is already everything I could hope for, and we're only three bands in. I'm loving it.

Trent Reznor

Trent is the man behind Nine Inch Nails, a band that at one time was the commercial forefront of (what I'll call for the lack of not giving a damn what's actually "correct" in the splintered music naming movement) the industrial trance movement. NIN hit my radar when they had radio success with "Closer." I bought a few CD's and liked what I heard.

As background, on a whim, I went to their show in Oakland a few months ago (for free, thanks, because I sold another pair of tickets at double-face). Trent understands that a show has to be an experience and his form of expression was an all-out assault on my ears, eyes and brain. I've seen a lot of shows in my life, and it was easily in the top five.

Between acts (by the way, one of the openers was Autolux -- a spectacular band, seek them out) at that show I did my standard custom of stopping by the merchandise booth (I never buy anything because it's all too expensive). On the corner of the obligatory pegboard, below the zillionty black t-shirts, they had a CD that was being over-looked by everyone else.

"What's the story with that CD?" I ask the fat goth-er running the booth.

"I don't know, dude. Check it yourself," and she throws me a copy.

It's looks like it's some sort of collection of re-done Nine Inch Nails songs.

"How much?" Fearing the typical concert rip-off fees, i'm guessing it'll be at least $20-$25.

And here comes the weird part. "I don't know, dude. Hang one sec. I need to check the list." Let me get this straight: we're at a concert, we're here for the music and yet no one has asked about this disc? This means they've sold hundreds of t-shirts, but not a single CD. Weird. She's back, "It's $10."

I snap it up and listen to it much later at home. It's mostly covers of NIN songs that have been stripped down relatively bare and it is superb. In fact, it's my favorite disc of theirs. I research it a bit (I don't remember the name off the top of my head, and I don't feel like digging through my music this second, I think it's Still), and it's a disc that is sold only at NIN shows -- not commercially, not even off their Web site at that point. A quick check of eBay showed it selling on the high side for $75 a copy.

This spells good news for a show like Bridge, because it means that Trent has already re-considered his catalog and if you're going to really lay it down at Bridge, you need to. And of the whole line-up, he's got the hardest trick -- just how do you go from dark, stormy and powerful (with synths, no less) to acoustic?

Trent takes the stage just as darkness has set in and his answer to the question is to take a quartet of string players: two cellos, a violin and a switch hitter that mostly plays acoustic bass. Amazingly, he's using no percussion. Their approach will be to play almost exclusively low and mildly vibrato. A daring ploy well outside his usual baliwick -- in fact this group has been both assembled and arranged exclusively for this show.

This is the musical equivalent of cliff diving into a family swimming pool. It'll be hit-or-miss, shooting for the smallest of targets, and a miss won't be pretty.

He opens softly and like some twisted form of bolero, gets louder as he goes. Doing this means they'll end up being the only musicians of the day to play with the volume of their performance (since the dissolution of big bands 65 years ago, the concept of manipulating volume, especially live, has been greatly diminished -- in the last 40 years, with the popularity of radio broadcast and threshold antennuation, it's gone completely away -- this is one of the fundamental differences between classical and modern music). To top this off, there's a chinese folk reverberation fiddle in the mix (think one-string national guitar, standing on end, that's played by bowing).

This is not an orchestral version of a NIN song, this is a completely new arrangements. His concept is brilliant and it works. The area of the crowd that I'm in is riveted to the performance and all conversation has completely stopped.
I don't know the NIN catalog well enough to know the songs by name, but most of his set is very recognizable. As he works his way through, the performance reminds me very much of seeing a snake that's been unknowingly run over by a car on a hot stretch of desert highway. It slithers, it writhes, it's in pain and possibly fatally hurt, but it's beautiful in the very nature of what it is.

And no, he doesn't play "Closer" (the repeating verse of which you probably know: "I want to fuck you like an animal. I want to feel you from the inside.")

Full marks. A performance that in itself was worth the hassle of going and price of admission for me.

But wait, there's more.

The Foo Fighters

Although I'm not a fan, frontman Dave Grohl may be the most amazing modern musician playing today. To walk out of the flaming dirigible that was Nirvana and become successful in another band, on a different instrument, is truly amazing.

I saw the Foo Fighters play acoustic for the first time ever at a Bridge show a few years ago. They were timid then, and openly admitted it, but played as well and fearlessly as their tainted nerves would let them.

This time was different. Grohl mentioned being scared the first time, but was comfortable and having fun with his band. A good strong set of several recognizable songs -- my only complaint is they're taking the cheap approach of just using acoustic instruments rather than reworking the songs. He should take a hint from Beck -- last time he performed Bridge he played half Hank Williams covers (a chilling version of "Lonesome Whistle") and half of his own music rearranged as mariachi and sung in Spanish ("Jackass" becomes "Burro").

The band shows confidence and heart. They're very good.

Brian Wilson

There's an overly long break between The Foo Fighters and Brian Wilson. When my table mate mentions it to me (in English, this time), I say, "Maybe he's not coming."


And I go on to explain how Brian Wilson, the heart, soul and genius behind the Beach Boys went clinically insane while working on an album following Pet Sounds called SMiLE. It was essentially the Beach Boys' equivalent to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band that got shelved when he "went away." What's amazing is he comes back and finishes the album, some 40 years later and still very much psychologically damaged (but heavily drugged). {Aside - I sat behind Neil Young when Wilson performed this piece in its entirety live in San Francisco.}

About the time I finish my overly long explanation, Wilson comes out. He's using the same keyboardist, guitarists, drummers and (super-great) percussionist that he used for the SMiLE shows. What's missing are his ultra-cute Swedish string section.

My table mate insists I stand top and center on the table ("You know so much about this dude, he's your man!").

He opens with "Our Prayer" from SMiLE, a track I consider to be the greatest vocal harmonic work of the 20th century. The only problem is this track was previously released by the Beach Boys (you can hear an abbreviated clip of the demo sample here) and they have an edge over all other harmonic bands that would later be assembled to cover Beach Boys music. Why? Because the the band was all related -- the voices naturally blended (no advantage like a genetic advantage, eh?).

Nevertheless, it's one of the only songs that is sure to physically raise goosebumps on me, and it did this time as well.

They march another two tracks into SMiLE and I'm wondering if they're actually going to go ahead and just roll through the whole disc. I'd love it if they did, but the crowd isn't recognizing these songs and it wouldn't be a popular choice.

He stops at three tracks, though, and drops into a series of Beach Boys songs. The crowd is instantly up on their feet and dancing. "Fun, Fun, Fun," a great version of "Help Me Rhonda," and "Surfin' USA," to name a few. He even, for totally unexplainable reasons, throws in a cover of "Johnny B. Goode." The high point is "Sloop John B," which sends my stoner pal into paroxysms of "You rock! You rock! You rock!" flailing at the air with a fist as though he were defending himself from a final death blow by Mike Tyson.

Wilson brings down the house. Everyone here knows these songs. About 15% of the crowd is old enough to remember the hits when they were first on the radio, everyone else has been inundated with them either from oldies radio or grocery store muzak since. And no one in my eyeshot from the very top of the bowl appears to hate him.

The band fires from the audience enthusiasm and this will end up being the crowd favorite of the night.

The low point is when Wilson attempts "Good Vibrations," (a song the Beach Boys never did perfect live) with Neil Young playing a pump organ. To reproduce the science-fiction sounding theramin, they use a flute -- it works, but the rest of the song doesn't. No matter. A bucket of water doesn't put out a forest fire, it only hisses and steams.

I thought he was very good, but the tease of starting with SMiLE and then walking away from it hurt. I would've loved to see a fully-acoustic SMiLE.

Pearl Jam

Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam come out. They've done a dozen Bridge Shows and are old hats. Vedder is the last standing frontman of the true grunge movement -- and age has done nothing but improve his voice and overall intensity for his type of music. He turns in a powerful, inspired and poignant set. Very strong.

He's also having fun in a big way at one point doing a song that I can sort of catch (in intent, not in exact lyrics) here:

"I'm going to play a song I've never tried before"

I broke up with my girlfriend
and opened a liquor store

I sit in torment
and wonder about my life

One night she walks right in
I stare and say "What do you want?"

She says, "Liquor." So I licker.
And now I don't feel so bad.

He puts down his guitar and smiles. The crowd, at least those who have figured it out, roar with approval. Eddie looks off-stage at Neil and smirks, "Just tryin' to get one past the kids."

The high point is a cover of Mirrorball, an older song written by Neil Young for Pearl Jam. They perform it together, and it's great.

The low point is Pearl Jam's keyboardist is trying to play the pump organ and can't pump it fast enough to get a constant tone. Hint for the future: Try an instrument before you play it in front of a crowd of 20,000.

The End

And it's here that I leave the concert. Even though Neil Young has yet to play (and I like him very, very much), the Dave Matthews Band is playing first. I hate them. Matthews's voice is whiney/wandery and he does it exclusively as a gimmick. They are a big-time chick band, so whenever he does his cutesy shuffley feet thing, I'll have to listen to five thousand overweight, heat-flashing women squeal with delight.

The ONLY up-side of DM, is it's possible Neil would come out and play a cover of "Cortez the Killer" with him (they've done that in the past) and that is truly remarkable (NB: turns out he did cover that song). Even so, I don't even want to be in the same venue as that lame-bag and I've already seen over six hours of music/fest. No thanks, I'm off-ski.

Overall, it's the best Bridge show I've been to. Very strong as a set and a nice wide range of musicians. The weather was super-great, and even though there were no surprise guests, I loved it. I went by myself but talked with my table mates, txt'd and ate during the breaks. A very pleasant afternoon and well worth the 20-spot.

On my walk back to my car on Shorebird, I was passed by a few concert goers. Every one of them spoke to me. If that doesn't describe a pleasant evening where everyone's happy, nothing does.

{hope you enjoyed it, madam. wish you could have been there, you would have really really enjoyed it.}

haiku of the moment

koreans laughing
muslims with bookcase on street
welcome to my block

October 21, 2006

pearl jam and neil young -- mountain view

brian wilson -- mountain view

quote of the moment

"make awkward sexual advances, not war"

-- t-shirt, mountain view

foo fighters -- mountain view

October 20, 2006

quote of the moment


-- 72 pt headline on a jehova's witness brochure that was poked under my
front door

haiku of the moment

radar speeding sign
claims nine mile per hour rate
i sure do walk fast

October 19, 2006

the decemberists -- san francisco

anchovies -- zuni café, san francisco

haiku of the moment

raven eats sandwich
through a cellophane wrapper
call it "lunch to go"

haiku of the moment

smiling teenager
walks and plays with a nipple
talking on cell phone

October 18, 2006

Roger Waters Concert Review -- Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, California -- October 10, 2006

Roger and Me vs. Us and Them

Setting the (Other) Stage

I arrived to the conceptual party of the Pink Floyd late. Up through high school the majority of what I listened to was soul and funk. That wasn’t to say that I didn’t know about the Pink Floyd. Having grown up in a neighborhood that was so white that “minority” meant you were Catholic, I was inundated with their sound. My first exposure to the Pink Floyd was the song “Money,” which was all-pervasive on what at the time was called “album oriented radio” (AOR) and today gets the shuddering title of “classic rock.”

What I heard I hated from the word, “go.” For starters, “Money” sounded like a white band trying to be black and failing. But far, far worse was having to deal with the meat-headed fans of the Pink Floyd. On and on they’d drone about how “deep” it was, all the while looking down on me through sagging red eyes.

As my musical horizons exploded in college, I returned to the band as my interest in 60’s psychedelia collided with my roommate’s record collection which included several early albums by the Pink Floyd.

The Floyd are a band that saw a tremendous amount of flux, in two very different areas.

The early sound of band was heavily dominated by the keyboards of Richard Wright and the ideological leadership of Syd Barrett, a man literally teetering on the brink of sanity. When Barrett “went away,” the Pink Floyd became more heavily guitar based through the exquisite whining sounds of David Gilmour.

On Barrett’s slipping, the Pink Floyd went from generic wacky psychedelics (“Candy and a Currant Bun”), to the insecurity of what it means to be human (“On the Run”), and ultimately toward a distrust of government (especially the military -- “Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert”).

Musically the tipping point for the band is the album Meddle. Before this nothing really sounds “commercial,” but from here forward you’ll find not only things like multi-part harmony, but also explorations of a theme and concept as heard on "Echoes," a song making up the entirety of the B-side of the album.

The album following Meddle, The Dark Side of the Moon, is so anomalous and intricately crafted it doesn’t even sound like an album by the Pink Floyd when listened next to the group’s output in its entirety. The session somehow feels too crafted and detailed (this probably also helps to explain why it so heavily outsells all other records by the band). And yet, this is the album everyone associates with the band.

Intellectually, the gauntlet gets thrown down in the album following TDSotM, Wish You Were Here. This is the first spot where Roger Waters first turns the caustic cannon of his angst beyond self-torment and takes a blast at the record industry (which, by the way, has just handed him more money in one year than he’d made in his life up to that point). This is followed by Animals, a general loathing of society; then The Wall, more of the same (minus the ultra-thin metaphor) with an over-dose of hatred for anyone involved in development of rock musician (especially the fans). The Final Cut is a stab and a spit at an anti-war, anti-government album, inspired largely by the Falkland Islands conflict.

It's hard for a band with this much conceptual and sonic change to stay together, and sure enough, it’s right in here where things explode.

You can’t get a straight, or at least cohesive, story about what happened during The Final Cut timeframe, but it goes something like this: everyone is pretty goddamn sick of Roger Waters running off through the weeds about things that the rest of the band don’t feel like releasing music about. Richard Wright has been fired (either here or during The Wall, the accounts are conflicting). Waters’s ego is now big enough that the album cover states “A Requiem for the Post War Days by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd.” (To date, this is the only album that the Pink Floyd have never supported with a tour.)

The band breaks up and bitterly fight over who gets to use the Pink Floyd name. David Gilmour wins the legal nude mud wrestling match and goes on tour with Wright and Mason as Pink Floyd. Waters gets control of The Final Cut and things are legally messy to the point that not only does the Pink Floyd Box Set Shine On (now out of print) exclude the disc, they don’t even mention the disc in the body of the coffee-table-book liner notes (stranger, box includes Momentary Lapse of Reason, the disc which following The Final Cut sans Waters).

Waters goes on to record The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking, Radio K.A.O.S., and Amused to Death. All lackluster performances filled with fear and trembling that manage to become RIAA Gold records for no other reason than they were recorded by Roger Waters (as a comparison, the Pink Floyd albums from Meddle on all hit multi-platinum status -- even without Roger present in the band).

The Waters-less Pink Floyd does two albums: Momentary Lapse of Reason and The Division Bell. They also release a live version of The Dark Side of the Moon (complete with irritating, not to mention Earth destroying, l.e.d. on the spine). In 1995 the Pink Floyd, in any form, disband, and that’s it for them.


At a concert with the heady ideal of ending world poverty (and run by the usual suspects) Live 8, Roger Waters rejoins his three old band mates under the Pink Floyd moniker for a six-song one-off show. Rumors abound ... yes, they’ll reform ... no, they won’t ... no, they love each other ... yes, they hate each other ... comets will strike Earth tomorrow ... that kind of thing.

The only certain thing was Roger Waters was going to tour The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety, “For the first time in America in 30 years! _Your_hype_line_goes_here_!” No one seems insulted by the fact that the cheapest seats in the house in my local venue are us$93 before obligatory Ticketmaster fees, and those closer to the stage are $135. (Lawn “seats” can be had for a paltry $30, plus, that’s right, a 33% Ticketmaster fee. The extremely close seats are available by bid directly from Ticketmaster and will ultimately sell for the low thousands of dollars.)

Now, the same type of cretins that’ll go on and on about how much greater John Lennon was than Paul McCartney (they definitely have never listened to the goddamn Wedding Album, or either of the Unfinished Music albums -- all of which will make you wish that Mark David Chapman had fired a well-aimed bullet at you instead) will also tell you that Roger Waters is the heart of the Pink Floyd and everyone else is just an instrument.

Okay, fine.

The Pink Floyd were known for two things: searing displays of lasers and quadraphonic sound. If Waters is the controlling “genius” behind the Pink Floyd then he should also be Johnny-on-the-Spot for the live show.

I have a grand total of zero interest in seeing Waters perform his own solo work, and there is a ton of music of the Pink Floyd I’d rather see/hear than TDSotM, but if that’s what he’s playin’, I’m goin’ to see it. Once. Although, as you’ve seen before, I have serious doubts about his ability to reproduce the full-Floyd-effect in an outdoor arena.

Although the show is very heavily sold-out, I manage to score a pair of lawn tickets without the fees. Suttonhoo will be joining me in a sudden and surprise visit from Chicago, so it literally, can’t be all bad.


You’re carrying a big weight and way too much attitude -- especially at this price -- Mr. Waters. People the lower seats are paying $300 a pair -- for that price you could literally buy (new) every studio album by the Pink Floyd and every studio solo album by Roger Waters and the DVD of Pink Floyd - Live at Pompeii (which is great, by the way) and still have $25 left over to buy a custom DSoTM cake at your local bakery along with a little of whatever mind altering substance you choose (that’d buy a hell of a lot of Mountain Dew, I can tell you that). You had damn well better put out.

But it’s not going to be easy. Roger playing TDSotM live faces two big challenges:

* It’s easily the Pink Floyd’s most heavily crafted studio album (thanks in a large part to Alan Parsons who also crafted the fundamental sound on the The Beatles’s Abbey Road). That means Roger will have to make one of two choices: play it note-for-note, or improvise. Of the two, I’d prefer improvisation because otherwise I know I’ll find myself looking for the holes. And I’ve already heard that damn thing a zillionty times -- it’s time to give me something else.

* David Gilmour does the vast majority of the singing on the album. Er. Um. I’m not sure what the answer is here. Maybe call up David and be really nice? Or maybe just use a tape of him and act like it’s somebody else -- that might work. TDSotM is coming in the second half of the show, so by then the audience should be detached enough from reality that no one would notice. (Except me, as if that would make any difference to the world.)

It’s Showtime

Although the show was scheduled to start at 20:00 “sharp” (according to the tickets), I was hoping to get to Shoreline at 18:00 when the doors opened to grab a center and close-as-you-can-get-considering seats. An interplay of misfortune and laziness saw me waltzing in about 19:15, and at that point the grass was 85% full. No problem, we hike up to the top and wait. It was a nice cool, but very still, evening and we sat on our low-rise lawn chairs and talked until the fateful 20:00. And then ... nothing happened ... so the crowd started chanting and an unknown MC came out to tell us that, gosh, there were still a lot of people coming in so we’d wait another 20 minutes. I suggest rioting for old-time’s sake, but that doesn’t really catch on.

When the lights go out, Roger has the image of a large old-style radio portrayed on the backdrop. A hand is flicking around on the stations and early gives us the first secret handshake of the night ... the hand stops on a song by Vera Lynn -- the torch singer that’s mentioned on The Wall. From the reaction of the crowd, it’s clear that nobody here remembers Vera Lynn, but I do and I dig it. Nice one, Roger.

Then the hand gets to ABBA on the radio and, to the amusement of the crowd (but my dismay), quickly changes the station (I’d rather hear “Waterloo” than anything off Amused to Death, that’s for sure). The hand then hits a series of stations playing ABBA in a row, but is changing stations so quickly that the majority of the crowd don’t get the joke because they don’t recognize the myriad of songs being flipped through. I do. Another nice one. You are rolling, Rog, and you haven’t even come out yet.

All changes when the lead-in for The Wall track of “In the Flesh” starts and Waters’s band comes out in full force. It’s an interesting choice for the opening track because unlike “In the Flesh?” (note the ‘?’) which opens The Wall, “In the Flesh” is about 75% of the way through the album. The music is essentially the same, but the lyrics are more slashing:

So ya, thought ya, might like to go to the show.
To feel the warm thrill of confusion, that space-cadet glow.
I’ve got some bad news for you sunshine,
Pink isn’t well, he stayed back at the hotel,
and they’ve sent us along as a surrogate band,
we’re gonna find out where you fans really stand!
Are there any queers in the theatre tonight?
Get ‘em up against the wall!
And there’s one in the spotlight,he don’t look right to me,
Get ‘im up against the wall!
And that one looks Jewish,and that one’s a coon!
Who let all this riff-raff into the room?
There’s one smokin’ a joint,and another with spots!
If I had my way, I’d have all of them shot!

Not only is it prophetic in ways about the band that Roger is now playing with, it’s fairly hard hitting. It’s one thing to see Busta Rhymes talk about “niggaz,” it’s quite another to have a white rich and snotty British guy say, “that one’s a coon” in a crowd that is pure-bred white enough that it could be mistaken for a Klan rally. It’s a far cry from the workhorse concert greeting of “Hello, Saannn Frannn Sissss Coooo!” to be sure.

Waters doesn’t even flinch. It’s not clear if it’s because he’s on auto-pilot (this is the penultimate stop of this tour), or he doesn’t care, or he’s making-a-point-dammit-and-if-you-don’t-get-it-you’re-part-of-the-problem. No matter, the crowd’s eating it up. The song ends in a heady spray of pyrotechnic sparks, people go as insane as their 50 year-old white metabolisms will let them.

And what’s not to like? The only real problem is the song featured endless marching of those oh-so-famous crossed hammers. Yeah, yeah, it’s a Wall image, I know, but you can give my fading retinae something else to fade on. Five minutes of marching hammers is a little much if you’ve got more tricks up your sleeves, Roger.

Really though, who cares. In all my self-grandiosity, I’m already nodding with approval. And we’re only one song in.

Then comes "Mother," also from The Wall, Roger’s voice is showing a lot of strain, but the song holds up just fine. If anything it’s more poignant because Waters’s voice is so thrashed.

I’d briefly looked at the set lists that the band had been playing (tours like this have nearly no variation in set lists) before I went to the show, but I didn’t study them, because I wanted to be surprised. Overjoyed with glee I was when they started into “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” This song, along with “Interstellar Overdrive” and “Astronomy Domine” are my very favorites of the Pink Floyd early work. And this was not a good version, it was a great version -- spaced out, syncopated and with some crazy wind instrument for good measure (probably an oboe, but maybe something more exotic -- I was too far away to tell).

From here the show went into several songs from Wish You Were Here and for the first time I’m sensing a bit of trouble. The versions of the songs they’re doing are very good, and they are creatively working around the hole left by David Gilmour’s silky voice that is supposed to be there (sometimes using other musicians, sometimes using the all black female doo-wop chorus), but the songs are lacking. Definitely lacking.

But the band’s shoring up of the sound is good, and that’s where the difference from the recorded sound of the Pink Floyd stops. I would’ve lost a lot of money betting that a person couldn’t reproduce David Gilmour’s guitar sound, but Dave Kilminster was doing it note for note and bend for bend. It was, in fact, so close that I’m not 100% certain that there wasn’t some sampling and he was playing a sampling guitar. (I don’t believe that’s the case, but if anyone would technically pull off something like that, it would be Roger Waters -- and it would be nearly impossible to tell as an audience member if they did.)

From here we drop into a series of Roger Waters numbers, updated with their political bashing. As an assortment, these are boring enough that the people on the lawn finally sit down (which was bloody nice, because standing on a slope at an angle like that for an extended period felt like I was continually stubbing my toes -- I guess that’s what you get for saving $240).

The last song of the first half was my favorite from Animals (an album that I think is weak - but musicians love), “Sheep.” As they’re playing, the obligatory stage prop of a pink flying pig is brought out. He’s graffiti-strew, as all modern flying pigs are, his butt has “Impeach Bush” written on it, which has the funny side-effect of people always applauding ass-side as he rotates in the air currents. Instead of hovering the audience like the old days, they walk it through the expensive seats, then through the cheap seats, then onto the grass and then they launch the sucker. The light folks hold a spot on him for a bit, and then they return to the matter at hand (if I’d been in charge, I would’ve either lit the pig from the inside or kept a spot/laser on it for as long as it was in sight).

But again, we have a problem -- there is a missing spot in the music in this song. “Sheep” has a nice bass/rhythm guitar run in it -- it is, in fact, the reason I like this song -- and the band just glosses over it.

And with that we end the first half.


What was a strong start faded pretty significantly. Part of it was from Roger playing his solo work, but much more significantly, we’re lacking visuals; as in, there are no lasers at all. I want to have retinal blindness tomorrow, or possibly even for the rest of my life if the excuse is real good, and literally the only laser is some jackass who is occasionally tweaking his laser pointer on one of the grass display screens.

Also, we have no quadraphonic sound. All of the sound is coming from directly in front of us. There’s sound behind us whatsoever. Now true, we’re in the cheapie lawn seats, but that means that the vast majority of people at this show are not experiencing it.

Worse, the bass mix is way way off. When Roger plays it’s noticeably softer than other musicians in the band. It might be that they’re doing quadraphonic for the people seated down below and the bass speakers are between us and them.

I’m still holding out hope. There are moments of brightness here and who knows? Maybe all lasers are for the second half.

The Grimy Side of the Moon

Intermission goes by in the blink of the eye and soon we’ve got theater darkness and the pumping heartbeat of the opening track of TDSotM, “Speak to Me.”

It’s good news and it’s bad news. The good news is the display visuals are stunning. There are no lasers yet, but the video montage is the best I’ve ever seen outside a Siggraph show. But the bad news is they’re going to play note for note. Already they’re relying heavily on pre-recorded sounds -- the very ones from TDSotM album. Ick.

They make their way through the set and it’s probably as close as you can get to doing TDSotM live with a band that isn’t actually the Pink Floyd. As I’d feared, the gaps are what I’m noticing. David Gilmour’s voice is badly needed damn near everywhere. The drum solo on “Time” isn’t nearly crisp enough and feels forced.

The big solo parts seem kind of strange. The orgasmic/tortured vocal on “The Great Gig in the Sky” is nearly spot-on note-for-note, as are all the guitar solos. And yet, because they are so accurate, with nearly no improvisation of any kind, and are backed with theatrics of the musicians, they almost seem like caricatures of the pieces they are impersonating.

The subtle points of the record, such as the line “I never said I was afraid of dying,” whispered into “The Great Gig in the Sky” is lost -- instead someone just walks up to the microphone and says it.

Toward the end, there’s a series of war/anti-Bush images played in the middle of a song that has no war implications -- not surprising since none of TDSotM has anti-war sentiment. Excuse me, Roger, you’ve lost your place ... that’s later in the Pink Floyd canon, not now. So musically he’s stuck in one spot, but ideologically he’s stepping forward

And the inexcusable things during this entire part of the show are: no lasers, no quadraphonic sound.

They finish and I’m disappointed. I’ve seen the Water-less version of the Pink Floyd live and they’re better than this. Quite a bit better than this.

Kick Me Baby One More Time

The band comes out for the obligatory encore. “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” starts the set, then “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II” (complete with recorded children, anti-war imagery and groovin’ doo wop singers -- which don’t seem to blend right to me).

Waters then does “Vera,” which is perfect and scores big points because of the pre-concert reference.

Then, surprisingly, comes the best song of the show: “Bring the Boys Back Home.” Now it’s true that The Wall isn’t really about the war, but this song (sort of) is. The production on stage is exquisite -- he’s essentially turned this into his version of the 1812 Overture with volleys of flame and more, you guessed it, anti-war imagery. Roger’s voice is essentially gone at this point and he’s screaming/scratching into the microphone. Goddamn you Roger Waters, you should have had this kind of passion and attention to detail through the whole show!

The closer is “Comfortably Numb,” which isn’t as strong, and once again is desperately missing the voice of David Gilmour.

The shows over. The fans go wild. The end.

Moon Set

If I quit harping on the bad things and talk about the good things, this is what I see:

* Creative and cool opening. Bonus points for the Vera Lynn reference at the beginning and the end.

* “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun!”

* Pig launch! Oink!

* Stage fireworks.

* “Bring the Boys Back Home.” A lame song is transformed to a great one.

* Great company.

* A crowd that was not only into it, but under control. I didn’t have any idiots next to me singing along to the entire show. Nor did I have an people under the influence either throwing up on my back or trying to mate with it. (There was one guy that was stumbling uphill who referred to Suttonhoo as my “old lady.” Plus one point for that. Thanks, spaced out dude -- nice candy-striped pancho, btw.)

Was it worth $30 a ticket? Barely. (If Suttonhoo hadn't have been there, probably not.) But if I’d paid 300 for a pair, I would’ve grabbed a crowbar and gone after Waters’s bus, his roadies, or maybe just an innocent bystander. This show was fine for what it was, but it both overtly and covertly over-promised and under-delivered.

And the ultimate ultimate irony of it all ... the instrument most missing was not the guitar of David Gilmour, it was his voice.

One thing's for sure, if I’m not given a ticket, I’ll never see Roger Waters solo again. Here's the deal, Roger: you simply don't give your money's worth, you need to give me more, much more, if I'm going to pay you to be hated.