Tag Archives: Editorial

Taking My Life Back

Bless me father,  for I have sinned, it has been over three months since my last legitimate blog post…

You don’t have any idea how many times I started to write this post in my head over the past couple of months, only to be sidetracked by schedule, or exhaustion, or – sadly – the lack of confidence and willpower. Running this blogzine had been, for the better part of three years, a daily joy. But much like many of my favorite things, it fell off the pile as the necessity to work 75-80 hour weeks took its toll. Missed that fall softball season. Favorite TV shows were DVR’d and hastily burned to DVD to make room for other unwatched programs. Albums piled up…think about that, I wasn’t prioritizing music. There were mornings when I didn’t want to slap that comedy CD in the car because I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to enjoy it.

That is just fucking wrong.

But let me first put things in proper perspective. Nothing is really wrong outside the fact that my life became monopolized by my responsibilities at work. I’m healthy, I’m financially stable, I have friends and family and a blessed life compared to so many who have real problems. I do not pretend for a moment that my worst day in the past six months was anything more than me feeling pressure, exhaustion and frustration with something which I could have terminated at any second with two simple words: “I quit“.

It’s hard to overcome an addiction because you are so deep into it that you lose the objective perspective. You no longer see the whole, you only see the next move. Not to compare my experience to an addiction – even the word workaholic infers complicit behavior – but it takes an intervention to slap reality in your face long enough for you to distance yourself and see objectively again. And in my case the intervention came in two parts – an intimate musical performance and a dose of birthday guilt.

Christine Ohlman, a/k/a The Beehive Queen, is an amazing woman. A musicologist par excellence, she runs rings around me when it comes to the deep web of musical history, ane even a brief chat with her is an educational experience. But I recently saw her perform in a small bar in Rochester, a converted house called Abilene’s which was packed like a sardine can. No stage, the band sequestered in what would have been a living room, amps likely on “3” to keep the plaster from falling upon us like raindrops. I was so close I could have adjusted the monitors, and I watched her slowly weave her way through a set of gems – each one accompanied by an anecdote – and I was awash in soulful, penetrating beauty. I was energized by rock, heartbroken by blues, and warmed by the infectious nature of a true artist channeling her soul. I knew at that moment that I had to take my life back, that every precious day that I continue to put aside the things I truly love was another day wasted.

I also have a holiday-time birthday, which combined with seasonal affectation disorder…well, let’s just say it makes for an interesting experience. For the past several years, I have spent the better part of my birthday watching concerts, comedy shows and music documentaries, and this year was no exception. This time, the introspection of the day was combined with a rebirth of passion, as if the artists on the large screen were saying “hey dumbass…maybe if you made time for this every day you wouldn’t be so miserable?” With the new year a week away, it looked like I finally had a resolution with teeth to slot next to the old standards “lose a few pounds” and “work out more”. And when my older daughter caught me off-guard by telling me she had been checking my page weekly only to be disappointed, that sealed the deal.

It’s not like I was in a coma. I did listen to a lot of music and made my list in time for the Village Voice Pazz&Jop deadline; I do have my Best of 2011 drafts for comedy albums and DVDs in their final whittling stages, and I did jot down some drafts that will show up soon as reviews and editorials. But I missed some events I normally relish, like the recent award nominations. And tragedies – I should have posted the day Patrice O’Neal died; he played a club in town not long before and the news broke my heart. But I’ll add those thoughts when reviewing his posthumous CD, and you’ll see his brilliant DVD (Elephant In The Room) on that year-end list.

A real doctor doesn’t promise you anything; they merely give you good advice. So I won’t promise you a daily dose – not an unbroken string, anyway –  but I’ll do the best I can to be here as often as possible. I even have a plan.

As for the recommendations, those will continue to be well-intentioned but optional. I’ve got my hands full taking my own life back, thanks.

Happy New Year, everyone. I missed you, too.

It's a new dawn, and a beautiful new road lies before me. Hope to see you often along the way...

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Ironically, it was Office Hours…

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Labor Day

How appropriate.

Seems like only yesterday I was returning from the abyss and getting my blog legs under me again after a couple of weeks of madness. Then even more ridiculous work assignments came down the pike, and not being a slacker, I dove in. As I finished up this weekend the irony of the holiday was not lost on me. I mean, we’re supposed to take a day off, right?

“The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties…”

So here we go again, folks. I’m writing August off as a bad dream – or the worst summer vacation ever – and starting fresh with September. It might take a day or three to finish up September’s first couple of posts – a TGIF celebrating upcoming albums from familiar favorites, a couple of Under The Radars and New Albums – but skipping your medication isn’t right. And I do want to make certain that you return from the holiday primed to hear one of 2011’s best albums, a (ahem) refreshing slab of rock’n’roll.

So strap in. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Don’t miss out.

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Goodbye (TV) Summer

Not that I had any free time to watch all of it.

Summer used to be the dead zone for television, but basic cable has been kicking the networks’ asses for a while thanks to their willingness to go against the grain. Sure, people spend more time outdoors in the summer, but watching at ones own schedule has been a choice since the earliest VCR. With digital television, I don’t think I ever watch a program in its actual time slot; I’ll even start a show late just to zip through the endless commercials. (Don’t worry, advertisers, your product placement is hard to miss…)

So the summer ends and the flurry of new shows are being dangled in front of us like a basket of cant-miss gems…even though we know most of them will suck out loud. And if there is something truly ground-breaking, it will likely get cancelled. Gotta keep those inbred families and their reality shows numbing the minds of America.

So a fond farewell to some favorites:

  • The Closer, winding down towards the series end although the rumored spin-off Major Crimes sounds great.
  • Breaking Bad, which just gets better every year even when you think it can’t possibly raise the bar.
  • Rescue Me, Denis Leary’s often-brilliant series that did for firemen what M*A*S*H did for war vets
  • Friday Night Lights, a class exit for a class act (although you Direct TV subscribers had a jump on me)
  • Louie, which finally let the brilliance of Louis CK shine through to a bigger audience.

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TGIF – Ten TV Teasers

Ahh..the new television season is upon us. And there’s TV Guide, telling me in ridiculous detail why I’m going to be glued to a chair for the next eight months, although they seem to be focusing on the fragile and damaged network programs. I’m not their demographic. Hell, who is their demographic these days? People who like formulaic copycat television?

But I’m a betting man, so why not look at the lump of crap on the platter and see if I can find ten worth giving a chance to? So along with these Ten TV Teasers are two words why I will try them at least once while I wait for Justified.

(01) – Person Of Interest: It’s Ben!

(02) – Terra Nova: Stephen Lang!

(03) – New Girl: Best Sister!

(04) – Man Up: Ping-Pong Man!

(05) – Up All Night: Great Cast!

(06) – Playboy Club: Chocolate Bunnies!

(07) – Prime Suspect: Majestic Scripts!

(08) – Whitney: Saucy Comedienne!

(09) – Free Agents: Stand-Up Comics!

(10) – Allen Gregory: Jonah Animated?

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Screen Test

As more and more obscure pop bands from the 70s and 80s resurface and issue CD anthologies, I’ve started to realize that it wasn’t just a few or us who watched a couple of great local bands wither and die in our area code while corporate rock radio kept belching out the same overhyped crap. Sure, there were a slew of one and two hit wonders in the post-punk and new wave eras, but that was when labels still had a gazillion dollars to toss around. Soon, when things got tighter, labels would just descend on a city with a buzz (i.e. Seattle) and milk it dry; a precision military attack as opposed to the carpet bombing they were used to.

The Flashcubes fell victim to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and when guitarist Paul Armstrong left to form The Most and 1.4.5, the three remaining members carried on as Screen Test. While more of an overt pop band that the ‘Cubes, they were still a powerful presence. Drummer Tommy Allen – as good as there is then or now – locked in with Gary Frenay’s flavorful bass playing to free Arty Lenin to be an absolute alchemist on guitar. Bolstered by two strong songwriters, Screen Test seemed even more primed for success than the Flashcubes and even landed a video on MTV’s Basement Tapes, but alas, it was not to be. After a few years Allen moved to Manhattan and found success as a producer and a touring drummer; Frenay and Lenin remained in Syracuse where they still perform together (in groups and as a duo) to this day.

But a Japanese market hungry for the lost magic found The Flashcubes a decade ago, and the reunited band got to live out what should have happened the first time – screaming crowds, a performance at Budokan and eventually the album they never got to make. So if the incredible three-set gauntlet that Screen Test threw down last weekend – their first performance in six years – maybe fate will smile kindly upon them as well and give them the exposure and respect beyond their local following and cassette EPs.

Obviously words don’t conjure sound, but the band had a treasure trove of should-been hit singles that still sound fresh and vital today. “Anytime”, “Nothing Really Matters When You’re Young”, “Sound of The Radio”, “Restless”, “Suellen”, “Make Something Happen”, “It’s No Secret“…any of these and more should have been blasting out of radios in the early 80s. I still feel the same way after hearing them launched from the stage of a neighborhood bar over a quarter century later. If YouTube was around in the early 80s, I wouldn’t have to tell you about the band because you would already have their albums.

Like The Flashcubes, Screen Test’s first full-length was an anthology of singles and EP tracks, an instant collector’s item. So perhaps the band will follow suit, feed off the energy of that Friday night in August and decide to record again. After three long sets of originals and choice powerpop chestnuts, I know I wasn’t the only one who saw a band far too vital to limit itself to reunions. aybe you know a band like this, too. Maybe your band already took the plunge.

Here’s hoping Screen Test gets that long-overdue callback.

Video: “Anytime

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Ninety-Nine And A Half Won’t Do

When I started The Prescription, my goal was to write every day for one year.

Hell, I didn’t even know if that was possible. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to get into the blog game, it’s that I wanted to get my writing chops back. Sure, a well placed snarky email on a mailing list might give a moment’s satisfaction, but those are wisps of thought quickly gone and leaving no footprint. So I gave myself a challenge, and like most challenges, it is a lot different from the way you initially envision it.

But I made it. So I figured what the hell…how about another year?

The truth was that the release was gratifying, as was the steadily growing stream of emails and comments (written and in person) from those who enjoyed a piece or disagreed with a take or were inspired to write something of their own (my favorite reaction, bar none). Some days it was a little more difficult to carve out the time, but I pounded away and was proud of the fact that I was churning out some decent copy day after day. People got confused by the sidebar calendar – aren’t some of the dates supposed to look different from the others?

So after two years were in the books and I saw the number of posts climbing, I set my sights on one thousand consecutive posts. I didn’t even calculate what date that would be, but I figured a lottery ticket purchase – maybe even a palm reading – wouldn’t be a bad way to tempt fate on that celebratory day.

But sometimes life bites you in the ass.

Now before I seem like an alarmist, let me tell you that I’m a blessed man. I have a wonderful family, great friends, good health and have never wondered where my next meal was going to come from. There have been tough times, sure, and there were periods of my life when I was flat broke or worse, but I have never been hopeless. And yeah, I’ve had dark days; anyone who hasn’t just isn’t paying attention. So when things happen – and they always have – I’m pretty good at juggling them and getting on with the daily grind, including pounding out an essay on this or that in this very space.

What started three weeks ago as a sudden and involved work committment morphed into an insane number of working hours that found me working from early morning until damned near the next morning, bleeding into the weekends and snaring my thoughts if and when I slept. Add in family issues and other obligations and suddenly I was not only juggling the balls, but spinning the plates, tap dancing and probably throwing in jazz hands just to keep the attention of the hard-to-please. Lack of sleep became fever dreams. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be my family or my obligations.

At first I hoped it might be a day or two, but days turned into a week and then another. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am on email several times a day and have replied at all hours of the night, but recently days have passed between log ins. Haven’t seen a TV show during prime time; hard to do when you are still in the office at midnight. I had jotted thoughts on this book and that album and these comics but was stretched so thin that I would often fall asleep in the chair with a pencil in my hand, too tired to even make it to the keyboard.

Sure, I could have probably tossed up a couple of quick thoughts, but that’s not my style. I want to shoot for one hundred percent. Ninety-nine and a half just won’t do. So the streak stopped at 934 posts, not 1000.

And today, another begins.

Thanks to all of those who shot a note over asking about me; I’m slowly working my way through a mountain of emails so don’t take my lack of response as anything other than what it is. Looks like things have settled down (from insane to very busy), but my mind is clear (some say blank) and it looks like my schedule will once again permit breathing room for this labor of love. Have a lot to write about, a lot to listen to, a lot to enjoy. Life is good. Thanks, as always, for stopping by.

See you tomorrow, and hopefully every day after that.

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