Archive for April 2008

April 25th, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

Our friends Megan and Kaiser, Steph, and I just got back from our annual around-the-time-of-my-birthday trip. We started this tradition in college when we went to Megan’s parent’s beach house before we all went home for the summer, for two years in a row. We’ve returned every year since, except for the spring of 2006, when we all went to New York City, which is not Atlantic Beach, but still somehow made for a good time.

I wish I could tell you the transition from 27-years-old to 28-years-old — an event that is free of age-related milestones that require doing or reflecting on something specific — was relaxing and breezy. Unfortunately, at the beach, I had to wrestle with the possibility that my marriage is doomed to fail.

You see, Kaiser and Megan’s present to me this year was to get us all spaces on a kayak tour, courtesy of the NC Aquarium, around the sound and protected swamp areas they maintain. When we arrived and got prepped, our guides Kurt and Jess — your consummate Laurel and Hardy of nature expeditions — gave each of us the option of taking our own one-person kayaks, or pairing up with someone and using a two-person model. Being rugged and, I’m sorry, but seriously muscled in the arm-area, I could have handled my own kayak no problem. And being so tough and self-reliant, I would have preferred this, but my waifish wife was worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up and, ya know, sometimes you just have to do what the woman wants and besides with her in tow it would slow me down so I wouldn’t finish the tour and be on the dock drinking a beer while the others were still figuring out how to use their paddles. Amiright fellas! Bwah-ha-ha-ha!

“These two-person boats are great relationship counseling,” Kurt explained to us as we slid them into the water. He grinned and called back to his better half, who was adjusting hip waders, “Aren’t they Jess?”

“Yep,” Jess answered indifferently, not taking his eyes of what he was doing.

Kaiser and Megan opted for separate one-seaters. For some reason, they were not interested in trying to get their paddling in sync while a bunch of strangers watched their every move and drew elaborate conclusions about their relationship. I got a little nervous as we hit the water. “Why weren’t we required to go kayaking before we got married? What was the state thinking? What was the church thinking? ”

After some clumsy paddle-contact and a little drifting around, direction-wise, we began moving at the same cadence and solidified our steering roles. And we took off! We were doing it! We were propelling ourselves through the water and through this little compatibility test! And we were going to make it!

That’s when we tipped over. In the muckiest part of the salt marsh we were passing through. I’m not going to say whose fault it was. All I’m going to say is, to review, me: rugged, well-muscled, tough, self-reliant. My wife: waifish. Also, a “land lubber.” Also not particularly “sea-legged.” Also, “not very good at the kayaking, particularly the part about not causing the boat to tip over.” I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions about who was to blame.

The tour was still a lot fun. The bad news was, with the tip-over that Steph caused, she had sabotaged our kayak trip/marriage. I tried to mask my pain as we righted ourselves.1 When we returned to the aquarium I fully intended to obtain a divorce packet (which I assume all public aquariums keep on hand). Then, however, I thought about the previous year’s trip. A trip which saw us conduct one of the most glorious displays of connectedness and closeness ever.

It happened during a game of Cranium, which we played on Saturday evening. It was couple-vs.-couple and things were getting a might competitive, thanks to a certain person in our group. I’m not going to point the finger at who it was, bu…. Oh screw it: it was Megan’s fault. So, as with the kayaking, there was an acute understanding that whichever couple could accomplish this arbitrary challenge most efficiently had the blissful marriage. The losers might as well pack it in that night.

The score was neck-and-neck toward the end of the game. That’s when I drew one of the “Creative Cat” cards that calls for you to sculpt an object out of clay, while your teammate has 30 seconds to guess what it is. I have a BFA in Art which, as I once revealed, gives one a serious advantage in Pictionary-type situations. Even with that, however, we were way up the creek with this clue. As I read it off of the card, it seemed totally impossible: “Buddha.” Pretty obscure for that context, and pretty hard to render a three-dimensional likeness of in 30 seconds.

The clay was handed over, the timer was flipped and, as the sand started to fall, Steph began guessing. “Pencil…! Bird…! Buddha…!”

Five seconds into it, we were done. All I had done so far was roll out a “snake,” twist it into a pretzel to make the crossed legs, and slap it on the lump of remaining clay. There was no way the monstrosity I was holding looked anything like a Buddha.

Three jaws dropped in silent disbelief. Steph was sitting on the opposite side of the floor from the rest of us, and is a big rule-follower anyway, still we made her take a solemn oath that she had not somehow seen the clue. “What Bob was making just made me think ‘Buddha’,” she explained. This round propelled my wife and I forward to win the game.

So as we made our returned to our point of departure in our kayak, I decided I’d stick this thing out. I guess it can’t always be wine and roses, right? “Richer or poorer….” “Sickness or health….” “Kicking ass at Cranium or drenched in slime and smelling of dead fish.”

1 Of course, I’m laying on the sarcasm with a trowel here, but by the way Jess and Kurt seemed to want to delicately “diffuse the situation” when they were helping us get back in our boat, we could tell that they must have honestly had couples get into shouting matches as they sat there in swamp water with their belongings getting soaked and their kayak rapidly sinking. Poor guys.

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April 21st, 2008

Brian Kayaking

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April 2nd, 2008

A Hilarious List of Band Names

And before you commence with your “every other blogger in the universe has made one of these” eye-roll, hear me out. This is not a “Hey I’ve been drinking beer and the idea of a band going by these words/phrases/number combinations is amusing to me and I must document them for all the world to see” type of list.

I’ve spent the past few days helping a new band come up with a name, and all the deliberation and detailed analysis had me thinking about my musical history and the band names in my past. As I was already running through it in my head, I thought I’d put it down and share it with you.

1. “The Neighborhood”

My first band. This is the musical equivalent of naked-tub photos for me. I was ten and just learning to play drums so I basically bullied all the younger kids who lived near me into forming this group so I could get better. Our set list consisted of whatever everyone was learning in their piano lessons. Still, I kept us on a rigorous practice schedule during the summers, ensuring we devoted several hours a day to rehearsal, in between riding our bikes up to the pool and catching lightning bugs in jars (nostalgia!). Three years in a row, our hard work culminated with a performance for the adults in the area, in my parent’s carport, just before it was time to go back to school.

Origin of Name: It was made up of kids who lived in our neighborhood. Eh? Eeehhh?

Name Pros: Had a “New Kids on the Block” feel.

Name Cons: Has a “New Kids on the Block” feel.

2. “Mosmaiorum”

Mosmaiorum was a high school garage band that started off covering CCR, Tom Petty, and Steve Miller exclusively. Eventually we started writing our own music, which sounded a lot like what that band Live (who was big at the time) was writing. Our singer then superimposed her bad high-school-girl-poetry lyrics over what we’d written…so, yeah, it was exactly like what that band Live was writing (snap!). After playing in a battle of the bands, we had an article written about us and some band photos taken for The Cary News, so, um…we were a pretty big deal.

Origin of Name: When we were strictly a cover band we went by the name “Retroactive.” Once we started writing our own music we figured that name didn’t make sense anymore, so our guitar player, who was taking Latin at the time, found out from his teacher that “mosmaiorum” is how one would say “retroactive” in Latin. No one else had any better ideas.

Name Pros: Absolutely none.

Name Cons: Damn near impossible to read aloud and pronounce correctly. Several of the people who had to announce us before we took the stage spent the next few months with their tongues in a splint.

3. “Solid State

This was a wedding/party band-for-hire that friends of my parents had. After seeing my brother and I play with Mosmaiorum, they put us on call to stand in for their bassist and drummer when the two of them weren’t available. Laugh if you must, but I really cut my teeth as a player learning to consistently nail the drum parts to “The Electric Slide” and “Shout!” Also earning $100 a gig was pretty sweet.

Origin of Name: I’m guessing it was because the 40-and-50-something computer-programmer-by-day band members were big on solid state sound technology.

Name Pros: Sounds reliable and consistent, which is, above all, what you want from your wedding band. Was easy to spell when making the check out to us.

Name Cons: The term “solid state” will cause younger guitar players — who like their amps loud and pure of tone — to projectile vomit.

4. “She Has Her Reasons

She Has Her Reasons (or “SHHR,” as we speculated our fans would shorten it to) spanned from my senior year of high school to my freshman year of college, and was a three-piece consisting of drums, bass, and vocals only. Despite the fact that we recorded a full album of songs and held intense practices when we all got together on breaks, our stuff could barely be considered music.

Origin of Name: Once I was in college, I asked a girl that I had a crush on what our band name should be. She rattled this off immediately like she’d been storing the phrase away for just such an occassion. Done and done.

Name Pros: Sort of clever and memorable.

Name Cons: We weren’t an emo band.

5. “Drake/Cowan/Witchger”

This band only existed for a month in late 1999, but it’s an important one for me. My desire to “make it big” with a band had been growing in intensity for years and it was a full-blown obsession when the three of us got together. The creative differences we quickly started having were so bitter and volatile however, that, since then, the idea hasn’t entered my mind again. We formed when the three of us wrote some decent songs together and, soon after, decided to record them and make an EP of them. I played guitar (the only time I’ve played something other than drums in an aspiring band), my college roommate sang, and then a friend of ours took what were basically folk songs, recorded them in his dorm room, and layered synths and sampled beats over them. Sort of like the Postal Service…only way before them…and a lot more difficult to actually listen to. We played one show, but, by the time the recording process was over, we could barely stand speaking to each other anymore.

Origin of Name: There was no way the three of us could have found something more original that we all agreed on.

Name Pros: None that I can see.

Name Cons: Way too long and completely unspellable. Two of the three names are gibberish that don’t create any visual or word associations that could have made us memorable. Also, look at the other bands that have gone the “member’s last names” route: Emerson, Lake, & Palmer; Loggins & Messina; Hall & Oates; Crosby, Stills, & Nash; Wilson Phillips. Ugh.

6. “Goddesses By Default

This was a girl-centric, completely fictional band (a la Jem, or Barbie & The Rockers, or Hole) that Steph and two of her college roommates made up in the dining hall one night. Refusing to allow the fact that none of them played an instrument hold them back, they made big plans for this band for the next semester and a half. Steph spent many, many hours designing t-shirts and album art for them. Supposedly I was their drummer.

Origin of Name: Pablo Picasso once said “There are only two types of women: goddesses and doormats.” One of the girls had just learned of this quote and repeated it to us at dinner. Steph reflected on this, saying “Well, I’m not sure I’m a goddess, but I’m definitely not a doormat.” I replied with “So you’re a goddess by default.” Done and done.

Name Pros: The name seemed to resonate with other girls who, I was often informed, were their target audience.

Name Cons: Doesn’t really roll of the tongue.

7. “Tomorrow the World”

My brother and I learned how to record by writing pop-rock and tracking all the vocals and instruments ourselves in his bedroom. (Fountains of Wayne were our heroes.) “Tomorrow the World” was just the name for this project. We did it from 1999–2002 and finished around 40 songs of varying quality.

Origin of Name: When this first got going, I was in college, surrounded by artrockers in bands with vaguely literary names that had nice rings to them (“Sorry About Dresden,” “Exercises in Breathing,” “The Red Palms”), so I guess I was just following suit.

Name Pros: Vaguely literary with a nice ring to it.

Name Cons: Even though none of them “hit it big,” it has been brought to my attention that several other people formed bands with this same name around this same time.

8. “Giddey”

Giddey met in the art department at ECU and stayed together for only three months in 2001, but we played six shows. We were a harder alternative rock band, but had two front-women with decided singer/songwriter aspirations. Another way to put it would be we were three dudes who learned to play their instruments by memorizing Led Zeppelin’s entire catalog, thrown into a practice space with The Indigo Girls. Another way to put it would be there couldn’t have been a more incompatible combination.

Origin of Name: The name was chosen by our front-women the night before our first show. An internet seach revealed there was already a band out there called “Giddy,” so they created an alternate spelling to differentiate us.

Name Pros: Inoffensive and easy to remember.

Name Cons: The intentional misspelling seemed to make our potential followers think the word was pronouced differently. People would always ask me, “So how do you say the name? ‘Gid-DAY…?’ Or ‘Gid-Ya…?’” Also, this is the only band I’ve ever been in that was connected enough to play at larger venues that had marquees, and every time I saw our name in lights, the sign person had, despite specific instructions, left out the “e.”

9. “Sorry, Kevin”

My most-current former band. Sorry, Kevin existed from 2001–2006, starting as three guys in a room, improvising for hours and hours — mostly riffing on the power-pop and harder indie we all listened to — with the tape rolling. We later decided to turn some of our raw material into organized songs. We played approximately one live show a year.

Origin of Name: My sister and her friend once played a joke on my brother by going to grocery store where he worked and going through his friends’ checkout line with homemade iron-on-letter t-shirts — Kate’s reading “I LOVE MY BABY BROTHER KEVIN” and her friend’s reading “SORRY, KEVIN.” The “SORRY, KEVIN” t-shirt went on to become a mainstay at my parents’ house, and seemed to end up in a different family member’s wardrobe each time it went through the laundry. While we were there recording one day, Kevin had it in his room and we started talking about how it was pretty funny seeing that on a shirt completely out of context. It was cemented with a half-joking “Ok that’s it! That’s our band name!”

Name Pros: Easy to spell, say, and remember.

Name Cons: A band name involving a comma is a terrible idea. It consistently gets dropped on the signs and flyers (just ask Jump, Little Children), so instead of being an apology to Kevin, it ended up stating that Kevin possessed the quality of sorry-ness. Which he doesn’t.

(4/2/08)

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