I Am a Genius: listen to my words

I Have the Conch

listen to my words

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I mostly listen to music. I mean, who doesn’t? I have thousands (over 32,000) of mp3s in my regular playlist, and I have hundreds of CDs, tapes, and records in my collection as well. I’ve written a few songs and have things to say about music. That’s why this section exists


An impulse purchase to be sure. Because I have no idea how on earth one can learn about the existence of LEGO compatible toys made in the image of KISS without immediately buying them. The fact that there was only one package remaining on the shelf when I got there only proves my case.

I’m not sure I need to talk too much about them. Just… LOOK!


They have all of them. Spaceman (Ace Frehley)…

…Starchild (Paul Stanley)…

…Catman (Peter Criss)…

… and my personal favorite, Demon (Gene Simmons).

And, in case you ever wondered, yeah, fully compatible with LEGO bricks. Here’s Ace Frehley wearing a TIE pilot uniform.
Ace Frehley, TIE Pilot.

But, the absolute very best most awesome thing ever about this? The platform boots are accessories, not a solid piece of the legs.
Pirate Kiss

Favorites: Musical Acts of the 1950s

This is the first in a new series I’m starting. It may be that this series will only reach 6 articles, but it may be that I find something else to put in it.

Why six articles? Because the inspiration for this series was creating a list of my favorite 3 musical performers/musicians/songwriters/bands of each of the last 6 decades. Naturally, they focus on rock and it’s related kinds.

So, without further ado: My favorite three rock stars of the 1950s.

There are really only three to consider: Elvis, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. The 1950s was the easiest decade from which to select favorite music acts.

Chuck Berry

Chuck Berry is one of the earliest rock stars I ever even knew about. He was one of the artists Dad listened to. And who doesn’t know “Johnny B. Goode?”

Especially if you’ve ever seen Back to the Future

But he had others that just rock out. “Maybelline,” for one.

“Sweet Little Sixteen,” for another.

And honestly, he brought us the timeless “My Dingaling”

(yeah… that one’s not 1950s, at least that recording… I stand by my decision, however)

and one of the Best Christmas Songs Ever

(look! Reindeers! — if Chuck says it that way, I can too. Sorry, couldn’t find a performance of it)



And... he had great hair

I admittedly overlooked Elvis Presley for a long time.

It wasn’t till the USPS released a postage stamp with his face on it that I gave him a real chance, recognizing at last how many of his songs I did know and love already.I mean, I knew I loved them, I just didn’t acknowledged that I liked so much that Elvis recorded, collectively. It was upon the release of this stamp, and the purchase of a greatest hits CD that I was finally able to admit: I loved Elvis.

So what is so great about Elvis? Other than the fact that he swung his hips and wore a leather jacket and sneered?

and the fact that even in his old age he could kick a mummy’s butt

Well, “Hound Dog,”

“Jailhouse Rock,”

and “Blue Suede Shoes.”

Pretty much ’nuff said right there.

Granted, he did “Amazing Grace” in 1970,

From the title of the album, it’s clear that they didn’t invent innuendo by 1970…

which puts it in another Decade, but since what I love of his music is MOSTLY in the 50s, and since that’s the decade I believe most people associate him with, I’m putting him here.

Buddy Holly

Wait… wrong buddy Holly…

From an early age, I was familiar with his work. I thought it was alright. I don’t think I “got” it though. Even when I was in a fit of buying 50s music and I got his greatest hits I didn’t get it. I believe there are times when I thought he was over rated on the basis of his tragic death as told in epic song.

Wait… wrong epic…

But while his music is simple, and I tend to be snooty about a lot of the virtuoso music I listen to, there’s raw art underneath the wholesome nerd-rock image Buddy Holly gave us. This is stuff at the core of so much rock to follow for the next half century and beyond. This is stuff that is iconic and still influential.

“That’ll Be the Day” (that I’ll die, not the music),

Wait… wrong… oh yeah. This one is right.

“Peggy Sue,”

What if Elvis had worn Holly’s glasses…?

“Maybe Baby,”

Couldn’t find a decent performance for this one either. Enjoy the pre-hipster nerd chic look

and “Rave On!”

But not with glow sticks or roofies! Also, yes, it’s clear the performance and the sound are not really associated with each other. Deal.

I mean, come on. You know you like every one of those, even if you won’t admit it because you’re a hipster and think you’re above it. And it’s because Holly is/was iconic. Emblematic.

Why it’s possible that some of what I like may be utter crap

So today I got pointed over to Philip Athans’s blog and his brand new willingness to try a romance novel because he recently had the (mis)fortune to accidentally listen to an Andy Gibb song.

On the surface, one would assume that Mr. Athans either suffered a head injury or else the hearing of the succulent voice of Andy Gibb either traumatized his mind or turned him gay. Or possibly both.

But I appreciate Philip’s position (did you see that unprofessional way I switched to his first name? It’s as if I decided, most suddenly, that I wanted to use it instead of something more formal… because that is The Way. I. Roll.)

Now, I should clarify. I don’t know any Andy Gibb songs and I have no desire to learn them. I also still hate Abba and the Bee Gees (“it’s those blasted Bee Gees!”). My wife doesn’t share my opinion. Neither does her family. I have to hide in solitary when we go to family gatherings for fear of being forced into a “Dancing Queen” sing along.

But let me back up. Since Philip used music to introduce it, I’ll use music too.

In seventh grade.. ish… I listened to Top 40 music. I really hadn’t been introduced to anything. Kiss 98 was what played at the swimming pool in the summers when I lived in Nebraska, so I knew Sting singing “Free, Free, set them free” and Tears for Fears singing “Everybody wants to rule the world.” So when we moved I naturally found the top 40 stations. By 9th grade my favorite albums (on tape) were Starship’s Knee Deep in the Hoopla, Heart (the one with “These Dreams”, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts Up Your Alley, and Cutting Crew’s Broadcast. Though close follow ups were Huey Lewis and the News Sports and the soundtrack for Ghostbusters. Thing is I knew I liked guitar, but, I had no idea what real guitar sounded like. I had an inkling of good bands, but with the possible exception of Joan Jett, none of those are close to the artists’ finest moments (well, maybe Huey is an exception too, but that’s a completely different story). And really, there were better bands out there. Especially with Starship. I mean, technically it was almost the same band that had played at Woodstock. WOODSTOCK. Grace Slick had once told us to “go ask Alice,” a song that resonates through all kinds of different layers socially and musically, and in the one I liked, the lyrics went

Knee deep in the hoopla
Sinking in your face

I mean… what?

(Not that I hate that song, but let’s move on before we talk about why I wasn’t wrong here).

I happened to be a loser. Not quite a nerd, then I would have had science club or AV club friends or something. but more of a Dork. I had… one (ONE. 1. Uno. Einz. 01.) friend in seventh grade. Aaron had been heavily influenced by his almost pothead brothers. He liked metal. Led Zeppelin was the best any music could ever aspire too. Randy Rhodes was brilliant.

I never got fully into his music, though now I’d dig on it a lot more. But he opened my world. By the time I was in tenth grade, I was listening to classic rock and everything else SUCKED.

I have a debt to Aaron for opening the door to music. I never would have found the best of hte best of the best, 99% of the music I adore now, if it hadn’t been for him. Of course, he also stunted me. The classic rock or die thing was his fault too. So I really missed out on some awesome music while it was on the air waves. But still.

Gradually, I learned a bit of other stuff. I made fun of people who like Morrissey, and even though I went through a metal phase (I bought the soundtrack to Shocker… which was a disservice, featuring as it did a lame cover of an Alice Cooper song), I was peer pressured into destroying my tape of Run DMC’s Raisin’ Hell (though I have managed to recover that on LP, a treasured possession now), I disavowed several other things I loved, and I alienated people that could have helped.

In 1990, however, the world fell in love again. We were marching hand in hand (though we didn’t know why), and a brand new record came out. They Might Be Giants brand new album Flood. This album is a work of pure genius. I heard that The Band’s (The Band, not the band They Might Be Giants) Music from Big Pink changed lives. Well, Flood changed mine.

Suddenly, music didn’t have to be 20 years old to be any good. (In truth, I had adapted that rule. I couldn’t like Clapton’s Journeyman otherwise. But it was something like, 20 years old, or by someone who was recording 20 years ago — still lame. It took me years before I finally bought my own copy of Kill Uncle, an album I still adore.

Over the years, my taste has only expanded. I still don’t like country or most gangsta rap (but it most assuredly is all about the Benjamins). But Johnny Cash and the Fat Boys are in my regular rotation. There probably isn’t a genre of western music that isn’t on my iPod. There are some eastern music too, but I have less exposure to that, so I don’t have as much. I can consider a song on its own terms now, instead of assuming that I know what it’s about just because of what radio station it’s on.

A lot of people think they’re open minded because they listen to both country and Top 40. That’s not what I’m talking about. Let me emphasize to you. I will listen to Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill” followed by P.O.D. doing “Lights Out,” which will then transition to Dynamite Hack’s hilarious early-20th century-esque cover of “Boyz in the Hood.” Followed by MC 900 Foot Jesus doing “The City Sleeps,” Bela Fleck doing “How Can you Face Me Now,” a performance of Holst’s planets, and finish the short burst out with The Ramones. (Oh yes, Joey, I do remember rock’n’roll radio). And yes, I put kids songs in the playlist too.

Thing is… I’m still a snob about it. There is music I hear and then simply Will. Not. Touch. of my own accord ever. And people who like those songs are often as not morons in my head. But I have, at least stopped telling people that. To their faces. Very often.

A similar thing happened to me with movies.

I was into movies, but I was very careful about my reasons for watching a movie. Story was highest on my list. Solid story, then well-acted performances. If I couldn’t justify it, it was kind of a shameful viewing.

Then I realized… it’s OK to watch a movie because it was eye candy. Great special effects, beautiful cinematography, or even just great explosions. Then there came other reasons – Jackie Chan flipping around was suddenly appealing.

These days I enjoy what I call “bad cinema.” A Godzilla movie holds a lot of appeal for me. Not any movie will work, though. A movie has to be trying, at least. Or at least have one great idea. A lot of dumb comedies try to hard to be in your face and absurd. Juvenile. But I like 80s teen movies — John Hughes never talked down to me; he always seemed to know what he was talking about. His characters, even if they could only be properly described as losers, never seemed like a waste of space.

So that brings us back to music. I will listen to Lady Gaga and Cyndi Lauper. I can put them on a playlist with Bob Dylan and Joe Satriani. Because I listen to each of those for a different reason. Not every song hits me, but if it does, I’ll listen to it more than once.

It’s the same with books, really. Comics, for example. Sturgeon’s law applies. Most of it is horrible, but even a lot of that is still fun to read. And what’s wrong with reading for fun? I have a guilty pleasure I like to indulge — reading Shoujo Manga (Japanese made comics targeted toward a female audience). I love Azamanga Daioh and Gina Biggs is a wonderful writer.

So, yeah, I’m not ready to seriously investigate the romance genre at this time (which, going back to the begining, was Philip’s reason for mentioning Andy Gibb). I reckon, however, it has something it could teach me about writing. There’s a reason romance is so successful. And it’s not because it’s horrible. Horrible it may be, but there’s something there that appeals to people.

Fun, Fun, Fun

“This is what you call fun?”

The question should have made me wince, I suppose, but since she was looking the other way, I just grinned as I shoved her through an unmarked door. Bullets snapped as they impacted the wall, just missing us. I briefly wondered what material the wall was made of to produce that particular noise.

The truth was that not only was this not what I had planned for my first date with Cynthia, it was the last thing I had expected to actually happen — which meant, to my surprise, and probably hers as well, that the black-clad assassins were here for her. This made her much more interesting.

And yes. I did think it was fun.

The way I see it, anyone who devotes his life to a career he doesn’t enjoy is a fool and has thrown away his life. That includes those few of us left in the… hands on security and espionage industry.

The hallway we turned down led away from the main concourse. It was narrow with several doors at intervals on the sides. I had mixed feelings about the lack of people. There was no one in our way as we darted down it, but if we didn’t get out before our pursuers got in, we’d be easy targets. If we did, though, we’d be a step closer to throwing them off, and a lot closer to the trains that would take us to safety.

Cynthia’s breath was coming heavy already. She didn’t look unfit — I wasn’t too picky about body type, but my friend, Sven, who set up this blind date, knew that I insisted on a healthy life style. Cynthia clearly wasn’t a sprinter, let alone a long distance runner. “Don’t think about it,” I told her. “It’ll just discourage you.”

She sneered, clearly not impressed with my advice.

I glanced over my shoulder. One of the assassins was rounding the corner. I grunted an expletive and dragged Cynthia the last few feet to the end of the hall then yanked her to the left just as the bullets started spraying.

“What the heck is going on?” she hissed.

“Shut up,” I said simply. I don’t like rudeness as a rule, but it wasn’t the time. All thoughts needed to be on escape. Plus, other than the immediate escape I didn’t know what was going on. “Come on,” I said more gruffly than I intended as I took her hand and led her into the crowd on this concourse.

I’d been on protection detail many times, and I’d grabbed a lot of people a lot of ways. But taking Cynthia’s hand stood out to me. It felt good, like it was made to be in my hand. It irritated me, because twitterpation would just distract me from the current crisis.

Fortunately, Cynthia didn’t resist as I wove through the crowd. Our pursuers followed us into the mass of people and were considerably less polite than I was, shoving individuals aside. No one had noticed the gunshots — the killers had relatively quiet weapons and the crowd was loud. But there were a lot of shouts and protests at this.

“There’s a shuttle to the other side of the complex,” I said. “It’s not an escape, but it’ll buy us a moment to rest.”

She nodded without saying anything. Her face was turning red. We needed that rest.

At least she was trusting me. That made doing my job that much easier. The thought prompted me to shake my head. This had started as a date, and now it was a job. That was not a promising sign that this would be a relationship. Also, I wasn’t being paid.

Cynthia continued her relative silence, as we pushed through the edge of the crowd and crossed the relative open space to the line for the shuttle.

To the credit of their parents, some people have been trained in their manners that even when their person is in eminent danger they are unfailing in their courtesy. It was gratifying to me that Sven had set me up on a date with someone possessed of such fine etiquette. However, it was also disconcerting to me that Cynthia moved toward the end of the queue for the shuttle. I hissed softly through my teeth and jerked her toward the front. I intended to make some people angry.

The shuttle was just opening its door to bring in passengers as I shoved the line leaders aside ungently and push Cynthia in. I followed immediately on her heals and smashed my hand on the door’s controls, shutting them. My date fell into a chair as I slapped a magnetic hacknode on the manual override panel. I hadn’t been expecting assailants, but certain small devices, like the hacknode, were so convenient and useful that I always have one with me.

Symbols flashed across the security pad for a second, and then the controls popped out of their panel. I slammed the start button.

The shuttle was a vehicle designed to automatically fit a couple dozen people and carry them the twenty-five kilometers to the other end of the Nyark Mercantile Complex — the largest shopping mall on humanity’s home world. It slid smoothly into movement. We had about five minutes to breathe. I allowed myself to smile as the people I had shoved grappled our pursuers, clearly unwilling to allow anyone else to cut the line. The assassins would not be getting on the next shuttle without indiscriminate show of force. I hoped, even with the bluntness of their assault, the assassins would try to keep collateral damage to a minimum.

Cynthia was regaining her breath. “What is going on?” she asked again. I didn’t believe it was possible to lace a question with more impatience than she did.

I couldn’t afford to calm her though. I turned on the heads-up implant in my eye with a thought and took hold of her wrist. I was gentle enough that I wouldn’t hurt her, but firm enough that if she resisted I wouldn’t lose my grip. I looked her in the eye and asked, “Are you really an assistant at the Drieter firm?”

She tried only for half a second to pull away, and not with much force. “What are you talking about? Why would I lie about that?”

“Just answer.” I kept my voice low. I didn’t want to make her upset. In fact, I was hoping to calm her. But I needed the answers more than anything else.

She glared, but answered. “Yes, I am. I told you…”

I nodded and interrupted. “Do you have any enemies? Anyone who would have a reason to hurt you?”

“What? No! I’m just an assistant. Why would I have enemies?”

I didn’t have an answer to that. More importantly, the bio-readings in my HUD confirmed that she didn’t have an answer for it either. She was worked up but wasn’t holding back.

I released her hand and sat back in the chair facing her, my arms spread across the backs of the seats next to me. She ran her fingers over the spot I had been holding. It was time to review my earlier thesis. I had friends. With a little work I could get a good outlook for my immediate future. To be sure, I had enemies as well. But I didn’t actually interact with many of the people I dealt with professionally, targets or colleagues. My identity was a closely guarded secret – completely divorced from my work. I had safeguards and triggers in place to let me know the instant anyone so much as looked at a file containing information about me. There hadn’t even been a sniff. Nothing’s one-hundred percent, of course, but I had confidence that this was about her, not me. It just remained for me to figure out why.

“Look,” I said calmly. ” I considered that these guys might be after you. If you knew what I really did with my life, that would be the reasonable assumption. But…” I held up my hand to quiet her interruption. “Those men aren’t good enough to go after me, and anyone competent enough to even figure out who I am would know that. And there’s the snippets of chatter I’ve managed to hear from our attackers. Their target appears to be a woman. And I promise I haven’t lied about that.”

I was in luck. That remark elicited the slightest of smiles from her lips.

“But why would they come after me?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know, but I am going to find out. More to the point, I feel responsible for you. These guys have pissed me off by going after you while you were in my care.” It sounded corny, like an old, twentieth century vid, and I was a little bit surprised to hear myself talk like this. Funny thing was, I rally did feel that way. A half dozen guys with guns after one woman was hardly fair – but this type of thing was never about anything fair. But they had also ruined my date.

“So you don’t think chivalry is passé?” She said, the tiny smile returning to her full lips.

It was infectious, and I smiled broadly. “I suppose not. I hope that’s not a bad impression for modern times.” After a brief pause I continued. “I know this has been strange and probably frightening, but I need you to trust me so I can get you out of here alive. It’s not done yet. They’re far behind us, but they might have reinforcements at our destination.”

She caught my gaze and held it, looking into me with her sharp green eyes. “I trust you,” she said.

What an amazing woman.


The shuttle followed the track it was attached to until it reached the friend of the complex. I had a few moments to look over my date. Her wide eyes were set under thin, dark eyebrows. The left brow was pierced with four gem like studs. The crystal structures held her ID and credit info, attuned to her DNA. Her raven black hair dangled close to her brow in front, and in back was held in a series of silver colored rings that made her single pony tail hand down from a point several inches away from her head. It was a chic style. By contrast she didn’t wear the form fitting coveralls that were all the rage. Instead she wore an old-fashioned skirt to her knees with a short-sleeved blouse. It was a less explicit demonstration of her figure, and it made her seem less common — it suited her. The material her skirt and blouse were made of was quasi-reflective and of a silky texture. The color seemed to shift with her movements and the light — for the skirt dark colors: blue, green, black, red; the top played in lighter colors but always complemented the bottom.

The shuttle bumped to a stop, shaking me out of the observation. I wondered for a moment why they couldn’t invent a way to smooth out those stops, but evenas I did I waved Cynthia to join me near the door. “Stay with me,” I told her. “Remember, you’re not safe until I say so. Until then, assume that somewhere there’s a guy trying to line up a shot at your head.” It was blunt, but break was over; speed was again imperative. I saw her head nod quickly as my attention turned toward the outside. I felt a small weight leave me, she really was putting her trust i me.

There wasn’t anyone down below the shuttle who looked like the attackers. Either we really did have some breathing room (too good to be true), they had disguised themselves (unlikely given the short time), or they were hiding, which miggt even mean a sniper.

I pulled my hacknode off the controls and the door slid open. Cynthia took my hand as I stepped out. It was strange, but exiting the shuttle felt like enteringa completely different environment. My senses, even th cybernetic ones, were reaching out, finding suspicion in everyone and everything around us.

We pushed through the light crowd toward a nearby hallway.

And the bad guys revealed themselves. From both sides a group of two or three appeared.

They were dressed in black still, and making too much noise. “These guys really suck at this.” I said. It had stopped being fun and was just annoying now. These guys were nothing but thugs, not remotely professional. Beneath me, really. If it weren’t for Cynthia, I would have just stopped and beaten them to death. Well, maybe not to death, at last not all of them. Somebody would need to learn how deep the trouble they volunteered for was.

But Cynthia was with me, so instead I just led her away, breaking into a run she could keep up with. The main hallways were too wide – they provided no cover. So I found myself again turning to side passages.