Dec 232012
 

Here is my report on retail establishments in the Huntsville, Alabama area this Christmas season:

  • Haven’t set foot in Madison Square or Parkway Place since the summer.  So, no idea.
  • Haven’t been to Bridge Street since the first week of November.  Aren’t I helpful?
  • I have a tremendously positive relationship with Wal-Mart, because I don’t go in there anymore.  I haven’t been in one since July 29, 2010, in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  That was the first time since October 6, 2009, when I had to go in one to get Sonic BoomThat was the first time since September 27, 2008, when I wanted an Oxford cap.  And that was the first time since October 15, 2006, when I originally decided I wasn’t dealing with Wal-Mart anymore.  I’m guessing it’s as miserable as always.  And y’all can have it.
  • Target has worked out well for me, though seems like it was Tuesday before Thanksgiving last time I was in there.
  • OK, I did actually go somewhere.  I visited Twiggie’s on Friday, mostly because the shop belongs to the daughter of a friend of a friend.  The boys found Christmas presents for their mother there.  The proprietor was friendly and helpful.  I’ll remember the shop’s proximity to me and my positive experience there.
  • Publix is the pleasure it always is.  It was genuinely crowded today, and I still had a smooth experience.

You want to be happy?  Here’s how.  Stay out of real stores except for Target, Publix, Costco, and boutiques owned by daughters of friends of friends.  Amazon.com and newegg.com are tremendous outfits.

Have another eggnog.

 Posted by at 8:37 pm
Dec 212012
 

My level-headed and intelligent friend Saintseester said today that she hadn’t paid attention to the news for three weeks, which made me feel better about my dicey engagement with it over roughly the same period.  She’s reporting positive effects on her well-being.  I haven’t disengaged enough.  But I’m going to, even to the point of destroying my current bookmark and home page settings.

I can’t remember what I’ve mentioned where, so I might have said this before, but I’m largely checked out until after the first of the year.  Barring Armageddon (and we seemed to miss our best chance for that today), there are no world events I can imagine that will make me change what I’m planning to do day to day.

So why pay attention?

Have a good weekend.

 Posted by at 9:41 pm
Dec 202012
 
  • I’ve been on Christmas vacation for about an hour as I type.  Delighted to be here, and looking forward to the restorative.
  • Of course, the world ending tomorrow would be decidedly unhelpful.
  • All I want for Tim Tebow is for him to have an actual shot.  Somebody pick him up after this season and commit to starting him, please.  He’s not yet been in a situation in the NFL that provides a true measure.  You can’t give a guy no clear path and then be appalled when he doesn’t succeed.  How about Jacksonville?
  • A friend at work told me a story this week about a jerk tailgating her severely on the way in one morning.  Guess what?  It was this guy.
  • I saw more Facebook noise about privacy policy changes this week.  I don’t even pay attention anymore.  I need to get over that.  I think that’s what they count on.
  • I think The Weather Channel deciding it’s going to name winter storms is kind of silly.  One of the original points of naming hurricanes was that if there were multiple ones, you knew which one someone was talking about when discussing potential tracks and so forth.  Well, periodic winter storms are essentially the default condition, and considerably more predictable than hurricanes.  It doesn’t make any more sense than naming lines of thunderstorms.  (Hope I didn’t just give them that idea.)
  • OK, so what do you think is grosser to eat:  lab-cultured meat or mealworms?
 Posted by at 5:13 pm
Dec 182012
 

The decorum of mourning is now thoroughly passe. Quiet reflection and prayer exceeding an hour or two is so last year. Something Must Be Done.

Amidst the predictable, ignorant shrieking for more gun control, there are several prominent voices calling for an examination of how we (don’t) handle mental illness in this country. I applaud this suggestion and wholly agree. But if we really do want to improve the situation, we’ll have to do quite a bit more than throwing a few billion dollars down existing rat holes. And said “quite a bit more” should include rounding up as much politically correct nonsense in this arena as we can find, and incinerating it.

For example, we need to get over this disturbing trend of reclassifying mental illnesses as simply alternate realities. This seems most common with autism. Autism is a defect to be treated. Any sociocultural examination of it should begin with that axiom.

We need to take a serious and sustained look at the kinds of people we stopped institutionalizing, and/or involuntarily treating, in the name of “civil rights.” Some are free and potentially dangerous. Others who should be hospitalized are instead incarcerated.

We need to say, loudly and repeatedly, that things like, oh, a child’s parents being married to each other and living together just might tend to have a positive effect on that child’s mental health.

I’m not endeavoring to give a comprehensive list of what we need to do. There are many other reforms, mostly at the state level, that would be helpful. It occurred to me, though, that I hadn’t seen/heard/read anyone asserting that it might be time to slaughter some sacred PC cows.

Three are above.

 Posted by at 9:19 am
Dec 162012
 

sunIt’s not easy to be a Sass Jordan fan in Alabama.  Some of her stuff over the years hasn’t even been released in the U.S., and I don’t think she’s toured within 1,000 miles of here since I missed her in 1994 with the flu.    Thanks largely to my well-connected Facebook friend Mitch, I became aware of S.U.N. (Something Unto Nothing), her latest project, and what a project it is.

Well, it’s their latest project.  S.U.N. has one of rock’s best voices up front, and Brian Tichy on guitar.  (Isn’t he a drummer?)  Yes.  He’s one hell of a guitarist, too.  Michael Devin and Tommy Stewart round out the all-star lineup.

I’ve enjoyed Sass Jordan’s mellower stuff, but I’ve always thought she was a better rocker than anything else.  Here she is unambiguously rocking, for the first time since 1994’s Rats.

Something Unto Nothing is a record of soundscapes.  It’s got delicious, boot-stomping sleaze.  It’s got nods to the best of grunge and post-grunge.  Over here is a valley of groove, with periodic stands of blues.  Over there is a vista of Zeppelinesque drum walls and phrasing.  The common thread is hard rock purity.

Speaking of Led Zeppelin, I’ll get my only real knock on the album out of the way.  The opener “Burned” is a good time, but I can’t recall ever hearing a song that cribbed from “Black Dog” so consistently and completely.  Given the excellence of the rest of the package, it’s an odd, almost dissonant lead-off choice.

The guitar sound on the first single “Nomad” would have been at home on the first Audioslave record.  Sass Jordan’s formidable pipes complete a tasty combination.  (You can get that track free right here, and you should.)  “No Way Home” is a reliable smile generator and toe-tapper, and the best Southern rock/metal mash-up in some time.  “If I Was You,” despite the grammatical misstep, is a marvelous and wistful ballad, ethereal without getting too airy.  We have exactly no filler here, boys and girls.  A more consistently high-quality album is rarely made.

The title cut deserves extended mention.  A look at the run time of “Something Unto Nothing” and a tiptoe into the first couple of minutes tells you it’s ambitious, and on a hard rock record, all too often ambition means opportunity for bloat and self-indulgence.  Instead, this is an appealingly understated and mature masterpiece, seductive in its buildup and relentless when the heavy guitars finally hit.  I listen to a song like this and wonder if they realized how special it was while they were writing it, and that awareness forced detachment in an effort to keep it special.

(I’m also curious as to whether it predated the band name, and they named themselves after the best song.)

This album awakens old sentiments in me.  It reminds me of high school and college, when heavy rock occupied most of my leisure time.  I considered a new album thoughtfully and unhurriedly, because that was the best way to hear something new and wonderful on the way back through another listen.  S.U.N. – Something Unto Nothing is of that caliber.  Fantastic job, ladies and gentlemen.

9/10

 Posted by at 2:26 pm