Torture Policy

As I drove up the Garden State Parkway early this morning, I listened to talk radio concerning the current U.S. president and the torture scenario that had unfolded in the Abu Gharaib jail a few years back. The piece focused around a press conference given by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who reiterated several times over a 20-minute press conference that the president’s policy was that of one strictly against torture. “Again, I’m going to reiterate that the president does not condone torture….”

And I jokingly thought to myself, “Well, do you really need to state four times over a 20-minute period that you are, in fact, against torture? Shouldn’t that just be a given at this point in time in humanity and society unless you’re a serial killer or a checkout person at Wal-Mart?”

Shudder To Think

Going as far back as what seems like my senior year of high school, I got into a band from Washington D.C. called Shudder To Think. Not particularly because I liked them a whole lot at the time I was introduced to them; rather because they opened up for Fugazi at a time when I was wholly impressionable. But Shudder To Think grew on me in a way I really didn’t understand.

At the time, Shudder To Think was signed to Dischord Records, and seemed to represent the “sore thumb” aspect of the label’s roster. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to describe their sound in relation to Fugazi, Jawbox, Circus Lupus or any other band on the Dischord roster at the time. Weird time signatures, falsetto voice-overs; stuff that I really didn’t comprehend at the time. But the music was catchy. Even if they did have songs I couldn’t begin to understand about “riding sexy horses” or “Jewish cuckoo birds,” I was into it.

My relationship with Shudder To Think blossomed up to their major label debut for Epic Records in 1994. Their sound got stranger and I understood what they were doing even less, but I loved it nonetheless. Their debut for Epic, ‘Pony Express Record,’ is still one of my all-time favorite records, and to this day, I can dig it out and appreciate its weirdness just as much as the first time I ever heard it.

I don’t know what happened after ‘Pony Express Record’ though. I didn’t exactly lose interest. I still bought their two final albums for Epic, but something was missing. You know when you have a friend that you’re cool with, and then one day, you just stop hanging out with them as much as you used to? That’s kinda what happened with me and Shudder To Think. No exact reason; we just slowly grew apart. The band’s lineup morphed multiple times, I discovered alcohol, etc, etc.

Shudder To Think broke up not soon after their third album for Epic. I think it was a movie soundtrack to the film ‘First Love, Last Rites,’ but by then I was a distant fan and not overly upset. Not long after, Craig Wedren (vocalist, guitarist for Shudder To Think) was diagnosed with cancer, and seemed to take a break from playing music. Thankfully, he recovered and started scoring music for all sorts of TV shows and films, but not much on the commercial front was being sold with the ‘Ex-members of Shudder To Think’ tag attached to it, and we as friends (me and Shudder To Think) grew slowly apart.

Put about 10 years time between that last paragraph and the next one….

Last week, something strange happened. I found Craig Wedren’s newest solo album in a used bin in Red Bank, NJ for $6. I bought it, thinking, “Hmm, this might be interesting,” and have been enraptured by it all week long. But it didn’t end there. He’s still a NY resident, and is playing out all this weekend all over the city starting last night. So I took another gamble on someone that did so much for me at an impressionable age, and again, it was amazing. He played songs off of the new album, along with what are classic at this point Shudder To Think songs; songs I never thought I’d ever hear performed live for the remainder of my life. And it was amazing.

Which brings me to my long drawn out point: Maintain relationships with people or artists that affect you. (And when I say “affect,” I mean in a positive light. If they “defect” you, or rather, affect you in a negative light, f- ’em.) I slacked for close to 10 years on the Craig Wedren/Shudder To Think relationship, and though I’m glad I took a chance and gave it another go, I still feel unsettled that I took so much from Craig Wedren/Shudder To Think, and then threw them away when I wasn’t benefitting from the relationship anymore. Only to come back into the fold and get thrown on my ass with how utterly amazing a voice, some guitar effects and a vision can be.

Now where is that Spin Doctors CD?

Land Line, Static and The Broken Bridge

I’ve got two problems with life this week: the phone company and static electricity. Both issues I think everyone experiences from one time to another throughout life.

Imagine the following scenario. You pay good money for a land line phone and the service stops working. Now you can report the problem one of two ways: by using your mobile phone’s minutes to call the problem in, or by visiting the Verizon website to report the problem and schedule a repair visit. It doesn’t take a bargain hunter to realize which is the better choice, right? So I report the problem online, and schedule a repair visit for this past Saturday morning. I wait and wait around, but Verizon doesn’t call or visit. And since their service department is only open during the week, there was no way to report the issue til today. I call on my mobile phone and cancel my service. It takes approximately 17 minutes on my mobile phone to walk through the process of why I am opting to cancel my land line service with Verizon. And, as luck would have it, there’s no option to cancel service through the Verizon website. Essentially, I was paying Verizon to screw me, so I opted out of the equation.

Static electricity, not so simple to escape, unless you really want to remove the carpeting from the top floor of your house. In the past, I’ve accepted it as a mild by-product of the electric-infused carpeting in my room, but that ended last week. Allow me to explain: I walked across my room and sat down in front of my computer. I brought my hand near the track pad, but before I could touch it, a bolt of electric current shot out of my finger onto the track pad. Ever since then, my track pad is acting as if its working its way through a large dose of coke, doing all kinds of weird dances and moving a mile a minute. But it doesn’t end there. The current’s getting stronger every time I turn the lamp in my room on, to the point that I’m making that poignantly verbose pause before I attempt to touch the knob. Had I better control over poor customer service in regards to being an awesome conductor of electricity within my room, I would’ve gladly called the 800 number on my mobile phone to cancel the strange power I possess, but self-imbibed static electricity is still free (and uncontrollable) in this day and age.
I don’t really know where I’m going with this. I just know that I’d gladly pay money to be able to turn off mine own static electricity, and also that I’m tired of paying money to large communication corporations that willingly screw me.

“Customer service, how can I help you?”
“Yeah, I wanna cancel my static electricity. It almost killed my computer….”
“You do realize you could’ve canceled this service online, right?”

In my dreams perhaps….

Which reminds me of one from a previous night in the not so distant past. I’m in Austin, TX, attempting to cross a pedestrian bridge over a river a few hundred feet below. The bridge is impassible. There’s an beginning and an end, but no middle. Unsure of the time it took for me to extrapolate a solution, I somehow devised a plan which allowed me to hang from my feet off the beginning of the bridge, and somehow grab the end of the bridge with my hands. I swung across to the end of the bridge, pulled myself up onto the parapet, finished the walk to the end of the bridge and began my descent into the valley below.

Suddenly, static electricity and poor customer service don’t seem like much of a challenge anymore. There are ways across broken bridges. There are ways.

Andrew Reynolds

I was a huge fan of Andrew Reynolds’ skateboarding until this afternoon, when a catalog arrived featuring Andrew’s third pro model shoe from Emerica. I love the shoe, but if you actually purchase the shoe, you also get a free Diamond stud earring from Emerica.

Remember a simpler time in life, when flair was just a joke from ‘Office Space?’ Me too….

Phuckin *ild grammar!

So my phone broke the other night. Not in the ramshackle way you’d expect though. Technically, it still works in that I can make phone calls, send text messages and get online, but it’s handicapped itself in a way that’s made me re-condition the way I think, write and punctuate.
Here’s the problem: the keyboard on my phone (yes, I have a keyboard on my phone, it’s a Sidekick 2) opted to stop working to a small degree, meaning that it won’t let me type a period, the number 2 or the letters, F, W, O and X. Not a big deal really, right?
Unfortunately, it’s a very big deal, as I’m quickly realizing how much of what I type as text messages and instant messages has to do with the letters F, W and O. And the lack of a period, well, where to begin? I’ve been a staunch supporter of proper punctuation for years now, and the past few days have me throwing period-less sentences left and right. Or I do something even worse in an effort to use a closing piece of punctuation; I use an exclamation point for sentences that aren’t necessarily toned with excitement. It seriously pains me to act in such a way, but I hate a period-less statement almost as much as, well, I don’t know, I just hate doing it. So until my phone gets replaced, my text and instant messaging capabilities are going to be ace if I’m asking “Are there drinks available at the party?,” but sour if I’m stating, “Hey, *e’re g0ing t0 0rder a phew m0vies fr0m Netphlicks, *hat m0vies d0 yu *ant?” (That translates into, “Hey, we’re going to order a few movies from Netflix. What movies do you want?”) So you see, I’ve got a problem that my grammatically-trained brain needs fixed fast, else I’m going to fall into a state of lazy, text/instant message infused shorthand, and though I’m in touch with youth culture, I’m really not ready to do that just yet.
Currently, the battle rages on with T-Mobile over sending me a new phone free of charge, and til the white flag is raised, my brain is burning midnight oil searching for alternate ways to get around words that use W, F and O. I’ve devised a few ways. F becomes ‘Ph,’ and instead of asking, ‘Wanna join me?,’ I now ask, ‘Care t0 j0in me?’ I know, it’s horrible, but it’s made me realize that there are far too few letters in the English alphabet, and that I also depend on a choice few way too much, and others not nearly enough.
Here’s your test: Try not using the letter ‘W’ in a two-hour time span and see how far you get….

If all this seems like I’m losing my mind, blame the weather. I really just need to be able to go outside without freezing anymore. Spring, *hen r yu g0ing t0 arrive? Im g0ing phuckin crazy!