Gray Flannel Dwarf


new music, old times.

So, i got my “permission slip” signed — i.e., was allowed to take a night off from family life — to go see my first show in I don’t know how long. It was a great opportunity, in my mind, both to blow off some steam, and to see the Pietasters, whom I’d first seen in 1995 or so, and last in, I think, 1998. My old beat-up Pietasters logo tee from that show is, sadly, long gone, I think. It was threadbare anyway.

So, in any case, they came down to the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. A friend of mine, whose hailing alma mater is from (of course) Blacksburg, was planning to hit the show anyway, so we carpooled in and caught the show.

I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder for this set. As for me, having not seen them in ages, the show was pretty fantastic. For S, who has apparently caught them at this venue five times alone, it was pretty forgettable, what with someone substituting in for the (apparently drunk) keyboardist and lacking a trumpet player.

They played a lot of the old favourites. Most of them I knew, although since I don’t own Willis, there were one or two I didn’t know. They also of course played a track or two from the new album, All Day. Overall, the set was a bit short to me, seeing that they were the headlining act, but it was pretty late by the end of the night anyway. I guess that’s a reflection on (my own) old age.

As for the new album, the aforementioned show was a cd release gig, and I bought a copy. Thus far, I think it’s kind of… okay. The album’s opening track, is a song which is on its face, a jingle about womanizing, but in its soul, a song about a stubborn persistence to be one’s self, featuring a lyric with Jackson singing that “…I’ll never change my ways”.

That lyric kind of sums up the album nicely. This is more of the same great, Motown-influenced Pietasters goodness that we’ve all enjoyed throughout the 90s.. It may be lacking a bit of the edge of earlier albums (to me anyway), but the content itself isn’t too bad, and their rocksteady cover of Tom Petty “Listen to Her Heart” is a nice addition.

What bothers me about All Day is, quite frankly, the production quality. I popped the CD into the player Monday. Unfortunately, most of the album just sounds really muddy to me, and I don’t think it’s due to any bouts of tinnitus, post-show. Thinking maybe I needed to rejigger my audio, I dropped the bass two notches on the player. While it helped a bit, the sound quality still had an overall “molasses” feel to it.

Now, obviously, 10-15 years removed from third-wave era, I don’t imagine it’s as easy today to get the funding or availability for a top-notch, well-polished recording as it once was. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the notion that we’ve gone beyond “indie” sound quality here, right to “4-track in the garage” territory.

Who knows, maybe I’m in the minority opinion here.

Tags: , , , — cswiii @ 1:18 pm


talkin’ white-bread north carolina suburb blues

So the background on this one:

You know those kids who go around the neighborhoods in the summertime trying to sell magazine subscriptions, for college, or leadership training or something. It’s annoying as hell, but nothing new.

This one unfortunate kid was going around our neighborhood selling them the other day. Doubly unfortunate, I guess, in the sense that his sales pitch was horrible… and that he was a young black kid in a mostly-white neighborhood.

Someone made an initial posting to our community mailing list asking if anyone else had had an encounter with this kid. It wasn’t long before someone else had responded that he was in the process of being handcuffed.

And thus, my response to a question posed:

Yes, it was quite unnerving. We are installing a peep hole in our front door as a result! Does anyone know what they were charged with?

If the comments that about a dozen people have left in this thread are any indication, the guy was charged with being black.

Seriously folks, can we take an honest look at this? I am just as weary and annoyed by solicitors as the rest of you probably are. But who hasn’t ever seen kids going up and down the streets in the summertime selling magazine subscriptions for “leadership training”, or “raising money to go to college”, or whatever? This is nothing new, the program has been around for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen white kids, black kids, hispanic kids all involved in this program.

So this kid was trying to sell these magazines, and yes, his spiel was pretty bad. He certainly didn’t have the best sales pitch in the world. He got to the end of his speech, tried to sell me some magazines, and I told him I wasn’t interested. He thanked me and left.

So I can only imagine that someone called the cops on him because some black kid came around a white-bread neighborhood and looked different. The outcome? All anyone else sees is a post about an “arrest”, and the worst is automatically assumed.

I’m really trying to avoid being inflammatory, but this looks less like a case of “neighborhood watch” and more like a case of
“neighborhood WASP”. That people will probably, as a result, get defensive about this kid’s arrest, won’t surprise me either.

FYI, here’s the FTC’s advice regarding door-to-door magazine sales:

Door-to-door sales: Beware of emotional appeals by someone selling door-to-door. For example, the student selling magazine subscriptions using the appeal that your sale will help him/her get a college scholarship or other such rewards. If you buy from a door-to-door salesperson in your home, and the purchase is more than $25, you’re protected under the FTC’s Cooling-Off Rule. The Rule gives you three days to cancel your order and receive a full refund. The seller must tell you that you have a right to cancel, and give you a summary of your cancellation rights and two copies of the cancellation form. Ask to see the required cancellation notice before you agree to buy. If the salesperson doesn’t have it, don’t place an order. The company is breaking the law.

Tags: , , — cswiii @ 9:07 am


A fresh start

Not quite sure how it happened, but in the process of emptying my 8500+ populated spam folder, I somehow also wiped out close to 200 or so emails that were in my main inbox.

Now, most of these weren’t too important, but some were from as far back as about 3 years ago which kind of fell into a purgatorio — they never seemed important enough right then to file into special folders, but they were important enough to not delete.

(For what it’s worth, if 200 emails seems like a lot, consider that I’ve had this email address for over 10 years. 200 emails in the inbox alone is a drop in the bucket.)

Anyway, so while I’ve lost a bunch of email, it does, at the same time, feel kind of refreshing. Really none of them is so important in the long term. And while I do need to fill in a few minor gaps (email me please, Chris), I am surprisingly not too concerned, given I tend to be an email packrat and have some saved from 1996 or earlier.

Maybe it’s maturity, maybe it’s the dao (道, aka “tao”). Maybe it’s the dreaded apathy. In any case, for whatever reason, I don’t feel I’ve lost a lot that will end up being too awful important.

Several years ago, reading the comics, I remember seeing a Shoe strip where Cosmo’s famous desk had been blown completely clean by a storm, or a gust of wind, or somethiing. Wish I could find it. In any case, it evokes the same sort of feeling.

For what it’s worth, I noticed the loss when only three emails existed in my inbox — all of which had been correctly tagged as spam by Thunderbird. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m too much a lazy middle-class intellectual to find it.

Tags: , , — cswiii @ 9:06 pm


Jim Cramer blows a gasket.

There have been a lot of warnings over the past, oh, three years about the real estate market and how it could end up dragging down the entire economy.

However, when the biggest, most hyper (and hyping) bull market cheerleader of them all, Jim Cramer, completely loses it on CNBC… we may be in for a helluva ride.

If his numbers are anywhere close to accurate — 14 million loans in the past three years, half of which were with teaser rates — things could get ugly, fast.

Tags: , , , — cswiii @ 5:36 pm