Monday, September 26, 2011

3 exercises in discretion.

When somebody tells you they're driving to the clinic for a stress test, that's the wrong time to say that if they'd regularly walked to the clinic they probably wouldn't need any stress test. You may remember exactly how many release-your-inner-millionaire books a friend has ever bought. There's no good time to mention that number, ever. And listen. Someday, let's suppose somebody gets up in your face all belligerent and asks, “You think I care what you think of me?” That's probably a bad time to point out that they're asking your opinion of them, right there.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I'd like to think that every week I say a clever thing or two here, so that anybody who happens to be reading it will say to themselves, “You know, that's right. I never thought of it that way. The fella that writes this thing has a lot on the ball.” But I may instead be providing sidekick humor. Sidekick humor is when you say a dumb thing that inadvertently steers the main character toward a smart solution. So a scrawny bewhiskered geezer spouts some inanity, and Roy snaps his fingers and says brightly, “Say! That gives me an idea!”

Monday, September 12, 2011

Not You Again

Contrafact. There's a word I'd never heard before. It means a musical composition that uses the metric and harmonic structure of an earlier piece. Like, every 12-bar blues is a contrafact, or how you can play the Flintstones theme over the top of "I've Got Rhythm." Charlie Parker's "Ornithology" is a new melody for "How High the Moon." Weirdly, "The Horst Wessel Song" is a contrafact of "How Great Thou Art." It's not plagiarism; a copyright protects melody, not chord structure. It's like life- you can't fundamentally alter its shape, but you can play whatever you want over the changes.

Monday, September 5, 2011


I know this sounds like a retelling of The Aristocrats, but it's seriously totally true. Last decade, there was this great little band from Detroit that was creating quite a buzz. Big crunchy chords, clever and insightful lyrics, a guy named John Speck with for real one of the great rock voices ever. And they make an EP that gets some major label attention, get signed, make a full-length recording, which, okay, the label sits on it for too long, but finally it gets released. Then... nothing. No sales. No airplay. And The Fags go their separate ways.