18 Hours Of Messy Bliss

On Tuesday morning while grazing social media, I stumbled across an article detailing the apparent release of nearly 18 hours of old Radiohead demos, rumored to have be recorded during the band’s 1997 album OK Computer’s studio sessions. If you know me, or know me well, you’ll get that this is a very big deal. It was reported that someone had stolen Thom Yorke’s minidiscs containing the recordings, and threatened to leak them online unless a $150,000 ransom was paid. You can’t make this shit up. So as a sort of “fuck you” to the perpetrator, the band decided to release it on their own. Via the music website Bandcamp, where you are now able to purchase the demos in their entirety, Thom Yorke issued the following statement:

"we've been hacked 
my archived mini discs from 1995-1998(?) 
it's not v interesting 
there's a lot of it 

if you want it, you can buy the whole lot here 
18 minidisks for £18 
the proceeds will go to
Extinction Rebellion 

as it's out there 
it may as well be out there 
until we all get bored 
and move on 

Thmx
"

To any diehard Radiohead fan, this was huge. To be gifted a never before heard glimpse into the band’s early recordings, which spawned not only one of the most important albums of the past 30 years, but an intimate view of a group of pals simply fucking around, is truly special. Granted, these were not moments the band initially intended to share with the world. The fact that they released it themselves somewhat removed the sting of prying eyes. We weren’t perverts ogling stolen celebrity nudes. We’re simply fans hurling at the treat the band was kind enough to wave in front of our noses. And I am here for it.

Listening to these tracks, labeled only by number, it becomes clear just how remarkable this band is. Even in their most stripped down, they exude an energy that’s downright intoxicating. They’re a group of musicians who have always tested themselves, exploring new sounds, techniques, even studio recording time, which they exhibited with 2003’s Hail To The Thief, recording most of the album in a mere two weeks. Over a decades long career, Radiohead have practically created their own genre of music, which I’ve always believed is what allows them to dip their toes in other genres while still very much sounding like them.

It’s easy to get lost in their progression. From the guitar crunching ballad of 1993’s Creep, a song Thom Yorke for years refused to play live (I finally heard it during their 2004 Coachella set) to the electronic meddling of 2000’s stunning Kid A, their career has travelled to places no one could have expected. No matter a person’s take on their music, denying the significance of their existence is impossible. No two albums of theirs are alike. Love them or hate them, they’re a wholly unique entity. And while this collection of demos may illustrate a band’s growing prowess, it also displays all the typical mistakes artists are destined, if not required to make in order to create art. Radiohead is not perfect, nor have they ever been. They’re just fearless, endlessly curious, and at times utterly fucking bonkers.

Hearing rough cuts of songs such as Karma Police, Paranoid Android and Nude (included on 2007’s In Rainbows) takes me back to the moment I first heard OK Computer. Of course, these renditions are far less polished than the studio versions to which I was first introduced, but in a strange way, it made me feel like I was discovering them all over again. And in today’s black hole of gross over-consumption, that’s a very special thing. At the time of this writing, having barely started disc/track 9, I can’t help but feel like I’m listening to a band sharing with its fans where they are in the album’s progress. I’m romanticizing it, yes. But isn’t that what music deserves?

Studio demos aren’t a new thing for a band to release. Bands have been including them on LPs for decades as bonus tracks. But something like this, with weird starts and stops, near comical approaches and brief discussions of band members between takes, invite the listener to the “cool kids” party for which you pretend to have been invited to from the beginning. There’s even a shared doc to which fans have contributed with the timestamps of each disc to make searching far more easy, even with the element of surprise being kind of the point.

Either way, we’re here. Radiohead fans, unite! This is all for us. Enjoy it.

A New One Every Day

Every year around this time, hordes of people band together to announce their goals for the new year. I have been among this group many times before and have almost always failed to follow through with a lot of what was personally shared. As I sit here, beer in hand, on the brink of staring 2019 in the face, I could easily say “Not this time. I’m doing it. I’m signing that manager, losing that weight, landing that front flip at Rockin’ Jump as my kids glowingly watch.” But I won’t. Not that I don’t feel those things are attainable. But if goals like this are only birthed as part of the ushering in of a new year, like mine almost always were, they may never be fully achieved, if even remotely attempted.

January 1st has always been an interesting date to me. And every year when making my list of things I wish to accomplish, I’m forced to ask myself “So what the fuck were you doing this whole time then?” Until they’re more, words are shit. They’re vanity posts like a picture of a plate of food at an expensive restaurant, or a text message to your mom promising to call her more. But for some people, January 1st can happen at any point. There’s no countdown to change for them. They see the clock only as a barometer by which we measure time itself, not the energy wasted to pretend like we can defy it. We can’t. A period came when making year end goals almost started to feel counterproductive to me.

This is clearly an internal struggle and may not apply to anyone reading this. But for me, getting to where I want is the challenge, and no set amount of resolutions are going to get me there. It’s all about the fucking work, and the abandonment of everything in your world that distracts you from it, playfully tapping your left shoulder while laughing on your right. This is by far my greatest enemy. And one that kicks the shit out of me nightly. There’s the old adage “Time flies when you’re having fun.” The HBO show Six Feet Under offered a different view when Nathaniel Fisher Sr., while talking to his son Nate, asserts “No. Time flies when you’re pretending to have fun.” This stayed with me for years. But time doesn’t move fast at all.

Time isn’t just a gauge we examine while doing other shit. It’s the gauge that tells us whether or not that other shit was worth doing in the first place. There is nothing more perilous. It relies on absolutely no one. But everything we do and every goal we make relies on it. It’s just there. Moving along. But we forget how much of it we actually have until the moment we realize how much of it we’ve wasted. There’s a great scene in Die Hard With A Vengeance where John McClane and Zeus Carver are driving a taxi through New York City gridlock trying desperately to reach the location of a soon to be detonated bomb. Zeus cleverly suggests that what they need is a blocker that can cut a hole through the traffic like an offensive line in football.

McClane makes a phony call to dispatch claiming that a man has been shot nearby. After some daring maneuvering, weaving in and out of a maze of commuters, McClane finds his way behind the responding ambulance and follows it as it parts the traffic like the Red Sea, clearing a path for them. That ambulance is time and John McClane and Zeus Carver represent the people fully aware of it, careening past the others who idly sit and allow opportunity to slip by. I’m not making any resolutions this year. As previous years would suggest, it obviously means shit to me when I do. I either commit to the work or not. Or I’ll be sitting at my desk next December 31st writing another post about all the hours wiped clean. I’ll see you then.

The World Belongs To Kayla Day

At one point or another, we’ve all felt awkward and alone. Begging to fit in. Middle school is ground zero of this phenomenon, where your education is often eclipsed by all the weird little things you’re learning about yourself, be it from actual experience or simply years of painful observations. The movie Eighth Grade, staring Elsie Fisher, is about these moments. Fisher plays Kayla Day, an awkward teenager who makes vlogs on YouTube where she spews self help advice on a range of topics, most notably “how to get yourself out there” or “how to be confident”, advice I feel even pretending to be qualified to give at that age demands some respect. But Kayla isn’t so much offering advice as she is trying desperately to understand it all herself.

At the helm of the Fisher household is Kayla’s single dad Mark, played to precision by Josh Hamilton. This dynamic struck a different nerve all together with me, triggered I suppose by my also being a father. The authenticity of the scenes between Mark and Kayla accentuates so perfectly the unease of their world. This lasted throughout the entire film. A scene toward the end had me suppressing tears of sadness and also a gripping sense of fear for what my wife and I can almost surely expect. The two have a “unique” bond, albeit painfully distant at times. There’s a moment during a family dinner where Kayla comes off as the villain in the relationship, though truthfully, makes sense. I mean, aren’t we all geared to be annoyed by our parents, and in turn, destined to annoy the piss out of our own kids? I’m inclined to say ‘yes.’

One of the most impressive things about Eighth Grade is its execution and handling of the subject matter. The cringe worthy moments we see Kayla endure are not uncomfortable merely due to shock value, but more so because it all feels so goddamn relatable. When we come across art like this, be it in film, literature or even a painting, what makes us recoil the most are the memories they evoke. Films like this not only invite us into their world, but make us confront our own in the process. The balancing act that director Bo Burnham achieves in his feature directorial debut is incredible. This movie was hilarious at the right moments, sad at the perfect ones and heartfelt at its most needed.

There were so many times I recalled my own experience from middle school while watching this movie. Sure, I am not a teenage girl. Trust me, I know. Nor was I equipped with the advantages or handicap (depending on how you look at it) of having Snapchat and Instagram to guide my way. But I was an awkward teenager nonetheless, aching to fit in. I tried to be cool. A little TOO hard at times. I did things so people would like me and if they didn’t, wondered why. That eventually changed once my confidence began to grow but it never happens how you imagine it will.  And like Kayla, I too was very curious about my body.

I would daydream about what the touch of a girl might feel like. I won’t go into details of my first encounters with girls but I can tell you they were certainly not the most fluid of moments. They were embarrassing. But I learned from them. And it’s those very memories that made me root for Kayla even more, anticipating what the future has in store for her, which is exactly what great films do, make you think about a character’s journey far beyond what is shared on screen. I may be gushing. But it was difficult for me to find a flaw in this damn thing.

With social media being such a critical component of the grade school experience, it makes me wonder what this means for the growth of our own kids. I thought about this constantly. I didn’t have Facebook or even access to the internet when I attended middle school but that didn’t hinder my ability to relate to the characters in any way. If anything, it made me sympathize for them even more when considering the world social media has created for today’s youth. It’s like an impenetrable wave of over exposure that in a way has cheated our kids of gradual evolution. Friendships born from digital seeds rather than organic ones. Online acquaintances and emoji fist bumps. It’s a scary time for a kid to grown up in, on so many different levels.

What makes Eighth Grade so special is the hope it conveys in the fog of this uncertainty. In addition to the vlogs Kayla records for her audience, she makes short videos speaking to her future self which she tucks away in a time capsule. It depicts a young girl without a clue of what the future holds, excited for what it may.

Heroes And The Rabbit Hole

It almost seems like an afterthought. The idea that one day, you’ll come face to face with your heroes, those magical figures you hold well above the stratosphere of reason. Of worth even — a celebrity, musician, writer, scientist. You ogle at them on the silver screen and magazine covers, watch them perform your favorite songs on stage, maybe one you listened to the first time you had sex, attempted suicide or did coke in the parking lot of a Toys “R” Us. These moments stay with you for the rest of your lives. They clutch your heart with steel talons and cut you with dull knives. They’re not trying to hurt you. They just do. And if you’re lucky, change you.

I turned 44 on September 23rd. I’ve come to terms with aging. Having kids does that, as you practically gain three years for every one your children turn. Parent Years, I guess. To celebrate the day, my wife Josephine purchased tickets for us to see Gaz Coombes perform at The Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, the once frontman of the British band Supergrass who I have followed for over twenty years. Following the band’s split in 2010, Coombes went on to launch a solo career. He was in the middle of a world tour supporting his latest release, World’s Strongest Man. As my wife and I talked over drinks about life, kids and the disintegration of time, the feeling of having to piss quickly came over me, a common occurrence when I drink at any kind of event.

I left to use the bathroom as she waited in a small room across the bar. I swung the door open and was greeted by none other than Gaz Coombes himself, strangely cheerful and operating as if no moment in life is ever an accident. In the blink of an eye, I saw every experience flash before me to which his music created the soundtrack. The fact that this was happening in the doorway of a men’s restroom made it all the more bizarre. I stood there mute as I tried to register the moment. It never occurred to me that something like this could actually happen. In a glorious display of inelegance, I finally blurted out “oh man, you’re awesome!” He smiled and thanked me for the compliment at which point I realized I was basically holding him hostage in the doorway of the bathroom.

“I thought I would know what to say to you if I ever met you” I mumbled, expelling further mouth farts into the air, moving aside to give him room to pass. “It’s okay, mate” he quipped. “The bathroom is where exciting stuff happens, doesn’t it?” He tipped the brim of his hat (the coolest thing ever) and vanished. I turned to face Josephine where we cordially exchanged “what the fucks?” while laughing hysterically. It was not a moment I was expecting, but one I’m glad we experienced together. We returned to the bar and tossed another round back to commemorate the moment.

As I look back, I know that this was a moment that could have landed on either foot, with my walking away from a total fucking asshole or the porkpie hat-wearing angel of a man with whom I had just met. I was reminded of an episode of Growing Pains when Jason Seaver takes his son Ben to see his favorite singer in concert (played by a very young Brad Pitt) and learns after the show, while eavesdropping on his dressing room door, that he’s just a dick. With Coombes, I like to think it was the latter. However, some people, myself included, have had to accept some hard truths recently about people with whom we once held in such high esteem.

One person that comes to mind is Bill Cosby. I watched The Cosby Show with my parents when I was a kid and have fond memories from that time. His stand up aside, which admittedly I’m only partially familiar, his show had a way of addressing certain issues while steadily anchoring you, bringing things to the forefront that you may have thought about but never verbalized. Or knew how to. For someone young and impressionable, those moments are crucial. Family Ties and Growing Pains were among other shows that had a similar, if not more profound impact on me.

Watching the shit storm that unfolded in the wake of the multitude of brave women who came forward with stories of sexual assault at the hands of Mr. Cosby was appalling. We have a tendency to erect these figures above all else and when stories like this come crashing down, it’s ourselves we can find caught in the wave, if only from the confines of our homes. But what happens when the values you felt you shared with someone, hero or not, turn out to be complete and utter bullshit? Or the way in which their lives and verve may have encouraged you to embark on a path of your own? Can we still be inspired by terrible people? Can we still find color in black hearts?

For his always insightful Creative Minds podcast, my friend Chad Hall recently interviewed poet and humorist Mike McGee, where this topic was discussed. For McGee, being a huge Cosby fan and identifying him as an early influence, learning of Cosby’s decades worth of abuse against women was a hard truth for him to stomach. It’s a gripping conversation which asks the question: Does an idol’s behavior impact the value of the art said idol creates? And if so, to what degree? And following the discovery of such horrors, can we still be influenced by their work? Although I was a fan of Cosby’s show, there are other artists for whom over the years I have developed a far deeper admiration — Thom Yorke, PJ Harvey, Charlie Kaufman and Martin Scorsese to name a few.

Would a terrible act committed by these people deter me from ever again finding beauty in their work? The truth is, I really don’t know. I guess it would depend on the act itself. This makes me a hypocrite, I suppose. Make no mistake, there is no defending Cosby’s actions, or Harvey Weinstein’s for that matter. These men are beyond redemption. This type of behavior should never be tolerated or hidden from the public and with the recent surge of growth and support for the #metoo movement, hopefully never will. The crimes committed by these men have left an ever illuminating trail of shit over their careers and personal lives, not to mention the emotional and physical agony their actions have caused.

But does my admiration for films that Weinstein’s company produced or for others, proved vital to their release, make me an enabler in some fucked up way? Does that, in itself, make me a bad person? By supporting the art, am I supporting the behavior? Sure, Harvey Weinstein didn’t write or direct Pulp Fiction or Trainspotting (distributed by) or create any of the characters whose lines I’ve memorized and during drunken conversations about film, recited for my equally drunk friends. But should Weinstein’s involvement in the films themselves lessen their influence? It’s movies like these that made me want to become a screenwriter to begin with.

Comedian Sarah Silverman recently commented on the accusations against her longtime friend Louis CK, of whom I am also a fan, and found herself in a boiling pan of criticism as a result. Here I am talking about a performer who’s made me laugh from time to time while she’s dueling internally with the knowledge of someone she’s loved for years having behaved in this way. Poor timing aside, I don’t feel she was trying to justify her friend’s behavior. It just serves to prove that this is conduct that affects so many people. I feel a burning sense of sorrow for anyone who has had to endure this kind of abuse but like everyone else, celebrities accused of these heinous acts deserve to be held accountable. But where does it lead?

Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee surrounding now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged assault of her was a turning point I feel. And despite the ever dividing misogynistic views and hate-fueled rhetoric of our President, my hope is that progress remains, even in light of Kavanaugh’s eventual confirmation. There’s no doubt to be had, we are raising our children in a dark time, in a nation splintered by a leader who cautions young men of accusatory red flags as opposed to simply encouraging those very men to act fucking appropriately.

But it doesn’t end here. We can move past this. Incite change. Yes, people along the way will disappoint us. Sicken us even. Some of them may be people we’ve idolized. Or still do. Some may be family and friends. And if and when that happens, priorities will demand our attention.

This is not a blog that achieves resolution. Or even an answer to the question raised earlier.  Would my admiration of someone be averted by a shitty act of villainy by their hand? Be it physical or not. Or would their influence simply become more difficult to recognize? I heard someone say once that it’s not necessary to agree with the whole of a person in order to find worth in a part of them. Although I can’t say that I fully agree, I can certainly understand where this point of view is coming from. And as I stated earlier, I suppose it depends on the act itself. I’m not a perfect human being. I just know that I can be better. Victims deserve justice. And abusers deserve to befall it.


RAINN and the Joyful Heart Foundation are just a few of the many organizations out there dedicated to supporting victims of sexual assault. Come forward. You are not alone.