Now, THAT'S interesting

As you know, I don't update this site much. Consequently, the site gets - at best - modest hits. I've a decent collection of archived pages, so if I get about fifty visits a day, I'm pretty happy. Of course, if I updated more regularly, that'd go up, but in this era of cars and sunshine and Netflix Instant Queue, who has the time?

So, imagine my surprise when I checked my Statcounter this mornig, for the first time in a while, to see that, since Sunday, I've received over 500 visits to the site. 296 on Sunday alone. "What the what?" I said, not out loud because I'm at the Honda Dealership and that would mark me out as a crazy person, but to myself. I assumed that someone had linked to one of my posts on a more popular blog, and that's what brought in the traffic. But no, that wasn't it - there wasn't one source link that was responsible.

Turns out, lots of people were coming to my site after Googling "Is Gene Hackman Gay?" and one of my old posts - a review of the already forgotten film 'Blades of Glory' - features the word "gay" in its title. But why the sudden interest, since Sunday? After some curious research: apparently there's a reference to the Mighty Gene's sexuality in the pilot for 'The Cleveland Show', and so people wanted verification.

So, that's one good thing to say about that show, then.

Just thought it was interesting how the internet works, sometimes.

The five steps of Muse

This week sees the release of the new Muse album, their fifth, entitled ‘The Resistance’. I’ve not yet listened to it, so I can’t write about it yet, but I am interested in the band’s progression from fresh-faced Radiohead rip-offs to VMA playin’, Stadium-sell-outin’ multi millionaire crazy people. I’ve seen Muse five times, and here are the stories of each.

1. Glastonbury Festival, June 1999

They played the new band tent, which was a long, long trek from where we were camped. Having heard ‘Uno’ on the radio, we were intrigued. We made the journey, losing two or three good men on the way – to ice cream vans, not death – and the band promptly opened with ‘Uno’. The rest of the songs all sounded the same, and we all left very unimpressed. Also, they played ‘Instant Messenger’, a song that’s both instantly forgettable, and a spiritual forebearer for both ‘LOL Smiley Face’ and the band LMFAO. Not a good thing. “Hah,” I said on the walk back to the Pyramid Stage, “I don’t imagine we’ll hear any more of these losers.”

2. London ULU, February 2000

Alright, so I went to see them again because Soulwax were supporting. And guess what? Somewhere after ‘Showbiz’ came out, Muse became amazing. They played a couple of new songs, including a Nina Simone cover, and a little song called ‘Plug In Baby’, which Matt Bellamy would later say is about genetically engineered puppies. The band was pretty unrecognizable from those I saw the previous summer. I was well and truly converted.

[Note: At that year’s Reading Festival, I foolishly chose to see Oasis headline the main stage, rather than Muse on the second stage. The reason: that week there was a strong rumour that Oasis were about to break up, and I wanted to catch them at least once before they did. Unfortunately, they somehow dragged themselves through another nine years, and I missed what I’m sure was a much better show in the tent.]

3. London Brixton Academy, May 2001

This one was cool. I received a promo copy of ‘Origin of Symmetry’ a few weeks earlier, and frankly, I played it to the point where the ink was dripping off the compact disc. Their PR guy called me the day of the show – about a week before the album came out – to say there was a single spot on the guest list for me, so I hurried along, alone, to south London. The Cooper Temple Clause played first, and I like them, so it was fun. Then Muse came out and began with ‘Citizen Erased’, an amazing song that is eight minutes long, and at that point, hardly anyone had heard. But I loved it. At the end, during ‘Bliss’, some fat guy gave me a hug as the giant balloons dropped from the rafters.

4. Orlando, December 2004

Oh, look, I’m living in the United States now! This was on the ‘Absolution’ tour, and as I remember, we drove from Tallahassee to Gainesville, to pick up my sister, and then on to Orlando, but got stuck with the worst traffic in history. Made it to the gig just in time to miss support band The Exit, but given that I have never heard of them, I can live with that. The set was rather new-album heavy (not a surprise) but hearing ‘Butterflies and Hurricanes’ live gave me butterflies sans hurricanes.

5. Jacksonville, April 2005

This gig was at a very nice, fancy looking newly renovated club in a strip mall. Openers on this occasion were a little band called Razorlight, who only had one album out at that point, and didn’t play ‘Dalston’ so I was mad at them. Muse played a pretty similar set to the one a few months earlier, but the fact they had RETURNED to Florida after only four months was a big deal. A couple of songs that wound up on ‘Black Holes and Revelations’ were played, but none of them did much for me that day.

So those are the five times I’ve been to see them live. The last album didn’t wow me too much, and I haven’t really been back to it since then. I thought it took itself a little too seriously – the sense of fun was missing from previous work. But then, the ‘Knights of Cydonia’ video addressed that particular concern of mine.

Can’t wait to hear ‘The Resistance’ – apparently there’s a clarinet solo?

[download Muse - Citizen Erased (live)]

I Ain't No This Or That

Rather than pick up physical copy of David Cross’ new book, I Drink For A Reason, like some sort of pre-historic Luddite Neanderthal, I took it in in audiobook form. This was a wise move for two reasons. Firstly, by many accounts, the book is addled with spelling and grammatical mistakes, which would bug me if I was exposed to them because I’m annoying like that. And the audio recording obviously doesn’t have these problems. Secondly, the book is read by Cross himself, and this definitely benefits the collection of essays, lists, true stories and made up stories. This way, it’s more like his stand-up, with accents, inflection and pauses, which are lost in print. Also, there are little cameos from H. Jon Benjamin, Les Savy Fav and Kristen Schaal, which is pretty cool.

The content itself is fairly uneven, as you’d expect from a compilation of thirty or so pieces of varying length and humour. There’s a fantasy segment where David is a guest on Bill O’Reilly’s show, which I didn’t find too entertaining, and one about disgraced-by-Oprah writer James Frey’s latest book, which stretched one joke out for a long, long time.

I far prefer Cross when he’s being rational and making fun of stuff. There’s a great essay about a scrapbooking convention in Michigan, which he happened to chance upon. There’s a reprint of his legendary open letter to Larry the Cable Guy, which you should definitely read if you never have. And a really interesting explanation of his feud with Jim Belushi. Cross’ feud that is. I don’t know if Mr. The Cable Guy is feuding with Jim Belushi. Although the correspondence with Patton Oswalt regarding Cross’ appearance in ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ is omitted, there’s a nice discussion about the “hipster backlash” that he went through. Cross, that is. Not Patton. I’ve gotta cool it with the pronouns.

As with Cross’ stand-up, the strongest material in the book concerns religion and nationalism. There’s a brief section concerning Orthodox Jews who have devised various technological methods to “get around” the laws of the Sabbath. I liked the essay towards the end about our overuse of the word “Hero” (Firefighter? Yes. Guy who ate nine hot dogs in three minutes? Not a hero). And one of the highlights is called “I Hate America! Or, I Hate America?” where he quibbles – very reasonably and articulately – his perception as a liberal Jew that hates his country. (Unrelated: one of the companies behind this book is called Liberal Jew-Run Media Productions, Inc.)

The book is resolutely not a memoir, but Cross teases some anecdotes that will be in his life story when he gets to it. In the meantime, this collection is worth checkin’ out, but if you can, definitely get the audio version. Do that.

A drinking town with a football problem

A quick glance at my friends’ statuses on the Facebook will confirm: It’s college football season again. At the time of writing this, seven of the most recent ten updates are “Go Gators!” and a lone “Go Noles!” although to be fair, they don’t play until Monday. Try as I might, I’ve never got whole-heartedly, drop-all-else into American football. Plenty of people have tried to explain it to me, and I’ve been to Superbowl parties and even an ACC Championship game. And while I’m definitely more into “football” – at the college level, at least; the NFL still holds no appeal – I have trouble with paying attention to a fixture for more than three hours at a time.

All that said, I really do enjoy the game-day atmosphere. This is the first season in six years where I’m not in a college town, and I do miss the environment, the team unity, the tailgates, and for want of a better word, the inebriation, that a home game brings. My experience in Gainesville over the last three years lacked some of this excitement because at my house, we sold parking to match attendees, and this overlapped with pre-game festivities. By the time we were done, everyone would be settled inside the stadium, so there’d be no fun left.

Since FSU is facing Miami on Monday in Tallahassee, I’m reminded of my favourite experience – four years ago today. Again, Miami were up in Tallahassee on Labor Day (a Monday), and as you might expect, the drinking began sometime early on Friday. After something of a rest for a couple of days, I got the call on Sunday at lunchtime that everyone was meeting at Tim’s. These were the days when I didn’t have a car, so someone came and picked me up, and after picking up a 24-pack, we got to Tim’s house. We spent the next thirty hours drinking, barbecuing, watching sports and movies – it was one of the most fun nights of my college career. In the morning, we went to the supermarket, bought eggs and made breakfast for about twelve people, all of whom had made it through the night.

The house was a few blocks from the stadium, and on the way there, we joined an ever-growing throng of painted people heading to the game. In the stadium parking lot there were more burgers and beers, and by the time we sat down, we’d been awake for about forty straight hours. I don’t know if this is a standard thing for hardcore football fans before every home game, but for a curmudgeon like me, it was taking its toll. At half time, FSU was up 10-7, and I could barely keep my eyes open. I headed home – an uphill walk on Pensacola St. that took far longer than it ought to – and went straight to sleep. Luckily for me, no more points were scored in the second half, so I didn’t miss anything.

I definitely miss the days of spending entire days doing nothing but feeling like it’s everything. And even though following one football team is stressful enough, I promise: I’ll try and care more about the college game this season. For at least a week.

And now for an old favourite.

Find It