Trust the Gene Genie

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Disco, as I remember it

This isn't meant to turn into a love-in of any sort, but when you reconnect with old friends, it's hard not to get misty about the good times.

Jayson, who you'll remember from two posts ago, is an old friend who recently got in touch with me (he and his wife are having quints). Anyway, he remanisced about our disco-dancing past. And it got me thinking about something I'd long taken for granted: that there was a time when I didn't know how to disco dance and then a time when I learned. You have to understand, for many years it was a major part of my identity as I used it to much aplomb at dances and gatherings and the like.

And when you begin to break out disco moves, after having done it for so long, you don't think about it anymore. It's as if you've always been able to do it. And of course, you haven't always been able to do it. Only very few, very select people are born able to disco.

So take a walk down memory lane with me as I recall those halcyon days of the early 90s when records were becoming obsolete, disco was funny and anything was possible.

Like many of my generation, I grew up mocking disco. Who didn't? It's still one of the most attrocious and aggregious musical movements perpetuated on our species. So you can imagine my confusion and subsequent delight when Jayson showed me he had found an instructional disco dance-by-the-numbers record. I don't remember quite when that was. Maybe 1991? Jayson, Alicia and I met -- well we met years ago. Alicia actually attended my third birthday party. But when we were young impressionable teens, we got reacquainted during a summer musical producation of "Fiddler on the Roof" that our stake was puting on.

As I recall, it was a pretty fast friendship. I spent a lot of time at the Wilkinsons' and it was one of those times, hanging out in the basement, that Jayson showed me his find. It was a full-on instructional record with the black footprints to show you what to do. As I recall, he had already worked out most of the moves (he's a natural dancer and, you can correct me if I'm wrong, Jayson, but he eventually landed on BYU's folk dance squad). I was entranced and we got a whole routine worked out. It wasn't long before we were busting it out at church dances. You remember, someone would get going, busting a move to C+C Music Factory, and a cricle would form. Everyone would stand around watching as some kids in parachute pants showed everyone how to get down. It like a siren call to us. We'd eventually slip in and start the mad, hot disco and people would go wild.

The irony of it was beautiful. With the disco, we were able to, in one fell swing of the hips and raise of the hand, simultaneoulsy mock those taking the dance too seriously and impress the ladies by not playing by the rules. It was genius, really. It was also a lot of fun.

Well, a year later I had moved to Utah and as I raged against cookie-cutter fads and gimmicks in the culture there, disco became the way I set myself apart from the other jokers, eventually making a video of a routine with a couple friends. That video still exists -- in fact it was the video that eventually convinced Becky I had enough personality for her to marry me. And to think where it all started. I can't imagine how different my life would ahve turned out had Jayson never found that record.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Guilty as charged

Guilty pleasures. You see, I'm not always all about being the earnest, snob-driven, gold-standard-in-music consumer. I have guilty pleasures just like anyone else. Guilty pleasure songs and guilty pleasure bands.

So today, I honor the most embarassing music I listen to. And, to make a point, some of the music on the list might be technically or even legitimatelly good, but it's still embarassing that I listen to it. And remember, the operative word in the phrase "guilty pleasure" is "guilty." It's not a guilty pleasure if you don't sweat a little when you tell people you dig it.

So, first, my guilty pleasure songs in no particular order:

1. Nelly Furtado's "I'm Like a Bird" and "Turn Out the Lights" -- Sure they're great dance/pop songs, but Rob Rogers does not listen to dance/pop. At least he doesn't if anyone comes asking.

2. Neil Diamond's "Love on the Rocks" -- I blame this on my sisters. We grew up watching Neil Diamond's movie "The Jazz Singer" a lot. The song plays over the climactic break-up scene where Neil's life comes unraveled as he tries to deal with his new-found fame. Very emotional. And yes I loved it, alright? I loved it! I also blame this movie on H.L.'s open and unabashed affection for the Diamond. We should all be ashamed.

3. In the same vein, Barry Manilow's "Ready to Take a Chance Again" -- This song opened the Chevy Chase/Goldie Hawn vehicle "Foul Play," another movie we wathced over and over as kids. I learned to really dig the song. Sue me.

4. Jennifer Lopez's "Waiting for Tonight" -- I'm really going out on a limb here, because I don't know how this could get anymore embarassing. But this song is total eurotrash dance club and I really dig it. Maybe it's because it reminds me of the dance music I heard while living in Mexico (where every song, including the Police's "Message in a Bottle," gets a dance remix) or maybe it's because I just dig the tune, but I secretly really, really enjoy this song.

5. Garth Brooks' "The Thunder Rolls" -- I have no excuse for this one. But when I was a 14- or 15-year-old idiot kid the song gave me chills the first time I heard it. And I still secretly like it.

And that's probably enough for now. So on to my guilty pleasure bands and/or artists. The songs above are individual anomolies. I hate the artists but love the music. Following are the artists I love that I probably shouldn't. Again, in no particular order:

1. Billy Joel -- I know, for some this amounts to heresy listing Billy as a guilty pleasure. But let's be honest with ourselves: he is. While he's a great singer, songwriter and pianist, he's still the guy who wrote and performed songs like "Uptown Girl" and "She's Always a Woman." I love almost all of his stuff, but try to listen to "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" loud and proud outside of your house. You can't do it.

2. Emerson Lake & Palmer -- Great progressive rock band, one of the best in fact. But their music leans towards the grandiose and then the operatic and before long you're flirting with self-parody. I bought and listened to "Black Moon," their last, real studio album in 1992 when I was in high school and that's embarassing enough. With songs like "Romeo & Juliet" and "Farewell to Arms" it's about as overwrought and earnest as you're gonna get. But their musical genius mustn't be denied. And so I will continue to listen

3. Huey Lewis and the News -- Again, for some I'm flirting with heresy here, but I would argue that it's hard to take the band that recorded "Hip to Be Square" seriously. But man, no one turns out a pop/rock song like Huey did back in the day. Better than most '80s pap that came out in that decade, Huey Lewis and the News put out an embarassingly good catalog of music. Go back and listen to "Heart and Soul" now. The arrangement, the syncopation of the rhythm and the lusty lyrics are down-right impressive.

4. Queensryche -- Classic late '80s/early '90s hard rock, they were a Seattle rock band before it was cool or even advantageous to be a Seattle rock band. And they're not as bad as say Poison or Ratt -- they were never a hair-metal band -- but they're music still sounds blushingly overproduced and deadly earnest. And c'mon, "Silent Lucidity"? I still can't listen to it without laughing out loud. But when the band got rocking -- "Jet City Woman," "Another Rainy Night" -- they could do no wrong.

5. Speaking '80s hair-metal bands, Def Leppard -- Now, I don't embrace their entire discography, but who are we kidding? The band's drummer only had one arm at the end of their run. How hard core is that? And looking at 80s rock albums, there are few better than "Pyromania" with the classics "Rock of Ages" and "Too Late for Love." They also introduced the world to the phrase, nay, the command: "Let's get rocked!" Oh they're shameful, ain't no two ways about it. But man, they rock. Or at least, they did.

There it is. Fun, but a little painful. Feel free to share your own guilty pleasures in the comments below. I shouldn't be the only one to suffer humiliation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The legacy of young Nathan Arizona

It's fun to catch up with old friends. My Mom dropped me a line today telling me Jayson Wilkinson, a close friend from my Colorado days was trying to find out where I ended up. It seems he and his wife just found out they're having quintuplets. As in five babies. Five. All you need is one two-year-old in your house to know what kind of will-crushing, ear-splitting, mind-numbing and sleep-depriving experience this will be for them. But Jayson is better than that. He always has been. He's sees it more like this:

Can you imagine 5 little 3 year old kids crowding around to give mommy and daddy a group hug? That just sounds like it would all be worth it.

Anyway, he's set up a blog to detail the whole ordeal and it should be interesting to watch this unfold. After Elsa's birth, my heart goes out to him and his wife. And I can't begin to imagine what it must be like trying to mentally prepare yourself for all of this. And apparently I'm not the only one. In one of his posts, he writes that he runs into a lot of people who really have no idea what it means to give birth to five babies at the same time. His wife kept getting calls from the local blood bank asking her to donate. After several times of explaining that his wife his pregnant and can't donate blood, the final phone call when something like this:

Lady: “Hi, this is the blood and tissue center, is Rachelle Wilkinson available?”
Me:“No, she isn’t and I don’t think she will be able to donate blood for a while. She is pregnant with quintuplets.”
Lady: “Oh, I see. Well, when is her due date?”
Me: “Well, her real due date is in September but she will probably have them in July.”
Lady: “Well, you know, she can donate about 6 weeks after the delivery.”
Me: “Did you hear what I just said? She is having 5 babies. Do you know what that means?”
Lady: “Well, can you give me an email address that we could use to let her know about our blood drives?”
Me: “No. Do you realize that we probably won’t even be able to leave the house for 6 months after this happens.”
Lady: “Well, thank you for your time anyway.”

Anyway. It'll be fun to catch up with Jayson -- and his whole family for that matter. The Wilkinsons were like my family away from family when I was a young, silly and not-so-smart teenager in Arvada. Alicia and I ended up at Ricks together which was great and the family, still in Indiana, even made it to my wedding in St. Loius. So, here's to reconnecting with old friends.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Que Onda, Guero?

Well, I think we've sufficiently mourned Larry. It's time to get on with life.

It's amazing how quickly time can pass. I know at some point, I'll be an 80-year-old man sitting on a porch somewhere and wondering where my life went. Not in a bad way, just in a sort of it-all-happened-so-fast kind of way.

But let's get on with things. Becky and I went up to Klub Klondike over the weekend to see the mighty Jim Dyar Band play. It was a blast. The band sounded great, the atmosphere was killer and it was fun to spend alone time with Becky. I love the girls and all, but man, you just gotta get out of the house sometimes. And to do it with live music makes it so much better. We both enjoy the rote dinner and movie, but live music is just so much more invigorating. We've haven't been to a live show together since we saw Wilco play in Portland like four years ago.

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I was heartened to see some of my fellow Cougars stand up to Dick Cheney. I was also heartened to see the Anti-Defamation League stand up for the Church. I know there are stories to tell and things to write that will entertain, but I can't think of a single one. I've been on cold medication for four days straight. It's killing me. So I'll probably be back tomorrow with more inane and pointless writings. But I at least promise to make them more entertaining.

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