Monday, March 28, 2005

Insurance Fun

It has been about 6 years since I last got a new eyeglasses prescription. I've noticed that my eyes are tired and things just are not in tight focus these days so I decided to make an appointment to get my eyes checked and probably get new glasses. Since lenses, frames and the appointment itself are pretty expensive these days I thought I'd see if my insurance carrier (Federal Blue Cross/Blue Shield) would cover any of the cost.

I called BC/BS to check. They will cover glasses and contact lenses in three instances only:

1) I need glasses due to some sort of an accident (shot in the eye with a nailgun for instance)
2) Need glasses due to an eye injury as a result of surgery (botched LASIK)
3) Need glasses in lieu of surgery ONLY if the surgery cannot be done due to age or medical condition

I indicated I've been wearing glasses for the past 32 of my 37 years and don't want LASIK or any other surgery, thank you very much. I asked if they would cover my glasses if I simply chose not to have surgery. Nope. I pointed out that it seems they are directing people to have eye surgery instead of wearing glasses since they will not cover glasses except in three very specific instances.

I then asked if they cover the surgery (not intending to get it, mind you, just curious). Nope.

So, they won't cover my eyeglasses if I simply prefer to not have surgery. Any they don't cover the cost of the surgery because it is elective and not medically necessary. Thanks Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I think I'll be shopping for another provider. Oh, and by the way, your dental coverage sucks too.

posted by MGSoden, 11:05 AM | link | 2 comments

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Feeling Minnesota

Does it bother anyone else to hear the Minnesota school shooting referred to as "...the worst school shooting since Columbine"?

It's been bothering me, but I was unable to put words to it until Bill framed some for me this morning. We have a benchmark for school shootings! Media bias aside, I think the desensitization of the nation is coming more from the media playing these things over and over again until they become de rigeur than by other TV shows showing violence (for which there is usally some repurcussion).

Okay, back to work now. Really.

posted by purdygirl, 8:52 AM | link | 2 comments

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Let's Talk Politics for a sec...

I've asked this question several times the past few days: "Can you tell me why our president is so interested in keeping a brain-dead woman alive using the scientific miracle of medical feeding tubes, but so opposed to improving brain-alive people's lives with the scientific miracle of stem-cell research?" I voted for the guy, right, but I'm beginning to think he's a bit of a moe-ron (if you know what I mean). How can one guy waffle on life/death issues without any obvious knowledge of his own hypocrisy? (While we're at it, why can't he pronounce "nuclear?") Does this behavior strike anyone else as disingenuous? Just wondering.

My opinion should be obvious in the manner in which I framed the question. Please, ignore my bias and answer honestly.

Cross responded thusly to my email query (I liked it, so I posted it here -- since he won't): "Our president likes to play God. However, he's smart enough to know that when you play God you have to understand both action and reaction. In Schiavo, he understands action (flip switch) and reaction (woman officially dies) -- he's sick and tired of being called a murderer of innocent people, so he won't take this action. In stem cells, he most likely doesn't understand the action (research & application of knowledge gained) and he definitely doesn't understand the reaction (nor do we) -- he's unwilling to admit this lack of understanding b/c doing so would
undermine his God-status; therefore, he remains in opposition to any and all exploration of all the oocky
stuff that might could happen if them white coat guys and gals got any smarter."

Kudos to Bill for recognizing there are human factors at work, and for not succumbing to standard anti-Bush political rhetoric. But his answer ignores the course of action I would have taken had the president asked me what he should do: Stay the fuck away from this one. You don't have any business being there.

Soden... I'd be curious to hear your opinion, and Jeannine's as well. She's about as pro-Bush as anyone (besides my mom) who's likely to read this.

Sorry for the somber tone. Work's got me in a major-league crank these days. I'll probably cheer up as the azaleas blossom.

posted by Bill Purdy, 10:21 AM | link | 10 comments

Friday, March 11, 2005

Really Good Cover Songs

Patrick asked me for a list of good cover songs yesterday, which immediately made me think of my two all-time favorites: The Flying Lizards' "Money," and Devo's "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction." As good as those are, it got me to thinking just how rare a really good cover song really is. It's not that there aren't enough candidates -- rock music is as derivative as any musical genre -- just that so few of them possess even a spark of originality. (How lame: I'm criticizing cover songs for being unoriginal.) I guess what I'm trying to say is that to me, a great cover song strips enough of the original away to leave room for reinterpretation, while leaving just enough of it to pay appropriate homage. In a time when the general public considers both Smashing Pumpkins' and Dixie Chicks' takes on Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" (which to me sound like the original played at varying speeds to alter the pitch slightly) good covers, I think it's important for people to know (by example) what a good cover really is. Herewith, a quickly-compiled list.

Please feel free to amend it (or, heaven forbid, criticize it) in the comments section.

The Bad Plus: "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
Neo-jazz reworking of the original outshines the BP's other celebrated covers, including "Heart of Glass," "Velouria," and "Iron Man." Sounds different enough from Nirvana's version that it might be unrecognizable to the casual listener until half way through, when a nagging feeling of familiarity begins to creep over you.

Sinead O'Connor: "All Apologies"
Too many people hate Sinead for her (admittedly loopy) politics and refuse to recognize the devastating emotional splendor her voice is capable of carrying. This version darn near brings me to tears every time I hear it, a feat Kurt and co. could never quite pull off.

Cat Power: "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"
The yin to Devo's yang, Chan Marshall mutates the original by excising the chorus entirely -- the result is a completely different song than the original, with beautifully annunciated lyrics that change the song from a celebration of teenage lust to an exploration of love and loss. It passes the ultimate cover-song litmus test: play it for any classic rock fan and see if the classic rock fan can figure out which extremely popular hit song she's covering. Watch as the blankness spreads across their face.

Nirvana: "The Man Who Fell to Earth"
Personally, I'll take Nirvana's Unplugged version of this one every time over David Bowie's, whom I like just fine but who I also think is jezzed a tad overrated.

Iron and Wine: "Such Great Heights"
Used in "Garden State" recently (which you should see if you haven't already), Sam Beam's lilt-folk cover of The Postal Service's 3-year old synth pop masterpiece qualifies for inclusion on my list for the same reason Cat Power does: if you're going to bother covering a song, for god's sake, make it your own.

TV On the Radio: "Mister Grieves"
A capella version of a Pixies song that was tacked on as a "hidden" bonus cut on TVotR's phenomenal "Young Liars" EP, it soars on its originality and toe-tapping catchiness. When I think of the song, I hear this version in my head -- not the Pixies'.

Schneider TM: "Light 3000"
A strange discovery I found on a promo comp from Mute records, this is an electro glitch update of The Smiths' "There is a Light that Never Goes Out," and it's flat-out gorgeous in its dreamlike simplicity. It's also both a bit spooky and terribly sad.

posted by Bill Purdy, 9:48 AM | link | 5 comments

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

More E Comedy: Body Hair Issues!

I’ve always felt like I had a weird name. First name Patrick, last name Angello – Patrick is very Irish while Angello is very Italian. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that I’m half Irish and half Italian. Fortunately, the Italian half is from the waist down, if ya know what I mean. I think the ladies do! Yep, that means I have hair on my ass, but not on my back.

Thank God I’m not half Greek and half Italian – then I’d pretty much just be a wookie.

Ever pat a guy on the back that has back hair and you’re not ready for it, and you get that spongie feel under his shirt? Then you try to act natural about it?

Actually, having hair on your ass isn’t so bad, once you get beyond the swamp ass issues. In fact, I think the hair on my ass actually helped me win my wife over. Let me explain.

When Katy and I first started dating, this whiter than white, cracker, toe-headed, fair-skinned woman had a Dodge Colt with an ebonic vanity plate that read: I B K T. Yo, she be Katy! In fact, I learned that Katy would tag her CD’s and other possessions with just the letters “KT” instead of writing her entire name out. I didn’t think the letters “A” and “Y” were that difficult to add, but hey – it was her little thing.

One day, right when we started seeing each other, KT called me when she was about to get off of work. She had a bad day and wanted to come over to visit me. I, like most eligible 28-year-old bachelors, lived at home with my parents. So I told her to swing on over and I’d cheer her up.

When KT got to the house, my dad showed her to the basement – my pad! She came downstairs and I gave her a hug and a kiss and let her vent for a few minutes. Then I told her I had a surprise for her. Then I turned around and mooned her. Shaved into the hair on my ass was the letter “K” on my left cheek, and the letter “T” on my right.

I’m pretty sure it was at this point that she thought, “Oh my GOD – I should marry this man!” But when it came out, it sounded like, “Oh my GOD – how did you do that?”

To which of course I replied, “I didn’t – my mother did it for me!”

***

A friend of mine called me the other day and said, “I shaved.”

I replied, “Congratulations and welcome to manhood – I shave my face every day.”

He said, “No. I mean down there. It’s really cool – I feel like a porn star!”

I started to think about this, and there is no way I could do that! I mean, I have hair on my arms, my chest, and my legs…if I were to shave THAT area it would just look weird!

…And it does!

When I finished, I noticed a few stray hairs still hanging out down there. As I examined a little closer, I saw they were attached to the shaft! Now, I used the butt-end of an electric razor to start, but there was still no way in hell anything sharp was going directly on my guy. So I (plink) plucked one out with my fingers.

Have you ever pulled out a nose hair? You know how you get all teary eyed and you go on a 20-minute sneezing fit? Well, that’s what happened – DOWN THERE!

My guy was jumping all over the place, making strange sounds; something was coming out of him! I was freaking out, which made him more scared! Now we’re both screaming and running in circles in the bathroom. I finally started to calm down and I turned into the dad whose son just fell off his bike.

“It’s OK, it’s OK. Settle down, come on – relax. That’s it. Who’s a tough guy, huh? Who’s my tough little man? You’re OK – just relax. I need you to be tough now, OK? That’s it – be strong, be tough! Are you my tough guy? Are you? OK, great – cuz we have about 11 more to go…”

posted by Pat Angello, 7:05 PM | link | 12 comments

Monday, March 07, 2005

Why Roger Ebert Kicks Ass

I found this today, on some website somewhere, attributed to the ever-underappreciated fat (formerly, at least) film critic extraordinaire, Mr. Ebert:

"Now to end on a sad note. For 18 years I have used a little hand-held leather object known as the Levenger Pocket Briefcase. It holds 3x5 cards on a pocket in the back. You place a card beneath the tabs on the front, write on it, and then store it in another pocket. Perfect. It has been with me to dozens of festivals and thousands of films, and today, somewhere between the Holiday Village Cinemas and the press screening at the Yarrow, I lost it. The Sundance ushers were tireless in helping me search with a flashlight, but it is gone.

"I would sooner have lost my wallet, or my car. The Pocket Briefcase was part of me, deeply engrained in my work habits. Some years ago I bought a backup, only to discover that Levenger had make the tragic mistake of inexplicably changing its flawless dimensions by making it a half-inch wider -- just enough so that it no longer fit perfectly into the palm, and the 3x5 cards in the storage area could not provide a solid backing for my writing. Damn, damn, damn. I bought a spiral notebook at the 7-Eleven, and am right now regarding it with hatred."

Roger Ebert lost a part of himself in the movie theater that night. I feel for the man, I really do.

posted by Bill Purdy, 4:16 PM | link | 2 comments

Friday, March 04, 2005

Le Tigre / Lesbians On Ecstasy / hey willpower, Cat’s Cradle, 2/23

Frankly, I’m getting tired of driving all the way out to Chapel Hill, all by myself, so I can stand there looking like a non-bearded version of the weird old guy who hung out by himself at the shows I went to when I was younger. But I wasn’t going to miss this show, not after the effort I expended the last time I went to see Le Tigre at Cat’s Cradle (see the December archives for my highly amusing write-up on that experience).

Beth’s parents weren’t in town yet, so we didn’t have a babysitter. I couldn’t get Dave to go because he was out of town caring for his dying mother, and there was no way I was going to subject Larry to that racket again. I lobbied hard to get Jacob, my 26-year old gay boss, to go with me (he definitely represents a key demographic for this lineup). But he works too hard – WAY too hard for a guy his age – and wasn’t about to go out and have fun on a Wednesday night, for heaven’s sake.

So it was me, alone, again.

Sigh.

I was kinda cranky when I got there. Not only had I left my wedding ring on the edge of the bathroom sink (I take it off when I wash my hands sometimes), but I left my wallet home as well. I told the guy at the door who was carding me and the other the young lesbians I didn’t have my wallet, but I assured him (with a dorky grin) I was 21. “Why I even bother to stamp you, you cain’t buy nothin’ anyway?” he replied, with a bemused snicker. Good point, I thought. Good point.

I staked my claim to a little patch of floor about three feet from the stage. Somehow, the show had sold out in the two months since the last show was cancelled, and the crowd was getting thick well before the opening act came onstage.

And what an act it was! Four short people (three guys and a gal who looked about 14) all walked out on stage and did calisthenics for a full minute before getting down to business. They were wearing dork/gay athletic wear – the kind of stuff you’d expect male figure skaters to wear to the gym on days when all they want is a light workout.

The bespectacled Asian guy started fiddling with his PowerBook, and Will, the one with the multicolored embroidered cloth “leaves” adorning his shoulder, grabbed the microphone and started to do his best Justin Timberlake impression. The other two executed choreographed gay/dork dance moves behind Will. It was quite a sight.

hey willpower did their best to coax me out of my crank – I just couldn’t help but smile at the sheer gay geekiness of it all. Will danced and moonwalked and shook his pelvis like the guy in Jamiroquai, and the tunes – in the grand tradition of fey keyboardist/singer duos like Yazoo, Bronski Beat, etc. – were irresistably catchy! I loved this act! I loved every bit of it! I became a fan, right there, on that spot!

But something nagged me about them – the songs had a certain sort of catchiness I’d heard somewhere before. Hard to explain it exactly, but what I’m talking about is quite distinctive. The next day I did a bit of web sleuthing and found out that Will is, in fact, Will Schwartz, member of one of my favorite catchy indie rock acts ever: Imperial Teen. Which explains a lot. hey willpower basically sounds like Imperial Teen if they made groovy R&B instead of whatever it is they do now. Which means, basically, I’ll be buying the record next time I have my wallet where they’re selling the CDs

Like I said, I was feeling pretty good from hey willpower’s 30-minute set when Lesbians On Ecstasy came out and stomped on my buzz, hard. While they were tolerable as background music to a game of pool the last time I saw them, they were simply ponderous when my full attention was directed at them. Their 45-minute set couldn’t end quickly enough. My description from last time is still accurate (again, refer to my earlier write-up), but throw in a little too much mid-80s Belgian techno in the mix as well. And the leather biker outfits were simply repulsive. Two thumbs down.

You can imagine, then, I was cranky again by the time Le Tigre took the stage. Kathleen immediately apologized for getting sick the last time, then joked she was really playing PlayStation in the tour bus the whole time. Ha! She made a funny!

Le Tigre was one of my favorite acts last year at Coachella, even though I enjoyed them by myself (do you see a pattern?) while Beth and Cross instead watched a corpulent Robert Smith sleepwalk through Staring At The Sea, on a Jumbotron. At Coachella, the large stage, the coordinated outfits, and the HUGE video screen made their act seem like a huge celebration of punk feminism, to which everyone was invited. At the Cradle, with a cramped stage, small screen (obscured even further by a large-headed photographer who felt perfectly comfortable leaning into my sight line every two minutes or so), and lackluster outfits, Le Tigre was merely fun. But they belted through nearly the same set I had seen in Palm Springs with a reasonable amount of energy and competence. It was a fine show. Perfectly fine.

I was struck by a realization about them (and not that the sex, drugs, & rock’n’roll is starting to wear a bit on the once-hot Kathleen [just watch her prance around in Sonic Youth’s Bull In Heather video, and you’ll see what I mean by “once-hot”]): while I like most of their stuff, I really only love the material from their first CD. In their main set, they played two cuts from that CD: “Hot Topic” and “What’s Yr Take On Cassavettes?” Those two songs were SO much stronger than the newer stuff. With all the focus on the new stuff, I got to worrying they wouldn’t play “Deceptacon,” the best song on their best album.

But the encore sent me home smiling (again). First, their kitschy cover of “I’m So Excited,” replete with cheerleader dance moves and Kathleen’s mumble/scream of the chorus (reminds me of Johnny Rotten’s take on “Roadrunner” back in the day), stoked the crowd into a seething frenzy. Then, finally, they did “Deceptacon,” performed entirely without instruments (as was most of the show), karaoke style, winding up with Kathleen and Jo screaming “…see you later …see you later” as the lights went up and the girls bounced off the stage.

Yes, the drive home was a good one, especially because I didn’t get pulled over. With my wallet sitting home on the kitchen counter, that would’ve sucked.

posted by Bill Purdy, 4:41 PM | link | 0 comments

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Kristen Hersh, Cat’s Cradle, 2/4

Nothing in life is predictable.

Like when you drive to Chapel Hill with Craig and Cross on a Friday night to see Kristen Hersh, and you get there at 9:15, which coincides neatly with the time the opening act has taken the stage every other time you’ve been to the venue, and you’re chatting loudly with your friends as you round the corner into the performance space. And you’re forced to stop, mid-stride and mid-sentence, because there she is, Kristen fucking Hersh, sitting alone on the stage in a chair, strumming a guitar for a rapt crowd of maybe 300 people, all seated.

Yes, seated. In a venue that doesn’t normally have seats. And there aren’t any more seats to sit in, so you sneak into the back, buy a beer for the guys, and stake out a spot in front of a bored-looking sound guy (Craig told me he saw him checking his email on the laptop during one of the songs), near a faceless lady sitting off in the dark who laughs just a bit too loud at Kristen’s between-song banter.

At least Kristen is in top form, belting out solo acoustic versions of (I guess) her solo songs. As much as I like her material, both solo and with Throwing Muses, I’m really only familiar with “Hips and Makers,” her tour de force from some hazy time in the early-90s. So I know she plays “Your Ghost,” sans Stipe, during the main set, and (this one kills me) “A Loon” during her encore set. Predictably, I swoon for those two and listen politely to the rest of the material – all of which is strong but otherwise unfamiliar to me.

Her voice is simply smashing, growly and bluesy but unmistakably feminine. I read somewhere she has four kids (she had just had her first the only other time I saw her [in Boulder, with Patrick! Yay!], with a full band, in support of “Hips and Makers”), which is believable, I guess, but which isn’t by any means apparent from her stage demeanor. She is, pardon the expression, one hot mama. She employs a cute and curious head tic while singing – a slight sideways wiggle timed impeccably with lyrical pauses and stutters – that is irresistibly sexy.

I have a crush on Kristen Hersh, and goddammit I’m not afraid to admit it (and as I stand in the dark by the sound guy that crush is manifesting itself, just a bit too uncomfortably, in a string of drool that has formed on my chin).

But, alas, there is too little of her. We arrived late, after her set had begun, and we saw her perform at most a dozen songs.

The lights go up, we are denied additional beers, we go home.

All too predictably.


posted by Bill Purdy, 3:14 PM | link | 0 comments