Tag Archives: ramblings

LE 86: Matthew Slusser

Freaking the fuck out.

Guys, what do you do? I realize that’s an odd start out of the gate with no context, but right now, I feel like an odd start out of the gate with no context. What am I talking about? I don’t even really know.

If you’ve been following along on this journey—fuck that. I hate things being described as journeys, but I also equally hate people describing something as a path or a road, because beyond being cliche, it all sounds so planned and linear. Life is nothing if not not linear. I mean, sure, time moves in one direction—forward, but the distance traveled between A and B is never a straightforward thing. At least not in my experience. A is the starting point and B is the end point, but from A there is often a misstep backwards into a steaming shit-pile of Z, then rolling down a steep embankment through thistles to come to a dazed and moaning stop in F, then at last certain you’ve found a shortcut to B but winding up stuck for ten years in H… you get the idea.

I don’t like roller coasters—never have—but it feels like I got on one a few years ago that’s been on a steady climb ever since, and now I’m just kind of trying not to look for the crest and inevitable free fall. It can’t be far off. Except that it can be, and it might never be this terrifying drop I’m anticipating—maybe things will just level off, even out, and everything will be great. That’s not the way I function, though. I wish it were, but it’s not. I don’t have that practiced, self-assured way of thinking. As soon as things start to go well, I go straight to disaster prep mode. I guess you could say I’m a negativity prepper.

So back to the opening question, what do you do? How do you cope? How do you keep yourself from spiraling into an overwhelming pit of depression and anxiety that is not only self-destructive, but makes you difficult for other people to deal with as well?

As I write this, we, Janell and I, are just two days out from the launch party for our first book from Hoot n Waddle, Chris Danowski’s DOGSEAR. I should be filled with joy and a sense of accomplishment—this is exactly the kind of thing that I wanted to be doing with my life—but all I can do is focus on the “what if.” What if no one shows up? What if no one buys the book? What if I just fuck the whole thing up in some grand and fiery way?

I’ve begun having panic attacks. That’s new. I’ve always had problems with anxiety, but it was all in my head. Now, there are these physical manifestations. My breathing gets sharp and shallow, I get a little light headed, I begin to feel like I need to scream, but can’t. I’m sort of going through a little of that now. I need to get grounded and enjoy all of this in the moment—we’re publishing a fucking book! That’s freaking amazing! I don’t know how to be happy about it, though.

The launch is this Saturday. I’m writing this Thursday night so that I don’t have to stress about writing The Blarg and posting the new Limited Engagement and updating all the various things that need to be updated on top of the launch. I guess you’ll have to wait to hear about how I handled the launch and everything after until the next Blarg.

On this edition of Limited Engagement, Matthew Slusser discusses podcasting, Henry Rollins, the end of his band Phantom Party, and much more. Be sure to check out his podcast, Getting Stoked.

Best,
Jared

Listen to LE 86 – Matthew Slusser

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Birdman Kicks Ass

I walked out of the theater after having seen Birdman, and I felt happy–not just because it’s a great film, but because it’s a great film starring Michael Keaton. I like Michael Keaton, and in many ways, being the age I am (and the rest of this statement will give you a ballpark figure) I feel like I grew up with Mr. Mom–I mean Keaton…

For those who have yet to see Birdman, fear not–this is no attempt to Siskel and Ebert things up here, there will be no spoilers. All I will say is, it’s a great movie. You should go see it. Trust me, I know these things.

Where was I? You’re always making me lose my train of thought… Right, growing up with Michael Keaton.

He was like the cool kid I wanted to hang out with. You know, the kinda weird one who was funny and smart, but also a little scary and given to the occasional bout of depression, but that’s cool, too, because it just means you’re, you know Deep.

I felt that way up through Batman Returns, and then he made some questionable film choices, so it was like, well, maybe we won’t hang out so much anymore, and then it was more, I’m moving out of state, but we’ll totally keep in touch, and then, whad’ya know, it’s been who knows how many years since the last time we saw each other.

Again, just like that friend, he’d pop up every once in a while in some great character roll or other that made me think, oh, yeah, that’s why we used to hang out. He’d come up in conversations from time to time–conversations populated with phrases like “totally underrated” and more often than not end with the words “and I still think he’s the best Batman.”

Then, when I began seeing previews for Birdman, I thought to myself, it’s time for me and Michael to hang out again, catch up, get reacquainted–awkward pauses and all. Now I’ve seen the film, and it’s great–we’ve sat down and had coffee, talked about where we are in our lives, and found out we still have a lot in common.

Whether or not Birdman is a commercial success, it is an artistic and stylistic success, and it gives me hope that things can be as good as they ever were–not just for Michael Keaton, but for myself, and, honestly, you can’t ask for much more from the price of a matinee ticket.

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How to Play Guitar with Your Idol

First of all, we’re gonna skip right over the fact that I haven’t written on here since July of 2013.

Instead, we’re going to launch into why Glenn Tilbrook–on top of being a vocalist of amazing skill and range–is a musician of the highest order, and one of the most underrated guitarists in the history of anything that has ever claimed to be underrated.  Mr. Tilbrook is the musical half of the songwriting partnership (the lyrical half being Chris Difford) behind the band Squeeze who are–in keeping with the theme–one of the most underrated bands in the history of anything that has ever claimed to be underrated.  Squeeze is best known for the singles “Tempted” (which has appeared in approximately a thousand commercials and has been covered by everyone and their grandmother) and “Up the Junction” (the song’s most recent notable use is in a pivotal scene of the show Breaking Bad, one of my all-time favorite shows, and so you can only imagine when I heard a song by Squeeze being used in the background of the scene where Hank, but that’s way the hell off topic). They had some success stateside in the ’80s, sold out Madison Square Garden, had some top 40 singles, blah, blah, blech. You interested in Squeeze? Find these albums and listen to them: ArgybargyEast Side Story, and Play.  Mind you, they’re all good, but those are three of my favorites, and so why shouldn’t you start there?

Anyway, I could (and do) go on at great length about how amazing Squeeze is, but this particular ramble is focused on the nimble fretwork of Glenn Tilbrook (and how I got to play guitar with him).  For recorded examples of Tilbrook’s genius, listen to the following Squeeze songs: “It’s So Dirty,” “Another Nail in My Heart,” “Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),” “Black Coffee in Bed,” “When the Hangover Strikes,” “Slaughtered, Gutted, and Heartbroken,” “Letting Go,” “Some Fantastic Place,” just to name a few; all of his various solo endeavors; the Aimee Mann album I’m with Stupid–he’s all over that one.

However, to truly understand the genius of Glenn Tilbrook, one must experience him live, solo, unencumbered by a band.  The solo stage is where Glenn spreads his fingers and lets them sail up and down the frets in a way that cannot be accurately described, it must be experienced, and I have done so on 5 occasions over the past 13 years. Next time you should go with me, he’s brilliant.

During solo shows, Tilbrook is known for his stage antics–stepping out into the audience, playing the final encore on top of the bar, taking the crowd out into the streets, and even inviting some lucky soul up onto the stage to play with the master.  I had never personally witnessed this last one, but on the night of Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, I not only witnessed, but actually was that lucky soul.  Just before launching into a blistering solo for “Take Me, I’m Yours” (another one of the songs you should listen to), the man asks if there are any guitarists in the audience, a few of us, including myself tentatively raise their hands, he wants one of us on stage.  Absolutely no one is going.  Glenn’s just hanging out on stage keeping rhythm on G minor, and the offer is almost gone.  Before my mind can comprehend what I’m doing (which is probably a really good thing), I am rushing towards the stage and mounting the stairs.

Here’s the blow by blow best I can remember it: Glenn asks if I want to play acoustic or electric (I’m pretty sure I just mumbled something and pointed to his beautiful, black Stratocaster), he helps me with the knobs so the thing makes sound (because I have suddenly forgotten how to do anything), at some point in this I let him know that I don’t know all the chords (one of the few Squeeze songs that I did not know all the chords to), he tells me the chords, he asks me my name, he introduces me to the crowd, and then we’re off and going.  I’m playing “Take Me, I’m Yours” with the GlennmotherfuckingTilbrook, and I did not totally embarrass myself.  Towards the end of the song, he asked me if I wanted a solo, and there was no way that was happening, but, urged on, I did mess around a little bit.  Song finished, the man gives me a hug, a shout out to the crowd, I put the amazing guitar back (I didn’t take the guitar pick–why didn’t I take the pick?), and back into the audience I go.

Down there in audience land, the disbelief sets in.  Did that actually happen?  It did.  My friends took photos, my girl shot video, fellow audience members accosted me and gave me pats on the back.

With all due respect to my friends and loved ones, and not to discount any other achievements I might have amassed along the way, this was probably the single greatest moment in my life.

Oh, and the chords? Verse: Gm Cm; Chorus: Eb D Gm Cm back to Gm; all solos played over Gm.  I will never forget those chord changes.

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I Liked it Better When Blood Spatters Were Red Pixels…

I must be one of the worst bloggers in the entire history of blog-dom.  My last log blog was posted over a year ago–it was all about how I was going to take advantage of the memoir-hoovering portion of the book-buying/publishing world.  I’ll give you all a chance to guess exactly what my word count is on that much ballyhooed endeavor.  Ah, you give me far too much credit.  Nope, you’re completely wrong.  Actual word count to-date: ZERO (I find that if you actually spell out the number and capitalize every single letter, it looks far more impressive than the abysmal state it truly signifies).  Now, it’s not that I have been resting on my laurels this whole time.  In fact, I’ve been very feverishly dashing off poems left and right and been integrating myself into the very welcoming Phoenix poetry scene.  Hell, I’ve even been a featured poet at some events, and there is more of this to come.

However, this does not excuse my lack of blog-iness in this very cutthroat, blog-eat-blog world.  Well then, all five of you lovely people who will read this post must be asking, what gives? What’s the excuse, Grumpmaster Flash?

Truth be told, there is no excuse other than the rather lame one that I give for why I don’t do just about anything that I end up not doing:  Life.  Life, says Marvin, don’t talk to me about life.  So I won’t.  If I’d wanted to, I could have made time for some pretty blog-tastic entries, but I didn’t.  Now, as the Germans said, on to bigger and better things…

Advancements in technology and I have never been more than cautious admirers.  When I was growing up, there was none of this MySpace, Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Spotify what have you.  Not everyone I knew owned a computer, and nearly no one had a cell phone.  Cut to me at age 30, and I have, very begrudgingly made moves to catch up with modern society.  As a writer and student, I have found it necessary to utilize several of the aforementioned services (primarily for the necessary evil of self-promotion), but I have never ‘friended’ anybody that I haven’t at the very least met and spoken to in person and I’ve never purchased anything (other than textbooks) or stolen media in a digital format.  In many ways I’m ‘That Guy’ who still prefers how things were back in the day, and while I’m not a technophobe, I certainly don’t trust the digital age.

Most recently I was reminded of the limitations of my acceptance of technological advancement while thoroughly geeking out at The Art of Video Games exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum.  My family never had a video game system when I was growing up, but many of my friends did, and so the nostalgia experienced at seeing Super Mario Bros. on the original NES or the various pixelated DOS games was heartfelt and palpable.  Wandering through the exhibit as it moved on up to the striking, realistic graphics of today’s video games, this nostalgia transitioned to awe-inspired consternation and discomfort.  Why discomfort? I asked myself, because games should not ape reality, I handily answered myself.

We own a PS3, but while the kids enjoy playing games like Mass Effect 3 where people look eerily like people, I am most comfortable with the Lego games where, when character dies, there is no blood–they just break.  Blood and violence in video games is not my problem, the realism is–it is, after all, a GAME.  And this, I think explains where my unease with advancement in technology stems from:  Not the advancements themselves, but what is lost in the process.  Relationships are meant to be experienced in the flesh; music is meant to be experienced with artwork and liner notes; books are meant to be experienced with the rustle of pages; violence in video games is meant to be experienced in unrealistic red pixels.

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