Archive | May 2012

Everyone Should Listen to ISIS (The Band)

A few weeks after attending an ISIS show, I was out and about town, wearing my fancy ISIS Octopus shirt that I had ordered online. I was in line someplace or other, minding my own business when a woman approached me. She looked at my shirt, then at my face, back to my shirt and so on. I could see her puzzling out the connection between the words and the image. Then she smiled, opened her mouth and nodding her head said, “I get it. Is, is.”

As part of my association with the fan site, TOOLARMY, I met some of the coolest people in the world. Though it is very true than many people who fancy themselves TOOL devotees are complete arses, many of them are clever, funny, free thinking people who happen to enjoy the music of one particular band best. There are some among that TOOL community who refuse to listen to much of anything else and condemn, with violent derision, any other artist or person who might dare suggest one listen to something or someone else. Despite that, I owe my love of ISIS to my interactions in that community.

Getting to communicate with people all over the world can have its advantages. One person in particular, Peter Good, who lives in England, introduced me to ISIS just after the release of Oceanic. I had just learned to (poorly) play the guitar and was finding myself fascinated by how songs were constructed, the repetition, the build up and subtlety of a well put together track. One of the things I liked a great deal about TOOL was the length of their songs. Many came in at over 7 minutes, some much longer. ISIS fed into that love-long songs with building themes, repetitive sections, and an intensity I  latched onto greedily.

Unlike TOOL, ISIS was prolific with their musical releases. With TOOL, it is not uncommon to wait half a decade or longer between releases. With the release of (my favorite) Panopticon in 2004, ISIS supplanted TOOL as my favorite music makers. I really liked Oceanic, but Panopticon is a near perfect record. Much more melodic than previous records, (even the vocals were toned down), it took the band to a different level, still heavy but at times soft and thoughtful, mixing more traditional singing with the usual (and sometimes preferred) guttural screaming and growling.

Just under two years later, ISIS released another record, then another three years after that.  Numerous live records, splits with bands like Melvins, a few singles and a collaboration with Aereogramme, I ate them all up. I was completely shell shocked when they announced their break up in 2010, and ever so glad to have seen them one last time on the Wavering Radiant tour.  I have written about that experience before and it still is one of my favorite concert moments. The vibe was so incredible, the entire crowd completely engrossed in the performance. No video of a show does it justice, though the live records are a close approximation.

I honestly think everyone should listen to them. They haven’t changed my life with their musical philosophy, made me question anything or altered my consciousness. They have provided me with some outstanding music, places where I can let my mind wander, long stretches of songs where I am free to experience whatever I will.

I try to share their music when I can. If you’re willing to give it a go, I am including links to some of my favorite songs, some from each ‘era’ of the bands development-stuff from when they were just pure heavy droning undeveloped bliss to their more melodic and intimately constructed moments. Both extremes are wonderful and while I tend to listen more to the later releases, I still love the early stuff as well.

Life Under the Swatter– From Mosquito Control.

Red Sea– From The Red Sea.

Celestial (The Tower)-From Celestial.

Carry-From Oceanic.

In Fiction– From Panopticon.

Dulcinea-From In the Absence of Truth “nothing is true, everything is permitted”.

Hand of the Host-From Wavering Radiant.

The Pliable Foe-From Split with Melvins.

Low Tide-In the Fishtank 14, ISIS + Aereogramme.

The first three songs are pretty heavy stuff. In Fiction and Dulcinea are the most melodic. The Pliable Foe was the last ISIS song created, which makes it cooler than the cool. I love the heavy parts of Hand of the Host and Low Tide is just a perfect song for letting your mind go.

Enjoy if you can and if you can’t, Do Better.

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Unhinged

“Some days it is amazing,” I say, flipping the pencil back and forth, under and over fingers, “you can drag yourself out of bed with all you have to do, have to deal with.”

Face down in the space between us, you hide an embarrassed smile.

“What is the alternative, stay asleep, ignore everything, let it all wash away? It sounds wonderful.”

Lifting your head, you stare past me and outside of this moment, drifting in possibility.

“There is always a choice,” you say. “Always an instant, a flickering of understanding where I see what I could be.”

A dark desert, wind blown and drifted up and over through, hot and desolate.

A redwood forest, towering trees stretching to the sky, pressing and powerful.

The bottom of a dried up well, old and forgotten, broken disarray, bricks strewn carelessly.

A hand sewn quilt, tied with purple yarn, folded and placed gentle in the corner of the sofa, ready to envelope.

The cover of a favorite novel, smell of old paper and ink, intoxicating.

The air just after a last kiss, charged with spent anticipation, a heavy sigh.

You could be counterfeit, chaos. You could be nothing, letting the twisting be more than your arm. You could give up, quit, descend. You could change the world with potency. You could be meek, submissive, subservient. You could be a first touch, a final wish, restless sleep, a knife.

The Randomness of Lists

Things I did but no longer do

1. Hang up my T-shirts and jeans. I have come to terms with fold creases.

2. Wear white socks with every conceivable outfit and shoe. Gym socks and slacks-fashion forward thinking.

3. Smash my bread into a tiny salty mashed up ball of goodness (though I have thought of doing this again from time to time, only with cleaner hands).

4. Eat Bologna. I have considered trying it fried again. Maybe I feel it is a bottom dweller deli meat. Strange enough, I still love hot dogs. I am a wealth of contradiction.

5. Enjoy the musical styling of Huey Lewis and the News. I can’t even find them funny anymore. How did this happen?

Things you may not know about me

1. I used to be terrified of urban environments. Well, really only at night. All those hooligans waiting to beat me to a pulp.

2. At my heaviest, I weighed in at 251 pounds. I think I only had two chins, but my cheeks just slid nicely down to my neck. I had no jawline. Good times.

3. I cannot write a lowercase q. Cannot might seem an exaggeration, but it seems like a cannot to me.

4. I only sneaked out of my parents house once. Of course it was to meet up with girls. I was supposed to kiss one of them. In my memory, I was freaked out by her forehead.

Other tidbits

My first alcoholic drink was an awful concoction of Tavarski lime vodka and Mountain Dew. I learned two things-Never drink booze that comes in plastic bottles and costs less than 10 dollars a fifth. Never mix anything with Mountain Dew.

I love the taste of clove cigarettes. I have never been a huge smoker, but from time to time I have enjoyed various tobacco products. Cigars are kind of fun.

Along those same lines, the most cigarettes I have smoked in one three hour period is eight. They were consumed along with a few pints of delicious beer at a now defunct place called Yabuts, that used to be called Spanky’s. The building still exists, standing there empty and forlorn.

I refuse to use cursive script. It really needs to be abolished.

I have never attended a Major League Baseball game or a MLS match. I will do better on the second.

Soccer (or football for the purist) is becoming my second favorite sport. The list begins with American football, followed by a close tie between Hockey and Soccer. I just began watching English Premier League games this spring, but as I refuse to watch sporting events after the fact (the exception being Giants Superbowl wins and U of U BCS bowl victories),and the games are on very early, I tend to miss most televised matches. Next season! I still have to pick a team to follow. Hopefully one that wont get relegated. As for the MLS, I do love watching RSL play. I need to take my kids to a match.

I have only been out of the country once but that was to Canada, so I am unsure if that counts.  And British Columbia, what is with the 35kph speed limit? I wager it is to catch unsuspecting Americans in speed traps as they cross the boarder, not checking their speedometers and rushing past your police cars. I bet you make a killing!

I have not had a soda for almost three years. This might not seem a huge deal until you consider the amount of it I used to consume. As a high school senior, it was routine to drink two or three 32 ounce drinks in a day. As an adult, I would often consume three or four a week. A twelve pack of cans might last three days in my house, if it was lucky.

I don’t like fish. I once ate flounder caught and prepared by a professional fisherman. That was tasty. Tuna from a can doesn’t count as fish.

I have a weakness for dark chocolate and heavy metal. They go hand in hand.

I get confused by people who get offended by atheists, yet have no problem bringing up God on a daily basis. You are more than welcome to talk about religion as long as you are willing to actually be part of a discussion. If you are unwilling to agree to that condition, I have no sympathy for your being upset.

Wines from Arizona are really good.

I have never gone farther than three miles in one run. I really (and I mean really, really) hate distance running. It makes my head, heart, lungs and legs ache. The only time I like running is when I am done running. It is always torture.

When I look in the mirror I still expect to see my 23 year old self staring back at me. I have stopped being shocked by my glasses and grey hair, but I cant get used to the eye wrinkles. I also don’t currently like any photos of myself in profile.

I am too old to stay in a cheap, dirty motel.

I love the ocean but can’t swim very well.

I do my best to not drink my calories. Iced coffee is a nice way to drink something besides water. I still need sugar and real half and half. Hmmm, maybe I should go get some now.

Avocados are an acquired taste. I like mine smashed up and mixed with some salsa. Spread on a turkey sandwich is also nice.

Watermelon tastes better with seeds, but not enough to make it worth the effort. Seedless all the way.

When I come across an author I like, I tend to get obsessive, having to read everything they have written.

Most of my current favorite writers do not write in English. This makes me wonder if I really like the authors or the translators. One thing that drives me insane though, is some pretentious goon telling me that I can’t appreciate -insert writer here- until I read them in the original -insert language here-. You need to go away now.

I wish I had more followers on twitter (@ryanscarty hmmmm).

I really only like bacon as a side dish with breakfast or on burgers. I don’t like it wrapped around other various meats. I don’t like it in salad as a topping or on donuts. It’s a weakness, I know.

His is a picture I took today while walking

The road falls away off the edge of  world. When I walk in the mornings, I think of the most pathetically random things. I am sure they will make great blog entries, then I get home and try to write them. They are not.

This one was a good idea.

Next?

At Mile 106

Extraneous information here-I thought about not blogging about the Cycle Salt Lake Century ride that I participated in on Saturday. I even discussed it with a friend. She said I should challenge myself. I agree with her,  and I will. Just not today. Today, I really want to write about the bike ride.

This century was full of surprises for me. First, I was very nervous in the morning. I was able to sleep the night before with relative ease, but I popped awake a full hour before I needed to get up. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t ready for this ride. I knew the course, having ridden it last year, but that almost made it worse. I envisioned myself wearing out somewhere on the causeway, the lake stench overpowering me, and having to wait for my riding mates to pick me up on the way back. I have had some knee discomfort on longer rides as of late, which only added to the fear I wasn’t physically ready for the distance I had to ride.

 

At the same time, I was excited to get out, get going, test myself again. I met up with my brother Dylan, our mutual friend Keith and two others who were to join us. The temperature was in the high 40’s when we started, just cold enough to require long sleeves, warm enough to ride in shorts. Once we hit the road I knew I was in for a good ride. I have a rule, if my legs don’t burn, pedal a bit faster. Three of us were riding at a pace of about 20 mph through Rose Park. The other two just a bit slower. I knew the course was flat, but it was more flat than I remembered. We didn’t hit our first hill for 7 miles, and that was just an overpass. Before I even had time to think if I was tired, we were at the first rest area.

We had all agreed to spend as little time as possible at the rest stops, as we felt that was part of the reason we felt so tired at the end of last years ride. Our bodies took the rest as a cue the riding was over. Very hard to get back on the bike when your legs begin to shut down. Keeping to our plan, we stopped long enough to use a restroom, grab a snack, fill up water bottles, then get going again.

Another error we made last year was eating lunch too early. This time, we reached the lunch station and once again stopped long enough to refuel, fill up and go. It was at this point, roughly 40 miles in, that I realized I had once again broken a spoke on my front wheel. This has become too common an occurrence, and I worry that my wheel might need to be replaced. Anyway, broken spoke and all, we started out across the causeway towards Antelope Island. If you have not experienced the lovely smell of the Great Salt Lake, you are lucky. This causeway is notoriously windy, long and tedious. The five of us formed a decent enough draft line, taking 1:30 second turns and keeping a pace of around 18 mph. The only real climbing on this ride is a short uphill on Antelope Island. I recalled this being a challenge and was preparing myself for a difficult climb. Wow, not really. We were up and over it with little effort and found ourselves with under 50 miles remaining, feeling great and ready for more. The lake was particularly foul on the way back. So much so that I actually gagged once or twice. Lucky enough there were very few bugs and the temperature was tolerable.

Back at the lunch station, we took an extended break, having a sandwich and I had my spoke repaired at the aid station. Unfortunately, a little over twenty miles later, I ran over some lovely thorns and had to stop and change the tube in my front tire. As I was getting ready to inflate the tube, I noticed that I had broken yet another spoke on that damn front wheel. Two on one ride, now that just isn’t right!

What surprised me the most was my fitness level as we came into the last rest area. I recall the year before, being totally spent, no energy, headache and muscle pain. This year, I rode on zero caffeine, though I did take ibuprofen, and zero energy supplements. I felt really good. I was tired, but more than ready to finish the ride very strong. The last 17 miles flew by and at just over 6 hours of actual ride time (seven total hours) we finished mile 106. Our average speed was 17.8 mph and I am more than thrilled with that pace.

I have been trying to think of how to compare riding a century to running. Having never finished more than a  5K, it is hard for me to make an accurate comparison. I am guessing it is much easier to ride 100 miles than to run 26.2. I am also guessing it is harder to ride 100 then run a 10K. Perhaps the equivalent is something near a half marathon,  though I think cycling is something that can be done at a much more leisurely pace than running. You can rest more, not pedal at all for stretches (though I do my best to make that as little as possible). Plus, the wear and tear on your body is not as extreme. I am not trying to diminish the accomplishment of riding 106 miles, rather I am trying to put it in some perspective.

I plan to ride the ULCER Century in early August, then if the Heber happens again, ride that. Next September, the goal is to ride the LOTAJA . For that ride, I would love to get a group of ten or so. It might make the winds and distance easier to manage.

If anyone wants to ride with us on these century rides, or just on a Saturday, you are always welcome. We are by no means hardcore riders, so don’t let that intimidate you. If you have a bike and want to ride, come along.

 

Top Stuff-9

As promised (or threatened), here are my musical guilty pleasures. Some of these artists are has beens or never was(es) were(?), some of them are thoroughly embarrassing, which is kind of the  point, right?

First up, someone from my early teens. Bryan Adams was a pretty popular guy in the early to mid 80’s, getting to play in the Live-Aid festival in 85 as well as doing an awesome duet with Tina Turner. Basic rock and roll with killer riffs and a gravely voice. Cuts Like a Knife and Its only Love. And also, Tina Turner is still a badass.

I was not sure I liked Korn the first time I heard them. Shoots and Ladders seemed silly to me. I kept imagining the meeting where the intro to the song was discussed. “Bagpipes? Really.”  Then I heard the track Blind  and I was hooked. Some people lost interest after a mediocre second record, but they came back hard with “Follow the Leader” for a third record. I can agree that some of the later work is not as good, but check out these tracks from the first record as well as a great song from the third. Blind and Dead Bodies Everywhere. I can’t Let Korn go without mentioning how fantastic they are live. So much energy.

Back and forth and back to my teens again. This band made one really great record and then also flopped a bit on their second. Sadly, they never really recovered. That being said, I love the firt record song for song and  two or three songs of the second. The Hooters (what a name, eh?) were pop gold. Just weird enough that most kids had never heard of them or hated them and normal enough that my emerging musical palate could still enjoy them. And we Danced and Johnny B. P.S. The ads really blow, right?

Chevelle is a band that  gets thrown in the Nu Metal category. Their songs are often played in D tuning, with heavy power chords and the like. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. The songs are simple, and often less produced than other bands. I have seen them live a few times and they put on a solid show. Unlike some bands, their sophomore release, “Wonder What’s Next” was the money maker for them. I can say I like all their records. That is not the case with any other band on this list.  Send the Pain Below and The Clincher.

I thought Loverboy was the heaviest of the heavy from the time I was 11 to about 14. This was the band that I knew every word and every guitar riff (on my air guitar, that is) on their first three records. Whenever I played at being a rockstar as a boy, I was gonna be as cool as Mike Reno. This is the second of three Canadian artists to make this list. Hmmm. Jump and The Kid is Hot Tonight.

I can admit it! I like Godsmack. Ok, I like their first three records. I really like the self titled record-a great deal. This is some killer cliche rock and roll. Another fun live band and one that likes to get the crowd involved. They are totally full of themselves for no good reason and their music has gotten progressively less interesting, but I am still a sucker for some songs-like these-Whatever and Stress.

In 6th grade I fell in love with arena rock. It was the very early 80’s and I was 11. Sheesh, give me a break. REO Speedwagon is one of the bands I liked then that I still listen to now. They can make some serious cheese when it comes to love songs, but they did give us the best break up song ever. Listen to that as well as another fine track off the Hi-Infidelity record. Time for Me to Fly and Tough Guys.

Not sure this one really counts as a guilty pleasure type of band, but few artists have more severe dividing lines between love and hate as does Marilyn Manson. Because of some ridiculous corporate censorship, I was denied an opportunity to see Manson perform and a scheduling conflict kept me from seeing him on another Salt lake visit. No stranger to controversy, Manson makes some interesting and crazy songs. His cover of Sweet Dreams(Are Made of This) is haunting. I will give you that as well as another favorite track. Sweet Dreams and Tourniquet.

The third Canadian on this list is Corey Hart. What a sexy beast. I enjoy his first three records immensely, especially “Boy in the Box”. I wanted him to be considered part of the New Wave bands that I loved so much, but let’s be honest, it is total pop. Still, the dude writes groovy love songs, over the top and oh so tasty. You get three, yes that’s right, THREE Corey Hart love songs (and come on, one of them has the word “ain’t” in the title). It ain’t Enough, Everything in my Heart and Eurasian Eyes.  Gosh, he is so dynamic! Heh.

Last on the list is a band I found listening to WFNX out of Boston. What a cool station! Nothing but alternative rock all day and night. They had a program where on Tuesday nights, they would  present a live performance of various bands, including Jesus Jones. Jesus Jones was a band I thought was going places. They instead chose obscurity. They put out four records that I know of. Three of them are alright. Maybe their sound was not interesting enough to sustain more than one record at one time in history.   Regardless, I love that one record. Two songs off of it that did not get played on the radio.   Trust Me and Blissed.

Like the Chorus Repeating

“Midnight mass doesn’t start at midnight,” you say, and I look at my wrist where my watch should be but isn’t. Staring at the white outline where the sun has not tanned my skin, the place an overpriced timepiece you gave me for turning 40 should be resting, ticking, passing precision seconds, clicking, clicking, comforting, I am out of sorts, confused and unable to speak. “I even gave you the paper, slipped the note into your wallet, reminding you. Ten o’clock.”

I see the words come out of your mouth like speech bubbles in comic strips, words that fit the shape, that hyphenate themselves in all the right places. “It’s like you don’t ever listen (first bubble, move to the second panel), like I can’t ever trust you to do any-thing (a third). I needed you to be here, need-ed you by me.”

In another reality I stealthily step forward and press my lips to yours. The suddenness, unexpected from a usually predictable me takes you off guard and for a moment you struggle, almost pull back, but like in all good movie kissing scenes, you want this and your mouth and mine find our rhythm. Rain falls from a December sky, soaking our hair, running your make-up. Your breathing comes in loud forceful pushes and as this moment slips from anger, frustration, to pleasure and passion. Music pours from a passing car, then lingers, getting louder. The song, which instantly becomes our song, speaks to our blended hearts, we are one. Days later you play it for me, downloaded from the website of the artist herself. The best .99¢ you ever spent. Her voice the same pitch as yours, near the same range. I tell you that you sing it better and you press your lips close to my ears, whisper-singing. We melt.

Back on the steps leading up to the church, stained glass dingy with coal soot, diesel fuel residue, shells and dried yolks, you are still talking, still berating me, which I deserve, which I allow.

“What I want to know is this,” and the crowd pours out of the now open double doors, your voice muted by the out-pour of music and mumbling, the choir singing the final verses of some worship song or other, the birth of Christ, the need to constantly offer tribute, constantly feel less than, I am grateful for the bubbles that again form over your head.

“Why does my love mean so little to you?”

No hyphen needed.

It is Different

Last spring and summer, I spent a great deal of time on my bike. Just about this same time, I was getting ready to ride my first century and I was very nervous that I was in no way prepared to ride that distance. I was pleasantly surprised when I was not only able to finish the ride, but finish fairly strong.  I was more impressed when I thought about how far my fitness had come in less than a year. The summer before I had ridden my bike less than 2o times, the longest distance being 30 miles and had only reached the summit of Little Mountain twice.

2010-11 winter and spring were wet ones with there being five days during March and April that were dry and warm enough for my inexperienced self to ride. I recall vividly my first attempt at climbing. I kept shifting and shifting into easier and easier gears, my heart pounding and my breathing extremely labored. I was so disappointed with myself for allowing my fitness level to fall so far. I knew I would suffer some affect of the long period of inactivity, but I honestly expected to do much better.  Through a great deal of effort, and competing with my brother (who always pushes me to be better), I was able to get back to a good level fairly quickly. Riding the canyon, riding out by the Great Salt Lake, getting my rear end used to being in the saddle, every ride was taken seriously, with better fitness being the only goal. Dylan rode up Big Mountain three times, I made it twice. Together we put in the work and were rewarded for it by a successful summer of century rides, 50 mile rides and dozens of Little Mountain excursions.

I determined that I would never again suffer the agony of that first March ride ever again. With some ingenuity and spending, I put together a decent array of winter riding apparel. My initial goal was to purchase decent clothing specifically made for cycling, but after three stores where the price for riding pants ranged from 150-300$, I decided a nice pair of running pants with an ankle strap would more than fit the bill. I found a fantastic Columbia jacket that cost me a third of any cycling jacket I could find. What a scam apparel is! No way is any of that stuff worth the cost. The only thing I can say is not overrated, lobster riding gloves. They are fantastic!

With my clothing needs met, I was ready for the cold and nothing was going to keep me out of the saddle. Luckily, the winter was very mild and the snow build up on the roads was minimal. After several rides around my neighborhood, I attempted Immigration canyon. What a thrill to ride up the mountain in the dead of winter, warm and secure, sweating even. I was able to summit the canyon on 20 days in January, another ten in February and at least that many or more in March and April. I rode in the cold, snow, rain, wind, whatever. I have (for good and bad) eliminated most bad weather as a ride deterrent. I still refuse to ride if it is below 20 degrees or if snow is piling up, but that seems like good sense.

Funny enough, I still feel unprepared for the century ride coming up this weekend. Maybe I have over prepared. When I go for 40 mile rides, I come back tired and worn. Maybe I ride differently, knowing the distance. I know I ride harder, faster, when the distance seems short. I was supposed to ride another century on May 5th, but that ride ended up being cancelled. I admit I was almost relieved. The thought of riding 100+ miles, taking one week off, then 100 more seemed like a really bad idea.

Though this spring is one where I pushed myself to remain fit, that thought it the back of my mind persists. “You’re not ready,” it says. “You won’t finish.” Part of me wants to believe that voice. I am older. I feel more tired this year. I don’t have the same fire. Then I get on my bike, test the tires, gears and breaks, I focus on the way it feels underneath me and I realize I am more connected to that machine than I ever was last year. When I ride, it becomes an extension of me and when I push, the bike pushes with me, not against me. We work together to accomplish our goals, to complete our rides. We are never fully ready for what is in front of us, but we ride anyway, we succeed regardless of the obstacle. It is a wonderful feeling, a fantastic realization.