Friday, December 02, 2011

Giving it Away, Until I Think Better of it


I have been living under various rocks for most of my life but recently emerged from my latest rock to see the weird harsh light of our new digital world.  I guess it first happened when my hard drive crashed and I lost all my information, including old demos, new things, and music for listening pleasure.   My turntable is broken and getting it fixed is annoying, so, for the first time, I gave illegal downloading a go.

Seems crazy and hypocritical, right?   Especially when I ask people to buy my music?   Yeah maybe.   But all this illegal downloading has exposed me to such great music, from unreleased Can to Les Paul and Mary Ford to Kraftwerk bootlegs to Gene Clark.   

It's a weird time in music.   If you just enter an album title and "rar" into google, you can download an album and be listening to it in 30 seconds.

In this digital age, it is just insanely easy to steal things, and I myself have recently seen the benefit of it.

So I am putting all my old music up as "pay what you want" on bandcamp.

It's kind of funny/bizarre.   Some of the old releases I did not have anymore so I had to google them and 'illegally' download them from filesharing sites.

I am still charging money for special objects... any item I produce that you can hold in your hands will be a special and unique object.   But, as far as I can tell, there is no enforceable way to make listeners pay for mp3s.

You can download most of my back catalog here:

http://blankfritz.bandcamp.com

Blank Fritz is the name of my new band, whenever it comes together.  For the time being, I am playing alone.   Perhaps a bit premature, or perhaps a bit optimistically, I named the site Blank Fritz.   Now it is just a name sitting there, a reminder that I am playing solo and have not gotten another band together.


Sunset was always an evolving concept but it went too far in one direction and when that group of people fell apart, I needed a break from the name, even though on many of the recordings I had played everything. It had morphed into another entity. And when that entity died (or, rather, continued on as Sleep Good, gawd bless em) I decided to take a deep long breath.


Ahhhhhhhhhh.

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Yoga Drill Sergeant" at SXSW 2011



My SXSW 2011 showcase, performed to a confused crowd at The Marq.

"Yoga Drill Sergeant"

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Meandering mind

Here's a soundtrack to my small meditation:
She Came and She Touched Me // Townes Van Zandt

The year has passed quickly and with much event. Started off journeying to California to visit my pregnant sister, also stopping by the Rose Bowl National Championship game. I went to the official tail-gate party on an adjacent golf course and never felt more out of place in my life. Waving banners and smiling people can only welcome you so much. It comforts in a strange way to feel completely isolated from what surrounds you; hard to explain.

Shortly after, I journeyed to Park City for the Sundance Film Fest. I'd done some music for a film out there and thought, what the hell? Not sure if that was my exact thought. Safe guess, though.

I stayed in a massive ridiculous mountainside mansion with a large group of folks I didn't much know. This freed us; we stepped outside whatever we were at home. Long wild nights and not much cinema, actually. I didn't have a badge and didn't want to pay the $15 admission for each screening. So I alternated between jumping in the snow and roasting in the hot tub. Not a bad consolation.

Met a lot of good folks out there. Came home and got back to my normal routine: working at Texas School for the Blind, recording at Baby Blue, writing new songs, reading. Read 4 books by Balzac in the past few months. Can't recommend it enough.

Journeyed to San Francisco for the special sneak preview of "Echotone," a film that centers on me, Belaire, and Joe Lewis, and relates our stories back to trends in Austin's music scene and city development. A very thought-provoking film. Definitely nauseating to see myself on a big screen. I am impressed by how far Nathan Christ (director) and Robert Garza (photographer) have taken this project. Anytime somebody completes a project in Austin, I am amazed.

It's strange. Seems that people have to leave Austin for awhile to learn to finish things, to get past their good intentions and start putting objects into the physical world. Believe me, I was there for a long time. Eventually got shaken out of it.

Now I keep putting out albums and it keeps flowing. I just try to stay grateful and creative, cuz I know it will stop someday. Just finished another album, coming out this summer. It doesn't have all my best songs ever, but I think as a release it's a nice blend of the spaced-out pop of "Bright Blue Dream," the epic arrangements of "Glowing City," and the focus and brevity of "Gold Dissolves to Gray." Ideally, the albums build on each other and sooner or later comes a release that stands on the shoulders of all that came before it. That's what I hope this to be.

But of course you never know what something really is until it's gone. If the song or album or whatever is too close, too painful to touch, you can't be objective about it. It takes time and space and distance. Then you can actually see what the hell you were doing. I guess that's why musicians hire producers, for that outsider perspective, some sense of distance from the creative process. I myself found producers just getting in the way. I just try to let the songs flow out as they will, and not worry too much about any other aspect of the process. Not sure if this is a good or bad thing. It allows ideas to flow outwards, but it's sometimes difficult to maintain perspective, and especially difficult to "market" yourself. Since my days on Capital Records, I've developed an especially strong dislike for that stuff. I am coming around to it, slowly, slowly. These things take time. We're talking about a complete rebirth here.

I will soon return to writing more essays here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

TV Organ

You can view me talking about the T.V. Organ here:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

"The Ranch"







I just spent an amazing and magical stint down in Mexico, camping on the beach with friends and family, down a long dirt road about two hours from Zihuatenejo. A long way down there, but worth it.

You can look at my photos here.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Walt Whitman's house





God I love Walt Whitman. I imagine him standing naked on a rock in the middle of a stream, writing poetry on his arm with a sharpie. Oh wait, that sounds like me.

I was recently in Philly and decided to walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge to Camden, NJ, to see the house where Whitman died. I had been there before, but it's only open by appointment. On my previous visit, there stood a very scary large homeless man outside Whitman's house who offered to be my tour guide and kept hugging me. He smelled terrible.

"Give me a dollar!" he demanded.

"No, sorry."

"How about five dollars?" he asked.

I paused. In these types of negotiations, would he be asking for less money after I tell him no? Needless to say, his strategy did not work out. He and I left on bad terms, I guess... him not getting to "guide" me, and me not gaining entry into the Whitman house.

So I made an appointment and gave another try. And I can honestly say I think Whitman would laugh his ass off at this literary shrine. Everything was perfect and clean and tidy and completely unlike any writer's home I know of. Even the old photos of the place, they show notes strewn everywhere, books left open, dishes with half-eaten food. Yes, Whitman was a messy slob artist just like me. Good to know.

The tour guide was a portly gentleman wearing tight-fitting jeans. He kept hustling me through each room. Upstairs, I looked at Whitman's bed, the bed where he died. Underneath, I saw a large leather tub and tapped it with my foot. Lester, the tour guide, came unglued.

"Don't touch that!" he yelled. I promptly withdrew my foot.

"What is it?" I asked.

"It's the specially made tub that Mr. Whitman used for his sponge baths."

Gulp. Isn't that special.

I looked around the room and it felt so artificial. Hard to explain. I sat in there, trying to wrap my mind around Whitman and his achievement and trying to reconcile my experience of him with this overly tidy museum room, when I heard a tap-tap-tap of Lester the tour guide's foot.

Lester had his arms crossed and kept looking at his watch.

"Is something wrong?" I asked.

"Well, we need to hurry this up. I have a report to write."

And I just burst out laughing. What a beautiful contradiciton, how wonderfully inappropriate. To contrast the reveries inspired by Whitman's poetry with this wheezing, stressed beaureaucrat tending to his legacy. Almost poetic, I'd say.

He recommended I visit the Whitman statue on the Rutgers campus, a few blocks away. I walked through the rain and cold and saw Whitman's figure towering over a courtyard. What a fine fine flowing beard. Underneath the statue, I heard a guy proposing a date with a girl.

"Baby, you wanna go on a date with me?"

"Sure, what you thinkin?"

"I'm thinking this: you, me, the McDonald's Dollar Menu."

"OH YEAH, it's on!"

The two lovebirds slapped high-fives and moved on. Walt Whitman and his beard sat frozen in contemplation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

West Telemarketing, part 2 of 2

West Telemarketing called its its huge complex the "campus," even though just stepping on the grounds your IQ dropped 10 points or so.

I found the "Interviews" building. It was bland and gray and had ivy growing in small garden beds all on the outside. I imagined interviewing the building itself.

Bill: "Why are you so drab? Why do you suck all the life out of every man who walks through your doors?"
Interview Building: "I take great pleasure in reducing the pleasures and dreams of man into a mediocre rubble."
Bill: "Yes, but why is that exactly?"
Interview Building: "Not sure exactly. Maybe it was bad architecture. Maybe they shouldn't have used stucco. I'm allergic to that shit."

And so forth.

Inside, the walls were plastered with all sorts of "go get em" pep-talking posters, with slogans like "Your future is in your hands!" written under a giant pair of hands holding a wad of cash and a clock. Some sort of reminder about mortality? Or maybe just how expensive clocks can be. Time is money? I just wondered why in the hell somebody would carry that much cash in a pair of open hands. Ever hear of a wallet? And why the hell carry around a wall clock? Isn't that why we use wristwatches?

Also in the interview building hung the poster seen in so many dorm rooms, depicting a Porsche and Ferrari in the garage of a sprawling mansion. The caption read, "The Benefits of Higher Education." Now I can't necessarily argue with the supposition of the poster. But it seemed a strange place for it. West Telemarketing, after all, didn't require any higher education. In fact, the poster seemed to scream: "Get the hell out of here and get a better job! Go back to school for crying out loud!"

I bet they draped all that self-help crap in case folks were having second thoughts. It really seemed a bit ironic to me. These posters promoted initiative, ambition, and excitement, when it was the precise lack of these that would allow someone to succeed there.

Like showing up to a Weight Watchers meeting and urging the attendees to throw caution to the wind. Yeah, thanks, but a little too late. Now was not the time for ambition nor initiative nor excitement. You came to West Tele to be a robot, a paid-slightly-above-minimum-wage-earning robot.

Indeed, everyone looked like robots, especially while wearing "the headset." Sort-of like headphones except with an attached microphone. Its presence was mandatory for all employees, even when not calling customers. You could plug into various ports in the wall for conference calls and things of that sort.

The interview went really quickly. They were basically just testing to see if I was schizophrenic. I'm not even sure that would've disqualified me. I just would be cold-calling a whole different clientele. Who knows? Maybe I would've been promoted.

The following is not the actual interview transcript. But it would be a much better interview, I think, much better suited to the actual work I did at West Tele.

Interviewer: "Are you alive?"
Bill: "Yes."
Interviewer: "Do you plan on using smack, heroin or crystal meth while on the job?"
Bill: "Only in the parking lot."
Interviewer: "Are you stuck in a position in life where you will do anything for a paycheck?"
Bill: "Pretty much."
Interviewer: "So it won't bother you to practically steal money from those who can least afford to lose it? Those dumb enough to fall for our scams?"
Bill: "I'll use my paycheck to get some therapy sessions."
Interviewer: "You're hired."

Did I mention this was a telemarketing job selling overpriced life insurance plans to senior citizens in financially strapped communities? We would drape pleasantries all over these folks while stealing the crumbs off their plate. It's hard to describe the soul-crushing numbness this job makes you feel. Perhaps I should have been alarmed by their high job turnover, but I guess it was that factor precisely that allowed me to get hired.

So yes, the interview went well and I did get hired. And within an hour, I was in the call center, getting my orientation, getting a name-tag, and meeting my fellow co-workers. Frittering away my soul.

The other new employees seemed people wearing a tie for the first time in their lives. I guess I don't know much about tie wearing habits. Just seems like wearing a Tweety tie sort of defeats the whole purpose of wearing a tie or even dressing nicely? Well, everyone had to wear a tie. The content of the tie didn't matter much. I always wanted to make a tie that looked like a rippling chest full of muscles. But West Tele had a way of draining your motivation and I never did make that rippling muscle tie.

The job situation as a whole seemed neatly regimented and very sterile and mediocre. Like a tray of ice cubes allowed to melt in an unplugged microwave. There were 20 building on the campus, each building had two floors, each floor had two halves divided by a glass wall. Every building the same, every parking lot the same, every break area the same. In the main congregation area between the buildings sat always parked a taco truck and a place to immediately cash your checks. I would smoke cigarettes out there and dream of escape and watch people get royally ripped off by the "Instant Cash!" truck.

Each call floor had supervisors and assistant supervisors and even more assistant supervisors. And then just brown-nosing types who wanted to be supervisors and took it upon themselves to point our your faults. Oh, those people just warmed my heart. Like a flamethrower would, perhaps.

I think there is a special section in hell reserved for workplace folks who are not in positions of authority and never will be, but enjoy asserting their imagined superiority. I imagine that special section of hell made up entirely of all these powerless people on power trips, all trying to assert authority over each other.

But in reality some of these people did get promoted and put in positions of some authority, small as it might be. I had three different assistant supervisors.

The only one worth discussing, Ron, had a "Caesar" haircut and strutted around the floor like an angry primate. Well, I guess humans are primates. You know what I'm saying. He swung his arms around, he emphatically pointed his fingers to the sky, he was a "player." Never mind that players don't cold call senior citizens in Arkansas tricking them into buying more life insurance. Perhaps I'm just being a little nitpicky here.

No, really, Ron had skills! As he would kindly remind everyone. It seemed his greatest skill was talking about his skills.

Although he did have this very strange way to get us employees "pumped up." He would strut around the call floor and if he saw somebody who seemed a bit lackadaisical, he would hop on their desk and start doing push-ups.

"Count! Count my push-ups!"
I would count for a little bit, usually up to ten. He would thump his chest. "Doesn't that get you pumped up?!"

Um, no.

But actually he did have a skill, if you consider a lack of something to be a skill. Like his lack of intelligence, for example. This would serve him well at West Tele. Just consider a typical day there:

Slog through traffic, pull off the interstate into the West Tele campus, witness the tragic march of a thousand workers with Tweety ties and sunken eyes and little hopes for the future or self-improvement or even anything beyond next week's San Antonio Spurs game. Sit down at a computer, chair not very comfortable, but before using the chair or equipment you are required to wipe everything down with a moist sanitary antibacterial napkin. boot up your workstation, and you're connected to an unsuspecting victim, or "potential customer." You didn't have any information about the person, but within 5 seconds you could glean the victim's age, race, and financial status. The majority of folks sounded white, poor, and old.

I sold All-state life insurance to these people. Most had insurance already, so it was really quite difficult to make a sale. West Tele knew this. That's why we were rated largely on our call volume. I guess if you call enough people, you're bound to find a sucker somewhere.

OPENING SCRIPT:
"Hello sir, how are you doing today? (pause momentarily for customer answer). That's great, sir. Now I'm calling today to see if you are interested in an incredible opportunity. A way to save money for you and your family. No more piggie banks and hiding money under the mattress. This opportunity could revolutionize your life. Is this something you might be interested in?
(pause for customer response).
Now, what if something happened to you, something tragic or life-ending? You must provide for your family even if you're not there. And that's where All State steps in."



The most difficult part of the job was the automaton nature of it. Every sentence was scripted, every single one. The kind bosses had mapped out every possible rebuttal, too. I would be staring at something like this:

Customer rebuttals:
A) not interested
B) I already have insurance
C) don't need insurance / too young
D) I am covered under my spouse's plan
E) I don't trust you
F) Who is this?
G) I can't talk until I've taken my medication


And so forth. Every rebuttal had its own follow-up script. We were never, ever to go off the script. Except, of course, to interupt the customer and keep him/her on the line.

Employees used to do a drill where we interupted each other by saying, "But please sir, if I may say one last thing..." We sat there in a small room, practicing that technique for an hour. Yes, for an hour, we interupted each sentences. Eventually we would start interupting each others interuptions. We were a highly caffeinated bunch.

But I never really felt comfortable reading scripts and turning off my brain. Like any true slacker, I was looking for a shortcut, an easier way to make sales with less work.

Not long after I took the job, I started going off the script and speaking honestly to the people I was calling. You see, we were trying to sign old people up for All State life insurance. When they signed up, they received three free months of insurance with no obligation to buy more. And it was this that I focused on.

"You could have free life insurance for three months," I would tell them, "and on the first morning of the fourth month just call and cancel and you would not owe a penny."

People could hardly believe their luck when I told them the loophole. My sales went through the roof. I received a bonus check and was brought out to the front of the floor and everyone clapped at my statistics. It was a special moment. Two of my co-workers rolled a large blunt and smoked it in my honor. They told me about this later, while we were smoking a blunt in the parking lot (different occasion). Actually, I just watched them and hung out in the car. The second-hand smoke alone made me unable to complete a sentence for the rest of the day.

I remember my next paycheck after starting the scam was very large. I was being considered for a promotion. And so forth. Perhaps I had taken those posters to heart, the Interview building posters. Initiative! It's in my hands!

But the higher-ups were onto me. They started recording my calls, combing through them. Ron, one of my assistant managers, pulled me aside one day. "We know you're going off the script. That's why this hurts me so bad."

He handed me my report card. At West Tele, we received "report cards" based on our performance. Mine had "F-" written very large across the top.

Wow, an F minus. That's like failing with honors. Or should I say dishonors?

"You know what an F minus means," Ron asked, his face about an inch from mine. He was panting hungrily and his breath smelled like garbage.

"I don't know, I get held back a year," I laughed at my own joke. Ron did not laugh. He got closer, his nose now touching mine.

"It means you're history, shithead." He jumped on my desk and starting flexing his pectoral muscles. "Hit the road."

And I did, thankfully. I don't know why they didn't actually reward me for my behavior. Sure I had violated every rule they had, but I had brought in twice as many customers as my associates. Didn't matter to me now, though. With the commission bonus from my last couple of paychecks I could take a month off and live at my friend's grandmother's house and all would be well. Sneaking warm beer from her shed and trying to meet another girl who would pass me over for a monkey-brained jock-strap.

So I drove home and threw my tie out the window of my car. Freedom! But I realized about two seconds later it was a borrowed tie. I pulled over to the side of the road and ran back for the tie, by now muddy and tire-tracked.

When I arrived back at Brian's grandma's house, where we were both staying, Brian had a surprise for me.

"Dude, I made the most amazing bong! Check it out!"

He had indeed constructed a bong and it looked like a jungle gym for a mouse, all tangled tubes and duct taped pvc pipe. "Yeah, looks great Brian."

Brian smiled on his creation. "I found this long tube in Grandma's closet, it's perfect. Those tubes are expensive, too. So I decided to take advantage. Voila!"

And it worked like a charm. We both smoked from the bong and sprawled back on the couch, watching mindless t.v. and drinking Diet Caffeine-Free Pepsi. It was all his grandmother had in the fridge.

After a bit, Grandma came upstairs and saw the bong on the table.

"My God, Brian, what have you done with my enema tube?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

West Telemarketing, part 1

I knew lots of pot smokers in high school. We weren't particularly close or anything, but I knew of their existence. Take this guy Brad; he was well-known in our high school for his lung capacity. He could inhale for something like 30 seconds. I'm sure it's helped him along on his life's path.

Brad wore this braided leather necklace that had a wooden mushroom dangling on the end. He wore the necklace tight around his throat, and every time I saw him it made me a little uneasy. Seemed like it would cut off the airflow. But Brad didn't much mind, and didn't seem to care about anything, and therein lied his charm. Brad drifted through his day, his head stuck in the clouds. By clouds, I am course referring to the insane amount of pot the guy smoked before school, between periods, and at lunch. The clouds were actually inside his head.

But no matter. I saw the girls flock towards this Brad character, like flies around a pile of dog shit. A typical interaction:

Girl: "Oh Brad, what's up?"
Brad: "Just chilling. Chilling."
Girl: "What are you up to this weekend?"
Brad: "I dunno? Chilling. Maybe some grilling."
Girl: "Brad, I love how little you talk. You're the strong silent type, aren't you?"
Brad: "Niiiiccce." (Brad would especially draw out his vowels. Perhaps the smoke in his head interfered with his vocal cords in some way).
Girl: "Brad, will you take me home and make love to me, with no strings attached?"
Brad: "Ohhh yeaaaaahhhhh."

And so forth. I was a lot smarter and better looking than Brad, but he had this dumb confidence that appealed to dumb girls. I had heard that dumb girls would "put out," so I naturally tried to make myself dumber, but it always came off wrong. I tried walking slowly, with a certain swagger, but it just looked like I was tip-toeing down the hallway. Some people thought I had been injured.

I also tried smoking pot here and there. I never much had a mind for it. I would laugh uncontrollably at this absurd little world we live in. I guess my high-pitched laughter would be the polar opposite of Brad's oblivious stupor disguised as detached coolness.

Once I tried smoking weed, my lady-skills took a rapid turn for the worse. Not sure how attritubutable it is to the weed, but I determined that the most "natural" way to healthy hair would be to renounce washing my hair altogether. I went several months without washing my hair, and my hair morphed into a stringy, greasy tangle. Like a pile of slivery albino snakes in full revolt.

Needless to say, the women kept away, probably thinking that my hair experiment was contagious in some way. It seems that women want their men laid-back, yes, but not in regards to their hygiene.

My marijuana dabbling continued on past high school, where I found my first post-graduate job, as a camp counselor. I didn't fit in so well at the camp, I guess. When I first arrived, I was jeered and called a "goddamn hippie." Seems I'd left my bubble of friends and stepped into a hornet's nest of short-haired angry white men.

An old friend of mine, Curtis Crow, turned on me quite quickly when I had apparently defected to "the dark side." He greeted my arrival at the camp with a large spit of his chewing tobacco. It splashed all viscous and brown on the parking lot pavement.

"What in the hell are you wearing?" He grabbed a fistful of thrift-store plaid shirt. "You turned into a goddamn hippie. What the fuck happened to you?" I could see this conversation wasn't going anywhere, but I gave it a shot anyhow.

"I'm the same guy I've always been," I said. "Don't be fooled by the hair and clothes."

But Curtis was shaking his head in disgust and didn't seem convinced. He spit his tobacco juice on the sizzling pavement. "You're a fucking traitor. A goddamn hippie."

As I was soon to discover, this summer camp of my youth was actually a breeding ground for many things I'd come to stand against: buzz cuts, fraternity life, bland country music, large rumbling trucks, mystery meat, conversations about popularity, and good clean fun. I'd indeed gone to the dark side and my fellow counselors took some pride in reminding me of this at every turn. They took to calling me "Dirty Hippie." Rumors quickly spread that I was dealing drugs within the camp.

At this point I had never even bought weed, but I certainly looked the part. My only friend at the camp had bought marijuana, which we shared. His car had inexplicably burned down and melted and exploded, not sure in which order. In any case, he asked to store his weed in my car, and I stupidly agreed. Given the rumors swirling about my activities as a "drug dealer," I should have known that the heads of camp had their targets set straight on my gross stringy blonde mop-head.

The downfall came quite quickly. Somehow, the kids in my cabin heard about "the donkey show," from some other folks at camp and asked me for an explanation. In the gentlest and vaguest of terms, I described "the donkey show" to my youngsters. The next day, I had several counselors ask me, "Did you tell your kids about a woman who has sex with donkeys?" Not only was I a drug dealer now, but also a pervert intent on corrupting young minds.

Later that day, an announcement came over the loudspeaker. "Missster Billll Baird, Misssttter Billll Baaaird. Please report to the front office."

Once there, they informed me I had 15 minutes to leave the camp before the police were called. I guess they don't take too kindly to drug-dealing perverts.

So I headed back home with my tail between my legs. At least I hadn't been forced to wash my hair during my brief stint as camp counselor (they had asked repeatedly).

There wasn't really much of a bright side to this tragedy, though. I arrived back home, got in an argument with my dad, and moved out. Oh well, no more home. I went to stay with a friend at his grandma's while coming up with a plan to make a little money.

It was a rough few days, and in my desperation, I cut my hair and even washed it. Maybe I just wanted to say that I had been to "Chong's Uni-sex Hair Salon" on Austin Highway. I did get my haircut there and the Bee-Gee's "Night Fever" was playing through a boombox perched on top of a coke machine. The soundtrack to my only haircut while 18 years of age. Seems the barbers at "Chong's" are also chiropractors; after my cut, the reticent barber jerked my neck sideways and I could hear joints crack in a hundred different places. Sounded sort of like Rice Crispies, maybe a little louder.

This haircut helped my job prospects immensely. Not because it made me more employable, really, but because while inside "Chong's Unisex Hair Salon" I found one of those small employment newspapers, this one called the "Greensheet."

The "Greensheet" typically would be your best bet for finding a place to unintentionally donate a kidney (you know, get drugged, wake in a bathtub of ice, etc), or to find all the latest job listings for area McDonald's. I'd only ever perused it in a laughing manner, but I'd just gotten fired and they probably weren't gonna give me a good reference. I needed a job that required no skills, no references, no nothing except the willingness to prostrate oneself. I'd hit rock bottom, I guess.

In the "Greensheet" I found an employer that advertised $15 hourly, full benefits, no skills needed. "Just a friendly voice," it said.

Turns out the employer was West Telemarketing, the 2nd largest employer in San Antonio behind the military. I drove out to their headquarters, address scrawled on small piece of paper. I needn't have written down the address. The building complex was at least as large as Disney Land.
----------
to be continued tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

TWANG, by George Strait

Let us pause for a moment in awe. George Strait has a new album out called "Twang."

That sounds to me like the worst album title I've ever heard. Just repeat the word, let it roll around in your mouth. Twang.

In honor of this chill-inducing album title, let us revisit the George Strait video I made:



He still has not responded to the mail I've sent him. Oh George, you know we're meant to be together. Don't pretend that restraining order is going to keep us apart.

TWANG

Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Mother the Mountain

Seeing as I'm such a lover of Townes Van Zandt, I can't believe it took me this long to hear "Our Mother the Mountain." Good thing really, cuz it's like the best Christmas gift ever. Riches of imagery and beauty and me getting the chills. So good.

I just bought the 180 gram vinyl re-issue from Fat Possum. It sounds very good.


"Kathleen" (with some weird video accompaniment).




===================
"she came and she touched me" ( my favorite ) -- live at the old quarter version (i like the album version better but can't find it).




====================
"Our Mother the Mountain" -- Sinister.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

today's running journal entry

I normally keep my running journals strictly on my running blog, Cold Cold Feet. It is my ongoing documentation of my training for a marathon on November 15th.

But I liked today's entry, and am reprinting it here that others might read it.
================================================

Today ended a several day drought during which I conjured every possible excuse to avoid lacing up my running shoes and dipping my toes back into that reservoir of pain I call my running schedule. Oh, I had handfuls of excuses and plenty to justify my absence from the trail, but most of it apocryphal or delusional. The honest truth is that I could've easily pushed through the pain and sweat out the hangover, but I just didn't.

Well, that came to an end today. I felt the beer and whiskey of the previous several days coming back to haunt me. But I fought through it and bounced back all the stronger. Had to start the day with a triple-espresso, though. I find that coffee gives courage. I knew I would be in pain, but somehow that bitter black caffeinated bit of joy made me buck up and stiffened my spine. I wonder if soldiers in battle drink espresso before jumping out of the trenches.

Which reminds me of something. I recall only a few years ago never even having run a full mile without stopping. My attitude then seemed fairly simple; why in the hell would I ever want to run? I'll run if somebody's chasing after me.

But later I learned the joy of endorphins. Ah yes, the sweet sweet biochemistry of our human form. We put ourselves through pain that our bodies might tap into their innate pain-relief reservoirs. You feel the sweet numb rush, the release of all stress and worry and desire. You push through the pain that inevitably wells up, and the body has its mechanisms to push back.

But I return to the soldier in his trench. His is an involuntary release and a constant one. Whatever pain relief might be won through a hard run between trenches is inevitably counteracted by the stress chemicals flooding the brain due to constant fear of death and bombardment. I have no such worries, thankfully. I wonder if such chemicals might be useful in achieving heretofore unknown speeds and stride. I did once run by a vicious dog, and he growled, and my pace did pick up a bit. No pun intended. But the dog was not explosive, nor holding a grenade or improvised explosive device, or even a rough bludgeoning tool. He did have knives though, the kind we find attached to the ends of a dog's incisors. I wonder if there might be a correlation between the size of a dog's teeth, and the increase in speed by a passing-by runner. I imagine there is a very direct relationship.

Today while running I did see some curious life forms along the trail, but certainly nothing threatening. Near the Congress avenue bridge, the trails juts a bit south and runs along Riverside, all because a few apartment complexes and businesses bought the lakeside land along a quite scenic bluff. One of these businesses happens to be Joe's Crab Shack.

Joe's Crab Shack always seemed to me like the waiting area for a roller coaster at a theme park. You know, the fake wood, the scrawled handwritten signs, the weathered siding on the building, all carefully placed just so, providing the feel of an old "crab shack," presumably owned by a guy named Joe. It is a soulless affair and fully worth ignoring. Today, though, I ran by and saw a flock of about 20 or so ducks marching across the parking lot, plodding their way towards the lake from a nearby creek. And the juxtaposition struck me and filled me with joy. It was an incongruity that resonated with the string of my heart and reminded me that, in nature, shit lives alongside beauty, and it's all fleeting anyway. And that's the dance of life. Imagine --> possibly the most soulless place in Austin - the oil-stained stretch of cracked concrete fronting a fabricated, soul-less corporate sham of a restaurant. And an image of simple beauty dances across this barren landscape.

Perhaps life is like this. The beauty and the shit are inseparable, and to receive life's glory, we have to sort through its refuse.

Just make sure to wash your hands.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

old goriot / cold cold feet






This is an amazing book. Highly recommended.

I started a blog documenting my training for a marathon. It's crude and humorous.
czech it here --->
Cold Cold Feet

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the clock ticks, albeit rather slowly

Just finished a new album.

Now only 94 more to go.

Let it be known. Before I pass from this earth I will record 100 albums.

The countdown begins.

Friday, July 24, 2009

silver tongued fork, or random thoughts as they occur

Currently holed up in a hotel room in Jacksonville, way off in east Texas. The drive out here revealed east Texas has some sort of intense dislike of our president Obama. Many angry men yelling on the radio and even a few ladies voicing their displeasure in soft cadences. On the drive into town I saw a hair salon called "Texas Hair-itage."

Here is a photo from the badlands, taken by John this summer:



----------------

I've been holed up for quite some time at my new studio, called Baby Blue, and been mixing tracks for upcoming releases.

The first release is a straight up drone record, with some parts arranged for strings and brass. It's music that doesn't much have a point, and isn't really looking for one. The music seems to be doing o.k. right where it sits, and not even I can convince it to become something more. But I think it does fairly well within its own limitations.

The next album is shaping to be somewhat folky, with a heavy dose of absurdity, nihilism, and some hope sprinkled on top. I think on previous Sunset releases it was perhaps pushed back a bit, but here it will be less produced, more noticeable. The songs explore different places, smaller places, sadder places, and could even feel like something of a hangover from the creative explosion of 2008. Not the case, though. It's more like a rebirth of sorts, a pressing of the "RESET" button, a chance to sever old ties and close old chapters, burn old books, digest the thing I've been chewing on for years. I return to folk music before heading off into even farther out directions. It's like a reminder of sorts, a returning to base, a firming up of the foundation.

A little farther along, more albums percolate, growing from roots set forth in our live shows. Piano based, weird chord changes, recurring imagery. I hope it all comes together as well I imagine.

----------------

Josh Duke lives in the studio and we split rent and bills. Josh is helping my friend Red make his next album at the space. Josh has also set up a darkroom and has developed some excellent photos. During a marathon recording session, Josh provided invaluable advice while I recorded a dub reggae version of Cindy Lauper's "Time After Time." Look for that to be released.... never. Actually, o.k., if you mail me a SASE to here:

Bill Baird
2906 Westhill, #A
Austin, TX
78704

then I will send you a special tape album filled with cool random junk on it, like my dub version of "Time After Time." It's actually not really dub music. I like aiming for music that I can't possibly actually make, and seeing how far off the mark I go. The "lost in translation" aspect is what really appeals to me. There's no way in hell I could make Jamaican music. But the failure is itself kind of interesting. It fails in the traditional sense, but comes through as personal and unique and successful in its complete wrongness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

News Update



So we returned from a triumphant tour and have returned to the grind of our normal lives. I (Bill) have been prepping a couple of new albums for release. Bought a 1/4" 2track tape machine for mixing and I really like how it sounds. So putting the final touches on a number of songs. Look for a new release in the fall of 2009.

We have a few shows coming up, playing at The Parish on August 14th with Balmoreah and Ume, a studio party at Baby Blue on July 31st, September 4th at Emo's with Mothfight, and probably some more surprises. Working on a quiet show with Bosque Brown, Jesse Woods and Dana Falconberry.

Been sharing the Baby Blue studio with Josh Duke, who has been "producing" / recording the new album by Red Hunter, a.k.a. Peter and the Wolf. Their album is going to be fantastic. Josh is also a great photographer and has set up a darkroom in the studio. He made prints of some tour photos and he also did a blow-up for our next album cover.

The next release will be on cassette - "Decay," our long lost drone album, mastered by the esteemed James Plotkin.. Our friend Tommy scored us a free tape duplicator from the UT A/V library. It's beautiful. So look for that soon. There will only be around 20 copies made, perhaps with a digital release as well, who knows.

For more info, please check our myspace page. Yes, I know, myspace is soooo over, and everyone and their mom is now doing facebook. Now we look on Myspace as "the good old days." Yikes.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Lou's Views (w t f)


Lou Reed was once my idol.

He recently started a glasses company called "Lou's Views."

The glass part apparently flips up. The press release describes them as "ironic and sophisticated."

Oh Lou, where hast thou gone?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

my chickens

I have three chickens. Had to sell Frida though because she turned out to be a rooster and that is illegal in my neighborhood.


video

They do not produce eggs yet but hopefully soon I will be eating some fresh omelettes. I will make you one if you ask nicely. Don't worry if a feather accidentally makes its way into your delicious omelette. The feather only indicates freshness.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

sexual healing

I sat down in the computer lab at work, and shortly thereafter the school's head maintenence man sat down next to me. Letting out a deep sigh, he kicked his feet up on the computer table (with shoes still on, and a little muddy), stretched his hands back and cradled his head, and put on a set of headphones. Within a few seconds, I could hear Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing" being cranked. And by cranked, I mean very very loud. Either the man already has hearing loss, or he is well on his way.

He hummed along, trying to sing, but in a way that came out more as mumbling. The only lyrics he really knew,

"More than a feeling, it's Sexual Healing,"

came out loud and clear. So clear, in fact, that the librarian poked her head inthe door. Perhaps she's a bit shy, though, because she didn't question his behavior. I always thought loud singing about intercourse and muddy shoes on tables were against library rules. Maybe the official library rules don't deal with this specific a situation, but I imagine this must've been in violation of at least a rule or two.