What the Desert Is Like These Days

So, someone died, then. I went to the visitation on Tuesday. I don't really want to talk about it more than I just did.

Jiu-Jitsu last night was okay. I got to wrestle with one person last night, and he was very patient and instructive. I learned a few submission holds, and an interesting way to break someone's arm, which is nice.

The nuances of the art interest me a great deal - how to place a hand where, and why. One of the submission hold I learned, called a bicep crunch, involves wrapping the curled arm of your opponent around the bony part of your forearm and squeezing on it. The effect is to wrap the opponent's tendons around your forearm and stretch them out and, if necessary, dislocate the elbow. I wasn't getting it down because, as I later learned, I wasn't getting my wrist down far enough in the crook of my partner's arm, and when I did, it was the narrow part of the bone in there, not turned wide.

Later in the evening, as we were wrestling, I think he got sick of being so dominant, he left to take on another partner. It's true that I had more fun playing Tekken against strong competitors, and it was probably more fun for them too. But if no one is willing to spend the effort to teach and dominate me, how am I ever going to get better?

Anyway, the death. It was my ex's mom, the grandmother of my daughter. At the visitation, they had pictures up from her life, some fading to green and red with age. One of the pictures was her senior photo, and it took my breath away. She had the same stunning look that my ex did, the look that just made me go all weak inside. My daughter's got it too, on the right day.

Anyway, it's a sad thing. I struggle to relate emotionally to other people, and this is no exception. Of course I understand that if my mom died I'd be absolutely crushed, but I don't know what I'd want people to say or do, what I'd expect from people, how I would grieve. I wanted to tell me ex how bad I felt for her, that I was thinking of her, but every time I opened my mouth I was just going "blah. blah. blah."

So sad. I just hate to see people hurting.


Why I'm Done with CD Swaps

Except in tightly pre-screened groups, I'm finished with online CD swaps. This isn't meant to be a dig on people I've traded with in the past, because I've had mostly positive experiences, but I'm just not getting what I want out of these swaps.

When I listen to and explore music, I find trends and ride those trends until a new one comes along. And new ones do come along, often on a tangent to whatever I was riding before. Example: I was listening to a lot of hip-hop, and wanted to track down a sample that caught my ear. As a result of that ongoing search, I've been exploring funk and soul music. By exploring funk and soul music, I've rediscovered my love for Motown, stumbled on Funkadelic (who I had never listened to), found Eddie Bo and Maceo Parker and Billy Wooten and Fontella Bass. All of whom are (or once were) vital musicians that blow away most of the music I hear produced today.

By exploring funk and soul, listening to Quasimoto's The Unseen is a more enriching musical experience than it ever could have been before then. By exploring funk and soul, I'm doing the research that brings much of the meaning to hip-hop, which is where this journey started.

So I'm into funk and soul these days, you probably get the picture. But the problem is that in a CD swap, I get four or five collections of hit singles by today's most popular bands. I'll often get music from the six same bands, plus some filler songs in the same "indie rock" genre. I don't want this to sound all genre-elitist, and if I come off that way, I'm sorry. Indie rock isn't less valid than Philly Soul or New Orleans Funk, it just doesn't appeal to my ears. Perhaps if I took the time to go back and listen to the roots of the form I'd appreciate it more.

But I remember the roots of the form. I remember REM, Pavement, Jane's Addiction, and Nirvana, and I don't think they're particularly good. Of course, I love Modest Mouse, so that goes to show you kids, there's always an exception.

So why am I not participating anymore? Is it because I don't like indie rock? Well, yeah, kinda.

Back in the original MeFi Swap, the Jizzohn made a disc that explored Camper van Beethoven and the various spinoffs. It's a great mix CD. yhbc sent me a disc of Boston-area bands, which was at least interesting, if mostly filler tunes (though I'm still crazy about that Mission of Burma song).

What I want now is someone to send me a swap CD that's a compilation of Africa-based soul and protest music from the 60s. I want someone to send me an overview of hard bop. I want a disc of Stephen Foster tunes covered by a variety of artists. I want a comp of sea shanties, or a solid introduction to musette.

I do not want another disc with the latest Franz Ferdinand and Strokes singles, a Polyphonic Spree B-side, and a Beatles cover by a Japanese punk band. Hey, even send me a disc of cover songs (thanks litlnemo!) that I might find interesting. But since most folks are sending me discs of music I can hear by tuning into my local college radio station, it's not worth the effort.

I thought I was sufficiently selecting a crowd by joining a Metafilter swap. It is Metafilter, after all. But then again, it is Metafilter.

So if you've got some tunes to share, lemme know. But so you know, I may not be interested, and I will let you know. It's nothing against you, it's just who I am.


Ain't Too Proud to Break Your Arm

In another development directly related to other recent events, I've started taking Jiu-Jitsu classes.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, as a martial art, is designed to take away the advantages a bigger, stronger adversary has. The main focus of the training is fighting on the ground, since most fights end up there anyway. For example, most martial arts have a basic "guard" position from which a person works. The stereotypical guard or "stance" is standing at an angle, feet about shoulder-width apart, hands in fists, the forward fist raised slightly to about shoulder level. Well, the guard position in Jiu-Jitsu is laying on one's back with the elbows tucked in tight to the sides and the knees bent, feet flat on the floor.

During one of our drills last night, we formed two lines and tried to break through the guard of another student, who would try to maintain his guard position and perform a sweep - flip us on our back. If we broke the guard, we got to lay on the floor in guard. If we got swept, the student would remain on the floor and we'd go to the back of the line.

I didn't break a single guard all night long. I am the worst Jiu-Jitsu student ever.

But even though I'm terrible, it's still fun. My only complaints are the mat burns I have all over my feet (they hurt), and when the guy on the floor was this old dude with the smelliest fucking sweat ever, and when he did the sweep on me he shoved my face in his armpit. I'll get that asshole next time, sweep his old ass and break his arm.

Acres Update

This is a semi-accurate summary of how my weekend went.

Not to say that this event dominated my weekend, because it really didn't (I didn't even know for certain why the police had been there until this morning), but it's pretty indicative of the overall tone of the weekend. I suppose Sunday went well, but that's because I wasn't home.

And here's the follow-up article: Head case had a history of being a head case.

Other occurrences over the past week: a friend of a tenant passed out, totally wasted, in the middle of the parking lot one night. Another tenant went to the hospital for three days, and in the meantime his "friends" showed up and threw a three-day party that I broke up at 5 in the morning upon threat of a police call. The Cuban guy was in attendance.

When I went outside, he wanted to have another heart-to-heart like the last time I'd seen him there. He clutches my hand to his heart. He doesn't do no harm. His papers are in order. He tells me I don't want to call the cops (which happens to be true).

After he's done talking to me, an old skinny black guy - another partygoer - wants to talk to me. He's totally wasted, shifting his weight back-and-forth between his feet, and occasionally rocking so far back on his heels that I move to catch him. The sudden movement startles him, and he flinches. He insists that he doesn't want to get his friend in trouble, doesn't want this coming back to haunt Bobby. But of course it will, there's no way this kind of transgression would go unpunished. Especially after the Milhouse episodes.

The skinny black guy puts his hand on my shoulder. He wants to hug me, but I resist. Now he wants to know why I gotta play the hardass.

"My job," I tell him, "is to lay down the rules, not give out hugs."

He nods. He's drunk, but not too drunk to forget the difference between a pillow and a stick.