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2014/04/16

TMI Questions: Tax Time 2014

People are so weird about money.   I have two business partners that react very badly whenever I want to talk about it.  They get defensive and angry and I don’t get it.  My former partner used to, also.  It was one of the many things we used to argue about .

People weird out about taxes, too.  Big babies.  Grow up.  Pay your share.  You’re a part of a bigger picture – you owe your community, and paying your fair share is the only way to keep the whole ball of wax from melting. 

And it’s always the ones that either have nothing or have way too much that whine.  The former are merely parroting what greedy conservatives tell them about the world via the likes of Fox News, and the latter are just greedy creeps who give humanity a bad name.

Shame on both; those that have nothing for being ignorant, gullible, and out of touch with reality (you have nothing!) and those that have too much for being such a bunch of over-privileged, whiny, greedy bastards.

TMI QUESTIONS:
Questions designed to reveal Too Much Information

Link: http://tmiquestions.blogspot.com/

TMI Questions: Tax Time 2014

Have you finished your taxes or are you just getting started?

Finished two weeks ago and already got my return.

It’s a complicated process that I start putting together (along with my accountant and business partners) starting in January.  I say that and it makes it sound like I am an integral part of this process, when nothing could be further from the truth.  I provide what is needed and wait… and wait.

Do you do your taxes yourself or do you use a service?

For the business, we have an accountant who does everything.  Once he is done with his stuff, then I get to file my personal taxes. 

In the past, I have had someone keep track of my personal stuff, but I think that all changes for 2014.  I’m not sure.  It depends on what happens with the business. 

We’ve been discussing some major changes.  Whether any of it comes to pass remains to be seen. 

As for my personal taxes, that definitely changes in 2014, though I will continue to have someone else do my taxes. I get more back that way.

How are you at keeping records and receipts?

I guess we’ll find out. 

When it came to my theatre company I was a disaster.  The woman who inherited the company wags a finger at me every time I see her.  I can’t blame her; I was reckless and absent-minded. 

I think I’m better about such stuff now, but then I’ve always had someone looking over my shoulder when it comes to my personal stuff.  That will be an adjustment, but I’m up to the task.

How ‘creative’ do you get?

Not at all. 

I have read and heard (first hand) horror stories regarding dealing with the IRS in an audit situation.  There’s good reason to toe the line, here, folks. 

If you want to read a particularly harrowing case of IRS misconduct, I suggest you check out singer Janis Ian’s autobiography.  If her story is to be believed, then take heed, as certain agents are allowed to take out their personal issues on citizens caught in arrears. 

My luck is not good, so I know better than risk an audit.  It would not go well.  In such cases, I now do my best to not invite trouble; trouble has a way of finding me all on its own.

What do you think about the amount of taxes you pay?

More than fair. 

I don’t care, really, as long as my world continues to function within certain guidelines.  I don’t see the government as some evil entity taking money that doesn’t belong to them.  We live in a democracy and as part of the community I am more than happy to contribute my fair share. 

But I’m not stupid, either.  I take advantage of the benefits available, maxing out my contributions to my 401 K, stock options, and the like.  That’s about ensuring some kind of retirement, if I should choose to retire.   

What do you plan to do with your refund?

The bulk of it goes to pay down my credit card (I only use one). 

I am also getting an expensive, brand new bike – my first since the mountain bike accident where I broke my neck in two places.  Yep, I’m ready to face that demon. 

And I’m getting my piano tuned, because I’m tired of it sounding like a honky tonk.  It also detracts from my ability to play, because my ear keeps getting hung up on things that are ‘not quite right’. 

Bonus
Have you ever paid an IRS agent personally?

Ummm… is this a sexual question?  Bonus questions typically are, right Sean?

I have never met an IRS agent, let alone gotten naked with one. 

You see, in my world, these phantom people do not really exist.  They are like the boogieman or the concept of hell.  In other words, they exist in name only to scare the crap out of you and get you to do the right thing.  By doing the right thing, you ensure that you will never come face to face with one of these foreboding creatures. 

So, again… take heed.  Do the right thing.

Now, pay your taxes, bitch!




























 






2014/04/15

Musical Things in Time for Spring: April Pop Music Reviews Part II

Another crop of new singles making their way onto the airwaves.  Personally? I’m waiting for a revolution.  Something to bring a bit of authenticity back to radio. 

Today’s lot is pretty much akin to one of those so-called ‘energy’ drinks: a dab of nutritional nonsense, a bunch of eye-searing neon colors, a dose of chemically inspired flavor, and a ton of sugar and caffeine. 

Empty calories, indeed.

Choke this down.

Fever – The Black Keys

This one surprised me.  This is not The Black Keys I remember.  On ‘Fever’, their first single from their latest album, ‘True Blue’, they’re aiming for radio play.  Sure, that vintage sixties vibe is still there, but the Hammond organ part is tweaked, sounding more like something an 80’s band would have played on a synth.  In fact, synths do come into the mix later, adding a hazy depth to the whole proceedings. 

This reminds me of what Franz Ferdinand and Phoenix served up in 2013.  That’s not a bad thing, just surprising coming from The Black Keys.  Whether it takes the duo where they want to go remains to be seen… things haven’t panned out well top-40-wise for the likes of The Artic Monkeys and Arcade Fire, or the aforementioned groups, but this is welcome relief from all the tween garbage currently taking up the airwaves.  

Weighted by the rich, full vocals of Dan Auerbach, the song is basic enough and good enough that at a future date it could be rescued from all its current production values that pin it to this specific time period, and be presented as the kick-ass song it really is.

You’re Mine (Eternal) – Mariah Carey

Released on Valentine’s Day, this single finds Ms. Carey in love goddess mode, cooing and whispering away in that feathery, lighter than air, croaky sound that now passes as her voice.  This is for fans only.  There’s nothing about this song that earmarks it as anything other than pleasant filler. 

There is a remix version featuring Trey Songz where Mariah ends up as little more than lace on the curtains, but that proves unsatisfying as well.  Vocally, a shadow of her former self, this diva is going to have to try a lot harder if she wants to maintain her status. This?  This is about as entertaining as a television holding pattern.

Give Life Back To Music – Daft Punk

Not a lot to going on here; some sped up Chic guitar action, a pleasant enough chorus and… that’s all she wrote.  It keeps a steady course, maintaining and going nowhere.  Yes, it’s a classic disco homage, but a little too on-the-nose and vacant to keep my interest.  Like marshmallow fluff, it’s fun, but not very filling and you certainly wouldn’t want to make a meal of this sort of thing.

Move that Doh – Future feat. Pharrell Williams and Pusha T (and Casino, on the extended version)

Originally titled, ‘Move that Dope’, this is the dumbed down title that makes it onto the Billboard 100.  We all know what they’re referring to, but in order to make nice and get it on the shelves at Wal-Mart, they have to ‘smiley face’ it up. 

Future makes like a mushy-mouthed Pitbull over a relentlessly busy assembly line beat with synth splashes which keeps the whole thing edgy and twitching.  That is until Pusha T arrives on the scene, delivering exactly what you would expect from someone named Pusha T; some nonsense about dealing drugs for life along with a bunch of other dull, predictable hype. 

Pharrell then manages some pretty trippy word flow, instilling life back into the scene, though I’m not exactly sure what doing naked yoga with a bunch of ‘girls’ has to do with anything.  Ultimately his contribution dissolves into that horrible ‘N’ word repeated ad nauseam, but by that point the phrase ‘Move dat dope’ has been mumbled a billion times by Future (that serves as the whole of the chorus), so repetition is not really the issue here (except, of cours, it is). 

On the extended version, Casino shows up, overstaying his welcome while contributing nothing of value, though I do admire his flow, which is at least unique and mildly interesting.

I assume Pharrell is on board to gain some of that all-important street cred, but he should hang his head in shame for being associated with this cliché-ridden tripe.  Damn embarrassing.  You all need to ask more of yourself.

Trophies – Young Money feat. Drake

Drake tries to prove something on this so-so track, and had me laughing from the get go.  See him in the video and you will laugh (for all the wrong reasons) even more.  He is such a total poser, lacking authenticity.

Young Money has the real skills and sound, but the clichés abound and overwhelm.

It’s a total wash making no impact whatsoever (though I do like the tiny bit of horns). 

Okay, I would like to hear a rap song that includes NONE of the following:

Designer names
Celebrity names
Brands of Liquor
Brands of automobiles
That nasty-ass ‘N’ word
References to money
References to ‘pimpin’
References to ‘bling’
References to ‘swag’
References to drugs
References to guns
References to murder
References to woman as: ho’s, bitches, skanks, gold diggers, or strippers
References to genitalia
References to sexual acts

Is that asking too much? 

Because, if that is what you want to define as a ‘culture’, then honey, it is time for a revolution.  Life truly ought to mean more and you all need to be bringing something fresh to the table at this stage in the game.

Please leave your submissions in the comment section. 

Anything with Macklemore does not count.  Nor does MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice.  Childish Gambino and Frank Ocean I am already aware of (and celebrate).

She Looks So Perfect  - 5 Seconds Of Summer

Sounds great on the radio.  Edgy power pop which could have meant something had anybody bothered to infuse the lyrics with anything other than most harmless of tween preoccupations.  Those pseudo-menacing sounding guitars can’t mask the fact that the melody of the chorus is a carbon copy of billion other Taylor-Swift-ish songs currently flooding the pop and modern country markets.

And all the guitar poses, stupid piercings, skunk-punk do’s, and skinny jeans can’t disguise the fact that this is merely another manufactured quartet of too-cute tween boys who want you to ‘heart’ them with your credit card. Given the age of those singing this piece of glop, I have a hard time imagining them having lived long enough to ‘work too damn hard to just it give up now’ anything. 

Kudos though for inclusion of the word ‘underwear’.  As in, she’s standing there wearing yours…yeah.  Edgy, huh?  Roll eyes here.

Fancy – Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

Hmmm.  Her rhymes are fine.  No complaints, really.  Yes, she presents herself as a pleasure object, dropping low and all that crap.  Apparently she takes her liquor straight which is… something to brag about?   And of course there is swag and shopping and money thrown in the mix, because without that it simply would not be ‘real’ enough, or speak to whoever her target audience might be.  Sigh. 

The repetitive bass riff that powers the whole thing wears on me just a bit, but there’s enough going on to keep my interest.  Charli XCX, last heard on Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, does no harm with a slight, sing-song-y chorus and bridge.  Call this Brat Rap.

Stay With Me – Sam Smith

Another pudgy, pale brit with enough vocal tics to pass as something original.  Put Boy George, F.Y.C.’s Roland Gift,  Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall, and Level 42’s  Mark King in a blender and you have Sam Smith.  That he’s a talent cannot be argued.  Along with John Newman, this could be the tipping point of another British blue-eyed soul invasion.

This song?  We’ve heard it a million times before, right down to the overpowering gospel-like choir.  The lyrics are clever, fine and heartfelt, as is the performance.  This is Mr. Smith’s third entry on the Top 100 in as many weeks and his first as a solo artist, so it looks like he may well be the next big thing.

Play It Again  - Luke Bryan

Baseball cap wearing, good-time charley, Luke Bryan continues his winning streak with country loving frat boys and the like.  What is the appeal?  His weighty baritone goes down as smooth as expensive bourbon while his songs hit all the right buttons – pick-up trucks, listening to the radio, gentlemanly courtship, sweet-as-pie dewy-eyed girls… ugh.  So boring. 

I’ve looked at pictures of this dude up close. With those bags under his eyes and that weird twinkly smile, he looks like he smokes a ton of weed, as in, he is to country music what Matthew McConaughey is to movies.

‘Play It Again’ lopes along pleasantly, taking it’s time, and acting like it has no place to go, quickly or otherwise.  It’s harmless… and deadly boring.

Ride – SoMo

This boiler plate, slow seduction jam sounds like the many others that have preceded it.  The treated vocals are annoying as fuck – dude sounds like a tinny bleating goat.  It detracts what could have been a very nice, if unoriginal entry to the genre. 

Prince has done it better.  So has R. Kelly.  It’s that whole treated vocal thing that robs SoMo (that’s a name?) of the opportunity to establish a personality; something vitally necessary for this kind of track to click with the listener.  Not that it matters though… his passable poster boy ready looks (and incredible abs) pretty much guarantee him a place on the walls of teenage girls everywhere.

Sing – Ed Sheeran

Another surprise.  This syncopated slice of dance infused pop moves with a propulsion unexpected.  He catches the listener totally off guard with an odd acoustic first verse before the back beat lands, filling out and anchoring this little juggernaut.  Then, once he breaks into his crooning falsetto for the bridge to the chorus, a total revelation, there’s little doubt he’s got the listener hooked. 

Coming from the man who last was heard crooning moon-June stuff with Taylor Swift and playing it all acoustical with his ode to a crack whore, ‘Sing’ feels like it comes from out of left field.  No doubt about it, Mr. Sheeran is here to seduce and, for the most part, he succeeds, in a peppy Dave Matthews kind of way. 


With his eye on the prize and hungry for more mainstream success; something tells me that ‘Sing’ is just the ticket Ed needs to board that train.






















2014/04/10

TMI Questions: In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love…

I have been working on this since the questions were published.  It could be ‘the state I’m in’, which is subject to change without notice, but I am really struggling with these questions.  A kind of grey cloud has settled inside my chest and doesn’t seem to want to dissipate any time soon.

I thought the answers would have come so easy, or that I would have a lot to say about this particular subject… but they didn’t and, while I may have a lot to say, I have no desire to share.

Whaaa???

Me? The great over-sharer? 

But it’s true.

This topic is too hard for me.  I’ve never been able to wrap my head around why love works or why it doesn’t.  I think that may be true for many of us.  Perhaps the key is to not overthink the whole thing.

Typically, my reaction when faced with something like this would be to remain incredibly glib and slip by without revealing anything; it may not be truthful, but it tends to be entertaining enough. 

But this? 

This simply hits too close to something: things that should remain buried.

Children shouldn’t play with dead things.

TMI QUESTIONS:
Questions designed to reveal Too Much Information

Link: http://tmiquestions.blogspot.com/

TMI Questions: In the spring a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love…

Who was the first person to say, "I love you!" to you?

Probably my Mom. 

The first gay guy to say it was an actor from the Guthrie.  Hoo-boy, did we fall in love.  Hard.  Crazy, stupid love.  I was such a drama queen.  I was seventeen, a freshman in college, and he was 18 years older than I, and only the second dude I’d ever had sex with.  A full-blooded Italian with eyes to die for, I thought (and still do) that he was beauty personified. 

He wanted me to move to New York to be with him and I freaked out big time, so unprepared was I for life; it terrified me.  My mother also figured in there somewhere, as well as the whole Catholic / going to hell thing. 

I broke his heart.  And mine.   

I was such a stupid kid, but then, he really should have known better… I mean, given the same circumstances, I would know better than to get involved with a small town youth, especially after learning how naïve I was.

Still, I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I had grabbed that particular brass ring. 

But I don’t kid myself.  With my luck?  I’d have died in the mid 80’s.

So much for romantic notions.

Who was the first person you said, "I love you!" to?

Probably my Mom.

First lover?

The actor.  I don’t know who said it first, but it was horribly mutual.  And horribly sincere.

It scarred me, and I did not attempt another relationship with a man for seven years. Part of me kept hoping he’d make some grand gesture and try to rescue me, but, fact is, I was beyond rescuing. 

I spent a large chunk of that period on emotional life support.

Love at first sight or a love that grows?

First sight.  Always. 

If the attraction isn’t there from the get go, the whole soufflé is destined to fall.  And that goes for sexual compatibility as well.  I mean, you can nurse something that isn’t quite right for a long, long time – if you’re stubborn, or are certain that some aspect of the relationship is worth overlooking the rest – but in the end… it’s gonna end. 

Been there, done that.

But, love at first sight?  That stuff sweeps away everything in its path, like a tsunami. 

Everything… including common sense.

Ah, fools get lucky.

I know, I did.

Who was the love that got away?

Josh.

I just realized why it was that I have been dragging my heels, answering these questions; this topic, it’s not about love… this is about heartache.

I guess, on this side of life, that’s to be expected.  If one has lived.  And, I did, Mrs. Burnside… I did.

So, Josh… sweetest man.  I was a dumb bunny at the time; convinced that theatre was more important than anything else in the world.  So prideful was I, I moved away, after a total career-killing disaster, to isolate myself in the quiet of Iowa.  I thought he’d follow – that was the plan, only he didn’t. 

Anyway… I did a number on his heart, I fear.  He’s gone now… died ten years ago?  I never got to own all my shit.  I would visit him in Seattle and start to talk about it, but he would sweep it under the rug – not because I was blameless, but because I think it was too painful for him to talk about. 

He fell of the wagon and then fell of the face of the earth.  I made attempts to rescue him, to reason with him, but he was really so tired of life by that point, he couldn’t  bother with it anymore.

I will never be so careless with another human being as long as I live.

Hmmm… hindsight is a great teacher, but it is also one hell of a buzz kill.

One true love or more than one? 

More than one… fortunately.

I tend to be ‘all-in’, if I see potential.  That can be off-putting, I’m sure, but I’m more cautious these days. 

I’ve been very fortunate, in love. That anybody thought to love me at all? 

A freaking miracle.

Have you ever regretted saying, "I love you."?

Nope.

Even when it hurt.  Even when it wasn’t respected.  Even when it wasn’t returned.  Even when it ended in humiliation. 

What’s life without taking a few risks?

Are love songs silly?

Love them. 

Of course, my definition tends to run a little bittersweet. 

I think that is the nature of love.  We get love, but it costs us, somehow / something.  We sacrifice our time, our focus, our desires… there’s always some kind of inner-conflict running beneath the whole affair.

But, hopefully, that’s part of my past… part of the learning curve.

For the first time in my life I’m allowing it to be easy.  The whole concept of ‘easy to love’ has escaped me… but at this late point in the game, I think I might be getting the hang of it.

And that’s the thing about love… and love songs: Hope.  Love always holds out that hope… and love songs – they promote it. 

I would like to think that life was all about work – what we accomplish here.

But if it’s not love-based, then what the hell are you doing with your life except satisfying your own ego? 

What's your favorite love song?

Hmmm.  That is a hard one. 

I will give you a list of my current faves:

Come to Me – Goo Goo Dolls
Say Something – A Great Big World
End of the World – Matt Alber

And some classics:

You Can Close Your Eyes – James Taylor
Heart Like A Wheel – Linda Ronstadt
Intimacy – Bruce Roberts
Fools Get Lucky – Barry Manilow
Who Knows Where the Time Goes? – Sandy Denny
Heartbreak Warfare – John Mayer
My Valentine – Jim Brickman feat. Martina McBride
To Deserve You  - Bette Midler
In This Life - Bette Midler
The Way of Love - Cher
Love Tried To Welcome Me - Madonna
You Can Have Me Anytime - Boz Scaggs
My Funny Valentine - Sarah Vaughn
I Don't Want To Fight - Tina Turner
Pretending To Care - Jennifer Warnes

There are so many more, but those come to mind today.

And then there are the really hokey ones, like “Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong”.  But I rarely go there anymore.  Some of those songs are so ‘on the nose’ they end up stinking after a while.

"Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs...

...What's wrong with that?"

Are you a romantic?

Yes.  A horrible, horrible, bleeding heart, heart-on-sleeve, on my knees, swooning romantic.

A run-up-the-credit-cards, ditch-that-class, skip work, travel-anywhere, sacrifice anything romantic.

Yep… I’m a total idiot.

I can live with that.

Bonus
Have you ever said, "I love you." in the heat of sex?

Well, it has slipped out of course (no pun intended). 

When it does I simply do a quick cover… such as…. “I love you… and the way you fuck me with your big, fat cock.”

Sometimes they buy it.

Does that count?

Ha!  Not even, bud.