Monday, July 7, 2014

Pink Floyd To Release New Album! Or Not!

Pink Floyd to release new album! wait, it's actually Pink Floyd to release album of unreleased material! wait, it's actually Pink Floyd to release album of unreleased material from 1994 recording sessions that didn't include Roger Waters...hmmmm....

So, really, Pink Floyd isn't releasing a new album. What is actually happening here is that a collection of subpar leftovers from a band who can more accurately be called David Gilmour's Exploiting Band Names For Money is going to be released.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Real Estate- Atlas

Real Estate's new-ish album, Atlas...:

  1. a continuation of, but not a progression from, their previous album, Days
  2. kind of a let down because it is kind of more of the same we got on Days
  3. ...begins to seem like less of a let down when you get over the above two facts
  4. a sign that I am bad at predicting what direction a band will take, because I thought they might pick up on the lengthy outro jam of the closing track of Days, 'All The Same', and their admitted love for Phish and maybe produce their version of Marquee Moon
  5. ...feels like the kind of album that makes the album that came before it seem even more perfect and fresh by comparison. See also Radiohead's In Limbo making us all realize In Rainbows is one of the best things they've ever done, Battles's Gloss Drop makes us all realize Mirrored is the sort of album that comes only once per generation and once per band, etc.
      5a) Atlas also makes the album The Flower Lane by Ducktails (Real Estate guitarist Matt Mondanille's solo band/side project) seem more perfect and fresh by comparison, but I'm one of those people who think it's as good as Days or Mac DeMarco's 2. So.
      5b) Speaking of Mac Demarco, you should go watch the documentary about him on Pitchfork called Pepperoni Playboy. It is all sorts of incredible and makes me angry that I haven't had the chance to really groove on his new album yet.
  6. ...kind of bums me out, because I feel like this band is rushing into maturity, writing songs about serious relationship issues and commitment to a spouse and real heavy stuff like that. Wasn't this the band that just 5 years ago was giving us an anthem with the lyrics “Budweiser/Sprite/til you feel alright”?
    6a) Maybe it is just what happens to everyone who is in their mid to late 20s. You start to realize that life isn't going to last forever. Being well over two decades into your journey, you start to question if everything you're doing I right. And I can tell you, it only gets worse when you enter your 30s.
  7. ...feels like a parallel to Beach House's Bloom and The Walkmen's Heaven, in that it doesn't best the album that came before it, but you still end up loving it and listening to it a lot once you get over the initial disappointment that it's not going to end up one of your top two favorite albums by them.
    7a) This is, of course, assuming you're a music nerd weirdo like me who thinks so much about music that he assigns top favorite status to specific albums by specific bands as if it matters, really, to anyone. Ever.
  8. ...has a few of the band's all-time best songs. Now that they're three albums and a handful of singles and EPs into their career, I think we can begin to start making “best of” mixes and imaginary “greatest hits” albums.
    8a) This is, of course, assuming you're a music nerd weirdo like me who makes “best of” mixes and imaginary “greatest hits” albums.
  9. My Grandpa died today. He was 98. And even though we were very far from close, and he didn't have enough personality or conversation to fill a Dixie cup, he was still my Grandpa, and the world still lost something today. This review, however pathetic of an offering it is, is my attempt to put something back into the world on a day when I otherwise would just have come home, drank some beer, and listened to 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle and Alien Soundtracks by Chrome over and over.
    9a) Now, I feel like listening to Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, and Louis Armstrong. I doubt my Grandpa liked them or any music, but it's the best I can do.

Friday, April 18, 2014


Sorry for the lack of updates lately. Life has taken a strange turn and I'm too busy listening to records by Louis Armstrong and Django Reinhardt, as well as mainlining Raw Power by Iggy and the Stooges, to want to write anything for Whiskey Pie. But I promise I will return, like Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific, and finish the 30 For 30 project. I mean, I kinda have to before I turn 31, right?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

30 For 30: Hi, How Are You by Daniel Johnston

I turned 30 on February 18th. I want to celebrate this, and get myself back into writing, by spending a few weeks rambling about the 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years. These will be from music, movies, books, videogames, and maybe even art and other things for good measure. I feel like my life has been much more about the things I've experienced than it has the people I've known or the places I've traveled to, and these 30 things have helped to make my 30 years more than worth all the innumerable bad things. Expect heartfelt over-sharing and overly analytical explanations galore! In part 18, despair came knocking at my door.

In October of 2013, I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my life.

I hadn't gotten a raise in almost two years at my job and conditions continued to get worse. So why not quit and find something else? Well, I've been unable to find any better full-time employment where I live, and I can't just quit You see, in October I finally couldn't ignore my credit card debt which had resulted from years of only being able to pay the minimum required amount, thanks to my low paying job and some irresponsible living/spending from time to time (and irresponsible spending on girlfriends from time to time). I had to swallow my pride and ask my parents for help, a move that I probably should've done earlier but put off for various reasons too personal and complicated to go into (and if you notice how incredibly honest I'm otherwise being in this piece, you can probably guess it's for good reasons).

A couple weeks before I told my parents about my debt, I had met an awesome girl via a dating website. Despite spending one of the best days of my life in Ann Arbor puttering around the city with her—I don't think I've ever made someone laugh that much before—she inexplicably stopped talking to me a few days later and disappeared. Though I had the sense to let it go and not be that creepy guy who continually texts and emails to get an explanation, it still left me feeling confused and frustrated. Just when my life seems like it's going to break one way, all logic and karma goes out the window and I'm back to where I started or a few steps back. It's not that I think my life is some kind of movie or novel in which I'm owed a happy ending and so I'm trying to force it to happen. Maybe I'm just resentful of having to deal with the same problems for so many years when I see everyone around me solving their's and ticking off the checklist that allows one to arrive into the kind of full-on adulthood that is recognized by popular culture instead of the bohemian lonerism I've half 'stumbled into' and half 'willingly entered.' Anyway, I won't bore you with the numerous other less important problems in my life.

A week or so before telling my parents about my money problems, and about a week after things went nowhere with the girl, I began to listen to Daniel Johnston's Hi, How Are You over and over. And over again.

'Poor You'

I had this steady routine where I'd get home from work, crack open a beer, and immediately start listening to the album. Usually I'd replay the first side of the record as many times as seemed necessary before flipping it over. I'd listen to that once and start the process over, until I'd had enough beer and cigarettes and Daniel Johnston that I felt like doing something else. Some nights this would last for hours.

All told, it was probably one of the worst times of my life, certainly of my 20s. Due to anxiety and depression that came in the door with my various problems, I was sleeping only a few hours a night, usually when I passed out from exhaustion that had accrued for enough days in a row or when I got especially drunk. I don't remember being suicidal, because I've walked through so many fires in my life, so to speak, that it'd take something much bigger than my combined problems to do me in. Rather I think it was the one time in my life where I knew true despair. I'm sure I used the word in badly written poetry during high school and meant it, but once you've felt the dictionary definition of despair, you know what it truly is to feel hopeless. It's important to note that feeling hopeless and actually being hopeless are very different things. I may have felt like I wanted to just stay in bed all day or disappear into the wilderness, but I still got up and went to work and seemed mostly normal from outward appearances. I felt hopeless yet there were still some slivers of hope kicking around inside me that kept my sanity and allowed me to function without losing my job or my friends.

'I Am A Baby (In My Universe)'

Since this piece is ostensibly about Hi, How Are You, an album by Daniel Johnston, and not my personal problems, you might be expecting me to now segue into the topic at hand with some line like “Hi, How Are You saved my life.” It wouldn't be true. What would be more accurate to say is that one of the most important things for someone in the midst of despair to feel is understanding, and Hi, How Are You understands despair. By extension, you feel as though it understands you, too. Not your specific problems but the feelings that result from them. It opens with Daniel Johnston saying the album title to the listener, or rather asking the question posed in the album title, which may have been a cutesy whim on his part. To me it sounds like the most humane and caring way to open an album, the sort of thing you'd expect from a saccharine children's music program. Perhaps I'm just projecting here and it was a whim for him; in my repeat listenings over the course of that week-or-so, however, it started to sound like a friend checking in on me.

I said earlier that I used to listen to the first side the most, so let me elaborate. The second side of the album is less focused, more playful and almost theatrical with its boxing motif. So I would still cherish this album just as much if all it had was the songs on side one. I might even like it more, and it's most of what I remember from the record. 'Poor You', 'Despair Came Knocking', 'I'll Never Marry', and 'Get Yourself Together' are all written from different attitudes ('Poor You' seems to even be mocking the listener and/or the writer) and add up to something like therapy. All of the songs on the record don't give you any answers and advice is kept to basic mantras—“get yourself together or fall apart/make your mind up or let yourself down”—that could apply to any number of situations. Expressing something specific in a general way others can relate to is a difficult balancing act for albums like this to pull off. I think it's crucial, too, that Hi, How Are You never seems maudlin or immature. Even the most overtly sad/depressing lyrics are stated so plainly and sparsely that they could just as easily come from an elderly, cynical woman or a surly teenager—“I really don't know what I have to fear/I really don't know why I have to care.”

Truth be told, my personal life isn't dramatically better than it was in October. I'm more happy more often, and my money situation has gone from “critical meltdown” to “bad, but not, like, really bad.” I still sleep poorly most of the time, and anxiety and depression like to turn up a few times a day to make things more interesting for me. I'm still single, working the same job, living in the same apartment I have been since 2009, and I still struggle with drinking and smoking. Most of the time I just want to be in my apartment, alone, away from it all. Most of the time I don't feel like writing or doing anything productive. At least now, whenever I'm feeling particularly bad, with the October 2013 flashbacks creeping up my spine, I have a new companion to help me sort it out. It may seem pathetic to label a record from almost 30 years ago a companion, but it's there for me all the time and it understands what I'm going through. I'm now 30 years old and that's more than I can say for any person in my life.

'Desperate Man Blues'

Monday, March 17, 2014

30 For 30: Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven

I turned 30 on February 18th. I want to celebrate this, and get myself back into writing, by spending a few weeks rambling about the 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years. These will be from music, movies, books, videogames, and maybe even art and other things for good measure. I feel like my life has been much more about the things I've experienced than it has the people I've known or the places I've traveled to, and these 30 things have helped to make my 30 years more than worth all the innumerable bad things. Expect heartfelt over-sharing and overly analytical explanations galore! In part 17, learn the true title of what I refer to as "the most beautiful and sad thing I've ever heard."

Back in 2012, I was dating and living with someone who was majoring in trombone performance at a local college. When studying an instrument at the college level, you not only have to be in several performances yourself, but you have to attend those given by other students, too. So in a few months I got a crash course in classical music and associated styles, and I saw way more live music in a few months than I had in my entire life up to that point combined. I even bought my then-girlfriend a huge assortment of vintage classical records. But as much as I learned and as much as I heard, classical music is just not my thing and I know now it never will be. I ended up liking the 'New Music' and experimental stuff way more than the classics, so that was kind of strike one. Strike two was that the music is too intellectual and requires too much reading; even the emotive pieces sound to me like a mathematician plugging in the right formula of notes to simulate emotion instead of it being music as a channel for emotion. And strike three was that my favorite piece of classical music remained the same as it was before I had my education in 2012. To a classical music fan it's such a popular and obvious choice as to be asinine, but I can't help it: Moonlight Sonata is the most beautiful and sad thing I've ever heard.

Except that it's not really called Moonlight Sonata, and it's not all beautiful and sad.

Well, never say that Whiskey Pie isn't educational. For you see, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata isn't actually called that. The official title is most often written as Piano Sonata No. 14 In C-Sharp Minor “Quasi Una Fantasia.” Furthermore, what everyone is familiar with and thinks is the entirety of the song is only the first movement of three. Admittedly there's something to be said for colloquial shorthand so that whenever we hear it we don't have to say the full title and can instead go with a simple question of “that's Moonlight Sonata, right?” For the purposes of the rest of this piece, I'm going to keep saying “Moonlight Sonata” and trust you understand that I really mean Piano Sonata No. 14 In C-Sharp Minor “Quasi Una Fantasia.” Say that three times fast.

I'm fairly sure the first time I heard this song was in a cartoon or movie. It's one of those classical songs that has been used so many times in so many different places that you don't always notice it. Using Moonlight Sonata to indicate that something is sad, or juxtaposing it against something decidedly un-sad for the ironic humor effect, has been done to death in movies, TV shows, and cartoons. I remember even a more modern cartoon like Ren & Stimpy used a lot of classical music, so it's possible that was where I first heard Moonlight Sonata. No matter how or where it's used, though, this song still hits me right in the chest. This is one of the most famous and ubiquitous songs of all time yet it somehow retains every bit of its power even if it's a Muzak version in an elevator or it's in a TV commercial for a car or some god damn thing.

As someone who has always been drawn to the bittersweet and melancholic in life, it only makes sense that I'd love Moonlight Sonata. To my mind it is the origin point of all sad music that came afterward, even though this is only strictly true of that famous first movement of the song. But it's hard to beat that part for establishing a mood, for getting a visceral reaction out of people. On any given day I can listen to all three movements and by the end I am in a totally different state of mind and mood, transported away by a single piano playing a piece from over 200 years ago. While it's very likely that no trace of my time on this Earth will survive 200 years into the future, I know that Moonlight Sonata will.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

30 For 30: Bitches Brew by Miles Davis

I turned 30 on February 18th. I want to celebrate this, and get myself back into writing, by spending a few weeks rambling about the 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years. These will be from music, movies, books, videogames, and maybe even art and other things for good measure. I feel like my life has been much more about the things I've experienced than it has the people I've known or the places I've traveled to, and these 30 things have helped to make my 30 years more than worth all the innumerable bad things. Expect heartfelt over-sharing and overly analytical explanations galore! In part 16, we rap about double albums and use the word 'awesome' a lot.

The double album is a rare beast in today's music. The last modern double album I can remember was The Flaming Lips's Embryonic. However, that one is cheating a bit, since it's only 70 minutes of music spread across two “albums.” In the 90s, because of the way the CD format changed how albums were paced and flowed, it was not uncommon for a band's album to be as long as Embryonic despite being counted as a single album. For example, Spiritualized's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space is 69 minutes long and Adore by the Smashing Pumpkins is actually longer at 73 minutes long (Billy Corgan was never known for being succinct). Of course, two of the first double albums, Frank Zappa's Freak Out! and Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, were only 60 and 72 minutes, respectively, so as the years have gone by the idea of what really constitutes a double album has become a bit muddled. Is it defined by the length of the music or by the whims of the artist?

There is no such gray area with Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. Even without the bonus track often appended to new copies of the album on CD, it runs a sturdy 94 minutes. Bitches Brew is a double album through and through, and anyone who owns it on vinyl knows what I mean by that. Truly only a gatefold sleeve does justice to the cover art, which wraps from the front to the back; truly only a rambling, poetic essay by Ralph J. Gleason and an oddly framed picture of a shirtless Miles Davis could work inside a gatefold sleeve. There is something satisfying about the heft of a double record, especially one that would even take two CDs to contain it. I have a few double albums on vinyl and they put you in a different mindset when listening to them. It feels like something you do on a long weekend afternoon: burn some incense and relax next to the record player while staring at the covers and liner notes and such.

The full cover, albeit a scan of a CD booklet version of it

You need to have patience and focus to sit through double albums, something our increasingly short attention spans have made difficult. It's a different listening experience and a valuable one; compared to how we normally listen to music—in the car, on an iPod at work or while exercising, on a computer with the songs on random shuffle—it feels like meditation. To simply sit by a record player and listen to an album while not doing anything else feels quaint and outdated by today's standards, like something you'd expect Henry David Thoreau to write about in Walden. Even I don't do it as often as I used to but I suppose it makes it more of a special experience when I do. For instance, I had today off of work thanks to a snowstorm, and spent my morning half-awake drinking coffee and listening to Bitches Brew. Somehow it fit the visibility limiting wall of wind and snow outside my window. The experience of giving it a listen first thing in the morning with my full attention has also set the tone for the rest of my day. If you've ever woken up early on the weekend and watched a movie first thing, you might know what I mean by that. But I digress.

'Miles Runs The Voodoo Down'

Awesome” was my response to hearing Bitches Brew for the first time. I was in high school and had finally made friends with someone who also loved music. As usually happens, you end up borrowing a bunch of music from each other and sitting around trading off on albums saying things like “wait'll you hear this one...” Every time I listen to Bitches Brew it takes me back to that mindset, when I was first discovering all that music had to offer beyond the forgettable modern rock and pop music that had been my only musical world since middle school. After Bitches Brew I finally went and listened to some of the records my parents had from their youth. After Bitches Brew I started to listen to jazz in all its forms, and to give other genres of music a chance. And so on.

If I'm ever making a list of my favorite albums of all time, Bitches Brew has to be on it. There are some Miles Davis albums from this same era that I think are more interesting (On The Corner) and some I think do a better job of being a jazz/rock fusion (A Tribute To Jack Johnson), but none of them can match Bitches Brew overall. It has everything in it. Despite being an instrumental album, every human emotion is in there at some point. What's more, it feels like it has every instrument in it, too. While I think most people listen to this record loud on a stereo, it works just as well on headphones since you pick up how much detail is in the production. How Davis and producer Teo Marcero managed to wrangle this many musicians at a time, and to edit the various parts of the numerous performances into the final versions on the album, is beyond me. Again, I implore you to give this a spin with some good headphones if you never have before. It's almost dizzying how many sounds are going on at some points, while at other calmer points the space and separation between instruments reveals how masterful all the musicians were for these recording sessions. If you follow a single instrument through each song, you see points where they step up to let loose and other times where they recede into the background while still contributing to the rhythms, textures, or melodies. There's collective improvisation, and then there's a group that has become a singular unit without an ego steering it. Bitches Brew is ego-less: Miles Davis, whose album this ostensibly is, doesn't even appear on the song 'John McLaughlin.'

'John McLaughlin'

But let us return to that initial “awesome” reaction. You see, I had never really listened to a double album before, and certainly not one with long songs on it. Keep in mind, there is only one song on Bitches Brew that is less than 10 minutes long. You can imagine how much of a 'brave new world' this felt like as I heard it for the first time in my friend's bedroom on a warm Saturday afternoon in Spring. 'Pharaoh's Dance' slowly worked itself up as I was looking through the CD booklet, trying to get some kind of context for the music I was hearing. I had something of an idea of what Bitches Brew might be like, since Radiohead had mentioned Miles Davis's electric fusion era as an influence on OK Computer, but imagining what music will sound like based on written descriptions is not the same as hearing the actual product. Anyway, I recall feeling lost inside 'Pharaoh's Dance', and I had to ask several times if it was still the same song.

Then the title track started and it sounded completely alien to me. I know now it's a trumpet fed through a delay/echo pedal, but at the time, I didn't know much of anything about recording techniques. Despite being a trumpet player for several years in school, I had no idea what I was hearing. And it was awesome. It was weird. It was...indescribable. It was the kind of experience that I repeat whenever I hear music that takes me completely by surprise and warps my expectations of what I thought sound and music could be like. Time and again I find myself muttering “awesome” and loving the challenge of figuring out something novel, making sense of something alien.

Bitches Brew is the album I would take with me to a desert island. It is the album I could listen to all day, talk about for half the day and write about for the other half of the day. Hearing it for the first time around age 17 made me say “awesome” and hearing it for the umpteenth time at age 30 made me feel awesome. So why is Bitches Brew on my list of 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years? Nothing complicated this time: it's because it's awesome.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

30 For 30: The Adventures Of Pete & Pete

I turned 30 on February 18th. I want to celebrate this, and get myself back into writing, by spending a few weeks rambling about the 30 things that have meant the most to me over the years. These will be from music, movies, books, videogames, and maybe even art and other things for good measure. I feel like my life has been much more about the things I've experienced than it has the people I've known or the places I've traveled to, and these 30 things have helped to make my 30 years more than worth all the innumerable bad things. Expect heartfelt over-sharing and overly analytical explanations galore! In part 15, we consider what weird means and why treating children like adults can make for a show that appeals to adults.

When we use the word 'weird' to describe something, it's usually because we can't think of a better descriptor. The first time I heard about Aqua Teen Hunger Force it was described to me as “a weird show”, which doesn't even begin to explain it. What's more, depending on the context, 'weird' can denote something that is good or bad, making it akin to 'interesting' in that regard. For example, I would call Animal Collective's Centipede Hz weird and interesting in bad ways, and I would call Werner Herzog's The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans weird and interesting in good ways.

Since 'weird' has no inherent positive or negative value, and it can be used in vague ways when you can't think of other better words to use instead, it becomes a little frustrating when I say that I tend to like weird things. What does it really mean to like weird things? After all, each person's idea of what constitutes weird is different, and things can be weird in different ways, too. So before this spirals further into philosophical musings on weirdness, I'd like to take a trip back to the early 90s, when I encountered the first weird thing I can remember loving, a live action TV show that led me to develop a lifelong passion for weird things. I figure if I can't precisely define my idea of weird and why I love weird things, I might as well start at the beginning.

I don't think I would be the person I am today if I hadn't been at just the right age to see The Adventures Of Pete & Pete. It influenced everything from my sense of humor to my skewed way of seeing the world to even my taste in music. I'm not sure that Pete & Pete was influential in terms of impact on other shows around that time or that came after, but it was inarguably influential to a generation who grew up during its brief run on TV. If you're unfamiliar with the show it may seem odd to apply the label “influential” to something aimed at kids, but that's the beauty of it. This was a show that was for children but treated the audience like adults. It didn't need to spell out its moral lessons or spend too much time explaining everything. Most importantly, it was weird, but never in a way that felt cheap or stupid. The characters play it straight, as if everything is normal and expected, which makes everything feel even more weird. A better description than 'weird' might be 'suburban surrealism.' Indeed, there's a very specific tone and feel to Pete & Pete that inevitably led to its short three season run and cult-beloved status. 

Is this a still from a Wes Anderson movie or a kids show? You decide!

Much like other cult TV shows, you either 'get' Pete & Pete or you don't. Cult shows tend to be that way simply because they're unique and can't easily be compared to other shows, and so most TV viewers are less willing to give them a chance. This problem is multiplied when it's a kids show because kids, even more than adults, just want the same familiar things over and over. Maybe this is a gross overgeneralization but hey, real talk: if you think there are too many movie sequels, go take a look at how many sequels there are to kids movies. But I digress. During its time on TV, Pete & Pete was never a show that I remember other kids talking about at school. Even on a kid's channel with some other weird shit like Ren & Stimpy, Pete & Pete was like no other show before or since, and trying to explain to my friends why it was awesome only got me looks of confusion or boredom. As weird as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was when you first heard about it, even little boys can understand its premise which boils down to a simple “cartoon about mutant turtles who fight stuff.” With Pete & Pete there's no simple summation to give. One episode is about surviving a family road trip to the Hoover Dam, another is about trying to break a world record by staying awake for 11 nights, and another is about faking sick to stay home from school and how it gives you a new perspective on everything.

Of all the kids shows from my youth, Pete & Pete has held up the best. Most of the stuff I was watching in the late 80s/early 90s is unwatchable dreck when you have the mind of an adult but if anything I think I enjoy Pete & Pete more now than I did when it was on TV. There were even some jokes I didn't get until I was an adult, like the inspired font jokes in the marching band episode and Iggy Pop calling someone a 'stooge' in another. It says a lot that I could see that kind of thing working on Arrested Development or other cult show for adults, and the episode about the telephone that won't stop ringing vaguely reminds me of the general feel and plot formulas of modern kids shows that appeal to adults like Regular Show and Adventure Time. And maybe even My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

However, none of those is cool enough to have this in their opening title sequence 

Earlier I said the show was influential on me, and that's been true throughout my life. During its initial run on TV, Pete & Pete presented such a different take on the world that its point of view and sense of humor began to rub off on me. It features surreal and absurdist ideas but they're never done in a cloying way or overemphasized to the point of insult. In fact the show has no self-awareness about any of its eccentricities, to the point that children's baseball teams called The Bacon Barn or Prosthetics can slip by you if you aren't paying attention. I think somehow this casual-ness about being weird helped me stop being so self conscious about how odd I was as a kid (and continue to be today). Pete & Pete tells the viewer “just be yourself” without needing a character to literally state this out loud. By not explaining any of its strange elements—Why did parents name both their sons Pete? What is the story with Artie? How did Little Pete get a tattoo when he's only a kid?—the show is implicitly telling you that you don't need to explain yourself, either.

The other way the show has influenced me is more of a subtle, longterm effect. See, one of the best things about Pete & Pete was that the creators were huge music fans. Various musicians appeared as guest stars—whether it was Michael Stipe as an ice cream seller or Iggy Pop as a recurring character—but more crucially the show always used music from various indie rock bands. The main soundtrack was provided by the band Miracle Legion (performing under the name Polaris) and was released as a CD, but there were many other bands who contributed a track or two in various episodes. Being exposed to this kind of music as a kid must've planted a seed that sprouted when I got older. Maybe I would've eventually gone beyond the obvious mainstream pop music even without Pete & Pete, but I think it would've taken longer without hearing 'Tidal Wave' by The Apples In Stereo and 'Satellite' by Luscious Jackson when I was young.

Speaking of music...If I can say with certainty that Radiohead's OK Computer was the key formative discovery of my life that led me to become who I am today, then I can also say that Pete & Pete helped to prepare me for liking weird things. Which, in a way, led me to OK Computer. For that, I'll be forever thankful.

Until next time, my little vikings...