Blast off

OK, this is the last NIN picture that I’ll force-feed you in Photo of the Day, but I couldn’t resist putting it up. Like most of the NIN pics I shot, it’s not super-high quality … but, dude: he’s airborne.

I had no idea when I took this shot that I had captured Trent launching himself skyward; I was just snapping like a madman and hoping to end up with something salvageable. I think I took almost 250 photos, and boiled it down to just over 40.

This is what happens when a concert reviewer pretends to be a concert photographer.

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Yes, this one’s even foggier and grainier than its predecessor … but I like the vibe.

Nine Inch Nails fans will recognize Trent Reznor’s unmistakeable silhouette (he’s the guy choking the microphone to death), and that gentlemen with the guitar right there, that’s Robin Finck. The sides of his head are shaved except for two little tufts that hang from his temples, he has a dreadlocked mohawk, and his presence, guitar playing and demonic backing vocals add an element to the live NIN experience that just can’t be replaced—which is probably why Trent brought him back for this tour after attempting to replace him during a few previous outings.

As promised, I uploaded to Flickr a bunch of shots from Sunday’s show.

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The last time Mr. Trent Reznor and his Nine Inch Nails came to town, I had to miss the show so that Wonder Woman and I could take Zan to see the Wiggles. Thankfully, the big “Playhouse Disney Live” excursion took place a couple of days before last night’s NIN show.

I got hooked up with tickets and a photo pass, the latter of which allowed me to spend three songs leaning against the stage, snapping pictures of Trent and the boys … which was way cool, of course … but the quality of the photos is mostly subpar because there was a friggin’ fog machine blowing its fog all over the stage throughout the shoot. Thus, the incredibly grainy quality of the shot shown above. (Here’s the original.) Fortunately, graininess suits NIN just fine.

I’m planning to upload to Flickr in the morning a batch of the photos I shot during the show, and I’m sure I’ll feel compelled to feature one or two more here this week. I’ll also probably write a little something about the show. After spending last night out at the concert, though, and staying up way too late tonight, I am now on the verge of passing out from exhaustion, so this is all you get, homey.

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Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me an almost-40-year-old man who gets into Halloween way too much

Mr. Bones

I shall now regale you with the tale of “The Man Who Loved Halloween (Perhaps A Bit Too Much).”

I, quite simply, lose my fucking mind on Halloween — particularly since the arrival in my life six years ago of Mr. Bones.

Mr. Bones is a 4-foot tall skeleton who sports a black grim-reaper cloak, and who has in the back of his skull an electrical input and a microphone input. When one speaks into the microphone, one’s voice is broadcast from a speaker hidden beneath Mr. Bones’ cloak while his jaw moves in sync with the dialogue and his eyes light up.

Wonder Woman purchased Mr. Bones in the middle of August back in 2002 for about $20, and I can say without any hesitation that we have gotten far more than our money’s worth out of his undead ass.

In years past, I have hidden in the bushes with the microphone while Count Dracula (a.k.a. my uncle, the other member of the family who is as fully looney as I am about Halloween) has greeted the children as they come up the front walk and led them to Mr. Bones, who sits in a pseudo-coffin (known the other 364 days of the year as your run-of-the-mill toybox) with the candy bowl in his lap.

Some version of the following exchange then takes place:

“And what is your name, young man?” the Count asks.

“Timmy,” says Timmy with no small amount of trepidation.

“OK, Timmy, come say hello to my friend Mr. Bones,” says the Count, leading Timmy to Mr. Bones’ coffin. “Mr. Bones, say hello to Timmy.”

“Hello, Timmy,” says Mr. Bones (in an accent that, for no particular reason, has evolved into a mix of Transylvanian, Spanish and Triumph the Insult Comic Dog). “So nice to meet you.”

Invariably, the kids are surprised that Mr. Bones has actually used their name.

“He just said my name!” they exclaim disbelievingly. “How did he do that?”

“What do you mean, ‘How did he do that?’ I’m Mr. Bones, man! I’m magic!”

At this point, most kids have a funny look on their face that says, “OK, I know there’s no such thing as talking skeletons with red-LED eyes, but holy stromboli, I am totally having a conversation with a talking skeleton with red-LED eyes, and I’m trying to decide if this is the coolest thing ever or the freakiest thing ever or both.”

“Now, Timmy, what do you say on Halloween to get some candy?” asks Mr. Bones.

“Trick or treat?”

“Trick or treat! That’s right. Nice. OK, Timmy, take a piece of candy, yes, that’s righ— WAIT! NOT THAT ONE!

[Child freezes]

“I’m keeding, Timmy. You take it. I’m on a diet. And make sure you brush your teeth after you eat all that candy, man, because if you don’t, your grill will end up looking like mine.”

This year, I realized I was tired of sitting in the bushes, so I got my geek on in a big, big way.

Enter, 25-foot microphone-cord extension from Radio Shack, and hello, me sitting comfortably inside our front room by the big picture window, scarfing down pizza and beer.

“But wait: If you were sitting by the big picture window, couldn’t people see you talking into the microphone?”

Good question: No. I covered the windows with some plastic ghost-mural things.

“But … but … how could you see the trick-or-treaters?”

Another good question: As I said, I got my geek on … to include planting in the bush behind Mr. Bones a baby-monitor camera that allowed me to see all of the action on a small, television-like monitor.

“Wow. That is geeky. Can it get any geekier?”

Oh, helllllll yes. In addition to the microphone and the monitor, my newly established indoor mission-control post also included a remote switch for a flood lamp positioned on the left side of the lawn, a remote switch for a strobe light positioned on the right side of the lawn, a remote switch for a fog machine in the bushes behind the Bonester, and a remote control for the boombox from which emanated the obligatory spooky-sounds CD. Throw in two bushels of that fake-cobweb shit (which Wonder Woman so graciously strung up all over the front yard), a giant spider web and accompanying giant spider, some feaux tombstones, my mother dressed as a witch (taking over for the missing Count), my sister dressed like a gypsy seated at a table giving feaux Tarot-card readings, and a full-sized plywood coffin containing this year’s newest addition, Pirate Pete, and you have the mini-Disneyland of our quiet little neighborhood.

Pirate Pete

Of course, I had to take a half-day off from work in order to have time to string up the 2.5 miles of extension cords and cables required to pull this whole shebang off. But it’s worth it — especially when Wonder Woman tells me that she, while taking Zan and Jayna trick-or-treating, heard kids saying they wanted to go to the “cool house” or the “spooky house.” I’m spooky and cool, yo.

Particularly funny this year was handing the microphone to a pleading Zan, who had watched me deliver my Mr. Bones spiel numerous times, and who, using a funny voice of his own, nailed it while interacting with a couple of young trick-or-treaters. It’s like I’m teaching him the family business.

“Some day, son, all of this crap can be yours!”

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Patriotic duty

This morning, I taped my “Veterans for Obama” sign to my front-door window. I did so to compensate for the fact that some asshole walked all the way up to the front of my house in broad daylight yesterday and stole my Obama yard sign. Fortunately, I’m pretty sure that the lack of signage in my front yard won’t have a substantial impact on Obama’s final vote tally tomorrow.

Though I served in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1992, it took me a while to actually internalize the fact that I am a “veteran.” Part of my inability to identify with that label on any meaningful level was the fact that I did not serve in a combat zone. I was active duty during the first Gulf War, and I am classified as a “Gulf War vet,” but my K-9 partner and I were patrolling a base in the Mojave Desert and doing narcotics searches in New York City, not ducking rounds in the Kuwaiti desert and wondering if we’d make it home.

My father served on a naval destroyer in the South Pacific during Vietnam. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II, one of them a marine who experienced heavy combat on Iwo Jima. They are the types of men I picture when I think of the word “veteran.”

That said, I have come to embrace my veteran’s status over the past eight years, largely because of my outrage over the fact that thousands of service members have been getting maimed and slaughtered as the result of a war I strongly opposed from Day One.

Many people who never served like to claim that “opposing the war” is synonymous with “not supporting our troops.” As a former one of those troops, I can assure you that’s bullshit.

Supporting our troops means not putting them in harm’s way unless all other options have been exhausted, and getting them out of harm’s way if a group of draft-dodging, chicken-hawk politicians with poor judgement and questionable motives uses them like disposable pawns in a preemptive, mismanaged war that never should have been waged.

I’m looking forward to voting today.

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