[Cover images by Flickr users julianrod and Dunechaser.]
Nowhere Standard Time came out only a couple months after my
first album, and it's a little problematic. It has lots of excellent
songs, and the recording quality is generally better than Bad Stupid Delerious, but when making the
tape I thought it would be fun to insert little spoken word bits from
tapes I'd recorded with friends from high school (Andy Schile, Carlos
Tarango, and Kelly Phillips). In retrospect, the spoken word bits are
disruptive, out of context and not terribly funny. There are also a
couple songs on the album that are just awful.
So when I made the CD-style art for the album, I decided to make an
alternate tracklist. I cut the spoken word bits and the least
entertaining songs, and got the album down to 20 tracks. If you want
the full 1997 experience, you can see the
original tape cover art and get the track list from there.
NST is available in MP3 and OGG flavors. The notes below are a combination of
notes from 1997 and contemporary notes.
- Theme to Nowhere Standard
Time (MP3): The
song that conflates love, death, and Daylight Saving Time
Death and Destruction
(MP3): This song was
written by my high school BBS friend Chris Roddy. I spruced it up a
bit and set it to hippyesque music. Chris also wrote a song about
Barney the dinosaur, and a parody of Nirvana's "Rape Me" called "Rake
Leaves". Just so you get the idea of what our little musical scene
was like back then. This was the first song I recorded: Da Warren had
an earlier recording as a WAV file.
Revolution in a Can (MP3):
This is one of my better bad songs from the '90s. It understands that
it's got a ridiculous premise and shouldn't be taking itself
seriously, but it does take itself seriously. I seriously thought
about cutting it from the CD "release", but it's not unlistenable,
just really embarrassing. For a better take on the same idea, see
"Underdrive" from Are You An Organism?.
- Asia Carrera (MP3): Nice job, earlier me. I'm
completely out of stuff to say about this song. Kris Straub did a cover of the song.
Posture Pal (MP3): According to my 1997 liner
notes, I wrote this song while sitting on the toilet. "I got the
distorted vocals by running the microphone through the pre-amp and
right into the karaoke machine, bypassing the amplifier I used on the
vast majority of the songs." Wow, I don't remember really using that
amplifier for anything. I guess I got my money's worth out of it
after all. Uh, sorry, went off into my own private conversation with
my previous self. In general I find these old liner notes tiring because
they mostly state the obvious and easily-obtainable (that "Posture
Pal" is a reference to a MST3K short), which I guess was neccessary
in an age before good search engines.
I Screw Up Everything I Touch
One of the best songs I've ever written, and one that deserves a
re-recording. This song almost went onto Bad Stupid Delerious
(which would have made it a much different album), but my earlier
take of the song was ruined by my watch beeping on the hour. The
bridge is unrelated to and predates "FEEDBACK FEEDBACK FEEDBACK". At
the end of the song you can hear a bit of the spoken word part of the
tape, an out-of-context conversation between Kelly and me.
- Arbitron (MP3): This song reenvisions the Arbitron
ratings company as a giant robot, who destroys stations that don't
pull in the listeners. It turns out I never got tired of this kind of
joke. According to my 1997 notes, the "late night DJ" mentioned in
the song is The Real Bruce Wayne, who I parodied on Bad Stupid
- The Chickadee (MP3):
"I wrote this song immediately before recording it," says earlier
me. I think it holds up well. Jake Berendes did a nice slowed-down cover of it a few years
- Don't Leave Me Here (Over There Would Be
This was supposed to be a do-wop parody, as you can hear in the
"deg-ree-yee-yee-yee-yee-yee-yee-yee-yee-yee-yees" bit, but I didn't
have the technology to layer my own voice, so I did it as a Simon and
Garfunkel parody or something, which sounds good but was not my
intention. Another candidate for re-recording.
Song more about three-dimensional geometry and less about relativity
per se. Good song though. Sumana
made a music video for this song.
- Radio Free Singapore (MP3): In this song I sell
my soul and become a composer of harmless pop music to pacify the
citizens of Singapore. In retrospect, that makes the song sound both
more cruel and more pointless than I intended it to be.
I wrote this song with the aid of a poetry generator program. I'm
pretty sure it has no real meaning.
- Vertigo (MP3):
Excellent song, and almost the only one in my work written for
piano. I took many years of piano lessons when I was a kid and have
little to show for it; neither sculpted ability, nor a drilled-in
repertoire of songs, nor a knowledge of musical theory. Nothing but a
basic ability to pick out tunes one-fingered. Anyway, that has
nothing to do with the song, which is apparently about some kind of
fractal view of life as made up of repeating self-similar fragments
in collage, because that's how the lyrics are.
I'm pretty sure I wrote this song at a school picnic near the end of
my senior year of high school. None of the things described in the
song happened at the picnic.
- Choppy the Pork Chop (MP3):
This song is based on a rather dumb Galaga-style game for Windows
3.1, available from Da Warren at the time I wrote it. It basically
describes the plot of the game, which, if lacking in replay value, at
least manages to be strange. In one of my first uses of Internet
email, I got permission from the author to do this song.
A pre-Matrix vision of virtual reality run amok. Includes long
soaring pauses which are supposed to add punch to the parody of the
then-recent AT&T "You Will" ad campaign. Not great.
This is a cover of song by Supernova, who are still around and
who I only know about because I reviewed their 1996 album Ages 3 and
Up for the Bakersfield Californian. I recommend checking
them out. In fact, I should check out their newer albums.
This song grows on me significantly every time I come back to this
album. 1997-me says:
This song doesn't really have any meaning. I wrote it to break as many
standard musical conventions as I could (ie. verses of constant length,
constant tempo throughout, etc). If I were to make a video for this
song, it would be like an 80s video with lots of smoke and stuff. That
I think the lack of inherent meaning is a big part of what makes
this song keep its interest for me: there's nothing there for me to
stop caring about. My tastes and interests have changed significantly
since 1997, but I'm still interested in systematically breaking
- When I Was Young (MP3):
A capella song sung with my friend Dario Espinoza after walking
around Arvin in 110-degree heat. That's why we didn't do another take even
though my voice cracks in the second verse: too tired. My aim in
writing this was to create a song which said one very simple thing (I
used to be young, and now I'm old), over and over and over again, in
the manner of many pop ballads and songs from musicals. Say what you
please about this song, it stays on message.
- Malibu (MP3):
At the time this was probably my most mature composition. Many of my
songs handle nasty concepts in an offhand or oblique way, and this
was one of the first that succeeded (see "Revolution in a Can" for
one that failed, "Latest" off Bad Stupid Delerious for maybe the
first success). The reference to "Hotel California" comes from the
moment I realized I'd ripped off the chord progression from "Hotel
California" and the best thing to do was just to admit it within
the body of the song.
Some notes on the tape-only tracks:
- It Is Balloon: Useless mike check track. Eventually I got the good
sense to keep these things off the tape. I think I got the idea from
the first track of Hazel's album "Toreador of Love".
- Edmund Sparse: Verbatim enactment of a doodle from my CS32
class. Not a bad joke, but I no longer think a musical album is a good
place for random non-musical jokes.
- 1000 More Jokes for Kids: Andy had lying around this British joke
book containing a whole lot of bad and/or offensive jokes and a couple
funny ones. (Eg. "Why did Nelson wear a three-cornered hat? To keep
his three-cornered head warm.") I've got about two hours of audio
footage from us going through this book and mocking the jokes, which
is good times for my Leonard/Andy nostalgia but not something you
should have to listen to. Someone
did you the favor of typing up a bunch of the jokes so you can see
what they're like.
- Giant Ticks: A sound collage starring Carlos, Kelly, and I. "This
could be the beginning of giant ticks" is an excellent line (Jake
sampled it in his "Check Yourself (For Ticks)" but the collage as a
whole is in what-was-I-thinking territory. Seriously, me doing an
impression of the America Online guy? Maybe it was some dadaist thing
where I picked clips from the same spot on three different
tapes. No, I probably chose those clips.
- Seinfeld #1: This actually still makes me laugh, but it has no
place on this tape and it starts off with a joke that doesn't
work. Carlos mocks Jerry Seinfeld-style observational comedy with
observations that say more about the comedian than about those little
everyday situations that sometimes just drive us bonkers, gosh darn it!
- 100% Pure Java: A search and replace on a contemporaneous pop song
by Crystal Waters, who apparently has a degree in computer science. So it fits thematically!
- John Travolta: Not only is this a clip from the jokebook session,
it was only put in to set up another clip later on in the tape. It
can't even pull its own weight! It's just in there so that the
listener knows that 1KJFK is a British book, so that The Caning Sketch
can shine in all its backstoried glory. Except The Caning Sketch isn't
funny. Waste of tape. I do like Andy's "Why'd you do it, John?"
- Kelly Has Big Breasts (Really!): Ten years later I still maintain
that Kelly's breasts are huge. PS to Kelly: I hope this helped!
- Atari: Even my original liner notes hate this song:
This complete waste of tape features me singing the
Pac-Man song as Andy simultaneously sings the Moon
Patrol song. I just put it in to show that not
everything Andy and I do is a work of genius. More often
than not, it's total crap. Hardly a teenage riot in any
Way to go, earlier self! Put something on the album that you know
is bad! That you knew was bad halfway through recording it and
started laughing because it was so bad!
- Irish Joke: We had a lot of fun mocking the jokes about the
Irish. In fact Andy made up a model Irish joke that was better than
any of those in 1KJFK:
Fanny the Irishman. Let me in. I'm Irish.
Thus the NKI of Fanny the Irishman.
- Duke of Beef: Nearly acceptable. A parody of the scene in Red
River where John Wayne squats down and delivers a speech of the
glories of beef. Then he gets up and it turns out his speech was
actually an act-spanning voiceover and it's now ten years later. I
told this story to Kris and he said he and his brother had taken note
of the same scene! They called it "the ten-year squat."
Anyway, Red River is an excellent film, though the comic
relief guy is really tiresome.
- Aah, Ricky!: OK, this starts out funny and then goes on way too
long and then semi-redeems itself with a weird line from me. In the
modern age I'd cut about ten seconds out of the middle and it would be
a nice twenty-second skit. Also it's really bad that I'm talking over
Kelly and not letting her get jokes/Ricky Ricardo impressions in.
- Literacy Rate: The single worst song on NST, a song about
"how little I know about the 70s... the vast majority of my knowledge
of the 70s comes from old Doonesburies and Saturday Night Lives." It's
just bad. I only keep it online to keep myself honest.
- Seinfeld #2: The sequel is never as good as the original. Though
not as funny, this track does take the idea of nihilist observational
humor to its logical conclusion. I like how Carlos's delivery simulates
the delivery of a real, bad stand-up comic who just kind of prances
from topic to topic, abandoning jokes as it becomes obvious no one is
Meanwhile what has the real Jerry Seinfeld done? Bee Movie,
- </RML> "Just some crap I put on the tape so that I wouldn't
see the in the track list and then scan down the list for an
</RML> and momentarily panic when I couldn't one." I'm over that now,
thanks to the XML standard with its formal definition of empty-element
- Eat A Pita: Partly a cover of a comic strip that was once printed
on tray liners from Wendy's, mostly an excursion into verbal
abuse. Still pretty funny. My favorite part is where Carlos is trying
to make it sound like I'm climbing over the counter to attack him and
then I say "What are you doing? I'm over here." This was a time at
which the concept of the pita had to be explained to America through
the comics medium. Also a time at which fistfight sound effects were
generated by hitting the microphone with your palm.
The part that begins "You think you're tough, don't you Dave?" was
originally a separate sketch, in which a guy attempts to intimidate
another guy and ends up concluding that the other guy is pretty tough,
after all. Other good lines: "It's great!" "It's not... great." and
the classic "Screw your damn pitas!" OK, now you don't have to listen
to the skit.
- The Caning Sketch: Apparently this was very funny at the time, and
funny enough a few weeks later that I put it on the tape. Now it's
hard to see the appeal. The hitting-the-microphone-with-your-palm
trick shows up again. The last line is the best: "You're not hittin'
me bum anymore, you're just swingin' the cane around."
- Minnesotan People Having Sex: Carlos and I had watched
Fargo the night before. That said, there is a funny joke in here,
but it would make for a skit about six seconds long--it would just
have one partner yelling "You betcha!" at the moment of climax.
- Epoxy Sunrise, Part 2: "Semi-filler material" according to
1997-me. Today I say it's all filler material, and the hell with
it. Another tiny musical joke a la "100% Pure Java". Doing these notes
I actually still liked those two, and they kind of are real songs, but
I still don't think they belong on the album.