Top Ten Music 2015

Here they are in no particular order, mostly. Some links to my favorite tracks included for your listening pleasure.
Khruangbin - The Universe Smiles Upon You
The Universe Smiles Upon You
Andy Shauf - The Bearer of Bad News
Wendell Walker
Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell
Should Have Known Better

Leikeli47 - Leikeli47
Heard 'Em Say

Roman GianArthur - OK Lady

Tobias Jesso Jr. - Goon
Without You

Oddisee - The Good Fight
That's Love

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
Don't Wanna Fight

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
King Kunta

Father John Misty - I Love You Honeybear
Bored In The USA

Amason - Sky City
Went To War

Ibeyi - Ibeyi
Exhibit Diaz

The Villagers - Darling Arithmetic

Sorry, I guess that's thirteen. See you next year!

I’m Pretty Sure There’s a July

After every holiday dinner my grandmother would pull me aside and give me some words of advice. The advice varied, but over time, the same nuggets of wisdom would begin to repeat themselves. The two most popular were: “Don’t ever get a tattoo, because only sailors and criminals get tattoos” followed by the more common grandmotherly standard “Always wear underwear in case you get into an accident.” This wasn’t sage advice by any means, but I often recalled her words and found them comforting. 

A year or so after graduating high school in 1986, I was preparing to move from Humboldt County down to The City where I would begin my study of graphic design at the Academy of Art College. Before the big move my grandmother pulled me aside one last time for some last minute wisdom before adding something new: “Always carry around a can of Lysol for spraying on handrails so you don’t catch that AIDS virus. San Francisco is full of that AIDS.” I think she was mostly joking this time, but I made a mental note anyway.

Art school was fun at first, but it didn’t really pan out for me. The many distractions of the city took hold and I slowly began failing my classes after the first year. I was young, distracted, on my own for the first time ever in San Francisco—and I’ve never been a good student—it’s just not my thing. So I decided to drop out to avoid any more tuition debt that my parents had been subsidizing. I was working part time as a moped messenger during school to pay the bills, and when the the crew at Aero Messenger heard I was now a college dropout, they happily gave me a full-time slot. The real world was calling.

I spent the next year speeding through downtown San Francisco traffic taking packages from one end of town to the other while running red lights, hopping curbs, careening down tiny alley ways, and basically trying to stay swift and upright as much as I could. I only ever got one ticket and I never wore a helmet. The bicycle guys had more messenger street cred than we did, but us moped guys could take stuff way outside the city if needed, and that’s why we were valuable. As long as you didn’t mind ducking when the kids would throw rocks and batteries at you, a 45 minute roundtrip to Hunter’s Point could be very lucrative.

We all wore the standard company blue windbreakers except for two brothers: Omar and Alex. They were members of a Mission Bloods gang who requested special red jackets and the guys at Aero obliged. One day I was cruising down Bryant street heading back to the shop after a long day and I see Omar flagging me down on the side of the road. I pulled over and he gave me a big bear hug. He had just been released from county after two months behind bars and I was the first person he saw. He was beaming. He grabbed my radio and started yelling in Spanish back to dispatch. Everybody chimed in on their radios and cheered his release. We had spoken maybe two or three words before this particular event, but now I felt like we were old pals.

During this time I was living in a flat off Golden Gate park on 44th & Fulton with my oldest friend Kevin who worked as a messenger for a reprographic firm, and another pal Sean, who I had met a few years earlier. I got Sean his first messenger job at Aero and he lasted one day on the moped before calling it quits. Sean was a real motorcycle guy—a Suzuki 1100 motorcycle guy—and the paltry top speed of 45 miles an hour on the two-stroke Puch just didn’t cut it for him. He took his race bike down the street to Lightning Express and eventually became one of San Francisco’s most notorious messenger outlaws. The SFPD would often put up road blocks to try and catch him. One night I looked out our window and saw a motorcycle headlight racing up the tree-lined hillside of Golden Gate Park across the street from our flat. Moments later Sean would burst through the back door panting with a wide grin as police cars sped by with lights flashing on the street below, the bike safely stashed in the woods. (Earlier in the day he had head-butted a lawyer who tried to cut in front of him to file legal papers at the county courthouse before the 4PM cutoff.) Sean died many years later in a motorcycle accident. His gas tank still hangs on the wall in memoriam at a bar called Zietgeist in the Mission.

We were all partying quite a lot. All the city’s messengers would get paid on Friday and then take their checks to a Filipino grocer just south of Market street. The grocer cashed all messenger checks without ID and no questions asked. In turn, we would all buy our beer and food at his market before heading out to various parties. Outside on the street an open-air drug market would form as everybody was flush with Friday cash. You could grab a case of malt liquor, a bindle of coke, a handful of ecstasy, and your weekend was pretty much covered. 

This went on for almost a year until one bright, sunny Monday morning in early spring. Unlike a typical Monday, I wasn’t hungover from my usual weekend shenanigans as I had opted for a more subdued couple of days off. (There were quite a few life-threatening Mondays previous where I wasn’t even sure what planet I was on due to residual LSD psychosis and severe sleep deprivation, but this wasn’t one of them.) On this particular Monday I was clear headed with a fresh cup of coffee and a spring in my throttle. I grabbed my first ticket, started up the bike, and picked up my first run of the day. All was good in the world.

Crisscrossing the city all day would often make my mind wander—as well as my gaze. And I’ll be honest here, I had an enthusiastic appreciation for the backside of the female San Francisco office worker in high heels on her way to work. On this particular Monday, I encountered a posterior so captivating that I forgot for a moment that I was hurtling down Sansome street at 35 miles an hour. When I finally got my eyes back on the road, the last thing I remember seeing was a bus board advertisement for the Carl’s Jr. Double Bacon Western Cheese Burger—a half second from my face. Then a loud crunching sound.

I regained consciousness lying on my back in the middle of the street as a business man in a suit and tie loomed overhead asking if I was okay. (I wasn’t.) I got up and stumbled around a bit before falling down again in the gutter. When I woke up a second time I was looking out at the street from inside the back of an ambulance. I spotted Omar’s red jacket as he rested on his handlebars shaking his head. He must of been called to get my package and move it along. The back doors of the ambulance closed and that was the last time I ever saw him. The police report would later say that after hitting the bus I was thrown 75 feet through the air, but I don’t think they realized I had been stumbling around quite a bit before I passed out the second time.

The EMTs noticed that I was awake now and started asking me questions as the ambulance sped along with sirens blazing. Who was the president? George Bush (The Elder) seemed like the right answer, but I wasn’t entirely sure. They asked me if I knew what month it was and all I could come up with was that “I’m pretty sure there’s a July. Isn’t there an August too? Wait, what’s a month?” They kept up the questions for a bit and I struggled to answer them. Finally I looked out the window and realized that we were entering SF General. “Do you know where you are?” they asked me. “1001 Potrero.” I replied without hesitation. They seemed rather impressed with that one. As a messenger, I knew the address of every building in the city, and it was all starting to make sense now.

I was wheeled down a few hallways and led to a room where two doctors began poking and prodding. One of the doctors grabbed a pair of scissors and began to cut the legs of my pants off. As she got closer to removing the pants altogether it suddenly dawned on me: I wasn’t wearing any underwear. Grandma was right all along! It was not typical for me to go commando, but I had skipped laundry over the weekend and was forced to make due without. To make matters even worse, I had just got a tattoo the week before and it had barely healed. I was flouting years of guidence and paying for it dearly. The doctor finished the exam by sticking an index finger right where it mattered—almost as if to punish me for not listening to grandma—and I was now fully awake.

A bone was set and some holes were sewn up and I was placed in the common hallway for further concussion monitoring. There were other patients in beds all around me and the person behind me had a compound fracture and was screaming in pain for an hour before she was finally wheeled away for surgery. Patients and visitors and doctors all walked past my bed carrying on conversations and bumping into my IV stand.

More hours went by and I really needed to use the bathroom. I tried to get out of the bed in search of relief, but this proved to be more of a struggle than I anticipated. A nurse finally rushed over and asked what the hell I was doing. She gave me a plastic bottle and told me to fill it up and leave it on top of the bed when I was done. This seemed kind of awkward out there in the hallway with all the commotion, but it was my only recourse. I had some difficulty positioning the goods just so with my newly broken wrist, but I eventually got it right and began a very satisfying release. Just as I did this, a doctor approached my bed with about six medical interns all writing on clipboards. They formed a semi circle around me as the doctor began to explain my various head contusions while I tried keep the flow going unnoticed. He finally lifted up the blanket to show my slightly disfigured knee and they all nodded and took more notes. I’m not sure if they also noticed that I was filling up that bottle, but if they did, they never let on. The group moved down to the next patient and I placed the full bottle on the bed.

At around 6 in the evening I was finally wheeled out to the front of the hospital and the orderly wished me luck. It was getting dark now. I hobbled over to a bank of pay phones and called my friend Bill for a ride home. A few months later I moved back to Humboldt County and got a job as a bus boy in an Italian restaurant. I suppose the best advice my grandmother never gave me was that it’s very impolite to stare. But, I never did get another tattoo and my underwear drawer has been full ever since.

Top Ten 2014

D’Angelo - Black Messiah 
Have to give this to D’Angelo because I’ve been waiting for this album for over a decade. And, it just so happens to be a great album. Pino Palladino on the bass makes it even better. Worth the wait. I think Really Love might be my favorite track.

Sun Kil Moon - Benji
My pal Dave pointed me in the direction of this album and I almost dismissed it twice because I just couldn’t quite grasp it. (Note to self: always play an album three times!) The only album all year that consistently made me sadhappy. Kind of incredible, actually. Bens My Friend.

FKA Twigs - LP1
I actually don’t like every song on this album. But man, the ones that are good are really good. It sounds like nothing else and that’s why it’s so compelling. Two Weeks is one of my favorite songs of the year.

Mac DeMarco - Salad Days
I caught up with this one late in the year and I’m still figuring it out. I can't tell if it’s ironic yacht rock or sincere chillout jazz—but it’s pretty fantastic all around. Salad Days on KEXP.

St. Vincent - St. Vincent
I own all of her previous stuff, but I never quite liked them enough as albums. This one finally hits the mark as a whole. Digital Witness is a really great song.

Ray LaMontagne - Supernova
This is the soundtrack of a roadtrip we took up the coast of Sonoma last summer where we stopped and ate oysters and drank champagne at every single small town along the way. Literally. Here he is on Letterman

Beck - Morning Phase
Sea Change is my favorite Beck album and this picks up where that left off. I guess I prefer earnest Beck to ironic Beck.

Rat King - So It Goes
Hip Hop from Harlem. It’s their first studio album and two tracks feature another one of my favorites, King Krule. Rapid fire percussive vocals, unrelenting, slightly abrasive. Sounds good loud

Chet Faker - Built on Glass
I like this guy a lot. Kind of reminds me of a soulful James Blake. R&B meets chopped & sampled. Looking forward to more from Chet.

Thomas Dybdahl - What's Left Is Forever
Dybdahl is one of my of my favorite artists and I still can’t figure out why the Norwegian isn’t more popular stateside. Jazz/R&B/Folk with a hint of Curtis Mayfield on the first (and best) track: This Love Is Here To Stay.


Klapp Klapp from Little Dragon was one of my favorite songs of the year, as was Cibo Matto’s Déjà Vu. Aphex Twin’s Syro had a couple of stellar tracks as well. Kendrick Lamar teaming up with Flying Lotus for Never Catch Me might be the song I played the most. And, First Aid Kit nearly made my top ten as did Kool A.D.’s Word O.K. and Food from Kelis. (Oh! I almost forgot: Yolandi always moves me. Ugly Boy.)

La Mian Ma‘ono Style : 拉麵

Here's my first attempt at pushing the record button on my Nikon D810. This was shot with a single camera in two takes (there are some continuity issues). But, overall it's a good first run at the next phase of LookatLao Studio: back to the very beginning—with video!

A short film showing the process of hand-pulling Chinese noodles (Lamian) with Khampaeng Panyathong and Mark Fuller of Ma‘ono Fried Chicken & Whisky.

Music from

Top 15 Albums of 2013 and 5 Other Things I Liked

2013 was an amazing year for music. So many good albums showed up right until the very end of the year. (I’m really liking this new Beyoncé album believe it or not.) So this year’s list is mostly music with a few bits and pieces at the end for fun. On with it…

1. Nick Cave - Push The Sky Away Nick Cave made the best album of the year hands down. I’ve been following Cave since high school and he is truly one of a handful of musicians still able to make compelling music after thirty years. I was lucky enough to see the live show as well and his set list for the tour was pretty incredible. His latest version of Stagger Lee does not disappoint. I’ve been yacking about this album all year…I’ve said enough.

2. King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon I started following Archie Marshall late last year after purchasing his first self-titled EP immediately after hearing the song The Noose of Jah City. I almost like the less-produced earlier stuff better—it had a real basement quality to it. But, I like everything he’s doing. He’s going to be fun to watch over the next few years.

3. Rhye - Woman I’ve been a big fan of Mike Milosh for a while now and I really like this new collaboration with the guy from Quadron (who also put out a decent album this year). This remix of The Fall is pretty fantastic.

4. Tricky - False Idols I went to see a Liz Phair show in the early 1990s and the opening act was this guy who lit a giant blunt on stage and sang along to some pre-mixed stuff in a scratchy voice while the Moore Theatre filled with smoke. Maxinquaye came out a few weeks later and it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time. False Idols gets back to that original trip hop sound and Francesca Belmonte is a good match on vocals—it’s great to see Tricky back in form. (He’s still sampling David Sylvian too!)

5. Elvis Costello & The Roots This album is really good. One-off collaborations rarely are, so perhaps there will be more. This is great stuff. Check out Tripwire on Late Night..

6. Yasmine Hamdan - Ya Nass Yasmine hails from Lebanon and currently lives in Paris. She teamed up with the guy from Novell Vague and produced an excellent debut. The album is sung in various Arabic dialects set to dreamy music that combines traditional folk with electronica. Her voice is amazing. Check out Samar.

7. Haim - Days Are Gone Simple, great pop music. I played this one a lot. Loud. It was good. (Also, Este Haim has the best Bass Face ever.)

8. Lorde - Pure Heroine More great pop music. Check out a great early morning live performance on KCRW. She’s gonna be bigger than she already is.

9. Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City I really didn’t expect to like this album as much as I did. I liked both albums previous, but I assumed it would be more of the same. It’s not. It’s better.

10. Willy Mason - Carry On I first heard Willy Mason on the album Hawk from Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan. Then again on a great duet with Lianne La Havas called No Room For Doubt. This is the first album solo album from Willy that I’ve listened to. Sounds like tragic roots music with an occasional modern twist and some “Tom Waitsy” percussion. It is good. Talk Me Down Video

11. Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe I didn’t know anything about Dev Hynes when I first heard this album. I’m still not even sure I know how to describe it. R&B? Silky bedroom disco? This video might help. I really do like it though.

12. The National - Trouble Will Find Me This album makes me want to drink too much whiskey and be sad, then happy. Then sad again. My kind of album. (Bonus points for ending the album with a nod to the Violent Femmes.)

13. Hiatus Kaiyote - Tawk Tomahawk Funk-rock-neo-soul with a guest appearance from Q-Tip! Something like Little Dragon meets Jill Scott. Can’t wait to hear more from these guys. Check them out on KCRW.

14. Jim James : Regions of Light and Sound of God This is a solo album from the guy who sings for My Morning Jacket. I never really got into My Morning Jacket, but I like this album quite a bit. A strange mix of folky electronic revival music from outer space. Here’s a video for A New Life with dancing buffalo lady.

15. Kanye West - Yeezus While it’s true that Kanye West has become a giant, ego-maniacal asshat over the years, I still (mostly) like the music he makes. This album is something altogether different—just like College Dropout was when it came out. Justin Vernon from Bon Iver is back singing as is last year’s favorite, Frank Ocean. Lou Reed probably wrote the best review of this album here. Lou calls the album “Majestic”. I don’t think I’d go that far, but either way—hurry up with my damn croissants!

Bonus Round

Here’s some non-music stuff that I thought deserved a nod. Sadly, I don’t remember seeing one good movie all year long.

16. Hawkeye Comics - Matt Fraction & David Aja With the exception of Frank Miller’s Batman stuff, I’ve never been a big fan of super hero comics. And aside from the recent films, I know very little about Marvel’s Avengers. That said, Marvel’s new Hawkeye series from Matt Fraction and David Aja is easily my favorite comic book of the year. To be able to take a low-rent character like Hawkeye and turn him into something interesting—and funny—is a testament to Fraction’s writing. Pair that with Aja’s illustrations and a “Chris Ware like” attention to both detail and pacing and you have a superb comic about a regular joe who also happens to be an Avenger while managing an apartment building and getting into trouble with Russian hooligans, bro. The only bad thing I have to say about Hawkeye is that Aja doesn’t illustrate every issue, and I really prefer his stuff to his stand-in. If you have anyinterest in comic books or good story-telling go buy My Life As A Weapon and Little Hits.

17. Saga - Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona StaplesSaga is another excellent comic book (though, this one might be called a “Graphic Novel” even though I’m never quite sure what the difference is.) Vaughan wrote Y: The Last Man a few years back, and while I liked that quite a bit, Saga is much better. People are calling this a “Space Opera” and I suppose that’s a fitting title. Fantasy meets outer space in a classic Star Wars/Romeo & Juliet storyline with plenty of drama, comedy, sex and violence (not for the kids!). Vaughan’s storyline is great, but I really like Fiona Staples’ illustrations here. This one is just getting started, but it looks to be an epic tale. Pick up Saga Vol. 1 and Saga Vol. 2

18. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia I finally caught up with Always Sunny this year and watched every single season. Sweet jesus this show is great! Funniest thing on TV without question. Also I have a crush on Sweet Dee.

19. PBS - Mind of a Chef If all shows about food were this great I would get cable TV again. Mind of a Chef Season One is all David Chang with plenty of MSG and whiskey. Season Two is split between Sean Brock and April Bloomfield. Both seasons are narrated by Anthony Bourdain and the show is really fun and informative—lots of good science info and real world technique. Sean Brock did a great episode where he traced southern food to its true origins in West Africa. If you have AppleTV you can watch them all anytime you want.

20. Netflix - Orange Is The New Black/House of Cards If this is the future of television sign me up. Both of these shows were excellent and the all-in-one format is perfect for how I like to watch television. If only we could subscribe to HBO Go without the extra 200 channels of crap Comcast forces you to buy alongside it. Kudos to Netflix for doing it right.

Not Fade Away

Those conversations you have with friends where you make plans to get together but don’t quite seal the deal are the worst. Why do we do that? My friend Justin and I had made plans earlier in the year to hang out and get some food at a Kenyan Safari restaurant he was raving about in Georgetown. It sounded great. And, perhaps this is a Seattle thing, but we made all the necessary arrangements—save an actual date and time. In a word, we failed at being friends. This is not uncommon. It happens every day.

Fast forward ten months and I’m sitting at my desk working furiously under a handful of sinister deadlines. Throughout any given day, various people will email me asking for photographs for a magazine article or a blog post—all of my clients do this on a regular basis—it’s part of my job. Sure enough, my longtime pal and client Margaret from 611 Supreme was looking for some photos of our friend and her former bartender, Justin, and she was wondering if I had anything in high resolution for a flyer she was making. She also assumed that I knew what had happened. What happened? Well, it turns out that Justin had just killed himself a few days prior, and she wanted to make a flyer to promote a wake in his honor. I kind of lost it.

After sobbing into my keyboard for hours, I found some photos and sent them off and asked what had happened. Not many details, but she was hosting a wake of her own for Justin at 611 the very next day and I attended and saw all the old crowd and told all the old stories and we all cried quite a bit. It was a bittersweet, sad mess of an affair.

But what about Justin? He was such an amazing person. I sat at his bar for years. I saw him every Friday. It’s absurd to try and actually explain what a warm, honest and beautiful person he was. It’s also odd to say that you truly love somebody that you hadn’t seen in over a year—or only ever saw once a week previously at his workplace. But you couldn’t not love Justin. That’s just how it worked with him. But I’m not going to try to describe how great he was to people who didn’t actually know him—but if you did know him you completely understand. In the end, we had a few dinners together, saw a few live shows together, but mostly it was just hanging out at his bar at 611 that made the difference for me. He was a weekly respite from it all. He was somebody to look forward to.

Here’s my advice to everybody: Stop making those empty plans. Either make the plans or move on. But if you really want to spend time with somebody, do it. There’s only so much time left. Spend it with the people who make a difference in your life. Another thing, if you ever suspect your friends are suffering under the weight of the world, make that effort. Answer that phone call. Drive across town. Do what it takes. And finally, you don’t get to take your own life. As bad as it gets, you just don’t get to do that. As Louis C.K. said once: “It isn’t YOUR life. It’s something you PARTICIPATE in.” I was never quite sure I bought into this idea before, but man, I sure do now. I just wonder what conversation—what notion—could have made all the difference for Justin.

Justin, you were amazing. You were brilliant. You made an impression on every person you met. You mattered. I will miss you more than I could have ever imagined because I couldn’t ever imagine this sad scenario. I guess I always assumed we would eventually set a proper date and get some of that Kenyan Safari food whatever the hell it was. I guess I just waited too damn long. I’m so sorry I did.

See you in the next one brother.

Was It Real?

I watched a lot of television as a kid. A lot. For some reason I was even allowed to have a 12 inch black & white TV in my bedroom from time to time. Around the age of seven, I started seeing previews for a new show called The Six Million Dollar Man and I could barely contain my excitement. This show looked amazing. The premier episode seemed like more of an event than a show, and I was so ready to be a part of it all. On the day of the pilot episode, I made a giant bowl of cereal and sat myself down in front of the TV fifteen minutes early and waited for the magic to begin. Just as I got comfortable, my mom and dad walked into my room and asked me to join them in the living room for something very important. Important? What could be more important than a man barely alive that needs to be rebuilt with bionics? Better, stronger, and faster? I put down the cereal bowl in a huff and followed them into the living room.

"Geoff, your mom and I are getting a divorce. I’m going to live somewhere else now, but we’re all going stay friends."

"Okay." I said, rushing back to the TV just in time to catch the opening credits where Steve Austin’s aircraft crashes into the desert. The show was amazing. I watched every single episode that followed it—even the Lindsay Wagner stuff.

The strange thing is, I have no memory of Dad leaving the house. It never felt like anything bad ever happened. It just happened—probably a few days or weeks later—I really have no idea. It hardly seems real. But I remember that particular night like it was yesterday. And Dad was right, we all got to be friends.

Since mom had a full-time job I quickly became a latch-key kid and the television became kind of like a buddy. I had lots of real friends, and we all spent lots of time outside riding bikes and building forts and all that good unsupervised stuff childhood is famous for, but right after school I always had some time to myself at home. And during that time it was all Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island and Star Trek reruns. I can still sing the theme songs to both Petticoat Junction and Love Boat without really trying.

Some of my more vivid memories involve experiencing televised events with my (newly single) mom on the couch after doing my homework. Back then, watching television seemed like much more of a collective, societal event—it always seemed like everybody was watching the same thing at the same time—no cable, no DVR, nothing on demand. You actually had to tune in. And we often did. Together we watched Michael Jackson’s first moonwalk on the Grammy Awards, Mary Lou Retton getting a perfect 10 at the Los Angeles Olympics, and we were both shocked to discover that it was the sister-in-law who shot J.R. (spoiler alert). Granted, perhaps Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk was not quite as important as Neal Armstrong’s in the grande scheme of televised events, but to me, it was pure magic.

But, of all the shows we watched together I think it was Miami Vice that had the biggest impact on me. Miami Vice changed television and it changed me. I was already in high school when the pilot came out, but that didn’t stop me from staying home on Friday nights with my mom to watch Crocket & Tubbs battle the evil drug lords of Dade County. This was an entirely new genre. It was really the first television show to introduce style as substance. And Michael Mann did it brilliantly. Before Miami Vice, television was just weak plots with one-dimesional characters involved in gunfights where nobody ever died. Mann introduced pop music and art direction. Consequence and grit—polished grit mind you—but it was still grit. Miami grit. Shit was going down. And it seems hard to imagine now, but nothing like this existed at all before Miami Vice arrived on the small screen in 1984. Michael Mann changed television.

My favorite scene—and what is one of the greatest scenes in all of television—occurred during the pilot. This was Michael Mann showing the world what this whole thing was going to be about. Our two heroes, undercover vice cops Crockett & Tubbs, are speeding through Miami in a black Ferrari Daytona as the Phil Collins song “In The Air Tonight” begins to play. The song starts with a simple synth drum and bit of guitar reverb—but overall it’s very sparse. Throughout the first part of the scene there is no ambient sound at all, just the music. It is entirely quiet. The car is filmed from various angles and the camera keeps coming back to the streetlights reflected off the Ferrari’s hood as the road speeds by. Crockett & Tubbs look angry and tired—but determined. They drive on, obviously heading to some sort of ultimate standoff.

Enter Michael Mann’s genius: Tubbs, in the passenger seat, picks up a sawed-off shotgun and begins loading shells into it. While the sound of the car is still completely mute, the sound of the shells—thunk…thunk—are crystal clear. (So great!) He finally closes the gun with a loud clack as Phil Collins begins to sing. The song is still fairly subdued and a synthesizer quietly creeps in alongside Phil. Then Sonny decides he has time to make a phone call and pulls up to a pay phone below a giant pink and teal neon sign for Bennay’s Cafe. (So eighties!) He calls his ex-wife and asks her a question: “It was real wasn’t it?” He’s referring to everything they had together before the breakup because he knows he is going in deep now, he might not see her or the kid for a long time—if ever. She says yes. It was real, and asks what’s wrong. Nothing. He gets back into the car and speeds off at the exact moment that Phil Collins’ synth drums really kick in—you know the part. (It gives me chills every time.) This scene introduced the beginning of a new kind of television. Television that would blend music and fashion with action and style. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen on that 20 inch box in all of my 15 years.

I watched every episode after. I began to wear teal sport coats made from linen. I wore topsiders with no socks. Wayfarer sunglasses. The show had an effect on me. Eventually, after a few seasons, the term “Miami Vice” itself became a pejorative to describe questionable fashion choices and I soon traded in my pastels for black. But it was a good run while it lasted. I have no regrets.

Memory is a funny thing. I had carried a vivid memory of that scene in my head for nearly two decades before I ever saw it again. It was always with me and I would describe it during various (drunken) conversations with friends in bars or at parties. "The greatest scene in the history of television!" I would proclaim… But in my mind I always thought Sonny had said: “Was it real?” in the phone booth. Once YouTube showed up I finally got to see the clip again and discovered that he actually said "It was real, wasn’t it?" Close enough. I suppose most of the things I remember are real in varying degrees.

Watch the scene here. There are a few moments of footage before and after the scene I’m referring to. When the music starts you’ll know.

If you are interested, Miami Vice is available on Netflix streaming. I’m well into season two. Television will never be the same.

Street Photography in Thailand and The Fuji X100

Before leaving for my annual trip to Thailand this year, I made a decision to leave my Pro Nikon DSLR at home, and instead, bring with me a camera I had only owned for a couple of days: The Fuji X100 Rangefinder. I had been eyeing this camera for over a year, and yes, it has massive retro appeal. But more importantly, it has excellent retro function. Specifically: knobs and dials. I love knobs and dials. Knobs and dials are what make cameras easy to use. I’ve owned several (expensive) small cameras before and they all ended up gathering dust on the shelf for one specific reason: lack of knobs and dials. There is nothing more frustrating to a photographer than having to wade through an impossible menu system to simply change aperture. Granted, these cameras were designed as point and shoot—and I guess they work just fine for that. But if you really want to control your shot, they all fail miserably. And, since I can’t afford a Leica, I was always stuck lugging around my five pounds of Nikon and a bag of lenses. Not a real problem mind you, but I longed for something different. The Nikon always made it feel like I was working.

Then came this Fuji X100. Rangefinder style and function coupled with an excellent digital backbone. It seemed perfect. And it is. It’s a really great camera—perfect for street/travel photography. It’s small and it stays out of the way—even while hanging around your neck. And it takes stunning photos. And those knobs! That said, it’s not an easy camera to use. You really have to have a solid understanding of photography to get good photos out of it. It’s basically a manual camera, though it works in aperture priority or shutter priority just fine. But it’s quirky as hell. Though, once you get it dialed in, you can really have fun with it. I read the manual on the plane ride over, and I should probably read it again to fill in some gaps. But here’s what I shot over a two week stay in Thailand.

The camera itself has really changed how I typically approach photography. I’ve never been much of a street photographer, but I now fully appreciate the appeal of it. Small camera, inconspicuous, waiting for moments. Staying slightly ahead of certain subjects, hiding in doorways, shooting from the hip. So much fun! The camera itself got a fair amount of attention too, and my favorite comment was from an Englishman I was hanging out with who asked: Is that a proper camera?

I’ll still use the Nikon for all my pro stuff. But when I feel like wandering around aimlessly with a camera, the X100 will be around my neck. I even found a used old-timey strap for $5 before I left town.

Check out the Thailand photos on Flickr.

Some Stuff I Wrote in 1996 While Living in Ayutthaya, Thailand

At one point, while living in Thailand nearly 20 years ago, I decided I needed to start writing some poetry. I’m not sure if it was because I was was living in a one-room apartment with no phone, television or computer to distract me, or if it was because I was drinking a lot of malt liquor and reading Bukowski. In any case, for two straight weeks I churned out clumsy prose like a madman. I never again tried to write poetry, and that is just fine by me. Here are a few unedited leftovers from that time. Your mileage may vary.


The Noodle Girl

The old, fat, convicted child molester teacher sat down across from me at a roadside noodle house.

“You know, Geoff,” he said. “Every time I make a date with these Thai girls I always get stood up.”
“Well, that’s the Thais for ya.” I said.

The noodle girl waited for him to order. He ordered in English. She looked at me. I translated.

“You know Geoff, whenever they wash my clothes they always lose my slacks. I tell ’em: HOW AM I GONNA TEACH ENGLISH IF I DON’T HAVE ANY SLACKS?”
“Well, that’s the Thais for ya.” I said.

The old, fat, convicted child molester teacher lit a cigarette and shook his head. I couldn’t quite understand what he was doing here. Teaching english to small children. He collected his styrofoam noodle containers and left. I finished my beer.

Two months later the old, fat, convicted child molester teacher married the noodle girl.

Well, that’s the Thais for ya.


Cause and Effect

The english teacher from California called us snobs because we didn’t hang out with the other foreigners. Then he talked some bullshit beer philosophy.

“Can there be effect without cause?” He pondered.

We yawned, paid our bill and went bowling. Verbal trickery and drunken paradox don’t hold a candle to a good game of ten pin.


The Cows

We had walked for almost an hour and we finally saw lights ahead. And a big Coke sign. Whenever we saw a Coke sign we knew civilization was close at hand. Restaurants began to appear, bars, things were looking up. This one bar we passed had a girl in a pink miniskirt singing songs inside a giant fishbowl with little plastic fish hanging from string. We took a turn down a dark alley and came out on another street.

“OH SHIT!” I yelled.
“What?” Dave said.

“Oh my god, you’re right. Cows!” The road was full of cows. Drivers were slamming on their breaks trying to avoid smashing into the cows. We needed to get across that street. Dave started walking.

“What the hell are you doing?”
“Crossing the street.”
“But the cows!”
"What? They don’t charge do they?”
“I don’t know? They got horns!”

We made it across. Sat down. Ordered a bottle of Mekong.


Loy Gratong

It was one of those wacky Thai holidays where everyone throws bombs at each other. A group of about 15 guys sat in a circle across the street from me and passed around a bottle of Mekong. They seemed nice enough.

They threw a bomb at me.

It exploded under a car. Jim ran out of the bar and asked what was happening. I told her the guys across the street threw a bomb at me. She yelled at them in Thai. I assumed she told them not to throw any more bombs at the farang. I couldn’t really blame them. I’m a big white guy in Thailand on a bomb-throwing holiday. What did I expect?

They laughed at Jim and threw another bomb.

This bomb rolled into the street in front of Jim’s bar and exploded. Ong came out this time and gave them a stare only a former gangster turned humble, beer swilling artist can give.

It was all twisted and mean.

He got on the phone. Made a call. Then disappeared behind the bar came back with a hatchet.

I ordered a beer.

Soon the gangsters showed up. They rode Harleys. I knew them all. We had shared beers before. But now they seemed different. Menacing.

They ordered beers and started loading their 9mm clips with tiny bullets. I took a long drink of beer and started to sweat. I looked outside and the guys across the street were pacing back and forth. One guy had a samurai sword.(!)

I sat in the corner and watched my lovable Thai friends transform themselves into axe-wielding hooligans. They laughed quietly and drank several more beers each. Then, they all stood up and turned to go outside. Here comes the killing.

Before I could panic and run out the back door and into the Chao Phraya River, the cops showed up. The cops and the gangsters all had a good laugh together. They were obviously pals. The guys from across the street were rounded up and sent off to jail.

I caught a tuk tuk home and sat down and drank two large bottles of malt liquor.

Sean Crane

This post was originally created in 2004 and then lost to a server crash on my old blog several years later. The phantom post continues to bring a lot of traffic to so I thought I’d revive it from an old database backup and post it here. It’s a sad post, but those comments need to be out there. Great stuff.

When I first met Sean back in 1988 or so, he had just recovered from a serious motorcycle crash involving police and a high-speed chase. He was also trying to date my girlfriend. We immediately hit it off. About a year later we were living together on Fulton and 44th in San Francisco. For the most part it was a 24 hour-a-day party, but the times I remember most were just us sharing a beer on a Wednesday night in our living room talking about life and trying to figure it all out. I wasn’t even 21.

There’s a lot of people out there who claim to have No Fear but in Sean’s case, it was all too true. In everything he did: motorcycles, cars, partying, fighting with lawyers in line at the courthouse while delivering packages, he did it balls-out. He really was fearless. But at the same time he was humble and had a huge heart. He would help any of his friends without question at any time.

I saw him briefly in 1998 when I got back from Thailand, but for the most part we have been out of touch. I just assumed sooner or later we would cross paths, share a beer, and catch up. I guess I won’t get that chance. Sean was killed on Sunday in a motorcycle accident. All cliché aside, he died doing what he loved best. Riding bikes. 

Sean: I’ve never met anyone with a lust for life as big as yours, see you in the next one pal.

Update: I was trying to find information on what happened to Sean and ran across a thread on There were some kind words there. The thread was soon flamed and then later removed. If anybody wants to leave any comments about Sean, his life, or how he passed please leave a comment on this post and I’ll keep it up on this site permanently.

Thanks, G.

Comments left on this post back in 2004:

From Phoebe:

This is something Sean wrote about himself. When I read it again, I really felt that these words captured what was truly most important to him.

“I often feel too many references proceed many of the introductions I’m allowed & portray an image that may exemplify my passions in life but come miserably short of defining my essence. Memories-whether they be lifelong moments or bitter losses-& more importantly the friends I’ve shared these moments with or were there to make the losses bearable are the most precious aspect of my life & how I define myself.”

Those shared moments, the wry smile and his love for his friends are just a few examples of how he was one of a kind. Oh, how we miss you!


From Julie:

Dave D passed on your message about this link. Thanks for doing this. I tried to post on CL in MC and in RR and got blocked. So this is what I was trying to write: 

We will miss you dearly Sean. We came by your house and expected to find Iggy barking, and you at the door telling him to calm down while letting us in. Instead flowers and candles were on your porch. We added our offering. No Sean. It doesn’t seem real. We had drinks to you yesterday afternoon in one of your favorite bars, and it was so sad, but every so often a smile would cross our faces when we thought of all the sweet, loving and kind things you did for all of us. Steph had the best one about the bottle of asparin and the bag of frozen peas the first time she met you, a friendly neighbor who want to make sure she was okay. You were so selfless, kind, and beautifully wild. Always supporting Dave in his creative endeavors. And being such a sweetheart to me. There aren’t a lot of people out there who are like you. You are special and I always told you that you were even when you denied it. Maybe you were ready for the next “ride,” but we wanted you around a lot longer for this “ride.” See you then. Much love, Julie


From Hugh:

And Now, We Present: A Conversation With Sean: 

SEAN: Hey! What’s happening? Good to see y..Iggy, shut up. Good to see you! C’mon in!

ME: Good to see you, too - whatcha been up to? 

SEAN: Oh man. We were totally raging last night and then I…Iggy, shut UP…had to go pick up my friend, and he was all…IGGY, SHUT UP

ME: Again!? 

SEAN: I know! And then I’m coming home on my bike and I’m pulling in and…IGGY! Do you want to go in the box? The BOX!? 

(Iggy temporarily shuts up.) 

SEAN: Anyway, it was crazy. So there’s all these fucking cops, so I had to go BACK downtown and hang out, and then I see this…IGGY!….be good….

ME: Dude. You DO realize that you yelling at him is more annoying than him barking, right?

SEAN: I know. But he thinks he’s a badass. (Puts him in tiny chihuahua wrestling hold.) Are you a badass? Are you going to be good? Do you want to go in The Box? 

(Iggy hides under chair, plots to bite my ankle.)

ME: You’re cracking me up. 

SEAN: How is _____? 

ME: She’s fine. Asking about you, as always. She’s the Jewish mother you never wanted.

SEAN: Tell her I said “hi.” 

ME: Of course. Nice skateboard! 

SEAN: You want it? 

ME: Sean, every time I point out something nice of yours, you try to give it to me.

Can I have your wallet? 

SEAN: No. You can’t have my wallet. 

ME: What are you doing tonight? 

SEAN: I need some fucking sleep. So I’m going out.

ME: Jaysus. I ought to put YOU in “The Box.” 

SEAN: I know! Thank ___ for the vitamins. They totally did the trick. 

ME: You know, there’s this cool invention, it’s called “food.” You should try it. 

SEAN: What, now I’ve got two Jewish mothers?

ME: Hey, who you callin’ “mother?”



Goddamnit I will miss him so bad. He had a heart the size of the ocean. (And a pain-in-the-butt Chihuahua.)

Aloha, my friend. 


From Gabrielle:

Sean Crane…to know him was to adore him. How could you not see him and smile? He was one of those people who bailed you out of jail at 3am, rubbed your feet and cracked self depricating jokes when you had gotten dumped and felt like shit and always had a smile on his face that would have made the Cheshire Cat jealous.

I had known Sean forever…he helped me haggle the price for my first motorcycle, a Honda Hawk 650 and he playfully referred to me while on the bike as his own “little chickenhawk” there I was trying to keep up with these guys on FZR’s and Ducati’s up the hills and around the curves of San Francisco and no matter how far behind I got Sean would loop around and wait for me. He was just THAT guy.

Sean battled his demons…speed, wine and women he use to like to say. The years of motorcycle racing (professionally) had left him with two broken collarbones that never healed right because he refused to sit still and a swarm of SFPD motorcycle cops who devoted their days to trying to “catch that fucker Crane”.

He was fearless, wild eyed and kind all at the same time. He WAS Peter Pan and while every other asshole with a bike acted like they were never going to grow up, that attitude on Sean was somehow charming. Even my mother loved him.

The last time I saw him we bumped into each other about 3 months ago in front of Amoeba. He introduced me to his new buddy (a Chihuahua named “Iggy Pop”) and we hugged for a long time. We had both lost a lot of friends over the years and he joked that everyone was “dead, in jail or in LA”. I invited him down to LA to visit us all and he said he would. As he hugged I told him to slow it down….as he walked away with a big old grin said “slow down? Never kiddo”

I am so glad he was a donor because someone will get his big, beautiful heart. If they only knew how lucky they are…

I miss you my friend but we should all learn to live the way you did, love with the kind of abandon you shared and be the sweet best buddy you were. May you rest now and know how loved you were…ride and let your wings unfurl…


From Ermalee (a.k.a. Beast):

i’ll always remember the great times we had. i will always remember the rides of my life. i will always remember dancing with you. i will always remember your smile. i will always remember your heart and your soul. i will always remember how you brought so many people together. i wish i could have stopped crying last night at your memorial to express these words. as i stood up there all i could see were all these memories and all our good friends. i can’ t believe your gone. you will be missed by everyone. you touched so many lives. you wanted to give me the world but i was too young to accept. i’ll always remember our time together. i will always remember how we loved each other and how we remained friends till the end. 



From Mary:

I have a great memory of Sean…

It was a couple of years ago at Zeitgeist. Drinks and laughter were shared; the clock approached 2; plans were made to meet at Ken’s. Leaving, we realized the cops had decided to ticket all of the bikes on the sidewalk. We were standing outside half-assedly voicing our disaproval when a motorcyclist doing a wheelie roared up Duboce right in front of the cops as if to say “HA HA You Fuckers!”

Go, Sean, Go! The cops sped off to make a feeble attempt at catching him and we had a great time watching the cat and mouse game. The cops eventually had to let him go; they had nothing on Sean. Feelings were high as we cheered him on. It felt like the good ol’ days, the Lightning Express days, the days that stories are made of.

I’m not sorry to say that was the last time I saw Sean. I think it’s a pretty good way to remember him.


From Mamasa:

Barely awake, eyes not working yet, the kids still in PJ’s and chaos reigning, the phone rings and I can’t make out the caller ID.


Sean Crane dead. Wow.

Now as the Monday morning chaos continues I am glued to this machine reading, searching. So many thoughts, memories running around my brain.

The last time I saw Sean… If not for Sean… so many things.

I remember Sean stoping to watch me as I struggled to keep up on my 250 on those first late night rides through the streets of SF. Later he told me it was in amazement that I was still there. Sean was one of the first to treat me like “one of the guys” as I forced myself into what was still a guys realm. 

We grew to be friends, then roommates. Living with Sean I was witness to many sides of him. His big heart not the least.

Over 10 years ago I bid SF farewell and headed to South Carolina to grow a family. I went from “Mom” to all of them to “Mommy.”

I am sorry to hear that you have left us Sean. I wish I could write all my memories down. I am sorry you will never meet my children. I will never get to hear you laugh. You won’t be around to share memories. Even if I would never have seen you again, you were there, somewhere. Now you are somewhere else. Good bye old roomie. May your next ride bring you peace.


From Rose:

Feels a lot like when Chris Crew died. 

Do bikers have gods? Are Chris and Sean in a new Pantheon? We can only hope heaven has a city tour.

Sean had all the talent but none of the prima donna attitude. I ran into him at Zeitgeist a couple months back. I hadn’t seen him in probably 10 years, and he still remembered my name.

I’ll always remember you Sean. 

My heart hurts.


From Kelly:

About three or four weeks ago Seanie drove his bike inside the Cala foods store on Haight Street at 1 am and did a burn-out for his good friend Scot’s birthday present. The store was filled with so much smoke that they had to shut it down for a few hours. He left a big, black hole in the tiles. The next day he went in and apologized and left his Cala club card for an ID. Scot was going to be fired for that, but when they found out about Sean they figured that was punishment enough for anyone. They have even been giving us free flowers for Sean’s house.

I just wish we could get their security tape of the burn-out! That would be fun to watch.

Miss you wild boy.


From Jennifer:

sean, you were like a favorite stuffed animal to me. always loving, always smiling, always accepting, always willing to listen. i will miss you, but i am thankful for our friendship. i could not imagine what life would have been like without you in it.

damn!! it was too short for sure.

you live on in us all who knew and love you.



From Jess:

I met Sean about two and a half years ago.  A heart of pure platinum a smile from ear to ear and an abundance of love for anyone that went beyond what most would consider being unconditional.  He was the guy who would be in his hospital bed, get a call that a buddy of his had just been admitted to the same hospital and would roll out of his bed, hobble down the hall in agony and pop that Cheshire Cat smile of his through the door to say “hey man, heard you had a nasty spill on the track, keep your head up this is a tasty life!”.  His confidence was admirable never arrogant, his chivalry was instinctive never forced, his advice, words of comfort and wisdom were always warm and sincere and had a way to bring out a smile and the best in you in the end.  Sean had a gift with people that not many have.  It wouldn”t have mattered if he were in a wheelchair, was a burrito maker, local dry cleaner, garbage collector or worked at the corner store.  Sean had panache, charisma and a zest that nobody else possessed but him and that”s what made him that one in a million.  Yes I will miss him and yes it sucks he is gone but I don”t regret his loss more than I regret the fact that there is a whole world out there that will never know the beauty of Sean, that smile and those eyes, a world that is stripped from the privilege of knowing such a extraordinary man.


From Megan:

Sean taught me how to drive.  I always say to people who comment on my parking and driving skills “The reason I’ve never been in an accident, knock on wood, is because this guy Sean leant me his car and made sure I knew how to drive it so I could get him out of jail or pick him up if he laid down his bike.  Or at least, that was the joke.  He wanted to be sure I knew what I was doing.” This was what, in 1986?  Maybe it was 1987. He made me slam on the brakes in ice, in gravel, come out of spins, and parallel park in spots that seemed the size of a piece of toast. My mother and father were terrified that I was bailing this ‘older boy’ out of jail. I was just thinking that after the new year I would see if he wanted to grab a beer and grin stupidly at each other.

I haven’t seen him for a number of years…I just moved to the Bay Area.  (nor have I seen Geoff here at LookatLao since the 90’s)  I wanted to tell Sean that he opened my eyes to a lot of things when I was a teenager living in a small town and put the bike lust in me. That his affect on my life was not just about time and place and fun and flirtations, but that there was a piece of me that had his name on it.  I wanted to let him know that when I lived in L.A. I would see certain places and think of him, his family, and smile.  That I would always look at every fully leathered up biker, anywhere in the world, and wonder if it was him. So mostly, I just wanted to say….aw, crap.

What Shatner Has Taught Me (About Irony And Other Stuff)

Over the past ten years or so I’ve really begun to dislike irony—or more directly: the pursuit of ironic moments as a pastime. Back when I had a job at a design firm, these ironic moments would manifest themselves as Ugly Christmas Sweater Parties or 80’s Theme Nights. As soon as everyone was in the same room wearing the same ironic attire the whole event would become immediately tiresome for me. I just couldn’t keep up the act for very long. (Perhaps my mutual dislike for playing “dress-up” is a factor here, but that’s probably a different rant.)

But as it were, I could never bring myself to enjoy these scripted get-togethers. I would always say: Can’t we just have a party? Serve drinks? Have conversations? Why do we need to pretend to enjoy something we don’t even really like all that much? Soon enough I was branded the workplace curmudgeon. The old grump. I’d still get invited to the ugly sweater parties, but my coworkers kind of knew I wouldn’t show up. To me, it all seemed like too much effort, when all I really wanted to do was have a drink and talk with my pals.

During that same time I had friends who loved to plan elaborate ironic evenings out. On a given Friday they might rent a limousine and spend the entire evening seeking out dive restaurants that offered spicy chicken wings so they could order boxes of them to eat while cruising through the city all night. They might even open the sunroof and begin cheering: “Chicken wings! We’re eating spicy chicken wings! In a limo! Woooo!”

Other friends would join adult kickball leagues or take up ironic hobbies like collecting superhero lunch boxes or cultivating fanciful mustaches. Perhaps it’s not even irony at play here—but more of a desire to simply keep one foot firmly inside the boundary of childhood forever—and I can appreciate that at some level. I really can. But, I still can’t seem to detach myself from the disingenuousness of it all. I do recognize the initial appeal, but I just can’t fathom enduring the followthrough. How does one keep the enthusiasm going? At what point are you really just pretending to have fun? (Maybe that’s the most ironic part after all.)

The musician Beck has made a career out of a peculiar style of ironic music. And it’s good stuff, I like most all of it. But, the one time Beck decided to channel Nick Drake and make a straight, un-ironic folk album, people weren’t so certain what to think. Sure, this was on the heels of 9/11 when irony had supposedly died, but this is Beck—he break-dances in ernest. I actually liked his album Sea Change very much—and I still play it often—but it took me a few listens to figure out that he was being sincere for once. Perhaps this is the danger of living a life of carefully crafted artifice.

All of this brings me to William Shatner. For years, William Shatner has been a very complex, highly ironic version of himself. It’s nearly impossible to discern the line between Ironic William Shatner & Genuine William Shatner. The seminal example of this blurring of the sardonic and the sincere is the musical spoken word album he released in 1968: The Transformed Man. He’s been channeling this debut album and its accompanying persona for a very long time. The first “hit” off the album was “Tambourine Man”, and the song quite possibly had sincere intentions—even though people mistook it for something of a joke. But against all odds, this Shakespearian take on a contemporary pop song eventually became a camp classic. Shatner went on to explain:

…yes, in the beginning it bothered me that people singled it out and poked fun at it. They didn’t know what I was doing. The album The Transformed Man is much more extensive than that song. But since people only heard that song, I went along with the joke.”

So, Shatner understood early on the ironic value of what he was doing, and he played to it for years to come. He even went on to parody himself in the 90s by repopularizing the Shatner spoken word schtick on award shows and then later still on commercials. More recently he did readings of Sarah Palin’s Twitter account in the now classic Shatner spoken word style on an episode of Conan O’Brien. Shatner essentially embraced the character he had long become.

Back in the 90s I would have loved every single minute of this seemingly meta-ironic persona Shatner continues to play. In the 90s I loved irony so much that I once bought an old Jim Backus album where he joyfully sang songs about high society cocktail parties while obviously half-drunk. I played this record over and over for my friends as we cackled through the chorus: “We’re having such a good time!” Backus would sing. “More champagne!” We drank it up. Thurston Howell The Third playing loungy cocktail songs while drunk on actual cocktails. It was perfect for the ironic lifestyles we were fashioning for ourselves. A perfect soundtrack for living a particular version of a real life.

But now, in my middle age, with a certain distaste for costumes and thematic get-togethers, I have essentially dismissed characters like Shatner as perpetual jokes with tiresome punchlines. Don’t get me wrong—I’ve always admired Shatner the actor—just not the ironic poet he had become.

Until now.

I recently discovered an album called Has Been that Shatner released in 2004 with Ben Folds. (Not exactly sure why it took me this long to find it.) On Has Been he’s again playing the role of Shatner The Poet, but I’m now convinced that this has never been a “role” at all. This is the Real Shatner. It always has been the real Shatner. And it’s genius! I genuinely like this album for what it is. The writing is great. The music from Folds is great. The guest musicians and singers are also great. And, Shatner is so, so great! This is actually a wonderful album.

I’m now persuaded that this whole time—since 1968, the year I was born—William Shatner has been staying true to his craft. Shatner The Poet is the genuine article. He rode the long wave of irony because it was an opportunity. It was a means to an end. But it’s been Shatner all along. On Has Been Shatner is impassioned. He’s funny. Affected. Almost world-weary at times. And I love him for it. William Shatner has finally won me over.

Listen to this track from Has Been called It Hasn’t Happened Yet. And don’t laugh it off as another ironic two-step. Listen to Shatner. He’s trying to tell you something—and it’s genuine.

In the meantime, I’m off to play some dodgeball. (Not really.)