Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Personal (page 7 of 7)

What am I listening to these days?

I’ve had my iPod Nano for a little over a year now and for someone who enjoys music as much as I do, my trusty little Nano has made listening to music a more pleasurable experience.

Although I am still old school when it comes to music—I still prefer vinyl over CDs and Mp3 files—make no mistake about it, if you have an iPod and the accompanying iTunes software, the music you enjoy when you are on-the-go is more accessible.

Back in the days of a Walkman, you were limited to 60, 90, or 120 minutes of music that you could play (unless you wanted to carry a couple cassettes with you). Still, there was an art to recording a compilation tape as Rob, played by John Cusack in one of my favorite movies High Fidelity so eloquently elucidated:

“A good compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to hold the attention. Then you have to take it up a notch, but not blow your wad, so maybe cool it off a notch, and you can’t put the same artist twice on the tape, except if some subtle point or lesson or theme involved, and even then not the two of them in a row.…”

Here’s something to think about. You know how the music industry is cracking down on all this illegal file sharing and downloading of music? Well, what about the days when people made tapes for their friends? Isn’t that kind of the same thing? You know, someone would go out and buy a couple of records, make some compilation tapes and give the tapes to their friends. Technically it was illegal, but you never heard of anyone getting busted for making a tape for a friend.

Moreover, if I heard some certain song or band on a compilation tape, I would usually go out and buy that album, so in a way what might seem illegal is also a kind of advertising.

These days though, it’s so much easier to load your iPod with whatever tunes that define you and rock your world. You can still have your compilations or if you are like me, I prefer the shuffle mode so there is a bit of randomness to my musical tastes. I like to be surprised.

Nonetheless, there are some songs and artists, which are in heavy rotation on my Nano. At the top of my playlist and soundtrack for my life these days is Johnny Thunders.

When I was in Shinjuku with Kenny this past January, he took me to some of his favorite record stores. At one of them I bought a Johnny Thunders’ CD Jet Boy: The Anthology. I have become a big fan of Johnny Thunders ever since Kenny and I started hanging out last year and he turned me onto a lot of Thunders’ music. What I didn’t know at the time was that Kenny and Johnny were good friends. Turns out that when Thunders came to Japan to play concerts in the late 80s he used to hang out with Kenny.

So now, most of the tracks from this CD like “Born to Lose”, “Chinese Rocks”, “One Track Mind”, “Blame it on Mom”, “MIA”, and “Little Bit of Whore” get lots of play on my Nano.

One of my favorite songs though (which is an acoustic version on this CD) is “You Can’t put your Arms Around a Memory”:

It doesn’t pay to try,
All the smart boys know why,
It doesn’t mean I didn’t try,
I just never know why.
Feel so cold and all alone,
Cause baby, you’re not at home.
And when I’m home
Big deal, I’m still alone.
Feel so restless, I am,
Beat my head against a pole
Try to knock some sense,
down in my bones.
And even though they don’t show,
The scars aren’t so old
And when they go,
They let you know
You can’t put your arms around a memory
You can’t put your arms around a memory
You can’t put your arms around a memory
Don’t try, don’t try.

Just posting the lyrics does not do the song any justice. It is a really nice song, one of Johnny’s better ones he had done after he had gone solo after the Heartbreakers.

Old School

When Kenny and I were hanging out in Japan talking about tattoos and listening to Johnny Thunders, we always seemed to get on the topic of being “old school.”

We both grew up during the same era and even though we might have lived halfway around the world from each other, we have come to share many of the same passions in life especially music and tattoos. Although we are definitely “old school” with these same passions and to an extent our thinking, it is what has strengthened our friendship. We are like two long-lost brothers who finally found each other.

I guess when it comes to “old school” I’ve got most of the bases covered with my faded Levi’s, black high-top Converse, a black T-shirt, and leather jacket, classic rock and roll (punk and new wave from the 70s and early 80s) and of course traditional tattoo stylings. Aside from all the recent ink that I have gotten, this lifestyle has always been me ever since the early 80s. There have been a few modifications and alterations, but I am old school through and through.

It was really cool when Kenny and I went to Club Doctor in Shinjuku last month and saw a lot of young kids keeping a lot of these old school traditions alive with the way they dressed and grooving on the rockabilly stylings of Hot Rod Café, Rosy Cat Baby, and the Shell Rockets—the kind of music that we used to listen to from bands like The Stray Cats, The Cramps, and The Rockats. Perhaps, like most young people around the world, for some of them it is just a fad that they will probably ditch when something else better comes along. On the other hand, there will be some that will keep the old school fire burning brightly.

So yeah, Kenny and I are old school and proud of it. Maybe some might think we are “old school dinosaurs” but we are far from being extinct.

One year later

Has it really been one year since Jimmy Wong’s 1st World Tattoo Arts Festival and Exhibition?

So much has happened in my life since I flew to Bangkok for that very special weekend. A year ago I was on this unbelievable high when I attended that convention, got a tattoo from Horiken from Yokohama, and then ended up winning the “Best Japanese-style tattoo” contest. I was interviewed by writers from tattoo magazines around the world as well as a Reuters video crew which later ended up on the BBC. It was also the weekend I met Kenny Shangrila and now we are the best of friends.

When I flew back to Korea I was probably one of the first people to write about the convention on my blog.

My only regret is that I did not do more with getting the word out about the convention and writing more about it. Yeah, I kind of screwed that one up.

Three weeks after the convention I was back in Thailand again for a month and then, a few weeks after I returned to Korea, that’s when the shit hit the fan and I started to prepare to leave.

And here I am a year later, getting ready to return to Korea.

I am not sure if there is going to be another Jimmy Wong tattoo convention this year. That’s too bad. It would be so cool to attend again. Last year’s convention was so much fun and it definitely changed my life.

What has fate got to do with it?

Last night while Kenny and I were having ramen in this small shop in Kofu, I mentioned that this coming Saturday will be exactly one year that we first met at Jimmy Wong’s Tattoo Convention last February.

“You know Kenny, if I hadn’t gone to the convention I would have never met you,” I said, “and I wouldn’t be hanging out with you now in Kofu.”

It’s funny how fate can change the course of a person’s life: a chance encounter at a tattoo convention in Bangkok and now Kenny and I are the best of friends. Of course, Kenny helped out the agents of fate by wearing a CBGB’s T-shirt the first day I met him. Who knows, if he hadn’t worn that T-shirt I might not have struck up a conversation with him about the Ramones and other bands from that era.

A Literary Conundrum

“When are you going to write your book?”


“When are you going to write a book about your experiences in Korea?”

Yeah, right. I’ll pick a number and stand in line with every other English teacher who’s set foot in this country and thought they could write a book about their experiences in The Land of the Morning Calm. Maybe what I ought to write about is how this whole “land of the morning calm” pipe dream doesn’t live up to all the hype when you’ve got some clown in a truck with a sound system yelling fruit at 8:00 in the morning when you are trying to sleep off a night of drinking and debauchery.

Hmm…a book about Korea? Yeah, I have thought about it from time to time. Maybe some people would want to read about Korea. Except, I have always been suspect of one of these Expat cum English teacher literary excursions. Not that someone who spends their days in some classroom teaching students not to use “frankly speaking” for the umpteenth time could pull it off. After all, we are the ones who have immersed ourselves the deepest in the culture and get a pretty good, up close and personal glimpse into daily life here.

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