Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we celebrating U.S. troop pullouts from our cities?

Special kinda sorta free edition!

10) Arranging naked detainees to spell out "FREEDOM."

9) Firing guns jubilantly in the air, then aiming them at attacking predator drone that's mistaken us for insurgents.

8) Bidding U.S. Army bon voyage as they head toward Iranian border.

7) Grabbing random Iraqi woman to kiss in the street, before being stoned to death by outraged mob.

6) Moving ahead of Afghanistan in the U.S.-Occupied Nations Power Poll.

5) Setting off Improvised Explosive Fireworks.

4) Holding a Not Quite Independence Day Sale at Bagdad Mernard's (where we're on a jihad—to save you big money!)

3) Attending Beach Boys concert in Kirkuk.

2) Having a neighborhood barbeque and talking about how we should get back to focusing our hatred on the Zionists.

1) Celebrating very quietly inside where it's safe.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

What a weird week. Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, and Michael all going in the same week? And mixed in, Iran has a near-revolt and a state governor just skips town for a few days to go end things with his Argentinean mistress. It's a good thing it's been sunny here, because if it was cloudy I'd say there was a 30% chance of raining frogs.

Jackson's death is one of those mixed bag situations, because even if you believe he was innocent of child molestation, he certainly had a very bizarre relationship with children. And most of his problems were of his own making. At the same time, the guy was predestined to be weird. His father is Zeus in the pantheon of Asshole Showbiz Parents, which certainly got him off on the wrong foot. He had the rare occurrence of being a huge child star and then having an adult career that dwarfed that stardom. A lot of child stars, if they avoid flaming out completely, often get a chance to sit back, come to grips with that fame, and make sense of it. Jackson's career got shot out of a cannon into a rocket that landed inside a starship taking off for another galaxy. He achieved a level of fame where even Jesus might go, "Hey, you guys are kind of freaking me out right now."

That story trumped the weirdest political scandal I've ever seen: Where in the World Is Governor Mark Sanford? Most political sex scandals, while sordid or sad, are not necessarily surprising. Let's face it, Clinton always looked like a horndog, and that's also a dominant gene in the Kennedy family. Meanwhile, with your Larry Craigs and David Vitters, it's always the guys yelling the loudest about family values who are reaching under the stall for a handy or paying someone to diaper them. However, they almost always either use their power for sex or keep their sexual escapades secret to preserve their power. Sanford walked off the job like he was a busboy quitting his night shift at Denny's instead of a 2012 presidential hopeful quitting his political career, all to see his mistress in another hemisphere. It's so strange I wouldn't believe it if it was fictional, although it reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Russell Dalrymple quits his NBC job to join Greenpeace in order to impress Elaine.

Next thing you know, conservatives who previously demonized all Muslims as the enemy or joked about bombing Iran will be saying things like, "We're all Neda now." Oh, wait....

Okay music, take me away....

1) "The E Street Shuffle," Bruce Springsteen. I don't usually associate The Boss with "funky," but the burbling keyboards and jazzy horns make this song born to groove.

2) "Judy Is a Punk," The Ramones. No other band ever did more with less.

3) "Long Distance Runaround," Red House Painters. When Mark Kozalek does a cover, he really makes the song his own. This version is about as distant from the original Yes version as you can get without rapping or making it a country song. Couldn't find a video or audio, which is a shame.

4) "Gone for Good," The Shins. I used to hate country music, because like most people, I associated all country music with the Nashville sound, the ten-gallon, platinum blonde, sprayed bangs, consider-us-for-your-next-truck commercial sound that's a flatbed version of Starship. Then I heard Uncle Tupelo, who showed hipster doofuses like me that real country music has heart and feeling and is as American as dust bowls, illegal stills, and coal mining. Because of that, I can enjoy this fine slice of twangy Shins, with a steel guitar and lonesome lyrics that will make the hardest of hearts a little achy and/or breaky.

5) "Svo Hljótt," Sigur Rós. It never ceases to amaze me how much Sigur Rós move me, even though I have no idea what they are singing about. For all I know, they're singing, "Hey fatty dickface, you smell like a baboon's butt," but because they wrap it in Icelandic and reverbed guitars, I'm sitting here gushing about how beautiful it is. And let's face it, if I knew they were singing "Hey fatty dickface, you smell like a baboon's butt," I'd probably like them even more.

6) "Magic Man," Heart. They pack so much Seventies into five-and-a-half minutes: sex, sleaze, adolescent rebellion, drug use, hot guitar solos, and cheezy synths. It's like the musical of "Stuff White People Like: 1976." Speaking of which: can you imagine a time when someone makes a musical out of a blog? It will happen, but if it does, I think the musical should be really short, and borrow a bunch of ideas from other musicals, and then let the audience shout new lyrics in between songs.

7) "Pinball Wizard," The Who. The bridge between Old Who and New Who. It has the catchy spunk of the classic 60s Who singles, but with a sound that had hit the weight room on the way to becoming the buff Who of the 70s. Also a Top 10 Iconic Guitar Riff—which should be a VH1 Classic show, by the way. Sixty minutes of D-List nerds doing a capella renditions of the riffs while talking about how they used to air guitar these songs in their underwear. Tell me Judah Friedlander wouldn't leap at the opportunity to be on that. He could make a hat with each riff phonetically imprinted on it: Dum---dum---dum----dum---dum dum dum dum dumdumdumdum. Although he'd need some bigger hats.

8) "God," John Lennon. The last entertainment celebrity to get the level of death coverage that Michael Jackson will get. Definitely at the top of my Top Five Most Tragic Musical Deaths, because Lennon was still going strong and probably would have kept going strong for decades. He was one of those people who I don't think would have ever run out of creative juice or become maudlin or nostalgic in his old age.

9) "Sunshine," Alice in Chains. The least sunshiny song to ever use "sunshine" in the title or lyrics. Such a druggy and depressing album that my CD has track marks on it.

10) "End It on This," No Doubt. Talk about an album cover predicting a band's career arc: Gwen Stefani is plastered front and center, while the rest of the band are in the background. I imagine the photographer asked them, "Hey, fellas, could you move a little further back, like toward the horizon?"

11) "21st Century Breakdown," Green Day. The new album is American Idiot II: The Pretension Strikes Back, but they still rock enough that I enjoy them as long as I don't listen too closely. Which makes it a nice addition to the summer rotation.

Ah, that's better, and a pretty darn good dose of tunes, if I do say so myself. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

We Have Ways of Making You Talk, Eh?

Somewhere in Canada....

In a dark prison, a military man, COLONEL LaTRIENNE, leads a hooded, shackled prisoner down a hall.

Welcome back to Canada, you terrorist scum.

Nice to be back. I'm not much of a hot weather guy, so I'm really glad to be back in a temperate climate.

Silence! Listen, you may think you've got it easy by coming back here from Guantanamo, but you're about to learn that we Canadians are not all "please" and "thank you."

LaTrienne stops before a door and unlocks it. He pushes the prisoner into an interrogation room. Two soldiers, LEE and LIFESON, sit at a table, playing cards.

Ha, go fish!


The men drop the cards and awkwardly come to their feet and salute. LaTrienne pulls the hood off the prisoner.

Privates Lee and Lifeson, this is Farid al-Haziz.

My friends call me Fred.

Hey, Fred.

LaTRIENNE (reaching over to twist Fred's left nipple)


Men, this prisoner is a suspected terrorist, and we need to interrogate him. I want you to find out what he knows about any terrorist plans to attack Canada.

Attack Canada?

Fred, Lee, Lifeson all laugh together.

What, do they hate us for our Tim Hortons?

They laugh again, but LaTrienne twists Fred's other nipple, which silences the men.

LaTRIENNE (shoving Fred toward the privates)
Find out what he knows. Use any means necessary.

LaTrienne leaves.

Twenty minutes later, LaTrienne comes back to the door. He hears sobbing, and a voice say, "No, I don't want to talk anymore." LaTrienne smiles as he walks in. But the smile turns into a snarl when he sees Fred hugging a sobbing Lifeson.

It's okay, man, my dad was a real bastard too. Just let it out.

LaTrienne pulls them apart.

Sacrebleu! What is this, Oprah? Now get some information out of him!

LaTrienne turns to leave, but not before turning around and twisting Fred's nipples. He laughs as Fred cries out, and then leaves.

Man, what is that guy's problem?

He's from Quebec.

Thirty minutes elapse. LaTrienne returns to the room and enters. Lee and Lifeson stand by Fred at a water-filled barrel. Fred's head is under the water.

Ah ha! Now we are getting somewhere!

Fred pulls his head up, holding an apple with his teeth.

Man, Fred wins again. How can you hold your breath under water for so long?

FRED (spitting the apple out)
I had a lot of practice during my previous detention.

LaTrienne marches into the room. Fred instinctively covers his nipples.

I am going to say this one time: I have to leave for two hours. When I return, I want to know everything this man knows. If you do not extract that information...

Lee and Lifeson lean in.

Go on.

LaTrienne twists his nipple.

Owwww. Man, Fred, you're not kidding, that really hurts.

LaTRIENNE (holding up two fingers)
Two hours. Find out everything.

LaTrienne turns around and leaves. Lee and Lifeson huddle together.

How are we going to make him talk? I don't want to, you know, hurt him.

I've got an idea. They say you can catch more flies with honey...

I thought that was bears?

Just let me handle this. (He turns to Fred.) Fred, I've got a proposal for you.

The hands on the clock begin to spin. Lee, Lifeson, and Fred play "Tom Sawyer" on Rock Band, with Fred on drums. Fred flails at the end of the song and fails.

Ha, beat you. Okay, start talking.

The hands spin again. Fred kneels on the floor with a beer bong in his mouth while Lifeson pours LaBatt's into the funnel. Fred starts to chug but can't get it all down, getting beer all over his face. The three share a hearty laugh as Fred starts talking again.

The hands spin another time. The three sit at a table playing Trivial Pursuit: Canadian Edition.

Oh, I should know this. Is it Honeymoon Suite?

No, the correct answer is Glass Tiger. You owe us some more intel.

The clock hands advance and stop. LaTrienne walks back into the room. Lee and Lifeson stand over Fred, who looks exhausted and defeated.

So, were you successful?

Were we!

Excellent. Tell me everything you know.

Okay, Fred here is a Pisces. He's not supposed to eat pork but he loves back bacon, he has every single SCTV episode on tape, and under extreme pressure, he'll admit to owning every Bryan Adams record. And check this out: he's from Ottawa and it turns out we once dated the same girl during the same week.

What are the odds, eh?

LaTRIENNE (running his hand down his face in frustration)
That's what you learned? Nothing about his plans to attack Canada?

Lifeson giggles but sees LaTrienne's face and stifles it.

Yeah, he says he's not a terrorist. Oh, but he hates hockey. That's kind of weird, eh?

LaTRIENNE (thinking)
Really? Wait here.

LaTrienne leaves the room for a moment.

LIFESON (high-fiving Lee and Fred)
Nice job.

Hey, Fred, sorry we had to get a little rough on you there.

No problem, guys.

LaTrienne returns with two hockey sticks and a puck. He gives the sticks to Lee and Lifeson.

Privates, you have done a great job today. I think you can relax with a little floor hockey. You two versus Fred.

He tosses Fred the puck. As soon as Fred touches it, Lee and Lifeson are on him, checking and swatting with the sticks. Fred tries to escape but they pursue him off screen.

Ow, no, not with the stick!

LaTRIENNE (pulling a whistle from his pocket)
Just let me know when you're ready to talk, Fred.

Fred cries out in pain. As LaTrienne smiles, the puck flies in and hits LaTrienne in the face, knocking him to the floor.

LaTRIEENE (weakly)
I should have joined the Foreign Legion.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we going to balance the state budget?

10) Require retiring government workers to earn their pensions by surviving The Running Man challenge (California only).

9) Allow WIC to be only good for Cheez-Whiz, Funyuns, and baby formula.

8) Replace road maintenance crews with a couple of Roombas.

7) Reduce education expenses by replacing all text books with The Bible (Kansas only).

6) Charge $10 per throw for new Rod Blagojevich dunking tank (Illinois only).

5) Enact new "boner tax" (monitor required).

4) Shut down all government functions during July for new "State of Nature" month.

3) Double the ammunition tax during "State of Nature" month.

2) Offer lottery winners new lump meth payment in lieu of cash.

1) Let governor take unpaid leave of absence so we can get stimulus money while he's gone.

Happy Libday

It's hard to believe it's been a year already.

A lot of times when you wish really hard for something and get it, you're a little disappointed. Either the reality isn't is good as the wish or the wish doesn't happen the way you hoped. Libby has been everything I hoped for and then some.

Even though The Lovely Becky and I went through a lot to get to this point, we wouldn't change any of it, because we couldn't be happier with how things turned out.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

Having just celebrated my fifteenth wedding anniversary with The Lovely Becky (now updating her blog again), I've been thinking a lot about the good times we've had. One of Kathleen's posts triggered a memory of the best party we ever attended. It was a couple of years after we were married, when we lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan. One of our friends, P, had a really great apartment for parties, complete with a Moroccan Room, which had beads hanging in the doorway, cushions on the floor, and fez on the table in the middle of the room. P and I worked together, and one day we and some other co-workers were talking about having a party at her place. We wanted to make it a theme, and somehow we eventually settled on Bring Your Own Gimp.

We didn't expect (nor desire) people to show up in leather submissive outfits or for the party to turn into a Moroccan orgy. However, we did want to add some "atmosphere" (read: humorous weirdness) to the party by decorating with some sex toys. Specifically, we wanted to have a blow-up doll because we thought it would be funny, and with our close proximity to Times Square, it would be an easy accessory to obtain.

Or so we thought. We popped into a few adult bookstores, thinking we could drop $20 for a cheap blow-up doll. However, it appeared that the blow-up doll connoisseur had more sophisticated tastes, as the ones we found were more than $100 because they had things like vibrating motors. We tried to explain, as politely as possible, that we just wanted one for decoration, not one to marry. Finally, we found one for $40. We picked up a couple of other props, including a double-sided dildo. One of the guys, B, wanted to get a couple of ball gags, with the red ball like the ones they used in Pulp Fiction, an accessory the bookstore didn't have.

We walked around and found an S&M shop that was in the process of opening. Up to this point, we were in standard adult bookstore territory: cheap videos, mags, and the kind of adult toys you gave as gag gifts. This place was the Rolls Royce dealer for domination. Studded leather paddles, leather masks, whips, chains...displayed with safe-word seriousness. I think the clerk was amused by our deer-eyed amazement, and he helpfully showed us what the shop had in ball gags. We purchased two and returned to our regularly scheduled programming.

The other idea behind the Bring Your Own Gimp party was to dress up a little different and/or naughtier than usual. The Lovely Becky, who had long, copper-red hair at this time, wore a short black wig and a black jacket with a tasteful-yet-definitely-a-brassier bra underneath it. She looked like she could have been a sales associate at the Rolls Royce Sex Shop: professional and classy, but someone who could describe the features and benefits of a good leather paddle. She certainly did not look like the TLB everyone knew. I didn't have much in the way of naught clothes, but spiked up my hair a little and clipped an earring to my ear.

When we got to the party, the blow-up doll was hanging from the ceiling, its open mouth making a slow 360 of the room. Many of the people had not dressed up, which was disappointing, but the props were a big hit. There were a number of pictures taken with the dildo, and some more adventurous partiers even tried on the ball gags.

One of the folks at the party was Tree, a very tall marketing manager from my office. At one point, he was talking to the costumed TLB. He had seen us come in together and smooching (as young married couples do at Bring Your Own Gimp parties). However, he was sort of probing in his conversation with her, like he was verbally sweeping a minefield. Eventually, TLB mentioned something about being my wife.

"Oh my God, you're Brando's wife!" he said with surprise and relief. He had seen our wedding picture on my desk, with TLB sporting a virginal white dress and long red hair, as opposed to short black hair and come-hither jacket and bra. "I thought you were just some floozy he was with."

The party remained much more tasteful than the sex doll twirling from the ceiling, with no public hookups or key party shenanigans taking place. I had a ball gag in my mouth at one point, but that was as crazy as it got for me. After drinking into the wee hours, I left for home with The Lovely Floozy. When we talked to P the next day, she said the doll had sprung a leak and its deflated corpse had been put out to the trash.

The double-sided dildo, however, had gone missing. And not in a "ha, ha, someone took the double-sided dildo" way. It went missing in the, "Um, I think someone wanted the double-sided dildo" way. So the moral of the story is, if you're going to have sex toys at your party, make sure you lock up your didos when you're done.

1) "Yesterdays," Guns N' Roses. What I liked about these kinds of songs on Use Your Illusion was how GnR managed to channel their inner Elton John without losing their identity. Not easy to do when your last record was recorded on the Night Train.

2) "Love Buzz," Nirvana. That's what you get when you hyperventilate inside a gimp mask.

3) "Place to Be," Nick Drake. The U.P. was that place this last week. TLB and I took Libby out for a hike, soaking up the sun and the lush greens of the trees and deep blues of Lake Superior. This song sums up that feeling: sun on my face, gentle breeze blowing, and great feeling of peace and calm. Too bad I have to get out from under 12 stories of snow to get to that moment.

4) "NYC," Interpol. I miss NYC but I don't miss living there. The three years I spend there felt like living in a foreign country: exciting, exhilarating, life-changing, but never like home. If TLB and I have the money, though, we'd seriously consider retiring there. After living in the U.P., a New York winter will seem like a piece of cake, and we could find stuff to do every day. We could hop down to our local coffee place to eat bagels and read our Kindles, then hit a museum or just walk around. That's much more appealing to me than Del Boca Vista.

5) "Runaway Train," Soul Asylum. A good song that couldn't hold up under overplaying. I really liked it the first time I heard it, and then MTV and "alternative" radio tore it apart like a couple of hungry dogs.

6) "A Method, "TV on the Radio. I don't usually use "a cappella" and "awesome" in the same sentence, but I really dig this track. Just layers of vocals and some marching band drums to transfer it out of Manhattan Transfer territory. The live version is not as good, but has the added value of an amusing guy in the background going nuts on a tom tom.

7) "September Gurls," Big Star. Anyone who loves rock music should own Big Star's #1 Record/Radio City CD. Two albums of the most perfect collection of guitar-driven pop ever recorded combined on one disc. Essential (for reals, not fake All Music Guide essential).

8) "YYZ (Live)," Rush. My favorite rock instrumental of all time and, surprisingly, one of the most accessible Rush songs because Geddy doesn't sing and the song's really groovy. No, seriously, it got a funky groove to it. Stop laughing.

9) "Boys, You Won't," The Wrens. I really wish an entire Age of Middle Earth didn't pass between their album releases, even if I've gotten six years of enjoyment out of The Meadowlands.

10) "Rich Woman," Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Really, the best stuff Plant has done since In Through the Out Door. His solo stuff was okay, and if I hear The Honeydrippers after I die, I'll know I'm in hell. However, Raising Sand shows his voice in fine form and is age-appropriate without sounding aged. I hope Mick Jagger was taking notes.

11) "Please Let Me Love You," Alan Merrill. There's a wonderful serenade quality to the song and the sound, like Merrill recorded it outside of a girl's window. A charming end to a list that began with tales of sex toy shopping.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Birds and the Bees Gone Wild

In the living room of a typical suburban home, a teenage boy and girl make out on the couch. The boy's hand starts to drift southward.


Peter pulls his hand back quickly.

I'm sorry, I got a little carried away, I didn't mean to....

No, just get the light.


He reaches up and turns it off. The living room goes dark for a few moments as we hear the sounds of amorous kissing.

The door opens and Peter's parents, PAULA and HARRY step in, flicking on the light. Peter and Abby are horizontal on the couch, with Abby's blouse unbuttoned. They sit bolt upright as the parents look on.

Mom! Dad!

I can't believe what I'm seeing, in my own house, on my own couch.

Harry walks toward Peter, reaches out to him, and pulls him into a big hug.

That a boy, Pete!

PAULA (tearing up)
It's so beautiful! Oh, Petey, we're so proud.

Abby, these are my parents.

HARRY (shaking hands)
I'm Harry Longwood.

PAULA (gives Abby a hug)
And I'm Paula Pounding-Longwood. So, has our little Peter been getting you aroused?

Nice to meet...I'm sorry, what?

Aroused. (to Peter) Don't tell me you forgot everything I taught you about the erogenous zones, Petey? And what did I tell you about the importance of nipple stimulation, young man?

Son, did you put a little pressure on her mons pubis while gently stroking her....

Dad, Jesus! (to Abby) You'll have to forgive my parents, they're...adult entertainers.

You're in porn?

HARRY (sighs)
Porn sounds so dirty...

PAULA (playfully slaps his chest)
Oh, don't be so sensitive. I swear, the only thing more sensitive than my husband's testicles is his pride. We were in porn...

Exotic pictures

...but we hung up our g-strings and lube a while ago. I write marriage self-help books now.

ABBY (relieved)
Oh, really? You know, my parents are having some problems...

PAULA (goes to the bookshelf)
Say no more! Here, give them a copy of my latest book. (She hands it to Abby.)

ABBY (reading the title)
Happy Analversary: 69 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Pumping Along. Um, thanks. And what do you do now, Mr. Longwood?

I own my own business.

PETER (quickly)
He's in latex!

Petey, you make it sound so industrial. Peter's father makes his own dildos.


I prefer the term "marital aids." But yes, I model and manufacture them. "If you want it good, get a Longwood."

PAULA (to Abby)
Here, dear, let me get you one. Your parents will need it for chapters 15-26.

Two people enter the front door. One is a woman dressed in a leather uniform. She carries a whip and holds a chain attached to the collar of a man wearing a leather mask with a zipper that's closed over his mouth. Abby lets out a surprised gasp.

PETER (sighing)
Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Greenberg.

Mr. Greenberg waves and says a muffled "hello." Mrs. Greenberg walks over and hugs Peter, dragging Mr. Greenberg with her.

Peter, I didn't know you were home from school. My goodness, look at you.

Yes, and look at you. Abby, these are the Greenbergs, friends of my parents.

We interrupted Petey and Abby when we came home, if you know what I mean.

Oooohhhh. (She elbows Peter knowingly.) Well, we'll let you get back to whatever you kids were doing. (to Peter's parents) We'll be down in the dungeon.

Mrs. Greenberg leads her husband away, and he muffles a goodbye as he departs.

I need to use your bathroom.

Upstairs, second door on the right.

Abby departs up the stairs.

We should leave you alone.

Mom, Dad, why is it every time I bring a girl over, you guys have to pressure me about having sex with her?

What do you mean?

Every girlfriend I've ever had, you guys start talking about G-spots before you even know her name.

Oh, you're exaggerating.

Am I? Remember Melinda? Mom asked her if she'd ever had a vaginal orgasm with me before she and I even kissed.

I was just making conversation.

We were at her church picnic!

Well excuse me for wanting my son to know how to get a woman off!

You guys put all this pressure on me to have sex, talking about stimulation this and arousal that, and it makes me crazy. God, it's no wonder I'm still a virgin.

Harry and Paula gasp.

I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that.

Hear what? That I AM A VIRGIN! Virgin! Virgin! Virgin!

Peter, do not talk to your mother like that. (Pauses.) Son, I'm sorry if we pressured you. We just wanted you to be happy and experience the kind of love your mother and I have. I guess things are just different today than when we met on the set of Cockadile Dundee. We'll leave you and....

PETER (rolls eyes)

Right, Abby. We'll leave you and Abby alone to do whatever you want...or don't want.

We love you, Petey, and Abby seems like a wonderful girl. I hope we didn't mess things up for you.

Paula hugs Peter before she and Harry leave to go downstairs. Abby returns as they depart.

Was somebody shouting "I am a virgin"?

Yeah, that was me. Listen, Abby, I'm sorry about all of this. My parents, the Greenbergs, the book, the...dildos. I'm not some kind of freak, and we can take things nice and slow if you want.

ABBY (approaching him)
Peter, that's really sweet, and I appreciate how you're looking out for me. But we've been going out for a while now and...I think we can speed things up a bit.


In fact, I was just reading Chapter 3 of your mom's book while I was upstairs. She's got some good suggestions. And what was that your father said about the mons pubis?

They start kissing, and Peter reaches over to shut off the light. There's some rustling before they hear two cracks of a whip.

MRS GREENBERG (from downstairs)
You've been a very, very naughty boy.

Peter flips the light back on.

How about we go back to my place?

Sounds good.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are we rioting in the streets?

Special extra crowd control edition!

12) Wanted to celebrate a Laker win by treating Los Angeles the way Kobe treats 19-year-old hotel employees.

11) Part of guerilla marketing campaign for new Pepsi Riot energy drink. (Pepsico warns you to riot responsibly.)

10) Release of New Jonas Brothers CD sent "OMG!" levels to uncontrollable highs.

9) Zombie outbreak finally happened.

8) Ate new Volcano Beef Burrito from Taco Bell and couldn't find public restroom in time.

7) Furious that Viagra makes 65-year-old men as horny as 18-year-olds, but still leaves them looking like 65-year-old men.

6) As out-of-work bricklayers, have plenty of time and lots of spare bricks.

5) Heard Obama set up a kissing booth and wanted to be first in line.

4) Playing new multiplayer Nintendo game, Wii Riot. (First aid not included.)


2) Angry that Iranian Supreme Court awarded presidency to George W. Bush.

1) Honestly, we're just here to get a free TV.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

I have a pretty broad tolerance for taste. I don't revel in tastelessness, but I support the right of people to push boundaries and push buttons, especially when it comes to comedy. However, despite my own disposition toward the humorously profane, I appreciate when comedians are able to be tasteful and show restraint, yet still deliver a direct comedy hit.

This week offered two interesting comedy case studies in taste. The first is the David Letterman/Sarah Palin flap. Earlier this week, when Palin was in New York, Letterman took two jabs at her. First, in a top 10, he said she went to Bloomingdale's to update her "slutty flight attendant look." I have no love for Palin (as I've made pretty clear) and I don't understand how someone can be the future of the GOP when they would like nothing better than to throw America into a nuclear-powered DeLorean and send it back to 1954. However, I had a problem with this joke for a couple reasons. First, "slutty" is a loaded, sexist, cheap shot, especially since it's only leveled at Palin for her looks and the way she dresses. Certainly part of Palin's popularity is her cougar appeal, but it's also refreshing to see a major GOP candidate actually wearing tall leather boots instead of paying $300 to a woman so he can lick her tall leather boots. The second problem is that Palin's look is clearly sexy librarian, and that would have still made the punchline work without being inherently insulting.

The bigger gaffe, though, was Letterman's monologue. He mentioned Palin was at a Yankees game with her daughter, and that Alex Rodriguez knocked her daughter up during the seventh-inning stretch. The wingers pounced on this because it turns out the daughter at the game was Palin's 14-year-old daughter, Willow, not Bristol. They started screaming that Letterman was making jokes about child rape. I personally buy the explanation that Letterman (or, more specifically, Letterman's writers) thought 18-year-old Bristol was there, but even then, it's a cheap gag and one that should be beneath someone who's a pro.

I dislike the idea of dragging the children of politcians into political humor when the kids haven't done anything to warrant it. Bristol Palin's pregnancy certainly is relevant to discussing the failure of abstinence-only education to pull us out of the problem of teen pregnancy, and she's spoken up about how unrealistic those efforts are. That's not really enough to make her fodder for late-night monologues, and I find myself in the unfortunate position of agreeing with the mouthbreathers hyperventilating over this—even if they voted for Palin's running mate and his sense of "humor."

In contrast to Letterman's ham-fisted humor, Steven Colbert has done an amazing job broadcasting The Colbert Report from Iraq. After his performance at the White House Correspondent's Dinner (one of the ballsiest comedic performances ever), I wasn't sure how Colbert would manage to entertain the troops without either unfairly skewering them or dulling his satirical sword. It's one thing to rightfully savage the assholes who used 9/11 to bend American foreign policy over a Middle Eastern oil barrel while using the Constitution for a condom (quick tip: parchment is quite leaky). It's another thing to do the same to the troops who have to bleed and die over there and have no say in where or how they are deployed. At the same time, however, I don't believe in sacrificing your artistic integrity in the name of patriotic pandering. That put Colbert in a bit of a bind. How would he get out of it?

Like a comedy Harry Houdini. In the opening segment from his first show, he managed to be respectful to the audience while also taking aim at the redeployment policies keeping many troops in the combat zone. Later, he did an absolutely brilliant bit on "don't ask. don't tell" showed the lunacy of the policy without seeming preachy or smug. The whole week has been like that: satirical but supportive.

That's why The Colbert Report is not only so funny, but one of the most brilliant shows I've ever seen. He routinely manages to satirize his subjects without insulting them. Regardless of the conservative attempt to claim The Colbert Report as a conservative show (the most ridiculous rebranding effort since "This is not your father's Oldsmobile"), a lot of conservatives enjoy the show, laughing as they lick the pie off their faces. That takes a lot of talent.

1) "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," The Killers. If you plopped Robert Smith into the middle of the vocal track, you'd think this was a killer lost Cure track. I consider that a good thing.

2) "Have You Fed the Fish," Badly Drawn Boy. I like songs with "sweep" to them. That usually involves some proggy thing that has to take 10 minutes to tell a story about honeydew and caves of ice (not that there's anything wrong with that). This manages to feel a little epic and orchestral in under four minutes.

3) "O Valencia!" The Decemberists. Despite the proggy love, I have to say the Decemberists decent into prog has left me a little cold. I've seen their CD on the shelf, begging me to buy it, tempting me with the aphrodisiac of a concept album, but the stuff I've heard has left me meh, and my experience with Interpol and ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead made me vow to no longer automatically buy new albums from bands just because their previous one kicked ass. This song, however, kicks said ass.

4) "Fall to Pieces," Velvet Revolver. This is the kind of song you pull a lighter out for, except that Scott Weiland would probably grab it to heat up his spoon.

5) "Sure Shot," Beastie Boys. I got mad hits like I was Rod Carew. One of their most infectious songs.

6) "Kiss Kiss Kiss," John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Shit shit shit.

7) "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," The Monkees. I like watching them more than listening to them.

8) "If Wishes Were Changes," Nanci Griffith. Her voice sounds like the Dixie cousin of Stevie Nicks. One of those late-night roadhouse tunes, played after the alcohol has gone from happy to sad but before it ferments into, "Let's fight."

9) "Streets of Fire," The New Pornographers. I listen to music for moments like when the drums kick in during the middle of this song. It's all sweet strumming harmony, and then BOOM, big fat drum fills drive it out of the park like an HGH-fueled home run derby, only it's all legal and doesn't leave Barry Bonds looking like a giant Mr. Potato Head on Lou Ferrigno's body. Essential.

10) "Eminence Front," The Who. The last great song they ever recorded. This is going to sound incredibly nerdy, but Rock Band has given me a much greater appreciation for Pete Townshend as a guitar player. With all the other elements of The Who fighting for my attention—Moon's entropic drumming, Entwhistle's fat bass, and Daltrey's epic vocals, not to mention Townshend's lyrics—I overlooked just how good the guitar playing was. It's more rhythmic than flashy, but there are all these little chaotic flourishes, like ripped and frayed patches that give a nice pair of jeans a cool sense of street style. It's also obvious that I miss Project Runway more than I thought.

11) "Documented Minor Emotional Breakdown #1," Los Campesinos! One of those bands I like a little more every time I hear them. They remind me of timpano, an Italian dish featured in the movie Big Night. Timpano is this crazy-ass loaf of culinary heaven, a giant baked wheel full of pasta, meat, hard boiled eggs, and all these ingredients that seem overwhelming or incongruous when thrown together. I've been fortunate enough to have it a few times. When you see a slice of it on your plate, it looks like some Frankenstein creation. Yet it is probably the most amazing thing you can put in your mouth, unless you happen to be Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt, in which case it would be the second-best thing. Los Campesinos are like that, with all these ingredients thrown together that somehow work and leave me wanting seconds even after I've already had to unbutton my pants.

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we getting ready for swimsuit season?

10) Guzzling a bottle of Beam before the bikini wax.

9) Performing self-liposuction using a steak knife and a Dust Buster.

8) Taping down the sides of our Speedo to avoid another "peek-a-boo" incident.

7) Using leftover can of tan Sherman Williams paint as bronzer.

6) Welcoming our skin moles back from hibernation.

5) Paying someone who is in shape to be our beach double.

4) Microwaving face in order to get first sunburn out of the way.

3) Spending a month eating only broccoli that's salted with our bitter, overweight tears.

2) Sharpening our lawn mower blades before shaving our backs.

1) Standing naked in front of a mirror until desire to go to the beach passes.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

I read an interesting post by the always entertaining Adorable Girlfriend this week. AG wrote about her memories of high school, about the schizophrenic nature of the experience (being both great and terrible), how her identity in high school shifted over the years, and how she's distanced herself from it in an era where Facebook is making it easier than ever to connect with/stalk old high school friends and flames. She added something else in the comments that stuck with me: "There are two types of people: those who keep a ton of old pals around and those who blaze new paths."

As a Navy brat, I was in the business of reinventing myself every two to four years. I'd have to pick up and go someplace else and make new friends. I hated leaving the old ones behind, but at the same time I sort of relished being able to fine tune my identity. New friends knew no old, embarrassing details. They told no tales about how, this one time, at band camp, Brando did X. Sure, I wove new tales of embarrassment, but always with the knowledge I could make them disappear soon.

I was able to keep those old tales in the past because I almost never stayed in touch with the friends I left behind. Admittedly, laziness played a large role in losing touch. I just didn't enjoy writing letters, especially when I knew there was little chance I would see those friends again. But I think there was something more at work. I think part of me saw those relationships as moments in time. They were very important, and I was grateful for them, but they were off a certain moment and place, and I kept them there. I blazed a new path.

My brother Tickle, however, took the opposite approach. He kept in touch with many of his friends as we moved. In fact, many of those friends became friends with his new friends. I'm on an e-mail list with a group of them, where we talk about sports, Vegas, drinking, and other assorted stupidity, and you would think that all of these guys grew up together. Yet they are distinct groups that only know each other because of my brother.

I joined Facebook last year, the same year as my twentieth high school reunion, and I wound up reconnecting with a lot of people from high school and college, people I hadn't talked to for fifteen to twenty years. Those contacts made me realize that I wish I had taken Tickle's approach. It's not out of some desire to relive high school—I had a very good time then, but I'd never want to return to those days. And many of those friendships dissolved naturally, not in bad way, but the way they do when people grow up and move on. There are a few, though, that I regret not keeping going. With a little more effort on my part, I could have built on those moments in time with new experiences.

That realization makes me a little sad, but even though it's not the same, I'm grateful that I live in an age where I can not only make contact with old friends again, but keep in virtual touch with newer friends who are no longer physically in my life. It's not the same as seeing each other, then or now, but at least we get to peek a little into each other's lives and see how things are going. That's worth something.

Okay, I'm starting to sound like The Wonder Years here. Time for some tunes.

1) "Bring on the Night," The Police. One of the things that's very hard to get used to in the Upper Peninsula is the length of the day. This is partly from being on Eastern time despite being about the same longitude as Chicago. That means the daylight stretches into the post-10 P.M. realm once we get into June and July. They can't start fireworks here on the Fourth of July until 11 because it's too bright. On the one hand, it's extremely invigorating. It'll be 8:00 p.m. and feel like 5:00, and like Ultraman, that sunlight just gives me a burst of power. On the other that means going to sleep less than an hour after sunset, which makes me feel like a farmer. So bring on the night indeed.

2) "Modern Kicks," The Exploding Hearts. The best Clash tribute band since Rancid, and a tragic story: three of the four band members were killed in a car accident after making this, their only record. It's amazing that a group who were born after Star Wars could invoke the spirit of 1977 punk so accurately.

3) "Timothy," Jet. Dumb bands should never slow things down, because it allows you to focus on what they're singing about. Give me a bouncy beat and ask if I'm going to be your girl and we'll be just fine.

4) "Disposable Heroes," Metallica. See what I mean.

5) "Mixed Emotions," The Rolling Stones. The title pretty much sums up my feelings about The Stones.

6) "Girl," The Beatles. They're getting their own version of Rock Band this fall, with the twist that the game follows their career. You can also buy an additional Yoko add-on that causes the game disc to break into four pieces.

7) "Piano Fire," Sparklehorse. I have a lot of stuff like this on my hard drive: a pretty good song that unfortunately does not capture my attention enough for me to seek it out again.

8) "Werewolves of London," Warren Zevon. Never wears out its humor. A funny personal story about this album, Excitable Boy. When I was six (and still an only child), my parents and I moved from D.C. back to the NWI (Northwest Indiana), moving into my Grandma's house. while we got settled. Grandma's has one bathroom, and both my Uncle T and my Aunt J were still living there, so things were a bit close. One night, my Uncle T, who was in full swinging single mode, had a hot date to get to, which required him drying his hair (back when he had hair). He had showered and left to get dressed in his room, which gave me the opening I needed to dart into the bathroom and claim squatter's rights. Being six, I was never terribly fast about completing bathroom transactions, so I was still in there when he returned to dry his hair.

I love my uncle, and he was always great to me, but this night he was irritated that I couldn't wait for him to finish before I sequestered myself. He started banging on the door and yelling about being late. Because I did love my uncle, I got very upset, and left the bathroom before I was completely finished. I slunk off to the kitchen, where my mom and my Aunt J asked me what happened. I pitifully told them I had been kicked off the toilet so Uncle T could dry his hair (neglecting, of course, the part about claim jumping the bathroom). My mom and aunt got on my uncle's case, and after my uncle's hair was perfect (as the song goes), I returned to finish my business.

However, my Aunt J was not done. She always hated Zevon's Excitable Boy, possibly because my uncle liked it. Under the guise of enacting revenge for me, she took the record needle on my uncle's player and scratched poor Zevon's record like it had been mauled by a werewolf. And within the next decade, my uncle's hair began to recede like it was retreating to Dunkirk. So there really is karma in the universe.

9) "My Valuable Hunting Knife," Guided by Voices. I want to start a new life, with my valuable hunting knife singer Robert Pollard. Well, if that's the case, the U.P. is the place to be. I explained the difference between Iowa and the U.P. to one of my Iowa friends recently. I said if you left Iowa City, you were in the country. If you left Marquette, you were in the wilderness. Generally speaking, things don't eat you in the country, but they might in the wilderness. That's why the hunting knife is so valuable.

10) "Prison Girls," Neko Case. Hmm, Neko Case in a women's prison...could you all give me a moment? Actually, I recently saw one of those prison documentaries on life in a women's prison, which is not at all like what I pictured. Thanks for nothing, Discovery Channel.

11) "Love Me Like a Reptile," Motörhead. I'm not sure, but I think the title of this song is double-entendre about charming a snake. The English are great at coming up with that kind of stuff. And how can a weekend not be awesome when Lemmy leads you into it?

Have a great one.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: What advice did we give graduates during our commencement addresses?

10) I look out here and see young, energetic faces ready to take the world by storm. Well, if any of you even think about trying to take my job, I'll fucking shank you.

9) Cherish this time you'll spend living at home until the economy improves.

8) Many of you leave college perhaps with more questions than answers, wondering what will happen when you walk across this stage and depart this campus. Except those of you in ROTC, your orders are taped to your diplomas.

7) For the love of God, use spell check.

6) Once you get out to the "real world," there will be times when you're confronted with things that shake the very foundations of your beliefs: The theory of evolution. The geological age of the Earth. Female orgasm. But in those dark times, remember this: you have something stronger than facts. You have an education from Bob Jones University.

5) No one will ever give a crap about your GPA.

4) College is a time to experiment, to ask questions, to shake up the authoritarian structure. As you enter the workforce, I highly recommend that you forget all of that nonsense.

3) The sad truth is, you would have more earning power and job prospects if you'd gone to trucking school.

2) Life is full of surprises. For instance, if you look under your mortarboard, you'll find your first student loan payment book.

1) When in doubt, go to graduate school.