Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday CJ Random 11

Is it possible that, for once in their entire sad history, the Chicago Cubs could do something the easy way? They finally get a good lead on the Brewers, need just a couple wins to more or less cement winning the division, so what do they do? Get swept by the last-place Florida Marlins to keep the Brewers in the hunt this weekend. They even brought in Bill Murray to try and loosen the players up, which apparently worked about as well as showing Garfield to a roomful of people over the age of seven. I know the idea of a playoff run is an illusion for this year's team, but how about at least getting to the playoff part of that illusion and let me dream during their first-round exit?

Okay, music will soothe the savage sports fan…

1) “Me in Honey,” R.E.M. Out of Time always makes me think of visiting The Lovely Becky at Mizzou. We did the long-distance thing in college, with me in California and her in the Show Me State. I would come out to visit her, and we played this album and Crowded House’s Woodface to death during those visits. This song in particular, with Kate Pierson’s vocals, makes me think of that excitement of seeing her and the dread of having to leave.

2) “Ain’t No Easy Way,” Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. They have all the honky tonk pieces in place—slide guitars, harmonica, a Steve Earle-ish vocal—but I sense just a little more honky and not as much tonk. Still, a pretty good foot stomper for a Friday morning.

3) “Vincent O’Brien,” M. Ward. It still amazes me that M. Ward can sound so old when he sings, but also not seem like an affected cobag. He gets a little more poppy here, with an energetic tune that throws enough curveballs—a chirping piano, some feedback—to keep things interesting.

4) “Sing It Pretty, Sue,” Johnny Cash. How can he say so much in a song that’s less than two minutes long?

5) “Tryin’,” Eagles. Ruh-roh! There was a pretty heated debate over at Neddie Jingo’s blog about the Eagles, with Neddie blaming the Eagles for everything from destroying country music, to giving birth to Journey and Britney Spears, to killing puppies (I’m paraphrasing and possibly making stuff up). Blue Girl responded, as only she can, that the Eagles “ARE HUMANS!” The whole thread is an entertaining dive into the pool of polarizing bands. Personally, I’m in the middle. I was never a big fan, but it’s pretty hard for me to not crank “Take It Easy” and “Already Gone.”

6) “Message in a Bottle (Live),” Sting. Hey, it’s Mr. Polarizing himself. I have poked a lot of fun at Sting on many a Friday. This, however, is one of the greatest live renditions of a song ever. It’s from The Secret Policeman’s Other Ball, an Amnesty International comedy/music benefit from the early 80s. Sting did this song and “Roxanne” just on an electric guitar, and he absolutely brings the house down. One of the best things I have on my iPod.

7) “The Tallest Man, The Broadest Shoulders…,” Sufjan Stevens. I am too tired to type out the whole paragraph that is the song title. Sufjan walks that razor’s edge between “baroque” and “twee,” but I always like his arrangements and song structures. There’s almost a filmstrip feel to this, yet it manages to not suck the way every filmstrip ever made did. For those of you not born at the same time as the Geico Cavemen, filmstrips were a mind control device used by schools during the 1950s through 1980s. Still pictures would illustrate an important event in history, while the warbled audio coming from the cassette tape would mask backward messages: In 1820, the Missouri Compromise allowed Missouri into the Union as a slave state EAT YOUR VEGETABLES SIT UP STRAIGHT YOU’LL GO BLIND IF YOU KEEP TOUCHING IT SO MUCH!!!

8) “Heaven or Las Vegas,” Cocteau Twins. Another Brando/TLB kollege klassic. TLB always sings along very well to the incredible harmonies here. The title bothers me, though: are they suggesting that Las Vegas cannot be part of Heaven? If that’s true, does it mean that heaven will be like Branson, Missouri? Because if it is, I swear I’m turning around and heading the other direction after I die, if I’m not already where Las Vegas is.

9) “Magic Man,” Heart. Since we’re going back in time, here’s a fun family fact: Magic Man was my uncle’s CB handle. Our family had our brief six-month flirtation with CBs around the time Smokey and the Bandit came out. And thankfully it ended long before Smokey and the Bandit II was released. Every time someone goes off on how annoying cell phones are, just be thankful you don’t have to say breaker breaker before you call home to ask if we're out of milk. As for the song, the decent beginning and end are assaulted by the marshmallow fluff synthesizer noodling in the middle.

10) “I Can’t Get Over You,” The Queers. Immature? Yes. Original? No. These guys were so much like The Ramones that they did a complete cover of the Rocket to Russia album. But good? Hell yeah, at least on the one album of amazing Beach Boys punk they produced, Don’t Back Down, which this song is from. This is a sunny, catchy tune featuring a female vocal from Lisa Marr (of Cub). Good stuff.

11) “Crummy Lovers Die in the Grave,” The Fucking Champs. Three guys cranking out retro instrumental prog metal. They sling crazy 80s metal riffs like short-order cooks working the batter at a Waffle House, channeling Iron Maiden without the Bruce Dickinson howling about secret Satanic rituals and cavalry charges. Plus they have song titles that tickle my inner 14-year-old: “Thor Is Like Immortal,” “These Glyphs Are Dusty,” and “Esprit de Corpse.” So up my alley they should be called The Fucking Brandos. And yes, my poor wife went through years of long-distance romance to wind up with a grown man who loves this stuff. Pray for her.

Have a great weekend. Go Cubs, damn it!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

O’Reilly expresses surprise that Asians “can be good drivers and bad at math.”

NEW YORK - Days after a controversial broadcast about his visit to a Harlem restaurant, Bill O’Reilly is in hot water again after making comments about Asian Americans.

“I’m at this great Oriental restaurant,” said O’Reilly on his radio program, The Radio Factor. “And I’m trying to figure out the tip. Our waitress was terrific—you might say she serve us long time. So I asked another waiter, who was also Asian, if he knew how much 18 percent of $24.07 is.

“He just gave me this blank stare and said, ‘I don’t know, I go to Juilliard.’ That’s an arts school, for the Factor listeners out there. I replied, ‘Okay, but you probably have to know math really well to play the cello, right?’

“The kid gives me a funny look and says, ‘The correct tip would be eighteen dollars, Mr. O’Reilly.’ That sounds a little high, but what do I know about math: I’m Irish and he’s Asian. So I left an eighteen-dollar tip. Sure enough, I find out later that eighteen percent of $24.07 is not eighteen dollars. I thought maybe he was just rounding up to make it easier, but eighteen dollars was more than three times what I should have left.

“It just goes to show how stereotypes can mislead us, because Asian college students can be just as stupid as other college kids. Next time I need to calculate a tip, I’ll use a calculator or ask one of my Jewish friends.”

O’Reilly then went on to discuss his trip home.

“I hailed a cab, and as soon as I see the driver’s last name is Wong, I start thinking, this is going to be a Wong drive. But I’ve never seen such driving. He got me to the office in record time, without coming close to causing an accident or backing up traffic. I told him at the end, ‘Wong, you’re all right!’

“I learned more about Asian guys in one day than I had learned in my whole life.”

Kelly Cho-Meyers, head of the Asians Against Stereotyping and Slander (AASS), said that Mr. O’Reilly’s logic “doesn’t add up.”

“It puts Asian Americans on the spot when people assume we can naturally solve for x or break boards with our bare hands,” said Ms. Cho-Meyers. “If he thinks we're all good at math, I’d like to show that blue-eyed white devil my checkbook.”

Mr. O’Reilly did not take very kindly to the criticism. “My attempt to point out stereotypes has been undermined by limp-wristed, freedom-hating liberals. When I say black people can eat without swearing, Asians can drive as well as I can, or American Indians can have last names that sound like normal last names, I’m fighting racism.

“Now we need to put this racist nonsense behind us,” O’Reilly continued, “and talk about real problems, like those dirty illegals darkening our fair country.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we committing career suicide?

10) Accepting position in Bush administration.

9) Delivering the most embarrassing spectacle at the MTV Video Music Awards since Adam Curry’s hair.

8) Adopting a narrow stance on everything except our pants.

7) Letting John Daly pee for us.

6) Putting name and address on the collars of our fighting dogs.

5) Greenlighting show about the Geico Cavemen.

4) Giving Lorne Michaels a funny sketch for Saturday Night Live.

3) Not shooting well with others.

2) Believing that acting like a screeching, screaming, sobbing psychopath is no way to land a TV deal.

1) We don’t recall.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday CJ Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

Inspired by Danny Gans, I have decided to christen my office The Brando Circle Jerk Theatre. I realize what the name implies, but please, no unzipping until the captain has turned on the unzipping sign.

There’s a Hollywood-quality storm going on today, which is one of my favorite times to listen to music.

1) “The Revolution Starts Now,” Steve Earle. For a country that was founded on revolution, we’ve really come to hate revolutionaries. I think that’s the crux of most of Earle’s recent music.

2) “Back to the Lake,” Guided by Voices. I can’t see how to get back to the lake because it’s shrouded in mist right now. Luckily it’s not green, or I would be worried I was starring in the real-life remake of The Fog. Marquette definitely gives off that Fog vibe, but I’m not sure if there were many pirates on Lake Superior. If there were, they probably went, “Arrg, eh?” As for the song, this is like a Friday night with me: three minutes of bliss that you wish would go on longer. That joke is dedicated to The Lovely Becky.

3) “Explode and Make Up,” Sugar. I never thought the 90s had a unique sound when I was going through them. It seemed like bands just pulled their sounds from bits and pieces of the 60s, 70s, and 80s. But Sugar definitely sounds of the 90s: the crunchy guitar chords and thick drums.

4) “Born to a Family,” The Go-Betweens. A nice bit of Aussie pop that can make the sun shine even on a cloudy day.

5) “Magic,” The Cars. Whenever I hear this song, I am always in eighth grade again, wearing corduroy Op shorts and Pony sneakers and parting my hair down the middle. The production is Exxon Valdez-slick, but the guitar riff and the way the bass chimes in between the chords hits a sweet spot for me.

6) “Flavor of the Month,” The Posies. This has been the greatest year of music acquisition I have ever had. I’ve managed to catch up on a lot of bands I missed back in the day, and I’m often scratching my head: how did I overlook this? That goes especially for The Poises. They play classic power-pop, Big Star with bigger guitars that would easily help me pass the days on a desert island. Although I’d need to make some type of coconut charger for my iPod.

7) “Army Corps of Architects,” Death Cab for Cutie. Talk about music for a rainy day. Classic DCFC, with a slow, chiming guitar riff and melancholy Ben Gibbard vocals. They do that voodoo that they do so well.

8) “Hounds of Love,” Kate Bush. A great blast from the 80s. I have to thank TLB for this one. She was a big Kate Bush fan when we met, and I had the natural teenage boy reaction to Bush’s lilting, theatric pop: that’s girly music. But because I love and respect TLB, I gave Kate Bush a shot, and this song in particular got the scales to fall from my ears. It manages to sound orchestral and kick ass at the same time.

9) “Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone,” Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. Already on my cannot be overplayed list. Bounces with the energy of an eight-year old after four bowls of Cookie Crisp, but without making you want to give him a Flinstones With Insulin vitamin.

10) “Let’s Call It Love,” Sleater-Kinney. How many female groups have recorded a song longer than ten minutes that can out-cock-rock just about any boy band on the planet? I know of only one. Crazy drum fills, searing guitar licks, and a female singer howling about how much she needs some lovin’? For ten minutes? I don’t need a cigarette, I need the whole damn pack. In fact, just leave the carton.

11) “Add It Up,” Violent Femmes. I really could use a couple slow songs and maybe a roast beef sandwich before another fast song about sex, but the iPod wants it now. The Violent Femmes feature the most in-your-face brush drumming in rock history. This one reminds me of piling into a car to go to a high school party, singing along at the top of our lungs, hoping we’d get to add it up later, even though we were much more likely to wind up dancing with ourselves. Hands-down the best thing to ever come out of Wisconsin (not that the list is that long….that’s my worm on the hook for billy p.)

I am sadly bacheloring it this weekend, as TLB is gone until Sunday. I’ll probably do my usual: play a lot of videogames, watch a lot of football, and have a tea party with the cats. I hope your weekend is as exciting as mine.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vegas 2007: In the Hall of the Crimson Gans

Prelude: Make way for pirate jokes

Friday night, I sat in the Chili’s Too at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, eating dinner and waiting for my connecting flight to Las Vegas. I knew I was near the gate for the Vegas flight because a girl wearing a purple sequined tank top walked by. She may as well been wearing a sandwich board that said, “Follow me to Sin City.”

My cell phone buzzed with a text message from my younger brother, Tickle. He was already in Vegas with our youngest brother, Snake Anthony, our Uncle T, and our cousin, Youngblood. We were on the trip to initiate Youngblood into the Vegas club—he just turned 21, and as we did with Snake Anthony in 2006, we wanted to show him all the new and exciting ways he could lose hundreds of dollars and kill millions of brain cells.

“Where does a pirate vacation?” Tickle’s text message asked.

“Arrrgkansas,” I guessed.

“Arrrgentina,” he wrote back.

Pirate jokes before I even landed. It would be a good trip.

Never double-down against a guy named Elmer

Right when I got in, I sat down with the rest of my war party at a blackjack table against a dealer named Elmer—the same name as our grandfather (and Uncle T’s father). I wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or bad sign, because Grandpa Elmer was a broken-down drunk. I only knew my grandfather when he sat in the corner of his house in his pajamas, drinking coffee and listening to ballgames on a transistor radio. Elmer the dealer, however, was clearly a productive member of society and also seemed very friendly. So I took it as a good sign.

It was a very good sign for Youngblood. He wound up winning $1000 against Elmer. Uncle T, Snake Anthony, and I more or less broke even. Tickle was not tickled by Elmer, and a few of his Benjamin Franklins made their way across the felt to the house.

Tickle, while annoyed, vowed to rebound. “I’m the People’s Champ,” he said. I have no idea what he meant, but it was an assertion he continued to make all weekend.

To kill ya

I do not like tequila. Uncle T loves it. Whenever we drink with him, he preaches the Gospel of Good Tequila. I have had the good stuff with him, and even the good stuff seems like a bad idea to me. But when you’re in Vegas, the whole good-bad polarity is reversed, and you find yourself doing things like drinking more tequila in one weekend than you have over the past decade.

After our Elmer encounter on Friday, we hit the bar. I had already had a few vodkas and felt myself on the slow, pleasant journey from Buzzistan to Drunkerbaijan. Uncle T decided to buy us a ticket on the express train by setting us up with four giant shots of top-shelf bad idea. I assumed that the size and price would indicate we would sip this most demonic of demon rum, but Uncle T rocked back and downed it. The rest of us couldn’t let the oldest guy show us up, so we all threw our shots back.

There are few things worse than realizing, as you’re downing a shot, you can’t get it all down in one shot. I got half down my throat before I felt the Mexican napalm shooting up from my belly. I stopped with the other half of the shot in my mouth, waiting to be swallowed, which is not a happy place to be when you don’t really want to swallow what’s in your mouth. I managed to get it down and immediately got the pre-hurl saliva mouth. As Ralphie would say in A Christmas Story, “Oh, fudge.”

I stood, breathing deeply, fighting to pass from Code Red to Code Orange. Slowly my stomach returned to its seated and upright position.

Of course, this didn’t prevent me from drinking three more shots of tequila the next night. And yes, I am three years away from turning 40.

We obsess over Danny Gans, though we know not who he is

Danny Gans was plastered all over the Mirage. On the Mirage sign, inside the lobby, even on the chips, Danny Gans and his Osmond-white teeth smiled at us. “Entertainer of the Year,” boasted one poster blurb.

“Who the hell is Danny Gans?” we asked. We did not know.

We found ourselves talking about Danny Gans constantly. Our mantra for the weekend was What would Danny Gans do? We relayed sightings of him: in the men’s room, at the craps table, in line at Chipotle.

Stumbling into the Mirage buffet for dinner, we chatted up the cashier. “Does Danny Gans ever eat here? What’s his favorite dish? He seems like a crab cake guy, does he like crab cakes?”

She laughed at us, then said, “Actually, he calls in sick a lot.”

That random bit of information poured gasoline on the Danny Gans fire. Danny Gans abuses his sick leave—who knew he even had any? Did he accrue hours, or did he just call up and, Rick James-like, say, “I’m Danny Gans, bitch!” After all, he performed in his own Danny Gans Theater at the Mirage.

“So what happens when Danny Gans cancels?” one of us asked. “Does somebody else perform?”

“No way,” another replied. “How do you replace Danny Fucking Gans? You can’t substitute for him. If Danny Gans calls in, then the magic has to wait.”

The man who would have been king of YouTube

Our party grew larger on Saturday. Tickle’s friends, Trapper and Hawkeye, joined us. By day, they are respected professionals. Or at least professionals. By night, they are Tickle's companions in pranksterism.

We went to the club in the Mirage again on Saturday night. Trapper proceeded to hit the dance floor and conduct the single greatest night of Caucasian dancing I have ever seen. To fully appreciate it, you have to know that Trapper has a similar vibe to Steve Carell. He’s friendly looking, very hirsute, and seems very down to earth. But the minute his feet touched the dance floor, he started a four-part dance routine:

  1. He would hop up to someone—male and female—and conduct a space-invading blend of grinding and vogueing. He had his hands down low, palms out, as if he was ready for some naughty business. We called this the Bad Cop move.

  2. After anywhere from two seconds to two minutes, the object of Trapper’s attention would appear to get annoyed. He would immediately back off and throw his up hands in a no-harm, no-foul fashion. This was the transformation to Good Cop. He wasn’t really going to grind you, he was just playing!

  3. When the person gave him the look of what in the hell are you doing—or verbally asked what the hell he was doing—Trapper put a finger to his lips and made a shushing motion.

  4. Finally, he would hop away backwards from the person, but make a come hither motion with his shushing finger, inviting them to join him.
Trapper did this for at least two hours, pausing only to grab a new drink. At one point, he conducted a mammoth Bad Cop behind a guy, following him around the club, as close as his shadow, for a good five minutes. The man never suspected a thing.

I cannot really do justice to how funny this routine was. Talking about it the next day, we agreed that if we had been able to videotape it, Trapper would have been the King of YouTube. He would have entered that pantheon of YouTube gods: Lightsaber Kid, Crying Britney Spears Fan, Profane Asian Uncle. Inboxes around the world would have been flooded with FWD: OMFG ROTFLMOA at the Dancing White Guy! He would have been so popular, there would have been a Dancing White Guy backlash.

Alas, we did not have a video camera.

Hawkeye’s indecent proposal to Tickle

Tickle is one of those people who will do anything for a laugh, especially if there is a profit involved. He’s taken bets on if he could drink a gallon of milk in one sitting, ride all the way to Milwaukee in the middle of summer with the heat on, and even rub his face with Trapper’s sweaty boxers for 10 seconds.

Sunday night, Hawkeye dropped a prop bet bomb: would Tickle, right there in the bar, crap his pants for $400? Trapper chimed in that he would throw in $200 to make it $600.

Most normal people would immediately reject that bet. Tickle, however, is not most normal people. The bet would erase his losses from the trip. Negotiations began in earnest: How long would he have to sit there? Would he have to walk around? Would he collect if he was tossed out before the allotted time? I don’t think the Iraqi government worked as intensely on their constitution as Tickle, Hawkeye, and Trapper did on this Magna Crappa. After 45 minutes of haggling, they finally settled on Tickle pooping himself and either staying in the bar for 30 minutes or winning if he was thrown out before then.

“You’re not really going to do this?” I asked my brother.

“I could use the money,” he said. “You wouldn’t do it?”

“No way,” I said.

“Come on, name your price.”

“You can’t put a price on dignity,” I said.

“Would you do it for a million dollars?” he asked.

“Okay, yeah, for a million I would.”

“Then name your price.”

He had a point. “Five grand,” I said. “That would be enough that even if people were grossed out, they’d say, ‘Well, five grand is a lot of money.’”

The bet escalated. Trapper offered to match Hawkeye’s $400 and raise the bid to $800. As if that wasn’t enough, Snake Anthony moved from the don’t do it camp to throwing in $200 to make it an even thousand.

I know Tickle. At that price, it would take an act of divine intervention for him to not shit his pants at the Mirage bar. Uncle T decided to play the role of God. “Tickle, you are not doing this,” he said. He had protested earlier, but half-heartedly as he was amused by the negotiation process. Once it became clear that Tickle was going to do it, he put his foot down. After all, who wants to be the uncle to a nephew who craps himself?

Tickle finally called it off. I was mostly relieved, but I’d be lying if I said part of me wasn’t disappointed.

The People’s Champ is going to miss his flight

Tickle has missed more flights than everyone else I know combined. If he doesn’t miss the flight, he is always cutting it close. He had an 8 a.m. flight on Monday, and Tickle decided he was going to stay up all night with Hawkeye and Trapper rather than sleep for a couple hours.

Snake Anthony and I did not join him in this pursuit. We went back to the room, packed, and managed to crash at a reasonable 2:45 a.m.

Snake’s cell phone rang at 4:00. He ignored it. Then mine rang. “What?” I asked.

“I’m the People’s Champ,” Tickle slurred through the receiver.

“Go fuck yourself,” I said, closing the phone. It rang again.

“Tell me I’m the People’s Champ,” said Tickle.

I knew how this would go if I fought. “You’re the People’s Champ,” I said.

“Tell Snake Anthony I’m the People’s Champ,” Tickle said.

“Snake Anthony, Tickle is the People’s Champ,” I said to the other bed. Back into the phone I said, “Now fuck off.”

Tickle came back to the room at 5:00 and of course woke us up. He made a wake-up call for 6:15, then flopped into my bed next to me and started snoring.

When hammered, Tickle snores like Shemp Howard of The Three Stooges. There’s the exaggerated sawing on the intake, then some kind of yipping on the exhale. The only person I’ve ever heard snore like that, aside from Shemp, was my Grandpa Elmer.

After nudging Tickle did no good to stop the snoring, I put a pillow over his face. That woke him up. “Roll over and stop snoring,” I barked. He did.

At 5:30 the hotel phone woke me up again. It was Tickle’s friend, Smoke, who lives in Vegas. He had visited that night, left his cell phone in our room, and needed it back before we left. Tickle told him to meet him in the lobby at 6:30 and he’d give him the phone if he’d take Tickle to the airport. Then my brother fell back asleep and started snoring.

At 6:15, his wake-up call rang. I punched Tickle in the back. “Wake up, you’re going to miss your flight.” My brother did not budge. I decided to just get up and take a shower, figuring I could catch a ride to the airport with Smoke and get some breakfast. When I was all ready at 6:40, Tickle finally woke up.

My brother rarely worries about anything, but he went from passed out to full-bore panic. He had 80 minutes until his flight left, and the screening lines at Vegas are legendary in their length. Tickle threw all his stuff into his suitcase, making a giant ball of clothes that prevented the suitcase from closing. He had to take everything out and repack so he could close the suitcase.

By this point, Snake Anthony and I were doubled over laughing. We had talked all weekend about this moment, and now it seemed highly appropriate that Tickle was being punished by the Vegas gods. “You’re never going to make it,” I said as we finally left at about 6:50.

“I know,” he said with genuine regret. “And I only have one flight to catch because I took Allegiant. I’m going to get stuck here til tomorrow.”

“Oh no, you’ll get stuck here longer than that,” I said. “And you’ll be out of money. You’ll be on the Strip, offering to shit your pants for ten bucks.”

Smoke, however, came through big time. He drove like the People’s Champ to the airport. Tickle got inside at 7:15 and sprinted to his check-in desk. I left for mine, checked in, and headed to the very long security line.

Near the scanner, I saw Tickle ahead of me, his Bears cap pulled low, his face dragging with fatigue, waiting for the security scan to finish. He saw me and we pointed at each other. I watched him go through security in time to make his flight.

“That was a triumph of the human spirit,” I texted him. “You truly are the People’s Champ.”

And to think we’re probably going back in May for Tickle’s bachelor party.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays: What did we leave in Vegas?

10) Kids’ college funds.

9) Future paternity suit.

8) Old mob identity.

7) Healthy kneecaps.

6) iPhone loaded with password e-mails, contact information, pictures of our families, and all of our paranoia.

5) Every memory of what happened from 3:35 a.m. Friday through 10:13 a.m. Sunday.

4) Plenty of chances for blackmail.

3) Every last shred of dignity.

2) Faith in a just and loving God.

1) We’re not telling.

Note: the above are completely fictional and not at all a representation of what happened to a particular blogger this past weekend. Mostly.

Back tomorrow with a recap of this past weekend's trip.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday CJ Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!


I leave tonight after work and depart for home on Monday morning. That seems like the perfect amount of time to spend there. My first trip, my brother Tickle and I went from Wednesday night to Monday morning so we could bet the two opening rounds of the NCAA basketball tourney. Way, way, way, way too goddamned long to be there, especially with Tickle, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word moderation. Last year’s trip was a day shorter but still managed to take at least two years off my life thanks to things like Red Bull and vodka at 3:30 in the morning.

This year, I’m in for a nice surgical strike. A little blackjack, a little poker, some craps if those first two things go well, and a restful day in the sportsbook on Sunday, soaking up the NFL and watching the Bears win (hopefully by more than 12 points). Plus I have meaningful Cubs baseball to wager on! Let’s see if the iPod sends me off on a high note.

1) “Do It Again (Live),” The Kinks. Day after day I get up and I say come on do it again. If that’s not my Vegas mantra, I don’t know what is. This is the live version from To the Bone that’s extra peppy. A nice way to kick off the weekend.

2) “Smells Live Teen Spirit (Live),” Nirvana. It’s on my cannot be overplayed list. I know that their popularity had a chummy backwash on the music industry, with any smelly teen from the Pacific Northwest getting a record deal from Geffen. But the music business has always stripped-mined trends until there’s nothing left, and I refuse to let that destroy one of the best songs of the last twenty years. I always get pumped when I hear the opening riff, waiting for Dave Grohl to abuse his drums like Jack Bauer interrogating a suspected terrorist during sweeps week.

3) “(What’s So Funny Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” Elvis Costello. Is there a better song for the post 9/11 world?

4) “Blizzard of '77,” Nada Surf. I was seven when this blizzard hit. I’ve never seen snow like that in my life (though that may change this year!). My dad and my uncle helped me build a snow compound in the backyard. Not a fort, a compound. I had a central igloo, braced with an old door as the roof, with trenches, walls, foxholes. The plows pushed snow into a mountain near the corner of our lot, and we played endless games of king of the mountain on it. That’s the kind of stuff I really miss from childhood, the irrepressible joy of just going out and playing in the snow.

5) “Olio,” The Rapture. I’ve written about how I let the chumpnozzles at Pitchfork talk me into buying this overrated album, but I do really like this lead off track from it. The layers of throwback synths, skittish hi-hat, and warbled vocals create a dark vibe that lives between paranoia and regret. If only the rest of the album had been as good.

6) “Wonderboy,” Tenacious D. I know Jack Black is overplayed, but this album is so in my wheelhouse. Hard rocking, smart assed, and full of references to sex, Satan, and more rocking. For God's sake, it has a song about Dio on it—I am powerless against something like that. No matter how annoying Black’s career gets, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for this CD.

7) “The Song Remains the Same,” Led Zeppelin. My freshman year of college, I think my dorm mates and I played Houses of the Holy more than any other CD. I know we drank to this CD more than any other. Nothing got us ready for the weekend like popping beer caps as Jimmy Page kicked this song off with one of his most hyper riffs. Plus it’s really fun to try and sing like Robert Plant does here when you’re loaded to the gills.

8) “Refugee,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The first time I ever heard this song, it was on Chipmunk Punk. Here's how you can spot a good song: even when sung in annoying, sped-up voices, the song is still good. One of Petty's best.

9) “Avenues & Alleyways,” Rancid. The strategically placed oi oi oi really pushes this to 11.

10) “Obstacle 1,” Interpol. Oh how they let me down with their new album. Luckily, due to its advanced sensors, my iPod knows this, so it’s pulled this gem from their incredible debut. Their rhythm section packs a huge punch here.

11) “Tell Her About It,” Billy Joel. No, no, stop, we’re not having this before a guys trip to Sin City.

11) “Neat, Neat, Neat,” The Damned. That’s better. It’s not like I’m afraid to air my dirty iPod laundry, but I can’t end with drunken Hamptons doo-wop on a weekend like this. The Damned, however, are perfect for Vegas: a loud, brash blur of energy and attitude.

Wow, I need a cigarette after that. I am now properly pumped for the weekend. I hope you have a great one, and I’ll be posting again Tuesday if my fingers haven’t been broken.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Two men in suits appear on screen. Their faces are blurred.

MAN #1
It’s hard when you’re holding hands with someone at a prayer breakfast and wondering, am I feeling more than the power of Jesus?

Cut to another pair of men, also dressed in suits.

MAN #3
The guys I’d meet randomly would find out I’m a Republican and want to get into it about Bush. I’d tell them, hey, if I wanted to get into bush, I’d be home with my wife.

MAN #2
Yeah, I didn't hire you to be the speaker, I hired you to be the whip!

Cut to the GOP-Harmony spokesman.

At GOP-Harmony, we put you in touch with conservative congressmen, party leaders, and “reporters” looking for someone special for at least 15 minutes. We use 29 distinct items to match you to the perfect liaison.

Some of the categories float by: Denial, Self-Loathing, Committee Memberships, Inseam

Cut back to #3 and #4, holding hands.

MAN #4
It’s not easy to find a man who’s into tax cuts, nation building, and bare-backing. (raises his partner’s hand) But I did!

MAN #3
I'd look like a real hypocrite if I used condoms—I’m chair of the Presidential Commission on Abstinence!

With GOP-Harmony, you don’t have to worry about messy exposés or embarrassing mug shots. We rigorously check out all of our members, weeding out officers, agents, reporters, bloggers….

Cut to another pair of men. One is dressed as Ronald Reagan, the other as Nancy.

Now I never have to ask, “Are you a cop or from The New York Times?”

Unless we’re role-playing! (laughs)

And you have our GOP-Harmony Guarantee—none of the men you’ll meet are gay!

Cut back to the first two men.

MAN #2
When people ask me if I’m gay, I ask them, “If I was gay, would I be voting against gay marriage?”

MAN #1
Exactly! I just want to have sex with guys, not a relationship with them.

MAN #2
Thank you, GOP-Harmony!

Cut to the Spokesman.

So what are you waiting for, a subpoena? Go online today to complete your confidential, fully encrypted GOP-Harmony profile. Act now and you’ll also receive our free, full color Congressional Page-a-Day calendar, the perfect way to get up in the morning!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Top Ten Wednesdays: What are we presenting to Congress?

10) New cover of "The Song Remains the Same."

9) Five ways to spot an undercover vice cop.

8) Bill to have Britney preserved as a national white trash treasure.

7) Resolution declaring Michigan Stadium a disaster area.

6) Toy-safety plan freed of lead paint, sharp edges, or small parts.

5) Theory that what’s undermining the black community isn’t violent rap music, but kids in the projects renting Brokeback Mountain.

4) New family values cockring that changes colors with your hypocrisy level.

3) White House idea to have Criss Angel transform Iraq into stable democracy on an episode of Mindfreak.

2) The elephant in the room that the elephants in the room want to ignore.

1) Presidential hindquarters for sniffing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No top ten today

I'm going to put off the list until tomorrow. Just didn't feel very funny thinking about 9/11 today. I caught some of United 93 on cable last week, which I had never seen. The footage of the planes hitting is still chilling.

I had to go to work that morning, and I listened to ABC on the radio. I will never forget the sound of Peter Jennings's voice cracking as he said the first tower was falling.

As usual, The Lovely Becky says it better than I ever could.

Back tomorrow.

I think the Bears just fumbled again

Chicago has a huge sports fan diaspora, as millions of people who have moved away from the Windy City still maintain their accents, love of pork products, and biological sports affiliations. Go to any Cubs, Bulls, and Bears away game, and you'll probably find a good number of Chicago fans in the stands. Looking around Qualcomm Stadium this past weekend as I attended the Bears-Chargers game, at least a quarter of the stadium cheered for the visiting Monsters of the Midway. In our section, I sat next to a man who had moved from Chicago to southern California in 1979. He was still pulling for Chicago even after soaking up two decades of West Coast sun, resisting the easy temptation of jumping on the Chargers bandwagon now that they no longer suck. And he still talked like a Super Fan.

The game was a typical Bears game. The defense played outstanding football, keeping the Chargers from doing much of anything on offense for the first half. The San Diego fans got quiet pretty quickly as the Bears shut down the NFL's best player, running back Ladanlian Tomlinson. "I guess this isn't a Nike commercial!" I yelled at the surrounding Charger fans, referring to LT's recent TV spot where he ran roughshod over the Bears. At one point as the Charger fans behind us got pissed about San Diego's conservative play calling. I turned around and said, "I thought you guys fired Marty Schottenheimer." There's nothing like marching into another teams house and running your flag up their pole. Chicago was up 3-0 at the half, and I thought if they could score a TD when they got the ball to start the second half, they could probably win the game, and we'd be chanting "Super Bears, Super Bowl" with the other Grabowskis.

Of course, that would involve the Bears offense actually scoring. Instead, they shit the bed, fumbling twice in the second half, and also turning it over on a goofy punt that hit a Bears player. The Chargers are too good to not capitalize on that many mistakes, and they finally managed to score 14 points and win 14-3. Grossman didn't play very well but he was definitely not a first-string goat compared to the butterfingers running backs.

The Charger fans gave us a good ribbing as we left in our blue and orange regalia. They were pretty nice--at Soldier Field, I am sure much would have been said about the sexual preferences of San Diego fans and their mothers. At Qualcomm Stadium, it was mostly, "Too bad, Bears fans," with "Bears suck" being about as bad as it got. One guy said, "Hope you enjoyed the weather," which I couldn't help but laugh at.

As we walked out of the stadium, we spotted a Bear fan sitting on the curb. He was shirtless, his torso completely covered in blue and orange body paint. He spotted us in our Bears shirts, shook his head, and took a mournful drag on his cigarette. That pretty much said it all.

At least the weather was great.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday CJ Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

I have no secret that I have an unholy love for a certain professional football team from Chicago. Last year’s Super Bowl run also left me with an offseason hangover that has been ringing since February. Getting so close to winning the Super Bowl, only to come up short, bothered me more than all the 6-10 seasons I’ve watched over the last decade.

But the NFL season has begun anew, and I find myself ready to pop two Alka-Selser and cheer for my Bears again, even if a little part of me dies every time Rex Grossman throws into double coverage. Normally, I would be firing up my Sunday Ticket, thanking The Lovely Becky for being an understanding football widow for the next 18 Sundays (plus playoffs), and yelling at the TV.

Tomorrow, however, I head out to sunny San Diego to scream for my team in person. My dad managed to score tickets to the Chargers-Bears game, and I’m going with him and my brother Tickle (yes, his real-life nickname). The weekend after that, Tickle, my other brother Snake Anthony (not his Christian name), and I will join my uncle and cousin in Vegas, where I will gorge myself on sports betting until I can either fit no more money in my pockets or my thumbs get broken. Needless to say, I'm just a tad excited.

On to the iTunes....

1) “Save a Prayer,” Duran Duran. Really funny this came up—this played last night at the restaurant/bar TLB and I went to. "So which Duran Duran member was your favorite?" TLB asked with dead-panned Tiger Beat enthusiasm. I agreed with her that John Taylor was my favorite, because he was the one who could really play and he was really cute. Wait, the last one was only TLB. Seriously. Okay, so he was attractive, that doesn’t mean anything.

2) “Deliverance,” Opeth. And now for something completely different…You know what can really wake you up on a Friday morning? Double-bass blast beats and Cookie Monster death metal vocals. My brother Snake gave this to me. He likes dis Swedish metal, jah, because it captures the icy agony of life and is very fun for him to plays on his guitar and drums. Actually, Opeth write very good music, a lot of delicate, moody, minor-chord stuff. They even sing very beautifully during the slow passages. It's when the Jolt Cola passages hit and the Cookie Monster vocals kick in that I can’t take them seriously. D is for Death, that's my destiny; D is for Death, that’s my destiny; D is for Death, that’s my destiny, Death- Death-Death starts with D.

3) “Whatsername,” Green Day. The last song on American Idiot: The George W. Bush Story. I am glad that this album was a huge hit, not just because it’s an hour of catchy, energetic pop punk, but because a blatantly political album came along to break up the Tony Keith American flag toga party. There were some good indie acts writing overtly political songs after 9/11—Sleater-Kinney and Ted Leo, for instance—but there was no “Ohio” or “Fortunate Son” being played on the radio as our Executive Branch used the Constitution like Depends and got defensive when we asked where that smell was coming from. So it was nice to see the guys sticking their middle fingers in the apple pie win a Grammy.

4) “You Do Something to Me,” Paul Weller. It is funny how a man who once snarled you think I know nothing of the modern world? can sound like Burt Bacharach in his old-rock age.

5) “Shambala,” Beastie Boys. Speaking of coming a long way from waving your 20-foot inflatable penis around.... A cool little instrumental that combines wah-wah Shaft guitar with those chanting Benedictine monks. Our little Brass Monkey is all growns up.

6) “Shake That,” Eminem. So, in an effort to add some wheat germ to my Wonder Bread music collection, I loaded up on some rap music over the summer. I will be the first to admit that I am not the target demographic for Detroit’s angriest white boy. And yeah, "Stan" is a pretty awesome song. But really, if you’re going to write a blatant song about sex like "Shake That," decades after a lot of people more talented than you have drawn water from the same well, you better bring madder linez than I get more ass than a toilet seat. The rotting corpse of Bon Scott could drool out a better zinger. Plus, I will never be able to take Eminem seriously after seeing 8 Mile. It was so obvious he wanted to ride a purple motorcycle and get Apollonia to jump in a freezing lake.

7) “Anytime,” Neil Finn. He and/or Crowded House would have been huge if they hadn’t been Hobbits. New Zealand has produced a lot of terrific music that no one outside of New Zealand has heard, that I would have missed if my friend Paula and her trusty compatriot T-Wise Middy hadn’t left the Shire for Iowa and brought their awesome collection of Kiwi music with them.

8) “Stand in Silence,” …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. Grendel just saw these guys in Amsterdam (lucky bastard). It’s not enough for him to have amazing beer, legal weed, and centuries of culture around him, he also has to have good bands coming through all the time. Trail of the Dead have, however, left a trail of diminishing returns since making the incredible Source Tags and Codes in 2002. They more or less have written the same kind of song since then: start out with a peppy beginning, slow it down, add a lot of extra crap you don’t need like horns and sound effects, and then return to the main movement. Still, I would trade in a lot of beaver pelts to get them to play the UP.

9) “Generator,” Bad Religion. Then again, it is possible to keep writing the same song over and over and still be good.

10) “Bottle Rocket,” The Go! Team. I’m a little more hip to this hoppin. One of those songs you can instantly groove to, with a good rapped female vocal that reminds me of Neneh Cherry. I will be listening to more from them.

11) “Point A to Point Blank,” New Bomb Turks. I love going out on a high note, and this is a getaway car of a song, floored from the second the drums start. Like Trail of the Dead, the Turks have one great album (Scared Straight) that got me to buy more of their less-great albums. But when stuff like this launches me into the best football weekend of my life, it's money well spent.

Have a great weekend. If you happen to watch the game and see a guy in a Bears shirt running on the field to tackle a Charger player returning Rex Grossman’s fifth interception of the day, that might be me. Especially if that man has no pants on.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Interview excerpts from the new Bush biography

This week, Robert Draper's Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush was released. The book revealed a number of unknown facts about the president, including that his desk is damp with tears. Here are a few other excerpts from Draper's interviews with the president.

On the Vice President
"I had a hard time calling the Vice President 'Dick.' Heh heh, there's two funny words in that sentence. Whenever I said his name, I would giggle, and he would get mad at me like dad always did in church when they would say not to covet your neighbor’s ass. Heh, heh. At first I tried calling the Vice President 'D.C.' But then I’d ask where D.C. was, and the staff would look at me like I had two heads. Which would be cool, to have two heads. Could get twice as much thinking done. Anyway, it took a year but then I figured out why the 'D.C.' thing caused confusion.

"So I tried to associate 'Dick' with a word that doesn't make me laugh. I tried 'Duck.' I would say 'Dick,' but think 'Duck,' and that would keep me from laughing. But I said 'Duck.' And this was right after 9/11, so Dick hit the floor of the Oval Office. That made me laugh harder than when I called him 'Dick.' So I just call him 'Dick' now. I finally stopped laughing at it around the 2004 election."

On homosexuality
"Sometimes I envy gay guys. I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Having a wife and two daughters, there are times when I think it would be heaven to be surrounded by men. I think of all those hands, wrapped around thick branches, pulling hard until that pesky brush gives way. Who couldn’t use some of that? But then the icky thoughts come. That’s why we can’t have gay marriage. "

On sobriety
"When do I miss drinking? Hell, when don’t I miss drinking? I can smell that whiskey you had for lunch. Oh, you had a Jack and Coke two weeks ago? Must be that sesame deprivation, makes me smell harder. Heh, heh.

"The first thing I’m going to do when I’m done presidenting is fall on the wagon. No, it’s not fall off the wagon. The wagon is what takes you to the bar."

On Iraq
"Why Iraq? Because we couldn’t attack France. I’m just kidding, I love that long bagel bread they make. Seriously, we had to attack Iraq because…hold on…boy, PowerPoint takes a long time to load, don’t it? Okay, we had to attack Iraq because they had WMD. Aw, crap, this is the old file. Uh, it was, uh, Manifest Destiny."

On Europe
"Everybody says we should be more like the Europeans. Well, what have they ever done?"

On bipartisanship
I could get so much more done if the Democrats would stop bothering me. Imagine if I was always over your shoulder, telling you what you can and can’t write. Now replace 'over your shoulder' with 'fulfilling my legal obligations as elected representatives of the people,' and 'telling you what you can and can’t write' with 'what is and what isn’t illegal.' Pretty annoying, ain't it."

On elocutionableness
"People like to make fun of my speeching, and you know what, that's okay with me. I didn't get elected for my good looks."

On being sad
"I cry every day. But not because of my job. No, somebody signed me up for these Google Alerts, so I see all the mean stuff people say about me. I cry when I read search hits from george bush douchebag and bush monkeyfaced fucktard. That hurts more than people think, and I don't even know what fucktard means. I’m not made of stone. Am I? No, you’re right, it’s bone. Always had a problem with rhymes.

"You know what hurts even more? When I have the Secret Service track down who writes that stuff. I don’t want to do it, and I wouldn’t have to if they would just write things like george bush swell guy. I wish we could live by what Martin Luther King once said: 'Can’t we all just get along?'"

On reaching your dreams
"I am living proof that if you work hard and learn from your mistakes, you’ll get ahead.

"Had you going, didn’t I? Heh heh heh!"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we celebrating our birthdays?

Special extra we're so old today edition!

12) Tapping foot to signal the next stall that we’re ready for a birthday spanking.

11) Wishing that Scarlett Johansson would leap out of the cake.

10) Watching Mr. Burns leap out instead.

9) Arranging naked detainees to spell Happy Birthday.

8) Having leather mask unzipped for the whole day.

7) Receiving thoughtful extra kickback from Halliburton.

6) Unwrapping subpoena from grand jury.

5) Drinking an Old Style for every year we’ve lived.

4) Getting treated for severe alcohol poisoning.

3) Popping two Viagra and cruising the retirement home for widows.

2) Looking over shoulder to see if that’s a breeze or the icy grip of Death.

1) Being as horrified about our new age as Dante was about the same number in Clerks. (severe profanity alert)

And just to clarify things, yes, I am another year closer to death today....