Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are we still blogging?

Today is the third anniversary of Circle Jerk at the Square Dance. When I started this blog, I never gave any thought to how long I would do it. I figured as long as I had dick jokes to tell stuff to write about, I would keep posting.

Now, though, some fine blog friends have questioned their very bloggy existences. It’s a crisis I know well. There have been times when I have thought about ending the blog. I am certainly grateful that fun, entertaining people find my writing fun and entertaining. But with an audience comes expectation, and expectation brings pressure to produce something for that audience that’s worth their time and attention. Sometimes, because of pressures external and internal, that can feel like a real challenge. Even though my blog is quite unserious, I take my blogging very seriously.

Luckily, every time I get that sapped feeling, it doesn’t last long. Maybe that lack of inspiration makes me look harder for something to write about. Maybe the pressures of work or personal life or whatever make me appreciate that I have a creative outlet right at my fingertips. Before I know it, I’m writing again and laughing as I type. And despite relishing the feedback of my audience, I know the first person I have to entertain is me. I hope I’ve done the same for all of you, and appreciate everyone who has ever popped into my humble abode here on the Internets.

On to the Top Ten topic: Why are still blogging?

10) Much better drunken creative outlet than writing name in the snow.

9) Employer refuses to let us use LOLCAT in client presentations.

8) Want children to understand why daddy drinks.

7) Have to alert the world that Chocolate Skittles are people! They’re people!

6) Only way to have a relationship with an adorable girlfriend without violating marriage vows.

5) Saturn doesn’t give cars to just anyone who wants to drive around the country.

4) Someone has to write down what the squirrels are muttering.

3) Mom still can’t find the key to the basement.

2) Because in the Blogosphere, no one can write you a rejection letter.

1) Praise from anonymous readers is the new cocaine.

A post about this past weekend’s Vegas trip will be forthcoming. No pants were soiled, but they were certainly removed. Repeatedly.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Off to Sin City

I had hoped to finish the last of my Top 22 songs today, but it is a) not done, b) already in need of some serious editing, and c) I of course had to double-time working so I could take a couple days off. I'll post part 2 next Friday.

I depart tomorrow to wish my brother Tickle bon voyage to bachelorhood, in what is likely his last trip to Vegas for a while. It's also my goodbye to non-fatherhood, as it will likely be my last trip there for a while as well. Given that there are 10 of us, we have a suite, and we have an all-you-can drink event lined up for Saturday night, that's just as well.

Back Wednesday with a top 10 assuming I can move my fingers. I'll let Bon and the boys send me off....

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Top Ten Wednesdays: How are we wooing the white male vote?

Special extended mullet primary edition!

13) Learned to pee standing up in order to stump at the urinal.

12) Showed artist’s rendition of Air Force One covered in sponsor decals and a giant number 3.

11) Promised that future 3 a.m. calls to the White House would be answered by bi-curious Monica Lewinsky (charges apply).

10) Promised that future presidential pastors would have to pass the Wayne Brady test.

9) Shotgunned a beer and burped out major policy proposals.

8) Announced that subsequent State of the Union addresses would be performed by Pacino and DeNiro.

7) Vowed to declare the Pittsburgh Pirates a federal disaster area.

6) Revealed running mate would be the King of Queens.

5) Offered to replace national anthem with John Mellencamp’s “This Is Our Country.”

4) Devised a plan to keep the railroad from running through Rock Ridge.

3) Gave away limited edition zubaz pants bearing the presidential seal in the seat.

2) Swore to not only catch Osama bin Laden, but have him impaled by Kiefer Sutherland just seconds before the bomb goes off.

1) Kept a straight face when hearing white guys whine about how they don't have any power.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday Random 11: The Significant 22, Part 1

There are times when you just need to let yourself have a break and recharge your batteries. Friday was one of those days. Which is why I am doing the random 11 on a Monday instead.

First things first: Last week’s Top 10 was an open poetry slam, for which I promised a prize. Ten different people responded, so I used this scientific method to select a winner. I rolled a 4, so congratulations to the man who puts the “bit” in bitter, Res Publica, el jeffe de Republic of Dogs. Res wins a $20 Amazon gift certificate for helping me out. Res, shoot me an e-mail me at brando.cjsd at yahoo dot com so I can e-mail you your gift. There is one stipulation: you must use the purchase at Amazon's new cockring store.

So, the music. You may want to use the facilities and grab a beverage, because this is a long ‘un.

A few weeks ago, The Lovely Becky went on our lovely college radio station to play two hours of her favorite music. I was extremely jealous, because I constantly have a burning desire to a) share my opinions in a definitive manner and b) apply “a” to music whenever possible. It also got me thinking about the songs that have made the biggest impact on my life.

I’ve been a music fan since my parents bought me a Mickey Mouse record player when I was a kid. I played your standard kid fare, but my earliest forays into pop music were Meco’s disco remake of the Star Wars theme and Chipmunk Punk. I am not lying when I say that Alvin and company turned me into a rock fan, albeit a fan for sped up vocals sung by fake animals.

When I was 10, my parents bought me a boom box for Christmas. That really opened the floodgates, as I started taping stuff off the radio a lot. I wish I still had those old Memorex tapes, full of The Knack and Blondie and Loverboy, with songs starting as the DJ talked over them and getting cut off three seconds into the following commercial. I would sit and listen for hours, waiting for a new song I wanted to record. These kids with their Internets and their torrent sharing, they don’t know how good they got it.

So for the next two Random 11s, I’m going to pick the 22 most significant songs from my life. They may have influenced me creatively, gotten me through some tough times, or turned me into the overgrown adolescent dillweed I am today. But they played some role in me being me.

22) “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles. I’ll cut off the pretentious cobag accusations with this revelation: the first album I played to death after I got my boom box was Kenny Rogers Greatest Hits. I loved how every song told a story, and how the melody helped you remember the story. It was like redneck prog, minus the time changes and swords and demons.

Growing up in the 70s, I also soaked in The Beatles like Palmolive, and I knew a lot of their songs as well. Which is why Sgt. Pepper’s was the first tape I bought for my boom box.

The title track isn’t even my favorite song in the album, but the concept is what hooked me. Like Kenny Rogers, the album told a story, but more than that, The Beatles were pretending to be someone else, a fictional band playing a fictional concert. It struck a chord as deep and lasting as the final one in “A Day in the Life.” The opening title song epitomized that fiction, starting with the crowd and orchestra sounds and going all the way until they introduced Billy Shears before “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

21) “Take It on the Run,” REO Speedwagon. If Kenny Rogers doesn’t take me down, this certainly chops me at the knees.

To say I played Hi Infidelity a lot would be like saying there are a lot of Orcs in Mordor: a true yet woefully inadequate assessment. I didn’t just play this album, I air guitared it every chance I could get. I wanted to be on stage, ripping off Gary Richrath solos and having thousands cheer. By the time I would get to the solo in “Take It on the Run,” I was someone else, somewhere else, letting my imagination run as wild as the notes squealing out of the speakers. It pretty much ensured that I would be a life-long music fan. That makes this song a diamond in my book, even if the sparkle is stained with cheese.

20) “Country Feedback,” R.E.M. This song came out when TLB and I almost broke up. We both went to separate colleges, thousands of miles apart. To everyone’s surprise, including our own, we made it work. The problems started when I started making plans for post-graduation. I wanted to go to graduate school, and the places I picked would have kept me away from TLB for another year at least (she was a year behind me in school). The thought of more long distance and putting something else in front of us became too much. Visiting her that summer, we spent our time together growing steadily apart.

Like millions of other people that year, we played R.E.M.’s Out of Time religiously. This song in particular captured how I felt about what was happening: a dark sense of loss, that it was all slipping away and there was nothing I could do about it.

Except I could. I realized, like Michael Stipe sang, “I need this.” I needed TLB more than anything else in the world, because I didn’t want to be singing a song like “Country Feedback” and wondering how I let the thing we all chase harder than anything slip away. So I promised her that once I finished undergraduate school, I’d go to graduate school at her college so I could be with her. That saved our relationship. Now this song reminds me of what could have happened but didn’t.

19) “Still Be Around,” Uncle Tupelo. This is the flip side of “Country Feedback.” I had decided to go to grad school to be with TLB, but hadn’t thought much beyond that. While I was still away, she put this song on a mix tape for me. Now, as a long-distance couple in the 80s and 90s, we had a long history of mix-taping. There are probably a half-dozen other songs I could put here that would be equally important. But this one captured what we had gone through: after four years of being apart, we still wanted to be together. What more did I need to realize I wanted to be with this woman for the rest of my life? When TLB came out to California to help me move, I planned a stop in Monterrey, where I got down on one knee in front of the ocean and asked her to always be around. When this song plays now, I always think of that moment.

18) “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” Elvis Costello and the Attractions. I was a very tardy Costello fan, not really getting into him until I was in my late 20s. I was also not a liberal until late in life, as it took me a long time to divorce the conservative beliefs I inherited. Nothing sped up that process like the events after 9/11, when I watched terrorists use murder to supposedly promote freedom, and then watched our government squash freedom to ostensibly fight terror. It all seemed so nuts. One day I was driving down the street, thinking about the insanity of it all, and this song came on. I’d heard it plenty of times, but never quite like this. I sang along as loud as I could. When the song ended, I felt energized, like I wanted to say my piece about what was going on....

17) “Far Away,” Sleater-Kinney. Shortly after my Road to Iowa City event, I picked up Sleater-Kinney’s One Beat, which featured this song. After all the rah-rah flag humping filled the airwaves, it was a breath of fresh air. No other song about 9/11 sounds as horrified, appalled, and angry as this one. I still play it all the time, and it hit the same chord Elvis Costello did.

All great comedy comes from the blackest of emotions, from pain, anger, and depression. Hearing songs like this made me want to vent, but I don’t vent like this song does. The more pissed I get, the more I joke, skewering with humor. These songs didn’t plant the blogging seed, but they definitely shaped what grew from that seed. Some of my best stuff has been written while these two songs have played, and I think a lot of what I’ve written tries to focus their energy through my own prism.

Plus, I like women that rock. More on that next time.

16) “Highway to Hell,” AC/DC. It is no secret that I have a lot of Beavis in me. For all my master debating and cunning linguistics, at my heart I’m a 14-year-old boy that wants to play games and think about girls and listen to rock music. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that you do have to grow up, that having a Peter Pan complex isn’t healthy. At the same time that inner Beavis is still a core part of who I am. When I throw in some AC/DC, I get to release him for a bit, let him air guitar and shout fire! for a few healthy minutes. No other song lets me do that like “Highway to Hell.” Monster guitar riff, snarling Bon Scott, and singing about literally rocking you straight to hell. It’s a Flintstone vitamin for my soul.

15) “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N' Roses. I had a hair band problem in high school. As in I liked them. Ratt, Dokken, Whitesnake...the REO admission is tame by comparison. When I was a senior in high school, I took off with a couple friends to the beach. While riding in the back of my friend’s jeep, he popped in Appetite for Destruction. This was another of those musical moments where the scales fell from my ears. What the fuck was this? It sounded so dangerous and sleazy and genuine. There were no overly flashy solos or lunk-headed party anthems or faux danger. When Axl screamed “You’re in the jungle, baby, and you’re gonna die,” it sounded like he not only meant it, but had lived through it. For me, that moment stabbed hair metal through the heart with a sharpened can of Aqua Net.

Except for Def Leppard. I can’t quit Pyromania.

14) “Master of Puppets,” Metallica. Despite being into metal, I had avoided the really heavy, thrashing stuff in high school. I’m not sure why, because nothing gets Beavis going like fast riffs and pounding double-bass drums. But after seeing the GnR light and also discovering punk music, I gave the thrashier stuff a try. I borrowed my buddy’s Metallica CDs, and Master of Puppets immediately became a desert island disc. It sounded as dangerous and dark as GnR, but it added a progressive streak, with musical twists and turns amid the aggressive head banging. Even though I hate everything these guys now stand for, I still love this song.

“Highway to Hell,” “Welcome to the Jungle,” and “Master of Puppets” form a metal fountain of youth for me. When I feel the weight of the adult world bearing down, I play these songs and still get that youthful buzz. With every passing year, that fountain becomes more valuable to me.

13) “This Boy Is Exhausted,” The Wrens. There’s a famous scene in Garden State where Natalie Portman tells Zach Braff to listen to The Shins, because they would change your life.

The Wrens Meadowlands is my Garden State Shins. I was at a low point when this album came out. I had just gotten rejected again from the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, after doing the best writing I had ever done to that point in my life. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep trying, yet the prospect of ditching writing to focus on my day job seemed even more depressing. TLB and I were also in the trenches of infertility. I was, frankly, exhausted.

Lots of musicians write about being angry teens, disillusioned 20-somethings, or remorseful middle-aged adults regretting what could have been. This album captured that in-between time, being in your 30s and not only feeling clueless about what you wanted to do, but realizing you were running out of time to do it. I don't think any other album has ever captured my mood the way this one did. It was the perfect album at the perfect time.

As “Country Feedback” and hundreds of other songs have done, wallowing in this musical depression became cathartic and helped pull me out of the funk I was in. When it comes to the Hi Fidelity question of “do I listen to pop music because I’m miserable, or am I miserable because I listen to pop music,” it’s definitely the former for me. And miserable music can almost always make me feel less miserable.

12) “Stevie Nix,” The Hold Steady. A lot of this 30-ish turmoil had to do with the conflict between being the person I was raised and the person I was becoming. I had gone through a whole range of changes: reversing most of my political beliefs, losing at least some of my religion, and not knowing what I wanted to “do” with my life. Maybe that’s why I had a Peter Pan complex in the first place: being young and not having to think and question seemed so much easier.

Of course, I know that’s a dead end, that it leads to the sad pining of Springsteen’s “Glory Days.” Which is why The Hold Steady blew me away the first time I heard them. Here was the soundtrack for lapsed Catholics who didn’t want to grow up but knew they had to. Even when Craig Finn sings “Lord, to be 17 forever,” he later adds “Lord, to be 33 forever.” In ten years, I’m sure it would be “Lord to be 43 forever.” As tempting as perpetual youth is, it’s not living. That realization has made me a much happier, saner person in the last few years.

Next week, all the way to number 1. I don’t think it will be much of a surprise....

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Pope Benedict Announces Reforming of the Crusades

Plans Warm-Up Gig for Muslim Representatives at the United Nations

WASHINGTON - Pope Benedict XVI announced today that he is reforming the classic supergroup the Crusaders and will embark on a new tour and the first new work of the group in centuries.

“It is time for The Church to return to its roots in bringing souls to Christ,” said the Pope. He said that the group would make its first performance in more than 700 years later this week in front of representatives from Islamic countries at the United Nations

Critics immediately saw this as a shrewd move by a Catholic Church desperate for a hit. “They haven’t had much success since the release of ‘Vernacular Spectacular (Guitar Mass Blues)’ off Vatican II,” said noted music critic Anthony DeCurtis and author of Knights in White Satin: The Story of the Crusades. “It’s not surprising to see them try to capitalize on their biggest hits.”

Others greeted the announcement with blood-thirsty glee. “My prayers have finally been answered,” said William Donohue, president of the Catholic League. “I’ve been saving my cross shield and long sword for this day.”

The Pope, however, cautioned that this would be a different kind of Crusade.

“When you’re young, you’re full of the Holy Spirit and vinegar, and shedding blood for Christ seems so appealing,” wrote the pontiff on his MySpace page. “But we’ve learned a lot in the last ten centuries. This new crusade will capture the sound and energy of the original, but incorporate a lot of electronic and virtual elements. We want to spill the blood of your mind and soul more than your body.”

Divine debut

Considered by many to be the greatest religious-based warfare ever recorded, Crusades I set a new standard for bringing God into battle. While the Crusaders borrowed heavily from earlier influences such as Greeks, Romans, pre-Christian barbarians, and even the Jews and Muslims whom they fought, they fused these holy war influences with the seemingly non-violent message of Christ, making something uniquely their own.

Crusades I took the world by storm,” said Rolling Stone editor David Fricke. “But beneath its everyman popularity was a real complex, even contradictory sound, meshing ‘turn the other cheek’ with ‘hit that cheek with a mace.’”

Crusades I spawned two major hits. “The Siege of Antioch” was a dark, violent work that captured the fervor and fury of the Crusaders. But it was the epic “The Siege of Jerusalem” that established Crusades I as the holy war of its generation.

Medieval critics showered Crusades I with universal acclaim. Ye Olde Musical Express called it “a tour de forces.” Der Aller Musikführer said that you could “practically feel the hot, salty spray of non-Christian blood on your ears.”

“Essential,” wrote Roger Bacon in his review in Spinne. “From Copenhagen to Constantinople, you can’t go anywhere without feeling the influence of Crusades I.”

Feudal follow-ups

With Crusades II, the group released an ambitious double crusade. The first half revisited the area well overrun in “The Siege of Jerusalem,” causing many critics to say they had heard this all before. But the Portuguese-influenced second half produced the smash hit, “Stairway to Libson (No More Moors)” and catapulted the Crusaders to even greater popularity.

Success, however, also brought problems. As the Crusaders approached their third work, they encountered artistic differences. “There was a lot of arguing over slaughter,” said former Village Voice music critic and author of Christgau on the Crusades Robert Christgau. “Some members felt that had taken the blood-soaked religious war as far as they could, while others wanted to go for an even heavier, brutal approach.”

These disagreements were compounded by a problem that everyone knew about but chose to ignore: rampant plundering. Indeed, the pursuit of easy loot became as much of a focus of subsequent Crusades as a passion for militarized Christianity.

Just as the work on Crusades III began, tragedy struck. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I—known as “the cute one”—died when he fell from the cupola of the Vatican after proclaiming he was “a golden god.” His death exacerbated tensions between Phillip II—the French one—and Richard III, known as “the lionhearted one.” Critics panned Phillip’s decision to record his contributions in his traditional, aloof “Francophone” sound. Meanwhile, the Lionheart received the lion’s share of the acclaim, so much so that Crusades III became known informally as The Lionheart Album. But while Richard had success with “The Battle of Arsuf” and would become the face of the Crusaders, neither he nor any other Christian warriors would never approach the success of “The Siege of Jerusalem” again.

Indulgence and irrelevance

The frictions that surfaced during Crusades III would boil over during Crusades IV. Originally intending to get back to their Middle Eastern roots, the Crusaders instead declared themselves “bigger than Byzantium” before sacking Constantinople. This led to a schism with their Eastern Orthodox fans and, unbeknownst at the time, to the ultimate decline of the Crusades.

Five other Crusades followed, each less commercially successful than the last. A hodge-podge of side Crusades projects further diluted the appeal of the crusades, including their attempt to break into the tween market with the widely panned Children’s Crusade. Finally, after Crusades IX failed to chart, the Crusaders broke up.

Reformation and ressurection

The Church attempted to capitalize on the legacy of the Crusades with similar calls for conversion and obedience, but heavy use of gold, lands, noble titles, and indulgences made The Church’s message increasingly irrelevant and isolated them from their followers. Whatever chance they had to recapture the fire Crusades I fizzled when Christians everywhere turned to the new, personal, stripped-down sound of Martin Luther.

“‘96 Theses’ changed everything,” said Greil Marcus, author of (We’re So) Pretty Sacred: The Fifty Greatest Religious Conflicts. “It used to be that you couldn’t launch a Christian religious war without the Pope’s blessing. But now anyone could start a violent, bloody struggle in the name of Christ. It was very liberating.”

Soon, religious wars broke out all over Europe as Christians rushed to start their own personal crusades. This fervor eventually led to the Thirty Years War, which proved more violent and bloody than the Crusades ever dreamed. And a hardcore, local crusade scene flourished worldwide, most notably with the witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts.

Eventually, The Church realized it had to get clean and get focused if it wanted to recapture its position as the spiritual leader of Christianity. After entering a reformation clinic, The Church returned with the new, kinder, adult contemporary vibe of Vatican I and Vatican II, the sound it followed through the reign of Pope John Paul II.

Which is why Pope Benedict’s call for a new Crusade has surprised many. “I didn’t think they had it in them,” says Penelope Spheris, director of The Decline of Western Civilization: The Crusade Years. “I mean, who wants to see a middle-aged Crusader, in tight chainmail, trying to sack cities like he’s 20 years old again?”

But others feel that Pope Benedict is just the man to restart the Crusades. “After all,” says Robert Christgau, “who better to get the Church back to its fighting spirit than a German pope?”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are we so bitter?

Special Mad Libs contest edition!

I am on the road all day tomorrow, traveling back to the land of ice and snow where the spring time wind is supposed to blow instead of suck. Seeing as I no longer blog and drive since that incident at the monster truck show, I won't be able to post a Top 10 tomorrow. Plus, a whole weekend of discussing features and benefits, in person, without a hint of irony, has left my creative juices a tad drained. So I'm turning some of the fun over to you, dear readers. I'll get us started with a top 10 item, and you can put your entries in the comments. I will randomly pick a winner in Friday's Random 11 and send that person a very special prize.

10) So busy that we have to resort to the kinds of cheap content gimmicks used by Atrios and morning zoo programs.

Happy Birthday, TLB!

The Lovely Becky turned another year lovlier today. It's the 20th birthday I've celebrated with her, and sadly, one I had to celebrate away from her since I was off earning money to by the moose oil we so desparately need.

I usually get TLB the same present every year. That may sound boring, but she seems to enjoy opening it each birthday. In fact, she's hinted it's what she wishes for when she blows out the cake. But this year, she had to unwrap her pool boy all by herself.

Wait...maybe that is what she wished for.

So stop on by and say hey to my lovely lady. I'll be home tomorrow to see if a) our pool is clean and b) if we have a pool.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Working on the weekend

I had to bug out early on Friday to go out of town for work. Originally, I expected to have a fairly leisurely travel day, with plenty of time to post the first part of my most influential songs Random 11. Of course, this being April in the UP, we had a snow storm. I had to get out of Dodge early before I couldn't get out of Dodge. And now I'm working over the whole weekend, so the funny will have to wait. I'll be back with a Top Ten on Tuesday.

I'd also like to note that I'm two weeks away from another Vegas trip for Tickle's bachelor party. This one may actually kill me.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why did we get snubbed by the Pulitzer committee?

10) No category for Lost fan fiction.

9) Liberal bias prevented committee from recognizing Liberal Bias.

8) Kidnapped judges in order to write investigative report on the kidnapping of Pulitzer judges.

7) Composition Flight of the Chocolate Skittles for Concerto and Barf Bag considered tasteless bordering on toxic.

6) Writing novel about taking eleven years to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel not the same as taking eleven years to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

5) Still fighting for academic acceptance of naughty limericks.

4) Apparently none of the dillweeds who gave a special music award to Bob Dylan have ever heard of a little band called Led Zeppelin.

3) Photograph series, “What Will You Do for Mardi Gras Beads?” deemed too hot for prize recognition, but can be yours for just $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

2) Committee didn’t like our LOLcat adaptation of Tennessee Williams, Im on Ur Hot Tin Roofz Watching Ur Family Disintegrate.

1) Our nomination in the snark category was not taken seriously.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Friday CJ Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

Today I walked to get lunch without putting on:
-- a coat
-- boots
-- sled harnesses on the cats

That’s the definition of a good day after a long, long winter.

The other big thing this week is that I finished a story for the first time in a long time. Not finished finished. It’s a first draft, and like all first drafts, it’s shitty and needs to be rewritten. But considering I’ve had a bad rut the last couple years of starting fiction pieces and not finishing them, it's an accomplishment. Plus I feel like, despite its present shitiness, it has the potential to turn into something pretty awesome.

1) “Dear John,” Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. Just a heartbreaking, beautiful song. Ryan Adams is always hit or miss, but when he hits, he hits for power.

2) “Sleeping Giant,” Mastodon. Heartbreaking as well, but more like a lance piercing the breastplate of your plate mail during a titanic battle against Orcs heartbreaking. I would have gone apeshit for this when I was 14.

3) “Untitled Track No. 8,” Sigur Ros. From the ( ) album. Almost as long as the Marquette winter. Normally You Tube comments are where intelligence goes to die a horrible, capped, misspelled death. But I have to agree with the first commenter about this song: "Magic." It really is.

4) “Immigrant Song,” Led Zeppelin. If Michelle Malkin had a Facebook page, I would send her this song to her every day, just to annoy her. Warning: the video may cause seizures from the strobe-light editing job.

5) “Post-War,” M. Ward. Like a jacuzzi bath for your ears. So relaxing. And no pruning.

6) “I Feel,” The Sundays. I do feel fine today. I struggled all week with this brochure I had to write for work. I didn’t really want to write it, and I procrastinated and started and stopped and generally got stuck with this thing hanging over my head all week. Finally, this morning, I got up early, sat down, and banged it out. And the rest of the day has just been gravy. There’s nothing like having that feeling on a Friday.

7) “Challenger,” American Music Club. One of those groups I have that I haven’t really explored, but always look up from what I’m doing when one of their songs comes on.

8) “Charmer,” Kings of Leon. There’s a very disconcerting, Ned Flanders-esque scream that like fingernails across a blackboard that’s strapped to my ear. Which is too bad, because it's otherwise a good song.

9) “History Never Repeats,” Split Enz. You can never go wrong with a little Neil Finn.

10) “Tommy the Cat,” Primus. Normally, when it comes to Primus, I am all DO NOT WANT. But I can haz this, especially with Tom Waits starring as Tommy.

11) “Teenage Depression,” Eddie and the Hot Rods. TLB often tells me that my biggest problem is that I had a very happy childhood. It’s true. My teenage years in particular were a lot of fun. Not in a sad, nostalgic “Glory Days” sort of way. It’s just that I had friends I liked, a lot of good times, and not a lot of trouble. The best way to describe them would be carefree. The worst thing that happened to me during that time—which at the time seemed like The Worst Thing in the World™—was having to move right before my senior year. But if I hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have met TLB. Like I said, carefree.

So earlier this week, I was bemoaning work to TLB. I had been kind of down, not just about what I was doing this week, but work in general. I thought how much it sucks that, once you start working, you keep working constantly until you get old and retire. If you’re lucky enough to get an academic job, you get summers off, but not quite the same way as when you were a kid. Carefree seems so much harder to come by.

But then I got my project done, walked outside into the spring air, and felt completely fine. I thought about all the good things that have happened to me lately, and how even the big bad winter wasn’t that big and bad, even if it was long. And honestly, I felt pretty damn silly about my kvetching earlier. Maybe that’s the big benefit of getting older, knowing that, in the end, most things aren’t worth getting upset over, because you’re having a baby, you finished something you really care about, and you have a lot of good music to listen to.

Have a great weekend. I’m also planning a special two-part Random 11 the next two Fridays—the 22 songs that have most influenced me in my life.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Smar-T: The Global Clue Positioning System

In a luxurious car, a female investment banker and a male investment banker talk.

Wow, I can’t believe you’re really going to quit investment banking.

The money and security are great, but I want to pursue my dream of going to grad school to study poetry.

A small device on the female banker’s desk lights up and rings.

What’s that?

FEMALE BANKER (reaching for the device)
It’s Smar-T, my new GCPS.


Global Clue Positioning System. (She turns on the Smar-T)

SMAR-T (in calm female voice)
Warning! Poverty approaching. Foreclosure, reposession, and student loan default imminent. Final destination: despairing obscurity.

You know, I could just write my poetry in between mergers. Thanks, Smar-T!

Smar-T is the revolutionary new device that gives you direction when you reach the crossroads of life. It delivers the clues you need when you need them most.

Inside a bar, two men, Frank and Benny, talk over beers.

So I took your advice, even though Smar-T said not to. I told her I couldn’t deal with sneaking around any more and that she should tell her husband.

Hey, you gonna trust your buddy Benny or some stupid piece of plastic? (They clink bottles.) So what does the husband do?

He’s a Green Beret.

Frank’s Smar-T beeps.

Caution! Take immediate evasive action.

The door of the bar bursts open. A large man, dressed in full camo gear, scans the tavern.

Which one of you is Frank?

Frank extends his arm over Benny’s head and points to his friend. Camo Man grabs Benny and pulls him off the stool. Off camera, Benny starts to shriek.

Thanks, Smar-T. I’ll never turn you off again.

Smar-T combines the collective wisdom of the greatest thinkers in human history, including: the Torah, the New Testament, the I-Ching, Poor Richard’s Almanac, Wikipedia, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Vulcans from every Star Trek intellectual property, everything your mother ever told you, Winston Churchill, and Oprah. Use it for advice on parenting....

A mother and father talk.

How can we be open about sex with the kids without encouraging them to have sex?

Suggestion: Intersperse discussion with graphic details of sexually transmitted diseases.

I like it. Thanks, Smar-T.

Downloading gonorrhea slides now.


A broker talks on the phone.

Yes, I said take all of it out of Bear Stearns and put into JP Morgan. Trust me, a little birdie told me so.

Insider information complete. Contacting nearest Porsche dealer now.

Smar-T, you da man! Or da woman.

and relationships...

In a pitch black bedroom, a bed squeaks as a man and woman breathe heavily.

MAN (urgent)
Oh baby, oh baby...

Not yet, not yet.

The Smar-T lights up in the darkness.

Climax unaligned. Think about baseball.

A hundred years since the last Cubs World Series...A hundred years since the last Cubs World Series.

The woman cries out and the man follows. They turn the light on and lie breathless under the covers.

MAN and WOMAN (in unison)
We love you, Smar-T!

Why trust your decisions to the irrational, emotional, erratic impulses of the human brain? Let Smar-T show you the way to better decision making today.

At the Trinity United Church of Christ, Reverend Jeremiah Wright preaches.

I say, no, no, no, not God Bless America...

On his pulpit, his Smar-T vibrates. He pauses to listen to the message.

SMAR-T (whispering)
YouTube cliff approaching. White backlash ahead. African American presidential hopes fading.

The congregation leans in, silent, waiting for the Reverend’s next words.

WRIGHT (clears throat)
So, I say no, no, no, not God Bless America. God double-bless America! This is the greatest country on Earth! USA! USA! USA!

The congregation chants along with him. In one pew, Barack Obama turns around, holding up a Smar-T.

And it makes a great gift!

Get smart and get Smar-T today!

Original concept by Saying Yes Enterprises.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What April Fool's pranks did we pull?

10) Passed out special Green Zone whoopee cushions that make the sound of mortar fire.

9) Stuffed cucumber wrapped in tinfoil down pants before going to campus abstinence group meeting.

8) Replaced the water in waterboarding with Palmolive.

7) Hit spring in the groin with a giant snowball.

6) Developed elaborate cross-country road-trip ruse just to kidnap John Cusack.

5) Filled John McCain’s All-Bran with Viagra before breakfast fundraiser with the Concerned Women for America.

4) Hired Publisher’s Clearing House to deliver oversized eviction notices to defaulting home owners.

3) Gave Big Oil a stern tongue lashing before cracking up and giving them the usual tongue bath.

2) Dressed up in sombreros, bandoliers, and fake mustaches, then snuck through Lou Dobbs’s backyard.

1) Sent Americans their tax rebates in pennies.