Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

I was talking to one of my friends about politics this weekend, and I got on the subject of why I went from being conservative to a liberal. It boiled down to two things: the anti-intellectualism of the post-Gingrich GOP, with its emphasis on faith over reason; and the policing of personal behavior, instead of letting people manage their morality themselves.

Part of that policing involves the annoying overhyping of how depraved American culture has become, that we’re a “culture of anything goes.” Nothing exposes that myth more than Super Bowl week. It’s the biggest game of the year, and nothing adds to the excitement of sport like a little wagering on the side. Yet I can’t make a bet on the game because it’s against the law. I have to jump through a bunch of hoops and send my money to offshore agencies which may or may not be run by drug cartels or Al Qaeda or Danny Gans. I don’t find the effort worth it, especially since I am terrible at betting on sports anyway, so I don’t bother. But it’s such a crock of shit that our society is “out of control” when I can’t put $20 on Baby Jesus giving Kurt Warner another Super Bowl.

However, I am also a big believer in questioning your own beliefs, especially when confronted by evidence that suggests the other side may be on to something.

While I have given up on online sports wagering, I play poker online regularly, as does The Lovely Becky. A couple years ago, we did jump through the hoops of getting our money into an account at a poker site that rhymes with Bull Shilt, because the only thing worse than listening to a sermon about the evils of gambling is playing poker for fake money.

Since then, we’ve managed to win enough that we didn’t need to deposit additional money. In fact, at one point, we went on a pair of tears. We managed to go from $5 tournaments to $10 ones to $24 ones. We had enough money that we actually talked about cashing some of it out.

Of course, the poker gods taketh more than they giveth, and we went on a reverse tear that was like watching the Cubs collapse in the playoffs. It was hard to go back to the cheaper games, in part because the more expensive ones featured better players, and we both damaged our bankrolls by lingering longer in expensive waters than we should have. However, when it became clear that we either had to go cheap or go through the hoops of depositing more real money in our accounts, we grudgingly went back to the $5 games.

I mentioned this the other night when I was talking to TLB about how much we had in our accounts: would we have taken this more thrifty approach if it was really easy to deposit our money? I’m sure the answer is no, and it was in fact the efforts of the American Purity Police that kept me from dumping more into my account and probably losing more money. They may not have saved my soul, but they certainly saved me some money.

It sucks to realize that.

1) “Going Mobile,” The Who. Speaking of going mobile, how about Governor Blago getting kicked to the curb? That’s a man who needs a reality show. We could see him jogging, shoplifting from the store, getting his hair done and asking what the stylist is going to do for him if he leaves her a tip. It takes a lot to get the good people of Illinois, who anticipate corruption like they anticipate snow every winter, to sit up and say, “wow, that’s pretty corrupt.”

2) “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” The Byrds. I do feel better now that the waste of our 43rd president has been flushed back to Texas, but the aftermath is certainly depressing. It’s going to be a long time before we right the ship.

3) “Green Arrow,” Yo Lo Tengo. This song certainly helps, though. A quiet, beautiful instrumental track that feels like dusk descending on my ears.

4) “Run to the Hills,” Iron Maiden. I have to give them credit for writing a song sympathetic to plight of American Indians, but it makes me laugh because I watched “The Cigar Store Indian” episode of Seinfeld last night. The scene where Jerry is going out with the Native American woman and tries to avoid saying words like “reservation” and “scalper” is both funny and a biting comment about how much we’ve demonized and stereotyped the original Americans. BTW, this video has got some amazing pants in it.

5) “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey,” The Beatles. Their greatest song title. I also see that the creationists were at it in Texas again, losing their bid to expose the “weaknesses” of evolution. In an earlier article about this, the New York Times mentioned that the head of the Texas State Board of Education, Dr. Don McLeroy, is not just a creationist. Oh no, he’s a Young Earth Creationist, who thinks the earth is a few thousand years old, because dag gummit, that’s what the Bible says. Like I said to Michael Baines earlier, how do you become the head of a state educational board when you clearly hate education?

6) “Ride,” Joe Satriani. One of the best Guitar Heroes, who manages to be flashy without wanking like this Swedish meatball.

I am facing a bit of a fake music game dilemma. Both of my fake plastic toy guitar game controllers are dying. My old Guitar Hero one won’t strum, and the Rock Band one has always been a little wonky and imprecise. I told this to The Lovely Becky last night while I was playing (and she was playing poker), after my own ham-fisted strumming coupled with the controller’s malfunctioning made one guitar solo sound like a coked-up Neil Young playing in a clothes dryer. “Just get another one,” she said. She really is quite lovely.

The problem is I feel like a fool. I have already gone through TWO fake guitars, and now I need another one because I can’t quite play my fake music game at the level of expertise I would like. A normal person would either say enough is enough, or realize that, fake or no, said game provides hours of real pleasure and another guitar is no big deal. Instead I have to spend too much time analyzing this before eventually succumbing and buying the goddamned thing anyway. This is how I make myself nuts.

Of course, I have the money to buy a new controller because I haven’t been spending all of it on poker.

7) “No More My Lawd,” Ollabelle. This is how you can make Christian music that doesn’t sound like Tiffany singing about holding hands with Jesus. TLB and I are friends with Ollabelle’s bass player, and we got a big thrill when we saw them play on Conan O’Brien a few years ago. Why is that? We were of course happy for him and the band’s success (he may be the nicest person in the music business), but why do we take such pride in “Hey, I know that guy”?

8) “Suffer,” Bad Religion. Their songs are like lectures set to punk rock. I liked going to class in college (usually) and I like punk, so they don’t bug me the way they bug some people.

9) “The Fox in the Snow,” Belle & Sebastian. That might be what’s leaving tracks outside my back door. By the way, we’ve hit nearly 160 inches of snow for the winter. And only two more months to go!


11) “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side,” The Smiths. OH FACK, I’M SO FACKING MISERABLE BECAUSE NO ONE LOVES ME….*cough*, ahem, sorry. Hard to turn that off. Here’s my imitation of every Smiths song: I cried and I cried and I cried, oh did I tell you how I cried?

Enjoy yourselves this weekend.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mistress Layoffs Felt Up and Down Wall Street



Anchor JUDY VAN LICHEN sits at the news desk.

The current economic downturn continues to affect nearly all sectors of the American economy, and now even a once-robust sector is taking a considerable pounding: the mistresses of businessmen.

According to the latest numbers from the Government Accounting Office, nearly 70 percent of all mistresses were either laid off or are only working in spurts. The report states that economic conditions coupled with stricter accounting standards have led many businessmen to immediately pull out of the mistress market.

We turn to our Economic Analyst Grant Silverstone for his insights.

Grant Silverstone

VAN LICHEN (cont.)
Grant, how bad is this mistress meltdown?

In economic terms, it’s unprecedented. The entire businessmen-mistress industry has gone suddenly soft. Just look some of these figures:

A graph showing “Mistress Industry Shrinkage”
The graph shows the following figures:

Fur: -177%
Edible panties: -125%
Fuck pads: -115%
French Maid outfits: -97%
Pearl necklaces: -82%

The losses in the “fuck pad” market are especially devastating, considering that it’s nearly impossible to sell a million-dollar, one-bedroom condo downtown without the enticement of it being perfect for discreet intercourse between shareholder meetings.

B-Roll showing an older businessman escorting a young woman in fur and jewelry into a fancy restaurant.

This contraction is also seeping into other fields not traditionally dominated by mistresses, such as fine restaurants. Owners are losing those vital businessman-mistress dinners that usually resulted in expensive wines, caviar, and enough chocolate mousse to cover two fully naked lovers.

The jewelry industry may be the hardest hit, however.


CARLA SCAMPI, owner of Scampi Jewelry, stands behind a jewelry counter, playing with her many rings as she speaks.

Not only are we losing out because businessmen aren’t buying jewelry for their mistresses, but their increased fidelity has drastically reduced our lucrative guilt purchase market. So we’re really feeling this mistress thing at both ends.


Grant, what about the human cost?

Well, no one is taking it harder than the mistresses themselves. Most are not trained to do more than have acrobatic, mind-blowing sex and destroy marriages. Some are seeking employment as escorts, but that industry only has so many openings that can be filled at once.

Has this crisis reached its climax yet?

Sadly, we’ve probably seen just the tip. There are already signs that this problem is dribbling from Wall Street onto Main Street.

B-roll of a motel advertising hourly rates, followed by footage of adult magazines on store racks

Many small businessmen are forgoing mistresses or seeking younger, more inexperienced lovers interested in working pro bono. Others are turning to in-house solutions for their sexual fantasies, employing adult material and their imaginations.


It’s pretty clear that, without some sort of external stimulation, this will continue to be a pretty rough ride for mistresses everywhere.

Well, let’s hope the industry gets off its feet and back on its back soon.


Adapted from a concept by the Onion News Network.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are our teenagers not having sex?

The New York Times reports that teenage sexual activity is down since the 1990s. Why are more teenagers saying they are not having sex?

10) Thought we did have sex, but realized abstinence-only teacher had no idea what he was talking about.

9) Would have totally done it with our girlfriends if we could have made it to the bed in time.

8) Converted to lesbianism after getting creeped by the dads at our purity ball.

7) Inflation in cost of dry cleaning makes dry humping cost-prohibitive.

6) Discovered mommy’s “back massager.”

5) Saving selves for that special someone on Facebook.

4) Became impotent after finding online porn that featured our parents.

3) Rising teenage obesity rates make it too much effort to remove pants.

2) Rainbow parties are so 2003. Now we just dirty Twitter.

1) Actually boffing like rabbits but know better than to say that to researchers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

My life now revolves around sleep.

I’ve had an adversarial relationship with sleep for most of my life. It’s not that I don’t like sleep, it’s that I don’t like going to bed. I want to be up, up, up, and I especially love being awake in the early morning hours, when it seems like I have the whole world to myself.

I dubbed this Brando’s War Against Sleep, after Gurdjieff: The War Against Sleep, a book about the philosopher I remember stocking in the Mizzou college bookstore. The Lovely Becky, who loves sleep and dreams of a world she could run from her bed, has never understood why I fight going to bed like a child.

The irony is, in recent weeks, my child has fought going to bed like her adult father. Libby originally lulled us into a false sense of security. The first six weeks were standard issue infant sleeping, which we were prepared for: sleep for three hours, eat, poop, repeat. After we returned from our vacation in North Carolina last August, something magical happened—she started sleeping through the night. She would go down for nine to twelve hours. Having been fed so many horror stories of sleep deprivation from parents, we reacted like Sir Robin seeing the Bridge of Death: That’s easy!

Like Brave Sir Robin, we got too eager and were thrown into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

The sleep honeymoon lasted about another six weeks. For a while, Libby usually got up once or twice a night, which was manageable. But in the last few weeks, she shifted into overdrive and was getting up three or four times a night. The baby books said she was attached to us and simply didn’t want the fun to stop. I could totally relate, and it also revealed what a fool I was to every declare war on sleep. Now, all I want to do is surrender to my once sworn enemy, to come out of my consciousness trench at 9 p.m., my hands raised, waving the white night cap of surrender, and praying for sleep to take me to its POW camp. Or at least machine gun me so I could sleep when I’m dead.

We launched our own offensive this week, following the strategy of letting Libby cry and taking turns staying up with her while the other person sleeps in the quiet guest room, which is an odd thing to do in your own house. It’s worked pretty well, though, and last night the Libster woke up once for a bottle and hardly made a peep otherwise. This of course helped me sleep, and I figured I would feel like my old self.

Yet, like a veteran returning home, I am not the same. The war has changed me, and even with a couple of full nights of sleep, I found myself yawning and droopy long before The Daily Show came on. Like water cutting through rock that eventually forms the Grand Canyon, I am slowly being changed from Rock N Roll Brando* into a dad, the way my dad was transformed from the D-Train (a hell raiser straight out of an S.E. Hinton novel) to Dad. Because when I was growing up, the one thing Dad yearned for more than anything else was a good night’s sleep. I don’t know if he ever fought the transition, but I can see why he eventually gave in, because sleep feels wonderful.

So, this week, I’m doing a theme: 11 random songs about sleep.

*(Note: level of rock n roll unverified by inspectors and is heavily disputed by spouse.)

1) “I Go to Sleep,” The Pretenders. Of course, this song is mostly about missing somebody to get freaky with before going to sleep, as Chrissy Hynde sings about missing the person next to her. (I’m not sure, but there could also be some implied DiVinyls action going on as well.) Despite this, her voice is a perfect lullaby. Wow, is it really only noon? I could use some sleep right now.

2) “Sleeping Lessons,” The Shins. It does seem funny that you have to teach someone how to sleep. We gave into Libby’s crying a little too much (as a lot of new parents do) before getting fatigued enough to become irritated enough to be sleep fascists with our baby. But all the books say that’s what you have to do, and as writers, who are we to argue with books?

3) “The Devil Never Sleeps,” Iron & Wine. This is true, and maybe this is why I liked staying up. I’m not a fan of The Devil and don’t really believe in his approach, but I have to admit, when he’s around, things get pretty exciting.

Speaking of possession, I am a big Paranormal State fan. For someone who generally prides himself on being fairly logical, I love things that have to do with ghosts, demons, and all that occult stuff. I don’t necessarily believe it, but like Fox Mulder, I want to believe it, because it would make the world more interesting if it was true. Anyway, Paranormal State usually involves the research team conducting “Dead Time,” a type of spirit communication that takes place at 3:00 a.m. (supposedly because that’s the exact opposite time of when Jesus died—SPOOKY). Most of the time, the researchers don’t uncover much, or hear things that could either be a soul-sucking demon or a running toilet. Every once in a while, though, they see or hear something that, at least in its edited form, is kind of freaky.

I’ve told TLB that I wish I could have a paranormal experience. I’ve never had anything remotely resembling one. No déjà vu, no cold spots (unless you count the UP as a cold spot), no floating orbs or light, nothing. Lots of people in my family have had ghost experiences, including my parents and my siblings. Of course, like a certain star of The Wizard of Oz, I don’t want to experience this when I’m alone, and I would prefer to see such things from behind a wall of chanting Jesuits. But I’m always super curious and a little jealous when people tell their ghost stories.

4) “Sleep Tonight,” Stars. After all that writing, I’m a little tired. A very nice, very simple song that always relaxes me.

5) “Sleepwalker,” The Kinks. Ray Davies sounds like a man who is wandering the streets in a half-conscious state. I’ve never had this happen to me or ever seen it happen, but there are those stories of people killing others while sleepwalking (which has a killer name, Homicidal somnambulism). So, like a solo paranormal experience, it’s probably best I haven’t run into this.

6) “Singing in My Sleep,” Semisonic. I have heard people talking in their sleep. I once shared a bed with my cousin when we were teenagers, and he rolled over in the middle of the night and said, “I know I can seem like a jerk, but I’m really a nice guy.” I thought he was having a moment of clarity, but he was the same person the next day.

BTW, for you kids watching the videos, that thing at the beginning of this one is a cassette tape. They were used to steal music before the Internets and to explain, through music, why you would love your boyfriend forever/were dumping him for someone who made a better mixtape.

7) “Get Some Sleep,” Bic Runga. A wonderful New Zealand singer, introduced to me by a wonderful New Zealander, my friend Paula (and her trusty squire, TMiddy). Paula recently wrote a post about her adventures in air travel that made me feel like I was exhausted, unwashed, and vowing to declare war on Air France.

8) “Sleep Spent,” Death Cab for Cutie. They sound a little sleepy themselves here, like the drummer can barely step on his bass pedal. You definitely don’t want to fall asleep while you’re playing a concert, that’s for sure.

9) “Sleeping Giant,” Mastadon. In case the title and band name don’t tell you this is the opposite of Death Cab, this song is from the album Blood Mountain. Sleeping giant could refer to me since, in typical new dad fashion, fatherhood has delivered a few extra lbs to me along with my wonderful child. Mastadon is a little too aggro for me and I only play this at the gym, which I don’t go to enough because I’m too goddamned tired. Perhaps I’ll record my own prog metal album called The Couchening: Waistline of the Napping Gods. It’ll be a concept album about a man on a quest for the perfect nacho dip to eat before falling asleep during a majestic football game.

10) “Sleepless Nights,” Gram Parsons. I’m really sorry that it took me 37 years to finally listen to Gram Parsons. The steel guitar here is nice and weepy.

11) “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead,” Warren Zevon. Kind of sad in light of his death, but it’s a great ode to putting off some sack time to raise a little hell. Which works even better when you try to raise it during Dead Time.

It’s supposed to snow again this weekend, and we’re already at 150 inches for the winter. So maybe I should just bag the next two months and hibernate. It would keep me from eating dip in my sleep.

Have a good weekend, and stay warm.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: What commemorative inaugural merchandise are we purchasing?

Special extra collectable edition!

12) Yes, We Can! home canning kit.

11) Starbucks Kenyan Roast/Cafe Americano blend (comes with genuine certificate of origin).

10) 24k Gold Compromise Necklace (note: clasp is very fragile and may break under the slightest pressure)

9) Red, white, and blue Deficit Shovel (with free Bailout Bucket).

8) Franklin Mint Obama Administration vs. Bush Administration pewter chess set.

7) Danger Mouse remix of Barack Obama reciting The Gettysburg Address over Jay-Z’s Black Album.

6) Inauguration key chain with laser pointer (warning: do not point during inauguration).

5) Keepsake vial with drop of Oprah’s inauguration swoon sweat (includes free trial size of O: The Cotton Swab).

4) Box of Ol’ Conservative Sour Balls (available at Fox News media tent).

3) Hillary Clinton Inauguration Ball Glass Slippers (made from genuine shards of glass ceilings).

2) Joe Biden Dental Dam.

1) Hope-on-a-Rope

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

So this is it, the last weekend of George W. Bush in office. Appropriate that it’s been cold enough for hell to freeze over.

I really don’t think there’s been eight years of FAIL the way there has been with the Bush White House. Nixon was worse—Watergate was just the tip of the illegal iceberg. And I think there have been more ineffectual presidents. But I do think Bush is the worst to ever serve two full terms.

I understood the 2000 election. I think if someone not from the Clinton administration had run, Bush would have lost. I certainly don’t think adultery is an impeachable offense, but let’s face it: Clinton was an embarrassment his last couple of years, both for his behavior and his choice of mistresses. I mean, he was the president. Get Diane Lane or at least Meryl Streep in there. Have some respect for the White House. A hummer from an intern is so Mark Foley. Gore bore the brunt of that frustration, and it cost him.

Anyway, Bush was an assface back then, but he seemed like a relatively unexceptional assface, another Calvin Coolidge who would cut taxes and be out in 2004. Then September 11 happened, and he turned into a feces flinging monkey with irritable bowel syndrome. He found this nexus of incompetence, arrogance, idiocy, and zealotry that I’ve never seen from any politician before. He would crap in your oatmeal right in front of you, deny that that he didn’t actually crap in your oatmeal, admit that he did and then ask why it’s a big deal, and finally tell you that crapping in your oatmeal was good for you, and that he’d love to tell you why, but that’s classified.

The really unbelievable part is how apparent all of this was by the 2004 election. We knew everything we needed to know about Bush by that time. And yet tens of millions of people came out and said “more, please.” Kerry was a pretty poor candidate, true, but really, anything was better than Bush. A bowl of poopy oatmeal would have been better, because although totally incapable of making decisions, it would also be incapable of making the worst possible decision every single fucking time.

Now he’s finally going. I thought I would feel happier. But the interviews this week just infuriated me. He’s leaving, having accomplished nothing but leaving the country in much worse shape than he found it, and he’s the same clueless fuckwit he was when he was sworn in. Even worse, he gets to skip off into the sunset, collecting large speaking fees (sweet Jesus) from conservative mouthbreathers who want to see him smirk just one more time, while millions of people struggle and suffer because of the policies of his administration.

I have no idea if Obama will be able to right the ship. The problems are so big, and go far beyond our shores, that I suspect we’ll only be able to stem the bleeding and maybe have to amputate a limb or two. However, at least when I see the president speaking, I won’t feel the urge to throw a pie at my television set.

1) “11 O’Clock Tick Tock (Live),” U2. This is the peak of U2.1, the period before they morphed into the world’s biggest band with The Joshua Tree. Much like Live at Leeds is better than any Who studio album up to that point in their careers, I think Under a Blood Red Sky captures U2 at their early, earnest best. If given a time machine, I might be tempted to go back and see them at the Red Rocks concert. You know, after I kill Hitler and punch Clinton in the balls before he could become infellatimous.

2) “Allison Road,” Gin Blossoms. I’ve been going back and re-burning some of my CDs, and when I did this one, I noticed it came out in 1992. Has it really been seventeen years since the Gin Blossoms? Oh my God, I’m almost dead!

I’ve been getting that feeling a lot lately because of Facebook. I’ve connected with a few people I haven’t talked to since high school or college. In some cases, I haven’t spoken with them in more than 20 years. How can I be that old already? The Lovely Becky and I remember what our parents were like in their late 30s, and they seemed, well, old. Okay, not old, but older than us. Certainly not having kids until now let us indulge in some of our more carefree, adolescent impulses. Still, I seem younger than my dad did at this age. I use product in my hair! I dig the rock and roll that these crazy kids listen to! My dad probably felt the same way about his father, which makes me wonder if it’s a common psychological reaction, or if our society really is stretching adolescence further and further into adulthood.

Despite being mortified at seeming “old,” I am equally terrified of not aging gracefully. Back in high school, wandering the Mission Beach area of San Diego with my friends (some of whom I’m now talking to on Facebook), I saw this older gentleman—balding, gray hair and beard—cruising in a convertible Mercedes, with the speakers blaring Oingo Boingo. Now, maybe he was really a swell guy who just dug his alternative rock. But he looked like a giant cobag looking to pick up a new trophy wife. When I’m edging toward retirement and riding in my Smart hyrid, cranking the latest record from Flavor of the Week, I’m going to keep my windows rolled up.

3) “In My Head,” Queens of the Stone Age. I should like these guys more than I do. This is the only song of theirs I have, bought after I heard it on an episode of Entourage. They rock hard, they occasionally play naked, and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Yet I’m fairly meh on them. But I go ape over Dio. My tastes make no sense sometimes.

4) “Where Boys Fear to Tread,” The Smashing Pumpkins. The theme song for Mark Foley’s office.

5) “Game of Pricks (Live),” Guided by Voices. A top five song from a top five band for me. I had the pleasure of seeing them play this twice live, in a small club, where I could get up close and jump around with 300 other people having a ball. That was the beauty of a GbV show: it was one giant party.

6) “I Will Dare,” The Replacements. I usually have the cover view on when I have iTunes opened, so I can see the album art with the song list. The cover of The Replacements Let It Be has them on a roof, looking like four kids fresh out of high school (and I think the bass player was still under 18). Seeing that photo and then hearing what they could produce—some of the best rock music of the 80s, music that sounded so mature and assured—it’s hard to believe it was made by kids. Of course, they also have songs about boners and tonsillectomies on the same album, so they didn’t forget their roots.

7) “Strapped for Cash,” Fountains of Wayne. I got my year-end 401k statements last week. I’m not a panicky person as far as retirement goes. I know that there will be boom years and bust years. But holy shit, it’s amazing how much things tanked last year. Seeing figures in black and white that suggest I might be revisiting my high school career as a grocery bagger when I’m 65 did make me pucker a bit. Even worse, there was no place to hide—every possible fund was a loser. The only difference was the variance in the amount of compound suck. If monkeyface got his wish and privatized Social Security, you would have seen old people overturning and burning motorized carts, hurling shuffleboard pucks at police, and looting Miracle Ears and Brylcreme from stores.

8) “KC Accidental,” Broken Social Scene. An unusually structured song that works really well. It has a mellow sung section sandwiched between two soaring instrumental parts.

9) “3rd Planet,” Modest Mouse. It took me a long time to warm to Modest Mouse. They’re not a first-listen-fave in my opinion. They pack all these odd turns and tweaks in their songs, with lyrics that require you to really concentrate before you get them. Music you have to think about: what a concept!

10) “No Place to Go,” Lupe Fiasco. I’m hipping and/or hopping to this. I don’t get all the references because I’m not well versed in rap, but his lyrics touch on so many themes, including how hard it is to like songs that say things you normally would find offensive. Why is that? If I heard someone talking to a woman the way David Coverdale sings about women in Whitesnake’s “Slide It In,” I would be totally appalled. Yet it comes on the radio, and it goes to 11 (with the car windows rolled up, of course). I know that a lot of my lingering love for some 80s metal stems from nostalgia, for enjoying that feeling of being 17 again, if only for four minutes. Why can I not grow out of the truly embarrassing stuff, though? Does my inner Beavis fight it precisely because it is so immature, and that immaturity is where the nostalgia comes from? I wish I knew the answer to that.

11) “99 Problems,” Danger Mouse. From The Grey Album, a remix of Jay-Z’s Black Album with The Beatles White Album. Ha, talk about feeling like a hypocrite for liking a song. I put this on when I’m working out and I can’t help but groove to it, because Danger Mouse did such a good job working the samples in. What he didn’t remix was any of Jay-Z’s sexism, which by rap standards is not that terrible, but by people standards is the snout, hooves, and squiggly tail. So why do I tolerate this? Again, I don’t know. And, honestly, if I understood how my brain works, life would be a lot less interesting.

Have a good weekend, and stay warm. My advice to Obama is also to not pull a William Henry Harrison: Wear a hat! Preferably one that says “I licked Bush in 2008.” 'Cause that would be tits.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: What presidential regrets do we have?

10) Making too many decisions without using our “thinkin’ juice.”

9) Forgetting to plant the WMD before invading Iraq.

8) Crying out “Mission Accomplished” in bed before the First Lady could have hers.

7) Not finding a way to keep immigrant labor cheap but not so immigranty.

6) Failing to build more support for invasive interrogations by turning them into a game show, Wheel of Torture.

5) Having typos when updating status on the White House Facebook page.

4) Walking into the Vice President’s crypt during a feeding.

3) Thinking that New Orleans was supposed to be underwater, like Atlantis.

2) Smirking so hard that face is permanently frozen.

1) Listening to anyone else except the voice that’s probably God’s.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

Over at Three Bulls, Pinko and the Uncanny Canadian are doing their annual epic rundown of Pitchfork’s top 100 songs of the year. It is one of my favorite blog posts of the year, and their ability to say something funny for 100 songs is re-mehrk-able. For those of you unfamiliar with Pitchfork, it’s an indie music review site that has grown into the Second Life version of Rolling Stone during its late 70s/early 80s pretentious zenith. In their reviews, sentences get slaughtered, metaphors murdered, careers castrated, and sincerity sliced up—all done with the detached coolness of a Brett Easton Ellis protagonist who is a record reviewer stalking and eating bands he likes, humming old Ramones songs as he adds bits of the bass player to his goulash.

It’s like Pitchfork reviewers fall into the Dick or Barry category from Hi Fidelity. They are either obsessive-compulsive music nerds or arrogant windbags (who often lack Barry’s sense of humor). I am a Rob Gordon. I recognize that I have elements of Dick and Barry in my musical personality, and I can obsesses/pontificate quite well. However, I have a sense of self-awareness when I am doing this, as well as a nagging sense that these obsessions are a colossal waste of time, that I’d be better off obsessing about things that might be productive or Mean Something. This doesn’t make me better than the P-Fork cobags—in fact, you could argue that it’s stupid for me to obsess over obsessing about music when music brings me so much pleasure. It just explains why they annoy me so much...and why I keep returning to them for that annoyance. Which makes me part of the problem.

One other thing from last week: I wrote about how we went to dinner with some old friends, and one of their comments reminded me that I left out the funniest part of the evening. Now, the thing to understand is the restaurant we were at was pretty Del Boca Vista in terms of its clientele. We were definitely the most energetic and vocal group in the place. At one point, the six of us happened to zip it long enough to hear someone other than our selves. The first thing we do hear is an older woman at the next table finishing a sentence with the words “stool softener.” Which launched us into a flurry of laughter and conversation until we were the last people in the place and the management booted us so they could close. Reality really does provide the best punch lines.

1) “Don’t Stop,” Fleetwood Mac. Wow, everything is coming up Clinton again. It’s like someone took a snapshot of the White House in 1996 and Photoshopped Barack in place of Bill. I am not a gianormous Fleetwood Mac fan, but I have always really liked their biggest hits. I suppose that applies to the Clintons as well: not into the albums but have Clinton Gold in my collection. Unrelated: How much higher could Mick Fleetwood look in this clip? The answer is, "None." None more higher.

2) “Reptile,” The Church. An overlooked 80s gem and my favorite song of theirs. Song production in the 80s was always a mixed bag, because it tended to spoon so much sugar on songs, they lost whatever bite they had. Here, however, the trend of reverbing the shit out of everything really helps, because it makes the plunky main guitar riff sound a lot bigger and meaner.

3) “Romeo and Juliet,” Dire Straits. Precisely the kind of song Pitchfork would hate, because it’s so very sincere and admittedly kind of cheesy. But, to dip into another John Cusack movie, so is holding a boom box over your head outside of Ione Skye’s house—and that cheesy sincerity kills me every time I see Say Anything. Whereas some P-Fork reviewer trying to win a girl over would play some electro-noise track from the B-side of a self-released single that he loves because no one outside of the band has ever heard it. The girl wouldn’t be paying attention because she’d be inside sleeping with the guy who put “Romeo and Juliet” on an iPod playlist for her.

4) “Working Man,” Rush. It’s a dumb, dumb, dumb song, with a bare minimum of lyrics that serve merely to break up the jamming. But damn if that opening riff doesn’t snag me in its air guitar web every single time, and then rope me back in after all the wanky soloing. I have this song in Rock Band, but could NEVER play it with other people, because I get so into it, I would embarrass myself even more than I already do when I have a plastic guitar slung around my neck. Hi, I’m almost 40.

5) “On the Way,” Dinosaur Jr. They find their way back for the second week, with a much better song this time. A blistering track, with the drums and guitar freaking out during every fill, to the point where the song seems like it’s going to fly apart like a cartoon car that just exploded around Bugs Bunny—with Bugs flying through the air while still seated—until J Mascis brings it back together.

6) “Big Me,” Foo Fighters. One of my favorite videos. Dave Grohl is the best rock star in rock music. Not the best performer, or the most talented, or even the most deserving. But he gets what it means to be a rock star. He’s got just enough ego to keep an arena rocking while being down to earth enough to not seem like one of the Cock Brothers from Oasis. He seems like a guy who would be fun to get hammered with, but won’t strip naked, dive face first into a pile of coke, and drive a motorcycle out of the fifteenth story of a hotel into the swimming pool. So even though I’m not a huge Foo Fighters fan, I hope they keep being big and successful, because Grohl plays that role so well.

7) “Chicago at Night,” Spoon. The Lovely Becky and I have an odd relationship with The Windy City, our home town. When we are away from it, we miss it. We were back there for a week over Christmas, and it felt so nice to be back. Every Christmas Eve, we drive back from my grandma’s in Indiana to TLB’s parents’ house. Driving through Chicago at night, especially if the weather is clear and you’re not screaming at the asshole in front of you, is invigorating. I think it’s the prettiest city in America at night.

Yet, every time we’ve lived there, we’ve gotten restless and wanted to move away after a bit. I suppose there’s a grass-is-always greener effect at work, but I’ve lived in the area four separate times in my life already. It’s like getting married and divorced over and over again to the same person. You either love them for the wrong reasons or leave them for the wrong reasons. I’m not sure what the case is here.

8) “In a Simple Rhyme,” Van Halen. Their music has aged really poorly in my opinion. For starters, the production on all their records except 1984 really sucks. They always did had Eddie’s guitar coming out of one speaker when he was playing the main riff (and in this case, during his solo). Why they did this, when the best thing about Van Halen was those riffs, makes as much sense as thinking they could make it with Gary Cherone as a singer. The bigger problem, though, is their albums were paper thin in terms of quality. After that first album—which is pretty solid throughout—they phoned it in, giving a shit for a couple of songs so people would buy the album, only to deliver a bunch of half-assed tracks like this one. And David Lee Roth seems exponentially less entertaining the further away I get from 16. Although, to be fair, at least he was entertaining. Unlike, say, Sammy Hagar.

9) “Little Bombs,” Aimee Mann. Top-shelf Aimee Mann here. I don’t think she’s gotten back to the heights of Bachelor No. 2 (which, admittedly, would be hard to top), but this is one of her great ones.

10) “Fake Empire,” The National. Fake empire is a pretty apt label for the US right now, especially economically. I hope that Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi ass get put away for life, and in real prison where he’ll be food for freaks (to borrow from Out of Sight). At the same time, our whole fucking economy is a Ponzi scheme. Bernie was just more blatant about it. We use credit to buy shit we don’t really need, which provides money to the people who make and sell that shit, giving them the capital to buy shit from other people, and so on and so on. Speaking as a man who has owned five of the last six videogame consoles released to the public, I am certainly one of those feeding ExLax to the American economy.

The troubling thing is how obvious it all was, yet how much it got ignored. We were walking on a tightrope between two skyscrapers, but had no idea how high we were until somebody said, “Man, aren’t you afraid of falling?” We looked down, screamed, and are now plunging toward the pavement. Our only hope is to inflate one of those big stuntman mattresses so we might only break all of our limbs instead of splattering all over the pavement. This kind of stuff is supposed to happen to Albania, not us.

Am I buggin’ ya? I don’t mean to bug ya. Okay, The National play terrific, intimate pop with some rock flourishes and are well worth checking out. This song is from Boxer, which I don’t like quite as much as the outstanding Alligator, but it’s still a damn fine album.

11) “Keep ‘Em Coming,” Alkaline Trio. A little emo to make me feel better. Why does emo make me feel better? Because it’s nice to hear someone singing obsessively over problems like girls (or guys) or how they're so depressed because no one gets them or how they have to work at Cinnabon in the morning. It makes me miss little things to worry about.

So, after all that, I hope you have a good weekend. Despite thinking these things, I'll probably listen to some tunes, play with Libby, watch some football, and relax. Because what else can you do?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Top Ten Tuesdays: What new Wii games are we playing?

10) Wii Intervention

9) Wii Miracle Worker (includes blindfold and ear plugs)

8) Wii Breakfast (milk sold separately)

7) Wii Cock Fight

6) Wii Seizure (may cause seizures)

5) Wii Frost/Nixon (compatible with Wii Interview Chairs)

4) Wii Duel (honor not included)

3) Wii Family Time (real interaction optional)

2) Wii Hospital (health insurance not included)

1) Wii Kama Sutra

Friday, January 02, 2009

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

Over the Christmas holiday, we got to do something we had not done since the first week in September: Go out with other couples sans children. The Lovely Becky and I have been more than happy to spend our weekends with our little girl, but a night in the company of adults still has its appeal. We were staying with my in-laws and they were glad to take their granddaughter for a night.

We met up with two other couples, people I used to work with when I lived in Chicago. We get together every couple of years to have a wonderfully entertaining dinner that usually lasts about three hours and involves oodles of humor, most of it very politically incorrect. It’s one of those nights where, even if we haven’t seen each other in a while, we take the bookmark out and pick up right where we left off.

One of the guys started talking to me about the blog, specifically the Random 11. He said that he enjoyed reading it and had found a number of songs he really liked and had purchased a few.

I know some of the regulars here have done the same thing, but I always feel odd when I see the blog having an effect on the real world. My friends and family read the blog, yet I’m always surprised when they bring it up in actual conversation. I’m always flattered, and a comment like the one my friend made about the music posts can make my week. It just feels a little strange to receive what feels like a comment in spoken form, face-to-face or over the phone, without typing or some note about what the word verification was. You know, the way people used to communicate before blogs. It’s like the streams get crossed and two worlds that should remain separate collide. Is it just my freak brain that feels this way, or do other people have the same reaction?

By the way, I'm also sorry I've been absent from many blogs. The end of year got pretty hectic and I also needed to take a little break from the Internets over the holdays. I'm now refreshed and ready to have conversations that require word verification.

On to the first tunes of aught-nine...

1) “Janie Jones,” The Clash. Do you have those songs you love and play all the time, yet have no real idea what the hell they are about? This is one of those for me. I can kind of tell it’s about some guy disenchanted with his working life or something, but beyond that, I’m clueless. Yet it still doesn’t prevent me from singing, “Fill er up, Jacko!” like I know what I’m singing about.

2) “Thumb,” Dinosaur Jr. When you can’t really sing, you really shouldn’t sing slow songs. I like Dinosaur Jr., and when they are in full rock and rollicking mode, the nasally whine of J. Mascis serves as the low-key foil to the frenetic solos and spastic drum fills. But slowed down to a slacker ballad, it focuses too much on the weakest part of the band.

3) “Whiskey Bottle,” Uncle Tupelo. Much like drinking a bottle of whiskey itself, the song starts off slow and a bit sad, before exploding into a more violent outburst during the chorus. Also, much like “Janie Jones,” I have no idea what “whiskey bottle over Jesus” really means, but I like to sing it. The link has a great live version from their last night together. Is there anything you can't find on YouTube.

4) “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” The Byrds. I like this a little better than the Dylan original, but then again, I’ve always been a little more rock and roll. The video is worth watching for the terrible introduction and the set.

5) “Heron Blue,” Sun Kil Moon. April is one of the best albums of last year, full of slow, hypnotic folk songs that repeat the same motifs like the tide coming in and out. Good enough that it leaves me snarkless.

6) “Slugs in the Shrubs,” Les Savy Fav. As Christian would say on Project Runway,fierce.” By the way, Entertainment Weekly recently opined that the phrase “hot mess” should be retired, a nod to Christian’s “hot tranny mess.” I disagree. We’ve started feeding Libby solid foods, and she has a habit of sticking her fingers in her mouth while eating, getting drool and strained whatever all over her face, which I dub “a hot Libby mess.” I can’t wait for the parent-teacher conferences when my child’s instructors try to discuss the phrases Libby uses, and I have to pretend that I have no idea where she learned them.

7) “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” The Who. Over Christmas, I bought The Who Live at Kilburn: 1977, the concert that originally was supposed to provide footage for The Kids Are Alright documentary. It’s an amazing disc that captures Keith Moon’s second-to-last live performance, with him wearing a purple outfit bedazzled with stars and sequins. I read the liner notes in the disc booklet, and there’s a quote from Roger Daltrey that said the Beatles and Stones made music to dance to, while The Who made music to fight to. That’s about as accurate and succinct a summation of there differences as I’ve ever heard. Anyway, if you’re a Who fan, Kilburn is worth checking out.

8) “No More Heroes,” The Stranglers. Possibly the only punk song to feature a keyboard solo. Given when this was recorded (late 70s) and that keyboard solos were usually played by people wearing sequined capes and singing songs about mystical lands, that’s a pretty ballsy thing to do.

9) “Let Your Loss Be Your Lesson,” Robert Plant and Alison Krause. Plant sits this one out, but still, this album is a blueprint for how to move your career in a new direction after being a shirtless, trouser-stuffed rock legend. It’s everything The Honeydrippers should have been, instead of being The Honeydrippers.

10) “Making Time,” Creation. The best song from the awesome Rushmore soundtrack. If there’s one movie I wish I could have written, it’s Rushmore. Funny, sad, sarcastic, and sincere, it’s one of the most genuine movies I’ve ever seen, ironic considering that all of Wes Anderson’s other movies have been stuffed with more artificial filler than a Chinese hot dog. The soundtrack isn’t just terrific, it’s a vital part of the movie, an enzyme that serves as a catalyst for the humor and drama in the film.

11) “Evil,” Interpol. Libby gave me Rock Band 2 for Christmas (she’s stealing our credit cards already), and much to my delight the game has Interpol’s “PDA” in it. I hope they add “Evil” because the winters here are long here and go by much faster when I have great music to play on my plastic toy instruments.

Have a great weekend.