Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

The Lovely Becky got a nice bit of news today. Her forthcoming novel, The Countess, got listed on Amazon today, with the cover and pub date and everything. Needless to say, we’re very excited.

The second time around the novel-writing block has been an interesting contrast with the first time. TLB’s first novel, Icebergs, was a multi-generational tale of two families united by a plane crash. While certainly not a warm and fuzzy book, it’s a book full of touching moments, both happy and sad. It’s certainly not a violent or disturbing book, at least, not after the plane crash.

Writing that book almost made TLB crazy. A host of elements formed a perfect storm of stress, and there were a few occasions where I was genuinely concerned for her mental well-being. Being a trooper, she got through it and in the process was a finalist for the PEN-Hemingway Award, but still, I was worried about a repeat of this when she started working on The Countess.

On top of that, The Countess is about Elizabeth Bathory, infamous as the most prolific female serial killer in history, who was accused of bathing in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth. This book is violent and often disturbing because Bathory herself was violent and disturbing, and the story is told from the point of view of this “infamous lady.” Furthermore, TLB’s office is littered with books about the countess that would fit right at home in Bram Stoker’s library. The word “blood” probably appears in half the titles. In addition to the stress of producing another novel, my wife plunged herself into the mind a female Hungarian psychopath. My concerns were raised even more after TLB received a book with translations of Bathory’s correspondence—TLB’s first encounter with the countess’s writing—and the tone was a dead ringer for what my wife had already written.

So, naturally, this writing process was smooth sailing. It’s had its stresses, as all creative work under a deadline does, but it’s remarkable how sane TLB has been while wandering in the shoes of a crazy woman for the past year. It’s been a relief, both to see her so much more relaxed and also not to wake up in the middle of the night with her hovering over the bed and speaking in a spooky Hungarian accent: One stab, two stabs, three stabs in my husband’s heart, ah-ah-ah!

And let me tell you, this book rocks you like a hurricane, and an awesome hurricane, not one created by a bunch of German metalheads with receding hairlines. My still-beating heart overflows with enough pride to fill the lobby of the Overlook Hotel, because it’s been an inspiration watching her not only work hard, but work so confidently. She’s been lowering the rope down to me, and I’m hoping to get to that summit myself one of these days.

Time for one tune, two tunes, eleven random tunes, ah-ah-ah!

1) “Anyway You Want It,” Journey. It’s impossible for me to separate this from the part in Caddyshack where Rodney Dangerfield plays this song. It’s such a random bit but still cracks me up even though I know it’s coming, precisely because it is so random. I also really love the guitar solos and channel my inner Neal Schon when playing it in Rock Band. Video note: quite possibly the most unnecessary intro in the history of music videos.

2) “Fences,” Phoenix. This song suffers from coming after the 1-2 punch of “Lisztomania,” and “1901,” two tough acts for any song to follow. But it’s got the complex yet accessible aesthetic of the whole album. There’s a lot going on in Phoenix songs, but they never seem cluttered to me, and the pieces all fit: an acoustic guitar works with the slinky disco beat, and while groovy, it also chills. Good stuff.

3) “Anybody Seen My Baby,” The Rolling Stones. A cool video for a song that gets on my nerves. Jagger’s delivery is so exaggerated, like he’s a bit player on Saturday Night Live trying out his Jagger impression, and there’s nothing really Stonesy about the music. Should be called “Anybody Seen Meh Baby.”

4) “Pacific Theme,” Broken Social Scene. A warm instrumental welcome on a day when it’s in the single digits. It makes me think of driving along the coastal highway in California, something I think everyone should try to do before they die. Video note: I didn't know Steven Spielberg was in this band!

5) “This Time,” INXS. I heard “Don’t Change” at the end of the movie Adventureland and realized I needed to get INXS back into my musical life. I was actually a big fan back in the 80s, but I lost all my INXS albums in the Great Compact Disc Burglary of ’99 and never bothered to rebuy them. So I picked up the 35-song Shine Like It Does anthology for a mere 12 credits on eMusic (about $5-6). I have to say, I think INXS holds up pretty well. Sure, they’ve got a few big 80s trappings, but this song in particular sounds pretty timeless. It's nice to have them back.

6) “Fade to Black,” Metallica. “Thrash ballad” may seem like an oxymoron, but these morons found a way to make it work on more than one occasion. I prefer “One” and “Sanitarium” mostly because this ode to teen suicide has lyrics that seem like they were written by a teenager. Once James Hetfield shuts up and lets guitarist Kirk Hammett do the talking, however, it wipes away its melodramatic tears and storms into the mosh pit.

7) “Venus,” The Feelers. On the surface, this is 90s alternative by the numbers. I am a sucker for the quiet-building-into-loud thing, though, no matter how many times I hear it or how many times bands rip it off. Start with the soft strumming guitar, add the drums, and then punch that distortion pedal halfway through and I’m probably at least going to ask the song up for a drink.

8) “For No One,” The Beatles. I love them not just because they are arguably the greatest pop-rock songwriters of all time, but because no one still really sounds like them. Thousands have tried, sure, but when something like this plays, with the harpsichord and the French horn, with just a sprinkle of Ringo in the background, it still sounds unique.

9) “Bury Me With It,” Modest Mouse. “I just don’t need none of that Mad Max bullshit.” I disagree. I love that Mad Max bullshit, especially The Road Warrior. Speaking of crazed revenge killers, is it my imagination, or does Mel Gibson sound drunk in the trailers for his new movie? There’s something about his voice that sounds like he just had a half-dozen Foster’s oil cans (that’s Australian for “big fucking can of beer”) before the cameras started rolling. Maybe he’s just drunk on pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

10) “Serve the Servants,” Nirvana. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the classic, and while I never tire of hearing it, this is my favorite Nirvana song because it has the most bite. “Teeange angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old” is such a classic line, saying everything you not only needed to know about Cobain, but also what happened after the post-Nevermind grunge land rush. Plus he throws in a Holy Grail reference to show that he’s not just a sour rich rocker bemoaning his rich rocker status.

11) “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone,” Sleater-Kinney. This may sound like blasphemy, but they were better than The Ramones. I go for “Hey, ho, let’s go!” as much as the next guy, and no question those four miscreants were the four horsemen of punk. The problem is, music has to evolve if you want to continue being interesting. God bless The Ramones, and their first four albums are amazing, but even Phil Spector’s production couldn’t push them very far after that. Sleater-Kinney got better with each release, spitting out razor-sharp blasts of political punk, but going The Clash route and treating that as a stepping stone to greater creativity instead of a millstone that dragged them down to the bottom of a creative rut. A very nice way to end the list.

Have a good weekend, and may your creative endeavors not drive you crazy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

President Obama Calls for Zombies to Be Allowed to Serve Openly in the Military

Promises to repeal controversial, “Don’t Rot, Don’t Tell” policy

WASHINGTON – In his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama called for the repeal of a controversial policy prohibiting zombies from serving in the United States military.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to repeal the law that denies American zombies the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”

The law, known commonly as “Don’t Rot, Don’t Tell,” allows the undead to serve in the armed forces as long as they keep their undead status to themselves. “No one is telling the undead they cannot serve,” says General Vance Helsing, the Director of Undead Matters for the United States Army. “However, for the sake of morale and troop cohesion, we ask that they keep their RAS (Re-Animated Status) to themselves.” General Helsing noted that rotting flesh, shambling during drills, and especially brain consumption are grounds for discharge.

But zombie activists decry such policies as a nod to the backward days of anti-zombie sentiment, to an earlier time when zombies were completely forbidden from military service. “Once again, the military is stuck in the dark ages, thinking that everyone who rises from the grave is hell-bent on consuming human flesh,” says Billy McDonald, head of the activist group Zombies Against Rampant Discrimination and Oppression of Zombies. McDonald—himself a zombie—notes that many zombies lead happy, productive lives. “Sure, I used to engage in some unsafe, anonymous brain devouring when I was young. But now I’ve got a wife, kids, a job, and nobody says ‘boo’ to me. So why can’t zombies serve in the military?”

Dr. R. L. Stevenson, director of the Brookings Re-Animation Institute on Neurological Studies, has pioneered research into zombie behavior. “The truth of the matter is, there are good zombies and bad zombies, just like there are good and bad people among the living.”

While that may be true, it’s not the view of many in the military’s rank and file. “I dunno,” says Corporal Brian Snack. “I mean, I got nothing against zombies, but I just don’t want to be around them, especially in the shower. I don’t want them looking at my brain or want to see bits of their flesh popping off and clogging the drain.” His concerns are echoed by many enlisted men and women.

“This is why education is so important,” explains McDonald. “For one thing, showering and using moisturizer helps keep flesh from falling off. Second, do people eat in the shower? Well, neither do zombies. That’s just gross. And contrary to popular misconceptions, zombies don’t sit there ogling every cranium we see.

“I’ve also got news for all the breathers out there,” he adds. “There have always been lots of zombies in the military.”

McDonald’s assertion cuts to the heart of the controversy: that the military has had many zombies in its ranks, as far back as the American Revolution—something that military officials and politicians have often tried to hide. “When Nathan Hale was captured by the British for spying, he allegedly said, ‘I regret that I have but one life to give for my country,’ before he was hung,” says biographer David McCullough. “In reality, he said this to General Washington, after Hale had risen from his grave and reported for duty, only to be denied because of his zombism.” McCullough details this in his new book, Hale: The Life, Death, and Re-Animation of America’s First Super Spy.

Beyond pure patriotism, zombies have actually played pivotal roles in American military actions. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin notes in her book Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Brains: An Oral History of American Zombies, that zombies were a key component of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders when they captured San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War. “One of the reasons Spain capitulated so quickly was because of their fear of American zombie troops,” she says, “but this was covered up by publisher William Randolph Hearst, who was an avowed anti-zombist.”

The military potential of undead forces has caused a growing number of officials to reconsider their views on zombie soldiers. “Undead units offer hair-raising possibilities on the battlefield,” said Colonel George Romero, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Task Force on Undead Combatants. “Imagine enemy soldiers watching a group of American zombies shambling toward them, moaning and reaching for their brains. Even if they don’t rip open their skulls and feast on their brains, the thought that they might makes for a great psychological advantage.”

But can leaders prevent a coordinated assault from turning into an indiscriminate brain binge? “The zombie has one thing on his mind: brains,” argues General Helsing. “In the heat of battle, can you trust that he will follow orders and not treat an enemy force as a cranial buffet? And what’s to keep a hungry zombie from eating his comrades’ brains?”

Colonel Romero says the problem is overblown. “There is no recorded incident of a zombie eating a the brains of a fellow soldier in the middle of battle. Furthermore, with the production of BREs”—Brains Ready to Eat—“you can keep the zombie soldier satiated and on task.”

It’s unclear how successful the president’s initiative will be, but Republicans have already vowed to rip to shreads any repeal of the law. “All these books and shows and movies, they’ve made zombies seem cool and normal, just like you and me,” says Senator James Inhofe, a Republican member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Our kids are getting turned into zombie lovers by all this stuff. It’s unnatural, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let our military get overrun by the undead.”

Dr. Stevenson points out that this flies in the face of recent research. “The simple fact is, zombies are re-born, not made. Trying to ask a zombie to hide his or her nature is like asking us to not breathe or blink. That would be unnatural.”

It especially hurts zombie veterans, who feel rejected by the military that they once served. “I gave my life once for my country,” says Rod Argent, a former captain who was killed in Iraq but denied his attempts to re-enlist when someone accused him of already being dead. “But now that they have my soul, they’re telling my body to go to hell.

“That makes me want to eat brains, just to spite them.”

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What will we learn during the State of the Union address?

10) Washington plans to seriously address deficit reduction by tapping into Rahm Emmanuel’s swear jar.

9) President Obama will lift his sagging poll ratings and increase his appeal to conservatives by posing nude in Cosmopolitan.

8) For just $1,000,000, your corporation can become an official sponsor of next year’s State of the Union. For $2,000,000, you can get a shout out and air fist bump from the president.

7) The United States government will work tirelessly to broker peace between Jay and Conan.

6) The government will strengthen its investigation of terror networks by using a new task force made up of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby.

5) Due to sagging government revenues, tax refunds will be replaced with store credit.

4) In order to secure the passage of health care reform, President Obama will tell Republicans he absolutely, positively, does not want them to pass health care reform.

3) The government will guarantee that Wall Street will most assuredly take steps to strictly follow new economic guidelines that should under most circumstances prevent the kind of economic abuses that most assuredly will happen again if said stern warning is not heeded.

2) Because of the current economic crisis, the Great Society will be downgraded to the Wouldn’t Kick It Out of Bed for Eating Crackers Society.

1) “And lastly, I want to say that the only thing we have to fear is…wow, that's a long goddamned list. Uh, let’s try this: The only thing we don’t have to fear is…Canada…the extinction of American buffets…and the acceptance of soccer.”

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

As soon as I saw my father’s name on the caller ID this morning, I knew what the call was about. “How about that health care bill?” he laughed into the phone. Dad’s a Republican, and he and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on politics. We’d already had one round of argument about health care, a few weeks ago when it seemed like something would pass. Dad bemoaned the cost, the threat of “government takeover” of health care, and how the polls said most people were happy with their health care. I countered by saying if the free market had been able to fix the issues with health insurance, there wouldn’t be any impulse for some type of government intervention. As far as the private vs. government-sponsored health care, I asked him if he thought that insurance companies should be making health-care coverage decisions based on profit motives. (He said no, which illustrates the conundrum for the private coverage supporters.)

Anyway, that conversation seems quaint and outdated now that health care reform seems horribly mutated at best and likely DOA. While Republicans certainly injected their usual amount of hysteria and disinformation, I expected that. Of course Glenn Beck's going to weep tears of how giving the poor health coverage is akin to Nazism and the usual GOP suspects rail how a milquetoast attempt to provide health care reform would END AMERICA AS WE KNOW IT!!! The real problem and the source of my anger and disappointment lies with the Democratic Party.

The arguments should have been easy to counter. Government takeover of health care? A fallacy considering that there was only going to be a government option at best. The government has no business in health care? Well, if you trust the government to keep you safe from foreign enemies, why is it such a stretch to trust it to help you stay healthy? It also was easy to go on the offensive: like I said to my father, do you want your healthcare to be subject to the profit motives of insurance companies? Wouldn’t you like to have a choice for health care beyond the single option you have through your employer?

There are so many benefits that it seemed like an easy sell. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is run by the worst sales force in political history. They couldn’t sell groceries to a starving man. They never, ever controlled the debate, and they let the Republicans hack away at reform, so much that they lost any chance of rallying public opinion and the conservative Democrats needed to pass even a watered-down bill.

I can live with making a good case for liberal causes and having them rejected. It’s a democracy, and I accept that the public may not align with my values. What I can’t live with is a party that controls the White House and Congress acting like it’s still a minority party that can’t get anything done because of those big, bad Republicans, of punting on first and ten (if I may quote a certain zombie). That a party with every possible advantage is constantly on the defensive. That a party, after losing a Senate seat that should have been a lock, interprets that loss as “we have to act more like Republicans.”

I also don’t buy the gridlock excuse. Republicans are going to be obstructionist. That’s what minority parties do. If you can’t win the representative, you go to their constituents and make your case. If done well, those constituents clamor for change and the representatives get with the program. Republicans understand this. That’s how they got Democrats to roll over for Bush for so long. You would think that a party that’s been a bottom for so long would learn a thing or two about being a top, but that just doesn’t seem to be the case. It’s going to be a long ten months until November.

1) “YYZ,” Rush. Make all the jokes you want. Take all the potshots you like. I’m not only not apologizing, but I’m waving my Rush flag high in the air. Moving Pictures is a classic album and this is one of the best rock instrumentals ever recorded. It’s groovy despite the odd time signature and complex without being wanky. I always feel better after hearing this, even if playing this around TLB guarantees a lack of sexy time.

2) “Posse in Effect,” Beastie Boys. The big reason why hip-hop often leaves me cold is because I’m a music guy. I love a good turn of phrase or an insightful lyric, and dig a good beat, but I put melody ahead of everything. I need more than a drum machine and some snazzy mic work, just like I need more than a blazing hardcore beat and a lot of screaming. I like my songs to be, you know, songs.

3) “Visionary,” Husker Du. For example, here’s how to pack a punch while still carrying a tune.

4) “Glamorous Glue,” Morrissey. A pretty heavy song from the godfather of twee. It reminds me of another song, but I can’t think of what that song is. I hate when that happens.

5) “Change Partners,” Stephen Stills. Not a fan, of this or Crosby, Stills, and Nash. I always found that they didn’t have the depth of Dylan or the fuck you of Neil Young . They’re the squishy middle of a hippie who’s eaten too much trail mix.

6) “Waiting for an Alibi,” Thin Lizzy. The double-lead-guitar thing is so simple, yet so effective. The solos would still be terrific, but that second guitar is like another row of shark’s teeth that give it even more bite.

7) “She Don’t Use Jelly,” The Flaming Lips. I would have liked The Flaming Lips a lot more if critics hadn’t told me that I should love The Flaming Lips. They’re a good band, quirky yet accessible, but they achieved a level of critical nerd acclaim that I never got and therefore made me want to not listen to them. It reminds me a lot of people who get too pushy about They Might Be Giants.

8) “Mic Check,” Rage Against the Machine. This song is more like Rage Against the Zzzzzz. I only find them interesting when they are balls out and basically playing some variation of “Killing in the Name Of,” which is what all their best songs really are. Slowing it down so I can focus on the freshman Peace Studies major lyrics, repetitive beat, and guitar effects wanking? No thanks.

9) “End,” The Cure. In this edition of The Fine Line Between Stupid and Clever, The Cure play a droning, repetitive track that should bore me the way “Mic Check” does. But Robert Smith adds just enough progression and ramps up the depression and desperation as the song goes on, so that even as it basically repeats the same riff and beat over and over, it adds enough new musical misery and ripped-apart riffs to keep me interested.

10) “You Got Lucky,” Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. I think this is a decent entry from Petty, but it has a special place in my musical memory because of the video. It’s one of the earliest ones I remember that had some concept to it, instead of just being the band playing. The video still stands out after all these years because it’s really kind of depressing, showing a dusty, post-apocalyptic world where we’ll be lucky to find some dusty, discarded electronics. It also serves as a training video for life after President Palin.

11) “Intolerance,” Tool. I would love to introduce them at a concert. I’d grab the mic and yell out, “Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready to laugh? Then please welcome…Tool!” They are also another group whose fans can get pretty pushy about: “OMG Tool are like, fucking awesome, they’re, like, so dark and the music is, like, so complex and shit.” Simmer down, ToolFan69. Snark aside, though, the first half of their first album is pretty damn amazing, truly dark and off kilter while somehow being catchy. And, frankly, given my mood this week, appropriate to end the Random 11 on.

Hopefully a weekend will render me less whiny and annoyed than I sound today. I intend to have fun family time, get some writing done, and hopefully watch Brett Favre not go to the Super Bowl. Enjoy yourselves, too!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stay classy, teabaggers

Conservatives love to talk about how civil and polite they are compared to mean, unhinged liberals. Last night, here's what uberbagger Erick Erickson of Red State had to say about Scott "Cosmo" Brown winning the Massachusetts seat:

Here's what he said:
"The irony here though is that Obama's unicorn of hope and change is dying under Ted Kennedy. If Ted Kennedy had decided to resign or retire when he found out just how bad his health was instead of wanting to be a martyr for the cause, the Democrats wouldn't be in this position."

It takes a special kind of asshole to not only piss on another man's grave, but dig the corpse up first before pissing on it.

I will take the high road, however, and just say that I hope Erick Erickson suffocates under an avalanche of donkey dicks. And, whoever runs the Chamber of Ironic Punishments in Hell, feel free to use that one when Erick shows up.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What's bringing us down?

10) Cement shoes dragging us to bottom of the Hudson River.

9) Malfunctioning parachute.

8) Excessive weight gain by parasitic twin.

7) Black hole created by imploding NBC prime time schedule.

6) Letting Viagra prescription lapse.

5) The invisible hand of the free market pushing our heads toward the phallus of deregulation.

4) Our pet Kraken.

3) Depression over being too old to be depressed by Cure songs anymore.

2) Third-world devastation interfering with our ability to be racist, xenophobic assholes.

1) Gravity.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

You would think that some people would have learned a thing or two from Katrina about commenting on a terrible disaster. There were still bodies floating in the floodwaters when the political vultures descended, trying to score cheap points about government aid or make racist comments about black people or that the disaster was vengeance from God. That was the turning point against the conservative movement, where people with any semblance of morality and ethics saw just how nasty, bigoted, and out of control the far right is. It was their A Few Good Men moment, where they dropped the phony mask of compassionate conservatism, a mask they were forced to wear by their handlers in the GOP, and said they ordered the Code Red.

Once again, they have reared their ugly heads. First, Pat Robertson picked up the Jerry Falwell mantle of religious stupidity and said that Haiti’s problem is that they made a pact with Satan to achieve independence from the French. My favorite part is that he punctuated his comments with, “True story.” Holy fuck, literally.

While it’s hard to believe that, in 2010, someone who thinks entire countries are in league with the devil can own his own broadcasting group, at the same time it’s easy to dismiss Robertson as a loon who just attracts a lot of other loons. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, is a calculating, conniving, soulless piece of sleaze. An earthquake ravages an already ravished nation, and the first thing out of that fucker’s head is that Obama is going to exploit it for political gain and that we already donate to Haiti through our taxes. Would it surprise anyone if Limbaugh would spit in the outstretched hand of a Haitian earthquake victim?

I’ll tell you what, Limbaugh would have been a collaborator in Vichy France. I guarantee if a foreign power came into America and promised to eliminate all the Democrats and liberals while allowing conservatives to set up their own government, Rush Limbaugh would be first in line to work with them and turn over his political opponents to the occupiers. I feel very fortunate to live in the U.S., but that draft-dodging, pill-popping, racist, misogynist asshole epitomizes everything I don’t like about my country. It’s too bad he’s not the one trapped in the rubble of an earthquake, because then we could tell him, Gee, Rush, we’d love to help you, but then you won’t learn how to get out of collapsed building on your own. We’re going to let the invisible hand of the free market dig you out.

Okay, enough bile, time for some tunes….

1) “What Makes You Happy,” Liz Phair. LOL. I usually start the random playing while I am typing whatever intro/rant/dick jokes lead into the songs, then pick up whatever's playing when I get to the list. I’m not kidding when I say that, as soon as I finished typing the sentence about Limbaugh being crushed in a building, this started playing. Thank you, iTunes.

2) “Die Die Die,” The Avett Brothers. Oh God, and then this. Well played. By the way, if you like folky/acousticy music at all, you need to own some Avett Brothers. Now, time to keep my fingers crossed for a tune about having a heart attack….

3) “Star 6 & 7 8 9,” The Orb. Too bad. This is supposed to be post-rave chill music, but I find that it puts the Ambien in ambient.

4) “Stacked Crooked,” The New Pornographers. Their first three albums are stacked with some of the best tunes of the decade. They crank out catch songs like Hersey cranks out Kisses. What makes Twin Cinema my favorite is the drums. There’s a thump to this album that makes it rock hard even during the delicate harmonies and shiny la-la-las. I can never have too much thump.

5) “Big City,” Operation Ivy. Likewise, there’s crazy bass that adds some covering machine gun fire to the screamy, chrody charge.

6) “To Here Knows When,” My Bloody Valentine. AKA Droney McDeonerson and the Feedbacks playing “To Here Knows When This Will Actually Get Interesting.” Five-and-a-half minutes of studio blah blah, the shoegaze equivalent of the wanky drum solo.

7) “We Were Sick,” The Thermals. That’s more like it. There’s not a lot of originality here, true, but there is a lot of charm to The Thermals three-chord soul-searching. Sometimes I think they’re more obsessed about the afterlife than I am.

8) “All I Want Is You,” Roxy Music. Even when they loosen their ties and unbutton their French cuffs before rocking out a bit, they still sound so fashionably put together. What's not fashionably put together: Bryan Ferry's hair in this Top of the Pops performance. That bit of French he sings can't hide Le Mullet.

9) “Call My Name,” Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. I had to check if this was Erasure. It almost reaches "like," but there’s too much 80s packed in here. Plinky synths, super-busy electronic beat complete with Wal-Mart robo drum fills, and too much John Hughes montage earnestness in the vocals. Do less.

10) “867-5309,” Tommy Tutone. The most famous phone number in history? Here’s the funny thing about this: if someone gave you their number the way Tutone does, it would annoy you. You always pause at the dash, but here he puts the pause after the first four numbers. There would be at least one if not two What was that number again’s before you’d hand the asshole a pen and ask him to write it down.

11) “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” The Jimi Hendrix Experience. This deserves a fist-pumping Fuck yeah! My favorite Hendrix song and one of the toughest-sounding guitars ever, like a six-string street fight. He manages to add all this chaos and disruption and blood without ever losing the main riff or the beat of the song. I guess that’s why he’s a guitar god and I’m just a Guitar Hero—and one of the lame hero’s at that, like the Greatest American Hero.

We might possibly hit 40 degrees tomorrow, in January! You know what that means: bye bye pants. Hope you have as much fun as I will.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What new airline security measures are we implementing?

Special extended rubber-glove search edition!

12) As a security precaution, all entries to the Mile High Club will be filmed by the TSA and possibly circulated to other interested agencies.

11) Passengers must acquire a Terrorist Tackling Certification before flying internationally.

10) To check for hidden combustible materials, all carry-on bags will be set on fire before boarding.

9) Airline security will take very seriously any jokes or stray giggles when they ask you to lift your sack.

8) Passengers seen reading a book other than the Twilight series will be detained for suspicious behavior.

7) Oxygen masks will be deployed at the start of the flight just in case the aircraft experiences a sudden loss of cabin pressure from a large hole in the fuselage.

6) Before takeoff, the co-pilot will deliver a mumbled, meandering, jumbled monologue about the flight path until all passengers are safely asleep for the duration of the flight.

5) In order to use the bathroom, passengers will be required to exit the aircraft and pee off the edge of the wing. (Note: airlines not responsible for genital wind shear.)

4) Any passenger repeatedly attempting to cram a large bag into the overhead compartment will be Tazerd and relocated to the baggage compartment.

3) All flights will be all nude. (Optional seat wipes will be available for purchase.)

2) Seat belts to be replaced by strait jackets.

1) All travelers not descended from northern European ancestors must display proof of having a Caucasian pole up their ass about airline security or be subject to rectal examination.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Random 11

It’s one more random than 10!

Wow, 2010. I still can’t believe it’s been 10 years of the Newmanium already and we still haven’t found the monolith.

The Britt Hume-Tiger Woods thing has been bugging me all week. First, I don’t really care that Hume thinks Tiger could use some Jesus to help him get his life on track. Hume’s entitled to his opinions. It’s more the venue he chose to do this, going on air and sounding like a guy coming to your door on a Sunday morning, when the only gospel you’re ready to hear is from the Book of Hangover Cures. Could you imagine Walter Cronkite looking into the camera in 1974 and telling the nation that Dick Nixon just needed to come to Jesus to heal his sins?

However, at this point, I’ve given up expecting anyone on TV news to try and return to the era of acting like a reporter instead of an op-ed columnist or a someone you’re having coffee with. It seems like every news network either wants desk jockeys who sound like Bill O’Reilly or like they are hosting the Today show, being either the gruff uncle you hate to get cornered with at Christmas or the vapid friend who thinks everything is just swell.

No, I have two bigger fish to fry. The first is how Hume said if Tiger would leave that phony-soy-baloney Buddhism behind and become a Christian, he could make a “total recovery and be a great example to the world.” Yes, because if you’re looking for a poster boy for a faith founded by a poor, persecuted Jew, you would definitely pick a rich, pampered, deified pro golfer who can’t keep his balls out of the rough. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing that stresses walking the walk instead of just talking the talk, but I’ve never bought into the idea that you get double-backsies do-overs just by saying, “I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.” Fucked your wife’s sister? Stole from the company? Paid money to see Transformers 2? A simple “Help me, Jesus” will erase the slate, without even the need for those pesky Hail Mary’s and Our Father’s those crazy Papists make you say.

Now, if Tiger were to not only beg for forgiveness but also relinquish his wealth to mentor to the poor, then I’d say, “Wow, there’s an example for Christians.” But if he’s just going to come back in a few months and hold a weepy press conference about how, thanks to God’s help, he now knows he shouldn’t play Just the Tip when leaving a tip for a Perkins waitress, and then he returns to being Tiger the money-maker, how would that make him a great example to the world? He’d just be an apologizing schmuck trying to make us forget what a dog he was so that we’ll root for him again and buy the shit he shills for.

However, I’ll give Hume the benefit of the doubt and believe he really wants to see Tiger fix his fucked up life. Fine. The bigger issue is Hume’s follow up. After he got flak for his comments, he went on O’Reilly and moaned about the persecution of Christians, saying that any time someone speaks up about supporting Jesus in the public sphere, they get hammered. Could you imagine the uproar if Rachel Meadows told Tiger that Buddhism would help him overcome his problems much more than Christianity would? Or that Islam could heal his sins? Or that she knows a Wiccan who could totally cast a “Keep It In Your Pants” spell that would make sure his clubs stay in one bag? She’d be covered in bits of brain and skull from all the exploding heads of Bible-thumping wingnuts condemning her.

I don’t recall a beatitude that says, “Blessed be the whiners, for they shall inherit the Earth by wearing people down with their incessant kvetching.” Being told that preaching Christianity on a news show seems inappropriate and unprofessional is not persecution, it's a difference of opinion, and saying otherwise is an insult to people who suffer true persecution for their beliefs. Britt Hume is a rich, famous, successful newscaster. How exactly is he suffering for his faith? Because he was criticized for being preachy on a news show? I imagine St. Peter would have gladly accepted a stern scroll to the editor of The Daily Roman about Christian proselytizing instead of being nailed to a cross upside down.

Okay, enough preaching from me, time for some tunes….

1) “No Remorse,” Metallica. Speaking of formerly respected professionals who went on to get their PhDs in Cobagology. It’s hard to believe that a band who delivered this kind of metal-up-your-ass rocking would become the spokesmen for pampered rock idiocy. Despite that, I can’t quit their first four albums, and this one is in my top five. It packs a full day’s supply of riffage along with a gaggle of guitar solos before breaking out into a full thrashing sprint.

2) “Borrowed Time,” John Lennon. Another reason why Christian "persecution" is a big ruse in America: people still get hammered for bigger-than-Jesus types of comments. Kathy Griffin had her John Lennon moment when she jokingly told Jesus to suck it, whereas we don’t blink an eye when performers and athletes say that God helped them write that hit single about how they love big, God-given butts or knock the quarterback out of the game with a vegetative-state-inducing concussion.

3) “Christian’s Inferno,” Green Day. That’s the sense of humor that makes me put my musical faith in iTunes.

4) “Go It Alone,” Beck. One of those critical darlings I could never get into. I don’t dislike Beck, but I always find myself wanting more from his music: more funk, more punk, more rocking, more rapping, more something.

5) “Steady As She Goes,” Raconteurs. Not that I don’t like this, but it’s funny how Jack White forms a side project that sounds so much like The White Stripes on its first track. Really, after six months of drum lessons, couldn’t he have recorded this with Meg?

6) “After It All,” Cat Power. Whistling is really a lost art in songs, like tap dancing in dance. It’s kind of surprising to run across it and usually fun to hear.

7) “Sabotage,” Beastie Boys. Maybe the best marriage of video and song outside of “Beat It,” where I can’t imagine the song without the video. I never get tired of hearing this.

8) “One,” Aimee Mann. After being blown away by Boogie Nights, I have had increasingly diminishing returns with every Paul Thomas Anderson movie since then. There Will Be Blood was an amazing performance buried in an unlikeable, pointless movie. Punch Drunk Love seemed more like Anderson lost a dare where he had to try and make a serious movie with Adam Sandler. It’s not bad, but trying to accept Sandler as a serious actor is only slightly less difficult than trying to accept Rob Schneider as an actor. Then there’s Magnolia. Some find it a masterpiece, and I admit I was impressed with it the first time I saw it. But in repeat viewings since then, I find it all head and no heart, a series of clever scenes without the soul of a story, with actors who seem like their delivering performances instead of acting (except for Jason Robards). It just leaves me cold.

9) “I Believe,” Joe Satriani. Dreadful. I hate to write that because I like Satriani, who manages to be technically amazing without being a showy wanker (see Vai, Steve). But this was such an obvious stab at radio power ballad stardom that he should have titled it, “Please Play This Right After Extreme’s More Than Words.”

10) “I Never,” Rilo Kiley. Starts off by singing, “I’m only a woman/of flesh and bone,” which is a good disclosure, because we all know what happens when someone’s a woman of flesh and Cylon. Seriously, though, a vocal that knocks the song out of the park like Michelle Pfeiffer writhing on a piano.

11) “Pictures of You,” The Cure. Oh boy. This song came along at just the right time in my life. I was in college during year one of what would be four straight years away from The Lovely Becky. I left wanting to stay together but not really believing it would happen, because that’s what happens when you go to college. The distance, the debauchery, the depression…not a recipe for relationship success. It was a triumph just to make it to the first Christmas break with our relationship intact.

One of the things we agreed to do was date other people—something that was originally my idea. The first term, I dated someone on my floor, with full disclosure of my relationship status. During the break, I went home to TLB and didn’t call this person at all. When I got back to the dorms, I went to see here, thinking we’d just pick up where we left off. She gave me a very sarcastic “so nice to hear from you” as I my three weeks of silence had clearly demonstrated where she stood in the relationship hierarchy. She immediately have me my ticket for the bus to Just Friendsville. That pattern repeated itself for the next couple of years, to the point where, by my junior year, it was too much trouble to try and date, so I stopped. The irony is that TLB wound up dating quite a bit more than I did, as the boys didn’t seem to mind being on the second string, at least until they saw they had no chance to win the starting job. (I mean, who would dump a catch like this?)

So, for most of our long-distance relationship, I did a lot of pining for TLB. Well, no one pines like Robert Smith, and “Pictures of You” is chock full of more pining goodness than any other Cure song ever. I like hearing it now, because it gives me the pleasure of knowing we overcame the odds, that we managed to do something most people and even we didn’t think we could do. That’s a nice feeling to enjoy for seven-and-a-half minutes.

Have a good weekend, and stay warm.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Top Ten Tuesdays: What New Year's Resolutions Have We Already Broken?

10) Trading sex for blog comments.

9) Not eating our weight in ham.

8) Letting suspicious passengers on planes as long as they provide valuable information about large, unclaimed lottery prizes.

7) Staying fair and balanced by reporting the news instead of spreading the Good News.

6) Removing all dental coverage from the health bill before we pull out its last tooth.

5) Not using the kids' college fund to pay for our American Idol audition. Again.

4) Stretching before deciding to put off going to the gym.

3) Double-checking to make sure we’re leaving the house with pants on.

2) Stopping our swearing, even when some asshole talking on his goddamned fancy-ass iPhone cuts us off in his motherfucking Mercedes douchewagon, which he must be driving to the American Cocksuckers Association meeting in Dickhead City because he’s the fucking keynote speaker.

1) Updating our blogs when we’re supposed to.

Monday, January 04, 2010

End of a Christmas era

Happy New Year to everyone. Sorry to be away from all the blogs, but I needed a big computer break for a couple of weeks. The downside of working at home is that I'm constantly in front of my monitor and keyboard, and I felt the tug of real human interaction pulling at me.

I do this every year, in part because every year I visit my Grandma at Christmas. Grandma has no Internet connection, and I'm not even sure Grandma knows what an Internet connection is (although she does have a plasma TV, so it's not all Little House on the Prairie). The family all come together to spend Christmas Eve at Grandma's, a tiny house that she's lived in for 50 years and that gets to be 150 degrees inside when there are two dozen people packed in it and the oven is heating up a cornucopia of pork products. I catch up with family and dress up as Santa to pass out gifts, making smarmy comments in a Ho-Ho-Ho voice. It's been our ritual, and Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without it.

Sadly, though, this probably was the last Christmas at Grandma's. She's afflicted by dementia that's getting steadily worse, to the point where she will almost certainly have to give up her house and living independently this year. The good news is that she's probably going to live with one of my aunts and uncles, rather than go into assisted living, but it's still a sad milestone, both for her aging and for what our family will lose when she's not in that house.

Her home has been more than a Christmas gathering place. It's been our family's HQ, our worldwide headquarters. We all used to live nearby, until the work and school and life pulled most of us away to other states. Each year, piling into that tiny, hot house has been a homecoming. I've lived a transitory life for so long that I don't even really remember what it's like not to move every few years, but I've always cherished the few days where I return to where I grew up, touring the streets where I rode my bike and played army and dug snow forts. I get to feel my roots again.

Grandma's house is the key part of that. It's remained mostly the same since I was a kid, and that's what makes the yearly pilgrimage so special. It's like stepping into a time capsule. I not only see family again, I feel that energy and excitement about Christmas that I did when I was a kid. I get the same tingling anticipation, even though I've reached the stage where Christmas is more about what I give than what I receive.

I knew this day was coming, of course, but it's funny how knowing and accepting are two different things. It became readily apparent, though, when we saw Grandma. It's not that she's that bad, but the forgetfulness, the emotional swings, and the frailty of old age...she may very well live another 10 years and come within striking distance of 100, the way her mother did. It's just obvious that it won't happen in her own home.

Of course, the Hollywood version of this would have all of us packed in the house for one last Christmas shebang, with more heat and noise and laughter than ever. Reality could care less about happy endings, however, as work and weather conspired to keep a lot of family away. We had a very small group this time, and even though it was a delight to see how delighted Grandma was with Libby, I couldn't shake the emptiness of what was normally a house packed like a VW Bug full of circus clowns. I didn't even don the Santa suit to hand out gifts because it seemed a bit pointless, especially since it seemed like it would scare Libby more than spread any Christmas cheer.

We still had fun and I'm grateful I got to see the relatives who did make it. It's likely someone will pick up the torch next Christmas, giving us a place where we can eat and drink and make merry--and a place that's likely to be less hot and crowded. It'll just take some getting used to, because that little house was packed to the attic with a lot of great Christmas memories.