Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Facebook Anxiety, Part Deux

You know, the more I learn about it, the more I find myself softening a bit on my anti-Facebook stance.  Even as I wax cranky-pants and write these very words, I am wasting time that I could be spending making cyber-friends with "Chinese, Japanese, Dirty Knees, Look at These!"

Seriously, with friends like those who needs the real world?

Born Down in a Dead Man's Town

…or at least in Oahu, which I’m told is gorgeous and I’m sure Springsteen has never written a song about.  So consider the title of this article my final tribute to the birthers; just like them, I refuse to let the truth or even a good dollop of common sense get in the way of some prime snark.  I’ve long suggested that Obama missed a great fundraising opportunity with all of this nonsense: back around the time of his election, when he was still popular, he should have printed and sold t-shirts of his birth certificate.  $20 a pop, proceeds headed straight to reducing the deficit.  It would have been exactly the kind of new idea I and others voted for him in order to see enacted; change we could believe in, as the saying went, with a nice side order of middle finger for the bigots and/or tea party numbskulls.

On a purely theoretical level, I get why it’s taken Obama this long to release his long-form birth certificate: the very idea that he is somehow not a legitimate American citizen is ludicrous, and I’m sure he felt he needn’t stoop so low as to acknowledge it.  Unfortunately for him, that’s simply not the way of the world; instead of just getting it out of the way, we have now wasted years of public discourse on pure idiocy rather than real issues.  The idealist in me hopes that this might finally be the end of this ridiculous chapter and that we can now move on to more serious matters; the realist in me notes that even as he laughs in the face of the idealist, we’ve already got Donald Trump claiming the whole thing as a victory for himself, as well as the predictable shouts of “it’s a fake!”  In the immortal words of that great American thinker Eric Cartman, Jesus tap-dancing Christ…

I’m hardly an Obama apologist.  I think his complete disconnection with what the American people want and need coupled with his inability to function as an effective leader have been massively disappointing, and I also believe that if he doesn’t do something about gas prices soon, he can kiss whatever faint notion he might have of re-election goodbye.  There’s a lesson in all of that for his enemies (of which I’m not one, either; even at this late date, I love this country enough to hope he manages to pull it together): with all there is of substance about his performance to criticize, why continue to blather about something that has all the credibility of an Elvis sighting or an alien abduction?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Billy Joel: Neglected Punk Rock King

My Google-Fu isn’t quite bringing the quote up as quickly as I’d like, but I once read an interview with Jesse Malin in which he said something to the effect that there were ten Billy Joel songs he could truly get behind.  (I’m paraphrasing, but not by much.)  I’d up the number by a few, but I think Jesse’s concept on this one is sound: aside from the small handful of folks I’ve known who hate the piano man outright, everybody’s got their handful of Billy moments on their iPod.

I got to thinking about this on my walk tonight, during which “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” beamed its way into my headphones direct from Hackensack-ack-ack-ack and I had a revelation: Billy Joel was the fresh-scrubbed face of punk rock that it was okay to play in front of mommy and daddy.  Seriously, listen to his lyrics carefully sometime: the best of ‘em are smart, obnoxious, narcissistic and clever enough that were they to be given louder, more frantic backing, they’d have been right at home down at CBGB.  I’m not really kidding: the next time you hear “My Life” on the radio, imagine it with New York Dolls-y backing and up the (already very present) sneer in the vocals by about ten percent.  If it doesn’t work for you, well, to hell with ya.  I never said you had to offer me a second chance.

Just as I was forming a mental picture of Billy’s Secret Mohawk and finding myself particularly glad that the old drunk hasn’t managed to turn himself into fly food during any of his many car crack-ups, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” invaded my cranial space and made me do an immediate 180: I now wanted to kick his smarmy ass halfway back down schmaltzy Broadway.  This reminded me of the other half of the Truth About Billy Joel: that everyone also has their list of Billy moments they’d like to see bulk-erased.  The moments of his music that just crawl right under your skin and won’t stop itching, no matter how hard you try to distract yourself from them.

Just like the most obnoxious punk rock does, actually.  Unfortunately, it also assures any listener that whatever compilation they buy will probably be about one-third useless; really, is that all you get for your money?

The Zen of Happy Meal Moderation

I snapped the above photo with my cell phone while out, coincidentally, on my daily exercise/health walk a few days ago.  The photo itself isn’t all that funny, although its lack of any sort of location information for the advertised fair is amusing.  What makes it entertaining is that it was found just outside a pile of rubble that clearly used to be a Burger King (the sign is still standing), recently demolished in order to be rebuilt and modernized.  I snapped the picture and chuckled to myself at the thought of the world’s laziest health fair: no tables, no doctors, no nutritionists, and no poorly photocopied recipe cards.  The simple, temporary unavailability of Whoppers and onion rings is enough in and of itself; no need to get out of bed or anything.

Like I said, I spotted this sign while out on my daily exercise/health walk.  I’ve always enjoyed walking, but it’s something I’ve really upped the ante on in the past week or two, for the usual half-vain, half-noble reasons.  On the vain end of things, I’d like to be a little less plump than what you see in that subway photo on the right side of this here blog thing by the time summer rolls around.  More seriously, I know myself.  I know I’m not the kind of guy who’s ever going to want to be in a position where I’ve got to give up cheeseburgers forever.  I’m also not the kind of guy who’s ever going to want to eat nothing but chicken and rice for the rest of my days.  I’m no foodie, nor do I have the worst diet ever, but I do truly enjoy my occasional burger/wings/pizza/etc. indulgences.  I’d like to continue to enjoy them for many years to come, and if exercising with greater discipline is the way to do that, the exchange is absolutely fair.

The fact that I am a bit plumper than I’d prefer to be is nobody’s fault but mine.  I’m angered no end by these supposed health advocates who constantly whine that fast food should be illegalized/heavily taxed for the so-called good of the people.  This is absolute hogwash: self-discipline should instead be encouraged for the good of the people, and the vast majority of the people who understand the concept of moderation should not be treated like children because a hedonistic few can’t seem to take responsibility for their own choices.  I’m not the world’s most seasoned traveler, but in my time spent ramblin’ around this bright green ball I’ve yet to come across a fast food joint that employed an armed doorman.  As I’ve said before in these digital pages, I’m all about choice.  If you choose to subsist on nothing but fast food, you have every right to do so, provided that you are honest about the predictable outcome of such a diet.  Your famous last words need to be “I made myself fat”, not “McDonald’s made me fat.”  McDonald’s makes hamburgers; how many of them you choose to buy and eat (should you choose to do so at all) is entirely your call.

Worse yet was the woman I caught on one of those Nightline-type programs a month or two ago, who prattled on at great length about how Happy Meals should be outlawed.  Why, you ask?  Well, because it’s just impossible for her to tell her children they can’t have them, and thus her children have gotten fat.  I could literally feel my blood pressure rise as they trotted out some alleged expert to explain why this Mother of the Year candidate was absolutely correct.  I’m sorry, but this is the land of the free, is it not?  Then you explain to me why a legally operating corporation should have to discontinue one of their most enduring promotions simply because this one woman – and, likely, plenty more just like her – can’t be bothered to be a good enough parent to tell her children “no.”  The fact that people like this woman are somehow seen as morally conscious crusaders rather than becoming the subject of Child Services’ interest is completely astounding to me.  It’s the end result of mommies and daddies who want to be more of a friend than an authority figure to their children, an attitude that has proven far more damaging to our society than a few extra McDoubles ever could.  It’s narcissism writ large: “I don’t want to be mean to my kids, so you need to do it for me!  And screw all of you who’ve managed to succeed where I’ve failed and thusly don’t require governmental intervention: the rules should all be written to benefit me, me, ME!”

Over in cliché land, it’s said that revolution begins at home.  Fair enough, then: my name is Will.  Since I don’t eat a perfect diet, and I haven’t been blessed with a speed-freak’s metabolism, I need to exercise with more discipline than I sometimes do in order to balance my scales, health-wise.  As I’m writing this, I see that the sun is going down; soon, it’ll be time for my nightly walk, the one that takes me past the Burger King site near which the sign pictured above was spotted.  Even if the Burger King were currently open for business, I wouldn’t be ducking in because that would be counterproductive to my goals…

…and because I’m really more of a Five Guys fan anyway.  After all, what’s the point of indulging if you don’t have standards?

Facebook Anxiety

I finally know how luddites must feel on a daily basis.

In general, I’m not really the kind of guy who runs a race in cement-soled Chuck Taylors.  I dig technology and believe that the changes we’ve seen in our culture as the result of it are simply evidence of the unavoidable march of time.  Things are no better or worse now than they ever were, and rose colored glasses don’t do much to protect you against UV rays.  New technologies aren’t necessarily an either/or proposition: for example, I’ve got an Atari hooked up to my bedroom TV, and a Wii out in the living room, simply because I enjoy the things that each can do that the other can’t.  Most of the time, I dig new stuff just as much as I dug the old stuff…but, man, have I ever avoided Facebook with the sort of zeal and determination generally reserved for true heroes and/or whack-a-loons.

As sure as I’m sitting here typing this right now, I am painfully aware that the time for this kid to enter the twenty-first century in social terms is nigh.  Until now, it hasn’t really bothered me to sit this dance out: honestly, I’ve got enough friends in that vast expanse known as the offline world.  While I love them all dearly, I have no real need to know where and when they’re eating, relaxing, watching TV, or pooping; if I had a Facebook status to speak of, it would likely be set to “indifferent”.  So why budge now?

For the same reason that I’m writing and you’re reading this.  Aside from its lousy title, I really love this blog.  I’m grateful for the discipline it has forced me to have as a writer (can’t go more than three days without a post or SHARKS MIGHT ATTACK or something), and I’m extremely proud of what’s here so far.  I’d really like to take it to the next level, to attract a much larger audience, and that means promotion.  Promotion means social networking, and social networking means beginning with Facebook; it probably also means moving on from there to Twitter and from there to points even more inane, but one step at a time for Grandpa Will, okay?  To be completely honest, I’d like the eventual popularity of this blog to lead to a more permanent gig, providing similarly-toned content to someone with a payroll to blow.  Sadly for my social-only-in-person ass, none of that will happen until I stick my head out of the hidey-hole I’m writing all of this from.

Is it worth enduring what I’ll likely find on Facebook?  Of course it is, but I’d be lying through my pearly whites if I told you I was particularly thrilled about encountering the sort of folks I haven’t spoken to since High School for a reason.  Nor am I particularly enthused about having to remember to update my status to “crabby” in the midst of a bad weekend, or having more unfunny viral videos hurled my way than I can effectively ignore.  I suppose it’s possible that being on Facebook will turn out much like this blog: once I get into it, maybe I’ll wonder how I could ever have dragged my feet on it for so long.  I kind of doubt it, but as I’m well aware, anything can happen.

So we’ll put it on the timetable as happening soonishly, then: likely after the royal wedding, but before the first infidelity rumors start to fly.  This coming weekend it is, then.  Before that happens, I’d like to take this moment to thank anyone who’s already here: I’m aware that there are many, many diversions on the intertubes, and I’m honestly, humbly grateful to anyone who’s chosen to spend a bit of their free time with this one.  I promise to make making new friends as painless for all of us as possible.

Besides, once this place gets hoppin’, maybe I can host a “rename this blog” contest and come up with a decent tile for this thing once and for all.  I swear, rarely in my life has a task as seemingly simple as coming up with a decent moniker proven so daunting.

Kind of like sucking it up and opening a Facebook account, now that I mention it…

A Salve for Royal Boredom

By now, it should come as no surprise that I’m not the sort of guy who would be all that interested in the imminent royal wedding.  I’ve got nothing against anyone who’s into it – that’s why there are all different flavors of entertainment, after all – but as a cynical Yankee, and a Noo Yawker at that, I just can’t really be bothered to care all that much.  I’m sure that Kate’s dress is simply to die for, I’m sure that the entire ceremony will be resplendent with grandeur, I’m sure that millions across the globe will “ooh” and “ahh” at the appropriate moments, I’m sure that there’s at least a 50% chance that I’d know William by sight if I saw him on the street, and most of all I’m sure that TruTV will likely have an episode of Bait Car or some such nonsense that I can watch instead.

Or at least I was sure of all of those things.  Truth be told, I was still sure of them when the first email arrived in my inbox, and I was still relatively sure of them when the second and third arrived.  By the time the album pre-order link and Facebook FAQ page [since removed, replaced by this] went up, I had to begin to take the subject line of all of these emails seriously: RICHARD CHEESE TO PERFORM AT THE ROYAL WEDDING.  Even if you have no idea who he is, I’m sure you can understand why I might think a performer who may or may not be named after smegma wasn’t exactly telling the truth about his involvement in an event that will be seen by the entire freaking free world.

In case you aren’t familiar with Mr. Cheese, here’s some background: essentially, he has made a decade-plus career out of taking Bill Murray’s classic Saturday Night Live lounge singer shtick to (and perhaps far beyond) its logical conclusion.  Years ago, I picked up one of his albums on a New Years Eve whim; it seemed the perfect joke for that particular occasion.  Since then, I’ve come to regard him as a first-class comedian; what should be a one-note joke becomes enduringly funny due to Dick’s sharp wit, and also due to the obvious care he puts into his recordings.  As fine as his records are, you’ve really got to see his live show to completely appreciate the man; I have twice, and both times I woke up the next day with sore cheeks from laughing so much.  If you’re curious to hear for yourself, there’s a decent enough studio greatest hits, but I’d actually recommend his live album, Viva la Vodka, ahead of it.

And, somehow, he’s now playing the royal wedding.  Let’s sum it all up, shall we?

Richard Cheese: awesome in his own right.
Richard Cheese playing at the royal wedding reception: astounding, but amazing.
The fact that the aforementioned has gotten me vaguely interested in the royal wedding: proof that maybe these Brits are craftier than previously thought.
Pre-order for resulting Richard Cheese live album: placed.
The capacity of the world and all its wonder to shock and amaze: limitless.
The fact that the word “smegma” is not in Microsoft Word’s spell-check dictionary: hilarious.

Weekend in Review: 4/25/11

Crabbiness.  Crabby people acting crabbily, and with no good stories to show for any of it.  Bummer.  Thank god it's Monday.  In fact, thank god it's Tuesday even.  A new week is a good week in this case.

Although this should go without saying, I am referring to crabs in the ill-tempered sense, not the Bret Michaels sense.  Thank you, the management.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Great Moments in Retro Gaming: Ninja Golf

Earlier today, in my Passover post, I gave a few good reasons why organized religion just isn’t really for me.  Thoughtful, impassioned reasons that I’ve given a lifetime of thought to, but I’ve also got a reason for knocking at least a few of ‘em out of the possibility pool that is as important to me as it is completely silly: I need to be able to mix dairy products and meat, because a god that would disallow cheeseburgers is not a god I could ever really be down with.  Some things were just meant to go together, damn it.  Like peanut butter and jelly.  Like pancakes and syrup.  Like Hall and Oates.

Like Ninjas and golf.  No, really, I’ve got the proof right here:

Imagine you were a game programmer contracted by Atari in 1989.  The folks signing your paycheck are still trying to break the Atari 7800 into a world that’s now been dominated by Nintendo for several years.  While it’s highly arguable that the 7800 had graphics capabilities that far exceeded those of the NES, by 1989 Nintendo had the goods and then some when it came to their game library.  In a gaming world redefined by Super Mario Bros’ vibe of limitless exploration, Atari’s collection of arcade favorites, no matter how excellently rendered they were, left the 7800 seeming like little more than yesterday’s news with a fancy new coat of paint.  That’s where you come in as a programmer: Atari wants original content to do battle with America’s favorite plumbers, and they want it available yesterday.  So what do you come up with?  Naturally, a game that combines the edge-of-your-seat excitement of golf with all the hot ninja action of the best fighting games of the era.  As Rick James once famously put it, cocaine is a hell of a drug.  Still, I’ll let you be the judge, dear reader.  Pretend you’re a teenager standing in the toy store in 1990, forced to choose between some hot NES title and this:

 Right, you’d have picked the NES title.  Would you believe that you’d have picked wrong?  Okay, maybe not wrong, but would you believe that you should have come back with next week’s allowance money and also bought Ninja Golf, because despite having all the makings of a disaster it’s actually an excellent game?  ‘Tis true, dear friends: while the “golf” aspect of the game is nothing at all to write home about, Ninja Golf actually turns out to be an addictive fighting game for its era, with the bonus of having a truly novel storyline and concept.  The graphics are bright and attractive, the animation is fluid, and the controls are well-designed and responsive.  It’s an easy game to simply pick up and play (always a plus in my book), and the difficulty ramps up at just the right pace.  All of that said, here’s everything you really need to know: you play as a Ninja who must do the following, in this order:

  • 1)      Tee off
  • 2)      Fight enemy ninjas all the way to where your ball has landed.  If you hit into or through a hazard (water, rough, sand), you must battle creatures who inhabit that landscape along with the ever-present other ninjas
  • 3)      Hit the ball again, and attempt to make the green.
  • 4)      Once on the green, you must lob throwing stars at a giant dragon.  Once you have hit him in the head (not the body or tail, those don’t count) enough times, you may move on to the next hole.

Trust me, you’ve never played anything remotely like this before.  It truly has to be experienced to be believed, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it has become one of my go-to stress relievers.  I’ve blogged before about how utterly worthwhile an Atari 7800 is for someone who likes old video games, both for its backwards compatibility with the entire 2600 library, and for its small but high-quality selection of dedicated titles, filled as it is with first-rate arcade conversions and great, quirky originals like this.  If buckets of old bolts aren’t your scene, there are several emulators available for the 7800; personally, I’ve found ‘em all to be fairly wonky, but your mileage may vary.

Best/most disturbingly of all, some genius/raving lunatic has remade the whole kit and caboodle as a flash game, available right here.  The play isn’t nearly as fluid as the original, but the concept and spirit are dead on.

Rhea's Defective Internal Jukebox: Mr. Big, "Undertow"

You know what’s worse than the tripe Rhea usually ends up in her defective internal jukebox?  When she manages to mine some particularly devious strain of poodle-metal schlock so catchy that even I have to begrudgingly give it props.  To wit, the following:

Christ, I have always hated this fucking band.  “To Be with You” was one of the most annoyingly limp hit ballads from an era that ended up drowning in them; a song so pathetic that it made Nelson look like a band overstocked in testosterone by comparison.  Is it fair to judge the entire work of a band on one song?  Generally speaking I’d say no, but when the song is that bad it’s time for an exception to be made.

Flash to earlier this year: I saw a new album by these doofuses posted to Demonoid…um, I mean, up on the wall of my local record store which certainly has not gone out of business or anything, and acquired it.  I figured we’d both laugh at it and move on, but this “Undertow” song, the first on the album, has been stuck in my head ever since.  I’ve never pretended that I’m not a sucker for the occasional bit of well-executed arena-rock empty calories, and I’ll be damned if this one track isn’t a nearly-perfect example of just that.  As rousing, post-Journey butt-rock goes, this is as good as it gets, all the more astounding given that it was created a good two decades after the genre’s peak.

Sadly, if you’re anything like me, the rest of the album is dreck: under-hooked Bon Jovi-style twaddle occasionally and brutally interrupted by incongruous Dream Theater-esque wank-o-rama.  Rhea, I’m sure, would disagree, but then again what fun would this be if she didn’t?

Still, Mr. Big deserves this much credit: after twenty-five or so years at it, they have finally come up with 4:50 of music that is absolutely shuffle-worthy.  Bravo, I guess.

Passover and the Modern Agnostic

“How come you celebrate Passover?  I thought you weren’t Jewish.”  It remains one of the dumber questions I’ve ever been asked, a true indicator of the open-mindedness and intelligence of the former co-worker who inquired way back when.  As long as we’re pointing and laughing, I figure I’ll do here what I wouldn’t lower myself to do then and answer it: because it’s a family tradition that comes with my beloved, jackass.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that archaic mythology should never stand in the way of a good celebration.  Really, is celebrating Passover with Rhea’s family any different than the fact that my family celebrates Christmas?  None of us identify as Christian or Catholic, and speaking solely for myself I’m a confirmed agnostic.  I don’t know what the answer to the big puzzle is, but I’m absolutely certain that none of the organized religions (and I’m including atheism in that field) has it.  I’m sure the more religiously myopic out there would say that I’ve no right to participate in any of the above, and I’m also sure that the more religiously myopic out there are exactly what’s wrong with modern spirituality, and to hell with ‘em.  I’m here for the brisket, baby, just as sure as I’ll be around for the ham on Easter Sunday.

I’m also here to learn.  I’m nowhere near an expert, but I certainly know more about the Jewish faith than I could ever have imagined a decade ago.  This is nothing but a good thing: I’m certain that Rhea will want to introduce some of its teachings and traditions to our eventual children, and I certainly don’t want to be the dolt drooling in the corner while that’s going on.  Knowledge, especially in a world that seems to be turning more intolerant by the nanosecond, is a great source of strength.  Does it mean that I’m even remotely considering conversion?  Not in this or any other life, chief; spiritual group-think just won’t ever be my scene, and that’s fine.  What I am considering is conversation, and what I’ve learned about the traditions of Judaism as practiced by Rhea’s family allows me to be a part of it.  All good.

The other thing I’m here for is participation, conversation being a big part of that.  Passover at Rhea’s has never been a daunting proposition.  From the very beginning, I’ve never been made to feel like I need to participate in anything that makes me uncomfortable, nor have I ever been forced to try the gefilte fish.  I’ve simply been allowed to join into a familial celebration that was established long before I frequented their neck of the woods, and the enrichment it has brought to my life has been incalculable.

God, G-d, or whomever, bless it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Weekend (plus a day or two) in Review: 4/20/11

Sorry we went dark for a few days, but Passover will do that for you.  Rhea’s mom is Jewish, and I’ve got nothing against taking more holidays on board, especially those where brisket is part of the celebration.  Passover deserves a post of its own, and we’ll get there soonishly.  Before that, I’d like to take a moment to do a bit of catching up with things brought up in the last week or so of posts.

Record Store Day turned out to be a pass, despite the pull of the siren song of Lez Zeppelin and the ensuing mating calls of the great unwashed.  Saturday was cold and rainy, and I never did come up with a good answer to this wise internal question: “why are you going to schlep yourself into Manhattan on a nasty, raw day to participate in something that has been nothing but irritating the previous two go-rounds?”  I read either a blog post or forum spew (forgot to bookmark and can’t find again, sorry) written by somebody who was at J&R when they opened, and described the exact kind of bedlam that I found so unappealing last year.  Sweaty social malcontents trampling one another to claim gold medals that no one with a real life could give half a shit about?  No thanks.

As for the two records I was vaguely interested in, eBay says the following: both the Foo Fighters covers LP and the Green Day/Hüsker Dü split single are still readily available.  The Foos LP sells for about $30 a copy; too rich for my blood and/or interest level, but I’d like to thank the little green monster for leaving a nice bag of pirate booty in my download folder.  Don’t know how that could have gotten there, coppers, honest!  As for Green Dü, they’re generally hanging out in the $10-$15 range with no bites; give me a nudge when we’re down around $5, and maybe I’ll reconsider.  Or maybe not: if I want a single with “Don’t Want to Know if You are Lonely” on it, I’m still perfectly content to go O.G.:

[In Robin Leach voice:] From the author's personal collection.
Since even I’ve got to admit that I’m actually tracking American Idol at this point, well, what the hell was up with Paul McDonald getting the boot?  Seriously, he was the only one of the lot I actually enjoyed listening to, and he was the only one who had the first clue as to how to work a stage and audience.  Too bad the judges wasted their save on Casey Abrams, who remains utterly wickety-wack, as the kids used to put it.  It’s also too bad that watching this show has apparently turned me into a flat-out clucking hen; can a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and a subscription to People be far behind at this point?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stupid Rhymes NEVER Die!

Spotted yesterday (a much better day than the one that inspired the first post, thanks) at the White Plains Metro North station:

Can a revival of the song really be that far behind?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Big Bad Days

It’s been one of those days.

Let me give you an example of what I mean: a couple of hours ago, in the middle of writing something for this blog, Microsoft Word crashed out completely with nothing more than an “information” (term used as loosely as possible) box with but two words of explanation: UNSPECIFIED ERROR.  My last two hours work?  Gone with the breeze.  Once the steam stopped shooting geyser-like from my ears, I looked at the screen and yelled “Good.  It was shit anyway.”  Most likely it was, too.

In lieu of whatever tirade I had been writing, I’ll instead leave you with the most annoying commercial ever, as a perfect audio-visual representation of my day.  Click at your own risk.

Here’s to a happier tomorrow, folks.  The last two days of rain here in suburban New York are supposed to come to a halt sometime overnight.  It’s a start, right?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

You do WHAT, with WHAT now?

A few weeks back, I posted about a YouTube series called The Wonderful World of Wally Wipeouts, featuring prank callers to a talk show hosted by the late west-coast conservative-talk also-ran Wally George.  There are something like thirteen entries in the series, and I've been just clicking on a random one here and there when I've needed a good laugh.  Today, I landed on Volume 8, which proved to have that little something that elevates the great to the sublime.  Things like this occur in life: it can be a perfectly prepared meal, or a subway that pulls in exactly as you approach the platform, any little thing like that.  In this case, it's the following bit of dialogue from the second caller in the video: "First off, let me introduce myself to you.  My name is, um, B.J. Gooberslobber the second."  Trust me, reading it here before watching has not ruined the joke; hearing is believing.

I think I've finally found me a pen name.

But Then Again...

As you can see from the above snip lifted from their email blast, J&R is attempting to lure me back to Record Store Day with what appears to be an all-gal tribute to Led Zeppelin.  This could be funny.  Watching the record store geeks react to this could be even funnier.  But will it all be enough to sway me?  Stay tuned...

Record Store Day? Nay!

Judging from the amount of emails I’ve received in the last two days about it from various stores, it looks like this Saturday is once again Record Store Day.  Yawn.

Because I’m magically inclined (or maybe that’s magically delicious, I always get the two confused), I can hear you through both computer screen and blog-o-space: Yawn?  Really, Will, shouldn’t this contrived celebration of the music-store culture of yesteryear fill your heart with bliss?  Not hardly, dear readers, and I’ve got a few good reasons why.  I’ve attended RSD the past two years, and both experiences were absolutely no fun at all.  In the interest of full disclosure, I generally go to lower Manhattan’s venerable J&R Music World, to whom none of my critiques apply.  They do the best they can with what the organizers of RSD give them to work with, and run their show in a manner that is as well-stocked and fair as possible.  

Two years ago, Rhea and I decided to amble on down to J&R around mid-day, thinking that RSD might make for a lovely destination on a relaxed spring afternoon.  We couldn’t have been more wrong: the store was nearly impossible to navigate, given the number of obese record collectors and soon-to-be-appearing-live artists of little repute milling around, and all of the good merchandise had been gone for hours.  Live and learn, then: “next year, we’ll get there when they open and get the good stuff!”

Little did I know that by the time the next one rolled around, I’d have a good reason to be there when the doors opened: a 600-ish copy vinyl run of the Hold Steady’s Heaven is Whenever, about a month before official release and with completely different artwork to the full release.  Holy nerd-gasm, Batman!  The sight that confronted Rhea and I as we arrived at Park Row around 8:30 AM was almost a comedy of stereotypes: while I’ll agree that the common conception of any sort of true-believer collector types as overweight and unkempt is mostly a myth, you wouldn’t know it from this line.  I swear the body odor cloud must have been powerful enough to make its way across the water to Brooklyn, where it then melded with that borough’s perennial eau de hipster and went unnoticed.  An entire line of fat, screaming, socially maladjusted dork-bots all in a row, all screaming about THEIR TICKET FOR THE SPRINGSTEEN TEN INCH SINCE THEY WERE HERE BEFORE THE STORE OPENED, GOD DAMN IT.  Fun fun fun until Daddy takes their turntables away, in other words.

Soon – but not nearly soon enough – the witching hour was upon us, and the doors opened.  Chaos ensued: grown men attempting to trample one another in a race to procure NEW VINYL for pleasure or profit.  Mostly the latter, actually: the sight of one particularly odious gentleman screaming at his son to get as many multiples between them for eBaying has since become etched into my brain, and is the first thing I think of when RSD is mentioned.  As for me, I did emerge victorious with my Hold Steady vinyl, but the entire experience left a bad taste in my mouth.  It also led me to seriously reevaluate the role collecting and physical media plays in my life: to be honest, I’ve been a lot less interested in both ever since that day.  There’s a lesson in that for RSD’s organizers: honestly, I’m the kind of guy they’re targeting, and if their event has left me feeling the exact opposite of what they want to accomplish, then something’s seriously wrong.

 I’m not one who really believes in bellyaching just for the sake of it, though, so here’s some practical, constructive criticism.  Fixing RSD would actually be a very simple thing to do, and I can sum it up in one sentence fragment: SPARE US THE CONTRIVED RARITY THING.  I understand that part of the pull of the event is to offer wares that won’t be around for long, but there’s no reason that you can’t press enough copies of popular titles to at least last out one full day’s worth of sales.  If your goal is to remind people that browsing in a record store is a pleasurable activity in the hopes of luring them to do so with greater frequency, then you need to lose the race-for-the-prize nonsense and make it a pleasurable activity.  The last time I checked, fighting with unkempt eBay barons at 9 AM wasn’t anybody’s idea of a good time.

Given all of that, I’ll probably sit this year out.  I suppose if I’ve got nothing better to do on Saturday, I might amble on down to J&R sometime in the afternoon and just see what’s left – but I also suppose that it wouldn’t take much to qualify as a better offer, either.  If you’re feeling braver than I, the list of this year’s releases is linked right here.  The only one that I’m slightly more than mildly interested in is the Foo Fighters vinyl-only album of covers.  I’d bite on it for a reasonable price, I think: looks like a cool thing, and the track list is intriguing.  The not-quite-dead-and-buried collector nerd in me harbors vaguely covetous thoughts about the Bad Brains, Green Day/Hüsker Dü, New York Dolls, Queen and Rush seven inchers, but out of all of those only Green Day’s cover of “Don’t Want to Know if You Are Lonely” (the title of which the RSD organizers couldn’t even bother to get right on their list) would be new to my collection music-wise.  In other words, I’ve got better things to not waste my money on.  For those of you so inclined, I’d recommend the live Television 2xLP; I got it back in ’03 when Rhino Handmade did it as a limited-run CD, and both performance and sound are killer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weekend in Review: 4/11/11

Rhea and I had a great weekend – the kind that maybe you don’t have as much time for as you get older, but you appreciate even more than ever because it doesn’t happen all the time anymore.  Every now and then I begin to feel like old bones – being in your mid thirties instead of your early ones can do that for you – but then I get out the door and into some trouble, and I realize that there’s so much more ahead of me than behind.  If this paragraph sounds more like an Oprah pitch than the snark-and-substance cocktail I usually serve up, I apologize only so long as she’s not reading.  The second she sees this stuff and wants to bring me on board for promotion, I will sell out faster than Cabbage Patch Kids back in the 1983 holiday season.  This kid’s got to get paid y’see, and if that causes you any cognitive dissonance then mayhaps now’s a good time to bail and find another blog to favorite.  You know, before we get too close and all that messy stuff.

Where were we before that mighty, mighty digression?  Right, cocktails and last weekend; Friday night involved many with some old friends who live up the line a bit.  I guess there’s no really good story here; just a lot of laughs and a completely drama-free experience where no one had to drive anywhere.  Just what I’m always looking for in a night out, truth be told.  I can tell you that the game Loaded Questions is like an inside-joke generator in and of itself, and that I’m far better at Trivial Pursuit after a few hours of libations than I am stone cold sober.  I don’t understand it myself, but this is not the first time it has happened.  If Ben Bailey ever picks me up in the Cash Cab, I hope to god that I’m walking out of a bar when he does it.  Not crawling, mind you, but walking.

The next day, all of us headed off to a family function: a two year old’s birthday party.  It was odd for Rhea to attend one of these strictly as a guest, but she settled into the relaxation aspect of things eventually.  For my part, I got a far better understanding of why she’s often so tired right after performing at one of these parties: those kids are indefatigable.  Even the presence of a pony didn’t slow them down for all that long; actually, I think Rhea may have been more excited about the pony than any of the kiddies, but that’s another story.  The food was brought in from a well-known Greek place in the area.  I’d never tried Greek food before, but the price was right.  Turns out lamb is delicious, and that this tidbit is going to prove more germane to the story of our weekend than it seems right now.  Digress?  Moi?  Not a chance, dear readers.  The kids finally wound down and we said our goodbyes; time to head home, then, via Grandma’s Restaurant.  Home of the best Chicken Pot Pie in the land, for those of you so inclined, and one of ‘em is good for about three meals, provided you won’t be appearing on Celebrity Fit Club anytime soon.

Before calling it a night, we decided to drop by the Borders where we both worked several lifetimes ago.  It’s one of the stores that’s liquidating and shutting down; seeing that Borders emails have been coming faster-and-furiouser in the last few days, we thought this might be the last weekend for our old haunt, and as such some last respects were in order.  It turns out they’ve got another week or so to go, and we’ll probably touch base one more time before the end, but it was a surreal sight.  It deserves more than the passing glace I’m giving it in this weekend-in-review, and I’ll probably eulogize it in full sometime soon, but for now suffice it to say that the air was thick with ghosts.  Overall, though, I left in high spirits, heart lifted by the thought of all the good people I’d been fortunate to meet during my time between those walls.  I also left with the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Christmas CD, Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas; for the princely sum of two whole dollars, ‘twas irresistible.

To sleep, then, perchance to dream – and also perchance to wake up on Sunday with a digestive system that did not enjoy the lamb nearly as much as my taste buds had.  One of my self-improvement resolutions for this year has been to expand my palate, so that I might be as happy to try things Rhea might care to explore as she is to indulge my penchant for Five Guys.  Unfortunately, this particular attempt proved unsuccessful, but the grander experiment continues.

Soppy and Oprah-esque though it may be, it is generally far more fun to say “yes” than “no”, temporary stomach ailments and American Idol ruminations or none.  Oh, and while I’m at it, don’t be a don’t-bee!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Idol Thoughts

 I spent a lot of time in the restroom today as the result of a fairly wild weekend, which we’ll discuss soonishly.  That’s how I came to give American Idol this much thought; I’ve discussed in an earlier post how I’ve come to watch the show past the train-wreck auditions for the first time ever this year, but honestly I’ve never given it much thought while it wasn’t directly on my TV screen.  So I’ve given the Idol finalists as they stand on publication date more attention than they probably deserve today, but I’ve also learned a valuable lesson: the next time I try food I don’t normally eat, I will remember to leave a book in the good ol’ water closet.

Last Thursday, Pia Toscano was eliminated, which surprised me: for my money, she was the female contestant most likely to be there at the end of the road.  It’s weird that she got voted off last week specifically: “River Deep, Mountain High” is a bitch of a song to sing, and I thought she handled it with poise and confidence.  Ah well, c’est la vie.  Let’s check out who’s left one by one, in the order they appear on the Wikipedia page for Season Ten.

Jacob Lusk has a nice enough voice, but no chance at all to win the grand prize.  He’s simply not a compelling enough performer, visually speaking.  Can he have a career as a recording artist?  Sure, but he’s not enough of a total package to win this particular talent show.

Haley Reinhart rarely stands out for me, but she did pretty well with “Piece of My Heart” last week.  She’ll make it another round or two, but she’ll bow out well before the big finale.

Casey Abrams doesn’t make any sense to me at all.  Rhea thinks he’s great, and the judges agree, but I just find him annoying as hell.  He seems more like a band camp reject trying to play cool than a natural, “this is who I am” presence to me, and I just can’t take him seriously.  Really, I’m supposed to be impressed that he plays bass?  So does one person in nearly every crappy college band in America, and if you ask me, a crappy college band is exactly where this tool belongs.  Rendering a rock song as urgent and powerful as “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” as though it were Jack Johnson-style elevator music is nothing short of a fucking sin.

Lauren Alaina is probably a bit too green to take it all, but I like her.  There’s nothing wrong with being a bit green when you’re sixteen years old, by the way; I don’t mean it at all as an insult.  Once she’s better able to inhabit her material by having lived more of it, I think the girl will prove a threat.  With Pia gone, though, she’s my bet for last female standing.

James Durbin is a clown shoe, and I don’t quite understand how he’s made it this far, except to assume that he’s probably the favorite of the Twilight crowd.  Idol always needs its “rocker” character in the top ten or so, I guess.  It was absolutely hilarious to watch Iggy Pop, who turns sixty-four years old later this month, show this dopey twenty-two year old how rock is actually performed last week, no faux-hawk or dopey tail required.

Scotty McCreery is going to win the whole damn thing, mark my words.  The America between the coasts – you know, the folks who actually vote for American Idols – loves their country boys, and the kid’s got the talent and charisma.  Seriously: I hate the type of basso-profundo country balladeering McCreery aspires to, but I do know talent when I hear it.  I hope he goes on to sell millions after his Idol win, and that I never have to hear him again after that time.  The only small doubt I had about McCreery was whether or not he could handle up-tempo material, and his performance last week answered that resoundingly.

Stefano Langone will have a nice long career bringing his lounge-lizard act, provisionally entitled “I Can’t Believe it’s Not Buble”, to state fairs across our fine country.  The fact that I always want to shower the slime off after watching him will work in his favor in that endeavor, but it won’t win him Idol; his range is too narrow to take the big prize.

Paul McDonald is the most naturally talented performer in the running.  In a way, he’s already won Idol, or at least gotten what he needs from it.  He’s a gifted performer with a strong local following who needed to find a way to garner national attention; voila.  Every week he stays alive from here is just icing on the cake.  I doubt he’ll take it all, but he will be this year’s Chris Daughtry; that is, the guy who doesn’t win but ends up with a career that’s just as strong – or perhaps stronger – than that of the actual winner.  Unlike his manfully-emoting predecessor, McDonald is actually talented, which is a bonus.  Hell, I may even listen to that album of his that’s sitting in my iTunes folder sometime this week.

Overall prediction: McCreery takes it all, with either McDonald (on talent) or Durbin (on looks) as runner-up.  It’s just not the girls’ year, although Alaina will make it further than Reinhart.  Regardless of who actually places where, she, McCreery and McDonald are the ones whose names might actually be easily recalled two years from now.  As for Durbin, he’ll be the Trivial Pursuit answer that keeps you from getting the damned pie piece.

Last prediction: with less of a need to be in the restroom, tomorrow’s post topics will be 100% Idol free.  That’s a promise.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Robin Zander, "Countryside Blvd"

It's on my hard drive now, ya bastards!
First off, let’s dispel one rumor: country album, my achin’ ass.  Most of Countryside Blvd isn’t terribly different from the poppier end of Zander’s day-gig band.  Think “My Obsession” on the up-tempo end, or “Voices” on the ballad side, throw a little pedal steel guitar on top of ‘em, and you’ve got a good idea of what this sounds like.  In other words, it has the same relationship to actual country music as Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway: that is, it’s about what you’d normally expected from the credited artist, with the occasional country trimming dressing it up.  Thankfully, it’s also as much more dignified and less cheesy than Lost Highway as, well, Cheap Trick is to Bon Jovi.

Which is not to say that this is an ersatz Cheap Trick album: for one thing, that band rocks a lot harder than much of anything to be found here.  If you’re looking for a “He’s a Whore” or a “Sick Man of Europe”, sorry, not here.  Honestly, that’s just as well: there is no way that this batch of Nashville cats could do that sort of material half as well as Rick Nielsen and friends.  This album focuses on Robin Zander the pop singer, and it makes for an interesting listen; he’s a fine one, and it’s a facet of his personality that often gets obscured by his main gig’s penchant for volume and chaos.

Two songs will be immediately familiar to fans: “Walkin’ Shoes” also appeared on Zander’s previous solo album, a 1993 self-titled affair, and “Love Comes” hails from Cheap Trick’s decidedly crap-leaning 1985 outing Standing on the Edge.  In the case of the former, this arrangement isn’t all that different than the original, although it is stunning to play them back to back and hear how little Zander has lost vocally in the intervening seventeen-or-so years.  “Love Comes” is more revelatory: shorn of the synth-and-reverb-sandwich production of the original, the song reveals its core value as a fine mid-tempo pop number.

The rest of the album is consistently enjoyable, which almost works against it to some extent: there are no turkeys in this here chicken coop, but very little stands out as being head and shoulders above the rest, either.  In other words, it finds its groove early and stays locked in, which makes it an easier listen than Zander’s ’93 debut.  That album that veered back and forth between the inspired and the insipid like a drunk driver at 4:30 AM, whereas this one finds a wide-open lane, hits cruise control, and lets the wind blow back its hair with an easy confidence.  The only downside to this is that Countryside Blvd lacks a show-stopping heart-tugger on the order of Robin Zander’s “Time Will Let You Know”, although his dignified reading of “Save the Last Dance for Me” comes within shootin’ distance.

Recommended to Cheap Trick fans, of course, but also to those looking for some fresh sounding power pop.  Country fans probably need not really bother, as there ain’t nothin’ here but window dressin’ in that regard, bubba.

As regards my previous post, honestly, I have no idea why the release of this album has been stifled so many times.  It’s not the greatest album ever made, true, but it’s both respectable and marketable.  In fact, it made my iPod, which was no foregone conclusion the first time I heard “Robin Zander” and “country album” used in the same sentence.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Robin Zander and the Case of the Magically Disappearing Solo Album

Catch this if you can...
This has got to be the worst album release strategy ever.

About one year ago, it was announced that Cheap Trick vocalist Robin Zander would be releasing a country-tinged solo album appropriately entitled Countryside Blvd.  To be honest, the description didn’t exactly sound like something I was going to love, but I adore Cheap Trick and consider Zander to be one of rock’s finest voices.  Were he to sing the phone book, I’d listen through at least the Bs.  Since then, the album has been delayed numerous times.  Most recently, it was announced that it would see the light of day as a digital-only release yesterday, April 5, 2011.  This made a certain amount of sense to me: this album is not going to be a sales champ, so maybe cutting out the hassle and expense of physical release wasn’t a terrible idea.  Sure enough, when I got up yesterday morning, there it was: $7.99 for the album on Amazon MP3.  Since I was on my way out the door, I made a mental note to buy once I was home and would be able to listen.

One problem with that strategy: by the time I got home a few hours later, the album had been pulled from sale, both on Amazon and iTunes.  A quick spin through Cheap Trick’s official message board confirmed that some folks had been lucky enough to purchase it before the window closed.  No official announcement as to what had happened was available.  For this fan, the whole thing was frustrating beyond words.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think.  Between the constant release delays and now this fiasco, I can only surmise that someone must think this album is a grade-A stinker.  Naturally, this makes me even more curious to hear it; I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to figure out what this says about me.  The whole thing is truly mind-boggling: even if yesterday’s cyber-release was an error, why not continue to sell it once the cat was out of the bag?  Enough of them seem to have been bought that eventually somebody’s copy will end up in a torrent or on Rapidshare or a similar service.  Cutting off the legitimate profit stream and leaving the thing only in the pirates’ waters makes less than no sense.

All of which leads me to a shameless grovel: if you are a Cheap Trick fan who managed to get your mitts on this download yesterday and feel like helping a brother out, please hit me up.  This isn’t about trying to get something for nothing: had it remained available, I was perfectly ready to pony up the cost yesterday.  Likewise, once it’s legitimately available again, I’ll be sure to pay my way.  But right now, I’m annoyed and intrigued…

EDIT: Since acquired.  Available here, at least for the time being.  Full review tomorrow Friday.

I Guess Now We'll Never Know Who Won "Best Spoken Word, Non-English"

Seeing as how I’m obviously reading my news feed fairly religiously today, here’s another one for you.  Truth be told, this is really much ado about nothing: hardly anyone outside the recording industry cares at all about the dozens of non-televised Grammys.  Nor, for that matter, do very many people care about the televised ones: most viewers are more interested in the Soy Bomb-style train wrecks or whatever Lady GaGa might be wearing.  Which is actually as it should be: dopey though they may be, those things are actually entertainment, which is more than can be said for the stilted hosting and over-rehearsed musical performances that dominate the telecast.

The Grammy Awards are silly by their very nature: there is no way to actually delineate what makes a recording great.  Only the technical awards (engineering, production, etc.) make any sort of quantifiable sense at all.  More so than perhaps any other media, music is personal; the claim that there can really be a sort of overall “album of the year” is mind-blowingly preposterous given more than a few seconds thought.  Think about your favorite albums and what makes them so indispensible to you.  The reasons are all intangible and, as a result, immeasurable.  Your bond with that music has everything to do with where you were in your life at the time of your first exposure: what job you were working, where you were living, who you were hanging out with, and so on.  Now tell me: how do you judge that objectively?  You can’t, of course.

The music industry needs an evening of grand pomp and circumstance in order to promote itself, and that’s all well and good.  Winning a Grammy might even give an album or two a shot in the sales arm for a week or two afterwards.  That’s all well and good, too.  Just like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though, there’s no reason to let anyone else tell you what’s great in your world.  That’s your job, and you’re more than capable.

All this commentating has gotten me in a music mood.  Scratch that, a metal mood.  Where’d I put that Jethro Tull disc?

Cancellation by Chalk-bored

I’d imagine that this news will light up the blogosphere quicker and more violently than the first lightning storm of summer.  Allow me to make like a sheep and follow the flock for a few paragraphs.  Needless to say, like most people who tend to play on the left-hand side of the sandbox, I’m happy to see Beck depart his post.  My reasoning, however, seems to differ from most of the lefties I’ve already read on the subject, so here goes:  I’m glad to see Beck’s show reach its end because he has committed the most unpardonable sin any television personality can.  He’s terminally boring.

I’m a guy who knows with a fair degree of certainty where I stand on things.  On any important issue of the day, I’ve done my best to triangulate the facts from all available viewpoints and reach a hopefully informed conclusion.  I’m not the kind of guy who needs his standpoints validated by reiteration; while I think it’s good that organizations like the Huffington Post and MSNBC exist, I don’t feel like I need to spend a lot of time letting them tell me what I already know.  When it comes to politically oriented media, I actually prefer spending time with the opposition.  Its intelligent, civilized speakers can challenge me to defend and better understand my opinions internally, and its raving, full-blown whack-a-loons make for great cartoonish villains.

Given the latter statement, you might think that Beck would be right up my alley.  Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken.  While spending some time in bed with a particularly nasty, recurring flu this past winter, I finally decided to give Beck a shot.  It seemed like he might just be perfect entertainment for a DayQuil haze.  Sadly, I think you’d need much stronger sedatives to be entertained by the guy.  90% of the time, he stood in front of a blackboard, spouting incoherent right-wing doomsday theories.  He reminded me for all the world of an Astronomy professor I had in college who used his classroom as a bully pulpit to do nothing but impart conspiracy theories on how Bill Clinton was hell bent on shutting down NASA.  Eventually, everyone stopped attending the class; as a result, he failed every student and had the grades thrown out by the college.  There’s a great parallel there with Beck’s dwindling ratings.

His ratings have dwindled because the man is a certifiable bore.  His oratory style is unimpressive.  Sure, his volume and velocity of speech rise and fall appropriately, but with the labored nuance of a C-list actor rather than with the true passion of a man possessed by patriotic fervor.  His content is likewise dismissible: while there is much to legitimately criticize about Barack Obama’s performance as commander in chief, his Beck-alleged “deep seated hatred of white people” is hardly a good example.  There are real issues to deal with, real failures to analyze.  This, however, is crackpot drooling, to be filed somewhere near “he’s not a citizen” in the nonsense file.  Oh, and the chalkboard?  What a horrible prop; nothing like underscoring the idea that the audience is being lectured to, eh Glenn?

The simple fact of the matter is this: if you are going to accuse the President – any President – of being a card-carrying racist, you’d best have some solid facts to back up your rhetoric.  Needless to say, Beck couldn’t produce and, as a result, saw his advertisers fly the coop.  That, dear readers, is capitalism at its finest: faced with being seen as supporting a host who hate-mongers for fun and profit, Corporate America voted with its expense account and turned away.  Good on ‘em.

I, too, turned away: the guy’s presentation was simply too bland to stomach.  I like my staunch conservatives to either be brilliant or to be as loud as they are boorish.  Beck failed by being neither, seeming more like a longtime radio hack who’d finally found an on-air persona that hit pay dirt than a true believer.  Perhaps now that they’re both, ahem, between assignments, he and Keith Olbermann can start a cable venture of their own, wherein they do nothing but scream over one another twenty-four hours a day.

Now that, friends, would be entertainment.

Monday, April 4, 2011

He Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth

Most reality TV passes my snobby self right by, but I just can't stop watching the clip embedded at the end of this post.  I don't really care if it was caused by a tiff over art supplies or an argument over whether Donald Trump or Wally George has a more ridiculous hairpiece. Whatever the reason, somebody has needed to say this to Gary Busey for a long, long time.

Bless your heart, Meat Loaf.

Rhea's Defective Internal Jukebox: The Mama Doni Band, "Hanukkah Fever"

Today at lunch, Rhea had this in her head.  Not as parody, as it’s presented in this video, but as actual music.  I’m embedding the clip of it as shown on The Soup simply because the only other version of it on YouTube is nine minutes long and I love all of you – even those of you I’ve never met – too much to make you endure such a thing, funny though it might have been.

The serial murderer’s nine-mile stare as given by the male anchor at the end of the clip?  Well, that’s just a bonus; think of it as your reward for sitting through the song.


Oy vey.

Rhea's Defective Internal Jukebox: Bring the Pain!

I’ve mentioned before that Rhea, my other half, is one of Westchester County’s most sought-after children’s entertainers.  What I may not have mentioned until now is that long before she became the great Miss Rhea, she was one of Westchester County’s foremost hair metal enthusiasts.  Yes, while I was busy cultivating the fine taste that keeps you coming back to this blog, she was taping pictures of bands like Mr. Big and Bon Jovi up on her wall.  Thankfully, I have the more refined musical palate that restores us as a couple to coolness.  Those Iron Maiden albums you see piled up next to the Jawbreaker LPs in my vinyl storage?  Why, those are just a figment of your imagination of course, nothing to see there, move right along.  But I digress.

I bring all of this up for a reason: between the kids toons, the rawkin’ hair metal riffage, and the decade or so she spent working at a Sam Goody, Rhea has a remarkable penchant for getting some of the worst music imaginable stuck on repeat on her internal jukebox.  Since she has absolutely no qualms about inflicting this horror upon me, I have decided to share the wealth with you, my beloved readership, in a recurring feature I’d like to call RHEA’S DEFECTIVE INTERNAL JUKEBOX.  Why, you ask?  Simple: because I refuse to be the only human being in the world trying to decide whether I like Skid Row or the Fresh Beat Band less.  Friends, I simply can’t go it alone any longer: I need your help, and likely your support.

Here’s how this is going to work: I’ll embed an appropriate YouTube video for each entry in this series, along with a few comments of my own.  From there, it’s up to you: please feel free to use the comments section to commiserate, offer your condolences, tell me you’ve been there too…or even cuss me out for pooh-poohing on one of your favorite songs.

It all begins right now, in our very next post.

Saturday Afternoon in the Mall

I’m fairly mall-neutral.  I don’t hate them the way some cooler-than-thou types do, nor do I claim to hate them but spend an inordinate amount of time in them the way some even-cooler-than-thou types do.  On the other hand, I don’t particularly feel the need to run off and shop ‘til I drop the second a coupon addressed to OCCUPANT shows up in my mailbox.  For me, malls are just a part of modern life: less fun than a roast pork sandwich in Philly, more fun than an hour on line at the post office.  Sometimes, I even get a kick out of puttering around the human zoo during the times they allow the animals to roam freely.  You know: Saturday afternoons.

According to Rhea, I should be careful about mentioning the name of the actual mall.  Honestly, I dismissed that as being a tad paranoid until I thought back on the Galleria’s YOO CAN’T TAKE PITCHERS IN DA MALL policy, so how’s about we split the difference: we found ourselves in a Plaza that shares the first two words of its name with a famous highway in New Jersey that’s not a turnpike.  Got it?  Good.  Originally, we had just intended to stop off at the larger-than-average Old Navy in the plaza, but a road sign outside advertising a liquidating Borders inspired us to wander into the rest of the mall.

Borders was quite the sight.  I worked for the company for several years, as did Rhea; actually, that’s how we met.  As such, I can tell you first hand that the company deserves to be where they are right now.  Nearly a decade of mismanagement and brand identity loss will do that for you.  Still, it’s a sad thing to watch their fairly violent death throes; before the decline set in, I really thought that Borders was the best in field at what they did.  Their book and music selections boasted far more depth and variety than Barnes and Noble’s, and their stores were exciting and inviting.  What’s left now, sadly, is what’s left: about 2/3 of the store was roped off, and what little stock they had remaining was consolidated into the middle of the store.  Generous discounts, but little of much interest to choose from.  Still, Rhea and I scavenged wisely: a cartoon book for her, and The Silence of the Lambs on Blu-Ray for me.  Call me a vulture if you must, but a deal on a great movie is a good thing no matter how you slice it.

Drained from the carcass-picking, it was time for us to find a bathroom.  By virtue of being male, I was done before Rhea.  Waiting outside the restroom for her to emerge, I had one of those moments where I really wish my cell phone camera-fu was stronger.  I realize that there are bloggers who are far more gifted at surreptitiously snapping photos of people doing or wearing embarrassing things than I am.  I apologize for that, dear readers; as a result, you’re just going to have to take my word for what comes next.  Out of the ladies restroom emerged a woman who couldn’t have been a feather under two hundred pounds, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt emblazoned with the following legend, rendered in mock-graffiti style text: YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME.

Speechless, I waited for Rhea to emerge.  Once she did, I found my tongue and then some: “Did you see that?”  She had not.  I don’t know whether I would really call it her loss or not, but a punch line for the remainder of the afternoon was born.

There’s no real point in going into detail about the rest of the day.  Sure, there were funny moments: I stopped Rhea dead in her tracks by referring to a group of people as “butt nuggets”, and we did get to listen to Dee Snider’s House of Hair on the way home, myself in a far more ironic manner than my better half.  Also, a ton of great summer-clothes deals were had at Old Navy.  But really, in terms of telling a good story, who cares about any of that?  YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME was clearly the comedy pinnacle of the day.  The rest of the trip was far quieter, but no less wonderful.  On a gorgeous spring day, a small way away from home with your soul mate, it is very possible to build an amazing experience out of the most common materials.