Thursday, August 31, 2006

songs that will still blow me away years from now, vol. 1

I don't think I'd listened that closely to Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two" (1988) in a long time. But I did the other day, and it's nice to be reminded how well some songs hold up after all these years. It's a great rap song, pop song, party song, dance song. Whatever you choose to call it, it's timeless.

Add Boz Scaggs's "Breakdown Dead Ahead" (1980) to the list. It's pretty much perfect.

an observation from the past six years

From Wikipedia: "The New York Observer asserts to advertisers that it delivers Manhattan’s most affluent, educated and influential consumers, with the average net worth of its readership exceeding $1.7 million and 96% of readers being college graduates. It has a paid circulation of 51,000."

Guess who's part of the unpaid circulation? ME, BABY. Guess whose net worth is closer to $1.7 thousand than $1.7 million? ME, BABY.

Back in early 2000 I was working at CNN and got a phone call in the newsroom (where I was the assistant, so I had to answer a lot of phone calls) from a woman whose brother had just been diagnosed with cancer, and she was hoping I could help her track down a report on cancer that had aired on New Year's Day as part of CNN's "Millennium" coverage. She said she'd been transferred to several different departments and was getting the runaround, so could I please help? I could sympathize, so I wrote down her request, went to the CNN library, found the piece, copied it onto a videotape, and mailed it to her. When she received it, she thanked me and said she worked for the New York Observer. Would I like a free subscription? Sure, why not. Never heard of your paper, but maybe there will be some good articles. And you know what a fast reader I am, so the Observer will never pile up on my dining room* table!

Six years later I still have a subscription to the Observer. I don't know if someone at the paper screwed up or if the woman I helped out was really, really generous and marked me down for a life-long subscription. Either way I don't mind. Learning that the Observer is geared toward wealthy New Yorkers makes sense—I couldn't care less how much Ben Stiller or Kate Hudson paid for a condo on the Upper East Side, but apparently the Observer's core demographic does.

The Observer employs one of the best film critics I've read—Andrew Sarris—and one of the worst—Rex Reed. The majority of Reed's reviews start off like this: "Well, it looks like Hollywood has vomited up another wretched piece of trash." His editor must contemplate calling in sick every single day. Reed's review of Superman Returns proved that his mind was somewhere else during the movie: he thought it was silly that Lex Luthor traveled to Superman's "crystal galaxy" in a helicopter to retrieve a piece of kryptonite. Um, Luthor traveled to the North Pole, where Superman's Fortress of Solitude is located, to retrieve a green crystal. Remember later in the movie when Luthor stole kryptonite from a museum in Metropolis, Rex? Did you think that scene was also set in outer space? Or were you in the bathroom during that scene? Retire now, please.

* I don't have a dining room.

Men! Women!

Women think men are only interested in one thing. Well, I'm here to tell you that's simply not true. Men are interested in two things—T and A.

Thank you! Thank you very much! I'm putting that one in my stand-up set next week. The club owner said I can have a five-second slot, so that joke should cover it.

The Atlanta Braves

Good Lord, they're 19 games out of first place in their division! I knew they weren't doing well this season, but I didn't know they were in fourth place. This will be the first season since 1990 that they haven't made it to the playoffs. I turned 15 back in 1990. That's half a lifetime ago.

FUN FACT! ... unless you used to be a Montreal Expos fan: The Braves were in second place in September 1994 when the season ended early due to a players' strike. The Expos were in first and had a shot at their first World Series ever. At that point it became official: God hates Montreal. Say, wasn't there a movie in the '90s called Jesus of Montreal? I bet that one isn't in God's Netflix queue. And according to IMDB, it came out in '89. (C'mon, you knew I'd check.)

In other baseball news, I flipped past ESPN last night and saw this heading on the screen: "Longest Steaks by Gold Gloves." Steaks? See, where I come from, we call them sausages. And we don't discuss them on TV.

survey (for me, not you)

I just took an online survey for Sony BMG. Here is my resulting "music profile":

"When it comes to music you are an engaged and close listener. The things that move you in a song are often the small or subtle elements that others don't pay attention to. You extend these listening skills to your many friendships, always careful to hear what people are communicating—both what's said as well as what's not being said. While you're not one to proactively tell people about all of the music on your personal playlist, you are often sought out as a trusted resource for opinions and advice on different albums or artists. You like being surrounded by people, and when asked, you're comfortable introducing them to the music you're into, opening their ears to what they may not have heard before. "

Well, the profile got one thing right: "not ... proactive." And I'm not sure which question I answered that gave them the impression I "like being surrounded by people." Then again, they never directly asked, "Are you an agoraphobe?" Corporate-music-label surveys usually don't.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Beau knows how to give tough love.

Here's what I said to my friend Beau on Monday about the freelance proofreading and copy-editing I've been doing lately: "I much prefer the smaller assignments from this restaurant company." Here's what he said back to me: "I think I've heard enough of your whining. Extra work is good, boy."

Good point, Beau. But you should've added, "Do you say things like 'I much prefer' in conversation? I hope not. Makes you sound like a pretentious A-hole." Another good point, Beau, even if I'm the one who thought of it.

I do think it's silly that when I'm given the opportunity to do something I can do well and want to do and I'm going to be paid well to do it, I then start to think of 85 different things I'd rather be doing than the work I've been assigned. And yes, even if I were being paid to write or perform comedy, I'd still procrastinate for hours on end. I wonder if sex slaves feel the same way about their work. (I bet the "slave" part of their job title makes them more ambivalent about their work than the "sex" part.)

Sunday, August 27, 2006

three things

1. Yesterday I checked out some CDs from the library. When I handed them to the employee behind the counter, the CDs on top of my pile o' five were Barbra Streisand's The Broadway Album and Pet Shop Boys' Discography: The Complete Singles Collection. The pseudo-librarian was wearing a Metallica shirt. Hmm ... look, I won't judge you if you won't judge me, okay?

2. I'd like to be described as "urbane" someday.

3. I'd forgotten until recently how girls I typically like would much rather go out with a foreign guy, or at least a guy who looks or sounds foreign enough. Damn, I wish I had an accent. Or at least an exotic-looking set of eyebrows.

4. "Rule of Three" is a song on the Lemonheads' new self-titled album, in stores September 26.

5. I had more than three things to say. But only one was a product plug (unless you count Babs).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Everybody should be awake by 7:30 on a Saturday.

Starting at 9:03 this morning, there was a jackhammer doin' its thang right outside my building. It's Saturday morning. On Saturdays construction work apparently isn't supposed to start until 9 AM as far as city ordinances are concerned; on weekdays it can start at 7.

Both times are far too early for the sleep schedule I have, but here's the real rub—because the construction crews want to get started at 7 or 9 right on the dot, they do their "prep work" starting at 6:15, 6:30, 6:45, or, as was the case today, 7:30. Yep, an hour and a half of prep time for the jackhammer that sounds like it's inside my apartment right now.

Plus, construction workers
do not care how loud they are at 6:15, 6:30, 6:45, or 7:30. They yell things like "HEY MAN, YOU'RE ALMOST LATE!!!!" to their coworkers. Well, if your coworker is almost late but isn't actually late, is there any need to discuss it? By the way, it's now exactly 7 AM, so please feel free to make other pointless statements at an even higher volume.

Currently all of the windows in my building are being replaced. There are something like 180 apartments here. The job started back in March of last year, then stopped after one month when the contractors realized they'd ordered the wrong kind of windows.

The job started back up in March or April of this year, and now the windows on my side of the building are ready to be replaced. The window team should be on the fifth floor in a week or two, and before they arrive I have to move all the furniture in my living room and bedroom four feet away from the windows. I don't have a lot of extra space in either room, so I assume I'm going to be moving a lot of stuff into the kitchen, which is too small for, say, my chest of drawers. Dragging my bed four feet away from the window isn't going to be easy, either.

I pray for rain in the forecast these days, because if it's going to rain, the window team doesn't show up for work. It's overcast this morning, but I guess the jackhammer team only fears hail. There used to be a lot of jackhammering in the fall of '04 and winter of '05 when the parking garage behind my building was having two floors added to it. This project kept going and going, starting each morning at 7, and when the garage was finally finished in March of '05, that's when we got notice that the windows would be replaced. Thank God those contractors ordered the wrong kind of windows, thereby delaying the project and giving us silence for a year. Well, semi-silence—my moron neighbor for my first three years in this building picked up the construction workers' slack.

The constant construction on my block (not just limited to my building) may be the thing I hate most about living in a big city; it's going to make me scurry back to the south more than anything else. And if you're wondering why I still live in this building or on this block or in this neighborhood, well ... umm ... you know what, I'm going to talk about something a little cheerier tomorrow, like how you can help me make prank calls to my old neighbor at 4 AM. I feel a headache coming on right now.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Oh, the people you'll meet!

Below are the names of some "people" who've sent spam e-mail to my friend Mary and me over the past two years:

Hebrew I. Stuffiness
Taoist Q. Subservience
Righteousness G. Trump
Merchandised T. Matriarch
Travestied D. Ministries
Flagellating I. Appealing
Gullibility V. Affirmation
King Hansen
Sandbank B. Tippecanoe
Bugaboo R. Federalists
Sleeplessness M. Communism
Shamefaced M. Groggiest
Gluttony F. Antidepressant
Stomp O. Appetite
Metabolisms G. Disputes
Saucier E. Dripping
Inhuman J. Nutmeg
Farts L. Stanching
Terrifically U. Dumped
Tackiness Q. Effusive
Grandson V. Extrovert
Flashy T. Dentine
Romeo Vang
Fireball E. Chivalry
Jitterbug G. Superbly
Sauna V. Environmentalism
Incurable C. Luxuriance
Mellowness Q. Elevation
Shutout Q. Fictional
Negligee T. Legals
Hung Mooney
Stallion U. Garrulous
Vulva M. Vacationers
Monica Fist
Secretions V. Stickpins
Showdown A. Affair
Ejects P. Receptiveness
Frustrates M. Prejudgment
Bigamy R. Bustling
Offensiveness F. Brawl
Volleyed R. Indignities
Adam Smallwood [plugging Cialis, naturally]
Pansy David
Neurosis S. Sellout
Incompetently E. Tongued
Gay Huff
Beauty D. Slander
Suave I. Contaminant
Jarod Taintor
Stress P. Whine
Funded H. Estrangement
Quotable S. Ruin
Screamed L. Mammogram
Killed F. Workdays
Refreshing H. Vigilantism
Headstones T. Geneticist
Eyesore F. Beethoven
Deceases E. Emerges
God V. Offbeat

And here's something I found early this year, compliments of—words and phrases you can't request to be put on personalized jerseys at

2 ON 1

I can understand why most of the above shouldn't be on jerseys, but what about words and phrases like "He Hate Me" and "Hobo"? Would a hobo really be offended? He'd probably want a jersey for himself ... but probably because he lives outdoors and needs warm clothing during the colder months of football season and not because he cares whether or not the town where he's currently being transient gets to the Super Bowl.

But I do have to give a verbal ass-pat to the employees (i.e. interns who were given an assignment no one else wanted) who were smart enough to put "Kotex" on the do-not-stitch list. What red-blooded male wouldn't want the name of a tampon brand on his back? It's also good to see that, even from beyond the grave, Walter Payton can keep the nickname of "Sweetness" out of the public domain.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

civil rites

Lethal Weapon 2 is on TBS right now. My friend Travis recently said that no matter what time of day you turn on your TV, a Lethal Weapon or James Bond movie will be on. It's not that much of an exaggeration, especially since Spike TV came along. However, I rarely see Lethal Weapon 3 on channels like TBS or Spike. That's okay, since it's the worst one, but sometimes I need my Summer of '92 nostalgia fix real bad.

Lethal Weapon 2 is my favorite of the series. South African diplomats/thugs (there's no difference in the world of summer action movies) are the bad guys, and I just saw a scene in which Mel Gibson's character holds up a sign that says "End Aparthied Now." Yes, the spelling rule you learned back in grade school was "i before e except after c," Mel, but "apartheid" is an exception. And yes, I hold you, Mel Gibson, personally responsible for the typo on that sign.

Hmm ... Mel Gibson playing a cop protesting apartheid in a movie from 1989 that's being shown on TV almost a month after his arrest for drunk driving, an incident that became a huge scandal when Gibson made anti-Semitic comments during his arrest. It's too bad I have an irony deficiency, or else I'd comment on this parallel.

There's also a scene in Lethal Weapon 2 in which Gibson, Danny Glover, and Joe Pesci's characters pick up fast food from a drive-thru window. As they're pulling away from the restaurant, Pesci's character realizes he didn't get what he ordered. He says (I'm mostly paraphrasing here), "You know why you should go up to the counter instead? I'll tell you why! Because they fuck you at the drive-thru, okay? They fuck you at the drive-thru! They know you're gonna be miles away before you find out you got fucked! They know you're not gonna turn around and go back! They don't care!" He's right, you know. Lethal Weapon 2 certainly seems to have more insight into fast-food politics than it does South African politics.

But on TBS, "fuck you" became "freak you." Why not "screw you"? Or is that not allowed by the censors? Does one "f" word really need to be replaced by another? Just make the substitution sound as natural as possible, censors. Have you ever heard anyone say "I totally got freaked over by that mechanic"? Or "Go freak yourself"? Or "Freak me? No ... freak you, motherfreaker!" Of course not. And on the flip side, "That girl's a superfuck" and "I wanna get fucky with you" don't sound quite right (although they're intriguing, I'll admit). But the words just aren't interchangeable. "Freakin' unbelievable" is about the only acceptable substitution I can think of right now. But as we all know, "friggin'" sounds much better and is the only "fuck" substitute endorsed by the Italian-American Stereotype Mafia.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

CNN vs. Fox News

I just read—in an article from February, no less, because I'm a very slow reader—that although CNN lags behind Fox News in cable ratings and has lagged behind for quite a few years now, its Web site gets far more traffic than Fox's. Something like 22 million visitors a month compared to Fox's 6 million. Even MSNBC's site gets more traffic than Fox's.

People who watch Fox News don't like to read the news, huh? I ... am ... shocked. Very ... slowly ... shocked.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


I can't remember if I've mentioned this before, but just like other things in life, once I noticed how people in Chicago yawn in public without covering their mouths I wondered, Has this been happening ever since I moved here and I've been completely blind to it up until now? I've seen too many pretty girls make the stupidest faces while yawning in public. Chicago, you look ridiculous opening your mouth as far as it can go, like a snake about to swallow a field mouse, so stop it. I'm serious. Don't make me bring out my lion again. He wasn't too happy when I woke him from that nap.

Writing about yawning makes me yawn. It's not just a visual stimulus. How 'bout that.

Cliched pet peeve #2,086: it's amazing how much crap people put in the refrigerator at work. Even after they're not told not to. Even though we're all adults, so let's act like adults. I love the scene at the beginning of Election when Matthew Broderick's character is disgustedly throwing out decaying food from the teachers' lounge fridge and accidentally misses the trash can when he tosses out a carton of Chinese food. The janitor sees the Chinese food on the floor and grimaces, and this incident eventually leads to Broderick's downfall. I need to watch that movie again. (Of course, I say this about all of my favorite movies that I haven't watched in a long time.)

Monday, August 21, 2006

getting those new pennies pinched right out of my hand

When I got home from work tonight I saw that my new credit-card bill had arrived, and on the list of charges was a $39 late fee for last month's bill because I forgot to pay it online until the day it was due. Gadzooks, I say! Good thing I never left my apartment this weekend.

penny pinching

I realized this morning that I didn't spend any money after 10 PM on Friday night until I bought a Coke about 30 minutes ago. Good job avoiding the outside world this weekend, Robert!

Sunday, August 20, 2006

quotable notables

I used to send mass mailings to friends containing all of the e-mail "forwards" I'd received over the past few months that I thought were worth sharing. I was desperate for attention back then. But I also thought I was doing my friends a service, i.e. I'll sift through all the crap I receive so you don't have to. What a hero I was.

After a while I started putting a few paragraphs at the top of each mass mailing in which I'd tell people what was going on in my life at the moment. I thought the sarcasm was obvious, yet sometimes people on my list wouldn't get the joke. One guy wrote me in 2001 after reading my e-mail and said, "I think it's great that you've met someone, but don't rush to get married to this girl so quickly. I did that when I married my first wife, and it was a mistake." When I had worked with this guy in the late '90s in Atlanta I had no idea he was on his second marriage, so I felt like my sarcasm had misled him into giving me information I didn't need to know. I decided at that point to hold off on my "I've been accused of date rape" e-mail no matter how curious I was to see who would come out of the woodwork. (Sarcasm? You be the judge.)

At the end of each mass mailing I would include quotes from song lyrics, TV shows, movies, and books ... but mostly song lyrics. The last mass mailing I sent was in September '04, and although I meant to send one out around November of last year, it never happened, and I don't think I'll send one again. I still receive forwards from people, some of which are very funny and would be worth passing on, but I don't want to spend time anymore editing them down to the 10 best dumb-blonde jokes out of 57, for example, or erasing all those damn >>>>'s from the margins.

Anyway, here are quotes I would've included in the next mass mailing ...

"I only sleep when spoken to"

—Grandpaboy, "Lush and Green" (1997)

"I make you feel lost like high school history"

—De La Soul, "In the Woods" (1993)

"We've gone through more hardships than the Jews and Charlie Brown put together."
—Homer Simpson on his and Marge's marriage, The Simpsons (2006)

"The white cracker who wrote the national anthem knew what he was doing: he set the word 'free' to a note so high nobody could reach it. That was deliberate. Nothing on earth sounds less like freedom to me. You come with me to room 1013 over at the hospital, Louis, I'll show you America—terminal, crazy, and mean. I live in America, Louis. I don't have to love it. You do that. Everybody's gotta love something."
—Norman "Belize" Arraga (Jeffrey Wright), Angels in America (2003)

"Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read."
—Frank Zappa

"This chorus is the feces that is produced when shame eats too much stupidity!"
—Dale Gribble commenting on Bill Dauterive's involvement in an all-male chorus, King of the Hill (2005)

"Good manners and bad breath will get you nowhere"
—Elvis Costello, "New Lace Sleeves" (1981)

"I tried to surprise you / I crept up behind you / With a homeless chihuahua / You cooed for an hour / You handed him back and said / 'You'll never guess—I'm bored now'"
—Morrissey, "King Leer" (1991)

"A cheap sunset on a television set could upset her / But he never could"
—Jeff Tweedy, "Hummingbird" (2004)

"Nothin' you can't handle, nothin' you ain't got / Put your money on the table, drive it off the lot"
—Boz Scaggs and David Paich, "Lowdown" (1976)

"We got more balance than cheese on an onion ring"
—Dave and Serge Bielanko, "The Closer" (2005)

"You show your age when you drown your rage / But I see past those laughter lines"
—The Thrills, "Not for All the Love in the World" (2004)

"Law of averages plainly states that chances go around / If you wanna know the truth about it I'll tell you what's pulling you down"
—John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Victor Carstarphen, "Bad Luck" (1975)

"If a white boy's doin' it, well, it's success / When I start doin' it, well, it's suspect"
—Chris E. Martin and Dante Smith, "Mr. Nigga" (1999)

"Don't you know you're like Pete Best / Bitter after all these years / Just let it go"
—Conor Deasy, "Your Love Is Like Las Vegas" (2003)

"If you say that you're staying you're probably only waiting around / As you move up the ladder it really doesn't matter somehow / 'Cause the need for a brand-new face ain't never been a matter of taste / That's why there's no satisfaction in the coming attractions these days"
—Dave and Serge Bielanko, "Going Thru the Motions" (2004)

"Changing's no fun if you don't want to / I need a good day sailing / To tell the sun and the moon / That I am turning for no reasons too / And I keep waiting"
—Phoenix, "Summer Days" (2000)

"If I am good I could add years to my life / I would rather add some life to my years"
—Spiritualized, "Out of Sight" (2001)

"Catch the last ride on a Brooklyn train / Thirty years old and nothing's changed ... / And I'll rise to greet you in the morning time / It's an honest thing, and honest things they last"
—Josh Rouse, "Rise" (2003)

"Maybe later on / After the late late show / We can go to your room / I can try on your clothes"
—Josh Rouse and Daniel Tashian, "It's the Nighttime" (2005)

"Well I'm not the world's most masculine man / But I know what I am and I'm glad I'm a man / And so is Lola"
—Ray Davies, "Lola" (1970)

"She made me breakfast to the strains of vintage Smokey Robinson / She said, 'Just my imagination, well, I think he wrote that one for the Temps' ... / Never had the pleasure, at least I think I made you laugh / Well, I never took your treasure, at least I think I made you laugh"
—John Powhida, "Oh Delilah" (2003)

"Sex without love is a good ride worth trying / But love without sex is second only to dying"
—Aidan Moffat and Malcolm Middleton, "Glue" (2003)

"I'm in love with a face that I've never seen / Once upon a place long time ago / I'm in love with a time that never took place / That's easy to trace / As far as I know / And I know everything that I need to sing / I know everything"
—Paul Westerberg, "As Far as I Know" (2004)

"When one is a child we always have special things to remember with love."
—Cristian, my Christian Children's Fund pen pal in Ecuador (November 2005)

"I'm gonna watch you shine / Gonna watch you grow / Gonna paint a sign / So you'll always know / As long as one and one is two / There could never be a father / Who loved his daughter more than I love you"
—Paul Simon, "Father and Daughter" (2002)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

important political commentary

Two things I’ve learned post-Katrina: (1) ads for Smokey Robinson’s Soul in the Bowl Gumbo played over the P.A. in Chicago grocery stores aren’t funny like they used to be, and (2) Katrina and the Waves’ “Walking on Sunshine” won’t sound the same on jukeboxes in New Orleans anymore, which is going to make a lot of black people sad.

Why hasn't America declared war on hurricanes yet? C’mon, G.W., we were attacked! Mother Nature may be a woman, but that doesn’t mean you can’t kick her in the nuts with a few long-range missiles. Show those big, swirly masses of air and water who's boss this year.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

"My old man pushes me aROOOOUNd!"

When Ferris Bueller's Day Off came out in the summer of 1986, no soundtrack album was produced. That's unheard of these days, especially for a film targeted at teen audiences, but back in the '80s I guess it wasn't uncommon. From what I've read, the film's writer-director, John Hughes, thought the songs wouldn't fit together as a cohesive collection when separated from the movie.

According to a helpful Web site, the songs that most likely would've ended up on the soundtrack (in order of their appearance in the movie) are:

1. "Love Missile F1-11" (Sigue Sigue Sputnik)
2. "Oh Yeah" (Yello)
3. "Beat City" (The Flowerpot Men)
4. "B.A.D." (Big Audio Dynamite)
5. "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" [Instrumental] (The Dream Academy)
6. "Danke Schoen" (Wayne Newton)
7. "Twist and Shout" (The Beatles) *
8. "Radio People" (Zapp)
9. "I'm Afraid" (Blue Room)
10. "Taking the Day Off" (General Public)
11. "The Edge of Forever" (The Dream Academy)
12. "March of the Swivelheads" (The English Beat)

If I had a music blog, I'd let you download all of these songs. But I don't. And now you feel like you've wasted your time reading this.

I can live with that.

I wish some record label—possibly Rhino, which specializes in reissues and doesn't shy away from music with nostalgic value—would put out a 20th-anniversary edition of the Ferris soundtrack, but I haven't heard any rumblings about it recently, so I guess it won't happen. Too bad. I bet a lot of people would buy it.

* "Twist and Shout" was also used in the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School the same summer, so it must not have been until later in the '80s that Michael Jackson, who purchased the publishing rights to the Beatles' songs in 1984, jacked up the prices for studios who wanted to use the songs in movies. However, Jackson, or whoever was running his empire at the time, did allow Nike to use the electric version of "Revolution" in a 1987 ad campaign.