Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The first reason should be obvious to everyone with a pulse. GOLF IS NOT A SPORT! It's a scored activity, like darts, shuffleboard and cribbage. Any activity in which a guy the size and shape of Craig Stadler can become a millionaire by taking part should never be considered a sport. The only people who ever call golf a "sport" are the well-paid sportswriters who play it in their off hours and the assorted obnoxious white guys who have country club memberships and ugly pants who never lower themselves to ask my opinion on the matter. Bo Jackson was an athlete. Deion Sanders was an athlete. Tiger Woods plays golf.
The second comes down to numbers, specifically, the number of PGA tournaments that Tiger Woods participated in in 2006. Granted, Woods' father and golf avatar, Earl Woods, was in ill health and eventually succumbed to cancer this year, and it is understood that this would be a distraction for any "athlete". Having said that, the PGA has roughly 40 events in a calendar year, which works out to 160 days competing in tournaments. No one on the PGA tour plays in every event, but having said that, you can find very few golfers who played less than the 13 events Tiger Woods took part in in 2006.
In 2006, Woods only played about 50 days worth of golf for money on the PGA Tour. In contrast, very few starting pitchers win Athlete of the Year because they only get about 25 to 35 starts per season. If a guy like Tomlinson played in only 35% of his team's games, do you think he would have a shot at Athlete of the Year? We are told that half of life is just showing up. Woods only does that 30 to 35% of the time, but he's a better athlete than Tomlinson, who gets hit on EVERY PLAY in his sport when he plays?
So Woods won over $8 million for the tournaments he took part in. Big deal. The real story here is the tournaments where he didn't even show up. Give the Male Athlete of the Year award to someone who I can get used to seeing on a daily or weekly basis.
Friday, December 22, 2006
And the sky is growing dark
There’s no one left to clean the muddy street
Down in a swollen gutter
Amidst the bottles and the trash
A lotto ticket dances without feet
On its back it bears a number
Written down in fading blue
Seven indecipherable digits and a heart
Will anyone remember
Does anybody care
About the opportunity that fell apart
Light a candle, say a prayer
They could be anywhere
A brief encounter in a convenience store
Led to a fantasy
That was never meant to be
And strangers they must be forevermore
In a café by the roadside
A girl is sipping tea
And wondering why he never calls
And somewhere in a diner
Surrounded by his smoke
A boy is lost in shadows on the walls
Sometimes he’ll think about her
And how he never got her name
Then write it off to his unlucky fate
And as he finishes his smoke
That losing lotto ticket
Spirals down beyond the sewer grate
Light a candle, say a prayer
They could be anywhere
A brief encounter in a convenience store
Led to a fantasy
That was never meant to be
And strangers they must be forevermore
The houses all look empty
As the afternoon wears on
The wind is singing Wagner to the clouds
And the worms out on the sidewalk
Drowning in unsalted tears
Are mourned by the skies in their shrouds
Lost love is nostalgia
And broken hearts will mend
And star-crossed lovers reunite in death
If life can teach you anything
It’s to always take your chance
And fight for what you love with every breath
Light a candle, say a prayer
They could be anywhere
A brief encounter in a convenience store
Led to a fantasy
That was never meant to be
And strangers they must be forevermore
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Compassion incorporates the awareness that all we do as living creatures is only the tiniest blip on the cosmic radar, that all human achievement is temporary, and that any individual's actions may therefore feel entirely futile; in addition to which most people who recognize an empathetic person will express firstmost their misery and disappointment. The goal of compassion is to move beyond this egocentric 'poor me' point of view to an enlightened state of connection to a larger sense of self. However, not only is it easy to slide back from this heightened awareness into the depths of personal discontent; it is also just as easy to keep this illumination localized in the safety of the mind where it can exist in an Ivory Tower, disconnected from the heartache and suffering of life.
Yeshua ben Josef (a.k.a. Jesus Christ in vulgar Latin) is an example of one who struggled to use his compassion to alleviate suffering by bringing others into an enlightened state; the prolonged gore of his assassination shows how much this was appreciated at the time. Conversely, the Buddha Siddhartha Guatama managed to live and teach longer than three years, partially because he started out as a prince rather than a carpenter, but mostly because he was born on the right side of the planet. At any rate, the lessons of these and all other transcendent sages, martyred or otherwise, suggest that we as human beings have the opportunity to release this attachment to suffering, and thereby conquer the death of the ego. So what is it that keeps ordinary schmucks like you and me from bringing it all together and evolving into spiritual masters? In a word, karma.
Karma at a practical level isn't about justice, or past lives, or even the balancing of universal energies. It's about recognizing the patterns and laws by which one leads one's life and seeing their inherent falsehood and limitations. Most of us fail to comprehend just what is meant by 'attachment to suffering.' Over the course of any lifetime, when bad things happen it is normal to learn from the experience. Unfortunately, this learning process is seldom conscious, occuring as it does primarily at the level of emotions and beliefs rather than at the level of rational thought. The lesson is then incorporated, which is to say, brought into the body at a cellular level. Once this is done, reality is defined in terms of that lesson.
For instance, a child who burns his hand may be sufficiently traumatized by the experience to develop a fear of fire. Fire may become a symbol to that child of all that is evil and hurtful. As an adult, this person may be able to rationally use a lighter or a stove without flinching, but may also believe in an afterlife where the soul is burned for eternity for being evil. This fear will continue to severely limit the person's ability to accept the diversity of human experience unless the root of it is brought to light and an alternate belief is engendered.
Furthermore, this new belief must be sufficiently impactful to negate a whole lifetime of living by the previous belief. For this to occur, one needs open-heartedness. Without it, any new lessons are just flotsam and jetsam on the stream of consciousness. This doesn't necessarily mean accepting the abuse and miserable company of those that see empathy as weakness. Everyone needs to be able to retreat to a safe place, away from social manipulation. In this space, one may see how the ego's Sea of Infinite Sadness exists as a mere drop of water in the Universal Self. Gradually, this awareness may grow strong enough for the individual to invite others to share it. When this is possible, it will signify an integration of Higher Self with personal identity. Only then will loving kindness result in bringing others up without getting entangled in their suffering.
Monday, September 11, 2006
We all know what happened 5 years ago today. The Islamic equivalent of rednecks got off a lucky shot with a couple of airplanes because our national leadership was worried more about clearing brush and creating an energy policy for their longtime friends at Halliburton and Enron than they were about protecting America. I remind the other citizens of this country that Spetember 11th, 2001 was a date that fell within the first term of the presidency of George W. Bush.
So, being the most powerful country on earth, did we do the right thing, that being making these Islamic rednecks eat the pointy ends of missiles in the mountains of Afghanistan until they were obliterated? Well, we were well on our way to accomplishing that goal, but we stopped and invaded Iraq instead. At the time, Iraq was a circumsized dictatorship, controlled completely by a multinational force by the use of "no-fly zones" that took up two-thirds of their airspace. We are told Saddam was an oppressive despot. How this differs from the leadership in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lybia, Jordan, Syria, Iran and Morocco has yet to be fully explained by the people currently in power in the United States.
Did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? No. Is the Iraq War, as promised, being paid for by profits from the sale of Iraqi oil? No. Was the Iraq War over, as Donald Rumsfeld predicted, within months? Again, no. Is the Iraqi insurgency, as stated by policy wunderkind Dick Cheney, really in its last throes? Um, no. Was Saddam Hussein an imminent threat? Not counting probable halitosis, no.
The way to teach the Arab world a lesson would have been to drag Osama Bin Laden's lifeless body behind a jeep before news cameras right around Christmas 2001, following the Israel model of showing the world what happens to people who attack us.
What we got was a GOP-engineered clusterfuck, where our soldiers are underequipped sitting ducks in two countries, and batshit insane states like Iran and North Korea, seeing the quagmires the United States finds themselves in, are now feeling their militant oats on the world stage. Osama Bin Laden, the architect of a mass murder, now has a more prolific recording career than Michael Jackson and our president "doesn't much care" where he is.
The great equalizer is that Novermber 7th is a midterm election day, which gives the 60%+ of America who doesn't support the war in Iraq a chance to neuter the president for the remainder of his term in office. Based on the recklessness and irresponsibility we've seen from this president, it's a neutering whose time has come. Numbers don't lie. Those who now support the Iraq War can honestly be referred to as the lunatic fringe. Think of your vote as a shot of Thorazine across the bow of the S. S. Cuckoo's Nest that is the United States.
Friday, September 08, 2006
I believe that the future of music lies in the hands of the individual and not in the hands of multinational conglomerate record labels.
I believe that the IPod is destroying the Long Playing album, and we're all going to be sorry when it becomes official.
I believe that synthesizers were better when they weren't manufactured to sound like other instruments.
I believe that music critics gave Dino Valenti a raw deal when he joined Quicksilver Messenger Service.
I believe that the most musically talented Beatle was Paul
I believe that the most musically talented Rolling Stone is Charlie Watts.
I believe that not enough people under the age of 30 are aware of who Mike Bloomfield was.
I believe that no rock band can recreate the power of an orchestra playing "In The Hall Of The Mountain King".
I believe that jazz could live a little longer if it embraced the avant garde.
I believe Talking Heads and Blondie were vastly overrated.
I believe that Minnie Ripperton was one of the best singers who ever lived.
I believe that Mariah Carey is a third-rate vocal acrobat.
I believe that no one will ever rule a stage again the way Tina Turner and Otis Redding did it.
I believe that MTV was the third worst invention in modern times, trailing only the atomic bomb and the 5-day deodorant pad.
I believe that terrestrial radio is dead.
I believe that Stephen Stills has less than three years to live after seeing Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young the other night in concert in Milwaukee., but I hope I'm wrong.
I believe that the Replacements were the most painfully human band I ever saw on a stage.
I believe that the best concert I ever saw was the Kinks in the pouring rain in Philadelphia.
I believe that there never should have been another Woodstock.
I believe that there should be another Monterey International Pop Festival.
I believe that Three Dog Night was one hell of an instrumental band.
I believe that John Williams deserves to be compared to Bach and Beethoven.
I believe that Republicans should be legally banned from listening to Rock and Roll and jazz, as well as telling us what they think they are.
I believe that Bono cares a little bit, but mostly I believe that he's full of shit.
I believe that REM has devolved to the point where they are now the musical equivalent of a restaurant in a good location.
I believe that given what he has survived in one lifetime, Iggy Pop is closer to God than Pat Robertson.
I believe that Eric Clapton is an adequate blues guitarist, no more, no less.
I believe that every track ever recorded that featured Nicky Hopkins on piano is to be treasured.
I believe that Bob Dylan singlehandedly changed the language of vocal music.
I believe that Tony Bennett could sing rings around Frank Sinatra.
I believe that flutes need to come back to rock and roll.
Finally, I believe that there is room for everyone in the world of music, but that doesn't mean that I have to like everyone in the world of music.
Friday, August 04, 2006
When my captor came down to check on me I prepared to fight for my freedom.
He was onto me though and tightened my shackles. I fought like a wildcat against them.
I waited for him to come closer.
He kicked a plate of dried up, mealy brains at me, but I scarcely noticed them with the scent of his fresh, pulsing brain so near.
He'll make a mistake eventually. I can wait.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
To sum up, Ned Lamont, a telecommunications/internet millionaire, decided to challenge Joe Lieberman, an 18-year incumbent, in the Democratic primary due to Lieberman's wholehearted support of George W. Bush's Iraq policy, or lack thereof. The national blogs jumped on Lamont's bandwagon early and vocally, not only for Lieberman's war support, but for Lieberman's views on Social Security privatization, his cloture vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Samuel Alito, his rather callous defense of Catholic hospitals' refusal to provide emergency contraception to rape victims and his support for the large bank-favored bankruptcy bill that was recently signed into law. Almost daily, any campaign move made by the Lieberman camp, either through a television attack ad or press releases and quotes from Lieberman and the incompetents running his campaign, is being debunked by the blogs with facts that Lieberman would rather not address.
A few weeks ago, Lieberman and Lamont took part in a debate. Rather than the tame Republican-enabling pussycat that faced Dick Cheney in the 2000 vice-presidential debate, Lieberman came out swinging, attempting to frame the debate in terms that defended his position of incumbency as financially beneficial to the citizens of Connecticut. Nevermind that Connecticut ranks 49th out of 50 states in bringing home the bacon from Washington in a recent study. Lieberman intimated that Connecticut couldn't afford to start over with a freshman senator. Lieberman also attempted to reestablish his Democratic credentials by trotting out freedom rides and JFK, which means virtually nothing to voters under the age of 45, except for historically significant, grainy black and white news footage of black people being firehosed down the street in Alabama and the Zapruder film.
Lieberman ended the debate with a ridiculous attempt to chide Ned Lamont for not releasing his tax records for the last five years. Ned Lamont, as previously stated, is a millionaire, and he and his family earned that money through hard work owning his own business. Ned Lamont, unlike Joe Lieberman, isn't a slave to PAC money. Therefore, the tax records issue is a non-issue, brought forth by a petulant incumbent who appears publicly to be insulted that he's being challenged to defend his record in the Senate.
Just days before the debate, Lieberman announced that he was going to petition the voters of Connecticut to appear on the fall ballot as an independent, in the event he lost the Democratic primary. Rather than defend his positions to people in his party, he's betting that the Republicans and independents in Connecticut will hold him over their heads in triumph over the Democratic nominee and the "vituperations" of his supporters in the blogosphere and throughout Connecticut. Based on the unpopularity of the Iraq War in Connecticut, this is quite a gamble. Still, based on his PAC money, Lieberman still stands as the favorite in the Democratic primary by an ever-shrinking margin, but Joe just loves his seat in the U. S. Senate. The party name he chose for his independent bid is "Connecticut For Lieberman". So much for humility.
Three weeks from today is the Connecticut primary. If Lamont wins this primary, I'd like to make an argument that he ignore Joe Lieberman from that day forward.
The usual pattern for political campaigns follows that after the primaries, debates are held between the major party challengers. The current Republican challenger is someone named Schlesinger, a guy not supported by other major Republicans in Connecticut who appears to have a compulsive gambling problem, in the Republican tradition of Bill Bennett. If Lamont wins the primary, the general election debate participants should be Ned Lamont and Schlesinger, and that's it. To invite Lieberman to such a debate is to reward vanity and lack of allegiance to established election conventions.
The way I've understood how a primary election works is this way. Two or more people of the same party fight for the nomination of the party for a selected office. The winner moves on to the general election against candidates from other parties, the loser goes home. Period. End of discussion. For Lieberman to come out and argue that he's a good Democrat (HA!) but every voter in Connecticut should have a chance to vote for him in the general election if he loses the Democratic primary is a sham.
The last time I checked, primary election losers don't get invited to the general election debates. On August 9th, if Lamont stands as the winner of the Democratic primary for U. S. Senate in Connecticut, Lieberman should be marginalized in a way that precludes him from taking part in a Senatorial debate. Lamont should treat Lieberman as one would treat a fly around a picnic table. Dismissively shoo him away as the scavenger and pest that he is, then ignore him. In addition, Lamont shouldn't even refer to Lieberman by name. He should refer to Lieberman as "the outgoing incumbent" or "the vanity independent" or some other such moniker when questions are posed to him about Lieberman's independent candidacy. He should use phrases like "desperate straw grasp to retain power" and "the Democratic voters have spoken" to make sure no one misses the point of what Lieberman is trying to do.
It is quite obvious that Joe Lieberman, by his personal actions and those of his campaign, has never received a primer from anyone in his life about accepting defeat with humility and grace. His attempt to retain his seat by ballot manipulation is insulting, and the insult should returned in full if he loses the Democratic primary.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Having said all that, last Thursday, I found myself in Wal-Mart. I don't usually shop there, but I was dispatched by my wife to exchange a gift (a baby wipe warmer with a malfunctioning top latch) given to us for our new baby (born on the 4th of July; my little boy patriot). As I went about taking the defective item (made in China; but of course) into the store, up to the service desk and retrieving an identical item from the appropriate store shelf, I noticed something. In the world of Wal-Mart, I, a Caucasian, am a minority.
Including myself, I counted 8 white people in Wal-Mart out of roughly 50 to 75 people that I spotted during my visit. The most amazing thing about this is that I'm including Wal-Mart employees and the number of white people I saw in the parking lot, which was zero. I actually DID see two in the parking lot, but they were an elderly white couple I spotted on the way out that I had already seen inside the store. The balance of the people I saw in Wal-Mart that day were African-American or Hispanic.
I don't shop at Wal-Mart, based on their anti-union stance, their general abuse of their employee population and their being the biggest reason for American job loss over the last quarter century. In the history of me, this was the third time I had ever set foot in a Wal-Mart. I have no clue if this represents the usual shopping pattern at Wal-Mart, and I'll never know, as I don't plan to shop there in the future. Based on what I saw during my visit, and based on what I normally see in their parking lot (the local Wal-Mart shares a parking lot with Paul's Omega, my favorite Greek "we make everything" restaurant), I'm drawing a conclusion that this is normal for any given Wal-Mart.
What strikes me is that based on demographic shifts that experts are predicting will occur in the coming century, Wal-Mart today represents the population of tomorrow's America (if America as we knew it still exists or can return to normal after our current president gets done with it). Not only is Wal-Mart making billions of dollars a quarter on the backs of today's minorities, but they are, based on my amateur observations, poised to increase in strength as time goes on if we extrapolate the sales figures using these very same demographic shifts.
It's this thought that makes the act of simple digestion an impossibility. I don't begrudge today's minorities a shot at the American dream, but I wonder what kind of country I'll live in in the sunset of my life with an irresponsible corporate citizen like Wal-Mart holding such vast retail power with tomorrow's majority. I shall continue to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart with every fiber of my being, but I'm beginning to realize that my little stand doesn't mean much now, and will mean even less going forward economically for the Walton family and their offspring.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Between times when I'm not receiving phone calls, I can now take pictures and make 20-second films to my heart's content. In addition, I can download ridiculous ringtones that identify my friends. Thus far, I haven't truly taken advantage of this new toy, as it was hard enough just reprogramming all of my saved phone numbers into my new phone.
Despite the constant warnings of brain tumors and oncoming auto accidents which I'm sure to receive because of my new cell phone, I am enjoying the world without a wire. My wife and I haven't had a home phone in about three years now. We are a strictly cellular couple. Cell phones have increased my interest in talking on the phone. I hate the telephone as a rule. I always feel like the person on the other end of the phone is rolling their eyes and making masturbatory motions whenever I'm talking.
The art of conversation is one that's dying. My grandmother died at the age of 96 this past December. Now THAT was a lady who knew how to converse. There was many a time when I would sit down in her living room and talk about anything that possibly happened to pop up that day. With her unique view of the world, having lived through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the early days of aircraft and space exploration, Korea, Vietnam and virtually every important milestone of the 20th century, she could hold an audience like no one I have ever encountered before or since.
I can't find people like that anymore. With the death of conversation and letters to the birth of cell phones, text messaging and e-mail, true sharing of ideas has been abbreviated into incomplete sentences and emoticons to the point where nobody really bothers to think anymore. While I'm happy to be down to one cell phone, I do not converse via a happy face.
For now, I'm going to enjoy my new toy and think of those days when a chat on the front porch could teach you more about the human condition than can be gleaned in this world of ours nowadays. If you know me, feel free to give me a call. As long as the battery on my cell phone is charged, I'll have something to add to the conversation.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
In a posting on his blog this morning, Cuban took the Miami Herald to task for quoting him as having said that "the game is rigged". Cuban never said this, as he believes that even the thought of a conspiracy of that magnitude is an insult to the players in the NBA.
So I'LL say it. The NBA is second only to the WWE when it comes to artifice of competition. With their doctored draft "lottery", their star players never committing violations and the most basic rules of the game not being enforced, the NBA is quickly becoming a league that only Don King would be proud to operate.
A few years ago, LeBron James, an Ohio native, ended up being won in the NBA's draft lottery by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland, for those of you in the Red States, is located in Ohio. The whispers about the NBA's draft lottery being rigged were so prevalent last year that many NBA journalists predicted that the New York Knicks, currently the absolute worst team in basketball, would win the draft lottery to win back their fan base by use of a top college player. With many eyes on the draft, and the percentages of winning the lottery in their favor, the Knicks lost the draft lottery. This is in stark contrast to the 1985 draft lottery that mysteriously landed Patrick Ewing of Georgetown in the nation's biggest media market. I suspect that the weighted lottery that the National Hockey League operates under would remove the annual blanket of suspicion that cloaks the NBA's lottery. Thus far, NBA commissioner David Stern has not indicated that he would enjoy that route.
The NBA has a peculiar predilection towards protecting their star players. Unlike the NHL, which allows the players more often that not to settle things themselves on the ice, the NBA protects their marquee names by use of officials who call fouls on people who accidentally bump into/breathe in the direction of/look strangely upon the all-stars of the NBA. Pat Riley, the current coach of the Miami Heat, the team who is the latest recipient of official largesse, once referred to Michael Jordan as "His Majesty" in a press conference given after a game in which Michael Jordan wasn't whistled once for committing a foul. As we saw in Game 5, Jordan's mantle of Not-To-Be-Fouled has apparently been bequeathed to Dwayne Wade of the Heat, who had 25 free throws the other night, which is the exact number of free throws taken by the entire Dallas Mavericks team. Many voices suggest that the NBA wants to extend the finals to seven games to increase media attention and maximize revenues. What league wouldn't? And yet given that most NBA arenas are not filled to capacity on most nights, this theory can't possibly be far off the mark. If a few more million dollars can be made through creative use of the whistle in the NBA Finals, that certainly makes up for all of those empty seats at Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers games.
When you play basketball, you are allowed to take two steps with the ball after completing your dribble before you have to shoot or pass the ball. This is the first thing I was taught as a 4-year-old child when a basketball was first placed into my age-abbreviated hands. Good luck finding this rule being applied to any player in the National Basketball Association. The basketball is in hands more than it's on the floor in any random NBA game. Now, I understand that the dunk has revolutionized the game, and that nothing gets a crowd up like the ol' Slam. Having said that, taking three steps in the lane in order to accomplish a two-second dunk highlight for that evening's SportsCenter is still illegal, according to the rules of the game. If the NBA isn't enforcing the most basic Naismith blueprint rule of the game of basketball, what sport am I watching?
It's truly a shame that the NBA has taken the sport of basketball down the theatre route. With some of the best players in the game now coming from Europe, China and Canada, basketball is on the verge of being a truly international sport in ways that American football and ice hockey can only dream about. When the most visible league on the planet representing the sport demonstrably alters the game for the worse, I've lost my reason to follow the sport. Instead of becoming a worldwide ambassador for a truly American game, the NBA follows an improvisational script that is quickly becoming the envy of Vince McMahon.
In dealing with this underlying theme of subconcious fear, it is common to overcompensate with an engorged ego that embraces the drama of one's situation, glorifying itself as the hero or martyr of a cosmic tragedy. It is therefore believed that one's suffering is either noble or unjust, and created by a vindictively hostile universe that holds a personal grudge. Even the premise that the universe is apathetic or unconscious is taken as an insult to the ego. The eternally futile drive for comfort and satiation is said to be fulfilled in either an imaginary afterlife or through winning enough prizes (material or spiritual) in this life, but neither belief ever fully quells the hidden fears and doubts inherent to humanity.
For what, then, can humanity hope? Why bother trying? The easy answer is a temporary high, acquired by seizing the day and living in the moment. But that is just a superficial fix. The deeper solution is to uncover the subconscious fears and make them conscious, acknowledge how they have shaped one's life, and confront the issue or situation that created them in the first place. This must be more than a mental exercise: the habitual patterns that rule one's emotions can only be released by being replaced, which requires disciplined reconditioning. Without this, hope is insubstantial and usually misplaced; with it, one's heart's desire can become known and eventually manifested.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that this attitude is based on the dogma of limited resources and lowered expectations, there is a more subtle and civilized form of this territorial sadomasochism that is a dominant theme in the most affluent and self-indulgent societies. The petty and frivolous beauty and popularity contests that give rise to celebrity worship are the heart and soul of the democratic process. Intelligence, pragmatism, and benign intentions will never be common among our leaders, not because there are no strong leaders with these qualities but simply because such qualities are essentially egalitarian. While the fact that equality is forever doomed to be unpopular may seem paradoxical, this is only because the vast majority of people never reach (much less acknowledge) their full potential. If we did, we would all be gods and goddesses. As it is, hero worship is much easier.
The other side of this is a devout refusal to see beyond preconceived notions of the worth of anyone else. We all exist in a soft pink fog of hormonally and environmentally defined aesthetics that severely limits both individual as well as international relationships. Who doesn't prefer a pretty face to talent? Who sees beyond their own lust to other's need for affection? Who doesn't put their own pride ahead of grace and humility? Sure, everyone has their moments. Nonetheless, the sad fact is that we carry at the level of our collective unconscious the eternal myth that nice guys finish last. It is as much a part of us as the pretense to righteousness.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
- With "conventional wisdom" putting Hillary Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket, and our appointed president quoted today as saying his brother Jeb would make a "great president", I am struck by the fact that we had a revolution way back in the 1700's to avoid this kind of familial dynastic leadership. I am backing Russ Feingold for president. If Jesse Ventura runs, he gets my vote instead.
- I hate Spring. I have seasonal allergies and a pathological fear of all things bug. If the Arctic Circle wasn't quickly becoming a freshwater ocean due to global warming, I'd gladly move there. As it stands, I am now in a holding pattern until next Autumn.
- "American Idol" is nothing but Karaoke with vocal acrobatics. The best singers ever? In my opinion, Tony Bennett, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Cass Elliot, Karen Carpenter, Tim Buckley, Van Morrison, Sandy Denny, Spanky Macfarlane and Janis Joplin, and not one of them had to hit 20 different notes on one word. They were passionate and honest, the two elements that are lacking from every contestant on "American Idol". I only watch "American Idol" at the beginning of each season, when they jettison the awful singers to the netherworld of obscurity. This is a public service. The rest of the show and its contestants are completely disposable.
- Keith Olbermann is the closest thing we have to a real journalist on television these days, proving my belief that all sportswriters should change places with all news writers immediately. I've never known a sportswriter who's been afraid to call someone on their bullshit. One can only hope that more sportswriters follow the lead of Olbermann and cross over to hard news.
- Howard Stern has never sounded better than he does now on Sirius Satellite Radio, far away from the Puritanical witch hunters of the FCC, Clear Channel and CBS radio. We all scrathed our heads at this weird thing called Home Box Office way back in the late 1970's. Sirius is at the same point right now that HBO was back then. In 25 years, we'll have a good laugh at what is left on terrestrial radio, and I'll still be happy to pay the subscription fee.
- My wife and I are now exactly two months away from the due date for our son. We finished the childbirth classes this past Monday (at last; no more talk about the cervix) and the baby's room and furniture are set up. Now, we need a baby, reliable day care and a car seat and we'll be set.
- I suddenly find myself rooting for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, now up 3 games to 0 on the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference Semifinals in the NHL. This team is more balanced than I suspected, and they boast the best defenseman left in the playoffs in Scott Niedermayer. Besides all that, their coach, Randy Carlyle, played in the NHL without a helmet. I love those tough old guys.
- A lot has been made about MySpace being Ground Zero for sexual predators. What the hell is the matter with parents today? Know your kid's passwords, know his/her online friends, watch over their shoulders and learn how to use a search engine to see what personal info is out there on your kids. The world is full of people who think nothing of perversion. The parents can spot these people a mile away. They should learn how to do it online as well. Still, I find it funny that Rupert Murdoch now owns MySpace. Mr. Fox News now runs a pedophile shopping mall. How ironic.
- I have a show tonight in Milwaukee. I'll be sharing the stage with Craig Stoneman, one of my compatriots in the Milwaukee Area Songwriters Alliance. We'll hit the stage at The Art Bar - Riverwest at 9 PM. It should be a fun evening. Come on out if you can.
I have no other relevant observations to share at this point in time. I'm too busy trying to get my voice in shape for tonight. Let's see what happens tomorrow in this weird and wonderful world of ours.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Looking for the Problem of Evil,
Only to find that there was
No enemy anywhere to blame.
The belief in evil creates evil
And it exists nowhere else.
This is because All is One,
And there are no mistakes.
In fact, the universe is not only
A hologram, with each smaller
Aspect within it containing
All the intelligence
Of the whole system:
It is also fractal, which is to say
That no matter how small
The pieces get ad infinitum,
They always maintain the integrity
Of the whole system.
There is an undeniable
That contains all opposites
Including the lack of itself,
The drives for bliss, sex, power,
Love, communication, insight,
Even the drive for higher intelligence
Are all a lusting
For what we already have
And can never lose,
Not even in death.
Monday, April 24, 2006
Which brings me to child birth education classes. I am in favor of this type of education, but what I thought would be an informative way to bring both partners into the birthing process is quickly becoming the Death March of the Cervix.
For six consecutive Mondays, Leslie and I are going to classes that last about 2 1/4 hours each. Tonight is week four. While I can't fault the information that is shared at these sessions, the length of time devoted to the discussion of the process of delivering a baby is roughly half a day I'll never have back.
I have a little bit of an advantage in that I used to do anesthesia billing and have a unique knowledge of pain control techniques. In addition, I have two children by my first marriage, so I've been through this before. I look forward to being there for my wife. I shall be as perfect a partner as I can possibly be, and I am of the realization that the information provided in these classes will be valuable to her. Having said that, I'm slowly getting bored.
I don't think it's the instructor's fault. She has tons of resources at her disposal, and she's presenting them as well as can be expected, but does all of this really have to last for over 13 hours of total time? The class is slowly reaching the point where it's ceasing to be informative and is slowly morphing into a review session. Three weeks of review sessions!
For Leslie's sake, I'll persevere. As for me, after the completion of this, I don't want to see another poster of an effacing cervix for as long as I live.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
I'd like to urge the internet community at large to please welcome Shaman Sam Morningstar. Sam is a philosophical hellion. Were it not for his quiet demeanor and lack of need for a spotlight, he would crush lesser minds in his path like a beer can under my size 12's. The Shaman now brings his considerable gifts for analysis to The Spencer File. Greet him warmly, but please, don't squeeze the Shaman.
I grew up in Philadelphia, which is Flyers country. I stopped rooting for the Flyers a few years ago when I finally realized that their GM, Bob Clarke ("Bobby", in his past life as a dirty hockey player) was ethically challenged on many fronts, and unapologetic about it. The Flyers haven't won a Stanley Cup since 1975, when Clarke was their captain, and they never will as long as Clarke and Ed Snider, their president-by-proxy courtesy of the Comcast Corporation, are pulling the strings.
It's been a relief being a fan of ice hockey in general, instead of being a fan of the Flyers and believing anything their marketing people spit out at their fan base. Thanks to the NHL Center Ice package, I hear a variety of announcers and see many more players play in the span of a year than the good ol' days of just watching Flyers broadcasts.
Which brings me to today, the eve of the most wonderful time of the year for a hockey fan. The NHL playoffs start tomorrow.
Due to a lockout by the NHL owners last year, I haven't seen an NHL playoff game in 22 months, when the Tampa Bay Lightning walked off the ice with the last Stanley Cup championship. The NHL is a different animal now. Once bogged down by defense-first trapping hockey that made the typical game look as slow and as painfully uninteresting as a soccer match in American Samoa, there are now two-line passes, limited handling of the puck by goalies, and a premium on skating, passing and scoring, which is what hockey ought to be in the first place.
While Tampa Bay is in the playoffs again this year, they are not a favorite to repeat. Their goaltending has changed, and they made it into the playoffs after the 81st game in an 82-game schedule. My favorite to win it all has to be the Detroit Red Wings. With new coach Mike Babcock, the Red Wings crushed just about everyone on their way to the best regular season record in the league, and they shows no signs of letting their foot off the gas. I personally will be routing for any team from Canada, a country I hope to live in one day after America gets through destroying itself under the policies of George Bush.
If you can find a bar that carries the NHL, this is the time of year where you see the best the NHL has to offer. If you can't, drop by my place and explore the magic world of commercials for Tim Horton's and Canadian Tire without ever leaving Milwaukee. If we're lucky, we'll get a quadruple-overtime game that ends at 2:30 in the morning as I'm finishing my 7th dark beer of the evening (one for each period).
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
To AB - My first love of my teenage years. I beg forgiveness for being an immature teenage boy and having no working knowledge of anatomy useful to a long-lasting relationship. You're a good person, I hope you're happy and I got better.
To AS - I dated you out of desperation, and I now laugh at our relationship. You were a hypochondriac and (if YOU are to be believed) a telekinetic. In short, you're nuts! I have written songs about how nuts you were. I heard from a mutual acquaintance that you now sell real estate in California. I think that's punishment enough. Thanks for something I can always bring up and laugh at when having conversations in a bar. I am truly stunned that I crashed two cars for you. What the hell was I on?
To SB - Sorry I couldn't converse very well with you mother. I've gotten better at that too. I hope you're happy since I last saw you in 1992. I got a song out of you too, but I never play it anymore.
To EB - What the hell was THAT all about that night after the movies? Thankfully, I hope we both got over that silliness.
To SA - Timing and my own rampant immaturity were our enemies. I apologize in the strongest possible terms for being such an insufferable prick during our relationship. Forget me! Please move on to someone who deserves you brains, your sense of humor and that heart on your sleeve.
To CS - I was nowhere near ready to settle down, and you're a great person. I think about you every February 29th (the day we first met). I miss the cats and your smile.
To SB (the other one) - The one that got away, but I realize now that that's all your fault. You enjoy the music, and I'll enjoy the memories.
To RW - Best of luck with that God thing. I've since moved on to other intellectual pursuits, but thanks for letting me see the bitter and judgmental side of Catholicism up close, so I never have to go anywhere near it again for as long as I live.
To X (the first wife) - I never really loved you. You happened to be there in a vulnerable time in my life after my grandmother died, and stupid me, I thought I saw some of her traits in you. I was WAY off!! You're an inveterate slob and carry upon you a sense of entitlement that you have not earned. That letter I left you about how I needed to leave you because I feared for everyone's safety if I stayed was true, for I have never met another person more worthy of a bludgeoning in all my life than you. I left our marriage for peace of mind, I found it, your opinion matters only to you, and God help the next sucker who finds his sorry ass in the orbit of you and your insane immediate family. OH, and uh, revenge is best served cold, and here it is, for all the world to see. In spite of you, I hope the kids are well.
To Leslie - Every day I have spent with you is better than the last. I find nothing but love, humor and peace by your side. I am honored to be your husband, and I shall be more honored to be the father of our son. Beauty is both spiritual AND physical, and my world turns all around you. My search is over. You inspire me every day to attain better heights for the two (soon to be three) of us, and I'll never get tired of doing just that. I love you.
Now, we move on to friends, past and present:
To CY - How's Florida? I hope you and your family are doing well. At least one beer I'll have over my birthday weekend will be to you, oh drinking buddy of my ever-distant past. I miss the hockey games, the Michael's Deli hoagies and Jane's Addiction through the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania. Stay well, and stop playing golf. It makes you look Republican.
To CD - The best musician I know. I hope your family (ALL of them) is doing fantastic. I miss your input when I write something ludicrous.
To TW - If JetBlue recovers, get yourself out to Milwaukee. I'll try to make it back to Pennsylvania one day in the future without throwing up. Thanks for being there in the best and worst of times. And, in memoriam, thanks to your parents and their house, the scene of more than one "February of Death". I'll talk to you soon, my friend!
To SW - Dude, pick one e-mail and stay with it! I know you're in greater Atlanta, other than that, I can't find your nomadic ass (or my waitress) with a geiger counter. Leave a comment, shoot up a flare, some goddamned thing!
To SG - Stay safe in greater Atlanta. I know you have friends over in Iraq and that you're really into GW's interpretation of America. I'm not, but I don't hold it against you. We've been through one Bowl & Driver League too many to quit now. Hope all the girls (including WG) are doing great. RAAAMMMOOONNNEE!
To PK - I never get replies from your e-mail address anymore, but thanks for opening my eyes to the secrets of true music and spirituality. You're a man of few words, but all of them carry wisdom and gravitas. Your contributions to me as a human being, as far as I am concerned, are of paramount importance, and I thank you.
To DH - I hope Vienna finds you well. It's been far too long since I signed on at the same time as you, but you're not forgotten. I hope A is doing well too.
To TH65 - Hey man! I haven't really spoken to you since we saw Robyn Hitchcock that night in Milwaukee. I hope Michigan is treating you well. I'll catch up with you soon.
To ?? - Thanks for joining the blog. The first post was just great. As soon as I turn a profit from this, I'll send you a check. Now that you have your first posting out of the way, when can I expect a gig in your town?
To MASA and all the erstwhile denizens of Club LeGrow - You people are just spectacular. You have made my stay in Milwaukee a great one so far, and with your blessings, I'll stay here for the rest of my life. I always anticipate the next get-together with great expectations, and I'm never let down.
I have no positive comments reserved for my immediate family, with the exception of my two sons. You are all a bunch of traitors and I hope you and X are happy, for you deserve each other. I live peacefully without you, and just so you know, I'm not reserving time in my afterlife for you either. I had enough of you while I've been alive, the only relatives I treasure are all dead and those of you who are still alive truly need to take a good strong healthy dose of Shut The Fuck Up, because I'm not listening anymore and no one really gives a damned about your hurtful and judgmental opinions. And you have the nerve to call yourselves "Good people"? Where the hell do you get off? The presence of you in my life literally made me physicially ill, and there's no rule book anywhere that says I have to just sit here and suffer at your hands. Please stay right where you are, which is Far Away.
To A & N - Your dad can't be there for this special time in your life. I have no clue what anyone has told you about me, but I'm not away trying to "figure things out", and I can't attempt to reenter your lives as long as your mother stands between us. Know that I am sending money to your mother every month to attend to your needs as you grow older. While I am not allowed to share all of the new and exciting things you are discovering in your life, it is hoped that you have inherited my curiosity and thirst for knowledge. It is best that you look beyond the comments about me that are thrown around by assorted members of the family and try as best as you can to see me as a human like any other; flawed, but basically decent. I never killed anyone or stole anything in my life (except for the occasional chord progression on guitar). Sometimes, people make mistakes. You can't help who your parents are, and this situation can't be easy for you, but your father knows he loves you, and at the end of the day, that is all that should matter. I'll reserve time in the afterlife to see you if the current barriers stay in place for the rest of this life.
And so ends my first half of life screed. As I pass the midway marker in the cycle of life expectancy, I wonder about the journey ahead. I think about the welfare of Leslie and my son, now 2/3 prepared to enter the physical world. I hope for the best for my two sons of the past. Most importantly, in these challenging times, I hope we all find a way back to sanity and true freedom, instead of this paranoid dictatorship in which we now find oursevles buried.
Doors have been closed, and important doors are left open. Time has marched at that one steady pace from my own debut during the Johnson Administration. I was born into a country fighting a war, in the words of Phil Ochs, "...lost before the war began". As I turn 40, what has changed? From the murders of MLK and RFK, to Kent State, to Nixon resigning, to the Energy and Iran hostage crises, to the murder of John Lennon, to ketchup as a vegetable, from the popguns of Grenada and Kuwait, to the monumental waste of Iraq, it doesn't seem like anything has truly changed since my birth. I hope the people of this land that I live in wake up soon to the horrors of our current leadership, and decide to fight back, and not just with words, but with action.
As for me, now it's time to see what else is in my hallway......
Monday, April 10, 2006
Now... for my first trick... er... blog, I will give insight to the inner workings of an Internet Whore Troller. In this scene I will be the Yahoo Messenger ID virgo_queengoddess and the Internet Whore Troller is lived by scotia_nova2000. Stop me if you've heard this one before:
scotia_nova2000: Hi, I am mark male 35 in canada, down on business for 4 days - april 18, . I was hoping to try somethign new, like meet a safe clean and hassle free female for intimate evening or maybe something a little hotter. I am clean safe respectful and very easy to be around. I am a professional and clean cut . but have a very naughty side mentally , if your interested. if you are will send your thoughtsHi, I am mark male 35 in canada, down on business for 4 days - april 18, . I was hoping to try somethign new, like meet a safe clean and hassle free female for intimate evening or maybe something a little hotter. I am clean safe respectful and very easy to be around. I am a professional and clean cut . but have a very naughty side mentally , if your interested. if you are will send your thou
Now generally I would just ignore such silliness, but today I felt compelled to answer:
virgo_queengoddess: what you seem to be looking for is a hooker. You should go that route. Less hassle.
Little did I know... this copy/paste master was paying attention:
scotia_nova2000: id rather the hassle - its safe clean and more interesting , it snot just the sex
scotia_nova2000: and i never evenr paye dof rit
scotia_nova2000: never paid for it
scotia_nova2000: and wont
scotia_nova2000: id rather have a nice diner and chat
scotia_nova2000: i cum off strong but really a nice converstion would be as fulfilling
Let me paraphrase... he's not just interested in sex. A lovely dinner companion would be equally invigorating. But I'm confused by something:
virgo_queengoddess: did you really just type "cum" instead of "come" and still expect me to believe that you'd be up for just a nice dinner?
I bet he has a good answer for that one:
scotia_nova2000: i have a naughty mind
scotia_nova2000: but i realy never get to explore it
scotia_nova2000: i am a curious soul
Ahhhh I see. His wife doesn't put out. Let's inquire about that:
virgo_queengoddess: your wife isn't into it, eh?
(Please note the "eh". He is Canadian afterall.)
scotia_nova2000: i am not married
scotia_nova2000: any more
SHOCKING! Wonder if that had anything to do with him trolling for internet whores?
I then ignored him. But he would not be so easily dissuaded:
scotia_nova2000: Hello , My name is George , I am 37 canadian and in Minneapolis april 18 -21
scotia_nova2000: how are you miss queen-goddess
Well! Lookee that! He has a new name and has matured by two years!
virgo_queengoddess: wow... and you're a split personality too? what a treasure!
scotia_nova2000: Your incredibly insiteful
scotia_nova2000: nice , woudl be refreshing having you accross a table enjoying a meal and conversation with
Damn! I'm so "insiteful"... I should, like, be a detective or something.
Let's wrap things up:
virgo_queengoddess: never gonna happen
scotia_nova2000: I am an aquarian
scotia_nova2000: does that explain it
scotia_nova2000: for u
scotia_nova2000: sorry i came across very rough
scotia_nova2000: i am actually clean cut safe and more reserved in person
scotia_nova2000: would you tellme about u
scotia_nova2000: my soul , no second chances
scotia_nova2000: hard on a man
virgo_queengoddess: listen, Mark/George... you're being utterly ridiculous, but if you do find a woman that will meet you then you will have indeed met the stupidest woman alive
scotia_nova2000: arnt vergos and aquarians a good match
scotia_nova2000: wow theres a brain in there
scotia_nova2000: it is george
scotia_nova2000: lets forget the sex crap
scotia_nova2000: i like the smart one called queen goddess
scotia_nova2000: ok you win
scotia_nova2000: no more pick ups
scotia_nova2000: but, your to appealing mentally to not continue
scotia_nova2000: may i say i am sorry
scotia_nova2000: an dbe so fortunate to start again on a more civil and appropriate path
scotia_nova2000: towards knowing you and an aquintence
scotia_nova2000: working hard here , some mercy is appreciated , my queen
virgo_queengoddess: you are relentless
scotia_nova2000:now that i sence you have a brain and a personality , its more appealing and i miss a conversation
scotia_nova2000: Yes i am when i feel somethign is worth persueing
scotia_nova2000: do u have a soft side some mercy for effort and persistance
virgo_queengoddess: not really... once a pig always a pig
virgo_queengoddess: often that works for me, but not in this case
scotia_nova2000: a queen with out mercy
scotia_nova2000: i am not a pig
scotia_nova2000: i just have a bad way at times when online
scotia_nova2000: its been a long time
scotia_nova2000: and separating gives some fredoms and and y way no excuse I am sorry , i am genuinely not a pig I do like sex alot but its been a while , I am sorry for me rudeness . will you forgive me
scotia_nova2000: Hell o
virgo_queengoddess: not enough begging in the world
scotia_nova2000: virgo are you home or work?
scotia_nova2000: what must i do for us to strat again
virgo_queengoddess: you should spend your energy elsewhere
scotia_nova2000: may i se eto hope i am being so persistant
truncated for repetitive begging and other bullshit... you get the idea
Damn... I let another one get away, didn't I?
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Because her posts will cast a net over a wide variety of topics, and due to the fact that some of her future posts will deal with contentious familial issues, lucidoll prefers to remain anonymous. Having been a fan of her sometimes erstwhile work, I am confident that the readers of The Spencer File will enjoy her observations and her humor as much as I have. Please join me in welcoming lucidoll to the team.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
The story goes something like this. Black Congresswoman in a hurry and without ID indicating she is indeed a Congresswoman, runs past a checkpoint on Capitol Hill. After being told three times to stop, the security officer grabs her by the arm. McKinney responds by identifying herself as a Congresswoman, but only after popping the guy one in the chest. Currently, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia is deciding whether or not to press charges against McKinney for assaulting a police officer.
The Republican Party, eager to redirect attention from their gross abuses of power, have jumped all over this story. Knowing that black support of the Republican party hovers around single digits (and falling), they have nothing to lose by scapegoating a black woman by introducing a measure on the House floor indicating support for the Capitol Hill Police.
McKinney is no friend of Republicans in the House. She was voted out of her seat in 2002 after spending the previous year stating for the record on the floor of the House that the Bush administration had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Two years and a gerrymandered black Georgia congressional district later, she's back, and she's out to kick some flatfoot ass. The Republicans and - by their absense at her news conference a few days ago - some Democrats would like nothing better than to see McKinney go back to Georgia permanently.
I, personally, want her to stay in Congress until her death, and here's why.
Every kingdom needs a court jester. Ever since Jim Traficant was convicted of racketeering and bribery and thrown out of the House of Representatives, there hasn't been someone you could laugh at in the halls of Congress. Oh sure, the Republican attempts to restrict lobbying are funny based on their sheer artifice at wanting to fix a problem that they happily created, but I'm talking about theatrical funny, like a Harpo Marx or a Ringling Brothers clown funny. I miss Traficant's shouts of "Beam Me Up!" whenever he took to the podium of the House regarding a topic he cared about. What he DID care about I never did get, but ah, those were the days.
Cynthia McKinney, with her wild hair, orange outfits and unchecked paranoia, fills the void I've felt since Jim Traficant and his toupee went to minimum security. Sure, she punches cops and spins wild tales, but isn't that what makes for great theatre? People need a reason to watch C-Span, because it's certainly not that entertaining or engrossing. On most days, it's the equivalent of a box of Somonex. With McKinney's penchant for uncontrolled outbursts of delusional thought, at least to this writer, Congress is interesting again.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Former House Majority Leader Tom Delay announced via videotape this morning that he will be vacating his suburban Houston House seat and will not seek re-election in the fall. This is an election for which he has already won the Republican primary.
Was this because he is going into the private sector? No, because people under indictment usually aren't at the top of the list for private sector jobs. Did he want to spend more time with his family? No, as he will more than likely see the inside of a courtroom more often than the Delay clan in the coming months.
The reason he quit was political cowardice. Instead of suffering the indignity of losing an election based on TX-22's view of his shady dealings with Jack Abramoff and Co., he decided to take his political marbles and go home. He chose the "honorable" path of political suicide rather than see his seat, with him sitting in it, be turned over to a Democrat by the voters of the 22nd District. To demonstrate the point, he quit via videotape, thereby insuring that he never had to face the media and answer a question honestly.
For someone as haughty and arrogant as DeLay, it is indeed ironic that he chose, in the political equivalent of the 11th hour, to take the coward's way out. Apparently, the smile on his mugshot was not enough to convince the voters of his district that he has no character flaws.
I would be completely naive if I believed that Tom DeLay's PAC largesse towards the Republican Party is suddenly going to stop given this announcement. His videotaped message came very close to stating that it would be business as usual with regard to GOP fundraising, and that's a business that currently finds him squarely in Ronnie Earle's crosshairs.
Friday, March 31, 2006
My comments are directed to the obese moron in brown who was directing traffic this morning out on I-94.
Due to an accident, all traffic on 94 West was exiting onto Hawley Avenue (I know that to most of you who are not in Milwaukee, this probably means nothing; for that I apologize). I am of the realization that trying to block off three lanes of traffic and attempting to get different types of drivers to all suddenly take one exit is a daunting task, but would it hurt you to be nice?
I was trying to merge from the far left-hand lane over to the exit ramp. I was being cautious, as it was quite the mess. Out of nowhere, the cop directing traffic yells at me and tells me that I shouldn't be in the left lane and to, in his well-schooled vocabulary, "C'MON!!".
It is hard enough trying NOT to collide with other drivers, who were being courteous, but I have to listen to this glorified desk jockey throw a hissy fit because I'm not merging fast enough for his satisfaction.
When a cop needs to direct traffic, I look for one thing, and that would be a hand waving me towards my destination. I don't know who you are, oh Lord of the Interstate, but the next time you want to pull the Traffic Gestapo routine to feed your thirst for authority, pull it on your wife, if you're not already beating her or cheating on her with a prostitute who wants to "expunge" her recent arrest record. Absent that, pull it on someone who wants to put up with your attitude. In short, next time, wave your hand and keep your fucking mouth shut!
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
First, don't go to Mount Rushmore. You can see pictures of it in virtually any respectable travel guide, and honestly, what the hell is exciting about four dead white guys on the side of a hill? If you want to see that, join the Army and go to Afghanistan. Odds are, if you play your cards right, you could be one of those dead white guys.
Second, lobby your state governments to pass legislation which states that your state will no longer do business with any company in South Dakota until this vile law is repealed. Republicans don't understand much, but they understand the dollar. If you take it away from them, they cry and whine and tell you how great things were in the 1950's, when America lynched black people for a bit of fun and women knew that their proper place was either in the home or in the alley with a coat hanger.
Next, I speak to the members of the medical profession not currently residing in South Dakota. It is imperative that you tell your colleagues in South Dakota that there are states in the union that will allow them to practice medicine freely and without threat of prison. Encourage doctors in South Dakota to leave the state. The state goverment in power in Pierre was sent there by a near-sighted electorate. It is my belief that their collective eyesight will change when they need a non-existent doctor for urgent medical care. Diabetes? Tough cookies! Your doctor left to treat people in a place where he/she is appreciated. Does Aunt Erma need a heart bypass operation? Well, too bad! I suggest your get ol' Erma a bottle of schnapps and a penknife and let her perform the operation on herself. Your daughter in Rapid City is having trouble delivering the demon spawn of the man who raped her? Bummer! Maybe if you treated OB/GYN's like dedicated health professionals instead of criminals, maybe one would be around to help her out with the delivery.
To all high school students looking for a university, look to a higher education system located in states other than South Dakota. Leave that state to the barbarians who run it and leave them out in the cold. Remember, a portion of your tuition dollar will end up in state coffers to house the incarcerated doctors South Dakota no longer respects.
To all Indian tribes currently running casinos in South Dakota, I suggest that you use the revenue to buy land in adjoining states and begin to make plans to leave. It's not bad enough that Jack Abramoff stole all your money for Tom DeLay's overseas golf outings, but now the state has okayed the rape of your daughters. Your people have been raped enough by the white man. Give 'em some of that back!
If you run into a seller on EBay from South Dakota, try to find a similar or identical piece of whatever it is you're looking for from a seller in a different state. This can be applied to any web business based in South Dakota. If the citizens of South Dakota felt so strongly about this law, then they shouldn't be surprised if I feel strongly about taking my business elsewhere.
It only takes small steps like these to starve these people out and make them see the error of their collective ways. There's only about 400,000 people in the whole state. Hell, more than twice that have died in Darfur alone and America hasn't even noticed. Since nothing of consequence ever happens in South Dakota anyway, it won't be as if camera crews will rush to take films of skeletons with skin in the Black Hills collectively starving from economic abandonment. With a little concerted energy, the new state motto of South Dakota will be "The Ignorance Of South Dakota Stays In South Dakota".
Friday, February 24, 2006
In part 2, I am going to be much more subjective. We have all come across songs on the radio that are musically disposable, for whatever reason. Yet in order to make my list, I wanted to focus on songs that not only are borderline terrible in the musical composition department, but contain lyrics that actually make the track worse.
Realizing that all music is subjective, there may appear on this list a song that you actually like. I wish I could say I'm sorry, but if I did I wouldn't mean it. In my humble opinion and with my well-traveled ears, these songs are dumb, and no amount of rerecording or tutoring will ever save them from the depths of stupidity in which they now languish for all measured time. So, with that in mind, let's start with an oldie, but a goodie:
"Dancing In The Street" - Various Artists - I have had discussions with people who truly like this song as a happy, celebratory song that makes them feel good. This song has been recorded by a number of artists, including Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, The Mamas & Papas (there they are again; what was John Phillips thinking?) and a particularly abysmal version by Mick Jagger & David Bowie from 1985.
I hate to break it to you, but this song is the epitome of stupid escapism and should never again be heard by human ears. The only type of event that would cause this kind of mass, communal dancing through the streets of all of the cities mentioned in the lyrics would be an oncoming nuclear bomb or chemical attack. Only we wouldn't call it "dancing". It's called a riot, and it's a BAD THING!
One last footnote: one of the cities mentioned is "Philadelphia, PA", a town where I once lived. How ridiculous is the assertion that Philadelphia would suddenly break into dancing? Well, dancing is prohibited by the Philadelphia Parking Authority in all parking lots prior to sports contests at the stadiums and arenas there. In reality, if a group of people start dancing in the streets of Philadelphia, the first reaction is to call 9-1-1 to get these idiots off the streets, or, failing that, a few sharp billy clubs to the back of the head. Philadelphia, PA indeed! This song needed a fact checker.
"Young Turks" - Rod Stewart - Ah, what would an article of musical criticism from me be without yet another pot shot at that legendary Acid-Throated Bard of All Things Mediocre?
Since 1974, we have had a LOT of musical crap from this one source. I am hoping that one day the powers that be give him a Lifetime Achievement Grammy inscribed with the words: "To Rod Stewart; ENOUGH ALREADY!". Until that day comes, his picture is on my mental dartboard.
There are a lot of truly stupid songs in the Rod Stewart "Canon", but "Young Turks" was dated, dumb and worthless a mere one day after first appearing on the radio in the early '80's. The main instrument in this song is one of those cheesy, Casio keyboards that were all the rage with New Wave bands of the time period. The story line of this song is a teenage couple who, acting on empty-headed impulse, run away from home. The song ends with the female half of the couple giving birth to a 10-pound baby boy. Way to encourage responsible behavior, Rod. Should we expect any less from someone who trades in the latest model he's nailing the moment she turns 30? If that wasn't bad enough, there's the chorus:
"Young hearts be free tonight
Time is on your side
Don't let 'em put you down
Don't let 'em push you around
Don't ever let them change your point of view"
Show me a teenager who is absolutely correct and set in his world view, and I'll show you a teenager with some form of mental disability. "Don't ever let them change your point of view"? Teenagers NEED a change in point of view. It's called pot, and they'll discover it in college. The National Institutes of Health has drawn a direct correlation between this song and a spike in teen pregnancies during the time period (well, not really, but I'd like to think so).
"Plush" - Stone Temple Pilots - My wife and I argue constantly about the merits of this band. To me, this song tells you all you need to know about how bad the results can be when a different record label is anxious to find an up-and-coming band with a similar sound to a band that has already hit it big. In this case, Pearl Jam had already made it, and Stone Temple Pilots were quickly pushed out into the world to be sound-alike pretenders to greatness.
Musically, there is just a bit too much of a similarity in sound between "Plush" and Pearl Jam's "Even Flow", from their multi-million selling debut "Ten". This song would be a bad idea if we stopped there, but then, Weiland (their lead singer; yea, like with his lack of talent and penchant for heroin, he earned the right to go by one name) put lyrics to this copycat song that may very well be the most incoherent and intelligence-insulting pile of fecal matter I have ever heard sung out of a human mouth:
"And I feel, I feel
When the dogs begin to smell her
Will she smell alone?"
Sorry to be profane, but what in the fuck does THAT mean? Stone Temple Pilots think so much of their lyrical abilities that they actually have the lyrics to this "song" currently posted on their website (Go ahead; they're there, I already checked). If I EVER write lyrics like this and show them to you, you have my permission to either bash my face in with a Louisville Slugger, send me to Bellevue or into rehab, whichever is most applicable at the time. The worst part of this song? It was a single TWICE, once electric and once acoustic, where you can actually understand the lyrics being sung. Why would a band do that with lyrics like these?
"All You Zombies" - The Hooters - Sweet Jesus, where do I begin?
I lived in Philly when The Hooters broke into the Great Beyond of airplay in the early '80's. I had to hear different incarnations of this song on local radio a full THREE YEARS before the rest of the country. Pity me. I'm still in recovery. I can barely get through "Night Of The Living Dead" without an indirect zombie flashback to this song.
After all this time, I am wondering what was so compelling about the Book of Exodus that it needed to be turned into an ersatz reggae power ballad. Worse yet, what the hell does Moses delivering his people from Egypt have to do with zombies? Note to Rob Hyman, Hooters lyricist: When attempting to write a political statement in song, draw a clear parallel between the point you're trying to make and the story you're telling. I don't get it. NO ONE gets it. Never sing about zombies again!
Footnote: My wife and I are viewers of VH1 Classic. Lately they have had a very nice program called "Pay To Play", where you can pay for a certain number of videos based on the size of your donation, with all of the proceeds going to Hurricane Katrina relief. We were watching it recently and at the top of the hour, the VJ is announcing who sent money in to see their favorite videos that were about to be played. The final name she said was "...and Eric Bazilian of Bryn Mawr, PA". I immediately recognized this name as being the guitarist for The Hooters, which was funny, because the VJ didn't seem to know who he was.What happened at the bottom of the hour? Three Hooters videos played back-to-back, beginning with "All You Zombies". It has truly come to this; The Hooters' music is so poorly regarded 20 years later that the only way you can hear it is for the members of the band to PAY to have it played. Unfortunately, Eric was a co-writer of the next song on the list, so the royalties he has earned may buy a lot of crappy music on your airwaves. Hopefully, VH1 Classic's program has been a success and can be ended as soon as possible to avoid this kind of whoring by washed-up musicians from my hometown.
"God" - Joan Osbourne - As if the madness of The Hooters in the '80's hadn't left a bad enough taste in all of our collective mouths, good ol' Rob and Eric kept writing songs together, resulting in this all-encompassing bowl of dried rhino snot disguised as a musical statement. Lyrics?
"Yea yea, God is great
yea, yea, God is good
yea, yea, yea, yea, yea
What if God was one of us?"
If you change the vocal inflections while singing these lyrics, it could very well sound like a 14-year-old boy beating off to the Bible. Was there really a need for this kind of statement?
I have never met a single person in my ever-expanding circle of acquaintances who actually likes this song, which, based on the model of the previous song on the list, leads me to believe that Rob and Eric had to have paid someone to break this compost pile of a composition to a wider audience. I truly think that this is a case where a video with a chick with a nose ring had more to do with the popularity of the song rather than any compelling merits of the song itself. I have to hand it to Rob and Eric. If you're going to write a dumb and pointless song that may not go anywhere, have a circus midget, a bearded lady or (if available) a chick with frizzy hair and a nose ring to record it. What's the old axiom? People are so scared of the Yankees because they're dazzled by the pinstripes. This song may be the most successful example of "bait and switch" ever inflicted on an unsuspecting and drooling public at large. Nice going, boys!
And thus ends my list. Add or subtract where you like, but these are the dumbest songs I've ever found. I am not so jaded as to think that dumber songs will not be created in the future. Rest assured that if it enters my ears, you and the composers will both hear about it in the strongest language possible.
Monday, February 13, 2006
I do not yet own an IPod, and I have no plans to do so. I am a firm believer in the power of the album. I believe that ANYONE can catch lightning in a bottle once in their life, and that everyone probably has one good song in them. Having said that, the elevation to musical deity only happens when someone fills an album with more than one song you want to hear over and over.
Which brings us to this list I've compiled, Because I spend a lot of time listening to full CD's (dare I ask...remember those?) by artists I have come across, I have discovered songs that are fantastic that most people have never heard. On the other hand, I have discovered a lot of what is called "Filler", as in "We only have eight songs; can you come up with two more to flesh out the whole record?"
Most filler is harmless; average musical compositions that have mass, take up space and are easily bypassed by hitting the skip button on your CD player. Beyond that first line of filler are usually tracks that are of the Ed Wood variety. These songs are so dumb that you can't believe that ANY recording studio actually was reimbursed time to commit such a laughable atrocity to all posterity.
Because of my listening habits, virtually all of these tracks will be unfamiliar to you, which - trust me on this one - is a good thing. I consider this article as part of my community service sentence; I listened to them, so you don't have to.
"Spontaneous Apple Creation" - The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown - Arthur Brown was known for another song that appeared on his first album, the psychedelic nugget "Fire" ("I am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you.....Fire"). I put this song first because as much as I revel in the music of the psychedelic era, I am of the realization that there was a lot of very silly music on a lot of full-length albums of this time period. "Spontaneous Apple Creation" is one of the more egregious examples of this. The music track features a picked upright bass intro, what sounds like a xylophone, a Hammond organ and some kind of watery flying sound in the middle of it. The lyrics? Judge for yourself:
"...what could save mankind from man
when the blind, the blind overran
down from all this confused devastation
Came the great Spontaneous Apple Creation"
OK, I've smoked grass, and I don't even get that one. The funniest part of this is that Arthur Brown's first album was co-produced by Pete Townshend and Kit Lambert, the brains behind no less a masterpiece than "Tommy". How do things like this happen?
"Love and a Muscle" - The Northern Pikes - In 1988, I was listening to WIOQ in Philadelphia, a few months before it became a white rap station and I abandoned it forever. WIOQ was what we would call an Adult Alternative station today. Back then, they hadn't even thought of a label for what they played. On their playlist at the time was a song called "Things I Do For Money" by a band from Canada, The Northern Pikes. One afternoon, they were giving the band's album, "Big Blue Sky", away to the seventh caller, and I won. Upon receiving the CD in the mail and listening to it, I soon regretted that phone call. While "Things..." was an ok track, the rest of this album was so chock full of garbage as to go down in my personal history as one of the top three worst albums I ever heard beginning to end.
You would think that with so many awful tracks on one album that picking one that was worse than all others would have been a difficult task. Unfortunately, one listen to the song "Love And A Muscle" ended all debate.
I have absolutely no idea what this song is about as far as a story line, but the unforgettable first verse is its reason for inclusion on this list:
"She has a muscle
She has a muscle
She has a muscle
Flex it, Flex it, Flex that muscle"
When I'm out of fart jokes, I quote this verse at parties in my best poetry-reading voice. Notice that it stands below fart jokes in my sliding scale of Amusing. I think that tells you all that you need to know. If it was only a matter of the lyrics being dumb, I probably wouldn't have remembered this track, but the lyrics are paired with one of the worst trainwrecks of musical song structure ever committed to CD. Thankfully, this band never recorded a follow-up. Unfortunately, I'm left with the memories.
"Twist And Shout" - The Mamas And The Papas - Part of the charm of The Mamas & The Papas was the fact that they reinterpreted songs from the early '60's in the folk rock vein. This works marvelously when they covered "Dedicated To The One I Love", and I prefer their version to the original. When they covered "Twist And Shout", the revered Isley Brothers/Beatles classic, it was an absolute failure and a stupid idea. Denny Doherty sings lead on a song that requires a quick tempo, but was recorded as a slow dirge by one of my favorite vocal bands. No amount of perfect harmonies could save a song that is a straight rock and roll song recorded as a ballad. As the Beatles and the Isleys do it, I really like this song. This stands as John Phillips' worst production idea.
"Mona Bone Jakon" - Cat Stevens - I'll freely admit that Mr Stevens (Mr. Islam?) had a number of great songs, and the album of the same title that this song comes from contains some of his best work, such as "The Wind", "Trouble" and "Katmandu". And yet, in the middle of this admittedly great album is a major hiccup. I put this song on the list remembering that Elvis Costello was once quoted as saying that he didn't like to name his albums after a song on the album because he felt it put too much pressure on that song to be the best song on the album. "Mona Bone Jakon" may be the worst song that is also the title of the album that holds it. This one is a real headscratcher, because Stevens was in his songwriting prime at this moment in time. In the midst of songs that became legendary came this lyrical mess of ersatz acoustic folk blues. The opening lines?
"I've got a Mona Bone Jakon
But it won't be lonely for long"
Not only does he set a scene of us not knowing what the hell he has, but then he turns around and tells us that whatever it is he has is lonely. Sure, it's easy to think that he's singing about his schwantz whenever someone sings about anything containing the word "bone", but I find it hard to believe that any man, even in his most drunk and primitive state, would name his penis "Mona". Just ask that dear old friend between my legs, Cousin It.
"Warrior" - Wishbone Ash - And while we're on the subject of bones, I present this relic of rock's Progressive Era. Wishbone Ash was one of those "music for your head" bands like Yes, ELP and early Genesis, only not nearly as good. When I heard this song for the first time, I figured that this had to be one of the main bands that inspired Spinal Tap. I once tried to drag my wife to see this band (yes, they still tour; scary audience) at Summerfest here in Milwaukee a few years ago. She dragged us away after five minutes to go see Ben Folds instead. She hasn't forgiven me for the lousy seats we had for Ben folds because we showed up late.
"Warrior" was part of a suite of 6-minute fantasy medieval story songs from one of Wishbone Ash's records. Progressive era bands were known for this kind of Dungeons & Dragons-type lyrical sillyness, but of all of the ridiculous songs from that era covering this subject matter, "Warrior" stands out as the most bloated and juvenile. Here's a lyrical sample, straight from what seems to be a 15-year-old males's first diary:
"I had to be a warrior
A slave I couldn't be
A soldier and a conqueror
Fighting to be free"
The music that accompanies this chorus fits these extremely silly fist-tightening lyrics to a tee, as the power chords accompany the whole band singing these words in mock-battle anger mode. "Sex Farm Woman" anyone?
This will be a blog post in two parts. Coming up in Part 2, some more visible entries from some surprising sources. Stay tuned.