Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Song for a Crappy Tuesday (February Covers Edition)

There is no way you are getting out here without taking something with you.

Towards the end of your visit with the Sisters of February Tuesdays, the anticipation of this creeps up through your stomach muscles. You wonder what it will be this time. Last year, it was three Tupperware containers full of aspic meat molds. In 2008, you left with 18 LP's of synthesized Mozart reinterpretations (each with a boudoir photo on the cover of a 1960's model dressed as a 1760's courtesan, her powdered wig askew and the laces on her corset loosened.) In 2004, it was a bucket full of tennis balls. ("You play tennis, don't you?" "Um...No." "You will. These can't go to waste.") Used camera flashbulbs, a sack of Spuds MacKenzie Spring Break '88 tee-shirts, Noxema.

These things find their way to your closet or freezer. You cannot bring yourself to throw them away, but you won't use them either.

Your time has come to bid them farewell. The Sisters rise, each reaching out and clutching your wrists with their boney fingers, the soft petals of their ancient skin pressing into yours. Comfort and Unease saturate you at once.

They guide you to the front door and open it out into the chilled air. The Eldest Sister delivers a nearly simian pat on the forehead. "Now you get along now. Get along before we all start to cry like a bunch of old ladies." She smiles and the four of them caw their farewells.

On the sidewalk, you realize that you have escaped without any dubious treasures. No Mismatched salt and pepper shakers, no Walter Mondale Campaign buttons. For a second, you are hurt.

The bus arrives a the corner. Stepping up you reach into your pocket for your wallet to discover a lumpy plastic bag. You pull it out. Inside it are 40, maybe 50, fast food soy sauce packets, and one solitary packet of dijonnaise.

Paul McCartney was my favorite Beatle. Okay? I said it. McCartney was the king of the hook, the tight as a drum arrangement, lyrics with laser precision. The perception floats around that McCartney was a commercial worker bee, while Lennon was the real musical genius. This is pretty short sighted. (It burns me up when I've admitted to liking McCartney more and the response is, "Well, he WAS the cute one." As if his relative cuteness was the deciding factor.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I think McCartney without Lennon tended to go off into more sentimental territory. Part of the glory of the Lennon/McCartney relationship was that each provided ballast for the other. Lennon would delve into metaphysical psychedelic worlds, while McCartney's imagery was more hardwood and three dimensional (Contrast Eleanor Rigby and Tomorrow Never Knows from the album Revolver. Or the differing styles in their collaboration A Day in the Life - which, as a matter of interest, is my favorite Beatles song of all time. I heard it for the first time when I was eleven and it may have altered the course of my personality forever.).

But, after all the saying and doing, I'm more of a McCartney fan. His song Got to Get You Into My Life, is fantastic reason why. What an emmer effing BUILD. It starts out with a brass section (usually a heralding sound) and then falls into a a confused sounding plod of lyrics as he describes how drab his life was before encountering this new and different thing. The Chorus explodes with an exuberant holler "GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE!"

I've heard that this song was actually about Pot. Which, at first bothered me. But upon further listening, I didn't really care. It can be about anything new - a person, a song, an experience. Part of McCartney's genius is that he could write about Elmer's Glue and wind up offering expansive insights.

Then we head into some fraught territory: The Beatles Cover. Plenty have attempted it, plenty have failed - and not even spectacularly. Mostly, they just wind up sounding like a Beatles knock off.

Got to Get You Into My Life was tailor made for Earth, Wind and Fire to cover. With their brass funk boogie sounds (Songs like Boogie Wonderland, September, and Let's Groove) it would almost be a crime not to.

Where they succeed is taking this song and elevating it with their own style. It's not ostensibly different, but there's not mistaking that this is EWF. (It was also featured in "Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band", perhaps one of the most unfortunate films ever made. Anyone up for a Triple Feature of this, "The Warriors" and "Xanadu"?)

This cover is definitely on my Beach Road trip jams of '77-'84. When I hear this song, I can almost smell the salt air and suntan lotion.

Monday, February 22, 2010


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. February is a month of Tuesdays.

2. I was looking out the window at a giant, fat squirrel as it scurried around a light pole. A pigeon looked on with indifference as the tubby little guy fretted near the power lines. The squirrel darted up to the pigeon and, startled that he was not alone, let go of the light pole and dropped out of sight. The pigeon just stared down with, what looked like, bored curiosity, and then went about his business.

I laughed out loud.

I don't know what happened to the squirrel. Did he fall to his death? Did he manage an escape? Is the universe trying to tell me something about the nature of comedy? Is the pigeon Society? Am I an audience, willfully unaware of painful fallout of the Bit?

Should I lay off the coffee?

3. Plenty of us make jokes about how stupid or incompetent we believe our spouses or partners to be. I'm in favor of some good natured ribbing, but occasionally, I taste the pill in the jam. Some jokes are a little too fresh, a little too snide and everyone feels a like they just wandered onto the set of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Trust me, taken too far, your joke at the expense of your dumb husband reflects worse on you.

4. The sandwich always comes with mayonnaise. No substitutions. Deal with it. (For you, Jan)

5. Favorite word this week:

heteroclite [ˈhɛtərəˌklaɪt]
adj also heteroclitic [ˌhɛtərəˈklɪtɪk]
(Linguistics) (esp of the form of a word) irregular or unusual
(Linguistics) an irregularly formed word
[from Late Latin heteroclitus declining irregularly, from Greek heteroklitos, from hetero- + klinein to bend, inflect]

6. Least Favorite Word:


Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Song for a Crappy Tuesday (February Covers Edition)

Covers are a delicate art form. One "Too-Right" move, and your emo-indie-garage band with a respectable following can be catapulted into the national arena. This might be a dream for the hapless rockers who stumbled onto the pulse of American Pop Culture. But it can also sound their death nell.

Take, for instance, Alien Ant Farm and their cover of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal.

Alien Ant Farm's cover does exactly what a good cover should: It takes the original, remixes it in the signature style of the covering band, and (in the best cases) expands and illuminates the lyrical/musical themes already existing in the initial release.

The lyrics to Smooth Criminal are pretty violent - lots of references to bloodstains, broken glass, and being struck down. It's an action packed thriller (no pun intended) of a song. Who's Annie? Jeez. What happened to her?

The arrangement works, too, with the whispering danger and darting rhythm, then exploding in the chorus with cries of "Are you okay?"

Then we come to Alien Ant Farm. They take the original and exploit the violence with relentless neo-punk speed. The thing never lets up. It brings the romanticized Smoothness of MJ's hit into a grittier, meaner realm. When I hear this version I can't help but see myself in some Paul Greengrass chase sequence.

In Michael Jackson's version, Annie might still be alive. In Alien Ant Farm's she is so totally dead.

Regardless of AAF's virtuosity in claiming Smooth Criminal as their own, it landed them square in the viewfinder of the One Hit Wonder sniper. The band experienced quite a few stumbling blocks after this song's release - it must suck to play a gig and have most of the crowd go slack jaw until you play that one song they like.

At any rate, as covers go...this is a pretty good one.

Here is the late, great MJ in the Smooth Criminal original, featuring his patented Anti-Gravity Lean shoes, and the mini-movie format:

And now for Alien Ant Farm

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Dance Competition

When I was twelve**, I entered a solo dance competition at a school dance.

My reason for doing such a thing is unclear. In the sixth grade, to place oneself on display, unprompted and without a considerable fan base, is a kind of lunacy. It wasn't like I was dared to do it. Nothing was on the line. There was no prize money that I recall. Just a first, second, and third place.

That week, my mother had purchased for me my first real pair of heels. The heel itself was a stacked parquet wood type affair and the upper was a white basket weave open toed sandal (so fashionably worn with some nude hose. - I, however, chose the "suntan" shade of pantyhoe. A pale child from the start, I developed an obsession with getting a tan and these tights would provide the illusion of sun kissed flesh. Never mind that the over all affect looked more like I had baked only my legs in an oven with a steady stream of butter basting.). The heels made a horse-like clip clop sound as I walked, and I wore them with a purple striped party dress and a bow in my hair. (Bow=homemade)

The dance was a normal tween event. Sixth grade girls huddled in hunchbacked clusters, unsure of how much they should flaunt their half formed, lopsided boobs. Boys shoved each other and mooned over the more developed eighth grade girls - the very height of elegance and sophistication. Teachers stared off into the middle distance. I danced with a couple of boys in the prototypical zombied tick-tock motion, back and forth, until "Careless Whisper" mercifully gave way to "We Built this City."

Then, they announced the competition. Anyone could enter. There would be a boys division and a girls division. It was freestyle. They would play a song and whoever wanted to get up and dance, could. At the end, they would announce First, Second, and Third place.

The boys were up first. I think their song was "Cool It Now" by New Edition - perhaps a not-so-veiled plea to the oversexed couple in the darkest corner of the cafeteria.

They boys were finished, and the winners were announced immediately. Then, it was time for the ladies.

Four got up to dance. Only four. One of them was me.

I remember who two of the other girls were. But the fourth is just a day-glo blur.

And they played our song. It was a song I happened to love:

I can't tell you what my particular Twelve-Year-Old dance style was like. Only that I knew the song backwards and forwards - and I think I may have lip synced a little of it. I think I wagged my finger Lindy style, and even attempted a time step (never having any tap lessons whatsoever). The whole thing was pretty invigorating.

Then, the song was over and we waited for the results. They came back in a flash. There were three places, and four participants.

Third was announced, the hormonal crowd let out a cheer.
Second was announced, again Hip Hip Hooray.
First was announced. The crowd went wild as the most popular girl in school ascended her throne.

My name was not called.

The extraordinary thing is that my pre-adult self was not phased at the loss. Instead of appreciating how magnificently I had exposed myself to the student body, I faded back into the crowd and danced with another couple of boys.

This dance was all but forgotten until I heard Billy Ocean's voice over the radio in a department store. Whatever dormant shame I might have encountered then, sprung out like snakes in those joke cans of peanuts.

I'm still not sorry I did it, but that doesn't make me shudder any less when I think of my homemade bow bouncing around in the disco lights lip syncing "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" to a throng of concerned onlookers.

**Twelve...jeez. I'm three times that age now. Was I even able to go to the bathroom by myself when I was Twelve? Twelve is an age when you think your little brain has it all figured out - that is before the Vesuvius of Thirteen erupts all over your unsuspecting paradise.

At Twelve I thought adults idiots when they smirked at my youthful certainty. "Oh I remember when I thought I knew it all," they'd condescend. I rolled my eyes at these fool grown ups and their cliches. Didn't they realize that I actually DID know everything? I mean, YOU might not have actually known everything, and I can guarantee you that these other pleebs I'm surrounded by don't know Jack about Jacob, but I'm the real McCoy. I'm the one who actually DOES know it all and I'm sorry, for you, Adults, I really am, that you cannot perceive my inherent genius, my immunity to whim, and my clear eyed vision of the world around me. You will all be laughing out the other side of your collective faces because I am the Greenwich Mean Time of Level Headed Human Wisdom.

I've heard some long to go back to the days of that sort of certainty. I can say that there is no amount of money you could pay me to go back. I let a lot of things slide past because I was positive I knew better, and some of the darkest times in my life arose when I pretended to have it all figured out. It can suck to realize that after all that twisting and effort, it doesn't make a particle of difference. But not knowing anything makes the act of discovery easier.

We'll see what happens tomorrow, when I have it all figured out again.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bloody Valentines

More Valentines for anyone and everyone**! Clip n' Save!

**Do not give these to ANYONE.

Want more? Here's last year's crop!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. I hate the first ten minutes of pretty much every play I see.

This changes in retrospect, as the play's world envelopes me, as I give myself over to the story. But I gotta get through the first few minutes.

Part of this comes from the strangeness of it. What am I watching? When a play begins, I have to wade through this new reality and get used to how the characters behave, how they speak, and come to terms with the fact that this is not a literal representation of anything. Even the kitchen sinkiest of dramas is still only an imitation. (Yes, I know about suspension of disbelief and mimesis, eggsetera, eggsetera. We accept this as common knowledge in discussions of why we tell stories or see live theater. Doesn't make it any less peculiar that we engage in this activity.)

This theatrical Uncanny Valley is still there when I see movies, but in a considerably diminished capacity. First, the story (usually) takes place in two dimensions - so my sensors are ready to see this as a removed or unreal situation. Second, any pretense towards literal representation is eased by the movie's ability use the real world. If a film calls for a park, they shoot in a park. They don't build a park that only kind of looks like one and then shoot in it.

**There are plenty of films that override this rule, of course. Depending on the type of story telling used (the writing, the style of direction, ect.) they may very well build a park or shoot on a sound stage. Part of the appeal of cinema is its capacity to make the unreal even more realistic. As movie sets and CGI become more advanced, the the divide between a presented reality and our potential to go along with it is reduced.

But when I sit down to see a play, nothing about the situation is real. No matter how the production attempts to create a realistic environment, it's not. The actors are saying words they've uttered night in and night out - yet they are pretending to make it up right there on the spot. (Which, by the way, is also bizarre. There is no other art form in which we expect this behavior. Imagine going to see a symphony and having the musicians pretend they are making it up as they go.) We are in the room with these people. I can't just sit back and let autopilot to take over, I have to pay attention to this three dimensional thing and damn if those first ten minutes don't make me sick.

Imagine going by yourself to a party where you don't know anybody. The first few minutes are going to be kind of agonizing right? That's what it feels like.

It's nobody's fault. I think this sensation is far more common than not, even with experienced theater goers/lovers. And perhaps hate is too strong a word.

3. I saw American Buffalo last night. The performances overall were strong, the set was great. My problem might be with Mamet.

In a most Mamet I have seen, there is an emerging patter. No one listens to what is said, and every line comes out with Tommy Gun Ratatatic speed. As I left the theater, I read the notes posted on the lobby wall - the gist being that in American Buffalo, poker is the game of life and the characters use Art of War mind-game tactics to get what they want.

Unfortunately, all of that was lost on me. How can I be expected to catch the stakes of a situation if none of the fallout ever lands on stage? If things start out at a rolling boil, you really can't get much boil-er. No one has to have some kind of Terms of Endearment emotional expulsion, but the total effect of yelling at the same level, rapid fire backing and forthing and not even a second to reckon what is happening left me cold.

3. Favorite word this week:

fu·ri·ous (fyr-s)
1. Full of or characterized by extreme anger; raging.
2. Suggestive of extreme anger in action or appearance; fierce. See Synonyms at angry.
3. Full of activity; energetic or rapid: the furious pace of the trading floor.

[Middle English, from Old French furieus, from Latin furisus, from furia, fury; see fury.]

furi·ous·ly adv.

4. Least Favorite Word:


Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Song for a Crappy Tuesday: February Covers Edition

You left late. It's your own fault, too.

No on else is to blame for the sluggish morning. Walking out the door right after you have one more cup of coffee and you don't really want to leave these dishes undone which reminds you about this really great idea you have for an art project so why don't you go ahead and do that and now look at the giant mess you've made so you'd better clean that up because you won't be getting home until later and look at the time you'd better get your shoes on but where are they you only lose them when you are late why is everything always right where you need it when you are on time which is only about half the time and did you ever get the dishes done nope but they can wait until you get home late and great its snowing and did you remember about the service cutbacks on the train you'd better run run run to the bus as it pulls away and that bus driver saw you you know she did that vindictive cow how could she doesn't she know you are running late who can you blame who can you blame only you only you only you.

Your heart clutches a little in your chest as you arrive, late, to your destination.

The grey decaying house creaks as you trudge up the steps.

The door opens.

The Second Eldest Sister of February Tuesdays stands at the entrance

You shake your head, near tears. "I'm sorry I'm was the bus-" You stop. And then start over. "It's my own fault. I didn't leave in time."

The Second Eldest Sister opens her crinkled mouth with a partially toothed smile. "You're here now," she says "We're just glad you're safe."

Your eyes shrink wrap in tears. You enter and the house is filled with the familiar smell of burned chocolate and cedar shavings. The twins are fighting down the hall.

"Come in and try some soup," says the Second Eldest Sister, "It's made of butternut squash and gummed Easter Peeps. You always liked marshmallows."

Your stomach collapses as she closes the front door.

The Smiths
She & Him

Monday, February 8, 2010

Submission, Emasculation, Pathos: Being a Man in a Superbowl Ad

Last night, the USofA watched the Saints march in right over the Colts. It was a great game. Well played, some bold surprises and some genuinely tender moments. Had I been alone, I might have wept openly at Drew Brees (NFL MVP) clutching his son just after the big win. Brees is a charismatic and gentle presence on screen, and I was caught off guard at how genuine the moment was. He knew he was on camera, but it never felt inauthentic. Just a guy holding onto his baby boy at the proudest moment in his life. Jesus, Breesus. It was like getting shot with a Super Soaker loaded with Mom's Apple Pie and Unjaded Democracy.

The subplot to the Superbowl proceedings is, of course, the Commercials. Every year at this time, marketers sink millions of dollars into launching an ad campaign that will etch their brands into the American psyche for all time - at least until someone adds Bacon or Chipotle to the recipe.

For the most part, the spots were funny and well produced. We had our share of some real boner moves, thanks to Taco Bell (Rap is Dead.) and Go Daddy (Hey! Remember we were cool once! Right? Retread! Retread!) and a shocking overuse of the "Dramatic Hamster Meme". Honestly, fellas...where have you been? That thing came out in 2007 - which is like three decades ago in internet years.

And then there are ads like this one:


This falls into the category of "Beer is Better than a Woman". Granted, there is no beer in this ad, but the category reflects a broader attitude in advertising that makes me queasy: "A woman steals your manhood, and all that is left is a puddle of barely recognizable human jelly. How can you unblock the cock? BUY THIS THING."

What's worse is that it relies on the concept that all chicks can think about is shopping, candles and underwear and what we want is an emasculated BFF to tote our shit around while we giggle up the escalator like a third grade pageant doll.

If you need a portable TV to grow your dick back and preserve your sanity, you might want to rethink this relationship altogether.

AND..."Change out of that skirt, Jason." Here's another chapper - you can call a man anything, ANYTHING AT ALL, but a Woman. Suggest that he wears a skirt or behaves like a female and you have successfully infected the poor turd with social leprosy.

Then we come to this:

Watch out womens. In post-apocalyptica, you are not worth a set of tires, and are swiftly traded to some Mad Max bandits who - guess what! - don't want you anyway (thanks to a misunderstanding provided by the old Catskills joke). Not even in your skin tight pleather body stocking.

Once discarded, what will become of her? Idaknow. Least she's not weighing down the tires anymore.

and finally, there's this one:

1. I actually kinda like this ad. The writing is smart and funny. It takes the old tropes about work and relationships, and re-imagines them into a tyranny of paltry indignities. The images of a the men are arresting.


2. Does it really suck that much for guys, being married or in a relationship? Is it really so awful it causes you to go wall-eye and retreat into a fantasia of Cars, Beer and Pizza? Do you sacrifice your very will, soul and personality for this?


That sucks, yo.

I hate to tell you, though, no amount of automotivesexboxbudlight therapy is going to fill that ugly void you have inside you.

There appears to be a lot of tension with marketers about where to position ads aimed at men these days. With the definition of masculinity in a more liquid state, we get railroaded with images of pathetic, dopey guys, paralyzed by uncertainty and an unwillingness to evolve. This short changes everybody.

I don't want to be portrayed as a woman who only wants shoes/yogurt/cleaning supplies and finds her mate an impediment to her very femininity.

There is drudgery, frustration, sacrifice and compromise in the workplace and at home (for both genders). There ain't nothing wrong with tapping that font of comedic oil. But I don't think it's worth perpetuating the idea that relationships are starter graveyards to push a few units of beer.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Random Thoughts

1. I am not a parent. With my sister living nearby, and the amount of time I have spent with R & J (The Noble Savages), I have come just about as close as anyone can to parenthood without actually birthing a child.

I don't have intentions to become a parent, but I am very sympathetic to childfull people.

Once, after seeing Monsters, Inc., my sister remarked that the folks over at Pixar must have some real anxieties about kids. If you notice, movies like Monsters, Inc., Toy Story (1 & 2), The Incredibles, Up, and Finding Nemo all have similar themes about a child's capacity to bring great joy and extraordinary anxiety into the lives of its parents. Kids in Pixar films are not lovable, animatronic whimsy-bots. These kids are destructive, selfish, thoughtless, slimy, moody, willful and loud (The 21st Century Seven Dwarves). In my experience, this is a pretty accurate representation.

And why wouldn't the Pixar folks have anxieties about children? EVERYBODY does. Whether we are a parent or child-free, the youngest members of our society fill us with terror. We are charged with their care. We have to do our best not to fuck them up. We have head off any early inclinations towards jerkdom, annoying kid-dom, or bullying. We have to imbue them with honor, a fantastic sense of humor, six languages, and a magnetic, yet casual cool that will bring them throngs of admirers. All without reaching across the table, taking them by the neck and shrieking "If you say 'Paul Bunyon' in that sing-songy little voice ONE MORE TIME, I WILL DISAPPEAR YOU."

I say 'we', here because it's not just the job of the parents to look after the kids. We are all responsible.

There is a cultural backlash against "Mommies" at the moment. People get up in arms because of the perceived "sense of entitlement" that appears to come standard with a Baby SUV. I've seen this entitlement in action, and it's distasteful - but a sense of entitlement is distasteful no matter who's wearing it.

Regardless of your status as Unchilded or Childed, there is something to be said for good manners. This doesn't mean we have to rush out and volunteer to babysit, or that we can't have mixed feelings about kids in general. But have some sympathy, chrissake. If a child screams at dinner, don't stare at the parents like they've somehow stolen your joy, or if someone is struggling to get a stroller through the door, hold it open. It's not gonna kill you.

Kids can inspire tremendous amounts of joy. Tired, sweaty, snotty, hard wrought joy. Can everybody just cut everybody a frickin' break?

2. The other day, J. took me down to the basement to show me a spider web. The night before, he and his dad had discovered it. From what I could gather, there was a dead bug wrapped in spider silk and Dad had some explaining to do about the violent beauty of nature. This made an impression with J.

"You want to see the Spid-oh?", asked J., still not a master of the hard "R".


"The spid-oh kowed anoz-oh spid-oh."

"Oh. It killed another spider?"

"Yeah. You want to see it?"


He took me by the hand. (I don't care if the kid is taking you to see a Fairy Ring or a pile of dog-doo, when a child takes your hand, part of you turns to sappy mush.)

We went downstairs and, after a little poking around, we came upon a cobweb. I doubt it was the same spider web from the previous night, but it still served as illustration.

He pointed a nervous finger at the clump of dust bunnies. "That's the spid-oh."

"Oh. I see."

We crouched in silence. J. leaned over to me and, in a tremulous whisper, said:

"Stay not close to it."

I looked at him. He then toddled upstairs to dump milk on his plastic dinosaur.

3. Favorite word this week:

hay·mak·er (hmkr)

A powerful blow with the fist.

4. Least favorite word:


Wednesday, February 3, 2010


**The first person to email me, comment or message me will receive the Valentine in the mail.
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