Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Enchanted

I have gone on a lot about how I don't think Madonna is growing old with any kind of grace. Stevie Nicks, on the other hand, is showing everyone how to do it. And considering how she's pretty damn lucky that she's made it to 60, I don't think it could have come from a more unlikely source.

Her "new" CD and DVD is out today. I lack the funds to purchase it this week, but I did buy the AmazonMP3 exclusive track, "Enchanted." While her voice does not have the youthfulness of her 80s solo records, she is in probably the finest live vocal form I have ever heard for her - probably the best live vocals I have heard since The Dance in 1997.

Rock on, Stevie. Your music has always inspired me, even when it has been not-so-good and laced with Klonopin. Now please, PLEASE, record some new material! Lindsey has released 3 albums since you released Trouble In Shangri-La.

PS - That top hat is just about the sexiest thing I have seen all day. Just sayin'.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Truckin'

I went out tonight to pick up our crotch crock pot from Jess. I took my truck because it was beyond time to get gas for it. It was seriously running on fumes - I had been afraid that I didn't have enough gas to get out of the ramp at work today. I brought my iPod with me and a couple different songs came on.

The first was an old Cher song from the Prisoner album called "Boys & Girls." (stream) The second "Never Go Home Again" from the new RuPaul CD Champion (so much better than it has any right being.) I found the disconnect between me listening to those songs while driving a big old burly truck very amusing. Once again, failing to live up to gender stereotypes.

Say what you will about my musical choices, at least my truck doesn't have truck balls, which I didn't even know existed until last weekend.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

MCC mix tapes

Once upon a time - probably back around 1994ish - I had this Mary Chapin Carpenter mix tape that I had made for my Walkman. It was made up of 90 minutes of songs from her first four albums, and damn but did I play the hell out of it. What I remember most about it is how I would listen to it while I studied at the Iowa Memorial Union. It was kind of a difficult time in my life, one that was full of transitions as perceptions that I had and assumptions I had made were turned upside down and I was forced to reevaluate quite a few things. It was an isolating time that eventually played out okay, but still, at the time, it was hard. I had the tape for years after that winter and spring that it was played ad infinitum, and whenever I listened to it, it always took me back to those times.

That tape has long since been lost - probably thrown away in one of the many great cassette tape purges I've had over the last 10 years. I never even got to make an iTunes playlist out of it, and I know that I could never recapture the tape itself. Sure, I could probably get most of the songs, but there was something magical about the sequencing on that tape, something that I could never hope to recapture. I do remember that the first song was "I Feel Lucky", the last song was "Walking Through Fire" and the first song on side two was "How Do." Beyond that, I can't remember.

I have written many many times before that for me, Chapin's music is like an old friend - a friend who is part melancholy, part introspective, part self-aware, and ultimately utterly amazing. My friend Matt just did a podcast on "timestamp songs" which basically boiled down to songs which were either influential in your life or evoked strong memories of a certain time period. I would have a hard time coming up with specific songs, but I think that Chapin's body of work is like that for me. She evokes such specific emotions, such a specific state of mind.

Those emotions and that state of mind are not always pleasant. I look back on my life 15 years ago and damn, but I was a mess. High maintenance and too worried about most everything. There are still shades of that 22 year old, but mostly he has been banished. And what's great about it is that as I have aged, her music has changed almost in lockstep with me, so that it remains relevant, even though I am very far removed from the lonely kid that fell in love with her music to start with.

But if I ever want to get back in touch with him, all I need do is cue up her music on iTunes, and there I am. It may sound masochistic, but really, it isn't. To know where you're going, you must never forget where you've been.

Most all of Chapin's videos have the embedding disabled on YouTube (rat bastards.) Here's one that doesn't. Naturally, since I'm including it in the post, it was from that time period and on that tape.



And if the woman ever tours anywhere near here, I'm there.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A no-leafed Clover and the main event

There are times that I am just amazed by the amount of information that we have at our fingertips. Never before has there been such a wealth of information just there, ripe for the picking at any moment. The flip side to this is that there exists the possibility of slipping into the vortex of the internet with no warning. A quick "oh, I'm just going to check this one web site fast" can frequently result in me randomly Wikipedia-surfing or stream-of-consciousness surfing from one site to another until I wonder what happened to my morning or why it's suddenly 2AM.

I don't know how it happened, but the other morning, I was reading about Cloverfield (a movie I am overdue to rewatch, but sadly, one that will not make for good viewing on my iPod) on Wikipedia. I got to wondering, as I am apt to do, if the monster had its own Wikipedia entry. By George, it (he?) does. I was amazed and intrigued and enthralled. Of course, I read every last bit of it. The actual article is about the creation, concept and design of the creature and I would have preferred it to have been written as if Clover actually existed - kind of in the vein of the Anchorpoint Essays, which are highly detailed scientific analyses of the Xenomorph from the Alien movies (referred to as Internecivus raptus on the site - I love them for giving it binomial nomenclature!!) But then I found that article here.

I love living in a world where a movie monster gets its own online encyclopedia article. Seriously, when you think about the World Book encyclopedia or whatever, what are the chances that Clover would get his own entry? Slim to none. But there it was.

As Heidi was telling me from a book she read (The Long Tail, I think) - yes, Wikipedia is fallible, but what source of information is not? It also self-corrects very quickly and people doing the writing (for the most part) feel passionately about their subject material, so they are going to strive to make it as accurate as they can. And passionate people are the best type, even when you don't necessarily share their passion.

And it's the gift that keeps on giving. Tonight I was listening to the interminable 11 minute extended remix of Streisand's "The Main Event/Fight" and it made me wonder what its origins were as it was clearly not an amateur-made mix. As it turns out, it was actually on the soundtrack to The Main Event and although the movie was a dog, the song is quite a good slice of late 70s disco! But perhaps my favorite version was the WTF! moment on one of her latter-day tours during which she actually performed the song.



The juxtaposition of the cheesy disco and Barbra's huge ball gown just crack me up.

And yes, I just did a blog post that managed to mention both a 350-foot tall movie monster and a Streisand disco song.

As Jeff and I would say, "Calzone for Barb." (#3)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A touch more time

I was out getting gas for the car a bit ago and I for whatever reason, I thought of the old Sheena Easton song "So Far, So Good." My desire to listen to the song was so intense that I had to find it on my iPod and put it on. It is one of my favorite Sheena Easton songs, and one of her last hits (and had The Lover In Me not come around, it might have been her last.)

This is one of those 80s songs I have dual memories of - the first from when it was popular, and the second from the early 90s right after I got a Sheena Easton best-of that had the song on CD for the first time ever, consequently causing me to play the hell out of it. It's one of those songs that simultaneously screams fall 1993 as well as 1986. I have always loved the bridge, which contains a classic misheard lyric on my part:

I'm not pulling any punches
I'm not handing you a line
I'm just telling you my hunch is
All we need is a touch more time.

I always heard "touch more time" as "church on time." In the long tradition of misheard lyrics, the misheard lyric makes no sense, but you go with it.

I got to wondering if there was a video for it, and sure enough there is.



Things I love about this video:
1) Sheena is a boss from hell that sings at her desk! (there should have been more of it!!)
2) The plastic fried egg next to her phone.
3) The fake bucket of paint spilling in the background at roughly 1:30.
4) That guy's big red glasses
5) Sheena's earrings - they are going to blacken someone's eye.
6) Sheena getting all serious about directing whatever she's directing at 3:17.

There are so many camp moments in this video, I lost count. Classic.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Trickster

It started out innocently enough. I came across this post on PopDose today, and it reminded of me of the fact that I have an almost visceral reaction to the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off. As in, I want to empty the contents of my stomach when I think about it. So I changed my Facebook status to "Dan is probably the only person on the planet that doesn't like Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I'm okay with that."

I did not realize that I was unintentionally igniting a controversy with those simple words. Comments on that status have ranged from stunned amazement to defenses of the film, as well as some people agreeing wholeheartedly with my assessment (special thanks to my brother for that - I fully expected him to be amazed at my dislike as well.) It is by far the most number of comments ANY status of mine has ever generated.

But I feel compelled to elaborate. The reason I dislike Ferris Bueller's Day Off is actually two-fold. Mostly, I can't STAND Ferris. I just want to punch his smug little face every time I see it. Perhaps the biggest reason Ferris annoys me so much is that his life is completely devoid of consequences. He does all this shit on his "day off" and fucking gets away with all of it. The law of "actions have consequences" does not apply to him. It's a teenage version of The Cat In The Hat, which Heidi has always had a bit of a problem with because the cat comes in and wreaks complete havoc and does everything that he's not supposed to and gets off scot free. Same thing with Ferris. His bad behavior is rewarded and celebrated.

The more complex reason is a bit more personal. There was a guy in my high school who pretty much WAS Ferris. He was one of those guys that was popular with a wide swath of people, was very visible in nearly every aspect of high school life and lapped up the attention that was the result of this. Earlier on in our life, we had been fairly good friends. But at some point in time, we grew apart and really didn't hang out anymore. It was probably in junior high that we stopped hanging out and, at that point, he found in me a great verbal punching bag. The fact that the insults came from someone I had been friends with made it even harder - this was someone who knew just how to get at me, even at that age. The incident that sticks out in my head the most was the day we had school pictures taken and he came up to me as I arrived at school and said "Hey Dan, can I borrow your shirt for nerd day?" It was also one of the milder ones.

What Ferris and this guy share is that they are both from the same archetype – The Trickster. In West African culture, it was the Anansi and Norse mythology had Loki. Perhaps the best and most direct modern day descendant of this concept in American folklore is Bugs Bunny. Robert Thompson of Syracuse University says "If you want to teach Folklore 101, and you need an example of a Trickster, Bugs Bunny is it. He defies authority. He goes against the rules. But he does it in a way that's often lovable, and that often results in good things for the culture at large." Perhaps this was what the writers of Ferris Bueller were going for. Perhaps that was why the guy I went to school with seemed so insanely popular. People love the Trickster, they want to be the Trickster and get away with insane shit that would normally have huge consequences. But for me, that is aggravating and annoying and when I look at Ferris’s shenanigans, all I can see are the people that are adversely affected by it, much like I was during my adolescence by my interactions with my own Trickster.

Because it is Hollywood, Ferris Bueller wraps up all neat and tidy. Ferris gets away with everything so it’s easy for me to hate him. Real life is never as simple. My Trickster never moved from my hometown and followed the trajectory to “local celebrity.” But my version of the story actually ends rather tragically, as he died several years ago from cancer. We had not seen each other in years, the last time being Christmas 1995 at Wal-Mart. I have this feeling that had I gotten to know the adult version of him, there's a possibility that I wouldn't have such hard feelings. That's not possible now, for he's frozen in time as that version of himself that was caught up in the circus of high school. But because of his premature death, even the act of being mad has been denied me.

Looking back on it now, as the one with the luxury of being alive and the ability to reflect on this, it's hard to know what the resolution is, if there is any. That's the thing about emotions - they frequently don't make sense and sure as hell don't always tickle. It's highly likely that I have put a lot of things that I don't know what to do with into my dislike of Ferris Bueller. That may not be fair, but it's what I have.

And even I didn't know all of this before I sat down to write it. Amazing how the things we think we know so well are often those things we understand the least.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The brilliance of the Rudd

It seems like Paul Rudd is everywhere these days which kind of stands to reason since he's out there hawking a new movie. He's on the cover of Entertainment Weekly this week and there is a great little side article called Rudd on Rudd. My favorite part was, unexpectedly, this:

On Why He Feels a Little Gay
I always thought I'd be a really good gay guy. I love American Idol. I watch Antiques Roadshow like crazy. Guys like Oscar Wilde, Stephen Fry, Elton John - they're all very bright, with a razor-sharp wit. David Sedaris - who's funnier than David Sedaris? The Saturday Night Live that I hosted was such a gay-heavy show. But it didn't even cross my mind until after. The family that kept kissing each other - I didn't even think of that as being gay.

I remember doing interviews for The Object of My Affection and people would say, "What was it like to kiss a guy?" Like it was such a shocking thing. I said, "How many times does anyone ask, 'You had to shoot somebody. Was that weird?" I love gay guys. I feel pretty gay. I'm certainly not the most macho guy in the room. (emphasis mine.)

I bolded the last little bit because I found it so refreshing to hear another straight man utter words that I could basically utter myself. The fact that he's famous is icing on the cake. Because yes, to look at me is not to see the most macho guy in the room. And the gay guys that I know and have known have influenced me in ways that I never expected and changed me for the better.

Paul Rudd continues to seal his reputation as coolest guy on the planet.

The face of you

Blame the whole Ray of Light rediscover, but I am REALLY into "Drowned World/Substitute For Love" right now. I have, in the past, voiced my displeasure with this incarnation of Madonna because she was so damn serious all the time. Now, I long for a tenth of the depth.


(from The Confessions Tour - hands down the best live performance of this song.)

This song opened The Drowned World Tour as well - and I have always thought it was one of her least inspired opening performances.

What I love about this song, in addition to its take on the choices me make in life and how so many people choose things over real relationships is it's obscure reference to the J.G. Ballard book The Drowned World - a reference I still don't entirely get but what the hell. I checked that book out from the U of Iowa Main Library back around the time that Ray Of Light was released, but it never hooked me. Years later, I'm wanting to read the book again, but finding it is not easy. It's available on Amazon, but it's pricier than I think a paperback should be, and it is (naturally) not at the Ames Library. This is what I look forward to with Kindle or whatever e-reader comes to dominate the market. No matter what, there should be no reason for a book to go out of print ever again. That same logic should apply to music as well, but there is still so much out of print that I sometimes can hardly fathom it.

The reason I am so hard on Madonna these days is because it is songs like these that prove to me that she knows better than she is letting on these days.

Now I must go try to chase down sleep. It is an elusive beast these days.

EDIT: Watching that video just reminds me of how absolutely beautiful she was on that tour. Muscular, yet curvy. Strong, yet also delicate. Unmistakably feminine. Perfection.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

As my friend Kelly always told me in high school, St. Patrick's Day is a ready-made excuse to be happy! Even though I am only 1/8th Irish (my father's side has the Irish in it, hence the last name) we diluted it out with the German from my mom's side. Plus I am Irish Protestant and not Irish Catholic, so I should be wearing orange instead of green. If I still wore ties, I would wear an orange one.

Anyway, one day of the year I like to pretend I'm more Irish than I am. I saw this picture on this isn't happiness this morning and I just loved it.

How I wish I were there today! Or in Chicago, where they turn the Chicago River green for one day.

One of these St. Patrick's Days I will be in Chicago for the parade and the green river. But alas, not today.

Green beer after work will be a problem because there is no beer in the house, money is low in the checkbook but you just never know.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Something is ending...and something begins

It's been a good run, but it had to end sometime. After being off work for the last eight days, I am headed back to the real world tomorrow morning at 9AM sharp. I could definitely get used to this many days off in a row. But really, when you get right down to it, I'm ready to go back - probably more ready than I want to admit here tonight (and the vacation days would run out eventually.) There is the requisite bit of pre-going-back-to-work apprehensiveness, but it's not as bad as it could be. I work weird shifts all week so nothing like getting right back into it. I am fully anticipating some kind of re-entry syndrome to rear its head this week, but I'm tough and I can handle it. Getting back into the swing of things is never easy, especially after a week's worth of no work-related issues getting in my way. Burning up on re-entry is always a distinct possibility - and something that's happened to me before.

But it has been a good time off. I feel refreshed and ready to face the world again. I don't know what it has in store for me tomorrow when I head back out into it for the first time in over a week, but I know that I can handle it.

Tonight while I was doing the dishes, I got a sudden urge to listen to Ray of Light. I don't usually get that urge. I know that it was a huge critical and commercial success for Madonna, as well as a fan favorite, but for me, it just hasn't aged all that well. But the urge to listen to it tonight was unstoppable. Even though I think it has some glaring faults, there is something centering about that record. The song that resonated with me tonight was "Nothing Really Matters." It was the song that I always thought was the one of the best examples of Madonna cutting loose while still putting forth a "serious" message. Also, the video is kind of batshit crazy.




My favorite part of the song is the bridge. Even though the lyrics are simple, they pack a punch when heard in the finished product.

Nothing takes the past away
Like the future
Nothing makes the darkness go
Like the light

But rather than just jettison the immediate past, I'm going to try to take it with me. It's been fun, but there has to be a way to maintain the good part of "vacation brain."

I got 0% of the amount of continuing education done that I intended, but I got 150% of the recharging done that I intended. And that's worth quite a bit.

(sorry if I made anyone - all 13 of you - think I was ending the blog because of my post title! Like you could get rid of me that easily.)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hurts, scars, wounds, mars

A couple weeks back, I managed to get myself on quite a Cher kick. Part of it was because I wanted to boost her past Kylie Minogue on my overall last.fm charts, making her my 4th most listened to artist and also because I had listened to quite a few covers that Cher did in preparation for the covers CD project that I was working on with Matt and Bess back in February.

It is so easy for me to get on a Cher kick, it's not even funny. Pretty much all you have to do is mention the woman's name and I'm all "Oh, I have to go listen to Cher!" I think the reason for this is because Cher's back catalog is just so gargantuan and covers virtually every genre that there is literally a Cher for every mood. Whether it is the "jingle-jangle" music (as Heidi refers to it) of "Gyspies, Tramps & Thieves," the 70s disco of Take Me Home and Prisoner, the new wave of I Paralyze or the dance diva of Believe and Living Proof, Cher's music can find its way in just about any time.

But my favorite of all of Cher's phases is, without a doubt, the faux-metal leather Cher of the late 80s/early 90s. And it is to this era that I most frequently return to. For me, it is the one that feels most like home. It kind of stands to reason because it was during this time that I really got into Cher. My mom had always liked Cher, and I grew up watching Sonny & Cher, but when Cher made an attempt at a music comeback on Geffen Records in the late 80s, I scoffed. Surely this would not work. Cher was an actress now. But then I heard "I Found Someone" and I was hooked. (Years later, my then-3-year-old daughter would have the same reaction. Stop the paternity test.)

Cher recorded three albums for Geffen between 1987 and 1991 - Cher, Heart of Stone, and Love Hurts. Heart of Stone is frequently cited as the best of the three, but for my money, it's Cher and its we-can-talk-it-over-baby-woman-to-man, givin'-our-love-a-fightin-chance Bon Jovi/Desmond Child/Michael Bolton mishmash that gives me the most bang for my buck. There is just something so damn fun about the cheesiness of that album. Plus I love how Cher's then boyfriend Rob Camilleti (the Bagel Boy of tabloid lore) is in all the videos from that album.

If Heart of Stone is the Hero, then Love Hurts is widely regarded as the Goat. Surprisingly, when I was on my Cher kick, I really got into Love Hurts. My friend Jeff famously despises this album. Although he did like the song "Love & Understanding" (which we dubbed "Time, Love, Tenderness & Understanding" because we had initially confused the title with the Michael Bolton song of a similar name), he just couldn't handle the rest of the album. I still have vivid memories of him reading the track list off of the CD at my house that summer of 1991 -"'I'll Never Stop Loving You?' - gag! 'Could've Been You?' - could've been a better song, Cher." He always would say that Love Hurts hurts.

While I will agree that the caliber of the songs on Love Hurts doesn't even come close to the ones on Heart of Stone, it was still a pretty good Cher CD from that time period. She tackles Nazareth on the title track, covers a Kiss song, and there is no Michael Bolton penned song to be found on the entire thing! It does, however, contain Diane Warren schlock, but somehow, Cher legitimizes it. "Save Up All Your Tears" is still one of my favorite Cher songs - and the video is...well, I'll let it speak for itself.



So in the final analysis, the well had kind of run dry for Cher by the time Love Hurts came out, but I still think that the album is unfairly maligned. It was the last of the leather Cher albums, and because of that, it will always look upon it with favor. It was also the last Cher album for something like 5 years - with It's A Man's World bridging the divide to dance diva Cher and the ubersuccess of Believe.

The appeal of Cher is so simple. As Charlotte's not-gay boyfriend said in an episode of Sex & The City - "She's a survivor!" She has been counted out more times than anyone and come back just as many times. I do wish I had the chance to see her in concert out in Vegas this summer, but the timing is all off. I also wish there were plans for a new album. At 62, she's not getting any younger. Since she hasn't recorded anything new since Anna's birth, I'd say it's time. She's one of those artists (along with Madonna and Stevie Nicks) whose passing I will truly mourn.

But in the meantime, what a body of work to enjoy!

Spring cleaning

I keep on hearing lawn mowers running in the neighborhood. Seriously. The grass is not out of its winter dormancy yet!

It is 60 degrees today and it is, as the old Lutheran hymn goes, as if we have been released "from the grave's dark prison." People are out and about. Kids are playing ball on front yards up and down the street. We've taken the plastic off the windows. It's hard not to feel as if the shackles of winter have been lifted on days like today. Granted, in the middle of July, we will all be bitching about the heat and humidity that are part and parcel with Iowa summers, but for now, we'll take it.

Not being one to miss out on the chance to do something that's been impossible all winter, Anna and I took the car to get it washed today. This was something that I instigated, not something that Heidi has been on my case to do for a month (that would be taking the glass to the recycling bins, which we also did.) The fact that I instigated it is kind of strange.

The reason it's strange is because I'm just not one of those guys that alternates between obsessing over the perfectly clean car and the perfectly manicured lawn. It's just not that important to me. I'll clean it when it becomes so bad that I am embarrassed to have people ride in it. Much like my job and the length of the grass in my yard, I am not defined by the cleanliness of my car. My motto should be "failing to meet gender stereotypes since 1972."

But it was time - even I could see that. And Anna enjoyed helping, although her version of "helping" was to run around in the grass like a loon at the car wash while I vacuumed the entire inside of the car and only being able to use the low-pressure presoak and rinse during the washing of the outside. That was hardly the point though - it was more about spending time with my daughter and getting the damn car clean come hell or high water. The only thing I don't really like about those car washes where you "point the gun and shoot" is that the undercarriage doesn't really get all that clean, something that is essential considering the mammoth amount of salt the car is exposed to in the winter.

To paraphrase Tangina from Poltergeist, this car is clean. But Anna left her damn snack bowl in it, thus starting the next descent into disaster, reminding me that only hard work can counter the effects of entropy.

We're criminals now

The Pet Shop Boys have a new album coming out this month (abroad anyway.) I am what can be classified as a mild fan of the Boys, as in the new album is on my radar, but it's not one of those hotly anticipated albums that I will be dying to get the instant it is released. Perhaps at some point, but they were just a band that I never really got all that into beyond the hits.

Anyway, there's a new B-side out and it's called "We're All Criminals Now."

I have not actually heard it, but it is cracking me up already. There's a pretty good reason for this.

A bit of background: I am of the opinion there is no life situation, quandary or dilemma that cannot be satisfied with a quote from 9 to 5. Your car starts making a weird sound, cue Dolly saying "Good Lord, get out, let's look at it." I'm looking all over the house for where I set my coffee cup, cue Lily saying "Where is the coffee cup???" A particularly grueling day at work can cause me to say to Heidi, "I need a drink, Roz. I'm taking the rest of the day off." To which she will respond "Attagirl." I have trained her well. She is the most perfect wife EVER.

Anyway, this song (naturally) made me think of the part in 9 to 5 where Dolly, Lily and Jane have stolen what they thought was Mr. Hart's corpse from the hospital, only to find out it's actually the body of some guy who's been the victim of a mob hit. Jane says "We're not criminal, you're a not a criminal. It was an accident. We'll just turn around and take it back." Dolly replies, "Well, we're criminals now!! We've just stolen a corpse from the hospital - that sounds like criminal to me."

That movie is one of the most perfect movies ever. God help anyone who tries to remake it. As Violet herself would say, "I will not be responsible for my actions."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

7 songs

I have not done the 7 songs meme in a while - and there have been several songs I have been REALLY into recently, so it felt like time to revisit it. Links to YouTube videos where I could find them.

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they're listening to.

1) Help Me (Live in Cadogan Hall) / Will Young
This is currently my favorite cover song out there. Originally found on Joni Mitchell's Court & Spark, "Help Me" is deceptively simple, but the melody and lyrics are actually quite complex. I also love his androgynous voice, especially in the beginning when you can't decide if it's a male or female singing and as it hits some of the higher notes. I think Joni Mitchell would be proud of this version of the song.

2) A Fool In Love / Tina Turner
I have had a huge Tina Turner renaissance over the last few weeks. Even before I rewatched What's Love Got To Do With It, I was really loving this song. I have not heard Tina's original vocal on this, but rather, it is the rerecorded version that she did for the movie that has got my attention right now. What I love about it is how Tina's gruff vocals are such a contrast to the back-up singers on the chorus. That and the "you know you love him/you can't understand/why he treats you like he do/when he's such a good man." That lyric can really get stuck in your head.

3)
Say You Love Me / Fleetwood Mac
This has probably always been one of my favorite Christine McVie songs in the Fleetwood Mac catalog. The version I am really into right now is the one from The Chain boxset which puts guitars over the piano opening and makes them more prominent throughout. It just seems to have more meat on the bones of the song. Plus the ending harmonies are just classic. Too bad that McVie is not joining Fleetwood Mac on their current tour.

4) Never (Heaven on the Floor Mix) / Kristine W. (stream it)
Kristine W. is one of those artists that you really don't need to own a whole album of. A few choice tracks here and there should satisfy most people. This (along with "Lovin' You" from the Queer as Folk soundtrack) is what I would qualify as essential Kristine W. After getting over my initial disappointment in finding out it was not a Heart cover, I really came to appreciate this song. It came on my iPod at the gym today and it is a PERFECT gym song. It's probably going on my year end best-of list, so you heard it here first.

5)
If I Were You / Stevie Nicks
One of my most favorite of all of Stevie's album tracks, it pretty much never leaves the "Dan's Favorites" playlist on my iPod. The best part of the whole song is the "Every boy must learn to be a man/Well, I think I can help you/Yes I can" part. It takes me back to January of 88, playing The Bard's Tale on the Apple IIe and being sucked into the web of Stevie in which I am still stuck to this day. I never would have thought that 21 years later, it would still be in such heavy rotation.

6) We Connect / Stacey Q
Speaking of a song I would have never thought would be in heavy rotation on my iPod in the year 2009, this minor hit for Stacey Q is one of them. But for whatever reason, here I am, nearly 37 years old and I'm listening to this bubble gum stuff. I can't help it. It is so infectious plus it has the "tion" rhymes that get me every time. "It's no exaggeration/not imagination/You're the finest boy in town/Playing with temptation/overnight sensation/With a boy from the wrong side of town." It really is kind of scary the kinds of things that appeal to me.

7) Asleep / The Smiths
I am not a big Smiths fan, although I have been dallying with them a bit recently. What set it off was the song "Asleep" which featured prominently in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It is the song that Charlie listens to and at that moment "feels infinite." I meant to blog that book, but I'm afraid that ship has sailed. However, it was a great book. And as Smiths songs go, this one is just heartbreaking - and there are a lot of heartbreaking, melancholy Smiths songs.

Not tagging anyone, but consider yourself tagged if you so desire.

Going all old prospector

Funny I should mention Paul Rudd's dance on the Daily Show from last November. Because he was on the Daily Show again last night, and he danced again.


The man is hilarious, and the way that he and Stewart play off each other is priceless.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Irreverence

I have not watched a movie with absolutely no redeeming qualities in a damn long time. And by "no redeeming qualities" what I mean to say is a movie that is not a SERIOUS FILM. Most of the time when it we get ready to put movies in the Netflix queue, we opt for TV programs instead. For whatever reason, we go through those so much faster. We can watch a disc of a TV drama in a couple of days, whereas a movie can sit unwatched for 2 weeks. And when we do get an actual movie, it's usually something that has been an award winner or something that was nominated for an award.

But when I saw that Role Models was being released on DVD yesterday, I just knew that I had to see it. I bypassed it when it was in its initial run. Even though when Paul Rudd was doing the publicity for the movie, he sealed his eternal coolness by dancing on the Daily Show, 9 dollars is still a lot of money for a fluff movie. I even missed it at the dollar theater, but you really have to act fast because those movies, much like Glinda, come and go so quickly.

So I timed my Netflix return just right so that I would maximize my chances of getting a new release the day it came out. Otherwise, it would be a good two weeks before the "short wait" availability turned into a "now." Well, it worked and Heidi and I watched Role Models in its entirety while Anna played The Sims 2 in my office. Good thing because it's totally not kid appropriate. Not even close. After watching it, I decided that it is the kind of movie that would have run 150,000 times on USA Network on Friday and/or Saturday nights in the 90s.

But I say that like it's a bad thing. IT'S NOT.

Let me just say this. This ain't Shakespeare, but it doesn't have to be. Basic premise is that Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott, playing guys who you definitely don't want being mentors to kids, do 150 hours of community service at a place that matches up kids to adult mentors. You can imagine the calamity that ensues. Well, actually, you can't, but yet somehow, you can. The funniest thing about this movie is how it was less about good writing and funny jokes and more about putting characters in situations and having them do inappropriate things. Sometimes, the writing was painfully bad. Never mind that though. Mostly, we laughed our asses off.

I don't think that Heidi and I have laughed that hard at a movie since I-don't-know-when. Even after it was over, we were quoting it. It was completely irreverent and over the top but also, believe it or not, a little bit sweet. Of course, you have to have the life lesson that is taught in the movie, but that's called character development and if you don't have it then why the hell are you telling the story?

My biggest criticism of the movie is the overabundance of gay jokes, which I really have zero tolerance for. I am so sick and tired of the "that's so gay." It's not about me not having a sense of humor. It is about those particular kinds of jokes not being funny while also managing to be completely offensive. We'll look back on how freely we told those kinds of jokes now in 25 years and be embarrassed. It'll be the equivalent of how I cringe at racial stereotypes and jokes on "Maude" (which I am currently watching on DVD as well.)

But it was still a great diversion, one that we really needed. Paul Rudd is a great comedic actor and even though Seann William Scott has been playing Stifleresque characters for most of his career, he was still pretty funny. He also, I swear, looks just like my college roommate.

Role Models - totally worth a rent. Just leave me the crock pot. You know I like chili.

Too much makeup, too much hair

One of my favorite songs of last year has gotten the video treatment. This makes me VERY happy, as so few artists even go to the effort to make videos any longer. The fact that it's Dolly Parton and that it's for the song "Backwoods Barbie" - a song that I consider to be a modern day Dolly classic, a worthy successor to songs such as "Jolene" and "Coat of Many Colors" is icing on the cake.



I love the use of color vs. black & white in this video. And Dolly all dolled up in "a country girl's idea of glam" is great. But I will say, at the risk of inciting the wrath of Dolly-ites everywhere, that her plastic surgery has never been more apparent than it is in this video. That's okay - it works for this video. A part of me recognizes my hypocrisy in chastising Madonna for refusing to grow old with grace and dignity, and giving Dolly a pass on the same thing. But for some reason, with Dolly, it's different. Perhaps it's because you can tell that beneath all that gunk and hair and makeup is a geniune person who is neither needy nor screwed up. At least no more than the rest of us are.

Anna came in and finished watching this video with me. Her comment. "Too much makeup, too much hair. *looking all serious* Dad, that's kinda true."

As I've said before, you can't make this shit up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Save me from the blast

I had the great fortune tonight to have the pair of bonus tracks from the UK release of The Annie Lennox Collection end up in my inbox. They are acoustic versions of two classic Annie songs - "Walking On Broken Glass" and "Little Bird." As an added bonus, they do not appear to be live tracks, but rather newly recorded studio versions of these songs. (someone correct me if I am wrong.)

The version of "Walking On Broken Glass" is the better of the two, although "Little Bird" is also quite good. I have always felt like "Walking On Broken Glass" is unfairly punished because it had the nerve to become a hit on radio. But really, at the time it was released, it sounded like nothing else on the radio. The video was brilliant and features Annie, Hugh Laurie and John Malkovich going all Dangerous Liasons on us. But yes, radio played it to death, even though, surprisingly, it was not a top ten hit.

I remember sitting in a cubicle at the Iowa City Public Library in 1992 listening to the radio on my Walkman studying for an anatomy exam (a real anatomy exam you pervs) and hearing this song for the very first time. I hadn't bought the album yet and wouldn't until January of the next year, but the song pulled me in instantly. Despite that, even for me, this song more than ran its course. But I have always loved the line "Take me from the wreckage/Save me from the blast."

What this version of the song does is intelligently reinvent the song and while it is still recognizable, it is a completely different song. It is one that even haters of the song from its overplay on radio might be able to see past. Because it is a great song, well-written and, even today, like nothing else out there. Even Annie hasn't repeated herself in this respect yet.

I keep on saying that Annie Lennox is a class act because she is. She is an example of how to grow old gracefully in the music industry. I was talking to a friend tonight and I mentioned how she stands in stark contrast to Madonna these days. His comment was that a middle ground between the two would be ideal. Madonna needs to calm the hell down, and Annie could stand to "to vamp it up and discofy it a bit" (his words.) But I will still take Annie as she is, because I share the streak of melancholy that permeates some of her best work. She is adult about her music, and as I get older, the more I appreciate that.

Finally, here's a link to a great Annie article in Out magazine. My favorite part is when she talks about how the first time she played the flute she hyperventilated and threw up all over the floor and had to be sent home from school. On a more serious note, I also appreciated her comments on how she related to the "coming out" process even though she is heterosexual.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shoes

I bought a new pair of shoes today. It's the first pair of "athletic shoes" I have purchased in several years, probably since we moved to Ames. I am not all that hard on casual shoes. Dress shoes, on the other hand, have a relatively short life span just because I am always wearing them. Anyway, it was time because my other shoes were falling apart so I picked these up today.


They actually are orange and they look really damn good. Heidi said that the minute she saw them, she knew we would buy them. They cost a little more than I think shoes should cost but they are worth it because they are comfortable and support my arches quite nicely. I mostly don't care what I put on my feet as long as they are comfortable and keep my feet dry, so mostly, I'm easy to please.

But as I was buying them, I couldn't help but think about whether or not I should be buying shoes right now. Every day the economic news just seems to get worse. The stock market is in the toilet, unemployment is higher than it's been since the early 80s and it seems as if there is no end in sight for the downward spiral. While my job is relatively recession-proof, I am a big fan of the "never say never" approach to life and spending $90 on a pair of shoes just seemed so ridiculous to me when so many people don't even have jobs and are behind on house payments. If these kinds of things are happening now, what might things be like in a year?

These are the scariest times I have ever lived through - even worse than being a kid and sure that the world would erupt into a nuclear fireball at any given moment. This time, the threats are real and while not entirely tangible, they feel so much more real than those irrational childhood fears. I don't know if the economy has hit bottom yet. I don't know if what Obama has proposed will work or not. I'm certainly not an economist so perhaps the worst is yet to come or maybe (hopefully) it is behind us.

I mentioned this to Heidi and she said that buying shoes, especially at a small local retailer like where I purchased the shoes, is actually what will stimulate the economy out of the current morass. A part of me intellectually understands that, but another part of me wants to hoard and save everything and spend no more than what we must to live. And any and all extra money goes on the credit card (which we are paying down faster than we have before. EVER.)

But you can't do that. You have to spend $90 on shoes. You have to plan to take a vacation in June when things could be even worse than they are now. You have to plan to go out with friends and be social. You just have to. Because anything else is a prescription for failure.

The economic boondoggle we're in right now is, as I said, scary. I have no idea how it will affect me when its all said and done. I have talked to my dad about this a few times and he says that ultimately, you have to live in the time that you're living in. Anything else is just wasted energy. And he's right. I wonder if we'll look back on these times in 20 years and view them like we did the late 70s when the world seemed to be spinning out of control, careening toward destruction. There's no way of knowing.

But at least my feet will be dry.

The pattern of my life

The pattern of my life is, apparently, an ink spot. Or several score of them.

Yesterday when I was working. I got an e-mail from Heidi with the following subject line:

SUBJECT: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!@#$#@###$#$@#$@#$@#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A stowaway pen in one of my pants pockets had stained every single item of white clothing in that load. She was venting. I immediately called home to offer my mea culpa. Anna was especially peeved since it had stained one of her favorite pajamas.

This is what happened to one of my white T-shirts.

This has not happened in a long time. It used to happen all the time. If I have but one fault (which I'm not s ure how it's possible because I have none), it is that I cannot be bothered to clean out my pants pockets. This caused some strife early in our marriage as ballpoint pens routinely went through the wash, staining everything their path. The problem stemmed from a fundamental disagreement. Heidi felt that it was the job of the person taking off the pants to empty their pockets, whereas I felt it was the job of the person sorting laundry. This is a bit hypocritical because I have done a fair amount of sorting of laundry in my day, and yet, ink stains still happened. Apparently, I just didn't want to be bothered with it regardless of whether I'm sorting or not.

Realizing that this was a fight that I would never win, I have been MUCH better about emptying my pants pockets. But a rogue pen still slips through, even though it's probably been at least 3-4 years since we've had ink carnage of this magnitude.

The funny part of all of this is that it was mostly my clothes that were damaged. The pants, I think, are beyond repair but that's okay because they were starting to get a hole in the pant leg.

The rest of what was damaged was clothing that is mostly under other articles of clothing so, not to worry. Besides, T-shirts and socks are cheap.

But in surveying the damage, I found that another of my bad habits actually saved some of the clothes. My complete and utter inability to turn clothes right side out after taking them off meant that it was mostly the insides of the shirts that were stained. Miraculously, the other side seems pretty much untouched, although that makes no logical sense.

It will not be the last pen to go through the wash for I am me and am nothing if not absent-minded. But Heidi washed a flash drive left in HER pants pocket the other day so at least we're karmically even. Or something like that.

Friday, March 06, 2009

I'm out of my head

When I was taking Anna to school this morning, Olivia Newton-John's "Hopelessly Devoted To You" from Grease came up semi-randomly on the iPod. I say semi-randomly because it is on the Band Fags! playlist and as a result, I have kind of rediscovered the song. It was always kind of a favorite for me because it is so melodramatic! I remember knowing the song prior to seeing the movie and my mom told me that Olivia "sang it when she was out in the yard." Having no context, I just imagined her walking through something that looked like our backyard in broad daylight. It makes infinitely more sense in context (as most things do.)



When I was a kid, I LOVED Grease. My mom took me to see the movie in rerelease in about 1979 or so and after that, I watched it whenever it was on TV. My dad loves to tell the story of how we purchased that soundtrack more times than any other album we owned when I was growing up. I will admit that a good 50% of the draw for Grease was Olivia Newton-John. I couldn't help it - I was in love.

I haven't watched Grease in an age. I know that it is supposed to play like 50s nostalgia, but for me, it has always played like 70s nostalgia. While the movie has not aged incredibly well for me, the music is still pretty timeless.

Here's Olivia performing "Hopelessly Devoted To You" on what my sister and I affectionately refer to as "The Mullet Tour." I desperately wanted to go to that tour as a kid (it stopped in Ames) but alas it was not to be. 25 years later, I would see Olivia in Cedar Rapids and it is still one of my favorite concert experiences.



As a kid, I watched that concert on HBO till my eyes fell out of my head. Sadly, it is not available on DVD, although some of the performances are on the Olivia Video Gold DVDs. Speaking of which, if you want cheesy videos, that is your one stop candy shop.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Uncharted territory

It has officially never been more embarrassing to be a Madonna fan than it is right fucking now. Trotting around with Jesus Luz trumps the worst of 1992/1993 when Madonna seemed to be publicly imploding after the Erotica/Sex/Body of Evidence trifecta. I have never been as interested in Madonna's personal life as I am in her work, but this train wreck has even me unable to avert my eyes.

I can't decide if we would or would not be up in arms were the genders reversed and it were a 50 year-old man dating a 22 year-old woman. On one hand, we might not be because that seems to be much more socially acceptable. On the other hand, would we crucify him for taking advantage of a much-younger woman? I don't know.

What I do know is that we are in uncharted territory. Never has Madonna been so off the rails, so seemingly out of control of her own image and in such public meltdown mode. I think that this has to be especially hard on her 12 year old daughter. As if being a teenager isn't already hard enough, having mom behave in this fashion is just providing her with fodder for the inevitable tell-all.

I guess I expected more from Madonna. I expected her to head into the latter part of her life with a little grace and dignity. Perhaps I should have known better. It is not too late, but this is an unfortunate chapter if she does manage to turn it around.

In the meantime...It?

(photo via madonnalicious)

I don't care, I don't care

One of my all time favorite Belinda Carlisle songs found its way back on to my radar this morning.

And that song would be "Fool For Love" which is an album track from 1987's Heaven On Earth (still my favorite of Belinda's solo albums - not one bad track on there! Plus she was never hotter than on that album cover.)

The reason I love it so much is two-fold. One, I believe that it is biochemically impossible to feel bad when you're listening to this song. Acting as an aural SSRI, it can take one's brain from sadness to unbridled joy in 3:56. Yes, it is cheesy and the production is totally 80s, but that is the large majority of its charm.

The other reason? It is inextricably linked to my friend Jeff and his former girlfriend Holly. Every time I listen to the chorus, which consists of the extremely imaginative lyrics "If I'm a fool for love/If I'm a fool for love/If I'm a fool for love/I don't care/I don't care" all I can think of is Holly mocking the song with a nasal "I don't caaaare. I don't caaaaare."

Her mocking did not deter Jeff and me. We still loved it. And to this day, I can still hear her singing that.

So if you're feeling a bit down this morning (or any morning), I submit that Belinda's "Fool For Love" is just the prescription.


(this live version does not do the studio version justice! Get it here! You won't be sorry.)