Friday, September 30, 2005

The whiniest blog in the world?

It's one thing to make the occasional complaint about Washington's Metro system. When you have a mass transit operation run by so many jurisdictions that don't really party together, you're bound to have ... well, something that begins with "cluster" and ends with an euphemism. Little wonder it's taking so long to get an extension out in the vicinity of the massive work/shopping hub of Tysons Corner, let alone Dulles Airport.

But I'd say 90 percent of my experience with the Metro has been positive. Apparently this guy sees it differently.

Here's a sample:

As predicted, Metro officials believe that the higher gas prices following hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been a significant factor in an increase in Metrorail ridership though the month of September. The highest ridership so far was 731,028 people on September 21st. Also, weekend ridership has increased by 25 percent.

Wow, that's amazing that Metro can do math. Metro was actually able to come
to the conclusion that people are taking public transit more because driving has gotten to (sic) expensive because of gas prices? I'm shocked!

I'm surprised he didn't complain about the drivers announcing, upon leaving Vienna, that the next station is Dunn Loring. Where else would we be going?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I don't like to complain. I'd rather offer something constructive.

So with that in mind, here are a few things I'd like to see ...

1. Give Maura Tierney and Linda Cardellini a sitcom, thereby allowing them to get the hell off ER.

2. Attach a rider to the flag-burning amendment that people must be required to watch The Daily Show. That should keep everyone happy, informed and superficially patriotic. And attach more riders requiring the viewing of either Arrested Development or The Office. (Yes, I pimp those shows every week. They deserve it.)

3. XM should make its original programming available online on demand for subscribers. It's great stuff, but I can't quite plan my day around a 3 p.m. radio show.

Funniest soccer post ever

A D.C. United fan offers a guide for Nats fans who might be interested in a few more trips to RFK this year.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

XM in depth, Channel 8

After pleasant trips through the '60s and '70s, I worried a bit about the '80s. Yes, this was the era of my musical awakening. In 1983, I got MTV and a boom box. I discovered music beyond the AM Top 40 station my parents had on. I strained to pick up the classic rock station 70 miles away in Atlanta, and I watched a lot of videos. We had a university-run cable channel that subscribed to a funky syndicated feed that played The Cure and a bunch of college-rock bands that couldn't quite get on MTV. I watched more alt-rock on MTV's 120 Minutes and even flirted with New Age music on the late-night VH1 show New Visions. I read Rolling Stone and Musician and saved up to buy cassettes of the musicians they liked best, from Husker Du to Branford Marsalis.

But the actual pop music they're likely to play on the '80s channel is decidedly hit or miss. No Rush, Yes or Husker Du in this mix, most likely.

I wasn't reassured when I first tried to do this, only to find that they were doing some Friday night dance medley. The best song in the mix was Murray Head's One Night in Bangkok. (What happens in Thailand, stays in Thailand.) I liked this song in high school for purely personal reasons -- I played chess, and that's not exactly a popular subject for pop songs. (OK, there's always the Your Move section of Yes' I've Seen All Good People.) But I often find Broadway tunes a little too cutesy for my tastes, and this is no exception. The dance beat and grating synthesizers didn't help.

Then they finally started playing music.

Van Halen, When It's Love: I don't mind Van Hagar. Seriously. But I like the ones that rock a little more than than the power ballads. Poundcake more than holds its own against anything they did in the Diamond Dave days, and it was a whole lot better than anything Mr. Roth managed around that time.

(In other words, I'm not that big a fan of this song, but my wife is, so I ain't saying much.)

Journey, Girl Can't Help It: Not bad, but I wish it had a bit more Neil Schon and a bit less Jonathan Cain. It's funny -- I didn't mind synthesizers in the '80s. I even had one. But now that the whole notion of a big-haired guy behind a bank of Korgs is totally passe, it's hard to listen to some of these songs without thinking, "Wow, what a horribly artificial sound." Journey did better songs than this, but I'd love to hear them tackle this today with more modern keyboard sounds.

Police, King of Pain: One of Sting's most memorable lyrics. Just hear the first chord or two, and your brain immediately kicks in -- "There's a little black spot on the sun today." I'd quibble with the arrangement a bit. Imagine if Andy Summers had just let the guitar ring a little more in the verses instead of clipping every note shorter than the nails on a declawed cat. (Hey, if I could do simile and metaphor, I'd be ... Sting, who wrote one of the most poetic lines in rock a few years later in The Wild Wild Sea -- "the gray sky, she angered to black." You could put me in front of a typewriter for 50 years, and it would never occur to me to use the word "angered" in that sense. That's why Sting is a brilliant lyricist, and I'm a ... journalism guy.)

Tears for Fears, Sowing the Seeds of Love: One of the most unlikely successful comeback efforts of the current decade -- check it out if you haven't heard it. This song fits the trend so far -- not my favorite by this band, but not enough to make me throw off the headphones. Tears for Fears were at their best when they put a lot of thought into the orchestration, building up layers of sound and taking them apart to add drama. Just listen to their two masterpieces, Shout and Woman in Chains. They didn't do as well with Sowing, but it's another memorable Beatlesque melody sung with some admirable neo-hippie conviction.

The Jets, You Got It All: What's worse than synthesizers? Lazy electric piano. Nothing wrong with the vocal, and they spice things up with some good sax breaks and guitar fills. But the verses lull me to sleep.

Jermaine and Michael Jackson, Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming: It's fashionable to make fun of the Jackson siblings who were many, many times less successful than Michael. But they kinda deserve it, don't you think?

Whitney Houston, Love Will Save The Day: OK, by this time, I was hoping for a power outage. (My battery power is weak.) I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that the most grating vocal performance ever recorded -- yes, worse than anything by Michael Bolton's -- is Whitney's I Will Always Love You. The verses barely exist, and then she breaks into what I call a "vowel movement" -- "IIIIIIII-e-III IIIHHHH-AAAAA-AYYYYY UUUUHHHHH-OOOOOO, OOOO*&*^#@*IIIII!" You know, folks, R&B and punk both peaked in the '70s. The only difference is that punkers, for the most part, realized it.

Mike + The Mechanics, The Living Years: Take away the cloying chorus chiming in with "Say it loud ...," and perhaps this would be a decent song. Sure, the lyrics are a little clumsy, the synth sounds are tinny, the guitar line is one of the worst Mike Rutherford ever played, but ... what was my point?

And then they went into another goofy mix of unidentified songs. Somewhere along the way, it included the likable Haircut 100 song Love Plus One.

Pretenders, Middle of the Road: Trivia that had to verify to make sure I wasn't getting confused -- when Chrissie Hynde finally decided that she was going to be the only original Pretender still in the band, she replaced drummer Martin Chambers with Blair Cunningham, who had previously played in ... Haircut 100. Anyway, this song is the opening salvo from their masterpiece, Learning to Crawl, recorded after the deaths of two original Pretenders but with Chambers still in the fold. Some time ago, I wrote about the sentimentality of the John Mellencamp song Cherry Bomb, which is the anthem of 30-something maturity for so many people. This song is my Cherry Bomb. I even had a kid at 33.

Def Leppard, Animal: "An-I-whah! An-I-nee! An-i-whuh! An-I-muh!" Good harmless semi-metal fun.

New Edition, Cool It Now: Good idea. Off goes the radio.

Could've been worse.

The 100, part 2

35. I've never been drunk.
36. I've also never done drugs, though I did attend an indoor Pink Floyd concert, which is roughly the same thing. (I actually thought the pig was coming to get me.)
37. Girls weren't interested in me in high school, as much as their parents tried to convince them otherwise.
38. My skepticism in today's sophisticated communication tools stems from the fact that our species has not yet mastered the turn signal.
39. I think the best comment on what it means to be a man is the movie Bull Durham.
40. I ran cross-country in high school.
41. I also played chess and was active in drama.
42. Today, I'm a half-decent volleyball player.
43. I know a fair amount of geography, but I have a few gaps in knowledge. Until this year, I thought the Hamptons were a mountain range.
44. I understand the game of cricket.
45. I'm fairly tall, but I have short arms and small hands.
46. Now that Mitch Hedberg has died far too young, I think the best stand-up comic working today is Dane Cook.
47. Few blogs really hold my interest.
48. I prefer the mountains to the beach.
49. I can stack more than 20 pennies on my elbow, flip my arm forward and catch them.
50. Back in the days I attended movies, I saw both Con Air and The Avengers. The critics thought The Avengers was hilariously awful, but frankly, I thought Con Air was just as bad.
51. If being an elitist means that I value the opinion of someone who has done research over that of someone who hasn't, then I'm an elitist. People who turn to Harvard professors over talk-radio hosts have nothing to apologize for.
52. Ending a sentence in a preposition doesn't bother me.
53. I've been known to shout, "I am the Lizard King! I can do anything!" at inappropriate times.
54. I often find that, in movies, people who have guns pointed at them really have nothing to lose by going ahead and doing whatever they were going to do before the gun was pointed. I mean, did Frank Whaley really think he'd be able to talk Samuel L. Jackson out of putting about 20 bullets in him?
55. This was my mom's age when she passed away from lung cancer. I was 25.
56. DJs don't really impress me.
57. If not for my family, I would've seriously considered moving to England sometime in the past 10 years.
58. If it's at all feasible to take a trip by train instead of car, I'll do it.
59. I'm not normally a violent guy, but the guy who yells "I ... LOVE YOU, TOO!!" for NFL highlights on SportsCenter really should be punched in the face.
60. I'm personally offended by the gender stereotyping in many beer commercials. Of course, most American beer sucks, anyway. (From Monty Python: "American beer is like making love in a canoe ...")
61. In high school, I filmed football and basketball games for the coaching staffs, and I often added special effects like untimely zooms and perception-challenging shots of the ceiling. We weren't that good, and in retrospect, I wonder if that was my fault.
62. I don't care if Lorne Michaels is the most frightening boss in the world -- I'd love to be on Saturday Night Live.
63. I like bridges, and one day, I want to find the one in North Carolina that looked like it was ascending into the clouds.
64. I do an inordinate amount of shopping at Old Navy.
65. My CDs are alphabetical.
66. I had a cat who lived to be 18 and a dog who was close to 17.
67. I'm right-handed in every respect except that I eat with my left.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

100 things about me, Part 1

1. I used to be the young guy. At my first job out of school, I was the first person hired there who was born in the 70s.
2. I am no longer the young guy. That changed quite abruptly when I was 26, and every bit of weakness I've felt since 30 makes me feel older.
3. And yet, I still like South Park. (The one in which Stan joins the Goth kids is on now -- I love the way Butters sets things straight at the end.)
4. And Beavis & Butt-head.
5. And I think Family Guy is the best pure comedy since the Marx Brothers.
6. And I think The Simpsons is the best satire ... ever.
7. And yet, the "bumps" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim strike me as self-indulgent "hipper than thou" nonsense I'd expect from one of those college radio station DJs who think he's cool because he plays music no rational person would want to hear.
8. I did really well in school and went to a great college, then went back to the same school to get a master's degree, but I feel like I didn't get excited about learning until I saw the History of Britain series.
9. I love dogs.
10. It's no surprise or shame that we often get more worked up about mistreatment of animals (in movies and in real life) than we do about mistreatment of humans. I think the reason is that dogs and cats -- dogs especially -- have an understanding with us in which they are completely devoted to us in exchange for the care that we give them. When we fail in that care, we break a covenant.
11. I like cats, too.
12. If I were on death row, my last meal would consist of pepperoni pizza.
13. In retrospect, I was happy in high school, but I hope I can steer my son away from being the total geek I was.
14. I hated mowing the yard as a kid, but I feel a strange satisfaction in doing it now.
15. My first celebrity crush was Debbie Harry.
16. Fifteen years ago, I never imagined I'd be so happily married now.
17. I'm a fairly decent cook despite knowing few fundamentals.
18. I watch HGTV.
19. I went to the Lilith Fair.
20. I've seen Indigo Girls outside the Lilith Fair.
21. I'm not gay.
22. I served at the altar of my church as a teenager.
23. Though I've developed several reservations about organized religion, I'm still quite religious and recently started attending church again.
24. My best memories of college include religious conversations with dormmates of diverse faiths.
25. I think if more people had conversations like that, they'd be less willing to wish evil -- in this world or the next -- on others.
26. I'm not the least bit hung up on cars.
27. Or guns, though I earned a riflery award at summer camp 20-some years ago.
28. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
29. I used to be a good guitarist, a good bassist, a good percussionist, a competent pianist and a so-so clarinetist.
30. I am now half as good at all those things.
31. I used to be good at calculus.
32. I can still juggle.
33. I think people who sound authoritative at Home Depot are either contractors or posers on the verge of seriously damaging their houses.
34. I'm not doing all 100 at a time because I know I'll forget something. Also, I don't have that kind of uninterrupted time. The next 33 will come later; the final 33 much later.

Saving quality TV

One day, I will own a TV network. And when that day comes, I will hold a press conference in which I will announce that my network will be a haven for intelligent programming. We will buy some of the best documentaries from the History Channel and elsewhere. We will have news programs that seek to inform rather than incite.

And we will keep the best comedies on our roster, with no cancellation possible for at least three years or 45 episodes, whichever comes last.That means we'll have at least a third full season of Arrested Development, probably more. At least 30-something more episodes of The Office, which is terrific but is probably best capped around 15 episodes a year. And I won't laugh myself silly over My Name Is Earl, only to worry that it's going to be off the air in four weeks. And Kelsey Grammer would still be working on The Sketch Show instead of directing the hackneyed Out of Practice, which is definitely not the fine sitcom vehicle that Henry Winkler and Stockard Channing deserve. (Mrs. MMM's comment: "Were there real people in the audience laughing?" Sounded like a laugh track to me. And the sets looked like a cheap high school play.)

My Name Is Earl is as good as all reviewers other than stick-in-the-mud Tom Shales said it was. The underlying premise -- a petty thief who wins the lottery, loses his ticket and finds it again, then becomes obsessed with karma -- is sweet. And it's laugh-out-loud funny.

It doesn't seem to matter whether you like Raising Arizona, the show's most obvious antecedent. Mrs. MMM and I are split on that film -- I love it, she despises it -- and yet we both howled through this one. Earl is marvelously honest about his own shortcomings, especially after his lottery ticket-induced epiphany. He also finds that rectifying the past is more complex than he anticipated. This should be fun to watch for as long as NBC is patient.

Season 2 of The Office is off to a great start with a premiere that focused a lot of attention on my favorite character, Pam. Steve Carell is the star, but I think Pam is the heart of the show because we all know her. We all remember some pretty, friendly girl in high school who had her self-confidence battered or her ambitions stilted through some combination of bad parenting, bad teaching or bad experiences. Jenna Fischer plays it to perfection, showing each subtle heartbreak and reveling in the humor that helps her escape. And John Krasinski pulls off the difficult acting feat of showing how much Jim cares for Pam without actually trying to get her away from her boorish fiance.

All I'll ask of NBC is this -- air another 12 episodes, enough for a full-fledged DVD release. And give the show a chance to do a series finale. I know it sounds like all the X Files geeks who lived vicariously through the Mulder-Scully sexual tension and its inevitable release, but we're going to need closure on Pam and Jim.

I don't think my plan is unrealistic. In today's fragmented marketplace, only a handful of shows are going to break 10.0 in the ratings. If you're pulling a healthy percentage of a particular demographic, you're fine. If that weren't the case, cable channels wouldn't bother to do so much original programming.

So we'd target the "intelligent" demographic. Someone should.

Monday, September 19, 2005

If play-by-play guys were totally honest ...

"Brunell goes back to pass, entire D.C. metro area cringes except for punks who cheer for Cowboys, it's intercepted ..."

Watch Arrested Development ... PLEASE

Still recovering from watching the first episode of the season. There's just no show like this. You ... must ... watch ... this ... show. Or at least tell the ratings people you do.

Also enjoyed Family Guy immensely, at least the first 20 minutes, and The Simpsons got back on track after a weak season opener.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Things I looked up on Wikipedia today

Busy day ...

Elisha Gray

Why: He was mentioned on The Simpsons as a rival of Alexander Graham Bell, and I vaguely remembered some story about Bell outracing someone to the patent office.

What I learned: Yep, that was him.

Jim Henson

Why: Watching a lot of The Muppet Show.

What I learned: He was a Terp. And his death, though untimely, didn't have any suspicious elements -- at least, not as far as Wikipedia is concerned.

Jimi Hendrix

Why: I got curious about suspicious celebrity deaths, so naturally, I thought of him.

What I learned: Check out his FBI file. Part 2 is especially interesting if you want to see the FBI's concerns on "hippies" (seriously, by name) and other questionable uses of U.S. investigative power. One page has eight redacted paragraphs ... out of nine. The final paragraph: "(Redacted) advised that (redacted) who is once again running the Sultan Theater (redacted) in Seattle, are handling a memorial show for JIMMY HENDRIX in Seattle." I want to see what was redacted just so I can see how that sentence is grammatically possible.

The memo on Woodstock is hysterical: After listing the bands, we get this: "But these were only the entertainers named on the program; the main entertainment (if that is the correct word) was provided by the bizarre people present ..."

Thursday, September 15, 2005

XM in depth: Channel 7

I love the '70s. At least, I love them more than the '40s, '50s and '60s.

Sure, disco was a little tedious, and the decade saw some of the most awful ballads ever conceived. But disco built on some good beats, rock was going through an intriguing experimental phase, and the singer-songwriters started to put some thought into the musical and lyrical sides.

Here's my hour:

Ringo Starr, Back Off Boogaloo: From all available evidence, Ringo's main contribution to music is that he's a great guy. That's not such a bad thing. He fits in well with talented people, and his solo projects often sound like he got about 30 of his best buddies in a room to jam. Obviously, it's not as artistically or philosophically substantial as a John Lennon effort, but no one said it was, and I'd rather be jamming with Ringo than fermenting in front of a TV with Lennon through the latter half of the '70s. (I've heard contrasting accounts of Lennon's life from 1975-80 -- the Wikipedia account is that he became a recluse because he'd missed Julian's childhood and didn't want to do the same with Sean, but I also remember hearing that he was basically stoned in front of the TV. In any case, one of the many tragic elements of his death is that he had finally emerged from his apartment, just in time for that bastard to shoot him.)

M.F.S.B., T.S.O.P.: Didn't hear all of it because my audio player had a SNAFU. It's your basic strings, horns and pumping bass disco riff, with a few minutes of introduction before a couple of female vocalists inform us that it's time to get it on and get down. Fair enough.

Al Green, Sha-La-La (Make Me Happy): It's midtempo strings, horns and pumping bass this time as the Reverend does his thing. The percussion is actually a little obtrusive, but the guitar lines are nice. You may not really like this kind of music, but it's damn near impossible to hate it.

Grand Funk Railroad, Loco-Motion: One of those novelty songs you really can't listen to more than once or twice every five years because it lacks the musical innovation of, say, Hayseed Dixie.

Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond, You Don't Bring Me Flowers: Over the years, I've come to respect Diamond's many contributions (as distinctive singer and hook-smart songwriter) to popular music. Not enough to like this one. The used-to-bes don't count anymore, they lay on the floor until we sweep them away? Used-to-bes? Wait, are they talking about the flowers? They have to sweep them away even though he clearly hasn't brought any home in a few years? Do these guys ever clean the house, or are they just stoned in front of the TV along with Lennon?

Gerry Rafferty, Right Down the Line: Why don't we talk about Rafferty as one of the greats of this era? Is it because we think Baker Street (Rafferty solo) and Stuck in the Middle with You (Rafferty with Stealer's Wheel) were both the work of one-hit wonders? And I guess we've forgotten this one, which is a solid uptempo love song. (Trivia: Rafferty once shared a band with Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, who replaced Howard Hesseman as the teacher on Head of the Class. Now I need a list of songs Hesseman played as WKRP's Johnny Fever to see if he played a Rafferty song so I can complete some sort of circular Kevin Bacon thing.)

Bruce Springsteen, Prove It All Night: Kind of plodding compared to his more inspired outings from the same period.

Pointer Sisters, Fire: Frankly, this is also kind of plodding compared to other Springsteen songs. My guess is that this song has lasted because people wanted to believe that someone other than John Travolta could be the smooth lady-killer. Also, because the Pointer Sisters actually did a pretty good job with it. (On a related note -- how many of you have actually heard Bruce's version of Blinded By The Light? How many of you even know he, and not someone from Manfred Mann's Earth Band, wrote the song?)

Diana Ross & The Supremes, Someday We'll Be Together: The classic hook and dramatic chord changes are more than adequate compensation for the overwrought strings. This song needs a good cover version.

The Guess Who, No Time: Opens with a cool, vaguely menacing distorted guitar run, then bogs down with a misplaced major key verse and some really sloppy lyrics. Then there's the usual overblown vocal performance from Burton Cummings, hippie rock's answer to Michael Bolton. Oh, wait -- he came first, so I guess he's the question and Bolton's the answer.

Bread, It Don't Matter to Me: When I think of Bread, I usually think of album covers that have pictures of bearded guys who are a little out of focus, as if they're fading out of the picture. The art fits the songs a little too well.

The Miracles, Love Machine: Really, where would this song be without the guy going "Ooooo, yeeeeeeaaahhh" in the chorus? Nowhere, but does it matter?

Gordon Lightfoot, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald: I didn't truly appreciate this song until I came across this analysis of the lyrics and how they described the actual incident. In the much-cited (by me, anyway) book The 50 Worst Rock N' Roll Records of All Time, the authors complain that Rod Stewart's Do Ya Think I'm Sexy (coincidentally, ranked just behind Grand Funk's Loco-Motion) lacks Stewart's usual "attention to detail." Stewart has nothing on Lightfoot, who doesn't waste a word here. Lightfoot also deserves credit for his low-key delivery, letting the words, the slide guitar and the drums tell the story.

The Commodores, Just to Be Close to You: I think DJs play this song at weddings when they want people to clear the dance floor and check out the buffet. Rarely has a more awkward love song been written.

Carly Simon, You're So Vain: I like the way this song still sparks "Who's it about?" speculation so many years after the fact, though I'd cast a pretty strong vote for Warren Beatty. Aside from that, it's deservedly a classic -- pointed yet clever lyrics sung over a powerful piano strut. (Also, I think of the line about going to Saratoga, where "your horse naturally won," every time I hear from someone I know who does indeed spend a lot of time in that vicinity.)

Of Tarantino and Zombie

White Zombie (and, by extension, Rob Zombie) only ever did one worthwhile thing -- recording More Human Than Human. (I emphasize recording because I once saw them do an awful live rendition of it, as if they'd never bothered to learn their own song.)

That may be true of Quentin Tarantino as well. I saw the end of Kill Bill Vol. 2, and no, my opinion didn't improve. But soon after that, I saw the first half hour or so of Pulp Fiction, which I did see back in the days that I left the house and saw movies.

Is Pulp Fiction Tarantino's More Human Than Human -- the only worthwhile thing he'll ever do?

Perhaps. In the studio, White Zombie got the mix just right -- good slashing guitar, pulsing rhythm, strong vocals. And in Pulp Fiction, Tarantino got it right.

The biggest difference between Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill is that you can enjoy the humor without guilt. In Kill Bill, the ending is so disturbing that it made me sick -- at the very least, I'd have to think this kid is going to have a massive therapy bill down the road explaining how she instantly dropped her attachment to the guy who raised her because, of course, the Mommy she just met had to kill him because he had left her for dead all those years ago. (And you think your parents had issues.)

In Pulp Fiction, you don't really have to care about any of these people. It's probably a safe bet that Vincent Vega's funeral was a sparsely attended affair. You can't even feel too sorry for the kid who makes Jules yell, "SAY 'WHAT' AGAIN," even though they're just toying with him. Really, we're making fun of all these people who play silly games with their lives.

And for the record, I think Vincent is right about the foot massage. I'd be a little jealous. Not enough to throw someone out a window, but it would cause some friction.

The principle of Buddhism is not "every man for himself"

(In case you can't place the quote, here you go.)

Harpers has an excerpt from The Christian Paradox, which raises some messy questions about Jesus and the role of government but also sheds light on this "Christian" nation's odd concept of Christianity. His point is hinged mostly on the theological error made by the three-quarters of Americans who believe the Bible teaches that "God helps those who help themselves." But more amusing: 12 percent of us think Noah was married ... to Joan of Arc.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Muppets on SNL

I love The Muppet Show (and so does Baby MMM, who spent the ride home today reciting a list of Muppets and various characteristics about them). I love Saturday Night Live.

Yet I have no memory of the Muppets ever being on Saturday Night Live. And if this sketch is typical, I can see why.

SNL news

I'm not one of those snarky people who dismiss the current state of Saturday Night Live. In college, I knew plenty of kids who tried to claim cool points by proclaiming that SNL hadn't been good since the Belushi-Aykroyd days. Today, the Hartman-Carvey years are considered to be just as good -- I'd argue that they were significantly better because they weren't bogged down by the drug humor -- and the Ferrell-Hammond years were also solid.

I'll admit, though, that the show struggled at times last year. Some people (I'm looking your direction, Horatio Sanz) have clearly overstayed their welcome. Darrell Hammond, who has overtaken Kevin Nealon and Tim Meadows for the longevity record, is the only guy who has the versatility of Ferrell or Hartman. I love the female cast, but I wouldn't have minded if Lorne Michaels had done one of his periodic overhauls.

Didn't happen. Aside little-used featured player Rob Riggle, no one is leaving. Finesse Mitchell and Kenan Thompson have been given long-overdue promotions, and they've added two featured players, one of whom lists a stint on Punk'd on his resume.

I hope Lorne isn't trying to keep the under-21 Fallon swooners by dumbing down this great show. We'll see.

In happier SNL news, it's a girl for Tina Fey.

Things I looked up on Wikipedia today

Laura Branigan

Why: Video appeared on VH1 Classic, and I had this vague memory that she had died.

What I learned: Two Web sites claim to be her official site. But the one to which Wikipedia links appears to be down.

Sanity gained and lost

On Sunday, I gradually gained a handle on things. The massive soul-crushing project I've been doing at work seemed to be relenting. The Katrina recovery effort was making progress. NFL season hit full swing.

Sadly, Monday happened.

Specifically, the following things happened:
  • There's a tropical storm slowly threatening a place I used to live, where a buddy of mine just moved with his family.
  • We hit some home improvement bureaucracy.
  • The power went out in Los Angeles. Terrorists undoubtedly weren't involved, but it was still a little spooky.
  • The koi in the fountain at work apparently died. All of them. Terrorists undoubtedly weren't involved, but it was still a little spooky.
  • Don't follow this link unless you want to cry. Seriously. It has nothing to do with Katrina, but it's just another thing that makes you wonder what anyone could possibly do to deserve so much agony.
  • The project at work got a little messier.
  • Just before a call to straighten out some things on that project, my main contact with the vendor was fired.

I'd like a do-over, please.

Settle the debate

Mrs. MMM and I saw the video for the Fountains of Wayne song Stacy's Mom, the best homage to being in lust with an older woman since ... well, whenever the last one was written. It's not much of a song. The video features a woman cavorting in a bikini while the neighbor kid undergoes a sexual awakening.

Mrs. MMM: "I like this video. It reminds me of Van Halen's Hot for Teacher."

MMM: "I like this video. It reminds me of shopping for cantaloupes."

Toward the end, the video is an homage to Fast Times at Ridgemont High, with the mom (one difference from the Phoebe Cates version is that the bikini top -- what there is of it -- stays on) walking slowly out of a pool while the kid is "caught" in the George Costanza / Judge Reinhold sense.

I made the point that anyone young enough to catch this video doesn't remember Fast Times. Mrs. MMM thinks otherwise, though she concedes that it's not passed down through the generations to the same degree as, say, Animal House.

Any opinions?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More video thoughts

Remember when VH1 was the laid-back, grown-up alternative to MTV?

I'm watching VH1 Classic. They're showing Motorhead. Yes, Motorhead. They even interviewed Lemmy before the video for Ace of Spades.

(Which, by the way, happens to be my ringtone. It's one of my favorite Young Ones moments. Mike says "music!" -- and Motorhead pops up in the living room.)

Before that was one of the more clever videos I've seen in years. Beck pays tribute to Mad magazine's "fold-ins" with a video in which the buildings, sidewalks and various bits of scenery actually fold in. The directors even work in a brief plug for the name Al Jaffee, who created the "fold-in." Neat stuff.

Predictable response to an unpredictable response

You may have heard about the three Duke students who drove to Louisiana, posed as journalists and wound up evacuating people. That's one of the most surprising stories in Katrina's aftermath.

As a Duke grad who spent most of his time at the campus paper, I can tell you the chain of responses that will follow:

1. From a College Republican: "These kids should have more respect for authority."

2. From a College Democrat: "I don't condone these kids passing themselves off as journalists, but their hearts are in the right place."

3. From a "Libertarian": "These kids are stupid. The federal government shouldn't be helping these people -- that's a job for private citizens."

(Stop. Re-read #3. No, I didn't mess up. Now continue.)

4. From a guy who doesn't bathe often: "We should all go to New Orleans and pretend we're National Guard! No, wait, let's all go to Washington and protest! No, wait."

5. From anyone: "Shut up!"

6. From anyone else: "No, you shut up!"

Video question

Do all Sophie Muller videos look exactly the same? Hand-held cameras spinning around people who are moving in slow motion?

Is it Gwen Stefani? Is it Coldplay? Does it matter?

Net losses

Viewers who stayed up late last night were rewarded with a dramatic U.S. Open quarterfinal between Andre Agassi and James Blake.

Unless you happened to be a DirecTV subscriber on the West Coast. Or someone in the rest of the country who didn't realize it was time to flip the switch. Or someone who recorded it.

Note to overpaid TV execs: Tennis and baseball are two sports that can run late. Have a backup plan.

I remember when Agassi was a teen prodigy, and I thought, "Wow, it's really cool that someone my age can play like that." Today, I see his U.S. Open performance and think, "Wow, it's really cool that someone my age can play like that."

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Rubber duckie, bold as love

Conversations you have in the car when you flip between Sesame Street tunes on the iPod and a classic rock station:

"It's ER-nie!"

"No, sweetheart, that's Jimi Hendrix."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Things I looked up on Wikipedia today

Las Vegas

Why: Caught a bit of the great Simpsons episode in which Homer and Ned get married (not to each other), and I got curious about the name.

What I learned: It means "The Meadows."Also, it only has 0.1 square kilometers of water vs. 293.5 square km of land. Also, Jerry Tarkanian's wife is on the city council. Both of those facts would make me nervous.

No fun anymore

Mrs. MMM was watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 today, and it just reminded me that I'm now too big of a wuss to enjoy movies any more. According to most of the reviewers at IMDB, where this effort ranks #90 of all time, this is a joyous romp of suspenseful scenes and film references. I, of course, see a lot of stomach-churning violence and a really disturbed non-nuclear family.

Bottom line is that I just can't cut it as a filmgoer anymore. Was this what Billy Joel was talking about when he wrote Say Goodbye to Hollywood?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Golden age of music?

I really can't complain about the music of my high school and college years, especially after sniffing around in the blogosphere and seeing other bloggers taking the top 100 songs from their graduation years and letting loose a collective wail.

So here goes ... the top 100 of 1987, with the songs I liked in bold, the ones I didn't like in strikethrough and my favorite underlined. I've also put songs I don't remember in italic. Chances are I would've put those in strikethrough but have successfully blocked them from my mind.

1. Walk Like An Egyptian, Bangles -- not sure if I liked the song or had a Susanna Hoffs crush
2. Alone, Heart -- in this case, I'm sure it was just a Nancy Wilson crush and an otherwise forgettable song
3. Shake You Down, Gregory Abbott
4. I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me), Whitney Houston
5. Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now, Starship -- well, something did
6. C'est La Vie, Robbie Nevil
7. Here I Go Again, Whitesnake
8. The Way It Is, Bruce Hornsby and the Range -- the winner in a narrow decision over U2's With or Without You and Springsteen's Brilliant Disguise. Hornsby nails political and social injustice with the righteous resignation of a bluesman and the musical dexterity of a jazzman.
9. Shakedown, Bob Seger -- say what now?
10. Livin' On A Prayer, Bon Jovi
11. La Bamba, Los Lobos
12. Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung -- hey, admit it -- this was a fun song
13. Don't Dream It's Over, Crowded House -- simply a classic pop ballad
14. Always, Atlantic Starr
15. With Or Without You, U2 -- took me a while to warm up to this song, especially since I was in a Rush phase and didn't respect bass lines of four notes repeating endlessly, but I grew to appreciate the masterful slow build in this song
16. Looking For A New Love, Jody Watley
17. Head To Toe, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
18. I Think We're Alone Now, Tiffany
19. Mony Mony, Billy Idol -- I've never understood why Tommy James and the Shondells inspired so many cover versions. That would be like a band in the year 2015 doing Sublime covers.
20. At This Moment, Billy Vera and The Beaters
21. Lady In Red, Chris De Burgh -- actually sounded good at Live8.
22. Didn't We Almost Have It All, Whitney Houston -- not one of her worst
23. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, U2 -- not one of their best
24. I Want Your Sex, George Michael
25. Notorious, Duran Duran -- the slide had started
26. Only In My Dreams, Debbie Gibson
27. (I've Had) The Time Of My Life, Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes
28. The Next Time I Fall, Peter Cetera and Amy Grant
29. Lean On Me, Club Nouveau
30. Open Your Heart, Madonna
31. Lost In Emotion, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam -- borderline, but not atrocious
32. (I Just) Died In Your Arms, Cutting Crew -- atrocious
33. Heart And Soul, T'pau -- borderline
34. You Keep Me Hangin' On, Kim Wilde
35. Keep Your Hands To Yourself, Georgia Satellites -- the forerunner of Hayseed Dixie
36. I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me), Aretha Franklin and George Michael
37. Control, Janet Jackson
38. Somewhere Out There, Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram
39. U Got The Look, Prince

40. Land Of Confusion, Genesis -- yes, Phil Collins sounds like a simpleton when he starts talking politics, but this one rocked a bit and had a classic video
41. Jacob's Ladder, Huey Lewis and The News
42. Who's That Girl, Madonna
43. You Got It All, Jets
44. Touch Me (I Want Your Body), Samantha Fox
45. I Just Can't Stop Loving You, Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett -- what?
46. Causing A Commotion, Madonna
47. In Too Deep, Genesis -- dreary Collins ballad
48. Let's Wait Awhile, Janet Jackson
49. Hip To Be Square, Huey Lewis and the News
50. Will You Still Love Me?, Chicago
51. Little Lies, Fleetwood Mac -- I actually thought this would have been an appropriate final song for them
52. Luka, Suzanne Vega
53. I Heard A Rumour, Bananarama
54. Don't Mean Nothing, Richard Marx
55. Songbird, Kenny G
56. Carrie, Europe
57. Don't Disturb This Groove, System
58. La Isla Bonita, Madonna
59. Bad, Michael Jackson
60. Sign 'O' The Times, Prince
61. Change Of Heart, Cyndi Lauper
62. Come Go With Me, Expose
63. Can't We Try, Dan Hill
64. To Be A Lover, Billy Idol
65. Mandolin Rain, Bruce Hornsby and the Range
66. Breakout, Swing Out Sister -- just a cute pop song
67. Stand By Me, Ben E. King
68. Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, Genesis
69. Someday, Glass Tiger
70. When Smokey Sings, ABC
71. Casanova, Levert
72. Rhythm Is Gonna Get You, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine
73. Rock Steady, Whispers
74. Wanted Dead Or Alive, Bon Jovi -- Bon Jovi got a lot better when he quit taking himself so danged seriously
75. Big Time, Peter Gabriel
76. The Finer Things, Steve Winwood
77. Let Me Be The One, Expose
78. Is This Love, Survivor
79. Diamonds, Herb Alpert
80. Point Of No Return, Expose
81. Big Love, Fleetwood Mac -- Lindsey Buckingham's solo version of this song at their reunion was amazing. Underrated guitarist
82. Midnight Blue, Lou Gramm
83. Something So Strong, Crowded House
84. Heat Of The Night, Bryan Adams
85. Nothing's Gonna Change My Love For You, Glenn Medeiros
86. Brilliant Disguise, Bruce Springsteen -- The Boss at his most perceptive
87. Just To See Her, Smokey Robinson
88. Who Will You Run Too, Heart
89. Respect Yourself, Bruce Willis
90. Cross My Broken Heart, Jets
91. Victory, Kool and The Gang
92. Don't Get Me Wrong, Pretenders -- kind of a placeholder on the Pretenders timeline, but a pleasant pop song from a band that deserved the occasional hit like this
93. Doing It All For My Baby, Huey Lewis and The News
94. Right On Track, Breakfast Club
95. Ballerina Girl, Lionel Richie
96. Meet Me Half Way, Kenny Loggins
97. I've Been In Love Before, Cutting Crew
98. (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right To Party, Beastie Boys
99. Funkytown, Pseudo Echo
100. Love You Down, Ready For The World

Of course, if it were my Top 100 of 1987, it would be all Rush, Husker Du, Yes and R.E.M., but I wasn't given that option. Still, the folks who came along after rock died (roughly the same day Kurt Cobain died -- not that rock revolved around Nirvana, but it just deflated everyone) had it much worse.

Reviewing the reviewers

I picked up a Blender magazine in the airport last weekend, and I managed to pick my way through most of it over the week. It has a few entertaining reads, but it also combines the worst aspects of classic Rolling Stone and today's media climate. It's sex, drugs and snark, with maybe some rock and roll on the side.

If I had time for such things (or some cool data-analysis software), I'd look up the number of times the word "laid" appears in this issue. Sample contexts:

- "Who gets laid more, fans of The Simpsons or fans of Family Guy?"

- "If I listen to The Killers, can I still get laid?"

- "How often do the members of The Killers get laid?"

- "How will Fred Durst's frequency of getting laid affect his life expectancy?"

- "Laid blah blah laid blah blah blah groupies blah blah laid."

There's a key difference in the sex-and-music cultures of the 1960s/1970s and today. The 60s and 70s had a Love The One You're With vibe -- perhaps it was a little self-indulgent, but the idea was to let everyone have a good time. Blender adds unappealing snark to the mix -- if you're not getting laid, you're obviously a loser. Except that we're also supposed to hate those who are getting laid who don't deserve it.

The sexual entitlement turns nasty in the reviews. They rip the Indigo Girls -- "For nearly two decades, the tireless, humorless Georgia duo ..." Seems obvious what the problem is here. As lesbians, the Indigos contribute nothing to the essential quest of men getting laid.

(For more on sex-crazed men and lesbians, try to catch the rerun of the Joshua Jackson Saturday Night Live episode in which some frat guys make a wish to see some hot lesbian action, only to see Ana Gasteyer and someone else calling each other "earth mother" and engaging in stuff that you wouldn't see in hetero-oriented porn. Sadly, there's no transcript.)

Happy farewell to the week

Yes, it's fair to say that the lack of blogging this week means that I had a rough week at work. An endless, difficult, soul-crushing week in which everything went wrong and another setback waited around every corner.

And I took absolutely no comfort in knowing that people elsewhere had it much worse than I. The week's news was an endless list of horrors that I never thought I would see in this country, many of them especially terrifying to those of us who are parents, and it was impossible to ignore.

Unless you happen to be the president, of course.

No, no, I'm not going on a political rant here. But I have to say that this is a week that proves we should all pay a little bit of attention to my fellow journalists. You can't dismiss them as political ideologues -- most journalists actually aren't, and in a week like this, the people reporting from the disaster zones know no party. They're just reporting the news. (Any anecdotal evidence of a couple of shrieking pundits who are doing otherwise will be purged from the comments with an admonishment to read the Times-Picayune's site.)

We have a president now who selects his media, both as a newsmaker and a news consumer. This week shows the danger of such an approach. If you cut yourself off from the other 49 percent of the country, you miss things. Lesson for us all.

As a former coastal resident, I've followed hurricanes for a long time. It's not supposed to be like this. You monitor the storm, get people evacuated, watch it blow through, marvel and mourn at the damage the next day and start rebuilding. You don't watch conditions deteriorate into a cesspool of the most literal sense. (That's why, with all due respect and sympathy for those who have suffered along the Gulf Coast, what has happened in New Orleans from Tuesday onward is simply a bigger news story -- this simply isn't supposed to happen.)

And in the words of Forrest Gump (film happened to be on), that's all I have to say about that.

So it's just as well that MMM was idle this week. All I could've done was the blogging equivalent of crying or screaming, and there's plenty of that in the blogosphere.

On a personal level, Gump was a fitting farewell to the week of sorts. When I first saw it, I enjoyed it but found that it made me miserable. I felt like an idiot myself in those days for a number of reasons. Basically, I hadn't figured out how to live as a college graduate. Dating prospects were nonexistent, and I was heading for a career dead end.

Today, it's a little different but still sad. Any film in which a young wife and mother dies is going to cause me grief. I also feel sad at the end, seeing Forrest sitting for what might well be an all-day sit, staying in a house haunted by memories of his departed loved ones. We're meant to think that he's happy, but is he? It's hard to put ourselves in his shoes -- those of us with IQs above 75 would be bored silly sitting around and waiting for the bus to come back eight hours later.

Anyway, I write to bury the week that was. Today was great. We had a birthday party for the little boy on a gorgeous day. I was worried that the party was going to go horribly wrong -- I even woke up in the middle of the night freaked out about it. We weren't able to reserve a picnic shelter at the local park, so we were doing the rough equivalent of flying standby. I had pictures in my head of trying to set up on an embankment while mosquitos buzzed around us. None of that happened. All the kids had a lot of fun and gave us plenty of nice photo ops.

So with that, let's get back to the music.