Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Song of the day: Bob Dylan

This will be a new feature, not necessarily daily. Just getting back to what I wanted to do most on this blog -- talk about great music. The links will go to Rhapsody, where you can usually get one free listen.

Most Of The Time by Bob Dylan

(In this case, you can get lyrics and a free listen at I guess his catalog is a little too deep for a four-song burst at MySpace.)

I'm no Dylan historian, but I know enough to know that 1989's Oh Mercy stands out among his post-70s output. He rambled about the recording process in his recent autobiography, so it apparently meant something special to him as well. It's one of many fine Daniel Lanois productions, unfathomable Stephen Thomas Erlewine objections notwithstanding. (Seriously, Stephen, did you forget how important The Joshua Tree really was ... and is? Listened to Emmylou Harris' Wrecking Ball lately? Lanois wasn't some trendoid, flavor-of-the-decade producer.)

Back to the song at hand -- Erlewine's AllMusic cohort Thomas Ward does it justice: "Most of the Time is a hugely affecting, emotional song which displays all the hallmarks of Dylan's genius of understatement and subtlety."

The concept is the blues standard of suffering with dignity. With a gruff vocal that's equal parts resolute and resigned, Dylan describes an ex-lover -- perhaps recent, perhaps long-ago -- and insists in various ways that he's over her ... most of the time.

It's a typically sparse Lanois production. The bass line chimes in with a melodic counterpoint, then fades into the mix. An electric guitar noodles some country-blues leads over soft acoustic guitar. Chord changes come from nowhere, shifting so subtly that I can't even name the instrument that sounds the change. It's almost as if the mood changes, not the chord.

Together, it's almost as if Dylan is winking at you as he sings. "Shhh, don't tell anyone about this. But yeah, I still think about her."

I can smile in the face of mankind.
Don't even remember what her lips felt like on mine

Sure he does. And it's not necessarily a bad memory. Maybe bittersweet. Maybe wistful.

Bottom line -- it's a memory, one that's fading fast in Dylan's rear view on a long, long road.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Song for a sad day

The NCAA Tournament is bloody unfair when you get right down to it. On the men's side, my team has had some good luck (especially my senior year) and bad luck. On the women's side ... geez.

I can't actually talk about it. So instead, I'm offering a video full of humorously overstated melancholy.

If anything is getting you down today, this will help. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Reasons why I'm becoming less and less enamored of the Web

1. Less information-sharing, more shouting at each other. That's the big one. I could and probably should write a book on the subject. But I'd have to call it something like "A$$holes: How Special Interests Are Hijacking Your Freedom" to get anyone to read it.

2. When I do a Technorati search on my work blog, I get a bunch of automated aggregators pulling in anything that mentions a keyword -- soccer, Andy Roddick, HGH, etc. I think I'll work in the word "nudity" tomorrow just to see what happens. (Because I mention a lot of Olympic athletes, I do get the occasional search for "gretchen bleiler nude" and so forth.)

If you go by sheer readership, I write a very successful blog, but I get far less feedback on it and have far less impact than I did when I was scratching out a column for a mid-sized paper almost 15 years ago.

3. The waves of the future are (A) blogs that harness all the shouting and (B) multimedia projects that will undoubtedly win all sorts of awards but tell me nothing and give me no narrative cues.

If you could go back in time and tell the 14-year-old computer geek I once was that the future would revolve around a giant information-sharing network in which skill with words and programming would be highly valued, I would have been thrilled. "Geek" as a compliment? That'll be great!

I'm venting a little here, but the optimist in me has a question. What can we do to reclaim the Web? Should we just hang out in outposts of sanity like the music blogs I'm frequenting more and more these days? Or do we need some sort of grass-roots movement to change the whole bloody thing?

Live-blogging VH1 Classic, revisited

Another morning with the TV ...

Blondie, Call Me -- Looks like one of those "videos" compiled from various bits of home movies years after the fact for purposes of fleshing out a DVD release. It's basically a love letter to Debbie Harry. She's on stage, she's walking around New York, she's goofing off at a photo shoot, she's at the beach. Even those of us who grew up with a crush on her (in other words, all men between age 34 and 80) might find it a little tedious. And it cuts off just as Jimmy Destri is getting into the synth solo. Poor Jimmy. I remember seeing a live Blondie video in which his keyboards had some sort of sound problem, cutting off the first few seconds of the solo while he looked perplexed.

John Fogerty, The Old Man Down the Road -- To fully appreciate this video, you have to remember the air of mystery around Fogerty at this time. He had been hiding out from the public for years. So a video in which he makes brief, curious appearances was perfect. Great concept, too -- a guitar cord snakes for miles through a bunch of incongruous scenes. There's a man on a dilapidated porch, then a jaded woman in a limo, then a married couple dancing on a lonely road. Good stuff, though tech geeks will wonder if they at least gave Fogerty a monitor. He's miles away from his amp, for crying out loud.

Phil Collins, You Can't Hurry Love -- One of those early Collins videos in which the "concept" is that he is both the lead singer and two backup singers. To avoid distraction, the director puts nothing else in any frame. We think that's what Phil would've wanted.

Romantics, What I Like About You -- Four guys playing on stage, likely unaware that they were recording a rock standard. The drummer/singer flirts with the camera, oblivious to the fact that he's not exactly a good-looking guy. And his technique is unconventional, to say the least. Left hand on the hi-hat, right arm pinched against his body as he barely clears the rim on the snare. Charming stuff.

Ashford and Simpson, Solid -- Strange song. Unforgettable pop hook, dropped into an odd key-shifting morass of synths and drum machines like a piece of filet mignon dropped into a Hardee's cheeseburger. The video features the two of them singing uncomfortably toward each other.

A "plot" floats in and out. Oh, she's scared? She's looking around at the approaching gang of toughs. Oh no! But he's reassuring her. And here they come -- oh, they're the backup singers! What a relief.

Patti LaBelle, New Attitude --The director clearly didn't know how to deal with the way LaBelle's hair filled the whole frame. So it's LaBelle's hair, cut to dancers, cut back to the hair, back to the dancers. Hair, dancers, hair, dancers, fingernails. Thank goodness for the fingernails. Without them, the video might have been boring or something.

Peter Gabriel, Superstition ... er ... Sledgehammer -- Such an original video for such an unoriginal song.

Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush, Don't Give Up -- The entire video is a hug between the two singers, with one of those fake "sun" backdrops so common in the '80s. It's a sweet song, though I was never all that enamored with the complex rhythms of the verses.

Roger Waters, Hello (I Love You) -- Waters has apparently done a spinoff of Is There Anybody in There? for a new film called The Last Mimzy. VH1 Classic just happened to have an ad for that film, which appears to be about a couple of kids getting telekinetic, interdimensional power of some kind. Seemed like fun, but then add Waters wailing like he's recording a sequel to The Wall, and I don't know what to think. IMDB says the kids are going to a "strange and sometimes terrifying world," but with Rainn Wilson in the cast, could it be that terrifying? The video had a few clips from the movie and a couple of the kids in the studio with Waters while he goes over the orchestral score and lays down the tracks. Wikipedia has a quote from Waters -- something about the clash of man's best and worst instincts and a child's innocence winning the day. It's no wonder our kids are under such pressure these days -- all our films demand that they save the world with their innocence. That has to get tedious.

(Interesting ad for Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades -- separately of Styx and Night Rangers but together of Damn Yankees -- doing an acoustic tour and singing Yes' I've Seen All Good People.)

Then we shift into "Classic/Current," in which they pair old and new videos by the same artist.

U2, One -- The least interesting of the videos for this song -- the one with Bono sitting with a drink while dull scenes unfold elsewhere. My favorite was the running buffalo, which was a beautiful image of fragile but enduring life.

U2, Window in the Skies -- Gotta have a montage! This one splices together footage of a bunch of Hall of Famers performing. A lot of Elvis, a bit of Beatles, some Stevie, the Ramones, Nirvana.

Filter, Hey Man Nice Shot --
Might not hear it much on the radio these days, but this is one of those songs that'll stick in your brain for a while. The brooding synth-bass verses give way to a classic-rock guitar cascade in a screaming chorus. And it's a memorable topic for a rock song -- the press-conference suicide of a scandal-plagued politician. Lyrically, the semi-ironic detachment doesn't seem to work these days, but it's still powerful musically.

Army of Anyone, Goodbye -- I didn't think Filter was still around, and this is indeed frontman Richard Patrick's new project with a couple of former Stone Temple Pilots. It sounds ... exactly like an STP song with Richard Patrick singing instead of Weiland. It's riff-driven rock with a change in tone for the chorus, almost the opposite of Nirvana's typical "soft verse, loud chorus" approach. The video is mostly a performance clip, particularly when drummer Ray Luzier cuts loose at the end. This could be put to effective use in a dramatic TV or movie scene, but I can't imagine putting it in heavy rotation on the iPod.

Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, Folsom Prison Blues -- Classic tune, but I can't hear this without thinking of Krusty the Klown singing, "I'm just visiting Springfield Prison, I get to sleep at home toniiiiiight." Willie plays a little acoustic solo.

Johnny Cash, God's Gonna Cut You Down -- Obviously, "Classic/Current" stretches the definition of "current."

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Give It Away -- I wish they'd follow this with the Weird Al parody instead of some dreary, de-funked meditation on California. Oh well. I'll just bob my head to this one for a bit and then get to work.

Good morning to all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The British are smarter than you are

Funny -- this BBC story about Americans' fascination with the English accent (or Scottish, or Welsh, or Aussie, etc.) makes no mention of Hugh Laurie and Eddie Izzard speaking 'Merican in their U.S. shows.

Ant and Dec are getting an ABC pilot? Hmmmm. Is there anyone equally inane we can send them in exchange?

South Park review


Matt? Trey? WTF?

I've missed the first two episodes this season. Were they any better? Or have they just given up the ghost?


Conversation I had today with someone who realized he was surrounded by five journalists ...

HIM: Well, I guess I shouldn't be discussing politics with any of you?

ME: Why?

HIM: I'm sure it'd be 5-on-1.

ME: Actually, journalists are more politically diverse than you might think. Many of us are apathetic. And many of us just cynical toward everyone regardless of party.

HIM: Aren't you all from New York?

I said something about Missouri and North Carolina having journalism schools, but my head was spinning too quickly to remember exactly how the conversation went from there.

(I'm from Georgia, in case you're curious. I'm not sure I even know any journalists from New York.)

I then shared this conversation with Mrs. MMM.

HER: Is he a politician?

ME: No, he's a tech guy.

HER: Aren't they all virgins?

I love her.

Friday Night Lights: It's back

The last couple of episodes weren't the best, though they weren't bad. Tonight's episode description sounded awful.

Tonight's episode was touching, funny, surprising and utterly freaking beautiful.

If you're not watching Friday Night Lights after all these months of critical raves, it's your loss. Sorry.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Let's join the movement ...

... to rid the Web of the overused, outdated, lazy-crutch of an insult: "... on crack."

As in "He runs like Jesse Owens on crack!" Or the more pejorative "Are you on crack?" That's sometimes cleverly disguised as "You must be on crack" or "Put down the crack pipe."

I know I'm turning into an old fart before I'm 40, but I happen to be right about this. Right?

Why can't anyone think?

A co-worker who shall remain nameless, musing on the lack of reason in many a Web discussion, points to an engineer's blog post on logic and why most fellow humans don't use it.

The answers aren't bad. Any one could be fuel for a dissertation by some grad student. But I think two of the many good quotes sprinkled through the post come closer to the answer:

1. Steven Pinker: "One reason [why people often don't do so well at logic] is that logical words in everyday languages like English are ambiguous, often denoting several formal logical concepts. "

I love the Sting lyric "the gray sky, she angered to black" in The Wild Wild Sea. It's beautiful imagery. But it's totally illogical. The sky isn't a "she," it's incapable of feeling anger, and no one angers to anything. (If you see a co-worker angering to black, please call 911.) You have to deconstruct the lyric before you can discuss it logically, and what's the point in that?

2. William James: "A great many people think they're thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices."

That's brilliant. And it explains much of what I see on the Web. People aren't processing new bits of information to arrive at a conclusion. They're processing that information on a superficial level, then fitting it into an ideology.

It's tough to communicate with these people because they don't see the problem.

Example: The Washington Post ran a kind obit on one of its own, the sports editor for, portraying him as a sort of eccentric intellectual. Now read what some sort of media watchdog blogger wrote about it: "Looking at his picture and reading the obit we thought, this was a pretty good guy. We only wish there were more pretty good guys at places like the WaPost, which might prevent some pretty bad intentions."

Notice the assumption. This guy must be the exception. Not the rule. You can read down the left-hand column of the blog and see that we're dealing with someone who has some deeply ingrained impressions of journalists, perhaps extrapolating that we're all exactly as Dan Rather was for the last two decades of his career.

I can tell you that in 16 years in journalism, the eccentric intellectual is the most common personality type I've encountered. No. 2: The cynical blowhard. No. 3: The bureaucrat.

So what we have here is a false assumption. I think the reason that assumption is made -- as is often the case on the Web -- is that the blogger is an idealogue who doesn't realize that other people may not be idealogues. I could be countering a false assumption with another false assumption, but ... nah, you know I'm not, to paraphrase Don Henley.

The original post itself is precise and logical, as any good post on logic should be. He draws limits on logic, saying it's more important to understand what's logical and what isn't than to scribble some Boolean statements for every decision in life. ("Hmmmm, carnitas or barbacoa ....")

And yet the grammar and English-usage pedant in me trips over the line "That statement can be a bit confusion." Not that I can talk -- I almost titled this post "Why can't anyone thing?"

Monday, March 12, 2007

Concert review: Blue Man Group


OK, I'll elaborate.

I had a vague idea of what to expect from this show. I've become a Blue Man fan in unusual fashion -- through the music. My Launch player kicked up most of The Complex, and I've since downloaded a few of the songs that make sense outside the broader context of the show. I knew they were funny, and a couple of videos from their podcast had prepared me for the "Rock Concert Instruction Manual" that ties their gags together.

What I didn't expect was that the show was also moving and occasionally intense, not just because six percussionists (three Blue, three not) were often flailing away. They hint at themes of alienation throughout the show and bring it to a crescendo in the moody titletrack to The Complex, accompanied by an animated video of a desperate office drone that Mrs. MMM compared, quite rightly, to The Wall. It sounds silly, but for a couple of minutes, you're riveted with concern over the fate of an animated guy running down endless hallways, looking for some escape from the rat race that he now realizes has crushed his dreams outside the office.

But unlike Pink Floyd under Roger Waters' bassbeat, the Blue Men have the right mix. They're not wailing. They're expressing desperation, but they're also expressing sympathy for others who are desperate. When the man gets out of the office, he seems at first to be alone. The virtual camera pans out and finds others who have found the escape hatch.

Wikipedia generally isn't the first place I'd check for figuring out deeper meaning in art, but someone has made the effort on The Complex: "The Complex takes place in two separate worlds, a world of rock as in the song "Time to Start", and the urban isolation world, as in the songs "Sing Along", "The Current", and "The Complex". Both worlds are then tied together in the song "What Is Rock", which combines the ideals of the rock concert with the ideals of urban isolation." (The Blue Men also offer a track-by-track take.) All of this makes much more sense in the live show, which both parodies a rock show and celebrates its ability to bring people out of their shells.

None of which would work if the band itself weren't so danged good.

I was slightly disappointed to see the Group without Tracy Bonham, who made a small splash as a solo artist about 10-12 years ago and sings on a couple of Complex songs. She had been touring with them but apparently needed a break, as she explains on her amiable blog. I've already gushed over her vocal on Up to the Roof, which I think would be difficult to replicate. Fortunately, they've unearthed a good young vocalist in Adrian Hartley, who sounds uncannily like Bonham early in the song but personalizes it without sounding like some American Idol singer trying to impress Simon.

(If you hear that anyone on AI is attempting a Blue Man Group song, please let me know. If I had any kind of voice, I'd do it just to piss off Simon.)

In any case, Bonham's absence was a mixed blessing. In addition to her vocals and violin duty for the Group, she was opening shows. I would've liked to have seen that, while Mrs. MMM would have raced for the hills upon hearing Mother, Mother. Instead, we got some sort of multimedia DJ named Mike Relm, who looked a little like Fred Armisen (*- footnote) but seemed more pleased with himself.

We missed half of Relm's performance, though, because we were stuck in a massive traffic jam outside the university. Which leads to a final comforting thought.

Heading into the show, I had no idea just how popular Blue Man Group had become. Sure, they were in the Pentium ads, and they get the nod-and-wink cultural shoutouts from The Simpsons and Arrested Development, plus a residency in Vegas. (Conveniently close to one of this blog's most loyal readers, who is probably shaking his head, saying "Dude, I've known about these guys for YEARS!")

The traffic jam wasn't just poor planning on George Mason's part. The place was packed. We had a good view of the backs of Mason's basketball banners. (The Final Four banner from last year was a few sections over.) Thousands of people were in the Patriot Center, all jumping, yelling, waving arms and head-bobbing along with a multimedia extravaganza about, in part, alienation.

And that made me feel a little less alienated.

(* -- Armisen appeared in some of the video footage of the "Rock Concert Instruction Manual." Between that and his live appearance in Aimee Mann's vaudeville show, I've seen him in the last two concerts I've attended. Armisen is everywhere.)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Another blow for any potential belief in karma

First, check Boston's Web site. (The band, not the city.) As of this writing, it's one sentence.

Then check the news story.

Brad Delp, one of the best voices of rock, is gone. At age 55.

(This is the first thing I've ever read on the blog Kurt's Krap. That bodes ill, but I won't blame the messenger.)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Two of the 300 reasons I won't be seeing '300'

I made a rare trip to the theater over the weekend. How rare? I can't recall seeing a film on the big screen since Phantom Menace. So that's, what, almost eight years?

(It was Reno 911: Miami, by the way, and I'd give it a B+. But that's not the point here.)

One reason I don't go to theaters -- I don't like being imprisoned in a dark room having my senses assaulted by ads for freaking horror movies, brainless action flicks and whatever else Hollywood has cooked up. I liked one preview -- Knocked Up, from the people who brought you the lamentably short-lived TV show Undeclared.

One preview I saw was for 300. It's based on a "graphic novel," which is already a sign that this is going to be poor entertainment. And the preview makes it quite clear that the film is indeed quite "graphic."

Film critics haven't seemed to notice that movie violence has gone off the scale. If you check in with the big screen every few years, it's like visiting another planet. It's sick, in every sense of the word.

When Mrs. MMM had Starship Troopers on TV a couple of years ago, I could watch only a few minutes before feeling physically ill. For historical comparison, I found The Towering Inferno disturbing, but not nauseating.

300 is stylized violence to such a ludicrous degree that I found myself laughing rather than nauseous. One scene had a few men emoting in front of a CGI-created stack of bodies roughly eight feet high and many feet wide. I found myself wondering how a small band of warriors, recovering from a battle of epic mortality, could find the strength to stack so many bodies so neatly.

I know it's going to be a huge hit, and that's just going to make me feel even more like a tight-assed old fart. So be it. But I was happy to see Slate's reviewer shred this thing like a jazz critic taking down Kenny G. The notion that the 300 are heroic defenders of freedom is ripped open and shown to be completely hollow -- the Spartans of this film kill anyone who doesn't fit their conceptions of a perfect society. The homophobic aspects remind me of Braveheart, a film I happened to see start to finish and truly despise.

Slate's Dana Stevens isn't out on a limb here. The reviews are mixed, and some of the thumbs-down are hysterical. Many agree that making a movie look like a video game is not an artistic triumph. But my favorite is probably "Ode to a Grecian Ab." Well played, Michael Phillips (Chicago Tribune).

So if you must see 300, please do me a favor. Root for the Persians.

Taking sides

I'll start with the usual disclaimer here that I'm not speaking for my employer or anyone I work with. In fact, most people who work in journalism rarely think about the issues raised here. They're too busy doing their jobs. And few of the self-appointed media watchdogs get that. The ones that do generally don't admit it. Bad for business if you tell your readers that the news organization they're being told to despite isn't a monolith.

This story combines -- perhaps confuses -- a couple of archetypes in today's journalism. Call them The Crusader and The Pundit.

The Crusaders in the story: NBC's Ann Curry (frequent reports on Darfur), Fox's Douglas Kennedy (dangers of ADD drugs), ABC's Diane Sawyer (profiles of poverty).

The Pundits: CNN's Lou Dobbs ("they took our jobs!"), Fox's Bill O'Reilly ("I hate left-wing scum!"), MSNBC's Keith Olbermann ("I hate right-wing scum!").

They're lumped together here, but I see them as distinct as the news and op-ed wings of a newspaper. (A visiting blogger told us yesterday how he learned of the divide between those two wings at The New York Times, and the gap in thinking at The Wall Street Journal is frequently on display.)

The Crusaders are simply doing what good journalists do. They're exploring the world, raising questions and finding exceptional things. I haven't seen the reports to judge whether they're fair, but there's no reason they can't be. Going to Darfur with a camera isn't a political statement, and if we define it as such, there's no hope for this business.

The Pundits are what they are. They're a byproduct of cable television's need to fill 24 hours of programming with something, and the easiest filler is an angry man yelling at the camera.

Naturally, whenever anything like this is raised, it's seen as an indictment of journalism as a whole.

So how would I, as a low-paid drone in the media machine, defend my profession in the wake of reports such as these?

I've already defended the Crusaders. If your beliefs are threatened by the revelation of atrocities in Darfur or the acknowledgement of poverty in America, that's your problem.

The Pundits? It's not my job to defend them. Because I'm not watching them.

The people who should answer for the Pundits? The people watching them and buying their books.

To the 90 percent of us just trying to make an honest living here, watching our entire profession derided because of the Pundits is a bit like snarking on Carbon Leaf and Guster because you hate Fergie and Fall Out Boy.

Live-blogging VH1 Classic

This should be fun -- a little bit of time in the wayback machine.

Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, Say Say Say -- one of those classic '80s videos in which the director's concept for a three-minute dramatic comedy has absolutely nothing to do with the song. "Mac and Jack," as they're called here, are good-hearted flim-flam men operating in 19th century America, conning people into buying some sort of strength tonic. That seems unnecessary, because they're apparently quite good at vaudeville as well. The latter seems believable -- at least, as long as you haven't heard those audio clips of Linda McCartney's musical talents and are willing to remember that Jackson was, at one time, a viable ladies' man. Seriously. The song is about ... I have no idea. It's the sort of trivial love song (not silly, but trivial) that had Mac's critics sharpening their knives during this era.

Toni Basil, Mickey -- Typical New York performance art, making a video about cheerleaders look pretentious.

Kenny Loggins, Danger Zone -- Oh, I may need to bail out like Anthony Edwards should have. I don't mean bailing out of the plane and surviving the crash so that Tom Cruise can attempt to emote. I mean he should've bailed out of this film. I know -- you may like Top Gun, but deep down, you know it's dreck. And like Say Say Say, it seems a little creepier in hindsight knowing what you now know about the people involved. As for this song -- you have to love the way we all thought those synth riffs were so bad-ass.

Elton John, I'm Still Standing -- File this under "videos you watched nervously if your parents were in the room." They didn't know Elton was barely standing while this was being filmed, but the hand tapping on the woman's bikini-clad bottom and the not-so-subtle choreography ("OK, men? I want you all to lift your butts in the air, then thrust down. And girls? When they're done, do an ab crunch and smile for the camera. Very pretty now, OK? Take 3 ...") weren't suitable for mixed-generation viewing.

Stray Cats, Stray Cat Strut -- I'll never get over the way Slim Jim Phantom thought he so cool because he refused to buy a real drum set. But you had to love the "feline Casanova" line. And the reason this band worked was simple -- Brian Setzer could play.

Human League, Keep Feeling Fascination -- "Hey Phil?"

"Yes Nigel?"

"We're going to put you and the band in a plain white room."

"Any other visuals?"

"Nope, just panning and cutting from band member to band member as you all sing and play riffs. Can you make sure the girls do that Belinda Carlisle dance throughout?"

"No problem there, but shouldn't we have something else in this video?"

"All right, all right. We'll paint the building and the surrounding area red, like it's the red dot on a 'You Are Here' map."

"Cool. So we'll need a crane and a helicopter."

"Right. Money well spent."

(Believe it or not, I think this is an underrated band. And I thought the dark-haired one was really cute.)

After the Fire, Der Kommissar -- Is the point of this video supposed to be that all these people are enjoying one last party until the Kommissar shows up? What's the point of running the video backwards, as if the woman is taking off her makeup with some sort of magic reverse applicator? Why does VH1 Classic call this band "After 7"? Why didn't Falco do the English version of his own song? Why does Wikipedia claim these guys are a Christian band? How did these guys have the lack of foresight to muddle through some poorly received prog-rock, only to break up before this song hit the charts? No idea, but the tarantula and the makeup lady gave MTV two of its early iconic images.

Thompson Twins, Doctor Doctor -- Any video with some tympani playing is OK by me, though I'd quibble with her form. (Not as much as I would with Jimmy Chamberlin's in that Smashing Pumpkin video in which he is playing with one stick in the middle and one to the side. If you actually do that on tympani, it's like playing two different instruments. I say this fully aware of the fact that Chamberlin is one of the all-time great drummers.) This is one of the Twins' most interesting songs, with riff fragments and percussion all bouncing off each other to form the sort of dramatic backdrop Depeche Mode never quite managed. And you rarely see
closeups of keyboard playing any more.

(VH1 Classic now switches to "Rock Fest." I'll do a few more.)

Rolling Stones, It's Only Rock and Roll -- Why are these guys all in sailor suits? Where are they supposed to be? Why does this video end with the band being consumed by bubbles? (News flash: "Tragedy struck the music world today, as all five Rolling Stones perished in a root beer accident.")

Cream, White Room (live at Royal Albert Hall, 2005) -- It's a straight live video. Funny thing -- years ago, MTV used to play another version of this song from the same venue, one that stuck in my head so firmly that I downloaded it years later when they invented iTunes. Frankly, that version is better. It's Clapton solo, with Greg Phillinganes on subtle keyboards, Nathan East nimbly expanding the bass line and Steve Ferrone just laying the sheer smack down on drums. Clapton sings the verses, and Phillinganes takes over the falsetto chorus.

I've never bought into the Ginger Baker cult, so Cream is already one step behind here. Jack Bruce is pretty good on the fretless bass, so that's a wash. The sad thing is that Clapton himself is restrained. His solo starts strong ... then just stops.

Aerosmith, Toys in the Attic -- As long as I'm committing rock and roll heresy by touting Steve Ferrone over Ginger Baker, I'll say this -- R.E.M.'s version of this song is better. Especially when compared to this live version in which every band member but the stalwart Tom Hamilton (get well soon, buddy) looks like he's about to pass out.

(I'll wait through some ads to make it an even dozen. Not to be confused with EBN OZN, whose take on relationships I am still deconstructing after all these years. The point seems to be that we shouldn't take clear communication for granted, but all I'm seeing is a guy whining that a woman -- far out of his league, if you've seen the video -- didn't give it up on the first "date.")

Queen, The Show Must Go On -- I'll skip this, actually, since I'm not sure when the video was shot and whether it's meant as a farewell to Freddie. It certainly seems that way.

Stevie Nicks, Talk to Me -- On "Rock Fest"? It's from the album Rock a Little, which I'm pretty sure the great Musician critic J.D. "SHT" Considine panned with the three words "Rocks very little." It's been said many times before that Fleetwood Mac were far more than the sum of their parts, that the creative and romantic tension spurred great songwriting, that Lindsey Buckingham's greatest strength was adding an edge to Nicks' and Christine McVie's works, etc. I think Nicks did some OK solo work, but this one ... yeesh, I'm not I'm even watching this.

(I can't close on that one. Let's try one more.)

The Who, Pinball Wizard -- It's live from the Isle of Wight, using all the dramatic camera angles that directors were trying in the '70s to add some visual appeal. Here's a side view of Pete Townshend swaying back and forth. Here's Keith Moon silhouetted against a spotlight. John Entwistle is surely there somewhere in that odd pose he always struck, bass way up against his chest, but I don't think he was in a single frame.

That's a good place to stop because it reminds of a topic I'll be tackling soon. Proposed: Tommy does not stand the test of time. The story is too weak, and it forces some of the clumsiest lyrics Townshend ever wrote. Yes, the riffs are there. But they would still be there when Townshend rediscovered his lyricist chops on their actual masterwork -- Who's Next.

It's too bad I stopped there, because three videos later, we have the odd mix of voyeurism and Andy Warhol that is The Cars' Hello Again.)

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tied in a Seussian knot

In One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish, Dr. Seuss asks a question that traps any father who happens to be reading it to his kid(s):
Some are sad. And some are glad.
And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?
I do not know. Go ask your dad.
With that, I undid much of MMM Jr.'s progress in mastering pronouns.

Fun with page counters

I've been using Google Analytics to track page views for a week or so now (unfortunately, a quiet week, so I didn't have a lot of new posts to entice or reward page views). What I've learned is that I have a startling high West Coast readership. I knew I had a couple of readers in Oregon and Nevada, along with the occasional random international visitor ("Hyderabad, hello!"), but I'm surprised to several different California municipalities that have checked in.

So who are you? Introduce yourselves if you have a chance.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

What I've been doing all week

See what the employer looks like today. It has some spillover effect to my main hangout, but beyond that, we've been in "all hands on deck" mode all week.

That, and the fact that the little one just refuses to sleep for long periods of time.