Thursday, August 31, 2006

Enough already

I've had it.

In the days before the Hive was running, I was living a few towns over, submitting to the indignities of boarding house life in order to pay down old debts. The landlord was entirely disinterested in his obligations to the tenants. This became a huge problem once Crazy Guy came to stay.

When I first mentioned Crazy Guy to my friends, they laughed, taking some of my stories for comic exagerration. He could consume prodigious amounts of food and drink, and under their influence became moody and irrational. He was also 350 pounds, which made crossing him a hazardous proposition. So when he ate our food as well as his own, I broke out the old dorm cube (still good!) and set up there, and converted a bookshelf or two into a mini-pantry.

Things got worse, however, and reached the point where I finally had to call the cops on him. (The upstairs guys just loved coming home to see the bubbletops in our driveway.) So began a bizarre saga of drunken and erratic behavior, punctuated by sudden bouts of remorse from Crazy Guy - which were, if anything, worse. He would get overhelpful. For example, since he'd eaten all our stuff, he'd make up for it by cooking us all of his - all at once. "Here, guys, I made fourteen entrees for you, come on and help yourself!" This was after we'd all eaten at the diner after work because we didn't have any food at home. (My friends were no longer laughing at this point.)

The big blowout was a near-assault on one of the upstairs guys, followed by my coming home after a late hockey game to discover my room broken into and tons of stuff emptied out, seemingly with no further plan than to sort it out later. CD's, computer supplies (but not the computer, thankfully), even my clothes, as if C.G. had a prayer of fitting into any of my shirts). Worst, he took three blank checks, requiring me to switch banks.

Though I got most of the stuff back, it was the last straw. I left. Understand that I was and still remain a normal, working-class bug. I like meals with friends, sports (and especially the Lord's Own hockey), a good movie, and long loud conversations - but I'm more at home with a book, or a blog, or a chess game. I write, and to do that well, I prefer a certain lack of distractions. When I go on vacation I don't go to see five attractions, three shows, and a guided tour. In psych terms I'm an introvert, recharging my mental batteries in private as compared to an extrovert, who feeds off crowds and fun and the-more-the-merrier. I do well enough at that, but it empties me out.

So, for my next situation I took time to find a spot that would afford me some quiet, and the landlord at my current place assured me that this was the case; he lived on the first floor himself so none of that went on here. But now, I rather long for the days when I never clapped eyes on the landlord.

This, apparently, is what two years of "none of that" looks like:

> my food's been eaten, once by another tenant (again) and once by a guest of the landlord;
> the LL has kicked out three other tenants, twice in scenes that can only be called disgraceful;
> he's currently in the process of quarelling with a fourth tenant;
> the police have made three visits to the building;
> I've been nickel-and-dimed over household chores, storage space, and every last erg and drop of water I consume.

Case in point - even though we pay utilities separately, he won't run the heat all the time because he doesn't like to pay even his share of it, so it's two-hour cycles maximum. And, since I can't do that during the night, the heat stays off. Folks, my room regularly dipped below 50 degrees by morning in winter, until I got a space heater. Guess what - he surcharges for its use. (Because it's only heating my room and not everyone else's, it's unfair to split the cost of the power to run it. We have to clock the time such devices are in operation.) This is, shall we say, not exactly the soothing home environment I hoped for.

Last night was IT. The landlord has a point about some of the things this fourth guy does, though I've personally never argued with the guy - but it's a little extreme to try to have him forcibly committed to a psych ward at 1:30 am. The police came, questions were asked; I couldn't say much, because I try not to be home, even after work is over. (Why should I hang out there more than absolutely necessary?) Neither do I appreciate, after they have left, being called on my phone by the LL (who is two rooms away) to be scolded for "not backing me up," even though I answered all the questions truthfully. Nor do I really like to wake up to an argument outside my door between the two, in which the LL uses phrases such as:

You're evil
You're a dirty pig
You're not even human
Everything you say is a lie

...spiced with enough f-bombs to embarrass Quentin Tarantino.

This wangs chung, kids. I'd rather live in the Discount Chariot.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Living the meme

Something remarkably similar to this meme kicked off the Musical Monday series here in the Hive. Since this one is much shorter I can kick it out during lunch break. If any of the answers are different than ones you've seen before, remember that I'm full of MSG and Snapple right now. Also, I'm going to try to give additional correct answers and not just crib myself.

Four songs that you could listen to over and over:
> "Classical Gas," Mason Williams
> "Archie's Theme," the Anderson Council. This is a great, fun song. If I ever get that talk show, they are going to be the very first musical guests.
> "Sign in Stranger," Steely Dan (Sorry Sharon.)
> Anything Seatbelts

Four songs that drive you up the friggin' wall:
> "In the Year 2525," Zager and Evans. I think they thought they were going to be "just like those Nights in White Satin guys," but it just sucks.
> "In the Air Tonight," Phil Collins. Mostly from overuse in sporting events. For fun, I once decided to start singing the lyrics to the tune of "Kashmir." It worked pretty well, actually.
> "To All the Girls I've Loved Before," Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias - You Were Always on My Mind has already been amply covered, so I decided to go with option number two from the Tax-Dodgin' Cowpoke.

> "Wildfire," Michael Murphy whatshisface - let's recap, here: this is a nice song about a girl and her horsie, and girls love horsies! Except that the second verse starts thus:
They say she died one winter
When there came a killing frost

Uh - er - say again?
And the pony she named Wildfire
Busted DOOOOOWWWWWN his stall
In a blizzard he was lost

And if that's not enough, the third verse ends like this:
They're coming for MEEEEEE, I know
And on Wildfire we're both gonna go...

So, to recap - happy song about girl and horsie in which everyone dies and the narrator is possessed and carried off by the vengeful spirit of the departed, perhaps to drive the devil's herd in other, better songs... all in three and a half minutes.

What the flippin' hell?!?

> Bonus - anything by Michael Bolton (thanks for the reminder, Tracey). He sucks so bad that his own perm tried to kill him on stage in front of 12,000 horrified Rotarian's Auxiliaries - the real reason he now wears his hair so short.

Four songs that you're embarrassed (or should be) to admit you like:
> "Veteran Cosmic Rocker," the Moody Blues - it's on the Long Distance Voyager album, if you must know.
> "Focus," Hocus Pocus - it's a bitching instrumental until the lead singer decides to start yodeling. You read that right. I almost hit a telephone pole with my car the first time I heard it. AND during the bridge he starts scatting, only in a Popeye voice. The whole thing is utterly ridiculous and fantastic.
> "Can't Smile Without You," Barry Manilow - just because the lyrics are at total variance with the music. The guy's supposedly miserable but the song is relentlessly cheery, from the opening whistle, building up to the happy group singalong at the end. Everyone claps along.
> "99 Luftaballon," Nina (or Lena or something) - it's the end of the world, let's go clubbing! Bonus points: listen close enough to the lyrics, and it's obvious that the narrator herself started the whole thing - it's her 99 ballons that people are shooting at. (And you're not supposed to just let balloons float off anyway, since they choke whales and seagulls and crap like that. This chick is just evil.)

Four best driving songs:
> "Radar Love," Golden Earring
> "Ride on Shooting Star," the Pillows - even in Japanese this song kicks. I just sing English lyrics I made up.
> "Summer in the City," Lovin' Spoonful
> "Right Back Where We Started From," Maxine Nightingale - I can't hear this song without seeing the Johnstown Chiefs team bus pulling out onto the road.

Four songs that make you cry:
> "Blue," Seatbelts
> "If," David Gates & Bread - I explained it before. Even talking about it kinda makes the room go a little dusty.
> "Three is a Magic Number," Bob Dorough - a man and a woman had a little baby... and Nightfly got the sniffles.
> "Cat's in the Cradle," Harry Chapin - a lot like "If" in that, besides being tough in and of itself, it also has a lot of personal effect on me.

Four best risqué songs:
> "Good Golly Miss Molly," Little Richard - holy cats.
> "Mickey," Tony Basil - they really didn't need the whole cheerleader routine video.
> "Let's Get it On," Marvin Gaye - it's a little subtler than the obvious choice.
> "Cruisin'," Smokey Robinson - if you can't score to this song, just give up. Turn in your man card and excuse yourself. A eunuch could score to this song.

Four best kid songs:
> Schoolhouse Rock in general, but to pick a few examples - Lolly Lolly Lolly, Conjunction Junction, I'm Just a Bill, Ready or Not (five ten fifteen twenty!...)
> "Where is My Hairbrush?" the VeggieTales - I was so happy to see this pop up in the comments! (Thanks Shannon!)
> "Cats on Mars," Seatbelts - it's bubbly and cute, and you don't need actual words - but again, I decided to provide them.
> "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," Mary Poppins - the biggest word you've ever heard, and I spelled it from memory. (Quite precocious.)

Four songs (hell, pick your own category and fill it in):
My category is Great Gag Songs:
> "The Bureaucrat Song," Futurama - they don't get as much credit as the Simpsons but they come up big in a big situation.
> "The Amendment Song," the Simpsons - they got Jack Sheldon to "reprise" his role for this spot-on parody of "I'm Just a Bill."
> "Beverly Hillbillies," Weird Al Yankovic - he had to show up somewhere here. Others may prefer "Yoda," but when you get Mark Knopfler to duplicate his Money for Nothing guitar solo and sing lines like "That little Clampett got his own cement pond; That little Clampett, he's a millionaire!" you get my vote.
> "Blame Canada," South Park - for itself and as representative for all the fantastic work they do.

I may have annoyed some people by leaving out Family Guy, since they do a lot of musical gags, but these just seem best to me. The meme's in your court, friends...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Movie Tuesday

I don't think that this will be a regular feature - I was just thinking about Great Bad Movies, and have just recently re-seen one that should go onto the list.

Let's just take a moment to recall the groundrules - all categories are 5 points max except for the ten-point X-factor:

1. inane concept
2. ridiculous twists (either plot or character)
3. the Excuse Factor - in other words, was the whole project a thinly-veiled excuse to smuggle in lots of nudity/explosions/special effects?
4. good actors slumming or not yet discovered
5. cheesy music
6. clichéd dialogue/too much exposition
7. unintentional comedy
8. the X-factor: a catchall based on the timing of the movie, becoming a cultural phenomenon, and other less-defined criteria.

And with that, here's the movie - The Transformers.

Lordie, but did this ever fail to hold up. Let's take it point-by-point.

1. I can think of nothing better than the description offered by Orson Welles on the IMDB trivia page: "a big toy that attacks a bunch of smaller toys." In other words, a 90-minute commercial. Considering that the animation is no better than the actual TV show, it's not well-hidden, either. 4

2. Actually, not too many twists, except for the utter stupidity of all the characters concerned. Case in point - the very opening scene is the revered leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime, issuing mission orders and casually dropping classified intel in a room with a huge window that any old spy could just look into while flying past. (More on this later.) This room is located on a moon orbiting the Decepticons' current home, so it's not like they should have been, you know, on their guard or anything. And hey, he's also a great tactician. He realizes he doesn't have the power reserves to launch an attack on the Decepticons, but apparently he has more than enough to load half of his forces into a freakin' shuttle and send them wandering to Earth - in the exact opposite direction (and thousands of light-years further off) from the bad guys who want to kill them. Luckily, the equally-great tactician Megatron decides to launch his own attack on THOSE GUYS instead of the now almost-defenseless base that's RIGHT IN HIS BACK YARD. This requires Optimus to launch ANOTHER SHUTTLE with everyone else in it all the way to Earth to rescue them, even though THEY'RE ALL DEAD. Not bad for a group of sentient robots WITH COMPUTERS (and power supply problems). 3

3. Being an animated movie about robots, special effects and nudity are nil, but we get to see a lot of stuff blow up, including the characters. Minus one point because it wasn't really that well-animated. 2

4. This is where we start making hay. Both Orson Welles and Scatman Crothers had their final movie credit on this film. We also have Judd Nelson (fresh off Breakfast Club and St Elmo's Fire) shooting his career in the foot, and Leonard Nimoy and Robert Stack. But the capper is the fellow who (believe it!) got top billing on the opening credits. If you want to guess who, here he is in spoiler-vision: Eric Idle. Best of all, none of them are mailing it in. 5

5. Oh my, yes. A synthematic craptacular from the same fellow who brought us Rocky IV's soundtrack, sprinkled with pointless big hair rock numbers. Bonus point - the Scotti Brothers owned the soundtrack rights, which means an appearance from their big artist, Weird Al Yankovic. 5

6. It's a cartoon, so clichéd dialogue is a must. Read the quotes, though, and it becomes obvious that this movie reads a lot better than it sounds. Nimoy's bad guy, Galvatron, has a couple of solid putdowns, and Stack manages a hell of a lot of diginity for a guy whose voice is coming from a cartoon robot truck. 4

7. It's a great segue, since a lot of the dialogue adds to the comedy. Case in point:
Megatron: "It's over, Prime..."
Optimus: "NEVER!"

Upon which Optimus (genius, great tactician, revered leader, etc), who has spent the last five minutes getting holes shot in him, gives Megatron the two-handed Kirk Hammer, sending him plummeting a hundred feet. Covering a guy with a ray gun doesn't count for much in the future (which, in this case, is 2005). This must explain why everyone forgets that they have them, choosing to grapple or punch instead. This includes Galvatron trying to choke Hot Rod to death.

Speaking of which - they use the song "Dare to Be Stupid" and fail to see the irony. Worse, it's the background for a ridiculous sequence which starts as a chase scene/fight and ends up with all the characters happy-dancing together like freakin' Ewoks.

We also have the sum total of two humans in the entire movie, and they're both hugely useless - except that the older of them drops a four-letter word just before the planet-eating planet (heheheheh) eats them. EXCEPT that he's not really eaten, and his hugely useless son gets to save his life, but only after a six-second long cliffhanger. (Really. That's it, six seconds. I timed it.) But that's nothing compared to Ultra Magnus (Stack's character) getting blown into hunks, only to be put back together with no ill effects. Yup - everyone else who's been shot up actually dies, but U.M. gets "misbemembered" and lives on. *

And, I hate to revisit this in a cartoon movie, but I went mad about twenty minutes ago, so here it is: in the first five minutes, we see Optimus Prime, GGTRL having his secret plans secretly overheard in what we've just been told is "a secret base." To do this, Lazerbeak uses a camera on him - the only Autobot who actually has NO MOUTH.

No, Threepio - I am your father!

One may as well lip-read a Muppet. But then again, when we see the playback at Megatron's headquarters, we HEAR everything that's said, even though Lazerbeak was sitting in the cold vacuum of space. We also see the shuttle launch - so how does Megatron's strike force catch up to them? We never see them take a shuttle of their own, they just show up and blow a hole in the side of the shuttle. This, incidentally, is the very first warning of trouble on board the shuttle - the actual hole the bad guys make in the shuttle flown by sentient robots using computers.

Nimoy's character says it best, actually: "This is bad comedy." 4

8. This is big, because, again, characters die. OK - robot characters, granted, but still characters who were pretty real to a lot of kids. I was a little too old to feel it the way I did when Obi-Wan took the fall, but Prime buys it, as do most of the forces under his genius tactical revered leadership. This was big in the world of GI Joe and the A-Team, where you'd see a plane consumed by a huge explosion, which faded to reveal a guy in a parachute floating gently to Earth. These were actual consequences. 7

Your final score - 34 of 45, a pretty decent count. Transform, and roll out!

*Thanks to Ken for the term, and the Opie Research Group for the picture. I don't know where they snitched it from, exactly...

Monday, August 28, 2006


Watching the replay of today's Mets/Phillies game - bottom third inning, Mets already up 3-0 with runners on the corners. David Wright yanks a Jamie Moyer pitch down the line, where it takes a squib bounce and shoots into foul territory.

Randy Marsh immediately calls it foul, and the Mets hassle him for a bit. Finally, Marsh starts to walk away from the line to hobnob with the crew. And immediately, the home ump looks horribly familiar.

Yup - our man Angel Hernandez; and as the saying goes, "Wackiness ensues." The ruling becomes "fair ball," but here's the kicker: Wright is awarded first base, not second.

The rulebook is silent on such a thing, except to note that all runners (including the batter) are awarded two bases for a fair ball going into the stands; this ball never actually left the field of play, but I can't think of any reason to call it a ground-rule single - it seems most logical to call it either a foul, or a double, to keep consistent with other rules.

PS - Pat the Bat strikes again in the top of the fourth. This is ridiculous. If he played with Chipper Jones the Mets would have to switch leagues.


ESPN just reported that the Oakland Raiders have signed Jeff George to a contract. The real punchline is that he may just be better than any other QB on the roster.

And just think, they could have drafted Matt Leinert OR Jay Cutler. Heheheheheh.

Musical Monday - album review

Today’s Musical Monday is an album review – “The Fall Parade,” by the Anderson Council.

Don't just stare at my picture - go buy me!
The Fall Parade is the Anderson Council’s first full album, or their second, or their fourth overall release, depending on who’s doing the counting. They say “two,” so we’ll go with that; but “Coloursound” is out of print so if you want to start your collection, this is the place, and it’s a good place to begin.

With the first track, “Beautiful,” two things stand out at once – the retro sound (think 60’s pop crossed with a little new wave) and the working-class English inflection to Peter Horvath’s vocals. The band claims that the songs just sound better that way – they’re actually from New Jersey: Horvath (lead vocals, guitars, and keyboard), Jimmy Charles (guitars and keyboard), Robert Farrell (bass), and Joe Chyb (drums). Given the style of the music they may have a point, though the Anglicized spellings may strike you as a little affected, and a whole album’s worth of twanging gives moments where you wish they’d sing it straight.

That feeling comes and goes, however. What stands out after repeat listening is that the Anderson Council has a taste for a good hook: the circular guitar lines on “Partridge,” the excellent backup vocals and harmonies, and the trumpet on “Pretty People” (handled by guest musician Spiff Wiegand). Even the handclaps in “Meghan Allison” are spot-on. It’s also fun to trace the influences in the sound, even when the lyrics aren’t dropping obvious nods such as in “Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours” and “What Do You Know.” For example, the opening of “Mind Elevator” carries a whiff of the Stones, and the harmonies on “Partridge” make it sound like a lost Joe Jackson song.

Highlights are everywhere. “Meghan Allison,” “Archie’s Theme,” “Pinkerton,” and “Strawberry Smell” are great, bouncy pop songs, and the band just sounds like they had fun laying down the tracks – they don’t suffer from overproduction or excessive sweetening. You also get a sense of depth in the sound without it being overly intricate. The only real disappointment if you’re a fan is the absence of “Night and Day,” an excellent song from “the Debt EP” that didn’t get into the lineup. (Next time, guys.) There are only a few moments (such as “Partridge”) where they demonstrate a slower sound, so hopefully there will be some of that variety in the next.

*** (of four)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Screechwood 4-5789 can call me up and leave your hate any old time.

Luckily for Rob this story has a benign conclusion. The first few weeks I had a cel phone, I had an interesting exchange with a girl who called me looking for one of her friends. I explained that this was now my number, not hers - sorry about that. It seemed to be fine until a couple of days later:

Hello, says I.
"Yo," says some guy I've never heard before. "Put on X."
I'm sorry, I don't know X.
"This is her number."
Perhaps it was, but it's been mine for a couple of weeks now. I'm sorry.
"Yo - I know she's there, man. You better put her on."
Click, says I.

Ring, says my new phone. And continues to say until my voicemail takes it. The mail consists of a guy threatening to come over unless X (now called by her pet name, "two-timing b****") calls him back in five minutes. Five minutes and ten seconds later, the phone rings again and I answer it by saying, "If you want her to call you back so badly, get her new number. I have nothing to do with this. I want nothing to do with this." Click.

Small wonder that X didn't give out her new number to certain parties.

More amusingly, for almost a year I had a running set of conversations with a group of collection agents looking for someone who'd been welching on bills and scattering bad checks - apparently with my phone number written under the address. It was sad to have to explain that this number was as bogus as the number after "$". (No amount of searching online turned up this mystery lady, though some of the results were odd.)

What is with the umps?

update, 8/24, 6:20 pm - further research uncovered this fantastic interview with a Ques-Tec operator. Great questions and skilled answers. Anyone weaned on modern journalism, prepare to be astounded by how well it can be done.

Gee, look at the Minnesota/Baltimore game... There's Angel Hernandez, well-documented as one of the major league's worst umpires, and wouldn't you know it, he's tossing a guy out of the game! What a shock.

But there was more in store. The Padres/Dodgers contest featured one of the more bizarre sequences I can recall. To set the stage, a Dodger has already been ejected at first base for spiking his helmet after a close call. Then there's this sequence:

LA starter Brad Penny has a minor injury problem, so the trainer goes to check on him - joined eventually by his manager, Grady Little. The ump notifies both teams that this does NOT count as a mound visit (by rule, a team must change pitchers after two mound visits in one inning). But later, Little does make a first visit. That's when it gets odd...

Little and home ump Rick Reed start to swap some phrases - Penny claims it was started by Reed, but who knows for sure - and Little leaves the mound to do his yelling. Problem is, he then returns to the mound to continue his visit. No dice. Once you leave the dirt around the mound, the visit is over - so somehow, manager Little visited his pitcher once, but it didn't count, and then visited him once, but it counted twice!

Long story short, none of the Dodgers liked that much. Little winds up getting sent off for good; Penny, since he already has to come out anyway, has a good long jaw with Reed before officially being ejected as well.

What is with the umps? Even if the Dodgers were jawing at Reed, why does he have to answer? Or, why not reply with the time-honored, "No way." This grows ridiculous.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Bob Bourne Identity

Imagine wanting to leave your current employer to join a company that offered better pay, greater opportunities for advancement, and top-notch facilities and management. Now imagine that your old boss hired the mob to threaten your family if you didn't turn down the offer.

In the NHL, that actually beats the old days, when your old company itself had armed guards at the gates to prevent your departure. Today's John Rolfe has an excellent piece on the situation of Evgeny Malkin, drafted by Pittsburgh to help revive the franchise. His former Russian club, Mettalurg, didn't want to lose him and he played with them all of last season - even re-signing for another year before suddenly spiriting away from the team and turning up with the Penguins.

He may not risk sleeping with the fishes any more, but the Russians aren't pleased about it. This quote is priceless to help establish the mindset here:

Asked about the sum he was seeking for Malkin, Velichkin said: "Before his disappearance I was asking for $2 million from Pittsburgh but now I want more, a lot more."

Velichkin is Gennady Velichkin, the GM of Mettalurg. A standard transer fee from an NHL team to a European club is only $200,000, BTW, so he was already blackmailing* driving a hard bargain with the Penguins for drafting a player who preferred to play Stateside - the standard transfer agreement doesn't apply to Russian clubs. Now he's decided that the price has just gone up, at precisely the time that his hostage prime bargaining chip has absconded. Malkin has his own reasons for getting out of Dodgski, but topping the list had to be the relative freedom from mobsters that NHL players currently enjoy.

The Russian Chief of Hockey will be familiar to all: Vladislav Tretiak, one of the greatest goalies to ever play, and who probably would have dearly loved to join the NHL himself in the wake of the Canada Challenge of 1972. (I believe the Canadiens actually drafted him one year, in a late round, but his time came too soon.) His boss (Minister of Sport) is Viacheslav Fetisov, better know to fans of the NJ Devils, who employed him as a defenseman after his own defection. Of course, they have to say such things, they're the hockey honchos in a country chock-a-block with mafiosi. There's also the valid thought of fair compensation for a player who may be an All-Star in his new league. On the other hand, there's the sour grapes of a man denied Malkin's chance, and a government that's willing to bank Kim Jong Il but not afford its players the freedom (and the pay) to prevent this sort of thing.

*There's always the way Bender looks at it: "Blackmail is such an ugly word. I prefer 'extort' - the 'X' makes it sound cool."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Quote of the Week

It's only lunchtime on Tuesday, but sorry, the position has been filled; no further applicants are wanted. Courtesy of James Lileks:

"Conspiracy theories are a narcotic, inhaled in endless lines; the addict looks at himself bent over the mirror and thinks: you agree with me, don’t you? Then I’m not alone."

Coming on the heels of his first-class codgerism yesterday, I think we can safely say the gentleman is on a hot streak.

Monday, August 21, 2006

End of the music meme

Previous installments for Musical Monday can be found as follows: part one, part two, and part three.

Feel No Shame: Great Current Pop Songs:
I know a current pop song? Um… “Blues Beach” by Steely Dan, and “Archie’s Theme” by the Anderson Council, which ought to chart if there’s justice in music.

Album No One Would Expect You to Love/Dislike/Know and etc.:
Eh. Everyone’s got gaps and quirks and “gee, that’s unusual” tastes.

5 Desert Island Discs off the top of your head (30 sec clock):
Unanswerable. I have nearly 8½ GB of music on my computer, much from compilations and greatest hits albums. I could put the machine on shuffle, listen around the clock, and not hear a repeat for over eight days. It should be noted as well that this is not all of my collection, and that my collection isn’t actually all that large compared to some folks.

3 Contemporary Artists That Were Your Faves 10 Years Ago:
U2 and Steely Dan, no problem. Number three is a big problem – few of my faves are still working now, or were working then. Yoko Kanno has the longevity, but I didn't run across her work until about five years ago. Barenaked Ladies are (hopefully) still active, so we’ll put them third.

New Item! 3 Faves That Hung on Too Long:
You can’t pick artists who’ve died, only acts that seem to have suddenly derailed. My three are:

Chicago. Why are you still putting out albums? This is like Namath with the Rams.

Kansas. The Barking Spider took me along to see them in a dive bar in Old Bridge, NJ, back in college, and they were fantastic - they took requests from the audience and generally enjoyed the hell out of themselves. At one point, violinist David Ragsdale jumped off-stage, mid-solo, to help the bouncers take aside a woman who'd fainted, and then jumped back and picked up where he left off. That's just too cool on several levels. Subsequent shows, however, have been almost embarrassing. Neither have I cared for any of their album work after Freaks of Nature.

Billy Joel. This actually ticks me off. His early stuff is great, and he followed it with these albums at his popular peak: The Stranger, 52nd Street, Glass Houses, Songs in the Attic, The Nylon Curtain, An Innocent Man. The devil of it is that he still has it. I'll catch clips of him from college tours and small interview/concert deals, and he plays as well as ever. He doesn't need pop music anymore, but he still goes out to do what he loves to do, when he's not crashing his car into stationary objects. The last five years have been such a downer. Please beat the bottle, Billy, I beg you.

Music That Makes You Feel Sophisticated:
Dave Brubeck, classical.

Fave Electronic Record You Own:
About the only one I own is the soundtrack to Paranoia Agent.

Fave Hip-Hop Record You Own:
About the only genre I don’t really get into.

Hip-Hop Song You Know All the Lyrics Too:
Are there any instrumental hip-hop songs? Those ones.

Random Album You Loved In High School But Are Afraid To Admit It:
Back then, pretty much anything I actually listened too. Now, I fear nothing. I owned the soundtrack to Beetlejuice. Heh.

Album You May Have Listened To More In High School than Any Other Album:
The Beatles, Past Masters Volume 2.

If You Could Enter A Wrestling Ring to a Song It Would Be:
I can’t remember where I first read it, but someone brought this up in the context of coming up to bat/out of the bullpen – everyone picks loud, intimidating stuff, but wouldn’t it be tougher to pick something totally screwy, as if you were so good you didn’t care what people thought? Nobody could give you grief for it, because you’re a badass pro wrestler.

I’d enter the ring to “Good Morning Starshine” from Hair. Just think how you’d feel if you got tossed out of the ring by a guy who sings along to “Good Morning Starshine.”

Album to Clear A Room With:
Pretty much any of these. You wouldn’t even have to play ‘em, you could just put the covers onto the wall with a slide projector. Warning - links contain hilarious cussing and way too much Millie Jackson.

This is the end of the meme - but not of Musical Monday. Next week begins with a little reviewing, so come on back.

PS - hearty thanks to the many who visited while I was on vacation, including newcomers crallspace, Grizzly Mama, and MamaQ. My thanks also to KateP, whom I believe is a repeat reader, but just in case, welcome to the Hive. (I replied to your comment on the Ocean City thread, Grizz, just in case you see this first!)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

While in Norf Cackalackie

...Even though I don't have to be in an office every morning, I find myself waking up at 7:30, without an alarm. It's so pleasant that I'd try it at home, except that I'm sure that I'd wind up oversleeping by Wednesday.

...Nicer driving in North Carolina, for the most part, but offset by having no clue at all where anything is. My only map of the area fits all of the Carolinas into a 5"x8" area.

...Watching old Star Trek now on G4, a channel I do not have in New Jersey. I agree with Rick Moranis: "Even in the future nothing works!" I mean, if it's not the Enterprise proper, it's an installation or an android... and there's always the chance that the whole command crew will pile into one of those minivan shuttles, only to have it go all cross-wired.

...And that reminds me of one of the nastier tricks played in the professional entertainment racket, the one Gene Roddenberry pulled on Alexander Courage, who composed the original Star Trek theme. Roddenberry wrote lyrics to the tune, even though they were never used. This entitled him to a piece of the residuals. Not only was the Great Bird of the Galaxy kind of a jerk, the lyrics are awful.

...By the time they got to Next Generation, the technology had improved marginally - the Enterprise only blew up once every couple of months - primarily because Starfleet had discovered a way to invert tachyons. It's the duct tape of the 24th century.

...As you can tell, I've been able to get back into action, thanks to my generous hosts, who have set up the Mobile Command Unit on the house network. More than this, they've been generous in letting me take some time for some posting and reading.

...It's beautiful out here. There aren't that many spots left in NJ that look like this, and most of them are horribly expensive. It's pretty rural. Most of the area was tobacco and corn ten years ago. There's still two working farms within walking distance of this little neighborhood. Of course, little else is within walking distance, and one doesn't really want to walk around outside of the neighborhood. The main road running past the development is two lanes, no shoulder, and requires jumping knee-deep into Tick Heaven every time a car rolls past.

...The four little bippers are absolute delights, by the way. I've been exposed to unheard-of levels of cuteness in the past week, almost like some Army experiment designed to test resistance to enemy interrogation techniques. Go ahead, break out all the sleeping puppies you like - I'll never talk! (Except for this blog.)

...Our destination tonight, to commemorate a great and relaxing week. We'll be on the road after church tomorrow, and probably home by nightfall, barring major traffic. I've never been there, so we'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happiness stinks

Good times are simply too brief in the telling. A writer needs some high-quality misery to really work wonders.

To put it bluntly: I've been on vacation since Monday. (Norf Cackalackie, in fact. Hi Crusader!) I'm relaxed, happy, and at an utter loss for words. There are topics waiting for me at home, I know, but for now - sit back and enjoy the mellow... Comments are open for banjo-bashing, culture-musing, movies, sock-puppetry... whatever.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Musical Monday returns!

We're still continuing the series from the Tanya/Sheila music meme. There's some disappointment in store, because some of these I couldn't answer, but I added a couple of categories.

Great Dance Song You Maybe Never Realized Was a Great Dance Song Back in the Day:
"Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough," Michael Jackson - the man could sing...

Good Albums to Workout To:
Hm. Usually my workouts are mixes (long walks and bike rides). There should be an answer but despite having a week to think about it, I'm totally blank.

Good Album to Clean The House To:
I do a lot more writing than cleaning, and whenever I write I need instrumentals, since the lyrics distract me. I have jazz, rock, classical, and tons of soundtracks to work with.

Good Dining Music:
Same as above; I’m sure I could cook up (heh) a soft mix.

Good Album to Have Sex To:
Sorry. I wouldn’t know. Theoretically, I’d go with something long play (might as well be optimistic).

A Good Album to Put You in the Mood (that is NOT Sade, Marvin Gaye or Barry White):
Oh, UGH. Sade? I’ll give you Marvin the Main Man, but not Sade. Barry’s too cliché to work at this point, anyway: “Aw, yeah baby… I love you so much… I gotta talk about it over the intro, baby… That’s right, baby…”

Let’s just say Smokey Robinson and end all debate.

Good Album To Sleep To:
Music doesn’t really put me to sleep. I used to put on Sports Radio WFAN out of NYC to listen to the ever-mellifluous Steve Summers, “schmoozing a little s-p-o-r-t-s with you until Imus in the Morning at 5:30.”

5 (er, six) Good Rock Songs That You Can Dance To:
I may be a writer, but I ain’t no dancer. But I’ll give it a try: these are songs that make me chair boogie whenever I hear them.

“Help Me Rhonda,” the Beach Boys
“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” the Police – it even made them dance around the studio. True story: that studio no longer exists. It was buried by lava in a volcanic eruption.
“Come Dancing,” the Kinks
“Get Ready,” the Temptations
“The Sound of Philadelphia,” MFSB
“Love Train,” the O’Jays

NEW ITEM! 5 Songs I Wish I’d Written:
(Condition – I have to have been an adult to write them)
“Eyes Wide Open,” Sixpence None the Richer
“Love and Peace or Else,” U2
“Get Over It,” OK Go
“Go Where No One’s Gone Before,” Billy Preston
“Gotta Knock a Little Harder,” Seatbelts

Song That Is Too Damn Sad:
“If,” David Gates and Bread. Not just in and of itself, but because it was one of my father’s favorites. The room gets pretty dusty whenever this comes on the radio.

Great Love Song:
Just one? Right.

That's Baby Makin' Music (No, Really):
“Until the Night,” Billy Joel (52nd Street) – Exactly the voice you first think of on this topic, right? But trust me, you agree with this.

An Album Full of Tenderness:
I’ve always loved “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys. It’s such a kind-hearted album, even the wistful songs like “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times” come off sweetly.

Song You Want to (or did) Play At Your Wedding:
“More Love,” Smokey Robinson and the Miracles

Song To An Ex That Isn't Mean-Spirited:
“Don’t Answer Me,” Alan Parsons Project. Great video, too.

Song To An Ex That Is Kinda Mean-Spirited:
"Romeo and Juliet," Dire Straits.
Bonus song - "You Got Lucky," Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. There's a lot of these, aren't there...

Song to Listen to While in The Country Looking at Stars:
“Out in the Country,” Three Dog Night.

Song to lose your Mind to:
“You Really Got Me,” the Kinks – especially the solo, as Dave Davies attacks his own guitar.
Song To Cry In Your Pillow to:
“How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” the Bee Gees
Songs That Make You Feel Amped and Inspired:
Music in general amps and inspires me.

Great Semi-Obscure Album Cuts:
I don’t know enough about singles to pick out a b-side, so these are just songs I enjoy that aren’t on greatest hits comps and stuff:

“Oh Darling,” Supertramp (Breakfast in America)
“Fancy Colours,” Chicago (Chicago II)
“Wrong ‘Em Boyo,” the Clash (London Calling)
“Daddy Don’t Live in that New York City No More,” Steely Dan (Katy Lied)
“Bringing it Back,” Kansas (Kansas) – a JJ Cale song from the self-described “world’s worst cover band.”
“Good Morning Good Morning,” the Beatles (Sgt. Pepper’s) – nothing’s too obscure from them, and especially not this album, but this is a great little song that’s usually ignored
“Land Ho!” the Doors (Morrison Hotel)
“Rosalinda’s Eyes,” Billy Joel (52nd Street)
“Let’s Live it Up,” Brian Setzer Orchestra (The Dirty Boogie)
“I’m Waiting for the Day,” the Beach Boys (Pet Sounds)
“Walk Between Raindrops,” Donald Fagan (The Nightfly)
“Tumbling,” Jefferson Starship (Red Octopus)

Song That Makes You Miss Your Mom:
“Just Another New Year’s Eve,” Barry Manilow. My mom loves Barry, and especially this song.

And there will be more music next Monday! Posting may be light this week but I'll think of some way to get the Internet to work around here, I promise...

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Welcome, true believers!

You're in the Hive, the secret online lair of our ever-loving pixel-slinger, Nightfly! But danger looms, even here in the inner sanctum - for a new television program threatens to suck dry our hero's skull...

Yeah, it's "Who Wants to Be a Superhero?"

Obviously nobody on this show can actually shoot fireballs or levitate or such, and the whole lot of them look like Idiots on Patrol running around in their Comic-Con outfits. But I am noticing, as I watch, that I'm beginning to enjoy the spectacle.

Stan Lee looks like he's enjoying himself, too.

Dig this, I'm going out as Doc Strange this Halloween!
Actually, I'm surprised that the contestants aren't having as much fun with this. They should all be grinning like kids in a candy store, but the only one who's really embracing things is the supervillain.

I'm most impressed with the challenges. The point isn't to test "powers" but to test character, and Stan is always emphasizing that a true hero is honest, brave, helps the innocent, uses teamwork. I'm actually considering how I would approach these little tasks myself.

It's fun - and what's more, it's as clever as stupid fun can get.

The above picture is Marvel's work, not mine - Bryan Hitch on pencils and Paul Neary on inks - because a true hero gives credit where it's due! Excelsior!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Talent is not sanctity

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The legal troubles that have plagued Maurice Clarett since he was Ohio State's star running back worsened Wednesday when a highway chase ended with police using pepper spray on him and finding four loaded guns in his sport utility vehicle.

I mean - wow.
He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and a traffic violation after police say he wove in and out of lanes, did a U-turn on a freeway and refused to leave the SUV after a spike stick flattened its tires. More charges are possible, police said.

So, after seeing the bubble top light up and hearing the sirens, he ran, forced the cops to use the spike strip on his car, and then refused to exit the vehicle. This is not surprising, since he'd stashed one of his guns underneath him and leaving the car meant leaving the thing sitting on the seat in plain view. But did he really expect that the police would just let him sit there after all of this?

This is the standout item - my emphasis.
Police attempted to shock Clarett with a stun gun but the former Fiesta Bowl standout was wearing a bulletproof vest that rendered it ineffective, Columbus police Sgt. Michael Woods said.

Later it's said that Claret had been receiving death threats: OK, wear the vest. I can even see maybe possibly thinking that anyone lining you up for a hit would impersonate cops, thus the running... but it just stretches credibility to the breaking point in light of his previous troubles. I also observe that his attorney says that previous legal wrangles have been giving him mental stress. (Mmmmm-hm.) How is legal trouble more stressful than a death threat - especially a threat that has you wandering the streets armed like an action hero? Did he think to tell the police he'd been menaced?
He plans to play for the Mahoning Valley Hitmen, one of five teams in the Eastern Indoor Football League. The team, based in Youngstown, is to begin play in January. ... Clarett has not signed a contract with the team yet, pending a fire marshal's inspection of the team's home field.

Of course Mahoning's owner/coach is standing by his man, and getting more publicity than the entire league has ever seen, though he may be regretting the scrutiny right about now. But for Clarett, college national champion and one-time sure thing?

He's a better athlete than I am, but on another level he and I are peers - young single men, not quite established in the world of adults, faced with the same choices as to our conduct. He has resources that I and thousands of other anonymous young men lack, which gives him opportunity that we can only dream of. Resources, however, are not going to make good choices for you. Every one of us has the same moral landscape in front of us: either we submit to the cycle of fatherlessness, poverty, and crime; or marry the mothers of our children and give our families a stable home and a fighting chance.

It's encouraging that Clarett was not too proud to take the football equivalent of a lunchpail job in a league so low on the food chain that nobody's heard of it. Maybe this shows he can get right and realize that there is more riding on him than just his future as a running back.

Ocean City Travelogue, part four

The Hive is back up, for now. Thanks very much to everyone who's checked in; I think we've got this problem licked at last. Here's the rest of the travelogue:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Below is the Bayberry Inn, Wesley Avenue.

Nice flowers, too
The building is in the Ocean City Historic District, and as such the owners submit any exterior renovation plans to a committee. The idea is to preserve the character of the neighborhood as nearly as possible; besides the cars there's little to distinguish much of the center of the town from pictures of fifty or ninety years ago.

Many of the newer buildings (condos and such) are towards the south end. Realtors sell them as multi-family homes, one floor at a time. Closer to the center of town, and toward the boardwalk, a few of the homes have been converted so the ground levels have separate entry and can be rented as a suite, without disturbing the overall character of the dwelling - it seems from what I saw that the committee is reasonably flexible. The oddest example is below.

The bamboo stick is on the grass...
The former owner planted the bamboo in the front yard, but the house is boarded up now. I was told that the old gentleman had passed and his family haven't decided on either moving in or selling.

Part desk, part cabinet - all furniture
Inside the Bayberry, the owners have kept much more closely to the spirit of Victorian decor. Much of the furniture is like this, bought at consignment shops and yard sales, restored, and put back into service. The bureaus have locks on each drawer. The one nod to the new was a fascinating clock: on the hour, the face actually split into three parts, revealing an system of moving silhouettes set to music.

At first this face, just ghostly...
In this case, the music was the Bach figures that formed the basis of Whiter Shade of Pale.

Hey!  Quit looking at my butt.
All this, and breakfast too. They really go out of their way; no mere bagel/Sanka party, this, but homemade omelettes with fresh fruit and yogurt cups. You'd think this guy here would be happier.

The theme of this building is CHURCH
After breakfast on Sunday, there are options for any brand name of church. This particularly fetching brick and slate building is the fittingly-named St. Augustine's Roman Catholic Church. During the summer they add masses to accommodate all the visitors to Ocean City, and a lot of the same faces behind the counters at the shops and stores are in the pews for the earlier services.

They have separation of church and town hall - by about six blocks.

And the theme of this building is GOVERNMENT
For a resort town, this seems like an awfully large building. They also have an annex across the side street and a separate police substation along the boardwalk.

This is Music Pier, taken at low tide from the ocean side of the buiding, a shot that would require a boat at high tide. It hosts a lot of the nighttime and weekend festivals - arts and crafts fairs, free concerts, and the occasional fish fry.

Downtown, the buildings show a lot of variety. I'm not quite sure what's going on up top here.

What kind of hat, exactly, looks good on a building like this?
Secret missle silo? Terrific Man's resort headquarters, from which he issues at night to fight crime?

Across from each other on one corner are two local banks. I love Fortress Financial, here. It stares across at the larger edifice of Crown Bank, on guard against merger pirates.

It's an underground fortress, apparently
I wouldn't put anything past this building. Look at those electronic doodads ringing the roof... and what's with the extra two columns on the right? It looks like the building is halfway through budding a branch office. This is the First Bank of Borg (member FDIC).

We're numb and faceless - trust us with your life savings!
And that's all I've got on Ocean City, New Jersey. There are a million photos on the Jersey Shore, and this was some of them.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Oh yeah drat

...and as you can all tell, finally got the web back only to lose it again ten minutes later. It was still is software-based (I hope), and such things are largely a mystery to me. That may be where all of my upload problems came from, as well.

The travelogue can continue tomorrow morning sometime after the freezing of Gehenna, or when I toss my modem off a bridge and replace it with super-intelligent hamsters on wheels. Thanks for your patience.

Just a thought

update, Aug 8, 7:30 pm - another Blinding Flash of the Obvious, via the Swilling. What was that we were just saying about willful ignorance?

Maybe the opposite of "fake but accurate" is "true but ignored." Fraudulent memos and doctored pictures? Front-page. Corrections? Page 18, if you're lucky. Initial assault = justifiable, but armed defense = atrocity, except when it isn't. And I suppose this is all in support of poor, misunderstood Aussie actor Mel Gibson... right?

Israel has been fighting for its life for some time now. They know it. Their enemies know it. The only way the West doesn't know it is if they're willfully ignorant. Unless, of course, they know it but are rooting against Israel. (Not that it's all that subtle, or any better reported.)

Musical Monday

We had a huge meme running in this space last week, and this is the promised second installment. A third will follow... The Ocean City travelogue will continue whenever I can get the Internet to stay up for more than fifteen minutes.

4 Records You Really Dug from 2005
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, U2 – critics bitched about it, but tough.
The Fall Parade, the Anderson Council – lots of retro fun.
Everything Must Go, Steely Dan – I’m cheating; this came out in ’04. Two reasons: first, I don’t buy new stuff nearly enough to be able to get four albums; second, I haven’t gone out to buy Fagen’s “Morph the Cat,” which came out over the winter.
Ghost in the Shell OST, Yoko Kanno – I get everything she composes. I am not worthy.

Favorite Records From This Year So Far:
See above.

One of Your Favorite Lyrics:
The first that comes to mind:

We’re clearly soldiers in petticoats
Dauntless crusaders for Women For Votes
And though we adore men individually
We agree that as a group they’re rather stupid…

The Sherman Brothers at their best. And since we’re in the general neighborhood, I always liked the Robot Hell song from Futurama:

Beelzebot – Cigars are evil, you won’t miss ‘em
We’ll find ways to simulate that smell
Gee, what a sorry fella
Rolled up and smoked like a panatela
Here on Level One of Robot Hell!

Bender – Please tell me why!
Beelzebot – Just read this 55-page warrant.
Bender – There must be robots worse than I!
Beelzebot – We checked around; there really aren’t.
Bender – Please let me explain; my crimes were merely boyish pranks.
Beelzebot – You stole from orphans, nuns, and banks!
Bender – Aw, don’t blame me, blame my upbringing!
Beelzebot – Please stop sinning while I’m singing…

Beelzebot – Selling bootlegged tapes is wrong,
Musicians need their income to survive -
Beastie Boys – Hey, Bender, gonna make some noise
With your hard drive scratched by the Beastie Boys
That’s whatcha, whatcha, gonna get on Level Five!

Beelzebot – Fencing diamonds, fixing cockfights
Publishing indecent magazines –
You’ll pay for every crime
Knee-deep in electric slime
You’ll suffer ‘til the end of time
Enduring tortures (most of which rhyme)
Trapped forever here in Robot Hell!

5 Cover Songs Arguably Better Than the Original (with original in parenthesis):
“Walk Away Renee,” the Four Tops (Left Banke)
“Detroit Swing City,” Alien Fashion Show (KISS) – a swing cover of KISS seems… well, off. Don’t be fooled. It rocks.
“The Weight,” Aretha Franklin (The Band) – she omitted the “Now, wait a minute Chester” verse, but still outstanding
“Viva Las Vegas,” ZZ Top (Elvis)
“Sea of Love,” the Honeydrippers (the 50’s song is kind of pathetic)

Bonus – “Proud Mary,” Ike and Tina Turner. When this hit the radio, John Fogarty finally knew why he’d written the song.

Honorable mention – the entire Saturday Morning’s Greatest Hits album, with superior covers of many of our childhood favorites: “Underdog” by Butthole Surfers, “Jonny Quest” by the Reverend Horton Heat, the Ramones doing “Spider-Man,” and superior versions of Gigantor (Helmet), Hong Kong Phooey (Sublime), and Eep-Op-Ork Ah Ah (the Violent Femmes).

NEW ITEM! 5 Originals Nobody Should Have Dared to Cover:

“Drift Away,” Dobie Gillis
Anything by Smokey Robinson. Curse you, Kim Carnes. And the cover of “Cruisin’” makes me want to punch Huey Lewis and Gwyneth Paltrow in the face.
“Lady Marmalade,” Labelle
“When a Man Loves a Woman,” Percy Sledge. I already wanted to punch Michael Bolton in the face. This makes me want to punch him with hammers.
“Every Breath You Take,” the Police. Let’s expand this to include most of the great songs that rappers sampled and then ruined by mumbling over.

Ironic Song to Brutally Murder Someone to in a movie:
”He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” the Hollies. I think it’s the harmonica into the wall-of-sound chorus at the end that does it. I had this framed as the final scene to a tragic movie – some slow-motion, a camera on a crane pulling back and up on the tableau, and then the chorus comes in, and fade to credits. I was twelve.

Reading that just now actually gave me the creeps. Damn, what the hell was wrong with me?

NEW ITEM! Songs that Make You Angry:
In other words, not necessarily angry songs, but songs that (for whatever reason) fill you with loathing – they remind you of bad times or somehow work your nerves with jackhammers.

“Obsession,” Animotion.
“Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice. How dare he steal from Queen. He should be trampled by moose.
“I Don’t Like Mondays,” the Boomtown Rats. Shut up, you obnoxious drama queen.
“I’ve Never Been to Me,” by mercifully forgotten.
“Take My Breath Away,” Berlin. Maybe it’s the chord progression, since I also don’t much care for Foreigner’s “I Don’t Want to Live Without You.”

Best “Sod Off, I’m a Teenager in Pain” Song:
I’m gonna screw this up. I didn’t dish out a lot as a teenager. But I understand the flip side well enough – for example, “Laughing,” by the Guess Who.

“Everybody Loves You Now” by Billy Joel, live from “Songs in the Attic” – no, more of an openly scornful thing. Crap.

OK – “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” by Warren Zevon:

“I lay my head on the railroad tracks, and wait for the double-E
The railroad don’t run no more – poor poor pitiful me.”

That’s my final answer.

The next installment will be more cheerful; this internet thing is just ticking me off right now. I've rebooted the router, tinkered with settings, what have you. It always works for about twenty minutes, and then kaput.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ocean City interlude

Found this in a memorabilia shop on the boardwalk. I had to snap my shot on the sly, but it was worth it.

I hear Leon Steckel has five of these in his basement.
It's a swell banner... but the scoreboard kinda says something different.

Nystrom (Tonelli, Henning) 7:11
Truly a shot heard 'round the world: scroll down and see for yourself. They wouldn't give the trophy back until 1984.
My thanks to Sports E-cyclopedia for the pic of Bobby Ny, and especially for this fabulous link about the history of NHL uniforms. The E-cyclopedia will be going on the sidebar...

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Ocean City Travelogue, part three

Scene - opening night, Ocean City. Place - "Yours, Mine, and Ours," theoretically a trip for souvenirs for the family. It worked out that way, of course, but along the way there were a few things in the store that made me go gooey in the knees. One of them, I just had to have for my own.

He's a demon on wheels... tiny wheels.
If you want to turn a kid at heart into a kid again, this is the sort of thing you show him. I had a Mach 5 die-cast when I was a boy, but the original was lost during the five-part epic "Furious Race Across the Barren Deserts." (AKA "I lost it in a sandbox when I was eight.") I made five "Did you know the Mysterious Racer X is really Speed's older brother?" jokes on my way to the counter with this. Then, circling back through the store, I saw something equally unexpected, and equally delightful.

Thanks for purchasin' me.
This isn't a first edition, of course, but a reprint from 1961. It's in fine shape. For all my love of these stories, I'm only familiar with the Sterling Holloway-voiced bear of the Disney cartoons, and as wonderful as he is (and they are), it's different to sit with a hardback like this, and to smell it and feel the paper turn and to shut it at the end with that satisfying, acoustic book sound.

Paid and left, and the surprises kept coming... Walking back to my room, I saw a certain life-sized bear of little brain waving to the cars and shaking hands with children in front of the Hobby Horse.

And don't forget to catch me on Letterman this Tuesday!
Naturally, I had to get this shot, at any cost. It took the entire weekend before I could assemble bear, book, and camera. (Wasn't that a movie?) I actually stalked Winnie-the-Pooh. Clearly, nostalgia had made me utterly, officially insane. Luckily, he didn't hold that against me; he even signed my book. (Being a bear of little brain, he spelled his own name wrong, even though it's on the cover AND printed on the page he signed - and have I mentioned insane yet?)

In between those purchases and the picture, I paid my mandatory visit to the OC's sine qua non of pizza vending.

The line to get in stretches off-camera to your right
These folks have been slinging pies for fifty years now, and yet there are a number of other optimists working the same trade in town - heck, even up and down the boardwalk. Of course, Mack and Manco's has three locations within ten minute's walk, which should tell you something about market share. I loves me some sausage slice with a birch beer, so those other guys were straight out of luck. Even got a mug to mark the occasion.

Here's part one and part two, if you need catching up...

Equal opportunity disappointment

Blogger won't upload pictures, and Sheila has a music meme that requires a lot of attention. I also won't be around until late tomorrow night, which means a very short travelogue part four - that is, if I can ever get part three to work. I'm a pissy grumble monkey right about now.

So, travelogue later (I hope). I promised Sheila in the comments that I'd come up with the Music thing, so below you will find the beginning of it. It's just too large to handle at one hunk so I've decided to start a weekly theme - Musical Monday. Tune in at the start of the standard workweek for a little tuneful blogging.

My promise to you - all of my answers will be done before I read any of Sheila's, even though you won't be getting them all at once. I did a mass cut-n-paste and then went through deleting Sheila's additions, then I went through and answered. (Or, am answering. There's still some left at the tail end.) Wherever I added a new item to the meme, I used italics for the heading.

MUSICAL MONDAY (the prologue)

High maintenance survey from Tanya: (via Sheila)

What's a great late night song?
Depends on what you’re doing late at night. Let’s say (just for kicks) that you’re watching “Late Night with the Nightfly” on local cable access channel 219. In that case, the only possible song would be the ultra boss kick-ass theme to the show, “What Planet Is This?” by Seatbelts.

In a more sedate mood, I’d probably play you some of Sinatra’s slower stuff, like “Someone to Watch Over Me.”

Name 5-10 wistful/bittersweet songs:
No-one can hear just one, apparently.

“Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding
“Promises,” Eric Clapton
“Dance Hall Days,” Wang Chung (yeah, OK, laugh)
“Wishing You Were Here,” Chicago
“King George Street,” Squeeze
“Who’s Crying Now,” Journey (the coda kills me)
“Didn’t Want to Have to Do It,” Lovin’ Spoonful
“Life in a Northern Town,” Dream Academy
“A Summer Song,” Chad and Jeremy
“Just My Imagination,” the Temptations

The 4 Best Songs Ever Written:
Just four? Criminy. Even Mark Steyn is up to 16, and he gets an entire 2000-word column out of each of them.
“Blue Rondo a la Turk,” Dave Brubeck Quartet
“Starship Troopers,” Yes
“Fantasy,” Earth Wind & Fire (I never get tired of this)
“Three is a Magic Number,” Bob Dorough

3 Current Favorite Songs:
“Partridge,” the Anderson Council
“Go Down Gambling,” Blood Sweat and Tears
“Yomiko About Town,” Taku Iwasaki (not really the title, but the real title is two lines long, so I edited. It’s happy music!)

Classic Early Evening Drinking Music:
It’s got to swing, baby – but smooth, you know?

3 All Time Faves That Never Get Old to You
Well, you could take any three of the four from the Four Best List. Of those four, Blue Rondo is the one that I need a break from on rare occasions. But I’ll give you three new ones:

“Cheap Sunglasses,” ZZ Top
“New Frontier,” Donald Fagen
“Steppin’ Out,” Joe Jackson

AND, since all things blog and PC are recalcitrant this evening, I've moved this segment up a bit, and retitled it:

Songs to listen to in the Angry Dome:
“Pushing the Sky,” Seatbelts
“Symphony 25 in G-minor, 1st movement,” W.A. Mozart – it plays during the opening scenes of Amadeus, when Salieri is carried through the streets in the snow. It’s blistering.
“The Real Me,” the Who
“I’m So Afraid,” Fleetwood Mac – Lindsay Buckingham is wildly underrated as a composer and performer. The live performance in ’97 is tremendous – the rest of the band eventually fades out and lets him blow the stage to pieces.
“Rip Her to Shreds,” Blondie
“Play It All Night Long,” Warren Zevon
“Señor Burns,” Tito Puente. Heheheh. As he himself said, “Why shoot Mr. Burns when I can take my revenge with a slanderous mambo?”
“Voices Carry,” ‘Til Tuesday
“Laura,” Billy Joel
“Synchronicity II,” the Police

That's for starters, and there will be more on Monday in the AM. Huzzah.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Ocean City Travelogue, part two

Welcome back! Part One is here. Enjoy, and remember - alt tags are our friends!

One does not amuse by boardwalks alone, even ones with mighty naval fleets, so there had to be some browsing of the various shops. For me that meant books. There were some sweet finds, one of which you'll see later in the week, another which will have to be its own post once the scanning is complete.

I found out something, though - some places don't mind pictures of their stuff, correctly reasoning that it's a chance to get noticed in the wider world, but a few react poorly. I don't get it. Yes, it is your vase, ma'am, I realize that; at least, it's yours for the next ten minutes. Trust me, the photons from my flash won't crack it apart, and it will still be there for that nice couple from Omaha.

Again on Asbury was much more gracious, but it came with a price. Be warned, this is Hasselhoffan in its grotesquery:

Yup, it's Evil and Mrs. Evil Santa. Up close, these things are spooky: two leering, maleficent imps of destruction who hang pinless grenades on your tree and stuff your stocking with ebola Silly Putty. All Santa lacks is the green hair and purple suit to go with his gleeful cruelty; Mrs. Claus is but two knitting needles short of replacing Madame DeFarge.

I was forced to retire to the locally-famed Chatterbox for lunch. Good food, and curious decor - a pink/green scheme that reminded one of a box of Nerds decorated in 80's Southwestern hues. Somehow, though, they pulled it off. The place was quite busy. Like all such shops in Ocean City, the Chatterbox sells a lot of memorabilia to go along with its foodstuffs - all that was missing was a ballgame to turn it into a trip to the stadium.

This is why we oldsters still talk about dailing phone numbers.Part of the pink wall can be seen here in the background, along with the officially-licensed feather duster and a framed picture of the exterior of the restaurant. They have a banquet room, they said. They sell candy and gum from a glass case in the lobby. And the hostess tells me that this fabulous old rotary phone was in regular use up until only a couple of years ago.

I love this thing. It's like the cel phone of the 1920's.

Whaddya mean, you've never heard of our brand? Part of the experience was this unusual condiment brand. I can only guess whose house this recipe started in, but I doubt it was the Heinz, Hunt, or Del Monte families. Tasty, though. Smooshed tomato is smooshed tomato.

Or is it?

Bad news!  House Recipe picked up Sixth Street and doubled their market share!"Monarch Fancy Ketchup." Right. You're not fooling anyone. "Fancy" as in "costume jewelry while Cinderella waltzes by with the Prince." Which of course means "Monarch" as in "Third Under-Baron to his Moderacy Duke Whoositz the Four-and-a-Halfth."

Established in 1853? Great, that means it's only two years older than the telephone behind the counter. "Abraham Lincoln Swabbed his Deep-Fried Frenched-Style Potato Tubes Here."

To be fair, the actual food was incredible. It's called Donkey's Place, downtown on Asbury Avenue, and yowza, what a cheeseburger. It had seasoned, marinated onions that probably caused wars with Cape May.

Dessert was at a place called the Hobby Horse. A wonderful picture adorns the front lobby, of the proprietor of the business riding the very same carousel horse that is still there forty years later. Then, the building behind him was a realty specializing in summer rentals. Now it's an ice cream parlor, but there's this small reminder of the old times.

Hopefully they'll turn it into a planter or something
See, kids, once upon a time adults smoked in large numbers, and were even permitted to do so indoors! You flicked the spent ashes onto the little hollow and pressed the doodad in the front, and it dumped the ashes into the little cup, sort of like a miniature trash can with a push-pedal.

I didn't plan it, but I love how the reflection from the flash casts a ghostly wisp of smoke over the ashtray, as if the shades of customers past were enjoying one last Chesterfield before they signed on for a week beachside.

Who?  President Taft?  My mistake. And those shades keep popping up all around Ocean City. Found this beauty in another book-and-bauble store down the block. It has more of a sturdy forties look to it, a sedan to the Chatterbox's sporty coupe. I like to think that one could pick up the receiver here and, without dialing, automatically connect to the other, like Batman talking with Commissioner Gordon on the hotline.

I didn't check that bust of Shakespeare too closely, however. Some things are better left unexamined.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cheap shot

update - the REAL problem with all of this is that we've gotten distracted by the anti-Semitism. That's nasty if true, of course, but there's worse on hand. Mel was driving drunk, dammit. In fact, he's using that as his defense for what he said! It seems to suddenly not matter that he could have killed someone, so long as his heart's in the right place. Well, for a minute, forget what he said, and the Anti-Defamation League's complaints, and the ridiculous attempt to defend him from the Catholic League's Bill Donohue. Mel should be in jail for what he actually did, regardless of what he said.

In today's syndicated Liz Smith column:

And believe me, none of the evangelicals who jammed theaters, stadiums and churches to watch "The Passion of the Christ" over and over again, will condemn the actor for his addiction or his drunken remarks.

I don't believe you. For that matter, I had a good email on this topic from the Old Sarge, as well. Since I'm only Catholic and all, maybe I don't count in Ms. Smith's mind, but I'll come out and say it too - dumbass. "Nonsense draws evil after it," to quote CS Lewis, and Mel believes a lot of nonsense, which not surprisingly comes out after a few steins of Ye Olde Nut (Job) Ale.

The Romans (and Emily!) were right, "there's truth in wine." Mel doesn't always make sense while sober, either; but one's words and acts, freed from social constraint, tell a lot about your character (or lack thereof). Broadway Joe's desire to kiss Suzy Kolber on national television may still be alive and well, but he knew better than to say so aloud until he'd knocked back a few.

Ocean City Travelogue, part one

Note - this is a large post with pictures, as much of the travelogue will be. To make it up to you, I'm breaking this into a few different posts, and each picture will have semi-clever things in the captions if you pause your mouse over it. Onward!

Being known as Ocean City means having a certain percentage of nautical stuff lying about the place.

We're gonna need a bigger blog.This fellow, for example, has been hauled ashore to guard the front nine of Seaport Village Golf, at Pier Nine on the Boardwalk. As if it wasn't fun enough to have a golf course with a big shark, the layout takes you over a go-kart track and onto a replica of the wreck of the Sindia.

The Sindia (warning - annoying wave noises) was a British ship that foundered and ran aground back in December 1901. Even back then, there was such a thing as spin - people tried to play it as a ship run aground in a storm, but an official inquiry cashiered the mate for Sailing Whilst Skunked, and suspended the captain for negligence. For many a year, the wreck was still partially visible above the waters, until it was finally consumed by the encroaching sand and water.

Oh, and just to ratchet up the cool, there's also rumors of buried treasure.

A few blocks away, the Sindia's miniature is faced by a pirate's galleon.

Maybe we'd make some progress if we actually had sails or something
The two craft ever sail in place, squaring off in a showdown of mini-golfing monuments. If these were functional cannon, it would be mind-shatteringly cool. All that's left is for the Flying Dutchman to surmount an attraction at the Boardwalk, and we'd have to have a lie-down in order not to faint from all the awesome.

Avast!  Prepare to be boarded, ye scurvy Sindian dogs!

Uh, sorry guys - we've already sunk.

Thanks to the angle of the shots, it looks rather like the burger joint and the go-karts are about to launch their navies to settle their differences permanently. But it gets greater: these are not the only land-moored boats on the boardwalk. Better still, the third boat also oversees a golf course - nay, a golf empire.

Giant boat? Check. Docked behind a fake castle? Check. Verdict - COOL.
That's the rear view of the place, which features three courses and is so cool that they can keep their giant fake boat behind the building, and hire Paul Bunyan to stand at the stern and welcome people aboard. A side view gives one an appreciation for the acreage of mini-golf goodness in store:

Somewhere in there, Indiana Jones and Mola Ram are golfing to the death
This place is so large that it requires several stories to contain it all, and so engrossing that none of the patrons notice the yellow biplane strafing all the tourists in the area.

Tomorrow night - food and kitsch!