The holidays are here – ready or not. Some years I get excited – this year, not so much as it’s been a tough year. However, I believe in the holidays, and no matter my mood, I feel as though I need to observe them. The holidays are so much bigger than my own individual mood – so dive into the holidays I shall. There are few things to help me accomplish this – looking at pretty lights always helps, as does looking at the excitement of children in the toy department as they spy their Christmas morning wish. But the biggest thing that helps put me in a holiday mood is to listen to music. Some music is silly, some is sweet, some is profound, some is even sad. Whatever the mood though – it helps set my mood. So on that – here is a list of some of my holiday favorites. I hope they enhance your season as much as they enhance mine:
Christmas – Blues Traveler: These guys get the season right. They start the song out with saying they just don’t “feel it” at this time, and yet they pursue the season anyways. They tell the listener that the holidays are about hope, love, peace on Earth, etcetera. “Noel / or navidad / Season celebration or just the end of the year / Christmas can mean anything /And I mean to keep it’s hope forever near.” They end the song by singing “Hark the herald’s angel sing.” If you don’t understand their religious / philosophical views, the significance of this might get lost on you, but to give you a hint – they’re outspoken atheists and have done entire albums on their viewpoints. So – the ending of the song gives me a huge amount of respect for Blues Traveler as this is putting action to words. This is Blues Traveler showing their feelings are irrelevant as there are more important things to focus on this time of year. Bravo guys, bravo.
Do they Know it’s Christmas – Band Aid: Ok, ok, this might not be the most cheery song ever, but that’s fine. There’s just something about hearing Sting, Bono, Boy George, George Micheal, and every other freaking early 80s British or Irish musician of note singing together. And once more, they were singing together for a cause. They were trying to raise money to feed starving people, as well as to raise awareness of famine. Yeah, sure….the author of the song (Bob Geldof) kind of hates the song (even calling it one of the worse songs ever written). Yeah sure, they had to basically throw a temper tantrum to get Boy George out of bed, across the freaking Atlantic and into the studio. Yeah, sure….Bono really didn’t want to sing that line. Still – when everything was finished, they produced something amazing. Something that’s part of my history. Something that even inspired Quincy Jones and Micheal Jackson to create We are the World (Geldof hates that song as well). This song is my childhood. And despite what Bono thought at the time, I believe “Well tonight thank God it’s them, instead of you,” is one of the best lyrics ever written. I do wonder one thing though – why wasn’t Elvis Costello involved?
12 Days of Christmas – John Denver and the Muppets: Yes, yes, I’m 42 years old and I still love this song. Why? Well, one of the components of the holiday season is joy. What brings more joy than laughter? This is a very funny song. Actually, the entire album is funny as heck. We need more humor in this world, so if you don’t like it….well adjust your funny bone. And chant with animal…won’t go! Won’t go! WON’T GO! (badum dum). Oh wait, that’s We wish you a merry Christmas. Like I said – the entire album is hysterical. And Awesome. If it doesn’t bring you joy, you need a shot of Christmas cheer.
Oh Come All Ye Faithful – Twisted Sister: I never knew that Christmas music could rock until I heard Twisted Sister’s version of this song. But rock it does! It rocks so hard, I want to sing into a hair dryer, 80s style, whenever I hear this. I want to tear my clothes off and dress like the band. Well, maybe not – I mean, me dressed in women’s clothing might look scary. Then again, I probably wouldn’t look half as scary as Dee Snider. One highlight of this song – in the guitar solo (yes, there’s a guitar solo), they start drifting off into “We’re not gonna take it.” Almost an Antithesis of Iron Butterfly, who, in the long version of Inna-gadda-da-vida, drifted into “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” By the way – if you’re not watching any of the videos – watch this one. You’ll laugh your ass off.
Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Bad Religion: Just as Twisted Sister makes Christmas Music rock, so does Bad Religion. But while (I feel) Twisted Sister did it for the hell of it – Bad Religion’s Christmas songs feel like they took a page from Blues Traveler. Here’s a punk band, named Bad Religion of all things. They have been known to come out against organized religion, even featuring a Cross with a red circle and Line through it as their logo. Yet they’re singing some of the most sacred songs, and with reverence too. I chose Hark the Herald Angels Sing as my example, but really most of the entire album does this. And it’s beautiful. It demonstrates that while they speak out against organized religion, they’re perfectly ok with the actual teachings of Jesus, ie love, love, love.
All I ever get for Christmas is Blue – Over The Rhine: There’s a sultry, jazzy feel to this song which will just give you shivers unless you’re dead – and oh the feels! Over the Rhine says they like to write “Reality Christmas” music; music that recognizes, despite the holiday season and the joy thereof, we still feel real and often times dark emotions. We miss loved ones, we feel fear, rejection, sorrow, and pain. This song in particular reminds me of so many Christmas mornings where I longed to have someone by my side – my loneliness having to take a back seat to the holiday, but my loneliness still there. I suppose songs such as this are almost an antithesis to that of the Blues Traveler’s “Christmas.” Just as the season asks us to recognize the season is bigger than our own individual feelings – this song, and others in the “Reality Christmas” genre, remind us that we’re still human. That we can still feel sorrow and pain if we need to – even if it is Christmas day.
Underneath the Tree – Kelly Clarkson: Perhaps this song isn’t up the same standard as most of the other songs on this list, but dammit, I like Kelly Clarkson. So sue me. And this song provides a happy ending to All I ever get for Christmas is blue. There’s nothing wrong with a happy ending. Yes, it’s cheesy, yes, it’s plastic, yes, it’s typical pop – but it’s sweet, sweet candy. There’s nothing wrong with eating candy every so often – as long as you don’t make a steady diet of it, you should be fine.
Christmas at Ground Zero – Weird Al Yankovic: I used to listen to this song every Black Friday. It was almost always the first Christmas song I listened to and set the tone for the entire season for me. While this song is indeed very funny, It really does explore peace on earth. It shows us the horror of a nuclear war – and how even Christmas time chants of peace, hope and joy cannot stop idiotic madmen if they’re hell bent on destruction. Perhaps we should all send this to any and all future presidents. Include with it a short letter: please, for heaven’s sake, and for the sake of Peace on Earth, don’t bomb people. Please! Give Peace a chance.
Christmas Dinner, Country Style – Bing Crosby: Perhaps this song is a little outdated. I really don’t know too many people who make a thanksgiving style dinner on Christmas anymore. Who has that kind of time? We’ve got relatives to visit, presents to wrap, presents to unwrap. Besides, who wants to do all those damned dishes? Having said all that, it’s a throwback to a different time – one I saw in my grandparents and their siblings. One that will always be part of me, even if it celebrates a tradition I don’t celebrate. Going back to the concept of Reality Christmas, perhaps remembering our deceased loved ones during the holidays isn’t as bad or sorrowful as we think it might be. Remembering their traditions, their quirks, what made them smile, what made them happy – yeah, we miss them – but remembering the things that gave them joy might be enough to bring us a little joy despite their absence.
Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire – Bob Rivers: Let’s be honest: there are some freaking annoying Christmas songs out there. And while some of you might like the Chipmunks Christmas song, I see it as one of the most annoying songs ever written. This song serves as a sort of therapy for those of us who just can’t listen to that accursed song any freaking more. Sure – it might be a bit to macabre for the season, but hey! It brings me joy to think of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore as part of that “Christmas dinner, country style…”
Winter Wonderland – Steve Taylor: Christmas songs done in a mariachi style. Why not? I guess it’s better than José Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.”
The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah: I’ll leave you with this, perhaps one of the most beloved choral arrangements of all times. This song, especially while preformed by a mass choir and full orchestra, really does illiterate the point about the season being more than just about our own selves. Look at the video – look at all those faces. Hundreds of people, with who knows what is going on in their lives. If you pay attention, you can even see it in their faces. You can see that something in their lives is not going well – there’s pain and sorrow and worry…and yet there they are….singing Hallelujah with a thousand other people. They may or may not believe the same things as I believe – they may or may not care about the same things – they may or may not even like the same type of music. But there they stand, singing about the coming of the Messiah (whether they believe in the Messiah or not).
“And this is our main studio control room…..” A short, chinese woman with a hollow voice said as we walked into a room. On one wall….monitors everywhere over a counter full of controls.
“This is like something out of Star Trek,” I said with a snort.
“Close….this console was actually used in Star Wars. You know that lever they pull on the Death star?”
“Ohmygosh! Yes! Oh Wow!” I marveled at the controls – the lights, the buttons. Here was a piece of cinematic history in front of me.
“Let’s look over here” We turn to see a large studio through the windows- maybe 75 by 100 feet. The walls were grey, and lit with a blue light. Cameras arranged in front of a stage, lights dangling from the rafters.
“What the hell!?!?!” I noticed a horrific doll right at the window. It was female….it had curly brown pigtails….It looked vaguely realistic, but the paint was chipped…..like it was quite old. Maybe from the 50s or earlier.
“Oh….that….that’s just Jill. We use her for training purposes. Her tone is fairly realistic, so she’s good at teaching how to color correct cameras.”
“I swear….she moved her head”
“Hah! A lot of people say that….it’s just your imagination though.”
Later that day, in the same studio, I sit at the monitor wall. Over the intercom, someone says “10 minutes to dead roll”.
“Oh, this is a live show. We have to end at a certain time. Dead roll is just a long ending. It has a countdown beforehand, so we know if it’s safe to cut to the ending or if we need to keep stretching the guests and host.”
“Camera one….you do realize you’re live. Stop moving around like you’re on a roller coaster!” the director, a plump, middle aged hispanic man yells.”
Chapter 2: One Month Later
The clock seems dead. Not literally. I can hear the ticking of the second hands, but it seems so slow. The minutes feel like they’ve been caught in a time warp. Ahhh. Bordem. I sit at my desk and fight the urge to space out.
Just then, a rumble. My coworker rolls by my door – a cart with Jill and her “brother” Jack” on it. Covered with a blanket, almost as the equipment cart was a gurney. Almost as he was taking Jack and Jill into surgery. I think nothing of it…..I’m used to creepy Jill by now. I’ve convinced myself the incident on my first day was nothing more than my imagination. Jitters from starting a new job. But for some reason….Jill caught my eye. I stare at her. She’s facing the ceiling with her plastic half smile.
And then she turns her head towards me…..
And then she smiles….. a toothy….smile.
I scream and lock my door.
The next day I ask my coworker if he had been playing a trick on me. If perhaps he had rigged some remote control to her or something.
“Nope, besides, her neck is fixed. No moving, come look for yourself.”
We go to the storage equipment…..but Jill isn’t there.
“Huh…I thought she was right here, someone must have moved her.”
I look at the empty space, then I look over at Jack. Still at his spot. I pick him up and examine his neck. Solid. Nothing that can move. I know the dolls are a set….made exactly alike aside from one being male and one being female.
“Hmm, must have been my imagination again. Mid day day dream fooling my brain”
I shake it off, and go about my day.
Chapter 3: Deadroll
Another live show. On cue, over the intercom, a female voice monosyllabically announces” five minutes to dead roll.”
I sit at my station, dialing knobs, dials, levers mindlessly. I hear someone behind me cue up the deadroll at the VTR station. Backwards chipmunks, forwards, backwards, backwards, forwards, backwards….they finally get it right.
Three minutes later, on cue…..another deadroll announcement….”two minutes to deadroll”.
At the minute mark however…..the voice changes to an excited little girl, hyped up on sugar.
“One minute to deaaadrollllll! HAHAHAHAHA.”
The plump, middle aged director snaps “that’s not funny! We’re professionals!”
But thirty seconds later….the same voice. The same “little girl.”
We’re looking around, frightened, wonder what’s going on…..
5….4……3…..2…..1…….TIME FOR DEADROLL!!!!!!!!!!
Every monitor turns a bright red. The windows into the studio turn black. All we hear in the studio is screaming! Terror. We run to the door….but the door is locked! Someone tries the landline – but no answer. We yell over the intercom…..no one seems to hear. Our cell phones have no signal. This better just be a prank!
A couple minutes later, the windows clear up..
“Ohmygod! Ohmygod!” the audio engineer screeches. Everyone that was in the studio is now dead. Their bodies, all thrown into a bloody pile in the center of the set. 20 or so bodies….lifeless. And no clue of what happened. Just dead bodies….
Just then, the door opens. in the door….it’s…..I must be hallucinating. It’s Jill!. She’s got no arms….no legs, and yet she’s standing there. Her chipped face, smiling psychotic. Teeth showing that couldn’t exist.
She spins her head clockwise…..screeching. Then mumbling – like twenty, thirty, maybe 50 voices are coming out of her mouth.
Out of apparent thin air, she holds up a knife – with her lack of arms. It’s almost like the knife is attached to her dress. She floats to the audio engineer and cuts her throat. Her blood spills from her neck and she drops to the floor.
Jill moves to the director. He’s whimpering in the corner, mumbling “”Hail Mary full of Grace”
Jill “asks…..is this professional?” and then slits his throat. His dead body makes a hard thud as it crashes onto a counter.
And now Jill turns to me…….
“You…..I’ve been waiting for you…..”
I decide to reach for a knife in my back pocket and quickly present it.
“What the Hell do you think you’re going to do with that? My body is made out of plastic.”
She quickly slashes towards my throat, but I block it with my hand. I grab her dress and pull her around….throwing her against the console. She drops her knife, but somehow bites me. With all my might, I throw her against the door. Her body is in pieces, her head, still intact. I reach for a book on the counter. It’s a heavy Bible…..appropriate.
I yell, “I’ve heard of Bible bashing, but this is ridiculous.” and plummeted her head with the Bible until it was nothing but rubble.
“How can we recover from this?” I ask the remaining coworkers.
“We can’t….we just move on.”
“I think we better burn the remains of Jill…..throw her into a furnace or something. Just in case.”
“Probably not necessary…..but if it makes you feel better, feel free to do it.”
Back in the equipment closet, next to Jill’s now vacant spot….an unexplained light shines on Jack. He awakens, and maniacally laughs as he circles his head…..
As many of my readers know, my mom has been in the hospital and at one point it didn’t look like she was going to make it. While she’s on the up now, she’s got a long road ahead – even now. If that wasn’t stressful enough, I’ve found myself putting a lot more stock in an everyday question. Every time I’ve gone to visit her, I’ve asked myself “what do I wear?” Let me step back….I have a lot of t-shirts, and unless I’m working – I tend to default to said t-shirts. I love my polos I wear to work, but they all seem so plain when I could wear a band t shirt or maybe something a little geeky. I think it goes back to my childhood – I went to a private grade school which didn’t allow for much. Boys were allowed to wear plain t-shirts, but shirts with any kind of printing were prohibited. An extreme example….I had this green and white shirt with an “Ocean Pacific” logo on the back. I decided to wear it that day and cover it up with a jacket. I started to get hot at recess, but the playground attendant wouldn’t let me take my jacket off because it was against the dress code. Never mind, the dress code was to prevent distraction during lessons and this was recess. Rules were rules, even if you’re drenching in sweat! Sidenote, the girls had it worse as dress code was pretty much a literal phrase….they had to wear dresses (or skirts). But getting back to my love for t-shirts, let’s just say when I switched schools in eighth grade, I wore printed t-shirts almost everyday. Just because I could.
So…back to the hospital. The question that arose about what to wear vs what t-shirt I could or could not wear was the very real fact that my t-shirt could be the last thing my mom saw if she did pass away. Of course, it wasn’t just her – ICU in general is usually full of people who are on the brink of this life and the next. Of course it wasn’t just that – it was also the way I looked to family. My grandma hadn’t seen me with my beard until the day my mom was rushed to the hospital. I was wearing a dark green polo, and the combination really didn’t jive with her. She said I looked kind of scary! A few days later, she warmed up to the beard and told me it was the shirt. While this may or may not have been her overreaction – I still have not worn that green shirt since that day. And of course, that shirt is on the “do not wear to the hospital” list.
But again, that’s a polo. What about the t-shirts? Of course, there’s some very obvious shirts one should never wear to a hospital (or, maybe anywhere, but oh well). A classic example is a Def Leppard “Hysteria” T shirt. Anyone that would wear this design to an ICU, ER (or even anywhere small children frequent) needs to get professional help; they’re obviously a full blown psychopath – no further testing needed! I can picture someone as they’re breathing their last… and seeing the two demonic faces in obvious eternal torment, and thinking – Oh crap, I’m entering hell, aren’t I? Another example: my “Spinal tap, None more black,” shirt. Probably less sinister than the Hysteria shirt, but still…a spinal tap t-shirt in a hospital? Yeah….probably not a good idea.
Of course most of my t shirts were probably fine, but I decided if it was at all questionable, I probably shouldn’t wear it. I didn’t wear my Flogging Molly shirt because there was a skeleton on it – let’s not remind the sick what’s inside of them. I didn’t wear my Dead Kennedy’s t-shirt due to the fact that the word “dead” was in it. I didn’t wear my other Def Leppard shirt, the “Pyromania” shirt, because, well, I actually don’t remember. I guess I just felt it was a little too graphic. An explosion as seen through the scope of a rifle…..again….better be safe then sorry. I didn’t wear my Princess Bride shirt because it says “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, PREPARE TO DIE!” And I didn’t wear my Electric Mayhem shirt for the same reason I didn’t wear my Hysteria t-shirt – one look at Animal in chains, and they might have thought…I’m in hell and the demons are muppets!!! I didn’t even wear my deadpool shirts because….DEADpool. If the shirt had any macabre implications, real or imagined, said shirt was on the do not wear list.
Going past the comfort of anyone in ICU, I had a selfish reason for not wearing certain shirts – I didn’t want the last thoughts of my mom to be – what a dork. I’m currently wearing a shirt that says “There are four lights!” with four dots over the text. If you’re clueless, it’s a Star Trek: TNG reference to when that Cardasians held Picard prisoner – snort. While it certainly isn’t my geekiest shirt ever, it does require a bit of geekiness to get the reference.
And while another person might not have thought anything of it, my mind said “don’t wear this shirt! Your mom will think you’re a dork!” There’s a myriad of more obvious pop culture reference shirts. There were transformers t-shirts, several Star trek and Star wars shirts. There was Firefly in a bottle, and of course, there’s the Hodor quote shirt. It says “Hodor” – Hodor. Granted, my mom wouldn’t even get the reference…..but I was still worried. Almost all my geek shirts had to be put on the “do not wear” list.
Finally, there was one more category I had to consider. If I wore a shirt that I really love, and my mom died while I was wearing that shirt, would I be able to wear that shirt ever again? Honestly, most of the shirts I love were already covered in the do not wear category – but I have a couple that had to be included on the do not wear list for this reason. I’ve got a “Pink Floyd – wish you were here” shirt that I love dearly. I’ve got a Cure shirt my girlfriend got me. I’ve got a couple U2 shirts. I felt shirts in this category had to be put on the DNW list as they’re really not shirts I want attached to tragedy.
After all this I felt like I had one choice when visiting my mom (especially in the ICU). I wore plain, every workday polos. They’re comfortable, they’re ok looking, they’re non-offensive, and they’re forgettable. The biggest effect they might have on anyone around (aside from allegedly making me look scary with my beard) is that a lot of them have pretty, soothing colors. Purples, royal blues, lavender, and the like. I do admit…I avoided wearing any of my black polos – but that might be my own superstition. Then again….maybe all of this is superstition. They had us wear gowns when visiting her in the ICU, just as a precaution against microbes. So….seeing what we were wearing wasn’t all that possible. Maybe I just needed to control this….this one little thing in a time where so much was out of control.
I did, the other day, break down and wear a t-shirt when I saw her. It was a “star wars coffee” parody of Starbucks. I kind of regretted it, not because the design. Not because I thought it might be scary or demonic or insensitive. I didn’t even care that it was a little dorky – I did, however, care that it was a little short. This is why I always get a tall size in shirts if I have the choice!
Sharks. Holy crap, they’re cool. Fish that are often times huge, evolved to kill anything and everything in their paths with their teeth of justice! Ok, ok, some of them are actually pretty tame, but I think it says a lot about them that their gentle cousins, the Rays, actually killed Steve Irwin. I mean, the dude wrestled freaking crocodiles, and yet a freaking sting ray killed him. Yeah….ok, ok, maybe that’s just circular logic, but dangit, sharks are cool and it’s shark week darnit!!! So to honor this festive time, here’s my list of the ten most awesome sharks ever!
10. Great White Shark – This is, without a doubt, the king of the sharks. No other shark brings as much fear to us as the Great White. Jaws is coming to get us and we need a bigger boat! Yes! And they’re everywhere man, they’re everywhere. They’re in your bed at night! Ok, ok, maybe not in your bed….but they might as well be! They’re in every ocean except for the Artic and the Northern Antlantic. And they will get up into the Northern Atlantic….Jaws did happen in Nantucket after all…..
9. Australian Ghost Shark / Elephant Shark – Look back at the great White shark. Now look at the Elephant Shark – yeah, they don’t even look like they’re both from the same Class – and yet they are. The Great White shark is the epitome of the natural born killing machine – but the elephant shark? Well, it’s just one of those fish that flops around, all chill doing it’s Dumbo imitation with its faux trunk. Yeah. This shark has a faux trunk – you want to make something of it? I didn’t think so – because he might be a dumbo looking shark, but dumbo will mess you up because he’s still a shark! Respect the freaking shark!
8. Saw Shark – How would you like a chainsaw for a freaking nose? Huh? Well, that’s what the saw shark has – a long nose with long, sharp teeth lining the right and left of it’s freaking snout. Yeah…..that’s what you call a nightmare. But unlike a chainsaw, it can’t run out of gas. It just thrashes it’s snout until its freaking prey is dead and it’s gobbling the mutilated flesh. Yeah….don’t mess with this bastard. You’ll end up an amputee!
7. Frilled Shark – look at this shark. Isn’t he evil looking? He’s like a demon from the deeps, coming to eat your soul!!! If you see this, run for your life, because Lucifer himself has sent this sucker to consume you! Ooooo, but it’s so much worse than that…..this shark’s teeth are even more nightmarish! It’s got rows upon rows of needle-like teeth lining it’s long jaws. Stick your hand in one of these, and you might as well stick your hand in a meat grinder powered by about 100 pissed off cats. That’ll hurt!
6. Megamouth – this thing claims it only eats plankton, but look at it….does that look like something that only eats plankton? That mouth is huge. It could probably fit a Volkswagen bug in it’s mouth if it wanted to – not that anything would want to eat a Volkswagen beetle. But it could if it wanted to darn it!!! More-so, this thing looks like the godfather. Yes, maybe it isn’t lying about it’s diet, but it’s hands, err….fins aren’t clean, that’s for sure. It’s the one running the show from behind the scenese. It’s the one telling all of the other sharks to eat everything else……Your only hope is to ask for a favor on this, the day of it’s daughter’s wedding….or it’ll have an offer you can’t refuse.
5. Whorl Shark – This shark has a normal shark body, but a freaking circular saw blade for a lower jaw. Seriously, it’s jaw just kind of winds up. I’m not sure which is worse, this or the saw shark, but this shark certainly looks way more awesome than any damned chainsaw wannabe shark. This will do more than make you an amputee, this will cut you in half like a 2×4!!! Yeah! Aren’t you afraid to go into the water now? Well….maybe you shouldn’t be actually. This guy hasn’t swam in the oceans of earth for over 200 million years. Still…you never know….one might have survived in the depths of the ocean. Maybe it’s just waiting to make its resurgence back into the world. First it’ll conquer the oceans, and then the world.
4. Whale Shark – Finally, a shark that doesn’t pose any threat to our well being. Well, unless your name is Jonah! Yes….some biblical scholars believe it was not a whale that ate Jonah, but a whale shark. And you can see why. They’re huge. Oh, and they know it too. Google Whale shark attacks diver. Yeah…..they might not have any teeth, but if they feel threatened, they’ll use their size against you – in a deadly way. It’s like they’re the hippos of the sea! So even if you’re not supposed to go to Nineveh, be wary of this dude.
3. Megladon – What happens when a Great White Shark takes steroids? You get a huge ass shark that’s not afraid of anything. Seriously, when these suckers were around, they would eat whales. Freaking whales I tell you! The world hasn’t seen these creatures in 2.5 million years, which means one thing – Australopithecus must have hunted these suckers to extinction because they knew if they didn’t, the sharks would adapt to life on land and eat all our proto-human, ape like ancestors!!! Oh, but just as we know the Whorl shark is lurking about the depths of the ocean, so is Megladon. Just waiting to make its appearance once more…..sooooooooon.
2. Goblin Shark – The Goblin shark is often called a living fossil – but I call it a living nightmare! Seriously, it looks like that nerd from your chemistry class mated with a fish. This sucker is soooo ugly. Still, it’s the kind of so ugly that it’s cute type of thing. Awww, maybe I’ll just cuddle with him for a bit. He looks like he needs a hug. Then again, that nose of his might spear me. That would hurt. Also, he smells like fish. So… I guess he smells a little better than the nerd in chemistry class. Oh yeah…did I mention those teeth are like serrated blades? Nerd or not..might want to let him sit with the cool kids. That bite will hurt!
1. HammerHead – This! This is the best shark ever! Awww yeah, the hammerhead. He’s got a hammer for a head! He’s like a great white with a lot more smarts and a lot more awesome! That’s really all there is to say about this awesome shark – other than it can kick all other sharks in the buttox because it’s so awesome! Awesome! Awesome! Still, don’t get too close to this awesome shark, because he is a shark and he could mess up your day royally. Just admire it from a distance….Salute it like a flag. Looking up, but never touching. And singing to it. I’m not sure what to sing to it – but we should sing to it. I pledge allegiance to the hammerhead.
This is a piece of comedy, and while one should always realize sharks are wild animals with the ability to mess up your day (well, a lot of sharks at least), they are also not as big of a threat to humans as we tend to portray them in the media. Yes, you should keep your distance – yes, you should make sure you’re aware of your surroundings when they’re around, but you should also admire them and respect them – don’t just fear them. Sharks really are awesome!
There are many, many songs that have altered my life in some way or another – but some of them have a special impact on me. I’ve tried to list them all, but of course, there are too many. Still, there are a few that stand out. And of course, I can make a list of others when the time comes. But for now, I’ve selected a handful of songs to share. Maybe these songs will change your lives as well.
REM – Stand: I’ve written about the significance of this song before, but it is such a significant song to my musical appreciation and development, I had to include this song in the list. The story goes like this: I was riding my bike some Sunday afternoon in the mid 80s. I’m listening to a pop station on my headphones, and they played this song. The excitement I felt was so immeasurable. It was so amazing. I loved this song from the first verse. A week or two later, I heard one of my classmates talking about this song negatively. Other classmates nodding in agreement. It was clear, this was not what my peers deemed to be a cool song. And yet….I didn’t care. For the first time in my life, I loved a song that wasn’t popular with my peers and I was proud of liking this song.
Interestingly enough, my classmates aren’t the only people who don’t like this song. Micheal Stipe wrote the lyrics as a joke – trying to write the most inane lyrics possible. Peter Buck says it’s the stupidest song REM has ever written. I still don’t care. I stand on my opinion on the song stand, and no one can change my mind.
TLC – Waterfalls: I actually didn’t know this song existed until I heard the Weird Al Parody, “Phony Calls.” In fact, it was the first current song that Weird Al parodied in which I didn’t actually know. I listened to the proper song and, well, I won’t say the song sucks – but I certainly knew I didn’t like the song. Not in any way shape or form. I would rather have a root canal than to listen to that song again. Even now, I’ve tried to listen to it and I’m just baffled that other people actually like(d) this song. That’s not to come against anyone’s taste in music – I would be a hypocrite if I said it was a bad song and you should feel bad for liking it, but I still hate this song and I’m more than ok with that. But why is it such a life changing song to me? Like I said, I discovered it through the Weird Al Parody. It was really the first parody of his I didn’t actually recognize – so it served as an enlightening moment. I hadn’t been paying attention to pop radio for a few years by the time I heard the song – but I didn’t quite realize how far removed I was from what was popular until I heard this song. And just like I was ok with liking Stand, I was just as ok with not even knowing Waterfalls.
My Bloody Valentine – Sometimes: If you were to ask me what my favorite song is, my answer would be Sometimes by My Bloody Valentine. I had heard it before the mid 2000s, but I didn’t really absorb it till about that point. It was a very dark and lonely time in my life, but when I heard this song, I fell in love with it. After hearing the song, I was inspired to write something on LiveJournal: I don’t need a job, I don’t need a girlfriend, I’ve got good music! While I did need a job in actuality, and while this song did not in fact cure my loneliness – it reset me. It took me to another place. It made me not focus on the darkness of life – but rather the beauty of the music. This song, even today, is still a song that resets my mood.
New Order – Ceremony: This song is also one that resets my mood, but not in the same way as Sometimes. While Sometimes makes me accept and not care about the world around me, Ceremony is a song that brings me hope and drive. When I hear “I’ll break them down, no Mercy shown, heaven knows it’s got to be this time,” I feel like the song is my own personal cheerleader. After all, the song is about just needing, just being desperate for something to click – despite the fact that every other time before things have failed. To be fair, some may not interpret this song as a song of hope – but I do. This song is always going to be about hope despite my situation, despite all that’s happened….despite the fact that I’ve tried a million times before and fallen on my face. This song is about that one time I tried and instead of falling on my face, I succeeded.
Tears for Fears – Sowing the Seeds of Love: The last two songs were about bringing hope. Sowing the Seeds of love, however, is all about optimism. It’s not a boost to my mood, it’s more of a slow and steady attitude that I keep. But it’s not just my attitude – this song isn’t just about me. This song is about everyone. This song is about society, and our collective hopes and dreams – this song is about being excellent to each other even when those who have power over society are less than excellent to us. This song is all about love – and as Lennon put it, all you need is love. There’s more to this song than simple lyrics mind you – the trumpet at the end, the orchestration throughout the song, the different sections we encounter through the song – I won’t call it a journey as I personally hate that metaphor – but the song does bring you on a casual afternoon drive on a sunny day with your sweetheart.
Donald Byrd – You and the Music: Some would say a song about music is something we should avoid. While I say it is a subject one should approach with caution, a song about music is a song about passion. After all – music is a way to express passion – so why not go meta? That is exactly what happens with Mr Byrd’s You and the Music. The song really sums up how I feel about music in general. Sometimes a song is fun, and it just makes me want to dance. Sometimes a song inspires my passions, and it makes me want romance. Sometimes the song captures me and won’t let me go – it puts me in a trance. Honestly – this song does all three to me. This song really describes my passion, my desire, and my very need for music. Any song that can put these things into words deserves a spot on this list!
Joan Jett – Bad Reputation: Sometimes you just want a song about rebellion. A bunch of loud guitars, a I don’t give a ….. attitude, and just plain old rock and freaking roll. This provides just that. It isn’t against anything in particular, and that’s what makes this song great. This is a song that expresses pure emotion – the emotion might not be filtered through our logical senses, it might not know why it’s happening, but then again, emotions aren’t about logic anyways. Deal with it! Cry if you want to cry, yell if you want to yell, laugh if you want to laugh. And yes – it’s all about a bad reputation the speaker of the song supposedly has, but maybe that’s an undeserved bad reputation to begin with! I suppose this song accomplishes the same thing as Mr Byrd’s You and the Music, only limited to a specific genre. Some would view this as a lesser song – but considering rock and roll tends to be my favorite genre, I refuse to take sides on the issue.
Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Company: I discovered this song after I broke up with a girl. I had never actually been the person who stops a relationship, so a wave of new emotions and feelings came over me. As I listened to this song, it’s sometimes conflicting journey, I realized this song was about those feelings I was experiencing. It made me feel normal. It made me feel human. I realized I wasn’t a monster. Most of all, I realized this is how every girl who broke up with me felt. I wanted to give them all a great big hug and tell them how much I understood.
This song earned a permanent place in my musical rotation. A little more than a year passed and I found someone else. As this song came up, on random shuffle, I realized this song isn’t about breaking up, but it’s actually about the process of falling for a new person – the mistakes you’ll make in the process, the uncertainty, and the general craziness of it all. I found myself making these mistakes, and realizing that it was ok – because the girl I fell for wasn’t running.
So….now I have two conflicting interpretations of what is this song about? Is it about breaking up? Is it about falling in love? Maybe it’s about both. Or maybe it’s just a song that is exactly what you need it to be.
Belle and Sebastian – I’m a Cuckoo: Sometimes a relationship isn’t just about two people – it’s about an entire group. And When one leaves that group, it’s essentially breaking up with them. Sometimes these groups can be informal groups, sometimes they’re formal like that of a job or a church. I left a church I had been at for probably fifteen years. I realized I just couldn’t fake it anymore – I just didn’t fit. I felt bad, there were a lot of people that I loved and cherished there, but I knew it was what I had to do. At about that time, I bought Belle and Sebastian’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, and found the song “I’m a cuckoo. The song is a reminiscence of someone the speaker of the song obviously cares about, but had to separate themselves from. It’s both apologizing to the person – but it also recognizes the problems of the relationship and why it was just best they both move on without each other. I’ve already said that a song will capture your emotions of the time, so I feel like I’m repeating myself with this song. But I’m a Cuckoo really did say exactly what I wanted, what I needed to say to the group I left behind.
On and On – Stephen Bishop; What a fool believes- The Doobie Brothers; Say a little prayer – Dionne Warwick: I’m lumping these three songs together, and there’s probably more that deserve to be in this section. These were songs that I heard when I was really young, and somehow set a spark for me. It’s hard to even put a finger about what they said to me at age four or five, but they said something. It wasn’t their lyrics either – it was the melodies, the music, the sounds, and the overall feeling I got while hearing them. Even now, I’m brought back to this primal feeling when I hear any of these songs. My girlfriend had an interesting theory – these songs were my lullabies. It makes sense. A lot of the songs mentioned in this article are all about knowing things were going to be alright. There were certainly times, even in my young life, I needed to know this. And isn’t that what a lullaby does? Doesn’t it tell the listener that everything is going to be alright? That the monsters under your bed aren’t going to attack you in the middle of the night. Perhaps all of the songs on this list are a lullaby. Sure, I’ve grown past the beliefs of monsters under the bed (though I am still a little afraid of the dark). But sometimes I just need to know everything is going to be alright. Most of these songs in this article can be linked to a time that where everything worked out fine, despite the monsters under my bed – despite the monsters in the world.
I love April Fool’s day. And it’s only gotten better with the rise of the internet. You have Think Geek’s phony products, reddit’s annual prank, Google, Netflix….they all seem to be in on the April Fool’s merriment. There’s also the individual pranks. This year in Dead Memories Portland, I convinced a good portion of the group that they would discontinue selling Best Food’s Mayonaise in favor of selling Hellman’s nationwide. Some were exhuberant, some not so. I’m pretty sure there’s some that still don’t know it’s a joke. There’s also the string of silly pranks – tape on the bottom of a coworker’s optical mouse, or maybe a fake roach on their desk. And of course, there’s the “I’m pregnant / engaged / coming out of the closet / quitting the internet and ecetera. Some feel those are over the top, and in poor taste, but as someone who has pulled three of the four, I love them. Of course – when I pulled “I’m pregnant,” no one believed me, but that’s an entirely diffferent story.
But this is not a story about the best pranks I’ve pulled – this is the story about the best prank pulled on me. It was April 1, 1998, and it was done by my biology instructor in college. To understand the dynamics of this particular prank, I need to tell the reader about the PCC Biology department. Most people taking biology at PCC were not science majors, and therefore got to take the dumbed down biology lab. This lab was, for the most part, at the student’s own pace. We would walk into the biology lab, to the back counter, and ask for the lesson we needed. We would then recieve a box with an audio cassette, and everything we needed to complete the lesson. When we were finished with the lesson, we would finish up the worksheet, show it to the instructor at the front of the lab, and they would grade the worksheet on the spot. We could then go take the quiz for the unit at our leasure. Mind you, this sounds easy enough – but oh, oh it was not. The tests were grueling, and often times would rely you knowing the biology textbook backwards and forwards. They would have questions that were not covered in the material, which you would then have to answer throguh the process of elimination: I know the answer could not be A, B, or D, so I guess the answer is C. Probably a great way to teach those who study science, for a liberal arts major like myself – well, let’s just say I did a lot of extra credit in that class to maintain my GPA.
But I digress – you want to know about the prank! It was the first week of Spring quarter, and I was taking my first unit of 103. I remember it had to do with human reproduction, though to be honest, I don’t remember much more about the unit. The instructor was a very sciency looking older, plump woman wiht short hair. She looked very serious and no nosence, but did at times let her human side show up. Example, in this same unit I had to show her a human sperm (on a pre-prepared slide mind you). She seemed to be very excited to see it up close: “Oh, there’s the little guy!” She said with a raspy voice as she looked at a very uncomfortable me.
I had finished my worksheet, and I needed her to sign off on it. I was satisfied with it, and even figured it was one of the easier units. I handed her my paper, she looked at it, gasped, and then looked strait at me and said in her most serious tone: “Do you really expect me to accept this?” She obviously knew my deer in a headlights look, as I had just – maybe a day before – showed her a sperm. Silence. Other students gathered around the table, looking at me, me looking at her…..finally I asked: “What’s wrong with this?” She, with the same tone she had after seeing the sperm, said: “Well, for one thing, it’s April First.” She then smirked, and stamped my paper. I realiized I had just been pranked by my biology professor. She later said that she had been waiting all day for a 103 student to finish a lesson, just so she could pull this prank. It obviously gave her joy, made me laugh, and even made those aorund me laugh.
I guess that’s what made this specific joke so much fun. Yes, it was a simple joke, and my readers probably expected a more complex joke – but sometimes the simple jokes are in fact the best. It also came from a source I didn’t expect – a collegiate instructor. Someone who had power over me. Someone who could basically ruin my GPAand make me take the class over again if I looked at them the wrong way. And while it made a fool out of me, it really did make everyone involve laugh. This is the most important thing one can hope for in any joke. The pranker, the victim, and the bystanders all enjoyed the joke. This is truly a successful joke. Happy April Fool’s everyone. By the way, there’s a big huge bug on your shoulder. Made you look!
There really is no easy way to end a series. You’re always going to have loose endings and dropped plotlines. The viewer will always wonder “but what happened next” – perhaps with a lingering feeling that the story isn’t finished yet. Some endings have gotten a lot of praise for how they handled things. MASH, Breaking Bad, even Newhart’s comedic ending. And then there are the endings that really make the fans mad. Some with good measure, sure – what the hell were they thinking with Rosanne? Still – some deserve a second viewing with an objective mind. Come, journey with me into a few of these “terrible endings.” Perhaps your point of view will change.
Lost: The End (2010):I’ve written about this before: Lost was a series about life and death. Lost was not a puzzle to be solved, though there were puzzles certainly in the series. Lost was not about providing all the answers – yet so many fans wanted a perfect ending that spelled out every answer to every unanswered question. Maybe it’s not the fault of the viewer mind you; maybe it’s the fact that we’ve all been weaned on Chekov’s gun. I respect the concept of Checkov’s gun – it’s a solid concept that applies to most good fiction. Having said that, a literary theory is not a scientific theory. If a Literary theory does not fit with the overall piece of fiction, it can and should be thrown out with the compost. Lost was one of these instances where there were several “guns” in the room which were never used (or explained): Why was Walt special? Why was Desmond able to see Charlie’s future? Why were those specific numbers asigned to those specific people? The answer – happenstance. I’m digressing into things I’ve written before. The point is the theme of Lost was life and death. Of course it’s going to end in a scene where everyone is dead. Be it Jake, Kate, Hurley, Desmond, or even Jacob, all have to die. Some might die early and heroically, such as Jack. Some might die a long time afterwards, such as Hurley. But all died in their time. This was the final message of Lost, and this is why “The End” fit so well into the rest of the series.
Battlestar Galactica: Daybreak (2009): Before we get too far into apologetics, I will agree it was kind of lame to find out the entire series happened what, 150,00 years ago? But this plays into the theme that echoed throughout the theme: All this has happened before, and all this will happen again. There was nothing special about this specific race of humans. They died to give birth to us. Maybe we’ll die to give birth to the next race of humans in a few million years, maybe we won’t – but these humans did. Regardless – it was a bold move. Bold moves such as this often cause dissent and contempt amongst viewers, true, but such bold moves can also give us a bit more subtext. In this case, the bold ending really made us think that maybe, just maybe, we’re not all that special. Maybe we’re just playing a game that’s been going on for eons upon eons. Or maybe we’re just special enough to break the mold. That’s the literal interpretation, sure. However, if you’ve watched the series, you know that you can’t just go on literal interpretations alone. Daybreak was a metaphor for the civilizations of the past, present, and future. Of the past – they’re gone; they were either too weak to avoid other civilizations, or they ended up destroying themselves. The Romans, the Ancient Egyptians, the Ancient Chinese, the Mayans – sure, they have decedents, but their civilizations are gone. The Future is not known – but the present; well – we’re in the present and for every technical marvel we produce, we also seem to produce something not so wonderful. Poverty, mass shootings, environmental catastrophes, wars, terrorism, politicians acting like children. If we don’t wake up – we (21st century America) will be a distant memory, destroyed by our own strength and technology. Just like the Romans, and the people in the 12 colonies of Kobol.
Seinfeld: The Finale (1998): Yes, yes, they all ended up in jail – but is that really a bad thing? Four narcissistic people who really didn’t give two shakes about anyone but themselves got locked away. Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer have been treating other people like circus animals for years – as if other people had no value other than to amuse the four of them. This was, essentially, what they got locked away for too. They saw a guy they could have helped get robbed. They didn’t have to put themselves in danger, they could have just called for help. Instead, they just sat there, watching, laughing, and saying I’m glad that isn’t me. Annnnd then they get arrested and every single person they’ve treated like a circus animal for the last nine years got to testify against the four. This episode was so Karma for so much schadenfreude. Still, going beyond locking up four sociopaths before they did any physical harm was just the surface. The Finale sent a message to its audience. The Finale told us all not to take the series literally – it is NOT, repeat, NOT ok to treat people like Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer treat other people. You might notice a running theme in this article: that the ending episode has one last message, one final thing to say to its audience. This was Seinfeld’s: Treat people as though they’ll be a witness at your day in court.
How I Met Your Mother: Last Forever 2014: I can already feel the hate from my readers for even suggesting that this episode has any redemption. It’s been almost two years, and people still act as though Last Forever was a slap in the face. Two things specifically anger people: a) Robin and Ted DO end up getting together after all is said and done, and b) the mother dies. And guess what – you should have seen both of these coming. With the latter, the series has always hinted that the mother was dead at the time of Ted’s epic story to his kids. Firstly. The series creators always stated that the destiny would always be the same, despite changes in course. The mother being dead wasn’t the only possible ending that could remain intact despite changes to the series, but it was a definite possibility. Secondly, in the episode “The Time Travelers,” the theoretical speech that Ted gives the mother says he wishes he had the extra 45 days between then and when he finally meets her. This implies that there is a finite amount of time the two had together. Sure, that’s true for all relationships – eventually someone dies. But in this case, Ted’s speech really does make us wonder – how much, or how little, time do these two have together? Thirdly, and finally – if Ted had really spent all this time (maybe two or three hours) telling his children this long story about how he and their mother actually met, wouldn’t she have interrupted at some point? If the mother had been Stella, we KNOW this would have happened (as this happened in Ted’s head). True, the mother could have been out for a few hours, but the vibe that this story gives is not one of telling a story about someone who could walk through the door at any minute – it’s one of someone who isn’t there. But, like Ted does so many times during the series, I digress. Let’s tackle the Robin and Ted thing. This will be shorter, I swear (Please imagine that being said in Bob Saget’s voice). The show began with a story about how Ted and Robin meet. Every time we think Ted is finally over Robin, something happens. Robin even, indirectly, causes Stella to leave Ted before their wedding. If it was not for Robin, Ted would have married Victoria after he bridenapped her from Klaus. And at the end of the series, we have a very sad Robin. We have one that no longer wants to hang with her ex-husband, a married couple that hardly has time for her, and the guy she probably should have hung out with. Tracey took Robin’s place in the group. At the end of the series, we have Robin who is sad and lonely, we have Ted who has his kids and the memories of his dead wife. Why not let these poor souls have a little bit of happiness? So you see (kids) – the two reasons that people really despise “Last Forever are pretty much moot points. You’re allowed to your opinions mind you, but the series ended in a logical and compassionate way. I recently watched the ending again, and I felt like I had just watched an independent romantic film – it made me giddy with joy. And the blue French horn? Perfect!
Dexter: Remember the Monsters (2013): You’re probably going expecting me to say that this ending was perfect. You’re probably expecting me to say that Dexter faking his own death and fleeing to Oregon, Deb Dying, and Hannah and Harrison getting abandoned in Buenos Aries is the ending I wanted for this series. If you’re saying anything along those lines, you’re wrong. But not as wrong as the writers of this episode. Seriously, what were these idiots thinking? Even Micheal C. Hall – the guy that played Dexter and created the freaking series hated the ending. The lack of hope alone – just makes me mad! They spent so much time saying that maybe Dexter could actually get rid of his dark passenger and lead a normal life, only to say “nope! we lied about that, Dexter is screwed for life.” So, why did I include Dexter in this list? Well, this is more of a plea than anything. Maybe a bit of wishful thinking. They’re thinking about starting the series again – continuing the story. This is my official plea that if they do this, the entire last season ends up nothing but a dream. That at the end of the series, Dexter is happy, and mentally healthy – that Harrison gets a normal childhood – that Deb is well adjusted – and that well, you get my point. Seriously guys – let’s make this happen! Don’t let the bastards drag us (and Dexter) down!
This year’s best of music list is going to be a little different. Instead of a numbered list, I’m doing things by category. Why not? My tastes are eclectic so rating my favorites of the year against each other would be like comparing avocados and orangutans. Ok, that’s not how the phrase goes, but when have I ever done anything the way it’s supposed to be done! But I digress. Anyways, here’s a list of music I really enjoyed this year (and one album I really didn’t).
Best free album of the year: Star Wars – Wilco: This album starts out with an experimental track called “EKG.” You’re treated to a guitar that sounds like it was tuned wrong and a rhythm section that sounds like it’s a little too slow. But it works. The album is blessed, or plagued (depending on your opinion) with Wilco’s melding of classic guitar rock and Lo fi, followed by a little space pop followed by psychedelia followed by …well, you get the picture. I can honestly say this is my favorite Wilco album since A Ghost is Born. Seriously – go download it. Now!
Best hipster song: Bored in the USA – Father John Misty: OK, so that’s a bit of a mean thing to say – but it’s true. This is a hipster song if there ever was a hipster song. But hipster or not, the witty lyrics paired with an almost Elton John-esque feel. The use of a laugh track halfway through the song makes the protagonist sound like his life is the butt of some cosmic joke – as though his life is only there for the amusement of some unseen audience. But back to this being a hipster song. This is a hipster song because this was written about the fears the Millennials are currently looking at. The same fears Generation X had 20 years ago. The same fears the Baby Boomers had 40 years ago. The same fears the next generation will most likely face in 20 years. So maybe this isn’t a hipster song. Heck, what’s a hipster again?
Best album I forgot existed: Girls In Peacetime want to Dance – Belle And Sebastian: While I was reviewing the music I bought in 2015 for this article, I realized there was a brand spanking new Belle And Sebastian album I bought and totally forgot about. Belle and Sebastian might be the favorite band of mine on this list, so this was a big deal – almost a late Christmas gift. As I opened this gift, I was pleasantly surprised. The album starts out with one of the most, if not the most, personal song Stuart Murdoch has ever written. The song, “Nobody’s Empire” speaks of struggles with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how it affected every aspect of his life. Going past the state they’re currently in though, this album differs from past Belle and Sebastian albums, in the fact that they rely heavily on keyboards – giving sections of the album an almost disco feel. Despite the disco, this album really feels like a Belle and Sebastian album. Perhaps that is why it’s such a great album – they kept their essence, and yet infused it with something new.
Best album from a rock and Roll legend: Alone in the Universe – Jeff Lyne’s ELO: John Lennon once stated that Electric Light Orchestra is the spiritual successor of the Beatles. So, what better way to judge an ELO album than by asking “what would the Beatles sound like if they made an album now?” Honestly, I think the Beatles would sound a lot like the music on Alone in the Universe. The opening tract, “When I was a Boy,” feels like the song “Yesterday” evolved (and by the way, it might be the best song that Jeff Lynne has ever written). That’s not to say Jeff Lynne and ELO can’t do anything that isn’t Beatles-esque mind you. The haunting title track sounds nothing like a Beatles song, yet it is easily one of my favorite tracks. There’s also “Fault Line,” a fun rockabilly song which will stick in your head for days and days. It was 14 long years since we’ve had a new ELO album, and Alone in the Universe proves the wait was well worth it.
Worse album from a rock and roll legend: No Pier Pressure – Brian Wilson: I have a ton of respect for Brian Wilson. There are times I’ll listen to his music and wonder if maybe we’re twins separated at birth (even though he’s 30 years older than I am). So I was, of course, really excited when he released a new album. Sure, all his albums can’t be Smile, but this one just bored me. To be fair, it felt like Brian Wilson is trying to capture the days of his youth. I can respect that. The very album name makes a reference to this -maybe I just don’t get it. I will say though, I do love the song “On the Island” featuring She & Him.
Best album of covers: The Cover Up – The Protomen: While we wait for The Protomen to finally give us Act III, they have given us a lot of really good covers. Starting with “Because the Night” (Patti Smith Group) as a duet. While this version isn’t as sultry as the original, I do feel like it actually trumps the 10,000 Maniacs’ version. The album also features a Version of Celine Dion’s “I Drove all Night,” which totally changed my opinion of the song from meh to whoa! The Gambler even belted out an amazing version of Total Eclipse of the Heart – albeit her voice is an octave or two lower than Bonnie Tyler’s original. It’s hard to not talk about every song on this album (Danger Zone, Mr. Roboto, I Still Believe, Princes of the Universe). Having said this, the ending track, Mike + the Mechanics’ Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground) might be the strongest song on the album. The Protomen version is a bit more updated, and a bit darker with the addition of missing persons reports voice over at the end of the song. A perfect ending to the song, and a perfect ending to the album.
Best artist discovered in 2015: The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones – How did I NOT really know this band before this year? Yes, sure, I knew “The Impression That I Get,” – everyone knows that song. But I didn’t know the Bosstones. I did not know “Royal Oil,” I did not know “The Rascal King,” I didn’t know the heavily Ska inspired “Where’d You Go?”. I did not know their Brilliant cover of Kiss’ “Detroit Rock City.” My sins have been forgiven, as I’m now fully into the Bosstones, but I still weep for my wasted years of not listening to this amazing band. Fun fact – their manager dances around the stage when they play live shows. How cool is that?
Best album discovered in 2015: A Prarie Home Invasion – Jello Biafra and Mojo Nixon: Ok, if you’re not offended sometime during this album, you’re probably a psychopath, but that goes without saying if Jello Biafra is involved. Add Mojo Nixon, and you’ve got yourself a cocktail of anarchy! This album purposely jabs at the “rednecks” of America (circa 1994). The music is mostly public domain gospel tunes with new lyrics. A high point of the album is a cover of Fred Kirby’s “Atomic Power.” While the original was totally serious about the benefits of “God Given” Atomic Power, the unchanged lyrics in the context of Biafra and Nixon is a good, tongue in cheek jab at nuclear power plants. And then there’s “Will the Fetus be Aborted” to the tune of “Will the circle be unbroken.” Yeah – even I’m a little offended by that song.
Best artist to finally wake up and let Spotify stream their freaking music: AC/DC: Yes, Finally! I can scream along to “Thunderstruck” while sitting at my desk. OK, ok, that might not be a good thing – but seriously – I was happy when they announced this. Now, if Only we could convince Joana Newsom to do the same thing. Hmmmm…..Imagine a mash up of AC/DC and Joana Newsom. You’d have a harp playing girl singing about a Highway to Hell. I’d certainly pay to listen to to that! But I digress.
Best Song that everyone knows and loves of the year: Hello – Adele I won’t write too much about this, because like I said – everyone knows it. But geez, how can anyone not like this song? Wow. Just wow. She’s got a pretty voice.
Honorable Mentions: There were several songs, artists, and albums I wanted to include on this list – but I can only give so much! But Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, Kathryn Calder, Sleater-Kinney, Chicane, The Alabama Shakes, and Enya all produced some amazing music this year. So, go check those out too!
We all have our list of TV shows we truly miss. There’s some that lasted a long time, but we kind of wish could last a bit longer. There’s also shows that only got a season or two before we took them out back and had them shot. Losing these shows can sometimes feel like a traumatic event – like a death of a close friend, or at least someone you liked to get a beer with from time to time. You truly miss them, and you wonder what might have been. We almost want to have a funeral for these shows, and write obituaries. So this is exactly what I’ve done with ten of these shows that I cherished during their runs. Some might surprise you, others, not so much. No, I do not have Firefly on this list (though it was considered), and yes, I do have shows that….well. You’ll find out.
Here they are – ten obituaries for ten shows canceled too early.
1) Freaks and Geeks / Undeclared – I lump these two shows together, because while they were two different shows with two different continuities, both shows were the same group of brilliant people and it can be argued these shows happen in the same universe. The same reason The Wonder Years was such a great show. These shows were about a group as they came of age. It was about their struggles, their triumphs, their love lives and their lack thereof. The shows were about humanity – about times changing both in the character’s lives, and the world around them. It was about high school / college age students learning the best they could the lessons their classes couldn’t teach them. I do have one question about Undeclared though – what kind of sadistic professor assigns Atlas Shrugged to a bunch of Freshmen? RIP Freaks and Geeks. RIP Undeclared. If you couldn’t relate, at least partly, to one of the characters in theses shows, I question your emotional state.
2) Ringer – If there’s one rule about what shows to cancel, it’s this: Never cancel a show involving Sarah Michelle Geller. Never. Apparently, the WB/CW doesn;t abide by this commandment, because they’re also the one that canceled Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To be fair, maybe they only needed a couple more seasons – we’ll never know though. And the show left more loose ends than a badly tied knot. The last line uttered in the series – well, I won’t ruin it, but it’s not what you’re expecting. Ever. There was even a huge surge of fans, including a petition with 16,000 signatures – all demanding the show be UN-canceled. But in the end, the ratings spoke more the network execs more than the loud fans. I hope they’re fans of some shows that got canceled before their prime, because they deserve to be treated the same way. (middle finger pointed strait at them). RIP Ringer. Don’t let the bastards bring you down.
3) Primeval – What the CBC did to Primeval may never be forgiven. New World sucked so badly, that (well, I really shouldn’t repeat myself). This is why I want at least two more seasons of Primeval proper produced by the BBC. Usually after the fifth season, the series tends to lag – but not Primeval. The series felt like it was nowhere near peaking. Maybe that’s why they stopped when they did – maybe they were afraid of the possibility that the show would become stale, I mean lightning can’t strike twice (ahem – Doctor Who anyone?). Eh, what can I say – British TV is weird. RIP Primeval. I said I wouldn’t repeat myself, but I do a hope T-rex rips apart the doppelgangers that replaced you.
4) Futurama – Yes, yes, this series has been resurrected more times than Lazarus stuck in a time loop – but I want more. The show is funny, yes. The show is brilliant, yes. The show makes us love people we would not normally love (what about Zoidberg?). The show is just, quite frankly, the best 30 minute show produced in the last 20 years. Every summer I re-watch the entire series because, well, why wouldn’t I? Sure, I cry every time I get to Jurassic Bark, and sure, I cringe every time they show the Professor Au-natural, but the show just leaves me wanting more. I feel like even if they resurrect it again, I’ll still want more. RIP Futurama. I guess all good things must end. But maybe, just maybe, the ending could have been prolonged a little more.
5) Victorious – Don’t watch this show, as you’re probably not going to like it. My target audience and the target audience of this show do not overlap much. And unless you watch it with your kids, you’re probably going to look creepy watching it. Having said that, I have to admit I kind of loved this show a little more than I should. The writing was pretty good, the jokes were pretty funny, and every so often they’d have a lot of fun (one episode is a shot by shot recreation of the Breakfast Club). The ratings were strong too. And yet for some reason it was canceled. There was some rumors going around that they canceled it because they only allowed Nickelodeon shows to go four seasons usually – but come on. That’s a bunch of crap and everyone knows it. They canceled it because they wanted to do the terrible spin off which I shall not even name here. To add salt to the wound, if they hadn’t canceled this series, maybe, just maybe, a certain annoying pop star wouldn’t be all over the media now. She was in the series, but only as a supporting role. She was also a star of the spin off….Yes, I blame the cancellation of this series for the evil, doughnut hating queen of sheer slutty stupidity…well, I think you can figure out the whore’s name. RIP Victorious. Your death gave birth to a new breed of pure terror, heard on every pop radio station in the nation. Your resurrection might be the only weapon we have against her.
6) Stargate Atlantis – This show just ended awkwardly. The Wraith were still out there, and they might even know the location of Earth. There’s still millions (maybe even Billions) of humans in the Pegasus galaxy waiting the be culled, and Atlantis just kind of sat there, bobbing away in the San Francisco Bay. Come on people! There’s so much more to the story here. At least give us a movie! We deserve that! We need some freaking closure on this sucker. Even Firefly got Serenity! RIP Stargate Atlantis. I do hope the wraith make our ultimate culling as quick and painless as possible, though they are the wraith – so they probably won’t. Yikes.
7) Stargate Universe – And this one….this one is just as bad! At least the crew of Atlantis got to go home – but not the crew of Destiny. Nope….they’re doomed to never know the true mission of the ship, doomed to never explore the rest of the massive spacecraft, doomed to never go home, and doomed to – you get the idea. Stupid Canadians – they probably canceled this show so they could focus on Primeval: New World. RIP Stargate Universe. I hope you someday finish your mission – I hope you find what you’re looking for.
8) Terra Nova – I pretty much stopped watching FOX after the canceled this series. Sorry, buh-bye, no more. OK, ok, I still watch Fox on Sunday nights, but that’s different man, I gotta have my Simpsons! But back to Terra Nova. It was a fun show at first. Kind of light, had the appeal of Jurassic park, only there’s like an entire colony instead of just a few tourists – and nowhere to escape. But then you started getting good. Then you started showing the real reason Terra Nova existed – the politics, and those that didn’t believe in the cause and what that meant to the citizens of Terra Nova. RIP Terra Nova. You escaped into the past of a parallel universe, looking for a new home. I hope you find that new home in the future of another network.
9) Selfie – This show looked really dumb – and perhaps that was its downfall. To be fair, it was indeed very dumb at times – but when it stopped trying to appease the masses and started finding its voice, it because a brilliant commentary on post-modern America and the age of social media. It described a woman who was a slave to her technology, how her Facebook and twitter and Instagram and Tinder lives ruled her real life. One wonders how many people like her our society fosters. Note: I’m sharing this on a blog which most of you will find through social media. So yeah, no wonder this show got canceled. Americans don’t feel comfortable with introspection. RIP Selfie. You may have been shallow at times, but you really did know what punches to throw.
10) The Crazy Ones – This is going to hit us all in the feels, but if this show hadn’t been canceled, we might still have Robin Williams with us. I’m not an expert on the subject, but a quick google search shows that Robin viewed the cancellation of the show as a personal failure, and that his depression which lead to his suicide started with this event. It makes me wish I had a time machine. I seriously loved the show, and looked forward to it almost every week. It really made me happy. Maybe if I could travel back in time and somehow tell him how much I adored it….maybe we’d have Robin with us still. RIP The Crazy Ones, and RIP Robin Williams. You were too good for your critics and you are severly missed. And again – there’s the whole don’t cancel a show if Sarah Michelle Geller is involved!!!
As with the tradition of the last few years, I’ve once more written a story in the spirit of Halloween. So, without further adiue, I bring you the adventures of Larry the Happy Squirrel in Happyville. Happy Halloween, and enjoy.
It was a peaceful day in Happyville. The sun was shining, the flowers were singing, the trees were swaying, and everyone was happy. After all, this was Happyville. Wait, wait, there is no such place as Happyville! Well, there isn’t now…for on that very day Happyville ceased to exist.
Like I was saying, Happyville was a happy place for happy people with happy lives and happy jobs, happy families,….even the cows they slaughtered for their evening meals were happy! To be unhappy in Happyville was just impossibility until that day. A couple weeks before, Larry the happy squirrel ventured back from his happy journey from the lands south of Happyville. No one is sure what happened, but Larry the happy squirrel somehow lost his happiness on the happy journey. Larry decided to fake happiness for awhile, thinking no one would notice. For the most part, no one did. The residents of Happyville were rather simple and a little dumb. Besides, they had no concept of unhappiness – it was almost like gibberish to their brains.
Larry, feigning happiness, walked to the diner like he always did, and ordered happy eggs with happy toast and happy coffee. As the waitress, Lisa the gazelle, poured the happy coffee into Larry’s happy cup, she accidently poured scolding happy coffee on Larry’s unhappy hand. Those two weeks of feigning happiness were taking their toll on Larry – faking it usually does. This, unfortunately for Lisa and everyone else in the diner, was the last straw. Larry couldn’t hold his happiness in. In his cute, cartoony squirrel voice, Larry wailed…
YOU BITCH! YOU STUPID MORON! YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING IDIOT OF A STUPID….
Larry stopped and realizing everyone else was staring at him. No doubt, their small brains could not figure out exactly what was happening. No doubt they felt something terrible had happened, but couldn’t decipher what….but they knew Larry was no longer something Happyville could have in its happy borders. Farrah the Earthworm squirmed towards the door. She had to inform the happy mayor that Happyville needed to do something about Larry. But Farrah, poor Farrah, she couldn’t move too fast. Larry saw her slithering to, so he took his happy boot and smashed her. Farrah’s happy guts squished out of her, all over the happy floor. Some of the happy diner patrons let out a happy gasp, some even let out a happy vomit. Larry, on the other hand, felt a rush of euphoria…Larry liked it. Larry belted out, almost in celebration….
Farrah is in a happier place!
As he laughed psychotically, he grabbed a happy knife from behind the happy counter, and happily sliced and diced the rest of the diner patrons and staff. There was Ester the Moose, Eli, the Emu, Roger the Mouse, Bella the Cow…Larry carved all of them up and threw their guts into the middle of the happy room.
When everyone was dead, Larry screamed in pleasure….I am no longer Larry the Happy Squirrel, I am now Larry the Homicidal squirrel!
Of course no one else in Happyville knew what had happened in the Happyville Diner, so when Larry emerged from the Happyville diner, no one expected him to bring a happy Automatic rifle to the town.
Larry didn’t just start shooting the happy people of Happyville though – nooooo, that would be too obvious, and not enough collateral damage. Larry decided to start with the happy town square. But as he started walking towards the happy town s quare, the happy flowers saw the happy rifle behind Larry’s back.
What’s that strange, but happy, tree behind your back Larry?
Larry, silently looked at the flowers with a murderous grin. The flowers, innocent of murder, thought Larry was just extra happy with his odd, big, and in retrospect, creepy grin. After a few seconds, Larry replied — It’s a flower pal generator. Let me show you…
Larry open fired on the happy flowers as they’re once happy songs turned into unhappy screams of terror.
Of course, with the unhappy screams, and what was left of the once happy flowers, the citizens of Happyville were not quite sure what to do. The happy constable of Happyville, Marvin the Happy Basset Hound, strolled up to Larry and casually said….
Larry, you’re not making us happy. What’s wrong big fella?
Larry did not say a word. Larry just took his happy cleaver and stabbed Marvin repeatedly.
With that, Larry happily hopped down Happy Avenue, killing the citizens of Happyville one by one. Linda the happy skunk got a shotgun to the gut, while Henry the happy leopard got ripped to shreds with a chainsaw. Wayne the happy Elephant got force fed a trunkful of night shade. And Sarah the happy lemur, well she just got thrown off a happy cliff. The streets of Happyville were bathed in happy blood. The happy survivors decided it was time to take action.
Rachel, the happy centipede drove a happy tank down Happy Avenue, looking to bring happy justice to Larry. Meanwhile, Annie the happy gorilla started handing out happy AK-47s to the happy townspeople. The happy Militia searched high and low for Larry – but Larry was good. Larry was the Happyville hide and seek champion. Larry ran behind a happy building and then into a happy alley, where he squatted behind a happy trashcan. Larry took a happy bazooka and made both Rachel and her tank blow up into a happy explosion of happy fire and happy smoke. A happy tree saw the whole thing, and yelled to the happy militia…..he’s over there, tear his happy limbs apart!
What happened next is not important, and much too gruesome to mention. Needless to say, Larry paid for his happy crimes with his unhappy life. A couple days later, at a happy town meeting, the survivors of the happy massacre decided that the victims died because of blind happiness. They vowed to rid Happyville of its happiness plague once and for all. From that point on, Happyville would be a happy free zone. Or should I say the town once called Happyville. For that day, as I mentioned before, Happyville ceased to exist. That day, the residents of Happyville renamed their city to the unhappy thing they could think of. And that, that is how we got the city of Houston.