• God gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You, but KISS doesn’t care.


    Gene Simmons seems to have a constant case of foot in mouth. He’s told depressed people that they should kill themselves, he’s claimed that piracy killed Rock and roll, and he said that being in a band with certain people was like having cancer. The man should have his freaking tongue cut out. And what a long tongue that freak has. Seriously, I know this has been said before, but jeez Gene! Did you have extensions or something? But I digress. Gene has said enough idiotic crap to fill a couple phone books, and yet he and his band mates hit a stream of wisdom when they wrote “God Gave Rock and Roll to you II.” It’s quite a simple song mind you – it’s a song about achieving one’s dreams by working hard, by the sweat of the brow, by…..oh wait, this is just another example of Gene Simmons (and the rest of KISS) spewing out crap!

    Gene Simmons' tongue is slightly longer...
    Gene Simmons’ tongue is slightly longer…

    Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, and company stole a happy go lucky song about the beauty of rock and roll, about the gift that is the music, about the love and peace and happiness it brings humanity and spit all over it. KISS took the song into a back room, had their way with it, and called it their own. In the end, they took a few lyrics, a minor point in the original, and made it into a whore of a song. To be fair, KISS did change the name of the song – instead of “God Gave Rock ‘n’ roll to You,” they called it “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You II.” The “II” at the end changes everything, doesn’t it? OR DO THEY MAKE IT WORSE?!?!?! Yes, they do – they do make it worse because by adding II it implies that the KISS version of the song is a spiritual successor, a sequel if you will, to the original song.

    Now, to be fair – the song has a great message. I’m sitting here writing this very article on a Saturday night because I knew I had to write something. I didn’t know what I was going to write, just that I had to write. I had to work hard to share my “rock and roll,” with the world. No, I don’t have money or a fancy car, and dang it I am really tired of just waiting for a fallen star. These words you’re reading – they ARE my loud guitar! They are my passion and the sweat of my brow. The song has inspired me more than any KISS song ever could, however it feels kind of cheap that they wrote a song about working hard to accomplish their dreams, when they really just phoned in the song to begin with. They didn’t just write another song – they took an existing song and made it to fit their purpose. They song is a solid cube, and they pried it into a round, circular hole. Why Gene, why?

    Sell Outs...
    Sell Outs…
    Oh, but it gets worse! So much worse! They didn’t just write (or re-write) the song because they wanted to convey a message. They wrote God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll for You II for a freaking movie! They wrote it for Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey! Now, it’s been way too long since I’ve seen that movie to really judge it, but dang it – the song about working hard to accomplish your dreams and bringing Rock and Roll (or what have you) to the masses was not written for that reason – it was written because some movie producer wrote KISS a big enough check! That is the very definition of selling out! This is the band that a few years prior, gave up their gimmick (ie their famous makeup) because they wanted to be taken more seriously. Geez guys, you want to be taken seriously, here’s a hint: you don’t BS your way through a song like this for the highest bidder!

    The sad thing about it: I still like this song. I still feel inspired to write when I hear the song. It really is a good song, despite the fact that the band that “wrote” it are a bunch of lazy sell outs. I remember a Jonathan Richman concert a few years back where he essentially said fame is going to happen if it’s going to happen. While that was pretty much is what happened with Richman, we can’t all be mentored by Lou Reed! Most of us have to work hard at what we do. The thesis of the song isn’t what’s in question, as the thesis is sound. It’s just that I almost feel like we’re being mocked or perhaps trolled, by KISS. Hey, work hard, your dreams will come true! Meanwhile, I’m going to go do a line of cocaine off a few hookers with the money I made by telling you that shit!

    I’m expecting too much from a band like KISS. While they have a few good songs, most of their stuff is boring, pedantic, and kind of shallow. Their music got worse as the makeup came off. In fact, the only good song they had post make up was God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You II. Maybe that’s a harsh opinion, and I apologize to my readers if you think otherwise. My point though, I shouldn’t expect much in the way of deep meanings from this specific band. Maybe I should just love my friends, love my neighbor, love my life, and love my labor. Maybe I should just forget that the KISS version would not have come to us save for a check from the highest bidder. Maybe I should even forgive the laziness of the song, and just view it as an interpretation of the original. And maybe everyone reading this should also enjoy the song! Just make sure to download it from a source that won’t pay Gene Simmons one red cent – it’s fun to make Gene Simmons mad!

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • Show me that smile again….Or, whatever happened to the TV theme song

    tapesThe 80s and 90s were a golden age of music…we had New Wave, alternative, pre-alternative, punk, and a million other amazing genres. Even the theme songs from sitcoms knew where it was at. We had such classics as Family Ties (what would we do baby, without us?), The Facts of Life (You take the Good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have), Perfect Strangers, Who’s the Boss, Silver Spoons, Full House, Friends, The Wonder Years…I could literally fill this entire article up with examples of memorable, and quite frankly, amazing sitcom theme songs from 1980 through the year 1999. I can’t even fill a quarter of this article with good theme songs from 2000 through 2015. What the heck happened?

    whatchutalkinboutwillisMaybe I should back up and ask a different question: what makes a good sitcom theme? Let’s look at the following: The Brady Bunch, Gilligan’s Island, and The Flinstones – all theme songs I would bet most Americans know. Yes, yes, I realize those are all from a time-frame outside of the periods I’m talking about, but I’m viewing these three as a control – as a canon in which to judge all other sitcom theme songs. As I stated before, most Americans (and I’m guessing many people in many other cultures) could recite or sing the lyrics to all three of these by heart. This is one measure of a good theme song – it’s memorability. They are catchy and they are something one might catch oneself singing, or at least humming in the shower. A second criteria – these songs tell what the show is about. For example, The Brady Bunch tells us about the merging of the two families into one; Gilligan’s Island tells the tale of how the castaways got to the deserted island they’re stranded on. The Flinstones theme tells of the prehistoric family, and even invites the audience to watch their zany adventures as they live their lives.

    The third, and most important thing in a sitcom theme is that it is something that becomes part of the culture. The theme song becomes something more than just a song which tells us a show is about to start – it becomes something we find ourselves singing when we’re drunk or in a silly mood or what have you. Granted, cultural relevancy is closely related to the fact that the theme song must be memorable. A song won’t become part of the culture if the song is not memorable, though that does not mean they are one and the same. A song must have culture relevancy. When I was a teen, I remember hearing a preacher trying to shame us because we could sing the theme song to the Flinstones easily but very few in that crowd could recite certain Bible Verses. That preacher did not understand, that while said Bible Verses are not necessarily part of the culture, the theme to the Flinstones is very much a part of the culture. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the theme from the Flintstones over a thousand times. Aside from maybe John 3:16, I’m not sure I can name one Bible Verse that I’ve heard recited as often. One does not walk down the street to hear Romans 3:23 being whistled by some random passerby-er, or Psalms 119 being played from a nearby television. They aren’t really part of the culture; they are part of certain subsets of the culture, but not the American culture at large. However, the theme from the Flinstones, the theme from the Brady Bunch, and the theme from Gilligan’s Island are indeed part of the American culture at large. That’s why we were able to recite them. That’s why youth groups sing Amazing grace to the tune of Gilligan’s Island, that’s why I heard someone singing the Brady Bunch on the bus just the other day (note: this might sound like anecdotal evidence – however in this case I think we can forgive the lack of scientific data). Granted, cultural relevancy is closely related to the first point I made, ie the fact that the theme song must be memorable. A song won’t become part of the culture if the song is not memorable, though that does not mean they are one and the same.

    To be fair, there are a few of theme songs that really don’t fit all these criteria, but are great nonetheless. Most of them, however, are instrumentals and do fit points one and three. The Theme from the Office is a classic example. However, even those are becoming few and fare between. I used the Office as an example, because it is the only sitcom in the semi-modern era I could think of. The others I thought of were Seinfeld (1989 – 1998), The Simpsons (while current, it began in 1989), and Night Court (1984 – 1992). To be fair, I did think of another which is indeed modern era: The Crazy Ones. The theme for the Crazy Ones made me very happy, and is very memorable to me – however, most people really didn’t like The Crazy Ones. Despite staring a beloved cast (we miss you Robin), the show, and by extension, the theme didn’t really become part of the culture.

    I'm no superman!
    I’m no superman!
    Going back to shows that meet all three criteria, I can only name two that fit the current criteria: Family Guy, which I don’t count because it started in the 90s, and The Big Bang Theory – which is a stretch for point number two. If we add in shows that have ended, but are still in the current era, I guess we can add Srubs. Sure, there are sitcoms that failed which might have tried (Selfie). There’s The Goldbergs, which hasn’t quite ascended into “part of the American culture at large,” (yet?). There’s probably a few cable shows that I’m missing (maybe on Disney or Nickelodeon), but again they might be part of a sub-culture, but not part of the culture in general. If I heard someone whistling the theme to say, ICarly (is that still on?), I wouldn’t recognize it. It’s time to face facts – the powerhouse of sitcom songs from the 80s and 90s seems to be a thing of the past.

    But why has this happened? What happened to the TV theme song? To be honest, I don’t know that the why even matters. What matters is we somehow storm the Bastille, or rather Hollywood, and demand they give us our freaking sitcom songs back! Now! No, no, no, we don’t want a clone of Charles in Charge or Silver Spoons or Who’s the Boss – those wouldn’t be culturally relevant. We want something fresh. You can even give us a song that wasn’t originally written for the show – I’ve mentioned the shows Friends, Scrubs, and the Wonder Years; those weren’t original songs – but they were culturally relevant, they were memorable, and they explained the general premise of the show. So please, production companies – for the sake of the culture! Of all mankind! Bring us a renaissance of sitcom theme songs! Just think about this, it’s free advertising. Every time I hear the theme from Friends, it makes me want to watch friends. Sure, the show is in syndication, but one day I won’t be able to pull it up on TBS or Nick at Night, and one of these days it won’t be on Netflix. That is the day I shell out a couple hundred bucks for the entire damned series. That is the day you get my money, all because I heard a stupid song.

    I leave you with this tribute to 80s sitcom theme songs…

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • 20 songs I discovered (or rediscovered) in 2014

    The Older I get, the less interested in new artists I am. I never thought I would ever say that, but it’s become my reality the last few years. That’s not to say that I can’t get into new music, but I’m less interested than I used to be. Having said that, a strange thing has happened: as I get older – I’ve started discovering or revisiting music of the past. Bands that I never thought I would have any interest in now find themselves regularly playing on my iPod.
    I thought about doing a list of the best songs from 2014, and while there were a lot of good songs (most of my favorite artists put out new albums), I’d rather write about the music that’s ten, twenty, thirty years old. Some of the songs are songs I’ve just forgotten about or didn’t pay any attention to – some of the songs are songs I didn’t know existed until this year. But there’s a lot of them! Way too many to not write about.
    So, without further ado, here’s twenty songs I discovered (or rediscovered) in 2014.

    Cracker-Teen-Angst-What-T-2748071. Teen angst (what the world needs now) – Cracker – 1992: This song was discovered as a direct result of my 20 year High School Reunion. My friend Dave made a playlist to mark the occasion, and this song was on it. I knew it already – in fact the same Dave and I used to sing it in his car as it blared on the radio. I remember one time this almost caused us to slam right into a semi-truck, but that’s a story for a different time. Ultimately I had forgotten this song altogether till I heard it on the playlist – and now, now I can’t get enough of it. What the World needs now is more songs like this….and a new Frank Sinatra.
    2. Halo – The Cure – 2004?: Unless you’re a hardcore Cure fan, you’ve probably not heard this song. It’s a B side / Rarity, but why it was not released as a full on hit, I’ll never know! My girlfriend played it to me one day and it was love at first sound. Since then I’ve declared it to be “our song,” though I should probably ask her about it. To be fair – the fact that my girlfriend did introduce it to me probably ups my value of the song by like 900 percent, but still, I’d like to think that everyone who listens to this song will fall for it just as I fell for it.
    3. Photograph – Def Leppard – 1983: If you played Grand Theft Auto V, you’ll know they included like a thousand songs on the different radio stations. Many of these songs on this very list, including this song, were introduced to me by this game. This song in particular turned me onto Def Leppard as a whole. Did I mention that the station on GTA V that this song plays was hosted by Kenny Loggins? Yeah – Kenny Loggins basically made me love Def Leppard.
    4. Waveforms – Djanogo Django – 2012: This is another song from GTA V, though not from the Loggins station. The song itself is rather a simple song, almost a love song to music itself. However, the emotion this song projects is amazingly complex. This song describes in both lyric and music how much music means to an audiophile like myself. The very title, waveforms, suggests that music is alive. And sometimes, sometimes I think music is indeed alive…
    5. Bohemian Rhapsody – The Flaming Lips – 2005: Ok, to be fair – I’m very familiar with the song Bohemian Rhapsody as I’m sure most of you are. But I was not aware that The Flaming Lips did a cover of this song. I feel almost gypped to be honest. It was a bonus track on At War With The Mystics, which I bought – bought evidently my copy, my early copy of this fantastic album, did not include this song. But I digress. Back to the song, this might be one of the best covers of Bohemian Rhapsody ever produced – and I tend to be a connoisseur of covers (look for an upcoming article all about covers of Bohemian Rhapsody by the way).
    6. Valley Girl – Frank Zappa with Moon Unit Zappa – 1982: Like, Ohmygod, how did I like, not know this song existed? Seriously – I grew up in the 80s. I remember all sorts of movies and television shows with the typical Valley Girl. I didn’t know if I was supposed to like these girls or hate them. I didn’t know if they were supposed to be pretty, or pretty repulsive. I think this song answers any questions I had. Thanks Frank (and daughter). I wish I knew you better. You were truly ahead of your time.5rrank735327_std
    7. Truckin’ – The Greatful Dead – 1970: There’s a joke I’ve always said: What does a deadhead say when their drugs wear off? This music sucks! To be fair, I’m not too familiar with the Dead’s massive catalog, and honestly, what I’ve heard doesn’t suck (that much), but this song in particular made me take a new look at the band itself. I heard it on satellite one day and was quite surprised. To be fair, it’s a typical 1970s traveling band song, but I have a soft spot for 1970s traveling band songs – so there’s that I guess. Besides, it’s an interesting look at the Dead’s life of constant touring.
    8. Love is the Protest – Jars of Clay – 2008: I’ll be honest, I kind of lost interest in Jars of Clay sometime in the late 90s. Still, I do love their first couple albums and one day curiosity got to me. So I decided to see what they’ve been up to. I was shocked, floored, and other clichés when I heard this song. The message really symbolize a few thoughts I’ve had in my own head recently. It questions what one who is dedicated to love thy neighbor should do in times when changes must be made. This is not a political article, nor is it a religious article, but I encourage all of you to listen to this song’s message. Maybe what the world needs now is not more of the first song in this list – maybe we need more songs like this…
    9. One Piece at a Time – Johnny Cash – 1976: Spotify played this for me one day while I was in the grocery store. I have no idea how I didn’t know this song before then, but the important thing is I know it now. The song itself is pretty darned humorous, the man himself was the great Johnny Cash. It makes me sad – I saw Mr Cash once. He played at a Billy Graham rally. I didn’t really understand the big deal, as I was just a 17 year old kid at the time. Now…now I look back and wish I could relive that moment again. I saw the great Mr. Cash play live…wow!
    10. California Girls – The Magnetic Fields – 2008: Somehow I skipped the Magnetic Fields’ “Distortion” album. In my “quest” to rectify this situation, I discovered this song specifically. It’s full of every bit of wit, humor, and cynicism that makes the Magnetic Fields one of the best bands (as far as lyrics at least) of the last twenty years. No offense to any actual California Girls I happen to know.
    11. The Fox (live from the Freight and Salvage) – Nickel Creek – 2000/2006: This song is a bluegrass standard, but as I don’t really know too much Bluegrass, I didn’t really know that. It’s a humorous and fun song. So why did I include this specific version? Well, for one, there’s a part of it where Nickel Creek forgets they’re doing this song, and starts playing Subterranean Homesick Blues. I’m still trying to piece how the two songs interact.
    12. One Tin Soldier – The Original Caste – 1969: My earliest memory of this song is singing it around a campfire at summer camp. I didn’t know the lyrics, and thought it was odd hearing the adults singing “Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend, do it in the name of heaven you can justify it in the end…” Of course I didn’t realize they weren’t really saying this – but rather the opposite! I re-discovered the song via the 1960s satellite radio station. I won’t say it’s ever going to be one of my favorites, but as an adult it’s interesting to compare it’s real meaning to the meaning I brought from it as a kid.
    13. Phil Keaggy – Good Vibrations – 2002 This song is, of course, a cover, but not a garden variety cover. Of the three versions of the song I’ve heard, (this one, the Brian Wilson Smile version, and the Beach Boys version), I have to say this is a solid number 2 (the smile version is my favorite). That means that this version, in my honest opinion, is better than the version we’ve all heard time and time again on the radio. How many covers can say that?
    The-Lion-the-Witch-and-the-Wardrobe14. White Stag – 2nd Chapter of Acts – 1980: This song is the last song on a concept album about C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.” I remember my parents playing it back in the early 80s, and this song seemed to be out of place – almost as it was a separate tale from the world of Narnia. I recently decided I needed to read the books again, and realized, oh…this song is all about the return of the four children to our world! Regardless, I was right – this song does stick out. While I love the album, this song seems to be my favorite of the bunch. The emotion, the adventure, and even the feeling that all good things must end. Even musically, this song feels a bit more orchestrated, and on a different level than some of the songs on the album. That isn’t to say, the album sucked. I mean, it featured guitars from Phil Keaggy for gosh’s sake…but this song was a real high point. I like it when an album is ended on a high point.
    15. Doctorin’ the Tardis (The Timelords) – 1988: The first time I heard this song was the homecoming dance my freshman year of High School. The DJ played some pretty trippy (ie not mainstream) stuff and we were all like… what? Oh well, let’s dance. I kind of forgot about the song until several months ago, then I went on a major search to find the song – and find the song I did – and dance to the song I do again, on a regular basis. To be fair, the lyrics aren’t anything special. Mostly someone saying “Dr. Who, and the Tardis” several times, interlaced with clips of Daleks saying they are the superior beings…but the best songs are always more than the sum of their parts.
    16. Abolish Government / Silent Majority – TSOL – 1997: Again, I was introduced to this song because of Grand Theft Auto V. At first it sounds as though it’s just a typical speed metal, neo-punk song. Nothing special. Then the tempo shifts…the drums beat….and you hear them shout “America, land of the free. Free to the power of the people in uniform!” At that point I just needed to know what exactly this song had to say. To be honest, it doesn’t say much; typical punk anti-government anarchism. But I still love the song.
    17 Lost for Words – Pink Floyd – 1994: The Division Bell is often seen as a vanity project by two former members of Pink Floyd who chose to use the name’s moniker (Kind of like when Roland Orzabal did a couple Tears for Fears albums without Curt Smith). So of course, I ignored the project as a whole. Then I heard Lost for Words. The first thing that really drew me to it was the astounding resemblance to U2’s Moment of Surrender. Still, the more I listened, I heard a song about persecution, about a lack of empathy, about a cold world that just cannot relate to the speaker of the song. This is classic Pink Floyd! This very same attitude is what made Another brick in the wall such an amazing piece of art! Say what you will about Division Bell, but Lost for Words is maybe one of the best Pink Floyd songs ever recorded.
    18. I’d rather be With You – Bootsy Collins – 1976: I’ll admit – I’ve never been fond of funk. While the music is, well, funky, the lyrics have often felt lacking. This song, might not be the most poetic song, but it kind of made me understand what funk did with the lyrics. Funk is not necessarily the lyrics, but rather about the feeling the entire song brings to one’s self. This song makes me want to dance and maybe write poetry to my girlfriend. Bootsy himself said the funk is making something out of nothing. I think I’m beginning to understand…
    jeffhqdefault19. You and the Music – Donald Byrd – 1975: Probably what drew me into this song the most is the string section. I know I’ve heard it a thousand times before, yet I can’t find any record of it anywhere else but this song. Like the Bootsy Collins song I just talked about, the lyrics aren’t the most important thing, but rather a component of the song. And again, the song is more than the sum of it’s parts. I was sad to find out that Mr. Byrd died a few weeks after I heard this song. I can’t judge his trumpeting ability, but anyone who could write this song has my eternal respect.
    20. 10538 Overture – Electric Light Orchestra – 1971: ELO is one of those bands that, if I hadn’t been paying attention, could have totally been absent from my musical knowledge base. I remember listening to the Traveling Wilburys and asking, who the hell is Jeff Lynne? Even though I knew the songs Mr. Blue Sky and Don’t bring me down and I was even familiar with the soundtrack from Xanadu …yeah, I knew their music – I just didn’t know them. Eventually I found out who they were, but I still didn’t know 10538 Overture until I heard it in the movie “American Hustle.” The song starts out with an amazingly jubilant guitar part, and then you hear the story of a friend falling from glory. The song leads you on a journey, and you wonder – what’s going to happen to this friend? Should I help them? Should I distance myself from them? Should I thank God that I’m not them? Or should I just go about my life, living for me? I can see why they used the song in the movie, as both are describing morally ambiguous situations where there really isn’t a best answer. The wrong thing might be more beneficial to the listener, the right thing might bring the listener down into the mud with everyone else. The song isn’t a call to do what’s right – the song is a call to make a decision, for better or for worse.

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • The Slug Bug is dead! Long live the Smug Bug!

    Back in the 80s, the Volkswagen beetle was as common as a can of new Coke, the phrase “totally radical” or a pair of Esprit jeans. Combine the VW Bug’s popularity with the iconic and easily spotted shape, and it was the perfect car for a road game. The rules of this game varied from family to family – some played “slug bug” (or punch buggy), where siblings were encouraged to punch each other as hard as they could whenever they spotted a VW Bug. My family liked to play “Herbie,” where it was a contest to see who could spot the most. I suspect this was because I was an only child, and my parents didn’t want me to punch them as hard as I could – but I digress. smug-alert

    The days of slug bugs and herbies seems to have died – as there just aren’t that many 40 year old cars on the road anymore. Sure, there was the New Beetle, and supposedly was a special “slug” you were supposed to use, but that never caught on and really even those aren’t as prevalent as their ancestor beetles. There’s a huge void in the “spot the car while abusing your siblings and friends” style of game! So what do we do? The answer is simple: SmugBugs!

    The name “SmugBug” is my nickname for the Toyota Prius. I can’t claim credit for the word, so don’t say that I coined the phrase. I gained inspiration for the phrase “smug bug” from the South Park episode “Smug Alert,” where people droves of South Park residence decided to drive Prii and felt like they were some sort of environmental hero – when really they were just smug idiots. From the episode…

    …although emission levels are down, people who drive hybrids spew “self-satisfied garbage” into the air, an emission called “smug”, and South Park now has the second-highest levels in the country, after San Francisco.

    To be fair, not all who drive hybrids, particularly those who drive Prii (I swear that’s really the plural), are by far from smug. In fact, my one experience riding in a Prius involved the driver pressing the start button several times, cussing, and calling their beloved vehicle a damned piece of junk. Having said that, there are plenty of people who drive a Prius with a smug self-satisfaction of being a hero. One can often times recognize these people by their bumper stickers. Phrases like “There is no planet B” or “My other car is a bicycle,” or “Vegans do it in the dirt…” These smug addicts often times litter their cars with multitudes of these bumper stickers. You’ll also notice a distinct sound coming from their speakers. It’s a song you may or may not have heard but sounds like it’s trying way too hard to not sound like every other piece of indie rock that’s been produced in the last three or four years.

    At what point did this car become a parody of itself?
    At what point did this car become a parody of itself?

    But back to the game already…how does one play “SmugBug?” The rules of SmugBug are quite simple – when you see a Prius, yell “SmugBug (color of the car)” and punch the person next to you as hard as you can – or at least as hard as the law allows without an attempted assault and battery charge. Once someone “calls” a specific car, that car cannot be called again. It’s literally the same rules as Slug Bug – only instead of a car designed for Nazi Germany, you’ve got a vehicle designed for Nazi tree-huggers.

    So, mourn not the death of VW Beatle. Mourn not the fact that you will never have to drive your kids to the hospital because Tommy slugged Tammy a little too hard. Mourn not that a demonically possessed car piloted by Dean Jones will never again get a movie! Hit your sister as hard as you can! You jut saw a Toyota with the number 53 on its silver finish parked in the Whole Foods parking lot! Herbie Rides again!

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • American (Voting) Horror Story

    Note: This is a fictional account of voting in North Carolina. The state was chosen as a state that is far away from Oregon and does not have the vote by mail system we have in Oregon. The author has not, nor does he ever, have plans on moving to North Carolina. I also want to add, if anyone from North Carolina reads this and finds my portrayal of your state offensive, perhaps we can open a dialogue about it. Really, I played a lot of stereotypes here, and I don’t know how many are actually true. So yeah – let’s chat!

    electionmailIt was a foggy October morning. I had just moved to North Carolina a few months ago and was excited about voting in my first election in my new home state. I made sure to register on time, with my correct address and my political party of choice. All my t’s were crossed, all my I’s were dotted. I just needed to sit back, relax, and wait for the postal carrier to bring my ballot, along with the junk mail and bills they usually bring. I waited for a few weeks. By October 25th, I started to worry. What if I filled out my voter registration wrong? What if my address was wrong? What if the post office accidentally sent it to my previous residence in Oregon? My hands began to sweat, my body began to shake. I decided I needed to call someone.
    After I got home from work, I called the county voting office, which gave me a polite message saying they were only open from 10-3, Tuesday through Friday. Stupid government agencies! Oh well, I’ll call tomorrow during my lunch break. The next morning, sandwich in one hand, and phone in another I called again, only to be put on hold. I consumed my lunch and listened to the Muzak – patiently waiting for someone to answer my call. I waited 30 minutes and my lunch break was over. I decided to wait for a few minutes more, when finally someone answered.
    “Eeeyello, Mecklenburg County votin’, ow might I elp ya’ll?” – a male voice with a distinct, southern accent rang out.
    “Umm,” I said sheepishly, “I never received my ballot. What do I do?”
    “Son, what r ya’ll talkin’ bout?”
    “In the mail, I never got my ballot in the mail. Shouldn’t I have gotten it by now?”
    “Yer not from these parts, are you?”
    “No – I’m from Oregon. Why?”
    “Oreeegone? Shoot. Well I don’t know what they do up there, but ‘round here we don’t send no ballots in the mail.”
    “Umm….how do you vote then?”
    “Boy – you don’t even know how to vote? You gotta go to a polin’ place from 9 AM to 5 PM.”
    “Umm…that’s odd, but when in Rome I guess. Where are the poling places?”
    After a short interchange of information, he directed me to a school near my house. I vaguely, back in the 80s, remember standing in line with my mom at a school. Maybe this is what she was doing.
    I made arrangements with my boss to vote before work. He insisted I be in by 11, I figured that would be plenty of time. I figured wrong. When I arrived on Election Day at 8:45, there was a massive line. It was like the lines I saw in Portland, waiting to get into concerts. Strike that – these were not concertgoers. These were people from all walks of life, different ages, different ethnicities, different politics – way more diverse than a crowd waiting for a New Pornographers show.
    At 9 AM sharp, the doors opened. They let a few people in at a time. There was probably around 150 people in front of me…I had no idea how long my wait was going to be. I sat on the ground, but an officer came up to me and barked “NO SITTING!” So I rolled my eyes and got up to my feet once more. Meanwhile a slow drizzle of people walked into the school. Finally after an hour and a half, it was my turn. Voting Booths
    I walked into the door and to a table. A lady asked a few questions, glanced at my ID, and handed me my ballot. I was instructed to silently walk into a nearby booth. I felt more like I was taking a driver’s test at the DMV, and less like I was exercising my constitutional right to vote.
    As I reached my booth, I got my cheat sheet out and realized there were things on this ballot that I hadn’t even thought about! Geez, how do they expect you to know every little item, every little race, and every little measure on the ballot? I wanted to say to the next booth – hey, what did you get for number 8? I mean, I was in a school, and I felt like I was taking a test after all! Then I looked over my shoulder – the officer who barked at me earlier was staring straight at me, almost wanting an excuse to throw me out. I decided I better play by their rules for the time being.
    After I turned in my ballot, it was nearly 10:50, and I was supposed to be into work by 11. I was not going to make it. I raced to work and arrived ten minutes late. My boss, angry at my tardiness walks in and says “This is why I don’t vote – my time is too precious.”
    I miss a lot of things about Oregon. I miss the coast, I miss sunsets over the Pacific, I miss the weather, I miss the people, and I miss recycling. Today, I learned of one more thing I miss – I miss voting by mail. I miss the convenience of filling out my ballot at my leisure, and dropping it off whenever I had a moment to do so. I miss not having to stand in line like it was the 80s and we were voting for Regan. I miss not being barked at by officers who were overly stimulated on equal parts power and, I’m guessing caffeine. I miss not getting ridiculed or hassled, all because I want to cast my voice. All the pain and horror experienced casting my vote in North Carolina, could have been easily avoided by implementing a vote by mail system. This truly was an American Voting Horror Story.

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • Characters in Ancient Vandal Literature

    bookofthehoursRecently, I’ve gained a fascination with Eastern European history. Of course, being of a literary mind, I’ve naturally read about literature of Eastern Europe, as literature always shows an interesting perception of the culture. While I’ve found many interesting styles, genres, and what have you, perhaps the most interesting of all I’ve found was a concept in Vandal literature.
    If you’re historically inclined, you’ll know the Vandals were the group that sacked Rome in 455 AD. They were the very epitome of barbarian, as they were unkempt, uncivilized, and generally unruly. If one googles Vandal literature, it’s hard to find anything about them….however….in my digging I did find one tasty tidbit. In Vandal literature, the characters fictional age had to match the year of their creation. For example, if a vandal had written an epic of King Gerogis the III in the year 432, King Gerogis had to be in his late 60s (for as we all know that King Gerogis was in fact born in the 360s or so). Likewise, if a fictional character were to be thought up today, but the stories of said character were to take place when said character was 28, the writer would have to wait 28 years after inventing the character to write about said character.
    This custom of age was not just a matter of social taboo, but a matter of law. Violating this law could actually carry a death sentence. For, it was not just an arbitrary law, this was about keeping the Hoi Polloi grounded in reality. I used the example of King Gerogis the III earlier, and this was no accident – for it was highly encouraged by the monarchs of the Vandals to write about their lives. King Wisimar (the first known Vandal King of the tribe of Hasdingi) put this law into place. Remnants of this law might have inspired early tales of Vlad the Impaler, which then of course inspired Bram Stroker’s Dracula…but I digress. The law was about celebrating the monarchs of the Vandals, as it is much simpler to write about a character who was about the same age as the hero in one’s story, than to invent the character 28 years earlier, and then wait to write about said character. Oh – but writers are complex people – and simplicity is often their enemy.
    In the beginning of the law, writers did in fact write about their “beloved” monarchs, however it wasn’t all that long until a few loopholes in the laws were found. As there was no log of invented characters, the writers would suddenly “remember” characters they invented as a child. Furthermore, as there was not a stipulation of who invented the character, writers would simply ask friends, family, etcetera for older characters as 33-year-old writer could not have invented say, a 55-year-old character. In some cases, older Vandals would sell characters of any age. This actually became a decent source of income to those whose physical bodies could not earn them a living any longer.
    And then the Monarchs closed the loophole. Sometime in the early 390s, a new law, stating that all characters shall be documented at the date of creation and registered by the magistrate was enacted, closing the loophole for ten or so years. However, art always finds a way. Savvy quasi-entrepreneurs saw a way to make money. The return wasn’t immediate, but to register a character for a nominal fee and sell the character at a later day could only bring about profit. It wasn’t long until everyone who could afford to do so, would register as many characters as they could. Characters would be sold at auction, used for personal investments, given away as a form of charity, and even written in as part of a will. Older characters were, of course, worth more than younger characters. Stories themselves became a group effort.
    The Monarchy admitted defeat. There were no shortage of characters to write about, and therefore the monarchy gave up on making writers write about monarchs. A great experiment of egotism was deemed a failure. However, greed was not so easily quelled. These were, of course, the same Vandals who sacked Rome. They were cunning, and never passed up an opportunity for gain. The monarchs saw how much income the character registrations were bringing in and they were pleased. But pleased or not, they also saw how much income the character market was bringing to the common people and it was far more than the character registration fees. The Monarchy decided that profit should, instead, be theirs and theirs alone. Once again, laws were scribed. Gone was the original law; a character’s fictional age vs its age of creation was no longer an issue. romeburningAlso gone were the registration of characters; writers no longer had to register characters at their inception. In place of the registration fees, a general character tax was issued. All characters in any piece of literature would be taxed, depending on its age. Just as it had once been easier to write about younger characters in the past, it was now economical to do so. The Monarchs had once again found a way to influence literature. Egotism of the original law bowed to the greed of the new law.
    Of course, there were always bribes to the local magistrates if one wanted an older character and could not afford one. This led to yet another chapter of Vandal characters. There was revolt amongst writers to bribe officials. Yes, it began as a matter of economics, but also became a matter of principle – a way to make sure the monarchs didn’t see the profits they so desired. Eventually – the monarchs gave up on the whole pursuit, and life went on. Stories were once again free to be written with characters of any age. And then the Vandals sacked Rome, and really that was the end of Vandal literature.
    In the end, did art win? Did greed? Were any of the Vandal writings really art? Very few of the Vandal writings have survived, so is it even possible to judge? Granted, it is theorized that Borges thought about characters in Vandal literature when he wrote The Lottery in Babylon. Of course, this is just a theory, and perhaps there is no evidence to support any of these claims.

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • My favorite original Weird Al songs

    A_Yankovic_2982211bAl’s new album is number one and it deserves to be. Everyone loves Al right now, and everyone should! Al is a man we need to clone – he brings such joy to the world, and he’s such a freaking nice guy! Seriously, search for stories about Weird Al being a jerk. You might find a couple, but I guarantee you’ll find an overwhelming majority of said stories showing what a nice guy Al is. Al is such a nice guy that he asks permission to parody artists. He’s not even legally required to!

    But I digress…in response to all this love of Al that’s happened over the last few weeks, I’ve decided to show a little Al love of my own. So….here’s my favorite original Weird Al songs.

    Continue reading  Post ID 862

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • Caesar commands you to laugh!

    Spend as much time on the Internet as I do, and you’ll notice that the planet has a bunch of bored people pretending they’re Caesar. They sit on their thrones stoically. They look down at their art and/or entertainment choices as though said choices were Gladiator matches. After they’re done with said A&E choices, these quasi-Roman emperors either give a thumbs up, or a thumbs down.

    The average internet commentator
    The average internet commentator

    Before I get too far into this metaphor, I will say that everyone is certainly entitled to their opinions. However, in the information age (do we still use that phrase?) our opinions, especially shared on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, et al, can make or break our A&E choices. Our friends and acquaintances who share similar tastes to ours, might very well base their choices on our opinions. More so, the professional critics – those who are paid to rip apart every inconsistency, every terrible acting job, and every joke have this power to make or break a piece of A&E. Again, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but with great power comes great responsibility. If Augustus or Nero gives the Gladiator a thumbs down, that Gladiator is destroyed. If the critics hated say, The Office or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, those series ratings probably would have dropped and the networks would have canceled them before their time.

    Perhaps you’re saying big deal. Critics have the power of Caesar over movies, television etcetera. Big deal, some terribly made movie or a rushed and clichéd show get canceled because the critics are telling it as it is. This wouldn’t bother me so much, except I often wonder if said critics, both professional and amateur, are actually looking for an excuse to hate whatever they happen to be reviewing. If this is truly happening, this has to change. There is a time to be snarky, sure, but there’s a time to just be entertained already!

    Let’s look at a couple of movies the critics hated. On Rotten Tomatoes, Skyline earned a 15%; The Starvation Game got a 0%. I’ll admit, Skyline sucked. Skyline might very well be the worst movie I’ve ever seen, and is certainly the worst movie I’ve seen in the last five years. The Starving Games, however, was seriously funny. It might not have been the funniest movie I’ve seen even in the last two years, but I enjoyed it nonetheless and at the very least, it was better than Skyline! Skyline was painful to watch, while The Starving Games was, if you let yourself be entertained, very funny. While both movies were admittedly about making money first and foremost, one actually tried to make people happy for 70 minutes. One actually tried to make the world a little better. But Caesar was not entertained. Why? Because Caesar is a snob! Caesar wants absolute perfection or else the chopping block! Caesar will not allow him or herself to laugh at something so banal as a spoof.

    Take Joe Leydon’s (of Variety) review of The Starving games:
    “The Starving Games” might inspire punny put-downs like “malnourished script” or “unappetizing gags.” But, really, a movie as lame as this one doesn’t merit the expenditure of snark.”

    Caesar Leydon
    Caesar Leydon

    I don’t know what Leydon looks like, but by that comment alone, I’m going to assume he runs a comic book shop frequented by Bart Simpson. One wonders if he’s ever laughed in his life. One must wonder if he’s actually learned to laugh or even if he is even qualified to critique humor. I will point out that during Leydon’s review, he didn’t once mention WHY The Starving Games wasn’t funny – he just said it wasn’t funny. ALL HAIL THE WORD OF Caesar!

    Again, why does this matter? Because laughter is fun. Period. I realize there are those who are really serious, but there are also those of us really like to laugh and view laughter as an extremely important part of life. If I sit down and watch a comedy, I’m going to try my best to laugh. I do realize everyone has a different view of what humor might be, but I for one believe our standards for humor should be pretty low. Again, laughing is fun! Laughing makes life a little better. Laughing may even have medicinal value!

    So…what about those of us who are intelligent and educated? Are we not entitled to demand smarter comedy? I’m going to admit that I love smart comedy more than “low” comedy. I will even admit that sometimes I’m in the mood for comedy that’s of a higher standard than say, The Starvation Games. I’ve also learned that if I’m going to survive this world, I need to laugh at things which I would normally consider below my otherwise high standards. In fact, to NOT laugh at things makes my life a little more miserable. Say I write about how “stupid” a comedy is because the humor was a lower caliber than I would prefer. If people care about my opinion on the matter, I’m actually depriving people a bit of happiness! They’re passing up on said comedy because of my snark, and therefore my snark is denying them the chance to laugh. My snark, in this situation, makes the world a little worse. Sure, I get a bit of smug satisfaction for ripping apart someone’s jokes, but is that really worth the cost? Is my smug satisfaction going to bring joy to my readers?

    I’m not saying laugh at everything. We’ve all got our different filters of what is funny. Some things are totally offensive. Some things are gross. Some things probably shouldn’t be laughed about. Some jokes are stale, and some jokes just don’t work. Heck, sometimes snark in itself is funny! I will also recognize that lowering humor standards too far will spread stupidity – that’s not the results I’m after here and I encourage you to guard yourself from this very thing. But for the sake of humanity! Of all mankind! Try to keep an open mind when it comes to comedy. Your life will be richer and happier, and so will the lives of those around you.

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • Oh rotten banana, you are my bane!

    3338581895_beeec14944Yesterday, I went to the store and bought some nice, yellowish green bananas. Just the way I like them – they should be nice and tasty. I usually take a few to work with me and leave them on my desk, but I forgot my damned bananas this morning.

    As if matters couldn’t get any worse, the bananas I brought with me yesterday were sitting on my desk,rotting and brown. I knew they were rotten and this is precisely why I bought bananas last night to begin with! What sane person actually buys bananas when they already have perfectly good bananas? But I digress… The point is the brown bananas were on my desk! I know I threw them out, so this means the bananas were so ripe, they grew legs, walked from the kitchen garbage, unlocked my office door, opened said door, and planted themselves right back on my desk. Oh, the legs are gone too, so they must have shed those. I wonder if I’m going to find them somewhere — maybe that’s how my office door got closed again. No, that would involve hands and we all know that bananas can’t grow hands! That’s crazy talk!

    bad enough that every frigging banana you get in the states is a clone of other bananas. I mean, yes, you can get baby bananas and red bananas, and if you’re lucky enough, you might….just might…find plantains. But my brown bananas that I threw away are taunting me!

    OK, so maybe I just forgot to throw away the bananas last night (although the lack of ants in my office would suggest otherwise). The very fact that bananas can turn brown to begin with is, without a doubt, the worst problem facing us in the 21st century. Genocide? Starvation? Climate change? All nothing when it comes to the banana problem. Where, oh where, is the social justice? Why do my freaking bananas have to be so brown and gross that I cannot eat them on the day I wanted bananas the most?

    I’m a simple man and I like simple things. I like my bananas greenish yellow, I like my TV and movies to have meaning that’s not evidence to the surface viewer, and I like my coffee with four shots, cream, no foam, no whip, sugar free syrup and — what did I saw about liking simple things? OK, I’m a complex man and I like complex things.

    But back to the bananas, because it gets so much worse! We can actually fix the banana-browning problem! GMOs baby! I mean, provided the pseudo-science crowd doesn’t get GMOs banned before they really have the chance to do the proper research. Yes, we could just like splice a yellow jacket gene into the cloned bananas! Or better yet…banana slug genes! That should keep the bananas looking like bananas, right? Now that’s how you science! I’m going to call Monsanto right now!

    Oh — sorry, you’re still reading this — I kind of left in a hurry there and left you hanging. To make a long story short, after two weeks of going back and forth with Monsanto, I’ve got a restraining order against me because they didn’t like my idea. Sigh. Maybe we can find another GMO company to do my banana slug hybrid bananas.

    Regardless, I’m over my rotten bananas now. I’ve switched my passion to blackberries. Oh, but weirdness! I fond some blackberries that weren’t black! They were red! WTF? They had a different texture and even a different name! Yeah, they were called Raspberries. I wonder if the blackberry company knows that their copyrights and trademarks are being infringed upon. I’m going to call their legal department and squeal on the usurpers! Better yet! I’m calling my congressman! Raspberries are NOT blackberries! Forget starvation! Forget child labor! Hell, forget about the browning banana issue! This, my friends, is where we as a society should shine to show that there really is social justice in this world!

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share

  • Orphan Black, or how I forgave Canadian TV for Primeval: New World.

    orphan-black-season-2-poster81 If you’re not watching Orphan Black, you should! It’s probably one of the best shows on TV right now. I’ve watched every single episode thus far, and I can’t get enough! I think the last Canadian TV series I’ve enjoyed this much was You Can’t Do That on Television or Kids in the Hall. I mean, sure Lost girl And Continuum are decent –– sure I’m a little jealous that we don’t have Hockey Night in America –– but as far as shows originating in Canada, none of them have quite done it for me recently until I started watching Orphan Black. In fact, Orphan Black might, just might, be enough of a good show, that I might… just might… forgive Canadian TV for the debacle that is/was Primeval: New World.

    Ok, let me back up. If you’ve never seen the original BBC series, “Primeval,” maybe you should just stop reading this right now and watch it now. You done? Good. See what I mean? It’s just that good! I took a trip to the coast with seasons 1 and 2 in tow. I watched every episode. Seriously – the show was so good, there were days I stayed in my hotel room longer than I should. The beautiful Oregon Coast on the mighty Pacific Ocean was just a few blocks away, but I preferred to stay in and watch Primeval. When I got back from the coast, I thoroughly made sure to watch the seasons 3-5. I’ve got to wonder if this is how crack addicts feel! I just wanted more! More! More!

    And then the dark times came.

    Like a crack addict, I was going through some serious withdrawals after I finished season 5. I would check the web to see about a possible season 6 – and nothing. Nada, zilch, nein…you get the picture – I just wanted more, but there was no more to be had! I seriously considered flying to England, and holding up a sign outside of the BBC offices, “Will work for new episodes of Primeval.” Finally, after months of desperation and withdrawal, a light from the North….a spin off series, Primeval: New World. Oh sure – I had my reservations. I mean, part of what made Primeval proper so good were the amazing characters. There was Conner and Abbey and the will they or won’t they relationship. There was Professor Nick Cutter and his witticisms (I said it was beautiful; I didn’t say it was friendly), there was Jenny (no, not the one from Rilo Kiley) Lewis, who’s secrets I won’t reveal….the entire ensemble was just remarkable! So…could they repeat, could the replicate this amazing cast in Vancouver? Well….maybe. They got Conner to sail on over to the new world, and that was a good start!

    Mmm, nom nom nom.....tastes like the lawyer from Jurasic Park!
    Seriously T-Rex, take a bite.
    So the wait was on….I heard it was playing in Canada but not available in the states, no matter what shady streaming methods I tried. I had to be patient until it came on American TV or Hulu. I tried to get a hold of the DVDs, but to no avail. I remember during that time emailing a friend of mine in Canada saying that if New World sucked, I would personally vote for any candidate that favored war with Canada. Long story short, I voted for Mitt Romney. Just kidding…I don’t think Mitt favored war with Canada, and it was after the election anyways -but back to how much New World sucked. Conner only appeared in two episodes and the characters of New World really just lacked that same charisma we found in the original series. I didn’t expect a repeat of the Original characters, but I did expect some depth to the characters and I did expect to actually care whether or not the characters lived and died. Honestly, by the end of the third episode, I was kind of hoping a T-Rex would hop on through an anomaly and rip the entire bunch to shreds. I have a major rule with fiction – make me care about the characters. If I hate the characters, I’m 99% of the time going to hate the book, TV series, film, or what have you. So yeah – I hated the characters in New World. But also, the New World was darker, and more adult. It just wasn’t as fun as the original! The original felt like a roller coaster at times, sure, but at the end you had a lot of fun riding the damned thing. New world, on the other hand got you from point A to point B, yeah, but it felt more like riding a crowded train at rush hour. The only surprises were unwanted ones much akin to the guy who hasn’t bathed, shoving himself into the empty seat next to yours. Primeval: New World felt like a military and/or police drama that just happened to deal with dinosaurs and the like. The long and short of it – I hated Primeval: New World! I felt like Canadian TV took a very beloved series of mine and used it as toilet paper. I didn’t even bother watching the entire series. I think I stopped 8 episodes in, and I’m the type who always finishes a series, even if I hate the series.

    I’ve ranted on and on about how bad New World was, when this is supposed to be an article about how good Orphan Black is. Oh, but I did this on purpose. I wanted you to know how much disdain I have for New World – because I’m saying that the sins of Canadian TV’s Primeval: New World just might be forgiven with the series Orphan Black. In fact, the crack addict feeling I got while waiting for new episodes of Primeval is one and the same with the feeling I’m getting right this very moment as I wait for a new episode of Orphan Black. I want more….and I want it now! And I want a full 26 episode season….none of this ten episode thing we got with season one! I NEED MY FIX!

    So….dear Canadian TV people. You’ve got a really good thing going with Orphan Black. Don’t, for the love of all that is good and holy, mess this one up. We let you slide on Primeval: New World, so you kind of owe us already. Besides, you saw what we did to Iraq because of some fabled WMDS.
    Sincerely – your gun toting, war mongering neighbors to the south.babyorphan

    Share on Tumblr Share via email Share