Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yub Nub, eee Chop Yub Nub

So do you remember at the end of Return of the Jedi when Darth Vader grabs the Emperor and throws him down the conveniently placed bottomless pit? Seriously, there is never a bottomless pit when I need one. Well, I remember having my 5 year old brain blown away at that moment. The Empire is dead. No more dark side of the force. The good guys won.

My friends, that is exactly what happened last night in Yankee Stadium. In the 8th inning, 2007 rookie of the year Dustin Pedroia hit a grand slam, clinching the game and the last series played between the Red Sox and the dirty, filthy Yankees in Yankee Stadium. This effectively kills whatever hope the Yankees had to catch the Red Sox in the wild card race. For the first time since 1994, the most evil team in professional sports (Lakers are close second) will not be in the playoffs. Suck it, Steinbrenner.

This team has the largest payroll in the history of American professional sports. By acquiring Ivan Rodriguez (the only Pudge I know is Pudge Fisk), the Yankees have about 4 hall of famers. Ivan, Rivera, Arod and maybe Jeter. I’m not convinced Jeter is a hall of famer though. But the point is this lineup is loaded, the ownership and front office is insane, the local press is relentless and the fan base is arrogant and entitled. Not a good combination when you’re dealing with massive failure. This will lead to an enormous overreaction in the off season. The Yankees will hold a fire sale and officially begin the “rebuilding process”. The Yankees are dead. It makes me want to dance around a bonfire with a bunch of Ewoks.

By the way, how awesome is it that all I have to do is google "yub yub" and I immediately can pull up the complete lyrics of the original Ewok song complete with translation? Glorious nerds and their internet. Here's a link, so you can sing along.

By they way, I know the Yankees beet the Sox today, avoiding the sweep. I don't care. The Yankees remain dead.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

As Long As I Gaze On Waterloo Sunset, I Am in Paradise: A Five Song Intro to The Kinks

The Kinks are the great forgotten band. In their day, they were every bit as big as the other post Beatles, British Invasion groups. They hit the same time as The Stones and The Who and were every bit as good. Yet somehow they get lost in the shuffle when great music of that era is discussed. That sucks for Ray Davies, but for it’s a good thing for those of us who consider ourselves smug music snobs that embrace the obscure. We get to be in on the secret.

Now that being said, The Kinks aren’t that obscure. They have a ton of hits that are featured in movies and TV shows and commercials. They have five or six different songs that you already know. You just don’t know that you know them. You Really Got Me (a Time Life “Sounds of the 60’s”staple), Lola (greatest love song to a tranny I’ve ever heard), Well Respected Man (I think this was on Juno), Picture Book (hp commercial), Sunny Afternoon, Dandy, Victoria are all songs you have probably heard somewhere.

But despite the fact that these hits are still recognizable some 35 years after they were recorded, The Kinks still suffer from an unjust anonymity. How many Fallout Boy songs will be well known in 2045? However this presents you with a wonderful opportunity. Because if you fancy yourself as a connoisseur of the Indy music scene, you get to tell all your friends “Hey check out this song by The Kinks. It sounds a lot like The Shins.” Then you’ll be the coolest kid on the block.
All Day And All of the Night - 1964 Single
The combination of horniness and power chords is truly a magical thing. They go so well together. Simple, obvious, raw, aggressive almost hostile. Notice I didn’t say sex. This song is not about sex. It’s about the energy and frustration that comes from wanting to have sex. It’s different.
Waterloo Sunset – 1967 Something Else By The Kinks
This is such a beautiful song. The cherubic harmonies and tranquil tone in Ray’s voice contrast the melancholy lyrics perfectly. It’s wonderful balance of satisfaction and desperation. Contentment and loneliness. I love this song. I have also included a stripped down cover by Elliott Smith. He is just the right artist to capture the hidden pain of Waterloo Sunset.

The Contenders - 1970 Lola vs Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One
Lola Vs Powerman is an album that is every bit the rival to Sgt Pepper, Let It Bleed, Tommy and any other great album of that time. (although I humbly think Tommy sucks) This is a great illustration of how The Kinks are overlooked when placed in their historic context. The Contenders is the opening song. It begins with a cool little blue grassy intro and then punches you in the face with some badass guitar work.

Complicated Life – 1971 Muswell Hillbillies
Muswell Hillbillies is the most American sounding album from this self consciously English band. It has a lot of acoustic, country influences flowing throughout the album. Complicated Life is just a nice alt country sounding ode to anti consumerism. Ryan Adams would be lucky to write a song this good. And I say that as a pretty big Ryan Adams fan.

This Time Tomorrow – 1970 Lola vs Powerman and the Moneyground, Part One
Wes Anderson fans may recognize this song from The Darjeeling Limited. Totally underrated movie, by the way. It’s a simple, repetitive chord progression that adds layers of musical variation and lyrical intensity as it continues. The banjo, the piano and drums all blow my mind when I listen to this.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So Close. So Very Close.

Apparently I am a callused ass. By the way, that is an interesting image. How exactly would an ass get callused? So my buddy sent me this article yesterday how the lead singer of The Barenaked Ladies survived a plane crash. My immediate response wasn't "Glad he's OK." or "Thank goodness the three other people on the plane are alright". Nope, it was "Damn, we were so close to getting rid of that band, forever." This douche walks away from a plane crash and meanwhile Buddy Holly remains dead. There is no justice.

Let me make one thing very clear. I hate The Barenaked Ladies (isn't that a funny name?). Oh man, I hate them. When I hear that stupid Million Dollar song I think to myself, "F*ck you, Canada." We'll take your Shatners and your Akroyds. We'll even take your Alanises (Alanisi?) and your Martin Shorts when he is occasionally funny and not irritating (basically Three Amigos and that one episode of Arrested Development). But take your doughy, pasty nerd rock and blow it out you callused ass. We don't need it, we don't want it.

Now, I don't want to kill the Barenaked Ladies. Nor do I overtly wish that they were dead. But if they were to die, I really wouldn't shed too many tears. Depending on the means of death, I might even giggle. Is that too harsh? Probably.

Of course, what I really want is for them to go the hell away. And if they were to die in plane crash, then they would be memorialized ad naseum. CNN would be playing their crappy music while Larry King interviewed their teary eyed manager. They would release a greatest hits tribute album and the tone deaf fools who made them popular to begin with would put them back on the charts. And worst of all, they would enter the "Rock Star who died in a plane crash" fraternity. They would be mentioned in the same breath as Buddy Holly, Ronny Van Zandt, Otis Redding, Patsy Cline, Richie Valenz, The Big Bopper, Randy Rhodes and John Denver. And though some of those are better musicians than the others, they are all a thousand times better than Bare-friggen-naked Ladies.

So, really it's a good thing this guy was alright. Now, let's all do our part in making this crappy band disappear. Let them never be spoken of again.

Note: I'm not going to put any pictures of this band up for two reasons. They don't deserve my effort in finding them and there is no way I am going to search Google Image for "Barenaked Ladies" at work. I'm dumb, but not that dumb.

Monday, August 25, 2008

An open letter to Spain’s Olympic Basketball Team . . .

(written Saturday night while watching the US take back its Gold Medal)

Although these remarks are directed to our Iberian friends, it applies equally to the Argentines and the Lithuanians and every other piece of greasy Euro trash that has infected the NBA with their socceresque basketball over the last decade. I know Argentina is in South America, but their Nazi war criminal lineage qualifies them as Euro trash. To them all I declare this: If you make your living by sweating your ass off on national TV, keep your hair short. This is not Middle Earth. You are not one of the Riders of Rohan. Contrary to what you think, the whole long hair, scruffy beard thing does not make you look like a big strong Viking pillaging and raping your way through a village. No, it makes you look like the unwashed asshole of a hobo. Not a good look. For anyone. Ever.

If I was an Eastern European or an Argentine or a Spaniard and I knew I had a genetic predisposition to the appearance of greasiness, I would compensate with a fresh shave and tight haircut at all times. Especially if my hair was going to get sweaty and stringy and flip around hitting people in the face making me look like a really ugly woman. But instead of the sensible, obvious approach of basic hygiene, these people let their filthy manes fly. That or they opt for the little, gay, soccer player rubber band thing to hold in all in place. Dude, why not just get a scrunchy?

See, the thing with the disheveled, half shaven beard and the oily hair is this; no matter how clean you may be in reality, you look like you reek. Just look at this picture of Pau Gasol. Man do I hate Pau Gasol. Filthy, dirty Lakers. But look at this picture long and hard. Now close your eyes and smell. Are you like me? Do you smell a bouquet of rotten cabbage, ball funk and Ax body spray? That is the suggestive power of the moistened half beard at work. Now, Gasol may very well be a sanitary man, but I have no evidence to support such a claim. All I know is what I see and what I fake smell.

Of course there are those that go the other extreme. They go to a feminine extent to take extra good care of their flowing man locks. Take Fabricio Oberto of the San Antonio Spurs. Note the stupid little hair band thing. Damn it, man! You are a professional athlete. You should not be packing a flat iron with you on road games. Is it not enough that your name is Fabricio?

So look fellas. With the long hair, you either end up an unkempt bum or a metro looking homo. It’s a lose / lose scenario. So avoid the dilemma all together and take the Grandpa Simpson approach and get a haircut, you damn hippies.

I would like to make one more thing clear. The short hair principle only applies to white guys. Black guy can grow their hair out as long as they want. The NBA needs more Ben Wallace fro's.

Note: I would like to point out that the two prominent Euros on my team, the Jazz, do not fall prey to the aforementioned vice. Memo and AK certainly have had their share of goofy looking haircuts but they have the common sense and decency to keep it tight.

One more note: Wasn’t it great to hear the NBA on NBC music during the Olympics? I love that intro. God bless you, John Tesh! Also, Michael Jordan is the devil.

Friday, August 22, 2008

That Smooth, Rich Flavor . . .

There is an office building directly west of mine that I have to drive past to get to my office. Nearly every time I drive by there is a rather obese man in an illfitting shirt and tie pacing back and forth, having a smoke. Whether I’m coming in for the day at 9:30, leaving for lunch at 11:30, getting back from lunch at 2:30 or going home for the day at 3:30 (I work really really hard) the guy is out there relaxing away in the shade, taking a nice slow drag. He has become affectionately known as ‘Fat Guy, Smokin’” around my office. Smokin’ Fat Guy seems more grammatically correct but for some reason, he is Fat Guy, Smokin’. Some days he’s not there and I usually assume he has dropped dead; we can’t be too far away from that happening. But the next day he’s back at his post and my hope in humanity is renewed.

I don’t know why I find this guy so interesting. Am I just laughing at a fat guy from a distance? Odds are good I’ll be fatter than him someday (No I won’t. I vow to the moon and stars that I won’t!). Does he make me feel superior because “I am healthy, I don’t smoke. I listened in 7th grade health class. Bla bla bla”? I don’t think so. In fact, I think smoking is pretty damn cool. They are breathing fire into their lungs and blowing it back out into the air. That’s pretty friggin cool. I especially like it when they snort it out their nose like a dragon. You can't tell me James Dean doesn’t look like a total badass with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth. Who hasn’t pretended to hold a cigarette when it’s cold out and your breath is foggy?

Now, I have never smoked a cigarette and I never will (relax, Mom). But if my circumstances were different, I can totally see myself as a smoker. If I grew up in a house where my parents smoked or if all my friends in high school smoked, I just might be out there right now with Fat Guy Smokin' talking about how there’s no way that one Chinese gymnast is sixteen.

There are a few things about myself that are different from most folks. I totally prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate. Most people love the Dave Matthews Band, I can’t stand them. And I enjoy second hand smoke. I know, I know. I’m supposed to cough self righteously and shun those weak, miserable souls that suckle at the filtered teat of the evil big tobacco lobby. But I don’t. In fact, I have had enough shit jobs that involve outdoor, manual labor to become quite a connoisseur of second hand smoke.

In high school, I worked with a one thumbed, burned out, alcoholic hippie named Randy at University of Utah Telecom. It sounds technical but we just installed phone and computer lines around campus. If Randy didn’t have a beer at lunch, he would get the shakes. Anyway, I spent eight hours a day in a van with that guy listening to country music on am radio and breathing in his exhaled GPC’s. GPC’s suck. They are stale and uninspired. A poor man's smoke. But there was another guy I worked with there, John Connors. Not the guy from Terminator and if he is, we’re all screwed when Skylab attacks because this guy couldn’t lead an army worth shit. But John spent real money on his smokes and went with Winston Finely Aged Tobacco. I like the smell of Winstons. Sweet, almost fruity. Camel's are pretty harsh and Marlboro’s are rich, but a little boring. Yeah, I’m definitely a Winston man.

This last week I have noticed Fat Guy Smokin' has been out there with Fat Lady, Smoking. It’s quite romantic. I imagine they are discussing which kind of ham they are going to buy with that month’s supply of Marlboro Miles. Soon they’ll get married and have little Fat Babies, Smoking. Their low birth weight due to FLS’s pregnant smoking, will be compensated with a baby bottle full Mountain Dew and steady diet of nacho cheese. Babies love nacho cheese. Soon they will have a whole clan. A Fat Family, Smokin’, rolling around town in their maroon colored van with blown shocks, hotboxing the carton of Camels they just bought at Costco. It makes me smile.

So I guess I am interested in Fat Guy, Smokin' because I am a judgmental prick that likes to feel superior by taking cheap shots at someone that I don’t know. But you know what? If you enjoyed this article, at least a little bit, you’re a judgmental prick too. So suck it. Welcome to the mire.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

This Is Indeed Unrequested, Public Self Exposure

Gig Harbor, Washington. Beautiful.

Many of you have heard me recount this story before. Some have heard the whole thing, some have only heard bits and pieces. Well, I have decided to drop the whole thing on you all today. I can't think of anything else to write about and apparently, I'm a tap dancing clown that likes it when people laugh at my expense.

Fair warning: The punch line to this story is pretty friggin gross and probably more detailed than it needs to be. But it is also pretty damn funny. Proceed at your own risk.

I believe it was May of 2003. I had a job starting up in a few weeks (code for I was unemployed and didn't have shit to do). My big gay brother, Big Gay Al (again, he's straight, it's just fun to say) was driving through Boise on business when his car died. It took a few days to fix, so his company flew him home to Salt Lake and was going to later fly him back to pick up the car and drive it home. Al had a full plate at the time so he suggested that I fly to Boise with his company's gas card and drive his Honda back. I like to drive and I hadn't been in that area in a long time so I decided to do it.

I flew to Boise, picked up the car and was driving down I-84 listening to some CD's of stolen music from Limewire. This was music I had downloaded a year or so before and I just hadn't gotten around to listening to until then. It was Tom Waits and my friends, it was good. I was listening and relistening to every song, trying to absorb the lyrics. It's always exciting to discover a new band. I was totally focused on this new project of mine, to consume and digest the 30 something year career of Tom Waits. As I was driving, I remember being surprised by how green and beautiful southern Idaho was. This wasn’t a road I had ever driven, but I know that there isn’t much to look at west of I-15 in northern Utah. How did Idaho get this scenic? And what are these mountains I’m looking at? Oh well, back to Small Change.

After about two and half hours, I pulled over to add some gas and subtract some pee. When I pulled into the gas station, some nice high school girl came out to fill up my car. “Oh, I’m sorry. Is this the full service section?” “No, every gas station is full service in Oregon.”

Son of a bitch. I just drove two hours in the wrong direction. Damn you Tom Waits and your awesome music! I take a little time to swear, laugh at myself and get my bearings. I was in La Grande, Oregon, which is the town my Grandpa grew up in, oddly enough and I was about 7 hours from Salt Lake. But as I’m looking at the map, I realize I’m also about 6 hours from Seattle. Seattle is where my dad grew up and I served my mission in near by Tacoma. I love the Puget Sound and I know a lot of people up there that I haven’t seen in a few years. Screw it, I have a gas card and a Honda Accord. I’m taking an accidental road trip.

I still had quite a bit of day light and a full tank of gas as I headed northwest through the Tri Cities. The sun started getting low in the left corner of my windshield illuminating the sprinkler pipes from the alfalfa fields such that I could almost make out the single droplets of water as I drove by. A mountain valley with green fields and irrigation pipes in late afternoon sunlight is one of the most serene things to behold, especially when you view it at 90 miles an hour with an open highway ahead of you.

I picked up a hitchhiker outside of Yakima, a nice young guy trying his best to be a hippie. The first thing he said when he got in the car was “Okay, man. Got a deal for you; I don’t kill you, you don’t kill me.” I accepted and we made polite conversation until Ellensburg.

I got to Seattle that night and spent two days driving around seeing old friends, eating at restaurants I used to frequent and revisiting a great time of my life. It’s amazing how detailed and random the memories are when you return to a place in which you spent a lot of time. I had no idea that there was a part of my brain whose soul purpose is to retain the smell of Bremerton, Washington. But it's filed away up there.

I ended up driving down the Washington coast on Highway 101 through Oregon. My plan was to take this road to San Francisco and then take I-80 home. Like I said, I had someone else's gas card.

Now, one of my friends from college had just started grad school at Cal Davis near Sacramento. Her name was Janelle. She is a very nice person who lived across the street from me in Provo the previous year. I gave her a call to see if I could crash on her couch. She lived in the only “Mormon Girl” house near campus and her roommates were a little hesitant about letting some strange dude sleep there. I respect that, but am I really going to impregnate them all? Anyway, she convinces them to let me stay and at about four in the morning, I pull into town.

At about eight o'clock the next day, people start making breakfast and getting ready for the day. I had slept (poorly) in the car at a rest stop the night before and I had the most miserable drive of all time ahead of me. Sacramento to Salt Lake is brutal. I was in the front room with people coming in and out and I needed some good sleep. So Janelle told me just to go sleep in her room, I think mostly so she could get that snoring bum off their couch.

Now let me take a moment and explain a pretty simple concept. If a factory is manufacturing a product and that product is not being consumed, then it needs to go into some kind of warehouse for storage. If the warehouse is overflowing with inventory, than it reasons that some means of liquidation would be necessary, especially if manufacturing of said product is still in process. This concept is a very relevant one for those of us who are male, single and Mormon. That morning, Captain Midnight struck and he struck hard.

If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, allow me to be more graphic. I had one hell of a wet dream. Dude, it was a five squirter. I mean I blew it all over the place. I woke up at about one o'clock that afternoon disoriented, sticky and a half pound lighter. Now I didn't pack for this trip. I’m wearing the same shorts I wore to the airport three days earlier. I gave up on my underwear two days before and I had twelve hours of driving ahead of me. I jumped in the shower with my shorts on, rinsed them off the best I could. I packed up my gear, rubbed the puddle into her sheets and got the hell out of there.

“See ya Janelle, thanks for letting me crash.”

“Don’t you want some breakfast?”

“Nope, gotta get goin'.” (sound of car door slamming, engine starting and tires peeling out of driveway)

To this day, I’m quite sure she thinks I was engaged in some other behavior in her room that morning. I wasn’t. Seriously, I wasn’t. But either way, she will think twice before doing another favor for me again. So Janelle, if you're out there, my deepest apologies.

I would like a little feedback on this one. If this story offends your better senses (and it should) please let me know and I won't go this route anymore in the future.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Villains Always Blink Their Eyes: A 5 Song Intro to The Velvet Underground

If you are an enthusiast of great music, you need to pay attention. Please do yourself a favor, stop what you are doing, put on some really good headphones and listen to all five of the following songs. This is music that deserves your full attention.

New York City Art School students Lou Reed and John Cale formed The Velvet Underground in 1966. I’m not going to bore you with some half assed, fan gushed biography. That’s what Wikipedia is for. So instead I’ll just tell you the two reasons why I hold The Velvet Underground in the highest of esteem. They have the elusive combination of being both brilliant and weird as hell.

It’s not enough to be weird. Plenty of bands go that route. It’s a lazy approach to appear to be less mediocre than they really are. The Velvet Underground opt against the self consciously bizarre but they still factor in the degree of difficulty into their song writing. They stand on the diving platform (Imagine Lou Reed in a speedo. Go ahead. Do it.) and choose against the easy and obvious swan dive. Instead they perform their original dive, the triple roundhouse, jack knife, nuclear gainer. And they nail it perfectly. Man that was a lame metaphor. I think I stole that from a Sunday School lesson. Alright, no more lame metaphors from here on out. I promise.

Sweet Jane 1970 – Loaded

So I’m starting off with a song from Loaded, the fourth and last released by The VU. Their previous three albums had been praised by critics and musicians, but failed to have any serious commercial success. Sweet Jane, along with Rock and Roll, was Lou Reed’s attempt to write the most radio friendly top 40 song that he would still enjoy. The Cowboy Junkies recorded a slowed down, bluesy cover of this song in 1988 that is everything a good cover should be. It’s a new take, but still true to original song’s tone.

Heroin 1967 – The Velvet Underground and Nico

The VU are as effective at writing radio friendly, bare-bones rock and roll (see previous song) as they are writing experimental, artsy, dissonance. Which brings us to Heroin. Not a lot of subtlety in this song. No euphemisms here. This song is disturbing, deviant and at times unpleasant and yet when I listen to it on repeat, it makes me happy. Cale’s droning Viola, Reed’s expressionless vocals and Tucker’s accelerating drum beat create an atmosphere that engulfs the listener. Put on some headphones, close your eyes and shoot up. It’s entirely possible that you will hate this song, especially the last two minutes. But it’s just as likely that this song will change your perception of what pop music can be. Sometimes I watch movies to feel good. Sometimes I watch movies that will scare the crap out of me. The same is true with music. This song is the latter.

What Goes On 1969 – The Velvet Underground

If Buddy Holly has taught us anything, it’s that the definitive element of rock and roll isn’t the melody, or the lyrics, or the vocals or the hook. It’s the rhythm. The drummer and the bass player are the components of a band that compel you to move your neck in all kinds of funky ways. What Goes On is nothing but a rhythm section. There is a solo, (a tremendous one at that) but other than that, just a bass, organ, drums and guitar keeping the same hypnotic rhythm for about five minutes. Simplicity can be so fulfilling.

Sweet Nothing 1970 – Loaded

This song is almost eight minutes long, the lyrics are simple and repetitive and the chord progression never changes. In lesser hands this could be a boring song, but it’s one that I never get tired of. The final solo illustrates everything I love about rock and roll music.
After Hours 1969 – The Velvet Underground

After Hours is sung by the drummer Maurine Tucker. Lou said that the song was so “innocent and pure” there was no way he could possibly sing it himself. The self-pitying nature of the lyrics are juxtaposed by happy vaudeville guitar. It makes the song bittersweet, not just bitter. If you can listen to this song without relating to it just a little bit, you are a tool.

Question: What Do Germans Love More Than David Hasslehoff?

Answer: Southern Utah.

Friday night, I was driving to the east entrance to Zion National Park and I stopped at Henrie's Drive-In in lovely Panguitch, Utah. I'm a fan of Panguitch. It's right in between Bryce Canyon and Zion. That highway is beautiful to drive through. Also, it's fun to say the word "Panguitch". It's a word that could be used to replace any body part. Take your pick as to which one. "Man, my panguitch is chaffed."

Anyway, I stop into the Drive In and the place is packed. It's Friday night, summer is winding down, so I figure that the kids are gonna be hanging out at the local version of the Peach Pit. Wrong. The place is over flowing with German tourists.

I have never been to Germany, though I would like to go. And I have had nothing but pleasant experiences with the Germans I have met, be it in a personal or professional setting. But you can spot them immediately. Their artsy looking Euro glasses, brightly colored shoes with black socks, mesh tank tops and what I can only assume are hairy female armpits and uncircumcised schlongs (you know you want to click on it). These are all just ethnocentric, obvious observations and they are a little mean spirited. I don't mean any disrespect. Although I do think it's odd that people drop a couple of thousand dollars to fly across the world just to hang out in Panguitch.

I struck up a conversation with guy named Klaus from Hamburg. How cool is it that his name was Klaus? The only way it could have been better is if he was named Helmut (greatest German name ever). And no, he was not the singer to The Scorpions. I could spot Klaus Mein in a crowd, no problem. Klaus was a friendly guy who seemed to enjoy having a chat with a real "Panguitch native". Very pleasant folks, that have an affection for my home. A nice experience. Although, curiosity almost compelled me to ask, "So was your grandpa a Nazi?". Not to be a dick, or some "we kicked your ass, haha." kind of thing. But I would like to know if Klaus enjoy Raiders of the Lost Ark as much as I do.

I ended up in Zion and had a great day of hiking and canyoneering. We got lost looking for the trail head of Mystery Canyon, which was the whole reason we went there, so we had pass on that one. It totally sucked, but it could have been worse. We could have done Havasupi and had to be rescued. But we did another shorter slot canyon instead that was a lot of fun. Keyhole saved the day. Here are a few pictures. Note that Justin and I both posed with the rope around our necks. It just looks cooler.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Welcome Back, Ben Stiller.

I saw Tropic Thunder last night and I must say, this is a welcome return to form for Ben Stiller. Its layered satire and precise wit are a relief from the poo/fart/sex jokes and “I’m so stupid, it’s funny. Just look how stupid I am, but wait, I can be even stupider. See!” approach that most comedies take. Don’t get me wrong. Tropic Thunder is not high brow by any means. There is plenty of audacity in this film, (it is definitely an R rated movie) but it doesn’t lean on those shock moments for its substance. Robert Downey Jr alone is worth eight bucks.

In 1992, I remember watching a show on the new Fox Network called the Ben Stiller Show. I believe it was on Sunday nights after Married With Children (sweet sweet Kelly Bundy) and before Babes. Or was it Drexle’s Class, or Herman’s Head, or Top of the Heap? Man that network made a lot of crap off of the coattails of The Simpsons.

But the Ben Stiller show was hilarious. That's a very funny clip of a pre-coked out Andy Dick. Actually, he's probably pretty coked out in that clip. Anyway, the movie and TV comedy history of the last 15 years can trace a lot of its roots (for better or worse) back to the 13 episodes of the Ben Stiller show, even though it was never a hit and it was only on for a few months.

Andy Dick, Janeane Garofolo, Bob Odenkirk, David Cross, Owen and Luke Wilson, Jack Black, Sarah Silverman all can trace their career roots (some more directly than others) back to this show. Also, it was produced by Judd Apatow, so you could tie in the careers of a dozen other actors. Almost all of these people would all go on to significant main stream success, get overexposed by producing repetitive and lazy crap and then suffer a backlash. Do you know anyone who doesn’t hate Janeane Garofalo? It took until Reality Bites for me to get sick of her pseudo intellectual "coolness". But in 1992, this was all a fresh brand of comedy.

Ben Stiller has especially been in a rut since Meet the Parents. I’ll give him Zoolander as well, even though it’s not too high on my list. But my friends, Tropic Thunder is everything a good comedy should be. Good to have you back, Ben.

Tropic Thunder actually made me like Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey. I have really enjoyed the last five or six years hating those two guys and yet, based on last night’s viewing, I kinda like them now. I need these guys to serve as an irrational whipping post for all my frustrations, damn it! I mean, that's their job. To be a bunch entitle, oblivious jaggoffs, make asses of themselves and make me feel intelligent by contrast. But, it’s alright. I still have Cameron Diaz and Ben Affleck to despise. That’ll give me some relief. By the way, Gone Baby, Gone sucked.

You know satire is effective when a group of people that was never overtly insulted gets offended. You may have read about how the Special Olympics are protesting this movie due to its reference to and use of the word ‘retard’. Look, I don’t want to sound like I approve of humor at the expense of the handicapped. I respect the Special Olympics and Easter Seals standing up for the most vulnerable and innocent among us. But the movie is clearly making fun of actor’s playing mentally disabled characters to garner credibility and win awards. Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump, Sean Penn in I Am Sam. It’s taking aim at manipulative self serving actors that exploit the most noble of human emotions to win Oscars. That’s a worthy target for ridicule in my mind.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tennesseeing is Tennebelieving

So last night, I was enjoying some Arrested Development DVDs. Second Season. The one where Buster (my name's sake) thinks he escaped into Mexico to avoid going into the army. "This shall keep me safe from the hot Mexican sun." Oh man that's a good one. If you don't know exactly what I'm talking about then do yourself the greatest favor of your life, take about a week off of work, sit in front of your computer (thank you Hulu)and watch the entire series (you must start at the first episode and watch in order) over and over until it absorbs into your bones. Incest has never been so funny.

But that's not what I wanted to talk about today. On the subject of Arrested Development, I wanted to dust off this early 90's classic. "Headliner, I challenge you to a game of horseshoes. A game of HORSESHOES!"

Speech knows how to write a song.

I guess there was some legal scuffle between the band Arrested Development and the TV show Arrested Development. The show referenced this in the episode about Motherboy. But you would never know it. I won't bother to set up the joke. It would take too long. Let him who has ears to hear . . .

I love that this show had the confidence in itself to not spell out its jokes to everyone. It makes it rewarding to obsessive losers like myself that watches this crap over and over.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Holy Freakin Crap!

This Chick is Hot!

My Olympic Spirit just got a jump start. This is Olympic pole vaulter Allison Stokke. Sorry, Logan Tom. I know this breaks your heart, but I have a new hot athletic chick to keep me warm at night.

There’s something intriguing about a really hot girl pole vaulting. Freud may have something to say about that.

Do you think that they take looks into account when they pick the Olympic teams? I mean, most of this is just one big marketing ploy anyway. Attractive people bring better ratings. There’s a reason I know who Jenny Finch is and it’s not because I’m a huge women’s softball fan. If there is a knock out gorgeous gymnast who is not as good as a crooked toothed, greasy-faced tammssen (it’s a technical term and is no way related to anyone I may or may not know) are they going to take the lesser talented hottie? Which is more important, winning the gold or winning ratings? Of course, winning gold medals gets ratings so who knows?

And I am not trying to imply that Allison should not be in the Olympics. What the hell do I know about pole vaulting? I’m sure she’s qualified. And if they did take looks into account, I would imagine there would be a whole lot more ridiculously hot people in the Olympics than there are. So I guess I just answered my own question. They take the best. But it sure is a bonus when the best looks this good.

Also, don’t cry sexism on me on this one. Michael Phelps’ abs have been pimped out left and right over the last few months. Horny women and gay dudes (mostly gay dudes) are all over that guy. This is definitely a two way street.

Note: Apparently Allison is not on the Beijing Olympic team. She is a top contender and is currently on the track team at Cal. Damn Berkley. I hate them so much. Also, apparently she hates all the web attention she has gotten this summer and does not like being the subject of loser bloggers. Looks like I just blew my chances. Now I have somewhat of a mess on my hands.

I Won't Forget To Put Roses On Your Grave: Five Stones Songs You May Not Know

Like the Beatles, The Rolling Stones don’t suffer from a lack of exposure. They’ve been around for almost 50 years and everyone knows at least six or seven of their songs. So let me start this one off by reversing the trend. Here are two songs by the Stones that you do know, but shouldn’t. Start Me Up and It’s Only Rock n Roll.

Wow, I wish they had never written those two songs. Not that they are all that bad. They both have good hooks and they give Mick a chance strut. But when did these two songs from the late 70’s (not their best era) define this band? The Stones did the Super Bowel half time a few years ago and they played these two songs and Satisfaction (overplayed as it is, I never get tired of it). Their first 13 Albums were pure gold and yet these two, thoroughly average songs have stayed around longer than Paint it Black. How is that? Oh well, on with the show.

Memo From Turner 1970 – From the Movie Soundtrack Performance (starring Mick)
This song has the violence and casual racism of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Is that a compliment? Either way it has that “I’m too cool to sing” Johnny Cash style speak sing that give the coarse lyrics that much more of a punch and Keith has a great whisky bottle (where would he have gotten one of those?) slide going. That’s a winning combination. I wish they had written more songs that sounded like this.

Sweet Virginia 1972 – Exile on Main St
The Stones doing a little smoky bar room Honky Tonk sing a long. As a general rule I hate saxophone solos. They ruin most songs they touch. They’re too whiney and they usually just don’t fit the song. I’m looking at you Bruce Springsteen. But this particular sax solo is perfect. Has a good Gary US Bonds feel to it.

Out of Time 1966 – Aftermath (UK)
Here we have the Stones bringing in a String Quartet into the Rock n Roll studio. They were a few steps behind the Beatles on this one. They typically were. However, even though The Stones would often be second place in doing something new, they frequently did it better than their Liverpoolian counterparts. I love Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby, but I’ll take Out of Time over those two sad bastard songs any day. Plus Charlie really pounds the crap out of his drums on this one.

Dead Flowers 1971 – Sticky Fingers
Mick singing with a bad southern accent. I love it. Is this was Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent from Mary Poppins sounds like to the English? But I forgive Mick his poor impression because this has a credibility that I can’t quite put my finger on. Here is a Townes Van Zandt cover that seems a little more authentic but is a bit of downer (what Townes does best). Here is the opposite extreme with Guns N Roses. By the way, how awesome is Youtube? I can easily pull up a decent bootleg concert video of GNR circa ’93. You gotta love the obligatory acoustic set complete with stage couch. They’re just jammin’ in Axel’s basement. It looks like the opening of Friends.
Shine a Light
1972 – Exile on Main St
Exile is my favorite Stones album and for my money the best album from the 70’s. And that was a hell of a decade for music. The Stones had used a lot of gospel influence in previous songs, but here they lose that ‘influence’ part of it and take some Southern Baptist strait up, no chaser. Piano, organ and a choir that compels you to stand and clap along. Sometimes when I’m dragging through another rendition of Scatter Sunshine in Sacrament Meeting, I wish we would add this little number to the hymnal. I then wish I was a large black woman so I could add some soul to the singles ward. If only.

Monday, August 11, 2008

When Cameron Was In Egypt's Land . . .

Most of you reading this blog know me pretty well and a few of you knew my brother Cameron. That's Cam on the left and my big, gay brother, Big Gay Al on the right. Alan is a happily married heterosexual and father of two. Just to be clear.

Cam died nine years ago today from brain cancer. (posted on Aug 11, but written on Aug 9th) So let me tell you all a real quick story about Cammie Poo that makes me happy. Just for fun and because it would bug him (it is my right as an older brother), for the rest of this entry I will refer to Cameron by an assortment of nicknames I had for him. Some make sense. Most of them don't.

The last eight months of Ben's life (again, nicknames) were an incredible illustration of how contented and hopeful and genuinely happy life can be under horrible, horrible circumstances. It's been almost a decade and
as gut wrenchingly painful as it was, I still look back at this eight month window as one of the happiest times of my life.

By early January of 1999, Cam was completely paralyzed only able to move his eye lids and the right corner of his mouth. He wasn't in a lot of pain (most of the time) but he did have to blink messages to us like "scratch my nose" and "who farted?" Cammie Cammie Meow Meow (to be said in a
Henrietta Pussycat voice) was the strength of the room. He was eager to lift the mood with his humor and willing to inspire others with his courage. He had made some significant progress and by about April, he could talk again, slowly. And he could move the right side of his body.

About this time, I was home from BYU and my job that summer was to help take care of Billcakes. He would usually wake up about 11:00, eat some breakfast and we would sit around and make fun of crappy daytime TV. So it was pretty much like every other summer growing up, except I got
fly the airplane into the hanger.

One morning I came into his room and he appeared to be sleeping. I remember taking a bit of personal moment; looking at my brother lying
on a special air mattress that prevented bed sores, surrounded by posters and cards and photos of people that loved him and were praying for his recovery. There was one of those plastic hospital water bottles next to his bed as well as a large variety of prescription bottles on top of his clock radio. The late morning light was peering through the Aspen trees outside the window and the swamp cooler in the hallway made that crisp smell that I will always associate with the summers of my childhood. As I picked up some plates that were left over from the night before, Benny Boy, without opening his eyes, belts out in a loud baritone, "When Cameron was in Egypt's land. . . . let my Cameron go!"

That is, of course from
Cameron Frye of Ferris Bueller's Day Off. This is the closest thing I could find to a clip of that scene. It’s only audio, but the scene in the movie is of a guy who is quasi-sick in bed and pretty much recreates the moment I described above. It was a perfect reference at the perfect time and all for my entertainment. I lost it. It just may have been the funniest thing I have ever witnessed. Here I am having my own little profound moment and he affectionately shatters it with his pitch perfect levity. As if to say "Don't take things too seriously. It'll all be OK."

Here’s another quick movie reference he dropped that I just remembered. This was while he was very limited in his movement. While feeding him a specially requested
Granny B Pink Cookie, I asked if he would like some milk. With the deadpan expression that only a cancer patient can pull off he responded in his labored speech, "I'd rather have a beer." Then the right side of his mouth smiled. Now before my Mom reads this and freaks out; no, Cammie was not a beer drinkin' party guy. Who the hell would ever believe that? No, this is a quote from Billy Madison.

In these instances, Cam's goal wasn't just to get a laugh. It was that, but his real intent was much more selfless. He was trying to give the people he loved a little bit of happiness under terrible conditions. He saw the heartache in the eyes of his family and friends as they all tried their best to pretend things were fine. But Cameron would reach beyond any attempts to grasp for a protective facade. This was not denial. This was Cameron lifting the burden of the moment from our shoulders and letting us all go back to the way things were before all of this hell invaded our lives. In those moments, he wasn't a 17 year old kid who was being robbed of a lifetime of love and success and goodness. He was just my little brother who knew exactly how to make me laugh.

I love ya,
Crooked Nose.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bring Back the Jeepster!

The following entry is addressed to a specific group of readers. If there happens to be any decision makers from Daimlar Chryslar reading my blog than please take note to the following: You need to bring back the Jeepster. You have stayed true to the Wrangler, giving it four doors as well as giving it a pickup bed with the Rubicon. I support these decisions. They almost make up for the Liberty. Man, that was a mistake.

But just look at the Jeepster. Has there been a cooler car ever made? Take this design, put some modern engineering into it and you have the biggest seller in your history. Of course the classic Cherokee was selling just fine and you replaced it with the damn Liberty, so you can't really be trusted.

You know, while you're at, bring back the Wagoneer as well. The SUV that was around long before the term "SUV". From 1985 to 1994, the tan Wagoneer with wood panels was the Westenskow family trade-mark. 8 miles a gallon, baby. That's reason enough to start manufacturing them again. So get on that.

Note: So in my search of online images of Jeeps, I came across a Jeepster concept car. My blog's effectiveness can't be denied. It's a cool looking car, but it doesn't look like a Jeepster. Damn it, man. Just because it's new, doesn't mean that it needs look like the Batmobile. Stay within yourself, Jeep. Know who you are. Embrace it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Danny Boy, This Is a Showdown: 5 Kick Ass Beatles Songs You May Not Know

So of all the things that could be said about the Beatles, “underrated” or “underexposed” really isn’t on the list. Every all-time best list (band, song, album, whatever) will almost always include The Beatles in some capacity at the top. This of course leads to a common backlash. “They aren’t that good. ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’? What’s the big deal?” The biggest problem with The Beatles is that they are really well known for the wrong songs. If you were to buy The Beatles One, you would get 27 songs, all of which were number 1, all of which are very good. But these songs are not the reason I love The Beatles. It is their B sides and obscure gems that really demonstrate that they are more than just a hit machine of the mid / late 60’s.

They recorded the equivalent of 15 albums in the six year span from 1963 to 1969. That’s two and a half albums a year. That includes a total of 219 songs, of which there are only about 4 that just suck. Off the top of my head I would say those songs are ‘A Taste of Honey’ (a cover they didn’t write), ‘Mr Moonlight’ (ditto), ‘Revolution 9’ (it’s a pile of crap) and Old Brown Shoe (sorry George). That’s a 97.7% success rate. And of those songs, I would guess that 150 of them could be rated anywhere from ‘very good’ to ‘mindblowingly amazing’. 150 great songs. And that’s being conservative. How many great songs does Dashboard Confessional have? They’ve been around for six years. How many legendary albums have they released? Not to pick on Dashboard Confessional. I’m sure they’re a fine band. I’m just illustrating that the volume of brilliance of The Beatles is very unique.

I would compare it quickly to the new Batman Movie. It really is that good. All the reviews, all the record box office totals, it’s all totally deserved. That’s usually not the case. If something is really popular, it seems to suck. Titanic, American Idol, the Macarena. Meanwhile, things that are unique and brilliant seem to go unnoticed by the masses. Arrested Development, Waiting For Guffman. The Beatles are one of those rare phenomenons (phenomenai?) that are both. They really deserve all the hype, all the praise.

So, with that out of the way, I give you “5 of the more obscure Beatles songs you may not have ever heard, but should love unless you have no taste at all.”

Hey Bulldog 1968 – Yellow Submarine.
From the opening piano rif to the closing dog barking of Paul, this song has all the funk of Bootsy Collins. A great example of how tight they were as a band.

Rain 1966 - B side to the Paperback Writer single.
Ringo for some reason gets a lot of crap for being the talentless member of the band. This is false. As evidenced in this song, Ringo knows how to drum. It’s just that a lot of the McCartney written songs didn’t have much of a backbeat. But when they took him off the leash, Ringo would go crazy with an exceptional rhythm. Paul's bass work is also amazing in this song.

Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey 1968 – The White Album.
Quite possibly the greatest title to any song ever. Of course monkey in this context refers to Lennon’s pet name for Yoko. I guess “everybody’s got something to hide except me and my repulsive, ass-faced, fraud of an artist, band destroying, testicle removing harpy of a girlfriend.” didn’t have the same ring. By the way that last link is hilarious. Stick with it through the first minute. It gets really good at 2:12. Back to “Monkey”. This song illustrates that for all the high aspirations, concept albums, psychedelic lyrics, sitar solos and full orchestral arrangements that they indulged in (all of which was pitch perfect and done as well as any band ever has), they are ultimately just a Rock and Roll band that knows how to kick ass.

For You Blue 1970 – Let It Be
George really is the overlooked element of the Band. He also had the most impressive solo album. This is a tribute to the 12 bar blues that they all loved so much.

Rocky Raccoon 1968 – The White Album
So when I was junior in High School, I plagiarized this song for my English class. Mrs Southam gave me an A++ with the comment ‘profound and heart breaking’ in red pen. Thanks, Sue. I’m sure Paul would be flattered.