Monday, November 24, 2008

HoneyBaked Hams and Fat Dogs

My brother Cam and my dog CoCo. Don't you just want to cuddle up with that thing? The dog, not Cam. It's like holding a furry water balloon.

Last week I had to rummage through my parent’s photo albums to come up with the picture of our painted lawn. As I was doing this, I came across a lot of pictures of the single greatest dog that has ever lived. This, my friends, is CoCo. Adorable, affectionate and fat as hell. Please indulge me for just a moment as I bask in a little bit of nostalgia.

Now I understand that there are few things more boring than listening to someone else drone on about their dog or their cat. Most of us have childhood pets that we loved and we don’t really want to hear about anyone else’s. And if you didn’t have a dog, than you really don’t care. Demitri Martin has a great joke about the direct relationship between a girl’s cuteness and his willingness to listen to her talk about her cat. (That joke is at about 4 minutes, but the whole clip is genius.)

But I think this glorious beagle is a unique scenario. I mean look at her. She was 27 inches long and 36 inches around. We wore the same size of pants. Yet even though she was morbid in her obesity, she was always a happy, playful and energetic dog. She would weasel out of our backyard and just graze around the neighborhood all day. She would go over to 7-11 where they would give her all the day old donuts. They would then call us to pick up our dog. “You really should put that thing on a diet.” Thanks.

I had a buddy in college who lived about five miles away from me but went to a different high school. When he asked me where I grew up, I told him next to that 7-11 on 21st. “Isn’t that the one where that really fat dog is always walking around?” That’s right. CoCo was a local celebrity. She was the mascot of Oneida Street.

Sometime in the early 90’s we hosted my mom’s family for Thanksgiving. We moved the couches out of the family room and replaced them with folding tables from the Ward. There were a ton of people and way too many leftovers. It was a cold day so my mom stashed a spare ham on the porch in a Tupperware bowl when the fridge filled up. After the feast, when we were playing Risk while watching football, I heard my mom cussing out my Uncle Shane.

Now you have to understand something. Shane is a retarded asshole. He’s no longer married to my aunt, so he is in no way a part of my family. And I’m quite certain he has no idea how to use a computer, so I’m not worried about using his real name. Well, apparently the ham was missing and for some reason my mom was blaming Shane for stealing it. This was an untouched Honeybaked Ham. Those things cost like fifty bucks. It sounds ridiculous that someone would steal a ham but I wouldn’t put it past Shane, so I have her back on this one. Like I said, he’s retarded asshole. I don’t remember if there was an actual confrontation. I’m not sure if she was cussing at Shane or about him. But either way there was a ham missing and he was to blame.

Well later that night, I found CoCo sprawled out on the floor of my room like a beached whale, struggling to breath. She had a ham bone under her paws. When I tried to pull it away from her, she let out one of those “I’m really a wolf inside” growls that all dogs release when someone tries to steal from them. She ate the whole friggen ham. The entire thing. It was like seven pounds. She only weighed about 70 pounds (which is a crazy amount for a beagle). She was like a python that just ate a hippo. I could hear he stomach loudly attacking the unchewed hunk of salt cured pig that was lodged inside of her.

I don’t know if Shane was ever publicly vindicated. Probably not. And I’m not too concerned about it. Again, retarded asshole. That’s actually a insult to all the other retarded assholes out there.

This was one fine dog.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Entertainment As Pain

In 1992, Nick Hornby wrote Fever Pitch, a memoir of his obsessive allegiance to the English Soccer team Arsenal. Now I have little to no respect at all for the sport of soccer (if you're American, don't call it football) but his insight on the burden born by fans crosses any cultural barriers.

He speaks of sports being the only source of entertainment that is directly associated with pain. And since it is just entertainment, that pain is always self inflicted which is in and of itself absurd. But especially since such profound pain is experienced at the cost of something as trivial and meaningless as a soccer game (fill you sport here) that makes it all that much more indefensible. It's one thing to feel empty and defeated as a result of real life failure. But to allow such a trite, insignificant thing as a damn football game make you feel truly despondent, well that adds a level of self criticism into the equation. Why am I so stupid that I let myself care so damn much?

By the way, please do not associate this book one bit with the pile of smoldering feces that is that Jimmy Fallon / Drew Barrymore abomination. Red Sox fans deserved more.

But back to Hornby. In light of the game which will never again be mentioned (see previous post), I would like to share with you an excerpt that articulates my conflict quite nicely:

I had discovered … that loyalty, at least in football terms, was not a moral choice like bravery or kindness; it was more like a wart or a hump, something you were stuck with. Marriages are nowhere near as rigid — you won't catch any Arsenal fans slipping off to Tottenham for a bit of extra-marital slap and tickle, and though divorce is a possibility (you can just stop going if things get too bad), getting hitched again is out of the question.

You're stuck. Integrity prevents you from leaving, no matter how badly betrayed you may feel. Again. It's all just so stupid. Here is a link to a previous post I wrote when my Red Sox went down in flames last month. This loss is much much more painful.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

That Time of Year, Again

My house the morning of the Rivalry Game in 1992. Now this wasn’t a hate crime. It was an affectionate prank pulled by friends. But it illustrates that the Westenskow house was alone in its Cougar support in our neighborhood.

Growing up, I was the only BYU fan in my grade at Roslyn Heights elementary school. The only one. As such I caught tons of crap whether BYU won or lost (it was the 80’s, they always won). In 1988, my friend Luke Geddes invited me to go to the BYU/Utah game at Rice Stadium. BYU had won that game 10 years in a row. I was in fifth grade at the time and I painted my face, and got all decked out. BYU got crushed. I mean they were destroyed by Scott Mitchell and the Utes. And I guess a decades worth of frustration needed to be released from those Ute fans because I was abused. By grown men.

“You see that! You see Covey get his ass kicked? BYU is a bunch of pussies! You SUUUUCCKKK!”

“Dude, I’m ten.”

The next Monday as I went into Mrs. Goodwin’s class, everyone stood, pointed their figures and laughed.

I know, I know. Boo friggin hoo. There are a ton of traumatic childhood stories that that involve actual abuse and damage that put this to shame. In fact there’s probably a ton of traumatic childhood stories where I am the jaggoff inflicting the trauma. Adam Hemmmart would be happy to tell you a couple. So this is nothing to cry about. But it did instill in me a resentment toward the obnoxious, asshole fringe of the Utah fan base.

It’s important to note that my resentment is very specific to that fringe, so don't get all butt hurt. My whole life most of my good friends have been Utah fans. We always got along, exchanging good natured jabs at each other. And there is no doubt that the Ute fans out there could tell similar stories about dick BYU fans giving them crap. Actually, BYU fans can sometimes really piss me off as I have previously posted. So it’s a complicated two way street.

I don’t intend to rehash this whole rivalry. It’s destructive, pointless and often very hateful. And I despise the term “Holy War”. I hate it.

Instead, I am going to document a strange occurrence. Since that game in 1988, the rivalry game has been 50/50. BYU has won ten games, Utah has won ten games. Taking 1997 and 1998 out of the equation (I was on my mission and didn’t watch them) I have attended eleven of the remaining eighteen games. Of those eleven games that I have attended, BYU has lost nine of them (88, 93,94,95,99,02,03,04,05). Of the seven games that I didn’t attend, BYU has won all of them (89,90,91,92,96,00,06).

Put simply, with the two exceptions of 01 and 07, every time I go to the stadium and watch the game, BYU loses. Every time I sit at home and swear at the TV, BYU wins. In 2006 I was offered tickets and refused them because of the undeniable historic fact my presence is a jinx to BYU’s success. If I went to that game, Harline would have dropped that ball (that really is an amazing photo). Last year I had to be dragged to The Ed by my buddy Steve to use my season tickets (I've had them since college). Even after the 4th and 17 conversion, I was still convinced that BYU would blow it due to my attendance. I'm not terribly superstitious but 2-9 is a pretty terrible track record.

There has never been more at stake for the rivalry game than this one. And I give BYU about a 50% shot of winning this thing. BYU has a ton of weaknesses that could easily be exploited (just watch that TCU monstrosity) and Utah always plays out of their mind in this game. But ultimately, I just don’t think Utah is that good. I’ve watched every game of theirs this year and as impressive as their season has been (and it has been a very impressive season) they are still a very beatable team that needs to be exposed. I just don’t know that BYU has the balls to pull it off.

But I’ll be doing my part. I’m staying the hell away from that soccer stadium they call Rice Eccles. I will be locked in a room by myself surrounded by lots things that I can smash against the wall. This damn game brings out the worst in me. Soon it will be over.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Werewolf Fighting Vampires? This is What Women Love? Really?

It has been well documented on this blog that I am in fact single and male. I have neither a wife nor a vagina. As such there is a long list of things that are present in the lives of my married friends that are absent in mine. A quick list would include the following:

  • Matching plates
  • A Tivo full of Grays Anatomy
  • Cute stenciled blocks of wood with decorative straw glue-gunned to it hanging from by front door.
  • A working vacuum
  • Scented candles
  • Scented anything. Except fabric softener. I love fabric softener.

I grew up with two brothers in a very male house. I have since lived with probably about 50 other dudes over the last 10 years or so. Some day, I’ll take the time to actually count my roommates. Nah, that’s probably not worth my time. My point is this; I get guys. I know how we think, I know what we like, and I know why we like the things that we like. These things are pretty basic and obvious. We are not terribly subtle animals. But the other side of this world has always been a bit of a mystery to me.

That’s not to say I’m a complete idiot when it comes to the ladies. I have decent understanding of the farer sex as well. I like to think I’m reasonably in touch with my feminine side. I Tivo two different cooking shows. Earlier this year, I got totally hooked on Veronica Mars, which is a hell of a good show for being a high school drama on the WB. (That clips sets up the first season. Seriously, it's a good show.) Here is a link to one of my earlier posts declaring my affection for unicorns and braiding hair. But every once in a while, there is a cultural phenomenon that baffles me. Ladies, please help out with this one.

What the hell is the deal with Twilight? Look at this trailer for the upcoming movie.

It looks pretty stupid to me. Maybe not stupid, but I would have never thought that every woman age 12-35 in the state of Utah (and the country) would been consumed by this. They are currently anticipating this week’s release of the movie like a shaky drunk on Election Day. Is every Relief Society Enrichment Leader really a forlorn Goth chick deep inside? Is all they really want in life to be rescued by a bloodless, pale vampire that can apparently fly? And since when could vampires fly? He didn't turn into a bat. Why does gravity not apply to the undead? I'm really confused by all of this. If I was told that a romance novel would grab the attention of the collective subconscious of every young female in my immediate vicinity, I would never guess that the storyline would include a family of vampires living in Forks, Washington.

My initial instinct is to mock and deride this absurd storyline and ridicule the fans of this for wallowing in cultural mediocrity. But that would be kind of dick thing to say for a guy that got equally excited about the Star Wars Prequils. Even after I knew that they would suck, I still got up for them. There’s nothing wrong with embracing guilty pleasures. Ladies, enjoy your movie.

So instead of further alienating myself from a demographic that I am in fact very interested in, I figure I am going to take advantage of this anomaly to gain some insight on the female mind. Ladies and gentlemen, today I declare that I will read the first Twilight book. I figure I’ll get some inside information. Like looking at the enemy’s battle plans.

And I wouldn’t put it past myself to get hooked on them. I was equally skeptical of The Da Vinci Code. And after reading it in a weekend, I went out and bought Angels and Demons. I got totally addicted to the first season of Desperate Housewives. As distinguished a taste as I pretend to have, I can be a sucker for a soap opera. But this is pure research. I will attempt to answer the question of why Twilight is all the rage. I of course will then exploit my findings to my benefit.

Let the great experiment begiiiiiin!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Music, Sweey Music. I Wish I Could Carress With a Kiss - 5 Songs From Jimi

Mitch Mitchell died last week. For the uncultured among you, Mitch was the drummer to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi’s band for his first three albums. Mitch had a distinctive rhythm heavily influenced by jazz. Now, there is no doubt that when you back up Jimi Freakin Hendrix, no one in the crowd is going to pay much attention to the drums. Jimi is the show. But Mitch gave significant contribution to Jimi’s sound without trying to compete for the spotlight. He’s on the short list of great drummers.

So with that in mind, I give you five badass songs by James Marshall Hendrix.

Manic Depresion
Manic Depression – Are You Experienced 1967

Are You Experienced is a shockingly impressive debut album. It obliterated any limitations that Rock and Roll previously was perceived to have had. It is loud, abrasive and primal but not angry or dark. It was groundbreaking but completely unpretentious. No artsy crap here. It is relentlessly energetic ranging from the head bangin, ear bleeding glory of Purple Haze and Stone Free to the psychedelic chill of The Wind Cries Mary and Third Stone From the Sun. Every song is different. Every song is brilliant. This is a record that needs to be consumed in its entirety. It deserves your full attention as you listen to each of the 22 songs in order. The next road trip you take, invest about two hours and explore this unbelievable piece of work.

Manic Depression is a pretty well known song from Jimi. I chose it because it illustrates Mitch’s unique rhythm. The guitar hook, bass line and drums are all truly bipolar. It is both loud and mellow.

Little Wing – Axis Bold As Love 1967

(for some reason I can't stream Little Wing. So here is a clip of Jimi playing it live at The Royal Albert Hall on Youtube.)

It’s one thing to blow the doors off of the entire genre of Rock and Roll with you debut album. But to then follow it up with a completely different sounding, equally brilliant sophomore album within the same year is astounding. Seriously, when was the last time any major modern band even bothered to release two albums in the same year? Much less two records (really three since Experienced was a double album) of this depth and quality? He recorded and released 35 songs on only his first two albums in the year 1967 and every one of them are amazing and distinct. How many great songs does Nickleback have?

Little Wing is a classic covered in concert by every guitarist aspiring to be considered “great”. Stevie Ray Vaughn released a fantastic instrumental version of it. But Jimi’s lyrics and vocals are an overlooked characteristic of his music that deserves attention. He has a great delivery.

Voodoo Child ( Slight Return )
Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) – Electric Ladyland 1968

Jimi used very little overdubbing. Most of the time, all the noise you hear is coming from one guitar. There is no rhythm guitar or no lead guitar in Voodoo Chile. Just a single right handed Stratocaster being played upside down producing this layered magnificent chaos. Jimi bought a wha pedal from Frank Zappa just prior to writing and recording this song which gives his guitar that porn funk you hear in the intro. This song is a good example of the atonal “noise” that is often associated with Jimi’s music. It’s not for everyone. But I love it.

Castles Made Of Sand
Castles Made of Sand – Axis Bold As Love 1967

As much as I love the face melting power of Jimi’s heavy stuff, I find I listen to his mellow songs a lot more often. He knows how write a tune that just makes you float. You can hear a lot of backwards guitar work in this song, including a full solo. It sounds so strange and so beautiful. Jimi’s lyrics and vocals are outstanding, as always.

My Friend
My Friend – First Rays of the New Rising Sun released 1997

With all the feedback, drugs, volume, distortion, drugs, stage antics, burnt guitars, smashed guitars, raped guitars, drugs, flamboyant uniforms, groupies and more drugs, Jimi is ultimately just a Blues Guitar player. This song was recorded with a bunch of army buddies called the Band of Gypsies after the Experience broke up. No elaborate solos or distorted power chords here. It’s just a great barroom jam session.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Damn Cat Story

Over the weekend, I went to the USA verse Uruguay Rugby match held at the new Rio Tinto Stadium. It was a fun night. The Eagles blew them away in the second half. A few of my friends played for the Eagles and I hung out with some old friends from the BYU Rugby team. For the last two years I helped coach the forwards as well as coached the JV team, so I know the current players quite well. I haven’t seen most of these guys since we lost in the National Final in May. One of the first things that was said to me was, ”Dude! Westy! Tell the cat story man. I haven’t ever heard it!”

Somehow the infamous cat story has followed me around. It’s been five years since I played at BYU and this is my legacy. Actually there is another characteristic that I am also known for, but that doesn’t need to be mentioned.

I first told this story in the back of a van on the way to Vegas for a tournament in 2000. I remember thinking that this was a particularly funny story but I never thought it would take on a life of its own. Those of you who know me, have heard this story. Probably several times. For the record, I never bring it up. It is always requested. Which I suppose is flattering, but at the same time, I’m a little concerned that this event is so closely associated with me. Personally, I think the "Accidental Roadtrip" story is funnier. So is he boner story. I'll save that one for later.

So I am using this forum to forever retire this anecdote. From now on, I am just going to email a link to this site when the cat story is requested. Loyal readers, I give you, the cat story:

It was Spring of 1997. I was an LDS missionary in Bremerton, Washington. It was my first area and as such I have a great deal of affection for it. Bremerton is an interesting town. It is on the Kitsap Peninsula across the Sound from Seattle. As far as natural settings go, it is about as beautiful a place as there is on Earth. There are inlets and peninsulas all over the place. Dyes Inlet, Sinclair Inlet, Port WashingtonNarrows, Rocky Point, Oyster Bay. There is waterfront property and dense forests everywhere. You have a great view of the Olympic Mountains to the west and Rainier to the South and Seattle to the East. On a sunny day (there’s a lot more of them than you think), it is incredibly scenic.

That being said, the actual town of Bremerton is a crap hole. The majority of the town was built during World War II when the shipyard opened up, so there’s a ton of old Naval housing everywhere. The place is pretty run down, nowadays. There is a government funded housing project called West Park there that brings in all sorts of flavors to Bremerton. For a small town, it has all the drugs, crime and poverty of most big cities. But, let me stress that I love this town. I had some incredibly good times there and every time is travel to Seattle, I always hop the ferry and visit my old turf.

There was a family there that we were working with. The father was an inactive member and the mother wasn’t very interested. But they have four kids that went to church. We were working with them, trying to get them back into the whole church thing.

They lived in this little ghetto part of town in a two bedroom duplex. Now, these kids were great. Really smart kids. But their dad was a schlub. Total loser. He was unemployed and didn’t seem too concerned with that. There's a big difference between a guy who has hit a tough time and is down on his luck, and a bum. This guy was the latter. He was a die hard Star Wars / Star Trek / Medieval Knights nerd. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But this guy definitely crossed any lines of sanity. He had a giant mounted dragon head on their wall. Like he slew the dragon and had his proud trophy to show the world. He would teach his kids Ye Olde English and insist that they speak it in the house. He would spend tons of money on Braveheart replica swords and then practice his skill in his backyard on a bail of hay. Meanwhile his four kids slept in a single twin bed with no sheets and lived off of toast and rice everyday.

Now, in my mission we had a list of approved movies that we could watch on P-day. The Star Wars Trilogy was on that list. So my companion and I decided to go over to their house on a Monday and watch some Star Wars, appeal to his nerdish leanings and BSRT with this guy.

So we walked down to their house. The kids weren’t home and he was in the backroom on his computer arguing over the proper translation of a Klingon Proverb with some other unemployed schlub online.

“Hey guys. Empire is in the VCR. Go ahead and start it.”

Now, I am by no means a neat freak. Any room mate of mine will tell you that. I am currently wearing jeans that have not been washed in about two weeks. But I do have limits. Their house had that musty, sour milk/mildew/cat pee smell that every poor person’s house seems to have. The only place for me to sit down was on the couch where there was a two foot pile of pooh-stained laundry. I nestled myself in and started watching a movie I’ve seen a thousand times on a TV that was too dim and had one blown out speaker. So it would buzz during loud noises.

I was a little irritated because we weren’t making any progress with this family and we were just wasting my only day off after working a 70 hour week. I was still new enough on my mission to where I still had a pretty nice suit. Since it wasn’t May yet, we had to wear the full suit when not riding our bikes. As I was watching Luke get attacked by the Wampa, their cat jumped up on my lap.

I’m not a big cat guy. Their tongues are scratchy, their hair is clingy and I always get a little weirded out when they start purring on my lap. I just feel like they’re enjoying themselves a little too much. So I politely push the cat off my lap. It jumps right back on. I push it off again and it comes right back. At this point, my nice suit is covered in cat hair so screw it. I surrender. So I just pet the damn cat while I watch the Empire invade the Hoth system.

You know how when you reach your hand into your pocket and you can feel your keys and some changes and whatever else? You know how you see can what you're feeling in your mind? Well that was me with the cat. I was focused on watching the Millennium Falcon elude the Imperial fleet in the asteroid field. While I imagined myself somewhere else, I felt this nasty scar on this cat. I thought to myself, “What the hell happened to this cat? Did the dragon slayer put a cigar out on it?” It confused me, but I didn’t bother to look down. I just continued to reluctantly pet the thing while it purred loudly. Well, about the time Han Solo was frozen in carbonite, my curiosity got the best of me. I looked down to investigate this cat abuse.

The cat didn’t have a tail. I had been rubbing the cat’s butthole for the better part of a half hour.

Talk about cat abuse. In a purely instinctive action, I bounced that cat off the wall. It must have been a very confusing experience for that cat. I’m sure he thought we were friends, what with the rim job and all. I sat there in my shame, on a pile of pooh stained laundry wondering if I could ever look at my right index finger the same way again.

That, my friends, is the cat story.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bugger Off, Ya Soddin Wanka!

I saw the new Guy Ritchie movie over the weekend. It was a lot like his previous two films. I refuse to acknowledge that garbage he made with Madonna (she is repulsive). I am referring both to Swept Away and their marriage. But RocknRolla was clearly an inferior product. It lacked a lot of the charisma of Snatch and Lock Stock. Which is to say it is lacking Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham. But, if you were a fan of those films, RocknRolla would be worth your time.

As I was enjoying this movie, I had to squint my ears quite a bit to catch everything that was being said. English slang has always been something that both entertains and irritates me. By that I mean, I am entertained when a real live Brit uses their slang in a real live English accent. And I am totally irritated by some American douche effectively doing a bad Austin Powers Impression. But that doesn’t mean we Americans can’t usurp a phrase or two. Usurping other cultures is what we do best.

I wanted to include a brief list of British slang that Americans should start saying. And by “saying” I mean just that. Not imitating. No bad impressions. No fake accents. Say it like it’s a phrase you own. Many of these words are a regular part of my lexicon. Having played a lot of Rugby in my day, I have had a fair amount of exposure to the linguistics of Imperial Britannia and its subjects (England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand are the one's I have the most exposure to). I have also included a second list. English terms Americans do use, but shouldn’t.

British Slang Americans should start using:

1. “Bollocks” - What a fun way to say “bullshit”. Even better is the shortened version “Balls!” You’re swearing, but not really. It can be funny or angry. Also it opens the door to a fantastic expression. “That’s the Dog’s Bollocks” which is very high praise. Much like “This apple pie is the shit!” means “This apple pie is of high quality.” It sounds bad, but it’s quite good.

2. “Takin’ a Piss” - Which is to say, “I’m giving you a hard time.” It can be said in a friendly joking manner or in a confrontational scenario. “I’m just takin a piss, bro. Don’t worry about it.”, or “He’s taking a piss? I’m gonna kick his ass.”

3. “Bird” – I’ve never liked the term “chicks” to refer to young, attractive women. It just sounds stupid. “Dude, any chicks at the party?” Makes you sound like a mook. But “birds” presents a unique alternative.

4. “Clunge” – This refers to one’s butt crack. “These shorts are riding right up my clunge.” It works perfectly, although it does sound better with a slight Scottish accent.

5. “Minge” – This refers to female genitalia but I would never use it to directly refer to that. I prefer to use it as an emasculating insult for men. “That guy is a total minge.”

6. “Good Night Irene” – This is a classic from BYU Rugby’s head coach, David Smyth. He is jolly Irishman whose accent is so damned entertaining it’s hard not to laugh even when he’s tearing you apart. For example (you must imagine a sing songy Irish accent for the following phrases) “For the love of Goshen! Teaching you mongrels is like pushing crap up a hill with a pointy stick!” Keep in mind that he was livid when he would say that and all I could do was laugh, compounding his frustration.

“Good Night, Irene” is like saying “you’re home free”. “If we can get the ball to the outside, it’s good night Irene. Good. Night. Irene.”

British Slang Americans should stop using:

1. “Cheers” – I spend a lot of time on the phone, talking to people from all over the country. Every once in a while, I get a guy who closes the phone call with a “Cheers.” It just sounds wrong. Unless you’re referring to the bar owned by Sam “Mayday” Malone, the word “cheers” only works with an English accent. When I talk to a Brit, the “cheers” thing works great. But not with us Yanks.

2. “Brilliant” – Now let me clarify this. I am all for using the word “brilliant” as an adjective. But not as a complete sentence. “Hey, did you get that quote to the customer? You did? Brilliant.” Again. It totally works with an English accent, but when Americans try it, it sounds out of place. I blame the Guinness Beer ads.

3. Any Monty Python catch phrase – That means every single one of them. “Bring out your dead!” “Wink, wink. Nudg, nudge. Say no more.” “I don’t like SPAM!” “Only a flesh wound!” “What is your quest?” “Ni! Ni!” All of it. Stop saying it! Please, if you have any affection for their comedy at all (which I do), then stop murdering it with your terrible, high pitched English accents. I blame my irritability on this subject on a guy I went to High School with, Britain Morrrris (Yes, his name was actually "Britain"). He was a funny guy. But for some reason he felt compelled to speak in a fake English accent for most of the day. And with the accent would come whole scenes of rehearsed dialogue from The Holy Grail. No one requested it. No one really seemed entertained by it. But it never stopped. Look, I’m nerdy enough to really like the 5% of Monty Python that is actually funny. But America, please stop butchering it. It ends now!

And now, a genuinely funny scene from The Holy Grail. Please don't ruin it by repeating it at work all day.

And while we're on the subject of British humor, here is a clip from Extras. Nothing kills a date quicker than a blocked toilet.

One more from Extras. Have a lovely bit of muffin.

I can't stop. I love this show too much. Stephen Merchant (creator of The Office) is a comic genius.

Friday, November 7, 2008

5 Songs by Josh Ritter

So I’ve done several of these “my music taste is so incredible, that everyone must know about it!” posts. And so far the most recent song I have featured was from Bob Dylan’s latest album. Every single other song was written and release before I was born. And I’m not that young.

I’m not sure why exactly I relate so much with the music of the mid to late 60’s and early 70’s, other than it’s the best music ever made. I have a big, long drawn out explanation of why the second generation of rock and roll is the genre’s apex, but I won’t waste your time with it today. Instead I would like to illustrate that I am in fact not 58 years old (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) and I am capable of really getting into a contemporary artist.

Josh Ritter (not John Ritter, though if he had an album I would probably listen to it) was introduced to me by my buddy Spencer in 03. Ritter is part of the Alt Country thing that has been big in every Barnes and Noble coffee bar over the last five years or so. Of the other artists associated with that term, (Ryan Adams, Whiskeytown, Wilco, Bob Schneider, Drive By Truckers and others) Ritter is by far my favorite. He has released five albums since 1999. They are all different and all amazing.

His song writing has an effortless authenticity. It is a sound that is fundamentally American without being self consciously rural. It isn’t trying so damn hard to prove to you that it’s homegrown the way mainstream Country does. And don’t let that “c” word scare you off. I hate the Country music you hear on the radio. It is all phony to the bone. But I love, repeat love Classic Country. Ritter has that same kind of feel. He is the real deal.
Harrisburg – Golden Age of Radio 2002

Trains are an image that has long been referenced by the great American song writers. Woody, Hank, Bob, Johnny to name a very few use trains as a symbol to inspire either thoughts of freedom or industrial dominance. This song bemoans the chaos that that freedom brings. “Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden was burned to make way for a train.”
Wings – Hello Starling 2003

This is a really quiet song that again relies heavily on American archetypes. This song sounds like a John Steinbeck book.

“Inside a gilded cage a songbird always looks so plain.” That line perfectly articulates why the most beautiful thing a woman can wear is a ponytail, a t shirt and jeans. Makeup, overly done hair, expensive cloths often doesn’t compliment their beauty. It distracts from it.
Potter’s Wheel – Josh Ritter 1999

“Your beauty unexpected like a flower in the concrete” I love songs that have a pleasant, repetitive rhythm with quickly delivered vocals over it. It’s like a happy version of “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding” or “Hit ‘Em Up”.
The Temptation of Adam – Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter 2007

This is a strange combination of acoustic folk and a science fiction love story. It tells the story of the last two people alive on earth in a bomb shelter. Kind of a weird subject matter but it totally works.
Kathleen – Hello Starling 2003

“All the other girls here are stars, you are the northern lights.” Great line. This song instantly conjures up for me the feeling of an August dusk in Utah.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

I'll Take "Anal Bum Cover" For $500

Ah, Sean Connery. You dirty, dirty man.

Album Covers are quickly losing (have already lost?) their relevance. Which is too bad.

Over the weekend, I updated my ipod. It is my third ipod I have owned since 2003. I have a gadget not much bigger than a cassette tape that weighs about one pound and contains my life’s work of obtaining / stealing music. 21,564 songs that take up just over 105 of the available 120 gigs of space. I can press play and it would take almost two straight months before I repeated a song. I am quite proud of my catalog. No repeats. Each song is correctly labeled with artist, album and year it was recorded. I realize that ipods are old enough that marveling at their abilities is like being stunned by Email or for that matter electric light. But every once in a while it’s nice to step back and realize how life has improved drastically within my medium sized lifetime.

One added function of the newer Ipod is a bigger emphasis on cover art. You can shuffle through the cover of each album as if you are flipping through a gigantic record collection. This is important because cover art, an important element of the pop music experience is dying a slow death due to the download medium.

It’s a shame, really. There has always been a visual compliment that accompanied that musical experience of discovering a new album. It’s one thing to listen to Abbey Road, but another thing to listen to Abbey Road while absorbing that iconic album cover and reading the lyrics. I am big fan of the Kings of Leon, but since I discovered them in my download phase of my music life, I don't know what their album covers really look like. A square inch icon on an ipod just doesn’t do the same thing.

So here is a quick list of some of my favorite album covers over the years.

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - 1963

I love this photo. They are young, free and in love. Vanilla Sky made a great reference to this album cover and then they ruined it by spelling it out at the end of the film. That movie sucked.

Let It Bleed - 1969

If there is any specific meaning to this, I don’t know what it is. And more over, I really don’t care. This is a really good record.

Odelay - 1996

What a cool dog. I love Beck. He’s on the short list of my favorite new bands. That’s right. I consider an album that was released 12 years ago as “new music”.

Zeppelin III - 1970

Again, no significance to the random images. Well maybe there is, but I don't care about it. But it’s a welcome contrast to their regular dark imagery. Also, this is my favorite Zeppelin Album.

Use Your Illusions I and II - 1991

Nothing encapsulates my freshman year of high school better than this album (Two albums released the same day. It’s one album. Illusion II is the same cover, just different colors.) It has a lot of fluff on it, but there's a ton of good music on these records. I say that without a tinge of irony. Guns and Roses is a legit band, damn it. Also my buddy Zack always wore a shirt with the Illusion I cover on it. That makes me happy.

Straight Our of Compton - 1988

Crazy motha f*cka named Ice Cube - From a gang called n!ggaz with attitude - When I'm called off I got a sawed off - Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off - You too boy if ya f*ck with me - The police are gonna hafta come and get me - Off your ass that's how I'm talkin - When I'm comin Straight Out of Compton

Animals - 1977

Pink Floyd owns that dreary, English sound and this photo gets it perfectly. Smoggy, industrial wasteland of manual labor and social dissatisfaction. Plus you gotta love a floating pig.

Siamese Dream - 1993

I’ve never understood if these girls were supposed to be Siamese twins or what. But either way, I like that a record of dark, thoroughly depressing music has such a happy cover.

The Velvet Underground - 1969

The Andy Warhol banana cover of their debut album is more iconic, but I like this shadowy photo of them. They look artsy but also dangerous. I think that’s a good representation of their music.

Elephant - 2003

Quite possibly the best album made since Pink Floyd’s The Wall in 1980. There are a ton of other albums that could be considered for that but this is in the mix. It’s an enigmatic photo of Jack and Meg with their patented red white and black theme. Seriously, this is a great record.

Revolver - 1966

As much as I love the Pepper album cover and Abbey Road and Rubber Soul and Let It Be, Revolver wins my award for favorite Beatles cover art. This is what the Beatles would look like if they were Asian. (the preferred nomenclature)

Smell The Glove - 1983

It’s like space without the stars. It’s like how much more black could it be and the answer is none. None more black. You can see yourself in both sides. Metallica totally ripped off the Tap.