Sunday, September 14, 2008

World Leader Pretend

I got my college’s alumni bulletin the other day. I read through my class’s notes, what few there were-and it was mostly “I’m now director of x” and “my wife is vice president of y”. I’m not a director of anything, unless you count my IPod’s playlist. It very effectively made me feel inferior-people who earned the same degree as I did, with seemingly the same set of skills, are home right now, playing with their children, while I’m still a stupid, half trained monkey doing mindless front line work. On Sunday.

A former colleague used to call this repetitive, stupid part of our jobs the “mindless monkey work.” When rumors (which turned out, in the end, to be…uh…..true) of layoffs were circulating, he used to warn, “I think my job is safe. At least, until I see them training the monkeys, that is.”

Last night Bill Maher’s show was on HBO, with John Fund from the Wall Street Journal, Janeane Garofalo, and Salman Rushdie. Instead of spontaneously combusting, like positrons and electrons combining, they actually had a very spirited back and forth. It was so infuriating I actually turned it off-it was good television, but I just couldn’t take it any more. I am extremely fearful of the election results and the future.

John C. Dvorak tried to make a big deal, on “No Agenda”, about Janeane’s line about Republicans being arrested. Fund, who came off very well-he seems like a very smart, independent guy when he isn’t parroting talking points, was trotting out the old lines about Democrats not being as tolerant of Republicans as they “should be”. Fund said something to the effect of what should we do with conservatives, arrest them? And Janeane immediately riposted, “that would be a good start.”

Janeane Garofalo is a standup comedian. COMEDIAN. You may not think she’s very funny, but that’s what she does. Republican leaders say the most hateful things (Voter: “How are we going to beat the bitch?” McCain: “Good question.”) and it’s not a problem. Democratic personalities say something slightly off color, and Republicans go into hysterics. (BTW: Since when do Republicans care one bit about sexism?) (Answer: When it suits their purposes.)

John C. Dvorak also went into a pretty long anti-Obama rant, talking about the backlash against Democrats because of their anti- Palin rhetoric. Garofalo had a neat reply for the same notion last night-if there was any evidence negative campaigning didn’t work, Republicans wouldn’t do it. Another Rorschach test-if you find anti-Obama rants intolerable, you’re a Democrat, and if you find anti-Palin ones intolerable, you’re a Republican.

I don’t hate Sarah Palin because she’s a woman. I don’t hate John McCain because he’s old. I hate Sarah Palin because she’s a right wing wack job, and I disagree with nearly everything she’s ever said. I hate John McCain because he’s a hypocrite and because he kowtows to right wing wack jobs.

Actually, that’s too strong. I don’t hate them. I’m sure they both love their children and believe at least some of what they say. I hate what they believe. I think it’s wrong in so many ways. I think Obama’s ideas are better, to parrot the novel and film “Primary Colors”.

Adam and John produced a nearly two hour “No Agenda” this week, and, as usual, they ranged all over the map. Towards the end, Adam got heavily into his feelings about 9/11, on which he is a “Truther”, or a person who does not believe the historical narrative about the events of September 11. I tend not to agree with him.

Like the Kennedy Assassination, or like evolution, there are holes and problems and inconsistencies and unanswered questions about 9/11. Some of them will be answered if the government finally comes clean. Some of them never will-they probably went into the graves with the hijackers.

(Random Note: REM’s “One I Love” being played on the Muzak at work. Wow. Quite possibly the coolest song I’ve ever heard on there.)

But my objection to the 9/11 Truthers is partially factual-some of them just have their facts wrong-and partially just systemic. A 9/11 conspiracy would involve so many people, it would be impossible to keep secret. Someone circulated an email list of the different groups that would have to be involved in a 9/11 conspiracy, and it involved dozens of groups, public and private.

Do I believe the Powers That Be are unwilling to incinerate 3000 human beings to achieve their goals? Certainly not. I am pretty firmly in the camp of the late George Carlin, who said in one of his famous rants that “this country was bought and paid for years ago.” I don’t think that the Powers That Be are capable of covering up something as large as 9/11.

I wish I could go with Adam on that one, but I just can’t.

Adam loves reality TV too, and I also can’t buy that.

Enough podcasts for one day. On to the music.

Aerosmith, “Give Peace A Chance”-Brilliant cover, for the Darfur charity album, along with the Sierra Leone All Stars, whomever they are.

Billy Joel, “Stiletto”- Since The Stranger-30th Anniversary Edition came out this year, wouldn’t 52nd Street be a logical choice, too? Like a fool, I’d buy that. I’m not sure whether that or Piano Man is his best selling studio album after The Stranger.

Elton John, “Sweat It Out”- Elton John has written a lot of songs. A LOT of songs.

I reorganized my playlists again, separating the metal and punk into one big pile, and the more mellow stuff into another pile, and the musicals into a third pile. This is all stuff from the more mellow pile, on shuffle.

I had a turkey sandwich for lunch, and I’m going to try very hard to take a page out of @chunkyrican (from twitter)’s book and drink a lot of diet iced tea instead of snacking until dinner time.

REM, “These Days”- I saw most of a one hour collection of live REM songs on Direct TV the other day. They looked like they would be a lot of fun to see live. Someone has been twittering the song selections as they tour Europe, which is kind of cool, except it annoys me that they use acronyms for songs that I think I should know, but I don’t.

Reminds me of a reproduction of a Metallica set list on the Live Shit box set, which had all one word titles: “Wolf”, “Roam”, “Thing”, “Puppets”, “Frayed”, etc. That was clear, to me anyway.

The Beatles, “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”- Not the best Beatles song ever. I can see John writing it, thinking, “this will piss some people off,”. I bet it did, too.

Billy Joel, “No Man’s Land”- Used to think this was a really great song. Not so much anymore.

Billy Joel, “That’s Not Her Style”-Another song, that opens another of his albums, that I used to think a lot more of than I do now. It also is written in defense of Christie Brinkley, which annoys me. If you win the genetic lottery like that, I find it real hard to sympathize with your problems with the paparazzi.

Billy Joel, “The Downeaster Alexa”(Live)-There’s a woman who works here named Alexa. I wonder if she has any idea about Billy’s daughter being named that.

Mudcrutch, “June Apple”-Tom Petty’s little vanity project. I haven’t really formed an opinion on it either way yet.

REM, “Losing My Religion”-a very, very big hit that strangely, I am not yet sick of.

Bruce Springsteen, “Raise Your Hand” (Live)- Definitely on my list of performers to see before they (or I) are dead.

Paul Simon, “Hearts and Bones”- Of all the artists in my collection, probably the one single one I most often underestimate, in terms of forgetting how consistently brilliant he is, is Paul Simon. I forget just how many really good songs, songs I really like, are his. Including, notably, the title to this blog, which is lifted from a big Paul Simon hit. Do you remember which one?

Counting Crows, “Sullivan Street”(Live)-I really forget how good they are, sometimes, too.

The Beatles, “I Will”- A really short song. Next to “Her Majesty”, might be the shortest Beatles song.

Johnny Cash, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky”-How cool was Johnny Cash? Probably cooler than that.

Neil Young, “Like a Hurricane”(Live)-How apropos.

David Bowie, “Drive In Saturday”-If I hadn’t bought his “The Singles” album, I never would have heard this song.

I wonder how the Patriots did? I wonder what’s up with Atari Bigby? If my phone believed in the Internet, I could check.

Paul Simon, “I Do It For Your Love”- Another pretty brilliant lyric, but so subtle it’s almost a poem.

Tom Petty, “Rainy Day Women” (Live)-From possibly my favorite live tribute album, the BobFest from the early 1990s. George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash-brilliant stuff.

According to my phone, which believes in the Internet, for now anyway, Green Bay has held Detroit to under 10 points so far, so I assume M. Bigby and his mates are having their way with the Lions. The New England-New York game is at 4pm, so they haven’t started yet.

Paul McCartney, “Matchbox” (Live)-The Carl Perkins tune. If Paul McCartney thinks you’re cool, then you’re cool.

Neil Young “Mr. Soul” (Live)-The only Neil Young I ever bought was the Unplugged album, back when Unplugged was all the rage. I bought every one I could get my hands on.

Big Star, “Life Is White”-Bought purely on reputation-people who are cool (REM) said they are cool, so therefore they are cool. The Associative Property of Cool. Personally, jury is still out.

Billy Joel, “Only The Good Die Young” (Live)- From the Russia Live album. I’m still mad about how they produced this album. When you listened to the live radio broadcast, it sounded way, way better-crisper, cleaner, louder-than the album version. I still mourn the loss of the cassette I had of that broadcast.

Simon and Garfunkel, “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” (Live)- This was a pretty silly song, actually, a Simon solo track, off of a great album-the Simon and Garfunkel Concert in Central Park live recording.

Part of the problem you have with shuffle is you hear concert patter on a live track out of context, which ruins the effect.

John Lennon, “I’m Losing You”-What a fucking crime it is that he’s gone.

Ray Charles, “Don’t You Know”- Another Associative Property of Cool. I never would have bought a Ray Charles CD if it wasn’t for Billy Joel’s love of him. But once I did, I can see the genius.

Elton John, “Birds”-Like I said, a lot of songs. A LOT.

REM, “Auctioneer”- I was born a little too late to really appreciate them. I didn’t “get” REM until the album that “Losing My Religion” was on, whose name has escaped me. I hate that-I can see it, and I remember probably every track on it. It’s my favorite. How is it not on my IPod? No “Me In Honey”? No “Country Feedback”? No “Shiny Happy People”? No “Radio Song”? How did I omit that ?

“Sign of the beach!”

Reminds me of one of the single best spontaneous one liners I’ve ever heard. As a teen, I used to go to a church retreat near Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire. To get to the beach, there was a regular way, and a shorter, cut through the woods way. Being teens, of course, we take the cut through the woods way. So we’re walking down towards the short cut, and someone has thoughtfully spray painted the word “Beach”, with an arrow indicating the direction to go through the woods. As my friend Jim and I turn the corner to cut through the woods, he says coolly, “Sign of the beach!”. If you say it fast, it sounds like youre saying “Son of a bitch”.

I probably laughed for an hour at that, and to this day, I still chuckle when I think about it.

Billy Joel-“An Innocent Man”-this whole album, supposedly, was a way to court Ms. Brinkley. Now that I think about it, this might be his best seller , after The Stranger.

The Beatles, “For You Blue”-From “Let It Be (Naked)”, the re release where they de-Phil Spectorified it. The new version is, as you might expect, cleaner and crisper and just a nicer listen. Another damn shame-one thing I have read in all my Beatle biography perusal was that they were simply, when they put the lawyers and bullshit away, a great band that could sit down and just play the hell out of a song. Damn shame they never got to play with modern equipment, so they could hear themselves and actually perform properly.

Counting Crows, “A Long December”(Live)-a great lyric. “The smell of hospitals in winter…”-you know what he means, even though it’s not winter, and you’re not, hopefully, in a hospital.

Steely Dan, “Peg” (Live)-another group I didn’t “get” for a while, but like quite a bit now.

Billy Joel, “You May Be Right”(Live)-The “12 Gardens Live” version. Much better mix than the Phil Ramone Russia one. Ballsy solos, too.

Paul McCartney, “Maybe I’m Amazed”(Live)-This song never blew me away. A lot of Paul’s solo stuff never did.

There’s an extended section in a Douglas Adams novel where he talks about a Mark Knopfler solo record, saying about one or another of the songs, that if Paul McCartney had written it, he would have made enough money to buy whole counties in England. That’s part of the Associative Property of Cool, too-if you’re a genius, your less-than-genius-level work gets the halo effect from the genius level work. Of course, as I’ve said about Billy Joel many times, if you’re a genius, even your worst work is better than anything I’ve ever done.

Bob Dylan, “Times They Are A Changin” (Live)-From my Unplugged period. It actually is “Rainy Day Women”, although the CD song title is “Times They Are A Changin”. Hm.

Nirvana, “Something In The Way”(Live)-Again, Unplugged period, although this was an excellent, special record, really a difference from the studio cuts. Another missing link-what if he didn’t commit suicide and he and Michael Stipe got to work together? Sigh.

Billy Joel, “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” (Live)-from Songs in the Attic, his first and greatest live album. Young Billy concerts have an energy older ones are just missing. A really good, tight performance, too.

Paul Simon, “The Coast” (Live)-Another artist on my “See Him Before He (Or You) Die” list. “That is worth something/If you think about it…”

ZZTop, “Tube Snake Boogie”- My former colleague Henry and I used to tease another coworker named Jill by putting her name in this song. “I know a girl, her name is Jill-she won’t do it but her sister will…“

The Eagles, “Best of My Love”-I used to have a massive crush on a coworker who loved the Eagles. I think of her every time I hear them. That was a long time ago, though.

Another thing about the Eagles-they harmonize so beautifully, when I sing along, it even makes ME sound good. To me, anyway.

The Eagles, “I Cant Tell You Why”(Live)- I actually think I CAN sing this song. Timothy B Schmidt is right in my wheelhouse, pitch wise. Not right now, I’m a little congested. But generally speaking, yeah. In my opinion.


  1. Conservatives getting bent out of shape by Gerafalo are like liberals getting bent out of shape by Ann Coulter.

    "Like a Hurricane" is a fantastic song.

  2. I thought it was funny, with the hurricane troubles Houston is having, that it came out.


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