Wage and debt despair,
lost hours duly invoiced.
A life written off.
This summer, I spent a lot of time driving my daughter and her friends to summer camp. The trip took about thirty minutes.
On day one, I had a CD in the player. I know I picked something simple and bouncy and upbeat to appeal to the kids, but I can’t remember what it was. It might have been the Cars or the Dandy Warhols.
And, oh good lord, you’d have thought I had passed out frosty refreshing bottles of vinegar laced with ant poison. The kids were absolutely stricken with loathing. I think my daughter apologized for my very existence. It was like everyone’s puppy died.
Needless to say, we switched right on over to 92.3 hot hit radio and those kids were just pleased as punch. All of them (two twelve-year-olds, a ten-year-old and an eight-year-old) sang right along with every song. They were little divas and knew every line, especially the ones with lewd content. They expressed great interest in the half-hourly “Dirty on the 30” scandal-sheet gossip update and knew every celebrity referenced therein. (I had to switch away from that feature about twice a week when the content would cross the PG-13 threshold.)
As the summer progressed, I came to enjoy my 30-minute daily exposure to pure, unadulterated pop-hit, Top-10 radio. I grew to enjoy that song about the girl giving her number to a guy in a club (even though it might be crazy) and that other song about the guy hoping to get his whistle blown. Yes, the songs are fairly simple and assembled from a limited toolbox of melodic effects and beats. But they’re catchy anyway and derive much of their energy from the sheer over-the-top enthusiasm the vocal performers bring to the songs. I guess I enjoyed more than anything else the kids’ uninhibited joy in hearing them.
Those songs aren’t here (with one exception) because I didn’t buy them and put them on my iPod. I didn’t need to; I heard them every morning in the car. But the experience served as a handy reminder of how narrow and regimented my supposedly eclectic listening habits are. Music doesn’t necessarily have to be comprised of one dour recluse pushing a piano off a ledge and boom-miking the result. When it comes to music, the kids are usually right. That’s what I remembered this year.
Anyway, here’s the list. Most of the songs have YouTube links. The Spotify playlist is at the bottom (minus the Windy and Carl song, which isn’t on Spotify. Click the YouTube link for that one.). As in previous years, placement on the list is governed strictly by the number of plays it got on my iPod. If it got a lot, it’s here; if it didn’t, it’s not.
Kill For Love / Chromatics
The last time I bought sunglasses, a few years ago, I was in a Sunglass Hut in the Monmouth Mall, looking at Ray-Bans. Most sunglasses look stupid on my head, so I had to search awhile before I finally found a pair of aviators that I liked. I turned to the clerk in the store, put the sunglasses on, and said, “What do you think?” She was probably eighteen years old. She smirked at me and said, “They’re very ’80s.” “Honey,” I replied, “That was my decade.”
First Contact / PS I Love You
I have this thing about the last song on a record. Sometimes otherwise terrific artists just put too much thought into songs. You’re listening to that second track on a record and you can tell you’re listening to the 12th take of a song that sounded much better on the first take. And there’s some weird production touches on it, too. And then along comes the tenth song on a ten-track record and all that mannered preciousness drops out. The last song on the record is often the longest track and it’s sometimes a shambolic mess. That one’s the keeper. PS I Love You is Paul Saulnier. He seems to have been around a long time without putting much out. I’ve had a song of his from a Rocket Girl Records comp, “I Want You,” on various iPods for a decade. And now there’s this one. Continue reading
Yay! It’s that time of year again. Time to take stock of the year behind us. Time to celebrate the best and brightest our culture and society have had to offer in the most recent calendar year.
Yeah, but fuck that. Here’s 10 things that have to go, in no particular order.
Springsteen is to middle-class white people as Jay-Z is to inner-city black people. He’s the reason the revolution never happened. He is the conduit by which legitimate rage and fear and despair was channeled into T-shirt sales. He is the soothing balm slathered on the guilty consciences of David Brooks and Chris Christie and Barack Obama. He is, as Leon Wieseltier described him in the New Republic, “the least dangerous man in America.” I’m no revolutionary, and I believe that stupid people generally get what they deserve, but bad songs are bad songs. Springsteen didn’t always write bad songs. He started writing bad songs right about the time that goopy Southern drawl appeared in his voice and he started doing that gospel shouting thing from the top of Roy Bittan’s piano. Somewhere between 1988 and 1992. (Some would date Springsteen’s sell-by date to 1984-85, but that doesn’t allow for Tunnel Of Love.)
Anyway, listen to “Racing in the Street.” Then listen to “Shackled and Drawn.” Both are protest songs, of a sort. The first is written and performed by someone recognizable as a real person. The second is written and performed by a well-meaning fathead who clips song ideas from the pages of a copy of Mother Jones on the waiting room table in his therapist’s office. Springsteen is reputed to be a big fan of Elvis Presley. He is said, by those close to him, to have learned much from watching Presley’s decline and fall. He has, to his great credit, never become Elvis Presley. Instead, he’s become Colonel Parker, anthemizing his fans’ grievances and re-packaging them in $75 Super Deluxe Editions.
This is a real thing. Hasbro has entered into a partnership with a film production company called Emmett/Furia to develop Hungry Hungry Hippos into a feature movie, along the lines of Battleship. There was a time in this country when smart people cynically sold stupid things to stupid people. Harry Cohn, Louis B. Mayer, Samuel Goldwyn. Whip-smart, unscrupulous Jews who got their start selling tin-plated utensils and tomato seeds from the backs of wagons. That golden age is over now. Today’s Hollywood executives grew up with GameBoy and Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles and PC caches full of porn jpegs. They’re not selling Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie to people because they have nothing but contempt for the hapless consumers who make them rich. They’re selling Hungry Hungry Hippos: The Movie to consumers because they genuinely believe Hungry Hungry Hippos is a good thing. Continue reading
BOSTON, MA — With the results in for the 2012 U.S. Presidential election, Democrats have what they believe is a voter mandate for their fiscal and social policies of the last four years, while the Republicans are left to pick up the pieces. Already, key GOP political strategists are sifting through the ashes of a failed Romney campaign, seeking clues as to where the effort went wrong. There’s no shortage of finger-pointing and blame-shifting, but many well-placed party operatives have been candid in their opinions of where Romney lost his way, while others have suggested measures targeted at getting the party back on its feet after the electoral drubbing they received on Tuesday.
Many of these GOP operatives were willing to speak off the record to our reporters. Here’s what we’re hearing: Continue reading
I suppose this is a silly film and no one here likes it much, but I do. If I were one of God’s angels and I were a man, I would definitely be John Travolta and all the women would leave their boyfriends and dance around me. I can’t even remember the last time I danced with a man, even for one song in a club somewhere. Imagine in this day and age, going out on a date with dancing, instead of to some bar with the football game on TV. I cried when John Travolta saved the dog and I even cried when he danced. He’s such a lovely dancer. My friend Evelyn says angels are all around us and I hope she’s right, though she also buys rosaries and mass cards blessed by the Pope on Amazon. John Travolta is so charming and graceful and has such nice eyes that of course he would have to be gay and have sex with men in steamrooms, as they say now. Surprise, surprise, I say. There are no charming men in real life.
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This show is probably one of my first memories. It was always on Channel 2 on Sundays after All in the Family and my mother would cut up a quart of butter pecan ice cream into four slices with a knife she ran under hot water. Mary was so sweet and Lou so gruff and Ted so dumb and Murray always knew the perfect thing to say. My dad, this was the only show he ever laughed out loud at, this and the Carol Burnett Show. I guess I was six years old. My dad worked for 35 years in the same place as an engineer for GM, designing office spaces. (Imagine having such a job today, designing offices for your company!) Every year, there was a company picnic in July and a Christmas party in December, and my dad knew everyone and everyone knew him. There were softball games and bowling teams and on Thursday nights my mom went out with the other GM wives. “Generous Motors,” they called it, and they weren’t kidding. I always loved how Mary had her desk and Murray had his and Lou’s door was always open. You could tell that they all really loved each other and they loved coming to work. Where I work at the customer service center here in Wichita, no one eats together in the break room. No one talks to each other. Even just five years ago, you at least knew the other girls’ names. No more. Mr. Grant never timed Mary Richard’s trips to the ladies’ room on his watch, but the work still got done. Of course in the last season of the Mary Tyler Moore Show (spoiler alert!) everyone gets fired from the station, so the joke was already on us, I guess.
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A lot of people thought Mitt Romney would never amount to anything, but I always knew he’d come through in the end, when the stakes were highest.
His back to the wall, faced with declining poll numbers and back-stabbed by GOP insiders, Romney opted to do what all the Republican mush-mouthers and dog-whistle blowers and code-word deployers (I’m looking at you, Rush Limbaugh!) have been too cowardly to do.
Mitt Romney declared war on red-state America.
This summer, I looked at my daughter’s face and saw, for the first time, that she will leave us.
You know this all along in a practical, commonsense way, but you don’t really know it when your daughter is standing before a tiny Playskool Kitchen Set, making frying noises with her mouth, and then bringing you a plastic hamburger on a plastic bun. You don’t know it in your heart when you walk out to center stage with your daughter during the 2nd-grade daddy/daughter dance recital, take a bow, return to your spot in the line, and then realize that your daughter is still center stage, curtseying and waving to the crowd, listening to the applause build as she gleefully refuses to cede the spotlight to the next daddy and daughter.
You know it, but you don’t know it. And then you see it and you have to look away quickly at the sunstruck horizon, at the little single-prop planes hauling long banners across a cloudless sky. This year, Abby didn’t go in the ocean once. Swimming in the ocean, we are told, “is for babies.” She stopped playing in the sand with Owen, too. This perplexed Owen for a while and then he came to accept it. Maybe he sees it, too.
“Look at that, Owen,” I say, pointing up at one of the banners. “Free body wax. We should do that. Get a free body wax.”
1:17 pm: Whew! Never done this before, so bare with me! (Bear? Doesn’t seem right, does it? But let’s keep our clothes on! LOL!) Anyway, bumpy road ahead!
1:42 pm: Long time readers here at Suzy’s You Go, Girl! know that I always have a song in my heart. I live the music and the music lives in me! So you can imagine how excited I was to hear about this 1st International Gathering of Terry Jacks Fan Clubs. My little TJFC (Terry Jacks Fan Club) has always been a labor of love. As many of you know, it’s strictly an online thing, because our members hail from all corners of the globe! Including the Phillipines and Chile! So, to actually meet fellow fans of one of the great under-rated Canadian musicians of all time, in the flesh, is quite something, let me tell you. Hats off to Lorri Steinbach and her husband Phil for making this dream a reality!
1:48 pm: Your reporter isn’t exactly a world traveler, so excuse me if I ask When did they stop serving snacks on airplanes? Is this a recent thing? Is it too much to ask for a little morning muffin or a little box of Cheerios and some milk? Yes, I know it’s a short flight (Pittsburgh to Charlotte) but really. And then $2 for a bottle of water? Really? $215 roundtrip and you can’t even get a banana.
It’s said that every choice we make removes a multitude of other options from the board. Here, on the eve of my 50th birthday, is the last in a series, the things I’ll never do.
1. I’ll never grow out of this difficult phase.
2. I’ll never twist again, like we did last summer.
3. I’ll never get to the bottom of this 5-gallon jar of pickles I bought at WalMart for just $2.98.
4. I’ll never write The Great American Novel. Or even a serviceable Bolivian one.
5. I’ll never escape these ghosts of 3am.
6. I’ll never be a real dentist.
7. I never was — and I surely never will be again — as irresistible to women as I was during the twelve months I was engaged to my wife. Women in laundromats, women in Arctic rescue expeditions, women handcuffed in the backs of police cars, you name it, they were drawn to me like moths to a porchlight. You can’t tell me women don’t have a radar for men in commitment mode. They sense it immediately and THEY MUST HAVE IT.
8. “… eight, EIGHT, I forget what eight was for, but, nine, nine, NINE …”
9. I’ll never have a sidekick or a minion.
The next time you’re feeling vexed about American voters’ inability to think clearly about energy dependence or global warming or just building a damned train tunnel from New Jersey to New York, remind yourself that 22% of Americans believe the world will end during their lifetimes. It’s hard to get people to participate in long-range planning when they’ve got their suitcases packed for the Rapture.
Everyone wants to live in interesting times, I suppose. No one wants to die for nothing, just like the other guy. Prophesizing the end of the world is good business and it always has been, whether you’re selling papal indulgences, Mayan crystals or King James Bibles. It was good for Adventist founder William Miller in the 1840s and it sells books to this day for Hal Lindsey. Lately, Glenn Beck has gotten into the apocalypse business and radio evangelist Harold Camping and his family are said to have made millions promulgating the End Times.
Lately I’ve been reading Elaine Pagels’ “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics In The Book Of Revelation.” The Book of Revelation is the exciting book at the end of the New Testament with the breaking of the seven seals, the whore of Babylon, the Four Horsemen, the beast with ten horns and seven heads, exploding volcanoes, and that 666 number of the beast. The whole apocalypse blow-by-blow calendar of events. It was written by a Jewish militant and follower of Christ exiled to the island of Patmos (off the coast of what is now Turkey) by the Romans in C.E. 90. John of Patmos was one of many Jews of that era radicalized and embittered by the slaughter of thousands of Jews and the destruction of the Great Temple at Jerusalem by the Roman army in C.E. 70.