Monday, August 31, 2009

The Power of Music

You’re in line at the supermarket waiting to pay for your new issue of Mad Magazine and a quart of low grade motor oil when the piped in music starts playing the song you lost your virginity to. Without realizing it you’ve been transported to the back of your dad’s ’78 station wagon. In the market line you’re gyrating in a way that has caused the other patrons to move slowly away from you and the music is interrupted by a page for security.

That’s the power of music. Songs enter our heads and become glued to a certain memory or event so every time we hear that song we are instantly in that moment.

A few examples from my own life: I’ve always loved the .38 Special song Hold on Loosely. The first time I heard it was on a bus to an away track meet in 10th grade. One of the upper classmen always had his boom box with him and being the early 80s it was the size of a Volkswagen Beetle with enough buttons and switches to land small aircraft on the football field. I remember the bus was just pulling away when he tuned the radio to FM 104 and they played Hold on Loosely. Every time I hear the song I’m taken back to that bus.

There’s a song I don’t hear often but it conjures up one specific memory each time. It’s The Battle of New Orleans by Johnny Horton. It starts like this:

In 1814 we took a little trip
along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip
We took a little bacon and we took a little beans
and we caught he bloody British in the town of New Orleans

A few summers ago my brother and I played basketball after work a few days a week. During one game I asked what the score was. He replied “its 18 14”. He then proceeded to sing The Battle of New Orleans while doing a little dance. And he knew every effing word: The chorus, every verse, and every inflection that Johnny Horton used when he recorded it. More than his singing though, I’ve been traumatized by the dance.

My last example is actually an introduction to a song and not the song itself. It’s 1977 and I’m in 7th grade. Ted Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo has just come out. One of my classmates brought it to school and described the intro to all the jealous boys. We got to music class and lo and behold we had a substitute. Jim sweet talked the sub into letting him play some of the record because we were just having a study hall anyway. Jim put on the oh-so-subtle Wang Dang Sweet Poontang and we all listened to Ted:

Nobody out there came to me mellow tonight did ya?
Ain’t nobody out there that even wants to be a little bit mellow is there?
Anybody wants to get mellow you can turn around and get the fuck outta here all right?

Whenever I listen to Double Live Gonzo and that intro, I’m back in 7th grade in the music room under the withering stare of the hapless substitute who I think was wondering why she ever went into teaching in the first place.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Essay: How to Keep Your Owner Awake When He Desperately Needs Sleep by Phantom T. Cat

The first thing you do, and this will take days if not weeks of preparation, is get a urinary tract infection which causes you to have trouble controlling your bladder. Then you pee on his bed once or twice which makes him completely paranoid that every time you jump onto the bed you’re going to pee again.

Now, let’s say your owner has 2 jobs, one of them being a paper route. Let’s say he normally uses the weekend to catch up on his sleep, but this past Sunday he got up early to go to church and now he’s going to bed early Sunday evening hoping to get a few extra hours of sleep. You wait until he’s settled then you jump on the bed. This simple act keeps him awake because he’s worried you’re going to pee. The next thing you do is go down to the end of the bed and sit on the right side, moving around as much as possible. I start off by cleaning myself vigorously top to bottom so that I am in constant motion.

After a few minutes I decide the right side of the bed isn’t comfortable anymore and move to the left side. The left side isn’t quite right either so I move to the center. This of course isn’t right as well so I go back to the left, then the right, center, left, right, left, center, left, center, left, right, left, center, right, left, right, left, center and right before jumping off the bed entirely.

Wander aimlessly around for no more than 10 minutes then jump back on the bed and do the whole left-right-center three step again. He’ll be relaxing a bit because he’s so tired so now is when you walk up, stand on the pillow next to his head, put your butt in his face and meow for no apparent reason. After you get shoved down to the end of the bed, lie down and clean the area he just touched, throwing in a few indignant meows for good measure. Then stand up in a huff and jump off the bed.

You’re ready for something new now. Wait about 15 minutes, just when he’s finally starting to drift off to sleep, and then you get onto the night stand and leap from there to the center of the bed bringing your entire 15 pound weight down as heavily as you can. A string of curse words will follow and a hand may sweep out at you as you run to the end of the bed.

Once you’re at the foot of the bed, return to the left-right-center gambit one more time, but only for a minute or two or you may find yourself with a foot in your backside. Now it’s time for the piece de resistance. This time you’re going to leap from the bed to the nightstand, but you’re going to miscalculate the landing so that you crash to the floor making a racket causing your owner to jump out of bed and turn on the light. He will check for damage to the furniture and then ask you if you’re all right to which you reply, “Of course, I meant to do that.”

More curse words will follow but at this point your job is done. You’ve caused him to get little or no sleep for the past 3 hours and now he has only 2 more hours before he has to get up. Being the compassionate kitty that you are, you can now crawl onto the bed and go to sleep comfortably allowing him those 2 precious hours.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We Laughed Our Asses Off

Today I am saying goodbye to a friend. Steve passed away Monday August 17, 2009. I’ve known Steve for nearly 20 years. We worked together at York Graphics Services. Along with 4 or 5 others we formed The Brotherhood of the Sword. We got to dress up like Vikings and knights and fight with our home made PVC pipe and duct tape swords. We ate, drank, fought, danced and laughed our asses off.

We went to the movies a few times a year, went to concerts in Long’s Park in Lancaster during the summer. We went to the renaissance faire and the Celtic fling. We played poker, watched Penn State football and we laughed our asses off.

We smoked cigars while reciting lines from Monty Python movies. We watched episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 over and over again, and we . . . well, you know what we did.

One of my fondest memories was a July 4th when we went to Long’s Park to see a free concert by the Lancaster Symphony Orchestra culminating in the 1812 Overture. They had 16 restored Civil War cannons to provide the explosions for the denouement. After the concert there was an extended fireworks display. There were at least 6 times we thought we had witnessed the grand finale and clapped vigorously only to have the show start up again. Even though we were enjoying it, we started to look at our watches and go “ok, let’s wrap it up. Some of us have to go to work tomorrow.”

Walking through the expansive crowd were teenagers selling glow sticks. The sticks were flexible and the ends could be snapped together to form a circle. Most of the teenagers walked zombie-like over the grounds just collecting a paycheck. But there was one young man who fully embraced his summer job. He had 3 or 4 of the sticks around himself like necklaces and several more twirling around his arms. And instead of shuffling through the crowd, he danced. He jumped and twirled and thoroughly charmed many parents into buying glow sticks for their children.

Steve nicknamed the young man Puck. He shouted “Go Puck. Show ‘em what you’ve got.” We watched the kid dance and flit for an hour and we laughed our asses off.

Goodbye Steve. I will miss you.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Quick Hits

Advertisers are pulling their ads from the Glenn Beck Show since he called President Obama a racist. My question is, how do we get Glenn Beck to pull out of the Glenn Beck show?

Michele Bachmann’s son Harrison has joined Teach for America. This is part of Americorp which Michele herself termed a “re-education camp” for young people. Today we’re going to teach Michele a new word. The dictionary defines "irony" as incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.
Repeat after me Michele:
Irony. No, not iron. Not Iran. No, not I run away. No, I didn’t say Ernie . . .

The Cosmic Overdrive award for best comeback line goes to Representative Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) who was asked by someone at a town hall meeting "Why are all Americans being forced into a government-run health care and insurance plan?" Larsen answered “With regards to the first comment about being forced to buy health care, I'll say it again... The bill does not force anybody to buy health care ... The bill does not force people to change their health care plan. Now folks will say that's not true, but I've got facts on my side and you've got Glenn Beck on your side.And brother when you have Glenn Beck on your side you have been screwed worse than Paris Hilton or Lindsay Lohan.

Lou Dobbs says there are legitimate questions about President Obama’s birth certificate. I think there are legitimate questions as to why Dobbs is on TV and not working as a Walmart greeter.

Actor Jerry O’Connell has entered law school. Great, now he can sue himself because of all the shitty movies he’s made.

Sarah Palin is still an idiot. What, you need more proof than the past 10 months? Okey Dokey. There is a provision in the proposed health care bill for money for end-of-life counseling. The Wasilla Whackjob has interpreted this as the government setting up ‘death panels’. Well Susie, grandma wasn’t feeling well so we drove her out into the country and dropped her off at a farm where she could run free.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aerosmith: Getting Their Asses Kicked by Father Time

Concert Cancelled in Venezuela While Joe Perry Fights Off Knee Infection
Seven Shows Postponed After Tyler Injures Leg
Bassist Hamilton Pulls Out of Tour to Recover from Surgery
Brad Whitford Needs Surgery after Hitting Head Getting Out of His Ferrari
Tyler Breaks Shoulder in fall from Stage

These are the stories fans of the rock band Aerosmith have been seeing for the past few months. Every member has had at least one surgery within the past year and their current tour has now been postponed for the second time due to an injury suffered by singer Steven Tyler, each time while . . . dancing. Yes, the Bad Boys of Boston are turning into our grandfathers right before our eyes.

Aerosmith is my all-time favorite band. I still believe that Rocks is the best hard rock album ever recorded. I have seen them live 8 times and will see them 8 more . . . if they survive their current tour. I have a ticket for the July 3 show in Hershey, PA which was postponed when Tyler tore a leg muscle, but I’m wondering if I will get to use it. Brad Whitford hit his head so hard getting out of his $300,000 Ferrari that he needed surgery? Really? That’s beyond a Spinal Tap moment.

After the postponement my brother sent me an email to tweak me about Aerosmith being too old and fragile. He suggested I become an Alice Cooper disciple because he’s been rather healthy since almost dying from drinking 723 cans of Budweiser a day for several years. I responded with a tirade worthy of . . . well, people who like tirades. But with each injury it’s getting more difficult to defend them.

To that end, I think it’s time for Aerosmith to re-record some of their songs to better fit their current ages and health status:

Sweet Emotion will now be Sweet Imodium
Train Kept a Rollin’ is Train? What Train? I Don’t Hear a Train
Toys in the Attic becomes I’m Lost in the Attic
Walk This Way is redone as I Need My Walker
Last Child is of course Last BM
Back in the Saddle changes to Back in the Lazy Boy
Love in an Elevator is rewritten as Love in the Back of an Ambulance

These will all be on their new CD Who Remembers Where We Parked? The recording will be done as soon as they finish the current tour which should be in a year or two.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Art of Cheese

Why do we listen to KISS? Yes, I’m talking about the rock band that performs in wild star child, cat, warrior and spaceman makeup and studded leather. I’m talking about the band no one paid any attention to until they put on the makeup and when in the 80s they took it off, we screamed to God on high for them to put it back on because we had forgotten how intensely ugly they were.

I was around 12 years old when KISS exploded in popularity and while I never joined the KISS army, I did read some of their literature. I had the albums like all my friends and we debated whose makeup was cooler. Even now 30 years later I pull their greatest hits CD out and enjoy a listen. My question is why, because if you pay attention while you’re listening, they’re not very good. They’re not great musicians, the music is simple and an elementary school student could write better lyrics. Sure, little Billy’s verses wouldn’t have as much overt sexuality as Gene Simmons’ but they would have better rhyming structure.

So why do we like cheese? No, not tasty Muenster or Gouda, I mean music and movies and television shows that we know aren’t high on the art scale but we enjoy them all the same. For example, I really like the TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. But the acting wasn’t the greatest after you get past Patrick Stewart and my brother and I can punch plot holes in the scripts like we’ve shot it with an AK-47. When they did a “message” episode they beat you like the proverbial dead horse, buried you, dug you back up and beat you some more. You screamed “I get it! Message received!” but the blows just kept coming. Still, its one of my all time favorite TV shows.

I guess the simplest answer is these shows and music give us something we’re looking for. They provide an escape and while we’re in our little off-kilter world we can overlook the things they don’t do very well. We use them for our amusement but never admit our addiction.

With Star Trek: TNG there was the obvious desire to flit among the stars as easily as I now drive to the Wal-Mart for cat litter and I liked the characters and the way they interacted with each other. I think I would have enjoyed hanging around with them.

This brings us back to KISS. For me the facileness of the music is actually a plus in this case. I like simple hard rock guitar riffs and a good back beat. While I’m jamming with Ace Frehley I can ignore the ridiculous lyrics and the taint of machismo that comes off of every song like an incontinent musk ox.

It turns out cheese can be good for you. I mean, don’t sit down and listen to 9 straight hours of European power metal or watch the entire series run of Bosom Buddies right away. You have to ease into it. But when your tolerance is built up, invite Buffy and Hildegard into your home and serve them up with a delicious plate of Feta and Havarti.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Peter King: Douchebag of the Week

Representative Peter King (republican, New York) says that health care reform is “not a major issue among the American people.”

Hey numnuts, sorry, Representative Numnuts, I’m an American citizen and I haven’t had health insurance for over a year because I can’t afford it. I work with 3 other people in the same situation. One of my brothers doesn’t have it because he can’t afford it. I have friends, a married couple with a young son, both out of work and they don’t have health insurance because they can’t afford it. I know you’re a stupid, stupid man but is any of this sinking in? Do you ever go out and talk to anyone you purport to represent?

I’m one person from a small town in Pennsylvania. Including myself I just gave you a portrait of 7 people who don’t have health insurance because of the prohibitive cost. These are just people in my personal orbit. Can you imagine how many of us there are across the country and how many individuals we represent who aren’t insured, who doesn’t go to the doctor or dentist or eye doctor because they can’t pay the bills?

Health care reform isn’t an important issue? What is an important issue to you Representative King of the Assholes? I’m guessing making sure you get re-elected so you and your family GET FREE HEALTH CARE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES would be at the top of your list.

Let me take a shot at some other issues important to you: Continuing to pocket money from lobbyists, keeping your mistress and hookers secret from the nosy media, misrepresenting facts, good old republican fear mongering, and disingenuous behavior of all kinds.

I call on our friends in New York state to vote this buffoon out of office next election. To quote the late Bill Hicks, “we have to rid the world of all these fevered egos”.