Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Best and Worst of 2006

Since everyone else is doing it and I'm not one to make waves or even ripples, here's my quick review of the year that's almost over:

THE BEST

1. SUPERMAN
No, not Superman Returns specifically, although I did like that movie. I just mean Superman in general. It was good to see him back in the public consciousness in a big way, even if the new film was viewed as a financial disappointment. I became obsessed with Superman again sometime in June before Superman Returns came out, so I took a trip back to my childhood and watched the first three Christopher Reeve Superman movies from the late '70s and early '80s. Superman III (1983) sucks for the most part, but Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980) still have some great moments a quarter century later. And Christopher Reeve is perfect as Superman. It's too bad that he became defined by the role, but he worked some magic that endures to this day by taking his characters—Superman and Clark Kent—seriously even when his directors didn't.

2. THE BEES
This pop band from Nashville unfortunately have to put "U.S." in parentheses after their name because of a band with the same name over in the UK. The (American) Bees' second album, 2006's High Society, contains 11 songs, only one of which can be considered filler. That's not easy to do, and remember, it's their second album, the one that often causes bands to choke and then change their plan of attack for their third effort. Daniel Tashian, who played guitar on Josh Rouse's 2005 album, Nashville, is the lead singer and songwriter for the Bees, and like Rouse, he has a gift for striking melodies and arrangements. The Bees will rock you, albeit gently. Buy their album. While you're at it, buy their Nashville colleagues' stellar 2006 albums as well: Rouse's Subtitulo, David Mead's Tangerine, and Curt Perkins's Get Something Started. The Nashville pop renaissance excites me. I can't wait to hear what all of these guys come up with in the next few years.

3. THE LEMONHEADS
When I first heard an advance copy of the Lemonheads' new
self-titled album, their first in ten years, I didn't like it. Then I listened again. And again. I still didn't like it that much. I expect instant gratification from head lemon Evan Dando, a master of kickass hooks, but the hooks didn't seem to be there the first few go-rounds, and his voice seemed tired. I was pretty disappointed. Then I listened one more time to "No Backbone," the first of the album's tracks that was released to the blogosphere. Hey, wait a second ... this sounds good. This sounds really good! And now most of the other songs are starting to sound good too! "Black Gown," "Become the Enemy," "Pittsburgh," "Poughkeepsie," "Rule of Three," "Baby's Home," "Steve's Boy" ... Dando, you did done it again, you sly dog. I'm sorry I doubted you.

4. MURS and 9th WONDER
I wrote about this rapper-producer duo's most recent album back in September. You can read about it here if you want.

5. PAUL STANLEY
The bootleg CD that was created from the Kiss lead singer's between-song banter, People, Let Me Get This Off My Chest, was one of the best things I discovered this year. I'm serious, you guys! You can download all 70+ tracks from the CD here if you want. Some people like to laugh at Le Starchild for the silly things he says onstage, but I don't. The man is clearly milking a stage persona for all it's worth, and it seems to be worth quite a lot. Bottom line: Paul Stanley is rich and we're not, so who's laughing now? I salute you, Kiss Army general. Your androgynous rock 'n' roll shriek brought me much joy in 2006.

6. MUSIC BLOGS
I heard a lot of good music, new and old, this year thanks to blogs like Jeff Giles's, Jason Hare's, Heather Browne's, that guy named John who likes forgotten '80s music, and that girl named Kelly in Cincinnati who likes soundtracks from '80s movies. Thanks for the songs, the education, and the friendly e-mail replies.

7. LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
I meant to write about this movie in October right after I saw it, but I forgot. But now that I have a deadline to meet for a friend's project and would rather procrastinate by writing blog entries, let's talk about Little Miss Sunshine! It's the best movie I've seen since Minority Report in 2002; by that I mean it's the first movie in four years that's made me immediately want to see it again and even look forward to seeing it years from now in the hopes that it still holds up. Sunshine was so good in its first hour that I was scared the final 30 minutes would ruin what had come before it by selling out the characters or wrapping the story threads up too neatly. Luckily, the third act was just as good as the first two. The movie's first-time directors, Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, pulled off a small miracle with this one.

THE WORST
1. WAR
We're still at war? In two different countries? Bummer.

2. NO HUGGY, NO KISSY
I didn't go out on any dates in 2006. Therefore I had no girlfriend in 2006. I tried to go out on some dates, but I got rejected. Oh well, it happens. The one woman I would like to ask out that I can't ask out, seeing as how she's a happily married mother of two, did tell me a few weeks ago that I have "a fantastically sexy voice." That compliment made my month. And since nothing else this year came close to topping it, I guess it made my year.

3. SELF-ABSORPTION

Wow, it's gotten pretty bad, hasn't it? Like with blogs and stuff. Do I really care what some jerk in Phoenix did today at work before he went home and watched The Office? No, I don't. I only care about myself, and I have 1. 7 readers who feel the same way. Hey, 0.7 of them are calling me right now! Gotta go! (Wasn't I the cutest at age five? Tell me about it! Seriously, tell me about it in the comments section.)

Bring on 2007.

Josh Rouse's "Michigan"

Josh Rouse is one of the best singer-songwriters around. Below are the lyrics to "Michigan," a song that can break your heart. Without hearing the simple, direct melody and Rouse's lonesome, quiet vocals, the lyrics may only tear off a corner of your heart, but that should be enough for now. "Michigan" can be found on the bonus CD that comes with The Smooth Sounds of Josh Rouse, a DVD that's for fans only. But everybody should be a fan of Josh Rouse. Therefore his DVD is for everybody.

Mom and Dad
I'm living in Michigan with Uncle Ray
He and Aunt Terri said I should write
Said I should write or I should phone you
I just don’t have that much to say

See, I’ve been bartending about three nights a week
It's a stand-up joint and they’re good to me
And I stay bored most all the time
Except for the cards that Ray and I play
Yeah, he's the only friend I got in this place
Still it's better than Wichita

Terri, she's fine
She wants you to know she's wrote a song
She's picking up where she left off
She's bringing it back
'Cause it's been years since she's tried
God, has it really been that long?
Mom, I'm sorry, I was wrong
And Dad, I'm sorry, 'cause I just couldn’t stay in that town
Where everyone knows everything about me

Michigan's all right
Still I haven’t found a love
Just want to be happy
Love, your son
Just try to be happy
Love, your son

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Happy birthday, faithful reader!

Today is Beau Johnson's birthday. Well, December 28th is his birthday. I'm posting this entry after midnight on December 28, but the posting time that's showing up is Pacific Standard Time. How do I change that? Sorry, Beau, too late, can't stop the birthday wishing magic now.

Beau is 1 of my 1.7 readers. But even though Beau is 1, he is also 32 years young(ish) today. Beau lives in Charleston, South Carolina. Beau is married to Kristen and has an infant son named Parker. Beau plays guitar and sings in a band called Slackwater.
Beau has a full head of hair, which I envy much more than his domestic bliss because I am vain. Beau has been a friend since high school, although I didn't really get to know him until after college and we discovered we both had jobs that allowed us to send lots of e-mail. Happy birthday, Beau Bowie Johnson.

(The picture you see of Beau makes him look like he's maybe a little too enthusiastic about average American beer. He isn't. Well, maybe he is—I haven't seen him in a long time. But sometimes he talks about more sophisticated foreign beers in his e-mails, so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.)

Goodbye, Mr. Ford and Mr. Brown.

Gerald Ford died yesterday. He was our nation's president when I was born on September 25, 1975. In fact, there was an attempt on Ford's life that week. Ford wasn't hurt in either attempt, so the incidents aren't mentioned —and I wouldn’t know about it if I hadn’t looked at an old issue of Time at the University of Georgia library in 1996—but in September of '75 two different women tried to assassinate President Ford. Now, Nixon I can understand, but Ford? The attempt on Ford’s life on September 5 by Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme of the infamous Manson family was followed by another attempt on the 22nd by a disturbed housewife-slash-FBI informant named Sara Jane Moore.

Ford wasn’t elected to the office of president, of course, but he wasn’t elected vice-president either. In both positions he replaced a disgraced leader. What a sweet deal—none of the work, all of the reward! I’m kidding, of course, but it is an interesting piece of historical trivia; Ford's greatest political ambition was to become speaker of the house, not president. I just heard on CNN that in 1980 Ronald Reagan almost asked Ford to run for vice-president instead of George Bush, but both men—and their advisers—realized it wouldn’t work. Maybe Reagan’s handlers figured it was about time Ford got elected to one of the top two offices in the government.

Ford was our last balding president. Al Gore could’ve been our next balding president, but he forgot Antonin Scalia’s birthday in 2000, which made Antonin mad, so George W. Bush became president instead. Since then, everything’s been awesome.

So goodbye, Mr. President. You weren't in office for long, but you did your job well while you were there. I'm proud to have been born under your accidental watch.

The Godfather of Soul died on Christmas Day. As Jesse Jackson noted, the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business upstaged Santa. (Santa jokingly responded, "I won't forget this, Soul Brother #1. You're a dead man! I'm kidding, of course, seeing as how you're already dead ... Sorry, that was in poor taste, wasn't it? Please enjoy your presents, and I'll see you again next year.") James Brown—yes, he was more than just a bunch of boastful nicknames—was born in Augusta, Ga., but he spent some of his formative years in Macon, where I grew up. There's even a legend that Little Richard's manager sent Brown on the road as Little Richard sometimes, hoping no one in the audience would know the difference. That's one way to double your ten-percent take of your client's income, I guess.

When Brown died, I read how some people were shocked by the news. Shocked? Really? I doubt Brown lead the healthiest lifestyle, and I'm not even talking about drug use. Plus when you're the self-proclaimed hardest-working man in showbiz, your body's bound to give out at some point. Brown was in his 70s. And remember, he'd beaten a lot of his wives. That takes energy, y'all.

Oh, I'm sorry, was that a rude thing to say? And is it rude to post this mug shot of Brown from the day before my 13th birthday? (If it's any consolation, James, it was a bad week for me too.) We like to remember our heroes only for their good deeds, don't we? When I die, do I want people talking about how I used to purposely bleed on strangers in public when they're delivering my eulogy? (Okay, so I still do that.) Of course not! Remember me for my work with children in foreign countries. (I never missed a $21 payment to that Christian kids' charity, except for most of 1999, 2001, and 2005.) Remember me for my tutoring of mentally handicapped adults in reading and writing. (But don't mention that mysterious bus crash that killed all of them on the way to the Harold Washington Library after we had a heated argument about the safety of public transportation versus the safety of a stretch Hummer limo. No, I didn't offer to pay for the limo, but seriously, how cool would it be to see a Hummer limo pull up in front of a library? Those guys would've looked like rock stars!) Finally, remember me for my kindness and soft-spoken nature. (Please don't remember the chainsaw-throwing incident at the Rainbow Coalition meeting in November of '03.)

It's strange to me when people say things like "Ever since that Michael Richards incident I find it hard to watch Seinfeld reruns" or "I'll never listen to a Michael Jackson song the same way again" or "I'll never rent another car from Hertz without thinking about O.J. decapitating his wife." Please do shut up. You can still like Kramer's krazy antiks and you can still sing along to "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and you can still laugh at the Naked Gun movies (at least O.J.'s constantly getting hurt in them, if that helps you sleep better) and you can still love songs like "Super Bad," "(Get Up I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," and "Get on the Good Foot." Remember James Brown for his lasting contributions to music and the black pride movement, not his questionable personal behavior, but don't whitewash the personal behavior either.

So goodbye, Mr. Hard-Working Soul Godfather #1. You're a music legend, and your legacy will endure. I'm just not sure I would've wanted to be around you when you were pissed off or high on PCP.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

etiquette lessons from a sociopath

Below is an e-mail I received from a coworker today. This is a coworker who generally avoids eye contact with others, talks to himself constantly (but it's almost under his breath, which I guess he considers acceptable behavior in the workplace), loudly hacks up phlegm into the men's room sink, and whispers "Fuck me!" loudly at his computer or other people's computers, possibly in the hopes that they'll ask, "Hey, why so glum, sociopath?" He also laughs way too loudly at things he reads on the Internet as people pass by his desk, which I interpret as another stupid cry for attention.

I've also been told that he generally treats job candidates who come in to take the proofreading test with no respect, telling them the test is self-explanatory if they ask for directions and answering other questions as if they were along the lines of "So have you always been black?"

Bottom line—I never expected him to be the Miss Manners of the office. It's true that "a little politeness goes a long way," but so does a lot of general weirdness and jackassery over the course of three and a half years.

............................................

Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 16:39:54 -0600
To: rcass@chireader.com
From: "John Doe"
Subject: Fwd: toner needed


Robert:

Toner questions can go to me. Usually, I'm available to help. When you sent the message, I was on a work-related errand.

Please keep in mind two issues:

1. Spare cartridges are usually kept on the third floor. In fact, one was stored directly under the printer. And at one least one other person on the floor knows how to change the cartridge.

2. Your message to info services was harsh in tone. Please consider the feelings of others when asking them for help. A little politeness goes a long way.

Thank you.

"John"

Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2006 14:38:20 -0600
To: is-help
From: Robert Cass
Subject: toner needed



We need new toner in the hallway printer on the 3rd floor.

Thanks,
Robert

Goodbye, girl. Hello, blogosphere fame!

I like soft rock. I also like a subgenre called "mellow gold." Allow Jason Hare and his wonderful blog to explain in a continuing series he calls Adventures Through the Mines of Mellow Gold.

Friday, December 8, 2006

How did this happen?!?!

I've been gone from here for a long time. How are my 1.7 readers holding up? ... Scurvy? Really? People can still get that? Well, take lots of vitamin C, I guess.

Yesterday I heard a cast member on the new season of The Real World say, "I can be an asshole, but I'm not a dick." Good call. There truly is a fine line between the two. Maybe you're just a taint, sir.

The Real World has really gotten out of hand. Remember in 1992 when the show started and most of the roommates seemed like people you might actually want to hang out with? I was 16 in 1992, so maybe I wanted to hang out with Julie, Heather B, Norman, and Andre because they were older and therefore cooler than me, but they also seemed fairly low-maintenance and not too prone to temper tantrums. But once the novelty of the "real-life soap opera" gimmick wore off and once cast members like David from the L.A. cast and Puck from the San Francisco cast made waves and were asked to move out in a dramatic fashion, the show seemed to have more and more attention-starved crazies running around each season. And the casting seemed to boil down to "Do we have a black homophobe who can share a room with a white lesbian this year?"

Then in 2002 the Las Vegas cast seemed to open the floodgates for nonstop drinking and screwing. All the Real World cast members seem to do now is go out to bars, get arrested, and then come home to do each other. They have good manners, though, so they share each other, which I think is nice. And forget any build-up of sexual tension between roommates throughout the season—they now hook up on the first day after a few hours of drinking. Is MTV paying for those drinks? I have a feeling they are. My darling niece Olivia, begin averting your eyes now, please.