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:


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.


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 possible sociopath

Below is an e-mail I received from a coworker, one who generally avoids eye contact with others, talks to himself constantly (but almost always under his breath), loudly hacks up phlegm into the men's-room sink, and harshly whispers, "Fuck me!" at his computer, possibly in the hopes that his coworkers will ask, "Hey, why so glum, li'l fella?" He also laughs way too loudly at things he reads on the Internet as people pass by his desk, which I interpret as another 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 and tells them the test is self-explanatory if they dare to ask for directions.

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@***.com
From: "John Doe"
Subject: Fwd: toner needed


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.


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.


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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If you're this guy's manager, you're doing a terrible job.

Then again, you just can't shut some people up.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Fox plans to broadcast an interview with O.J. Simpson in which the former football star discusses "how he would have committed" the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend, for which he was acquitted, the network said.

The two-part interview, titled "O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here's How It Happened," will air Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, the TV network said.

Simpson has agreed to an "unrestricted" interview with book publisher Judith Regan, Fox said.

"O.J. Simpson, in his own words, tells for the first time how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible for the crimes," the network said in a statement. "In the two-part event, Simpson describes how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade."

The interview will air days before Simpson's new book, "If I Did It," goes on sale Nov. 30. The book, published by Regan, "hypothetically describes how the murders would have been committed."

In a video clip on the network's Web site, an off-screen interviewer says to Simpson, "You wrote 'I have never seen so much blood in my life.'"

"I don't think any two people could be murdered without everybody being covered in blood," Simpson responds.

Simpson, who now lives in Florida, was acquitted in a criminal trial of the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Simpson was later found liable in 1997 in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Goldman family.

Messages left with Simpson and his attorney Yale Galanter were not immediately returned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I used to be somebody.

A Web site I worked on from 2000 to 2003 has been shut down:

It turns out it has its own Wikipedia entry:

However, there's no mention of my name anywhere. THE INJUSTICE OF IT ALL! I'll have to correct that with some creative editing.

Working on Cartoon Orbit was the best job I ever had. For the first year anyway. Then it got bad. Then it got okay again. But by that time I was already planning to move to Chicago, and I'm pretty sure I pissed off some higher-paid supervisors along with a few coworkers when it got bad, therefore sabotaging any chance of a promotion if I'd stayed, especially after I wrote my Human Resources rep and asked, "Should I have gotten a raise eight months ago when my coworker left and I took on her job responsibilities? My title changed, but my salary didn't, and now my immediate supervisor is on maternity leave, so I'm technically doing three people's jobs."

HR wrote back and said I was supposed to have gotten a raise, but the paperwork never went through for whatever reason. Unlike Yosemite Sam, steam didn't shoot out of my ears when I read that e-mail, but I wasn't happy, because I knew I'd receive the back payments in one lump sum. The same thing had happened to me at CNN, another Turner-owned cable channel based in Atlanta, three years earlier.

Going over my supervisors' heads probably wasn't the smartest move, but I was in my 20s, and much more impulsive than I would be now.

At least that's what I tell myself.

Friday, November 10, 2006

something cheerier

Last week I was told by two friends that my recent blog entries have been depressing. They're supposed to be funny, but it's true that there's a fine line between comedy and tragedy. Or maybe I'm just temporarily tone-deaf.

Anyway, I haven't been rejected by any girls in the past seven days (although my job and its bleak future are starting to depress me), so to celebrate, here's a picture of my niece that should make you smile, unless you're a Republican who's currently licking his/her wounds.

Yes, yes, I know, she's the cutest thing you ever did see. You're welcome.

She turns two next month. If you click on the picture to enlarge it while using the Safari browser, you may see nothing but HTML code, so use Firefox instead.

Speaking of Firefox, why were movies like Firefox and Blue Thunder so popular in the early '80s? Did it have something to do with the Reagan administration's unprecedented military build-up? Let's not forget Airwolf on TV, as well as the short-lived Blue Thunder TV series featuring a pre-SNL Dana Carvey. I was still in single digits at the time, so you can understand the fascination I had with high-tech jets and helicopters, but what was the appeal for everyone else? Say, wasn't Roy Scheider the star of Blue Thunder? I miss that guy. He made some damn good movies in the '70s.

Well, that was quite a tangent. Getting back on track, I'd like to say to all you Republicans—and I'm including you closet Republicans who call yourselves "independent" (who do you think you're foolin'?)—that I'm sorry if you've run into obnoxious Democrats since Tuesday who want to rub your nose in it. It's been a long six years, you see.

I work in an office where everyone's a Democrat, and they won't shut up about the election results. I'm a Democrat too, and although I'm not as clued in to current events and politics as I should be, part of me wanted to send out an e-mail in response to their endless stream that said, "In case you've forgotten, we're still stuck with Bush for two more years." I even felt like congratulating Schwarzenegger for getting re-elected as governor in a blue state.

But I guess we have to celebrate our small victories whenever and wherever we can. As Evan Dando says about the ongoing Bush saga on the new self-titled Lemonheads album, "Let's just laugh / We can never do anything about anything anyway / Whatever will be, I guess we'll see / So let's just laugh." A fine line between comedy and tragedy indeed.

Monday, October 30, 2006

confidence and conversations

If I don't straighten out this confidence problem of mine in the next two years, then yeah, I could see myself joining a cult. Why not? Everybody wants to feel wanted.

On another topic, here's a non-revelation for you: the problem with public cell-phone conversations is that the people having them think the conversations are private. But I can hear every "asshole" and "motherfucker" you say, sir and madam. I have a bad feeling my soon-to-be-two-years-old niece will know all of those words by the time she hits four. (I do want her to know that "fucking" can be a verb, an adjective, and an adverb, but it may take time for her to learn all the different conjugations.)

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Let's drop the big one / There'll be no one left to blame us ..."

Randy Newman was a guest last week on The Colbert Report, and at the end of the show he sang his song "Political Science." Here are the lyrics:

No one likes us—I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money, but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us, so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold

And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an all-American amusement park there
They got surfin' too

BOOM! goes London
And BOOM! Paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

The studio audience laughed through most of the song. It's obviously relevant in the current Bush/Iraq era, but Newman wrote it in 1969 and recorded it for his 1972 album Sail Away, during the Nixon/Vietnam era. History repeats.

As for "the big one," our government apparently believes in the policy of "No Nukes (For Anybody Else)." Is this because we've decided no one else is sane enough to keep their nukes in the missile silos where they belong? I guess we just have to stay sane ourselves then. (Make sure you get lots of sleep, Mr. President.)

I ordered an album from CD Baby for the first time on Saturday.

Below is the message that was included in the e-mail sent to me today regarding my shipment. Pretty funny.

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved "Bon Voyage!" to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Monday, October 16th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year". We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to!!

songs that will still blow me away years from now, vol. 2

The thing I like most about music blogs is the chance to hear the next great pop song. It could be from 2006 or 1973it doesn't matter to me. I just like discovering new songs that won't leave my head for months. The thing I like least about music blogs is how narrow-minded they can be. Now, I can't claim to like every genre of music on earth, but in regard to most blogs I've seen, there's more to hip-hop right now than Gnarls Barkley, there's more to alternative rock than Beck and Radiohead, and there's more to '70s soul than Marvin Gaye and Al Green. Expand your horizons, bloggers, and I'll expand mine. I'll also stop complaining since your blogs give away actual MP3s and mine gives away nothing but words.

The best song I've heard recently, courtesy of my favorite music blog, Jefitoblog, is Wheat's "Closer to Mercury," from their 2003 album Per Second, Per Second, Per Second ... Every Second. It's one of those transcendent pop songs that makes you want to be a better person for three minutes and 51 seconds. It shows confidence, and everybody's attracted to confidence, right?

Summer love moves fast
You get a little slower when the fall moves past
But you'll never find another love like my love
Winter slows the pace
Spring brings the summer back to your face
But you'll never find another love like my love

Friday, October 13, 2006

a sad day for music

It's not sad because J-Zee hasn't dissed me yet. No, it's sad because Tower Records is finally closing its doors.

When I was in high school in Macon, GA, back in the early '90s, it was a huge thrill to go to the Tower Records store in Atlanta next to Lenox Square Mall. Before you could order any CD you wanted through and then, it wasn't easy to find certain albums in Macon at small, mall-based stores like Turtle's, Record Bar, or Camelot Music. And as my tastes in music started to expand (or got better, you might say), it became frustrating going into Record Bar (later Traxx, once there was no actual vinyl left on the premises) or Turtle's (later Blockbuster Music and Wherehouse Music) or Camelot (um ... still Camelot as recently as 1995, which is the last time I remember buying something there—Michael Jackson's Off the Wall on cassette and the Replacements' Hootenanny on CD, to be exact) and not being able to locate Paul Simon's One-Trick Pony or albums by lesser-known bands like Big Star.

So when you went to Tower, which specialized in "deep catalog" offerings, it was like Christmas Day. They seemed to have everything, and you could imagine spending an entire day there just flipping through the racks of CDs or reading movie magazines you'd never seen before, like the UK's Empire. I remember Empire having really glossy pages and found it interesting that movie titles in that magazine were neither italicized nor surrounded by quotation marks. I currently have an issue of Empire from 1999 that I still haven't read. Good job, Robert.

Off the top of my head, here are some of the items I purchased at Tower between the golden years of 1992 and 1998, before Internet CD shopping took over:

1) Sly and the Family Stone's Heard Ya Missed Me, Well I'm Back and Small Talk (both of which were Japanese imports, which made me feel like a big man)
2) The Simpsons: Songs in the Key of Springfield
3) Randy Newman's Sail Away
4) Soul Hits of the '70s: Didn't It Blow Your Mind! Vol. 9
5) Big Star's #1 Record/Radio City and Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93
6) Dave Thomas's SCTV: Behind the Scenes book

Internet CD shopping ruined an important aspect of traveling to other cities and countries for me: going into record stores. One of the only good things about my "study abroad" trip to Europe in 1997 was my visits to various record stores in Italy and England, including Tower Records in London. Pretty shallow, I'll admit, but you should've met some of the people on that trip. In Italy I found a copy of Sly and the Family Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On that featured the original 1971 artwork, and in England I found Lou Reed's first solo album from '72, which you couldn't find in the States at the time as far as I knew, and Geoffrey Williams's The Drop. (Who's Geoffrey Williams, you ask? Let me tell you!)

Now when I travel, the thrill is gone. When I bought the Lemonheads' Hate Your Friends from in January or February of '98, I knew a big change was about to happen. I still like to buy CDs in stores—a Second City performer made fun of me in a show for buying Pete Yorn's Nightcrawler at Virgin Megastore because if you buy albums there you "must be a tourist," even though I'd just explained from my seat in the audience that I had bought the album after walking there FROM WORK (for the record, this happened on October 26, but I'm cheating by leaving this post dated as October 13, which is when I started it)—but there's definitely some convenience in buying albums online, especially if, like me, you don't own a car. You can also save some money aside from the shipping and handling charges, because if you don't buy an album like Nightcrawler at Virgin four weeks after it's released, the price gets jacked up to $18.99.

Here's an excerpt from an article about Tower's financial problems from back in August, I believe:

"We're praying they'll reorganize successfully," one veteran music executive said. "We're praying they'll come back to life. Do I feel they're going to do it? Yes. Tower's enough of a brand, they can come back." The executive added that the dissolution of Tower could have a dire impact on the public's perception of music retailing: "Can you imagine Tower Records with boards on the windows on Sunset Boulevard? It'd be horrifying."

Well, Halloween's right around the corner. Why not give nostalgia whores like me a real fright?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

You should be happy, John Belushi ...

... because I just saw a few minutes of Blues Brothers 2000 on AMC and remembered that it took a white guy (John Goodman), a black guy (Joe Morton), and a kid (who knows or cares?) to replace you in the sequel to one of your best movies. Couldn't you have stopped this disaster from beyond the grave? Or at least poisoned the kid before filming started? The kid's presence in the movie makes me wonder if Dan Aykroyd and John Landis, the director, couldn't get script approval from Universal Pictures until they added an underage sidekick. Oh yeah, and the sequel's gotta be PG-13, not R like the first one. Gotta broaden the audience base!

Yep, good move, Universal. The Blues Brothers made $57 million in 1980. Blues Brothers 2000 made $14 million 18 years later.

I also saw parts of Summer School Monday morning on TBS. I hadn't seen it in a long time and didn't feel so good when Harmon's character responded to Courtney Thorne-Smith's jailbait tactics by saying, "When you're 61, I'll still be 75." Thorne-Smith's character is 16 in the movie. 75 - 61 = 14, and 16 + 14 = 30. Wait a second—Mark Harmon's supposed to be 30 in this movie?! That's one year younger than I am now!

I should've titled this post "Numbers aren't just numbers." Oh well, 2 bad 4 all of U. (Nice segue into a post about Prince, don't you think? We'll see. I was very excited to find an uncut version of his never-officially-released song "Wonderful Ass" recently on a music blog.)

Friday, October 6, 2006

"You know me so well, [surname]."

In addition to guys who call their friends "buddies," I also have trouble trusting guys who identify themselves and their buddies by their surname. "Churchwell, what up? This is Ritter. Call me back, brah!" I also don't trust characters in TV shows and movies who do this, especially when it's a man and a woman who want to nail each other. I've never known any wannabe couples in real life, even if they were couples for one night only, who addressed each other that way. Joel and Maggie called each other Fleischman and O'Connell on Northern Exposure, from what I remember, and Pacey called everybody by their surnames on Dawson's Creek, which got weird once he was going after Joey Potter.

Oh yeah, I should mention that I'm obsessed with Dawson's Creek. It's a terrible show in many ways, but it's great wake-up TV at 8 AM every weekday on TBS, so I can't really complain. I recently saw the end of the episode in which Joey lost her virginity to Pacey. Joshua Jackson, who plays Pacey, was going through a puffy period at the time (eating too many fried shrimp on location in Wilmington, NC, maybe?), so at the end of the episode when Joey takes off Pacey's shirt, I wonder if Josh began to regret canceling his workouts with the WB's on-set personal trainer so he could play more video games in his dressing room. Let this be a lesson, young Hollywood stars.

Here's one complaint about Dawson's Creek, although I've grown to love this facet of the show—most of the major characters start out hating any new character who's introduced, because the new characters almost always come across as blowhards before they eventually drop their guard. Sometimes Dawson, Pacey, Joey, and Jen, the main characters on the show, want to sleep with these blowhards, but sometimes they don't. Sometimes the blowhards are old people who can teach life lessons to the younger characters, sometimes they're rich teenagers who really just need a hug, and sometimes they're soulful bartenders working their way through college
who don't have the patience to deal with rich teenagers with fake IDs demanding pitchers of beer in lieu of hugs.

My favorite regular character is probably "Grams," Jen's grandma, who speaks in a ludicrous "Pepperidge Farm" accent. Yeah, I realize the show's set in Massachusetts and Grams has a New England accent, but I wonder what the actress who plays Grams sounds like in real life. If she sounds nothing like her TV counterpart, then she owes me a free bag of Milanos.

My favorite season is the sixth and final season, because it's obvious at that point that none of the stars or the writers really want to be there anymore. (The final season is sometimes the most fascinating season for almost any long-running show for that very reason. Watch the fifth and final season of Moonlighting once it comes out on DVD just to see how bored Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd look, especially since Die Hard had already come out and made Willis a movie star.) Besides, the show started with the main characters in high school, and whenever TV shows about teenagers extend beyond the high school years, the writers run into the problem of how to keep the main characters together in a realistic way once it's time for them to head off to college.

Another great thing about shows like Dawson's Creek is that everybody hooks up with everybody else. Dawson lost Joey to Pacey, who helped her lose her virginity, but don't worry, 'cause Dawson finally nailed her in season six. Hells yeah, Dawson! Dawson got his virginity out of the way in season five with the help of Jen. Luckily, we never had to watch Jen and Pacey get it on. Wait, scratch that—they did make out a few times and discuss having a sex-with-no-strings-attached relationship in season three. Wow, these teenage soap operas sure are incestuous. Did I miss an episode in which Jen and Joey experimented together? Probably not, but just when I thought I'd seen it all, there was an episode in season four in which Jack, the token gay character, made out with Jen while they were drunk! Now I'm waiting to discover an episode in which Dawson's dad has a one-night affair with Grams.

But the bottom line is that I love Dawson's Creek for its non-nutritional value, and therefore (almost) all of my sarcastic comments about it are made out of love. You've won me over, Capeside High Class of '01! Keep up the good-natured incest.

Hot chicks on the 145! (Part II)

But there's only one hot chick in this follow-up to the June blockbuster. That's okay, though, because this hot chick had enough hotness to cover five hot chicks. For real.

Golly gee, this hot chick knew how to wear clothes. And yet she still looked like a nice girl on her way to work. And guess what? I'll never see her on the 145 again.

That's how mass-transit hot chicks operate: they only use a bus one time, just so all the single men like me can get a good look—a gander, if you prefer—and then wonder for the next half decade, "Say, whatever happened to that hot chick I saw on the 145 on Tuesday, October 3, 2006?"

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

the controversy over "buddies"

What a raging controversy this has become amongst me and my 1.7 readers! Fine, Beau, call your friends "buddies." All I'm saying is that I've known some frat-type meatheads and wannabe meatheads who call their friends "buddies," and it's usually a sure sign that they're tools in case I hadn't figured that out already.

Case closed? The 1.7 comments I've received about this so far have really rattled me, so I want to set the record straight. (Rattling ceases. Fade out.)

Monday, September 25, 2006

So funny it's lethal?

Lethal Weapon was on Comedy Central a few hours ago. Are they that desperate for programming? Did an intern spill coffee on the only working copy of Joe Dirt? (FACT! Only interns spill coffee on important things.)

Lethal Weapon is pretty much a straight action movie, not an action-comedy like its sequels. Unlike the various times in my life when I've felt suicidal, Mel Gibson's tendencies in Lethal Weapon aren't meant to make people laugh. (Well, mine weren't either, but, you know, "tears of a clown" and what not.) By "Mel Gibson," I mean his character, Martin Riggs, but one spin on the Mel Gibson drunk-driving story back in August was that he was driving drunk because he was feeling suicidal, and that's the real story, people, not the anti-Semitic comments he made to the arresting officers. Maybe all Mel needed that night before he got in his car was a hug from his old pal Danny Glover and a stern reminder that when it comes to DWIF (driving while intoxicated and famous), Mel's "too old for this shit."

The picture of Mel up above was featured on Yahoo! News today alongside articles about test screenings he conducted over the weekend for his new directorial effort, Apocalypto, which comes out in December. Media bias, anyone? Nah, couldn't be.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ticking Tom bomb go boom!

Tom Cruise isn't having the best year. In terms of his career and PR problems, I mean. He's a new father, so his personal life can't be too bad. But his 14-year production and development deal with Paramount Pictures was terminated last month by Paramount due to his "recent conduct," according to Sumner Redstone, the chairman of Viacom, which owns Paramount.* 

Redstone is a rich, powerful man. He's also 83 years old. And as we all know, old people with lots of power and money can sometimes make bad decisions. (Just ask Anna Nicole Smith's second husband.)

Redstone also pointed out in his interviews to the press that the disappointing performance of Mission: Impossible III this summer was due to the public's disdain for Cruise's couch jumping on The Oprah Winfrey Show, his none-too-shy views on the evils of psychiatry and antidepressants in an interview with Today's Matt Lauer, that time he karate-chopped a pregnant Brooke Shields outside of a crowded L.A. bistro, etc.

Mission: Impossible III earned $133 million in U.S. theaters. Yes, that's disappointing compared to Mission: Impossible II's $215 million gross six years ago and the original Mission's $180 million gross a decade ago. But you know what other Tom Cruise movie underperformed at the box office, yet no one seemed to notice or care? Minority Report, the 2002 Steven Spielberg film based on a Philip K. Dick short story. It earned "only" $132 million.

Minority Report is a well-acted, funny, intelligent, thrilling movie. In fact it's the last movie I saw in a theater that I immediately wanted to see again, just like when I was a child. My only guess as to why it underperformed is that it was a little too dark for some moviegoers, similar to Blade Runner, a futuristic fantasy that bombed upon release in 1982 but is now considered a science fiction classic.

You could argue that Minority Report wasn't a sequel and therefore the financial expectations for it weren't as high as they were for Mission: Impossible III. But Minority Report was a big deal four years ago: ­the world's biggest star was collaborating with the world's biggest director for the first time. Since the final product actually turned out to be good (no small feat), its financial success should've been guaranteed, but Minority Report's opening-weekend gross was almost exactly the same as Disney's Lilo & Stitch, which was no one's idea of an animated blockbuster along the lines of The Lion King. Minority and Lilo ended up making roughly the same amount of money in the end, but the press didn't talk much about that.

Fast-forward three years later to Cruise and Spielberg's second team-up,
War of the Worlds, which came out a month or so after Cruise's appearance on Oprah. So what if he jumped on a couch? The man was in love. (No, I don't think he's gay. That rumor's a dead end.) Or L. Ron Hubbard's ghost made him levitate briefly; I'm not sure. But the Oprah appearance seemed to mark a turning point for Cruise in terms of moviegoers sharpening their knives to kill another idol. The general public and the media can only take so much blinding light from a megawatt smile like Cruise's before they frantically start swinging baseball bats at the source.

War of the Worlds made $234 million last year, a full $100 million more than Minority Report. Was it a better movie? I don't think so, although it was good. Was it any less dark than Minority Report? Nope. All those sobering 9/11 overtones were hard to miss. The only cop-out, in my opinion, came in the final minutes of the film, when a certain character's fate was revealed.

When War of the Worlds was released no one said, "If this one disappoints at the box office like Minority Report did three years ago, don't expect another collaboration between Cruise and Spielberg." But now that Cruise has officially been knocked down a peg, it's okay to say that Mission: Impossible III choked.**

In early 2004 Cruise fired his longtime publicist, Pat Kingsley, and hired his sister, a fellow Scientologist, to do the job, even though she had no PR experience. But after those eyebrow-raising interviews in the summer of '05, Cruise sent his sister away last November to handle his charity work, then apologized to Brooke Shields last month for cutting off two of her thumbs, gangland style, outside of a crowded L.A. bistro. Good call, Tom. Take some time off with your wife and new baby and remember what really matters in life.

... What's that, you say? Tom hasn't married Katie Holmes yet? Forget everything I just said. How dare that man sire a child out of wedlock! He must not be ready to commit to a lifetime of marital bliss with Joey Potter because he's a flaming homosexual!!!!

* A minute ago I saw an online banner ad that read, "Is Tom Cruise out of control? Answer for a FREE dinner for two at Olive Garden!" How offensive. I would never eat at Olive Garden. (Just kidding. The house salad never disappointed in high school.)

** Twelve of Tom Cruise's last 14 movies have made $100 million or more at the U.S. box office. Vanilla Sky (2001) and Collateral (2004) both squeaked past that mark, and although Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia (both 1999, but just the former features Cruise in a lead role) fell short, only Tom Hanks has a better track record over the same period of time (1992-2006), as far as I know.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Sorry for not updating this thing in a while, guys. Seriously, sorry. I had a rough week, some emotional stuff happened ... you know the deal. Nothing big, but nothing I want to talk about right now either. Maybe one day soon, when the wound's healed a little bit, you know what I mean? Alright, later.

Monday, September 11, 2006

college livin'

"The place is a piece of **** with no disposal or ice maker!!! I feel like I live in the 70s!"

That's a quote from, a Web site where you can rate and comment on your former dwellings, plus the landlords or management teams who stopped caring about your well-being once you paid your security deposit. I wasn't able to find the apartment complex where I lived my sophomore year of college in Athens, Ga., or my first apartment building in Atlanta (which was torn down in 2000, so ... uh ... case closed), but every other complex or building I've lived in is listed. It looks like my junior- and senior-year Athens residences have been in declining health for a while, and my second and third residences in Atlanta have apparently become new circles of hell. (You heard correctly—the circles are brand-new, but the contractor and his crew did a very shoddy job building them. There's always a catch.)

The quote up top comes from a recent resident of Aspen Apartments, formerly Players Club Apartments, where I lived from September of '96 to August of '97. As my friend Beau pointed out to me, college students these days probably expect more from apartments than we did ten years ago, but I've only had an ice maker once, and I've lived in apartments for 11 years now. Next Joe College will be complaining that the washing machine in his apartment isn't big enough to wash both his whites and darks at the same time.

I lived in three decent apartments in Athens, and I had quiet neighbors in all of them. How come all of my neighbors got louder the older I got? Isn't college the time in your life when you expect to be woken up by drunken idiots blasting their stereo through the wall? Unfortunately, it's happened to me ever since I started working for a living.

Okay, confession time, people—I didn't write what you just read on September 11th. I know, I know ... the blog clearly says that September 11th is the date of this entry. But it's not. I'm writing this right now on September 19th. A full eight days later. Can you forgive me?
(On a side note, do you think President Bush uses "091101" when he plays the lottery? Those numbers sure did bring him plenty of good luck in the last election.)

One other thing—I'm not a panda. I know, I know ... the blog's name clearly implies that I'm a panda. But I'm not. I don't even like pandas that much. In fact, I slaughtered one when I was younger and made a beanbag out of it. Can you forgive me?

One more thing—I didn't make the beanbag myself. I know, I know ... I just said that I did. But I didn't. I asked an old alcoholic Indian dying of cirrhosis to do it for me. And then I paid him with a few jugs of corn liquor. (Or maize liquor, if you prefer.) Can you forgive me?

One final thing—I just realized I'm a real man's man, because I know how to make my own ice.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

an example of friendship

On MySpace today I found a picture in someone's "comments" section of Jesus holding a 40-ounce bottle of Olde English, with the words "Jesus is my nigga" underneath.

This is an example of what guys with "buddies" find funny. Look, I enjoy ignorance and blasphemy as much as the next guy, but why not class up the punchline a bit, you know?

pretty sad

I saw a rerun of Saturday Night Live from the past season last night. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the host. In her monologue she said that she was the first female cast member from the entire 31 years of the show to come back and host. I realize cast members like Jan Hooks and Molly Shannon and Cheri Oteri didn't become big stars after they left the show, but that's a sad track record nonetheless.

Saturday, September 9, 2006


I don't trust men who constantly refer to their friends as "buddies." You shouldn't either.

Friday, September 8, 2006

"Success has always been the best form of revenge."

Back in April I heard an album by Murs and 9th Wonder called Murray's Revenge. It's the most consistent rap album I've ever heard. Granted, I don't listen to a ton of rap albums, and it helps that Murray's Revenge is only 32 minutes long instead of the usual 70-minutes-plus that many rap albums contain these days. No unfunny skits, no lengthy answering-machine messages (even Common and De La Soul, two of my favorite hip-hop acts, are guilty of these crimes)—just one great song after another, and the album never wears out its welcome.

Murs is from Los Angeles and has been recording since 1993, the year he turned 15 (!), according to All Music Guide, and 9th Wonder is his producer for 2006's Murray's Revenge. I doubt Murs was legally bound to give 9th Wonder second billing on the front of the album alongside his own name, but this is their second album together as performer and producer (the first being 2004's Murs 3:16—The 9th Edition, which obviously hints at its producer's involvement), and maybe Murs wanted to show his appreciation. Whatever the case, the "co-headliner" billing makes sense, because 9th Wonder's production is terrific on this album. He specializes in '70s soul samples (William Bell, Valerie Simpson, and Ben E. King, for example, on Murray's Revenge), and I'm a huge fan of '70s soul, so I have no objections. He deserves a lot of credit for how great the album sounds.

9th Wonder is a member of North Carolina's Little Brother (Phonte and Rapper Big Pooh do the rapping while 9th Wonder produces/DJs). The production on their 2005 album The Minstrel Show is also terrific (9th Wonder samples Michael Franks's "I Really Hope It's You" on "All for You," and the results are pretty damn blissful), but Phonte and Pooh spend too much time complaining about how they don't get enough respect. Thanks, but I already heard that kind of bitching and moaning on De La Soul Is Dead back in 1991. Wasn't entertaining then, isn't entertaining now. Save it for a run-of-the-mill blog entry like I do, fellas.

Murs does some standard rapper boasting, but not about how rich he is because, well, he isn't and he doesn't feel like pretending that he is. Instead he gives us his take on his hometown in "L.A." ("A place that everybody hate but you gotta see once"); working a 9-to-5 job you can't stand to support your kids and simply soldiering on one day at a time, in "Yesterday & Today"; being in a relationship that's going nowhere and yet neither partner wants to face facts, in "Love & Appreciate" ("I put on the weight, you put on the brakes / Now we both sit around with that look on our face"); and idolizing a gang member when you're nine years old because he plays with real guns, not the plastic ones your G.I. Joe figures carry, in "Dreamchaser."

Murray's Revenge also includes "D.S.W.G. (Dark Skinned White Girls)," in which Murs empathizes with those stranded between two worlds ("All the black girls think that she want they man / But it's not your fault they attracted to you / That you blessed and got as much back as you do ... Rejected by the black, not accepted by the white world / This is dedicated to them Dark Skinned White Girls"). Finally, will you be able to resist Valerie Simpson's sampled vocal hook on "Silly Girl" ("Ha ha ha, silly!")? No, you will not. It will sublet space in your brain for months on end.

Well, that's enough of a by-the-numbers review for you. Seek out some tracks on the Hype Machine if they're out there in the blogosphere, or listen to four of the songs on Murs's MySpace page. It was a nice surprise to get to the end of Murray's Revenge and realize, "Hey, every song was good! And Murs's raps held my attention! And the samples were interesting and made me want to seek out the originals! And the whole thing flowed yet every track stood out!" Maybe I'll blast some of it for the construction crew on Monday. "L-dot-A-dot-Californ-I-A hot!"

I'm listening to Aerosmith right now!

But not by choice. See, the window-replacement guy right outside my window is listening to the radio right now, and "Walk This Way" is on. (I genuinely like this song. But I'd rather hear it on my own terms.) Previously I heard "Alive" by Pearl Jam. Thanks for the classic/alternative rock, brah! Wait, now he's changing the station ... now the radio's turned off ... nope, it just went silent for a few seconds ... and now it's on a Spanish-language station ... and he's singing along ... and it's a Spanish polka. I didn't know that genre existed. I'm learning so much today.

One thing I didn't like learning on Wednesday night was that the window-replacement guys would be in my apartment on Friday morning at 7 AM. Last night I moved all of my furniture out of the way of the windows but couldn't get to sleep until after 2 AM, which posed a problem since I had to be awake and out of my apartment by 7. At 7 I waited for a knock on my door, but it never came. Once the window-washing "bucket" finally ascended up the building around 7:45, it went up to the sixth floor. I live on the fifth. Glad I got up at 5:30 for no goddamn reason! At 8:30 the pounding and drilling up above got to be too much, so I left to go to work and sleep there (where there is a couch and it is comfy).

On days when I've been home and the window construction has been taking place, the construction crew is usually done by 3:00. So around 3:45 I left work to come home ... and discovered that my apartment wasn't even touched today. I moved all that furniture for nothing. I woke up at 5:30 for nothing. I didn't go to work for nothing, since I didn't want to hang around here—never mind that I wasn't on the clock this Friday, so I was just hanging out at work and exploiting that comfy couch—but still, my windows weren't replaced today. When I got up to my apartment I found a note under my door saying that my windows will now be replaced on Monday. Which is September 11th. What a great omen!

And today, for some reason, the construction crew was still here at 4:15 when I got home. The guy who loves Spanish polka just finally descended in his bucket at 5:35 after slamming the bucket against the building every ten seconds for ten minutes. Unsolicited Spanish polka music + loud banging noises + window replacement being delayed by three days = salty anger. I think I should take a shower and then listen to some soft rock.

I'm not leaving my apartment at 7 on Monday. Fuuuuuck that. I'm doing my laundry like I always do on Monday morning, and those bastards can work around the folding of my whites and delicates. On Wednesday I was awakened 45 minutes early by one of the construction guys calling another one "motherfucker" and threatening to start a fight. The female member of the crew did her best Edith Bunker impression and yelled "Josh, stop it! Josh!" a few times. I then closed my window—this is all a scam to make us leave our AC window units running all night long, I betcha—and five minutes later heard the motherfuckering and "Josh, stop!" start up again. Other dude, Josh was so close to kicking your ass. You don't even know, dude. You don't even know. Is it possible to have that much adrenaline flowing through your system at 7:15 AM? Maybe Josh had a bad commute. Traffic'll do that to you. But I have a feeling Josh isn't the kind of guy who worries about using his turn signals or driving the speed limit anyway.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

The Atlanta Braves, Pt. 2

Now I'm hearing that the Braves still have a shot at a wild-card slot in the playoffs. But they're still almost 20 games out of first. The whole wild-card thing in baseball the past 11 years reminds me of people in high school who got good grades but never studied. Their brains weren't sponges; they just knew how to beat the system and therefore came out on top with little effort. I never really respected those people. But since I wasted so much time studying in high school and college and still wound up in the job-world wilderness, maybe I should stop respecting myself so much.