Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rock And Roll Hall Of Lame

Rock and Roll Hall of FameThe 2006 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame have been announced and it’s a particularly lackluster year. Correct me if I’m wrong, but none of these bands were a shoo-in on their first year of eligibility like U2 was last year. Bands are eligible for nomination twenty-five years after their first album and some of these artists have been bubbling under the inductee list for nearly a decade. 2003 was a banner year with The Clash, The Police and Elvis Costello all making it in their first time on the ballot. Let’s take a look at this year's list of warmed-over also-rans.

Hitherto, the Sex Pistols have been the most egregious omission from the R&RHoF, but this is a band that is far more influential for their style than for their talent. Which I guess is the point of punk music. Johnny Rotten and the guys only put out one album which is really just three singles and a lot of unlistenable filler. Sid Vicious, punk’s most famous casualty, is only on two of the tracks. On a per album basis, this band has about the best reputation ever.

Blondie bridged the punk and new-wave styles and has the dubious distinction of having the first number one rap single in history. They (and it’s a them, not a her) had a couple of hits like "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass", but they have always stood in the shadows of edgier female-fronted bands like the Pretenders which were inducted last year.

Death is always a good career move for rock stars and a tragic plane crash made Lynyrd Skynyrd the Big Bopper of Southern rock. If Ronnie VanZant had survived, this band would be on the county fair circuit double-billed with 38 Special instead of being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Black Sabbath took Jimmie Page’s fascination with the occult and camped it up into easy shock value for faux-rebellious teens for the past three decades. These guys have been rejected by the Hall eight times and got in this year on sheer perseverance. Hell, Ozzy is now eligible as a solo artist. There needs to be a statute of limitations for induction. If you can’t make it in on five ballots you don’t deserve in.

Miles Davis is the most talent artist of this group, but you have to wonder if the definition of rock is elastic enough to encompass his style of jazz, what doesn’t count as rock? You might as well call it the Hall of Fame for Any Musician Rock Critics Think Is Cool. Oh wait, it already is.

Which leads to an interesting culturally sensitive issue. What happens in a few years when Run-DMC is eligible? They will get inducted, of course. No group in the last twenty-five years has been as influential on all music, rock, hip-hop, and even country, as Rev Run and the gang. Twenty years from now, Eminem, Nellie, and Green Day will all be billed as “rock” legends at the 2025 induction ceremony.

None of my tirade should be construed as a knock on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself. That is a very cool place and almost worth a trip to Cleveland all by itself. It is full of great memorabilia and has neat temporary exhibits. And don’t miss the two part introductory movie. It’s one of the best documentaries on rock music I have ever seen.

I love that rock has its own institution to preserve the history and memories of an electricifying musical style. After all, museums are where we keep all sorts of dead artifacts.

So which of these really deserve to be in and what bands would you replace the undeserving ones with? Here’s a list of previous inductees to help your memory.

Update 3/17/06: The New York Times (registration required) had the best write-up with The Sex Pistols refusing to show and Debbie Harry snubbing her former band mates. This Washington Post article is not as good, but less likely to expire.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sony and DRM Drama

Click here for the full comic with punchline.

When the comic strips are mocking your latest attempt to thwart piracy, you have a huge public relations problem. The latest round of bad news for Sony started when word got out that their CD’s have software on them that automatically loads spyware onto computers before the CD will play. I first read about the outcry in the Washington Post a few weeks ago in this article which was actually a follow-up to this on-line article. Since then the blogosphere has been exploding with anti-Sony screeds. Even Newsweek is on the case.

I first encountered the beginnings of this screw-the-paying-customers corporate philosophy when I bought the new Foo Fighters album and this creepy little sticker was on the cover:

In even finer print on the back of the CD was a legalese disclaimer in white type on a yellow background and about 1.5 points tall that essentially says that I am not buying a CD in the traditional sense but a CD-ROM that just happens to be playable in CD players. Since it is not a true CD I am now bound by the “software license” governing the CD-ROM. Since the disk is for sale in the music section, not the software aisle, this is a distinction that only the cross between a marketing weasel and a slithering lawyer could love. Besides, how bad can it be, right? As I would find out, pretty bad, bordering on nightmarish.

When I put the CD in my computer was when the real fun began. Up popped some screen with an Accept/Decline button. I hate the little software that comes with CD’s that connect you to their corporate run fan site and stuff, so I clicked “Decline”. The CD then ejected. We danced that minuet three times before it wore me down. I pushed it back in, hit “Accept” and let it do it’s dirty business to my hard drive and a new window came up with a “Play” button. I ignored it and went to Windows Media Player to rip the CD like I always do.

The ripped files sounded like crap. The CD also sounded bad when played by iTunes or WinAmp. They had all sorts of pops and buzzes that weren’t there when played by WMP. I go to the website from the play screen help button and it explains about the encoding for piracy prevention. It also helpfully says that there is a button on the menu for transferring the songs without the noise onto my computer. I give that a try.

With over 300 legally purchased CD’s on my computer I am fairly anal-rententive (that's hyphenated, right?) about the file naming system. I have a dedicated shared network drive for my music and all new CD’s get ripped following this naming system:


That way I know where to find it when I am looking for something specific. I also rip my files at 192 kbps under the notion that someday I may want the extra quality.

The Sony software copies (not rips) a group of files to this location:

C:/Username/My Music/SongTitle.wma

No separate directory by artist. No clue who the artist even is from the file name.

These files are 128 kbps Windows Media files that have all sorts of Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions built in. The very unhelpful FAQ on the Sony website says that if I want to easily transfer my songs to my iPod I should e-mail Apple and tell them to get with the program and support their DRM system instead of Apple’s. They even supply a link to do this. No link to Sony so that I can tell them they are being very cruel to their quickly dwindling customer base that actually buys music on a CD from a store. I don’t think they want to hear that.

Finally, after more Googling, the Dave Matthews Band website, of all places, explains that to get around this I should just burn the WMA files onto a CD using Window Media Player and then rip the songs from that disc to my hard drive and the files will be DRM-free. Which means I have to coaster a CD-R and re-rip files that have been uncompressed from 128 kbps just to listen to them on my iPod. It took nearly two hours for me to climb this learning curve about what it means to be a Sony/BMG customer in this day and age. According to them, I have no Fair Use rights to put music I have bought on devices I own without their permission.

This rant is reaching the limits of people’s attention span, but I think I have some insight into what big picture game Sony thinks it is playing. I will post that complete with spy photos in the very near future.

Update: "Spy photos" post is here.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Broadway Celebrity Sightings

My post about stalking Angelina Jolie coming out of her Tomb Raider II premiere is one of my most popular ever. But I stalk other celebrities even if they aren’t incredibly hot. Ever since we figured out that New York was only a four hour drive from Baltimore (which took us nearly five years to do; we’re a little slow on the uptake) we have been going to New York a couple of times a year to see Broadway show, visit museums, eat gourmet meals, and so on.

The key to stalking celebrities is to know where they are. When they’re in a Broadway show you know exactly where they are, inside a theater. Eventually, they have to go someplace else to eat or sleep or something. That's when you have a chance to see them. That is also why all the stage doors in New York have portable barriers and rent-a-cops to protect the actors as they leave.

We had tickets this weekend to the completely sold out run of The Odd Couple starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Not good tickets mind you, but tickets nonetheless. After the show, we had to rest a few places for oxygen as it took us a long while to readjust to the thicker air down in the lobby. We arrived just in time to see Nathan Lane and Olivia D’Abo sneaking off with a bucket of money they had gotten “donated” to some charity or another. I called Nathan over and slipped him a Lincoln, but he disappeared backstage before my wife could get the camera ready.

We then joined an unruly mob at the backstage door, but after about 15 minutes the security guard told the crowd that the actors were staying backstage between the matinee and the evening show. The fans dispersed and we went on our way.

John LithgowThat evening we saw the new Andrew Lloyd Weber show The Woman In White and were wandering back to our hotel when we stepped around another throng of people. My wife asked, “Isn’t that the guy from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels that won the Tony?” I went back and sure enough it was Norbert Leo Butz, but by the time I had gotten the camera out, he had disappeared.

Since the crowd stuck around, I waited and soon thereafter walked out John Lithgow, who graciously signed programs and waved to the crowd as he tried to navigate the fifteen feet between the stage door and his limo. As the picture shows he was gracious and pleasant with his stalkers fans. In appreciation and out of curiousity, I tried the next day to get discount tickets to his show at TKTS to no avail, so this snapshot will have to make due for now.

So am I the only one that revels in these brief brushes with fame? What celebrities have you run across and how? Enquiring minds want to know.

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Thursday, November 24, 2005

Giving Thanks

The Washington Post Magazine has a heart-wrenching story about a Vietnamese family that was separated at the end of the war and reunited only to have their home destroyed by Katrina. While this is just one of the innumerable tragedies this year’s natural disasters have caused, the story of the divided family struck home.

My wife was born in Vietnam. Her childhood memories of Vietnam are dim and scattered. She remembers things like the smell of soup being sold on street corners and her grandmother’s funeral. She remembers various places she lived and pets she had, but was unaware of the war around her. These are things a small child doesn’t have the life experience to put into perspective.

When she was just an infant, her parents divorced and her natural father got custody of her two older sisters. She remained with her mother who remarried to an American officer. The three of them moved to the U.S. in 1972 well ahead of the “reunification” of Vietnam which would bring many more fellow countrymen to America. My wife entered the public school system as a second-grader and quickly caught up with her native-born classmates. I met her in high school and we eventually married.

In the mid-eighties, the middle sister wished to move to the United States. My wife's step-father never knew of the older sisters but gladly did all he could to reunite his wife with her lost daughter. This took years of paperwork and probably a good bit of bribery, but she eventually made it to America. Once in America, she took English language classes where she met a Cuban “Marielito”. They married and now have a teenaged daughter who is tri-cultural.

The eldest sister remained in Vietnam. We knew little of her except for the reports my mother-in-law would make from the annual trips back to Vietnam she had been making ever since travel to Vietnam was allowed to US citizens. We knew that if we were to ever meet my wife's other sister we would have to go to Vietnam.

This summer my family figured this was our best chance to visit Vietnam before the demands of our son's education made such a trip logistically impossible. We had several goals. We wanted to freshen my wife’s vague childhood memories. We wanted to see how the country has adjusted to thirty years of communist rule. We wanted to expose our son to his cultural heritage. And of course we wanted to meet the last remaining member of my wife’s family in Vietnam.

Her sister speaks four languages, Vietnamese, French, English, and Russian. She and her boyfriend live in a four story rowhouse in Saigon that has more rooms that they need but is clean and spartan. Their life has not always been easy and there are many things about the past they are reluctant to discuss. They are now living a solid middle-class life in a country that is rapidly embracing a market economy while still in a single party political system.

It is difficult to make bonds between family members that have spent over forty years apart. They may share blood, but their lives could not have been more different. My wife will never be close to her sisters, but she is happy to know them and share some small connection.

My wife and I often talk about the strange twists of fate that take people all sorts of directions. Any small change along the way and my wife and I would never met. We were born two hours and a half a world apart. We met when I transferred into her high school English class and the only available seat was next to her.

This week Americans spend time with their family in thanks for their many blessings. Sometimes we are not even aware of how much we are blessed we are until we ponder the way things could have been different. The wondrful family my wife and I have forged together would never have happened if not for an innumerable number of events that had to occur the way they did to bring us together. For each of them I am giving thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Pies Are Baked

Blanche DuBois always relied on the kindness of strangers. I count on the generosity of relatives. When I was in college and my parents snuck off to Italy, I went to my Grandmother’s house in Alabama for Thanksgiving. When we were first married, we moved back to our home town and ate at the in-laws. The one Thanksgiving we have ever actually held at our house was when my parents visited us in West Palm Beach on their way to Key West.

Ever since we moved to Maryland, we have gone to whatever relative within driving distance was having a Thanksgiving dinner. And I consider Boston within driving distance of Baltimore. Lately we have been going to my aunt and uncle who have a weekend house about 60 miles from us. These are the same relatives that have the very cute grand-daughter.

In order to not appear as a complete freeloader, I bring pies. Last night I baked an apple pie, two chocolate pies, and two pumpkin pies. My son helped with the chocolate pies since he is the choco-holic of the family. He also sliced the apples for the apple pie.

The pumpkin pies are my specialty. I make my pumpkin pie filling from scratch. When we carve jack-o’-lanterns for Halloween, I save the scrapings and use it for pumpkin meat. I take all the scraped meat and cook it down in a crockpot for 8-12 hours and then completely drain it. I then freeze the cooked pumpkin in quart sized Chinese soup containers until Thanksgiving. Real pumpkin makes for a coarser richer pie than canned, but I like the texture better and the pies aren’t as sickeningly sweet as store bought pies.

This year my son had no desire to carve a jack-o’-lantern, so I was worried that I would have to resort to canned pumpkin for the first time. Fortunately, a coworker took pity on me and gave me his leftover painted pumpkins. I don’t know when painting pumpkins became the cruelty-free politically-correct alternative to carving pumpkins but I am grateful.

When all was said and done I ended up with four quarts of pumpkin, twice as much as I usually get since I could slice these painted pumpkins to the skin. I may have to cook a few pies for the office and my coworker just to get it off my hands.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it is a completely secular but richly spiritual holiday. There are no decorations or gifts to buy. Just food and family. I hope everyone enjoys a safe and happy holiday.

And I actually googled this quiz instead of running across it. Does it tell you what pie you are?

find your inner PIE @

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Go Jackets!

Updated (5/27/2008): The University Barbie image I used to link to has gone 404, so I've substituted a picture of my actual Barbie.

The Georgia Tech football team pulled off an upset victory over number 3 ranked Miami last night. I know this because I accidentally tuned into ESPN with 1:40 left in the game just after Georgia Tech intercepted a pass that crushed Miami’s comeback hopes. This victory came as the good news in an otherwise bad week for Tech athletics. The NCAA imposed two years of sanctions over the academic eligibility of 17 athletes including 11 football players during a six year period. This link has the official GT press release on the issue. Also, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports on a football player under indictment for conspiracy to distribute marijuana who won a court order to be returned to the team.

These latest events have been tarnishing Georgia Tech’s otherwise sterling reputation for academic integrity. A few years back at a meet-and-greet event with the women’s basketball team, they were asked what they found most unexpected about playing at Tech and they said the academic rigor. Georgia Tech has no “jock” majors. Industrial Management is about as wimpy as it gets and many athletes attend because they do want an engineering oriented education.

In some ways, I would appear to be a superfan. I drive a white Camry with gold trim in the school colors. I have the state affinity tags for Georgia Tech. In my cubicle at work I have a mint-in-the-box University Cheerleader Barbie™. Being a fan of Georgia Tech sports requires a certain amount of distance because the system is capable of producing national championship football teams and Final Four basketball seasons. Other years, the performance can be completely dismal. During my years at Georgia Tech, we lost to Furman and the Citadel.

Ups and downs in the athletic program do not affect my devotion to my alma mater which is one of the finest engineering colleges in the country and an incredible bargain as a quality state run university. As an alumnus, I work with the local alumni chapter to recruit students and award scholarships. The Presidential Scholarship Program is open to all students that apply by the end of October in their senior year of high school.

Georgia Tech is not for everyone. If you do not have a strong background in math and science, you are better off somewhere else. Nearly everyone takes some level of calculus no matter what the major. The school heavily recruits strong female students and the “ratio” has plateaued at about a 70/30 male/female ratio. I’ll save you the rest of my recruiting pitch, but give it a thought if you are or know of prospective students.

So the yellojkt is a Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech and a helluva engineer. And while I do not gnash my teeth over the travails of the “student-athletes”, I have one sentiment that unites all Yellow Jackets, past and present:


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Friday, November 18, 2005

How Big Is Yours?

We would all love to see our coworkers paycheck, or know what the new neighbor paid for his house, or even take a quick glance while in the gym shower to make sure our lovers aren’t lying when they tell us its perfectly average. Maybe the last one is just me. Regardless, our curiosity and need to compare with others has led to many things including vulgar metaphors (NSFW).

This little piece of self promotion is making the circuit as a meme. I have even seen it in people’s sidebars as a permanent feature. The appeal is obvious. We get to see how big our blog is against everybody else’s. Naturally I couldn’t resist the tempatation.

My blog is worth $27,955,818,547.90.
How much is your blog worth?

Oops, I must have that number swapped with the value of my Microsoft stock portfolio. I went to the link to Tristan Louis's research and read all the fine print. Basically the dollar value the website gives your blog is the tongue in cheek extrapolation of the value of a particularly idiotic internet deal involving AOL (is there any other kind?) where they paid a lot of money to get a few big name blogs under their corporate umbrella. Yahoo is also out there gobbling up popular blogs.

Anyways, here’s where the little demon on our shoulder becomes too loud to ignore. The site works for anyone’s blog, not just yours. Who can’t resist going down their blogroll and checking out who you’ve got beat. Or who inexplicably is “worth” way more than you. Here are the results from some blogs I visit on a regular basis.

trusty getto: $15,807.12
Dad Gone Mad: $112,343.46
Michele: $363,567.76
Achenblog: $1,253,278.80
Wonkette: $2,482,846,12
Me (for real): $20,887.98

Don't quit your day job, trusty. I pick on trusty because he is a good sport and his blog is very typical of the private blogger that is read by friends and family and random strangers that stumble onto the site. The dirty secret is that the “value” is based on your Technorati score which in turn is based largely on the number of incoming links you have. Linkwhores and commercial sites are going to do way better than the average blogger.

The take away message is to blog because you want to, not because of some arbitrary useless number. In the words of Bucky Katt, which would also apply to bloggers, “No one gets paid for being a poemer.” I blog for the challenge and the internal reward of organizing and expressing my opinions. If people appreciate my work, so much the better, but some silly webscript can’t measure the value of that.

Now that I have made my sanctimonious rationalization, what ARE you worth?

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Jazz and Jackets

I complained a few days ago about the work involved in being a band parent. It also has its rewards. For Band class, my son is required to go to two concerts a year and write reports and the U2 concerts we drag him to don’t count. A rival local high school hosts a Maynard Ferguson concert each year, so we bought tickets and went. The show warmed up with the really superb high school jazz ensemble and then some solo work by members of Maynard’s band, the Big Bop Nouveau Band.

After a break, Maynard himself joined the band for several very high energy jazz numbers. MF’s contribution seemed to be that after every member of his young talented band took a solo, he would bleat about 10 notes of his trademark ultra high notes to end the number. Not bad for a guy pushing eighty.

The show ended with all hands on stage including the high school group doing Maynard’s rendition of "Gonna Fly Now (Theme From Rocky)" to send everybody home humming.

Now here is where my peeve/rant begins. The definition of Jazz has been stretched beyond all traditional meanings of the form. While Maynard has a right to record pop hits in the jazz idiom, he is doing a disservice to his young audience by blurring the line so fuzzily.

The local "Oldies" station recently switched formats from mostly late fifties and early sixties pop to “Smooth Jazz”. This station’s definition of jazz includes such legends of the form as Marvin Gaye and Hall & Oates. I saw Daryl Hall and John Oates (as they prefer to be called to avoid the “Haulin’ Ass” pun) at the peak of their pop cheesiness in 1984 and I guarantee you no one in the Charlotte Arena thought they were at a jazz recital.

I like jazz but don’t have a lot of it because it all sounds pretty much the same to my tin ear. I don't know why jazz artists insist on giving their instrumentals titles since that is no help in telling them apart. I own two jazz albums, Pat Methany’s Still Life (Talking) because I love the Publix jingle "Last Train Home" on it and The Best of Yellowjackets. I have the Yellowjackets album because I kept getting asked in music web forums if I was a fan. I am now, but I was led to them by my nom de web yellojkt, not the other way around.

And I promise that this is the last red herring concerning the origin of yellojkt. The next time I discuss it, I will reveal once and for all the very anti-climactic reason for this obscure handle. Hint: I need a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds next week.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Death Watch For Kitchen Confidential

If you tune into Fox Monday night to see Kitchen Confidential, you are going to be disappointed and you only have me to blame. Despite the on-air promo last week and earlier reports, Fox has decided that repeats of Prison Break are a better sweeps month bet than new episodes of Arrested Development and Kitchen Confidential. According to the official KC website, new episodes will return December 5 in time for people to ignore it through the holiday season.

In my house it is an article of faith that any quirky, offbeat, critically praised, well-written show I take an interest in is doomed. As soon as I mention a show I want to try out, my wife should write the cast telling them to not make any big credit purchases. It is like TV executives have a secret sensor on my VCR they use as some sort of reverse Nielsen meter.

Kitchen Confidential is extremely loosely based on the memoir of the same name by Anthony Bourdain about his days as a sex-crazed, heroin-addicted, top New York chef. Already, this has laff-riot written all over it. I loved the book as well as Bourdain’s Food Network travel show, A Cook's Tour, where he traveled to exotic places to eat bizarre food. My favorite episode is when he went to Vietnam to eat a live beating cobra heart. Reality TV doesn’t get any realer than that.

For the TV show, they have changed the character’s name from Anthony to Jack and put his wilder substance abusing days behind him. Kind of like Sam Malone with a chef’s knife. Jack is played by Bradley Cooper who is most famous as the only non-ass-kicking character on Alias. He has the Jack Bourdain character pegged as a guy who knows the dangers of his lifestyle but still likes the heat of the kitchen.

The supporting cast is full of “types” including some stereotypes: Blond Bimbo, Snarky Gay Waiter, Bitchy Boss’s Daughter. The best is Jack’s sous-chef Steve played by British actor Owain Yeoman who is not nearly as repentant and reformed as Jack. Also showing promise is Freaks and Geeks alum John Francis Daley as the impressionable hero-worshipping wet-behind-the-ears cooking school dweeb.

The show is filmed single camera for a you-are-there effect and there seems to have been great care taken to get the lingo and feel of a top New York restaurant down. I can’t vouch for behind the kitchen door, but my dining experiences don’t contradict the overall verisimilitude.

Getting bumped out of sweeps is never a good sign, particularly for shows that need some time slot continuity to build an audience. Meanwhile crap like The War At Home and Out of Practice (don’t get me started on the paycheck-cashing, talent-wasting, phoned-in performances of both Stockard Channing AND Henry Winkler) is still on the air.

Catch Kitchen Confidential while you still can and enjoy a funny, edgy, well-written comedy before the guardians of the lowest common denominator throw it out in the alley like yesterday's fish special.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Marching Orders

You never quite know where life is going to lead us, but the one role in life I never thought I would have is Band Parent. When I started my family, I knew I would be dragged into all sorts of activities. I believe in being involved with my son’s activities. Heck, I spent four years as a Cub Scout Assistant Den Leader, which is the lowest rank you can have in Scouting and still get to wear the spiffy uniform. I just never thought I would be involved in a marching band.

In high school I knew lots of band geeks and even dated a few musicians. I, however, have no musical talent whatsoever. I get banned from humming at work. The threat of karaoke night draws laughs and veiled threats from my family.

I love music. I appreciate musical talent. I just have none of my own, so my son didn’t get any from me. My wife is the only Asian I know that has never been forced to learn an instrument, so any latent ability in her is undiscovered. Musical talent was the last thing we expected to find in any mixture of our collective DNA.

We thought elementary school band would be a good way to round out our son’s scholastic experience. For those unfamiliar with the genre, elementary school bands sound like kids throwing rocks at very sick cats that have been tied up in large burlap bags. They usually sound better tuning their instruments than actually playing them. Still we went to the concerts and even have a few performances on videotape just in case any of the other kids ever become famous pop stars and E! needs embarrassing footage for a Behind The Music rip-off.

In middle school we started paying for weekly private lessons with a teacher that unbeknownst to us had a really good jazz band on the side and had former students go on to become professional recording artists. We feel like we’re paying Lance Armstrong to teach our kid to ride a tricycle.

Two years ago we showed up for parent night for the high school band and foolishly volunteered to help out moving equipment. Now we chaperone trips, put plumes in hats, sell all sorts of crap, and generally write off every weekend between August and November. Here is what the past few days have entailed:

Thursday: Pick him up from the twice weekly 6 to 9 band practice.

Friday: Attend football game. Push percussion equipment on and off the field at half time. Go to Bennigans after the game because they donate 15% of our sales to the band.

Saturday: Take him to another special practice and then load all the equipment into a rental truck.

Sunday: Wake up at 5:30 am so we can get him down to the school for a 2-1/2 hour bus ride to a competition. We carpool with another band parent to the competition so I can drive the lawn tractor that tows the percussion equipment on and off the field. We return home after 8 pm that night.

Monday: Band Booster meeting: Time to start planning the Spring trip to Orlando.

Tuesday: Set up the school cafeteria for the end of the season pot-luck dinner. Ate lukewarm lasagna and KFC chicken while listening to the students give each other awards like Loudest Belcher and Biggest Wedgie.

Now that marching band season is over, my son is rehearsing every night this week as part of the band for a community theater musical. He is also thinking of joining the afterschool jazz band and the indoor drumline. I don’t know what those entail, but I’m sure it affects my Shell card.

I love that he is involved in something that is only about the fourth dorkiest thing you can do in high school, but I just try to keep some ironic detachment about my own complicity in all this.

I know I am getting no sympathy from the Bloggin’ Moms (and Dads) out there with three kids who each have four activities. One kid with one activity would be their idea of heaven, but a golf shirt with a school logo on the front and “Pit Crew” stitched on the sleeve is definitely not anything I ever imagined in my wardrobe.

So go ahead and top this and tell me what part of your life is a completely random non-sequitor for where you thought you would be?

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The 24 Hour Meme

Blond Girl loves memes so much she has even invented her own. You have to come up with something for every different hour of the day. Like you’re Jack Bauer saving the world or something. A good meme is tough to invent, so we’ll see if this one catches on or if it is just too hard. I had a difficult time coming up with stuff for every hour. For some reason nothing significant happens at 3 in my life.

12:00 Midnight: My son’s unofficial weekend curfew. Not really an issue yet. A few more years until he can drive.

1:00 am:
This is when Saturday Night Live is over, so it’s the latest I ever stay up and I usually don’t make much past Weekend Update. I stay awake for Tina Fey.

2:00 am:
The summer after high school and before college, I worked the closing shift at Wendy’s. I would get home late and listen to the late night punk rock show on Tampa’s public community station WMNF.

3:00 am:
Nothing exciting in my life has ever happened at this hour.

4:00 am: My dog wakes up a little after 5, so when Daylight Saving Time ends, he wakes up at 4 instead.

5:00 am: Time to walk the dog. If he wakes me up early enough, I can surf for a few minutes before having to shower.

6:00 am:
I have exactly one hour to shower, dress, eat, read the paper, and leave the house to drive my son to school.

7:00 am: The time I was born. My wife was born at 10 pm on the other side of the world, so I am still 2 hours older than her.

8:00 am: Work starts at 8:15. Which doesn’t make sense until you get to the noon entry.

9:00 am: The latest I like to go for my Saturday morning bike ride. Any later and it takes up too much of the family time part of the day

10:00 am: The time my wedding was supposed to start, but was 10 minutes late because my relatives hadn’t finished brunch yet. My wife will never let me live that one down.

11:00 am: Completely stumped. Can’t think of anything special.

12:00 noon: Lunch time. I get 45 minutes for lunch which is not enough time to go out to eat, so I sit at my desk and surf blogs.

1:00 pm:
About when I can get my family out of the house on the weekend if we have something to do.

2:00 pm: A good time for a nap on the weekend if I don’t have anything to do.

3:00 pm: Just like 3 am.

4:00 pm: I just learned what 4:20 means awhile ago. Not that it matters to me. I was just confused by the bumper stickers and stuff.

5:00 pm: Whistle blows. Yabba Dabba Doo. Slide down the dinosaur and start running home.

6:00 pm:
When I actually leave the office. It helps with the traffic and I get more done when the phone quits ringing.

7:00 pm: Dinner time. Assuming there’s no band practice or show rehearsal or study group. Home cooked meals maybe three times a week.

8:00 pm: Anytime after 8 I can give the dog his last walk of the day. Any sooner and he won’t sleep all night.

9:00 pm: The time my son was born. He has never been asleep before 9 in his life.

10:00 pm: My son’s nominal bedtime. This is when the yelling starts. It usually ends about 10:30

11:00 pm:
I had better be asleep by now or I will be uselessly tired the next day.

And you have to tag people for a meme to spread and my memory is pretty bad, so I'm tagging Keb, Twisted Cinderella, mean girl, and lucinda. Give it a shot guys. As always no obligations, no recriminations.

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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Hottest. Columnist. Ever.

I am one of probably a fairly small sick group of fetishists that watch Sunday morning political talk shows for the eye candy. I find brainy women talking about politics very sexy. Cokie Roberts is not only smart and well-connected, she is firmly in the Grandmother Division of the MILF Hall of Fame. Her salt and pepper well-sculpted hairdo tells me she can bake me cookies any time. I pray for Supreme Court controversies because they give Nina Totenberg more air time, adding new meaning to legal affairs. Mara Liasson makes Fox News Sunday bearable. I wait all year for Ellen Goodman’s Equal Rites Awards. But none compare to Maureen Dowd who is the crème-de-la-crème of female punditry.

Maureen Dowd is a particularly fascinating columnist, not just because she is the only regular New York Times Op/Ed inhabitant without a Y-chromosome, but also for the rabid, drooling, mouth-breathing fan base she has developed. Google “Maureen Dowd is hot” and you get 90 hits. “Eleanor Clift is hot” did not match any documents.

The Washington Post Style section has an astoundingly long puff piece by Howard Kurtz on MoDo (as internet shorthand refers to her) and her new book, Are Men Necessary?. New York Magazine has an even longer more fawning article. And these are her competitors. Wonkette calls the media orgy over her a "mogasm".

So what makes Maureen such an object of desire? It can’t be just looks. Although at 53, she gives Rene Russo a run for her money in the well-preserved category. She is famously single and has been at different times connected to Michael Douglas, “West Wing” genius and mushroom aficionado Aaron Sorkin, and new NYT stablemate John Tierney. Her red hair is the taking off point for many a descriptive metaphor for her fiery snarky prose.

If power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, being the New York Times premier female columnist just reeks of pheromones. She took over the Anna Quindlen Endowed Chair Of Female Commentary in 1995, just in time for the Clinton-Lewinsky media feeding frenzy where she got to play both directions by condemning Clinton’s crimes against decency AND the conservative war against him. Right wing blow-hards and ideologues have made her the columnist they love to hate. And her most recent smackdown of Judith Miller firmly establishes her as the Queen Bee of the Gray Lady.

But the brain is the most important erogenous zone. Both critics and fans cite her prose as being exceptionally crisp and frequently acid-tinged. Her pop-culture references are sharp and creative. She stays just this side of the ad hominem precipice that Ann Coulter has thrown herself down. She is disingenuously dismissive of her skill as a columnist and borders on Katherine Hepburn-esque reclusiveness when she doesn’t have a book to flog. She keeps her Sunday morning appearance infrequent enough to not wear out her welcome. All of this adds to this image of the valedictorian hottie that sits home on prom night because everyone is too nervous to ask her out.

The recent move of her column behind the NYT Select VIP room red rope and her conspicuous silence on the move has only enhanced her rock star appeal. The Post’s Joel Achenbach had a hilarious blog post about people furtively meeting to pass along bootleg copies of her column to the cold turkey addicts that need their hit of MoDo.

The two photos the Post published prove that Maureen is hotter fully clothed than anything Esquire had of the half-naked Jessica Biel, the current Sexiest Woman Alive poseur. The second photo unfortunately is not available on the Post website, so I am flirting with cyber-stalkerdom (not that I haven’t been there before) by scanning and cropping it here. The thoughts I get imagining myself in a book-lined room with Maureen Dowd leaning across a chessboard about to capture my rook are so wrong I should go take a very cold shower and scrub myself with a steel wool falafel loofah.

Forgive me, Maureen. I’m happily married and can’t possibly be the man you deserve, so I will quietly step aside. I just ask that you find in your heart the pity to e-mail me your new columns so I don’t have to scrounge through the recycling bin at Starbucks any more. They're starting to get suspicious that I'm there for more than the over-priced highly-caffeinated milkshakes.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Hank Pym - The Yellowjacket

On the Comics Curmudgeon site one day, another frequent poster there noticed my yellojkt signature and was honored to be in the presence of the one and only Hank Pym. I had never heard of Hank Pym and went googling to find that Hank was among other things a Marvel superhero named Yellowjacket. He also goes by Ant-Man, Giant-Man, Goliath or even sans alter ego. Scott Tipton has an enormously entertaining and obsessively detailed history of Yellowjacket and his other identities here. Heck, Yellowjacket even has his own Wikipedia entry.

I read a lot of comics when I was a kid. My parents would stop at a convenience store and I would beg for a superhero comic, but they would only let me get the Scrooge McDuck type Disney comics. Finally, when I was in first grade, I went to the Seven-Eleven and bought a Superman (issue #242 if my web source is correct). I went to a vacant lot and read it three times before I snuck it into the house. I was hooked.

The problem was that I became a fan of DC comics which included great heroes like Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and more, but that in the early seventies all the comics buzz was at Marvel which had Spiderman, The (Uncanny) X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Hulk, and the Avengers.

I saw the Avengers as a cheap rip-off of the much more prestigious Justice Leage of America over at DC. Hawkeye was a poor man's Green Arrow. Tony Stark was Bruce Wayne with a bad ticker. Scarlett Witch was nowhere near as sexy as Black Canary. And so on.

Yellowjacket was an Avenger. One whose career ended in disgrace in a long convoluted soap-opera-ish story arc that is the trademark of Marvel comics. My comic company snobbery had blinded me to the existence of my future namesake. I had long adopted the yellojkt persona well before I knew there was a superhero of the same name.

After I graduated from college, my mom gave me the "Clean out the closet" ultimatum and my comic collection got liquidated. They were in terrible shape since an eight year old knows nothing about acid free backer paper and clear covers. None of them were particularly collectible anyway.

I haven't bought a comic book since I tried to cash in on the "new" Superman craze several years ago. The "Marvelization" of comics is complete. All the superheroes have incredibly complicated storylines that are impossible to follow if you aren't showing up at your local comics store every Wednesday for the new releases.

I still read them when I am killing time at the mall in Waldenbooks Borders Express. Their selection of comic books is thin and disorganized. Meanwhile, my teenage son and his peers are crowding the manga aisle to read translations of black and white Japanese comics from back to front. If I were a comic publisher I would fear the losing of a generation to anime and manga. I am one of the last of a generation that read comics from when they could read.

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