Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Coolest Concert Ever

Anyone want to go to London in a few weeks?


Multiple Live Aid-Style Shows Announced

AP - London) London's Hyde Park, Circus Maximus in Rome and the Museum of Art in Philadelphia are among the venues for Live 8, a series of concerts being organized by Bob Geldof, the driving force behind the 1985 Band Aid and Live Aid campaigns for African famine relief.

The July 2 concerts, which will be free, also will be held near the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and in Paris.

"We don't want people's money. We want them," Geldof told a news conference Tuesday. He said negotiations for the Paris venue were continuing.

Performers will include Coldplay, Madonna, Paul McCartney, R.E.M. and U2 in London; Will Smith, Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder and P. Diddy in Philadelphia; Crosby, Stills and Nash, Lauryn Hill and Brian Wilson in Berlin; Jamiroquai, Youssou N'Dour, Yannick Noah and Placebo in Paris; and Duran Duran in Rome.

The events are aimed at raising awareness of poverty in developing countries just days before G8 leaders meet in Britain.

Geldof said the G8 meeting provided a "unique opportunity for Britain to do something unparalleled in the world ... to tilt the world a little bit on its axis in favor of the poor."


U2, R.E.M. and Paul McCartney? Performing at the same show? I'm so there.

Too bad airfare is over $1000. Looks like I'll be buying the DVD instead. I already have the other one, so at least I'll be able to complete the set. Not to mention have a great way to see Bono both with a mullet (in '85) and without.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Card Frustration

My niece's second birthday was yesterday. Being the wonderful uncle that I am, I waited until today to buy her a card. (I'm not a total bastard; I called her last night and her presents have been at her house since I visited in April.) I had the perfect one picked out: the inside was an empty street that you populated with stickers it provided for you. It was even written for two year-olds, so I knew it would work. But then I read the fine print. It was a Happy Birthday BOY card. See, because two year-old girls don't like to play with car stickers.

I tried to find the female equivalent because Bianca likes stickers - I know this because when I visited she spent about ten minutes plastering me with Mickey Mouse stickers, all of which I kept (hey, it was cute and she was saying things like "sticker for Uncle Marcus") - but none of the other cards had them.

I briefly considered a Clifford the Big Red Dog card, but it was about two feet tall and probably would have cost $20 to mail.

I looked at the "Happy Birthday Niece" cards, but they were either covered in glitter or had sappy poetry on the inside. Most of them had both.

Then I concentrated on the general kid birthday cards. First off, any card with the phrase "___ rocks" or "___ is awesome" were ruled out. I use those phrases entirely too much and don't want to pass it down to the next generation. Second, any card that was My Little Ponied or Care Beared to death was gone. Third, any card with knock-off cartoon characters was eliminated. (Like the Jelly Babies, rounder and slightly more bizarre looking versions of Teletubbies.)

That left about five cards. One was nothing more than a birthday cake surrounded by every single Sesame Street character known to man. But it was missing those "Yip- Yip-Yip-Phone" guys, so I boycotted that one. Another was Dora the Explorer wishing me a Happy Birthday in Spanish. This made me feel inadequate because I can't speak Spanish, so I skipped it as well. Eventually I went with a cute little animal asking for a birthday hug. Bianca likes hugs. Plus the animal is raised and bounces around the card, which gives it a cool effect. It will be in the mail tomorrow morning, so she should have it by Wednesday. (Damn you Memorial Day!!!) I'll only be late by a week.

Oh, and I also bought myself a present: The new Wallflowers CD. What I've heard so far is pretty good...

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I Love a Parade

I've just signed up to lead the Book Cart Drill Team again.

The Book Cart Drill Team is the library's annual entry in the July 4th Carmelfest parade. Basically it entails people pushing book carts down the road while occasionally being forced by their leader - me - to do a few simple routines. This will be the fourth year I've lead the team. The first was a lot of fun because a lot of my friends did it and we had a blast. The second a lot of my friends returned, but it was 1000 degrees outside and we all nearly died of heatstroke. The third year was even less fun because after the heatwave the previous year, no one wanted to do it again forcing us to enlist a bunch of teen volunteers to fill their spots. I didn't even know who these kids were, and they didn't take too well to me making them do routines. Plus it looked kind of weird, me out there telling a bunch of teenagers to spin their carts in a circle. This year, though, I'm hoping the bad memories of the heat have been wiped from the minds of my co-workers and they'll want to do it again.

At least last time I got to meet Cowboy Bob. Well, I didn't really meet him. He was in a convertible driving to his spot in the parade and was stopped right by our staging area. I started screaming at him like some idiot, "Cowboy Bob! Cowboy Bob! Where's Tumbleweed?" He smiled and waved, although inside I'm sure he was saying, "That dumb bastard. Like I haven't heard that one before."

(For those of you not in the know, Cowboy Bob was a local Indianapolis celebrity in the 70's and 80's who used to introduce cartoons in the afternoon. He had a dog named Tumbleweed. He also occasionally had this creepy hand puppet that would come out and give safety tips to kids. I never heard what the hand was saying because I was too terrified.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Tom

During dinner last night I was reading The Indianapolis Star when I came to the obituaries. Even though I know there's a very slim chance I'll recognize anyone listed, I usually scan the names anyway just to make sure. 99.9% of the time I read them, shrug and flip the page to the weather. Last night, unfortunately, I recognized someone.

A former co-worker from Kroger has passed away. I worked with Tom for four years, from 1992-1996, in the video department. We were both "Original Cast Members" - as we referred to ourselves, since we were there when the store opened - of the department. I started and ended my Kroger career in Noblesville. Tom already had four years under his belt working at the Castleton store before he transferred to good old Kroger J-957. He was still working there when he died, which means he spent 17 years working for "those idiots", as he liked to call anyone in management.

Tom was 77, so he was in his mid-to-late 60's when I worked with him. He was the perfect curmudgeon; complaining should have been listed as a Special Skill on his resume. But even though he spent a lot of time shaking his head no while saying "I'm not gonna do it," he did enjoy working with the majority of us and was a favorite with our customers thanks to his good humor and solid recommendations. ("Oh, that movie is nothing but junk. You gotta put that back.") He could also operate a computer with the best of them, and at his age we "young kids" were amazed at his abilities. Especially when he successfully resurrected our main computer after it died one afternoon and none of us could figure out why.

When I played the sheep in Charlotte's Web, I thought of Tom. They had a lot in common: both were surly, both were the elders of the barnyard (Tom's barnyard being the Kroger video department) and both enjoyed being part of an extended family even though neither of them would openly admit it. By the time we did the show the character had morphed into something decidedly non-Tom like, yet I still thought of the sheep as him. I don't think he would have been offended if he knew he was the basis for a barnyard animal. More than likely he would have loved the idea.

Tom and I had always talked about going out for a beer but we never did. Time got in the way and, after I left, I hardly ever set foot in the store. I believe the last time I saw him was in 1998 when I stopped by there unexpectedly on my way through Noblesville one afternoon. We talked for about an hour about how "those idiots" were making it impossible for him to work there and how he should just walk out and give it all up now. He knew these threats were transparent and that more than likely he would work for Kroger until he died. And he did.

R.I.P. Tom. Kroger will never be the same without you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Updating Blues

So, no update yesterday. Sorry about that. It won't be a trend.

Life's been busy, you know? Take this weekend. Friday night I went to Cancun - the restaurant, not the Mexican city - with some librarians after work. Oh, sure, I was home by 7:15 p.m., but still. You expect me to update this blog from home? Come on, that's not going to happen.

I guess I could have updated Saturday, but I had the Jesus Christ Superstar video viewing party, and that took awhile. Yes, I was home by late afternoon, but, again, I wasn't at work so the blog wasn't going to be updated. (Side note: We missed ya at the party, Jenn, Ann, Spearsy and Liz. It wasn't as much fun without ya.)

OK, Sunday. Could have updated, but I wasn't even home. I went to see the parents. Had to take my father out for his birthday. Also, had to see their dog, which I consider to be my surrogate pet. She's the best kind of pet there is: You spend a few hours with her, play with her, wind her up and then leave. No messes, no baths, no accidents on your carpet. All the joy of owning a pet, none of the hassle.

So what about yesterday, you ask? Well, I was going to update in the afternoon but there were more pressing matters that had to be attended to. And last night? Well, l went to the grocery store and then...alright, so I didn't do anything last night. Sue me. Well, don't sue me. I don't have much you can take.

Which brings us to today. You see what I did there? I just updated you about what's been happening since my last post, yet I did it slyly. Alright, maybe it wasn't very sly, but it sure as hell beat a minute-by-minute retelling, didn't it?

As I write this, I am working in the Tech Center. And right now, going on downstairs in the Program Room, is our annual tea-and-cookies reception for our volunteers. I don't like tea, so I don't care that I'm missing that. But the cookies - oh, man, I'm missing the cookies! Why am I being excluded from this major and important annual event? And don't give me that "Well someone had to work in the Tech Center" bit, because, really, the volunteers need to see me. They would want to see me there. Oh, sure, I think only one of them knows my name, but they've seen me around. We say "Hello" in the halls. And I'm sure they're upset that I'm not there to eat cookies with them. I'm stuck in this room until 5:00 and by then it'll be too late. All that will be left will be those bland wafer cookies. And who wants those?

Alright, I do.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Lightning Strikes, Maybe Once, Maybe Twice

Lightning nearly struck my house yesterday. It was about 9 a.m. - I took yesterday as comp time since I have to work Memorial Day - and I was lying in bed. All of a sudden a really bright white light flooded my room, accompanied by a loud crack. After nearly pissing myself, I immediately thought, "Wow, maybe it fried everything in my house and I can get all new stuff!" But my clock radio was fine and, after a brief search of my home, nothing appeared to be damaged. Too bad, 'cause I could use a new television. Mine is pretty old and I would like to buy a new one, but don't want to spend the money unless I absolutely have to.

What the hell was with the weather yesterday? Thunderstorms in the morning, then sunny, then a massive downpour, then overcast, then sunny again, then clear, then another thunderstorm, then darkness, then more rain, then it was fine. Indiana weather is like a schizophrenic patient in a mental home: sometimes it's fine and functional, and other times it drops anchor in Psychoville and goes a little crazy. Or something like that.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Midnight Movie

Saw Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith last night at midnight. It was definitely the best of the past three Star Wars films, although I still don't think it holds a candle to any of the original trilogy. (OK, it might be better than the Ewokified Return of the Jedi.)

We got there two hours early and the line already snaked around to the back of the theatre. I have to admit, I was surprised by the crowd. Only a few of them were all geeked out in Star Wars costumes, and the majority of those were wearing a cape over their normal clothes and carrying around a toy lightsaber. There were only a few die-hards: One guy was dressed as Darth Vader and one was wearing a full-on Chewbacca suit. Don't ask me how he watched the movie. And one kid was wearing a pink bathrobe and carrying around a baseball bat, which made me wonder what kinds of characters were going to be in the new film. Turns out the kid was wrong. No one in Sith wore a pink bathrobe and carried a baseball bat. Too bad, because I'm sure if there had been he would have been the best-selling action figure of all time.

I would say the average age of people in line was twenty. At least half of them were high-schoolers who spent their time hanging out in the hallway before the film began. (Jenn's words: "It's like passing period out there. Everyone is high-fiving each other.") I kept wondering what kind of connection these kids had to the Star Wars saga. They were too young to enjoy the first trilogy and too old to look at the second one with a nostalgic eye. More than likely they were probably there just to have something to do. But, even though they put on one hell of a pre-show, they all settled down and watched the film quietly. It was the first time in a long time I saw a sold-out show and wasn't annoyed by the audience.

As for the film itself, I won't give too much away because nobody's seen it yet. It's your typical latter-day Star Wars film: corny dialogue, wooden acting, unnecessary cameos by characters from the older series, hands that get sliced off, and Yoda kickin' some ass. The effects are great and the lightsaber duels are fun. It's miles better than both The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Although, honestly, the "Please Visit Our Concession Stand" ad is better than either of those films.

But, damn, Sith is long. This might have to do with the fact that I didn't start watching it until 12:01 a.m. About an hour before the show started I could feel myself starting to fade, but somehow I made it through the entire movie without falling asleep. Of course, when I got home at 3:00 I immediately went to bed. I'm old.

Oh, even though the dialogue was wooden, there were no howlers like "I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth." (Notes: This is an actual line from Attack of the Clones. And "Here" is Amidala's back.) That line wins the award for Worst Piece of Dialogue in a Star Wars Movie.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Golden Popcorn

I just caught the MTV Movie Awards nominees. Or, as they should be called, Awards for People Who Are Hot. (The voting is done by everyone on the Internet. And all you musical theatre people know what the Internet is for...) Take a look at the nominees for Best Female Performance:

Lindsey Lohan, Mean Girls
Rachel McAdams, The Notebook
Natalie Portman, Garden State
Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby
Uma Thurman, Kill Bill Vol. 2

Lohan's gonna win. Officially for acting, but really 'cause she's young and hot. I wonder if she'll get a nomination next year for Herbie: Fully Loaded. More than likely, yes.

The nominess for Best Male Performance:

Matt Damon, The Bourne Supremacy
Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator
Jamie Foxx, Ray
Brad Pitt, Troy
Will Smith, Hitch

This category is even more blatant with nominating pin-ups. Seriously, Will Smith for Hitch? I heard it was a fun movie, but come on. Brad Pitt is nominated I'm guessing more for his biceps than his acting skills in Troy. Leo doesn't stand a chance; he's so 1997. I'm guessing Jamie Foxx will win because there's some kind of law that says he has to win every single acting award under the sun for mimicing Ray Charles.

But the MTV Movie Awards at least has some fun categories, like Best Action Sequence:

Destruction of L.A., The Day After Tomorrow
The Subway Battle, Spider-Man 2
Beverly Hills Plane Crash, The Aviator
The Moscow Car Chase, The Bourne Supremacy
The Desert Terror Assault, Team America: World Police

The Beverly Hills Plane Crash gets my vote, but it doesn't stand a chance in winning. It'll probably go to the puppets just so people can see what kind of acceptance speech they'll give.

And the nominees for Best Movie are:

The Incredibles
Kill Bill Vol. 2
Napoleon Dynamite
Ray
Spider-Man 2

Since millions of kids now run around asking people to vote for Pedro and to give them some tots, Napoleon Dynamite will win it in a landslide. Oddly enough, it's the only one on the list I haven't seen.

Do they still hand out a Lifetime Achievement award? I remember the year they gave it to Chewbacca. Carrie Fisher gave this intro about how great it was working with him, then she invited him to the stage where he gave a long speech entirely in Wookie. They kept cutting back to clueless and/or high celebrities in the audience wondering what in the hell was going on. It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen on television.

Vote today!

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Comedy Gods Are Happy

Fox has renewed Arrested Development!!!

Thank God. It's only the funniest sitcom airing right now. Oh, sure, I don't actually watch it - that's what DVD season sets are for - but I support it by word of mouth. As in, "Hey, everyone, you better watch Arrested Development or else it'll get cancelled. And you don't want that on your conscience, do ya?"

By renewing it for a third season, Fox is finally repaying everyone who loves comedy for the way they handled The Ben Stiller Show back in the early 90's. For those who don't know, TBSS was a skit show similar to Saturday Night Live - but funny - that starred Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, Andy Dick and Bob Odenkirk. Fox didn't believe in it and shuffled it around the schedule before eventually cancelling it. It went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing after it had been axed. Some sample skits: U2 hawking Lucky Charms to the tune of "One" while a leprechaun throws cereal at them. A parody of Lassie with Charles Manson playing the dog's role. A parody of Cape Fear called Cape Munster with Herman Munster substituting for Robert DeNiro. "Counting with Bruce Springsteen". And on and on and on.

Trust me, it may sound lame and dated, but it's damn funny. And I have the DVDs to prove it. If you think all Ben Stiller is good for is playing an uptight loser in lame romantic comedies, you're wrong. He's frickin' hilarious.

Rent Arrested Development tonight! Trust me, you'll love it.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Party Animal

I went to two parties this weekend: One was at Jenn's and involved a keg. The other was an impromptu birthday party for a former Charlotte's Web cast member. Both were good times, although my experiences at them were different . At one I got totally wasted and at the other I mainly sat on a couch with a throbbing headache.

Jenn's party was fun and, yes, I got blitzed. I was standing by the keg pretty much all night long, so I thought I'd help her out and drink as much as I possibly could. As you could guess, my plan backfired on me. By midnight I was trashed. As in "Wake Up the Next Morning and Wish You Were Dead Because Your Head Feels Like It's Going To Explode If You Move It" trashed.

I don't get drunk very often, and when I do I'm always amazed at how the world works. Saturday night was no exception. I remember bits and pieces of conversations, but I'm a bit hazy on when they happened or what was said. For example, I remember being the starter/judge of a relay drinking game, but I don't remember at what point in time I did that. And I remember that several cast members of Footlite's Man of La Mancha showed up. And I remember talking with one of them about my job, although what I actually said has been wiped from my memory. And I remember sitting outside with Trent and providing play-by-play commentary for a game of Twister being played inside, but, again, our comments have forever been erased. (Although I'm sure they were quite clever, in a sad, drunken sort of way.)

Another thing that surprises me: When I drink I laugh like a 1970s-era Burt Reynolds. You know that high-pitched giggle thing that he used to do? Yeah, that's me. And, of course, when you're inebriated everything is funny, which means I kept making this weird noise all night long. I could hear myself and would think, "Dude, shut up. You sound like a freak." Yet every time someone said something even remotely like a joke, there I was, doing my best impression of The Bandit.

Sunday was all about the sleep. The only productive thing I did before 7 p.m. was hit the grocery store. (Not literally. I was sober by then.)

As I was wheeling my cart out to my car, slowly, Gibby called and invited me to a birthday party for Gabi that was going on right at that moment. Even though I was viewing the world through groggy eyes, I went because I hadn't seen my Charlotte's Web pals in awhile. No drinking was involved at all, not even water, although I did have a piece of cake. (And that was just because I hadn't eaten anything Sunday up to that point.) It was pretty low-key; we mainly watched the series finale for Survivor, or at least watched Brenna get worked up over the series finale of Survivor. I'm not sure what my head thought of the whole affair, but it kept quiet. For the most part.

To answer the inevitable questions from those reading this who might think I was irresponsible and/or a moron for getting trashed: No, I didn't drive until I was absolutely sober. No, I didn't throw up, pass out or drink to the point where I blacked out. And no, I don't do this every weekend. It's a once a year kind of thing, if that.

Oh, and Spearsy? Thanks for the shout-out!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Break with the iPod

I'm on break, so I'm going to spend it with my iPod and Blogger. This should be interesting.

Bob Dylan is midway through "Tangled Up In Blue". I used to hate him, now I love him.

Remember in the late 80's when Dylan was even more unintelligible than normal? I remember seeing him on the Grammys or some other award show where he was accepting a lifetime achievement award and his speech went like this: "Graw foo plinny jay howmy wawmp tand. Stig scurfie? Sargon." Seriously, you couldn't make out a single word. This went on for fifteen minutes.

Now the iPod is playing "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" by Rod Stewart. Rod's recording a fourth album of standards to be released later this year. Whoever thought that "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy" would be looked at as one of the better things Rod Stewart recorded as a solo act? Certainly not me.

And it is "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy", which looks and sounds all wrong. When I see the word "da" I think of the way the Irish say the word "dad". So whenever I see the title in print I misinterpret it as "Da, Ya Think I'm Sexy?" which turns it into some weird, sick incest thing.

This is a really long song.

Ooh, sax solo! You don't hear too many saxophone solos in rock music these days. I think the last band to successfully use the sax was Huey Lewis and the News, but by that point the sax had already become passe. But, you know, Huey thought it was hip to be square, so it's alright.

This has got to be the only song about one-night stands to go to the top of the charts.

Ooh, now Rod is whispering about reaching out and touching him. This song is creepy. I can't imagine people dancing to it at Studio 54. But they were coked out of their minds and probably would have danced to "High Hopes" if it had had a nice disco beat behind it.

Willie! (As in Nelson.) "Good Hearted Woman". A little honkytonk song. Nobody knows this one besides me and my readers for Texas, so let's skip it and see what's next.

"Moment of Conception" by David Byrne. Jesus, even fewer people know this song than the Willie song. Next!

Ah, yeah, "Vertigo" by U2! The song that defines the iPod! How convienient is that?

Here's what's nuts about this song: the vocals in the background. What are they saying? I can't tell. It's like:

Hello, hello ("Hola!" says Bono in the background. I got that one.)
I'm at a place called Vertigo ("Blah blah blah!" says Bono in the background.)

Seriously, what is he saying?

Now he's telling me that all of this can be mine if I give him what he wants. Then no one gets hurt. Did Bono just threaten me? And why would I want the library?

This song will forever be remembered as "that iPod song". It's catchy, though. And it's got that U2-one-note-played-on-the-guitar-over-and-over-again thing going for it.

OK, next song. Sly and the Family Stone! The actual title of this one is "Thank You (Falletin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)". Obviously the Family Stone could have used a Family Dictionary.

Janet Jackson sampled this song for "Rhythm Nation" back in the late 80's. I used to have that CD. USED TO!!! I don't have it anymore. I was a pretty idiotic CD purchaser in high school. I even owned MC Hammer. I blame peer pressure: "Everybody else has 'U Can't Touch This'. You don't want to be a misfit, do ya?" Although I can proudly say that I've never spent a dime on C&C Music Factory.

Sly Stone went nuts. He's still alive but, from what I've heard, is bat-shit crazy. I wonder what he's doing right now? Probably watching Judge Judy and eating Fritos.

"Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)" by Aerosmith. I dig this song, but it flopped miserably. It was supposed to be the big hit of 1997 but no one gave a crap. I think people were sick of Aerosmith at that point and just wanted a break. That, or they wanted Aerosmith to give them more ballads. This song came right after the troika of "Crazy", "Amazing" and that other slow song that had Alicia Silverstone in the video. I think after this song tanked they released that shit Armageddon song just to please everyone.

Last song, break's almost over. Another U2! "Desire".

No comments on "Desire". Someone had a problem with a floppy disk in the Tech Center because they put the label on the wrong side. Seriously, this is how I earn my living.

OK, so I have a few extra minutes since my break was interrupted. Now the last song: "Back Door Man" by The Doors. Ah, The Doors. "Every teenager goes through a Doors phase." - Andie. True, true. Although with my sister, it was a forced phase, since I played them nonstop in the car when I would drive us to and from school. To this day she complains about it. Val, I couldn't help it. I knew that you wouldn't go through your own Doors phase without a little help.

Break's over. Back to work for me. Their are other stickers that need to be removed from floppy disks and I'm the only guy in the building who can do it!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Destination: Nowhere

I was at Gibby's site earlier today and saw a link for one of those "Where You Should Live" quizzes. Since I don't plan on being in Indiana forever, I was curious to see where it would place me. Where would it recommend I move, I wondered? What exotic locale would it say was the best place for me? The anticipation was just too much. Finally it calculated the results. According to this site, my ideal place to live is:

Little Rock, Arkansas

What the hell is that shit?!?!?!? Little Rock? Arkansas? What? There's no way I would enjoy living in Little Rock. To be fair, I've never been to Little Rock. For all I know, it could be a wonderful place. And it does have a nice new library. But there's no way in hell I want to move there. It's Arkansas! Why would someone do that to themselves voluntarily?

I much prefer where they placed me second: Providence, Rhode Island. I could live there. Or any of the other cities in the top six (Baltimore, New Haven, Portland, Washington D.C., which is my favorite city ever). But Little Rock? Hell no.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

So Much To Say

The music industry pisses me off.

Today I bought the new Dave Matthews Band CD at Best Buy. When I went to play it in my computer at work, a screen popped up asking me if I would like to accept an agreement. I just wanted to listen to the music and, thinking it was trying to install a piece of software so I could view some lame bonus content, I clicked "No". When I did this, it spit the disc out. I put it back in and clicked "accept" and was taken to a screen where they verified that I had a legally purchased copy of the disc. After making me feel like a criminal for about two minutes, I was taken to an interface that allowed me to play the disc. But I wanted to play it through iTunes and rip copies of the tracks for my iPod. When I tried to do this, the tracks skipped like crazy. After doing some research on the Internet I've found that the disc is encoded with a copy protection process called DRM. Because of this, the music will only play back on computers through Windows Media Player and is not configured for use in iTunes. In other words, if you buy the CD and want to have a copy in your iPod, you're screwed.

Look, I understand that they don't want their music ripped off, but I'm not stealing it, I'm merely trying to add it to my iPod so I can listen to it at work, at the gym, etc. without having to haul the disc around everywhere. But now I can't. Thanks, assholes!

From this point forward I'll be buying my new music digitally. I tried it a few weeks ago with the new Springsteen and Ben Folds albums. Both were released comercially in what's called a DualDisc format - CD on one side, DVD on the other - and both have been known not to work in many players because of the way they're manufactured. So I went online to the iTunes music store and downloaded them for cheaper than it would have cost me to buy them in the store. OK, I don't have the artwork, but who cares? In the end, it's the music that matters.

The worst thing is I was on the fence about buying the new DMB album. The new single is alright, but my reaction to their albums have been mixed at best. Now I have a bad taste in my mouth about the album before I even hear one song.

Monday, May 09, 2005

My Top 10 Rock Acts

Rolling Stone recently released a list of their top 100 rock artists of all time. Normally I think these kinds of things are silly, but reading through it I started to wonder who my favorite 100 acts were. So I compiled a list. Here are the top 10:

#1 - The Beatles
Notables - I Am the Walrus, I've Just Seen a Face, Help!, A Hard Day's Night, Something, All My Loving
The Album to Buy - The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album)
Their Big Moment - Too many to mention. They truly did it all. And in only seven years!
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Dad for the early stuff, Mom for the later stuff.

#2 - R.E.M.
Notables - Get Up, It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine), The One I Love, Man in the Moon, Bang and Blame
The Album to Buy - Life's Rich Pageant
Their Big Moment - Started on college radio, went on to become superstars, wound up back on college radio.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - The 1987 Music Director of W-E-E-M, my high school radio station. He's the one who decided to put "The One I Love" in rotation.

#3 - Talking Heads
Notables - Burning Down the House, Once in a Lifetime, Wild Wild Life, Artists Only, New Feeling
The Album to Buy - More Songs About Building and Food
Their Big Moment - David Byrne? Here's your big suit.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Whoever decided to play "Burning Down the House" on Friday Night Videos.

#4 - Nirvana
Notables - Smells Like Teen Spirit, Come as You Are, Heart-Shaped Box, I Hate Myself and Want To Die (Yes, that is an actual Nirvana song title.)
The Album to Buy - Nevermind
Their Big Moment - Ridding the radio waves of silly synth-heavy pop crap in the early 1990's.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Rob Morrow, who literally introduced them on Saturday Night Live. Moments later I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" for the first time.

#5 - Fleetwood Mac
Notables - The Chain, Second Hand News, Hold Me, Rhiannon, Go Your Own Way, Tusk, Don't Stop
The Album to Buy - Rumours
Their Big Moment- Surviving the recording of Rumours, even though every single member of the band wanted to kill each other at the time.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Mom & Dad. They bought Rumours the week it came out and didn't take it off the turntable for at least three years.

#6 - The Police
Notables - Synchronicity II, Every Breath You Take, Next To You, So Lonely, Don't Stand So Close To Me
The Album to Buy - Reggatta de Blanc
Their Big Moment - Releasing Sting onto the world. The rainforests are eternally grateful.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - The Columbia House Record Club. My mother joined and ordered it for me by request.

#7 - Simon and Garfunkel
Notables - Mrs. Robinson, America, Cecilia, Bridge over Troubled Water, Homeward Bound, The Sound of Silence
The Album to Buy - Bridge over Troubled Water
Their Big Moment - Fighting. Getting back together. Fighting. Getting back together. Fighting. Getting back together.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Mom. S&G is her favorite band of all time.

#8 - Elvis Costello
Notables - Pump It Up, Veronica, I Can't Stand Up For Falling Down, What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding
The Album to Buy - This Year's Model
His Big Moment - Looking at the Buddy Holly glasses and thinking, "Hmmm...these might work."
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To His Music - My friend Kent, who one day said, "Hey, you ever heard of Elvis Costello?" before putting on the Greatest Hits disc.

#9 - The Pixies
Notables - Where Is My Mind?, Velouria, Monkey Gone To Heaven, Caribou, Bone Machine, Gigantic
The Album To Buy - Doolittle
Their Big Moment - Reuniting in 2004 and hitting the road for the first time in a decade. (They will be at the Murat in early June. And, yes, I have tickets.)
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Kurt Cobain. He always cited them as an influence in interviews.

#10 - U2
Notables - I Will Follow, I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, With or Without You, Vertigo, Beautiful Day
The Album To Buy - The Joshua Tree
Their Big Moment - Bono decides to become "The Fly" in concert. The other three members of the band sell their souls to the devil and play along.
Who I Credit for Introducing Me To Their Music - Jason. Dude had a serious U2 infatuation when we were in college. It became kind of odd.

And that's it. Want to see the rest of the list? Let me know and I can send it to you. (Or post it in the comments.)

Friday, May 06, 2005

The Force Isn't With Me

I'll be so glad when the new Star Wars movie is released next Friday.

Not because I really want to see it, because I'm sick of hearing about it. Every day, inevitably, I'll be at some website and find an article with the headline, "The New Star Wars: It's Really Dark!" Or, "The New Star Wars: It's PG-13, So It Has To Be Better Than Those Other Two Sequels/Prequels/Pieces of Crap!" And now that the film has been screened for the press, glowing reviews are beginning to pop up everywhere that concentrate less on the film and more on how cool it is to see the Star Wars title crawl again. Please, for the love of God, release the damn film already!

I'm not a huge fan of the Star Wars movies. I like them, sure, but I don't consider them to be life-shattering films for me. Yes, I had the toys and the cups from Burger King when I was a kid, but my figurines never had good vs. evil battles to the death. No, instead they would hop in my cool Fisher Price TV Van and drive around town together. (Which, come to think of it, would make a great movie. Can't you see Chewbacca as a cameraman while Darth Vader reports the news? I could.)

I was kind of a weird kid.

When the original trilogy was re-released theatrically in 1997, I wasn't that excited. I remember a co-worker using his lunch break to secure tickets to an evening showing of the first film. When he got back from his outing, he was all red-faced and happy, dancing around the office and bragging that he was seeing Star Wars that night. I nearly gave him a heart attack when I told him I would be more excited had they re-released National Lampoon's Vacation or Spies Like Us to the theatres again.

In 1999, The Phantom Menace, the first of the new films, came out. But they weren't sequels, they were prequels. Lucas insisted that everyone think of The Phantom Menace as the first chapter, and that when the latest trilogy was completed and we were having Star Wars festivals that we should watch the later three films first. I feel this is bullocks. For one, the original movies have twenty years on the newer ones, and it shows. Watching a 1977 film after one released in 2005 is going to be jarring, no matter how many shots have been replaced in the earlier film. Second, if people started with The Phantom Menace they wouldn't even make it to the second film, let alone finish all six. They'd get bored after spending two hours watching a movie about trade embargoes and little snotty kids running around the desert shouting "Yippee!!!" If Lucas was all about making new Star Wars films, then he should have made sequels, not prequels.

Here's why: We all know what happens. We all know that Darth Vader was once a good guy but turned bad. That he fathered Luke and Leia. That Obi-Wan Kenobi would wind up squatting in a desert cave warning whiny teenagers about Sand Creatures. That's why, I think, the new movies have let us down. Since we know the outcome of all the characters we don't care as much. Had he made actual sequels, who knows what kind of cool ideas he could have come up with. Sadly, we'll never know. Lucas has said that he's done making Star Wars films after this one.

Another thing that's bothered me about the last two Star Wars films: their lack of fun. The original three were a joy to watch. Star Wars is a classic good vs. evil story. The Empire Strikes Back had a very serious plot but the funniest character in the series with Yoda. (Who has turned into an inexplicable ass-kicking toad in the new movies.) And say what you will about Return of the Jedi, but that scene with Luke and Leia racing around on those motorcycle things is worth the price of admission alone.

The new films? Every scene that should be fun is ruined, either by Lucas taking it too seriously or by inserting unnecessary comic relief. Look at the pod race from Menace: what could have been exciting is trashed by the presence of those weird ESPN-like broadcasters. In Attack of the Clones there's an epic battle between robots and humans, but Lucas keeps cutting back to C-3PO making lame jokes and puns. And then there are moments that just don't make any sense at all, like Anakin's mother saying that he was a virgin birth. Or Anakin's long-winded speech in Clones about how sand is course and rough and not smooth like the queen's bare back. What the hell was that about?

I really believe that if The Phantom Menace had been released without the Star Wars tag it would have made $16. The thing that's bothered me most about Menace and Clones is that very few people actually like these films yet they feel they have to defend them. They will usually trash one in conversation and then say something like, "But, you know, it was a Star Wars movie, so I guess it was good." Stop that! It wasn't good! It's okay to admit that they suck! I myself am guilty of this - I didn't really care for either film, yet they're on my DVD Wish List of stuff I'd like to purchase someday. Why? The only reason I can think is that I want to like them because I enjoy the first trilogy. (If it matters, there's about 400 other titles in front of them, including all the seasons of Friends and Rocky and Bullwinkle.)

I will see the new Star Wars film in the theatre, probably sometime next weekend. I really do want it to be good, to be a nice sendoff to a series that has meant a lot to film history. But all this hype is really starting to kill my interest in seeing it.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

My Desk

Let's take a look at what's on my desk.

- A ratty old mouse pad I've been using since I started working here six years ago. It was once black but now it's this off-white color thanks to me rubbing a mouse on it for the past 77 months. We have new mouse pads sitting on a shelf not twenty feet away from my desk, but am I even thinking of replacing it? Never. This mouse pad and I have been through a lot together. I can't give up on it now!

- A lucky thimble. This thimble was baked in a cake for the Children's staff and was said to hold magical powers for the person who discovered it. After Sarah nearly choked on it, she had the fortune of meeting her spouse about a week later. Its powers exhausted for her, she gave it to another co-worker who had been trying to get pregnant. Bam! Co-worker was pregnant. Mom-to-be passed it off to my friend Dawn. Bam! The thimble did its thing and Dawn met her husband. Dawn must have thought I was in need of some thimble magic, so she passed it off to me. I haven't met a spouse or had any children since I've had it, but I have been in five shows. That's about four more than I expected, so I guess it's done its job. I need to pass it off to someone soon, but I need to check with Dawn to see what the rules are. I seem to remember her saying it had to be someone I worked with. I don't want to be the guy who killed the magical thimble's powers.

- My iPod, currently playing "Discipline of Love" by Robert Palmer.

- My computer, the third (and best) one I've had in my six year tenure. (Please don't crash!)

- A box of Puffs. Never Kleenex. Kleenex sucks. Puffs is awesome. Kleenex is to sandpaper as Puffs is to satin.

- Approximately 8,000 pieces of scrap paper I've accumulated after testing printers. Someday I'll start using them instead of blank paper to print.

- An Eye-Spy-agram telling me that I'm a great resource for the library. There was a big Eye-Spy-agram push here a few weeks back and everyone's mailbox was flooded with these things. I got one. Not that I'm bitter.

- 65 shrink-wrapped copies of Micorosft Office. How my desk became the storage place for our copies of Office is beyond me.

- The department's printer. I think I see a pattern. Don't want it? Dump it on Marcus's desk!

- Next month's issue of Happenings, the library's newsletter. Hah-hah, I've got it a month in advance! This is the power I wield at the library.

- A power supply in case I ever want to plug anything in and don't want to find an outlet on the wall. God, I'm lazy.

- An electric stapler. About two weeks after I started, Becky, the library's administrative assistant, asked me if I needed anything. I quickly replied "An electric stapler" as a joke. Two weeks later I received an electric stapler. It's very tempermental, my electric stapler. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it staples things very cleanly, sometimes it manages to place the staple halfway down the page. I'd get rid of it, but the taxpayers bought it for me for no reason, so I continue to use it out of guilt.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Workout Blues

They're closing my gym for two weeks beginning May 9. Supposedly they're doing a massive remodeling job, but they already did that last year, so I'm confused about what they're going to upgrade. Maybe they'll finally add a bathroom to the second floor workout area. As it is now, you have to go all the way downstairs to the locker rooms. Not very convienient when you're on the treadmill and nature calls.

According to a flier, they're installing new televisions and building a new family locker room. This does not sound like a good enough reason to close for two weeks. If they were gutting the insides and starting from scratch, then, yeah, I'd be cool with the closing. But installing a new TV? I don't think so. After all, I don't get to take two weeks off everytime I buy a new television. (But, to be fair, I haven't bought a new television since 1994, so maybe there's a new law I'm not aware of.)

And here's the kicker: They're not discounting my membership for the two weeks they're going to be closed. So I'll be paying for a service I can't even use. I believe that's illegal, but I don't have any lawyer friends to verify that for me. I think in protest I'm going to go to the gym while they're closed and run around it as my workout. That way at least I'll be able to use the building for something.

Monday, May 02, 2005

We Got Trouble My Friends

I saw The Music Man at the Artist's Studio this weekend. Everyone I knew in the cast - Rebecca "Mix Disc" DeVries, Deb "Aflac" Underwood and David "Die If You Want To, You Innocent Puppet" Van Howe - were excellent. The guy playing Harold Hill was fun, but it's hard for me to seperate Robert Preston from that role. And I still don't understand the Curly-from-the-Three-Stooges accent Marcellus was using, but the audience ate it up so I guess it worked.

I'm confused by the fact that Marian and Winthrop are brother and sister. If I remember correctly, Marian is 26 and Winthrop is 10, making them sixteen years apart. So Winthrop is definitely an "oops" baby for Mr. and Mrs. Peroo at the very least. I believe there was a line explaining how distraught Winthrop had been since his father died, but no one ever mentioned how Marian felt about it. Which makes me wonder...perhaps falling in love with traveling salesmen is hereditary? My guess is Mrs. Peroo has her own Harold Hill in her past. Maybe that's why Marian hates Harold Hill so much: she has a lot of repressed anger towards her own traveling salesman deadbeat Dad. Or maybe the siblings' age difference is because the writers thought it would be cute if there was a lisping ten year-old in the play and they couldn't find any other way to shoehorn him into the plot.

And don't you want to see what happens to Harold Hill and Marian afterward? For example, how big was the argument when he finally told her his name was Gregory? And did he ever get tired of Winthrop hanging all over him? I always thought that Hill would have lasted two years tops in River City before running away, probably leaving a Harold, Jr., behind in the process. Hey, I see a sequel!