Friday, December 05, 2008

Guilty Pleasures (Episode Two)

It's time for the next installment of Guilty Pleasures. Click here for episode one and the basic premise.

Today's theme: Age of Innocence: Old School Hip Hop.

Okay, so not old old school, and not so innocent. But oldish. Let yourself drift back, back to a simpler time. Back when the words gangsta rap were just a phlegm ball in the back of Dr. Dre's throat. And let these three prime selections serenade you as you linger on the interwebs. Finally, it is interesting to observe several things that tie these tracks and artists together: 1) Storytelling. Rap (at least some mainstream rap like Tone Loc and Will Smith) had this thing for telling long, cheeky stories about mishaps and misadventures. Rap is still a narrative medium, but it is often hard, edgy, braggy, and in your face. LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out" (not to mention Easy-E and NWA) is kind of a precursor to all that. But compared to much of contemporary rap and hip hop, Will Smith's "Parents Just Don't Understand" astounds me in its kind of wide-eyed, countrified middle-class tameness. That could be due to Smith himself as an artist at that point in his career, or the fact that these artists are being promoted by major labels with certain target audiences and the resulting self-censorship requirements. 2) All three of these rappers went on to launch extensive acting careers. Although I think it's safe to say that Smith's is a bit more successful and respectable.

And don't forget to vote for your guiltiest pleasure and then comment on your criteria for voting. Sentiment? Shame? Deliciousness? Mmmmmmm.

Tone Loc - "Funky Cold Medina"

Okay, this could be kind of creepy, but please note that it's from the pre-roofie era. Remember: innocence. And a careful examination of the lyrics reveal a fair amoung of raciness (caution sensitive readers), but no malintent on Tone's part. Just good old-fashioned fun. Tone Loc's voice is indescribably cool, a voice that turns every word into gravelly butter. "This is the 80's and I'm down with the ladies," and many, many other lyrical gems abound. Look for Tone in classics like Surf Ninjas, Spy Hard and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.

Tone Loc - Funky Cold Medina

Found at

LL Cool J - "Mama Said Knock You Out"

"EXPLOSIONSSSSS" and "lyrics that'll make you call the cops." In 1991 it worked for me. And let's face it, it still does. Definitely working in a diffent sub-genre than Loc and Smith. And nice abs.

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) - "Parents Just Don't Understand"

Hey Mr. Big Film Star. What do you have to say about this?

Just enjoy. Although, for some reason embedding for this vid has been disabled by You Tube. So you get a link instead.

And if you still want more, here's In Living Color's very funny parody of LL Cool J:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Oh! Awwwww.

I'm sure many people have heard of the astronaut who lost a tool bag in space the other day

but I just wanted to say, the more I think about it the funnier it becomes.

Observe: You train your entire life. You run miles and miles, sit through hours of meetings, throw up in planes, build up your resistance to G-forces. You're constantly studying and are forced to open every aspect of your life like a book. You are probed and poked and interrogated. You're given simulations and scenarios and you struggle through them a thousand times. You learn to love Tang and powdered ice cream. Then one day you fly up into space and walk out into the dazzling light with your trusty tool bag. You turn around for one second--ONE SECOND--to wipe up a dab of grease and ZAP! Your tool bag wanders off into orbit and you've just blown the first and maybe only mission of your little astronaut life. Within a few hours people on earth are laughing and shaking their heads and leaning back in their swivel chairs to ask their cubemates if they heard about that astronaut who flubbed the spacewalk and sent her wrench set on the slow train to Alpha Centari. Every Jim, Frank and John is walking around sneering to their friends and saying, "Geez, well they could have sent me up. I'm no 'astronaut,' but I could have probably tied up my tools. You know?"

Sorry, nice astronaut lady. It could have happened to anyone.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pardon Me

With Bush leaving office, talk about federal pardons is heating up. Apparently, Bush has used his pardon less than any other President in recent memory. So he is, of course, being criticized both for his choice of pardons, and for not using his pardon powers enough.

Despite its potential for abuse, I like the executive pardon power. At it's best it speaks of mercy and the ability for an unfathomably huge bureaucracy to act in an intimately compassionate way. And, we get a little taste of what it might be like to have a King!

Anyway, what I really wanted to do was link to this. If you're short on time, skip down to the section called "Still in Prison" for some disturbing examples of people who should probably be pardoned, or at least have their sentences commuted.

Reminds me how thankful I am I didn't get into the lobster business.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Episode One

Inspired by J. Lindo, I would like to start a periodically recurring post on this blog. It also has to do with music. I call it "Guilty Pleasures." We all have them: songs or artists that we outwardly mock or dismiss but which we secretly love. Whether that love is spurred on by nostalgia or just a musical proclivity that we would try to hide from our hip friends, we can't help but feel a bit ashamed. And the shame is part of what makes us indulge in it all the more. ("Come here, Hall and Oates' "Kiss on My List" 12" single from my parents' record collection, you make me feel so dirty! Shhhhhh!")

So without further delay, I bring you today's three contestants in the first installment of Guilty Pleasures. Today's theme is Never Give Up: Songs of Inspiration. Don't forget to vote on your favorite. (See poll on sidebar.)

Journey - "Don't Stop Believing"
: I know. Many of you feel no shame in stopping and singing along to this one when you catch it on the classic rock radio station (for the fifth time that day) as you're cruising the dial. I do it all the time. But never with a straight face, and always while trying to tamp down that embarrassingly real feeling welling up in my heart that says, "Don't stop, Joe! Don't stop believing! You will make it!" (I also have to ask myself, "Who are the streetlight people?")

Journey - Don't Stop Believin'

Found at

Chumbawamba - "Tubthumping": First of all, how many people actually know the title of this song is "Tubthumping"? Up until five minutes ago I thought it was "I Get Knocked Down." Where is Chumbawamba these days? Probably trying to figure out how to recreate the fame created by these four-minutes of shoulder-bopping indulgence. I've never heard a sweeter voice sing the words, "Pissing the night away . . ."

Chumbawamba - Tubthumping

Found at

Joe Esposito - "You're the Best": From 1985's Karate Kid soundtrack. In the movie, it plays during a musical montage at the final karate tournament. Do yourself a favor and listen to this all the way through. Picture Ralph Macchio with a clenched fist and the sneering face of that blond-haired bully dude. Think of every ten-year-old boy who has been picked on and then dreamed of crane-kicking their tormentors into Canada while this song plays in the background. Is your heart racing yet? Guilty as charged. "Fight 'till the end, cause your life will depend, on the strength that you have inside you!"

Joe 'Bean' Esposito - You're The Best

Found at

Okay, now is your chance to vote for your favorite guilty pleasure, then comment on why you voted the way you did. What was your criteria for voting? Sentimentality? Level of guilt evoked? Musical aptitude? Your vote counts!

Friday, October 10, 2008

"So I got that going for me. Which is nice."

Friday my mind starts to wander to things like this:

Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) in Caddyshack explains his experience caddying for the Dali Lama, or "The Lamba."

Thursday, October 02, 2008

On Sarah Palin

Let me just say that I do not despise or even dislike Governor Sarah Palin. I was, as many were, more than a little grossed out by the way she was immediately slandered, upon her arrival on the national scene, by rabid pundits and celebrity doofuses (doofi?). However, I cannot escape the opinion that she, for all her niceties and her refreshing status as a legitimate outsider, would be an odd and even disconcerting figure on the vice presidential throne.

Witness these two passages from Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek column this week:

1) Regarding her qualifications to influence foreign policy and her delicate understanding of our relationship with Russia:

"It's very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the airspace of the United States of America. Where—where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to—to our state."

Ummm. Wow.

2) And this exchange with Katie Couric about the blahblah economic meltdown blahblah:

COURIC: Why isn't it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families who are struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries; allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health-care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy, helping the—it's got to be all about job creation, too, shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health-care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americans. And trade, we've got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive, scary thing. But one in five jobs being created in the trade sector today, we've got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

It made about as much sense as this infamous answer.

Again, I do not think Sarah Palin is stupid, or incompetent, or lame. And I'm sure that going from backwoods pol to primetime news would be shocking, difficult, and lend itself to bouts of nervousness and stammering. With the cameras rolling and the lights in my eyes, I probably wouldn't have done much better. (Okay, so I don't really believe that. I think I could have come up with something at least a little more coherent.) But I'm not a VP candidate. And I know we don't vote for VP candidates. But it does make you think . . .

And yes her performance in the debate tonight was generally acceptable. But it was plain to see that she had her script and anything beyond that was just too much to handle; she would quickly retreat to the emphatic catchphrasing about "mavericks" and "taxes" and "jobs." She was charming enough and drew some laughs, but by the end of the hour her repetitive answers were starting to feel shallow. Bottom line: she's just not "qualified" for the position. Period.

Now, I tend to agree with the conventional wisdom that Biden is kind of a jerk and a schmooze. Palin seems sweet and probably down-to-earth and surely someone I share more common experiences with. But does that mean I should vote for her ticket? I don't know. I do have a hard time bucking the feeling that I should vote for "nice" people. People who haven't spent a lifetime working the room and raising money for political campaigns. People who donate to charity. People who allow their faith to be a real power in their lives (although I think this can be problematic as well). But is all that a smart litmus test for a national election? I'm not so sure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Real Space Age Technology

I tried posting this a while back but it didn't really fly (pardon the pun). I'll try again, because I think you'll see that:

a) We were so wonderfully naive in 1985. No one cared that video game graphics consisted of lots of right angles, and we could watch a commercial comparing a minivan to the space shuttle without a whole lot of irony. The future was a field of boundless possibilities!

b) There's no way anyone ever took a corner in an Aerostar going that fast. I know this. Our family owned two, and I turned 16 during the reign of the Blue One. (The Blue One was subsequently wrecked during a Nevada blizzard in January of 2002. I admit, I was at the wheel. My new bride was in the passenger seat, and my dear father was sleeping on the middle bench. The back was stuffed with stemware and small kitchen applicances. All humans and appliances survived swimmingly. I came three millimeters from having a screw in my skull. My dad bounced off the ceiling one time and tweaked his neck a bit. Thank you three-feet-deep gravel on the shoulder of eastbound I-80.)

I hope it works this time. Enjoy:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bernanke: Approve Bailout or Risk Recession

Reads the AP headline. That was the latest threat from the Grand Poobah of Finance. I, for one, say let's risk (oh no, risk!, as if that ever stopped anyone in a corner office) the recession. Is the free market really free? Is capitalism, in the words of George Will, a system of individual gain and loss? Or just all gain all the time? I understand that the implosion of giant corporations entails a certain amount of collateral damage. I understand that I am a man of little means and my retirement isn't tied up in this alleged mess. I understand that I really don't understand anything about the twisted logic of global finance and speculative trading (aka legalized gambling). So all you eggheads can go ahead and set me straight. I'm sure someone will be able to tell me how these companies were indirectly responsible for the overall prosperity of the nation over the last ten years, that it all trickles down, and that these noble companies were taking on all the risk for little old me and now I want to have it both ways by punishing them for our collective greed.

So, fine. Let's pull the trigger. But I will tell you this: I don't want to hear any more preaching about government regulation of economic resources. No more drawing a halo and wings on the "free market." No more romanticization of the private sector, no more griping about welfare. Whether it's necessary or not, this is welfare in a tuxedo. This is "redistribution of wealth" (gasp!)

We can spend billions on this bailout but we can't guarantee our citizens basic health care? Don't get me wrong, overall I like our economic system, I think it works pretty good. But it is what it is. Sometimes it doesn't work all that well. And now we're gonna cry about it. Now we want that other system: the one where someone takes care of us. The one where the many take care of the few. The one where public money subsidizes private risk.

Fine. Let's throw 700 billion at them. But no more pretensions. We are a social democracy, not some pure market democracy, and not some libertarian paradise where everyone rises and falls on their own merits, and where charity is meted out by private parties and the government steers clear. I hope that now we can just accept this and move on.


Interesting footnote: An open letter from prominent economists to Congress.

Also, I really am serious about being persuaded by someone smarter than me (in layman's language, of course) why the bailout is a good idea. The rant is for provocation and good blog copy, but I'm still open to new perspectives.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Praying with RJ

I know blogging about how cute your kids are is s000 cyber-provincial and so very easy, etc., etc., but this is an entry about how cute (and strange) my kids are, so turn back if you must:

We try to pray with RJ nightly. She has a way of praying now that makes me so happy. She hardly ever "asks" for anything or says "thank you," but she hears us doing that, and for now I think we feel like we just want to encourage this space of comfort she seems to have found inside the prayer. She just sort of talks . . . and talks . . . recounting her day, making exclamations ("And then tomorrow Grandma is coming to the airport!"), and issuing evaluations ("Mommy is sooooo nice." "Baby Joe was naughty 'cause he was screaming.").

She also fixates on things. Here is a nearly verbatim excerpt from the other night:

"Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Heavenly Father, the cake is all gone. We had it all gone! I want that we have some more, but we can't because it's all out. I wish it was still up. Yeah. We were sad. And we were crying. And we said, "The cake is all gone so mommy can make some more. Uhuh?'"

Really, we did have cake. And it was all gone (as far as she knew). But she really didn't make too big a deal of it at the time. And she didn't cry. But it's so incredible to see her try to interpret and order her experiences after the fact. It's like we get to see what's going on inside of that little head of hers, when asking her that question point blank usually brings mixed results. ("RJ, what are you thinking about?" "Ummmm.......doggies!")

So after listening to her go on about cake for almost a minute, I started to crack. Sometimes Em and I both have teeth marks on our arms from biting them so hard during prayer. This time, though, I snorted, in a muffled sort of way but she heard it and then started going on for another minute about how "Daddy is so funny, huh? He's a funny guy because he like to laugh, huh?" The implied third person in this kind of conversation is what touches me so. As if God is nodding his head and saying, "Yup, he sure is. And he's lucky you're around or I'd have offed him years ago."

Yeah. Cute.

Oh, and so is this guy:

Monday, April 28, 2008

Quote of the Day

"For in spite of itself any movement that thinks and acts in terms of an 'ism becomes so involved in reaction against other 'isms that it is unwittingly controlled by them. For it then forms its principles by reaction against them instead of by a comprehensive, constructive survey of actual needs, problems, and possibilities."
- John Dewey

Here, then, is something that might guide us, until it becomes an 'ism itself. Let us call it, antiism. Never before has the double-i looked so good, certainly not since Hawaii was discovered by Napoleon in 1924. I'm not saying let's purge the suffix "ism" from the language. But we could be like those people who continue to surf even though they lost both legs in a shark attack and now have to use a special surfboard with molded stump-slots. We realize that we will never actually "surf" again, but persist in the evolution of a new sport (sturping?) that is more humble and interesting than the original, not to mention more difficult, if somewhat less graceful.

'Isms should be like lawnmowers: useful but ultimately disposable. And even though your neighbor's may be shiny, rusty, fast, slow, gas, electric, push or ride, at the end of the day, it still does basically the same thing. I'm not talking about relativism. I'm not saying all lawn mowers are equal. I'm talking about the recognition that transcendence probably won't be found in any human interpretation of a reality that is hemmed in by geography, history, or biology. And that goes for Mormonism as well, as a historically situated institution on earth. As a mediator between me and the divine/ideal (yes, I believe in a God of parts and passions, I've just got a bad jargon habit), it's the best thing going right now. It is a bright repository of divine revelation. It is a tool of maximum efficiency. But if the circle is "Truth", then it is still inside of the circle. It is not the circle itself.

It's good to be inside the circle. It's expansive and humanizing. It keeps us connected us to the people and ideas around us, and makes for a lot of beautiful improvisation.

Don't ask me where this post came from. I must have swallowed a lotus flower last night.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Still Here

Yes, things are going just fine here in Ohio. Got the kids out for a little fresh air today. Weeded the roof. Tomorrow is canteen day! E's potatoe pancakes were perfect for the third week in a row. It really doesn't get any better than this.