Sunday, April 30, 2006

Having a Wild Weekend

For the first time since I can remember, I had two days in a row off from work. 48 hours. Saturday and Sunday. A whole weekend. And going by Baltimore's social calendar standards, in which it's always feast or famine, this was a feast weekend. Literally, in some cases. I'm talking great weather, celebrities in town, the Baltimore Waterfront Festival (including the Volvo Ocean Race) at the Inner Harbor, a IFOCE Competitive Eating contest, the Pow Wow Art & Music Festival, the always-fun Johns Hopkins Film Festival, great films opening at The Charles Theater, and young girls flirting with me. This weekend had it all. Even the unthinkable, like spotting not just one but two Segways in one day (some would consider it a miracle to spot two in a lifetime!).


It started Friday night. As I was driving home, I noticed a late-model sports car pulling out of a side street covered in gaudy spray paint, like a newlyweds "Just Married" mobile, only this one's owner was clearly not of age yet for matrimony. The bright neon screams out the text "Guess Who's Seventeen?" Subtle, I thought, then passed it by. At the traffic light, however, I looked over to my left to see that the car had pulled up right next to me. And the driver was motioning to me. Oh God, I thought, some smart-aleck teens are gonna hassle the unhip old guy in the uncool Honda. But as the window rolled down and the driver leaned over her friend in the passenger seat, it was only to announce excitedly "It's my birthday!!!"

"I gathered that," I replied. "Are you 17?" I added, with my flair for the obvious.

"Yes!!!" came the reply. "I'm 17!!!"

"Well, I envy you," I said, suddenly channeling Paul McCartney singing I Saw Her Standing There. "That's a great age - that's a true rock & roll age."

"Yes!!!" came the enthusiastic response. And the girl simultaneously cranked the volume on the car radio while shaking her head vigorously to the music, like a she was having an epilectic seizure. This continued for several seconds until the light changed , but, having nothing to add to her gyrations, I lost the thread and merely intoned like a parent, " responsibly!" and zoomed off.

Ah yes, 17 holds a storied place in pop music lore, rivaled in desirability only by Sweet 16. 18-year-old girls are passe in rock music because they're legal, and 16 is too sacrosanct (after all, you can't be over 16 in Menudo and still retain your boyish innocence!), but 17...that's playing with fire, right on the cusp of almost legal. No wonder Beatle Paul hollered Well she was just 17/You know what I mean/And the way she looked was way beyond compare...No wonder Benjamin Orr Teutonically intoned She's a frozen fire/She's my one desire...and she won't give up, 'cause she's seventeen...No wonder in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Malcolm McDowell's droogie picked up two teenyboppers looking at a record by their peer group Heaven 17 (later the name of an 80s British synth band) and promptly took them home to boff silly...


For more info on rock songs dealing with young girls' ages or numbers in general, see Wikepedia's List of Songs with Numbers in the Title. It's all here, from "Less Than Zero" to "A Million Miles Away."


Saturday morning, as I was getting my coffee at Panera Bread, my girlfriend excitedly shouted, "Look! A Segway!" Cleverly replying, "Huh?" I gazed over to see a young guy scooting across the parking lot toward the Wachovia Bank. I had never heard of a Segway (officially called a Segway Human Transport vehicle) until about a month earlier, and when I finally saw one - looking like a high-tech manual lawn mower that moves around like a unicycle - it made me think of Devo (I could certainly see the Spuds embracing this goofball device - especially when people wear bicycle helmets while riding them!), as well as of those annoying unicyclists that are always juggling at Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

My girlfriend, who works for the county Police department, said Segways had been around for years in law enforcement and at airports. But seeing one driven by a young person - a young person not wearing a clown costume and juggling balls - struck me as odd. The Segway just looks like something for Seniors, like those clunky wraparound sunglasses for old folks with cataracts. And at 5K a pop new, 3K used, I was amazed that any non-law enforcement personnel would invest in such a costly transportation mode, one that apparently travels no faster than 7 miles an hour (an average humanoid can walk 4 miles an hour!). I mean, why not buy a scooter, like a cool Vespa? Sure, with the impending gas crunch coming, it is a low-cost alternative to driving cars, but then so is a bike, and a bike is a whole lot faster and cheaper!
Segway Transportation Trivia: In November 2004 Josh Caldwell became the first individual to complete a trans-continental trip from Seattle to Boston via a Segway Human Transport vehicle. The trip took 101 days leaving from Seattle on August 8, 2004 and finishing in Boston on November 18, 2004.

Anyway, later that day we saw another Segway at the Inner Harbor. An old man was "driving" it. That seemed much more appropriate. My world had returned to status quo, my zeitgeist was restored.


Saturday night I saw a great film at the Charles Theatre, Brick. Brick is a modern film noir set at a high school with throwback Dashiell Hammett/Raymond Chandler dialogue, a talented cast of young actors, and a style that effectively mixed David Lynch post-modern quirkiness with traditional John Huston noir. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt portrays the protagonist Brendan so strikingly, it makes me want to check out his other films, like Greg Araki's Mysterious Skin. Brick is an incredible movie-going experience, but don't take my word for it. The New Yorker had a nice review last month (April 3, 2006) by David Denby that sums it up best:

Brick, a low-budget movie shot in twenty days and edited on a home computer, has a rapturous sheen to it. Part of the movie’s aura will come from the people likely to watch it—an audience happily stoned on the sweetish, camphorated redolence of old movie gestures, loyalties, and modes of behavior. The first-time director, Rian Johnson, spent six years raising money from family and friends to pull off his dream project, a Dashiell Hammett-style whodunnit. But in Johnson’s version of film noir the inexorable Sam Spade-type detective is a mop-headed high-school student wearing a sweatshirt and wire-framed glasses, and the setting is not the nighttime big city of Hollywood imagination—the usual claustrophobic noir precinct—but the preposterously sunny skies and wide-open spaces of San Clemente, California. The hero, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), receives a desperate phone call from an old girlfriend, Emily (Emilie de Ravin), who then disappears. Brendan finds her dead body at the mouth of a sewage tunnel, and, realizing that she had fallen into the hands of a student drug gang (led by an off-campus crime boss named the Pin), insinuates himself into the gang and turns the members of it against one another. At the same time, he tells off the school’s assistant vice-principal, just the way Bogart used to sass the cops who cramped his style. The convolutions of the story are hard to follow in the manner of The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep, and the characters, lounging against the blank outside wall of the school, speak in cryptic jive patter (“Bulls would only gum it”; i.e., “Cops are dumb”). They say their words quickly, casually, and, if you don’t get half the burble, it doesn’t matter. The situations and the talk may be a joke, but the emotions are real—we’re in high school, where friendships and loyalty, and who’s tough and who’s cool, count for everything.

Brick is often quite funny, and not in a campy or condescending way—that is, not because the distance from the original models is laughable. If anything, you are likely to think, This kind of story still works because it has an unshakable internal logic. Yes, the knight in shining armor must walk down those mean streets; he must act like a criminal, enter the underworld (in this case, a suburban basement with prefab panelling), get himself beaten up, outsmart everyone, and, in the end, give us the pleasures of sin and of justice at the same time. Part of the enjoyment is our knowledge that Brick was concocted by Hollywood kids on a serious lark, making use of a glorious strand of their inheritance. All in all, this twerpy little movie is one of the most entertaining pictures to be released so far this year.

Also check out the reviews below:

Brick Links:

Brick official site
Baltimore Sun review (Michael Sragow)
New Yorker review (David Denby)
Metacritic reviews


For more about my celebrity-spotting, two-days-off-in-a-row ("They said it couldn't happen!") weekend, see my "American Idols" posting.

Related Links:

The Weekend (Wikepedia)
List of Songs with Numbers in the Title. (Wikepedia)
Segway HT (Wikepedia)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Greatest Rock & Roll Album of All Time...

is Can't Stand the Rezillos, by Scotland's greatest rock & roll band, The Rezillos, a glam pop-art ensemble (quickly labeled "Punk/New Wave") that formed at art school in Edinburgh in 1976, recorded this one album in 1978, and then promptly broke up. And why not? They had achieved Godhead and created a sonic masterpiece that stills stands the test of history. What else was there to prove? Or, as a later live album's title put it: Mission Accomplished...But the Beat Goes On. Interestingly enough, this live recording captured The Rezillos' final performance that took place December 23, 1978 at the Apollo Theater in Glasgow.

The LP has long been out of print, but in 1993 Sire/Warner Brothers put out a CD reissue, Can't Stand the Rezillos: The (Almost) Complete Rezillos, that not only includes all 13 original album tracks - 10 originals and three great cover songs (Earl Vince and the Valiants' "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight," Gerry & The Pacemakers' "I Like It" and the Dave Clark Five's "Glad All Over") - but also both sides of their great 1978 single "Destination Venus" b/w "Mystery Action" AND all but one of the tracks on the live album Mission Accomplished...But the Beat Goes On (including "Thunderbirds Are Go!," their wonderful homage to the popular 60s British TV show).

And here it is, the baker's dozen of brilliant original tracks that let the Rezillos leave their mark on history.

1. Flying Saucer Attack
2. No
3. Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight (Earl Vince & The valiants)
4. Top Of The Pops
5. 2000 A.D.
6. It Gets Me
7. I Can't Stand My Baby
8. Glad All Over (Dave Clark Five)
9. (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures
10. I Like It (Gerry & The Pacemakers)
11. Getting Me Down
12. Cold Wars
13. Bad Guys Reaction

No less an authority than Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis has commented on these 13 tracks as "It's the best album Sire ever put out, and the hottest bass playing EVER." Because they emerged in the late 70s, the Rezillos sound was characterized as "Punk/New Wave," but while the songs were fast and the guitars had a raw buzzsaw edge, they were really closer in spirit to that of 50s rockers, 60s garage bands and 70s glam - an influence reflected in their choice of covers. If I had to pick one band they reminded me of musically, it would be a harder-edged Blondie, with whom they shared an appreciation of the 60s girl group sound and pop culture in general. And, like Blondie, they were always fun, never taking themselves too seriously. Visually, their pop art schooling and love of glam rock was reflected in a stage presence reminiscent of The Tubes and early Roxy Music.

Though there were various lineups in their career, the band on Can't Stand the Rezillos consisted of vocalists Eugene Reynolds (born Alan Forbes) and Fay Fife (born Sheila Hynde), guitarist-songwriter Jo Callis (a Glaswegian), bassist/saxophonist William Mysterious (born William Donaldson) and drummer Angel Paterson (born Alan Paterson).

Before that, the Rezillos line-up (originally named the Knutsford Dominators) included guitarist Hi-Fi Harris, bassist D.K. Smyth and backing vocalist Gail Warning. The Rezillos' early live repertoire contained material from all across the pop spectrum, including Earl Vince and the Valiants (otherwise known as Jeremy Spencer and Fleetwood Mac, whose "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" - the B-side to the Mac's "Man of the World" single - was covered not only by the Rezillos but also by the Count Bishops and Washington, D.C.'s legendary psych-punk garage rockers The Slickee Boys), Cannibal and the Headhunters ("Land of 1,000 Dances"), The Sweet ("Ballroom Blitz"), The Kinks ("I Need You"), Gerry & the Pacemakers ("I Like It"), Screaming Lord Sutch, and the Dave Clark Five (Glad All Over").

They released a successful debut single, "I Can't Stand My Baby," in 1977 on Sensible Records, backed with a cover of The Beatles' "I Wanna Be Your Man" (it's believed to be Scotland's first New Wave single, beating the Valves by a month). By the time the Rezillos signed to Sire Records at the end of 1977, original members Harris, Smythe and Warning had left; Mysterious then switched from saxophone to bass and the quintet released their first Sire single, "(My Baby Does) Good Sculptures" b/w "Flying Saucer Attack." To support the single, they embarked on a short UK tour supporting the Ramones.

After releasing their debut album - recorded at New York's Power Plant by producer Tony Bongiovi (Jon's cousin, who had worked with the Ramones and Talking Heads) and engineer Bob Clearmountain - the Rezillos reached the Top 20 of the UK singles chart with their second Sire single "Top of the Pops" in 1978. (By the way, The Rezillos appeared twice on the weekly TV music program they made fun of, Top Of The Pops. The first, appropriately enough, playing their single "Top Of The Pops" and the second supporting their single "Destination Venus"). The Rezillos singles all had great covers. In fact the singles, posters and subject matter of the songs all reflected the band's art school background (especially seen on the LP Can't Stand the Rezillos, with its ersatz Jackson Pollack cover) and their love of Camp, Sci-fi B-Movies and comics. I mean, who else did a song about their art school girlfriend making good sculptures ("She got a thing about carving wood, or shaping a figure from a lump of mud")? Only Jonathan Richman comes close to touching on art or artists in the pop medium, with songs name-checking Pablo Picasso ("he never got called an asshole!"), Vincent Van Gogh and Jan Veermeer.

Mysterious more than lived up to his name, mysteriously vanishing after the Rezillos' March 1978 tour. He was replaced by Simon Templar, who played bass on the second Sire single, a remake of the album track "Top of the Pops" b/w the new "20,000 Rezillos Under the Sea." This line-up then embarked on a national tour - with The Undertones (my favorite Irish band!) in support - to see the follow-up release of the next Sire single "Destination Venus" into the Top 50.

But by November of 1978, Reynolds and Fife had decided to call it quits - but not before partaking in the historic farewell gig at Glasgow's Apollo Theater. The live LP Mission Accomplished But The Beat Goes On remains as a testament to the original line-up, with William Mysterious and Gail Warning resurfacing forthe send-off. Reynolds and Fife then renamed themselves The Revillos for contractual reasons, releasing a second album Rev Up in 1980 under the new name. They reunited with guitarist Hi-Fi Harris and added a trio of back-up singers called The Revettes. The band later also released a compendium of their music.

The instrumental nucleus of the Rezillos - Callis, Paterson and Templar - went on to form a band called Shake, who released a 1979 EP on Sire Records. Guitarist Jo Callis then switched to synthesizer to perform with the (by comparison) strikingly humorless Human League in 1981, co-writing "Don't You Want Me."

Some of The Revillos reformed in 1994, playing a series of concerts in Japan, and recording the Live and On Fire in Japan album. By 1996, they had issued a rarities compilation, From the Freezer, and played some live dates in Britain. 1998's Totally Live In London CD includes Fay Fife's great cover of "The Last of the Secret Agents," the theme song to the 1966 grade-Z spy spoof that was originally sung by the film's star, Nancy Sinatra.

It seems Johnny Knoxville is also a fan of the band because in 2002 the Rezillos version of "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonight" was included on the Jackass: The Movie soundtrack CD.

The Rezillos kick-started the nascent Scottish New Wave rock scene in the late 70s, well before Altered Images, The Skids, Zones, Fingerprintz, Jolt, Valves, and Simple Minds. And well, well before Teenage Fan Club, Big Country, Orange Juice, Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream. They were the first, they were the best, and they left us the Greatest Rock & Roll Album of All Time!

Author's Regretable Note: Apparently the Revillos played the Marble Bar in Baltimore and I missed them. Doh!

Rezillos on YouTube:

"TOP OF THE POPS" (2:22)

It doesn't get much better than this: you write a song that takes the piss out of TOTP, then you get to perform the song on the show! Irony anyone?



"MY BABY DOES GOOD SCULTURES" - from Old Grey Whistle Stop (3:06)

"FLYING SAUCER ATTACK/2000 AD" - on German TV (5:28)

To see more Rezillos videos, click here.

Revillos on YouTube:



"SCUBA SCUBA" (2:04)


I Can't Stand My Baby / I Wanna Be Your Man (Sensible Records FAB-1) -77
I Can't Stand My Baby / Good Sculpture (live) (Sensible Records FAB-1 (MARK2); second pressing of the first single, with different B-side) -77
Flying Saucer Attack /(My Baby Does) Good Sculpture (Sire 6078.612) -77
Cold Wars / William Mysterious Overature (Sire 6198.215) -78
** LP ** Can't Stand the Rezillos (Sire K-5630) -78
Top of the Pops / 20.000 Rezillos Under the Sea (Sire SIR-4001) -78
Destination Venus / Mystery Action (Sire SIR-4008) -78
** LP ** Mission Accomplished ... but the Beat Goes on (live) (Sire SRK-6069) -79

Most important tracks on compilations:
Just Say Yesterday (Vol. VI of Just Say Yes): Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked in Tonight (Sire/Warner Bros. 9 26954-2) -92

Three Minute Heroes: 20 of the Finest Punk & New Wave Singles: Top of the Pops (Virgin VTCD9) -92

DiY 2: The Modern World - UK Punk II (1977-78): (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (Rhino Records R2 71172) -93

DiY 3: Teenage Kicks - UK Pop I (1976-79) : Top of the Pops (Rhino Records R2 71173) -93

Best Punk Album in the World...Ever!: Top of the Pops ( UK; Virgin VTDCD 42) -95

The Number One Punk Album: 47 Punk Rock Classics: Top of the Pops (Polygram TV 535 658-2) -96

Rezillos Links:
Planet Rezillo (Official Rezillos Web Site)
Noise For Heroes: The Rezillos
PunkNet77 - Rezillos
Rockin' Rina's Rezillos Bio
Dave Smythe's Rezillos Page
Revillos Web Site
Rezillos Family Tree
Rootoon's Rezillos Bio
Rezillos Merchandise
Rezillos Lyrics

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Shoot the Piano Player(s)

This past Friday night I made a bad decision and agreed to go to the Powerplant Live!, a place I loathe, to meet some friends from work. One of my co-workers had won a City Paper "Happy Hour Party" at a place he had never heard of, Howl at the Moon, and invited a bunch of his friends to join up there. I hadn't heard of Howl at the Moon, but I knew from experience that Powerplant Live! was nothing more than a cultural ghetto housing the aesthetically-challenged College Kids of today, an MTV- and WHFS-weaned consumer class armed with all the tools of American Excess - Credit Cards, Cell Phones, SUVs and Upscale Mall Clothing - yet seriously lacking a Clue to anything remotely individualistic, original or creative. I should have known that there is no such thing as a Free Lunch, and the same applies to Happy Hour Parties. If they're giving it away, there must be a reason. The reason is: it sucks.

Its Web site describes Howl at the Moon as "a place where you'll find 'friends you have not met yet,' with everyone drawn together by the camaraderie and nostalgia to form one large, synergistic party, swaying to the music, bellowing out familiar lyrics...Anyone who delights in good music will have a wonderful experience."

Well, I delight in good music, but I did not encounter any, nor did I have a wonderful time or enjoy the new friends I had "not met yet" (pictured left, in wild-and-crazy and aggressively-happy Happy Hour mode). Like all the indistinguishable cookie-cutter bars that make up the Powerplant Live! metropolis, Howl at the Moon was nondescript in terms of layout, bar stock, menu, atmosphere and service. Indeed, like the customers it attracted, it was the very definition of unimaginative and standard-issue. Yet it clearly stood out sonically, thanks to its annoying Dueling Piano Bar hosts, who banged out a steady stream of cacaphonous singalongs, including the entire Billy Joel and Elton John songbooks. If I were a detainee at Guantanamo Bay and had to endure these guys playing their medley of "Piano Man" and "Crocodile Rock," I would end up braining myself to death with my Koran.

To make matters worse, the audience - almost exclusively jarhead jocks (how can anyone not enlisted in the U.S. Army willingly do that to their heads???) and sleazoid coeds (whose numbers unfortunately included more than a few Muffin Tops spilling out of their low-rise jeans - as pictured below left) - were prompted to sing along with the piano men in between doing shots and drinking their Bud Lights. Yes, being loud and obnoxious isn't just tolerated in piano bars - it's encouraged!

As a Baby Boomer slouching towards the Big 5-0 (the Half-Century Mark, not the police department), I'm not up on the latest drinking games and singalong fads, but I did notice a series of call-and-response moments in which lyrics were peppered with shouts of "You whore!" and "You slut!" from the lively (or should I say "Powerplant Lively!") audience. (This is probably what they meant on their web site when they said "Howl at the Moon takes the term piano bar to new heights, with the piano players offering up witty discourse while encouraging the audience to sing-along to songs almost everyone knows by heart.") In such a setting, attempting to hold a conversation without getting laryngitis is impossible, so it's a definite sensory experience, one in which it's best to just get hammered and shout along like you're at an Oasis concert (only you're not, you're at a much crappier piano bar!) But then, that's the whole aesthetic of college bars whose denizens - lacking the life experiences to hold any meaningful exchanges beyond "What's your major?" or "Where'd you go on Spring Break?" or "What's your cell phone plan? or "Nice wheels!" or "Ever kissed a girl?" or "You're totally hot! Do you work out?" - must have a steady barrage of audio-visual stimuli to bridge the awkward silences of life that full-fledged adults typically fill with conversation and thoughts. Thus this demographic cannot go anywhere or do anything without playing with their ubiquitous cell phones and iPODs, without bellowing familiar chants, hoots or hollers like robotically programmed jocks and cheerleaders, and listening to obnoxiously loud music they've been formatted to like by formatted radio stations.

Irony was in the house too, as the pianists asked, "Anybody here like music from the 80s?" Gee, I thought, of course they do. Even though most of the crowd here were barely just conceived in the 80s, they no doubt have learned to "Love the 80s" thanks to the popular retro-kitsch show on VH1. Of course, the 80s is to laugh out to these sophisticated musicologists, who have grown up on 90s Modern Indie Rock Format. After all, today's music is beyond reproach to a generation that thinks U2 invented rock and roll and Bob Dylan is merely Jacob's dad. It's all so original and different! Like Buckcherry and Nickleback and all those Emo Bands with the melodramatic vocalists (I feel their pain) that get played on The O.C.

Anyway, I left with a hoarse voice and the stench of cigarrette smoke after not enjoying a domestic beer Yeungling that cost $4.75 (of course the waitron didn't tell us that only certain brands were Happy Hour priced for the 2-for- deal!) and headed to the parking garage. There, I was gouged for a $9 parking bill, but I was glad to escape after the horrendous experience of getting in touch with my Inner Harbor.
Author's Note: The last laugh was had by the Howling Moon crowd, who ended up getting blotto, hooking up with strangers and having wild sex - with multiple partners - all night long until the condoms and booze ran out (as shown below). So much for my cantankerous party-pooper attitude! What do I know?

Related Links:
PowerPlant Live! (Official Web Site)
Howl at the Moon's Dueling Pianos Mission Statement

Friday, April 21, 2006

Archie's Christian Date Book

God makes Our Dates Great!
I was flipping through a Spire Christian Archie comic book called Archie's Date Book and just had to share some of its images. Though President George W. Bush boasts that he doesn't read, I'm pretty sure he'd browse through this publication. After all, it has lots of pictures and dovetails nicely with his viewpoints on sex and abstinence. Archie and his pals realize that God wants our dates to lead to Joy, Unselfishness and Respect. So stop watching those bad movies and vulgar TV, kids, and go steady with Jesus!

Note the appearance of a marquee for SIN CITY below!

They're obviously watching Atomic TV below!

The images above were drawn by Al Hartley, who provides this fitting coda to Archie's Date Book:

Rumsfeld's Iced Underwear

Scott Huffines sent me this Daily Kos posting with the comment, "I wish this was true!" I believe it all. How can anything about the current administration stretch incredulity? Surely the Truth about these guys is stranger than the Fiction.

Someone may be spilling the beans at the White House
by Danger Durden (Daily Kos, Tue Apr 11, 2006 )

Someone claiming to work at the White House posted a thread on the Something Awful forums detailing alot of details from inside the White House. Now, one should always take almost unverifiable content from the internet with a grain of salt - especially from this comedy website - but from reading all 21 pages of the thread, I am pretty convinced that most, if not all of what he said, is true, just because of the sheer detail, but that's just my opinion. It's as if nothing would really shock me anyway anymore, however. I'm copying and pasting alot of what was said to the extended body, see for yourself.

* danger durden's diary :: :: *

Here is what the poster, Martin Random, spoke of in his thread:

I was going to post this in the "Expose the big lie" thread but after I wrote it I thought it was interesting enough to merit a thread of its own. This is all good information, personally verified or witnessed by none other than me, but I will not answer any questions about it or go into any detail other than what I've already typed out. I may reply with more information or anecdotes if I see fit, but I've pretty much already scraped the barrel of my experiences.

These are some facts I have witnessed and learned through my employment. Take it at face value, believe it or don't believe it, because I'm not providing corroborating pictures, details, or evidence beyond my own testimony.

Homeland security buys in bulk and at great premium millions of dollars of useless personal appliances from China, such as rice cookers, nose hair trimmers, massage wands, and heating pads, boxes them up, and buries them in railroad shipping containers in the Arizona desert for no reason whatsoever other than to spend its budget and prevent sub-agencies from getting the funds. I suspect that the money goes to a middleman in order to secretly siphon funds into foreign organizations which we can't support over the table, but this is just me trying to find a justification for this massive and intentional government waste.

Donald Rumsfeld needs to wear iced underwear because of some medical condition, and he has his secret service detail hold his spares. He was recently getting uncontrollable long-term erections and had to change up his medical treatments. The underwear and the erections is why he uses a standing desk, not because he is some super-man. He also wears nylon stockings, not because he's gay, but to control some vascular problem with his legs which causes him intense pain.

President Bush uses anti-depressant medication, a lot of it, at a stupendous dosage, and he is hiding it from the American public. This is the real reason he stopped drinking. Because of the dosage, he is also impotent.

Tom Ridge carries 20 credit cards with him at all times, each one with a very low limit. I have never heard of him using one, ever, but he has them. He also wears his socks inside-out, and will flip the fuck out and walk strangely if he is forced to wear them properly, because it drives him crazy. All of his socks must be laundered right side in and then turned inside out before they are returned to him. He gave specific instructions about handling his food, and not allowing his vegetables to touch any other food item on the plate. His utensils must be steamed over boiling water. He will not eat soup which hasn't been boiled within the past 20 minutes or which he has not prepared himself. If any of these rules are violated, he flies into a rage, turns beet red, and will not eat a single thing. He has his personal attendants confirm over and over that the food is as he likes it. He also shaves his forearms and hands because he can't stand the idea of body hair on his arms. He demands that his bedsheets are bleach white and changed fresh every night and he sleeps in a separate bed in a big, tight, body-length nylon sleeve, with a fan blowing over him at full power. He is terrified of animals which have fur or hair longer than one inch, and will not go near curly hair of any kind, even on people. At one time he ran from his office and demanded that someone look under everything for a rodent which did not and could not exist, then he had the entire place wiped down with disinfectant and vacuumed twice. While this was done he couldn't even bear to look at the door, or come within 20 feet of his office. He was in hysterics.

President Bush, when dining at the white-house, does not eat any item of food which has not been first sniffed by a trained dog before being prepared. Think about that.

Word among the staff is that Cheney was drunk when he shot that lawyer, and secluded himself for a day to sober up and avoid felony firearms charges. I don't have any direct information on this because the guys with him at the time are not talking. This is totally unconfirmed, but I think it is plausible.

Dick Cheney has chronic gum problems and his breath smells like shit as a result. He is also a CLOSE TALKER. He keeps a small bottle of diluted hydrogen peroxide which he rinses with every hour on the hour, and he swallows it instead of spitting. He also picks his nose vigorously (violently) and hums loudly and tunelessly to himself while taking shits.

Related Links:

Something Awful: Secrets - and Satire? - from Inside the White House (from Wonkette!)

Something Awful Forums

The New Page Six

Another funny article in the New Yorker, this one by the always funny Steve Martin, obviously inspired by the recent "gossip protection racket" scandal involving New York Post Page Six columnist Jared Paul Stern (pictured left).

by Steve Martin
New Yorker (Issue of 2006-04-24)

Everybody ♥ DeLay
How great a guy is Tom DeLay? He is a class act who continues to earn the respect of everyone he meets with a double dose of charm and wit. This is one politico who’s simpatico. (Full disclosure: We love our new Armani sweater vests!)

Charlize Angel!
Actually-very-smart sex goddess Charlize Theron (full disclosure: She is loaning us her Miami duplex) has Broadway audiences agog with her performance as Ivana Trump in the new musical “Trump!” Among the opening- night swells, our spies tell us, was The Deadbeat Donald himself (did he get breast implants?), who thinks that gift certificates to Filene’s Basement still hold sway in swagland. Also attending was Alec Baldwin, the BLOVIATOR, or should we say the NEVER-PAY-OLATOR, who, according to insiders, is still heartbroken over his decades-old bust-up with the luscious Kim Basinger, whom we recently vacationed on in Cabo.

Sweet Suite Deal
Just when sources say the world has seen enough of party princess Paris Hilton, there she is again. The hot-bodded celebutante sure looked like a billion bucks the other evening on the deck of gazillionaire Paul Allen’s yacht, as seen from the terrace of the Page Six suite at the St. Petersburg Hilton. (Full disclosure: This column is being typed on generously donated computers using an early version of Microsoft Word.)

Jared’s a Jolie Good Fellow
Tongues are wagging that va-va-voom vixen Angelina Jolie’s new baby looks remarkably like Page Six’s own Jared Paul Stern. Could it be that the lovelier half of Brangelina traded some power canoodling for honorable mentions? (Full disclosure: Yes.)

Hawking Squawking
Nitwit science nerd Stephen Hawking, the NEW BLOVIATOR, who made a major gaffe in his assessment that no particle could escape from a black hole— a blunder that continues to haunt and worry our staff—thinks he can bounce checks all over the press and not get back some negative ions. It’s a good guess that a black hole is where Quanta-goof’s invitation to Cannes wound up this year, and that’s one thing that’s not coming back atcha.

Later, Late Show
David Letterman, the poor man’s Alan Thicke (full disclosure: Dave refused to match our Oscar gift basket), made a snide joke on his show about Page Six appearing not on page 6 but on page 12. Yeah, well, so? The reason that Page Six appears on page 12 is that we are getting a regular envelope under the door from the Committee to Promote the Number Twelve, and it would be too confusing to our readers to change the name of the column to Page Twelve, and, anyway, we are also receiving a tasty monthly contribution from the Society to Promote the Number Six.

Just Asking . . .
What investment-savvy white-haired comedian is looking to toss mucho dinero toward a clothing line designed by a journalist? Rumor has it he thinks that fancy clothes buy him fancy press. Well, what’ll it be, Tut—cuffs or no cuffs?

Related Links:
The Real Page Six (New York Post)
Page Six Magazine (New York Post)
The Billionaire, the Post and $220G Shakedown (NY Daily News)

The Lonely Planet Guide To My Apartment

Jonathan Stern's hilarious spoof of the Lonely Planet Guides appeared in this week's New Yorker magazine. Since the New Yorker doesn't archive its articles for very long, I'm posting it here for posterity.

from the New Yorker (Issue of 2006-04-24)


My Apartment’s vast expanse of unfurnished space can be daunting at first, and its population of one difficult to communicate with. After going through customs, you’ll see a large area with a couch to the left. Much of My Apartment’s “television viewing” occurs here, as does the very occasional making out with a girl (see “Festivals”). To the north is the food district, with its colorful cereal boxes and antojitos, or “little whims.”


A good rule of thumb is “If it’s something you’ll want, you have to bring it in yourself.” This applies to water, as well as to toilet paper and English-language periodicals. Most important, come with plenty of cash, as there’s sure to be someone with his hand out. In My Apartment, it’s axiomatic that you have to grease the wheels to make the engine run.


The best time to travel to My Apartment is typically after most people in their twenties are already showered and dressed and at a job. Visits on Saturdays and Sundays before 2 P.M. are highly discouraged, and can result in lengthy delays at the border (see “Getting There and Away”).


The population of My Apartment has a daily ritual of bitching, which occurs at the end of the workday and prior to ordering in food. Usually, meals are taken during reruns of “Stargate Atlantis.” Don’t be put off by impulsive sobbing or unprovoked rages. These traits have been passed down through generations and are part of the colorful heritage of My Apartment’s people. The annual Birthday Meltdown (see “Festivals”) is a tour de force of recrimination and self-loathing, highlighted by fanciful stilt-walkers and dancers wearing hand-sewn headdresses.


Rabies and hepatitis have almost completely been eradicated from My Apartment, owing to an intensive program of medication and education. However, travellers must still be wary of sexually transmitted diseases. While abstinence is the only certain preventative, it is strenuously not endorsed by the My Apartment government. Condoms and antibiotics are available on most evenings (see “Medical Services”).


The inhabitants of My Apartment tend to be insecure and combative. This is likely the result of living under the thumb of a series of illegitimate dictators (see “History”) that have dominated the citizens in recent years. Since the Breakup of 2004 and the ensuing electoral reforms, the situation has become more democratic.


Solo female travellers are often subjected to excessive unwanted male attention. Normally, these men only want to talk to you, but their entreaties can quickly become tiresome. Don’t be afraid to be rude. Even a mild polite response can be perceived as an expression of interest. The best approach is to avoid eye contact, always wear a bra, and talk incessantly about your “fiancé, Neil.”


The ongoing economic recession has led to a large increase in petty crime. For the most part, this is limited to the “borrowing” of personal items and the occasional accidental disappearance of the neighbor’s newspaper. However, the U.S. Department of State has issued a warning about several common cons—such as the “I’m out of small bills” scam, typically perpetrated when the delivery guy arrives.


Various international agencies can place volunteers in projects working on areas such as job training, doing my laundry, election monitoring, developing opportunities for young women, running to the deli for me, and therapeutic massage.


A ten-foot walk to the non-working fireplace brings musically inclined visitors to the popular collection of novelty records, which includes “Leonard Nimoy Sings.” The north-facing section of My Apartment is divided into two districts. In the lively Bedroom District, the excellent drawer of snapshots of ex-girlfriends naked is a good way to gain a deeper understanding of the history of the people, and is open for guided tours on most Saturdays between 2 A.M. and 3 A.M. The Western Quarter is home to the bathtub with one working spa jet, in which the recreation commissioner of My Apartment plans to hold an international jello-wrestling tournament in the spring of 2007.


Tourists often flock to the salvaged wooden telephone-cable spool in front of the TV as a convenient dining spot. More adventurous eaters might try standing over the sink, as the locals do. If you’re willing to venture off the beaten track, there’s balancing your plate on the arm of the couch or using the toilet lid as a makeshift table.


The music on offer tends toward late-seventies disco recordings, but they are sometimes embellished with impromptu live vocal performances. There was once a cockfight in My Apartment, though it was unplanned and will likely never happen again (see “Law Enforcement”).


The air-hockey table probably still works.


A short trip in almost any direction will bring travellers to one of many unique Starbucks outlets. Or try one of the nightly walking tours to the sidewalk in front of the brownstone across the street to watch that redhead getting out of the shower with her curtains open. And tourists are often sent around the corner to visit the A.T.M. machine in order to stock up for the rigorous financial demands of a trip to My Apartment.


Mules can be rented by the hour or the day and are situated near the main closet. Prices vary with the season and it’s best to reserve in advance, since My Apartment’s stable of twenty-six mules books up fast. They may not be the quickest form of transportation, but they provide a wonderful way to see My Apartment up close.


The dog’s name is Sadie. Don’t touch her.

(Originally published in the New Yorker April 24, 2006)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

I've become a regular listener of WTMD, Towson University's "college rock" radio station (89.7 FM), where I've discovered there's a lot of great music out there that I need to catch up on. I especially like Towson DJs Melissa Goodman (pictured left) and Dan Rogers (mixes a lot of old stuff I like - Oasis, Police, Neil Young - with the newer tunes) and the syndicated "World Cafe" and "Sounds Eclectic" programs. But lately, as I've increased my listening hours, I've noticed certain disturbing trends. Like the 3 R's, "Repetition, Repetition, Repetition" (as The Fall singer Mark Smith so aptly put it).

In the wake of The Decline and Fall of WHFS (which used to be great back in the 70s and 80s before the soulless "modern rock" playlisters took over at 99.1 on the FM dial to demographically target the Power Plant Live! Set - and then promptly abandoned this aesthetically repulsive consumer class to chase the more lucrative Hispanic market) and the increasingly excessive hippie and jam band noodlings of WRNR (the wayward offspring of WHFS after its call letters came to stand for We Have Foolishly Sold-out), I embraced WTMD for reminding me most of the kind of College Radio I grew up on when, well, when I was in college.


Back then, "College Radio" meant you pretty much played whatever you felt like. My peers know what I'm talking about when I name-drop the Joe Buccari show on ye olde 1970s free-form progressive WHFS (when it was 102.3 FM out of Bethesda), or George Washington University's amazingly eclectic WGTB (90.1 FM) that would play Ella Fitzgerald, Devo, the New York Dolls, Lord Buckley, The Buzzcocks, Robert Gordon, Coltrane, The Firesign Theatre, XTC, Pere Ubu, Sun Ra, The Cramps, and the Bonzo Dog Band back-to-back! Like public access TV, you never knew what to expect far from the confines of predictble playlists and program director-directed format. And you learned a lot through all that exposure!

Listening to WGTB was like flipping through a profusely illustrated sonic magazine, instead of just pouring over the same bland page (a flash card, really) over and over and over again. Alas, WGTB went off the air in January of 1979, shut down by the Jesuits as much for its political leanings as its provocative music.(For a great WGTB history, see Guy Raz's January 29, 1999 Washington City Paper tribute.)


But then it slowly dawned on me that I was hearing the same songs over and over on WTMD. I was hearing Format. I was being subjected to a Playlist. Don't get me wrong - I was a DJ back in the early 80s (when there was this thing called vinyl that had to be cued up), and we had a list of songs that the director suggested we plug. But that meant maybe spinning a half dozen tunes in a two- or three-hour set. But on WTMD, you have to listen to the same formatted playlist every hour on the hour to get to hear one DJ's choice, like an old Smiths sad song, or a dour Dylan ditty, or what have you. Then another 55 minutes of the same old same old.


I also noticed how familiar certain artists sounded, as if I had heard them before. And it started to annoy me. Take Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (pictured right). When I first heard them, I thought it was the Talking Heads because the singer neurotically mumbled so much like David Byrne I thought it couldn't be mere coincidence. Normal people don't sound like David Byrne. that's why "Psycho Killer" was such a perfect vehicle for him - his vocal style was perfectly abnormal. Actually, CYHSY sounded like David Byrne being backed by Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz's little brother's band, The Urban Verbs. Except both the Heads and the Verbs didn't suck, and CYHSY do.

Then there's this Jackie Greene guy (pictured left). I read a blog by some 18-year-old kid who confidently proclaimed him to be a musical genius because, well, you know, 18-year-olds have such a wealth of musical knowledge to choose from when bestowing such pronouncements. I like the ONE song by the guy that WTMD plays over and over again, "I'm So Gone," but must admit that when I first heard it I thought it was Ian McCullough of Echo and the Bunnymen gone full sell-out. Not only does Jackie Greene sing just like McCullough, he looks just like him, right down to the dour expression and insouciant cowlick atop the Gumby hair!

Similarly, Richard and Linda Thompson's son Teddy Thompson (pictured right, and whose "I Should Get Up" is his one alotted song on WTMD) sounds embarassingly like Chris Isaac, which is an OK thing only if you're Chris Isaac (even though Chris himself is merely a better-looking Roy Orbison, albeit one whose songs all sound alike - but hey, I loved his Showtime TV series!) and Midwest jam band Umphrey's McGee ("Women, Wine and Song" is their WTMD daily formatted alotment) sound to these ears like nothing more than the refried Dixieland Funk of Little Feat (who I always detested!) And Ben Harper? I can't listen to his "Get It Like You Like It" without thinking it's a recently excavated outtake from the Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street.

Admittedly, I really like that Willie Nile song "Cell Phones Ringing (In the Pockets Of the Dead)," but c'mon, old-timer Willie's the world's reigning Dylan wannabe (and has been ever since the release of his first album over 25 years ago). On his new CD Streets of New York, Willie not only sounds like the Bard of Hibbing, MN, but even stirs up the kind of nonsensical, surreal imagery Dylan used circa Blonde on Blonde's "Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again)." But hey, there are worse geniuses to emulate. Mark Knopfler has always been enamored with Bob, too, but still managed to find his own sound.

So many bands on WTMD seem to sound like the Emo-friendly, world-weary vocal stylings of their current darling, Mat Kearney, who I'm sure will be the Cherrybuck or Nickleback of his generation (that's "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" talk kids!). The fact that Mr. Kearney spells his first name with just one "t," like a wrestling or yoga mat, annoys almost me as much as his dearth of talent. It's affected and trendy, just his music. Likewise the derivative Chris Martin-meets-Evan Dando vocal style, with that irritating high-pitched trill in "Nothing Left To Lose" makes my blood rise, much like when I first heard Gavin Rossdale of Bush enjoy his 15 minutes of fame aping Kurt Cobain post-Cobain. This is the kind of crap you hear all the time on The O.C and the soundtrack of really bad teen cineplex movies. Even Felicity had a better soundtrack! Worse still, "Mat" has been embraced by the Christian Rock community. You can find rave reviews for him at sites like, Christian Music Town, and God knows (He surely knows) where else.


Of course the answer to free-form, college radio lies not on the airwaves but on the Internet, where my friends swear by Web Radio sites like WFMU. WFMU is an independent free-form radio station broadcasting at 91.1 fm in the New York City area, at 90.1 fm in the Hudson Valley, and live on the web in Realaudio, or in Windows Media, as well as two flavors of MP3, and all programs archived in MP3 and Realaudio. But I can't listen to the radio at work and my computer at home doesn't have great sound fidelity, so...oh well! I'll just have to endure the endless repetition on WTMD to find the few nuggets worth buying from iTunes.

Related Cool Radio Links:
WHFS 102.3 Tribute
WGTB Tribute