23 December 2011

Music Video Friday: The Twelve Days Of Christmas

As a special Christmas gift to you, I am offering you this post without links. If you don't understand a reference, you'll have to look it up yourself. I promise to give you just enough information to drive you crazy. Consider this post your Official Time Killer at work today. No need to thank me.

Today's music is one of the most ubiquitous and notorious Christmas songs ever introduced to humanity. It is beloved by children because of the game-type aspect (How many days can I remember this year?) and loathed by adults because it is so repetitive and, quite frankly, boring (Oh. Em. GEE! This song has been going on for FOUR HOURS!!!).

And because I love you all so much, I'm presenting you with not one but TWO different versions!

What makes these both extra special, and what ties them together, is that they both feature a solo artist singing with a group. I think that formula helps to break up the monotony of the song. The caliber of talent doesn't hurt much, either.

The first rendition is from Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters. It was recorded in 1951 and is, in my most honest and humble opinion, the best recording of this song EVAH! First, Bing Crosby is to Christmas music as William Shakespeare is to tragic comedies. Don't try to argue that; it is a universal truth like the Law Of Gravity or the Rule Of One. Second, the vocal mastery of the Andrew Sisters is in full force. Just listen to the way they effortlessly switch from solos to singing in unison to tight three-part harmony. I defy you to find any vocal artists who can do this with such comfort and ease (and, yes, that includes The Manhattan Transfer, Take 6, and Rockapella ... not even close). Third, the arrangement here makes each verse unique so that, even though it's the same friggin' melody for three-and-a-half minutes, it's fresh every time.

The second rendition comes from two of my favorite performers, The Muppets and John Denver. It was recorded in 1979 as part of a Christmas television special, which you can still purchase today if you look around online. Why is this recording so special? Oh, c'mon now. It's John Denver, one of the purest vocalists I've ever known in my lifetime who, coincidentally, never took himself too seriously. And it's The Muppets, for Pete's sake! What these lovable characters lack in vocal talent, they more than make up for in hysterical entertainment.

I'm certain that there are other versions out there that would stack fairly well against either of these: this song has been recorded too many times for there not to be. I challenge you to post your favorite in the comments section.

'Tis the season to be giving and all.

16 December 2011

Music Video Friday: I Hate My Job By JbDubs

I know. It's December. Christmas is just around the corner. The air has a briskness about it. A certain DC radio station has been playing 'round-the-clock holiday music since Thanksgiving. You are all expecting me to post Christmas music over the next two weeks.

Well, I had planned to do so. But last night happened. See, last night was Cobalt's 3rd Annual Employee Show. As is tradition, there was an awful lot of trainwrecking going on. But there were also a few diamonds. One particular number caught my attention. It wasn't the cleanest choreography I'd ever seen, but it was cool. And that infectious song that I couldn't quite make out was ... infectious.

Now maybe it's because I wrote the initial draft of this post in the early moments of the morning and my brain isn't firing on all cylinders, but it took me a friggin' long time to figure out what the blasted song was. (The sound quality didn't help much either.)

But I found it!!!

And, lucky you, I'm sharing it with you this week!

It's by this musical artist by the name of JbDubs who is ... well ... he's a musical artist who performs music. Honestly, I don't know the first thing about him or his music. But this song! This song is poetry!
I hate my boss. I hate my coworkers. I hate my job.
All snark aside, who hasn't thought this at least once in their life?

(You, in the back there, put your hand down and shut up. No one wants to hear about your perfect life.)

Okay fine. Here's some Christmas music. Happy now?

02 December 2011

29 November 2011

Music Review: Xmas! The Beatmas By Rubber Band

What would have happened if the Beatles had made Christmas music instead of popular music? Pure effin' magic, that's what!

Rubber Band is (or was ... I don't right know because they don't have a presence online) a Beatles tribute band from Denmark. In 1994, the Fab Fire released an album of Christmas songs with a Beatles twist. See, what they did was take the lyrics from some of our most favorite Christmas songs and paired them with the instrumentals from some of our most favorite Beatles songs, with a little re-arrangement of course, to concoct a delicious blend of Yuletide cheer to bless your ears.

You can buy an import CD, but it will cost you an arm and a leg. My best advice is to click the link up there for the iTunes store to buy a copy of this album. Or you could get it through nefarious means ... but you didn't get that idea from me.

Either way, this album simply must become a part of your holiday music library. Trust me, you'll thank me for it.

Movie Review: The Muppets

I recently saw The Muppets. This decision was a foregone conclusion from the first time I heard rumor that a new Muppet movie was being made, one that was going to bring them "back to form". It certainly helped that the movie is getting glowing reviews from big-name critics and small-name bloggers. The gist of what the reviews are saying are:
  • The Muppets, who seemed completely lost after Muppets From Space, have found their way back into our hearts and imagination.
  • The cornerstone of The Muppets has been, is, and always will be their realness. And this movie cements that cornerstone even more securely.
  • Stars of stage and screen, past and present, will still do the ridiculous to be in a Muppet movie.
  • The Muppets are as sweet, topical, and subversive as ever.
  • The humans aren't too shabby either.
  • There is humor for all ages. And all ages can enjoy this flick without worry.
There are a few misfires ... a "WTF" moment with an ill-advised song, an over-abundance of human actors taking up Muppet screen time, too much breaking the Fourth Wall, too much self-referencing. But there are also some great moments ... David Grohl's brief cameo, Sweetums' introduction (for you who've watched all The Muppet movies), Jack Black's performance, the musical numbers (one touching number, specifically, which references something that actually happened on The Muppet Show). Go watch it; this movie gets a solid 4.5 out of 5.

But this isn't what my movie review is really about. I'm about to go deeper into my impressions and thoughts on the movie. Those of you who want to remain untainted by opinion before seeing it should stop reading now and come back again afterwards.

The plot is a superfan getting the crew together to save a forgotten and decaying relic of the past from destruction and desecration. Basically. There's a lesson about finding one's own way in life, discovering one's true self. But, really, who can pay attention to that when we have to get The Muppets back together again?

Don't be fooled. This movie is about reclaiming and reviving one's childhood. Not reliving it ... resuscitating it, bringing it back to life.

There are many out there, Mr. Segel included (at 1:49), who think that The Muppets had to be brought back from the dusty crates and moth-ridden closets for this newest generation to truly appreciate them. And, you know, for this newest generation, those who presumably have never seen The Muppet Show or any of the first three Muppet movies ... maybe they did need a new movie. Maybe they needed this fresh view to really get what The Muppets are and why the people of my generation cherish them so dearly.

Except these aren't my Muppets. Jim Henson has been long dead. The same is true for Richard Hunt. Frank Oz decided to sit this one out. These were the heart, soul, voices, and operators of at least thirteen of your main Muppets, most of whom are major characters in this movie. The kids won't know. But I do. See, The Muppets aren't like James Bond ... you can't just insert new voice and hand and go along as if nothing's changed. Because everything has changed. These people didn't just operate these characters ... these characters were an extension of their unique personalities. You can't just replace a personality (although Madonna has certainly tried to do that over the course of her career).

No, these aren't my Muppets. They are Muppets playing my Muppets. Acting, if you will. And on that point they succeed. Just like I could accept Roger Moore as James Bond, just like I could accept Michael Gambon as Albus Dumbledore, just like I could accept Brian Johnson as lead singer of AC/DC, I can accept these Muppets as a more than adequate substitute for the Muppets of my youth.

So I went and saw The Muppets and I enjoyed it. The Muppets allowed me to fall in love anew with my felt friends. It allowed me to reminisce on my childhood. But it made me want to go back to my The Muppet Show DVDs and watch the real deal. Because no matter how much we wish we could, we can only relive the past; we can't recreate it.

I do wish this new iteration ... this "reboot", if you will ... all the best. In my opinion, they did the legacy of Jim Henson and all of those original Muppeteers proud. I hope that they can continue to build on this foundation that Jason Segel has built because it's a pretty solid one.

25 November 2011

Music Video Friday: My Favorite Christmas Special

Once again I am forgoing the usual music video for something different. But not terribly so, because today's offering features music! So there.

This is the 1974 Rankin/Bass stop motion animated television special The Year Without A Santa Claus and it has my all-time favorite siblings performing in two parts one of my favorite holiday tunes. It was the first time that I remember even pondering the notion that there really wasn't a Santa Claus, which was a bit traumatic and prompted my parents to come clean about the whole Kris Kringle thing (I think). My only real negative criticism is the use of "Blue Christmas" in the show ... even at a young age, before I knew it to be one of the most overplayed Christmas tunes ever and an Elvis one to boot, I knew that this song really didn't belong here. Otherwise, this is classic stuff that should be shared with each new generation.

(Oh, and I don't care what you say, this never happened. Are we clear? NEVER HAPPENED!)

18 November 2011

Music Video Friday: The Motown Song By Rod Stewart With The Temptations

I'd been thinking all week about what song to feature in this week's Music Video Friday. It's been a rough week for me and for many people I know. I wanted something upbeat and fun. But I couldn't figure out what. Then, on my way in to work this morning, the perfect song was played on the radio.

In 1991 Rod Stewart released his 16th studio album, Vagabond Heart. The album reached the Top 10 in the US and contained three Top 20 singles. Among them is this week's selection.

"The Motown Song" was written by Larry John McNally and was originally featured on the Quicksilver soundtrack. Rod Stewart made his recording with the help of the legendary Motown group The Temptations. Their inclusion actually adds a lot of heft and cred to the song ... a smart move by whoever made it.

The video for the song was produced by Animation City, the same company that made Elton John's "Club At The End Of The Street". What really makes this video fun is the various cameos. See how many you can spot!

11 November 2011

Music Video Friday: Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy By The Andrews Sisters

Today is Veterans Day. It is on this day, every 11th of November, that we pause to remember and honor all of those who have served in our military, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

As my tribute, I offer you what is arguably the quintessential popular "military" song. While not specifically written for the military, this song has come to be associated with World War II and the USO. It is also ranked #6 in the "Songs Of The Century" list.

Now, beat me daddy, eight to the bar!

08 November 2011

Building A Dynasty?

My faithful readers know that I have no love for Marion Barry, my current council member. He was elected to his position the same month that I moved into my condo. When I discovered that I was the newest resident in Ward 8, instead of Ward 7 where the apartment from which I was moving out resides, I was none too pleased. The man is a politician of the worst kind and we can't be rid of him soon enough.

But he doesn't want to go quietly into that gentle night. On the contrary, he is already scheming to cement his blight ... er, legacy ... in the District's history books.
Barry (D) has outlined plans to run for a third consecutive term as D.C. Council member for Ward 8 but serve only part of that time, backing his only son, Christopher Barry, to fill his seat.
Let us allow that to sit for one moment so that we may meditate upon those words ...

... okay.

This only son of The Night Owl has shown no interest in District politics on any level. He has largely stayed out of the limelight. He's already had a couple unfortunate brushes with the law in his short adult life. Having him serve on the council only prolongs The Elder Barry's (pun intended) stranglehold on the people of Washington D.C. in general and Ward 8 in particular.

Neighbors of Ward 8, we simply cannot allow this.

If Christopher Barry ever decides he wants to follow his father's footsteps into public service, let him do it on his own terms ... and prove to us, the voters, the he deserves our trust and confidence. Otherwise, let him live where he can battle and conquer his personal demons in quiet civilian peace.

04 November 2011

Music Video Friday: What's Opera, Doc? By Looney Tunes

I want slapstick comedy and I want highbrow entertainment. I want romance and I want violence. I want blood-thirsty warriors and I want vampy cross-dressers. I want to laugh and I want to cry.

And I want it all in one nice, colorful, 6 minute 50 seconds package.

My pick for today's music video isn't technically a music video. It's a cartoon set to several of Richard Wagner's operas. So, I think it counts.

By the way, I was not aware that the Looney Tunes (and Merrie Melodies) cartoons were originally created to promote the Warner Bros. music catalog. My, how far we've come since then.

Take seven minutes out of your busy Friday to watch this. You'll thank me later.

31 October 2011

Bonus Halloween Music Video: Doing It All For My Baby By Huey Lewis And The News

Okay okay okay. So the song isn't technically Halloween-like. But the music video for it certainly is. It pays homage to, I think, just about every B-movie cliché ever done. Plus this was during the golden years of music videos, when artists didn't take themselves nearly as seriously or cynically as they do now.

So sit back, grab some popcorn, turn the lights down, and enjoy!

Happy Halloween!

28 October 2011

Music Video Friday: Zombie Jamboree (Back To Back) By Harry Belafonte

I know it's late in the day for this but I promise you'll enjoy it for the next four days.

(Yeah, I know the video sucks.)

Happy Halloween!

24 October 2011

Thoughts On "Upscale Karaoke"

On Friday, I read an article on TBD by Jenny Rogers titled "The art of upscale karaoke". It's a good filler piece for the online publication. And it rankled my feathers.
To bring more high-end, upscale polish to this activity of the stars, the W promises plenty of Top 40 song options and the presence of Tommy McFly, host of Fresh 94.7’s morning show.
I had an immediate reflexive reaction. But now that I've had some time to think about it, it still upsets me. See, I can't help but be reminded that I live in Washington DC. And in this city, "upscale" means
[...] chattering women in straight-from-work pencil skirts and sharp dresses, juggling iPhones and martini glasses. Guys in ties [...]
And all of that reeks of pretension and self-importance. "Upscale" doesn't have to mean people in fashionable evening wear sipping on martinis and singing to Top 40 hits at a production hosted by a morning radio show personality on the rooftop of a very fancy hotel steps from the White House.

We have fashionably-dressed people. We have Top 40 hits in our song collection. We serve martinis. We have a personable host. We have a friendly staff. We have seating. We stage lighting. We have wireless microphones and a sound system that draws world-class DJ talent. We have a very talented group of regulars.

What we don't have is a rooftop venue. And a fancy hotel. And steps from the White House.

Does that make us any less "upscale"?

Maybe I'm so possessive and protective of Wednesday Night Karaoke at Cobalt that I imagine slights where there are none. It's not like she's been to every karaoke venue in the area. She certainly has never been to WNKC.

But hopefully she will one Wednesday soon.

UPDATE 10/27/2011 13:02: Uh oh ... I've been called out. Guess I'll need to put up or shut up.

21 October 2011

Music Video Friday: Bohemian Rhapsody By William Shatner Feat. John Wetton

Remember when I said this a couple of years ago? Well, I still stand by what I said about that album and that song wholeheartedly. It would be a shining gem in anyone's music collection.

When I heard that Mr. Shatner was working on a follow-up album, I was cautiously optimistic. Perhaps, I thought to myself, he has learned from Ben Folds how to craft a solid music album built on original songs that play to his vocal strengths, a talented surrounding cast, and a visionary producer that will best utilize his limited talents.

But, Bill, you've quickly eroded any faith I may have had that your previous album was a fluke. Please, PLEASE, tell me that the rest of your new album isn't as nightmare-provoking as this:

14 October 2011

Music Video Friday: Muppet Numbers

In honor of an upcoming national theatrical release, I offer to you these classics:

Some Judo And Karate

I'd Trade 'Em All

High On A Hill Was A Lonely Goatherd

Animal, Keep It Down!

No, No, No, I Don't Work With A Deadly Tarantula

And, finally, arguably the funniest bit in all The Muppet Show!

07 October 2011

Music Video Friday: Eyes By Kaskade Featuring Mindy Gledhill

Until two years ago, I hadn't really heard of Kaskade. I may have heard a song of his or a remix he had done, but I wouldn't have known it. Over the past two years, my boyfriend has slowly introduced me to the music of Kaskade and I've become a fan.

Today's musical interlude is the first single off his soon-to-be-released album. The instrumental track is soothing, foot-tapping, and hypnotic. In short, it's all the good things that a Kaskade's underlying groove has to offer. Mindy Gledhill's vocals are wispy and dreamlike. She delivers the lyrics with a sweet, naïve (in a good way) aching that pulls you in like a gentle tide.

Eyes may indeed be the windows to the soul but ears are the channel to it.

23 September 2011

Music Video Friday: Stand By R.E.M.

I'm certain that you've heard the news: R.E.M. is calling it quits after over 30 years of music making. I wouldn't call myself a dedicated fan, but I am a fan. I have all of their albums. I enjoy the vast majority of the music they've made. While their post New Adventures in Hi-Fi music was still good, the band called "R.E.M." was over when Bill Berry left. Michael, Peter, and Mike carried on for five more solid albums and 15 more solid years as something that very closely resembled "R.E.M." but not quite.

It's hard for me to pick out just one song to showcase. There are just so many. But the one I've got for you today is up in my Top 10 from the band. It's a bouncy tune with an important message about becoming actively involved "in the place where you live". It's up to you to decide to what degree and in what ways you will be.

And also, dance steps. We could all use a little more exercise, right?

Now face North.

19 September 2011

Happy Pastafaria!

Today be t' Pirate high holy day. It be on this day, among others, that we pay our repects t' his Noodley Greatness in booty and rum. In honour o' me most favourite o' holidays, here be a tune from one o' t' most piratey o' modern pirates. Listen t' him cover a song from one o' t' most landlubbery o' landlubbers. Arrrrrrrrr! And RAmen!

18 September 2011

Death Came Knocking

My neighbor passed away. She rented the unit next to mine from a non-resident owner. Her unit was newly renovated. She moved in a few months ago. She was a 50-something 38 year old woman who took trips for dialysis treatment three times a week. She was on Section 8. She was a smoker who frequently locked herself out of her unit. She had a male friend who visited on multiple occasions. This is all I really know of her.

The smell was noticed on Thursday evening. Her body was discovered on Friday evening, when the MPD and EMS were called in to break into her unit. EMS said that she had been dead for a few days.

Let me explain why there was a day's delay between discovering the smell and breaking into the unit. I cannot think of anyone who has not smelled the distinct scent of rot. It happens all around us every day, mostly in the form of trash that needs taken out. That is the level of stench Thursday night. Everyone who spoke to the police said the same thing, "I smelled it on Thursday night but I thought that someone either needed to take their trash out or had just taken their trash out." On Friday evening, one was smacked with it upon entering the front door. It was gag-enducing. I'm honestly surprised it didn't seep into my unit, either through the wall or under the door. Gag-enducing smells are plenty enough to call the authorities to come break your door down.

Not one of us in the building could name any of her relatives or her male visitor. None of us had a spare key to her unit. None of us had any emergency numbers. Not even the owner was any help. As of Saturday morning, no friends or family members had been identified. No one other than us knows of her death.

I don't really have a life-changing point to make here. I'm simply noting the passing of a neighbor, one I knew very little about.

Well, let me change that. I do have one point. None of us live in a vacuum. It's important to know your neighbors. It's important to know their families. It's important to know their friends. You don't have to be all buddy-buddy, but you do have to know them.

Because you need to know the people you're living around. And you need to know with whom to contact should something horrible happen.

I express my condolences to my neighbor's family and friends. I hope you find out soon and that you find comfort soon after that.

16 September 2011

Music Video Friday: A Roy Orbison Bonanza

He is undeniably one of Rock 'N' Roll's greatest male voices. I've picked four of my favorite Orbison tunes. Enjoy!

Oh, Pretty Woman from Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night

Crying with k.d. lang

Walk On official video

Not Alone Any More as Lefty Wilbury of the Traveling Wilburys

09 September 2011

Music Video Friday: Stone In Love By Journey

It's raining in the D.C. metropolitan area. It seems like it's been raining for months and will continue to rain for months. Depression is setting in all around me. I'm starting to grow moss in my armpits.

I think it's time for a pick-us-up.

Every once-in-a-while I get infected with an earworm. Some of them are chronic. "Stone In Love" is one of my chronic earworms. Steve Perry's unearthly vocals. Steve Smith's thundering drums. Neal Schon's and Jonathan Cain's powerful guitar work. Ross Valory's grounding bass riff. And the harmonies in the chorus. This is Journey in their chart-topping prime.

Music rarely gets better than this.

Actually, while it may not be better, the current version of Journey with Arnel Pineda at the vocal helm certainly holds its own.

06 September 2011

ZOMG! I'm Being Gentrified!

Development is always something that happens somewhere else, like St. Elizabeths or the Southwest Waterfront or the Navy Yard area. But word came down this weekend that development was coming closer to home ... literally.
[Developer Tim Chapman] said he is under contract to purchase an auto body shop at 1708 Good Hope Road in Southeast D.C., on the border between Anacostia and Fairlawn, that he plans to develop into a 188-unit apartment complex with 25,000 to 30,000 square feet of retail. He would not disclose the price.
I'm of a mixed mind about this. On one hand, we need development (and redevelopment) East of the River, especially if the development includes retail. More, better, housing is always welcome. New retail opportunities are always welcome.

Sidebar: Mr. Chapman has not said whether this would include retail. So there's that. Actually, he did say. It's in the friggin' quote I used from the article. Yes, faithful readers, reading is fundamental.

That said, this development will be displacing, or possibly closing altogether, an excellent auto body shop. I recently needed some auto body work. And since 1) Murphy's is within walking distance of my condo and 2) Murphy's is a GEICO (my insurance company) partner, I went with them. The work was stellar and the customer service was the best I've ever had for auto body work. I was planning on taking my car back to them for additional body work that needs to be done once I had the finances to do so. I can only hope that Murphy's will find a new home and nearby.

Progress is painful. But it is necessary. And it is ... well ... progress. While I will morn the loss of Murphy's Auto Body, I will openly welcome new apartments/condos and (hopefully) retail.

26 August 2011

Music Video Friday: 5 Songs For A Hurricane

In case you didn't know, the East Coast is going to meet an angry lady named Irene this weekend. Here's some music to help you through.

  1. Beatles - Rain

  2. Garbage - Only Happy When It Rains

  3. John Fogerty - Who'll Stop The Rain

  4. Madonna - Rain

  5. Gene Kelly - Singing In The Rain

19 August 2011

Music Video Friday: I Wish By Skeelo Vs. Stevie Wonder (A Mashup By Roel "rrremix" Regelink) (Plus A Bonus Video)

I've had a crap day. So I'm sharing a mashup that always brings a smile to my face.

If you don't know what a mashup is, it is a song that is comprised of two or more songs "mashed" together. I've posted a mashup before on this site and spoke a little more about them.

So enjoy!

BONUS VIDEO: Jimmie, now that you've heard it, you can never unhear it.

12 August 2011

Music Video Friday: Uprising By Muse (Plus A Bonus Video)

To set off this week's music video, I regret that I'll need to get a little political.

I'm pissed off at my government. Maybe I'm making a big thing of nothing here, yet I can't help but feel that the people we've picked to speak for us aren't listening to what we have to say. It's full steam ahead with the same failed politics, the same failed arguments, the same failed games. The whole sorry circus came to its latest head this week, when S&P downgraded the country's credit rating for the first time in our country's history.

My faithful readers, I've had it. And so has a great number of people. I don't think anyone has put it as eloquently as comedian Felonious Munk. WARNING: This epic rant is generously peppered with colorful language; if you're reading this in a sensitive location (i.e. work, church, so on and so forth), you might want to put the headphones on.

He puts to video what, I believe, a lot of people are thinking. Frankly, I don't care who started rolling the snowball from the top of the mountain. We didn't elect these people to their roles in government so that they can finger-point. You, the people in Congress and the White House, are at the wheel now. Fix this mess or we'll find other people who will.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I do not advocate violence as a solution. Nor do I advocate releasing an army of Naughty Bears on the world. If you want to change the system, get yourself educated on the truth of the issues and on the candidates running for office then VOTE wisely!

UPDATE 15 Sugust 2011 13:31: What? No one was gonna tell me the Muse video didn't work?

09 August 2011

Tuna Steaks With Tomato And Basil Raw Salsa

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons
4 (1-inch) steaks, 6 to 8 ounces each
Salt and pepper
6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
A handful parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh basil leaves, about 10

Combine raw tomatoes, onions, parsley, and basil in a bowl. Dress with 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, enough to coat the tomatoes evenly. Season the salsa with salt and pepper, to taste. Let the salsa set in a covered dish in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes.

Heat a grill pan or indoor/outdoor grill to high. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the tuna steaks and season with salt and pepper.

Grill tuna steaks 2 minutes on each side for rare, 3 minutes for medium, and 4 minutes for well done.

Stir salsa then serve liberal amounts on top of the steaks.

08 August 2011

Robbie's Spicy Chicken Pasta

2 cups of penne pasta
6 cups of water
Salt and pepper
Vegetable oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
1 jar of favorite canned spaghetti sauce
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tube of Gourmet Garden Italian Seasoning Herb Blend
1 glass of red wine
Hot sauce

Combine vegetable oil, salt, pepper, and water in a deep pot. Bring water to boil. When water reaches a boil, add pasta and let cook for 4 minutes. Drain pasta but do not rinse.

While pasta is being prepared, season the chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, 1 tbsp. of hot sauce, and olive oil. Combine garlic and half of the diced onion in a separate bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Put 3 tbsps. of olive oil in a sauce pan and bring to a high heat. Add the onion/garlic mix and sweat until onions start to become clear. Add the chicken and cook until brown. Reduce heat to low. Add spaghetti sauce, diced tomatoes, 2 tbsps. of hot sauce, other half of the onion, and 1 oz. of the Italian herb blend. Use the wine to "clean" the sauce jar and add. Stir until all ingredients are thoroughly integrated. Let simmer under lid for 15 minutes. Remove lid, add pasta, and let simmer for an additional 8 minutes.

Serve in a pasta bowl (or a regular bowl or a dinner plate). Garnish with fresh parsley and Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Serves 4.

05 August 2011

Music Video Friday: Drum Duet And Los Endos By Genesis

I'm not exactly sure, but I think this live performance was taken from the last Genesis tour a few years back. Phil Collins is acknowledged as one of the greatest percussionists to have ever sat behind a drum set, and rightly so. But, come on. Chester Thompson deserves a bit of recognition too. There aren't too many people who can keep pace with Phil.

And those other three guys on guitars and keyboards aren't too shabby either.

By the way, I love the set. It's most certainly a blatant nod to a previous concert tour's set design.

26 July 2011

When The Cab Is At The Door, You Have To Take That Ride

Last night I got to thinking about the sudden yet not-completely-unexpected death of Amy Winehouse. She was 27 years old and joined an inauspicious group of famous people who left this physical plane at a young age.

First, I want to note that I didn't say "she left us too soon". Amy died when she was meant to die, not a moment too soon or too late. The world may not have been ready for her to go. But that is our fail of expectation. People die. Sometimes we're ready for it, as when someone suffers from a long-term illness. Sometimes we aren't, as when someone makes a quick exit that we didn't see coming (but should have). That's life.

My grandmother died of heart failure at the young age of 69. She was a feisty woman. She embodied life. But her time was done. I don't agree with it. My mother doesn't agree with it. My father doesn't. My siblings don't. My uncle and cousins don't. She was the dearest person in the world to me and I still hear her laugh, see her smile, smell her perfume and cigarettes. I wanted her to stick around long enough to see me married and with great-grandkids for her to enjoy. But them's the breaks. Her time on this earth was over.

One of my heroes and role models, Melvin Ray Batten, died around the same age and the same time. Mr. Batten was my high school music director. He introduced me to choral music. He taught me how to sing and how to read music. He planted in a small, frail, insecure boy the seed of self confidence. He showed me that the only thing that stands between me and what I want to achieve is me. I wasn't ready for him to go. A good number of people weren't either. But it was his time.

All of that is to say this: people die. We wish they could stick around forever. But they can't. That's not the way this universe was arranged. All we can do is honor their lives, acknowledge their memories, and share their love.

At some point during my week, The Lord Bless You And Keep You will play in my head. I always wear a locket with a picture of my grandmother in it. And I have Back To Black in my iTunes library.

We best honor those we've lost by never forgetting them.

22 July 2011

Music Video Friday: I Am Glad, Cause I'm Finally Returning Back Home By Eduard Khil

You may not recognize the name of the artist or the title of this 1966 television performance, but I guarantee you that you've seen the video. There have been a ton of parodies and remixes to this Internet meme and I've watched or listened to a fair number of them.

But this remix by Bob Rovsky is my favorite of the bunch. It tactfully combines the playfulness and rib-poking that an Internet meme shows the artist with a reverence to the artist and the original material.

Without further ado, I present to you the earworm of the day. You're very welcome.

15 July 2011

Music Video Friday: Wear My Hat By Phil Collins

No other artist ruled the 1980's like Phil Collins. From Genesis' Duke album with its wildly popular (and, IMHO, totally craptastic) "Misunderstanding" through his own solo album, ...But Seriously, you couldn't turn on the radio without hearing something in which he was involved.

Oh, Diarist. You're such an idiot. Everyone knows that the 1980's was the Decade Of The King Of Pop.

As a solo recording artist, I fully agree with you. There was no other act in music who could touch Michael Jackson. But Jackson didn't rule ... didn't own the 1980's the way Phil Collins did. Let's look at Collins' track record:
  • All four of his solo albums released from 1981 to 1989 cracked the Top 10, with two of them going to the Number 1 spot and all of them reaching multi-Platinum sales.
  • He provided Number 1 hit songs for three films during that time period.
  • His work with Genesis saw three of their four offerings break the Top 10. (Duke, released in 1980, was the worst performer, reaching Number 11.) All four of those albums went Platinum as well. Four of the singles released from these albums reached the Top 10 with one going all the way to Number One.
  • Of all the albums Collins produced, twelve were released in the 1980's. Including his solo work, he produced five Top 10 albums, with two going Number 1, and seventeen Top 10 singles, with six hitting Number 1.
And let's not even get started on the songs, concerts, and television shows on which he guest-performed. If you want more detail, The Eighties Club has a great run-down of what the man was up to during those ten years.

Anyway ... all that was to say that Phil had amassed a large and looming shadow over the music industry and had captured the hearts, minds, and wallets of the general public. He was poised to continue his domination of the music business deep into the next decade.

And then 1993 happened. His album that year wasn't a complete flop by reaching the Number 13 spot. But it most certainly took all the wind out of his sails. Now I'm all for artists following their hearts and making MUSIC, but music is a business and momentum is everything. And Both Sides killed his momentum. It could have been the solemn music or the IMPORTANT lyrics, but I think it was the decision to record the album by himself without his band that did him in. It gave it an unfinished demo, phoned-in feel. I think if he had brought his band in ... and produce it in a less-polished fashion ... he could have still reached that intimate experience and keep the attention of the general public.

Three years later, Phil released Dance Into The Light, a true "return to form". The album was light and bright but still managed to address IMPORTANT themes. AND it didn't contain any use of that blasted drum machine! (Seriously, dude, you're a drummer!) It's a shame that Both Sides ever happened. I think that if Dance Into The Light had followed ...But Seriously, it would have done much better than its Top 21 high point; it really deserved better than that. Maybe it wouldn't have been his third Number 1 album, but it would have been his fifth Top 10.

One of my favorite songs from Dance Into The Light is the completely pointless "Wear My Hat". Now I don't mean pointless as in "having no excuse for being". I mean pointless as in "having that frozen yogurt hurt my waistline but OMGZ was it good". The song is a funny poke a celebrity groupies and the video, while it isn't the most clever he's done, is still fun to watch.

This song ... this album ... went a long way to patching things up with fans and getting him back on track again. That is until he went and fucked things up again with Testify.

08 July 2011

01 July 2011

Music Video Friday: The Declaration Of Independence

There is no music video today. In three days, we will celebrate the day our country was born. Sure, I could post some patriotic ditty or another but for some reason I feel the need to be a bit more somber of America's 235th birthday. So instead, I offer you a scene from John Adams.

30 June 2011

Five Reasons Montréal Métro Is Better Than Washington Metro

  1. The wait for a train on Montréal Métro was never longer than 5 minutes ... on a holiday weekend no less! Good luck getting that kind of time from Washington Metro.
  2. Compare this, one of Montréal Métro's most cavernous stations, to this, one of Washington Metro's most cavernous stations.
  3. Montréal Métro's station names are concise while still giving even the first-time rider a sense of place. Very much unlike Washington Metro system's unfriendly and unwieldy naming convention.
  4. TV! In the friggin' stations!
  5. Because it's on rubber tires, the Montréal Métro sings a comforting tune as it arrives and departs. Nothing at all like the screeching and wailing of Washington Metro's trains.

21 June 2011

Music Video Friday: Perform This Way By "Weird Al" Yankovic

I know. I know! This isn't Friday. It's Tuesday. But I couldn't post a video this past Friday, so I'm playing catch-up. Please enjoy this heartfelt offering from one of my generation's greatest performers.

10 June 2011

Music Video Friday: My Time By Dutch Feat. Crystal Waters

This weekend is Capital Pride in the Nation's Capital. When I was a younger, less experienced homosexual, I participated in a lot of Pride activities. It was a way to be around like-minded people ... people who were otherwise mostly invisible. I was somewhere I could fit in and be my complete self openly and without fear. Yes, the world was a slightly different place back then.

As I've gotten older and more secure in the "complete me", I've found myself having less and less to do with Capital Pride events. It's not that I think it isn't still important to associate with people who are more like you. But I honestly have no idea what the point of it all is and I haven't found anyone who can tell me outside of established talking points. Even though my opinion of the festivities may have changed, I certainly do not begrudge those who do still enjoy it all.

To those of you who will be out and about showing the world how proud you are of being Out And About, this one's for you.

08 June 2011

Toute Nation A Le Gouvernement Qu'elle Mérite

The post's title is a quotation by Joseph de Maistre in his Lettres et Opuscules Inédits, Vol. 1, Letter 53, written on 15 August 1811 and published in 1851. The English translation reads, "Every nation has the government it deserves".

Monsieur de Maistre was giving voice to his dislike of democracy, thinking instead that hereditary monarchies were "a divinely sanctioned institution" and "the only stable form of government". He believed that "the social legitimacy of government must therefore be based on compelling non-rational grounds, which its subjects should not be willing (or allowed) to question". Any input or questioning from the masses would only "lead to violence and chaos".

That's all very interesting, Diarist. But what does this have to do with the District, its mayor, or its city council?

Upon the founding of the United States, we turned our back on monarchies. We believed that the People held the wisdom of how they should be governed, and not some man (or woman) holed up inside a castle somewhere. Thus our form of representative democracy was born. What was formed for the nation also became the blueprint for every state, county, and city.

Uh huh. Still not following you here, bud.

I love democracy. I believe that our Founding Fathers got it right and Monsieur de Maistre was a bit off track. That said, I also believe that the People tend to get it wrong from time to time. Democracy is messy and, if the participants aren't paying much attention, can have ... rather untidy consequences.

Which is what leads me to my city.

You may not be aware, but my city's government has been rocked with several lapses of judgement fairly recently. It's a shame that such a rash of highly unethical behavior is going on because we were doing very well for a while there. But now ... now we are being visited by the spectres of the 1980's and the mid-1990's. Trust me, faithful readers, those were not happy days for the District of Columbia.

Let's just have a quick look as some of the goings-on in the past nine months, shall we?
And, really, that's only scratching the surface of how bad things have gotten with our top city government officials.

Look, Washingtonians, our city government is rotten and infested with the worst type of vermin. It is more commonplace to see budget cuts and tax increases coupled with even more ineffectual returns on our financial investment. (Make no mistake of it, people: Your tax dollars are an investment in your city and your government.)

Weak leaders with weak minds and weak resolve.

But you know what really pisses me off?


Yes, you! District residents are the epitome of the ol' axiom, doomed to forever roll the stone up the hill only to watch it roll back down to the bottom come day's end. You constantly elect people to office who fail you. And when the next election comes, you elect the fools again hoping that, maybe this time, they'll do right by you.

They. Won't.

These people are in it for them and theirs. They don't give a rat's ass about you, your struggles, or your needs. And if Rome should burn around their blatant and criminal disregard ... what, they worry? Their abandonment of their real duties is made obvious at how they repeatedly, quickly, easily, and flagrantly flout the rules of law ... actions that would land you or me in jail quicker than you can say, "My kidneys made me do it".

Our swamp is putrid and it needs to be drained. We need to rid ourselves of the career politicians who are in it for themselves. We need to clean out the corruption and usher in stewards who will act in our best interests.

Otherwise, notre ville a le gouvernement qu'il mérite.

06 June 2011

The Washington Post's 2011 Post Hunt


That is the only word I can use to describe this year's Post Hunt.

I've participated in every Post Hunt since the first one in 2008. (I realize I didn't post a recap of last year's. My bad.) I've had a blast every year. The Endgame has always been exceedingly difficult to decipher. And the first five puzzles were very challenging but not impossible to figure out. My team always succeeded in solving at least four of the five puzzles (but never the whole shebang.)

But this year. This year.

As I have said before, the puzzles in past years were very challenging. But this year, IMHO, the Creators seemed to make it a point to force us puzzlers to think much farther outside any imaginable box to reach the answers. I seriously caution you, Creators, that this will dissuade the casual puzzler from participating in the future.

My team didn't stick around for the final clue. (Because, really, what was the point when we could see the answers in today's publication?) It's a shame, really. Apparently, one didn't really even need to solve the five puzzles to solve this year's Endgame, according to the comments. That, my faithful readers, is no bueno. (Though it definitely explains the overly large crowd of people sprinting past The Corner Bakery, where we were finishing up our lunch. That never happened in years past ... you'd see maybe three or six groups making a beeline like that.)

And what about those five clues in the magazine? What exactly did they have to do with the Hunt? From what I could see, they had absolutely nothing to do with it. I understand, and appreciate, red herrings with my puzzle events. I think they are a vital part of making puzzle events like The Post Hunt work. I just happen to think that there was a major imbalance in the "red herring to actual clue" ratio this year. And it all started with the magazine.

Hey, I'm not complaining ... much. I enjoy The Post Hunt. I enjoyed it again this year. But only because I got to spend the afternoon with some people I enjoy. I honestly think that the Creators dropped the ball and phoned it in this year. I certainly hope that they do a better job next year.

03 June 2011

Music Video Friday: And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going By Jennifer Husdon And Jennifer Holliday

You may have heard that Jennifer Holliday will be headlining this year's Capital Pride Festival on 12 June. And I think I just heard a few of you ask, Jennifer WHO?

Ms. Holliday is best known for originating the role of Effie White in Dreamgirls back in 1981. Her biggest selling single was one of the signature songs from that show. I think you may have heard of it.

You'd be forgiven if you thought that Jennifer Hudson popularized "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going". She most certainly did give it to us back in 2006, judging by all the awards she won for her show-stealing portrayal of Effie White. But upon seeing and hearing Ms. Holliday perform, one can't help but think that perhaps Ms. Hudson was simply parroting greatness.

And that's not a bad thing, really.

Thanks For The Notice, But ... Really?

The news broke early Wednesday afternoon that the headliner of this year's Capital Pride Festival isn't who we thought it was. At the time, I didn't mind the 11th-hour switch. I mean, it isn't like the person who's stepping in is an unknown talent or hasn't been professionally active in a while.

But the more I thought about it, the more it started to stick in my craw. See, Capital Pride's main act historically hasn't been a person who would be considered a current top artist. Usually the main act is a washed-up performer, a "legend" who doesn't have much else going on, someone who hasn't been culturally relevant in over 10 years. I'm not saying this is true of Ms. Holliday ... because it isn't. She has been very active in music and film, even releasing a gospel album in April. She is a great choice for the headlining performance.

But she's no Kelly Rowland.

It was good of Ms. Rowland to let the organizers know of the scheduling conflict and that she had to back out. I wouldn't necessarily say that she "took the high road"; she merely paid the most basic courtesy by simply informing. If she wanted to take the high road, she would not have agreed to perform at Capital Pride at all. It's not like she didn't know she wanted to be a judge on X-Factor. Gigs like that just don't sneak up on you. You start actively going after a job like that as soon as the rumor of someone leaving hits the street. She knew she wanted the X-Factor job more than she wanted to sing at Capital Pride. So, she should never have said yes to the committee.

Maybe it's the District native in me. Maybe I'm reading too much into this. Maybe I've let the decades of snubs by popular artists, thus having to settle for 2nd- and 3rd-Tier acts, build a large chip on my shoulder. Look, I get that stuff happens. I understand that scheduling conflicts arise. And I can see how things can get overlooked. But I can't help but feel that this cancellation smacks of disrespect for the homosexuals of the Washington Metropolitan area.

01 June 2011

Rule #1 To Hole Digging: When You're Over Your Head, Quit Digging And Call For A Ladder

The strength and courage of Walter Washington. The political acumen of Marion Barry. The ... um ... the ... (let's just move past the forgettable Sharon Pratt Kelly). The financial mastery of Anthony Williams. The risk-taking assertiveness of Adrian Fenty.

These are the positive qualities that the citizens of the District of Columbia wanted in their mayor.

As City Council Chairman for four years, Vince Gray showed flashes of all of these qualities. And so, in 2010, Vincent C. Gray was elected the sixth mayor of the Nation's Capital (seventh if you count Barry's mayoral tenures separately).

As mayor of this great city, Vince Gray has embodied traits of his predecessors ... all of the bad traits. His tenure thus far has been full of missteps, mistakes, mistruths, misspeaking, and Miss Greene.

The man pledged to make D.C. "One City" under an ethical, efficient, and transparent city government. So far, the mayor has delivered not one of those.

Listen, Vince ... may I call you Vince?

Vince, we're both D.C. natives. We both know that the people of this great city can be very forgiving. Why, just look at that eternal recipient of community grace on the City Council. Yes, the District residents can be very forgiving.

They can also be spiteful and vengeful. I mean, let's not kid ourselves here. The biggest reason you got elected is because Adrian Fenty was such a dick. Don't misunderstand me; he was a fine mayor. I'd argue that he was the second best mayor this city's had. But he had no people skills. And we both know that the people will not be ignored.

Or, maybe you don't know. I thought you did. But you're not doing a good job of listening to the beat on the street. You're in a deep, deep, DEEP hole right now yet you persist in digging deeper. And I, quite frankly, can't understand where this is coming from.

This person holding the Executive Pen is not the same person who wielded the Legislative Gavel. The latter person heard what the people had to say and did his best to give them what they wanted so long as it was in the best interest of the city. That person was able to articulate himself, his positions, and his decisions to the people. And when the people disagreed, he was able to help them see the big picture.

But this guy you've become ... he's a lost, hot mess. We, the people you serve, have no idea what the hell it is you're doing there in the Wilson Building. We see confusion. We see a mayorship adrift. We see the wheels spinning with nothing accomplished. And what we're seeing, if I may be blunt, scares the shit out of us. We refuse to live through A Nightmare On 14th-And-Penn 3: The Respite Is Over.

Rediscover that man who was once the City Council Chairman. Purge your ranks of those "trusted" advisers who are steering you into the rocks. Surround yourself with smart people who care more about this city then they do their own political careers. Communicate clearly with the citizens of your city. Make smart decisions. In short, get your act together. And do it quick. Because the people out here are starting to oil their torches and sharpen their pitchforks.

31 May 2011

Please Don't Treat Me Like An Idiot If You Don't Know Yourself

I'm not going to get into the details here. But I would like to vent this out in a very generalized fashion.

The following is a heavily edited conversation I've had in the past month:
Person: "Hey, did you hear about Story A? I heard/read/saw it this morning and can't believe it. How could such a thing be allowed?"

Me: "I heard/read/saw that as well but I also heard/read/saw other stories that said Story A might not be true."

Person: "Of course it's true. The story cited a person with knowledge of the situation."

Me: "Okay. Well, I don't really care about it."

Person: "Well, you obviously cared enough to heard/read/seen more about this than I have."
Look, I don't mind being treated like an idiot most of the time. I'd prefer that people think I'm disengaged from most serious topics. I've done the "big topic" arguments with people before. They were exhausting and I get no joy out of them.

But let's get something clear. If you come at me with something and I counter with additional information that you didn't previously have, don't discount me because I don't fit your narrative. Most people who know me know that I am fair. Even if I don't like something/someone, I will still get all the information I can about a story before I jump to a conclusion*.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree. I don't have a college degree. I don't read a lot of books. I'm not terribly inquisitive. But I know what I know and I know what I don't know.

And I know that I'm not naïve. If I hear/read/see something that could remotely be borderline controversial, I make sure to get more information about it. I don't stop at one report and say that it is true. Odds are that it isn't.

I also know that I will not speak blindly about any topic with which I am not familiar. I will only comment on things about which I've chosen to educate myself. If I pick a position opposite yours, it is usually not because I'm trying to be difficult or play devil's advocate (although some cases I do). Usually, I am pointing out that, maybe perhaps, you have not devoted enough time to your statement.

* This isn't always the case. I have been known on rare occasions to jump to a conclusion without all the information. Chalk it up to Sporadic Momentary Intellectual Laziness Syndrome.

27 May 2011

Music Video Friday: Everybody Have Fun Tonight By Wang Chung

It's the eve of Memorial Day Weekend 2011! Everybody Wang Chung tonight! (Could you tell me what a Wang Chung is?*)

*One of my most favorite throwaway lines in a song ever!

What Exactly Builds A Fan Base?

In anticipation of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout, Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis decided the team needed a complete rebuild. Six years later, looking at the first post-lockout team's roster and this past year's team roster you will notice four common threads: Ovechkin, Green, Bradley, and Laich. All four started that 2005 season for the team and continue to be foundational players today.

The same year that the NHL was experiencing its CBA battle, MLB finally decided what it was going to do with the long decaying team ... they shipped it to the Capital Of The Free World. Now, quickly, name one person who started the year in 2005 who is still on the team.

Liván Hernández? I'll give you partial credit here. While he did come over with the Expos in 2005, he did stints with four other teams beginning in 2006 before being brought back to the Nationals late last season.

Ryan Zimmerman? I'll again give you partial credit. He was called up in September of that year but didn't play his first full year until the following year. He is currently on the IR list, but he is still the most recognizable player and the cornerstone of the team.

So let's recap. Washington Capitals on the team since 2005 = 4 players. Washington Nationals on the team since 2005 = 2 partial credits.

(You'll notice that I've not included the Washington Redskins. They always have and probably always will have a large, solid fan base; so there's nothing to build. You'll also notice that I haven't included the Washington Wizards. This year, under new owner Ted Leonsis (yes, the very same Ted), they have begun their own rebuild. It will be a few years before we start seeing fruit from that seed. Also excluded is D.C. United. While soccer may never be huge, per se, the team has a very loud and very loyal base.)

The point I'm getting to ... or trying to get to ... is that people attach to players and, in turn, to teams. And that bond gets solidified when the team, with those players, start winning. Just think of the Washington Wizards during part of this same time period. They made the playoffs for four seasons in a row. If it weren't for the injuries, nonsense, and dismantling of the team during the mid-Aughts, the team would probably still be perennial playoff contenders and command a huge fan base. But the winning stopped, the players were traded off, and new unfamiliar faces were brought in. And attendance dropped from its 18,372 average in 2007 to 16,791 average this past season.

So how, exactly, do the Lerners expect to build a solid fan base for the Nationals when their roster sees such large turnovers?

They could be starting to get it. The farm system is getting solid and their minor league stars are starting to come up to the big league. Ryan Zimmerman was the first of the home-grown players and we're seeing more added each year. Ownership needs to stay on this course its finally laid. It needs to pay to keep its in-house staff and it needs to pay to add necessary "mercenary" pieces. This team lost a lot of goodwill and eager want-to-be-fans with the missteps taken from 2005 to 2009 (myself included).

I'd love to be a diehard Nationals fan. But, guys, you have to give me familiar faces to root for and reasons why I should care. Right now, it's pretty difficult to do that.

20 May 2011

In Memoriam: Randy Poffo

You may not recognize the name, but I guarantee you will instantly recognize the face of one of professional wrestling's most electrifying personalities and product spokesperson extraordinaire.

That life, that voice, that manic energy was suddenly extinguished this morning.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Savage was driving his Jeep Wrangler when he veered across a concrete median, through oncoming traffic, and "collided head-on with a tree." He was transported to Largo Medical Center, where he died. Savage's wife of one year, Lynn, was a passenger but sustained only minor injuries, according to TMZ.

Savage's brother, Lanny Poffo told TMZ that the wrestler suffered a heart attack while he was driving and then lost control of the vehicle.
I don't normally write obituaries for celebrities. But Macho Man was a powerful image of my childhood and early adolescence. I remember watching one of the greatest wrestling heroes turned villains on Saturday afternoons. I remember trying to emulate that "Ooooooh yeaaaahhh" of his (and failing miserably). I know a good number of people think that wrestling is silly. Quite frankly, I do too. I also know it's entertainment. And Randy Savage was always excellent at keeping me entertained.

I just hopes he doesn't lay the Diving Elbow Drop on anyone who catches a parting glance of Miss Elizabeth in the afterlife.

Music Video Friday: Rapture Remix

In case you totally missed the news this week, tomorrow is expected to be a very big day. People all around the world will be spending tonight like it's 1999, each in his/her own way. A mixtape is a bit cliché but I'm going to do it anyway. You're going to find some standards here but I hope to add a tune or two that, perhaps, hadn't crossed your mind. So without further adieu or comment I give you my Rapture Remix!

  1. R.E.M - It's The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

  2. Blonde - Rapture

  3. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bad Mood Rising

  4. Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around

  5. AC/DC - Highway To Hell

  6. Prince - 7

  7. Rockapella - Shambala

  8. Genesis - Supper's Ready: Part VI & VII: Apocalypse In 9/8 & As Sure As Eggs Is Eggs (Aching Men's Feet)

  9. Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - The Rising

  10. Biola University Chorale - In Dat Great Gettin' Up Mornin'

  11. And lastly, for those of the unlucky ones left behind who might need someone to hang out with:

  12. The Beatles - You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)

13 May 2011

Music Video Friday: Ode To A Butterfly By Nickel Creek

I was first tuned in to Nickel Creek by one of my best friends when I visited him in Maine for a week. The styles of music they play and the artists they've covered, both live and in studio, varies a good deal. It's difficult to pigeon-hole them in a specific musical genre, though I suppose "Progressive Bluegrass" is as good as any.

Initially, I balked at the band. Yes, my best friend played me "Smoothie Song" and, yes, it's a very good instrumental piece. But I was still rebelling against the music of my father. See, every Sunday morning as we kids would be getting ready for Sunday School, my parents would blast Stained Glass Bluegrass from the living room stereo system. For two hours every Sunday morning we woke up, brushed our teeth, put on our clothes, combed our hair, and ate our breakfast to bluegrass music.

When I started becoming my own man, I wanted to move as far away from how I grew up as possible (without killing my parents with stress). I pushed bluegrass music to the most nethermost regions of my brain and life.

It's only been in the past five years or so that I've begun to embrace some of those things that I grew up with, even to include bluegrass music.

Before you even think anything, my bluegrass library is teeny-weeny. Like, almost non-existent. But I do have Nickel Creek's three albums. They've all gotten extensive play, and I cannot find fault in any of them.

One of the biggest gems is the first song on their first album. It's completely instrumental, so you're going to be robbed of their rich vocals. But the mastery these three had on their instruments at such a young age would have made Bill Monroe blush with pride, I'm sure.

So here, for you, is Nickel Creek performing "Ode To A Butterfly" live on Austin City Limits in 2001.

09 May 2011

Remember That Year The Reds Won The World Series?

Ah, good times!

(I have to make a note here right at the start: I spent all morning debating whether I should post this. It's going to be hard to rant about this while keeping it vague enough not to cause professional waves, for one. And I don't really want to offend the source of the rant, for two. But this dug around in my brain in a most unpleasant way and I have to put it out here.)

The New Republic founding editor Walter Lippmann once said, "Democracy is much too important to be left to public opinion." That is because public opinion is easily swayed and the process is easily corrupted.

Politics readily comes to mind.

So does American Idol.

Yes, it is very important that the public be engaged in social activities. It is also important to, at the same time, maintain the integrity of said social activity.

I am a strong proponent of fairness. In my life, in my dealings, I do my best to treat people fairly ... everyone on level ground. I detest an uneven playing field. Cheaters irritate the bejeezus out of me. (People who drive in the right-turn lane only to jump into the left-straight lane just to get a few cars ahead would be a great example.)

Okay, Diarist, where are you going with this?

You may or may not know that I host a weekly karaoke show in the District. Occasionally, the establishment will have a singing contest that occurs on karaoke night. When I am asked (or volunteered) to run these contests, which includes coming up with the rules to which the contest will adhere, I make them as fair as I can possibly make them while ensuring that the public will be engaged as well. It's quite a difficult balance, but I think I have (mostly) succeeded at striking that balance.

Now imagine how I must feel when I receive word that someone plans on rigging one of my competitions. Let me tell you, I do not feel well about this.

There are two things that make strong competitors what they are. First, they want to win the ultimate prize, whatever that prize may be. Second, they know without doubt that they can win without any outside help.

If you are not the least bit interested in winning the prize, please do not waste our time by competing. You're simply taking up space and oxygen that someone else actually wants. If you have any doubt that you can win this thing fairly, please do not waste our time by competing. Odds are you won't win anyway.

Look, competitions are what they are and rules are what they are. I'm not so naïve as to think that people don't school the system. I know it happens. I write my rules in a way that you can bring your friends to help ensure that you make the cut. The intentions do not in any way, shape, or form include bringing your friends to rig the whole enchilada.

I do build in fail-safes to counter-balance cheating, but they are very limited and will only be used if I have no other choice. Trust and believe ... I will use my fail-safes if forced. But I'd honestly prefer not to have to go that route. I'd honestly prefer that everyone compete fairly. Which means it's all on you.

Have you got it in you?