Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cole is one heartbroken dude

"The more I learn, the less I know. Could you make mine straight Absolut?"

Man, I could think of a zillion Lloyd Cole lyrics that resonate with me, but that one comes to mind. Maybe I need a drink.

I am a big fan of Lloyd Cole not because he is pretentious, but because he is a smart, heartfelt songwriter and that is hard to find. Today, he turns 50, and apparently, aging is an unstoppable, natural part of life to singers the Snooze Button Generation likes. Not too long ago, Paul Westerberg also hit 50.

The biggest problem with love songs, and romantic comedies, AKA chick flicks, is that often times, they focus only on no-doubt-about-it simple love. Is that how love really is? Maybe no-doubt-about-it love exists, but it's not always that simple. Is it?

To me, a good love song or chick flick takes into account some of the complexities that make up a human being and love. And that's why Lloyd Cole is such a winner.The song "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" is one of his most well-known tunes, and that's deservedly so. How many songs can focus on the connection between love and vulnerability in a moving way in 3 minutes, 5 seconds?

"Sentimental Fool," "Mr. Malcontent," "Undressed" and most of the songs from a compilation titled "Lloyd Cole & the Commotions: 1984-1989" are examples of high-level songwriting that are worthwhile.

Of late, Cole has been erratic with releasing new songs and albums. Unlike Westerberg, Cole's newer work doesn't seem to have as much value, though his 2000 album with the Negatives was solid. Maybe he's heartbroken, and he's finally tired of singing about it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How the Big Trak ruined America

The best thing about the Big Trak wasn't the truck itself, but my cat's reaction to it. My Lord, I remember Muffy puffing up and hissing at the Big Trak, and I rarely saw her do that.

I look at the Big Trak now and think, "Holy balls! That is one awesome toy!"

However, as a youth, I often thought it was a ripoff, never quite living up to the expectations I had for it. Just like in a commercial I saw for it, the Big Trak was supposed to cut down on household chores by delivering apples to my father. I could never get it to do that.

Was the Big Trak just a toy? Upon further examination, it may not have been a toy from the '80s. It may have been the devil.

Until this day, I still cannot comprehend the ridiculous popularity of SUVs in the late '90s and early 2000s. Through extensive Internet research, I have discovered that U.S. automakers typically made $10,000 for each SUV sale while they either lost money or broke even for regular car sales during the SUV craze.While the SUV craze reinvigorated the U.S. auto industry, it also meant that less resources were being put into regular cars, and foreign companies said "checkmate" to the U.S. companies because of the value and development of conventional cars. Soon, the U.S. auto industry was in turmoil, and an eventual government bailout was needed.

For all of this, I blame the Big Trak. Subconsciously, many members of the Snooze Button Generation remembered their love of the Big Trak growing up, and when it was their turn to buy a car, they bought the closest thing they could to the Big Trak.

Instead of shooting lasers, SUVs rolled over frequently, but SBG members didn't mind. They got their Big Traks, wasted some gas and gave the auto companies some short-term success. All of the United States' economical turmoil can be traced to the Big Trak.

And don't get me started about the war in Iraq. Obviously, G.I. Joe is to blame for that one.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

'Just friends' with Gabrielle

I have added Gabrielle from "Xena: Warrior Princess" on Facebook and am curious about her relationship status.

I really haven't seen Gabrielle since 2001 and am wondering where life has taken her. The two of us are "just friends" - and will always be "just friends" - but I felt we shared a special bond from 1995-2001, when "Xena: Warrior Princess" aired.

Watching "Xena" as a young adult brought moments of confusion to me. In the end, I totally "got," and liked, the show, but looking back at it, the first few years of the show were the best when I didn't totally "get" it.

Xena once had a romantic relationship with Hercules on the show "Hercules." Then she got her own show and forged a relationship with Gabrielle. In the beginning, I saw the two simply as Batman & Robin types, working together, then as the show progressed, I thought, "Hey, wait a second. I think there's something going on here!"

By the final season, Gabrielle had real short hair, and the duo kissed. I could be mistaken, but they might have had a love affair going on amid their swashbuckling.Some lesbians have championed "Xena: Warrior Princess" as a gay rights Tour de Force. That's a good cause, and I'm all for warrior princesses. But I preferred the show when Xena and Gabrielle had more of a subtle romance. Perhaps I liked Gabrielle's innocence because I had that innocence too.

I can't wait to send a couple e-mails to Gabrielle on Facebook and see if she's still with Xena.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Monopoly hobos: Down but not out

The end of a Monopoly game can be quite awkward. A player eventually will go bankrupt, and according to the official rules, he must "turn over all that he has of value and retire from the game."

It has been my experience that if a person goes bankrupt in life, he typically does not retire from everything. That logic affected me, my family and friends when growing up, and whenever someone went bankrupt in a Monopoly game, that person became a "Monopoly hobo" and continued the game as a street person.

Monopoly is fun and all, but having the hobo added an element that increased the fun level tenfold. We often had conversations like this:

Property holder: You owe me $800 for staying in my hotel.
Hobo: I only have $6.
Property holder: Six bucks! Are you kidding me? My hotel costs $800.
Hobo: Please, sir, have mercy. Do you want my six bucks?
Property holder: Whatever. You should be ashamed of yourself!Typically, the hobo would hope to land on free parking, AKA win the lotto. Officially, putting money in the free-parking spot is not in the Monopoly rules, but the game would probably be unbearably boring without that quirk.

Upon further review, arguably the most I have ever learned about humanity came from Monopoly. How we treated the hobo probably showed a lot about ourselves. Strangely, I think I enjoyed being the hobo more than hoisting up hotels on St. James Place.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Jerry Wick deserves his just due

Exactly 10 years ago today, Gaunt frontman Jerry Wick was tragically killed in a hit-and-run bicycle accident in Columbus, Ohio. He was 33.

The news story from the Columbus Dispatch about the accident says he simply was riding his bike home after hanging out at Larry's, a popular High Street bar, on the night he died. The driver who hit him eventually was found and received an extremely light sentence with no jail time. It's just a flat-out shame the accident happened.

Jerry deserves his just due as a songwriter, performer and key figure of the Columbus music scene in the '90s. I vaguely knew him, had a couple brief conversations with him and was into his band. Gaunt is one of only a few bands in which I have all their albums (five), and it's a shame the band broke up in 1998.

Listening to Gaunt now, knowing what happened to Jerry, adds poignancy to a lot of Wick's lyrics and mystique. For God's sake, Gaunt's first album is called "Sob Story," produced by Steve Albini.Man, Columbus had a vibrant music scene from 1991-95, when I lived there. Stache's and Bernie's had quality bands on practically a nightly basis, and Bernie's and Larry's were cool bars where Rolling Rock bottles were affordable and attractive.

The New Bomb Turks, Gaunt and Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments led the '90s Columbus music scene, and it was a memorable time when bands rocked and hardly cared about the corporate-rock scene. There is a chance that '90s indie rock was the last authentic rock movement because hip-hop soon took control of music world.

I recently ran across a song Jerry Wick wrote as a solo artist called "Love, Death and Photosynthesis." It's a smart and emotional song with especially poignant lyrics, considering that Jerry is no longer with us.

He sings, "When you're gone, anything will grow. When you're gone, anything will grow in your place."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lip syncing: The finest art

For originality, a 28.

For appearance, a 29,

For lip sync, a 30!

For the majority of my life, the TV show "Puttin' on the Hits" has been in my mind. I like to lip synch. Who doesn't? And that show's rating system often pops into my mind when, as a classy teacher, I grade some papers. Unfortunately, lip syncing is not considered a core English content standard.

It was only recentl that I realized how miniscule "Puttin' on the Hits" was. It only aired from 1984 to 1988, and its host, Allen Fawcett, is less famous than me. Through intense Internet research, I have realized that many people might not have even heard of "Puttin' on the Hits."But, hell, no! I refuse to accept the fact that "Puttin' on the Hits" is insignificant to many in the world. Did anyone happen to see the "Say, Say, Say" performance in which a man dressed as a half black man and half white man (one side was black, and the other side was white) and perfectly lip synced the Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney parts? Yowsers, that was perfect!

We live in a crazy world in which lip syncing is hardly considered an art form any more. I am pretty sure the Greeks considered the top three art forms as 1) painting, 2) sculpture and 3) lip syncing. You can tell a lot about a culture by its art, and the lack of lip syncing shows makes me wonder where our society is headed.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A new spin on resolutions

I have heard that New Year's resolutions are for the weak. If you haven't done it by now, are you really going to do it?

Well, touche, cynics, I have a New Year's resolution, and I will be following through with it. I am going to get spinners for my 2004 Volkswagen Jetta station wagon.

Some might ask why I need spinning rims for my wagon. The answer is simple: Style.

For approximately a decade, I have been enamored by rims that move even when somebody's Escalade is stopped at a red light. How does that happen?? Amazing!

I've often let society's unwritten boundaries govern my life. Oh, spinning rims are only for hip-hop artists or hood rats. They're totally gauche.

No, not in 2011, this is the year I claim spinners for me and my bourgeois brethren.Apparently, spinning rims were invented in 1992 and were in the 1995 movie "Batman Forever." Only the style elite, such as Latrell Sprewell, had spinners back then, and they eventually became mega-popular around 2004.

T.I., Nelly, G-Unit, 50 Cent ... nearly all the top hip-hop sensations have mentioned spinners in their songs, and I can see why. Did I mention that when the car is stopped the rims somehow continue to spin?

I am no scientist. But this defies all logic. If successful with "pimping" my Jetta, I have no idea what I might do next. Perhaps I will purchase a medallion.