This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Work, work,work

Work is very busy today. I barely have enough time to post this sentence. I'm working on other things now, they're just not finished. I'm sure they will all get done on the same day, and I'll beat y'all down with like 5 huge posts. Sorry.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Easonzamboni, which does make sense.

I was sitting at work today doing somebody else’s job yet again, and I got to reading some blogs. There has been a lot made both positively and negatively over the advent of blogs, especially as it relates to how news is reported in this country. If you remember, CBS got into a lot of trouble during that whole National Guard Memo story, when blogs were able to flesh out the truth that CBS could not. CBS ended up firing people for running an obviously false story, and blogs were for the first time trumpeted as the wave of the future by people who weren’t just internet-information-addicts. And they are the wave of the future, mostly because Big Media has abdicated its responsibility to seek the truth, and people out there are just thirsting for it.

Remember the X-Files, and their posterized tagline of “The Truth is Out There”? That had mass appeal because people want to account for the things in life they can’t explain. They want to believe in shadowy alien and government forces controlling things from afar. But the real process of finding the truth often leads into unexpected, non-conspiratorial places that are just as bizarre and interesting. This process is what blogs were made for – people aren’t just posting opinions and speculation, they are fleshing out what they truth might be about a given situation. In the MemoGate* story, bloggers posted on how the documents appeared to have been forged with Microsoft Word, then other people who disagreed with them talked about military typewriters of the 1970’s and if they could do “kerning”. In the end, it was determined that the documents could not have been produced in the early 1970’s which was a bummer to CBS because that’s when they were dated. Then the question could be asked, “Why did CBS not figure this out ahead of time?” The bloggers helped with that, too. The best current influential media blogs are like a giant panel discussion, only one whose members are actually trying to get to the truth and not just advocating a particular cause or ideology. This should scare the crap out of a bunch of people who could formerly manipulate the media into looking the other way when things got too hot.

And don’t think that this is just another form of conservative talk radio, with one person’s Hot Opinions about whatever subject tickles his/her fancy. This is news gathering first, and discussion of what it means second. This is not a blanket affirmation of all blogs, btw. Some of them are as opinionated as anything you’d find on “Hannity & Colmes”, meaning some of them are just reactionary dunderheads. Do not judge the rest based upon this. Plus, there is an inherent fact-checking system with blogs called other bloggers.

There has been a lot of talk among bloggers lately about the comments of CNN News Chief Eason Jordan at some media conference somewhere in Europe. Several earwitnesses, including 2 Democratic US Congressmen, heard Jordan assert that 12 journalists have been targeted and killed by the US military. He didn’t have any evidence of this when the rest of the media panel (including US Rep. Barney Frank, a total Democratic hack, who said (even) he was “agog” and “incensed” by the Jordan comments) questioned him about it, but eyewitnesses reported several European and Middle Eastern people coming up to him afterward and applauding him for his courage. He was clearly playing to the European crowd, and Big Media (including, not surprisingly, CNN) was going to just let it pass.

Then the blogs got wind of it, and all of a sudden the story was everywhere. And CNN, who along with Jordan have some ‘splainin’ to do, had their media columnist Howard Kurtz do damage control with Jordan’s side of the story, which includes his lies about the circumstances of the statements (I am comfortable saying “lies” because every single eyewitness that has come out about the statements has been consistent with the original story, and has refuted Jordan’s side). There is a coverup going on now, and the reported videotape of the conference is not being released by the people who have it. Nobody at CNN is calling for the release of the tape, which doesn’t necessarily mean anything except they’re eager for the story to go away. That’s the shocking thing: The CNN News Chief asserts that the US Military has murdered journalists, and Big Media wants the story left alone. The blogs, however, smell blood, and it’s only a matter of time before the Truth comes out. See Hugh Hewitt's coverage here, and look for "Easongate".

*Curse the Baby Boomers for making every scandal end in –gate. I wish that hotel had been the “Waterzamboni”, because that would be much more fun to append to everything.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I'm so sorry...

about those 2 big posts yesterday. I realize it's a lot to ask of you to read them all. Pace yourselves if need be, and know that yesterday was a culmination of like 4 days of work.

Back to the grind: There was another Sweet Sixteen show last night, and it was definately recappable.

I also thought of a short story to write that so deliciously subversive I feel wrong and iconoclastic even thinking of it. The title: Mine Field. Stay tuned.

Christian Music before 1994: Trash?

So the great John Mark Reynolds has a statement in his blog from Feb. 2 that I find interesting. You can find the post here. While I agree that Left Behind does suck as an idea and a book, I can't agree with his general views on Christian Music, i.e., it wasn't good until about 10 years ago. The thing is, some people were attempting to make good music with challenging lyrics before this, especially in the mid-80's. I could list off for you many artists that started out interesting (but not well-funded enough to compete with the production values of MTV) but then caved to Christian industry pressure and became as he says, "Prozac for the saved." By 1990 or so the situation was pretty bleak. Those who resisted the industry pressure and were talented enough became the first "crossover" artists. I think we can all agree that this was a bad situation.

I mean, did he forget about Keith Green and early 80's Petra and late 80's White Heart and Out of the Grey and Servant and Farrell and Farrell and Rich Mullins and A.D. and Twila Paris' Enya phase and Charlie Peacock and Margaret Becker's first album and Kim Hill before she went country and Adam Again and The Choir and...

It think there was a shift about 10 years ago, when alternative rock came into the Christian market. There was good music before this, just not very much of it. Petra and White Heart battled for supremacy so long, and then it was just over for them. It mirrored the secular shift of the early 90's. All of a sudden there were all these bands that kids were listening to (I know, my wife taught in a Lutheran High School throughout the late 90's, and their school got all these CDs for free) that sounded great. We were glad that these kids would not be forced to make the same choice as we had to -- sacred and subpar; or, secular and kickin'.

The main shift came when the Christian labels all literally sold out to bigger secular ones. They became divisions of the Big 5 record companies, which increased production values and quality but blurred the line between Christian and crossover, between P.O.D. and Creed. Now, this is probably a good thing, but I'm not going to debate that here. My point is that the selling out is what caused the quality to rise...but also caused the product to lose meaning. And isn't meaning why the Christian music industry provide meaning to people who don't have it? Like I said, on the whole it's probably a good change, but it certainly could have been disastrous (and was in some cases -- RAZE, anyone?).

On top of that, if you've listened to Christian music lately, you'll quickly see that "Prozac for the saved" is alive and well and being peddled by the Point of Graces and Avalons of the world daily.
The people who are into that still partake, it's just that there's more well-produced stuff coming out along with it.

The point of the post is that Left Behind would pave the way for less sucky authors to sell inoffensive literature to the masses under the Christian label. Apparently the people behind Left Behind are pushing other authors, and time will tell if any of them come from something other than a millitant dispensational-premillenialist background. Good literature in general is hard to find, so I am skeptical.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

My Stupid Sweet Sixteen III

My Stupid Sweet Sixteen, Part III – Ava’s Revenge

I have written the last 2 weeks on how the MTV suckfest “My Super Sweet 16” would be a sad commentary on the state of the 2004 American Teenage Girl if myriad other things hadn’t shown us this sad state already. It’s merely confirming what we already know to be true: the teenage girl is the stupidest form of human on the planet, and it’s a wonder any female reaches the age of 21 with all of themselves intact. You’d think at the very least the car accidents would claim most of them. And yes, I’m stereotyping that many teenage girls can’t drive – but I’m also saying that most of them would more than gladly get into the passenger seat of a cool car of a cool guy with cool hair and who just drank several cool Milwaukee’s Bests and is just about to “Unleash the Beast” as they say.

This week, however, we take a break from pointing out the stupidity of the average teenage girl and turn our attention to a very un-average teenage girl named Ava (that’s pronounced Ahh-Vah, not Ay-Vah – the first bad sign). Nothing Ava does or says seems even remotely human, and the 23 minutes of show is basically filled with absurd alien-sounding quotes from her and reaction shots to them. You think Lauren from week one and what’s-her-face from last week (upon investigation, her name was Jackie) were spoiled? Ava makes even Lauren look like a third-world missionary child. Any judgments one might be inclined to make about the youth of today because of Ava’s hysterical rottenness don’t hold water, because Ava is quite extra-ordinary. Or at least she better be, or this world is in trouble.

In honor of the show, this recap will be filled with quotes, followed by my reactions to them.

“Dad is a Jew, Mom is a Muslim.”

Let’s get to the parents, shall we? Just like Freddy Krueger taught us, the parents are always the ones responsible for making the monster. First, Dad is rich beyond belief (and I’ll thank you kindly not to associate the “Jew” with the “money”, because that is unacceptable in this free country), and was clearly never home when Ava was growing up. He is gone for the entire show except when they are shopping for cars or there is some discipline to be carried out. It’s unclear whether dad and mom are divorced or separated or neither, because no mention is made of the circumstances. But he’s never around, like I said. He drives a nice car, talks in an indiscernible accent, and drops like 200,000 on his daughter’s birthday party. Think about that the next time Republicans say these people deserve to keep more of their money. This guy just gave his daughter 200 grand in an attempt to win her affection. The sad part? It kinda works.

Dad appears to be a Jew in descent only – he does no religious things (and married a Muslim, for YHWH’s sake) as far as we know. But it makes sense that he would call himself a Jew because of his family line. Mom, however, appears to have no Islamic attributes whatsoever. She doesn’t wear any weird clothes, doesn’t pray to Allah, doesn’t mention Mohammed at all. And then she married a Jew, which is touching in a Lifetime Movie sort of way, but doesn’t indicate any sort of commitment on her part to the Muslim faith. So my question is, in what way is she a Muslim? She seems like just a trophy wife to me. I mean, “Muslim” implies she believes in Allah, the Quran, etc., right? I guess this is how Christians (like me) feel when people refer to Bishop Spong or the local White Supremacist as a Christian. What I’m saying is: Muslims, I feel your pain as you watch this rich, boob-jobbed, jet-setting, and totally secularized woman referred to as a Muslim.

Ava says she had to decide between a Bat Mitzvah (for the Jews) and a Sweet Sixteen Party (for the, um, Muslims?). She chooses the Sweet Sixteen party because it’s like the Bat Mitzvah without the messy Jew stuff. My words, not hers.

“Take yer shirts off”

Mom and Ava get the brilliant idea to hire 4 young studs to carry Ava into the Sweet Sixteen party. Ava picks from about 10 strapping dudes, and when they remove their shirts it’s like the Chippendale Revue all of a sudden. They should be wearing bow ties and suspenders. The girls ogle them, and Ava has them all pick her up. The problem with this whole thing, which I realize as they pick her up, is that Ava thinks that life revolves around her. She never got out of that mental stage where she thinks other people live to serve and affirm her. And this whole party thing is cementing that notion in her head, because it is all about her. It would be better for her to be throwing a party for a poorer (which is just about anyone) child, because then she would get to see that other people exist and have needs just like her. Oh, who am I kidding? Ava would just find a way to make that about herself, too. They choose 4 studs, and Ava seems happy for now.

“She’s always been my best friend – now she wants to be my mom.”

The main drama of the episode is caused by the fact that Ava is so spoiled, and mom and dad realize how bad they’ll look as parents on MTV, so they try to sort of discipline Ava, which drives Ava crazy. The quote above is so very telling. Ava is the product of the parenting style known as guilt-friend-love. Mom and dad feel guilty for being jet-setting bastards who didn’t alter their lifestyle when they had Ava, and for passing her off to some nanny or something. This guilt causes them to try to be Ava’s friend, in order to win her love “back”. They feel love from Ava when they can talk about things in a non-judgmental fashion. Of course, the side product of all this is a spoiled child who doesn’t respect anything her parents say, and who ultimately will resent them twofold (if she later realizes what went down, that is): once for the nanny, and once more for not setting up boundaries. Ava may one day realize that she’s a piece of crap with no real friends, because you can’t have real friends if you believe that your problems are the only ones that matter. The question is when will Ava realize this: When she sees the MTV show? When she turns 18? 21? When she become a trophy wife just like her mom and has a kid who turns 16 and doesn’t respect her? For Ava’s sake, it better happen sooner rather than later.

“Daddy says yes to everything.”

Ava goes to the car lot to pick out a new car for her birthday. This is a big deal to Ava, so big that later on she calls her dad to confirm that she’ll be getting the car she wants before her birthday, because, “All my friends got their cars early.” I hope that’s not true, because if it is then Ava is part of a network of super-spoiled super-rich troglodyte children. This statement causes dad to do something interesting – he yells at Ava over the phone about how irresponsible she is. He’s yelling loud, which introduces another thing to the family dynamic, namely, an abusive father. What kind of parent “says yes to everything”? The one that feels guilty for abuse. Now we don’t know for sure that he’s abusive, but we do know there is some sort of bizarre and intense family dynamic going on here. Unless MTV made the whole thing up, which is possible but not likely. I don’t think they’re that creative, and the yelling didn’t fit in with their image of the father as Yes Man to the daughter’s every desire.

“Who would let me like…drive?”

Ava says this, and it’s easily the most insightful and endearing thing she says the entire show. Other things she is overheard saying while looking at cars: “Red is a close as we’ll get to pink.” “It’s used? Eww…” Clearly Ava has an idea in her head of what she wants, and that does not involve anything used. I can guarantee you she looks down on those kids who come to school in the used Jags as opposed to the brand-new ones. Anyway, she decides she wants a Range Rover, which is fitting because it’s about most unsafe and unreliable vehicle built by human hands. Dad should be screaming in horror at this choice of a 35,000 piece of crap, but his answer amounts to a “we’ll see.” He does mention “If she likes it we have to get it for her” which makes it sound like he just doesn’t want to deal with any Veruca Salt-like temper tantrums she might throw. Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we refuse to stand up to our children.

“I don’t want a dress from Jiki, nobody knows who that is…”

It would be proper to mention here the way Ava talks. She is one of those people you occasionally meet whose every utterance is phrased as a whine. Years of positive results from complaining has caused her to complain incessantly in order to see positive results. Judging by her voices nasality, she also appears to have evolved an internal second nose in addition to her normal nose, through which she speaks. In addition, years of whining at her mom has caused her to elongate the word “mom” to “mohm”, and the only way I can describe that to you is if you’ve seen the Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Kataan playing a little kid out of whose closet a bunch of baseball players appear – they way he says, “C’mon guys, you’re going to wake up my mohm” is the way Ava pronounces it. If not, just say it a little longer than usual. She says “mohm” about 20 times over the course of the episode, so I felt compelled to mention it.

Ava goes to Paris(!) to shop for a sweet sixteen dress. She goes to this Jiki store, and utters the quote above. Of course, nobody calls her on being a skank who thinks that wearing the right designer makes her cool. But what do I know? I like Kohls, personally. People know who Kohls is, and they don’t like it. Anyway, Ava is pretty much disgusted with all the dresses in Jiki, and fights with her mohm, who has a “different idea about her dress.” It’s foreshadowing the main drama of the episode, and MTV is just setting the whole thing up now.

“Dior is like…closed”

Apparently, many shops in Paris are closed in August. You’d think a pathetic style-conscious nuveaux-rich family like Ava’s would know that.

“I wish I could go shopping on my own – without my mohm.”

Ava finally settles on this $10,000 dress from a store I don’t remember the name of. There’s just one problem: It is without a doubt the world’s sluttiest dress. Seriously, it’s the kind of thing you’d see Lil’ Kim show up in at the VMA’s. It’s not that it’s low-cut, it’ that there’s a giant hole in the front, so that if Ava turns one way or the other there’s not one inch of her suspiciously big boobies that will not be covered. Note that the previous sentence is not in bold – it’s absolutely true. Not only that, but there are circular holes cut into it all across her belly and lower back. I could just see it now: people making fun of her and asking, “Hey Ahh-vahh, where’s your pimp?” Mohm, for her part, is horrified but trying to let Ava down easy so as not to cause a temper tantrum. Mohm mutters something about it being “not good…for 16-year old”. She’s not going to get it for the disappointed and insane girl. Ava strokes the dress as they leave and keeps saying, “my preciousssss”.

“If my career is over because of this, then that’s just sad (stupid facial expression).”

Commercial time, and Ashlee Simpson is all over this station. And no, Ashlee, if your career dies because you suck at it, that’s not sad, that’s appropriate. And stop making stupid facial expressions after you say things, it makes you look like a ditz. I see now why you dyed your hair – being blonde would open you up to so many jokes after people see you talk.

“My parents talk so much…but they never enforce it.”

Blah blah blah. MTV’s laying this point on a little thick, don’t you think? We get it --it’s not her fault, it’s her mohm and dad’s. Take it easy.

But seriously, take a parenting tip from a non-parent: Be consistent, and do what you say you’re going to do. By the way, this lack of enforcement will show up later on, so be ready.

“I can’t walk out the door with this suitcase.”

Ava gets it in her head that she just has to go to Santa Barbara on a shopping trip. She also knows her mother does not approve of this (probably because Ava has a tendency to spend a little too much when out with her friends), so she packs for this overnight shopping trip while her mother is out of the house. Mohm comes back early and Ava then has to go on the overnight trip without a suitcase. Oh, the horror! She leaves the house, letting her mother know she’ll be “right back”. With a plan like that, Ava would not survive on Alias, let me tell you. As she leaves in her car, she knows that she’s crossed some line even she wasn’t supposed to, and says, “This is big.”

“There is no mistake that my daughter left for Santa Barbara.”

This clunky English sentence means that Mohm has sleuthed out the truth. She got it when Ava was not “right back.” Mohm’s pissed beyond belief, and this is the main conflict that drives the rest of the show.

(By the way, Mohm asks the credit card company how much the last charge was and it was for $8,000(!) The Democratic Party should hire Ava as advertisement for a higher top tax bracket. She could be the reverse Willie Horton.)

Back to the conflict, and Mohm fires the first shot…

“What a bitch…(calls dad) Dad, Mohm cancelled my credit card.”

I’m telling you right now: If I have a daughter, and that daughter at age 16 calls my wife a bitch for canceling the credit card that my wife has allowed that daughter to use, that daughter is going to that place for wayward/hysterical women that was portrayed in Girl/Interrupted. I don’t care if it’s illegal and doesn’t exist, I will find it. Holy crap. I do believe the only thing to say here would be the old-timey phrase, “You kiss your mother with that mouth?”

On top of that, she calls daddy. Man, Muslim Mohm and Jewish Dad must hate each other for Ava to think she can play them off each other like that. Actually and refreshingly, calling her dad does not help. The parents are actually putting up a united front, and that only 16 years too late. But just like Alias, do they know they can trust each other? Will they cave like Shawn Bradley does against Shaq? The suspense is killing me!

“I don’t regret going at all…I deserved it, I needed it.”

I wonder: Is it Jewish or Muslim Theology that she’s basing these claims on? She deserved it? Hmm. Sounds like Kabala to me. Don’t laugh, these people have so much money I bet Madonna is at their door twice a month trying to get them to buy henna tattoos and salvation. Kabala and Scientology are probably formulating their game plans right now.

“She’s like being so unreasonably uptight.”

Just like when she wouldn’t let you go to your Sweet 16 party dressed as a $10,000 hooker, right? Mohm grounds little Ava, and Ava whines…moreso. C’mon, get to the good part…

“If I don’t get my car, I’m never going to talk to my parents again.”

This statement has the honor of being both whiny spoiled-speak and an idle threat. Ava goes to dinner with both dad and mohm (in the same room(!)) and dad drops the bombshell: Ava would in fact not be getting her range rover on this her birthday dinner that has nothing to do with her sweet sixteen party. Ava cries the most spoiled, whiny cry that I have ever heard. She cries like “The Nanny”. It’s like they surgically implanted Fran Drescher’s voice box in Ava’s windpipe. And don’t laugh, these people have the money to get that done, and have shown a willingness to do whatever Ava wants. They would have you killed if Ava so desired. Watch out.

However, there is still no Range Rover. Ava can’t believe it, and says:

“They totally killed my birthday-uh.”

She’s crying and whining, and when she does that she tends to append an “uh” to her sentences. You know, we used to make fun of people who did that when I was growing up. We used to exaggerate it, saying, “Get out of my yard-uh.” I suppose you had to be there. It was wicked funny when I was 10. Anyway, Ava’s birthday is ruined, but she continues to talk to her parents because:

“I basically realized that she kind of had a point.”

So this is a redemption story, like The Mission or Terminator II. Ava realizes when she doesn’t get her Range Rover that cars don’t grow on trees, and that even though she will never want for anything but attention because of her parents’ crapulence, she should probably stop being such a Banshee Skank so that she can enjoy the full fruits of her parents’ love. The spoils, if you will. Because she’s spoiled, get it? Ha ha hoo.

Finally, the Sweet Sixteen Party (remember that? It’s why we’re here, even though the only part of the episode dedicated to it so far was the beefcake competition at the beginning) occurs, and Ava gets carried in by young shirtless hunks in a velvet chair like you see in period pieces. They almost drop her because her boobs are too big post-surgery and it’s hard to compensate for the wind resistance. I’m just talking out of turn here, sorry. She’s wearing the ugliest outfit ever, which you just know she paid 12 grand for.

“You have to respect your mother and me.”

Ahh, the sweet sound of capitulation. Dad proves that he likes his daughter’s affection more than her respect, and shows up in her brand new white Range Rover, with the caveat above that neither one of them expects to happen. Ava squeals with joy, which as it turns out is even more annoying than her whining. This girl is incapable of producing a pleasant noise. The Range Rover has a bow on it, which is so Christmas 2002. The party guests start taking bets on how long it will be before Ava totals it. The over/under starts at 15 days.

“When I walked in with my red dress, the party really got started.”

Flash to Ava’s peers, who are all dressed up. They all hate her, you can tell. Here are a couple quotes: “This is so extravagant.”; “This is so expensive.” There’s no “Man, that Ava really deserves this, what a great girl.” All these people are just out for a free meal and something to do. You can see it in their eyes. Plus, how exactly do you handle being Ava’s friend on a day-to-day basis? How can you be friends with someone who’s whining all the time, or who thinks they’re better than you? Ava just invited the people from school who she thought were worthy, and who didn’t visibly hate her. Must have been a small party.

“You deserve it.”

Mohm, finally saying the words that Ava so desperately wants to hear 24/7. She’s talking about the party, which dad adds up the cost of. “200,000, counting the Range Rover.” He says it was worth the money, because now Ava will love him. He doesn’t say it that way, but you know he was thinking it. And Ava, having won yet again the battle of wills with her France-like parents, thanks them for the great party.

“One of the best days of my life.”

One of? I can’t take this anymore. They just dropped 200 grand on a party for you and you have to qualify it? Would it have been the best day had they let you wear the dress that involuntarily flashes your boobies at the world? Would it have been just an average day had they gotten that excessive, ugly, gas-guzzling, destined-to-be-scrapped Range Rover ahead of time like you wanted? What day was better? Maybe she should demand a $300,000 Bat Mitzvah with Jerry Seinfeld as the Rabbi. The sad part is they would have gotten it for her, had she just threatened to withhold her affection. Ava needs to be Interrupted before she turns into an actual terrorist who blows up things in order to secure the dress she wants.

Next week: A dude! Less emphasis on dresses, more on hoe’s. Is that how you spell that? Spell check thinks so.

Two Words:

Crispy Oinka.

Defining Song of the 80's

Bill Simmons, AKA “The Sports Guy”, is the preeminent internet columnist in America right now (I can’t speak for the world since I’ve never been anywhere else). He answers e-mail from readers on occasion, and one of these exchanges piqued my interest (Q stands for Question, SG for Sports Guy, you can figure out the rest):

Q: What do you think is THE defining song of the 80's? Not the most popular, but the song that if you were putting a disc of one song in a time capsule for 100 years and they were to open it, what song would scream "This is why the 80’s rules." I say it's Blue Monday by New Order, but I'm open to suggestions
--Lance Hughes,
Lubbock, TX

SG: That's a great "Driving on a road trip and needing something to argue about for 50 miles" question. In my opinion, a quintessential 80's song should accomplish five things:

A. It should make you think that, except for the rare exceptions -- like the Killers or Franz Ferdinand -- they don't make music like this anymore.

B. It should be happy and moody at the same time, the last song you would ever hear before driving your car off a bridge.

C. It should have a definite beat -- you could dance to it, clean your car to it, drive 110 MPH to it, etc -- and it should definitely sound like something that could have been used in Miami Vice (in an opening montage or a "driving around Miami and checking out hot chicks" scene, not a car chase or a "Tubbs hangs out in a strip joint and pretends he's Jamaican" scene).

D. It should make you question your own sexuality for about 0.87 seconds before you say, "Ah, screw it, it's a good song."

E. It should be dated, cheesy and a little overdramatic ... but not so much that the song isn't still enjoyable even now.

Anyway, these would be my six choices (with apologies to "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which wasn't quite morose enough since it was about an orgasm):

1. "The Promise," by When In Rome
2. "Suedehead," by Morrissey
3. "Uncertain Smile" by The The
4. "A Forest" by The Cure
5. "The Killing Moon," by Echo and the Bunnymen
6. "Age of Consent," by New Order

So there you go. And yes, I spent about 90 minutes coming up with that list. And you wonder what I do all day.

First of all, I believe his criteria to be spot-on for the most part. He comes up with 5 things that make 80’s music great: The containment in its own era sound-wise (almost all of it could not exist outside of the 80’s) (A); The melancholy happy songs (B); The sweet danceablility and hummable melody of it (the 80’s being the last era of truly great rock melodies, with rare exceptions)(C); The fact that many good songs (especially by British acts) sounded unrelentingly gay (D); The combination of the previous four into one perfect package (E). The fact that he came up with these very specific criteria shows that he is indeed thinking about this.

But Bill Simmons’ 80’s is not mine. We grew up in the same era, heard the same music, but reacted to it very differently. The 6 songs he comes up with…aren’t they little too homogeneous to represent a decade as crazy-go-nuts and diverse as the 80’s? I mean, they all correspond to the criteria he comes up with, but one can’t help but notice that they are all mid-to-late 80’s pre-grunge alternative and mostly British (well, I’m not sure about When in Rome or The The, but they sure sound British). So he confines himself to one of many sounds from this period. If you remember, the Q: wasn’t what’s the defining song of the late 80’s alternative movement, it was what the defining song of the whole decade is.

(Confession: From late 1986 until 1990 I pretty much stopped listening to the radio and gave up non-Christian music. It was probably a mistake, since of the six songs Simmons mentions I can remember exactly one, the When in Rome song, and that’s only because my wife really likes it. So my results are going to be skewed in an opposite direction, namely early-80’s pop. That’s what the 80’s is to me. Now, if you want to discuss John Schlitt-era Petra, I’m all over it…)

There wasn’t one particular style of music that defined the 80’s. Nowadays, many popular musicians are going back to the style Bill Simmons mentions and making “Retro” records. Other new acts have the same sound as well. But where are the rest of the sounds of the 80’s? The ones people like me remember? If you’re going to give yourself the leeway of having 6 defining songs, why not take one from the six most defining categories of music. What are those categories? I’m glad you asked.

1) New Freakin Wave (Duran Duran, Eurythmics)

2) Cheesy 80’s Dance-Pop (Madonna, Martika)

3) 70s Rock Bands That Changed Their Style to Sell Records (Journey, Styx, Yes, loads of others)

4) Alternative Before it was Mainstream (All the ones Simmons mentions)

5) Hair Metal/Big Arena Rock (Def Leppard, AC/DC, and a bunch of crap)

6) Catch-all: Band Whose Career (for lack of a better definition) Started in the 80’s (U2, Depeche Mode, B-52’s, REM, Queensryche, King’s X)

Just barely missing out on inclusion in the gang of 6 are: The Fledgling Rap Industry (Public Enemy, Newcleus); The Fledgeling Rave/Techno Movement (Technotronic); Speed/Ridicu-Metal (Iron Maiden, Motorhead); Acts that only music majors liked (Cockteau Twins).

Did you recall that all of those styles of music were popular in the 80’s? Do you even care? In the interests of completeness, here are my nominations for the 6 quintessential (since that’s really what we’re discussing here) songs of the 80’s. And you can know that I, like Mr. Simmons, have spent way too much time thinking about this. I am using his 5 criteria, as well.

Category 1) New Wave: “Sweet Dreams”, Eurythmics; Rio”, Duran Duran; “Big Country”, Big Country; “Obsession”, Animotion; “Take on Me”, A-Ha.

This list was pared down from about 1000 good songs that were typical of this period. There were so many one-hit wonders to choose from. Some songs, such as “Tainted Love”, have been victims of rediscovery and overkill the past few years, and thus fell out of favor. Anyway, these five songs embody the spirit and butt-kickingness of the New Wave and its friends. And the Winner is:

“Sweet Dreams”, Eurythmics.

I remember the first time I saw this video. Here was this woman with bright orange hair singing a song that made me dread cows for some reason. This is the quintessential 80’s song – lots of synths, great melody, and words that make no sense when you first hear them.

Category 2) Dance Pop: “Billie Jean”, Michael Jackson; “Walkin’ in the Rain”, Oran “Juice” Jones; “Keep Me Hangin’ On”, Kim Wilde; “You Spin Me Right Round”, Gene Loves Jezebel; “Let’s Go Crazy”, Prince.

I tried to mix the definers of the genre (The Gloved One, Prince) with the best songs (the other three). Try to forget that one of these songs is a remake. Such was the way of the 80’s. The competition was even fiercer in this category, and it took me a while to whittle it down to just five. There should probably be more Prince songs in there, btw. The Winner is:

“Walkin’ in the Rain”, Oran “Juice” Jones.

You may be saying to yourself, “He’s only picking this because he can recite the rap at the end word-for-word.” You’re wrong. While I can pull off that party trick, I’ll add that this is the song that introduced white people to concepts like, “Silly wabbit, tricks are made for kids” and “Whip out tha jammie and flat-blast both a you.” Songs like this are why the 80’s ruled. And isn’t that one of the main criteria for this?

Category 3) 70’s Rock Bands that Changed Their Style to Sell Records: “Mr. Roboto”, Styx; “Separate Ways”, Journey; “Rock the Casbah”, The Clash; “Land of Confusion”, Genesis; “Abracadabra”, Steve Miller Band.

Heart and Yes are probably the two best examples of this, but none of their songs are defining enough to make the list. Asia also should get consideration, but is disqualified since they weren’t together until at least 1980. I don’t want to hear about “Open Arms” or some of the crappier songs by these bands, nor do I want to hear about the bands that didn’t radically change their M.O. (like Pink Floyd, AC/DC, etc). The Winner is:

Land of Confusion”, Genesis.

Deciding between this and Mr. Roboto was tough, like deciding between watermelon and sour apple Jolly Ranchers. Ultimately this won because it’s more like watermelon, which also won.

Category 4) Alternative Before it Went Mainstream: “The Promise”, When in Rome; “True Faith”, New Order; “Love Song”, The Cure; “What’s On Your Mind”, Information Society; “That’s Really Super, Supergirl”, XTC.

Now this category admittedly I got stuck in. I just tried to think of the defining songs by these jokers. I take comfort in the fact that nobody really listened to any of this. I apologize for the 2 dance songs. Just be glad I didn’t include the Pet Shop Boys here. The Winner is:

“The Promise”, When in Rome. Golly, this song is cool. I wish I would have heard it when it first came out. Just call this a nod to Mr. Simmons, because I don’t wish to intrude on his territory.

Category 5) Hair Metal and Big Arena Rock: “Cult of Personality”, Living Colour; “Twilight Zone”, Golden Earring; “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, Tom Petty; “Foolin”, Def Leppard; “Welcome to the Jungle”, Guns N’ Roses.

I was struggling big-time to find five songs in this category that made me think, “This is why the 80’s ruled”. Most of these bands make me think, “Why are they trying to kill music?” This is like the “Best Animated Feature” category at the Oscars, where there are only like 3 of them and they’re all nominated. I had to stretch this to get Tom Petty in here. Notice the absence of any actual Hair Band music. That crap is why alternative started in the first place. But the “Winner” is:

“Don’t Come Around Here No More”, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Remember the video, where Petty’s the Mad Hatter and Alice is cake and everything blew your mind? The song’s better.

Category 6) Band or Artist Whose Career Started in the 80’s: “Where the Streets Have No Name”, U2; “Never Let Me Down Again”, Depeche Mode; “The Metro”, Berlin; “Venus”, Bananarama; “Down Under”, Men at Work.

Furious competition here. The astute observer will note that this category has a lot of overlap with numbers 1,2, and 4. This is really a catch-all. But all these songs are super great, don’t you think? The Winner is:

“Never Let Me Down Again”, Depeche Mode. This is where the Mode hit their peak, and when you listen to it all the good things about 80’s music come back in droves, not the least of which is the existence of Depeche Mode itself.

For those of you filling out your brackets at home, this brings my list of 6 to:

1) “Sweet Dreams”, by Eurythmics

2) “Walkin’ in the Rain”, by Oran “Juice” Jones

3) Land of Confusion”, by Genesis

4) “The Promise”, by When in Rome

5) “Don’t Come Around Here No More”, by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

6) “Right Thurrrrrrrrrrrrrr”, by Choingy (whoops)

6) “Never Let Me Down Again”, by Depeche Mode

These are just my 80’s, so obviously your list will be different. This is a totally useless endeavor, and I refuse to spend any more time on it. I can’t help but feel like my time would have been better served by just saying, “Blue Monday”, by New Order is the defining song of the 80’s. But if I were to pick just one New Order song, it would be “Bizarre Love Triangle”. But the one defining song of the 80’s is:

“Talk Talk”, by “Talk Talk”. Think about it: It’s a British-sounding, gay, and totally catchy song by a one-hit-wonder that was in a cellular phone commercial in 2003-2004, so that when you heard it you said to yourself, "Man, I vaguely remember that song! It was awesome!" What’s more 80’s than that?

Sunday, February 06, 2005

What I did this weekend.

I’ve set up the laptop that was constantly crashing as my main writing computer now…I did everything this weekend, and I’m really excited about it. I scarfed an old notebook hard drive from a destruction computer and plugged it in and it worked. I’ve added everything I need to make this great, and I’m going to intermittently plug it into my etwork at home when I need to connect it to the internet. It’s all so good, and it will help me organize things as well. I love composing on the laptop, is the thing. It’s so sweet and clean. Is this post strange? Yes, it involves me praising my cheap laptop. But I’m just happy about it and I’m living in that moment. Get off of my cloud, or I’ll activate the trap door.

Also, my wife discovered that we overpaid our taxes this year and will be getting money back instead of having to pay a bunch. This is also good.

I think that everything pink should smell like bubble gum. That is all.