Archive for January, 2009
Taking a commuter train every morning, I see dozens of people reading this book. I’ve noticed 100% of them are women. And no wonder – the full title is, “Eat, Pray, Love – One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.” I can’t imagine a title that would make me less interested in reading a book. Combine that with words on the cover spelled out in pasta, yarn and wild flowers and I am SO gone…
Now, contrast that with this book. It’s full title is, “Drink, Play, F@#k – One Man’s Search for Anything Across Ireland, Las Vegas, and Thailand.” The words on the cover are spelled out in beer bottle caps, casino chips and condoms. Clearly, they’re shooting for that target audience that is so put off by the first book.
I’ll admit to being curious, although the whole strategy backfires when I decide not to buy the second book, because I figure I’d need to at least know something about the first book to really appreciate the ironic humor. Ah well, you’ve got to give Andrew Gottlieb some credit for trying, though…
Wil Wheaton was blogging about The Far Side the other day, and he (and some of his commenters) mentioned some of their favorites. It occurred to me that although Gary Larson stopped drawing the cartoons more than fourteen years ago, and although they didn’t always have official “titles,” I was able to picture some of the classics right away as soon as I saw their unofficial titles referred to in the text.
So, here’s a quick & somewhat rudimentary quiz. The links below each take you to the cartoon itself. See if you can picture the cartoon in your mind and then click on the link to see if you were right (honor system required here, folks). Then post a comment and tell us how you did:
- Bummer of a birthmark, Hal…
- The Midvale School for the Gifted
- How Birds See the World
- Cows: CAR!!
- What Dogs Hear
- What Cats Hear
- Boneless Chicken Ranch
- God at his Computer
High scores reflect kudos to Mr. Larson for not only creating such indelible images, but embedding them so far into the cultural zeitgeist that we can recall them instantly with the slightest provocation.
If you did well, here’s your prize: a Flickr group containing live-action re-enactments of Far Side cartoons. (No fair clicking if you failed the quiz!)
My friend and occasional commenter, Mike Starr, knows I am a big Billy Joel fan – both as a listener and a performer. So when he saw a Slate article by Ron Rosenbaum entitled The Worst Pop Singer Ever. Why, exactly, is Billy Joel so bad?, he sent it to me with a one word review: Harsh.
Having read the article, I will add my own review to Mike’s: Ignoramus.
(ED. NOTE: My review refers to Rosenbaum, not Mike, of course…)
I choose the word “ignoramus” because it allows me to combine the two words that came immediately to mind upon reading the article – “ignorant” and “doofus,” while continuing the one-word review meme that Mike unwittingly began.
“Ignorant” comes to mind because Rosenbaum clearly did very little research for this article, short of buying some Billy Joel CD’s, listening to the songs and ripping them to shreds. He appears to be under the impression that Joel wrote all one hundred and eighteen of his (album-released) songs simultaneously, and all of them after becoming one of the most successful musicians/performers in American music history.
Piano Man, for instance, shows “contempt” for “the losers at the bar he’s left behind in his stellar schlock stardom and for the ‘entertainer-loser’ (the proto-B.J.) who plays for them.” Rosenbaum is clearly unaware that Piano Man was written in 1973, while Billy Joel was living in Los Angeles and playing at a piano bar under the name of “William Martin,” almost entirely devoid of stardom, shlocky or otherwise.
The Entertainer is, according to Rosenbaum, about “phonies . . . except exquisitely self-aware entertainers like [Joel], who let you in on this secret.” Again, he is clearly unaware that the song was written in 1974 as criticism of the Wolfman Jack, Friday Night Videos, turn-rock-music-into-a-variety-show dynamic that Joel felt was ruining rock music at the time. He’s also unaware, quite obviously, of the rather significant push-back Joel received from the music industry for making such statements at the time.
About Say Goodbye to Hollywood, Rosenbaum says, “Could someone let [Joel] know he’s phoning it in with all this phoniness at this point? Isn’t there something, well, a bit phony about his hysteria over phoniness?” Similarly, New York State of Mind gets this: “He can’t even celebrate his ‘New York State of Mind’ without displaying his oh-so-rebellious contempt for ‘the movie stars in their fancy cars and their limousines.’ You think Billy Joel has really never ridden in a limo?” Once again, Rosenbaum seems blissfully ignorant of the fact that these were written in 1976 when Joel actually did “say goodbye to Hollywood” and move from California to Highland Falls, New York to kick start his fledgling music career (which he did the following year by releasing a little album called The Stranger, by the way). I’m not sure how an autobiographical song can be described as “phoning in phony hysteria over phoniness.” As for New York State of Mind, he wrote it, as the lyrics suggest, on a Greyhound bus on the Hudson River line, which was taking him to his new home in Highland Falls. It is widely considered one of the most heartfelt love songs to New York ever written. Has he ridden in limousines? Sure. Had he in 1976? Probably not too many, or he wouldn’t have been taking a Greyhound bus from the airport, now would he?
I could go on (the re-issue of The Stranger has a mask on the cover? Did he even bother to look at the original, which has the very same mask?), but I think I’ve made my point. I’m sure it’s hard to be a columnist and to write for a deadline. Heck, I post regularly here at I Should Be Sleeping, but if I don’t have anything to say on a given day, I have the luxury of not saying anything. Ron Rosenbaum obviously had a thesis in search of supporting evidence, and figured he’d make it up with a few lyrics quotes, rather than actually doing, well….research on his topic.
As to the other word that came to mind, “doofus,” the rationale goes like this:
Mr. Rosenbaum – you’re criticizing Billy Joel for being elitist and judgemental, and you’re doing it by telling all of us, the hundreds of millions of people who have made him one of the most successful artists in the history of American music for almost four decades, that we’re all devoid of musical taste. Only you, good sir, have the finely tuned sensibilities to tell us what is good and what is “sentimental schlock.” Now who’s the phony, exactly?
Look – what makes music great is it’s subjectivity. There’s an audience for almost any kind of music, from classical to jazz to hip-hop to rock to Russian Balalaika. I’ll argue the factual inaccuracies in Mr. Rosenbaum’s article all day long, but I wouldn’t dare try to argue that he should like Billy Joel’s music. That’s entirely up to him. In fact, given what he’s written, I’d suggest he save some money and never buy a Billy Joel track or concert ticket ever again.
In closing, I think these words (written by some phony, elitist rock star back in the ’70s) sum up my feelings about Mr. Rosenbaum and his article pretty well:
Give a moment or two to the angry young man,
With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand.
He’s been stabbed in the back, he’s been misunderstood,
It’s a comfort to know his intentions are good.
And he sits in a room with a lock on the door,
With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor-
And he likes to be known as the angry young man.
I believe I’ve passed the age of consciousness and righteous rage
I found that just surviving was a noble fight.
I once believed in causes too,
I had my pointless point of view,
And life went on no matter who was wrong or right.
For those of you who might have thought that Apple’s current “I’m a Mac; I’m a PC” ad campaign is “Thinking Different,” check this out:
The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?
As of noon today, Barack H. Obama is the President of the United States. As he often reminds us, he begins his presidency in the midst of war, financial crisis, and a dearth of confidence from the American people – confidence in their government, confidence in their financial markets, and confidence in their country’s standing around the world. And yet, despite all of that, Barack Obama exudes a charisma that the nation has not seen since John F. Kennedy took office in 1961. He is, in our modern terms, a celebrity. People go out of their way to see him and to hear him speak. They want to like what it is he has to say. In times like these, Obama’s ability to lead through inspiration is perhaps his most valuable asset.
As of noon today, George W. Bush is no longer the President of the United States. His presidency was controversial from before it even began, given the extraordinary events of November, 2000. It turned tragic just ten months later, on September 11, 2001. What followed was seven and a half years of war, punctuated by an ever increasing level of criticism and scandal, which quickly evolved into accusations and outrage, and has lately reached a state of all-out vilification and rage. Today, a vast majority of the American people disapprove of the job Bush did as President. An extremely vocal minority have gone even further – declaring him a failure in every aspect of his Presidency, anointing him the “Worst President Ever,” and accusing him of criminal activity in a wide variety of areas.
Certainly, there have been failures. First and foremost, Bush has consistently failed to react to quickly changing circumstances. Actions that clearly weren’t working (e.g., post-war Iraq, FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina) went on for far too long without changes. All the while, the administration defended them, seemingly blind to their ineffectiveness. This damaged their credibility to the point where they could no longer control our national dialog. Unable to focus the country on his agenda, Bush ultimately failed to deliver in areas such as social security reform, immigration reform, and progress in the Middle East.
These failures have been well-documented, but they are not what I want to talk about here. I want to talk about the failure that Bush achieved today – on the very day he left office. And that is his failure to completely destroy our country, as predicted by so many harbingers of doom for the last 3-5 years.
If you’ve ever tried to put together a bookmark list, click here.
From Amazon.com (hat tip: Willow Gross):
Click through to the Amazon page and read the comments. They are priceless as well. Here’s a snippet from my favorite:
I was a little disappointed when I first bought this item, because the functionality is limited. My 5 year old son pointed out that the passenger’s shoes cannot be removed. Then, we placed a deadly fingernail file underneath the passenger’s scarf, and neither the detector doorway nor the security wand picked it up. My son said “that’s the worst security ever!”. But it turned out to be okay, because when the passenger got on the Playmobil B757 and tried to hijack it, she was mobbed by a couple of other heroic passengers, who only sustained minor injuries in the scuffle, which were treated at the Playmobil Hospital.
Since December 1st, the following things have happened to people I know:
- One guy’s mother passed away.
- One guy’s wife had a miscarriage (same guy who’s mother passed away)
- One couple’s 2-year old daughter came down with pneumonia
- One couple’s 9-year old son was hospitalized with extreme stomach pain
- One guy’s uncle died (the father of the 9-year old who was hospitalized)
- One guy’s father was diagnosed and treated for bladder cancer
- Another guy (roughly my age) was diagnosed with colon cancer
- One guy’s dog died
- One woman’s uncle died
- One woman’s sister gave birth at 30 weeks (same woman who’s uncle died. Thankfully, the baby is doing well in the NICU…)
- One woman’s mother had a stroke
- One woman’s flight to Charlotte crash landed in the Hudson river
So much for the holiday season, huh? So, here’s my advice: if you know me, try to stay away from me if at all possible. Clearly, I am the nexus of some horrible bad luck streak…
This (via Electronic Cerebrectomy) is very cool:
For those who want to compare, the original is here.