Wednesday, December 19, 2007

On the importance of not sucking

I knew I was going to be using this topic, but I thought I might be more humorous, and actually I am feeling fairly serious now.

After the San Francisco trip, a friend picked us up from the airport and we regaled him with stories of our time there. He asked us, “Why do Mormons suck?”

I replied that they don’t, and raised the counter question, Why do so many fundamentalist Christians suck? You could keep going with that too. Why do so many lawyers, or Intel employees, or short doctors or republicans or men?

It is easy to make generalizations like that, because it is easy to discover proof that people suck. Working in customer support for so long, I could give you many examples showing that humans in general are willfully ignorant and mean-spirited, with an over-inflated sense of entitlement. However, when I talk to people I often find them kind, and smart, and interesting, and having lives and problems that I can really relate to.

Some groups may be more prone to sucking, especially if the membership within that group brings a feeling of superiority. This should really never happen with a religious group, especially a Christian group, because that should teach you that you are sinful and you need Christ to be saved. If He could sit down with publicans and sinners and not be looking down at them and sniffing in disgust, well, how can you look down on anyone? That it happens all the time anyway is not a reflection on religion, but on people.

There is great importance in not sucking if we are going to represent Him. If I believe I have something true, and good, and joyous, that needs sharing, the last thing I should want to do is alienate anyone. That seems fairly obvious. I suppose people don’t realize that they are doing it, or they think it is okay for that type of person. We can’t really put an asterisk next to “Love thy neighbor” and list our preferred exceptions. It just doesn’t work that way.

For the San Francisco trip, we did get a general feeling of superficiality, and that is bad, but the real problem is that they were disorganized, and that’s not a sin. It’s just inconvenient when you are planning a large event involving lots of people.

Thinking of other people who suck, it is usually snobbery. I suppose the concept of sucking brings in a vacuum, which implies a certain emptiness. Maybe that makes it easier to sustain an illusion of superiority. There’s generally no valid basis for it though. What, you’re better because you can sing? Because you have never smoked?

There is a frequently used joke that goes something like, “Every time I think I am becoming humble I realize I am mistaken.” I don’t find it funny because paradoxes annoy me, but okay, perhaps it can be hard to recognize an appropriate level of humility even if you find it. However, I don’t think it’s necessary. The opposite of humility is pride, and pride is enmity with God and man, so if you work to rid yourself of any enmity by growing in charity, the humility should take care of itself.

I just know that the people I like and admire most tend to be very accepting of other people, and interested in them, and usually they are also interested in lots of other things. In terms of curiosity and passion, they are full.

I also know that we all tend to do a little better with a personal touch. There was recently an essay in the Oregonian about a local woman who had her hours cut at work, and it covered her experiences applying for aid, and the utter humiliation and futility of so many of the hoops set up for people in need. It was depressing, but it generated a big response of people wanting to help. I could give lots of other examples of individuals whose hard luck stories generated big responses, but on the whole the Oregon Food Bank is strapped and other charities are strapped, and need more help.

Studies have shown that charity ads with a face and a name receive more response. We may feel bad over 1000 anonymous displaced persons, but tell us about a specific person, and what they have lost, and we will feel it more deeply, and reach farther into our pockets.

This may be partly because one person is manageable. I know I can’t fix 10,000 people on unemployment, but I can give one family a merry Christmas, and it is comforting in how finite it is. More to the point, I think when we have an individual and their details we connect more.

Because of this, I think a key component of not sucking will be looking outward and making connections. Don’t stay in your insular little world where you can be smug and snug! Make eye contact and voice contact and pay attention to the little details. The world is a richer place when you actually pay attention to it.

This is not always easy. I have no patience for stupid people. I don’t feel so bad about it when they are willfully stupid, and just don’t want to think or know anything more, but I feel like I should have a lot more compassion for the ones who can’t help it, and all I really have is impatience. I have bonded with a few, but I still always dread the next one. This is wrong of me. Still, that’s a relatively small amount of people.

Snobs? Heck, I just met one today, and it was amazing how desirous he was of avoiding conversation, but I had to try in case he was just shy or did not realize that we knew each other. But it was amusing because I got in a little jab at him and then I had a brief online conversation with my sister where we rolled our eyes at him.

Do those two confessions make me sound like a nice person? Probably not. It’s still something that I’m working on. I can say that I have never regretted getting to know a person, but I have regretted passing opportunities by, and not speaking up when someone seemed down, and not paying enough attention when someone seemed to need something.

Are Mormons lame? They can be, but it is a matter of personality, or a poor understanding of how to live the religion. There is nothing in the religion that dictates we should be so. Do Mormons suck? Some do, sometimes, but they should know better. Feel free to tell them so.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Sad Ballad of Cute Cafeteria Guy

About two years ago when I started this blog, I committed to not using my own name or the names of my family members. This was to protect me in case I ever want to call my boss stupid or something like that. I decided it would be too complicated, and probably unnecessary to find code names for friends, but if there was a love interest I would use a code name and I gave three examples: Mr. Intimacy Issues, Gerard, and Cute Cafeteria Guy. They weren’t really hypothetical.

Oddly, Gerard is back in the area, and based on my horoscope I believe he is going to call me Wednesday. Mr. Intimacy Issues and I have the same relationship that we did then, and there is no reason to change his code name. Well, there’s no reason in terms of accuracy. Everyone who knows both of us recognized him right away, so I guess it isn’t a very good code name. Quite a lot has happened with Cute Cafeteria Guy, and I thought I would take a moment to reflect on that.

I would say I have been in love twice, and both times it happened at first sight. Some times I have talked myself into liking someone, and that is always a mistake. At other times you get carried along in an unexpected rush of attraction, and maybe you know it is not love, but the flow is pretty strong anyway, and this was more like that. I was not initially attracted. There was nothing wrong with the way he looked or anything; it’s just that my first thought was that he had to be gay.

Perhaps that sounds like an unfair stereotype, but there are generally two types of cashiers that we get in the cafeteria. The most common type is an older, outgoing woman who doesn’t have a lot of skills but does need some extra money. We also get younger girls who haven’t figured out what they want to do yet. There are occasional departures from this formula, but there were never young, handsome, straight guys.

He was remarkably friendly, which did nothing to discourage the stereotype. Still, he did not really give off that vibe. Later on as we started visiting more he mentioned a daughter, but that was still not definitive. I was by this time definitely attracted to him, and I was starting to feel that he was attracted to me. I know his eyes would light up when he would see me, but he was still so friendly to everyone else that it was hard to know how special I was. That’s the problem with nice guys.

At this point I knew quite a bit about him. A lot of it was good, like he was also an artist and a drummer, and those were things that just made him more attractive. I also knew more about his previous job history, and it started making more sense that he was in this job.

Other things did not mesh. He liked hot dry places like Arizona, and I am a complete green Oregonian. We both liked Law & Order, but I prefer SVU and he liked Criminal Intent. They were little things, but they were symbolic of the more important disparities making a successful romance unlikely.

The biggest issue was time. Often I felt like we were on the verge of making a breakthrough, and someone else would come into line and I would have to go. It is hard to progress very far in one minute a day. It was still a minute to look forward to.

The most flustering moment did not happen with him. I needed something quick, so I went through a different line in the other café. The cashier (one of the young girls) was really excited, and she knew my name, and she said “You’re Jason’s girlfriend!” Then she excitedly let me know it was his birthday, and I should go wish him a happy one.

I just said that he had mentioned it, and we had talked about his birthday earlier, but my mind was still reeling from the girlfriend thing, and from being known by name. Obviously, she could not really have thought I was his girlfriend, or she should have expected that I would already know about the birthday. I think what was in her mind was that this is the girl that seems to like him and he seems to like back, but that is longer and complicated and it just came out girlfriend. It seems we were a topic of workplace gossip.

It was interesting, but it was such a wasted opportunity. I should have said something like, “Did he say that? Then he better ask me out!” If I could have said something kind of light, but that confirmed my interest, I think that would have been good. I was just too floored in the moment to think of anything. Anyway, that moment slipped past, and then later he started mentioning a girlfriend, and then I saw him with the girlfriend, and one day I came up behind someone congratulating him and he was getting married that weekend. I congratulated him too, and really, I never expected us to work out, but it was kind of a bummer.

Friends tried to be supportive, but the supportive comments ranged from “It won’t last” to “Now you can flirt with him guilt-free.” Actually, marriage to me means you don’t flirt at all. I was worried about it being weird, but he never came back from his honeymoon. Yay?

There were good things about it too. First of all, he was a truly nice guy, and it was fun interacting with him. Also, it was nice believing that someone could like me, and not having it end in catastrophe (that sentence references some horrific times). The best thing was, and I will sound like a terrible person here, but I need to do that periodically, after seeing her, I am cuter. I can’t say that very often, but it made me feel like I was not completely delusional.

I also learned some things about myself. It was analyzing my attraction to him that helped me pinpoint my ideal height range, which gave me insight into why I was not attracted to certain other guys. This is a shallow insight.

The deeper insight came once when I was going to meet a friend, and I had missed him at lunch and I just decided to go see if I could see him for a minute, without any reason than saying hello, and I did. As I walked away, feeling like a dork, I realized that I cannot imagine being smooth. I have mental pictures of what my life would be like if I were rich or thin or other things, and my ideas may be wrong, but at least I can conceive of something. Being suave is completely alien. And I also realized that I felt just the same way that I did in junior high. However, that was when I stopped believing that I had any romantic chance at all, so it makes sense that I stopped developing there at fourteen. This crush was a big steppingstone for me. Romantically, I think I am close to sixteen now. I’m almost ready to date.

Odd. After yesterday’s entry, I was just thinking how I am turning into this curmudgeon griping about modern times, and one month away from turning 36. Well, 30 is the new 21 and 40 is the new 30, and my RealAge is 34 but relationship wise I am still in my mid-teens (jail bait), so yeah, I’m turning 36.

I wonder if I can find it on eBay...

It seems like I keep coming back to music and movies and television. They are things that I think about a lot, and generally enjoy. One thing I have been pondering lately is my first real record album, Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic. The album was released in 1975, when I was three, but I believe I got it in 1977 or 78. The reason I believe this is that for a long time I thought it was by the Steve Miller Band. How could I be so horribly mixed up, and why would that lead to the later purchase date? Good questions.

Basically, I remember a shopping trip at K-mart, and probably the Tualatin K-Mart, which is the one we went to when we lived in Wilsonville. We moved here in 1978. I was taken in by the cover art, but I was told that I would not like it. I wanted it anyway, and got it, but I remember that it did not sound at all the way I thought it would. I believe it ended up going to my brother. The other strong memory I have is of my older sister playing Swingtown over and over again, which I remembered as Spacetown. I think we all got to pick a record, and that she picked up the Steve Miller Band Book of Dreams, which came out in 1977 when I was 5. Looking at that cover art, I can totally imagine her choosing it because she was really into horses. And I did not start reading until after I started first grade in September of 1978 (kindergarten was only offered privately at that time, and a bit expensive for us), so any confusion on titles should be forgivable.

There are several things that I think about with this. One is that the answer wasn’t really that I wouldn’t like it—just that I wasn’t ready for it. I should have held on to it and played it once a year until I could appreciate it. Five-year olds do not tend to be that forward thinking.

My other thought is that it is sad that with CDs being so small now, cover art is kind of a waste. For technical aspects I do prefer CDs to vinyl. I was always worried about scratches with records, and I can play CDs on computer, and burn my own and still have better sound quality than cassette tapes, so that is all worthwhile, but there is still a bit of a loss there.

I also like shopping online, and I’m sure downloading individual songs is convenient, but there is another loss right there as more record stores close down. Having a central place where you could browse for new things to catch your eye was good, and it is a good venue for finding local artists, and just that people would buy the whole album was good. Will people even make albums with a theme or unifying concept anymore if they keep finding that they lay fourteen tracks and people only buy three? A lot of things are fundamentally changing, and not necessarily for the better.

One of my favorite memories is calling Mike one night, and we just spontaneously decided to go over to Tower Records. He had heard this new song on the radio he wanted to check out, which happened to be Roxette’s Look Sharp, and I wanted to get The Promise. I assumed it was by New Order, because it sounded like them, but he was saying it was When in Rome, whom I had never heard of. Obviously he was right, and he did gloat a bit, but the point was he had just gotten out of the shower and his hair looked great and the moon was full and we came away with music. For a junior in high school, that was a great night. The last two record stores that people have really recommended have both closed down. I guess I can try EM, but things just aren’t the same.

The other train of thought is that when I call Toys in the Attic my first real record, I did have some others. They were all Disney or Sesame Street. When I did make the transition to pop shortly thereafter, it was a Shaun Cassidy record. I got it because I knew him from The Hardy Boys on TV. Clearly this would still not be as edgy as Aerosmith, but I am still wearing my hair in pigtails and scared of the dark at this point. In fact, Dah Doo Run Run becomes a defense mechanism for me, as I use it to drive scary thoughts away by singing it in my head. I’m not sure why I never had an Osmonds record because we watched their show too, but my older sister had two. Also, my older sister had a Bay City Rollers record we would listen to, because they had a Saturday morning show.

Perhaps it is fitting that my real introduction to pop music came through television as well, when we got cable and there was this channel called MTV. Clearly the television had influenced my previous listening choices.

To be fair, I think a lot of it is time-dependent. The 70’s seem to have been a fairly depressing time for music, at least on the radio stations we got. I just have very vague memories of Cat Stevens and the Captain and Tenille. In the car there was always a lot of Neil Diamond, the Ray Conniff Singers, and Abba. I could easily never hear any of them again.

We did play At The Hop a lot, so I still have a strong fondness for fifties music, but then these hippie/folk influences crept in and they lost me. What I didn’t know was that groundwork was being laid for good stuff to come.

Again, this is stuff that I want to know more about—what is the musical industry and who influenced whom. Actually, it looks like we might have better music during Republican presidencies. Perhaps it is a therapeutic reaction to bad socio-political situations. Who was in the top 40 five months after Watergate? Some day, I will know.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Critic--Christmas Special Edition

Over the years, with three big fans of holidays, animation, and cute characters, we have accumulated quite the selection of Christmas specials. We don’t really watch them that much though, because things pop up on television, and we are all busy. The two that we bring out pretty reliably are The Muppet Christmas Carol and A Muppet Family Christmas because we like them a lot, and I can’t recall ever seeing them on TV. I guess the Family Channel does not have the broadcast rights, as that is where we see most things.

The point is that we have things that I have either never seen, seen once when they were still relatively new and barely remember, or a few that we have seen a lot. We decide to go through and watch them all this year and see what we want to keep, and what VHS tapes need to be converted to DVD. We still have a lot to go through, but here is a partial breakdown.

Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas –This is one that I could just barely remember. Between the stable of Jim Henson’s regulars and based on a story by the Hobans (of Frances fame), I was hoping it would be wonderful. It is a little too slow. The music is pretty good, and I love what they do with the birds (there are ducks, a heron, and an owl that are all pretty cool), but not enough happens. Maybe it is also too grim. The ending ends up being happy (a bit contrived as well, but they didn’t take the easy way out with a protagonist winning the talent show) but before that happy ending Emmett and his mother just get more and more downtrodden. Maybe they focus too much on the dead father.

The Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold—I can’t help but notice that this was the last Animagic special that Rankin Bass did, so maybe the were running out of steam. Maybe what they were really out of was songs that inspired them, because Christmas in Killarney seems like an odd starting point. I guess you think, hey, this is a Christmas song, and it is Irish-themed, so toss in leprechauns, a banshee, and Saint Patrick. At this point, someone should have noticed that you aren’t going to really get a plot that flows. It doesn’t flow, but lurches from one odd contrivance to the next. The voice actors don’t really put much into it either, but how do you find your motivation when there is no logical reason for it?

Mickey’s Magical Christmas—This starts with the premise that all the Disney characters are at a club, and have just seen a great show, but they are snowed in. They try to bring the Christmas spirit to Donald, but he is a tough nut to crack, possibly because the special itself is really uninspired. Scanning over the crowd is fun, but the clips are old and not that great, and there is clearly no budget to bring back any of the real voice actors, so it all ends up being rather a disappointment.

Rudolph’s Shiny New Year—This has some cute bits, but is a bit too long. They were padding it out to fill out an hour instead of thirty minutes I guess. It is a keeper, but probably not one that we will bring out often.

Nestor, the Long Eared Christmas Donkey—If you have seen The Small One, this is a lot like that, only instead of just being kind of weak and lazy, the little donkey has really long ears, putting him more into Dumbo space. Abused for his difference that ends up allowing him to save the day, clearly there is a kinship with Rudolph. Also his Mom dies protecting him (Bambi?), so it is cheap and manipulative, but it gets me anyway. Character-wise the mutant donkey looks really cute, but the voice is annoying, making this another keeper that probably won’t come out that often.

Previously I had a top three, which were Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. I have since realized that I like remembering the Charlie Brown one better than I like watching it. The tree becoming better with a little affection is sweet, and Snoopy dancing is cute, but it’s simultaneously too slow and precious.

What has taken its place is The Year Without a Santa Claus, which is truly excellent. I like the music, the story moves, and I could get nitpicky on plot but it is fun enough that I refrain. It is closely followed by Santa Clause is Coming to Town, which is nice in that it has a romantic subplot, and a really cute penguin. I like the Winter Warlock too.

The first two Frosty specials are good, and Rudolph is still a favorite. The Grinch is probably the best for me now. I love the facial expressions they do with Max, and it is about the only special that does not make Christmas coming depend on Santa Claus. The quality and continued value of these leads to another gripe of mine—inferior sequels.

I don’t know why they can’t make good Christmas specials anymore. Even in the 80’s, when Christmas specials were produced solely to tie in with merchandise lines, they were watchable. The Glow-friends Christmas Special is actually pretty good, and the He-Man/She-Ra one has its moments. So how can you take a great character like Rudolph and make something so utterly dreadful as Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys? And how does it manage to be both annoying and boring at the same time? Shouldn’t one override the other?

Frosty Returns did one thing right, which is that they got Mark Mothersbaugh to do the music, hence there is a little bit of redemption in two musical numbers. Otherwise there is nothing really original or well conceived about the plot or the animation, and somehow what annoyed me most is the ending. He’s just leaving because he’s bored now? When did Frosty become fickle?

Finally, well the Jim Carrey Grinch movie is a remake, not a sequel, but it is bothersome how it completely missed the point of an excellent book. I hadn’t been thinking about it too much, because avoidance was working well, but the Sunday School teacher referenced it last week, using it as an example of how Cindy Lou’s goodness rubbed off on the Grinch. And you know, I doubt he even knows about the real one. Again, kids today! I am on my way to becoming Dana Carvey’s grumpy old man character—“And that’s the way it was and we liked it!” And yeah, probably people in their twenties don’t remember Dana Carvey either. Bah!
We’ll see how the rest turn out. I am curious about how Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July will be. I only saw it once and it was so long ago I have no idea. I am also looking forward to watching It’s a Wonderful Life in its entirety. Somehow when I catch it on television he is always already at the bar and things really start going downhill.

After that, maybe there will be an idea for a new Christmas special. Can a modern one be good without having the glow of nostalgia around it? Maybe we just need to find a good song that Rankin and Bass missed. I don’t think “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree has been taken yet.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In which Icelandic cinema is completely snubbed

To start out with, I have to say that it is pretty good progress for me to be listing favorite anythings. As a small child I had an aversion to doing so, lest it hurt the non-favorite’s feelings. I would try and avoid it, or pick one that no one else picked. So if you asked me what my favorite color was in first grade, I would say orange. No one ever picks orange.

I no longer anthropomorphize colors, but I also attach less importance to the whole favorites concept. Now if you ask me what my favorite color is, it will depend on my mood. It has been blue, red, yellow, gray, and pink. I can’t remember if it has ever been green, but it hasn’t been orange, even though it is a perfectly fine color.

That being said, I can’t really give a top five foreign films that would feel right—I just need to break it down by country. Actually, it is more that I am breaking it down by country and language. There are a lot left out, because I usually remember movies that I want to see in groups, so in my rental queue there are long stretches of Japanese, Iranian, and Italian films coming up. Japanese and Iranian will be pretty new, but I have seen some Italian films already, and we will start there.

Italian – Il Postino.

It seems like most of my family there has a strong affection for Life is Beautiful, and I do too for that matter, but Il Postino touches me more. Oddly, the first three Italian films I saw were these and Pizzicata, and I started to wonder if I would ever see an Italian film where the man lives. Then I saw The Bicycle Thief. He lives, but it is infinitely more depressing.

Spanish – Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown).

It is so funny, and colorful, and wow Antonio Banderas is young. Also, things work out pretty nicely considering how many complications get thrown in. That is actually breaking it down by language, rather than country, but is there a point in breaking down which of the two Argentinean films I have seen is my favorite? I think I have only seen one each from Mexico and Colombia. If we go by continents though, South America is Tango. It isn’t really a great film, because it is a dance movie and so the point is to get to the next dance number and so you sacrifice some things, but I really like the dance numbers.

French – He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not (À la Folie…Pas du Tout).

I need more people to see this one, because if you haven’t, I can’t talk about it without spoiling it. Suffice it to say that the first half of the movie is engrossing, and then you find out that the director has played a trick on you and it keeps getting more brilliant.

Chinese – Not One Less

I like the journey that it goes on. The heroine really does not start out sympathetically at all, but somehow things turn around and you get fully invested, and then you get a mega-happy ending. I saw Spirited Away and Rabbit Proof Fence on the same day, and in both cases you have young girls overcoming the odds primarily through persistence, and I thought there was room for a trilogy. I thought the third film might be Bend it Like Beckham, but then I saw it and it wasn’t. Not One Less is the right companion piece.

Truly for cinematography, there is no one that I admire more than Zhang Yimou, and this film is not really his showcase for it. For that, I can’t imagine a more beautifully shot and beautiful film than Hero, but this is a more personal film, and I think more relatable. After all, the movies that you admire and the ones you like are not necessarily the same.

Mentally, I know that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a better film than Iron Monkey, which was a little too slap sticky. However, the comic tone helped me feel that I had better odds of a happy ending, and the final battle on the poles with the fire is awesome. When they do the flying wire work I don’t believe it, so it takes me out of the movie. With that scene, I just bought it. I’m sure they weren’t really working over fire without safety equipment, but you shouldn’t be thinking that during the movie and during the movie I was only thinking “Wow.”

I guess that is it. I don’t think I really have a favorite Australian film (Rabbit Proof Fence is a bit of a downer), and if you do British, is that one or do you separate out all the areas? (England: About a Boy, Ireland: The Secret of Roan Inish, etc.) I will say this, I understand the point that they were trying to make with Strange Brew, but it was still a really annoying film, and if I ever decide to have a favorite Canadian film, it will not be that.

Anyway, Le Chiavi di casa should be arriving soon, but right now all we are watching are Christmas specials. I think I will review some tomorrow.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Spork of Music

Okay, I have name-checked them several times now. Obviously number one is the Ramones. That is the rule. I don’t need the validation personally, but I think it speaks well of the band that I have never heard anyone criticize their music. I have encountered people who have no idea whom the Ramones are, and that makes me sad. Kids today!

Number two is the Clash, and this is setting me up solidly as a punk rock aficionado, but we are veering off sharply and number three is A-HA, the first band I really ever got excited about (and my second concert). This relates to a different, but equally important aspect of my musical life—I also love 80’s pop.

Number four is Crowded House, and that is not so much a single band as it is a Neil Finn continuum. I started with an affection for Split Enz, and then it followed to Crowded House, and Finn Brothers, and back to Crowded House again. I think the first Crowded House album is the one closest to my heart, though, so we will say that is the band.

I was not sure what to do about the fifth spot for a long time. It did feel like five was the right number, but I wasn’t sure who else could fill that niche. What makes someone a top band on your personal list?

I think one criterion is that you like most of their stuff. There are some individual songs I love, and being a one hit wonder is nothing to sneeze at. Lots of people never produce a great song. Still, no single song is enough to make a top five band.

Also, you are not embarrassed to like them. Now, some forms of embarrassment may just be a lack of confidence in your own musical taste, and then you should just trust your taste. What I mean is more like in the case of Third Eye Blind. Musically, I like them a lot, but dudes, leave the drugs alone! Just say no. Or with Blink 182, great songs but grow up! I could never make it through a Blink concert. Ideally you do like your Top 5 bands both recorded and live. I don’t think I would fit in on the floor of CBGB’s, but I’m sure the shows would be great.

I think these are some good ground rules, but the rules can’t be too much of a factor, because again this is an emotional response. I was at a birthday party tonight, and as various parties disagreed on whether or not Transformers was a good movie, one attendee related an experience where she just wanted back the two hours of her life lost on Patch Adams.

“Wait, that was a good movie. It was based on a true story!”

Oh sure, it is easy to mock the people who like it, and you could probably do a critical analysis of the movie and find many points where it should have been better, but okay, some people liked it. That’s their prerogative.

I know a lot of people would consider A-HA to be really lightweight, and there may be an element of truth to that. I also know that I can’t tell you how many times I listened to Hunting High and Low, and there wasn’t a bad song on that album. Then when Scoundrel Days came out it was less pop, and more mature, but it was still good and spirited and a lack of success in the United States is no indicator of quality. I like them, and I appreciate guys who will admit that their music is okay. Yes, I would find it weird if a guy said they were his favorite band, because they were awfully pretty, but that’s not how you judge a band—that was just a gift to the girls.

There can be gender bias, in what is acceptable for favorite bands. For a while the number five spot was occupied by Matchbox 20. Looking back it was largely a reaction to Mad Season, which is still a favorite album, but guys would try and talk me out of it. My initial response was irritation that they thought they had a vote, but honestly, I think Matchbox 20 might be for girls. I know there are boys in the band, but that is not always an indicator.

Finally, I realized that there was still an aspect of my musical life missing from the scorecard. I had covered the 80’s when I was in high school and loved pop, and though the punk was older I did not discover it till this century, when I was a working adult. In my college years, there was a term being thrown around that seemed to have no meaning whatsoever, and that term was alternative.

Sometimes it really feels like trying to sort out musical genres is a joke, and that is especially true of alternative. Nonetheless, there is music that is good and that does not really fit any label. When I was in college I fell for the Gin Blossoms, and they round out my Top 5. Presidents of the United States of America could also be contenders there, but the Gin Blossoms are more emotionally evocative and I take them more seriously.

Don’t you feel like you know more about me now? These types of questions can be useful, if for no other reason than to see if we could mutually survive a road trip. With my group of friends in junior high, we did not have the same favorite bands at all, but we could make it work, and I was perfectly fine listening to Duran Duran, David Bowie, INXS, and the Cure, along with my beloved Norwegians.

The reason these guys knew my top bands and were trying to dissuade me from Matchbox 20 was that I had used it in a standup comedy routine on how it is a great way to get to know people, and you can spot trouble signs. The disturbing lists I made up were indicative of being too sheltered (Uh, Motab, of course, Afterglow, not really a band but Michael McLean, um, and the Osmonds and the Jets), but in real life I have known a person who would not be able to give favorite bands because he only listens to orchestras. I asked him once if he only listened to classical music, and he said of course not, and I thought great, let’s find out what other kinds of bands he likes. World music.

To be fair, I have classical music and world music in my own CD collection, but did it ever occur to you that this popular music is popular for a reason, and can have redeeming qualities? Maybe if you rocked out every now and then you wouldn’t be so depressed! I just find snobbery so irritating. Of course all his favorite composers were German.

I feel like my list will stay, not just because I will continue to love these bands but also because there is historical relevance for me, but I keep finding more interesting stuff out there all the time, and it’s a shame to shut yourself off from it. Kill Hannah is a new band that seems promising. Their lyrics are very gothic, but musically they are fairly bright. After attending Provoked I looked up the Ruts and they are amazing. I know the Strokes are not new, but they are new to me, and not bad. Also, I am very fond of the All-American Rejects. I don’t know if they can displace any of the 5, but maybe someday I will feel the need to expand to 7 or 10. Ooh, and Tom DeLonge’s new band, Angels and Airwaves, mostly for Everything’s Magic which is kind of my theme song now.

I can be highbrow too, and while I would never ask a date about his favorite foreign films unless he had previously referenced a liking for them, it is something I can talk about, and tomorrow I will.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Wow, I have let the time get away from me. No wonder my mind is backlogged.

I have been feeling a need to get back in here and write, and I was thinking maybe another period of consistent writing would be a good idea. So you know how they have those advent calendars where you open up one window a day leading up to Christmas, and I intend to blog each day through Christmas. Clearly I have missed the traditional German start of December 1st, and the Eastern European start of September 1st is right out.

As a good Italian, I know the twelve days of Christmas start after Christmas, leading up to Epiphany on January 6th, but over here people start Secret Santa projects twelve days before all the time, and I’m going to go with that.

This is going to be more ambitious than the stint I did in late October, because the time period is longer, and I want to make them connected, where I am creating a logical tie-in at the end of each post to what will be coming the next day. I have my subjects mapped out, so it should work. Of course, I will also be posting at night, so my last planned post is for the 24th but will be posted at night on the 23rd. I can live with it. Today, I am introducing the project and catching up on writing.

Anyway, the presentation was done and the office move is done and the new people are trained and no one is on vacation, so all I have to do at work is settle into my new job, which is going okay. I finished the second draft of the script, and feel good about the changes. It has been a learning experience.

For one thing, I write on the computer, but apparently I cannot edit on the PC—I need to be reading a hard copy, and making notations. It just was not flowing the other way. That’s not a problem; I just didn’t know I was like that. Now I am wondering if I should do anything special for the third draft. Maybe I should act out the scenes for better realism, or string each individual character’s dialogue together to make sure their voices are consistent. I may just go through once and mark which scenes are strong and which are weaker and take it from there.

I am also trying to work out this balance of work and leisure. I could just write all the time, but it is refreshing at times to watch a DVD or listen to music or take a walk. Video games could be refreshing if they weren’t so addictive.

One of the DVDs I watched was of the Seattle performance of Henry Rollins’ Shock and Awe tour. I had watched many of the clips on Youtube, and wanted to see the rest. Now, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend it because there is a lot of profanity, and a sort of a self-love theme (interpret that as you will), but he is smart and funny and I find him adorable.

The clip where my crush really started is posted as Henry Rollins Hates Dating. He goes off on how it is so shallow to ask list questions (the three CDs in your changer, your favorite foreign films, top five bands), but so hard to refrain.

My initial thought was that it might be wise to get to know people before going out with them anyway, but this can be hard depending on how many people you encounter in your regular life. Regardless, I don’t think those questions are necessarily bad. No, you should not eject people from your car just because they give a wrong answer—that’s heading into Scott Baio territory (never a good sign)—but finding out these likes and dislikes can be a good introduction into the heart and mind of a person.

I think this is especially true of music, the response is generally emotional, and so when you find someone who loves the same band, it feels great. So tomorrow, I will reveal the Sporkful Top 5 Bands of All Time. If you don’t know who number one is before we start, you clearly have not been paying attention.