Saturday, December 31, 2005

A Conversation With You

Reader: Dude, where've you been? We rely on you to write amusing web-based content every day. No posts for nine days! What's up with that?

Me: I've been around. Rochester, MN for Christmas (nice town). Las Vegas, NV the past couple of days (not-so-nice town - I guess that's why they call it gambling. Luckily I didn't chase my losses. Nope, I'm letting the USC Trojans chase them for me. Let's Go Trojans! Win by More Than 8! Fight On!)

Reader: Right on. But dude, where are your highly anticipated year-end lists?

Me: The year is not yet over. Lists will appear in the coming weeks.

Reader: How many times have you seen Lazy Sunday?

Me: Twice, I think. No, maybe four times. A dozen? Nope, I've seen it exactly thirteen times.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

December 22, 2005

I write this on the warmest Christmas Eve-Eve-Eve I can remember in the town that built the Mayo Clinic, encased in my new black USC zippered sweatshirt, the scent of Christmas cookies air-swimming in the next room, someone else's copy of Fleetwood Mac's Greatest Hits playing on a sound system I envy. This is a good day. However, it's a good day that followed one of the more treacherous nights of sleep I can remember. For the warmth of today was preceded by a bitter overnight chill that overtook closed windows and my soul. Between bouts of restlessness, I dreamt of Al Franken projectile-vomiting on me as we slept in separate beds in a barracks. Franken's vomit soiled my dream clothes, forcing me to miss the start of the final game of the summer camp soccer tournament. I'll never know if my team won the dream game because a cold cold air pocket slapped my nostrils and smacked by scalp, waking me before I even stepped on the field.

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Good Boat

I was in Minnesota in October on the day Vikings' Boat Party scandal broke. I fondly recall overhearing two women in a coffee shop discussing the events and lamenting that Daunte Culpepper was involved. A nearby man interrupted them, saying that he had heard that "Daunte was on the good boat. There were two boats. Daunte was on the good boat." The women were visibly and audibly relieved. Never was there a moment that better defined sexual/racial/athletic relations in Minnesota. One day when I have a couple of hours I'll lay it all out for the world.

Apparently, Daunte wasn't on the good boat. Or maybe both boats were bad. Or maybe some people were in denial. Either way, I wish Daunte a speedy recovery from his injury. It's bad enough that Brad Johnson (the worst quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl) is getting the credit for the Vikings' six-game winning streak but there are people who truly believe - good boat or bad - that Johnson is an improvement over Culpepper. He's not. I have no real evidence of this, other than the easy schedule and the killer defense.

Anyway, who cares about the NFL? It's basketball season! If you peruse Wednesday's entry, you'll see an interesting NBA discussion.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Keeps Getting Better

My new employer sure knows how to throw a holiday. So far – two holiday lunches, one holiday dinner, and one (casino-themed) holiday party. My former employer? English muffins and butter in the conference room, no toaster (fire hazard), maybe a few stray rice cakes or donuts left over from the meeting on the 24th floor. Okay, I’m exaggerating but… chocolate gingerbread cake and pumpkin ice cream! Giant scallops! Open bar! It’s a little overwhelming but I’ll adjust.

Good Arrested Development news. Sure, you need a Hollywood insider translator to understand Variety’s secret language but it looks like good news.

Last night’s Timberwolves loss to Sacramento (last-second three-pointer by Bonzi Wells) was particularly painful. Maybe they’ll gain strength from this tragic defeat. Maybe they’ll learn to put away an average team at home so it doesn’t come down to a guy with an unstylish headband knocking down an unlikely shot.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Mad Dog Has A Blog

And this is where it is. Or maybe here.

Things I Was Right About This Past Weekend

The Vikings over the Rams.
Danni winning Survivor.
The Saturday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Things I Was Wrong About This Past Weekend

My car needing power steering fluid (if only it were that simple)
The fringes
The Friday New York Times Crossword Puzzle

Friday, December 09, 2005

Billy vs. Neil

One of the five or so people who regularly read this thing lamented to me the other day that I hardly ever write lists anymore. This particular fellow was once the recipient of my pre-psahb “funny e-mails” that often included lists with titles like “Top 12 Spices” and “Worst 11 Decisions in U.S. History.” Back in 2003, he recommended that I publish these lists in a new invention called a weblog, or “blog” for short. I sneered and said “I’m no diary writer.” Well, you know what happened.

However, to this person’s surprise, my blog entries rarely take the form of lists or of my other e-mail-based specialty, the “celebrity poem” (which immortalized mortals like John Oates and Chazz Palminteri (sp?)). One time I proposed the idea of “List Fridays.” I think that idea lasted two weeks. Usually I write little “slice-of-life” pieces or bizarre basketball-centered manifestoes. Lists have pretty much disappeared, like the notion that Larry Bird was somehow a Top Ten Basketball Player of All Time (he wasn’t; he isn’t).

So, to appease Michael Brian (or is it Liam?) Gainor, here’s a list:

Top 6 Reasons Billy Joel is Better than Neil Young, Written in a Conversational Style That Refers to Both Boomer-era Singers Exclusively by Their First Names

6. Levity. Sure, Billy took himself too seriously. Half of Nylon Curtain and all of The Bridge are proof of that. But did Billy ever release album after album of “thematically experimental” works meant to annoy his record company? No, Billy only did that once (the instrumental album). Did Billy ever sandwich one of his albums with pretentious “bookends” like Hey Hey My My and My My Hey Hey? Oh wait, I forgot about The Stranger. Did Billy ever produce an “experimental” “docu-drama” like Greendale (which is actually pretty good)? No. Billy gets the bad reputation of being the defensive overly serious angry young man but compared to Neil dude was Peewee Herman.

5. Self-acceptance. Billy accepted (and trumpeted) his suburban (Long Island) roots, never pretending he was from “the city” (I’m talking to you Sinatra!). Billy also pretended he was Italian and not Jewish for only the first 35 years of this career. Neil, on the other hand, still pretends he’s not Canadian, overly embracing Americana and going so far as to emphatically support both sides of the Civil War (Southern Man for the Union and American Stars and Bars for the Rebels) at different stages of his career.

4. Signature album: The Stranger vs. Tonight’s the Night. The Stranger was a godsend, a touchstone, the most important album of my childhood/adolescence. I know every lyric of every song and sung many of the songs with my childhood friend Patrick in his basement (I handled vocals; Patrick played drums; there was nobody else, just the two of us – we were the White Stripes before there were White Stripes). Full of insightful lyrics, expertly sung, with sweet melodies, The Stranger is a flawless album that holds up even today, consistent from start to finish with no filler. Tonight’s the Night? I’ve never listened to it.

3. Seminal album: An Innocent Man vs. Rust Never Sleeps.
An Innocent Man got me through my difficult relationship with Maria Bissinger. Rust Never Sleeps destroyed me emotionally.

2. Post-career peak live performance: Neil at Lollapalooza, 1990-something vs. Billy at the St. Paul Civic Center, 1985. Neil was all bloated fuzz and sloganeering. Billy jumped around on his piano and played to the crowd. Neil sang half of Harvest Moon (his best album), electrifying the songs beyond recognition. Billy favored his “rock and roll” songs, trying to epitomize street cool. Neil succeeded. Billy failed. However, Billy’s songs were still better so he wins this one. And my date for Billy’s show (Annie – where’ve you been? I’m Googleable! Sorry I didn’t renew my car insurance policy through you back in ’97 but I found a better rate elsewhere) was better than my date for Neil’s (I don’t remember your name).

1. We Didn’t Start the Fire. I’m not kidding. I love this song. Sure, it’s a song anyone could have written – child, man, woman, elder, mentally challenged, etc. But in its amateurish listish fervor is a heart beating. It’s the heart of America, of the world, of the universe. It’s a heart of mercy, of movement and love and tenderness, of anger and pop culture and Long Island parkways and New Jersey four-lanes. Of Highway 61 and Wilshire Boulevard. It’s may be Billy’s last great song (at least so far, I can feel the comeback coming back) and he throws it all out there for everyone to see, to grasp, to taste, to love, to hold on to tightly. It’s the bible and the phone book wrapped up in one, yo. Again, it’s a song anyone could have written. But Billy wrote it. Neil didn’t.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Light of the Shadow

This should be a lovely day – perfect daytime weather, cozy evening cold. Instead, I am fully trapped in the clutches of a cold or flu – watery eyes, addled brain (and this is without medication!), lack of energy, ennui, etc. The work day is almost over (I’d have called in sick but it’s only my second week here). But I still have my trip to the secret store for secret Christmas gifts. And my drive home in the increasingly sticky westbound December traffic. And then I’ll be safe on my sage green couch, with sturdy remote and stocked Tivo (aka Moxi) inventory .So am I complaining? Yes. But, I’ll be healed. I’m always healed eventually. Perhaps my healing cat (Seymour) can be of use.

(note: I wrote the above post yesterday but due to website problems I couldn't post it until now. It pretty much describes how I feel today anyway. I wouldn't change a thing. I could've added something about how much I enjoy and respect the "pasta bar" I tried today. Or I could have thrown in my appreciation for the holiday party invites. Or I could have discussed yesterday's very entertaining Stephen Colbert interview on Fresh Air. Or the very fine Zadie Smith book - On Beauty - that I'm reading. But why tinker with perfection?)

Monday, December 05, 2005

I Confer Upon Thee....

This morning it finally hit me. During my lengthy work day, I can look outside. I have a window. Two of them. And the windows open!. I see two trees. Lush green trees. One of these days I’ll do a little research and give you the exact species of tree.

Occasionally I’ll spot a student strolling between buildings. Today, foot traffic is slow. It’s finals week. It’s the coldest day of the year. Everyone’s indoors, bundling together for warmth and mental support.

The prediction I made in the title of Friday’s entry came true of course. Now, it’s a long wait for the next big game. It should be a good one. We’ll host a party (we being Laurel and myself).

The new screenplay is proceeding well. Collaborative creative efforts often lead to conflicts and so far the only one we’ve had is: Flashbacks or no flashbacks. Now, to most of you the choice is so obvious that I don’t even have to say it. But to others it is not. We’ll work it out. All I can say is when you take a shortcut through the forest sometimes you miss the trees – the sickly barren trees and the lush green trees.

Friday, December 02, 2005

34 In A Row

My hiatus is finally over. I am settling into my new job. I am warming to the brutally cold Los Angeles winter weather. I almost needed something approaching a light jacket this morning!

A few notes from from my first week in my new non-teaching university job:

  • The people at this place believe anything can be done. The people at my old job believed nothing could be done. Confidence bordering on arrogance creates a far better work environment than bureaucracy bordering on inertia.
  • Last night, in anticipation of tomorrow's big game, there was a "bonfire" in the "quad." Blessedly, some things never change.
  • There is no secret handshake.