On Music Critics

The role of the music critic is to explain why things you love completely suck. The internet hasn’t changed that —and if anything it’s made it worse.

It used to be that rock critics were fairly independent thinkers. They were forced  to come up with their own reasons why the music you like isn’t any good —but today everything is different.

Now there are a million people on the web reviewing music so all a writer needs is to do a Google search and presto! He finds someone to tell him what to say.

Yeah, that sounds harsh but think about it. In the old days ideas were not at your fingertips. If you wanted information you’d have to trudge out to the library or newsstand. Today? Endless opinions 24/7 —and if you don’t know what to think you can easily find someone who’s already thought it.

For example, Daniel Durchholz wrote in the June 1 St. Louis Post-Dispatch about The Decemberists recent album, The Hazards of Love:

It’s instructive, though, to remember that such works were used as punching bags by punk rockers, who pointed to their pretentiousness and self-importance as embodying the very antithesis of rock.

Hmmm… good point —but original? Here’s a quote from just a few days earlier:

Prog-rock and concept records and ambitious projects like this were kind of anathema post-punk. They were destroyed with the advent of punk rock.

That was from an interview with Decemberists front man Colin Meloy in The Decider, a Milwaukee based web site published by the same people who bring you The Onion.

Yes, ideas are hard. But today maybe not so much.

Anyone Can Whistle

I kinda swore that I would never coach soccer again, but guess what I’m doing this season? The soccer club sent out an appeal for volunteers last week saying they’d drop a team if they couldn’t find another coach. I was afraid I was on their sh*t list after making fun of their logo, goofing on annoying soccer parents, and bragging about my losing record, but I guess all is forgiven.

What I’ve learned from being a wiseass is that people who take something seriously take it very seriously. Michael Kinahan of Scituate, MA learned this lesson a little too late.

Maybe you heard of the tongue  in cheek email Kinahan sent to the parents of his 7-year-old soccer players? It’s the one where he dubbed his team “Green Death” and said he expects the girls to play “like a Michael Vick pit bull.”

Here’s a sample of his letter:

I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy.

You can read the whole thing here. Bottom line is that some of the parents didn’t get that it was intended to be humorous and Mr. Kinahan ended up quitting.

In his resignation he explained that the email was  “Meant in jest and with the goal of giving the parents a chuckle while enduring yet another round of organized youth sports. It was also meant as a satire of those who take youth sports too seriously for the wrong reasons.”

He goes on: “While I am sorry some people failed to see the humor, I do not apologize for my actions; I wrote it, I think it’s funny and I do have a distaste for the tediousness of overbearing political correctness.”

You and me both, brother.

And Who is this Agnes Day, Anyway?

No really, I do pay attention in church —but for years I’ve been mystified by one of those songs they sing every week. It comes up right around the time they’re doing the whole breaking bread thing and getting ready to hand out communion. All I could ever make out were the first few words:

“Are you staying…blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, ….” And so on.

Am I staying? Of course, I wouldn’t leave before communion. I’ll pass on the wine because I don’t care if they wipe off the chalice, handing that thing around to hundreds people seems a like a very bad idea. And then there’s the issue of backwash.

Anyhow, here I am listening to that song again —and again not getting it. I leaned over to my wife Ann recently and whispered, “What the hell are they singing?”

She handed me the song sheet that’s given out at the beginning of mass.

Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, misere nobis.

That explains why I can’t understand it: it’s in Latin. Didn’t we get rid of Latin under Vatican II? Not that anyone cares what I think, but let’s just switch everything to English —and while we’re at it maybe it’s time to consider individual serving cups for the wine.

The Art of Conversation

We make a real effort to sit down for dinner on as many nights as possible, even when people are rushing off to the fire house, dog training, piano lessons, Boy Scouts, and the million other things that get scheduled on weekday evenings.

You’d be surprised by the delicious and healthy meals that we manage to get on the table —but what you’d really love is the witty repartee. Imagine sitting at dinner between Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward —or since this is 2009, maybe John Stewart and Maureen Dowd. Here’s an example of what you miss:

zack: I’m auditioning for the school play
rob: Really! What show?
zack: Pocahontas.
rob: Ah, Pocahontas! Well, I know a way you can land a part as an Indian.
zack: How?
rob: Exactly! You’ve got it!

Hahahahaha. I crack me up.

Miracle Man

Have we exhausted the use of the word miracle yet?

Yes, the emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 was amazing and astounding and unprecedented —but a miracle? I’m not sure pilot Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger would describe it that way. Here’s a guy who’s been flying since he was 14-years-old and went on to earn an appointment to the Air Force Academy. He flew F-4 Phantom jets, has been a commercial airline pilot for more than 25 years, and is a recognized expert in flight safety and accident investigation. Calling what he did a miracle cheapens its significance.

Hey, I go to church on Sunday but lets face it: God has nothing to do with whether your plane stays in the air or not. If he saved this one does that mean he made the others crash? Or does he just reach out occasionally with his big God hand and pluck you out of danger? No, he does not.

We are human and we make mistakes and things break —and when stuff goes wrong it does so in a spectacular fashion. And sometimes we are lucky enough to have somebody around who will keep his head in an emergency. Someone like Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger.

Down The Bowl

At The Great Escape yesterday, we hit the sweet spot: a stretch of the day you could get on The Comet over and over again without standing on line. I can’t tell you how many times we went on the giant roller coaster —12 times? 15 times? Either way, my neck is really sore today. On the wet side of the park, we spent more than 30 minutes waiting to go on the “Mega Wedgie” water slide. You drop down a chute in a raft and then spin around and around in a big cylinder before before being sucked out the bottom. It should be called the Mega Bowl or Royal Flush, because the sensation is just like being in a toilet. If they were smart, they’d embrace this concept and run with the bathroom joke. Brown rafts maybe?

We also rode The Boomerang a couple of times, but as much as I enjoy roller coasters, it’s is a harrowing experience. That ride should be called The Colonoscopy —but I digress.

Just to top off a post that’s going downhill fast, I found it interesting that all the people operating the rides at the park were foreign workers here for the summer. We I know this is immature, but we got a big kick out out of the guy at The Alpine Sled: UFUK. That seemed funny, but this was after riding The Comet for an hour.Is it possible that repeated roller coaster trips reduce your intellect? If so, let’s hope it’s only temporary.

Name Game

Area blogger Sarah Rain wrote recently:

The local youth softball outfit is called the Bethlehem Tomboys. This bothers me but I can’t quite articulate why.

It could bother her because it’s an interesting example of how society’s always been conflicted over the place where femininity meets athleticism. They came up with the name Tomboys when it was OK to suggest that a girl playing softball was boyish. Today? Not so much. You’d never get away with naming them that in 2008, not in these days when teams like the Warriors and Indians are getting hard to find. This was not a problem where I grew up. We were -and remain- the Carle Place Frogs.

For all the damage the ad world has done in terms of how we view women and the way they view themselves, Nike deserves credit for breaking stereotypes. Their advertising is full of strong women who are anything but “tomboys.” My favorite example is this 2006 spot that features Maria Sharapova on her way to play at the U.S. Open. It’s not just an ad, but a biting piece of satire —and maybe the best use of music in any commercial ever. Plus the casting and directing is brilliant. Here’s a link to a clean version if you can’t stand the crummy YouTube embed…


Head Scratcher

WTF?I had a couple of bucks, so I asked the clerk at Stewart’s for a scratch off. Which one? I don’t know, pick me any of one of those two dollars tickets. Back in the car I grab a nickel and start scratching my way to victory. That’s when I realized I was in trouble.

Scratch the YOUR LETTERS area to reveal 18 letters within the box. Scratch each letter in the Cashword puzzle that corresponds to YOUR LETTERS.

HONK! The light was green and the guy behind me wanted to go. At the next light I continued reading.

Complete three or more words in the Cashword puzzle using YOUR LETTERS to win the prize shown in the Prize Legend. See back for details.

Details? HONK! The light was green again. I drove off thinking, WTF? They gave me the scratch off game for Mensa members. Actually, that can’t be: Mensans are bright enough not to waste their money on these things. I pulled over and started revealing my 18 letters. Then I started scratching off each letter in the Cashword box that corresponded to MY LETTERS. Ten minutes later I abandoned the project.

It took me a week to finally get everything scratched off. I’m affraid I might have voided the game, but if not I’m pretty sure I’ve either won $2 or $10,000.

By the way: If those Mensans are so smart , why do they have such an awful web site?

Theater Review

Some things are best sent to the recycle bin, like the review of my 12-year-old’s school theater production of “Beauty and The Beast.” I thought it would be really, really funny to write about the show as if reviewed by New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley:

Two act one numbers that should have been rousing show stoppers fell flat, casualties of weak singing and thoughtless direction. “Gaston,” the wildly funny paean to Belle’s vain and thickly dumb suitor, leaves many of its best jokes to wither and die on the vine, the victims of poor timing. “Be Our Guest,” a wry and spirited homage to Maurice Chevalier, is similarly disappointing, with many of its lyrics rendered unintelligible. It leaned on a series of costume reveals to wow the audience while ignoring the wit and charm its words. Even Shannon McShane, in her strong turn as Mrs. Potts, couldn’t save the doomed number.

And it went on like this for for six-hundred words. I showed it to Ann. “You know,” she said, “Not everyone gets your sense of humor.” C’mon, I explained. It’s parody. It’s not supposed to be ME writing, It’s as if it’s as if Ben Brantley came to the gymatorium and reviewed a kids theater production. Get it? It’s funny. She stared like I’d grown a third eye on my forehead. “Oh. Maybe Ben Brantley will go to the next PTO meeting.”

Point made —and all but what you see here was deleted. The show closed Saturday night, but I had nothing to do with it.