Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Great songs, according to me (Parts 16-30)

The second fifteen parts of Great Songs, According To Me:

Part Sixteen: "Drop Dead Legs" by Van Halen to "Enjoy the Silence" by Depeche Mode.
Part Seventeen: "Entangled" by Genesis to "Exhausted" by Foo Fighters.
Part Eighteen: "Eye for Eye" by Think Tree to "Famous Last Words" by Billy Joel.
Part Nineteen: "Fast Lane" by Urban Dance Squad to "Five-O" by James.
Part Twenty: "Follow You Follow Me" by Genesis to "The Full Bug" by Van Halen.
Part Twenty-One: "Gallows Pole" by Led Zeppelin to "Give it Revolution" by Suicidal Tendencies.
Part Twenty-Two: "Given to Fly" by Pearl Jam to "Go'n Breakdown" by Suicidal Tendencies.
Part Twenty-Three: "Gone Daddy Gone" by Violent Femmes to "Heathaze" by Genesis.
Part Twenty-Four: "Hell's Ditch" by the Pogues to "The Hounds of Winter" by Sting.
Part Twenty-Five: "House" by Marillion to "I Am the City" by ABBA.
Part Twenty-Six: "I Better be Quiet Now" by Elliot Smith to "I Remember You" by Steve Earle.
Part Twenty-Seven: "I Shatter" by the Magnetic Fields to "If My Heart Were a Ball it Would Roll Uphill" by Marillion.
Part Twenty-Eight: "I'm a Mother" by the Pretenders to "In the New Age" by King's X.
Part Twenty-Nine: "In My Life Today" by Lenny Kravitz to "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)" by the Dead Milkmen.
Part Thirty: "Interior Lulu" by Marillion to "Jerusalem" by Steve Earle.


Great songs, according to me (Part 30)

300 songs that I think are great. I'm sure impressed with myself!

Let's link to the previous entries: Parts 1-15, archived, Part 16, Part 17, Part 18, Part 19, Part 20, Part 21, Part 22, Part 23, Part 24, Part 25, Part 26, Part 27, Part 28, and Part 29. Now, let's move on to the next 10 songs.

291. Interior Lulu (by Marillion on the album, 1999): Marillion just released a new album, which is decent but not great. I didn't mean to have yet another Marillion song on this list just as they release a new album, it just worked out that way. "Interior Lulu" is a monster song, sprawling and jazzy and just a bit funky. It tells a tale of isolation even as the Internet allows us to "connect" but severs our link to the actual world. It's a sad song, but it never descends into gloominess. The music powers the song along, starting with a sly beat and a groovy bass line before becoming a cacophony in the middle section of the song, reflecting the spiral of madness our world has become. The heart of the song comes when Hogarth sings, "If you can break it, it's already broken," a heartfelt cry that yearns for meaning in a meaningless world. Not the most fun song in the world, but a powerful statement nonetheless.

292. International Bright Young Thing (by Jesus Jones on the album Doubt, 1991): Doubt is a good album, helped by some stellar songs, of which this is an example. It has a great groove, and although the lyrics aren't anything fantastic, Edwards does give us a wry critique of pop culture even as he indulges in some funky dance music. It's a great song to play loud and bop your head to. There's nothing wrong with that!

293. Is it Too Late? (by World Party on the album Goodbye Jumbo, 1990): As usual with a great many World Party songs, this has a strong environmental bent to it, and unlike some of Wallinger's tunes, it doesn't get overwhelmed by it. The song has a nice exotic flavor to it, with almost dreamy music and oddly surreal lyrics. Wallinger sings about rescuing the world and ourselves, and does so without beating us over the head. At the end, when Wallinger whispers about the elephant's graveyard, it's slightly chilling, which is a nice way to end the song.

294. Is This Desire? (by PJ Harvey on the album Is This Desire?, 1998): The final song on Harvey's weakest album yet has nothing to apologize for. Despite the uneven quality of the other songs, this somewhat breathless paean to yearning for more in life is a nice coda. Harvey always seems to come up with at least one gut-wrenching song on every album she releases, and this one stands with her best. Her vocals, which are muted on almost every other song on the disc, come through with the power we expect from Polly Jean. It's a wonderful call for positive emotion in a world that doesn't have enough of it, and it almost redeems the entire album.

295. Istanbul (not Constantinople) (by They Might Be Giants on the album Flood, 1990): Great songs don't necessarily have to be all that meaningful, and so it is with TMBG's cover of this old Jimmy Kennedy/Nat Simon tune. It's a perfectly lightweight song about, well, the name change of the great city on the Bosporus (which isn't really a name change, since "Istanbul" is, as far as I know, simply the Turkish version). TMBG's version is very fun, though, and the violin and accordion bring a nice Turkish flavor to the song. It's a quick piece of musical wonderfulness, and that's all it needs to be. Why did Constantinople get the works? Well, that's nobody's business but the Turks.

296. It Can Happen (by Yes on the album 90125, 1983): Although in the 1980s Yes left the 20-minute opera behind to concentrate on money-grubbing, "It Can Happen" remains a magnificent song, with Jon Anderson in fine high-pitched form and the rest of the band (whoever they were at this point) soaring with him. It's a wonderful melding of vocals and music, and when Anderson wails, "There's a crazy world outside, we're not about to lose our pride," we feel both his despair and his hope. Yes fell too quickly into the just-another-rock-band category (you may not have liked their 1970s noodlings, but at least they were weirdly unique), but this is a nice blast at glory before they landed.

297. It'll Probably Make Me Cry (by Mary's Danish on the album There Goes The Wondertruck ..., 1989): Another song by the criminally underrated Mary's Danish (whose first two albums, including this one, are brilliant), this one is sort-of country, with a nice twang by Julie Ritter (again, I'm assuming it's Julie, even though they have two female singers) and weepy lyrics. Like all there other songs, however, they sell it well, and we feel the pain of loss and the power in the relatively simple lyrics. A wonderful heartfelt song on a great album.

298. It's a Mistake (by Men At Work on the album Cargo, 1982): I probably still have this album on LP, because I'm so old-school. What a fun band Men At Work were, and occasionally, they wrote really brilliant songs. This tune, which has a bit of a Dr. Strangelove vibe to it (at least from the lyrics), also has that hauntingly bizarre music that complements the paranoid lyrics very well. Colin Hay's odd Aussie vocals give the lyrics a wry component that makes the song both more chilling and more ironic. Great stuff.

299. It's Raining Men (by The Weather Girls, 1982): What can I say? It's one of the greatest disco songs ever. And the subject of a very funny sequence in The Simpsons: Moe gets angry at Homer and tells him he's taking Homer's favorite song off the jukebox. Homer, aghast, cries, "It's Raining Men!" and Moe answers, "Not no more it ain't" and hurls the 45 out the window, where it passes through an open car window and hits Smithers in the head. He can't believe his luck! I also played this for my students in the spring of 2002 and a fellow teacher and I sang along at the top of our voices. Needless to say, my students thought I was very odd. I don't care.

300. Jerusalem (by Steve Earle on the album Jerusalem, 2002): In a complete tonal shift, we get the title track of this very good album. Earle sings a simple song about the violence in the Middle East and his hope that things will get better. Earle, despite a seemingly bleak outlook in the short-term (he doesn't like Bush), is often upbeat when thinking about the future, and this song is a perfect example. At the end of the song, he sings, "And there'll be no barricades then, there'll be no wire or walls, and we can wash all this blood from our hands, and all this hatred from our souls." It's a song that looks to a point where we can live together in peace, and Earle gravelly voice does a much better job of selling it than if he were smoother.

Look at that - another ten songs in the books. Feel free to let the vitriol fly when you tell me I know nothing about music!

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Waiting us out

I was listening to my favorite radio station the other day, and Dennis Prager said something about not giving the "terrorists" in Iraq a timetable because then all they need to do is "wait us out" and they win.

That sounds perfectly reasonable, and for the most part, it's probably not smart to set a hard withdrawal date when you're in a "war." However, there's a fatal flaw in the argument, one that supporters of the "war" fail to recognize.

The Iraqis are good at waiting. Let's go back to the early 1500s, when the Ottomans swept into Mesopotamia and took the place over. Poor, poor Arabs, being ruled by filthy Turks! So they waited. They were still waiting 400 years later when the Ottomans were weak enough to defeat. And the Arabs did defeat them. Yay, Arabs!

Then the British moved in. So the Arabs waited. Oh sure, they engaged in some terroristic activities, but basically they waited. It didn't take quite as long this time, and soon the British, the most successful colonizers in the history of the world, got sick of them and left. Yay, Arabs!

We've been stuck in Iraq for four years. Do you think the Arabs are concerned? Of course not! They've had a lot of experience with this. I'm sure they'd like us to leave sooner than later, but eventually, we'll be gone, and it won't have anything to do with whether they have a working democracy or not. It will be because we're sick of it.

Is Dennis Prager and all the other supporters of this war willing to put up outposts all over Iraq and settle down for a long time? Like, say, 25 years? 50? 100? The Iraqis, I bet, will wait. And what will we get out of it? Lots of Americans dead for really, no reason whatsoever.

I don't really like the Democrats' timetable, but let's make one point: If Bush had, at the beginning of the war, been far more clear about what he wanted to accomplish (and no, "establishing democracy" is NOT clear), then we wouldn't need it now. I would like it much better if instead of benchmarks of time, we would have benchmarks of accomplishment. It seems like the Democrats at least are looking at that.

But whatever we decide, the fact still remains: it's not our home, so the Iraqis can wait. And we're just going to have to accept that.

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Someone else who better hope I never become dictator!

Unlike the woman from last week, this is a somewhat benign story, but these people still better watch out when I take over:

A thirteen-year-old girl is the U. S. text messaging champion. Read that headline again: text messaging champion!!!!

Now, this wouldn't be so bad - it's harmless, right? She won $25,000. TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS!!!!! Not to get into my own personal financial horrors, but that's more than we have in our savings account. And she won it for being able to text message.

I'd quote from the article, but it's far more fun to read it. I will quote the second-place finisher, a 23-year-old "man," who, when asked if he was disappointed, replied, "I just got beaten by a teenage girl, but you know." Uh, sir - if that's the reason you're disappointed, might I suggest a bigger reason is that you're competing in a text messaging competition and you're 23? Jesus.

Again, I don't blame the contestants, although if my child were texting 8,000 times a month, like little Morgan Pozgar (who was on ESPN yesterday morning for her triumph in this "sport"), it might be time to have a little chat with her. I blame the people who decided to give money to people for doing this. In fact, I'm going to start my own competition: sitting on my ass. Oh wait: there's probably already a Couch Potato International.

Jesus. And people wonder why the world is going in the crapper. When I'm dictator, these kinds of competitions will be banned and the people who want to join them will be forced to make those little carriages that go inside Fabergé eggs. You know, so they can do something useful with their hands!

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News of the world angries up my blood

A couple of news stories from Thursday's Arizona Republic caught the wife's eye, and she pointed them out to me. And then I got angry.

The first is, of course, the abortion decision. I'm not going to write too much about it, because I'm sure others have done so and it's a "rare" form of abortion, but let's be honest: once the anti-abortion people gained the upper hand in the terminology wars by calling this a "partial-birth abortion," you knew it was getting banned at some point. Nobody cares to examine the procedure, and when it's called "partial-birth," people get visions of doctors sucking a newborn baby out of a womb and chopping its head off. Don't say they don't! What anti-abortion people (I refuse to call them pro-life, because they don't care about the babies once they're, you know, born) understand is the power of words, and once the opponents of a partial-birth abortion ban started calling it that, the battle was lost. The only thing people who are pro-choice can hope for now is that a blanket abortion ban doesn't get in front of the Supreme Court before a few of its current members die off or quit and that Bush is no longer around to appoint someone new. If it gets to this current court, Roe v. Wade is gone. The good news about that is that American women will all leave the workplace and raise big white families again, and the country will return to those idyllic days when women weren't running around murdering tiny clumps of tissue and causing all the ills of modern society. Won't that be nice? Remember before Roe v. Wade, when no children were ever beaten or sexually abused and the world was a better place because no women were making actual decisions? Good times.

The other story was a bit more interesting, just because it didn't make the front page. On page 8 of the front section was this story, which is just astonishing. I don't watch the news, so maybe this is a bigger story than I know, but let's just look at the headline: "White House pursued legal efforts to limit voter turnout in key states." Here's the first paragraph:

For six years, the Bush administration, aided by Justice Department political appointees, has pursued an aggressive legal effort to restrict voter turnout in key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates.

Arrrrgggghhhh! What, indeed, the fuck? If you read the article, none of the dirty pool they have pulled is against the law, but (surprisingly) the Administration has claimed fears of voter fraud lead them to enact tougher laws, which almost always discriminate against the poor, who are more likely to vote Democrat (whether they should or not is incidental). Cases of voter fraud are very rare, but that hasn't stopped Bush and his cronies to use it to work things in their favor. Does this remind anyone of, maybe, the War on Terror™? This is just another underhanded, shitty thing for the party in power to do when they realized that their "message" wasn't resonating anymore because people didn't want to hear their shit. Krys was stunned this isn't getting more play, and so am I, because of the "liberal media." Oh, wait a minute - the media isn't liberal, they're just lapdogs for anyone in power, and right now that's a conservative. This kind of thing doesn't really surprise me anymore, but it does still piss me off. When is the revolution coming?

On the front page of that particular issue of the Republic is the story of Cho Seung Hui sending his video to NBC News. As I mentioned in my last post, I don't want to denigrate the memories of the dead, and what happened at Virginia Tech is a horrible tragedy. But why are they running big stories about a crazy man, plus showing a despicable picture of him holding two hand guns? As has been brought up before, what does this show all the other crazies out there? That they too can shoot up a school and get a front-page photograph! Sure, they'll be dead, but they're crazy - maybe that doesn't matter, as long as they get their fame! And, again, not to belittle the massacre, but both the abortion decision (which was on the front page) and the election shenanigans (which wasn't) affect far more people than the deaths in Blacksburg. I understand it's on the front page because it's a visceral story of a great tragedy, but down at the bottom of the first page is a story about John Edwards' haircut (I wish I was kidding) and at the top of the front page, above Cho's awful photograph, is a story about how NASCAR is trying to attract more female and minority fans (it's race week in Phoenix). That is, if you'll pardon my French, fucked up.

I just love to get reminded about what's important to a majority of people in this country: NASCAR and how much John Edwards pays for his haircuts. And we wonder why our country is in the shitter.

On a more positive note, if you haven't read my daughters' blog recently, I put up a nice post about Mia and the progress she's made over the past year. She's doing very well, and we have no reason to think she won't do better once she gets to kindergarten. So if you're interested, check it out.

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Keeping things in perspective

I don't want to belittle the emotions of the family and friends of the victims in the Virginia Tech abomination, because it's a horrific event and it should remind us again how random life sometimes is. If I prayed (or believed in God) I would pray for those people.

I would like to know, however, how many young ladies were raped on campuses around the country in the, let's say, a week before the massacre. My guess is that it's far greater than 32. And the emotional scars are as deep as these will be.

This kind of thing happens so infrequently, yet when it does, people go nuts about how to change the culture on school campuses (usually this happens at a K-12 school, but we can now lump colleges in with it). It's like an airplane crash. People freak out about airplane crashes but don't care about the many more thousands who die each year in car accidents.

This is a huge tragedy, don't get me wrong. I can't imagine losing a child, especially in such a random situation as this. But it is something that needs to be considered in perspective, especially with the bigger problems facing young people today.

Just a thought.

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What I've been reading

Perfect From Now On: How Indie Rock Saved My Life by John Sellers. 215 pages, 2007, Simon & Schuster.

Fans of obsessive behavior as well as music should love this book. It's a very funny and extensive look at "indie" rock and how music affects our lives. Anyone who has collected music to the extent that Sellers does (or even a fraction of the amount he has, because he's pretty comprehensive) or even collected anything else (for me, it's comics, but even I'm a piker compared to Sellers) will find something pertinent to his or her situation in this book. It's a nice light read, but it offers some nice nostalgic musing on rock since the mid-1970s, as well as documenting Sellers' journey to hipster doofus.

Sellers was born in 1970, which means this is a perfect book for someone like me (who was born in 1971). Sellers isn't obsessed with Sixties music (the first sentence of the book is: "I hate Bob Dylan"), but he's also not enamoured of pop music of the last decade. Therefore, although he loves certain bands I've never heard (most of the latter part of the book is taken up with his devotion to Guided By Voices, a band I've heard of but never heard), he discusses his love for Eighties metal and Nineties indie bands, and I feel more comfortable reading this than if he wrote paeans to the Beach Boys (I don't get their genius, sorry) or newer bands like ... um, yeah, I'll get back to you. That's not to say he doesn't know far too much about new bands, but for most of the book, he's talking about music I grew up with (not necessarily listened to, as I still have never heard Daydream Nation, to pick a random "great" album from the 1980s), and therefore the familiarity factor helps. It may not for you if you're significantly older or younger than Sellers. Or it may.

Sellers goes into great detail about his childhood and life leading up to his great obsession with Guided By Voices, including his father's similar obsession with Dylan (hence the Dylan-hatred, which is understandable when you're exposed to it ad infinitum throughout your childhood) and the impact music has had on his life. An early paragraph gives you an idea about the kind of book Sellers is writing:

A partial list of things music has made me do: fly overseas at considerable expense to see a live performance by a and I no longer liked, nurture a crush on a goth chick way out of my league, nurture a crush on an alternachick way out of my league, write a love letter to a German woman made up entirely of lyrics from my favorite synth band, reconsider fast friendships, get ticketed for doing 82 in a 55, drive around a remote area of England looking for a hero's grave, wear parachute pants without irony, perform the moonwalk in front of a crowded gymnasium, switch college majors, miss a final exam, shoplift (both successfully and unsuccessfully), dive to the bottom of a numbingly cold Scottish pond to retrieve my favorite T-shirt, stab my thumb into the back of a fellow concert attendee's neck to get closer to the stage, drink too much, lose my voice, stage-dive, cry, and regret.

If any of this pertains to you, even a little bit, Sellers will make you laugh. He speaks from a typical American childhood - he grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, weaned on AOR stuff like Journey and Foreigner, got interested in metal like Van Halen, and never knew that there was anything else until he went to college. He gets into "alternative" stuff with U2 circa 1985 - before The Joshua Tree - and gradually moved on to the Smiths and New Order. Through New Order he discovered Joy Division and Ian Curtis (whose grave he looks for in England) and then on to even more alternative music. Which led him to Guided By Voices.

Sellers' prose is easy-going and nicely self-deprecating, but he does have that whiff of elitism about him, which he readily admits. The fact that he recognizes his elitism makes it funny but doesn't make it any less elitist. Let's face it - anyone who collects something to the point of obsession is going to think they're the best at it, or the biggest fan, or the most knowledgeable. Sellers makes the point throughout that he kept getting on the bandwagon late, after the bands had gotten some mainstream success, and he makes the all-too-true point that occasionally you want your favorite band to remain anonymous so that your love of them will be a badge of honor. We all do this to a certain extent, and Sellers does a nice job at exploring this feeling. It's a fine line to walk between his elitism coming through and his ripping that same elitism down, and for the most part, he does a nice job. Only toward the end does it become a bit annoying, which I'll get to. A nice thing about reading this book and being contemporary with Sellers is that you feel like he's talking about me. I know that not everyone grew up in a middle-class, mostly white area and listened to "classic" rock until they went to college, where a friend turned them on to the many different vistas of music (in my case it was my friend Dave Boger, who let me listen to the first Violent Femmes tape in 1989), but I did, and Sellers could be writing about my musical curve as well as his own, although mine doesn't go as far as his. This might make me more favorably inclined to the book, although I suspect that many people go through this arc, even if the bands might have different names.

Sellers also has good credentials to back up his tastes. He has invested heavily in the bands he likes, and done a lot of research. That gives him a more steady place from which to espouse his opinions, even though that's all they are - opinions. The appeal of the Pixies continues to escape me, and I do not share his near-maniacal worship of Ian Curtis. Joy Division is lousy, according to me. But I recognize the feelings behind the opinions, and that makes his self-assuredness palatable even when I don't like the band in question (Sellers' favorite album is The Queen is Dead by the Smiths, another band I don't "get," and he loves Dinosaur Jr., even though J Mascis sounds like a particularly nasally cat in heat).

Where Sellers falters a bit is in his devotion to Guided By Voices and the lengths to which he will go to see them and become part of the "inner circle" of Robert Pollard (the band's leader and only consistent member), who get to hang out at his house and drink copious amounts of beer. His obsession doesn't really take a dark turn, and his writing is as funny as ever, but reading about Sellers getting in with his hero doesn't resonate as much with me. Then the story becomes a bit more personal, as the band's publicist sends out an e-mail to the mailing list telling them that Sellers is a journalist who is going to write about the band in an upcoming book even though he presented himself to Pollard as just a fan. The Guided By Voices message board lights up with death threats, and Sellers writes an abject apology to Pollard. Sellers never says it, but this points out the dark side of obsession - fans rising as one to threaten someone who might dare to give their band some publicity. Maybe Pollard doesn't want it (he's never courted superstardom, after all), but I bet more people will hear about Guided By Voices through this book than most of the magazine articles about them, so I don't know why anyone would get upset at Sellers. These chapters about his trip to Dayton, Ohio, where Pollard lives, and then the fallout from the revelation that he's a journalist are the weakest in the book, because it's nothing you can't find on a blog or message board where people take something minor and make a mountain out of it. It's just dull.

But for the most part, this is a fun memoir and a relatable journey through music in the 1980s and 1990s. Sellers peppers it with extremely long footnotes that are often more entertaining than the main narrative (including a letter to Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine imploring him to make more music, plus an 11-page footnote (!) documenting his observance of the day Ian Curtis died - 18 May - in 2005) and appendices in which he makes lists (as he points out in the book, you're not a true music nerd unless you've made lists) that include 8 "dingers" (albums with no bad tracks on them) to the top 5 songs that annoy him more than any in the world ("American Pie" is #1, which I suspect would be on the top of many people's lists) and offers a formula you can use to rank your musical preferences (Radiohead is much, much better than the Strokes, by the way). Sellers does a fine job hooking us and keeping us on the hook, and even though the book slows when he actually gets to meet his hero and the deplorable behavior of Guided By Voices' fans makes us wonder why anyone would want to be obsessive about music, it's still a nice read. I'm not sure how indie rock saved his life, but it's still fun to read Sellers' musical reminiscences.

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Worst news story ever

Krys saw this story in the Monday (2 April) edition of the Arizona Republic. It's just one of those news briefs, so I can't link to it, but I'll reproduce it in its entirety. Prepare to be disturbed.

A 33-year-old woman was arraigned Sunday on charges alleging she offered to let an undercover investigator take pornographic photos of her 7-year-old daughter and have sex with the girl, authorities said.

The woman was arrested Friday after taking the girl to a hotel in Romulus, near Detroit Metropolitan Airport, where she had agreed to meet the investigator, the Wayne County sheriff's department said.

A not guilty plea was entered on behalf of the woman, who wasn't represented by a lawyer at the arraignment, department spokesman John Roach said. She was held in lieu of $1 million bail, and a preliminary examination was scheduled for April 12.

"She offered to let an undercover investigator take pornographic photos of her 7-year-old daughter and have sex with the girl." If they find out that this woman isn't completely divorced from reality through some sort of supreme fucked-up wiring of her brain and she's guilty, they need to shoot her through the brain in a public square. This is just horrible.

Can I buy my own island and move there? That has to be an option, right?

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The Women of Jerry, Part 5

I don't know if anything can top Tawny Kitaen's appearance in Season Three, but we'll give it a look, as we move on to Season Four of Seinfeld!

Episodes One and Two (41 & 42), "The Trip (1 & 2)" (aired 12 and 19 August 1992). Jerry and George head to Los Angeles to find Kramer, who left after the brouhaha last season over the keys to Jerry's apartment. They have many misadventures, but the "fish-out-of-water" stories in Seinfeld never really worked. There's some funny stuff (George accosting George Wendt and Corbin Bernsen, for instance), but not enough. And no girlfriend for Jerry!

Episode Three (43), "The Pitch" (aired 16 September 1992). This is where the show really got good, as it goes all meta on us with NBC asking Jerry to pitch them a show, and he and George come up with a show about nothing. Extremely brilliant, but no girlfriend for Jerry.

Episode Four (44), "The Ticket" (aired 16 September 1992). Two episodes on one day! This continues the pitch story, and poor Jerry has no girlfriend.

Episode Five (45), "The Wallet" (aired 23 September 1992). No girlfriend again, as Jerry's parents come to town. Mr. Seinfeld's wallet is "stolen" at the doctor's office. Not a bad episode.

Episode Six (46), "The Watch" (aired 30 September 1992). This is the conclusion to the previous week's story, as Jerry finds out that the watch his parents gave him, which he threw away, was found by Uncle Leo. Elaine starts to date Crazy Joe Devola, although she doesn't know he's the crazy guy stalking Jerry. Jerry's girlfriend from the next episode shows up, but we'll get to her in a second.

Episode Seven (47), "The Bubble Boy" (aired 7 October 1992). Jerry gets a girlfriend, Naomi, whose laugh sounds like Elmer Fudd's. She ditches Jerry, but later ends up at Susan's father's cabin with Kramer, and they promptly burn it down. This is a funny episode with Brian Doyle-Murray and the kid in the bubble. George, of course, argues with the Bubble Boy over a Trivial Pursuit question. Naomi is played by Jessica Lundy, who began her career in Bright Lights, Big City and Caddyshack II. Now that's a résumé! She hasn't really done much since Seinfeld, guest-starring in some television shows (including It's Like, You Know ...), getting one of the title roles in Hope and Gloria, and starring as Tom Arnold's wife in The Stupids. She's not even that memorable a girlfriend, although the Elmer Fudd laugh is pretty good. I'll give her a Fame Rating of 5 out of 10, and that's kind of pushing it. Lundy was 26 when this episode aired, and Jerry was 38. Is the age gap beginning to show, or is this a fluke? Read on!

Episode Eight (48), "The Cheever Letters" (aired 28 October 1992). This episode is most notable for the fact that it's revealed that Susan's father had an affair with John Cheever (a fact never mentioned again, and Mr. Ross stayed married to his wife), which is a very funny scene, especially because Jerry and George are stuck in the middle of this very personal family drama. But Jerry sort of has a girlfriend in this episode, as he takes out Sandra, Elaine's assistant, after she threatens to quit because Jerry doesn't like talking to her on the phone and tells Elaine about it. After the date, he and Sandra are fooling around, and Jerry says the wrong thing to her, which freaks her out. Of course, she tells Elaine, causing embarrassment for Jerry. Sandra is played by Lisa Malkiewicz, who was barely in anything else. This means her Fame Rating is a paltry 2 out of 10, and that only because this is a pretty good episode of Seinfeld. But she did star in a vampire movie with Henry Rollins! I have no pictures of Ms. Malkiewicz, nor do I have an age for her. She gave up acting, it seems, to create a bedtime CD to help your kids relax. It certainly looks like her.

Episode Nine (49), "The Opera" (aired 4 November 1992). No girlfriend, as Jerry and Elaine go to the opera and Elaine finds out she's dating Crazy Joe Devola. It's a pretty funny episode.

Episode Ten (50), "The Virgin" (aired 11 November 1992). Jerry's girlfriend is a virgin, and Elaine takes it upon herself to educate her (Marla) about men. It's a funny episode, and Marla is played by Jane Leeves, who had a pretty good career before she appeared, most notably as a recurring character on Murphy Brown (although she was on The Benny Hill Show in the mid-1980s), but really became famous for her work on Frasier as Daphne Moon, Martin Crane's caregiver and object of Niles Crane's desire. Just for that, she gets a Fame Rating of 8 out of 10, although her role on Seinfeld is also quite good. Leeves was 31 when the episode aired, and Jerry was 38. So not a bad age gap.

Episode Eleven (51), "The Contest" (aired 18 November 1992). Quite possibly the best Seinfeld episode, which makes it one of the ten best sitcom episodes ever. Man, it's funny. Leeves is the girlfriend again, but she runs out on Jerry when he explains the contest to her and ends up losing her virginity to John Kennedy Jr.

Episode Twelve (52), "The Airport" (aired 25 November 1992). Jerry and Elaine are forced into separate classes on an airplane, with Jerry going to first class and Elaine flying coach. Of course, their journeys are much contrasted. George and Kramer, meanwhile, get into trouble at the airport. I'm with Jerry on this one: I've flown first class (not very often), and it's extremely difficult to go back to coach. So Elaine wouldn't know what's she missing! Jerry meets his next girlfriend, Tia, on the plane. She's played by Jennifer Lynn Campbell, who was Miss Hawaiian Tropic International in 1989 but never did a lot in show business beyond the obligatory Baywatch appearances. I suppose I can give Ms. Campbell a Fame Rating of 3 out of 10, because this is a pretty memorable episode of Seinfeld, she appeared on the show again, and she's Miss Hawaiian Tropic International! That's good stuff! Ms. Campbell was 25 when the episode aired, and Jerry was 38.

Episode Thirteen (53), "The Pick" (aired 16 December 1992). Tia dumps Jerry when she catches him picking his nose - but did he really? George and Jerry debate the actuality of the pick. Elaine sends out a Christmas card that shows her nipple. I never figured out how she could be showing her nipple in a Christmas card photo. What was she wearing????

Episode Fourteen (54), "The Movie" (aired 6 January 1993). Jerry and the gang try to get together to see a movie, but nothing goes as planned. This is an amusing episode, but Jerry has no girlfriend.

Episode Fifteen (55), "The Visa" (aired 27 January 1993). This episode features the Chinese lawyer who thinks George is funny, and when he tells Jerry to NOT be funny, she becomes attracted to him. Cheryl (the lawyer) doesn't really count as a girlfriend, so I'm not going to get into her statistics. It all goes horribly wrong, of course.

Episode Sixteen (56), "The Shoes" (aired 4 February 1993). Jerry has no girlfriend in this episode, which deals with he and George getting feedback on their pilot and Elaine getting bent out of shape because another woman is discussing her shoes. The woman is Gail Cunningham, who is an ex-girlfriend of Jerry's, and she's played by Anita Barone. Ms. Barone actually gets a Fame Rating of 6 out of 10 for a few reasons: this is a very funny and memorable episode; she was the original girlfriend of Ross' lesbian wife in Friends; she stars currently in The War at Home, which I've never seen but looks truly wretched. However, it's a sitcom on a network, so it's kind of high-profile. Anita was 28 when the episode aired, and Jerry was 38. She actually dated Kramer, who was 43 at the time. This episode is also notable for featuring Denise Richards in one of her early roles as Russell Dalrymple's 16-year-old daughter, who bends over while Jerry and George are there, flashing some cleavage at them. George gets caught staring at her. Richards was just shy of her 22nd birthday when the episode aired, so if you've ever felt icky about leering at a teenager yourself, worry no more!

Episode Seventeen (57), "The Outing" (aired 11 February 1993). Another classic, as George and Jerry are "outed" by a college reporter after they play a joke on her. The reporter is played by Paula Marshall, who was 28 when the episode aired (Jerry was still 38). Marshall is the kind of actress who you always think is more famous than she is. She's instantly recognizable, but when you look at her résumé, she hasn't really set the world on fire too much. I'm not entirely sure what to give her as a Fame Rating. I think 6 out of 10 is probably appropriate.

Episode Eighteen (58), "The Old Man" (aired 18 February 1993). Jerry, George, and Elaine volunteer to help the elderly. Elaine meets Gandhi's lover, while George gets oil rubbed on his bald head by the hot housekeeper. But no girlfriend.

Episode Nineteen (59), "The Implant" (aired 25 February 1993). Yes, it's the Teri Hatcher episode! Such a great closing line: "They're real, and they're spectacular." I never understood why Jerry would take Elaine's word for it. Okay, I get that he doesn't want to be "misled." But he's always discarding girlfriends, right? So why doesn't he just sleep with Sidra and find out for himself? If they're not real, at least he gets a night of sex out of it. Stupid Jerry! Hatcher, of course, did some work prior to this, and since then, she's been in Lois and Clark and Desperate Housewives, as well as showing her "real" and "spectacular" breasts in Heaven's Prisoners (ironically, they really weren't all that spectacular, although they were nice). Hatcher had just turned 28 when the episode aired, while Jerry was 38. I sense a ten-year-age-gap trend! I'm going to give Hatcher a Fame Rating of 9 out of 10. If she's not the most famous of Jerry's ex-girlfriends, she's in the top five.

Episode Twenty (60), "The Junior Mint" (aired 18 March 1993). Another classic, with Kramer asking Jerry how on earth he could turn down a Junior Mint ("it's chocolate, it's peppermint - it's delicious!"). Jerry dates a woman whose name he can't remember, who will forever be known as Mulva (her name rhymes with a female body part - it's actually Dolores). "Mulva" is played by Susan Walters, who actually had a ten-year career prior to appearing on Seinfeld. She wasn't a big star, but she was working. She hasn't done much since beside guest-starring on Melrose Place, CSI, and The Young and the Restless. Let's give her a Fame Rating of 5 out of 10. Walters was 29 when the episode aired. Jerry was closing in on 39, so the ten-year age gap sort of works.

Episode Twenty-One (61), "The Smelly Car" (aired 15 April 1993). No girlfriend. Jerry's car gets a monstrous case of B.O. Nothing is safe!

Episode Twenty-Two (62), "The Handicap Spot" (aired 13 May 1993). No girlfriend. George, egged on by Kramer, parks in a handicap spot at the mall. Hilarity ensues.

Episodes Twenty-Three and -Four (63 & 64), "The Pilot" (aired 20 May 1993). This is a pretty funny episode, and it guest stars Mariska Hargitay, who now stars on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. I don't remember her; I'll have to look for her next time that episode airs. Jerry's "girlfriend" is the woman who plays Elaine in the pilot, who is played by Elena Wohl, whose Fame Rating must remain low, at 2 out of 10. This is really her only role of note. I can't find anything much about her, including her age. Oh well.

Another season in the books, and not a bad one for Jerry's amorous life. 8 "girlfriends" and 1 ex-girlfriend. Two of the girlfriends have recurring roles, and two of them had long runs as stars on other shows, while the ex-girlfriend also has been on a sitcom for while (even though it sucks, at least she's working!). This is probably his best season yet. Too bad he didn't get to check out Sidra's breasts, because Jackie Chiles sure enjoyed them!

More later - can Jerry top this season????

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Bill O'Reilly goes postal

I'm working on a longer post, but in the meantime, here's Bill O'Reilly and Geraldo Rivera. My only complaint: it cuts off sort of abruptly. But the meltdown preceding it is ... awesome.

Of course, Geraldo and Bill are friends (I think), so the whole thing was probably staged. But what the hell, it's still fun to watch.

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Choose that album!

Writing briefly about Achtung Baby yesterday reminded me that Spin magazine put it on the top 100 albums of the past twenty years but not The Joshua Tree, which is about as wrong as you can get. With that in mind, choose the correct album! You may be wrong, you may be right, but that's what competition is all about!

The Beatles: (a) Revolver or (b) The White Album?

The Who: (a) Who's Next or (b) Quadrophenia?

Led Zeppelin: (a) Physical Graffiti or (b) IV?

Pink Floyd: (a) Dark Side of the Moon or (b) Wish You Were Here?

U2: (a) The Joshua Tree or (b) Achtung Baby?

Van Halen: (a) I or (b) 1984?

Nirvana: (a) Nevermind or (b) In Utero?

Pearl Jam: (a) Ten or (b) Vs.?

PJ Harvey: (a) Rid of Me or (b) To Bring You My Love?

Jane's Addiction: (a) Nothing's Shocking or (b) Ritual de lo Habitual?

Prince: (a) Purple Rain or (b) Sign "O" the Times?

Beck: (a) Odelay or (b) Sea Change?

James: (a) Seven or (b) Laid?

Jimi Hendrix: (a) Are You Experienced? or (b) Axis: Bold as Love?

Public Enemy: (a) It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back or (b) Fear of a Black Planet?

The Pogues: (a) Rum, Sodomy and the Lash or (b) If I Should Fall From Grace with God?

Beastie Boys: (a) Licensed to Ill or (b) Paul's Boutique?

ABBA: (a) Everything they've ever released or (b) Nothing they've ever released?

Okay, that last one was a bit of a trick question. I also know I gave no criteria for picking. You should know! Answer in the comments! Your life could depend on it!¹

¹But probably doesn't.

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Fun pop culture joke that may amuse only me and one of my closest friends

I was listening to Achtung Baby today, and naturally the song "Tryin' to Throw Your Arms Around the World" came on. This song includes the lyrics "And a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle." My long-time friend Dave and I (the same Dave whose wedding I missed back in October 2005) came up with the true story of how Bono came up with those cutting lyrics:

Bono: Hey, Edge, gimme a word.
Edge: Fish.
Bono: Good, good. Hey, Adam, gimme a word.
Adam: Bicycle.
Bono: Like a fish needs a bicycle. Fookin' brilliant, I am.

Keep in mind that you need to say this to each other with heavy, very bad Irish accents. We used to love saying this to each other.

Of course, we were often easily amused. Don't judge too harshly!

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Picture Day visits the Southlands!

Last time, Krys and I had made a pilgrimage back to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving. Later on during the visit, we drove down to Winchester, Virginia, to see my sister and her husband. And I took pictures!

We took a trip to Luray Caverns, which is near Winchester. It's a nifty underground cave with many stalactites and stalagmites. If you don't believe me, prepare to be confronted with photographic evidence!

That last picture is of a rock formation called the "Fried Eggs," for obvious reasons. Rock formations are neat-o.

Then we went out and about in Winchester. It's a nice town, actually, but it's an example of why I won't live in the South, even though my sister says it's wonderful in Northern Virginia. In the visitors' center, they sold beautifully painted portraits of Civil War veterans, including Nathan Bedford Forrest. I pointed this out to my sister, who dismissed it. I know they're honoring his contribution to the Confederate war effort, where he was a very good cavalry officer, but you can't ignore that he helped create the Klan. It's like honoring Hitler for his meritorious service in World War I and then saying, "Yeah, he had some issues later in life." Little things like that would keep me from really enjoying the South, as nice as some parts of it are. The actual town of Winchester is nice, though.

We walked around town and I took some pictures of the local businesses. They just made me laugh. Here's the music shop/barber ...

the place where you can satisfy all your colonial wig needs ...

and finally, proof that Winchester is a Commie town!

A peoples' barber shop AND a peoples' cleaners???? Lenin would be so proud.

Here's another reason I don't want to live in the South. Anyplace that has this has a major chain is not for me.

Here's a nice picture of me, Krys, my sister Barb, and her husband Mark. Mark looks strangely like a cardboard cut-out in this photo, but it's still nice!

Finally, I thought I'd show a picture of our poor dead cat Zoe. This is not staged, by the way - she loved climbing up on the back of my neck. I was a bit annoying, in case you're wondering.

I hope you enjoy the pictures. Sorry they're not more exotic! We can't be globe-trotting all the time!

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What I've been reading

Yes, I've been reading a lot of books recently. Two reasons: they've been pretty slim books, and they've been pretty easily readable. I'm almost done another one, in fact, but after that, they get longer.

Dry Heat by Jon Talton. 213 pages, 2004, Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press.

Jon Talton is a business columnist for the Arizona Republic (well, he was - today his final column was printed, so I guess he's making good money from this novelist gig), and in his work for the newspaper, he has often talked about how Phoenix has failed to take advantage of its natural advantages and allowed real estate vultures to take over and spread the sprawl that has, in my mind, destroyed this area (I know I've only lived here for less than six years, but occasionally I get glimpses of what it was like before the sprawl, and it seems like it might have been pleasant). It's no different in this novel (set in Phoenix), which is the third starring his creation, David Mapstone, a professor who works for the sheriff's department solving crimes. This is ostensibly a murder mystery, a very "cold case" (the murder occurred in 1948), but it allows Talton to wax nostalgic about a Phoenix that no longer exists and one which, from the narrative, he would very much like to return to, possibly in some sort of time machine.

As a murder mystery, there needs to be a murder. Mapstone, as a historian, is assigned by Sheriff Mike Peralta - a very thinly-veiled Joe Arpaio - to a strange case that comes up. A homeless man is found floating in a swimming pool with an FBI badge sewn into his jacket. The badge belonged to John Pilgrim, who died in 1948. The FBI said it was suicide, but Mapstone discovers pretty easily that it was murder. So what connection does the homeless man have to Pilgrim? Meanwhile, Mapstone's wife, Lindsey, who recently cracked a credit-card fraud scheme run by the Russian Mafia, is targeted for death, and the FBI and Peralta have to protect her. So there's a strange old case to be solved, but there's also a present-day problem.

Talton does a good job keeping both of these storylines cooking, even though it's clear early on that one doesn't have anything to do with the other. Neither is really good enough to sustain an entire book, however, so it's a good thing that he has both. The Russian Mafia story is just to add a nice element of danger as well as throw up barriers blocking any quiet time Mapstone and Lindsey get to have. They get stashed in a safe house, but when that is compromised, the FBI hides Lindsey even from her husband. The story also allows Talton to write a high-speed chase through the streets of Scottsdale. A sixty-year-old murder investigation wouldn't give him that opportunity!

Talton does a nice job showing how Mapstone goes about solving the mystery, despite his anxiety over being separated from Lindsey and the often contrary attitude of his boss, Peralta, and the FBI. They don't want him digging too deeply into Pilgrim's life, because although he was a great agent, he was a mess personally, and had many potentially embarrassing problems. Mapstone goes around trying to discover the identity of the homeless man (who died of natural causes) and what, if any, connection he had to Pilgrim. Mapstone's methodical progress is handled well, as Talton shows us all the connections he's making as he works his way toward an answer. It's nice to see a detective novel that follows the hero each step of the way, without springing surprises on us. Everything Mapstone does is perfectly logical and follows after the previous step. Talton compresses some of the research Mapstone does, but he brings us up to speed well, and we always know as much as Mapstone, which is a nice sign of a "fair-play" mystery, which this bears resemblance to.

Unfortunately, Mapstone's discovery of what happened to Pilgrim ultimately comes a it out of nowhere. He notices an important clue that has not been mentioned before. At least I don't think it was, and I've looked at some of the relevant pages. It certainly doesn't come completely out of left field, and once Mapstone explains, it makes sense, but it bugged me, because it would have taken one sentence to make it a good clue and make us smack our head because we didn't make the connection. It's an intriguing yet mundane solution, but it fits in with everything that has come before and explains why Pilgrim died and how a homeless man ended up with his badge. It's just a bit frustrating that it wasn't telegraphed more with a clue. Oh well.

As I mentioned, the book is fine as a murder mystery, but it really works as a travel guide to Phoenix and a glimpse into the city's past. I'm actually interested in driving to the various locations in the book, because Talton does such a good job describing them (and giving street names). The places I recognized elicited a figurative nod of the head, as I understood what he was saying about them. It's a very neat drive through the topography of Phoenix, and when Talton writes about the Phoenix of the 1940s or even the 1960s, it's fascinating to compare it with the city of today, which has sold its soul for economic expansion. Talton obviously loves the city as it once was, and hopes the leaders of the city will steer it in a better direction. Even if you don't live in Phoenix, the book is remarkable in that it manages to give you a wonderful sense of location, in both the present and the past. If you're interested in reading about the actual feel of Phoenix rather than what guide books say, this is a great place to start. Plus, there's a story!

It's a quick book to read, and although the story isn't great, it's serviceable, and it allows Talton to delve into history and give us some pretty good characterization. He has a knack of fleshing out characters quickly, which is helpful in a book like this. It's a nice way to kill a few days, and it's worth reading just for the sense of place Talton gives us. The body of the homeless man is discovered on 1 April, and Mapstone can already feel the heat of the Phoenix summer approaching. As I type these words on 1 April, I know how he feels. Dry Heat gives us a nice little mystery and an interesting tour through a city that could be a lot more "real" than it is. It's a wistful book in many ways, because it mourns a city that was once a much nicer place. But that's progress, right?

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