The skewed perspective of a conservative Catholic employee-side employment lawyer living in the most exciting city in the Milky Way, Las Vegas, Nevada USA, who listens to a lot of really strange music and who, for some reason, lives and dies St. Louis Cardinal baseball

4/30/2005

The Scorpion and the Frog: Terrell Owens and the Iggles

Once again, we are reminded of the old fable of the Scorpion and the Frog:

One day, a scorpion looked around at the mountain where he lived and decided that he wanted a change. So he set out on a journey through the forests and hills. He climbed over rocks and under vines and kept going until he reached a river.
The river was wide and swift, and the scorpion stopped to reconsider the situation. He couldn't see any way across. So he ran upriver and then checked downriver, all the while thinking that he might have to turn back.
Suddenly, he saw a frog sitting in the rushes by the bank of the stream on the other side of the river. He decided to ask the frog for help getting across the stream.
"Hellooo Mr. Frog!" called the scorpion across the water, "Would you be so kind as to give me a ride on your back across the river?"
"Well now, Mr. Scorpion! How do I know that if I try to help you, you wont try to kill me?" asked the frog hesitantly.
"Because," the scorpion replied, "If I try to kill you, then I would die too, for you see I cannot swim!"
Now this seemed to make sense to the frog. But he asked. "What about when I get close to the bank? You could still try to kill me and get back to the shore!"
"This is true," agreed the scorpion, "But then I wouldn't be able to get to the other side of the river!"
"Alright then...how do I know you won't just wait till we get to the other side and THEN kill me?" said the frog.
"Ahh...," crooned the scorpion, "Because you see, once you've taken me to the other side of this river, I will be so grateful for your help, that it would hardly be fair to reward you with death, now would it?!"
So the frog agreed to take the scorpion across the river. He swam over to the bank and settled himself near the mud to pick up his passenger. The scorpion crawled onto the frog's back, his sharp claws prickling into the frog's soft hide, and the frog slid into the river. The muddy water swirled around them, but the frog stayed near the surface so the scorpion would not drown. He kicked strongly through the
first half of the stream, his flippers paddling wildly against the current.
Halfway across the river, the frog suddenly felt a sharp sting in his back and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the scorpion remove his stinger from the frog's back. A deadening numbness began to creep into his limbs.
"You fool!" croaked the frog, "Now we shall both die! Why on earth did you do that?"
The scorpion shrugged, and did a little jig on the drownings frog's back.
"I could not help myself. It is my nature."
Then they both sank into the muddy waters of the swiftly flowing river.

(Emphasis added). I recently alluded to this tale in describing the relationship between the U.S. and France. It is so applicable to the recent goings-on in Philadelphia regarding their dispute with star WR Terrell Owens. T.O. Is a no-show at Iggle mini-camp. He wants to renegotiate his contract. And he's poisoning the team. Why? Because it is his nature, for that it what T.O. does.

Much like the scorpion in the fairy tale (and, yes, I know what I am doing using that phrase in reference to Terrell Owens), T.O. wants to go to the Super Bowl. He hops a ride on the back on Donovan McNabb to cross that particular river to get to the Super Bowl side of the stream. His motivations are wholly sincere. But in the middle of the crossing, he has to stab his stinger in the Iggles collective back. He genuinely cannot help himself. It is genuinely his nature.

The Iggles knew it when they signed him. They have been betting that they, unlike said frog, would be strong enough to survive the poison once T.O. has let loose, as all should have known he eventually would. Given the inherent weakness of the NFC, perhaps they will be. I expect them to be. T.O. is an amazingly talent receiver; but he will never be able to overcome his true nature.

Guilty pleasure Saturday - Petula Clark - "I Know a Place"

I know a singer. Petula Clark was to British invasion rockers what Sonny & Cher was to hippies: a TV-friendly, sanitized bit of youth culture aimed at the adult market. Both also made great timeless pop music that, in its day, was enjoyable to multiple generations and can be enoyed today without feeling dated.

Petula Clark is one of my favorite female pop singers. I remember her as a cute, perky blonde who guested on any of a number of American TV variety shows in the 1960s, like Glen Campbell. Pet peaked with her run of Tony Hatch written and arranged pop songs, from 1964's "Downtown" to 1967's "Don't Sleep in the Subway."

Her follow-up to her international Number 1 hit and star turn, "Downtown," was the great "I Know a Place," which hit Number 3 in the U.S. in 1965. Yes, it can be dismissed as a clone of its predecessor, lyrically and melodically. The soft verse and big bomming chorus. The tale of getting away to somewhere for a hip, happening party. Yes, been there, done that. But, hey, no one ever looked at a Monet and said, "Water Lilies? Again? Claude, some variety, please?" Yes, she's working the same territory, but she works it so well.

There are a number of great Petula Clark collections out there, depending on how far beyond the mid 1960s/Tony Hatch material you want to delve. Just about all of the collection will have the Big U.S. hits. I listen to my Pet on the 2001 Complete Golden Hits Collection, which seems to be difficult to find currently. It is 25 tracks, and includes a precious little 1920s style German language number "Casanova" straight out of a Weimar Era Cabaret. The allmusic site recommends the easier-to-find, 21-track The Ultimate Petula Clark, which goes lighter on the show tune fare, and readily available on alldirect for $11.88, amazon for $13.99.

Guilty pleasure? Maybe. Song o' the day? Absolutely!

I'm not going to Zagreb, Croatia

Croatia, the land of my ethnic heritage, is a place that I must visit someday. Start off in the capital city of Zagreb, visit the seacoast towns of Dubrovnik and Split. Head over to the Marian site of Medjugorje in nearby Croatian Bosnia. If I had more time, I could do a whole Central European vacation and visit Slovenia, or Budapest, Hungary, or Prague, or Sofia, Bulgaria.

All wonderful vacation ideas. But there will be no Croatia trip in Year 45 as Zagreb has been selected. Down to the Fab Five.

4/29/2005

Timbalada - "Vera"

Song o' the day goes international again. "Vera" is the final cut on theCD Timbalismo by the great Bahian Brazilian band (and percussionist Carlinhos Brown side project) Timbalada. Usually, on the CDs for these Brazilian superstars, the last cut is a throwaway. Many times it is a brief instrumental, see, e.g., "Lactomia," the extended drum solo that ends Pense Minha Cor, or, even more bizarrely, the Sousa-style brass march "Hino do Binfa" that concludes Mineral. For Timbalismo, it is the best Timbalada song of the 21st Century.

"Vera" is a percussion-driven pop song that, basically, is what War would sound like if they were from Salvador da Bahia, Brasil. Not only is there a little brass carrying the melody, but there is even some flute down in the music. I would sing along with the lyrics more, except for the fact that my Portuguese language skills are on the level of a four year old - a mentally handicapped four year old.

If you want to learn more about the rich and varied sounds of the most musical country on the planet, Brazil, an additional resources is the All Brazilian Music site, a Brazil-only version of the invaluable All Music site (which is, itself, a very good resource for all forms of Brazilian music).

I'm not going to the Pampas of Argentina

This is another one that hurts. When you draw up a list of places you've never visited and want to visit, the process of selecting out sites emphasizes the priorities among the options. The Argentine Pampas was a late edition to my list of 20 (a last minute substitution for a very expensive trip to Easter Island, Chile) and it quickly became one of my favorites.

I want to go to The Argentine and soak up the culture. And eat the beef. Visiting Argentina would be like going to Europe ... but without all the condescending America-hating (actually, America-envying) Euro-trash. Yes, the museums and architecture would be inferior, but the people would be friendlier and more attractive, the meats would be plentiful and the wines would be equivalent.

The Magnificent Seven are down to the Six Pack.

4/28/2005

What's in a name?

The Pope speaks out on his choice of name. As most suspected, the name was dual purpose. It was equal parts homage to the last Pope Benedict, Benedict XV, the "prophet of peace" during the time of World War I, who sought to end the horrors of war for all sides, and St. Benedict, the patron saint of Europe.

While more emphasis is placed on the Benedict XV homage, especially given that the last Pope Benedict was one of those "transitional figures" with a less-than-long papacy, I think in time the stronger link will be seen as the one with St. Benedict, the evangelizer of Europe.

Europe has entered the "post Christian" period. The western continent has lost its faith with all the resulting social pathologies. The rise of Nazism and Communism in the 20th Century were a direct consequence of whole cultures losing their faith. Radical Islam has arisen into a void left by the de-Christianization of Europe. Birthrates are falling. Crime is rising. Abortion and euthanasia, the bookend imposition of death at what should be the beginning and the natural end, are rampant. The death of Europe, where Western Civilization began, will have terrible consequences throughout the globe.

I thought the successor to the Great John Paul II would come from the Third World. I thought perhaps Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria would be tapped. I thought it was "time." But I think like a man, not like the Holy Spirit. And it was deemed that the most pressing issue facing the Church, facing all people of faith, is the re-evangelization of Europe. Pope Benedict XVI is uniquely well qualified for that role, for so many reasons.

I was initially elated at the selection of the former Cardinal Ratzinger because this meant continuity. I meant that the muscular orthodox Catholicism of the Great John Paul II would continue. The Catholic Church would continue to be a rock, strong against the prevailing winds of fashion and politics. But it's clear that this was only part of the reason, for there are other neo-traditionalists among the College of Cardinals, most younger than Benedict XVI, who could fill that bill, if that had been the only qualification needed.

While it's only been a short time since his selection, it is now obvious that this is the man who should be leading this Church on this day. The re-evangelization of Europe is tremendously important, as there is much evil that will triumph in this world if Europe is allowed to wither and die. The Scyllla and Charybdis facing modern Europe are unabashed hedonism on one side, Radical Islam on the other. Either destroys the culture, but death would come in different ways. This Pope is the one man qualified in these unique times to steer the ship of European state through these problems.

Forces already are at work. I think even the focus on Benedict as the "Nazi Pope" is going to be, perversely, a positive. I think this will drive a wedge in the heart of secular Europe by making it clear to Germany that they are not part of the modern EU-centric Euro-family. With a German pope ensconced in Rome, I am optimistic of the direction that Germany would go.

This is not a mere "transitional figure" who is the new Bishop of Rome. The name says it all.

(Thanks to the wonderful Roman Catholic Blog for pointing me in the direction of this interview.)

Mily Clément - "Zaho tsy hiala"

There's not many places on the continent of Africa that I have a great interest in visiting. Due to politics and/or disease, I'm just not interested. See the wildlife? The San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park in Escondido is only a five-hour drive away. The poverty levels in western and central Africa, especially, seem too high to enjoy mingling with the local population. I'm open to persuasion that I'm wrong, but the African mainland (with the possible exception of Morocco) holds no interest.

However, the islands off the coasts, that's another story. The Cape Verde Islands off the northwest coast have a great musical tradition and, perhaps, my Portuguese language training (too minimal to be deemed "skills" could come into use). However, where I really would like to go is Madasgascar.

Why? The music! Madagascar has a great, rich, musical tradition befitting a cultural crossroads. Madasgascarian musical forms often combine the best of southern and southeastern Asia with the best of Africa. The Afro-Brazilian music (with just a hint of the Caribbean) of Bahia Brasil is an almost identical twin cousin of some of the best Madagascarian.

My favorite Madagascarian CD I own is Madagascar Banja Malalaka by Mily Clément. He is virtuoso of the unique Madagascarian style of guitar. The spare yet effervescent "Zaho tsy hiala" is the best track, getting the CD off to great start that continues through all eight tracks, which clock in at less than 35 minutes total. Quality, not quantity, from the guitar of Ms. Clément. If more of his music were available stateside, I would own it. It isn't, so I don't. Yet. Unless I can get to Madagascar.

I'm not going to Yellowstone National Park

America's premier national park - the world's original national park - was among my vacation options. It made the "elite eight" among my options. It is a disgrace that this was even among my 20 "never been to" but "must get to" vacation options, because, by now, I should have gone there.

But I have not yet been to Yellowstone National Park. And just because it got selected out today, doesn't mean I can't take a long weekend driving trip up to the northwestern corner of Wyoming, and not only visit the Granddaddy of the National Park system, but take a sidetrip down to Grand Teton National Park and maybe Jackson Hole. (And bop over to Craters of the Moon in Idaho, given that it too was eliminated.)

That probably would take a mighty long weekend - perhaps even a nine or 10 day weekend. But it would be worth it. Sometime. Soon.

4/27/2005

The end of Canada

Austin Bay forecasts a future for Canada very much like one I am envisioning, calling Canada the world's next "failed state."

Multicultural Canada seems like to go the way of Czechoslovakia and Tito's Yugoslavia, right off the map. The Toronto Globe & Mail reports support for separatism (a.k.a., "independence") for Quebec at a new millennium peak of 54 percent. Interesting about the sponsorship program, which was supposed to market the joys of transcontinental Canada to the francophonic population of Quebec and instead devolved into a taxpayer-funded Liberal Party piggy bank (with the emphasis on the word "piggy"). It was supposed to unify the country into a single multi-culti whole, yet it appears that it could be the catalyst for the final national crack-up.

Ironic? Don't you think. A little too ironic, yeah, I really do think. Said one Canadian once, awhile back

If Quebec, if the center doesn't hold, how could the rest of Our Smug Neighbor to the North stay together? Nunavut probably goes for full independence. The maritimes and Newfoundland would be geographically detached from a country that gave them short shrift even when there was contiguity. What chance do they have without a conterminous Canada?

Alberta is a perfect cultural fit the U.S. British Columbia could go independent, or join Alberta as the 51st and 52d states, respectively. Even the maritimes, including Newfoundland, could be absorbed into the U.S., since those economically depressed provinces could not go it alone.

That leaves Ontario with its two little Montenegros, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The good news is, the downsized (or right-sized, or, more appropriately, left-sized) Canada would be monolingual, which should keep the remaining constituent parts together.

(Thanks to Canadiologist captainsquarters.com for pointing me in the right direction.)

Orange Juice - "The Day I Went Down to Texas"

Song o' the day! See "I'm not going to South Padre Island, Texas," infra.

I'm not going to South Padre Island, Texas

Texas, down in Texas
Now I'm reelin' in the drunken sun
I jumped in the back of a Cadillac
I guess I'm a lucky son of a gun
Orange Juice, "The Day I Went Down to Texas," Texas Fever (1984).

No reelin' in the drunken sun on South Padre Island for me in Year 45.

And, while I'm at it, why don't I declare Orange Juice's sublime "The Day I Went Down to Texas," a wonderful bit of two-steppin' rockabilly sung in the resonant soulful voice of Edwyn Collins, off the six-track Texas Fever EP, the song o' the day? Let's!

4/26/2005

I'm not going to the Vatican

Much as I want to take the pilgrimage to the Holy See, eventually, it has not been a top vacation priority. It won't be in Year 45 either, as Vatican City has been selected out from the list of viable vacation options.

I want to go for the art and the history, as well as the religious experience. Maybe I'll just settle for the on-line tour of the Vatican museums. I won't get to hear Benedict XVI deliver a mass, but the fare is much more reasonable.

Tears for Fears - "Year of the Knife"

While both of the monster Tears for Fears LPs were great complete listens, only the singles really left much in the way of impressions. The album tracks add to the overall polished atmosphere, but they consistently failed to leave any marks. If you don't think I'm right, then, quick: sing a verse from "The Working Hour," Track 2 on Songs from the Big Chair that fell right between the great Number 1's "Shout" and "Everybody Wants to Rule the World."

The exception on the other mega-hit, Seeds of Love, is the intricate "Year of the Knife," a cautionary tale of how violence begats violence. Propelled by a throbbing (almost disco) bass placed underneath an almost rockabilly-style guitar lead, it's a little like Ike & Tina Turner doing "Proud Mary." It starts off slow, pretty much ambient, then it begins to build, reaching the point of urgency by the time of the late-arriving chorus.

Alldirect sells Seeds of Love (with bonus tracks, of course) on the sale for only $10.69. You pick up Songs from the Big Chair (again, with bonus tracks) for the very same price. You can even grab the unrelievedly downer The Hurting for that price, too, but how much melancholy do you really need? Grab the big two at that obscene bargain of a price and enjoy.

4/25/2005

Canadian perfidity

Et tu, Canada?

I don't expect much from the French. for example. It's like the old fable about the scorpion and the frog: it is in their nature to be perfidious.

I used to expect better of the Canadians. But now, as the Canadian scandals mount, and the dealings come to light of the high Canadian government officials, including Prime Minister Paul Martin in bed with Saddam Hussein, it is clear that the Canadian government sold out its long term friendship with the United States for a few bucks worth of bloody U.N. Oil-for-food scandal cash.

Backstabbing from friends wounds twice: both from the stab and from the source. Given that the Liberal Party controls the Canadian media, it cannot even be said the Liberal-dominated Canadian government was doing the people's bidding, as the minority Liberal Party unilaterally sets the Canadian national agenda.

Perhaps it's because of the Quebec influence over Canadian national policy, but the Canucks now manage to combine the worst of the French, with none of the European nation's redeeming graces. Perfidy, without the culture. Backstabbing, without the delicious cuisine. Narcissism, without history. Whining, without wine. Smugness, without having a damn thing to be smug about.

Retailers who drive away their customers

James Lileks bleats today about getting the third degree while making his purchases at a local Best Buy. In a Torquemada-worthy inquisition, the checkout person at the retailer lets loose a stream of invasive questioning, asking for address (to send a "free" magazine), phone numbers, demanding that he choose between extended warranty plans. All in all, the management of that chain has elected to make it as thoroughly unpleasant a shopping experience as possible.

Lileks is absolutely. Years ago, I stopped shopping at Sports Authority for that reason. I'd be paying cash for a $6 cotton Russell Athletic sleeveless workout T and the sales clerk would keep firing the questions. Can I have your phone number? "No." Or, "Why do you need that?" Why why why why do you need to interrogate a customer, to make someone regret buying from your store. We don't like to have to say know. We also don't like to have our privacy invaded. Rather than being continually forced to choose, it's just easier to shop somewhere else. It's not like Sports Authority was an exclusive dealer for Tevas.

And, given how much I grew to hate shopping at Sports Authority, I bought my last pair from Copeland's, where they let you buy things without an endless interrogation. For now. And if they ever start with the harassment, then there are other stores in Las Vegas.

Y'know, I ahte how it all comes down to Wal-Mart being a great place to shop, but ... if I use the self-checkout lanes at my neighborhood Wal-Mart, I am a zero risk of having to endure a checkout line interrogation from the retail clerk. Yet another reason to shop at America's favorite (and most hated) retailer.

I'm not going to Dollywood in Tennessee

Just when I was really warming up to the idea of vacationing in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Not only could I take in the country kitsch of the Dollywood theme park, but I could take in nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I could have flown into Nashville and visited the State Capitol grounds (and paid homage at the grave of James Knox Polk), then bopped over to Jimmy Polk's mentor's house, Andrew Jackson's Hermitage. And, while I was in a Polk-y mood, I could have taken a short side trip down to Columbia, Tennessee, and visited the Polk home.

Sounds like a fun trip. But some other year. One half of the possible destinations have been eliminated and, today, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, was added to the list.

The Buzzcocks - "Ever Fallen in Love"

Were the Buzzcocks a punk band doing pop? Or a pop band doing punk?

The Buzzcocks were what punk would sound like bled dry of all anger. Today's song o' the day, "Ever Fallen in Love" is pure punk. But it's also the most pop-oriented of the original Buzzcock singles. Home sapien lead singer Pete Shelley provides the right amount of confusion and urgency in his singing. The song was later covered by Roland Gift and Fine Young Cannibals, who take out all the punkiness and deliver a catchy pop song.

If you only want one Buzzcocks' CD, the difficulty is choosing between 1991's Operators Manual: Best of the Buzzcocks and 1979's Singles Going Steady. The 16-track Singles Going Steady was a repackaging of their first eight UK singles. On the original LP release, the A-sides were chronologically aligned on Side A, the B-sides chronologically on Side B. The 25-track Operators Manual takes 11 of the Singles tracks, and adds later material. But two of the better B-sides from Singles are deleted: "Oh Shit" and "Something's Gone Wrong Again." None of these additions, not even "Fiction Romance" or Different Kind of Tension's "You Say You Don't Love Me" seem worth the trade-off.

Alldirect.com doesn't make deciding between these two any easier. They sell both Operators Manual and Singles on the sale for the cheap cheap price of $7.99. At the price, you don't have to choose. Get both!

4/24/2005

I'm not going to Craters of the Moon, Idaho

I'm guessing it's not much to see, just a bunch of lava fields, but I've been fascinated by Craters of the Moon National Monument for the longest time. The time will grow even longer as this will not be the destination for my Year 45 vacation.

This could have been a whole Central Idaho extravaganza of sorts, maybe even including a Salmon River rafting trip of some sort. If I had done that, I would have preferred a two-day, overnight excursion, as three hours probably isn't enough to get a feel for the river (or to see any scenery, for that matter).

I don't expect there's much scenery to see at Craters of the Moon. Just lava. But the whole "lost river" idea is fascinating, the idea that a flowing river plunges into the ground, and re-appears way on the other side of Idaho. I've never seen a river that's "sunk"; they usually stay on the surface, don't they? I don't think the siking point is open to the public, but it would be fun driving around Central Idaho, eating the local potato products, and looking for where it is. Some day; not this year.

Eurythmics - "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart"

Savage is generally the least appreciated of Eurythmics records. The 1987 release was their sixth, and next to last, CD (not including 1999's "reunion" coda Peace). It was, quite literally, savaged by the critics and ignored by their U.S. audience. It produced no U.S. chart singles.

Such a shame. It's a great record, with any of a number of quirky, catchy pop songs. Despite being unfortunately overlooked, "You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart" is the best song of Eurythmics decade-long career. Yes it features Annie Lenox's cold, signature detachment, but it also has a mature humanity that was lacking in their great video singles of the early 1980s.

Dave Stewart was a pop craftsman of the finest sense. Even when his songs were flat without anything to say, they sounded great, which makes Eurythmics, in effect, a new wave E L O, fronted by an androgyne. "You Have Placed a Chill" sounds simply fabulous.

Savage is hard to find in its original 12-track form. Amazon has the 19-track remaster with bonus tracks for $18.49. Given that Eurythmics was essentially a singles band, I'm not sure if the remastered/bonus track discs are worth grabbing.

4/23/2005

I'm not going to the Oregon Mystery Spot

Weird voodoo mojo in eliminating this option today. It was #13 on my list. It was pulled from the cow-faced cookie jar when there were 13 envelopes inside. Doo-doo-doo-doo Doo-doo-doo-doo.

Roadside America loves the Oregon Vortex (a.k.a. "Mystery Spot"), deeming it the "most disturbed" of all the various "mystery spots" scattered throughout the country. It's located near Gold Hill, Oregon, just over the California border off I-5 in Southern Oregon.

A trip to the Oregon Mystery Spot would have included a side trip to Crater Lake, maybe the Oregon Coast, perhaps even Redwood National Park in the far nothwest corner of Coastal California. Maybe the trip could've been scheduled around the time of the reknowned Oregon Shakespeare festival in nearby Ashland. But, alas, no Oregon vacation for my Year 45.

Guilty pleasure Saturday: Freda Payne - "Band of Gold"

Is this really a guilty pleasure? Or does everyone agree that "Band of Gold" is one of the great R&B songs, make that one of the great pop songs of all time?

The liner notes to Freda Payne's 1992 Greatest Hits compilation bluntly gets to the heart of this song: is it about a frigid bride or an impotent groom? Freda sings: "I wait in the darkness of my lonely room / Filled with sadness, filled with gloom / Hoping soon / That you'll walk back through that door / And love me like you tried before" Sounds to me like it's a problem that Viagra or Cialis could cure. Unless the groom just doesn't like girls. Hey, it happens sometimes.

When Belinda Carlisle covered "Band of Gold" on her 1986 solo debut Belinda one reviewer said she sounded like a girl in her room singing along to her favorite records. Well why the hell not? The great Holland / Dozier / Holland production makes this one of the alltime great sing-along songs. The guitars processed to sound like sitars for the opening notes (after the drum kicks it off) is a classic pop hook. This has to be the most exuberant tale of failed romance to ever hit the pop charts.

Amazon sells the 11-track Greatest Hits for $12.98; the far more comprehensive 30-track Band of Gold: the Best of Freda Payne goes for only slightly more, $15.98. Alldirect sells the Greatest Hits on the sale for $8.67. So it comes down to how much Freda you want. You've got have the hits. How deep into the album tracks you willing to dig?

4/22/2005

Women's Ordination Conference deems Pope "divisive"

This gem from the wonderful new "Roman Catholic Blog": "Sour Grapes From the Women's Ordination Conference".[*]

The R C Blog quotes their website as follows:

“When our church desperately needed a healer, the Cardinals elected Ratzinger — well known for being divisive in the church,” stated Joy Barnes, Executive Director of the Women’s Ordination Conference. “We need a pope who will build a bridge between progressive and orthodox Catholics, but based on Ratzinger’s hard-lined record, it is doubtful that this will become a reality.”
There's that word, "divisive". I get so riled up at the inappropriate use of the term "divisive," especially when it's used by people who really are the truly divisive.

My personal opinion is that need a Pope who will be just like the Pope Pope Benedict XVI will be. A pope who will consolidate the counter-reformation within the Catholic Church so valiantly fought by his predecessor. It is people like this "Women's Ordination Conference" who are truly divisive, forcing a change in a matter where the Church already has spoken definitively and finally. Pope Benedict XVI is not divisive merely by standing up for 2000 years of Church tradition in an area where his predecessor already decided the issue ex cathedra.
This means: this is not a subject for discussion. Period. Any further discussion by these people is by definition divisive, as it promotes schism and casts the Church as a unanchored dinghy tossed about the waves and currents of popular fashion.

The audacity if these refugees from some womyn's studies department and the feminized men who won't stand up to them. Calling anyone who won't give into their agenda "divisive"! They are being infantile in their self-centered egotism, just as our Pope is calling for adults to adults. They are propagating a selfish belief that they are automatically entitled to their personal preferences and anyone who stands in their way ... whine whine whine is being "divisive." Because they think that they are the only ones who count. Failing to give into them divides; surrender unites ... only if you are severely narcissistic and reject Copernicus's idea of the sun at the center of the universe and, instead, place yourself there. What an inappropriate for Christ's Church on earth.

The Pope has spoken on this subject and it is beyond the realm of debate. Anyone who wishes to continue belaboring the point is unworthy of the priest, making the very existence of the Womyn's Ordination Conference self-euthanizing.

Footnote: [*] I'm not enthusiastically linking to Roman Catholic Blog just because they blogrolled me. I have other reasons. Which I'll think of in a bit. Really. It's not an ego thing. Really.

I'm not going to San Jose, Costa Rica

Only a lucky 13 survive. No Costa Rica vacation for this year.

I keep hearing about Costa Rica being a jungle paradise, with beautiful forest, beaches and volcanoes, lightly populated with the most attractive people (Ticos?) on the planet. It would be a worthwhile sociological experience to travel to that country, absorb the culture and learn why that land prospered (relatively speaking) while so much of Central America languished in deep poverty.

Someday. Just not the coming year of my life.

CBS's not-so "Amazing Race"

Over the years, I became hooked on the CBS reality show, the Amazing Race, where teams of two race around the globe, with the last place finisher at various checkpoints being eliminated at the end of (nearly) each episode. The show had intelligence. It had drama. It had beuatiful international scenery. I watch little TV, and very little "reality" TV, but this was different.

No more. We're nearing at the "final four," the last four team, and I'm about ready to stop watching.

The seventh edition "stars" two obnoxious "reality TV stars," "Rob & Amber" who apparently were some sort of love-couple on CBS's reality giant, Survivor. These two aren't mere contestants, but are the "stars" of the contest. It's basically "Survivor's Rob & Amber Race 'Round the Globe!" Not my idea of good TV.

Continually throughout this series, whenever they get in trouble, and are in danger of falling behind the pack, something "fortuitous" happens. Either some local recognizes them from Survivor and helps them out. Or, as has happened at least twice, the shows producers change the rules.

Once, when Rob decided that he didn't want to complete a "roadblock," where one of the two contestants must complete some difficult or unpleasant task to advance, they simply let him advance. They imposed a "penalty," that was far less than what was imposed in past years for failing to complete "roadblocks" and which seemed to be timed based on how far behind some of the trailing teams were. In another instance, they just "happened" to arrive at the last second for a charter aircraft that for some reason was stuck on the tarmac on a bright, sunny day. (The fact that Rob seems to be given an endless supply of fresh, clean Boston Red Sox caps as he races around the world further heightens my suspicion that the fix is in.)

Don't insult the audience. Although I guess the audience loves Rob & Amber because the this whole season of Amazing Race is nothing but a 15-hour promo for the upcoming Rob & Amber wedding show. Count me as being eliminated from that race.

Health community lies for your own good

This article at Tech Central Station neatly sums up a report that the Center for Disease Control ("CDC"), finally acknowledging what knowledgeable folks have suspected for sometime: there is no link between being "slightly" overweight and premature death. The health community is finally acknowledging the common sense that being underweight is correlated with increased risk of premature death and not until one's overweigh-i-ness climbs into morbid obesity territory does it appreciably correlated with increased risk of hastened death.

What a great way to begin the day for someone carrying about 20-25 pounds too many (putting me at about 10-12 percent over what I consider my "ideal"). I think I'll celebrate with some maple donuts!

Actually, I'm celebrating with over-sugared instant oatmeal because I'm too lazy this morning to cook up another batch of steelcut oats, which do make the most delicious oatmeal. If I boil a cup of pinhead oats (in four cups of water), it's a three-day supply of heart-healthy breakfast food. So, if I avoid the carbs that don't keep me filled, I'll be down to 195 or so in no time. Which, given the CDC study, may slightly increased my risk of hastened death (as I have fully "matured," I would believe that I'm too old now for "premature" death).

But if I look better, it's all worth it.

4/21/2005

I'm not going to Mitchell, South Dakota

And why did even consider Mitchell, South Dakota? The Corn Palace!

Roadside America loves the Corn Palace. And why not? It's a palace and it's corn! Actually, it is a quasi-Russian-style concrete building with a corn facade. Same decoratig principal as a Rose Bowl Parade float, except they use corn instead of flower petals and it is not designed to be driven down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, California, but is, instead, stationary, and (this is a fundamental difference) it's in Mitchell, South Dakota.

A trip to the Corn Palace would have been a hoot. Maybe a side trip to Mount Rushmore to see if I "get it" my second trip. (My big question when I first went to Mount Rushmore in '89 was: "Does everyone who comes here think 'is this all there is?'") And Mitchell has a
Culver's. (Best frozen custard anywhere, ever, in case you didn't know.) Flavor of the day was "red raspberry". Yumm. What more could you want from a vacation destination?

Well, whatever that may be will have to wait another year, because in Year 45, I will not be visting the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota.

Pet Shop Boys - "Your Funny Uncle"

Let's sing a song about AIDS! Another death song for song o' the day? This one is one of the biggest downers from those dance-pop icons the Pet Shop Boys.

The Pet Shoppers do AIDS songs better than just about anybody (even if none of their AIDS songs as nearly as good as the classic "Everyone Has AIDS" from Lease! ... or, umm, the Team America: World Police soundtrack). They thankfully don't do AIDS as anthems. Instead, they do gentle, subtle songs that treat illness as part of life. And none are subtle as their fragile little ballad, "Your Funny Uncle." You have to closely listen to the lyrics to discern that the song is set at a graveside funeral service for a young gay male.

I own this song on two Pet Shop Boys CDs. First, on the wonderful collection of B-sides and leftovers titled Alternative. Second, off the 2001 "bonus disc" re-release of their previously weak Introspective. Those bonus discs that the Pet Shops released at the turn of the millennium rendered Alternative superfluous. Plus, at $20.20 from alldirect.com, more at other sites, it's a little pricey. Just load up on all the bonus disc releases, instead, for maximum Pet Shop at the best price. (And all are essential, so don't scrimp there.)

4/20/2005

Pope Benedict XVI, neo-conservatism and relativism

Eric over at classicalvalues.com has a discourse on the new pope and relativism. He makes a number of points, two of which I want to respond to:

First, Eric makes a plea not for "liberation" theology, which Pope Benedict XVI fought, but for "libertarian" theology, claiming that Christ's line "render unto Caesar" reveals Christ's libertarian leanings by "bordering" on calling for separation of church and state. Jesus most certainly was not libertarian. However, his teaching of "render unto Caesar" does not "border" on arguing for separation of church and state; it is stong unequivocal advocacy in favor of it.

Why would Christ teach us Jeffersonian separation of church and state? Because of the pharissees, who were church and state combined. Given the then-impending and pre-ordained role of the pharissees in the crucifixion (it wasn't just the work of a distant Roman Empire), it makes sense that he would be warning us keep the two separate in the future, as combining church and state was corrupting to both. There's no "border" to his comments, he was well behind enemy lines when he made this observation.

But my stronger disagreement is Eric's proposition (insinuation?) that Pope Benedict, being a true neo-conservative (in its proper definition of one who started his adult life as a liberal and evolved into a conservative), is symptomatic of inherent relativism: i.e., he is living proof of the triumph of relativism. He is the embodiment of the idea that there are no absolute truths because even he, the Pope, changed his mind, too. I don't think that's a fair reading of what this Pope stands for, so I respectfully disagree with Eric's proposition.

This is not "changing your mind," it's growth. I once used to lay in a crib and scream if I didn't have a bottle and pacifier. I don't do that anymore. Did I change my mind about the virtues of screaming for a bottle and pacifier? Or did I simply ... mature? I like to think it's the latter. As we sing in the traditional hymn "Amazing Grace," "was blind, but now I see."

Relativism is the idea that there are no absolute truths. What Pope Benedict XVI, in his Cardinal Ratzinger incarnation, stated was that there most certainly are absolute truths. The fact that these absolute truths are revealed to us over time, and not all at once, is not the same thing as these truths never existing. Pope Benedict XVI grew and matured from where he was in his youth.

I voted for John Anderson in 1980 and was convinced that Ronald Reagan was going to get us killed in nuclear war. I never stepped foot in a church during the 1980s except to go to weddings. That's not who I am now. Does that mean it's all relative? That the way I was in 1980 is just as appropriate as a way to live my life as the one I'm leading now? I hope not. With each day, I like to think that I'm learning more about the person I should be. I want the grace to understand the absolute truths. I know they're out there. I hope I'm following them (best I can). And if I find I've veered off on to the wrong path, and make a mid-course correction, that doesn't mean all roads lead to God. It just means that I'm seeing more clearly than I was the day before.

That's not relativism. It's education.

I'm not going to Fatima, Portugal

The Marian site I want to visit more than any other. I guess it's not right to go a holy site like Fatima because you're forced as part of some sort of lottery. One should go because it's one's choice.

So perhaps it's for the best that Fatima, Portugal, was eliminated from the "competition" as to where I take my Year 45 vacation.

You know life is good when ...

You take Zack The Dog out for a walk one dusky evening, and you meet a few of the block-or-so-away neighbors and you're forced -- against your will, of course -- to take two fat slices of homemade banana cake with cream cheese frosting with butter pecan ice cream somehow stuffed inside the center of the cake.

Forced, I swear.

Dire Straits - "Telegraph Road"

I've reached the point in my life where I don't much like rock 'n' roll. I don't much like guitar-based rock. When it comes to listening to my college-era new favorites, I'm far more likely to listen to something synth-driven than Ramones or Buzzcocks style guitar punk. And I've never liked "guitar heros." Guitar-hero rock was never a genre I cared for. I can't appreciate an Eric Clapton solo or an Eddie Van Halen wail. I can't even appreciate Joe Strummer turning the amp up to 11. If a guitar hero does a pop song, I'm there. See, e.g., Hendrix, Jimi, "Angel."

Mark Knopfler is a prototypical guitar hero, a craftsman of his instrument. You like guitars played by virtuoso? Especially in a non-metal setting? Then Knopfler is your god and Dire Straits is your band. Their not mine. Occasionally, they do a pop song that I like, but they are not a group that I want to own a whole album of. (In fact, I once did. Brothers in Arms, of course. I got rid of it.) A few mp3 files are enough Mark Knopfler, in my estimation.

One Dire Straits song I've always (inexplicably) liked is one of their more pretentious, "Telegraph Road," a 14-plus minute track that leads off Love over Gold. The allmusic site calls this their "prog-rock" album, which normally should be enough to get me to run for the hills. The song is atmospheric and meandering, perhaps like the eponymous road at issue. Maybe I like it because I once heard it driving the backroads of Fairfax County, Virginia, listening to the late (then) great WHFS, then out of Annapolis, I think, and the song was playing over the air when I happened upon a "Telegraph Road" there in Northern Virginia (back when I really liked Northern Virginia). Great song, but not enough for me to want a whole allbum of this guitar stuff.

4/19/2005

Andrew Sullivan is a ass

So says, sort of, Professor Bainbridge (via Charles Dickens, of course).

Professor Bainbridge, being the intelligent, rational, moral, orthodox Catholic that he is, takes great issue with histrionics recently posted about Pope Benedict XVI, by that Andrew Sullivan.[*] Sullivan went into histrionics because the new Pope not only will not subvert the basic tenets of Catholicism, but is (shriek!) one of the great defenders of church teaching in the last 100 years.

Mr. Sullivan has always been a self-centered, egomanical, obnoxious little twit (yes, I've met him, so I know of what I speak). He is frustrated by any institution that won't provide him with the affirmation that his self-loathing self craves. Because the Catholic Church declines to approve of butt sex, Andrew declines to approve of the Church. Hell, unless the Church raised buggery to a sacrament, Andrew would keep screaming like a schoolgirl whose My Little Pony was just taken away. The world does not exist to give comfort to Andrew; it's the other way around. For each of us.

In all seriousness, pray for Andrew.

I briefly caught an MSNBC story where Keith Olbermann -- speaking of schoolgirls who just lost their My Little Ponies -- was complaining about the new Pope. They used the word "divisive." Interesting word choice, no? A leftist/relativist who would subvert Church teachings would only be called "progressive." He would never be called "divisive," no matter how many faithful were strongly against him. Like "extremist," it is a word reserved for conservatives, no matter how appropriately applied to the other side.

And, while I'm at it, I think Pope Benedict XVI is the true "progressive." Here is a man willing to stand up and fight to change the direction we're headed. Momentum was carrying us -- and the Catholic Church -- into the modern world with all the good and bad that entailed. Pope Benedict XIV, in his Cardinal Ratzinger incarnation, was one of the major figures to stand up, point out the folly of our mindless slouch in that direction, and lead us to a better way. That, in my estimation, is a true progressive. Someone who's not willing to just let us drift where the times take us, but willing to lead in a new direction. Even if that new direction is the traditional way of doing things. Especially then the traditional way is the road less traveled.

I have rarely been so happy to be Catholic as I am because of the events of today. I'm giddy. Like a schoolgirl. Who's just been given five brand spankin' new My Little Ponies!

Footnote: [*] I will not link to Mr. Sullivan because I want to do nothing to increase traffic to his site and, thus, blogad revenue to his pocket.

I'm not going to Bangkok, Thailand

Down to the Sweet 16 as the only Asian vacation option was dropped from consideration.

I had decided that this choice really wasn't Bangkok per se, but Lampang, Thailand, in the northern part of the country, so I could see, hear and otherwise experience (smell, for example) the Thai Elephant Orchestra! Alas, not meant to be, as I pulled out the Bangkok envelope and that option is no longer in the cow-faced cookie jar.

White smoke!

White smoke! Holy smoke! Extraordinary good news for us traditionalist, orthodox Catholics: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the voice of orthodoxy, is Pope Benedict XVI. The prophecy of St. Malachy seems eerily fulfilled, as the new Pope shall be the "Glory of the Olive" (taking the name "Benedict" and all).

4/18/2005

I'm not going to Belém, Brazil

When I drew up my list of 20 possible vacation destinations, the idea was that each option was equally viable. I would be just as happy if New Madrid, Missouri, gets selected as I would be with the Vatican. But as I do this "one envelope a day" elimination, I'm realizing that I have favorites. And I eliminated one of those favorites today.

I'm not just choosing a vacation spot Age 45. My reactions to each place selected out are focusing me as to where else I must visit in the near future. And given that I was really bummed that Belém was eliminated today, that must mean that I definitely have to go there in the near future.

I want to explore Northern Brazil: Belém, Fortaleza, Teresina (reputedly the hottest city in Brazil), maybe Satarem and Manaus, maybe Natal and Recife. Listen to the cool forró music of the sertão. This would've been a nice kick-in-the-pants to get me there before all my Portuguese language skills have dissipated. But it was not to be.

The Gap Band - "Burn Rubber"

When it comes to funk, as with so many of my taste preferences, I am strictly "old school." And probably the best pop/funk band working in the middle era of the late 1970s/early 1980s -- after the death of disco, but before the rise of Prince -- were the Wilson Brothers from Tulsa, Oklahoma, a.k.a., The Gap Band.

They reached their artistic peak in December 1980 with the release of what may well be the greatest dance track of the 20th Century, "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me." It went Number 1 R&B (two weeks), but inexplicably went nowhere on the Pop Charts (peaking at 84! can you believe?). The Gaps didn't land a pop Top 40 hit until 1982, with the "Early in the Morning," so derivative of "Burn Rubber" that it even featured sound effects for the opening.

Every Gap song is a party and this is the one where the party is most happening. This was a sure dancefloor-packer during my college years. And whyt not! When the motorcycle engines rev up in the intro, it was time to race to the dance floor.

So how much Gap Band does one need in his or her CD collection? I have the 19-track Ultimate Collection from Hip-O Records, available on the sale from alldirect.com for the bargain price of $10.69. It's a great collection, probably with a little too much of their post-peak material. The only essential song it's missing is "Seasons No Reason to Change," the best Gap ballad. But any collection that adds that one (the 11-track 20th Century Masters "Millennium Collection" is on the sale at alldirect.com for the obscene price of $6.63) subtracts something equally essential, usually their priceless theme to Keenan Ivory Wayans's "I'm Gonna Git U Sucka." You can't go wrong with either.

4/17/2005

I'm not going to Sitka, Alaska

Another day, another vacation destination ruled out. No trip to Sitka, Alaska.

If this had been the selection, I probably would have tried to book an Alaska cruise, through the inland passage. Not only would have I have taken the Russian architecture of Mother Russia's old new world colonial capital, but I would have toured the splendor of Alaska's isolated capital of Juneau. I would have walked in the footsteps of Jack London in Skagway. Maybe I would've done even more of Alaska, and explored Anchorage and the Kenai.

Someday. But not the Year of 45.

Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club - "English Garden"

At the turn from the 1970s to the 1980s, Bruce Woolley & the Camera Club released two LPs of new wave pop, only one of which has been released on CD. The first, English Garden, was the clear superior of the two. The LP attracted some attention from the new wave music press (such that it was) for it contained two tracks co-written with the Buggles, including the classic "Video Killed the Radio Star" (which, as all good music historians know, was the first video played on fledgling MTV, in 1981, in its Buggle incarnation). English Garden contains a warmer version of "Video," a sunnier-poppier version propelled by Woolley's hiccuppy tenor.

The strongest song on the 1979 LP is the title track, "English Garden." It is the most "rockin'" track, such as that may be, on a disc that is very much part of the new wave genre that reached its peak that year. I still don't know what a "gentleman" is supposed to do in his "English garden," but that's all right. I'll always be nostalgic for this bit of late 70s new wave ($16.49 on amazon.com). Song o' the day for a hot Sunday afternoon.

4/16/2005

I'm not going to Colorado Springs

The birthday countdown begins today. The first envelope was pulled today from the cow-faced cookie jar. (Cow-faced cookie jar, you ask? Well, where else was I going to put my sealed envelopes, each containing one of 20 different possible vacation destinations.)

The first vacation destinated eliminated? Colorado Springs, Colorado.

I would like to go to the Springs eventually. Of course: it was on my list. Pike's Peak! Garden of the Gods! The Air Force Academy! Great drive over the top of the Rockies to get there!

Some day. Just not this coming year.

Guilty pleasure Saturday: E L O - "Shine a Little Love"

I not much of a fan of Jeff Lynne's Electric Light Orchestra. Generally, they are a plain vanilla Queen. In essence, they are what Queen would've been had they been fronted by a dull, suburban heterosexual. Both combined hard rock with "serious music." Flamboyant Queen used opera; pedestrian ELO opted for NPR-grade classical.

One other difference, Jeff Lynne wasn't much of a songwriter. While multiple members of Queen could write imaginative, clever pop songs, Lynne's songwriting is weak. Choruses are usually nothing more than the title repeated. Over and over. And over again. Lynne's strength was that he could make his songs sound wonderful. Whatever deficiencies he may have had writing were more than offset by the creative production work. ELO songs sound wonderful. The only problem is that there's no there there.

By the time of 1979's Discovery (which, at the time, we referred to as "Disco? Very!"), there was no "orchestra" left in the Electric Light ORCHESTRA. They were a four-piece band without an in-house string section. They weren't much of a hard rock outfit at the point, they were a pop band, as the disco-fueled lead single "Shine a Little Love" amply demonstrated.

This is probably my favorite ELO single, despite the fact that it was a pure disco single released shortly after disco music dropped off the charts. Like all of Jeff Lynne's work, the song sounds great. There's much more happening musically than in your typical dance track, especially with the swirling synth effects after each chorus (which, typically ELO, is just Lynne repeating the title "you shine a little love on my life / you shine a little love on my life / you shine a little love on my li-i-ife").

Rock and roll lovers will disagree, but to me E L O will always be a singles band. The only way to own some E L O is a singles collection. I own the Definitive Collection, which I picked up on the cheap (really!) a few years back. It really is "definitive"; the song single it's missing is "Do Ya," not a dealbreaker. The version I own seems to be available no longer. A slightly different import version of this CD is available on amazon.com for $21.49. At that price, I would pass. But I don't have a substitute to recommend.

The Strange Magic collection is $14.99 on amazon.com, but it's missing the Xanadu singles "All Over the World" and "I'm Alive." What's the point of owning an ELO collection if you don't own John Lennon's favorite pop song? The 15-track Essential Electric Light Orchestra is pared down even more, but is only $10.99 on amazon.com. On the one hand, still no Xanadu; on the other, no "Ballad of Horace Wimp".

Eminem wins!

I have no use for Eminem. I have no use for his music. I have no use for his leftist politics. I have no use for homophobia (a product, no doubt, of the old adage that we hate in others what we most fear in ourselves).

That said: congratulations Marshall Mathers III for your recent victory in the Michigan Court of Appeals. A "man"[*] by the name of Deangelo Bailey sued Eminem for portraying him "in a false light" on one song on Eminem's 1999 "The Slim Shady LP." The case got thrown out on summary judgment and that decision was upheld by Michigan's intermediate court of appeals. Bailey admitted to picking on Master Mathers while they were in school, even admitted shoving him. The song portrays the victim of the bullying as being so severely beaten that his "'whole brain fell out' of his skull," according to the FoxNews article. The court used an uncommon amount of common sense and decided that no reasonable listener would take that outcome seriously.

Clever, creative revenge on a bully which has now been upheld by an appellate court. For once, I salute Mr. Mathers.

Footnote: [*] Uh-huh. Yes. Those are indeed "sarcasm" quotes. As always, thank you very much for noticing.

4/14/2005

Vacation 45!

I face a semi-milestone birthday on May 4: my 45th.

It's not such a landmark of a day that I absolutely must be somewhere celebrating that day. That was my attitude as my 40th approached. Back in 2000, I turned 40 at the Happiest Place on Earth - Disneyworld Florida - on vacation with my family - my parents, my sister and my brother-in-law. It was the last "family vacation" we took before my mother past away 10 months after that.

It was a great vacation, but you only turn 40 once. I practice in employment law. So, to me, 40 is when you irrevocably cross over the line into full adulthood: it's when you get federal age discrimination protection. So, when I turned 40, at long last I was in a protected class.

Age 45 is different. As I don't plan on making out of my 80s alive, age 45 is an acknowledgment that my life has passed the midpoint. The uphill climb is over and I'm now on the downslope. That's neither good nor bad, just the way it is. For this reason, 45 is not a milestone birthday, but it is a milestone year.

So the goal is for an accomplishment sometime during my year of 45. I will choose a vacation destination and, sometime before I turn 46, I will visit the place. How to decide? I have chosen 20 places that I have wanted to visit for the longest time, yet for some reason or another have never managed to get near. Some choices are whimsical, some serious. Some are nearby, some are long and expensive trips. Some are spiritual, some are based on my heritage.

There is a reason for each, some more significant than others. Ten are in the US. Ten are international. Here is the list in no particular order:

1. Montevideo, Uruguay
2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
3. Fatima, Portugal
4. Sitka, Alaska
5. Zagreb, Croatia
6. South Padre Island, Texas
7. The Kona Coast, Hawaii
8. New Madrid, Missouri
9. Medicine Hat, Alberta
10. Belém, Brazil
11. Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho
12. The Pampas, Argentina
13. The Oregon Mystery Spot, Oregon

14. Bangkok, Thailand
15. Vatican City
16. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
17. Colorado Springs, Colorado
18. San Jose, Costa Rica
19. The Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota
20. Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

One only site per country or state. That's why Big Bend National Park in Texas was left off the list, as there was a higher Texas priority. I had some tough decisions, leaving off Easter Island, Chile, and Sydney, Australia. Or trendy Prague. Or the Warren Harding sites in Marion, Ohio. But this is my eclectic list of 20.

Each day, starting on Saturday, April 16, I will pick one destination for elimination, until my birthday, when I will select the place I'm going. Yeah, I know this is a strange way to pick a vacation destination, and it is very strange to put the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, on equal footing with the Vatican. But this little game is how I will mark my milestone here. You got a better idea?

Prince - "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man"

The journey through Prince's classic side three of the Sign o' the Times concludes with one of the greatest pop songs in the history of Top 40: "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Man." This is a 900-page novel disguised as three minute, forty second pop tune (extended out to 6:29 on the album cut).

The song is built on a very simple, descending melody. The production is top notch, with Wendy & Lisa's background vocals set perfectly apart from Prince's lead. Like a perfectly spiced meal, their vocals meld perfectly into the voice, while remaining distinct. And Prince's delivery of the vocal is spot-on, appropriately sexy, with just the right amount of leer ("She was standin' by the bar / Hmm, she was lookin' alright"). Empathetic, yet appropriately dismissive.

If you listen closely to the lyrics - and you should - two minutes into the track and both the woman (whose old man ran away only last June) and the protagonist are completely three-dimensional characters. Neither is a mere composite or archetype: these are real live flesh and blood. You feel terribly sad for the woman desperate for a friend of any sort; you also perfectly understand the emotions and needs character played by Prince and appreciate the brutal honesty of the lyric. A 110-minute big screen romance does not pack as a much real emotion as this little pop song.

It's an extraordinary pop song. Good enough, most certainly, to be song o' the day.

4/13/2005

Prince (with Sheena Easton) - "U Got the Look"

Saluting one of the great LP sides in the History of Rock 'n' Roll ... side three ... Sign o' the Times ... the magnificent Prince.

Side three kicks off with the opening synth whine of the classic Prince / Sheena Easton duet, "U Got the Look." Prince nails it when he delivers that great line, "U sho' nuff do be cookin' / In my book" And you just know that Prince is a Twins fan when he sings, "Here we are folks / The dream we all dream of / Boy versus girl in the World Series of love." Later that year in which this song was released, in the fall of 1987, Twins verus Cardinals in the World Series of baseball. Twins won their first World Series title.

This was not the first pairing of this classic duo. That would be 1984's Sheena Easton single "Sugar Walls," which if I am not mistaken is a none-too-subtle genital reference. From Prince! Imagine. With that song, and with this duet (song o' the day, don'tcha know), you would've thought that Prince could've gottten Sheena to tour with him on his Musicology tour last year. Y'gotta think Sheena was available. And, she is, after all, "the dream we all dream of."

4/12/2005

One marine rhetorically destroys 20 leftists

James Taranto's "Best of the Web," on opinionjournal.com, posted a letter to the editor written by Marc Fencil, an Ohio U student and marine serving in Iraq. The result is that the website of the Post, the Ohio University student newspaper, seems to have crashed.

Fencil's letter perfectly captures the fact that so many of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are bettering the world in ways these junior league lefties can only imagine. Twenty Ohio U students recently staged a "die in" to protest the liberation of Iraq and to snottily disagree with the psread of freedom and liberty in that troubled region. Well, Marines such as Mr. Fencil are the ones who pressed that on-button on that giant fan from which the winds of freedom are now blowing at gale force.

Opinionjournal published the text of Mr. Fencil's eloquent letter, which absolutely soaking from the appropriate levels of pride (at him doing a job well), disgust (at thespoiled protesters), defensiveness (even though he has nothing to be defensive about), perspective (well-earned) and wit (dry, very dry):

It's a shame that I'm here in Iraq with the Marines right now and not back at Ohio University completing my senior year and joining in blissful ignorance with the enlightened, war-seasoned protesters who participated in the recent "die-in" at College Gate. It would appear that all the action is back home, but why don't we make sure? That's right, this is an open invitation for you to cut your hair, take a shower, get in shape and come on over! If Michael Moore can shave and lose enough weight to fit into a pair of camouflage utilities, then he can come too!
Make sure you all say your goodbyes to your loved ones though, because you won't be seeing them for at least the next nine months. You need to get here quick because I don't want you to miss a thing. You missed last month's discovery of a basement full of suicide vests from the former regime (I'm sure addam's henchmen just wore them because they were trendy though). You weren't here for the opening of a brand new school we built either. You might also notice women exercising their new freedom of walking to the market unaccompanied by their husbands.
There is a man here, we just call him al-Zarqawi, but we think he'd be delighted to sit down and give you some advice on how you can further disrespect the victims of Sept. 11 and the 1,600 of America's bravest who have laid down their lives for a safer world. Of course he'll still call you "infidel" but since you already agree that there is no real evil in the world, I see no reason for you to be afraid. Besides, didn't you say that radical Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance?
I'm warning you though--it's not going to be all fun and games over here. You might have bad dreams for the next several nights after you zip up the body bag over a friend's disfigured face. I know you think that nothing, even a world free of terror for one's children, is worth dying for, but bear with me here. We're going to live in conditions you've never dreamt about. You should get here soon though, because the temperatures are going to be over 130 degrees very soon and we will be carrying full combat
loads (we're still going to work though). When it's all over, I promise you can go back to your coffee houses and preach about social justice and peace while you continue to live outside of reality.
If you decide to decline my offer, then at least you should sleep well tonight knowing that men wearing black facemasks and carrying AK-47s yelling "Allahu Akbar" over here are proud of you and are forever indebted to you for advancing their cause of terror. While you ponder this, I'll get back to the real "die-in" over here. I don't mind.

Here's hoping Marc Fencil keeps eloquently writing his opinions when he returns stateside. I can think of a few daily papers that could use a little conservative diversity on their editorial pages.

Prince - "Strange Relationship"

Side Three of Prince's Sign o' the Times is one of the great "album sides" in the history of two-sided vinyl LP's. Each of its four songs rank among the greatest recorded songs of His Purpleness. So, in celebration of this still-fresh 18 year old LP, there is no reason to limit Sign o' the Times to one Song o' the Day.

"Strange Relationship," a celebration of a failing, dysfunctional relationship, is a fantastic bit of pop craftsmanship. Underneath an uptempo melody track that seems almost danceable is a slow, incessant driving beat that perfectly mimics the cadence of a heartbeat, the nervous beat of some stressed-out person who feels like his heart is about to burst out of his chest cavity. At first blush, it seems like a tale of mere sexual incompatibility. Upon closer listen, it is a story told from the perspective of the abuser in a what had so far been merely a mutually manipulative, but psychologically abusive association. Is that why it never was released as a single? Doubtful, given that a few years earlier, Sting and the Police parked themselves at number one for about two whole months with a stalker anthem.

Is it creepy? Only if you think about it. But in the history of pop music, far creepier songs have been bigger hits. (Given the ongoing accusations of pedophilia, Michael Jackson's "You Are Not Alone" remains for me the absolute creepiest pop song in the recorded music era). In remembrance of Andrea Dworkin at her untimely passing, a song where indeed the sex may be the functional equivalent rape.

Red Sox hatred is at a "Fever Pitch"

A trend is sweeping the nation. All this Red Sox "mania" is making sports fan across America sick. FOXSports joins the bandwagon with this anti-Red Sox screed. The line that captures the essence of Red Sox over-exposure at its most Paris Hilton-esque:
The Yankees won four World Series in five years. The Florida Marlins won two in seven. The Anaheim Angels and the Arizona Diamondbacks have won rings recently too. These four teams combined whored themselves out to the media less than the Red Sox did in a mere four month span.
He's right, y'know.

4/11/2005

Prince - "If I Was Your Girlfriend"

This is the weirdest song in my entire CD collection. Time for it to be song o' the day, no?

When Prince goes for some gender-bending, it ends up undecipherable gerder contortionism. The song is "performed" by an alter ego, "Camille," billed as a new female vocalist "discovered" by His Purpleness. Here's how the allmusic site describes "Camille's" vocals on "If I Was Your Girlfriend":

The album credited the song's lead vocal to Camille, reported before Sign o' the Times' release to be a newly discovered female vocalist whose debut album Prince was preparing; of course, Camille turned out to be Prince singing in a high-pitched voice that was later sped up and altered electronically.

You want gender-bending? Boy George and Ru Paul can only dream of these contortions. The song is sung by a man. Pretending to be a woman. Singing a song from a male perspective. About his girlfriend. Only not "girlfriend" in the dating sense, but in the best-female-friend sense. Except two-thirds of the way through the song. Where he/she wants to help her pick out her clothes. Before they "go out." Which could be innocent. "Go out" could means friends. Doesn't have to be a date. But then he wants to give her a bath. And kiss her "down there," "where it counts." Which we know what he's referring to.

This isn't gender confusion; it's gender James Joyce. Is it boy/girl? Is it girl/boy? Is it lesbian? Is it two lesbians wanting to be boy/girl? Is it boy/girl wanting to be lesbian? Is it boy/boy? Is it boy/boy wanting to be lesbian? Does Prince - I mean, "Camille" - even know?

On its original LP release, "If I Was Your Girlfriend" was on "side three" of Sign O' the Times, an LP I was slow to warm to. My problem always was the title track, the lamest of all Top Ten singles in Prince's extraordinary career. While the rest of the disc(s) is timeless Prince, the title track is "topical," which meant it was dated seconds after it was recorded. Sign is tought to find on the cheap. Alldirect.com lists it for $16.70. Like everything Prince released from that 10-year interval from 1983 (1999) to 1992 (the unpronounce-able, unspell-able squiggly-symbol album), it is essential. Buy it, please.

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