Fixing the Presidential Debates with a little help from Community

So we’re going to have a bit of a temporal shift today. I’d like to talk about my time at the gym last night (Wednesday, October 3rd) even though the songs being discussed are from earlier in September. I just feel it would have a bit more impact to be more timely in my openings. Wednesday night I was working out at the gym from 9:30 to 10:30, and while I was listening to my music, I was reading the debates on the overhead TV screens. It felt like my childhood a bit, as the televisions at my end of the gym are set to ABC, NBC, and CBS, the three networks from the first 15 years of my life (this always comes as a complete surprise to my children when I tell them there was a time when Fox was not a network–well, surprise or boredom; I can’t always read their expressions when I’m telling them stories about the olden days). So all three networks were showing the debate, and while I had no sound, I was able to follow the close captioning.

While I agree with the general consensus that Romney outperformed Obama, my larger question is “Who Cares?” For years, debates have been worthless, a test of who can memorize pithy platitudes about why their position is beneficial to the American people and their opponent is looking to destroy our country. It’s not a true debate because there’s no true back-and-forth, no discussion of key issues/topics, in fact, I’d argue that neither side truly listens to what his opponent even says–each is too busy feeding red meat to his party base.

So how to fix? You can’t just eliminate the debates, but maybe we could radically restructure them. Then I thought about Community. Last season they had an episode where two students were each trying to form a school Model UN club, and to settle which group would get the school’s charter, a “Model UN off” was held. A moderator would pick random crisis topics out of a fishbowl and each group had to work out how to solve the proposed problem. (Trust me, it was very funny.) Comedy aside, wouldn’t this make a better format for a debate. Each candidate, and perhaps 3-5 advisors on stage with them, would have scenarios that might happen over the next four years tossed their way that they then have to suggest how they would solve. Wouldn’t that better inform us of the Presidential mettle of each man? Now, the moderator would probably be some venerable journalist, but I would prefer they use Erik Charles Nielsen from that episode of Community, just to re-create his awesomely shrill cries of “Crisis Alert!” before announcing each topic–“Crisis Alert! Russia declares war on Germany!” or “Crisis Alert! A large-scale hurricane devastates Houston, Texas”. It’d be better than what we’ve got right?

Thursday, September, 6, 2012

3.15 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Die, All Right!–The Hives
  • Diesel Blues (Diesel)–WWE
  • Different Finger–Elvis Costello
  • The Difficult Kind–Sheryl Crow
  • Dig A Little Deeper–Peter Bjorn & John
  • Dig A Pony–The Beatles
  • Dig A Pony–The Beatles
  • Dig For Fire–The Pixies
  • Dig It–The Beatles
  • Dig My Grave–They Might Be Giants
  • Digging in the Dirt [Live]–Peter Gabriel
  • Dignity–Bob Dylan
  • Dime–CAKE
  • Dime Mi Amor–Los Lonely Boys

While there are some out there, it’s not often you get a song with a really mean title, but I think the Hives telling me to “Die, All Right!” certainly qualifies. I am willing to forgive the brusque nature of the title because it is a kick-ass song, like just about every offering from the group. It’s a return of a pair of music-list standards next, starting with another WWE theme, this one for the Kevin Nash persona Diesel and then Elvis Costello. I can make a mental tie from Costello to the next artist on the list, Sheryl Crow, as I believe the two performed at a online concert before the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis. I remember watching it on my laptop so that my wife could see her favorite, Costello, do his thing.

I enjoyed the next seven songs, starting with my favorite track from Peter Bjorn & John’s most recent album (which if you think you’ve never heard of the band but you watch 2 Broke Girls, well, then you have heard the band, as the opening theme is performed by them. Thanks to Let It Be and Let It Be Naked, I got three Beatles songs about digging, with a Pixies number snuck in there as well.  Things got even better with a fun They Might Be Giants song, and then a live track from Peter Gabriel. Speaking of Peter Gabriel live, he’s apparently coming to Connecticut for a concert later this year. I’m getting to an age where I think going to a concert seems like a hot of hassle, but for some reason I’d like to see Gabriel (although finances make it unlikely).

For the last three songs, I get “Dignity” from Bob Dylan, which I find a little ironic seeing that when I saw Dylan perform live a few years back, his voice was so shot that if he had any dignity, he wouldn’t be touring any more. I enjoy CAKE so much, but often forget about this enjoyment, so I forget to listen to their music at times.  The final number in today’s list was a Spanish-language track from Los Lonely Boys.

 

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Wait–what was that song called again?

Here’s a little bit of good news–I’m back to creating a backlog of songs! Yes, I’ve managed to accumulate three gym visits in the last four days, so the conveyer belt of ‘D’ songs, which had slowed down to a crawl is up to capacity again. While I know it’s only three days, it feels great to be getting back into a routine. For me, that’s the key–I need to build some consecutive workout days. Also, there should be a simpler way to remember how great you feel after a 45-minute workout so that it isn’t so hard to get off   your butt and get moving.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Diarrhea Moustache–David Cross
  • The Diary–Hollywood Undead
  • The Diary of Jane–Breaking Benjamin
  • Dice–Finley Quaye & William Orbit
  • Dick in a Box–The Lonely Island & Justin Timberlake
  • Dick Wagner’s Rinse Cycle–Johnny Socko
  • Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?–Richard Thompson & Linda Thompson
  • Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby–Emmylou Harris, Alison Krause, and Gillian Welsh
  • Die–Iron & Wine
  • Die For You–Megan McCauley
  • Die Hard the Hunter–Def Leppard

I do love listening to the comedy stylings of Mr. David Cross, whose routines can stand up to repeated airings despite their political digs tied to specific timeframes, but man those odd titles for individual tracks (which, of course, never have any relation to the issues being discussed) can really throw you for a loop. If you haven’t listened to any of his albums, you may think “well today’s entry has to be the worst name, right?” I’d argue that there are some worse ones–I won’t list them here, but you can probably look them up on Amazon or iTunes.

It’s a bit ironic that we own two “Diary…” songs, and both are sung by bands my son brought to the mix (you know, because usually diaries are  normally associated with girls instead of boys. When we keep a record of our lives, it’s a journal, not a diary. Right? Right? Just me then?) Maybe it would be best if I moved on…luckily, I can move on to a great song like “Dice”, which is a track from the phenomenal first soundtrack of The OC. I’ve mentioned before that the show got me into a number of bands, and while I don’t own any additional material by Finley Quaye or William Orbit, it’s a song that is permanently in my playlist.

It was then time to go back to some unfortunately titled tracks, starting with the filthy, yet hilarious, number from the Lonely Island and frequent collaborator Justin Timberlake. Most people know it from the SNL Digital Short, but we also own a copy from their first two albums. Johnny Socko was a band friends and I used to go see live in graduate school at Indiana University, and I was happy to pick up their first album, although it did not contain my favorite song by them, a slowed-down countrified version of “You Shook Me All Night Long”. I looked for a version of it on youtube to show you how fun it was, but sadly, their heyday was in the era before everyone using smart phones to illegally record live concert performances and upload them to the internet. The next song was a tad more serious than the previous two, but it still had a odd title, although it may have been a metaphor for Richard and Linda’s upcoming marital problems and eventual divorce.

A song from one of the great soundtracks that I tend to forget about showed up next, and prompted me to listen to the entire album of O Brother, Where Art Thou? I closed with a trio of “Die” songs, none of which were using the definite German article. The first two came from compilations, one charity-based (the Iron & Wine number from the Dark Was the Night soundtrack) and the second from a movie soundtrack (the first Fantastic Four–don’t look at me that way; I got the album free at work!). My last song today came from the awesome 80’s and Def Leppard, or as my daughter would probably call them, one of those groups covered in the Rock of Ages musical/movie.

 

 

Where’s Waldo? (Exercising Dean Edition)

I have been horrible about updating this blog recently. Well, in the interest of full disclosure, for the first half of the month of September, my updating became horribly spotty, but I was still regularly exercising. So again, less than one month after I did a massive song list entry to clean out the queue, I’ve built things back up again (I am in the “Do’s, a bit of distance from today’s “Devil…”-starting list.) But at least I was still getting in gym time and that is the primary goal of this undertaking. But over the last week and a half, the gym time has started to fade (not completely disappear,just down to 3 times a week as opposed to 5 or 6). I’d argue that at least it slowed down the buildup in my song queue, but as I just stated, the first goal is to exercise, so this is bad, not good. If I’m looking for reasons why this happened, I’d probably point to my continued search for my next job. Although it’s probably better to categorize that as an excuse and not a reason. Calling it an excuse can push me to overcome it. Or at least, that’s the October plan!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

3.28 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Devil in the Wishing Well–Five for Fighting
  • Devil Inside–INXS
  • Devil Song–Camper Van Beethoven
  • The Devil Went Down to Georgia–The Charlie Daniels Band
  • Devils & Dust–Bruce Springsteen
  • Devotion–Indigo Girls
  • Dharma Lady–Geronimo Jackson
  • Dial Up–Ted Leo & The Pharmacists
  • Diamond Dogs–David Bowie
  • Diamonds in the Rough–Social Distortion
  • Diamonds and Pearls–Prince
  • Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes–Paul Simon

The “Devil…” wasn’t done with me on Labor Day weekend, as Satan appeared on five final songs, starting with the Five for Fighting’s “Devil in the Wishing Well”. I think it’s a fair assumption that if the Devil got caught in a well, townspeople wouldn’t be lining up to save him–they’d probably leave him down there, unlike when a child gets caught in the well. Now if it’s a child devil, people might want to help, even if they knew the identity of the child. (Like when Bart got caught in the well in an early episode of The Simpsons (if I remember right, Sting was a guest voice that week, contributing to a benefit song for the “boy stuck in the well, halfway down to hell”. Of the remaining four “Devil…” numbers, my favorite is the INXS number, but far and away, the most iconic selection is from the Charlie Daniels band. I have to say a solid-gold fiddle would come in handy right now. I wonder how much the “Cash for Gold” mall stores would give for one of those–it probably would cover several month of living expenses, even with the addition of COBRA.

After the Boss and the perennially underrated Indigo Girls, I got a blast from my TV-watching past with “Dharma Lady”, a song and musical group (Geronimo Jackson) created for the show Lost. The song isn’t bad, particularly considering that it was free on iTunes, and it was always entertaining listening to the show’s creators try and convince the world that the band was real, an obscure ’70’s act that broke up after an album or two. Maybe twenty years down the road, people will again think the band is real, or at least as real as Ted Leo & The Pharmacists. After all, which of the two sounds more like a made-up band name?

The riches continue after Charlie Daniel’s golden fiddle, as I then hit a cluster of “diamond…” song, and a strong quartet at that. David Bowie tracks are just intrinsically cool, and worth repeated listens, and frankly I would also put the music of Social Distortion and Prince in the same category. I was always partial to “Diamonds and Pearls” by his royal purpleness as well. It has always been one of my favorite ballads by Prince.  The list ended with a strong number from Paul Simon’s Graceland album, a release that if it doesn’t make my desert-island discs list, is certainly in the honorable mention section.