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.



My uneasy distance from Radiohead

Short gym session today as I had to work 20 minutes of gym time between picking up one child at the mall and another at the movies (I was hoping for more, but got the taxi call earlier than I thought). But it’s important to do something every day,so

April 19, 2012

1.27 miles on the elliptical machine at the gym

  • Backdrifts (Honeymoon is Over)–Radiohead
  • Backlash Love Affair–Richard Thompson
  • Backpackers–Childish Gambino
  • Backstreets–Bruce Springsteen

I think I’m supposed to really like Radiohead, but they’re a band I’ve never really gotten into. Any band than gets their name from a Talking Heads song should already have a big point in their favor, but I still never really took the leap. In fact, I realized that I didn’t have an of their albums, so I picked up “Hail to the Thief” from our local library. It’s not a great album to me, but I’m not sure if that is how I’d feel overall about Radiohead, or if I need to try another of their albums like Kid A or OK Computer. It’s an ongoing issue that I have yet to resolve.

Speaking of yet to resolve, I’m still formulating my opinion on the Childish Gambino album Camp. I did enjoy “Backpackers”, but I think I will spend the time here talking about Community. The last three episodes have been incredibly strong, and all went in three distinct directions, from the inspired Ken Burns parody to last week’s Britta as a junkie for a bad former boyfriend to this week’s less funny, but more emotionally touching, episode with Annie and Abed. I beg you to watch this show before it’s too late, although maybe it will never be too late, as we now know that the greatest sit-com in history, Arrested Development, is coming back next year. I recently rewatched five episodes from Season 1, and as much as I enjoy Community, Parks and Recreation, and Archer, Arrested Development is still the undisputed king of sit-com history.

Only managed to get through four songs today, with the other two coming from strong albums from frequent contributors Richard Thompson (Rumor and Sigh) and Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run).  I will definitely need to double up the exercise a few days this weekend, even if the Red Sox do not give me occasion to do so.


The World’s Creepiest Theme Song

Unrelated to my musical journey, I cannot recommend tonight’s Community highly enough. Britta continues to crush it, and I think Pierce has had a great season as well. If you haven’t watched to show, go to your Free In-Demand section or Hulu and get caught up. As good as tonight’s was, last week’s episode concluding the Pillow Fort versus Blanket Fort war was even better. But don’t pick–watch them both, or all episodes you can. You’ll laugh a lot (and most episodes are funnier on a second viewing–a rare thing these days). Maybe the show will eventually join fellow NBC Thursday comedies 30 Rock, The Office, and Parks & Recreation on Netflix Instant so everyone could enjoy the first two seasons. To loosely tie it back to music, I think “Lyin’ Junkie Banana” would be a great name for a band.

April 12, 2012

3.32 miles on the elliptical plus upper-arm weight work

  • Arrested for Driving While Blind–ZZ Top
  • The Arrival at Tatooine; The Flag Parade–John Williams & The London Symphony Orchestra
  • Arrival Notes–Set Your Goals
  • Art  Lover–The Kinks
  • Art Lover [Live]–The Kinks
  • Art No. 24–Johnny Socko
  • The Art of Losing–American Hi-Fi
  • The Art of Subconscious Illusion–Avenged Sevenfold
  • Artists Only–Talking Heads
  • As Hard As It Is–Fine Young Cannibals
  • As I Am–Miley Cyrus
  • As If We Didn’t Know–The Byrds
  • As If We Never Said Goodbye–Glee Cast
  • As Long As You Follow–Fleetwood Mac
  • As Long As You’re Mine–Wicked Original Cast
  • As Long As You’re There–Glee Cast

I think the over-the-top nature of ZZ Top’s biggest hits (like “Legs” and “Gimme All Your Loving”) undercuts the bluesy power of some of their earlier work (like “Arrested For Driving Whil Blind”), That being said, the only ZZ Top I own is a greatest hits collection, which is fine by me, a .75 Minds on the Simple Minds scale.

While I have (correctly) stated how little I enjoyed the Star Wars prequels, I was more than a little sad that I didn’t get to see the 3D version of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in theaters. (I know, I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense). It’s just that for every Star Wars film release, I was there–the originals, the re-releases of the originals, and the three prequels. But I can’t watch 3D movies–ever since my detached retina, 3D glasses don’t work for me, so I would have sat in a theater getting a headache from a blurry screen. So for the first time ever, a Star Wars film came to theaters and I wasn’t there.

I don’t know much about Set Your Goals, and this instrumental interlude I heard today is probably not going to help me understand their style–for that, I’ll probably have to wait to hear some of their other work.

If you were going to have a theme song for your life, would there be a creepier choice than “Art Lover”? Like most Kinks songs I’ve heard, I really enjoyed this song at first, and still do at some level. But really listening to the lyrics tempers the love of the song. I get that at a basic level, it’s about a man losing his child through divorce, but the whole “come to daddy” chorus and the lyrics about watching a little girl play move the song right into pedophile territory. That’s why, if someone ever told you “I think “Art Lover” really sums me up”, grab your daughters and any other kids and run. Johnny Socko was a ska band my fellow IU Bloomington grad students and I used to see at local clubs, and I enjoyed them enough to pick up their debut album.

The “Art of Losing” is from the soundtrack to American Wedding.  I own the soundtracks to the first and third films, but I do not forsee purchasing the soundtrack to American Reunion. There just doesn’t seem to be enough new and fun material on it for my liking. While I’m not the biggest Avenged Sevenfold fan, I can’t argue with the value of their music in a workout environment. Any time I get an early Talking Heads song is a good day as far as I’m concerned, and I also tend to forget how much I enjoy all the songs of Fine Young Cannibals’ album The Raw and the Cooked.

Having two daughters growing up during the Hannah Montana era led to some obvious for them, but less enjoyable for me album purchases. One I didn’t quite understand was the second Hannah Montana soundtrack, as it was a two-disc album set, with the first disc being Hannah-Montana-performed songs, and the second CD was titled Meet Mily Cyrus, and we got songs from the actress that played Hannah. But, to me at least, both sets of songs sound the same (ooh, alliteration!) I could understand if Miley was a different kind of sound, like she was going to follow her dad’s achy breaky footsteps into country, but it’s bubblegum pop no matter who she is. (Don’t get me wrong, it’s successful bubblegum pop, but not enough to need the split album idea.) Too bad my Byrds 2-disc greatest hits CD couldn’t have done the same with one disc being “Meet the Byrds” and the other being “Meet a Bob Dylan Cover Band”.

This week they officially announced the 4th-season renewal of  Glee, which I assume was really a formality–hell, I think my daughter’s iTunes purchases alone make the show profitable, and I got to hear two of them toward the end of today’s workout. I was a little lost hearing them, as I had stopped really watching the show halfway through season 2, and these songs were not familiar to me, as one was from a musical and the other was an original number. Also unfamiliar to me was the song from Wicked. The only number from my collection at the end was the Fleetwood Mac song.

Is Anybody Out There? (Or Greatest Hits Guilt)

I know that I’m writing this to (1) push myself to exercise every day and (2) push myself to write every day, but it’s a little discouraging to see the daily views drop to the low single digits. Perhaps it’s a little misleading that I was getting more than a dozen views within the first week of starting this blog, but I can’t help but feel that people read the early blog and decided not to come back. HOW DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL? (Sorry, just trying to inject some drama in order to keep readers interested.)

March 28, 2012

3.29 miles on the elliptical plus upper-body weight work at the gym

  • All the Shine–Childish Gambino
  • All the Small Things–Blink-182
  • All the Small Things–Blink-182
  • All the Things She Said–Simple Minds
  • All the Time–Green Day
  • All the Way Home–Bruce Springsteen
  • All the Wrong Reasons–Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
  • All the Young Dudes–Mott the Hoople
  • All These Things–Elvis Costello
  • All These Things That I’ve Done–The Killers
  • All This Useful Beauty–Elvis Costello
  • All Those Yesterdays–Pearl Jam
  • All Through the Night–Cyndi Lauper
  • All Through the Night [Live]–Cyndi Lauper
  • All Together Now–The Beatles

“All the Shine” is from the Childish Gambino CD my family gave me for my birthday last week, Camp. I am trying to figure out how much I like it, but it’s difficult to separate my feelings for the music, Donald Glover, Community, and just give an honest opinion. I’ve liked it the first few times through, but I wonder if it’s born out of a desire to see Glover be successful at everything he does and then hope that draws more fans to Community. Like the devoted fanbase, I’m hoping for “six seasons and a movie”, but for now I’d settle for season 4.

I’ve managed to trim some of the fat from my music collection, if not from me. Sometimes somebody in the family will buy a single off iTunes and then we’ll later get the CD, which led to multiple copies of certain songs. For the most part, I’ve gone back and deleted one of the copies, but I missed a second version of “All The Small Things”, which I then had to hear twice. That didn’t bother me too much; it’s when I had to double up on tracks from High School Musical or the Jonas brothers that got me a little cranky.

Actually, I really enjoyed the run of music today–nothing I needed to either sheepishly apologize for or blame another member of the family for obtaining. Simple Minds returns with a second song from Glittering Prize. Sometimes, I feel bad when I just own a group’s greatest hits–like I’m missing out on all the cool deep album tracks when I don’t get all their studio releases. I feel this stronger about some groups more than others, and Simple Minds might be a good midpoint, a baseline for all other groups. For example, my Jayhawks collection is a greatest hits album and I probably regret not having more of their albums 5 times as much as Simple Minds, or 5 Minds on this scale I am making up on the fly. On the other hand, my Air Supply greatest hits is more than enough for me, so I’d probably rate them 0.1 Minds on the scale.

Everyone in my family loves Green Day, but I do have a fundamental question about the group. They started off as a punk band and they rally against the system, but with their massive commercial success, their broadway musical, and their own video game, aren’t they an entrenched part of the system? And if so, does this cheapen their music and message?

Oh, look! A Bruce Springsteen song; how novel! We have 148 songs by the Boss in our collection, and I’ve already heard 7, with one more ‘A’ song to go. While looking this up, I also realized that we have Springsteen songs that start with 24 of the 26 letters of the alphabet, with only ‘X’ and ‘Z’ not represented, yo. Then I got a Tom Petty song from back half of one of my favorite two-album runs by an artist, although I guess it isn’t officially a two-song run when he left the Heartbreakers for Full Moon Fever. For me though, the second album, Into the Great Wide Open (which contains “All the Wrong Reasons”) is the better of the two.

“All the Young Dudes” is another strong entry from the Juno soundtrack which nicely blends newer songs with classics like this one and the Kinks. Then I got a pair of Elvis songs sandwiched around The Killers, a band that I introduced my kids to, and then they ran with them.  For fans of Pearl Jam that have Netflix instant, I highly recommend Pearl Jam 20, Cameron Crowe’s outstanding documentary on the band.

I managed to get a 3-album Cyndi Lauper set from someone at work a few years ago with She’s So Unusual, True Colors, and Hat Full of Stars. I love all three, but the amazing thing is how filled with hits that first album is. The deluxe version of the album also included a live track of “All Through the Night”. I then got to close things down with a fun Beatles song from Yellow Submarine.


Finding Out Who’s Alive

In the past, a day like today would have found me skipping exercise, using the full-on taxi excuse. All my kids needed rides to movies, parties, work, and delivery times were staggered to the point of making gym time difficult to map out. So that usually leads to “it’s ok, I’ll go tomorrow.” Instead, it led to “even if I can’t do 3+ miles, I can go and do 2+ miles” and “no reason I can squeeze a 1-mile walk in here.” I can’t promise I’ll always escape the tractor beam of convenient laziness, but today was a small victory.

March 23, 2012

1-mile neighborhood walk

  • Alison (Soundcheck August 7, 1977)–Elvis Costello
  • Alive–??
  • Alive–Black Eyed Peas
  • Alive–Pearl Jam
  • Alive and Kicking–Simple Minds

At first I thought the best thing about the specific title of the final version of Alison that we own is that if you were at that concert, it would feel so personal to you. But then I realized that fans aren’t there for the Soundcheck–that happens before the concert. There are some live albums of course where you could say “I was there!” For me, it’s a track of Tripping the Live Fantastic, the double-disc Paul McCartney live release. I was so excited when I learned that he took different songs from different venues and of course hoped it was a sing-along number from my night in Worcester, Ma, so I could tell my kids/grandkids/strangers on the bus, “Yep, that’s me singing along to ‘Hey Jude.” Want to hear an encore?” Unfortunately, the song  from my night “Eleanor Rigby” isn’t a big audience participation number.

Three different songs with the title “Alive,” and the first one proved to be a bit of a mystery. It just said “Alive” without the artist’s name, and as I started to listen to the song, I realized I had no idea who was singing the song, as I’d never heard it in my life. I didn’t want to leave it a loose end, so I re-listened to the song, entered some of the lyrics in google, and found out it was by a group named SR-71. Then, the only mystery that remained is who put the song on our iTunes, but that was quickly resolved when my son said he did. I’m a regular Mister Marple! I’m also the one that added the Black Eyed Peas and Pearl Jam to our collection. I’m more open about liking one of those two bands. Can you figure out which?

Like many, The Breakfast Club led me to Simple Minds, and I purchased Glittering Prize,their greatest hits collection. “Alive and Kicking” is one of the more fun songs from the CD, and is great for that last push.

2.16 miles on the elliptical and weight work

  • All Again for You–We the Kings
  • All Alone by Myself–They Might Be Giants
  • All Along the Watchtower–Bob Dylan
  • All Along the Watchtower–U2
  • All Along the Watchtower–Dave Mathews Band
  • All Apologies–Nirvana
  • All Apologies (Live)–Nirvana
  • All Around Me–Flyleaf
  • All Around the World–Lisa Stansfield
  • All Around the World or The Myth of Fingerprints–Paul Simon
  • All Because of You–U2
  • All But One–Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

The free song of the week on iTunes can be a bit of a crapshoot, but “Check Yes Juliet” was a nice introduction to We The Kings. It led my daughter to borrowing one of their albums from a friend, so we now have their self-titled album in rotation. The tough thing about going through all the songs alphabetically is when you hit a 15-20 minute song (I’m looking at you Led Zeppelin). Depending on the positioning within a workout, it can lead to some tough decisions whether to extend your exercise time; not always possible if you have something else to do. The opposite type of song exists as well, and They Might Be Giants included more than a dozen of them on their Apollo 18 album. It’s fun to listen to that album (or the entire TMBG catalogue) in shuffle mode to have them serve as musical sorbets between their hits.

It’s strange that we own three different versions of “All Along the Watchtower,” and not one of them is the classic Jimi Hendrix version. Obviously having a version done by Dylan, the writer of the song, makes sense. The U2 version is from “Rattle and Hum,” for me the first indication that Bono’s ego had perhaps exploded like an apple inside his head (reference courtesy of last night’s Community). The third version, by the Dave Mathews Band, is from our new Amnesty International “Chimes of Freedom” compilation.

It’s hard to hear Nirvana and not think about what could have been if Kurt Cobain had not been lost to us. Hell, the release of the Live at Reading album a few years ago felt like an unexpected gift–the album was so raw and powerful. Both Flyleaf and Lisa Stansfield return with two very different styles of female vocalization. While it’s not an meant as an overall generalization, between these two artists and these two particular songs, I enjoy Stansfield a bit more.

Being a big Simon & Garfunkel fan, and listening to The Concert in Central Park with great regularity, I (perhaps incorrectly) felt that for the first several years of his solo career, Paul Simon was still writing Simon & Garfunkel songs–meaning “American Tune”, “Slip Slidin’ Away”, “Late in the Evening”, and so many others sounded better when performed by the duo. In my opinion, Graceland changed all that–while Art Garfunkel might be able to belt out the songs of this album as well, to me, it feels distinctly Paul Simon alone.

U2 returns with a second song, and speaking of U2 returning, I’ve heard that they’ve got a new album coming this year, and that Danger Mouse is producing it. This is a combination that has me very excited. I have to thank a former co-worker and the collapse of Borders for introducing me to Grace Potter. I used to constantly talk music with a friend and former co-worker named Sam, particularly when she’d give me a ride to the Stratford train station. She used to sing the praises of Grace Potter, eliciting a promise from me that I’d give her a listen. Fast forward a few months to me perusing a Borders during a going out of business sale, meaning I could get quite a deal of Potter’s Nothing But the Water album. As usual, Sam’s taste was spot on.