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.



Live Versions, Duplicates, and Dance Remixes

As regular readers will remember, I pledged to walk 2 miles for each victory of the Red Sox season in addition to any gym visits I had. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 2012 World Series–the Red Sox became a mediocre team. Honestly, I can take a .500 season–it’s unrealistic to expect the playoffs every year and after two World Series victories in 4 years after nothing my entire life, I can be patient, particularly if something better is being built. But this team is so unlikable. It started in the off-season with the hatchet job the Sox did on Terry Francona after they let him go; he skippered the team to 2 World Championships including the biggest comeback in the history of the sport against our most hated rivals, so how about a little dignity on the way out? They compounded that with the hiring of a self-serving blowhard who seems to think people follow a team to watch him and not the players on the field. Combine that with a tone-deaf front office and jerk players, and this is far and away the most unlikable Red Sox team of my lifetime, topping the “25 players, 25 cabs” squads of the later 70’s. But a promise is a promise and I’m more than 10 wins behind so I’ve done some bonus walking recently, and one of those walks is covered today.

2+ mile walk to commemorate Red Sox victory #43 of the 2012 season

  • Crank That (Soulja Boy)–Soulja Boy
  • Crank That (Soulja Boy)–Soulja Boy
  • Crash–Sum 41
  • Crash & Burn–Blues Traveler
  • Crash And Burn–The Bangles
  • Crash Course–Crash Test Dummies
  • Crash Into Me–Dave Mathews Band
  • Crash Years–The New Pornographers
  • Crawl–Breaking Benjamin
  • Crawl–Kings of Leon

We all have those “I used to like that song? Really?” spotty moments in our past history, and for my son, Soulja Boy is a shining example of that phenomenon. Now to be fair, “Crank That” was a big hit when he was in middle school and everyone in his peer group, including his twin sister, were into the song, but I think he really looks at the track as a past embarrassment, unlike a Sum 41, which starts the “Crash…” section of the playlist. The rest of the “Crash…” songs come from artists beloved by either my wife or me, starting with the boys from Blues Traveler. They’re a band my wife likes and they are apparently the more informal band, as they put an ampersand between “crash” and “burn” as opposed to the Bangles, who decided to spell out “And”.  I can’t be the only one surprised that Canadian superstar band (nominated for 11 Juno Awards!) Crash Test Dummies haven’t hit it bigger here in the US…I can’t be the only one that understands I’m kidding, right? If I’m looking to get invested in a Canadian group finding greater US success, I’d rather see the last “Crash…” band, New Pornographers, reach those heights. Squeezed between those two Canadian bands is Dave Mathews.

For the last two songs on my walk list, I got two versions of songs with the single-word title “Crash” from bands in my kids’ wheelhouses. I think of the two, I prefer the Breaking Benjamin entry.

3.00 miles on the elliptical machine plus upper-arm weight work at the gym

  • Crawl Back (Under My Stone) [live]–Richard Thompson
  • Crawl Back (Under My Stone)–Richard Thompson
  • Crawling to the USA–Elvis Costello
  • Crawling to the USA–Elvis Costello
  • Crazy–Barenaked Ladies
  • Crazy–Gnarls Barkley
  • Crazy–Gnarls Barkley
  • Crazy–Icehouse
  • Crazy ‘Midnight Mix’–Icehouse
  • Crazy 12″ Mix–Icehouse
  • Crazy Amanda Bunkface–Sum 41
  • Crazy As Me–Alison Krause
  • Crazy Dream–Los Lonely Boys

Not a ton of variety on today’s gym list, as the first 10 tracks are actually five songs with repeats thanks to live versions, duplicates, and dance remixes. When my kids were young, my wife was always looking to expose them to good music, rather than Raffi and other kids-only artists,a plan I heartily supported. While my attempts were artists that could serve as intermediate steps between kids’ and adult music (like They Might Be Giants before they released kids’ albums), my wife just played artists regardless of their positioning. One album that the kids heard often in the car and at home was Richard Thompson’s Mock Tudor. From that, my son loved “Crawl Back” most of all, and would even sing along in the back of the vehicle. It seems like we own multiple copies of every Elvis Costello song thanks to deluxe double remastered CDs that contain early versions, sound checks, live presentations, and more. As I always mention, this plethora of Elvis songs is more of a boon to my wife more than me.

Now, it’s time to get “Crazy…” We own several songs that start with “Crazy…” and the word will also begin my next list, but things begin with three different artists hitting the one-word song title. Ironically, I was unaware that Barenaked Ladies had a song with that title, even though I’m a big fan of the group. It may just be that I haven’t paid enough attention to their first album, Gordon. Forgive the tangent, but when my kids get fortune cookies at Chinese restaurants, they have a little silly tradition (no, not adding “…in bed” to the end of their fortunes). When they get a Chinese word on the back of the fortune, they say you have to “say the word while acting the word out”. The reason I bring this up is that my wife is a big fan of the Gnarls Barkley song “Crazy” and when she discovered the song years ago, she was busy working on a freelance editorial project. While working, she would play the song on repeat on iTunes, and the song’s count got up over 200 in less than a week. I’d call that listening to the song while acting it out, wouldn’t you?

The last “Crazy” comes from one of my guilty-pleasure artists and albums, Man of Colors by Icehouse. I do love every original song on the album, but I do feel like the second and third versions of “Crazy” that come at the end of the album, the “Midnight Mix” and the “12” mix” feel like album filler at best. I’m not sure that this song is the type that needs dance mixes and multiple versions, but maybe that’s just crazy talk. Of my last three songs, the one that’s grown on me the most is the Alison Krause number from her Lonely Runs Both Ways album, which is squeezed between Sum 41 and Los Lonely Boys.