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.



Pretending to be Zac Efron

Another month is here and it’s another opportunity to push my exercise routine and hopefully finish the “B”s. That’s actually my secondary wish. My primary desire is that I obtain gainful employment before the month ends, so I can go back to enjoying three-day weekends just in time for Independence Day (the holiday, not the movie).

June 1, 2012

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

  • Breakdown–Breaking Benjamin
  • Breakdown–Guns ‘N Roses
  • Breakdown–Scars On 45
  • Breaker Breaker–Peter Bjorn and John
  • Breakfast in America–Supertramp
  • Breakfast in Bed–Train
  • Breakin’ At The Cracks–Colbie Caillat
  • Breakin’ Up–Rilo Kiley
  • Breakin’–The All-American Rejects
  • Breaking Free–High School Musical Cast
  • Breaking Free [instrumental version]–High School Musical Cast
  • Breaking Point–Eric Clapton
  • Breaking The Girl–Red Hot Chili Peppers

Just as I closed yesterday with multiple interpretations of a single-word title, I open today with three (instead of two) versions of “Breakdown.” The first is the most obvious, as a group named Breaking Benjamin doing a song that begins with “Break…” (In fact, it’s so obvious that this is the second Breaking Benjamin song to begin that way, as I got one yesterday.) The Guns ‘N Roses “Breakdown” is a 7+ minute opus from the Use Your Illusion CDs, and once again, seemed like a no-brainer as Axl, Slash, and company seem like the type that would “break” things. The last “Breakdown” is the most recent and my favorite of the three, a Scars on 45 single from their self-titled album release this past April. This song was the free iTunes song of the week awhile back and I was already hearing Scars on 45 on our local alternative radio station and liking what I was hearing, downloading this song convinced me to get the entire album.

The Peter Bjorn and John song makes me think of my childhood. Not the sound–they are distinctly modern–but the title. I remember there being a bit of a CB radio craze in the late 70’s with music (“Convoy”), movies (the Smokey and the Bandit series) and TV (BJ and the Bear) among those contributing, and I remember if we’d play CB radio, you had to start your transmitions with “breaker, breaker…” (or “breaker 1-9…”). Keeping the 70’s theme was Supertramp with “Breakfast in America”, a song today’s kids more readily know as “Cupid’s Chokehold”. I hadn’t heard the Train song before, but really enjoyed it. The same can be said for just about any Colbie Caillat song–her voice is just soothing and enjoyable; it’s the embodiment of Light FM.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I’d read that Rilo Kiley is no more, which adds a level of sad irony to their song “Breakin’ Up”–it is clearly written about a romantic coupling, but there’s really no reason the lyrics cannot be about a musical bond as well. I guess that makes all of us music fans the children of this messy musical divorce.  I’d say that happily for my kids in particular, the All-American Rejects are still together, but currently none of them are into the band these days. That can obviously change, as we all have musical acts that, while I don’t want to say that we fall in and out of love with them, we do have periods when we listen to their songs intently and other periods where we ignore them.  For some acts, they are lost forever.

I’m guessing that “Breaking Free” was considered one of the big hits from the first High School Musical as our CD of the soundtrack had two versions. I got to hear the normal (with lyrics) version first before then getting an instrumental version (according to the description, it is a karaoke track, so if I ever want to break out the karaoke machine we got some years back as a Christmas present, I could do my best Zac Efron impersonation, and who wouldn’t want that? Luckily I got to close things with an Eric Clapton song from him Journeyman CD and an awesome Red Hot Chili Peppers number. Perhaps I should pretend to be a member of the Peppers, but then again, I think it would be better for everyone if I kept my shirt on.


And I ask, how much more black could this list be? And the answer is none. None more black.

Another pretty exciting milestone today–this is my 50th post since starting the blog in mid-March. I’m thinking about providing links for the songs to iTunes, which would allow readers to easily sample the listings and decided if they’d like to add them to their collection.

May 9, 2012

  • Black–Pearl Jam
  • Black & White World–Elvis Costello
  • Black & White World–Elvis Costello
  • Black 47–Black 47
  • Black and White–Jackson Browne
  • Black Book–Peter Bjorn and John
  • Black Cadillac–Rosanne Cash
  • Black Cat–Janet Jackson
  • Black Coffee in Bed–Squeeze
  • Black Cowboys–Bruce Springsteen
  • Black Dahlia [live]–Hollywood Undead
  • Black Dahlia–Hollywood Undead
  • Black Diamond–The Replacements
  • Black Diamond–YOSHIKI

The next considerable chunk of my list (if you couldn’t already tell) is “Black…” songs, starting with the single-word song from Pearl Jam’s debut album, Ten. If you have Netflix instant, I’d highly recommend watching Cameron Crowe’s documentary Pearl Jam Twenty. The older footage from the band’s early years is comprehensive and amazing. Two copies of another Elvis Costello song followed, then I got two thirds of an elusive triple with the song “Black 47” by the band Black 47. That is not the album name however, so close, but no cigar. Despite that, it’s a great song that tells the story of the band’s early history.

Jackson Browne chooses both colors, black and white, as opposed to Michael Jackson (who I believe I’ll hear later on), who makes us choose either black or white. People may know Peter Bjorn and John’s most recent album from the use of the instrumental opening of “Second Chance” as the theme to 2 Broke Girls. I hope this doesn’t dissuade you from listening to the entire album (Gimme Some). It’s worth it. Two distinctive female singers follow with the daughter of Johnny Cash, Rosanne, singing about a “Black Cadillac” (a car I’d prefer owning to Springsteen’s pink version) and the pop tune “Black Cat” by Janet Jackson.

Still deciding what additional Squeeze album I should add to my collection, a decision that moves up in priority ever time I hear one of their hits, like “Black Coffee in Bed”. It’s been a little while since I’ve heard a Springsteen song, and like many of his best, “Black Cowboys” tells a moving story, and you have to listen to it multiple times to truly appreciate it. I only heard it on the list once, unlike the Hollywood Undead number “Black Dahlia”, of which we own both studio and live recordings.

I’ve said many times that I like covers of original songs to take the piece in a new direction, and no one understood that better than YOSHIKI (all caps is how it shows up on my iPod) when he covered the Kiss song “Black Diamond” for the tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved. This song has been turned into an orchestral instrumental piece, amazing on its own, but particularly noteworthy when compared to the original. It’s so unique that at first I didn’t realize that the previous track on this list by The Replacements was also a cover of the same song. Now that is bringing some creativity to your industry.