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October 2004

The Real 1985
October 1 2004 11:14 PM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Okay, I keep hearing that Bowling for Soup song "1985". I hear people raving about it, like it's the greatest thing evar. (Apparently written by the guys in SR-71.)

I can't stand the song.

I know it's supposed to be this fun pop-culture reference, but how did they blow it that badly? 1985 was probably the first year I really and truly loved. Maybe I was just paying attention and the songwriters weren't.

For starters, "Pretty in Pink" came out in 1986. There are plenty of memorable movies that came out in 1985 that would have been worth referencing instead. As a guy, I'd say Weird Science, The Goonies, and the hands-down winner amongst my peers: Back to the Future. (Not counting my latter-day favorites in Real Genius and Better Off Dead.) I know, the song's about a girl, so some of those wouldn't work. But there are many, many other choices. Even Sixteen Candles would have been closer, granted that it came out late in 1984. Other choices: IMDB: 1985 Movies.

Okay, Madonna, Duran Duran, Motley Crue, fine. U2 had a couple of minor hits prior to 1985, but really wasn't "huge" in the US until The Joshua Tree in 1987. (The older "cool kids" I knew listened to the live Under a Blood Red Sky.) Whatever. But Blondie? Went on hiatus in 1983. And, unlike today, popular radio in the mid-80s didn't play "old" songs (except in December and January, which was always my favorite time of the year for radio for that reason).

Better choices: Bryan Adams. Dire Straits. Culture Club. The Cars. Howard Jones. Ratt. Hall & Oates. Huey Lewis. Phil Collins. Prince.

That part is optional, honestly. The giant glaring flaw, however, is the line about "she was gonna shake her ass on the hood of Whitesnake's car". The reference is Tawny Kitaen on the hood of a couple of luxury cars in the video for Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again". Released in 1987. Oops.

And, see, if she knows about that, she's going to know about the "new Van Halen singer" because 5150 came out in 1986 (about a month after Pretty in Pink).

The video's no better. If you're going to parody George Michael in a video about 1985, dance around like a little priss in a "CHOOSE LIFE" t-shirt. The video for "Faith" didn't come out until 1988, and seemed like an effort to distance himself from his Wham! persona.

And, not that it matters, but when did Ozzy become an actor? In 1986. He had a small role in a cheezy horror flick called Trick or Treat. And he wasn't playing himself. (Regardless, does anybody consider his footage in The Osbournes to be "acting"?)

I know, I know, I'm taking this way too seriously. But how hard is it to write a song about a year and reference things that happened in that year?

Plus, the song just sucks, ignoring the lyrics.

Strangely, the Manic Street Preachers have a new song called "1985". (I doubt it'll get airplay here, but it's the lead-off track from their upcoming album.) And, even though I've only heard it a couple of times, wanna know what I like about it? It's actually reminiscent of the period. Musically, it doesn't sound that far from the synth-based stuff of that year. Which puts it about ten miles closer than Bowling for Soup.

So... how about that debate on Thursday? Yep, I pick the important topics of the day to rant about.

The Wake-Up Call
October 5 2004 02:32 PM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Okay, one of the (few) positives of my job is that I can pretty much make my own schedule. Granted that I've always been a late-night person, I tend to work into the morning hours and sleep later than the average person.

This morning, the plan got thwarted.

I wake up to the sound of some awful buzzing noise. It sounds similar to what my alarm clock sounds like when it's set to "buzzer", but I never set it to "buzzer" because it's a horrible way to wake up.

I roll over and eye the clock on my VCR, which reads 8:27.

It then dawns on me what this noise is.

The next-door neighbor is mowing his yard. At 8:27am on a Tuesday.

And his mower isn't making the usual push-mower sound. Rather than a nice low rumble, there's a distinct scraping noise that sounds like the blade is making contact with something inside the mower. Hence, the loud buzzing noise.

I try to go back to sleep. Normally, I think I could sleep through a mower. But that scraping noise sounds so much like my alarm clock that I get that adrenaline-surge re-awakening every time I fall back to sleep, like I'm late for something important.

I may have to smack him up-side the head the next time I see him. You know, if I actually knew the guy.

Letters from the Troops
October 6 2004 02:02 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)


Since earlier this year, Michael Moore has been receiving untold amounts of email from soldiers who are serving or have served in Iraq since the war started. He's compiled a book on them called Will They Ever Trust Us Again, which was released this week. The link above has a few excerpts.

I can't say I'm entirely a fan of Moore. I resented his overwhelming support for Nader in 2000, and I keep wondering whether his efforts this year are genuine or self-serving. (The true test will be if he sacrifices an Academy Award nomination to get Fahrenheit 9/11 shown on broadcast tv. By Academy rules, if a nominated film is first shown outside the US, it cannot be shown on any other medium within six months of its first theatrical release in Los Angeles. Moore debuted Fahrenheit 9/11 at Cannes, and it made its LA debut in June. He says he wants it shown on tv, but it remains to be seen how badly.)

However, I think Fahrenheit made some very interesting points, particularly when it covered the few interviews with troops in Iraq.

What makes these emails interesting to me is more than just the obvious. Soldiers aren't allowed to publicly disagree with the actions of their superiors, so risking disciplinary action to email Moore stands out. (I watched a Corporal in Iraq on CNN tonight completely dodge a question to avoid criticizing his superiors.) But it also provides a picture of what else is going on in Iraq beyond what's being shown on tv.

One notable email of that excerpt is the one from the soldier who was anticipating the end of his elistment but has been forced to stay by Bush's stop-loss order. I cannot imagine how many soldiers who might have spent their full careers in the military are now ready to escape thanks to the time spent in Iraq.

Of course, the cynic in me wonders if Moore is angling for another profit center, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

I'll add this: I cannot fathom the people who vocally and enthusiastically support the current administration. I can't figure out the angle to be that jubilant. I think if I were a Bush supporter, I would be subdued in my support, quietly hopeful that their promises of improvement in the next four years would be met.

Then again, I can't quite understand voting Republican at this point anyway. I would swear to you that there are a lot of people who vote Republican simply because they hope they'll one day be rich and powerful and want to get in the spirit while they're still broke. Kind of in the spirit of Satanists who worship Satan because they think we're all going to hell and they might as well get on Satan's good side now.

Comparing Republicans to Satanists? Hmm. Not quite the angle I was going for. But if it works for you, okay.

"If You Had Seen What I Have Seen"
October 12 2004 01:58 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)


Sadly, I remember seeing Scott Ritter (former UN weapons inspector in Iraq) on CNN back in March of 2003 insisting that Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction. I remember thinking to myself, "how does he know for sure?" and postulating that he was just siding with the Iraqis / the French / the Germans / his own politics / whoever. (Honestly, though I questioned Ritter, I was never 100% behind the war. I remember thinking that I didn't really care one way or the other whether we invaded. So closer to 50/50.)

So, here he is a year and a half later, and the Duelfer report shows that he was right. So I'm not at all upset in hearing his version of "I told you so".

The Flu Panic
October 19 2004 11:51 PM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Okay, I'm sure you all know about the shortage of flu vaccine. A bunch of people are freaking out. And, to be honest, it's pissing me off.

Not so much about the shortage, even though it's entirely stupid that it's happened. It's all of the BS political posturing and the panicky public.

Today, I saw Tommy Thompson, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, on CNN ranting about the shortage. Over the course of the thirty seconds I watched, he blamed the shortage on things that happened in the 90s (the rather common "Blame Clinton" model) and suggested that they should convene a major symposium to discuss the possibility of a "flu epidemic" thanks to the shortage.

If he were standing here, I'd smack him upside the head. All of that is fear-mongering BS.

If you really feel like blaming somebody for the shortage, blame the continuing shift of government services to the private sector under Republican leadership. I'm not saying that it's entirely a bad thing, or that the government should take over total control of providing flu vaccine. But when it comes to something of so much seeming importance, how hard would it be for the government to take a more active role? Why pass this off 100% to private companies?

Easy scenario: the government contracts with two or three private (US-based) companies to manufacture the vaccine. They order the number of doses they think are necessary. They then make those doses available to health care facilities at cost. Win-win for everybody: companies made some kind of reasonable profit, and a supply of vaccine is nearly guaranteed. (Goverment contract: see also Halliburton in Iraq.)

Oh, wait, but that sounds like nationalized medicine, doesn't it? Yeah, right. As obvious as it is that Medicare should be allowed to do the same for prescription drugs, I think it's reasonable to make an exception for something that the government thinks should be available to the majority of the population.

Oh, yeah, but making an exception there will lead to nationalized medicine. It's a "slippery slope"!! (Ugh.)

Seriously, though, is the current model working? If leaving it to the private sector is so brilliant, how come half of our supply is coming from abroad?

(I suspect that the US manufacturers are holding out for some of those lawsuit exemption laws that they're hoping Congress will pass. Meanwhile, the country suffers. Thumbs up once again to our phenomenal drug companies for looking out for the public good.)

Regardless, I don't think a flu vaccine shortage is the titanic catastrophe that some people are making it out to be.

For starters, the flu vaccine is only a few years old. Good lord, what did we ever do before there was a vaccine? Oh, yeah, we occasionally got the flu. The original intention of the vaccine was to cover at-risk groups who might die if they got the flu. With the rare exception of the mysteriously deadly versions of the flu (all of which pre-date the vast majority of our population), most of the common flu viruses will simply make you sick for a couple of weeks.

Honestly, I haven't taken the flu vaccine in my entire life. The last several years, a friend's mother has been freaking out trying to convince me to get the vaccine. And I haven't.

Why? Because pretty much every year, supplies are limited. When they first started offering the thing, they suggested that only the "at risk" groups should get it. As someone who works out regularly, eats (reasonably) healthily, and is in his late-20s, I certainly don't qualify as "at risk". Every year, I might get the flu. But there has been at least one year where my not taking the vaccine has meant one more person who might actually have been at risk got it.

And, by some fortunate grace of God (or just dumb luck), I haven't gotten the flu. (Though, now that I've written this, this will be the year.)

Fun fact: last year, the flu virus that most affected the country wasn't included in the vaccine. Yeah, so you might have have gotten the vaccine and still gotten the flu. You see, each year, they develop the vaccine based on what they expect to be the most commonly transmitted viruses, and, sometimes, they make an incorrect prediction. (See also: weather forecasters.)

As for me, I tend to get felled by laryngitis at least once a year, and it usually knocks me down for a couple of weeks. So it's not like a lack of flu vaccine is going to save you (or me) from getting sick at all.

I know that a lot of the BS is a combination of stupid people overreacting (which is normal) and the fact that the election is two weeks away.

But, good grief, this is ridiculous.

John Peel 1939-2004
October 26 2004 09:10 PM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Tuesday, we lost one of the true geniuses of modern radio. He broke more bands than you can possibly imagine, and the names are giant: The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Smiths, New Order...

I can't add much to what's been said elsewhere. What's most noteworthy is the music.

BBC Radio 1 (where he'd worked since its inception) spent Tuesday paying tribute to John through music. Fortunately, they archive their broadcasts for a week. Worth hearing (all commercial-free):

The Lockup, featuring a wide array of Peel's favorite songs.

Steve Lamacq, playing select tracks from the untold number of Peel Sessions that John recorded over the last thirty years, including Jimi Hendrix, Joy Division, Nirvana, and the Smashing Pumpkins.

The links should last until early Tuesday, 11/2.

(If you're worred about RealOne, the BBC negotiated a completely spyware-free version, which you can download here.)

Also, check out Radio 1's Webcast, as they're planning to use his time slot (6pm-8pm ET) Wednesday and Thursday to feature more Peel Session tracks.

The word "legend" is often mis-used, but John Peel is absolutely worthy of the title.


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