Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Sunny Day is Gift Enough

You may as well know, today's my birthday. Hooray for me! Anyway what's funny is that I had almost as many "Happy Birthday" emails from quasi-spam mailing lists as from actual friends this morning. Check it out:

I mean, even "Medianext Cron User" wished me well — just how many mailing lists am I on? And this doesn't count all the other birthday emails I got two days ago, since I often give a fake birth date when I sign up for stupid stuff. 

Anyway, a big thank you to all you real people who've sent kind emails and sweet phone calls my way. I'm grateful to have made it to Larry Bird territory with all of you in my life. (Sorry, getting mushy!) 

Since birthdays — and, well, blogs — are ripe opportunities for a little self indulgence, today's WOL Wednesday will be a pop quiz about yours truly. Ready? 

1. I'm turning ___ years old today. 

2. In college I majored in _____ but grew disillusioned with the industry after watching ____ games. 

3. My excise tax bill estimates the value of my 2004 Kia Rio to be $____. 

4. The number ___ can be linked to Syracuse, Barack Obama, and my address in North London circa 1998.

5. There are ___ people who will read this. 

(Answer key: 1. 33; 2. Advertising, NFL; 3. 950; 4. 44; 5. 2, thank you both!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Words and Music: Ten Thousand Candles

Today's song — one of only a dozen or so of mine that I'm still happy with, to be honest — takes us back to my scathing indictment of Andrew Jackson. I wrote this song around the time I learned about the Trail of Tears, though I didn't record it until years later.

This is a fine time to plug an excellent new American Experience series, called We Shall Remain, airing this month on WGBH — you can watch the Trail of Tears episode online and get learned!

Anyway, on to the chords and lyrics...

Ten Thousand Candles
© 2005 by Jon Gorey

Am: x02210
Em/B: x22000
C: 032010
F: 133211
G: 320003
Fmaj7: x33210
E7: 022130
G/B: x20003

Intro: Am | Em/B | C | F | Am | Em/B | C | G

(Am) Ten thousand (Em/B) candles burn (C) just for a (F) lesson learned
(Am) Ten thousand (Em/B) hopes inside of (C) me (G)
(Am) I try to (Em/B) see the true (C) like all good (F) people do
(Am) They say the (Em/B) truth will set you (C) free (G)

(FMaj7) Tonight I (Am) hold tight
(FMaj7) Afraid of what I might (E7) see

(Am) How in the (G/B) wake of our fears
(C) We leave a (F) trail of tears (Am Em/B C G)
(Am) Ten thousand (G/B) candles burn
(C) For every (F) cry we hear (Am Em/B C G)

Verse 2:
So many skins we've shed, denying lives we've led
As if we leave the past behind
But time like a circle turns, ghosts like the wind return
The haunting histories of our times
Tonight by candlelight
I close my eyes that I might see

Verse 3:
Inside a stranger's mind, it seems myself I find
Forgotten fears I recognize
With careful steps I tread upon the path ahead
Ten thousand candles light the sky
Tonight, impossible sunlight
I let the rapture carry me

Friday, April 24, 2009

Marketing Savvy

I just got a text message from Guinness, inviting me to join — him? it? — for a pint at the Irish Village after work (a block away from my office). 

A flurry of questions and thoughts sprang to mind:

1. What, are they reading my mind now?

2. That's pretty ingenious. 

3. And yet another example of life in our Crazy New World. 

4. In the span of 20 minutes I received happy hour invites from a good friend... and a beer. Granted, my favorite beer, but really just a marketing or brand rep from a giant corporation. I'm not even sure what to make of that, but it's a strange juxtaposition, right?

5. Finally, isn't this a slippery slope? I mean I love Guinness, and I'm typically a big proponent of a trip to the pub, but do people really need that extra nudge to go boozing? What if Johnnie Walker sent someone a text at 3pm on a Tuesday saying, "Hey fella, been a tough day, hasn't it? A smooth glass of blended whiskey would really take the edge off right now. Why don't you come whet your whistle at the (insert name of bar down the street)."

Anyway, I guess it falls under the banner of "event marketing" and not "corporate-sponsored alcohol abuse" since they're promoting the ceremonial first pour of a 250th Anniversary Stout. (Yum.) 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Words and Music: Streetcorner Song

Perhaps you've caught on to the fact that I'm trying to move anything of value from my archaic old site onto this shiny (and free, woohoo!) new blog. To that end, I'm going to start posting the lyrics and chords to some of my songs. For this inaugural edition, we'll do one of my old favorites.

Streetcorner Song

© 1996 by Jon Gorey

G: 320033
D/F#: 200233
C: x320013
Am: x02210
Bm: 224432
Em: 022000
D: x00232

Intro: G D/F# C G (X2)

Verse 1:
There's a [G] smiling man singing [D/F#] loud as he can
On the [C] corner of the [G] street
His [G] hands are cold and he's [D/F#] growing old
But [C] he still taps his [G] feet.
He's [G] playing a song he's [D/F#] known so long
That it [C] brings him back in [G] time.
He knows [G] some of the words but he's [D/F#] not too sure
So [C] he just makes it [G] rhyme.

[Am] His eyes have [Em] seen the [Bm] hardest [Em] times
[Am] His mother [Em] ran away and [Bm] left him [D] behind
[Am] Still he [Em] knows how to [Bm] make you [Em] smile
[Am] If you [Em] just stop and [Bm] listen for a [D] while

He says, [G] "I've [D/F#] seen it [C] all be[G]fore
[G] Every[D]body always [C] wanting [G] more.
[G] Some people [D/F#] wish their [C] lives [G] away
[G] I'm [D/F#] happy where I [C] am to[G]day."

Verse 2:
A passer-by in a suit and tie
Comes and asks him why he sings
He says, "You got no home and you're all alone
You've barely got anything."
The man just laughs, says,
"What I have is a world of simplicity.
The sun is high and I feel alright
And God'll take care of me.

Don't see no reason for wasting time
Worrying my soul away for another dime
This world around us all can make you want to smile
If you just stop and live it for a while."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why I Almost Failed U.S. History

Near the end of college — second semester of senior year, the home stretch — I signed up for U.S. History: 1620–1865. I needed the social science credits and I thought, come on, I'm from Boston... I learned all of this in the second grade. This will be a piece of cake!

And it was easy... up until John Adams or so. After that — well, how much do you know about the early 1800s? Yeah, that's what I thought. So I had to start "reading the material" and "attending class" and whatnot. I learned some stuff. 

My professor was in love with our 7th president, Andrew Jackson. Some people think he's awesome: he was a POW in the Revolutionary War at like age 13, he was a bigshot military hero in the War of 1812; some say he stood for democracy and the common man. Whatever. Andrew Jackson was a first-class dick. There, I said it. 

This guy championed Indian removal, most notably forcing 15,000 Cherokee Indians clear across the country to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears (4,000+ died). The Supreme Court ordered the whole thing wrongful and illegal, and you know what? He ignored the decision altogether, publicly taunting the Chief Justice (not to mention our entire system of checks and balances), and forced them out anyway.  

(What a dick, right?)

And here he is on our $20 bill. Which by now I'd wager is the most commonly used bill in circulation. I mean, that's prime real estate — most ATMs don't even dispense anything else. George Washington, hero of our nation's war for independence and first great leader, is stuck on the buck. Can't even get a cup of coffee with George. Abraham Lincoln, the man who ended U.S. slavery and saved the union, at least gets the five, which is still my favorite bill. But his penny is certainly in danger of extinction or irrelevance. 

This brings us to today's Top Five Thursday list. 

Top Five Nominees to Replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 Bill

1. Harriet Tubman. (Note from the future: Good grief, President Obama announced this like a decade ago and we're still waiting, largely because that Andrew Jackson-loving Trump — also a Grade A racist dickhead, of course he admired AJ — put a halt to it.

2. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Possibly the greatest role model in U.S. history. Just looking at his sincere, kind, serious face, and remembering his legacy makes me a better person. Better than looking at stupid Andrew Jackson and his wild warrior mane every day.

3. An artist, please! How about Elvis Presley, Ella Fitzgerald, Henry David Thoreau, Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, John Steinbeck, Louis Armstrong, Walter Cronkite, Maya Angelou (note from the future: glad to see this is actually happening, at least on a quarter!) Bob Dylan, Walt Disney...? Although paying with Disney dollars might feel a little fake. Except in Disney World, obviously. 

4. An amazing woman like Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, or Susan B. Anthony? At the very least, let's finally normalize using Sue B. Anthony dollars, I love coins. 

5. Lyndon Johnson or FDR. If we must stick with presidents, these guys had their flaws but were pretty instrumental in establishing a lot of the best things we take for granted in America. (Note from the future: or at least, stuff we used to take for granted, before the rise of Trumpism.) I'd seven ettle for Teddy Roosevelt. Or how about John Adams or John Quincy Adams, the only ones among the first dozen presidents not to own slaves? (JQA was wildly underrated, I've come to realize.)

Oh, as for the title of this post: Our final exam was an essay question about the professor's sweetheart, Andrew Jackson. I laid into him. My answer was scathing, vile... probably full of profanity, too. I got a D, but whatever, I was graduating whether that dick Andrew Jackson liked it or not. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Face Donation (Ick)

I'm an organ donor myself, and you really have to respect what this guy and his family agreed to do (if you're too lazy to read the article, a man who died during open-heart surgery donated his face — his face! — to someone who was badly disfigured in an accident, marking the second-ever face transplant). 

But the whole thing just makes me really, really squeamish. I'm not what you'd call "ER-ready." When I was a kid, I fainted on the kitchen floor after losing a tooth and seeing my own blood. 

So... the idea of a doctor surgically lifting off a whole face, and sewing it onto someone else, with like, yuck!, the goopy, bloody tissue and stuff... ooof. I'm feeling a little sick. There are also the philosophical questions this begs — like, now this man's widow might actually see her late husband walking around town (or at least his face)... I mean, that's kind of freaky, right? To be honest, it's an interesting kind of extended mortality. 

It also makes me remember that stupid movie Face/Off — which, despite having built an entire film off the premise of a face transplant, didn't address the philosophical or scientific questions raised by such a procedure — by stupid over-hyped slow-motion director John Woo, with stupid Nic Cage and John Travolta, just as they began to make one crap film after another. Also, Scientology. 

Wow, I got really off-topic there, and kind of fired up for a minute. Let's just calm down. 

So today's Write-On Line Wednesday activity is a Mad Lib. We'll need:

1. plural noun 
2. plural noun 
3. adverb
4. adjective
5. verb
6. adjective

Ready? Fill in your answers below (adapted from an IMDB user comment):

"I consider John Woo to be one of the greatest (1._______ ) in the world, and Face/Off proves just that. However, the element that makes this film one of the most intense and spectacular (2.______) to ever come from Hollywood is the presence of two (3.______) talented actors, both of whom are (4._______). Yes, when you (5.______) John Travolta and Nicolas Cage together in a movie, the results are bound to be (6._______)."

Mine came out like this:

"I consider John Woo to be one of the greatest nitwits in the world, and Face/Off proves just that. However, the element that makes this film one of the most intense and spectacular humdingers to ever come from Hollywood is the presence of two gently talented actors, both of whom are corrupt. Yes, when you heave John Travolta and Nicolas Cage together in a movie, the results are bound to be hot."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Cold Pizza Conundrum

Like many of you out there, my wife loves cold pizza. I, however, do not. I don't know what my deal is; perhaps my years of suckling at the school cafeteria's teat (it was just as gross as it sounds) left me conditioned to eat a hot lunch each day. But anyway, when we have pizza leftovers for lunch, she's all set, while I'm at the mercy of whatever heat source I can find. 

At work, that amounts to a microwave, which in turn amounts to a hot sludge of chewy dough and tomato sauce for lunch. (For the record I still prefer said sludge to cold pizza.)

So, here's my question: what's with no toaster ovens? There are like 900 people here! My last workplace didn't have them either. I mean, I get that they're a bit of a fire hazard; I understand why we couldn't keep them in our dorm rooms at school. (Odds of the oft-inebriated populace of freezing-cold Syracuse, NY, trying to stuff socks, hats, limbs, etc. inside their toaster ovens? Alarmingly high.) 

But come on, this is an office building! We're all grown ups here, are we not? 

I guess I'll eat my hot sludge and like it. Actually, come to think of it — Tuesday was pizza day in elementary school, and it didn't look much different! Yum. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

WOL Wednesdays

God, I hate acronyms. Is there anything more soul-sucking than trying to decipher a line of acronym-laden buzzword jargon or a teenager's text message? 

Working in public broadcasting certainly involves using an unfortunate amount of acronyms  — hell, the whole industry begins at TV and FM — but it still (gratefully) doesn't compare to my days in textbook publishing.  {{{shudder}}}

Which brings us to our new theme day. WOL is a publishing speak for a write-on line, like you'd have in a classroom workbook: Jane goes to the ____. 

So from now on Wednesdays will be Write-On Line Day. We'll have quizzes, and mad libs, and lots of fun. Hooray beer! 

Here's your first exercise. Complete these sentences from today's article about Phish's upcoming show at Fenway:

1. The Green Monster is getting ______. 
a) higher    b) scaly     c) greener

2. Phish announced a May 31 concert at Fenway Park on Monday, one of a handful of shows the Vermont ______ added to its summer tour. 
a) corporation      b) ambassador     c) jamband    

3. The Phish foursome reunited last month in Hampton, Va., after nearly five years ____.
a) off      b) sleeping    c) soloing in G# minor     

You probably don't need an answer key. Although, "scaly"? Really? That's pretty lame, guys.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Opening Day sung to the A-Team theme song:

O-pening Day! 
Oh-pen-ing Day
O-pen-ing Day! 
Oh-peh-nee-ing Day
(repeat ad nauseam)

So, yeah, I get that in my head about once a year. But this year, it's happened twice, since the opener was rained out yesterday. Honestly, can you imagine the caliber of politicking and/or bribery that takes place behind the scenes at MLB to allow a season opener in Boston (or any other cold-weather city)? Especially when we're playing TAMPA! It's not like they had to pick the warmer option between Boston and Cleveland. They could have played yesterday's game, and today's, in Florida — indoors nonetheless! Instead, Josh Beckett will be pitching through full body numbness and the Fenway Faithful will be drinking themselves into, or perhaps out of, hypothermia. 

But in any event... baseball's back, and therefore so is spring (whether it's obvious or not), and for the second time in three days I find myself trying not to throw up from all the excitement. 

Play ball!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Notes on a Weekend

Friday night we attended a classical choral concert, drank wine in the basement of a Back Bay church, and rediscovered the joy of Uno's — or, more specifically, their draft beer special.

You see, a couple of years ago, fed up with the $5-and-up beer policy of Back Bay establishments, we started frequenting Uno's on Friday nights — where they had $2 Killian's drafts (22 oz. at that) and a half-price appetizer menu. The appetizers grew old real quickly (think lots of fried cheese), but there was something special about spending an entire night drinking downtown, and finally receiving the bill.... for $12.

Word got out and a bunch of us started going to Uno's nearly every week for months, without shame. Eventually, $2 turned into $2.50, Killian's turned into Michelob, and that was that. But it was quite a run; I have to give that damned chain restaurant its props. It's not a half bad bar!

And so in desperation on Friday night, seeking respite for a dozen thirsty people, we turned to Uno's. And what do you know? It saved the day. They've dropped Michelob in favor of Rolling Rock and that's not a bad thing (though to be fair to the Mick, I have been enjoying their new somewhat craftier beers, e.g. Porter, Dunkel Weisse, Amber Bock, etc.), and while the price is now up to $2.79 it sure beats a $14 martini at Vox Populi.

Other points of interest:

• On Saturday night, coming home from a friend's house, we got stopped in a massive state police "sobriety checkpoint." What? Crazy. There were at least 15 troopers and a logjam of cars. We got through just fine, but old instincts die hard... nothing freaks me out like a state trooper at the window. 

• I can't believe how much I disliked Pineapple Express. I mean, I'm a big fan of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen, the whole gang. The previews looked great. It should have been a layup, right? Gave it 1 star on Netflix. 

• We walked for miles around our neighborhood on Sunday and discovered a kickin' park down the street — with an amphitheater! And a pavilion style picnic area with a BBQ pit, gorgeous baseball fields, view of the ocean... the whole works. I was out of my mind delighted about it. Gina kept joking with me not to get so excited that I throw up. (I didn't.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Unpaid Vacation and Other Perks

So tomorrow I'm attending a tiling workshop at the Boston Building Materials Co-op. (I like taking classes and pretending I'm handy, so it's a good fit for me.) I'm gonna learn how to tile the hell out of our ugly kitchen — you'll see. We're planning a low-budget overhaul (I'd like to take a moment to thank our official sponsor, the Federal Housing Tax Credit for First-Time Home Buyers), and it's looking like it may be even lower budget than initially planned, since here at work we're being forced to take an unpaid week off sometime this summer. 

You know what that means, right? 

Meet our new contractor! 


What do you think — it's a small kitchen, only 10' x 10' including doorways and windows... can we strip it down, replace all our cabinets and countertops, install a dishwasher, paint the walls, and tile the floor for $3,000–4,000? I guess we'll find out!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Building Bridges

Henceforth (! I just used henceforth, awesome), Thursday is going to be Top Five Day. Because by this point in the week, I'm pretty much scattered and need some structure to rein in my mind's wanderings.

Today's Top Five is about bridges. Not the cutesy covered kind in N.H., or the engineering marvels made of steel and cable, but song bridges. (Quick lesson, if you don't give much thought to music: a bridge is a departure from the song structure, a little something to shake things up about mid-to-three-quarters of the way into a song; not every song has one.)

Top Five Best Bridges (ha, better than stupid Nash Bridges)

5. Rocketscience - Day or Night
Man I miss this band. Andy Galdins sure had some velvet pipes. Anyway this bridge puts the breaks on the song and starts with a throbbing pulse, builds up in momentum, and delivers the genius line, "You could touch me a thousand times, and I won't even tell your boyfriend."

4. Radiohead - Creep
The soaring, belted-out break in Creep is the high point of the whole song and probably the very notes that put Radiohead on the map in the first place. I get teary-eyed just listening to a college cover band play this bridge. It steals the song.

3. Will Dailey - I Have to Get You Off of My Mind
Now this — this is a bridge. An honest to goodness bridge isn't really the focal point or climax of a song; rather, it sets up the crescendo. The music and lyrics here arrest your ears, ramp up, and crash into the final verse, complete with haunting violin. It makes for gut-wrenching beauty.

2. Weezer - El Scorcho / Holiday / Say It Ain't So
(What, you can't have three in one spot? Whatever, it's my list. Make your own list if you want.) Rivers Cuomo is a student of pop of course, so it shouldn't be a surprise. In El Scorcho, the bridge jumps into hyperactive double-time and he unleashes the Pinkerton passion; in Holiday, it slows down into a '50s doo wop/barbershop breakdown that builds into a slamming final chorus; and in Say It Ain't So, the jagged rhythms punctuate the lyrics — which complete the story.

1. Beatles - A Day in the Life
I never knew it until recently, but I guess this is the part of the song that Paul McCartney wrote. I love it; it's like a song within a song, and yet it fits in seamlessly... a mundane morning that melts into the more surreal, epic theme of the song and offers some chiaroscuro. Plus I love a bus with an upstairs. (An upstairs that you can have a smoke in, no less! Isn't it something how crazy that sounds now?)

And for the record? My favorite bridge of mine is the one in Ambush.

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