Monday, January 31, 2011

Songs I like by bands I don't

First, the ground rules: These are not one-hit wonders. On the contrary, these are songs by many of the biggest bands from the past 25 years.
They are huge. They have multi-platinum albums, sell-out crowds and groupies! Groupies! Groupies!
They’ve just never done a thing for me.
I won’t attend their shows. I don’t own their music. If I was at a party that was playing their songs exclusively I’d split for a bar with a cheap jukebox.
I’ve sat there with persuasive friends who’ve tried to cheerlead me into enjoying these bands. It never works.
I figured this would be a good way to start out a week that looks like it’ll be dominated with talk about the Super Bowl, the Steelers, and which cities should or should not be allowed to host a Super Bowl. Blog tease: New York City in 2013 is a historically bad idea.
So here you go. Feel free to call me a tasteless moron and suggest songs that’ll sway me.
With each band, I’m offering a suitable alternative.
• Moody Blues -- “Nights in White Satin” is maybe my least favorite song of all time. I used to really dislike it when I mistakenly thought it was “Knights in White Satin,” which I thought was worse than just a bad song: it was bad advice for war-bound knights. Maybe that’s why I like the song, “Your Wildest Dreams.” It’s catchy and unpretentious. Preferred alternative: Electric Light Orchestra
• One of my favorite rock stories, likely untrue, is that Mick Jagger was trying to steal a girlfriend of Steven Tyler’s and said, “Why would you want that fake Mick Jagger when you can have the real thing?” In rock terms, this enormous band is RC Cola, the Stones are Coke -- although it’s apparent from Keith Richards’s new autobiography that coke is one thing integral to both bands. I like their old stuff -- “Dream On,” “Walk This Way” -- but I liked the stuff they were doing in the late 1980s and early '90s. That would be “What It Takes,” “F.I.N.E.,” and “Janie’s Got a Gun.” And, way to go, Tyler, by accepting a judging position on “American Idol,” you’ve forever squashed whatever cool you and the band ever had. Soon they’ll be rocking the Caribbean cruise ships. Preferred alternative: Take a wild guess.
• David Bowie -- He represents a strain of androgynous British pseudo-rockers that’s never appealed to me. I like “Changes” and “Young Americans,” but my favorite Bowie song is “Modern Love,” from 1983. I like him better in half doses than all by himself. I love “Under Pressure,” the 1981 song he did with Queen and he’s oddly compelling with Bing Crosby in their compelling duet of “Little Drummer Boy.” Preferred alternative: Queen.
• Grateful Dead -- All my stoner friends were disappointed whenever I didn’t chuck my comfortable life and follow them on a smelly roadtrip that would derail what little ambition I ever had. I just don’t like jam bands. Plus, I’ve always found any band with more than one drummer to be visually jarring. Keith Moon wouldn’t have stood for it. But I do like the songs, “Hell in a Bucket” and “Touch of Grey.” Preferred alternative: The Brian Setzer Orchestra.
• The Doors -- Maybe the most overrated band in the history of music. Still, I like “Roadhouse Blues.” I can see why people like them. I just can’t see why people like them so much. Preferred Alternative: The Monkees
• Pink Floyd -- I can’t dance, but I like music that makes me wish I could. This makes me wish I were in a coma and with “Comfortably Numb,” my favorite of theirs, it seems like that’s what they were aiming for. I like “Wish You Were Here,” too, but this stuff’s not for me. Preferred alternative: “The Andy Griffith Show,” featuring White Floyd, i.e. Floyd the barber.
• Led Zeppelin -- Didn’t like it in high school when it was aimed right at guys like me. Don’t like it now. The music’s just too screechy. Plant’s shrill and I just don’t like the idea of Englishmen doing American blues. We have that covered. But I do like “Fool in the Rain” and, yes, “Stairway to Heaven.” Preferred alternative: Muddy Waters. 
• Nirvana -- XM radio has dedicated stations for each decade from the 40’s through the ‘90s. I have buttons for every decade except the ‘90s because I believe rock music peaked in 1971 (“Exile on Main Street,” “Who’s Next”) and ended in 1986. Kurt Cobain fits in this list dominated by people who took themselves far too seriously. And I can’t relate to the tortured genius aspect of his brief life. I’m not tortured and display no apparent genius. I do like the song “All Apologies.” Preferred alternative: Todd Snider & the Nervous Wrecks.
• Van Halen -- Like Rod Stewart, Eddie Van Halen has spent the past 10 years rendering his best years unlistenable. I like the rock of it, but the David Lee Roth years were just too campy for me. And Eddie’s playing was too bombastic. I now remember their videos for the tuneful “Jump” and “Hot for Teacher” more than the music. Preferred alternative: Van Halen, the Sammy Hagar Years. 
• R.E.M. -- For years I heard stories about this great underground band. Then they surfaced and I was eager to see them submerge again. Happily, that’s exactly what they’ve done. They’ve never lived up to the hype and seemed eager to avoid it altogether. They’re now becoming more famous for lead singer Michael Stipe showing up on the party circuit wearing weird hats. The song, “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?” is a dandy, though, about what Dan Rather said an attacker kept asking him during a 1986 mugging. Preferred alternative: Silence.

Friday, January 28, 2011

America needs more quitters

The football world is abuzz that Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler exaggerated an injury and quit on his team.
It happened Sunday in the NFC Championship game against the victorious Green Bay Packers.
Only Jay Cutler knows if he’s a quitter. 
But I can divine from the chatter who the losers are. They are the meatballs in Chicago and across the sports world who disparage the art of a really well-timed quit.
First, let’s begin by piling on distraught Chicago fans. I correctly predicted they’d never make it to the Super Bowl.
They’re fond of boasting about their toughness and how they’d never quit.
That’s true. They never quit whining.
My theory is the Windbag City will never win another championship until they make right with Steve Bartman.
He was a lifelong Cubs fan (and, thus, a likely mental defective) who is blamed for the Cubs losing the 2003 National League Championship Series after disrupting a potential foul ball out by Cubs outfielder Moises Alou.
It would have been the second out of the eighth inning of game 6. Instead, the opposing Florida Marlins went on to win with an assist by a misfielded ball by feckless Cub shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
Security had to escort him from Wrigley Field, he received death threats, since disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested he enter the witness protection program and Florida Governor Jeb Bush further enraged frosty Chicago fans by offering Bartman sunny asylum amidst the orange groves.
Bartman had to flee Chicago, his job and a life he loved. More than seven years later, the incident still galls.
In 2008, Alou, five years after it would have done any good, told the Associated Press: “You know the funny thing is, I never would have caught that ball anyway.”
Here’s a thought: Bartman should have quit being a Cubs fan long before the franchise set the standard for futility by going 102 years without a championship.
Cutler is now the target of similar scorn. Many players, in particular big mouth Deion Sanders, have said Cutler lacked heart and quit on his team.
I wish Sanders and others of his ilk would quit speaking into live microphones.
Quitting is underappreciated. Too many people keep going on and on when I wish they would have quit years and years ago.
I recently wrote about how Robert DeNiro should have quit in 1995 right after Martin Scorcese said, “Cut!” on “Casino.” Did you see his speech at the Golden Globes? It was a mumbling disgrace.
How about Rod Stewart? Has any artist done more to betray his musical legacy than Stewart has with this treacly cash grab that is known as the “Great American Songbook” saga, now in its, gadzooks, fifth volume.
He should have quit after 1989 and “Downbound Train,” or to be really safe, he should have quit the second someone approached him and said, “Rod, babe, we have this great song for you to record. This song will earn you industry-wide respect. It’s called, ‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.’”
The morons of professional football seem particularly enamored with the no-quit culture. They think men who play football are the toughest men on the planet.
They are confusing themselves with professional hockey players.
Want an example of a really tough guy who should have quit in 2006, which, coincidentally, was the first time he quit.
Brett Favre.
We won’t remember his records. We’ll only remember his graceless departure, er departures.
Muhammad Ali should have quit in 1975 after the Thrilla in Manilla.
The U.S. should have quit Vietnam in 1963 and Robert E. Lee should have quit at Gettysburg.

Me, I’ve quit so many things it’s like I’m always just getting started.
I’ve only had three adult jobs in my professional life -- and one of them was at the Pizza Hut.
I cold quit the others, one a newspaper in Nashville in 1989, the other a newspaper in Greensburg, Pa., in 1992.
Just up and quit.
With the exception of stability, prestige, regular income and peer respect, quitting two secure jobs has been a really swell career move.
I could go on, but there’s never been a better time to practice what I preach. It’s Friday and I’m counting down to Happy Hour.
Yep. It’s time to quit.
Try it sometime. It just feels so good.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chile: The straw-shaped nation

Today’s a target-rich environment for bloggers too shallow to have developed a disciplined and thoughtful niche.
That’d be me.
First, we have the Steelers in the Super Bowl. Win or lose -- and the Steelers won’t lose -- the next 13 days will be for Pittsburghers like me the perfect holiday. You get all the holiday joy with none of the in-laws, the gift buying or any of that tedious churchy sobriety.
But if there’s one thing readers aren’t lacking in, it’s more Super Bowl jabber. I’m sure I’ll be contributing a few times so let’s shelve that for now.
I could write about SOTU and the new seating arrangement. Cynics are dismissive, but I think it’s a charming gesture of civility. Bravo.
But again, yawn. There’s plenty of that out there elsewhere.
How about the passing of Jack LaLanne? I’d love to write about him, but just did not too long ago. You can check it out here

So what does that leave us?
Yes, the Republic of Chile, land of Andean Condors, Easter Island mysticisms and rescued miners always rarin’ to party.
I’ve become fascinated with Chile through the secret Stats page at, over which I’ve been obsessing ever since it appeared in July.
Stats, in theory, tells me how many readers I have, their homelands and which posts are the most popular.
It’s a dizzying array of conflicting pseudo facts about the 10,151 people Stats says have been reading my blog since July.
Some of it fascinates: For instance, by far, the most widely read post was one about the top 25 songs as noted by my iPod play count feature. I'm dismissive of this because it's mostly a list that could have been constructed by a typing chimp.
Second is “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful,” which has some actual constructed thoughts. Yet, I’m sure the reason that one does well is because it’s about and features a picture of the lovely Ines Sainz.
Others in the top 10 include a recent one about forgiving Ben Roethlisberger, a salute to Bob Seger and a nifty one I like about why even stink bugs need love.
I’m most drawn to the page listing where people who read my blog live. Of course, USA swamps the medal count here. 
What is entirely unexpected is that Denmark is number two by a landslide. I have more regular readers in Denmark than in Canada, U.K. and Russia.
That’s very endearing. But it makes me wonder what the Danes get that, say, the amiable hoseheads in Canada do not.
And if things keep going as they do, I expect to be zooming over to the Netherlands on May 5 in time for the Dutch to fete me for Liberation Day parades.
For reasons I cannot fathom, readers in the Netherlands have in the past seven days gone crazy for my blog. In one week, readers in the Netherlands have leapfrogged more populace countries like Brazil, France and Germany to become no. 6 on countries with the most people who read my barely coherent musings.
That’s so cool. Thanks, my windmill-revering friends!
In total, I’ve scored multiple readers from 52 countries, including Moldova, Ghana,  and Bangladesh.
But this isn’t about the countries that do read my stuff. This is about one of the several hundreds that don’t.
This is about Chile.
See, Stats has given my geographic comprehension an unexpected boost. The countries with my readers are highlighted in green.
That’s how I became fascinated with Chile. I’d never really paid much attention to its shape before. It’s amazing.
Check it out. There is Argentina hogging nearly all of South America.
Then there hard on the left on what looks like just the beach is the Republic of Chile. It’s a country imprisoned by the formidable Andes Mountains and their average height of 13,000 feet. I remember reading the book, “Alive,” about a 1972 plane full of students and rugby mates who crashed in the mountains and resorted to cannibalism to survive.
Happily, the story of Chilean cuisine doesn’t end there.
I did a little research. It’s a remarkable and vibrant country.
Chile is 2,700 miles long, or about the distance from San Diego to Washington, D.C.
But the width is just a wee bit bigger than the interstate highways you’d drive to traverse the two.
On average, it is just 109 miles wide.
Incredible. Some of our western Pennsyvlania high school football teams have offensive lines who’d have to turn sideways to jog through parts of it.
How I missed for my entire life this geographic oddity about a prominent country with more than 17 million mostly Spanish speaking people is on its face surprising.
But for some perspective consider this: I’ve lived long stretches of my life right next door to people and all I’ve known about them is that they bang on the walls when they think the Rolling Stones are being played too loudly.
So my ignorance of distant lands is par for the course.
I vow it won’t last long.
I’m going to bone up on Chile and am optimistic I’ll learn it’s a land worth learning about and maybe one day visiting.
Yes, I think I’ll find the world’s only straw-shaped country does not suck.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Operation Homefront: Rooting for real warriors

I’ve already heard broadcasters talk about the bravery and devotion of Steeler fans who’ll be attending today’s game. At kickoff in Pittsburgh -- Chicago, too -- temperatures will be in single digits.
Prolonged exposure to the sub-freezing temperatures is hazardous duty.
That these fans are doing something sort of heroic is taken for granted.
I hate to do anything to disparage the beer-swilling masses, but I feel compelled to insert a nagging reminder.
On this, yet another de facto secular holiday, I’m thinking of another brave and devoted group fighting on behalf of another sort of winner.
Yes, I’m thinking of the overseas troops they’ll be showing micro-second snippets of in between all the beer commercials.
I’ve got the guilts. Yet another holiday season’s come and gone and I did nothing to support the troops.
I swore this year I’d do something tangible to demonstrate my humble and relatively minuscule gratitude for the men and women who serve. Once again, I did squat.
I didn’t write an atta-boy letter to a single soldier. I didn’t donate money to any of the many useful veterans groups. I didn’t find a neighbor with a loved one overseas and offer to shovel her driveway.
They’ve made it so easy to forget we are at war.
It’s possible to go weeks without ever realizing that right now and for the past nine years hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans have been away from their warm homes, their loved ones, their Terrible Towels and are ducking bullets in some of the world’s most godforsaken places.
Where do we find these people?
These are all volunteers. I think the America would be better off if they weren’t.
I’d love to see every able-bodied man and woman be compelled to do some sort civil service for even just six months.
I’m not saying we’d all have to take a big troop transport over to Bagram and start playing deadly hide and seek with bin Laden.
Armed only with rakes and shovels, we could serve with honor right here at home. Not a week goes by when some American community isn’t devastated by flood, tornado or forest fire. Heck, some parts of New Orleans remain in ruins five years after Katrina.
I’d love it if I could tell my family, “Sorry, but Uncle Sam needs me in the Big Easy. I’ll be sure to send you some T-shirts from Jazz Fest -- and when this Johnny comes marching home again he’ll be loaded with muffulettas from Central Grocery. Hurrah! Hurrah!”
People who never leave their little home towns would see the country and meet men and women from all backgrounds. We’d learn that all of us -- black, white, Hispanic, Steeler/Cowboy/Ravens, etc. fan -- are on the same team.
Maybe some day.
In the meantime, maybe you’re in a position to do marginally more than me. 
Operation Homefront,, is accepting nominations for 2011 Military Child of the Year Award. The award will be given to an outstanding military child from each Service – Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard.
According to the press release, “ideal candidates demonstrate resilience and strength of character, and thrive in the face of the challenges of military life.  They demonstrate leadership within their families and within their communities.”
Winners will each receive $5,000 and be feted in Washington, D.C.  Nominations are being accepted until January 31.
Maybe you know someone worthy. I’ll bet there are about a million or so deserving of the honor.
So go team! We’re all rooting for you! Kick some butt! Win! Win! Win! And let’s all pray nobody gets hurt.
And, yes, by all means, let’s go Steelers.

I really hope they win big, too.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Turn the page: A Bob Seger salute

Right now, guaranteed, some kid in a coffee shop is trying to update the classic 1973 Bob Seger song, “Turn the Page,” for the Kindle crowd.
Perhaps he’ll call it “Swipe the Screen.”
And for that he should be summarily executed.
I was listening to the great live version of “Turn the Page” the other day and it dawned on me that some day young rockers of taste may wonder just what that phrase meant.
On a long and lonesome highway, east of Omaha,
You can listen the engine moaning out as one long song
You can think about the woman, or the girl you knew the night before
But your thoughts will soon be wandering the way they always do
When you’re ridin’ 16 hours and there’s nothing much to do
And you don’t feel much like ridin’, you just wish the trip was through
The thought that page-turning books are doomed to become anachronisms must mortify Seger, 65, who, now that the Beatles have gone digital, remains one of the last major artists refusing to bow to iTunes. If you want a Seger CD, you have to buy a Seger CD, a notion so quaint it practically wears doilies.
I can’t speak for Seger -- heck, I can’t even speak to Seger -- but I’ll bet he thinks the process of downloading things you’re intended to love is similar to phone sex.
The end result is the same, but the essential emotion is missing.
After the quickie transaction, the only thing left behind to hold is a cheap receipt for your wife to find and use to forever ridicule and humiliate you until you feel eternal shame for your tawdry actions.
Or so I’m told.
Here I am, on the road again
There I am, up on the stage
Here I go, playing the star again
There I go
Turn the page
I’m betting Seger doesn’t own a Kindle.
It’s another hefty weight on the scale lurching toward the side I’ll likely never own one either.
I love my iPod, its portability and the way I can play any of the thousands of songs that for that moment mirror my mood.
But I feel a tiny jolt of euphoria whenever I buy a book. It’s the same feeling I got when I bought “Night Moves” in 1976. I loved holding it, smelling it, reading the liner notes and imagining myself with hippie hair like Seger and the all boys from the Silver Bullet Band had.
But books, actual books, mean even more to me. I love being in an airport and having a promiscuous stranger comment about a shared interest in a Tony Horwitz or a Michael Perry book.
And I love my library. I have more than 300 books I’ve purchased and read over the past 25 years. I love going back and referring to something I learned or something that meant so much to me.
I love lending them out to friends, even the ones who never give them back.
Well, you walk into a restaurant, strung out from the road
And you feel the eyes upon you as you’re shaking off the cold
You pretend it doesn’t bother you, but you just want to explode
Most times you can hear ‘em talk, other times you can’t
All those same old cliches, is that a woman or a man?
And you always seem outnumbered, you don’t dare make a stand
(repeat chorus)
Like many music lovers, I usually fail to list Seger as one of my all-time favorites. It’s a criminal oversight.
His is a towering musical legacy. His peak pop years (roughly 1975-1988) match up as well as Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen for musical muscle and enduring catchiness.
I so admired his 1995 decision to walk away from music to just loaf and raise a family that I did the exact same thing -- even though, at the time, it was five years before I even had a family.
Seger’s return album, his most recent, was “Face the Promise” from 2006. It’s a credible effort, but I hunger for more depth and nuance.
I’d like to see producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin come in and do a stripped-down Seger the way he did with another legend, Johnny Cash. Seger was writing outstanding weary songs about aging (“Against The Wind,” “Like a Rock”) when he was in his late 30s and early 40s. I’d love to hear his musings on aging as he becomes vintage.
Out there in the spotlight you’re a million miles away
Every ounce of energy, you try to give away
As the sweat pours out your body like the music that you play
Later in the evening as you lie awake in bed
With the echoes from the amplifiers ringing in your head
You smoke the day’s last cigarette, remembering what you said
(repeat chorus two more times with increasing menace)
And I think I know why he does not.
It’s pride. He doesn’t want to dilute one of the most outstanding catalogues of authentic American music.
So instead of berating readers with any more thoughts about Kindle and the inevitable trudge of technological intrusions, I’m going to finish the week by saluteing Seger and some my favorite songs of this great American rocker who now seems content to spend most of his time in what I guess is a different kind of great American rocker.
If you’re not interested, then feel free to just go about your web browsing.
Go ahead, turn the page . . .
Damn those nasty anachronisms!
• “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Forgets,” 1978 -- So I’m a little bit older and a lot less bolder than I used to be. So? This one will get my heart hammering when I’m a toothless relic at the Sunny Rest Retirement Home. It’s his homage to his hero, Chuck Berry: “All Chuck’s children are out there playin’ his licks! So come back, baby, rock ‘n’ roll never forgets!”
• “Sunspot Baby,” 1976 -- I often start pointless bar arguments saying this is one of the three greatest rock ‘n’ roll songs ever written (the arbitrary others are “I Saw Her Standing There” and the deliciously filthy “Star Star” by the Rolling Stones). It’s just nonsense because it might not even be one of Seger’s three best. But every time I hear this song -- and I hear it all the time -- I think, man, I’m right on the money about that one.
• “Roll Me Away,” 1982 -- This song about a romantic tramp who runs away with a drunken motorcyclist is my wife’s favorite. It’s also the reason I never let Val out of my sight whenever we go into a biker bar.
• “Still the Same,” 1977 -- The lyrics are enigmatic. I can’t tell if it’s about a gambler, a lover or a destititue brother. Doesn’t matter. The dude’s no damn good. Yet the singer feels resigned to steadfastness. Feels to me like the kind of human hangover we all have in our lives.
• “The Fire Inside,” 1988 -- A percussive beat, pounding piano and Seger’s urgent growl make this the best Seger song most people have never heard. I’d advise you to download it, but Seger won’t let me.
• Against the Wind,” 1980 -- I don’t know whether I was wise when I was 17 and first heard this masterpiece or if being exposed to songs like this at 17 made me wise, but I knew even then exactly what he was talking about: This living ain’t for sissies. “Wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.” What magnificent poignancy.
• “Feel Like a Number,” 1978 -- Still makes me yearn to form a federated brother/sisterhood of underemployed bloggers and freelance writers just so we could sing this one at all the rowdy union meetings.
• “The Ring,” 1986 -- I think for any songwriter to be truly great, they must have an empathetic feel for how a woman thinks. I doubt any woman -- or man -- in an unfulfilling and empty marriage could write a better song about matrimonial desolation than this. Unhappy people listen at your own risk.
• “American Storm,” 1986 -- Bruce Springsteen is justifiably known for his songs about America. I think his best is “This Hard Land.” I think Seger’s “American Storm” is better.
• Old Time Rock ‘n’ Roll,” 1977 -- This was the second most played song in the history of jukeboxes, behind only Patsy Cline’s “Crazy.” Its iconic status was cemented in 1983 when Tom Cruise danced to it in “Risky Business,” thus Tom Cruises’s finest moment was one of Seger’s.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Read this then go straight to sleep

Many fine Americans are eager to stand up and fight against perceived flaws they believe are harming the nation.
Me, I’m about to lay down and nap over one.
The stigma against sleep is costing America. No one is getting enough of it. It’s obvious in our stress, our productivity and our spiraling ethics.
Well-rested people aren’t prone to violence, sloth or felonious business practices.
We should be inviting sleep, not fighting it. If sleep beckons, we should obey, the exception being people like train conductors and airline pilots.
We’ve all heard hyper-productive Type-A busybodies brag about needing just four hours of sleep per night, but you never hear anyone bragging they enjoy 10 hours of sleep each night.
My nights are interrupted by two tiny sleep bandits, woodsy creature noises and the nervous yipping of a dog with a BB-sized bladder capacity.
I’m on a quest to get everybody under my roof to go to bed two hours earlier and get up two hours later.
The kids would be asleep by 8 and would wake up at 9. Sure, Josie would miss her first hour of fourth grade, but nothing important happens in school until 10 -- and I don’t mean 10 a.m.
I mean 10th grade.
My wife and I would be undercovers by 9:30 p.m. and up at 8:30 a.m.
Doesn’t that sleep schedule strike you as nirvana?
It does me.
Not Val. She got mad at me recently for dozing off at 9:30 in our bed after reading to one of the kids and just, ahhh, staying there like a sedated mental patient clear through the next morning.
For the first time in months, I reached the most hallowed state of sleep. Yes, I hit pillow puddlin’ slobber sleep.
In sleep terms, that’s like bowling a 300.
To her, it seemed like a waste of time. She thinks we should stay awake so long we become actual zombies so we can enjoy adult shows about things like fictional zombies.
In an ideal world -- and in any ideal world, there are no children -- we’d have about an hour of bedtime unwinding, reading, TV or couple cuddlin’ from 9 to 10 p.m. each and every night.
But years ago we made the cheap-skate mistake of not getting a DVR for our bedroom.
Without the bedroom DVR, we are forced to stay awake in the living room long enough execute a series of maneuvers similar to what happens in far flung U.S. Army outposts around the globe.
We need to secure the fireplace, check the perimeter and do a quick head count before finally getting to bed at 11 sharp in time to watch a 1996 episode of “Seinfeld” we’ve only seen 114 times before.
It’s so bad it took us four nights to watch one 2 hour, 45 minute movie. We’d recorded the outstanding 1959 Alfred Hitchcock movie, “Anatomy of a Murder,” starring Jimmy Stewart.
We both kept falling asleep during key segments and would spend breakfast trying to unravel plot lines and determine if we’d spied the Hitchcock cameo he so cleverly asserts into each of his films.
It wasn’t until the movie finally concluded we realized it would have been Hitchcock’s most clever cameo ever.
Because in our sleep deprived state, neither of us ever realized it was an Otto Preminger movie.
Everything would improve if we got more sleep.
Our families would have less time to bicker. We’d all get more done in less time. 
Me, I’d have time to dream up better story ideas and, thus, would start receiving a better class of rejection letters from more prominent sleep-deprived editors.
Sleeplessness is often confused with physical virtuosity. It’s a quality we’ve always sought in our elected leaders and a keystone critique of those right now tromping around desolate Iowa.
It should be the other way around. 
So wake up, America!
And go right back to bed.
We’ll all be better off.
From sea to shining zzzzzzzzz . . . .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"Go Steelers!" & recent tweets

I was making phone small talk with an interview subject in Minnesota the other day. He said, alas, the Vikings stunk this year and good-naturedly concluded, “Oh, well, you can’t be good every year.”
I risked professional good will and retorted, “We can in Pittsburgh!”
It’s true. We’re about to play the New York Jets Sunday in what will be our 15th AFC Championship game since the leagues merged in 1970.
That’s astounding. I’ve been to nine of them. In that same span, the Steelers are an unprecedented 6-1 in Super Bowls. 
This will be Pittsburgh’s fifth AFC Championship game in 10 years. Only the New England Patriots have done better, winning three Super Bowls.
But we can’t forget: they cheated. And admitted to it.
So I’m really excited about Sunday’s game and, in fact, about all the remaining teams. It’s a great and historic line-up of traditional teams. The Chicago Bears playing the Green Bay Packers is a monumental rivalry and Sunday marks the first time the two teams have met to go to the Super Bowl in 182 games.
The Jets have only won one Super Bowl, but everyone has to be impressed with what they’ve done to get to the championship round. 
Plus, all four teams hail from cold-weather cities. That’s important because northern winters can be so nasty and our lives so meaningless and devoid of things like Speedos and beach volleyball, we need competitive football to get us through to spring.
It’s one of those short, busy weeks so I’m going to stop now.
But as I don’t want to short-change anyone who is counting on to burn off at least four minutes of company time, I feel obliged to throw in an assortment of random thoughts and recent tweets.
Here ya go . . .
• The fact that only 70 people have signed up to follow my tweets @8days2amish doesn’t bother me a bit. For me, twitter is just a handy farm team for little lines that one day might grow up into full blog posts. For instance, it won’t happen with this next tweet, but it might with the one after.
• “I saw a man wearing a musical bellows on his chest during a recent chilly morning. He was dressed accordioningly.”
• “He was a great man, but does JP II really deserve sainthood? What'd he do besides act really popey?”
• Remember Andrew Gold? I heard his 1978 song “Thank You for Being a Friend” on satellite radio the other day. It reminded me of another one of his, “Lonely Boy.” I downloaded both of these tuneful songs and am delighted to have them in heavy rotation again. He was a rare two-hit wonder.
• “I nearly made the bad taste mistake in referring to the healing Gabby Giffords as "open-minded." Instead, wisely chose to use "even-handed.”
• “Soon, ‘dodged a bullet’ won't be a quaint phrase about evading a challenge, it'll be the answer to the question, ‘So, what'd you do today?’"
• “The sun, nearly 109 times the size of earth, is nothing but a big old space heater.”
• “It's unlikely to happen, but for reasons of proper English I'm urging all gardeners to begin describing themselves as petalphiles.”
• “Just once I'd like to hear news reports of a man being slain by a blunt instrument and learn the weapon was a tuba.”
• “New census says there are 308 million Americans. That means there should be at least 308 million-to-1 shots each and every day.”
• “There ought to be hangover parking just a few stalls down from handicapped parking. And there ought to be vendor selling Bloody Marys.”
• Feel free to visit here if you’re interested in reading my story about my quest to find the original, famous Ray’s Pizza in New York.
• Pittsburgh rapper Kellee Maize asked me to share with my readers her YouTube rap “City of Champions.” She somehow thinks mentioning her song on a blog with the word “Amish” in the title will somehow lead to notice I think she deserves. Poor kid. Still, I whole-heartedly recommend it. She’s all black ‘n’ gold ‘n’ blonde and I root for anyone who roots for the Steelers. And the video’s a love letter to great views of Pittsburgh.
• I thought about just cutting ‘n’ pasting the Ray’s Pizza story and passing it off as a blog post, something that would count against the 12 posts-a-month to which I aspire every lunar cycle. But I thought that would be cheating.

• Sort of like this tweet post only not as blatant.