Friday, September 09, 2005

A Day Late

You can still celebrate Hannah Wolf Bowen's holy-mother-of-god-how-can-someone-that-young-be-that-talented birthday by reading some of her fiction online. Like this one, which was recently uncovered in a lonely swamp, or that one over there, which has a horn, or the one that flies, or the one that canters, or the one with the bear, or the one that runs on tracks.

Then you can go bug her about updating her bibliography.

Happy birthday!

That's one.

Brown is being removed from his role managing Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

In Which I Agonize Over My Affection for Objectively Crappy Music

In order to pass the time while we all slide into a J.G. Ballard story, I decided to do this annoying music list thing that went around a while back. Here's the drill: go here and search for the year you graduated high school in the little box on the left. The first result will be a list of the top 100 songs for that year. Copy that list and fiddle with it in tedious ways. My preferred tedium includes bolding the songs I like, crossing out the ones I don't like, and (per Scott, below) italicizing the ones I have no memory of whatsoever, or have perhaps blocked out for my own protection. Oh, and I'm supposed to underline my favorite. (Blame Christopher and Scott and, ultimately, Nalo for this.)

As anyone can see from looking at this list, 1989 was not a good year for music. Because of this, I set my standards fairly low. Basically, if I wouldn't dive across a sparsely populated room to turn off one of these songs when it came on, I bolded it. And, well, some of them are genuinely charged with nostalgia and/or a good beat, or have some irrational emotional resonance for me, or I just like them and I can't even begin to explain why.

With commentary:

1. Look Away, Chicago No clue. But by this time, even after Cetera left, Chicago was the band of bland.
2. My Prerogative, Bobby Brown For a while there (thanks largely to L.A. Reid and Babyface), Bobby had a shot at something enduring. Oh, that's right, he's got a reality TV show. Never mind.
3. Every Rose Has Its Thorn, Poison Massive cheese factor, but come on! It's the only decent song these hair farmers ever recorded.
4. Straight Up, Paula Abdul I don't know. It's catchy, and I liked the video. I'm sorry.
5. Miss You Much, Janet Jackson You know that one dancer that's in all of Janet's videos? The white girl with the dark hair? I've always had a crush on her. Not sure I've ever really listened to this song, come to think of it.
6. Cold Hearted, Paula Abdul I have to blame this one on the video, too. Dancers are lean.
7. Wind Beneath My Wings, Bette Midler You know, I can't remember how or when it happened, but I actually saw Beaches. That's probably where my crush on Mayim Bialik began. No, I'm not kidding. I can't explain it, but I've seen just about every episode of Blossom (and they were all Very Special).
8. Girl You Know Its True, Milli Vanilli The lip-synching in Naked Lunch was more entertaining.
9. Baby, I Love Your Way/Freebird, Will To Power I feel like I heard "Baby, I Love Your Way" every day of my senior year, but damned if I can remember a remake of "Freebird" being tacked on to it.
10. Giving You The Best That I Got, Anita Baker Maybe I heard this in an elevator once? Did En Vogue do a song with a similar title?
11. Right Here Waiting, Richard Marx Get thee behind me, mullet boy.
12. Waiting For A Star To Fall, Boy Meets Girl Total blank.
13. Lost In Your Eyes, Debbie Gibson God, I don't know. It's saccharine and she's a bland Barbie doll. I have no excuse.
14. Don't Wanna Lose You, Gloria Estefan She should never have left the Miami Sound Machine.
15. Heaven, Warrant Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
16. Girl I'm Gonna Miss You, Milli Vanilli See #8.
17. The Look, Roxette I guess it's just that, if I'm doing something else and not really listening, inane repetition doesn't necessarily bother me. If it's got a beat, at least.
18. She Drives Me Crazy, Fine Young Cannibals If only Roland Gift hadn't decided he was an actor. (OK, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid is great, but so was this.)
19. On Our Own, Bobby Brown Hum me a few bars, maybe I could fake it.
20. Two Hearts, Phil Collins You know, I used to like Phil Collins. But then, I used to like Terry Brooks.
21. Blame It On The Rain, Milli Vanilli It's been said. How many songs did these losers have?
22. Listen To Your Heart, Roxette No beat.
23. I'll Be There For You, Bon Jovi I don't like Bon Jovi songs unless they're sung by Alan Deniro.
24. If You Don't Know Me By Now, Simply Red It's grown on me. But I remember the story about how the band got its name, and it's always bugged me. They were going to do their first gig and when the emcee asked them what they were called they told him they were simply red. Like, "Just Jack." Simply Red. Ugh. Plus he has stupid hair.
25. Like A Prayer, Madonna I can't explain it. I don't know if I want to know that about myself.
26. I'll Be Loving You (Forever), New Kids On The Block Crap.
27. How Can I Fall?, Breathe Total obscurity.
28. Baby Don't Forget My Number, Milli Vanilli Bored now.
29. Toy Soldier, Martika Whatever it was, it wasn't memorable.
30. Forever Your Girl, Paula Abdul Must have been a boring video.
31. The Living Years, Mike and the Mechanics Mike Rutherford always seemed so nice. So nice, and so very dull.
32. Eternal Flame, The Bangles I still think the Bangles' first two albums are great pop; great harmonies, great hooks. This ballad is as bland and toothless as it gets.
33. Wild Thing, Tone Loc I thought Tone Loc was so cool. In that older-guy-at-the-concert-who-offers-you-a-drink-of-his-Mountain-Dew-spiked-with-vodka sort of way.
34. When I See You Smile, Bad English I just . . . do I really need to say anything?
35. If I Could Turn Back Time, Cher Disturbing video.
36. Buffalo Stance, Neneh Cherry Um. I actually own this album. I'm still trying to figure out why.
37. When I'm With You, Sheriff Sheriff? Seriously?
38. Don't Rush Me, Taylor Dayne I remember Taylor Dayne, but not this song.
39. Born To Be My Baby, Bon Jovi No clue. But see #23.
40. Good Thing, Fine Young Cannibals The song I really liked was their remake of "Suspicious Minds," but that's not on this list.
41. The Lover In Me, Sheena Easton I feel like the whole Prince thing was some kind of turning point for Sheena, but I honestly can't say in what way. Did he turn her from bland and irrelevant to skanky and irrelevant? Maybe that's it.
42. Bust A Move, Young M.C. Great party song. Complete rip-off of the Sugarhill Gang, but great party song.
43. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, Great White Stupid.
44. Batdance, Prince You know, I like the Batman soundtrack. That scene in Shaun of the Dead hurt me a little bit.
45. Rock On, Michael Damian Is this that "Hey kids, rock and roll" song? If so, then it sucks.
46. Real Love, Jody Watley I seem to recall at one time thinking Jody Watley was sort of talented. Probably that just means she looked good in her videos.
47. Love Shack, B-52's I prefer the Chris Barzak version.
48. Every Little Step, Bobby Brown I can't decide if I like this one or have no memory of it.
49. Hangin' Tough, New Kids On The Block Crap.
50. My Heart Can't Tell You No, Rod Stewart How far he had fallen . . . and how far still to go . . .
51. So Alive, Love and Rockets I much prefer the earlier stuff, like "Rainbird" and "Yin and Yang and the Flowerpot Man." (I was never much for Bauhaus.) But it's passable pop.
52. You Got It (The Right Stuff), New Kids On The Block Crap.
53. Armageddon It, Def Leppard C'mon, it's so inane it's genius. "Armaggedon it? Yes Armaggedon it." These guys are the Piers Anthony of hair metal. (Or is that Aerosmith?)
54. Satisfied, Richard Marx Mullet.
55. Express Yourself, Madonna It's preachy, but it moves.
56. I Like It, Dino Who?
57. Soldier Of Love, Donny Osmond I choose to forget this.
58. Sowing The Seeds Of Love, Tears For Fears I like some Tears for Fears, but talk about taking yourself too seriously. Give me "Head Over Heels" any day.
59. Cherish, Madonna Mermen?
60. When The Children Cry, White Lion White Lion, White Tiger, Whitesnake, Night Ranger--oops, sorry about that one. Sure were a lot of stupid band names back then.
61. 18 And Life, Skid Row Gotta love the Bach.
62. I Don't Want Your Love, Duran Duran I don't know why I like Duran Duran. They're pretty boys and I don't like pretty boys. But I like these guys.
63. Second Chances, .38 Special .38 Special? Didn't they suck a lot?
64. The Way You Love Me, Karyn White White Lion, White Tiger, Karyn White . . . oh, that's her name. Sorry.
65. Funky Cold Medina, Tone Loc See #33.
66. In Your Room, Bangles Meh. This one is also part of the blanding of the Bangles. But it's kind of sexy, so I'm giving it a pass.
67. Miss You Like Crazy, Natalie Cole Maybe I do remember this, but not enough to make a judgment.
68. Love Song, Cure It's not the only happy song Robert Smith wrote in his career, but it's probably the best happy song he wrote. Love the Cure.
69. Secret Rendesvous, Karyn White I do not know you, Karyn White.
70. Angel Eyes, Jeff Healey Band I do not know you, Jeff Healey.
71. Patience, Guns N' Roses I do not wish to know you, Axl Rose. But you wrote some decent songs.
72. Walk On Water, Eddie Money Was this part of Eddie's big comeback? Guess that went pretty well.
73. Cover Girl, New Kids On The Block I don't remember this, but I suspect it's crap.
74. Welcome To The Jungle, Guns N' Roses I still occasionally bust out with a shriek of "You're in the jungle, baby--you're gonna diiiieeee! Hooah." Really. I do.
75. Shower Me With Your Love, Surface No clue.
76. Stand, R.E.M. Probably one of R.E.M.'s worst songs of this era, but it works.
77. Close My Eyes Forever, Lita Ford I prefer the duet with Ozzy.
78. All This Time, Tiffany You don't drop the last name when you're best known for playing malls. I'm just saying.
79. After All, Cher and Peter Cetera I just threw up a little in my mouth.
80. Roni, Bobby Brown I'm not sure what the etymological roots of the term "Roni" are, and I suspect they're less than complimentary. But, but . . . I have no excuse.
81. Love In An Elevator, Aerosmith Good for a laugh.
82. Lay Your Hands On Me, Bon Jovi See #23.
83. This Promise, When In Rome Who?
84. What I Am, Edie Brickell and The New Bohemians I can't think of Edie Brickell without thinking of Beavis and Butthead's critique of this video--if you've seen it you know what I'm talking about. But, OK song.
85. I Remember Holding You, Boys Club I don't remember hearing you.
86. Paradise City, Guns N' Roses "Where the girls are green and the grass is pretty."
87. I Wanna Have Some Fun, Samantha Fox It's just so damned ridiculous that you have to laugh. Don't you?
88. She Wants To Dance With Me, Rick Astley Total blank.
89. Dreamin', Vanessa Williams Again, total blank.
90. It's No Crime, Babyface No clue.
91. Poison, Alice Cooper I feel like I should remember this, but I don't.
92. This Time I Know It's For Real, Donna Summer Nope.
93. Smooth Criminal, Michael Jackson Probably my favorite MJ song--nah, that's probably "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." Still, this one has a driving bass, plenty of needless howling, and a what-the-fuck-is-he-talking-about chorus (who in god's name is Eddie, and why are we so worried about him?). Something like genius.
94. Heaven Help Me, Deon Estus Blank.
95. Rock Wit'cha, Bobby Brown I used to own the album, and I don't remember this one.
96. Thinking Of You, Sa-fire William Safire made it into the charts? Holy shit.
97. What You Don't Know, Expose No clue.
98. Surrender To Me, Ann Wilson and Robin Zander Not this one, either.
99. The End Of The Innocence, Don Henley Hate Don Henley. Never even liked the fucking Eagles. Go away, losers.
100. Keep On Movin', Soul II Soul Jazzie B. mixed the soundtrack to my life.

Obligatory Political Outrage

Keith Olbermann and his team put together a scathing video timeline of what was happening with Katrina, and what the Feds were doing about it. Watch it.

Nancy Pelosi describes a meeting with Clueless George.

A short list of FEMA's recent inexplicable (and malevolent) actions.

Project Censored's list of the Ten Most Censored News Stories of 2004 is out.

Finally, The Daily Show on the administration's damage control, and where it's focused. (See if you can spot the Rodents of Unusual Size!)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

"You could get to Hal from where you are."

Do you ever read one of those interviews with writers where you find yourself nodding along, saying to yourself, "Yes! We are kindred creative souls, famous writer! I am better for agreeing with you on almost every point, although my lack of glowing reviews and/or million-dollar book contracts cast our kinship in some doubt"? Have you ever felt that way? Me too. Most recently, while reading this interview with dead sexy satirist George Saunders at Maud Newton's blog. A couple of snippets:

On Not Knowing where the story is going:
[M]y favorite metaphor for the thing you’re talking about is the seed-crystal metaphor. Like in high school biology: you put the thing in water and it starts growing. The key, for me, is that the crystal is not trying to grow in a certain direction, or to make a certain pattern, or because it wants to be a certain kind of Big Crystal when it’s done. It is, I suppose, following some sort of path of least resistance. That is what it feels like, in the best case. I am not trying to do anything in particular, except stumble on something. I don’t know what. Funny is good, tight is good, clever is good — something that, once you’ve put it down, you go: "Well, okay, whatever else happens, I’m pretty sure that’s staying there." Or another way to say this: You feel like the events described in that little bit of prose have just gone from Typing to Something That Happened. It gives off a feeling of undeniability, if you see what I mean. You don’t feel like negotiating at least that little bit of story.

On novels vs. short stories:
[I]n a novel, the whole point is the little constructions along the way . . . a chance to describe a certain household, or a certain while-traveling phenomenon, etc. And the plot is just a way to link these together and, in a sense, "justify" them. In the end, at least in that book, the plot is sort of a red herring. Whereas, in a story, the progression of the plot is what the whole machine is ultimately judged against. You can do the other things — description, dialogue, etc. — but any piece that is inessential to the plot-machine (to the sense that this thing is moving forward, and along a certain thematic track) is felt as extraneous.

(OK, I don't entirely agree with that; but I do think it's true that a novel is built upon measured digressions, and that's sort of what he's saying.)

On realistic expectations:
I’ve known people who started out wanting to fix the world, and when they find out the world can’t be fixed (because in fact it’s not broken) they retreat to a sort of cynical stance. When you think about it, that’s all ego: The world refused to be fixed by me, the center of the universe; therefore I hate the world.


Plus, he reveals that his new collection drops in May. Sweet! Go read.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The G. Stands for Walter

The man who created one of TV's most indelible characters has died. I'm speaking, of course, of Bob Denver, but not, of course, of Gilligan. Before Sherwood Schwartz's (no relation) weekly morality play (each of the castaways represented a different Deadly Sin, don'tcha know), Bob played the great beatnik role model Maynard G. Krebs on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, perhaps the greatest "lost" sitcom of all time. I caught this show during its brief run on Nick at Nite in the early '90's, but during its original run (1959-63) it must have been an oddity; a hip, subversive look at high school and romance (the MacGuffin, essentially was Dobie's endless scheming to either get laid or rich or both), it regularly broke the fourth wall as Dobie addressed his anxieties and frustrations to the audience. Denver inhabited Maynard with a gangly, lazy wisdom; he name-dropped hepcats like Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk, caught "The Monster that Devoured Cleveland" at the Bijou just about every week, and howled with shock and horror whenever the word "work" was mentioned. (Why isn't the full run of this show collected on DVD?) Of course, after Gilligan, hardly anyone remembers Dobie and Maynard. What a shame.

Goodbye, Bob. Goodbye, Maynard.

Another View

I'm sitting here smiling because, as Mr. Butner once said, it's nice when someone reads the story you wrote. Bluejack at the Internet Review of Science Fiction reviews "A Whole Man" very kindly, encapsulating it as an "[e]legant surrealist meditation on the strange mental state of being in an airport."

"Elegant." Makes my day.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Links Before Bed

I'm back and I'm spending too much time reading news. Here are a few of the better/worse things I've seen:

An open letter to Dubya from the Times-Picayune.

This guy is saying what I've been thinking: this was criminal negligence. Someone should be behind bars for this.

It's also dereliction of duty.

In addition, Crooks and Liars has some amazing video from the past week, particularly valuable for the cable-challenged like myself. Check out Kanye West's unscripted (and, unfortunately, nearly incoherent) assertion that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" during the "Concert for Hurricane Relief." Check out head Bush apologist David Brooks as the scales fall from his eyes (I'll lay odds they're back on by next week, but still). Check out CNN analyst Jack Cafferty calling the Bushies on their bullshit and doing it more than once. Perhaps most harrowing, Geraldo Rivera and Shepard Smith on Hannity & Colmes. I know it's Geraldo Rivera, but watch it anyway. I, for one, have gotten so accustomed to a press that doesn't report on reality that to see it happen, all of a sudden, is enough to make my head spin. There are a lot more clips over there worth watching. People are frustrated and angry. I wonder if it will come to anything in the end.