Archive | March, 2013

Song of the Week: “Spark” – Amy MacDonald

25 Mar

Amy popped into the American music scene with her catchy “This Is the Life,” the fourth single from her debut album of the same name. I don’t think any of the tracks from that utterly charming album charted in the U.S. (the album didn’t, either, despite hitting no. 1 in several European countries), which is why she’s pretty much ignored the states since then. Her second album, A Curious Thing, which featured this week’s tune, wasn’t even released here. Her Life in a Beautiful Light from 2012 was released here, but only digitally.

And because I love listening to her talk, here’s a bonus clip.

Song of the Week: “Don’t Take Your Love Away” – VAST

20 Mar

I was totally blown away the first time I heard VAST (aka Jon Crosby), particularly the one-two punch of “Here” and “Touched” that opened his debut album, Visual Audio Sensory Theater. This tune from Nude, while not so intense, still captures the richness (or depth, or whatever it is) that I like about his sound, along with his typically evocative symbolism.

20 Random Things to Have an Opinion About

12 Mar

20 questions, volume 1

Are you a conversational pushover? Do loud, obnoxious people give you grief about not being able to hold your own in a serious discussion? Are you looking for obscure issues to have concrete opinions about, so you can trick people into thinking you have intellectual depth?

Maximum Know-How is here for you, with this premier edition of 20 issues—some of them even currently relevant—that you can think about now so that you’re ready with a snappy observation should the topic ever arise in a social setting.

  1. Most dangerous: Iran or- North Korea?
  2. Least trustworthy: China –or- Russia?
  3. Lance Armstrong: Devious jerk –or- moral leper?
  4. Whose Line is back: Are you “ecstatic” –or- “euphoric”?
  5. Pepper Pots –or- Natasha Romanoff?
  6. Obamacare: President’s sincere attempt to improve our healthcare system –or- pushing wholesale socialism with his eyes wide shut?
  7. Bee Gees –or- Beach Boys?
  8. Rotten Tomatoes –or- IMDB?
  9. Loss of Olympic wrestling: IOC corruption –or- cultural shift?
  10. Doctor Whoor- Downton Abbey?
  11. Joe Flacco’s $120.6 million contract: Totally worth it –or- Totally ludicrous?
  12. Sequester: Typical political grandstanding –or- Brilliant, under-the-counter way for both sides to cut the budget drastically while getting to blame the other party?
  13. A-Rod’s fading career: End of an era –or- It’s about time?
  14. Adele’s “Skyfall” wins Oscar: Best Bond tune ever –or- Academy’s 50th b-day gift to the franchise?
  15. Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hang ‘em up –or- keep on shooting?
  16. Senator Rand Paul’s filibuster: A bold statement for civil rights –or- “I thought his name was Ron Paul”?
  17. Pixar: Death throes –or- just in a rut?
  18. More Bourne –or- more Mission: Impossible?
  19. New pope: Heavenly selection –or- political appointment?
  20. Daily Show’s Stewart going on hiatus: The man needs a vacation from fake news –or- What do you mean it’s not real?

Song of the Week: “Boss Drum” – The Shamen

11 Mar

I almost chose “Move Any Mountain,” but went with this track because I believe it’s less well known—at least here in the states. The video can be a bit much, so I went with this mostly static image so you can better enjoy their “techno tribe” sound.

What to Do When It’s Time to Die

8 Mar

Death touched my family this last week. This is the closest it’s come, but the relationship was distant enough that I feel melancholy, but not threatened. That said, I lay in bed this morning sifting through cultural memes about what mindset I should adopt when facing death. You know, those “live each day as if it’s your last” or “eat, drink, and be merry” or “last chance to save—sale ends tomorrow.”

So what would I do if this was my last day? I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here writing this. In fact, the computer wouldn’t even get turned on. Work, email, video games, Facebook, the endless halls of distraction afforded by the web—all seem trite and pointless when set against one’s mortality. International affairs, sports, local news, movie trailers—all my usual Internet haunts are now hollow and joyless. The only thing I’d consider is watching Whose Line clips on YouTube. Yeah, I might do that on my last day.

Meal-wise, I’d be eating out because a healthy diet won’t do me any good now, and who wants to die with dirty dishes in the sink? I’d hit a breakfast buffet, and get a teriyaki bowl for lunch. For dinner… I’ll decide that later.

Now, how to spend the day? Exercise—like jogging or the gym—is unappealing, but I would like a hike in the crisp sunshine. I wouldn’t go too far afield in case I expire on an obscure mountain trail and end up traumatizing some poor Boy Scouts on a day hike, or requiring the Forest Service to spend $450,000 (or whatever) to extract my remains by helicopter. I think the local nature park would suffice. Maybe take a drive out to the bird sanctuary south of town.

Interestingly, my lifelong media obsession has dried up. Movies and books would take up too much of my day, TV is inane (I’ve long known that), and music—what fits the mood? Dance music is about living, rock music is about anger and alienation, classical music takes too long, hymns are perfect for reflection and contentment. But I want to spend the day living, not reflecting. To my surprise, I chose Nanci Griffith’s cover album, Other Voices, Other Rooms, but I’d skip the really depressing tracks.

What I should do is spend my last day surrounded by family and friends. But it’s short notice to set up a big party, and telling them why they should come see me would poison any chance at a fun gathering. I thought about calling them up (totally out of the blue) to chat, but if I didn’t share my news, they’d feel guilty for having a meaningless conversation, or angry at me for keeping them in the dark. Instead, I think I should spend an hour or two writing thank-you notes by hand—“thank you for being part of my life” sorts of things.

Of course, there’s also the urge to devote myself to a day of reckless abandon, law-breaking, drug use, telling jerks what I really think of them, blurring my mind with booze. But I’ve always preferred clarity and peace, so why ruin it now?

In the end, I suppose I’d spend the day doing and saying nice things for others, whether I knew them or not. Picking up litter during my hike, opening the door for strangers at the restaurants, being patient with children and strangers, being sincere and open with family and friends. I assume God knows I’m coming, so I’d keep in touch with Him through the day in case there was any last-minute business He wanted me to take care of.

But of course, I don’t expect to die tomorrow. So I’ve finished my heart-healthy breakfast, worked on some B2B marketing brochures, and written a blog post. I think I’ll go for a walk this afternoon, though, before the kids get home from school.

New Olympic Sports for 2020

5 Mar

Suggested events to replace wrestling in the Olympics

New branding for 2020 Olympic games

Now that we’ve solved the healthcare crisis, let’s return to a pressing topic from a couple of weeks ago, namely the removal of wrestling from the Olympics. Although the Maximum Know-How team presented five other sports more worthy of the ax, apparently none of the 20 people who read that post were high-up enough in the IOC to influence a reversal of the decision.

So that leaves us short one sport for the 2020 Olympic games—with only seven years to go! Luckily, we’ve put  our  minds to it and come up with seven great sporting alternates to fill the gap.

Chariot Racing: The most obvious choice is replace an original, ancient Greece–era event like wrestling with another ancient event. To make it more appealing to the modern masses, take it a few steps beyond realistic reenactment and incorporate some Hollywood-esque elements, such as jumps, figure eights, flaming hoops, and Tusken Raiders firing on contestants from the rock formations bordering the near edge of the great Dune Sea.

Arena Combat: Now, clearly something like the Hunger Games would be brutal, heartless, discriminatory, and sickening, but that’s exactly why millions of people would tune in. Who wouldn’t want to watch an event that combines Survivor with American Gladiator with crazy Japanese game shows. It wouldn’t be to the death, of course (that would likely result in widespread war across the planet), but there would be individual and team victors, like in gymnastics. The arenas would feature multiple terrains, including rocky cliffs, shallow lagoons, quicksand traps, jungles infested with skin-burrowing insects, etc. After the games, arenas could be leased out for paintball tournaments or children’s birthday parties.

Quidditch: Not by 2020, maybe, but eventually.

Mash-Up Events: Combine two vaguely similar sports—such as soccer (i.e., fútbol) and lacrosse—and have them compete against each other on the same field. For example, the Brazilian soccer team tries to score soccer goals while keeping the opposing Canadian lacrosse team from scoring lacrosse goals, and vice versa. Every Olympics we could swap out the two sports for exciting new pairings, such as speed skating versus hockey, or pole vault versus javelin, or indoor oval cycling versus badminton. I’d totally watch that.

Non-Equine Equestrian Events: Riding horses is kind of old hat, so why not pick more difficult animals? Like ostrich racing or long-distance dolphin diving. That would also help sell more seats because folks like PETA would be out in force to protest.

Video Gaming: This is an appalling, but probably inevitable, option.

Thumb Wrestling: The way for traditional wrestling to weasel its way back into favor is through alternative “demonstration sports” like this. Or it can take the X-Games route with sponsor-friendly spectacles like high-altitude female mud wrestling on a half-pipe. Regardless of its return path, I expect the sport will need to make concessions to help boost its marketing appeal, such as requiring contestants to wear those crazy Mexican luchador masks.

Song of the Week: “Eagle” – ABBA

4 Mar

Without question my favorite ABBA tune. My parents had a cassette tape of their greatest hits, and I would listen to this song and then rewind, listen and rewind. Over and over. I was shocked they didn’t include it on the ABBA Gold compilation in the 1990s (along with “Summer Night City”), but later found out it was never released as a single in the UK or America. It did appear in More ABBA Gold but that was the shortened radio version. This is the full-length version from The Album.