This site has no agenda, and its author has no chip on his shoulder. He promises not to whine about "fatherhood equality," and he'll do his best not to sound superior. He is, afterall, just a dad. Instead, he promises to tell good stories about his three kids. That's about it.
I think freshman year of college is pretty much the same for everyone, nothing but a series of exchanges: brilliant ideas during class, drink recipes in the evening, and bodily fluids throughout the night. And so it was with me, at least with the ideas and drink recipes. Or maybe just the drink recipes.
But more important than any of that was the exchanging of musical tastes and opinions. A decade before Napster, we found our new music the old fashioned way -- by roaming the halls rather than trolling the internet -- and it was good. It was definitely hit and miss, though. My roommate, for instance, counted The Outfield's "Play Deep" among his favorites, and there was a boy genius two floors up whose taste ran towards television soundtracks (think Muppet Show), but everywhere else, it seemed, music was the currency that mattered.
Even though I had grown up suckling at the breast of KROQ, the most influential alternative rock station in the country at the time, I still found a good deal of new material in bands like the Replacements and Camper van Beethoven.
The undisputed kings of the college scene, however, were R.E.M. Their album Document had dropped earlier that year, and it quickly became the soundtrack of our Friday and Saturday nights. To this day whenever I hear that disc's opening track, "Finest Worksong," I swear I can hear the clinking of quarters hiding behind Michael Stipe's lyrics. From there we'd work our way to perhaps the best drunken sing-along of all time, "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," and the inevitable competition to see who could keep up with the lyrics the longest. We'd usually get to "speed it up a notch" before the whole thing dissolved into mumbles and laughter until the chorus kicked in and brought us back together again.
My love for R.E.M. stems from those nights. Not only was the music cool, it made you feel cool to like the music, if that makes sense. As you sung along you could be bouncing around and screaming "Leonard Bernstein!" at the top of your lungs one moment, then soulfully crooning along with "The One I Love" the next while cynically pointing out to anyone who would listen that it really isn't a love song at all. They were the quintessential college band.
And then they grew up, and there were growing pains. Out of Time was a nice little album, but it was a little too shiny in some places, a little too happy in others. Automatic for the People also sounded good at first listen, but now it feels like something you'd hear at a Renaissance Pleasure Fair -- mandolins, zithers, and sitars, oh my! From there, it only got worse. The albums weren't necessarily bad, just forgettable.
Don't worry, though. In case you haven't heard, the boys from Athens-Gee-Ay are back, and this time they brought their guitars. Their latest album, Accelerate, came out a few months ago, and it's probably their best disc in two decades. It's filled with catchy guitar riffs and some of Stipe's best lyrics in a while. It all begins with an incredibly un-R.E.M.-like guitar that kicks off the opening track, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," then jumps to "Supernatural Superserious," probably the one true pop song on the album. With lyrical hooks like "you don't have to explain the humiliation of your teenage station" and "you realized your fantasies are all dressed up in travesties," this one's sure to get some radio play.
The standard album closes with the quirky "I'm Gonna DJ," an apocalyptic tune about staging a party at the end of the world. (Equally quirky songs like "Red Head Walking" and the instrumental "Airliner" didn't make the cut, but they're nice B-sides that come with the extended version of the album.)
My favorite cut, though, has to be "Hollow Man." This song tricks you into thinking that you've accidentally slipped Automatic back into the CD player, but quickly corrects you a few bars in as the power chords drop in and push the cheesy intro lyrics aside. The chorus is transcendent, and seems written to be sung by Michael Stipe and ten thousand of his closest friends: "Believe in me, believe in nothing. Corner me and make me something. I've become the hollow man, have I become the hollow man I see?" Trust me, it sings better than it reads.
Altogether, the album is excellent. I'm not sure it will ever have the nostalgia of stale beer and hangovers like Document does for me, but I know I'll still be listening to it ten years from now.
As my family and I walked a local outdoor mall this past Sunday afternoon, we heard gunshots coming from a Civil War re-enactment taking place a few blocks away (and a few thousand miles from the closest actual Civil War site). Only minutes before we had been laughing as we noticed the signs along the road, and we made jokes about the people whose daily lives were so boring that they had to reach a century and a half into the past for weekend entertainment. I was so glad we were cool.
And then it hit me. The night before, my wife and I had attended a re-enactment of our own -- the Cure, live in concert, about a century and a half after they first hit big with "Boys Don't Cry." Don't worry, though. If there's one important difference between our night at the Hollywood Bowl and all those imitation hillbillies running around with muskets, it's this: the Cure flat-out rocked.
As always, the Cure begins and ends with Robert Smith. Even though he'll turn fifty years old next April, Smith keeps it real on stage -- the tumbleweed hairdo, deeply smudged black eyeliner, and sloppy red lipstick are still in full effect, and I'd have to say that he wears it well.
The band's fashionista, though, is clearly their on-again-off-again lead guitarist, Porl Thompson. Thompson was resplendent in a fishnet body suit which was held tightly in place by a leather corset. Knee-high patent leather boots with six-inch heels capped off the ensemble, and his head was shaved bald to show off the black tribal tattoos snaking around his head. (As an aside, a suspiciously normal-looking guy in the row behind us was absolutely obsessed with Thompson's outfit. To quote: "I just wish I could be comfortable enough to wear something like that!")
But back to Smith. Even though he looks the same on the outside, something seems to have happened to the Godfather of Goth. He's happy. Sure, he managed a sinister growl as he belted out the less-then-loving lyrics of "The Kiss":
Get it out, get it out, get it out,
Get your fucking voice
Out of my head.
I never wanted this
I never wanted any of this
I wish you were dead
I wish you were dead...
But there was a lot more to Mr. Smith. As he led the band through a career-encompassing, three-hour set, he flirted with the camera, teased the crowd, and gladly accepted bouquets of flowers from fans in the front row. In short, he had a good time.
This was the Cure?
Yes, this was the Cure. And as they ripped through one hit after another (Lovesong, Pictures of You, Lullaby, Just Like Heaven, Let's Go to Bed, Love Cats) the band seemed to be reminding us that these songs were the bricks in the road that everyone else has followed. Like them or not (and you really should like them), bands like Jane's Addiction, Smashing Pumpkins, and even Nine Inch Nails owe a debt to the Cure. Remind me now, how it is that they haven't yet been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
But back to the show. Now here's the beautiful part. Whether you were once a thirteen-year-old boy who stole your sister's eyeliner and found solace in Smith's depressing lyrics, a sorority girl who fell in love when your boyfriend gave you a mix-tape that started off with "Just Like Heaven," or even a college junior who turned out the lights and listened to "Disintegration" for hours on end, everything came together for you with the thirty-fifth and final song of the night.
The song was almost thirty years old, but it spoke to all of us -- the mark, I suppose, of a truly classic song. The entire Bowl, it seemed, sang along from beginning to end, culminating with the final verse:
Now I would do most anything
To get you back on my side
But I just keep on laughing
Hiding the tears in my eyes
Because boys don't cry
Boys don't cry
Boys don't cry.
As the last few notes died away and it became clear that this fourth encore was finally the end of the evening, the crowd thanked the band for three hours and thirty years. As the cheers cascaded down to the stage, a funny thing happened. With no more music left to play, Robert Smith clearly didn't know what to do. He smiled, but only half a smile. He bowed, but only half a bow. For the first time all night, he appeared nervous and uncomfortable, and he lingered on stage, perhaps hoping we wouldn't go. As he looked out at us through the massive video screens flanking the stage, I suddenly flashed back to a verse from the middle of that final song:
TiVo Warning: Details of Wednesday night's Lost season finale will be discussed. Proceed at your own risk..
I have to admit that there were moments this season when Lost seemed to be lost. When the show was at it's best, it seemed like each episode ended the same way: the closing title would plunk onto the screen, and my mind would immediately begin racing. What did we just learn? What does that mean? How can this twist possibly be resolved? Is that character really dead?? And the next seven days couldn't pass quickly enough as I waited for my next dose.
There were times, though, when the end of the show was just the end of the show. Instead of sitting deep in thought for a few minutes, maybe zipping the TiVo back to watch a few key scenes or review the flashbacks, I'd just click over to SportsCenter. The show seemed stagnant, and there were those who felt it had lost its way.
On Wednesday night, though, the geniuses came out swinging and delivered the best two hours of television I've watched in a long, long time. In case you've forgotten, Lost is the best show on TV. (Alright, people tell me that the Sopranos is a decent watch, but I'm one of the few holdouts. Forgive me.)
But back to the Island. Even if you've only watched a little of this show, you know that the flashbacks are what pull everything -- and everyone together. For a while now, as I've become more attached to the characters, I've started to realize that we've gotten to know Jack and Kate, Hurley and Sawyer, Jin and Locke, and all the rest in just the same way that we get to know our real-life friends. At first all you have is the present tense -- all that you observe -- but little by little you learn the history. You get stories about prom dates and high school hangovers; triumphs and disappointments; secrets and dreams. Eventually the line between past and present begins to blur and all that's left is one continuous history.
And so it is that all of these people, or at least most of them, have secured a place in our lives. This week's season finale offered a perfect example. I was puzzled by the first flashback almost immediately. Jack's cell phone wasn't right. It looked suspiciously like my RAZR, a model which was certainly not available three years ago. This error -- for that was how I saw it -- bothered me. And even though we eventually learned that these flashbacks were actually flash forwards, explaining the modern phone, that's not really the interesting thing.
As I viewed the flash forwards throughout the night, I was struck by how much Jack's suffering was bothering me. When he stood on the bridge preparing to jump to the concrete below, I wondered what could have driven him to such a point. Later, as he seemed to hit rock bottom in the pharmacy, it was actually hard for me to watch. Thankfully, though, as these scenes dissolved back into the reality of the island, with Jack heroically leading our tribe to the radio tower and eventual rescue, I was comforted by the reminder that he was okay. Everything was okay.
And then came the bombshell at the end, which made everything worse. Suddenly the entire episode was turned on its head as I realized that Jack wasn't the hero anymore. The flashbacks which I had thought were showing me all he had overcome were instead previews of what he would become. As soon as I worked through the shock of this and understood that it meant that they really would get off the island someday, my attention shifted to Jack.
As the moral center of Lost -- sure, he strays from time to time, but he's still pretty much true north -- he's the one we've been following since the camera first pulled back from his blinking eye in the opening scene of season one. We want them all to be saved, but more than anything else we want Jack to be the one who leads them home.
All of this explains why my reaction to Jack's downward spiral was so strong, and probably why Kate looked at him with such sadness and pity as she left him at the airport. We care about Jack. It's difficult to watch as he contemplates suicide and wallows in drug addiction because he has become much more than just a character on a television show. He is -- along with Kate, Sawyer, Sayid, and all the rest -- a part of our lives.
Like any good story, whether it's Hamlet or The Cat in the Hat or Seinfeld, it's the characters that enter our hearts and minds and keep us coming back for more. With Lost, it's no different.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was October of 1991, only a few weeks into my senior year of college, and several of my friends gathered twenty-five or thirty bucks as incentive for me to enter a charity 5K organized by one of our school's sororities. I played pick-up basektball almost every day, so I was in fairly decent shape, but I couldn't imagine running for exercise. Even so, I held up my end of the bargain and ran every step of the 5K that day, only to have several of my "friends" welch on me. I think ended up with about ten bucks. Bastards.
Flash forward sixteen years to 2007, and you wouldn't recognize me. (Well, actually you would. I haven't changed much. But play along.) I'm off for Spring Break, but when I go to bed tonight I'll still set the alarm for 5:30 AM so I can get a run in before the kids get up. How did I get from there to here? Two words: Nike Plus.
I've never really been overweight, but I've never really been in shape either, at least not since college. Somewhere soon after turning thirty a small voice started whispering in my head, telling me that I should start doing something -- anything -- to get in shape. And so when Apple and Nike joined forces last summer and announced the release of the Nike+ iPod running system, I took it as a sign. I became a runner almost over night.
Here's how it works. First, you need an iPod Nano, Apple's smallest version of its most ubiquitous product. The Nano ranges in price from $149.00 for the 2GB model up to $249.00 for the 8GB model. If you've already got a grown-up iPod (and if you don't, what the hell are you waiting for?), you might as well get the small one. Five hundred songs is plenty for a running library.
Next, you'll need the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit. For $29.95 you get a chip that plugs into the bottom of your iPod Nano (it won't work with any other model), and a small sensor that fits into a compartment in the bottom of a Nike+ shoe. (If you'd prefer, you can buy a little pouch and attach the sensor to the laces of your non-Nike shoes.)
Once you've got all this together, you're ready to go. First, you choose the type of workout you want: time, distance, or calories. (I always go with distance.) Next, you choose the playlist you want to listen to, and a friendly voice will ask you to push the center button when you're ready to start.
For me, the feedback that I get from the system is the main selling point. Every half mile the friendly voice will let me know where I am in my workout. Also, I can ask for feedback at any point during my run by pushing the center button. I get distance covered, distance remaining, time elapsed, and current pace. It's absolutely beautiful. But here's the coolest thing. Sometimes, when you've knocked out a particularly good run, you'll get some words of congratulations from Lance Armstrong or Paula Radcliffe: "Congratulations, that was your longest workout yet!" It might sound cheesy, but trust me on this -- when you're standing in the driveway as your lungs are working desperately and your legs are burning, it's very, very cool.
Then you come in the house and plug your iPod into your computer, and the fun really begins. Apple's iTunes software takes the information from your iPod and automatically sends it to Nike. When you log on to Nike's site, your entire run history is available at your fingertips, free of charge. First, you'll get a graphic picture of your recently completed run (click on the image at left to see what this looks like). In addition to this, you can track your mileage by week or by month, set personal goals, participate in Nike+ events, and even challenge friends to match you stride for stride. Did I mention that this is a beautiful thing?
Here's the Nike commercial which slickly sums it all up. (By the way, some readers have been e-mailing and asking for pictures of the mysterious man behind the Mellow Hut. If it helps, you can picture me like the guy in the commercial.)
So I've been using the Nike+ iPod system since it came out last summer, but there were two features that I hadn't tried out until last week. The first was the Power Song. You can choose one song and designate it as your Power Song, and then when you reach that point in your run when your legs are starting to feel like sand bags and the voice in your head is telling you how nice it would be to lie down and take a nap on the sidewalk, all you have to do is push and hold the center button on your iPod and your Power Song comes to the rescue.
It sounds good, but would it work? To find out, I paid 99¢ to buy "Gonna Fly Now" (the theme from "Rocky") from the iTunes Music Store, and locked it in as my Power Song. The next morning, as I turned for home on the final leg of my run, I fired it up. I cannot describe how sweet it was. I was instantly energized as the trumpets blared the opening fanfare, and my pace immediately picked up. In my mind I was running the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, chasing chickens with Mick, and sprinting on the beach with Apollo Creed. Normally this stretch saw my stride faltering and my pace slowing, but on this morning I was smiling and throwing jabs and uppercuts. The Power Song feature gets a big thumbs up.
Two mornings later I went in another direction. The iTunes Music Store offers several pre-packaged workouts, forty minutes or so of music designed to pace your runs. I chose a forty-five minute piece created specifically for the Nike+ system by the sound wizards who call themselves LCD Soundsystem. As good as the Power Song was, this was exactly that bad. I need good, motivating music when I'm running, the type of stuff you might put on for a long drive. Monotonous, electronic dance music is pretty much the opposite of that. It might just be a matter of personal taste, but I spent the entire run wishing it was over, which made for a pretty crappy run. There are other mixes that I might try in the future, but for now I think I'll stick to my own creations.
Quite simply, I cannot recommend this product highly enough. It has completely changed my life. Eight months ago the thought of running for exercise made me nauseous; now I can't imagine a life without running. If my cheapskate friends had kept their word sixteen years ago, maybe I would've gained that appreciation a long time ago. Better late than never.
If you watch any of the reality televison competition shows, you know that the attraction isn’t the competition so much as the outsized personalities and the drama they create. We watch the Bachelor because we wonder who in the world would be willing to choose a wife over the course of several weeks, and we puzzle over the women who would allow themselves to be chosen. We tune in to the Apprentice not because we want to gain insight into big business, but because we can’t wait to watch the junior businessmen and women cut each other up in the board room.
And so if you watch these shows, you probably know the reigning King and Queen of Reality, Rob and Amber. If you’ve been living under a rock (or more accurately, if you’ve been living a normal, well-adjusted life free from the addictions of television), here’s a short course: Boston Rob first appeared on Survivor: Marquesas where his abrasive personality and cocky attitude made him a star. Amber showed up on Survivor: Australia a few years later. Neither won, but both were interesting enough to earn an invitation to Survivor:All-Stars, where they formed an alliance, controlled every aspect of the game, and fell in love. Having ridden their romance to the final two, Rob proposed to Ambah on the final episode, moments before the votes were read. (Amber won the million, but it hardly mattered; the Robfather got the girl and her money, too.)
The power couple then did exactly what you might expect -- they continued riding the wave. They got married on national television and then jumped at the chance to compete on another show, the Amazing Race. They lost. Next they produced their own reality show, Rob and Amber: Against the Odds, in which Rob convinces Amber to move to Las Vegas so he can pursue his dream of becoming a professional poker player. In the final episode of that show, the couple received a call inviting them to take yet another shot at a million dollars on the Amazing Race: All-Stars.
And that’s where I came in. It’s ironic that Rob wears his Red Sox cap wherever he goes (he even had Amber wear a matching one on Amazing Race), because the two of them are really more like the Yankees: you either love them or you hate them. Not surprizngly, I love them, so I packed my TiVo with their Against the Odds show and the Amazing Race.
Against the Odds falls into that genre of reality TV that makes you wonder two things: one, just how hard is it to get your own show? and two, why exactly am I watching this? There are no games, no one is voted off the island, and nothing really happens -- but I watched and loved every episode. Whether I was watching them pick out cars (Rob: convertible Porsche, Amber: sensible SUV) or furniture, I simply couldn’t tear myself away.
There was a downside, though. Whenever you look this closely at someone, you can’t help but see the warts. As much as I love Rob, he’s kind of a neandrethal. When he chooses not to answer his phone while playing poker, he explains it away: “My cell phone kept ringing, and I knew it was Ambah, but I was working!” And as clever as Amber appeared on Survivor, here she seems sadly vapid, saying things like, “I’m really excited that Rob wants me to come watch his tournament!” Truth be told, I liked them a lot better when they were playing the role of Mr. and Mrs. Puppetmaster in the jungles of Borneo.
But like I said, I couldn’t get enough, even with the warts, so I jumped into the Amazing Race with both feet. Predictably, all of the other competing pairs hated the Chosen Ones, but Rob and Amber still managed to dominate the early stages, smirking all the while. But sadly, just as they were threatening to turn the race into a victory tour, their tragic flaws did them in. To their credit, though, they even managed to lose with the smirks firmly in place. Consistently cocky to the end.
All of this, of course, begs one question: why do Rob and Amber do this? There’s a big financial incentive (million dollar prizes, a free wedding, etc.), but is that it? Fame is a powerful drug, and these two are clearly addicted. I can’t blame them, though. My wife and I appeared on a reality show several years ago, and although we had other motives, I like when we’re recognized, even though it rarely happens. Rob and Amber are certainly recognized every single day, but I bet they still like it.
But don’t judge. Afterall, what’s worse, the addicts like Rob and Amber, or the people like us who are addicted to them?
In the waning days of the summer of 1983 I attended my first concert ever, and it was a doozy. There were many tours that summer -- Talking Heads, Tom Petty, Tears for Fears, Steve Miller -- but the biggest by far was the Police’s Synchronicity Tour. Sting, Stewart Copeland, and Andy Summers were on top of the world, and they headed into the Hollywood Park racetrack with three opening acts: Berlin, the Fixx, and the Thompson Twins. (Yes, this was the 80s...) What makes this story interesting, though, is that since I was only thirteen and my step-brother Peter only twelve, we would not be allowed to go alone. My mother took us.
In case you’re only thirteen years old and you’re thinking about asking your mom to take you to a concert, you can use this story as a case study of what not to do. Here’s how it went...
The first thing you need to know is that September is probably the hottest month in Southern California, and this was a typical September day. The Thompson Twins were scheduled to start things off in the early afternoon, so we arrived for the general admission show at about noon, which gave us plenty of time to bake in the sun.
Coincidentally, there was a group of teenage girls sitting directly in front of us who were getting baked while baking in the sun. (Their mothers were not in attendance.) There was one particular girl, probably about fifteen or so, who spent an awful lot of time with the pipe in her mouth. Her brown hair was cut daringly short, just like all the cool kids of the day, and freckles danced across the bridge of her nose, souvenirs, no doubt, of countless summer days spent lounging on the beach.
If ever there was a teachable moment, this was it, and my mom took full advantage. As Freckles drifted further and further into her purple haze, my mom became more and more disgusted. "Just look at her," she said. "She's here with her friends at this big concert, and she's not going to remember any of it!" For years it was the image of Freckles trying to keep her eyelids open that served as my own personal anti-drug campaign.
But there were other interesting aspects of the day, like when Pete and I went to buy some soda and missed the Thompson Twins' entire set. Or when I had the pleasure of sitting next to my mother while Terri Nunn writhed around on the stage screaming "I'm a slut!" Or when alcohol mixed with pounding sun and boredom between sets to produce the biggest melee I've ever seen. (It was at about this time, I would later learn, that a young Gwen Stefani had the pleasure of shaking Sting's hand, a meeting which -- no doubt -- propelled her to a career in music.)
When the Police finally took the stage the sun had finally retreated behind the grandstand and given way to a much cooler evening, but the damage could be seen everywhere. Shirtless men showed off bright red backs, and Freckles and her friends looked like they were waiting to be tucked in.
Sadly, the music itself doesn't hold as strong a place in my memory as all the rest of it. In fact, there are only two things that I remember for certain about the performance. First, when they played "King of Pain," I remember wondering why the crowd insisted on singing "it's the same old SHIT as yesterday," when the lyric was clearly supposed to be "same old thing." Second, instead of taking an intermission, Sting imposed his British will and the band retreated to their dressing room for a tea break which was broadcast on jumbo screens for all to see. It was all quite civilized until Sting and Stewart staged a fight and flipped over the tea table. Definitely, an omen of things to come...
As soon as the show was over, my mom gathered us up and headed to the parking lot, oblivious to our assurances that there would be an encore. The day had already been much more than she had bargained for. As we were searching in the dark for the family car, we heard the crowd roar in the distance, and then the music started again. We had been right about the encore, but it hardly mattered.
On that night the Police became my favorite band. I wore the tour t-shirt proudly on the first day of school later that week, and almost every Friday for the rest of that year. The following year I would find myself in a new school far from my old friends, but it was the Police who came to my rescue. I fell in with a group of tenth graders who spent much of July and August -- and by that I mean every single day -- swimming in my backyard pool. The soundtrack of that summer was Outlandos D'Amour. We listened to it hundreds of times until we owned each of Steward Copeland's drum riffs, anticipated every lilt of Sting's voice, and memorized every aspect of Andy Summers's guitar solos. I cannot listen to any of those songs without feeling the sting of chlorine in my eyes.
Eventually I would have all of their albums and follow Sting deep into his solo career, but there was always a regret. If I had seen that concert after becoming a fan, how much better would it have been?
Thankfully, I'll finally be able to get an answer this summer. In celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of "Roxanne," the boys have mended the fences well enough to plan what should be the biggest tour of the summer.
They'll be playing Dodger Stadium in June, and I'll be there. Tickets went on sale on Monday morning at 10:00 AM, and even though I was teaching class at the time, I was still able to sneak onto my computer long enough to buy two tickets before they sold out at 10:30. The price really didn't matter, because there was no price I wouldn't have paid. I'll finally get to see the encore I've been waiting twenty-four years to hear. And who knows -- maybe I'll even see Freckles again.
Isn't it self-explanatory? It's a place where you can hang out and relax while talking about cool stuff. Picture a grass hut on a Tahitian beach, like in a Gauguin painting. That's a mellow hut. Wouldn't you like to hang out in a mellow hut?
Why another web site?
The reason for starting a site, I suppose, is to save your friends and families from whatever it is you normally rant about when sending e-mails, dominating dinner discussions, or talking in your sleep. The site, then, serves a dual purpose. You have the opportunity to send your opinions out into the great beyond, and your loved ones have the opportunity to live their lives in peace. And so it shall be with this site.
What are you writing about now?
I’m sure the answer to this one will be ever-evolving, but for now I’ll be writing about all things media related. I’ll review movies, discuss books, ramble about gadgets, complain about cancellations, worship the genius box (idiot box + TiVo = genius box), and do my best to convince everyone in the free world to put a TiVo on top of their television.
How often will you post?
At least once a day, probably more.
Are you serious?
No, that would be crazy.
Why would I want to come back?
You’ll come back because, quite simply, you won’t be able to get enough. You listen to music, you watch TV, you're willing to pay ten or eleven bucks to go to the movies, and you love to read. You're addicted to flickering images and the satisfaction that comes with turning a page of printed text. Most importantly, though, you know you can turn off the TV about as easily as you can turn off the sun. Welcome home.
Is media really that important?
You bet your ass. For most people of my generation, all of life’s major signposts are marked by some form of media, and it is no different for me. Devo's "Whip It," sends me directly back to the sixth grade; when I hear Louis Armstrong's "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" I’m suddenly transported to my wedding day, my wife in my arms. In fact, when my wife and I were falling in love, we took it as a sign of our shared destiny when we discovered a shared love of an old Christopher Guest/Martin Short SNL sketch, laughing hysterically as we pointed at each other saying, "Hey, you -- I know you!" Clearly, we were meant to be.
For me, though, it goes deeper. Take today for instance. I stood in front of my class reading a play with my students when I came across this line: "Mr. Dussel is standing at the window, looking down fixedly at the street below." And because of that I had a line from an obscure Cure song running through my head for the rest of the day: "...all six eyes stared fixedly on you." Because of one word. But that’s just the beginning.
When I think protest movements, I don’t think Susan B. Anthony, I think "Donna Martin graduates!" When the temperature climbs into the nineties, I inevitably tell someone that it’s "Africa hot," parroting a line from a play I’ve never read, a movie I’ve never seen. If that’s not good enough, I’ll invoke Eddie Murphy doing James Brown: "It’s hot in the hot tub!" Speaking of Murphy, whenever I find a shoe I’ve been looking for I have to shout out "My shoe!", thanks to all the time I spent listening to his Delirious record in the ninth grade.
Sometimes these references are made purely for my own enjoyment. Whenever I meet someone named Carl, I immediately say, "Hey, Carl!" Carl thinks I’m being friendly, but I’m really doing a Judd Nelson line from The Breakfast Club. And even though none of my students were born when Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was in the theaters, I can’t help myself when their vacant stares are the only response to a tricky question. "Anyone? Anyone?"
Again, is media really that important?
Media isn’t really that important in the grand scheme of things, obviously. Books, music, television shows, and movies are meant only as diversions. But in the right situation -- when a lyric falls into the right ear or when the line from a movie finds its way into the vernacular -- these things are important. How else can you explain that every time Charles Barkley had a big game newspapers across the country ran the same headline: "Charles in Charge." Why does everyone in America know the zip code of Beverly Hills? Why will the line "Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout Willis?" get a laugh in any situation?