The Award for Most Lifeless Vocal by a Soloist, Pop Group or Madrigal Choir Goes to …

At Ms. Stim’s insistence we sat down to watch the Grammys.  We nearly made it to the end of Katy Perry’s … number.  That was, what?, three performances and two awards into the show.  Ms. Stim pressed Record for a future fast forward to Sir Paul and Ringo.  We occupied ourselves otherwise until it was time for “Sherlock.”  You know, something with actual entertainment value.

At the risk of sounding a lot older than I am (dang kids and that noise they call music) —

By the time Ms. Stim and I turned off the Grammys, my stomach ate itself.  The performances were terrible (looking straight at you, Beyonce/Jay-Z — choreographed seduction — it’s all been done before and performed a whole lot better; and Jay-Z, a rap is meaningless if the words come through a verbal slurry).  The songs were pablum (again B/J and whoever you were and you, too, Katy).  LL Cool J … jeezus, fucking LL Cool J.  Yet the crowd applauds.  Another Celebration of Mediocrity.

Every era, every artistic medium, is filled to capacity with mediocre, forgettable talents.  Some disappear quickly.  Others succeed wildly with the crowd, filling their coffers.  Nonetheless, they are the Salieris (look him up or watch Amadeus) of their time.  Able up to a point, but soon to be replaced by whoever comes next.  Forgotten in their own time.  Search your memory for the artists — writers, painters, actors, musicians —  you’ve heard of from the early 20th Century; the 19th Century; the 18th and before.  Those artists whose work history has judged to be worth remembering, to be timeless.

The cameras kept returning to a shot of Paul and Ringo.  Today a variety of musical acts will be recorded for a TV special to be shown on February 9th, the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’s performance on the Ed Sullivan Show.  In 50 years, will anyone care about Beyonce/Jay-Z?  Katy?  Madonna (who gives a shit about Madonna now)?  LL Cool J (jeezus, fucking LL Cool J)?  Paul and Ringo on the other hand — the only two people in the sea of performers last night who can say with certainty that their music will outlive them.

You Choose: Which Is More Disgusting?

In today’s installment of “What can I space off on rather than focus on my job, which, at this moment, really doesn’t require much focus in order to do whatever it is I’m suppose to do,”  I began to wonder what one could do with a blog post that begins with as dull a first sentence as possible.  At about the same time my nose itched.

My nose itches.  The time-honored solution is to scratch it.  But a nose being a nose, rather than, say, an arm or torso, the location of the itch plays a significant role in the proper social response.  If the itch is on the tip of the nose, as was mine, you simply scratch.  However, if the itch is INSIDE your nose … well.  Cause blowing your nose doesn’t always relieve the itch.  And if a sneeze isn’t forthcoming, that leaves you with, yes, sticking a finger up your nose.  Which is socially disgusting.  Yet safer than scratching with a paring knife.

Speaking of “disgusting,” it’s time for you to choose.  In his book, Batavia’s Graveyard, Mike Dash describes life aboard a 1628 state-of-the-art Dutch East India Company trade ship bound from Amsterdam to (you guessed it) the East Indies.  Generally speaking, while sailing for months, life on board a trade ship (or retourschip) really, really, really sucked.  “Within a week of sailing even basic cleanliness became a dreamed-of luxury for the passengers and crew of a retourschip.  There was no fresh water for washing, and although one of the largest ships of her day, the Batavia was equipped with no more than four latrines” (p. 94 of my paperback copy).  If you were a ship’s officer or one of the East India Company merchants or a socially high-ranking enough passenger, you stayed in the stern of the ship.  Life here only sucked very much.

If you were crew or a soldier or socially low-ranking, you stayed in the bow.  Unless your duty called you to the stern, it was a severe flogging offence for the scummy bow people to go on the other side of the main mast (which went all the way down to the keel).  You are a common crew member assigned to the bow section to live for months.  Living your life in the bow:  Which Is More Disgusting?

No. 1)  “The rest of the crew had to line up to use the remaining pair [of latrines] in the bow, which were nothing more than holes in the deck under the bowsprit. … The only additional amenity was a long dung-smeared rope that snaked through the hole in the latrine.  The frayed end of the rope dangled in the sea and could be hauled up and used to wipe oneself clean.”  OR

No. 2)  “Hard tack was the worst affected.  This twice-baked bread contained no fats or moisture and would keep indefinitely in normal conditions, though it was so dry it cracked teeth and had to be dunked in stew to make it edible.  Damp, it was easier to eat but became a perfect larder for the weevils that laid their eggs within and turned each piece into a honeycomb of tunnels and chambers full of larvae.  Each sailor who made the passage to the Indies learned to tap his ration of bread against the sides of the ship before he ate it, to dislodge the insect life within.  Any that remained were eaten anyway.  Novice seamen learned to distinguish the flavors of the different species:  weevils tasted bitter, cockroaches of sausage; maggots were unpleasantly spongy and cold to bite into.”

Once you finish barfing, vote in the comments.

Joining the “End of the Year List” Club

For the next week we will be inundated with lists: “Best of …,” “Worst of …,” “Most Important …,” of the year lists. For professional media, lists are easy copy/programming. For me, it’s post-Christmas, the office is empty and I need to kill time.

2013 in review:

    • Best “Wow, Who Saw This Coming?” – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for everything that’s happened since he was caught on tape smoking crack.
    • Best “Coolest Thing – Nerd Edition” (tie) – NASA announced that Voyager 1 left the Solar System.  Launched in 1977, this little engineering marvel was supposed to take photos of the large gas giant planets, then become a cold piece of space junk.  Instead Voyager HQ shut down unessential functions to save battery power, leaving Voyager with enough oomph to collect data of its environment and stream it back to Earth.  As you may know, the Voyager craft has a gold plate that, among other things, includes navigational instructions showing our location just waiting to be found by an alien invasion force.
    • Other Best “Coolest Thing – Nerd Edition” – Using the Large Hadron Collider (a really, really big atom smasher), scientists found the Higgs Boson. Nobel Prizes for everyone.  Simply put, the Higgs boson gives mass to every other sub-atomic particle. It’s the reason you’re going on that post-New Year’s diet.
    • Worst “How Could You!!? – Reality Show” – Dancing With The Stars voters giving an early boot to Valerie Harper.  The woman has Terminal Brain Cancer.  What the hell’s wrong with you people?  Her doctors said Harper would be dead months before she got the invite from DWTS.  Ok, Harper wasn’t a very good dancer.  But she’s, what, 74 years old And Has Terminal Brain Cancer.  Good lord, the voters kept Bill Engvall dancing long past his expiration date.
    • Worst “Media Hyperventilation – TV Episode” – Game of Thrones, “Red Wedding” episode.  Oh, the shock.  Oh, the blood.  Oh, even people who read the book weren’t ready for the shock and blood.  Um, media people?  I read the book.  I You-Tubed (candidate for most unneeded verb) the wedding scene.  The scene wasn’t shocking.  And compared to your average slasher movie, it wasn’t very bloody either.
    • Worst “Of Course They Did – Tabloid Couple” – Kanye West and Kim Kardashian naming their kid “North West.”
    • Most Likely to Spend Inherited Fortune on Therapy – see North West above.
    • Best “Creative Re-energizing of an Already Good Show” – The Good Wife for Alicia starting her own law firm and the ensuing turmoil.
    • Why do movie studios keep hiring Ben Stiller?  No particular category.  Just confused.
    • Best “How The Fuck Did He Do That and Why Would Anyone Want To?” – David Blaine for shoving an ice pick through his hand without drawing blood.
    • Worst “This is the Best a Trillion Dollar National Budget Can Buy?” – Roll out of the Obamacare website.
    • Best Use of Papal Authority – Pope Francis telling his Cardinals, Bishops and Priests to shut their yaps about abortions and homosexuality, and start giving a damn about the poor.
    • Best Book I Read This Year – Lords of Finance: The Bankers Who Broke the World by Liaquat Ahamed, published in 2009.  The book is a history of the financial events leading up to the Great Depression and the four men who made the key decisions that led to much of what went wrong.
    • Worst or Best “Living Up to the Lowest Expectations” – Congressional Republicans who likely would vote against Motherhood, if Obama came out for it.
    • Best “Taking Advantage of the Situation While the Boss is Away” – John Oliver, who hosted The Daily Show during the summer while Jon Stewart was directing a movie half a world away.  HBO signed Oliver to host his own show.
    • Most Important Political Act – Edward Snowden leaking confidential NSA files.  Whatever your opinion is of Snowden, his leaks confirmed what we all knew – the NSA is spying on all of us, as in every person on Earth.  What remains to be seen is what we, domestically, will do and how our allies and others will react now that they have evidence.
    • Can we collectively erase all memories of Miley Cyrus twerking?  Just curious.
    • Best film of the year – I don’t know.  With even matinees costing nearly $10 a pop, I don’t see many movies during their theatrical release.  12 Years a Slave will probably win the Oscar.
    • Worst Neverending List – this one.
    • Best TV Episode.  Period. – Breaking Bad “Ozymandias.”
    • Best Event of 2013 – Living to see 2014.

SANTA SHOT DEAD — Husband Charged with Double Murder

“… oh, what a laugh it would have been, if Daddy had only seen Mommy kissing Santa Claus last night.”

Lubbock TX —  Santa Claus was shot dead by a jealous husband late Tuesday night in a double murder.  William Joseph Courouge, 38, has been charged by police with the murder of Mr. Claus and  Cindy Lou Courouge, 31.

Mr. Courouge was quoted as saying while being led away in handcuffs from the scene, “Lucky I heard my kid creep down the stairs to have a peep.   Where I come from, that ain’t “kissing.”  She sure as hell wasn’t tickling him only under his beard.”

An elf who wished to remain anonymous said, “I’m surprised this hasn’t happened sooner.  I mean no one got more action in one night than Santa.  The miracle of Santa wasn’t that he delivered all those presents in one night.  It was that a fat, thousand-year old man could [get an erection] so many times in such short order.  These women would throw themselves at Santa like a bunch of drunk Tri-Delts lusting after the captain of the football team.  They all wanted to ‘unwrap Santa’s package.'”

Santa Arrested!

CHICAGO, IL — Mr. Santa Clause of an unincorporated northern address was arrested Tuesday night on charges of solicitation of prostitution.  The police report states that Mr. Clause was driving “an unusual animal-powered vehicle” in a well-known red light district.  Witnesses report that Mr. Clause would take a wrapped package out of a large bag, hold out the package to a woman and shout “Ho, ho, ho.”

Mr. Clause remains held in Cook County Jail.  Due to the backlog of cases and the County Court’s holiday schedule, Mr. Clause’s first court appearance is scheduled for December 26th.

Can You Make It In?

You’re having a bad day.  You lost your job.  Your home was broken into and looted.  Oh, and 95% of your friends and relatives are now dead.  Just another regularly scheduled apocalypse.

And since you put off building that underground bunker, you now need to find a place to hang your hat.  Your hat being the only item the looters left.

Somehow you have enough food and quasi-clean water.  Somehow you have avoided the marauding mobs.  Somehow you have escaped your surroundings and have, again, somehow found a compound set up for surviving said regularly scheduled apocalypse.  And somehow those inside the compound didn’t shoot you before you reached the razor wire entryway.

Your life comes down to a few precious moments.  Are you someone the compound would take?  Do you have the skills, knowledge or items that make you valuable to a society now living on the edge?  Can you make it in?  You need to do a little self-assessment.

Do I have a gun?  I’m not talking about a cutesy, little 6-round handgun.  I’m talking semi-automatic, oversized magazine, would make Dirty Harry weep for joy type of handgun.  Do you have rifles, shotguns, a bazooka, plus a generous supply of ammo to go with them?  Even having all that, there’s nothing to prevent a compounder from shooting you anyway and taking your stuff.  That’s the inherent problem with stuff.  Someone can take it away.

What about my cache of precious metals and jewels?  Precious metals and jewels are ideal for barter.  That’s a plus.  However, again, it’s “stuff.”  Stuff can be taken from your prone body.

Likely life or death will come down to:  Who are you and what can you do?

Am I a farmer?  Nice one.  Especially if you brought seeds with you.  You’ll be indispensable.  Walk on in.

Am I a doctor/nurse?  Medical professionals will be in high demand.  Your ticket’s punched.  Negotiate for a good mate.

Am I a Wall Street banker?  Somehow, some way, this apocalypse is partly your fault.  Even if it isn’t, the survivors will believe it is.  Take your pick of unmarked graves.

Am I a lawyer?  You believe that your knowledge of law and negotiating skills will help bring order to what you believe is the chaos of the situation.  The thing is that the compound was founded by people versed in quasi-military life.  The compound is already organized.  Maybe not well organized, but no one in there wants a lawyer coming in to tell them what to do.  You’ll be next to the banker.

Am I a musician?  Do you play the accordion?  Isn’t humanity suffering enough?  Take up the lute.  Play the old favorites around the evening campfire.  Wander from camp to camp.  Be a troubadour delivering the news.  Learn to pick pockets.

Am I a drop-dead gorgeous female in her early to middle reproductive years?  Need you ask?

Am I a computer whiz?  How quickly you forgot when your brand new, spiffy, all the bells and whistles with more RAM than the whole of Honduras suddenly went dead.  Huh, the pulse bomb that knocked out the grid?  Think you can tweet the world powering off a propane generator?

Am I an actor?  Yes, I’m sure your extensive experience waiting tables will come in handy somewhere.

Am I an exceedingly charming international art thief?  You’ll probably talk your way in anyway, but being able to plan and pull off heists of rival compounds’ assets will put you in great standing.

Am I one of those continuously mocked craftspeople who set up a booth at the local Renaissance Faire every summer to peddle my pseudo-medieval wares?  Congratulations.  You’ve unintentionally taught yourself a now-admired skill set.  As those cotton-blend shirts wear away to threads, your leather jerkins will be the fashion.

Am I a history teacher?  Seriously?  Look around you.

Am I a sociopath?  In a world with multiple groups of survivors contesting for quickly dwindling supplies, tough decisions have to be made.  Tough actions have to be taken.  Being the one who can kill a rival compound’s small children without remorse will finally be a useful asset.  Try to keep the ritualistic aspects of the killings to yourself.

Am I Glenn Beck?  Considering the general political views of those who have already established survivalist compounds, sadly, you will be invited in although you have no evident knowledge or skills that would help anyone to survive.

Am I a professional blogger?  HAHAHAHA!