Friday, April 17, 2009

Tax Return

Tax day has come and gone. And I’m just as annoyed as anyone about the ridiculous amount of money I pay throughout the year (and symbolically on April 15).

But I’m not going to rant about it.

Why not? Because this blog is remaining on hiatus for the indefinite future. I’ve just been getting too much done on other projects, including a book proposal I’d put off far too long, to devote the time here I feel necessary to do it well.

Maybe that will change later this year. Maybe.

For now, enjoy your summer. See you in the fall. (?)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Dramatic Pause

My dog was acting up today. She kept pawing at the air while rolling around on the floor to entertain me.

You could say she has dramatic paws.

But that's not important right now, because it's the other kind of dramatic pause I'm going to tell you about.

After three and a half years of feeding material to this site without any break of more than a couple of weeks, it's time for a rest. I'm juggling so many projects right now that it's not fair to my paying clients, to you readers, or to myself to force half-assed posts up here merely to maintain continuity.

So I'll pause.

My plan is to come back in a few months, probably in mid April. For US readers, think Tax Deadline. Sure, that means you'll associate David Amulet with taxes ... but at least it will remind you when to look here again. Who knows, I may even post a thing or two before then. If so, I'll try to let you know on your sites or in e-mail, for those of you with addresses in my inbox.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fourth Annual Best and Worst of the Year: 2008

Every December, I find myself reflecting on the high and low points of the 12 months gone by. It’s hard to believe I’ve been putting my choices here on the blog for four years now.

But enough about me and more about my picks. As in my other annual lists, I’m only including things I’ve actually experienced directly. Thus, in the categories that follow you won’t find any mention of campaign documentary films, children’s books, or American Idol singers.

And the winners (and losers) are …

Best movie of 2008: The Dark Knight. It didn’t match the glory of Batman Begins, but it was still a stunning visual experience. It would have been more appropriate to call it Urban Psychotic Terror because the focus was more on the Joker than on the Caped Crusader—and I’m OK with that.

Best movie of 2008, runners-up: (1) Wanted. A great idea with a good presentation. And the direction was very David Fincher-esque, which made it awesome in my eyes. (2) Iron Man. Fun, fun, fun. Please Robert Downey, Jr.: Stay off the drugs and keep your talent on the big screen for us.

Worst movie of 2008: Burn After Reading. This wasn’t a truly horrible movie. But I’m giving it this stinky turd award anyway because I expected it to be amazing and it just fizzled. It had what seemed to be a perfect mix—the Coen brothers, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, George Clooney, a spy spoof—but the pieces never quite fit together. A missed opportunity to produce an all-time classic.

Best TV show of 2008: House. Sure, every episode was pretty much the same. Misanthropic doc takes case, then abuses colleagues and subordinates, then abuses patient, then solves case on a whim. Rinse and repeat. But the rapid-fire barbs were still fun enough to keep me interested in a television show—no easy feat.

Best TV show of 2008, runner-up: The Universe. The History Channel is not my favorite channel right now for putting schlock like UFO sightings and ghost hunting on the airwaves. But this astronomy series remains the best overview of out-of-this-world topics since Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. It ventured too far into pop explanations, unfortunately, but it had to reach a wide audience so I’ll forgive its excesses.

Worst TV show of 2008: American Idol. Enough said. Please, finally, get rid of this crap.

Best blog of 2008 (general): Lisa B in Da City. Two years in a row. Lisa’s fun take on love and life still put a smile on my face and warmth in my heart.

Best blog of 2008 (music): Layla’s Classic Rock. From a fan, from the heart—Barbara has kept it real (and brief) for another year, showing us the joy of blogging.

Best album of 2008: Metallica’s Death Magnetic. A solid album from one of metal’s most maligned groups. This was partially a sympathy vote; I’m no fan of the past 10+ years of Metallica’s catalog, but it’s horrible the way “fans” have attacked this group for standing up proudly and loudly for copyright enforcement instead of theft. Thankfully, the entire package here—from the music to the cover art—was impressive enough to justify the pick anyway.

Best album of 2008, runners-up: (1) Lindsey Buckingham’s Gift of Screws. Although I’m not a big fan of light rock, this dude is a master craftsman of guitar-based pop; his latest effort exemplified thoughtful production. (2) The Sword, Gods of the Earth. I love me some good power metal, and it doesn’t get much better than this. Bonus points for including a song based on George R.R. Martin’s ongoing Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series.

Most catchy song of 2008: Metro Station’s “Shake It.” When this song comes on, I do.

Worst song of 2008: Britney Spears’s “Womanizer.” She had most of the elements for a great party track. Sadly, no one took an extra three minutes to improve the inane chorus:

“Womanizer, woman-womanizer/You’re a womanizer/Oh Womanizer/Oh You’re a Womanizer/You, you you are/You, you you are/Womanizer, womanizer, womanizer.”

Best book of 2008: Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat, and Crowded. I’ve been slow to come around to the topic of global climate change, finding it easier to hide my head in the sand than give it any serious thought. Friedman’s research and presentation, however, grabbed me. Now let’s see if the new administration considers his ideas.

Dumbest moment of 2008: John McCain blaming “greed” for the financial crisis during the peak of election season. The fundamentals of the crisis are clear—and have much more to do with liberalized home ownership goals than with human nature.

My Prediction for 2009: A shocking writing revelation from David Amulet.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whatcha Readin’ and Listenin’ To Wednesday: December 24, 2008

This week has been a slow reading week, but a busy listening week. I’ve even pulled out my one and only Christmas album for a few spins. Something about that jazzy approach—and the images in my head of the Peanuts Christmas dancers—gets me in the holiday mood.

Three side notes:

(1) Check out Whole Lotta Album Covers this week for the Best and Worst of 2008 according to Mark, Ray, Bob, Chuck, and me. Prepare to be amazed by some stunning artwork … and horrified by some real stinkers.

(2) Next week, I’ll be posting my fourth annual (has it been four years?!?) best and worst of the year picks. I know you’re on the edge of your seats; please don’t fall off.

(3) Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!


The Elements of Style, by William Strunk and E.B. White. Every person can improve his or her writing, and reviewing this classic little book is a great—and quick—way to do so.

Listening To:

Vince Guaraldi Trio, A Charlie Brown Christmas
Aerosmith, Get Your Wings
Lindsey Buckingham, Gift of Screws
Rush, Permanent Waves
INXS, Kick
Tesla, Into the Now

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whatcha Readin’ and Listenin’ To Wednesday: December 17, 2008

Usually I post what I’m listening to in my car, where I get through about six CDs a week. But when not in my car, I also listen to music on my iPod.

So today, you’ll get the iPod edition; I’ll show you the last 20 songs that came up on my iPod shuffle play. Enjoy.


Titan Unveiled: Saturn’s Mysterious Moon Explored, by Ralph Lorenz and Jacqueline Mitton. Planetary science fascinates me, and that extends to the moons of the solar system. This book goes into crazy depth on everything you could possibly want to know about Titan, an amazing world far, far away.

Listening To:

The Police, “Regatta de Blanc”
Trivium, “Becoming the Dragon”
Motörhead, “Ace of Spades”
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message”
Ozzy Osbourne, “Over the Mountain”
Rush, “The Fountain of Lamneth”
Kiss, “War Machine”
Tool, “Parabol”
Huey Lewis & the News, “Heart and Soul”
Led Zeppelin, “Gallows Pole”
Nine Inch Nails, “Somewhat Damaged”
Commodores, “Easy”
Pink Floyd, “Flaming”
Rush, “What You’re Doing”
Genesis, “The Lady Lies”
Collective Soul, “Where The River Flows”
King Crimson, “Cat Food”
The Who, “See Me, Feel Me”
Renholder, “Falling Through the Sky”
Def Leppard, “Foolin’”

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Art of Musical Parody

Good musical parody is hard to find.

Saturday Night Live relies on it, but often falls short. Case in point: newscasters rapping the news. Not quality parody.

Other skits have been brilliant. Two great ones stick in memory:

7 Degrees Celsius. I can still see host James Van Der Beek as one of the members of a boy band even more ridiculous than ‘N Sync and 98 Degrees. I cannot find this video online to share with you so I hope you remember it.

D*ck in a Box. Justin Timberlake joined Adam Samberg for this hilarious parody of R&B ballads. If you haven’t seen it, feel free to watch—just keep your young ones away.

And now, another outstanding musical parody has just reached out and smacked me across the face. It, too, mocks R&B balladry, and it makes my laugh every time I see it.

Enjoy this clip from McDonalds. Yes, it's actually from McDonalds:

You just heard the best line in music in 2008: “Girl, you got a ten piece please don’t be stingaaay …”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whatcha Readin’ and Listenin’ To Wednesday: December 10, 2008

Two of the CDs in my car’s six-CD changer got multiple plays this week: Metallica’s Death Magnetic, which I hadn’t yet given a sustained listen to, and Saga’s Worlds Apart.

I’ll state it simply: I’m impressed with the new Metallica album. Containing just enough complexity and diversity to keep me interested all the way through, Death Magnetic stands among my best of the year.

Only one question: Did the world really need “The Unforgiven III?”

I always saw Saga as the sad little brother to fellow Canadian bands Rush and Triumph. Maybe that’s harsh, but like these groups Saga is a hard rock outfit from Ontario that incorporated progressive rock and even pop elements in the 1980s. So a comparison is fair.

But Saga always seemed to fall just short of its compatriots—its technical skills never equaled Rush; its hardest edge rarely matched the almost-metal riffs of Triumph (and Rush). That said, Saga had two tracks that grip me to this day, and both of them are on Worlds Apart: “Wind Him Up” and “On the Loose.”


Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln: 21 Powerful Secrets of History’s Greatest Speakers, by James C. Humes. This fun book pours over with practical tips for improving speeches and speaking, written by a long-time speechwriter. It reminds me just how witty and crafty Churchill was.

Listening To:

Metallica, Death Magentic
Saga, Worlds Apart
cKy, Infiltrate Destroy Rebuild
Pink Floyd, Meddle
Def Leppard, Hysteria
Andy Summers and Robert Fripp, I Advance Masked

Friday, December 05, 2008

So Sue Me

In case you missed it, Guns N’ Roses—or what’s left of it, seeing as Axl Rose has driven anyone else of consequence out of the band—has finally released Chinese Democracy. It’s been a whoppping 17 years since the last album of original GNR material.

But the biggest story isn’t the music. It’s the Dr Pepper.

The beverage maker (which, by the way, officially dropped the period after “Dr” in the 1950s) decided earlier this year to give a free drink to everyone in America if Chinese Democracy actually saw release in 2008. Dr Pepper put a coupon for the soda on its Web site.

Then the madness began. The site crashed under the weight of free-drink seekers, you see. So the company extended the coupon availability and took extra measures to meet customer demand.

What’s Axl’s reaction to all this free additional publicity for his album? Guns N’ Roses may sue Dr Pepper so the band’s remaining fans don’t blame Axl for confusion about the coupon process.

Yes, really.

The landslide of potential lawsuits in the wake of this news is astounding. Look who else is filing court claims:

Georgia: This summer’s conflict with Russia put the country on the map for many Americans. That’s a shame for the Caucasian country’s secret plans to annex the other Georgia—you know, the one with ATL and millions of peaches—to remove all confusion about its name. Too bad the halfway-around-the-world Georgians brought it on themselves by attacking the breakaway region of South Ossetia and bringing Russian wrath—and the world’s attention—down on them.

So they will sue themselves.

Sarah Palin: The Alaska Governor will sue the Republican Party and Senator John McCain for making her the party’s vice presidential candidate this year. All that attention is giving her big time ambitions, and that’s just not healthy.

Reportedly, her claim seeks $10 million for emotional damages … as well as permanent ownership of every designer outfit the party had bought for her to wear during the campaign.

Dr Pepper: Who still drinks this crap, anyway? With all the attention Guns N’ Roses is giving the drink, the company’s plans to fade into oblivion are ruined. So Dr Pepper will now countersue.

Not for any cash, mind you. They just want GNR to bury Chinese Democracy in a time capsule for 17 more years.