Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Days of Our Lives

I’ve always thought we could use more holidays.

Sure, it’s nice to get off for the usual occasions, like Christmas and Thanksgiving … but too often you really need that day away on October 3 or May 25 instead of one of those obvious days.

One solution is the “personal day,” the corporate benefit that allows employees to pick their own special day. Not bad, especially if you get several of them.

Even better, though, is just creating your own fancy holiday.

The greeting card companies have tried this for years, with varying success. I keep hearing about this apparently popular “Sweetest Day,” although I’m not sure if my fiancée would be flattered or insulted if I ever called her “sweetest.” Other such fake holidays, like “Grandparents’ Day,” have few fans.

But I am a fan of one particular idea along these lines. According to, in a recent radio poll in Namibia, half of the callers expressed support for making the day Angelina Jolie gives birth to Brad Pitt’s baby a national holiday.

That’s NOT a typo—Namibians are actually considering making Brangelina’s big day a historic event simply because the couple has been shacking up at a beach resort in their country while waiting for the most beautiful baby ever to pop out.

If this concept takes off, don’t be surprised to see a wave of new national holidays, giving people in these places days off for:

France: “I’m French … So I Just Don’t Want To Work Today” Day

The United States: “American Idol Final Selection Show” Day

Mexico: “Get an Early Start Walking North” Day

Namibia: “Britney Spears’ 30th Birthday/Fifth Childbirth” Day

Belgium: Nothing. You see, the Belgians keep trying to come up with a new holiday, but they will never settle on one. Why?

Because Belgians waffle.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Genesis of an Experiment

This is an experiment.

Not like a Beaker-from-the-Muppet-Show experiment. I'm not mixing chemicals in a lab here. And I don't have buggy eyes without eyelids. That's just creepy.

And no, I don't intend for this post to explode and singe anyone's hair. But it will be fun to see what you all come up with.

I have noted from previous replies and direct e-mails that some of you are almost as interested as yours truly in the prospect of a Genesis reunion--a real one, with Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett from the "classical" line-up of the early 1970s. So I'm going to update you on that with the latest breaking news, probably before you see it anywhere else.

For the rest of you, perhaps most of you, here's a challenge: Name your favorite Genesis song and why, or your least favorite and why. Or you can just play the role of David here and make a bad Genesis song pun.

Like telling me that you can't think of anything to say "Tonight, Tonight. Tonight."

(I know it's weak; that's why I'm turning it over to you.)

Now to the news ...

Phil Collins gave an interview this month to, and one of the questions concerned the rumors of a Genesis reunion. Here are a few excerpts from his reply:

-- "We all got together to talk about this last November; all five of us with Peter and Steve. This is something we may do in a couple of years."

-- "There is certainly nothing planned. If that didn’t come together because of various people’s schedules, then maybe the three of us, me, Tony [Banks] and Mike [Rutherford] might do something. I would do it with the drop of a hat."

-- "We actually got a little bit of time booked for the three of us just playing around, jamming together in October. There’s nothing fixed though!"

So there you have it. I suspect that it WILL happen by the end of 2007, but that's just a guess based on his expressed interest and the fact that Peter and Steve should be able to work it into their schedules by then. And if I'm wrong, well ... I hope you won't hold it against me.

We'll just call it a "Misunderstanding."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Where in the World Is … ?

Globalization has arrived. We hear about it every day.

The world is becoming a smaller place, they say. People all around the globe supposedly know more about other countries and other cultures than previous generations could even imagine.

Maybe other countries are like that. But not the United States.

The National Geographic-Roper Public Affairs 2006 Geographic Literacy Study, released last week, revealed that the “Internet” generation of 18-to-24-year-old Americans remains woefully ignorant of the world. Here are a few shocking results:

-- Around three-quarters of respondents could not locate Israel on a map.

-- Almost 90% failed to point to Afghanistan.

-- More than half of those surveyed were unable to find Ohio.

This is rather embarrassing for the world’s lone superpower. Finding out where we’re going as a country is hard enough; making our way without even knowing the game board … well, that borders on the tragic.

It does explain a few things, however.

Many Americans still go to bed without food. That’s because they can’t locate Turkey. (Not to mention Greece.)

We also are increasingly out of shape. More and more people have been saying, “I sat on the couch” instead of “Iran.”

No wonder it took so long to sort out the 2000 election ballots in Florida: Americans just can’t find Chad.

Well, one thing’s for sure. It’s high time for us all to become more familiar with geography. Surely there’s something we can do to improve our education about the world, a way to ensure future generations are better players at this global board game.

I’ll Czech it out.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A Modesto Proposal

There I was, leaving the mall after some Mother’s Day shopping. Just minding my own business.

As I made my way through the parking lot, my thoughts wandered to my plans for weekend … Duke’s basketball team next season … how much better off the world would be if Britney Spears stopped having children …

Lost in my own little world, I meandered for what must have been five minutes before realizing that my car was gone.

First thought: Crap! Where did I park? Then, after a few seconds of careful consideration, and a memory of parking it RIGHT HERE, the mind turns to: Crap! Someone stole my freakin car!

Of course, it’s right about then that another memory returns, one of pulling into a spot in a very similar lot near a very similar door. Only it’s about half a mile around the building.


And during the long walk past Banana Republic and Ann Taylor Loft, I’m thinking At least they didn’t steal my car. Which shouldn’t surprise me because the Washington, DC area, I'm happy to say, does NOT rank near the top of the country’s worst car theft regions.

Then again, neither does New York. Or Boston. Or Miami. In fact, no metropolitan area east of the Rocky Mountains shows up.

But the story would end very differently if you lived in places like San Diego, Phoenix, Sacramento, or Seattle; they all rank in the top ten per capita vehicle theft areas, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau. California comes out the worst—six of the top ten metropolitan areas are in the Golden State.

And the city of Modesto, for the second year running, is the worst of them all.

And some facts about Modesto make this criminal distinction seem like more than just a coincidence.

It turns out director George Lucas is from Modesto—where he set American Graffiti, the movie in which a character rode around all night--in other people’s cars!

Crazy, I know.

But not as crazy as this: The Modesto area was also home to James Marsters, who you probably know better as Spike from TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Marsters’ Spike, of course, appeared on Buffy with Willow, played by Alyson Hannigan, who in turn was in the American Pie films with Seann William Scott, the one and only Stifler.

And we all know what other movie HE was in. Come on, say it with me …

Dude, Where’s My Car?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Raising Two Cups to the Art World

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Everyday objects can speak to artists, taking on new meanings if viewed in the right light.

A senior citizens’ center in Paducah, Kentucky, however, has taken this to the next level: Their current art exhibit celebrates nothing less than … the bra. Local artists have painted, embroidered, or otherwise decorated 36 brassieres, each of which is named (“Group Support Bra” and “Pirates of the Carri-Bra-En,” for example) and accompanied by a story.

This might just be the breast idea I’ve ever heard.

For years, in fact, I have found myself responding to the call of nearby bras, which whisper their name and beg me to unravel their tales. As a hands-on learner, I fondly recall “I’m a Little D-Cup” and “The Secrets of the Ta-Ta Sisterhood.”

Not to mention that I frequently came across “You Saved the Chest for Last.”

I realize the dangers of bare chests. But if more women need to forgo wearing bras to advance our artistic heritage, so be it.

In other recent bra art news—yes, this really is a big topic lately—breast cancer activists in Cyprus recently created a chain of 114,00 bras, breaking the Guinness Book of Records’ top score of 79,000 linked bras set in Singapore three years ago.

Something I learned today: People other than Gene Simmons of Kiss actually keep track of these things.

The event aimed to raise awareness of breast cancer, a noble goal. Of course, this benefit may have been balanced by a rise in car accidents as men gaped at thousands of topless Cypriot women.

But if that’s the price we pay, so be it.

I’ll just say thanks for the art, thanks for advancing the cause, and thanks for the mammaries.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Wanna Get Away?

Life takes us on detours. And now and then, time spent far from home can be a good thing, granting you new perspective and recharging your batteries.

If taking even just one day “off” from the world is refreshing, then several weeks away—without any relatives or coworkers to put demands on your time—sounds like a real treat.

But six decades is pushing it.

Say hello to Isinosuke Uwanu, who was a solider in the Japanese Imperial Army helping occupy the eastern Russian island of Sakhalin as the Second World War ended. In late April—for the first time since 1943—he returned to Japan and saw his family, which had thought him dead.

Nobody seems to recall how by the 1960s he ended up a resident of a small town in rural Ukraine, where he fathered two daughters.

I hope he at least remembers how he ended up a father … but I have my doubts. After all, Uwanu will only say that “due to the Soviet regime” in Ukraine, he had been unable until now to make it back home.

I’ve heard some lame excuses before—hell, I’ve TOLD some lame excuses before—but this is a weak one to explain a 60-year absence. He’d be better off claiming he was on an errant flight that got “lost” and crashed on an uncharted tropical island with mysterious hatches, mysterious visions, and attractive people who appear to be having mysteriously little sex.

Uwanu’s story is fascinating, but he isn’t the only one who has to explain a long disappearance. I’m looking forward to hearing the eventual justifications for these celebrities’ prominent absences:

Amelia Earhart: Planes usually don’t just disappear. People have been waiting for many decades to hear the reason why her last journey truly was a non-stop flight.

Al Pacino: His absence of gritty, compelling performances since the 1970s is one of the great mysteries of our time. Come on, Al—we’ll forgive most of your past two decades if you’ll show us again, just once more, what a gifted actor we know you can be.

The Democratic party: Honestly, how can these folks fail time after time to innovate even in the face of repeated Republican blunders? Party leaders shift back and forth between inaction and reaction; no wonder many folks say the U.S. isn’t even a two-party system anymore.

David Fincher: The talented director of Se7en, Fight Club, and Panic Room hasn’t made a movie in a long, long time. He even bowed out of directing the third Mission: Impossible. Let’s hope his forthcoming Zodiac is worth the wait.

Tom Cruise: His absence from sanity will need one hell of an explanation. Maybe Xenu, Scientology’s ancient supernatural figure, can swing by and enlighten all of us. For a price, I’m sure.

Isinosuke Uwanu: Sorry, man, I’m still not buying it. Sixty years away … the last forty or so because you couldn’t step out of Ukraine? I suspect something else is at play here: your love of adventure, your unhappiness with life back home, maybe just a fetish for Ukrainian chicks. Or maybe you figured a Ukrainian village was the best place to avoid Scientologists.

Watch out, Mr. Uwanu: Tom Cruise may be doing M:I:III publicity in Japan.

I'm sure it's not too late to get on a plane back to Kiev.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

INXS: In Concert

The band looked familiar. Well, at least five-sixths of it did.

The core of INXS, Australia’s pop darlings for more than 20 years, appeared a bit more seasoned last night in Washington, D.C. than when I last saw the group live, back in 1987.

But something up front was certainly different.

I’ll admit that it must be incredibly hard to replace an icon like Michael Hutchence. Apparently, however, gyrating languidly and humping the microphone stand help the new guy settle in more smoothly.

I had the distinct pleasure of hearing—and the distinct pain of seeing—more than 90 minutes of this center stage oddity, who the band selected from hundreds of contestants on last year’s reality television hit Rock Star. I had trouble remembering his name; although I knew it was J.D. something-or-other, I could only recall that his last name was the same as one of my favorite Chinese restaurants.

And J.D. Szechuan Palace just didn’t sound right.

Eventually, the writhing vocalist’s name—J.D. Fortune—came back to me, but I chose to follow the lead of a fellow concertgoer, who dubbed him simply “Not-Michael Hutchence.”

Everybody wanted to know whether Not-Michael’s voice could carry all the old favorites. To everyone’s delight, it did. Very well, in fact. This amazing singer belted out not only half a dozen well-known tunes from 1987’s smash album Kick and three from the follow-up, 1990’s X, but also half of the new album Switch, including songs like the new rocker “Devil’s Party” and the current ballad “Afterglow.”

The band also tackled older favorites like “Original Sin” and “What You Need,” which the players seemed to enjoy more than the newer material. Throughout, fans cheered for Not-Michael Hutchence’s interpretation of his predecessor’s well-known vocal stylings as well as for his crisp delivery on the tracks from Switch.

Sadly, that great voice is forced to share the most-memorable-aspect-of-the-show award with something far more troubling: Not-Michael Hutchence’s squirming and extended feigned microphone-stand rape, which did nothing to excite the ladies in the crowd while doing much to nauseate the men.

During the band’s extended instrumental section of “Taste It,” one could see parents turning their children away from stage’s disturbing one-man lizard-like re-creation of Caligula. Even the other band members seemed uncomfortable with the display.

Surely he was trying to match Hutchence’s raw animal essence, going for the lithe, nimble, and sexy look. But it came out more as contrived and desperate, like an oversized gecko who just drank a smoothie of blended Mick Jagger, Axl Rose, and Lucas from Empire Records.

The word on the tip of everyone’s tongue: awkward.

It was a shame to leave an otherwise excellent concert with the image of Not-Michael Hutchence trying so hard to look “cool,” but only distracting the audience from his own stunning vocal performance.

One line summed it all up. During “Hot Girls,” from Switch, he sang, “I got nothing to prove/Ain’t got nothing to lose.”

With a voice like yours, Not-Michael Hutchence, you’re exactly right … you should have nothing to prove. But quit those stage antics, or you’ll find you DO have something to lose.

Your new job.