Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Best and Worst of 2006

It was almost exactly one year ago that I posted my first annual list—the good and the bad from the twelve months gone by.

And it didn’t scare anyone away … so why not do it again?

As before, the only candidates for inclusion are things I actually experienced directly in 2006. That means you won’t see any references to Marlon Wayans’ Little Man movie, John Grisham’s latest book, or any Paris Hilton songs.

Now, without further delay, here are my picks for the year!

Best movie of 2006: Casino Royale, which matched the best of the Bond dynasty and brought us Daniel Craig, the best 007 since Sean Connery. Bravo!

Worst movie of 2006: The Lake House, which was much better than you would expect upon hearing “a wrinkle-in-time chick flick starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.” But being decent by romantic comedy standards doesn’t make it a good movie.

Best TV show of 2006: "Scrubs," which just keeps getting better. I don’t know how much the show pays its writers, but it should be doubled.

Best TV show of 2006, runner-up: "Heroes," which has amazing promise. Don’t ruin it, guys.

Worst TV show of 2006: Not applicable; I don’t watch anything that I don’t like. Pass.

Best blog of 2006 (general): Rocky Road Scholar. Even though Rocky’s been absent for the past few months, he packed more quality humor writing into eight months than most of us could hope to create in a year.

Best blog of 2006 (general), runner-up: The Phoenix. He never fails to inform, educate, and entertain. Thanks for another great year, Phoenix.

Best blog of 2006 (music): Heavy Metal Time Machine. Metal Mark keeps 80s metal alive with his site, which is raw and honest—in a good way.

Best blog of 2006 (music), runner-up: Will and Ben’s Record Room . A trans-Atlantic exploration of pop music, this site provides you with everything you need to know about modern music. And more.

Best blog of 2005 (personal): Rantings of an 80’s Nut. Most personal blogs are horrible things to experience. But Martin expresses himself well, making this actually worth checking out on a regular basis.

Best album of 2006: Tool’s 10,000 Days. One word: Wow. A few more: Why can’t more hard rock artists make such complex, compelling music?

Best album of 2006, runners-up: Steve Hackett’s Wild Orchids, yet another majestic effort by this amazing genre-crossing guitarist; and Iron Maiden’s A Matter of Life and Death, proving that 80s metal bands don’t have to simply rest on their laurels.

Most catchy song of 2006: Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back.” Yes, it hurts to admit this … but, as you know, I’m all about honesty. This song has that “thing” that makes only one in a million pop songs really stick in your brain.

Most catchy song of 2006, runner-up: Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which also contains one of the best lines of the year: “I remember when I lost my mind/There was something so pleasant about that place/Even your emotions had an echo/In that much space.”

Worst song of 2006: Nickelback’s “Photograph,” which makes me wretch just thinking about it. Excuse me for a moment ...

OK, I’m back. Let’s continue.

Best book of 2006: Jared Diamond’s Collapse, which I realize was published at the end of 2005 but which I read this year—deal with it. An amazing book about why societies decline. (Yes, it's much better than that makes it sound.)

Dumbest moment of 2006: Virginian George Allen’s inexplicable use of the term “macaca,” which arguably cost him not only his seat in the U.S. Senate but also a viable run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

And last but not least …

Best blog readers of 2006: You. Thanks for sticking with this blog even as I’ve had to cut back.

See you in 2007.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Long Live the King

Some countries prefer to live in the past. And this is understandable—many places today just aren’t as impressive as they were in their glory days.

Italy is just a small slice of the lands of the massive Roman Empire. Mongols once ruled most of Asia, not only a chunk in the middle of the continent. And Denmark doesn’t match up to the vast former Viking holdings.

Sometimes, nations will cling to figures from the past to feel better.

The U.K., for example, celebrates the monarchy as if it still meant something. And Mongolia can’t let go of its Genghis Khan fetish.

But nothing compares to this new one.

Poland’s legislators have drafted a resolution that would make Jesus Christ the honorary king of the country, according to this Associated press article. He wouldn’t have any true executive power, mind you, merely ceremonial duties.

Kind of like Regis Philbin in the United States.

The Polish parliamentary proposal, however, may lead other countries to follow suit by naming these folks as head of state:

Germany: David Hasselhoff. For some reason I have yet to understand, Germans just love the former star of Knight Rider and Baywatch. We don’t need him, so they can have him.

Egypt: King Tutankhamen. Sure, he was just a boy king … but he had a great name. And maybe he could build new, bigger pyramids as a memorial to his new reign.

Iraq: Saddam Hussein. If Iraqis can’t agree on anything but killing each other, they might as well have this homicidal dictator back at the helm. Good luck with that.

France: Marcel Marceau. Everyone around the world should welcome the coronation of the famed mime as king of the Franks—at least we’ll hear less of that infernal French language.

The North Pole: Santa Claus, of course!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Misheard Lyrics, Christmas Edition

It’s no surprise to many of you that I’m a fan of the misheard lyrics.

I’ve had a few doozies in my day, as I wrote about
back in March. These variations of well-known lyrics occur just about everywhere you turn.

Including Christmas songs.

When much younger, I came up with all kinds of creative alternatives to the season’s carols. Take for example, my mutilation of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” First, here are what I am told are the actual words:

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year

Yet as a child, I found myself always slipping this line in the middle:

Good tidings we bring to you and your thing

Take that however you want it. Psychologists would have a field day with me, I know.

And deep down in my brain, I know that lyrics for the old classic “White Christmas” go something like:

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmases be white

But, as much as my family hated it, I always song it as:

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I sort
May your days be numbered and short
And may you spend all your Christmases in court

For some reason I haven’t figured out yet, I wasn’t allowed to sing with the other carolers. Go figure.

Then there are the religious songs I butchered. Take, for example, “Away in a Manger:”

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head

Churches nationwide banned me for my version:

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus laid down His meathead

But let’s focus on what matters. It’s the spirit of the season, not the specific verbiage of some silly songs, that’s truly important.

Just sing from your heart, spread the cheer, and enjoy the season. Don’t be one of those judgmental holier-than-thou types who mock creative children who make up their own Christmas lyrics.

In other words, don’t be a meathead.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere

Back in the day, and I mean way back, it was a sign of education and sophistication to talk about life on Mars.

This was, like, a hundred years ago.

Smart people of the early twentieth century just knew that the channels on Mars were really water-bearing canals. These were the times of defining events such as the War of the Worlds radio drama, which depicted a Martian invasion—and made several thousand listeners poop in their pants.

But then we all got wiser to the facts. The canals didn’t really have water in them after all. And our probes to the Red Planet proved that Mars hosted no little green microbes, much less little green men.

So we could sit back and collectively sneer at the morons of the past. They were stupid to believe in all that water-based fantasy, right?


Scientists reported last week that new Mars Global Surveyor pictures strongly suggest water does, in fact, flow on the surface of Mars.

Holy crap! First, the astronomers demote Pluto … now, they tell us Mars may be hospitable to life. How much planetary whiplash can we take in a year?

Photographs of the planet’s surface taken a few years apart reveal differences that scientists say were probably caused by the water flowing down crater walls. And recently—not within millennia or centuries, but within years.

We shouldn’t freak out about this, though. Even if water is getting to the surface via geysers or some other mechanism, it freezes quickly and fails to sit around waiting for life to form.

It does, however, provide another element necessary for the presence of life as we know it. In some shape or form, we might not be alone in the universe—or even in our own solar system.

Which is disturbing. You see, we don’t have many grand achievements to boast about right now if the Martians decide to come over for a celestial version of Show and Tell.

What will we hold up as our greatest accomplishment?

We humans are awesome builders. So maybe we can brag about our greatest architectural creations, like the Great Wall of China. Or perhaps the pyramids of ancient Egypt.

But wait a minute—aren’t those accomplishments of bygone eras? Something in this millennium might be better. If we show off this old stuff, the Martians will just laugh at us.

If they have a sense of humor, of course.

We’d best try again. Maybe the arts will do the trick.

We are great musicians; that might be a good thing to blow our own horn about. We could show off a recent magazine cover, let’s say Rolling Stone, to illustrate our triumphs in harmony and melody over the millennia.

Or maybe not.

Because Rolling Stone right now would suggest that the pinnacle of our musical development is … well, Snoop Dogg. And the Martians would look at us—if they actually have eyes, of course—and just shake their heads in disappointment.

If they have heads, of course.

No doubt we’re better off turning to something we know they would appreciate. Something that shows them our sophistication, our elegance, and our stunning confidence and self-assurance.

Something like the movie War of the Worlds. Nothing says “welcome” like a film depicting our guests as heartless invaders from outer space. Surely they’d love that!

If they have hearts, of course.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Have Your Say

It’s that time again.

Those of you who have been reading my musings for more than a few months—especially those of you who have been here since the beginning in July 2005—know that I like your input.

Twice in the past year and a half I have sought your advice on what to include in my “best of” list. You can see the results now, over there in the sidebar under my profile, subscription info, and visitor count. ----->

Since the last time I added items to the list, with your assistance, I’ve posted about 35 essays about music, movies, and strange goings on in the U.S. and around the world.

I’d like you to help me update my greatest hits.

At the end of this post, you’ll see links to several posts that your feedback indicate are among the best of my last five months. Please look at these posts to refresh your memory (or read them for the first time, if you are new to the site). Leave a comment identifying the two or three stories from these links (or not) that you enjoy the most.

Thanks for your thoughts. I look forward to your comments.

From July: Rock, Paper, Scissors and Me, Myself, and My iPod.

From August: … And (Delayed) Justice for All and Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire.

From September: What Are Words For?.

From October: Musical Notes and It’s Elemental.

From November: Fantasy Island and Killing Us (Not So) Softly.

Vote early and vote often!