Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fall’s Well That Ends Well: Redux

Once in a while, you need to take a step backward before taking a step forward.

That’s what I’m doing today. Below is one my posts from a couple of years ago this month, minus the now-dead link to the original story.

Some of you read this site then; most of you weren’t visiting yet. I hope you all enjoy it now while I take a vacation until late next week.

Most of us have made fools of ourselves in public.

Maybe you uttered something during an important meeting that you shouldn’t have let slip out. (Consider me guilty.) Possibly you walked into a party with your buttons unbuttoned, your belt unbuckled, or your zipper unzipped. (Consider me very, very guilty.)

Perhaps you even admit on your blog that you listen to cheesy 80s music. Way too often. (No comment.)

But I’m betting that you didn’t (A) trip on your own shoelace, (B) fall down a museum stairwell, and (C) shatter three near-priceless Qing Dynasty vases.

So let’s just say your day wasn’t as bad as the guy who did those things last Wednesday while visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. The Chinese artifacts that he reduced to fragments had been crafted in the late 17th or early 18th century—making them older than the Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones. Yes, ALL of them—combined.

The museum director was gracious about the “regrettable accident,” emphasizing that he and his co-workers were simply “glad that the visitor involved was able to leave the museum unharmed.”

Translation: The clutz hauled ass before the curator could beat the crap out of him.

This story brings to mind some other historical stumbles with memorable results:

Michael Jackson. The King of Pop faced criminal charges because he was seen getting too friendly with the younglings. But remember, Michael always wore moonwalk slippers, and those things are damn slippery. Perhaps he just fell a lot—and always found himself grasping for anything to break his fall.

Conveniently, he always had those little boys around.

The atomic bomb. We didn’t really mean to drop it, you know. We just wanted to open the airplane's big doors and show it off. Let the Japanese SEE it and panic. Then, we planned to fly away in peace and accept their surrender later that day. Those airmen just lost their grip, that’s all.

Oops. Our bad.

O.J. Simpson. Everybody suspects that he killed Nicole. Few people realize that he didn’t really intend to hurt her; he merely slipped and fell because he couldn't see well in the dark night. Oh yes, and he just happened to have a big-ass dagger in his hand.

If he put a knife in her throat because the sidewalk wasn’t lit … you must acquit.

As for the unidentified man who staggered into the Chinese vases, he wishes he weren’t part of this sordid history.

He’s probably going over that unfortunate moment again and again in his mind. Could he have tied his laces more tightly? What prevented him from keeping his balance? Why didn’t he grab on to a rail, or stair, or a fellow museum visitor?

At least he could have taken some e-vase-ive action.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Will Googlenope for Food

Last year, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten used one of his essays to point out that it’s really, really hard to search for a short phrase on Google that isn’t already out there on somebody’s site.

He came up with a few searches, however, that drew no results. Phrases like “Queen Elizabeth’s buttocks” and “I’m fixin’ to solve me the Shimura-Taniyama conjecture.”

Clearly, these aren't the most common things out there on the Internet. But you'd think that somebody, somewhere, would have typed these into a website.

You'd be wrong.

He called any such group of words that cannot be found on Google a “Googlenope.” And I’ve had many phrases cross my mind lately that I suspected might qualify.

Indeed, until Google picks up this post, these are all Googlenopes:

Accurate weather forecast in Washington, D.C.

Smell my leather pants.

The benefit of watching reality TV.

Britney Spears is America’s role model.

Tasty German supper.

Congressmen who make me horny.

Bravery among Frenchmen.

My threesome with Jessica Alba and Screech from Saved by the Bell.

And, sadly, this is also a Googlenope:

David Amulet rocks.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: Eddie Rabbitt

When you’re young, you’re exposed to a lot of music you don’t necessarily like.

For example, my mother listened hour after hour to crap ranging from Barry Manilow to ABBA to the Oak Ridge Boys. Years of therapy and multiple lobotomies have thankfully removed most of these emotional scars.

I’m not too upset, however, about one easy listening singer who has stuck with me: the late Eddie Rabbitt.

Rabbitt supposedly had dozens of country hits and was a major force in that genre in the late 1970s and 1980s. I don’t care about that, though. I remember Eddie Rabbitt, who died too young of lung cancer in 1998, for two underappreciated ’80s songs:

I Love a Rainy Night: This tune was catchy because of both its uplifting lyrics and its alternating hand claps/finger snaps. The message of the song combines the two, telling people who bitch and moan about the rain to just snap out of it!

Well I love a rainy night, I love a rainy night
I love to hear the thunder, watch the lightning
When it lights up the sky
You know it makes me feel good

Rain, Mr. Rabbitt tells us, isn’t something to be dreaded. Don’t let it get you down, he says, because rain cleanses the soul just as it cleanses the earth:

Showers wash all my cares away
I wake up to a sunny day

And Alvin and the Chipmunks remade the song. Doesn’t that alone qualify it as an ’80s treasure?

Step by Step: Although a Top Five hit on the pop charts and a #1 country smash, this song eludes most people’s memories. But it provided me all the guidance I needed for my first dates.

In the ‘80s, these lyrics defined “Dating: The Eddie Rabbitt Way:”

First step: Ask her out and treat her like a lady

OK, I’m with you so far.

Second step: Tell her she's the one you're dreaming of

Maybe a little overbearing … but this could be sweet. I’m willing to give this a shot.

Third step: Take her in your arms and never let her go

We’re into creepy territory here. This is more like “Dating: The Restraining Order Way.”

Hmmm. Maybe there’s a good reason why this song isn’t better remembered.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Stranger Than Fiction: UK Edition

Every week, I come across a story that boggles my mind. You know, a tale that makes me shake my head in disbelief.

And more rarely, just every once in a while, I find one that makes me bang my head against a wall in utter disillusionment with humanity and fear for the future of our species.

Case in point: A gem I found on Yahoo! News.

Let me give you a bit of background first. About a century ago, Great Britain ruled approximately one-quarter of the world’s population and the earth’s surface. The sun never set on the British Empire because its dominions ranged all the way around the globe.

But the Empire was lost … and now it appears the British people are going collectively insane.

A recent poll of 3,000 UK citizens revealed, among other disturbing beliefs:
  • Nearly 25 percent of respondents thought Winston Churchill—the British prime minister during the Second World War and one of the wittiest men in the 20th century—was not a real person.

  • The same percentage said the most famous nurse in history, Florence Nightingale, never healed anyone because she was a myth.

  • On the other hand, more than half of those polled asserted that fictional detective Sherlock Holmes actually existed.
The Brits are going down a dangerous road. Soon, they’ll be imagining they still have an empire to defend. Watch out—the Redcoats may be coming back!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

If you’ve been living in a cave since the late 1980s, let me tell you a little bit about a little movie that gets much too little respect: Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, which hit theaters 19 years ago this month:

Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves)—good-natured but underachieving high school seniors in San Dimas, California—will flunk out unless they get an A+ on their history report. Ted’s dad vows to send him to a military academy in Alaska if he fails.

This would be a most, most heinous turn of events for the future of mankind, as visitor-from-the-future Rufus (George Carlin) tells our heroes, because staying together after high school allows Bill and Ted’s nascent band (Wyld Stallyns) to get its legs and eventually bring world peace through its music.

Rufus gives the rapscallions a totally righteous time-traveling phone booth, enabling them to kidnap figures from history to use in their history report. Despite ample tomfoolery along the way—after all, the title does promise an excellent adventure—Bill and Ted secure their A+, guarantee the survival of Wyld Stallyns, and thus provide the foundation for humanity’s harmonious future.

Hey, it’s no crazier than Rocky beating the unbeatable Drago in Rocky IV—deal with it.

Bill and Ted earn the pedestal I place them on for several reasons:

Alex Winter. Most people know this movie as the first big-time vehicle for Keanu Reeves, but Alex Winter as “Bill S. Preston, Esquire” steals the show. It’s a toss up whether Winter shines more in this part or in his lesser but brilliant role as a teen vampire in The Lost Boys, but you can’t deny that the ‘90s would have been a better decade on the big screen if we’d have seen more of him.

Most Excellent Alex Winter Highlight: Bill saying to Billy the Kid: “Billy, you are dealing with the oddity of time travel with the greatest of ease.”

Diverse musical references. Few movies both project a blissful future based on the music of an Iron Maiden- and Van Halen-inspired garage band … AND sport cameos by such decidedly non-metal musicians as Clarence Clemons (The E Street Band), Fee Waybill (The Tubes), Martha Davis (The Motels), and sprite-like Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Gos)—who, it must be noted, plays a fetching Joan of Arc.

Most Excellent Musical Highlight: Bill and Ted confusing the iron maiden, medieval torture device, with Iron Maiden, heavy metal band.

Historic figures trashing a mall. Some praise the movie for its subtle but clever presentation of the contradictions inherent in time travel. I don’t disagree. But even better are the shenanigans that the confused Billy the Kid, Beethoven, Abraham Lincoln, Sigmund Freud, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Socrates cause when Bill and Ted lose them in San Dimas Mall.

Most Excellent Mall-Wrecking, Time-Transported Celebrity Highlight: Genghis Khan wreaking Mongol-rific havoc on a sporting goods store.

It’s about time for three-quel: Ever since one fun but strained sequel (Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey in 1991), rumors have swirled about a third installment in the series. And yet it never comes.

Bogus. Totally, totally bogus.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Don't Mix Headlines and Blurred Vision

I'm not a news junkie, but I like to keep up on the headlines.

Several times a day, I scan one of the major news sites, like BBC or CNN, just to see what's going on. Sure, I get my news in nearly useless soundbite form—with stories told in eight words or fewer—but that's usually enough for me.

Only one problem. When I'm not focusing fully, my eyes tend to see things that aren't there ... or just combine ideas that are there, but jumble them up.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw these headlines early this morning:

Clinton and Obama play nice in school hallway

Girl stabbed seven times in debate

Microsoft seeks to buy Midwest

Giant storm pounds Yahoo!

Ticker: Obama endorses McCain

Schwarzenegger ranked most liberal in Senate

Mom: Top al Qaeda terrorist resting at hospital

Sources: Britney Spears killed

I think it’s time to tune out again. This world’s freakin' crazy.

Except for that last one. Honestly, isn't that what we're all expecting to hear one of these days?