Monday, April 28, 2008

World Leaders Gone Wild

Once upon a time, retired leaders of the world’s powers were expected to putter around and then die.

Naturally, we’d let them play lots of golf, write their memoirs, and maybe even go on speaking tours. But generally, they should behave themselves and fade slowly into history, thank you very much.

Only one problem: Our ex-leaders are younger and younger lately.

Take Bill Clinton. After two terms as president, he was still only 54 years old. It’s a good thing he’s so busy campaigning for Hillary, or he’d have way too much time on his hands to teach waitresses at Denny’s and Chili’s nationwide his fun game, “Hide the Commander-in-Chief.”

And then there’s Tony Blair. Last week in London, Tony! Toni! Toné! (as I refer to him) looked like a fool when he had no money for his train fare, according to this article on Yahoo! News.

How embarrassing. More than ten years as prime minister and almost a year of pulling in bloody huge poundage for giving all kinds of speeches and Blair still can’t scrape together enough cash for a simple train ticket. He said the money that his aide had given him for the fare somehow went missing from his pocket—not a jolly good excuse, old chap.

This kind of behavior has me wondering what other recent world leaders will be doing in their retirement:

Vladimir Putin. Vlad the Impaler hands the Russian presidency off next week to Dmitry Medvedev. He's been in power a long time, but he's still got plenty of energy to devote to something worthy of his experience and downright scary stare.

What’s an ex-KGB, out-of-office autocrat to do?

I picture him going into ballroom dancing. Or perhaps writing a children’s book, something like How To Kill Friends and Influence People (With Extreme Prejudice).

Paul Martin. Last February, Stephen Harper succeeded Martin as Canadian Prime Minister. I'm sure it was a dramatic time for most Canadians, some of whom may have even known the name of their prime minister, but nobody else in the rest of the world seems to have noticed.

Since then he has been doing what pretty much all Canadians NOT named William Shatner, Dan Aykroyd, or Mike Myers do.

Wishing he were American.

Jacques Chirac. Nicolas Sarkozy became France’s president less than a year ago, replacing Jacques Chirac. Sarkozy has received much attention for marrying model and singer Carla Bruni, keeping eyes off of Chirac.

Word has it Chirac’s taking life a bit slower now, kicking back and enjoying his later years. He really doesn't need to even raise his hands to do a thing.

Unless, of course, in traditional French fashion he raises both hands in the air to surrender to the first German tourist that swings by his retirement villa.

George W. Bush. He’ll leave office in January with plenty of time on his hands. No more sessions with world leaders, attending Cabinet meetings, or visiting domestic policy events.

Although I doubt he’ll end up as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court—like ex-president William Howard Taft did in the 1920s—I’d sure love to see him retain some national office. With his mastery of the Americanish language, he’s well suited to be our nation’s Poet Laureate … but his penchant for shaking his thing in front of cameras suggest the best gig he’ll land is as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars.

It’s too bad Putin will win that season.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bad Lyrics, Part I

Longtime readers here know that misheard lyrics haunt me, as I’ve written about here, here, here, and here. But now I’m going an extra step and addressing something much more sinister than misheard lyrics: bad lyrics.

We hear many awful lyrics, many words that should never have been put to paper, much less set to music. Today, I’m calling out just a few especially horrid lyrics I’ve heard in the past few days:

Artist and song: KISS, “Burn Bitch Burn”
Bad lyric: I wanna put my log in your fireplace.

Even for sex addict and notorious bad lyricist Gene Simmons, this one’s pathetic.

Think about it. He’s telling us that he wants to put his “log” into her “fireplace,” which will not only make his thing burn but also morph it into a pile of smoldering cinders. Not so good for future performance; even Viagra can’t help you get a pile of ashes up.

You must want to get in that particular “fireplace” really, really badly if you’re willing to exclude any chance for future coitus.

Now THAT is horny.

Artist and song: Bon Jovi, “I’ll Be There For You”
Bad lyric: When you breathe, I want to be the air for you.

Ugh. Apart from the inherent cheesiness of this line, closer examination reveals it is far from a tender, loving proposal.

Jon Bon is telling you, lucky lady, that he wants to become a non-sentient gas so that he can provide your body the oxygen it needs to survive.

In essence, he wants to be so embedded in every cell of your body that you can’t escape him. You literally can’t live without him. You’ll die within minutes if you don’t inhale him.

Now THAT sounds like obsession.

Artist and song: The Beatles, “The End”
Bad lyric: And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Go ahead, accuse me of blasphemy. I’m criticizing the classic end to a classic suite on a classic album by a classic group. Fine. But this is an awful lyric.

First, love cannot be taken like a buffet item. It’s not a measurable quantity, something you only have so much to give or receive. Attention, sure … but not love.

Second, there’s that whole supposed equality thing. Even if you could “take” love, why would it end up equal to the love you “make?”

Third, I wonder what “the love you make” means. If it refers to the love you give, then it’s stupid for the same reason as “the love you take.” If it refers to intimate physical contact (lovemaking), then it’s even more stupid. The amount of sex you get has minimal correlation with any measure of the amount of love you receive.

The Beatles had the chance here to knock us out. Instead they gave us this schlock.

Now THAT was a wasted opportunity.

Artist and song: Artist (thankfully) unknown, “Awesome God”
Bad lyric: Our God is an awesome God.

I heard this one on a TV commercial last night, an excruciatingly annoying ad for some Christian rock compilation CD. And it spurred a couple of thoughts right away:

Holy Anthropomorphism, Batman!. This song sure implies that the singer’s God is a rather needy and insecure idol.

What kind of an all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe would invent creatures so inferior to him that they cannot even understand his fundamental nature—and then enjoys that they sing constant reminders of how tremendous he is?

This sounds more like a petty medieval autocrat than anything “awesome.”

From the “no shit” file … Why did someone feel the need to express this idea at all? Does the singer really need to remind the faithful about the remarkable nature of divinity?

I’d be much more impressed if these believers worshipped their deity of choice while declaring “Our God is a mediocre God” or maybe “Our God is a crappy God.”

Now THAT would be faith.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Underappreciated ’80s: Prince, Around the World in a Day

Let’s face it: It’s hard to follow up one of history’s greatest albums. Many artists who have tried have produced good albums, but not another classic.

The Who’s classic Who’s Next wasn’t matched by the uneven Quadrophenia. Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk paled in comparison to the previous Rumours, Led Zeppelin recorded the overwhelming Physical Graffiti, then produced the underwhelming Presence.

So it’s no surprise that many of you won’t recall Prince’s follow-up to his massive 1984 commercial and critical success, Purple Rain.

You should.

Around the World in a Day (1985), while not the tour de force of its predecessor, continued Prince’s more commercial path and gave us a few forgotten classics of ’80s pop.

The album kicks off with the title track, in which His Royal Purpleness beckons us to enter his realm:

Open your heart, open your mind
A train is leaving all day
A wonderful trip through our time
And laughter is all U pay

Not a bad way to start.

From there, Prince takes the listener on a short but diverse voyage, blending rock and funk and soul and a bit of humor.

It’s no surprise that “Raspberry Beret,” which maintains the rock-soul vibe of Purple Rain, gave Prince his best selling single from the album. You may also remember the minor hit “Pop Life,” featuring a delayed vocal track in the left channel that creates the perfect echo effect to match the lyrics.

Showing his usual range, Prince matches screaming guitars and politics on “America” with subtlety and emotion on “Condition of the Heart.”

And it wouldn’t be Prince without a funky sex romp. “Tambourine” delivers, with a fast-moving melody and lyrics like “What’s in like inside my baby’s tamborine?”

This may require another post, something about the Underappreciated Female Genitalia Metaphors of the ’80s.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Smarter than the Experts

Often the geniuses running things aren’t geniuses after all.

And, sometimes, it takes a know-it-all 11-year-old to point it out.

This became clear recently as Kenton Stufflebeam, a fifth-grade student from Michigan, showed up one of the most prestigious museums in the world, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.

It seems the exhibit on prehistoric time has contained a mistake for a while. More than 25 years, in fact, which is longer than little Kenton has been alive. The display identifies the Precambrian, which is accurately labeled a supereon (or just a long-ass span of time) as an “era.”

Like a good little nerd, Kenton tattled on the exhibit’s creators by turning in a comment card during his winter visit to the museum. Smithsonian officials responded last month with an acknowledgment that he was absolutely correct.

If the experts were so wrong, for so long, about this, might these historical “corrections” be coming soon?

Brutus only figuratively stabbed Caesar in the back.

The Dark Ages, in truth, were quite sunny.

Van Halen never hired Gary Cherone; that was simply a bad collective dream we had.

George Bush has a PhD in English.

Fidel Castro actually moved incognito to the US in the 1970s, founded Microsoft, and has lived for decades as Bill Gates.

The Great Depression? Merely a bad day for one haberdasher in New York that got blown out of proportion.

The Beatles didn’t break up. They just recorded undercover as “ZZ Top” in the 1970s and 1980s.

Bill Clinton, in reality, said, “I, in fact, DID have sex with that woman…”