Monday, October 14, 2013

Countdown for the Shutdown (#15 - #11)

Well the good thing about this shutdown is that is has given me plenty of time to finish this.

#15 What this World Needs - Casting Crowns
Being an unabashed Big Country fan, Dolberry has always been fascinated by "one-hit" wonders. What factors have to come together for a band to have one huge song then drop back into obscurity?  In some cases it simply appears to be a case in which the stars are aligned just right ... and the song taps into a contemporary but very finite zeitgeist ... and gets propelled into the mainstream.  In other cases, it appears that the artist simply had the resources for ONE big statement, one exceptional piece of art that ... through its sheer power .... forces its way into the mainstream.  The first class of one-hit wonder is analogous to a virus. Songs like "The Pina Colada Song" and "Mickey" or "The Fox" (now) spread quickly from person to person until they eventually provoke an immune response that eliminates the virus.  These songs generally disappear as fast as they emerged, never to be heard from again.  The second type may be imperfectly compared to bacteria in that the song itself is an organism with its own functions and characteristics.  These songs tend to have a little more staying power and can retain their popularity for long periods (e.g., "In a Big Country" or "99 Luftballoons" or "Take on Me") ... although some of these hits are probably are pathogenic.

Regardless of type ... being a one-hit wonder shouldn't be viewed as failure ... one triumph of this regard is one more then the many who have zero.  I love Stuart Adamson's quote about being the 39th ranked "one hit wonder" of all time ... "If we're known for nothing more than just that one song, I'd be pretty happy with that."  Anyway, this extended intro is a long-winded way of introducing the #15 song which mentions one hit wonders ...

Sample lyrics: What this world needs is not another one hit wonder with an axe to grind / Another two bit politician peddling lies / Another three ring circus society / What this world needs is not another sign waving super saint that's better than you / Another ear pleasing candy man afraid of the truth  / Another prophet in an Armani suit 

We can't strap ourselves to the gospel because we're slowing it down / Jesus is going to save the world ... maybe the best thing we can do is get out of the way.

This is a pretty seditious song for a band so firmly beloved by K-Love.  I'm surprised they weren't lambasted for it.  Oh ... after 15 secs of googling ... I found multiple blogs/comments lambasting them for it.  Very good, internet, you never let me down.  Anyway, if you want to read a blog way better than this one, I point you to this one from a friend considering how the failure of many churches to address the full spectrum of moral issues is pushing young Christians away from the GOP and maybe even away from God.  I hope the next 0-20 years of Christiandom will (actually, it's probably already started) feature a pendulum swing back in the direction winning others through Christ-like behavior at the expense of self-defeating (often largely hypocritical) political activity.

#14 Re-Education (Through Labor) - Rise Against
First, great band name.  With the possible exception of Rage Against the Machine, here's a band whose name most matches it's style.  (Dolberry also would have accepted Five Finger Death Punch.)  Second ... like Rise Against ... Dolberry once lived in the Chicago suburbs and can fully understand why they're so angry at the world.  The second or third time you have to wear a long-sleeved shirt to a baseball game in late May, you're ready to go Occupy something.

Sample lyrics: We crawl on our knees for you / Under a sky no longer blue / We sweat all day long for you / But we sow seeds to see us through / 'Cause sometimes dreams just don't come true / Look now at what they've done to you.

The title takes its name from the Chinese prison system and the lyrics are written from the POV of a repressed population.  Before you jump to the conclusion then that it's about China ... here's what Tim McIlrath (lead singer) has to say about the song:  "It's talking a lot about the 9-to-5, dog-eat-dog lifestyle, and what we are asked to do to simply make ends meet nowadays, and I think it's a feeling shared by people all around the world and especially in this country."  That seems like a reasonable sentiment.  It stands in stark contrast to the video for the song which features people dropping off backpack bombs all over Chicago w/ the final scene showing the Windy City in flames.  Err ... you kinda lost me there Rise Against ... even though the prospects of Dolberry never getting another U of Chicago fundraising plea is somewhat tempting.

#13 The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead - XTC
OK, I promise this is the last of the "Christian" songs.  The song talks about what it might look like if the Messiah had come to earth somewhere around 1992 instead of somewhere ~ 2-4 BC.

Sample lyrics: Peter Pumpkinhead pulled them all / Emptied churches and shopping malls / Where he spoke, it would raise the roof / Peter Pumpkinhead told the truth / But he made too many enemies of the people who would keep us on our knees ...

Peter Pumpkinhead was too good / Had him nailed to a chunk of wood / He died grinning on live TV / Hanging there he looked a lot like you / And an awful lot like me!

Peter feeds and houses the poor ... gives the religious establishment the holy whatfor ... makes enemies ... preaches a steadfast message of love ... gets slurred and eventually crucified by the religious movement of the day.  In the old days it was the Pharisees ... there'd probably be a fight to be first stonethrower in line these days.  Despite the depressing theme ... it's at least reassuring to know that some within the Christian church recognize and remind that the goal is to be beholden to Jesus as opposed to pastors, churches, and/or the religious experts who are more about rules then people.  That all our gold is no good unless used to benefit others.  That any kind of love is all right.

What's that?  It was written by an atheist?  ... well ... ahh crap.

#12 Rockin at the T-Dance - The Rainmakers
In 1981, a walkway across the atrium of the Hyatt hotel in Kansas City collapsed killing 114 people who'd gathered there for a "tea dance".  The subsequent investigation determined that the building architects had communicated poorly with the contractors actually building the skywalk.  Everyone was in a hurry to get the job done.  Everybody assumed someone else was doing the math (the engineering calculations that determine whether the structure was safe).  But somewhere along the way, a design change was made for expediency, nobody checked the weight loads, and the resultant skywalk could barely hold its own weight, let alone that of scores of people watching a dance below.

Sample lyrics:  Take a trip with me in 1967 / With Grissom, White, and Chaffee on a rocket ride to heaven / A dead-end date aboard AS-204 / It was American made / Only the best for our boys / And we were rockin' at the T-Dance.

Take a trip with me to Kansas City MO / To the Hyatt House, to the big dance floor / You can still see the ghosts / But you can't see the sense / Why they let the monkey go and blame the monkey wrench.

In the end, there were lawsuits and lost licensures.  Additional regulations and quality control steps were instituted.  People had to live with the mistakes they'd made.  Other people had to live without loved ones. And of course, 114 people lived no more ... all for a mistake that everyone admitted could have been uncovered by a 1st year engineering student.  Sometimes life just doesn't make sense.  Maybe singing out some of the anger helps.

#11 We Will Rock You / We Are the Champions - Queen
There should be a law that these two songs always have to be played together, like they always were on the radio in the 80's.  They work well together ... conveying the truism that any meaningful victory is always associated with some sort of a fight.

Sample lyrics: Buddy you're a boy make a big noise / Playin' in the street gonna be a big man some day / You got mud on yo' face / You big disgrace / Kickin' your can all over the place / Singin' we will we will rock you / We will we will rock you.

We are the champions, my friends / And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end / We are the champions / We are the champions / No time for losers / 'Cause we are the champions of the world.

It's going to be a fight to make this world a better place.  We're going to have to resist our selfish urges to build ourselves at the expense of others.  We're going to have to call out and resist those who sows seeds of doubt, despair, and hate.  We're going to have to take some shots and come back stronger.  We're going to have to forgive ... even when nursing a grudge feels so right.  We're going to have to laser focus on our goal. In the end people of love will rock.  In the end people of love will prevail.  Though victory may not ultimately look like what we expect.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Countdown for the Shutdown (#20 to #16)

Ugh.  Dolberry was called out on Twitter last night for never finishing countdowns I start.  As a face-saving measure now I gotta stick this pointless exercise out.  What was Dolberry thinking?  Shoulda listened to NC Republican Senator Richard Burr when he said this countdown was the second dumbest thing he'd ever heard of.  OK ... where was I?

#20 I'll Stick Around - Foo Fighters
1995 wasn't the best year ever.  There was long list of plagues cursing our pale blue dot of a home that year: there was the Great Hanshin earthquake near Kobe Japan ... you had anti-government Tim McVeigh blowing up the Federal building in Oklahoma City ... the OJ Simpson trial was all-consuming ... Windows 95 was released ... Calvin and Hobbes ended.  In the midst of all this Dolberry got pneumonia and a side salad of depression (not surprising, in retrospect).  So, given all this discord, maybe you can forgive Dave Grohl this agitated screed directed at Courtney Love.  Maybe he doesn't need forgiveness ... Love never seemed very likeable.

Sample lyrics: How can it be / I'm the only one who sees / Your rehearsed insanity / I still refused / All the methods you abused / It's alright if you're confused / Let me be.  

The song closes w/ Grohl repeatedly yelling "I don't owe you anything!".  Good stuff.

#19 God Is Not A Secret - Newsboys
This was the first CD I ever got from a band in the genre of "Christian rock".  Got it for my birthday from the Siler City crew and was considerably skeptical (hopefully not rudely so).  My previous experience with "Christian music" consisted of Amy Grant (ok), Petra (oof) and Carman (bleagghhgh).  I knew the Newsboys were in that genre ... and given that incredibly bland name ... Dolberry was expecting the worst. The problem w/ "Christian rock" back in the day was that it was so tame ... so bland ... so unlike the confrontational God that the music was dedicated to.  This probably resulted from many of the groundbreaking artists (like Steve Taylor) constantly having to fend off accusations from conservative pastors that they were merely mouthpieces of Satan w/ their six-six-six strings.  There were likely exceptions, but the majority of the genre was pablum. The beautiful KMD suggested we play the gifted CD on the 40 min ride home from Siler City to Apex. Dolberry slumped in his seat.  CD starts w/ 10 seconds of promising wah-wah guitary stuff followed by a solid set of power chords then this ...

Sample lyrics: You don't understand / This is not what you think it is / You don't get it, man / You want to boil it down to show biz / Your in-depth research shows / Drop the God, emphasize the beat / I've heard that positive pop you dig / I'd rather be buried in wet concrete.

Holy John Lennon ... an "Christian rock" protest song.  I guess what Peter Furler and Steve Taylor (who co-wrote the song) were agitated about were the sales pitches that record labels/agents/producers would sometimes make to successful "Christian bands" suggesting that secular radio riches were on the horizon if they'd just mute the message.  Sadly, while this song was really cool, this sentiment was often used to bash other "Christian bands" as sellouts when they'd become popular in the secular scene (even when the message was unmuted).  Back in the day on the Relient K message boards you'd have people saying stuff like ... "Your last album referenced Jesus nine times and this one only does 3 times.  I hope you enjoy eternal damnation."  Anyway ... when it's all said and done ... whether you've kept God a secret or not won't likely won't be judged on what songs you sang.

#18 Come Out and Play - The Offspring
This song is nearly 20 years old and despite having rung out "You Got Keep 'Em Separated" at the right point in the song everytime it has ever come on the radio, Dolberry had no idea what this song was about until APD looked up the lyrics a month or so ago.

Sample lyrics:
Like the latest fashion / Like a spreading disease / The kids are strappin' on their way to the classroom / Getting weapons with the greatest of ease / The gangs stake out their own campus locale / And if they catch you slippin' then it's all over pal / If one guy's colors and the other's don't mix / They're gonna bash it up bash it up bash it up bash it up.

Hey, man you talkin' back to me? / Take him out / You gotta keep 'em separated / Hey, man you disrespecting me? / Take him out / You gotta keep 'em separated

By the time you hear the siren / It's already too late / One goes to the morgue and the other to jail / One guy's wasted and the other's a waste / It goes down the same as the thousands before / No one's getting smarter / No one's learning to score / Your never ending spree of death and violence and hate / Is gonna tie your own rope tie your own rope tie your own

While the Offspring's lead singer and lyricist Dexter Holland (who has an interesting resume for a punk rock singer having earned a Master's degree in molecular biology at USC) was clearly talking about gangs in schools ... the song is a better-than-fair analogy for the state of our Congress ... especially in light of the comments that Indiana Republican Marlin Stutzman made this week on the shutdown. "We’re not going to be disrespected.  We have to get something out of this.  And I don’t know what that even is.”

I guess ... you got keep 'em separated.

#17 Rain on the Scarecrow - John Cougar Mellencamp
As I've chronicled here before, Dolberry spent the better part of two summers in the mid-80s cruising across southern Indiana in my (well ... El Cueto's) not-that-sporty Datsun 210 putting Oreos on grocery store shelves.  Most of the time between stores was spent with the windows rolled down (El Cuerva valued free AC) ... driving from smalltown to smalltown ... gazing at Indiana farmland ... and singing along to JCM tapes in the cassette deck.  And while I prefered "The Lonesome Jubilee" to "Scarecrow", there was considerable appeal in the clarion call of Scarecrow's opener.

Sample lyrics:  Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow / This land fed a nation this land made me proud  / And son I'm just sorry there's no legacy for you now  / Rain on the scarecrow blood on the plow.  

I suppose the fight to maintain small family farms in the face of behemoth corporate farms was a battle that was fought and lost.  They put on some pretty cool rock shows, but according to Farm Aid's web site ... 83% of the beef slaughtered in the U.S. is now controlled by just four companies (Tyson, Cargill, JBS, and National Beef).  And I tried to look up what percentage of the U.S. corn crop is genetically modified but the USDA site is shutdown.  Oh right ...  This countdown is depressing me.  It was supposed to be about anger.  I'm not sure Dolberry can stand another 16 songs.  Can we at least get ONE where what the protest song was clamoring for finally came to fruition?

#16 Another Brick in the Wall - Pink Floyd
That's what I'm talking about!!!  We DIDN'T need all that education they were trying to cram down our throats in the early 80's.  Just like Mr. Floyd said.  Now we live in a world where it's perfectly acceptable to be one of the 9% of Americans who believe the U.S. has a fleet of black helicopters that will eventually be used in a UN takeover of the country.  Who's going to tell you you're wrong?  You don't want to believe that CO2 re-radiates IR energy?  Who's going to make you!?!  Don't believe the studies that show that violent video games increase short-term hostility?  Yeah, the researchers were probably biased.  All facts (at least the ones that you don't like) are ambiguous and therefore not really worth learning.  Plus most facts can be mutated in a pinch anyway ... as long as your motives are pure ... and of course your motives are pure. 

Sample lyrics: We don't need no education / We don't need no thought control / No dark sarcasm in the classroom / Teachers leave them kids alone!

Hey ... Father Sans ... leave that Dolberry alone!

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Countdown for the shutdown (#25 to #21)

Welcome back to the countdown.  Recall that we are counting down Dolberry's top 25 songs for the government shutdown.  These are protest songs whose righteous anger over the brokenness of the world inspires their listeners to attain great heights to right the wrongs identified within (or write blogs posts that ... maybe upwards of 8 people will ever read).  The scoring rubric was addressed earlier.

#25 Even a Dog Can Shake Hands - Warren Zevon.
The issue here is one near and dear to Dolberry ... the inflated role of useless middlemen in the life of a successful and humorous rock star.  Zevon's sardonic wit is on full display as he highlights the insincerity of agents and miscellaneous talent-less hacks that leech on to a talent and attempt to milk it for every drop their worth.  This is why Dolberry doesn't have a book deal!

Sample lyrics:  All the worms and the gnomes are having lunch at Le Dome / They're all living off the fat of the land / Everybody's trying to be a friend of mine / Even a dog can shake hands.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure the song (written in the mid-80's) even translates to the modern day.  Does any one even shake hands any more?  First, it's unsanitary.  Second, no one really expects anyone to adhere to any particular agreement anymore.  That's why we have a legal system, right?  Third, I think people now generally appreciate that dogs are smarter and more useful than people anyway.  It's sort of like singing ... even a nuclear physicist can solve the approximate bind energy of a helium nucleus that has a mass defect of 0.0000000000000000000000000000052 kilograms ... except ... you know ... rhyme-ier.

#24  My Country - Midnight Oil
To my recollection ever single Oils song was an angry one: "Beds are Burning", "Blue Sky Mine", "Forgotten Years", "The Dead Heart".  Lead singer Peter Garrett was awfully agitated for someone that lived in down under in Oz.  What's to get angry about there ... what with the kangaroos and the perpetual shrimp on the barbies?  Maybe it was the vegemite or baby-eating-dingos?  Dolberry doesn't know.  Dolberry gathered most of his knowledge about Austraila from movies and pop music.  Actually, I recall the Oils being mad about Australia's treatment of its indigenous people.  Sheesh, I have no idea what the Aussies did to theirs but it couldn't have been near as bad as what we did to ours, and we didn't have a whole rock band focusing on it ... and we could have spared a few.

Sample lyrics: I hear you say the truth must take a beating / The flag a camouflage for your deceiving / I know, yes I know / It's written on your soul / I know, we all make mistakes / This is not a case of blurred vision / It's a case of black holes, pocket holes, soul holes  / And did I hear you say... my country right or wrong?

The expression "my country, right or wrong" has an fascinating history ... apparently mutating from a rallying cry in the Revolutionary War days to a sarcastic rejoinder in the Vietnam War days.  I think the expression hit it's high-water mark in the late 1800s when a senator from Missouri orated from the floor ... "My country right or wrong.  If right, to be kept right; and if wrong to be set right."  This senator, Carl Schurz, later expounded upon his point in an anti-imperialism speech in Chicago in 1899 ... “I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’.

So chanelling the late Senator Schurz and the angry Oils, let Dolberry just say that when ever I see an American flag-filled Fox News backdrop behind their lie-spewing, moron-baiting, Murdoch-puppeteered vacant talking heads ... knowing what that flag really represents ... I want to projectile vomit.

#23 The Spirit of Radio - Rush
Here's another protest song that doesn't really stand the test of time.  Sadly, the object of the song's scorn ignored the warning sirens issued by the Hall-of-Fame power trio from the Great White North.

Sample lyrics: All this machinery making modern music can still be open-hearted. / Not so coldly charted / It's really just a question of your honesty, yeah, your honesty / One likes to believe in the freedom of music / But glittering prizes and endless compromises shatter the illusion of integrity. 

So ... this will be too complicated to explain to anyone under 40 but the gist of it is that ... back in the dark night that passed as day of 1980 ... you basically had to listen to radio, or buy albums, if you wanted to listen to music.  And since radios were at least minimally mobile, they were the place where most people got to hear music.  There were no customizable playlists or Pandora or Spotify or any of that.  You were beholden to whatever the programming director at the radio station wanted to play.  Even if that included that awful Pina Colada song ... which it often did in 1980.  And the whole system was corrupt.  Record labels would pay PD's to play certain songs over and over and over again. And songwriters started aiming for the lowest common denominators of easily-digestible hooks and trite lyrics.  I'm looking at you Captain and Tennille ... (and take off that ridiculous hat!).  Rush suggested a better path.  Radio didn't listen and got blown away by whatever music listening mechanism showed up next (first MTV, then mixtapes, then illegal downloading, than iTunes, then YouTube, then Lala, and now Pandora/Spotify).  And now nobody listens to radio except sad souls who need their daily IV drip of hate from oxycodone-addled blowhards that pander to the basest instincts of humanity (frightened tribalism over sacrificial love).  Ironically, if we'd have listened to Rush, we might not have Rush.

#22 Money For Nothing - Dire Straits
This one's confusing.  Some two decades before Stephen Colbert's spoof on conservative cable dingbats, we had Dire Straits narrating a wickedly piercing takedown of musicians from the point-of-view of a regular Joe workingman.  The story is that Mark Knopfler was in a department store in the mid 80's somewhere in the States (the idea of a rock star hanging out in a Sears is a little hard to grasp) and overheard one of the workers in the electronics department point mutter disgustedly at a TV playing a music video ... "That ain't working.  Money for nothing."

Sample lyrics: Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it / You play the guitar on the MTV / That ain't workin' that's the way you do it / Money for nothin' and chicks for free / Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it / Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb / Maybe get a blister on your little finger /Maybe get a blister on your thumb.

The confusing part is ... much like when Dolberry watches Colbert ... I'm not sure which opinion I'm supposed to be in agreement with here.  When you consider a Miley Cyrus or a Wham! ... it's hard not to agree w/ the department store guy.  When you see talents like Mark Knopfler or Sting, it's hard not to marvel at their gifts.  Best not to think too much about it ... we're supposed to be angry here ... simply enjoy the rapturous guitar solo that launches this one and the chanty "I want my MTV" Sting falsetto that closes it.

#21 The Nerve - Mutemath
We all knew Dolberry couldn't go 25 songs without plugging one of his personal favorite dark horse bands who's quality far outpaces their recognition.  Dolberry himself is surprised he made it to #21 in this countdown without proselytizing.  So while you don't get Switchfoot, Big Country, House of Heroes, or Relient K on this countdown, you do get these guys from the Big Easy.  (Speaking of N'awlins ... looks like a hurricane may be coming their way ... let me be the first to joke (it's 5:29p on 10/03 ... i'm probably at least in the first 1000 or so to suggest this) that the SHUTDOWN government's response will likely outpace the Katrina response.  Obama better do a better job this time around!!!!)

Sample lyrics: Can you believe this world's just a double dealin' joker, gonna stick to his guns? / Can you believe this world's just a television blaring, a million devils at once? / Can you believe this world's just a charmer in disguise with a lavender soul? / Can you believe this world's just exactly as we built it, runnin' out of control?  Set it on fire! (x7)

The best lines in the song are the first two ... Can you believe this world has the nerve to insist it won't trade for a better one?  Can you believe this world is yelling out in the dark it wants to be left alone? While not identifying themselves as a "Christian band" (whatever that is), Mutemath does mix many Christian allusions into their lyrics.  The good news is ... and I believe this as much as I believe that Dusty Baker should be fired (i.e., 150%) ... that Light came into the world and darkness will never overcome it. And that's great ... but you don't have to look too far around (or even into your own soul) to see that it's still pretty damn dim.  The question then becomes ... how do we risk reaching our arms out in this dusky world and jointly rescue one another?  I don't know but I'm fairly certain it doesn't involve callous indifference to their plight ... misguided marketing efforts to get people to buy our product ... or arguing that football is biblical (what the what Southern Baptists?!?), or devoting energy in attempts to legislatively impose a belief system that is really only meaningful when it is adopted willingly and humbly and then used to sacrificially serve in transforming the world.

20 more to go.

Countdown for the Shutdown (Introduction)

Yeah ... so Dolberry has some time on his hands.

Enough time to create and present to the world one of Dolberry's famous rock-n-roll countdowns.  This one's is the Top 25 rock n' roll songs that are at least mildly cathartic for a sullen Dolberry when played at volume levels that are just below the maximum operating capacity of the human eardrum.

Here's the scoring rubric ... although as always all decisions are Dolberry's and Dolberry's alone and are final and not subject to appeal and are likely inerrant to begin with.
  • Does the song clearly present an issue of concern (at least to Dolberry)?  (40%)
  • Does the song invoke a previously unfelt desire to locate, then storm some barricades? (30%)
  • Does the song skillfully skewer the human condition that has led to this issue of concern? (25%)
  • Does the song scream or at least make you want to scream a significant fraction of the lyrics? (10%)
  • Is the song from one of those acts that only Dolberry likes and everyone wishes he'd just give it a rest already? (-5%)
Also, only rock and roll songs need apply.  Folk songs may appeal to a certain segment of this disaffected population ... but as a short guy w/ an Irish temper ... Dolberry ain't got time for that hippie crap.  So Dylan and Lennon and Crosby can take their pathetic acoustic guitars back to the smoking area.

So ... with just a little more ado ... here are the songs that just missed the Top 25 w/ a short synopsis.  The actual Top 25 songs will be dripped out over the next few days unless something happens to change Dolberry's mood. Each of the top 25 songs will be accompanied by a touching and inspirational vignette about Dolberry's interactions with the song and some sample lyrics.

Countdown for the Shutdown: Honorable Mentions:

Buckets for Bullet Wounds - House of Heroes  ... the way-too-underappreciated quartet from Columbus OH loudly lament the human condition and liken our pitiful response efforts to merely getting buckets to capture the blood pouring from our gaping wounds (alert!  countdown foreshadowing!!). Sample lyrics: "There are no doctors ... only victims ... only bloodshed.  There are no churches ... only prisons ... only senators. There are no handshakes ... only handguns ... buckets for bullet wounds!"  Hells yeah HOH!  Would have made the countdown but for the obscurity thing.

Flame of the West - Big Country ... E-bow fueled rant about the hero's welcome many Britons gave Reagan when he visited the UK in the early 80's.  Sample lyrics: "He had the voice of an angel and the face of a saint.  And though they fell behind him, I knew what it was he meant.  His eyes were full of demons as he made the message clear.  He strode the world like Caeser and with a trident held his fear."  All you young 'Merican isolation Rand Paulites should look you up some Big Country and thank me later.  Missed top 25 on account of obscurity.  (Yeah, your loss bozos!)

Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana ... Classic passive aggressive protest for the flannel-wearing slackers everywhere. Sample lyrics:  "Oh well ... whatever ... never mind."  Dolberry has rocked out to the crunchy goodness of this song probably 1000+ times in his life but is still not totally sure what he's supposed to be angry about.  Does it have something to do w/ antiperspirants?  Mr. Cobain, I've marked your song down a bit for its ambiguity.  Don't pretend you don't care, slacker.  And tuck in your shirt!

Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen ... Yes I have a rock protest anthem countdown w/o a single Springsteen song in it.  Sue me.  (Actually, please don't.)  This one came close, but ultimately it's been co-opted too many times by politicians who were too lazy to even google "Born in the U.S.A. lyrics" like Dolberry is just about to do.  Sample lyrics: "Born down in a dead man's town.  The first kick I took was when I hit the ground.  End up like a dog that's been beat too much, 'til you spend half your life just a-covering up.  Born in the U.S.A.".

What's My Age Again? - blink-182 ... Puerile but all-too-fun complaint from SoCal pop-punk goofballs about how no one likes you when you're 23 and you still act like your in freshman year.  Once 23-year old Dolberry hollas "Amen".  Oh ... don't click the link and don't look up the lyrics.  (Huh huh huh ... Beavis he said 'puerile butt',)

Will the Wolf Survive - Los Lobos ... Dolberry really wanted this song to make the countdown because it would show that he is not only sensitive to the unique struggles that Hispanics face to maintain their identity while being assimilated into America, but that he also has hefty chops for classic and underappreciated 80's songs, but instead I had to put it here to right the ship after that whole Blink incident.  Sample lyrics: Standing in the pouring rain.  All alone in a world that's changed.  Running scared, now forced to hide.  In a land where he once stood with pride.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

My memories of 2012: Spring training trip

[Note: This started out as a countdown of Dolberry's favorite days of 2012, but that proved too hard to compile, as there were about 20-25 really great days that were hard to distinguish in terms of their greatness.  This trip alone would have probably had 4 of the top 20 days.  So it's been converted to a non-countdown compendium of memories of the year.]

Our mostly annual spring training trip is the light at the end of the tunnel for Dolberry when it comes to winter.  Winter is about 100 days of dry itchy skin w/ too little time spent outdoors.  It's going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark with too much gray in between.  Most of all it's too routine.  Each day's outcome can be predicted in advance w/ appreciable precision.  It is dull, duller, dullest.  So, it's nice to have a guiding star that can lead Dolberry (like a modern day Magi) to where he needs to be ... Spring.

This year's trip came with even more anticipation than usual.  We'd missed the trip in 2011, plus the Lally family was going to be joining us for part of it.  The trip started inauspiciously as we started late after waiting out a really rough baseball game from the Grace Eagles.  By the time we got on the road, it was close to 7p and we had reservations in a Savannah hotel for the night.  The trip went by relatively fast, because Dolberry was able to spend the first 3-4 hours recounting to APD all the mistakes his team had made in the game.  But we got a nice night's sleep and this day doesn't really count against the vacation anyway.

It's so much easier to drive to Orlando in a day when you start from GA rather than NC.  We even had time for a lunch detour to a deserted and windswept Flagler Beach to see the ocean for the first time in a long time.

We picked up Gma and Gpa from the airport, met up w/ the Lallys at their Disney hotel and grabbed some dinner at one of the approximately 6,000 restaurants in that part of Orlando.  I recall APD's portion of the meal costing something like $30 and involving steak chased by a gooey chocolaty dessert.  [Dolberry wonders how this profligate creature could have emanated from tbKMD who I was once able to take on a date for under $4.]  Later that night we played our annual putt-putt game.  As far as I remember, Dolberry won as usual.

Thursday was Magic Kingdom day.  We seem to go to Disney every 10 years: 1992 (honeymoon), 2002 (work trip), and now 2012.  Maybe we'll have to go back in 2022 for our 30th anniversary ... assuming the too-expensive-to-travel-with APD is out of the house by then.  What a great day.  The memories run together in a blur ... getting on the Disney shuttle ... Main Street ... Tomorrowland ... the speedway cars ... tea cups ... Space Mountain w/ APD, Gpa, and PSparky ... a pleasant boat ride ... a calming riverboat ride ... Pirates of the Caribbean ... Splash Mountain ... the Main Street parade ... a fireworks show that was too much for some of our travelling party ... more speedway cars ... and a return shuttle w/ sleeping kids and all-but-sleeping adults.  Too much fun.

Friday started w/ some hey-the-water-is-warmer-than-the-air pool time w/ APD and Gpa and an IHOP breakfast where Dolberry had a concoction based on this literary classic.  APD had like $12 dollars worth of bacon and pancakes.  Then we went to a Spring Training game between the Blue Jays and the Astros in Kissimmee.  We were in the first or second row and one of the Jays gave a ball to Ro, leading to my favorite picture from the whole trip.

After the game, it was a tearful goodbye to the Lally's and the drive to Sarasota.  We decided to take the back roads to avoid running into any more steakhouses and we got to experience a blinding rainstorm, a super long train, and the feeling of being helplessly lost in the swamplands of west-central Florida.  Eventually we got there and had dinner w/ some of the Fitzgerald-Bakers.  At that point, I was too tired to care what APD ate.  (Sadly, the responsible men and women at MasterCard did care.)

Saturday was more time w/ the F-B's and a beautiful afternoon at the Pirates game in Bradenton followed by an amazing sunset at Siesta Key.  Then we got to watch Louisville win the Big East tournament as Peyton Siva and Co., got geared up for their Final Four run.

Sunday always comes too fast on this trip.  We headed up to Clearwater for the annual cheesesteak gorging.  It's the one foodstuff Dolberry can still outeat his son in.  Always great just hanging w/ Gpa and Gma before the long ride home.  I think we got home around 3a.  I'm still tired.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Haters, hooligans, and hoodies

All of the words in the title of this post start w/ "h".  None of the words in the title have anything to do with what I'm going to blog about below.

A cursory check of the internet has informed me that a King Lear once said that "nothing will come from nothing".  As far as I know, this statement has divided scholars for centuries.  But it has never seemed more relevant to me than right now.  Primarily ... duh ... because I just heard of it a few minutes ago when I googled "nothing" in an effort to make a point here.  Try to keep up!

Anyway, I am sad for you.  I am *literally* sad for all of you who are not Dolberry.  And that is all of you.  While nothing but nothing has come from your nothingness, something has come from the something that is Dolberry. 

What is that something?  I am going to tell you.  And in doing so, I hope it sparks something in you.  Maybe it'll spark everything in you.  If that's even possible.  Which it isn't.

Before I do that, here's another quote from the King ... just to show you that I have significant and fearsome cut & paste talents.

And, to deal plainly, I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

On to the primary point of the blog post.  Spandau Ballet.

Does anyone remember Spandau Ballet?  (I mentioned them in the previous sentence, if that helps jog your memory.)  They were a British band from the early 80's.  This was in the heyday of Dolberry's countdown days and I was a huge fan (figuratively) of the British Invasion bands.  I was a fan of truly ridiculous British music.  I'm looking at you Thompson "Twins" ... all three of you. 

But I never liked Spandau Ballet.  They seemed to be pitched as a band that "you should like".  I'm not aware of anyone who actually liked them.  Their band name has to be one of the snobbiest of all time. 

Impromptu countdown of snobbiest band names ever (w/ ~ 1 minute of research):

5 - The Dream Academy
4 -  Orchestral Manoeuvers In The Dark
3 - Pet Shop Boys
2 -Spandau Ballet
1 - USA for Africa
Anyway, SB basically had one big hit "True".  Sample lyrics:

I bought a ticket to the world,
But now I've come back again.
Why do I find it hard to write the next line?
When I want the truth to be said...

Ehh ... if you say so Spandau Ballet.  This song reached #4 on the US charts for no apparent reason ... while truly inspirational songs like "In a Big Country" topped off at #17.

I am but a man.  More sinned against than sinning.  - Lear

So, if you've watched any of the NCAA tournament this year, you've seen the truly ridiculous car commercial where 4 of the bozoiest looking bozos you've ever seen are all crooning along w/ the car radio's tinny version of "True" w/ the passion of freedom fighters on the verge of toppling a longstanding tyrant.  Well ... three of them are singing.  One of them (the driver) is turning down the car radio (gasp!) to explain something boring about the car.  Then the dude in the backseat, says something like ... "That's Spandau Ballet, man!" as his wife scowls disapprovingly from the shotgun seat. 

How's this relate to Dolberry?  I'll tell you how.  Dolberry is rocking the Twittersphere.  Dolberry is actually rocking the entire Twitterdromeda.  One of the dozen or so people I follow on Twitter, tweeted this sometime last week:

Joe Posnanski: I guess has tackled this, but I find myself rooting for a car fire during that "Spandau Ballet" commercial.

Dolberry ... as the expert on 80's music ... responded with:

@Dolberry:  How did the only 3 Spandau Ballet fans in the world end up in the same car?

Then later that day @king_kaufman retweeted my tweet!  I got an e-mail informing me of the fact.  I had never been re-tweeted before.

I don't really know who @king_kaufman is (seems like a decent enough guy), but he has like 3000 followers ... which is 2995 more followers than I have ... and 2999 more followers than I have that actually know how to use Twitter.  (Thanks for hanging in there @opurt11!)

So while you guys have been doing nothing.  I have been doing something.

Monday, December 19, 2011

I am not exaggerating

One blog post back and the same old tired criticism emerges from Dolberry's cadre of cantankerous critics ... "too much pointless alliteration" ... "too negative" ... "too positive" ... "too in between negative and positive" ... et cetera.

The most hurtful criticism is the one that claims Dolberry is prone to hyperbole.  If anything, I'm guilty of placidbole when it comes to my recent equivalating of Chicago weekend traffic to childbirth.  Here's one of Dolberry's favorite moments from our summer's vacation ... a fat guy running down the Eisenhower Expressway smoking a cigar in the middle of crawling Friday afternoon rush hour traffic.

We left Naperville about 1a that Friday morning and got to Cellular Field in time for the 7th inning stretch.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm ready. I'm ready for the laughing gas.

Dolberry watched the U2 documentary "From the Sky Down" about the making of Achtung Baby last Friday.  I think I've recounted this before on the DCV, but the first time I listened to that album was literally one of the most disappointing experiences of my life.  Dolberry remembers it like it was yesterday.  TbKMD, Lynne our Billiken Friend, and Dolberry were headed from Chicago to St. Louis for the weekend.

It strikes me that this particular drive is sort of a metaphor for life ... getting out of downtown Chicago on a Friday night is a task at least as hard as escaping the birth canal.  That traumatic experience is followed by a prolonged period of alternating bursts between going 70 mph and being stone-dead-stopped through the suburbs (ages 1 day to 21 years).  Then you get a mind-numbingly long stretch of dull routine where your best hope is to steal small moments of joy at ridiculous Illinois town names before you recidivate into barest minimal consciousness (ages 21 years until retirement).  Then there's the really scary part where you go thru East St. Louis and hope you don't get killed (death).  Then, finally after all that you get to St. Louis (heaven ... well ... heaven if heaven smells like mashed grain and the sky's kinda slate gray).

Anyway, Dolberry had armed himself for that particular drive by going to a record store (look it up) and buying the latest cassette (look it up) from Bono, Edge, Adam, and Larry.  As soon as we hit that part of the drive where you could put it in cruise control ... I took the tape out of its pristine and as-yet-unbroken case (generally cassette tape cases were meticulously designed to break after approximately 2.8 uses on average ... their structural integrity depended upon the sparsest prong of plastic that the record companies could engineer w/ late '80s technology) and loaded in Achtung Baby with an anticipation that rivaled my wedding day ... which technically hadn't happened yet ... and never would've had ... had I acknowledged the above sentiment at any point prior to the aforementioned wedding day.

In the documentary, Bono notes that the band went into the studio smarting from the reaction engendered by their previous album ... "Rattle and Hum" ... which was generally viewed as uncool Americana, pretentious, and "overly earnest".  Musically, their strategy was to sample more of the industrial German rock that was prevalent in Europe at the time.  Stylistically, they decided that if they were going to be branded as pretentious anyway ... they'd play it to the hilt and thus Bono went ubiquitous w/ the sunglasses, dropped the mullet for sideburns (sniff), and added a few tablespoons of swagger to his already large personality.  The theme of the movie is built on one of Bono's quotes about the making of the album ...

"You have to reject one expression of the band, first, before you get to the next expression, and in between you have nothing, you have to risk it all."
So, as the Achtung Baby tape whirrs its first sounds ... an instantly disconcerting discord of noise that sounds like the 2nd shift at an assembly line leading into "Zoo Station".

Bono: "I'm ready.  I'm ready for the laughing gas."
Dolberry: What the WHAT?!?
Driving on the flat expanse of I-55, the rest of my Achtung Baby experience went downhill faster than the steepest slopes coming out of Joshua Tree National Park.  With the exception of "The Fly", which sounded passably enough like actual rock and roll to warrant another play, the rest of the experience was a Volquezian disaster.

Watching the movie and dodging Bono's fusillade of f-bombs, it dawned that the character sometimes known as Dolberry has become overly earnest ... dull ... and maybe even a little pretentious.  More responsibilities at work and church, while welcomed, have shaved a little off the bounce in the step.  It took 10 minutes of purposely frivolous thinking to even summon Dolberry to the blogwriting table tonight.  How does one balance the need for seriousness ... and wanting to accomplish things of meaning ... with the need to remain joyful in the present or near-present?  Is there a secret to enjoying the rural-Illinois stretch of mid-life (short of pharmaceutical cheating)?

In retrospect ... Dolberry superappreciates what a kicktuckus album that Achtung Baby is.  Two of the songs would probably find their way into Dolberry's Top 10 of all time ("Until the End of the World", "The Fly"); one of the songs is really good if you're in a sap-tacular mood ("One"); and at least two of them rock out solidly live ("Ultraviolet" and "Even Better than the Real Thing").  Maybe there's a life lesson here.  Maybe it's ok to be overly earnest at times while being overtly non-earnest elsewhile?  Maybe it's ok if people think you're full of crap at times.  Maybe if you embrace it.  Maybe if you have the greatest alter-ego in the world, it's ok to let me loose at times.