Tag Archives: music

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 4: Kryptonite and Stomach-Aches

Upon returning to high school for my junior year, I found myself in the unique (to me) position of being something of a known commodity. I had spent two years maneuvering my way up from being a friendless and awkward nobody from a nowhere middle school to rubbing shoulders with folks in letterman jackets and cheerleader skirts. I was by no means a member of the elite, the inside circle, but the elite knew me. I was no longer a cipher. In dramatic moments of adolescent self-pity, I still thought of myself as the neglected outsider, but I could no longer really play that card, even to myself. In the brutal high school social strata, I now outranked the morbidly obese, the harelipped, the bad-skinned. I had bit and clawed my way into the comfortable middle. Enough acceptance to keep me from slitting my wrists or experimenting with auto-erotic asphyxiation, but enough angst to keep my edge and feed my growing cynicism.

I was secure in a fairly tight circle of friends, I had a conspicuous (read: ugly) vehicle that announced my presence with noise and color, and was meticulously putting together some emotional armor thanks to some hard lessons. Shelby? I was one of about fifteen boys that she expressed an interest in that month. Virginia? She liked reform school boys. (May eventually have stopped liking boys altogether, if her mullet and Toyota 4X4 were any indication.) Amanda? Didn’t like me. Never did. Never would. But liked the fact that I liked her, and shamelessly played upon that for over two years whenever she was bored with the thousands of other things she had going for her. She was my Ideal Girl, from the first week of high school when I saw her in Introduction to Physical Science (IPS) to halfway through junior year, when I met…well, wait for song #41 in the next installment.

#36. “Litte Miss Can’t Be Wrong” – The Spin Doctors

We all have our Ideal Girl. The one who epitomizes everything we want in a mate. Physically, at least, I had had an Ideal ever since Christy N. in elementary school. (Wanna get treated like Superman treats kryptonite? Just be me attempting to talk to Christy N. in 6th grade. That girl avoided me like the plague.) Light brown or red hair, perhaps with a bit of permed or ironed curl. A slight dusting of freckles. Pale to the point of luminescence. Blue or green eyes. This was the Ideal. I was young and dumb enough not to let personality or intelligence interfere with the Ideal.

Although The Spin Doctors’ Pocketful of Kryptonite album was released in August of ’91, it had no impact on me (or the general listening public) until almost a year later. When I heard it, I was reminded of my sense of relief and the weight off my shoulders when I finally gave up on Amanda, and simultaneously, the dream of a physical Ideal. Been a whole lot easier since the bitch left town/Been a whole lot happier without her face around…

But there were others. Oh, Lord, there were others. I had girl-fever, and I had it bad. The sheer size of my stainless-steel balls as I introduced myself and chatted up lady after lady is a thing of wonder to me now. Who was that confident guy? Sometimes I was able to play out the string for a few weeks, other times I was cut dead in a moment. No matter. On to the next doomed attempt. If any of you Gentle Readers out there feel I treated Mushroom Girl somewhat shabbily, rest assured, my sins were revisited upon me tenfold. No one can cut you dead like Marla Berry declining your invitation to the Christmas dance. (But I get ahead of myself…)

Much like the new Death Star in Return of the Jedi, the armor I was donning was piecemeal and incomplete. Unlike the new Death Star, it was in no way “fully armed and operational.” In short, under a thin veneer, I was still kind of a needy open sore. But I had learned much, and would continue to learn.

Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 4: Kryptonite and Stomach-Aches

2010 in Books, Part 2: Music Edition

You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Break-Up by Peter Dogget

Beatles books have come in phases. First was the “authorized” biography, The Beatles, by Hunter Davies, published all the way back in 1968, before the group had even split. There was a relative lack of written work on the band in the 1970’s. Apparently, many people were hoping that their story as a band wasn’t over, and a reunion would occur. The scant handful of 70’s books seemed to take a sociological approach, focusing on their impact on popular culture. After John Lennon’s murder in 1980 ended reunion hopes for good, the floodgates opened, and Beatle-related books abounded in the 80’s, including a new “definitive” band biography, 1982’s Shout: The Beatles in Their Generation by Philip Norman, the gossipy “insider” tome The Love You Make by former Beatle assisstant Peter Brown, and the first major biographical works on the individual band members (Ray Coleman’s 1985 doorstop Lennon, Chet Flippo’s glib Yesterday.)
The Beatles books of the 90’s and early 2000’s assumed everyone knew the “story of the band,” and tended to be technical, encyclopedic break-downs of their live appearances, recording sessions, and equipment. And now, we’ve come full circle, with the basic story being laid down again, with new research and perspectives, for a new generation. There has been a new band biography, once again entitled simply The Beatles, published by Bob Spitz in 2005, an excellent recent bio of John Lennon by Philip Norman (again) in 2008, and now two new McCartney bios. Continue reading 2010 in Books, Part 2: Music Edition

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 3: Cruising With Mushroom Girl

Having a car meant a number of things, not least of which was not having to bum rides off of Kevin Sevier and his vintage Volvo. Kevin had scored his license during the last quarter of sophomore year, and when he grudgingly granted my request for a daily lift (round-trip), I knew my royal blue Schwinn Neu Citi (“The Ford Edsel of Schwinn 10-Speeds”) was retired forever.

It wasn’t a free ride, by any means. I paid every day in ritual humiliation as Kevin and fellow passenger Rob Lind would slowly approach where I stood outside my parents’ glorified apartment (“townhouse”) then quickly accelerate, forcing me to trot after them, until I got just close enough to reach the back door, at which point the acceleration was repeated, to the delight of all except Your Humble Narrator. If Kevin and Rob got a really early start, they would park the Volvo a block or so away, and crawl into the dense shrubbery that surrounded my domicile, make a few Monty Python-esque yelps of “Ni!” or “Meep!” then dash back to the car with me in hot pursuit. Every so often, they would call my answering machine and fill it with chants of “we hate your speed bumps, we hate your speed bumps, we hate your speed bumps, God, they suck.” (Yes, the interior driveways of my townhouse facility were practically corrugated with speed bumps.)

But I took it. Because all that was still better than riding my bike to school. And I knew my license was coming soon. Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 3: Cruising With Mushroom Girl

The List Is Imminent!

Other websites and magazines have published their year-end best-of lists already, but faithful members of the Idle Time collective know that these are all just prelude to the real List.

Idle Time’s Favorite Forty has been rouletted and processed.  Egos were bruised and epithets discharged.  But in the end, we produced a list that we’re all pretty proud of.  Before it’s officially published (although internet adventurers with more accomplished navigation abilities than any of us may be able to figure out how to see the list on our site in advance), we’d like all of you to weigh in.

These albums were all chosen by various other media outlets as the Best Album of 2010.  There’s a good chance most of them also appear on our list.  But which of these did you like best?

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 2: Touching Yourself in a Blaze of Glory

The line marking the cultural beginning and end of a decade is a fuzzy one. Any one who doubts 1980 was still part of the 70’s can just take a look at a 1980 JC Penney’s catalog and marvel at the width of the bell-bottoms, or look at a list of the top-selling 1980 songs and count up the disco tracks. Anyone who doubts 1990 was still in the clammy grasp of the 80’s need only look at the Yuba City High School 1990 yearbook, and observe the enormous Vuarnet sunglasses, Reeboks, and feathered hair.

#9. “Vogue” – Madonna

#10. “Blaze Of Glory” – Jon Bon Jovi

In piecing together the smoking ruins of my ego after the First Breakup, I realized I had to expand my social circle. Mr. Tackmier’s Geography C class seemed like a good place to start. I became friends with guys like Jeff Wong, Kevin Sevier, and Bret Kriezenbeck. Through Anthony Warthan in math class, I met up with guys like Jeff Olson, Eric Lansdon, and Pawen Dhokal.

On the last day of school freshman year, I went to see Dick Tracy with Jeff Wong, which featured lots of Madonna songs, but not this one. It came from the album I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy. How Warren Beatty’s brutal evisceration of the Dick Tracy character with his engorged ego inspired a treatise on dance moves from gay discos is anyone’s guess, but I’m Breathless kicked off a trend of “inspired by” albums where artists loosely associated with a movie’s soundtrack could unload their B-sides and outtakes. (The Madonna video hit around the same time, featuring our pal Madoo in a see-through shirt that wasn’t quite see-through, though not for lack of trying on my part. A Holy Bee Tip of the Hat to the original queen of titillation.)

That summer, Wong and I rode our bikes out to Movies 8 to see Young Guns II, which is better than the original (and if that isn’t damning with faint praise, then I don’t know what is.) The accompanying Jon Bon Jovi (solo) music video serves as a reminder that they used to drop some serious fuckin’ coin on music videos. Jon strummed his acoustic and mouthed his watered-down remake of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” on a massive, detailed set built on the edge of a cliff, and was photographed with more swooping helicopter shots than you can shake a stick at. Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 2: Touching Yourself in a Blaze of Glory

This Used To Be My Playground, Part 1: She’s My Cherry Pie

My long-running Blogspot series on my memories of  life and music in the 1990’s will also begin running here. Here’s the first part, originally posted in April 2009:

Hey, folks, does anything suck more than Baby Boomers talking about the 60’s? Did you, like me, watch that Just For Men “Summer Of Life” commercial and wish a lingering death from some kind of impacted anal fissures on the fifty-something douche pretending to play guitar while some blonde thirty-something douchette pretends to be attracted to him through gritted teeth while visions of her Just For Men commercial paycheck dance in her empty little head? Maybe Generation X-ers talking about the 90’s is just a tad more irritating and pointless – but that’s not going to stop me. I’m going to walk you through 300 of the best, worst, and/or most memorable tracks from 1990 through 1999.

Inspired by our Idle Time Decades project, I spent my 2009 spring break  painstakingly compiling a 300-song 1990’s iTunes playlist, cued specifically to my own recollections. To quote the Jack Rabbit Slim’s slogan, it’s “The Next Best Thing To A Time Machine” (and if you don’t know what Jack Rabbit Slim’s is, turn in your 90’s card.) Listening to this playlist is akin to spinning the dial on the best Top 40 radio station of that decade. (Ironically, the 90’s marked the death of true Top 40 radio.) The 1990’s saw me going from a scrawny, gawky, 15-year-old high school freshman to a chubbier, only slightly less gawky, 25-year-old college graduate, father, and (soon-to-be-ex) husband. And of course, all of this growth and drama had a soundtrack.

Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 1: She’s My Cherry Pie

Is It Safe To Sing Along? Pop Culture and Post-racial America

 

“The coolest stuff about American culture—be it language, dress, or attitude—comes from the underclass. Always has and always will.” – Russel Simmons

The release of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and my current enrollment in a class on film and cultural politics has inspired me to bring up something that’s been on my mind.

It’s recently come to my attention that I’m supposed to be living in a Post-racial America. Granted, right now I’m studying in England and not living back home in California, but when I was in the U.S.A, I didn’t think too much about what electing Barack Obama meant for race politics in America. Obviously it was a progressive step in a positive direction for a country with a history steeped in racism, but the term “Post-race,” though flaunted by the media after the election, was not something I really thought about. After spending some time studying the topic, I can summarize what it’s about. Basically, the Post-racial philosophy assumes that what the Civil Rights movement strove so hard to achieve when it began fifty-plus years ago – equal opportunities, respect and compassion for all people – has been realized. Since we’ve elected a Black president, issues concerning race have been, for the most part, satisfactorily resolved.  Race is no longer a current issue because a Black man is in the White House. Does this make sense to you? Continue reading Is It Safe To Sing Along? Pop Culture and Post-racial America