Thursday, January 31, 2008

More Toys! More I Say!

So yeah, the amazing quest to collect all 8 Snoopy toys from Burger King continues.

Pretty damn cool, if I do say so myself. All that's left to complete the circle of life are the surgeon, the soccer star, and the wily detective.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Atypically Mega-Occupied Weekend

I decided to break down the goings-on of the past weekend categorically rather than chronologically. A little more interesting to me, and I hope for you as well.


Patrick retrieved me from work and we headed down to Olney. He forewarned me of the weakened condition currently unenjoyed by his 12-year-old Maltese Kirby, due to a swollen right eye. This saddened me; Kirby and I have always had a cool bond goin' on.

This was the only of the three days spent together in which we did not 22 skiddoo our asses out of the cushy confines of the home on Olney Mill Road. Time was much better spent munching carryout Thai (pad tofu for 'trick, pad ka pow for the author) and drinking Coors Light. Conversation with Patrick's parents flowed from collegiate shenanigoats, war, and the importance of passing on family history, to how the Irish are a forsaken lot of drunk dunderheads condemned to be mocked eternally by exploitative suds-profferers here and in England.

Attempts by all parties to defeat me at guessing artists on those "radio" style TV channels were futile, less it was Bobby Vinton or some shit. (Trivial Pursuit was admittedly trickier.)

"This is 'Stormy', by Classics IV. Their other hit was 'Spooky'. So pretty much, they were good so long as they had a song that began with an 's' and ended with a 'y'."

"What about 'Sunny'?" Patrick's mom mildly slurred.

"Bobby Hebb", I answered without hesitation.

"How do you know that?!"

"My mind is fulla trivial crap like 'at."


We unwound the yarn of time slowly. There was the NHL All-Star Skills Competition, where the bestest hockey players who weren't injured or uninterested showed off their speed, accuracy and creativity. All it really confirmed was that Alexander Ovechkin is Christ on Skates. Dude was trying to hit the puck like a baseball.

The Japanese once again enriched us as we huddled 'round the laptop campfire to watch classic Downtown Batsu game videos.


I exercised to Gang of Four while Patrick sprawled on the couch, awaiting an airing of the 1985 children's classic Follow That Bird. Big Bird leaves Sesame Street and then tries to go back! (Amazing in retrospect that Elmo only had a nonspeaking role.) I eventually joined 'trick on the couch, our bodies lain parallel. Sleep was inevitable. I awoke to find I had dribbled on the cape of a vampire Snoopy I was using for a pillow. Ewww.

At 8, we switched to a new episode of The Simpsons. Given the description--Homer and Marge-centered flashback wherein we discover how Marge inadvertently created "grunge music"--the expectations were dire. Shockingly, the show was hilarious.

"Homer, did you know that every president has been a straight white male?"

"Even Walt Disney?"

The much-dreaded "grunge" plot was actually great--after losing Marge to a hyper-lefty associate professor, Homer starts a band called Sadgasm. Their initial outdoor performance inspires an attendee to make a call on a nearby pay phone:

"Kurt, this is Marvin. Your cousin, Marvin Cobain. Know that new sound you've been looking for? Listen to this!"

Oh wait, I forgot. The Simpsons haven't been funny for a decade and I'm just a fool holding on to past glories, desperately seeking humor and heart where there simply is none. Oh do cunt off, Family Guy fanatics!

The All-Star Game ended dramatically, with the game winner coming with only 21 seconds left. The Screen Actors Guild Awards were cool; Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey won for their work on the greatest damn show on TV, 30 Rock, and we learned that Charles Durning has been in a fuck of a lotta films.


Up at 10--dear Jesus was it cold. The temp improved but the wind was gnarly throughout the day. Our goal was Downtown Silver Spring, a cavalcade of consumer opportunity for people not quite rich enough to live in DC. The jury was indecisive initially, but eventually the 12 good men and women tried and true returned a verdict exonerating the day and sparing it death by lethal disenchantment.

Trips to Borders and the Mall were let-downs for sure, tre ghetto without the tre. Only a last-minute pop into Marshalls salvaged the latter trek--I scored a sweet sweater there. The walk around Borders was frustrating, as they didn't have anything I couldn't grab in Hagerstown, and they weren't selling the new Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown deluxe DVD. Also, I managed to strain my left leg there.

It was noon when we decided to eat lunch at Panera Bread. Actually, Patrick had naught but iced green tea, while I supplemented my beverage with a Frontega Chicken Panini. We sat in the rear of the restaurant, one table down from some college student in the throes of intense weekend study: one hand wrapped around a yellow marker, the other planted square across her forehead in intense concentration as she gazed intently at sheet after sheet of stapled paper on the table, the industrial-size bottle of Deer Park dying of loneliness in front of her. With two hours to go before the 2 PM showing of No Country For Old Men, we decided to hit up a couple more shops in an attempt to plunk gold nuggets from piles of horse dung.

American Apparel was a revelation for just getting to see their clothes on racks rather than the taut figures of the website models. I picked up a red-and-gray hoodie and red workout leggings while Patrick gawked the lame attire.

My Brooklyn pal Annie despises AA as a whole for not only the clothes, but the marketing of said product and the fact that the AA store 'round her way is populated by insufferable hipster kids who, given access to a time machine, would go back to the 70s to be Studio 54 doormen. Thankfully, the Silver Spring location is free of these type folk, appealing more to the more low-key high-maintenance. The most arresting figure there was the woman at the register, whose look so screamed "I can't wait for the next Allison Wolfe DJ night at the Black Cat" that Patrick was very tempted to ask her if she preferred Erase Errata with or without Sara Jaffe.

A pair of 10 buck cotton pants from Ann Taylor later, and we were ready for the movies.



The AFI Silver Theatre is, per Wikipedia, "the most technically advanced Motion Picture exhibition outlet in North America. It features the ability to show 16, 35, and 70mm vertical, HDCAM, Betacam, Betacam SP/SX, DigiBetacam, DVCAM, Mini DV, DVD, VHS, D5, and DVCPRO all in state of the art projectors." Suck that, LA and NYC. Suck that with cheese on it!

The Silver Theatre also has special exhibitions in addition to showing current movies. Starting next month: the complete works of the Coen Bros.

How was No Country? Deserving of every accolade it has and will receive. I'm a sucker for ensemble performance, and this is a classic one, bringing to life the suspenseful, serpentine, bittersweetly reflective script. The violence went jarring to mundane--by the filmmakers design, mind--till the controversial conclusion seemed inevitable. I hope the Cormac McCarthy novel is comparably awesome source material, as I'm going to order it shortly.


We saw our second Best Picture nominee in as many days with a noon showing of Juno at the Olney 9 Theatre. Patrick had seen it once before. Unlike No Country, the theater was sparsely-populated--seven people. Sometimes that's cool; I still remember seeing Pulp Fiction late in its theatrical run with my best friend, two of only 5 people in the audience for a 10:30 PM showing. We were laughing at unabashed volume and parroting dialogue to the oblivious screen.

I enjoyed Juno greatly. It had heart, wit, and superlative performances from JK Simmons and Allison Janney as the parents. It also had moments were the wit fell flat, where you could feel the screenwriter had a pathological inability to let situations be organically amusing. The music stuff? I about peed myself to hear the Melvins namedropped, and Sonic Youth are so embedded in my DNA that the references to them (positive and negative) sent my nerve ends atingle (and no, I'm not one of those fans who gives a flying fuck at a rolling donut whether or not people check their music out for the first time ever after this movie; good one on 'em, I just hope they don't hear Confusion is Sex first. 'Cause they're not gonna be ready).



From the movie we drove back to Olney, specifically Sakura, for some exquisite Japanese food.

It must've been the Green Dragon tickling my tongue as it washed over it, 'cause I couldn't shut up. Whether it was the perceived dominance of Asians in the realms of variety shows, pop-punk and baseball, the actual proliferation of these eateries in Japan, or the odds that the annoying kid seated across from us would shriek and vomit pea soup when the chef set the hibachi grill aflame, I was finding reasons to run my mouth.

The chef appeared when there were 6 of us at the teppan: Patrick, me, the little girl, her mom, and two female companions. Practically from the moment they were seated the child had been ornery and prone to slide off mom's lap and run around the place.

"Your tubes are tying themselves right now, aren't they?" Patrick whispered, barely stifling a grin.

Eventually, mama and babe exited.

Patrick ordered a shrimp and chicken meal with fried rice, while I had the steak and chicken with white rice. (The chef, a young lad named Jun, could scarcely believe that I, a young lass named Jenn, wanted my meat well-done; he was similarly scoobied when my awesome boyfriend inquired as to what the individual sauces were called in Japanese.) It was yet again some of the finest stuff I'll ever eat. In addition to being delicious and filling, it also instilled a real sense of pride, as I was able to eat 80% of the meal (yeah, I had a goddamn calculator with me) with chopsticks.


A sweet Mexican lunch followed later by a Patrick special, authentic Italian spaghetti and meatballs, with mushrooms and sausage beautifying the thick rich sauce. Add in some bread and red wine, and you had the ideal accompaniment to the All-Star Game. Our hero Ovechkin got 2 early goals.



Patrick and I had a very involved debate over the use of red and blue in 18th century French poetry.


Deciding that the culinary and visual representations of Rising Sun comma Land Of needed another point so's to make the trinity holy, Patrick and myself engaged in a passionate, equal parts frustrating and liberating discussion over which of tanka, haiku or shi is the finest example of Japanese poetry.


Before shuffling off into dreamland, Patrick and I poured out some soy milk and pondered the disparate literary legacies of Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

Peanuts is Timeless, Pt. 13--The Week That Was

Pardon the lateness; my weekend was atypically mega-occupied.

I've never seen an episode of The Wire. Much like with Oz, I imagine I'll be waiting till the show runs its course before delving into it.

Last night's SAG awards broadcast was both gratifying and depressing. The pair of 30 Rock wins were deserved, but said show being in grave danger due to the ongoing writers strike is a damn horror.

"I felt like Charlie Brown with his blanket around the tree!"--You mean kite, dumbass?

I am unalone in my desire to see a beagle running the nation.

I would have preferred a comparison between Simon Cowell and the cat next door....

More sports fun...if the Giants manage to upset the Patriots, root beer and pizza at my house.

Nice that there are Peanuts-related museum exhibits in states other than California. Actually, stories like this one make me jealous as hell and desirous of a matter transporter.

Cool shit happens in Idaho.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Facing the Consequences and Throwing Up on Them

It's awesome that ESPN anchor Dana Jacobsen has been suspended by the network and dragged through the mud by the Catholic League for her comments at a roast for fellow ESPN employees Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic, wherein she trashed the thoroughly hateful Notre Dame and concluded with "Fuck Jesus".

Alan King would vomit in rage, were he not already dead.

Freedom of speech...with consequences! No mitigating factors! Now wait, before you go rolling your eyes and say the fact that Jacobsen was clearly inebriated (according to "eyewitness accounts", anyway) is no excuse, please listen. I beg you. Dana Jacobsen was not just drunk. She was--again, according to those who were there--drinking vodka straight from the bottle.

Update--photo evidence confirms that she ain't no amateur at this.

Anyone who chugs the clear nectar with hand wrapped firmly around the neck of the bottle is to be excused anything (except driving drunk, no passes ever for that stupidity). Sticking your tongue down a strangers throat? Telling the lame-ass DJ to play some Def fuckin' Lep? Breakdancing on the kitchen table? Admitting your most prurient sexual fantasies to family members? Speaking blasphemously as you tell those gold-helmeted assholes that the University of Georgia bulldog is 10 times cooler than they'll ever be? That's what happens! I know these things. With women, the propensity for outrageousness is even greater. Any female who will neck vodka is an uber-being to be simultaneously admired, feared, respected, and asked to every party within 50 miles of their residence.

Such is the allure of women too impatient to be bothered with a glass that the media takes note when a female celeb is spotted in the throes of "bottle bliss", as if she's one step closer to ruin. Beyonce, Lindsay Lohan and Bjork all have recently been called out. Braaaaaaavo!

The Catholic League is unbelievable. I say the entire religion should be called out and its touchstones derided until they treat their own rampant, perverse internecine tendencies. So what the man they worship got a playground insult tossed his way? I say, Young Hova either sets up a time to kick ass after class or it's a non-issue. I don't go into paroxysms of transparent justice-seeking when someone makes a comment about my mother, and she's closer to a right-here-and-now embodiment to the ideals of Christ than anyone in this ridiculous story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I Never Even Liked Luigi That Much

Since Christmas, Super Mario Galaxy (premier game for the Wii console, formerly highest-rated video game in Metacritics history until Xbox fanboys and Zelda nerds conspired to catapult Ocarina of Time back to the top position) has been a fixture of my "off" time. It hasn't cut into my other hobbies, but it helps fill a void I had been unaware of; the void that existed ever since I sold my Nintendo 64 and with it, Super Mario 64, AKA "the greatest video game in history".

I spent so many glorious hours playing that game. Wasted time? Oh no. I hardly see how defeating that fiery bastard Bowser whilst collecting 120 stars on the way to some grand Princess Peach cake party in the sky is anything but time brilliantly savored. Even that goddamn lava level had some redeeming qualities. Like, the fact it ended. Eventually you got every star you could and that's that. That always brought a smile to my face.

The Mario series is the pinnacle of video game platforming. To run, to jump, to bounce, to swim, to shoot flame, to walk on water, to defy physics...the littlest plumber who could has provided ready and willing gamers all the excitement they could handle since the original captivated Japan and North America in 1985. Endless sequels have been spawned on various Nintendo consoles, the appeal of rescuing the Princess seemingly never dying.

Then, in 2002, Super Mario Sunshine came out for the Gamecube.

In and of itself, removed from the context of a legendary title, Sunshine is nowhere near bad. Nor is it outstanding. For the sake of comparison, let's go to the world of music. My favorite band, the one the only the Sonic Youth, have not released a truly horrible album. 2000's NYC Ghosts and Flowers is the least impressive of them all; the band's knack for innovation seems to have deserted them and little of the material is genuinely memorable. Nor is much of it genuinely horrible. It is an album that just is. For a band of such stature, such a resume bursting with classic music that literally changed lives and created movements within the culture, to release some record that is "okay" is to wonder if further trips to the well will prove inutile.

The makers of the Mario franchise created such a beautiful universe that anything less than revolution was a letdown. After Sunshine and its "Small Flowers Crack Concrete" camera work, the gaming world was hungry still for a truly worthy successor to the beloved Mario 64. A game that boasted more stunning graphics, even more epic music, and gameplay seemingly beyond human imagination.

Super Mario Galaxy was thus released to much fanfare and slobbering. The gameplay utilized the Wii's unique dual controllers to maneuver Mario on a star search through the colorful cosmos, sometimes revisiting classic environments familiar to fans (desert, ice, lava), other times plopping him down onto spheres with inconsistent gravitational pull that forced the gamer to acclimate themselves to prolonged periods of moving an upside-down character. The music is nothing short of fantastic, a mix of orchestral numbers and remixed versions of beloved tunes throughout the history of the series (who didn't levitate off their ass the first time they landed on Sweet Sweet Galaxy?) Overall, a CPR-trained platformer that I personally vouch for as worthy of all accolades bestowed.

What the hell does my opinion matter? Well, I've nabbed 95 of 120 available stars at this point, and I feel that meets "give a shit what I say" qualifications. I've had some moments of triumph so grandly exhilirating that my heartbeat became palpable and shrieks of delight were squelched only by an innate sense of decorum: Bouldergeist's Daredevil Run, The Fate of the Universe, any level with that rolling ball so God forsaken I've nicknamed it "Jersey Ball". On the other mitt, of course, I have had some spectacular failures. Of these, only one can be likened to the Hindenburg bouncing off the Challenger shuttle then crashing into the Titanic just as all the passengers were settling in for a nice relaxing episode of "Cop Rock".

I speak of the only blight on the otherwise charming "Toy Time Galaxy". I speak of...Luigi's Purple Coins.

Here, you must collect 100 of 150 available coins and make your way back to the start to collect the Power Star. It takes strategy. There are several methods, but all agree that just running through grabbing coins is not the way. (You'll get the needed coins, but leave yourself without a path back.) Best to long jump to an outer edge and deftly leap from coin to coin as the platforms either disappear or begin to move beneath you, never forgetting to adjust the camera accordingly so you actually know where the hell you're going and never ever ever stopping in your tracks to take stock of your surroundings.

I'm not a fool; I have a strategy. Several, in fact. I've seen people on Youtube get all 150 by dint of awesome platforming abilities built over years and years of practice and I pay attention. How to get these coins is common sense. Before the timer starts, I know what I am to do.

But things happen. The long jump goes awry, if it in fact goes at all. The heat of the moment can snap several neural pathways to the brain, leaving me a gooey heap of "what the fuck happened there?" in front of television. The leap and spin can be similarly fatal if mistimed even a nanosecond. Then there is what happened tonight.

I managed to collect 102 coins. And died on the way back to the star. I have not been the recipient of such a user interface unfriendly "fuck you" since the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time. In that situation, I actually gave up on the game. With Galaxy, however, I feel I'm too close to throw up the white flag. So onward I trudge.

Here is a video of someone providing a basic clinic on how to complete Luigi's Purple Coins. If you're interested, search further for videos of gamers who collect every single coin in the level. These are people who no doubt play the game blindfolded with the Wii-mote stuck up their ass just to make it challenging.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Peanuts is Timeless, Pt. 12: The Week That Was

It sure seems like I've had more of these than just a dozen....

Here's the only person in New Jersey I would ever want to switch places with.

More Peanuts in sports, making an article about the Mets and Yankees bearable.

NPR's "In Character" blog is taking reader submissions about fictional characters that have impacted their lives. Extra credit for being written by a "Jennifer."

Amazing Feats in Yahoo Search

Looking over my traffic info, I see that someone from Miami searched "nicole chambers sonic youth" on Yahoo search and found my blog. Following this path, I see that such a query brings 17 results, of which this blog accounts for 3.

Nicole is (maybe was) a friend I haven't spoken to in a few years; we met at a Sonic Youth concert and for a time wreaked Pop Tart havoc on the bands official forum. She's for all I know still in the Midwest, trudging in the noize, making tapes, and honing her creativity.

I definitely wouldn't mind hearing from her again, in whatever capacity.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Fifth Day of the Factory: The Music of Shonen Knife

Whenever a Shonen Knife post appears on this blog, it's like a fresh batch of lemon cookies in Antarctica. That's not me tooting my own writerly horn, that's just the natural conclusion I've come to.

The first such post was a review (and upload) of the Knife's legendarily scarce Minna Tanoshiku cassette, followed months later by a live review. Most ambitious of all was "Four Days of the Factory", both a career overview and discography review. Every one of these offerings brought grateful comments and emails from Knife Collectors worldwide; the Minna post even earned a Wikipedia link that continues to pay dividends in daily traffic.

Two fans were nice enough to send me rare Shonen tunes in return. First, I received a fantastic compilation disc featuring some hard-to-get covers, singles, and soundtrack tunes. A month and a half later, the post brought a gift that necessitated I take the work suit out of mothballs and tally-ho my ass back to the factory for another day: Shonen Knife's latest album.

Fun! Fun! Fun! (July 2007, Blues Interactions Japan)

  1. 重力無重力
  2. Barnacle(ふじつぼ)
  3. Flu(インフルエンザ)
  4. Ramones Forever
  5. Las Vegas
  6. Birthday
  7. ポップコーン(Popcorn)
  8. クッキーたべたい (I want to eat cake!)
  9. みなみのしま (Everyone's island)
  10. おやすみ(Goodnight)
The album cover reminds me of the hysterical Japanese variety show Downtown no Gaki no Tsukai ya Arahende!!, which for over a decade has provided seemingly endless proof that we as Americans really settle for a safe sort of comedy, bowdlerized by politically correct finger-wagging and the rampant litigiousness of the easily aggrieved. Getting teabagged by young boys is but the least of it, friends. Come to think, why haven't the girls covered this song yet? Tomato Head needs to get them going on that, pronto.

"重力無重力"--Translation, anyone? No English words pop up on the lyrics sheet scanned for me in the package (thank you!). Whatever the subject, this first song is frizzled and frazzled punkish pop, a hearty bite of funnel cake post-Tilt-a-Whirl.

"Barnacle"--Hearkens right back to the Burning Farm days with a simple tale about an animal. Here, Naoko animates the titular crustacean with a sincere hope that it will somehow grow beyond just a free ride on a crab. However, "it couldn't escape from its fate" and ended up in the trash along with the crab post-grub. "Its hope didn't turn into reality." It's a metaphor, right? Sure. A metaphor for people who over-allegorize song lyrics.

"Flu"--Having heard this live, I knew this would be a barnstormer on record. It's in the classic vein of "Shonen Knife goes metal, bananas" tracks such as "Antonio Baka Guy", "Buddhas Face" and "Mosquitoes" but the new facts of Knife Life impact the formula profoundly. Only Naoko remains from the original lineup, with new Knife Etsuko upon the throne. In addition to youth and heart-skipping cuteness, she brings loose feet and hands to the party, providing a beat that skips with chin aloft under Naoko's infectious barrage.

"Ramones Forever"--This feels like a culmination for Shonen Knife. The Ramones provided such obvious inspiration to three unassuming girls from Osaka that just their continued existence seems like a sublime tribute; their undying devotion to making music that sets off a rainbow display of fireworks inside the hearts and minds of all who open up to it seems an unfuckwithable answer to the question, "Where the Ramones really that important?"

"I'll never forget/They are the best." That's all Eddie Vedder needed to say.

"Las Vegas"--A dichotomy for sure. Can you imagine li'l ol' Shonen Knife enjoying themselves in the Land That Decency Forgot? "Even if you say it's decadent/I don't mind 'cause it's fun." Slot machines are just shiny land-roaming bananafishes to Naoko.

"Birthday"--The Beatles song it is not. While having Naoko's daughter take a vocal turn here is "aww" and all, it's not a song that really grabs me.

"Popcorn"--There ain't a goddamn thing the matter with popcorn. The song or the food. It's just common sense. The key is expansion: too much heat too quickly leaves partially popped corn with hard centers; too little heat too slowly, it won't pop at all. Shonen Knife has a history of rich, heavy, full bags.

"I Want to Eat Cake!"--From the sound of it, a sludgy cake with the icing thick and sloppy. German Chocolate, perhaps? Best part is the sudden ascension into the soundtrack from some universe-spanning video game still stuck somewhere in the recesses of Shigeru Miyamoto's mind.

"Everyone's Island"--This is...OK. Average. Especially compared to the rejuvenated stuff that's come before. It's like playing Yar's Revenge immediately after Super Mario Galaxy.

"Goodnight"--A ballad with soft "little drummer girl" percussion and some delayed guitar work that sends precise, icy signals off the soul satellites. A gorgeous way to end it.

Verdict overall? Fun! Fun! Fun! is not a retread of what has come before, although it relies on the power of personality to merely stretch, bounce and in general frolic within firmly established boundaries and still make it sound like the best shit no music magazine or site puts on a year-end "Best Of" list because well jeez, doesn't that Arcade Fire record just scream innovative? Considering the magnificence of the Shonen template, diminishing this album on some sniveling charge of "no new ground broken here, move along folks" is either childish or brick-headed, take your pick.

There exists those listeners who demand progress of all musicians in all genres at all times. This is not only impossible--thus assuring plenty opportunity for indignation in print, on the Internet, and during songs you're trying to hear at a gig--but unfair. Unfair in the extremis to both artist and fan.

One of my favorite hip hop albums of the past several months is Ritual of Battle by Army of the Pharaohs. Like their equally fantastic debut, The Torture Papers, it consists of verses depicting typical genre braggadocio, almost-cartoonish violence, surprising references (from Lars Ulrich to Eddie Brock to Billy Dee Williams) and even some thoughtful wordplay. The beats are uniformly epic, be they driven by samples of furtive strings, Russian choirs, or filtered prog-rock. As a whole, it's hard to deny. Yet many have, decrying the "predictable" subject matter and "tired" production. Given more of same, they suddenly reject what previously they found irresistible. A listener that has moved on and wants more to take from music is one thing. But to expect (or even demand) concurrent growth in the artist is ridiculous. The creative impetus is too unique to set to a schedule. Accept or reject what it births, but to second-guess the very process is purest folly.

If you are a Shonen Knife wondering if you should pay the import price for this album, I ask: did you like Genki Shock? Heavy Songs? Yeah? Then put your money where your mouse is. I know I am.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Peanuts Is Timeless, and Elections Are Endless

Well, tell me why I'm wrong. "Way to throw your vote away, Jenn." Look, I was really looking forward to electing a new, humanoid President. After eight years of George Bush, you'd have to be a heartless, self-absorbed amoeba-brain or Ann Coulter (wow, there's a redundancy, I really must strive for more economical sentences) to not ache to oust the Republican Party from the highest office in the nation.

The thought of kicking the elephant out of the room made some delirious, I guess; assuming that after nearly a decade of a bumbling, stumbling, shoot-first-ask-never Bible boy, the middle of the country would instantly gravitate towards the Democratic Party, and sweep the lucky nominee into the office of Commander in Chief, to begin a first term of progress, with a mind towards prosperity and peace, valuing the tenets of humanism above all.

As it stands, the Democratic side of the primaries has now been reduced to "the chick vs. the black guy", with the issues of either candidate playing second chair sax to their immediate distinguishing features. Whoever wins the nod will have gone through such a needlessly arduous media-fueled clusterbang that the fence-dwelling among the voting public will decide to play it "safe" and go with God, ie, the Republican nominee. Which could be either John "Lighten Up and Get a Life" McCain or Mike "I'd Rather Fuck a Tree Than Vote For" Huckabee. So you remember.

I could be off-base (like Tim Raines), or I could be totally on base (also like Tim Raines), but we aren't even done the South Carolina primaries and already I get this feeling of sinking stones in my guts. The mortgage crisis, health care, the war in Iraq...and now go back four years and fill in some more problems. And the four years before that, and before....Who do you believe in and why? The candidate who looks like you, or has the same reproductive system you do? Are you an automatic party pusher? Is having a president all about saying "my guy is in", and then that's enough?

Do you still think the system can work? Do you think change can be affected? Can an entire nation lead a world that distrusts it at best and despises it at worst? Should an entire nation lead a world?

I shouldn't be this way, ending all my sentences with question marks, but goddamnit, all I have is questions. I'm a waffler, then, a citizen without solid answers, lacking the fiber to say what I believe and that's that, damn the torn Speedos.

Why can't I just believe in my uncertainty? When did questions that can't be answered by Google or Wikipedia become so verboten?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Revisited: "Bouncing off the Satellites" by the B-52's

The B-52's are a band whose music transports me to specific childhood moments. I grew up the youngest of seven children, with all six siblings significantly older, so the house was a sonic jungle, vinyl and tapes scattered and stacked and shelved in various rooms, a multitude of genres represented.

It was Brenda who had the taste for the so-called "80s new wave": Talking Heads, Devo, The Cars, Oingo Boingo, The B-52's. For whatever reason, only the B's captured my pre-teen imagination. It had to be the songs; my visual reference points began and ended with the album covers (MTV wasn't touching them with a 10-foot-high bouffant wig at that time). This is why I still defend them as a great band. It would be easy to assume a young child would be instantly fascinated by a group with such a garish, inflammable image, all ridiculous hair and bright everything. But my sisters tapes were all I had.

(As I aged and my ears matured, I would rediscover and appreciate the other bands mentioned above; except for Oingo Boingo, fuck that trash.)

The tape I remember most vividly was Whammy!, their 1983 synth-dance experiment. It was an event for me, Brenda, and brother Doug to blast that on the third floor, the largest free-roaming space in the whole house. Seriously, we did pantomime routines to "Butterbean" and strained our ears against the boom box to make out every single word to the instant classic "Song For a Future Generation". My six-year-old mind found it so wild that a band would record what is basically each member reciting personal ads for the benefit of aliens on Jupiter. (That same six-year-old mind did not, however, pick up on how effeminate all three male members sounded. Oh, youth!)

It took another half-dozen years for the B-52's to crash into my mental runway once again. That was 1989, when "Love Shack" exploded onto the charts, fresh and unexpected, an ass-shaker and brain-puzzler (I shudder to imagine what the misinformation superhighway would have convinced people "Tin roof rusted!" meant, cf. "Superman dat hoe"). Like millions, I bought Cosmic Thing and replayed that heat till all the popsicles melted. The songs pulsed with rejuvenated spirits, absurd creatures, peace, love, green and heart.

Inspired, I bought all the older albums, including one I missed entirely the first time 'round--1986's Bouncing Off the Satellites. During the recording process, guitarist/visionary Ricky Wilson became ill and soon thereafter died. (It would take years before the world would learn that Wilson did not die of cancer, as was initially reported, but rather the still-misunderstood AIDS virus.) Practically under duress, the band finished the record and retreated. The album itself was released and widely panned by critics and ignored by consumers.

Twenty-one years on, Bouncing Off the Satellites deserves revisitation and reevaluation. The B-52's are set to release an overdue new album called Funplex in March. In the context of a band that both defies and defines odds, BOTS should be viewed no longer as some dour epitaph or unfortunate schizophrenic episode, but rather as...a record in a band's catalogue.

"Summer of Love"--The hit that shoulda been, and a sparkling example of the Fairlight done right. (To hear it done wrong, see the last three Devo albums.) The harmonies of Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson are uniformly fantastic, belting out some rather deceptive lyrics:

"I've been waiting for the man
Just buzzin' around...downtown
Waitin' for that very special
Comes in to see what I got
Orange popsicles and lemonade"

"Girl From Ipanema Goes To Greenland"--I always thought a song blessed with such a title should sonically resemble a spastic crackhead battle royale, but it stays in a spaced, spacey niche. Pointless, but fun.

"Housework"--A Kate solo vocal turn. Actually, the only other member credited on this song is Keith Strickland. Hmm. You don't get many Kate solo tracks. Cindy, sure; out the ass. A Cindy Wilson spotlight moment became a quick hallmark of the B-52's albums. Why Cindy and not Kate? This song helps explain why. Asinine and forgettable, the words and music evaporate from your head at a two-second clip. Far and away the nadir of the album.

"Detour Thru Your Mind"--Finally, at track four, we hear some Fred. Incredible; on the earlier albums, he's already crashed a party, spotted some pink air, done all sixteen dances, ran around, and gone down down doowwwn by this time.

He tries his best to make up for it here, a spoken word psychedelic sojourn that manages to rhyme "orange" and "large" and inject the best back-masked message on a record to date. Great guitar solo, too.

"Wig"--This is to BOTS what "Butterbean" was to Whammy! A song where they are clearly trying too hard to be the tackiest, wackiest band on Earth, yet somehow succeeding despite the slip showing.

"Theme For a Nude Beach"--Featuring all five members on vocals, a loose-limbed frolic around Beach Bowl Galaxy that keeps evoking sandbars in the lyrics. It succeeds at the attempted graceful sounds, but the B's of 1979 would have been far kookier with this, making it sound closer to a real nekkid party.

"Ain't It a Shame"--As out of place on this album as a Whole Foods Market in Hagerstown, Maryland. The entire song is one long, heavy sigh, from the lazy guitar swashes to the resigned harmonica to Cindy's syrup-y vox gone mournful and bitter as she serenades deadly apathy. (Even Keith and Ricky's backing vocals seem afraid to wake the neighbors.)

In a case of "real recognize real", Sinead O'Connor did a cover of this song for her She Who Dwells... album. I've yet to hear this version, but if ever a female singer could out-break Cindy's heart on this one....

"Communicate"--Jumps out like fire from an exposed manhole after "Ain't It a Shame". Fred pops back in to deliver an imitation of Paul Lynde as a (fill in the blank) instructor while the girls with kaleidoscope voices shimmy behind him. The most positive song on the album (don't hold it in!) is also the most tightly structured and effortlessly executed, with perfect pacing and dearth of tacky keys.

How does one resist a tune that spells out the title within the lyrics? One doesn't, so stop Googling for the answer. Just listen to it over and over until you enter such a state of giddy other-than you start making up your own chant. (My favorite variation pays homage to my favorite musculoskeletal disorder "C-O-S-T-O-C-H-O-N dritis".)

"Juicy Jungle"--A horn-y Fred solo number that foretold the group's interest in environmental issues. Great cause; annoyingly trite song. All that money spent in the studio recording this claptrap could have been donated to Greenpeace. That had to cross Fred's mind at one point.

"She Brakes For Rainbows"--(Hip hop crate digger alert: sampled by the Majesticons for their track "St. Tropez Party". ) Written by Keith and Ricky and given to Cindy so she could pull a heart of a fuzzy hat. Gorgeously arcing chorus. Tells the story of "Brenda Holiday", a woman who doesn't speak much but knows more. "She knows where the rain goes/She brakes/She brakes for rainbows". The last song on the last album with Ricky Wilson isn't supposed to suffuse the air with unbearable sorrow--we're supposed to admire this Brenda--but as the chorus fades into the clouds, it's difficult to not think of Ricky Wilson following right behind.

This album is not, by any stretch of the cosmic rubberband, up to the quality of the first two albums or Cosmic Thing; it is, however, a sight better than Whammy! (which coulda been the bestest EP of all time ever with judicious pruning in the studio) and Good Stuff (the title of which is such a damn lie I don't know where to start). It succeeds despite an over dependence on the Fairlight synthesizer and an undeniable disjointed vibe. (Session musicians are sprinkled liberally throughout, and Fred Schneider's sprechgesang is almost nonexistent.) Conventional wisdom paints BOTS as a dud. It is not.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Leave the Toy. Take the Burger.

Earlier this week, I discovered that Burger King was bagging Snoopy toys in their kids meals alongside the 380-calorie cheeseburgers. While this humble blogger shies away from consumption of the likes of the Whopper, I have within my family people who honestly don't give a shit. My mother, for instance, eats almost as an afterthought. Despite this absentmindedness (and a recent shift towards healthier meal preparation) she's always suffered high cholesterol and blood pressure. Whereas my father stuffed his gullet with fatty meats, sugar and starch and lived 72 years, felled only by the aftereffects of cancer treatment last October. Such headscratching circumstances long ago led my mother to proclaim, "I think people can resolve to take care of their bodies all they want, but not everyone has a body that wants to listen."

It was a typical Saturday spent shopping with my mom, then, except when I offered to buy her a Burger King kids meal. Naturally, she wondered aloud why the hell a 69-year-old woman would want a goddamn fast food meal for children.

"It means lunch for you", I explained, "and a Snoopy toy for me." As I have indoctrinated every last member of my immediate family into the Snoopy Collection Army Unit 21740-23, Being For the Benefit of JJ, she instantly understood the urgency of my request and duly committed to the consumption of some unpalatable gruel to make her youngest child happy. Truly, mothers sacrifice so much. Especially mine. This is why I love her. Except when I don't. Which is never.

This booklet was on the BK counter. I like the back, which among other things encourages children to act more canine. Hey, they're already eating slop.

And here's the toy. Flying Ace. Isn't it glorious?

I hope mom doesn't get sick of kids meals every Saturday. I'm getting all eight of those toys, damnit.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Alexander Ovechkin Goes From Rich To Richard

(On his grown man shit...)

The Washington Capitals have wisely given star winger Alexander Ovechkin a contract that will enable him to drain the Russian rivers that drain into the Arctic Ocean and refill the divides with sweet sweet Stolichnaya (Planet Earth: The Dance of Drunken Polar Bears).

“Alex is the cornerstone of our franchise, and I fully believe that he will help us achieve our ultimate goal of being a Stanley Cup team,” chairman and majority owner Ted Leonsis said. “Like all Caps fans, I look forward to coming to Verizon Center or turning on the TV each night and seeing what he will do next, and I am sure we will continue to be amazed at what we see for years to come.”

By "cornerstone", Mr. Leonsis of course means "only hope". Not that Ovechkin is their only outstanding player; Mike Green has turned into a wonderful surprise, Nicklas Backstrom is developing his playmaking skills, and even Michael Nylander remembers every once in awhile why he was so sought after last off season. Still on pace to have plus/minus that matches his age, though.

By committing to a superlative talent, the Capitals are proclaiming their desire to not merely be one of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League, but to be a contender. This should help the teams chances in picking up key free agents during the offseason, and keeping the players they already have and need.

Only one thing left now that the organization has thrown down the gauntlet: I want to see a renewed interest from the fanbase. No more of this being out numbered 3 to 1 by mental deficients in yellow and black at the Verizon Center. Start going out to games during the week. Fill the gap until next football season with hockey talk. Make it your mission to convince someone why Donald Brashear is tougher than Clinton Portis. Stop saying that believing the NHL has the best playoffs of any sport in the world is just your opinion.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Peanuts is Timeless, Pt. 11: The Cutest Evil

Well, isn't this just outstanding. It's like a piece of strawberry cheesecake floating in a tub of piss, is what it is.

Not the site itself; the bone collector game is a nice trifle, and any time you hear Vince Guaraldi music means you've won a small battle in the game of life. It's the very reality of Snoopy toys at...Burger King. This isn't like 2000, when United Features Syndicate corralled Wendys for the 50th anniversary, and I had no qualms whatsoever with ordering triple cheeseburgers week in week out to collect every toy. Hardly anyone cared about trans fat back then, as it's difficult to give a damn about something when you don't know what it actually is.

Times change, however, and I refuse to eat at any so-called "fast food chain" not named Panera Bread. Yet I remain a fanatical Snoopy collector. What to do when you don't want to poison your body but you really really want those toys?

The solution is actually very simple: round up a bunch of kids whose parents don't give a shit about their health and treat them to Kids Meals galore for the next several weeks. I think I'm gonna advertise downtown, right across the street from the 78-year-old anti-abortion protesters. They have bold posterboards proclaiming "Abortion Kills Children, Hurts Women". My sign will practically sing, "Burger King Kills Everyone, Helps My Personal Collection. Sign Here!"

Saturday, January 5, 2008

A Weekend in Hagerstown

I'd be lying if I ever said Hagerstown was devoid of any worth. I'd also be stupid for believing such a statement and continuing to live in the city.

My way of treating myself in this life, of relieving stress, of indulging my whims is rather pedestrian on the surface. I read; I write; I listen to music. It's the substance of these hobbies that provides spice.

A 120-minute chunk of Saturday afternoon was spent at the Centre, AKA "where the Wal Mart is". First I had to buy the Norton Antivirus 2008 so my computer wouldn't catch bird flu and explode (I've had that happen before, to my much-missed laptop), then I departed for Borders, a frequent sanctuary. I made a tidy haul, although I have made much tidier in the past and hope to in the future.

Only two magazines for me in one trip is pretty meager--I often purchase upwards of five or six. The selection for the week ending January 6th was lackluster. No Spin, no XXL, but many copies of the recent issues of Harp and Paste. I did learn something new, though, from a man nearby scanning the racks with a friend. An average of 12 new magazines debut per week in America. By the time a year has elapsed from conception, an average of 1 are still printing. His source was a "friend in New York". Hey, beats Wikipedia. Still.

For me to drop the requisite 10 bucks on a Brit mag like Mojo takes some potent bait. Not even Wire measures up much these days. Throw in the atrocious cover subject--Amy Winehouse--and it's pretty obvious that this worm came wrapped around tiger shrimp.

It's the "best of" year-end issue, which means their top 5 albums looks like everyone else's in the music media: In Rainbows, Neon Bible, Magic, Favourite Worst Nightmare and Sound of Silver. (Well, four of them anyway; only the English really truly give a shit about Arctic Monkeys, like they're a last surviving male heir.)

Did the Arcade Fire album increase sales for the John Kennedy Toole novel? No? Well, off to the cellar with it, then.

Okay, so why in hell's name did I buy this bound-to-gag issue? The answer is contained within a section spread across several pages, "The Best Thing I've Heard All Year", wherein Mojo-anointed luminaries give brief blurb in boost to the music that made them giddy. It's an amusing insight into whom the English press finds "relevant" to their readership--Arctic Monkeys, Kings of Leon, James Taylor, Johnny effing Marr, the somehow-alive Shaun Ryder, Kim Gordon. Wait...the Kim Gordon, Sonic Youth-er supreme, the greatest woman on Earth not named Virginia? Mojo actually cares what this visionary artist thinks? Set my phaser to stunned. Seriously, Polly Jean Harvey couldn't be reached in time?

"Can I say Thurston's record? No? Okay, I also really loved Charalambides' Likeness." Aw, I love me some Kim G.

As for SI, well...nice pictures. Couple good articles, proving that they can do in-depth writing far better than ESPN Magazine anyday. I wish they'd get rid of Peter King, though, so readers can be spared his hack-style of writing and he can marry Brett Favre without hearing protests of "conflict of interest".

The two books pictured are Notorious C.O.P. by Derrick Parker and Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield. I was able to finish both over the weekend, a testament to both my speed-reading abilities and the easily-digestible styles of both authors.

Parker's tome is a fascinating look at the career of the former detective who spearheaded the NYPD's so-called "Hip Hop Police", keeping tabs on the sordid past and present of numerous rap stars. The bulk of the text examines the infamous trio of murders that stain the genre to this day: Tupac Shakur in 1996, Notorious B.I.G. in 1997, and Jam Master Jay in 2002. His prose is unglamorous even as he's describing the gaudy, greedy world of the hip hop superstar, much less the impoverished boroughs ravaged by crack cocaine in the 1980s. Using inside info and instinct, he confidently offers the names of triggermen in the Tupac and JMJ cases.

Love is a Mixtape is one I had to be sold on by Internet reviews. (Yeah, those actually work sometimes.) It's been out for months, and I originally wrote it off as some barely-necessary extension of Sheffield's Rolling Stone column. Turns out, it's a cleverly-constructed, heart-rending true story of love found, reveled in, and suddenly lost. The love shared between two people, for each other and for music, is the raison d'etre for this book. I knew the sad twist already even without spoiler-free reviews (I won't ruin it for you here), but in this thoughtful context, it now seems less unfortunate than actually unfair. Sheffield's writing vibrates on the page even when its dealing with the emotional dregs and lees of life.

(That said, I still haven't entirely forgiven dude for that review in Details where he gave Washing Machine a 4 out of 10. That had him on my Top 5 Shithead Critics list for a few years. I think he dropped off the very same year I renamed it the Brent DiCrescenzo Award for Outstanding Ineptitude in the Field of Music Journalism.)

Would it be me if I didn't buy something Peanuts?

Unbelievable; I bought the Peanuts Christmas Uno set a month ago after sleeping on the Great Pumpkin set. What do you know, Borders brought them back out, and I snatched one up.

Yes, I collect Snoopy items, but I am not so tight-assed about the whole thing that I worry about having every little thing I buy remain in its original packaging. If I buy Peanuts Uno, or Monopoly, or Hungry Hungry Hippos, I'm damn sure gonna open it up and have fun. What joy would I feel taking my Uno case and sticking it behind a glass case?

Best card? I'm partial to the Skip and 3 cards, especially the googly eyes on the latter.

Throw in the Redskins forgetting to control their own destiny (worst...cliche...ever) against the Seahawks, and this was a class weekend.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Patti Smith in DC, 12/28/07

On the way down to see Shonen Knife in DC, my stomach suffered an unfortunate turn of contents while Patti Smith's Easter blared from the car stereo. With the aftertaste still fresh in my mind a month later, I shared with Patrick my hunch that our ride down to see Patti Smith in DC should not be accompanied by a Shonen Knife record, lest peristalsis occur yet again. Perpetual bud nippers, we opted for The Hot Rock by Sleater Kinney.

It was a pissy rainy Friday when 'Trick's sleek black Honda left the driveway around 7:30 for the familiar trek to the 9:30 Club. Anyone who's read a few of my DC concert reviews knows that the path to any venue in our nation's capital as laid by the J & P Show runs down Georgia Avenue, and that the closer we get to our destination, the more urban the surrounding area becomes.

You might think that after innumerable times passing by illuminated, haphazardly decorated chunks of buildings, my passenger seat wistfulness would have ebbed into nothingness. Yet every time my eyes catch hold of a multi-tasking eatery, I smile in wonder. You know 'em--those overreaching establishments that offer up any combination of the following foods while almost never boasting any as a specialty: "seafood, soul food, Chinese, chicken, pizza, subs, burgers, wings". I adore these joints for their desire to be so much to many, sacrificing quality for quantity because they can.

Not like I'd ever eat at any of those places. Or would I?

And it was just as we passed the illustrious Wonder Chicken that I was struck. What if...I gathered a group of friends for a weekend in DC spent bouncing place to place, each of us tackling different food types and giving grades? (And no one would try the same food twice, i.e., if you had Chinese grub in one place, you couldn't have it anywhere else.) The end results would make a fun survey for the blog and gnarly greasy chow for the clog.

Yeah, on my way to see the grand poetess of punk and that is what's gripping my imagination.


The steady rain unearthed the 9:30 Club's scarcely-seen compassionate side. Right as Patrick and I exited the parking lot at the rear of the venue, we saw folks being granted early access via the "Back Bar" at the side of the club. So there we stood, in our non-B boy stance, umbrella-less, waiting. My brand new black jacket with the thick buttons was heavy enough to provide significant warmth but it increasingly made me feel like a boll weevil as I gazed around at all these petite broads in my mist. Eventually, the bar filled, and us sundry unluckies were ordered back to the club facade. The precipitation continued, and I found myself having to frequently remove my glasses and wipe them down.

"They should make windshield wipers for glasses."

"They," Patrick said. "I've seen them."

"Yeah, but those are novelty right? I mean like wipers for prescription glasses."

"Ah, yes. Not yet."

The oldest crowd we have ever been a part of, that much was certain even before they let us in. There was a strong presence of people I don't hesitate to call "hippies", but not in the way a surface-satiated mass would identify the members of said group. These were "mental hippies".

One was in front of us yakking with some friends, and wouldn't hush whether you called his name or not. He saw Patti 30 years ago in Central Park! She was way drunk and wayer determined to methodically strum her guitar until every string snapped clean off. She succeeded!

His best story had to do with the 9:30, though. I missed how long ago it was, and the acts performing that night, but here's the gist.

He and some good friends were in the crowd, waiting around for the headlining act to take stage. Things were wine and candy till one of the guys had to head off to the toilet. He asked a pal to hold his beer. Fine; except this woman clutching the non-bubbly had forgotten her ID and thus did not have a hand stamp permitting her to enjoy alcohol in any way. She was swamped down upon by eerily vigilant security, who informed her that she had violated club policy and would have to vacate the briar patch posthaste. Her friends protested, and the subsequent stink was so foul that club management was summoned. Thankfully, a compromise was reached.

Just when we thought the story had served its purpose of revealing the inflexibility of the average rock club, dude delivered the punchline. The woman of the story, the one at threat of being kicked out because she dared hold a beer in a hand that lacked a stamp? She was 60 years old.


Front row was out of the question. I staked out a spot on the floor while Patrick sought relief. I stood off to the left, clocking no more than 30-40 peeps gathered 'round the front. No one very tall, either. I exhaled and reminded myself of Concert Rule 283. What's that?

283: If you decide to claim a spot on the floor--the most crammed and thus amorphous area of a typical club gig--do not definitively place yourself anywhere until you have subjected it to the following test: from wherever you are, imagine yourself six feet in front of, behind, and on either side of. Would any of these spots still be adequate by your standards? Would sight lines suffer? Would acoustics suffer? This is not a "what-if" scenario, friends; this is an inevitability. As people pour in and mull around, as they brusquely maneuver through the breathing forest before them, you will be relocated. Resolving to stand firm is unnecessary and fruitless, albeit still rather cute.


Patti Smith--aided and abetted by a whip lash band consisting of Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty, Tony Shanahan and son Jackson--put on a show approaching 2 hours and 20 minutes in length, the longest I have ever seen for one performer.

The setlist was a mix of originals and covers (clearly Patti is still in the "redo" state o' mind evoked last April with the release of her all-remakes collection Twelve). It was Smith's own anthemic treats that most galvanized the gathered, songs like "Redondo Beach", "Because the Night"' and "People Have the Power" (last song of the eve, dotted with exhortations to use the vote), inspiring middle-aged concertgoers who knew better to scream themselves hoarse as they propelled their careworn bodies into the air.

For me, though, the covers stole the show. "Are You Experienced?" was exotically intoxicating, buoyed by fucking clarinet, of all instruments (not necessarily stoned...but classical); "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was slowed to a strut, an ideal platform for a woman aged 60 to take wrought lyrics penned by a grimey geek in his early twenties and loft them back up into the air with hoarse grace, seeing if they can float with all the added weight. As she is wont to do, Smith added her own spoken word, referencing tiger maulings at one point. I don't think that had anything to do with the recent San Francisco zoo tragedy, but it made me proud of the DC Zoo, for sure.

"White Rabbit" was hilarious, Patti waxing rapturous over a recent Italian production of Tristan and Isolde that included a recapping of the plot ("King Mark?") and a fuzzy yarnball wherein she approached the set after the play was done, partook of the prop potions and began eating the Jello-seeming setting. The director reproached her until he realized: "Oh--Patti Smiths!" After a few more minutes of devouring the planks, she noticed his head turn white and fuzzy, with long ears hanging down the side and, well--"Aren't you late?" Then straight into the song, Patti and crowd exhorting "Feed your head!" until one imagines even Ian MacKaye was converted. (Yes, he was there.)

The only cover that didn't surpass the source material was "Perfect Day". Don't mistake me, it was wonderful in the way you would expect one poet laureate covering another would be. But it came up short due to two factors, the first being the utter sublimity of Lou Reed's original, and the second being Smith's admittedly amusing inability to remember some of the lyrics ("It's such a perfect day/This is the part of the song where I can never remember the words/So I always make something up/Isn't it fun").

Not only was the whole band in near-peak form, Patti's stage banter was a veritable clinic in audience engagement. Not like she had to win anyone over, but she was clearly thrilled to be in DC, making her a rare bird indeed. When she wasn't dissing Romper Room or detailing her flirtations with Tom Verlaine ("'Why don't we go to the bathroom and poop in the toilet at the same time?' That's how I got him"), she was owning some super-tall redheaded shoulda-been-a-stepchild near us who kept yelling what he thought was witty stuff in between songs. He finally stopped over his "oh-isn't-that delightfully-funny!" exhortations to "play something with some heart!" first caused Patti to wonder if he was yelling about a "hard on" and then ended with her making fun of him. "Har har har! I can't understand this guy." Humbled, he moved from in front of me, and scurried to some other remote area of the venue, where, hopefully, he was able to enjoy the show now that he could not successfully interject himself into it.

Lenny Kaye got a solo turn with "Pushin' Too Hard", under the pretext of Patti going to the bathroom. Upon her return, she admitted that she actually used the time out to "check out boys".

"I'm lookin' for a man. I need someone to build me bookcases." Which is probably the hardest I've ever laughed at a concert. Wonder why they call you Goddess!

Mostly the people around me were all right, even the 40-ish dude in the backwards white Navy ball cap who kept guzzling beer after beer, and responding to every high energy song by loudly asking his wife and daughter (?) if they were "feeling it". I was feeling it for awhile, certainly. "It" being the desire to grab one of them in the Von Erich claw, push them up against the speaker stack and increase the pressure till all the blood vessels in their head popped and they started shrieking like a Redead.

Midway through the set I was briefly joined to my left (and in front of Patrick) by a couple that looked about our age. The dude looked perfectly Pitchfork with his short cut and glasses, while his girlfriend had even shorter hair and wobbled back and forth with a red cup. They only stayed around for one song, during which time the drunk bitch decided to talk to the older woman and her daughter in front of us. "My mom died yesterday", she slurred, met with a response of clinking cups in sympathy and the words of semi-concern that only a complete fucking stranger you just met at a concert can muster. I was fortunate, I suppose, that no one caught my smirk. Your mom died, big fuck deal. My dad died this year, too, day before my birthday in fact. Who gives a shit. It's a goddamn concert I paid for, not your life story.

Some of the crowd reaction was good. I loved the girl in the way back who yelled "Eat my pussy!" But some of them were trying too hard, slightest provocation and they're off: "We're not Republicans!" Or, "It's not all about the money!" Which, you could put those two statements together and they'd fit, huh? Heh.

Throughout the night, Patti apologized for her "rough" voice, which was hilarious for a couple reasons. First off, she has never been known for dulcet vocals, and second, she did a shocking, heckler-proof version of "O Holy Night", probably the Christmas song that proves once and for all if a singer has chops or not. Does Patti have chops, then? Straight barbecued pork! As weird as it may have sounded for the woman who wrote "Jesus died for somebodys sins/But not mine" crooning an ode to the birth of the babe Christ, it was also captivating and even comforting. No fear guides this woman. None whatsoever.

Somehow, the guy with the Navy cap and his wife slow-dancing and lipsynching in front of me throughout certified those minutes as perfect. I'll never forget it.