Saturday, January 23, 2010

Volume 5, Number 3: Web Sites I'd Like To Introduce You To

I have bookmarked a whole lot of web sites over the years, and I thought I'd share some of them with you:

News/Information
News Inferno - Here's a blog for those of you who want to keep on top of the latest in product recalls, food poisoning, and other consumer safety-related issues.
The Red Tape Chronicles is a blog by MSNBC's Bob Sullivan, specializing in consumer fraud and security.

Bargains & Discounts
Sweet Free Stuff - A blog with lots of freebies you can get (mostly free samples of stuff)
Sunday Coupon Preview - I clip coupons for anything I either use or would consider buying. Coupons are the #1 reason why I buy a newspaper on Sunday. But this site helps me in two ways: First, it gives a sneak preview of next weekend's coupon inserts; second, and more importantly, there's a schedule on the site that shows which weeks have NO coupons so I know when not to waste $1.50 on a paper with no coupons in it. (There are eight weeks in 2010 where there will be no coupons, so when this year is done, this web site will have saved me $12.)
The Cheapskate - Rick Broida's blog on CNET highlights some serious bargains in electronics and software. In the past, he's found deals on HDTVs, GPS systems and Blu-Ray players.
Hot Deals Digest is another site that lists more bargains, mostly in the way of electronics.

Entertainment
Awful Library Books - This blog is good for a laugh because it discusses books that are, inexplicably, still being found in libraries. These books are either severely outdated, or were useless to begin with, and should have been "weeded out" ages ago. Like the one about horses doing drugs. What, someone actually thought that anthromorphed animals would be more effective at telling people not to do drugs than, say, human characters?!?
Bone The Fish - Remember jumptheshark.com, the site where people could discuss the point in the course of a TV series where that series went downhill? Well, the owners of jumptheshark.com decided to sell that site to TV Guide, and TV Guide basically trashed it and replaced it with some useless blog. A group of justifiably angry jumptheshark.com users started up their own site to fill the void, so now bonethefish.com is where you can tell people that American Idol will "bone the fish" when Simon Cowell leaves, or The Tonight Show has "boned the fish" now that Conan O'Brien has left. I've left comments on a whole bunch of TV series; you can read them here if you so desire.
Elbo.ws - This "music blog aggregator" is a good first place to stop if you're looking for the MP3 of a song (look for the search box near the top right corner of that web page). It indexes hundreds of thousands of music-related blog posts and MP3s. Mind you, you'll have better luck finding newer songs than older ones; for example, I couldn't find a blog that had an MP3 of "That Girl" by Steve Wonder, but I did find at least one that had an MP3 of "God's Gonna Cut You Down" by Johnny Cash.
Shit My Dad Says - Wait, some of you may already have this one among your bookmarks. This site has freaking hilarious quotes from a 73-year-old man who won't hesitate to share his wisdom with his son, no matter how painful it is. His quote from January 19, rocks: "No, I'm not a pessimist. At some point the world shits on everybody. Pretending it ain't shit makes you an idiot, not an optimist." I'd love to hear Harvey Keitel and/or Christopher Lloyd read these quotes (both are actors who recently turned 70 themselves). Thanks to Kirk Herlitz for introducing me to this site.
Fail Blog - A great blog with pictures of all kinds of things that FAIL--badly labeled products, things being used for purposes other than what they were intended for, poorly written signs, and more. Kirk introduced me to this one as well.
Lucy Knisley's Blog - One fine day a couple of years ago, YouTube had, in its "Featured Videos" section, this really cute video of this equally cute original song played on a ukelele. From that point, I made it my business to find some more stuff by the creator of that video, Lucy Knisley. This blog features lots of Lucy's wonderful drawings, comics and writings. She's published a couple of books and a CD, too (just search for Lucy Knisley on amazon.com). I like a couple of the 29 videos she uploaded to YouTube (Supervillainy and Preventive Plans for the Paranormal, both of which deserve more views than they've had; it's been a while since she's done any new videos, though).
There, I Fixed It - Kludge at its best. (For those who are asking what "kludge" is, it is generally a clumsy, hastily-improvised repair or solution.) To give you one example of kludge, check out this photo of a chair being used as a basketball backboard--just take off the legs and the cushion and attach it to a pole.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Volume 5, Number 2: Foods I Miss

I was just going through a list of foods I had years ago that I wish I could find today:

Kellogg's Nut 'N Honey Crunch - Corn Flakes with a nice, relatively thick honey coating and little bits of peanut on them. Simple yet awesome. Kellogg's stopped making it in the late '80s, but later did a "Honey Nut Corn Flakes" (which just wasn't the same--not as much honey or nut). They recently started making a "Touch of Honey" version of Corn Flakes, of which I can say, at least it doesn't get soggy like regular Corn Flakes do, but anyway, darnit, I want my Nut 'N Honey Crunch back!

Campbell's Chunky Soup: Fisherman's Chowder - Apparently, I'm the only person left in the world who remembers this variety of Chunky Soup. Chunks of fish and potatoes in a creamy broth. Again, simple yet awesome. My dad introduced me to it when I was around 11 years old, and at the time, I didn't like New England Clam Chowder (I do today), so I didn't think I'd like this Fisherman's Chowder. But I more than liked it--I loved it. I tried to find it when I first went food shopping on my own (around 1995) and found out that they stopped making it around '85 or '86. I imagine it was probably more expensive to make than beef or chicken soups, but for Pete's sake, do I have to go to some expensive seafood restaurant for fish chowder?

Pierre's French Ice Cream: Mississippi Mud - Back in the '80s, there was a supermarket chain in Michigan called Great Scott! and it sold a line of ice cream called Pierre's French. Mississippi Mud was this chocolate ice cream with coffee and chocolate sauce, and I think it had bits of chocolate cake in it, too. I find it odd that Pierre's is based on Ohio, and Kroger (the chain that bought Great Scott! and took away everything good about it) is also based in Ohio, but Kroger stores in Michigan do not carry Pierre's ice cream products.

McDonald's McD.L.T. sandwich - The greatest sandwich McDonald's ever made. The concept was simple, yet brilliant--keep the cool ingredients (tomato, lettuce) separate from the hot (hamburger) ones until the customer is ready to eat the sandwich (as opposed to, say, Burger King's Whopper, in which the lettuce, tomato and pickles may be lukewarm by the time the burger is served to the customer). Then a number of events conspired to kill it. First, the container the sandwich was served in was styrofoam (this was true of all McD sandwiches at the time, but the McD.L.T. container used twice as much styrofoam because it had two compartments). Second, there was a big anti-fat movement that was apparently spearheaded by a bunch of paranoid hypochondriacs, because when McD pulled the McD.L.T., they replaced it with... the McLean Deluxe (which was basically crap). The only complaint I ever had with McD.L.T. was that they kept putting the cheese on the "cool" side when it should have been on the "hot" side, but that's just me nitpicking (I prefer the cheese on my cheeseburger to be at least somewhat melted).

Taco Bell Fajita Wraps - What the McD.L.T. was to McDonalds, that's what Fajita Wraps were to Taco Bell: the best thing they had going. Cuts of real meat and fresh veggies (as opposed to the liquefied beef and bagged shredded lettuce they generally use in their tacos). (Now, I suppose I could try making something like that at home, but that's beside the point.)

Campbell's Chunky Soup: BBQ Seasoned Burger - They introduced this one in 2006. It instantly became one of my favorite varieties. Apparently it wasn't popular because they didn't make it for long. It had beef (similar to the beef they use in the Sirloin Burger version), potatoes, corn, beans, and celery in a mild barbecue sauce.

Campbell's Chunky Soup: Pepper Steak - This one, they recently stopped making; until then, they had been making this variety since the '80s. You'd think someone else would fill whatever "niches" Campbell's has abandoned by making this and the other two ex-Chunky Soups I mentioned in this blog entry, but that hasn't happened yet.

Fresca (the one with saccharin in it that they made in the '70s) - I had the saccharin version of Fresca and I enjoyed the taste of it. Thing is, after all the findings about saccharin being bad for one's health, the makers of Fresca decided to replace it with aspartame (aka NutraSweet). Bad move. Aspartame has a terrible aftertaste and I don't know anyone could drink any soda with an aftertaste like that. Heck, I'd wish they'd make one with sugar (or high fructose corn syrup, at least) and rename the aspartame-sweetened one "Fresca Light."

Mr. Phipps Pretzel Chips - Nabisco made these in the early '90s with the idea that the best part of a hard pretzel is the crispy outside. Very addicting. (Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps are a good subsitute, but I just liked the taste of the Mr. Phipps Pretzel Chips better.)

Apple Newtons - Back in the '80s (there's that phrase again), Nabisco decided to wrap that soft cake they were using for their Fig Newtons around other fruit fillings, like strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and apple. Apple Newtons were addicting as well, but sadly, Nabisco stopped making them.

Nabisco Ideal Bars - Peanut butter on cookies, covered in chocolate. Tasted WAY better than my lame description. Angie from Georgia wrote on this board: "When I was growing up my mother would buy Ideal bars and hide them... when [I and my siblings] found them they didn't last too long. My mom would be so mad she would spank our butts... They were worth every whack! Please bring them back, my mom is too old to catch us now!"

Carnation Breakfast Bars - You've heard of Instant Breakfast for years, but back in the '70s and '80s, they had Breakfast Bars. They came in flavors like Chocolate and Peanut Butter and were chocolate-coated, and I really liked how they tasted, but to boot, they also generally had more nutritional value than your typical bowl of cereal. Other companies have made nutritional bars (Slim Fast, Kellogg's Krave), but they'd be better off to try to replicate the original Breakfast Bars.

Crystal Pepsi (the second of the two formulas they had) - The formula Pepsi had when they first came out with it in 1993 was too bitter, but they went to a "citrus cola" formula in '94 and that was a hit in my book. Most sodas, I generally sip, but Crystal Pepsi, I could chug. Then suddenly, Pepsi stopped making it.

Hostess Choco-Bliss - Chocolate overkill in the form of two layers of chocolate cake with chocolate creme filling in between, with a chocolate frosting on top of that. You can find commercials for it on YouTube, like this one.

Hershey's Cookies & Mint chocolate bar - To be fair to Hershey, this was a limited edition. But they should make it a permanent addition to their product line.

Hostess Banana Twinkies - Also a limited edition, and the next time they have them, I'll buy a package; the last time Hostess made these (2005, I think, around the time Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong came out), I didn't exactly have the income to justify spending a few bucks on junk food.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Volume 5, Number 1: Credit and Kids

A couple of years ago, I came across this eye-opener of a story: Hasbro, the maker of game of LIFE, which had used fake money since 1960, introduced a "Twists and Turns" version featuring a Visa-branded card!

Is a toy credit card any different from those candy cigarettes that I thought were a thing of the past (yet, shockingly, they're still around)?

Let me explain. Credit cards and cigarettes both have a terrible downside to them (deep debt for the former; health problems for the latter). It's one thing for companies to market fake toy imitations of the real things adults have. But I draw the line when the real thing has such a downside to it.

The fake money is just fine--it's simple for kids to understand; you use it to buy things, and once you use it, it's gone, so you have to use it wisely. The downside for credit cards, on the other hand, is much worse: They give you the ability to spend money that you don't really have. There is an element of responsibility involved that most children don't even grasp as teenagers.

What's even scarier, children are learning about credit cards on their own.

One of my friends on Facebook has a daughter, who asked for a credit card for Christmas. She said, "Thankfully my husband's been telling her every time she asks for a credit card that she can't have one until she's 18. I think we need to start teaching her now to be responsible with her money. I'm hoping she'll also learn a bit from us since we're saving up for things around the house and not just buying like mad on credit."

Even toddlers are grasping the concept of credit cards.

I added that not only do children need to learn how to be responsible with money, but unlike past generations, today's children will, later in life, will have the added challenge of learning how to use credit responsibly. The temptation to use credit irresponsibly is tremendous, especially in a world where governments and corporations do "deficit spending" on a regular basis.

My Facebook friend said, "Exactly! That's one of the things that really bothers me. How can anyone expect our children to learn fiscal responsibility when our government and various large corporations can't set a good example? That makes the children think Mom and Dad are just being boring old fuddy duddy penny pinchers, (as opposed to) financially responsibile people."

The one way that I fear people use credit irresponsibly is this: they could theoretically treat credit cards as "hypothetical future money"; they could also--again, theoretically--keep their creditors at bay by juggling credit card balances (e.g. using a balance transfer from Card A to pay Card B, using a credit card check from Card C to pay Card A, and taking a cash advance out on Card B to pay Card C; this just boils down to "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and temporarily hiding their debt problems).

And in the end, is it all that different from what Enron did a decade ago--spending money they never had to look like a much bigger, much more profitable company than they really were, then hiding those debts through various means such as legal loopholes and "special purpose entities"?

If there's any consolation, it's that credit cards banks don't hand out credit lines the way they did in the '90s and the early to mid-2000s. But the elements of responsibility and temptation will always be there no matter what.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Volume 4, Number 13: Mark's Shopping List For the Near Future

(Note: I originally posted this on Facebook as a note on December 31, 2009.)

Among the hundreds of people who lost money investing with Bernard Madoff, there is a woman by the name of Alexandra Penney. An accomplished author and the former editor of Self magazine, Alexandra took it upon herself to write a series of columns--a blog of sorts, if you will--called The Bag Lady Papers.

These columns, I thought, were going to be about coping in the aftermath of the Madoff scam--the "culture shock" of going from being rich to having to re-evaluate her priorities every time she wanted to buy something, her takes on the Madoff investigation and trial--and for the most part, her earlier columns did just that.

But I was hoping her newer columns would present perspectives on just what the most important things in life really are, and that hasn't been the case. Instead, they have smacked of the same longing for the past--croissants at the Ritz Hotel in Paris, the ability to limit one's purchases "strictly to top-quality name-brand stuff," not having to ride the subway, and so on.

In particular, I was hoping her newest column would be a "One Year Later: A Look Back, and Lessons Learned" sort of deal. Nope. Instead, she published a "fantasy shopping list" of things she could have bought if she hadn't invested with "the M.F." It includes pashmina shawls in every color imagineable (I'm thinking to myself: wait 'till she gets one in "snot" or "puke" and I'll bet she changes her tune), a purse that may well cost more than what I spent to buy my car a year and a half ago, and an Aston Martin that runs well over double what my house cost.

With that in mind, here is a shopping list of my own. These are all things I'd love to buy this year, but unless I win a lottery or get an unexpected inheritance, I'll have to settle on a few this year and take care of the rest over the next 5-10 years.

1. A new gas range. I am getting one next spring, no bones about it. My old one is 43 years old, the "towel bar" handle fell off the oven door ages ago, and every so often, a pilot light will go out and I have to re-light it (this sack of crap has three such lights--one for the left stove burners, one for the right stove burners, and one for the oven). I don't ask for much in a new range, as long as the oven has a window I can see through and a light (so I don't burn anything in there) and the oven and burners ignite right away.

2. A new garage door. Mine is the old kind that swings out and uses those huge, dangerous springs. It works just fine except for one problem: In recent winters, my garage floor has risen so the door will no longer shut all the way. It is also hard to open at times.

3. A new driveway. The previous owners of my house had a GMC Suburban, and the driveway shows it. There are pits and valleys from years of being driven on and sat on by said Suburban, so it's not a nice and flat driveway. There are times when I think I'm going off the driveway when all I've done is hit one of those pits or valleys. No fun. This one will run into the thousands of dollars because this driveway is 80 feet long.

4. A remodeled kitchen. Basically, the cabinets are crap, the floor is puke, the countertop is crap, the light fixture is as outdated as the range, and the previous owner of my house did this idiotic thing: he installed a flourescent light above the sink. The only good things in it right now are the dishwasher (even if it is 12 years old now) and the fridge (which I bought two years ago to replace another 40+-year-old sack of crap).

5. A remodeled bathroom. My current one is a mishmash of crap. Gray tiles, an off-white bath surround, wood towel bars from 1985, crappy wicker cabinets above the toilet and by the sink, a bathtub in sore need of reglazing, and the vanity is both outdated and a poor use of space. I wouldn't mind if the contractor told me he'd have to rip out everything but the walls and start over from there. It really sucks.

6. A high def--no, wait, I just bought an HDTV a few weeks ago for my living room, so strike that from the list. But I'll be on the lookout for a smaller (19") one for my bedroom.

7. A digital camera that can run on ordinary AA alkaline batteries. This may not seem like a big deal, but the one I have right now cannot take more than a few pictures without telling me the batteries are low and promptly shutting off. Then I test the batteries and they still have juice in them. How horribly inconvenient. I've been able to make do with that because I don't use cameras a whole lot to begin with.

8. New concrete steps for my front porch. The ones I have are a) crappy-looking and beat-up and b) too darn steep. My mother could dislocate a hip going down those steps! I have two 10"-deep steps when I really need three 7" steps. This item is another one that I'd like to cross off the list in 2010.

9. Seeing as Alexandra wants an Aston Martin DBS Volante, I want you to know that I like that new 2010 Buick LaCrosse. I like the styling of it. I really like how it looks in silver. I'll certainly be on the lookout for one in 2013 (when my current car hits the dreaded age of 11). Whaddaya mean only old folks drive Buicks?

10. Speaking of my current car, three of the tires on my car will be six years old in about 40 weeks. How do I know this? Well, last year, I came across an ABC News report about the dangers of driving on old tires, regardless of the wear on the treads. To my horror, three of the tires on my car--which the previous owner had bought as "new" in January 2007--were actually made in October of 2004. The British Rubber Manufacturers Association warned in 2001 that "unused tyres [sic] should not be put into service if they are over 6 years old." Bottom line, I will have to replace all of the tires.

I look back on her first column and she says she lost forty years of her life savings to Madoff. I'm sorry she lost that much, but at the same time, I wish I could say I ever was able to save that much. Due to problems I had earlier this decade, my savings pretty much only go back to 2006. Even today when I am doing the best I ever did, I save what I can, and that includes things like clipping coupons and trying to combine errands in as few trips as possible (to save gas), because you never know when that next "rainy day" will come... or how long it will rain.

Volume 4, Number 12: Kitchen Nightmares Season 3

(Note: I originally posted this as a note on Facebook on December 24, 2009.)

I've recently read that the third season of Kitchen Nightmares will begin a little over a month from now, on January 29.

Here are five restaurants that will be featured over the course of season 3:

Lido di Manhattan in Manhattan Beach, CA
http://foodandwineblog.thefoodietraveler.com/2009/08/25/my-first-kitchen-nightmares-experience-before-and-after.aspx
http://www.southbayfoodies.com/2009/07/17/gordon-ramsay-brings-kitchen-nightmares-to-manhattan-beach/

Le Bistro in Lighthouse Point, FL
Anna Vincenzo's Ristorante Italiano in Boca Raton, FL
http://www.examiner.com/x-11474-Miami-Reality-TV-Examiner~y2009m6d30-Hells-Kitchen-star-bringing-new-show-to-South-Florida

Fleming: A Taste of Denmark in Miami, FL
http://www.buddytv.com/articles/hells-kitchen/hells-kitchen-star-in-town-for-29723.aspx
http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/shortorder/2009/07/on_set_at_pinecrest_gardens_wi.php

Hot Potato Cafe in the Fishtown section of Philadelphia, PA
http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/the-insider/Hot_Potato_Cafes_new_look_and_menu.html

Unlike season 2, Gordon will not be visiting the Midwestern U.S. You may recall that in 2008, he tackled two Michigan restaurants, along with one in South Bend, Indiana and another near Chicago.

I hope the restaurants he tries to save are, collectively, more successful than the group he visited in season 2. Of the 12 he dealt with over the course of that season, at least half of them are closed (J. Willy's, Fiesta Sunrise, The Black Pearl, Hannah and Mason's, Sabatiello's, Cafe 36) and another was sold (Jack's Waterfront Restaurant). But that's due mainly to the crappy state of the economy, where mom-and-pop businesses of all kinds are folding. Also, at least two of the closed restaurants failed to stick to Gordon's advice (Hannah and Mason's and Fiesta Sunrise).

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Volume 4, Number 11: Even More Ideas For TV Shows

(Note: I originally posted this as a note on Facebook on September 16, 2009.)

One of my Facebook friends has been sharing his ideas for stories, so I thought I'd share two of my more recent TV show ideas:

Turning the Tables: Bill Hurdle is a father who's struggling to raise a family with the economy the way it is now, and he gets so sick and tired of the struggle that he decides to run for public office in an effort to fight an increasingly callous and uncaring Corporate America, a government that's increasingly bought and paid for by Corporate America, and the complacency running rampant in today's society. Think "Life Goes On" (a socially aware family drama) meets political sitcoms (like "Benson," in which Governor Gatling had left a paper mill management job to run for office despite being a widower and having to raise a daughter). (The working title comes from the lyrics for the Tracy Chapman song, "Talkin' About a Revolution"--And finally, the tables are starting to turn...)

Frankly Stark: Frank Stark, "the Almost-Ad Man," comes up with ads that "don't quite cut it" with his clients, but then the commercials that do make it to TV are SO close to his that you might as well say his ideas were stolen. Example: He does a Lectric Shave commercial where the whiskers scream as the electric razor "lops off" their "heads" in a bloody massacre like looks like something out of a Rob Zombie movie. Or that Gillette Fusion commercial where the Fusion head begs the razor's user to end its life due to anxieties about not being able to give said user the quality shave he deserves. Each episode would center around a near-success like that.

Volume 4, Number 10: Reflections on 9/11

(Note: I originally published this as a note on Facebook on September 11, 2009.)

At 8:46 A.M. on September 11, 2001, a plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

As TV news crews scrambled to cover what appeared to be a horrific accident, I was still asleep.

Seventeen minutes later, with TV news cameras trained on the towers, another plane slammed into the south tower.

As millions of viewers recoiled in shock, I was in the shower.

At 9:37 A.M., a third plane plowed into the Pentagon.

By then, I was getting ready for what seemed to be another ordinary day at the office. At that point, the big news story was that I had more work to do on a presentation for a client.

I did not hear about the worst terrorist attack ever carried out on American soil until I was driving to work, westbound on I-696. The DJ on the radio station I was listening to broke into the music to inform listeners about hijacked planes flying into the Pentagon and both towers of the World Trade Center, describing what had happened as "surreal," like it was in a movie, before switching to an ABC Radio news feed.

These thoughts flashed through my mind:

  • I remembered hearing that the Columbine High School gunmen--Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold--kept a journal, and in that journal, they mentioned wanting to hijack a plane and crash it in New York City. (Harris and Klebold shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before taking their own lives on April 20, 1999.) Now this sick fantasy had been crystallized.
  • Could other planes be in the air, on their way to more targets?
  • Might the perpetrators might turn out to be extremely disgruntled Americans, not Middle Eastern terrorists? I recalled that on April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City, people were quick to blame the latter until we met the enemy, and it was one of our own, Timothy McVeigh. I recalled that we were 10 months removed from the most controversial presidential election in U.S. history, in which George W. Bush beat out Al Gore by the narrowest of margins--did some extreme left-wing zealots come up with this evil plan to attack what they might imagine to be symbols of corporate greed (the WTC) and excessive military spending (the Pentagon)?

As I parked at the building where I worked at the time, I wondered, will things be any worse? I thought to myself, For all I know, the country could be under martial law when I get into the office.

When I walked into work, I headed straight for a spare office where we had a TV set up. Co-workers were already there, watching the twin towers burn like sick, grotesque parodies of cigarettes.

By that time, United Airlines Flight 93 nosedived into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, the result of passengers fighting back to keep their hijackers from mounting another attack on the nation's capital.

Then, a new disaster reared its ugly head. While working on that presentation in my office, which was near that spare office with the TV in it, I overheard a report that one of the towers had just collapsed. "What?!" I exclaimed in shock. It seemed absolutely inconceivable--hearing about planes flying into skyscrapers is horrible enough. But then a tower collapses? I had never even conceived of a controlled demolition of a skyscraper, much less a progressive collapse of one. Skyscrapers, by their very nature, are not designed to be demolished. As we watched a replay of the collapse (a wide shot angle that appeared to be taken from a helicopter several miles away), it looked more like the tower had just turned to dust.

Information on the attacks trickled in very slowly, and what we information we did get was mixed in with a good deal of misinformation. Early on, United Airlines Flight 175--the plane that hit the south tower--was unaccounted for and was thought to be still in the air. At least one report indicated that American Airlines Flight 77 hit the south tower, but it was later discovered to be the plane that hit the Pentagon. I seem to remember hearing that morning that one plane had crashed in Cleveland and another was hijacked over Pittsburgh (when, in fact, United Airlines Flight 93 was hijacked over Cleveland and crashed outside of Pittsburgh). I hoped that wherever that crash was, that there would be survivors who could shed some light on what the hell was happening. Numerous sources reported an explosion at the Capitol building. The Howard Stern radio show (admittedly not a news source; I am adding this to further illustrate how much misinformation there was) reported that a third plane struck the south tower, and that was what caused it to collapse. I also recall that when I mentioned to one of my co-workers that it was a plane that crashed into the Pentagon, she said that she heard it was a helicopter (at which point I mentioned that I heard that pieces of the plane's tail were found in the wreckage).  On top of all that, getting information on the web sites of the top cable news channels was not possible because they were getting tons of traffic, meaning that the page would download very slowly--if it did at all.

Even as the workday neared its end, I had so little information that I still refused to rule out the possibility of a domestic attack. Let me reiterate this: prior to 9/11, the two deadliest terrorist acts to take place on American soil (the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City and the Columbine High School shootings) were carried out by Americans. The flights were domestic, the carriers were domestic. Only when I heard that two flight attendants on American Flight 11 had the presence of mind to relay the seat numbers of the hijackers, all of whom turned out to be Al-Qaeda operatives who had been living in the United States on student or tourist visas, did I rule out that possibility.

At home that night, I made a point of turning on CNN and recording as much as I could that night. (Documenting these events was important to me because, if I ever had children, I wanted to show them what happened.) I saw some more video of the attacks on the World Trade Center. One video in particular, shot from Battery Park, gave a better impression of the size of the second plane as it struck the south tower, and it looked as though it passed through the south wall like a ghost just before it exploded. Other shots showed office paper floating down like a horrible mockery of a ticker tape parade.

People were quick to compare it to Pearl Harbor (mainly because each attack was unexpected and forever changed the American sense of isolation and security). But this was much worse. In 1941, Pearl Harbor was a military outpost, and Hawaii was not yet a state at the time. This attack took place on the American mainland, and the weapons were not old Soviet guns or bombs, but America's own airlines (two United Airlines flights and two American Airlines flights were hijacked).

There was one more thing I remember about that day.  I initially wanted to make a stop at the supermarket on the way back home, then thought I was too tired from the mental and emotional exhaustion of watching these events unfold.  Then it dawned on me: If I don't make that stop at that supermarket, then the terrorists have interfered with my way of life and I will not allow that to happen.  So, tired as I was, I still went to that supermarket after work.

I should be happy just to be alive every day from now on. It's hard to fathom boarding a plane one morning, whether it's to attend some business conference or see loved ones, and less than an hour afterwards, the plane is under the control of a few religious fanatics and it will soon slam into a building. It's hard to imagine being at work and seeing a plane hurtling towards your office at over 500 miles per hour (as Stanley Praimnath did that morning).

Our country has never been more violated, or looked more fallible, than it was that day. And the enemy is not another country, or communism, or some homespun militia group, or even drug lords; simply put, the enemy is terrorism.

I also find a few parallels between the World Trade Center collapse and the sinking of Titanic in 1912. Both were the first disasters of their respective centuries, and both concerned engineering achievements that met their demise due to unforeseen circumstances. Both were designed to survive certain disasters (Titanic could float after being struck broadside by another ship, the worst conceivable scenario at that time; the World Trade Center was designed to survive the hit of a Boeing 707, the largest commercial jet when it was designed in the 1960s, as well as withstand heavy winds). Designing a skyscraper to survive a 10,000-gallon Molotov cocktail was absurd. In Titanic's case, the thought of the ship grinding against an iceberg was just as unthinkable. Evacuations in both disasters were difficult (for Titanic, it was due to an insufficiency of lifeboats; in the World Trade Center, all but a few people above the explosions got out, because the plane crashes destroyed all of the elevator shafts, and only one stairwell in the South Tower was still usable for people above the impact zone in that tower).

In the meantime, I continue to collect documentaries and footage pertaining to these attacks. As with the Holocaust, we cannot let these events go gently into the past; we must show them to future generations. We must tell them about people who abused the freedom we gave them, what they destroyed, and the people whose lives they took.

Volume 4, Number 9: Still More Miscellaneous Mumbo-Jumbo

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! blog on September 8, 2009.)

My latest achievement: Giving new life to a 30-year-old snowblower. I rescued it from the garbage on July 29 and, in the process of searching for a manual for it online, came across this web site, where another guy had troubles with the same snowblower and gave step-by-step instructions showing how he was able to fix it. After about 50 unsuccessful attempts to start mine, I decided I had nothing to lose and so I might as well check out that web site. A few hours later, I have a working snowblower for the first time since I moved to my house nine years ago. (The ad below is further proof of how old it is--it's from a September 1980 newspaper--and it also gives you some idea of what it looks like.)

I'm overweight and it reminds me of something I heard somewhere: "You could lose weight if you leave a little food on your plate." Actually, you could do the same if you cooked less food beforehand, or better yet, bought less food at the supermarket to begin with! It's just frigging wasteful to leave food on your plate; it meant you cooked too much food, and besides, there are people starving everywhere, including here in America.

When it comes to buying electronics, there are certain brands I swear by (Panasonic, Sony, JVC) and brands I've had bad experiences with (Apex, Funai). Unfortunately, Philips Magnavox recently decided to have Funai make all their HDTVs and DVD players so I will have to add Philips to the verboten list.

Shows I've been watching as of late: Hoarders (A&E, Monday nights at 10); Operation Repo (TruTV, usually on Mondays); Drop Dead Diva (Lifetime, Sunday nights at 9--yes, isn't that something, I'm actually watching a Lifetime show) and of course, Hell's Kitchen (Tuesdays at 8 on Fox). That first show is about people who compulsively hoard stuff to the point that their houses turn into big garbage dumps. Operation Repo chronicles the goings-on at an LA repo company--fighting, swearing and all-out idiocy abound. Drop Dead Diva--a vapid model is killed in a car accident and her soul gets transferred into the body of a smart but, er, heavy-set lawyer and I like fantasy shows like that.

Kitchen Nightmares' third season will start airing this fall (probably after the World Series is finished) and I've heard that Gordon Ramsay will try to turn around restaurants in Miami and Philadelphia as well as New York and LA. Being Erica returns in two weeks on CBC, too. I miss Life On Mars and wish ABC hadn't cancelled the show; prior to that cancellation, I had been looking forward to seeing Sam Tyler continue to cope with being stuck 35 years in the past as 1973 became... 1974.

Volume 4, Number 8: Dodgy Dealings in the World of VOIP

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! blog in July 2009.)

I thought I'd go on http://www.voipreview.org/ (a web site dedicated to informing consumers about the various voice over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, providers out there) to find out what Zingo Telecom was up to. ZingoTel was the VOIP provider that I had from October 2006 through October 2007; they were great in the beginning, but then they moved their technical support and customer service to India in January 2007 and the quality of their service went down the toilet after that.

When I left them in 2007, I told them they should move those departments back to North America if they wanted any chance of sustaining their business. Below is an excerpt from one of my last e-mails to ZingoTel:
"Maybe you weren't getting as many subscribers as you had expected, and needed to cut costs, but all I have to say is, you get what you pay for."
Obviously, that plea went in one ear and bounced back out the same ear.

Instead, they not only kept the technical support and customer service in India, but they proceeded to go out of business with no notice whatsoever, then give their customers' e-mail addresses to a newly-formed company.

According to what I've read on this forum, Miracle Telecom was formed on April 27, 2009. Miracle Telecom, like ZingoTel, has corporate offices in the US but has its technical support and customer service in India. It also uses the same verbiage in its user agreements as ZingoTel did. Around May 20, ZingoTel went out of business and its customers received e-mails from MiracleTel inviting them to "switch to MiracleTel" when, for all intents and purposes, they're really the same company.

Really shady stuff going on here. If you're looking for a VOIP provider, avoid Miracle Telecom.

Volume 4, Number 7: New Beginnings

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! blog on June 1, 2009.)

June 1 is not just the beginning of a new month. It also marks a new beginning for GM (which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this morning) and a new place for this blog (which is still on Yahoo!, but it's now on profiles.yahoo.com--which lets me edit blog entries without said entries disappearing when I click "Post Entry" the way Yahoo! 360 had been doing).

Let's see, maybe I should review what's been going on:

News: Detroit's got a new mayor in Dave Bing (never mind that he's only serving out the remainder of Kwame Kilpatrick's term, because Detroit's City Charter forced the city to spend $3 million to hold a desperately unneeded election; it would have been better to just let Ken Cockrell Jr. serve out the remainder of the term).

Sports: The Detroit Lions shelled out $41.7 million in guaranteed money to Matt Stafford to kick off the NFL Draft, but then when they have the chance to protect that investment with offensive tackle Michael Oher (who was available when the 20th pick came up), they pass him up?! Don't get me wrong, Brandon Pettigrew is a very good value, but this year's draft was far deeper at tight end than at tackle (for example, the Lions could have taken Shawn Nelson from Southern Miss in Round 3). They also passed up LBs Rey Maualuga and James Laurinatis in Round 2. On a happier note, the Red Wings are back in the Stanley Cup Finals (and in fact, are up 2 games to none in their rematch against the Pittsburgh Penguins).

Fantasy sports: In baseball, my Smackdown Unlimited is having a terrible season due to bad pitching. In football, my Detroit Vipers--defending TUFF Bowl Champions--had their draft last month. Keep in mind, this league only uses offensive players--quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends and kickers. I took TE Brandon Pettigrew, RB Mike Goodson, WR Ramses Barden, RB Frank "The Tank" Summers and QB Rhett Bomar. You can read about them and the other 59 players taken in the draft here.

Entertainment: I'm looking forward to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (which opens July 15, the day after my birthday; never mind that I still would have preferred it to have come out last November). Also next month, the sixth season of Hell's Kitchen begins.

Volume 4, Number 6: Detroit's Blight Problems... and a Pay-Per-View Solution

(Note: I posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on May 20, 2009.)

In a previous blog entry (Kwame Is Out!), I touched upon the urban blight that is abundant in Detroit--the abandoned warehouses, factories, houses and other buildings that need to be torn down. You already know about this, it's old news. You've heard about the train depot in recent news, and may have read about such relics as the old Studebaker-Packard plant. I drove down 7 Mile Road in '94 (my father's drugstore used to be by 7 and Livernois) and saw nothing but long stretches of abandoned buildings that once housed specialty stores and other small businesses.

The city has enough buildings for the population it once had (around 2 million in 1950), but now only has around 930,000 people; there's no excuse not to destroy buildings no longer usable or fit for human habitation. If the city's so-called leadership would tear them down, that would be fantastic.

Instead, we have buildings decaying for years before ultimately being torn down (like the Hudson's Department Store building, which did nothing but gather moss for 15 years before finally being imploded in 1998)--if they get torn down at all. The train depot has gotten to the point that restoring it would cost much more than the building is worth--and why restore it if there's no purpose for the building to serve afterwards? Same way with Tiger Stadium. Every other stadium--Ebbetts Field, Forbes Field, all those multipurpose round stadiums that got built in the '70s, they all got demolished regardless of the sentimental value attached to them. With Tiger Stadium, part of it is still standing while people waste time and money trying to preserve it. I am reminded of old Olympia Stadium (where the Red Wings used to play before they moved to Joe Louis Arena in the late '70s); that arena, too, sat for about eight years before finally being demolished.

Solution? Create a pay-per-view event where a whole bunch of Detroit buildings are demolished in quick succession over the course of three hours--the train depot, Tiger Stadium, the Studebaker-Packard plant, and as for that Harper/Piquette/Mansur/Hastings grayfield I talked about in the aforementioned "Kwame Is Out!" blog entry, you could have an aerial bombing... if you think I'm joking, just remember that in 1985, Vince McMahon used pay-per-view to turn what once was a low-rent form of television (pro wrestling) into a multi-million dollar industry. I'm sure a lot of suburbanites have been willing to pay good money to see Detroit make some progress, and a pay-per-view like this is a more realistic way for the city to raise sorely-needed funds than, say, trying to get people to come back to Detroit as it stands right now.

Volume 4, Number 5: Life On Mars Cut Short

(Note: I originally posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on March 17, 2009.)

I got word the other day that ABC has cancelled Life On Mars. The only good news arising out of all this is that ABC told its producers now so that they can plan a series finale (as opposed to cancelling the series with so many loose ends untied, which is what happens with most TV shows). ABC also canned Dirty Sexy Money and Eli Stone, but did not give their producers the opportunity to tie up their "loose ends."

Another fan of LOM reminded me how it stunk that ABC pulled the series off its schedule for two months, which undoubtedly hurt LOM's ratings upon its return in late January; when it did return, they aired episodes out of sequence (which was particularly galling because the previous episode was the first part of a 2-part episode).

Then again, I should know better than to trust ABC. Back in 1991, Robert Iger had just become head of ABC Entertainment when he decided to trash a bunch of shows his predecessor (Brandon Stoddard) put on the schedule (Gabriel's Fire, China Beach); he also never gave Life Goes On a chance, first by keeping it on Sunday nights at 7pm (opposite CBS' 60 Minutes) instead of moving it to a better timeslot, then by shortening its final season to 17 episodes (during which LGO was pre-empted at least twice in favor of political infomercials). Curiously, although ABC slipped to third place among the broadcast networks on Iger's watch (it had risen to second under Stoddard), Iger has since become the head honcho at ABC's parent company, The Walt Disney Company. Over the years, it's become obvious that Iger prefers low-cost, high-profit programming (like America's Funniest Videos, and then look at the Disney Channel, which features kiddie sitcoms as Hannah Montana, That's So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place; and then there are those High School Musical movies) over very good but relatively expensive storytelling.

That's not to say the other networks haven't been perfect themselves. CBS screwed Christy out of what could have been a long run, first by pulling it off the schedule, then putting it on different nights of this week, then cancelling it in favor of such garbage as Central Park West (an utterly forgettable rip-off of Fox soap Melrose Place); NBC canned a great political sitcom called The Powers That Be in the early '90s; Fox drew the ire of millions by cancelling Firefly and Arrested Development before their time; and (this is a personal wish of mine) UPN should have given the Leonard Nimoy-produced action/fantasy series Deadly Games more than just 12 episodes. But the execs behind those decisions are gone. (I think so, anyway.) Iger isn't.

Volume 4, Number 4: More Assorted Odd Thoughts & Ideas

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog in on February 24, 2009.)

First, a quick update on my previous blog entry: 11 days ago, Peanut Corporation of America filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and shut down its last remaining plant (in Suffolk, Virginia). Jean Halloran, the director of Consumers Union, stated in response, "It is unacceptable for corporations to put consumers' health at risk and then simply declare bankruptcy and go out of business when they get caught. PCA's declaration of bankruptcy will, among other things, shield it from liability suits filed by consumers who became sick or whose loved ones died as a result of eating PCA's peanut products."

Now, for more odd thoughts and ideas:

  • I'm pissed off that Ryan Seacrest has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but Gene Wilder doesn't. What the f&#* has Seacrest done?
  • I don't believe that nice guys finish last... but it sure seems like they hardly ever finish first and pricks never finish last.
  • I've seen potato and onion pierogies, and potato and cheese pierogies. What I'd like to see is one with onion, cheese, bacon and chives (so it would be more like a baked potato--just have some sour cream to dip 'em in, that would be an excellent side dish).

  • I've been watching Life On Mars for a few months now, and I can imagine Harvey Keitel uttering the lines made famous three decades ago by Karl Malden: "It could happen to you. So don't carry cash, carry American Express Travelers Cheques. Don't leave home without them." I mean, Malden did a '70s TV cop show (The Streets of San Francisco); Life On Mars (another cop show) is set in 1973. Malden was famous for his nose; Keitel's character in Life On Mars has said "The nose knows" in at least a couple of episodes. Malden was around 60 when "The Streets of San Francisco" began airing in 1972; Keitel will turn 70 later this year. Finally, both men are alumni of the famous Actors Studio Drama School.
  • Anyone ever try mixing orange soda and Vernors together? I've done that, although it's been years. (I think it's 1 part orange to 1 part Vernors, but maybe it was 3 parts orange to 2 parts Vernors.) Think of the result as a "spiced orange" soda.
  • You know how the two oldest NFL teams to never appear in a Super Bowl are the Lions and the Browns? They have more in common than that. In the post-merger era, both accomplished next to nothing (the Lions have one playoff victory; the Browns have four). Both took on new owners in the early 1960s who have drawn the ire of their fans (William Clay Ford with the Lions, Art Modell because he moved his team in 1995). Both cities have suffered economic and population declines in recent years. Also, in 1980, wide receiver Ahmad Rashad of the Minnesota Vikings caught a game-winning TD pass in Week 15. If it wasn't for that catch, the Lions would have won the NFC Central and the Vikings would have been out of the NFC playoffs. Who'd Rashad make that catch against? Yep, the Cleveland Browns, who incidentally blew a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter of that game. For all those reasons, when anyone asks me what team I'd root for if the Lions left Detroit, I'd answer "the Cleveland Browns" without hesitation. They're basically Detroit's AFC team.
  • Ever heard of jumping the shark? Well, Subway has created a commercial that has jumped the shark. I like the return of the $5 footlong special, but a musical dance number of the "Five... five dollar... five dollar footlong" jingle at the front counter? That's just nuts.
    About a year ago I e-mailed Hostess with the suggestion that they come out with Ding Dongs that have mint creme (as opposed to the usual vanilla creme) in them. They were kind enough to send me a coupon for any Hostess product free. Recently, another idea came up: What about Ding Dongs with a dark chocolate coating on the outside and coconut creme on the inside? The idea was inspired by those dark chocolate-coated coconut patties my dad used to get as part of this shipment of Indian River grapefruits and oranges. Gosh, those were good times.
  • Some time ago, I admitted that the first time I heard of Hell's Kitchen, I thought it was an American adaptation of the British sitcom "Chef!" (which starred Jamaican-British comedian Lenny Henry as Gareth Blackstock, who predates Gordon Ramsay by at least seven years; like Ramsay, Chef Blackstock is at the top of his profession and hurls all kinds of insults and invective at everybody under him in an effort to get them to do their best). And it just hit me--a "Chef!" movie where Chef Blackstock has sold Le Chateau Anglais due to economic problems and is looking to become head chef at another restaurant, and the only restaurant offering him a job is one straight out of Kitchen Nightmares.
  • Finally, I'm glad someone did an ad advising people how stupid it is to use the word "gay" where they should be using words like "wrong," "crazy" or, yes, "stupid" instead. I'd like to see a similar set of ads telling people to please stop using the word "retarded" in a similar fashion as that just serves to offend mentally-challenged people.
  • TV show drinking games. They're generally set up to favor the big, fat guys who have so much body mass that they need more alcohol to be drunk than a relatively small, skinny woman. But I have an idea: I would set it up so that for a certain event, only one person takes a drink. You write down each event on an index card (e.g. in Star Trek: The Next Generation, "Captain Picard says 'Thank you, Mr. Data,' +1 drink" on one card, "Anyone says 'Shut up, Wesley,' +1 drink" on another, "Commander Riker repeats part what someone else says immediately after hearing it, +2 drinks" on another, and so on). Then you shuffle the cards and distribute them so that each person gets a different set of events.

Volume 4, Number 3: Parnell's (Evident Lack of) Pride

(Note: I originally published this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on February 11, 2009.)

Anyone who reads my blog--OK, maybe there are three of you--knows that I hate food poisoning, having had two bouts with bad restaurant food that made me severely nauseous. Past blog entries have touched upon the Chinese tainting milk and gluten with melamine in order to pass tests for protein content, a massive 143 million-pound recall of ground beef, and the bagged spinach crisis of 2006.

I had not blogged about the no-longer-so-recent matter involving the Peanut Corporation of America for a few reasons. One is that I've been busy at work; the other is that new developments keep coming up in that case. First it was that PCA was re-testing products that tested positive for salmonella, then shipping them once they tested negative at another lab. Then there was the report of a shipment of PCA product that was rejected in Canada and then could not be allowed back into the US because it contained a filthy, putrid or decomposed substance.” Then there was the matter of a plant in Texas operating for four years without a license or any inspections whatsoever.

But earlier today came the worst story yet. The head of the PCA, Stewart Parnell, whom I thought must be shaken to the core because his surname appears on a brand of peanut butter made by PCA (Parnell's Pride), is the one who urged the shipment of contaminated products. According to internal correspondence released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which can be found on this web page, Parnell complained about shipment delays and losing money.

(In the picture above, Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon, holds up a jar of recalled peanut products while questioning Stewart Parnell.)

Parnell refused to testify today before a House subcommittee. In particular, Rep. Walden asked Parnell if he would be willing to unseal a jar of recalled peanut products and eat any of them, and Parnell did not answer, instead invoking the Fifth Amendment. If the over 600 hospitalizations and the eight deaths were nails in PCA's coffin, then consider Parnell's actions leading to and during the crisis to be a nuclear bomb in that coffin.

A federal criminal investigation is underway, needless to say. Bill Marler, an attorney who has specialized in tainted food cases for over 15 years, keeps a blog that covers this developing crisis as well as other food poisoning cases.

FYI I bought some peanut butter cracker sandwiches last fall. Fortunately for me, they were Lance, a brand that is on the safe products list. Yes, the recall is so widespread that the FDA actually had to make a list of products that are not subject to it, and that is unheard of to me.

Volume 4, Number 2: Even More Miscellaneous Mumbo-Jumbo

(Note: I posted this to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on January 28, 2009.)

I have a bunch of ideas, musing and other stuff swimming around in my head. They include (but are not limited to):
  • The first time I heard of rock artist Eagle Eye Cherry (he did this song 10 years ago, Save Tonight), I thought, what a crazy name for an artist--pick a name of a bird, then a name of a body part, then a name of a fruit, and presto! Instant rock band name, Mad Libs-style. Like Vulture Spleen Kumquat. It wasn't until later that I found out Eagle Eye Cherry was actually the brother of Neneh Cherry (she had a song in the Top 40 back in '89, Buffalo Stance).
  • I hate it anytime a sports journalist refers to the NFL's Miami Dolphins as "the Fish." Dolphins aren't fish, they're mammals. Look it up!
  • Did you know the difference between a sunroof and a moonroof? Neither did I, before I read this. (Evidently, I've never had a car with a sunroof. Never mind that the word "sunroof" makes a lot more sense than "moonroof.")
  • I always spelled it M-U-A-M-M-A-R K-H-A-D-A-F-Y.
  • Here's a channel I'd love to see on cable--The Traffic Channel: Constant updates on local traffic conditions, coverage of major traffic jams and police chases, and shows about classic police chases and all-time great traffic jams, and to balance things out, also shows about how motorists can drive smarter and more safely.
  • You know how the band, Gorillaz, does animated music videos? It got me thinking--Milli Vanilli would have been a lot more successful if their music videos had been cartoons (instead of using those lip-synching model/dancers, Rob and Fab).
  • Rene Auberjonois would make a great spokesman for SmithBarney. Watching him on Boston Legal one night, I couldn't help but imagine him delivering the line, "At SmithBarney, they make money the old-fashioned way... They earn it."
  • Benecol... It's this substitute for butter and margarine, but anyway, I would never buy a food item whose name sounds more like a medication. "Yeah, I'm just going to put some Cepacol on my toast."

Volume 4, Number 1: Microsoft Songsmith, and More Miscellaneous Mumbo-Jumbo

(Note: I posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on January 17, 2009.)

Earlier today, on YouTube, I came across a possible excuse Microsoft could have for why Windows Vista was such a crappy, buggy "upgrade" over XP: Apparently, they spent too much time working on this other software project called Microsoft Songsmith, where you sing a song and Songsmith comes up with music to back up your lyrics.

Some genius on YouTube decided to put Songsmith to the test, using some vocals-only tracks from songs like "Roxanne" by the Police. On Roxanne, Songsmith apparently decided that Sting's lyrics deserved a Caribbean beat with steel drums and horns. In other words, absolutely hilarious. (Update 1-7-2010: You may also want to check out the Songsmith polka version of Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train.)

Other potential hilarious applications could include extracting the audio from certain failed American Idol Auditions (like that guy in Philadelphia last year who sang "Go Down Moses" in that crazy voice, or Fookling Lee's audition in 2005, or William Hung's "She Bangs, She Bangs"). And I wonder if I could get Songsmith to put Vegas swingin' lounge music to the lyrics from Godsmack's "Keep Away." (Update 1-7-2010: Actually, I did do two Songsmithed versions of failed AI auditions: the aforementioned Go Down Moses, and also Milo Turk's No Sex Allowed.)

In other news...

The holidays: Shopping was a pain; 1/3 of my shopping wound up being a Walmart gift card for my older brother and his family and another 1/3 was a Amazon.com gift certificate for my younger brother. I also finally accomplished a long-overdue goal: I gave more than I got.

Fantasy football: My Detroit Renaissance finally won the Hughes All-Internet League title for the first time in 13 tries. I started out 2-2 in that league (with two very close losses), then went 11-0 the rest of the way to win the title after three losses in the big game. But the real surprise was my Detroit Vipers--whom I expected would go no better than 7-7 going into the season--winning the championship in Todd's Ultimate Fantasy Football (TUFF). They got hot when it mattered, going from 4-5 to 9-5 to finish the regular season and then knocking off three division winners in the final three weeks. One noteworthy bit was that Brandon Jacobs helped the Denver Devils get to TUFF Bowl IX, but then his NFL team benched him for Week 17 to keep him healthy so he couldn't help Denver beat my Vipers.

Real sports: The Lions finished 0-16. All the more reason why I play fantasy football to begin with--when I was young, I was frustrated with waiting for the hometown teams to win titles--no Detroit team won a major sports title in the 1970s, if you remember. Anyway, the Lions just hired Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to be their new head coach, and I have hope for him. After all, Jim Mora Sr. (my personal first choice, never mind that he's almost 74 years old) was an NFL defensive coordinator before becoming an NFL head coach and he expunged the losing cultures from New Orleans and Indianapolis during his time with each of those teams.

Business--excuse me, it's not business news anymore, it's Capitalism Gone Wrong: Gosh, why the heck haven't I mentioned it before: Bernie Madoff. A month ago, we all heard the shocking news that Madoff has done what I thought no human would be so devoid of conscience as to do it: Rob from rich (billionaires) and poor (charities) alike. He claims to have stolen $50 billion by means of a Ponzi scheme, but according to Alexandra Penney (a former editor of Self magazine and one-time best-selling author), $17 billion is more accurate. No matter what the number, the damage is everywhere--suicides, the impact on Wall Street, and people who once thought they were set for life suddenly finding themselves having to go back to work (like Penney). What's alarming is that the agency that was formed under Franklin Roosevelt to stop precisely this kind of fraud from happening--the Securities and Exchange Commission--has been failing to do so for years now. First Enron, then the subprime mortgage mess, then the bank failures (Bear Stearns et al.) and now this. 28 years ago, in his Inaugural Address, President Reagan said, "Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." What a frigging lie.

Volume 3, Number 33: Ding Dong, The Bleeping Bratz Are Dead

(Notes 1-7-2010: Yes, I am well aware that the Bratz are not dead yet. A search of toysrus.com reveals that Bratz products are still around. Darn! Oh, and I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on December 4, 2008.)

Anyone who's read my blog knows by now that I hate materialism. I prefer to replace things only when they either stop working or become unreliable. I hardly ever shop at malls. I've never owned a car that was less than five years old. I firmly believe that "form follows function"; that is to say, I care about how something works far more than it looks.

Well, in 2001, a company called MGA Entertainment launched a line of dolls that promoted and even glorified materialism in the most arrogant fashion. Even the name screamed out "spoiled and materialistic": Bratz. I had hoped that parents would refuse to buy them and they would die a quick, quiet death in the "marketplace of ideas," right alongside the "New Coke," McDonald's Arch Deluxe hamburger, and stupid movies like Gigli and From Justin to Kelly.

Oh, but little girls loved them, and apparently, today's parents don't have the same sense of responsibility in dissuading them from making bad decisions that, say, my parents had. Otherwise, how would one explain the rise among children in violent behavior, drug use, obesity, and Type II diabetes? Or, for that matter, the success of Bratz?

I cringed every time I saw Bratz displayed prominently in some store ad, be it Toys R Us or Target, thinking thoughts like: How could people, in good conscience, buy this crap? Now there's Bratz babies and Bratz pets, and next thing you know, maybe Ford will come out with a Ford Explorer Bratz Edition.

But there is good news: Those pesky, materialistic, ignorant, disgusting, skanky, brutal, bottom-feeding trashbag ho's are about to become history.

See, Bratz designer Carter Bryant developed that ill-conceived concept while working at Mattel. Mattel sued MGA in 2004, and just yesterday, they won. MGA can't make any more of the infernal toys, and after the holiday season, they will be pulled from store shelves everywhere. What an unexpected relief. That's one more thing to look forward to in 2009--a New Year, Bush leaving the White House, the transition to digital TV, and no more Bratz.

So long as we're on the subject of materialism, I want to touch upon the dark side of last Friday. You've already heard or read about that 34-year-old security guard being trampled to death at that Wal-Mart on Long Island, and also that shooting at the Toys R Us in Palm Desert, California (thankfully, it was two men shooting each other, not some angry kid taking out some trivial frustration on innocent people as initially feared). It makes you want to rethink the concept of Black Friday (substantial discounts on select items for a limited time). Long lines are one thing, but if there's violence and lawlessness, stores may decide it's no longer worth the trouble. Is there really anything in the world--let alone in a store--worth smashing doors and trampling people for?

Volume 3, Number 32: Another Assortment of Small Stuff

(Note: I originally posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on November 21, 2008.)

Politics: I'm happy Barack Obama won. I look forward to seeing how he takes on the biggest mess any president has inherited since Franklin Roosevelt took over in the middle of the Great Depression. Locally, in a race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, Gary Peters knocked Republican incumbent Joe Knollenberg out.

Business: Speaking of the Great Depression, there is one important parallel between the mess we have now and the mess that took root during the so-called "Roaring Twenties," and it is that for years, consumers and corporations alike tried to fool others into thinking they were doing just fine by borrowing on credit. In the '20s, ordinary consumers could get a piece of the rising stock market by buying shares "on margin," which basically meant they only had to put down a 10% down payment to claim ownership of a given stock. Over the last several years, we've had everything from people living off of credit cards to the subprime mortgage crisis. Both of these messes could have been prevented--or at least reduced--if the government had watched over Corporate America instead of being bought and paid for by it. If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, then a million dollars of regulation is worth a billion dollars of bailout.

Sports: The Lions are 0-10. I'm 9-2 in a two of the six fantasy football leagues I'm in, and no worse than 4-7 in the others. Therein lies the reason why I play fantasy football--I'm more likely to experience a championship by playing fantasy football than by watching the Lions. In college football, I will root for Michigan to beat Ohio State--but not for the Wolverines' sake, and certainly not for Rich Rodriguez, whose job should have been filled by ex-Minnesota assistant head coach Mitch Browning over a year ago. It's to help Michigan State, which could get a Big Ten title with a win over Penn State and a U-M victory over OSU. The Tigers raised ticket prices despite finishing last in the AL Central this past season. Joe Dumars made the "shake-up" trade everyone was waiting for--Chauncey Billups and two other players to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. I'd like to think that Iverson's grown up since his legendary "We're talking about practice" shtick several years back, and I know he led the Pistons to victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers just the other night, but as with the new head coach (Michael Curry), I will take a "wait and see" approach.

Entertainment: I've come up with two other ideas for TV shows:
  • Clunker - In contrast to shows like Knight Rider and Viper (where already expensive cars are worked into crime-fighting machines), in this one, a government agency (or maybe a private investigation agency) has to rework a crappy old car like a Dodge Dart into such a crime-fighting machine, only to see it destroyed at the end of the episode. Kind of like "Knight Rider" meets "Pimp My Ride."
  • DIA: The Divine Intervention Agency - What happens to souls that aren't good enough to go to Heaven, but not nearly bad enough to go to Hell? St. Peter puts them to work at the Divine Intervention Agency, going after condemned souls have either escaped from or eluded going to Hell (and defending the innocent from them).
I am watching exactly two shows on a regular basis.
  • One is Life On Mars (about a cop who wakes up in 1973 after getting hit by a car; he resolves to continue solving crimes in his 1973 world but keeps coming across clues about what's happening to him in the present day). It's written far better than I expected (you should especially see the pilot episode) and I hope the writing doesn't go in a direction I don't like it going in (as Lost and Heroes did).
  • The other, of course, is Kitchen Nightmares (where Gordon Ramsay finds more failing restaurants in dire need of a turnaround--my favorite episodes so far are Fiesta Sunrise and Hannah & Mason's, both due to filthy kitchens).
There's one show in the UK that I wish would be adapted to the US: Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe, a show where Brooker skewers just about everything in television, from the whole "reality TV" genre to soap operas to annoying TV commercials. He doesn't pull any punches, either--he even uses crude language, as Gordon Ramsay does when he skewers bad restaurant owners and chefs. Yes, in the US, we do have shows where C-list celebrities put in their two cents on some TV show scene (like in the 100 Greatest Celebreality Moments) or some event involving another, presumably A-list celebrity. But it's just not the same.

Volume 3, Number 31: Various Election Day Observations

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on November 4, 2008.)

When this year started, I would have been content with Sen. John McCain as the Republican nominee for President. I have contended for years that the grave injustice of that election year was the GOP nomination of George W. Bush over McCain, not the dimpled or hanging chads or whatever else took place in Florida in the 2000 Presidential election. As 2008 progressed, however, I have seen a McCain who looked more and more like he would be a continuation of the last eight execrable years.

One particular ad that aired earlier this year stood out very much for me: It quoted both Bush and McCain saying "The fundamentals of America's economy are strong," then played back both simulataneously to show that even the tone of voice was the same. In the meantime, the fundamentals of the American economy are not strong; they have changed for the worse over the last few decades. The USA, once a great manufacturing country, now imports far more than it produces. The rich have gotten richer (usually by breaking rules, abusing loopholes or abusing power), the poor are no better off, and the middle class is being killed off. (Note: I'm not blaming this entirely on the Republicans; the point here is that the statement, "The fundamentals of America's economy are strong," is wrong.)

The last three Democratic presidents all came from Southern states (Lyndon Johnson, 1963-1969, Texas; Jimmy Carter, 1977-1981, Georgia; and Bill Clinton, 1993-2001, Arkansas). In the last four elections where the Democratic candidate was from the north (1972, 1984, 1988, 2004), that candidate did not win a single Southern state. An Obama victory would mark the first time that a Democratic candidate from outside the South won the Presidential election since John F. Kennedy (Massachusetts) in 1960. Such a victory would thus prove that the Democrats can win the White House without despite a lack of support in the South (or, for that matter, without resorting to a candidate from that area).

As far as the Electoral College goes, I predict it as follows: Obama 322, McCain 216. The main difference between this election and the 2004 one is that Obama will win several states that John Kerry did not (Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, and Virginia). But otherwise, I figure that the Southern states will remain red, as will most of the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain states.

Ohio is a microcosm of the whole country: The north is more urban and Democratic and is suffering from the same manufacturing job losses as the rest of the Rust Belt; the south is more rural and Republican. Also, in each of the last 11 elections, the winner of Ohio's electoral votes has also won the Presidency (the last one to win without carrying Ohio was, once again, JFK).

Volume 3, Number 30: Pipe Wrench Fight!

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on October 9, 2008.)

We had the Star Wars kid in 2003, the Numa Numa Dance in 2005, and Can't Tase This last year. But this year's Viral Video of the Year has got to be Dustin McLean's "Literal Video Version" of the music video for A-Ha's Take On Me, in which McLean replaces the song's lyrics with lyrics that more closely depict what happens in the video. The really hilarious part starts around 2:12 with the fight/chase scene ("I told you to stay away from my magic frame!"). Check it out.

Volume 3, Number 29: TV Show Ideas

(Note: I originally posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on September 27, 2008.)

About a year ago, in response to CBS' short-lived reality show, Kid Nation, I suggested that the premise would work a lot better if the ghost town were run by ex-cons. Ex-Con Nation is still a thought in my mind, but in the meantime, I've had a few other ideas for TV shows:

Hell's Kitchen: New England - For the past four years, Scott Liebfried has worked under Gordon Ramsay as the sous-chef overseeing the blue team in Hell's Kitchen. Now, Chef Liebfried returns to his old stomping grounds for his own Hell's Kitchen (he previously worked in Long Island, Boston, and Martha's Vineyard). He carries himself like a cop, treating his chefs like they came straight out of America's Dumbest Criminals. (note to mark: insert YouTube links in which Chef Liebfried rips into contestants) In fact, I'd even promote him as "America's Culinary Cop." Added twists: From time to time, Chef Liebfried will give a contestant the choice of either going to culinary school (but leaving the competition voluntarily), or staying in the competition (in which case Chef Liebfried will almost certainly not offer the scholarship again to that contestant). (This last bit is inspired by the part in season 3 where, after eliminating Julia, Chef Ramsay gave her a free ride to culinary school.) Finally, instead of "Fire" by the Ohio Players, the theme song will be "Fire" by Jimi Hendrix.

Tuned Out - You've seen all kinds of shows that do nothing but comment on celebrity news, pop culture, other TV shows, and the like--I Love the '70s/'80s/'90s, those top 20/50/100 countdown shows like you see on E! and VH1, and more. And you see the same people on them--comedians who don't have anything better going on (like Patrice O'Neal and the Sklar brothers) and celebrities who are between gigs (like Chris Jericho before he returned to the WWE). Why not put 13 of them in one house and see who's the best, and give them their own show? Now, British TV ubercynic Charlie Brooker (who has a show on the BBC called Screenwipe where he has all kinds of things to say about TV shows and commercials) has invited 13 such people to live a big house where they do nothing but watch TV and make all kinds of commentary on what they watch. At the end of every episode, Brooker will be in a room with 13 TV sets--one showing each of the contestants--and will tell them which ones will stay, until he gets to the one to be eliminated, at which point he says, "I'm sorry, you're Tuned Out," and picks up the remote corresponding to that set to switch it off. The winner--hopefully the one with the wit that is the quickest, most well-rounded, most acerbic, most creative and/or most original--gets to host his/her own show in which they get to comment on TV shows, pop culture, celebrity news, something along those lines.

New Wave Corporate Raiders - A group of ex-cons are sent back to the year 1982 to murder some Wall Street execs and take their places. But why, and who are they working for? Will they do what they're told? Is anyone going to find out about them, and if so, how? The series will serve as a thinly veiled attack on Corporate America and Wall Street and the practices they've employed since the days of Reagan.

The Kevin Fisher Times - This one, I've had on my mind for years. Set in the year 2002, it's about a newspaper columnist who finds himself trapped in a parallel universe. In this universe, the technology to travel between universes has existed since 1945 (courtesy of an accident that caused Flight 19 to disappear from our universe and appear in the parallel one). Global media corporations have control over the technology and will do anything and everything to prevent the government, intelligence agencies and the military from finding out about it. Why? Put bluntly, the marketplace of ideas is a gold mine. Media executives from this parallel universe also travel to ours in an effort to exchange ideas with their counterparts (for example, the film "The Terminator," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, is based on another film of the same title taking place in the parallel universe, except that it was made in 1978 and starred Jack Nicholson and Sissy Spacek).

Tooth and Nail - It's a sitcom about a dentist who sets up his office at some strip mall and falls in love with a manicurist who also has a shop in the very same strip mall. OK, it needs a boatload of work, but the idea came at a time when I wondered if TV shows weren't created with the title first and more important stuff like plotlines and characters second. Case in point #1: Neat & Tidy, a parody of action/adventure shows from around 1987 that got its title from its characters, Nick Neat and Tena Tidy. I kid you not. This short-lived syndicated series is now referred to in the Internet Movie Database as Adventures Beyond Belief. Case in point #2: In 1988, Mr. T used to have this syndicated action show. The producers of the show decided that both his character and the female lead character both have last names that start with T so the show could be called "T and T" in order to cash in on the name recognition Mr. T had.

Volume 3, Number 28: Bad News On Top Of Bad News

(Note: I originally posted this entry on my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on September 23, 2008.)

As you know, after a tide of failures and near-failures among America's largest financial institutions, the federal government recently announced a plan to bail them out... at the cost of increasing our already outrageous national debt.

It has a lot of people outraged, asking, Why? Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said just earlier today, "There is a lot of blame to go around - a lot of blame with big financial institutions that engaged in this irresponsible lending ... blame to the people who made loans they shouldn't have made, people who took out loans they shouldn't have taken out." Shouldn't the greedy people responsible for this crisis be the ones to pay? The way the bailout is set up right now, it's exactly like the other bailouts that have taken place (the savings & loan bailout, for example)... the honest, responsible middle class citizen is being made to pay for the greed of the rich and the irresponsibility of those who took out the loans they couldn't afford to pay.

In China, we have another example of greed by a few people who don't care about the well-being of the many leading to disastrous results: A number of baby milk manufacturers were found to have had melamine (the same chemical at the heart of the 2007 pet food scandal) in their products. In one example, a supplier of the Sanlu Group deliberately diluted their milk and added melamine to it in order to enable it to pass a certain test (called the Kjeldahl protein test) after Sanlu rejected earlier shipments.

I don't know which fact is worse--the two brothers at the aforementioned supplier who completely disregarded consumer safety by adding the melamine, the fact that Sanlu only notified stores and not consumers, or the fact that nobody would have known about the problem until a New Zealand-based part-owner of Sanlu informed the New Zealand government about it, which then informed the Chinese government. You read that correctly--the New Zealand government was the first government to act on a China-based problem.

Finally, this morning, yet another college shooting took place in Finland. 10 are dead; the shooter turned the gun on himself and died from his injuries (which begs the question, why in the world didn't he take his life to begin with?).

And I've been thinking... We as a society need to maintain the same values that make us human in the first place--respect, compassion, love, moderation (the opposite of greed), and reject those values that hurt the quality of life such as greed, selfishness and violence. I am astounded by the number of people who know that something is wrong, but do it anyway; as well as those who know that it's wrong and yet don't fight against it.

Volume 3, Number 27: Kwame Is Out!

(Note: I originally posted this entry to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog on September 4, 2008.)

Just when I thought Kwame Kilpatrick and his attorneys would find another way to extend Detroit's nightmare of lies, corruption, misplaced priorities and irresponsibility, that nightmare is about to end.
Earlier today, Kilpatrick agreed to a deal in which he pled guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice, agreed to resign as mayor of Detroit, surrendered his law license, forfeited his pension, agreed to pay $1 million restitution to the city of Detroit, and also agreed not to run for public office for five years. In exchange, six other felony charges were dropped, and he will get a greatly reduced jail sentence (120 days; obstruction of justice is a 5-year felony offense).

I am both happy and angry. Happy, obviously, that Kilpatrick is resigning, but angry because lots of money, time and energy were wasted, mainly because Kilpatrick spent so much money covering up his lies, causing his opponents to spend a lot of time and energy in exposing him and fighting against the cover-up. All that waste could have been avoided if Kilpatrick had some sense of responsibility.

Per Detroit's city charter, Detroit City Council President Ken Cockrel, Jr. is expected to become the 61st mayor of the city in two weeks. He has been working on plans to restore credibility to the office of Mayor and to get rid of all the nepotism and cronyism Kilpatrick brought to the city offices. But as anyone whose parents or grandparent fled the city in the late '60s and early '70s knows, Detroit has light years to go.

There are tons of abandoned warehouses, factories, stores, houses and other buildings that need to be torn down. One example leapt out at me a couple of years ago as I took the ramp from southbound I-75 to westbound I-94. Looking to your right, I saw a large area of nothing but grayish-white buildings in poor condition, all of which looked 50 years removed from happier, more prosperous times. This area is bounded by four streets (Harper, Piquette, Mansur, and Hastings). What really galls me, too, are buildings elsewhere in Detroit that obviously haven't been used in years, yet have "FOR SALE OR LEASE" signs on them. Someone's got to tell the owners of such buildings that they are a loss. They're magnets for drug trafficking and graffiti. It's time the city's brownfields were converted back to greenfields.

Whereas people used to live and work in Detroit 50 years ago, today, most people live in one suburb and work in another, and some have to drive long distances just to get to work (e.g. from Royal Oak to Northville, or from Troy to Dearborn). And all that driving means having your own car--try getting from Royal Oak to Northville using SMART buses, which are not a viable form of mass transit. With gas prices the way they are now, living in the suburbs is becoming that much more expensive for people. Thus, the city has the opportunity to recreate the situation of living near where you work--provided they can attract new business and find ways to attract residents (preferably those who don't have children, due to the next problem on the list).

Detroit's Public Schools are a national embarrassment. Ridiculous amounts of money are squandered every year on buildings and technology that a number of suburban districts would die for, and yet the teaching is inferior, the students don't graduate at the same rate, and neither their parents nor the leadership nor the management seem to care. The failure of the city to properly secure its closed schools and reallocate those schools' resources (textbooks, computers, supplies) to other schools was particularly aggravating. DPS needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, with teachers who know the material they are teaching and are willing to bring out the best in their students, and administrators who can get the students' parents to give a damn about their education.

Volume 3, Number 26: Another Kitchen Nightmares Update

(Note: I originally published this entry on August 31, 2008, to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

Holy crap. It turns out that Gordon Ramsay visited not one, but two Metro Detroit restaurants. In addition to Giuseppi's Trattoria, Gordon also took on Jack's Waterfront Restaurant in Saint Clair Shores (it's near 9 Mile and Jefferson). I should go to both these places before the rest of the country finds out.

Two other restaurants that will be featured in season 2 are:
  • Trobiano's Italian Dining in Great Neck, Long Island, NY
  • Fiesta Sunrise Mexican Restaurant in West Nyack, NY. But according to this message board posting, Gordon didn't get through to the owner of this place.
How'd I find all this out? Fox posted a season preview on YouTube a couple of days ago, and it included a few quick snapshots of various restaurants he visited. (The video has since been removed.)

Volume 3, Number 25: Song Covers I'd Like to Hear

(Note: I originally posted this entry on August 30, 2008, to my Yahoo! GeoCities blog.)

I've come up with ideas where I wish that certain artists would cover certain songs by certain other artists. These ideas didn't all come up at once; they pretty much came to me over the last eight years or so.
Donald Duck - Break Stuff (originally performed by Limp Bizkit)
You've seen Donald Duck get frustrated and lose his temper. You may have even come across clips of Donald Duck swearing. Can't you just imagine him breaking the fourth wall and saying, "It's just one of those days"? I can imagine Donald Duck doing some other Limp Bizkit songs (like "Full Nelson" off the "Chocolate Starfish" CD: "You'll get knocked the f*** out/Cause your mouth's writing checks that your @$$ can't cash").

Bjork - White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
Hearing this song, Jefferson Airplane's lead singer (Grace Slick) used inflections in the opening lines that reminded me of Bjork (who uses similar inflections in songs such as "Human Behavior"). It got me thinking, the instrumentation could use updating, too--something more orchestral.

Fiona Apple - A Day In The Life (The Beatles)
Fiona's already covered one Beatles song, "Across The Universe" (for the 1998 film Pleasantville). I think her voice would go well with this song, the last track from the Beatles' "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album; there would be one lyric change, though. Not the English army, but "The U.S. Army had just won the war," partly because Apple's American, not English; and partly because the altered lyric could be taken as a cynical stance towards the war in Iraq.

Crash Test Dummies - Between The Wars (Billy Bragg)
I haven't heard from this Canadian band, who are best known by far for "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," in about nine years. I've heard two different versions of Between The Wars--the original by Bragg, and the other by a virtually unknown gothic band called Illegal Teenage Bikini. Now, if the song were performed on a piano instead of a guitar, I think the voice of Brad Roberts (lead singer) would lend itself well to such a piano accompaniment (seeing as "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" had a piano in it, too). (Update 1-7-2010: Now that I think about it, British gothic rock vocalist Peter Murphy is another candidate to cover this song.)

Living Colour - Destination Unknown (Missing Persons)
This one bears some explaining. Living Colour (a great rock band from the late '80s and early '90s) reunited in 2003, and one of the tracks on the CD they released that year, Collideoscope, is Great Expectations, a song about a man who has become lazy and shiftless. I thought it sounded like a song that Missing Persons, a Los Angeles-based band from the New Wave era (early '80s) might have performed had the song been written way back then. It made me wonder if Living Colour could do any Missing Persons tracks, and Destination Unknown sprung to mind. You know how Living Colour likes to insert audio samples into their songs (e.g. Cult of Personality from Vivid, A ? of When from Collideoscope)? That would serve them well in a cover of Destination Unknown, too.

Iggy Pop - What's Good (Lou Reed)
First time I heard this song, I thought it was Iggy Pop who performed it. So now I wonder what it would have sounded like if Iggy really had performed it. I think it would have a harder edge than the original.

Sean Connery - One (Creed)
I was trying to imitate Creed's lead singer while hearing this song in my car, and long story short, when I got to "I feel angry, I feel helpless," the "helpless" sounded more like "helplesh" (like Sean Connery's well-documented speech impediment). So now whenever I sing along to any Creed song, I imitate Mr. Connery. He could do justice to a few other Creed songs, too (Higher, My Sacrifice, Arms Wide Open). I wonder if Darrell Hammond agrees.