Monday, October 30, 2006

Sundays Off

Dear Steelers,

I am writing you this letter to express my deep gratitude for all you have done for me. Yes, I know you won the Super Bowl earlier this year. This is all well and good. I guess congratulations are in order. Although this is not the reason I am giving my thanks to you today. I am writing you today to show my deep appreciation for all you have done for me this season. Yes, I am well aware that you are not doing well this year. In fact you are terrible – and not in the towel sense but rather in the last place behind the Cleveland Browns sense. After this past Sunday’s loss to the awful Oakland Raiders, I have personally declared your season over. You are not going to make the Playoffs this year. You should consider yourselves very lucky if you finish an even eight and eight. Pittsburgh Steelers, you suck. Thank you.

You’ve really opened up my Sundays. I really don’t care if I watch another game for the rest of the season. Oh, I’ll probably see a couple, but only if I have nothing better to do. It’s not like I actually have to see the games to know the outcomes. Heck, I can probably guess the outcomes of most of the rest of the games right now: four turnovers – at least one on special teams – a tired defense on the field too long, and a brain damaged quarterback throwing for a passer-rating in the vicinity of the age of most Gen X’ers. Why waste my time watching horrible football? Of course, I am a fan, but does being a fan necessarily entail watching every game no matter how painful it is to watch? There is a line between fan and masochist, and I personally have not crossed it.

Now without being locked into the mindset dictating that I watch the Steelers’ game every week, I’ve been freed to pursue other interest. I have so much more time on my hands. I find my self so much more fulfilled. Why this past Sunday – I actually gave up on the Steelers after the Atlanta game and was only emboldened in my decision this week – I spent my Sunday with my Girlfriend. We carved pumpkins and watched ‘High School Musical’. It was a splendid time. And yes, Steelers, you heard correctly, I had a better time watching the Disney Channel movie ‘High School Musical’ than I would have had watching you lose. Seriously, the movie was entertaining, had a good lesson for children about acceptance, and featured the song ‘Getcha Head in the Game’ which is a pretty killer number. I even stopped enjoying ironically half way through and simply began enjoying it while I carved a Fu Manchu onto my jack o’ lantern.

Steelers, please don’t get me wrong. I am still a fan. But through the rest of this season don’t be offended if you don’t see me in front of the TV on Sunday afternoons. I may have used the time to go to the gym or the supermarket. I may take the opportunity to play in the autumn leaves or build a winter’s snow fort. Don’t be shocked to see me with my grandmother at the store, following her motorized chair and getting products from the top shelf. I may even take a nap. Don’t worry Steelers. I’ll be back next year. Hopefully your high draft choice will help you remain competitive or at least hold my attention.


Monday, October 23, 2006

That's a Rap

The world of music is filled to bursting with mediocre songs, music which never quite reaches the apex of its possibilities. The difference between a good song and a mediocre – or even an outright atrocious – song is often so small as to almost seem negligible. A misplaced chord, an ill-advised key change, a poor lyrical word choice can all tip the scales of a passable song into the realm of the awful or, even worse, utterly forgettable. If that big jawed fellow from Train never compared himself to a soy latte, I wouldn’t want to go on a tri-state killing spree burning every building to the ground in my wake every time I heard that God forsaken song. (I am not using this language lightly. I honestly believe that God, in his infinite wisdom, has completely washed his hands of ‘Drops of Jupiter’.)

On the other hand, I firmly believe that middling songs can be saved. All they need a little push in the right direction, a friendly thumb placed on the favorable side of the scale of pop delight. Songs can be saved, and there is no greater savior of songs than the rap break in the middle. Nothing elevates your average pop song to the level of the sublime quite like the moment when the song breaks and a guest rapper busts out to take things to the next level. When sweet, sweet melody gives why to fresh flow and dope rhymes, I personally sit back with deep appreciation and assurance that I am in the hands of pop music genius. The rap break is an awesome, powerful thing, although I feel it has been sadly underused. Sure, there a few good examples exist. The Barenaked Ladies almost managed to create an entire career around the brilliance of the rap break. Just this past summer a rap break pushed the Snakes on a Plane theme song from kinda crappy into the realm of what Little Mike referred to as crap Zen. Still, I can’t help feeling there are many songs – even many songs many people consider to be good – which are practically begging for a rap break. So, here I have for you a short list of songs which need a rap break in the middle of them.

1. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
I realize I may end up taking a lot of crap for saying this, but I feel it simply must be said. Led Zeppelin is a completely ridiculous band. Seriously. Their songs are totally overblown stupid epics which rely way to heavily on Tolkien references, “Oooh, baby” as a lyric, and the absolutely idiotic idea of playing a guitar with a bow. They use weird symbols with hazy meanings which is a really cool idea only if you’re a twelve year old boy with no friends. Even their album covers are stupid. I’ve spent my entire life being told that Led Zeppelin rocks and having their particular brand of bombast shoved down my throat as the ultimate in hard rock. Well, I’m not drinking the kool-aid any more. Can we all be perfectly objective for a moment and admit that Led Zeppelin was only about two sappy ballads away from being Styx. Of course, I really like Styx…

As to the song at hand, ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is the perfect example of Led Zep excess. All the usual ingredients are on display: folk elements giving way to bombast, over the top theatrics, silly allusions to mythology and/or the occult. The song clocks in at somewhere near eight minutes (I’m actually to lazy to fact check this) which means either the song needs to be a couple minutes shorter or really go for it and add a couple minutes of badass wordplay. I still don’t know if I would listen to the entire song every time it comes on, but I would definitely wait for the rap. Hopefully it would have something to do about stealing the black man’s blues and slapping women with sharks. Now, that’s putting the class back into classic rock.

2. Mr. Roboto – Styx
I mentioned Styx so I might as well give them some love. The real bonus to adding a rap to this song – it would probably have something to do with being Killroy – would be seeing if anyone in the band could spit rhymes through a metal robot mask.

3. Who Will Save Your Soul – Jewel
This makes total sense. Jewel is literally from the streets. She lived in a van for crying out loud. Where do you think that van was parked? In the freaking street, that’s where. I really want to know about the mean streets of Alaska. As an added bonus, she could start beefing with Kurt Loder who has been pretty much begging for it since he called out Jewel on her poetry.

4. Old Man River – Rodgers and Hart
This is a somber song about the depressing life of a black man working on a river boat on the Mississippi in the old South. It has a pretty bleak view of life, almost nihilistic in its view of a man who is “tired of living but scared of dying.” Am I the only one who thinks this song is practically begging to get CRUUUNK? All this song needs is dash of Lil’ Jon to really blast it into the stratosphere. I can practically hear it now:

From the west shore
To the east
On this Mississippi beast
This Mississippi beast

Now that’s a show tune I can get behind.

5. The Star-Spangled Banner – Francis Scott Key
We’ve all heard the song a million times at a million sporting events. It has been played so much that it has almost lost the ability to stir the intended patriotic emotions. That – of course – is where the hip-hop comes in. A quick verse right before “Oh say does that star-Spangled banner yet wave” would really make me want to jump out of my seat and take off my hat in respect. And I mean RESPECT! Still, the real genius of adding a rap break would be in the odd pairings when performed at the ballgame. It has to be practically impossible to find someone with both the vocal range to perform the notoriously difficult piece and the flow to really spit some game. This would make almost every performance into a duet. Just picture it: Game seven of the World Series and hear to perform the national anthem is The Singing New York Police Officer featuring Chingy.