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The blog-monster

Joel Achenbach has a great piece this morning on whether blogs are the first sign of artificial intelligence. Or something like that.

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Oh, Courtney

Courtney Love wasn’t always a joke. Live Through This was a good album; Celebrity Skin was a great one. In 1996, she won acting acclaim for The People vs. Larry Flynt, and I thought she was good in the intriguing film Basquiat the same year. She’s still getting film interest.

And that’s why it was a little bit painful to watch her at the Pamela Anderson roast. (Highlights included the ever-underrated Sarah Silverman and an hysterical deadpan reading of Pam’s book by the unlikeliest of readers, Bea Arthur.) Her speech itself was good. Seriously, good — well-written (possibly by someone else, who knows) and well-delivered (all her). Her behavior the rest of the roast was disturbing. She kept standing up and talking back to the people at the mike, sounding a bit like Kramer’s obnoxious girlfriend on Seinfeld — the one who so irritates Jerry that he goes to her office and heckles her.

She kept insisting she had been clean and sober for a year. She didn’t look like it the night of the roast.

And, apparently, she is indeed off the wagon. (Or is that on the wagon? See, Seinfeld is everywhere.)

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More music dissing

The I HATE MUSIC blog is probably old hat to a lot of people, but I’m a little slow in finding all those hip, snarky sites all over the Web. The archives have a great minimalist take on Stereolab followed by this — “The highpoint of The Specials recording career was “Ghost Town”, a song about people not going out in Coventry anymore. Of course they weren’t going out anymore, all they were playing in the clubs was f—ing Specials records.”

And you have to love this take on XTC, even if you (like me) like all the songs mentioned in the post.

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XM in depth, Channel 5

Yeah, the 50s channel was a little difficult, but not without its charms.

Nat King Cole, Send For Me: Actually not the first song I heard, but the first complete song to be identified. And it’s a promising start. Good mid-tempo walking bass, a vocal that sounds self-assured but not obnoxiously so, good guitar work.

The Paris Sisters, I Love How You Love Me: Not a fan of strings and girl-group ballads in general. This one has a pretty, catchy melody, but the spoken section (“I love how you close your eyes when you kiss me …”) is a bit much even for this decade.

unidentified: Interesting how you can’t really hear the “make” in “I’ll make love to you.” It comes across as “I’ll may love to you.” Scared of the censors?

Ray Peterson, The Wonder of You: From the album Tell Laura I Love Her, named after the car-crash epic for which this guy is known. That song is mentioned in passing in The Worst Rock & Roll Records of All Time. It’s not officially part of that book’s Bottom 50, but it’s implied that it’s actually worse. The actual entry (#48) is the Everly Brothers’ Ebony Eyes. The authors say the Everlys’ song isn’t the worst of the “teen tragedy sweepstakes” because the protagonist doesn’t decide to join his deceased lover (as in Dickie Lee’s Patches) and the details aren’t as gruesome as they’re described in two songs, including … Tell Laura I Love Her. I mention all this because it’s better than describing the actual song, which is a particularly dreckful ballad.

Bo Diddley, I’m a Man: Another song with “I’ll make love to you” in it. When were those days we keep hearing about before our “moral compass” went astray? Anyway — this is basically an essential blues riff (later appropriated by everyone, perhaps most notably by George Thorogood) repeated ad infinitum. Classic song, but it could use a few good guitar breaks.

Tom & Jerry, Hey Schoolgirl: My knowledge of useless things is so vast that I knew this was Simon and Garfunkel, though I had to verify it at AllMusic. The guitar hints at something interesting; the vocals don’t.

Dale and Grace, I’m Leaving It All Up To You: In that case, I’m changing the station. Seriously, this is pretty bad — utterly mismatched male and female duet vocals over a bland 3/4 setting.

Bill Haley & His Comets, Dim Dim the Lights: And turn down the music.

Sam Cooke, Another Saturday Night: Thanks, I needed that. A classic singalong for the dateless. And we’ve all been there.

Huey “Piano” Smith, Don’t You Just Know It: I actually don’t hear a piano here, just a bass, drums and a few saxophonists obviously thrilled to be playing a riff instead of just sitting around waiting for the solo. The call-and-response vocals are fun. I’d listen to this again.

Cozy Cole, Topsy Part 2: Jazzy piano, organ and drums propel this instrumental. Actually, a lot of the guys revered as jazz legends should take a cue from this — it’s listenable, danceable and entertaining. OK, the drum solo goes on a bit too long without enough variation to sustain it, but Neil Peart was just a toddler around this time, so we can’t expect too much.

Robert & Johnny, We Belong Together: I could’ve sworn I heard the drummer snoring before he missed a beat.

Thurston Harris, Little Bitty Pretty One: I forgot to listen. Sorry.

Bobby Darin, Mack the Knife: Ever catch the Bill Murray lounge singer impressions on Saturday Night Live? The vocal delivery is eerily similar. The horn fills were stereotypical a decade earlier.

The Heartbeats, A Thousand Miles Away: … is where I’d rather be when all the doo-wop cliches kick up their ugly heads.

Elvis Presley, A Mess of Blues: Not as overwrought as some Elvis vocals, and the piano-based honky-tonk setting is palatable.

Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Ain’t Got No Home: OK, that’s enough. If I’d lived in this decade, I probably would’ve stuck with Beethoven.

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I’m back

I forgot to mention that I was going to the beach for a few days, so my apologies to both my regular readers and the people who came here searching for “five o’clock charlie +emo” or “inflate peppers.”

Nifty tip discovered on the trip — the same connector that makes my XM radio play through my tape player in the car also works with my iPod.

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Simpsons and marital strife

I’m not one of those people who attempts to be cool by claiming to dislike any Saturday Night Live made after 1995 (or 1980) or any Simpsons episode made after 1997. In fact, I loathe these people with a passion. They’re like the Goth kids on South Park who think they’re demonstrating independent thought when, in fact, they’re just antisocial jerks.

But there’s one type of Simpsons episode that has gone way downhill. It’s the “Homer and Marge are having marital strife” episode.

The progression:

Life in the Fast Lane (Season 1): The classic bowling episode.

Colonel Homer (Season 3): Homer manages country singer Lurleen, who tries to lure-leen him away from Marge.

A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4): Marge demonstrates her independence by starring in a wonderfully tacky and overwrought musical.

The Last Temptation of Homer (Season 5): Not as funny as the previous three, but it never seems forced.

Secrets of a Successful Marriage (Season 5): Clever episode in which Homer’s efforts to teach at community college backfire in so many ways.

A Milhouse Divided (Season 8): Works because the Simpson strife is overshadowed by the more amusing and less sympathetic Van Houtens.

The Cartridge Family (Season 9): Can anyone blame Marge for getting out of the house after Homer starts shooting up the place?

Brawl in the Family (Season 13): Here’s the start of the troubles. The Homer-Marge friction is crammed into the last act. They get away with it here because the Flanders subplot is funny.

Three Gays of the Condo (Season 13): Homer moves in with two gay guys. This one’s actually pretty good, ruining the curve.

Brake My Wife, Please (Season 13): This is the one I saw tonight. It shifts abruptly from a neat little plot about Homer taking up walking (he overloaded his car with electronics in a great scene, drove off a dock while trying to send an S.O.S. from his fax machine and lost his license) to an overblown Homer-Marge blowup in which Homer is far more insensitive and idiotic than he usually is but miraculously recovers to throw a party for the whole town and Jackson Browne. No.

The Ziff Who Came to Dinner (Season 15): Not necessarily a Marge-Homer episode except as a backdrop to an insufferable plot with the insufferable Artie Ziff. They seem desperate to turn Ziff into a recurring character. Please don’t let them succeed. If they want to keep using Jon Lovitz, bring back the art teacher or the director from Oh Streetcar. Or The Critic.

Mobile Homer (Season 16): Starts with a good Homer slapstick sequence and might be funnier if we hadn’t seen the whole “Homer and Marge fighting” thing before.