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Jul 28, 2016

Throwing Back to 1983: Culture Club

Culture Club got so popular so fast that I needed to rouse myself from my summer of 2016 languor and actually do research. Billboard charts show that, yes, these guys were the first band since the Beatles to chart with 4 songs at once. No wonder it's all a blur.

"Do You Really Want to Hurt Me" was the first charting single off Culture Club's debut album Kissing to be Clever (1982), then they followed quickly with Colour By Numbers and more hit singles. Every hit had a video.

I'm certain that what pulled me into Culture Club's incredibly infectious blend of new wave and blue-eyed soul was the second album, Colour by Numbers, and that my Boy George obsession began with the video for "Church of the Poison Mind."

Jul 26, 2016

The Trump Card

During the long, exhausting year leading up to Election 2012, I was on a mission. I read laws, bills and policy. Every week I read dozens of articles from a variety of news sources ranging from The American Conservative to extremist blogs -- painful, those blogs. I read the CVs and profiles of candidates and justices and reviewed their voting records. I watched CSPAN, CNN, FOX and The Daily Show. I wrote a dozen essays on a variety of hot button issues. 

Election 2016. I can't even, with this shit. Everybody's taking Crazy Pills.

Okay, well I'm not completely avoiding the election. I did read a bunch of sources about what Mizzus Clinton's emails actually said. Found out there were 104 of them, and that it wasn't only her -- there were dozens of diplomats and others that sent emails to her, that she was responding to, and that there weren't many, if any, that actually contained all that much useful info for any potentially nefarious types seeking to learn state secrets. I also found out that the mainstream news isn't covering those officials who are shaking their heads and calling the contents of those emails "overclassified," or the ultimate finding -- that there was never any unauthorized access to the "private server" in question. Nobody saw anything they shouldn't have seen. So...nothing happened.

Is she my favorite? No. The big money shit and the TPP and some other shenanigans are unfortunate, I don't like the sound of her voice (did she always bray like that, it's awful)  (Update, October: Thank God, she cut the shit with the lowered vocal register and the intoning. Now she sounds like a regular woman talking. Good move, Hilz. You do not need to try to sound like a man.)  

But compared to the alternative...? Um, guys? I don't give a shit about her emails. That's just a couple of pixels in the big picture. Big picture? I care about the pompous clown and his dumb wife who don't add up to half a decent person between them. Unelectable.

If I were in a high-powered political mode like I was in 2012, I would be writing strongly worded rants about the minimum skills and experience required to do the job of POTUS. I would be asking why aren't we as a nation looking at this like any Human Resources office in any company. I would be driving home the point by creating a CV for Hillary and The Donald and posting those to illustrate what makes much more of a difference than her stupid emails. That level of depth would take a lot of work. What it would ultimately demonstrate, I can just tell you: Donald and his dumb wife aren't qualified to run the goddamn gift shop at the White House.

I thought Mitt Romney was a dangerous candidate and if put in charge, would have driven the nation right over a cliff. But Mitt's smug superiority, lack of any reasonable notion of what it's like to be middle class or poor, and total disdain for "the 47%" was nothing compared to what this Donald is spewing on a daily basis. In the Republican army of hate, Mitt was a mere minor demon, comparatively.

THIS guy. Off the top of my head -- in the past year he mimicked and mocked a disabled reporter, he called a breastfeeding woman "disgusting," he didn't like the tough questions from debate moderator Megyn Kelly so he attacked her with a sexist menstruation dig about how she "had blood coming out of her wherever," he called Mexican people rapists, he triggered a whole new race war against Muslims, he's gross with his daughter and he's been accused, but won't respond to allegations, of raping a thirteen year old girl. His entire platform starts and ends with this notion of a wall. A concept like something out of a cartoon. Is it gonna say "ACME" on it? Is Wile E. Coyote advising this clown?

It's so impossible to believe that this is the candidate, so much so that serious people are putting forth the theory that's it's all been a ruse. The whole time. That would be amazing. I almost want it to be true.

While people are losing their minds over the VP picks, the Wasserman fiasco, Ted Cruz saying "nuh uh" to The Donald, Chachi, his weird air kisses, his sick tweets, I'm looking elsewhere. No no, I get it. It's all crazy shit. I can't even, with all of it. But here's the thing. When you put someone into the big chairs, you get the spouse in the deal. Laura Bush ran the Red Cross, Hillary gave health care a shot, Michelle Obama's got the childhood obesity and nutrition thing. Lest we forget Tipper Gore and her coffee klatch of Senators' wives who actually managed to introduce censorship as an actual law, trying (and thankfully failing) to stamp out creative license completely, but only succeeding in getting little warning stickers on certain records if they, the coffee klatch, singly and solely deemed the material inappropriate. This was all because one of the gaggle of wild Gore daughters played Darling Nikki within earshot of her uptight mommy. So not satisfied with just taking Prince away from her own kid, Tipper got the whole klatch to tsk tsk and fingerwag at their husbands and now we have Tipper stickers on Lady Gaga CDs. That happened, and we all let it. Policy by pillow talk.

I guess my point is this: like it or not, you do get the spouse in the deal.

You get THE SPOUSE in the deal.
Experience: Putting on and taking off clothing for photos.

You get the spouse in the deal! 
Experience: Being Bill F**king Clinton.

Doesn't anyone want to see what ideas for health care this first First Man has come up with? Doesn't anyone want the benefit of 20/20 hindsight? Could we give this a shot for once? The Clintons have their issues, but with a billion eyes on them, there's not going to be another Whitewatergate or Monicagate. Everything is different now. This could be a real chance for America to restore the middle class and shore up this pile of red, white and blue crumbs. I know he was a dog 20 years ago, but if that's your sole reason to vote against Hillary, that's ridiculous...Trump is obscene NOW, so what kind of logic is that to vote for him?? The Donald surely isn't qualified to wipe Bill's ass with the Constitution that he has never read and won't understand if he tried. Let's agree that there is such a thing as "lesser of two evils." If there is, then in such a situation, you need to be practical. Do not elect this Trump. You don't know what you're doing. Please trust.

I Can't Believe This Is Real Life

Saw a black lady on the news screaming into a camera in support of The Donald. "We need a bizuzz mayan!" she yowled. Hey Bizzuzz Mayan Lady, this man hates you. He hates everything about you, do you understand this. Please. Why? What do you think "a businessman" is, please explain your definition. In concrete, not abstract terms, please: what is the list of skills do you assume that this particular "businessman" knows how to do, exactly? It's a worthless statement, you're parroting something you heard. You don't even know what you're saying. People are buying into this shit, meanwhile anyone who peels back one thin layer knows that the whole "businessman" premise falls apart. That is not a businessman. That is a con man. He is unspeakably, astonishingly awful. If I felt like getting into all of the Donald's bad deals, company failures and lawsuits and shady shenanigans that fell apart, bankrupted small companies and ruined lives, I'd need to boost my blood pressure medicine dosage. If you are not already a billionaire and you think this fool is going to help you and improve America, what you need is a wake up call.

Jul 21, 2016

Throwing Back to 1984: Cyndi Lauper

Cyndi Lauper arrived on the scene with all the gentle politeness of a flash flood. One day she was just suddenly everywhere, blowing up MTV with "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," the first single off her first record, She's So UnusualCute as a button with that unruly mop top of streaky orange hair, Cyndi's synth pop, throaty voice and blended motif of punk and old Hollywood glam appealed to just about everybody. Style meant a lot back when video killed the radio stars, and this chick from Queens had buckets of style to spare. 

Jul 20, 2016

Monastery Path

Whenever I'm walking on Warren Street I pause to look at the entrance to Monastery Path. It looks so...intriguing. One of these days I'm going in there. 

The stairs that lead to Monastery Path are between Brighton High and Brighton Marine. Brighton Marine is where my sleep doctor works, and where I went for physical therapy in 2014 after I wrenched my shoulder during my psychotic breakdown. 

If you have questions about sleep doctors, physical therapy or recovery from a psychotic breakdown, get in touch. I send all my emails back.


Jul 14, 2016

Throwing Back to 1983: Duran Duran

Where were you when music changed your life?

I was in my room in our pink ranch house, listening to Casey Kasem's American Top 40 on my boom box radio, which is a very, very old sentence to say. Along with the TV shows Dance Fever and Solid Gold, Casey Kasem was expanding my musical range beyond that of my parents' influence. Not to imply that my parents have poor taste. Quite the opposite. My parents crush it for sorting out the best music. In those days their growing record collection had propulsive disco 45s and long-playing singles, danceable hits like "The Hustle" and "Fly, Robin, Fly." I was taught to carefully lower the turntable needle into the groove for Vicki Sue Robinson, Barry White, Earth Wind & Fire, The Commodores, Tower of Power, Sly and the Family Stone. We never missed Soul Train. The living room radio dial was permanently fixed at 107.5 out of New York. WBLS. All soul and R& B with jazz on Sunday afternoons, and the Quiet Storm really late at night. Slow jams. Luther Vandross, Minnie Riperton, Teddy Pendergrass, Marvin Gaye, Sade.

Still, at 13, I was looking for my own musical icons, and for me that meant diving into the mainstream. I turned to Mr. Kasem and Deney Terrio and that lot for new sounds. In retrospect, it was most likely in order to have something in common with my cousins and the other kids in my class. Before long my bedroom walls were covered with pulpy magazine pin-ups and posters of Rick Springfield, David Bowie, Styx, Journey, Hall & Oates and Michael Jackson.

Now, let's see, who was charting in Billboard in '83, the source from whence Casey Kasem spun his weekly Top 40. A quick consult with Wikipedia to collaborate with my memory and my bedroom walls. We had Juice Newton, Air Supply, Supertramp, Barry Manilow, Christopher Cross, Lionel Richie, The Pretenders -- Oh! Culture Club! Now there was an outlier. Clearly something new was afoot with Boy George arriving on the scene with "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" but that masterful new wave pop deity hadn't fully hit my radar yet, and it would be months before "Do You Really Want To Hurt Me" got far enough up the charts to share space with "Billie Jean."


Then seemingly out of nowhere, here comes "Hungry Like the Wolf." Things would never be the same again.

From the first trill of girlish laughter that kicks off "Hungry Like the Wolf," I was quite literally stopped in my tracks. The song was so utterly captivating that I just stood there in my room, staring at my mini-boom box, transfixed by the bright bass and the infectious synths and doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo's the likes of which I had never heard before in my scant life. Time slowed down. I can see the whole scene in my mind's eye -- my antique bed with its white eyelet spread, my radio, all of it. It's like the music was saying "This is going to be important. Forget nothing about this moment."

I had no clue who the heck was this Duran Duran. I was too young to have seen Barbarella so I didn't even recognize the reference as the name of the bad guy in that 1960s Jane Fonda soft porn space movie. No Wikipedia, kids. No looking up every iota of information in two seconds.

I wasn't the only one. Before too long, my friends and I were ALL ABOUT Duran Duran. We each picked out our favorite guy and wrote his name all over our book covers and did a lot of other stuff you do when you're a 13-year old girl. I remember one Tiger Beat or some such publication informed us that Nick prides himself on keeping his nails trim, and Simon had studied to become a tree surgeon and prefers blue underwear. Utterly ridiculous from the adult perspective, but at the time, we absorbed every inane factoid as gospel and reveled in every dumb detail. They were our Beatles.

I had dibs on Nick Rhodes. Not only was he simply a stunning beauty with full, effeminate lips, a shock of floppy boyish hair and bold eyeliner, but that 80s synth just never fails to slay me. I wouldn't know until years later that Nick is in large part the primary studio guy for Duran Duran, meaning his gift for synth sounds and songcraft carried a lion's share of the distinctive DD sound.

I still don't think Nick Rhodes gets enough credit, because people see him in live performances pressing one finger on his keys and assume he can't play. You have to understand the programming he does in the studio in order to be able to trigger those sounds with that one finger. He's created and arranged those sounds in advance. He's a genius.

In the video for "Hungry Like the Wolf," notice that Nick is barely in it? That's because the rest of the band went to Sri Lanka to start shooting it ahead of Nick, who remained behind in the studio making magic for the next release.

Though "Hungry Like the Wolf" blew my little mind at first radio listen, who knows where Duran Duran would be today if not for MTV? There might have been better songs out that year, but these five young men were gorgeous, and just in time here comes a platform to exploit their stunning looks and London style. The video launched them into super-stardom. "Hungry Like the Wolf" aired on MTV every two hours, at least.

My friends and I all got our own copies of Rio, and I played mine until my parents wanted to murder me in my sleep. I even named my cat Rio.

Rio is start-to-finish a magic slice of 80s synth pop bliss, and "Hungry Like the Wolf" instantly became a personal and cultural touchstone for me and many members of my generation. My parents had some great records, but Duran Duran showed up at the exact right time and place to become part of the great wave of influence that put my generation on the map, culturally speaking. The "fab five" contributed in a huge way to the rich foundation where we planted our own flag, and it's still there today. It'll always be there. X marks the spot, my loves.





(This essay was part of a "Throwback Thursday" series requested by a friend. A bunch of us did it. You're supposed to post, and write about, one "top favorite" video from the 1980s every Thursday.)

Jul 7, 2016

Throwing Back to 1985: A-ha

I was 15 when "Take On Me" hit the American airwaves, along with a killer video that made this Norwegian pop song into an instant classic. It was one of two singles off A-ha's first record, Hunting High and Low, but most people are hard pressed to name the other one.

"Take On Me" is a sonic transport 30 years back in time to the spectacular corn & cheese laden decade of roller skates, legwarmers and big hair. Anchored by a delicious, irresistible Juno synth keyboard riff, "Take On Me" is a strong pop song with cute lyrics, catchy phrasing and that crazy dynamic falsetto in the chorus. It's been covered dozens of times and, I admit, is one of my personal favorite shower singin' tunes. But only when Joe's not home.