Nothing Like The Threat Of Armageddon To Stoke An Appetite*

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving, like the once annual airing of The Wizard Of Oz used to be, is an event.

Yeah, some people make it out to be dysfunction junction (and for them, maybe it is), but getting to watch football all day on a day which usually would be spent slogging through work is a brilliant concept.

And, of course, it is a chance to feast.

It’s like being king for a day.

Bring me gravy! I shall gnaw on this turkey leg in a slovenly fashion as these superhumans on the television perform amazing feats for my amusement!

OK. It’s not necessarily that dramatic and, as the Lions always play on Thanksgiving Day, the feats are not always amazing in a good way.

(though I cannot imagine how empty a Thanksgiving without the Lions playing the early game would be – it would be like a Halloween without a visit from The Great Pumpkin)

One Thanksgiving was spent living in London, eating some take-out pizza in an ice-cold flat.

And, in a cruel twist, my favorite team was making a rare Thanksgiving Day appearance. They would lose, in overtime after a bizarre coin toss snafu to begin the extra period.

It was a game that would have been maddening to have watched and it was maddening to miss.

Thanksgiving hasn’t been brilliant every year, but that year – no food, no football, no heat – is really the lone one I recall as being truly miserable.

As a kid, our parents dragged us off to mass. I mean, you have the day off school and can sleep in and lounge on the couch; the last thing you want to be doing at an early hour is trudging off to church.

When I was fifteen, the priest decided to use his sermon to rattle off a laundry list of accidental nuclear exchanges between the US and USSR that had been narrowly avoided.

(this was 1983 and two months earlier there had been all of the hullaballoo surrounding the television movie The Day After)

I kept having images of an extra crispy bird and excessively dry stuffing.

It was a bit of a bummer.

It was also a year when my favorite team had a Thanksgiving game. Detroit bottled them 45-3.

I had forgotten (or blocked it out) and had to research who played that season.

But, global tensions and football smackdowns aside, I have no doubt that the food was good.

That autumn, I was still listening to a lot of Top 40 stations, but Q95, an album rock station out of Indianapolis, had caught my attention as well and 97X was exposing me on a semi-regular basis to modern rock for the first time. Some of the songs on the radio that Thanksgiving…

Survivor – Caught In The Game
from Caught In The Game

Eighteen months or so after Survivor unleashed Eye Of The Tiger, the band returned with the follow-up to that album. There was hoopla with one of the stations promising “the premiere of new music from Survivor.”

And then I heard the title track. It was no Eye Of The Tiger.

Caught In The Game obviously had no chance to duplicate the monster success of Eye Of The Tiger and the song is rather generic. Of course, when it popped up on shuffle not long ago, it made me smile and prompted a second listen, so, there is something that I dig about it.

Human League – Mirror Man
from Greatest Hits

I actually don’t know if any of the stations I listened to at the time played Human League’s follow-up to (Keep Feeling) Fascination. 97X might have, but really I only recall hearing it on American Top 40 and it wasn’t there long.

Too bad as I thought Mirror Man was very cool, much prefering the song to the better known Human League hits Fascination and Human. The background vocals of Susan Ann Sulley and Joanne Catherall gave the song warmth and the song has oft been described as “Motown inspired.”

Culture Club – Church Of The Poison Mind
from Colour By Numbers

Though I wouldn’t have trumpeted it at the time, I quite liked Culture Club’s first two singles – Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and Time (Clock Of The Heart) – and, now, I’d call both of them brilliant pop songs.

(there was no excuse for I’ll Tumble 4 Ya, though)

I thought that Church Of The Poison Mind was well done, too, but some of the production dates it in a way that keeps it from having the timeless vibe of those first two songs.

Blue Öyster Cult – Shooting Shark
from The Revölution By Night

I heard Shooting Shark sporadically and could never catch its name or even knew who sang it, but it mesmerized me. It was mysterious and trippy.

I eventually discovered that it was Blue Öyster Cult.

I knew a couple of songs by BÖC but a lot about the band’s lore as a friend had been an unwavering champion of the group since third grade.

He disavowed The Revölution By Night upon its release, but I made it the first album I ever owned by Blue Öyster Cult. It might not have been their best album – I’d opt for Fire Of Unknown Origin – but I still am mesmerized by the mysterious, trippy Shooting Shark.

*reposted – with some alterations – from Thanksgiving ’09

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Going Postal: How I Intend To Thrive In A Post-Apocalyptic World

April 21, 2008

The drumbeat that we, as a species, are reaching the closing credits keeps getting louder and whether we are or not is anyone’s guess. I, for one, am now able to face such a proposition with a new-found sense of contentment and a plan for success in a brave new world which doesn’t rely on AdSense earnings.

I have seen The Postman.

I had seen a bit of Kevin Costner’s magnum opus years ago and had no intention of ever seeing more, but it was late and the pickings were slim. “I know that Tom Petty’s in it,” I said to Paloma, shrugging, trying to feign a semblance of optimism. It was some of the best acting of the evening.

I have now seen it, though, and I am richer for the experience. If you’re unfamiliar with the premise, it’s set sometime in the near future and there has been some disaster that has left civilization in ruins with pockets of refugees and a quasi-military strongman who is trying to consolidate power. I’m not sure what the disaster was as Paloma and I were going full-freakin’ Mystery Science Theater on the flick. There was some comment about drought, but everything seemed pretty lush and well-watered to me.

Enter Costner, a drifter with a penchant for Shakespeare, who takes refuge in a mail truck during a thunderstorm and dons the dead carrier’s garb. With nothing more than a bag of mail, a USPS jacket, and a rather snazzy cap, he becomes The Man. Actually, he becomes The Postman.

Coming upon an enclave of survivors, Costner is soon more popular than Jessica Lange when she was rescued by that oil tanker full of roughnecks in the ’76 version of King Kong. He gets soup. He gets a bath. They throw some party which gives reason to believe that bad jam bands will indeed survive the apocalypse. He gets hooked up with a fetching, young village lass.

The Postman is livin’ la vida loca and there doesn’t appear to be a dog in sight.

Sure, it’s not all seashells and balloons. There is that strongman to contend with who doesn’t like the fact that The Postman is giving the punters hope that the United States is being reformed. There’s also the sheriff of the village who is suspicious of The Postman’s credentials. Of course, said sheriff is actually Mr. Kruger from Kruger Industrial Smoothing (this will make sense to Seinfeld fans), so George Costanza and the legacy of The Human Fund has obviously made him cynical toward do-gooders.

The Postman must also contend with cavernous plot holes, inane dialogue, and acting that would mar a good sock-puppet production. So, hey, he does have his hands full, but he also has soup, a hot soak, and a nubile companion.

He also gets to hang with Tom Petty, who is the major of Bridge City. As my girlfriend reminded me, Petty also has had a recurring role on King Of The Hill and, like that part, in The Postman he essentially seems to be playing Tom Petty. However, he gives a tour de force performance because, no matter how gifted an actor – DeNiro, Pacino, or whomever you might fancy – no one plays Tom Petty like Tom Petty.

Forget stockpiling bottled water or canned hams. I intend to thrive after armageddon using the lessons I’ve learned from Kevin Costner, I’m off to find a mail carrier’s jacket or a patch of the US Postal Service which I might affix to my Belgian army coat.

David Baerwald – The Postman

Aztec Camera – We Could Send Letters

PJ Harvey – The Letter

The Posies – Love Letter Boxes