Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Best Instrumental Song (Which Isn't Really An Instrumental Song)

Have you heard of Mike Oldfield?

Have you heard his music?

The odds are the answer to the first question is “no” and the second is “yes” even though you don’t know the answer to the second question is “yes.” The answer to that second question is almost certainly "yes" if you’ve been alive in the past thirty years and like horror movies.

Listen to this:

See? You’ve heard of Mike Oldfield. Unfortunately, what you’ve heard by him is a really hauntingly beautiful song that will forever be linked, in people’s minds, with a possessed Linda Blair, since Mike Oldfield wrote the music that was used in The Exorcist.

I bring that up because The Exorcist was really my introduction to Mike Oldfield, and it happened at a time when I had not seen the Exorcist and had not heard of Mike Oldfield.

I have a sister – the sister that is, in fact, partially responsible for my nom de plume, “The Trouble With Roy.” That’s another story, for another time, because these articles tend to run long.

Well, really it's a story for now, because it relates. My sister has good taste in music. Her taste in music is almost as good as mine. And I would frequently borrow her tapes, back when people listened to tapes, and then her CDs when people listened to CDs. Now, people listen to MP3s and I don’t borrow them; I just download music illegally off the internet all day, but I’m crafty and use my work computer for it so they’ll sue my firm, not me. Clever, right?

Note to RIAA executives: The sentence preceding the words Clever, right? Is entirely false. Calm down. Nobody openly confesses to downloading music illegally. They just blame it on their grandkids.

So I once borrowed a tape from my sister, one of The Lemonheads’ albums. I liked it, listened to it for a while, then put it back. Later, I wanted to borrow it again. So I asked her if she still had that Lemonheads album, and she said “which one?”

“The one called The Trouble With Roy,” I told her.

She thought about that for a second and said “Do you mean It’s a Shame About Ray?”

I agreed that I probably did, but then pointed out to her, as I will now point out to you, that “The Trouble With Roy” would be (and is) a fine title for a song or album. So later, I actually wrote a song called “The Trouble With Roy,” (you could listen to it, if you dare, here, but you'd be better off listening to "The Big Mouth Frog Blues" which really is a very good song.) and then began using it for my pseudonym and still do that even though it’s not really hiding my identity anymore (the reason I started using it in the first place was because I want to be rich and live in Hawaii, but not famous. Rich but not famous – so buy my stuff and/or send money, but don’t bug me if you run into me at McDonalds. I’ll be polite but I’ll resent it.)(If you want the truth, I won’t really resent it all that much. I’m sort of a glory hound. I’m the type of guy who always wants to be the lead singer and the quarterback. At the same time, if I could.)

So that’s how I came by my pen name.

I came by Mike Oldfield’s music similarly, because I borrowed – it started as borrowing even though it became more permanent after I listened to it – her Mike Oldfield tape, which was actually a copy she’d been given by her then-boyfriend. The copy she had was labeled “Tubular Bells” and I was curious about it, so I listened to it on one particularly long drive, and I loved it, especially the song that the label said was actually called “Tubular Bells.”

I told her that I really liked the album, and she agreed with me that it was cool music and then told me this little tidbit: Tubular Bells” was the music from the movie The Exorcist.

Remember that I’d never seen that movie at that point. And that I thought the song on the album that I liked so much was called "Tubular Bells." So I didn’t know and I wasn’t sure how the music would fit into the movie. I only had a hazy idea what the movie was about. And I also wasn’t sure whether she meant the whole album or just the song “Tubular Bells” So her trivia, while interesting, also cast kind of a pallor on the whole album, even though I still really liked it, and really liked “Tubular Bells” the song.

I liked that song so much that I even included it on a mix tape I made for Sweetie when we began dating. (Yes, I made her mix tapes. You can snicker if you want, but you did it, too. Everyone did. At least my mix tapes were full of awesome music.) And I told Sweetie the story behind it, too, and she seemed a little confused (as she does by many things I say and do) because she’d seen the movie, but she accepted what I said, or seemed to (as she does with many of the things I say and do.)

Eventually, after several moves and law school and getting married and kids and babies and cats, I no longer had the tape. I’m sure I returned it to Sis at some point. Just like I’m sure she actually paid me for the car she “bought” from me. The tape and the payment probably crossed in the mail.

This is the car I "sold" Sis. I called it
Yes, I made mix tapes and named my cars.

Then, earlier this year, I thought of “Tubular Bells” again, almost out of nowhere. I remembered the song and really really wanted to hear it again. So I did what I do whenever I need something: I googled it.

And that’s when I learned that yet again another one of my great musical loves was based on a mistake. “Tubular Bells” was not the song in The Exorcist.

Well, that’s not right. “Tubular Bells” WAS the song in The Exorcist, but it wasn’t the song I liked. “Tubular Bells,” it turned out after some google investigation (Google-gation? Investigoogling? I like that latter.)

“Tubular Bells,” it turned out after some investigoogling, was the name of the song that Mike Oldfield had written which was so memorably used in The Exorcist. On the other hand, the song that I liked was a song called “The Bell,” which appeared not on the album Tubular Bells but instead was on the album Tubular Bells II.

^^^ Tubular Bells^^^

Tubular Bells, too.

Tubular Bells, Two

What made it even more confusing was that the song I liked, which I’d always thought was called “Tubular Bells” but was called “The Bell” prominently featured the words “and Tubular Bells” in it. (Which is why even though it’s an instrumental song it’s not really and it’s cheating, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Got all that? So for years I’d been worried that the song I liked had Satanic overtones, but it didn’t really. Instead, what I’d thought was a song called “Tubular Bells” was a song called “The Bell” about tubular bells. On the album Tubular Bells II.

Whew! My mind gets a little twisty just pondering that.

Anyway, with that worked out, I was all set to get the album, which I finally did. Seven months later. That’s how my life works. A CD costing $9.99 or so, I ponder for months and months and months before breaking down and buying it, and then feeling a little guilty about it. But yesterday, when Sweetie mentioned around 11 a.m. that it’d be nice to have a big screen TV, I told her we should shop for one and by 3:30 p.m. we had a 65” TV in our den. That kind of thing I don’t have to ponder, I guess. That’s a true story, too. The kids are all downstairs watching it, and I now own a TV that’s worth more than the first three cars I bought, and which I will never rest easy having in the house because it cost so much and because the kids can’t seem to stop touching it. Not the babies. They’re not allowed near it. No, the older kids are touching it. I had to ask The Boy: “Why do you have to touch the TV?” He didn’t have an answer. I don’t think I’ve ever touched a TV, unless I was turning it on. I've certainly never just gone up to a TV and touched it, the way The Boy did.

That’s not really the point, though. (As usual.) The point is that I now have the CD Tubular Bells II and can listen to “The Bell” all I want without worrying that Sis will take it back.

And I will listen to it a lot, because it's a great song. It’s hard to describe, but I'll give it a shot before I let you listen to it. It features a repeating melody, or two or three intersecting melodies – some bass, with a strummed acoustic guitar. And over that, Mike Oldfield slowly adds additional instruments, which play the theme, too, announcing each one as he does it. The announcement is part of what makes the song fun, because as I would listen to it, I’d do what my sister taught me to do (and I taught this to Sweetie and the older kids and I’ll teach it to the Twins, too): announce the instruments along with Mike Oldfield. (Okay, it doesn’t sound like fun, but it is, because we'd try to do it like Mike Oldfield does, announcing them in pompous voice, the voice Snape would use if he were the announcer.)

The instruments added, in order, are:

Grand piano
Reed and pipe organ
Glockenspiel (we always had extra fun with that one: glockenshpiel, we’d say.)
Bass guitar.
Vocal chords
Two slightly sampled electric guitars
The Venetian effect (whatever that is… it sounded kind of like the flute)
Digital sound processor

After that one, he’d come up to the last instrument to be added. With the song in full glory, he’d say

“And, tubular bells,”

and the bells would ring out, and we’d pantomime like we were hitting the bells.

Really, it was more fun than it looks on paper. Listen to the song – I've got a version of the song below, although it doesn't have all the instruments- -and when he says the bells part, raise your hand and act like you’re hitting a bell in front of you. When you do, you’ll realize that I’m right, that it’s fun, and that “The Bell” is The Best Instrumental Song (Which Isn’t Really An Instrumental Song.)

Friday, July 27, 2007

The Best Episode of Seinfeld

Imagine a time, in the distant, mist-shrouded past, a time completely unlike the era in which we live now.

In that time, in that Then which was so different from this Now, people's lives were both similar to ours Now, and very, very different.

I could mention the similarities and you would understand them. For example, people drove cars like ours, and lived in houses like ours, and a great many of them worked at jobs like ours.

But the differences are what matter. The differences are what will strike you. For example, back then, in that long-ago period, most people still had phones that needed in some way to be associated with a house – and many were still talking on phones that were attached to things using long cords! And those same people had to go to brick-and-mortar shops, for the most part, to purchase things… things like those phones and the cords they needed.

Yes, very much like that.

But the most marked difference then was in entertainment. People back then did not, as we do now, take entertainment – and by entertainment you will understand me to be talking about television – for granted. People back then valued television and its programs (yes, even “Will and Grace”)(okay, nobody ever actually valued "Will and Grace") because they understood something, a universal rule that applied then and does not now:

Television back then could be taken away.

It’s true. Don’t gasp in shock. Back then – in the 1990s – television shows did not exist as they do today, available around the clock and on DVD and for download on your computer provided that your hard drive isn’t full of spyware because your Middle Daughter really wanted that $25,000 shopping spree that came not just with a subscription to Seventeen magazine, but also with a massive amount of junk software that has slowed your computer down to the point where things would be faster if you just started from scratch and invented both computers and the Internet yourself again.

The overly-literary introduction to this was necessary, I think, to give a little heft to something that has very little value nowadays: a sitcom episode. Sitcoms have always been viewed as among the most (if not the most) disposable of entertainment – the comic books of the moving-picture entertainment branch. They are churned out, dozens at a time, many of them recycling the same jokes and the same characters (which jokes and characters are then recycled again, but somehow made now devoid of humor, on Yes, Dear) and we watch them and move on.

I do not know how people sat through this.

And these days, we don't even always do that. Sometimes we don’t even watch the episode the whole time or all the way through or with our full attention, because those sitcoms are everywhere at once. If you don’t want to watch “The Office” on Thursdays, TIVO it. If you don’t have a TIVO, then download the episode from iTunes. Haven’t joined iPod nAtion yet? Buy the series on DVD. By their very ubiquity, sitcoms have become less valuable-- and less entertaining.

That wasn’t always the case, as I pointed out at the beginning of this. Yes, the lowly sitcom has never been appreciated, really, as art or even as good solid entertainment, but once it was a little more valued and we had what the experts (and who becomes an entertainment expert?) called “appointment TV.” TV that was so good and entertaining that you would set your schedule around it, plan on being there in time to watch it.

You’re scoffing right now, many of you, because we’ve been conditioned to say that TV is lowbrow and trashy and not worth our time, and sitcoms the worst of all, so everyone but me (and Sweetie, who’s influenced by me) tries to act as though we don’t really watch that much TV if we watch it at all. Everyone says things like “I don’t watch much TV, but I happened to see, when I was flipping through the channels to find that History Channel Documentary on Things Smart Cultured People Should Know, this movie on Sci-Fi that involved mosquitoes or locusts or something…”)(I've talked about this phenomenon before.) but really, someone is watching “The View” and all those court shows and these sitcoms that feature Jim Belushi, and that one “Men In Trees” that stars either Anne Heche or Calista Flockhart. (Having checked, it’s Anne Heche.) And it’s not all me.

You suspect I make things up.

I do not.

"Mosquito" really was a movie.

So was "Locusts."

Remember her? She's doing stuff again.

So if you’ve read this so far and at some point have said “I don’t watch that much tv,” then you are either you do actually watch that much TV and are a liar, or you don’t actually watch much TV and are a jerk because only a jerk would look down on or deny himself something so entertaining. And not the good kind of jerk, like this:

That I would laugh at and want to maybe hang out with for a while. The bad kind of jerk.

So now just admit it, like I do. You like TV. And we all have had, and maybe still have, “appointment TV.” I know I did. I never ever ever missed an episode of Seinfeld. Once, I had pneumonia for four weeks and didn’t know it. I just got progressively worse and worse and more and more short of breath, making it harder and harder to do my daily six-mile runs (which I did even with pneumonia, and once clocked a time of 45:30 for six miles… with pneumonia!) until one day I was coming home from school and walked up the two flights of stairs to my apartment, and I had to rest twice, and then I was in my apartment and I got up to go lay down on the bed and got out of breath walking across the room, and I thought to myself, that’s really not the way things should be, so I called my mom to see if she’d come and pick me up and take me to the doctor, and she agreed and while I waited for her to come I watched that night’s episode of Seinfeld.

You'll think that's phenomenal, or weird, maybe, but it gets worse: I proposed on a Thursday and I waited until after the night’s episode of Seinfeld to ask Sweetie to marry me.

My devotion is understandable, I think because the way TV ran back then, the episodes meant more not just because they were better TV for the most part -- Seinfeld is probably one of the top five sitcoms of all time-- but also because if you missed one, you had to wait until Christmas, or maybe summer, to try to see it, and if they never ran it again – like the Puerto Rican flag episode—you’d never see it again. I caught only the very end of the episode that made fun of “The English Patient” and didn’t see the whole episode until I got it on DVD this year.

I've heard they won't show this on TV. Which seems ironic, since it

makes fun of exactly the type of attitude that would demand

that this not be shown on TV.

The episodes meant so much back then that when I became aware that they would end - -when Seinfeld announced its run was going to end, I knew I had to take action. Back then, the show was also re-run on our local station at 10:30 at night, and so I began taping each episode each night, sometimes with commercials and sometimes without, because I didn’t want Seinfeld to go away forever and leave me bereft of entertainment options.

Hence my intro to this nomination. You can see how things have changed now. Now, I’m not even sure when some shows are on, and some – like Lost—I’ve never actually watched over a broadcast. I'm not even sure what night or what network it's on. I began watching Lost because I got a free download of the show and liked it, so I’ve watched most of them on my iPod and the rest on DVD. When Arrested Development was cancelled, I calmly decided to buy the DVDs when they came out, and they always come out.

That’s all a lengthy way of saying that I am (as usual here on TBOE) uniquely qualified to make the judgment I’m making, which you readers with better memories will recall is The Best Seinfeld Episode. I’ve seen them all, I’ve loved them all (except the finale, which stunk) and I’ve bootlegged many of them for posterity. So I’ve considered all of the episodes, from the early ones where the show was feeling its way to the later ones where the characters almost became caricatures of themselves, which would have been quite a feat since they were caricatures in the first place.

And I won’t review them all here, because you readers can nominate your own. I'll just tell you my decision, and my decision was made far easier recently when I rewatched one episode, this time with The Boy. That episode, which is The Best Episode of Seinfeld, is: “Jerk Store.”

That episode really has it all. It has George’s feuds and lack of employment skills. It has Elaine’s delusions of grandeur and power and problems with dating. It has Kramer’s bizarre life. If you were going to watch one episode of Seinfeld, it would be "Jerk Store."

Yes, the episode focuses on George and is named after Jerry. But there

was a lot of text and we all needed a break, and do you really want to

look at George and Jerry? Or, God forbid, Kramer and Newman?

And it has Jerry’s dealing with a tennis pro’s efforts to make things up to him. If you’ve seen the episode, you’re nodding. If you haven’t, I can’t really encapsulate it all, but I will show you what makes “Jerk Store” the best.

Spoiler alert!
George goes to a meeting at work, eats a lot of shrimp, and has to fume as a coworker says “Hey, George, the ocean called and its running out of shrimp.” He can’t think of a comeback fast enough, but comes up with one on the way home. The remainder of the episode is George’s problems first dealing with additional insults at work, and then fending off friends’ efforts to convince him that his comeback is not so great. Kramer, for example, tries to get him to tell the guy “I slept with your wife.” Kramer, you have to know, is distracted by the thought that he might slip into a coma at any time.

Finally, George sets up a new meeting with the guy. Let's watch what happens:

I was rewatching that one, with The Boy, and I knew what was going to happen and I still loved it, and loved it more because The Boy didn’t see all that coming, didn’t see the double or triple whammy coming, and when I first watched it, I hadn’t either. So it might have been nominated as The Best Episode of Seinfeld just because of that ending for that story line.

But it was more than that, I think. Throughout the episode, the viewer knows that something will go wrong, but doesn't know the magnitude of it and how it would happen, and that episode, like the other great ones Seinfeld ran but better than any of them, really hit you out of left field. The buildup as George strives to put his comeback to use, only to have the rug swept out….

Well, I’ve analyzed it too much now and probably killed the joke. But “Jerk Store” is The Best Episode of Seinfeld ever.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Best Of ... Celebrities!

Click the picture(s) (and sometimes the words; I'm working on it) to go to the article(s)!

The Best of...


I like my hot women with a side of uncomfortable questions. (Eye Candy)

All I Really Need To Know I Learned From People Talking About Kim Kardashian's Divorce.

The Best Jennifer Aniston

The Best New God.

Michael Keaton

The (Now Revoked) Best Actor to Play God In A Movie Or TV Show:

Morgan Freeman

The Best Actor Who's So Lame He's Cool:

Tom Cavanagh

The Best Career An Actor Has Had After Quitting Something The Actor Should Not Have Quit:

David Caruso

The Best Celebrity Baby:

The Best Celebrity Hairstyle:

The Rachel

The Best Celebrity I Don't Want to Get Sick of So Will He Please Just Stop Doing Things That Will Make Me Get Sick of Him?

Steve Carell

The Best Celebrity I Think I Could Hang Out With:

Nick Lachey

The Best Celebrity Who Remains Unspeakably Cool No Matter What He Does:

William Shatner

The Best Comedian Who's So Lame He's Cool:

Jim Gaffigan

The Best Elvis

Lame Elvis

The Best Gossiple:

Paris Hilton

And Paris Hilton AGAIN!

The Best Happy Celebrity:

Elizabeth Banks

The Best Internet Celebrity:

Star Wars Kid

The Best-Looking Science Fiction Alien Chick:

Number Three

The Best Olsen Twin:


Mary Kate

The Best Simpson Sister:


The Best Stand-Up Comedian

Ellen Degeneres

The Best Wahlberg Brother (As Judged Solely on The Basis of Their Least-Cool Credit on IMDB)

Mark Wahlberg

The Next Best Way To Become Famous (And The Best Celebrities To Try This On)

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Best Of.... Kid's Stuff


The Best Weird Superhero 
The Vision

The Best Stupid Questions About Disney Cartoons.

The Best Man Walks Into A Bar Joke, Ever.

(from Buttersafe.)

The Best Superhero: New Nominee! (Electron Boy!)

The Best Anthropomorphic Animal Superhero

The Best Book About Monsters To Teach Kids That Monsters, And Books, Are Nothing To Be Afraid Of

The Monster At The End Of This Book.

Beloved Children's Characters Who Are Not Quite What They Seem To Be (List!)

The Best Cartoon Character:

Spongebob Squarepants.

The Best Children's Book:
The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog

The Best Classic Arcade Game

The Best Comic Book Villain


The 3 Best Supervillains Who Deservedly Just Kept Coming Back And Should Keep Doing So.

The Best Comic Strip To Learn From:


The Best Disney Princess

Sleeping Beauty

The Best Knock Knock Joke:

Interrupting Cow

The Best Misunderstood Comic Book Character Who's Not Actually A Villain:

The Best Muppet:


The Best Next Thing That Kids Will Be Deemed To Love.


The Best Peanuts Character Who's So Lame He's Cool:


The Best Playground Toy:

Merry Go Round

The Best Scary Kids' Song:
"Big Rock Candy Mountain."

The Best Sneetch

Plain-Bellied Sneetches.

The Best Superhero Whose Powers Are So Lame They're Cool:
The Atom

The Best Storyline In The Peanuts Comic Strip

The Best Superhero:

Dr. Manhattan

The Hulk


The Six BEST Superheroes (Reader List!)


Spider-Man, again (Reader Nomination!)

The Flash

Best Superhero, other nominations:

Batman & Wolverine

Batman, again -- seems like he's winning, doesn't it?

The Best Superhero Gadget:
I say it's Green Lantern's Ring

Reader Nomination: The Lens.

2nd Reader Nomination: Silver Age Green Lantern's Ring.

The Best Superpower

The Ability to Restructure Something From An Atomic Level

The Best Title Character From Calvin & Hobbes


The Three Best Cartoons That Forecast The Future (And How they Did)