Monday, June 29, 2009

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

I, like most people, am looking to become famous, and I'm always searching for a good way to do that.

I could go the hard way -- have talent, work my way up the entertainment ladder, get a few lucky breaks on the way, and then one day, stand astride the entertainment industry, a titan of modern pop culture who everyone will look at and adore and love and ask for autographs. (Everyone, that is, except me; I either do not know who celebrities are or I will remember them for some obscure show they did, once, that only I liked.)(Or I'll kind of insult them, but more on that in a minute.)

I could go that route, but that all takes a lot of hard work and time and luck and possibly also sleeping with producers, which even if I was okay with that, I'm pretty sure Sweetie is not. (For the record, I am not okay with sleeping with producers to get ahead. I'm just saying that even if I was, which I'm not, Sweetie would likely not be okay with that.)

So there's got to be another way to become famous. And rich. Those two go hand-in-hand, don't they? They do nowadays, anyway. If you're famous, you'll become rich, just as certainly as if there is leftover pizza in my refrigerator at night, it will be gone by the time I get up in the morning and The Boy's room will smell like pizza. Pizza which should have been mine. Riches follow fame like that.

So I need to get famous, after which I'll be rich, and since the whole actual talent, etc., route is too hard (and possibly Sweetie-disapproved), there's got to be another way to achieve fame and then riches (although I'm not averse to doing it the other way around. I'll take money and then fame.) (Matter of fact, I'll just take the money. You can have the fame.)(Except I need the fame to get the money, probably, so hands off my fame.)

Reality shows are out. Nobody has ever become rich or famous as a result of a reality show, if you don't count Lauren Conrad making $75,000 per episode and becoming a published author (writing a book that should, by all rights, have been titled "This is Officially The Day Literature Was Killed") and if you don't count all the other Hills spinoff characters and if you don't count Nick Lachey, and if you don't count Kate (she's a one-name person now, right? Sorry, all you other Kates, there's just the one Kate now), and if you don't count Susan Boyle, who reportedly is making 8,000 "pounds" per minute to sing. (In real money, that's... I don't know, but it's enough to buy a lot of cat food for her cat, Pebbles.)

Aside from those people, nobody is making money off reality TV or becoming famous, so reality TV is out as a career. Besides, becoming famous on reality TV might also make me have to be married to Kate, or be vacuous, idiotic and docile, or do other things that I'm not prepared to do, like spend time with Will Ferrell in the wilderness.

And, also, each of those takes time, too, and I would kind of like my fame (and money) now.

Which is why I've hit on a third route, and one I am uniquely qualified to use as a springboard or catapult into the Fame-And-Money-OSphere.

No, not a sex tape.

Not that I've ruled that out... but... no, actually, I have ruled it out.

My method is both quicker than having talent and less painful (for me) than reality TV and less painful (for you) than a sex tape.

My method is this: Bump into a celebrity and turn that embarrassing encounter into fame -- and then money.

Think about it. It's genius. We are so celebrity-obsessed these days that we make annoying people into celebrities just to bring them back down to our level, and at the same time, we take people who have only the most tangential connection to fame and jump them up to celebrity status, if only for a short while. (Then we bring them back down again.)

That celebrity obsession, combined with our on-again/off-again love of hidden-camera type shows that embarrass people -- witness the popularity (?) of the Bruno movie, which is essentially just a bunch of Borat outtakes only now with a different offensive stereotype -- paves the way for what I predict will be the next wave of fame: People Who Bump Into Celebrities And Embarrass Themselves and the Celebrity And Then Turn That Into Fame.

The groundwork is already there for this type of fame -- people are already obsessed with the once-famous or non-famous, and they're becoming obsessed with the people who bump into the non-famous and once-famous -- as evidenced by the coverage of Woody Harrelson's zombie-encounter, or by Samantha Ronson's career, period.

What's missing is people turning this new kind of fame into money. The Zombie Cameraman, for example, filed a police complaint, and will probably sue, but police complaints and suing don't turn into money, not any time soon. (And suing Woody Harrelson? What'll that get you, besides some coupons for Taco Bell printed on his homemade hemp paper?)

That's where I come in. I have a long history both of embarrassing myself in front of celebrities, and of novel ideas for making money, and I'm combining them now so that I can show you how I can make money just by bumping into famous people. (Feel free to use my methods, but make sure that you let me become famous, first.)

My expertise in this area arises from several celebrity encounters I've already had:

-- I met Harry Connick, Jr., once, at my health club, and asked him for his autograph. I knew he was in town for a concert, and while I was a fan, I wasn't enough of a fan to go see him in concert. Still, I wanted his autograph. So, I asked him for his autograph and only then realized I didn't have a pen. Or paper. Then, to compound things, I tried to cover up my faux pas by saying "I'm looking forward to seeing your concert tonight." Only later did I learn that he'd played the night before.

-- I met Brian Ritchie, the bassist for one of my favorite bands ever, the Violent Femmes. I even bought him a beer, and then asked him when the band was coming out with a new album, as it had been a while. "Soon," he said. "These things take time. Those songs aren't easy to write."

"Really?" I said, incredulously.

In my defense, their songs did sound pretty easy to write. Also, I was kind of drunk.

-- Finally, I once met University of Wisconsin basketball coach Bo Ryan, who is probably only a "celebrity" in Madison, Wisconsin, (but I'll count him because how many celebrities do you actually meet?)( Answer: 5 ), and asked him for his autograph -- doing so while wearing a "North Carolina" t-shirt, which wouldn't have been so bad except that the UW had just lost to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament. ("You've got a lot of nerve," he told me -- but he signed. Score!)

With that kind of background, I figure I can easily bump into and embarrass celebrities, and myself -- and the culture is right to turn that fleeting contact into fame and/or money. Here's how I'll do it with these test subjects in movies, television, literature, and rock'and'roll.

Movie Celebrity: Billy Bob Thornton.

Why He's A Good One To Choose: Billy Bob hasn't had a hit movie since... does Armageddon count? Or Bad Santa? Which came first, anyway? It doesn't really matter, since neither of those were made this century. Were they?

Where I'd Likely Bump Into Him: Leaving a run-down radio station somewhere in Nebraska or a similar Godforsaken locale, as he tries to promote his "band" on the only radio shows that will listen to him.

How I'd Try To Embarrass Him: The easiest route? Mention to him that you loved his acting. It worked for that DJ, who just didn't have the guts to push it far enough that he could make some fame/money off of it. I'd try this: Say he's a better actor than singer... but that even so, he still wasn't as good as Walter Matthau in that one movie.

How I'd Actually Embarrass Myself: In mentioning Walter Matthau, I would be thinking of Jack Lemmon in The Odd Couple. And I would assume I was talking to Joaquin Phoenix.

The Likely Result: Billy Bob punches me, then writes a song about the experience. I collect royalties for use of my name in the song and go on to host "American Top 40" once Ryan Seacrest returns to his home dimension after someone says his name backwards.


Television Celebrity:
Charlie Sheen.

Why He'd Be A Good One To Choose: Charlie Sheen just emanates fame. He must produce it biologically or something. He certainly hasn't done anything worth us keeping our eyes on him, unless you count making out with that big-nosed girl before she was a small-nosed girl, in Ferris Bueller's Day Off -- a role that was the pinnacle of his career. Sure, he's been in Platoon and... um... other movies that I'm sure I'd remember if I wasn't too lazy to google them, but can playing... um... that one guy in Platoon, and probably other characters, be deserving of something like 3 decades of fame? No way. And yet, there he is, still being famous and still on TV and still being rich, and also looking pretty young, too.

So it's either deal with the Devil (which in Charlie Sheen's case is actually somewhat likely) or he's like a fame factory and my bumping into him and embarrassing him and me could only result in my becoming famous (and rich), just like Denise Richards did, only I don't have to have sex with Charlie. Hopefully. (Fingers crossed.)

Where I'd Likely Bump Into Him: It would have to be LA, wouldn't it? Charlie Sheen seems like the kind of guy who hasn't left LA since he got there. Except maybe to go to Las Vegas. But running into him in Vegas would mean going to those high class strip joints, and Sweetie's not likely to approve of that, either. So LA it is: he's got to go to the grocery store, or liquor store, sometime, right?

How I'd Try To Embarrass Him: I've got this all planned out. I'd go up to him and say "You're Emilio Estevez, right?" And he'd say "No, I'm Charlie Sheen," and I'd say, "Oh, yeah, that's right. Hey, you were great in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. What have you been doing since then?"

How I'd Actually Embarrass Myself: It would, in fact, be Emilio Estevez that I'd be talking to.

The Likely Result: Assuming Emilio admits it's him, then I star in The Mighty Ducks Return: Electric Duckaloo. If he sticks with pretending he's Charlie, then in mere minutes we are in a pitch meeting for Ferris Bueller's Next Day Off.

(Note: I've already got the plot worked out. Here's what happens: Ferris is now all grown up, and he's got a son. [See the irony already? Sweet.] The son wants desperately to get into an Ivy League school and sets up an interview with the dean, one his Dad -- Grown-Up Ferris-- is to attend. But on the day in question, Grown-Up Ferris decides to take his son and show him the benefits of just slacking off, and drives away from the interview, determined to make his son have fun instead of taking life so seriously. Then Junior Ferris has to spend the day trying to trick his dad into the interview, while Senior Ferris is trying to trick his son into having a good time. In the end, they attend the interview as scheduled, and both learn a valuable lesson.) Bonus: The interviewer turns out to be Charlie Sheen's character from the first movie. This thing will write itself.

Literature Celebrity:
Um...let me think... Are there any celebrity writers? You're right. There's not. Nobody reads anymore. And I can prove it: I have it on good authority that John Grisham's last book was simply a reprint of the first chapter from The Firm with the main character's name changed to Rex Nordner, followed by 350 blank pages. (Note: It was optioned into a movie the moment it hit the stands.)

Let's move on...


Rock and Roll Celebrity:
Sting.

Why He'd Be A Good One To Choose: Sting needs money. He's tried everything since The Police ended -- he tried being a poet and an earnest musician and being an actor and even tried being mentioned on Friends, but nothing worked out, resulting in Sting biting the bullet and reforming The Police for an ill-advised, and even iller-received, reunion tour that for all I know might still be going on.

Where I'd Likely Bump Into Him: Assuming that tour is still going on, then I'll find him at the Retro Lounge of the Holiday Inn on I-94 outside of Milwaukee. The Police will be opening for a Vic Damone impersonator.

If it's not still going on, then he'll probably be working at a sub sandwich shop in Leeds.

How I'd Try To Embarrass Him: Order a sandwich. Say, "Hey, didn't you used to be Sting?"

How I'd Actually Embarrass Myself: He still is Sting, you idiot. Also, I didn't want mustard on the sandwich.

The Likely Result: It's kind of hard to see how this one leads to fame or riches, actually. But the sandwich would probably be okay, even with the mustard.



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Saturday, June 27, 2009

This is the only jingle you'll ever hear that will have you playing air guitar...(The Best Ad Jingles, 6)


It's a Minibest!

I really wish there were more of this jingle than just this tiny bit. I wish the Stones would get back together, exhume Keith Richards, and make this a full-length song. I give you:

"Rice Krispies," by The Rolling Stones:



I heard about this via Seth Stevenson's column on Slate. Seth has a lot of smart things to say about ads -- but he's also wrong in that column. There is no such thing as selling out (as I've said before)-- the concept is a hackneyed one applied only to "artists," who we feel should be above such things as making money, and paying rent and eating and surviving.

Seth: Artists sell out every time they make you pay to buy a record. True, you can have too much money -- anyone who earns more than $200,000 a year has too much money and is hoarding resources and hurting humanity through his/her actions, including the Black-Eyed Peas -- but you cannot sell out, even if you are an artist who makes art. We all do what we do to earn a living. Some of us write for Slate, some of us (me) sue people, some of us dance around in Target ads, and some of us write very cool Rice Krispie jingles.

Heck, I wish there were more awesome jingles like this, and that the bands would make money doing those and then let me download their albums for free.

So, Seth and others -- don't get mad that your favorite rock band made an ad. Get mad that they made an ad and then still charged you full price for the CD.




I'm thinking about ad jingles because I am engaged in trying to change the very nature of publishing -- by selling ad space in my upcoming book. Click here to read more about that.


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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Best Episode of A Police Show Ever.

I am not a fan of cop shows.

I'm not a fan of most TV shows, these days, and the shows that I am a fan of tend to get canceled just as soon as the universe hears that I like them. (I should never have irritated the Fates by challenging them to that riddle game and then asking them what have I got in my pocket?) Or, if they don't get canceled, then they get taken over by that weird guy with the teeth and totally ruined.

Seriously, what happened to Best Week Ever, the only show VH1 ever put on that was worth watching? I sat down one Friday night to watch it and instead of a bunch of unknown comedians making fun of Michael Buble, I got Paul F. Tompkins in front of that giant pinball machine from Electric Company, and no funny jokes. That, I think, is worse than canceling my show, because my show is still on, it just sucks terribly now.

Cop shows have never really drawn me in for two reasons. First, they're boring. And second, they're predictable.

Although, as I look at that, that may just be one reason and one result of that reason. Either way, though, I'm right: cop shows are boring and predictable.

Look at all the cop shows on TV and see what they all have in common.

Quirky partner pairings? Check: Whether it's Grissom and his fascination with bugs teaming up with ex-stripper-turned-CSI Marg Helgenberger, or Jeff Goldblum's guitar playing nutcase joining forces with that-girl-with-nondescript-hair, any cop show that wants viewers will create a quirky pairing. They even try it on Cold Case, although nobody on that show is quirky.

Ripped-from-the-headlines (but with a twist!) storylines? You bet: this week's installment of Law & Order: Criminal Intent was practically composed of only headlines: An evangelical Christian, who was downsized (in this economy!) for troubles with subprime loans murders (among others) a drama teacher! (Okay, so drama teachers have been absent from the headlines. The rest is all yesterday's news, quite literally.)

Commentary on how terrible our justice system is supposed to be? Right here: A recent episode of Law & Order/CSI/SVU/Criminal Minds/The Closer -- it doesn't matter which it actually was -- had a character saying I don't work for the fairness system, I work for the justice system. Touche, Hollywood writers. As a lawyer, all I can say is: Ouch... that hurts. Metaphorically speaking.

And all of that is not even touching on the most basic point about most cop shows, which is this: They are solved by accident. I've mentioned this before, that detectives mostly solve crimes accidentally on TV, but it bears repeating not just because they still do (A recent episode of the The Closer took this literally -- The Closer solved a crime because people kept going to the wrong address to inspect the scene of the crime) but also because the movie The Hangover just used exactly that same method to solve their problem.

[SPOILER ALERT! INVOLVING A MOVIE I SAW LAST WEEK AND INSTANTLY SAID MIGHT BE THE FUNNIEST MOVIE EVER BUT THE BOY TOLD ME I SHOULD JUST WAIT UNTIL THE EXCITEMENT DIES DOWN AND THEN SEE IF I STILL THINK IT WAS THE FUNNIEST EVER, WHICH IS SAYING A LOT COMING FROM HIM, BECAUSE HE ANNOUNCED THAT THE DARK KNIGHT WAS THE BEST MOVIE EVER ABOUT 3 SECONDS INTO THAT MOVIE.]

In The Hangover, and, seriously, do not read this if you haven't yet seen the movie, because it will wreck it for you. Just revealing this gives away about thirty punchlines and also the entire plot of the movie...

... forgive me. I'm having a crisis of conscience here because I'm still a little bitter about the fact that I knew, going in, that Bruce Willis was dead, and also I knew, going in, that Qui-Gon would die, so I'm just trying to weigh my moral obligations here, because I know there are going to be people like me who are thinking Just go ahead and tell us, I'm not planning on seeing the movie, which is why I originally read the secret of The Sixth Sense, only then they're going to see the movie, anyway, and it'll be spoiled for them.

Okay. I'm not gonna do it. I'm not going to do what everyone else in the world does. I'm not going to reveal the big twist in The Hangover. If you've seen it, you know what I'm talking about and how they solved their problem entirely by accident, and if you haven't, then you will see it, and you'll know what I was talking about.



Anyway, cop shows as a rule bore me and are predictable and trite and, by now, have more or less run through every possible scenario for every possible crime, and I'm not exaggerating that, either. When a cop show resorts to a world-famous astronaut killing another astronaut (and reveals, for no reason whatsoever, that one of the cops was going to be an astronaut and idolized the killer astronaut), they've exhausted plotlines. (And, as usual, I did not bother doing a SPOILER ALERT! for that because it's a stupid plot and stupid plots deserve to be spoiled.)

There was, though, one cop show once that drew me in and had me watching it every single week, for the whole two years that it was still on while I watched it. That show was Homicide: Life On The Streets.

Homicide was on TV for years before I ever heard about it. My roommate in law school liked to watch it and began telling me about it, and eventually I sat down and watched an episode of it, and I liked it, too. (Within two years, the show was cancelled. The Fates were a little slow, there, but didn't miss their chance.)

Homicide probably never had a chance, and not just because I liked to watch it. It was a complicated, thoughtful show that did not encapsulate each episode and isolate them from the rest.

That's a complaint I have about cop shows these days-- and it's also the reason they can stay on the air so long. If you watch Law & Order/SVU/The Closer/Monk, and the like, there is very little continuity from show to show. Sure, every now and then there's a to be continued, like the time the "special victims" that were being rescued were animals (ahem) but for the most part, each show has no connection to the shows in the past and no connection to the shows in the future. The characters don't grow or change or evolve or learn; they're static, like the kids in Peanuts (which had more continuity from strip to strip than most cop shows do these days.)

Don't bother saying but they mention Elliot's wife, or didn't Brenda marry Fritz? Or Monk's been investigating his wife's murder for years. Those don't really matter. They're just "character tidbits," sprinkled over the show like jimmies on ice cream. The writers have to give the cops something to say while they walk down the street to get to the brownstone where the Hispanic illegal immigrant (timely!) who is planning to shoot a doctor who gives abortions (timely!) because the doctor aborted his Iranian girlfriend's baby, resulting in her deportation back to that country (extra timely!), and so they scatter some "characterization:"

Emotionally-stable, probably-female cop character:
"So, as we walk to this brownstone to arrest this illegal immigrant, etc. etc., how are things going with that child or children you had in that one episode?"

Quirky, possibly-deranged, likely male cop character: "I've been studying guitar, in hopes of connecting with him/her/them but my wife, or if I am suddenly revealed to be a gay man in hopes of getting ratings, life partner, has really been interfering with my ability to do so."

Emotionally-stable, probably-female cop character: "Well, that's too bad. Hey, here we are. Let's go arrest this guy even though he's kind of a victim of the system."

Quirky, possibly-deranged, likely male cop character: "I don't work for the victim system. I work for the justice system."

Emotionally-stable, probably-female cop character: "That really didn't make any sense."


You get the point. By the next episode, the guitar-playing kids will never be mentioned again and the male character won't have a wedding ring on. The rule is: the less continuity, the better!because if there's continuity then viewers will not be free to tune in some weeks and tune out others, and will have to follow the show. You know what passes for continuity nowadays? Brenda carrying around her cat as she investigates a murder on The Closer.

Homicide was different. Homicide had continuity coming out its ears. It took me the better part of six months to get up to speed on the show, figure out who was who and why they acted the way they did, follow the ongoing investigations and storylines, and sort out characters, but it was six months' worth of entertainment I had in doing so, and as I figured out what was going on and who was who and why they did what they did, the storylines became richer for me, the characters more developed, everything more meaningful.

At the time I began watching, the ongoing story involved an attempt to investigate and bring down a murderous drug dealer named Luther Mahoney, who, with his gang, was responsible for murder after murder and crime after crime and who, I believe, had actually gotten some of the Baltimore cops shot. That investigation lasted months, until it culminated in an episode where three of the characters had cornered Luther Mahoney in his penthouse and were going to arrest him. They had Luther at gunpoint, and he had a gun, and as the cops and Luther faced off against each other, Luther put his hands to his side and dropped his gun and there was a heartbeat-length pause... and then one of the cops shot him. Just gunned him down.

That single act would reverberate over the remainder of the show as the cops tried to cover for each other and there was an investigation and then the cops had to investigate each other and finally the cop who'd done the shooting confessed and resigned, and all of it was gripping and well-done and kept me captivated.

You know how long that storyline would take on one of today's cop shows? 1 hour. Maybe 2 if they did it as a season-ending cliffhanger. Most of the story would be both revealed and resolved with Sam Waterston and a judge and a defense attorney in a hallway, arguing:

Sam Waterston: "I don't care if he's a cop, he shot someone in cold blood and then covered up the evidence for months and months and even hid it from the internal affairs investigation run by a good friend of his, all of which we didn't bother to show you because our viewers would get bored, so I'm just recapping it now."

Defense Attorney: "He shot a drug dealer, who had murdered dozens of people and even shot a cop, as was shown by the brief montage set to music that we played 22 minutes into the show, just prior to commercials. It's not fair to hold him to the same standard as drug dealers."

Judge: "I don't work for the fairness system. I work for NBC. Who writes this garbage, anyway?"

With all that, there was one episode of Homicide: Life On The Streets that really sticks out in my mind, and it had nothing to do with the ongoing investigation into Luther Mahoney, or any ongoing investigation, or any ongoing storyline. The episode in question was a one-off, an episode which had nothing much to do with anything else on the show but still stands out as The Best Episode of A Police Show Ever, because it was so compelling and so well done and also because it featured the only time I've ever seen a detective investigate a murder that isn't completed yet.

The episode was titled, simply, Subway, and starred Vincent D'Onofrio as a guy who takes the train to work sometimes -- just one day a week -- and who on this particular day is shoved in front of a train by a stranger. But he doesn't get hit by the train and die. He gets, instead, caught in between the train and the edge of the tracks, his body (below the waist) twisted over and over again... so that when the police arrive, he's trapped there, alive -- but not for long.

The homicide detectives are called in to investigate, but they're not even sure if they have a homicide, or an attempted homicide, or just an accident. What they are sure of is that Vincent D'Onofrio's chances are slim-to-none, and so as two cops investigate the murder-- maybe-- other cops are called out to go look for Vincent's wife, who is out jogging.

When I watched that episode the first time (I've watched it in reruns a few times since) I was struck by how great it was. Sad, yes, horrifyingly so, but also phenomenal storytelling that wasn't "ripped from the headlines" or paint-by-numbers detective work. Nobody stumbled across an answer, nobody tossed motions onto a judge's desk and said I'll see you in court, McCoy, nobody shone a blacklight onto a Luminol-spattered desk. Instead, cops walked around looking for a jogger, and they talked to a guy trapped by a subway, and they talked to a suspect and pulled records, and they talked to each other.

But that simple description belies what else was going on -- because the cops in the subway split up, one talking to the victim, one to the suspect -- and as the show went on, the cops began to develop sympathy for each of their witnesses, each getting one side of the story. Meanwhile, the other cops out looking for the victim's wife (so she could say goodbye) talked over what it would be like to be in that guy's situation, and engaged in one of the most mundane of police tasks, all set against a dramatic background.

And what I remember, most of all, beyond the chilling and sad feeling the episode gave me, was over and over the indirect emphasis the show placed on how circumstances placed Vincent D'Onofrio in that situation. His character mentioned, at one point, that he only rode the subway that one day just to make a point, and why'd it have to be that day?

That episode aired in 1997 -- four years before September 11, 2001, when thousands of people would or would not go into work at the World Trade Center, but two years after Oklahoma City, when hundreds of people would or would not go in to work at the federal building. It wasn't "ripped from the headlines" or playing on any obvious connections to any one news event; instead, it took a simple story and used it to elaborate on a theme that touches everyone's life -- how the random actions, the coincidences, the minor decisions that suddenly loom large can affect our lives.

What if Vincent D'Onofrio had been a few minutes late that day? What if he'd called in sick? What if his wife hadn't gone jogging? What if the suspect had opted to go to a different platform?

What if people had called in to work on September 11? What if they hadn't stopped for gas near Lee Boyd Malvo in Washington, D.C.?

On top of that, the cop who was picked to talk to Vincent D'Onofrio -- Andre Braugher's character -- had himself suffered a stroke that nearly killed him, long before, on the show, and so was fully aware how a day can begin one way and end an entirely different way, so Andre was not just investigating a murder -- a murder that hadn't happened yet -- but also was confronting his own past and impulses and motivations.

Anyone can write a cop show; I outlined one in this post without even thinking about it. But to write a cop show that forces a viewer to sit down and watch -- eyes glued to the screen -- and makes a viewer think about their own lives and the chances that may have been taken, without even knowing it, and forces a viewer to shudder a little as he watches the leaves on the trees shake in the wind, a little, just the way they did at the end of that episode, that takes talent. The Subway Episode of Homicide was the single most riveting, daring, creative, and unsettling episode of a cop show, ever. It had no car chases, dramatic confrontations, gun shots, punches, lawyerly speeches, jurors, judges, or any of the usual tropes of the genre.

It just had a guy who didn't know when he woke up that he was going to die that day, and some cops who had to investigate his death before it happened, and some quiet moments with mundane tasks that, as all great writing does, rose beyond the circumstances of the characters to resonate with the lives of anyone who watched it, making it The Best Episode of A Police Show, Ever.

So, the next time you're watching Gary Sinise suddenly look up from his desk and say: "What was that? What did you say about the rock band The Archies? Play that song again... yes. That part. Sugar sugar. That's it! She knew he was diabetic!" stop thinking about the inanity that passes for cop shows these days, and think, instead, about the kinds of shows that used to be on television, and maybe, then, stop watching these dumb shows and insist that networks put on good shows, shows that I would like, too. Sure, they may be cancelled by the Fates as soon as I start watching them, but we'll get a couple of good episodes out of them first.

Bonus! Someone put them on Youtube!

Part 1:


Part 2:


Part 3:


Part 4:


Part 5:


Part 6:



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Squirrels:


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Don't you just get the feeling that Jimmy Fallon would make up little skits about the bacon? (The Best Ad Jingles, 5)


It's a MiniBest!

Today's jingle isn't, technically, maybe, a jingle. Or it is. I don't know. I've never gone and looked up what is or is not a jingle and my stance on what is or is not a pizza would suggest that it's a jingle if I say it's a jingle, so I'm gonna go ahead and say today's jingle is, after all, a jingle.

But it's got no words.

And yet, it's hypnotic, the way a good ad jingle should be. Jingles are used, after all, to make you remember things and associate those memories, and the feelings, with the product the ad makers want you to buy, so it's absolutely essential, for a jingle, that it stick in your head like somebody velcroed it there.

(Like yesterday's, which I hummed a bit of to Sweetie in the afternoon, and then heard her singing three hours later as she got Mr Bunches out of the car... and that wasn't even for a real product!)

So today's Jingle, Jingle Number 5, has that hypnotic quality even though it doesn't have words, and even though it has two people in the commercial -- Jimmy Fallon and Parker Posey -- who I really don't... like. It's not that I dislike them. I don't. But I don't like them, either. I feel this way about them: If I were to attend a large brunch on a Sunday morning, and ended up sitting next to Jimmy Fallon and/or Parker Posey, I wouldn't necessarily leave but I would think to myself, "aw, crap," and it would definitely make me not go back for seconds.

Despite that handicap, though, the song really is quite amazing: Catchy, and itmakes you want to get up and move and maybe even order a Pepsi, especially 'cause that might get you a little further away from Jimmy Fallon:






I'm thinking about ad jingles because I am engaged in trying to change the very nature of publishing -- by selling ad space in my upcoming book. Click here to read more about that.



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Friday, June 19, 2009

The Teddy Bears Would Get Into Phenomenal Adventures But Would Not Play Soccer (The Best Ad Jingle, #4)

It's a MiniBest!

As I catalog on Best after Best on this blog, I am not one to be hampered by the fact that something is fictional; being fictional doesn't make something not The Best, in my opinion, and in fact, not actually existing in the "real" world may help things along. It's a lot easier to be The Best if you don't have to deal with the "real" world, with all the humidity and pieces of bagpipe scattered around my living room and cashiers getting confused when I give them a 50-cents-off-large-soda coupon at the theater and making me Sweetie almost miss the previews...

... okay, I got off on a tangent there. What I meant to say is that the fact that something didn't exist in the "real" world may help it be better than things that do exist in the "real" world, because "reality" can only bring things down, sometimes. "Reality" can result in people coming home from an afternoon movie to realize their Babies! got into the bagpipes...

... tangent again.

"Reality" could also result in people realizing that Iodent wasn't such a great toothpaste after all. You know how toothpaste is always overhyped, and you buy it in the store and rush home and quickly head downstairs, not even saying hello to the family because you're so excited about the new tube you just got, all unwrinkled and fluoride-y and with flavor strips right in it... and then it turns out to just be regular old toothpaste and you're dejected the rest of the day? That probably happens to everyone, and not just me, right?

Well, it'll never happen with Iodent, because Iodent, I've learned, never existed. Which means the promise held forth in the jingle sung by Annie and the orphans will never be broken, but will always exist in some dreamlike state of perfection and grace and promise -- the same dreamlike state that also is home to soccer games that are interesting, and home, too, to an action movie featuring Teddy Bears who have psychic powers. A wondrous land, indeed, but one that exists only in our collective minds... leaving us here in the "real" world with only the Annie song to cling to:





I'm thinking about ad jingles because I am engaged in trying to change the very nature of publishing -- by selling ad space in my upcoming book. Click here to read more about that.



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Thursday, June 18, 2009

We were originally going to cast Samuel L. Jackson in Jeff's part. (The Best Ad Jingles, 3)


It's a MiniBest!

Not too long ago, The Boy asked me "What's on a Big Mac, anyway?"

That's the kind of conversations The Boy and I have. We talk about what's on burgers, or we cast imaginary movies we're making up, like the movie I'm definitely going to write, called The Examiner and starring Jeff Goldblum, Elizabeth Banks, Richard Gere, Rachel Weisz, and featuring Helen Mirren as Judge Donna McCormack...

Or we discuss things like whether there was always a character named Murdock in every space movie ever, put there for the purpose of having a character say "Murdock, we don't do things that way!"

Or, we discuss things like whether there is really a "Musical Road" where the grooves in the road make cars play songs as they drive over it. (Turns out The Boy was not making that up, and I was probably wrong to ground him over his claim that it existed.)

But we also talk about what's in a Big Mac, anyway, and when The Boy asked me that, I answered without any hesitation whatsoever: two all beef patties special sauce lettuce cheese pickles onions in a sesame seed bun.

That, of course, is the Third Best Ad Jingle Ever: The ingredients for The Big Mac:



A commercial jingle that dates back all the way to 1975, when I was only six, but still was able to fully absorb the Big Mac ingredients and remember them, in that exact order, forever.

Seriously. Forever. That jingle is so effective, I will probably be able to recite the ingredients to a Big Mac even after they get me out of Hypersleep and move me into a retirement home on Ceti Alpha VI -- as I expect will happen someday; eventually, I assume, young people will get tired of old people like me constantly reminiscing about old ad jingles and making fun of their "grunge" bands and will forcibly ship us off to "Retirement Planets" where we will subsist on game shows and NutriPills (TM) but even then I will be able to recite the Big Mac jingle, as will people in the UK (who will do it in a sing-songy way):



And as will Aussies, who will take their NutriPills and hum the jingle with a disco beat (what, no grunge?):



(As an aside, didn't it look for a moment like the "Says Who?" Dad was gonna smack that kid?)

The jingle was necessary, for a couple of reasons. First, it set the Big Mac apart from all those other mysterious burgers. Ask someone what's on a Whopper, for example, and they'll fumble around, saying something like:

Um... er... ahhhh... Can I get back to you on that?

(It seems as though I asked that of Walter Mitty, doesnt' it?)

And second, because since the ad doesn't air anymore, kids are lost in a world where they don't know what's on the Big Mac -- and that's a world I don't want to live in. And, apparently, one I won't live in, eventually. I hope Ceti Alpha VI gets Jeopardy! transmissions.



I'm thinking about ad jingles because I am engaged in trying to change the very nature of publishing -- by selling ad space in my upcoming book. Click here to read more about that.



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Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Best Thing That Is Only Good, Really, If You Experience It Second-Hand.


The world can be divided into two kinds of experiences: Those that are best when you are directly involved in them, and those that are best when you just hear about them from someone else.

I don't mean that those are the only two kinds of experiences; there are an infinite number of ways to divide the way we experience the world -- there are experiences, I suppose, that are best when they happen accompanied by music, and experiences that are best only if they never ever ever happen to us, and experiences that would be awesome if it wasn't for the fact that during them we had a hangnail, and so on. The multitude of ways we experience our lives cannot really be boiled down to just two.

But let me do that anyway. Let me boil the way you and I and everyone else live our lives down to just two ways: Things that are best experienced directly and things that are best heard about from someone else.

Things that are best experienced directly include: Love. Pizza. The ending to that episode of Lost in Season 3 when Hurley and Charlie got the VW Bus started by popping the clutch as it rolled down the hill. The Las Vegas Strip on a warm night in December when you're from a cold state so that you can not only look around at all the lights and color and sound and noise but also you can keep in mind that back home, it's 40 degrees below zero. Those things are all great things that you would want the full effect of, and also things that when you experience them in person, as opposed to hearing about them, become fuller, more three-dimensional, or even more dimensions than that. They become four, or five, dimensional.

In fact, describing them takes something away from those experiences, like it almost did yesterday when I watched that episode of Lost (I'm a little behind but I'm diligently trying to catch up)(I'm in fact putting more work into "catching up on Lost" than I am on "my yard" and "my career" combined) where Hurley gets the VW Bus started just in time and they all drive around in the field with it for a while. I was about to start describing that episode to Sweetie, but just before I began to tell her about it, I sat and thought about it for a second and here's what I thought:

I don't know if I can capture the tension that built as they rolled down that hill, the thrumming in my head as they got closer and closer to the rocks, watching their eyes get wider and wider and seeing Hurley finally close his eyes and take a leap of faith and the engine came to life and they swerved around the rocks and began cheering and the music crescendoed... I don't know if I can accurately relate the sheer exhilaration that was communicated by seeing that light-blue VW Bus drive around the Lost landscape.

And also I thought:

Sweetie is napping and if I wake her up just to tell her about that, she's gonna be mad.

So I kept it to myself.

But you get the idea: Watching that scene, like the Las Vegas Strip and Pizza and Love, is best experienced first-hand, and many things are that way: good only if we actually live through them.

Then there are the other, and thankfully smaller category, of things, which is, again, things that are only good, really, if you experience them second-hand.

I first became acquainted with this category of things when I was, in fact, exposed to that Thing which is the nominee in this category, over 15 years ago, but I won't spoil the surprise yet and instead will focus on other things that are only good if you experience them second-hand.

Things like rock concerts. I recently downloaded the Coldplay free live album and was listening to it this weekend, and doing that made me think two things:

First, I thought, it's easy to give away free stuff if you're Coldplay. Really, shouldn't all of their stuff be free from here on out? I propose a system in this world where, once you make enough money, you can't make any more. Take Chris Martin, of Coldplay. If you google "How much money does Chris Martin make?" you won't get any really helpful answers (thanks, Internet!) so you'll just go back to writing about him and you'll say this: He probably makes a lot of money. I doubt very much that Chris Martin will ever be hurting for cash again, so why is he still selling us records? Keep making them, sure, but give them to us for free.

I vow this: When I have made all the money I'll need for the rest of my life, I will then give my services -- law and writing-- away free.

Second, and more to the point of this entry, I thought this: Man, rock concerts just weren't that much fun, were they? I never got the point, to be honest. I've been to my share of concerts, including seeing Paul McCartney live in Chicago and Pink Floyd live in Madison and the BoDeans live at "Maritime Days" and, once, Cheap Trick live at the Waukesha County Fair (my mom waved to Robin Zander in the hopes that he would see her and call her up to the stage and whisk her away to a life that probably seemed more glamorous than it really would have been) and more, and, in the end, I just don't care for concerts.

(I also don't generally care for live versions of songs, aside from a bootleg version of U2's Bad I had once and aside, now, from the live version of Fix You.)

Concerts are loud, and sweaty, and expensive, and the songs don't sound like they do on the cassette tape/cd/mp3 player, and there's always someone next to you throwing up (thanks, man!) and what are you supposed to do, anyway? I listen to music while I do other stuff -- work or read or drive or clean or play with the Babies! Am I supposed to just sit and listen at a concert? But everyone else is standing, or dancing, or swaying, or barfing.

In the end, I think rock concerts are best experienced through someone else. It's way better, I think, for me to describe to you seeing INXS on their "Listen Like Thieves" tour play the free "rock stage" at Summerfest, describing the way we waited in line all day in the sweltering August humidity, taking turns running to get beers, the way we finally got into the rickety bleachers that formed the stands for the rock stage, and watched as INXS finally got ready to take the stage, the way Michael Hutchence prowled the stage and roared and growled as the guitars rang through the speakers, the way the boards of the bleachers shook as we cheered and sang along ("everybody's... down on their knees!") and watched while clouds rolled in and a thunderstorm opened up and rain torrented down, driving INXS from the stage and soaking us through the bone, leaving us stumbling through knee-deep water on the fairgrounds amidst a flashflood, happy and sunburnt and wet and still humming Don't Change.

Okay, bad example, 'cause that was pretty great to experience, actually, but that doesn't change the rule that rock concerts are generally best experienced through someone else's eyes.

As are other things, like weird foods. Talking the other day with a client, we were discussing some of the weird things I had eaten (a sheep's eyeball, for one thing) and some of the weird things he'd eaten (various indelicate parts of a bull, mixed into a taco) and afterwards, I think we both agreed that we were both better off not having eaten what the other guy ate.

Experiences -- good experiences -- that are best had second-hand are that way for a variety of reasons.

Sometimes it's because the idea is better than the actuality, as it is with rock concerts. The idea of a rock concert is: "get together with all the other fans, see your rock heroes live on stage, hear the songs you love louder than life, dance and sing and have fun." The reality is that the sound won't be that great, you'll worry that you're going to get pickpocketed, and there will be that point, at the end of the concert, when you and other fans stand for 15 more minutes holding up your lighters (or iPhone lighter-apps) and cheering, only to sheepisly realize that, no, the band's not coming back for a fourth encore, they really are gone, and you'll all sort of quiet down at once and begin walking out, and also, on the way home, you'll say Hey, they never actually did perform [fill in the name of the song you hoped they'd do but they didn't].

Other times, it's because the good parts are all scattered or separated by lengthy not-good parts, or otherwise hard to get to, or there's not enough good parts mixed in with the just-regular parts. Some experiences are like that: like a birthday cake where all the extra frosting-stuff, the flowers and trains and things, are all in one corner, but you lined up too early and you're getting one of the first pieces, from the other end, where there's hardly any frosting at all.

Vacations and other people's kids are like that. Vacations sound fun, in theory, but they involve spending a lot of money and carrying two-year-olds through airports and there's never enough leg room anywhere, and somehow, on every vacation you ever go on, even the ones to New York City, you'll get sand in your pants and have to sit uncomfortably at dinner. The fun parts of vacations are scattered throughout all the cramped/tired/sandy pants parts, making vacations something that is best experienced through someone else: In ten minutes, I can hear all the great parts about your trip to Portland, Oregon. (Note: I probably won't really be listening.)

Other people's kids, too, are best experienced through those people. Spend 10 minutes with a parent and you'll hear all the cute, smart, probably-made-up-or-at-least-exaggerated stuff that kid did, and you are then spared the actual experience of living with that kid. Because think about this: Take some parent you know (me, for example) and consider how many stories that parent has of all the cute, smart, probably-made-up-or-at-least-exaggerated stuff that kid has done (zillions, in my case. Plus some other junk.)

Then add up, mentally, in your mind, how much actual time all those thing would have taken, and compare that to the actual age of the kid.

I'll give you a Hypothetical Example:

Parent A comes to you and says "Yesterday, when I was walking my kids to McDonalds and then the park, where I let them play in the "Splash Park" and get soaking wet despite the fact that they were wearing regular clothes and their only pair of shoes, resulting in my having to call Sweetie... I mean Parent B... and ask her to bring towels and a change of clothes, and during that time, Mr F leaned down and got squirted in the mouth by a water fountain and it was really cute..."

(It was really cute, by the way. Hypothetically speaking)

How long would that story take? About twenty seconds. And that's all I told you about Mr F -- I mean, Hypothetical Kid. But yesterday was 24 hours long -- or (takes out calculator)(Realizes calculator doesn't have batteries)(gets pen to do math longhand)(gives up) -- a whole lot of seconds, each of which was not worth telling you about, and many of which involved diapers or messes or, once, not being entirely sure where the Babies! were.

So if you'd directly experienced Parent A's day, you'd have had twenty seconds of cuteness, and a whole lot of not cuteness. But, thanks to SecondHand experiences, you got to enjoy just the good parts.

Which brings me to my nominee, which was where I started all this, talking about The Best Thing That Is Only Good, Really, If You Experience It Second-Hand, and that thing is:

Monty Python skits.

Going back about fifteen years now, I've heard, off and on, from people who loved Monty Python skits. I first heard about them from my Washington D.C. roommate, Rip, who loved Monty Python skits, and who at times would tell me about them -- the guy with the parrot, and the Black Knight who loses his legs or whatever, and the Knights That Say Neep or whatever. Rip loved Monty Python, and would tell me these skits and they would be very funny, very funny indeed. So funny that I would think to myself "I've got to see this Monty Python."

Periodically, after that, other people would tell me about Monty Python, too, and they would describe or act out or recite the skits, and they, too, were very funny. They'd tell me about movies and songs and something about Spam and more, and I'd again think to myself I really should check that out.

Then, Monty Python got made into a musical on Broadway, and that, too, sounded funny; I'd read reviews (yes, I read reviews of musicals. What of it?) and think I should go see that. If, you know, Sweetie and I go to New York City again. Then, I'd think You know, I still wonder how that sand got in my pants. It's a city, for Pete's sake!

Then I watched some Monty Python, through the miracle of having a DVD and one day realizing I could set it to tape some Monty Python.

And, you know what? It stunk. I never laughed at all even for a second.

I didn't give up there, either. I watched a couple of Monty Python movies, or tried to, but I fell asleep in them and gave up and never went back, because they stunk, too.

And I was reminded of this all when I happened to see, before a movie last night, an inexplicably-weird commercial for "G," a commercial that involved that dance group that seems like they'd be serial killers and also, I think, a basketball player, and the guys in the commercial were doing that thing that the guys in Monty Python did, which is pretending to ride horses and making the sounds.

Here's a far-too-long video that seems to include the commercial:



I remembered hearing about the Monty Python guys doing that, clipclopping their horse-sounds, and thinking that sounds funny, and then I remembered watching them doing it, and thinking No, it's not funny after all, and then I watched that commercial, and I had a moment that really seemed as though the space-time continuum was getting all muddled up, because it was both funny and not at the same time.

As I watched that commercial, I first remembered Rip, and others, telling me about Monty Python doing that horse thing, and I thought how funny it was when they told me about it; so the commercial was kind of like it was telling me about Monty Python and because I was, through the commercial, experiencing Monty Python second hand, it was funny.


But I was also experiencing the commercial itself first-hand, and it was extremely not funny (and also weird) and I didn't like it. I sat there and watched and tried to sort it all out, the not funny competing with the funny, but it was all too complicated so I went back to wondering if it was too early to go get a refill on my Large Popcorn. (I decided it was; nobody should ever be refilling a large popcorn before the actual movie starts, even if they have somehow eaten half of it already.)

I slept on it and mulled it over today and decided that what makes Monty Python funny is not Monty Python or the skits or anything like that.

Monty Python skits themselves are not funny. Watching people try to do Monty Python skits is funny. What makes the latter funny is the fun of seeing someone else try to be Monty Python and watching them as they try to relate to you the joy they took in that skit, watching them try to communicate the humor in the skit, and experiencing, vicariously, the thrill and laughter they had already lived through. The person acting it out for you is the funny, is the humor... provided that the person isn't serious about acting it out, but is only trying to get you to see how funny it was (even though it wasn't.)

All of which has made me think about this: What if there was, say, a troupe of people who would act out skits about people acting out Monty Python skits? Would that be so ultimately funny and enjoyable that it would exceed all previously-known humor limits and catapult the human race, giggling, into an unimaginable future? Or would it have the opposite effect, creating a humor vortex, not unlike that G commercial, only more powerful, which would pull into its maw all humor and enjoyment?

Either way, I'm not going to try it. I'm feeling a little tired from all the popcorn, and I've still got two more seasons of Lost to watch.



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Ultimate present:


Monday, June 08, 2009

The Seven Best Songs To Teach Yourself How To Clap In Time With A Song


Like many people, I am rhythm challenged. Although that's not exactly accurate, and since I strive for accuracy here, I will try to be exactly accurate.

Exactly accurate. That's fun to say. That should be in the title of a book. Exactly Accurate Zachary. Hey, I just wrote a kids' book.

Anyway, in the interest of exact accuracy (note: it's not as fun to say it that way) I will rephrase my opening thusly:

There are those people who have rhythm, and sometimes rhythm to spare. People like Toni Basil or Edgar Allen Poe, people to whom the musical ebb and flow of language and music are second nature.

Then there are people who have no rhythm, people like Mr Bunches, who tries very hard to dance to the music that's on the advertisement for the Disney Snow White DVD whenever he hears it, but he's just off the beat, just by a little. It's cute, but not rhythmic. (Others who have no rhythm include such luminaries as Grimace and director George Lucas.)_

Then there is me. I am antirhythmic, and by that I mean that not only am I completely incapable of catching onto the beat of a song (any song) but I generally end up completely off the beat -- clapping my hands in exact counterpoint to the beat, and causing much amusement in my car, music class when I was in sixth grade, shower... wherever it is I'm trying to keep the beat.

I can't do it. I will try to tap the beat, quietly, with my foot or fingers or hands (and, sometimes, when I'm alone in my car, I will try to clap along with the beat, but never when I'm actually moving)(almost never when I'm actually moving)(quite a bit of the time when I'm actually moving, actually.)(Exactly Accurate!) and when I do that, try to keep up with the beat, I'm always off, and always exactly opposite.

Or so I'm told, since I'm not really sure what "the beat" is, anyway, which might contribute to my inability to clap along with "the beat." I'm just told, by Sweetie, my kids, the people in my music class in sixth grade, my piano teachers, whoever, that I'm "off the beat."

And it bothers me. Bothers me quite a bit, actually, and more than it probably should because I have a great many other talents, talents like "being able to name all of the members of the Legion of Superheroes, at least through 1989" and like "being able to identify, in any given food or drink, whether it tastes kind of like some orange was mixed in," and so I shouldn't worry about being "off the beat," or "antirhythmic," or "clueless about what, exactly, the beat is in a piece of music." After all, if it didn't stop me from playing piano all these years, and it hasn't, then it shouldn't worry me, right?

Maybe "the beat" is overrated, I think to myself. Maybe, since I can play "Toccata in D Minor" on piano, and can play "I Don't Like Eating Gummi Bears" (an original composition!) on acoustic guitar, without knowing how to "keep the beat," I tell myself, then maybe "the beat" isn't so important. Maybe me and Grimace and Beethoven can get along without it.

But then I hear songs and I want to tap my foot or clap my hands with them and I'm off, everytime, exactly off the beat. Which might make me popular in the Southern Hemisphere, where everything is opposite -- up is down, left is right, "cricket" is a sport -- but I don't want to be popular in the Southern Hemisphere! I want to be able to clap with the beat! (Well, actually, I want to be able to clap with the beat, and be popular in the Southern Hemisphere. I'm just being dramatic.)

So I have devised for myself a little course, and I'm making it available to you, the way Oprah makes quack remedies and foolish pipe dreams available to you. The difference between me and Oprah is that my system actually works, and that me mentioning my system won't make Kentucky Fried Chicken go bankrupt.

So, if you, like me, are rhythm-challenged, don't despair: You can follow my simple step-by-step course, below, and soon you will be clapping and tapping with the rest of the world. (Then, once we've mastered that, we can take over the Southern Hemisphere; what with everything being backwards there, I assume that'll be easy -- their army will yell Charge! and they'll retreat.)

Step One: Basic Clapping. Any good program-- yoga, Reaganomics, Lost --- begins with the basics and mine is no different. Our warm up song will help you limber up with some spoken word intros, histrionic vocals, and only some very minimal handclapping once you're good and ready. Let's jump right in with a little one, one-two, one, one-two, as shown in:

You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth
(Meatloaf)




How's that feel? Good? Loose? Well, tighten up those leg warmers (you did put on leg warmers, right?)(If not, go do that. We'll wait.) On to

Step Two: We'll move along slowly with a slightly-more-upbeat song, but one that features tubas, so you know it can't be too challenging. Step Two also has the handclaps conveniently placed in between the words, so that people like me don't have to think while clapping. That's important. Here's Song Two: Speak To The Sky (Rick Springfield)




Okay! We're moving along. Now, let's mix it up a bit. Keep the tempo low, but I'm gonna' throw a reverse at you: Here's Step Three: Before I Knew (Basia Bulat), and you'll see that the rhythm of the clapping is the exact opposite of the Meatloaf song. But don't freak out -- there's a ukelele in there, so that'll help keep things mellow.



All right! Now we're to the part of the lesson that, if this was a movie which had people in a "spinning" class, would be marked by the instructor telling us to bear down, and the protagonist (Bradley Cooper) grinning and saying I can do this before having his wheel shoot off into a random direction and spilling him on his side in front of the girl he's trying to impress (Scarlett Johannson)

What? No, I didn't get it either. But here's Step Four: Lots of clapping and even some math. (Note: We've reached my limit with this song; I can't do the clapping. Or the math.) Here's Elementary My Dear (Schoolhouse Rock)



Now, those of you who are ready to continue to surpass me and move on to "Intermediate," try, if you dare, Step Five: Whistling and ukelele-sounding instruments and clapping and artsy lyrics that'll have you pondering the meaning of them while realizing that not only are you not clapping correctly, but you've also spilled your Ramen noodles on the steering wheel. (Note: That metaphor is not based on anyone I know.)(Okay, it was me.) Here's 5 Years Time (Noah and the Whale)




What, still here? You are a tough one, aren't you? Okay, one more intermediate-level song to work on. And it's a chick song! See if you don't throw an elbow on this one. I recommend moving some furniture out of the way, first. Step Six: is Sea Lion Woman (Feist). What, you thought she could only do counting songs?

I bet that clapping can only be done if you use a knee, too -- clapping and hitting your knee and probably you'd still need a helper. But that pales in comparison to the Expert Level song, which is Step Seven. This is the last lesson, and before I can let you try it, you'll have to sign a waiver...

... here.

... here.

... initial here.

Okay. If you feel up to it, give this a shot: See if you can mimic the clapping in this song. The first one starts at about 56 seconds, and I'd use that time to warm up/notify your next of kin, because even if you master that, at about 2:19, there's a different clap. In all fairness, I should warn you that scientists have been working for years to try to isolate and mimic this clap, without success... and it's driven some of them mad. Here it is, if you dare:

The Underdog (Spoon)



Me, I'm not trying that one. I'm going to go hang with my buddy Grimace.