Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy And Hard To Get Out Of Your Head (4)

It's time to consider again how you, as a reader, know that you should believe me when I say that something is The Best? I mean, sure, the motto of this blog is Our Opinions Are Righter Than Yours, but is that really proof that my opinions are righter than yours?

Yes. Yes, it is.

But I don't, as a blogger, rest on my laurels (whatever those are; I think they're a type of shoe) and I don't rest on a blog's subtitle, either. I also get you to believe -- and agree -- that what I say is The Best really is The Best by the simple force of my logic; the arguments I present here for why something is The Best have the inexorable pull of truth, or at least the inexorable pull of sounding like something that will hold up to at least moderate scrutiny, and aren't those the same thing, nowadays?

Yes. Yes, they are.

But I don't rest on those laurels, either. I like to be hoist by my own petard -- I'm not using that correctly, but since only I know what a petard is, who are you to criticize me? I like to point out to you, my reader, from time to time, that I also say things that turn out, later, to be true.

The latest occurrence of someone doing exactly what I said they'd be doing? Or kind of almost exactly what I said they'd be doing? Corporations are starting to use mini-Death Stars in every day life.

Remember back when I did my five-part investigative series on The Best Worst Villain? (Sure you do: Part Five, with links to the first four installments, is here.) Remember how I said this:
Without crazy villains, we wouldn't have the technology to invent Death Rays (now being used by Wal-Mart against shoplifters)

There are those who said "That's crazy! Wal-Mart isn't using Death Rays against shoplifters." There are those who said "Take that down or you're going to be sued into submission." (Those latter were mostly Wal-Mart's lawyers. There are those who said "Wait, I really don't remember you posting that; I'm new here."

Well, all of you were wrong, kind of. Because corporations are using lasers as death rays -- so far, only against mosquitos. Intellectual Ventures, a corporation backed by Microsoft money, is hard at work using "Star Wars"-like technology to build tiny laser guns to shoot down individual mosquitos, one at a time -- and they envision using it in your back yard.

The implications of this are staggering -- namely for Steve Jobs, who thought he'd beaten Microsoft, only to now learn (via this blog, which I'm sure he reads) that Microsoft has tiny Death Stars, probably circling Jobs' home. And for other corporations, too -- how long before your cable company uses this technology to vaporize people who illegally steal cable? Or the recording industry blasts iPods with illegally-downloaded songs on them?

I'm sorry, world. I'm sorry that I gave people the idea to use Death Rays in every day life and commerce. But I can't put the cat back in Pandora's box, so we're going to have to live with it. The good news is that the Death Rays are being designed by Microsoft, more or less -- so they'll lock up 3 out of 4 times you try to use them, and that gives you a fighting chance.

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: Song 4 in the The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy And Hard To Get Out Of Your Head: Making Love (Out Of Nothing At All), by Air Supply: Now you can hum the chorus all day as you wonder how long it will be before Burger King showers you with death from above for eating at Wendy's:

Other songs on this MiniBest:

Seven Nation Army.

Broadway Show Tunes (nominated by Reader Abbie!)

Poker Face

Click here for a list of all the MiniBests, ever.

Click here for a list of everything I've ever discussed on this blog.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The 8 Best Driving Songs You Should Use To Replace "Radar Love."

It's a SemiDaily List!

Given America's love of music, and driving, and given how well music and driving go together, I'm kind of surprised that as a culture, the United States has decided that one song, and one song only, be used as the driving song.

That song, of course, is Radar Love, and it's a great song, to be sure. Anyone who ever listened to Radar Love has felt the pounding, driving beat grip them and work its way into their bones and make them want to get into a car and go driving, or, if they're in the car already and driving, felt the music make them want to hit the pedal harder and pass that guy in front of you, the one who's got his giant coffee mug resting between his knees and an Egg McMuffin in his left hand, kind of hanging out the window, and he's tapping his hand on the steering wheel as though it's in time to the music, but it's pretty obvious that he's actually listening to NPR. God, I hate that guy.

But I, like everyone else, love Radar Love, and whenever it comes on I feel the urge, just like you do, to drive... at least until the song becomes monotonous, which happens about 30 seconds into it, after which I start thinking Okay, well, how long does this go on? Then, at about 2 minutes, my mind is all "All right, let's wrap it up," and then, by about 15 minutes into the song, I'm thinking "Okay, all ready, Jim-Morrison-Wannabe, we get it, you're driving!"

Look, I'll just say it: Radar Love sucks. Okay? There. We can all breathe easier and relax and admit that as a culture: Radar Love is just Autobahn with a fancy guitar lick:

And the suckitude of Radar Love is only enhanced by the fact that whenever the subject of driving comes up, in movies or TV or, probably, books, the song Radar Love seems to accompany the driving scene/talk/paragraph. And okay, maybe it's not in books yet, but I've already started incorporating music into my books, and with the iPad having been invented for the sole purpose of helping Steve Jobs put Jeff Bezos in his place, (a personal grudge being the reason you and I will now have to pay more than $9.99 for books), how long can it be before Steve Jobs steals my idea and forces you to listen to Radar Love everytime John Irving mentions the blue Camaro? Not long, that's how long.

The Entertainment Industry does that a lot -- they pick one song, and make it a representative of one thing. When someone's got something to overcome, they'll be told Don't Stop Believin'. Got some wacky errands to run before a big event? Your tasks will be accompanied by Walkin' On Sunshine. Everything not quite right in your world? You'll hear this in the background:

And "Radar Love" is among the worst offenders of the overused song, appearing in 20 movies, 34 TV shows (including twice on The Simpsons, showing again how bereft of new ideas that show is), 4 car commercials (and five other commercials, including, weirdly, an ad for a White Lion concert tour...) and, holy macaroni, I was right...

thirty-four books.

That's right: thirty-four. Radar Love figures into at least thirty-four books. Thanks a bunch, Steve Jobs. Why don't you go pick on someone else for a while?

"Radar Love" is even played by toy cars -- how many toys can you think of that play your favorite song?

All of that information comes courtesy of "," a website devoted to promoting the cult of Radar Love and also of promoting weird pictures of large-eyed naked green ladies for some reason, and all of that information is enough to make me say enough. Radar Love should not be our go-to song for driving -- it's overused, too long, too boring, and, also, not versatile enough. Not every driving scene is the same, Big Entertainment.

It's time to do what this post promised, and pick out some new driving songs that you can listen to when you drive, or when you want to drive, and that hopefully you'll hear when your movies, TV shows, toy cars, and books, talk about driving. Here's

The 8 Best Driving Songs You Should Use To Replace "Radar Love."

1. I Want To Hold Your Hand: The Beatles.

So you like the opening riff in Radar Love and want a song that similarly inspires you, revving up the music like you rev up your car?

Don't you know that revving up your car is bad for it? Plus, it's really annoying to me that you do that when I'm sitting at the light ahead of you. What do you want me to do, run the red light? Back off, buddy! We're living in a society here.

I Want To Hold Your Hand starts with a guitar riff that mimicks the act of revving up or starting a car. Imagine yourself sitting at the starting line, playing the part of Danny Zuko, and as the guitar riff plays you smash the gas pedal down and think "Why is it okay that Kenickie likes Rizzo, but not okay that I like Sandy?"

Then you banish those thoughts and take off on the race: Only rules is, there ain't no rules. And behind your racing engine and dangerous driving is The Beatles -- singing about something that only sounds innocent but leads to more trouble.

2. Dance Hall, Modest Mouse.

Maybe it's the beat you liked in Radar Love. If so, check out the driving force behind Dance Hall, a thumping, pounding, beat that jumps into your temple and presses down on the part of your mind that makes you press down on the gas pedal (it's right there behind the medulla oblongata, but scientists won't admit that part of the brain exists.)

3. 7th And 17th, Pela.

Not every drive is a race to the finish, there, Racer X. Sometimes you're in your car, and you've got the kids in the backseat, and your wife at your side, and you're driving along on a country road that winds and twists past a lake that's barely visible through the trees, which themselves are barely visible in the blaze of gold and orange and yellow that's shining around you as the bright September sun lights the sky, and you're pointing out the landmarks on the way to take the kids to see where you grew up...

... and when you do that drive, what are you going to listen to? You're going to put on 7th and 17th, and watch the shadows flicker over your dashboard as you near the street you lived on until you were 17.

4. O My Cherry, Pas/Cal:

Some drives, on the other hand, will be across the great plains, vast expanses of land stretching between you and your loved ones, hundreds of miles of sameness that needs to be crossed so that you can stretch out on the clean sheets your wife has put on the bed for you that night, and feel your feet unclench as you look up at your own ceiling, memories of cacti and mesas and straight roads and wavery, heat-soaked horizons just that... memories, which play in your head to the tune of O My Cherry.

This song is such a good driving song that someone's already driven around to it:

5. Queen Of Hearts, Juice Newton

You'll notice that none of the songs so far mention driving. There's a reason for that: Driving itself is not so interesting, and doesn't lend itself to a good song topic. Driving isn't really a thing anymore, in America, not in and of itself. It's been a long time since cruising was a thing to do, and even longer since cruising was a cool thing to do.

Nowadays, when you're driving, you're driving to something or away from something -- and driving is a means to an end. That makes the choice of driving song all the more important. Not only does it have to have the right mechanics, like I Want To Hold Your Hand's opening guitar, and Dance Hall's beat, but it has to have the right feel.

Queen Of Hearts has the feel for the drive-away. That acoustic guitar riff in there feels like shaking something off -- hopping in your car, flipping your hair around, and driving off -- into the sunset, or the sunrise, it doesn't matter. What matters is what you're leaving behind, and what matters about that is that it's being left behind. Queen Of Hearts is the first song of the rest of your life.

5. Common People, William Shatner.

And the second song of the rest of your life is the one that has you kicking it into higher gear; this song (featured before on this site, here), as the cops/your ex-girlfriend/the corporate security goons who just realized you stole the one hard drive that'll send them all to jail come after you. You see them in your rearview mirror, you hit the gas, and turn the volume up and you hear the throbbing opening beat over Shatner's overly-calm narration:

And you know you're in for the ride of your life. Keep your head down, and your spirits up! "Common People" has all the hallmarks of a great car chase song: fast beat, constantly-rising crescendo, even a chorus that sets up an us-against-them vibe.

6. Steppin' Out: Joe Jackson.

But maybe your driving is more mellow: Maybe you're not on the run from those security goons. Maybe, instead, you're on that first big date with that really hot girl. Or you're going to revive the romance in your marriage. Whatever the reason behind it is, you've cleaned out all the empty Dr Pepper cans from behind the drivers' seat, gotten that old PB&J sandwich out of the glove box and thrown it away, and you've even showered... at night. You're all set to go pick up the lady of your dreams and put her in the car and whisk her away, but what song will accompany your magical night in the city (or, if it's prom, your "magical night in the amateurishly-decorated gym?")

This one:

Why isn't that song in every luxury car commercial?

7. A More Perfect Union, Titus Andronicus:

This song serves a dual purpose-- replacing both Radar Love and Born To Run as the song of choice to indicate that the protagonists are abandoning society. If you've got to put someone on a motorcycle and send them careening through Nova Scotia, if you've got to have someone race their car through the Appalachian Mountains after they've just dropped out of college to pursue their dream of becoming the first-ever one-legged cricket player, if you've got to demonstrate just how dramatically exciting it is as the Ace Of Cakes is transporting that wedding cake from Manhattan to a different part of Manhattan, the shouted lyrics and blurry guitars of A More Perfect Union will serve you just fine, advancing the action while making your not-so-subtle point. Bonus points for taking the line "baby we were born to run" from Born To Run and twisting it into something nihilistic.

8. The Bleeding Heart Show, The New Pornographers:

I've saved maybe the most perfect driving song to finish up the list. The Bleeding Heart Show is an ideal companion for any drive, whether you're heading to the grocery store because you're out of chocolate chip cookies and Mr F is sad and you want to cheer him up, or whether you've packed all your belongings into the back of the van and are heading off to college, or doing something symbolically in the middle of those extremes.

The song starts off like every drive: slow and familiar and plodding, as you make your way out of the driveway and through your own familiar neighborhoods, but before long, the song -- and you -- are soaring along into new territory, along Pacific Highway 1 or past Disney World or across that one bridge that leads into Maryland (there's probably a bridge that leads into Maryland somewhere), and just as that happens, the song fades from recognizable, words and music with specific meanings, to a generalized chorus that talks of having arrived too late but it doesn't seem, with the music soaring, that you're actually too late in a bad way... and the adrenaline boost you've gotten from the song carries you over any doubts you may have had along the way, pushing you ever forward, ever on, ever faster...

... until you get those cookies, and bring them back home. Or whatever. Because it's not about where you're driving to, or from... but what you're listening to while you drive.

Related posts:

The Seven Best Songs That Show What Love Is Really Like

The Best Song From A Commercial

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Welcome Another TBOE Reader!

Add to the ever-growing list of celebrity readers of this blog Mr. King Of The World (But Still Second Banana To His Ex-Wife Who Got The Oscars)...

James Cameron!

Yes, that James Cameron, the man who at last count had earned 98% of all the money in the world for his movie "Gelflings Of Pandora,"reads this blog. You can tell because he's getting his story ideas from me.

On February 22, 2010, I posted The Best Sequels That Haven't Been Made Yet, in which I came up with the idea for Avatar 2: Electric Boogaloo. Specifically, what I said was this:

White-Man-Who-Learns-To-Love-Nature has married the girl, and now must deal with the impact of uniting all those tribes of Thundercats. ...he's not entirely comfortable with all these people and customs and tribes yet, and it's not long before his leadership is challenged... specifically, at a banquet on the shore of the ocean-y blue people, where Sam cannot take part in all the rituals that the blue people love because he doesn't know them. Realizing he's still an outsider, the Blue People rally around the Sea Leader, who has a bold plan of mounting a pre-emptive strike against humans to keep them from ever coming back. (Using, um... space trees or something.)... leading Sam to the Dance Arena on an island in the sea, where he'll have one chance to demonstrate that he's truly a Blue Person... or die.

Now, pre-xactly two months later, here comes James Cameron with... um... 'his' idea for a sequel:

"I'm going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora."

I'm sure he'll also be focusing on giving me co-producer credit for Avatar 2. But I can have my name below the credits. I'm not publicity-crazy. (Just regular crazy.)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

She's like Madonna crossed with HypnoToad. (The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy and Hard To Get Out Of Your Head, 3)

It's a MiniBest!

I'm not a fan of Lady GaGa. Not. At. All. I had never even heard a Lady GaGa song until Cartman sang her song on South Park, after which Sweetie went and downloaded this:

Poker Face. And for the rest of that night, and now whenever I think of it, including right now, all I can think of p-p-p-poker face p-poker face.

The Babies! like to dance to it. I'm listening to it while I type this and Mr Bunches has come over and is dancing in front of me, kind of in a daze as though he's been hypnotized by it.

I have this song on the playlist I use for jogging, and once it came on, and after jogging to it for a while, I realized I was breathing in time with the song... about 10 minutes after it had ended.

Other nominations for this category:

Reader Nomination: Broadway Showtunes (from Abbie Turned Normal!)

Song One: Seven Nation Army.

Here's a list of all the MiniBests (and an explanation about what that is.)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Reader Nomination: The Best Monsters Society Should Be Fearing/Pretending Are Symbolic Of Things.

I'm a little late in reposting this, but I like to encourage reader nominations (and remind people that by commenting on any of my blogs, you're entered into a drawing to win one of my books, free).

This comment is from Lia, who nominates as a Monster In Need Of Fearing And Symbolicizing (remember, kids, grammar is bunk: if someone says it, it's a word. Invent your own today!) The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Lia doesn't say why Creature (do you think he minds if I call him Creature? Maybe? How about this...) Lia doesn't say why Mr. Black Lagoon (it's a boy, right? I'm pretty sure it kidnapped a girl) would be a fitting addition to the List of Monsters, but I think Mr/Ms. Black Lagoon's resume speaks for itself:

Employment History:
-- 1930s-Present: Terrorizing people, possibly kidnapping a woman once.
--1900-1920: Bassoon player, Guy Lombardi Orchestra.

Special Skills:
-- Amphibious.
-- I can do that cupstacking thing that for some reason is all the rage, and I'm really good at it despite having webbed hands.

Awards/Honors/Community Service:

1952 recipient of the Congressional Medal of Black Swampitude.

Lia has a blog, mud nouveau, on which she mostly posts pictures of her amazing pottery, like this one:
Visit her there, and don't forget to nominate your own Best!

Read the original nomination post here.

I also gave you the resume of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, because apparently I recycle jokes faster than Jay Leno.


This Is Why I Hate People:
It started as my motto, and now it's a blog, and a Twitter.
Will it someday be a t-shirt, too?
Only if I keep reaching for those stars!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Best Fictional Plot Point.

I've been a little preoccupied, lately, with just how right I continue to be about various things, like, for example, best sellers.

Not all that long ago, I set out a road-map for The Best Next Best Seller, which was proven to be 100% accurate (if not a little more accurate than that, even) almost immediately.

This past weekend, I was proven even right-er -- that's the motto of this blog, after all -- when two different publications highlighted two different best sellers, each of which followed my instructions to a T.

In Entertainment Weekly, there was a highlighted review of the new "book" Orange is the new Black, a supposedly-truthful (but not really) account of a woman's stay in prison. (I say supposedly truthful because even though the author wants credit for telling about hard-to-talk about stuff, she won't own up to actual drug trafficking, maintaining instead that she only carried money, not drugs. So she wasn't really a drug dealer, you see.)

You can tell that the author of Orange is The New Hackneyed Cliche For A Title read my advice, because she subtitles her book "My Year In A Women's Prison." That was one of my pointers for people who want to write a best seller, remember:

Keep in mind, that a year is a good length of time to do something for. Doing it for less than a year seems to lack some commitment. Who wants to read 6.3 Months Of Pancakes: My Mornings At Denny's, And What I Learned? But do something weird for more than a year, and you're probably the Unabomber.

And the author took that to heart, lying in her title, because she actually spent 13 months in a women's prison -- but she didn't want to look weird, so she shortened it to a year for the title.

The other best seller who followed my advice was written up in The New Yorker, which is the magazine I get on my Kindle and which is the magazine that's responsible for me not getting any work done this past weekend as I read two back issues.

In The New Yorker, there's a review of not just the first book to follow my advice, but also the next book, a book called The Infinities, by John Banville. I like the idea of The Infinities, and I added it to my reading list, because even I am susceptible to those things that make a book a best seller. In this case, what Banville did was follow my advice about recasting an old classic; The Infinities, which features Greek Gods, is an adaptation of an almost-unheard of play. As The New York Times puts it:

“The Infinities” is based on the myth of Amphitryon, a Theban general whose wife, Alcmene, was seduced by Zeus while her husband was off fighting a battle. Since Zeus came to the virtuous Alcmene in the guise of Amphitryon, she can hardly be called adulterous; all the same, Amphitryon was cuckolded. Was Alcmene wronged by the god or honored? The story of this triangle has been dramatized several times, as a (lost) tragedy by Sophocles and as a comedy by, among others, Molière and the German writer Hein­rich von Kleist (whose work, including “Amphitryon,” Banville has adapted).

There is nothing new under the sun, it seems -- including that phrase. All of mainstream publishing will continue to be, forever and ever, a recasting of old stories in a slightly new light (thereby following in the well-trodden paths of televised cartoons and superheroes), until we just have the same story, told over and over and over.

And with my luck, that one story will be based on a Law & Order episode.

I'm not sure why we -- and by we I mean you, and by you I mean mainstream publishing and media and TV and other things that put stuff in front of the public -- keep recycling old ideas in new coats of paint, dressing our wolves in grandmother's clothing, so to speak, over and over. It's not like there's a shortage of ideas out there; there are plenty of new ideas and new things and creative storylines and plot ideas.

I come up with new ideas at a rate of about 3.2 per second, after all -- I could write four TV shows today and still turn out a half-a-novel, leaving time for me to eat some microwave pork rinds for a snack this afternoon. And it's not just me; other people other places are coming up with creative ideas, too.

We have, in fact, so many creative ideas that we don't even have time to write them all down or actually flesh them out -- we have so many creative ideas that some ideas remain entirely fictional even when they're already fictional.

I'm talking about fake things in real stories -- or fake things in fake stories, however you want to think of it. I'm talking about the fake books that authors make up for their fake authors in their stories to write, the fake musicals that people create for movies about musicals, and, now, today, I'm specifically talking about

The Best Fictional Plot Points.

I'm not sure what else to call this category -- a category I started thinking of when I read the rest of The New Yorker's review of The Infinities. In The Infinities, it seems, the main character has come up with some kind of equation that describes how there can be multiple universes in which there can be degrees of reality that differ from ours -- including the reality in which The Infinities takes place. I don't know yet if the Banville actually bothers to come up with an equation, but I hope he doesn't, because seeing what he might think is the actual equation for a multiverse would kind of wreck the fun imaginary quality of the possible equation -- the fictional equation that helps drive the plot forward without actually existing.

A "fictional plot point," then, is something that an author or creator makes up to move the plot along without ever actually showing that thing to the audience. It's a MacGuffin, only it doesn't even have the ephemeral existence of a MacGuffin: A fictional plot point is not even revealed, and doesn't actually exist, ever. Unlike, say, the Chimaera that Tom Cruise chased in Mission:Impossible 3 (subtitled Mission: Prove Tom Cruise Is An Awesome Husband), the audience/readers/people like you and me never see a fictional plot point. The characters may pick up the Maltese Falcon, in some instances... but a fictional plot point can't be picked up by the characters, can't be opened up like a book by Nicolas Cage, can't be dragged out by Nazis and revealed while Indy and what's-her-name keep their eyes closed, and can't, ultimately, be explained as simply bacteria in the bloodstream of the world's most annoying 8-year-old/future Sith Lord.

No, a fictional plot point is more than all those -- more tantalizing because they don't actually exist. And while things on TVs and in books don't actually exist, ever, the fictional plot points don't actually exist even more. Or less. They're actually-er less existent than the things around them.

Take the contents of Marcellus Wallace's briefcase. In Pulp Fiction, at least some of the action centers around that briefcase, and a large amount of speculation exists about what was in the briefcase. (It was even the subject of a Straight Dope column.) Tarantino said to his actors that what was in the briefcase was whatever you wanted it to be, but that misses the point. What was in the briefcase was entirely fictional, more fictional, meta-fictional, than even the fiction of Pulp Fiction. The viewers were left to wonder what's in that briefcase, and the wondering added another level to the movie, a level that couldn't have existed absent that. Imagine if Tarantino had shown you what was in the briefcase. Imagine if he had said the briefcase had Marcellus' soul, or gold, or, improbably, radioactive material, or (probably) drugs and money. Would Pulp Fiction have had the same offbeat, barely-existing in this world vibe?

Fictional plot points -- fictions within fictions -- create a world within the world. An author or TV show writer or director already comes up with the whole world for us to go into, whether that be Hogwarts or Los Angeles or a moon base. But then, by devising a fictional plot point, the authors make up a wormhole into yet another level of reality, an area where our minds -- already engaged in creating the world of the fictional piece we're watching or reading -- create another world, one where the equations that describe the multiverse can be short or complex or made up of, I don't know, colors, for all I can conceive. One where gangsters can chase around Los Angeles after a briefcase-full-of-soul (if you're of a religious bent) or briefcase-full-of-heroin (if you're not.)

That use of a fictional idea, barely described and hardly fleshed out, creates a ghostly kind of spectre inside the fictional world, adding a nuance to the story that can't be achieved by concrete details like MI:3's showing us the Chimaera in a tube that appeared, to me, to be identical to the plastic tube I use at the bank drive-through.

The use of a fictional idea lets the mind race -- as it does when trying to picture Jerry Seinfeld's move, a close contender for the winner of this nomination.

Jerry's move was mentioned in the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine is still dating Putty, and at the start of the episode she realizes that Putty used a move on her that Jerry used to use. When she tells Jerry, he gets mad at Putty and forbids Putty from using the move. He also tries to teach George the move (but George has to use a cheat sheet.)

And all we're told about the move is the barest of details: you'll need a bed with a headboard. It can end in a swirl, or a pinch. I believe, if I remember correctly, that the swirl was supposed to go counterclockwise. That was very important.

As for what the move actually consisted of, we're never told. The move drives the whole episode forward but is never revealed, and how could it be? A TV show can't exactly go into detail about a sex move (not back then; nowadays, it's surprising when they don't go into details. I'm sure that by next season we'll see an all-celebrity casting of the show So You Think You've Got Sex Moves) and even if they could have, wouldn't any details have been less than the thrill of the imagined details? I can't even tell you how much time I've spent trying to figure out what the move might consist of.

(I actually get very little work done, ever.)

Jerry's Move got bumped out of the top spot by the show that took over from Seinfeld and, if I may say, bested it: Friends.

Friends started off rockier than Seinfeld, following in its footsteps, but as a longtime viewer of Seinfeld (and owner of all of Seinfeld on DVD), I still have to say that Friends at its funniest is funnier than Seinfeld at its funniest -- Friends just didn't have as many years of humor, because they went so often to the Ross-Gets-Married/Ross-Loves-Rachel well that they got sidetracked from the funny too often. (That, and Friends for some reason continued to have Phoebe on the show even though Phoebe was never funny.)

Friends has the two best fictional plot points ever, not surprisingly for a show that made brilliant, and frequent, use of fictional plot points. It seems, sometimes, like every episode of Friends had at least one major, but entirely fictional device driving it forward -- ranging from Ross' thesis to the letter Rachel wrote to Ross at the beach house to the runner-up in this category, which is The Backpacking Story:

The Backpacking Story is mentioned throughout that episode, and another episode, and throughout the references to it, the story is never told in full. Joey gets as far as she was crying... and then stops, and we never get the full story, but just the effect of the story.

The Backpacking Story is, like the move, a wondrous thing to imagine actually existing -- a story that makes people want to have sex with you. That'd be better than a briefcase full of radioactive soul, any day, right? And, like most of the fictional plot points, there's no way to actually tell the story without wrecking the story -- because whatever story Joey tells Ross, and Ross tells his date, and Rachel tells Ross, whatever version they present, there's going to be someone out there (probably me) who says "That's not that romantic...".

(That's why you don't want me to watch TV with you.)

But better, even, than The Backpacking Story was the episode Friends ran called "The One With The Joke," in which Ross and Chandler fought about who had come up with a joke that Playboy printed, a joke about a doctor monkey. In the course of arguing, they each presented their version of how they created the joke and why they should get credit for the joke (Ross' hollering "I'm Doctor Monkey!" is a classic television moment), and then Monica rules on their competing claims by telling them their joke is offensive to women...

... and doctors...

....and monkeys.

I chose The Monkey Joke over The Backpacking Story as The Best Fictional Plot Point for three simple reasons:

First, I'm married. I don't need the backpacking story. Wedding rings make backpacking stories irrelevant, guys.

Second, monkeys are funny. They just are. It's a universal rule.

And third, I laugh over The Monkey Joke and I don't even know what it is. Just now, thinking about that episode (which I can't find on Youtube, and why not?) I started laughing about what I assume is the joke -- without even filling in the details, beyond "It's a joke about monkeys and doctors and it's offensive", I can laugh about what I assume is the joke.

That is truly remarkable: creating a joke that's funny without actually existing.

Somewhere, if John Banville's character is right, there is a universe where each of these things exist - -where you get to know what's behind the door in the monk joke, where Marcellus' briefcase is opened on national TV by Geraldo Rivera, and where the backpack story is told in full. In one of those universes, the monkey joke is passed around from person to person, or emailed to everyone at work, or told by Conan O'Brien on his return to TV after Jay Leno kicks him off on a massive ego-trip.

I'm not sure I'd want to live in those worlds. Sure, they'd probably have books that weren't simply derivative works based on old classics, and people could read about things other than a mostly-made-up-year in the life of a spoiled rich girl, but for all that, they'd be missing out on the mysterious wonder of life that fills our world, a world where every book is a repeat of the last, but we can spend an entire morning chuckling to ourselves about what we imagine the monkey joke to be.

And by we, I mean me.

Click here for an alphabetical list of everything ever discussed on this blog.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Reader Nomination: The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy And Hard To Get Out Of Your Head.

New blogger (but no doubt long-time reader) Abbie read my first post in this category and commented to say this:

Seven Nation Army is wicked hard to get out of your head, I agree. But I think just about any song from a Broadway musical is harder. I'm pretty sure they design those to get ingrained in your brain for the rest of eternity (probably as a clever marketing strategy?). Cool blog, though. I'm a big fan of lists.

Abbie didn't say which song from a Broadway musical might be the best (worst) on this list, so I'll throw one in here: Springtime for Hitler:

Here's why I chose that one: We went, a long time ago, to see the touring production of The Producers, taking the kids with us. On the walk to our car after the show, The Boy claimed that he hadn't liked the musical very much at all. I said to him that I thought he was just trying to be tough, and that sooner or later he'd be humming one of the songs. He denied it, but two blocks later, I heard him singing quietly to himself "Springtime for Hitler."

So that's reason number one. Reason number two is the cleverness of "Heil Myself."

Thanks, Abbie, for commenting/nominating. You're entered in the bimonthly drawing, and, more importantly, your nomination is preserved for all time on display to the multitudes. (The internet will last forever, right?)

Read Abbie's Blog, Abbie Turned Normal here.

Read the first post, about Seven Nation Army, here.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy And Hard To Get Out Of Your Head (One)

April's Minibest is, as the title suggests, The Best Songs That Are Impossibly Catchy And Hard To Get Out Of Your Head.

Songs like the number one hardest-to-get-out-of-your-head song, Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes:

That song's beat is so commanding, it gets my heart beating in rhythm to it. If I listen to it in the morning, only once, I guarantee you that I'll be tapping my feet to it on the commute home. It's made me speak in that rhythm.

, it's the only song I know which actually defies the cure for a catchy song, as told to me by my law school roommate, whose advice for having a song stuck in your head was to sing a bit of The Star Spangled Banner; he said that The Star Spangled Banner had no melody and no rhythm and was so antimelodic and antirhythmic that it would drive the catchy song out of your head.

And that works... except for "Seven Nation Army."

Related Posts:

The Best Rock Band That Isn't The Beatles Or U2

The 10 Best Songs That Make You Feel Good (And Then Feel Bad About Feeling Good.)

The ABCs of TBOE: A list of every topic ever discussed on this site.

A list of all the MiniBests!