Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Best Language: Reader Nomination.


I'm always right, which is why I get to write this blog. (That, and I got the domain name. Take that, Internet!) So while I welcome reader nominations-- because it means I get credit for posting something without all the hard work of "thinking"-- you should be cautious about contradicting my ultimate rightness.

How have I been proven right lately? Let's count the ways:

1. I said back in February that to have a best selling book you had to have a true story about something that took you about a year to do. The other day, Stephen Colbert (who is among the many celebrities who read this blog) had author Hephzibah Anderson on. Anderson's book is titled "Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex." (If you click that link, it'll take you to a post where you can see the interview, and also can see that Anderson didn't actually go a year without having sex; she just said she did so she could sell books.) So add Hephzibah Anderson to the list of people who took my advice on coming up with a best seller.

2. Recently, I said that it was time to choose a new celebrity to play God in all our movies, nominating Michael Keaton as The Best man for that job. Hollywood didn't listen to me entirely -- they decided to cast a new God but foolishly picked Betty White as the role-player for now. (As Filmdrunk reports: "it's funny because she's old. F*ck you."). But I was right that we needed a new God -- and, judging by Filmdrunk's reaction, I was right when I said that everybody will soon hate Betty White.

Which brings me to the brave reader who dared to wade into the pool of the second most controversial thing I've ever said. (This is the first.) MartinMartiini, a commenter not afraid to show that while there's no i in team, there's plenty of i in his name, read up on my post The Best Language, and responded concisely, but curiously:

spanish is the best language.

I say curiously, because he didn't say it in Spanish. If Spanish is so great, why not give me the comment in Spanish?

I've taken the liberty of translating the comment for Martin. Here's his comment in Spanish, which Martin nominated as The Best Language:

spanish is el language-o del best-a-rama.

Thanks for commenting, Martin. As always, anyone who leaves a comment on any of my blogs is put into the bi-monthly drawing to win a copy of one of my books, free.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 23:


23. Summer Reruns/Summer TV.

I'm not one of those people who pretends to dislike TV because it seems highbrow or cool, and I'm not one of those snobs who deliberately avoids TV to seem intellectual. I like TV, just like I like books and movies and some Youtube videos.

And I especially like summer reruns. Because I do have limited time, I can't watch every show that I'd like to watch -- I've still got to read and sleep and work and play "Bust It" with Mr Bunches. So I have to be choosy about my TV shows and watch only the shows I know I'm going to like - -and never try out new shows. But in the summer, I've seen all those shows and can check out stuff I might have missed otherwise. Quality stuff. Like Invader Zim. Which is back on TV this summer. I'm hooked on Invader Zim.


Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 21


21. Summer vacations.

As much as I'm theoretically for longer school years, there is something great about having a summer vacation. It may be that greatness is built into my mind because I had summer vacations as a kid, so I now think summer=vacations, but I think it's something more inherent in summer: the warmth and sun and general longer-day-ish-ness and relaxation offered by the near-total lack of holidays to force you to spend time with your family all add up to something great. Summer is so synonymous with vacations that northerners like me wait until summer to take our vacation, and then we go some place warmer (i.e., more summer-ier).

By contrast, when I take vacations in the winter, they're... well, okay, I guess, because vacations are good, but the best winter vacation I've ever had was when we went to Mexico just after New Year's -- leaving Wisconsin to travel to summer. Otherwise, winter vacations just seem to be lacking. Who can say Christmas vacation from school was as good as summer vacation?

Maybe it's because when you go on summer vacation from school, it's long. And when you take a summer vacation as an adult, you start on summer, travel to more summer, and then come back to summer.

Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.


Monday, July 12, 2010

The Best Songs That Make Absolutely No Sense (Update)


As promised in my most recent longer post, The Best Songs That Make Absolutely No Sense, I have submitted the poem "Inside Emily's Mind" to The New Yorker today -- making this blog a greater piece of conceptual performance art than the mutant offspring of James Franco and Joaquin Phoenix could ever be.

Also: That's a high point in Western Civilization: the first blog post ever to mention The New Yorker, Emily Dickinson, and mutants, all in context. Take that, Eastern Civilization.

You can click the link to go to the post and listen to mind-warpingly weird lyrics, and also to read the poem -- in case you're too impatient to wait until The New Yorker publishes me.

Also: I've just realized that the video for The Bleeding Heart Show in that post is not the one I thought it was. I thought it was a cool video with a guy in a spacesuit; instead it was something else and as I didn't watch the whole thing before posting it, I have only my own laziness to blame for posting the wrong video.

Well, my own laziness and Obama.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 20:


20. Shirts that aren't, quite.


Tank tops, halter tops, stuff like that: wear these any time but summer and you're freezing to death.

But, note: wear them to your kid's 5th grade "President's Pageant" and your going to get a frowning-at and a lecture by the principal -- even if it's really hot.


Also, note, 2: I am not in any way advocating men wearing a mesh shirt.
That's far too lame and stupid to support.

For men, I mean:



Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

The Best Songs That Make Absolutely No Sense.



When it comes to music, I like different things at different times. Sometimes, I'm in the mood for something a little quiet. Sometimes I like to rawk out, which the moment I typed it I realized looked even dumber in print than it sounds when I say it, so I'm very sorry to have foisted that on you. In fact, I'm not sure why I don't just go back and delete that and pretend it never happened. But I'm not doing that. I'm still typing, and that phrase is still there, like a pointy stick in the eye of my personality. It's like I can't help myself. I could simply go erase it, delete it all, and all this, too, but I'm just leaving it up there, for everyone to read, even though from here on out you'll always associate me with the level of lameness that not only thinks it's okay to say "rawk out" but also to type that phrase... twice.

But I was talking about music! Ah, music -- the everchanging background to my day, where I can put on Leo Kottke's guitar and marvel at his adroitness. Or I can put on a concept album on a long drive and listen to all the songs all the way through and say to myself, as I always do, "How is 'American Idiot' a concept album? What's it even supposed to be about?' Or I could just go for good driving songs. Or I could search for meaning in the lyrics, which brings me to today's topic, which is songs that make no sense. None at all -- and yet they seem to mean a lot of things. If you don't listen to them carefully, these songs seem to mean something, seem to be making sense, seem to be more than the deranged, unattached ramblings of a drooling moron. But when you get down into the dirt and grapple with the lyrics, you realize that's you were wrong -- these songs mean nothing, or sometimes, less than nothing. Sometimes they mean so little that you can actually feel your intelligence slipping away as you think about them.



Yeah, like that. Or like an Emily Dickinson poem. Is there any doubt that Emily Dickinson's poems were not so much crafted as thrown together from the 19th century equivalent of a magnetic poetry kit... and one that had too many hyphens, at that?

(Hyphens must have been very much in vogue amongst 1800s' poets, judging by Emily Dickinson's work, and by Abe Lincon's efforts, too.)(And yet now they're almost completely unused by poets, as evidenced by the fact that I just said that. I, though, am doing my part. I use hyphens a lot. And I use dashes -- the poor country cousin of the hyphen.)

Sometimes, I am, as I said, in the mood for some meaning in my songs: sometimes I'm in the mood for a song to tell me a story, or speak to me about emotions I've felt or might feel. Sometimes I want a song to remind me of history or speak eloquently about current issues through vibrant metaphors.

And sometimes, when I'm in such a mood, I put on the following songs, and find my head addled at the complete lack of meaning -- the fact that despite these being great songs, if you listen to the words, if you really listen, these songs are pure gibberish. Songs like:

1. Don't Stop Me Now -- Queen.

Don't Stop Me Now probably deserves to be first on this list -- holding the number one spot for the way it manages to interpose insane metaphors with total changes of subject that simultaneously indicate that Freddy Mercury had no real idea what he was talking about -- both in this song, and in life.



What It's Ostensibly About: A man sets out to have a great night -- and doesn't want to be stopped.

Lyrics That Show It Doesn't Make Sense/Isn't About That At All: Where to begin?

I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies/Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva.

I could buy that being like a shooting star, one can also be like a tiger -- a tiger defying gravity. But if Freddy's defying gravity on this little jaunt (rolling around in ecstasy?), how is he also like a racing car... and how is a racing car like Lady Godiva? She didn't race through town always turning left -- she rode naked on a horse through town (after losing a bet with Nikolai Tesla).

But wait: It gets worse:

Two hundred degrees/That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm trav'ling at the speed of light/I wanna make a supersonic man of you

I'm not sure why being superhot makes you Mister Fahrenheit, but, okay, they both deal with temperature -- and then we're back to speed, with Freddy traveling at the speed of light -- 180,000 miles per second -- and wanting to make you only supersonic, or about 500 feet per second. Which would leave you falling behind Freddy at a rate of ... 180,000 miles minus 500 feet. You do the math. I'm not going to, and Queen can't.

There's more. Having been a tiger, and Mr. Fahrenheit, Freddy then is:

I'm a rocket ship on my way to Mars/On a collision course I am a satellite I'm out of control I am a sex machine ready to reload Like an atom bomb about to Oh oh oh oh oh explode.

So: Rocket ships to Mars are not satellites, and, Freddy, this, too: satellites don't go anywhere. They just circle around forever and then fall out of the sky. Wasn't Skylab a big thing when Queen was still making music? How'd they forget that?

Before you can get too caught up, though, Freddy's then a sex machine, which I wasn't going to take literally until he was also an atom bomb, ready to explode. So at the end of this, I have to assume that Freddy's literally some sort of tiger-shaped supercharged rocket-powered sex atom bomb that's going to explode all over a nightclub. And after re-reading that, I'm a little grossed out by the image.

2. Love Astronaut, Murder Mystery.

I love Murder Mystery. Not only are they an awesome band, but they helped out with my Take a Book Charity drive, which is more than you can say (unless you also helped out, in which case you're almost even, but you're probably not also an awesome band.)(If you're also an awesome band, and you helped out, then you and Murder Mystery are equals.)

And one of my favorite Murder Mystery songs is Love Astronaut, a song I find to be upbeat and quirky and which I thought was romantic until I listened to the words:



What It's Ostensibly About: A guy who's looking for the love of his life has found her.

Lyrics That Show It Doesn't Make Sense/Isn't About That At All: Well, the title. Love Astronaut? That title suggests that we're in for 2001: A Space Odyssey meets The Sure Thing.


True to Kubrick's original intent.

You know, now that I think of it, why isn't that a movie? The Sure Thing 2010: A Sure Thing In Space. Or something like that. John Cusack -- whose character, remember, was obsessed with space -- wants to return from Mars to Earth to hook up with a sexy astronaut who's again a sure thing, and has wacky hijinks on the way.

What? You say that's dumb? What if I say this: It'll be 3D! See, you're with me now, right? Hollywood! Blogger on line one!

Back to Love Astronaut. Let's listen in on some of the lyrics:

I've been searching for you have you been searching for me
I've been running around and now I'm down on my knees.
I go looking abroad I've been sailing the seas
I go looking for love but is it looking for me?


That might makes sense, except the singer goes on after saying that he's found only himself, still alone, goes on to say that

Everytime I find somebody who looks like she may be that one
The kind of woman who inspires a man to stop his traveling around...


And then goes into a musical interlude and some bah-bahing, before going back to being the captain of a ship or an astronaut in space, looking on high, etc etc. And still alone...until...

Everytime I find somebody who looks like she may be that one
The kind of woman who inspires a man to stop his traveling around...


And, again, nothing. What... what... Murder Mystery, what happens everytime you find somebody who looks like she may be that one?

Because after the second time you sing that, you go on to say that you're back to looking. So, what, when you find someone, you move on? You aren't really looking for love? You're scared of commitment? It's not them, it's you? What is it?

Moving on.

3. The Bleeding Heart Show, The New Pornographers.

a/k/a The Song That Almost Got Me To Enroll In the University of Phoenix.

This isn't the official video for the song, but I love it more than almost any other video:



And I wish that Astro Guy in that song would get together and form a self-help group with Bumblebee Girl.

NOTE/UPDATE:
If you watched the video, you realize that comment made no sense. Click here for an explanation.

The Bleeding Heart Show
came to my attention, as noted, in the University of Phoenix ad, and I liked its stirring music and the way it kept on hitting new Eleven Spots. I liked the song so much that it wasn't until one day on a long drive home from court in which I tried to teach myself the lyrics to the song that I realized it didn't make any sense.

What The Song Is Ostensibly About: Good god, I don't know. I thought at first it was about higher education. Or, if I was being symbolic and ignoring the My Aunt's Dog Theorem, I'd say it's about caring. Or heartbreak. Or... good god, I don't know.

Lyrics That Show It Doesn't Make Sense/Isn't About That At All: I'm not even going to pick and choose. Here's the entire song -- only I added hyphens at random to make it more Emily Dickinsonian:

I leapt across three or four beds into your arms --
Where I had hidden myself-- somewhere in your charm
Our golden handshake has been smashed into this shape.--
It's taken magic -- to a primitive new place
Watch 'em run, although it's the minimum, heroic--

We hunched together-- in one chair out on the deck
In snow that froze and fell down on the modern set--
It looked as if I picked -- your name out of a hat
Next thing you know you are asleep in someone's lap--
Watch 'em run, -- although it's the minimum, heroic

We quit the room--
Quit-- so our thoughts could rest
Rest them, I'll never move?--
That's -- when we grab a hold
Of whatever it is we fell into--
Lousy-- with your content
With what the majestic cannot find--
In -- business of your lives
The perception, it is wrong, mile after mile--
The phantom-- taste drinking wine from your heels

We have arrived-- too late-- to play the bleeding heart show.

I have to say, it actually looks, with those hyphens, as though it means something and is very poetics. Maybe Emily was really on to something. Or should I say:

I have to say--
It-- actually looks with those hyphens
As though--
it means -- something
Maybe Emily was really --
On-- to something.


I bet I could get that published in The New Yorker, if I titled it Inside Emily's Mind. And I'm going to try. I'll let you know how that works out.

As for the song, it's no worse than Emily Dickinson. But it's no better. "Watch 'em run, although it's the minimum heroic" doesn't bear any relationship that I can tell to the two lovers... maybe... hunched together in the chair out on the deck who had left the party to rest their thoughts amidst the quiet comfort of ... um... being randomly chosen to fulfill each others' dreams?

Good god, I don't know.

And speaking of songs I tried to teach myself the lyrics too, how about some

4. One Week, by Barenaked Ladies.

I once spent three hours on a drive rewinding the mixtape I had this song on, trying to learn the lyrics. True, part of that time was the time it took to rewind the tape; mp3s are more efficient, as evidenced by the fact that I taught myself to rap Bust A Move in, like 30 minutes. But the time also shows how difficult it is to learn a song that's sung really fast, and which makes less sense than many of my dreams:



What The Song Is Ostensibly About: A guy who's girlfriend/wife is mad at him, so he's biding his time until they make up.

Lyrics That Show It Doesn't Make Sense/Isn't About That At All:
Hold it now and watch the hood wink As I make you stop think You'll think you're looking at aqua man I summon fish to the dish although I like the Chalet Swiss I like the Sushi 'cause it's never touched a frying pan Hot like Wasabe when I bust rhymes Big like Leann Rimes Because I'm all about value Bert Kaempfert's got the mad hits You try to match wits, you try to hold me but I bust through Gonna make a break and take a fake I'd like a stinkin' achin' shake I like vanilla, it's the finest of the flavors Gotta see the show 'cause then you'll know The vertigo is gonna grow 'Cause it's so dangerous You'll have to sign a waiver

As far as I can tell, the first two lines are a sexual innuendo. And Bert Kaempfert according to this site, is "often described nowadays as the father of easy listening." Which is probably also a sexual innuendo, for all I now. I'm not terribly hip.

In the second rapid stanza, the singer apparently has a seizure from eating chinese food -- a seizure brought on in part by lusting after Sailor Moon.

Hey, I told you it made no sense.

Which brings us to:

5. Subterranean Homesick Blues, Bob Dylan:

I said that Don't Stop Me Now "probably" deserves to be number one on the list. My hesitation was that even though I knew Queen's song was an opus of nonmeaning, I also knew that Bob Dylan's metaphysical ramblings in Subterranean Homesick Blues existed, and that those lyrics, in their very existence, challenge the underpinnings of logic throughout the universe -- they're that weirdly stupid.

Like other songs on this list, I tried to make sense of the lyrics by learning them to sing along with the song, only to be baffled. Unlike other songs on this list, I tried to learn the lyrics to Subterranean Homesick Blues when I was on a foreign exchange program in Morocco -- so I was baffled, and eating sheep's eyeballs, and kind of homesick. Imagine my surprise when I found out, upon returning to a country where we only eat the normal parts of animals, that the lyrics really didn't make sense.

I couldn't find Bob Dylan singing the song on Youtube -- apparently Bob's too busy on Twitter -- but here's a video that lets you hear the lyrics more clearly than on the original:



What The Song Is Ostensibly About: A guy who's underground and homesick.

Lyrics That Show It Doesn't Make Sense/Isn't About That At All: It's actually not about that guy, homesick or not, at all. It's about Johnny and Maggie and others:

Johnny's in the basement, mixing up the medicine I'm on the pavement, thinking about the government The man in the trench coat, badge out, laid off Says "He's got a bad cough, wants to get it paid off" ... Maggie comes fleet foot face full of black soot Talkin' that the heat put, plants in the bed but The phone's tapped anyway, Maggie says that many say "They must bust in early May, orders from the D.A"

That doesn't make any sense at all -- but seems to be full of meaning, so it's pretty much par for the course as far as what we expect of Baby Boomers: a bunch of wacked out theories and ideas, all of which ultimately amount to nothing.

But in case you still think that there was some meaning hiding in those lyrics (or in the 1960s, altogether), consider the advice Dylan, as a standard bearer, gave to his generation, and posterity:

Look out kid, they keep it all hid Better jump down a manhole, light yourself a candle Don't wear sandals, try to avoid the scandals Don't wanna be a bum you better chew gum The pump don't work, 'cause the vandals took the handles

Shouldn't we expect a lot more from the guy who sang The Hurricane and Masters of War and Shelter from The Storm? I mean, look at him:
Okay, fine. I see your point.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 19


19. Carnival Midways (after dark).


I've always loved carnival midways -- the rides, the games, the foods dipped in chocolate and then deep-fried and then dipped in more chocolate and then powdered. But based on my childhood and what my parents taught me, there are two things to keep in mind about carnivals:

1. They're death traps. If you even go near one of those rides, you'll have your head lopped off by a crossbar. (This message brought to you by my mom.)

2. During the day, they look shoddy. You can see all the crummy workmanship on the rides, the flaming-cobra tattoos (on the ladies; the men's are worse), and the junky prizes look like junky prizes.

But at night, the flashing lights and Ferris (Death trap) Wheel neon and all the rest hide the ugly and make for a magical world. One that will still kill you if you go near a ride -- but in a magical way.



Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.


Welcome Another TBOE Reader!


I continue to influence pop culture in ways that I can only dream about... and, honestly, I do dream about them. When I'm not dreaming about other things. Like last night. I dreamed that I had the Roy Scheider role in Jaws, only we couldn't get a boat to take us out because it was Memorial Day and they were all rented. So we had to use a semi-truck, which we managed to get to float through the magic of driving it onto the water...

... but I get distracted, and I don't want to, because I'm proud to announce that Neil Gaiman reads this blog... or so it seems, given his recent comments while picking up an award for his children's book. Says The Independent:

Vampires are now over-populating popular culture to the point where they are just not scary, Mr Gaiman said as he picked up the CILIP Carnegie medal for his gothic children's story The Graveyard Book, about an orphan raised by ghosts.... "The saddest thing is that it runs the risk of making vampires not scary. I will be glad when the glut is over. Maybe they will be scary again. I like my creatures of the night a little nocturnal," he said. "My next big novel was going to have a vampire. Now, I'm probably not. They are everywhere, they're like cockroaches." He said he hoped that mainstream culture would lose its interest in the undead so that vampire fiction could regain its potency. "Maybe it's time for this to play out and go away. It's good sometimes to leave the field fallow. I think some of this stuff is being over-farmed," he said.

Neil didn't come right out and say it, but it seems to me that he must have been mulling over all the incredibly valid points I made when I wrote about The Seven Best Monsters Society Should Be Fearing/Pretending Are Symbolic Of Stuff back at the end of March.

Welcome, Neil, to the fold of famous TBOE readers. Now, I think you should put a character named after me into your next book. And make him super-hunky. With rippling muscles. And not balding. And played by Martin Henderson in the movie version of the book.

Friday, July 02, 2010

The Best New God



The recent revelation that Russia had planted spies in America to try to uncover our secrets, and the follow-up revelation that those spies had uncovered "secrets" like you can sell your gold for cash by mailing it to someone, really says something about the way the balance of power and the view of good and evil shifts over time, requiring a reassessment of long-held beliefs, doesn't it?

In other words, let me see if I can't take that news story, conflate its importance and oversimplify it at the same time, then twist all that into some pseudomeaningful garbage to make a point that I was too tired to bring up at dinner. (i.e., business as usual here at The Best Of Everything.)

I will try my best, too, to work in a reference to Paris Hilton, because that can't hurt.

Those Russian spies -- and I think it's cute that Russia continues to spy on the U.S., given that we will gladly tell them just about anything they need to know, if they're willling to filter through all the other junk that we throw onto the airwaves and Internet and in those three magazines that are still being printed because nobody told them to stop -- those Russian spies were here for what, twenty years (Note: I haven't actually read any news stories about the spies, but I did see a blurb on CNNHLNUSRDA that one of them was considered 'hot'), and in that time, the best they could do was send home some memos raising the suspicion that McDonald's secret sauce was just 1000 Island dressing. Meanwhile, some kid with a MacBook is able to hack into an almost-serious vice presidential candidate's email as a joke. That says something about the way power has shifted in our world. Or at least, I'm going to say that it says something about the way power has shifted in our world, and what I'm going to say is this:

It's time to pick a New God.

Not literally, mind you. I'm not sure if I have that authority to call for a new Almighty Election.

Just a New God to play God for us mortals: to be the voice of God, to talk over certain previews and provide insight into conditions and occasionally to show up in a movie wearing whatever Godlike things we think he/she should be wearing, and do Godlike things.

Every generation gets their own God, the embodiment of what that particular culture and time thinks God should be. And by "every generation" I mean only those generations that I care about, i.e., the modern generations, because prior to modern times being invented, olden people didn't show God in the movies, and Olden People certainly didn't show God in the movies being, you know, a chick.





Or a black guy:



That would have been sacriligious. That's why, for more than 1,970 years, humans refused to portray their God on film as anything. (That, and because film wasn't invented until Thomas Edison accidentally spilled acid on Nikola Tesla, causing Tesla to go mad and invent a giant robot to destroy Edison's Menlo Park laboratory in revenge, an incident that was both remarkable and entirely unrecorded because film hadn't been invented yet, so nobody would believe William Randolph Hearst when he wrote about it and instead they accused him of trying to incite a war with Spain. That accusation stung so bad that Hearst then invented film, and cameras, and TVs, vowing that the next time Tesla attacked, he'd by God capture it on film and show those heathens. Sadly, Tesla died just weeks after that of an infection caused by his seeing the doctor for indigestion, the cure for which at the time was to remove the stomach surgically without anesthetic. Tesla's death left his greatest creation, the Animatronic Army Of Destructive Clone Robots, unfinished and inoperable...

... or did it? Tune in next week!)

Once we, as a species, realized that we could have God played by actors on film and not be immediately struck down by lightning, we set about rectifying years of having God be a voice over, by casting God as an elderly man who smoked cigars and told vaudeville jokes:


He also wore a sailor hat:




Which explains why Hef does, too:


Which in turn seems to hint that Hef knows something we don't. Are sailor hats magical? Is Hef God? Will Tesla's Animatronic Army Of Destructive Clone Robots be played by a bevy of women in bikinis holding machine guns?



God, I hope so.

Which brings me back to the point: God. That's the point. After George Burns made it abundantly clear to everyone what old white males had been saying for 1,970 years or so -- namely, that God is an old white male -- society seemed to be set with their God. We knew what God looked like and how he sounded and how he would, if necessary, cajole a supermarket manager into spreading His word through the miracle of making it rain in a car. We were done.

But then society had to go and shift. We put two old white men in charge -- George Burns, as God, and Ronald Reagan, as God's emissary here on Earth -- and thought we could wash our hands of things and go back to wondering how on Earth Ric Ocasek could land a superhot model as a girlfriend, even considering that he was a rock star at the time.



But then the Berlin Wall fell, Saddam Hussein turned on us, we all got rich and then poor off things like Beanie Babies and this "Internet" thing and people, for some reason, went nuts over Nirvana and ascribed all kinds of significance to their music because the mumbling nature of it seemed more introspective than Nirvana's predecessors in the music world, the Bee Gees, even though Nirvana ultimately had exactly the same meaning and significance as the Bee Gees, but were less danceable.



Can you strut to "Smells Like Teen Spirit?" No, you cannot. I rest my case.

No, wait, I don't, because I was talking about God, and how, in the 90s, the shaking up of the world demanded that we pick a new God, as the Old White Man model wasn't doing it anymore. Old White Men had messed up the world, had sold arms to Iran or put fluoride in our water or something, and so we turned to the next most obvious choice, an Old Black Man:



And, speaking of things that I'll say really say something, it really says something that America was willing to elect a black man God in 2003, but had to wait until 2008 to elect a black man president. I don't know what, exactly, it says, but it says something. Discuss.

Okay, eyes back on me now. In retrospect, the choice of Morgan Freeman as our new God seems preordained (rightly so!). He'd been working up to that role for years. He was a principal in Lean On Me in 1998. He'd been a judge in Bonfire of the Vanities in 1990, then got elected president himself in 1998's Deep Impact -- so he beat Obama to that, too -- he's been a doctor, a detective, and a messenger, throughout his career, always on an upward climb until he got that final promotion in 2003 and became God, but even before that he was clearly auditioning for the role: he's been a narrator on 20 credited occasions, and generally his voice appears in narrations as the globe spins before our eyes -- so that we see the world from God's perspective and hear Morgan Freeman's voice while we do so.

Morgan Freeman was so perfect as God, in fact, that our society declared him as the only person to be able to play God -- and by our society, I mean "Stephen Colbert stealing my ideas without crediting me."

Yes, if anyone should have a piece of the space station named after them, it's probably me, since I way back when announced that "if you're going to have a God character, at this point, it has to be Morgan Freeman," leading Stephen Colbert to copy me a few months later. (But I'm not bitter; I like Stephen Colbert, whose name I suspect is actually pronounced Col-burt, not Col-bear, because sometimes he'll mutter to himself Come on, Col-burt. I like him and am willing to share his profits, say, 60-40. I get 60.)

Anyway, Stephen Colbert copying from me in the past is not the point today. The point today is that Stephen Colbert will have to copy from me again, because I'm revoking Morgan Freeman's nomination as God.

This is not a step I take lightly, trust me. My responsibility, the solemn undertaking that I am up to here on The Best Of Everything, is one I give serious consideration to while I'm driving into work in the morning and hoping that I have no appointments so I can spend most of the morning reading Doonesbury archives. I am very aware that what I say here affects not just Stephen Colbert's shows six months from now, but also a large part of humanity, some of whom will read my blog and comment anonymously and then when I get home will reveal that they were the person who commented anonymously and will act all mad at me for posting pictures of bikini-clad women, but who will then be embarrassed by the pictures they've downloaded of Landon Donovan. Sweetie's a great wife but she's not sneaky.

And I don't mean affects humanity indirectly, either. I mean affects humanity directly by potentially bringing about the end of the entire universe, as I nearly did one time when I revoked Paris Hilton's nomination as The Best Gossiple, only to have Paris go on a mad whirlwind of publicity-seeking that threatened to create a vortex into which the entire universe would disappear.



(Those posts are taken down now but you can read how narrowly we avoided total destruction in my book Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?, available everywhere they get the Internet.)

So if crossing Paris Hilton nearly destroyed us all, imagine how much more dangerous it can be to revoke God's nomination as God? I worried about that for nearly twenty seconds until I got distracted by the radio reporter saying that Led Zeppelin had probably plagiarized another song, making their entire career now suspect, and distracting me until I got in front of my computer to write this.

I know that revoking Morgan Freeman's Nomination as our God could cause problems, but it's a risk I have to take, because:

(A) Society has shifted again, requiring that we reconsider what it means to be God in our newfangled world of cell phones that don't work properly but we still think they're cool, neurotic harridans recording record albums, vuvuzelas, and the like, and

(B) Morgan Freeman's private life and the rumors about it gross me out.

A gross private life... allegedly... isn't much to worry about if you're Paris Hilton, or anyone else, really, and can actually help you become more famous or get a TV career or something.



But it's no good if you want to be God. We've got to have some standards here, don't we? We can't just let anyone be God, the way they'll let anyone run a Subway franchise. I mean, have you eaten at some of those places? I don't want the universe run with that lack of attention to detail.

So we've let Morgan go, and it's time to pick a new God, one that more accurately reflects the current ideas we as a people have about space and time and the afterlife and our role in the Universe and other things that, although important, generate less reflection from us, on a daily basis, than the question of whether Vienna really did cheat on Jake. And, as usual, it falls on me to do the choosing, because I don't watch The Bachelor, or other popular shows, and the shows I do watch tend to be cancelled quickly, so while I'm probably pretty out of touch with society now that I think about it, I do have time on my hands and it's my blog. So it's up to me.

And I've made my choice. My choice is Michael Keaton.

Michael Keaton is your new God for movies, TV shows, books, magazines, video games, voice-overs, and the like.

Once again, the choice seems obvious, doesn't it? Here's how my way of thinking went: About two months ago, I woke up one morning with this thought in my mind:

Whatever happened to Michael Keaton? Did he die or something?

I did what I always do in those situations: I went downstairs and got some coffee, ate some breakfast (probably a Pop Tart, but I'm guessing about that) and then asked Sweetie about it, roughly a week later when I remembered that I'd wondered that.

Sweetie claimed that he hadn't died, but that Michael Keaton was still around doing stuff, and being in movies, and things, but she couldn't provide any direct evidence of that, so I let it drop.

Then, the other night, I was watching a preview of the movie Toy Story 3, and Sweetie pointed out that Ken is being voiced by Michael Keaton:



And I thought "Huh. So he is still alive."

Then, today, I decided to revoke Morgan Freeman's nomination and replace him and the first thing that popped into my head was Michael Keaton should be the new God.

So you see? It all makes sense.

But he's got the pedigree. Keaton began his career as a lowly tree salesman before moving on to become a magical ghost (ah... see?) in Beetlejuice, then coming back to life as Batman -- and the first movie Batman, at that, then dying again and coming back as a snowman. Along the way, he's been an Everyman (Mr. Mom), a car, a president, and he'll be in Noah's Ark: The New Beginning as Noah, coming out this year. So he's clearly got the resume to fill the position -- especially considering how many times he's been killed off and come back to life. That's sort of a prerequisite for the job.

He's also only served once as a narrator, which makes a clear contrast between him and those other, prior Gods. George Burns, as an old man who chooses to come back to Earth and work his wonders through a grocer, and Morgan Freeman, as a distant, removed God who mostly speaks from on high and works through a TV weatherman and a congressman, are fine Gods for the way we used to do things: minimal intrusion, looking on from afar, letting things work their way out, that kind of thing. If it's a laissez-faire God you want, one who'll speak in kindly tones while baby penguins die, then those prior Gods are the ones for you, and your old-school ways.

But that's not the kind of God we want or need, now. We don't want a God to simply sit back and describe what's going on while we learn. We want a God who gets in there and mixes it up, and Keaton's lack of narration experience, combined with his hands-on activities, show that he'll be perfect for that. Would George Burns or Morgan Freeman have fed chili to a baby and then cleaned it up? Would they have snowboarded down a mountain as a snowman? Would they have been able to face off against Jack Nicholson's deranged clown? I think not -- they might have described what was happening, or found someone to do their fighting for them. But Michael Keaton, he got in there and did the fighting himself.

(And, I note, fought Jack Nicholson, who played the Devil once. Kismet!)(I'm not sure what kismet means but it seems to fit there.)

A hands-on, activist God is what our times cry for. We want our leaders to do something. Look at the criticism of Obama's handling of the oil spill, of Bush's handling of Katrina: They didn't do anything. They just stood there and pontificated and bully pulpited, and we got madder and madder. Obama got the $20 billion set aside, which eased the criticism, but we'd have liked him more if he'd rolled up his sleeves and scrubbed a pelican. Bush, whose main role in life seemed to be to destroy as much of the United States as possible, got the point at times: He leapt into action whenever it seemed to be called for, climbing up the rubble of the World Trade Center, invading countries willy-nilly, abrogating freedoms, and was loved for it. When he did face critiques, it was for standing back, reading a story while we were under attack, hanging with Roger Clemens while Katrina ravaged the Gulf. (Note: I know that one's fake, but people believe it, so eventually it'll be true.)

We also don't want our Gods to be even-handed and fair anymore. The easy-going Gods represented by Burns and Freeman, Gods who would think things over and take their time assessing a situation, are no longer what we need. Our superheroes and leaders need to act now, and act decisively, even if what they're doing turns out not to be right or bends the rules a little. We want superheroes to endanger their own lives by racing through a city, and then to flaunt their flouting of the rules and then to maybe misuse their powers a little, too, all of which we'll tolerate if they end up saving us. We'll let Batman run off into the night, having killed a few guys, and we'll overlook massive amounts of destruction of both private and public property, if our heroes are sufficiently active and entertaining. Keaton got that: his Batman walked the fine line between brooding and madman, presaging Christian Bale's younger, more violent Batman, but providing the necessary backbone to that violence. Bale's Batman is a puncher; Keaton's is a boxer.

And, above all, in these times, we need a God that's a little bit unhinged. Freeman's God, Burns' God, they're hinged. They're in control, at all times, and everything's working according to their plan, a plan that unfolds methodically and sees every piece fall into line.

That's not the world we live in anymore, though: In our world, the Saints win the Super Bowl and England gets knocked out of the World Cup. In our world, countries form and dissolve and governments don't know who to recognize and lone gunmen get arrested trying to hunt down Osama Bin Laden and earthquakes rip apart countries week after week after week and Greece goes bankrupt while bankers get government-funded bonuses, all of it happening to the monotonous and ominous background buzzing of instruments we've never heard of. In our world, Lady GaGa flips off fans and gets her baseball seats upgraded, the Pope is a Nazi, and the oil companies find that the scientist they were going to call if they're in trouble is dead so they ask James Cameron for help, instead.

Everything's not just upside-down, it's off-kilter in ways that seem to require new dimensions to describe the manner in which our lives seem to defy understanding, and it doesn't seem anymore that life is progressing linearly or according to any plan. The play has broken down, and we need a scrambling quarterback who can improvise, one who won't be thrown off by something unexpected and one who can, with a cock of his eyebrow and a smirk, save us.

That person is Michael Keaton, who, let's face it, seems a little bit off. It's the way he cocks his head, I think, or the way his mouth never seems quite closed. He's just this side of crazy, but the side of crazy he's on is the side of crazy we are on, too. And Keaton manages the crazy: even at his most uncontrolled he's able to rectify the situation. He's managed to run a brothel out of a morgue, he's cloned himself and can be more than one place at a time. He saved our manufacturing from the Japanese and had fun doing it.

He's not fazed. He'll deal with it, and get it right. 220, 221, whatever it takes, he'll do it. He'll help us get rid of our Woobies and then he'll clear the streets of the Joker, and even if he ends up with a shrunken head instead of married to Winona Ryder, he'll take it in stride and keep going.

The world doesn't call for a God with a white suit, a sailor hat, and a gentle hand anymore. The world needs a God who's going to roll up his sleeves and get down in the muck with us, to help us make sense of the ever-increasing flow of information and problems and solutions. We've got spies who get their information from commercials and celebrities whose claim to fame was first that they had children, and then that they ignored those children. Heaven may be a clean white room, but we don't live there: we're stuck in a messy house with a runaway vacuum and an escaping washer, and we don't want it to rain in our cars, we want the water cleaned up and the house looking nice. That calls for someone different, someone new, to serve as our God and not just watch over us, but to have our backs. That calls for the man who, from here on out, should be filling the role of God in our entertainment: Michael Keaton, The Best New God.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

The 30 Best Things About Summer, 18


Fireworks.

As Madison, WI, gets ready to pay tribute to British royalty via its "Rhythm & Booms" celebration (which one year had Candle In The Wind: The Princess Di Version as part of its soundtrack) and as other cities get ready to blow stuff up in remembrance of the day some guys signed a piece of paper declaring we were totally independent, it's time to once again remember that fireworks in the winter are dumb. Fireworks in the summer are great, provided that you don't actually go to the fireworks show and sit in a giant group of people getting bit by mosquitos and having to smell the Budweiser the guy next to you spilled on your kids' Frisbee. If you can enjoy them from a slight distance, that's the best.

Also very nice: the little fireworks that you can buy, if they're the good kind that might blow your fool head off and not the lame kind that Mom always made us get. Although Mom was better than Sweetie, who won't allow any fireworks at all. Nearly burn down the porch just once and you never hear the end of it.


Other Best Things About Summer:

8. Helium balloons.

9. Jell-O

10. Shorts.

11. Hammocks.

12. Longer days.

13. Sandals.