Monday, November 7, 2011

60 Greatest Songs of All Time

It's no revelation to say that as the Internet expands the screaming out there gets louder and louder as the need to be heard is drowned out by the screaming of everyone else's need to be heard, and the tricks and postings and whatever it is you do get more outrageous, more gimmicky, more unbelievable, and of course more shameful. And more fun to read.

Glad you agree, because that's what I'm doing here.

I've always liked the lists: The 10 Best Vegetables for Heart Health, the 10 Worst Moments in Elvis's Costume History. Or the 20 Best Excuses for Bailing Out on Your Meeting with the Fiancé and Wedding Planner for a Sox-Yankees Game at Fenway with your Buds. Too close to home? Whatever, lists are the best, and let's face it, the easiest writing to come up with.

Because it all boils down to your own, therefore of course more valid, opinion. List-making is the most narcissistic way of communicating , and the most fun because, hey, who can argue with your opinion?

Everyone, as it turns out.

Everybody and their mother-in-law weighs in on the lists that populate our popular culture, from the Cosmo "10 Things He Likes In Bed but Will Never Tell You" (and why wouldn't he, pray tell? Because they're unsanitary and possibly illegal), to the Best Colleges lists, to the Oscars.

So the other day I was thinking about the 60 Best Songs ever written and recorded. Ever. From classical to opera to pop, reggae, country, folk, instrumental, vocal, etc. Especially etc. This list has been exhaustively researched, meticulously constructed through rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific methodology, and written in the utmost secrecy during my lunch hour.

So of course here it is. Note that I've listed the artists whose recordings of the tune I preferred, not necessarily the writer or the original artist:

1. The Weight -- The Band

2. Try a Little Tenderness -- Otis Redding

3. Friend of the Devil -- Grateful Dead

4. What's Going On -- Marvin Gaye

5. Redemption Song -- Bob Marley

6. Angel From Montgomery -- John Prine

7. Somewhere Over the Rainbow -- Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'o

8. Ooh La La -- Ronnie Lane

9. Unchained Melody -- Righteous Brothers

10. Bohemian Rhapsody -- Queen

11. Young Americans -- David Bowie

12. Woza Friday -- Johnny Clegg and Juluka

13. Thunder Road -- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

14. Sweet Emotion -- Aerosmith

15. I'll Take You There -- Staples Singers

16. Bolero -- Maurice Ravel

17. Just Like a Woman -- Bob Dylan

18. You Really Got Me -- The Kinks

19. Just Lose It -- Eminem

20. Free Nelson Mandela -- The Special AKA

21. I Got You (I Feel Good) -- James Brown

22. Incident on 57th Street -- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

23. One Way Out -- Allman Brothers Band

24. Rhapsody in Blue -- George Gershwin

25. Wish You Were Here -- Pink Floyd

26. Sympathy for the Devil -- Rolling Stones

27. Me and Bobby McGee -- Janis Joplin

28. You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling -- Righteous Brothers

29. In the Mood -- Glenn Miller Band

30. Jersey Girl -- Tom Waits

31. Ain't Misbehavin' -- Fats Waller

32. Son of a Preacher Man -- Dusty Springfield

33. My Sharona -- The Knack

34. God Only Knows -- The Beach Boys

35. Shout -- The Isley Brothers

36. The Boxer -- Simon and Garfunkel

37. Strange Fruit -- Billie Holiday

38. Blue Bayou -- Linda Ronstadt

39. Crazy -- Patsy Cline

40. London Calling -- The Clash

41. Blitzkrieg Bop -- The Ramones

42. Heartbreak Hotel -- Elvis Presley

43. Lust for Life -- Iggy Pop

44. Fortunate Son -- Creedence Clearwater Revival

45. White Rabbit -- Jefferson Airplane

46. Hey Jude -- The Beatles

47. Thick as a Brick -- Jethro Tull

48. Rocky Mountain Way -- Joe Walsh

49. Mack the Knife -- Bobby Darin

50. Smells Like Teen Spirit -- Nirvana

51. Paradise by the Dashboard Light -- Meat Loaf

52. Sweet Jane -- Lou Reed

53. Faith -- George Michael

54. I Love Rock and Roll -- Joan Jett and the Blackhearts

55. Gimme Shelter -- The Rolling Stones

56. Folsom Prison Blues -- Johnny Cash

57. Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me) -- The Temptations

58. The Heart of the Matter-- Don Henley

59. Edge of Seventeen -- Stevie Nicks

60. One for My Baby (and One More for the Road) -- Frank Sinatra

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Riding the Buss

"A kiss," that iconic song tells us, "is still a kiss. A sigh is just a sigh." Well, not exactly, as anyone who’s done more sighing than kissing knows. As in most married people. Actually, my wife and I do manage to sneak in kisses here and there, meaning we have a busy household and she's running kids around and I work late and there never seems to be any time except at breakfast while she's making pancakes and I'm emptying the dishwasher, so it’s a peck. Good morning. After we've brushed our teeth.

I’m not suggesting our love life has suffered because we’re forced to kiss while breakfast is erupting into flames on the stove behind us. Quite the opposite. It's just at this point in our lives we simply have come to realize that kissing is less important to the harmony of our relationship than, say, taking out the garbage. But when we do get a chance to truly lock lips on the rare occasion that we've found a moment, I have to say it’s a whole lot better than sorting through the recyclables.

No Thanks, We're Married
That's taking into account, again, that we're married. Anyone who has been married or dated for more than 15 minutes knows the downside of relationships. The quantity, and quality, of your smooching exist in inverse proportion to the number of years you've been together. Take a moment to recall, without embarrassing yourself, your wedding night. Or a memorable occasion with the love of your life. I’m guessing that every one of those kisses left you breathless with passion. These days you still become breathless but it’s because, let’s face it, you're middle-aged and out of shape.

That is to say, over the years kissing seems more and more like going to the dentist: it's a scheduled but necessary activity that involves a long wait followed by strange vibrations in your gums, and a rinse. Here, by the way, I am not using "kiss" as a euphemism for anything beyond a meeting of the lips--unless you want to infer and take it to its ultimate conclusion, which, of course, I did while I was thinking about it.

The Thais that bind
Kissing, then, is always done best and best done by the young and hearty. That’s why I wasn’t surprised when I read about Ekkachai and Laksana Tiranarat, a young couple from Thailand, who on this past Valentine's Day--of course--defeated 13 couples in a Guinness world record contest for longest kiss. They rode a buss uninterrupted for 46 hours, 24 minutes and 9 seconds. The previous record was 32 hours, nothing to sneeze at. One would hope.

Well, more power to them. When you’re 20-something and have lips of steel, 46 hours of frivolous and basically incomprehensible behavior is expected. I think you remember. I, on the other hand, though I love my wife, am not about to suggest we enter any kissing contests. I'm simply not the man I used to be, if indeed I ever was the man I used to be.

Besides, there are logistics to think about. Have you recently spent nearly two full days without seeing a bathroom? It’s not something that immediately comes to mind as beneficent, though I suppose if I did my doctor might at least excuse me from prostate exams for the next few years. Suppose you get the hiccups, or a more severe form of gastrointestinal upheaval. Use your imagination. Proximity does not always breed intimacy.

Taxing
And consider the time element. Here are a few other things you can do in 46 hours: Watch an entire season of "Swamp People." Almost finish doing your taxes. Complete an average, American, 46-hour work week (according to the National Sleep Foundation, my patron organization).

I'd do pretty well anything to avoid doing my taxes, but not, as it turns out, competitive kissing. Still, I'm not worried about our relationship. As the song says, "The fundamental things apply, as time goes by." Like taking out the garbage.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Deck the Halls

You’re a man, you haven’t yet bought your wife a Christmas gift, and I know what you’re thinking: “If I wait until after work on the 24th, I’ll get all the good deals.”

Well, no, you won’t. You’ll get all that’s left on the shelves, which will be three non-seasonal candles, lilac-scented would be my guess, a Clapper, and a set of multihued non-stick baking pans that have not met federal safety standards. The clerk will roll her eyes as you run around frantically looking for something, anything for the most important person in your life, and will chortle madly after you finally pick up the Clapper and ask her to wrap it, because she knows, deep in her womanly heart, that sometime after Christmas morning your wife will use it on you in ways that were never intended, and possibly illegal.

Of course, you could have avoided all this because your wife told you five months ago precisely what it was she wanted for Christmas. And she’s continually reminded you about once a week precisely what it was she wanted for Christmas. The problem is, you weren’t listening.

Not that it’s your fault. You’re just a man, after all, and the law stating that men and women will ever effectively communicate has yet to be written. For example, a wife asks a husband what he wants for Christmas. He says, “Oh, I don’t know. Actually, I’ve wanted a snow-blower ever since I ruptured that disk two years ago and have been in intense pain every time I bend over.” What she hears is, “Oh, I don’t know.” So she buys him, say, a new pair of lovely and expensive fleece lined gloves. Which he’ll wear every time he goes out in intense pain to shovel the driveway.

It’s not that she’s not listening, it’s just that she thinks she knows what he really wants. And that’s because she is a woman and therefore communicates by innuendo, and expects the same from her husband. It’s a basic and primal difference between us. Men speak in a direct and lucid manner. Women, on the other hand, use what I call the “Bermuda Triangle Method of Communication,” where hints and abstract intimations appear all over the radar screen, only to suddenly vanish without proper identification.

Which is why you are now looking at that Clapper thinking, “But, if only she’d told me what she’d wanted…” But, again, she did. More accurately, she implied it, and expected you to read between the lines. Nevertheless, since you’ve got a few more days left to shop, and since the wrong gift is a very, very bad thing, here is my annual Guide to

What She Wants for Christmas:

What she said: “Any little thing would be fine.”
Translation: “Any little thing like that cute tennis bracelet I pointed out in Zales last July.”

What she said: “You have good taste, just pick out something.”
Translation: “You have no taste, just call my sister.”

What she said: “I’ve got everything I want in you.”
Translation: “But you’re not a two-week, expenses paid vacation in Maui without the kids.”

What she said: “Surprise me.”
Translation: “Surprise me by imagining what you think I’d like, then getting the opposite.”

What she said: “Something for the house, I guess.”
Translation: “If I see a Clapper, sex will be just another three-letter word, as in ‘not.’ ”

So go to it, and Happy Holidays to all.
Translation: And no Chia Pets, either.

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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hard Knocks

Men constantly ask the question “What do women want?” We ask this not because we think it’s possible to actually know—I mean, we already have a vague and somewhat unsettling idea of what women want, and apparently it has something to do with sensitivity and meaningful relationships. No, men ask the question because we want to curry favor with women by asking it; the mere act of asking implies that we’re sensitive and might be meaningful types. Beyond that, most men believe that women are, by and large, mysterious beyond comprehension, and that the question “What do women want?” can only truly be answered by God and Gloria Aldrich. Not necessarily in that order.

On the other hand, men have always been transparent. It’s easy to know what men want, and that is a world-class erection. If you’ve ever had any doubt, witness the rise, if you will, of the impotence drugs Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and the like. Since their inception, annual sales of the drugs have reached $3 billion; men are snapping them up faster than teenage girls are tweeting about Justin Bieber sightings. What’s up? Well, there you have it.

About 98 percent of men’s thoughts during an average waking day focuses on two important questions: “How was the sex the last time I had it?” and “When can I have sex again?” The remaining two percent focuses on the quotidian concerns of living -- food, shelter, family, and big honking boats. Consequently, men regularly think about their external vascular organs. Impotence afflicts an estimated 30 million men -- it’s hard to say exactly how many, since embarrassment precludes many men from going to their doctors, which can lead to psychological blocks that exacerbate the condition, thereby leading to further embarrassment and dysfunction, etc. It’s enough to say that a man without the ability to have an erection thinks of himself as a job without the paycheck.

Viagra, then, lifts the spirits as well as the appropriate body parts. It involves no pumps, no injections, no fuss. Just pop the pill about an hour before you plan not to be seen in public, and you’ll draw a full house in no time. And, there’s a new improved product, a wafer that dissolves instantly and clears you for takeoff within seconds. This of course is something you do not want to keep in your coat pocket next to the Certs. Grabbing the wrong wafer at, say, a sales meeting where you’re delivering that new marketing campaign -- standing up, no podium -- is probably not the sort of advertising you’d have had in mind.

Unfortunately the Viagra phenomenon has recorded some unfortunate side-affects, one of which is watching TV with your eleven-year-old son when the commercial comes on. The first time the announcer warned against the dangers of four-hour erection, my son looked up and said, and I swear this is true, "Dad, has that ever happened to you?"

"Uhm, well," I said, cleverly, "fours hours? Four minutes, maybe. And what do you know about these things?"

Viva Viagra anyone?

Unfortunately, the Viagra phenomenon confirms the worst fears of some women, which is that men aren’t wholly interested in sensitivity and cuddling. Herein lies a sexual bridge only occasionally crossed. When men think of sex, they focus on the physical act itself. When women think of sex, they think of the whole , from flowers to fondue (at least in the ‘70s) to tender afterglow. Men can isolate and compartmentalize aspects of the sexual experience, and, let’s face it, most of them involve an erection. I mean, cuddling is fine and all, but when a top is wound up, it’s got to spin.

If nothing else, the staggering number of men buying Viagra et al. gives us some insight into the amount of sexual activity that occurs on a daily basis in these United States. Not that any of it is happening to me -- I’ve got kids, enough said there -- but I’m not jealous. Rather, I’m heartened to know that if my mind ever makes a promise that my body can’t fill, there’s a pill.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Man 101

Now that Valentine's Day is on the horizon and you've been searching the Internet for that perfect gift for her, Dr. Love-Monster's Edible Strawberry Body Lotion, it's important to remind ourselves why attraction between the sexes is possible in the first place. It's because men are completely predictable and understandable, and women are not.

I say that, of course, as a man, but with all the respect due to our distaff partners in humanity. The fact is, men would be nowhere without women. Well, maybe out bowling, but still, in the large scheme of things, nowhere. Okay, maybe sitting out on a quiet lake in a high-powered boat with our feet up on the cooler as our fishing line glides through the water and a sleek, award-winning bass nips at a hand-tied lure, but other than that, nowhere.

The irony, however, is that even though men are about as difficult to figure out as a fire plug, women just don't seem to understand us. Ask any woman on the street if she understands men and she'll shake her head, maybe mumble something about "mother warned me," or whatever.

Men, on the other hand, when asked if they understand women, will often come up with the cleverly insightful, "What's to understand?"

So, as a public service, I have assembled the six most important questions women have asked about men from the beginning of time. My hope is that they will contribute to a fuller understanding between the sexes, and that, in the end, I will have written the 750 words necessary to get paid for this column. Thank you.

Why is it easier for a woman to say, "I love you" than for a man to say it?
Men find it difficult to say, well, things like that, because men are genetically programmed to display, rather than talk about, their affection. For instance, when your husband gave you that 500-channel satellite dish last Valentine's Day, he was demonstrating his deep and abiding love. For TV. And, of course, for you. Because he knows you'll grow to love TV as much as he does.

Men tend to "do," while women tend to "feel." Women who've learned to interpret the actions of their men know that the little things they do every day say, "I love you." The affectionate pat, the way he tells you that the swelling in your ankles seems to have gone down--it's true love, through and through.

Can men ever be truly monogamous?
Of course, but only if there are no other women around.

What's the attraction of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue?
Near naked models are actually strong, independent artists who are thumbing their nose at the establishment by eschewing the strictures of a patriarchal society that forces them to exist within the confines of repressive male-imaging, and men who buy these magazines are merely joining powerful women in the celebration of their release from the shackles of male-dominated culture. That would be my guess.

Why will men never ask for directions when lost?
A man tends to be a "macro" manager of his life, rather than a "micro" manager. This means that, in the large scheme of things, he is not lost as long as he is somewhere on the planet Earth. Even if a man is driving aimlessly through a rough neighborhood with the needle on empty while his terror-stricken family fingers their rosaries, he feels he is in control of the situation because, you guessed it, it's his car.

What would possess a man to wear the same underwear four days in a row?
Basically, men are territorial. Those little hairs he leaves in the sink after he shaves, the sweatshirt standing in the corner, and underwear with the consistency of potato chips are not signs of poor personal hygiene but rather warning signals to potential intruders that there's a man in the house. Besides, four days, maybe five, is tops.

Why are men are so concerned with...you know...
Size? Glad you asked. This question strikes at the very root of evolution. Men are no more than dumb, male mammals who compete for mating privileges with females. The strongest male gets the prize, and is called the "alpha" male. And for guys who didn't belong to a fraternity, having a lot of money helps.

Has anyone ever heard a woman say, "I want a small, weasel guy with the personality of a filing cabinet"? No, women are attracted to tall, broad-shouldered men, because bigness is a sign of strength and virility. Bigness in other areas is also a sign of virility, or a very clever plastic surgeon.

But the truth is, most men are not worried about size. They're just worried that you're worried about it.

Of course, I wouldn't know anything about that.

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Friday, July 4, 2008

Light My Fire

I officially turned middle age about 20 minutes ago, and you might be interested to know that I've already gained 12 pounds and begun to call my wife "Toots." Even worse, I'm thinking about collecting beer steins. It looks grim from this end, and I'm doing all I can to remember what it is that middle-aged guys so desperately cling to when teenage girls begin to call them "Sir."

That's why I'm glad it's summer, because there's one thing I still can do, and will always be able to do that establishes me as a provider, the man of the house, a veritable glut of testosterone awash in this fatigued yet still honed and buffed -- I'm talking about my fingernails, actually -- body.

I can still barbecue.

Grilling

Barbecuing is, clearly, a guy thing. Where else can a man watch his wife spend nine hours selecting, cutting, and marinating meat, then toss it on the grill for eight minutes and, later when she asks him to help clean up, say, "Jeez, honey, I helped you cook, didn't I?"

Nowhere, that's where. Barbecuing is not only your friend, it's your ticket to the hammock out back.

I consider myself a serious barbecuer, which means I get to buy stuff. Not just any stuff, but hardware-like items that are metallic and black and vaguely sinister. As we speak, men all over the country are shopping for overpriced charcoal and gas grills that are no more than recast junk auto parts. And, without a hint of irony or comprehension, they're saying things like, "Look, this one's got 56,000-BTU capability and a 1,021-square-inch grilling surface!"

Later, we get to play with sharp, pointy objects. Barbecuing forks and tongs are among the most dangerous items in the universe, things we wouldn't let our kids even look at, let alone lug around after drinking six beers. But all guys know this: barbecue accessories are cool. I've always suspected that men sense some sort of phallic affinity to them, because of certain salient attributes, none of which come to mind right now since I only said that because it's obligatory to mention phallic imagery when writing about men. It's the law.

Anyway, and more important, barbecuers get to play with fire. Fire is primal, elementary, and indiscriminate. In other words, pretty much mindless, and therefore perfect for men. You know the routine. Your wife/girlfriend/person-who-is-much-smarter-than-you says, "Honey, we're eating soon, would you start the fire?" Then they immediately vacate the area for a three-mile radius, heading for the hills, because they know the danger and suffering that is about to ensue will be more than they can take.

Up in flames
I once started a barbecue in the backyard that actually set off smoke alarms inside the house. And years ago, I witnessed a neighbor attempt to light a barbecue--this is absolutely true--in the middle of a hurricane. The winds had reached 60 mph, which meant of course that he couldn't light the coals. So he did the obvious thing and poured on more lighter fluid. Then, cleverly, he moved the grill to within inches of his house to shield it from the intense and destructive gale winds which were, at that moment, snapping nearby massive elm trees in half. When he still couldn't light it--he could barley stand upright--he again, perceptively, added a lot more lighter fluid. Finally it caught. I needn't go into details here, let's just say he got a lot of fire for his money. So did the family next door.

The nimrod factor
There are, of course, downsides to barbecuing. You have to wear an apron that says to the world, "I Am a Complete Nimrod!" You might have to wear a matching chef's cap that your wife bought because she'd rather have you go bald naturally than burn it off.

But the worst part about barbecuing is that you have to watch people as they attempt to eat your "creations." They'll try to make pleasant faces as they crunch an erstwhile chicken breast, now an unrecognizable carbonized lump indistinguishable from the coals that made it that way, while secretly worrying about nonspecific carcinogens. Your only hope is that they don't smile in your direction.

And you know that they know this: guys, no matter what age, can't cook. But they sure as hell can barbecue.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Childbirth = Birth Control

It's time, once again, to visit the wonderful world of Dear Abby. With her pithy pearls of wisdom, sharp-as-a-tack mid-Western humor, and of course that engaging hairdo, she's an icon, the rock against which many of us lean in times of distress and, apparently, complete insanity.

Abby knows best
I'll admit that I read the Dear Abby column just about every day. Why? Because I'm comforted knowing that there are people in the world whose lives are a bigger mess than mine. If I'm having a bad day at work and I pick up a column where "Lori from Dubuque" is complaining that her stepfather from her mom's third marriage won't be able to walk her down the aisle in her upcoming nuptials because he's been incarcerated for jumping bond, but that doesn't matter because she'd rather have her real father do the honors anyway, which obviously will never work since his current wife is the tramp who broke up the marriage in the first place, well that just warms my heart. I mean, I have occasional popping in my ears. Who am I to complain?

I especially like it when someone asks Abby about sex, which is a lot like asking Michael Vick about pet care. Still, everyone loves to read about other people's dreadful sex lives. In a column not long ago, "Sexless in Atlanta" wondered why, since the birth of her child eighteen months ago, she's had "absolutely no desire for sex." This, she said, has put a strain on her marriage, and despite visits to her gynecologist and a therapist for a solution, she and her husband still argue about it.

No sex is good sex
Abby's advice was, cleverly, that the woman should find a new therapist (Translation: Don't ask me, I haven't had sex since the New Deal, and even then it wasn't so great). But what struck me was the problem. See, it wasn't my wife who had difficulty immediately after our children were born. It was me. And that was because I made the mistake of watching my wife give birth.

Any man who steps into that operating room does so at the peril of his sex drive. Once a man has seen what actually happens during childbirth, he's thinking he'd rather go through life with a nonspecific, weepy rash than go through that again. Sure, babies are cute and cuddly, but at the moment of birth they're covered in body fluids that just seem wrong. And they're huge, at least huge for the places from which they emerge. I'll never again underestimate the elasticity of the human body, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, my wife didn't have to watch it, I did. She was in pain of course, something she casually mentioned in rather colorful terms every fifteen seconds during labor, but she was also on her back. I saw it all, and I'm here to say that seeing it all does not provide the same sort of fantasy world as does, say, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Body fluids
Of course, I've never read Dear Abby for her responses. Anyone who believes that a newspaper columnist dispensing advice in one hundred words or less is actually qualified to do so needs, well, some advice. And I'm not going to talk about my sex life publically, I'll leave that to other correspondents. It's enough to say that our youngest is older now and covered in body fluids of his own making, and I can assure Sexless that, sooner or later, her desire will return -- only to be destroyed by the kids bursting through the bedroom door at midnight.

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