Don’t call us, we won’t call you

I loved this comic strip panel from Bizarro:

It’s funny ‘cuz it’s true. Nobody uses the “phone” part of “mobile phone” anymore. It’s really more of a mobile typewriter + mobile camera + mobile laptop + mobile video arcade + mobile television. And that’s fine, I suppose. I’m trying to avoid getting into Abe Simpson territory.

No one sends telegrams anymore either… time marches on, things change.

But after 3 years of a relatively sheltered existence, it’s OK to “reach out and touch someone” via phone.

The human voice is an amazing instrument – it can reach all the way to your soul, in a way that a text simply can’t.

P.S. The entire week of Bizarro comics is available via a weekly blog post – well worth subscribing to get the email.

You cannot be Sirius

Sorry, SiriusXM, but I’m dumping you.

There are many reasons why I’m dumping satellite radio:

  1. I’m a cheapskate. We have Sirius XM in two cars. Total was about $15 a month. (I’d call each year before my latest “promotional” price would expire to renegotiate the rate.)
  2. I don’t drive as much. Now that I can work from home most days of the week, we’re putting a lot fewer miles on our cars. Less “time spent listening” as the salespeople used to say in my radio days.
  3. I’ve switched from music to podcasts. Nowadays, when I do get in the car, chances are pretty good that I’ll listen to a podcast instead of the radio – satellite or otherwise. Why pay for something you don’t use?
  4. We’re already paying for Spotify. We have the family plan… if I want to listen in the car, I can just stream Spotify or play a downloaded playlist or album.

But those are just the minor reasons. The main reason is their woeful lack of variety on SiriusXMU, the station that likes to call itself the place for “groundbreaking music and emerging artists.” In theory, it should be similar to 97X, the “college rock” station where I worked in the early 90s. But in reality, their playlist is waaaay too narrow.

I was driving my son Peter back to campus at Ohio University (“Harvard on the Hocking”) a few weeks ago, and just for fun, I told him that I’d pick five bands, and we’d see how long we could listen to SiriusXMU before one of them was played. The five bands were:

  1. Vampire Weekend
  2. The Strokes
  3. LCD Soundsystem
  4. Tame Impala
  5. Grizzly Bear

Peter and I wound up listening to other stations for most of the drive to his apartment. On my way home, I listened to podcasts most of the way, but after I stopped to get gas, I turned on SiriusXMU… and they were playing a Tame Impala song.

The following evening when I was running some errands, the 2nd song that came on was from Vampire Weekend.

Two days later, a Grizzly Bear song was playing when I started the (other) car.

4 days later, it was LCD Soundsystem that was on when I got in the car in the mid-morning.

1/23 11:02 a.m.

That same afternoon, I went to visit my mother-in-law in the hospital. Vampire Weekend was the second song that came on during my drive over.

1/23, 5:42 p.m

Aaaand later that evening, when I left the hospital, here’s the song that was playing when I started the car:

1/23 8:39 p.m.

I stopped at a store on the way home. When I got back into the car, here’s what was on:

1/23 8:47 p.m.

It’d be laughable if it weren’t so sad. I mean, why would someone pay for “groundbreaking music” only to get a station with a playlist that’s tighter than a terrestrial Top 40 station?

Each week, I check the list of new album releases (on Allmusic and Metacritic) and create a Spotify playlist of the ones I think will appeal to me. I’ve discovered tons of new music that way. It’s a hobby of mine. But for SiriusXMU, it’s their job… and they’re failing miserably.

Granted there are plenty more channels on SiriusXM (my wife likes the Grateful Dead channel… but now she listens to books on tape in the car), but indie rock is my go-to… and I just can’t go to SiriusXMU any more. It’s too frustrating.

So I’ve dumped them… and if I miss it, I can just create a Spotify playlist of four or five bands and run it on repeat. Same difference.

The Cat’s out of the bag

My friend and co-worker Brian has an interesting side hustle. He prowls the sidelines of NFL games as “Who Dey” – the mascot for the Cincinnati Bengals.

He’s been “dressing up as a fake tiger” (his words, not mine) for more than 20 years — he’s getting a bit long in the fang for the mascot game. This feat is quite impressive when you consider how much of a physical workout it is. (Brian said on warmer game days, he’ll sweat off 10 pounds or more.)

And it’s even more impressive when you consider the fact that the Bengals were… let me put this politely… not good for much of his tenure. It can’t be much fun trying to fire up a sparse crowd — many of whom were probably rooting for the opposing team — during a 2-14 season.

I’m glad the Tiger tables have turned. If things go the Bengals way this Sunday, Brian will be going to the Super Bowl for the 2nd year in a row. Not bad for a side hustle. Or should I say “fur” a side hustle?

Xavier University’s website has a great profile of Brian here.

While he was in college, he was leading a mascot double life, as the “Blue Blob” mascot at Xavier sporting events, as well as doing his Who Dey thing.

And because Brian’s a natural ham, I cast him in a bunch of fun videos that I’ve scripted for our company over the years. One of my favorites was a buddy cop spoof — Brian and I were “Ham” and “Cheese” respectively, for obvious reasons.

In that video, we poked fun at some of the more arcane rules in the employee handbook, like “no t-shirts with inappropriate slogans” for our in-house fitness center. Here’s a quick clip from that:

I’m glad Brian’s still having fun hamming it up as Who Dey. Here’s hoping we see him at Super Bowl LVII in a few weeks!

Stay Weird!

“Weird Al” Yankovic has a biopic out called Weird. In true Weird Al fashion, it’s a parody of biopics. And of course it’s on a weird network (the Roku channel). Weirder still, Daniel Radcliffe plays Al.

I watched it last night. Pretty funny stuff. (One of the best running gags is that Al wrote an original song called “Eat it” and then Michael Jackson came out with “Beat it” as a parody of that.)

Here’s one of the opening scenes, poking fun at the trope of parents who just don’t understand:

“Stop being who you are and doing the things you love…” Classic!

But near the end of the movie, “Al” gives an awards ceremony speech that doesn’t seem like parody (if you can overlook the fact that he pees his pants):

“Live the life you want to live. Be as weird as you wanna be. You will never find true happiness until you can truly accept who you are.”

Al Yankovic plays the accordian. And he does parodies of pop music songs. Not exactly the template for a rocket ride to the top of the music charts. But somehow it worked.

He chose the weird path… the path that was true to himself… and it paid off.

What’s your weird? And are you living it?

Worst. Christmas Song. ever.

I’m a Grinch (pre-heart-growing-three-sizes). And I particularly despise the tripe foisted upon our ears from Halloween onward. You may call it “Christmas music” but to me it’s an aural assault equivalent to a million nails on a chalkboard.

99% of the holiday songs that are played ad nauseum are nausea-inducing. I don’t care if they’re “classics” from milquetoast crooners like Perry Como and Andy Williams or songs from new artists. They all stink.

The newer songs are particularly egregious. Every semi-popular artist releases at least one holiday tune, in a blatant attempt to weasel their way into the nearly-calcified list of 20 or so songs that are trotted out every year, merely to cash in on the “played every 30 minutes for 8 weeks every year” royalties. (It’s called the Mariah Carey Lottery.)

The worst offenders release an entire album of holiday music. “Why thank you, Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20, we didn’t think we needed a bazillionth cover of ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ but you showed us the error of our ways. God bless us, every one!”

This Tiny Tim probably did a Christmas album.

However, there’s a special place in my holiday hell reserved for what is undeniably the worst Christmas song ever: “The Christmas Shoes.”

Let’s break it down line by line (yes, I know Patton Oswalt does it so much better, but his version is pretty raunchy).

Typical dude, waiting until the last minute to do his shopping. Clearly this song was written in the pre-online shopping era. And let’s face it, no one is in a “Christmas mood” when they’re in a long line.

I think the boy needs to pee. I hope he doesn’t pee in the shoes!

Yes, our narrator is not in a “Christmas mood” nor is he in a Christian mood because he’s being awfully judgy about the lad’s appearance.

And the song has taken a dark turn. But even though the kid’s dad says “there’s not much time” he’s fine with his unaccompanied minor going to the store with a boatload of pennies to buy shoes for his dying mom. Imagine if the mom passes while the kid is out shopping… there aren’t enough pennies in the entire world to pay for the therapy sessions he’ll need.

Also, the dad has informed the wee one that momma is not long for this world, but he clearly hasn’t told his son how funerals work. I’ve been to a few services in my day and have yet to see an “open shoe” casket. So the poor kid is wasting his pennies.

The kid could probably just get her some house slippers. Or use his penny stash to get her some illegal pain meds.

Again, I’m going to go back to the casket thing… the kid should’ve purchased some earrings instead.

Our faithful narrator has been reminded of “what Christmas is all about”:

  • long lines
  • those super-annoying people who pay in cash
  • spending beyond your means
  • impractical gifts
  • imminent death

Sorry for being so grumpy. I blame the music.

Smile, even if you’re not on Candid Camera

The endorphins are free. So’s the dopamine. And the serotonin. (More here.)

That miracle pain-reliever you crave might already be in your possession. Here’s some Mitch Hedberg to kickstart those smiles.

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