All Your Favorite Bands

All Your Favorite Bands

Several times a year, I am asked what my favorite bands are. Or I’m sucked in by some kind of Facebook post where people are talking about their favorite concerts ever. Or their top five songs. Then there’s always the “desert island disc” thing, where people ask if I was trapped on a desert island, what 10 albums would I bring with me. These are all fun exercises! I certainly don’t mind doing them, but there’s also a tiny bit of stress in them, especially for a person like me who enjoys so much different music. These are truly first-world problems. So my approach to these types of things is to enjoy them. I view them as a snapshot in time. Because for me, my top anything when it comes to music is different on an almost day-to-day basis. I also know that 12 years from now, nobody is going to remember or hold me to it.

I say all this because the other day I was driving and decided to put my ’70s Spotify playlist on shuffle. Yes, I am the person who has built Spotify playlists by decade. All my favorite songs, seperated by time period. I have playlists for the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s and an ongoing one for the ’20s. I also have playlists for my favorite bands – all my favorite songs from each of those bands. It’s like my own little greatest hits collection because surprise! – my greatest hits for a specific band are generally not the songs that were continuously pounded into our heads on the radio. And truth be told, most of my band-focused Spotify playlists are bands that were never “famous” or on the radio anyway.

I’m getting off-topic, sorry. Ah yes, the ’70s. It hit me to write this blog post because I heard two consecutive songs that I just love so much. And as I was driving, I was singing them out loud and thinking these two songs belong on a top list somewhere for me. Don’t know what that list is and now I don’t really care as it’s been a few days. It just prompted me to write this post. So I’m sharing them here. Have a listen. Or don’t!

Richard & Linda Thompson’s “Hokey Pokey” from 1975 always hits me in the right place. Thompson’s guitar playing is just incredible, as always, but the fiddle and Linda’s singing really just turn it into a masterpiece. And the lyrics, well, you can interpret them how you please, but it’s clear there’s a double entendre going on here. It’s a song about ice cream…or is it? Sing along with the lyrics.

The second one is more well-known. Elton John’s “Country Comfort” (1970) feels like wearing a pair of old jeans and a hoodie. Just warm and snug. The piano is crisp and I just love how the chorus is sung. It’s “homey.” I love a song that can really take you somewhere, and this song does.

Bad Time

Bad Time

A few days back, The New York Times ran this piece about expiration dates on food. They tackle many different types of food and how certain ingredients really can be consumed over a long, long period. This is an interesting subject for me. I’m a person who pretty much lives and dies by the expiration date on the packaging. I’ve now read multiple articles now, including this one, that say expiration dates are misleading and only provide guidance as to when the food is optimal to eat. And some food manufacturers do put “best by” instead of “use by” and perhaps that’s the way things are going. But I’m not sure I’m ready to go beyond the dates stamped on packages. My logic is that those dates are there for a reason.

They cite a definitive list of things you never have to worry about and will pretty much last forever:

  • Vinegars
  • Honey
  • Vanilla & other extracts
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Corn Syrup
  • Molasses

I’m pretty much on board with those. I will use any of those ingredients anytime, regardless of how long it’s been in the cabinet – and I don’t think they even have dates on them. Where it starts to go south for me in the article is with other things. Eggs, in particular. Here is what the Times says about eggs:

The Julian date printed on each carton (that’s the three-digit number ranging from 001 for Jan. 1 to 365 for Dec. 31) represents the date the eggs were packed, which, in most parts of the country, can be up to 30 days after the egg was actually laid. The sell-by stamp can be another 30 days after the pack date. That’s 60 full days! But odds are good that they’ll still be palatable for several weeks longer than that.

New York Times, January 24, 2023

OK, so no. No way. There is no chance on green Earth that I am eating eggs 30 days after I purchased them. Nope. They also say that salad dressings will last up to a year, but I think that’s throwing a blanket over a LOT of different options. While a lot of dressings ARE vinegar based, which bodes well for their longevity, plenty are not. Just picture the salad dressing aisle at your supermarket. It’s like 5x larger than it used to be in the ’80s and ’90s. You can’t tell me that ALL those are lasting one year, particularly the ones with cheese in them.

Anyway, the more I read these articles, the more expiration date stubborn I think I get. If food hits an expiration date in my house, it’s generally gone the day after. First-world problem, yes. But peace of mind – also yes.

Right Down the Line

Right Down the Line

In my observation and based on no data whatsoever, I’d say 75% of people don’t end up making a living doing what they originally envisioned as younger people. My major in college was Journalism & Mass Communications. I always wanted to either write or somehow be involved in television production (off camera). I did end up doing some freelance music writing in the ’90s for The Philadelphia Weekly, No Depression and a few other publications, but then my focus went more toward music itself. And here I am now, a VP-level E-commerce & Digital person. Makes total sense, right? Right.

But one job that I’ve always dreamt about through the years, regardless of what my profession was at the time, was that of a Music Supervisor. That’s a fancy title that basically means “the guy who picks music for large film or TV productions.”

Music normally plays a background role in films and TV and helps set a mood for the scene. A horror movie or a thriller will have a certain intensity, a deeper aura. A romantic comedy might have a lighter bed of music behind it. But I’m not really talking about background music (although a Music Supervisor does handle that). I’m talking about the use of popular songs in film, when it takes the lead to help tell the story. Used well, it can take what I’ve always thought of as a weak or overplayed song and turn it into a song I love, because it becomes tied to a memorable scene from a great movie. How? Because it stamps a visual into my head and I “see” and hear that song differently forever. Or maybe I’m just easily influenced.

And I’m not talking about the iconic ones – the “Layla” scene in GoodFellas, when The Doors “The End” plays during “Apocalypse Now” or “The Sound of Silence” for “The Graduate. Those are too easy. Let me give you a couple of examples of the ones I think about:

Lately, it seems Gerry Rafferty’s “Right Down the Line” is the song that is getting some kind of re-awakening. While laid up with COVID this week, I watched the entirety of HBO’s excellent “Euphoria” and their use of this song was really well-executed. I’ve never been over-the-moon about the song, but now that I have this image burned into my brain, I’m suddenly really enjoying it more than I ever thought I would.

The 1999 movie “The Virgin Suicides” is a movie that has stuck with me since I saw it. It’s wonderfully shot, a little trippy, odd, and their use of Heart’s “Magic Man” when introducing the character of Trip Fontaine transformed the song for me. I never really liked it until I saw it tied to this scene in this movie. Now I have it on certain playlists and enjoy the song very much, movie or not.

Lots of people’s minds also go right to Quentin Tarantino, whose use of music in his films is pretty superb. Major hat tip to THAT Music Supervisor, whoever it is. The one everyone thinks of is Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell,” which is the song used for the memorable John Travolta/Uma Thurman dance scene. But the song I’ve come to love is The Statler’s Brothers “Flowers on the Wall” in this scene.

Anyway, there’s so many more to choose from, but these pop into my mind right now. The power of video and storytelling really does have a way of turning songs I’m indifferent to into songs I love. I’d love to hear about some songs that you’ve come to appreciate after you seen them in a film or tv show.

Lips Like Sugar

Lips Like Sugar

I’m not sure when I grew to be suspect or dubious about claims made on food packages, but it’s definitely not a new thing for me. As far back as 2006, I wrote a massively controversial blog post about Fig Newtons (blog comments: zero), which had just released their “100% Whole Grain” version of the finest mass-produced cookie ever known to humankind. In case you didn’t click that link, here’s the Cliff’s Notes: when comparing the “regular” Fig Newton package and the 100% Whole Grain Fig Newton package, there was NO difference other than 1 gram extra of dietary fiber in the Whole Grain version and that the Whole Grain version contained more saturated fat than the regular Newtons.

Through the years, I still pick up and examine packages of food in stores to compare how healthy they make it *look* on the front of the package to the actual measurements and ingredients on the back. Sizzle vs. detail, if you will. It’s safe to say that food manufacturers are still playing games with us. Their use of colors (green = healthy!) is occasionally misleading and if something is high in fiber, but contains 28g of sugar, you can be sure that the front of the package will contain some sort of wheat-like image that says “80% of daily fiber requirements” or something. A lie? No. Looking out for your health? Uh, no.

So I read yesterday’s New York Times story about protein bars with great interest. These bars always fascinate me. It seems like every store now has hundreds of them, all neatly lined up next to each other in a dizzying array of “healthy” colors and life-saving claims of all the protein you’ll ever need. Don’t be too fooled by them. These are perhaps some of the most egregiously labeled food packages put forth by our money-grubbing food processors, yet the Times points out that they are now a $2 billion dollar business. And they are essentially candy bars.

“You can put ‘keto’ or ‘protein’ on a candy bar and sell it, and people don’t even question it,” said Janet Chrzan, an adjunct assistant professor of nutritional anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

New York Times, January 26, 2023

So yes, protein is good for you. But not when it’s packaged up with enough sugar to make a grizzly bear dance for hours on end (sidenote: I cannot wait to see Cocaine Bear!). The Times also points out that a chocolate chip Clif Bar contains 16 grams of added sugars, more than what’s in a serving of girl scout Thin Mints. Candy bars with more protein. Sounds healthy!

So if I’m picking a protein bar, it’s these because I am encouraged (or suckered?) by the simple ingredients posted right on the front of the package!

And guess what, they are pretty tasty. And the ingredients on the front are exactly what is in it. And there are indeed no added sugars, though there are 15g of naturally occurring sugars. Maybe try one, I like them. Or don’t. But be careful out there, hardly any of these companies really care about you.

You’re Too Weird

You’re Too Weird

  • Ladies and gentlemen, your elected officials. George Santos is a fascinating story, but one that tracks just perfectly if you think about the long, downward spiral that seems to be our government. Imagine you’re a regular person interviewing for a normal office job and you just invent a whole basket full of shit about yourself and totally fake your resume in order to nail the role. And your game face is so strong and convincing that everyone falls for it and you get the gig. Now, you probably don’t know what the hell you’re doing when take a seat in the role, but who cares? Fake it ’till you make it! Now imagine it’s Congress! How can you not help but laugh at the level of insanity that is going on right now? I, for one, can’t get enough of the Santos memes that are going around on social media, because they are hilarious. All you need to do is do a hashtag search and you’re in for endless amounts of fun. The below image, though, is not a meme. It’s a real story! Santos, the people’s representative from New York, stole money from a dying dog. The truth is indeed stranger than fiction!
  • One of my favorite news sources of late is The Free Press. You have to pay for the full boat of content (and it’s worth it), but if you sign up for their emails you can get a good tasting. They recently ran a piece mentioning another total clown, FTX’s Sam Bankman-Fried, our latest example of what seems like an entitled 30-year-old in a 16-year-old’s body. The article isn’t about the billions (with a b) frittered away irresponsibly or the minefield that is crypto right now. It’s more about one of my favorite topics – age. Namely, how a 30-year old human man should probably be less sheepish, childish and dumb. What I find most interesting isn’t that the boomers are largely still in charge and the millenials are taking it on the chin a little and living with their parents. Oh, no. What I find most interesting is that yet again, there is not one single mention of the Gen-X’ers. It is almost like that generation is just floating out in space, or tucked away in a quiet, dark corner. Or left at home by themselves after school to…oh wait – that part is actually what we WERE. Anyway, back to Bankman-Fried. Don’t let me try to explain it, because the professional journalist will do it much better than I will:

Bankman-Fried’s fate will now be decided by the Southern District of New York, but his media charade of aw-shucks interviews and congressional testimony laced with brogrammer idioms built a public persona that we’ve largely come to accept: SBF is just a kid. Indeed, he’s so young that his law school professor parents were involved in his business and political dealings. (In this, they embody the helicopter style of child-rearing favored by nearly the entire Boomer elite.)

The reality, of course, is that SBF is a grown-ass, 30-year-old man. He is twelve years older than many of the men and women we sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. Twelve years older than the adults we encourage to swallow hundreds of thousands of dollars in college debt before even declaring a major. And, if we’re serious about the math, SBF is a mere eight years away from the half-life of the average adult American man, who boasts a provisional life expectancy of only 76 years, according to the CDC. At 38, SBF would have already lived most of his life on Earth.

Katherine Boyle, The Free Press, January 17, 2023
  • Finally, it’s with great appreciation and interest that I read about John Laroquette, he of 1980s Night Court fame, who confirms that yes, he was paid in weed for his part in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We need more of this today. I want Woody Harrelson to only accept a role (as a crazed banjo-playing dean of students at an Ivy League college) if he can wheel a barrow full of weed out the door after the production is complete.