Stones Over Beatles? No Way!

[Originally posted to Northcoast Exile on April 13, 2005.  This was the most popular post on the old blog that didn’t feature a naked soccer mom.  I wish I’d saved the comments, but something tells me this subject will generate reams of new ones. – Jim]

John Scalzi, in his Reader Request Week post for today, tackles his weightiest subject to date:

“Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Superman or Batman?

‘He or she’ or singular ‘they’?”

Let’s get the first two out of the way. Batman, because when Superman has to be Clark Kent, he’s a wimp. When Batman has to be Bruce Wayne, he’s still a bad ass and not to be screwed with.

They. Linguists and grammarians need to just get over it. English lacks a proper gender nonspecific pronoun. Sorry, but “it” doesn’t cut it. So if we can have a royal “we” and an all-purpose “you,” English can survive a generic “they” for gender non-specific third person.

Now to the heart of the matter: Beatles vs. Stones. Beatles. Hands down. They were all working class stiffs. Quite frankly, they reinvented rock. Poppy? Hell, yes, and so what? Without The White Album, Sgt. Pepper’s, and the criminally underrated Abbey Road, rock simply would not be rock. That’s not to say the Stones didn’t do their part. “Sympathy for the Devil,” “Satisfaction,” and “Gimme Shelter” anyone? But… Well, let Scalzi tell you:

“The Beatles had the stones (so to speak) to break up and stay broken up, meaning that their canon is undiluted from years of post-creative suckage.”

Scalzi cuts off the Stones productive years at Tattoo You. I say Steel Wheels had merit, but, like Pink Floyd’s Momentary Lapse of Reason, it was designed to be an album you’d expect from the band. The only difference is that David Gilmour used that phrase as a title. Mick and Keith really did have a momentary lapse of reason. It’s the double whammy of musical crap called Dirty Work and Undercover, both the worst Stones albums I’ve ever heard. (And yes, I include the two post-Wyman yawn fests. “Anybody See My Baby” my ass!)

A lot of bands should have packed it in or at least shed deadweight. Much sooner. Led Zep probably needed to call it a career anyway when John Bonham died. Page just wanted to play guitar, and Plant had already developed his own sound. Pink Floyd did a Wall too far with the bloated Final Cut in 1983. One wonders if the follow up would have been stronger if Roger Waters had either quit sooner or let David Gilmour and Richard Wright have their way. Genesis… Invisible Touch? I’m still pissed off about the title track off that song. What was that? Phil Collins and Mike & the Mechanics rejects? (To be fair, We Can’t Dance was decent, but the post-Phil Calling All Stations was a huge mistake.)

Prog bands generally outlive their usefulness. Somebody tell me why Emerson, Lake, & Percussionist and Yes are still around? Have you heard their post-eighties work? Tragic. Have you heard their eighties work? The Asia albums that never were.

I’d call for Metallica’s demise, but I want to see them live. I’d also call for Guns & Roses demise, but then I like them again since they became Velvet Revolver.

The band that should be around, but can never be again, is Alice in Chains. Remember Alice? This is a rant about Alice. I miss the hell out of those guys.

UPDATE: I wrote this before A Bigger Bang came out. While not earth-shattering or by any means a classic, it is a decent album. If the Stones had gone from Tattoo You to Steel Wheels to A Bigger Bang, skipping everything in between, this post would have been very, very different.

WMD Blues – 1 Year Anniversary

[Originally posted December 29, 2006 on Northcoast Exile.  Hard to believe it’s been a year.  And I still question if the war was ever worth it.]

[The most tasteless blog post yet here. After what this country’s gone through under the most dubious of reasons to get rid of this bastard, I think I’m entitled to mock his death. So long, Saddam, and don’t let the gates of Hell smack you in the ass.]


[To the tune of “Cocaine Blues”]

With apologies to Johnny Cash

Early one mornin’ while makin’ the rounds
I took a shot of cocaine and I gassed some Shiites down
I went right home and I went to bed
I stuck that lovin’ nerve gas launcher ‘neath my head

Got up next mornin’ and I grabbed a gun
Took a shot of cocaine and away I run
Made a good run but I had lead feet
They chased me down a rabbit hole outside Tikrit

Late in the hot joints takin’ the pills
In walked a man from Capitol Hill
He said Saddam your name is not Jack Brown
You’re the dirty hack who gassed those Shiites down

Said yes, oh yes my name’s Saddam Hussein
If you’ve got the warrant just a-read it out plain
Gassed them down because they pissed me off
I asked them “Who’s yer daddy?” They said “Bugger off!”

When I was arrested I was dressed in rags
They put me in a Hummer and drove me back
Had no friend for to go my bail
They slapped my dried up carcass in a Baghdad jail

Early next mornin’ bout a half past nine
I spied the Marines coming down the line
The Major coughed as he cleared his throat
He said come on you dirty hack into this brand new court

Into the courtroom my trial began
Where I was handled by Iraqi men
Just before the judges started out
I saw the dirty head judge start to look about

In about five minutes in walked the man
Holding the verdict in his right hand
It read genocide in the first degree
I hollered Lawdy Lawdy, have a mercy on me

The judge he smiled, and I gave up all hope
I’d get to swing at the end of a rope
My carcass’d swing just above the ground
I can’t forget the day I gassed those Shiites down

Come on you’ve gotta listen unto me
Lay off that nerve gas and let that cocaine be

Saddam “Shotgun” Hussein, 1937-2006

Only One Resolution This Year

Let’s face it.  New Year’s resolutions are a crock.  You resolve at the end of the year to do something better or stop doing something bad for the following year.  By January 31, bad habits have reared their ugly head, and life goes back to whatever passed for normal.

I have one New Year’s resolution this year, though, one I’ve been very bad at keeping in recent years.  I resolve to kick my freelance writing career into high gear.  And last year showed me I can do it.

Oh, I let freelance writing slide.  Was it the standup comedy?  Was it a new novel?

No, it was web design.  As I get further and further into this field, I realize that I’m going to need more than one line of business to make up for a coming shortfall in income.  OK, I’m going to need something to pay for a year of DirecTV, or at least with HBO until The Wire wraps.  And being a homeowner, any extra cash that can be pumped into house repairs, replacing furniture, or even paying down the mortgage is nice.

Now you may think web design would keep me hopping.  How ever will I find time to work on the next novel or short story?  That’s not an issue.  What is an issue is having something going on between web sites.   Not just for the money.  If it were only the money, I could tend bar.  No, I need a those freelance writing jobs to stay sharp and keep me from burning out on my day job, on building sites for clients, and just living in suburbia in general.

So it’s not about the money, it’s what I do for it.  The material and the markets are there.  I just need to go after them.

Isn’t that what writers are supposed to do anyway?

Besides, weight-wise, I will definitely break even on the year.  Everytime I resolve to lose more weight, I get fatter.  Apathy seems to be my best dieting technique.

How Not To Become A Bestselling Author

Poor Tanja Shelton can’t catch a break. Her supervisor noticed she was typing constantly and discovered she was writing a romance novel while at work. So they fired her.

This is not the first time I’ve heard of this. And I’ve been accused of it by people who can’t imagine how else I would write such a big, long book. (Um… It was 210 pages. It’s not that long.) Generally, I’ve never been able to write on the job. I did do a flash story once, waiting for Windows to install on a laptop, but never a longer story. And a novel?

It’s kind of hard to do with the phone ringing. I’ve worked on it during lunch break or stopped at the coffee place on the way home. The fact is I have to unplug from work in order to write.

Most writers I know who have day jobs don’t write at work, unless they own their own business. Then it’s not a matter of giving the business a full eight hours. They just get to pick which eight hours they give it.

The Channel 8 story says all is not lost, that Shelton will finish her novel. That’s great. In the meantime, I think the landlord would like his rent money.

A Very Tom Waits Christmas

[Originally posted on Northcoast Exile, December 24, 2006]

I pulled on Santa’s sleigh

Christmas Eve was dark, and the snow fell like cocaine off some politician’s coffee table

Rudolph looked to the sky. He had a shiny nose, but it was from too much vodka

He said, “Boys, it’s gonna be a rough one this year.”


I pulled on Santa’s sleigh

The elves scrambled to pack up the last of the lumps of coal for deserving suburban brats

And a bottle of Jamie for some forgotten soul whose wife just left him

Santa’s like that. He’s been there.

Oh, he still loves Mrs. Claus, a spent piece of used sleigh trash who

Makes good vodka martnis, knows when to keep her mouth shut

But it’s the lonlieness, the lonliness only Santa knows


I pulled on Santa’s sleigh

And the workshop reeks of too much peppermint

The candy canes all have the names of prostitutes

And Santa stands there, breathing in the lonliness

The lonliness that creeps out of the main house

And out through the stables

Sometimes it follows the big guy down the chimneys

Wraps itself around your tannenbaum and sleeps in your hat


I pulled on Santa’s sleigh

We all line up for the annual ride

I’m behind Vixen, who’s showin’ her age these days

She has a certain tiredness that comes with being the only girl on the team

Ah, there’s nothing wrong with her a hundred dollars wouldn’t fix

She’s got a tear drop tattooed under her eye now, one for every year Dancer’s away


I pulled on Santa’s sleigh and

I asked myself, “That elf. What’s he building in there?”

He has no elf friends, no elf children

What’s he building in there?

He doesn’t make toys like the other elves

I heard he used to work for Halliburton,

And he’s got an ex-wife in someplace called Santa Claus, Pennsylvania

But what’s he building in there?

We got a right to know.


I pulled on Santa’s sleigh

And we’re off Off into the night

Watching the world burn below

All chimney red and Halloween orange


I’ve seen it all

I’ve seen it all

Every Christmas Eve, I’ve seen it all

There’s nothing sadder than landing on a roof in a town with no cheer.

Gone In 2007…

If you live in Cincinnati, you know 2007 means the end of several things no one wanted to let go of…

The Cincinnati Post: In Cincinnati, you have the Enquirer, a bastion of conservative journalism vs. City Beat, the city’s relentlessly liberal alternative weekly. In the middle lies The Post. Not as bombastic as The Enquirer nor as in-your-face as City Beat, The Post often functioned as a voice of reason. Still, an operating agreement with The Enquirer ultimately doomed the paper. Several years ago, The Enquirer earned themselves a lawsuit from Chiquita Brands over a stolen voicemail scandal. Had The Post been more independent of its crosstown rival, it might have both elevated its status as the Queen City’s paper of choice while possibly doing a more objective expose on the scandal than The Enquirer could manage.  Instead, the big paper’s woes were relegated to Page 7 while fresh material about Pete Rose and the Bill Clinton’s sex life were dug up.  Less than a decade later, with The Enquirer about to pull the plug on the joint-operating agreement, The Post will pack it in on December 31, 2007.  Cincinnati will be poorer for it.

Joe Nuxhall: One of the very first things I latched onto moving to Cincinnati was listening to the Reds games with Marty and Joe. At the time, Sweet Lou was still managing, Marge Schott had yet to infuriate the world, and the Reds had just come off a World Series win. Nuxie was the quieter of the pair, but beloved by Cincinnatians and baseball fans everywhere. He was one of the old-timers, like Harry Caray, but more comfortable being “The Ol’ Left Hander” to Marty Brennaman’s fiery critique. You never heard Joe call Junior Griffey on the carpet for a bad play. Wasn’t his job, and wasn’t his style. It took two men to fill Nuxie’s shoes: One is named Brennaman, the other an ex-pitcher with a voice not that different from Nuxhall’s. But there will never be another Joe. Joe Nuxhall died on November 15, 2007. You could feel the heaviness in the air the morning after, even if you hadn’t heard the news yet. Joe meant that much to the city.

Gary Burbank:  The man who once compared AM powerhouse WLW to fictional AM rival WKRP broadcast his last show on December 21.  Many former costars, guests, and newsmen returned to the show, including some from Burbank’s original morning show on WAKY (“Whacky!”), for one last time.  We heard the last Sports or Consequences (where one last contestant was blown up one last time) and the fate of Gilbert Gnarley – G-N-A-R-L-E-Y.  Burbank was one of the reasons I wanted to go into standup, and is one of the reasons I still manage to listen to AM radio.  But Burbank has been in the radio business for over 40 years, and a little peace and quiet in Florida is overdue.  Burbank will be replaced in January, probably by some no-talent angry white guy who hates his audience.

Hey, Keyz, need a job?

What CNN Thinks You Need To Talk To Kids About

There are many things in the news we should discuss with our children.  Who are next president will be.  Why gas is so expensive.  Why many people are losing their homes.  How to keep from getting sick by washing hands regularly.

Glaringly absent from that list, according to CNN, is what to tell them about Jamie Lynn Spears pregnancy.

Here’s a big clue for whatever genius at CNN thought that should be the top story on their web site:  I never heard of her until she got pregnant, and some celebrity-worshipping lemming who lucked into a news editor’s gig decided this was bigger news than…  I dunno…  how about Elvis not being dead?   (Slightly less implausible than the moon hoax theory, given that Syd Barrett died the most photographed recluse in rock history.)

And what do kids think about this?

Well, here’s what happened when one guy told his 8-year-old.

I’ve met this kid.  She’s really smart.

Smarter than whoever’s managing CNN’s web site.

So Long, CompUSSR… Er, Um, CompUSA

The two worst jobs I ever had were a Burger King I worked at for about three weeks in 1985 and CompUSA. Looking back, Burger King was not nearly as bad, the bi-polar assistant manager with delusions of grandeur notwithstanding.

CompUSA? Well, let me put it this way. When I received my offer to come work for BigHugeCo, where I’d been laid off in 1997, I followed the Dotcom Boom mentality of “I need to think about it.” I thought about the more civilized work environment and 35% salary increase long enough to go buy a pair of dress shoes. Then I spent three weeks trying to get fired from CompUSA.

They wouldn’t bite.

Now comes word that CompUSA is closing its doors. Good riddance. In its heyday, CompUSA might have been geek central, the place to go when you wanted to build your own box instead of paying outrageous sums to Compaq, Dell, or Packard Bell for one. By 1998, when I worked for them, it had become a monument to customer abuse and employee discontent.

We are talking about a company that regularly put it’s customers on hold for 45 minutes and punished employees for clocking out one minute late. (“Overtime is not permitted nor tolerated at CompUSA” was the corporate mantra.) One coworker I know was asked to help the general manager use those new-fangled CD burner thangies in exchange for burning copies of any software off the shelf my coworker wanted.

Microsoft and Adobe got a little upset about that. So was the GM fired for allowing this? No, he fired my coworker. Within a month, 3/4 of the technicians had moved on to other, better-paying jobs with better work climates. Initech in Office Space would have been a major step up from there.

I left CompUSA for good on New Year’s Day, 1999, vowing never to return. And for the next seven years, I made good on that vow. When I finally did re-enter the store, searching for cheap speakers for laptop, I was shocked. While gone were Packard Bell, IBM, and most of the Compaqs, the store itself hadn’t changed at all. Well, yes, it did. I was the only customer in the place, and I still had to wait to get service.

There was no reason CompUSA couldn’t compete with Best Buy. While Best Buy has everything under one roof, CompUSA’s focus made it just geeky enough to find a niche. Instead, America’s one-time “Computer Superstore” had a cold corporate climate that inspired customer frustration and employee disloyalty to the point where some called it “CompUSSR.”