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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Were the 80s that bad???

My esteemed colleague Doc S wrote a nice piece last week reminiscing about what he deems the glory years, the 1970s.  His defense/argument in favor of Spielberg, Alan Alda, Jack Nicholson, Popeye Doyle and Al Pacino can be found here:  Adult Child of the 70s.

It's a compelling case, but one that lacks any sort of objectivity.  And that is not to say the opinion is wrong.  Give me a decade over the past 50 years and 5 minutes and I can sell it as the best decade ever.  VH1 probably has a show on it.

 I love the 50s...  You bet I do!!  Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason, tailored suits, James Dean amd John Wayne.  The American Dream personified.  A middle class.  Industry.  Values.  Homemade meals.

60s...  JFK, The Beatles and The Stones, MLK, Mickey Mantle, Woodstock, and Hair.  Men on the moon.  Johnny Unitas and Joe Namath.  Equal rights.  Big ideas.  Big plans.  Tremendous optimism.

The 70s, as detailed last week, are more than strong.  Who doesn't love a good car chase and the a stadium rock show??  Bell bottoms and thick mustaches are pretty bad ass too.   Grooming be damned!!!  Let there be denim!!!

But what of the 80s?  They saw the advent of Aids and cassette tapes.  The cold war ended and Reagan-omics began.  Black Michael Jackson, New Coke, hairbands and Members Only jackets.  A joke?  Or something more?  Maybe the 80s are an underrated treasure worth a second look?  Think their disapproving older peers will give it a second look?  Wait, let them get their readers first.

Accordingly, my 1980s compass tells me the following:

Lifestyle/Clothes and Fashion-  Try to look at your high school senior yearbook photo without snickering.  Big, teased and colored hair stood several inches in the air.  The girls too.  Had the 80s gone too far?  Boy George made Ziggy Stardust look like Jack Webb.  Madonna became known more for her exploits than her singing.  We were told to be individuals.  Act yourself and be proud of it.  How else can you explain cuffing your khakis, pleated pants and Z Cavarecci's?  It was a blatant F U to all those folks telling us to conform.  We want our MTV.  Our MTV says look like a crackhead from the Gap.  Clearly the "Just Say No" did not apply to commercial excess.  Big, we were told, is better.  Greed, you will remember, was good.

Politics-  It was all Reagan, all the time.  Smoke and mirrors and a false sense of security.  In other words, just about every era in modern civilization.  Let's face it, we are always one bad act or actor away from complete meltdown.  50s could have gone much differently had we lost WW2.  60s were a bad conversation away from nuclear war.  The 70s was most uncertain/volatile as Vietnam and Watergate suggest.

The 80s led off with hostages and Iran and finished with the prelude to Gulf War 1.  We got rich and made plenty of folks pissed along the way.  That greed we ended up chasing put us in over our heads with creditors.  It put added burdens on us all.  It took away our leisurely weekends and further emphasized the two family income.  The Keatons and Cosby's gave us the blueprint for navigating this new world.   Things were going to get a little bumpy.   Work was going to be more difficult and time consuming.  But damnit there were going to be some laughs along the way.  The more you put in the more you get out.  "We are the World/We are The Children/We are the Ones who make a brighter day/So Let's start giving."

Role Models:  Thugs like Mickey Rourke were getting the likes of Kim Basinger.  Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Anthony Michael Hall, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams were leading men.  A scarier/dorkier crew I dare you to find!  Eddie Murphy revolutionized comedy.  Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino (revered for their 1970s work) give arguably their finest performances (Raging Bull and Scarface.)   Ok, Scarface is a stretch.  But it is by far his campiest role.  I refuse to acknowledge his recent role in the dismal Adam Sandler movie Jack and Jill.  Let's not forget the athletes either.  Lawrence Taylor, Hagler and Hearns.  Sugar Ray Leonard and Steve Largent.  Jose Cruz and Jack Sikma.  Stretching again, aren't I?  Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Bono, Bob Geldof, Axl Rose, Public Enemy, and Martha Quinn and David Letterman,  spoke of free choice, free thinking and service (along with all out partying!!!)

They were a flawed group for sure.  But that was the beauty of it.   They were all left of center but we could all understand it.  Cyndi Lauper found herself co-existing with Madonna.  Today we see that in Beyonce and Lady Gaga.  Artists teaming up and performing with others is more common than actual solo tracks these days.  Where do you think these collaborations are coming from?  The 70s?  Please.  Those guys couldn't stand to be together.  I'm talking to you Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles.  The groundwork might have been laid out from the decades prior, but the 80s began to put philosophy to action.  Gay rights were moved along a little bit further.  Racial acceptance was getting a little easier throughout the country.  

"If you build it they will come."

And when the Berlin Wall finally came tumbling down in late 1989 there was a shared optimism.  Global commerce.  Bigger and better!!  Collective efforts to combat the effects and raise awareness regarding man's insistence on destroying the Earth's ecosystems.

Real Hope.  Real Change!

Now what the hell did those kids from 1990 on do???


Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke

The Original Right Round

Eddie Murphy... love his white person voice   NSFW

Vacation Opening Titles

Kirk Gibson in 1988... I don't believe what I just saw

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Adult Child of the 1970s

My continuing News Fast (See prior blogs by Doc S) has led me to look to new guideposts to set  my compass. Lately, my compass seems to point directly to the 1970s.

Now, I don't want to return to the actual 1970s, with its high unemployment, mediocre and kooky politicians, and crumbling infrastructure (so different from today, right?). Or even the 1970s of my childhood (I grew up in a semi-rural, working-class part of western New Jersey -- it was more Norman Rockwell than Norman Lear). Rather, I align with the sensibility of the 1970s as I have lived and re-lived it through movies and television. It seems more relevant to me, my life today, and the world I find myself in, than any other time in history.

Like many Gen-Xer's I learned most of my history through movies and television. History from the movies seems "more real" than reading it in a book. The great storyteller of our generation, Steven Spielberg, who broke out in the 1970s with Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, later shot Schindler's List in harsh black and white, and Saving Private Ryan, in overexposed, grainy film stock, because he knew that would make them "more real" to those who learned about the Holocaust and World War II though similar images.

Accordingly, my 1970's compass tells me the following:

Lifestyle--We now snicker at Alan Alda's chicken-chest on M*A*S*H, and note that movie thugs were more likely to be wiry, swarthy guys than huge muscled lummoxes. But the average peson in the 1970s was twenty pounds lighter than the average person today, all while eating red meat and swigging cool drinks like Brandy Alexanders, Pina Coladas and Black Russians at lunch. Joggers were obsessive weirdos, and "health food" was a joke waiting for a punchline.

Clothes and Fashion-- Forget all those hackneyed jokes about bell bottoms, mutton chops, and polyester leisure suits. Watch an old episode of The Dick Cavett Show, or peruse a few photos from Studio 54, Rolling Stone, or of the original cast of Saturday Night Live. What strikes me is the mix and match of clothing and styles; suits and ties mixed with jeans, cowboy boots, lots of hats, scarves, sunglasses, a t-shirt from an obscure bar or eatery, etc. Every persons' individuality seems to be expressed through their wardrobe, hairstyle, and attitude.

Politics -- After Vietnam and Watergate, 1970s politics were not, as they are today, arguments about whether Big Government or Big Business was the problem. Movies such as The Conversation, Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View, Marathon Man, The French Connection, and Apocalypse Now all spoke to an intense yet somehow healthy paranoia about all large institutions (military, government, and corporations), and spoke about how, in any institution,  evil could easily become the norm when people rationalize their behavior by claiming to be "just doing my job".

Role Models -- Jack Nicholson as Randall McMurphy fighting with lust, profanity, and raw joie de vivre against a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital, and as Jake Gittes getting his nose sliced for sticking it where it doesn't belong to expose a corrupt, incestuously monstrous water baron.  Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry and Josey Wales- both violent, damaged, haunted men unable to distinguish their sense of justice from their own rage,  who nevertheless, out of a sense of compassion that they barely understand, take misfits and castaways under their protective wing. Al Pacino as Serpico, thumbing his nose at his family, his friends and his culture just to end up shot in the face and in hiding in pursuit of his own incorruptibility,and as Michael Corleone, putting his own unique take on family values above all else, and losing his soul along the way.  To me, these anti-heroes, while tough, cynical, and flawed, struggled for truth, and, curiously, what was right, against the inhuman faceless enemies that surrounded them. Their courage was exemplified in their persistence and their ability to get beat up again and again and come back for more, supported by their wits and street smarts rather than martial arts and high-tech weaponry. They made their choices, took their chances, paid the price, and didn't apologize for their lack of polish. Even the greatest TV private detective of all time, Jim Rockford, was an ex-con, flat broke, drove a beat up Trans-Am, fought dirty, didn't carry a gun, and lived in a mobile home trailer with his dad.

So today, after my News Fast I find myself vacillating between being mad as hell at the waves of crapola (Like Howard Beale in Network), and seeking enough wisdom to be amused enough to weave through it (Like Popeye Doyle's adroit driving in The French Connection) with Hawkeye Pierce's angry, absurd humor.

I'm going to uncork (or uncap) the Champale and toast the 1970s...

Musing from the D List Episode 1

In the early eighties, my mom and dad decided it was time for us to move. "We need a bigger house for you three boys."

Our two bedroom cape cod house was too small. I remember feeling panicked. What do you mean move? I have friends here. Would I have new friends there? Do they have little league? These were  the only things I really cared about. They were all that mattered.  As a child, I had dreams about playing baseball for the New York Yankees for Pete’s sake.  Who doesn't?

The house was already picked out. A new three bedroom ranch house on a couple of acres of land. My dad was from the city. I think he enjoyed the idea of owning a piece of property with no neighbors. I, on the other hand, thought it was a bad idea. What was I going to do in the country? And this was indeed the country. There was a huge difference between Middlesex and Hunterdon Counties at that time. We lived in the suburbs where I could ride my bike around the block to see my friends. We played in the streets: wiffle ball and kick ball, four square (before it become some sort of social media thing that I could care less about) football and kick the can. We were kids, but it was all changing. I was moving to the country.

And so we moved. It was February and it was cold. As far as I was concerned we could have moved to the Rocky Mountains. A snowfall one February morning surely felt deeper than before. My school was weird. It was only a few years old, but they thought it would be a good idea to shape it like a barn or something. The country. I missed my New Deal era built school. I managed to make friends. Even at a young age I quickly realized I could be a clown in front of anyone willing to give me more than 15 seconds of attention.

The following year my new friends and I moved to middle school. It was here I found something special. The school play was having auditions. Excellent. I can do that I thought. I had performed once before we moved. I think it was the 1st grade in a play about a family of animals. However, I got the role of the father of all the animals. Big disappointment. I remember wanting to be an animal: a cool duck or a bear. Leave it to my mom to have a plan. She dressed me in a suit and put talc into my hair to make it white so I  appeared older. I might jave worn a fake mustache for effect.  She made it pretty great experience though.  I auditioned and got a role. Not a lot of fifth graders landed roles in the school play. That was it; I was hooked.

I was never really pleased about moving from the suburbs to the country. I never did get the chance to play Official Little League® baseball, but I did find something else that changed my life. I guess mom and dad knew what they were doing.

by Kevin T McCarthy

Find him here:  Kevin on IMDB

Friday, January 27, 2012

And Now for Something Completely Similar

The everyday grind has left me beaten and bruised this week.  An admittedly juvenile and haphazard Oscar post is all this page has to show for itself this week.


Work.  Parenting.  Sleep.  Admit it, sometimes the days blend in to one another.  "When did you say she had a test?  What train are you going to catch?  Where is the game tonight?  Did you do whites?  Is it plastic or paper Monday?  What's for dinner?  lunch?  What's our balance?  How much do we owe?  The power steering is out too?  Can you email me that?  What's your cell phone number?  Text me the address.  Did you see Modern Family?  Is it on DVR?  It's Friday?  Thank God.

Today a moment to escape, if only for a moment.  We could all go over the details of last night's 4th grade girls game.   But isn't it assumed that there were black eyes and parental fighting?  

There have now been 19 Republican debates including last nights.  Don't expect to see a rundown of those proceedings in this space.  If, after 19 events, this is all you have to show us, why bother tuning in?  

Let's zone out shall we?  Give yourself some time this weekend and take a peek at some fantastic (relatively new) music.  It is an exciting time in the music industry, although record sales would tell you otherwise.  Listen for yourself and get on board.


Start with Gotye and the infectious hit "Somebody That I Used to Know."  Gotye "Somebody That I Used to Know"   A truly wonderful song and SUCH a great video.  Belgian pop and synth with such sweet melodies and voices.   22 year old New Zealander Kimbra brings an added depth for sure.   Then be sure to view this cover by Walk Off the Earth.  Strong stuff indeed with nearly 40 million hits to date.  Gotye Cover  This has the potential to be pretentious.  But it is done so well you can't ignore the talent.  For the record Walk off The Earth are a Canadian indie band.  Gotye is touring now and the tickets are scarce.  For more info check here:

Australian trio Civil Twilight ( are an aggressive, Police/U2 inspired rock band.  No frills.  They have a new single, "Fire Escape" from their upcoming LP.  It plays like the bands mission statement.  Go get some!!  This track is so fresh they lack an official video:  Fire Escape

Class Actress is actually Philly born Elizabeth Harper and a couple slick producers.  Her song, "Weekend", seems perfect for today(cause, ya know, it's Friday.)  Big, bold synth and a voice that marries well to them.  Good.  Clean.  Fun.  Get out your glow sticks.  Weekend

Another Philly outfit, War on Drugs, are fast becoming an indie darling.   Can you find a reason to argue?  Me either.  Take a look at these two roots rock/emo/alt country/folk tracks from last years wonderful record Slave Ambient.  Brothers and Baby Missiles.

Before every station in America forces you to hate this song, and James Mercer, and happiness, please take a listen to "Simple Song" from the Shins.  Mercer's time with Danger Mouse and Broken Bells is temporarily on hold.  Naturally he headed back to Portlandlandia during his hiatus to record with his old mates.  Ok, all the mates are different and for the most part Mercer steers the ship.  What a ship it is.   Alt pop at its best.  And your 9 year old will love it.  Promise.  James Mercer is good at songs

Hey, sometimes songs take a while to find, hear, fall in love with.  That said, listen to this country like diddy from Gillian Welch.  The Way That it Goes from Conan last summer.

And then keep on trucking with some more alt country in no particular order:

The Head and the Heart:  Down in The Valley

Avett Brothers:  Kick Drum Hart  Banjo playing picks ass.

Of Monsters and Men:  Little Talks  Finally Bjork has some Icelandic competition.  And whereas the Banjo has been known to rock, so too does the accordion.  

10 seems like a nice round number.  You don't have more time than that do you??  If so good for you!  Enjoy it and your weekend.


Another writer has come on board and will contribute his first post during the weekend.  We are going to call his spots:  Musings from the D List by Kevin T. McCarthy.  He has been in LA for several years and has appeared on TV in spots like CSI, ICarly and Conan.  Check him out here for more detail:  Kevin's IMDB page

He will bring another unique perspective and Guide to Somewhere hopes you will welcome him with open minds.

In the meantime, please consider joining the conversation.  Every story is a good one as far as we are concerned.  Unless they aren't in which case we reserve the right to ignore and/or ridicule them.

Seriously, spread the word, share the page, and thanks so much for reading!!!

Go NFC!!!  The Pro Bowl is only 2 nights away!!!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First and Second Guessing the Oscars

Yesterday Hollywood took time to congratulate itself handing out the Oscar nominations for 2011.

In years past it was pretty easy to see most of the heavy hitters.  As this is the 3rd year the Academy nominates 10 (too freaking many!!) films for Best Picture I find myself lacking.  What else is new?

To date I have seen 4 films.  In case you missed it, you can find them all here:  Of those (4), The Help, The Descendents, Moneyball, and Midnight in Paris, only Paris was worthy, in my opinion.  In fact, Brad Pitt and George Clooney's projects are both vastly overrated.  For more drama from both men check out Michael Clayton or A River Runs Through It. You will be better served.

Some reviews here:

The silent film "The Artist" and that annoying dog that stole the Golden Globe spotlight make for a nice story.  But let's be honest...  no one has seen that movie.  In fact it has been said some movie goers have demanded their money back.  A silent film?  In the age of smart phone???  It's a great idea, but we are just too darn dumb to adore that movie.  Nevermind it might be the most intelligent and creative movie made last year.

Do we award it because of that?  Or despite it?  Either way it is flawed.  Let's say the Academy, in its high brow-ed-ness, crowns it Best Picture.  If it is because of merit and skill we say great.  But shouldn't the "Best" film represent our Country as whole?  Should it speak and touch the masses?  The art house crowd is a fine bunch, but their numbers are small.  Should art be the one time they are the majority?

And if the Academy passes it up for say, The Descendents or The Help what message does that send?  They both have leading men who dominate the A list.  Clooney and Pitt are Hollywood royalty and established stars like say, Pacino, DeNiro and Nicholson were in the 70s.  When they branch out and take on new challenges their peers love heaping praise on them.   But is this not the easy way out?  Is it really daring to play a baseball General Manager or troubled millionaire?  Pitt could probably run the Oakland A's these days and Clooney IS a troubled millionaire.  OK, I am using troubled loosely.  But the man can't seem to find true love.  So very tragic.  See the homely women he ends up with.  Such a shame.

The point is Oscar is a very grown up, very glitzy, popularity contest.  It is Junior High on steroids.  Pay your dues and soon you will be rewarded.  And it does not hurt to be pretty.  Real pretty.

Maybe that is the reason Rooney Mara is up for Best Actress and Tilda Swinton is not.  Swinton has her Supporting Actress trophy.  Let the pretty girl get some love.  

It is why established acts like Glenn Close and Meryl Streep end up nominated every year.

The Academy wants you to believe they are cutting edge and all inclusive.  In reality they are the Student Council who wouldn't talk to you in recess.  They might let you start your Chess club.  But you better believe they are gonna goof on you for belonging to it.

Meanwhile I will watch the whole silly broadcast smiling ear to ear.  There is really nothing quite like it.  A fairy tale world celebrating the fairy tales they create.  We might not all love the same movies.  But a great many of us love movies period.  They provide an escape we all need from time to time.  

Like music, they dominate our popular culture.  They influence our dress and out language.  And they continue to entertain.  Now, if they could only lower the price of popcorn and clean those damn sticky floors.

Looking ahead:

Best Picture:  The Artist is going to win mainly because of its daring.  

Best Actor:  Brad Pitt is due and Hollywood is ready to crown him.  Too bad...  this was maybe the worst film I saw all year.

Best Actress:  Michelle Williams will win for her portrayal of Marilyn Monroe.  However, 60% of those voting will do so due to the Heath Ledger thing.

Supporting Actor:  A no brainer:  Christopher Plummer was brilliant in Beginners.  And he is 82.  See Jack Palance.  Let's just hope he does not try to do 1 armed push ups.

Supporting Actress:  Melissa McCarthy will be the big surprise of the night.  The Academy only gets crazy when it comes to the Supporting Actors.  Silly since they most often steal the pictures they represent.  McCarthy's performance in Bridesmaids is a perfect example.

Director:  Martin Scorsese will surprise here too since Hugo will not win Best Picture.  But the Academy will feel compelled to do a mea culpa giving Robert Redford a trophy over him for Ordinary People.  I mean seriously???

And should you care...  Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris)will win Original Screenplay and Aaron Sorkin and his posse will win Adapted Screenplay (Moneyball.)

What say you?  What were the best films of the year?  How about the best performances?  Will you watch the Oscars?  Do you care?  Is it all flawed?  Are all awards shows flawed?  Are we all too flawed to even worry about it?  Do you watch for the fashion?  Do you watch for the host?  

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sometimes the Pursuit Exceeds the Goal

14 years ago today an Elvis impersonator walked a young woman down the aisle in Las Vegas.  She was young, probably too young to understand the magnitude of the situation.  Her husband is still very young (mentally/emotionally/financially) and rarely understands the magnitude of ANY situation.  Without question this was a match made in heaven.

It is still unclear if there was ever a proposal.  Her husband contends he asked, like a gentleman.  That fact leads to considerable debate.  Both parties agree they saved for months to buy an estate ring prior to the event.  She still wears the tiny thing, without a worry, and, at times, with a little glee.

For a series of reasons they just decided to throw caution to the wind.  They were in love.  There was a feeling of comfort, of understanding, and of peace.

Vegas was the only natural choice to house such a impulsive and seemingly irrational decision.

Looking back the few days spent in Vegas seem like an aberration.  There was drinking.  There was hotel porn.  There was out and out debauchery.  Super Bowls were waged on (thanks Desmond Howard!!)  And ultimately, vows were exchanged.

The thing about that trip that stick out though is not the wedding.  That, like so many events after, was but a moment in an otherwise fantastic journey.  As film lovers the couple thought they should spend a few days at the Sundance Film Festival while they were out west.  Some friends had moved to Utah the year before so they had lodging.  The experience of walking through Park City in the snow, rubbing shoulders with celebrities, seeing World Premieres, drinking 3.2% ABV beers are forever etched in their minds.  They went there with an open mind and brought home a world of new interests, new passions, and new memories.

And today, they try to capture that same magic as year 40 stares them right in the face.  That means, after the craziness of trying to do business in NYC (in a brutal market, within an unconventional field they are less than passionate about), raising a child, living in an affluent area, and otherwise trying to stay above water, they still take the time to search out adventure.

Last night they had a concert on the agenda.   Caveman were playing Bowery Ballroom for their first headline show.  An exciting band at a cherished venue on a cold City night.  Not unlike Park City during the festival.  They have their 2 weeks.  NYC plays that game 365 nights a year.

They are older now so their pre-show culinary knowledge is provided by Guy Fieri.  Say what you will about his personality, hair, and mere existence...  his job kicks ass.  Where else would they have heard about The Redhead (  Head to 13th St and 1st Ave should you desire good ol' fashioned southern food.  Hush puppies, fried chicken, homemade chips, home-made soft pretzels with an amazing beer/cheese dipping sauce coupled with a warm, cozy bar.  Throw in a friendly staff and beyond fare pricing for good measure.

Age is still very much in play on journeys like this.  For one, when a parking spot is procured (last night directly outside the restaurant (and free) you never want to leave it.

Secondly, the practical thinking that goes into keeping a good parking spot, does not go into other decisions during the evening.

20 block walks are nice.  They provide a glimpse into neighborhoods you might not be acquainted with.  But they can wipe your ass out by the time you reach your destination.

The stops along the way for a drink (you know, to get warm) don't help either.  Your legs and lungs are not 20 years old anymore.  Neither is your liver.

On occasion the night is going to come to a screeching halt.  Security guards, cabs, and buckets tend to make an appearence.

And the next morning you throw your hands up and say "great time."

Friends, music, laughs.

Stepping out of the comfort zone.  Living.  Taking steps very much out of the ordinary.

It is all we have left.

We all have to make money.  We all have to eat and keep a roof over our head.

But does it have to define who we are?

It would have been tremendous had the group been stage side last night for Caveman's set.

But that act has been seen before, and can (WILL) be seen again.

The events leading up to the brief time spent at Bowery were more important than any song not heard.

As is the time spent arm and arm lying in bed.  So too, the lazy Sunday mornings watching CBS and drinking coffee.

The everything.  The nothing at all.

14 years today 2 kids made a life altering decision.  Countless mistakes, misgivings, and utter turmoil have threatened to destroy the union.

But through it all those kids who screened the aptly titled "I Married A Strange Person" (* in Park City years ago, defy the odds.

They are coming to the realization perfection does not exist.  You can, however, be perfect for one another.


Before bailing on Caveman the trio Heaven played an inspired set blending familiar 80s sounds with good melody.  Keyboards and solid drumming provided a strong bass line.  There is little on the web about this band but they are certainly on the radar now.  They could use some styling or production management because the guys look far different than they sound.  Make sense?  Sometimes ill fitting or poorly designed clothes are jarring.

Either way their set was very polished.


London duo Au Palais (who hail from Canada) followed Heaven.  An Apple Computer playing "mixer" and a singer seems like an odd choice between a rocking band like Heaven and Caveman.  The crowd was lukewarm.  The performance was fair.  That was it.  It would have been far better had Caveman come on at 10.

* Brilliant clips from the animated movie.  Yu might remember Bill Plympton from his MTV shorts many years ago.  Or was it Comedy Central?  Whatever, they are good.

"Would You Love Me?"

"How'd You Get So Cute?"

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eros and Suburbanization

Someone once said that the difference between erotica and pornography was "how bright the lights are".

To my detriment, I have long looked at the world pornographically, rather than erotically. *

I considered whatever intelligence I had to be a "bright light". I took a lot of egotistical pleasure in bringing my so-called analytical skills to bear on everything, telling myself I was in the noble pursuit of "The Truth".

Someone believed in God? Let me take that fantasy apart for them. Someone disagreed with me politically? Let me show them the error of their ways. Someone likes a movie or television show that I don't? Let me explain to them what it means to have good taste...

But this habit, this character trait, this one-way manner of living, spilled over from intellectual debate into every area of my life. Despite my assumed high-mindedness, I was just a well-trained consumer:

How I eat - Is it tasty and is there a lot of it? Great, why savor it when I can eat until my stomach hurts.

How I drink - Do I have a designated driver? No, then its hardly worth sipping only one glass of wine.

How I read - Will this book or article fill my quiver with arrows for my next debate? Excellent, I'll speed read through it to get the high points I need, and poach a few select quotations.

How I meet new people - Will this person engage in a debate with me? If not, I'll nod politely and think of something else until I can gracefully withdraw.

Like a porn director, I told myself I was shining a bright light on the the raw, unvarnished truth.
Like a porn director, I wanted to leave nothing to the imagination.
Like a porn director, I was nowhere near "The Truth", but instead creating a narrow-minded, emotionally dead, and artificial experience.

A little history lesson - Eros was the Greek god of love, the equivalent of the Roman god Cupid. The Greeks considered Eros a form of love, including sexual desire to be sure, but also the desire to possess, or join in relationship with, another.

Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the great 18th Century gastronome, (who said that anyone who gets drunk or full does not know how to drink or eat) thought that human beings had at least six senses, counting Eros, or physical desire for another, as a separate sense. A part of our total experience. Food and drink and fellowship at table being a type of relationship, a full deployment of Eros...

So I'm trying dimming the lights a bit, appreciating that the shadows are also part of the whole picture, and allowing myself to be intrigued by what the shadows may hide and may, only slowly, reveal.

*Note: I am assuming the reader has at least a passing familiarity with erotica and/or pornography. For those readers who have no such experience, I beg your indulgence.

Has Brian Williams Jumped the Shark?

After Dan Rather melted down and Tom Brokaw retired television nightly news stood at a crossroads.  Today it has become quite clear network executives did not know which road to take.  So, they continue to improvise and parade the same tired newscast every 6:30pm.

Problem is many, if not all of us, have received every bit of captain of ship abandoning, Newt momentum gaining, and Beyonce baby having minutia long before we make it home for dinner.  If you take a mere 10 minutes during lunch to surf your favorite websites everything is at your disposal.

Which brings me to Brian Williams.  He took over for Brokaw several years back and since then he has taken a once dignified show to new lows.

He appeared as HOST of Saturday Night Live.  He makes cameos on 30 Rock and shows a lighter side on Letterman.  On New Year's Eve with Carson Daly he gave his assessment of the year in music (showing his penchant for alt rock- which should have seemed cool, but he made it sound creepy and arrogant.)  Now, an email has leaked where Williams bemoans Lana Del Rey's recent SNL gig as "one of the worst ever."  For that story check here:  

This does not even take into account his vanity project Rock Center, which is a cross between  60 Minutes and MTV News.   His attitude and heir of superiority litter that show like BP pollutes the Gulf.  Check the ego my friend.  We get it.  You have confidence and swagger.  Just read the darn prompter and make sure your hair is perfectly still.

I want my newsman to have zero personality.  He should be a chain smoking drunk who belittles his staff on a daily basis.  Apologies to Katie Couric and Diane Sawyer...  they are just fine, but no one watches(ed) them.

Better yet.  Let's do away with the whole charade of nightly news altogether.  This way Williams, and his peers, can go do their fancy shows and host SNL all they want.  

There was a bit of an uproar yesterday when Wikipedia went dark in protest of  the US Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa) being debated by Congress.   Imagine too had TMZ, or Facebook done the same?  Or what if the internet blocked all news sites for a day, two, forever?

That would indeed cause issues, and a massive panic.

Can the same be said of the 6:30 news?  Let this dinosaur fade away already.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Saturday in NYC (starring Real Estate, Girls and Tilda Swinton)

There is something to be said for Manhattan in the winter.  Gray streets and cold winds have a comforting feel for reasons unexplained.  Maybe it is all the people that ignore the elements and hit the town on foot.  It is a chance to hold a loved one close by and discover a new shop or a new restaurant.  Folks can go deep in their closet (or maybe their recent Christmas haul) and don their gay "new" apparel.  "How does this look honey?"  "Does this make my butt look big?"

The magic of NYC lies mainly in the unexpected.  This past Saturday, with a well executed plan in tow, it was the surprises that stood out.  It has me yearning for the next adventure.  It has wiped the bad taste of work in NYC and a cumbersome office move out of my mouth.  For now.  The key:  have more plans in your back pocket and go out and enjoy YOUR life at least once a month.  

As my smart, funny, thoughtful and forgiving wife celebrates her birthday today I take solace knowing Friday night we will go out and explore again.  Happy Birthday T.  Like you reminded me this weekend:
"We will sleep when we're dead."


Had the notion to stay in the burbs for an afternoon film, but surprise #1 found us in the Angelika Film Center ( in the West Village.  Long a  landmark of independent film, the place is a revelation on a cold, city day.

Nevermind the subway sounds heard above you and OBNOXIOUS/PRETENTIOUS crowd that surrounds you.  The Anjelica remains a great movie going experience.  Coffee and fine treats are available in their spacious lobby.  The popcorn is made very well.  And more often than not the film you are there for entertains and enlightens.

Or, in the case of We Need to Talk About Kevin, it frustrates, angers and mystifies you.  Tilda Swinton plays Eva.  She was once a adventure writer and travel expert.  She was once a carefree and daring woman.  Then she met Franklin (John C Reilly.)  Soon they had a child, Kevin (played by 3 actors.) 

Say goodbye to carefree Eva.  She takes a hiatus from work and they first raise the child in their tastefully decorated NYC apartment.  Kevin has some issues.  He screams all the time (to the point Eva stops the stroller in front of a jackhammer to deaden the noise)  He refuses to play, or speak, or learn to use the toilet.  At times, when the two are home alone, the two engage in brutal mind games and outright battles.  Franklin denies there is an issue.  "He's a boy, that's what boys do."

Maybe not.  The parents talk around the problem.  Eva and Kevin communicate, but very rarely what they NEED to tell each other.  Communication soon breaks down.

And, as we see from Lynne Ramsay's flashback storytelling/direction, the consequences are deadly.

We follow Eva as she is left alone by tragedy.  She gets a menial job at a travel agency.  She has to contend with abusive neighbors, harsh living conditions AND the nightmares that have plagued her the previous 15 years.

Swinton is masterful as Eva.  You cannot call Ms Swinton underrated.  She won an Oscar for her brilliant work in Michael Clayton a few years back.  But to say she commands the screen is an understatement.   Swinton pours herself into this very sad, very troubled, but ultimately very good character.   Maybe because Kate Winslet is more attractive (and has the enormous success of Titantic on her side) that she gets more ink than Swinton.  For my money there is not a better leading lady working today.  And yes, I realize Meryl Streep is still doing amazing work.  It's like comparing Joe Montana and Alex Smith (today.)  Montana has his championships...  let the new kid get his.

Ramsay tells the first 15 minutes with an avant garde, experimental student film lens.  This erractic and jarring approach parallels the whirlwind all parents feel from marriage to raising a child.  "A blink of an 
eye" they say.  It soon settles into a tighter form as Eva and the family desperately tries to keep it together.

Ramsay does a nice job building suspense.  We all know what is going to happen.  Yet, it is all so shocking when it does.

And how could it have prevented?  Could it have been prevented?  Did they all do enough?  Do we??

Like life, more questions than answers.   This fine piece of filmmaking wonders if answers can be found in the easiest places.  Communicating clearly to one another is a start.

The trailer can be found here:

The bands Girls, and more to the point, NJ's Real Estate, brought us to NYC in the first place.  They played to a sold out crowd at Terminal 5.  

Actually, 17 year old Londoner King Krule started the evening.  This boy has gotten some big buzz and in his brief set he showed some promise.  He very much looks like he is in 13th grade.  But his guitar playing and swagger are very adult.  His sound is somewhere between cockney Stevie Ray Vaughn meets English new wave/Pogues.  Good stuff, but not overwhelming.  The teacher is going to have to see a bit more.  There were times it felt like a high school talent show.   

Real Estate hit the stage next and displayed far more polish.  Supporting their sophomore LP, Days, the suburban Jersey boys meshed soft, melodic guitars with easy vocals.  Martin Courtney and Matthew Mondanile have created their own play on  new wave, surf sound that goes down easy with the lacrosse/frat-boy set.  They opened with their two big singles, "Green Aisles" and "It's Real."  It was an odd choice as their final few tracks, namely "Out of Tune" and "Easy" had more energy to them.  It would have been better to hear the crowd rally around "It's Real" as they finished the set.  No matter, the gentlemen (filled out by bassist Alex Bleeker and drummer Etienne Pierre Duguay) did not disappoint.  Courtney's voice had a richness to it that was slightly different than on album.  What sounds like a different catalog to sing live was handled quite well.  There seems to be a nice upside to this band.  Don't be surprised to see then headline Terminal 5 in the very near future.

By the time headliners, Girls, took the stage around 10pm, 2 things were very clear.  1.  The floor was getting way too busy so we were going to have to head upstairs.  2.  We were not going to make it the entire show.

Girls released their sophomore record last year too.  Led by extravagant frontman Chrisopher Owens (sporting a denim skirt this night) they raced through "Alex" and the catchy "Honey Bunny."  The stage was littered with flowers and he had 7 folks behind him, most notably his 3 women background singers.

Terminal 5's sound, sometimes awful on the floor, is not so great upstairs either.  We made it about half way through and it had nothing to do with Girls.  Sometimes you take your winnings and cash in.

We got to tour the entire venue.  We soon found out Terminal 5 has an outside bar/deck.  There are 4 floors there!!  Very big indeed.  This is knowledge we now have since being bullied by the teenagers.  And it will serve us well our next visit.

Oh, and it afforded us the opportunity to see our friends band (The Project: when we got home.  There is nothing like the local bar/cover band to tie a bow on a wonderful day.  They play at 54 Main St in Madison, NJ here and there.  Bookmark this page and check them out:  Or just get off your ass and go support your local band one of these weekends.  You can DVR Cops/America's Most Wanted.

Further Research:

King Krule: "Out Getting Ribs"  Slow, bluesy stuff.  Tough to look past how young looking he is.  Crazy in fact.  Probably his best track from the other night.  
Real Estate:  "Out of Tune"  My favorite from the other night for sure.  Here, a wonderful live video from a Barcelona show in November.  The guitar sound is so soothing.  Love the irony of perfectly tuned guitars in a song called "Out of Tune."

Real Estate:  'It's Real"  Good, old fashioned dog video.  YouTube once again calling the shots.  Otherwise, as well crafted a pop song you will find.

Girls:  "Alex"  The San Francisco's latest single.  A nice rock track.

Girls:  "Honey Bunny"  This is a self confident man.  

Girls:  "Vomit"  Slow and eerie.  Lots of Alt bloggers had it in their top 10 last year.  It's got a little 80s hair band to it.  That cannot be a bad thing.  Got to be patient though.

Honorable Mentions:

Free parking might have been the highlight of the day.  Give a yell if you want to know how to spend the day parked on the street in both SoHo and Upper West Side at no charge.  It helps if you have a 97 Altima.

Other notable stops on our 30 block walk (urban hiking Doc S...  does that count?)  included Teany ( Broome St Bar (  Techno superstar Moby's tiny little tea joint still remains a nice respite from your urban safari.  Try the Teanychino.

What's your favorite new film?


TV Show?

Join the conversation here and elsewhere:



Thanks for reading!!  Spread the word and share (often.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Back to Nature

I always liked the idea of Nature. I knew it was, indeed, a good thing, as in "all-natural".

But that was all theory, not experience. I am, by temperament, an "indoorsman". If I had the financial wherewithal (and my wife would not divorce me), I would cover my entire back yard with Trex decking.

So I recently decided to start hiking and become more acquainted with Nature.  Also, I have been changing my eating habits (to eat like a French Woman), including a lot more fruits and vegetables, and eating more "mindfully" or "consciously" or "not like a pig".

So I bought some groceries that were not only "all-natural" but "organic" -- which I understand to mean "really, really, natural". The apples were surprisingly tasty, a more flowery, complex flavor than the pesticide-covered ones I normally eat.  Apparently having been accosted by writhing insects adds flavor, perhaps Darwiningly stimulating the fruit to have a thicker, and therefore more substantial and nutrient-rich skin, to defend itself.

I also like the Stonyfield Farm organic yogurt (full-fat version), not because its organic, I admit, but because of the delicious layer of cream that sits on top. And the organic eggs have a sunny orange-red yolk, and a pleasantly rich, sulfured flavor not found in the Brave New World cloned mutant eggs I have been eating for years.

The hiking part came about, like most things in my life, based on my reading. I enjoy essays by Robert Hoagland, considered by many to be one of the best naturalist essayists in the US. Also, I have long been a fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Cormac McCarthy, Ernest Hemingway and especially Jim Harrison, who writes of the outdoors like a picaresque version of the more heroic Hemingway (For example, Hemingway would write a story about how the hunter drank and drank well and then faced the lion, who was true and good and strong just as the hunter was true and good and strong. etc... while Jim Harrison would write about how the hunter drank, then became mesmerized by the garlic rosemary roasted chicken served at the bar, and then left the bar at 2AM with the buxom barmaid and would awake in a field the next morning to describe how the sun danced across the tiny hairs at the small of the barmaid's bare back while a woodcock sang in the distance etc... you get the idea...)

I went on my "hike".  It was in a two-acre sized patch of woods between two suburban developments. I "hiked" for about an hour. There was a stream (i.e. a drainage ditch) running through it. I know those of you who are more into braving the elements are snickering and daring me to type "hiked" without the self-deprecatory scare quotes. But for me, traipsing around on unpaved, uneven muddy ground in 25 degree cold was like leading a sled team in the Iditarod.

What I learned? Nature is a mess! Broken branches as thick as my arm (that likely snapped off the trees during a surprise October snowstorm) littered the path, crossing the stream like pick-up-sticks, and lying over fallen leaves and twigs. Along with that mess were empty cans of energy drinks and empty mini-bottles of Skyy vodka , a plastic milk crate, and McDonald's wrappers, the "natural" leavings of the surrounding suburbanites (or their high school age children...)

It occurred to me that people are part of nature too. Like the trees, we shed stuff when we don't need it anymore, and pretty much let it drop it wherever we want. The difference is, unlike leaves and branches, ours  takes 100,000 years to disintegrate. And may give us cancer.

And despite this, "nature" is just fine - if we make our own nest uninhabitable, nature will continue on her merry way, on her own time, and sweep us away like other extinct species such as the brontosaurus, the do-do bird, and tattoo-free thirty-year old women.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.”  
In the past, I always dutifully shouted "Booo!" when some allegedly evil corporation was refining petroleum, manufacturing chemicals, or stripping away forests to provide the cheap, plentiful, and entertaining consumer goods that I love so much, while ignoring the complicity of my own desires in this seductively invisible supply chain.

I am now seeing that "Nature" is this thing that I should, indeed, "get back to"....

Friday, January 13, 2012

Anyone Watch Music Anymore?

This space has morphed from a confessional cry for help (see first posts... on second thought don't!!) into a mix of suburban rants, cultural critiques and good hearted/spirited debates.  Oh, and there is another writer and a few more waiting in the wings.  Hooray!!  The invitation for writers stands, and will stand from here on.

Do not be afraid to express yourself.  Should there be insecurities about style or grammatical issues feel free to send in rough drafts.  Our editorial staff (read: Doc S) is waiting patiently.  It would be great to hear a female voice/perspective too.    Seriously, how much more "Tebow sucks and Jewelry commercials are queer and Caveman rocks and Christmas is too commercial and politicians are corrupt and gas prices are high and milk was $1 a gallon when I was a kid and Homeland is an awesome show and Katy Perry is overrated and New Jersey Transit hates you and diets are a waste of time and me, me, me" nonsense that litters this column on a daily basis???

The answer is somewhere between PLEASE STOP and I cannot have enough.

Either way, the conversation will continue.  So here it goes.

After a spirited drive through Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx this afternoon affords me 20 minutes or so to listen/watch music.

Does anyone else do that?  Does anyone have MTV and VH1 on their favorites list (for the music?)

Let it be known that this writer still intends to feature the latest (and sometimes greatest) videos ever made.

Should you become a fan of our Facebook page you will find a daily clip (if not more.)  There you can find anything from Cat Power to Oran "Juice" Jones.  It is a stream of consciousness potpourri that hopefully will include some of your selections too.

In an effort to kick start the weekend take a look/listen at these 10 selections.  They are in no good order, for no good reason.  So, they fit right in to this blog's overall theme.  Have a great weekend all!!!

Look for a review of King Krule/Real Estate/Girls later this weekend.

Real Estate:  "Days"  Peaceful, easy feeling from these kids from Ridgewood, NJ.  They can say they are based in Brooklyn all they want...  but once from the dirty Jerz, always from the dirty Jerz.

Lana Del Rey:  "Born to Die"  So much controversy from the Alt world re: Ms Del Rey.  She's on SNL tomorrow night...  sounds like she has the upper hand.  Oh, and sounds like her voice is pretty freaking awesome.

The War on Drugs:  "Baby Missiles"  New favorite!!!

St Vincent:  "Cruel"  A very funny and inventive video.  Song is super cool too.

Atlas Genius:  "Trojans"  Great 80s nostalgia feel here.  Melody, simple guitar, harmonies.

Friends:  "Friend Crush"  Have my sister to thank for much of my love for music.  She digs this track and who could blame her?  More ode to 80s.

Berlin:  "Metro"  Source material for all the synth acts of today.  Not many cooler than Terry Nunn and her skunk hair.  This is what I remember when I think of Berlin...  not that drek from Top Gun.

Men at Work:  "Overkill"  More source material for the synth bands of today (like Foster the People, Cut/Copy to name a few.)  Colin Hay's eyes still creep me out.  But boy can he sing a tune.

Wang Chung:  "Dance Hall Days"  Just because.  Still think they rank as the most under appreciated and underrated acts of the 80s.

Those Darlins:  "Screws Get Loose"  Cut from the Cults, Dum Dum Girls cloth...  an update of the Runaways.  Good, good track.  The rise of the girl band is very much in force.  Dig it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Au Revoir, Diet and Exercise!!

Two years ago, in the interest of getting myself in shape before my 40th birthday, I put myself on a regimen of four (4) days per week of cardio and strength training at the gym and a low-carb diet. Six months later I was below 200 pounds for the first time since college. I bought new clothes. I walked a little taller...
Well, as of today I'm 217 pounds and my pants are cutting into my gut. My face has puffed up like a moon-pie and I have re-grown my moustache and goatee in a vain attempt to hide the beginnings of a double chin.
I have gained and lost the same 25-30 pounds at least three times since I graduated from Rutgers almost 20 years ago. As Yogi Berra said "Its déjà vu all over again..."
So I went back in history to determine where I went wrong:
In my last year of college, my daily diet and exercise regimen consisted of the following:


            Sleep 12 to 14 hours

            Ride my bike 4 blocks each way to campus


Breakfast:  None (See "Sleep 12 to 14 hours" above)

Lunch:  Spaghetti with Ragu topped with that sawdust-like Parmesan cheese in the green can
            (eaten directly from the pot used to boil the spaghetti)
                         One apple

                        Six cans of Meister Brau
                        Four or five shots of Popov vodka
                        Ten or fifteen Camel Lights
                        One Cheese steak with fried egg from the Rutgers Grease Trucks
                        (consumed at 3:00AM)

Under the above plan, I weighed 185 pounds.  
Like a thunderclap, it hit me -- My body does not operate optimally if it is subjected to a rigorously healthy diet and organized, structured exercise.
I know a lot of people my age who work out a lot and eat really healthy, and they look great -- women who are glowingly fit and attractive; men who are broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, with flat-as-a-board abs. But alas, my body is, as I discovered, not made for that.
So I needed to find a plan that was special, made just for someone like me: Someone who loves rich food, books, movies, conversation, and a long, leisurely walk, but hates sports, exercise, and dieting (and talking about sports, exercise, and dieting).
Then I found a group just like me: French Women.
As we all know, French woman don’t get fat. Why not? Well, my review of the available information suggests a non-diet and non-exercise regimen as follows:

Small portions of rich, fatty, and/or carbo-laden food (such as full-fat cheese, butter and fresh, crusty white bread)

Protein portions the size of a deck of cards

Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables

No heavily processed food (pre-packaged prepared food)

No gym or organized exercise, just a lot of walking

One to two glasses of wine per day

Twenty cigarettes per day (just kidding!)

Au revoir, Work Out World!  Adieu, Fiber One! I am living like a French Woman for the next thirty days. I’ll blog again on the results in a month.

Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Selfish and I Know It

For the past few weeks my daughter and I have been re-visiting the altruism argument.  That is, can an act be truly selfless?  As an extreme example let's look at Mother Teresa.  Those opposed to the idea of selflessness would contend Mother Teresa took care of the sick and poor solely to become a Saint.  Her actions clearly made her feel better as a human and a Catholic.  Therefore, she's a selfish do-gooder.  Shame on you Mother Teresa!!

That might be a bit harsh, but you get the point.

My trusty backseat driver keeps reminding me I give drivers the right of way more for karma than unselfishness.  I hear plenty of "You just want somebody to do that for you next time daddy."  Maybe.

Make no mistake, we are all selfish.  Every thought or action we make should have our own best interests in mind.  It's the reason we all have to put our oxygen masks on before assisting other passengers.  Take care of numero uno, then make others and the World around you a better place.

Coming to that realization has made a few things easier to deal with.

My first revelation arose when my 9 year old religious scholar stated  "Ya know, Jesus was selfish dad."  Nearly 40 years into my life I had never had occasion to think about Jesus in that light.  Moreover, I had barely thought about Jesus my whole life.  But, for argument sake, let's assume he walked the Earth, turned water into wine, and became the biggest Denver Broncos fan this side of Mork and Mindy.

When he asks his disciples and anyone within preaching distant to believe in him, and follow his teachings that very act IS selfish.  She's right.  Believe what you will, but when someone demands your attention and belief he has acted with his or her selfs best interest in mind.

What good what a preacher be without any followers?  How about Romney without New Hampshire voters?  Lady Gaga without Little Monsters?

It made me think of this blog and what has become a very big passion of mine.  Should I fret about a lack of following?  When friends disappear on Facebook do I second guess the endeavor?

Absolutely not.

This is a selfish and rewarding experience.  It is one that gives me great joy and a deeper sense of self worth.  And if I am feeling better shouldn't that equate to others doing better around me?  Maybe my decisions are more sound.  Maybe my attitude turns more positive.

With this new marriage to selfishness I would ask you to look within too.  Do something for yourself today.  Catch a movie this weekend.  Buy that shirt you had your eye on.  Go out to eat with the family (with dessert too!!)

Then, late at night when you reflect upon the day, check your favorite blogger and join the conversation.  Go to your Facebook page and become a fan.  Check your Twitter feed and follow.

Feed the selfishness within!!  Or at least mine.


5 Hump Day Clips:

Shins:  "Simple Song"  New music from James Mercer is a very good thing.  New Shins album due in March.

White Rabbits:  "Heavy Metal"  Might have to do some work here...  a download that is.

Nada Surf:  "Waiting for Something"   Always liked this band, and this track does not disappoint.  New album later this month.

War On Drugs:  "Baby Missiles"  TV debut on Jimmy Fallon.  Nice sound here.  Now a little sad I missed them last year.  Shout out to Philly!!  This could be my new favorite.

Finally, John Parr re-wording his classic "ST Elmo's Fire" theme using Tim Tebow as his muse is hard to ignore.

Hear it to believe it...  then probably vomit in your mouth a little bit.

Naughty, Naughty is right!!!  Super, terrific bonus video!!!