i’m your boogie man

Lately, it seems my mind is set on ‘shuffle.’ Which would be fine, if it were like iTunes and all the ‘tracks’ playing in my head were actually favorites. But no, my current playlist consists of:

“(I’m Too Old) To Find A Job”

“My Hip Hurts”

and, for some inexplicable reason,

“Boogie Oogie Oogie”

I realize only that last one is a real song, and that’s too bad. Incidentally, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” represents one of the three lowest points in Grammy Award history

1. (1979)—A Taste of Honey (of ‘Boogie Oogie Oogie’ fame) is awarded the Best New Artist Grammy—also nominated that year? Elvis Costello.

2. (1989)—Jethro Tull is given the award for ‘Best Heavy Metal Album,’ because nothing represents pure Satanic evil and teen rage like a forty-two year old guy standing on one foot playing the freaking flute.

3. (2009)—Violating all the laws of God and man, the Jonas Brothers are allowed to perform with Stevie Wonder.

I thought of all this because I don’t just wake up with a song in my head—no, I’m so ADD I get entire setlists stuck in my head, and this morning I woke up thinking of all the songs I could remember with the word ‘boogie’ in the title (in case you’re curious: ‘Boogie Shoes,’ ‘Boogie Nights,’ ‘Boogie Fever,’ ‘Boogie Wonderland,’ ‘Boogie On Reggae Woman,’ ‘Jungle Boogie’ and ‘Blame It On The Boogie.’

Now I understand that these aren’t the deepest musical sentiments ever expressed, and it has been a few years since I put on my ‘my my my my MY boogie shoes,’ but I think these records actually point to something profound (WARNING! CRACKPOT THEORY AHEAD).

Follow my logic here. All of the above boogie-centric songs charted between 1974 and 1979, and though my late teen years had their share of global issues and hotspots, I don’t remember ever, for instance, worrying about a worldwide economic collapse or crypto-Islamic terrorists. You wanna know what I remember from the news in the seventies? Lines at gas stations were long.

My point is, there have always been bad scary things in the world, but now fear is an inextricable part of the cultural fabric, and I believe this may be because nobody is writing songs about the boogie anymore. Or boogieing (sp?), or other boogie related behavior.

All I’m saying is that when disco was a part of the musical landscape, we weren’t involved in two wars. Coincidence??? I’ll even go so far as to say that disco was a great cultural equalizer, because almost everyone looked stupid dancing to it.

There was a popular t-shirt when I was in college that said “Fuck art–let’s dance.” I’d like to expand that sentiment to “Fuck politics—let’s dance.” Because when I read about a Christine O’Donnell, or a Glenn Beck, sometimes I think maybe they just need a little boogie in their sad, tightly-wound, attention-starved lives.

So much of what passes for discourse and debate today is just anger dressed up in a suit. Maybe if the Tea Partiers would swap their Revolutionary War garb for a white polyester outfit and just dance a little–blow off some steam–maybe after that, both sides could get together and talk about the issues like adults.

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i blame the music

Nostalgia for Woodstock always leaves me cold. Born in 1960, I was nine at the time. Now in 2018, however, although there won’t be an outdoor music festival to commemorate, there will be the fortieth anniversary of me turning eighteen.

I think we are shaped as people by three things—our genetic makeup, the environment in which were raised, and the pop music of our adolescence. Granted, I can’t prove the last part of the theory, but in retrospect, I probably learned most of what I know about life, and love, from the songs that were popular as I was taking my tentative first steps into manhood. In further retrospect, I probably should have dated more in high school.

The musical landscape in 1978, like at any time, was a reaction to the zeitgeist. It was the year of Ted Bundy and the Hillside Strangler and the year Son of Sam was sentenced. The year of Jonestown, and John Wayne Gacy. Rhodesia attacked Zambia, and Vietnam attacked Cambodia. It was the year Garfield debuted. As a reaction to all of these horrific events, record buyers wanted something comfortable, something they understood in a world turned topsy-turvy.

Popular music in 1978 was, for the most part, soft and mushy, because the real world was hard. Sure, you had the Camp David accord (which worked out really well—thank God that led to lasting peace.) But all in all, things were kinda scary. And the last thing Americans wanted was angry music. We wanted songs about love. (Note: I did not live in a cave—I’m aware that punk music existed, but the soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever sold fifteen million copies…I’m just sayin’.)

When I turned 18, five of the top ten songs on the charts were either performed, written or produced by some combination of Bee Gees. Whether it was Barry, Maurice, Robin, or Andy, fully half of the top ten songs in the country were sung in a quavery falsetto. To this day, I can’t walk down a street in Brooklyn carrying a paint can without hearing the faint harmonies of the brothers Gibb and the incessant mind-numbing rhythm of 103 beats per minute. It’s a damned good thing I don’t live in Brooklyn, or paint.

I’ve figured out that my lack of romantic success is directly related to  the soundtrack to my coming of age. Without any siblings to consult for advice, I had to rely on the radio to understand dating, and I took the lyrics of the songs to heart. Except the lyrics to Steely Dan songs. I still have no idea what the fuck they were talking about.

In the following story, I reunite with an old flame after reconnecting on Facebook. But there’s a catch! Everything I say to her includes the title of a song that was on Billboard Magazine’s Top 100 chart in 1978, in order, starting with number one.

 “All I know is that too much Shadow Dancing will lead to Night Fever. You Light Up My Life, but I’m just barely Stayin’ Alive. I’d like to Kiss You All Over, just to find out How Deep Is Your Love. Wait! Baby Come Back. I know I said Love Is Thicker Than Water, but maybe we could just, I don’t know, Boogie Oogie Oogie? No? Oh I get it – you’re too good for that now that you’re Three Times A Lady.”

 “When I try to figure out why Grease is the word, I Go Crazy. But You’re The One That I Want—and I say that with a lot of Emotion. Now…Lay Down, Sally. I’m kidding! Of course I know you’re name isn’t Sally. I just Miss You, and I want you to know I love you Just The Way You Are.”

 “I was thinking that With A Little Luck we could work it out, but If I Can’t Have You, I guess I’ll just Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah). That’s it—Feels So Good. Maybe I should ask that girl to dance…she looks like a Hot Child In The City. I just have to remember—Love Is Like Oxygen, and It’s A Heartache. But me–along with my buddies here—you know, We Are The Champions. We Will Rock You.”

 “Of course, when I walk along Baker Street, I realize I Can’t Smile Without You, but I suppose it’s Too Much, Too Little, Too Late. How about you just Dance With Me? C’mon, Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad. My friends Jack And Jill both think you should Take A Chance On Me, but I’m not so sure, because Sometimes When We Touch, it feels like our Last Dance.”

 “I gotta tell you, I am Hopelessly Devoted To You. I’m Hot Blooded (check it and see)…You’re In My Heart, and The Closer I Get To You, I realize that all we are is Dust In The Wind. Or we’re like a Magnet and Steel or…something.”

 “By the way, I have nothing against Short People. In fact, a short person Use Ta Be My Girl. I know I’m not making sense herer, it’s just—Our Love…well, let’s just say Love Will Find A Way. And I’m talking about An Everlasting Love, especially since Love Is In The Air. I could be wrong, though—don’t leave–oh, well—Goodbye Girl.”

 I had felt her Slip Slidin’ Away for some time, so maybe I just need to get into the Groove Line, whatever that is. Or take a trip to Thunder Island with an Imaginary Lover. Realistically though, it’s Still The Same situation—me thinking about My Angel Baby. Frankly, I could walk past a Disco Inferno right there On Broadway, and if she were to ask me to Come Sail Away I would be Back In Love Again.

 This Time I’m In It For Love, and I ‘ll just come right out and tell her “You Belong To Me.” Oh my god—I can’t believe it—”Here You Come Again! I thought you were moving to Blue Bayou, Peg (that’s her name—it’s Peg, not Sally!), but apparently You Needed Me. Yeah, sometimes I feel a little Shame when I start Reminiscing, especially since I said you could Count On Me. Baby Hold On—”

 “Hey, Deanie—I wanted to ask you about those Summer Nights.  I’m sorry—What’s Your Name? Sorry, thought it was Deanie. Anyway, I’m here with Sally—er, Peg, so I gotta go.  Talk to you later.”

 “Hey—watch this—this is cool–when I start to think about you, Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue? Don’t it? Because The Night does strange things to a man.” You’re leaving again. Well, fine. I guess it takes Every Kinda People. “Well, at least we’ll have the CopacabanaAlways And Forever, You And I. And, of course, the tragic memories of that Serpentine Fire. I know you remember that, because you always were a Sentimental Lady.”

 “I will not be Falling again any time soon. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood—I am Bluer than Blue, but I’ve been Running On Empty here, and it seems like Whenever I Call You ‘Friend‘, you just say “You’re a Fool (If You Think It’s Over). That really doesn’t help– I just want to Get Off with a Sweet Talkin’ Woman. How am I doing? Well, Life’s Been Good, and you know me, I Love The Nightlife, but–hey, you’re changing the subject–You Can’t Turn Me Off (In The Middle of Turning Me On).”

 “It’s So Easy for you. You’re a Native New Yorker. You should probably go, but…here, take this Flashlight, and whatever you do, Don’t Look Back. I’m serious—you’ll Turn To Stone. Take my umbrella, too, because I Can’t Stand The Rain. Now go…don’t look at me with those Ebony Eyes. Don’t cry—leaving is The Name Of The Game. We’re All Alone now. Just remember those Hollywood Nights.” They call Alabama the Crimson Tide—call me Deacon Blues.

 Questions for Discussion

  1. Did the serpentine fire CAUSE the disco inferno?
  2. If love is thicker than water, how can it also be like oxygen?
  3. If you’re ‘bluer than blue,’ doesn’t that make you…indigo?
  4. If you date someone who is ‘three times a lady,’ are you actually cheating on two of them?
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i like my listening easy

Jokes might be my stock in trade, but music is my passion. In fact, if I’d realized how much music means to me years ago, I might have tried to make a living at it (because if the comedy business has been inconsistent, unfair and unpredictable, leading to a struggling, hand-to-mouth existence, at least music would have been—wait…never mind).

My musical experience is as eclectic as it is unspectacular. Played clarinet for eight years—made All-State Honor Band (33rd chair, but hey, California’s a big state!). Been in a couple of musicals in which I didn’t dance because…I can’t dance. Done a bit of cabaret singing (you’d particularly enjoy my intimate arrangement of Meat Loaf’s “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad”). Can read music and find middle C on a piano.

Growing up, my musical touchstones were vigorously bland. Mom was a HUGE Andy Williams fan—I remember sitting with her at the kitchen table with the radio covering RFK’s funeral, and Andy Williams singing “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” And at Christmas—my god, how many Christmas songs are there? He sang all of them—for years I thought he wrote ‘O Holy Night’ because it was the only version I’d ever heard.

Me, I was discovering a whole new generation of music—forget Andy, it was now the early seventies, and I was digging…the Carpenters. Mock them if you will, even though Richard is one of the greatest vocal arrangers in history and Karen had the voice of a bittersweet angel. Yes, they recorded a lot of tracks that were the audio equivalent of oatmeal, but watch some of their vids on youtube. They were sincere. And I’ll take sincere schmaltz over feigned rage any day.

First record I bought—Carole King, ‘So Far Away.’ Which became one of the biggest hits at my junior high-school radio station, KPRV. In eighth grade, our school started a five-watt radio station, and I was the on-air talent (yes kids, there was a time when schools had money, and that money went to the arts, and…). We also played the shit out of “Just You ‘N Me’ by Chicago. And strangely enough, the B-side of Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,’ a song called ‘Young Man’s Blues’ which was distinguished by the lyric ‘screw you.’ Repeated a lot. We were such rebels.

When I got to college, I started going to church. Now to recap, I converted to Judaism years ago, after  the Jesus thing. But I recently realized that when I was going to church, it wasn’t out of any religious discipline, but because of church choir. I got to sing every week! And it’s pretty hard to get kicked out of a church choir. So I’ve done your ‘Ave Maria’s, even your ‘O Holy Night ’s (sorry, Andy). After converting, I discovered I wasn’t the only Jew who loved gospel music. Seriously, Jewish composers—try a major key!

Lately I’ve been dabbling in cabaret, which is an interesting genre. With a few exceptions, the venues are essentially piano bars, where at an open mic night, you sign up for two songs and someone plays piano for you.  Now, take great songs with witty lyrics, add simple acoustic accompaniment, and put them in a tiny space filled with drunk tourists sitting five feet away and seventeen other singers who want your stage time.

I actually started singing show tunes at these open mics before I ever got my queer card. Before I identified as ‘bisexual,’ I used to be a regular at the piano bar at the Gay 90s in Minneapolis, believing that I just REALLY liked the music of Stephen Sondheim.

As much as I love music, I haven’t seen many concerts, because I never seem to have a hundred bucks to see either 1) a band who’s only done two songs I’ve heard and the rest of the concert consists of their J.R.R. Tolkein-inspired concept rock opera in its entirety or 2) a band that I loved as a kid performing less-authentic-than-karaoke cover versions of the songs I loved as a kid. With different guys.

Saw Jackson Browne at the State Fair, and during his sound check, these burly goons were sitting on the lip of the stage staring down the crowd. Lookin’ for someone to start shit. Seiously? At a Jackson Browne concert?! What, were they afraid a rowdy global warming rally would break out? Really harshed everyone’s vibe.

I peed next to jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie. Middle of one tune, I have to go, and figure I’ll just discretely scoot up the aisle. And then Dizzy Gillespie stops his band. In the middle of the song. He points me out and embarrasses me into sitting back down until intermission. Finally able to relieve myself, I notice that to my right was one of the greatest jazz trumpeters in history. Can’t really ask for an autograph in that situation.

Best concert experience ever—the Ramones, 1978. Now to set the scene, in 1978 I had yet to shed my nerd chrysalis. But—I knew that I should be into punk music. It’s like when I pulled my only prank in high school, not organically, out of a deep-seated resentment of authority, but because I thought I should pull a prank in high school.

Anyway, I didn’t have any punk clothing per se, so I wrapped my bicycle lock around my waist as a belt. In your face, people who wear normal belts! So I get to the concert venue, and the bouncer tells me I have to take off my bicycle-chain-belt. Apparently worried I would stage-dive and injure someone by hitting them with my belly.

Well, in the spirit of punk, I decided to take a stand right there. If he wasn’t going to let me in, I was damn well gonna go back to my dorm room, get the key, take off the chain, walk back to the concert and ask the nice man to let me in. And it was a great concert—all visceral and palpable, nothing but two-and-a-half minute songs followed by “1 – 2 – 3 – 4!” Kinda scared me. Did it change me? Maybe—when I got back to my room I put on a Dan Fogelberg album, but I skipped the ballads.

I have 3,382 songs on my computer, and not all of them are what you would call ‘lite rock.’ In fact, there are recordings I love in every style from opera to gangsta rap (sadly, I know of no ‘gangsta opera,’ but that would be cool!). I will say, I still have a taste for music that’s not so…angry. I admit it–I like happy songs. I like pretty songs. In a world of environmental devastation, crushing poverty, and genocide, sometimes I want my music to offer a little contrast. Something happy…and pretty. With harmonies.And maybe a little gospel feel.

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madness

I’ve lived through times when my situation was kinda precarious.  Maybe not Jack Bauer precarious, but certainly at least MacGyver precarious. Sometimes I felt like like one of those plate-spinners you would see on the Ed Sullivan Show–juggling job-hunting, payment arrangements on my bills, calls to the landlord, emailing potential leads, working on my resume, managing my anxiety and depression…what I’m saying is, that’s a lot of plates.

During one of my worst times, my escape was the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. First of all, the nickname is great: ‘March Madness. ‘ Sort of implies you might actually see something really insane, like a player belting out a show tune after a dunk, or an entire team putting on big floppy hats in the last two minutes of the game.

But from a marketing perspective, the name March Madness could be a lesson for other sports. People who wouldn’t normally watch the World Series as the ‘Fall Classic’ just might tune in if it were called, say, the ‘Fall Fandango.’ Or imagine if the NBA Finals were called Tall-a-palooza. Americans might even watch more soccer if the World Cup were called…nah, Americans will never watch more soccer.

That’s because we’re conditioned to expect that during a sporting event, something will…happen. Anything. For god’s sake, I watched a soccer match between–i don’t really remember–some European colonial power and one of the countries it used to subjugate, and the final score was 1 to 0. My leisure time is too valuable to spend three hours and watch only one thing happen.

There are sixty-five teams chosen each year, which means there are a lot of players wearing ridiculous-looking ‘but-they’re-not-really-short’ shorts to watch. But now I hear there’s support for the idea of expanding the tournament to…what, maybe…524 teams? I could be exaggerating, but my point is, sixty-four is probably plenty.

If the tournament expands, here are some suggestions:

  • allow the worst NBA team to go ‘back to school’ and compete in the tournament
  • have the final twelve American Idol contestants field a team–monster crossover marketing potential, plus Simon Cowell might be the next Bobby Knight
  • let trade schools enter–think of the excitement if the DeVry Institute could somehow beat Kentucky (Game times would have to be flexible, allowing for the DeVry players’ work schedules)
  • set the first round in the playgrounds of New York, and require lower-seeded teams to stand around the court and call ‘next’
  • first round–everybody plays ‘H-O-R-S-E’ to see who advances
  • include a public option in the health care system and stop propping up insurance companies who are only interested in profits–wait–sorry, that has nothing to do with basketball

Every year there are surprise teams that make you think, ” I didn’t know that place had a basketball program” or, “I didn’t know that place had…schools.” And you get to learn all the team mascots. Except for Marquette, which, according to a typo in the ESPN online bracket has a team but no nickname. Being a Marquette cheerleader must suck–“Go…..You Guys!”

There are usually at least three Tigers and three Aggies, which doesn’t seem right–you should have to choose your own name. Granted, it might be like signing up for a new email address today with all the good ones taken (“that name is already in use–try michaeldanecomedywriter3885653“).

There are Bulldogs and Gators and the less fearsome-sounding Miners (I think UTEP players should have to wear the miner hat with the flashlight on it), and of course, nobody could forget the Northern Iowa…uh…Northern Iowans?

This year the oddest team name I ever saw in the tournament was the St. Mary’s Gaels. ‘Gaels,’ it turns out, were Irish warriors. Good thing they didn’t play the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, or it would have escalated to car bombs.Wake Forest must offer a degree in oxymorons, since they’re the Demon Deacons. Cornell, the rare Ivy League school to have success in sports, rallies behind the oddly blue-collar sounding Big Red.

Sam Houston College roots for the rarely-seen and incorrectly-spelled Bearkats, but the most obscure mascot might be the Catamounts of Vermont (sounds like a rich couple being introduced at dinner). Apparently, they chose ‘catamount’ because mountain lion, mountain cat, puma, panther, and cougar were taken, because they’re all the same freakin’ animal.

I’m sure this trivia has been compelling, but let’s get to the important stuff. Even though I only follow basketball for two weeks out of the year, I will now give you some insight into how I pick winners in the tournament with hypothetical examples:

  • Normally, I root against religious-affiliated schools–somehow seems unfair to bring God on the team bus with you to the game. Unfortunately if both of these teams have God connections,  as in Baylor vs. St. Mary’s, well, Baylor doesn’t tell you it’s religious (Baptist), whereas with St. Mary’s is up front about it (the ‘Saint’ part), so I would go with the St. Mary’s Gaels.

  • If a team from a well-respected liberal-arts university (say, Xavier) goes against a team from a state wone of the most backwards school boards in the country (for instance, Kansas), root for the smart team.

  • One year, Butler played Syracuse, and here’s how I broke down the matchup–Indianapolis, home of Butler University, and Syracuse, New York, are two of the dullest cities in the country, so they’re evenly matched. But Jim Jones of the People’s Temple went to Butler, and to my knowledge, no murderous deranged messianic cult leaders ever graduated from Syracuse, so I give the edge to Syracuse.

  • Duke vs. Purdue: Purdue Boilermakers–well, that’s a drink, and I like to drink. Also, I’ve always had an inexplicable hatred for Duke. So…Purdue.

  • Kentucky vs. Cornell: Let’s see. Cornell has produced forty-one Nobel laureates and 28 Rhodes Scholars. Kentucky produces moonshine. I realize I maybe oversimplifying here, but I like Cornell.

  • Washington vs. West Virginia: I’ve been to Washington, and I’ve never been to West Virginia. For this and so many other reasons, Iwould go with Washington.

  • Tennessee vs. Ohio State: Follow the logic here–Al Gore is from Tennessee, and voter fraud in Ohio may have cost John Kerry the White House. So, if you factor in the fact that Tennessee hosted the Tea Party convention and Ohio’s Democratic Blue Dogs (who might be in the tournament next year), look for Ohio State to win after a long recount.

So, there you have it–the complex algorithms you need to fill out your brackets and win that office pool.  Now, to be honest, the year the above matchups happened, I was wrong on every single game. Gotta love all those upsets.

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more lizard people, please

I’ve been a science-fiction fan since I was a teenager, and I believe there is only one cardinal rule of the genre, a ‘prime directive,’ if you will: Create No Boredom. Here’s the deal. In theory, it should be impossible to create boring science fiction. Laughably bad sci-fi, I’ll watch. Campy sci-fi? Why not. Even really-disappointing-so-thank-god-i-didn’t-pay-to-see-it-in-the-theater sci-fi. But boring science fiction is as oxymoronic as…a groundbreaking Bon Jovi album…or…a substantive Sarah Palin interview.

If you are combining science with fiction, how in hell do you end up with something dull? You have all of science to draw upon (which is most of mankind’s collected knowledge) and fiction to work with (an essentially infinite amount of possibilities here, because…you can make up anything you want!) So how  do you end up with the TV equivalent of a Swanson Chicken Pot Pie, where everything in it just sort of tastes…gray? How, in the name of James Doohan, do you do that?

The answer is, you waste time on romantic and family relationships. There was a short-lived show called Flash Forward which had, as its premise, the idea that every human on Earth blacked out for two minutes and seventeen seconds and during said blackout saw glimpses of the future. Okay writers—run with it! Or, don’t, and spend minute after leaden minute showing us the collapsing marriage of the lead investigator. Wuh…huh?

Incidentally, it seems like every third drama on television—X-Files, Flash Forward, V, Fringe, which I enjoy–involves some secret branch of the FB freakin’ I…how many of these little boutique divisions does the FBI have, fer chrissake? is anyone still investigating bank robberies, or mail fraud?

Back to my point (in case you blacked out)–not counting commercials, the show has about forty-five minutes to deal with explaining a rip in the time-space continuum. This means we don’t have time to waste on some character’s personal demons. I don’t care if our hero has a drinking problem—he’s got shit to figure out! Get back to the weird stuff that’s never happened in the history of the planet!

Now V had some potential. It has extra-terrestrial life forms—AND they’re lizards! How cool is that? And for the first nine minutes of the pilot, man, does it ever deliver. Check that—the ninth minute delivers, because that’s when we get the money shot of the spaceship. After that, set phasers to ‘snooze.’ The skeptical commanding officer. The ambitious reporter. And. The. Relationships. The rebellious son. The naïve fiancée. C’mon–show us the lizard people!!!

Again, you’d think that, in an hour-long show, there would be scene after scene of lizard-people–eating humans, shorting out our brain waves, or at least—doing something other than talking! Stop talking!

It can’t be possible for a show to jump the shark in the third episode. But there it was, a scene in which the brooding teenager glances longingly at the lizard-person-who-looks–like-a-hottie—the almost palpable melancholy as he realizes he won’t be able to date the Lizard Hottie (see, they’re from two different worlds). Stop it! Then there’s a scene where Mom comes into moody kid’s bedroom to thank him for not getting involved with the Lizard People (because see, she knows they’re up to no good), after which he stares at the picture of Lizard Hottie on his cell phone. Cut to blah.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying science fiction should be just spaceships and aliens—sure, spend a little time making us care about the people fighting the mysterious visitors. Then get to the good stuff! I’m just sayin’ that there are very few classic science fiction stories that I can think of where I’ve thought afterwards, “Yeah, that was a compelling look at an alternate reality, but why didn’t they show us more about that guy’s relationships?”

Even something as iconic as Star Wars—if George Lucas had dropped the whole Han Solo/Princess Leia, Sam-and-Diane love/hate thing, I don’t think we would have missed it. Because every scene of people doing…people things means one less scene where aliens do…alien things, and that’s what I want from science fiction. If I want to spend an hour watching people deal with their relationships, I’ll watch Brothers and Sisters.

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sad news from the world of music

The Recording Academy, which bestows the Grammy Awards, announced late on Wednesday that the polka category would be eliminated, saying in a statement that it had been cut “to ensure the awards process remains representative of the current musical landscape.”–New York Times

Whether you roll out your barrel Cleveland-style or Chicago-style, the world became a sadder place in the last couple years, as word spread that there will be no more Grammys awarded for Best Polka Recording.

music

distraught Polka-Americans reacting to Grammy snub

This is truly a musical genre which has touched us all. Whether you’ve danced with a drunk aunt at a Wisconsin wedding (like I’m the only one) or simply lounged around your apartment in a new pair of lederhosen (again–just me, I suppose?), you can’t deny the power of the oom-pah-pah. And yet the Recording Academy in its wisdom has decided the polka is no longer relevent. Of course, this is the same Academy that gave the first Heavy Metal award to Jethro Tull, and gave a ‘best new artist’ Grammy to Taste of Honey over Elvis Costello. You’re telling me “Boogie Oogie Oogie” is more relevant than “Beer Barrel Polka?” Please.
Polka1
In a country which celebrates diversity, this slight is like a slap in the face with a raw bratwurst. No Grammy for polka music? That’s like not having a Nobel Prize for…polka music. And where will this lead, I ask you? Huh? Where, dammit? Ok, you’re not answering, so I’ll tell you. First it’s no polka award, then they stop giving away awards for jazz…then classical…then rock…and pretty soon the Grammy Awards show becomes three and a half hours of the Jonas Brothers.
interlake-polka-kings
what do we tell these people?

Jimmy Sturr has received more Grammys–18–than Bruce Springsteen.  That’s eighteen of the twenty-four awards EVER given for Best Polka Album. Yet when asked about his success, he exemplifies the humility, and, indeed the universality of  polka music:

“I’m not going to say I’m the best band in the whole world, but we’re just as good as any.”

True enough, Jimmy. But what of the children, the dozens of fresh-faced kids who begged their daddies for their first used accordions? To what can they aspire? They won’t be able to break Jimmy’s polka Grammy record, because there won’t be any more polka Grammys to receive.

accordion_girl_1

To be sure, polka has its critics. Some have said that exposure to its frenetic rhythms has led to an increase in ADD and ADHD in children. Others claim that polka music leads to alcoholism, while still others believe that alcohol leads to polka music. Despite these concerns, one thing is clear–polka music deserves to be celebrated. I mean come on–they give a Grammy for Spoken Word Recording–try dancing to any one of the winners in that category.

SmallMyronFlorenComeDance1

For future generations, June 3rd, 2009 will surely be known as The Day The Accordion Died. When asked about the popularity of polka music as compared to other, more ‘award-worthy’ genres, I think once again Jimmy Sturr said it best:

“Polka isn’t the biggest,” he said, “but it’s not the smallest, either.”

How true, Jimmy. How very true. soundboard.com

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