Friday, November 29, 2013

Tech N9ne -- "Hiccup" (2013)

Just when you get to thinking
Nobody can touch you
Here come a hiccup in your plan

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday -- don't you agree?  

Did you have a nice Thanksgiving?  I hope you did.

I had a very nice Thanksgiving.  We hosted 18 at our house -- children, nieces and nephews, in-laws, even a fiancĂ©.  I took some photos, thinking I might use them in a Thanksgiving-related 2 or 3 lines but THEN I SAW THIS MUSIC VIDEO AND EVERYTHING CHANGED!!!

Here it is.  If you have a defibrillator in your home, bring it in to the room and plug it in before you hit "play" on the video.  (If you don't have a defibrillator, I'd run right out to Defibrillators "R" Us and get yourself one right now.)

(I'm glad I don't have to pick up the tab for these guys' energy drinks.)

I can't think of a time when I decided within ten seconds of hearing a song for the first time that it had to be on 2 or 3 lines.  But hearing the first few lines of "Hiccup" is like having a prostate exam -- love it or hate it, it's impossible to ignore. 

Here's my suggestion to any neuroscientists out there who are trying to figure out which part of the brain is most responsible for aggressive behavior.  Just stick a bunch of electrodes on a guy's cabeza, hit him with "Hiccup" -- the louder the better -- and see whether it's the hypothalamus, or amygdala, or something else that starts firing the hardest.  

Tech N9ne's real name is Aaron Dontez Yates.  He was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1971, and still lives there.  (About 20 seconds from the end of the video, there's a brief shot of a Kansas City Royals poster.)

Aaron Yates (d/b/a/ Tech N9ne)
According to a  2010 Ink magazine story about him, he did not have an easy time of it when he was young:

He was just Aaron Yates back then.  A kid who remembered how to spell his name by rapping it: “Capital A, little A, R-O-N.”

His mom, Maudie Yates, took him to church every day in Kansas City.

He didn’t always want to go. . . . But most often, Tech did what his mom said. He wanted to make her happy, because there was so much making her sad.

Tech’s dad wasn’t around, so he was the man of the house — even when he was in elementary school.  One of his most vivid memories from childhood was walking into the kitchen to find his mom convulsing on the floor.  He ran outside in his underwear, pounding on neighbors’ doors, screaming himself hoarse for help.

At church, he learned that faith in God could fix anything.  But at home, he watched the most faithful person he knew suffer from epilepsy and lupus.  So he began to question God’s existence. . . . He needed answers, and so he went looking for them in strange places.

When he was in his 20s, he crawled into vacant buildings in the West Bottoms with his best friend, Brian Dennis, and wandered around with a camcorder, hoping to capture a ghost on film.

“We’d take a couple girls with us, go act a clown and hope we’d see something,” Tech says.

They never did.  In 2003, Dennis was shot and killed in Overland Park alongside Kimberly Lowe, the mother of his daughter.  They were killed by Lowe’s ex, who then shot and killed himself.

His stage name, which was given to him by fellow rapper Black Walt, is a reference to the TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun (which was featured regularly on the old Miami Vice television show).

Ariel Castro
The lyrics to "Hiccup" are a hot mess.  The most interesting lines relate to Charles Ramsey's discovery on May 6, 2013, that Ariel Castro was holding three kidnapped women against their will in his Cleveland home.

You're kidnapping the women having your way
Threaten to kill 'em all if they don't wanna stay
Got off of work and you thinking you about to play
And Charles Ramsey came and ruined your day

In other words, Charles Ramsey was the "hiccup" in Ariel Castro's plan.

Charles Ramsey
The lyrics also refer to Pussy Riot, pedophile priests, and rappers beefing' on Twitter.  The lyrics do not apparently refer to what is going on in the video, which depicts (in backward chronological order, more or less) the attempted robbery of a convenience store by a young man wearing a motorcycle helmet.  

It's only an attempted robbery because the store cashier pulls a gun and shoots the would-be robber from point-blank range.  

The final moments of the video suggest that the robbery was motivated by the robber's inability to pay his bills and take care of his young daughter.  

If I were you, I'd scroll back up and watch the video again.  And watch it on "full screen."  (If you don't know how to make that happen, just click on the little icon in the lower right-hand corner of the video that looks like the corners of a picture frame.)

Actually, I'd watch it about a bazillion times in a row and I'd sing along, too, which would cause my younger son (who is watching a lot of old "The Office" episodes while he's home from college for the holiday) to slam the door between the family room and the 2 or 3 lines offices very loudly.  (I can't really put into words exactly how he slams the door, but trust me -- he slams it very eloquently indeed.)

"Hiccup" was released less than a week ago.  (2 or 3 lines is on top of sh*t, my brothers.)  It's on the 2013 Therapy EP.

Click below if you'd like to buy the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Edison Lighthouse -- "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)" (1970)

She's really got a magical spell
And it's working so well
That I can't get away

If you read the previous 2 or 3 lines, you already know Tony Burrows was an English pop singer who had four almost simultaneous top 40 hits under four different band names in 1970 -- "Gimme Dat Ding" (the Pipkins), "My Baby Loves Lovin'" (White Plains), "United We Stand" (Brotherhood of Man), and our featured song, "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes" (Edison Lighthouse).  

And you already know that I recently visited New York City, where I stayed at the Edison Hotel.

And you also already know that Edison Lighthouse was not named for "The Wizard of Menlo Park," Thomas Edison, but for the Eddystone Lighthouse, which stands on the Eddystone Rocks several miles south of Cornwall, the southwestern-most English county.

"Pray tell," you might be saying to yourself, "Is there going to be anything in this post that we don't already know?  Or is this going to be just another phone-it-in 2 or 3 lines full of recycled blabbing, with no original content of any value?"

Hey -- watch it, Mr. Smart Mouth.  I will slap that silly grin off your face, bub!  And here's another clue for all y'all: the 100% original 2 or 3 lines posts rarely have any content of value either, so you're not missing that much when I just cut and paste.  

To paraphrase the Who:

Meet the new 2 or 3 lines!
Same as the old 2 or 3 lines!

This may come as a surprise to some of you, but 2 or 3 lines is not my whole life -- not by a long shot, no siree bob!  I have a lot a balls in the air, and I'm trying to keep them there (rather than letting them drop to the ground and roll away down the street, willy-nilly)!

And I'm not talking about my thriving legal career, and the critically-praised novel I'm currently reading, and other crap like that. 

I'm talking about my busy and glamorous social life -- not to mention my even busier and more glamorous fantasy social life. 

Recently I have had a lot going on -- and when I'm not out and about, hitting the hotspots in this toddling' town we like to call "Your Nation's Capital," I'm planning for my next night out, or talking about my latest exploits with my fellow  exploitees.

You know the old saying, "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it!"?  What I'm talking about is not a dirty job . . . and I don't really have to do it.  But I think you catch my drift . . . and I've always liked that old saying.  Plus it gets me a few lines closer to the end of this very low-calorie post.

I have had some serious demands on my time recently, which has significantly reduced my ability to crank out new 2 or 3 lines posts.  Consequently, like a British old maid who has been dipping into the principal of her late bachelor uncle's bequest rather than living on the interest, I'm coming very close to running on empty when it comes to the number of ready-for-publication posts in the 2 or 3 lines content vault.

I need to gin up some new posts to deposit in my checking account, ready for immediate withdrawal when they are needed.  (I also need to clean all these unused photos off my Blackberry -- which, by the way, is the Official Cellphone Camera of 2 or 3 Lines™.)

In case you haven't noticed, I do three posts a week, 52 weeks a year.  They don't write themselves, and I don't see you doing diddly-squat to help.  If you're not going to pick up a laboring oar and commence to row, row, row the 2 or 3 lines boat, I really need you to lead, follow, or get out of the way.

And while you're at it, would you please get the eff out of the kitchen so the rest of us can get on with the cooking?  (Please?  Pretty please?  Pretty please with sugar on it?)

Now that I think of it, I do three posts a week 48 weeks a year.  In February, I do a post every day, an act of hubris that would make the ancient Greeks tremble in fear of the wrath of Zeus reigning down upon their heads.  (The wrath of Khan as well.) 

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Big Shot!  (Who do you think you are?)

In closing, watch this space for more news about the non-2 or 3 lines-related goings on in my wild and crazy life.  Which is not to say that there will be any such news.  Maybe yes, maybe no . . . maybe rain, maybe snow.  And don't call us, we'll call you.

(To tell the truth, we won't call you.  We don't even have your number, so how the hell can we call you even if we wanted to?  AND WHY THE HELL WOULD YOU THINK WE DO WANT TO CALL YOU?  JUST EXACTLY WHAT IS SO DAMN SPECIAL ABOUT YOU?)

Whether there is or isn't such news is something you have no control over.  Therefore, there's really no point worrying about it -- you have no control over it, so why worry?

Of course, if it were under your control -- which it's not, as I just made clear (assuming you were listening, which risks making an ass out of u and me) -- then there's really no point worrying about it -- you've got it under control, so why worry?

In other words, there's never any reason to worry, and I hope you take that lesson to heart.  I certainly have -- well, maybe not all the time.  But some of the time.  (Certainly not none of the time -- more of the time than that for sure.)

Yes, I am a man of mystery.  Yes, you desperately want to know more.  (And you desperately want to know why I am posting picture after picture of One Worldwide Plaza, an office building on Eighth Avenue.  That is for me to know and you to find out, mes amis.)  

But what you don't know won't hurt you.  (You may think it will, but it won't.  Trust me on that, boys and girls.)

(Surely that's enough for this post.)

Here's "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pipkins -- "Gimme Dat Ding" (1970)

How can you ever hope 
To know just where you are?

I know just where I are, even if you don't.

I are sitting in front of the state-of-the-art 2 or 3 lines superdupermegacomputer, putting together another fabulous post for my award-winning (and wildly popular) blog!  (Wow -- that was a mouthful, huh?)

But where I was a couple of weeks ago was in New York City -- specifically, the Edison Hotel, an absolutely divine 1931 art deco hotel (i.e., it's old and kinda crappy):

Hotel Edison
The Edison is located smack in the middle of the theatre district -- just steps from Times Square.  

Directly across 47th Street from the front door of the hotel is the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (c. 1928), currently home to a production of the 1978 Harold Pinter play, Betrayal: 

Ethel Barrymore Theatre
Betrayal is directed by the legendary Mike Nichols, one of the very select group of people who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, and Oscar, and a Tony.  (The twelve members of the "EGOT" club include Richard Rodgers, Helen Hayes, Audrey Hepburn, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks, and  . . . Whoopi Goldberg?)  It stars Daniel Craig (best known for his James Bond movies) and his real-life wife, Rachel Weisz:

Directly across 46th Street from the back door of the Edison is the Richard Rodgers Theatre (c. 1925), currently home to a production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Condola Rashad (daughter of The Cosby Show star Phylicia Rashad and ex-NFL'er Ahmad Rashad) and pretty boy Orlando Bloom.

Richard Rodgers Theatre
The Edison Hotel's famous "Art Deco Lobby" features several murals.  This one depicts Joe DiMaggio:

This one features the legendary Harlem nightspot, the Cotton Club:

And this one depicts the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline:

The morning after my arrival, I walked into Central Park.  There's a lot to see in Central Park, which covers 840 acres in the heart of Manhattan and even has a skating rink:

My favorite of all the things I saw that morning in the park was the statue of Balto, an Alaskan sled dog:

Balto's statue in Central Park
The residents of Nome, Alaska, were stricken with a horrific diphtheria outbreak in 1925.  (Diphtheria is an upper respiratory tract illness that has essentially disappeared in industrialized nations thanks to childhood vaccination.)  Balto, a husky was one of the lead sled dogs who pulled sleds loaded with antitoxin 674 miles from Anchorage to Nome.

Balto's statue was unveiled later that year, and Balto himself was present for the ceremony:

No doubt you're wondering what the hell "Gimme Dat Ding" has to do with my trip to New York City.  Well, I'll tell you.

Tony Burrows was an English pop singer who had four almost simultaneous top 40 hits under four different band names in 1970 -- "Gimme Dat Ding" (the Pipkins), "My Baby Loves Lovin'" (White Plains), "United We Stand" (Brotherhood of Man), and "Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes") (Edison Lighthouse).  

Edison Lighthouse, the Edison Hotel . . . sure, it's a bit of a stretch, but feel free to ask for a full refund if not satisfied.  (And feel free to kiss my big black *ss while you're at it!)  

By the way, Edison Lighthouse was not named for "The Wizard of Menlo Park," Thomas Edison, but for the Eddystone Lighthouse, which stands on the Eddystone Rocks several miles south of Cornwall, the southwestern-most English county.

Eddystone Lighthouse
Here's "Gimme Dat Ding":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 22, 2013

10cc -- "Art for Art's Sake" (1976)

Art for art's sake
Money for God's sake

Jeff Koons lives at the intersection of Art Street and Money Avenue -- that's in Manhattan, by the way.

Earlier this month, his "Balloon Dog (Orange)" sold at a Christie's auction for $58.4 million, a record for a work by a living artist sold at auction:

About a year ago, Las Vegas hotel tycoon Steve Wynn bought Koons's "Tulips" for $33.6 million and installed it in the Wynn Hotel.  I stayed at the Wynn in Septemeber, and walked by that sculpture (which is made of stainless steel and weighs more than three tons) -- I had no idea what the price tag was:  

What do critics think of Koons?  According to Wikipedia, 

Critics are sharply divided in their views of Koons.  Some view his work as pioneering and of major art-historical importance.  Others dismiss his work as kitsch: crass and based on cynical self-merchandising.

I have nothing of any value to say about the merits of Koons's work.  (I didn't take an art history class in college -- which was a mistake -- and the bits and pieces of knowledge I've picked up over the years falls far short of allowing me to play art critic.)  Personally, I enjoy it -- it's a little silly, but it's cute and amusing.  What's not to like?

Is it art?  Yes, although I have no clue if it is great art (or if it will be considered great art in 100 years). 

Would I have paid $33.6 million for "Tulips"?  If I had Steve Wynn's bankroll, sure -- why not?  (Hot chicks would like it a lot more than some gloomy Rembrandt painting, right?)

Koons recently collaborated with a famous French manufacturer of Limoges china, Bernardaud, which produced a line of porcelain dinnerware based on his "Banality" sculpture series.  

You might not think a guy like Koons would be into fine china, but he has said that he "was always intrigued by porcelain, by both the economic and the sexual aspect of the material."  (Say what?)

I happened on Bernardaud's Park Avenue store while prowling the streets of midtown Manhattan on a brief trip there a couple of weeks ago.  I don't know about you, but when I see a display of dinner plates featuring the late Michael Jackson and his pet chimpanzee (Bubbles) in gold faux-military uniforms, I've just gotta stop and take a closer look:

Here's the original Koons sculpture:

Here's the plate based on that sculpture:

The "King of Pop"-and-his-monkey dinnerware is pretty pricey.  For one thing, the "Banality" series has six different designs, and to get one 16-cm Jackson bread-and-butter plates you have to buy a set containing all six designs -- which retails for $380.

If you want a single Jackson-and-Bubbles place setting -- a dinner plate, salad plate, bread-and-butter plate, and coffee cup and saucer -- you'll need to shell out a total of $2300.  (Plus tax and tip, of course.)

After telling the Bernardaud folks "Thanks, but no thanks," I crossed the street to do a little window-shopping at the Phillips gallery, which was about to hold an auction of contemporary art.

Once of the pieces that was most prominently displayed was "Laugh Now," a 2002 stencil painting by the wacky British artist known as Banksy, who started out as a graffiti artist.  It features a bunch of identical stenciled chimpanzees, some of which are wearing signboards that read "Laugh now, but one day we'll be in charge":

Here's a closeup of one of the Banksy chimps:

The presale estimate for "Laugh Now" was $300,000 to $400,00, but it eventually sold for $485,000.

I couldn't find any other chimp-related fine art works, so I went back to my hotel.

"Art for Art's Sake" was released on 10cc's 1976 album, How Dare You!, which was the last album featuring the group's original lineup.  I bought that album while I was in law school -- I had a real weakness for the arch, precious songs that 10cc, Sparks, and other bands of that ilk were putting out in the seventies.

The How Dare You! album jacket is pretty interesting.  Here's the front panel:

Here's the back panel:  

Here's the gatefold:

I'm not sure who sings the bridge of "Art for Art's Sake":

Money talks, so listen to it
Money talks to me
Anyone can understand it
Money can't be beat, oh no!

Maybe Jeff Koons?

Here's "Art for Art's Sake":

Click below to order the song from Amazon:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Lorde -- "Royals" (2013)

Cristal, Maybach, 
Diamonds on your timepiece
Jet planes, islands, 
Tigers on a gold leash
We don't care . . .
And we'll never be royals

When self-proclaimed populist Bill de Blasio walked onstage to deliver his acceptance speech after being elected mayor of New York City earlier this month, this was the song that was playing.

I've visited New York City a number of times, but I'm certainly no expert on the place.  However, I have figured one thing out about life in good ol' NYC -- if you want to be happy there, it helps to have an unlimited supply of money.

I was in New York City recently and spent one morning walking from my Times Square hotel into the heart of Central Park, returning via the poshest shopping streets of midtown Manhattan -- namely, Park, Madison, and Fifth Avenues.

Go to the corner of 58th Street and Fifth Avenue, and you find a couple of famous old New York shopping spots.

There's Bergdorf Goodman -- the luxury-goods store that was featured in movies like How to Marry a Millionaire and That Touch of Mink.  You younger readers may know Bergdorf Goodman as the favorite shopping destination of Sex in the City's Carrie Bradshaw:

Bergdorf Goodman
Just across the street from Bergdorf Goodman is the legendary toy store, FAO Schwarz, which was founded in 1862:

FAO Schwarz
If your shopping interests run to more contemporary brands, there's an Apple store just steps away from FAO Schwarz:

The Fifth Avenue Apple store
I wish Cartier would consolidate their locations so a guy didn't have to go running all over Manhattan to pick up baubles for ses femmes:

Decisions, decisions!
If you aspire to drink champagne (Cristal or otherwise) but are living on a beer budget, New York has plenty of places offering high-class duds that don't cost any more than schmatte.

I found this neckwear emporium buried in the bowels of Penn Station, which is a veritable 21st-century  Dante's Inferno:

This store was aptly named.  Note the correct use of not une, but deux accents aigu -- this is an establishment that gets the details right:

True bargain hunters may wish to head straight for the Garment District and avoid high prices for chic fashion through do-it-yourself means:

If you haven't heard "Royals," I'm guessing that your car radio is broken -- or maybe it's just frozen on a country-western station.

Lorde -- whose real name is Ella Yelich-O'Connor -- is a singer-songwriter who just turned 17.  She is the first New Zealand solo artist to have a #1 hit in the U.S.

A lot of my fellow pop-music blowhards were waxing eloquent about the cultural significance of "Royals" long before de Blasio appropriated it as his theme song.

The song makes a fairly obvious point: there is a huge gulf between the world as it is depicted in pop music -- which often glamorizes conspicuous consumption (in the form of Cristal champagne, Maybach luxury cars, diamond-encrusted watches, etc.) -- and the world that fans of pop music live in.

The singer of "Royals," who grew up in an unglamorous "torn-up town" and has "never seen a diamond in the flesh," isn't at all embarrassed that she and her friends "didn't come from money."  Likewise, mayor-elect de Blasio never misses a chance to distinguish himself from New York City's outgoing mayor, the multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg.  (Bloomberg reportedly has a net worth of $31 billion, making him the 13th-wealthiest person in the whole world.)

By the way, de Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm, Jr.  His parents split up when he young, and his mother and her family -- the de Blasios -- raised him.  So he changed his name to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm in 1983.  In 2002, he changed his name again -- to Bill de Blasio.  (I get the de Blasio part, but I don't know why he changed Warren to Bill.  Maybe Warren sounded a little too royal for his tastes.)

De Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, was three years behind Hillary Clinton at Wellesley College.  After graduation, she became a member of the Combahee River Collective, a black feminist lesbian organization in Boston.  In 1979, she wrote a famous article in Essence magazine titled "I Am a Lesbian."

McCray and de Blasio married in 1994 after meeting when both worked for New York City Mayor David Dinkins.  When she was recently asked about that 1979 essay, Mc Cray said, "In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian and wrote about it.  In 1991, I met the love of my life and married him."  (McCray once took a job with a giant financial services company, but quit after six months because it was "not a good fit."  She must have decided that being gay wasn't a good fit either.)

The de Blasio family
De Blasio is full of it, of course -- he's a politician, so that goes without saying.  Is Lorde also full of it?

Probably not -- at least not yet.  But Lorde's a 17-year-old girl with a #1 hit single and an album that is doing very well.  (That album, Pure Heroine, debuted at #3 on the Billboard album chart, and sold 280,000 copies in the U.S. in the first month it was released.)  In another couple of years, I'm guessing she'll be either a self-absorbed neurotic (think Alanis Morissette) or a drunken, drugged-up burnout (think Lindsay Lohan).

That's a minority opinion.  Most don't share my skepticism.  The New Yorker reviewer (among others) have lathered her up pretty good:

The exciting thing about Lorde is not merely that . . . "Royals" is perfect (it is), but that a teenager from [New Zealand], with an unnatural gift, has entered the suit-infested ruins of the music business with the confidence of a veteran and the skills of a prodigy.  She is less a flashy new mansion in the suburbs than an architectural gem in a tony neighborhood.

We'll see.  But if I had to bet, I'd bet on one-hit wonder.  

Here's "Royals":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guy Clark -- "Homegrown Tomatoes" (1983)

Plant them in the spring 
Eat them in the summer
All winter without them
Is a culinary bummer

(True dat!)

Did you know that some people believe that the Garden of Eden's "forbidden fruit" wasn't an apple but a tomato?

Tomatoes were being cultivated in Latin America at least 2500 years ago.  But Europeans were unfamiliar with them until Spanish explorers brought them back from the New World in the early 1500s.  

At first, Europeans grew tomatoes primarily for decorative purposes -- like gourds and pumpkins.  Colonial Americans were slow to warm to tomatoes, in part because they believed they were toxic.  (Tomatoes are members of the nightshade family, which includes a number of highly toxic plants.)

Tomatoes traveled from Spain to Italy via Morocco, so the Italians called the fruit pomi de Mori -- meaning "apples of the Moors."  The French named them pommes d'amour, or "love apples."

It's not clear whether that French name represents a variation on pomi de Mori, or because the French thought tomatoes had aphrodisiac qualities.  (Isn't that just like the French?  They can't even cut up a tomato for their salad without getting all hot and bothered.)

Early-day Arkansawyers also referred to tomatoes as "love apples" -- at least that's how the characters in Donald Harington's novel, The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks (which I highly recommend), refer to tomatoes:

In Fanshaw's garden there had grown a plant which Jacob Ingledew had not seen before.  Luxuriant green bushes produced a rounded green fruit which, when ripened, turned red, but had a taste that was not sweet like other fruit but tangy, almost acrid, and produced a feeling of voluptuousness.  Upon inquiry from Jacob, Fanshaw said this plant was called Tah May Toh, which could be translated as "love apple."  . . . But [Fanshaw] failed in his attempts to get Jacob to sample one.  Jacob . . . was suspicious that the Tah May Toh was poisonous and he never ate them.

There you have it.  If the French and rural Arkansawyers agree on something, you know it must be . . . wrong!

The tomatoes I've been stuffing myself full of the last few months aren't technically "homegrown."  I haven't grown my own tomatoes for many years.  But I do the next best thing: I buy tomatoes from local farmers every week at the Thursday-afternoon farmers' market that's located near my office in downtown Washington, DC.

I prefer cherry tomatoes over the big ones.  But the farmer I get them from tells me that there won't be any more cherry tomatoes once there's a frost -- and that could be any day now.

Knowing that my supply of cherry tomatoes is going to disappear very shortly, I've been bingeing on the juicy little devils like the mayor of Toronto binges on booze and crack.

During the summer, I just get one pint each week.  Last week, I decided to get three pints.  (I do have hoarder tendencies.)  

That means I'm eating something like 50 tomatoes per day (assuming I eat them all within a week -- they're ripe when I get them, and it's risky to try to keep them around longer than that).  

This colander was pretty full last Thursday -- I was about halfway through my weekly stash when I took this photo:

I usually eat a bunch with the sandwich I bring to my office every day.  I often have a dozen or so as an early evening snack before leaving work.  Then it's another dozen or so (lightly drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette) with my regular weeknight repast (which my regular readers know is baked salmon and French-style green beans).

For my weekend lunches, the tomatoes are the perfect accompaniment for cottage cheese.  

I can't say I'm a big fan of Guy Clark's music.  I don't really know his oeuvre -- just a few of his better-known songs.  He seems to be one of those Texas singer-songwriters who specialize in wry and wistful songs that are much beloved by the Lone Star State's plentiful supply of ex-hippies.  (Think Jerry Jeff Walker, Kris Kristofferson, Townes Van Zandt, etc.)

I think most of the music produced by the philosophers-in-cowboy-hats school of singer-songwriters is much too cute and precious and self-consciously meaningful.  I find it to be a little insincere.  

But if you're fifty- or sixty-something and you owned these records (on vinyl, of course) when you were in college -- where you smoked more than a little weed from time to time -- and a song like "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train" or (God help us) "Mr. Bojangles" comes on the jukebox at your favorite pseudo-redneck bar in Austin or Nashville or Little Rock after you've had one too many Shiner Bocks, you'll probably find yourself wiping a tear from your eye and singing loudly to the chorus.  

"Homegrown Tomatoes" is just a simple little throw-away song.  There's not much to it lyrically and the music is nothing great.  But when you need a song about tomatoes, the choices are pretty limited. 

Here's "Homegrown Tomatoes":

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bonnie McKee -- "American Girl" (2013)

I am an American girl!
Hot-blooded and I'm ready to go!
I'm loving taking over the world!

Bonnie McKee is an American girl, and she really, really wants to take over the world -- to be precise, the world of pop music.

Bonnie was a 15-year-old singer/songwriter living in Seattle when a friend got her EP to a popular Los Angeles DJ, who started playing one of her songs regularly on his morning drive-time show.  

That sparked a record label bidding war.  After signing with Reprise Records when she was just 16, Bonnie moved to Los Angeles and started work on an album.

Bonnie McKee
But things didn't go exactly to plan.  That album wasn't released until 2004 -- Bonnie was 20 by that time -- and it didn't chart.  Her record company dropped her.

Bonnie had to get a job working in a vintage clothing store.  One day, she met another broke singer-songwriter, Katy Hudson, who had recently changed her name to Katy Perry.  The two hit it off, and started to hang out together.

Fast forward a few years.  Katy Perry had become a superdupermegastar pop singer.  Bonnie McKee hadn't, but she was a hugely successful pop song writer -- the co-writer of no less than nine #1 singles.

Bonnie and Katy -- BFF!
McKee is now one of the stable of several dozen songwriters and record producers who work for Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald's publishing company, Prescription Songs.  Gottwald, who was recently profiled in the New Yorker, has produced hits for Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Ke$ha, Kelly Clarkson, and the pop music train wreck du jour, Miley Cyrus.  (That's right -- we have Gottwald to thank for Miley's "Wrecking Ball.")

But Bonnie doesn't want to be just a songwriter -- she wants to be a pop star in her own right.  So she's working on a new album, which is scheduled to be released next spring.  

The lead single from that planned album is "American Girl," which was released last summer.  But "American Girl" made it only to #87 on the Billboard "Hot 100," despite the fact that it sounds a lot like a Katy Perry song.  (That's not surprising since Bonnie has co-written no fewer than five of Perry's #1 singles, including "California Gurls" and "Teenage Dream.")

Superdupermegastar record producer
Lukasz "Dr. Luke" Gottwald
Actually it may sound more like a Ke$ha song or a Britney Spears song than a Katy Perry song.  Did it fail because it sounds so generic?

I don't see how that can be the explanation, because the hits by those artists all sound totally generic as well.  

The public's lack of enthusiasm for "American Girl" has led to speculation that Bonnie's album will never see the light of day.  Bonnie recently released a second song from the planned album -- it's titled "Sleepwalker" -- but she has said that it's not an official single.  Rather, it's an "in-between-gle" that's intended to give her fans something to tide them over until the next official single is released.  (Sounds like someone is trying to lower expectations.) 

So why is Katy Perry a big star and Bonnie McKee isn't?  I have no idea, but I'm guessing that it has to do more with luck than anything else.

Anyway, that's the wrong question.  Ask yourself not why Katy Perry is a big star and Bonnie McKee isn't.  Ask yourself instead why Katy Perry (and Ke$ha and Britney and Miley and the whole kit and caboodle of 'em) are big stars.  That's the question you should be asking.

I would suggest to Bonnie McKee that if she's going to become a pop superstar, she'd better do it soon -- because she'll turn 30 in a couple of months, and it's going to become harder and harder for her to pull off music videos where she dresses like a slutty 17-year-old and sings about sitting on the curb at the Seven-Eleven drinking spiked Slurpees and bragging to her slutty friends "No, I don't listen to mommy."

Sure, Katy Perry is almost as old as Bonnie, and she's doing just fine.  But Katy has a five-year-plus head start on Bonnie -- Katy's first hit album was released in 2008.

And Miley Cyrus is breathing down both their necks.  Ms. Cyrus -- did you know her real name is Destiny Hope Cyrus? -- is not quite 21.  (Of course, she's 21 going on a very slutty 30.)

So it's probably time for Bonnie McKee to lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way -- but which I mean go back to being an anonymous (although well-compensated) songwriter, cranking out hit singles for others with the help of your fellow Prescription Records assembly-line workers.  That's good billable work, as we lawyers are won't to say.

Here's "American Girl":

Here's a lip-dub video of "American Girl" that features a whole bunch of celebrities, including Katy Perry, Ke$ha, Macklemore, Kiss, Joan Rivers, and -- last and almost certainly least -- George Takei (Star Trek's Mr. Sulu):

Click below to buy the song from Amazon: