The whiniest blog in the world?

It’s one thing to make the occasional complaint about Washington’s Metro system. When you have a mass transit operation run by so many jurisdictions that don’t really party together, you’re bound to have … well, something that begins with “cluster” and ends with an euphemism. Little wonder it’s taking so long to get an extension out in the vicinity of the massive work/shopping hub of Tysons Corner, let alone Dulles Airport.

But I’d say 90 percent of my experience with the Metro has been positive. Apparently this guy sees it differently.

Here’s a sample:

As predicted, Metro officials believe that the higher gas prices following hurricanes Katrina and Rita have been a significant factor in an increase in Metrorail ridership though the month of September. The highest ridership so far was 731,028 people on September 21st. Also, weekend ridership has increased by 25 percent.

Wow, that’s amazing that Metro can do math. Metro was actually able to come
to the conclusion that people are taking public transit more because driving has gotten to (sic) expensive because of gas prices? I’m shocked!

I’m surprised he didn’t complain about the drivers announcing, upon leaving Vienna, that the next station is Dunn Loring. Where else would we be going?


I don’t like to complain. I’d rather offer something constructive.

So with that in mind, here are a few things I’d like to see …

1. Give Maura Tierney and Linda Cardellini a sitcom, thereby allowing them to get the hell off ER.

2. Attach a rider to the flag-burning amendment that people must be required to watch The Daily Show. That should keep everyone happy, informed and superficially patriotic. And attach more riders requiring the viewing of either Arrested Development or The Office. (Yes, I pimp those shows every week. They deserve it.)

3. XM should make its original programming available online on demand for subscribers. It’s great stuff, but I can’t quite plan my day around a 3 p.m. radio show.

XM in depth, Channel 8

After pleasant trips through the ’60s and ’70s, I worried a bit about the ’80s. Yes, this was the era of my musical awakening. In 1983, I got MTV and a boom box. I discovered music beyond the AM Top 40 station my parents had on. I strained to pick up the classic rock station 70 miles away in Atlanta, and I watched a lot of videos. We had a university-run cable channel that subscribed to a funky syndicated feed that played The Cure and a bunch of college-rock bands that couldn’t quite get on MTV. I watched more alt-rock on MTV’s 120 Minutes and even flirted with New Age music on the late-night VH1 show New Visions. I read Rolling Stone and Musician and saved up to buy cassettes of the musicians they liked best, from Husker Du to Branford Marsalis.

But the actual pop music they’re likely to play on the ’80s channel is decidedly hit or miss. No Rush, Yes or Husker Du in this mix, most likely.

I wasn’t reassured when I first tried to do this, only to find that they were doing some Friday night dance medley. The best song in the mix was Murray Head’s One Night in Bangkok. (What happens in Thailand, stays in Thailand.) I liked this song in high school for purely personal reasons — I played chess, and that’s not exactly a popular subject for pop songs. (OK, there’s always the Your Move section of Yes’ I’ve Seen All Good People.) But I often find Broadway tunes a little too cutesy for my tastes, and this is no exception. The dance beat and grating synthesizers didn’t help.

Then they finally started playing music.

Van Halen, When It’s Love: I don’t mind Van Hagar. Seriously. But I like the ones that rock a little more than than the power ballads. Poundcake more than holds its own against anything they did in the Diamond Dave days, and it was a whole lot better than anything Mr. Roth managed around that time.

(In other words, I’m not that big a fan of this song, but my wife is, so I ain’t saying much.)

Journey, Girl Can’t Help It: Not bad, but I wish it had a bit more Neil Schon and a bit less Jonathan Cain. It’s funny — I didn’t mind synthesizers in the ’80s. I even had one. But now that the whole notion of a big-haired guy behind a bank of Korgs is totally passe, it’s hard to listen to some of these songs without thinking, “Wow, what a horribly artificial sound.” Journey did better songs than this, but I’d love to hear them tackle this today with more modern keyboard sounds.

Police, King of Pain: One of Sting’s most memorable lyrics. Just hear the first chord or two, and your brain immediately kicks in — “There’s a little black spot on the sun today.” I’d quibble with the arrangement a bit. Imagine if Andy Summers had just let the guitar ring a little more in the verses instead of clipping every note shorter than the nails on a declawed cat. (Hey, if I could do simile and metaphor, I’d be … Sting, who wrote one of the most poetic lines in rock a few years later in The Wild Wild Sea — “the gray sky, she angered to black.” You could put me in front of a typewriter for 50 years, and it would never occur to me to use the word “angered” in that sense. That’s why Sting is a brilliant lyricist, and I’m a … journalism guy.)

Tears for Fears, Sowing the Seeds of Love: One of the most unlikely successful comeback efforts of the current decade — check it out if you haven’t heard it. This song fits the trend so far — not my favorite by this band, but not enough to make me throw off the headphones. Tears for Fears were at their best when they put a lot of thought into the orchestration, building up layers of sound and taking them apart to add drama. Just listen to their two masterpieces, Shout and Woman in Chains. They didn’t do as well with Sowing, but it’s another memorable Beatlesque melody sung with some admirable neo-hippie conviction.

The Jets, You Got It All: What’s worse than synthesizers? Lazy electric piano. Nothing wrong with the vocal, and they spice things up with some good sax breaks and guitar fills. But the verses lull me to sleep.

Jermaine and Michael Jackson, Tell Me I’m Not Dreaming: It’s fashionable to make fun of the Jackson siblings who were many, many times less successful than Michael. But they kinda deserve it, don’t you think?

Whitney Houston, Love Will Save The Day: OK, by this time, I was hoping for a power outage. (My battery power is weak.) I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that the most grating vocal performance ever recorded — yes, worse than anything by Michael Bolton’s — is Whitney’s I Will Always Love You. The verses barely exist, and then she breaks into what I call a “vowel movement” — “IIIIIIII-e-III IIIHHHH-AAAAA-AYYYYY UUUUHHHHH-OOOOOO, OOOO*&*^#@*IIIII!” You know, folks, R&B and punk both peaked in the ’70s. The only difference is that punkers, for the most part, realized it.

Mike + The Mechanics, The Living Years: Take away the cloying chorus chiming in with “Say it loud …,” and perhaps this would be a decent song. Sure, the lyrics are a little clumsy, the synth sounds are tinny, the guitar line is one of the worst Mike Rutherford ever played, but … what was my point?

And then they went into another goofy mix of unidentified songs. Somewhere along the way, it included the likable Haircut 100 song Love Plus One.

Pretenders, Middle of the Road: Trivia that had to verify to make sure I wasn’t getting confused — when Chrissie Hynde finally decided that she was going to be the only original Pretender still in the band, she replaced drummer Martin Chambers with Blair Cunningham, who had previously played in … Haircut 100. Anyway, this song is the opening salvo from their masterpiece, Learning to Crawl, recorded after the deaths of two original Pretenders but with Chambers still in the fold. Some time ago, I wrote about the sentimentality of the John Mellencamp song Cherry Bomb, which is the anthem of 30-something maturity for so many people. This song is my Cherry Bomb. I even had a kid at 33.

Def Leppard, Animal: “An-I-whah! An-I-nee! An-i-whuh! An-I-muh!” Good harmless semi-metal fun.

New Edition, Cool It Now: Good idea. Off goes the radio.

Could’ve been worse.

The 100, part 2

35. I’ve never been drunk.
36. I’ve also never done drugs, though I did attend an indoor Pink Floyd concert, which is roughly the same thing. (I actually thought the pig was coming to get me.)
37. Girls weren’t interested in me in high school, as much as their parents tried to convince them otherwise.
38. My skepticism in today’s sophisticated communication tools stems from the fact that our species has not yet mastered the turn signal.
39. I think the best comment on what it means to be a man is the movie Bull Durham.
40. I ran cross-country in high school.
41. I also played chess and was active in drama.
42. Today, I’m a half-decent volleyball player.
43. I know a fair amount of geography, but I have a few gaps in knowledge. Until this year, I thought the Hamptons were a mountain range.
44. I understand the game of cricket.
45. I’m fairly tall, but I have short arms and small hands.
46. Now that Mitch Hedberg has died far too young, I think the best stand-up comic working today is Dane Cook.
47. Few blogs really hold my interest.
48. I prefer the mountains to the beach.
49. I can stack more than 20 pennies on my elbow, flip my arm forward and catch them.
50. Back in the days I attended movies, I saw both Con Air and The Avengers. The critics thought The Avengers was hilariously awful, but frankly, I thought Con Air was just as bad.
51. If being an elitist means that I value the opinion of someone who has done research over that of someone who hasn’t, then I’m an elitist. People who turn to Harvard professors over talk-radio hosts have nothing to apologize for.
52. Ending a sentence in a preposition doesn’t bother me.
53. I’ve been known to shout, “I am the Lizard King! I can do anything!” at inappropriate times.
54. I often find that, in movies, people who have guns pointed at them really have nothing to lose by going ahead and doing whatever they were going to do before the gun was pointed. I mean, did Frank Whaley really think he’d be able to talk Samuel L. Jackson out of putting about 20 bullets in him?
55. This was my mom’s age when she passed away from lung cancer. I was 25.
56. DJs don’t really impress me.
57. If not for my family, I would’ve seriously considered moving to England sometime in the past 10 years.
58. If it’s at all feasible to take a trip by train instead of car, I’ll do it.
59. I’m not normally a violent guy, but the guy who yells “I … LOVE YOU, TOO!!” for NFL highlights on SportsCenter really should be punched in the face.
60. I’m personally offended by the gender stereotyping in many beer commercials. Of course, most American beer sucks, anyway. (From Monty Python: “American beer is like making love in a canoe …”)
61. In high school, I filmed football and basketball games for the coaching staffs, and I often added special effects like untimely zooms and perception-challenging shots of the ceiling. We weren’t that good, and in retrospect, I wonder if that was my fault.
62. I don’t care if Lorne Michaels is the most frightening boss in the world — I’d love to be on Saturday Night Live.
63. I like bridges, and one day, I want to find the one in North Carolina that looked like it was ascending into the clouds.
64. I do an inordinate amount of shopping at Old Navy.
65. My CDs are alphabetical.
66. I had a cat who lived to be 18 and a dog who was close to 17.
67. I’m right-handed in every respect except that I eat with my left.

100 things about me, Part 1

1. I used to be the young guy. At my first job out of school, I was the first person hired there who was born in the 70s.
2. I am no longer the young guy. That changed quite abruptly when I was 26, and every bit of weakness I’ve felt since 30 makes me feel older.
3. And yet, I still like South Park. (The one in which Stan joins the Goth kids is on now — I love the way Butters sets things straight at the end.)
4. And Beavis & Butt-head.
5. And I think Family Guy is the best pure comedy since the Marx Brothers.
6. And I think The Simpsons is the best satire … ever.
7. And yet, the “bumps” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim strike me as self-indulgent “hipper than thou” nonsense I’d expect from one of those college radio station DJs who think he’s cool because he plays music no rational person would want to hear.
8. I did really well in school and went to a great college, then went back to the same school to get a master’s degree, but I feel like I didn’t get excited about learning until I saw the History of Britain series.
9. I love dogs.
10. It’s no surprise or shame that we often get more worked up about mistreatment of animals (in movies and in real life) than we do about mistreatment of humans. I think the reason is that dogs and cats — dogs especially — have an understanding with us in which they are completely devoted to us in exchange for the care that we give them. When we fail in that care, we break a covenant.
11. I like cats, too.
12. If I were on death row, my last meal would consist of pepperoni pizza.
13. In retrospect, I was happy in high school, but I hope I can steer my son away from being the total geek I was.
14. I hated mowing the yard as a kid, but I feel a strange satisfaction in doing it now.
15. My first celebrity crush was Debbie Harry.
16. Fifteen years ago, I never imagined I’d be so happily married now.
17. I’m a fairly decent cook despite knowing few fundamentals.
18. I watch HGTV.
19. I went to the Lilith Fair.
20. I’ve seen Indigo Girls outside the Lilith Fair.
21. I’m not gay.
22. I served at the altar of my church as a teenager.
23. Though I’ve developed several reservations about organized religion, I’m still quite religious and recently started attending church again.
24. My best memories of college include religious conversations with dormmates of diverse faiths.
25. I think if more people had conversations like that, they’d be less willing to wish evil — in this world or the next — on others.
26. I’m not the least bit hung up on cars.
27. Or guns, though I earned a riflery award at summer camp 20-some years ago.
28. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
29. I used to be a good guitarist, a good bassist, a good percussionist, a competent pianist and a so-so clarinetist.
30. I am now half as good at all those things.
31. I used to be good at calculus.
32. I can still juggle.
33. I think people who sound authoritative at Home Depot are either contractors or posers on the verge of seriously damaging their houses.
34. I’m not doing all 100 at a time because I know I’ll forget something. Also, I don’t have that kind of uninterrupted time. The next 33 will come later; the final 33 much later.