Archive for the Life Category

TCB … TBC …

Posted in Life on December 5, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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OK, time to take care of some business, tie up some loose ends.

First, I never revealed the band behind the mystery song I wrote about in October. Here’s a clue: If I tell you, you’re gonna go “a-ha!”

Next, some good news: Rosie O’Donnell’s variety show tanked in the ratings last week, and won’t be picked up as a series! My fears were unfounded.

So were my fears about Sarah Palin. Her schtick didn’t play as well as I thought it woulpaused. Are Americans getting smarter?

I still have no explanation for all the references to pandas in my blog.

I still haven’t looked at a copy of the revamped Hartford Courant, and probably never will.

That’s because I’m moving out of state in a couple weeks to take a new job in Baltimore. So I’m putting the blog on pause in the meantime.

I cannot tell you all how much I appreciate your visiting here to read my random ravings, but it has meant so much to me during my “between-jobs” period of 2008. I have the greatest, and smartest, and funniest friends anyone could ever hope for.

During my downtime, you can always check out my sister Joan Beal‘s live blog on facebook. A lot of people told me they loved her posts here, so there’s more where that came from…

I’ll keep you updated on my new life once I get settled, so check back here. I can’t promise I’ll have the time (or the ideas) to keep it as up-to-date, but I’ll try. And please come visit me in Baltimore — the crabs are on me (…maybe I should rephrase that…)

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A SINGLE REGRET

Posted in Life, The Popular with tags , , , , on December 2, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I CAN’T imagine that kids today will even remember, say 30 years from now, the first single they ever downloaded. It’s jspindleust not the same as when I was a kid, when I’d head to Caldor or to Cutler’s in New Haven and hope, hope, hope they’d have copies of that great song I’d just heard on the radio.

I’d scan the singles chart, find the the number of the song I wanted, and peek at the corresponding record slot — would it be filled or empty? It was strangely exhilarating — or maybe I was just a really boring kid. Either way, I loved music, and there was something about this physical hunt for songs that thrilled me. Not to sound like a nostalgic old fart, but it was way better than hitting the search button at iTunes.

So today’s blog entry is the request of a friend and fellow music lover who still collects 45s today (as a former DJ, I know the importance of taking requests.) He suggested a post on the first 45 I ever bought. I think he suggested it at my expense, because he knows it’s a bit embarrassing. But here goes.

First, context: I loved (and still do love) pop music. Second, I grew up in a house with no Beatles albums (although my older sister had “The Chipmunks Sing The Beatles Hits” LP — for years, when I heard actual Beatles songs, I thought they were playing at the wrong speed…) Third, music kinda sucked in the early ’70s, so my choices were limited. Fourth, I was probably 8 years old at the time — long before I learned the difference between cool and uncool music.

OK, enough stalling. orlandoThe way I remember it, the first 45 I ever bought (the first of hundreds and hundreds I would buy over the next decade) was “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando & Dawn. (For bonus embarrassment points: I even watched their variety show in the ’70s.)

In my defense, it was the top-selling single in 1973 — someone in my house had to buy it. That May, it sold 3 million copies in just three weeks! And it’s a song that wouldn’t die (its resurgence in later years totally ruined the Iranian hostage crisis and the first Gulf War for me…)

So there ya go. Sad, I know. But c’mon, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” is still a cooler first single than a download of “Ooops!… I Did It Again,” right? Right?

(Don’t leave me hanging here. Share your story — especially if your first 45 was crappier than mine, like “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero” or “Shannon.”)

HOW COME?

Posted in Life, The Popular on November 26, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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OK, how come:

  • Vic Mackey has a new job and I don’t?
  • Blockbuster still exists?question
  • I have to keep hearing about Britney Spears’ comeback EVERY OTHER FUCKING YEAR?
  • I already have Obama fatigue? Really, I only have so much hope.
  • Black Friday gets more attention than Thanksgiving?
  • People invite me to be facebook friends, and then don’t respond when I send them a message?
  • Bush gets to pardon anyone?
  • I’m the only one who remembers “Saved By Zero” was a Fixx song?
  • Mormons don’t consider polygamy to be same-sex marriage?
  • The Beatles and iTunes can’t work it out if all you need is love?

NO. 1 WITH BULLETS

Posted in Life on November 20, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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PEOPLE always chant it, and it’s simply accepted as a matter of fact, but it’s bullshit. The U.S.A. is not No. 1. It can’t be. Not when so many people living here are living in hell.

With all the crap that’s happened in our country over the past decade, you really only have to point to one event to prove that America is not the greatest country in the world: Katrina. I’m pissed the whole disaster got politicized, because the red-vs.-blue debate pulled our attention away from a sad truth: There are great numbers of people in this country whose poverty is killing them.

Every week, I see two reminders of this sad truth. I’ve been tutoring two fifth-graders in New Haven, Conn., two boys at a college-prep middle school for inner-city, mostly minority youths. I grew up outside New Haven, and figured it would be a good way for a relatively well-off white guy to give a little back, and to see if teaching was something worth exploring careerwise.

What I expected wasn’t what I got. I figured I’d be tutoring two kids who were struggling with math and reading. Turns out my two 11-year-olds are pretty bright. They both read well, and they both love math (one even declared that he’s a “math nerd” but that he hides it because being smart isn’t cool.) They talk about their college ambitions occasionally, and between lessons they sing and dance. They’re relatively happy kids.

But every week, they remind me of what’s fundamentally wrong with their world, and our world. Every week, without fail, they talk unprovoked about the loved ones they’ve lost to bullets or to prison. A few weeks ago, I showed up for class and one of the boys had more bad news — his cousin had just been shot and killed that week. He was devastated, obviously, and we talked about it for a while. My other student shared his own story — his 14-year-old brother had been shot in the head while riding his bike (somehow, he lived).

Teaching math and reading seemed irrelevant at this point of our session. I momentarily thought of telling them that knowledge and college could be their ticket out of this life of violence, but I stopped myself. Even in my head, that just sounded like patronizing white-guy bullshit — these kids are gonna have to dodge bullets for another seven years before they can get to college, and that’s if they can even afford it.

I asked the two boys — remember, they’re 11 years old — how they could end this cycle of violence. In unison, they answered immediately: “Leave.”

“You shouldn’t have to leave your home to be safe,” I said. But “home” must not mean the same thing to me as it does to them. Not if they fear it, not if they want to run away from it.

This past weekend, the boy whose cousin was shot dead broke my heart a little more. He told me he can’t wait till next year, when he’s old enough to join “the battle” and help get revenge on those who killed his cousin. I’m there to teach math and reading, to keep these kids on the path to college, and he’s talking about “the battle.” That’s the path he envisions for himself, at least for the immediate future. College is an abstract goal, the war is real.

I reminded the boy about how sad he is to have lost his cousin, and that even his cousin’s killers have people who love them and would be heartbroken if they were killed for the sake of revenge. I talked to him about the futility of this self-perpetuating violence.

But what the fuck do I know about this world they live in? I just know that it exists, and it’s hell. And it’s in the same city as Yale University, one of the greatest learning institutions in the world. And it’s a couple towns over from where I grew up alongside beautiful farmland. And it’s in Connecticut, the wealthiest state in the country. And it’s in the U.S.A., one of the greatest nations in the world.

And as long as this hell exists, we don’t get to brag about being No. 1. Not when we should be trying so much harder.

TOTO RECALL

Posted in Life, The Popular with tags , , , , , on October 10, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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WRITING about the music I listened to as a kid (see previous post) got me thinking — cringing, actually — about my first rock concert.

PAINFUL TRUTH ALERT: It was Toto. In 1979, I think. Before you laugh at how monumentally uncool that is, hear me out.

In my defense:

  1. The concert was at Kings Dominion, and the admission ticket got you into all the rides and attractions, so it’s not like I went out of my way or paid good money to see Toto, OK?
  2. This was their more rockin’ “Hold the Line” era, before they went totally MOR and got creamed on all over by those Christopher Cross-loving Grammy voters.
  3. The band did have some great studio musicians in it, musicians who played on some of the most popular albums of the ’70s and ’80s, including “Thriller.” Yeah, man, “Thriller!” Suck on that, haters!
  4. Plus, the band never — ahhh, fuck it. It was Toto. Who am I kidding here.

So, who was your first concert? Post a comment and show me how much cooler you were than me…

HEARING ‘DISAPPEARING’

Posted in Life, The Popular with tags , , , , on October 8, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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I’VE never understood why it’s so unpopular to admit you like popular music.

I loved pop music when I was growing up — I guess all kids do. But I never grew out of it. I’m 43 and I still love the high I can get from a pop song. Not the Britney and the Miley shit (or practically all of the top 100 songs on iTunes at any given moment, for that matter), but well-crafted pop by artists like Fountains of Wayne, The Changes, Robyn, New Found Glory, The Format, Jimmy Eat World, Butch Walker and Lily Allen. The three-and-a-half-minute songs with chiming choruses that can actually bring a smile to your face the first time you hear them. The perfect melodies that make you wonder why no one ever strung those notes and chords together before.

While my classmates in high school were listening to the Doors (whose resurgence in the early ’80s completely confounded me), Zep and Halen, I was lovin’ the poppier, more modern sounds of the Cars and Flock of Seagulls and the Police and Talking Heads and the Pretenders and Marshall Crenshaw and XTC and Missing Persons and the Clash. The Doors were dead to me, and my music was the sound of happier days to come.

Then in 1981, I heard it — the perfect pop song. Some programming director must have accidentally let it slip through, because I don’t remember it getting much radio airplay. But it was love at first sound.

It was “Disappearing,” by some group called the Sinceros. I bought the 45. I bought the album, “Pet Rock.” The Sinceros were British (like most of the bands I liked back then), they wrote great new-wavey power pop, and they brought in Elton John’s producer, Gus Dudgeon, to sweeten the pot that was “Pet Rock,” their second LP.

I’ll never understand why “Disappearing” wasn’t a hit and “Keep On Loving You” was. Over the years, I’ve searched high and low for the album, or even the song, on CD. They’re just not there. The too-appropriately-named “Disappearing” isn’t on any ’80s compilation CD (though the band’s minor minor hit “Take Me To Your Leader,” from their debut album, is on a couple.) And “Pet Rock” has never been released on CD, which is a crime, as it’s one of the best power pop/rock albums ever recorded.

Recently, I found a fellow fan online, at a blog called VINYL GOLDMINE. The guy’s written a love letter to “Pet Rock” and the Sinceros: The Sinceros: More of the Best Power Pop You’ve (Probably) Never Heard. He’s uploaded the LP on his site, and I stole “Disappearing” from him. I’m posting it below so you can hear it, probably for the first time, almost three decades after I did.

There’s no way you’ll love the song as much as I did, as a geeky high school sophomore who never got into “Free Bird” or “Stairway to Heaven,” a boy whose family was disintegrating around him, a kid who kinda wanted to disappear himself. Just know that it made me happier then, and it still does.

LISTEN TO “Disappearing” by The Sinceros

IS IT JUST ME?

Posted in Life on October 6, 2008 by Adam Sapiro

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EVER wonder if the things you do or feel are normal? I know I do. Is that normal?

Take this stuff, for instance. I can’t be the only person who:

  • Always saves the slightly bigger half of the sandwich for last.
  • Gets annoyed by people who keep using the word “literally” incorrectly till literally the cows come home.
  • Obsessively memorizes the numbers in my head whenever a TV or movie character is given an important address, phone number or safe combination but doesn’t write it down.
  • Is tired of watching computer geeks sitting at their desks going on and on about pre-viz and CGI techniques in the extras of just about every friggin’ DVD.
  • Hates when other people at the table order the same entree I do, because if I eat more than them I look like a pig.
  • Doesn’t really know the difference between Cate Blanchett and Kate Winslet.
  • Always checks to make sure my shoelaces are tied when I’m on an escalator.
  • Lets friends drive drunk.
  • Doesn’t understand how dads with really hot daughters keep from checking out their really hot daughters.
  • Has never heard a Beatles album from beginning to end.
  • Isn’t really sure how to pronounce “ogle.”