Monday, September 29, 2003

El Amor de mi Vida

owe an apology to my one true love. I gave up far too soon, lost faith at an inappropriate time and it was a huge mistake.

It was thirty years ago when my Mom shared her love with me of the only game that matters- baseball- a game as complex as it is simple, as heartbreaking as it is uplifting, as unpredictable as it is consistent. I don't think a day has since passed during spring/summer/fall where one of the first things in the morning I haven't found myself doing was checking the previous day/night boxscores, paying particular attention to that summary of the efforts of our local nine. Doesn't matter what period of my life I was in from a current stressful day to the most mind-blowing enlightening day in college- baseball has always remained deep within my heart. Thus my confession/apology. What the Minnesota Twins accomplished post All Star break after a frightening skid in June and July was truly astounding. I'm not exactly a fair weather, bandwagon jumping fan when it comes to Twins' baseball (women's professional basketball perhaps) and having bought in on season tickets during the nadir of the local baseball franchise (the Bernardo Brito era) I think proves a thing or two.

Still I must confess when the team played some of the worst baseball I've ever witnessed at the beginning of summer I wrote them off completely. Sure the teams of the mid-90's used to lose at an even more alarming rate but what made this season's woeful display even more painful was this clearly was a team with a lot of talent and there was absolutely no excuse (or reason) for the way they were playing. Bad pitching, excruciating poor at bats, boneheaded baserunning, inexcusable lapses in the field- nothing was going right and there was no sign that the team could ever turn it around in time.

Posting the best record in the Majors since the All Star break and playing astoundingly crisp baseball during a remarkably long period of time the Twins not only have answered their critics and doubters and all those in between and indifferent with an exclamation point but with a deserving middle finger pointed at all of us who lost faith along the way. Division rival Kansas City was a better feel good story but they were never a serious threat with a pitching staff composed of retreads they were picking up off the street (Jose Lima, Paul Abbott, Jamey Wright). Chicago had superior talent but the team has always been just dysfunctional enough to play their worst at the worst possible time (witness the deciding series of the season the past two weeks first in Chicago and then here at that atrocious Dome we try to pass off as a Major League stadium). I really shouldn't have doubted that our beloved Twins, with their biggest strength being their pitching and defense would come out ahead in the end.

And there were signs along the way that suggested that something special was awaiting all those who believe in such things as fate. There was that game against Baltimore a month and a half back where Michael Restovich struck out for what appeared to be the last out of the game. But the Oriole catcher dropped the ball and Restovich added to the confusion by freezing at the plate and then taking off as he should and that delay made the catcher throw the ball wildly to first allowing the tying and winning runs to score. And then there was a game a few weeks later when the Twins were down to their final out against Anaheim closer Troy Percival, a mean looking, hard throwing reliever who we had never scored an earned run in his nine years in the league. Dustan Mohr was on first when Shannon Stewart hit a double down the third base line and in what seemed like a futile effort third base coach Al Newman decided to wave Mohr home even though the throw beat Mohr by fifteen feet but he crashed into Angel catcher Benji Molina jarring the ball lose and breaking Molina's wrist also allowing Stewart to somehow scamper safely home for a most bizarre and inspiring win. Games like that have got to make you believe that someone somewhere has planned something special for the Minnesota Twins this season. Yet I stopped believing and there were games in the mid-season swoon that caused me to turn off my radio and not read the next day's newspaper account for the first time in my baseball loving life. So I'll eat the deserving crow and say I'll never stop believing again (at least until next year).


My Dad recently bought me a hundred dollar softball bat and new cleats. He kidded me that he expected me to hit a home run with my new bat, dubbed "the Weapon." So my first at bat with my new piece of equipment I put an easy swing on the ball on a low pitch and it flew far far away hitting the aluminum fence of a St. Paul Central High School fence. A few innings later, playing third base I dove for a liner down the line and stabbed the sucker causing team captain Joe Mansky to declare it looked like Brooks Robinson, a "definite Major League play." A few innings even later a guy hit a blooper between home and third and I charged in trying to judge the backspin versus the bounce the ball might take on the rutty dirt infield we were playing on. I grabbed the ball near the ground while I was in the air and in one motion flung it to first. Nipped the runner by inches. Quite the contrast from a few weeks back when I charged in on a ball and ended up scooping up as much dirt as ball thus losing the grip, and tripping over the ball to add to the embarrassment of the all time worst play ever- all to the laughter and derision of the opposing team. So when my nine year old nephew recently asked his mother (my sister) after hearing of my good game, if I was good enough a ballplayer to play for the Twins I had to tell her to tell him if asked this past July I probably would have said yes but the way the boys are currently playing- no frickin way. I'm sorry, Go Twins.

Monday, September 15, 2003

So You Wanna Be a Rock 'n' Roll Star or You're Hearing But Not Really Listening or Tentative 'D'

When Stephanie Jane decided she had had enough there was a vacuum created that really sucked. Big time.

The days that followed (and those days somehow turned to years) I found myself trying to recover from that and so much more, stumbling through the dark, in a tailspin, saving it for a rainy day, and then I heard the Jayhawk's Town Hall Music and it was such beautiful music and it was music I knew that had S.J. and I heard together she probably would have initially not listened to (she was much more prone to being a metal head rather than a country gal) but after some prodding by me she probably would have on an Autumn day where I wasn't around put the music on the stereo and tried to listen and eventually she would have liked what she heard.

The "last" time I talked with Stephanie Jane was in the days following September 11, and I don't want to trivialize any of the magnitude of that event but after a dozen years of deafening silence to hear her voice and then to hear her say when asked what music she was currently listening to, "Music isn't the passion it used to be... I don't buy as much as I used to..." made an already sad me go bitingly numb. Now a seamstress, formerly the finest connoisseur of what mattered that I had ever stumbled across to hear her say that made me feel how far the drift had been and I knew that was all ENTIRELY MY fault.

I was at First Ave Saturday night waiting to hear the Jayhawks live for the fourth or fifth time in my life. It was a benefit concert for the "Developing Arts and Music Foundation." The opening act, Kraig Jarret Johnson and the Program featuring the lead singer to the group Iffy (who I was introduced to by the lost in touch law school student Sarah McKenzie) grooved and was rather groovy as I'm sure the kids in the audience would attest to (did I mention I was carded at the door?). I was with the Feisty Garden Girl and her friend Dave Boquist (who played guitar and other instruments for Son Volt) with no skin on my right leg thanks to a spectacular softball slide (I was safe!) that caused my leg to burn and burn with a passion (I've been told by a couple of different people that the only time they've seen me truly happy was racing around the softball bases and that makes some sense. You never know how far you're gonna go or get or where you'll ultimately end up but as long as you can keep running and be safe you'll be OK and all eyes watching you know will know that and accede to your decisions. Run and run until you can't run anymore...). Ironically the first time I met Stephanie Jane was months after she broke her knee in a skiing accident and she was quite self conscious of the scar left after surgery and was noticeably limping which was one of the reasons I noticed her in my self absorbed dreaming haze and it all seemed so fitting in a novelesque way...

When the Jayhawks finally hit the stage I removed the Ace bandage wrapped around my limb and found my normally jiggling right leg hampered not only by my injury but also by the close proximity to the people around me. But it still found a way to jiggle during the second song, a tear inducing "Eyes of Sarahjane" from the latest CD. "I see the happy times again/and in the eyes of Sarahjane/I see happy times again/We couldn't sleep/Laugh 'til we weep/Then time stood still, so still, so still..."

I melted. Literally melted and drifted to times and ghosts past. I wanted to tell the FGG what was going on but there was a wall (of people if not of existing neurosis) and what can one tell these dayz?

The songs from the new CD Rainy Day Music worked well and seeped into cracks that weren't quite caulked by just listening to the recorded versions. When Gary Louris sang the lyrics to "Stumbling Through the Dark" my knees buckled as I thought about Stephanie Jane (and all her successors). "So much in love little girl/Running in circles, why?/You know it's a crime..." And how about a version of "Tailspin" that was a great example of how much the group has grown from the days I heard them opening for Dylan at the Orpheum years and years back? Forget that they will forever miss (in my ears) the country "Band-ish" influence former member Mark Olson used to provide (not to mention his harmonies) to Louris' otherwise devotion to Beach Boy pop the music in front of me was transcendental.

They closed with "Sister Cry" that had me alternating glances at the stage where Louris was playing the part of 'rock God' complete with feedback (most Moby Grapish) and with the Feisty Garden Girl who was swaying in a way that melted my already misplaced liver textured heart. I wasn't with Stephanie Jane, and I wasn't with whatever feelings being with her used to conjure, but I was in a place that for a brief moment I loved to be. Elsewhere in this publication you'll find an article about why music matters so much to the human soul and you'll find an article about why rock criticism is so dorky and you'll also now find this, a testament to an existing friendship that sometimes hurts more than an aching Jayhawks' melody.

Living in an Eternal Vacuum

Back in the days when I was a bit more impressionable than I am today, I like many a happy go lucky lad wanted a dog for a pet. Sure my myriad of stuffed animals named after baseball players was of some comfort (and exercise for the imagination) but somehow having a real live (as I defined it then if not now) faithful, tail-wagging companion in my life seemed something that was desirable. Alas my sisters were allergic to all creatures fuzzy and thus my pet options were somewhat limited. Mom and Dad did at one point buy my brother and I a pair of turtles but somehow Huey and Louie weren't exactly capable of cuddling and playing fetch and that type of thing.

So one day my friend Steve Benz and I were out at the swamp as we seemed to be most hazy afternoons and we caught ourselves a couple of Red-Bellied snakes. I wasn't going to take mine home but Steve convinced me that it was the prudent thing to do. Still sheepish I didn't exactly rush to tell anyone in my family about my new pet, the one I kept hidden in a shoe box down in the basement, the one I wasn't quite sure what to feed to keep it healthily and stealthy swiggling.

As a few days passed (more than enough time to seem like it time to move on to the next interesting thing to such a decidedly prone to that type of moving on type mindset) I opened up the top of the shoebox to where I was keeping the newest member our family only to discover that he (or maybe it was a she or maybe it was both) wasn't there. Yup my heart skipped a beat or two and my choices seemed limited to either ignoring the whole set of things and chalking it up to a learning experience; or looking around our palatial suburban estate for a snake no more than a cat tail in length; or maybe mentioning to Mom that there was a loose snake (no fault of my own naturally) in the house somewhere.

After a few days more contemplation I kind of came to the realization that I really should probably tell Mom about the loose snake. We began an immediate search that proved fruitless. As a last resort Mom, knowing she had recently vacuumed the whole house decided to look inside the vacuum cleaner. She carefully cut open the vacuum cleaner bag and began to sort, barehanded through its contents. In retrospect I think she was equally afraid of what she might find as afraid what she might have to tell me she might find. But in amongst the dust there was a wiggle waggle movement and Mom let out what may have been a sigh of relief or one let out of disappointment at the unexpected adventure her youngest child had most recently been the catalyst of. I eventually gave the snake back to Steve Benz with a certain sadness borne both out of the grief I caused Mom and the sadness that I really did still want a tail-wagging friend that somehow "belonged" to me.

This most recently passed cold cold winter I was vacuuming one of the few areas in my hardwood floored house I have to vacuum- the rug in my bedroom- when I had one of those frustrating OOPs moments when I saw a shiny object that was just too late identified to be my recently lost favorite earring just as I was running the vacuum cleaner over the recently lost piece of jewelry. Being way too cheap to immediately remove the garbage bag and retrieve the earring I decided that I'd wait until the bag was full and then deal with the lost object of my affection. So this past weekend I decided that I had gotten all I could out of this particular vacuum bag and I removed it. I grabbed a grocery bag, slit the vacuum bag and began emptying the dusty contents into the grocery bag.

So there I was sitting on the front steps of my house, hands hidden in a grocery bag, clouds of dust swirling around me like that that follows Pig-Pen in the Peanuts comic strip searching for a tiny lil green earring. I know I made quite the sight as a neighbor stopped by to ask what the hell I was doing. And on top of it all I was tearing up not so much because of the dust but because 90 percent of the contents I was shifting through was Max the Cat's sucked up fur. There was so much there that I'm sure I could sculpt a life-size replica of my much missed deceased buddy.

That same weekend my Dad told me his home voice mail went on the fritz and he dug out his last answering machine to temporarily take its place. He hit the play button airing the last tape inside and out played the voice of Mom talking to a grandchild about a school the girl had gotten into. The pride in Mom's voice rose above the accidentally erased and otherwise muffled parts of the conversation. Dad and I weren't quite sure what we should think or feel of the unexpected return of Mom's voice. The vacuum her absence continues (and will continue) to create to me remains absolute and astounding. It sucks at least as much if not much more than my now lifetime experience of combining vacuum cleaners with pets both deliberately chosen for comfort and those who were meant to be. Another explain it to me please moment in an time of that type of thing. At the very least putting in a fresh bag makes my vacuum cleaner work much better. It truly sucks. And that seems appropriate.

Monday, September 8, 2003

The Cheetah Who Didn't Ever Try to be a Rabbit

"He's the poet laureate of rock 'n' roll. The voice of the promise of the '60s counterculture. The guy who forced folk into bed with rock, who donned makeup in the '70s and disappeared into a haze of substance abuse, who emerged to 'find Jesus,' who was written off as a has-been by the end of the '80s, and who suddenly shifted gears and released some of the strongest music of his career beginning in the late '90s."
-Jeff Miers Buffalo News

When the news came out that Seinfeld writer Larry Charles and Bob Dylan were collaborating on a project it seemed an odd pairing indeed. At first it was reported that the two would produce a variety show and with Dylan in a phase of telling corny jokes, "My old girlfriend was a tennis player. To her love meant nothing..." visions of a modern Hee Haw sprung to mind. It would be just like Bob to do that since it is that last thing one can picture Dylan doing (or at least doing comfortably). Instead what Charles and Dylan ultimately produced was the movie Masked and Anonymous that opened Friday in the Twin Cities.

The national criticism of the movie has been (somewhat) predictably harsh. "Two thumbs way down, as far down as thumbs can go," Ebert and Roeper declared on their TV show. And while I must admit that I don't think I'm capable of being too critical of anything Bob does (except perhaps the few times in his career where he has seemingly taken the safe and easy path) I approached my seeing Masked and Anonymous with some trepidation. From what I read I expected to see the same thing I saw in high school creative writing class, a story of stifling pretentiousness pondering the meaning of (and cruelty) of life at the same time basking in its own cleverness. And yup some of that is definitely there.

What I didn't expect was an at times witty farce. It's Bob making fun of his own legend, of how his work is taken so seriously by fans and critics alike and where every move is scrutinized for a deeper meaning. There's a definite wink to the movie and those who are trying to keep an open mind (as closed as that can sometimes be) may miss that wink if they should happen to blink too soon. One of Ebert's criticisms of the movie was that every line Bob mutters sounds like it comes from a fortune cookie. And while that is true, in a way it is deliberately true. It's what our culture requires and those who can deliver such lines better than others are the ones that critics revere and tear to shred almost randomly. "Cellulose is found in the grass and cows can digest it but you can't... and neither can I," Bob informs us (and for me comically so).

The movie is full of appearances by some great actors and actresses from John Goodman to Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges to Penelope Cruz, Luke Wilson to Angela Bassett, Ed Harris to Christian Slater, Mickey Rourke to Fred Ward. It's like those in Hollywood were standing in line to participate in a Dylan related movie. And of course all the characters in the movie have these deep (and silly names) from Dylan's Jack Fate, to Goodman's Uncle Sweetheart, from Wilson's Bobby Cupid to Bridge's Tom Friend and Cruz's Pagan Lace. Most of the acting is way over the top (particularly Goodman, Lange and Bridges) that stands in stark contrast to Dylan who sort of swaggers throughout his scenes in a Chaplinesque manner. The man has the most expressive stoical and inscrutable face ever captured on celluloid. He's awkward and he moves funny and he mumbles his lines in a reverent tone but there's a charisma that's undeniable that explains some of his devoted following.

Masked and Anonymous may either be a great movie or it is dreadful dreck and it's hard to distinguish between the two but that is what makes it fascinating to see. Dylan definitely tried a Triple Salchow here and while he didn't exactly stick the landing there is so much in this film that you won't see if you should wander into any other movie theater. You either appreciate the satirical humor (the stabbing look at Dylan puncturing his own legend) or you hate how serious the movie seems to be taking itself. (I tend to lean toward the former seeing how Dylan opened most of his shows the past year with the quote from the aforementioned Buffalo News' summary of his career before he took the stage. Wink Wink...)

For those who marginally appreciate Dylan and especially Dylan's music (the movie makes a convincing argument that there may be a difference between the two) Masked and Anonymous is probably worth seeing for the music scenes alone. Never mind there are several wonderful covers of under-appreciated Dylan songs ("Senor," "One More Cup of Coffee," and "If You See Her Say Hello" in particular) the scenes with Bob and his band are at times eye and ear popping stuff. Midway through the film Dylan sings a bluesy and wistful "I Remember You" that is probably the best version I've heard since the day I was lying in a faraway Rochester bed wondering what could ever come next and if I'd be around to see it. People kill so much time when time is really killing us I heard somewhere. So lock me up Suze I'm gonna kill time seeing this movie again I promise you.

My Secret Government Mission

by Thompson Maeda

"This blonde feline gets caught in a trap and ends up gnawing off three of her legs. And she still is stuck! Enjoy the kibbles and bits and be sure to tip your waiter!"

Say you're a frisky young kitten who is allowed the freedom to roam the wilderness of a nearby park at the same time as someone nice is nice enough to feed you on occasion and suddenly one day you find yourself trapped in a trap. And your paw aches and your leg can't move and you don't know what can possibly come next (if anything) and the next thing you know you are at a white sterile place that puts something in you in another leg and when you awake you're not entirely the same whole as what you went asleep as. Put the immediate pain is gone and all you can think about is eating again because that need left you in all your other pain.

Eventually you are brought to a whole other place where you are paired with this rambunctious black cat with an impressive tail who seems to lop onto all those far and near. You're not sure what to make of things. And the ache in the front side where your leg used to be reminds you to be extra cautious.

At the place where you lost your ability to be free they dubbed you "Tumbles" in an accurate but still somewhat cruel description of your new found state. You do tumble over because there is a certain change in your eternal sense of balance. Let's see anyone else do any better in a similar circumstance if such a thing could ever really exist. But you do have a persevering quality within your being that gets you through even though the fact of the matter is you don't know any better that had you been brought just about any other place your survival would not have been a choice and the easier option of letting you go would have been inevitably made for you.

You find yourself in an obvious basement made into a room (with high windows you have to make an effort to reach) living with that other energetic if not forgotten like soul and another who plays loud music and cuddles and smells good. You try to re-orient yourself to all that has changed but you keep tumbling over and you don't like that feeling. You merely want to prance about like you used to but kerplop something is eternally missing in who you know you will forever now be.

One day a wobbly soulless but needy man comes to visit. He watches not only you but your best friend, that lucky black cat and even throws a toy or two your way. He gently pets you and somehow is smart enough (it doesn't seem part of his natural makeup) not to try to pick you up. You don't like to be confined in any way, you need the freedom of your own movement and you love to dart from one side of the room to the other.

As part of your new routine you have been occasionally brought to this big smelly yet fascinating place where people walk by and look at you and pick up that black cat and then after a few mumbled words walk away. You somehow sense that they were talking about you but you never know. It's all rather scary and at the same time it is yet another bonding experience with your fellow feline friend. It is the one time he seems as scared as you and you call out to comfort him and he calls back. One such visit that wobbly friend comes by with a nice smelling friend. He looks at you and smiles and says "Hi" like he really means it. A few days later he's back to visit you at your home. He plays with you more extensively and you hear more talk that you just know has to be about you.

Then with the sound of U2 blaring he comes back evenings later and you are gently placed into a cloth carrier (loaded from the top as you prefer) and you hear your black cat roommate being also loaded into a carrier. You are carried outside, put into a car that smells like another cat. The drive seems unbearably long and you aren't sure where you are headed or what could possibly come next. You just want to rest your head or run around free. You enter a place that smells more like that cat you never met and your friend the black cat immediately darts down some steps into the darkness. You decide you should explore your new surroundings and you are very meticulous at searching each and every room of this strange place.

The wobbly man strokes your fur and whispers comforting words into your extended and alert ears. Your friend, the black cat, is nowhere to be seen and won't be for another day or two. But that gives you the freedom to roam and make things your own. The wobbly guy seems nice enough. (Days later he tells you about a Bob Dylan film that inevitably ends with Dylan being betrayed by yet another woman and muttering about how people search for the meaning of things when they should spend an equal amount of time searching for what things don't mean. And you know exactly what that means.)

A couple evenings the wobbly man leaves you and your fellow feline alone and on your own even though that nice smelling lady comes and feeds you and plays awhile. It is then you know you should be nicer to the man when he returns and you decide you'll stretch out for a belly rub every morning when he awakes. He's trying and trust will come at some point.

Monday, September 1, 2003

Just Your Ordinary Average Everyday Sane Psycho Super Goddess

"I still take the trash out/Does that make me too normal for you?"
-Liz Phair

Life is quite hard the day you become a parody of yourself. The one moment of my life I was vain enough to consider myself a "writer" (even though I didn't wear a beret at the time) was when I was obsessed with writing my novel and I was working at the warehouse and a thousand thoughts raced through my mind constantly and I found myself jotting down notes on little pieces of paper and stuffing them in my pockets and when I got home I'd unload them all into a cracked yellow plastic basket and later on to my roommate's (the pharmacist Pistol Pete) Apple computer.

I wasn't writing because I wanted to, I was writing because I needed to (and desperately)- I was bleeding words. So you can imagine how unbearably pretentious that novel became. My most familiar critic has since made the observation that the difference between then and now is I used to be inspired by such things as Love and God and Beauty and now I'm inspired by three-legged cats. Point well taken. "Moderation is a memory."

So I may not be capable of doing it with my words anymore (like I was ever any good at that in the first place dammit) but for awhile I did make it one of my missions in life to introduce as many people as I could to Liz Phair's music. It was the least I could do and of course I've said many times, never let it be said I didn't do the least I could do. Thus I was pleased last summer that when I gave Exile in Guyville to the blue-eyed intern now soon to be a world renowned editor (and the one who God bless her introduced me to Ike Reilly) that the CD has become one of her favorites. Cool beans is all I can say (and oh- also can a guy ever eat too many tomatoes? I ask this 'cuz I planted six tomato plants last spring that are now bearing the results of my haphazard gardening efforts so I'm eating tomatoes morning, noon, and night!)

I went to Liz's concert last Thursday in the stifling over-heated air of the unair-conditioned First Ave with my favorite wordsmith (who I must admit I'm insanely jealous of because of her abilities to write circles around lil old me) and I asked her to go because: a) I knew she was a respectful Liz Phair fan (despite hating the newest CD) and b) because if you're going to listen to songs that you absolutely love (and believe it or not due to my rather nondiscriminating tastes- there aren't that many in my life that qualify) who better to share the experience with than someone who can write ovals and figure of eights around your weeble little mind? C'mon people! Am I the only one who has been tempted to make the jump to Mars seeing it is as close as it is and given the state of this world at this time?! Are you with me or against me?

Did I say I love Liz's songs? Lemme clarify that a bit. I'm in love with Liz's songs. When I left my sheltered little Roseville life for the big world of a precious Macalester education (not exactly like one of them public institutions like Marshall State or St. Cloud State or the University of Duluth) what I was expecting (or was that dreaming?) was to meet my future wife-to-be, a woman who would strum a guitar (or plunk a concertina or know at the very least how to yodel) and play me excerpts from her diary. And while Liz Phair ain't exactly that woman she's the closest I've been exposed to, a familiar facsimile that exists (did I mention when the Teutonic Garden Lover and I were leaving our parking space in the urine soaked Target Center Parking Ramp we got behind a blue American made car that had a bumper sticker that was pro-clone and encouraged all its readers to support multiple lives?).

As for the concert itself let me say that despite my many growing neurosis (my concert partner scolded me that she is keeping me from sinking deeper into the insanity abyss "I think I'm losing my soul," Liz sings in "Only Son"), and despite ending up standing behind a girl with the most shrill voice (the type that could quite adequately take a coney-dog order through a tinny speaker) I quite enjoyed the music. From the efficacious opener of Exile's "6'1"" to the most recent attempt at a hit "Why Can't I?" the show was great fun. "Whip Smart" rocked, "Uncle Alvarez" proved what a great writer Phair is and she sang all her new (and highly criticized) songs with a great deal of passion. One of her new songs "Favorite" that is her singing about the virtues of her favorite piece of underwear somehow was most entertaining while on the new disc, ironically entitled Liz Phair, comes across as someone trying to be, in almost a desperate fashion, one who thinks those paying attention expect her to be. Somehow live it fit in with who she probably really is (in real life!). In other words it was like a favorite piece of underwear one might find one self singing about.

If nothing else she proved in concert that she knows that there is a difference between a stupid pop song and a bad pop song. Even at her simplest, at her most uninspired she can't help herself, Liz just has to be like no one else before.

My Life as the Ultimate Reality TV Show

I'm nothing if not a Reality TV purist. And it's one area I can't claim to be a trendsetter. When Survivor, the granddaddy of Reality shows, debut I wasn't planning on watching but then someone much more cynical than I came into the office and told us all we just had to see the show when CBS was replaying the first episode later in the week. What I saw can only be described as some of the dumbest TV I've ever seen- but it was well done dumb TV so of course I just had to watch. And I've seen every Survivor episode since.

But like I was saying I'm not going to watch just any old Reality show. I have my standards. Sure I've seen some of Temptation Island, Big Brother, and The Bachelorette, as well as most of Murder in Small Town X and Joe Millionaire but I refuse to watch any show that doesn't live up to the qualities of Survivor. When I heard about Survivor creator/producer Mark Burnett's latest project The Restaurant I made it a point to tape the first show just to see if Burnett could capture lightening in a bottle twice. And he did.

The Restaurant chronicled hunky celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito's attempts at opening a new Italian restaurant in New York City. From finding a space to building that space into a trendy Manhattan hotspot to finding the right staff to blowing the socks off customers with delectable dishes, the show tried to convince us DiSpirito's quest to follow his dream was a heroic endeavor. What we got instead was an excellent look at the end of time struggle between those who do the work and those who manage those who do the work. Much of the show focused on Rocco's unhappy staff who felt overworked, underpaid, and that they weren't getting the support they needed from management. The staff felt DiSpirito didn't live up to his initial promises, didn't do enough cooking, and spent too much time flirting with his female clientele. DiSpirito seemed frustrated that his plans didn't translate into a smooth running operation and happy customers. (He had this weird vision of serving seemingly high quality food in paper boat containers with fine silverware- which had the waitstaff scratching their heads at the concept.)

The show unfortunately didn't quite live up to the Survivor standard of intrigue, as there was no playing a game with a winner at the end. A lot of the fun of watching Survivor is bitching and moaning that the ultimate survivor has seldom been the one most deserving to win the million dollar prize. To add to the disappointment the finale of The Restaurant violated a rule of any TV series- instead of wrapping up things with the people we had heretofore seen- we instead got introduced to a cat fight between two blondes- a bartender and a newly hired waitress that we had not seen before. The two squabbled over who could flirt more with a group of New York Yankees that showed up one evening at Rocco's.

Reality TV of course doesn't seem to mirror any reality that really exists outside some network executive's world. But if I may be so bold to suggest what the next workplace show should be about- I would suggest someone put a camera inside the Vision World in Rosedale. I went there last weekend to get my glasses adjusted (and if you've ever had your glasses adjusted you know just how painful that can be). I was served by a stunningly beautiful young lass who had eyes that could get any man to wobble in the knees. Of course some of the adjusting process involves the adjuster bending the frames of the glasses and placing them back on the adjustee's face and the two looking at each other to see if things are straight and OK. As much as I enjoyed looking deep in her eyes I somehow also just had to avert my gaze so I didn't appear to be staring inappropriately. I'm sure all the while my face was a crimson color and the only comfort was I knew any other male customer who underwent the same procedure with the adjuster probably was no more suave than I was being. Egads.

Certain people just shouldn't be allowed to perform certain jobs and if they do, Reality TV shows like The Restaurant should have taught us all that no moment is too small to be captured on camera- especially if that moment is embarrassing to someone.