Monday, November 13, 2017

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: Lee Majors


This week's "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" is from his recent Netflix comedy special. He talks about the irony of watching an episode of the "Six Million Dollar Man" and then immediately seeing a commercial staring Lee Majors for a hearing aid called the "Bionic Ear." Norm then imagines the conversation between Majors and his agent for a spot in the commercial. Hilariously sad is the best way to describe it.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Updates: Writing and weather



It's cold. I'm not a fan of the cold. But, such is life. It's part of the seasons. I guess it's time to break out my heavy coat and gloves soon.

I've been reading books a little more than normal lately. Like my drinking, I will often binge read. Over the last couple weeks, I've read three books and am starting my fourth. Then I'll probably go a month or two without reading any books. I guess that's healthier than binge drinking. Not sure if it's as fun, though.

I have some fun writing announcements to make soon. Professionally, I've been working on something with the newspaper. We're still hammering out all of the kinks, but for now, all I'll say is keep your eyes peeled on the blog section of the newspaper's website. A more formal announcement is coming shortly.

Personally, I've been spending my free time working on a writing project that involves my college days. I'm not rushing that and am taking my time. You'll hear more about that in 2018.

I've had four pieces published in the Charleston Gazette-Mail since I started in March. Here's where we learn our valuable lesson about rejection: four pieces published and I was told no on probably five others. But, it all comes back around; that other project may be a home to some of my rejected pieces.

Here are the four I've had printed:

Opioids a more immediate problem than tobacco ... sort of a rebuttal to a retired doctor who wrote a piece about how we shouldn't lose focus on the dangers of smoking. 

Short-sighted efforts to bring back coal are not the answer ... shortly after President Trump pulled America out of the Paris Climate Agreement, I got angry and typed out some words.

Let's keep the Bible out of our classrooms ... my take on the controversial "Bible in the Classrooms" program that Mercer County has taught in schools for decades

Deplorable senators doing what they do best ... taking a look at the Republican efforts to destroy the Affordable Care Act, with a special focus on West Virginia's own horrible senator, Shelley Moore Capito

And, I'll start having some more links to showcase to the world on a fairly regular basis. More on that later.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rainy Sunday



A nice, rainy Sunday. It's been "autumn" for a while, but it's still felt like summer every single day. To quote Marge Simpson, "After spring and winter, fall is my favorite season."

Favorite episodes of the simpsons: the one where Rodney Dangerfield is Mr. Burns' long-lost son. The one where Homer has to go back to college. The one where Homer finds a cure for his baldness and his life magically improves. And, pretty much all the other ones. That sounds like an idea for a list one day.

I have some new opportunities coming up at work. I think if everything goes according to plan, this could be something cool for me to do. I know I still have at least one piece waiting around to be published in the op-ed section of the paper; the piece about the Bible class in Mercer County.

I'm working on a couple other side projects. Those are taking time. But, it's time well spent. More on that later.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tom Petty

The joke among all of our friends was that every band that played at Danny's Bar in Princeton always did a cover of "Mary Jane's Last Dance." It's like the go-to song for any band starting out that needs to learn a few covers to fill time at concerts.

When I was on the college newspaper staff, I had a staff member who was a big music buff, and he had a Tom Petty greatest hits album. I borrowed it to burn onto my computer. He later asked if I still had it. I told him I did not. He wondered who did, then quoted an obscure Simpsons joke that made me chuckle: "Talk about 'petty' theft!" About a year later, I realized I actually did still have the album. Oops.

I had a friend who was feeling sad and wanted to listen to sad music. She was big into emo and was telling me that it was too depressing for her. I suggested some "upbeat sad music," as if that's a genre. I asked if she knew who Tom Petty was. She wasn't familiar with his work. I told her to look up "You Don't Know How It Feels." And that's how she became a fan.

Here, quickly, I'll throw out a rough "Top 10" favorite songs of his.

"Into The Great Wide Open" ... A tale of a couple moving to Hollywood and becoming huge music stars, only to turn bitter at the success they encounter.

"Mary Jane's Last Dance" ... There's a reason why every cover band plays this one. It's a great song that everybody knows the words to and enjoys.

"You Wreck Me" ... Something about the line "I'll be the boy in the corduroy pants, you be the girl at the high school dance" has always resonated with me. There's a nervousness and anxiousness in this track.

"Free Falling" ... Such a nice song about being an asshole to a sweet, innocent girl. "I'm a bad boy, cause I don't even miss her. I'm a bad boy, for breaking her heart."

"Walls (03)" ... There are a couple different versions of this song; one is more upbeat and slower, for a movie soundtrack. This version isn't necessarily "harder" or "louder," but it's a little less pop-sounding.

"Learning To Fly" ... Another song about life and the hardships contained within. Sometimes you have to do things before you're ready -- "learning to fly, but I ain't got wings."

"Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" ... Technically, a Stevie Nicks song featuring Tom Petty, but it's great. It's a tale of two lovers singing back and forth to each other, about how they need to figure out what they're doing.

"American Girl" ... A story of optimism; a girl going off in search of what she believes is her American dream.

"Even The Losers" ... Another tale of optimism, as even the losers get lucky sometimes.

"The Last DJ" ... One of the later tracks Petty released, this one is an angry take on the state of the radio industry in the early 2000's.

We'll close with his 2004 tribute to George Harrison. Prince stole the show, but everybody rocked out hard.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week: 'Hey there, Mr. Candyman'


This week's "Norm Macdonald Clip of the Week" is from his latest podcast episode, an interview with everybody's favorite Tool Man, Tim Allen. 

Allen had been in the news lately for his conservative viewpoints and making comments about how odd he felt in Hollywood as a result. In this podcast, those specific comments don't come up per se, but there is a little talk of religion and politics.

But, then Allen eases into "joke mode" and it's a hilarious episode.

In this clip, the group had been discussing outdated, old-timey phrases and it was all a set up for Norm to bring up a phrase which he wonders could have been a prior nickname for Allen.

If any of what is discussed is new to you, yes, Tim Allen spent a couple years in prison in the '70s for selling cocaine. And, Norm finds a way to hilariously and awkwardly bring that up during the interview.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My Monday Mood



Chris Cornell has said that the idea for this song came when he saw two limos driving on the road and thought it would be cool if they started racing. Then, he thought "What if they wrecked?" Then he just started fantasizing about that and the line "The wreck of you is the death of you all," popped in his head and it all came to him from there.

One of my favorite Soundgarden songs. It's definitely toward the top. I need to do another one of those old "Top 25" blog posts. I don't think I've done one in a while. 

Shortly after Cornell's death, I was listening to a lot more Soundgarden and Audioslave and I noticed how eerily morbid a lot of the songs were now that he was dead via suicide. So, I made a list of those songs that, in essence, possibly foretold his death, and I wrote it up.

I sent it to a few places to see if they wanted to publish it, but like when I talk to girls, all I got was rejection. I tried to get it printed on BuzzFeed. It wasn't a dumb quiz or a collection of funny memes, so they passed. So, I posted it over at Medium dot com. In theory, that's a great site, but really, it kind of sucks.

I think my piece "Suicidal Thoughts: The Troubling Lyrics Of Chris Cornell" is pretty cool. Check it out and see for yourself.

* * *

My "Sounds of Summer" columns have all been printed. The third try is on the website, and I think it's nice. I think of all three, I enjoy number two the best; the "songs that say goddamn" edition. When they're printed, the title is always "Sounds of Summer: The [clever phrase] edition." If the GD one had been printed, I was going to see if I could get away with calling it "Sounds of Summer: The 'God, damn' edition."

For those who know their grammar, that's technically not the "GD" word. But, obviously, that one wasn't going to be printed. Nor was my collection of debauchery and other nonsense.

I actually had three other ideas. The first two were not funny enough, and the third was just mean. Here they are:

Sounds of Summer: The 'Creep' edition ... The introduction was going to be a funny tale about how I'm socially awkward and a creep, followed by my favorite songs that are titled "Creep." Stone Temple Pilots, "I think you're kind of neat, then she tells me I'm a creep." Radiohead, "I'm a creep; I'm a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here?" The funny part was that I was also going to use TLC's song "Creep," and talk about how they were "trifling." I couldn't find enough songs called "Creep" to fill out the list, and I didn't think it was funny enough.

Sounds of Summer: The 'Not Wonderwall' edition ... Oasis songs that aren't Wonderwall. Pretty self explanatory. I wrote down a bunch of their songs that I like and was going to talk about how they're better than just that one song everybody loves. Live Forever" was recently in the public eye, as it was the unofficial theme song of the Ariana Grande benefit concert. "Hello" and "She's Electric" and "Lyla" are good ones too.

Sounds of Summer: The 'Hangin around' edition ... The intro was going to talk about how I like to relax and spend time with friends, you know, hanging around. The first song was going to be "Hanginaround," by the Counting Crows. Then the other songs were, ummm, going to, uhhh, be by... Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and the guy from INXS... and I wasn't going to mention anything about their deaths, and just talk about how those were good songs to listen to when "hanging around."

Side note: the INXS guy was believed to be one of those "masturbation gone wrong" tales. But, others believe he was a sad guy.

I chuckled when I thought about the idea. But, the more I thought about it, I realized that there was no good comedy from it. I have no problem saying something outrageous if I think there's a point or if it's part of some greater good. I don't like really crazy religious people, so I have no problem comparing God to a comic book character. With this one, it was shocking for the sake of being shocking, with no good punchline or lesson, so I discarded it. I'm more mature in my 30s, apparently.

* * *

In other news:

I'm getting my wisdom teeth removed Oct. 6. I took Ashley Green to Beckley in 2013 to get hers removed and then drove her home afterward. We watched "Boy Meets World" on DVD and ate popsicles. 

I tried to be a vegetarian again for a while. For the summer and into the fall of 2014, I didn't eat meat and rode my bike around a lot, and had a friend ask if I was doing pills because I was getting thinner. I was pretty strict for about a month, but now I eat meat if I'm feeling lazy.

I got a Simpsons tattoo a couple weeks ago. I had been wondering what to get for a while, to show my love of the show, but I didn't want something obvious. So, I got the town motto tattooed on my right arm, above my elbow: "A noble spirit embiggens the smallest man." The joke is that nobody in the town knows it's a fake word.

I can't stand people that are "beer snobs." They love hoppy stuff with fancy names and IPA's and look down on Miller Lite and the like. I'm not one of those people, but I realized recently that I am a mustard snob. I buy fancy, random flavored and spiced mustards in weird jars and I can't stand the regular yellow stuff.

That's it for now. More later.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sounds of Summer: the "too scandalous for print" edition, PART DEUX

The Charleston Gazette-Mail does a weekly seasonal music column called "Sounds of Summer." It's written on a rotating basis by randomly-selected staff members. I was asked to contribute to a mid-August issue. I looked at the past issues and thought that people were taking it way too seriously; nobody really cares what music we love and what touches us deeply. So, I wanted to have some fun with it. I thought of funny stories involving me and women in my past, added some song titles that related to it, and turned it in. I was told we couldn't print that one, as it was a bit too scandalous. I decided to write a second column. I wanted it to be edgy and funny, and I did that. Without mentioning the word directly, I wrote a column detailing my favorite songs that say "goddamn" in the lyrics -- Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco, Foo Fighters, Weezer, etc. I was told it was "too edgy." They say that the 3rd time is the charm, so I decided to write about my favorite musicians who died when they were 27. 

The first column can be found by clicking here.

The second column is below. I told a couple friends about my idea and they helped out a little bit. My friend Melisa gave me Fall Out Boy, while my friend Eric suggested Panic at the Disco. I came up with the rest.

The third column was printed by the newspaper and is on their website, found by clicking here.

* * * 

By Chris Slater 

One of my favorite fictional characters is God. The stories about him are grand. Created a universe. Talking bushes. Snakes and apples. He’s a lot like Magneto: he has so much power and makes a lot of bad decisions, but he has the best intentions. He is revered so much that we aren’t allowed to speak his name in vain. It’s in his list of 10 random rules. It’s above killing people and stealing and non-monogamy. 

I love the power that God has to take one of the most casual swear words around, “damn,” and suddenly turn it into something cringeworthy that people hate. Just stick God right there in front of that simple word and you’ve bumped up to a whole new level of swearing. It’s right there with the F one and the S one and the C one. I’m not talking about coal. 

With that said, here are my favorite songs by respected artists that feature that incorrigible, filthy word. 

“This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” Fall Out Boy ... I automatically have to like any band that gets their name from an obscure Simpsons reference. My favorite use of profanity is when it doesn’t add anything to the original point; they’re just words to take up space. And that’s the case here. It’s not just an “arms race,” it’s a, well, you know. 

“Stranger Things Have Happened,” Foo Fighters ... This is one of the few songs that Dave Grohl and company have never performed live. That’s likely because it’s one of the most personal songs Grohl has ever written. For the funny, charismatic public persona that he puts out there, he writes a lot of troubling, sad music. With this one, the offending phrase is used to help describe the empty room he finds himself in. 

“I Write Sins Not Tragedies,” Panic! At The Disco ... It took me a while to warm up to this band. I was in college when they first came out, and all my friends loved them so much that I think I disliked them out of spite. In this tale of infidelity at a wedding, the star of Broadway’s “Kinky Boots” uses the naughtiest of swears to implore people to keep a door closed. 

“Original Prankster,” The Offspring ... The 90s punk group with the highest-selling independent album of all time are still going strong on the nostalgia tour circuit. They typically make two kinds of songs: really poignant ones about internal strife, such as “Gone Away” or “Defy You” or sophomoric pop-rock hits like “Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)” and this one. What I like about this song’s profanity is that there is literally zero need for it. It just exists as a word get from one thought to the other. Nothing more, nothing less. 

“El Scorcho,” Weezer ... The title comes from a packet of hot sauce. Aside from its references to mid 90s wrestlers New Jack and Johnny Grunge, I like this song because of its exuberant, happy-sounding shouting of the worst curse word out there. And also because of nonsense lyrics like “The redhead said you shred the cello, and I’m Jell-O, baby.” 

Chris Slater is a copy editor with the Charleston Gazette-Mail. His first “Sounds of Summer” contained too many tales of sex and debauchery and was deemed unfit for print. Follow him on twitter, @chris_slater.