Saturday, October 09, 2004

Seen your video

On a run just now I had an ecstatic moment when ZZ Top's "Legs" came on the radio, and I began marvelling at the fact that ZZ Top successfully made the transition to the MTV age--and, in a sense, defined the MTV age.

So many big bands of the 1970s didn't, like Styx and Journey and Fleetwood Mac. Even KISS, who you'd think were ready-made for video, sputtered in the early 1980s and didn't come back until they got rid of the makeup and the lizard costumes.

But some 1970s bands were great on MTV, like ZZ and Hall and Oates and Talking Heads. In all three cases, their success probably had a lot to do with the fact that their videos were imaginative, as opposed to boring. (Did you ever see one of those Journey videos?)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Sick day

My god, what's happened to me? Yesterday I felt fine, except for the effects of caffeine withdrawal. I'm trying to kick caffeine--again--and yesterday was my first day clean after a long tapering-off period.

Today I had a headache early. I figured this was just my body crying out for java. But the headache got worse and worse. I still have it. It seems like a sinus headache--a dreadful throbbing below my right eye. But there also has been nausea and a concomitant inability to keep food down. This suggests a bug of some kind, or food poisoning.

At any rate, today was a total wash. I lay in bed, dozing fitfully and, when not dozing, reading fitfully (Susan McDougal's memoir, The Woman Who Wouldn't Talk: my Clinton obsession persists). But I discovered that I couldn't read in my usual position, on my side, because this made my face hurt more. Upright was better. I sat in bed that way for long periods, not reading, not doing anything, just contemplating the throbbing. During one of my few trips out of bed, I read on the Internet about sinus headaches and, following some advice, tried alternating hot and cold compresses on my face, with mixed results.

I hate sinus headaches and get them from time to time, but I'm still not convinced this is one. (You sinus headache sufferers: has one ever made you pukey?) Today reminds me of a malady I suffered immediately after returning from Cambodia about five years ago. My face throbbed then as it does now. It might have been sinuses, or it might have been something I picked up in Siem Reap (or at O'Hare). But it sucked. So does this.

Perhaps my physical being has launched a full-scale protest over the caffeine thing? Will my coffee-starved body next start to jettison limbs?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Intrepid sleuth

I interviewed Al Franken today, apropos of the broadcast of his radio show from the UW-Madison campus. I was in line behind a Wisconsin State Journal reporter, but then a Capital Times reporter showed up and bumped me. And then a team from WORT bumped me. But I did get my 4.5 minutes in.

Franken referred to me as "that reporter with the bike helmet."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


I just want to say again, for the record, that some people think I look like TV impresario David Kelley.
Good night

Watched Poltergeist last night. I'm a little surprised I'd never seen it before--even if I didn't catch it in the theater, it played endlessly on pay cable during a time in life that I obsessively watched movies on pay cable. But no matter.

I want to point out that the film is predicated on something that no longer happens: the late-night TV sign-off. Gather round, kids, and I'll tell you about it. TV stations used to go off the air late at night, and they ended their broadcast day with the national anthem. They'd show a short film that featured "The Star Spangled Banner" and some patriotic imagery--fighter jets, amber waves of grain, that sort of thing. I can't imagine when I last saw one of these films, but I loved them when I was a kid. That had partly to do with context: it felt transgressive to stay up late enough to see the sign-offs. But I also found the films moving and inspiring.

In Poltergeist, a little girl talks to ghosts via the TV, and she gets the best results in the static and snow that follow sign-offs. "The Star Spangled Banner" is the movie's theme music, and the opening credits are displayed over creepy, extreme closeups of a sign-off film.

Maybe this is why I don't feel as patriotic anymore: no more sign-off films. Or maybe it was Iran-Contra.

Monday, October 04, 2004

The entertainer

The World's Greatest Lovers played a show last night at the Great Dane, a spacious brewpub in downtown Madison. During a break, a woman came up to me to complain that our first set was too short. Then she slipped a quarter into my shirt pocket and said, "Please play the Black Crowes' 'She Talks to Angels.'"

"I don't think I know all the words to that," I replied.

"It's okay if you just hum some," she said.

At that point our bass player Chris distracted her by asking the perfect non sequitur: "What do you do for fun?" I'll have to remember that one.

When I got on the stage later, she and her date were at the nearest pool table, and she again asked for "She Talks to Angels." Chris and drummer Scott weren't there yet, so I strummed and sang softly, "She never mentions the word addiction..."

"That's it!" she cried.

"But that's all I know," I said regretfully.

"That's enough," she said.