Friday, February 18, 2005


If Ereck and I went to the college wrestling match tonight at the UW Field House, would it be too obvious that we weren't necessarily there out of, you know, love for the sport?
Jump in the line

Between the "Macarena" and "Boot Scootin' Boogie," line dancing got a very bad reputation in the 1990s. But it remains a closet fascination of mine, and nothing delights me more than when line dancing breaks out at one of my country music shows. My fondest memory of such is the time my band the Junkers was performing at the Rainbow Room, the now-defunct, ultra-sleazy gay bar in downtown Madison. We started playing "She Thinks I Still Care," and just then two drag queens, a flamboyantly gay club kid and a glittery woman stripper began line dancing--the little kicks, the turns, the whole deal. All to the saddest George Jones song in the world. It was magical.

And it happened last night. The World's Greatest Lovers were playing what may have been our last gig this winter up at Devil's Head, the ski resort, and toward the end of the show a group of women and tweenage girls came into the bar. (Seeing kids in the bar there is not uncommon; it's a resort, after all. Sometimes they're in their jammies.) We started playing "White Lightning"--something about that George Jones music--and four or five of the girls, aged about eleven, jumped up and did an elaborately choreographed line dance that looked like a cheerleading routine. I was, once again, mesmerized.

Between songs the girls would rush up and request music that we didn't know, but that actually was relatively appropriate for us: they asked for Rascal Flatts, for example, and "Cotton Eyed Joe" (had we known it, "Cotton Eyed Joe" would have been great, for sitting in with us was the brilliant fiddler Chris Wagoner of the Moon Gypsies). With these requests the girls demonstrated that they "got" us better than many of the older folk who have seen us at Devil's Head, if baffling requests are anything to go by ("You guys do any Soundgarden?").

Thursday, February 17, 2005

And turn your radio on

And you Madisonians, tune into WORT 89.9 FM tomorrow, February 18, because yours truly will be helping with the pledge drive on Dr. Dave's "Hootenanny." I'll be on for an hour or so, starting about 3:00. Dr. Dave says he wants me to sing lots of songs about abusing prescription drugs.
Set your Tivo

You Madisonians, be watching the WB 57 "Nine O'clock News" on Friday, March 18, because my band, the World's Greatest Lovers, will be playing their unique brand of honkytonk on the show that night.
Another coincidence

In addition to Hotel Rwanda, last weekend I also caught up with Tarnation, the devastating autobiographical documentary about a young man and his troubled family. (It takes a while for some films to make it to Madison.) I liked it, and I was pleasantly--if that's the right word--surprised when a montage prominently featured tape of the filmmaker, Jonathan Caouette, as an adolescent lipsyncing to the song "Frank Mills" from Hair.

I was surprised because Ereck had introduced me to that song only weeks earlier, when we were driving to Tennessee for the holidays. We were listening to the cast recording of Hair, most of which I'd never heard, and he suggested I brace myself for "Frank Mills." Nothing could have prepared me: the song, sung sweetly by Shelley Plimpton, is a brief, deceptively simple vignette about a Brooklyn boy she loves. It's arresting and heartbreaking, and very different from the rest of the album. In the truck that day I couldn't stop playing the song over and over, and I couldn't stop weeping. Yesterday I got to thinking about it again, and I listened to it twenty or so more times, and sang along--and couldn't stop weeping.

Turns out I'm not the only one who digs that song!
Good word

"And further, I don't understand how you can spend $30 million to cover Central Park in shower curtains."

--David Letterman

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Beep beep

Anyone who was a child in the 1970s will not be able to suppress a grin when they learn Disney is reviving the Herbie the Love Bug franchise, especially if they learn from this poster, as I did at the movie theater last night. The film will star not 1970s Disney trouper Ken Berry but 2000s Disney trouper Lindsay Lohan.

The probability is 99.9 percent, repeating, that the film will suck. But that is one dynamite poster.
Moving picture

I finally caught up with Hotel Rwanda on Sunday, and I'm glad.

Stephen Holden in the New York Times called it a political thriller, but that doesn't seem quite right, if a political thriller is a film like All the President's Men or The Manchurian Candidate. Certainly Hotel Rwanda has politics and is thrilling, not in a good way, but All the President's Men didn't make me hyperventilate in fear and anxiety.

I'd classify Hotel Rwanda as a horror film, and not only because it depicts horrific events. The film's structure resembles virtually every horror movie--more precisely, every zombie movie--since Night of the Living Dead: the bad people want to kill us, and they're closing in, and we can't stop them. (And as in every modern horror film, a few lucky people get away at the end.)

I don't say this to trivialize the film, which is as important a film about the Rwandan genocide as The Killing Fields was about the Cambodian genocide. If anything, I think this taxonomy says a lot about why horror movies can be so effective: It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes--in Rwanda, in Cambodia, in Poland--the zombies really are closing in, and they really do want to kill us.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Bow wow wow

Ereck and I have developed a case of puppy love from watching the Westminster dog show and, last weekend, the American Kennel Club show. Of course, the puppy love is unrequited at this point, since our rental lease doesn't let us keep a dog. But it's fun to talk about.

We agreed a while back that a medium-sized dog would be best. It was a logical compromise: I like bigger dogs--setters, retrievers--and Ereck likes small ones. My pickup truck, Red Boy, is named for an Irish setter I loved a lot when I was a kid.

So we meditated for a while on the Brittany. Then I met one, and she was heartbreakingly gorgeous, but she also was the most hyperactive pooch I've ever encountered. Her owner told me this was par for the course. Seems like a lot to deal with.

We've now turned to the Welsh Springer spaniel, similar to the Brittany but, my sources tell me, calmer. I also could be convinced to get a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, just like Charlotte's on "Sex and the City."

Monday, February 14, 2005

Big smiles

I'm delighted Alicia Keys won all those Grammys. Her album Diary of Alicia Keys was one of my favorites last year, especially its singles "You Don't Know My Name" and "If I Ain't Got You," both of which got Grammy nods. She has a great, earthy singing voice and, unlike so many of her contemporaries, does not go in for excessive, "American Idol"-type melisma. (In that regard she's the anti-Beyonc�, not that I'm necessarily opposed to Beyonc�.)

She's also got terrific taste in songs. "If I Ain't Got You" is a fabulously old-school soul tune, with a horn track that could be straight from an Al Green side on Hi Records. And "You Don't Know My Name" blew me into the stratosphere when I first heard it, especially because of its deliciously over-the-top spoken section ("Hold on, my cell phone breakin' up"), perhaps the best spoken section in a pop song since Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."