Friday, July 27, 2007


I like that on this receipt from Culver's, the word "CURD" is printed in red ink, as though it were uttered by The Big Guy Himself.

What would Jesus do? He just might eat Him some fried Wisconsin cheese curds.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good word

"Cheney unleashed is Nixon without regrets."

-- Sidney Blumenthal

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Atitude of platitude

I try never to use clichés in my writing (unless I'm on a tight deadline). The problem is that although I'm pretty familiar with the old ones, new clichés have a way of popping up, especially in the blogosphere, and they can seem pretty funny/powerful/whatever at first. But they're still just clichés.

So here are two newish clichés you won't catch me using (unless I'm on an extremely tight deadline).

1) I just threw up in my mouth a little (as here, here and here).

2) I'm looking at you, ... (this and this and this).

And qualifying these with as the kids say doesn't fix the problem.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not all '90s Nashville country sucked
Toby Keith is someone's daddy

I said in a Back With Interest comment the other day that the next edition of Not All '90s Nashville Country Sucked would be about the melding of comedy and tragedy. I'm still excited to write that one, because it's about what is probably my favorite country single of the '90s. Meantime, though, there are some topics I want to write about while they're still fresh in my mind.

Chief among them:
Sting. Two weeks ago I saw him perform with the Police at Wrigley Field, and I'm pleased to report that the show lived up to my expectations. Sting still has palpable charisma on stage, and those old Police songs proved sturdy at the big ballpark.

I was surprised to find, though (or maybe not), that seemingly simple tunes from the first Police album ("So Lonely," "Next To You") are holding up better than the self-consciously political songs of later records ("Invisible Sun," "Walking In Your Footsteps"). As Sting sang the refrain of the early track "Can't Stand Losing You" over and over, and as the audience sang along, those concisely sad words took on a kind of anthemic power.

I mention the Police show because today's track was written not by one of Nashville's vast corps of professional songwriters but by, yes, Sting. "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" originally appeared on his 1996 release Mercury Falling, and his recording of the song is a credible facsimile of modern country music, thanks especially to the doleful pedal steel.

And the song itself is great, a very sad meditation on a bedrock country-music theme, divorce and its aftermath. What makes the lyrics especially potent is the plainness of their language (this from a songwriter otherwise given to rhyming "apprentice" and "Charybdis"):
The park is full of Sunday fathers and melted ice cream
We try to do the best within the given time
A kid should be with his mother, everybody knows that
What can a father do but baby-sit sometimes
I find those lines chilling, in part because as a child of divorce I know just what "Sunday fathers" means. There's a directness to the storytelling that Sting otherwise has slipped away from over the course of his career, as early tunes like "Can't Stand Losing You" remind us.

But Sting's recording of "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying" is missing one thing nearly every first-rate country record has: An ass-kicking vocal performance. When it comes to singing country, his tenor lacks the keening eerieness of great country tenors like Bill Monroe, much less the booming depth of great country baritones.

Which is where Toby Keith comes in. The Nashville star is much-maligned, of course, because in the wake of 9/11 he released some perfectly awful music that cravenly exploited the bloodlust of those terrible days. But he also has recorded some very fine songs over the years, including the sly 2002 hit "Who's Your Daddy" and the funny sobriety lament "You Ain't Much Fun" ("I sobered up, and I got to thinkin' / Girl you ain't much fun since I quit drinkin'").

And then there is his recording of "I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying," from his 1997 album Dream Walkin'. A number-one country hit, the song is a splendid melding of thoughtful songwriting and rich, expressive singing. Keith really does possess one of the finer country singing voices of our day, and it lends a gravity to the song that Sting's version lacks (Sting does briefly appear on Keith's recording).

But mostly the song's power comes from the songwriting, including the title refrain, which is so much smarter and more mysterious than what the Music City machine generally churns out these days. This tune made me weep the first time I heard it, and it still makes me weep.

N.B.: This mp3 is very slightly glitchy.

Toby Keith - I'm So Happy I Can't Stop Crying

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Read my Daily Page report from the Blooming Butterflies event at Olbrich Botanical Gardens.