Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten: Best Athlete Names for the XXX Summer Olympics

The first Olympics I remember were the 1984 Summer Games in LA.  As a six-year-old, I was mesmerized by the likes of Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton.  As I grew older, my love of the Olympics burgeoned, as did my sexuality.  Since 1996, I have been scripting an Olympic-themed adult movie series, with a different film based on each Summer and Winter Games.  Some of the names include St. Whoritz, 8 Gold(en Shower)s in Beijing, The Munich Assacre, In Brook, Tokyo Hos, Raise the Black Fist, Squaw's Valley, Unshrouded in Turin, Cockholm, Lily Gets Hammered, Video Footage of Misty May and Kerri Walsh Competing in the 2004 Athens Olympics, Bonnie Bare Does Albert Ville, Vancougars, The Miracle in Lake Flaccid, and The Cream Team.

"Jesus, GMYH, what's wrong with you and where is this going?"  Well, fair reader, I think it's a combination of mild alcoholism, a painfully vivid imagination, an undying devotion to the pun, and maybe a little lupus.  And in case you haven't noticed, these are 30th edition of the modern Summer Olympic Games, but in the TV listings, it shows up as "XXX Summer Olympics."  It's time.  During the approximately 29 hours of Olympics coverage I watched this past weekend, I had some time to peruse the list of all 11,000+ athletes competing this year to figure out the best names for the XXX Summer Olympics.  Here they are (in alphabetical order):

Honorable Mention:  Chris Adcock (Great Britain); Jack Butland (Great Britain); Imran Butt (Pakistan); Karen Cockburn (Canada); Luana de Assis (Brazil); Andrew Abido Dick (Nigeria); Diamond Dixon (USA); Hyleas Fountain (USA) (for those who are into squirters); Vincent Hancock (USA); James Harden (USA); Maaike Head (Netherlands); Peter Hudnut (USA); Tyson Gay (USA); Gia Lewis-Smallwood (USA); Nic Long (USA); Kevin Love (USA); Long Ma (China); Steffen Peters (USA); Phuoc Hung Pham (Vietnam); Andy Roddick (USA); Brendan Sexton (Australia); Wai Hung Shek (Hong Kong); Donald Suxho (USA); Yusuke Tanaka (Japan); Kelsey Titmarsh (Canada); Queen Underwood (USA); Rena Wang (USA); Timothy Wang (USA); Weidong Wang (China); Rachel Yurkovich (USA)

1.  Shannon Boxx (USA)
2.  Linus Butt (Germany)
3.  Lionel Cox (Belgium)
4.  Dong Dong (China) (aka Twin Dongs)
5.  Destinee Hooker (USA)
6.  Yoo Suk Kim (South Korea)
7.  Brent Newdick (New Zealand)
8.  Victoria Poon (Canada)
9.  Liam Tancock (Great Britain)
10.  Aichen Wang (China)

We could have used you this year, Walter Dix.  Maybe we'll see you in 2016 in Rio.  Or should I say Copacabanga Beach?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Better Hurry to Get a Piece of Me

I'm going to be pretty busy this week, building up to Lollapalooza Friday through Sunday, so I probably won't have time for too many posts.  I've always told myself, "GMYH, you cannot leave these people empty-handed.  They depend on you for nothing.  If you don't post, their lives will go on."  So I will give you some things to read, but only after a quick story.

Friday night, I had the pleasure of seeing Cinderella and Sebastian Bach at the Congress Theater here in Chicago.  It was a great show.  Cinderella headlined, and sounded great.  Tom Kiefer sounds just like he did 25 years ago.  Sebastian Bach, of course, has headlined Broadway musicals in recent years, so as you might imagine, he still has the pipes.  The non-musical highlight of the night came during Bach's set.  In the middle of "Piece of Me," during kind of soft part, Bach was talking to the crowd, and all of a sudden, he starts yelling at this dude down near the front of the stage.  There was cursing and everything.  Bach was going back and forth with this guy, and said something along the lines of "Get the fuck out of here.  Seriously, if you don't get the fuck out of here, I'm not finishing the set."  He also invited the man on stage to receive a boot to the buttocks.  I was too far away to tell what was going on, but apparently this guy had been just standing there giving Bach the middle finger, so you can understand why Bach might be pissed.  When the guy refused to leave, Bach said, "Security, get this guy the fuck out of here."  So they did.  As they escorted him out, they walked by me and he looked pretty hammered.  Bach didn't skip a beat and blasted right back into the song.  For a while, I thought I was going to see some sort of Axl Rose-esque battering of a fan, but alas, all I got was an awesome concert.  After the show, I drank some beer, sang some karaoke, and slumbered.  Since I woke up Saturday morning, I've spent every waking hour watching Olympic coverage.  If you think I'm kidding, it's only because you can't smell me or see the ass groove I have made in my couch.

So anyway, here are some articles for you to read:
-Here is a really good SI article about the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre.  Thanks to Gregerson for the link.
-Here's an article confirming what I already knew:  new pop music sounds the same.  Thanks to Ryan for the link.
-Keeping with the metal singers calling out audience members theme, here's an article with a video of Iron Maiden lead singer calling out a guy at a show in Indy for texting for three straight songs.
-Finally, here's an Onion AV Club article about looking for filming locations from the Big Lebowski.  I have driven by Sobchak Security, which is on Santa Monica Blvd.  Fuckin' A.  Thanks to Tradd for the link.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Retro Video of the Week: "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses

Following up on yesterday's Appetite for Destruction love fest, here is the video that started it all for me.  At the 15-second mark is when my life changed.  Not too shabby for a song that started off as a "circus" melody when Slash was warming up one day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten: Fun Facts About Appetite For Destruction

This past Saturday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of one of my generation's defining albums, Appetite for Destruction by Guns N' Roses.

Yesterday, Pissed Off and Weez nearly simultaneously sent me a link to a Dead Spin article recounting others' memories of Appetite, often relating to the first time they heard the album.  It's a pretty good read, and the stories are often similar.

I have recounted my love for Appetite and how I came to love Guns N' Roses in piecemeal fashion in various posts, but here is the complete version.

I will never forget exactly where I was when I discovered Guns N' Roses.  While the album came out in July 1987, it really didn't take off until the summer of 1988.  That summer, I was visiting one of my best friends from Houston, Pat, who had since moved to Germantown, Tennessee.  At that point, I'm not sure if I had even heard of Guns N' Roses, and I guarantee Pat hadn't.  So we were sitting in his living room watching MTV in the middle of the day.  All of a sudden, this guy with a top hat and no face plugs in a Les Paul and plays this beautiful fucking riff that can't help but enrapture anyone who hears it.  That was it, man. That's all I needed.

When I got home from the trip, I went to the local Phar-Mor, which is where I made most of my tape purchases, video game purchases, sportswear purchases, and movie rentals before it filed for bankruptcy because its CEO and CFO were embezzling tens of millions of dollars.  Anyway, I asked my mom if I could get it (with my own money, of course), and she said "yes."  To this day, I have no idea why my mom let me buy the tape.  She had to have seen the "Parental Advisory" sticker and the cross with five skulls on it, or maybe I hid it from her.  Feeling like I had pulled one over on her and it was only a matter of time before she found me out, I raced to the cash register and paid for it with the money this sweet, naïve woman had given me to mow the lawn.

As soon as I got home, I ran up to my room and popped the tape in my Magnavox dual-tape boom box.  I was floored.  By the middle of the second song ("It's So Easy"), my innocence (or whatever was left of it) was lost faster than Axl could say, "why don't you just . . . FUCK OFF?!"  What did he just say?  I think I rewound that song three or four times to make sure I heard that right.  I did, and it was awesome.  At that time, there really wasn't all that much swearing in albums.  There might be a "shit" here or an "ass" there, but it was rare.  The number of f-bombs throughout this album was eye-opening for a 10-year-old in 1988.  I had no idea you were allowed to say that in a song, or anywhere, for that matter.

And of course, there was cover art.  Sure, the outside has skeletal representations of the band members, and that's cool, but the inside is insane.  There are cartoons depicting chicks with their panties around their ankles who were apparently recently sexually assaulted by flying robot pods with knives for teeth and alligator skeletons walking on two feet with either guns or binoculars for eyes.  A ten-year-old just isn't the same after seeing that.  I didn't get what was going on, but I knew I didn't want my mom to ever see it.

All it took was one listen for me to be hooked.  There was something different about the album, even if I didn't know why at the time.  I just knew that I liked it a lot, even if I didn't understand why anyone would stay in bed for two hours after waking up.

As time goes by, I think I appreciate the album even more.  It kicks your ass every time you hear it, and there hasn't been a band or an album that has replicated what Guns N' Roses did on this album since then.  I can't think of an album that has withstood the test of time so well.  It has never been uncool to listen to Appetite for Destruction.  It captured everything that was great about rock and roll:  drugs, booze, sex, the attitude and raw energy of punk, the grittiness and swagger of AC/DC and Aerosmith, and the showmanship and bombast of Queen and Van Halen.  Most importantly, though, the songs are GOOD.  There is not a bad song on the album, and I cannot foresee a circumstance where I would ever get tired of listening to it.  I still get excited when I hear the first notes of "Sweet Child O' Mine" or "Nightrain," the distorted pseudo-hand jive opening beat of "Mr. Brownstone," the groove of "My Michelle," or that opening drum pop on "Rocket Queen."  Shit, I'm listening to it right now.  It very well might be:  (1) the best album released since I was born; (2) the best hard rock album of all-time; and (3) the best debut album of all-time.

With that, here are ten fun facts about the album, followed by a streaming playlist with the album (and a couple other GNR songs that someone on Grooveshark for some reason added to Appetite):

1.  The album reached #1 on the Billboard charts, but not until 50 weeks after it was released. In all, Appetite was #1 for five weeks (although not consecutively).

2.  The album produced three Top 10 hits, "Welcome to the Jungle" (#7), "Sweet Child O' Mine" (#1), and "Paradise City" (#5).  "Sweet Child O' Mine" is the band's only #1 hit in the US.

3.  It has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, including over 18 million in the US, making it one of the top 30 biggest-selling albums in the world and the 11th biggest-selling album in the US.

4.  In 2009, VH1 named "Welcome to the Jungle" the best hard rock song of all-time.

5.   "My Michelle" is actually based on a woman named Michelle Young that the band used to hang out with.  Axl originally wrote it as a romantic song, but then decided to be honest about Michelle's life and completely changed the song into what it became: a dark, brooding, and raunchy rocker about drug abuse and parents who are either dead or working in porn.  The first couple lines kind of blow you away (certainly when you're ten the first time you hear them): "Your daddy works in porno / Now that mommy's not around / She used to love her heroin / But now she's underground." At least poor Michelle gets free coke.

6. "Nightrain" is an ode to the cheap booze Night Train Express, which the band drank a lot of when they were still poor, up-and-coming Sunset Strip rockers.  The band had written parts of the song, but its completion was spurred one night when the band was walking down the street passing around a bottle of Night Train.  Someone yelled, "I'm on the night train!," and the whole band joined in, with Axl improvising the lines in between ("Bottoms up!." "Fill my cup!" "And I can never get enough!").  They finished the song soon thereafter.  Aside from "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine," and "Paradise City," this was the only other song off of the album released as a single in the US, and it peaked at #93.

7.  "Out Ta Get Me" was written in less than three hours and is about Axl's trouble with the law when he was a kid growing up in Indiana.

8.  "Mr. Brownstone" is about a guy who can't get out of bed for two hours in the morning.  As it turns out, it's because he's a heroin addict –- or, more appropriately, two heroin addicts.  Slash and Izzy Stradlin wrote this song about their typical day as heroin addicts.  They wrote the lyrics on the back of a grocery bag.

9.  "Rocket Queen" –- which was, is, and will forever be my favorite Guns N' Roses song –- contains an audio clip of coitus.  That moaning you hear beginning around the 2:20 mark is actually a sound recording of Axl Rose fucking Steven Adler's girlfriend, Adriana Smith, in the studio.  Even though Adler had apparently sanctioned this, as you might imagine, things between him and Smith kind of deteriorated after that.

10.  "Paradise City" was written in the back of a van driving back to LA from a gig in San Francisco.  One of Slash's improvised original lines after Axl sang "Take me down to the Paradise City" was "Where the girls are fat and have big titties."  The latter line sadly did not make the cut.

Monday, July 23, 2012

So Is This Enough Yet?

As you may have noticed, I try to keep things relatively light-hearted on this here blog, but every now and then humanity causes me to break the mold and get serious.  This is a long post, but I had to write it.

Back in 2008, in the wake of the mass shooting at Northern Illinois University and several others around that same time, I posted my thoughts on the banning of hand guns and assault rifles.  In the wake of last week's mass shooting of over 70 people by James Holmes at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater, I felt compelled to revisit this issue.  I've now had a few days to marinate on the subject and read more articles about Holmes and other mass shooters, and hopefully this post will read better than the original, profanity-laced draft I wrote Friday.

I tried not to regurgitate everything I wrote four years ago because my feelings on the issue haven't changed.  Read that post in conjunction with this one if you want my full thoughts on the issue.  The goal with this post is to expand what I previously wrote.

Whenever a mass shooting happens, I can't help but be disturbed.  For some reason, it consumes my thoughts.  All I can think about is that this could happen anywhere in this country, and that there is nothing to prevent it.  And that pisses me off.  Every time something like this happens, I'm going to get even more outraged, and I'm going to write about it.  If my views piss you off, I welcome well-reasoned debate and your proposed solutions on how to prevent this from happening again.  But I can't be silent when things like this happen, and I've never heard a good pro-gun argument about how to prevent mass shootings.

One of things that disturbed me most about the Northern Illinois massacre is that the gunman obtained all of his guns legally.  The same is true of Holmes and the weapons he used, which included an assault rifle (I've seen conflicting reports about whether it was an AR-15 or a Smith & Wesson assault rifle that is very similar to an AR-15) and two .40 caliber Glock hand guns, not to mention the high-capacity magazines for the assault rifle so he didn't have to reload.  The same was true about the Virginia Tech killer, Michael McLandon (who killed 10 people in Alabama in 2009 with assault rifles and hand guns), Nidal Malik Hasan (the Army Major who killed 13 and injured another 29 at Fort Hood with a semi-automatic hand gun), and other mass shooters.  There was nothing to stop any of these people from obtaining what they used to kill and injure hundreds of people.

Something has to be done.  As a society, we can't continue to let this type of thing happen.  Doing nothing ISN'T WORKING.  In the words of Colorado State Senator John Morse, "As long as we let people buy these guns, we will bury our children."

Holmes was by all accounts a pretty normal guy, although somewhat shy.  He is apparently very intelligent and seemed to have a lot going for him.  But something obviously went wrong.  For months, he has been stockpiling weapons and ammunition while planning his attack, although at this point, there is no known motive.

The profile of a mass shooter is generally a loner, but not necessarily someone who has been in a mental institution, who has exhibited violent tendencies, or who has been convicted of a felony.  A mass killer usually has two motivations that drive the mass killing:  power and fame.

Often a mass killer seeks to exert power over his victims as a result of some feeling of lack of control over other things in his life, be it work, relationships, school, or something else.  That drives the mass killer to seek to control his victims.  He wants to see the look of terror on his victim's faces because it shows him that, for once, he has the upper hand, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop it.  That's why the mass killer often uses guns, and not bombs or explosives.  This also plays into the fame motivation.  A bombing or arson is usually anonymous.  A mass shooting is anything but.  The typical mass shooter expects to kill himself, be killed by law enforcement, or surrender, but no matter what, his face is going to be on the front page of every paper in the country and he is going to get a Wikipedia page.  He now matters.  Assault rifles and hand guns allow the mass killer to achieve his goals.

No matter what side of the gun control debate you are on, I think both sides can agree that there is a problem in this country.  One article I read detailed 28 mass shootings in the U.S. since Columbine, resulting in over 200 dead and at least an additional 160 injured.  Most of those were perpetrated with assault rifles and/or hand guns.  Over the last seven years, the U.S. has averaged 20 mass shootings a year.  (For a long, but non-comprehensive list of mass shootings since 2005, click here.  It's 62 pages long.  That seems to indicate there's a problem.)

I still stand by my argument from 2008 that assault rifles and hand guns should be banned.  I don't think any rational person can seriously argue that assault rifles or hand guns are necessary for citizens to possess.  There are the fringes, like militia men or people who are convinced we are constantly under threat of attack from any variety of sources, but I don't consider those people to be rational.  This is not to say that there aren't rational people who believe people SHOULD be able to possess assault rifles or hand guns.  Of course, their basis is the Second Amendment.  Frankly, that's the only justification why people should be able to own these types of weapons -– not that I think it's a good reason.

There is absolutely no reason anyone needs to own an AK-47 or an AR-15.  This is not what our founders envisioned.  The Second Amendment states, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  It doesn't say we have the right to own any and every type of weapon.  I can't own a rocket launcher or a missile, which are technically "arms."  Rocket launchers and missiles are made to destroy lives (and buildings).  Assault rifles and hand guns are made to destroy lives.  Their sole purpose is to kill human beings.  When you allow people to own assault rifles and hand guns, you are sanctioning murder.  There is no way around that.

The Second Amendment was written in a time when you could fire a single shot from a rifle or a musket.  You then had to reload it and put gun powder in it before you could shoot again.  If you were good, you might be able to fire two shots in 20-30 seconds.  That is the concept of "arms" that the Constitution contemplates.  It does not contemplate a weapon that could fire over 400 rounds per minute, like the AR-15.

When the Second Amendment was written, there was a very real threat of attack on the U.S. or U.S. citizens by Great Britain or Native Americans, and we didn't have the organized military that we have today.  Someone in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York, with no neighbors for miles, needed a gun to protect his homestead from potential attacks.  This is not an issue anymore.  The King of England isn't sending troops to America to try to take us back, and I haven't heard of any Sioux uprisings in several score.  Even if these were modern-day issues, we have a very capable organized military with several branches that can ward off attacks more effectively than Jim Bob and the AK-47 he bought without a background check at last week's gun show at the Tuscaloosa Convention Center.  I'm also not concerned that a military junta will rise to power, being that we're a constitutional republic and all.
I'd also like to poke some holes in some of the common guns rights arguments.

Some people may argue that a mass shooting shows why there should be fewer restrictions on gun ownership.  The argument goes something like this:  if everyone carried guns, there would be no gun violence.  Yes, because the way to reduce gun-related deaths is by increasing the number of guns.  All this would do is increase accidental shootings and collateral fatalities.  A "good Samaritan" trying to "protect" someone else can just as easily kill an innocent bystander with an errant bullet as he or she can steady his or her hand enough to hit the bad guy.  This argument also assumes that everyone will own or carry guns.  I'm telling you right now, I will never own a hand gun.  Thus, I will never carry a hand gun.  Thus, I will never be carrying a hand gun if I or someone else gets held up.  And I can't remember ever reading a story where a criminal was robbing someone, and someone with a TEC-9 jumped in to save the day and shoot the robber.  I do, however, remember the story where someone with a TEC-9 shot dozens of his helpless classmates.

Another argument I hear a lot from gun rights people is that the focus should be on the individual who commits the crime, not the instrument used by the individual to commit the crime.  That is, this was a disturbed individual, so don't blame the gun, but rather punish the person.  That's a reactive argument, not a proactive solution.  You don't wait until someone buys 6,000 rounds and an AR-15 and then shoots 70 people to punish him (if he is even alive).  You prevent that from happening if you take away the ability to legally purchase an AR-15.  If that means law-abiding gun owners can't have their play time at the shooting range, I really don't care.  Suck it up for the common good.

Another argument I hear is that there will always be crazy people (whether that means someone who is mentally ill or someone who is just evil), and you can't stop crazy people from doing crazy things.  I can't stand that argument.  It's defeatist and it doesn't solve anything.  First of all, not every mass shooter is insane or mentally ill.  Sure, they are all disturbed in some way,  but that doesn't mean they are legally insane, which generally means you have the inability to form intent to kill or that you cannot distinguish right from wrong.  To me, the fact that there will always be people who want to inflict harm on many other people makes an even more compelling argument for gun control.  If someone who is malevolent or even mentally ill can pass a background check and get a gun that fires 400 rounds per minute, then that is a major flaw in the system.  I don't accept the argument that, because bad people or insane people are going to do bad things anyway, we shouldn't restrict their ability to obtain the very destructive tools that make it much easier for them to do those bad things.  Moreover, while there are some restrictions on the mentally ill obtaining guns, mental illness is not always diagnosed.  And someone who snaps isn't necessarily going to be diagnosed before he buys the guns he will use to kill a bunch of innocent people.  Look at James Holmes.  Outwardly, he showed no signs of wanting to shoot 70 people, but he was planning his massacre for months.  If you can't always tell if someone is crazy or evil, then we shouldn't them unfettered access to weapons that can kill dozens of people with one pull of the trigger.

Another classic counterargument to any form of gun control is that criminals will find ways to get around these laws.  That's one of the dumbest arguments I've ever heard.  Yes, of course that's true.  By definition, a criminal is someone who breaks a law.  This is why we have the criminal justice system and laws.  Just because there are companies that lie to investors doesn't mean securities fraud laws should be thrown out the window.  Yes, if someone really wants to buy an AK-47, he or she will probably find a way to buy it, even if it's illegal.  But that's not a good reason to let everyone buy AK-47s. 

I also don't buy the argument that, if you ban assault rifles, then only the criminals will have assault rifles.  For the most part, it's only the criminals who have assault rifles anyway, so you may as well make it illegal to own them.  And the "criminals" that I assume the pro-gun people are referring to are people involved in the drug trade, gangs, or low-level thuggery, but these aren't the people who commit mass shootings.  People don't use AK-47s to hold up gas stations or mug tourists; they use AK-47s to kill many people at once.  The hope is that, by making high-powered weapons illegal, someone who obtains that weapon will get arrested for having an illegal weapon BEFORE they get the chance to slaughter a bunch of innocent people.

Look, I'm not naïve enough to believe that anything is going to prevent all gun-related crime, mass shootings, or certain people from obtaining illegal weapons, but we should still do something to prevent as much as we can.  The concept of gun control is just that –- control over the avenues by which people can obtain high-powered weapons, with the goal of minimizing gun-related deaths and injuries.  If banning assault rifles or hand guns saves one life, then it's worth it. 

Short of the repeal of the Second Amendment, which I think is unlikely, here are some potential solutions to prevent gun violence and mass shootings.  Some of these can be combined, while some are probably mutually exclusive.

1.  Outright ban of possession and manufacture of assault rifles and hand guns.  This would be the ideal solution, in my opinion.  The tricky part is defining the weapons in such a way that gun manufacturers can't try to get around it, like they did during the federal assault weapon ban from 1994 to 2004.  My suggestion would be to tie the definition of a banned weapon to the number of rounds it is capable of firing in one minute.  If you get caught possessing one of these weapons, you get an automatic $50,000 fine per weapon, plus jail time.

2.  Ban magazines and cartidges that hold more than a certain number of bullets.  This was something that was in place during the federal assault weapon ban, and it seems to make pretty good sense.  No one outside of the military needs to fire 100 rounds at once.  No one.

3.  You can only buy one gun per year or a certain number of bullets per year.  Obviously, this would require some sort of tracking system or registry, but that can be part of the background check process.  Exceptions could be made for shooting ranges.  For instance, you can shoot as many rounds as you want at a shooting range.

4. The government (federal and/or states) should start taxing the hell out of guns and bullets.  We have no problem taxing tobacco, which kills people.  Why don't we do the same thing with guns and bullets, which also kill people?  To paraphrase Chris Rock in one of his stand-up specials, if bullets cost a lot of money, people are going to be a lot more cautious about who they shoot or how many bullets they shoot.

5.  Background checks for everyone at any place with every gun purchase.  It's ridiculous that the same person who can't buy a gun from a store can walk into a gun show and walk out with an arsenal big enough to kill a small country.  I can't think of a rational reason to make obtaining a gun easier if you go to one location over another to buy it.

6.  Ban internet sales of guns, gun accessories, and bullets.  Make the gun-buying process face-to-face, not anonymous.  If I'm less likely to buy a CD in a store than online, you can bet people are going to be less likely to buy a gun in a store than online.  Also, this gives gun store workers the chance to let law enforcement know if something is amiss, and it would prevent people like James Holmes from stockpiling ammunition from various internet sources.

7.  Everyone has to have a license to buy, own, or carry a gun, and in order to get that license, you must pass a gun safety course and a psychological test.  People who don't know how to use guns shouldn't be allowed to use guns.  Likewise, people who are mentally ill should not be allowed to use guns.  Other countries have these requirements, and some states do (at least with respect to a gun safety course to get a concealed carry permit).  It seems like a pretty reasonable requirement.  A license would only good for one year, and each year you would have to pass a gun safety course and a psychological test.  If you fail, you must surrender your guns.  If you are caught possessing a gun without a license, you face fines, jail time, and you are permanently banned from obtaining a license.

8.  If assault rifles or hand guns are not banned outright, there should be severe restrictions on ownership, whether that is a psychological exam, gun safety test, or that they can only be used and kept at shooting ranges.

9.  Cash for guns.  The Chicago Police Department has done this several times over the last few years, and it's usually pretty successful.  Essentially, they have a day or two where anyone can bring in a hand gun, assault rifle, or any other type of gun and receive cash for it, no questions asked (except, of course, if it was used in connection with a crime).  Obviously, it doesn't get rid of all of the guns, but it at least minimizes the number of guns.  Yes, I realize that, in this economy, things like this are probably hard for cities to afford to do, but the point of this is to save lives not money.

The time has come for America to grow up as a country.  We don't live in the Wild West.  As long as lawmakers pander to the NRA and its "from my cold dead hands" attitude, we will see more and more or our citizens murdered because some antiquated notion of self-defense is more important than keeping innocent people alive.  It's time for solutions, not laissez faire.  What we have in place isn't working.  These people were just watching a movie.  Maybe most of the ardent pro-gun people can easily divorce themselves from the reality of what happened because it hasn't happened to them or because it's on TV.  But I can't do that.  All I can think about is the horror these people must have felt as a stranger indiscriminately stalked the aisles with a high-powered gun and hundreds of bullets that they had no chance of avoiding.  Now there are people who no longer have mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, or children just because they went to watch a movie on a Thursday night.  I've said it before, and I will say it every time something tragic like this happens:  how many more mass shootings do there need to be before we as a society or a country say enough is enough?  Sadly, I'm guessing the answer is more than zero.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Daughter has a new friend that she has named Spot (or, sometimes more colloquially, Spotty).  The last several days, she could be heard saying any of the following:
"Come on, Spot.  We gotta go over here."
"I think you're tired, Spot.  I think maybe you should go to sleep."
"Are you listening to me, Spotty?"
"I have to go shopping.  You stay right here and go night night, Spot."  (She lays Spot down on the floor.)
"Spotty, What are you doing?  Stop running around so much."
"That's naughty.  We don't do that, Spot.  Maybe you should get a timeout.  Here, I'm gonna put you right here.  Stay there."  (She takes Spot and puts him in the corner.)

This is Spot:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Retro Video of the Week: "Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe

Following up on Tuesday's Top Ten Hair Band Power Ballads, here is the video that started it all.  It was tough to find the original "Home Sweet Home" video, as opposed to the remake they did in 1991.  If you want to see the full version of the video (which only includes some pre-song scenes of each band member being called and told to come home), as well as some interviews with the band involving real American breasts, then click here, although be warned that it may not be safe to watch at work.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten: Hair Band Power Ballads

In 1985, Mötley Crüe released "Home Sweet Home" and unwittingly started the trend that would, for better or worse, encapsulate the hair band genre.  They were certainly not the first band (or even the first hair band) to have ever released a power ballad, but they were the first hair band to release a successful power ballad, accompanied of course by an iconic "life on the road" video that itself was groundbreaking at the time.  Record companies notice the success of the song and video, and soon every hair band had a power ballad on its record and even more females at its concerts.

Ironically, the power ballad's success spelled doom for a lot of hair bands because they were pegged as ballad bands, while audiences and Top 40 radio ignored the other nine harder rocking songs on their albums.  In addition, many of these band's hardcore fans didn't like the power ballads because they thought the band was selling out and turning away from its harder rocking roots.  Frankly, while I understand the latter argument, I find it disingenuous.  Sure, you want your favorite bands to continue rocking on every song, but you also want them to be successful, which for many of these bands meant that they had to release a power ballad.  It is what it is.  Also, let's be honest, all of these songs are awesome, whether you want to admit that you sing along to them when you're alone in your car or not.

"But GMYH, what exactly is a power ballad, and shouldn't you lose some weight?"  Well, fair reader, a power ballad is a slower tempo song that usually (but not necessarily) starts with acoustic guitars and/or piano and little, if any, percussion.  The song builds, usually into a chorus, which has electric guitars, loud and impassioned singing, and more percussion, but then the song often takes it back down a few notches for the verses.  And yes.  Look, I joined a gym, but I just haven't had the time to go all that often, with kids, vacations, a hectic work schedule, and the drinking.  Let's not forget the drinking.

It is important to note the distinction between a ballad and a power ballad.  A ballad is a song that never really kicks into electric guitars, loud singing, or percussion.  Hence, no "power."  Sometimes it's a fine line, but this list is about power ballads, not ballads, so songs like "To Be With You" by Mr. Big, "More Than Words" or "Hole Hearted" by Extreme, "When the Children Cry" by White Lion," "Love Is On the Way" by Saigon Kick, and (as much as it pains me) "Patience" by Guns N' Roses are not on this list.

By the same token, sometimes it's hard to figure out if a song is actually a power ballad or just a standard kickass rock and roll song.  I made some judgment calls.  For instance, I was wavering on whether "Wanted Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi, "18 and Life" by Skid Row, "Headed for a Heartbreak" by Winger, "Love Walks In" by Van Halen, or "Don't Cry" (original or alternate lyrics) and "November Rain" by Guns N' Roses are power ballads, but ultimately decided that they are not.  This is just something you're going to have to deal with.

With that, here are the ten best hair band power ballads, along with a slew of honorable mentions.  Because I love you so much, I'm including all of them on the playlist at the end of the list.  Raise your lighters, people.

Honorable mention (alphabetical by artist):  "High Enough" by Damn Yankees; "Love Bites" by Def Leppard; "Alone Again" by Dokken; "Carrie" by Europe; "House of Pain" by Faster Pussycat; "Love of a Lifetime" by FireHouse; "Close My Eyes Forever" by Lita Ford and Ozzy Osbourne; "Give to Live" by Sammy Hagar; "Forever" by Kiss; "Don't Close Your Eyes" by Kix; "Ballad of Jayne" by L.A. Guns; "Without You" by Mötley Crüe; "Mama I'm Coming Home" by Ozzy Osbourne; "I Won't Forget You" by Poison; "Something to Believe In" by Poison; "Givin' Yourself Away" by Ratt; "Fly to the Angels" by Slaughter; "Still Loving You" by Scorpions; "Honestly" by Stryper; "I Saw Red" by Warrant; "Sometimes She Cries" by Warrant; "Is This Love?" by Whitesnake

10 (tie).  "Bringin' on the Heartbreak" by Def Leppard
I wrestled with whether this was a power ballad, since it's all electric, but concluded that it was.  Then I wrestled with whether it was a better power ballad than "Love Bites," and that was a tougher call, but I think it this is simply the better song.

10 (tie).  "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" by Cinderella
This is Cinderella's biggest hit, overshadowing some really good blues-based rock.  Nonetheless, it's a strong power ballad that was prominently featured not only on MTV, but also in a dream I had about physician-assisted suicide.

9.  "I'll Never Let You Go" by Steelheart
I went a little bit off the grid with this one, but it is an underrated song, even though it rose as high as #14 on the Billboard charts in 1991.  It's a great song.  Lead singer Mike Matijevic has an unbelievable vocal range, which is evident in this song.  Some of the notes he hits are Mariah Carey-esque.  He hits one note at about the 3:25 mark that makes your balls re-ascend.  You may also recognize his voice from the movie Rock Star.  He was the signing voice of Mark Wahlberg's character Chris "Izzy" Cole.

8.  "Wind of Change" by Scorpions
Most of the songs on this list are about love or heartbreak, but "Wind of Change" is about much more.  It was written in 1989, as Communist states and the Cold War were beginning to collapse, and it's about the resulting "wind of change" Glasnost brought, particularly in Russia.  It wasn't released as a single until 1991, and it took off all over the world, hitting the Top 10 in 11 countries, the Top 5 in 10 countries, and #1 in 7 countries.  It is the best-selling single by a German artist and one of the twenty best-selling singles ever worldwide.  And it's still pretty awesome live.

7.  "I'll Be There for You" by Bon Jovi
There are certain songs that will always remind you of a particular moment in your life.  Whenever I hear "I'll Be There For You," I remember a spring 1989 grade school sock hop –- yes, a sock hop -– for the "upperclassmen" (grades 4-6).  Instead of Danny and The Juniors, the DJ played contemporary Top 40 songs, including "I'll Be There For You."  I was in fifth grade at the time, and when this song came on, a group of "popular" sixth grade girls formed a big circle with their arms around each others' shoulders, letting everyone –- including fifth grade boys with no shoes on -- into the circle.  We swayed back and forth and sang "I'll Be There For You" together.  It was a pretty solid Kumbaya moment.  Then "Push It" by Salt 'N' Pepa came on, and it devolved into a Roman-esque orgy.  What did the parents and teachers expect?  The most difficult pieces of outerwear to remove were already off.  The rest was a breeze.  I just can't believe my little baby boy Leon has graduated from college.

6.  "Love Song" by Tesla
Tesla was one of those bands that straddled the acoustic/electric fence very well.  Some people think they're wrongly grouped in with the hair band genre, since they never wore make-up or dressed like post-modern Parisian hookers, but a lot of their music was sonically similar to the hair bands' music, so there you go.  "Love Song" is my favorite Tesla song.  Jeff Keith has a gritty, soulful voice that lends itself well to both hard rock and power ballads.  I've mentioned that I saw Tesla a couple weeks ago open for Scorpions, and Keith hasn't lost anything (nor has the rest of the band, for that matter).

5.  "Home Sweet Home" by Mötley Crüe
Like I mentioned above, this is the one that started it all.  To have a list of top ten hair band power ballads without "Home Sweet Home" would be like having video camera and not filming your wife blowing you in a car and then distributing it worldwide.

4.  "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" by Poison
This is kind of the seminal power ballad.  It has heartache, betrayal, and Bret Michaels.  Hair band power ballad purists –- which I assume is a thing –- will probably decry me for not ranking this #1.  To them I say, it's not the best hair band power ballad.

3.  "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger
My internal debate with this song is not whether it's a power ballad -- there's not doubt about that -- but whether Night Ranger is a hair band.  Genres are slippery concepts, and I think some bands have certain songs that fall into certain genres and others that don't.  Right or wrong, I've always considered this a hair band song (as well as several of their other songs, such as "Don't Tell Me You Love Me").  Now that that's out of the way, let's focus on the song.  What a killer chorus.  When placed in the vocal chords, this is an excellent karaoke song.  My buddy Daniel does a mean version that generally brings the house down, prefacing the song with the statement, "This song is about losing your virginity."  It's not.

2.  "Heaven" by Warrant
Jani Lane was a master at writing power ballads.  "I Saw Red," "Sometimes She Cries," and "Blind Faith" are good examples, but "Heaven" is his crowning power ballad achievement.  "Got a picture of your house / And your standing by the door / It's black and white and faded / And it's looking pretty worn."  The imagery of the first lines draws you in, so you're paying attention when the bombastic chorus kicks in.  Of course, the song became even sadder (and the chorus tragically apropos) after Lane died last year.

1.  "I Remember You" by Skid Row
This is one of my favorite Skid Row songs, and it provides a showcase for Sebastian Bach's powerful pipes.  For me, this is the quintessential hair band power ballad.  The lows are soft and sweet with only and acoustic guitar and a soft drum, and the "power" is forceful, with a hooky, sing-along chorus and well-timed blasts of electric guitar, crescendoing into the gnarly bridge and a guitar solo, and ending with Bach's wailing on the repeating chorus.

Top Ten (and more) Hair Band Power Ballads by GMYH on Grooveshark

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pain Don't Hurt

After a busy several weeks, I finally have a bit of a respite.  In addition to working hours fit for a prepubescent Burmese textile worker, I attended several great concerts (Scorpions/Tesla, The Hives, Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper) and finally achieved my lifelong dream of hitting a bird while driving -- although I didn't so much hit the bird as the bird executed a well-timed kamikaze attack on a rental car I was driving, leaving what I thought was a rather noticeable blood- and feather-stained dent in the roof. Thankfully, the people working at Hertz were more concerned about how long ago I filled up the tank.

My goals this week, in no particular order:  (1) play a 16-inch softball game; (2) win a 16-inch softball game; (3) drink half-price pitchers of beer after a 16-inch softball game; (3) bowl; (4) buy a goat; (5) name goat Mary; (6) attend a Caribbean-themed party on someone's roof deck; (7) freak out almost everyone at a Caribbean-themed party by performing a Santeria goat sacrifice, but gain respect of the remaining party-goers as a result of my vigor and the surprising authenticity of the ritual; (8) drink authentic Bloody Marys and just let things get weird with remaining party-goers until the sun comes up; and (9) watch every punch to the face from Road House.  What's that, Ryan?  I can accomplish one of those feats right now.  Thanks for the link, mijo.  And yes, I realize you sent it to me in February.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Retro Video of the Week: "This Is How We Do It" by Montell Jordan

This song will always remind me of summer.  Interesting tidbit:  in addition to being 6'8" and having a debut #1 song, Montell Jordan was a Rhodes Scholar finalist.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten: Most Common Occupational Illnesses

I'll just come right out and say it:  I'm busy.  I spent most of the 4th of July not celebrating our country's independence from King George III by igniting small man-made rockets, but rather by sitting on my increasingly bulbous ass and working.  That's not what Thomas Jefferson would have wanted.  

Anyway, what this means is that I haven't had the time to write a Tuesday Top Ten this week, but the thought of leaving you fair readers without something to read late on a Tuesday night makes me sick to my increasingly large stomach.  Thankfully, the jackasses at OnlineCollege.org sent me a link to their article "10 Most Common Occupational Illnesses in the U.S."  Surprisingly, crushing one's soul is not on the list.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Tuesday Top Ten: Vacation Cities for Beer Lovers

Yes, I realize this is one day late, but I had some trivia to play last night.  Our team, Mayburied, won the funniest team name, but finished in second place by one point.  That's what happens when the "name that tune" round includes country and techno songs.

But I digress.  I love beer, and I've never met a brewery tour or a brewpub I haven't liked.  I also like drinking beer in cities other than Chicago.  That's why you can imagine my delight when I came across a Yahoo Travel article entitled "10 Best Vacation Cities for Beer Lovers."  Here is their top ten list, in no particular order:
1.  Burlington, VT
2.  Fort Collins, CO
3.  Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, MI
4.  Charlottesville, VA
5.  Seattle, WA
6.  Portland, OR
7.  Asheville, NC
8.  Portland, ME
9.  San Diego, CA
10. Milwaukee, WI

I can't say I disagree with the list.  It was obviously limited to U.S. cities, or else Munich, Brussels, Dublin, and London would be no-brainers.  That said, I think in a year or two, Chicago will be on this list, and it probably already deserves to be.  Goose Island is the big local brewery with its main brewery located on the near West Side (even though 312 is now made in New York, after the purchase by InBev), a brewpub in Lincoln Park, and a restaurant and bar in Wrigleyville.  But there are plenty of other local breweries that make great beers, like Two Brothers out in Warrenville, Half Acre in Lincoln Square, and Metropolitan in Ravenswood.  And I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Three Floyd's, which is a short drive away in Munster, Indiana.  In November, Lagunitas, a great California microbrewery, is opening up a brewery and tap room in Chicago.  There are also some really good local brewpubs that, for the most part, only serve their beers at their respective restaurants/bars, like Piece in Wicker Park, Revolution in Logan Square, Haymarket in the West Loop, and the newly opened Atlas in Lincoln Park.

A great road trip would be a Lake Michigan brewery tour.  Start in Milwaukee and southern Wisconsin, hitting Miller, Lakefront, Sprecher, and New Glarus.  Then head to the Chicago area, hitting Two Brothers, before heading into the city to hit some or all of the aforementioned options.  Then head to Munster to Three Floyd's.  Then head up to southwestern Michigan, hitting Bell's in Kalamazoo, Arcadia in Battle Creek, Founder's in Grand Rapids, and New Holland in Holland.  Then head to the gym and/or the doctor.  This looks like it would take at least four or five days if you want to do it right.  Also, you may want to bring an extra set of kidneys.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Midwestern Eavesdropping

Twentysomething guy to his buddies, walking through parking lot: "The other thing is that I committed myself to eating 144 oysters Saturday morning."
--Chicago, Sheffield & Fullerton
Eavesdropper: GMYH