If you are in a gas station convenience mart at 1:00 in the afternoon, and woman enters wearing a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers, having left a 1989 Chevy Blazer idling five feet from the front doors, it’s best not to position yourself between her and the cigarettes.

Back in the Day When We All Thought We’d Die

I have a love-hate relationship with KNHC, Seattle’s local “dance music” radio station. Well, honestly, it’s more love-love (though that fact alone induces in me no small amount of self-loathing). The music these guys play is to street cred what plaque is to tooth enamel, and yet I can’t help but tune in from time to time. C89 was, after all, voted “Coolest Radio Station” by my graduating class in high school (narrow edging out K-Plus FM), and is one of the first frequencies I recall listening to on a regular basis, as I alternated between 89.5 on the FM dial and 1600 on the AM (RIP, KJET*). Given that C89 adopted the “dance music” format in 1983, it’s fair to say that I’ve been listening to them for a quarter century now. Ugh. In retrospect I really wish I hadn’t done the math on that one.

The nice thing about C89, though, is that they only have 15 songs in the rotation at any given time, so you can keep up-to-date with their playlist just by listening for a few commutes every other month or so. I did so yesterday, and was treated to a new ditty by Madonna & Justin Timberlake:

Warning: Awful.

Apparently–and this will no doubt surprise you as much as it did me–Madonna and Justin only got 4 minutes to save the world, only got 4 minutes, wika wika, 4 minutes. And I hear this song and think, “wow, that’s a powerful and socially-relevant message they got there, as they are no doubt referencing the Doomsday Clock and are rallying their young listeners to the cause of greenhouse gas reduction, reminding them that climate change is at pressing and urgent issue that threaten catastrophic destruction if left unchecked.”

Honest to god, I thought all that.

To confirm my hypothesis, I checked when I got home, to see how others interpreted these lyrics pregnant with symbolism. Here is a smattering of the speculation I found:

Does anyone know what this song is about? It makes absolutely no sense.

I think its pretty meaningless, just about dancing in a club ("Grab a boy, Grab a girl").

There is simply no meaning to this song. Justin Timberlake wrote some of it, so that's no surprise.

Simply just about lust or some crap like everyone sings about nowadays.

isn't it "we only got four minutes to SAY THE WORD?" i have no idea why the would say save the world.. that doenst make sense.

How is old is Madonna already? Like 70? And JT is still only in his teens? Hello! With all the female 40-something teachers having sex underage boys, you'd think Madonna and JT would be more responsible!

well if they only had 4 minutes to save the world, i guess we should all be dead right now, cuz this song sucks -_-

Oh. Uhh, okay. Perhaps I overanalyzed.

See, but here’s the thing: back when I was your age, every third song on C89 was on the theme of IMMINENT APOCALYPSE, typically of the nuclear variety. If a song entitled “4 Minutes to Save the World” had been released back then, you can bet that the subtext would have been, “LOL there’s no way to save the world sike.”

And it wasn’t just top 40 radio, either. In the 80’s, the idea that we were one flock of geese away from Fiery Death From Above permeated pop culture, from television to literature to video games to comic books to movies and movies and movies.

But you have to sit down and watch a television program, read a book, travel to the theater to catch a film. Pop music was everywhere, and served as our perpetual Harbinger of Doom back in the 80’s. One minute Bobby McFerrin was urging you to not worry and be happy, the next Sting was musing aloud as to whether the Russians loved their children too. (Confidential to Gordon: Apparently they did–more so than Americans it seems, as they at least did not subject their youth to your terrible song).

And so, a muxtape for you. Relive those halcyon day when we all thought we’d die. Or, if you are a younger reader, experience them for the first time–they were a blast!

* Great Scott, a KJET tribute station?! Oh NetarWeb, is there nothing you can’t provide?

We’re Here To Pump {Clap, Clap} Some Gas

You can tell my gym is situated in the suburbs because it has no bike racks out front, instead boasting an enormous parking lot in which SUVs and Hummers endlessly circle as the drivers search for a spot close to the entrance to minimize their walk.

Superhero Movie Pet Peeves

This post contains massive spoilers for Iron Man, and pretty much every other superhero movie of the last two decades.

Harnessing the power of dumb

As I mentioned in my review, I thought the new Iron Man movie was fantastic … except for the parts that involved Iron Man, which lacked a certain je ne sais quoi (French for “Robert Downey Jr.”).

I was particularly unimpressed with the Big Climatic Fight Scene, and a little irritated that the film not only epitomized one of my Superhero Movie Pet Peeves, but flirted with a second as well. To wit:

Pet Peeve #1: The bad guy has exactly the same powers and abilities as the good guy Honestly, this drives me nuts. Who thinks this is a good idea?

Lots of comic book writers apparently. Back in the day when I routinely read comic books (late 80’s), it seemed that every hero had his evil twin as his archnemesis. Flash fought Reverse-Flash, who was as fast as The Flash but bad!. (I previously ranted about Reverse-Flash here). Green Lantern fought Sinestro, an ex-Corps member who also possessed a Power Ring. Wolverine fought Sabertooth, Spider-Man fought Venom, Superman fought Bizarro, and so forth.

Of course when the two people fighting are of exactly equal power and ability, it kind of doesn’t matter how “super” they are–Captain Marvel scraping with Black Adam is really no different from two five year-olds trading blows over a package of Necco wafers, two grandmasters playing chess for 17 hours before ending the game in a draw, or a couple of pissed off roosters in a cockpit.

Much more interesting, to my mind, are the asymmetrical rivalries. Batman is in peak physical form; The Joker is frail (in the hands of most writers), but utterly unpredictable, even to a master strategist such as Bruce Wayne. Superman v. Luthor is another good one, with the discrepancy between their (physical) power and adherence to morality even wider. Perhaps the greatest asymmetrical skirmish in literature is also one of the most engrossing: J. R. R. Tolken managed to squeeze over a thousand pages out of the Frodo vs. Sauron cagematch.

But in Iron Man, the movie (this is where the spoilers start), Stark winds up battling: another Iron Man. A bigger one, sure, but the whole thing pretty much degenerates into Robot Slugfest ’08. People, if I’d wanted to watch Transformers, I woulda downloaded it from Mininova like everyone else.

And it looks as if the upcoming Hulk film is going to follow exactly the same pattern. From what I can glean from the trailer (which appears to be: everything), the climactic battle in that film is Hulk Vs. Reverse-Hul- I mean “Abomination”. I know Marvel Studios also has “Captain America” and “Thor” films slated for next year–are we just going to see the same formula played out four times in a row, followed by “Avengers Vs. Vengers” in 2010?

Pet Peeve #2: The whole story is self-contained This is when the hero causes the very problem he is fighting to solve, or is just struggling to save his own miserable skin. In Iron Man, the power source and armor that Tony Stark creates while in captivity fall into the hands of his bad-guy business partner, and his heroics revolve around his attempts to destroy them. Fortunately there’s a bigger issue at stake (Stark’s desire to turn his company around), because, without it, the audience might think, “well, hell: if Stark had just been killed in the first 10 minutes of the film, there’d be no need for an Iron Man, as his own designs wouldn’t have become a threat to world peace.”

I understand the point of making the final battle personal for the protagonist, but these circular plots often seem like the hero is more motivated by a desire to undo his mistakes or avenge his dead parents (see 1989’s Batman) than do anything, you know, heroic. I get enough frantic ass coverage and settlement of petty grudges at the office, thanks.

Social Skills

Raising an autistic child is a little different than raising a neurotypical. For instance, the other day The Queen and I had this exchange:

Me: Squiggle is getting really good at talking to strangers.

The Queen: I know, isn’t it great?

And today there was this:

Me: How was the library?

The Queen: Okay, but there was little boy about Squiggles age playing with the puzzles. And when Squiggle tried to play with him, and the boy said “No, go away” and Squiggle cried.

Me: My son got his feelings hurt and cried in public? Yes! High five!!

In other words, we work hard to inculcate in Squiggle the same behaviors and emotional responses that the mass media seems determined to eradicate from everyone else.

Heavy Petting


These Fancy Feast commercials are essentially porn movies for lonely librarians. The idea that your cat would condescend to sit in your lap and be cuddled after receiving some cod-flavored glop is about as far-fetched as the Comcast guy having sex with a beautiful woman because he fixed her cable.

God Bless Ye Merry Syngamy …

If life begins at conception as so many evangelicals insist, shouldn’t we be celebrating Christmas around April Fool’s Day, when the Big Guy first knocked Mary up?

Update: Apparently it’s called Annunciation and falls on March 25th. Man, those Christians think of everything! For the whole day celebrants mark the occasion by writing sentences without periods