Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey 19

So close to the end! Only the best of the best of the best songs remain...in theory. You still have a little more time to guess the songs that you think earned the top spots on the list.


50. “I’ll Be There For You,” Rembrandts (1995)
It hasn't been the Rembrandts' day, week, month, or year for a long, long time. Unless you count residuals from syndicated Friends reruns.
49. “Total Eclipse Of The Heart,” Bonnie Tyler (1984)
I've linked to this before, but I'll do it again: one of the best songs ever, made even better with a literal music video.
48. “Cryin’,” Aerosmith (1993)
47. “Jack & Diane,” John Mellencamp (1982)
The ultimate song about being young in the Midwest. Right, Jill? Does John Cougar come from the Midwest? And maybe Utah isn't a midwestern state, because here we eat our chili dogs, rather than sucking on them.
46. “Straight Up,” Paula Abdul (1988)
45. “Every Morning,” Sugar Ray (1999)
44. “I Love Rock N Roll,” Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1982)
43. “Vogue,” Madonna (1990)
42. “I’ll Be There For You,” Bon Jovi (1989)
41. “Waterfalls,” TLC (1995)
40. “Faith,” George Michael (1987)
My friend Collin is a talented animator and filmmaker; he used this song in a fun birthday present to himself.
39. “Like The Way I Do,” Melissa Etheridge (1988, 1995)
38. “You’re Still The One,” Shania Twain (1998)
37. “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Def Leppard (1987)
36. “Miss You Much,” Janet Jackson (1989)
35. “Truly Madly Deeply,” Savage Garden (1998)
The best musical tribute to Cherry Cola ever made. That I know of.
34. “Here I Go Again,” Whitesnake (1987)
One of the few metal songs to make the list, and I bet it's all because of Tawny Kitaen. This song--the finale of the opening act--is also the highlight of "Rock of Ages," which I saw not long after mildly ripping on Constantine in this space. He was definitely the standout in a pretty mediocre show.
33. “When Doves Cry,” Prince (1984)
32. “Only Wanna Be With You,” Hootie & the Blowfish (1995)
31. “My Heart Will Go On,” Celine Dion (1998)
30. “Billie Jean,” Michael Jackson (1983)
Not quite top 10, but good guess, Janelle.
29. “Losing My Religion,” R.E.M. (1991)
28. “Slide,” Goo Goo Dolls (1999)
27. “Like A Virgin,” Madonna (1984)
26. “Centerfold,” J. Geils Band (1982)
Yet another of my karaoke favorites.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Give, said the little stream

Around the same time I was hired on at my new job, I also finally received a new church calling. I didn't push to get one earlier, because I figured I would start attending a singles ward as soon as I could afford car insurance and could drive myself there. But that never happened, and I'm glad I waited.

For the first time ever, I am a Primary teacher. Another Brother and I are team-teaching the 9-year-old class, and in January they are consolidating some classes (my ward is mostly old people, with a very small Primary), and we will be in charge of the 9-, 10-, and 11-year-old boys.

Teaching positions are my favorite callings to have in the Church. It gives me purpose and focus in my gospel study, as well as a performance venue of sorts. And I love kids, so teaching Primary has been a desire of mine for a long time. I taught my class for the first time two weeks ago, and I think it went pretty well. I love the official Church curriculum; there's always more than enough material to choose from (probably my least favorite thing to hear a church teacher say is "we need to keep going, there's a lot of stuff we have to get through"). This is even more true in Primary manuals: each lesson includes at least four stories and seven or eight optional activities, in addition to your own ideas (oh, and maybe teaching a principle or two). It's great.

We were called just in time to help out with this year's sacrament meeting program, which will happen later today. It should be good, but I doubt it will compare to the one I watched my nieces in back in September. It was by far the best primary program I have ever seen.

There was so much to like. The kids were all cute, and it was fun to predict what they would be like when they hit high school ("that girl will be such a flirt;" "he's definitely a future Mathlete"). Nearly every kid sang loud, and you could tell the ones who weren't singing were just shy, not unhappy or embarrassed to be there. (That means that none of them had older siblings trying to distract them, making them think they had stuff on their face--yes, I still remember that, Adam.) It seemed like they had all practiced their parts (and my nieces Abbi and Lacey did great). There was even a group of five older boys who belted out "Army of Helaman." Very impressive.

So the primary leaders in Hyrum, Utah, are clearly doing a great job of brainwashing. That word has negative connotations and might be a tad harsh, but I think it's pretty accurate. Kids are easy to influence, you might even say to manipulate--and because that's the case, it's important that they have strong, positive influences in their lives. (Which is why it doesn't surprise me that some parents thought President Obama's speech to school children would result in brainwashing; I was just stunned that so many Utahans thought his message to work hard and do your best in school would have a negative impact.) Primary is a form of "good" brainwashing. And I'm happy to finally be a part of it.

So I'm anticipating an outstanding primary program this afternoon, after which I can get to work on what could be my lasting legacy for the entire Primary: a less clunky version of "Latter-day Prophets," which became awkward when they stuffed Pres. Hunter's name into the last verse, and two additional prophets have since been crammed in. Janice Kapp Perry ain't got nothing on me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The postman always blogs twice

I'm going to be honest...my new job is pretty uninteresting, and I probably wouldn't have done more than mention it in passing if it weren't for my orientation. I'm pretty confident that my first six hours on the job will prove to be the most memorable.

For starters, they made all of us (the 50-ish data conversion operators that were all hired together) take a loyalty oath. Not just a pledge to keep the rules and regulations of the postal service, but we raised our right hands and vowed to uphold the Constitution. It felt kind of like joining a cult. Sean Hannity would have been proud.

After a few hours of learning various policies and procedures, taking building tours, and other typical orientation activities, we wrapped up the day with a few videos. There were two designed specifically for the position we had been hired to, made in the early '90s when the Remote Encoding Centers were created. They were delightfully cheesy, but nothing compared to the other two.

One was a sexual harassment presentation. Or, I guess more accurately, an anti-sexual harassment presentation. The scenarios displayed were so entertaining, and now I finally know what "quid pro quo" means. The video, clearly produced sometime in the '80s, even introduced the revolutionary concept that women can sexually harass men! Who'd have thunk it?

The final, and by far the best, video was called "Is It Worth It?"--a warning to all new postal employees about the consequences of stealing mail. This was automatically amusing, because we never physically handle any pieces of mail in our building. But even if I had the chance, I wouldn't do it--not after host Edward James Olmos, in all his Miami Vice glory, explained the dire consequences.

Postal employees who work in various aspects of the mail delivery process were shown stealing mail--tucking envelopes into their shirts, or stuffing them up pant legs, or wrapping packages in their coats. Their situations were described by Olmos and sounded something like this: "Joe Postman has worked as a mail sorter for six years. All of his coworkers think he's a hard worker and a good friend. He and his wife are planning a trip to Hawaii for their upcoming anniversary--or are they?!" There are people determined to stop these mail thieves, and Crockett and Tubbs ain't got nothing on them.

Thanks to EJO (who spoke in his normal voice when he was onscreen, but for some reason he slipped into Christian Bale's Batman voice when providing offscreen narration), I am now terrified of ever running into the dreaded postal inspectors--portrayed as two middle-aged, bespectacled guys wearing satin jackets in pastel colors. When they show up and confront the package pilferer, they don't say anything, they don't touch him--they just stare. And it works. The guy removes the letter from his shirt and puts his hands behind his back, and the postal inspectors take him away forever. (Actually, maybe a year or two and probably just probation. But he'll definitely be fired, and his family will be incredibly embarrassed--"or will they?")

I wish I could find it online, but so far no dice. Maybe they will make us watch it every few months as an important reminder. If not, I guess there's always Stand and Deliver, the other Edward James Olmos video that likely strikes fear into the hearts of all postal employees.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Hello, Newman

In July of 2008 I quit my job and moved to New York. Like Bobby Bonilla, Brett Favre, and the creators of the Fashion Cafe before me, I crumbled under the intense scrutiny that comes with living in the media capital of the world, and eventually ran back to the Midwest with my tail tucked between my legs. Or something like that.

I can now, with much relief, some satisfaction, and very, very little pride, announce that, for the first time in well over a year, I once again have regular employment.

Who's the lucky cutter of paychecks? None other than the Postal Service! No, I'm not the roadie for the "Such Great Heights" band. I mean the United States Postal Service, the one that just announced a loss of $3.8 billion in the last fiscal year.

But I'm actually not worried about losing my job due to downsizing or layoffs or anything. That's already happened. I am a Data Conversion Operator, which means I spend all day looking at scanned images of mailpieces that could not be read properly at the processing centers after they were picked up, and I type in the address information so they can be delivered. When these "remote encoding centers" debuted about 15 years ago, there were about 55 of them; now the one in Salt Lake is one of just two. So I feel my job is pretty safe, at least as long as I plan to have it.

Yes, this is (hopefully) not a long-term solution for me. I definitely view it as just a job, and not a career. But I'm very glad to have it, most of all because it removes the urgency from any job searching I may continue to do. The past 16 months have been so frustrating in that regard (this job was part of that frustration; I actually applied for it less than a week after returning to Utah--way back in August--but the application process was agonizingly, ridiculously long).

Here are the good parts of the job: the pay is surprisingly good; I can wear a t-shirt and jeans; we process mail from Utah and New York, so there's a chance I might be able to make creepy comments about what my friends and neighbors are sending or receiving like my old home teacher and fellow postal employee used to do; and I don't have to deal with the public in any way--I barely will even have to talk to any coworkers (and once I complete my 90-day probation period, I can even listen to my hypothetical iPod while I work).

There are also some drawbacks, which I will now spin into positives: I'm working a graveyard shift, but that means I'll have access to my parents' cars and won't need rides; and there are no benefits, but really, that just means I can spend my money on debt reduction instead of paying it into a health fund. And besides last year's gall bladder hiccup, I've probably been one of the world's healthiest non-exercisers for 15+ years. If I join the union I could get insurance that way, and I'm considering it, but right now it seems like I need hard cash more than health care.

So there it is. In many ways, after the anticipation that's been building on the blog for the past week and in my life for the past year, my new job is pretty underwhelming. But again, it's not like I had many other options, and I'm glad to have it. It will give me an opportunity to get back on my feet and on a course towards eventually doing what I really want to do--assuming I ever figure that part out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

18 and life

Thanks to my return to the workforce and my sister's wedding last week, I've hardly been online at all lately. This post is only going up first because I typed it up months ago, and only had to come back and add the intro, and make sure I didn't have any extra jokes or links to add. Those other promised posts are coming soon, though.


75. “Love Shack,” B-52s (1989)
The first concert I ever attended was a B-52s show (also featuring The Pretenders and Royal Crown Revue, but the Love Shackers were definitely the main attraction). A notable achievement, since I can still count the number of concerts I've attended on my fingers.
74. “The Freshmen,” Verve Pipe (1997)
I heard right, surprisingly, that the freshmen felt they should be absolved of blame because "she was touching her face," but not so much when I heard their other justification--"she fell in love in the forest place."
73. “Jessie’s Girl,” Rick Springfield (1981)
I think it's safe to say that this is the top song on this list, if not ever, that uses the word "moot."
72. “Together Again,” Janet Jackson (1998)
This was my favorite song to cha-cha to in freshman social dance. I was infatuated with my teacher, who was extremely attractive, and it didn't help that she was, you know, always touching her face.
71. “Right Here Waiting,” Richard Marx (1989)
70. “What Do All The People Know,” Monroes (1982)
This is the highest ranked song on the list that I didn't recognize by its name, and I'm actually not sure if I had ever heard it before preparing this post.
69. “Because You Loved Me,” Celine Dion (1996)
68. “Tainted Love,” Soft Cell (1982)
Rihanna never looked or sounded better than in this video, which samples "Tainted Love." Then she chopped her hair off and became a superduperstar.
67. “Strong Enough,” Sheryl Crow (1995)
66. “Need You Tonight,” INXS (1987)
65. “Flashdance,” Irene Cara (1983)
64. “All Star,” Smash Mouth (1999)
63. “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” Aerosmith (1998)
62. “Another One Bites The Dust,” Queen (1980)
This song featured prominently (due to its supposed backmasking message urging everyone to smoke marijuana, which is decidedly less harmful than the overt lyrics about a kid who goes on a killing spree) on my favorite talk-tape of all time, "The Occult and Rock and Roll," by a man named Lynn Bryson. We listened to it all the time on my mission. I would love to have a copy, but can never find it at DI or on eBay or anything. In fact, I can barely even find a reference to it online. If anyone can help I'd be very appreciative.
61. “Kiss Me,” Sixpence None The Richer (1999)
60. “Heaven,” Bryan Adams (1985)
The techno version of this song is probably my second favorite of that entire genre. This is #1.
59. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper (1984)
I mentioned this a few weeks ago, but again, RIP Captain Lou Albano (Cyndi's dad in this video).
58. “We Didn’t Start The Fire,” Billey Joel (1989)
The first album I ever bought was Storm Front, and it was because I loved this song. Not as much as my 8th grade history teacher, Mr. Durfey, who based the final month of the year on the tune: he'd send us into the library with a printout of the lyrics, and we had to figure out the significance of each reference. And at least once a week, he'd play a video of Billy Joel performing it live; for some reason, we all enjoyed imitating the random hula dancer who starts running around the stage near the end of the song. My version of "Fire," using Mormon pop culture icons, is probably my most impressive parody. Some highlights include rhyming "Gerald Lund" and "Perpetual Education Fund" and replacing "Liston beats Patterson" with "Stephen E. Robinson."
57. “I’ll Be,” Edwin McCain (1998)
I knew nothing about McCain other than this song until he started popping up on those "I Love the '80s" shows on VH1, looking and sounding like he was an extra in Half Baked. It was even more jarring than when I found out Tracy Chapman was a chick.
56. “Call Me,” Blondie (1980)
55. “The Look,” Roxette (1989)
54. “The Power Of Love,” Huey Lewis & the News (1985)
As I mentioned above, I'm not much of a concertgoer, but I would love to see Huey someday. I'm sure he'll come to the state fair here sometime, and then I can see a great show while eating fried cantaloupe. Perfect.
53. “Hungry Like The Wolf,” Duran Duran (1982)
52. “All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow (1994)
51. “Don’t You Want Me,” Human League (1982)
One of the best karaoke duets of all time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Coming attractions

After nearly three relatively uneventful months, November has already been action-packed. A bunch of stuff has happened that I want to chronicle in this space, but since I'm now surprisingly busy I'm not able to do so in a timely manner. But stay tuned for tape-delayed coverage of:

  • my new job
  • my new church calling
  • my sister's wedding
  • the current dominance of sports villains, exemplified by the Yankees' recent World Series victory
  • the thrilling conclusion of the pop song countdown
  • the debut of my next serialized idea, which will mesh religion and reality TV
  • and much much more!

November sweeps are in full swing here on Amateur Blog at the Apollo. Don't miss a second of it!

Monday, November 9, 2009

17 again

We've reached the top 100 songs! The end is in sight! Feel free to leave comments guessing songs that you think belong in the top 10.


100. “Better Man,” Pearl Jam (1994)
99. “Look Away,” Chicago (1988)
98. “Bitch,” Meredith Brooks (1997)
Sorry about the crude language. I'll be sure to give advance warning if it happens again. (And since we haven't seen Jimmy Buffet's "Let's All Get Drunk And Screw" on the list yet, I'd say the chances are pretty good.)
97. “The Flame,” Cheap Trick (1988)
96. “Life Is A Highway,” Tom Cochrane (1992)
Why did Pixar have to use Rascal Flatts' cover of this song for Cars? Mr. Cochrane's original is at least as good, and I'm sure he wasn't busy.
95. “Superfreak,” Rick James (1981)
94. “Come To My Window,” Melissa Etheridge (1994)
93. “Kiss,” Prince (1986)
"You don't have to watch Dynasty, to have an attitude" is one of the best song lyrics of all time. And it also reminds me of a funny story I heard a few months ago that supposedly took place at a New York DMV (I heard it fourth hand, so I can't verify if it actually happened): a friend of a friend of a friend was waiting to get her license, when she heard over the intercom, "Shady Nasty, your license is ready." Nobody came up. Again, "Shady Nasty, your license is ready." No response. After the third page, a woman goes up to the counter, and angrily says, "I know you didn't just call me Shady Nasty. It's Sha-Dynasty!"
92. “With Or Without You,” U2 (1987)
91. “More Than Words,” Extreme (1991)
90. “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” Whitney Houston (1987)
89. “Please Forgive Me,” Bryan Adams (1993)
88. “The Way You Make Me Feel,” Michael Jackson (1988)
87. “Never Surrender,” Corey Hart (1985)
86. “Real World,” Matchbox Twenty (1998)
85. “Toy Soldiers,” Martika (1989)
Like T'Pau's "Heart and Soul" last week, this is one of my favorite, largely underrated songs of the '80s.
84. “All For You,” Sister Hazel (1997)
83. “Love Of A Lifetime,” Firehouse (1991)
82. “Walk Like An Egyptian,” Bangles (1987)
81. “Name,” Goo Goo Dolls (1995)
80. “Like A Prayer,” Madonna (1989)
79. “Melt With You,” Modern English (1983)
My former roommate Will likes to replace the term "making love" with the euphemism "painting ducks." As in, "painting ducks with you was never second best."
78. “Believe,” Cher (1999)
77. “In The Air Tonight,” Phil Collins (1981)
The legend of this song is akin to the whole "is Steve Martin a Mormon?" debate. If you're not aware of what I'm referring to, check this out. To know for sure, I guess we'll have to wait until, as my sister likes to say, we watch the video in heaven.
76. “Kiss From A Rose,” Seal (1995)
There are probably at least six songs on the Batman Forever soundtrack better than this one, including what is likely my favorite U2 song. But kudos to Seal on wooing Heidi Klum.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Drive me crazy

About an hour ago, I drove a car for the first time in over a year. It's so nice to be able to get myself places without having to rely on other people, but I was a little nervous. Many would probably say that driving a car is like riding a bike--once you learn how, you never forget. But that's not very encouraging to someone like me, who can't ride a bike. Or swim. Or whistle. Or snap my fingers. Or a bunch of other stuff 7-year-olds can do, probably...

Anyway, it went fine. No accidents, not even any near-misses. I've always been a good driver, and that seems to still be the case. Unfortunately, I also seem to have retained my poor parking skills, and my inability to back out of our driveway properly even though I've been doing it for over 13 years. It looks straight, but it's clearly not. But it's okay, because that grass would've died in a few weeks anyway. It's good to be back in the driver's seat.

16 candles

We're approaching the "best of the best." Which is good news for playlists, but bad news for potential jokes--at least in theory. Hopefully my hypothesis is wrong.


125. “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” Michael Jackson (1983)
You're starting this week's list--wish granted!
124. “Ordinary World,” Duran Duran (1993)
123. “Celebration,” Kool & the Gang (1980)
122. “Hands,” Jewel (1999)
121. “Start Me Up,” Rolling Stones (1981)
As successful as this song was in promoting Windows 95, it's surprising Microsoft didn't go back to the Stones when rolling out Windows Vista. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" would've been a logical choice.
120. “Dreams,” Cranberries (1994)
119. “Is This Love,” Whitesnake (1987)
118. “Dreamlover,” Mariah Carey (1993)
117. “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” George Michael/Elton John (1991)
First he teamed up for a big hit with George Michael. Now he's on tour with Billy Joel. Can't you do anything without riding someone else's coattails, Mr. John? Or ducktails, for that matter?
116. “Money For Nothing,” Dire Straits (1985)
This song is the musical equivalent of holding up a sign at a sporting event where the first letter of each word on the sign spells out the network broadcasting the game. But I DO want my MTV.
115. “Hand In My Pocket,” Alanis Morissette (1995)
114. “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Ricky Martin (1999)
113. “One Of Us,” Joan Osborne (1995)
Yet another masterpiece from the well-known songwriting genius, Dr. Evil.
112. “Armageddon It,” Def Leppard (1988)
111. “I Love You Always Forever,” Donna Lewis (1996)
I made my karaoke debut with this song, dueting with Julie Clark, a cheerleader I had a big crush on, at a tailgate party during my junior year of high school. Dan Ulrich may have also been involved, I can't remember. (I was going to write that this was the song I lost my karaoke virginity to, but that would've sounded a little weird with everything else I wrote.)
110. “Angel,” Aerosmith (1988)
109. “Heart And Soul,” T’Pau (1987)
I really like this song, so I'm pleased to see it ranked so high. It's probably the best song ever by an artist named after a Star Trek character.
108. “Maneater,” Hall & Oates (1982)
107. “Lightning Crashes,” Live (1995)
My sister's friend Ginny kept the placenta after she gave birth. Not being a parent, I can't say for sure one way or the other, but I hope that's not common. Listen to the song! Let it fall to the floor!
106. “Love Walks In,” Van Halen (1986)
105. “Papa Don’t Preach,” Madonna (1986)
104. “Dancing In The Dark,” Bruce Springsteen (1984)
Courtney Cox was discovered in this video, which led to her breakthrough roles in Family Ties, Masters of the Universe, Mr. Destiny, Ace Ventura, and now, Cougartown. And I think I might be forgetting one. Thanks, Boss.
103. “Don’t Speak,” No Doubt (1996)
102. “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” Police (1981)
101. “She Works Hard For The Money,” Donna Summer (1983)

Monday, November 2, 2009


Another Halloween has come and gone. I'm lucky to have a brother who buys good costumes and lets me wear them the next year. He must have had a premonition, because this was a very appropriate 'stume for me in 2009.

I think they also sell a "slutty hot dog" costume, which is the same thing, but with no bun.

Here I am holding what appears to be the action figure of whatever character I'm dressed as.

I know this is wrong, but it looked so delicious! Can you blame me?

I soon realized what I was doing, but by then it was too late. Don't worry, I gave the remains a proper burial.

My Halloween was very low-key. I put on the costume, passed out candy to some neighborhood kids, and watched Nightmare Before Christmas with my brother and sister (surprisingly, the first time I've seen it all the way through). It was fun, but this was the first time since junior high at least (not counting one of the two years of my mission) that I hadn't attended some kind of Halloween dance, and many of those years also included work parties, comedy shows, etc. Oh, well. Time to get to work on next year's costume!