Friday, August 31, 2012

Does Being Good (Or Bad) Husband Material Make a Guy More (Or Less) Presidential?

Has the recent example of John Edwards taught us nothing?

Eight years ago when Edwards was John Kerry's Vice-Presidential running mate on the Democratic ticket against incumbent George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, his then-still adoring and then-still living wife Elizabeth Edwards no doubt would have characterized him as an ideal husband, the very best in the history of marriage (naturally, between a man and a woman, the way God and our founding fathers intended it -- or so I'm told).

Look how that turned out.

So I must say that as I watched a few hours of CNN's coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention on Wednesday morning (Vientiane, Laos time), I was surprised at how ideal husbandry and fatherhood received such prominent billing. Both were worn as badges of honor, by New Jersey Governor (and keynote speaker Chris Christie) and by the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, via the testimonials of pretty much everyone who mentioned his name.

Destined to fail by non-virtue of his marital status?
It's not like no seemingly perfect husband and father has ever turned out to be an utter and thorough disappointment. That's never happened, right? Fact: You can't really judge a man by the family he keeps. Men with loving wives and kids do terrible things all the time, some even occasionally rise through the ranks to become world leaders -- or bad U.S. Presidents. James Buchanan, the 15th and only bachelor U.S. President, may also have been one of the worst, but he was right down there with so many who were happily married (presumably)... with children, as anyone who lived through the terms of 17th U.S. President Andrew Johnson and most of his successors through 25th U.S. President William McKinley well knew.

I wasn't going to write anything about the convention. Though I'm a life-long dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, as someone who has spent Barack Obama's entire presidency living outside of the United States and not paying particularly close attention to the political goings-on therein, I haven't felt qualified to offer any meaningful commentary on the 2012 Presidential election. I still don't.

But with CNN breathlessly teasing the convention appearance of Mitt Romney's wife of 43 years, Ann, and repeatedly mentioning her experiences with breast cancer and multiple sclerosis, I actually found myself looking forward to what she had to say. I wasn't expecting her or anyone else to sway me over to the other side, but maybe her speech would be as inspiring as I imagined her personal story must be.

In the end, though, all I heard was the loving, unfocused testimonial of the happiest housewife on the planet. I can understand why Ann is so content, proud to the point of being borderline boastful. Mitt is a handsome guy, quite the catch. They've been married as long as I've been alive, and they raised five sons together. Good for them. In a country where half of all marriages end in divorce, that's quite an accomplishment.

Now that she's humanized Mitt in order to appeal to female voters (and that, presumably, was the main reason why she was allowed to have her say at the convention), now what? What does any of that really say about Mitt's ability to lead? Is the implication that if he were unmarried and childless that he would be beyond the point of humanizing, somehow inherently less qualified to lead the country?

The reality is that Ann didn't say anything about her husband that most political wives wouldn't say about their own spouse given a nominating-convention platform. Does that make them all ready to rule (the husbands, not the wives)? Sure she included some professional back-up, listed what sounded to me like fairly pedestrian on-the-job accomplishments, portrayed him as a successful businessman who gives back, but what about the man behind the public servant and private millionaire? Ann seems like a likable woman, and I'm sure that Romney's campaign was hoping that some of that likability would rub off on Mitt, but is this really what makes a guy more likable -- a stable home life and a wife who adores him?

As I listened to Ann sing Mitt's praises, I half expected her to break out the swatches and start sharing her White House redecoration plans. I'm not saying that she has to be Hillary Clinton. Nor does she have to use her personal battles as a soap-operatic ploy to garner audience sympathy and votes, but considering what she's been through, what they've been through, I kept expecting her to dig a little deeper, give us a little bit of context, not only tell us that Mitt Romney is a great man but show us how, too.

If any recent Presidential candidate has had the perfect opportunity to show us how he's proven his mettle as a compassionate, caring man, it would be Mitt Romney. If he's going to use the good-husband card, this would have been the most effective way to use it. How did he help his wife get through her health crises? How has he been her rock? How did he stand by his woman? Could he do the same for his country in its hour of need?

In the end, Ann painted a half-portrait of her husband in the broadest, most shallow strokes possible. She told us that 47 years ago, he brought her home safely from their first date. That was her kicker. He'd be as kind and generous with the country, if we'd give him a shot. That's as good as she's got?

After her speech, as I watched her onstage with her husband, I stared at Mitt's perfect hair and dazzling smile. I never before realized just how handsome the man who would be the 45th President of the United States is. He'd certainly look great on money 200 years from now. But I still don't know a damn thing about him.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why I Miss '90s R&B

Maybe it says more about how terrible R&B has gotten than about how great it used to be, but lately, I've actually found myself sort of nostalgic for '00s soul.

Not so much the R&B stars of the aughts who are still putting out the hits (or trying to), but the ones who aren't, the supernovas who flickered brightly but relatively briefly: Ashanti, Christina Milian (whom I just saw a couple of nights ago doing God knows what on The Voice) and Destiny's Child. Though solo Beyonce has her moments, there was nothing quite like the new Supremes, starring Beyonce as Diana Ross, Kelly Rowland as Mary Wilson and Michelle Williams as Cindy Birdsong.

I know some soldiers in here (Where they at? Where they at?)

Sing it, sisters (with voices)!

But when it comes to high-quality R&B from back in the day, the last golden era of soul would be the '90s. Even as some MIA '90s stars rejoin us in 2012, I'm still stuck back there, somewhere between Toni Braxton's debut album and Whitney Houston's My Love Is Your Love, Mary J. Blige's What's the 411? and Mary. SWV has returned, but I Missed Us, the trio's recent comeback album, only makes me miss grand old '90s hits like "Anything" and Can We" even more. (Though not nearly as much as TLC's 2005 UPN reality show R U the Girl made me miss the late Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, of whom I was never all that fond.)

Brandy has a great new single called "Put It Down," but unfortunately, she had to get Chris Brown involved. (If she needed a guest rapper, why not call a real one, like Lil Wayne? Everybody else does.) Give me Brandy vs. Monica every day -- not "It All Belongs to Me," their recent reunion single that went nowhere, "The Boy Is Mine," the mini-diva summit that spent 13 weeks at No. 1 in 1998.

Meanwhile, Drake, the Canadian rapper with a creepy Aaliyah fixation, is playing a solo game of the girl is mine. Although he never once met Aaliyah before her death 11 years ago, he's inserted himself into her legacy as executive producer of her upcoming resurrection album. In this case, heaven can't wait. I think I'd prefer for Aaliyah to continue singing with the angels than for her memory to be used to prop up Drake's already plus-size ego.

Thanks to my iPod and YouTube, I'll always have my '90s memories of Aaliyah and other artists from the decade who live on, though, sadly, not in post-turn-of-the-millennium hits. Here are the ones who continue to move me -- mind, body and, of course, soul.

Johnny Gill Every act spawned by New Edition produced at least one big hit that I loved as much as everyone else did: "Roni" by Bobby Brown, "Sensitivity" by Ralph Tresvant, "Do Me!" by Bell Biv DeVoe. But Johnny Gill, a latecomer to New Edition who joined in 1987 after Brown's departure, gave us the best one.


Changing Faces No group whose first two (and only) Top 10 hits are called "Stroke You Up" and "G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T" is meant to last -- even if they are produced by R. Kelly, who was to the '90s what Timbaland was to the '00s. But every time I hear "Ladies Man," a non-hit from 2000, a part of me, the masochistic part who always wants what he can't and shouldn't have, shouts, to no one in particular, "Girl, I heard that!"


Zhane Sort of like Changing Faces, only more downtown, in sensible shoes (or barefoot, as on the cover of the duo's 1997 second and final studio album, Saturday Night), and mentored by Queen Latifah instead of R. Kelly.


R&B Boy Bands: Jodeci, Portrait, Riff, Shai Color Me Badd's brief early '90s heyday aside, I've never been much into white boy bands -- even when they're trying to act and sound black. And why should I, when the real deal is always so much better?



Lisa Stansfield I've listened to her music, seen her perform live several times (once in a blues semi-dive in London), interviewed her, and gotten drunk with her, and I'm still not totally convinced she's not black.



Tracie Spencer I recently revisited her 1990 album Make The Difference, which was one of the first albums I ever bought on CD. I'm surprised at how well some of the songs hold up, especially considering that Spencer was only 14 at the time.


The Missy Elliott/Timbaland Posse, starring Aaliyah, Ginuine, Nicole Wray and Playa Remember when it was perfectly acceptable to say "posse" (as in My Posse Don't Do Homework, the original title of the 1995 Michelle Pfieffer film Dangerous Minds, the one that spawned Coolio's greatest hit, "Gangsta's Paradise")? Damn! I miss those days, the days when Missy Elliott still went by "Misdemeanor," and she and her posse practically ruled the pop and R&B world.



Digable Planets My favorite rap act of the '90s. Blowout Comb, the 1994 follow-up to Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space), the one that contained the jazz-hop trio's only hit, "Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)," might be my favorite rap album of the '90s, though I haven't listened to Arrested Development's 3 Years, 5 Months & Two Days in the Life Of... since 1992.


En Vogue Speaking of 1992, if any hit-making act back then seemed most likely to still be making hits this millennium, I would have put my money on En Vogue, Boyz II Men and, well, Arrested Development. Goes to show how little I knew.


R&B Girl Groups: Brownstone, Jade, Total, Xscape Not quite in a class of their own the way En Vogue was, but so many sisters with voices didn't sound so harmonious singing in unison since the '60s, when Crystals, Ronettes, Shangri-La's, Marvelettes, Vandellas and, of course, Supremes, all roamed the earth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

7 Random Thoughts I Had Last Night While Watching "Enlightened" and "Girls" on HBO

1. I didn't realize how much I miss watching HBO original series on HBO -- or maybe I'm just that desperate for decent TV that isn't in the form of a bootleg DVD picked up on Silom Road in Bangkok! In Buenos Aires, I think Showtime was part of my Cablevision subscription, but that's just a poor man's HBO, isn't it? It looks like this mini-HBO reunion is going to be the bright side of spending two days in Laos. I can finally catch up on some of the stuff I've been reading so much about, like Enlightened and Girls. Is it just me, or do they both have a sort of indie-film aesthetic? Is this the new normal on cable TV by subscription? I can live what that.

2. Laura Dern is so freaking good. Without her, I don't think Enlightened would really interest me. I can't take my eyes off her, and I find myself rooting for her character, sympathizing with her, although as a newcomer to this show, I don't know much about her back story. I can remember when she was on the verge of a brilliant big-screen career in the '90s. It never really happened for her, though. Now she gets to be fourth billed, after Amy Adams -- and below the title, too! -- in Paul Thomas Anderson's upcoming film The Master. She's an Oscar nominee dammit. Show some respect!

3. It's so strange that Diane Ladd, Dern's off-screen mom, always seems to be getting cast as her onscreen mother, like they're a packaged deal or something. She's been Oscar-nominated twice for playing her mom (in Wild at Heart and Rambling Rose), and I think when Dern got her Best Actress mod for Rambling Rose and Ladd was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, it was the only time a mother and daughter were nominated for playing mother and daughter (how On Golden Pond of them). One would assume they are close in real life, but they are really selling this Enlightened dynamic of an estranged mother and daughter tentatively coming back together. The scene with the hair, when Ladd seems unsure whether to pull it or stroke it, is pure gold.

4. Ah, an ad for The Newsroom. The concept feels a little '90s, since news rarely breaks in traditional newsrooms anymore. Wait, is that Jane Fonda? (A quick Wikipedia check reveals that it is.) I wonder why her doing television hasn't been played up more in the media? Maybe it has, but I just missed it. Too bad her acting comeback hasn't resulted in anything more memorable than Monster-in-Law, which I didn't hate, but still, who would want that to be the last noteworthy entry in their filmography? Even Jennifer Lopez escaped that!

5. I've been reading a lot of great things about Girls and its multiply Emmy-nominated creator/writer/director/star Lena Dunham, but judging from these two episodes, I think I respectfully dissent. I'm slightly underwhelmed by both the performances and the writing, both of which are maddeningly self-conscious. Maybe I'm just too far removed from twentysomething angst for it to register with me in any meaningful way. I wanted less whining about Hannah's sluggish writing career and fighting with her roommate and more Adam Driver, the sexy guy whose push-pull relationship with Dunham's Hannah is something anyone at any age of any gender and sexual persuasion can relate to (minus the part where he tells her he loves her -- only in the movies, and on TV!).

The other stuff just feels so foreign and staged, like these are the bricks and mortar from which twentysomething ennui is built. Aren't we deep? I somehow manage to find more common ground with the ghost, the vampire and the werewolf on Being Human (the UK version, which along with the North American version, airs on the Sony Channel in Bangkok). And the middle-aged woman's comment to 21-year-old half-dressed Tom (the werewolf) in the episode that aired a couple of weeks ago -- "Put on some clothes, young man. This isn't The Jungle Book -- is more clever than anything I'm hearing tonight.

6. Where are all the people of color, you know the ones who make up a significant portion of the NYC population? Why don't I ever see black people on TV shows set in New York City, where not everyone is white. The only significant black presence I've noticed tonight is Beyonce singing "Halo" on the soundtrack -- and that's probably her whitest hit to date!

7. Coming up next: Middle Men. I can always use another Gabriel Macht sighting (Suits begins airing tonight in Bangkok on Universal), but no more Luke Wilson for me. His few scenes in Enlightened were enough for me. Time for bed.

Gabriel's fire: I love a handsome, sharp-dressed man in "Suits."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I've Always Had the Strangest Feeling About the Empire State Building

It's hard to believe, sad but true, but in 15 years spent living in New York City, I can't recall ever once stepping foot inside the Empire State Building. I'm all about standing at the top and taking in a breathtaking view, but when I was living in the naked city with 8 million stories, many of them well above ground level, I always figured I'd get around to the 102 that make up the Empire State Building, eventually.

For five years, I lived on 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. I walked by the Empire State Building on a weekly basis, sometimes considering going in and climbing up, up, up, but I always ended up getting distracted by some other task at hand. I'd get around to it, eventually. When I moved to Union Square in 2000, I lived in an apartment with a severely obstructed view of the top of the Empire State Building. "One day I'll make it up there," I must have told myself several times a week while looking out the window before falling asleep -- "eventually."

One of my most vivid memories of September 11, 2001 is walking down Avenue of the Americas, part of the mass ambulatory exodus out of midtown, and watching the second tower of the World Trade Center go down somewhere around 47th Street. As we approached 34th Street, I remember fearing the worst, praying it wouldn't come to pass. Please, God, let what is now the No. 1 building in the city remain standing. I spent the next few years fearing it would be the next target. We'd better appreciate it while we can. Maybe I'd finally get around to checking it out, eventually.

I've always had pretty lousy timing. Were I still living in New York City, I wonder if I would have at last gotten around to that long-delayed Empire State Building visit on Friday, just in time for the building -- the one I had spent so many years putting off -- to become ground zero in another bit of breaking front-page news.

Disgruntled ex-employee shoots to kill an ex-colleague before being taken down by the NYPD in a hail of gunfire that wounds nine bystanders. It was the kind of shoot out that you might expect to see in an episode of Law & Order, not among holiday footage. According to CNN, an Australian tourist caught it on tape, which should make for more interesting viewing than those standards scenes from the top. Too bad two people, the former co-workers, had to die in the making of the video.

I'm not sure what the mood is in the U.S. right now. It's Sunday afternoon in Bangkok, and I'm only now finding out about the shooting via my best friend's status update from Friday. From what I've read so far, people back in my home town are shocked and saddened, understandably so. I'm both of those things and outraged, too. How many public shoot outs will I have to read about before the U.S. gets serious about getting rid of guns.

Though I'm living many miles away and have been for nearly six years (my expat anniversary is on September 15), this shooting couldn't have hit closer to home unless it had actually happened inside my home. The scariest part is that for those living in the shooting range that the United States is quickly becoming, that seems to be a more distinct possibility with every passing day.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

5 Warning Signs That He's Probably Not "The One"

The ultimate bad beau?
No, you haven't stumbled upon an outtake from Glamour magazine, or Cosmopolitan. It's just me doing what I do best: doling out more romantic advice.

For someone who has such a terrible track record with men, I certainly know how to call them when I'm on the outside looking in. Last year, during a casual conversation with a friend about his boyfriend, something dawned on me: "He's cheating on you!" I'm not sure what it was that tipped me off, but I was certain I wasn't wrong.

I wasn't. "Everything you said that day was right," my friend told me when I saw him less than a month later, before regaling me with his sordid tale of secrets and lies. To this day, every time he introduces me to someone, it's always as "Jeremy, the friend who knew my ex was cheating on me before I did." If only I could use my intuitive power for the greater good -- my own.

Well, at least someone benefits. That's what I told myself yesterday while I was counseling another friend about what to do about an inconsistent boyfriend with severe intimacy issues. As a chronically single guy who hasn't been in a relationship since 2011, who has been on exactly two dates since my birthday (May 7), and whose last bad romance ended so disastrously, I'm always surprised that anyone would come to me for the truth about boys. But there was my friend, eager for my guidance.

"Dump him," I insisted. I'm pretty sure he won't. Not now. But in a few weeks, he'll no doubt be calling me up to tell me that he should have listened to me. For future reference, friends, here's a checklist. If he exhibits any of the following tell-tale signs, throw your hands up and step away from the relationship.

1. He's hot and cold. You don't have to be a rocket scientist, or Katy Perry, to know that love with an inconsistent guy never goes anywhere good. As I told my friend yesterday, if you find yourself spending hours griping to your friends, analyzing all the minutiae of your daily interactions with your man, looking for clues that he cares, he probably doesn't -- or not enough.

A good relationship should relieve your neuroses, not feed them. Aren't there enough outside forces challenging our sense of security every day? Do we really need the one who claims to love us leaving us questioning our value? Has anyone picking petals off a flower saying, "He loves me, he loves me not," ever ended on the right one? If you have to ask, here's your answer: He loves you not.

2. He skips your first date. Would you ever forget about a big date with a guy you really like? Of course not. You're probably too busy thinking about him to forget that you have a date with him, right? Right. But hey, it's happened to the best of us: We get all dressed up and ready for a guy who doesn't bother to show up.

It's happened to me more times than I care to admit. The first guy to do it to me was my second boyfriend, who slept through our first date. "I'll make it up to you. I promise," he promised when he finally called me, interrupting my rebound date with my ex-boyfriend. He never did. They rarely do.

3. He can't keep his sucky taste in music to himself. I realize that not every guy can truly appreciate the best of the Smiths and R.E.M., but I've been forced to sit through enough boring YouTube videos to know a bad date when I hear one. There'll be plenty of horrible movies and terrible TV shows to sit through. Must afterglow be marred by cheesy romantic ballads or Argentine cabaret tunes on the soundtrack?

4. He's got itchy fingers. Would you whip out your lap top and start reading and sending emails while you're on a hot date? No? So how is receiving and answering one text after another any different?

One of the things I appreciated most about my last boyfriend was that in all the time we spent together, I can only remember three instances in which he answered his phone or read a text message while we were together. The only time he ever looked at the thing was when he was setting the alarm at night and pressing snooze the next morning. Flattery will get you everywhere, and there's no form of flattery more potent than undivided attention.

5. You meet him when he's on a date with someone else. I've got to admit, I've been on all three sides of this one. I've been the flirtatious date, the jilted date, and the guy sandwiched between two dates. The view from neither angle was particularly pretty.

It just dawned on me that a friend of mine met her ex husband while he was on a blind date that wasn't going well. At the time, I thought it was cute and kind of endearing. Now I just see it as terrible timing. If you're going to make a move on me, at least have the decency not to be on a date while you're doing it.

5 Great Songs About the Wrong Guy

"I'm a Ramblin' Man" Waylon Jennings


"Bad Boy" Miami Sound Machine


"It's a Wrap" Mary J. Blige


"Foolish" Ashanti


"Don't Fall in Love With a Dreamer" Kenny Rogers and Kim Carnes


Friday, August 24, 2012

The Heart and Synthesized Soul of Yazoo: Still Beating After 30 Years

Yesterday while I was pondering the meaning of life, I totally overlooked the 30th anniversary of the release of a truly groundbreaking album, which, during one of the most momentous periods of my life (my first year in college), was, in part, the meaning of life. August 23, 1982 was not just any day. It was the one on which the UK duo Yazoo found synth-pop's pulse and made it throb more soulfully than ever with its groundbreaking Upstairs at Eric's opus.

Do you remember what you were doing that day? I don't. But I do recall all the major details of what was going on some five years later, the first time I actually heard Yazoo's music. As I did with so many so-called alternative bands of the early '80s (including the Cure, my all-time third favorite, and, come to think of it, the Smiths and R.E.M., my first and second), I didn't get into Yazoo until a few years late, since I spent 1980 to 1982 transitioning from my pure-country phase into my mainstream-pop phase.

I'll never forget my first time. It was late 1987, during my freshman year at the University of Florida, by which time, I was settling comfortably into my alternative-music phase. One night, I was hanging out with some friends at the Treehouse Apartments complex, when something stunningly beautiful broke through the chatter.

It was like the voice of an angel lingering in hell. As I listened closely to the quiet desperation, that smoldering loneliness, I could have sworn I could hear the singer's heart breaking.

"Who is this?" I asked.

"Yaz," one of my friends said, referring to the group the way it was known, for legal reasons, in the U.S.

"Who?"

"Yaz. You know, Alison Moyet? This is her old band."

The song: "Softly Over," the second track from You and Me Both, Yazoo's 1983 second and best album.

Ah, Alison Moyet! I knew her not so well -- mostly from her 1984 hit "Invisible." I adored that song, and I loved her then-hot-off-the-press 1987 version of "The Coventry Carol" on the first A Very Special Christmas album, but I had no idea her musical genius went so far back. She was barely 22 when You and Me Both came out. Can you imagine Taylor Swift, now 22, even approaching that level of depth and womanliness? "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is no "Nobody's Diary"!

By the time I'd bought Upstairs at Eric's and You and Me Both on vinyl a few days later at Hyde and Zeke Records, I was hooked: Alison Moyet was officially one of my favorite singers. That Christmas when I went to Atlanta to visit my mom, a longtime country music fan who regards George Jones and Charley Pride the way I do Moyet, I remember playing "Nobody's Diary" (the opening track and Top 3 UK single from You and Me Both) for her, trying to get her to hear the beauty in Yazoo.

The group didn't really get its due with Mom, and as I've pointed out several times on this blog, Moyet never really got her due in the U.S. She did, however, enjoy considerable success in her native UK, where "Nobody's Diary" and two Upstairs at Eric's singles, "Only You" and "Don't Go," were all Top 3 hits. 

My love affair with Moyet's voice and music continues to this day. Surprisingly, though, while Moyet and Vince Clark reunited and toured in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Yazoo's break up (how fun), I've never once (until now) considered the possibility of new Yazoo music. I'm not so sure I'd want it.

Let Vince Clarke mess with his one-album legacy with Depeche Mode. (He recently reunited with DM's Martin Gore for the first time since 1981's Speak and Spell for a series of EPs and the full-length album Ssss.) Allow Moyet to ride on solo, which she hasn't done nearly enough since 2007's The Turn, though she's insisted that new music is forthcoming. I wouldn't want them to get together and disrupt the perfect history that the twosome made in two years (1981 to 1983) and two albums. They remain three of the most glorious twos in the history of music.

My 5 Favorite Yazoo Songs

"Softly Over"


"Nobody's Diary"


"Goodbye Seventies"


"State Farm"


"Ode to Boy"

The Meaning of Life

What is life?

Not to go all existential here, but lately I've been asking myself that question -- and actually sticking around for an answer.

It's a puzzle that has stumped great thinkers for centuries, one with which, to be honest, I hadn't troubled myself too much until recently. I always figured that if you spend an inordinate amount of time questioning life, chances are you weren't truly living it. No, I've never been shallow, but I just preferred to devote my depth to questions I might actually be able to answer: Where would I like to be tomorrow, next week, five years from now? Love or money? What is love? (I have some decent theories on the latter -- stay tuned.)

Lately, though, my growing paternal urges are changing everything. Suddenly, it's all about life -- giving it, shaping it, living it (even more so than before). I can't pass by a child under the age of 6 without wondering, What if? (Part of my recent baby fever must be due to the fact that I'm in a country where they all seem to be even more unreasonably precious than they were in Argentina.)

Thus begins a chain reaction of tough questions, always punctuated by the big one: What is life? The other day, after seeing a particularly adorable baby, I actually found myself wondering where it begins, when it begins, launching an internal debate about abortion which left me still in favor of a woman's right to choose, but wishing the options could be different.

When you start thinking about being responsible for another life, maybe you inevitably start thinking about what it all means. I haven't come up with any definitive answers yet. I'm not even sure if there are any. But I thoroughly enjoy reading -- and listening to -- the theories of others.

According to Merriam-Webster, life is...

1 
a : the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional plant or animal from a dead body  
b : a state of living characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
2
a : the sequence of physical and mental experiences that make up the existence of an individual  
b : a specific part or aspect of the process of living life

According to author James Frey, life is... "whatever you want it to be."

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's take on life? "The purpose is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."

In music and movies, it's so much more.  For starters, life is...
 
...sweet


...bad


...beautiful


...too short


...just a fantasy


...a highway


...a gas


...a miracle


...what you make it


messy...


Please feel free to leave your own theories in the comment box.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Iconic Bands That Didn't Change My Life, Part 1: New Order

I can think of few musical acts that have made me feel like more of an outsider over the years than New Order, legends of British synth-pop and perhaps the most un-photogenic band of its time. Depeche Mode's David Gahan once told me that DM never appeared on its album covers until 1993's Songs of Faith and Devotion because someone told the guys it was the only way to avoid cringing at their appearance years later, which must have been exactly why New Order never did it!

But getting back to New Order and my own misfit feelings, it's wasn't because I was New Order when New Order wasn't cool, but for the opposite reason. Everybody has always seemed to love them except for me.

I can still remember going to MFP, Gainesville's only alternative-music club, on weekends back when I was a freshman at the University of Florida and hearing New Order's "Blue Monday" every single time. Tracy and Suzanne, the two girls I usually went with, and pretty much everyone else in My Friend's Place would go crazy on the dance floor, while I shuffled back and forth, pretending to be into it, too, but secretly thinking, So what?

So what? It was 1987, and at the time, "True Faith" was the U.S. Top 40 hit. Still, everyone was going on and on about "Blue Monday," a 4-year-old (at the time) single that never made it past No. 68 on Billboard's Hot 100 in the U.S., but seemed to reemerge as a UK hit every few years. Neither one moved me -- on or off the dance floor. (It wasn't until Donna Summer's recent death that I found out her 1979 Bad Girls track "Our Love" inspired "Blue Monday," which I refuse to hold against the late Summer or her fabulous song.)

I always preferred Joy Division, the post-punk band from which New Order sprung, because its angst was rougher, real, not synthetic and perfectly manicured like New Order's. And this is coming from someone who has nothing against synthesizers. As Alison Moyet proved with Yazoo in the early '80s, synths and soul need not be mutually exclusive.

Perhaps at the end of the day, though, I've got a rock & roll heart. It's one that beats a little bit faster every time I hear Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and think that Ian Curtis, the guy singing it, died so young (in 1980, at age 23), after hanging himself. "Blue Monday" sounds like candy pop in comparison. When the surviving members of Joy Division reformed as New Order, it was like a chunk of their soul had died with Curtis. Give me the messy emotions of "Love Will Tear Us Apart," "Warsaw" or "She's Lost Control" over the orderly Teutonic pomp of "Blue Monday," "True Faith" or "Bizarre Love Triangle" every day of the week.

Joy Division "She's Lost Control"


Yet New Order's been on my mind more than Joy Division lately. It's partly because a friend of mine recently interviewed Peter Hook, ex-bassist for both groups, for a book she's writing on '80 new-wave music (I can't believe what he had to say about Bernard Sumner -- juicy!), and partly because I keep seeing commercials for New Order's upcoming Singapore concert on TV. (I can't believe how old Bernard Sumner looks, like grandpa not even trying to seem hip!)

What hasn't been on my mind much is New Order's music. In fact, with the exception of a few songs that I'll occasionally let play all the way through on my iPod -- "Confusion," "Fine Time," "Thieves Like Us" and sometimes "Regret" -- I've always respected (at times grudgingly) New Order more than I've loved them. And now that I'm privy to some of Sumner's diva antics, I have even less interest in his band. The show in Singapore will be going on without me, as the New Order bandwagon has been doing from day one.

5 New Order-Related Songs That I Like Better Than Most of the Band's Music

Revenge "Pineapple Face's Big Day" A single from Hook's side project (which I bought on 12 inch back in 1990) that was a more suitable companion piece to "Fine Time" on my college personal playlist than the rest of Technique, the 1989 New Order album I once owned on cassette (remember those?).


808 State Featuring Bernard Sumner "Spanish Heart" From 808 State's ex:el, the 1991 album that provided much of the soundtrack to my first year in New York City and included two 808/Bjork collaborations ("Qmart" and "Ooops") that had me prematurely wishing for her break from Sugarcubes two years before Debut.


Electronic "The Patience of a Saint" The Smiths' Johnny Marr + Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant + Sumner! That those two divas (plus Marr) were able to stand and sing united long enough to record two tracks (both of which appeared on 1991's Electronic and sounded more like Pet Shop Boys than the Smiths or New Order, although Tennant wasn't a full-time Electronic member) is one of the great mysteries of British synth pop.


Electronic "Get The Message" Just Sumner and Marr this time, but still, along with "The Patience of a Saint," "Idiot Country" and "Feel Every Beat," one of the reasons why Electronic remains a high point of early '90s Britpop. Got it?


Kylie Minogue "The One" The opening is pure New Order and the song the highlight of 2007's X, Minogue's first post-cancer album. Love me, love me, love me...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

1, 2, 3, 4... Am I Really Up for a Lifetime of This?

That's the question I ask myself five or six times a week, every morning when I get out of bed at 5.30am and prepare to go running around Lumpini Park, or hit the gym downstairs. Then I express gratitude for the promise of a new day, even if it's going to include at least an hour of sweat and torture.

Then I repeat the question: Am I up for a lifetime of this? To be perfectly honest and just a tad glass half empty, I probably have less than half a lifetime to go, but will even another 30 or 40 years be three or four decades too much?

When I bought my first-ever gym membership in 1995 at New York Health & Racquet Club in New York City, I wasn't sure how long I would last. I was giving it one year (that was the minimum membership requirement), but who knew what the future past 12 months from then would hold? If it included further renewals, I was going to make age 45 my cut-off point. At 25, I didn't want to be one of those fortysomethings trying too hard to look half my age. If I lived to be that old, I would have earned the right to let myself go a little, right?

What did I know? When I was a kid, I always thought I'd be married with children by 25.

When I was 29, I was supposed to stop going to bars at 30!

At 37, when I moved to Buenos Aires, I never dreamed I'd turn 40 there.

Now that I'm two years away from my initial workout finish line and in far better shape than I was half a lifetime ago, I'm less likely than ever to stop when I hit my mid-40s. I feel like the millionaire who needs to make more millions every time he makes another one. (If I were that guy, could I hire someone to wake up and go running for me?) How long will it take fab to turn to flab? I swear I can feel that dreaded F-word moving in after one sedentary day!

Several years ago, when I was in my late 30s, I decided that I'd probably keep it up until 60, if I live that long. By then the only difference between fab and flab would be a little L. That's what I told myself, while wondering, Who wants to be lifting weights and running around town when they're approaching retirement age? Now sixtysomething is looking younger every day. Maybe 70?

The good news is that my motivation for rising early and repeating "no pain, no gain" is no longer purely physical and visual. I can honestly say that my favorite benefit of keeping fit is the mental one. It clears my head, keeps me sane, inspires me. I'd say that I write at least half of my blog posts and most of my freelance writing assignments in my head while I'm on the run.

But I'd be fooling myself, lying to us all, if I said that the visual benefit no longer means anything. If I couldn't see the results of my early morning runs and regular workouts whenever I stand naked in front of the mirror (and trust me, that doesn't happen too often), I'm pretty certain that I'd try to find some other way to clear my head and get inspiration.

Maybe parenthood or a full-time 9-to-5 office job (which I haven't had since the summer of 2006, before which my hours were more like 10 to 9) would change everything. I'm still up at 6 even on days when I don't workout, but I'm pretty sure it would be considerably harder to do if I had to change diapers, feed the baby or be in an office by 9am. I probably wouldn't have to go running to think of things to write about, though, and I'd have a lot more to worry about than how I look when I'm standing naked in front of the mirror, like whether pushing my kid around in a stroller while running around Lumpini Park is good for me but bad for him.

My Facebook friends insist that the baby would be just fine. Either I'm not completely convinced, or I'm just looking for ways to get out of going running.

This Week's Best Workout Song Ever!

"Destiny" (Photek Mix) Zero 7

Monday, August 20, 2012

What If Shia LaBeouf Were a Woman?

Would a woman named Shia LaBeouf get away with the things a guy called Shia says and does?

Famous women may often get a free pass for cheating (would Jodie Foster publicly defend Adam Hann-Byrd, who played her son in Little Man Tate, for hooking up with someone who wasn't his girlfriend, the way she recently stood up for Kristen Stewart, her Panic Room daughter who just broke Robert Pattinson's heart?), but that might be where their lucky breaks end.

Famous men not only get paid better (generally speaking), but they have far more freedom to get wasted in public, trash hotel rooms, fist fight, kiss, and tell. Take Shia LaBeouf, who is quickly becoming as well known for his big mouth and off-screen antics as his acting. His most recent shockers: That he regularly showed up drunk on the set of his upcoming film Lawless (out August 31), and that his sex scenes in Lars von Trier's next film, The Nymphomaniac (starring Charlotte Gainsbourg -- so amazing in von Trier's last film, Melancholia -- as the title character), will be the real deal.

Of his Lawless-ness, he said...

"My drinking on this movie was as undestructive as I could possibly make it, if that makes sense.

"I did it for the movie. I didn't drink off set for no reason. I did it because, when I showed up on set the next day, my fucking eyes looked like this and my face... had that drunk bloat that I needed, that I couldn't have if that wasn't going on. Moonshine is different than liquor. Moonshine is closer to heroin."

Imagine if the roles and genders had been reversed, and his Lawless costar Mia Wasikowska -- who, according to a boastful LeBeouf, tried to quit the film to get the hell out of his drunken orbit -- had been the one getting hammered? Or if, say, Jennifer Lawrence were to give an interview talking about how she showed up on the set of The Hunger Games drunk, and had sex with Bradley Cooper while they were filming Silver Linings Playbook. What would become of her career? She'd make the cover of Us Weekly (cover line: "Jennifer's Meltdown!") and be an unemployed actress faster than you can say, "Lindsay Lohan!"

When LaBeouf does it, we laugh with him, at him and move on. Boys will be boys! It's the same old song with that too-familiar refrain: Men are party animals when they get a little out of control, studs when they have too much sex. So what that LaBeouf has been arrested multiple times for drunken unruliness and other assorted bad behavior and has admitted to being the other man in at least two Hollywood love triangles? Bad boys are sexy. Doesn't every woman -- and gay guy -- want one?

But who wants to be called a "bad girl" off-screen? Women are labeled drunken sluts or some pejorative equivalent when they get out of hand and act like guys. I must admit, I'm not above my own gender-specific reactions. While I read the reports of LaBeouf's antics and looked at the accompanying photos, I kept thinking how much hotter he looks with a layer of scruff. Jennifer Lawrence could never pull that off.

That said, when Lindsay Lohan started going out and going a little off the rails (before she started regularly endangering the lives of others by trying to drive while she was at it), I actually started to like her more. I already appreciated her acting talent onscreen (yes, talent -- she rocked in Freaky Friday, Mean Girls and Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen), but she'd become more interesting off-screen, too.

The same thing has suddenly happened to Amanda Bynes who went from being kind of pathetic when she announced her retirement from acting in 2010 to being finally interesting after her involvement in a string of recent auto misadventures: a DUI, a hit and run, getting ticketed for gabbing on her cell phone while driving, tweeting U.S. President Barack Obama and asking him to fire the arresting police officer in the DUI incident. Drinking and driving is never cool, especially when you have enough money to never have to drive, but Jennifer Lawrence's slightly dull image could use a minor scandal -- if not a role in which she gets to play an all-out bitch on heels -- right about now. (I still love her as an actress.)

If you're rich, young and beautiful, you should be going out, having fun and making mistakes. Lohan, and now Bynes, though, like many a Hollywood starlet before them (Tara Reid and Britney Spears come immediately to mind), took the Hollywood rebel routine a little bit too far. A woman out of control always risks being photographed looking like a hot mess (which is exactly how Kisa, the woman whom Bynes hit in her most recent L.A. driving mishap earlier this month, described her).

The fairer sex never wears that look well. One man's scruff is a woman's fashion nightmare. If you're going to be bad, at least try to look hot -- hold the "mess" -- while you're at it.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

4 Things I Learned About Vodka While Freezing My Ass Off in Bangkok

I think I may finally have found an exception to my "I'll do anything twice" motto. But I'm not 100 percent sure. I'm pretty hungover, maybe even still a little tipsy, so I'm not thinking too clearly. At the moment, however, "Drinking vodka while risking frostbite" is officially on my list of things I never need to do again.

Last night when a friend invited me to go to Ice Bar at Holiday Inn Silom, I didn't know what to expect. I was pretty sure that this time, unlike our previous adventure in concept drinking in Bangkok, there'd be no one having sex on a stage in front of me while I was trying to hold my liquor. It would be far too cold for exposing one's public appendages, let alone private ones!

My first impression when I showed up at the hotel was shock: I already knew that Holiday Inns in Asia are five-star-caliber, compared to the ones in the U.S. and London, which are just a step or two up from a cheap motel, but this was some grand hotel. I would have been perfectly happy to spend all night sipping cocktails in the lobby.

Then there was Ice Bar, one floor below ground level, tucked away in the corner of a huge Irish-style pub. For 500 baht (roughly $17), you spend 20 minutes inside the bar, which is cooled to a frigid 5 below (Celsius), while drinking all the shots of vodka your body can handle. The staff provides hooded winter coats and mittens but no chasers.

Not that you need chasers. The shots weren't pure vodka, as I'd assumed they would be -- which is one of the reasons I was sort of shaking in my boots before entering the freezer -- but rather sweet vodka concoctions. With the exception of the lemon-flavored one, they were delicious, especially the raspberry, which tasted vaguely like Robitussin. But like all fruity booze, they were dangerous, too. Who knew something so sweet could be so lethal?

I was actually ready to bolt after five minutes, not so much because I felt thoroughly wasted (and I did), but because I couldn't handle the freezing temperature, which felt far worse than anything I can recall during my 15 years living in NYC. But I sucked it up and stuck it out for 20 minutes and at least as many shots. I'm glad I did, because ultimately, Ice Bar was an enlightening experience. Who said you can't learn anything while drinking too much?

1. Absolut vodka can get you as drunk on an Arctic tundra as in a tropical rainforest. Before I went to Ice Bar, I did some online research and read somewhere that due to the cold temperature, I probably wouldn't feel the effect of the vodka until I stepped outside back into the balmy Bangkok nighttime air. So wrong. Maybe it had something to do with my tolerance being at an all-time low since I often go weeks without drinking a drop of booze, but after the first shot, I can distinctly remember my head feeling like it was beginning to leave my body. I couldn't feel my fingers either, but for an entirely different reason. Once outside, I felt the opposite of how I was supposed to feel: sober as a judge -- and sleepier than a bored one presiding over petty cash disputes in small-claims court.

2. Vodka can put you to sleep. By the time we were standing in the middle of DJ Station 15 minutes later, I was overcome with exhaustion. Had there been a couch near the bar, I would have been fast asleep on it.

3. Thais don't love their vodka. Or maybe they'd just rather not drink it on ice (the shot glasses were made of frozen water). Or perhaps the idea of an ice bar in the middle of Bangkok is something only a foreigner could love (though the two guys I went with were both born and raised here). The only other people in the place were tourists, including a gaggle of Australians who had dressed way down -- in shorts and flip flops! -- for the occasion.

4. Vodka and water mix. Either vodka has special H20-altering properties, or I've spent years avoiding sucking on ice in below-freezing temperatures for no reason. I'm going to blame my ignorance here on the fact that I somehow managed to graduate from both high school and college without ever once stepping foot into a chemistry or physics class (which isn't quite as shocking as my college-grad ex who once told me he'd never in his life read a book, but I digress).

For some reason, I always thought that lips connecting to frozen water would stick to it, but no such thing happened when we drank from the shot glasses. Their iciness made for slippery handling when grabbing them from the tray (which was not made of ice), but they also added to the wow-we're-getting-loaded-in-a-freezer-while-it's-90-degrees-outside novelty. It was fun while it lasted, but in the future, I think I'll enjoy my vodka the way God intended -- chilled, not freezing.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Thing That Really Bothers Me About Religion

Actually, there are several things. This beautiful morning in Bangkok, however, one thing in particular is working me, and like so much that has been bugging me lately, it involves Chick-fil-A's No. 1 fan.

In her August 16 exit tweet explaining her reason for closing her Twitter account, the actress formerly best known as Days of Our Lives costar Melissa Reeves, said a lot (by Twitter standards), yet she didn't really say anything at all. But as usual when it comes to the written (or tweeted) word, the juiciest stuff was between the lines: What isn't said is often as telling as what is said?

Reeves tried to rationalize her reason for leaving the Twitter party -- death threats and nasty comments against her and her family, the inability to express opinions in any meaningful way on the Internet -- but the one thing she didn't do, the one thing she never did in the weeks since this controversy began, is actually explain the meaning and motivation behind her original tweet.

What exactly was she trying to say? Why tweet a message in support of an organization on a day specially created to acknowledge said organization's right to push an anti-gay agenda? How does she feel about gay civil rights, gay marriage, gay people? Doesn't she owe some kind of explanation, some acknowledgement of her many (now-former) gay fans, the ones who have supported her and followed her (not just on Twitter) since she was a teen actress on Days in the mid-'80s?

Since she's the one who broached the subject with her Chick-fil-A-supporting tweet, opened the proverbial can of worms, this is what we want to know, and she does not have to explain herself on Twitter in 140 characters or less. Look at me now: I'm expressing yet another of my many opinions in far more than 140 characters. Twitter is not the only forum of online communication.

I suppose that in the bubble Melissa Reeves calls home, freedom of speech applies only to the one-way exchange of cryptic ideas. Apparently, the way Reeves and many of her supporters interpret the First Amendment, it does not extend to those who choose to disagree with those ideas or question them. I'm not talking about the idiots who issued death threats, but the people who respectfully challenged Reeves' initial post (like The Young and the Restless star Greg Rikaart, who personally responded to Reeves on Twitter and also wrote an excellent counter-argument for The Huffington Post) and were blocked by her for their efforts. And if she's so gung ho about First Amendment rights, why not exercise them to stand her ground rather than crawling under a rock?

As a journalist, I've spent my career dodging insults hurled at me by people who disagree with what I'm saying. Back when I reviewed albums for People magazine, I used to receive threatening letters from readers who couldn't believe I would dare criticize their favorite artists. This was back in the day before readers could communicate with writers in online comment sections. I couldn't fight back, but I didn't crawl under the covers and hide from criticism either. I continued writing. I continue writing.

Melissa Reeves, though, will not. And I suspect it is because she has no excuse, no defense for what she wrote. Rather than simply saying, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand the full implications of my actions," she's chosen to bury her head in the sand, and she's going to keep it there. But not until she got in one final word, with which she closed her exit tweet.

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. Mark 12:30"

What does that even mean, and how is it relevant to the Twitter shitstorm? Look, I'm not big on religion, but I support people's right to believe in whatever god they want to believe in (freedom of religion) as much as I support freedom of speech. That said, I'm always suspicious of people who end monologues, tirades or outgoing answering-machine messages with religious sloganeering or by quoting a scripture from the Holy Bible. To me, it comes across as patronizing and self-righteous, especially in the case of a woman whose "God-honoring" words ramble on about love while failing to actually exhibit any.

What about loving others with all your heart, soul, mind and strength? Do the powers that be at the organization that Reeves holds in such high esteem (that would be Chick-fil-A)? Perhaps if the folks who use God as an excuse to damn gay people harbored even a fraction of the love they're always preaching about, their arguments would be more effective. But all I hear is fear and judgement and hate. According to one Twitterer, Reeves conveniently left out the crucial following Biblical verse, Mark 12:31 -- "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." As I said at the beginning of this post, what isn't said is often as telling as what is said.

Coming from such sources, this particular brand of religion becomes harder for me to buy, and the God they speak of as real as any of the 12 who reside on Mount Olympus in Greek mythology. I never believed Zues, Hera or any of their immortal kin existed, but I've always gotten a lot more enjoyment out of reading about their antics than I ever did out of listening to any church sermon. That's probably because no one has ever tried to use them as a tool to arouse my fear and denigrate my life, as a weapon of mass destruction to prove me -- me, not just my beliefs, me -- wrong.

Where exactly is the love in that?

Friday, August 17, 2012

There Goes Kate Bush, Running up That Hill (Again).... to Big Boi?

Kate Bush perplexes me. Not just because I still have absolutely no idea what my favorite song by her, 1982's "The Dreaming," is about. Nor is it just because she hasn't toured since 1979, is rarely photographed in public, and takes forever-and-a-day breaks between studio albums then releases two in one year (2011's Director's Cut and 50 Words for Snow).

It's all of the above and more, including her no-show at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics. I was bewildered and thoroughly disappointed when I heard that Bush, who reportedly had been seen rehearsing in London for a possible live performance at the closing ceremony, was only represented by an unnecessarily remixed version of "Running up That Hill." I sort of had a feeling it was too good to be true, but could she possibly have had better things to do that night? (Same to Bowie and the Stones, featuring Mick "I will collaborate with will.i.am and Jennifer Lopez, but I'm too good for the Olympics" Jagger, both of whom reportedly turned down invitations to appear.)


A friend recently told me that Kate Bush wasn't Peter Gabriel's first choice to record their iconic So duet "Don't Give Up." Supposedly, he wrote the song with Dolly Parton in mind. I find this almost unfathomable. I love Dolly and all, but it's not like she was particularly hot in 1986. I can't imagine she was anyone's first choice for anything that year. I would have had an easier time believing that it was Annie Lennox, who would have sounded a lot better on that song than Dolly. At least she bothered to show up at the closing ceremony.


But getting back to Bush... Okay, I get it. She's mercurial and eccentric. That's one of the things I love about her. Who else would write a song inspired by an erotically charged passage in James Joyce's Ulysses (her 1989 single "The Sensual World") and make it sound like a medieval come-on in a corset? Even the Cure's Robert Smith was impressed. I once read somewhere that when the single came out, he was so enthralled by it that he played the 45 for anyone who stepped foot into his house. (He confirmed this story when I interviewed him in the '90s.)


Now there's an idea: a Robert Smith-Kate Bush coupling. For such a reclusive artist, Bush works incredibly well when she's mingling with other people. "Don't Give Up" is a deserved classic. "Why Should I Love You?," her collaboration with Prince, is one of the best songs on her 1993 The Red Shoes album. And her Elton John duet, "Snowed In at Wheeler Street," is the finest moment on 50 Words for Snow.



There are tons of great artists I could dream about and have dreamed about collaborating with Bush. Outkast's Big Boi was never for ever one of them. But according to a tweet that he sent out on August 15, a Bush-Boi musical marriage might be on the table. "Just Got off the Phone with Kate Bush !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" he boasted (yes, boasted -- and if you were he, wouldn't you, too?). My first thought was, Thank God it's not Andre 3000! Then, What does Bush know about Outkast? Did she, like me, prefer "The Way You Move" (Big Boi's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below showcase) to "Hey Ya!" (Andre 3000's)?

Frankly, had I been pressed to compile a list of likely rap collaborators for Bush, Big Boi would not have made it. I surely would have ranked Andre 3000 as a more likely cohort. But Big Boi is certainly a far better prospect than Kanye West (so obvious), Lil Wayne (so over-exposed), or Drake (so wrong for messing with Aaliyah's memory). Eminem has already been with Dido, Pink and Rihanna; Nicki Minaj has already been with Madonna and everyone else, including Rihanna (of course!); and Jay-Z has already been with Linkin Park, Colplay and, yes, Rihanna.

The more I think about the idea of Kate Bush and Big Boi, the more I love it -- especially since he's not interested in doing one of these 2012-style collaborations by email courier in which the participants never enter the same studio, let alone the same continent. He wants to go into the studio with Bush and jam, produce something from scratch.

It wouldn't be as holy an alliance as making a deal with God, but if it gets Bush out of the house and running up that hill again, I'd accept Big Boi as her final destination.