Friday, August 30, 2013

What Did Madonna Have that Miley Cyrus Doesn't (5 Things)

Every year, it gets worse. Music award shows fall lower on my radar, slip sliding away, down -- and, in some cases, off -- my list of must-see-TV. I used to take them all in, semi-religiously (though not nearly as much so as I've dwelled and doted on the Oscars since the mid '70s): the Grammys, the American Music Awards, the Billboard Music Awards, the MTV Video Music Awards. In my days as an editor at Teen People and Us Weekly, I used to attend several of them each year -- and I can't say I didn't thoroughly enjoy it.

Maybe I'm too old or too removed (literally) from the action, but I can barely keep track of when they're on anymore. I had no idea that the MTV Video Music Awards were being handed out last Sunday until the morning after (afternoon, Roman time) when I started reading the comments about them in my Facebook News Feed. Most of the commentary was about Miley Cyrus and her "controversial" performance with Robin Thicke, whose black-and-white candy-cane outfit one Facebook friend compared to Beetlejuice, providing an indisputable visual aid.

The reviews, I figured, must have been better than the show itself, which I still haven't felt compelled to watch in its entirety. Yesterday while channel surfing in Florence, I landed on MTV and caught the last 30 minutes or so of the ceremony. It reinforced what I already knew: I didn't really miss a thing -- not even Miley's latest bid for adult pop stardom (remember how flat "Can't Be Tamed" fell three years ago?), which I finally got around to witnessing on YouTube yesterday morning.

Verdict: I'd rather spend all day watching Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show on repeat than ever again having to be subjected to Miley Cyrus shaking her ass at Robin Thicke -- and mangling not only her own latest hit in her off-key way but also a verse from his sublime chart-topper "Blurred Lines," which has thankfully kept "We Can't Stop" from becoming Miley's first No. 1 Hot 100 single.

Watching her cavort around the stage like a puppy in heat with neither bark nor bite, I was less appalled by the sexual content of her performance than I was by how unsexy it was. Desperation is never an enticing come-hither look. Perhaps if Miley had a modicum of musical talent (or even a fraction of, say, Kelly Clarkson's), she wouldn't have to try so hard to command our attention. Kelly can perform in a sackcloth -- which she pretty much did during American Idol's "Idol Gives Back" in 2007 -- and still wow a crowd.

If her goal is to be the next Madonna, she's failing spectacularly. Anyone old enough to remember Madonna's VMAs debut (and the show's itself) -- in 1984, when she premiered "Like a Virgin" by rolling around on the floor in a wedding dress -- already knows that Miley is no Madonna. Sure they both have a limited vocal range, but what Madonna lacked in musical technique, she more than made up for in performance art. The "Like a Virgin" VMAs routine may have been campy, but that was intentional, and in the nearly three decades of shock antics that followed (the "Justify My Love" video, the Sex book, making out with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera at the 2003 VMAs), Madonna may have been a lot of things, but cheap and cheesy were never two of them.

Who knows if Miley even aspires to be the next Madonna -- or the next anyone? But if she wants to create half the ripple effect of Madonna at the peak of her attention-grabbing prowess, she'll need at least five things currently not in her arsenal of pop ammunition....

1. Timeless songs Five years into Madonna's recording career -- back when she was at the half-decade mark that Miley is currently straddling (along with the hottest male pop star she can get her crotch on) --  Madonna had already offered such enduring pop classics as "Holiday," "Like a Virgin," "Material Girl," "Into the Groove" and "Papa Don't Preach." I was never a huge fan of any of those hits (having not been particularly sold on Madonna's brand of pure pop until she began to pursue critical acclaim with the Like a Prayer album in 1989), but I can sing pretty much every lyric to all of them, whether I like it (or them) or not.

Right now I can't even hear the choruses of either of Miley's two pre-"We Can't Stop" biggest hits -- "Party in the U.S.A." and "The Climb" -- in my head. "We Can't Stop" is fresher in my mind, but only because it provided the soundtrack to the first half of Miley's VMAs bump-and-grind fest. In the 2030s, will anyone be dying to hear any of Miley's songs, or remember what she was singing when she had her VMAs moment 20 years ago? Did any of the post-show hoopla even mention her singing?

2. A woman's body Memo to all those female stars who think too thin is beautiful: Having the body of a teenage boy is not sexy. Miley, who will turn 21 on November 23, may no longer be a girl, but she's definitely not yet a woman, too paraphrase Britney Spears, who though also on the cusp of turning 21 when she sang that song, looked far more the part of a woman. Sure Madonna had more than 10 years on Miley when she started shoving the envelope with her early '90s sex phase (and she easily filled out that bullet bra), but that's precisely the reason why it worked. Miley looks like a little girl who just had her first orgasm and is trying to prove that she's all grown up now. Madonna didn't have anything left to prove in music circa 1992. She came across as a grown woman who just enjoyed sex.

3. Classy collaborators Madonna had Nile Rodgers (producer of "Like a Virgin"), Prince (her duet partner on Like a Prayer's "Love Song"), Warren Beatty (her costar in the 1990 film Dick Tracy and her boyfriend at the time), Herb Ritts (director of the "Cherish" video) and Naomi Campbell and Isabella Rossellini (two of her costars in the 1992 Sex book), among many other A-list cohorts. Okay, so Britney and Christina Aguilera were not the classiest pop stars on the planet when she made out with them onstage at the VMAs in 2003, but at least they were two of the biggest. Of the seven people it took to write "We Can't Stop," Miley is the one with the most impressive pedigree, which is a clue to how low she's aiming creatively.

4. An audience that hasn't already seen everything If the public hadn't watched Miley grow up as Hannah Montana, I doubt that anyone would have blinked at her VMAs performance. As it is, I suspect that people are more embarrassed for her than shocked by her daring. After all, from Madonna to Lady Gaga to the topless girls in Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" video, we've already seen everything, including Janet Jackson's nipple. Miley is a like a stripper who slides down the pole already fully naked, which, if the censors would allow it, she probably would have done, in a desperate bid to remain relevant in an age where, if you're a female pop star with limited talent, you're only as talked about as your last strip tease.

5. Better moves Is sticking out your tongue the new thing -- the "strike a pose" of 2013? It looks even more ridiculous when it's accompanied by "twerking," which, in one of her few opinions to which I'd proudly cosign, The View cohost Sherri Shepherd likened to a "ho move." It makes me long for the '90s days of "voguing." I never thought Madonna was much of a dancer, but compared to "twerking," "voguing" looks like high art, and when Madonna performed "Vogue" at the 1990 VMAs, she did so decked out in full 18th-century French royalty regalia. That, boys, girls and Miley Cyrus, is how pop legends are made.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

5 Random Thoughts I Had About the '70s and '80s While Watching Videos on Radio Capital TV in Rome

1. There was so much more to Bob Marley than the "hits" I used to always hear on keg-party soundtracks at the University of Florida. Interestingly (but not so surprisingly, considering how many international greats have been overlooked in the U.S.), the closest Marley ever came to scoring his own hit in the States was "Roots, Rock, Reggae." It peaked at No. 51 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1976 (his only single to reach that chart) and, ironically enough, was the Bob Marley and the Wailers single directly before "Positive Vibration," the non-charting (anywhere in the English-speaking world) one that led me to the conclusion that began this post. (Marley fared much better on the U.S. Top 200 album chart, where Rastaman Vibration, the album that contained the above non-hits, peaked at a career-high No. 8.)

2. Guys were much more secure with their masculinity back then. After Sunday night's MTV VMAs one of my Facebook friends posted a comment wondering why today's male pop stars -- even the ones from smack dab in the middle of suburbia -- try so hard to sound hood. I assume it's their way of exerting their coolness and their masculinity, which apparently, wasn't a priority for male pop stars in the '70s and '80s. Beyond the make-up and overly coiffed hair, male videos from the period featured an abundance of tight one-piece outfits, high heels and curiously feminine poses.

3. Do white people in the U.K. have more soul than white people in the U.S.? I've been wondering this for a while now, having been tipped off by a succession of British-bred blue-eyed soul acts over the years. Several days of Radio Capital TV presented yet more evidence, as I was introduced to (and reminded of) an assortment of soulful white acts from the U.K. who sang the rhythm and blues like they were born to do it.

4. The greatness of Underworld didn't begin with "Born Slippy" in the mid-'90s. Did you know that Karl Hyde and Rick Smith, who directed the music for the opening ceremonies at last year's Summer Olympics, had a pre-Underworld band called Freur? The outfit had an almost-hit in the U.K. (No. 59) with a odd but fantastic single called "Doot Doot:" that sounds nothing like the trippy-frenetic dance music that would make them stars.

5. John Waite was totally underrated. I already knew this, having been a fan of his work with The Babys before I ever heard "Missing You," but it's nice to be reminded. How many other musicians can boast of having big pop hits in three different decades in three different configurations? Robert Plant, who scored with Led Zeppelin in the '70s, solo and with The Honeydrippers in the '80s, and with Alison Krauss in the '00s with their Album of the Year Grammy-winning Raising Sand, is the only one who comes immediately to mind, though I know there are a few others. (Fun fact: Waite's 2006 cover of his only solo No. 1 reached the country Top 40 in the form of a duet with Krauss.)

Before Waite hit No. 1 on his own with "Missing You" in 1984 and as the frontman for Bad English, which reached the top with "When I See You Smile" at the end of 1989 and No. 5 with "Price of Love" in 1990, he was the voice behind "Isn't It Time" and "Every Time I Think of You," a pair of great, enduring late-'70s No. 13 hits by The Babys.

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before because I'm about to retell an often-told (by me) story: Waite once sent me a handwritten thank-you note, complimenting me on "getting it," when I wrote a review of Tina Turner's 1996 cover of "Missing You" in Entertainment Weekly in which I criticized her for defiantly screeching the lyrics (read it here), completely missing the tortured, intimate denial that Waite had captured in the original. Apparently, he's as gracious as he is underrated. (Fun fact: Turner's comeback hit, "What's Love Got to Do with It," was the song that had knocked Waite's "Missing You" from its No. 1 perch 12 years earlier.)

Five Cool Songs/Videos I'd Never Heard/Seen Before I Heard/Saw Them on Radio Capital One

"Love Festival" Kool and the Gang

"Forever and Ever" Demis Roussos

"Dancing with the Moonlit Knight" Genesis

"Jump to the Beat" Stacy Lattisaw

"More Than I Can Bear" Matt Bianco (featuring a young Basia!)

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

11 Reasons Why I LOVE Rome with a Capital L-O-V-E!

"The magic of visiting, but not living in, Rome is the theme of To Rome With Love."

That was my best friend Lori, making an offhand comment via email the other day that also may have encapsulated the theme of my third Roman holiday. In a couple of weeks, I'll be seeing her in Siena, a city in Tuscany, northeast of Rome. It will be our first reunion since she came to visit me in Bangkok in April/May of 2012. Then a few days later, she'll visit Rome for the first time.

Let there be magic -- again!

I haven't seen Woody Allen's 2012 follow-up to Midnight in Paris, but I already get it. How can anyone who has made three trips to Rome not? Interestingly enough, in all of the time I've spent visiting Rome, I've never once dreamed of living here (no offense to Rome, but I'll get to why in a future post), which is probably key to Italy's capital city's appeal. Mine is a big love without the complication of commitment -- not to the city, not to anyone in it.

It's nice to be able to fall in love with a place and admire it without any expectations and with all those grand illusions about it almost guaranteed to remain mostly in tact because you won't be overstaying your welcome. Buenos Aires probably still would be one of my Top 5 favorite cities in the world if I'd never bothered to live there.

But no such risk for Rome and me: As much as I love "the eternal city," I wouldn't necessarily want to spend an eternity here. That allows me to appreciate it without having to worry about negotiating the bureaucracy, learning the language, making friends, or adapting to the social culture. It keeps my love alive.

My first night in town, I rode home on the back of a motorcycle and saw Rome in a completely different light -- literally -- than I ever had before (the two previous times I'd been here). I didn't think it could possibly get any better. Then yesterday, walking from my rental apartment near the Arco di Travertino Metro all the way to the historic center between the end of the afternoon and dusk, Rome cast another spell. It was just as amazing but in a completely different way. It brought me to the brink of tears several times. I had to stop, blink, and just take it all in.

Later on, when I was talking to a Roman about my out-of-body experience walking around town, I expected him to brush it off because, well, he's lived here all of his life, and it must be no big deal to him. Much like Rome, he didn't fail to surprise me.

"You know, I have the same feeling every time I walk around the historic area. The amazing thing is when you realize that at each hour of the day, the light and the sun change atmosphere and sensation. It's like a phenomenal sublimation of your mind."

His expression of empathy (and the fact that an Italian guy was dropping a word like "sublimation" into everyday conversation) was part of the magic, which brings me to the first thing I LOVE about Rome...

1. I get the sense that people who live here love it, too. Upon my arrival in Berlin, I was told that complaining is the national pastime, a pursuit I was all too familiar with (and became even more so after a month spent there), having lived in Buenos Aires for four and half years. In Buenos Aires, everyone seemed to have a love-hate relationship with the place they called home. But when in Rome, I feel as if I'm surrounded by locals who are actually happy to be here, not always plotting an escape (except during the month of August, when all urbanite Italians are constitutionally obligated to retreat to the coast -- or at least want to), or griping about how things would be so much better somewhere else. And you know what they say: Do as the Romans do!

2. It helps me relive my school days -- in a good way! In high school, I took two semesters of Latin, which meant spending countless hours transcribing texts about historic Roman places I thought I'd ever see (the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the Appian Way...). Yesterday while walking down Via Appia Nuova, I thought about Mrs. Riggle (my high school Latin teacher), and I actually smiled, which has never happened before.

3. Chances are that hole-in-the-wall trattoria has Wi-Fi. So you can keep your friends around the world updated on your whereabouts with regular Facebook updates.

4. Radio Capital TV! When all is said and done, and I'm on a plane to Tel Aviv some 27 days from now, I will remember my third trip to Rome as much for all of the great retro music I saw and heard on my new favorite channel in the world as for anything I witnessed when I dragged myself away from the TV. And surprise! Unlike other retro playlists around the world, Radio Capital TV doesn't skimp on '80s R&B -- which, for me, defined the decade just as much as the requisite new-wave: Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Your Personal Touch," Womack & Womack's "Teardrops," Stacy Lattisaw's "Jump to the Beat," Roachford's "Cuddly Toy"... Somebody slap me! Alas, still no Klymaxx (possibly because the R&B all-female band never made it in the U.K., and apparently, Italians are as much Anglophiles when it comes to English-language pop as Argentines are), and, curiously, the occasional Guns N' Roses clip aside, no hair metal either. Day four, and not one Bon Jovi video.

5. All roads lead back to Colosseo. When I left home around 5pm yesterday, armed with my gay city map, which is better than any of the ones my landlords left for me, my destination was the Tevere (Tiber River). I went up Via Tuscolana to Piazza dei Re di Roma, then up Via Appia Nuova to Piazza di Porta San Giovanni. After admiring several breathtaking buildings, the sculptures perched atop them, and the descending sun hitting the scenery at just the right angle (see the main photo), I headed up Via Merulana to Santa Maria Maggiore to hilly Via Panisperna, where I went down and up and down and up and down before a wrong turn led me, unintentionally, to Rome's historic center, which brought me right back to Colosseo for the third time in five days, this time, though, not by Metro but by Via dei Fori Imperiali. I never did make it to Tevere, but the views I accidentally stumbled upon right before the gloaming were no doubt just as stunning. (And I still have so much to revisit and look forward to -- Fontana di Trevi, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps and Muccassassina, Rome's latest hot gay club -- in the coming weeks!)

 6. Via Panespera! By far my favorite street in Rome (above).

7. It's fast-paced and chill at the same time. Traffic whizzes by, but it always stops for pedestrians, who stroll across the wide vias and around the circular piazzas like they have all the time in the world.

8. You can buy two bottles of white wine in the supermarket for 3.18 euros and a half litre of house white or red at a hole-in-the-wall trattoria for 5 euros. Which is why I was slightly tipsy, with Emmylou Harris's 1978 hit (her first to go to No. 1 on Billboard's country singles chart) playing in my head, when I started to write this post.

9. The tap water is safe to drink. And man cannot live on cheap white wine alone!

10. The challenging terrain I suppose this is pretty par for (obstacle) course for a city built on seven hills. And maybe going up and down all those inclines and steps on foot (walking, climbing, running -- which I did this morning, retracing yesterday's path and taking Via di San Giovanni in Laterano back toward home) will mean that I won't have to shell out 55 euros for a month-long membership at Mister Gym, after all. 

11. You stumble across giant billboards like this one while running around town. Now if I could only meet a guy who looks like the one (barely) wearing blue and yellow at My Bar or Coming Out on Via di San Giovanni in Laterano, I might actually start to love those places as much as I love the Roman scenery (Colosseo! Ruins!) that surrounds them.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Planet(Romeo) of the Apes: Love and War Online in Europe

When it comes to soul mates, it's not how they meet (regardless of what cutesy Hollywood romantic comedies condition us to wish for) but that they meet at all. And these days, the Internet is as valid a means to that end as any other. I have a number of friends, gay and straight, who found the current loves of their lives while surfing the Web. I don't see it ever going down that way for me, but I remain open to the distinct possibility.

So if there are any gay men left who still object to online-dating websites and hook-up apps like Grindr, Hornet, PlanetRomeo and Manhunt (the ones I've used in the past few years, though there are a million more), they should reconsider. For guys who are still in the closet, it's the perfect way to reap the sexual benefits of gay life without participating in it full on. For those who've come out but couldn't be bothered to get ready to go out, you can find your match while lounging around unwashed and unclothed. If you're looking for fastlove (like George Michael in his hit from 1996, back when sex clubs and public parks and loos were still the best options), it's the perfect place to find it with minimal effort.

And finally, for those who think they'll meet higher-quality people in real life, judging from the number of guys who have messaged me after spotting me in a bar, a club, in the supermarket, running in the park, or walking down the street, the men you encounter online are the same ones you'll find off. The big difference: They're less inhibited online, free to express their true intentions from the safety of in front of the computer screen ("I want your body, not your heart," as Christina Aguilera sang on "Get Mine, Get Yours"), so if you don't fall for fake photos, artificial sweet talk and other assorted lies, you'll end up wasting less time with great pretenders. You no longer have to sleep with a guy to know that he won't call you the next day, and you will probably be spared the unwelcome discovery that you're dating a racist. People are far more likely to boldly and blindly spew their racism online.

On the downside, if you're looking for more than fastlove, or a conversation that doesn't include questions like "Top or bottom?", "What are you looking for?", "What are you into?" or "Horny?", you'll have to weed through a significant number of undesirables. I thought it couldn't get any worse than it was in Bangkok. After all, one would expect a city so dominated by the sex trade to be full of guys who are looking for only one thing online. Hence "fun" is usually the fresh catch of the day. What's love got to do with it?

I heard it through the grapevine while I was in Bangkok that European guys aren't the same online in Europe as they are in Bangkok, and for a while, that's all I had to go on. Before my arrival in Berlin in mid-July, I'd never experienced the online-dating scene in Europe first hand. I'd been told that guys would be more polite and less forward, and I figured out on my own that since I wouldn't be as much of an ethnic rarity as I was in South America, Australia and Asia, there probably would be fewer allusions to my skin color and that annoying myth ("Is it true what they say about black men?"), the bane of my existence for most of the past seven years (since I left the U.S. for Argentina on September 15, 2006).

In Germany, my expectations proved to be more or less on the mark. Most of the guys who contacted me were only looking for fastlove, but dominant opening line ("Sexy!") aside, they went about it in pretty much the same way that they would in person, usually asking my name and origin before "Top or bottom?" Curiously, in my entire month in Germany, I don't believe a single guy approached me speaking German, only English, which was different from my experience in Thailand and in South America. The guys that I did end up meeting face-to-face impressed me more on a conversational level than most of the locals I encountered when I went out.

So with my guard down, I was unprepared for the onslaught of crudeness that greeted my arrival in Italy a week and a half ago, mostly from Italians but also from horny guys here on holiday. I've seen more body parts shot at unimaginable angles in the last week and a half than I did in the two and a half years since I left Buenos Aires. (Who takes those graphic butt shots?!) And the guys had come-ons to match. Most of them were in Italian but by using my Spanish (to which Italian bears obvious similarities) and Google Translator, I caught their drift. (I also learned that Caio, which I always thought meant "Goodbye," also means "Hello.")

Why waste time asking my name or where I'm from when you can kick things off with a simple "Sex?"? And of course, as in every country into which I've stepped foot in the last two and half years, there's the dreaded "Top or bottom?" (or "Attivo o passivo?"), though for the first time since I arrived in Bangkok two years ago, no "fun" for "sex," or "Fun?" "XXX?" or "Hot pics?" some guys ask, suggesting that the shirtless ones in my profiles aren't hot enough. And while we're on the subject of my ego, I'm not sure whether to take the alarming number of guys who have asked if I am an escort, or if I would be willing to take money for the pleasure of being serviced, as a compliment or an insult.

I had no trouble, however, telling whether stern_mark, the 27-year-old with a photo-free profile who contacted me on PlanetRomeo yesterday meant to compliment or insult me. Yeah, I was a bit of a snarky jerk from the start but mostly because sometimes the only way to deal with the preponderance of inane introductions and profiles without photos is to have a little bit of fun with them. Why do people expect respect or a response when they aren't brave enough to show themselves?

All it took was an offhand sarcastic comment aimed at his opening line to set him off. He would have received a better response had his message come with a photo and without immediately identifying himself as "Asian," which insulted my intelligence and open-mindedness with its suggestion that he was in a hurry to get what he apparently saw as the one potential deal breaker out of the way. Or maybe he was bragging -- either way, I was thoroughly unimpressed. My response led to a breakdown of his composure and a complete expression of his true colors, which overshadowed any good points that he did eventually make (in message No. 12 below).

I forgot that sarcasm doesn't always translate well -- or maybe I just didn't care in that moment. But I don't think anything I wrote warranted his sweeping negative generalizations about black men -- "gorillas," as he calls us. Just because I was being a bit of an asshole, does that mean Joseph (the super-nice black guy from Washington DC whom I met on Friday night) is one, too?

I'm slightly ashamed of myself for baiting him in the first place, for not taking the higher road and for engaging him as long as I did. But a show of restraint on my part wouldn't have given me such a great view of stern_mark, a much better one than any photo would have offered. Tellingly, a non-Italian is one of the few guys in Italy who has even referred to my skin color or to race at all. Thanks to PlanetRomeo, another bullet dodged before it had a chance to be fired!

Here's how the battle (stern_mark vs. I_Travel) went down.

1. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:19
Hi Asian here now in rome
2. I_Travel 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:40
good for you lol
3. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:41
What u mean good for me. In what sense??
4. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:48
Why are u lol is there sny reason why u hv to laugh
5. I_Travel 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:49
let's just let this go. i'm not interested.
6. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:50
I'm not also I trested on u. I'm not interested on block guys
7. I_Travel 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:50
well then, you're the idiot because YOU messaged ME.
8. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:52
Sorry I'm just messaging a monkey like u want to give u a banana.
9. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 16:57
Pls observe respect in this site . U black people wherever u go ur true colours appear., u want to fight. Look back to ur origin famine drought. So be carefull what ur saying.
10. I_Travel 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:04
you are being ridiculous. i made a little joke and you got all bent out of shape about it. you are the one who brought color into it, first identifying yourself as asian, then going on and on about my being black. to me you just sound like a stupid racist. game over. you lose.
11. I_Travel 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:05
hahaha! thanks for confirming what i thought about you after getting your first message. you are a racist, chasing after a black guy when you actually hate black people. and you don't even have the guts to show your face. THAT is why i was not interested from the start.
12. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:13
U know in this chat . U should be carefull on what u write because it would mid understood., I was asking the reason why u laugh for no reason that's wh I ask u? N u don't answer . Lol means u are insulting me!!! For no reason . U don't hv to joke at me coz were stranger for both of us . U know what I mean. Be polite if I'm asking u just answer. Are u educated person . Did u ask my photos no coz u didn't., yes we here racist for black guy who act like u. U know I do t want to hv enemies here
13. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:15
Just be careful in Asia we do t want our blood to genes like u
14. I_Travel 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:18
whatever, dude. i'm done with this. i have more important things to do than engage in petty back and forth with a humorless racist. good luck in your search. i have a feeling you are going to need it.
15. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:23
U black people wherever u go ur always a troublemaker it's in ur blood gorillas!!go back to school. Educate urself .. Next time don't laugh if there no being funny I'm a nurse ur like my mental patient ill enter u to mental hospital
16. stern_mark 25. Aug. 2013 - 17:27
I'm not I tested never on black guys u spread d dideases u know that it's come from ur continent

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Last Night a VJ Saved My Life (in Rome)!

The thing I've always appreciated most about Rome is this: It's the metropolis as an outdoor history museum. Being in Rome's city center almost feels like living in the past. With all of the ancient architectural artifacts, sightseeing -- or merely riding home on the back of a motorcycle at 2am -- can feel sort of like time travel.

It's not exactly living history. Rome's vintage visuals are more like look-but-don't-touch museum pieces, no longer open for business, as opposed to in a city like Berlin, where centuries-old buildings that were conceived as one thing (a bank, an all-girl Jewish school) are currently still in use as something else entirely (a hotel, a five-star restaurant). But that doesn't make the Roman intersection of past and present any less vivid and spectacular.

Apparently, you don't have to enjoy opera, or understand Italian, to reap the benefits of Rome's past-present fixation in entertainment. Yesterday while channel surfing through dozens of digital-TV channels, aside from one that was airing an episode of Late Show with David Letterman in which the host was interviewing Serena Williams, I couldn't find a single network where Italian wasn't being spoken or being dubbed over English, not even CNN, BBC or any other international news channels.

Then as the remote landed on the Radio Capital TV channel, I heard a familiar guitar riff, one of the greatest in rock & roll history. It was "More Than a Feeling" by Boston, the '70s rock song most likely to get me to press repeat over and over when its playing on my iPod. Alas, as I had no control over what would happen when the song was over, my entertainment was in the hands of the unseen VJ.

Over the next couple of hours, he (or she) didn't fail to not bore me, offering a potpourri of Anglo-centric sounds from three decades of pop, soul and rock & roll: the '60s, '70s and '80s -- with only two '90s-and-on exceptions, Jamiroquai's "The Return of the Space Cowboy," which will turn 20 next year, and R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon," who now would be old enough to drink if he were living in the U.S.

"History will teach us nothing," Sting once sang (presumably ironically) on a track from his 1987 magnum opus ...Nothing Like the Sun, but it certainly makes for the perfect soundtrack to a quiet evening at home in an urban metropolis where history is actually everything.

History in the Mix: The Radio Capital TV Playlist, 24 August 6pm to 8pm (roughly)

"Disco Inferno" The Trammps Doesn't this 1976 single, one of disco's best-known anthems, seem like it should have been bigger than No. 11 on Billboard's Hot 100? I mean, does anyone even think about "Disco Duck" by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots (which hit No. 1 the same year) today?

"Maneater" Daryl Hall and John Oates

"You Shook Me All Night Long" AC/DC

"Silly Love Songs" Paul McCartney and Wings

"The Return of the Space Cowboy" Jamiroquai

"A Little More Love" Olivia Newton John I just read something about a dead guy being found in Newton-John's Florida home, which put her in the news at the same time as Linda Ronstadt, my other favorite pop diva from the '70s who was a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll. I'm devastated by Ronstadt's just-revealed diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease, which she says has robbed her of her ability to sing. But as my friend Lori pointed out on Facebook, maybe this will finally get the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to notice the genre's first female superstar who was able to sell critically acclaimed albums that also launched big hit singles. Unbelievably, Ronstadt has never even scored a nomination for induction into the hallowed Hall, which only welcomed the multiply nominated Donna Summer after she was no longer around to have one "Last Dance" at the induction ceremony. Speaking of which...

"Last Dance" Donna Summer As much as I enjoy a Katy Perry vs. Lady Gaga diva throwdown on the Hot 100 ("Applause," in particular, is growing on me, but would it have gone anywhere near No. 6 had it been Gaga's debut single?), cumulatively, pop's leading ladies today just don't excite me the way the monsters of '70s female pop did.

"Harlem Shuffle" The Rolling Stones

"Call Me" Blondie

"On My Own" Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald

"Hello, I Love You" The Doors

"Wouldn't It Be Good" Nik Kershaw I wasn't expecting to hear Kershaw's only almost-U.S. hit today, though if I'd had my choice of Kershaw songs, I would have picked "Human Racing" or "The Riddle," the latter of which I would get to see/hear on Radio Capital TV the morning after.

"Wishing Well" Terence Trent D'Arby

"Part Time Love" Elton John Now there's a Reginald Dwight song you don't hear every day -- or ever!

"Another One Bites the Dust" Queen

"Secret Separation" The Fixx Color me shocked! I wasn't expecting this one either. Though it was one of the band's four Top 20 hits in the U.S. (No. 19 in 1986), the one everyone remembers is "One Thing Leads to Another" (No. 4 in 1983). I was so in love with this song when it was on the charts, during the summer before my senior year in high school. Every week, listening to Casey Kasem count down the Top 40, I would pray that it would go just a little bit higher. I like to think that my entreaties to a higher power had something to do with its better-than-expected peak. One of a handful of songs whose music video I've ever purchased on iTunes, it remains my second-favorite single by the British band (which shockingly never enjoyed a hit in its homeland), after "Driven Out" (No. 55 in 1989).

"Living in a Box" Living in a Box It's puzzling how Daryl Hall aside, white boys from the UK (Steve Winwood, Joe Cocker, Elton John, Paul Weller, George Michael, Paul Young, Rick Astley, etc.) nailed blue-eyed soul better than white boys from the country in which soul music was invented.

"Ticket to Ride" The Beatles

"Hotel California" The Eagles

"Don't Get Me Wrong" Pretenders

"Money's Too Tight to Mention" Simply Red

"Man on the Moon" R.E.M.

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" Devo How is it possible that I didn't know this cover of The Rolling Stones first No. 1 hit existed? Even more shocking: It's so good, it doesn't make me want to hear the original. Who knew there was more to Devo than "Whip It," "Girl U Want," "Working in the Coal Mine" and "Let Me Tickle Your Fancy" (Jermaine Jackson's 1982 single on which the band played)? Looks like I'm going to have to dive deeper into the group's discography.

"Shake, Shake, Shake (Shake Your Booty)" KC and the Sunshine Band I like "I'm Your Boogie Man" better, but damn, that KC was so cute. I would have died if Mr. VJ had played "Give It Up," the band's 1983/84 comeback hit (credited solely to KC in the U.S.), instead.

"Eye in the Sky" The Alan Parson's Project

"I'll Fly for You" Spandau Ballet I still prefer Spandau Ballet in its pre-True incarnation as new-wave romantics. I'm still not sure how you get from "The Freeze" to "Lifeline," but that metamorphosis into practitioners of U.K.-bred blue-eyed soul probably saved Spandau Ballet from being just another '80s footnote.