Voting Off

The presidential election in the United States of America has been a long hard slog so far, and we ain’t nowhere near the end yet. This truth is a particular problem if you happen to work for one of the major networks. “How”, the purveyors of infotainment seem to wonder, “can we keep this presidential campaign thing interesting, particularly when we’ve re-hashed all the usual human interest stories about babies plummeting from windows?”


ABC, the network that only this week returned to writer-driven programing, solved this problem recently by casting a democratic national debate as one of the worst reality television shows ever conceived. Sadly, by the account of Tom Shales, columnist for the Washington Post, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson gave “shoddy, despicable performances” as the debate hosts.

Admittedly, the problems for a TV network trying to one-up Survivor with the inherently boring TV debate format are readily apparent. After all, what do you get in a presidential debate? Some podiums? People dressed nicely answering questions about issues and ideas? Issues and ideas? You’re kidding, right? This is where ABC apparently thought “shoddy and despicable” could really work in favor of the network. In the blink of an eye, issues and ideas turned into lapel pins.

Really, ABC? It ought to be obvious that for reality television, you need props. You need carefully engineered physical challenges. You need colorful flags with tribe names printed on them that will be raised when puzzle pieces are put together. Or, you need people singing in a “pitchy” manner, say 42 cents sharp or flat, depending on the key or range. Plus, you need real reality hosts. They should be able to say things like, “immunity, back up for grabs” over and over again without any hint of irony. Typically, the hosts should “have issues,” not talk about them. Glassy-eyed hosts that may or not be on a lot of pain killer are also a viable option.

As for the presidential candidates themselves, they did not just bump off the turnip truck yesterday. Down to a person, they all know that exciting, dramatic things are more exciting than non-exciting non-dramatic things. Here, Obama is the lucky (and skilled and talented) one. Just take in one of his speeches. Hillary Clinton—no lightweight either—tries to think up something exciting about herself every day, and so out of the Hollywood-Back-Lot-of-Her-Mind comes sniper fire.

Yes, all the world’s become a reality show, and all the men and women merely one episode from being voted off. But as John McCain might put it, “Remember my friends and constituents, this “reality” is the Real Reality, and canceling the show is not an option. When voting in the race for those in the running towards becoming America’s Next Top Banana, remember to harness the awesome power of the american people’s brain.”

And Now, An Apology

Commander Trombone apologizes for the lack of recent updates, and his general silence about things in general. Seriously, what happened to the month of March? The last thing I remember, there were those nasty ides of March to beware of, and now … it’s April, the cruelest month.

Anyway, what’s the Commander been doing recently? Well, he’s been writing about himself in the third person, and if that isn’t annoying enough, he’s committed a Hillary Clinton 3 A.M. ad parody. Not a very good Hillary Clinton 3 A.M. ad parody, mind you. See here.

Back soon…

Aurex Jazz in Translation

Out of the randomness that makes up YouTube content these days, real surprises occasionally surface that don’t have to do with dogs riding skateboards or cats playing the piano. One such find is the “Aurex Jazz Special” that aired on Japanese television in the 80s, apparently concurrent with the Aurex Jazz Festival. In the clip below (click movie to start play), J.J. Johnson explains his early musical influences:

There’s also a version of Jay and Kai playing It’s All Right With Me with a rhythm section that includes Tommy Flanagan on piano and Roy Haynes on drums. On what seems to be the same occasion, Dexter Gordon and Clark Terry join for I’ll Remember April, and Milestones. There are a few awkward Lost in Translation moments during the show as the musicians smile and “play along” with whatever is being said by the show hosts.

Holiday Redux…

The nephew

OK, so I know all that stuff I said about holidays and enjoying the holidays, and avoiding the holidays, and etc., but none of that happened, possibly except for the enjoying part, which somehow happened anyway.

What else, you might ask, did I manage not to avoid? Well, in the above picture, you can see the rough-housing nephew. With the nephew, I did lots of throwing around of an exercise ball. Alternately, and for the entertainment of the nephew, I pretended to be sisyphus, pushing an exercise ball up to nowheresville and falling back down again. In the process, I think I herniated the sisyphus disc. Funny thing about the sisyphus: the nephew had never heard of sisyphus. Seriously kid! You’re 7 years old! It’s time you heard of sisyphus, and what a sisyphean task it apparently is to keep you entertained with an exercise ball, despite the presence of a nintendo Wii!

Don’t get me wrong—I’m very fond of the nephew, but it was relief to get back to Minneapolis, MN. Minneapolis, as you may not know, is now known as the “quasi-frozen” or “tepid north,” and also the home of underground flamenco music.

Happy New Year.


on the road in fog

The holidays are upon us, and this means the usual mixture of travel, panic, and general dissatisfaction brought on by unreal expectations of Nintendo Wii availability. It’s sad, really, that the “holidays” may have been holding you hostage for some time, but do not fall prey to Stockholm Syndrome! Remember, you can break free of the insidious holiday cycle, and it’s easier and cheaper than you may have imagined.

Try any one of the following:

  • Celebrate The Holiday In Question

    In this scenario, there is limited emphasis on preparation, and more emphasis on celebration. Do not drink to excess unless you are in for the duration, however.

  • Try Festivus

    It’s the new holiday everyone’s is talking about, requiring only an investment in a metal pole, if that. The patron saint is Jerry Stiller; Festivus features “feats of strength” and the “airing of greviences.” More information is available in the Festivus Wikipedia article. There’s also a website and book. Seriously, you can celebrate the birth of The Savior any time.

  • Opt Out Entirely

    As demonstrated by many people over the years, this is a completely viable option that can involve “disappearing” into a small “wood shack” just off rt 10.