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Scritti Pollitti in the New York Times


Green Gartside, the man behind Scritti Pollitti, is the subject of a profile in today's New York Times.

“White Bread Black Beer” — the title refers to his starch-and-Guinness regimen, and to the notion of “white bread” pop, which he has often defended — prompts a facile question. If the band’s early work was about dismantling pop, and then the mid-80’s phase was the apotheosis of pop, then what’s the new album about?

Mr. Gartside drew a deep breath and shifted into theory. He spoke of the impossibility of free will and truth; of neo-pragmatism, the philosophy sometimes associated with the philosopher Richard Rorty; of the unfair critical “privileging” of rock over pop, and the ways in which truly popular music hasn’t answered the logic of late capitalism in the same predictable way that the indie-rock tradition has. One glimpsed the porcupine he must have been as a younger man: combative, sardonic, high-strung.


Podcast: Rip it Up & Start Again (Post-Punk)

The Worst Thing You Did As A Kid


Yesterday's contest asked you, our beloved public, to tell us what the worst thing you ever did as a kid was. Your responses are below. If you'd like to share a story, add it to the comments!

"The most worst thing that I did as a child involved putting my hamster in a ball and rolling it down the stairs, repeatedly."
"There was a guy I didn't like when I was in the 9th grade named Donald. We found ourselves at the same bus on our way to a drum line competition. He told us all the riveting story of how, as a young child in the Philippines, he had seen his father bludgeon his mother to death, and how he'd been really messed up psychologically by that ever since. Since I really didn't like this guy, the sympathetic part of me shut down and I instead saw this story only as Donald's desperate attempt for all of us to feel sorry for him. So, I proceded to make up my own story. About how my twin bother had been hit by a car when he was a young boy. And how I was holding his hand at the time he was hit by the car. And how his severed arm was still clenching onto my hand as the rest of his body flew down the road and eventually crumpled to a heap 200 feet away. "Really?" a member of my rapt audience asked. "No!" I replied. Everyone laughed and laughed. And no one seemed to care about ol' "Bludgeoned Mother Donald" anymore, so mission accomplished! Yay!
So basically, I tried to one-up some guy's story about his mom being killed."
"Background: From elementary school through junior high, I longed to be popular. I guess that's cliche, but honestly, I was the type of kid that would betray anyone or say anything just to be popular. I didn't care. I wasn't a complete nerd; I was just this plain-vanilla, middle-of-the-road type kid, so sometimes I hung out with popular kids, but most of time, I hung out with other nerds or by myself.

And now the confession In fifth grade, I was insanely jealous of one of my classmates, Laura. She was beautiful and popular. I was actually friends with Laura. She lived near me, so we would go over each other'shouses sometimes after-school or on the weekend. At some point during the year, I got really mad at Laura (I don't remember why). I wanted to give her the silent treatment, but that wouldn't work, since she was my "in" with popular crowd. Instead, I wrote her a really mean letter. I don't remember what it said exactly, but I'm sure it involved calling her "ugly" and "stupid" and was probably a bit threatening. I forged the note as being signed by Becky, the absolute least popular, most-hated girl in class. I left the note in Laura's pencil box when she wasn't looking. Eventually, Laura found it, got upset and reported it directly to the teacher. I, then, wrote Laura a second nasty note, also signed by "Becky", about how stupid she was for tattling. The teacher, who was not a sleuth, eventually
confronted me about writing the notes. (A tip: when forging threatening notes to classmates, you should attempt to alter your hand-writing to look like theirs at least *a little*). Upon being confronted with such an awful act, did I break down crying and beg forgiveness? Absolutely not. I did break down crying, but it was to protest my innocence and offer up other classmates as potential perps. I know the teacher didn't buy my charade, but since I didn't write any more mean notes after that, she didn't pursue it any further.

So, I never got in trouble for writing the notes. Most importantly, my parents never found out. And the whole thing eventually blew over with Laura, I think. I moved to a different town the next year.

No one except you, me and the teacher (whose name escapes me at the mo) knows I did that."
"Once I gave my little brother some Wheat Thins to eat on which I had secretly spread mustard."
"the thing i got into the biggest trouble for as a kid, and did completely in the spirit of maximum fun and with no malice in my heart, was my best friend and i covered our feet in vaseline, traipsed through my carpeted house to the hardwood entranceway, and then "ice skated." it was awesome, and i got in sooo much trouble the next morning."

"The worst thing I did as a child was burn my neighbor's house down. I was 8 and at the age were I apparently decided it was cool to commit felonies. The house was still under construction and I put a match to the outside tyvek paper and it went up in flames quick. I had my older sister call the fire dept., and they put it out. The fire dept. interviewed me for weeks about it, but I guess I was convincing enough in my denials. Looking back, I can't see how they didn't know it was me."

"This was a tough one for me. As a kid I don't necessarily remember doing very many horrible things to people. I'm sure at the time I thought I had many horrible things done to me, but mostly the other kids ignored me. So on the last day of elementary school, as I was walking home, I decided to take my revenge on one of the kids I thought tormented me the most. I don't really remember him doing much of anything to me, he was just the most annoying about not liking me. He was a very paranoid kid, often "tattling" to the teacher for things that didn't really happen. At his most annoying, he would interupt the teacher a few times a day to tell the teacher someone had "flipped him off", though he probably didn't know what that meant and certainly no one else in the class knew. But I had decided he was the meanest kid, so on the way home from school, I spit in his hair. First I spotted him up ahead of me, started running, spit on him as I passed, and kept on going until I got home. I'm not sure if he realized what had happened, because I don't think he came after me. He was probably just confused."

"When I was about nine or ten, my friend Thomas and I were addicted to the video game Moon Buggy, up at the rec center near our house. However, being broke kids, we couldn't play to our hearts content, so employing the creativity that is the mother of all counterfeiting schemes, we wondered if xeroxing five dollar bills and putting them in change machines would give us a bounty with which we could sate our Buggy jones. After xeroxing a sheet full at his Dad's law office...LAW office, Thomas and I carefully cut up our faux cash, and took our ill gotten gains up to the rec center, put 10 fake bucks into the changer and got forty quarters! for free! We played for an entire afternoon, went home, and the next day, returning to the scene of the crime, we noticed the change machine now living behind the front desk, so no change could be made without supervision. We sweated a bit, but then figured nobody could tie us to the crime. Until Thomas' older brother, on a seperate visi! t asked about the change machine, and busted us. Our parents got called, and lucky for Thomas and I, my
parents happened to know a creepy guy who worked for the local Juvie Hall, and thought it might be fun to pull some scared straight stuff on us. We were summoned to a meeting at the rec center with two guys in suits who were from the Secret Service. Yeah, that Secret Service. We lived in the suburbs of Washington DC, so I think they were legit, although looking back, you could have put any two creepy dudes in bad
suits, and we would have thought they were superspys, but we got a stern talking to, and were told never to tell anyone how we did it, so I guess I'm screwing up my parole, but I think the statute of limitations is up after 27 years. So, yeah, the Secret Service was involved in my most embarrasing childhood prank."
"I stole a Sesame Street magazine. Honestly. The worst thing. I've been a much worse teenager and adult than I was a child."
"Once while my family was shopping at the mall, I hid in a department store just to see if my mom would panic."
"The worst thing I ever remember doing as a kid was in first grade. I drew a picture of a "naked lady" in my notebook, and started passing it around to my friends. It got snatched away by the teacher, and I ended up going home that day, picture in hand, with the assignment of getting it signed by my parents and brought back to school the next day. I was terrified of showing it my dad, but when I did, he just looked at it and laughed. Awesome."

"I was 9 or 10 years old and spending the summer at a hockey-themed camp that was run by a really scary, kind of old school Boston Irish guy named Pat that didn't really tolerate no horsing 'round. So I took all this to heart and kept tight control over my behavior, thinking I was gonna do fine. Inevitably, though, I must have done or said something to get everyone riled up, because one morning in the locker room I found myself in a screaming match with another kid. I think he was younger than me, and likely a better hockey player, none of which I took kindly to. He had really thin hair--not really noticeable if you didn't look hard, but as I was sort of scanning him for possible defects, this jumped out at me. So now we're yelling at each other and, grasping at an insult, the only thing I can think to call him is "Bald." He doesn't say anything, and leaves the room, at which point another kid turns to me and tells me that Pat is going to kill me when he hears about this. I have no idea why. Genuinely. He explains that (of course) the poor kid had some kind of disease, or had undergone treatment, which left his hair looking the way it did. I swear that the possibility hadn't crossed my mind, though it seems obvious in retrospect. I never did get in any trouble, though of course, years later, that kid probably still thinks of me as an enormous jerk or a really cruel person, which is kind of frustrating because I'm a nice guy! It actually depresses me to think about it."

"My dad had hid the boring balloon between the mattress and box springs. What a weird thing for a six-year-old girl to find hidden. It was, after all, my parents' bed where I sensed there was little shared happiness.

I remember thinking the open loop too big for my ring finger, too rubbery for a fun toy and too small to put on my puppy's nose.

Ah, but so very fashionable!

I slipped it on my new turquoise cowgirl belt and wore it to Sunday School before anyone, especially me, understood my lack of fashion sense!

The Sunday School Superintendent apparently pulled my Mom aside after class and asked for an explanation. Not believing she hadn't noticed on the condom was there before Church, my Mom thought the woman didn't know how much about balloons and told her she'd get some for the whole class so we all could share.

Anyway, in the parking lot my Mom saw her mistake.

She ordered me to take "the balloon" off the belt and then bought me a sack of the shiniest, strongest, most expensive new mylars.

I've never seen a condom without remembering that happy Sunday afternoon when I scored the prettiest balloons of all!"

Where is Saturday Night Live headed?


For a while, it looked like Tina Fey's promising SNL-behind-the-scenes sitcom, 30 Rock, was going to be a midseason replacement, to avoid conflict with Aaron Sorkin's SNL-behind-the-scenes dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. When NBC announced their lineup, though, both 30 Rock and Studio 60 were slated for Fall premieres -- most likely because they both had exceptionally strong early buzz. One has to presume that that early buzz is also the reason she's made final and public her decision to leave the late-night show, after hinting at it late last season. Here at TSOYA, we're simultaneously hoping that her sitcom delivers on it's promise, and that fresh blood in the drivers' seat at SNL will right that listing ship.

What hasn't been discussed as much is the other changes that are coming to SNL. Lorne Michaels has announced significant cast cuts at the venerable program, which he blamed on budget cuts by NBC. Not only is Fey leaving (and taking Rachel Dratch, who co-stars on 30 Rock, with her), but so will several other castmembers. Rumor has it that Maya Rudolph, Finesse Mitchell, Horatio Sanz, and Chris Parnell will leave as well. Some might disagree, but that of that list, only Parnell will really hurt the program in his absence. That said, Fey, Dratch and Parnell are three of the program's strongest performers. The Apiary is reporting that the scouts are out looking for featured players in NYC, but who will fill the shoes of these three talents?

Here are a few more questions for next season:

Will Fred Armisen ever find an organic place in the cast, outside of his generally stellar recurring characters?

Will Kirsten Wiig fulfill the promise she flashed in her first season?

Why is Darrel Hammond still on this show?

Is Andy Samberg a real star, or is he the next Jimmy Fallon -- charming and innofensive, but ultimately a cypher?

Are Will Forte and Seth Meyers funny? (Seriously... you tell me.)

Is that the guy from Keenan and Kell? If so: how come he hasn't gotten any better since he was like 13?

Is Amy Poehler ever gonna do the weird, crazy shit that made her so funny on The Upright Citizens Brigade, or is she gonna continue to be cute or whatever?

What is your answer to these pressing questions, dear reader? Do you have questions of your own?

Today's Contest: Paul Mooney's Analyzing White America


All you have to do to enter today's Sound of Young America contest is email contest at maximumfun dot org, and tell us the two sketch comedy programs Mooney is most famous for working with, and the comedy legend who gave him his start.

As usual, be sure to include your name and address in the email, and let us know if you don't want to be on the email list.


Congrats to Paul from Philadelphia who correctly answered In Living Color & Chappelle's Show and Richard Pryor.

What's wrong with these people?


I am sick and tired of people telling me they don't ever pay attention to the critics, and then turning around and telling me they're going to watch some movie the first day because they liked the TRAILER.

These people trust their ability to interpret a two-minute advertisement over their ability to interpret a relatively in-depth consideration of the film by a professional. It's thinking like this that is WHAT IS WRONG WITH AMERICA.

Here are some BS excuses for this dumbass behavior:

"What am I going to trust, my own eyes or some writer?"

They saw the movie, you saw a commercial for the movie.

"Critics are biased against XXXX."

So take that bias into account. Or find a critic whose perspective you agree with. Or just discard the notion that you have to agree with the critic -- the critic's job isn't just to grade a film. A good critic gives you the information you need to make your own judgement. And the information you want to think more deeply about the film afterwards.

"But Critic X said XXX movie was good and I hated it!"

Well, the trailer for Kangaroo Jack made it look like a madcap romp starring a talking Kangaroo, and it was actually just Anthony Anderson in a desert.

Don't rely on one critic, get a sense of critical consensus and its basis. Find critics you trust, and think of them the way you would a friend -- if your friend reccomended a movie, you'd consider the source and their taste, and even if your tastes didn't match, you'd get a good idea of whether you'd like it.

A trailer is just some s**t that might not even actually be in th movie.

"I am a dumbass."

Yeah, you are, rhetorical device, yes you are.

Michael J. Nelson's RiffTraxxx


Mike Nelson's been on The Sound of Young America a few times, mostly talking about his books. I've never had the personal attachment to Mystery Science Theater 3000 that some have (coughJordancough), but I will say that he's pretty much the nicest funniest guy ever. Or at least, in my experience on The Sound of Young America he's pretty much the nicest funniest guy ever. (Here's one of the interviews, by the way.)

In the years since MST3K, he's kept himself busy authoring three funny books and most recently recording a few commentaries for campy DVDs like the original Little Shop of Horrors. Now, he's taken the latter occupation one step further with something called RiffTrax.

Despite its awful name, it's a fun idea. Nelson records commentaries for movies, and sells them as MP3s. You download them, put them on your MP3 player, rent the movie, and watch it while listening to your MP3 player. Then Nelson makes some funny jokes.

The first film in their soft, beta launch is Nelson's all-time favorite, "Roadhouse." The Patrick Swayze vehicle is certainly ripe for mockery. Check out and enjoy!

Neil & Paul


Neil & Paul are bringing their sketch show, "Growing Up is Tough" to the UCBT in New York. Their enthusiastic silliness reminds me of Pee-Wee Herman, which one of my top ten favorite things, so that's high praise. The Apiary went inside with them, talking about their program. I love them so much that I wouldn't be surprised if I accidentally made out with them once I moved to LA. New York TSOYA-ers, get your butts to this show.

That's it... I'm calling a ROBOT-OFF!


Yesterday, I challenged Sound of Young America listners to design and name their own amazing robots, and wow! What a haul of great robot designs!

Like check out this one, from Ameen in Los Angeles:
Looks pretty tough to me! Too strong!

Here's one from Carol in Connecticut, but it doesn't have a name. Any ideas?
And here's one from Michelle, who says, "His name is Kruegal, and his lower torso is a minimicrowave. He's sad all the time." A mini-microwave? I could use this one around the HOUSE!
Neal in Somerville, MA offered up this robot called Oafbot, but it seems like he didn't understand the contest... because SOMEONE NAMED LEONARD designed it!

Andy, one of our FOREIGN FRIENDS from the United Kingdom, submitted this robot, who looks like HE OR SHE could use some EXERCISE!
Lenny in Oceanside, New York made Maximillian Fun -- specifically to help out YOURS TRULY!
Mike found out what happens when you mix BOTS and DINOS. You get Gibbons the Tyranobaut Extraordinaire! Bad news for CIVILIZATION.

Looks like Ryan's robot might be useful in a boudoir! His name is DIDDLE BOT.
Holy cow! Half ROBOT half HEART half HORSE? Great work, Jill!

And by random selection, the winner of the Iron Giant DVD is LENNY! Congratulations! And of course, everyone wins by sharing their great ideas and art with the world.

The Del Close & Charna Halpern Roundup


The Apiary's new Chicago branch office, The Bastion has a fascinating interview today with Charna Halpern, improv guru and founder of the Improv Olympic. She helped keep improv super guru Del Close on track in his later years, and helped train artists like Vince Vaughn, Mike Myers, Amy Poehler, and Rachel Dratch. The IO's name recognition can't match that of its Chicago forebearer, The Second City, but it's impact on comedy rivals its more well-known counterpart. Halpern also recently launched a blog of her own, with stories from the early days of Chicago improv and much more.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater is gearing up for the Del Close Marathon, a tribute to Halpern's partner-in-art. Close was the Big Idea Man of improv, and his legacy is celebrated with a weekend of 24-hour-a-day improv. Last year at this time, we talked with Anthony King, the theater's artistic director, and Ian Roberts of the UCB about the festival, and with Jeff Griggs about his fascinating book on Close, "Guru." Here's the MP3 of that show.

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