Gen X’s Top Ten Pump Up Jams (of All Time)

May 6, 2009

Here it is, Generation X.  Our Top Ten Pump Up Jams.  These are the songs that rocked the bleechers of every high school pep rally from 1987 to 1995.  There is no dispute to this list — it was definitively complied by through market research — i.e., my veiled recollection of the past — and several heated debates with my cat, Estelle.  So, after much debate and a cat fight or two, here is the final list:

10)  The Final Countdown, Europe — the only thing prettier than leader singer Joey Tempsett was his angelic voice.  C’mon, you know you love it.

9)  Good Vibrations, Mahkie Mahk and the Funky Bunch— Don’t hate, and don’t lie.  When they boomed this in the high school pep rally in ’91, you were feeling it — I don’t care who you were, or who you thought you were , you wanted to be Mahky Mahk doing arm curls with cinder blocks in an abandoned warehouse. 

8)  Ice, Ice Baby, Vanilla Ice — Say what you want, and I can hear the groans now.  The bottom line is, Queen rules, and Ice had a moment — a moment he’s ridden for the past 18 years.  ‘Nuff said.

7)  Turn This Mutha Out, MC Hammer —  Hammer’s gotta make the list.  I know you thought I’d go with “U Can’t Touch This”, but — pound for pound — “Turn This Mutha Out” was a much better pump-up song and, after all, that’s what this list is all about.   Go ahead, youtube it — it’s nice.

6)  Everybody Dance Now, C+C Music Factory— Another, “what the hell was that?” music collaboration from the early ’90’s — a singer that looked like Jody Watley, but wasn’t.  A rapper/ body builder who looked like a pump-up Rico Suave.  I didn’t get it, and yet we all got it at the same time. 

5)  Mama Said Knock You Out, LL Cool J — LL was the original one-man star MC who had absolutely no issue telling the world how great — or, bad — he was.  Think of every rap song you’ve heard in the past 20 years — every MC telling you how great they are — that sorta “props to me” attitude started with LL and, let’s face it, very few have done it better.

4)  Thunderstruck, AC/DC — The first time I heard AC/DC, I was 8. My older brother played Back in Black for me, and I had nightmares for two weeks.  Even today, when I conjure up an image of the actual Devil, it is some variation of Angus Young in horns.  When I heard Thunderstruck 9 years later, I was still scared . . . but this time I liked it.  You’ve been Thunderstruck? We’ve all been Thunderstruck.

3)  Pump Up The Volume, M.A.R.S.— I don’t even know what this song was.  Was it rap?  Sorta, with Rakim’s voice repeating “Pump Up The Volume.  Pump Up The Volume. Dance – dance.”  Was it house music?  Was it Gregorian Chanting?  Who knows.  But it was killer.  I’m pretty sure the group “M.A.R.S.” was fromMars and US satellites picked the song up from with elaborate soundwaves.

2)  Sabotage, Beastie Boys—  The story goes that this song was purely an instrumental until AdRock (Adam Horowitz) walked into the studio and just “had” the lyrics.  And that, my friends, is how history was made.  Paranoia (“I can’t stand it.  I know you planned it. I’m gonna set it straight this Watergate . . .”) is a tremendous motivator.

1)  Welcome to the Jungle, Guns-n-Roses —  If I was scared of AC/DC, I was reallyscared of Guns-n-Roses.  Axl Rose looked like a Pantene model, and I was pretty sure Slash was anthropologically categorized as a Wookie.  It didn’t matter.  Welcome to the Jungle was the purest form of adrenaline that shook our high school gyms.


Parade Magazine’s Top Ten Worst Dictator List — Punch In The Face

April 11, 2009

It’s finally here!  The annual Parade Magazine “Top Ten Worst Dictator” List!  The fact that Parade undertakes this Herculean effort every year and (presumably) has sources consistently investigating this List, is remarkable in several regards. 

First, it is an incredible presumption on behalf of Parade’s editors that — in a single issue — they can: 1) tell you what the former stars from Touched By An Angel are doing now; 2) publish James Brady’s recent love-fest interview with the “fascinating and remarkable” (his words) Kate Hudson; and 3) assess the world’s worst dictators.  Wow.  Talk about the triple threat of publishing:  ownership of meaningless Hollywood drivel; exposure of inside information on Hollywood’s A-List stars (according to Mr. Brady, the lovely Ms. Hudson does not like to wear sandals at the beach . . . can you believe it?); and non-stop patrol over the most vicious and oppressive human beings on the planet.  Just think — all of the above AND those exclusive advertisements for the collection of unbreakable decorative Christmas plates. 

Second, who are the editors of Parade to think they can completely and accurately assess the world’s dictators?  If it was Al Jazeera’s list — I’m paying attention.  But Parade?  I need them to reveal their journalistic process before I even think about taking the List seriously.  For example, if they explain that they use their internship program to perform an in-depth analysis of each of the world’s dictators, I’ll start to give them more credit for their list.  I can just imagine the real-time reports from the interns back to HQ:

Spencer the Intern [having just finished his sophomore year at NYU, he’s now huddled in a cave in Myanmar whispering into his cell phone to his contact at Parade]:  Oh god.  It is awful.  General Shwe has been whipping an infidel for the past 4 days.  It is absolutely terrible.  He’s just been whipping away for the last 90 hours.  I’m physically sick . . . 

Parade Editor:  What hand is he using?

Spencer [confused]:  What hand is he using?

Parade Editor:  Right.  Is the General using his left hand or his right hand to hit the infidel?

Spencer [waiting and checking for the next strike]:  Uh . . . left, I think.

Parade Editor:  Left?  Oh, that’s nothing.  He’s right-handed, so we only count his right-handed punches on the evil-meter.  Call me back when he starts using his right . . .

Spencer:  Uh . . . sure, I guess.  Can we talk for a second about my internship assignment? . . .

Parade Editor [interrupting]:  Look, Spence, I’m very busy here. I have to edit James Brady’ s latest interview with Kenneth Branaugh. Did you know he’s British?  I thought he was from Boston.  I tell ya . . . I learn something new every day.

Spencer [pleading]:  Can you can call the American Embassy in Thailand?  I think General Shwe and his men might be on to me . . .

Parade Editor:  Oh, come on.  You’re just being paranoid.  You’re wearing the military uniform we gave you, right?

Spencer [hesitating]:  Uh . . . right . . .

Parade Boss:  So what’s the problem?


Parade Boss [half-listening]:  What? Your connection’s breaking up.  Look, call me back next week when you have another update . . .

Third, I wonder what it’s like for those dictators who don’t make Parade’s Top Ten list.  I can see them heading into their meeting room the morning after Parade’s List comes out.  All of their henchmen are real quiet:

Dictator:  Fellas, what’s up?

Second in Command (“SC”):  Sir, we all saw Parade’s List and . . . we’re sorry you didn’t make it. 

Dictator [interrupting]:  Guys, guys — settle down.  I don’t even pay attention to that list.  It means nothing to me . . .

SC:  It’s just that, after you didn’t make last year’s list, you went into a two-week depression . . .

Dictator [laughing incredulously]:  Depression?  Guys, we’ve been over this.  I wasn’t depressed.  I had the flu.  Now, come on.  I’ve told you before and I’m telling you now:  the work we do isn’t about any Top Ten List.  It’s about the oppression and fear we drive into our people.  Right?

SC and the rest of the Oppression Gang [begrudgingly]:  Right.

Dictator [clapping his hands]:  Exactly.  Now let’s get back to work.  Where’s the video camera?  We’re supposed to film segment 7 of our “Downfall of the West” series today.  Can someone hand me a pre-dated New York Times? We’re gonna make this look official, people.

Then, when the Dictator returns to his private chambers that evening, he finally acknowledges to his wife how disappointed he is that he was not chosen for Parade’s list:

Dictator [reviewing the List and pointing to one of the dictators on the list]:  He carries out public hangings? So do I!  I was hanging people in public 20 years ago.  Public hangings are so 1989.  How about a little originality, Mr. Top Ten!  I’m waayy past public hangings.  I poison my people’s food supply from relief organizations.  That is how I roll in the ’09!

Wife [rubbing Dictator’s back and speaking in a soft hush]:  It’s okay, baby.  The people of your country know how awful you are.  You are truly a horrific human being.  Probably the worst man alive.

Dictator [feeling a little reassured]:  You’re not just saying that?

Wife:  No!  Not at all.  You are a terrible, vicious ruler.  In fact, I often wonder how I came to befall the fate of being married to such a terrible man.

Dictator [glancing up at his wife lovingly]: Thanks.  You always know how to cheer me up.

Finally, isn’t Parade playing with fire just by publishing the List?  If I worked at Parade, I’d be concerned that one of the disappointed dictators would spend the next twelve months terrorizing me and the rest of the Parade staff just to prove a point.  You know — show them who’s really bad.


What’s Your Punch In The Face?

April 5, 2009

You’ve heard the things that give me a Punch In the Face (“PITF”) .  Missed it?  Have a listen here:


But, here’s the deal:  You’ve only heard myPITF.  I wanna hear yourPITF.  PITF isn’t mine — it’s ours, and I want you to insert your own lyrics for PITF that apply to you — your frustrations with life and being a (c’mon . . . admit it) full-fledged, card-carrying adult.  Favorite sports team keeps making poor decisions? Maybe that’s your PITF.  Meddling in-laws?  PITF.  Pop quiz in school?  PITF.  You get the idea, now start writing.  There’s a PITF for all of us.


Men’s Health Magazine & Lance Armstrong — Punch In The Face

April 1, 2009

Got my Men’s Health Magazine in the mail the other day.  That’s right — I got a subscription.  I love Men’s Health because it has the same three articles every month:  “Belly Off in 19 Days!”; “How to Manage Your Boss”; and “What She Really Wants From You”.  “What She Really Wants . . .”  contains alleged “quotes” from the beautiful women of America:

“I love it when Derek and I watch football all day on Sunday — even the post-game interviews and the endless stream of highlight shows.  My favorite part of the day is when he ignores all of my questions and screams into his Bluetooth at his old college roommate/ bookie.”  — Sarah G., Seattle, WA

Sarah G. from Seattle.  I’m pretty sure “Sarah G. from Seattle, WA” is really “Richie V., Emmaus, PA” — this semester’s intern at Men’s Health.  At any rate, I like having several Men’s Health’s around the house in case — just in case — I ever get a life.  Then, that urban Style Guide and the article on how to win a bar fight will (finally) both come in handy. 

With all of the potential good Men’s Health can offer (if I ever get in a bar fight, I now know that I should try to turn away from the punch — thanks Men’s Health!), sometimes it can go a little far — and I think they just did.  The Men’s Health cover boy for last month is Lance Armstrong, and the heading states “Crush Stress and Strip Away Fat with Lance Armstrong’s Exclusive Success Formula.”  No offense to Men’s Health and Richie the Intern, but I don’t need to read about Lance’s Exclusive Success Formula for crushing stress — I think I got it down:

1)  Demonstrate a consistent pattern of abandoning all relationship-based responsibilities when things “just aren’t working out”; and

2)  Exercise 11 hours a day. 

Yup — that’s all you gotta do, fellas.  And believe me — following those 2 steps DOES “crush stress.”  I tried them both one Saturday when my wife took the kids to the in-laws.  Well . . . I didn’t really exercise for 11 hours that day, but I did run a mile on the treadmill in the basement in a 1-piece spandex suit, so I’m pretty sure I got a big enough flavor of good ole’ Lancie’s Exclusive Stress-Crush Formula.  And let me tell you . . . I crushed stress that day.  The problem is, it’s really hard to follow Lancie’s formula with — ya know — real responsibilities and — ya know — a job.  Maybe Men’s Health could write a stress-crushing formula for men with a — what’s that word?  Oh yes — a conscience.


Under Armour Gear — Punch In The Face

March 27, 2009

I’m trying to get back in shape.  I saw those adrenaline- pumping Under Amrour commercials and thought — yeah, that’s what I need.  Running through tires with a bunch of ‘Roid Rage Hulks and lifting cinder blocks like I’m Mahky Mahk in ’92:  WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUUUUUSSSSSSSE.  So I went out and gots me an Under Armour shirt.  HeatGear.  Black.  Sounds cool — iscool.  Got home.  Put it on.  Well, “put it on” is a simplification — it was more like “paint it on.”  Getting this thing on IS the workout.  Once I fit this tighty over my shoulders, I had already fully exhausted my lats, pecs, bi’s, tri’s . . .  

I finally got the shirt on.  As I strode around the house, I could feel the benefit of this incredible gear.  I felt huge.  Bulging, really.   For a moment, I felt like Ray Lewis doing push-ups in prison.  Like Terrell Owens doing sit-ups in his driveway.  Like Jose Canseco swinging a baseball bat in 1989.  Like . . . well, I guess I’ve made my point.  Then, I got a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror.  I stopped and turned to get a full view of me in all my hugeness . . . and . . . I looked like Kermit the Frog dressed as a turtle-necked poet.  No . . . that’s too kind.  I can’t dis my frog Kermie like that.  To be more accurate, I looked a balding, pregnant 14-year old boy.  Like Sinead O’Connor’s portly little brother.  An absolute freak of nature.  All I could think was:  I can’t believe they forgot to sell me the optional 6-pack ab inserts.  I knew I forgot to buy something at the store.


The “Soul Punch” — Punch In the Face

March 20, 2009

I’ve had it.  No more soul punches.  I’m marking this day down.  I’ve given the last fist pound of my life.   For the (fortunate yet) uninitiated, the “soul punch” or the “fist pound” is the latest hand-to-hand colloquial greeting people (friends?) give to each other when saying hello, goodbye, or whenever there is an awkward pause during a discussion between two adult males.  Speaking of discussions between two adult males, when did we men lose the ability to talk to each other without awkward pauses and barbaric gestures (read:  soul punches) filling the time?  Think about it fellas.  When was the last time you were this uncomfortable talking to another person?  You remember.  You were 16, and you had to get it together to convince someone to go to the Junior Prom with you.  Your heart was beating out of your chest as you asked her to go out on your first date to the Ponderosa Steakhouse.  That’s right.  Because nothing says classy like an all-you-can-eat buffet where kids under 12 eat free.  That  was uncomfortable.  But this is worse, because — now — its a different kind of discomfort.  Back then, you didn’t know what to say to your prospective date.  Now, I know everything I want to say to the other guy, but I don’t want to scare him off.  I want to ask him the same thing Kramer asked George before the K-man headed off to California to shop his treatment for The KeysDo you yearn?  I also want to ask the other guy random thoughts from adulthood, like:  Do you recognize the guy in the mirror?  And Do you also think that if — if — you just had the right directioning as a kid, you’d be a professional athlete right now?  Instead, worn down by the weight of adulthood and domesticity, we just sit there staring at each other . . . and, eventually, one of us reaches out to give the other a soul punch/ fist pound to mark the end of our uncomfortable encounter.  

What’s so bad about the soul punch/ fist pound?  First, I’m pretty sure it was invented by a germ-a-phobe (or a small group of germ-a-phobes) in Southern California (read:  Howie Mandell) who started using the soul punch as a relatively germ-free alternative to the handshake.  Also, a hairy knuckle to hairy knuckle connection is — let’s face it — a little creepy and not very satisfying.  But there is an even greater reason to join me in boycotting the soul punch.  Because — even if it was originally intended to replace the handshake, it has devolved into a repalcement for the more elegant and more comical high-five.   And that’s where the soul punch went wrong.  You can’t replace an icon.  The high-five is the perfect hand-to-hand connection between mammals on all levels.  Don’t believe me?  Try a little experiment on your own.  When something goes well tomorrow, you’ll have two choices:  the soul punch or the high-five.  Take turns trying one or the other.  I guarantee the high-five is more fulfilling, more gratifying, and more of a true “Yes!!!” feeling than the soul punch.  See, to perform the soul punch properly it has to be very slow and deliberate with both participants slo-mo’ing the entire thing as if, once their hands connect, they’ll become charter members of the SuperFriends and will — at that moment — acquire the ability to turn into useful crime-stopping animals (my apologies for the obscure SuperFriends reference).  The high-five, on the other hand, is all spontaneity, sass, verve and . . . life.  When a high five is right, it is right.  Think about the best high five you’ve ever connected on.  You remember:  it felt like lightning bolts were jumping off your connected fingertips toward Heaven . . . and when those lighting bolts reached Heaven . . . the clouds parted . . . and Jesus himself appered in the form of Queen’s Freddie Mercury . . . singing “We Are The Champions.”  THAT’S what a great high-five feels like.  Plus, the high-five has so permeated the very fabric of our culture that we get to witness great high-five flubs every day: on the Price Is Right, at the local Arena Football Game, and during heated political campaigns.  That’s right:  all across America people are wiffing on their high-fives, creating hybrid two-hand to one-hand connections, and falsely interpreting a high-five offer as a one-handed hug.  And that’s what makes the high-five great.  Because it consistently proves that spontaneous human interaction is both compelling and hilarious.  So — come on, boycott the soul punch and keep it real with the high five.  And to ensure you give the high five its proper due, make it a “two-handed to two-handed” high-five with your high-five buddy.  That’s what we call a “double-double” . . . and it makes the Howie Mandell soul punch look like a cabbage patch doll picnic.


Running a 5K Road Race — Punch In the Face

March 5, 2009

I’m trying to get back to my fighting weight.  Problem is, I haven’t been in a fight since before the Roller Skating Party in the Fifth Grade.  So now I have to lose 150 pounds in time for beach season.  It’s gonna be rough. 


So I’ve started running.  I have one goal when I’m running and only one goal:  to stop.  That way, when I go for a run, I run as fast as I can for as long as I can, so I can get back to sitting around the house doing nothing. 


In a rush of testosterone and physical optimism, I decided to run a 5K road race.  Nothing like an incredibly barbaric activity to shock my body (back) into shape.  Plus I don’t mean to brag, but I ran a little in high school . . . Freshman Cross Country Champ.  Bishop Gibbons High School.  Big Ten Conference.  That’s right — I know what I’m doing.  I also had a secret weapon:  at the end of the race, I’d start to yell “AISH!” with each breath.  I’d really AISH it out.  It was my Call of the Wild that would intimidate the competition and propel me to victory.  


I showed up at the 5K road race ready to race.  Just one problem:  I’m not Cross Country Champ.  I haven’t seen him for a long, long time.  As I walked up to the starting line, the darnedest thing happened:  Cross Country Champ appeared out of nowhere and started walking next to me.  Before I know it, we’re in step with each other — and he got right into my head:


Cross Country Champ [looking around at the Competition]:  What a joke.  I’m gonna kick some A-$-$ (aka A-double dollar signs) today.


Me:  Listen, kid.  You haven’t been around for a while — more than 20 years.  I know you were great – you were the best. But that was a long time ago.  Let me handle this for now – we’re just gonna take it nice and easy.


Cross Country Champ:  [Ignoring Me] Huh?  [bouncing up and down like a caged animal] I don’t like that guy over there. Who does he think he is?  We’re taking him down.  [shouting] Hey – You.  Yeah you.  Gibbons is in the House!  You hear that? [cheering] G-I-B-B-O-N-S that’s the way we spell success. Go Gibbons.  Go! Go! Go Gibbons! 


Me: [shaking my head and trying to lead the Cross Country Champ away from a sure physical confrontation]


Freshman Cross Country Champ:  And who’s this guy over here?  I think he’s giving me the eye . . . [to another runner]  We’ll settle this on the course!  If you can keep up . . . [back to Me]  I’m sorry.  Were you saying something?


Me:  Forget it.  Let’s just not die.


Freshman Cross Country Champ Guy leads me up to the front of the starting line and . . .


BANG!  We’re off. 


Cross Country Champ takes us out of the shoot like Tom Cruise running through the airport in . . . every one of his movies.  We’re 30 steps into the race, and I’m already spent.  In full-out panic mode, I start to “AISH” it out.  It appears to have little impact on my present competition.  After that, I pretty much blacked out.  I vaguely remember telling some guy who passed me to “go get ‘em  . . . for all of us” but, even now, I don’t know what that means.  Or what it could mean . . .  


After the race, having regained consciousness, I was leaning over a post-race table of snacks — bananas, muffins and PowerBars — and I had one final thought before being re-checked by the EMT’s:  if I’m too weak to unwrap the PowerBar package, how am I ever going to get the power inside me?