Play This Or Play That

Nice Doggie

Cerberus Just Needed More Playtime

Sunday afternoon, Nikki and I hopped in the car and headed to Ikea. Storage needs, let us show you them? Along the way, I needed two things: gas for the car and an ice cold Coke Zero* for me. So I stopped at the corner BP, one of about twenty in a five mile radius from our house.

Fueled up, I went in to get my beverage. I’m about to pay, hand the cashier my debit card out of automatic habit, when he asks:

“Is that a dog with three heads?”

It takes me a moment, but then I remember. I’m wearing one of my favorite Threadless shirts. “Yep. Actually, it’s a puppy with three heads.”

“He got a name?”

Ask any trivia nerd, and they can probably relate to the feeling this kind of situation triggers. This isn’t Fight Or Flight. This is more like Teach Or Say. Long Answer (with references) or Short Answer.

I go with a middle of the road approach. The t-shirt shows a puppy. With three heads. At the bottom of the drawing is a dog dish with most of the name showing. So I point. “He’s Cerberus. He guards the gates of Hell.”

Cashier’s eyes get a little bigger, more relaxed. “Oh! Like Harry Potter!”

He gets it. It’s not exact. But he get’s it. “Yeah, like Fluffy.”

“Fluffy! That’s right! He guards that Sorceror’s Stone, right?”

I nod, laugh, because he’s laughing too. Then comes the follow-up that takes the conversation into hypothetical realms unheard of.

“You know … I’d play with that puppy. ‘Cause even a mean-ass dog used to be just a puppy, and all they want to do is play, you know? Even if they got three heads!”

This is when I should smile and leave, but I can’t just go. I have to ask. “But what about when that puppy and his three heads grow up to be big like Fluffy?”

He has his answer ready. “Then I’d just paint myself up with … I don’t know … what’s somethin’ that makes a dog vomit? That way, if he swallows me, I’ll just come right on back!”

All I can do is nod and start to go, which is when he looks at the t-shirt again. “And what’s that … they got tags on ’em that say ‘6-6-6.’ Oh, that ain’t right. You have a good one!”

And I did.

Erykah’s America

The new Badu album is vital, complex and the best that 2008 has to offer so far. Rolling Stone didn’t get it. It’s not a Bruce Springsteen or Bob Dylan album, so I understand the venerable RS not giving Erykah five whole stars, but only three? Listen again. Or better yet, why not let Rob Sheffield do the review.

The sound isn’t entirely new. There’s the Billie Holiday vibe that the world has come to expect from Badu, of course, but that is filtered through a greater confidence and a willingness to unleash creativity with little concern for sales or reviews.

Badu’s attitude is perhaps best summed up by the way she’s using “Honey” to attract unsuspecting listeners. “Honey” is the current single, a bumping, infectious little sing-along jam with nary a touch of politics or controversy about it. But go pick up the CD, look for “Honey” in the track list. You won’t find it. But it is there, of course. It’s the hidden track, offered like a dessert you don’t get until you’ve cleaned your plate and expanded your mind.

(Of course, Amazon spoils this little bit of sonic hide-and-go-listen by outing the hidden track in their product listing.)

One of the common criticisms is that the tracks tend to wander. They don’t. What they do is turn on their heel, sometimes without warning. Most of the longer tracks are binary songs, two independent ideas joined by an idea. “Twinkle” is a perfect example of this. Give it a listen and watch how it shifts, going into a Burial-esque urban meditation, ending with an updated call-to-action a la Network. Only this time, we’re no longer mad as Hell. We’ve been that for too long already. Now, we just want to be recognized as human beings.

“My life has value, damnit!”

And best of all? This is only the first of three planned Badu albums for 2008.

* Coke Zero. It’s got what plants need.

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3 responses to “Play This Or Play That”

  1. You’re right, you should’ve ended the conversation at the smile-and-leave spot you indicated. Moral: trust your instincts.

    Nice Idiocracy reference.

  2. I think the idiotic conversations are often the best.

    And you just convinced me to buy the Badu before the day is out.

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