Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's Nice To Be Liked (On Facebook)

I have never been happier than I am right now. I'm indescribably happy. I'm on cloud nine. I am grateful, blessed, and all of the other emotions that make for great hashtags.

You see, a couple of weeks ago I proposed to my girlfriend. It was joyful. It was celebratory. It was magical. Simply put, it was the greatest moment of my life.

Hours later, I announced my engagement on Facebook. The post received more than 100 likes. It was the first time a post of mine had ever received more than 100 likes. Simply put, it was the greatest moment of my life.

I joined Facebook in 2009. I waited a long time for a post of mine to be liked by 100 friends. I did everything I could to make it happen. I uploaded photos of myself with random dogs. I filled out "Which Girls character are you?" quizzes and shared the results. I thanked everyone for their birthday wishes every day for a full year. Nothing worked.

That is, until I popped the question. It's a dream come true. I'm in love. And I'm liked. 

I'm excited. I'm excited to be engaged, excited to marry, excited to buy a home, excited to have kids, and excited to be liked on Facebook for all of these things.

I'm not surprised that I was so well-liked on Facebook after the proposal. I expected that. What I did not expect was that I'd be so well-liked in public after the proposal. That's been a very pleasant surprise.

Lately, when my fiancée and I have walked around the neighborhood, passersby have noticed us, flashed us smiles, and even thrown us a compliment or two. Maybe we emanate a glow, emit a new-engagement smell. I don't know. But we are definitely trending on the streets of New York.

There was one man who pointed both of his index fingers in our direction and commented, loudly, "Hey, what a great-looking couple!" My mind may be playing tricks on me, but if I remember correctly he performed the David Brent dance as he said it.


It's wonderful and intoxicating to be this well-liked. Had I known my popularity would rise this much after a marriage proposal, I would've gotten engaged in middle school.

The engagement has made me feel complete. I have the perfect woman by my side, an outpouring of support from strangers, and 100 likes on Facebook. What more could I want?

Maybe one thing: for 100 people to click the +1 button on this engagement post. I've never had 100 people click the +1 button for a blog post of mine.

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: New Year's Edition

It's a special New Year's edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense"! Here are some tweets that won't drop the ball. No countdown necessary:
Other bits of nonsense:
November 2015
October 2015

Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: November 2015

Here is the November 2015 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:
Other bits of nonsense:
October 2015
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Monday, November 23, 2015

All I Want Is A Treat

I strolled through a farmers' market in my neighborhood this morning. I'm a strong believer in supporting my local farmers. I don't purchase any of their vegetables, mind you. As I've established on here more than once, I do not cook for myself. I visit the market strictly to provide moral support.

To be fair, there was one stand that sparked my interest. It offered treats -- what I believed to be rectangular cookies. Several of them were labeled "peanut butter and bacon." I love peanut butter. I love bacon. I'm not sure I've ever eaten the two of them together, though. I was intrigued.

And then I was disappointed. I continued to read the label and realized that it was a treat for dogs. That seemed unfair to me. Why should dogs -- and only dogs -- be allowed to eat such a delicious-sounding biscuit? How many of them even remember to bring money with them to the farmers' market?

I had brought money to spend at the market, and I would have gladly spent it on a peanut butter and bacon treat. If only it were available for humans.

After I returned home, I conducted an Amazon search of dog treats. I was truly stunned by the variety of flavors. "Peanut Butter and Strawberry Jelly." "Pumpkin and Banana." "Wild Salmon." "Filet Mignon."

Filet. Mignon. Do you have any idea how rare an occasion it is for me to eat filet mignon? I enjoy filet mignon, at most, once a year, at a fancy restaurant, right before my date tells me we should see other people.

And yet a dog can devour a bucket of filet mignon treats, at half the price. Where's the justice in this world?

Dogs are offered way too many food choices. I've expressed this opinion once before, in my first book, Shaneanigans. I'm quite proud of the title of that book. I'm not quite as proud of its sales totals.

In any event, I wrote in Shaneanigans:

I don’t believe dogs are that picky about what they eat...After a long day of licking themselves, are they really in a position to reject what’s in their dish? Anything must taste good at that point. 

All these years later, I'm still waiting for an explanation.

A dog is an animal with simple tastes. So am I. But I don't lick myself, I assure you. So where's my peanut butter and bacon treat, farmers? I've supported your market. I've been a good boy. I want a snack!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Bathroom Pun To Remember

There are still two months remaining in 2015, but I feel confident in saying that my single greatest accomplishment of the year came last Friday on a bus ride from New York to Washington, D.C. I couldn't wait to share it with all of you, right here on this blog.

Are you ready for it? Here it is: I came up with a great pun to describe the broken door lock of a small bathroom located on the bus.

I was traveling on said bus with a friend. A third of the way through the trip, he stood up to use the lavatory in the back. Minutes later, he returned and reported to me that the lock on the door was not working properly. Over the next hour, we overheard two or three passengers open the door and discover that it was occupied. How embarrassing.

My friend looked at me and wondered, "What would be a good headline for the bathroom situation?" This is a fun game that I like to play: creating headlines for stories that would never, in reality, be published by any website or newspaper.

There are only two rules to this game: 1) The headline must contain a pun, and 2) the pun must either be very clever or very, very dumb.

My friend went first. He suggested a headline that was merely fine. I couldn't tell you what it was; it was not memorable at all. If a headline is really good, it won't be forgotten.

I nodded my head; he made a solid effort, but it fell short of my lofty standards for puns. I contemplated my turn. A headline for a broken lock that disrupts passengers while they are taking care of business in a compartment on a moving vehicle. I thought of words I could use. Bus? Bathroom? Lock? Toilet? Toilet paper? Can? Flush? Urine? So many options...but which ones would make for a great headline?

I stared out the window for two or three minutes. Then, it hit me, like a flash of genius. A great headline.

I locked eyes with my friend, and with the biggest smile I've smiled in a long, long time, I said, "Swirl, Interrupted."

I was so proud of myself. It was a thing of beauty. Two words that perfectly summarized what was happening on the bus, with incredible wordplay and an impressive reference to a 16-year-old Angelina Jolie movie.

It's a moment like that one that reminds me that if I put my mind to something, I can accomplish anything. Like, say, become a headline writer for the New York Post one day.

I've invited several other friends to top my headline, but none of their suggestions have come close. If you feel you're up to the task, tweet me at @myemptythoughts. But I must emphasize to you: my headline is really special.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: October 2015

Here is the October 2015 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:
Other bits of nonsense:
Halloween Edition

September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: Halloween Edition

It's a special Halloween edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense"! Here are some tweets to go with your treats:










Other bits of nonsense:
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Monday, October 19, 2015

Board Games, Stinkor And Cookie Monster: What I Want From Thrift Shops

In the time since I cranked out my last blog post, on the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine, I've heard from many friends who've told me they too once owned it and wish they could make one more slushie with Charlie Brown and the gang, for old time's sake.

The feedback warmed my heart. It's hard to explain, but when you can connect with another person over a toy from your childhood, like a plastic doghouse that can manufacture a frozen drink of subpar quality, that's a special bond.

Interestingly, two friends wrote to me on Facebook that they asked for the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine when they were young, but their parents refused to buy it for them. That surprised me, and struck me as unusual.

Why would parents have concerns over the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine? Was it because the slushie-making process was a little sloppy? Was it because of the sugar rush the slushies provided? Was it because they were worried their children would hurt themselves turning the crank? I didn't ask my friends what the reasons were. I prefer to speculate.

The best response to the blog entry came from a pal who, coincidentally, found an original Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine at a Goodwill store just one week after I published the post. I couldn't believe it. I've been searching for it for years at the several thrift shops located in my neighborhood, and a friend stumbles upon it without even trying. Good grief.

As I mentioned in the post, I have a checklist of items I'm hoping to find and purchase at a thrift shop one day. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine is one of them, obviously. Here are a few other high-priority products on the list:

* Board Games Based On 1990s TV Shows: As much as I'd like to buy the Beverly Hills, 90210 soundtrack (with the compact disc included inside the jewel case), it would be an even greater thrill to find this Beverly Hills, 90210 board game. In the "Survey Game," players must guess how teens responded to polls based on "actual 90210 situations." I've never played it, but I'm imagining it's similar to Family Feud. How cool would it be to bond with Mom and Dad, plus other assorted relatives, by consulting them on questions regarding Donna Martin's virginity, or Brandon Walsh's gambling problem, or Dylan McKay's father faking his demise in a limousine blow-up? Fun for all ages!

Did you happen to notice the price for the "Survey Game" on the Amazon listing I linked to above? $110. $110! If you want to play a game based on Beverly Hills, you need to have as much disposable income as someone who lives in Beverly Hills.

"The Survey Game" is far from the only 1990s TV show-inspired board game I'm on the lookout for. There's also the Saved by the Bell board game, the Full House board game, and the Do the Urkel! board game, among others.

* Trading Cards Based On 1990s TV Shows: I was rummaging through a toy stand at a flea market last winter when I spotted trading cards for ALF, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, Back to the Future Part II, and other classic TV shows and movies. There were even cards dedicated to Desert Storm.

As a former collector of '90s trading cards, and as a current hoarder of '90s trading cards, I was very excited. The wax packs were overpriced, in my opinion -- the cheapest were $2 per pack -- so I decided to buy only one.

I settled on a pack of Saved by the Bell cards. To my dismay, only five cards were inside. But each one was glorious. Here's a picture of three of them:


The second card features the single greatest photo I've ever seen. I want to bring it to a photo store, have it blown up, and hang it framed in my home. Would that be weird?

If the other cards in the set are half as good as the ones I received in my pack, then I'm interested in acquiring them. Very interested.

* CDs I Owned Back In The 1990s: Every CD I've purchased in the past three years has come from a thrift shop. And every single one of them is an album I owned when I was a teenager, but eventually grew tired of and discarded. Examples:  The Wallflowers' Bringing Down the Horse, Bush's Sixteen Stone, and Informer's 12 Inches of Snow.

Yet I'm happy when I rediscover these albums. They're a throwback to a simpler time, when I was young, carefree, and listening to CDs. So, I buy them, play them a few times, and then ignore them. Brings back so many memories.

* Stinkor: For those of you unfamiliar with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Stinkor was a skunk-like villain, who, as his name strongly implies, stunk. The action figure of Stinkor really did smell -- badly. According to Internet speculation, the "stench of evil" (as the comic that came with the figure referred to it) was achieved by mixing patchouli oil with the plastic.
"Hi, I'm Stinkor, but you can call me the 'Stench of Evil.'"

I had a Stinkor figure as a kid. He was fun to play with for about 10 seconds before I needed to take a break from him. I felt a little guilty for ditching him for such a superficial reason, but to be fair, anyone who nicknames himself the "Evil Master of Odors" is willfully choosing to not mix much with others.

In a strange way, though, Stinkor was one of my favorite He-Man figures. He was unique. He was compelling. He really was a master of odors.

It's so rare to come across a master of odors nowadays. That's what stinks.

* The Cookie Monster That Ate My Cookies: I have a personal issue with Cookie Monster -- or, rather, the Cookie Monster doll that ate my cookies when I was 5.

When I was first given the doll, I loved it. It was a warm and furry puppet of my favorite Sesame Street character. I would feed it cookies because, what else would you do when you're hanging out with Cookie Monster? You have to be polite and offer him something to eat. At the least, the oatmeal raisin cookies in the house I didn't want.

Funny thing, though: When I opened his mouth, inserted a cookie, and closed the mouth shut, the snack would disappear. I'd widen his mouth, and it would be gone. I tried this with two, three, four, five cookies. Same result each time.

Not what I expected. I was just trying to be cute by sharing cookies with my puppet. I didn't expect it to actually swallow the cookies.

I became angry with it. "Why is my doll stealing my cookies from me?" I cried. It really was a monster.

I don't know what became of that Cookie Monster puppet. But mark my words: If I ever run into it in a thrift shop, I will confront it and reclaim what's mine: my cookies.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: September 2015

Here is the September 2015 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:









Other bits of nonsense:
August 2015
July 2015

June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I Want A Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine (Again), Charlie Brown!

One of the reasons why I love my neighborhood is that it's home to a number of thrift shops -- six or seven at least, congregated within a 10-block radius of one another. 

It's very competitive, the thrift shop business here. So many charitable organizations are vying for my charitable dollars. Which ones do I support? There's no easy answer. 

I've actually felt a little twinge of guilt in the past when I've made a purchase at one of the stores. I'd question myself. Am I supporting the "right" charity? Was this the most worthwhile cause? What if the other charities are more in need of my money? Should I go to their shops and buy something to help them out, too?

That's typically what I would do. That's why there's second-hand merchandise scattered throughout my home, including two worn-in couches, 11 slightly frayed dress shirts, and 18 copies of Juno on DVD.

Every now and then I'll browse the thrift shops and make a great discovery. For example, I was sifting through the CD collection at one of the stores a few weeks ago when I came across the soundtrack to one of my favorite shows from my adolescence, Beverly Hills, 90210. My eyes widened, my heart raced and for a brief moment I stopped breathing. I was having a nostalgia attack. I hadn't seen this album in 20 years.

The track listing -- my goodness, the track listing. Paula Abdul. Color Me Badd. Michael McDonald and Chaka Khan. The iconic Beverly Hills, 90210 theme. At $1, this album was a steal. At least, it would have been had the CD disc itself not been stolen. It was missing from its jewel case -- not uncommon at a thrift shop, in my experience.

I've since added the 90210 soundtrack to my thrift shop checklist. Yes, I have a checklist of items I hope to buy in a thrift shop one day -- mostly hard-to-find music, books and toys. I realize I could easily track them down online, but that would be too easy. I could download the 90210 soundtrack from iTunes, but would it still excite me as much as holding the out-of-print CD copy -- and its incredible artwork of the cast --  in my hands? No way.

I give this soundtrack an A for its track list, and a C- for its Photoshop skills.
I'll have more to say about the checklist in a future post. For now, I'll write a couple of hundred words on the number-one item on the list: an original Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine.


Frozen beverages have long been my favorite treat. As a kid, I would ride my bike to my local 7-Eleven at least four times a week for my Slurpee fix. If a drink was made of ice and vaguely approximated the taste of a fruit or cola, I was addicted to it. 

So, as a fan of both slushies and Peanuts, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was right up my alley. I remember saving my allowance and buying one from Toys "R" Us. I couldn't wait to put it to use. I imagined treating myself to a sno-cone on hot summer days; selling sno-cones on the sidewalk for profit; even entertaining guests in my home with sno-cone parties.

"This sno-cone is delicious, Shane! Did you buy this at the store?"

"No, I made it myself."

"Incredible. You must give me the recipe."

I used the machine five times, if that. Creating a sno-cone, as it turned out, was hard work. I hadn't anticipated how difficult it would be to turn the crank on the machine that churned the ice cubes into shaved ice. It was a real test of strength. I could successfully complete three revolutions of the crank -- four on a good day -- before I'd experience soreness in my arm. I would have to ice it down with the shaved ice I'd just made with the machine.

The crank on the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was unforgiving. I don't believe it was meant for a child. I believe it was meant for a strongman competition. I would have had an easier time lifting Thor's hammer.

I'd also been unaware of how noisy the machine could be. It became painfully obvious when I brought it to school one day so I could make sno-cones for my friends at lunch. As I poured ice cubes into the machine and began to turn the crank, it caused such a racket that it drew the attention of all the other students in the cafeteria. One hundred-plus kids, representing grades 6 through 8, were staring a hole through me, not at all pleased that my toy was disturbing their one free period of the day. Many of them pointed in my direction and chuckled. I was a laughingstock.


The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was loud. Let me put it in perspective for you: The next time you press the button for the ice dispenser on your refrigerator, listen closely to the sound the refrigerator makes. Now multiply that sound by 20. That's how loud the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was. Slurpee machines aren't that loud, that's for sure.

Faults aside, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was part of my childhood, and for that reason it has strong sentimental value for me. I would gladly spend money at a thrift shop for one...and then buy a few more at the other thrift shops to help them out, too.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: August 2015

Here is the August 2015 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:
Other bits of nonsense:
July 2015
June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Three Times I Blew It With Girls Online

It's been five months since I last shared with you stories of how inept I can be in the company of women. I was heartened by the response to my March post titled "Three Times I Blew It With Girls In Central Park." It's one of my most-read posts of the year to date.

Clearly, I tapped into an audience that has been mostly underserved by this blog -- an audience that would rather read about my personal life than, say, my opinion on alarms on Rogaine boxes at the local drugstore. My experiences in turning down an invitation to a female-only picnic and drawing unwanted attention at a major concert by wearing a Charlie Brown T-shirt resonate more with the general public, it seems.

Well, I hear you! I hear you loud and clear. You're in luck. As it happens, I have dozens -- nay, hundreds -- of other examples of how I've messed up with the opposite sex. I could regale you with tales of my romantic failures for years to come.

Not too long ago I mentioned that I've quit online dating. I blew hundreds of dollars on three websites, and all I have to show for it is this post: three times when I blew it with girls online. I'm willing to bet you've never heard a story quite like the third one below.

I. "I Thought This Only Happened In Sitcoms."

My final online date ended with spilled tea.

Of course it did. My online dating experience couldn't have ended any other way.

I met Kate (not her real name) at a coffee shop in her neighborhood last November. She ordered an espresso. I ordered a green tea, because I don't drink coffee, not even in a coffee shop.

Two minutes later, an employee placed my green tea on the counter. Literally seconds after that, I knocked over the cup with my left hand as I attempted to grasp it, causing its contents to splatter onto the floor.

This moment will gnaw at me for the rest of my life, not because I feel I embarrassed myself, but because I have no idea what happened. Was I too nonchalant in reaching for the cup? Why did I use my non-dominant hand? Was the lid not securely fastened? Was the spill ultimately my fault, or the employee's fault? So many unanswered questions.

Kate was a good sport about it, assuring me more than once that it was no big deal. She was even kind enough to hand me several napkins as I wiped the tea off the floor. As I was on my hands and knees, performing mop-up duty, I muttered to myself, "I thought this only happened in sitcoms." I was genuinely surprised that a man could actually spill a drink during a date, but not terribly surprised that that man could be me.

I joked to Kate, "Well, at least you'll have a story to tell your friends later." Again, she was very sweet, telling me, "Don't worry about it."

We left the shop and took a stroll in the park for a little while. She was very nice, but we didn't make a connection, and we didn't speak again after that date.

I haven't ordered coffee or tea in a coffee shop since.

II. "Where Have I Seen This Girl Before?"

Mallory (again, not her real name) was my kind of girl. She was pretty, she was quirky, she had bangs. She had photos of herself playing the ukulele. She was the closest I'd come to finding a non-celebrity version of my celebrity crush, Zooey Deschanel, online.

Mallory was also in the same line of work as I was. That's what made me feel comfortable enough to send her a message. I figured it was my "in."

And it was. We exchanged a series of notes on our jobs, what we liked about it, what we didn't like about it. It was nice to be chatting with a girl who could relate to what I was going through on an everyday basis.

When I finally summoned the courage to ask her to meet with me, she told me she had to leave town on business for a month, but that we could reconnect once she returned.

I wrote back, "That sounds great, but if you're up for it I would love to continue the conversation on here until then."

No response. Perhaps I should have read between the lines and realized she was politely declining my invitation. But I really wanted a relationship with a real-world Zooey.

Flash forward eight months. There's a new girl in the office. She was pretty, she was quirky, she had bangs. I recognized her from somewhere, but I couldn't quite place her. I wondered, "Where have I seen this girl before?'

I decided to introduce myself. "Hi there. I don't believe we've met. I'm Shane." "Nice to meet you. Mallory."

And then it hit me. The new girl was Mallory. Who's that girl? Who's that girl? It's Mallory!


We reconnected, after all.

She worked in my office for a couple of weeks before quitting for another job. I never got the chance to say goodbye. 

Wherever you are, Mallory, I hope you're doing well. You'll always be my real-world Zooey.

III. "You're Eliminated."

Word of advice: Never ask a really personal question of a woman in the first message you send to her.

In July of 2013 I came across a profile that intrigued me. I can only recall two pieces of information from it: She liked to spend her weekends away from the city to escape the noise, and she preferred to date someone who was willing to learn sign language.

I'd never seen such a request in an online dating profile. I am very curious by nature, and very inquisitive. I was very interested to know why she sought a partner who could communicate using sign language.

So I asked. Five minutes later, I had the answer in my inbox. She'd written me a terse message: "Uh, could it be because I'm deaf? Yeah, that's it. You're eliminated."

In retrospect, I should not have asked that question. At least not in an introductory message. It was a bit too personal. But in my defense, a) she raised the issue in a fairly open manner, and b) I didn't want to assume she was deaf, since she'd made a point of noting how she likes to get away from the city noise.

The last two words in her message -- "You're eliminated" -- really caught me off-guard. I'd never had a woman say that to me. I felt like a Survivor contestant who'd just been told by Jeff Probst to hand over his torch.

Needless to say, we both quickly moved on. I wasn't right for her, obviously. But I'm not sure online dating was right for her. She might have been better off searching for romance on The Bachelorette, where eliminations are a little more common.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

12 CDs For A Penny: A Tribute To My Columbia House Collection

I was sad to read that the owner of Columbia House filed for bankruptcy this week. I owe a lot to its subscription service. Not money, because I fulfilled my obligations long ago. But I do feel a sense of gratitude toward Columbia House, because it allowed me to start my music collection as a teenager.

I was not what you would call a music fan before the age of 15. I owned a handful of cassette tapes -- mainly "Weird Al" Yankovic albums, plus a hodgepodge of '80s classics like He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, and the soundtrack to It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown -- but I didn't have much interest in listening to the popular music of the day.

Until 1995, when Alanis Morissette released Jagged Little Pill. I played that album on my stereo every day throughout my sophomore year of high school. The songs were catchy. The music videos were cool. The lyrics were honest and edgy. I'd never connected so deeply with an angst-ridden harmonica player.

I was addicted to Jagged Little Pill. And then I discovered No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom and fell in love with that album, too. Slowly but surely, my musical tastes expanded and diversified -- The Cardigans and KC & the Sunshine Band were two of my guilty pleasures. Seriously.

My two favorite bands by the time I graduated high school were Oasis and the Foo Fighters. And they are my two favorite bands today, as you know if you've read my recent blog posts on my experiences at a Noel Gallagher concert and a Foo Fighters stadium show.

So, after my experiences with Jagged Little Pill and Tragic Kingdom, I was motivated to binge on lots of other music. Columbia House afforded me the opportunity to do just that. "Afforded" is the operative word here, because I was presented with a very reasonable deal: 12 albums for a penny.

It was an offer I couldn't refuse, since I was a student who didn't have a job and had only pennies to spend. I didn't need much convincing to sign up. (By agreeing to the offer, I was obligated to shell out approximately $100 on five more CDs later on, but that's what credit cards are for.)

Columbia House mailed me a sheet of stamps, representing the albums it had available. It was my responsibility to choose the stamps of the 12 albums I wanted, and affix them to the order form. It was a responsibility I took way too seriously. I must have studied those stamps for hours, weighing the pros and cons of each album. "Sure, I like Ace of Base now, but will I still want to listen to 'The Sign'  and 'All That She Wants' five, 10 years from now?" [Update: The answer to that question turned out to be, "No."]

I taped the stamps I did not use to a wall in my bedroom, repurposing the sheet as the cheapest poster in the history of music. Like I said, I didn't have much money, and I'm very thrifty when it comes to home decorations. As I write this, I'm staring at posters of the 1988 New York Giants and the 1999 New York Mets hanging in my apartment. These posters are the easiest way to signal to my houseguests that a) I'm single, b) I'm older than 30, and c) I typically don't put much effort into things that don't involve stamps.

In light of this week's news, I thought it would be fun to revisit the 12 albums I received from Columbia House for my one cent. My first impression upon jotting down the list below is that it's a mixed bag. Some of the CDs I listened to a couple of times, if that, before disposing of them. (I make note of which ones.) A few are in my all-time top 10.

Here are all 12, in no particular order:

1. Oasis, Definitely Maybe
I've only listened to one album more often in my lifetime than this one: the Oasis album that followed it, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? I can't say that with absolute certainty, because iTunes didn't keep track of such stats before 2001, but I believe it to be accurate.

Definitely Maybe had a murderer's row of great sing-along rock songs: "Live Forever," "Supersonic," "Rock 'N' Roll Star," "Cigarettes & Alcohol," to name four. And it had one of the great album covers of the '90s.

Do I still own the album? Yes.


2. Blur, Parklife
Can you tell I was and am a Britpop fanatic? The title track of Parklife was so catchy that I didn't care that I had no idea what the word "parklife" meant. Admittedly, there were some Americans who didn't feel the same way.


Parklife was released in 1994. Three years later, Blur broke through in the U.S. with their self-titled album and "Song 2." (Woohoo!) But Parklife will always be my favorite album of theirs. Or, should I say, favourite album of theirs.

Do I still own the album? Yes.

3. The Cranberries, Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?
4. The Cranberries, No Need to Argue
5. The Cranberries, To the Faithful Departed
The first three Cranberries albums. The band fell off my radar as soon as I left high school. Sometimes your relationship with a music group runs its course and you simply have to move on. The Cranberries would be the first to tell you, Do you have to let it linger?

When I think of The Cranberries nowadays, two things come to mind: the band performing for Kaitlyn and her date on the most recent season of The Bachelorette:


And this:


Do I still own the albums? No.

6. The Verve Pipe, Villains
Remember the good ol' days, when you'd buy an entire album just so you could play one song again and again? It's the reason why Villains -- featuring the hit "The Freshmen" -- was one of my 12 Columbia House picks.

"The Freshmen" soared up the charts in the first half of 1997, and The Verve Pipe immediately became, in my mind, the best band with the word "Verve" in its name. I changed my opinion a few months later.

Do I still own the album? No.


7. Nirvana, Nevermind
8. Nirvana, In Utero
9. Pearl Jam, Ten
I'm not one to quickly embrace trends. For example, the Seattle grunge movement of the early '90s. These are three great albums, and yet I practically ignored them until they were offered to me for 1/12th of a cent each, several years after their debut. It seems their worth to me was slightly more than the cash value of your standard coupon.

I recently donated Ten to a thrift shop. Not because I don't like it anymore, but because I have a Pearl Jam greatest hits album that contains all of the major singles from Ten, and that's good enough for me.

If you ever meet me, ask for my Eddie Vedder impression. I can sing "Alive" or "Even Flow" nearly as well as he can. Incidentally, I can impersonate Rick Astley for you, too. My impressions of both are very similar.

Do I still own the albums? Yes, yes, no.


10. Soul Coughing, Irresistible Bliss
A girl I'd become friendly with at the time liked this album, so this selection was in her honor. I don't believe I ever listened to Irresistible Bliss from start to finish. What I did listen to didn't stick with me.

The album taught me a valuable lesson: Never order a CD from a mail-order music club simply to impress a girl.

Do I still own the album? No.


11. Dave Matthews Band, Under the Table and Dreaming
12. Dave Matthews Band, Crash 
When a Dave Matthews Band song comes on the radio, it takes me back to my college days. Their music was blasted out the windows of every floor of every dorm building on campus. You couldn't walk 50 feet in any direction without hearing "Ants Marching."

My college friend Dave had an issue with Dave Matthews Band. Fans were referring to the group as simply "Dave," and he was offended. "Why are they calling the band 'Dave,' as if that's the only 'Dave' in existence?" he asked. "I'm Dave, too." Can't argue that point.

I'm in a lucky position. There are no really famous musicians named Shane. As best as I can tell, Shane MacGowan of the British punk band The Pogues is the most accomplished artist that shares my name.

I'm not too familiar with the music of The Pogues. According to Wikipedia, they recorded seven studio albums. I'd give them all a chance, if only Columbia House were still in business....

Do I still own the albums? No.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Tiny Bits of Nonsense: July 2015

Here is the July 2015 edition of "Tiny Bits of Nonsense," featuring 10 of my tweets for the month:









Other bits of nonsense:
June 2015

May 2015
"Back to the Future" Edition
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
Valentine's Day Edition
January 2015
December 2014
Holiday Season Edition
November 2014
Thanksgiving Edition
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014

April 2014
March 2014