The Compound

Everything you have heard is true. The wait is finally over. A once in a lifetime event will be taking place tomorrow night at the McKay Events Center in Orem. Yes, I'm talking about MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice together at last, live in concert.

MC Hammer (aka Stanley Burrell), who was last seen attempting to capitalize on his has-been status by appearing in such commercials as the recent Cash 4 Gold Super Bowl spot and Nationwide's "Life Comes At You Fast" campaign, will be performing with a 24 person choir and dancers. Prior to his "commercial" break, Hammer's far-reaching influence was last felt in 13 glorious episodes of his Saturday morning cartoon, Hammerman (<--you really owe it to yourself to click on this video link). This groundbreaking show centered around a youth center worker named, ahem, Stanley Burrell, who owned a pair of magical dancing shoes which when worn caused him to transform into the superhero Hammerman. Unfortunately, this television tour-de-force has yet to see a proper DVD release.

Meanwhile, Vanilla Ice (aka Rob Van Winkle) has spent his washed up years appearing on pretty much every reality show ever, including VH1's The Surreal Life and CMT's Celebrity Bull Riding. Before he embraced "reality," he was last seen making a critically acclaimed appearance in the worldwide phenomenon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, unleashing the radically bodacious "Ninja Rap" to an unsuspecting world. Ice will be performing with his "Crew," which may or may not include Stephen Baldwin and Dan Clark (aka Nitro from American Gladiators), whom he befriended during his treasured days as a celebrity bull rider.

Exclusive insider info tells us that MC Hammer will be opening his set with "U Can't Touch This," closing with "Too Legit To Quit," and filling in any gaps with episodes of Hammerman. Not to be outdone, Vanilla Ice will be performing his international superhit "Ice Ice Baby" over and over while the surviving members of Queen collect royalties. Concert promotions are instructing attendees to "Dress 80's and bring your Hammer Pants because this event will re-make history!"

Okay, I have to ask, If we have the ability to re-make history, wouldn't Hammer Pants be something we would want to write out rather than relive? But the real question that nobody is asking is, were these two let out of the Compound, or did they escape?

What's that you say? Never heard of the Compound? I feared this might be the case, so I have taken the initiative to prepare the following list of frequently asked questions:

What is the Compound?
A large, isolated island fortress where celebrities are taken after their 15 minutes of fame are up. My friend Scott and I postulated this theory several years ago after seeing a washed up musical act perform on the Late Show with David Letterman. Our wheels began to turn when we wondered where these guys had been for so long, and if we would ever see them again.

Where is it located?
This is currently unknown. Ordinary, non-famous folks like us would never be able to find the the Compound on our own because it is thought to have mystical properties. The island from Lost is loosely based on it, but for some reason, the show's producers don't think that Scott and I deserve any credit.

How do you end up there?
Some fallen celebrities are victims of the fickle nature of pop culture—in one moment, out the next. Others are blinded by their ego and choose to develop projects that are reprehensibly bad. Or, if all else fails, there is always getting crazy drunk and going on an anti-semitic rant.

Who are some prominent detainees?
• Los Del Rio, or the old Spanish dudes responsible for the "Macarena"
• Joel Schumacher, or the rubber nipple-loving director of Batman & Robin
• William Hung, or the Chinese kid that sang "She Bangs" on American Idol
• All members of the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, sans Justin Timberlake
• The stars of most reality shows and infomercials

Can they ever leave?
Depending on the level of their former fame and the speed of their fall, detainees are periodically released on probation and given a chance to "make it" again. There are a few select individuals who have successfully emerged from the Compound to reach or exceed previous heights when the right opportunity comes along—Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man last year comes to mind. But usually it turns out about as well as it did for that group we saw on Letterman way back when, whose name I can't even remember.

What sorts of activities are available there?
The Compound does feature a small set and crew for the aforementioned reality shows and infomercials. Some like to frequent the on site fitness center in an effort to be better prepared when VH1 comes looking for talking heads to appear in their next "I Love the (Insert Decade Here)" special. Others are more resigned to their fate and really get into the weekly Trivial Pursuit and Guitar Hero tournaments.

Who has a stay at the Compound in their future?
• Nadya Suleman, or the octuplet mom
• Miley Cyrus, or Hannah Montana
• Her dad Billy Ray, who only got out the first time because of her
• Joaquin Phoenix, assuming this crazy beard phase doesn't pan out
• The entire cast of the High School Musical series

Who is the warden of the Compound?
Isn't it obvious?

What can we do to help?
This privileged information makes tomorrow night all the more significant for MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. With their return trip to the Compound tentatively booked as soon as the concert ends, who knows when we will get a chance to see these heavyweights of hip hop again? We have to do our part to help them stay popular. Tickets are $32.50 for the Floor and $38.00 for the upper bowl. Wait, aren't concert tickets usually more expensive the closer you get to the stage? Sorry guys, it's not looking good.


Money Saving Tip of the Day

Always Buy Lunch Meat from the Walmart Deli

Kristen and I haven't regularly shopped at our local Walmart SuperCenter since we were poor newlyweds, but since we are currently looking for ways to save money, we begrudgingly did our grocery shopping there last week.

So what makes the Walmart Deli so special? It's not the fabled everyday low prices. The secret is to always order 1/3 of a pound of whatever meat you want. The deli worker, who likely hasn't gotten far enough in school to learn how fractions work, will get confused and think you meant 3/4 of a pound. Once they have piled enough meat on the scale for it to read 0.75, that is when you stop them and say, "No, no, no, I said 1/3 of a pound! 0.33!"

Flustered, they will then pull several slices off until the scale reads correctly. Since they have no other use for this extra meat, they will add it back to your order after they print out the sticker priced at the lower weight. Now you are getting more than twice as much for your money!


Wanted: Freelance Clients

For those who haven't heard, my employer, Salt City Candle, recently announced that due to slowing sales in the poor economy, they are cutting everyone's full-time hours from 40 to 32. This change has been put in place "until further notice"—basically until things start to pick up again. While this kinda stinks, I am grateful that I at least still have a job, which is more than a lot of people can say right now. But in the meantime, Kristen and I are looking for ways to make up for this lost income.

Kristen has recently started doing some part time work for our brother-in-law, Chris. As for me, I have decided to start actively seeking out freelance work. If you happen to know of anyone that needs any graphic design work done, the referral would be greatly appreciated. Although I am still making little updates here and there, my new portfolio website is up and running at www.davebartondesign.com.


U2 Discography: Zoo Station

Previously: In God's Country

Achtung Baby (1991)

As a 12 year old still new to the music scene, I was constantly looking for ways to expand my modest cassette collection. Our family had a Columbia House Music Club membership, so I decided to take advantage of one of their famous Buy 1 Get 2 Free offers. While poring over a club catalog, I took notice of Achtung Baby, which was still relatively new. I recognized the title "Mysterious Ways" from its generous radio exposure, and that was enough to persuade me to include it with my order. Little did I know what I had gotten myself into. For a kid who only knew U2 by The Joshua Tree, this album sounded like it was from another planet. I wasn't familiar enough with the band's history at the time to truly grasp the enormous left turn they had taken, but as I explained in my Desert Island Discs post, that's what makes it my favorite U2 album today. 17 years after that fateful purchase, Achtung Baby can still send me into space.

B-Asides: One of my favorite Achtung Baby stories involves a girl—a particularly self righteous girl—that I was dating while up at Utah State. We were driving back to Logan together at the end of a weekend, and I popped in my trusty Achtung Baby cassette—the very same one I had bought all those years ago. As the sonic barrage of the "The Fly" began, we had the following exchange:

Her: What is this?
Me: Um... it's U2.
Her: It sounds like the devil.

We broke up a few weeks later.
Highlights: The whole thing
My Rating: 10/10

Zooropa (1993)

By far their least accessible album, Zooropa was U2's "I'm Keith Hernandez!" moment. They broke pretty much all the rules of mainstream music because they were the biggest band in the world and they could. The first two minutes of the opening title track is an unnerving build of white noise. Bono sings the song "Lemon" mostly falsetto. The Edge gets a rare shot at the mike on "Numb," and he uses this chance to chant rhythmically in monotone over a screeching guitar and even more Bono falsetto. And Johnny Cash, of all people, is called on to preside over the album's benediction, "The Wanderer." Doomed to follow the brilliant Achtung Baby, I'll admit that I wasn't crazy about the more outlandish Zooropa when I first heard it, but it has grown on me over the years. While the album lacks the big hooks and hit singles that the band is famous for, it has a surplus of strange sounds, pulsating electronic beats, and most importantly, ambition. To truly appreciate its nuances, it definitely requires repeat listens.
Highlights: Zooropa, Numb, Lemon, Stay (Faraway, So Close), Daddy's Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car
My Rating: 7.5/10

Pop (1997)

Pop was the first U2 album where I remember anticipating its release. But since I still didn't care much for Zooropa at that point, and I wasn't immediately smitten with the first single "Discothéque," I decided I wasn't going to buy it. So how long did this self imposed embargo last? One day. That's right, I broke down and bought the album the day after it came out—and I wasn't disappointed. A junior in high school at the time, Pop arrived during a very impressionable period of my life, so I have a lot of good memories associated with it. For instance, one otherwise uneventful Friday night, me and my friends Spencer and Scott gathered up a video camera, strobe light, and some old guitars, and we made our own version of the "Discothéque" music video in my parents' basement (I was Bono in case you were wondering). Unfortunately, no one is sure if a copy of this video still exists, or else this is where I would provide an embarrassing video link.

Another memorable event from this time was the extravagant PopMart concert tour stopping for a night at Rice (Eccles) Stadium—U2's first performance in Salt Lake City in years. A local radio station even commemorated the occasion by adding a giant "2" next to the "U" on the mountain. Controversy erupted at school when it was discovered that the concert was on the same night as the Junior Prom. After much deliberation, I ended up choosing the concert, and I have not once regretted this decision. I don't think my friends who chose the Prom (cough... Spencer... cough) can say the same thing.

These days, Pop is not considered among U2's best work, and even the band seems to have disowned it. But rather than talk about the merits of the songs, I have used my allotted space (and then some) to talk about teenage memories—because sometimes certain music becomes inextricably linked with little moments in our lives. It has the power to transport us to another place and time, and that's what makes it special to us.
Highlights: Discothéque, Mofo, Last Night On Earth, Gone, Please
My Rating: 8.5/10
Next Time: Walk On


One Shall Stand, A Bunch of Others Shall Fall

Yes, Transformers dominated this poll. But rather than going with my standard poll result format, I have decided to take this opportunity to wax nostalgic about what merchandise we had from each show. By the way, thanks for bearing with me while I relive my childhood.

1. Transformers - 8 votes
As I stated in the comments, we mostly had GoBots. I had the Gobot Command Center and my brother Rob had the Renegade Base, which, I kid you not, was named "Thruster." Anyway, I only remember ever getting one Transformer toy, and it broke the first time I tried to transform it, so it got returned. My only other bonafide Transformers merchandise was an Optimus Prime sand castle kit for trips to the beach.

2. ThunderCats - 4 votes
The only bit of ThunderCats merchandise I ever had was a metal lunchbox. I actually still have it. I dug through our closet to find it just so I could take this photo. ThunderCats, Hoooooo!

3. (TIE) He-Man & Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 3 votes
We didn't have any toys from either of these shows. We had to settle for playing with them at friends' houses. If I remember correctly, which I probably am not, the Castle Grayskull playset was awesome.

4. G.I. Joe - 2 votes
Rob and I had countless G.I. Joe action figures. We even got pretty good taking the little screw out of their backs and swapping body parts. We also had several vehicles, including H.A.V.O.C., the Cobra Mamba, and Sgt. Slaughter's Triple T. For those that take the time to follow those links and watch those vintage commercials, isn't it great how every vehicle has its own theme song?

5. (TIE) Scooby Doo & Voltron - 1 vote
We didn't have any toys from our two write-in shows either, but we did have a Voltron Activity book with various puzzles and games. Boh-ring!


'80s Cartoon Paradise

I have made it no secret that I am a child of the 80's. It may or may not be the nostalgia talking, but cartoons today are nowhere near as cool as they were back then. Now the time has come to pour yourself a big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch and cast your vote for the best 80's cartoon. With so many memorable shows to choose from, I used the following criteria to help me narrow down the choices:

• Featured an insanely catchy theme song
• Had a killer logo, preferably rendered in chrome
• Spawned a vast line of toys and merchandise

Kristen pointed out to me that my selections are pretty much all "boy" cartoons, but I am a guy and this is what I watched, so what can you do? There is once again an "other" option available for write-in candidates in case I left off your favorite show. But be sure to sure to leave a comment regardless, because commenting is half the battle.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Premise: The jingoistic Joes must utilize a new, elaborate, toy-like vehicle every week in their ongoing effort to defeat the ruthless Cobra Organization. In addition to some important public safety lessons, the series taught us that terrorists can be identified by their shiny metal masks and prominent snake logos stitched on all their periphenilia.

A real American hero, G.I. Joe is there.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

Premise: With the aid of his magical sword, a nerdy prince transforms into an eerily similiar looking manly man wearing only a furry loin cloth. Using his "fabulous secret powers" (and hair-do) He-Man protects Eternia from the machinations of a muscle bound skeleton, and the occasional freelance super villain with a head shaped like a giant artichoke.
By the power of Grayskull, I have the power!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Premise: Always armed with a hip catchphrase ("Cowabunga, dudes!") and a bevy of fighting moves that little boys shouldn't imitate but do anyway, these pizza loving heroes in a half shell defend New York City from the evil Shredder and his buddy Krang, who just happens to be an overgrown talking brain in a human-shaped exo-suit.

Heroes in a half shell, turtle power!

Premise: Giant robots transform into cars and planes in the fierce battle for toy galactic supremacy. The benevolent semi truck Optimus Prime (with his magical disappearing trailer) leads the Autobots, while the evil Decepticons are headed by Megatron, who even though he already has a gun on his arm when he is a robot, transforms to become an even bigger gun.

More than meets the eye.

Premise: Forced to migrate to "Third Earth" when their native Thundera was destroyed, the ThunderCats are now locked in an eternal struggle with Mumm-Ra, the "ever-living source of evil." Lion-O, the leader of the ThunderCats, wields the mythical Sword of Omens, which gives him "sight beyond sight," gets longer when he tells it to, and overall is much, much cooler than He-Man's magical sword.
Thunder... thunder... thunder... Thundercats, Hoooo!


Ten Things...

...I Never Thought I'd Hear Myself Say

10. "I'm totally geeking out!"

Over the past several years, I have come to grips with my nerdiness. I admit that I used to frequent the Lost message boards while I was "working" at the U, and even made a couple of posts. So yes... I am a Lost nerd. I'm not usually the type of person who can figure out what is going to happen halfway through the show, but it occasionally happens with Lost. However, the episode two weeks ago totally blew my mind. (Spoiler Alert!) Young Charles Widmore on the island? WHAT?! I'm still geeking out about that one.

9. "I think I'll go to step aerobics at 5:45 AM."

My friend Kristina encouraged me to start going to some of the fitness classes at our community center. So I bought a pass, but it's only good for 30 days. I figured out that I need to attend at least 6 times for it to be worth what it cost. I went to step aerobics at 5:45 AM a couple of Fridays ago... and plan to go again. Of course, I still don't think that anyone should have to be awake at that time of day. And it seems like torture to have to aerobacise to a loud techno mix that early. But, it works.

8. "I watched the Christmas Bondathon all day while you were at work."

You all know that I enjoy Daniel Craig as James Bond, but it wasn't until recently that I finally gave some of the other 007 movies a chance. I started reading some of the novels (more details to come in a future post), so I felt compelled to watch the movies. Lucky for me there was a Christmas Bondathon on Spike the week of Christmas, featuring three different James Bond flicks per day. Let's just say I am not a fan of Roger Moore.

7. "You've got boogs on your face!"

I never thought I'd be one of those mommies that let their kids run around with boogers all over their face. I will admit that I might have even been a little judgmental in that regard. But, experience has changed my mind. I now realize that it is the mommies whose kids never have boogers on their faces that are the freaks! I have learned to choose my battles, and wiping an angry baby's sore nose every five minutes is a battle that I am willing to concede. So boogers are okay with me... to a point.

6. "My attention span is too short for this book."

I was always a good reader. I was the kind of kid who would sneakily turn my light back on when I was supposed to be in bed, just so I could keep reading my book. But ever since I was pregnant, I have a really short attention span. I have a really hard time sitting down and reading a book -- especially a slow-moving one. I plan to read all of Charles Dickens' novels in the next 5 years or so, and recently attempted Little Dorrit. I checked it out of the library and trudged through it... and kept renewing it until the library said I couldn't renew it anymore. So, I gave it up. But I will read it someday. I just need to do some brain exercises first.

5. "Yummy prunes!"

No, I don't really think prunes are yummy... but I am willing to say they are to encourage my child to eat them. I have big hopes that Eddie will like healthier food than his parents do. So, until he knows better, I will cheer for prunes.

4. "Daah-baaah!"

One day, I walked around Kmart saying "daah-baaah" to Eddie... just to make him laugh. Of course, it's not like there were that many people around to think I was crazy... after all, it was Kmart.

3. "Go ahead and throw up on me if you need to."

Ah, the joys of motherhood. It is amazing what kinds of disgusting things you can withstand when it's your responsibility to do so. I recently decided that I can be thrown up on and it's a lot easier to clean up than if that same throw-up was to end up all over the carpet or the bed. So yes, Eddie can throw up on me if he needs to. That is what Spray 'N Wash is for, right?

2. "Jorge is the glue that holds the Yankees together."

Before I met Dave, Major League Baseball was just another professional sport that I didn't care to watch. While I still don't care to watch other professional sports, I decided to give in on MLB -- for the sake of our marriage. Now I try to learn more about the Yankees, sometimes to surprise Dave with my immense knowledge of everything, and other times just so I can understand what is going on when we watch the games. I am bugged by a lot of the players (not just on the Yankees) and make fun of them if they're too ugly (Randy Johnson), too greasy (Jason Giambi), or too ape-like (Bobby Abreu). However, I have come to the decision that Jorge Posada is my favorite Yankee and when he was injured last season, it was a rough time for me and the team.

1. "I'll have to link that SportsCenter commercial with Jorge in my post."

This commercial cracked me up, and I am not usually cracked up by things I see on ESPN, so it was quite the monumental occasion. Enjoy!


Cooking Highs and Lows

Reporting back on the appetizers I made for the Super Bowl, the buffalo wings turned out great. We had them again for dinner the other night, but decided to bake them at 425° for about 40 minutes rather than frying them, just to see if there was much difference. When I fried them, they ended up with a nice golden breading, which helped to absorb the hot sauce mixture, so they weren't too messy. But when I baked them, the skin ended up much more crispy, so a lot of the hot sauce ended up running off. They were tasty both ways though.

The third and final snack I made for the big game, which I didn't include in my post last week, was a new Chex mix recipe. I had recently noticed it on a box of Chocolate Chex, and thought that it sounded good. After trying it out, it is definitely a keeper. Kristen and I kept sneaking pieces on Saturday afternoon, and even considered telling everyone that it turned out gross so we could eat it all ourselves. Can it knock Muddy Buddies off its perch as the most addicting cereal based snack mix? Time will tell.

Chocolate Chex Caramel Crunch

• 8 cups Chocolate Chex cereal
• 1 cup packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup butter or margarine
• 4 tablespoons light corn syrup
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 cup vanilla baking chips

Measure cereal into a large microwavable bowl; set aside. Line cookie sheet with waxed paper.

In a 2-cup microwavable measuring cup, microwave brown sugar, butter and corn syrup uncovered on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute, until melted and smooth. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Microwave on High for 2 minutes, stirring after each minute. Spread on cookie sheet. Cool 10 minutes. Break into bite-size pieces.

In small microwavable bowl, microwave vanilla baking chips uncovered on High about 1 minute 30 seconds or until chips can be stirred smooth. Drizzle over snack (we used an icing tip to get nice thin strokes like the photo). Refrigerate until set. Store in tightly covered container.

Just so you don't think everything I touch in the kitchen turns to gold, I was making some cookies last night—a recipe I have made several times before. As I started gathering ingredients, I realized we didn't have enough butter. We did have Crisco, so rather than running to the store, I just used that instead, faithfully following the butter conversion directions on the can. The recipe said to bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes, and warned not to overcook them, but when the oven timer went off, they just did not look done, so I left them in for another few minutes. But instead of taking shape like a good cookie should, they pretty much melted. Here's a photo of the deflated final result.


U2 Discography: In God's Country

Previously: Stories For Boys

The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

The evolution of the classic U2 sound took a big leap forward, due in large part to the band's first collaboration with experimental producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois. Layered with atmosphere and texture, the widened sonic landscape helps this batch of songs to transcend pretty much everything from their first three albums. The Unforgettable Fire is not without a misstep or two—I'm docking a half point off my rating for the meandering "Elvis Presley in America," which goes absolutely nowhere for 6 minutes and 23 seconds. They should move that song to October so I never have to listen to it again.
Highlights: Pride (In The Name of Love), Wire, The Unforgettable Fire, Bad
My Rating: 8.5/10

The Joshua Tree (1987)

As the final step in their initial ascension to biggest band in the world, U2 tethered the atmospherics of The Unforgettable Fire to the ironclad anchor of American roots music, and tada, a timeless masterpiece was born. The Joshua Tree has been there for as long as I have been into music. I got my first cassette player when I was 12, and this was one of the first albums I copied from my sisters' tape collection, via the wonders of high speed dubbing. When I got a CD player a few years later, this was the first CD I bought. It is instant nostalgia—the rare album that manages to be celebratory yet contemplative, euphoric yet forlorn. Music just doesn't get much better than this.
Highlights: The whole thing
My Rating: 10/10

Rattle and Hum (1988)

After the runaway success of The Joshua Tree, the band undoubtedly asked themselves, "How do we follow this up?" What they quickly learned through experience was not with a project like Rattle and Hum. While it wasn't necessarily the self-aggrandizing propaganda that critics accused it of being, the album and companion film failed to maintain the momentum that had been steadily building since War. Part live greatest hits, part ongoing tribute to American roots music, Rattle and Hum doesn't necessarily lack great songs, but it does lack a cohesive thread, preventing it from being considered among their best. By the end of the '80s, the classic U2 sound had run its course, and the band knew it. During a concert on the last night of the decade, Bono famously told the audience, "This is just the end of something for U2... It's no big deal, it's just... we have to go away and... dream it all up again."
Highlights: Desire, Silver and Gold, Heartland, All I Want Is You
My Rating: 7.5/10
Next Time: Zoo Station


The Soothing Soft Rock Sounds of Yesteryear

Growing up in Price, there were only a handful of radio stations—most of which were country. So we were dedicated listeners of KISN 97, which at the time featured soft rock hits of the 80's and early 90's.

I really had no idea how much brain space I was using to store song lyrics until after Dave and I got married. We would frequently find ourselves in some store or restaurant where they play soft rock, and without fail, I would know all the words to whatever song happened to be playing. I didn't really think much of this, but Dave found it to be quite an amazing phenomenon.

A recent trip to Arby's once again reminded us of this "talent" of mine. As we sat enjoying our roast beef and swiss, listening to FM 100, I suddenly found myself singing every word to "Back For Good" by Take That. That was followed by REO Speedwagon's "Keep on Loving You" and Chicago's "Hard to Say I'm Sorry."

This inspired some internet research. When we got home, we ended up perusing Billboard Top 100 songs of the 80's and early 90's and listening to song snippets on iTunes for most of the evening. So while I may not be able to remember the last time I changed Eddie's diaper, here is a handful of songs that I still know all the words to:

Tainted Love // Soft Cell (1981)

Baby Baby // Amy Grant (1991)

Hazard // Richard Marx (1991)

Just Another Day // Jon Secada (1992)

I think you get the point. On a semi-related note, have you ever wondered what song was #1 on the day you were born? Or any other important day for that matter? Now you can find out thanks to this website, which lists the #1 song on any day in history. Mine is "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham! Please look yours up and share it in the comments. I'm dying to know!