Wake Up Son, It's Playlist 47...

My son, like most teenagers, isn't that good at getting up in the morning. He once slept through a Cat 1 hurricane.

A couple years ago, we had to give up on the alarm clock. He slept through the blaring buzz that woke up our hard-of-hearing neighbor next door.

So I started waking him up. Being the good parent, I always shook him softly and said something like: "Come on buddy, time to get up." Or, you know try to add that extra little incentive. "Come on pal, wake up. It's Thursday, almost the weekend."

Regardless of what I'd say, my son's reply was the same: "Rrrffggrrffrrffeddffffff." Then he'd roll over away from me.

Then my son had an idea. What if I woke him up in a way that got his adrenalin going. (Yes, his suggestion). So, the next morning, I walked quietly to his door, then ran in and shook him and said, "There's a bear in the house!"

He sat right up. Smiled. And then laughed. And said, "That's funny Dad."

Here I was use to hearing grumpy caveman sounds. And I got a pleasant reply.

At 6:45.

That's A.M.

But the bear thing wouldn't work again. So I had to try something new. I went through a whole week with zombies, asteroids and disappearing pizza. I finally ended up last week with: "Andrew, you have to get up. Dane Cook ran out of jokes and he's starting to kill people!"

Now it's me running out of material.

And I need help.

Please send me some scary wake-ups I can give my son. Hit comment below and leave me a suggestion (and leave your name). Or e-mail me at dangephartAThotmailDOTcom. I'm going to try all the suggestions I get. And the suggestion that is most effective in waking up my son wins a copy of The Better of McSweeney's -- a wonderful collection of short stories.

Now onto the Playlist ...

World Series The Phillies played pretty poorly on Thursday night, but the series is even and it's coming to Philly. My usual Philly self is, of course, sure that we're doomed. But I'm trying to keep the hope. One thing I know for sure. With these late games, I'm not getting much sleep.

Meanwhile, check out these two Phillies-related features:
-- The Tale of the Tape between the two Ryan Howards.
-- Celebrity World Series picks. Tom Arnold picks the Phillies. We don't get much swimsuit model support. And Warren Sapp is still a jerk.

The Garden of Last Days. Andrew Dubus III
Dubus' rich writing infuses real depth to his characters, allowing the reader to feel both repulsion and apathy for the string of unsavory people -- a stripper, a terrorist and a wife-beater. Based on the idea that one of the 9/11 hijackers stopped at a Florida strip club before the attacks, Dubus' novel is gripping. When her landlady/babysitter becomes ill, April is forced to bring her daughter to work at the Puma strip club. As the night unfolds, April's attention is turned away from keeping an eye on her daughter and the drama unfolds.

One note to the editors: Delray -- as in Delray Beach -- is one word not two (Del Ray).

Rapid Response. Ted Leo/Pharmacists.
It's great having Ted back, especially before the election. It's only an EP -- just four songs. But the punk-popper rocks hard and, as usual, with a message. This digital EP was recorded in just a few days in response to the "real people" who had their rights trampled upon during the Republican National Convention. According to Deep Cutz, proceeds go to help those protesters with their bail, as well as to Democracy Now! and Minnesota - Food Not Bombs.

Inside the Human Body. Ezra Furman and the Harpoons.
Who is this Ezra Furman? emusic described him as Conor Oberst with a bus to catch. To me, he sounds like another alternative rocking wiseacre, like the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano. But damnit, if he doesn't write some fun songs. And the three-piece band is solid whether the songs tilt to blues, rock or punk. A fun album. Want some free downloads? Check out Furman's band at Daytrotter. Or, as always, you can listen to the music on the Hear This! feature on the right hand side of the page.

Who invented the alarm clock? Check out our Weekly Wikipedia link to find out.

Now my attention this weekend turns back to sports -- the World Series, the Eagles back off a bye week, and Penn State trying to stay unbeaten by finally beating Ohio State!
Go Phils!
We are Penn State!


Playlist 46 -- Let's go to the Replay

I watched intently when former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell announced on Meet the Press that he was endorsing Barak Obama. What I found intriguing was the thought process that Gen. Powell went through. He's obviously good friends with Sen. McCain, and the decision did not come easy for the longtime Republican.

You may disagree with his decision, but I think we can all agree that every voter should go through such a critical thinking process before pulling the lever, or as we do in Florida, punch the chad.

I wonder if Gen. Powell's endorsement will have any effect on the election? A couple other quick thoughts ...

-- You all know my thoughts on Sarah Palin, but she sure was a good sport on a couple funny Saturday Night Live skits. BTW, I still think Tina Fey is way hotter than Caribou Barbie.

-- Congrats to the Tampa Bay Rays. They now have two days to rest. But what kind of impact will the Phillies' weeklong rest have, particularly for the notoriously slow-starting Ryan Howard?

And now onto this week's Playlist ...

Replay. Ken Grimwood.
H.G. Wells and his machine, be damned. If you read just one time-traveling novel, make it Grimwood's much beloved 1986 thriller. Much beloved, you ask? Just check out the nearly unaminous 300+ reviews the book gets on Amazon. Jeff Winston, a middle-aged radio journalist, suddenly dies of a heart attack, only to wake up in his college dorm room, more than 25 years younger. Once he figures out what has happened, he makes a few good bets and investments and goes about living his life again -- until he reaches that same age of his previous heart attack. And then he dies again, returning another time to his college years. Grimwood's tale pushes the reader to think about he would do, if he had the chance to live over again. And as the replays continue, the suspense continues. It's a fun, riveting, book. I can see why it gets all the love from those who have read it.

Firefox Add-Art Add-on.
Are you, like me, really sick of those annoying ads on Web sites, particularly that mortgage one where the on-screen characters do some annoying dance? Again. And again. If you have Mozilla Firefox as your Web browser (and you really should), try this interesting add-on that replaces all the ads on the page with art shows by contemporary artists. The art show changes every couple weeks.

Slow Wonder. A.C. Newman
I revisited this album from the New Pornographers' red-headed leader this past week and found it as hook-filled, quirky and fun as I remembered. It's smart, memorable indie pop-rock.

This Is It & I Am It & You Are It & So Is That & He Is It & She Is It & It Is It & That Is That. Marnie Stern.
I've probably spent more time trying to say the full title of this album than I have listening to it a second time. Stern's second album, earning rave reviews all over the place, is full of fast noise rock nuggets that show off her axe skills. Great drumming, too. I'm not in love with it all, but I can see the attraction. A must for fans of Sleater-Kinney.


Playlist 45 Has Hope!

Last week, I talked about the dread, the fear that filled me with both the Eagles and Phillies playing at the same time. Years of tough losses and disappointments at big times have left me unable to get hopeful.

But I'm trying.

The election is just a few weeks away and my candidates are up in the polls. The Phillies are in the playoffs -- two wins away from a World Series visit, the first since my teen-age son was only months old. And the Eagles season is still young enough that things can turn around.

I felt bad for Cub fans last week. What a great season so quickly wiped out -- and now it's more than 100 years since a World Series. I was trying to talk down a Cubs fan colleague who was upset. I explained to him my theory that Cubs players must feel the weight of all their fans and the past losses on their shoulders. I told him that it's sort of like why my Philly teams can never seem to quite get over that hump.

I was trying to console him. I knew how he was feeling. I was trying to connect with him through our shared sports disappointments.

His response: "Philly fans are ---holes."

On that note, let's jump into this Week's Playlist.

Thanks But No Thanks: The Voters Guide to Sarah Palin. Sue Katz.
Can you think of a anybody who has become such a polarizing figure in so short a period of time as Sarah Palin? In her well-written and heavily researched first novel, blogger extraordinaire Sue Katz details all of the reasons why we need to very concerned about a potential Palin vice presidency or, gasp, presidency. Katz dissects Palins' feminist (or lack, thereof) and religious views. You think Jeremiah Wright is troublesome? Then you haven't met the witchdoctor Thomas Muthee.

Over 176 pages, Katz gives you all you need to know about this lipstick-wearing, moose-killing hockey mom. She delves into the rape kit scandal and revisits the sad riff on community organizers that Palin played part in at the Republican Convention. Thinking of voting for the McCain-Palin ticket? Read this book. Or if you have friends who are suppporting McCain-Palin, buy this book and feed them the facts.

And you won't be alone in buying the book, which is doing brisk sales on Amazon. And, as of yesterday, was Amazon's number one book in Kindle sales. Congratulations Sue!

In honor of this wonderful book, our Weekly Wikipedia link is Victorial Woodhull, the first female presidential candidate and a great early leader of the women's rights and suffragist movements.

Oh, and does the whole Palin thing sound like a Disney movie? Well, check out this film trailer for the fictitious Head of Skate. (Thanks Josh!) And if they did make a film out of a mom running for president, let's make sure it's not Palin, but Florida's Gov. Rothrock.

The Silver Lining Playbook. Matthew Quick.
Hope is the message in Quick's warm and funny debut novel. Pat Peoples has lived the last few years in a mental health facility or, as he calls it, the bad place. He can't remember the events that led to his stay in the bad place, but he knows what he has to do to reunite with the wife he loves. So he avoids Kenny G's music and works out ferociously. He reunites with his brother, his friend Ronnie and his parents -- a loving mom and a defeated father. He slowly ends up befriending the emotionally challenged Tiffany. What a memorable character Quick has developed in Pat Peoples.

You don't have to be a Eagles fan or even a football fan to enjoy this poignant book. However, if you, like me, have many family members who know the Eagles fight song by heart (Fly Eagles Fly, on the road to victory ...), this makes a wonderful gift.

See Matthew Quick's Guest Playlist on Distractions.

And one final note: E-A-G-L-E-S!

4. Dungen.
If the thought of a band that bounces from psychedelic rock to Frank Zappa-like guitar explosions to moments of free jazz with lyrics sung in their native Swedish tongue, doesn't appeal to you, then I'll feel förlåt for you. You're going to miss out on the excitement of Dungen. These guys can plan, whether it's the elevator music feel of Ingenting är sig likt or the amps-to-11 jam Samtidigt 1. Dungen has reigned in their excesses a bit. Their self-titled debut had three songs that averaged over 14 minutes. 4's longest is only 4:45. I can't pronounce any of the titles, but I'm certainly enjoying this. If you like both the Flaming Lips and Frank Zappa, you'll enjoy it too.

Nicknames and Natives. The Antiques.
This 2006 album is, as far as I know, the only full-length put out by this LA band. It's a sorely overlooked Americana release. Armed with pedal steel, mandolin and organ, the Antiques come off as an indie version of the Band, albeit much mellower. Of all the releases from 2006, this is one that I find myself coming back to most often.


Guest Playlist -- Matthew Quick

Matthew Quick has excellent taste in movies, music and books as you'll see below. But he also has great taste in sports. Like me, he's a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan. His quirky, quite funny and poignant debut novel The Silver Linings Playbook takes place during the course of Eagles' 2006 season, when Donovan McNabb went down, but the Eagles rallied around Jeff Garcia. That was also the season of the great Christmas Day win in Dallas. And the narrator Pat Peoples is nicknamed Hank Baskett -- after the Eagles back-up wide receiver.

We caught up with Quick (no to be confused with former Eagle great Mike Quick) this past week and he shared his Playlist -- not necessarily his favorites, but what he thought of first when the guest playlist was posed to him. Thankfully, there's no Kenny G.

The Shawshank Redemption
Be Kind Rewind
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (original Capra version)
The Darjeeling Limited
Lars and the Real Girl

Life of Pi. Yann Martel
Soul Mountain. Gao Xingjan
Kafka on the Shore. Haruki Murakami
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater. Kurt Vonnegut
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Jonathan Safran Foer
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Junot Diaz

Louder Than Bombs. The Smiths.
Ani Difranco. Ani Difranco.
Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash. The Pogues.
The Low End Theory. A Tribe Call Quest.
Eastern Sounds. Yusef Lateef.

To find out more about Quick and his great book, check out these links.
And did you know that Hank Baskett is dating Hugh Hefner's former girlfriend? Find out more here.


Playlist 44 is a Real Maverick

Some of you who know my devotion to Philly sports might think I'm hyped today. Phillies playing Game 4 of the NLDS. And the Eagles taking on the Washington Redskins at the same time. But hyped isn't quite the word.

It's more like dread.

It's quite possible that the Phillies, whose offense has gone missing again, could lose in Milwaukee (setting up a terrifying Game 5) right around the same time that my injury-plagued Birds could be falling to 2-3 and deep into the NFC East cellar.

I'm currently reading Matthew Quick's wonderful debut novel -- The Silver Linings Playbook. (More on the book next week). In it, the main character's father is in a foul mood almost all of the time except when the Eagles win. During one highly disappointing game, he breaks the television set.

I'm going to to remove any big, tossable objects from my living room right now.

Hey wait a minute. What am I doing? I'm setting up some pretty low expectations for my teams, aren't I? But maybe that works. Maybe, I should try it at work.

What if I showed up and blathered on about nothing and when directly questioned by my boss, appeared clueless. Then, at my next meeting, as long as I didn't burn down the building or vomit or cry, everyone will think I'm a pretty smart guy. Heck, I'll be so confident, I'll even wink at all the bosses.

Yeah, that's the gosh darn ticket.

For no apparent reason, our Weekly Wikipedia link is the the television show Maverick.

Now onto the Playlist ...

Victory Shorts. Absentee.
I love this album. Deep-voiced Dan Michaelson writes big hook-filled rock songs and gorgeous ballads with a unique turn of words. The London-based five-piece indie band also includes Melinda Bronstein on vocals, glockenspiel and keyboards. Absentee sounds like a mix between the Silver Jews (see Playlist 39) and Magic Numbers. I can't say much more, except that I highly recommended this. I've put two songs onto the Hear This! tool on the right-hand side. Give it a listen.

Starbucks Nation: A Novel. Chris Ver Weil.
First of all, this is a novel. It's in the title. But I could see how someone might walk by it thinking it another piece of barista-filled wit and wisdom. Second, to know how dead on Ver Weil's take on Hollywood, celebrity and today's coffee- and text messaging-obsessed youth is, just look at your local movie page where you'll find the new film Chihuahua in Beverly Hills. Ver Weil's story follows screenwriter Morgan Beale, who is suffering from writers' block while he's supposed to be penning the script for Chihuahua in the Blue Prada Bag. In the first few chapters, particularly as Beale talks to a young People reporter, Ver Weil is a joy to read. The book soon descends into a strange, sleeping-drug induced tale of Beale in a giant hole outside of a Starbucks. I preferred the start of the book, but still found Starbucks Nation to be very biting. Very funny. And very creative.

Decline of Western Civilization. Holy Sons.

Holy Sons is actually one person -- Emil Amos who wrote all the songs and plays every note on this dark album. He's wildly talented, and he must be a real bummer at parties. The song titles fit right in with the lo-fi trudging music -- Nothing Left, Bleakest Picture, Satanic Androids and Decline's closer -- Things You Do While Waiting for the Apocolypse. No, it's certainly not going to cheer you up, but it's great music if you have a seat of headphones and rainy day.