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"Oh, for the love-a...," my dad yells at the TV. It's his favorite thing, heckling people who will never hear him. In the past year before his retirement, he's slipped from "disagreeable middle age" to "cantankerous old fart." He sits, slumped in his La-Z-Boy, drinks whatever watery American beer is on sale that week, and fills the air with smoke and cursing. "Who the hell asked you a damned thing, you old bat!? Good God, if she's not old as dirt, she was born when it was new."

Cable doesn't run out in the hills where he lives, so he subsists on three channels. He had a satellite dish installed, but he doesn't watch it. He likes the big networks, the news, a couple Law and Order shows, but his favorite is The Antiques Roadshow .

"Look at the pile-a crap that lady's trying to pawn off as 'antique.' I could get that at Wal-Mart," he growls. "Honey, whatever it's worth, take the money. Then buy a new goddamn hat 'cuz I wouldn't enter that one in a dog show!"

At 61, he gets up at 5:30 every morning. He gets a pack of cigarettes and a cup of coffee from a gas station on his way to work. He puts in a day doing manual labor for the city of Sonora -- weed-eating in the summer, paving roads and unclogging leaf-filled and flooded storm drains in the winter.

When he gets home, he wants to put his boots next to the fire, dent a six-pack of Keystone Light, and shout at the television. "Two thousand dollars! For a purse! You've got to be out of your mind. If I found that thing in the street, I'd set fire to it."

When I lived up there, I tried to get him to do things after work. "C'mon, Dad, let's go to Tommy's softball game," or "Let's get dinner and watch a movie." I thought it was unhealthy for him to sit in the house by himself all the time.

"Dammit, boy, I've worked 50 years. I want to sit down," he'd yell if I interrupted his TV time. "What is that, an Indian papoose? Yeah, carry this around."

I quit trying to change him and took up a seat next to him. "Look at that fellah's tie, Dad."

"Yeah, I need a tie like that," he groans. "To wipe my butt with."


I don't watch much TV during the week, maybe a rerun of The Daily Show, Heroes, and a UFC program on Spike, occasionally. What I do enjoy is waking up Saturday morning and catching the VH-1 Top 20 Countdown. Here are last week's Top 10.

#10 Gwen Stefani

"Wind It Up" Ugh. Gwen Stefani, former pretty and talented singer, is now yodeling in a nun's outfit and round, white, Gucci sunglasses. Easy, Gwen. If you're taking the Madonna track to superstardom, you still have years before you reach the "idiotic" portion of your career. No reason to rush. Rating: no fingers.

#9 The Fray

"How to Save a Life"How to save me from slapping my own face with an errant shoe: step 1, don't play this horrendous tripe. Rating: one finger, straight up; guess which one.

#8 Christina Aguilera

"Hurt" This video has a circus sideshow act theme, and I can't figure out how Christina fits into that. They show sword swallowers, tightrope walkers, and elephants. Her role seems to be "blonde L.A. ding-dong pretending to be melancholy and glamorous." Rating: three fingers; the middle, index, and pinkie configured into "the shocker."

#7 Hinder

"Lips of an Angel" I've mentioned this song in the past. In case you've missed it, you're in for a treat. This is easily the worst song of this generation, and I'd say the worst song of this century, but we're only six years in, and it's a little early. When VH-1 does a "Stupidest Garbage We've Ever Played" retrospective, Hinder's going to be toward the top. Rating: the whole fist, smashed into the monkey face of that effete lead singer.

#6 The All American Rejects

"It Ends Tonight" Probably the most talented band in the Top 10. They can actually play instruments, and their lyrics don't read like seventh-grade-little-girl-going-through-her-parents'-divorce poetry. Rating: the hand, palm flat and facing down, rocking side-to-side in a "eh, so-so" gesture.

#5 Evanescence

"Call Me When You're Sober" Here's the thing with gothic costumes: they look great in videos with wolves, long candle-lit tables, and plush velvet high-back chairs. You think it's cool until you see that guy on the beach in July, wearing whiteface, a cape, and ring-striped stockings, sweating like a surplus army mule. Rating: as a lover of porky women, I have to give Evanescence a "thumbs up."

#4 Beyoncé

"Irreplaceable" It seems that popular music has been reduced to a catch phrase associated with a hand gesture. Beyoncé's contribution to the pantheon of music is her latest "to the left/ to the left" and a quick flick of the fingers. Sure, Chubby Checker had "the twist" and "the jet" a long time ago, but those were dance steps and not an entire song based on a direction. Where am I supposed to go? Oh, thank you, Beyoncé. I never would've figured it out without you. We'll be sure to heap millions of dollars on you for showing us the correct path from here to the bathroom. Rating: one finger, pointing down from my belt buckle area.

#3 Fergie

"Fergalicious" As much as I hate this woman and everything she stands for, I can't get this song out of my head. It's damn catchy. Sure, it's anti-music (something that if played for a person trained in the proper execution of the musical arts would make him chew the legs off a barstool), but dammit if I can't stop pooching my butt out and spanking myself whenever this song comes on. Rating: "the pistol" configuration, pointed toward my temple for the shame I feel.

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