The Wednesday Pop Culture Rant apologizes for the absence, but we have been helping decamp the Calliope World Wide Headquarters to Tulsa. The move became inevitable after the Cain’s Ballroom refused to lease us a cot under the hole Sid Vicious punched in the wall during the Sex Pistols ill-fated U.S. tour. Actually the Pistols should have just renamed the band Ill-Fated.
So now we’re closer to the tunes and the beer and the food and the Old Fashions at Valkyrie. A happier Rant benefits all. Call it trickle-down rantonomics. Also, our music scene kicks your music scene’s Marshall amp from the Cain’s to The Colony to The Mercury Lounge and back again. We know it won’t last forever (RIP Omaha music scene) but we’re delighted to ride the wave.
During breaks from unpacking the boxes, The Rant has discovered that we desire all football action to occur within the view of the Pylon Cam, the greatest invention since the first down line superimposed on our screen. We especially enjoy a player hurtling toward the corner of the end zone, ball outstretched, and obliterating the pylon and beloved cam in high-def glory. More Pylon Cam, less Jim Nantz translates into a better America.
Trying to beat the yes-I-know-my-pets-are-bursting-into-flames-but-I’m-still-not-sure-about-climate-change heat of summer, we discovered two other guilty pleasures: BattleBots and American Ninja Warrior. The Rant always appreciates our future robot overlords trying to destroy each other rather than us, and Ninja Warrior offers up the Obstacle Course from Hell challenged by people that claim to have day jobs but appear to do nothing but build miniature versions of the course in their backyards to practice.
The real enjoyment of these shows derives from two people: BattleBot ring announcer Faruq Tauheed and Ninja commentator Akbar Gbajabiamila. Faruq has a classic bell call, “It’s robot fightin’ time!” and introduces the bots with a mixture of horrible puns and pop culture references. One of the The Rant’s faves, a shout-out to LL Cool J: “Don’t call it a comeback: he’s been here for years/rocking his peers/putting robots in fear. It’s Son of Whyachi!” Faruq can go from John Denver (“Get ready to Rocky Mountain Die!”) to Macbeth (“Glippity-gloppity, glippity-goo, the voodoo child is back for Season 2! It’s Witch Doctor!”).
Akbar simply seems unaware he is on television. He speaks directly to contestants while they take a breather on the course and shouts his disappointment when someone can’t complete an obstacle. But my favorite Akbar move is the wildly optimistic prediction of success followed immediately by the touted competitor failing in spectacular fashion while Akbar moans in disbelief. I want Akbar to sit in my office and exhort me to success with increasingly absurd comments on my ability: “That sentence might earn The Rant a Pulitzer! Keep bringin’ the semi-colons Rant!”
What The Rant appreciates most about these men is the absolute commitment to the most ridiculous of endeavors. Both bring wit, intelligence, and enthusiasm to shows that have no real reason to exist and turns them into joyous occasions through the sheer force of their wills. Camus would be proud to watch Faruq and Akbar push their pop cultures boulders up the hill and then enjoy their celebration of the descent back into the abyss. “It’s ennui fightin’ time!”