Thursday, December 13, 2007

Cross country binge drinking at its finest

I knew Wade Boggs was a kook, but this is completely insane.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Blandness

Nobody's ever gonna read it, but I posted a review of Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness on Amazon:



oh BILLY, December 11, 2007
By "lunaharpua" (brooklyn) - See all my reviews

Holy cow, was Siamese Dream a masterpiece. Which makes this nonsensically titled wad of bloat a complete letdown and a half.

What happened to Billy's voice? Why does it sound like he's singing from a Lay-z-Boy with new beer-fueled layers of neck fat choking his trachea, producing this new sound, this throttled, screeching goose honk? He never used to sound like that!

And where did the songs go? This tatwaddle from a guy who crafted "Drown" and "Obscured" and "Quiet"? And when did you start taking yourself too seriously, Billy? What did we do to deserve lines like "I'll never be the shine in your spit"?

Oh Billy, what happened?

There are a handful of great tunes on here, but a handful does not a double album make. Did you really have to take out a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune to tell us your solo album was a pile of poop? We KNEW it was, pal.

Word to the wise, Bill: relax. Don't go publishing any more books of poetry. Don't wear black leather smocks, and for god's sake, pack up that Zero t-shirt. You made some great songs there for awhile, and that's something to be proud of. There are even some classic ones on Adore, and one or two on Machina II, but that's as far as I go.

And for you SP fans who stuck with them 'til the end, I've gotta hand it to you. You're a better fan than I am, apparently.


Had to get it off my chest.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lame!

Pret-ty lame. 'Tis the holiday season and all that, but really there's no excuse for the blog, or more specifically, what this blog has become. Or hasn't become.

The idea is to just write whatever comes to mind, so I'll give you a rundown of what's come to mind recently:

1. My blog upstart coworker is better at it than I am.

2. Not much else.

As a substitute for remembering what's been in the brainpan lately, which is always way more difficult than it should be, I went back to my IE browsing history to find out what I've been doing. Pretty soon we'll all have computers to remember everything for us so we don't have to. Anyway, here's some of it:

-Spent some time on www.absintheonline.com (had it once in Glasgow and it's fascinating stuff indeed. Not just for moody, clove-smoking goths.)

-Checked out a story about Brian Wilson and the resurrection of the lost Beach Boys SMILE album and watched Mike Love's highly embarrassing speech at the 1988 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for the Beach Boys in which he gets wasted and insults the Beatles and Rolling Stones. One of the YouTube comments, "What an incredible douche bag," says it best.

-Felt like slitting my wrists after searching Brooklyn real estate.

-Club Penguin, just to see what the hell it was. I have enough problems running my own life to have an avatar, much less a penguin avatar. Ever see March of the Penguins, for God's sake? Besides, it's for kids.

-I do have to do some work now and again.

-Remember those pictures in Highlights magazine where you have to find the hidden objects or discover weird patterns and things like that? There's a website devoted to those kinds of things, and it's killer.

-Durham Township, one of my favorite photoblogs.

-Metacafe, which is often better than YouTube.

-The difference between Brooklyn and Manhattan pizza. And David Byrne's blog, because he's David Byrne.

-www.nygirlofmydreams.com. Did you hear about this? Cynics be damned, I thought this story was as sweet as strawberry rhubarb pie. It's kind of old news, but if you look around you can see the video of the two of them interviewed on the Today show. Girl is wicked cute. And Australian.

-Tried to find out the candidates' stance on the environment.

-www.linerider.com. Always fun. For a real good time, look up some courses on YouTube. 'Tis the season, after all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Woooooooooooohoooooooooooooooooo

Mikey stays with the Sox. Quite f-ing thrilled about this -- baseball needs more guys like Mike.

Been putting off a post about what it's like being a Sox fan these days...always had an excuse not to do it. Mainly because it's hard to put into words. It's a feeling I'm unfamiliar with.

For 86 years, being a Sox fan was about rooting for the underdog. For decades, fans were fully, physically invested in their team winning each game. Losses made them physically ill and emotionally repellant (at least temporarily). But they'd become used to this and remained proud of their adherence to a constantly losing team that fought its ass off and fell short, time and time again.



But the team's been winning recently - a lot - and has made it to the postseason in four of their last five seasons, winning the World Series twice in the last four. The reaction by most longtime Sox fans has been a resounding, bewildered "WTF???"



In full disclosure, I have to admit that while I was inducted into Sox Nation by virtue of my birth, as a third generation Sox fan who sat on my grandfather's lap in the Seventies watching the boys fumble their way through another decade of shame, I've veered from the duty of watching them religiously from time to time. For one thing, I grew up in upstate New York. There was no such thing as NESN or the MLB Extra Innings cable package. We couldn't watch the games, and they weren't on the radio.

Most of my friends were Yankee fans, and while I got my first Sox hat in 1980, I had no idea what it was like to sit in the shadow of the Green Monster in Fenway until April 27, 2002, when Derek Lowe coincidentally threw the first no-hitter in Fenway in 35 years. Until then, I was a huge fan during those summer weeks when we made our annual trip to Maine to hike, watch the games, and eat Nana's insanely delicious tourtiere pie.



Otherwise, in the Eighties and early Nineties, I was more of a Padres fan obsessed with San Diego and Tony Gwynn. Tony was the shit, and I'm drawn to great ballplayers who aren't assholes. But my AL team was always the Sox, so my move to Boston in 2001 finally gave me NESN and a prime spot to root for the home team and shift my attention from Tony, who'd retired that year after a lifetime batting average of .338 -- second only to Ted Williams in the live ball era.



Ah, Boston. Now I could read the Globe every day, develop a distaste for Dan Shaughnessy and a deep love for Jerry Remy and Sean McDonough, discover Sons of Sam Horn and Boston Dirt Dogs and Extra Bases, and see the Sox actually play. And although the Sox were typically crap in 2002, they made it to the postseason in 2003 and won it all in 2004. So I was a lucky bastid indeed, being able to swoop in at the last minute and avoid the daily suckitude of being forced to watch the post-All Star decline that seemed to be the tragic annual chorus of the 20th century Sox.

Still, I haven't been able to wrap my head around this winning business. When you've rooted for a team that's historically come so close so often and always managed to fail, you're at a loss as to how to handle your disbelief when they manage not only to not fail, but to completely lay waste to the competition. I'd liked rooting for the underdog. It felt right, and I was used to it. They'd always come back next season. It was a David & Goliath kind of thing, dealing with the almighty Yankees every year. Even though the Cardinals screwed us over in the World Series more often, the Yankees were always there, perennially, shoving their superstars and their pocket change and their Series rings down our throats in the AL East. We still get riled up at Fenway when the Empire's in town. We always will.

But the tables - almost in 2003, and definitely in 2004 - finally seemed to have turned.



Each season is a struggle, and it always comes down to the last month, the last week, and in the Mets' case this year, the last day. Not to mention the postseason, which is literally a whole different ballgame. Simply put, it is hard as hell to win the World Series.

And so, as everyone knows, the Sox did it. And did it again. And in the process, the backlash began with gusto. People say Sox fans have become as cocky and obnoxious as Yankee fans. The horror. So how does one become accustomed to being part of the hated fanbase of a suddenly hated team? Is it wrong for Red Sox fans to enjoy some pride? Some f-ing hard won confidence?

Sense that defensive tone? We're on edge. It could be another 86 years until the next one. Who's to say it won't happen? But at the same time, we've got to enjoy it while it lasts. It's this crazy vortex of hope, despair, elation, disappointment, cockiness, and appreciation that's got us all riled up. During the season, it happens daily. And it wears you out.

While J loves the Sox, loves Mikey, and loves me, she's thrilled the season's over, whatever the outcome. It's a weird time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

VT

Up to Vermont this weekend to visit an old Martha's Vineyard Clambaking buddy from back in the day.

Although we were only on clambake tour around the South for about two months together, Holmes and I hotel-roomed, cooked, drank, and palled around 24 hours a day, and we were about as tight as two straight guys could be without risking rumor. Doug T, the crazy Scot bartender, was our partner in crime, and good times were had by all until September 11th made it impossible to A.) have any more good times and B.) fly lobsters into the local airport for pickup and subsequent boiling. But if I had a nickel for each ear of corn shucked and every lobster hacked open, I'd still have a shitload of nickels:



This was the end result each night:



Anyway, Holmes is, as he was then, one of those guys who's as upstanding and true as anyone could possibly be, while also being perfectly human. My dad is another one of these rare people -- a callback to another time, the embodiment of goodness.

This guy is the best friend I've ever had for such a short time. He's also one of those people you can pick up where you left off and revisit what brought you together in the first place, right off the bat.

We both got married in the last two years -- he to the gal he was with back in 2001, me to a different one. He and Megan got to know my ex pretty well at the time, and while they met J at their wedding, we haven't had much of an opportunity to hang, the new 4 of us. Megan's his match in every way. I wish they lived closer by, or that we lived closer to them. Maybe someday. We'll have to hop a flight in the meantime.

He owns a tavern up there with his brother, so if you ever make it up to Middlebury, have a beer in Two Brothers Tavern and tell them Mike sent ya.

I'm undecided on this blog template by the way.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The new Radiohead

At Sara's wise suggestion, I'm going to post my review of In Rainbows from the Raleigh Hatchet. It saves me a blog idea, and the two or three of you who read this blog who haven't already read it in the Hatchet might find it useful and/or saucy:

"I paid 3 pounds. Not because I'm cheap, which I am, but primarily because its a download, the bitrate is slow, there's only 10 songs, and no artwork is included. Not even a cover. In principle - and I'm a principled man - I should’ve supported the band's visionary, envelope-pushing blah blah blah. The truth is, I entered 4 pounds and the site crashed on me, so I decided to deduct a pound for my trouble. Welcome to the digital frontier!

Its wholly unsettling to download albums without the tactile pleasure of a CD tray, an insert, lyrics sometimes -- a visual representation to couch the whole thing in a physical context. I grew up with vinyl, Michael Jackson lounging with a baby Bengal tiger on cheap, shiny black cardboard, which would then be hung on the wall and deciphered while the needle found its groove. He and the baby Bengal hung out with me each time we listened to the glory of “P.Y.T.” and “Human Nature.” Whenever I couldn’t figure out why Billie Jean said he was the one, I’d look at Michael’s reassuring grin and realize all was well. These days, iTunes gives us a Flash-based digital artwork “booklet” to fiddle with...a poor substitute, to be sure, but it's something to look at while we listen.

Radiohead doesn't think we need any of that. So…what do we touch? What do we hang on the wall? Are there walls anymore? Is this thing even an album? What does the music look like? Is it a leak they're charging us for, or is it the real thing?

The answer is YES. This is a real, honest-to-god Radiohead album. It’s brief, and the first time you spin it, you might find it too understated, maybe even unremarkable. There is no “Creep” or “Fake Plastic Trees” or “Paranoid Android” or even a “Pyramid Song” to hang your hat on. This is not a record of singles. Like Kid A, it ebbs and flows. Unlike Kid A, it has no highlights. Like “Fake Plastic Trees,” it’s beautiful, unique, a moving confluence of melody and meaning. Unlike fake plastic trees, it grows on you.

At first, In Rainbows sounds like a bunch of demos, sketches, touched lightly by Nigel Godrich's glowing E.T. fingers. But after awhile, you hear a sort of aural fractal -- sounds getting deeper, resonating, echoing, turning in on themselves, revealing bigger themes, bigger tones, a big, singular, colorful, ever-expanding picture. Beautiful bits of puzzle with no box to work with. This is the beauty of this band -- this is what Radiohead do. And we are fools to deconstruct it, but that is what we do.

They waste no time by shooting us into their orbit straight away with "15 Step" and "Bodysnatchers." In the former, Thom sidesteps the march of crunching beats, Jonny waltzes around him in the left channel, a quicker version of their pas de deux in "Scatterbrain" from the last record. Colin dives in with a short jumble of bass, just briefly, enough to remind you there's a band at work here. It becomes a speedy British bossa nova. Children cheer, Thom's voice echoes. Things veer away into something else. Chords modulate, the drums stop.

Jonny rips some chunky notes, cloaked in rust. Phil kicks in with some human rhythm, and Thom goes haywire. This is the way we remember them, back when the guitars sounded like guitars. It comes out of nowhere. Jonny rips strings out trying to keep up with Phil. Thom whines, howls. "I've no idea what I am talking about!" he yelps. "I'm trapped in this body. I can't get out!" You're moving along with it all, head nodding furiously. Then, the noise winds down, stops. It's over before it began, and Nigel returns us into a gentle bed of humming tones.

A voice slides in, floating, like an airborne castrato. "Don't get any big ideas," Thom intones over a gentle, plaintive strum. "They're not gonna happen." But the song is all big ideas, heavenly rays piercing banks of clouds. The strings sweep in, unnoticed, transforming into shimmering guitar and whistling Godrichisms. Thom's voice doubles, triples, multiplies into a glorious boy's choir, ending on a hymnal high. That's "Nude."

Phil starts into a trot, a steady clip, and Thom sighs approval. Jonny plays quick arpeggi, triplets rising and falling in varied chord progressions, joined by Ed’s own watery arpeggi. This is "Arpeggi."

Then it’s “All I Need,” which is quite beautiful. “Faust ARP,” a quick, gorgeous sweep. “Reckoner” -- lovely.

And this is where I tune out. It’s clear that despite the glowing sounds coming out of my speakers, Thom’s overarching theme is one of alienation, loss, and confusion. Missed connections, letdowns, breakdowns in communication. This, also, is what Radiohead do. You hear the stunning, inventive musicality, the way it interlocks with Thom’s vocalizations, and you might find hope settling in among the lines of despair.

But you also might wonder if Thom will ever sing about anything else. You might wonder what Radiohead would be like with more interstellar bursts of universe-saving energy like “Airbag” and fewer bouts of inscrutable alienation as evidenced by virtually every track on In Rainbows. No other band has been as successful in crystallizing its alienation in these troubled times while throwing their syntax in the blender. But because we’ve become accustomed to Radiohead throwing everything else in the blender as well, maybe our expectations are out of whack.

At this point, I get the sense that In Rainbows is a series of pretty Radiohead songs with no standout to hold onto, with a huge, rocking B-side (“Bodysnatchers”) wedged in to give the album some much-needed balls. I decide to remove “Bodysnatchers” and listen to it again. (If there is no cohesive physical construct to this puppy, I can mess with it however I please.)

But something is missing. It’s too calm, too slow, too one-note. “Bodysnatchers” goes back in. And while it remains an anomaly, it’s a much needed one. Thom shrieks, with hog-tied rage, a declaration that atomizes and floats like dust motes in the scattered rays of sunlight found in the rest of the album: IT’S THE 21ST CENTURY, he says. I’M ALIVE.

Every inscrutable album has a key that unlocks it, and “Bodysnatchers” is that key for me. It soon becomes my favorite song, shortly followed by the rest. Each song is thrown into new relief – instead of sounding vaguely conflicted and very pretty, the songs begin to come to life. Soon, all the songs seem to make small declarations. This is what good albums are supposed to do. They reveal glimpses of the big picture, whatever it is, and the rest of it is up to you to find.

Radiohead has chosen to provide no guidance or comfort in terms of album art, and they leave it up to us to figure out how much we value what they do. So finally, we look to the music itself, and we each start from our own place."

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What a weird holiday.

It isn't even a holiday. But when everyone expects to do the same thing on a certain day out of the year, it's a holiday, right?

I love Halloween. I don't fit into the two usual Halloween focus groups (kids and cleavage) so I occasionally struggle to come up with a suitable idea for a costume. It usually requires dressing up in drag. Witness:


2006: [can't remember]

2005: Pregnant nun

2004: Random woman with brunette wig and beard.

2003: Roy Horn (of Siegfried & Roy), complete with white bedazzled jumpsuit, tiger, and blood stain.

2002: Frau Unibrau, as part of an Austin Powers theme party.

2001: Mama Cass, post-sandwich.

1996-2000: [can't remember]

1995: Pippi Longstocking

1987-1994: [can't remember]

1986: Housewife with bathrobe and curlers. The date is not a typo.


I'm very sorry to say I have no photographic evidence of any of this.

So what are you wearing? What have you worn? Comment!

My one annual tradition on Halloween is listening to Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saens. When I was a kid at Harris Hill Elementary, our music teacher used to have these construction paper cutouts on the wall every October, with an old church and a creepy tree and graveyard next to it under a full construction paper moon, and there'd be a tiny representation of Death as a skeleton in a black shroud next to one of the gravestones, and he'd slowly be joined by more skeletons next to their own tombstones, one more skeleton a day...like an eerie Xmas advent calendar.

And on Halloween day we'd come into class and this fully-formed scene was on the wall, with Death orchestrating all of these skeletons with a teensy construction paper fiddle in his hand, and we'd each get to dip our fingers into a paste jar and add more skeletons and ghosts and witches to the scene.



We'd all sit down and she'd turn off the lights and freak us out, and we loved it. And she'd turn on a filmstrip and play Danse Macabre.

The filmstrip told the classic story of Halloween night at the graveyard. The churchbell strikes midnight and Death slowly creeps out of the shadows and plays his fiddle, bringing all of the skeletons, ghosts, and witches out for Halloween.

They come out one by one and dance around, and the ghosts howl and moan and the witches swoop in on their brooms and the skeletons shuffle around, their bones clacking, going absolutely crazy on the one night they're allowed to, until the rooster crows at dawn and they're all scared shitless and creep back into wherever they came from. Then Death plays a short, sad number on his fiddle and pops back into the shadows.



You can listen to it here. Saint-Saens wrote it in 1875 and it's like watching TV without actually watching TV - the imagery is fantastic. As long as you know the story, you can hear everything these characters are doing.

So anyway, that's my tradition.

Monday, October 29, 2007

WHEW

After 176 games and 528 hours, including 9504 outs, 50160 pitches, 750 pitching changes, countless injuries, leads, comebacks, stresses, and euphoric spills of beer, wine, and whiskey, the Red Sox have won the 2007 World Series.

Now I sleep.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The iPod Shuffle Game

The shuffle continues...

Marco came up with this, and everyone else has done it, so here we go:

Shuffle game rules:
1. Put your music player on shuffle.
2. Press forward for each question.
3. Use the song title as the answer to each question.
4. Cheating optional (although I swear I didn’t cheat on any of these)


1.) Describe your first date.

Shuffle says: “Glosoli” by Sigur Ros

“Glosoli” must be Icelandic for “f-ing disastrous.”


2.) What is your personal religion?

Shuffle Says: “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” by Grateful Dead

I swear I didn’t cheat on this one.


3.) What do you think of your current hometown?

Shuffle says: “69 Année Erotique” by Serge Gainsbourg

It is a sexy little town.


4.) What do you feel guilty about?

Shuffle says: “Electricity (Drugs)” by Talking Heads

I do wonder what my dearly departed brain cells would do for me these days if I’d given them a chance.


5.) What embarrasses you?

Shuffle says: “Dream Thrum” by James

The fact that I have this song on my iPod.


6.) What kind of restaurant would you open?

Shuffle says: “You Take the Gold” by Beachwood Sparks

Obviously an Olympic-themed pancake house!


7.) How do you feel about fall?

Shuffle says: “What Comes Next” by Yo La Tengo

I actually like fall, Yo La Tengo. Don’t be so blasé about it.


8.) What's your greatest fear?

Shuffle says: “Once Upon a Daydream” by The Police

I do fear that life will pass me by while I spend my time daydreaming. It’s always been a problem, if you believe my 2nd and 3rd grade report cards.


9.) What's your biggest weakness?

Shuffle says: “Get Up Jake” by The Band

No idea where iPod is coming from with this one. Is “Jake” another word for scotch?


10.) What was the last lie you told?

Shuffle says: “Ledi Ndieme M'bodj” by Orchestra Baobab

When I said before that I didn't cheat on any of these, that's not exactly true. I'm actually lying about this one. iPod came up with something else, and I didn't want to expose that particular lie.


11.) What's the biggest thing you learned in school?

Shuffle says: “Verses from the Abstract” by Tribe Called Quest

Shuffle game, you brilliant son of a bitch!


12.) What did you dream your life would be like as a child?

Shuffle says: “La La Love You” by the Pixies

I was a very friendly kid.


13.) What was your first serious girlfriend/boyfriend like?

Shuffle says: “Looking at the Sun” by Matthew Sweet

Like everyone else’s first girlfriend/boyfriend experience, I was completely blind to everything else around me. She was pretty awesome. Wonder where she is...


14.) What were you doing 10 years ago?

Shuffle says: “Move On” by the Rentals

Ha. That’s about all I was doing.


15.) What will you be doing in 10 years?

Shuffle says: “The King of Time” by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists

I knew it! I’m going to be a soccer mom.


16.) What does a cry for help from you sound like?

Shuffle says: “KC Accidental” by Broken Social Scene

I like to be abstract when I’m in serious emotional danger. “KC” stands for “I got kicked in the crotch by a bull and I need you to call 911 immediately.”


17.) What do you buy at Wal-Mart?

Shuffle says: “Act of Quiet Desperation” by Walt Mink

That’s the only way I’m buying anything at Wal-Mart.


18.) Describe your personal political philosophy.

Shuffle says: “Svefn-g-englar” by Sigur Ros

Wow, shuffle game. “Svefn-g-englar” clearly translates into “voting.”


19.) Do you like to travel?

Shuffle says: “A Century of Fakers” by Belle and Sebastian

Unlike most people this past century who travel strictly to improve their social, political, and personal standing, I travel joyfully and honestly.


20.) How do you feel about your coworkers?

Shuffle says: “Folk Fun” by Dizzy Monk

Dizzy Monk happens to be the nom de plume of Mr. Bobby Maville, tap-dancing hip-hop folk singer nonpareil. We used to work together at Classic Video and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. He eventually got fired, though I can't remember why. I think it was after that time a customer called him a “cock” and Bobby chased him out of the store and spat on his windshield as he was driving away.


I hope it was as much fun for you as it was for me!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Manny being stupid.

Boy, do I loathe Manny Ramirez.

Barry Bonds is a grandstanding cheat, both on and off the field. A-Rod is obnoxious on the field, a cheating narcissist off it. But Manny is just a fool. An idiot savant.



This is a man who has so much natural hitting talent, he assumes it's okay to be a lazy, careless, cocky embarrassment to his teammates, the Red Sox, the fans, the AL East, and baseball in general.

He pimps meaningless home runs, he doesn’t run out infield hits, and last night he hit the longest single since Robin Ventura's infamous "grand slam single" in 1999 – 375 feet - because he thought it looked like a home run and decided to jog out of the box. He asks to be traded nearly every July when the team is losing. He refuses to pinch hit. He calls in sick and is seen in his hotel bar drinking with a Yankee. He shows up late to Spring Training. He pisses in the Green Monster during pitching changes. Worst of all – and this is unforgivable - he loves reggaeton.

And after naming one of his sons Manny Ramirez, Jr., he had another one and named him...Manny Ramirez, Jr. No kidding.



But good Lord, can he hit. He can hang on an 0-2 count and force a walk. He can lay off a hanging curve and drive the ball anywhere he wants, whenever he feels like it. He hits for average, he hits for power, he hits in the clutch, and he wins games. But I can’t come to terms with Manny Ramirez being on my team anymore.

Part of me wants to see him fail, but a bigger part of me wants to see him hit the ball because it’s such a glorious thing to see. Does this make me as bad as a Yankee fan rooting for Reggie Jackson or Gary Sheffield? Or a Giants fan pulling for that artificial 756th? Pete Rose was a brawler and a gambler, but the man had personality. Reggie Jackson had boatloads of it, and Manny, sad to say, is all beatific innocence, personality coming out of his ears.



The worst part is, he’s idolized by droves of little kids all over New England who will someday have to come to terms with the fact that they can’t act the way he does and get away with it unless they hit over .300 ten years in a row.

There are other guys on the 2007 Red Sox who work hard everyday, 162 games plus, running out infield singles and groundouts, bouncing back from injuries quickly, giving interviews and autographs, visiting kids at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and generally being upstanding role models. Youkilis, Varitek, Wakefield, and Manny’s future replacement, Jacoby Ellsbury, come to mind. I love these guys. These guys are why I root for the always-unpredictable Sox. How utterly enjoyable it was in September, when Manny was out with a strained oblique and Jacoby was a vacuum out in left field, running his rookie ass off, hitting the crap out of everything he saw.

But now we’re in the postseason, and Manny’s back, and he’s hitting something like .442 with a 15-game postseason hitting streak, and I want to shower him with love and punches to the head.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Apple picking with the rest of New York City

Went apple picking this past Sunday. When I mentioned this to the two knuckleheads I work with, they said I was gay. It had never dawned on me that it was the slightest bit super for a straight man to pay outlandish prices to throw on a scarf and go pick fruit in the country.

I might think twice next time, but not because of that.

We drove about an hour out of the city and took an exit off the Saw Mill Parkway that was immediately choked with cars all exiting for the apple farm. Following the slow parade of optimistic New York plates in self-imposed exile snaking along the country roads, we arrived at the farm to find a huge, packed parking lot, people lined up everywhere. There was a farmstand selling homemade donuts, cider, hotdogs and popcorn with a line shooting 50 feet out of the door, a 20 minute wait. There was an even longer line to a setup of cash registers selling bags, buckets, and pickers for the apples.

The trees were picked over, the apples were tiny, and I ate so many of them that I was violently ill right off the bat. Hitting the line for the Port-a-John was out of the question because there was no toilet paper, so I hunkered down and felt my midsection slowly turn into a cider factory.

Most of the bigger apples had fallen and were rotting on the ground. This is what it looked like, except for the pristine condition of the specimens seen here:



Doug and I gave up picking and threw the rotten ones at fence poles to watch them explode. I was slowly getting sicker. We headed back to the checkout counter.

To really drive the point home, our half-bushel bag of crabapples cost $25 and their credit card machine was backed up, making me wait in line for an extra five minutes, doubled over, while my stomach was about to shit the bed.

A few lessons can be learned here. A.) You can never get far enough away from the city. B.) Country folk are savvy to the prices New Yorkers are willing to pay to get out of the city. C.) No more than 2 apples at a time, no matter their size, even when in Rome.

As much as I love NYC, this experience has made me realize how much of a number I am here. Consumer #7,128,839.

Maybe I'll be picking apples in the New England countryside next year.

The meth addicts upstairs

How else can you explain why they pace back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, all day and well into the night? Going to bed after 1 and waking up before 7. Moving furniture constantly. Sitting at the table and scraping their chairs in and out, getting up and sitting down over and over again. Letting their mail pile up for days while they're coming in and out of their apartment every day. Stomping up and down the stairwell, slamming their door every time, stomping back and forth, back and forth.

Many sleepless nights, me pounding on the ceiling at 3:45 am, earplugs, notes written and left on their door.

Do tweekers listen to talk radio at 7 am? These ones do. Is it loud, the bass rattling our sleep-deprived skulls? Um, yes.

We never hear them talk to each other, though. We can hear each footstep like a Randy Savage piledriver, but not a peep of conversation from what must be their dry, pipe-scorched lips. We hear them having extremely loud sex, and we hear her on the phone with the shrillest, most irritating voice imaginable, but not a word between them. They have a bond that's so tight, so disturbed, that they need not speak. They are peas in a pod, compadres, lovers, fiends, slinkers, creatures of the night, one and the same. They have their heavy boots, their furniture for moving, their beloved crystal meth, and each other, and that is all they need.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm going to try to post at least one thing per day

and we'll see how it goes. The whole impetus behind this blog was to post daily, and we've seen how that's turned out. But really, it shouldn't be that hard. Brevity might be the key. I'll keep it short and direct you to this.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rings & Wrongs

So it's only been a few weeks, but being married isn't much different than living together. I go to sleep with J next to me, I wake up, she's still there. We still keep each other company, drink together, eat together, have ridiculous fun together, be antisocial together, vacation together, and bicker together. It's great, but it's been great for a long time. That's why we got married.

The biggest change is the ring. It's alien - I play with it constantly. Since I never know what to do with my hands, I love being able to fidget with something that's right there on my finger all the time. Seems to me that if the ring is the weirdest part, we're doing okay.

In other news:

--The Red Sox are the AL East Champions. Postseason starts today. Meaning if you want to talk to me and feel like you're getting more than 3% of my full attention, wait until November.

--My iPod disappeared at the wedding, so I finally got an iPhone. Meaning you will still not get more than 3% of my full attention in November.

I'll be following this post up with a breakdown of the recent iPhone Firmware 1.1.1 controversy. Gist: I miss my 3rd party apps, but people who unlock their iPhones for use on other networks, disregard the warnings in boldface when needlessly updating to new firmware, and threaten to sue Apple when their phones don't work anymore are F-ING NINCOMPOOPS.

--Kevin pulled the "Pen15 Club" trick on me the other day. When someone tells you to join the Pen15 Club, don't do it.

--I discovered recently that my mom hates Halloween. How do you go 30+ years not knowing that your mom hates Halloween? Maybe the same way you go 30+ without knowing that the word "tour" is pronounced "tore" and not "tooer" as I've been saying it my entire life.

--Iron & Wine's new album is spectacular. Anyone reading this, please let me know what you're listening to right now. Put it right in the comments. It's also a great way for me to know people still have faith that I'm updating this thing.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

The 14th Tee

Too old? Never!

Taking Genny home:



The 14th Tee:



Me & D. in Linear Park:

Friday, August 24, 2007

Lazy hazy crazy days of summer

This summer has flown by.

Going to the ROC this weekend for Laura B's wedding -- we're about to see all of our closest friends from our formative years.



Then, two weeks later, some of my older friends and a few of my newer ones will converge for my own wedding on an island in Maine, surrounded by my new family.



It's like the present doesn't exist -- it's been supplanted by a twin sense of nostalgia and inevitability. To be caught between your past and your future...it's hard to know how to feel. It's exhilaration tinged by the slightest wisp of fear. But that's the best kind of exhilaration.

Since I'm such a nostalgia junkie, I plan on milking it this weekend and visiting all of my old haunts. Most of my readers, if they're still out there, know what these are:

-Empire Hots
-Linear Park
-Highland Park
-Durand Eastman Beach
-Monroe Ave.
-Gitzi's Hots
-Rubino's
-The 14th tee
-The end of the street
-The Barbetta's house
-Bobby Maville, wherever he is

Sara seems to share my need for a fix. Our first order of business back in the ROC is to visit Linear Park. There's nothing linear about it -- leave it to the engineering freaks of the Greater Rochester Area (and they are many) to name such a beautiful place after a drafting term. Lots of good times were had in Linear back in the day.

And of course all of the culinary delights native to that upstate wonderland -- Genny Cream Ale (that sweet, foamy nectar), Zweigles hots, Garbage Plates, the list goes on.

And of course we have to bring a bottle of something or other to the 14th tee at 1am, as per tradition, and roll down the hill. Or are we too old for that? Do I care?

It will be a confounding, exhilarating time.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Moon Trills

Decided to go out on the deck tonight and sit for a few. I had a pack of Dunhill Menthols in the freezer, and against my better judgment (because I only smoke when I have no other choice), I brought a beer outside and lit one up.

Sitting out there, the weather was perfect, exactly the same temperature as it was inside, and I could hear crickets 100 feet away, which is what I love about Brooklyn. There's no way in hell you could hear a cricket 100 feet away in Manhattan. Here was my view:



It was quiet, the beer was cold, the Dunhill was smoky, and the moon was waxing gibbous. Started thinking about how completely insane it was that we landed men out there almost forty years ago, then I started thinking about the nonsensical inanity of our astronauts finally getting out there after countless generations dreaming about setting foot on the moon, and what did they do? They hit a golf ball.

I'm not a big fan of golf, so it seemed like a ridiculous thing to go tens of thousands of miles and hit a golf ball just to see how far it would go. Being an ex-hippie, I would have thrown a disc golf disc. Which is quite lame in and of itself.

But I remember a time that, being a Cancer, I was infatuated with the moon. So cold, so distant, so magical. Especially if you were a fan of Tom Robbins. There was even a time when I strongly considered getting a tattoo of the full moon on the inside of my upper arm, when I was a passionate mid-twenty year old. The moon held so much power, and an infinite sense of mystery. When the moon was full, I acted strangely and I didn't know why. It still happens.

So, sitting on the deck tonight, I was suddenly content with the feeling that I was in a place where the moon became a fantastic imaginary locale to throw a disc golf disc. I imagined how far it would fly. Would it ever land?

And now I'm concerned. Have my thoughts become trivial in my older age? Have I stopped thinking as deeply? Have I become a corporate astronaut? Was my life somehow more interesting when I valued the mystery over the possibilities?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jesus Toast, etc.

Recent observations:

1. It's hot here in New York. It's hot everywhere, I realize, but there's something special about acres of concrete and steel and a sprinkling of trees arranged in a grid under direct sun with exhaust trapped inside.

2. You can buy an iPhone on eBay, but they cost more than the ones in the stores. You can even buy a slightly used iPhone with an image of Jesus burned into a slice of toast as your wallpaper. And for $894, the price of the Jesus Toast iPhone includes the slice of toast.

3. At least once a day, there will be a man or woman on the train walking the length of the car announcing the story of their homelessness to the passengers, 99% of whom respond by staring down at their book or their iPod or the suddenly intriguing pattern of gum stains on the floor. Newcomers to New York, if they have a good heart, will give them money. New Yorkers love their anonymity and see homeless people every day, so they usually do not. If an unfortunate soul asks for food or money, whatever you can spare, I can respect that. The best solution in this situation is to keep a granola bar in your bag and give that to them. They're tasty as hell, and everyone needs fiber in their diet.

3a. Another reason why New Yorkers are wary of the homeless is that quite a few of them are batshit crazy. The general rule is that if you see someone who looks slightly wonky and is talking to himself, don't make eye contact with him. It brings him out of his reverie and usually causes him to hate you for judging him. And he'll probably start saying nasty things to you, or at least mutter them to himself. Which is harmless, but it goes back to wanting to remain anonymous and respecting the privacy of others, especially when they're batshit crazy.

4. People who live here have thought of every possible way to celebrate living here. There are festivals, parades, exhibitions, appreciations, gatherings, block parties, etc. For example, there is a subsect of Manhattanite pagan heathens who celebrate one particular day out of the year when the sun sets exactly according to the grid plan, i.e., you can see the sun setting in the western slot of every street in Manhattan. It's called Manhattanhenge. I took a picture that week from Doug and Tina's apartment in Brooklyn, and it's uncanny:





5. Cereal is the easiest meal to prepare. If you want to get fancy, add a banana. But adding fruit makes it A.) more expensive, and B.) twice as difficult to prepare.

6. I don't print out my photographs anymore. I wonder how many people do.

7. My new favorite hobby is watering the outdoor plants. What could possibly be better than fighting global warming with 8 robust and beautiful creatures who rely on me for sustenance? Plus, there's nothing on earth that beats spraying a hose on your bare feet on a scorching hot deck.

8. Although I've been on vacation 10 days in the last three weeks, I'm sick of work and would rather be in Rum Point, Grand Cayman:

Friday, June 22, 2007

ME

Off to Maine for the next week and a half. J's home state, Dad's home state, and my adopted state. It's my second home and a refuge from my overwhelming first one.

This will be my week:

1. Watching the Sox with Dad
2. Eating tunafish sandwiches
3. Re-reading the last Harry Potter before the new one comes out
4. Hiking every day
5. Canoeing around Bass Harbor
6. Eating Moose Tracks ice cream
7. Driving around the island listening to the Mekons
8. Watching the rain slide down the pines
9. Drinking Sea Dog blueberry beer
10. Being alone or with J with nobody else in sight on the top of a mountain with the sea encircling the island.



Not too bad.

Two thrilling developments: the entire Allen clan came down to Brooklyn last weekend and we saw Hairspray, drank a boatload of exotic beer, fried on the deck, ate like kings, and celebrated Sam's second birthday with carrot cake and balloons. Pics to come.

Also, J's parents got me a Dyson Root 6 handheld vacuum for my birthday. It's the Hummer of handheld vacs. It also looks like a weapon from Total Recall:



It's freaking incredible. You should see this thing suck. One irrefutable sign of maturity/lameness is getting so excited about receiving a handheld vacuuming appliance that you can't get to sleep due to your anticipation of working on the carpet the following morning.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Savannah Smiles

Certain Wednesdays are "work from home" days, where I try to avoid the 74 degree weather outside and concentrate on getting work done. I'm usually unsuccessful.

I figured it was a good time to see a dietician this afternoon due to my cholesterol, which is abominable. (See earlier post about the Garbage Plate for documentation.) So today I was cruising the web and catching up on nutrition facts and ways to keep in shape. My 32-year old gut is expanding, my hair's turning gray, I'm having a hard time hearing people, and an hour of tossing a frisbee on Sunday has made me ache for the last 3 days. I'm getting old and crotchety.

Anyway...upon the crests and troughs of my surfing session, one thing led to another and I found myself on YouTube, as usual. I'm planning a trip to Grand Cayman, so I searched for some footage of it. This led to footage of Savannah, Cayman; then to random footage of Savannah, Georgia; and then to a blurry screencap of a girl with sun flares in the lens, titled "Savannah Watson, Forever in Our Hearts."



Say what you want about tribute videos -- they're usually poorly done, painful to watch, and usually accompanied by the thoroughly depressing hits of Bette Midler or Boys II Men. But I always have to watch them. And this one was different.

It's not a photo montage. It's video footage of a teenage girl at a playground in late afternoon, holding the camera at arms length, spinning around. And she's smiling, and Nick Drake's singing softly, and it's heartbreaking. She's probably sixteen or seventeen, with a smile that only teenage girls can conjure. At the end, she walks away and the picture fades to white.

It was so real that I figured it was made up. I decided to Google her and figure out what happened. First, I came across a news piece from 2005 in which she and her mother are interviewed. Apparently, she was friends with a girl who lived next door who was held captive and abused by the girl's father for over a year.

After that, I found the story about her accident. She was in the passenger seat of a Toyota 4-Runner in Arizona at 4:30 on a Monday morning with her friend Heather, who was nineteen. She lost control, crossed the median, and was hit by another truck. They died, and the two men in the truck lived. She was fifteen.

It was real, then. I found her friend's MySpace page with a tribute to her, then Savannah's MySpace page with messages from her friends over the last year. At this point it was hard not to feel like I was going too far, finding out too much information about her, invading her privacy - which wasn't hers anymore. YouTube and Google and MySpace had seen to that.

There was one last page. It was from the girl who did her eulogy, and it's all about regrets. She explains that the driver of the car was on Ecstasy. She says that Savannah "was a great, sincere, honest person, which our world seems to be sincerely lacking," and that "she will never know what it's like to get a drivers license, live in the dorms, get married, and have children."

She urges us to tell people how much we love them. "You never know when it'll be too late," she says.

Life can beat us down and turn us into shapes we don't recognize, but we manage to eke out some good times. There's no doubt about that. So for everyone out there who's shared these times - and beatings - with me, I love ya. And don't ever let me bitch about getting older.

Friday, May 25, 2007

ADD

What happened? Where did my gung-ho-ness go? Why is blogging the last thing on earth I want to do in my spare time?

The short answer: baseball. I watch every Sox game, every night. 6 nights x 3 hours per = 18 hours/week x 4 weeks/month x 6 months/year = not enough time to blog, do laundry, or eat properly.

The long answer: I think I've got an undiagnosed, yet quite severe, case of ADD. Most of you out there reading this who know me well are nodding vigorously in agreement right now.

It's bad. But here's how to cope:

-- Don't take me to a bar or restaurant with a TV in it or risk a one-sided conversation for the rest of the night.

-- Don't write me a long, impassioned email without expecting a two week delay in my four-sentence response. Trust me when I say it's taking all I've got to concentrate on those four sentences. I love you so much. But that's all I've got.

-- Don't ask me to remind you to do something later. You might want to remind me when it's time to remember to remind you.

-- Involve food. My attention is yours if you involve food.

-- No flashing lights or colors. I live and work in New York City, but take me to Times Square and watch me transform into a five year old on sugar.

That said, I'd like to apologize first to Jenny, who has been probably the most patient as anyone over the years. Her mind is razor sharp and lightning fast, so she has the most to lose when she engages me in conversation. I recently reread one of her letters to me, and it was frustrated, sad, flummoxed, loving, and wistful. I can't imagine what it's like to manufacture that kind of patience. Sorry hon.

Secondly and equally, Sara and J. Sara because she's had to deal with it for a very, very long time; J because she's going to have to deal with it for a very, very long time to come.

Amanda, of course, has probably wanted to kill me more than anyone else on the planet. Keep truckin, baby. Love ya.

Happy Memorial Day. Go outside!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Best of Craigslist

Most people visit Craigslist once in a blue moon to find a roommate, sell a vacuum cleaner, locate tickets to the upcoming Neil Diamond concert, or date that perfect match who shares their penchant for toe massages while crocheting sweaters for adopted chinchillas.

But a lot of people spend a lot of time on Craigslist. Too much time.

Considering all of the crazy business that transpires on Craigslist, it's quite awesome that someone has collected the most memorable bits and posted them all on one tiny corner of the site. Some are touching, some are profane, but here are some excerpts from the Best of Craigslist:

Let us frolic in my totally dope blanket fort

Couch - Very Uncomfortable, Red - $3.75

Operation Heavenly Hogpile - m4w

An Open Letter to the Guy riding a High-Bike

Get Well Balloon

The Perfect Craigslist Girl, Or So I Thought

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Northern Soul

With all of this remembering going on, I'm a little shellshocked.

But I came across this, and I had to share it:

Friday, April 20, 2007

Grateful Dead vs. Phish: An ex-hippie's deconstruction

Most people lump all jam bands together into a dispicable, disposable package, but I’d like to do something that I’ve been meaning to do for awhile, which is to address the differences between Phish and the Dead. Most people don’t care about these differences because it’s like splitting hairs on the ass of a talentless donkey, but for those of us who followed one or the other for longer than they’d care to admit, the short answer is easy. Please don’t go away quite yet.

The Dead, sloppy as a pothead in art class, never possessed the technical proficiency of Phish. While the Dead had more of a grasp on their gumbo of American musical tradition, Phish could blow them off the stage with their technical musical wizardry. However, to that argument, I quote the following:

Momma sing sing that ya gotta jibboo.
Papa sing gotta jibboo

Momma sing sing thatcha gotta jibboo.
Gotta jibboo and keep on drinking too!


Those timeless words should give you an indication as to the lyrical wisdom of Phish. Phish couldn’t write their way out of a 52 minute Piper -> Bowie -> YEM encore if their lives and livelihoods depended on it, but the fans didn’t care. Their ears were gummed up by so much ear wax, resin, and the shouted setlist predictions of their friends that they couldn’t usually decipher the words anyway. It was all about the music, man, and the music was pretty killer, brah.

It’s soooooo easy to target Phish fans. I know this because I was one. I say “was” because I can’t really hang with Phish anymore, lyrically or musically. The final tender moment came last week when I recycled my last tour t-shirt during our Spring Cleaning Madness Sale, i.e., I threw it away.



But I leave my time with Phish in good spirits, with great memories, I think. That is, I can’t really remember. After 32 shows at about 2 ½ hours per show, you’d think I would've taken something away from it. But mostly I remember transcendent snippets of a great show now and then. And every time I think of those amazing moments, there’s a little piece of my heart that pines for the scene. And then I remember the lyrics and I shudder.

But there was that great shorthand used by Phish fans to communicate how stellar each show was. Being a fan was all about esoteric references. All you had to say was “Harpua,” and you got your point across. "Wow, Harpua??" Or “vacuum solo.” Or a million other things I won’t bore you with.

And to be fair, a few of their songs strove for depth and meaning, like "Silent in the Morning," "The Squirming Coil," and "Wading in the Velvet Sea." But the band had such a huge, devoted following that it was ultimately frustrating for such a musically stunning force to reward their fans with lines like "We've got skyscrapers/And it seems a pretty tune/Every band needs skyscrapers too." Most of the songs were about dancing pigs or newborn elves or flies or weasels or lizards or some kind of perilous Dungeons & Dragons situation.

About those transcendent moments, though: I think it was Ken Kesey who said that kids will sit through an hour of musical dreck to hear that one split-second where they are completely flummoxed by what they’re hearing, as though the band has performed a magic trick and defied logic before their very eyes. It’s true – that’s what kept me coming back every time. The things they could do just could not be explained. But it doesn’t really translate to the taped shows, which is why these days it’s the lyrics that tend to hold the music together. And with lyrics like Phish’s, the music falls apart. Just like in the lyrics to “Sparkle.”



The Dead, on the other hand, seemed to have things to say. And songs like “Box of Rain” and “Ripple” and “Cryptical Envelopment” and “Dark Star” have gravity. You can feel the weight of the words. And sometimes the music supports that weight. When it does, as in, say, the three discs of Dick’s Picks, Vol. 8, you’re sent on one of those rides that kept Ken Kesey on the bus. Those guys played fast and loose. Well, loose, anyway.

You can listen to the Dead in your rocker when you’re 80 and get some meaning out of it. I look forward to it. I still don't know exactly what a Box of Rain is, but I know I'll figure it out completely at some point in my life when it hits me just right and gets me through whatever I'm going through. I couldn't give a rat's ass in a cat's mask what a Golgi Apparatus is, and I never will.

To sum up, the Dead have staying power. Phish doesn't. Maybe I've been running in the wrong circles, but I don't really know anyone at all who listens to their old Phish boots. That's not true about the Dead, however, and that’s what makes the Dead the better of the two, in this ex-hippie's humble opinion. But why weigh on a sunny day?

Wink. Once a hippie, always a hippie. Happy 4/20!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Another reason why Fenway Park is the best place on earth to watch a baseball game.

Always high drama on Patriots Day -- yesterday was no exception.

There's only one reason why I'm not too broken up about never being able to see my Sox in person. And that's because I get to watch NESN and hear Jerry and Donny O call it as they see it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Cribbing from the best...again.

Inspiration has been in short supply lately, as evidenced by the sorry state of this blog. Maybe it's the weather, maybe it's my general state of early April torpor*, but I just haven't felt like writing a damn thing or sharing my feeble thoughts in general.

(* you always remember the SAT words that screw you over)

I was going to post another bitchfest lamenting the state of news reporting, specifically targeting the inclusion of a news item in this morning's AIM Today entitled "The Cutest Baby Fart," in which the reader is treated to a short video clip of a baby farting baby powder, but I just can't muster up enough energy to deal with it.

So again, I'm going to steal a blog idea from someone else. This dude Marco, who I had possibly the most awkward conversation in my life with on sticky night on a parking deck in North Carolina back in 1995 (the NC crew is familiar with this story) has a habit of coming up with these brilliant lists of something or other. His latest creation is a list of his top ten highschool albums. Jenny had her own take on it, and I figure it couldn't hurt to hijack the idea myself.

Please remember that I attended highschool 1988-1992. And please understand that I'm shocked, shocked to actually write that down. Kids born in 1988 are now in their sophomore year of college...Christ almighty, no way that's true.

MY TOP TEN HIGHSCHOOL ALBUMS:


10. B-52s: Cosmic Thing

I remember the day I bought this tape. Note: everything in this list was bought on cassette tape. I'll join the chorus of the purists who believe that the physical act of having to get up and flip a record or a tape to side two is an essential part of being involved in the listening experience. Anyway, the B-52s. If you can't get off your ass to this album, you're dead. You're officially dead. You have no pulse, and you certainly could never gyrate it til you've had your fill, just like a pneumatic drill.



9. XTC: Oranges & Lemons
This came out in '89 or thereabouts, and it established my longstanding, ceaseless, passionate devotion to everything that is XTC. God damn, do I love XTC. It's funky, it's brainy, it's funny, it's spasmodically melodic, and it's criminally underrated. Spent hours upon precious highschool hours in my bedroom with this one on the boombox. I miss my Toshiba boombox.

The first song, "The Garden of Earthly Delights," welcomes newborns to the world and serves as a sort of instruction manual for getting around this nutty planet in one piece. Perfect also for highschoolers. The first line is "Kid, stay and snip your cord off! Talk and let your mind loose, can't all think like Chekov, but you'll be okay!" Awesome.



7. David Byrne: Rei Momo
His latin album. Each song in a different latin style, each one listing that style in parentheses after the song title. All I cared about was that it was good, and it was. An asskicker, in fact. If you don't salsa, by god, this album will teach you how. My Toshiba boombox had this feature (light years ahead of its time) that allowed you to set the tape to start playing whenever you programmed it as a sort of alarm clock. This was my wakeup tape for 2 years during highschool. The first song on side one is called "Independence Day." Oh, the irony.







6. The Cure: Disintegration, The Smiths: Strangeways Here We Come, Depeche Mode: Violator
I lump these together because they're of a piece. They're very British, very lonely, and they share an unparalleled knack of reminding you that they are way more miserable than you'll ever be. Except for Depeche Mode -- Violator has a way of making you want to have really intense sex while staying as far away from intravenous narcotics as possible. Still, three of the best albums ever made. Especially suited for highschool.



5. Lou Reed: New York
I remember skipping volleyball practice on a regular basis and walking around downtown Rochester listening to the soundtrack to Apocalypse Now, which is basically the dialogue and music from the entire movie over two tapes. In one of my stranger highschool moments, my friends somehow convinced me to get up on one of the tables in the Common and recite Marlon Brando's last speech to Martin Sheen, in its entirety, in front of the entire lunch room. If you know me, you know how preposterous that is.

Anyway, when I wasn't listening to Apocalypse Now during my walkabouts, I'd pop in New York and compare Lou's descriptions of his city to my observations of my own. There wasn't much of a comparison, obviously, but we both loved and hated our cities in equal measure. Given his thesis statement that New York was a dirty, crime-ridden, bigoted, steaming pus hole, I vowed never to move there. Haha.



4. INXS: Kick
Don't laugh, it still holds up. It's dated as hell, but it still holds up, kinda...

Okay, it doesn't really hold up. I remember writing out the lyrics to "Mystify" on the outside of my math folder during a typically painful 7th period session circa late '90, and Eric Mayer (who had thick cokebottle glasses and a mohawk) saw it, yanked it off my desk, and read it aloud to the class. I deserved it. But, being a skater, I could relate to the guy flying through the album cover on his Vision Psycho Stick, even though if you look very closely you can see the black duct tape over the lettering, presumably to minimize the risk of copyright infringement. Punk as f*ck.

Whatever, "New Sensations" is dope!



3. Talking Heads: Naked
Given my pathetic excuse for a memory, it's quite amazing that I can remember all of the words to this album. Not even Doolittle or London Calling can claim that. If I had a nickel for every hour I spent listening to this on the Toshiba, I'd have a shitload of nickels. "(Nothing But) Flowers" may be the best song ever written, no joke.



2. Nirvana: Nevermind
I came into school one day in September of my senior year clutching Nine Inch Nails' Pretty Hate Machine after seeing their video for "Head Like a Hole" on 120 Minutes. Whilst trying to convince everyone how psychotically brilliant it was, my buddy Tom waved his new copy of Nevermind at me.

The cover was ridiculous, and I thought the music was probably just as stupid. I spent the next hour convincing him that Pretty Hate Machine was the future and that joke punk bands like the Circle Jerks and Nirvana had their day in the 80s. Went over to Mac's house at the end of the day and saw the premiere of the video for "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I felt like the world's biggest shitheel.



1. Jane's Addiction: Ritual de lo Habitual
Nevermind was a revelation, but this one tempered its impact quite a bit. There is nothing in the world that sounds like Perry Farrell in mid-scream. This album was THE soundtrack to the second half of my highschool experience. Each song is better than the last. I'm still in awe. There is nothing on earth like the anticipation that builds during the Spanish introduction of "Stop!" followed by Perry yelping "Here we go!" to kick it off. It all gets better and better, and ends with "Classic Girl." Dare you to find a better closing than that.

I might not be alive today if I'd gotten my license before the age of 20, because rocking out to this album undoubtedly would've caused me to veer off the road into telephone poles on a regular basis. Thanks, fear of driving!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Luscious Halal

I love New York, I really do, and I'm going to miss the place like hell whenever I leave for good. J and I just formulated our 5-year plan, and the integral part of it requires exiting NYC in order to raise kids who will get a few years under their belts before their initial exposure to subway porn, grit, and rampant F-bomb deployment.

This kind of planning is necessary when starting a family unit, but it's entirely new for me personally, as my philosophy up until now has been to put big life decision-making off as long as possible and think about my future in terms of where my next meal is coming from.

Which brings me to my point. My favorite thing to do throughout the day, right or wrong, is to plan what I'm about to eat. For those of us who love food, NYC is our theme park mecca. It's Epcot Center for the epicurious. Where else on earth can you make a three-tabbed spreadsheet of restaurants within a five block radius, listed by 26 different kinds of cuisine, with 89 entries?

So now and then you stumble on something that truly blows your mind and makes you reconsider everything that came before it. It could be jamaican jerk roti, korean fried chicken, chorizo tater tots, or some other kind of wacked-out combination of things you thought you already knew, or something that comes out of the blue, like Halal food.

My favorite form of Halal food, gloriously, is nothing more than skewered slabs of lamb mixed with chicken over rice and salad, with scattered spices, a chopped up pita, and cocktail of white, hot, and BBQ sauces. Oooooooooh Lord. And the best part is, it never costs more than five bucks for about three pounds of food.

You can usually find Halal on street corners, where nomadic cart jockeys hone their culinary skills by taking a dozen orders at a time and somehow remembering them all while they simultaneously slice, chop, flip, and make change like angry, mustachioed, middle eastern Edward Scissorhands. The carts look like this:



They say you can get the best Halal in the city from a cart on 53rd and 6th, right across the street from Radio City. I've never been, but this is what the Bobby Flay of sidewalk Halal looks like:



You can find reviews of this nameless cart on all of the serious food review sites on the web, and it's amazing to me that someone can come to a huge, completely insane metropolis in a foreign country, set up a cart selling $5 piles of meat, and literally become famous within a few months.

And these guys work HARD in every kind of weather on any given day. My buddy Kevin called me from the cart a few months ago during hurricane conditions horrendously late on a Friday night. I wish I could post the message - it was classic - but here's a transcript:

"Hey man...I'm at the Halal cart in midtown...you know, the one I told you about. It's raining, goddam, it's freezing. I'm about 20th in line, but I can smell it!"

(unintelligible, windy)

"Remind me to tell you..."

(loud metallic bang)

"Holy..."

(unintelligible)

"Whoa...crazy...the cart tent just blew away. Okay, I'm almost up. Talk later, man."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Knife

I'm that guy at the bar talking about how kids don't know a damn thing about music these days, but with guys like Grizzly Bear around, I know it's only transitory and we're all gonna be okay.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bud Selig is a world-class ass monkey.

The titular character of this post is the acting commissioner of Major League Baseball. He's been known to make some controversial calls in his day, including the advent of the Wild Card (good), the World Baseball Classic (bad), interleague play (meh), the strike in '94 (shameful), basing the World Series homefield advantage on the outcome of the All-Star game (huh?), and his reaction to the ongoing steroid problem, which has been weird at best. Those are just a few examples of a slew of them. I'd say he's the second most despised man in baseball after Barry Bonds and/or A-Rod -- as for those two, the former has sullied the name of baseball by ego and artifice, the latter has sullied it by earning obscene amounts of money.

But back to Bud. His latest gift to the fans is a $700 million deal that intends to give the rights of the MLB Extra Innings package solely to DirecTV. This package used to allow fans who wouldn't normally be able to watch their favorite teams because they moved outta town - like me - access to the televised games. It used to be available on both satellite and cable. But Bud, in his infinite wisdom, decided to deprive those of us who are unable to get satellite tv.

There are no words to describe how much I want to shit on this guy's head.

Earlier this month, Bud responded to the fan uproar by calling their concerns "ridiculous". Regardless, he altered the deal by giving cable tv companies and other dish networks until the end of the month to strike a similar deal. Boston Globe writer Eric Wilbur provides this analogy: "That's like saying Bush has until 3 p.m. today to get out of Iraq."

This may seem like a trivial matter, but there's been such a parade of idiots trying to ruin America's pastime over the years that ruining baseball seems to be baseball's surrogate tradition.

Friday, March 9, 2007

HB

J's birthday today. She's 30!

I'm one of the many people telling her that your thirties are even more fun than your twenties, but I don't think she believes me.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The poetry of spam.

I hibernate in the winter months. When you live north of the Mason-Dixon line, you have to. Especially in upstate New York, where I grew up. But after stints in Boston and now New York City, it's become an annual habit. I resubscribe to Netflix after my annual warm-weather break, pack the queue (there are 67 in there right now), and go directly home from work to open and watch my daily Netflix gifts.

This past February I went out and socialized 3 times, maybe. Nothing I'm proud of. But nothing provides a greater sense of joy these days than parking it in front of the tv with a can of Strongbow and a DVD of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.



Netflix aside, a minor passion during the hibernative months is caressing my PowerBook G4 and cruising the Internet for good times. I'm referring not to porn, but to the reams and mounds and piles of amazing, pointless stuff you can find to entertain yourself on the web. Of course, there are web pages devoted to literally everything you can possibly think of, as well as things that should legally be outside the realm of human creativity. In that spirit, I vowed to create something new on the web: a site to praise the unintentional loveliness of contemporary spam poetry.

Most of us have received dozens of these. The subject headings of these poetic spam messages are always nonsensical, enough to draw you into the hidden message within - usually having something to do with Viagra or a pretty 17-year-old Russian girl named Petra who wants nothing more than to do your laundry after becoming your mail-order bride.

These spammers have always been around, regardless of your surfing habits. Sooner or later, they will find you and send you email. This is a fact. But what's so unexpectedly respectable about it is their efforts to elude the spam police. In order to stay under the radar, they string together the craziest slop with their message hidden inside, as if Petra was a Russian nesting doll within layers of computer generated refrigerator magnet poetry.





Whatever algorithms the spam police employ, they are completely flummoxed by something like this:

Neo-syriac AKA One-Decker Oak Thistle

nonmember bank pale-blue Non-quaker
Passion sunday nipa alcohol
organ-piano paradise flycatcher methyl alcohol
open-spokenness Odd fellowship
mussel crab Oxford corner O station palm crab
paper-clothed never-vacant mid-nineteenth
paddle board never-resting
peacock green oak thistle
neck rot milkwort family middle-sizedness
nine-eyed eel open-pit mighty-mouthed Militia bureau
moose elm milk snake nephelite-tephrite Neo-platonism
mis-lie one-roomed Non-israelite mummy wheat moving cluster
mid-lake Paleo-american paymaster-generalship
mid-channel peak factor out-of-vogue mis-seat
paper-slitting mid-zone mug-wet mis-hit new-laid padge owl
open-spokenness net valuation moudy-warp needle-made
Neo-roman obturator fascia Michaelmas
crocus new-grown palm family
open-hearth process oval chuck opossum tree
new-fashioned pearl-bush paunch mat peace-preaching
one-ideaed paper-stamping ninety-one pearl-fishery
Mid-may never-setting name plate night raven
olive-growing patty-cake M star narrow-headed
oval-lanceolate news writer olive scab night shift
one-decker night monkey motor torpedo boat olive berry
V*I*A*G*R*A $5.99
pharma#ceuticals whole$ale
enhanccce your natural splendor
reply to message


This is a real piece of spam I received through my email spam filter at work. There's more imagery in that email than in anything else I've read lately, poetry or not. I love the made up words, like "mug-wet mis-hit new-laid padge owl." J.K. Rowling would've sold the Book 7 rights to Satan to have come up with that.

But after my grand plan to create a spam poetry site, I realized that among the 5 billion people or whatever that inhabit this planet, there was another hibernating nitwit like me who beat me to the punch. I'm way behind, actually. The Register covered it, Wired covered it probably a dozen times, and a Christian Science Monitor contributor was embarrassed to discover that he was beaten to the punch also...in 2003. So I'm meta-slow.

But the best one is by this girl Kristin who creates her own poetry using the subject titles of spam she receives.

The moral of the story is...I don't know what the moral of the story is. Spam isn't all bad?

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tom Cruise: prophet?

Just came across this video of some genius at NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences who's come up with a computer screen that responds to hand and finger movement. It's like a full-scale version of the new "multi-touch" technology employed in the new iPhone, which made me get hot in an earlier post.

Looks like our interaction with computers is going to go the route of Tom Cruise in Minority Report, with kooky gesturing and dramatic, intense shoving and sorting of intangible objects. They're coining it, eerily enough, "the Minority Report effect."

God help us when we look to Tom Cruise for things we can expect in the future.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

omg, shoes!

There's nothing better than cruising YouTube on a Friday afternoon and finding this.

Ray saves the day.

Even though I worked from home yesterday, I had a thoroughly nasty day at work. We all have one of those now and then. Only now and then, if we’re lucky.

My job’s okay. I get paid well to do what I like, I’m good at it, and I even enjoy it occasionally. I definitely lucked out when I landed this nutty gig. But yesterday, my job made me want to dig my guts out with a spoon and bake a casserole out of them, which I would ceremoniously present to my boss at the next company potluck.

But even so, it turned out to be the perfect time to come across the latest edition of one of my all-time favorite video podcasts, The Show with Zefrank. Everyone should check this out. Each day for a year (beginning March 16th, 2006), Zefrank films himself giving a rundown of whatever’s in the news. He’s always insightful, always snarky, and never condescending. He usually distills down to three minutes what the Daily Show covers in thirty. And I didn't realize it until just the other day, but he lives literally around the block from us. Anyway, in yesterday’s podcast, Zefrank covered the recent Internet sensation that is “Whip Somebody’s Ass.”

If you’re not familiar with “Whip Somebody’s Ass,” basically what happened is, this guy Ray was speaking with his daughter when she’d been experiencing a particularly excruciating day at work, and he pondered that for awhile and sang her a song called “Whip Somebody’s Ass” as a kind of mantra she could sing under her breath when someone was giving her a hard time. It’s soulful – almost like a gospel dirge, and it sticks in your head like you wouldn’t believe. And it’s incredibly useful for when you want to whip somebody’s ass but can’t or won’t. The lyrics go like this:

I’m about to whip somebody’s ass / oh, I’m about to whip somebody’s ass / if you don’t leave me alone / you’re gonna have to send me home / cause I’m about to whip somebody’s ass

So Zefrank, while on a business trip to St. Louis, visited Ray at his home and interviewed him about the genesis of the song and his general philosophy. And this guy is fascinating! He’s a pastor at his church, so that throws an initial kink into the story, but listening to this guy talk about his views on faith, humanity, and ass-whuppin was the best thing that happened to me yesterday. God bless Ray.

Check it out here.

If job boredom is your problem, however, there's a simple solution. Throw Paper!