Thursday, May 31, 2007

Stray-Rod: A Cheating "Mine"field

So the yankees (side note: happy, Open Bar?) finally won a game last night, after dropping five straight to the Angels and the Blue Jays. How did they do it? Well, in large part, they cheated.

Ok, fine, relax, calm down, and don't break the screen. They didn't actually cheat insofar as "cheating" means you do something that is proscribed by the official rules of baseball. But there are two kinds of rules. There are the official rules that say things like you can't put more than so many inches of pine tar on your bat (side note: how bad are the Royals? Do you think George Brett ever wants to just ink a 2-year deal or something? Anything would be an improvement.), and a pitcher can't flinch on the mound or else it's a balk (side note: kudos, Armando).

But there are also the unofficial rules. It is not "against" the rules in baseball for a rookie to admire his home run for too long, and then strut around the bases, showing up the pitcher in the process. Even so, if Lastings Milledge does that, he is not only going to get drilled, he is also going to get dressed down by his own teammates. There is no rule that the opposing team has to help a catcher from breaking his neck on their dugout steps, but any team that doesn't will quickly find that same courtesy lacking when the tables are turned. My only (and perhaps obvious) point is that there is a "code" in baseball that governs conduct, and while it puts winning first, there are some limits.

A-Rod, of course, does not feel bound by this code, and engages in the kind of tit-for-tat, petty bullshit that makes people absolutely hate him. Last night, in Toronto, Jorge Posada hit a routine pop up that would have ended the inning if caught. Approaching third from second on the play, A-Rod yelled something that distracted third baseman Howie Clark, who then backed off of the ball, allowing it to land on the infield, which in turn allowed all runners to advance safely.

Words were immediately exchanged between the players, with Clark (and Jays' shortstop John McDonald) accusing A-Rod of shouting "mine" (a typical way one fielder calls off another from making a play). A-Rod (who could be seen smirking as the Jays' manager argued the play), lamely explained:

"I just said, 'Hah!' That's it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't."

Sure. Whatever he said (and there is every reason to believe based on the 3B's reaction that A-Rod did try to call him off the play), it just drips of the kind of thing A-Rod is known for: playing baseball the wrong way. Yes, he is an amazing talent. Yes, he can break Barry Bonds's home run record (don't start). Yes, I would actually prefer that he have the record as compared to Bonds. But all that aside, you just would never have seen a player like Cal Ripken, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson, Derek Jeter, Joe Morgan, or almost any of the other greats engaging in the sort of thing that A-Rod did last night. I am not suggesting that all of these guys are even particularly good guys (Henderson is, by all accounts, kind of an ass), but they played the game the "right" way, and A-Rod does not. It is as simple as that.

He didn't break any official rules last night, but what he did, if it became more prevalent in the game, would be bad for baseball. There would either be people running into each other on the field getting hurt (because you couldn't trust that the person calling you off was a teammate), or people dropping routine pop-ups left and right. That's why this sort of thing doesn't happen.

Just because he "can" do it, doesn't mean he should, nor does it mean that we shouldn't criticize him for it. That's what he doesn't understand.

The black will go nicely with the pinstripes, Mr. Rod.

Afterwards, not even the Yankees were wholly supportive, with Joe Torre and Johnny Damon offering meek, non-committal support for the bush-league play. (Side note: fantastically, after the game, the entire Blue Jays team just sat in the dugout staring at A-Rod. He is so drilled on July 16 when the two teams play in the Bronx. I'm there).

Tellingly (and proof positive that the baseball gods hate A-Rod and love me), this entire episode unfolded on a day on which the New York Post published pictorial evidence that A-Rod is, in fact, a cheater. Now, A-Rod is certainly not the first professional athlete to enjoy all that a strip club has to offer, but it is noteworthy that his entire day was characterized by accusations that he doesn't play by the rules.


Arguing this point with a co-worker this morning (who is a yankee fan), I wrote the following:

He is a cheater, he plays the game the wrong way, and he has still yet to collect one meaningful hit after labor day in his entire career. A-Rod is the f*cking worst (side note: I try not to curse at work), and you would hate him more than anyone if he were on any other team.

'Nuff said.

Side Bar? Come in. Come in, Side Bar. I got nothing.

I know that our posts recently have been lacking -- there haven't been many, and most haven't been all that interesting. I want to apologize on behalf of Chuck, LJT, and myself. The three of us have half-assed it for a bit now, and we're gonna pick it up from here on out.

But what I really want to do here is assign blame. Assign it to Side Bar. Where are you, Side Bar? Where ya been? This is all your fault. But honestly, I just want to help. So I've come up with a few possible theories regarding Side Bar's apparent disappearence, and I want to know what y'all think. Please let me know if you have any further information regarding this case. If you think one of my theories is right, awesome. If you have your own, let it be known. But no matter what happens, let's just hope for Side Bar's safe return.

(Anything in quotes is my best guess at what Side Bar will say to me upon reading this. The others are my sincere attempts at trying to guess what happened to him.)

1. Fell into a well, just like baby Jessica.
2. Eaten by a shark.
3. In rehab.
4. "I've been working so hard, I haven't had time to post anything."
5. Hanging with A-Rod at strip clubs in Toronto.
6. Typing fingers broken by Louie and Vinnie following some poor Preakness bets.
7. "Hey Open Bar -- fuck off. Get a real job!"
8. On a Hemingway-esque bender somewhere in Key West. (I hope!)
9. Kidnapped by Wu and a blonde porno-actor guy who thought he was a different Side Bar, the millionaire Side Bar. ("You're not dealing with morons here.")
10. Had an awful car accident on the way to the Cape; was hobbled by his Number One Fan!
11. Wife won't let him blog anymore.
12. In a total stupor about how much the Mets rule and how much the yankees suck.
13. In the hospital due to something stupid I did that I don't remember.

For those who don't really care, hey watch this! (And just so you know, she's saying "sparkling wiggles," okay?)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Meet the Press, Meet the Press, Step Right Up and Meet the Press

Gary Cohen: Anddd Russert peers into the catcher to get the sign...shakes his head yes. Richardson digs in at the plate....Russert in his wind's a fastball....Richardson swings!!! He's strikes out again!!!!

Keith Hernandez: Boy, with a swing like that it's hard to believe he was ever drafted!

Gary Cohen: He wasn't, he just says he was!

Ralph Kiner: Garble Garble

Open Bar's top pick for the democratic nomination was on Meet The Press this weekend and his performance was HORRENDOUS.

I don't really feel strongly about him one way or the other but I found myself feeling embarrassed for him.

Here are some lowlights that stand out for me:

  • He seems to have done some...evolving on issues recently, which is one thing but he didn't seem even remotely prepared for Tim Russert, who routinely asks tough questions.
  • He had been for the Iraq Invasion and against pulling out, now he is for pulling out immediately? When asked why, he stumbled around for a while and really couldn't find a convincing answer.
  • Russert pointed out that New Mexico ranks at the bottom of all the states on things like education, poverty, etc. Bill, again, stumbled around for an answer but to no avail.
  • He presents himself as the 'greenest candiate'. But Bill, you worked for oil companies after the Clinton Administration, including one whose CEO celebrated the high oil prices. His answer, 'Well, Tim, I don't apoloize for that. I had to earn a living.'
  • He often quotes a woman whose son died in Iraq. He claims at the son's funeral, the mom pulled out his 'death benefit' check for $11,000. She claims that never happened and can't believe he's using her son as campaign propaganda. His answer? Again, fumbling around, then saying they just have different recollections. Does he apologize for it? 'Ummm, I'm kind of sorry but not really, but really I do feel bad, but I'm not really sorry.'
  • He claimed in the past that he was drafted by a pro baseball team but he wasn't. 'Well, you know, I thought I had been drafted'. Turns out he was offered a contract but not drafted.
  • "I've always been a Red Sox fan", he claimed. "But", Russert pointed out, "in your book you say you're a Yankees fan". "Well, I'm a big Yankees fan too". At that point, even Russert was incredulous.

Now, I know Richardson is a smart dude and I have no doubt that he has accomplished a lot in his career. I also understand that politicians often switch positions based on changing conditions and, more regularly, changing political winds.

What I can't understand, however, is how he could go on Meet the Press and be so utterly unprepared for these questions that he should have known were going to be asked of him.

Dear Mets Fans,

For those of you who are going to boo Barry Bonds at Shea Stadium this week for cheapening the game and cheating to break records, I sincerely hope you will take the time out of your booing Barry to boo just as vociferously for Guillermo Mota, who coincidentally comes off of his 50 game suspension for steroid use, during this series as well. I know Mets fans are the smarter fans in New York on average, and I know you are not just bandwagon booers. Cheating is cheating, and I hope you will recognize that.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Friday, May 25, 2007

Hey Kids, If You Like Bruce Springsteen, You Might Like Jackson Browne Too

I feel like these two guys have some similarities. I think us guys from New Jersey have had a lot more exposure to The Boss than to Jackson because, well first we're from New Jersey, and secondly because Bruce is far more famous in general sense than Jackson Browne is. But I think they have several things in common.

Let me just say that none of these ideas are really my original thoughts, rather they're gleaned from what other people say about both these guys, but I don't think I've ever heard them compared, and it occurred to me that you can say a lot of the same things about both of them. When I say they're similar, I don't mean that they play the same type of music. Bruce plays guitar rock, and Jackson Browne is more of a piano rock/singer songwriter kind of style. But both of them came around in the '70s and both write those storyteller kind of songs.

The Springsteen songs that you love, well, that I love, like Thunder Road and The River are not only great music, but tell a story that you get involved in. I recently bought a few of the early Springsteen albums (Born To Run, Darkness On The Edge Of Town, Greetings From Asbury Park New Jersey, The Wild The Innocent And The E Street Shuffle) and the earliest ones especially (Greetings, Darkness) consist of Bruce telling stories that he wrote while also playing the guitar. Each line is packed with words to the extent that you feel like not all the words are going to fit into the natural break in the music ("Blinded By The Light" is a perfect example). Bruce is generally regarded as the guy who represents that blue collar, union working, paycheck to paycheck kind of life. Mainly because his songs describe that life with such clarity ("The River", "Glory Days", "Born in the USA", "Thunder Road", need I go on?). I think that last one is a sentence fragment.

I've never really heard of people talking about being fans of Jackson Browne, or ever listening to his music, but it's pretty great. Jackson, like I said earlier, came out around the same time as Bruce, in the early '70s. And every single song is a new story. I recently bought a couple of his albums (Late For The Sky, The Pretender) and I really like them. You get into the story and the music fits each song really well.

I'll try to tell the short version of this story, but I bought those albums based mainly on the strength of one song, "The Pretender". That has been one of my favorite songs for a while now, and I figured that the guy who wrote that song must have some other great songs. So I looked him up on the interweb and read the reviews of his albums and the general consensus seems to be that Jackson Browne is a songwriter that encapsulates the '70 Southern California lifestyle in a way that Springsteen encapsulates that aforementioned blue collar lifestyle. (Aforementioned; fabulous word)

Most of Jackson's songs are really mellow, span anywhere from 5 to 6 minutes, and leave a lot of room to tell a beginning, middle, and end of a story. My feeling is that if you like some of Springsteen's mellower stuff, "The River" comes to mind, and the storytelling aspect of the Springsteen music, then you might really get into Jackson Browne as well. I don't really identify with the 1970's Southern California lifestyle, but the music pulls you in anyway. "The Pretender" is one of the best songs ever, and the album of the same name is quality fare.

Friday Classic Video: Double Feature!!!

I'm sick of Joe having these up well before I do, so I'm gonna go with two videos this week that I'm fairly sure he doesn't have up on his site.

For this first one, you have to be a fan of The Muppets. (And if you aren't, you're an al-Qaeda supporter.) My all-time favorite character is the Swedish Chef, so if you're a good person with a strong moral upbringing, you'll love this compilation.

And just in case you have some reason to hate on The Muppets, I wonder if you have something against Pearl Jam, too. Chuck and I (along with Angry White Dave and Dr. Kensington Road Gang War) once had an incredible sing-along to this song. None of us knew all the words (or most of them, or even very few of them), but it's okay, because it seems like Eddie Vedder didn't either. He mumbles through this song like he's conjuring Milton from Office Space. Fortunately, someone took the time to tell us what Eddie meant to enunciate.

Have a great weekend! I'll be catching massive rainbow trout in Pennsylvania. I'll (hopefully) have some nice pics for Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Things that are overrated: Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak

Okay, first off, I want to be clear that I'm not just posting this because I hate the yankees and want to rip on some "treasured" yank history. I'm a baseball fan before yankee-hater. Much of my loathing of the yanks has to do with the George Steinbrenner era; I don't hold nearly the same feelings toward the old-school yanks.

I just feel like Joe D's hit streak -- though certainly amazing -- gets a bit too much credit from much of the baseball world.

In 1941, two things happened that haven't happened since in Major League Baseball. One was Joe D's hitting streak; the second is that Ted Williams batted .406, becoming the last player to hit .400 in a season. Joe D won the American League MVP, and the yankees went on to beat the Brooklyn Dodgers 4 games to 1 in the World Series. Williams' Red Sox finished 84-70, a distant 15 games behind the 101-53 yanks.

"I was a war hero. I won MVP awards, World Series titles
and still found time to bang Marilyn Monroe.
your life?"

The closest anyone has come to matching Joe D's streak is Pete Rose, who had a 44-game streak in 1978. (Willie Keeler also had a 44-game streak, but that was in 1897, and most pre-1900 records are not used now.) That's 12 games away from Joe D. A 12-game hitting streak on its own is a notable effort for most players, so that just reinforces how unique an achievement Joe's streak was.

I point these things out to make clear that I truly respect The Streak, and I agree that it stands head and shoulders above all else in its category. What I have a problem with is the amount of reverence for hitting streaks in general and, thus, the stature accorded to DiMaggio's in particular.

If you went 1 for 5 for 60 games, you'd still just have a .200 average. Granted, Joe D went 91 for 223 over the course of his streak -- an average of .408, which is remarkable. But a hitting streak only counts hits, not whether those hits mattered. But this is yet another plus in Joe's column -- during his streak, he carried the yanks from a mediocre season into an eventual 1st-place team. His hits clearly led to wins, which is a huge factor. So for even one more reason, this streak is amazing.

It is clearly hard to argue against The Streak. And I really don't mean to. I just feel that it is held up alongside Roger Maris's 61 home runs (which I still think is the real record -- Bonds, Sosa and McGwire can go to Hell) and Nolan Ryan's 7 no-hitters, two records which I feel deserve much more honor due to factors a hitting streak -- even a 56-game one -- cannot approach. Maris's 61 home runs took 162 games; Ryan's 7 no-hitters took 20 years. The Streak lasted from May 15 to July 16, two whole months during the first half of the season.

Let's contrast Joe's numbers during The Streak with, say, the other guy who had a good year in 1941, Ted Williams. During that two-month span, Joe D hit .408 with 56 runs scored, 15 homers and 55 RBI's. Extend those kind of numbers over a 154-game season (the length at the time), and he would have a staggering year: batting .408, and (approximately) 150 runs, 42 homers and 145 RBI's. But Joe D could not, of course, keep up that high a level of production throughout the season. He finished with a .357 average, 122 runs scored, 30 homers and 125 RBI's -- an inarguably tremendous season.

"I was also a war hero. And by the way, I was also the greatest hitter
of all time and I caught 400-pound marlins off Key West in my
spare time.
What have
you ever done?"

Ted Williams, on the other hand, finished 1941 with a .406 average, 135 runs scored, 37 homers, and 120 RBIs. Strictly numbers-wise, this is a better season. Obviously, statistics don't tell the whole story, and numbers alone do not determine who wins or loses. But in baseball, numbers are accorded far more weight than in other sports. Hence, The Streak's significance.

During those 56 games, DiMaggio hit .408. During the entire 154-game season, Williams hit .406, an average most closely approached since by George Brett's .390 in 1980. That's a .16 point difference, which basically means that even if Brett had hit .390 in 1941, he would've finished a distant second. The simple fact that no one has come close to matching Williams's season-long average necessitates the comparison to The Streak, as no one has since come close to that either.

My central point is this: the Yankee Clipper batted .408 for 56 games (and a still-excellent .320 the rest of the time); the Splendid Splinter just about matched that over a full season. (To add to that, Williams entered the final day of the 1941 season [technically] batting .400. His manager offered him the choice to either sit or play. Williams insisted on playing, knowing that his average was actually .39955, saying, "If I had 10,000 at-bats, it wouldn't be .400." During the double-header which ended the Red Sox's season, Williams went a combined 6 for 8, raising his average to an official .406.) He ended the season leading the AL in home runs, runs scored, walks (147), slugging percentage (.735) and on-base percentage (.551). Williams showed a lot of well-earned self-confidence playing on that day, and his final numbers reflect it.

I simply say that what Joe D did for 56 games, Teddy Baseball did for 154. Both of their achievements are notable, but DiMaggio's seems to get much higher acclaim. Again, I don't mean to denigrate his accomplishment; I just don't see why it sits so high on the all-time list. This was not ground-breaking; players don't aim for hitting streaks. If anything, hitting streaks serve as more of a distraction, a media angle, nowadays than as some sort of barometer of a player's role on his team. Hitting streaks of any great length are rare, but they do not lead to a team's overall success. They are achievements for the individual, just as Williams's numbers were in 1941.

The media angle is key. We are told that Joe D's streak "captivated the nation." Yeah, and? Does that make the actual act itself any more substantial?

In 2001, Barry Bonds set the single-season home run record with 73. The single-season home run mark is a cherished record in statistics-loving baseball. That season, Bonds led the Giants to the World Series. It's worth pointing out because his season-long offensive performance definitely was the leading role in the Giants' success that season.

(I still refuse to believe that people from Philadelphia -- where this
photo was allegedly taken -- could have spelled that many words
in a row correctly. Musta been some New Yorkers who made the
trip just to mock Baroid.)

Currently, Bonds is approaching Hank Aaron's career home run record -- the most beloved record in baseball (and by extension, since baseball is the most numbers-based, all of sports). Understandably, this is getting incredible media attention, due to both the number itself and the dubious circumstances under which Bonds has pursued it. Since Aaron set the record, no one has even come close, which makes clear the importance of what Bonds is doing. But anytime a player even reaches a 30-game hitting streak, all of a sudden Joe D is brought back into the spotlight, even though no one has gotten past 39 games (Paul Molitor, 1987) since Rose in 1978. Can anyone tell me any player with a 30-plus-game hitting streak whose team rode that to the playoffs?

When the yankees won the 1941 World Series, it was their fifth title in the previous six years. Did The Streak help them win it all? Sure. But during the other four Streak-less years, how did the yanks manage it? They had a hell of a team. Does anyone believe that if The Streak had ended at a mere 32 games, that that would have doomed the yanks' season? They won 101 games that year, most of which were not during The Streak.

"I'm no war hero. But I do still play "God Bless America"
every game during the 7th-inning stretch. I also rape puppies.
How much money do you have?"

A tremendous individual achievement over 1/3 of a season is just that. Not only does it not guarantee team success, it also leaves what that individual did over a significant majority of that season out. As far as individual achievements go, a season-long one is more impressive. Maris's and Bonds's feats attest to that. But even more impressive is an achievement that takes an entire career to fully add up and appreciate, and Hammerin' Hank's home-run tally defines that.

For whatever reason, something done over a mere 56 games has somehow managed to reach a similar level of prestige. And that just doesn't wash with me. After all, Ted Williams matched him -- and over a full season of 154 games -- yet his astounding season still lives in the shadow of DiMaggio's.

Again, DiMaggio did something undeniably amazing. But so did Williams. Neither effort has even been remotely challenged since. Yet one is a hallowed record, the other -- while respected -- doesn't come close in the eyes of most. That's why I say The Streak is overrated. A spectacular feat? Yes. But it stops there, and should not be considered among the top records in baseball history.

Less Is More For Great Music

OK, I mentioned this in my previous post about music, so I want to expand on this idea. Mainly, I'm thinking that a lot of the bands that end up being really influential, especially in a way that's musically relevant, tend to have a really stripped down sound that focuses on the basics of the music. Rather than a huge band with two guitars and a horn section and what not, the bands that have only 3 or 4 guys seem to really have an influence on the way the music evolves.

I have basically three examples in mind (give me 3 examples!!!). The first is Buddy Holly and his band. They were three guys. Buddy played guitar and sang, some guy played bass, and someone played drums. He revolutionized rock and roll by stripping the sound down to just those three instruments.

The next example I have is Nirvana. Kurt Cobain on guitar/vocals, Cris Novacelic on Bass, and Dave Grohl on drums. Again, they achieved a full sound, and were really influential with just those three guys.

The last is the White Stripes. They are as stripped down as it gets. Jack White on guitar/vocal and, ahh, what's her name?, ah Meg, Meg White on drums. They have a huge sound with just a guitar and drums. And they're awesome, obviously. It wouldn't be worth mentioning them if they weren't.

I can think of some individual songs that are great in a stripped down way. "Yesterday" by the Beatles, previously described by me as the perfect song, is just Paul McCartney with a guitar.

I don't think this is a carved in stone type of thing. I'm not saying that stripped down is the only way to do it. There's a lot of room to refute all this and you can point out that the best Beatles albums were the ones where they had the whole orchestras and wuch at work. And you can argue that Pet Sounds, by the Beach Boys, which might be the best album ever, was an experiment by Brian Wilson to put every possible noise making apparatus, whether instrument or not, into one collection.

Maybe I'm wrong. It's just been a couple day since anyone posted, so I figured I'd give something for people to disagree with.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Classic Video: Toddler Gets Toddled

If "toddler" means "one who toddles," then getting "toddled" should mean this:

(First seen by me on With Leather, but also up way before it was here on Joe Grossberg's site, which is threatening to become a regular thing here, apparently. Fuck it, just check Joe's site first, then look here for much belated coverage, I guess.)

Side Bar owes me $100

Don't know if any of you caught the Mets' thrilling 5-run-9th-inning comeback yesterday, but even more important than the victory was the resolution of a little-known bet made circa 1986.

Side Bar and I were in his basement when we were both 8 years old or something, and since this was long before the nightmare of Javier Santana imposed itself on me freshman year of High School, I still thought I was a damn good baseball player. Good enough, in fact, to bet Side Bar the then-unthinkably large sum of $100 that I would eventually play for the New York Mets. (I think it was supposed to be by the age of 21 or something, but that would ruin my post.)

I'm happy to say that yes, finally, I did play for the Mets yesterday.

Here was the dominating roster of future Hall-of-Famers that comprised the first-place Mets' starting lineup:

1. Endy Chavez, CF
2. Ruben Gotay, SS
3. Shawn Green, RF
4. Carlos Delgado, 1B
5. Julio Franco, 3B
6. David Newhan, 2B
7. Ramon Castro, C
8. Carlos Gomez, LF
9. Jason Vargas, P

Doesn't that lineup send shivers down your spine?

I know, I didn't make the starting lineup, but Willie had me pinch-run for that fattie Castro in the 8th. Check the box score, I'm in there! (It reads "a-OpBar pr" right under Castro. Fits right in with all those other randoms.)

And since the Mets decided to just scribble some letters randomly onto a piece of paper and somehow call it a "lineup," I thought I'd suggest a lineup for Willie tonight taken directly from the 2007 Final Standings from Name of the Year, an amazing site which has been compiling the best genuine names from around the world for a long time. I only used 2007, so feel free to put together your own from any of the other years they have listed. (Once again, these are all real people's names that have been verified. Amazing. Parents really named their children the following:)

1. Vanilla Dong
2. Kyle Sackrider
3. Intelligent Infinite Botts (personal favorite)
4. Phyre Quickly Burns
5. Conceptualization Gibbs
6. Gertrude Nipple
7. Ayo Yayo
8. Mario Hilario
9. Michelangelo X Ball Van Zee

Hey Side Bar -- double or nothing if you can come up with a better lineup than that.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Important Music

I wholeheartedly agree with everything Open Bar said in the previous post. Except the parts where he said I was wrong about stuff. I disagree with those parts. But the bulk of his post is spot on. His post raises some questions for me. I don't know if I have any sufficient answers.

First, is anyone making important music today? Important music can have a lot of meanings, I guess. It could make a social statment that people respond to. It could define or perfect a genre of music. It could be otherwise groundbreaking, I suppose, too. I guess instead of important, I really mean revolutionary. Or maybe I mean innovative. Maybe it has to do with drawing attention from society in a way that's not entirely related to music. Anyway, I'm just gonna say important. You take it to mean what you want.

For example, I think Rakim and Chuck D. are important figures in rap music for different reasons. Rakim is a lyrical master. He wasn't rhyming about different things than other MCs, he just did it fabulously. His best songs are just about how great he is, "My Melody" or "I Ain't No Joke" but what be brought was not only clever lyrics, but an entirely new approach to rapping. He thought about complex rhyme schemes and a more fluid technique. Listen to Kurtis Blow or even Run DMC, their rhymes are generally AA BB CC for the whole song. And with a huge emphasis on the rhyming words. "Number 33 is my man Kareem. He's the center on my starting team." is from "Basketball" by Kurtis Blow. Listening to that seems almost juvenille today. Rakim threw the whole shit down. He would come out with AB AB rhymes, or AA BA rhymes. Or (here's Joe's favorite) AAB CCB as in "When I'm gone no one gets on 'cause I won't let, nobody press up and mess up the scene I set". So Rakim was revolutionary. Literally every rapper today owes his style to Rakim, whether they know it or not (a bit like the theory that every pop song today is just a Beatles song).

Chuck D. didn't have a revolutionary style, he was just talking about things in a way that made people listen. On a side note, it astounds me to this day that Chuck D., clearly one of the most thoughtful and intelligent people in the entire music industry, would team up with Flavor Flav, who is almost a caricature of a real person. I like the way Open Bar put it by saying Chuck D. was letting people know that things were not really going all that well. And what made him important was the clarity with which he spoke about his problems. He was using his platform for a specific purpose, and doing it well. You can draw a comparison between what he was doing and what Martin Luther (the) King was doing, in that they were trying to make people aware of the plight of black America. I don't konw how far you can draw out that comparison, but I think they were rooted in the same issues.

Important music comes from other genres as well. Suffice it to say that there is no important new wave music...unless you want to stretch and call The Police a new wave band...but I don't think I'd put them in that category. Anyway, Nirvana is the obvious next step in our generation. Everything Open Bar said about them sums it up beautifully. I would also argue that Pearl Jam was up there in leading the "grunge" thing. If Nirvana was leading the revolution, Pearl Jam was a respectable second, while everyone else was a distant third and beyond. I don't think the music, from a musical standpoint, was revolutionary. (I just remembered something else I've been meaning to post about related to music. Basically that less is more when it comes to making great music. I'll expand on that in a future post.) Power chords, bass, John Bonham style energy in the drumming (Dave Grohl is fucking pimp, by the way. He was in two of the most influential bands of the '90s playing two different instruments.), it wasn't about the music, it was the message. And the whole package coming at a time when guys were doing the spandex, big hair, androgyny thing was basically a 180 from that. Guys on stage wearing clothes that the kids in the audience were wearing was a bigger deal than I think I realized at the time.

I can't really name you any other important bands from our generation. Unless you want to count U2, who I think we all agree is overrated in terms of importance. I mean, they're more important than most, but they're hardly Nirvana. And their songs all kinda sound the same to me. Am I the only one who's listened to a U2 song for more than a minute before realizing it was a different song than I thought it was?

The one guy who's definitely making important music is Eminem. From a lyrical standpoint he's the best rapper since Rakim. The fact that he's white is a coup of sorts for the hip-hop industry not to mention the crossover that comes from it. And, in his day, he got tons of media coverage unrelated to just his music. The coverage was stemming from his music, obviously, but lead to discussions about violence, misogyny, homophobia, rap music in general, and who knows what else. He says he's retired, though, and we haven't heard from him in a while.

I can't think of a rock band or any other group, for that matter, who's making important shit. John Mayer is a deep thinker and I like him, but I don't think he has much of a social impact. Sheryl Crow recently suggested we use only one square of toilet paper per sitting in order to be more ecologically friendly, but that's just dumb. And the thing about it is that these are some crazy times. The country is in a really divisive state right now. There's an unpopular war going on, terrorists threats, all kinds of stuff. There must be an important song in there somwhere. You know, something that wasn't written by Toby Keith. I guess the draft really had a lot to do with the Vietnam era protestism. It's just interesting to me that there isn't really anyone out there making music about this.

Assuming life as we know it started in the post WWII era, the '50s, '60s, and '70s were rife with important music, both for social and musical reasons. Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, The Temptations, The Supremes, James Brown, Parliament Funkadelic, The Ramones, The Clash, The Who. Someone more well-versed than me can make a list that's probably infinitely longer. Rock from the 1980s was not groundbreaking in the least. New wave, as much as I love it, is correctly characterized by Open as derivative and wimpified. And new wave is Mozart next to arena rock. But the '80s had hip-hop and break dancing. Michael Jackson too, who was more influential than we remember given his recent ridiculousness. Even throw U2 into the '80s pot because that was when they were most relevant and militant as important bands go. The '90s had Nirvana and Dr. Dre. Pearl Jam and Wu Tang Clan. Tupac and Biggie. (Dave Matthews? Anyone? No?.....Yeah? No, ok no.) Metallica fits somewhere in the '80s '90s mix even though they turned into bitches and started suing their own fans.

My point is, who is making important music today? Other than Eminem, I can't name a single important musical act since the turn of the millenium.

Open Bar addresses this somewhat:
"Unfortunately, Kurt Cobain killed himself in 1994, which ended the return of good rock music that he reluctantly led. What Public Enemy started for Hip-Hop, very few followed."
I think hip-hop has had its leaders since Public Enemy. None who brought exactly what Chuck D. did to the table, but difference-makers nonetheless (triple compound word, awesome). Tupac, God love him, I think took a stab at doing the Chuck D. thing. Tupac was just a fascinating person. I worry that some of the smart kids I teach will turn into someone like him. Tupac seemed to me on the one hand to be a hyperintelligent guy who cared about larger issues that faced him and his people, but at the same time would revel in the things he was complaining about. How can the guy who released "Brenda's Got A Baby" and "Dear Momma" be the same guy who released "I Get Around"? He seemed to me to just be a walking contradiction. And let's remember that he was barely 26 years old when he was killed. Anyway, I guess that's kindof an aside.

So if we say that rap has had it's leaders, we should ask if anyone has taken the torch from Kurt Cobain. I don't think so. On a much smaller scale you can say that Dave Grohl has gone on to be a driving force in rock music. But it's not nearly the same. Bono is certainly to be commended for his altruism, but he's not doing that through his music. Is Eminem really the only socially important act of the new millenium? And on top of all of that, MTV, which used to be a bastion for acts making noise in America, has completely sold out. Doesn't anyone remember when MTV was relevant? (Does anybody remember laughter?)

Things that aren't underrated: New Wave and Disco

Hold on a sec there, Chuck. You say that New Wave is "underrated"? It gets played everywhere in bars as "'80s Night" and is currently having a huge resurgence. Exactly which part of it is underrated?

New Wave has its place, but come on, was it really more than simply a segue between one good era of music and another?

While I will agree with you that certain New Wave songs are awesome and have stood the test of time ("Take On Me," "I Melt With You," both of which you included are good examples), I really feel like this music was simply a transition. You mentioned how awesome the basslines were in disco -- which I agree with. You also just glossed over Punk, calling New Wave an offshoot of it.

I think you're totally wrong about that. And some other things, especially when you say that Hip-Hop came from disco, like when you said:

"in the beginnin, rap was all about the DJ and the rapper was secondary."

In "rap" the "rapper" was secondary? What?

Am I misinterpreting this? Yes, a rapper needs a good beat, and the DJ (or, now, the producer) provides that, but "Rap" as an art form grew from its lyricists. It couldn't possibly have gone anywhere without MCs; DJs could lay down a great beat, but then what? Artists who could rhyme led to the explosion of Hip-Hop, starting with the Sugar Hill Gang, leading to Grandmaster Flash and Curtis Blow and all the early-'80s rappers. Very soon, Rakim appeared -- and taught everyone what you could do with words and a beat. After him, a slew of great rappers emerged -- all of them building on Rakim -- and when combined with the right DJ/producer/beatmaker, eventually Hip-Hip took over.

But anyway, one thing New Wave never really did was confront any issues. "99 Red Balloons" and "Addicted to Love" are great songs, and you could be white and dance to them without regret, but none of the New Wave songs really talked about what was going on in the world. And perhaps we have New Wave to thank for the fact that not too soon after, two wildly different genres took over. Enough people from all over were pissed off, and they needed an outlet.

Artistically, at least, Rap rebelled against this bullshit. Public Enemy came out with a no-holds-barred assault against society and music. Their early albums are full of rage against both the music industry and the Reagan-esque society at the time. Albums like Fear of a Black Planet and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back not only directly confronted serious social issues of the time, they still sound amazing and fresh right now. Chuck D basically gave a big "Fuck You" to anyone who thought things were going well, because to him -- and the people he grew up with -- they clearly weren't.

That led to this rise of Hip-Hop. Rock took a little longer to find its voice against the bullshit music being put out by the likes of Warrant and Slaughter.

Nirvana saw to that. Whether Kurt Cobain wanted it or not, Nirvana cut the cord of crappy '80s rock and gave people something new to think about. Initially, Cobain was cornered by the media when they labeled him "angst-ridden" and then his music "grunge rock." But even after his initial success, he wrote a song -- which used the same riff as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" -- called "Rape Me," on his next album.

Unlike "New Wave," people like Kurt Cobain and Chuck D were upset, and they were unapologetic in letting people know.

Unfortunately, Kurt Cobain killed himself in 1994, which ended the return of good rock music that he reluctantly led.

What Public Enemy started for Hip-Hop, very few followed.

What Public Enemy and Nirvana did was to give the music-listening audience a good slap in the face. "New Wave" never did this -- this was never the goal. Making pleasing songs that people can dance to is what New Wave was good at -- and they were matched by Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, and NSync in the late '90s.

Right now, if you have it, put in an early album by Public Enemy or Nirvana. The energy that they put into each song completely outclasses most recent music in general, but certainly embarrasses any New Wave album. "New Wave" had some good singles ("Karma Chameleon," anyone?); what followed it led to much, much better shit.

However good certain New Wave songs are, I challenge you to play a full album by any of the artists that made those "classic" songs, and then play Fear of a Black Planet or Nevermind. Afterwards, tell me which one really matters.

New Wave is not underrated. If anything, it's overrated. The music that came before it -- Punk and early Rap -- and the music that came after it -- Grunge and Hip-Hop -- are far better. Good for New Wave to provide that bridge, but to give it any more credit denies how it compares to its forefathers and what came after.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Meet the Mets

So I am watching the Mets game on SNY (started about 3 hrs late due to rain). It's the bottom of the 3rd, Mets up 1-0, and there is one out (b/c Reyes just grounded out on a nice play by Aramis Ramireze at 3rd).

I'm not sure how interesting this will be to anyone other than me (if that), but figured I would share my running commentary on the game for an inning or two. This will, perhaps, offer a window in to how overly-involved I allow myself to get in Mets games:

Easley up. Four straight balls, 1 on, 1 out. Beltran definitely going to go deep here.

Single to left. Ok, I can handle that. Easley on Second, Beltran on first. One out. Delgado coming up. Guaranteed whiff here. Could this guy suck anymore this year?

(Keith has been talking for 20 seconds uninterrupted about something; I have no clue what he is saying)

2 balls, 0 strikes. This is the big inning. I can feel it. Now it's 3 and 0.

Keith just observed that on 3-0, he would take the pitch. Unreal.

3 balls, 2 strikes. Ummm, Carlos? What are we doing here?

Ball 4! Bases loaded!!! It's like the gods of baseball wanted this to be the inning that I was blogging so that David's first grand slam of the year could be fully documented.

DW up now . . . 0-1 after a grounder foul.

God damnit. DW pops up to 2B, but Easley (rapidly becoming my favorite Met of all time ever) alertly scores from 3d tagging up. Bad job out of the Cubs. Keith is explaining what every single player on the Cubs did wrong on the last play. How is this the catcher's fault? Whatever.

Paulie up now. Nice double steal out of the Mets. Beltran to 3d, Delgado to 2d. Delgado hasn't stolen a base since 2002 . . . Gary, Ron and Keith are beside themselves with how funny this apparently is.

Now LoDuca gets the intentional pass to bring up Shawn Green.

Nasty curve out of the Cubs pitcher, 0-1t o Green. I can feel a slam this inning.

FUCK!!!! Shawn Green fucking sucks. Grounder to first? Way to go, ass.

End of 3. Mets 2, Cubs 0.

Top 4 -- Soriano leads off. Sweet stab out of DW to save a hit!! Bad throw, but Delgado makes the tag. I can't believe Soriano swung at the first pitch. So unlike him.

Now 2-0 to Aramis Ramirez. 2-1. I don't care if you walk him. Let's just not let him go Schoen on me.

Deep fly out to CF. Ramirez scares me like Prince Fielder was scaring me the other day. Ron and Gary are so good togehter. Keith shut up!!!

Here's a shocker . . . 2 outs, no one on, Easley (who fucking sucks, by the way) can't handle a routine grounder and now there is a man on. (On further review, might have had him at first).

Second time's the charm for 2b; handles this one, gets our man.

Middle of 4. Mets 2, Cubs 0. Jorge Sosa has to be getting some Cy Young consideration at this point. What an amazing job he has done to date.

Lastings who? Carlos Gomez has rookie of the year potential. He's faster than Reyes!!

Gary just observed that, for his career, Gomez is 3-6, and that, if he keeps it up, he'll make the hall of fame. Damn anyone who makes me long for Tim McCarver.

And speaking of Tim McCarver, Keith is still talking about a play from last inning.

Dear Keith,

We're over it.


Mets fans.

FUCK!!! Ramirez just robbed Gomez of a double. Amazing diving catch. Guaranteed top 10 on SportsCenter tomorrow.

There has been way too much Al Leiter talk tonight. Hey guys, 1999 called . . . etc.

Pitcher grounds out to SS. Reyes up w/2 outs and none on.

Reyes single to right. I think the Mets have 12 hits tonight that dropped right in front of Cliff Floyd. Anyone who makes Shawn Green look like a solid fielder . . . yikes.

Reyes should be going here. 1-0 on Easley.

GONE!!!! Easley is the fucking shit!!! He has 6 home runs this year in like 12 AB!!! Unreal. He crushes these balls . . . who is this guy?

(Gary just compared him to Babe Ruth . . . . I swear to God.)

Ohh!! Keith just said "all you kids out there" . . . I can't even type this shit fast enough. What a broadcast.

3-1 to Beltran. This pitcher is falling apart. Somebody wake up Mark Prior.

Beltran sucks.

End 4. Mets 4, Cubs 0.

Sosa whiffs some clown. 1 out.

2 outs. Sosa is looking very strong.

The broadcast team is in stitches over a fan e-mail asking why Gary never gets a day off. What fun. October - April? Umm . . . not the point.

Sosa K's some other clown. This isn't even fair.

Middle 5. Mets 4, Cubs 0.

Ron is comparing the deliveries of the two starting pitchers. Ron says they are the opposite of each other. One of us is an idiot (and it could definitely be me), because they look identical to me.

Delgado, F7. Too early for "stick a fork in him" jokes? Yes? Ok, fine, but come Flag Day, Delgado is dead to me if this thing isn't turned around.

Wright singles to left. I am ready to declare it: his slump is over, he is back.

Let's steal second here, DW.

There he goes. I called that. Wright on 2d. He thinks he is Reyes or something.

1-2 on LoDuca.

LoDuca has warning track power, if that. Soriano tracks down a fly in left field. Let's stick to the ground balls, big guy.

2 out. Wright still on second.

Shawn Green is up.

SHIT. In my right field there is problem . . .

End of 5. Mets 4, Cubs o.

And so it goes . . . let's go mets.

I hate the fucking Spurs and Robert Horry can just die already

Since my lazy co-contributors to this otherwise-marvelous blog have failed to write anything lately -- and I was stuck without Internet access all day (Can you remember back in like, 1993, when people would look at you like you were an alien troll-monster wearing a Dynamite Kid costume for saying that?) -- I figured I'd throw it out there to everyone to give your opinions on how the Phoenix Suns should respond to the fact that Amare Stoudamire and Boris Diaw have been suspended for Game 5 on Thursday for...getting off the bench?

In case you don't follow sports (so you're a girl, admit it), Steve Nash -- who is the best player on the Suns and the two-time defending league MVP (Yeah, Dirk, congrats on your totally deserved win this year.) -- has been beaten like Mike Tyson's girlfriend by several of the Spurs in this series so far. He couldn't finish Game 1 after suffering a revolting gash on his nose after an (apparently) accidental collision with someone; in Game 3, Bruce Bowen blatantly kneed him in the balls (no Bowen suspension, even though most players not on the Spurs know he's a dirty player); and in Game 5, with the Suns leading with just a few seconds left, Robert Horry (who is about a foot taller, 100 lbs. heavier, and a total chickenshit bastard) hip-checked him into the scorer's table.

After Horry's clearly intentional assault, Stoudamire and Diaw got up off the bench and -- wait for it -- walked toward where Nash was still on the floor in pain. And for this horrible act of vengeance, Stoudamire (the Suns' best big man and a first-team All-NBA player) and Diaw can't play in Game 5. And Horry got a two-game vacation. Keep in mind -- Horry is a role player, Stoudamire and Diaw the heart of the Suns' frontcourt. (Horry, by the way, gets a lot of credit for having six championship rings, but fuck him. He's always been, like, the seventh or eighth best player on all of those teams. Way to go, Bobby, you're the man. You can cheap-shot a much smaller guy when the game's already been decided. Just go hang yourself already.)

This all dates back to the 1997 Knicks/Heat series in which Patrick Ewing and three other players were suspended for "leaving the bench." The Knicks, who were leading 3-2 in that series, went on to lose Games 6 and 7.

Here's my advice for the Suns: Since Stoudamire can't start, put in the 12th man (or the 11th man, if he's bigger) at his position, and within the first minute or so, have him either clothesline the Spurs' point guard, Tony Parker, like King Kong Bundy going after Koko Beware; or have him throw a nasty chop-block on Tim Duncan's right knee. The Suns' guy will no doubt be ejected (and suspended for the rest of the playoffs for sure, but he's only the 12th guy, right?), but that would at least even things out and send a message to STOP FUCKING WITH STEVE NASH JUST BECAUSE HE'S BEEN KICKING YOUR ASS.

I eagerly await anyone's else's ideas on how the Suns should handle this travesty of punishment by the slowly dying NBA. (Yeah, "slowly dying." How else can you explain a league sending down an injustice like this which will inevitably lessen what was until-now one of the few reasons to even bother watching?)

(This is our 100th post. Yay for us!)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

All right, stoners, explain this, pt. 2

People seemed to enjoy the Sanjaya/Bob Dylan oddity from a few weeks ago, and I think I've found a good follow-up. I have no idea how to even introduce this one.

(Found on KSK)

Even Guys Named Jerry Can Suck

Jerry Falwell died. Mainly known for being a homophobe, I'll remember him more for saying a bit before the year 2000 that the antichrist was living somewhere in the world at the time. He figured that since 2000 would be the year of the rapture, the antichrist must be around somewhere. Since the antichrist is basically a bizarro Jesus (that's the official theological term) then Falwell figured he must be not only alive, but Jewish and roughly 30 years old, since that's how old Jesus was when he was crucified.

I don't really have anything productive to say about old Jer, so I'll leave you with a quote he made about 9/11:
"I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians ... all of them who have tried to secularize America, I point the finger in their face and say: you helped this happen"
Ok, I know I said I didn't have anything to say, but wouldn't it make more sense that the Christians trying to impose their morality on everyone else was more the cause? I mean, well, ok, let's not knock dead guys. I'm sure there are people who are sad about this, so I empathize with you all. Empathize is too strong. I guess I sympathize.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ye of Little Faith

I was reading my Friend Faith's blog the other day and she had a great video on. You've probably seen it but play it, it's a great song and a pretty imaginitive video.

I've actually only hung out with Faith like three times through a mutual friend. You can read her blog here and his here. They're both good, so you should. I don't know if you can call someone a 'friend' after only three hanging outs but I just did. Faith just found out she was officially my friend while reading this post. She also is finding out that I'm not going to her birthday party on Saturday, which also means that she just found out I'm not a very good friend.

I hope I haven't lost my Faith because that would mean I have Faith no more, and that would suck because you gotta have Faith.

Awww, hell, I lost my train of thought..............................................:

These people do an interesting version of the video:

The Tipping Point

Bill Simmons, a blogger on, was answering his 'mail-bag' column the other day and someone asked him how much he tips various people.

I've been a waiter, so I consider my self a decent tipper in general but according to Simmons I under tip. (By the way I have to agree with Open Bar that BS really just mails it in these days. He's a great writer but his columns are getting very short and seemingly more and more effortless). Anyway, you can go see what he says but this is how I tip various people:

  • Cab-Drivers: At least $2, it's not really that dependent on how far I go. Generally it's $2 + whatever amoung of change to round it to the next dollar.
  • Coffee Shop Counter People/Take-out/Dry-cleaners: Nothing. They have these mugs out all the time for you to throw money in but it seems to me that they don't really deserve a tip. I guess, ultimately, I think you only really need to tip if someone is providing a service that makes whatever you're buying better. The guy that goes and gets your coffee? Doesn't really matter if he's a dick or cool. No tip for you! Occassionally, I'll throw the loose change in but, by and large, nada.
  • Hotels: I guess if you have someone carry your bags for you or something, you should tip them. I suppose you could also leave money for the cleaning staff but I never do. Maybe I should.
  • Waiters: Almost always 20%. As I mentioned, I've been a waiter and it's a tough job. It also really sucked if people were cheap on the tip because you're getting like $2 an hour based on the expectation that people tip. Sometimes I give more if they're really dope or I'm just in a good mood or something. If they're kind of rude, I'll leave 15% I think a few times I've left nothing but you'd really have to piss me off for me to do that. As a side note, one great piece of advice or at least something that put things into perspective - during the ceremony before my college graduation (there's a name for that that is escaping me) the speaker was this woman who's a playwright that was a professor at my college - apparently she was fairly well known and had a few of her plays turn into movies. Her name was Wendy MacLeod. Anyway, she was saying you should be a waiter or some other type of job for a while after you graduate. It went something like, "Be a waiter, be a bar-back, be a cab-driver. Be a nobody so that when you're a somebody you won't be an asshole."
  • Bar Tenders: Clearly you tip these guys but I've never given much thought. I usually use my debit card at bars these days but you're paying cash it's probably a good idea to tip big in the beginning to ensure good service throughout the night. With a debit card, I usually tip at least 10% and it goes up based on how fast/nice they were and how many buybacks they give me. 20%, I think is for someone that was really dope. Being a waiter takes a lot more work than being a bar tender in terms of the actual job (remembering food orders, drink order, people complaining, sending stuff back, etc.) but I imagine it can get pretty difficult to handle an overcrowded bar as well.
  • Food Deliverers: These guys get the cab driver treatment, $2 plus loose change to round it out. Sometimes more, but generally not much.
  • Shoe-Shine People: In NYC shoe shines seem to vary between $2 and $3 per shine. I pay $5 regardless of what the shine initially costs, so if it's $2 the shiner gets $3 and if it's $3 the shiner gets $2. There's a guy that comes around my office and does it for $4 but I've only used him once and the division's president happened to be retiring that week and was in a great mood so he paid for me but I guess I'd give that guy $2 becaues $1 seems cheap.
  • Street Performers: If someone is pretty good, I'll tip them. Especially on a subway platform or on a subway itself. If someone is singing a good old song or something and doing it reasonably well, it can really bring some happiness for a minute or two. I'll throw them anywhere from pocket change to a dollar or two.
  • The Homeless: I don't really tip the homeless anymore. When I first started going to the city I always felt bad for those people so I'd often throw them a couple of bucks. In fact, when I got out of college and got my first job's first paycheck I thought I was rich and gave one lady a $20 bill. In recent years, it's very rare that I give anyone anything. I guess I've just become desensitized to them, which sounds sort of callous.
Here's what Simmons tips. He's clearly in a higher socioeconomic bracket than I am, what with his valet parking, curbside check-ins, room-service deliverers and sushi chefs. I don't even ever run across those people but I guess I'd tip them - I don't know about sushi chefs, I think you'd just tip the waiter/waitress.

My tip for you? Don't eat yellow snow.

Things That Are Underrated: New Wave and Disco

I got the idea for this post while watching "100 Greatest One Hit Wonders" on VH1 for about the 5th time this weekend.

New wave music is fantastic. I never really thought of new wave as an offshoot of punk rock, but I guess it is. The Wikipedia page about new wave defines new wave pretty clearly as post-punk music. All I know is that I love it. Given the definition, you could put a whole lot of bands into the new wave category, but I think of it slightly differently, I guess. For me, new wave is 1980s synthesizer/keyboard based music. You need guitars, you need drums and a bass, but you can't have new wave without the keyboard on some setting other than piano.

I don't want to go on forever about how awesome new wave is, even though I could. I think the appeal is the melodrama. It's about the synthesizer and a melodic vocals. It's a really teenage angst kind of music. It's all about delving not too deeply into the trivial issues that really matter to us while we're young. I love that. I think you can carry that with you forever through new wave music. Even though you've stopped caring about what 15 year old girls are thinking or doing, you can look back fondly on the time when it was all that mattered.

Some of the best music ever is new wave. My absolute favorite new wave song is "I Melt With You" by Modern English. Just a beautiful song. It's so distinctly '80s but timeless and universal at the same time. But there are so many others. Anything by Duran Duran or Depeche Mode, really the heroes of the genre. "She Blinded Me With Science" by Thomas Dolby, or "I Ran" by Flock of Seagulls, who were more than just hairtyles (not much more, mind you), "Whip It" by Devo. Another one of the best ever is "Take On Me" by A-Ha. The video and the song just dropped perfectly into that era. Did you know that A-Ha is still together and is still successful in Europe? I saw them on London Live not one month ago promoting their new album. (Incidentally, if you don't have an HDTV, then you're missing out on some fabulous music related programming on HDNet, INHD, and a channel that I think is called MoJo.) What about "In A Big Country" by Big Country? Fan-fucking-tastic. "Come On Eileen" by Dexy's Midnight Runners. I could go on and on.

And what about the new wave of new wave? Also pretty fucking good. The Killers are my favorite. They brought synth-rock back in a big way for me. Hot Hot Heat are also very good, but a bit more on the punk side. Franz Ferdinand brought back the hairstyles and everything. I want to see more new wave comebacks. That's a genre that should never die. Damn you, '80s backlash. I'm glad other people love new wave too, and are making more.

Disco is an entirely different animal. The reason that disco is awesome is because of the basslines. Disco, in my opinion, was really the precursor to hip-hop music. I know it draws more blatantly from funk music, especially in its early days, but in the beginning, rap was all about the DJ and the rapper was secondary. Disco was the same way. It was all about the producer and the singers were kindof secondary. You get a funky beat and a badass bassline and you had a hit. I guess at the time disco represented commercialism and excess and that's why there was a backlash, but I think we're far enough removed from that today to really appreciate disco music. I can still remember the stigma of disco in the '80s, and you weren't allowed to like disco music. Except today disco just fucking rocks.

Even the cheesiest disco songs are catchy and danceable. The best ones are just fantastic. Donna Summer is a great singer who happened to come around in the disco era. Same for Gloria Gaynor and a bunch of others. I'm not going to list disco songs. Every disco song that you can name is great. I'm sure there are bad ones, but the ones that have survived (At first I was afraid, I was petrified...) are all great for the same reason, bassline. The vocals just fit in between the bass. It's all about dance and getting lost in it. Plus, you know you love the nightlife, you love to boogie, on the disco ra-hound, yeah.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Classic Video: Fat Kid on a Roller Coaster

This clip floated around a lot over the summer, so you may have seen it.

What I especially love is the perfect juxtaposition of sheer joy and utter terror. Enjoy!

Does The Wolf = The Rocket?

Dear yankees fans,

You just signed Roger Clemens, and from what I've seen, you're quite excited. But please let me remind you of the events in a certain recent film, which I feel may offer you some wisdom on how to react. If I may...

Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega (John Travolta, who is totally not gay, I swear, and also totally knows how to save lives) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson, who would kick my muthafuckin' ass if I linked to something bad about him) are two longtime hitmen who are sent to recover something very important to their very scary and demanding boss.

So Jules and Vincent drive to their destination, discussing the "royale with cheese," etc. They arrive at the apartment, and (random-black-guy-) Marvin -- who is their spy or something -- lets them in. After that, Vincent examines the mysteriously glowing suitcase, and very soon Jules executes both the Flock-of-Seagulls-guy-on-the couch and then (after a very satisfying Big Kahuna burger) "check-out-the-big-brain-on-" Brad.

Following that, Jules and Vincent (and Marvin), having successfully acquired what they sought, head back to base in Jules's Chevy Nova. Everything is going perfectly well. But on the way, Vincent carelessly points his gun at Marvin and accidentally blows his head off, painting the whole car in blood and brain matter. At this point, Jules and Vincent don't know what to do, so Jules calls his coffee-loving friend Jimmy and they drive to his house to hide the blood-stained car. Jules soon calls Marcellus Wallace -- their black, bald badass boss -- who informs him that someone named "The Wolf" is gonna come by and handle things, which immediately relieves Jules. We soon learn why the mere mention of "The Wolf" is so relaxing – this man solves problems.

Once The Wolf arrives, he figures out what to do right away. He works things out with Jimmy and quickly comes up with a plan*** to fix things. Jules and Vincent execute his plan. Essentially, they clean the car, making it presentable enough to drive to a spot where The Wolf knows a guy who will take care of it from there. But before that happens, The Wolf inspects the cleaning job Jules and Vincent did. Coffee-loving Jimmy (who's also an oak man) looks on, and he's quite impressed. "I can't believe this is the same car," Jimmy says. Jules and Vincent proudly await The Wolf's judgment. And then The Wolf spouts his immortal line:

"Let's not start sucking each other's dicks quite yet, gentlemen."

After the recent Roger Clemens signing, I hereby ask all yankee fans to consider that. Let's take a quick look at what this really means, because many yankee fans all of a sudden seem to think Roger Clemens is gonna single-handedly turn around this team’s blood-splattered Chevy Nova of a season. Will he help? Sure. But how much?

When Marcellus Wallace lets Jules know that he's sending The Wolf over, he's chilling beside a pool as his hot wife kisses him. How Marcellus built up his crime empire is something we aren't told (Come to think of it, how did George Steinbrenner? Hmm…); but when he tells Jules that The Wolf is on the way, Jules goes from angry as fuck ("I don't wanna hear about no muthafuckin’ 'ifs'!") to jubilant when he hears that The Wolf is coming ("You sendin' The Wolf? Shit, negro, that's all you had to say!").

Did you see the reactions of the yankee players and the fans at the stadium once Roger made his announcement during the 7th inning stretch? Very much like how Jules reacted, no?

But who can blame them? The yanks' starting pitching is in shambles, unlike when they were winning championships -- when their starting rotation was dominant. Roger Clemens helped them win championships in 1999 and 2000, the last of the yanks' titles. (Is it worth noting that the year before he got there, the yanks won 114 games and the Series without him? Had Roger won anything prior to that? Hmm…) He left following the 2003 season, leaving the final image (until now) of the great Clemens in pinstripes as him walking off the mound in Game 7 of the ALCS in the fourth inning after being pounded by the Sox.

Since then, the bronx bombers haven't been able to put a staff together that remotely compares to their glory days.

Much like Jules and Vincent (via Marcellus) called in The Wolf, the yanks (via George Steinbrenner) have now called in The Rocket. The Wolf fixed the problem; can The Rocket?

Once The Wolf came in, he had the plan, he saw how Jules and Vincent carried it out, and then, when everyone seemed happy with their progress, he made sure that they didn’t get complacent, saying simply:

Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks quite yet, gentlemen.

yankee fans -- take note. Whatever The Rocket is capable of doing, nothing he has done or said recently leads anyone to believe he has the foresight of The Wolf. (Since his first "retirement" following 2003, he spent three years in Houston and won what exactly? I'd say all that he "won" was a series of absurd demands from Houston's management -- and now the yanks too, despite the age-old "yankee way" -- allowing him to be the "24 and 1" player Alex Rodriguez was thought to be not too long ago. Hey Roger, if you want to be with your family, go ahead. Baseball will find a way to get by without you.)

His career stats are undeniable, but can he really be expected to turn everything around? I think the yanks are looking at a pitcher who's gonna give them 6 innings with an ERA around 4.00. Yes, he has intangibles, but don't they already have some guy named...what is it...Jeter? At 6 innings and a 4.00 ERA -- and assuming Chien Ming Wang, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte can return and pitch like they have in the recent past -- didn't the yanks just pay $28 million (prorated, blah whatever, it's still a fuckin' lot) for a guy who could end up being a number 4 starter?

Does he actually help the fact that the yanks' middle relief is god-awful? No. In fact, he makes it worse every time he doesn't make it into the eighth inning. And beyond middle relief, how much does Mariano Rivera really have left? He's shown time and again that however dominating he is against most teams, he has enormous problems with the Red Sox. And of all the teams the yanks have to worry about, which is number one?

Yes, I can understand why the yanks did this. They had the money; they had the need (especially after Phil Hughes's injury); and The Rocket loves them. But to think that The Rocket is gonna be able to do for George Steinbrenner, the yanks and their fans what The Wolf was able to for Marcellus, Jules and Vincent is pushing it.

As The Wolf said, Let's not start...

Open Bar

*** P.S. -- Personal note: The Wolf's "plan" basically involves cleaning the car. Cleaning the car. All The Wolf really does is tell Jules and Vincent to take some towels and Windex into the car and clean it. That's fucking it.

Is that really all that brilliant? I mean, one time I met a chick at a bar and we went home together and...well, you know. In the morning, I woke up and noticed the bed was wet. And I mean fucking wet. While I was sleeping, I pissed at least two pitchers out onto that poor girl's mattress. I didn't know what to do, so I went to the bathroom to think things over, at which point I came up with an idea "worthy" of The Wolf. I went back to the bed and woke the girl up. I talked fast, telling her we should go watch some TV or something, and hurried her out of the bed before she could notice know. Once she sat down on the couch, I went back to the bed and pulled the sheets up, arranged the pillows, and laid the comforter on top -- basically, I made the bed really nicely. Her whole mattress was soaked with my piss, but I made the top look normal. If you substitute piss for blood, isn't my plan for her bed the same thing as The Wolf's plan for the car?

And for the record, she did realize what I had done. (Shocker!) She was friends with a friend (Johanna) of my friend (Hollywood Squared), and weeks after this whole incident, I ran into Johanna. She told me that her friend was grossed out about her bed, but -- and I'm being totally serious -- I was really good in bed, so she didn't really care. But the point remains -- neither my plan nor The Wolf's was ultimately all that brilliant. It served its immediate purpose, but I don't remember me or Jules or Vincent winning any World Series as a result.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

English Damn Good

I just read Chuck's post on how dope English is, and I wanted to share some thoughts. I would've just put these in the comments, but since I haven't posted in a while (and I have a YouTube bit which won't go in comments) I thought I'd throw it up here and take credit for an actual post.

First off, Chuck's bit about how important it is to choose the right words reminded me of a favorite quote one of my old teachers said to me. I think it's from Mark Twain, and there's a bit of paraphrasing here (ironic, huh?): The difference between choosing a word and the right word is like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.

Nice, huh?

Speaking of the right words, something that has bothered me for quite some time is when people say that something is "intrical." Intrical is not a word. It's a lazy conflation of integral and intricate, and most people don't realize they're not speaking English when they say it. Though I imagine Chuck has used it -- and he would tell you it was an intrical part of the point he was making.

And finally, regarding the part about German being a much nicer language than most people know since we are mostly familiar with it through Hitler speeches, I think the following clip sums that up about perfectly. It's an old skit from The Dana Carvey Show, which I thought was very funny but those bastards at the network cancelled it after just a handful of episodes. Also interesting -- that's Steve Carell on the right, way before he became Steve Carell.

And here's another (completely unrelated to Chuck's post) clip, but it's funny, it has Steve Carell, and it also has Stephen Colbert before he became Stephen Colbert.

This better go up in the right place this time. Stupid time stamps.

English Good


The prefix to the post is that I thought of the idea while I was reading the New York Times Magazine. I had originally intended just to post these two lines from the "Lives" column last week, and it turned into an essay without a place to actually put in the quotations. So before you read the essay, here is the inspiration. It's from a column by a lady named Lisa Carver and it's about how she had two dysfunctional marriages before settling in with her new boyfriend.

In this one she's describing how her boyfriend is kindof ghetto:
"I know it looks bad. But I also know how bad my good-looking marriage actually was."
The second is just pure brilliance, no explanation required:
"I don't feel bad that this will be my third marriage. Sometimes you have to try out both coasts before you decide Ohio is the place for you"
The Essay

I've come to really appreciate the English language. It's not as pretty as French or Spanish. It doesn't have the cool efficiency of German. But it's a perfect mix of the things that make those languages great. I don't know French well enough to really comment on it, but it sounds pretty. Spanish is a gorgeous language. If you're going to write a love song, you should write it in Spanish. But those languages lack usefullness.

Spanish, for example, doesn't have an allowance for using the possessive sense. (Interestingly, in relation to this post, I couldn't think of a better word to use in place of 'sense' here. The possessive is not a tense. I know it is something, but the word escapes me. Anyhow,) In English you can say "Luke's sister", but in Spanish you have to say "La hermana de Luke", which translates to "the sister of Luke". This is logically unsound as soon as you move to second degree possession. In English you can do the Spaceballs thing where you say "My father's cousin's rommate's girlfriend's uncle's friend gave me this PBA card". You can formulate this senctence on the fly as you think of your father, followed by his cousin, his rommate, his girlfriend, and so on, while you just add the apostrophe s to each person in your mind. In Spanish you have to start at the end of that sentence, nearly impossible to do in general conversation. It would translate basically to "the friend of the uncle of the girlfriend of the rommate of the cousin of my father". That would be impossible to say, first of all, and impossible to understand by the listener even if the speaker could get it out.

I think German gets a bad rap. I would bet that 98% of the German we hear as English speakers is from tapes of Hitler talking to enormous crowds. Hitler was insane to begin with and in front of large crowds he was all into it and yelling and what not. Either that, or people essentially imitating Hitler when exaggerating whatever they're saying in German. I think that's what makes us think German is a language for crazy people. German is not as ugly as we think it is. And It's ridiculously efficient. They have this thing in German where you can just tack words on to other words to say what you mean. I don't know much German, so I may be overstating it, but I get the idea you can do this whenever you want. The only example I know for sure in German is the word "kindergarten" which translates into "children's garden". Since English is Germanic we have that too. Any compound word is proof. "Airplane", "sidebar", "Superman" you get the idea. German words like "bildungsroman" and "schadenfreude" and what not just tack on word after word to get a point across. Incdientally, I managed to spell both of those words correctly on the first try. I looked both of them up to correct what I figured was undoubtedly a misspelling, only to find that both were correct.

I don't remember making a conscious decision to put the right words with the right thoughts, but now I'm almost hyperconscious of it. I didn't notice until someone pointed it out to me when I was in college. I don't even remember what we were talking about, but she said to me, "You choose your words too carefully to say something like that." And she meant it in a pejorative way, which is what made me think about it. I guess it's true. I'm a believer that there is a right word for whatever it is you're trying to say. So finding the right word in the right situation has become something of a life's goal of mine. My personality is such that I strive to say as few words as possible, so efficiency is of utmost importance. (Worth pointing out again, that my e-self is sortof the opposite of my actual self. I really tend to ramble around these posts.) A good example is the use of the word "penultimate". I can't tell you how often I hear the phrase "second to last". At least once a week. Every time I do, I think to myself "you should have said 'penultimate', you ignoramus". Even better than "penultimate" is "antepenultimate", meaning "third to last".

Something else I enjoy is using words in contexts that they don't belong in, or even just downright improperly, and having them make sense anyway. A good example is the word "nonplussed". I usually use it to mean "unhappy" when I know full well that it actually means "perplexed". Interestingly, if you don't know the meaning, then you just assume it means "unhappy", whereas if you do know the meaning, then you get a double dose of meaning, as you know that I mean "unhappy" when in all likelihood the person is probably unhappy because of some level of perplexity.

Here's a bit of text from my old school website on the page about me:
"He told a bunch of people in my class that my middle name was Aloyscious the next day and there was a bit of ongoing happenstance related to that for a few days. Happenstance does not really fit into the context of that sentence, though I doubt anyone would have noticed if I didn't point it out. For the rest of this little diatribe, you'll have to accept the fact that I enjoy using words where they don't belong, or even words that don't exist. I'm not going to point it out any more, fortunately for you.)"
Come to think of it, I also really enjoy sometimes saying things I don't really mean at all, just to emphasize a point. That in itself is the pure definition of "irony", except when I do it sometimes the irony is lost because I assume that people understand that I don't mean what I say even though I've given them no reason to, when in actuality they just go around thinking I'm a dumbass. I guess it's a win-win, though, because they get to think I'm a dumbass, and I get to privately hold it over their heads, thus bringing to fruition the full extent of my passive aggression. (You didn't think I'd write a post on how much I love language without using my favorite word, did you? My favorite word is "fruition", for those who haven't committed my websites from 5 years ago to memory (What's wrong with you?))

Anyway, English rocks, and when used properly is both beautiful and efficient.


The irony continues to drip.

Al Sharpton, the man, the myth, the douchebag.
Rev. Al Sharpton called on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney to "engage in a dialogue of reconciliation" Thursday, a day after the two exchanged a war of words over Sharpton's comments about the Mormon faith.

"I have a profound respect for all believers of God, regardless of whether they are theologically in step with my beliefs or not, and I unequivocally say to the Mormons or anyone else that I in no way want to directly or indirectly be a part of any intolerance between any religions or races and regret my words being used or misused in any fashion that would add to that," Sharpton said in a statement.

Sharpton told his radio-show audience Thursday he personally called Romney, but Rachel Noerdlinger, a spokeswoman for Sharpton, told CNN the two did not speak.

In a radio debate Tuesday night, Sharpton said "those who really believe in God will defeat" Romney for the White House. Sharpton later said he was not questioning Romney's Mormon faith but instead was aiming his comments toward Christopher Hitchens, the author he was debating.

On Wednesday, Romney called the comment "bigoted," and said "it was a most unfortunate comment to make."

Say what you will about Al "do as I say not as I do" Sharpton but the man has balls.

Al Sharpton just got someone fired because of an intolerant comment and now he wants a pass? Give me a break. He should lose his radio show and any standing of respect that he has (for some reason) in society.

This wasn't even said in jest.

Big-Got Al has a history of making intolerant and irresponsible statements, isn't it time that we stopped him? News media - can't you please PLEASE make this a big story and wipe this guy off the map?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Man Capris Are Not The Same As Cargo Shorts

Cargo shorts: cool, functional, fashionable. Mad pockets to hold extra summer gear like sunglasses or a sno-cone. They are cool and they are a good fashion choice.

I think this is Luke in this picture. He's got the Birks and everything. This picture must be a couple years and about 5 pounds ago for Luke, though.

Man capris are not cargo shorts and they are unacceptable. Not quite shorts, not quite pants. Not quite manly. They are just a fashion choice you should not make. Look at this picture. This guy has got his army gear on, his combat boots, his b-boy stance. He should be looking tough right now. Does he? No. Why? Man capris.


In a debate earlier this week, Al Sharpton had this to say of Mitt Romney, "As for the one Mormon running for office, those who really believe in God will defeat him anyways, so don’t worry about that; that’s a temporary situation".


He's going to get away with it, too, because, unlike Imus he's not going to try to accept responsibility for what he did. Instead, he's just denying it. "“What I said was that we would defeat him, meaning as a Republican,” Sharpton said. “A Mormon, by definition, believes in God. They don’t believe in God the way I do, but by definition, they believe in God.” He also added he was trying to contrast himself with the atheist he was debating.

Yea, OK Al.