Monday, June 25, 2007

Groups I Can't Blast in my Car Without Feeling Shame

Summer. It smells like a strange mix of Coppertone, stinky shoes, and BO. That may just be my car, but to air that sucker out I roll down my windows and cruise the streets in wind blown freshness. When doing this, I need to be careful of what I have in my cd player. I could be getting some glances from fellow drivers or walkers that heard what I was listening to and shaking their heads in shame.



Any chance of me being considered a badass disappears when these groups are on.



Hall and Oates: With vocals so smooth they must be covered in crisco and synths so cheesy they get me constipated, Hall and Oates are the ultimate guilty pleasure. I may get laughed at for digging their sound but their music is so expertly crafted and professional it is almost impossible not to admire.

John Mayer: It may be uncool because I have testicles but I can't resist his earnest lyrics and killer guitar. He may have the voice of a pre-pubescent girl but he writes tunes with good hooks and he has played with Eric Clapton. I still sound like a wimp when I turn "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room" up to 11.

Kelly Clarkson: Once again an artist that would be ok for a tween girl to listen too, but not so much for a mid-20's male. Yes, she won American Idol but that was a long time ago. Three albums into her career and she has already fought with record industry fogey Clive Davis. She is a rebel but a safe one. Like Green Day.

Scissor Sisters: The only way to find a gayer act in today's society would be if you saw Leather Daddy Tobias F√ľnke singing "It's Raining Men" at the Gothic Asshole. Totally trashy and freakin' outrageous, I can only listen to this in the privacy of my own home.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Book Review: The Falling Man


I've always been torn on Don Delillo. I know I am supposed to herald him as a genius, bow, and kiss his feet, but I just can't do it. I finally got around to reading White Noise a few years ago, and let me just say, "meh". My main problem with him is the fact that his characters in that book were never fleshed out past what he really wanted them to say. Some of the things that fall out their mouths is just a very flimsy cover for what the author wants to express.




That continued with Falling Man which is Don Delillo's stab at capturing 9/11 on paper. The title comes from the disturbing picture of the unnamed banker plunging to death off the World Trade Center. The book follows a man and his family after he survives the attacks and stumbles back home to his ex wife.


I can't say I didn't enjoy the book. It is quite beautifully written and it kind of all floats out like a dream. Going in I should have just realized this was going to be Don Delillo's 200 page poem/essay about the attacks. The most realized character in the book is actually Mohamed Atta, the supposed ring leader of the terrorists. The interesting parts of the book are about his preparation and horrifying deconstruction of life leading up to the attacks drawn against the main characters deconstruction of life after 9/11. Delillo amazingly and sort of hilariously draws some interesting parallels between fundamentalist Islam and playing poker (yes Rob, you hate freedom).


So, can I recommend it? Yes I guess I can. As long as you realized it isn't really a novel and more just a thesis about the state of America after the start of the "War on Terror".

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Top Five Dugout Characters


So, if anyone reads this blog (probably not), they know I am pretty much convinced that The Dugout is the funniest thing on the web. Turns out a lot of other people feel the same way as the guys at The Dugout have started linking blogs with their top 25 Dugouts. Now, I don't think I could do that, seriously they are all genius in my mind. However I can easily give you the top five Dugout characters.


Now as a warning I have to tell people that on the Dugout most of the ballplayers have wildly exaggerated personalities and there are also a ton of re-occurring non ballplayers. So without further ado:


5.) Zombie Pavano- I love making fun of Pavano, and the fact that the Dugout turned him into a zombie that seems to only harass Melvin Mora, is pure genius. REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.



4.) Manny Ramirez- I'm pretty sure this character is pretty close to how Manny actually acts. So Manny is a retarded child who every time he shows up he ends with some variation of "Manny ____ Manny". Probably my favorite running catchphrase joke.



3.) Kyle Farnsworth- Farnsworth is apparently what sparked the idea for The Dugout, so he has to be on this list somewhere. He is portrayed as a giant asshole who hates everyone and has an extremely inflated self worth. So he fits well on the Yankees. He also has some of the greatest lines in Dugout history. He literally destroys anyone who comes up against him, as seen below.



2.) Bill Pecota- A soothsayer and magician who guards over the Royals from evil mostly in the form of David Glass. SILENCE PECOTA SPEAKS.



1.) Jim Thome- There is no way Jim Thome doesn't top this list. Every time he appears, he is pretty much pure hilarity. There are a few Dugouts with him where I have literally laughed so hard I cried. He is basically an overgrown child who has a very odd way of speaking.


HI, ITS JI-

JIM THOME


Saturday, June 9, 2007

Dear ESPN...

(Before I start, I just want to point out that starting Will Nieves and Miguel Cairo in the same starting line-up is almost going to guarantee a loss. I don't think I'm going out too far on a limb with that one...)



Dear ESPN,

I am a concerned fan. Now, I have been a longtime listener and watcher of ESPN; I grew up in the same town where ESPN started, and I was always proud to watch as the network became more and more powerful. I was there for the launch of ESPNews (literally there, interviewing Derek Jeter, Dan Patrick and others at the launch event), and I wrote a series of stories for the local paper on the network's 20th Anniversary, talking about the impact the network had locally, nationally, and internationally.



However, it seems you have become too big for your britches. Credibility is slipping slowly, and in an era where there are more media reporters and bloggers, any misstep will be quickly noted. There are, however, a few simple things you can do to re-build some of that credibility.



1) Fire Colin Cowherd: Now, I know I'm not the only one saying this, but this college drop-out has gone too far. In the past couple of years, he has plagiarized material, blamed a pro wrestler's death on steroids (with no proof), and called on his listeners to flood a blog, shutting it down. It's not the controversial opinions he espouses that bother fans; Dan Patrick, Mike and Mike, Erik Kuselias, Doug Gottlieb, and any other number of ESPN's hosts have been able to give controversial opinions without violating journalistic integrity. There are a lot of great radio hosts out there; ESPN needs to do the right thing and bring someone else in.


2) Don't be so obvious about your business interests: Ok, so if you want to start airing Arena Football, that's fine. But, don't go for the hard sell so much (immediately inserting it into "Top Plays," having Mike and Mike mentioning it constantly on their show). A little more subtlety would go a long way, especially when you're trying to keep some journalistic integrity.

3) Embrace different sides of sports: I applaud ESPN's decision to bring on Jonah Keri as a baseball contributor, and the additions of people like Will Carroll and John Hollinger show an ESPN that is looking for the cutting edge of sports analysis. Keep it up. While it can be nice to hear from former athletes like John Kruk, Greg Anthony, and Joe Morgan, more and more sports fans are becoming interested in deeper analysis (stastistical analysis especially). Additionally, there are some great bloggers out there with humor and insight, who could possibly help (ESPN.com, ESPN: The Magazine, and in other formats). Don't be scared of looking outside the usual places for talent.

I really want ESPN to continue to succeed, and become even better at meeting the needs of sports fans. There are more of us out there, more educated watchers/listeners/readers who want a sports network on the cutting edge of things. Be that network; be all the ESPN you can be.

Regards,
Concerned ESPN Fan

Movie Review: Knocked Up


I'll be the first one to admit it, I've never seen "Freaks and Geeks". I'm pretty sure this makes me the worst person to ever live. However, I have seen "40 Year Old Virgin" and I loved it (I wasn't a huge fan of "Undeclared" but that is another post). Judd Apatow is really good at combining a sweet touching story with amazingly hilarious filth.


So you can I see that I was quite excited to see Knocked Up, especially since Seth Rogen is a model jew for all us out there looking to sleep with really hot blond chicks. I have to say that this movie delivers in the same way as "40 Year Old Virgin". It even has the same back and forth with Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd on the whole subject of who is gay. The one thing I do think they improved upon in this movie is the back and forth with the wider group of friends. I really believe they should make a sequel of just Seth Rogen and all of his friends.


Seth Rogen fits pretty well as a leading man, even if he is an unlikely one. On the ladies, I really think that Apatow's wife really outshines Heigl. I mean, the five minute rant in front of the club had me rolling. Don't get me wrong, Heigl does a good job as a serious foil to Rogen, but besides that I wasn't that impressed.


In the end I felt the same way about this as 4o Year, it is hilarious at points, but they definitely could have cut out a half an hour without losing too much. Oh and I did learn to have a spotter if I was going to masturbate with a noose.



P.S. Don't do a google image search for "Knocked Up" with the safety filter off. I'm going to go cry in the corner now. Stupid Interwebs.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The summer mix tape (10 years later)

I thought back today that, since I'd just turned 26, it marks the 10-year anniversary of my first driving mixtape . . . clearly the first of dozens that now litter the trunk of my car, desk drawers and various friends' cars. The summer mix is really a right of passage in so many ways (similar to Boone's Farm, waking up outdoors, or pooping in the bar), and as I threw together one more today while waiting for a guy making $500/hr to send me a rough draft (DIE DIE DIE) I thought I should post it - but why just type, when you can share? As I went through the list, I started to realize that each song really made the list for a definite reason, kind of reflecting on summers past and the common garbage we all (used to) do when the weather got warm. It wasn't really that sappy, fuckers, I swear - it's just that obvious.

Phoenix, "Run Run Run"

You have to start with French guys who sound American, ripping off Britpop. Just a great, chill summer-y track, giving a great mix of Beach Boys-esque pop and bizarre, random indie rock lyrical nonsense - perfect opening track, obv.

Sonny Jim, "Keep on Moving"
I've long contended that one of the greatest summer albums ever was the patchwork pastiche of the Avalanches' "Since I Left You" - Sonny Jim updates it here, giving an odd mix of ELO, disco and the Scissor Sisters minus the leather chaps. Feel-good for reals.

P. Diddy, "Tell Me" (Phones remix)
Phones is putting out some great electronica, but none of you care. This song is just a great driving banger - like when you were kids, and you were heading to the party just crazy excited to be out, drinking and having fun. Those days, the anticipation was usually the best part of the party - in the car, rocking some rap, fit about 10 white kids wide into a shitty Buick. Diddy's flow is so shitty in the 'real' version of this song that Phones remixes it in 7/4 time, which makes it SO much better - just feel it, you'll get it even without being all geeky. I'm a nerd, but this is my 'head-nod, laugh in car, prep for a night' track this summer.

Secret Mommy, "Kool Aid River"
Upbeat, bizarre, vocoder'ed - there might be a theme starting with this song. I won't really say. Memories of the water, the pool, golfing, dicking around with no cares - this song brings it right back - and the choppy verses and beat resemble memory in that way, too. Lucky us.

Simian Mobile Disco, "Hustler"
Just like spring breaks, summers usually wind up with anthems. Often, these anthems are shitty techno remixes of Petey Pablo, or Usher tracks that 'get the party moving' when you're one of 10 people in the bar on Wednesday. "Hustler" is like a good version of all those - and the vocals even make you want to sing along a little bit.

Bloc Party, "I Still Remember (SebastiAn remix)"
So this great band puts out a mediocre album with a solid single, about young love. It's about gay boys in England, but resonates with straight boys in America. How do you improve? You send it through SebastiAn, the best producer/DJ on Earth right now - and the chopped-up result is an absolute monster. The song suddenly becomes intense, longing and pressing - everything you remember about those missed chances at house parties in high school, or your co-workers after freshman year, ready to rock the fuck out in the car.

Jack Penate, "Second Minute or Hour"
Oh God - I love it. The sound of lo-fi, upbeat and just happy to be there. How many of those 'great' pseudo-ska tracks from, say, 1997 fit this exact profile, of a happy song about a sad subject, with a sort of hopeful lilt where you know it's just not that big of a deal? Kind of like summer - it's over soon anyway, who the fuck cares?

Ghosthustler, "Parking Lot Nights"
Similar to the SMD track, except geared toward exactly suburban childhood . . . accessible for a techno track (prob b/c it's by American dudes), and more rocking than you'd think, it'll bring you back to sitting at the grocery store lot waiting for everyone else to show up, knowing you're either too cool or not cool enough to be there (but totally unsure of which).

Black Moth Super Rainbow, "Melt Me"
Kind of cheating, because it's explicitly about the summer - but still, Beck has always been the bard of cheap ass beers where I'm from, and these guys are on that same path. Both weird, rocking, melodic and upbeat (and even with some more vocoder to boot), it's total patio music (or putting down the windows at night and getting loud).

Vampire Weekend, "Oxford Comma"
This seems the right spot for it - this track is clearly mandatory. God, it has it all - the best opening line ever ("who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?"), springy beat, and a Lil' Jon namedrop. Perfection.

Matthew Dear, "Pom Pom"
This song is so '80s it bends my mind - in a good way. If you've ever been "rickrolled" but still listened to the entire track, you'll be way up on this shit - it bounces, drops the beat, then leaves you with some thoughts . . . "It's such a tricky thing/can include diamond rings"? Good/bad/nonsense?

LCD Soundsystem, "Someone Great"
The obligatory summer breakup song - whether it was going back to school, going away to school, or just growing apart under the lazy stars, everyone's been there. Well, "Someone Great" just blows everything else away - a transcendent track, but still upbeat enough to make the tape. RESPEK

Menomena, "Muscle 'n Flo"
A song about being in the middle of everything: of life, of problems, of waking up. The piano line and spaghetti-western guitar interludes add to the effect, giving you that post-hangover sense of thought, then the chorus jars you back to "pick up your hustle" and ending hopeful. Nothing reminds me of my shitty summer jobs more.

Monsieur Leroc, "Cooley McCoolsen"
Nothing screams summer nostalgia like a song that is literally about nostalgia, for better and worse. The beat is simply ridiculous, too, leading to really the summer song perfect storm.

Of M0ntreal, "Gronlandic Edit"
Well, I think this is the best song released so far this year, so obv it's in - but it's more than that, even. The cut between the upbeat song and 'acceptance' of Barnes in his plight, leaving an impression of very 'meh' confusion, paranoia, boredom and longing . . . really, like every boring day when you've already watched SportsCenter, no one wants to golf, and "physics makes us all its bitches."

Prodigy, "Mac-10 Handle"
Dirty ass NYC rap from the more talented of the Mobb Deep guys - just listen to the baseline drag, while Prodigy menaces all over the track. This is every night I spent driving with four buddies while the sober girlfriend got pissed at us (but still took us to get food). The best gangster rap I've heard in forever - "Make it Rain" would make the list too, but you already have that, don't you?

Robyn, "Konichiwa Bitches"
A Swedish chick steals a line from Chappelle's seminal Race Draft skit, then makes a sex song and just randomly throws the line in as the title. It's like "My Humps" for smart people, which pretty much means it's the best song on the CD (at least by theme). If you ever listened to the Thong Song in a shitty beach-themed bar, hook this fucker up.

Apples in Stereo, "Same Old Drag"
Obv.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

From one Yankee fan to the others...

I tend to get a lot of grief as a Yankees fan, so I thought I would explain a little bit how I came to love the team, and how I've stuck with them through everything. Maybe it's the fact that I have writers block while I'm trying to pound out a Moot Court brief, maybe it's the A-Rod signed baseball I got from my Uncle as a get-well gift, or maybe it's the display I just saw against the Red Sox, but here goes...

I have been a Yankees fan for my whole life, since my dad told me about about Don Mattingly, who had recently been named MVP, in 1985. I was looking through a stack of baseball cards my uncle had given me, and was reading the backs, and centered in on Mattingly's numbers. My dad told me what a great player he was, and what a great team the Yankees were, and, well, I was hooked.

I started watching games, and was immediately hooked, even as a kid. When I started watching the Yankees, I immediately noticed Ron Guidry's delivery, started wondering how someone as old as Tommy John could continue pitching, and remember cringing whenever Cecilio Guante entered a game. I remember when Jose Cruz Sr. was supposed to provide the team with an extra bat off the bench, when Rafael Santana was the hope at shortstop. I remember how the team was so close in 87 and 88 to becoming a contender, and how quickly the team fell in 89 and 90. I remember seeing Billy Martin briefly manage the team, and instantly understanding why my dad was such a fan. I remember Dave Righetti coming into the 9th inning, and automatically thinking the game was over. I remember Dave Winfield sending line drives all over the field, and always thinking that, if I stayed up a little longer, the Yankees would win every game and make the playoffs.

I remember hearing about Billy Martin dying in a car crash, and as an 8 year old, feeling extremely sad for someone I never met. I remember the dark days, when Dallas Green, Stump Merrill, and Bucky Dent took over, and the team made its slow slide into oblivion. I remember seeing Donnie Baseball start the quick slide towards retirement, and seeing one of baseball's best fade away. I remember being angry at Kevin Maas that he would replace Donnie Baseball, and then being angry at Kevin Maas when he ended up being a total void on the roster. I remember the last-place season, the number one pick of Brien Taylor, and then Taylor promptly fading away in the minors. I remember Andy Hawkins losing a no-hitter, Chuck Cary trotting out to start games, Lee Gutterman leading the team in victories, Rickey Henderson being traded for nothing, and Roberto Kelly being the next big thing. I remember thinking that the Yankees would never win a World Series, and savoring my father's stories of being in the stands for the 78 Series, believing that it was as close as I would get to a Yankees championship.

Then, I remember the renaissance under Buck Showalter. I remember going to a Yankees game, seeing Don Mattingly hit a home run against the Texas Rangers during the Wild Card season, and yelling so hard that I lost my voice. I remember Jimmy Key coming through in every big game, John Wetteland and his sweat-stained cap, and Mo Rivera as the shut-down set-up man. I remember seeing Donnie Baseball make the only October of his career a memorable one, and I remember feeling profoundly disappointed when Ken Griffey Jr. crossed the plate to end the playoffs, and my sports hero's career.

I remember seeing the Yankees make a complete turnaround from that point, winning World Series and again coming to the top of the baseball mountain. I remember interviewing Derek Jeter for my local paper in high school (I grew up in the same town where ESPN is based), and knowing that he would go on to great things. I remember watching the final games with my dad, celebrating with handshakes, and going to Boston University as the guy who rooted for the team that always won.

Now, the Yankees are fallible again, and it is a disappointment. Today was no exception, and it's frustrating to see a team that cost so much money play so poorly. Will they make the playoffs this year? I have my doubts, and think this will be a tough season (and offseason) for the Yankees.

But, I have hope. I have hope because there is Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Philip Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, Jose Tabata, Robinson Cano, and any other number of contributors on the major and minor league levels. I have hope because I'm a true Yankees fan, and that will never change, no matter the turmoil.

Friday, June 1, 2007

LeBron James = Awesome

I consider myself a casual NBA fan, in that I enjoy watching the games and following the sport, to a point, but there are very few games that I will go out of my way to watch. I also tend not to get too excited over big performances; I think everyone remembers Tony Delk's 60 point game...

However, what LeBron James did last night was absolutely ridiculous. I have never seen an athlete completely take over a game like he did against the Pistons. For those not familiar, he scored his team's last 25 points, and was hitting absolutely everything. He was sinking fall-away jumpers over Tayshaun Prince throughout the second half, and just completely put the team on his back.

If you have any way of seeing tape of the game, or at least the second half and two overtimes, I recommend you do so. I now understand how people felt watching MJ go for 60+ against the Celtics in the playoffs.