Monday, August 31, 2009

iTunes Running Diary – Monday, August 31

This week's artists.

First, a procedural thing. To better comply with Twitter, and my own schedule, I'm going to switch these to Monday night. Monday is the big music day on Twitter, and since this is generally one of my more popular and easy-to-do weekly features, it doesn't make much sense for me to bury the entries on Sunday nights.

And secondly, to test out the new iTunes and my new computer, I used the Genius application. It is supposed to create a playlist from a song of your choice by analyzing your library and deciding your other tastes. I used it on a past iTunes diary song, "Chelsea Dagger" by The Fratellis, and the playlist it suggested was pretty decent.

- "Everything Is Average Nowadays" by The Kaiser Chiefs. I don't really have any idea of how popular the Chiefs are. As far as I know, my friend DJ (who appropriately loves music) is the only other person who listens to them.

They play "kind-of" rock-ish songs; I'm not entirely sure how to describe them. They fit in that nebulous category with Modest Mouse, The Killers and TV On The Radio, in that they aren't quite hard rock or alternative, but they're not emo or techno or anything like that. Has there been a good category for these bands yet?

- "Live Forever" by Oasis. When I was in high school, I didn't really appreciate Oasis that much. In reflection, I think it was because a couple songs - "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back In Anger" especially - were played incessantly on the local radio stations.

While by any stretch of the imagination they aren't The Beatles, the band they seemingly emulate, their deeper tracks are quite enjoyable. "Live Forever" would be one example, as would Guitar Hero and Rock Band track "Some Might Say." Even their title track, "Morning Glory," is good because it wasn't over-exposed with radio play.

- "Lithium" by Nirvana. This one seems a little out-of-place with the rest of the playlist, but hey, maybe that's the idea? It does seem the song with "hardest edge."

Although I fondly remember Nirvana from my youth, I was also way too young to really appreciate / understand it. For example, I had no idea what *this* song was about, and because I was about 8, I couldn't really relate with the angst of "Smells Like Teen Spirit." Despite that though, I could still recognize that it was a really great song, which I didn't realize with Led Zeppelin at the same period of my life.

Because of this, it does make me question the "backlash" that Nirvana has gotten in recent years. Yeah, the music is kind of simplistic, but if it still made 8-year-old me stop and realize it was something special, then it has to have some redeeming value.

- "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" by Cage The Elephant. I'm not really sure where this band came from, but man, they sure are catchy. Yet, they still have a bit of an edge to them. The two local stations I listen to - 95.5 WBRU and 94.1 WHJY - both play them, even they are alternative, college and modern rock, and hard rock and hair rock, respectively.

They also have more than just this song, as a second single, "Back Against The Wall", is just as catchy. I think both songs should be retroactively placed on the There Will Be Blood soundtrack, but that's just me.

- "Heroes" by David Bowie. Genius actually spit out two Bowie songs for my playlist, but that could be because I have like 30 or so in my iTunes library.

Nonetheless, this is a great song, and it even has a pretty good cover by Bob Dylan's son. I do prefer the Bowie version though, because it seems less preachy. I could be saying that because the cover was a tie-in to the horrible Godzilla movie with Matthew Broderick...

- "Pump It Up" by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. This is the final song on the playlist of 25, and it seems like a 1980s version of the artsier, modern rock also on the list.

Not surprisingly, this is another suggestion from Rock Band, since I'm not the biggest Costello fan in the world. The only other song I have from him is "Radio Radio," and mostly because of the SNL connection.

The full list picked by Genius: "Pinball Wizard" by The Who. "Dashboard" by Modest Mouse. "Wolf Life Me" by TV On The Radio. "Rooftops (A Liberation Broadcast)" by Lostprophets. "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked" by Ida Maria. "Do What You Want" by okgo. "Troublemaker" by Weezer. "Reptilia" by The Strokes. "Life on Mars?" by David Bowie. "Daylight" by Matt and Kim. "Heinrich Maneuver" by Interpol. "You Don't Know Me" by Ben Folds. "Sunshine Of Your Love" by Cream. "The Angry Mob" by The Kaiser Chiefs. "The WAND" by The Flaming Lips. "Do The Panic" by Phantom Planet. "Cannonball" by The Breeders. "Train In Vain (Stand By Me)" by The Clash.

Talking fantasy football

[Left] Listen, I'm not going to be ashamed about it: I like Brady's old lady and baby-momma better than his new old lady.

So, I spent about three hours at a fantasy football draft earlier tonight, but the sad thing is that I'm not much of a fantasy anything player. My highest finish in the 10 seasons or so that I've played in various sports was third, and that was when I was still in high school and had a lot more time to devote to it. In the three years I've been drafting a fantasy football team with my buddy Rich, we have never made the playoffs, which requires finishing in the top four or top six (I don't even remember) of a 12-team league.

Keeping that in mind, here are the picks I made, to the best of my recollection. We had the second pick in the odd rounds, and the 11th pick in the even rounds, snake drafting. Our players so far:

1) Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
2) Ronnie Brown, RB, Dolphins
3) Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts
4) Knowshon Moreno, RB, Broncos
5) Wayne Bowe, WR, Chiefs
6) Big Ben, QB, Steelers
7) Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys
8) Mendenhall, RB, Steelers
9) Domenick Hixon, WR, Giants
10) Nate Burleson, WR, Seahawks
11) James Harrison, RB, Browns
12) Vincante Schainaoce (whatever), TE, Vikings
13) David Gerrard, QB, Jaguars
14) Chargers Defense
15) Jarious Norwood, RB, Falcons
16) Olindo Mare, K, Seahawks

Since Brady already has a stressed shoulder, I hedged our bets by also picking up Big Ben and Gerrard, who I thought were good values where I picked them up. I thought our league had some surprising picks at QB; Eli Manning went before Gerrard, for example, and Matt Ryan went in the third round.

I tried to go heavy on the RBs this year, since it was a constant weakness for us last year. Frank Gore almost got to us in the second round, and I was annoyed when he didn't. The Moreno pick might be a little high, but the Broncos always seem to have a 1,000 yard rusher, and I have enough strong alternatives to cover it up. I especially like the Norwood pick, since I'm a staunch believer that the Curse of 370 is real, and that Turner isn't going to be the guy to buck that trend.

I reluctantly picked Brady at #2 because none of the other options really caught my eye. Brees vs. Brady is a wash to me, and since my co-owner is a big Patriots fan, why not go with the hometown guy? The top-rated running back on my board was Maurice Jones-Drew, but I've owned him before, and he can be so frustrating. Not always healthy, a consistent 20 points for three weeks then nothing for two, etc. LDT and Turner scared me because of injury concerns. Adrian Peterson was the first pick off the board. And no way was I going WR with the #2 pick in the draft.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Scheduling note

Because I'm running a bit late today on various projects, the music diary will have to be posted tomorrow - Sorry folks!

In lieu of that, All About Steve, which has my name in the title and Sandra Bullock as a blonde, really... looks awful. How dare they besmirch my name! I guess there is The Sweetest Thing potential, where an awful movie is actually decent because of profanity and inappropriate behavior, but gads, the trailer makes it look like an awful dating movie that Kate Hudson would normally star in.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The weather and car crashes

[Left] Whatever happened to these two wild and crazy guys?

Because it is so overcast and rainy here today, I thought I'd share a personal story or two about how weather has F'ed me over in the past. About a year ago, I went through the worst month of my life, which saw me get dumped, get laid off and be forced to move back in with my parents, but it all started with a car crash.

It was during a torrential rainstorm, and while I was driving on Route 95 North, on my way to the aforementioned ex-girlfriend's place. Just as I got past the Route 4 split, my brakes gave out, and I skidded off the road and into a tree.

Luckily for me, I was driving below the speed limit, and there was also a thicket of shrubs that slowed me down considerably before I hit the tree. As I was about to hit the tree, I closed my eyes and thought, "Wow, this is going to hurt," but shockingly, my face just barely hit the deploying airbag. I didn't lose consciousness at all, and even the next day, I wasn't shore at all. I was really, really lucky from a health standpoint.

Unfortunately, I couldn't say the same thing about my car, an awesome 2002 forest green Chevy Prism. There was an angry gap right in the middle, and the windshield was completely shattered and caved-in on the passenger's side; the police said I was lucky that nobody was in the car with me. The car had to be junked and I had to file an insurance claim, which sucked, because what I got - $5,000 - was worth far less than what I could have sold the car for - around $8,000.

The other weather and driving-related incident I've had is far less spectacular. I forget the circumstances, but for some reason I was driving south on Route 1 toward Westerly in January of this year. It must have been for an important reason, because it was late at night and there was practically nobody else on the roads, and they hadn't even been plowed yet.

That night, I learned why it is such a bitch to drive on an unplowed road. About half a mile from the McDonald's, my car went into a spin, and flipped around 180 degrees, so that I was pointed the wrong way.

For some reason, the only thought in my head was, "I hope someone doesn't find me like this." The thing was, I had stayed on the road the entire time, so it was more of an embarrassing thing as opposed to something dangerous. My car was still running, so I very, very gently drove forward and looped around, so that I was the correct way on the road again. I was a bit rattled, so I pulled into McDonald's and got something to eat and read a book for about half an hour, which gave the plows time to work.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Computer buying, Casey's trivia and other lows

[Left] I could have used Elizabeth Bogush, the redhead from the KGB commercials, last night. Then again, who couldn't? Thanks to AdRants for the photo.

First, as a procedural note, sorry about the late posting of this entry. Unfortunately, I went non-stop from about 9 a.m. Thursday to 4 a.m. Friday, between work and the trivia finals at Casey's (more on that later). I slept in until about noon today, but because of that, I was working from 1 p.m. to just now. Whew!

Anyway, to reference the title first: Can anyone recommend a good laptop for me to buy? Money is a priority, so the cheaper the better, but things like bundled software don't matter as much to me. The only real requirement would be a big hard drive - I'm a pack rat when it comes to files, and I'd want something at least as big as my current desktop hard drive, which is 120 gig. Hopefully, I'd also use this laptop to get rid of my desktop. And I don't want an Apple / Mac.

As for why I need a new laptop, time to get on to the personal stuff. My laptop overheated and the battery is completely shot, probably because the fans don't work properly. It's about five years old and kind of beat up at this point, so it would probably be better to replace it now as opposed to trying another band-aid fix.

On top of the laptop breaking, my team came in second at the Casey's trivia finals last night. That sounds pretty good, except that we lost out on first place by ONE POINT! Ugh. What gives??? The sad thing is that there were several questions - What was actor Fred Thompson's character name on Law and Order, what character danced while he sliced an ear off in Reservoir Dogs - that I should have gotten. So frustrating to be so close to winning, only to have it "yoinked!" from us.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Podcasting habits and loves

My favorite podcasting trio.

If there is one thing that makes me happy about the rise of Apple, it would be the surge in podcasting iTunes and iPods can claim responsibility for. The increase goes hand-in-hand with the rise in the program and the device, which I'm grateful for, since it means I have more podcasts to listen to.

I'm actually trying to listen to one as I type this, but I finally had to cave and switch to music. Unfortunately (kind of) with podcasts, I have to pay attention a lot more, since it is spoken word as opposed to music. Podcasts slow my writing to a crawl, as opposed to encouraging me to type quicker, as most of the music I listen to does. Of course, I completely forget this half the time I'm typing, so I invariably try to pound something out while I'm listening to a podcast, and then marvel at how little I've gotten done.

Anyway, there are three I listen to regularly, and they're all somewhat-related:

1) Adam Carolla hosts a one-hour podcast that updates around 10, 11 p.m. PST from Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday off. While the biggest “name” he's had on was Francis Ford Coppola, Adam is consistently funny with his (usual) B-list guests: Eric Stromer, David Alan Grier, his old morning crew, Joel McHale and others. He also goes off the beaten path a bit with guests, as last week he talked to a writer from Rolling Stone about the crash in the housing market, and to another writer who used to be a drug runner.

The hour-long format is just Adam and another person, sometimes two or three, shooting the shit. (This also has a somewhat literal meaning; the show is not sponsored, so the language is uncensored.) While it can get tedious if the guest has been on a ton of times – I'm looking in your direction, Teresa Strasser – Adam normally powers through with his bluster. It's a lot different from The Man Show, so if that's your only experience with Adam, give this a shot.

2) Bill Simmons' podcast is probably a little better known to people reading this, since it is frequently on the front page of ESPN.com. However, I highly recommend subscribing to it on iTunes, since he'll have a busy week every once in a while and the front page will lag behind, or the latest Vick-Favre fiasco will push him off the front temporarily.

Simmons does a better job of serving is core demo as opposed to Carolla, as the people on his podcast are normally sports figures or analysts. For example, this week and last he has had Matthew Berry (Mr. Roto) and Suns' point guard Steve Nash on, and Cousin Sal, who is a cousin of Jimmy Kimmel and a degenerate gambler, to talk fantasy football.

However, just when you think his podcast is getting a bit stale, he'll spice things up with an “out of left field” guest, like Neil Brennan, the writer for The Goods and the head writer for Chappelle's Show. He has also had Marc Cuban on, and Dave Metzler to talk UFC and WWE, and he almost got Barack Obama before the election, except ESPN cockblocked him. (p.s. ESPN still sucks, even if they did manage to get two people on this list. Speaking of...)

3) I've been extolling the virtues of Dave Dameshek for years, ever since he was originally on The Adam Carolla Show in 2006, and when he got his own shows in 2007 and 2008. He has moved on to podcasting for ESPN, and while the show does skew toward Los Angeles and Pittsburgh sports (Dave's current and former areas), it is still enjoyable to just about any sports fan because of his guests.

Normally, they are the better Page 2 ESPN contributors, such as DJ Gallo and Jonah Keri. I have no idea why they don't seem to do many other radio spots, because they are both funny and informative when they're on Dave's show. Still, the nation's loss is Dameshek's gain.

Dave also has random debate topics, like the best uniforms in sports, and the best movie fight scenes. (His #1 is, unfortunately, from a movie I've never seen but now want to after his description - Flash Gordon.) Dave also sometimes has trivia contests with a caller, The Ed, which are sublimely funny, since The Ed continually screws up athlete's names.

Outside of those three, I do catch a Loveline stream from time to time, but it varies a lot on who the guest is. Olivia Munn was the co-host all of last week with Dr. Drew, so that had significantly more appeal to me than the other night's show with Jon Lovitz (meh), or Andy Dick (ugh) the previous week. I do end up having to catch it live when I can, since it costs money to download after the fact, which stinks.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wrasslin' around

[Left] Still the best entrance ever: The countdown clock from Jericho's initial WWE run.

The other day in The Los Angeles Times, there was a decent article about the new, family-friendly direction the WWE was headed in. However, to a longtime wrestling fan like myself, reading it reminded me that “family-friendly” is a relative term indeed. The columnist also didn't come across as much of a wrestling fan, since the article focused almost solely on current stars and provided little background.

While the WWE has undoubtedly strayed from the tits, ass, violence and blood of the appropriately-named Attitude Era, there is still plenty to get offended by. They have just shifted the focus from things that got them the teen / mature TV ratings (blood, breasts) to simpler storylines and non-bloody beatdowns. Also, with the exception of re-hiring Chris Masters, there has been a shift away from the professional bodybuilder look, probably in reaction to the Chris Benoit incident.

DX, the original group of bad humor, just reformed, even though Shawn Michaels and HHH are both in their mid-40s. Although it was played up as farcical, HBK did Superkick a tween girl in the face less than a month ago. (Background: They were doing a skit where HHH had to talk HBK back into wrestling, but HBK was working as a cook – I mean, a chef – at essentially a cheap hotel restaurant... Yeah, I don't know why I watch wrestling either sometimes.) They also still do childish jokes and crotch chops.

The best argument that can be made for the new direction of the WWE is a shift to more old school storylines. For example, Randy Orton is the current WWE champion, and he has retained his title each time with chicanery, normally with a member of his gang breaking up a pinfall or interfering. Orton has also done vile things, like punting HHH's wife Stephanie McMahon in the skull.

Opposing Orton would be John Cena, who you might remember from some funny appearances on late night television shows and some god-awful movies (The Marine, 12 Rounds). He is as close to Hulk Hogan as you can get in the current wrestling industry, as he is built like a starting middle linebacker and always plays the “good guy” role, at least for the last five years. (He does get booed a lot by hardcore fans, and while I'm not the biggest fan of his squeaky-clean persona, I do think he's a good wrestler. He also seems to be a good guy away from the ring as well.)

There are other clear bad guy vs. good guy feuds throughout the Raw roster, although I will say that as a result it tends to be the less entertaining show for longtime fans. Smackdown, which airs Friday nights on MyNetworkTV, is by far the better show at this point. That show has an edgier feud between the straight-edge CM Punk and the notorious risk taker Jeff Hardy, which culminated in a vicious tables, ladders and chairs match Sunday night at SummerSlam.

While there is far less blood in WWE programming now, there are just as many metal chair attacks and leaps from 20-foot-high ladders, so I'd hesitate to say they're getting back to “family-friendly” programming. When I was watching wrestling as a kid, it was just tamer in general; the brightly-colored outfits of Bret “The Hitman” Hart and Hulk Hogan definitely lightened the tone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beeeeeeepppp......


Sorry for the interruption in posting, but because of a news emergency, I didn't get a chance to post tonight's entry. Please tune in for your regularly scheduled blog, tomorrow at 7 p.m. EST. The management apologizes for the inconvenience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Tag Team: Amanda and Steve on bad music, politics, celebrities and Steven F'ing Tyler

I tried to find a decent picture of Amy Winehouse, but it was an impossible feat. The Steven Tyler picture that you'll see later in this entry is disturbing enough.

To rip-off the disclaimer for Bill Simmons' BS Report, Tag Team is a free flowing discussion between two adults that sometimes touches on mature subjects. Amanda Jean Meyer was just working at the ads desk, minding her own business, when an entertainment editor saw her not doing anything and made her start writing things. She also had a knack for having weird celebrity encounters that were among the more popular features I ever printed, and that knack continues to this day.

Want to do your own Tag Team with me? Send me an e-mail (sgre6768@gmail.com) or leave a comment.


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Steve said at 4:31 p.m. on August 20:

Heyyy Amanda Meyer! I'll get this party started, as Pink would say. And, by the way, speaking of her, I'm a bit surprised she has had some staying power. I definitely thought she would just be a one-hit wonder, a la Amy Winehouse, but she has now had a couple of hits, so I suppose she has elevated herself past that territory.

Anyway! I am a bit sorry to hear that you haven't had any real celebrity run-ins lately. To refresh some of the new readers here, maybe you could share one of your past brushes with celebrity, like how your friend babysat for Asante Samuels' kids, or another tale. How did you get in on a Celtics autograph session anyway?

Also, since you are politically-motivated at times, being a poli sci major and all, what are your thoughts on Obama so far? There seems to be hellish, crazy opposition to his health care plan, which kind of surprises me. I view America's health care as relationship as similar to a woman locked into a tangle with an abusive boyfriend: The situation is clearly out-of-hand and not good, but yet when they have an option to leave, they just cling on tighter and don't want to quit the person. At this point, I'm in favor of just about any new plan, simply because it's not the old plan that sucks.

I don't want to end this on something so heavy, so I'll ask - What's a good band you can recommend to me? I like the new Taking Back Sunday song, and a Kings of Leon song (but not the other two on the radio). Outside of that, I haven't heard a lot on that radio that has appealed to my delicate sensibilities. And Guster still stinks; it's whiny music that teenage girls listen to when a boy dumps them. Very, very light presence in my iTunes, along with their imitators, like Dispatch.

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Amanda said at 12:50 p.m. on August 22:

I am really, really glad Amy Winehouse did NOT stick around... Talk about someone I truly hate to listen to, and seriously, that's rare.

I still have all my celeb encounters saved on my hard drive somewhere, mixed in with school work and the like. I think my favorite is Bob Saget even though it wasn't so much an encounter as it was me freaking out that he was 200 feet away from me.

Actually, I remembered 2 encounters since then: I saw Steven Tyler when I worked at Apple. He bought iPhones for everyone he knows and his daughter (not Liv, the other one) got a laptop. Then he played "Dream On" on a keyboard we had on one of the displays.

Also, when I worked at Flour Bakery in Boston, I served coffee to Conan O'Brien, though I did not actually talk to him (or realize it was him until after he left and I was like "who was that tall man?"). As for the Celtics, a friend of a friend has season tickets and gets to see practices, at which players sign things. I was most thankful for meeting [Celtics' power forward Brian] Scalabrine. He's basically saving the team one three-pointer at a time!

Though really, I think that the Steven Tyler story is the best one here... Did you know he wears those NASTY Croc shoes?? Ugh... And I honestly thought he was an ugly woman sauntering into the store. No joke.

At times I think I may be the only conservative in this wicked blue state... I could write you a whole book of my thoughts on Obama and his health care plan but your liberal readers would hate me!

As far as I am concerned, yes the private health care sector has its issues, but the government's plan has just as many issues. Obama says it will create a competition between the two but I disagree, the second companies find out they can drop health plans they will and no one will pay out-of-pocket for private insurance. It will effectively leave the government options as the only ones there, and I'm sorry but I don't think health care is a right (call me callous, but if you are unemployed why should I pay your health care [keep in mind currently people laid off still get 1 full year to find a job and get a new plan]) but rather something we should be responsible for ourselves.

Hey, the government can't figure out MediCare or MedicAid, what makes you think they can handle insurance for ALL of us? They need to think through a much better system before implementing it... I'm certainly not defending the state of the current private insurers, I think there is most definitely a need for reform, I'm just not convinced Obama is the man for this.

A good band (other than Guster of course, I'll ignore your comment on them) would have to be... Paramore! I'm a big fan lately. I don't usually like female singers but this would be an exception. Other than that most of my music tastes are stuck in the 1980s; I'm not sure if this is good or bad really. As of late one of my good friends has been filling my iTunes library with his band's music, and I think it's really good. They're called The Jims and are on iTunes, if you are into punk music with slightly ridiculous lyrics (their new album has a song called "Face Fuck" as well as a song called "Fuck Face").

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Steve said at 9:49 p.m. on August 22:

The odd thing about Amy Winehouse was how popular and yet destructive she is. Given how horrible her life is / was, being addicted to crack and all, it probably was a horrible idea for her one big hit to be about how she wasn't going to go to rehab. So, not only were my ears subjected to that horrible song, someone out there no doubt heard that song and didn't think they needed to get help for their crippling drug addiction. Awesome.

Okay, now see, that Steven Tyler story is SO FRIGGIN' COOL! The most recent pictures of him are... not flattering... So I can imagine that he looks awful with Crocs. And the Conan story is cool as well. Sad thing about him: My friends worked at the Watch Hill cabanas, where Conan's parents have a cabana, so they would see him from time to time roll up in his Porsche. Of course, I never did.

I *still* don't have a good celebrity story to share. The most famous guy I've talked to is Aaron Schatz, who is the head of Football Outsiders, an awesome pro football almanac. That's cool, and he's an awesome guy, but nothing I can brag about. I talk regularly with Marc Normandin, a writer at Baseball Prospectus, but I'm also one of his writers for Blast, so I'm not sure if that counts.

See, my eyes glazed over just a bit as you talked about politics. I used to be in Model Legislature, and somewhat motivated about politics, but as I've aged I've just lost interest. It happened even before I became a reporter, too, so I can't attribute it to that. On the plus side, it does help me in reporting, since I'm not super motivated politically. My voting record skews a bit toward Democrats, but this is normally because Rhode Island doesn't have a ton of strong Republican candidates.

Can I tell you a secret? I enjoy Paramore quite a bit. They are very much bubble gum punk, but they kind of remind me of a female Blink 182 or All-American Rejects. Not in terms of sound, but because they're a band that just plays catchy, melodious music. A couple of their songs are in the Guitar Hero and Rock Band games as well, and while I stink at them, I do like to play on normal difficulty.

I'll give The Jims a chance. Reel Big Fish sings "The Fuck-Off Song", so they do have some competition. By the way, Reel Big Fish is a very underrated band - that song is hilarious, and they have some other funny stuff like "She Has A Girlfriend Now", and "Sell-Out", and a good cover of "Kiss Me Deadly."

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Amanda said at 10:07 p.m. on August 22:

I LOVE RBF, and "She Has A Girlfriend Now" is probably one of my all-time favorite songs! My friends were obsessed with them in high school and I think I'm the only one still listening, but I don't even care. I also like their cover of "Take On Me."

Somehow I don't picture you in model legislature... But wait - Didn't you win some election as a joke or something? Receiving as many votes as some fictional character?

I really wish I had noticed it was Conan - I really like him but he came in during the lunch rush! He's so friggin' tall. I would've said something witty... (Okay, NOT really, but I've had time to think about what I could have said.) I would've liked your friend's story better if he had seen him in his Ford Taurus and not the Porsche. You should have more celebrity encounters considering all the cool ones are from New England.

Now down to business:

Amanda's Brush with Celebrity: Steven Tyler
The first thing I did upon moving to the great city of Boston was sell my soul to Steve Jobs for $11 an hour. Working in Apple retail was always exciting, we got some real characters in the store.

One day my friend Chris was unusually excited, he had a "personal shopping" appointment with someone, but of course the manager yelled at me to get back to work before I found out who. About an hour and a half later I could not get over how ugly this old woman was who just walked in. No wonder everyone around wanted a picture. Oh wait, it wasn't an old, ugly woman at all... it was Steven Tyler!

Yes, THE Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, waltzing into the Apple store to supply all of his posse with iPhones and to buy his daughter (not Liv, the other one) a nice new laptop for college. Unfortunately for fans of Mr. Tyler, I have to share some bad news: he wears Crocs, black ones that were really worn in.

Now to make this a "normal" shopping experience, my friend Chris and the managers were the only ones allowed to approach the star, but it's not like the store was all that big, so he was maybe fifteen feet away.

After leaving for the day, he did the cheesiest thing ever: he went up to one of the display computers with a USB musical keyboard attached and played "Dream On" for everyone in the store. I would've rather heard an impromptu rendition of "Sweet Emotion," but I guess you can't be too picky. And as an FYI, he came back at a later date when I was not working to buy more iPhones for everyone on his Christmas list. Apparently he's a huge Apple fan and frequents the Braintree location often when he is visiting his hometown.

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Steve said at 10:36 p.m. on August 22:

That story about Steven Tyler is tremendous, and it stands on its own without any needed comment from me. Bravo! Very impressive.

Responding to the rest, yeah, Reel Big Fish got kind of a bad rap when I was in high school. Everyone thought their big single, "Sell-Out", was all that they could do, so they ironically became what they sang about. I actually didn't even hear their other songs until my sophomore or junior year of college, when I noticed the titles and thought, "Hey, these tracks might be worth a shot." You're right about their "Take On Me" cover, that is also wonderful.

I wasn't just in Model Legislature, I was in LEADERSHIP on Model Leg. I'm still not entirely sure how - I think it was because I was one of the few super-left kids who wasn't a huge hesher. Yet ironically, I did want to legalize marijuana (and still do, but purely for tax reasons). Although I wasn't nearly as out-of-my-shell as I was in college, especially at the Cigar, I was loosening up a bit in my senior year of high school, so I probably did a better job with the public speaking interview they make you do than I give myself credit for.

And yes, I did in fact win a URI Student Senate election for the commuter seat, while I was entertainment editor. I did it solely as a joke, and because you needed about five votes to get a seat, since there weren't enough people on the ballot. I won with about eight votes. Here was the sad part - They told me one kid actually wanted to be on Student Senate, yet he lost to me with FIVE votes. What the hell? If you can't get eight other people to vote for you - remember, you can vote for yourself - then I don't really think you deserve to be on Student Senate.

I totally called Conan out on him not actually driving a Ford Taurus. Like Adam Carolla, I always think it's weird when celebrities try to act like they don't have a lot of money. Especially Conan, since his contract figure - about $8 million per year - is out there. It's not like he's a local talk radio guy, who actually makes $100,000+ a year, who is complaining about how much things cost.

-----

Amanda said at 11:04 p.m. on August 22:

Gracias! Not going to lie - I did double check to make sure he was a Steven with a 'v' because I really didn't know. And I wasn't kidding about selling my soul - that place is more like a cult than an employer, and they suck you in! It's insane. But I still use my trusty MacBook despite these findings.

I tend to be of the mindset that music people didn't like in high school was probably a lot better than music people did like... but maybe this is a trend that was only true of my high school. I haven't done terribly much research on the theory. RBF's latest album is still pretty good, the cover art is also really funny and 1980s.

So I noticed on your blog you are a Top Chef fan. I DVR-ed it while I was on vacation and it just finished up. Yes, I am cool, sitting on my computer and TV on a Saturday, seriously.

What do you think of the new season so far? I'm glad that girl went home because I don't like to look at people with huge plugs like that... It seems like it may be a good group and I like the dynamic of the brothers so far. The only thing that sort of irks me about the show is that I don't love Padma... I feel like she isn't entirely knowledgeable about the food and I think it would be easy to find a host who is equally good looking (since I'm sure that's the point) who also knows food! Like that other judge from Food & Wine magazine.

I also enjoyed the Arrested Development reference. Despite becoming one of those shows with a cult following after the cancellation, I still don't know nearly enough people who love it. I just recently re-watched all 3 seasons and it really is better the second time through. I like how it gets to the point where it's just too ridiculous. And I really like Mr. F. Those were my favorite episodes.

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Steve said at 11:15 p.m. on August 22:

My friend Chris used to work at an Apple store, and now that you mention it, I didn't really see him that much when he worked for it... hmmmm... It all fits together now. I would have guessed it was "Steven" Tyler, just because I'm narcissistic and wouldn't want him to spell it the same way I do. "No Steven Tyler, PH goes in my name, not yours... bitch."

I don't think I can completely sign off on your music theory. When I graduated high school, the music people did like was trendy, but more trendy-artsy than trendy-popcrap. For example, The Strokes were really big, but so were Radiohead. It was a mix of stuff I loved listening to, and stuff that people were clearly trying too hard to appear cool about.

And yes, I love Top Chef! It is the bomb-diggity. I will admit that I was only half-watching the season premiere, just because the first episode almost always means nothing. In fact, I'd say the first four shows of the season are just filler, where they get rid of people who clearly can't pass the muster. You know, like the silly dietitians who can't actually cook anything delicious, and the head cases who break down sobbing after every challenge.

That being said, in the short time I saw her, Crazy Tattoo Lady was clearly the one who was going home, especially when she got indignant during the judging. The judges don't normally like the chefs who can't tell that they fucked up at all.

The "Mr. F" story arc is probably the best of the show's three seasons, just because it is so bittersweet, funny and poignant. I'm always amazed at how good "serious" actors are at comedy - Charlize was perfect in those episodes, and similarly, Tom Hanks and Alec Baldwin and Christopher Walken always kill on Saturday Night Live.

Okay, one more response, and then this can be posted. My question for you - Do you watch Dinner: Impossible? And if not, why not? Because it's on Food Network, and it's awesome. Even though I think Top Chef trumps anything on Food Network, I still love several Food Network shows: Good Eats, Unwrapped, the crazy BBQ competitions they show from time to time, etc.

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Amanda said at 11:25 p.m. on August 22:

What a silly question... of COURSE I watch Dinner: Impossible! I liked the one where he did the New York Times Crossword dinner and all the meals were "puzzles."

I basically watch Food Network and nothing else, switching to Bravo for Top Chef. I have a crazy crush on Bobby Flay so I especially like Throwdown and Iron Chef, but I am also a big fan of Chopped with the guy from Queer Eye hosting, and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

I must say, even if I didn't find Bobby (yeah, we're on a first name basis) attractive, Throwdown still has one of the better premises and I get so many awesome recipe ideas - Like puffy tacos! I'd never heard of them before.

Good Eats is really good, I like the host a lot on that one but I don't think I've seen Unwrapped all the way through. I tend to like the shows with an element of competition in them. Iron Chef always baffles me, how on earth will they get steak into a dessert? Steak ice cream you say! Wow! But the judges LOVED it. The insanity.

I watched The Next Food Network Star but found it to be a cheaper version of Top Chef, which I also rank above the Food Network shows. I really like Tom and I think that the prizes are a lot more substantial - Not everyone can be a TV chef.

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Well, considering that this is now about 3,400 words, I think this is as good a place to end as any. Want to do your own Tag Team? E-mail me at sgre6768@gmail.com.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

iTunes Running Diary – Sunday, August 23

This week's artists.

Please excuse the somewhat late posting tonight. I got a little busy playing hoops in Wakefield today, which meant I started this a bit late. Since this is the second post of the day, I figure a little latitude toward me is appropriate. Anyway, on to the running diary...

- “Still Not A Player” by Incubus and Big Pun. If it seems like I use a lot of cover songs in these running diaries, well, it's true because I love covers. This is a pretty decent one, even if the swears from the original Big Pun song are taken out. The hard-driving guitar helps speeds up the rapping a bit, as the original is a bit slower-paced.

I also have fond memories of this song because my high school friend Adrienne and I used to sing it when we worked at Dunkin' Donuts when I was 16. In reflection, that crew was a weird mix of Chariho people I never really saw again, but it was fun times while it lasted. There were also some A-holes from other towns there too, but some cool people that I'm still Facebook friends with. I think every minimum wage job is like that though – Half assholes, half decent people trying to make a buck.

- “Sink Into Me” by Taking Back Sunday. I know, this might be shocking, since it is a song that has been released this year. I heard it on WBRU a couple days ago, and the sound reminded me of my first exposure to Warped Tour artists in 2001 and 2002. On the bill that year were bands like The Vandals, Little T and One Track Mike, Ween, Less Than Jake, Alien Ant Farm and Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

Now, I feel largely disconnected from a lot of that music, mostly because I don't fit into that scene at all. I remember going to the Warped Tour and seeing people loaded on booze, moshing and throwing fists in pits, getting absolutely filthy in the 90-degree weather. While it seems odd to someone who has ever seen my room, I hate getting messy, and as I said in previous posts, I'm not much into dancing or tattoos or piercings, which was all in abundance there.

- “Everything Is Alright” by Motion City Soundtrack. Appropriately enough, we're concluding this mini-diary with another of my few trendy favorites.

I originally downloaded it about three years ago, and listened to this and “The Future Freaks Me Out” about 500 times on my way to work that summer. While I eventually got over my addiction – with a lot of prayer and the help of the Lord, of course – I still never, ever change the song when it comes on the radio (which is rare) or on my iTunes (which is much more common). There aren't many songs that achieve this status, but Motion City Soundtrack has two of them, and even writing this entry makes me realize I should check out more of their stuff.

Tag Team: The Pharmacy Gal

[Left] The one picture I was able to take at the wedding Friday.

Bob's new wife - and by that, I mean they got married on Friday - asked for a sidebar to his tag team blogs, so here it is. I think this will be incorporated into the blogs I do with Bob from now on, but I did want to sneak this in here. She did ask to do a weekly picks column during the football season, so if Bob is game, or some others want to join in, I'm willing to do a weekly football picks thing.

Hey, I just wanted to say that 1) I want to cry about the Masterson trade. 2) Please stop referring to Tek as washed-up. I think punching A-Rod in the face has bought him a little more respect than that (and my unconditional love). 3) I second the three lovely ladies that you picked out to suddenly appear at our wedding as your date, nice choices. 4) Retro video games, star wars/trek, and other nerd chat would most likely go over well with your prospects at our wedding, most of my girlfriends are tomboys. 5)Thanks again for admiring the invitations, hopefully you also enjoy the favors, programs, etc. we spent all weekend making.

Editor's note: I did!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

On marriage, arrested development and Arrested Development

The best scene ever from Arrested Development.

So last night was my buddy Bob's wedding; you might remember him from previous blog tag teams here and here. (As an aside, his wonderful wife, Kristin, did write me something, a la how the Sports Gal writes a sidebar for his column. It'll be posted tomorrow morning.)

All-in-all, it was a great time. It was on the deck of Amalfi, a nice restaurant that has a deck overlooking Narragansett Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. After a 30-minute ceremony, there was a full night of open bar, free appetizers and a dinner, all three of which are great to me. I checked out shortly after the dancing started, because like almost every guy ever, that's not really my scene.

I suppose the only disheartening thing was that there weren't a ton of single people my age. Although I'm not having a quarter-life crisis or anything, I have noticed that there is a bit of a drop in the dating pool as I get older, and meanwhile, I feel like I'm in a state of arrested development.

For example, if I met someone tomorrow, and everything went great, and we never, ever had issues, we might get married in two years. I'd be 27, so kids would probably happen when I was 28, with me hitting my 40s as they hit their teens. That has always been my kind of ideal when I was growing up and imagining my future self.

Real-life kind of got in the way of all of that, regardless of what I acknowledge as the cause - age differences and life differences and my stupidity in past relationships, my layoff a year ago or my decision to pursue journalism as opposed to million dollar banking as a profession. While I'm generally happy right now and in a good situation (finally) when it comes to working, I still got a melancholy feeling watching other people dance and what not last night. It felt even odder when a pair of Bob's friends told me they have been to SEVEN weddings this summer!

Anyway, let me acknowledge the final part of this entry's title - Arrested Development. That's what I watched when I got home, and that did bring a smile to my face, which was awesome. For those of you curious about what episode I watched, it was the one where George Michael thinks he got a jetpack from his dad, and the culminating scene in the episode has him wrestling with Tobias, dressed as a mole, as they destroy a mini-village setup by Gob and Buster as a demo for Japanese businessmen. (That was a mouthful! p.s. That's something Tobias would say.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

At The Commercials: The Two-Timing Commercial Girl



I dislike when the same actor or actress is in two or more commercials for different companies. A prime example I've seen of this lately is this girl (above) from Kingsford Charcoal, who is also in a commercial for a small business loan from some bank.

Hey lady, which is it? Am I to believe that you're a baker who needs a small business loan, AND that your husband plays budinsky when you try to light the Kingsford Charcoal? And don't pretend like it isn't you, because you have a pretty distinctive nose, so I know it's you. How DARE you!

... That being said, this actress is still a little underground. Nobody else has been writing about her except me on the web, at least nobody that I can determine from doing a Google search, and I'm normally pretty decent with the Google. So, kudos for me. I can't find her name and that usual stuff that I do for commercials though, so sorry about that.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eff you, Providence streets!

[Left] Please Rhode Island, put up ANY of these! I'd be thankful even if I saw the friggin' kangaroo signs.

If you're a visitor to Rhode Island, it is quite easy to get into the state, but you might never leave.

I'm not trying to make a reference to the (awful) "Hotel California" with that line, by the way. I'm referring to the complete lack of decent street signs throughout the state, but especially in Providence. I've lived in Rhode Island my entire life, and been to Providence about a dozen times, but I almost always get lost trying to make my way out of the city.

Getting into Providence isn't a problem, and places like the Providence Place Mall, the convention center, the Dunkin' Donuts Center and the arts district are all marked off pretty well with signs on Route 95 and Route 6 and Route 195. Getting out is a hellacious odyssey that requires several Sherpas and inner-city voodoo doctors.

For example, today I had an assignment in the city at 10 a.m. I made it there from my house in about 45 minutes, which was all gravy. The speech got over about 11 a.m. I left then, and because I couldn't find the sign guiding me back to Route 6 or Route 95, I had to drive around to find Route 95 for about 20 minutes. By dumb luck, I stumbled on Service Road 6 (actual name), and knew that I could (eventually) follow it to 95. And, by the way, because of construction I had to make about eight turns before I did get to the highway.

This is an especially big problem with the advent of things like car GPS systems and Google Maps. Since they give directions via street names, and Rhode Island leads the nation in missing street signs, this can be quite a problem. Google also still calls things with common names - Route 91 - by its "official" name - Church Street - that nobody actually uses.

So, dear Rhode Island: Put up more god damn signs and replacement signs!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cooking with Top Chef

[Left] Note to self: Scruffy facial hair = Super Awesome Chef.

Top Chef
starts its sixth season tonight, this year in Vegas, and I'm naturally thrilled about it. I've been following the show since its initial season in March 2006, which saw the utterly awesome Harold cook his way past Tiffany the Snake and super amazingly over-the-top gay David and super-snarky before he reformed Steven.

While that season remains the pinnacle of the Top Chef viewing experience, I still find it one of the most enjoyable hours of my television week. Even seasons without interesting scenes still features mouth-watering meals, and doing my own judging via my vision is strangely enticing. It's also one of those shows that appeal equally to both sexes, meaning I could always watch it with my past girlfriends. So, it has that going for it, which is nice.

Not surprisingly, my two favorite meals have been steak / beef dishes, by Harold and Casey. I think Casey was robbed the year she competed, and of all the seasons, Ilan has definitely been the weakest overall winner. Every week, he would have some weird Spanish take on some dish. While they weren't ever awesome, they didn't ever suck, and as a result he kind of coasted to a win.

I think the seasons after that one have done a better job of rewarding excellence and risk-taking as opposed to just base competence. That being said, one way the show would definitely be improved is by keeping, say, the last three weeks in mind while at the judges' table. It would cut down on the Andreas and Michaels who barely squeak by week-by-week, and keep in the actually great cooks like Richard Blais, Stefan and Fabio. (By the way, Fabio is so ridiculous that he even charms me a little bit.)

Top Chef Masters is a nice little appetizer, or an amuse bouche, as they would say on the show, but it doesn't really substitute for the real thing. It's not surprising to me that Hubert Keller was doing so well, since he definitely seems like he knows what he's doing when he judges the contestants. And it doesn't surprise me that the nerdy-looking dude that won with Richard Blais did pretty well, because he was also a good job. (Sorry about the lack of analysis; I missed the last two episodes, unfortunately.)

I still maintain that they need to bring Katie Lee (no longer, woohoo!) Joel back to replace Padma. First off, Padma is only hotter if you prefer the female-female impersonator (Pamela Anderson) look, because she is about 80 feet tall with ginormous, cartoon breasts. The Hardee's commercial she did is just gross. Katie Lee Joel is the foxy girl-next-door. I don't really mind that her personality is a bit wooden, because it gives more opportunity for Tom and Gail Simmons (also kind of foxy) and the guest judges to shine. To use an oblivious cliche, having Padma in the mix is an example of having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Recycling My Past: Jayson Blair's last column

I originally wrote this for my college newspaper in January 2007. I always liked it a decent amount, yet it didn't get a ton of hits on the web site, or much of a reaction from my friends. Well, let's give it another shot! A blast from my past...

Editor's Note - After searching through the paper's archives, I was amazed to find a lost freelance article by Jayson Blair. The copy editors at The New York Times must have been asleep at the wheel, because his plagiarism was shocking! I can't believe they didn't catch on to his sick, depraved act earlier. Here is the article, printed in its entirety:

EERIE, Indiana (AP) - Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

But let us not wallow in the valley of despair we live in. I say to you today, my friends, that even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.

You know, true love is hard to find. Sometimes you think you have true love and then you catch the early flight home from San Diego, and a couple of nude people jump out of your bathroom blindfolded like a goddamn magic show ready to double team your girlfriend and it stops, well it stops right there because what I'm trying to say is that true love is blind.

Not only are we going to New Hampshire, we're going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we're going to California and Texas and New York. And we're going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan! And then we're going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Byaaah!!!

Of course, this reminds me of a cherished memory from my youth. One time, at band camp, I stuck a flute in my pussy.

But I'll let bygones be bygones. For you see, back then it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of light, it was the season of darkness. It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.

After all the jacks are in their boxes, and the clowns have all gone to bed… Well, you can hear happiness staggering on down the street, footsteps dressed in red. And the wind? The wind, whispers, "Mary."

What I'm trying to say is that I like big butts and I can not lie. You other brothers can't deny that when a girl walks in with an itty-bitty waist and a round thing in your face you get sprung! That girl, she's got what I need, but she says I'm just a friend, she says I'm just a friend.

I am not above intolerable cruelty. One time I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Then, another time, early one morning while making the rounds, I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down. I got up next morning and I grabbed that gun, then I took a shot of cocaine and away I run. I made a good run, but I ran too slow, they overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico.

My first article had no famous guest appearances. The outcome? I was crowned the best lyricist. With my many years on this professional level, why would you question who's better? Yo, all I need is one mic. All I need is one mic... That's all I need. All I need is one mic.

And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Expanding into multimedia


I'm a big fan of things like the Angry Video Game Nerd (see above), the gaming reviews at ScrewAttack and Bill Simmons' podcast, and all three have tempted me to make my own foray into multimedia. While I'm not really sure why people would want to see me on camera or hear the sound of my voice, I also don't know why they would want to read this blog, yet I still write. So why not do a podcast or videocast if I have some free time?

The odd thing is that I do have some professional and semi-professional experience. When I was in college, I had to do some video editing, and I did film myself doing a stand-up (i.e. when you see TV anchors standing outside of a building and talking about an issue). I even interviewed my friend Maggie for it; I should try to find that segment and post it online.

And when it comes to audio editing, I have even more experience. While I won't profess to being an expert on balancing levels or quality, I used to record and cut the audio for Dave Dameshek's Pittsburgh radio show, and I think I did a decent enough job at it. I did a few audio clips and interviews for East Bay Newspapers, when I worked for them. (Those definitely still exist, and I'll try to find and post them.) I was also on-air on the Dameshek show a couple times, and I was a caller on the final Adam Carolla Show.

Clearly, with all of that experience, I'm practically the King of Multimedia already. But, if I was going to start doing some of that stuff for this blog, does anyone have any requests? The easiest stuff would be to do music, movie or video game reviews like ScrewAttack and the Nerd do, so I'm skewing toward that if I do do it, but I'm open to other ideas.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

iTunes Running Diary – Sunday, August 16

Just doing a normal edition this week. I will probably do a theme next week; feel free to offer some suggestions, if you'd like.

- “Spirit of Radio” by Rush. I have hyped them up a bit in past running diaries, but hey, it's not like they got any less awesome. If you like this weird, 1970s to 1980s sort of progressive slash electric rock, then Rush is at the top of the heap musically. They actually have multiple hits with some different sounds - “Closer to the Heart” and “Tom Sawyer” and “The Trees” - as opposed to a band like Frankie Goes To Hollywood.

More importantly, I know that Geddy Lee is in Rush, but only because of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. In one episode, “Spirit Journey Formation Anniversary,” Shake pays Geddy and heavy metal guitarist Zakk Wylde to do a brand new version of the birthday song. Not surprisingly, since Shake is the producer, they create a horrible spectacle.

While Wylde clearly plays himself in the episode, I'm not sure if Geddy Lee's lyrics are real. His presence is mostly alluded to, as opposed to guaranteed. However, if you're ever arguing with friends that ATHF is solely stoner comedy, then bring up this episode as a rebuttal. As far as Aqua Teen episodes go, this one is pretty linear while still being hilarious.

- “Crush” by Noise Ratchet. I know little of Noise Ratchet, except that this is a great punk cover song. I know little of “Crush”, except that Noise Ratchet does a great punk cover of it. Ah, what a glorious catch-22!

I only know that the song is a cover because of the album it is on, Punk Goes Pop. It was apparently released in 2002, and17 pretty nifty tracks. Most of the songs covered are 1980s, 1990s and 2000s pop, so I'm not sure how they got away with it. The best covers are, not surprisingly, by bands that went on to make a name for themselves - “Everywhere” by Yellowcard, “I'm Real” by the Starting Line, “Send Me An Angel” by Thrice. I am a bit of a cover connoisseur, and from top to bottom, the album is one of the better cover albums floating out there.

- “Wutang Remix” by some unknown artist. Back in the days of Napster, file names and ID tags were... highly optional. I found this track by randomly typing in “wutang remix” back in the day, and true to the search, this is what popped out.

The rapping itself is pretty good, but it is only a “remix” in the sense that “Wutang Clan Ain't Nothin' To Fuck With” is looped under the rapping from time to time. Outside of the lyrics, there is no identifying feature of the song. Curiously, Eminem uses some of them in the final rap battle in Eight Mile, but I get the feeling that passage is a fairly common homage in rap music.

- “Band on the Run” by Paul McCartney and Wings. The other week, I was talking about how I'd rather be David Bowie than Paul McCartney, but in reflection, it is by the slimmest of margins. And, if I had to pick between McCartney and Lennon, I'm definitely going with McCartney.

I really don't know much of the history of the band, and I haven't listened to every Beatles album ever. But from my casual observation, it seems like McCartney was a lot more easygoing and more interested in making hit records, which is probably how I would act too if I was in the Beatles. It would be hard for me to not roll my eyes as John was talking about getting into weird spiritualism with his freaky-deaky girlfriend.

Also, McCartney comes off as a decent guy from his post-Beatles career. He was great on “The Chris Farley Show” sketch on Saturday Night Live, and Dana Carvey also tells a great story about hanging out with him and Lorne Michaels. Wings heavily featured Paul AND Linda McCartney, and given the history of other husband-wife musical projects, I think it has to be ranked as the absolute best.

- “Level” and “Steady As She Goes” by The Raconteurs. This is a band that I've always wanted to get a lot more into, but outside of these two tracks, I simply haven't heard most of Broken Boy Soldiers, or any of their follow-up album.

It is an odd but common problem. A lot of times, I love a song or two from a band so much that the rest of their work pales in comparison. It can even vary from single-to-single: I love “Level,” but when it pops on to my iTunes as it just did now, it reminds me that “Steady As She Goes” is a superior song on nearly every level, so I scroll down a few tracks and play it instead.

I think both songs are also helped by sporadic radio play, one of the rare instances where I don't think an indie band is effed out on WBRU. Once the Racounters and other bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol and (two months from now) Ida Maria drop from the charts a bit, WBRU doesn't bother to recycle their tracks as much as they would with a popular, effed out band. (I'm looking in your general direction here, Red Hot Chili Peppers.)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tag Team Sequel: Bob and Steve on getting married, not getting married and the Sawx

Three women I'm hoping to see at Bob's wedding.

To rip-off the disclaimer for Bill Simmons' BS Report, Tag Team is a free flowing discussion between two adults that sometimes touches on mature subjects. This is the sequel to an earlier Tag Team I did with Bob, which is still the most-read blog post I've done on here.

Want to do your own Tag Team with me? Send me an e-mail or leave a comment.


-------

Steve said on July 9:

Heyyyyy Bob Hanson! If I am a cheap clone of Bill Simmons, then you are my Jack-O, minus the Yankees devotion. He is a successful banker kind of guy, and you do have a better career than I do, so it seems a somewhat appropriate comparison.

Anyway, let's talk about your wedding, which I am invited to. Now, I'm not going to ask you annoying questions about whether you're ready to give up your freedom completely and stop doing drugs and having sex with strippers, because all of these would be low-blows and inappropriate when you've so graciously extended me an invitation.

Instead, let's focus on a practical matter: Will I be having sex with one of your female friends? I saw this small independent art film once – I think it was called Wedding Crashers – that implied that every single person who ever attends a wedding gets sexed up. Since this is the first not-related-family wedding I'll be attending, I wasn't sure if this will happen or not. What would you put the odds at?

Second, do I know anyone attending? I imagine Pat Aguiar and Mike James will be there, but I didn't know if any Cigar people besides me were invited. What the heck are Pat and Mike up to anyway? They were like two sides of a comedic coin to me. Pat always had this weird, esoteric humor that really came across well in his writing, whereas Mike's voice and mannerisms were incredible. "Ohhh, Steve, how nice to see you!"

[Editor's note: I saw Pat a couple weeks after I wrote this. He was doing well and in a band.]

And third, for all the drama you apparently had picking fish and salsas, the wedding invitation and card I got sent in the mail is quite splendid. I feel like I need to make a scrapbook specifically for pasting the invitation into. You know, something nicer than just ramming it under my copy of Baseball Prospectus 2009, which is where it was for the past two weeks.

What say ye, good sir?

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Bob said on July 14:

Hey Steve, I'll have something back to you soon, sorry about the slow response.

------

Bob said on July 26:

Sorry, I suck. Hopefully I won't keep you waiting nearly as long next time. I will be back in RI next week.

Also, unlike Jack-O, I am not a Republican. This is an important distinction. Fortunately, Bill Simmons and Jack-O have managed to keep political discussions largely outside of their enjoyable discussions about sports and pop culture. WEEI could learn from this. I can't stand listening to WEEI in the morning because a quarter of the time they are talking about some idiotic political controversy. I don't visit WEEI for its political discussions, just like I don't visit NPR for its sports discussions.

On the topic of female friends at my wedding, you may be disappointed on two fronts. First, all of the weddings (all three of them) I have attended in my adult life have been fairly tame in terms of hook ups. There are two reasons for this. First, most of the weddings I have attended have had a great deal of family and not so much in the way of friends. Thus, hook up opportunities are often a) one's family or b) the family of the groom or bride of your family. Both of these are quite creepy. For good hook up opportunities, one needs to have invited a great deal of non-family friends, which only happens if hundreds of people are invited.

Which brings me to my second point. Kristin and I are not having a big wedding (we will have 90ish, which is similar in size to the other weddings I have attended). Although we did manage to invite a good number of people our age (which is good, there is nothing more creepy than being stared at by a whole bunch of aunts and uncles who don't know you), not too many of the women are single. Off the top of my head, I an think of only three or four unattached women attending the wedding who are not family. For a successful hook up, you would need to be able to pick them out (easy to do, since most significant others are invited) and separate them from their friends (not so easy, since most people invited know a few people at the wedding). That being said, if you do manage to hook up with somebody at my wedding, I expect a thank you note.

You are in a select company of people who were invited from the Cigar. That is to say, you were the only one. You will know Mike (Pat will be invited if we can track him down; he's fallen off the face of the Earth) and the Yearbook girls. Also, I think you have met my friend Nora and my best man Mat. We have friends coming from high school, URI and DC, but most of the people attending are family and family friends.

Thanks for complementing the invitations. We (by which I mean Kristin) did them our(her)selves! We picked up a pack of blank invitations, which we designed and printed them ourselves, all for a fraction of what it would cost to have them printed up. I was surprised by how nice they turned out. And I'm honored to hear that it was put in your copy of Baseball Prospectus, I know there are few places closer to your heart.

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[Left] Soleil Moon Frye, a.k.a. Punky Brewster, is one of the few with a wacky name to do okay for herself despite a flaky name. And good lord, has she done well... Where am I...?

Steve said on August 1:


Steve says:

I also can't stand listening to WEEI in the mornings because of Dennis and Callahan. It would also be one thing if WEEI curried political commentators. Like, if they had James Carvel on the show some day, then you could (feasibly) have a sort of debate, even if it was the idiotic type of Crossfire shit that Jon Stewart eviscerated a couple years ago. Having just one wacky right-wing guy on the show isn't so great.

I have been to a couple family weddings too, and I also don't think that's an appropriate venue for hook-ups. Most of the people there are either related to you, or going to be related to you in some way, so it is quite the risk to take. I am somewhat disappointed that I shant have a Wedding Crashers experience, but then again, I don't really have the “random hook up” tool in my bag. That being said, if you are doing table seatings, try to slyly put me with the foxiest one. As the adage goes, just because I'm not playing the field doesn't mean I can't watch the game. Hi-oh! (I have a feeling this exchange will get me into a lot of trouble at some point...)

Anyway, yeah, I know Mike James, and I vaguely remember Mat. I'm sure if they're friends of Bob Hanson, I can manage to be friends with them as well. Should I talk to them about Star Trek? Or more about how much more awesome Star Wars (the original trilogy, of course) is?

Tell Kristin that she is welcome to design the invitations for my future wedding as well, except that whoever my future wife is would probably be against this completely. Women are insane about weddings, hence why she did all of the work on those invitations for you. For us, it doesn't hold nearly as much meaning. The same applies for baby names, except that the guy does hold some veto power, at least in my mind. Like, I'm not allowing my child to be named something wacky like Moonshine Deliverance, but I'll sign off on names that straddle the puss line like Aiden and Skyler if my wife is into them enough.

In an attempt to inject some sports talk into the blog – What do you think of Boston's chances this year? I actually like the team more than others, since I think this is just a temporary dip lately. Drew and Bay have always been kind of streaky, so they'll get out of their funks any day now, and the pitching rotation is formidable. Beckett and Lester is a great one-two punch, and the rest of the gang – Wakefield, Penny, Smoltz, Buchholz, Bowden – can scratch together enough quality starts to at least earn a wild card bid. And once you're in the playoffs, pretty much everyone has a 1/8 chance of winning the World Series; just ask those poorly-constructed Cardinals and White Sox teams.

p.s. I originally wrote this before I learned about the trade for Victor Martinez. While I actually would have preferred giving up Buccholz over Masterson - I think Clay will flame out, whereas Masterson is the next Derek Lowe to me - I do like the aggressive move by Theo. I think you can plug Martinez in at catcher two to four times a week, giving the excess time to a washed-up Jason Varitek, while you (hopefully) bring in a really good A or AA catching prospect, or draft one, in the meantime. I haven’t read any analysis on LaRoche for Kotchman yet; it seems like a wash to me.

[Editing note: Smoltz is now gone from the team, and who knows about Wakefield? He apparently is in worse shape than realized health-wise, although he is now making some rehab starts for Pawtucket.]

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[Left] The first Google Image result for Corey Hanson.

Bob says on August 5:


Although I agree that the political debate on WEEI would be better if they actually had a "debate," instead of one crazy guy ranting, I still would prefer that they just abstain from the debate in the first place. As a matter of fact, I can't think of a forum that is less appropriate for a political debate than EEI. Not only are the hosts poorly informed about politics, but the callers are poorly informed about EVERYTHING.

I remember that half the yo-yos who called into the station in 2006 after the trade deadline were complaining about how the Sox didn't pick up Bobby Abreu, instead letting him go to the Yankees. The eventual result: the Sox didn't go over the luxury tax, had the money to pick up J.D. Drew and Daisuke Matsuzaka in the offseason, and won the 2007 World Series. Abreu was marginally effective for the Yanks, but declined rapidly with age.

Do the people calling into WEEI learn from their mistakes? No. The same people are calling in and yelling about how the Sox, who have a very good rotation, should have broken the bank to pick up a 32-year-old Roy Halladay. It's like callers into WEEI have a Pavlovian response to oppose whatever move Theo makes, even though he's won two World Series for them.

Ugh. In general I can't listen to call-in radio. This is probably just the elitist inside me, but every time I imagine one of the callers who is yelling on the radio (about politics or sports), I imagine the crazy Southern people who are in every horror movie, ever. You know, like the people in Deliverance. Only instead of yelling "squeal like a pig," they're yelling, "Why won't Obama show us his birth certificate?" or, "Francona should bench Jason Bay!" It sends chills down my spine.

Oh, and that comment about the wedding is definitely going to get you in trouble. I'm going to send a link to this blog post along with a picture of you to every girl at the wedding. I won't, actually, because I won't even need to warn girls off you if you start talking about Star Trek or Star Wars. It's funny that in one paragraph you're talking about trying to get laid (or at least stare at a nice-looking girl), and in the next you're asking me if you should talk about Star Trek or Star Wars. Why don't you just go straight to your VD or how you play World of Warcraft in your mom's basement. Unless you find a really special lady, those should all be equally effective pickup lines.

On the topic of baby names, I am almost completely deferring to Kristin, although I do plan to wield some veto authority. As a person who was almost named "Corey" until my Dad pulled a bait-and-switch on my Mom as she was drugged up in labor, I am sensitive about letting my kids have names that are too... eccentric. We all went through elementary and junior high school, we don't need to give kids an assist in making fun of our children.

I'm conflicted about the Red Sox. This should be a great, 100-win team on paper. However, they just can't string together a tough win. First of all, except for Youkilis and Pedroia, everybody has been very streaky. That could be great if they all get turned on at the right time, but terrible if they can't string together hits when it counts. The pitching staff is solid, but is definitely getting tired down the stretch. Hopefully September call-ups will help them rest their relievers and get ready for the playoffs, but I'm not sure they are yet a shoe-in for the wildcard. The Sox haven't been able to beat the Rays for whatever reason, and we aren't going undefeated against the Yanks. I don't really see another division sending a wildcard winner, but I won't rest easy until the Yanks or the Rays fall out of it.

As for some trade analysis (remember how I criticized amateur opinions earlier on? Disregard that), I like the Victor Martinez move. They needed another bat (I don't trust Drew and Lowell to stay healthy, and Lowrie and Tek aren't great at the plate) so this was the right move for them to make. I think it might even be better than Adrian Gonzalez since Martinez can take some starts away from Tek. Unfortunately, I don't think Martinez does much for them after the next year or two, so one hates to part with prospects for that. I would have also liked to have worked Buchholz into something, since I don't trust him to be consistent, but I don't think the Haladay trade would have been affordable (Bard + Buchholz + two or three other prospects as compared to Masterson and a few other lesser prospects for Martinez) and there wasn't really much else on the market. I hope Buchholz can prove us wrong and turn into a good starter like Lester, who had less than an ideal start as well (although not nearly as bad as Buchholz the last two years) and then settle down into a solid starter. I don't see championship in the Sox yet, but if they turn it on and kill August and September I would feel differently.

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If you need to ask who the best character is,
then you're not a real fan.


Steve says today, August 14:


First off, howdareyou attack my chances at your wedding. I'll have you know that many women like Star Wars and Star Trek now. In fact, Wars was a favorite of two out of the three of my last serious girlfriends, so I either have an uncanny knack for picking them, or women are simply more accepting or more interested in nerdly pursuits.

I will say that I refuse to cross a couple of lines, and one of them is World of Warcraft, and other MMORPGs like Everquest and Ultima Online, if people still actually play either. I also won't play Dungeons and Dragons, or attend a cosplay convention. I think all would represent dangerous lines to cross, like someone going from drinking and pot to all-out binges on eightballs and heroin.

I'll be linking to this post on Facebook anyway, so I suppose that could get me into trouble. My cousins, who are now like 10 and 13, added me the other day, which was weird enough. I later did an update about seeing people throwing up in the bathroom at the Andrea, and only remembered the next morning that they can see that. Oh well - They have to grow up sometime, amiright?

Finally, closing this up with some Sox talk. While I'm not quite as down on Halladay as you are, it does worry me that he is in his mid-30s with a lot of mileage on his arm. Yeah, he's great now, but once pitchers get past 32, it seems like the end can come at any point, and you can't tell when it'll happen until it happens. Considering we also would have had to give up Bard and Buchholz and Theo Epstein's first born son, then I was fine with the Sox not getting him.

I was more interested in the rumored trade for Felix Hernandez. If the Sox were ever going to duplicate the Josh Beckett trade, in which they amazingly acquired a guy already recognized as an ace who wasn't yet 30, it would have been by acquiring Hernandez. The reported asking price for him was also insane though, and I simply don't believe that they would have offered those five guys for King Felix.

Part of the Sox success has been their unwillingness to deal top, elite prospects, whether it be Lester or Pedroia or whoever. Yeah, they dealt Hanley Ramirez in the Beckett deal, but he had underperformed in the minors the previous year. Other guys they've dealt away - Cla Meredith, Craig Hansen, Murphy and Moss - are either just average or a bit below. They haven't made any Bagwell-level submissions, which I think will help them sustain their success past this year.

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Want to do your own one of these? E-mail me at sgre6768@gmail.com.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blogging about tweeting

[Left] Not about her.

I got a Twitter account a couple months ago, although it was primarily to promote this blog; I had no real desire to post 140 character updates about my life. Yet, this minimalist format has indeed snagged me a bit, as I've done 552 updates - tweets, as the kids call them - in the past four months or so. (I wish it was easier to look-up when I joined, but I can't find that button right now.)

Because you are so limited in terms of length, it forces you to be brief and to the point. It is kind of the opposite of blogging, where I just ramble for 800 words and then post a silly picture.

The oddest thing to me is how easy it is to add other people. There are things like a Major League Baseball feed that I'll normally add a person or two from each day, along with The Match Game's Charles Nelson Reilly, which is maintained by friends of the late comedian. (By the way, future idea for a posting - Best game shows of all-time, since The Match Game is on it.)

I also wonder what the semi-professional bloggers and writers and journalists think when they see my updates to my high school and Internet friends. I'm sure they are very interested in my comments to my friend about how I did an article about our mutual friend and my former roommate about him competing in some lifeguard games. The guys from Gamezebo probably get a real kick out of it, and think to themselves, "This is so utterly relevant!"

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Rent vs. Buy

Even though I don't really have much means, I'm struggling with an odd decision - Should I look into buying a house?

It seems like an odd question to ponder, since at best, I probably make $30,000 a year, and my guaranteed income is only about $18,000. But because the economy is historically bad, and the real estate market has collapsed, and there is a $7,500 tax credit for first-time homeowners, and because my credit rating is really good - I still pay everything on time - it might make more sense for me to buy a house as opposed to renting an apartment.

I looked into a $100,000, two-bedroom cottage, very preliminarily, online last night. Even if I put $0 down, the monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage for me would be about $423. Meanwhile, most one-bedroom apartments in the area go for about $525 to $650, more for two bedrooms. I would have to pay electricity, heat and cable, but I'd have to do that in an apartment as well, and I wouldn't be getting any equity into the place. There are things like upkeep to think about, but relying on landlords to fix problems in my past apartments has been as big of an issue as relying on myself to call someone anyway.

Thoughts? I know at least one person on here has bought a house recently, so I'm curious about getting some perspective on the whole situation.

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