Tuesday, November 29, 2005

But really, the attempted murderer's a nice guy

I was reading an uplifting Sports Illustrated story about a Texas high school football coach who turned things around for his team and guided them to unprecedented playoff success after a life-threatening encounter when I came across this quote:

"Jeff is a real kind person with a real big heart. He was a sweetheart if he was your friend, and he was your friend to the end."

Here's the catch: Jeff Robertson isn't the coach. He's the guy who gunned down the coach, Gary Joe Kinne.

Nonetheless, Charlotte Richards -- the woman quoted above -- felt the need to defend Robertson. And evidently, she wasn't alone.

At a September hearing at which a judge refused to reduce the $1 million bail, [Robertson's attorney] submitted to the court more than 60 letters written by family members and friends of Robertson.

It's not often you have five dozen community members defending a guy who admitted shooting someone, but then again, we are talking about football in Texas. And hey, Kinne had the nerve to start his son at quarterback over Robertson's, so he practically had it coming.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Once I had a band, and it was a gas/Soon got into the museum of glass

Blondie, Black Sabbath, The Sex Pistols, Miles Davis and Lynyrd Skynyrd were just voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Solid, but not quite as cool as the Class of 2003: AC/DC, The Clash, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, The Police and the Righteous Brothers.

In September, I cast my worthless ballot on all the nominees for the Louvre of Cleveland. At that time, I endorsed all of the eventual recipients except for Davis, who just missed my cut because I argued his greatness didn't really fit into the "rock and roll" category. I stand behind my claim, but I'm not upset with his inclusion.

At that time, I also lobbied for John Mellencamp and Cat Stevens, but in retrospect, I'm OK with their not making it. One could argue that the five latest inductees changed music significantly. I'm not positive of the long-term impact of anyone going by the name "Cougar."

Justice disintegrates before our eyes

The Supreme Court crumbles. The symbolism is too great to ignore.

Friday, November 25, 2005

All the way to the top of my charts

I've downloaded exactly 3,500 songs to my iPod since August 2004. One feature I am completely obsessed with is the iTunes Play Count, which I believe can be the ultimate indicator of what my favorite music is. Numbers don't lie, do they?

So with 15 months of music activity recorded, what are my Top 5 most played songs as of Nov. 23?


by Ryan Adams - 44 times
"Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane - 37 times
"Broken" by Seether featuring Amy Lee - 36 times
"Ride" by The Vines - 36 times
"The Widow" by The Mars Volta - 32 times

Hmm. Not exactly the artists I anticipated at the top of my list. In fact, I bought all these songs as singles on iTunes. In addition, they are the only songs I have by these artists, unless you count Amy Lee as a part of Evanescence.

So, I got to thinking. What's the best indicator of overall achievement? I went to my "10-Time All-Stars" Smart Playlist -- which includes only songs I've played at least 10 times -- and I counted the number of unique songs by a single artist. The results appear to be much more reflective of my overall favorites in the last 15 months:


Stone Temple Pilots
- 15
Linkin Park* - 14
U2 - 12
Sting - 10
Foo Fighters, INXS - 7
The Beatles, The Killers - 6
Alicia Keys, Audioslave, Green Day, Led Zeppelin, The Police - 5

*Not including 4 tracks from Linkin Park/Jay-Z's "Collision Course" album.

Notable omissions of artists I consider myself a fan of: Garbage, The Bravery, Billy Joel, Radiohead, Eminem, Evanescence, Jay-Z, Coldplay, R.E.M., AC/DC. I'm guessing these I've listened to these artists more in years prior to owning an iPod.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Poppin' Fresh Analysis

My buddy Chris found this astounding and hysterical Salon article about the marketing nuances of famous cartoon advertising icons. Here are some of the best quotes Ruth Shalit purged from these ad agency reps:

"We have to be careful that you never see the whites of [the Pillsbury Doughboy's] eyes. ... It's just that when he looks straight at the camera, so his eyes are dead center -- well, let's just say he has a tendency not to look as, uh, lively."

"[Chester the Cheetah]'s head still spins around. His eyes bulge out ... Everything's dangerously hot, dangerously cheesy. But then, somehow, he pulls it back into control to say -- Chee-tos."

"The Colonel [Sanders] is portly, yet energetic, and can perform feats that belie his age and physique. For instance, he can slam-dunk a flaming basketball."

"There aren't a lot of 'can'ts' with Tony [the Tiger]. He can do pretty much everything. Except for putting on a woman's dress. That's the one thing he can't do."

"No, [Grimace] does not have special needs! He's just a simple guy. His job is to present situations for Ronald to solve ... He serves a wonderful purpose."

Still, the greatest revelation in this article is on page 1: The ad exec's repeated reenactment of the Pillsbury Doughboy jump:

"So I sat up on a table, and I told the animators: 'This is how he would do it.' And I actually jumped off the table." Lewis was not happy with the first round of sketches that came back. "It was like, no, no, no. And I got back on the table. And I said, 'I want him to be a little happier. There should be that moment of surprise before he squinches up his eyes and pushes off. Like this. And I pushed off. And everyone instantly said, 'Wow, that's our guy!'"

That's poppin' fresh.

The only thing the article appears to gloss over is the Trix rabbit. In most of the cases mentioned in the story, ad execs are careful to make sure that none of the cartoon pitchmen appears to be bumbling or foolish. Yet the Trix Rabbit failed so many times in his quest for Trix. Except I do remember that sometime late in my childhood, he got to eat the Trix in one commercial campaign. Silly rabbit, Trix are for... you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Get Out Of Blogging Free

Not to equate blogging to jail time, but I'm going to pretend that the birth of my nephew warrants a one-week hiatus from posting on this site. And you will nod and not question this logic in the slightest as I gracefully segue to the next paragraph.

In reality, I had a busy week at work compounded by early deadlines and a three-day trip to Boston. So today is really the first day I could catch up, albeit with a cold.

And now I present to you five things I thought about on my Boston trip. (Applause)

1. I saw a Boston Herald newspaper with the headline "Get Out Of Jail Free" on Sunday. I have no idea what the story was about, but I thought about what other Monopoly terms could make for good headlines. The first thing I thought of was "Do not pass 'Go'" which could be a movie critic's review of the Katie Holmes-Jay Mohr movie. But then I got to thinking that that would be an ambiguous sentence. "Do not pass 'Go,'" meaning "Don't miss it"? Or "Do not pass 'Go,'" meaning "Give it a failing grade"? I started confusing myself again so I went back to thinking about beagle puppies. Aww. Beagle puppies!

2. Pasta with sausage can sometimes look like someone decapitated a pig and tossed it on a couple of noodles. Just ask my friend Dennis.

3. The Boston College Acoustics are rock stars and their show Saturday night was fantastic. And their new CD, Fake Instruments, is ridonkulously amazing. I can't pick a favorite track, but I will say that you haven't lived until you've heard Billy Hurley's rendition of "Life Is A Highway" while coasting a mile or two over the speed limit on the Sprain Brook Parkway.

4. A lot fewer Red Sox hats in Boston these days. Always a good thing.

5. I realize that I haven't been keeping up with my Obscure SNL Skit of the Week series. In fact, I only did one. In the meantime, please accept this gift of Wikipedia's solid rundown of some of the most memorable commercial parodies. Although the lack of Velvet Jones commercials is just an atrocity.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Uncle Chris wants you

... to congratulate his sister and brother-in-law on the birth of Thomas Michael Carmody at about 2:15 p.m.!

Ah, the joys of being a first-time uncle. Here's to spoiling Tommy Boy rotten!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Onion + Sports = New Levels of Procrastination

Yes. Yes. And more yes. Behold the glory that is Onion Sports. Although it doesn't boast the expert opinions of ESPN Page 2, it more than compensates with its lack of censorship.

Want some headline samples? How about "Apparently Soccer Player Just Did Something Really Good" and "Vikings Quickly Sign Released Panthers Cheerleaders." Yeah, I thought so.

If you're all Peter Frampton-like and feel like I feel, check out the stock car photo and caption at the bottom of this week's page.

Presidentin's hard

According to CNN, Bush's approval rating is at an all-time low. An interesting sidebar lists the lowest Gallup poll approval ratings for recent presidents: Truman (22%), Nixon (24%), Carter (28%), Papa Bush (29%), Johnson (35%), Reagan (35%), Clinton (37%), Ford (37%), Dubya (37%), Eisenhower (49%) and Kennedy (56%).

Not surprising: Kennedy. Surprising: W tied with Clinton and still 8 percent better than his daddy.

The BC

Back in my Boston College days, I obsessed over four groups on campus. As a singer, I was a huge fan of my own two groups: the Boston College Acoustics and the University Chorale of Boston College. As a heterosexual male, I appreciated the talents of the Boston College Cheerleaders. And as a huge comedy buff, I was enraptured by My Mother's Fleabag improv, with whom Amy Poehler performed and for whom I auditioned my senior year. I was such a fan of Fleabag and their members that in 2000, I helped relaunch the annual FleabAcoustics show, which continues to this day.

But now I must add another group to the list, one I had never seen prior to a week ago: Asinine, an improv/sketch comedy group that brings us the awesomeness that is The BC.

First, I found their genius while tooling around on Facebook. Within days, my BC friends Christine and Dennis alerted me to the same link. It's just quality stuff, perfect for procrastinating at work or for memorizing between shots of Jagermeister.

For non-BC alumni, clicking on The BC (a parody of The OC) might be a good starting point. For those who bleed Maroon and Gold, check out this parody of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire," which includes a singing priest and a shout-out to the Acoustics! The song parody has gotten so huge, they play it on the Jumbotron at BC football games. Rock that.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Burninating trick-or-treaters

I'm battling the blues today, but Strong Bad's commentary about this collection of Homestar Runner-themed Halloween costumes done cheered me up.

It all culminates with Strong Bad torturing himself over whether the final costume of his fiercest rival is hot or not. Decide for yourself, sweetie.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Autumn Haiku

Orange leaves frolic
From Saw Mill Parkway fast lane;
Tiburon's teeth teem

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

My Name Is Oil

I realize that CNN often is criticized for spinning stories in liberal fashion, but I nonetheless was annoyed to discover yet another problem with national politics in a lead on the front page of the news provider's Web site this morning:

Fireworks started early today at a Senate hearing into high oil prices and record industry profits as Democrats and Republicans sparred over whether energy executives should have to swear to tell the truth before the panels.

Guess which side each party is taking!

Senate Commerce Chairman Ted Stevens rejected calls by some Democrats to have the executives sworn in, saying the law already required them to tell the truth. "There is nothing in the standing rules to require that witnesses be sworn," the Alaska Republican said. "These witnesses accepted the invitation to appear before the committee voluntarily. I shall not administer an oath today."

Stevens seems to love truth that lacks accountability. Maybe the two parties will reach a compromise and wind up asking one of the executives, "Do you kind of swear to tell the truth, sorta the truth, so we'll help you, Todd?"

Why did baseball players have to swear under oath over an issue that involves a game? They didn't volunteer; they were subpoenaed. So oil executives get a free pass over something that heavily impacts the U.S. economy, environment, political donations, and domestic and international policy? Why do they get to volunteer?

In a related story, we've never gone to war over steroids.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vote for Pedro

Sadly, Pedro was not on my ballot when I voted this morning. Some town and county politicos, however, offered their protection and have hairstyles similar to Pedro's fluffy coif. This one guy kept wanting me to vote for him because he's pretty good with a bo staff.

What I didn't vote for were several state propositions that I had intended to weigh in on but were not in my line of sight in the booth. A couple of my coworkers forgot or couldn't find them either. If only one tally determines the fate of those props, I'm going all hanging-chad on the Board of Elections' metaphorical keister.

I'm working the night shift here at the paper, covering said elections. Like any good Wendy's establishment, I'm here until midnight or later! The only difference is "what tastes right" here is delicious, mouth-watering journalism. Mmmmm.

As for who I want to win, my vote is fiercely loyal to any party that has food. Go Banana!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

K-Fed up

Kevin Federline. Luciano Pavarotti. The talent spectrum defined.

Taking a cue from his wife, Kevin Federline is poppin' a cap in music's ass. K-Fed's unreleased rap record (yes, rap record), "Y'all Ain't Ready," was leaked on the 'Net and (unintentionally?) summons the name of opera singer Luciano Pavarotti:

But maybe baby you can wait and see
Until then all these Pavarottis followin' me

This might be the funniest thing involving an opera singer not named Enrico Palazzo.

What's even funnier is that some Web sites are claiming his idiocy with Italian people and phrases is intentional. "Pavarottis," these sites claim, are his nickname for the paparazzi. Right. And Jessica Simpson's initial quips about Chicken of the Sea and Buffalo wings exhibited her mastery of deadpan humor.

Quoting Lloyd Grove, who reported the story for The (New York) Daily News: "To be fair, 'paparazzi' if a very difficult word to pronounce if you're an unemployed backup dancer from Fresno." Zing!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Obscure SNL Skit of the Week: The Whipmaster

So for a while now, I've wanted to take some space in this bloggeroo to talk about some of my favorite obscure Saturday Night Live skits (and not just because I've inadvertantly become an NBC blog lately.

I'm taking about the skits that were once-and-done, not involving a recurring character like "It's Pat" or "Wayne's World" -- just smart (or hilariously dumb) dialogue with a few brilliant facial expressions and unusual comedic payoffs. Maybe they're not terribly funny or hold up that well over time, but something about these skits cracks me up to this day. So here goes nuttin'.

Obscure SNL Skit No. 1: The Whipmaster (1992). (Transcript.)

The skit involves a television show about a Mississippi whip expert who hands out his own brand of justice. The only problem is the skillful actor who plays The Whipmaster is negotiating a contract with the television company and a nervous stand-in (played by the always-brilliant Bill Murray) must fumble his way through the action sequences.

Great set-up here, as explained by the voice-over artist and the scrolling text to open the show: "The producers would also like to point out that proficiency with a whip is very difficult to achieve and takes many years, and it is hoped that viewers will bear that in mind."

First of all, anytime Murray is prominently involved, the overall score ratchets up by 1,000. Supporting performances by Chris Farley, Phil Hartman and the fetching Julia Sweeney keep the laughs coming.

Farley, playing a bartender, asks Murray to prove that he is, indeed, The Whipmaster, by knocking the cigar out of his mouth. Murray repeatedly thrashes around the piece of leather until the camera finally cuts back to Farley, which scars all over his face and the cigar falling out of his mouth. Farley remains true to the line given to him, but utters it in pain and with ironic deadpan: "Wow! That's really amazing! You really are the Whipmaster!" I love this because lost in all the "Farley's funny because he's fat" commentary that followed SNL, you get an excellent sense of how he could work "small" in just this one snippet.

Then Hartman, always an excellent villain, struts into the bar and taunts Murray and pulls a gun on him. Murray, aiming for the gun in Hartman's clearly outstretched hand, misses badly and the whip strikes Hartman in the groin. (Yes, an easy groin joke... but wait for the payoff, please.) Murray, also remaining true to his script, utters in matter-of-fact fashion, "I guess he won't be using that gun for a while." That line in almost anyone else's hands might get a cheap laugh, but Murray delivers it with such (un)intentional nuance that it works. And Hartman's squeal as he's hit in the most sensitive of areas is just priceless.

Sweeney walks in as the token hot character Becky, whom The Whipmaster evidently has stood up for a date. As she's walking out the door, he cracks his whip at her legs. He pulls at his whip, tied to a dummy that barely resembles Becky, thereby knocking the dummy to the ground, then yanks the lifeless dummy toward him. The camera cuts to him reaching over to pick the real Becky up. "That whip is one smooth talker!" Becky proclaims.

Just classic. I'm guessing Tom Davis, who plays the cowboy in this scene, wrote the skit. If so, thanks very much, TD. It's one of my all-time obscure favorites.