Monday, September 25, 2006

Dropping the ball

I was bemused by an ESPN commercial last night that promoted pregame festivities for tonight's Monday Night Football game "with special performances by the Goo Goo Dolls, U2 and Green Day."

That's like promoting a Saturday Night Live episode "with special performances by Melanie Hutsell, Bill Murray and Eddie Murphy."

If the artists were listed alphabetically, I would not have taken umbrage. But U2 arguably is the most popular band on the planet with nearly three decades of seminal material and a Nobel Prize nominee fronting the band. And as punk-pop trendsetters, Green Day is one of the most successful and influential bands of the last decade with the jaw-dropping, Grammy-winning "American Idiot" serving as their crowning achievement.

And then you have the guy who sang the saptacular theme song from that Nic Cage-Meg Ryan chick flick headlining the pregame.

Don't get me wrong. Despite one of the worst band names in history, Johnny Rzezez-aeiou-sometimes-y-nik and company are reasonably talented and can lay claim to at least three bona fide hits. But they're hardly top billing at their own shows these days.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Your bear suit is a wonder, man

I knew nothing of this so-called "John Mayer Has A TV Show" business before watching VH1's "40 Greatest Pranks" (Wait, Mayer's show was on VH1, too? You don't say!), but I have to admit that this makes up for any artist cred he loses in dating Jessica Simpson.

Besides, you have to love anybody who makes a cameo on "Chappelle's Show." (Points off for Dave, though, for admitting in the DVD commentary that he had never heard of Mayer before he appeared on the set for that skit.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Reason No. 2,381 why I'm a hypocrite

I think it's absolutely insane to put bumper stickers with political affiliations or stances on your car, but find it perfectly normal to use a vehicular forum to pledge allegiance to your sports team of choice.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Rediscover the magic that is Weird Al Yankovic

Raised on "Even Worse" and "Off The Deep End," I've always had a reverence for Weird Al Yankovic. After all, how can you not give props to a guy who proved to be Frank Drebin's nemesis in "The Naked Gun" trilogy and who introduced us to Kramer before he was Kramer? ("My mop!")

Anyway, after those two albums -- and perhaps because I was no longer an adolescent -- I never felt like Al quite nailed any of his subsequent song parodies. That is, until today, when Best Week Ever's blog introduced me to "White And Nerdy," a brilliant parody of Chamillionaire's "Ridin'."

Because Al is so good at mimicing the style of the original artist, his rap skills on "W&N" are actually pretty impressive. So if you happen to miss a few words, check out all the ha-has in the lyrics.

To celebrate this career resurgence, I suggest listening to "Polka Your Eyes Out." Especially if your name is Conor Mulcahy.

Now that's what I call method acting

Someone should tell these wannabe actors that looking the part isn't enough to get on "CSI."

FDA renders Popeye powerless, Bluto unstoppable

TOONTOWN — Deprived of his legendary forearm strength and guttural laugh, Popeye endured a beating by repeat offender Bluto after the Food and Drug Administration warned Americans to avoid all fresh spinach due to the spread of E. coli.

An inconsolable Olive Oyl could only be heard wailing "Oh, Popeye!" repeatedly while seeking comfort in the arms of new best friend, Nicole Richie.

A source close to Mr. Eye, who spoke to the Toontown Tribune on the condition of anonymity, said that when Mr. Eye had learned about the E. coli outbreak, he said, "That's all [the spinach] I can stands (sic), and I can't stands (sic) no more [spinach]."

Police reports indicate that he could still tolerate a "severe beat-down" by Bluto, who was last seen laughing maniacally, with hands on hips. Police Chief Michael Bumbleberger said Mr. Eye's posterior was "literally handed to him," a scene not unfamiliar to residents of crime-riddled Toontown.

Bluto, whose first name is unknown, is a white male listed at 5-foot-10 and 400 pounds, with dark hair and an unkempt beard. He is wanted on felony counts of attempted murder, kidnapping, and criminal possession of a forearm. Seeking tips, Mr. Bumbleberger promised to continue the "tireless search" for Bluto within the extremely small town.

Popeye's demise has wreaked havoc on the Toontown. Tragedy struck this weekend, when foul play was cited in the tragic death of J. Wellington Wimpy. Medics reported finding Mr. Wimpy slumped over his kitchen table, his face buried in a half-eaten burger.

In a statement released the next day, Bluto claimed responsibility for the dastardly deed, admitting to replacing the hamburger's crisp lettuce with nearly indistinguishable baby spinach leaves.

"Hahahahahahaha," he wrote. "Hahahahaha."

Paramedics said Mr. Wimpy had been gasping for breath in the ambulance while uttering his last words: "I never intended ... to pay ... for those [expletive] burgers."

McDonald's will host a reception for Mr. Wimpy at 10:30 a.m., when breakfast is no longer served.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Spam is best served behind bars

I'd like to propose a law that sentences serious spammers to a day in jail for every unsollicited e-mail they send to unwilling recipients.

Under my zero-tolerance international spam law, this guy would get 5,475,701 years and 7 months in jail. Seems about right.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Farewell to a class act

I just found out that one of my absolute favorite college professors, Fr. Frank Murphy, passed away at age 71 on Aug. 28.

Although I was about as likely to be a history major as I was to study rocket science, Father Murphy made every Western Civ class I took fascinating and fun, all while narrating with the most endearing, soft-spoken New England accent. In and out of class, his sense of humor was evident, and he took as much interest in his students as he did his curriculum.

I took Father Frank's classes for two straight semesters early in my college career, including a smaller discussion group that met once weekly. After class one day, Murphy pulled me aside and encouraged me to volunteer to read books for the blind, citing my "mahvelous voice." A few jokes later, we forged one of my strongest student-teacher bonds.

After that second semester's grades were turned in, he invited me and two of my classmates and friends, Conor and Ethan, to an Italian restaurant. The three of us, with a common sense of off-beat humor, clicked with Father Frank and dinner was no different as we exchanged jokes and anecdotes.

I would talk with Father Frank whenever I saw him around campus and would visit him in his office during the occasional break between classes. We'd talk baseball, travel and the future, about which he was always the most optimistic for me, even when I had my doubts. I distinctly remembered one moment in which I was reluctant to take his compliments and he deadpanned, "That's the Irish in you." My Irish-American mom and Italian-American dad got a kick out of that.

During the graduation ceremony for some 2,000 graduating members of the Class of Arts & Sciences in 2000, Murphy was one of many to hand out the fake diplomas, but by complete chance -- perhaps divine intervention -- he was also the one to hand me my replica with a wide smile.

I kept in touch with Father Frank for the next couple of years over the phone, and he always had time for me. When I lost his phone number, I unsuccessfully tried to reconnect with him through Boston College. I was more disappointed when I realized I couldn't find him in the phone book, either. But because of our previous chats, whenever I had doubted myself, I knew there was at least one person outside of my family who believed in what I could accomplish, personally and professionally.

My friend Jeff, who had Father Murphy as an advisor and recommended him to me as a professor, e-mailed me today to tell me the news of his passing. I took it much harder than I thought I would, especially as I realized all the ways The Murph had looked out for me in the last decade.

I will miss his faith that extended way beyond religion. I will miss his quiet jabs at my beloved Yankees. And I will miss a man whose greatness could easily be best measured by the way he made his friends feel, even if they happened to lose touch.

It's been four years since our last and undoubtably fun conversation, but Frank's own "mahvelous voice" will resonate with me forever.

What could have been my last thought while eating a Wendy's Classic Double with extra cheese and no onions

For the half-second that said cheeseburger got lodged in my windpipe last night, I thought people might say, "He died doing what he loved."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Putting the 'ass' in mass transportation

On a somber anniversary in which smiles can in be in short supply, let's take a moment to escape by celebrating the Manhattan antics of Improv Everywhere.

Why, you ask? Consider the following:

- On consecutive subway stops, members entered a car without pants but did not acknowledge each other.

- The group sent 80 agents in blue shirts and khakis to Best Buy, matching the workers' dress code and infuriating management.

- The group also hit up Home Depot, where they proceeded to shop in slow-mo, regular speed and freeze-frame.

- Members repeatedly reenacted the same five-minute scene in a Starbucks, confusing workers and patrons alike.

- The crew gave free "tours of Manhattan" via inflatable boats in tiny Union Square fountains.

- My friend Chad was involved in many of these pranks.

Hooray for IE founder Charlie Todd, who's an Upright Citizens Brigade Teacher, natch!

Here's a great AP article that summarizes Improv Everywhere's awesomeness. It's a safe bet I'll be here on Sept. 30.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Opinions equal facts, right?

On ESPN's Web site this afternoon, fans were asked the choose one of five responses to "My favorite NFL team will ________." Here's how to interpret the nearly 88,000 results that had been tallied as of about 2 p.m. EST Sunday:

Michigan (Home to the Detroit Lions): The only state in which the bulk of the fans voted "Probably done by Week 4." You know your team has been a disappointment if your fans have absolutely no faith before the season even starts. Like Kevin Federline at the Teen Choice Awards, you knew it would bad before the show started.

Louisiana (Home to the New Orleans Saints): The only state in which most of the fans responded with "Not embarrass me completely." Last year's frustrating year was compounded by Hurricane Katrina slamming the Gulf Coast, forcing the Saints to play "home" games as far away as Giants Stadium. (Totally fair!) But at least this year, they have Reggie Bush -- the NFL's most exciting college draft pick since, uh, ever -- so he'll be fun to watch, at least.

Wisconsin (Home to the Green Bay Packers): A tie between "Hopefully will make the playoffs!" and "Not embarrass me completely." In other words, a tie between fans who remember who Brett Favre used to be, and the fans who remember who Brett Favre is now.

Missouri (Home to the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs), Minnesota (Home to the Minnesota Vikings) and North Dakota (Home to... uh... snow): "Hopefully will make the playoffs!" I actually think North Dakota's snow has a better shot of making the playoffs than the Green Bay Packers.

26 states (Home to a lot of teams) and non-US voters (Home to a lot of political animosity toward the United States): "At least will make the playoffs!" This is probably the healthiest attitude going into a season. Moderate expectations, meaning fewer boos per home game than a Barry Bonds away game.

18 states (Home to some teams): "Will win the Super Bowl!" Wow, 17 states are in for a real shocker. I'm looking in your direction, New Mexico.

Hawaii (Home to a bizarre season of "The Real World"): A tie between "Will win the Super Bowl!" and "At least make the playoffs!" If I lived in Hawaii, the last thing I'd be thinking about is football. Mmm... Hawaii.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

'Want to see proof I was at the no-hitter? Let me print out my ticketFast receipt again. Wait, where are you going?'

For those among the 12,561 some-odd baseball fans who were lucky enough to witness last night's Marlins no-hitter and bought their tickets through traditional means, they can treasure their one-of-a-kind ticket stubs, whose unmistakeable proof of purchase adds value to the stub and legitimacy to any exaggerated stories they might tell about the game.

But for those who were "smart" enough to purchase tickets via ticketFast on the Internet, all they can do is curse the convenience of their easily reproduced receipts, which not only are the aesthetic equivalent of an Excel spreadsheet in a scrapbook but also garner absolutely zero interest from memorabilia collectors.

Unlike traditional ticket stubs, which are only printed once by some fancy machine, ticketFast tickets can be printed an infinite number of times on 8.5x11 paper with an everyday printer and still be legitimate for those seats on the day of the game, thereby making their financial and sentimental value practically worthless.

Curse you, ticketFast. What is gained in convenience and a reduction in ridiculous service charge is lost in beauty.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Buzz off

Returning to the bag of Burger King goodies I had left on my car roof to gather my things from the passenger seat, I saw a bee hovering near the top of the bag. With no hands free to shoo it away, I proceeded to shout "No!" at it as if it were a bad dog.

Bees just don't understand me.

If you happen to see the burger bee, say hi to that bee for me. Whee!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Instant Feedback

Earlier this week, Matthew (a.k.a. Feedback) was proclaimed the winner of the SciFi channel's "Who Wants To Be A Superhero?" reality show. If you didn't see any of it, you missed out on the summer's nicest surprise.

Sure, the show had plenty of flaws.

The special effects were anything but. One of my favorites was superhero creator Stan Lee's video-taped messages to the contestants. Because of the way the show was filmed, there was no point when could the viewer be positive the contestants were actually speaking with Lee (as opposed to, perhaps, a producer off-screen). Lee only came out behind the facade of a TV screen at the end to congratulate the winner. In addition, the editors would obviously superimpose Stan's messages onto Palm Pilots, whose brand names were obscured with electrical tape, because they didn't want to imply endorsement. Classy. But hey, production quality is not one of SciFi channel's strengths to begin with, so what should I expect?

And for the final decision, instead of just naming a winner, the show committed a Reality TV Felony when they first announced the last loser before acknowledging the winner in anticlimactic fashion. That's just cruel! Also, the winner was announced in front of a bunch of stragglers at the Universal City walk, who appeared to be barely interested in what was going on. Sad. The contestants and viewers deserved better.

Despite all this, the show -- only six episodes long! -- was a genuinely entertaining view. Almost all the contestants were likeable and took the competition seriously to varying degrees. The twists to the challenges were wonderful; in the premiere episode, contestants had to change into their superhero costumes and run to the goal, but in a few cases, ignored a crying little girl en route to the finish line. In addition, because of the somewhat silly nature of the competition, most of the contestants still appear to be good friends, as their MySpace profiles seem to indicate.

Hopefully SciFi will not only pick up the show for a second season, but also buy 12 episodes and pump some more production money into it.

And yes, thank you, I'm a nerd.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Because "awesomely bad" is a cop-out

Don't get me wrong, I've enjoyed watching the reruns of VH1 and Blender magazine's "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever," but let's face a reality here: most of these songs are either awesome or bad. And that's why you have me here to tell you the difference.

I was on the fence for about 20 of these, but I'm treating each of these like a gun-to-my-head answer; if it's closer to awesome than bad, I'll call it awesome, and vice versa. Do I really think "Cotton Eye Joe" is awesome? No, but I do really think "Sunglasses At Night" and "Thong Song" are.

Anyway, here we go:

"50. "Sunglasses At Night" by Corey Hart - Awesome
49. "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy & The Family - Bad
48. "Can I Touch You...There?" by Michael Bolton - Bad
47. "Something In Common" by Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston - Bad
46. "Two Princes" by Spin Doctors - Awesome
45. "Sorry 2004" by Ruben Studdard - Bad
44. "We Didn't Start The Fire" by Billy Joel - Awesome
43. "Make Em Say Uhh" by Master P - Bad
42. "Cotton Eye Joe" by Rednex - Awesome
41. "Some Girls (Dance With Women)" by JC Chasez - Bad
40. "What's Up" by 4 Non Blondes - Awesome
39. "Informer" by Snow - Awesome
38. "Mesmerize" by Ja Rule and Ashanti - Awesome
37. "From A Distance" by Bette Midler - Bad
36. "I Wanna Sex You Up" by Color Me Badd - Badd
35. "Heartbeat" by Don Johnson - Bad
34. "Butterfly" by Crazy Town - Awesome
33. "Jenny From The Block" by Jennifer Lopez - Bad
32. "Broken Wings" by Mr. Mister - Awesome
31. "You Remind Me Of Something" by R. Kelly - Bad
30. "Pimp Juice" by Nelly - Bad
29. "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" by Meatloaf - Bad
28. "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Rick Astley - Bad
27. "Rump Shaker" by Wreckx n Effect - Awesome
26. "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You" by Bryan Adams - Bad
25. "You Rock My World" by Michael Jackson - Awesome
24. "Sussudio" by Phil Collins - Bad*
23. "Thong Song" by Sisqo - Awesome
22. "Dancing On The Ceiling" by Lionel Richie - Bad
21. "I'll Be There For You" by The Rembrandts - Bad
20. "Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue" by Toby Keith - Bad
19. "You're The Inspiration" by Chicago - Bad
18. "Pumps And A Bump" by Hammer - Bad
17. "I'm Too Sexy" by Right Said Fred - Awesome
16. "The Final Countdown" by Europe - Awesome
15. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies - Awesome
14. "Will 2K" by Will Smith - Bad*
13. "Barbie Girl" by Aqua - Bad
12. "Hangin' Tough" by New Kids on the Block - Bad
11. "Rico Suavé" by Gerardo - Awesome*
10. "Heart Of Rock & Roll" by Huey Lewis and The News - Bad
9. "Don't Worry Be Happy" by Bobby McFerrin - Awesome
8. "She Bangs" by Ricky Martin - Bad*
7. "Party All The Time" by Eddie Murphy - Bad
6. "Breakfast At Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something - Bad
5. "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice - Awesome
4. "Rollin'" by Limp Bizkit - Awesome
3. "Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung - Awesome
2. "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus - Bad
1. "We Built This City" by Starship - Awesome

UPDATE! Decisions with an asterisk were switched after a change of heart. (See comments.)