Thursday, November 30, 2006

Pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay bad

I had a "Curb Your Enthusiasm" moment a couple of weeks ago when I was at the gas station. Mr. David, if you should want to include this in your show at some point, feel free, as long as I receive a guest spot on your show in return. (You're welcome.)

So on my way home from work one night, I pull into one of those gas stations that's exclusively full-service. When I have the option, I always prefer self-service to avoid incidents like the following.

The gas station attendant fills up my Tiburon's tank at a cost of $30.50. Being the anal-retentive freak that I often am, I give the gas station attendant exact change while sitting in my car. During this transaction, he drops one of the two quarters and the fallen coin rolls around on the dark pavement to parts unknown. The attendant kindly says, "Don't worry about it." His response annoys me.

In reality, I drive home at that point without incident. But here's how I picture the scene unfolding with me/Larry David in the car and special guest star Paul Scheer as the attendant:

Me: "Uh, aren't you going to pick that up right now?"
Him: "Hmm?"
Me: "The quarter. Aren't you going to find it?"
Him: "Nah, I'll find it later."
Me: "Huh. (Tilts head during three-second pause) Okaaay."
Him: "What?"
Me: "So, the quarter'll just sit there."
Him: "I'll
look for it later."
Me: "No, you won't. It's pitch black out! Tomorrow morning, someone else could take it."
Him (miffed): "What's it to you? You paid in full."
Me: "But I didn't pay for someone else to walk by and pick it up! That's a waste of my money!"
Him: "Look, buddy, whatever happens to that quarter is my business now."
Me: "Not if you never see it again!" (Gets out of car.)
Him: "What are you doing?"
Me (Palm outstretched): Give me that other quarter back."

Him: "What?"
Me: "You heard me. If you aren't going to use that quarter you won't bother to find, I'll use the other one. Give it back!"
Him: "That's ridiculous! That gas cost you $30.50, and that's what you gave me! Get off my property!"
Me: "Not until you give me that other quarter!"
Him: "It's. A freakin'. Quarter!"
Me: "But it's my quarter!"
Him: "No, it's not!"

A scrum unfolds, and a cigarette lighter that carried some mildly amusing significance earlier in the episode falls out of my pocket and ignites a pool of gasoline next to the pumps. Seeing this, the attendant and I bolt off the property just in time to watch the entire gas station explode. We look at each other silently, mouths agape.

(BUM, BUM, BUM, dadalada-da-dadalada-da-dun-dun-dunnn, dun-dun-dun dadalada-da-dadala-da, da-dun! Whee! Boom!)*

*This was my sorry attempt at the show's opening/closing theme song. Preceded by my sorry attempt to write a script for a show that's supposed to be improvised. My apologies.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Reverse the (Campbell's Soup) curse

Call me crazy, but I'm guessing before Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck agreed to an endorsement deal with the Campbell's Soup people, he asked them to wait until he got hurt before releasing the ads to prevent more serious injury. I hadn't seen any of his ads prior to this week's Monday Night Football game, when he returned to play after missing a month with a knee injury.

You think I'm kidding? Witness the brothy burdens placed upon fellow Campbell's Soup pitchmen, Donovan McNabb (torn ACL, out for the season) and Ben Roethlisberger (appendectomy/motorcycle accident without a helmet), whose ads appeared before their more serious injuries.

I mean, "Soup is Good Food" and all that, but it won't help you when you're on Injured Reserve.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Bringing a little Basketweaving to the tri-county area

Thanks to my Gannett colleague Ted Mann, I am the newest contributor to The Journal News' entertainment blog, Suburbarazzi. Basically, it covers any news involving celebrities who have a connection to Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties.

Take a looksie at my first Suburbarazzi contribution as well as my quasi-professional bio for that site!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Who's got the best faces this fall?

If the year is 1988, the answer is Balki, Roseanne and Columbo:

Gotta love the emotional, soulful solo at the end, complete with piano vamp.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Maybe I'm just bitter I never made it past the New York City audition to be one of those "Reading Rainbow" book reviewers. But here's some sweet, sweet revenge that takes the form of a "music video," whose lyrics I still know verbatim some 20 years later:

I'll attempt to pick 10 sequential highlights from the infinite options:

1. Wow, where to start? OK, how about the skintight florescent green and pink outfits? Also, those girls don't have a lot of, um, coverage on the lower half. Thank you, Public Broadcasting!

2. At the 52-second mark, you'll see a random finger-pointing action, which makes no sense unless you remember the whole episode. If I recall correctly, earlier in the show, video director Sammy Dallas Bayes was looking for a way to pep up this sequence, so music director Steve Horelick agreed to add a spiffy drum riff to the score. So the finger-wagging was a cue to the viewer: "Hey, remember that part we added?" Yes, and that has made all the difference.

3. At the 1:13 mark, the waitress/dancer on the right makes a phenomenal one-handed grab of three falling paper plates. It would have been even more impressive if the plates weren't taped or glued together in some way, as closer inspection appears to reveal. But still, nice grab there, Alice!

4. At the 1:20 mark, is it just me, or does the chef look a lot like Clayton from "Benson"?

5. At the 1:55 mark, check out the last leg of the human-made fire engine. Just how exactly is the piggybacking woman contributing to said teamwork?

6. At the 2:02 mark, LeVar Burton's attempt to help with the ladder is weak at best, a nuisance at worst.

7. From the 2:22 to 2:46 marks, well... there are no words. Bonus points for a basketball backboard that looks like it was a fourth-grader's art project.

8. Some totally rad Van Halen-esque guitar licks from the 3:16 to 3:25 marks. It's seriously impressive. PBS seems to understand that even as an 8-year-old, I WANNA ROCK!

9. At the end, I love how all of the dancers get so excited. But what are they excited about, exactly? And yet, it's quite endearing.

10. LeVar gives us sage advice. LeVar is the greatest. I'm not joking.

UPDATE: Thanks to GorillaMask and Cracked for the awesome linkage action! That's what happens when we work together... as a team!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Thanks to the 6,000-plus(!) people who visited this blog post on Nov. 22! That's teamtastic.

'Avenue Q' meets 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'

As someone who takes improv comedy classes, I know how difficult it can be to be funny in front of an audience without a script. But I'm not lugging around a piece of felt while I'm doing it.

So, of course I was taken aback Monday night when I was flipping through the channels and found the choreographer from Showgirls on TBS, taking audience suggestions for improv scenes featuring foul-mouthed comedians strapped to carefully constructed pieces of felt.

Hand-happy hilarity, thy name is Puppet Up.

I'll say this much, as many scenes flopped like Snuffleupagus' nose, but others were really, really clever and amusing. The level of difficulty, of course, was unlike anything I had seen in the world of improv, so even when I didn't laugh, I admired the unbelievable multitasking.

No pressure or anything: Just stick with the audience suggestion, be funny, synchronize your off-the-cuff words and defined expressions with those of the puppet, be funny, interact with other puppets, keep it aligned with live cameras that crop you out of the picture, and be funny. Otherwise, it's totally easy.

If these guys ever gig in New York City, I'll definitely be in the audience.

If the concept of R-rated Muppets sounds oxymoronic to you, just remember that Jim Henson's creations were supposed to be a prominent part of "Saturday Night Live" when the show launched. So hearing his puppeteers, more than 30 years later, cursing up a storm isn't too farfetched.

Somewhat related: I'd just like to give a shout-out to any celebrity who's ever been on "Sesame Street." You earn automatic cred with me. (Remember: Put down the duckie if you wanna play the saxophone.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

My iPod's ancient

But, really, what's my incentive to get a new one? Every six months, Apple releases better, smaller and sleeker models with video capabilities and other party favors. I'd have wasted thousands of dollars at this point if I bought every upgrade.

So for now, I'll stick with my glorified Walkman. Even if the music, screen and backlight like to freeze while I'm listening to Destiny's Child's "Bootylicious." Not embarrassing at all.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Evidently, it's not enough for me to want shows to succeed if I don't bother to watch them.

Call me a lazy American -- at least when it comes to trying new network TV shows. I prefer to root for some TV shows, rather than actually taking the time to watch them.

I really wanted "Arrested Development" to succeed. But I never watched a single episode, despite the fact that friends and family are convinced I'll be hooked on the DVDs.

I liked the premiere episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," but haven't watched it since.

I've always laughed at the comedy stylings of Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan and Rachel Dratch. But I've yet to catch "30 Rock." I mean, the guy who brought us Astronaut Jones alone should be enough incentive for me to watch, no?

And yet all of these shows are struggling to retain viewers on a weekly basis. Especially "Arrested Development," which is, um, not on TV anymore.

Maybe all of this has to do with the karmic implications of my rooting so hard against "Dancing With The Stars."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Enough about me. Let's talk about me.

Want to learn more about me? Here's a good way to do so.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I am your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate

You can now get to this page via the more recognizable and more-annoying-to-type

You can still get here the old way, but I figured landing the domain name would be a great way to solidify my blog identity. Or something.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Honoring the Man In Black who never used a Neuralizer to erase people's memories

Found this spiffy black-and-white tribute video to Johnny Cash on's site today:

Some thoughts:

- This video's jam-packed with A-list celebrities who have made a name for themselves with years and years' worth of work -- and Corinne Bailey Rae. I like her one song and all, but jeez, even Lisa Marie Presley has more of a right to be in this thing.

- Also, perhaps my favorite part, keep an eye out for the Bill Parcells look-alike at the 2:18 mark.

- Chicken vs. egg debate: Was Cash's version released first, or was Moby's "Run On" the predecessor? Both very different, both very cool.

'I'm crushing your head' meets 'Krush Groove'

While reading the display on my Sirius satellite radio this morning, I deduced that Dave Foley had found work in between seasons of "Celebrity Poker Showdown."

I quickly realized that rap duo Kidz in the Hall, with a subtle change of one letter, had employed the services of neither a Foley nor a McCullogh.

Fun fact! I wanted to rip into the Kidz for their blatant name rip-off, but they're actually pretty good. Reminiscent of Kanye West and OutKast, but a bit more old-school.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nerd alert!

Let's hear it for the first movie franchise that will force me to go to the theatre on opening night for the third straight time.

Thus breaking my current record of two, held by, um, the Spider-Man franchise.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Because it's crucial to know which crooked logo belongs to Yahoo!

I love logos. You should too.

That's why you should take this test. It's timed, so you have to be fast, be accurate and avoid productivity.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Star Wars: A New Hope

After two years that tore America apart, hope returned to our nation with Election Day results.

And I hear there was some kind of votey-type thing yesterday, too.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Yo Momma's joke is so old, it's got an autographed copy of the Bible

With the exception of its use by MasterCard advertising executives, I am demanding immediate cease-and-desist orders for any conversational set-up that lists various goods and services and their corresponding costs, followed by the punchline "Priceless."

This joke format got tired about two or three years ago, but seeing it dragged out a week or so ago for MTV's "Yo Momma" marks the official -- and long overdue -- end of the trend.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The funniest movie title since "Snakes On A Plane" has to be...

"Let's Go To Prison." And the trailer's funny, too!

Honorable mention: "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." And the movie's funny, too!

Five signs you're a Boston College football fan

1. Your team is ignored and unranked in preseason polls, despite holding the active Division-I record for consecutive bowl wins.

2. Your team fights its way into the Top 25 rankings, only to lose a game to an embarrassing opponent.

3. Your quarterback is good, but not great.

4. Your team climbs back up to a teen ranking in the polls, only to lose the most significant regular season game of the year.

5. At the end of the regular season, your team is ranked between 20th and 25th, and your team is dispatched to a glorified away game for a postseason appearance, while other teams reap millions more dollars for their bowl participation. (Pending.)

Friday, November 03, 2006

An open letter to the people of Alabama


Please refrain from shooting at "Dukes of Hazzard"/"Smallville" star John Schneider. He is just a Good Ol' Boy who happens to be one of Superman's legal guardians.

Plus, Schneider was born in Westchester, which you and I know is the best, Chester!

Trust me, you don't want to make Clark Kent mad. He'll write a really scathing column about you in The Daily Planet.

Thank you,
Varsity Basketweaving.


Thoughts had while watching the final installment of VH1's '100 Greatest Songs of the 80's'

Last night, I spent another hour of my life watching yet another VH1 top 100 show that hooked me with a death grip and wouldn't let me go. Here were my musings:

- I have no issue with VH1 online voters (more about them later) ranking Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" at No. 19. What I nearly flipped out over was the fact that the special named several "artists" who covered the song, including the legendary Joey McIntyre, but omitted the gut-wrenchingly beautiful Eva Cassidy version that might be better than the original. That's like mentioning Roseanne's cover of the national anthem but ignoring Whitney Houston's. Reedonkulous.

- Panelist Darryl McDaniels has always been my favorite member of Run DMC. Maybe because he's the bespectacled Simon to Jam Master Jay's Alvin and Reverend Run's Theodore, but he just seemed to me to be the coolest, most down-to-earth member of the group.

Also, a propos of nothing, I saw Run DMC open for Guster once at Boston College. Strangest concert pairing I've ever seen.

- Now 28 years old, almost two decades after U2's "With or Without You" came out, I had always thought of it as a breakup song. While explaining its No. 13 ranking on the list, VH1 made me realize that the song might also be about God. Now I realize that "see the thorn twist in your side," "you give yourself away" and all subsequent lyrics might have metaphysical connotations. As a college English and Communication double-major, I should have been the first to overanalyze this song and adopt the out-there interpretation.

- Panelist Mike Mills (of R.E.M. fame) seems about as accessible as Michael Stipe doesn't.

- Hmm... "Come On Eileen" at No. 18? Whitney Houston's "How Will I Know" at No. 12? And "Like A Virgin" at No. 8? I guess all the men were busy voting on Maxim and ESPN's online polls instead.

- Now, Hall & Oates are pretty cool, but "I Can't Go For That" is the 6th-best song of the 80's? Really? I don't even know any lyric from that song other than the title! Let's face it: "Maneater" was a better song, but even that should peak on this list at like No. 42, tops.

- Props go out to two panelists in particular: deejay Chris Booker (formerly of the formerly awesome 92.3 FM in New York City, now on mornings in Philly) and comedian Godfrey, both of whom I've had some pleasantries with in the last couple of years.

Explain your answer:

For a couple of days about two years ago, I was very briefly in the running to be Booker's on-air Sports Guy correspondent, doing snarky sports reports for his afternoon show. That is, until a genuinely funny and talented guy by the name of Nick Stevens took that spot and ran with it. I called into Booker's show a couple of times after that while he was still on the air in NYC, and Stevens is hilarious as well on the New York comedy scene. Both seem to be nice guys and it's sweet to see them fare well for themselves.

While I was on a date a couple of years ago, I caught Godfrey at the Comedy Cellar. When he asked me where I was going to school, I explained to him that I was 26 and a journalist. He picked up on the fact that I had a low, resonating voice and from that point onward referred to me as Stone Philips. He spent the next five minutes setting up my hypothetical reporting from Iraq, which was hysterical. At the end, he said something to the effect of, "Oh, no, if you're a reporter, you're probably going to write about how much I suck now." Just the opposite, man, you were awesome.

- Promo time! I have to say, my interest in VH1's "Totally Awesome" was totally nonexistent until I found out that Neal Brennan -- who cowrote and cocreated "Chappelle's Show" -- was involved. That, combined with the clips of Tracy Morgan that I saw, might just suck me in. Or it might just suck.

- The top 3: "Hungry Like the Wolf" gets the bronze (meh), "Pour Some Sugar On Me" gets the silver (nice!) and "Livin' on a Prayer" wins the gold (shrug). I grew up hating Bon Jovi, but I'll admit now that they're good musicians with some catchy tunes. I think I hate to love them. Or the other way around. Still can't make up my mind.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Might as well jump (JUMP!)

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just released its nominees for next year's induction. Here are my (worthless) votes, in order of most worthy to least worthy:

-Van Halen (as long as Gary Cherone is not inducted)

-Grandmaster Flash (I'd say yes, but it is a ROCK hall of fame, after all)
-The Ronettes
-The Stooges

-Patti Smith
-Dave Clark Five
-Joe Tex