Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Actual e-mail I received yesterday from my father, recounting information he heard from one of his friends, a fellow retired teacher:

"(His) mother saw today's RNN segment. Among the words she used to describe you were: 'excellent, good looking, and manly.' Combined with (your) grandma's superlative reviews, it looks as though you've got the 'Mature Women' demographic all locked up."

I might just have to perform my act live at bingo nights now. More important, though: Just how many superdelegates does this demographic translate to?

Anyway, have a slice of apple pie and judge for yourself:

Monday, February 25, 2008

I was dreamin' when I wrote this; forgive me if it goes astray

It would have been cool if in 1999, there were an artist named Princess who released a song called "1983."

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Bravery continue being infinitely cooler than The Killers

Sure, The Killers are the more successful band by almost every industry standard, but I find The Bravery to be far superior songwriters. Plus, they're just cooler, obviously.

They put on an excellent show on Thursday night at Terminal 5. They rocked out all of their greatest works -- including "Unconditional," "Time Won't Let Me Go," "An Honest Mistake," "Fearless," "Tyrant," "Something To Believe" -- and sounded fantastic doing so. Compared to the Foo Fighters show I saw two days earlier, it was a far shorter set, but I had to remind myself that two-hour setlists are the exception, not the norm. Besides, the ticket prices were reasonable and it's always better to leave them wanting more than to overstay your welcome, right?

If I had to complain about anything, it might have been the decision to do the "reimagined" versions of three of the group's ballads from their tweaked re-release of "The Sun And The Moon." Hitting stores in March, the re-release will present all the songs from the album of the same name in a new way. It was distracting to the audience, particularly on "The Ocean," which lost nearly all of the emotion from its slower counterpart, and "Tragedy Bound," whose alternate version even had lead singer Sam Endicott fumbling for the words at the start of the second verse. The alternate "This Is Not The End," however, provided a cool, stompier interpretation.

Overall, though, a fantastic show. Closing the encore with "Unconditional," such a phenomenal anthem for wandering twentysomethings, alone was worth the price of admission.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Because Perry Farrell is the very beacon of masculinity

I accidentally left my portable Sirius satellite radio component at home today, so I decided to listen to K-Rock, which seems to be a little defensive, and contradictory, in its latest pitch to listeners.

Between songs at about 4:45 p.m., the raspy male K-Rock announcer told listeners to listen elsewhere if they wanted "high-brow, metrosexual radio stations."

Before I had time to be offended, K-Rock proceeded to play Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says."

Just sayin'.
Photo: Getty Images.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Inadvertantly(?) salacious advertising

It's bad enough to misplace an apostrophe in an ad, but it's worse when the error pales in comparison to the undeniable creepiness of its context.

In an Rothman's clothing ad that's pervasive on Metro-North trains, the store boasts that it's "NOW OFFERING BOY'S CLOTHING IN SCARSDALE."

I really feel bad for that boy. First he's being stripped of his clothing, then he's being stripped of his dignity while a poster brags to thousands of commuters about how the store's humiliating the kid. Such bullies.

What's that you say? The ad is trying to convey that the store's selling clothing for boys, plural? Sorry, my mistake.

Actually, no, it's still the ad's.

Dave Grohl is a Golden God. (Grohlden God?)

Caught the Foo Fighters' first-ever gig at Madison Square Garden last night, and have my camera phone's blurry photos to prove it.

If you missed the live show, you might have seen Fuse broadcast a one-hour, commercial-free version of it a couple of times last night. I even caught most of its second airing when I got home, but I can assure you it was so much cooler live.

First of all, I can't believe Dave Grohl can sing that hard for so long every night. My throat hurt singing along and I couldn't hit half the notes, let alone scream in between melodic phrases.

The show also reminded me of just how many hits the Foos have had over the last 13 years. That's no small feat for true rock bands in a post-grunge era that's been heavily centered on rap and pop.

I wish they'd have busted out a couple of my favorite album cuts -- including "Generator," "See You" and "Walking After You" (the superior version from the "The X-Files" movie soundtrack) -- but it's hard to complain when they played nearly every hit in their collection, including a stripped-down "My Hero" on a side-stage reserved for mellower fare, a surprisingly poignant version of "Big Me" for the encore and roof-blowing versions of "The Pretender," "Monkey Wrench" and "Best of You."

Plus, Taylor Hawkins banged out an extended drum solo that would have made Stewart Copeland proud.

Also, Mr. Grohl is a funny lad, allowing for what he believed was the first "triangle solo" in MSG history (but not, evidently, the first of the tour). Yes, Drew Hester tapped his heart out on a musical instrument often reserved for supplementary percussion and sudden dinner warnings.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Obscure SNL Skit of the Week: Massive Headwound Harry

I chronicled all the hilarious details of "The Whipmaster" for the first installment of this "weekly" series. (Please conveniently ignore the posting date of Nov. 2, 2005.)

No explanation needed for this one, however:

Enjoy your late lunch!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Musical Nuance, Part I: Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Walk On The Ocean"

Long before iPod earbuds were chic, while trying to cram a portable CD player into jacket pockets barely capable of holding a wallet, I marveled at how Radiohead's use of the violin in the choruses of "(Nice Dream)" would raise goosebumps beneath my flannel shirt. A decade earlier, I'd rewind cassettes on an oversized gray boom box, trying to decipher what the heck that that flourish was in the introduction to Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer." (For your information, it's a synthesized version of a Japanese flute called a Shakuhachi. You're welcome.)

In short, I've always appreciated the little things in music that have made good songs great, or at least mediocre songs worth another listen. And with this bloggable world in which we now live, Varsity Basketweaving is as good a medium as any for such self-indulgent rants.

I'll post these at an irregular rate, although hopefully not nearly as irregular as my "Obscure SNL Skit of the Week" series (total installments: 1).

For a band whose sole representation in my CD collection is the 1991 album "Fear," Toad the Wet Sprocket hooks me in almost every time with "Walk on the Ocean." It's such an eclectic track. It's not often I find myself listening to a glorified sea shanty that doesn't just give in and sing "Yarrr" at any point.

Anyway, at the 1-minute, 51-second mark of this video (ignore the visual adaptation), the bridge kicks in. And tucked behind the accordion and mandolin is a single vocal, quietly soaring over everything else in the mix, singing only the word "Oh."

The first two times it's heard (1:55 and 2:04), it's the same pattern, with the vocalist holding the "Oh" on a high F#, then the G# above that and and the F below both. But I like that the third time (at 2:11), the "Oh" only moves from the F# to the G#, adding emphasis to the phrase. And I love that the last time (at 2:20), the "Oh" only falls from the F# to the F, allowing for a satisfying resolution.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lamentin' in da club

I'll admit it. Once every Olympiad I'll take a liking to a country music song. And last year, I found myself digging every slide guitar bend and twangy vocal of Rascal Flatts' ballad "What Hurts The Most."

If you don't know the song the song, skip the first 47 seconds of the "dramatic" opening of the music video to acquaint yourself with it. The lament expressed in the chorus lyrics is as follows:

What hurts the most
Was being so close
And having so much to say
And watching you walk away
And never knowing
What could have been
And not seeing that loving you
Is what I was tryin’ to do

Now, fast-forward to my flipping through satellite radio channels on yesterday's commute home. I heard a woman singing a cover of the same song. Other than a half-step key-change, it sounded nearly identical at the beginning. Then, halfway through the first verse, something very odd happened.


Yes, Cascada made the cathartic, tear-jerker "What Hurts the Most" into a dance track. It's such a strange convergence, taking a sappy ballad and throwing a thumping bass, some hair gel and glow sticks into the mix.

I figure it's just proof that no one listens to (or cares about) lyrics anymore, but let's assume for a moment that hard-core clubbers do care about them. There's just something funny about the image of gyrating tank-toppers sobbing uncontrollably while grinding against a total stranger.

It all screamed "Happy Valentine's Day!" to me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

All hail the greatest dog breed on the planet, as verified by the Westminster Dog Show

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Delivering good luck with a swift kick to the head

While covering a Lunar New Year event celebrating Chinese heritage, I decided I want learn to do the traditional lion dance, just so I can dropkick a head of lettuce into a screaming crowd.

It's said the lettuce brings good luck. I just want to bring the pain.

Gong xi fa cai!

Why I like to microwave most foods for 1-minute, 47-seconds if instructions don't dictate otherwise

1. 30 seconds aren't enough for any purpose other than melting shredded cheese on chips.

2. It's easier to move down the left side of the number panel (1-4-7) en route to the start button than it is to fumble my way between the 2 and the 0 buttons.

3. There's no third reason.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Philip Baker Hall, I salute you

I was all set to go to bed at 11:45 last night when I caught the start of "The Insider," the 1999 masterpiece that earned seven Oscar noms and starred possibly my two favorite actors, Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. Needless to say, I didn't get to bed until 2:30.

It's based on a true story about a "60 Minutes" producer Lowell Bergman (Pacino) who fights to keep his word to Jeffrey Wigand (Crowe), an insider whose information about Big Tobacco threatens their jobs, the cigarette industry, and the lives of Wigand's family. I know I'm biased as a reporter, but it's an inspiration to journalists and other truth-seekers.

Pacino refrains from getting too shouty, as he's done too often since his Oscar-winning role in "Scent of a Woman." And if you want to celebrate Crowe's overblown Academy Award win for "Gladiator," fine, but I find him far more captivating in this role as a flawed, middle-aged, overweight scientist-turned-teacher.

The film's got a ton of cameos, including Gina Gershon, Stephen Tobolowsky and the impressive Christopher Plummer, who's a dead ringer for Mike Wallace in both look and air. Also holding his own is Philip Baker Hall (next to Pacino in this picture), with a somewhat unflattering portrayal of "60 Minutes" creator and shot-caller Don Hewitt.

Despite his dramatic turn in "The Insider," my favorite Hall role is from "Seinfeld," for which he played a New York Public Library detective by the name of Bookman. Without hyperbole, it's my favorite monologue in the show's history. It's so funny that it seems even Seinfeld laughs more than he should as it unfolds:

In reading the YouTube comments below the video, I got a kick out of knowing that someone uses Bookman's diatribe as an audition monologue. What a fantastic idea.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The most literal music video ever?

I love Paolo Nutini's song "New Shoes" -- so much so that it's my next solo for Unsung Heroes -- but I don't think I've seen a more literal representation of a song's lyrics in a music video:

Granted, this is the UK version of the video. The American version is slicker and more sophisticated. That said, I'm not sure which I like better.

Monday, February 04, 2008

For a guy who spent 2,843 words puffing up the Patriots, Bill Simmons doesn't seem to want to hear much about the Giants' Super Bowl win

Amazingly, my favorite columnist -- ESPN writer Bill "Sports Guy" Simmons -- hates almost every team I like (Yankees, Giants, Boston College) and loves most teams I hate (Red Sox et al).

So keep that in mind while I explain why I'm peeved at something that might not even be his decision.

Last week, Simmons spent 2,843 words on a column that not only talked about the Patriots' quest for perfection but also predicted a 42-17 New England victory over the two-touchdown underdog Giants. Today was the all-too-sweet and all-too-short follow-up column in which Simmons had to eat, ahem, "crow" due to New York's stunning 17-14 victory, possibly the greatest upset in sport since the Miracle on Ice in 1980.

Interestingly, while most ESPN writers subject themselves to message board comments from the public, the ability to comment on these Simmons columns is disabled -- or at the very least, not in its usual placement next to the "e-mail (friends)" and "print" links at the top of the article. His colleague, poor Gene Wojciechowski, made the mistake of writing a piece listing 15 reasons the Patriots would win. And because his column allows for comments at the top of the page, his comments section is overflowing with fun words from exuberant Giants fans.

I'm not sure if this next fact helps or hurts Simmons' case, his other recent columns don't allow readers to post comments either. Perhaps this isn't Simmons' decision, but I have to wonder if that link would have suddenly appeared if the Pats were coronated in obnoxious fashion.

So, while I can't post my comments on ESPN's page, allow me to do so here while I enjoy the greatest upset in NFL history. Consider it redemption for the Boston's ridiculous and unprecedented American League Championship Series comeback against the Yankees in 2004.

I won't even take cheap shots at Simmons himself. He's a fantastic columnist. But I will just state three facts:

Giants 17, Patriots 14.
The New York Giants are Super Bowl Champs.
The Patriots are not.

Ah, gotta love freedom of speech.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Screw 'The Gates'

This is true art, courtesy of the brilliant Charlie Todd and the agents of Improv Everywhere: