Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Sports Event of the Year!!

All right folks, stock up the fridge and put the Foreman Grill on! It's time to gather around the tube with friends, neighbors, and that awkward guy who invited himself and watch the football event of the year. It all comes down to this.

Now, I know what you're thinking. After the past five months, expectations for Super Bowl Sunday should be low. A lot of key people went down this year, and the future is a bit uncertain for many former contenders. Still, we can expect (or at least hope) that the big names will overcome the downers of late and deliver the goods.

Of course, I'm talking about the commercials.

The Super Bowl is like the Super Bowl of the advertising world. Much hoopla has been made about the $3 million price tag for a thirty second spot. For those MENSA candidates trying to do out the math at home, $3 mil for thirty seconds works out to a lot of money per second. Who's got that kind of money, especially in today's economy? But I covered the economy in the second paragraph.

No, I'm here to salute the companies that are coming through to deliver high comedy to us while shilling for their crappy products. First up, Miller High Life knows that the market on alcohol never fluctuates. If anything, demand for alcohol should go up in a recession, though this tends to heavily favor the hard liquor department. Nevertheless, the (presumably buzzed) brain trust over at MillerCoors realized that the message of their product and hilarious spokesman (a fake-life delivery guy named Windell Middlebrooks) would be compromised by shelling out three cool millions for a 30-second spot. Thus, they have taken one of the boldest approaches to Super Bowl advertising in recent memory.

They saved $2,900,000 and bought a one second ad.

Nice work. I was not even aware that you could negotiate on commercial length. I would have loved to have been there when Miller called NBC if they could run a commercial lasting 1/60th of a minute. I would love it even more if it was a drunk dial. Surf on over to the Miller High Life website and check out the commercials that didn't make the cut (my favorite: "One Mississippi!"), but only if you're 21. They have a very high tech age verification system that requires you to at least be old enough to subtract 21 from 2009.

This one second ad should drive home a point that many Super Bowl parties I have attended were not clear on. Namely, shut the hell up. You don't talk over the game, and you'd absolutely better not talk over the commercials. Halftime show talking rules vary by household and artist. Britney? Talk away. U2? I'll kill you.

While Miller High Life is making the big splash in the blogosphere (what a pretentious word), I personally cannot wait to see if E-trade continues the spots with the talking baby. That kid is gold. I want to see his girlfriend. And his portfolio.

I am off to get a haircut to look my best for the big game. Who knows how many ladies will click "Maybe Attending" on Facebook for my Super Bowl party? These good looks don't come without $12 haircuts, you know.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Weekends and odds

A few notes from the week, as I sit by the fire watching my alma mater's hockey team try to knock off Boston College again.

Item! The Red Sox have resigned Jason Varitek after one of the sadder chapters of Sox history in the past decade. A player who only a couple of years ago was named captain and rewarded with a large contract was suddenly holding out for more respect. Even after being instrumental in securing a second World Series (a second Red Sox World Series!) and the face of the franchise for the better part of the decade, the local nine were ready to start fresh. On the flip side, we're talking about a 37-year-old catcher who hit .220 last year. Offensive production from a catcher is gravy, but .220 is abnormally low for any catcher, nevermind a well-paid one. Further complicating matters, the market had shriveled up and any initially interested suitors had long since moved on. Notoriously dickish agent Scott Boras isn't the most cuddly dude at the negotiation table. Varitek actually loses $6 million this year by not accepting arbitration eight weeks ago. While the media is cautiously touting this deal as a "good thing for both sides" (Tony Massarotti, NESN, on as I'm writing this), I'm merely relieved that the whole issue is ending but cannot shake the icky feeling of bad blood between player and team. My take? Neither side looks too good these days.

Item! Sometime between coming up with my brilliantly clever title and researching V-tek's batting average from last year (my guess was .187... sorry Jason), the skating Friars split a 2-2 decision at Schneider Arena against their Hockey East pseudo-rivals Boston College Eagles. The freshmen look pretty good. I'm thrilled to see them go minute-for-minute with the defending national champions, even if they couldn't seem to score on any power plays. There was a lack of focus immediately after scoring, however, that led to penalties being called on both occasions and, in the second case, allowed the Eagles to score the tying goal. Still, a tie against the #11 Eagles is a moral victory for PC, and it's fun to see your college and your friends on TV. The pep band sounded excellent tonight as usual. Eh, no one reading this cares. I'll move on.

Item! An observation on the Celtics: As someone who works with children, I've been struck by how quickly the kids of today have taken to wearing Celtics gear. At first, I figured this was just bandwagoning on the part of the parents. None of these kids gave a crap about the Celtics two or three years ago. How many Kenny Andersen jerseys did you see back then? Vitaly Potapenko t-shirts? Remember kids looking to score FleetCenter tickets to check out Raef LaFrentz in person? Then I realized something. The kids of today are the same as the kids of the Bird and Russell eras, who grew up when the Celtics were awesome. They will remember and cherish these years for the rest of their lives. I grew up when pretty much all Boston sports teams were terrible most of the time.

That's actually all I've got tonight, I'm exhausted. Though there isn't much competition, this easily qualifies as my lamest post to date. Better stuff to follow, I'm sure.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Poor Schlub of the Day

Earning second billing under Governor Blagojevich's impeachment, this poor sap is plastered all over as a one-man winter conditions advisory. Those of you who are too lazy to click on the link are missing out on an epic five-part series of some stiff's slip on the ice and his subsequent coffee-spilling impact. Seriously. You should probably quit being lazy and dedicate a few seconds to checking it out.

This poor dude goes from upright to flat on his back, and in that span of one second, the Globe has five action photos.

While the Globe is publicly claiming that their photographer was setting up a photo shoot to document his own slip on the ice, I'm not buying it. Something seems fishy to me. I hereby demand, in front of my massive readership (which might be one or two heads behind the Globe's, I'll admit), a full scale investigation into this David L. Ryan guy. Is he the kind of guy who falsifies donation documents to save on his taxes? Does he watch the door slam in other people's faces? Does he get some perverse pleasure out of documenting fender benders in twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us? Arlo Guthrie and I do NOT approve.

The fact that our dopey victim is not named is even more fishy. Sure, you're saying, would you have submitted your name willingly to the paper after falling on the ice? I say to you, yes I would. Absolutely. Your name implies that you gave permission for the photographs to appear. I can laugh at myself. The fact that his name doesn't appear makes me think that this doofus had no idea he was photographed, and just got up and walked away. He probably reads the Herald and has no idea that Boston's snobbier readers are laughing at him right now.

EDITOR'S NOTE, 2/1/2009: Victory! Apparently, has taken down the photos! Congratulations, readers, we did it! Standing up for this schlub's plight has led the Boston Globe to seriously re-evaluate their stance on human dignity. I, however, still laugh at this guy, and fortunately you can too because of blogger acquaintance Kid Dood Guy's entry over at the Boys Bein' Boys blog.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Music Wednesday!

Each Wednesday, I will (attempt) to review two or three songs that I am hearing for the first time and review them, in an effort to both broaden my own musical tastes and perhaps inspire you to do the same.

Last Flowers
Radiohead, In Rainbows (CD2), 2007

A piano ballad from Thom Yorke in the same vein as Videotape, but with more urgency. Asking for "relief" and simply to be listened to ("and if i'm gonna talk/i just want to talk/please don't interrupt/just sit back and listen"), an acoustic guitar compliments his haunting piano line. The music weaves itself into the lyrics well, matching the paranoia in the verses to unsettling piano lines, and shifting into more comforting music on the repeated chorus of "relief, relief". The build at the end on the "too much, too bright, too powerful" refrain recalls some of U2's work on Achtung Baby, at least to me. As a bonus track, left off the main album, it's not up to their best stuff from In Rainbows but definitely worth a listen and it stands well on it's own. Thom's voice is excellent and evocative, as always.
Grade: B

One Red Thread
Blind Pilot, 3 Rounds and a Sound, 2008

One Red Thread features the acoustic guitar and percussion of Portland, Oregon's Blind Pilot (duo Israel Nebeker and Ryan Dobrowski) who earned a fervent local following after they toured the West Coast via bicycle. You needen't know any of that to enjoy this song, however. Brilliantly recorded, the acoustic guitar sounds crisp and bright, and the vocals are fantastic. I have to say, I've heard many singers but something about Nebeker's voice floors me. There's an ease and purity to his vocals that is hard to find in many new bands today, when idiosyncratic vocals are praised far more than they should be. The tempo variation and harmonies shine in One Red Thread, and those of you who went to Starbucks last week may have picked it up for free as the Pick of the Week. Great stuff and I've got high hopes for this band.
Grade: A-

New artist to check out:
Julia Nunes
With an eclectic mix of covers and very good originals, Julia Nunes has gone from YouTube favorite to a record deal to opener for Ben Folds on tour. You might have also seen her on YouTube Live back in November. Between her ukelele, strong voice, and infectious sense of humor, you really can't go wrong with any of her videos. Thanks to Matt for the recommendation.

Changing Directions Midstream

Although merely a month into this blog, I have decided to shake up the format a bit.

I'll explain. Initially, my idea for this blog was to be the offshoot of my other blog, a joint pseudo-creative writing project I undertook with a college friend. Though I only had a hazy idea of delineation between them, this was to be for my less poetical pieces, mostly edgier open letters to people that deserved getting called out. I wanted to protect my identity at first though, so as to write honestly without offending anyone.

I've decided, after much thought, that this will just evolve into my own personal blog. I have attempted several journals and blogs before over the past few years, though few made it past five posts. I tend to have a very negative view toward everything I've written only a few months prior. Thankfully for everyone involved, my high school LiveJournal no longer exists.

So what will I do here? Probably errant ramblings about music, food, sports, and life. While I will do my best to spice up the more mundane or peculiar topics with humor, I have no idea if even half of what I will write will be of interest to anyone. I am far too spontaneous of a person to limit a blog to a certain genre.

I do take requests. Anything you want me to write about, I'm game. Is it a bit presumptuous of me to think that others wonder, "Hey, what would Dan have to say about this pertinent issue?" No. It's very presumptuous. But I offer anyway.

Thanks for reading. Cheers!

EDIT: A Historical Curiosity! For a glimpse at my last attempt at a personal blog, I have imported my first ever blog entry for your amusement here. That particular blog, by the way, lasted all of four weeks.

An Open Letter to EMI/Capitol Records

Dear Sirs, Madams, and Others,

As the record company holding the recording rights of many of my favorite artists (The Beatles, Radiohead, McCartney, Harrison, Lennon, Starr, Nat King Cole, etc), I would like to point out how much of my money you have gotten from me for your products. I have everything the Beatles have released in the CD era, along with most of Radiohead's proper albums, two b-side compilations, and every extra b-side they've released for The Bends and OK Computer. As for Nat King Cole, you've released too many half-hearted compilations for me to keep track of them all. I have enough to compile my own definitive best-of, which you folks seem incapable of.

My usual beef, that Apple Records is taking way too f*cking long remastering the Beatles albums, is not necessarily your fault. Though you aren't helping by jumping in on every "new" Beatles release that comes out around Christmas each year that really just consists of rehashed stuff, usually from the less interesting Get Back sessions. I do enjoy these, especially the latest one, but I'd enjoy them more if the Rubber Soul CD didn't sound like someone copied it off of a cassette. They're only the most chronicled and best selling band in history, I think you could make the investment. Let's go already.

But back to matters that concern you and only you. After a 12 month process of going from "interested in Radiohead" to "oh my God, I need help. I listen to too much Radiohead!", I spent a considerable amount of time (and my brother's PepsiStuff points) to amass all of those b-sides. Finding the My Iron Lung EP at Newbury Comics (which was never released in the US) was a challenge, as was sorting through the many singles with one or two b-sides each. The quality of the songs was my reward, though, and it was a labor of love. You see, I'm not only a completist, I'm a bit of a record collector from the old school (and oh, the ladies are impressed). It was fun and the music was excellent.

Then, you kick me in the balls again. Since Radiohead famously went with the pay-what-you-want model in 2007 and realized they don't need you, you've been milking the cash cow of their back catalogue to the point of overkill. Last week, I find out that after all of my hard work, you're re-releasing the albums I just bought with all of the b-sides I so painstakingly tracked down.

I hate you, EMI. I really do. Especially because you and I both know that the moment you release the remastered Beatles albums (assuming you ever do), I will be among the first to replace all thirteen of them with big shiny new ones. And you'll probably be skimpy on the liner notes and bonus tracks. And I won't complain because I'll be too busy listening and potentially weeping tears of joy, like I'm hearing Revolver for the first time.

I'm glad that, while The Beatles aren't around to dick you over for milking schmucks like me for my every last dime, Radiohead left you and now streams all of their back catalogue for free for the next two years. You don't understand how much it hit me in the wallet to shell out $33 for the White Album in high school. Radiohead gets it, you don't. And oddly enough, even schmucks like me who will continue to buy every Christmas rehash you issue won't save you from being phased out of the music industry like the other major recording labels.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

An Open Letter to the German Chap with the Same Stage Name as My Collegiate A Cappella Group

Lieber Herr,

Guten tag, amigo. I could not help but notice today that when I went to listen to the sweet, sweet sounds of my a cappella group's forthcoming album, our page came up a bit different than it usually does. Apparently, you have decided to call your latest musical enterprise by the same moniker that my group has been using since 1997. I would find this humorous had you not changed our profile picture from a hilariously awkward performance photo to your all grey, boring as all hell "live programm 2009" flyer.

I surf on over to your conviniently linked user profile to judge you on your musical taste. Surprisingly, our musical compatibility is rated as "very high". This could be because we are both spending a lot of time listening to an artist with a name that my friends and I were using first. I see that you joined the community a full three days ago (clearly making you among the old guard) but already have your myspace link pimped so millions of our a cappella fans can be mislead--thereby becoming unwitting traffic to your page.

Listen up, douchebag. My grandfather did not kick the Nazis out of your country for you to be stepping on my turf online 55 years later. For you to just jump on in like you own the place, changing the clearly maintained artist page so as to fit you and not the existing, established artist with a listening history that goes back years, is quite frankly irritating. I'd publicly humiliate you but I neither speak German nor have the means to get to Germany. That said, I still think you're a butt nugget and if you ever come to America I will introduce you to the flying elbow.

P.S. - I listened to your music, on the off chance that you had more talent than we do. You don't. Your song is brilliantly mediocre and I've already forgotten it. I enjoy Krautrock, but yours is more like Krautblah. Your guitar player should learn the difference between playing and just letting the sustain make the noise for him. Your lyrics are dodgy, but I note your brave attempt at singing in English. Way to pander to the bigger market there. It's probably all for naught though; your song is completely indistinguishable from 95% of the other dreck that has flooded the online music community. If you are sincere in your feelings for the girl you are singing for, you'd do better to not play your song for her. Just saying.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Clips from my application essay that didn't survive the final edit

Selected highlights that were cut from my application essay to one area grad school:

"The informative, colorful brochure you mailed me almost makes me forget that when I visited as a high school student, your admissions office called us a bunch of 'yahoos'."

"I, too, want to be elitist."

"I am requesting financial aid due to family hardship, such as the lingering ramifications of the Potato Famine. Also, my brother is ugly."

"[Severe, shameless name-dropping illustrating my connection to the school, their employees, and alumni]"

"I still like your school despite your hockey rivalry with my alma mater. Please disregard any fan section signs I may or may not have supported that declared your school's love for Cox (Communications)."

"I can wiggle my ears and sing a full voice high C. Maybe even at the same time."

"The girls on your campus are, like, smokin' hot. They're stone cold foxes. They'd give a dog a bone. Please take me, I'm pretty much begging now."

"I don't need you guys anyway."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Open Letter to the Parent Who Made Me Wait at Work Twelve Minutes after I Had Punched Out

Ahem. Dear ma'am,

The first several times your son returned my directions with his vacant stare and a maddeningly quiet subversive dismissal of every rule I tried to enforce, I was willing to let it slide. My one regret, really, was that I couldn't let him have his way and leave him outside, because I'd probably hear about it from the higher-ups, given that gross negligence is illegal.

The idea of children not listening to educators is hardly new; I myself made it a subtly amusing art form in fourth grade. Yet, knowing that your dear Rumplestiltskinn* had already been told he could not return to three previous after-school centers inclined me to give him an extra chance.

I spelled his name wrong once in front of you, which was completely unacceptable. Shame on me for assuming that you spelled your son's name the conventional way, and not with two n's** as I so clearly should have known already. I would have forgotten this quaint little vignette that we shared at the front desk, but fortunately you remembered it well enough to make snide comments about it on more than one occasion to make sure that I remembered (which I did, thankfully). It's a good thing that you are so forgiving, because I would otherwise think it dreadfully bold to spell your son's name so peculiarly when misspellings seem to be your pet peeve. But 'tis no matter.

Today, while finding something else for one of our younger kids to do so Rumplestiltskinn would stop provoking him, I received your call informing me of your impending late arrival, and asking me to pass along that message to your son. Although that message was clearly addressed to your son and not to me, I actually assumed it was okay that I too knew that you'd be later than usual for pickup. I hope this is okay.

What you declined to mention was that you would arrive at 6:29 for pickup, a minute before our official 6:30 close, and remain in plain view in the parking lot for the next thirteen minutes. I can only assume that the phone call you were receiving was clearly important, as you made many exaggerated hand gestures, though oddly none that resembled such actions as 'picking up a child'. Fortunately, your brilliant acting performance and my wonderment at your audacity allowed me to stand, riveted, and not even notice that my coworkers and I stood there until well after we were supposed to have gone home, jackets on and everything. We do not get paid for overtime, but that is okay, because at the end of the day, the smile on the face of...

Oh wait, your little snot isn't smiling. He's sitting there, refusing to walk out to your car so we can get on with our lives. Actually, come to think of it, you're a horrible, horrible person. Your son is too. I've met your husband; fortunately I would classify him as too wishy-washy to fairly compare him to sitting on a tack.

Your son used to ruin my day. Now the mere sight of you allows me to get all the ruining of my day over with in one quick moment. Thank you. Thank you so much.

*not his real name, in case you needed clarification.
**again, not the letter n. stop being so thick.