Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wednes and Odds

Sup, world.

I felt that now was the right time to check in with a bunch of thoughts that are probably too brief to be posts of their own (I know, right? I'm never concise). As Jemaine Clement so aptly puts it, "It's Wednesday... There's nothing good on tv. Conditions are perfect". So let's get right to it, then. It's time for business.

Item! Providence College basketball smacked around #1 Pitt at the Dunk last night and scored a decisive victory. This is only the second time that the school has ever defeated a #1 seeded team, the last time being against Michigan in 1976. For a team with an outside shot at the tournament, this win is huge. Naturally, the always rowdy Friar Fanatics stormed the court after the game, an undergraduate dream of mine that went unfulfilled. Sure, there was that one game at the end of senior year, but I was writing a paper, the game was already on TV, and they were supposed to lose anyway. The last image from that game, before ESPN2 cut back to SportsCenter, was my roommate and his Beard of Justice TM mere inches away from the camera cheering wildly. That could've been me. That paper was mediocre, by the way.

Item! The celeb-watching world is all a-twitter with excitement over pictures of Gisele Bundchen wearing what may or may not be an engagement ring. After Dan Shaughnessy's crappy article about Tom Brady having gone soft, I felt that as a lifelong Patriots fan (who remembers looking up to such non-factors as Scooter McGruder) I should give my two cents. My take is this. Quite honestly, I could care less what he does Monday through Saturday. As long as he brings the goods on Sunday, I'm happy. He could join Cirque du Soleil and the Church of Scientology and even guest star on the Teletubbies with Randy Moss, and it doesn't matter. So while Peyton Manning is making hilarious commericals and Ben Roethlisberger is falling off motorcycles, I'm just fine with Tom being spoonfed by the #1 supermodel in the world, so long as he keeps rehabbing that knee. Nuff said.

Item! George-Michael Bluth has, according to the trusty internets, agreed in principle to the Arrested Development movie! Can I get a hallelujah? Once again, my blog has directly stirred up enough buzz to get stuff done. As the lone holdout in publically stating their participation in the big screen adaptation of the late TV show, George-Michael (who plays Michael Cera in real life) had dodged the question and even implied he was not in a position to do the movie. To that, I said: Yeah, right. Even Maebe signed on; I knew he wouldn't hold out long. I didn't think he had it in him. Now with the complete cast in the bag (no word on Marta 1 or Marta 2 yet), if Mitch Hurwitz and Ron Howard can get cracking with new jokes pertaining to literacy calendars, Wee Britain, and Dr. Fishman, everything is going to be all right.

Finally, (Item!) I'm not going to do a New Music Wednesday today. There's no explanation coming; it turns out I'm just too lazy to do it. Try to hold it together. You'll pull through.

Take us home, Stephen!
"Some are put off by the labyrinthine structure of Catholic dogma, but many of its rituals are quite beautiful, and not just when edited together as a tense, poetic conterpoint to brutal violence in Mafia films." - Stephen Colbert

Clip of the Day

Excerpted from the Boston Globe today:

"The fans in the sold-out Dunkin' Donuts Center sensed it, crowding around the courtside press tables for the final minutes. Twice in the final minutes, the public address announcer begged the fans to stay off the floor following the game; twice the crowd responded with a laugh."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Facebook According to DF, Part 1

A Practical Guide to Looking Cool on Facebook

Since Facebook's arrival on the college scene over five years ago, the network has become a petri dish where social conventions, expectations, and etiquette are produced and refined. This is a half-assed attempt at saying, very smartsoundingly, that there are a ton of unspoken rules and behaviors that are followed for fear of appearing uncool. If this is the first time you've heard of this phenomenon, I apologize. We've been making fun of you for years.

Popularity is measured in several ways. The amount of friends, or "friends", one has can often be an indicator of success or neediness. If you are unsure about what your number of "friends" says about you, consult the handy chart below:

0-20 "friends": You never go online and you're related to half of your friends list. The rest are co-workers and that one friend who moved out west.
21-50 "friends": Too cool for Facebook. You wouldn't have a profile but "a friend signed you up and you never check it". Sure.
51-100 "friends": You only add people that are actually your friends. Congratulations. In the real world, this is admirable.
101-200 "friends": You add anyone you hang out with.
201-500 "friends": You add classmates as well as friends.
501-1000 "friends": You add old high school and/or college classmates as well. Hey! We weren't really friends back then, but let's add each other now and then not contact each other again!
1001+ "friends": Your definition of friends is anyone you've ever heard of, and anyone your friends have ever heard of, plus their friends too. Go outside once in a while.
2000+ "friends": Get help. It is physically impossible to know this many people on even a casual level, and you're not fooling anyone. You appear horrifically desperate and probably cry yourself to sleep every night.

"But wait," you cry, "I hardly ever add anyone. I just accept most friend requests!" That's fair enough, but it doesn't matter. The world assumes that you personally chose to add each friend, and doesn't take into account things like friendliness or pity. To help boost your list of friends, Facebook has provided the "People You May Know" tool. On the usefulness scale, this rates just above the "Invite Your Friends to Join Facebook" option (even Tibetan monks have heard of Facebook by now). If these two generally useless tools are any indication, Facebook will not stop until all users are "friends" with everyone. Hands across the water, really. Of course, these are also the same people that brought you the "poke" option and think you're interested in spending a dollar for a Facebook "gift".

A similar indicator of success is your "Photos Tagged Of You" count. Although it should go without saying, given that most people look the same every day, an amount of two thousand plus photos is really unnecessary. Wall posts do not follow this logic however; the more, the merrier. Anyone displaying a high level of received wall posts but hardly any actual activity on Facebook is considered mysterious and uber cool. At least in their own minds, which I've learned is all that counts.

Status updates have found mainstream acceptance recently, and function somewhat as a middle ground between Twitter and an away message. If you update your status more than three or four times in a given day, you're probably neglecting something in your life.

Facebook notes are irrelevant to your quest to appear popular. Simply ignore them. Anyone who thinks that the world would be very interested in reading what he writes online is clearly deceiving himself.

Friday, February 20, 2009

"He's at a weekend stage-fighting workshop with Carl Weathers"


This weekend I am off to my smashing alma mater for a rip roaring good time at alumni homecoming weekend. I'd be lying if I didn't say I've had the date on my calendar since May 18 of last year. At any rate, there is a lot of drinking to be done and I won't have the access to blog about it, unless for some reason I visit the library (not likely).

In the fine tradition of bloggers considering video clips to be actual posts, I present to you five clips from the first season of my favorite show in the whole wide world, the late and great Arrested Development. I have been watching season one again recently, and the following is an assortment of several great moments from the said season. I don't know why I'm doing this, per se, but I think the reason I am going to go with is this: I'm trying to generate more buzz in the blogosphere about the show and the AD movie that is hopefully in pre-production now. Yeah, I'll go with that.

Have a bananarific weekend.

Wednesday, February 18, 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. This week, however, I will be reviewing a new album instead. I hope this is still interesting.

Album Review
Ben Folds, Stems and Seeds, 2009

One of the hallmarks of Ben Folds' 14-year career has been his consistently friendly relationship with his fans. Well known for talking with departing concertgoers and signing autographs after his shows, his musical career is inseperable from his fan base. These are folks who still revel in Ben Folds Five's label as "punk rock for sissies" and loudly request obscure b-sides at concerts instead of hits. Ben has kept his ticket prices down and is known for leading the audience in multi-part choral accompaniments to not one, but two of his more famous songs. Prior to his latest album, he personally released a "leaked" version online, only to fleece fans with six fake versions of his new songs, complete with laughably bad lyrics. Over the last two months, he has been flying to college campuses to meet and record with the a cappella groups he selected in his a cappella covers contest, and these recordings will end up on an offically released CD.

All that to say that while fan reaction was pretty positive to his third proper solo album, 2008's Way to Normal, there was one glaring disappointment across fan boards online: the album's mastering. Mixed at high volume and unbelievably compressed, the album was passable on car stereos but was abrasive in headphones. Although meant to sound somewhat distorted, the album's more daring experimentation (very high bass distortion on "Dr. Yang", empty Altoids cans taped to piano strings on "Free Coffee") was often more headache-inducing than revelatory. Way to Normal was publically compared by some scribes to Metallica's Death Magnetic and Iggy and the Stooges' remastered Raw Power as among the most unlistenably loud records ever. This was a shame, for all of his new material, real or fake, sounded amazing live and unmixed. At any rate, the vociferous online Folds fans were pretty unanimous in hating the mastering.

Enter Ben Folds, Man of the People. While standing by his decision to try new and different things with his producer, he acknowledged the high prevalence of audiophiles in his fan base and decided to release a second version of his album to his fan club and then to the general public. Stems and Seeds is exactly what the title implies, once you look beyond the obvious joke for stoners everywhere. The 2-CD set consists of one set of all 11 studio tracks in individual stems (i.e., isolated piano tracks, vocal tracks, bass tracks, etc), which allow fans to remix each tune as they see fit with applications such as Garage Band. The second CD, entitled Seeds, is made up of the 11 studio tracks, 6 "fake" tracks, and several other bonus tracks without any compression whatsoever. Indeed, the instruments are seperated and balanced very well and the sound quality in headphones is extremely pleasing.

While overall improvement was not necessarily the goal of this release, reveleations abound with the very first listen. While only a few of the remixes add something new (not a bad thing at all), the most improved aspect is the quality of the vocals. The new track order allows "Effington" and its three-part harmony to open the CD, and the effect is akin to the opening numbers of many modern musicals. "Frown Song", which suffered from a particularly abrasive vocal on the proper album, sounds very natural here and could probably have even made the radio in this incarnation, if there was a censored version. The bass in "Dr. Yang" is still radically distorted but the effect is not diminished with the reduction in volume and compression. Ditto for "Free Coffee" and the Altoid tins. "Kylie from Connecticut", while mostly piano and vocals, is done a better turn with this mastering, as the strings added into the bridge sound far more poignant and creative than on the original album.

"You Don't Know Me", Ben's duet with Regina Spektor, shines even more here as a pop gem. The intermittent but effective injections of strings work so much better in this mastering. If you hear one song from this CD, make it this one. More than catchy, it's infectious and creative on a level that few artists ever aspire to. This release also provides a taped rehearsal from Late Night with Conan O'Brien, where Regina joined Ben and his band. It's probably just as satisfying of a listen.

The fake tracks all sound brilliant, as the only previously available versions for four of the six of them were MySpace downloads. This is also the CD debut of the fake track "Bitch Went Nutz", which is maybe the funniest thing Ben has ever written. "Hiroshima (Japanese Version)" is a fun novelty but won't replace the upbeat English original on any mixtape, at least in the US. The aformentioned Conan rehearsal is only available on this release as well.

In conclusion, this is the rare release of previously released, remixed material that would actually be of interest to more than die-hard fans. While I would imagine that most people would not mind the difference either way, any serious fan of music would do better with Stems and Seeds over Way to Normal. Should you happen to be buying soon, Stems and Seeds is priced about the same and features far more music, even on the Seeds CD alone. And for audiophiles like yours truly, the choice is obvious.

Vive le retour!

Greetings, compadres.

I have returned earlier than expected from malware hell with a clean hard drive and freshly reinstalled stuff. I'd love to have my time back. You don't care, but I do.

Therefore, I can now blog again and you can again pretend to be interested about what I think. I'm cooking up a New Music Wednesday as we speak. I don't care if anyone enjoys that feature; I'm gonna stick with the 'weekly music rambling' idea in one form or another. Input welcome.

See you there,
Your favorite verbose but barely-above-average blogger

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Letter from the Editor

My laptop is currently getting the crap kicked out of it by the latest and greatest spyware and malware products (from Russia, I understand) and I believe tomorrow I will be wiping the hard drive. Seriously. This thing knows what programs and system scans remove it and it's locked them. I literally cannot visit websites like or run MalwareBytes or anything like it because this virus is acting like it owns the place. In the meantime, I've been frantically backing up my massive iTunes library (if VH1's Save the Music is reading this... send cash?) when the computer isn't frozen or logjammed with popups. I'm amazed that opened for me now--it hasn't for two days.

You were probably looking for witty insight on today's issue du jour. I'm afraid I will have to take a quick break, but I do hope I'll be rambling in this space once again come Friday-ish. Incidentally, if you are at Providence College this Saturday, I heard the alumni a cappella concert (4pm, Blackfriars) is gonna be off the hook. Special Guest is also releasing their sixth CD, Black and Tan (about damn time!), most of which we recorded in May of '07. We were busy, get over it.

I hope everyone's well. A big hello to my recent international visitors, whoever you are, and sorry to inadvertantly confirm many of your opinions about Americans. And if you hail from anywhere near Moscow and know where Bakasoftware does business, please firebomb them into the Stone Age.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Fair Defense of Valentines Day Haters

Haters everywhere would cordially like to wish you a Happy Singles Awareness Day!

As I sit here blogging in my St. Patrick's Day t-shirt, it occurs to me that Valentines Day is one of those holidays that raises the ire of some people. It's odd that a day devoted to love could inspire just the opposite. Thanks, Godiva!

I feel that too often, though, the V-Day haters are accused of just being jaded single people and the recently dumped. This demographic, by the way, could single-handedly jumpstart the economy if 2am liquor runs were feasible. I feel that, often being in the former crowd myself, I can step in and defend every sore loser who wears black on Valentines Day as he peruses this week's SI Swimsuit Edition and munches on Sweethearts (ladies, just substitute Cosmo. For reading material, not food).

The sentiment behind Valentines Day is a good one. That one day a year is set aside to give special prominence to romance seems appropriate. I don't think many people would argue that love isn't important enough to deserve that recognition, especially because that honor is also given to lesser fare like "talking like a pirate". This isn't the part that inspires such rancor, or at least I don't think so.

Instead, it's the Hallmarkization of the day, and really all of February, that sucks for single people. Surrounded by happy couples and beaten over the head with commercials reminding them to buy something special (and expensive) for the loved one that they haven't met yet, Valentines Day is a kick between the legs. To say that this is merely the result of envy and loneliness would not be viewing the complete picture. In a day where the media is running images of happy people with their squeezes, the not-so-subtle implication of superiority is often felt by those who get dinner for one. Why should they be happy, when we aren't? Should our self-worth be judged by the presence of a soul mate or a lack thereof? To sourpuss singles, the very act of celebrating romantic partners is akin to being Jewish on Christmas Day. We're going to celebrate something that makes every imperfection in our lives bearable, but don't feel bad just because this benefit is not extended to you. Doesn't sound fair.

So to those of you who spent lots of money, time, and care preparing a memorable evening out, Happy Valentines Day. I really do hope you enjoy it and each other. Just don't be upset with your waiter for seeming aloof and jaded. He's probably hoping to get out early so he can blog about how all the good girls are taken.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I can't wait to be a Hilarious Grumpy Old Guy!

Over the past few years, as I've slid into my twenties, I am for the first time conscious that there are people much, much younger than me. These people are generally my students and consider themselves way cooler than me. In fact, my best asset as a potential role model might just be as an example of why it pays to be cool, attractive, and wealthy. If you have issues with those three things, you'll end up like me, working with a classroom full of students who think you look "terrible" and "weird" and "stupidheadish" and all sorts of other wonderful things.

To their credit, I did in fact look terrible that day. Don't stay out all night drinking, kids.

But enough about the wee young nosepickers. Their mere existance has reminded me that one day, I too will join the ranks of countless men way, way past their prime and become a Hilarious Grumpy Old Guy (patent pending)!!

Those among you who are female, or under the age of 18, might not understand the attraction here. Is there any appeal whatsoever to wrinkles and senility and becoming so out of touch with current trends that you end up becoming a living fossil of a bygone era? You bet your '68 Ford truck there is!

Here's the main draw: You can say whatever you want. To anyone. And it really doesn't matter. You might be labeled a crazy old coot, but no one would dare tell you so to your face. Even if they did, what the hell do they know? You've seen it all. You're probably too oblivious to even notice their presumed superiority. While I have no desire to be the racist grandpa or the alcoholic elder (well actually...), there is nothing wrong with calling them how you see them. Everyone has to listen to you at least, for you speak with the wisdom of 65+ years of living, drinking, and generally telling it like it is.

Although sanity is not something that any of us have any control over, assuming that I still have half of my marbles in my twilight years, I think it might be fun to convince just one impressionable grandchild that I am completely off my rocker. While the rest of my family comments on how wonderful it is that I have retained my wits for so many years, whispering absolutely insane thoughts to just one kid could provide hours of endless entertainment.

Just picture it: "Hey, Timmy. You know, Grandpa's a pretty peaceful fellow, but I tell you what we should do. We should round up all those damn Democrats/Evangelicals/Norwegian people and string them up by their underpants. We then throw Bibles/condoms/more Norwegian people at them until they repent of their disgusting ways! Also, the Man Upstairs can read your thoughts and He knows what you're thinking about the pigtailed girl in your class. Shame on you. Now go get Grandpa his salve, his rash is getting all fiery again." Hours of fun!

In nursing homes, you are allowed to be grumpy. You sit in your chair all day and watch TV in your pajamas. You order as much pudding as you want, and they'll even spoon-feed you! Crossword puzzles are suddenly unbelievably awesome, even for non-English majors. You may even find yourself completing a really tough one after hours of racking your brain, only to find out later that it was actually a checkered tablecloth. No big deal--you can't see anything anyway. It's a crossword puzzle now, and you mothertruckin' kicked its ass.

It also bears mentioning that while old men are often mocked for wearing their pants way above their waists, anyone who has ever tried it secretly noticed that it was way more comfortable that way. It's not a popular opinion, I know, but I dare you to try it and disagree.

Although it might seem like I'm just slightly undervaluing the four to five decades between now and then, I think being an old fart is going to be the best time ever. It's like being a really, really little kid, but also being allowed to drink like a champion. Take a moment now to put in reservations at my future nursing home. We're gonna have a rippin' good time.

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.

Crazy For You and Hometown Glory
Adele, 19, 2008

Winning Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards will certainly get you noticed, and after Adele's big victory on Sunday, I decided that I needed to see what all the fuss was about. Last night I watched her appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly, a show that usually serves only to remind me that Conan is over and that all interesting TV is done for the evening. I need to write a seperate post on how lousy that show is. Enough about that. I kept watching to hear Adele's performance and some of her interview, given that they were dedicating the entire show to her. Immediately her voice commands the room, and as she begins her first song I noticed one of the rare talents she has: namely, the ability to sing softly while still maintaining the power and intensity in her vocals that you would hear from an Ella Fitzgerald or a Mavis Staples. Her singing is hard to describe. Too aesthetically pleasing to be called sultry, and too measured to be called overly passionate. The control she has over every note is impeccable.

"Crazy for You" is accompanied by only a bouncy guitar arpeggio, played by Adele herself in concert. It is a straightforward love ballad and, although it doesn't drag, the lyrics do read a little bit like most other pop songs--which is a shame, given her performance of it. Her voice is great and the recording quality is top notch, but the material is merely mediocre, unfortunately. The fact that the title called to mind the Madonna song and also the boy band/Mickey Mouse club girl era of the late 90's doesn't help. This is her debut album, however, and there is potential in spades. And you could do way, way worse.
Grade: C+

"Hometown Glory" evokes just about the opposite mood, as the piano immediately sets the tone for a more dramatic song. Her voice shines, once again, immediately drawing the listener in. Catchy would be the wrong word to describe it; gripping comes closer. You want to hear where the whole song is going, once it's a few bars in. Fortunately, the lyrics of this song, which she co-wrote, far exceed the limitations of our previous song. Strong and confidently written, this is a far superior song. While the title gives off a Bruce Springsteen kind of vibe, this song better exhibits her voice and her talents as an artist. Almost defiant, it's clear why this song was picked for a single whereas the previous one was not. While it might be the kind of song you have to be in the right mood to hear (and I'm admittedly too upbeat at the moment), I hope she continues to create music like this.
Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Eulogy for A Beard

Dearly beloved,

We are gathered here today to remember a great moment in the history of [blogger's name removed] and his often misguided attempts at facial hair. The rumors are true. His beard is no longer with us. It is no more. It hath ceased to be. It has gone to that great barber shop dust pan in the sky.

It's uh... it's gone, I think is what we're trying to say here.

We shall always remember its dubious beginnings. There was a period in late November when the question was often asked, "Are you growing a beard or are you just lazy?" The answer was clear--namely, "Wait, I can't have it both ways?" The genesis of the beard was wrought by the wise judges in the kindergarten class where the beard and beardholder worked, for it happened that one fateful day the soon-to-be beardgrower was itching his face and put his grooming future to a vote: "Shave tonight?" or "Hilarious beard?" The vote was surprisingly unanimous, and the Hilarious Beard (™, © 2008) was born.

Among many, many other facial hair failures, including ill-advised shots at bearded excellence with a No-Shave November in 2006 and the goatee that wouldn't connect (resulting in a North Goatee/South Goatee conflict of ideology and facial real estate) in 2005, this latest adventure in beardland met with some success. For that, we shall evermore be grateful.

Although the beardfarmer's own opinion of the beard was a bit more ambiguous ("yeah, I know it looks terrible, but I'm bored, and I needed something to root for"), the general opinion of the beard was, at first, surprisingly positive. "You look almost 19," cried one enthusiastic viewer to the 22-year-old. Others mentioned that he was part of a recession beard movement, which reflected positively on the bearded one's trendiness. The general impression was "creepy, but in a good way!"

The beard did not age well, however, for while many men commented on it's impressive fullness and character (like an import beer), it was starting to scare the students ("you look like a dirty hobo!"). Finally, late last Tuesday, the beard went to meet, er... part from its maker. It was with a heavy heart, as well as an intrepid razor and much chafage, that the former beardfacilitator bid his artistic masterpiece adieu.

Today, ladies and gentleman, I implore you: as we enter a brave new age of smoother skin and less dirty looks from female bar patrons, let us be cognizant of the discussion fodder the beard alloted us, as well as the great memories (and laugher?) it provided. Though many doubted its potential or its attractiveness (yours truly definitely, definitely included), the beard persevered and perhaps was the feel-good story of the year. Actually that's probably overstating it. The beard was okay, as beards go. We've spent too much time discussing this. Good day friends, and go in peace.

In Memoriam
DF's Hilarious Beard
November 2008-February 2009
"Eh... I've seen worse."

Pseudo-Intellectual Link Dump! (a.k.a. A Placeholder Post)

In lieu of a real entry, I will send you on a magical trip across the internets, where you will see and learn many things! Oh, the wonderment!

Actually, a link dump is simply a lame coverup for the fact that I haven't banged out a decent post in 48 hours. I apologize. Stay tuned, though--you know I've got some thoughts on Valentine's Day. Peace be with you. And also with you.
Unbelievably challenging brain exercise. You'd think that with almost 300 countries to chose from, you could get at least half, right? Europe must be an easy two dozen or so, right? If your World History survey ended right around WWII, you might be in for a head scratching five minutes. I've taken this test a bunch of times, and can't break 100.

A few tests from
Can you name the US Presidents? There's 44 of them, you've got ten minutes, and you know you're going to miss a few. I scored a 37, with the most obvious miss being President #6.

Can you name the 100 most commonly used words in the English language? I got 88 of them, but missed a fairly easy one and was ashamed. You have 12 minutes, and though you'll go on a tear in your first minute, the words will come few and far between after you've got almost half of them.

While we're on the subject of the English Language, the ListUniverse published this list about a year ago documenting 25 English Language oddities. It's an incredibly dorky list topic but an entertaining read, and I challenge you not to quote these curiousities at parties. That is, if you log off and socialize every now and then.

Finally, for those of you who feel your noggin is just getting warmed up, you can view the archive of (and even play along with) every Jeopardy! episode dating back 25 years, as well as read what the contestants answered. Note to my two weeknight friends with whom I often watch: Use this power for good and not for evil. You know who you are, you filthy cheaters.

Hope you enjoy. Real post coming soon.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Narcissus tagged you in the note "25 Random Things About Me"

You may have noticed the recent wave of Facebook notes titled "25 Random Things About Me". When I say may have noticed, I mean probably didn't notice because you have no friends, Facebook or otherwise. Those of us who do have at least fake-life friends have noticed, so I will speak for this crowd and fill you in.

Popular people can hardly log into Facebook anymore without noticing that they've (we've) been tagged in several people's notes. Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you, according to the official rules. These are rules that we are all bound to by some mysterious online rulemaking body. Break them at your own risk, man! Presumably after you've divulged over two dozen "random" things about yourself (note to world: please grab a dictionary sometime), you are to pay it forward by tagging 25 of your own friends. The aforementioned rulemaking body says that you do this because you're interested in learning 25 random things about those people, too. It's okay, you can trust them. They're the internet.

Make no mistake, this is an epidemic, says today's Boston Globe. The article decries the phenomenon for giving rise to narcissism, impropriety, and--egads!--online clutter. Tales of the horror of crowded email inboxes and the woe of decent, hard-working folks being required to stomach the existance of their friend's 11th toe abound in the Globe's call to action. The article presumably had to go to the presses before they could tackle the issue of a newspaper paying staff during a recession to cover a Facebook non-event, but I'm sure that that writeup is coming soon.

In the meantime, where does that leave us, the community of Facebookers that people actually care about (i.e., myself, my friend Todd, the ShamWow guy, etc.)? Part of the reason behind the popularity of "25 Things" is the open format. Whereas other chain-letter-type surveys come with existing questions, this note allows you to dictate 100% of the content and the pace at which it is delivered. Most internuts lack the creativity to write their own survey and find the one they received last week to not accurately reflect how quirky, humorous, and deep they are. However, when asked to discuss themselves over twenty five lines (or paragraphs, for you junior Hemingways), they are more than willing. After all, they are quirky, humorous, and deep. And repeat buzzwords in lieu of topic-specific substance.

Side note! Hipsters teach us that it's never cool to be really into a fad or trend while everyone else is (unless you like it ironically--then it's funny). I enjoy the reactive note titles like "I gave in..." or "I said I wouldn't do this, but...". They want us to know that they tried to hold out, but in the end, it was just too hard to simply not write a score and a quarter points about themselves and broadcast it.

I politely suggest that it might be worth considering the argument that if I don't know something about one of my close friends, it's probably not that important. If I don't know something about a casual friend but want to, I should get to know that person better. I think by stating my case this way, I can offend less people than if I told the general public that most people aren't that interesting or unique.

Nevertheless, in conclusion, within the month this one will go the way of most email surveys, the "Beautiful Truck", and Bob Saget's third wave of coolness. I calmly entreaty the Globe to let the Facebook community have their harmless fun, and devote front-page space to more important news, such as the snowplow game.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Any Karaoke Bar, dissected.

As I debate whether or not to go to the local watering hole tonight--and if the answer indeed be yes, whether or not to belt out a choice tune--it occurs to me, not for the first time, that there is a very definite crowd at karaoke bars. While most people go for sheer comedic enjoyment, or were already there and are too drunk to care that there are horrible singers straining for notes at ear-splitting volumes, you can definitely pick out the people that sing. They almost always fall into one of the following categories.

The Regular - This patron, almost always male, is probably at this bar a good five out of seven nights a week. Everyone knows his name, whether they've met him or not, and knows his stool by the imprint of his derriere. This guy also is well past the point where he needs other people to show up with in order to want to go. He's going, whether anyone else is or not. If it was a lunch cafe, he'd have a sandwich named after him. No one is quite sure where this dude works, or if he does at all. While he's always there, he lives for karaoke night. He sings the same two or three songs every week, and no one else dares to request them. These songs are usually of a country or easy listening variety.

The Artist - This performer might sing five or six times over the course of the evening, although if you notice, they've put in close to twenty song slips. Between her downward stare and her song selection, she seems to sing only for her own satisfaction. She'll arrive and sit with two to three other patrons, none of whom sing themselves or even acknowledge her performances with as much as a glance. This person generally sings tunes from the eighties, although she appears to be either far too young or far too old to have experienced youth in the eighties. Again, this person will repeat many of the same songs every week. Oddly enough, even though her name is announced many, many times, you will have trouble recalling who she is when asked.

The Really, Really Drunk Guy - Generally, this is the guy that is so hammered even the town drunk is concerned. They will pick an upbeat crowd-pleaser and then proceed to scream it until it's butchered beyond recognition. Also, they may or may not know the words or melody of the verses, but they sure as hell have got the chorus down pat (minus pitch). This dude will probably choose a song by Kid Rock, Sublime, Toby Keith, or Kiss. They are a living, breathing (?) public service announcement for the dangers of alcohol. Odds are immediately after finishing, he will drop his mic and proceed directly to the bar, where he is ignored by the bartenders for the rest of the evening.

The Star - This diva is almost always female, though the male variety is vastly more entertaining. She'll generally choose a Broadway ballad and deliver it with a voice that would knock your socks off, if you weren't in a bar. Talented? Yes. Overdoing it? Absolutely. Whatever your feelings toward Phantom of the Opera or Rent, no one is in the mood to hear it. She thankfully has the range and lung capacity to hit all the notes, but tends to add so many grace notes and embellishments that by the end you don't recognize the tune anymore. This person doesn't drink, and won't talk to you.

The Average Joe - Gets up and delivers a tuneful but not particularly inspiring rendition of a standard. You won't remember him the next day, but his name is Terry and he works at Somerville Lumber.

**~ThE pArTy GiRlZ~** - By far the most loathed of all karaoke singers. These girls will usually sing one song, shortly before last call, and there's only a 10% chance that their tune is not by Meatloaf, the Spice Girls, or Journey. There are three to seven of them, and at most only one knows the words and is coherent and tuneful enough to carry the team. You pray that this is the girl who is driving. The rest of the girls, quite clearly smashed and madly in love with one another, do their best to remain standing and wait around for the chorus where they suddenly take over the mic, because those are the words they know. Most of these girls have never been told how far away you need to hold a microphone, and it shows. They pretty much eat it. The only way this crew is not unbelievably annoying is if there is one guy clinger in the group. This guy is usually a somber looking boyfriend or is desperately trying to be "more than friends" with one of the girls, and this fellow is miserable. Laughing at him provides some good comedy, but it's a bittersweet laugh because we've all been there.

In conclusion, never show up to a karaoke bar sober.

Wednesday, February 4, 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.

Well I am getting this entry in just under the gun. It's been a busy day but as promised, I've set aside the bare minimum of minutes to take in two songs that are new to me and sketch out my initial impressions. Here we go.

The Rake's Song
The Decemberists, The Hazards of Love, 2009

Though I am only somewhat familiar with The Decemberists, I have liked what I have heard so far and find Colin Meloy to be an interesting and very literary songwriter. That said, from a lyrical perspective, the story of a man who used to be a "rake" and is now a father seemed to fit right in with other songs from their canon. Musically, however, this piece was far more bracing than I expected, especially after hearing some of Meloy's recent solo work. The riff makes good use of the lower reaches of the acoustic guitar's range, while the drums, which kick in a few verses in, are heavy and relentless--definitely the principal instrumental feature of the song. The Decemberists P.R. team, or perhaps the band themselves, has described their new album as "the tale of a woman named Margaret who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal; her lover, William; a forest queen; and a cold-blooded, lascivious rake, who recounts with spine-tingling ease how he came "to be living so easy and free" in the aforementioned 'The Rake’s Song.'" Well then. Oddly enough I heard echoes of more recent material from Green Day in "The Rake's Song", which surprised me. Although I think the song could be a bit repetitive after a while, it is fairly heavy for an acoustic guitar number and sang with gusto. It whets the appetite for the rest of the album, due out in March. Not bad for a free tune! Follow the link above to get your free mp3 of the song direct from the band.
Grade: B-

Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand, 2009

I've loved Franz Ferdinand and their music since I first heard the electric guitars kick in in "Jacqueline", from their eponymous debut album. Their brand of dance rock is infectious and quirky, and I think a few years ago I listened to "Do You Want To" about 50 times when it came out. "Ulysses" is undeniably Franz but with a more evolved sound, delving into synthesized sounds in the European dance fashion (along similar lines as The Killers). Although hearing of the use of the synthesizer usually scares me to the point where I will not even try to listen to a new song, I heard the tail end of this song on the radio a few weeks ago, and finally got to hear it in full tonight. Though I already used the word, the rhythm section is immediately and definitively infectious. Alex Kapranos sings of finding a "new way" to escape boredom, and what better way to chase away the doldrums than getting high while flirting with the girl from the night before, right? You can definitely dance to this stuff, but it is still rock music first and foremost. The guitars are present and prominent enough to keep this from reaching the realms of synth pop. I'd recommend "Ulysses" (pronounced "YULE-eh-sees", according to these Scots) to anyone looking to rock out (or at least nod their head) for three minutes. Definitely a Friday and Saturday night kind of song. Very cool.
Grade: B+

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Adventures in Education, Chapter 1

Today, I substituted kindergarten. If this doesn't adequately explain my lack of a solid post in 24 hours, you obviously have never worked with children. Below, I present the artwork of one of my students. Needless to say, this is a portrait of yours truly.

Yep. Miss Dan. I think she was serious, too--if not, she's got the greatest poker face I've ever seen. I suppose that every teacher, to her, is Miss So-and-so, but this was still surprising. If there was any small part of me that thought, 'Hey forget high school, I want to teach little kids!'... well that part of me died today. I realize by posting this I am leaving myself open to ridicule from my friends, perhaps forevermore. This is my chosen career field, after all, and I am completely aware of the gender ratios inherent in the system. But hey, I thought it was funny, too. If nothing else, this is artwork a damn sight better than most of you can come up with--so stuff it, Steve.

Incidentally, tonight I was driving home when I got stuck behind a car doing 20mph on a road where the limit is posted at 40 (though most people do closer to 50). Tonight, however, we were in the middle of a snowstorm on a road that hadn't been plowed all that well so, frankly, I was more than forgiving and patiently followed the lead dude along with three other cars. That was not gonna happen for the bloke in the silver SUV in front of me, and he decided to pass (in a no passing zone, not that we could see the double line) on the left and race past this grandma. Kind of unnecessary given the snow, but whatever. The rest of us are happy putting along at the pace of one of the more exciting episodes of Antiques Roadshow. Fast forward five minutes. Same road. We all collectively pass said silver SUV, hazard lights on, stuck in a huge snowbank on the side of the road. None of us stopped to help. I'm not sure if there's a moral of this story, but if there is, it could be this: Bear in mind that your kindergarten teachers might not always be female.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Up Yours, Punxsutawney Phil.

Six more weeks of winter? I think you'd make a nice hat.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Stooper Bowl Recap

Well Super Bowl XLIII is in the books, and really it doesn't matter that the crappy Pittsburgh Steelers are now, officially, the owners of more Super Bowl championships than any other team. Whoop de doo. Did their kicker make the Pro Bowl? No. Go Pats.

But enough about that. The game was surprisingly exciting for a game I didn't really care about. I've heard Bruce Springsteen sound better musically, but I'd rather see an energetic performance like that one over a rock-by-numbers set like the Rolling Stones three years ago (memo to the Stones: you've done better). I enjoyed the set, rocky moments and all. In fact, it was awesome. I'll fight you if you disagree with me.

Okay, other than the game we did have a few good commercials. As usual, the laughs were too few and far between. The laugh-a-half-minute Super Bowl commercial sessions seem to have gone the way of "Buffalo Bills, Super Bowl Contender". Still, perhaps it's time to lower our expectations and instead enjoy these chestnuts. My top 5 commercials, in descending order.

#5.) Bridgestone Tires, Mr. Potato Head

Rhode Island's most famous tubers out for a drive. Although I predicted the outcome of this commercial, the payoff was no less amusing. Simple, but great.

#4.) Doritos, Crystal Ball

Stupid humor, but great stupid humor. I really didn't expect this one, but it made me laugh out loud.

#3.) Hulu, spokesperson Alec Baldwin

Honesty is always the best policy. In a way, it's refreshing and arguably more effective to market your product by putting down the product, the consumers, and the advertising process--instead of overstating the product's usefulness or desirability.

#2.) eTrade, talking baby with friends

After discussing this commercial series at length with the old man, I have to conclude that this commercial series cannot fail. Yes, in lesser hands this series could quickly get old, but it stands up so well because it goes beyond the "Oh, a talking baby, that's always funny" schtick. The writing is brilliant. Look at his face when he says, "It's not the venue." How disappointed in his friend is he? It's amazing. The one with his golf friend is not on Hulu cause it ran after the Steelers had already won (boo!) but was just as funny, maybe moreso. Outakes can be found here.

#1.) Teleflora, Flower Delivery

Wow. Just wow. It starts off being funny, and just gets funnier. I'm still in awe. I would not be surprised to find out that Mitch Hurwitz was behind this one. It's rare to find humor that uncomfortable in a national commercial.

Honorable mentions: Taco Bell's commercial where the man gets the girl's number was good for a laugh, as was the Troy Palomalu Mean Joe Green update. Pepsi Max's commercial was decent physical comedy. Finally, even though I don't like the SoBe Life Water commercials, many many many props to one of my favorite Patriots ever, Matt Light, for a fantastic national performance of his dancing chops. I should dedicate a whole post to him and how much he deserves a talk show when he retires.

There's a part of me that it hurts to say this, but I would have liked a Peyton Manning commercial this year. Great article in Sports Illustrated last week about why he's such a popular spokesman.

Okay, shakapotomuses, lest you need reminding, it is a Sunday night. Get to bed already. Pitchers and catchers report next Thursday.