Monday, March 30, 2009

An Unusually Serious Post

I try to keep the tone light and jovial around here, albeit with a dash of passive-aggressive obnoxiousness, but for a moment I'd like to address something that I'm pretty passionate about. Although I hesitate to associate my real name with this blog, I feel that for a week I can take the risk because of the potential benefits. You'll know what I mean in a moment.

My mother, easily the strongest person I have ever known, has multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed my freshman year of college in the fall. After having gotten me through all sorts of obstacles growing up, whether medical, personal, or academic, it always seemed particularly cruel to me that she'd have to face such a major issue on her own when I was barely out the door. I spent a good deal of time being really, really angry about how unjust and crappy that news was for someone who had been so selfless and had spent a good deal of her life helping other people.

Obviously, it hasn't been easy for her, but the past five years have seen her do fairly well in spite of her diagnosis. Her relapses are less frequent now than they were even two years ago at this time. Still, walking more than a few feet is difficult, she can't always drive a car, and she has a very definite limit to how much energy she can expend in one day.

On Saturday, I will be walking in the National MS Society's Lifelines Walk in Easton, MA. My mom will be staffing a refreshment booth and I will be doing the five mile walk in her stead. I'm really proud to be participating for her. It's nice to have such a visible, tangible way to show my support for her and everyone with MS.

That said, I'm making a rather general request for your consideration. If any of you feel inclined to contribute to this cause and would like to support my mom and folks like her by sponsoring me, I would be touched and greatly appreciative. I'm walking with the summer camp and enrichment center where I've worked this year and the past eight summers. Any gift is appreciated, and if you can do five dollars, that's a fantastic gift. You don't need to give a ton; participation is, in itself, generosity.

You can find my personal page here, where you can donate using their secure online system.

I'm really grateful for your consideration and your support, and promise I will go right back to making fun of you, or me, with my next entry.

EDIT (4/6/2009): As the walk has already passed, I have changed the link from my page to the national page for donations. Should you feel inspired to send a gift, you can do so there. Thank you.

Bullshit Entry #2

Sex is a lot like the game of bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.
This post ensures that I have posted more times in March than in February. Quality AND Quantity, bitches.

Bullshit Entry #1

A lady walks into a bar and asks the bartender for a double entendre. So he gave it to her.
With this post, I have officially made as many posts in March as I did in February. Quality control, people.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Adventures in Education, Chapter 2

As many of you know, my career ambition has been to teach English to kids that don't care, preferably at the secondary level, where even less of them think it's cool to read. Fortunately, most people do not question my sanity, and a few have even gone so far as to say I might be good at that, maybe. At any rate, everything was going according to plan until a few days ago when, unprovoked, one of the kindergarten students that I work with handed me this succinct and unsolicited performance review:

That says it all, really. I think my favorite part (which could easily be my least favorite part as well) is that she anticipates my potential objection and preemptively shoots down my rebuttal with a forceful "NO". You can't argue with that, folks. A few short days ago, I really thought I had my life's ambitions in order and my goals clearly laid out before me. Now, with my dreams shattered, I stand before you a broken man, uncertain of finding a fulfilling career path now that Starbucks is downsizing.

My only option now is to remove myself completely from society and go to the woods to live deliberately, as Thoreau did. But I'd blog too. I'm all for occasional isolationism in the name of retaining sanity, but seriously, go without the internets? That's crazy talk.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TV Review: Power Rangers, Season 1!

Sometime between the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles heyday and the advent of Pokemon (a phenomenon I am still glad I missed), kids in the early 90s were taken with the coolest bunch of misfit heroes the world had ever seen! Called to uncover nefarious crimes and fight back against evil masterminds and dangerous villians much, much larger than themeselves, this selfless fivesome overcame the odds against them and delivered a knockout blow to the bad guys every week at 5 (4 central). But enough about Chip and Dale, Rescue Rangers.

There was another kind of Ranger a few channels over on FOX Kids. The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers (note the hip trendiness of the apostrophe; spelling out 'Morphing' would be so square) were another interesting band of characters dedicated to fighting crime and, if there was time, fitting in a poorly-acted storyline where somebody would learn the value of friendship or teamwork or something. I wasn't listening. I was too busy waiting for the series' meat and potatoes: the sweet costumes and the even sweeter dinosaur robots in the spliced in Japanese TV footage. The rest, as they say, was gravy, but very watered down gravy.

Okay so I'll bring you n00bs up to speed, since I'm assuming you were not a cool seven-year-old in 1993. According to the title sequence, some dopey astronauts were tooling around on the moon and accidentally set free an unimaginably sadistic supervillian bent on taking over Earth. This villian was cold, calculating, callous, cackly, and uh, a chick.

Anyway, her name was Rita and as mentioned before, she decided to conquer Earth, although Earth in this case pretty much pertained only to the very fictional, very colorful Angel Grove High School. There, five teenagers of mixed martial arts experience (emphasis on the 'mixed' part) were very randomly attacked by strange grey dudes and unwittingly summoned by Zordon, a giant head inside of a tube. Once in his command center, Zordon didn't do much to dispel the creepy old guy vibe; instead, he handed out vibrant costumes and golden coins, promising the kids much fame and cool dinosaur toys. Basically, it was the proverbial stranger in a van offering candy, but he had a kooky robot named Alpha 5 who told jokes, so he must be a good guy!

These specially recruited "teenagers with attitude" (which I guess must have a positive connotation in Japan) teamed up to become the Power Rangers. Each had a color, a special weapon, and a dinosaur robot, called a Zord. "Zord" is not a real word, but if it was it would be Japanese for "cheap plastic toy that Santa didn't bring me". In each episode, Rita would concoct a new and somewhat flimsy plan to take over the world. Rather than send in the big guns, Rita and her henchmen ("All bad guy assistants are henchmen" - Action Hero 101) would deploy a serious of escalating attacks, starting with the weak Putty Patrolers. These guys were made of clay and didn't do much except wobble menacingly. Needless to say, the fact that the outnumbered Power Rangers kicked their sorry asses every single time did little to deter Rita from sending more.

At this point, one of the other villians would step up to the plate and fight the Power Rangers themselves. They'd hold off the five Rangers in a dramatic and incredibly staged action sequence, before Rita would make her monster grow. This was accomplished by tossing her magic wand down towards Earth and landing it smack dab in the middle of the battlefield. Integral plot points such as "how did she get it back?" or "damn, she's got a cannon for an arm!" were never discussed. Once her monster was at full size, he would terrorize the small model city until the Power Rangers summoned their Zords. The Zords, which I believe must have been ineffective and docile on their own, combine to make one large Megazord dude that was a ripoff of Transformers. Megazord and MegaVillianGuy smack each other around some until Megazord wins and the world is saved. In the end, we learn that we cannot save the world through diplomacy or understanding, but rather by who brings the biggest nuts to the fight.

The coolest moment of the series came with the introduction of the Green Ranger. He was first an evil Ranger but converted to good because of love or TV ratings or something. The Green Ranger had the best outfit, the best plot lines, the best Zord (a Dragonzord, bitchin'!), and presumably got to do whatever it is boys and girls do together with the Pink Ranger. The TV show jumped the shark early on, however, creating a weak story line to sap the Green Ranger of his powers and forcing him to be reintroduced as the White Ranger. Lame. Even as a kid, I was pretty pissed by this switcharoo and I quickly dropped the show like the two-timing second grade girlfriend that Sally Friedman was.

The series raised a lot of important questions. Why was the Pink Ranger always a girl? Why was the Black Ranger black? Why was the Yellow Ranger an Asian? What level of irony is it when an Asian action series plays into anti-Asian racism? Why don't the Rangers just cut to the Zords part when the Putty Patrolers show up? Why is Zordon in that tube? Does the Blue Ranger bat for the other team (if you know what I mean)? Ditto Alpha 5. Notably, how bangin' was Kimberly the Pink Ranger? Hot damn. I'd go for some morphin' time with her.

All in all, Power Rangers was a fantastic show in that it had plenty of action sequences, spun off lots of toys of which I could afford none, featured a Pink Ranger cute enough that I considered (briefly) the idea that girls maybe, maybe might not have cooties, and taught us absolutely nothing of any value whatsoever.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Letter from the Editor

Hello y'all,

This is Washington Square in New York City.

I will be there all day tomorrow, and as I ponder the massively intimidating immediate future, you can expect the next blog post to be in a few days or so. Grad school decisions in our glorious economy (been a have-not since 1986, yo!) take on an added twist, making the merely unnerving process of selecting a school into a horrifyingly major decision. I want to go back to preschool.

Be well and enjoy the weekend,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

An 1847 Potato Farmer Observes the Modern American St. Patrick's Day

A feast day to celebrate the Irish heritage? My heart thrills to hear it! I can think of no higher testament to Saint Padraig than to employ his day as a tribute to the pious and hard working Catholics of Ireland!

But what's this? Grown men and women clad in emerald green... falling over each other, raving drunk! Inebriation and gluttony everywhere! Why? Do you consider the Irish to be heavy drinkers who freely piss on the pavement in public? Have you ever even been to Ireland? We would love to have pavement.

No, the home country is full of hard-working, poor, and hungry farmers like myself and my mothers and fathers before. 'Tis true that God took the potatoes away, but in His mercy we found America, sought work, and started rather large families on the East Coast. We are proud to hail from Ireland and should be, but I do not recognize your interpretation at all!

That young lad over there just dropped a small glass of creme into a pint of Guinness and imbibed it in two seconds flat! What inconsiderate selfishness, and such a waste too! Arthur Guinness did not spend years refining his brewing techniques for you thickheaded Americans to throw additional ingredients into a pint of black and then dispose of it rapidly. Irish Car Bomb, you say? A drink named after the process of exploding one's carriage so as to kill other Irishmen--that's not offensive.

And what of that improper lady, gorging herself on mashed potatoes with corned beef and cabbage? Beef? It's bloody Lent, people. And I find myself at a complete loss for words regarding your curious concept of "leprechauns". I have no idea where that came from, but if that is a slight against our perceived shortness, I refuse to rise to your level. If there was indeed a pot of gold at the end of some Irish rainbow, we'd have shared it by now so we could eat more than one meal a day.

Your great-great-great-uncle was from Kilkenny, you think, so you're understandably proud to be Irish. I think it strange that none of you want to be Irish the rest of the year. In just two days, you'll be wearing red and doing Italian things for Saint Joe's day. Again, as with Saint Padraig's feast, this includes all ethnic celebrations imaginable short of actually going to church.

We should start celebrating the Fourth of July in Ireland, I think. We could all wear red, white, and blue and drink stale beer from cans while donning cowboy hats, eating hot dogs, and heartily calling out things like "Purple Mountains' Majesties!". Makes about as much sense as you plastic paddys writing "Eirinn go Brach" everywhere.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Facebook According to DF, Part 3

Choosing a Boss Profile Picture

Greetings again, social rejects, for another installment of my award-winning* series, dedicated to helping you appear much cooler online than you really are. Hopefully by this point at least a few other Facebook users who must see and interact with you every day have relented to your multiple requests and accepted you as a "friend". If this is your first time joining us, remember that a "friend" is in fact not a friend, but a "friend". If you don't know the difference, why don't you go have a seat at the little kids table? This is a grown-up conversation.

So you've updated your profile with every conceivable interest you could muster, including your favorite movies (Boondock Saints is overrated, sorry dude), books (strikingly similar to everyone's high school curriculum... you have read books since then, right?), TV shows (just copy+paste the following: 24, LOST, The Office), and music (in ABC order, you clearly just copied the list from your iPod). Great work. Also your work experience section lists everything you've ever done, including babysitting and that summer you spent as a CIT. Even greater work. Finally, after listing every possible way to contact you short of smoke signals, you have one remaining task to complete your basic profile page. A bitchin' profile picture.

Okay, before you hastily throw up any old photo of yourself, let's lay down a few ground rules:

1) The photo should be a somewhat recent photo of you. Not your team photo, not Jim Halpert, not President Obama, not Derek Jeter, you.
2) If the photo is of you and several others, no one else should be significantly more attractive than you. This is misleading. I had that problem when i put up a picture of myself and my buddy Sickwater, and suddenly every girl I was knew was asking me about his abs. If this means taking some photos with some ugly people sometimes, well... you should be doing that anyway.
3) Your photo should be big enough to actually be seen. 100x100 pixels is tiny, no matter what the motion of the ocean is.
4) If every one of your profile pictures is a coupley pic of you and your boyfriend/girlfriend, you'd better hope that they marry you. No one else you currently know will.
5) If you look absolutely stunning in your profile picture, people will assume that you untag all the unflattering ones. There is no way around this. You vain thing you.

Okay, so where does that leave us? Use the following completely arbitrary guidelines as signposts along the way to choosing your perfect profile picture.

Humorous, self-deprecating photo? Yes.
Solo cup + peace sign + hair gel? No.
You in a cold weather tourist destination? Yes.
You in a warm weather spring break slopfest? No.
You and unlikely celebrity? Yes.
You and the dorkiest professor you know? Double yes.
Halloween costume? Yes.
High school football photo while in high school? Fine.
High school football photo after high school? No.
A picture of Rudy if you do, in fact, look like Sean Astin? Yes.
Picnik nightmare? No.
Screenshot of you being interviewed by ABC6 News after a machete-wielding man ran through CVS and caused a disturbance of the peace? Gold.
Banana suit? It's been done.
Boobs? Inconclusive, further research needed.

Any unanswered questions can be resolved by reaching me at the following contacts:
Ladies, post any potential pics in the comment section.
Fellas, pick up any phone and dial 0. Ask to be disconnected.

* Recipient of the DeeEff Award for Raddest Fucking Dude Alive (February 2007)
** Hilarity not guaranteed. May be offensive in Texas.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Things I Learned While Cleaning My Room Today

My bank statements for the past four and a half years read something like this: Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Rocks Liquors, Dunkin Donuts, Dunkin Donuts, RIPTA, Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, Rocks Liquors, Café 412, Work-study Deposit ($7.40), Starbucks.

My free trial subscription to Sports Illustrated included the swimsuit issue. The writing this year was brilliant.

I potentially wasted $100 by sending my GRE scores to schools that I will probably never apply to.

I definitely wasted $60 by sending the application fee to a school I won’t be applying to.

We got a new vacuum cleaner months ago. I apparently just noticed.

I have literally dozens of mix CDs with lame titles like “Current Listening Mix”, “Connecticut Road Trip Mix”, “Crappy Oldies Mix”, “Classic Rock that Doesn’t Suck, Vol. II ”, and “ Kids Bop Motown”. That last one was for work, I swear.

What I lack in talent I more than make up for in bass cables.

The books and songs that I haven’t written are really, really great.

Ditto for unfinished term papers.

Today was the first day in four weeks that I haven’t had coffee. I also fell way short of my goal. That, folks, is what the scientific community calls “cause” and “effect”.

I have a book titled “Organizational Solutions for People with Attention Deficit Disorder”. It was at the bottom of a pile on the floor.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Letter to Local Coffee Shop Girl

Dear Local Coffee Shop Girl,

You don’t know this, but last week when you greeted me warmly as I stood at the counter, making eye contact and smiling, my day was suddenly perfect. Though my afternoon to that point was full of agonizing life decisions such as which graduate school to attend and whether or not I should wash my jeans (seven days is cool, right?), your beaming smile and sweet voice instantly transported me to a land of warm sunshine, clean air, and cleaner laundry.

You were positively radiant. So much so that I stammered through my coffee order for the first time in my entire life. So much so that I’m willingly leaving this sentence fragment and the previous one unedited, because I'm starting to see there are bigger things in life than grammar. Well, that there are bigger things than grammar. I digress. My medium black iced coffee was excellent. Although it’s probably the easiest order one could ever receive (I suppose small black hot coffee might be a smidge easier), you made it perfectly, and I cannot tell you how much that speaks to your character. Starbucks at Target screws that one up every time.

As if this was not enough to improve my mood—which, by the way, it is—you proceeded to ask me how my day was and actually listened to the answer. Until that point in the day, the most discussion I had had was an enlightening conversation with my little brother about how crappy his music taste is (seriously, B... Nickelback sucks). Thank you. I was glad to hear that you were doing just as well, and I hope you kept the somewhat outrageous 50% tip I left.

I love you. Please be twenty-one.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Salute to the Bar Room Tough Guy

This entry is cordially dedicated to the upstanding reveler who cut in front of me in the bathroom line last night and told me that I would have to leave.

A toast, ladies and gentlemen, to the Bar Room Tough Guy!

Mild-mannered and somewhat diminutive junior sales rep by day, the Bar Room Tough Guy makes a scintillating transformation when the working day is done. Having crushed upwards of two entire Natty Ices, and perhaps ingesting a Jager bomb while pointing at someone, our vertically challenged hero dons his best striped shirt and makes the bold decision to drive himself to one of the finer overpriced, faux-Irish establishments in downtown Providence. The one that isn't Ri-Ra.

Like Superman emerging from the phone booth, this broseph has turned into the Bar Room Tough Guy. No longer feeling constrained by his 5'5", 147lb frame, BRTG suddenly takes over the room. Usually with an army of his newfound bros at his side, the ones he met in line, BRTG pounds his tropical drink and hits the dance floor. He knows he can totally bag any hottie out there.

With the babes already his for the taking (he is wearing AXE, after all), he proceeds to order more fruity liquid courage from the blonde hostess who totally wants him. He leans in to whisper something real classy like, "I'll give you the tip at my place later", but the blasting club music drowns out his romantic proposal and, like two ships passing in the night, the star-crossed almost-pair go their seperate ways. Whatever, man, she was a skank.

Notorious B.I.G. comes on the sound system and makes all right with the world again. Our young hero identifies with Biggie Smalls' tale of growing up as a poor black man in the inner city. He feels the bass and busts an appropriately awesome hip gyration that causes several ladies to walk away, knowing that they are overmatched.

Unfortunately, his romantic trists are put on hold when someone is suddenly thrust into him. In a room roughly 100 people past the fire code, Bar Room Tough Guy knows that this douche who just brazenly spilled his drinktini wanted to start something, and he is gonna pay for that shit. Lurching forward, BRTG brings a mighty right hook that misses by mere yards as he crashes to the floor (which he totally meant to do). That juice-spilling jerkoff ran away, and if he knows what's good for him, he won't come back.

Unaware of the pink stains running down the front of his half-unbuttoned striped shirt, he decides it's time to hit the mens room. Whereas most would wait in line, our John Wayne Jr VIPs himself past the queue to the door, throwing it open and tossing the surprised occupant out of the way. Dude's probably a loser anyway; he can move. As he turns to issue a menacing threat, Bar Room Tough Guy fumbles with his zipper, trying to locate the very body part he is compensating for.

Although tonight ends by falling out the door and most likely falling asleep on the hood of your car, we admire the tenacity and stubborness that has somehow allowed your type to overcome natural selection. We raise our glasses of slightly more respectable beers in salute to you, bro.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dustin Pedroia is Funny

Hey, so on the same day we get (updated!) pictures of newlywed Tom Brady, including this fantastic mug...... it turns out that Boston has a championship-winning MVP who does have charisma. Introducing PlayStation's latest commercial, featuring Dustin Pedroia, the guy from the GEICO commercials, and awesomeness.

The gripping sequel:

For those who prefer their athletes to be non-confrontational and shirtless, has a 59 photo gallery of Tom and Gisele. Yes. Yes, they do. I've already given my thoughts on this, but really. Enough. We like him a whole lot as a football player, but we don't need to know everything about his personal life. We'll get by just fine without the daily updates. However, if the Globe wants to let us know about the daily foibles of Dustin Pedroia and his entourage, consider us all ears.

Get better soon, Brady.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

U2 - The Best of 2000-2010 (Another Dorky Post)

Although I'm pretty sure U2's renegotiated record deal precludes any possibility of the third volume in their "Best Of" series, I thought it might be fun to try to sketch out a preliminary track listing for "The Best Of 2000-2010".

For starters, I included all major singles from each of the last three albums, save "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck In A Moment" (which both appeared on 1990-2000). Additionally, the band released "Window in the Skies" and "The Saints Are Coming" without accompanying albums, but I only included "Window" because "Saints" was a cover, not an original. I added additional tracks from All That You Can't Leave Behind and No Line On The Horizon as they only had 2 and 3 singles included each. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb had 5 singles so I left that one alone, though "Mircale Drug" would have been a nice inclusion. Finally, when U2 released the deluxe remastered versions of 1987's The Joshua Tree and 1983's War, they completed two unfinished songs called "Wave of Sorrow" and "Angels Too Tied To The Ground". Since these songs feature new instrumentation and vocals, and were released in 2007 and 2008, I included those as well. I'm assuming U2 won't record one or two new tracks for this, though they probably would. I then spent less than five minutes designing the not-entirely-terrible-looking album cover you see above. As far as track order, I used the Vertigo Tour's opener and then just guessed.

I'm such a loser. Anyway, someone burn this CD and let me know if it is any good.

1) City of Blinding Lights
2) Elevation
3) Window in the Skies
4) I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight
5) Moment of Surrender
6) Vertigo
7) Breathe
8) Walk On
9) Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
10) Get On Your Boots
11) All Because of You
12) Wave of Sorrow (Birdland)
13) In A Little While
14) Angels Too Tied to the Ground
15) Stand Up Comedy
16) Kite
17) Magnificent
18) Original of the Species

Comments, complaints, and tangents are more than welcome.

Wednesday, March 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. This week, however, I will be reviewing a new album instead.

Album Review
U2, No Line on the Horizon, 2009

Depending on whom you ask, you could conceivably get any number of opinions about U2. They're the biggest band in the world. They're grandiose and way over the top. Bono is one of the great human rights advocates of our time. Bono thinks he's Jesus. U2's catalogue is more diverse than most major artists could dream of. All U2 songs sound the same.

I suppose, then, that like all music, theirs is a matter of taste. Having sold about 150 million records in their still active career, the band probably doesn't need to worry about pleasing Rolling Stone (they gushed through a five star review anyway) or TIME Magazine (the magazine that gave them the cover in 1987 found it uninteresting and insist the band's best days are behind them; two stars). Having read both reviews, I'd say both are just a bit off the mark in one key area.

As an English lit student, one of the things drilled into our heads is the idea of separating the narrator from the author. Unreliable narrators in works by such authors as Edgar Allan Poe and William Faulkner drive home the disconnect that must exist between art and the artist. To read every novel, poem, or even song as completely autobiographical is to misread it. I'm not entirely sure why Bono's lyrics get a far more literal reading than, say, Paul Simon's or Sting's. Most reviewers, it would seem, cannot hear Bono singing without envisioning Bono the person directly addressing them, whether he is lifting them up or talking down to them. While I think much of his personality runs through his lyrics (really, how could it not?), I am fairly confident listening to a line like "I was born to sing for you/ I didn't have a choice but to lift you up/ And sing whatever song you wanted me to" that he isn't singing to me or Josh Tyrangiel from TIME, but a higher power. That higher power. The song is called "Magnificent", after all... doesn't seem to take much extrapolation to figure out who the singer "will magnify" with "a joyful noise".

So, tangents aside, where does that leave us?

No Line on the Horizon stacks up very well to U2's prior catalogue, though not because it is the next Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby. It's not. In fact, the closest comparison I have is actually 1984's The Unforgettable Fire. The ambient production and atmosphere (hallmarks of Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois's work with U2) weaves through songs that sound both familiar and yet surprisingly fresh and unpredictable. This last quality is perhaps my favorite; Horizon is an album from a band that has not lost its vitality and is still evolving.

Certainly, many songs retain certain U2 hallmarks. "Moment of Surrender" might stand in for "Stuck in a Moment" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" as the radio ballad (all three occupy the third track on their respective albums), but the song brings in a deftly used cello and is more introspective than bombastic. It's also seven minutes long, but you'll barely notice that due to the song's paradoxical restraint. The song is already receiving early praise.

There are few rockers here ("Stand Up Comedy","Get On Your Boots", and "Breathe" are the only real uptempo numbers to speak of) but Horizon doesn't drag or bore. The title track, which is also the album opener, is the first to open the album's theme: that of moving forward--not so much moving on from anything, in the vein of "Walk On", but rather taking in the view of the uncertain future that lays ahead, steeling ourselves to it, and going right at it with an open mind and a hopeful heart. As much as it tried to be, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was too heavy at parts to be uplifting as a whole. Horizon is far more successful in that sense.

The songs pull the listener in, but are densely layered in sound. "FEZ-Being Born", while not quite art-rock, has atmosphere we have not heard from U2 since the aforementioned Unforgettable Fire. The comparison between the two albums is apt in that both tried to push the boundaries of what was expected of the band at the time, without sacrificing all of what brought fans in in the first place. Both albums take chances, and as a part of that, not everything works. Horizon is not a perfect album, but I don't think it's meant to be. The new sonic directions the band explores (owing as much to the producers as to Edge, I would guess) are refreshing even when they aren't up to par with Achtung Baby. I prefer ambition--with all the implicit flaws--over playing it safe.

Tracks like "Breathe" and "Get On Your Boots" sound fresh and vital. Larry's drumming, in particular, shines throughout. Bono's lyrics seem to have come miles from the last album, which spoke directly but often rather mundanely. Songs such as "Being Born", "Moment of Surrender", and "Breathe" shine lyrically, and "White as Snow" reads like the finer moments of The Joshua Tree. Even the goofiness of some of the lyrics in "Unknown Caller" (urging you, the listener, to "reboot yourself") meshes with the album's theme so well that you forgive its corniness. Speaking of occasionally corny lyrics, memo to Bono: "ATM machine" is redundant. I'll forgive you though because the rest of the lyrics are killer.

"Moment of Surrender" will get all the praise in the ballad department, but "White As Snow" and "Cedars of Lebanon" are both beautiful and haunting. The former features brilliant use of French horn as a role-playing instrument, playing off the bass in an unexpected but gorgeous moment of transition within the piece. Song structures vary and the functions of the guitars and keyboards keep things varied. With all due respect to "The Wanderer" from Zooropa, which I absolutely adore, "Cedars" might be their most compelling album closer since "Love Is Blindness" in 1991. This song ends quietly, but in such a fashion that you will be forced to stop what you are doing to pay attention to it.

No Line on the Horizon will probably not convert any new U2 fans who were not already on board, but those with even a cursory interest in the band will find it to be a pretty great listen. "Breathe", in particular, is worthy of an important place on the probably not forthcoming "Best of 2000-2010". While the album is certainly a grower, and not all of the songs make an immediate impression, I found it to be a refreshing and invigorating listen. It's enjoyable to see a band of their stature continue to grow, and my fears that their career had come full circle were apparently unfounded. This is the sound of a band that has far too much vitality to succumb to a greatest hits tour. There are further chapters ahead, and I'm certainly enjoying the current one.

GRADE: I'm probably too biased to give one. I'll say B+.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

U2 Week - Tuesday Update

U2's 12th studio album, No Line on the Horizon, is officially out today. I picked up my copy at Newbury Comics (a store totally worth supporting if you're in the Metro Boston area) and have played it through once. I'll go over my impressions of it in more detail tomorrow but so far I'm liking what I'm hearing. A few of the tracks are immediate, but it strikes me as the type of album that will grow on the listener over time. It seems like a lot of time and care went into this CD.

You might ask, is it imperative to get a CD on the day it comes out? No, but if you don't know me, one rather odd habit of mine is treating CD release dates of my favorite artists like the opening night of certain movies. I want to get it as soon as possible. I usually even bypass and get a copy in person instead so I can have it in my hands. If this makes me strange, I'm okay with it. I rarely buy DVDs, I might go to the movies three times in a calendar year, and I haven't bought a video game since junior high school, so I feel like my generally obsessive desire to have a bitchin' CD collection is somewhat justified. Yes, I actually pay money for music by artists I care about. Shocking, I know.

U2 was on Letterman last night, as they are every night this week, and after shoveling out the sidewalk in front of the Ed Sullivan Theater (it's always fun to see rich people do mundane things in public), they performed "Breathe" from the new CD. Call me biased, but it was one of the more exciting late night performances I've seen in a while. Then again, talk show TV gigs are generally pretty bland. Bono got that audience pretty worked up, though. The man can work a room. Video below!

I apologize to all non-U2 fans for my blog posts this week. But not really. Album review tomorrow! Goodnight, y'all.

Monday, March 2, 2009

U2 Week (A Dorky Music Post)

I generally lack the willpower to pick a theme and stick with it for any length of time. Dozens of girls could attest to my fear of commitment. Just kidding. Girls wouldn't date me unless their first choice fell through. My own finicky habits aside, I decided that this will be U2 week on this blog, as I can conceive of at least two more posts happening with regards to them.

For those of you who don't pay attention to such things as the music industry (half of you? two-thirds?), U2 is dropping a new album tomorrow--or by the time most of you read this, today. Their 12th studio album, No Line on the Horizon, will undoubtedly be the talk of many news and media outlets. The band's status as the vanguard of rock and the champion of world poverty relief basically guarantees this. Plus, they're a big hit with the 40-something white male crowd, which always helps (at least financially). Their last two albums cleaned up at the Grammy Awards, and basically every world tour the band has done since 1985 has become a major event. Regardless of whether you're a fan or a hater (and there are plenty of both), a U2 album release is big news.

We've already heard the first single, "Get On Your Boots", which follows in the tradition of singles such as "The Fly" and "Discotheque" in that it exhibits a dramatic musical departure from previous material and polarizes the fan base. Considering that most people could identify a definite "U2 sound" (echo-laden guitar, pulsing eighth notes on bass, militant drums, huge choruses), it is somewhat surprising to take a look back and note how many times the band has deviated from expectations. After War, the world was ready for one of the quintessential rock album of the 1980s, and while they'd eventually get it in The Joshua Tree, there was first the art-rock sidestep The Unforgettable Fire. After the Joshua Tree and its cousin, Rattle and Hum, U2 risked their claim on the biggest band in the world by releasing the totally different Achtung Baby in 1991. Had the songs (especially "One") not been up to par, it would have been career suicide (the band almost broke up during the sessions). 1997's Pop saw the band embracing all that was trashy about popular music for the masses, another risky move. This is not to mention 1995's side project, Original Soundtracks 1 by Passengers (a pseudonym for U2, Brian Eno, and Luciano Pavarotti), which featured experimental pieces from movies that did not exist.

With a history of reinventing themselves more often than not, it's not surprising that the first single points to a different record than the previous two. Where the band goes from here is anybody's guess. I'll be picking up the CD tomorrow and may even have a review for New Music Wednesday, though that may be slightly optomistic.

So why else is it U2 week? The band has taken up a five-night residency as the house band for The Late Show with David Letterman (which is a first). On Friday, they will be playing a not-so-secret gig on campus at Fordham University for Good Morning America. West 53rd Street is being renamed U2 Way for the day by mayor Michael Bloomberg. No stranger to playing secret shows (the previous album was kicked off by a free surprise concert under the Brooklyn Bridge), U2 is also rumored to be playing a club gig in Boston on March 11. That gig is only confirmed insomuch as six Boston radio stations, including those with close ties to the band members like WBCN and WZLX, are holding ticket contests for the show. While the smart money is on the Paradise, given the widely bootlegged gig there in 1981, the Wailers are currently booked for that night. The new House of Blues is also a possibility.

U2's very real world tour will be announced on Monday, and will feature outdoor venues in the US for the first time in ten years. Gillette Stadium is expected to host the band in September. I will be among the thousands trying to get tickets, although I do not know if I will even be in Massachusetts come the fall.

This is probably a good spot to mention that I was front row at their May 26, 2005 concert in Boston. You weren't, because I didn't see you there. Nor did the Edge. He saw me, though.

In conclusion: album, TV, not-so-secret shows, tour announcements, all blogged by a front row veteran. U2 week. No one read this post cause it was too long. Here we go.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Open Letter to Mother Nature

This entry is rated PG-13 for language, suggestive dialogue, and brief dudity. Viewer discretion is unfortunate.

All right Mother Nature, I've had it up to here.

Another winter storm? Really? Another one? You just don't know when to quit. You've passed out more snow than George Jung. You leave me no choice; I'm abouts to tell it like it is, yo.

You're a filthy, smelly whore. No one likes you. You get around more than a fruitcake at an office party Yankee Swap. Your legs close less often than a 24-hour Walmart. You're easier than a two-letter word scramble. Your bedroom has a drive-thru dollar menu. You suck more than a vaccuum cleaner stuck to the front of an exhaust fan. You're uglier than most protesters at a pro-life rally. Your face looks like you had a threeway with Captain Hook and Edward Scissorhands. You sound worse than Billy Mays eating a chainsaw.

I will not recycle my coffee cup tomorrow. I'll probably leave a light on somewhere. I wish I knew the proper feminine equivilant of douchebag so I could call you one. I don't, so I'm forced to guess.

Up yours, douchebaguette.

Facebook According to DF, Part 2

Mastering the Finer Points of "Maybe Attending"

Welcome back, wannabes, for your next guide to looking cool on Facebook. Let's suppose for a moment that you have friends, and that these friends would actually value your attendance at an upcoming event. I know this is a reach for many of you, but bear with me. You never know when you could be invited to attend an event that isn't "I dropped my phone in the toilet, need #s plz".

A Facebook event page, for the uninitiated, is a page where a user bangs out a short description in the form of a witty who/what/where/when/why/how and selects a list of their Facebook friends and their Facebook "friends" whom they would like to invite. Note that I did not say attend, but merely invite. This is an important distinction. Inviting people whom you would rather not see show up is just good manners. Facebook events are generally public, and given the overzealous nature of NewsFeed, your uncool "friends" will find out about said event and might show up. Should you ever be planning a Facebook event, get it out of the way ahead of time and find out if they are dropping in or not by just inviting them.

Let's say that you aren't the one inviting, because you have no friends, but are waiting around to be the invited. One fine day, by virtue of adding random "friends" or joining leagues of Facebook groups, you may well receive an event invitation. You may be tempted to click "Attending" right away, because let's face it, you've got nothing else going on. I strongly encourage you to resist this temptation. I'll explain why.

You see, in today's society, when asked if you will be making an appearance somewhere, the proper response is generally not an answer ("I'll be there at 7 sharp!") but rather a question ("Who else is going?"). It is very uncool to be the first person to respond in the affirmative to attending an event, even if the event is your birthday party and you created the event page. Similarly, you don't want to lie and say, "No, I'm afraid I can't make it". You know you're going. RSVPing is a formality. So how do you go about répondez s'il vous plaît-ing without sacrificing your cool a
loofness? Facebook has a way.

It's called "Maybe Attending" and it has a litany of uses. Now, you can cast your hat into the imaginary ring of people who will probably be at an event, while still implying that you are a busy person with multiple obligations on any given Friday or Saturday night. This way, your attendance will not be a complete surprise to the host, yet other partygoers will be openly wondering if you will show up (and arriving fashionably late maximizes this effect).

So when should you click "Maybe Attending"? The answer might seem obvious ("dur, when you're maybe attending!") but cool off, Jethro. Here's another handy guide to help you ascertain the correct events to fire off one of these beauties.

You should click "Maybe Attending" if:
- There's a way cooler event going on that night, but you're not invited. Yet.
- You're pretty sure you're going, but there's an off chance that chick whose number you got will return one of your five phone calls and want to "watch a movie".
- You have zero intention of going, but would feel bad saying no cause everyone else already has.
- You are absolutely going, but you don't know who else is yet.
- You are absolutely going, but don't want anyone else to know.
- You are attending, but want to look cool.
- You're not attending because you're too cool.

On a somewhat related note, if you're invited to a Facebook event where a person needs new phone numbers, it is always hilarious to click "Maybe Attending", especially if this person would never actually call you anyway.

As with everything, there are exceptions. If you log in one day to find an invitation to "Smashley's 21st Birthday Country Club Reception (w/Open Bar!)", you should "Attend" the hell out of that. Similarly, the "Free OJ Simpson Rally (plz no Jamba Juice this yr!!)" is absolutely worth a definitive "Not Attending". Everything in between is pretty much covered by the above guide. Now that I've improved your social standing dramatically, get out there and tentatively commit to possibly attending, maybe!