Friday, November 30, 2007

Ace of Bass

Something about a bass aria just makes me happy. It's a unique musical moment -- incredibly effective at moving the emotional burden of the opera along. The bass is almost always a "foil" -- either a villain or supporting role that is used to contrast the hero. Here are two of my favorites.

Most people have heard (or at least heard of) La Boheme. The bass role in La Boheme is Colline, the philosopher. The penultimate aria in the opera is sung by him, before the dramatic death of Mimi -- where he is preparing to sell his beloved overcoat (which is where he keeps his writing) to buy her medicine. In some ways, the aria is comical, and is supposed to lessen the emotional tension of the death scene to follow and of Rodolfo's anguish. However, it is itself a tremendous recognition of the transience of life -- and it's the bass which allows it to stay on that cutting edge of comedy and pathos. Listen for yourself:



The second is from Borodin's "Prince Igor." The bass here is the villain -- the Pecheneg Khan Konchak. He has taken Igor prisoner and now asks him why Igor is so sad in confinement even though he is treated so well. Konchak offers him any horse, any woman and even his sword -- of course showing off at the time. Konchak is the typical personification of 19th century "oriental" -- the seductive, cruel, swaggering easterner. Notice the way the bass allows the aria to shift from seduction to menace quickly. As he offers Igor his freedom in return for a promise to not stand in his way Konchak becomes a tempter -- reminiscent of another famous bass role, Méphistophélès in "Faustus." Igor's heroic baritone provides a powerful, simple contrast.



Of course, YouTube is not place to listen to opera. Listen to the whole thing sometime!

Giving Him the Business

That video was sent to me by Paul Smecker's girlfriend, who tells me the referee's hand-signal is a remarkable imitation of Paul's love-making technique.



If I could be commissioner of the National Football League for a day, my first official act would be to add "giving him the business down there" to the rule book as a 15-yard penalty.

But that's not all! Apparently its not just professional players who like to give each other the business - its spreading to the Division 1 college ranks, as well:

Thought For The Day

God, I hate the media in this country.



In my opinion, the Washington Post's Tom Toles is the best editorial cartoonist working today, if not the best since Thomas Nast. His cartoons can be found here - he usually does three or four per week.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

So That's How It Went Down

An explanation for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction . . . finally.

P.S. On YouTube, this is referred to as the "banned Bud Light ad." Please, it wasn't banned. I sincerely doubt that the government had anything to do with it. Its more likely that Fox's internal censors didn't want to risk drawing criticism from the fun and free speech-hating Focus On the Family-type fundamentalist organizations which make up such a large portion of their audience.

Author Interviews on National Public Radio

Terry Gross' program Fresh Air, has aired a series of really interesting interviews with some of Common Sense Dancing's favorite authors. Here are links to just a few of them:

Michael Chabon, discussing The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Richard Russo, discussing Bridge of Sighs.

Philip Roth, discussing Exit Ghost.

Don DeLillo, discussing Falling Man.

Tom Perrotta, discussing The Abstinence Teacher.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Warriors' Mentality

Anybody who knows me in real life will understand why I love this video. Also, I can basically guarantee that none of our female readers will laugh at this video.I met Clifford Rozier briefly at the 1993 World University Games, so I feel intimately connected to his obscure place in NBA history. Though not as well-known as his World University Games teammates as future NBA all-starts Michael Finley and Damon Stoudamire, or for that matter NCAA stand-outs Ed O'Bannon and Donald Williams, he nonetheless managed to post averages 6.8 points and 7.3 boards as a rookie, playing 22.3 minutes per game. Unfortunately for Clifford, verything went downhill from there. Sure, he's one of the few players in NBA history to have a season with a negative Player Efficiency Rating, but, damn, nobody blocked Gabonese and Estonian college students' shots into the fourth row of the stands quite like Clifford Rozier. Go easy, Cliff, wherever you are these days.

Criminals Are Stupid

A man in South Carolina was arrested yesterday for attempting to open a bank account with a one million dollar bill. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he never attended evil medical school.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Scattered Thoughts on 80's Music Videos - The Early Years

MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Music videos existed before then, but since the circulation was so much lower there wasn't much money in them, and because there wasn't much money in them they didn't attract much in the way of directorial talent, and because they didn't draw much in the way of directorial talent, a lot of them ended up looking like this:

Laura Branigan - Gloria


I actually kind of like Laura Branigan. Her songs could only have been hits in the mid-80's, and her career didn't really last into the 90's, except for a few obscure songs that only gay dance clubs ever played, but her 80's songs were a lot of fun. Her music videos would get a lot better (more on that in future posts) but the video for "Gloria" shows exactly how simple music videos were in the early days.

Hall and Oates - Private Eyes


What do you prefer? A music video as bare-bones as "Gloria," or one like "Private Eyes" which makes an attempt at sophistication at ends up looking this ridiculous? I actually find it sort of endearing - like cheering on your friend's little kid at a softball game. I've written about Hall and Oates before; I think their music actually holds up better than that of most 80's bands. Nobody remembers this, but Darryl Hall was the Justin Timberlake of the 1980's - the one pretty blond white guy who was cool even relative to cool black guys. That's pretty rare. And its one of the reasons Hall and Oates is sampled more often than just about any band other than James Brown and Parliament.

The Cars - Touch and Go


The Cars were one of the bands that helped usher in the video era, but some of their videos - like their 1980 hit "Touch and Go" - have great reputations that aren't entirely deserved. A lot of people consider "Touch and Go" to be a classic, and maybe it is, but try muting the sound to see how simple it looks relative to its higher budget brethren which the Cars released just a few years later. Simple videos of a band singing a hit song may not give the viewer much to look at, hold up better than videos like this, which age worse for having aimed higher.

The Sports Guy Redeems Himself

Okay, so I've criticized Bill Simmons' football writing quite a bit in recent weeks. I stand by everything I've written about those columns, but I've always thought that Simmons was the best mainstream basketball writer in the business. He's just posted a lengthy podcast with basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton, and its really good.

Bill Walton has always been a favorite of mine, because he stuttered his entire life until he was deep into his basketball career, when a Portland Trailblazers broadcaster introduced him to a speech pathologist who had helped him beat his own stuttering problem. Walton, whose previous attempts at speech therapy had not produced results, found immediate results with the new pathologist. To a stutterer such as myself, the fact that a person like Walton, who was once too embarassed to speak in public now makes his living speaking on the air is a source of inspiration. Of course, now that he can speak without stuttering, Walton basically never shuts up, as this podcast shows - its basically a 50-minute stream of consciousness.

Just for old time's sake, here's a clip of Walton kicking ass:

Monday, November 26, 2007

"The Worst Person In the World"

Gawker overreacted when it called this guy "The Worst Person In the World," but he's certainly one of the biggest douchebags I've ever seen.

This Is Pretty Macho

Joe Horn, a resident of Pasadena, Texas, used a shotgun to kill two men who were burglarizing his neighbor's house, while he was on the telephone with a 911 dispatcher.

In Texas, deadly force can be used to prevent burglary, robbery, theft, or criminal mischief to your own property. Texas even has a "make my day" statute which makes it legal to shoot and kill a fleeing burglar, robber or thief. Think about it - you can shoot a fleeing burglar in the back, even if there is no potential risk to your personal safety, or the personal safety of your family members. Texas being Texas, he wasn't arrested, and opinion polls show that two out of three Texans support his actions and to not believe he should be imprisoned. A grand jury will determine whether charges will be filed.

The audio recording of the entire incident can be heard here.

Is Joe Horn a good neighbor? Is he a vigilante? Is it possible to be a little bit of both?

6th Circuit Judge Cites The Simpsons

In his dissenting opinion in the matter of Seawright v. American General Financial Services, my new favorite judge, Boyce F. Martin Jr. of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals cited the classic Simpsons episode "And Maggie Makes Three."

The relevant portion reads as follows:

A unilateral contract is one where an offeror "reasonably expects to induce action of a definite and substantial character" from the offeree. Implicit in this understanding is that the offeree is aware of the significance of the act performed. Without a signal that she understands that a contract is being made, how is one to know if she has truly accepted?

Homer Simpson talking to God: "Here's the deal: you freeze everything as it is, and I won't ask you for anything more. If that is OK, please give me absolutely no sign. [no response] OK, deal. In gratitude, I present you this offering of cookies and milk. If you want me to eat them for you, give me no sign. [no response] Thy will be done."


Thanks for the words: The Rising Jurist

Not That There's Anything Wrong With That . . .

Apparently, the British version of American Idol (known as the X Factor) is ever gayer than the American version. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself:



Readers who know me know that by "gay," I mean "stereotypically gay." Why do I say its stereotypically gay? The first reason is the sailor outfits - I mean, come one. But here are two other compelling ones:


Village People - Go West - MyVideo

Sunday, November 25, 2007

This Is Weird On Any Number Of Levels

So, there's a new horror movie coming out called Teeth, about a woman with some sort of killer teeth in her vagina which kills men who try to fuck her. Its such a terrible idea, and so difficult to believe that any studio greenlighted it that, when I first saw the trailer, I assumed it was a parody made by some film students, or perhaps a sketch comedy troupe. As it turns out, its an actual movie:

There are all sorts of easy jokes you can make about it - Wait, you're telling me they're not supposed to have teeth?!?!

Unfortunately, this part isn't a joke: I used to coach little league, and one of my best players was a kid named Ashley Springer. I haven't heard from him in more than ten years, so needless to say I was surprised to find out that he is now an actor and wears a prosthetic cock in a sex scene in the movie Teeth. And to think that I played a role in shaping that young man!

In the library...

Exams are fast approaching and very little in this world cheers me up these days. Always a good time to check out clips from Louis CK's classic "Shameless" special.

On the saddest thing that ever happened....in America:


On hating people recreationally:

Weekend Links

This is what we've been reading this week:

Tangled Up - The New Yorker's Anthony Lane on 'I'm Not There' and 'The Mist.'

Sir Noel's Epistles - New York Times theater critic John Simon reviews The Letters of Noel Coward, a must-have Christmas present for Anglophiles, homosexuals, and Anglophilic homosexuals of all ages.

Rock of Ages, Age of Rocks -
The New York Times Sunday magazine studies the effect that evangelical geologists have had on the Christianist movement.

Original NBA Jam Rosters - Come on, you were addicted to this game in 1992. Seeing the old Celtics' roster of Robert Parish and Dee Brown brought a smile to my face.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Scattered Thoughts On 80's Music Videos

Andrew Sullivan is finishing up a week-long reader's poll to determine the best 80's music video, the worst 80's music video, and the 'best-worst' 80's music video. Here at CSD headquarters we've been thinking a lot about the subject, and over the next week or so we'll be posting a few of our favorites. Please use the comments to let me know what you think about the videos we post!

Fleetwood Mac - Gypsy Everybody knows that music videos made stars out of some photogenic artists, like Madonna, who would have struggled to survive on the strength of their music alone. But what of those radio stars, slain by the advent of the music video? Fleetwood Mac's eponymous 1975 album, and 1977's 30 million-copy mega-hit Rumors haven't left FM radio in the thirty years since their release, but those albums were built on Fleetwood Mac's three singers - Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and Christine McVie - sharing the lead vocals, each playing to their strengths. When MTV came onto the air, and singers suddenly had to look as good as they sounded, music videos like this one shot Stevie Nicks' into the limelight, while Buckingham and McVie faded to obscurity. There were other reasons why the band broke up, but its easy to believe that, if MTV had debuted in 1991 instead of 1981, Fleetwood Mac might have turned out a few more classic records.


New Order - True Faith After Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, the surviving members of Joy Division formed New Order, and took their music in a different direction. Like so many of their hit songs, it is almost impossible to imagine True Faith existing in a pre-video age. The music more than holds up on its own, but its hard to imagine it sounding like it does if it wasn't written for the screen as much as for the sound.

The Replacements - Bastards of the Young I've posted this video before; bear with me. 'Bastards of the Young' won't win any 'best music video' polls because the video's entire raison is to protest the existence of music videos. In 1984, that was a message few people were willing to hear.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Cartoon of the Day

Our Half-Assed Attempt To Get Into the Spirit Of Thanksgiving

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

What the Hell Is Going On In This Video?

Nicholas Cage's remake of The Wicker Man movie somehow came up during the course of Thanksgiving dinner. The Onion A.V. Club famously condemned the movie by saying: "generally, it makes no damn sense." Draw your own conclusions after watching these hilariously bad clips:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Rise and Fire

Don't write this down, but I find The Sports Guy probably as annoying as you find The Sports Guy. The Sports Gal finds him boring, too. He's a little bit long-winded, he doesn't translate very well into our generation, and his jokes are terrible.

Having said that, his most recent podcast is really good. In it, he interviews Gus Johnson, everybody's favorite play-by-play sportscaster, the voice of the New York Knicks, and the star of CBS' coverage of the NCAA Tournament. Discussion topics include Stephon Marbury's selfishness, Isiah Thomas' coaching ability, David Lee's floor game and curly 'fro, broadcasting in small towns, and how he almost went to law school. Mainly, he's just a likeable guy who's fun to listen to - in addition to being a good broadcaster, he seems like plain 'ol good company.

I've liked Johnson for years; too few people realize that he's been with the MSG network for 13 years by now. Between Johnson, Mike Breen and Walt Frazier, the Knicks have the best team of basketball broadcasters out of any NBA team. Plus, he's Catholic educated and a graduate of Howard University - how can you not like the guy?

Sometimes There's A Man, Sometimes, There's A Man

Whitney Matheson at Pop Candy has a great podcast with Chris Spelman, the set designer responsible for Freaks & Geeks, Knocked Up, Superbad, Magnolia, Grosse Pointe Blank, and The Big Lebowski. For those of you who haven't been to my house, that list basically looks like my bookshelf. Among the highlights: how he found the rug that 'really tied the room together,' Jeffrey Lebowski's Key to the City of Los Angeles, The Dude's bowling shoes, etc. You can imagine where it goes from here.

Nick Saban is an Awesome Motivator

Nick Saban is an asshole. Pretty much everyone that follows college or pro football knows this. He's arrogant, abrasive, self-aggrandizing, and constantly carries himself with that disingenuous "I'm not here to be your friend, I'm here to win FOOTBALL GAMES" attitude that leads to simple-minded/glowing puff pieces. (ED note: After all, if your coach is an asshole, he must be good, right? Signed, Gregg Williams]. Saban is such a dick that he provides common ground between myself and Miami Dolphins fans, and I hate those douchebags.

That said, the man has been a very successful college coach over the course of his career. However, the next time I hear anything about him being a "master motivator" or some such shit, this article is going to be the first thing I think of.

I knew it was going to be good when the headline read: "Saban cites 9/11, Pearl Harbor to Motivate Players."

From the man himself:

"Changes in history usually occur after some kind of catastrophic event," Saban said during the opening remarks of his weekly news conference. "It may be 9-11, which sort of changed the spirit of America relative to catastrophic events. Pearl Harbor kind of got us ready for World War II, or whatever, and that was a catastrophic event."

You know, "sort of"...."or whatever." Jackass. I'd love to hear what David Cross would say about this.

Why is Alabama paying this assclown $5 million a year? If they wanted hilariously manipulative/stupid motivation for their football players, they could have gotten a video of Jim Blutarsky off YouTube for free:

Monday, November 19, 2007

Chuck Norris Endorses Mike Huckabee

If Governor Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign wasn't in sure dire straights, I'd almost have a hard time believing this actually happened. What does it say about campaign advertising that "HuckChuck Facts" is the most original campaign advertisement in years, despite the fact that its attempting to cash in on an internet phenomenon that's more than two years old?

You just got Jones-Drew'd, son.

This has to be one of the more satisfying football plays in recent memory. I don't dislike Shawne Merriman for the steroids thing as much as his lame, Ray Lewis-esque attempts to create an intenser-than-thou cult of personality for himself. Well "Lights Out," a 5'7'' tailback just lit your ass up.



(Even more satisfying is that this is a big hit done in the context of sound fundamental football, as opposed to someone like Roy Williams luckily getting a big hit after risking a 95% chance that he'll miss the man completely and give up a TD).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Men Who Look Like Old Lesbians

Apparently, its an epidemic.

Also, a generation ago, Robert Redford was considered to be the most handsome man alive. Now, he looks like the Head of Women's Studies at a community college in Denver.

Weekend Links

Conversations - Time Magazine has an interesting conversation between Cormac McCarthy and Joel and Ethan Coen, about No Country For Old Men.

Woody Talks - The New York Times reviews two of Woody Allen's books - Mere Anarchy and The Insanity Defense - as well as Eric Lax's Conversations With Woody Allen. Also, I want one of those little wooden statues!

My Sister Sarah - The Israeli Rabbi Susan Silverman (?!) profiles her sister, the comedian Sarah Silverman.

Zack & Miri Make A Porno - Variety details a combination of director, stars, and ideas that can only result in Awesome.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What The Hell Is Going On In This Video?

All I can really say is that it needs to be seen to be believed.


Surely, I can't be the only person who was reminded of Jonathan Aron from Steve Harvey's "Big Time."

I Don't Know Whether To Laugh Or Cry

Loyal Readers: You can expect a rebuttal to all of these anti-Notre Dame football posts from my old friend Biff Von Bert - a loyal Notre Dame alum - sometime in the very near future. Until then, Charlie Weis can suck it.

Friday, November 16, 2007

That Escalated Quickly

After finding out that I passed the New York State Bar Exam, I made myself a pot of coffee, bought a ridiculous amount of sugary white flower at Murray's bakery on Sixth Avenue, and proceeded to do little other than blast rock music, dance around and play air guitar for the next two hours. And it was awesome.

My roommates dragged me out last night to celebrate, and it probably goes without saying that things really got out of hand in a hurry - the revelry escalated faster than the street fight in Anchorman.

Anyway, here's some rock.
Rilo Kiley - Portions For Foxes

U2 - I Will Follow

Bloc Party - This Modern Love

Sleater-Kinney - Entertain

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tree of Smoke Wins The National Book Award

Last night, Denis Johnson's Tree of Smoke won the 2007 National Book Award for Fiction. Coincidentally, last night it also arrived at my apartment in a cardboard box stamped with Amazon.com's logo.

Denis Johnson may be the best author nobody's ever heard of. He's written seven plays, several books of poetry, and seven previous novels, the most famous of which are slim, obscure, and full of beautiful prose. If you've heard of any of them, its probably Fiskadoro. (See? Nobody's heard of him.) He is probably best known for the short story collection Jesus' Son, which was turned into a critically acclaimed and successful independent film starring Jack Black, Billy Crudup, Holly Hunter and Denis Leary .

The renowned critic Harold Bloom considers him to be one of the great living American authors, and a whole host of famous writers, including John Updike, Jonathan Franzen and Don DeLillo, have sung his praises in print. Franzen goes so far as to say that his sole criteria for evaluating the quality of a bookstore is whether they stock Denis Johnson. Think about that for a minute - despite his critical acclaim, he is obscure enough that several mainstream bookstores - Waldenbooks, for example - don't stock his books, and even some excellent bookstores, such as Borders, carry only one or two of his titles. Some critics - such as B.R. Myers in a recent issue of the Atlantic Monthly, have suggested that, though Johnson is a 'writer's writer,' he's not a 'reader's writer.' There are probably some authors of whom that is true (Anne Carson comes to mind immediately), but it is patently untrue of Johnson. If there's any justice, the success of Tree of Smoke will ensure serious readers will never have to search in vain for Denis Johnson books again.

P.S. If you're interested in buying a copy of Tree of Smoke, use the advertisement on this page to put it into your Amazon.com shopping cart, and Amazon will kick a dollar or two over to us as a commission.

I Get Up, And Nothing Gets Me Down

Today is a very good day. If you need me, I'll be rockin' out.

Reason #2 Why Letterman Is Better Than Leno

According to reports, David Letterman is paying his entire writing staff's wages - out of his own money - through the end of the 2007 calendar year.

A number of tv stars have publicly stated their support for the striking writers; Eva Longoria and Jay Leno are two of the most notable. And, to be honest, that's pretty admirable of them - after all, siding with the writers means siding against the people who pay them millions of dollars a year. Having said that, Leno supported the striking writers by bringing a group of striking writers coffee and doughnuts on his Harley, while Letterman is paying them a lot of money out of his own pocket. Regardless of whether you think he's funny - and I'll be the first person to admit that his show has slipped in recent years - Letterman is still one heck of a cool, likable guy, and his quiet dignity stands in stark contrast to, well, just about everybody else associated with the television industry.

(Reason #1, of course, is that he's much, much funnier than Leno, but you already knew that.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Life Imitating Art Imitating Life

These stories always seem to involve Christopher Guest, don't they? He just received an honorary doctor of music degree from the Berklee College of Music for his exploration of the "cultural and comic possibilities of folk, rock, and musical theater." Indeed.

Just for old times' sake:

Still More Graphical Representations of Rap Lyrics

My man Slim comes up large with a veritable treasure trove of rap-lyric graphs. My favorites:


Graphical Representation of Rap Lyrics, cont.

My special lady friend called this March 2007 Village Voice article to my attention. It attempts to follow the logic Mims' "This Is Why I'm Hot" with charts and graphs, and . . . succeeds?


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Graphical Representation of Rap Lyrics

This is a must-see:





Phishhook.com has plenty more where those came from.

Think About It

The New York State Bar Association's Character and Fitness application has ruined my capacity to think clearly, so in lieu of a real post I'm just going to drop this Flight of the Conchords skit:

Though the cinematography and thrift store clothing give it an added bit of 1970's flavor, but I actually prefer the stand-up version (below), which is more or less the same song, but with a long spoken-word introduction and a classic, self-aware, drop-the-beat-and-pick-it-up-again bit of vocal harmony:

Monday, November 12, 2007

Somewhere Out There, A Thirteen Year-Old Boy Thinks This Is Cool

Unfortunately, all of the rest of us just think that its lame.

The Only Substance Is the Fog

Nothing ushers in a Monday like a little Sleater-Kinney:

Maybe this is a little subtle, but I really love to see Letterman rush over to effusively greet a band he's really enjoyed, but clearly didn't know much about prior to having them on the show. He did the same thing when he had TV On the Radio on his show last year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend Links

Here's what we've been reading this week:

A Novelist's Nonfiction Captured the American Spirit - The New York Times' Michiko Kakutani appraises Norman Mailer's essays, "new journalism," and literary criticism.

Age Makes A Difference - The New Yorker's Hermione Lee interviews Philip Roth about Exit Ghost, Nathan Zuckerman and George W. Bush.

Monitor Mix - Carrie Brownstein, of the kick-ass rock band Sleater-Kinney, has an new music-themed blog on NPR's website. A must-bookmark for fans of indie rock.

A Cut Above - Roger Ebert's interesting take on the "Final Cut" of Blade Runner. Blade Runner is a CSD favorite, but Ebert asks an interesting question: if the movie is such a classic, then why has director Ridley Scott re-edited the film for this, the fifth time?

Dick Jauron Is Surprisingly Legit

Somehow, the Buffalo Bills have a winning record: five wins, four losses. Their head coach Dick Jauson is a big part of the reason why.

At first glance, that record seems unremarkable, especially when you consider that the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets - against whom three of the Bills' five wins have come - have a combined record of 1-17. But there's more. Two of the Bills' four losses - those against Denver and Dallas - came on last-second field goals, at the end of games during which the Bills never trailed. In other words, the Bills are exactly 0:02 away from being 7-2.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bills have suffered a string of injuries unlike any team in recent memory. After the first six weeks of the season, the Bills had ten players on injured reserve - meaning, in layman's terms, that they are out for the season. Kevin Everett, their back-up tight end, broke his neck in the season opener. During that same game, outside linebacker Coy Wire suffered a season-ending knee injury, safety Koe Simpson suffered a season-ending ankle injury, and cornerback Jason Webster broke his forearm. The next week, all-pro cornerback Terrence McGee bruised his ribs, starting wide receiver Peerless Price suffered a season-ending neck injury, and defensive captain Paul Posluszny broke his arm, ending his rookie season almost before it had begun. In week four, starting quarterback J.P. Losman sprained his knee, forcing him to miss four weeks, and just as soon as his back-up Trent Edwards finally started to look comfortable running the offense, Edwards sprained the wrist on his throwing hand. Despite their M.A.S.H. unit-like condition, the Bills are a tough beat, a legitimately salty home team who occasionally even put up a good fight on the road.

Nobody was sold on Jauron's coaching abilities before the season and, to be honest, there are still serious doubts about his conservative play-calling and late-game clock management. For instance, if the Bills had run the ball a little bit more in the fourth quarters of the Dallas and Denver games, the Bills might have another win or two. Having said all that, Jauron has done a tremendous job of keeping his team focused and motivated, and the way in which the team regrouped after their catastrophic September is truly admirable. The Bills have always looked ready to play, and though they won't win any style points this season, their games have always been competitive . . . well, with the exception of their loss to New England. He deserves to be a serious candidate for Coach of the Year.

Flight of the Conchords on Fresh Air

NPR's Fresh Air interviewed the Flight of the Conchords guys - Jermaine Clement and Bret McKenzie - on Friday afternoon's show. Its definitely worth a listen.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Unnecessarily Bitter Post About Notre Dame

I'm sorry, but Notre Dame is currently losing to the Air Force Academy by the score of 31-10. In case you were wondering, the Air Force Academy's team is made up of non-scholarship student, whereas Notre Dame has more than 100 scholarship players. Last week, they lost 46-44 to the Naval Academy, whose team is similarly made up of non-scholarship student athletes.

Notre Dame's current record is 1-8. Their only victory came against unranked UCLA, who, due to injuries, were forced to start their third-string walk-on quarterback. That game, Notre Dame managed fewer than 150 yards of offense, and won solely because UCLA turned the ball over seven times, five of which were the courtesy of the aforementioned walk-on quarterback. This season, Notre Dame has suffered blowout losses against Georgia Tech, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, and USC. Prior to their close loss to the Naval Academy, they last lost nine of their previous 10 games by an average of 24 points. Notre Dame's teams have sustained very few injuries over the past two seasons, while three of its opponents have been forced to play without their starting quarterbacks.

Prior to their high-scoring game against the Naval Academy, Notre Dame was ranked 118th out of the 119 Division I teams in total offense, 119th in rushing offense, and 112th in points scored.

Everything about Notre Dame's football program pisses me off. I hate the fact that they refuse to play ranked teams anywhere other than their native South Bend, Indiana. I hate the fact that, due to Notre Dame's lucrative exclusive contract with NBC, opposing teams have a financial stake in going along with it. I hate the fact that Notre Dame markets itself as a sort of 'home team' to Irish Americans, despite the fact that their mascot is a crass Irish stereotype. I hate the fact that Notre Dame is highly ranked in every pre-season poll, no matter how shitty they were the previous season. I hate the fact that Notre Dame fired coach Tyrone Willingham after just three seasons, one of which was enormously successful, then replaced him with Charlie Weis, who, after two moderately successful seasons, they offered a ten-year contract worth $40 million. I hate the fact that their games are broadcast in primetime on NBC every weekend, despite the fact that they are one of the very worst teams in all of college football. I hate the fact that Eastbay has an entire page of Notre Dame football apparel. And I hate the fact that fat, middle-aged, racist working class Catholics with no personal affiliation with Notre Dame actually wear it.

Willingham is black, Weis is white. Maybe this is a coincidence. Then again, Notre Dame fans loudly and frequently wax nostalgic for the good old days of the 1950's and 1960's, when Notre Dame's teams were almost entirely white, featured white players at the so-called skilled positions, and was the de facto first-choice for every talented Roman Catholic high school player in the country. Notre Dame officials and fans throw around code words ("tradition," "history," etc.) which, without too much effort, can be understood as nostalgia for a time before more athletic black kids from the SEC and Pac-10 started kicking their asses. Paul Hornung was once the handsome, square-jawed, blond-haired, all-America, Heisman trophy-winning tailback who led Notre Dame to consecutive national championships. Hornung graduated in 1957. In the hearts of Notre Dame fans everywhere, this was the high-water mark of human civilization - Notre Dame was the best college football team in the world, and its best player was a white, Irish, Roman Catholic boy from Kentucky.

I hate the fact that they sold their much-anticipated match-up with the University of Miami in 1988 as "the Catholics versus the Convicts," then went out of their way to provoke a brawl between with the well-behaved (at least on the field) Miami Hurricanes, then, in the press, used coded language to imply that the real problem was with the out-of-control black kids from Miami, instead of with Notre Dame's well behaved Christian school boys, and I hate that they did the exact same thing against USC the following year.

I have nothing - absolutely nothing - against the University, which is one of the best Universities in the midwest. Many of my best friends went to school there. I just hate everything associated with their football, and I want them off of my television.

UPDATE: In a press conference after saturday's loss to the Air Force Academy, Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis blamed the loss on his players' failure to learn enough from him. I'm sure that's going to go over well, and foresee no potentially negative repercussions.

Norman Mailer Dies at 84

Norman Mailer died in Manhattan this morning at the age of 84. You can read really well-done obituaries here (NY Times) and here (the BBC).

I won't try to provide a full summary of his life's accomplishments; for that you can read his New York Times obituary. Here in the five boroughs, he was a local celebrity of the sort that can only exist in New York. He advocated for black liberation decades before it really became fashionable, and he was an early and vocal opponent of United States involvement in Vietnam - he was even arrested for his participation in several particularly raucous protests. Personally, however, he was enormously arrogant, and sort of a dick - he was a vocal opponent of the feminist movement, was married six different times, and, in 1962, stabbed his wife at a dinner party, almost killing her (she declined to press charges, which makes one wonder why the District Attorney didn't press charges on his own motion). Still, he won two Pulitzer Prizes - in 1968 for The Armies of the Night (which also won the National Book Award) and in 1979 for The Executioner's Song, both of which were totally deserved and neither of which is his best work. That would be The Naked and The Dead, which I consider to be one of the great must-read war novels ever written. As a writer, Mailer had serious game, although he all too often let it run unchecked, resulting in lengthy, convoluted, failed epics such as Ancient Evenings and Harlot's Ghost.

Mailer is also notable for his prodigious output of essays, many of which have been praised as classics of the genre, for his sportswriting, for his charming documentary interviews, most notable in When We Were Kings, and for his failed New York City mayoral campaign, the central platform of which was New York secession from the State of New York to become America's 51st state. What a weird, fascinating guy.

This Was Probably Inevitable


Unless you've been living under a rock for the past three weeks, you've probably heard that J.K. Rowling recently announced that her character Dumbledore was gay. This announcement annoyed me for a number of reasons: first, her revelation does not inform one's reading of the texts in any way - it offers no insight into the Dumbledore character's motivations. Second, it is unclear what the word "gay" even means in the novels' fantastic, semi-mythological context. Third, the announcement seemed to me to be cynical and self-serving, in that it was calculated to increase sales among a specific demographic and to get her series - which, lest we forget, is now complete - back into the headlines.

Most importantly to me, it sounded like a clear attempt to bait religious conservatives, who have long objected to the Harry Potter series on the grounds that the magic its characters practice is akin to witchcraft. I have long considered the deliberate creation of artificial controversy to the hallmark of such marginally talented hacks as Madonna, Ken Starr, and the artistic director of the Brooklyn Museum. I had hoped that J.K. Rowling - creator of the most beloved children's books since . . . Theodore Geisel? C.S. Lewis? E.B. White? Hans Christen Andersen? - was better than that. Its entirely possible that she still is, but her remarks left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Friday, November 9, 2007

No Country For Old Men Hits Theaters Today

No Country For Old Men, the new movie from Joel and Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, hits theaters in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Boston today. With positively glowing reviews from Roger Ebert, Keith Phipps of the Onion A.V. Club, and Anthony Lane in the New Yorker, you just know its going to be sweet. Ebert already has plans to buy it on DVD. Other than "Knocked Up," its difficult to think of a movie we at CSD have been this excited to see.

In further Cormac McCarthy news, it was recently announced that William Monahan (screenwriter for The Departed) and Sir Ridley Scott are adapting the McCarthy's classic novel Blood Meridian, which is tenatively scheduled to be released in 2009.

The History of the Buffalo Chicken Wing

The New Yorker has recently published a new book, "Secret Ingredients," a collection of its best writing about food and wine. To promote the book, The New Yorker has been putting some of its chapters on-line. One chapter, by the great Calvin Trillin, details The History of the Buffalo Chicken Wing. He even goes out of his way to mention that the proper way to wash down Buffalo wings is with a bottle of Molson or Genesee, and that you've got to respect.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Great Headline . . . or Greatest Headline?

Woo-hah! Got them all in court

Thanks for the words: Metro News

Busta Rhymes, Lil Wayne, Ja Rule and Remy Ma crossed paths in Manhattan Criminal Court yesterday.

Two Good Ones from the New Pornographers

No special reason for posting these today, other than that the New Pornographers are currently on a kick-ass tour to promote their new album "The Challengers," and a couple of members of the CSD team have seen their shows over the past few weeks. The NPs aren't a band so much as they are a collective; a loosely affiliated group of musicians who all have 'day jobs' with other indie rock bands. Depending on how you count, the New Pornographers have as many as eight members, though its rare when more than five perform together at any one concert. Their current tour is unique in that all eight members are traveling and performing together. If you're a fan of indie rock, you can't really afford to miss it. Their touring schedule can be found here.
Now, for some music:
Your Daddy Don't Know

The Challengers

Yes, He's Still Our President

"I don't . . . you know quagmire is an interesting word. If you lived in Iraq and had lived under a tyranny, you'd be saying, 'God, I love freedom,' because that's what's happened."
- George W. Bush, November 7, 2007

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sarkozy

The Plank, a blog run by The New Republic, has a nice play-by-play of Nicholas Sarkozy's speech today before Congress. I didn't follow the last French election all that closely and know little about the man beyond what is reported in the American MSM, but he certainly has a knack for rhetorical flourish.

The TNR post hits most of the high points, but here's the full text of the speech as well.

Two Great Interviews

The Onion A.V. Club has two interviews up on its site.

The first is with Tom Perrotta, author of CSD favorites Bad Haircut, Joe College, and The Wishbones. Plus, his last novel, Little Children, was turned into a really great movie in which you totally get to see Kate Winslet's boobies, so you know he's a cool dude. His latest book (which, in the interest of full disclosure, has received mixed reviews) is entitled The Abstinence Teacher.

The second is with Richard Lester, the British film director best known for working with the Beatles, who basically invented the music video with his movies A Hard Day's Night and Help!

The New Jersey Devils Make Soccer Looks Exciting By Comparison

Last night, I ventured into scenic Newark, New Jersey - the Do-Rag capitol of the world - to watch the New Jersey Devils play the Pittsburgh Penguins. Right now, you're probably saying to yourself: "Wow, that sounds terrible - New York City must not be as exciting as its made out to be." And you would be correct.

Since nobody - not even a seasoned veteran of the Newark streets such as myself - wants to venture into downtown Newark alone at night, so I called in some reinforcements - the cool kids from American Hockey Fan. We rolled five deep, and got to the brand-spanking new Prudential Center just in time to watch the puck drop.



The owners of the Prudential Center want people to call it "The Rock," after Prudential's corporate logo. The best stadium nicknames - the rock pile, the green monster, the mistake by the lake, etc. - develop organically over time; they start with the fans and eventually gain purchase in the legitimate media. Here, every broadcaster refers to the Prudential Center as "the Rock," probably because either the league or the team contractually obligates them to do so. No more than 40% of the seats in the arena were filled. Counter-intuitively, the upper deck was far more crowded than the prime seats closer to the ice. We bought our tickets ($65 face value) on eBay for $30 apiece; tickets closer to the ice cost anywhere from $98 to $164 dollars. Is it any wonder the Devils play before half-empty arenas? At these prices, is it any wonder that the Devils' management has to bestow nicknames upon their own stadium? Its difficult for nicknames to grow organically when only 7,000 fans show up for the fourth home game of the season.

The big draw was Pittsburg center Sidney Crosby, the reigning winner of the the NHL's Hart Trophy, for the league's most valuable player, Lester B. Pearson Award, for the league's most outstanding player, and the Art Ross Trophy, for leading the league in scoring in the regular season. Basically, Sidney Crosby is the best young player to enter the league in twenty years, and I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see him in person.

The game did not offer much in the way of entertainment. The Penguins shut out the Devils by the score of 5-0, and the Devils managed just 20 shots on goal, only two Iof which were legitimate scoring chances. In fact, the Penguins gave the Devils such a jailpounding that New Jersey Brett Sutter put the entire team, with the exception of the goalies, through a grueling stationary bike workout in the locker room after the game, as punishment. Bummed as I was to have paid $30 to watch that bad of a game, the night ended up being a lot of fun, in the way that Roadhouse is a fun movie. Some highlights:

First Period:
●On our way to our seats, we pass concession stands selling Blue Moon, Bass, Stella Artois, sushi, and $12 corned beef sandwiches. I'm beginning to think that somewhere between the door and our seats we stepped through a portal and ended up in the East Village.
●Continuing on, we pass a vendor selling Molson Canadian and large soft pretzels covered in enough rock salt to de-ice the Jersey Turnpike. Finally, something that reminds me of a hockey game!
●The Devils can get nothing going on the offensive end. Meanwhile, the Penguins are getting all sorts of sweet plays set up deep in the New Jersey end. Crosby looks as if he's got the puck on a string - the only other players I've seen stick-handle like him are Paul Coffey and Gilbert Perrault. This kid is legit.
●Sidney Crosby scores a cheap, Rick Vaive-style rebound goal and is roundly booed by the 7,000 New Jersey Devils in attendance.
●Actual exchange:
Jen: Crosby wears #87? That's an unusual number.
Me: I think he wears it because he was born in 1987.
Jen: Shit. (a beat) That makes me feel really old. (a beat) I need another beer.

First Intermission:
●Jen, Doug and I went out for a beer, and happened across the Prudential Center's 'organist,' who plays from a weird sort of perch that looks exactly like one of those seatless concrete pads they reserve for people in wheelchairs. Unlike the Boston Garden and Buffalo's War Memorial Auditorium, which had pipe organs built into the walls, The Rock just plugs a $200 Yamaha electic keyboard into a set of amplifiers. The weirdest part was that the keyboard makes NO local sound. Like a laptop computer, once you plug a cable into the 'line out' jack, its speakers are automatically muted. The sight of a bald, headphoned, scarlet-blazered organist pounding away at a perfectly silent keyboard is actually pretty disturbing.

Second Period:
●During a stoppage in play, the Jumbotron scoreboard shows close-ups of fans scattered throughout the arena, hoping to get a smile or a friendly wave. Without exception, the fans they choose to show fall into one of three groups: pretty girls, little children, and old people. This being a hockey game, it was mainly old people and little kids. Also, not a single person they zoom in on is looking at the scoreboard, so nobody knows to smile or wave. Good times!
●The Pens score a pretty goal, their third of the night. Are these goals actually pretty, or, like Joseph Addai's run at the end of the first half of Sunday's Patriots-Colts game, is it impossible to tell where good offense ends and bad defense begins?
●The Jumbotron displays an idiotic electric card game in which a fan, selected at random, has to decide whether they second card displayed will be higher or lower than the first card displayed. If he guesses correctly, he gets a 'prize pack' full of promotional items for the movie Fred Claus. I'm not making this up.
●Devils' defenseman Zach Parise just levels an on-rushing Penguins forward with a questionable hit at the blue-line. Its a high-sticking penalty. Its also the most exciting thing to happen all game.
●Actual conversation:
Doug: Hey, are we going to be able to make it back to the train station after the game? The streets of Newark are pretty dangerous at night.
Ben: I figure, if we're attacked, they can only take one of us, so my plan is to kick Jen in the knee and make a run for it.
Doug: Okay, now I need a new plan.

Second Intermission:
●A quick beer run turns into an odyssey when the beer stand closest to our section accounces it is out of Blue Moon, and the second-closest beer stand announces it is out of Stella Artois. You know you're with real hockey fans when the concessions stand runs out of Blue Moon and Stella Artois. No word on whether there's any sushi left.
●People we passed in the corridor: fat chicks in Devil's horns, little girls in Devil's horns, goateed 40-something man in a throwback Colorado Rockies jersey, guy in a suit talking into his Blackberry, a little boy wearing a baseball mitt, an entire family wearing matching Scott Stevens jerseys, and the winner of the Paulie Walnuts look-alike contest.

Third Period:

●Actual Exchange:
Me: This game is out of hand. Maybe every time a Devil touches the puck from here on out, we should just yell: "shoooooooot it!"
Doug: Wade, don't you think its a little optimistic to expect a Devil to touch the puck again tonight?
●Sidney Crosby scores again (this guy is good) on a sweet one-timer from Brooks Orpik. This brings down a round of boos as hearty as the remaining crowd of four or five thousand fans can muster, which in turn is followed by the Devils calling a timeout, which in turn is followed by a significant portion of the remaining fans getting up to head for the exits.
●No more than twenty seconds after the puck drops, somebody on the Penguins' checking line rips a shot off the crossbar from 30 feet out. The Devils gather the puck, head down the ice, and set up in the Pittsburgh end before a New Jersey defenseman rips a slapshot off the ass of a Devils forward, who just happened to be passing in front of the net, with his stick down (of course). Its been that kind of night.
●Actual exchange:
Me: (45 seconds into a Pittsburgh possession) Wait . . . shit.
Doug: What's the matter?
Me: The Devils are on the penalty kill.
Doug: Yeah, what's weird about that?
Me: I just figured the Devils were so bad that the Penguins were controlling the puck like that at full strength.
Jen: So did I, until just a second ago.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lost in Translation

The Onion A.V. Club's companion pieces Lost In Translation: 20 Good Books Made Into Not-So-Good Movies and If You Film It . . . 21 Good Books That Need To Be Great Films, Like Now are both worth reading.

John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces has been atop these sort of "why haven't they filmed this yet?!" lists for decades. If If I ran a major studio, Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections and John Updike's Rabbit Is Rich would be right alongside it at the top of my list.

Among the famously bad film adaptations, The Bonfires of the Vanities has got to be at the top of the list. Man, that was a terrible movie. Tom Hanks as the arrogant Master of the Universe investment banker? Bruce Willis as the wimpy, dandified British journalist? Morgan Freeman as the Yiddish-speaking Jewish judge? Fifteen years after the fact, its hard to believe that the movie ever actually happened. Both of the recent Dr. Suess adaptations were horrible, and now Jim Carrey, who butchered How the Grinch Stole Christmas, is about to sink his claws into Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, the greatest Christmas story ever written. Rumor has it that he has been cast as all of the following characters: Ebenezer Scrooge, The Ghost of Christmas Past, The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Fortunately, Tom Hanks is being cast as Bob Cratchit and Bob Hoskins as Mr. Fezziwig, so there's hope for it yet. Michael J. Fox is supposed to play Tiny Tim, which (I devoutly hope) means the movie is animated.

What, though, of the great novels which become the basis of classic movies that have little to do with the original source material? The Shining and A River Runs Through It are two examples that come to mind immediately. Both movies feature classic performances, beautiful cinematography, iconic imagery . . . and plots that differ significantly from the original novels. Are these works of cinematic art co-equal with the source novels in prestige and literary value; the work of great directors and actors at the top of their craft? Or are these movies just crass examples of Hollywood poaching good ideas from more serious artists in their never-ending effort to appease crowds to unsophisticated to appreciate great fiction?

What The Hell Is Going On In This Video?


Apparently it is from the movie "Silent Night, Deadly Night 2," although it doesn't seem to have much to do with Christmas.

Live Jenny Lewis

My crush on Jenny Lewis continues to grow. Is this what Neko Case would look like if, five years ago, she decided to just have fun and kick ass and smile and be sexy instead of getting increasingly somber and opaque and introspective and taking herself too seriously? Just wondering. Anyway, here are two totally kick-ass live performances by Jenny Lewis and her back-up singers The Watson Twins.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Loose Marbles

One of the great perks of living near Washington Square Park is its wonderful and ever-changing collection of live musicians. From fifty-something black guys singing a cappella doo-wop to nineteen year-old NYU music majors performing covers of early Bob Dylan on acoustic guitars, the park has something to appeal to every musical taste, but the by far the best group to perform in Washington Square Park is the New Orleans jazz group Loose Marbles.

Loose Marbles is a group of fifteen jazz musicians, whose instrumentation runs the gamut from the standard clarinet, trumpet, banjo and accordion to the rare, but authentically Dixieland washboard, stand-up bass (made from a broom handle and string) and thimble percussion. In case you've never seen it, thimble percussion consists of a musician, wearing thimbles on all ten fingers, who taps out percussion on a series of pots and upside-down pie dishes, which are usually arranged on a wooden board, held across the lap. It sounds goofy, but in person its sound is clear and surprisingly loud, and the effect is mesmerizing.

The musicians of Loose Marbles usually split into two groups, which play on opposite ends of the park for an hour or so, before joining forces to play as a large ensemble. Their songs are Dixieland jazz from the 20's and 30's, with a strong cajun influence - think of the stuff that ends up on the soundtracks to Woody Allen movies. The band mainly consists of shaggy, unshaven white guys in their mid-to-late thirties, and their singer, Meschiya Lake, needs to be heard to be believed. Earlier this year, The New Yorker's Dan Baum sang their praises in his running "New Orleans Journal" feature.

The band is based out of New Orleans and New York City, though they tour extensively. Their cd, "Balls Out," is pretty hard to find; I purchased my copy directly from the band during the intermission of one of their Washington Square Park shows. I'll make a copy of it for you if you'd like. In the meantime, check out these unbelievably sweet videos:

Loose Marbles at New York City's Washington Square Park:


Loose Marbles in New Orleans' French Quarter:


Loose Marbles in New Orleans' Jackson Square: