Wednesday, April 30, 2008

shock and awe

So I was looking at women's shoes on the internet last night (don't ask), and I came across the "shock and awe slingback" Are you kidding me? Naming a white and gold women's shoe after a failed US military mission? Where are my "bay of pigs" loafers?

I suppose I can be sympathetic to the appropriation of the phrase. It was an amazing piece of hubris to give a military action that name. my college roommates used to perform similarly inappropriate appropriations by referring the disrobing in front of females as "operation shock and awe." This was entirely farcical. but I think it points to the utter absurdity of the phrase that was utterly with deadly seriousness by people of authority again and again.

$240 Worth of Pudding

This one's a classic.

Feist on Colbert

Colbert: "Do I call you Feist, Miss Feist, or Leslie?"
Feist: "As long as you call me, Stephen Colbert, you can call me anything you want."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thoughts on Game Five

1) It seems as if everybody who comments on the NBA thinks that San Antonio's players work the referees too much - complaining when fouls are called on them or aren't called on the other team. All along, I've said that the Suns, particularly Amare Stoudemire, Boris Diaw and Raja Bell - complain just as much if not more than any other team in the league, and yet nobody other than myself and Papa Smecker ever call them out on it. Well, tonight's game is being seen by a large percentage of the NBA fans living in the United States, and if this doesn't set the record straight then I don't know what will. Amare pisses me off the most - he is among the league leaders in personal fouls every season, and yet almost every foul call seems to come as a total surprise to him. Give us a break, Amare - the referee for this game is Joey Crawford, who has a long, negative history with Tim Duncan. He's not out to screw you.

2) Steve Nash's first assist came with less than six minutes left in the third quarter.

3) Remember that one time Boris Diaw had a big first round playoff series, and everybody talked about how great of a player he was, and then he basically wasn't heard from again for the next two years? Does anybody else think that's happening again right now?

4) Raja Bell just gave Tony Parker a blatant cheap shot on a play on which he didn't even attempt to make a play on the ball. Remember that one time when Raja Bell gave the other team's best player a cheap shot and the refs refused to call a flagrant foul for fear of changing the momentum of the game? Remember that one time?

5) This is a weird game. Its been close the entire way, but neither team is playing particularly well and Amare, Ginobili and Nash are all having off nights. The Spurs have committed 30 fouls, Phoenix is 16-31 from the foul line, Nash is 2-12 from the floor, and Manu is 2-11. If you have a rooting interest in one of these teams, this game is more nerve-wracking than it is exciting.

6) If I could be commissioner of the NBA for a day, I would ban those styrofoam snake things that fans sitting behind the backboard wave at free-throw shooters to distract them.

7) You have to love Steve Nash - he had a lousy game for two and a half quarters, but he's found an extra gear and looks great here in the fourth quarter. I love how he just answered Tony Parker's jump shot with a dagger 3-pointer of his own. That took some stones.

8) WTF, Boris Diaw? You just caught the ball in scoring position in the post, looked over your shoulder and winged a pass to a wide-open Mike Budenholzer. Unfortunately, he is an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. And there was nobody else within 15 feet.

9) The Spurs just gave up waaaaaaaay too easy of an inbounds-and-post-up to Boris Diaw.

10) LOTS of poor execution down the stretch. This was the least satisfying game of the series by far.

11) Where do the Suns go from here? Nash is going to be good again next year, but I think they should start to do with him what the Jazz did with Stockton, and only play him 30 minutes a game until the playoffs. What is Shaq going to look like at this time next year? Or Grant Hill? The Suns have almost no good young players, because for years they've been selling off their draft picks for cash. Will the Suns even make the playoffs next year?

Weekday Links

1) "Ibanker Seeking Romance" is one of the better Craigslist rants I've ever read. Common Sense Dancing - where the haterade flows like wine.

2) The New York Times article about elite Korean boarding schools was interesting, depressing, and explained . . . so much about so many of the kids I knew in college.

3) From the Onion A.V. Club's "primer" series, an excellent summary of Elvis Costello's discography.

4) The Replacements are considering a comeback. Just for kicks, let's listen to "Bastards of the Young."

5) This Mentos-and-Coke experiment is simply bitchin'. I wish my high school science classes were this much fun.

6) I just found this on YouTube: The Beatles' "'Till There Was You"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Two Great Tastes That Don't Go Together

TNT's theme music for this year's NBA Playoffs is the New Pornographers' "Use It." Now, the New Pornographers are one of my favorite groups, and few people I know get more excited about the NBA Playoffs than I do, but what, exactly, is TNT hoping to achieve by using an indie rock/power-pop group of hipsters from British Columbia to provide the score for NBA playoff games? Its like Buffalo chicken wing-flavored ice cream or something - the combination just doesn't work.

That's my deep thought for the day.

Phoenix-San Antonio, Game 3

I TiVo'd friday night's game between the Phoenix Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, and I'm only getting around to watching now. In my opinion, the Spurs are absolutely putting on a clinic in this series - they're getting open shots on offense, playing excellent team defense, outrunning the Suns in transition, identifying Phoenix's weak spots and attacking them, and getting clutch supporting performances from role players like Kurt Thomas, Fabricio Oberto, and Michael Finley.

Case in point: Five minutes into the game, Tony Parker misses a floater in the paint. Tim Duncan gets the offensive rebound, right under the basket, but in close proximity to Phoenix big men Amare Stoudemire and Shaquille O'Neal. Instead of putting up a close-range but flat-footed and contested shot over two excellent shot-blockers, Duncan turns away from the basket and takes a dribble down the baseline, away from the basket. Duncan flips the ball to point guard Tony Parker, who is standing at the 3-point line at the foul line extended, where he is guarded by Steve Nash. Duncan comes up to set a screen on Nash's right side, seeming to set up Parker to drive the ball to his left. Instead, Parker dribbles to his right, allowing Steve Nash to move away from Duncan's pick, but also forcing Shaquille O'Neal - who had been guarding Duncan - to move towards the corner to hedge against a Parker drive. Parker, seeing O'Neal's help and not wanting to get trapped in the corner, throws the ball back out to Duncan, who is standing between the elbow and the three-point line. Duncan doesn't even think about the uncontested 18-foot jump shot, and he pitches the ball right back to Parker, who is now running full speed from the baseline towards the top of the court, brings his man Nash right back towards Duncan. Nash runs into Duncan as he's chasing Parker towards the top of the floor; Parker makes a tight turn off of Duncan's right shoulder; Duncan rolls; Parker throws a bounce pass to an open spot near the right block, Duncan catches up to the pass with a full head of steam, catches the ball and stuffs a dunk right down the throat of Amare Stoudemire, who was late (as usual) with his weak-side help defense.

The entire sequence took no more than nine or ten seconds, but the sequence of moves and counter moves, the exhibition of patience, and the deliberate attacking of Phoenix's worst vulnerabilities is representative of NBA basketball at its best. People say that the San Antonio Spurs are boring to watch -- something I have never understood. If Duncan had pounded his chest, or flexed his muscles and screamed at the crowd, everybody would say that he's gangsta, that he has a lot of personality, that he's a bad-ass, and that he's fun to watch. Instead, he hustled down court and blocked Amare's shot, leading to another San Antonio basket on the other end.

What's more fun to watch? When people say they prefer the college game to the pro game, that professional players are overpaid and lazy and that they prefer to watch college 'students' who play for the love of the game, aren't the characteristics of the college game they claim to enjoy ALL on display in San Antonio Spurs' games? Is it a question of white America liking its black players flashy and with oversized personalities, instead of professional and, you know, good at basketball? I don't get it. The Spurs are awesome.

Later in the first quarter Manu Ginobili blew past Gordon Giricek, Shaq came late on help defense and fouled Manu really hard. It was a clean foul, but the Phoenix fans gave it a standing ovation - apparently, because they like to see Manu knocked down. Manu made both free throws. Manu is unpopular in some circles because he is often accused of "flopping," and whining to the referees. Boris Diaw and Raja Bell flop as much as any player in the league, and Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire work the referees just as hard as any of the Suns. Amare looks to the refs in disbelief every time he misses a contested shot, as if he expects them to bail him out by calling a foul. The ever-perceptive Gregory Smecker - Paul Smecker's father, recently said: "This is Phoenix offense: Steve Nash dribble the ball up court. Shaq sits on all of other team's front line. Nash passes to Amare for a dunk. Then Nash run over to ref and say it should also have been foul." How are the Suns so popular, and the Spurs so unliked?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Its Fair To Say That I May Have Some Interest In Seeing This Movie

I saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall last night. It is brutally funny. It is a little too long, and its tone a little too uneven, for it to be considered a really great movie, but it contains as many geniune belly laughs as Anchorman, Knocked Up, Dumb and Dumber, you name it.

Before the movie started, we saw the trailer for Pineapple Express, a stoner action-comedy starring Seth Rogen and James Franco. I'm so there.

Does he deserve pie?

As you may have heard, Pulitzer Prize winning NYT columnist Thomas Friedman got pied when speaking at Brown University last week.

I found out about this at my school's coffee shop while CNN was in the background. Seriously, everyone on it was totaly grumpy. Lou Dobbs was mad at the NYT for saying that Hillary was "waving the bloody shirt of 9/11". People were mad about the border. It was like 20 straight minutes of bitching.

Anyway, I was surprised to see Friedman pied by (fringe) environmentalists , as I always interperted his views as eco-friendly and pro-alternative energy. I think were irritated that he supported bio-fuels like ethanol and see him as some sort of secret neo-con, which I sure don't see. Perhaps they were also mad at his pro-Iraq war views.

I've seen the wars on the message boards whether Friedman deserved it, or whether the kids were an utter disgrace. As someone who is liberal and enjoyed Friedmans's columns, I was surprised to see how many people did not like him. But those people's opinions don't truly matter--I care more about what the readers of Common Sense Dancing think. Thomas Friedman: Does he truly deserve a pie to the face? HELP GIVE ME THE CORRECT OPINION!!!

(My view: I've enjoyed Friedman since I started reading him post 9/11. He spoke at my school, and I've traditionally been impressed by him. I enjoyed his optimism when everything else I read was simply depressing. I realize he was pro-Iraq war, but I, too, was convinced it was a good idea for a time, as I didn't believe that the US or Colin Powell would actually lie about the WMDs (I've since become less naive, and certainly didn't expect UTTER INCOMPETENCE when fighting the war). I think it must be hard to have to produce each week, and be so widely read--certainly views change as new shit comes to light, and when you are so high-profile, not every prediction will be right, and the paper trail will be there. And I hate it when fringe groups give causes I believe in a bad name.)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mid-Week Links

1) Sports Illustrated's S.L. Price has written one of the better sports-related articles I've read in a while, about Mike Coolbaugh, a beloved minor-league baseball coach struck dead by a line-drive foul ball.

2) Kate Bosworth's character in "21" is based on this Boston-area attorney, who has recently been the lead counsel for the Boston Red Sox in a number of high-profile lawsuits. A very talented lawyer, a very predictable casting choice.

3) Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson of the Replacements, authors of one of the coolest music videos of the 1980's, are hinting that they may reunite for a tour in the near future.

4) David Cross - one of the funniest people of all-time - is apparently now dating Amber Tamblyn, who I am told is a young starlet of some sort. A forty-something comedian whose last show got cancelled dating a semi-obscure starlet . . . isn't that the sort of tabloid story that would normally be made fun of by, you know, David Cross?

5) The best foreign-born NBA player of all time is Hakeen Olajuwon. Who's second on that list? Here's my vote.

More From Passaic

From the concert that keeps on giving, here's some very early Bruce:

4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)

Point Blank

The Incident on 57th Street

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Went to see "Someone still loves you, Boris Yeltsin" in Montreal on saturday.

1. the purpose of the trip was not to watch the show-I actually figured out that they were playing by scanning the posters on light-poles.
2. does anyone else think it is weird that "Of Montreal" actually came out of the Elephant 6 collective in Athens, GA?)

anyway, they are sort of like a low-budget Jimmy Eat World as far as I can tell--big, soft, hooky sound. but they did seem like nice guys. It was a bad acoustinc space, and the balance between mic and instruments was off. They played a cover of "Mr. Wendell" which was awesome in theory, but pretty stiff and anglo in practice. They also covered Green Day's "she" which brought us all back to 1992 pretty successfully. speaking of '92, could our generational identifier be knowing all the words to "lightning crashes" by Live. Seriously.

Appropo of Nothing, Part II

(1) Somewhere in Sandusky, Ohio, a Bored Housewife Rejoices
Whitesnake's first album in 12 years drops today.

I listened to a couple of the tracks on YouTube - let's just say that if Whitesnake could wail like Poison, David Coverdale would have his own "Rock of Love"-type show.

(2) Boston Marathon
I had the chance to have the full Patriots Day/Marathon Monday experience, and it was definitely a lot of fun. I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my good friend Anne, who ran a rather macho 2:57:34 (6:47 miles), good for 34th overall among about 11,000 women entrants. Congrats!

Appropo Of Nothing

Two Random Thoughts:

1) I went to the gym tonight, for the first time in a couple of weeks. I'm going to go way out on a limb and say that the guy in the skin-tight Miami Heat jersey who dances in place next to his weight between sets might be gay.

2) After the Charles/Kenny/Ernie post-game show on TNT ended, I caught the opening of an episode of Law & Order. A wealthy-looking woman is found dead on a bench in the Franklin Street subway stop. I had the pleasure to catch this exchange:

Jesse Martin: "Well-dressed, nails done, briefcase . . . she puts in an honest day's work and waits for the downtown local . . ."

Jerry Orbach: "Yeah, and she caught the express."

This sort of witty repartee has made Law & Order - and its two or three spinoffs - one of the most popular shows in America for the past 10 years. What the hell is wrong with this country?

The Best Thing To Ever Happen To Passaic, New Jersey

If I've been posting a lot of videos from the 1978 concert from Passaic, its only because they're awesome. Here are three more for your consideration:

Thunder Road

Because The Night

Darkness On the Edge of Town

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Full Harvard Experience

From a recent episode of 30 Rock:

Frank walks into the writer's room wearing a Harvard sweatshirt.

Twofer: Frank, take off that sweatshirt. You didn't go to Harvard.
Frank: Dude I went to Harvard - I did stand-up there this past weekend.
Twofer: Yes, but you did not graduate from that institution.
Frank: No, but I did get a squeezer from an Indian chick on a bunk bed, so I really think I've gotten the full Harvard experience.

Giving Fans Their Money's Worth

The first day of the NBA playoffs gave us one of the most compelling single days of basketball that I've ever seen - and that includes the NCAA tournament. All four games were fun to watch, but the highlight was the game between the Phoenix Suns and

Frustrated by three consecutive playoff losses to San Antonio, Phoenix general manager Steve Kerr decided to trade star forward Shawn Marion for the aging Shaquille O'Neal, a move which gave Phoenix an extra big man with which to defend San Antonion's Tim Duncan, at the expense of making Phoenix worse relative to just about everybody other than San Antonio. A lot is riding on this series. Normally, the would not play each other until the second or third round of the playoffs, but, this year, each team had injuries that kept them from playing their best for long stretches of the season, so neither was seeded as highly as they probably deserved to be. If Phoenix beats San Antonio, is it possible that San Antonio's dynasty (four titles in 8 years) will be over for good? If Phoenix loses to San Antonio, that means the Shaq trade was a bust - will their GM get fired? Will Mike D'Antoni's take the blame for 'failing' to win more than he has with this unique batch of talent? Will the front office move Phoenix's aging nucleus of Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Shaquille O'Neal, and look to rebuild? The NCAA tournament has its merits, but can't match a subplot-filled seven-game series between two rival NBA teams from complexity.

Saturday's Game 1 was one of the best basketball games I've seen in years. Phoenix outplayed San Antonio in the first half - Tim Duncan fininshed the half with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks, but Phoenix had neutralized every other Spurs player. In the second half, Phoenix focused its efforts on Duncan, only to have San Antonio's Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili get hot, and get San Antonio back into the game. Steve Nash was amazing - 25 points, 13 assists, only two turnovers, and led the Suns back every time they looked as if they were through. There were so many impressive indiviual performances down the stretch - Michael Finley's late 3 to send the game into overtime, Phoenix hitting its first six shots in overtime, Tim Duncan's totally unexpected 3-pointer to re-tie the game and send it into a second overtime; Steve Nash's crazy running fallaway three-pointer to tie the score at 117 late in the second overtime, and Manu Ginobili's you-know-its-coming-but-you-still-can't-stop-it drive for the game-winning layup with 1.8 seconds left in the second overtime.

Tim Duncan finished with 40 points, 15 rebounds. Amare finished with 33 points and 7 rebounds. At the time Amare fouled out, the two players were, at first glance, fairly evenly matched, statistically. But there's more to consider. Tim Duncan acquired 3 fouls in 51 minutes of play, and drew enough fouls to attempt 12 free throws. Amare fouled out, and Shaq avoided fouling out by playing the last 15 minutes of the game with 5 fouls - impressive, but it required him to back away from driving Spurs, instead of protecting the rim, thus allowing Parker and Manu easy layups. Amare had six turnovers and zero assists, while Duncan had 5 assists and only four turnovers. Points and rebounds don't tell the entire story - Duncan was able to match Amare's scoring while outrebounding him, shotting 66% from the field, getting his teammates involved in the offense, avoiding turnovers and providing outstanding help defense while staying out of foul trouble. Amare put up a lot of points and a fair amount of rebounds, but shot 'only' 50% from the field, wasted possessions with turnovers, committed more fouls, and drew fewer fouls. Duncan's play got Phoenix's entire front line into foul trouble, which opened things up for the rest of his teammates to get easy baskets. That's a significant portion of Duncan's overall value, and its something that Amare hasn't yet developed, and its something that sportscasters should mention more often during this series.

"Are you cursing at me in Jewish?"

Will Ferrell reprises his role as President Bush. Some funny stuff:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Apparently Hot Secretaries Aren't Just For Douchebag Corporate Types

Is it weird that girls I know at school have crushes on Monsignor Georg Ganswein, the Pope's secretary? Probably not as weird as the fact that someone put a video montage of photos of him on YouTube with James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" playing in the background:

The slow-panning, the music....ahh it's all a bit too much. However, he's objectively good-looking, and definitely has that "want what you can't have" thing going for him, bigtime. Dude must be beating the ladies off with a crucifix.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Night Is A Good Time For Some Springsteen

More from the famous September, 1978 Passaic, New Jersey show. It was the Darkness on the Edge of Town tour, but we're glad he found time to play a couple of songs from Born To Run.

Born To Run


Can I Get That With A Side Order Of Z-Snaps?

My roommate has gotten me into watching "Top Chef." Those of you who know me will recognize that Top Chef is exactly the type of show I typically hate and spend a great deal of time complaining about, but something about it is strangely compelling. The hosts have a lot of personality, and the contestants are geniunely skilled at what they do - in some ways, its more like watching a professional sporting event than it is like watching a typical reality show. Last night, the chefs - accustomed to making four-star restaurant meals, were asked to prepare tailgate food for Chicago Bears fans. All of it looked delicious, but during a commercial break Bravo ran a poll asking "Who would you rather touch in a game of touch football?" and listed three possible choices: the hosts Tom and Padma, and the guest judge of the week, the guy who owns Blackbird, one of Chicago's coolest restaurants.

The winner: Tom! And it wasn't close - Tom beat Padma 50% to 31%, telling you everything you need to know about the demographics of Top Chef's fan base. For the record, Padma (who used to be married to Salman Rushdie - go figure) looks like this on Top Chef and like this when she's not on Top Chef.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

My Explosive Senior Essay on the Effects of the Irish Potato Famine on 19th Century Nationalist Movements Suddenly Seems a Lot Less Controversial

If you don't have any plans next week, head on down to New Haven, CT, where starting on Tuesday you can check out an exhibit featuring Art student Senior projects, like this one:

Shvarts will be displaying her senior art project, a documentation of a nine-month process during which she artificially inseminated herself "as often as possible" while periodically taking abortifacient drugs to induce miscarriages. Her exhibition will feature video recordings of these forced miscarriages as well as preserved collections of the blood from the process.

Pretty much everything about this project is hideous. Probably the most disturbing thing for me, as pointed out in a number of the article's comments, is what the fuck kind of faculty senior project advisor gives the student the go-ahead on this? I mean, not only is it a cheap, crappy, and offensive idea for art, it's potentially a really serious health risk.

Overheard in Brookline

According to a recent Pew Research poll, 10% of registered voters believe Barack Obama is a Muslim. As chance would have it, I sat next to one of them on the T last night.

I had plans to meet some friends from high school for dinner at a brewpub near Fenway Park, and accordingly I got on the D line train at the Reservoir stop, which is just off of Cleveland Circle, right near the Boston College undergraduate campus. While waiting for the train, a young couple (BC students from what I could gather, because the guy was wearing a BC t-shirt and the girl was wearing JCrew/Abercrombie-ish clothes) sat down on the bench next to me. After a minute of silence, the guy pulled out the front page of the Wall Street Journal and began reading. The following is my best recollection of their conversation.

Girl: Since when do you read the Wall Street Journal?
Guy: I need to read it for my Poli Sci class....
Girl: what are you reading about?
Guy: The democratic primary, and the Clinton-Obama debate tonight.
Girl: I just hope Obama doesn't get the nomination.
Guy: Why?
Girl: Because he went to one of those schools.
[Editor's Note: I originally thought by "those" she meant "Harvard"].
Guy: What school?
Girl: You know, those schools where you are indoctrinated with the Koran, through repetition, and you swear your life to Allah.
Guy: Wait, what are you talking about?
Girl: Obama is a Muslim! You don't know this?!?
Guy: No, wait, I had no idea, but if he's a Muslim, why haven't I heard about it? I mean, he can't be a very good Muslim if he doesn't practice at all....
Girl: No, I know, he's not a Muslim in public. It's about the duality of the Koran. Essentially the Koran says it doesn't really matter in the end if you practice outwardly or not, but if, in the end, the things you have done in your life worked to advance Islam.
Guy: Wait, so you think that Obama is going to be like a Manchurian Candidate for Al- Qaeda or something?
Girl: YES!

It was all a little surreal - how could someone, particularly a college student who is presumably around at least some people who care about domestic politics, be this misinformed? And not only this misinformed, but misinformed in such great detail? The saddest part is that her boyfriend, who seemed like a good natured Brosef/Gomer, pretty much fits the exact profile of someone who could be convinced of crap like this.

To be honest, despite the ridiculous nature of the assertion, I'm a little surprised the 10% number isn't a bit higher. My impression was that the tin foil hat crowd and Limbaugh/Hannity people think he's actually a Muslim, average guy thinks he might have been a Muslim as a kid and then converted (why else would he have such a weird name?), and people who don't get their news in snippets and soundbytes from big media (which is to say, very, very few people) know definitively that he is not.

To me, this was perhaps the most amazing thing about the Pew poll:
Even among those who say they have heard a lot about the controversy about Obama's affiliation with the United Church of Christ and its controversial minister, the Rev. Wright, 9% still identify Obama as Muslim.

Love these people. They just can't manage to make that last leap of reason in their minds.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Darkness On the Edge of Town

For almost thirty years, hardcore fans of Bruce Springsteen have considered his September, 1978 concert in Passaic, New Jersey to be one of his greatest live performances. Recently, somebody uploaded a ton of songs from that show onto YouTube. I'm sure its only a matter of time until his record company takes them down, but while they're still available, you should really check them out. I've seen Springsteen in person three times, and he's been uniformly excellent. Combine those shows with two of the greatest live CDs of all time, a handful of excellent concert DVDs and a wonderful, never-commercially-released live performance with Sting, and I think its safe to say that The Boss is the greatest live rock musician of his generation. I'll be posting clips from his Passaic show in this space through the weekend.

In my opinion, nothing encapsulates Springsteen's legacy quite like the middle three songs from "Darkness On the Edge of Town," his best album. Candy's Room, Racing In the Street, and The Promised Land show the three different Springsteens - dark and edgy, sympathic and manly, and the promisor of working-class uplift, respectively. Here they are:

Candy's Room

Racing In the Street

The Promised Land

ADDED: Earlier today, The Boss endorsed Barack Obama for President. For some reason this made me unreasonably happy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

This Isn't Real

The new Nike advertisement with Kobe Bryant is getting a lot of attention on the internet . . .

Unfortunately, it isn't real. Sadly, a lot of people don't realize it. Those people are the ones who thought that this 2006 Nike ad, of Ronaldihno juggling a soccer ball off of the crossbar from 18 yards away, isn't real, either:

Since we're on the subject, the famous LeBron James "turnaround" ad is another famously misunderstood piece of bluescreen work:

In fact, the only advertisement of that that's actually genuine is this classic shot of Tiger Woods juggling a golf ball with his putter:

For an explanation of how blue screen filmmaking (known in the trade as "travelling matte" shots) work, check out this link:

Whole Paycheck?

My last two weekends have been pretty hectic, so I haven't had the opportunity to make my regular sunday morning trip to Trader Joe's since late March. A lot of people give me a hard time about shopping at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. Trader Joe's is too crowded, too cliche at too yuppie, they say, and Whole Foods is too expensive.

My response to them is as follows: I just paid $2.65 for a 1/2 gallon of milk and $4.49 for a loaf of "100% whole grain" bread at the Duane Reade store at the corner of my street, and neither of those two things is going to taste very good.

Rightly or wrongly, Trader Joe's has become a symbol of yuppiedom. At the 14th Street its lines are too long, its hummus and low-fat chicken burritos are always sold out, its too loud, there are too many clueless old people and first-timers clogging the aisles, etc, and these complaints are added on to the chain-wide complaints that it is a little too trendy, that its patrons are too slavishly devoted, that all of its ethnic foods taste the same, that its a little too proud of its own identity, and, perhaps worst of all, that its organic and free range food aren't as genuine as they claim to be. Those are all fair points. All I really know is that the food I paid $7.14 for tonight would have cost about $5.50 at Trader Joe's, which means that I spend about twenty or twenty-five dollars less relative to the Food Emporium every time I go shopping there. On top of that, good microbrews like Brooklyn Lager and Anchorsteam go for $3 or $4 less per six-pack than they do at bodegas. In Madison, Wisconsin, Trader Joe's has good prices on 2/3's of its products, and about 1/3 of its products are over-priced. In New York City, Trader Joe's has good prices on 100% of its products, and nothing is over priced - at worst, something may be sold at merely market value. What's not to like about that, other than the fifteen-minute wait in line? For the time being, the $100 I save on groceries each month is worth the extra wait. Perhaps if I make partner at a private firm that same math will no longer make it worth my time to wait in line, but for the time being, I'm just brining my iPod and choosing to make lemonade.

Whole Foods is a little bit different - it, like Trader Joe's, tries to stick to its national pricing structure despite New York City's higher rents. At Whole Foods, you'll overpay for milk and for bread and for just about everything else, but no moreso than you would at a lousy New York City supermarket such as the Food Emporium, Gristides, or Associated. In places like Madison, Ann Arbor, and Cleveland, Whole Foods has the unfavorable nickname of "Whole Paycheck." That's a fair description - shopping at Whole Foods, instead of at Woodman's or Wegmans, probably costs you an extra $50 or so per month. Here in New York, unless you live near a Fairway, you're going to spend that money on groceries one way or another, so you may as well get stuff that actually taste good.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Foggy Monocle

Friends of a friend have started a new website, called The Foggy Monocle. Basically, its a website which posts confused, "morning after"-type instant messenger conversations. If it sounds a little bit like a one-trick pony, that's because it is, but its a good for at least a chuckle or two.

Back from The Dirty

I've been in Georgia for the past four days - thanks to Jake and the Inspector for holding down the fort in my stead.

Here's some music to get you through your case of the Mondays.

Some new music:
And one old favorite:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Weekend Links

Since Wade is away from home while attending a wedding, here are some things that are on my mindgrapes this weekend....

College Hockey National Championship

Boston College faces Notre Dame in the college hockey national championship game tonight at 7pm (televised on ESPN). Despite having made 7 of the previous 10 Frozen Fours and appearing in the national championship game the past two seasons (losses to Minnesota and Michigan State, respectively), due to the loss of several star players, it came as a surprise to most that BC had such a successful regular season and strong run to the Frozen Four. Notre Dame is even more of an upstart, considering they were a #4 seed coming into the tournament and they are making the first championship game appearance in the history of the program.

This game is of special importance to fellow Sabres fans, as they can have the opportunity to watch BC forward Nathan Gerbe (a Hobey Baker award finalist whom the Sabres have the rights to), who tonight will try to top his 3 goal, 1 assist performance in BC's 6-1 national semifinal victory over North Dakota. Listed at 5'6'', 160 lbs., Gerbe is obviously smaller than most elite prospects, but he is one of the fastest players in college hockey, and this season he accumulated an impressive 64 points (33 goals, 31 assists) in only 42 games. One hopes he can develop into an upper-middle class man's Patrick Kane.

Intense Guys
This is a cool blog devoted to analysis of great moments in movie history. It's a fun read because all three contributors are knowledgeable about the history of film and the technical aspects of film making, but unlike many critics, are willing to acknowledge that even mediocre or bad films can include great individual performances or technical achievements.

Albert Hammond, Jr.
Wade's recent post about George Harrison reminded me of the EP released about a year ago by Albert Hammond Jr., lead guitarist for The Strokes. Not comparing The Beatles to The Strokes, but I thought it was interesting that Hammond, basically third-fiddle from the publicity perspective to lead singer Julian Casablancas and drummer Fabrizio Moretti - was the first member of the band to release a legitimate solo album. I listened to it once or twice after it was released but had failed to revisit it in some time. Fans of the band will enjoy tracks like "101" and "In Transit," and there are some other good songs to be found on the EP as well. Even if he had released a shitty record, his brilliant, concise solo on "Trying Your Luck" alone buys at least a few years of goodwill.

ESPN Torch Run Game
Look at ESPN getting all topical on us! This flash game, in which you direct an Olympic torch through a sea of protesters (represented by the red dots) was all the rage among my classmates when I forwarded it during Con Law on Thursday. My personal high is 135, but a classmate recorded a surreal 170.

The Harlem Shakes
Yale recently announced the lineup for its annual Spring Fling, which includes the Harlem Shakes as opener for Sean Kingston, The Roots, and Jimmy Eat World. The Harlem Shakes are comprised of 5 members, 3 of which are Yale graduates from around my vintage (the lead singer and bassist are from class of 2006, and the keyboardist is '05). My junior year I had the chance to watch them play at a very crowded house party on Crown Street - they were definitely impressive for a band of undergraduates, presumably with a lot of other time commitments, but I must say they have improved and matured since then into a pretty solid band. About six months ago they self-released an EP which got a nice write-up on Pitchfork, and they recently completed a national tour of notable rock venues.

I don't know any of the band members personally, but know many people that do, and the general consensus is that they're down-to-earth, hard-working guys who are deserving of the increasing amount of attention they've been getting. If you have a minute check out the EP or select live clips below.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Mega Man + The Who's Tommy + Frank Miller = The Protomen

No childhood memory of the original NES would be complete without a nod to the Mega Man series, specfically Mega Man I-III.

The Protomen have retold Mega Man as a dark, epic rock opera that kicks major ass. The video below is the start of the story, where Dr. Wily rules the world with an iron fist thanks to his terrifying robots. Dr. Light's first creation, Proto Man, (you may remember him as the red robot with the haunting flute theme in Mega Man III) valiantly fights to free humanity, but is severely overmatched and falls to the darkness.

The rest of the album depicts Dr. Light creating Mega Man, commanding his new "son" not to fight, and Mega Man disobeying, of course. A brother vs. brother match ends the act. Filled with surprisingly excellent lyrics and passion throughout, I think it's a great reimagining of the property.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You Can't Stop Him, You Can Only Hope To Contain Him

You know how I know its time for some Bruce Springsteen? Because its Wednesday.

Passaic, New Jersey, September 19, 1978.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Verily, His Hos Live in Different Telephone Area Codes

This was probably inevitable, given the recent popularity of the "graphical representation of rap lyrics" series of cartoons. Regardless, I love it.

I still remember where I was when I first heard "Area Codes" - its so absurd, I originally thought it was a Weird Al-style parody. My favorite part is the map's legend - which says, among other things, "Ludacris has hos in the Midway and Wake Islands. Only scientists are allowed to inhabit the Midway Islands, and only military personnel inhabit the Wake Islands. Draw your own conclusions."

Annnndd....THAT happened!

Apparently John Mayer was on tour in Japan last week when the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's were there kicking off the MLB regular season, and a Japanese television station allowed him to guest announce an inning of the game. Here's what happened.

Personally, I'm all for him taking over for Joe Buck and Tim McCarver.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Men's NCAA Championship Basketball Game Open Thread

Memphis and the University of Kansas are playing tonight for the men's NCAA basketball championship.

Share your thoughts as the evening progresses . . .

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Somewhere Jared Diamond is Smiling

This video of an elephant painting a self-portrait has been burning up the internet in recent days. I found it particularly interesting because I have just finished reading Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee: The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal. Much like his other two best sellers, Guns, Germs & Steel and Collapse, The Third Chimpanzee is lucidly written, charming to read, and full of more interesting science, history, sociology, linguistics, and evolutionary biology than a year's liberal arts education.

One of the central themes of The Third Chimpanzee is that many of the aspects of human life that we have been taught are uniquely to the human race - including language, art, monogamous relationships, toxic substance abuse, genocide - are not unique to us, but rather, are merely more refined and advanced versions of traits commonly found in our animal ancestors. Consider, for instance, art. Elephant and chimpanzee art has sold at serious art shows, and art critics who have analyzed their paintings without knowing their origin have been able to correctly identify the sex of the creator as well as the part of the world from which they hail. You should really read the book for yourself - its too interesting and detailed to do it justice in a brief summary here - but, in light of Professor Diamond's writing on elephant art, this "elephant self-portrait" is especially interesting to watch.

ADDED: I forgot to mention that, at the time Professor Diamond published "The Third Chimpanzee," all paintings done by animals resembled abstract expressionism. Art experts, asked to analyze the paintings without knowing that they had been made by animals, were able to suggest what sort of interests the artists had: for instance, "this artist enjoys Asian calligraphy," which corresponded to the ways in which the animals were raised and trained. Thought it is impossible to know what the animals intended - if they intended anything at all - none of them produced anything even roughly approximated a self-portrait. For all I know other animals have produced self-portraits in the several years since the most recent re-publication of professor Diamond's book, but these signs of self-awareness are pretty hard to dismiss lightly.

Talk about it at Videocracy

2008 San Diego Crew Classic

For those who care about such things, this weekend marked the first major event of the collegiate rowing season - the annual running of the San Diego Crew Classic on the always-unpredictable Mission Bay course. In recent years, the Crew Classic hadn't been as notable of an occasion as usual, mainly because many top crews from the east coast chose instead to race at the Windemere Cup at Redwood Shores, CA. This year, however, was the most stacked Copley Cup final in recent memory, with lanes one through seven occupied by Washington, Cal, Harvard, Stanford, Northeastern, Princeton, and Yale respectively.

A law school friend sent me the link to the live streaming video of the Copley Cup race right before it started - otherwise I would have completely forgotten that the event was being held this weekend at all. For one, Washington looked good. Like really, really good. From the start they had a sustainable, fluid rhythm, and seemed to be getting excellent drive while staying relaxed. Cal was able to stay with Washington through much of the race - and even made a bit of a charge in the 3rd 500 to pull nearly even - but one could tell on the video that they were basically throwing the kitchen sink at it in such a way that would be difficult to maintain. Cal was obviously getting good speed, but a few guys in the boat were doing strange things with their bodies to overcompensate for exhaustion, most notably the stroke, who was opening his back a little early in the drive (that said, I'm sure the dude is pretty awesome). Even when Cal made its move, Washington looked confident and in control, and eventually was able to pull away to a two second victory over Princeton, who passed a fading Cal crew in the last 500 meters.

Yale finished 7th in the race, although the quality of their competition was obviously very high (probably six out of the top 8 rowing programs in the country) and east coast schools tend to pick up speed relative to the west coast schools as the season goes on due to improving weather and increased time on the water.

Friday, April 4, 2008

40 Years Ago Today

As I'm sure most of you know, today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I imagine that very little time needs to be devoted here to discussing his life, achievements, and importance to our nation's history - needless to say, he's one of CSD's all-time favorite Americans.

I Have a Dream Speech

Text of the speech here. Possibly the greatest achievement in American oratory, and obviously one of the defining moments of the American civil rights movement. One can hardly say enough about its vividness, clarity, and perfection of delivery.

Robert F. Kennedy's Remarks on MLK's Assassination

Until a couple months ago when I finally looked it up on YouTube, I had only heard references to and read excerpts of this address, which presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy gave to a packed campaign rally in Indianapolis, IN on the evening MLK was killed. Delivered more or less off-the-cuff (the crowd had been previously unaware of the assassination), it constitutes a pitch-perfect and heartfelt memorial well beyond the capabilities of virtually any speechwriter.

U2 - Pride

U2's beautiful pop memorial to MLK, which probably constitutes the best rock song describing an American historical event written by foreigners this side of The Band's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."

CSD - Playing Your Strong Songs

Its a high school slow-dance party at Common Sense Dancing headquarters today. Thanks to Julia for coming up with the idea.

SWV - Weak

Boyz II Men - End of the Road

Thursday, April 3, 2008

bob roberts = good

thanks to the wonders of netflix, I can bring you a report of one of the most mindblowing movies of the 90s--1992's Bob Roberts. For those of you who haven't seen it, it is a story about an 80s-style finance yuppie who runs for senate as a conservative folk singer (he has songs against welfare, and for prayer in schools). the movie features tim robbins as the star (because he wrote it). It also includes a young susan sarandon (obviously), peter gallagher, helen hunt, james spader, alan rickman, Gore Vidal, and a 22 year old Jack Black as a trenchcoated young republican brownshirt in his second credited appearance (the first was as "teenage boy" in the TV movie "our shining moment.")

the tension of the movie is based on the fact that the roles of conservatives and liberals have been switched. it also includes some impressively prescient insights from vidal and others about the iraq war (where vidal speaks about the enemy-generation machine to justify the military budget), as well as the hypocritical but effective appropriation of rebelliousness and self-actualization by conservatives.

the cheap jokes about roberts's self-styling as a conservative dylan (such as the album "the times they are a changin' back") are fun but a little foolish.

The Quiet Beatle

I was discussing 80's music with a couple of friends last night, and this song came up in the conversation.
YouTube's relatively lack of clarity disguises some of the crazy stuff that was going on in the background, but, even so, isn't it weird to watch this video, knowing what's happened in the meantime? I always thought that George Harrison had a dignity that Paul, for instance, has increasingly shed as he'd grown older. Does anybody think that "Let It Be: Naked" or "Across the Universe" or the stage musical "Help!" would have occurred if somebody other than Ringo was around to tell him no? Would George Harrison have made an album with a cover as corny as "Memory Almost Full?" Not in a million years.

Anyway, here's a little more George:

You Can Never Get Enough Rick Rolling

But don't take my word for it! You can read up on the history of Rick Rolling here:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

You Know the Rules . . . and So Do I

YouTube has been "Rick Rolling" people for April Fools' Day. If you don't already know what Rick Rolling is, I won't ruin the surprise, but you can see for yourself by going to this page, click on any of the featured videos, and see what happens.

Its not easy to keep bringing you the best links on the internet on a regular basis. As Rick would say, you just wouldn't get this from any other guy.

Added: If you think I watched this less than five or six times tonight, you don't know me very well.

UPDATE: YouTube's little April Fool's Day joke is now over with, so if you click on a featured video, you'll actually see that featured video, instead of being surprised by Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," which was viewed more than 6 million times yesterday.