Monday, June 30, 2008

Thumbs Down

We have received a lot of positive feedback about the video of Radiohead covering "Ceremony" that we posted last week. That cover was taken from their series of podcasts, which they call "Thumbs Down." You can watch Thumbs Down on radiohead's website. Eventually, most of the songs end up on YouTube, so you can look for them there as well. Here are some choice cuts:

Reckoner


Bodysnatchers


I Might Be Wrong



Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Sunday, June 29, 2008

"Let Them Know How Gay Proud Of Them We Are"

Via The Onion

Gay-Pride Parade Sets Mainstream Acceptance of Gays Back 50 Years

"I'd always thought gays were regular people, just like you and me, and that the stereotype of homosexuals as hedonistic, sex-crazed deviants was just a destructive myth," said mother of four Hannah Jarrett, 41, mortified at the sight of 17 tanned and oiled boys cavorting in jock straps to a throbbing techno beat on a float shaped like an enormous phallus. "Boy, oh, boy, was I wrong."

The Boys Are Out Tonight!

Today is New York City's 39th Annual Gay Pride.

Thirty-nine years ago yesterday, the NYPD raided The Stonewall Inn, a nightclub on Christopher Street in the New York City's West Village (it is still in business today). They entered without a warrant, on the pretense of looking for illegal liquor sales, though if you were an Irish cop in 1969 you didn't really need an reason to go into a gay bar and start cracking heads. Of the eight officers who entered the bar, only one was wearing a uniform. The police arrested a number of the bar's patrons, and started to load them into a paddy wagon, parked on the street outside. One can only imagine how many homophobic slurred were dropped. The remaining customers, outraged at the police behavior, started throwing bottles, and tore a parking meter out of the ground to use as a battering ram to attempt to get the guys out of the police wagon. The crowd swelled, as customers from nearby bars rushed over to join the proceedings. Eventually, the NYPD send in its anti-riot team, but even they failed to disperse the crowd.

Clashes between the NYPD and the protesters occurred every night for three days. Eventually, the NYPD more or less agreed to leave the West Village gay bars alone, so long as they didn't break the law by serving untaxed alcohol, or serve alcohol to minors - which is what their attitude should have been all along.

Friend of the blog Curious Character attended the 2006 Gay Pride parade, and took what is probably my all-time favorite photograph:



There's nothing I can say to make this any funnier.

This one is pretty good, too.



This guy is way fierce.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What If They're Onto Something?

Even as a young man, death was one of George Carlin's favorite subjects. Recently, Paul Smecker called to my attention this thirty year-old quotation, from one of Carlin's first stand-up comedy specials:

"I think when you die your soul goes to a garage in Buffalo."


That would indeed be a pretty boring place to spend eternity, and it reminded me of this one-liner, from the musical The Chorus Line:

"I was always thinking up these spectacular ways to kill myself. But then I realized - to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant."


The town that four of this blog's six contributors call home is being Eiffel Towered by wise guys all across the pop-cultural spectrum. I'm not sure what to make of it.

Friday, June 27, 2008

seen on a church signboard on my bike route:
"celtics in game 4
great comeback
Jesus on day 3 in the grave
greatest comeback ever"

pastor-man, if the methodists aren't paying you right, there is always saatchi & saatchi.
it's topical, it's fun, it's knowing, but gets the point across. love it

Thursday, June 26, 2008

George Carlin

George Carlin died on Sunday at the age of 71. There were a number of good obituaries for him, most notably in the New York Times.

From an early age, Jake and I have been fans of his comedy, which, though profane, was always more about language, bullshit, and the absurdities of modern life more than it was about being blue for the sake of being blue. His comedy had a greater effect on shaping my personality than just about any other cultural figure.

Here are three of my favorite routines:

"On Stuff"


"On Baseball and Football"


"On White People"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"Me Like The Robert Downey Junior of Cookies"

The Cookie Monster - sounding more and more like Yoda everyday - stops by the Colbert Report.

Scattered Thoughts on the NBA Draft

Personally, I think that college basketball is the weakest its been in several generations; nobody worth drafting plays more than two seasons anymore. Even five years ago, a guy like Duke's Jay Williams could win the NCAA player of the year award and return for another season. Today, that would never happen. Because the standard of play is so much lower than it used to be, success in college game is no longer even the barest predictor of success at the NBA level. Having said all of that, this year's draft contains two players - Kansas State's Michael Beasley and UCLA's Kevin Love - who, according to ESPN's stat guru John Hollinger, project to become better NBA players than anybody to come out of college basketball since 2002. Further complicating matters, Memphis point guard Derek Rose is so talented that most NBA scouts expect him to excel at the NBA level even moreso than he did at the college level.

First things first: I would select Kansas State power forward Michael Beasley over Memphis' point guard Derek Rose, and I wouldn't think twice about it. Some would say that, because the NBA is becoming more and more of a guard's league, Rose should be the first overall pick, but I believe that such an analysis misreads the situation entirely. Yes, its true that the NBA is evolving, but its evolving away from the old-fashioned, muscle-bound, back-to-the-basket big men like Yao Ming and Shaquille O'Neal, and towards a quicker, more uptempo game. Michael Beasley is a 6'8" forward who can run the floor and rebound with players three and four inches taller than him. When, exactly, is that going to go out of style? If anything, today's NBA is dominated by undersized, athletic power forwards like Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, David West, Shawn Marion. Teams like the Boston Celtics (Leon Powe and Glen Davis) and the Houston Rockets (Carl Landry and Luis Scola) platoon pairs of undersized power forwards, depending on what style of play they want to use at the time. In other words, the game is evolving as much in Michael Beasley's favor as it is Derek Rose's. Furthermore, Derek Rose's shooting touch is shaky, at best, which means that he could become a slightly taller Rajon Rondo - an excellent NBA player, to be certan, but by no means the #1 pick in a deep draft.

Of all the questions facing NBA general managers in this year's draft, perhaps none is likely to provoke more controversy than the issue of how to value Kevin Love. The facts about Kevin Love are not indispute. He is a 6'9", making him somewhat undersized for the post positions at the NBA level. He is white, and lacks lateral quickness. Even his most avid supporters would not dispute any of those criticisms. On the other hand, he is strong, an outstanding rebounder, a consistent jump shooter with enough range to consistently make NBA 3-pointers, a very good foul shooter, and the best passing big man to come out of the NCAA in at least twenty years. Even his harshest critics would not dispute any of those virtues. The NBA player to whom he is most often compared is Brad Miler, who, for the past seven or eight years, has been one of the five-best centers in the NBA. Does that make him worth a high lottery pick? If forced to decide, I would say yes.

Though Kevin Love and the San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobili are very different players, they suffer from the same statistical problem - they play relatively few minutes for relatively slow-paced teams. That is to say, Kevin Love averaged 17 points and 10.5 rebounds a game per UCLA, both of which ranked him among the national leaders. However, Love accomplished all of that while playing only 28 minutes per game for a team that walks the ball up court and rarely scores more than 70 points. Most potential lottery picks play about 33 minutes per game for teams that employ a more fast-paced style and routinely score 85 points. Though Love ranked among the national leaders in per-game statistics, he really jumps off the page - trailing only Beasley - in terms of per-possession effectiveness. For that reason, I believe that Kevin Love should be drafted with one of the top 10-12 picks in the draft. I for one am hoping he goes to his hometown Portland Trailblazers, where he could play with Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and whatever the Blazers get in return for the potentially redundant LaMarcus Aldridge.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What's the Best-Spent Dollar You've Spent Recently?

What is the best thing you've gotten in return for a single U.S. dollar? I'd love to hear what our contributors and readers have to say about this. I've been thinking about this because yesterday at the public library I exchanged a dollar for four books, all of which I've wanted to read for some time, but to which I have never quite gotten around: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, Lake Wobegon Days, by Garrison Keillor, The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler, and The Tummy Trilogy, by the New Yorker's Calvin Trillin.

Ceremony

I've always believed that too much is made of Radiohead's avant-garde weirdness. They're just a great band, which happens to enjoy experimenting with song structure from time to time. Its easy to lose sight of that, until you hear them cover something a little more traditional and straight-forward, when you realize what great musicians and . . . rockers they are. Here's a recent clip of Radiohead, via webcast, covering the New Order classic "Ceremony." Pretty cool stuff.


Added: And here is New Order playing "Ceremony" in New York City, circa 1981.


Thanks for the words: Lola's Ephemera

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Steve Carrell On the Daily Show

Steve Carrell was back on The Daily Show on Wednesday, to promote Get Smart, which, let's face it, nobody really has any interest in seeing. His appearance on the show highlights the problem that The Daily Show has had replacing him, Stephen Colbert and Rob Corddry - they all had incredible, Redford-and-Newmanlike chemistry with Jon Stewart, and with each other. The new cast members are individually funny, but when more than one of them is on screen at a time, everything comes across as forced and scripted. The Daily Show stumbled upon a cast of comic actors rivaled only by the early casts of Saturday Night Live and SCTV, and has been floundering ever since.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Requiem For A Day Off

Now That's Good Writing

Just because I felt like sharing:

According to Bill Bryson's "Made In America: An Informal History of the English Language In the United States," President Abraham Lincoln "took delight in showing his associates a letter he received from a disgruntled citizen in 1860. It read:

"God damn your god damned old hellfired god damned soul to hell god damn you and goddam your god damned family's god damned hellfired god damned soul to hell and god damnation god damn them and god damn your god damn friends to hell."


I think its sort of funny and cool that Lincoln got a kick out of the letter and hung onto it to show to his friends. Today, a letter like that would never find its way to the President-elect's desk. Isn't that sort of sad, in a way?

The National, Live From the Offices of Spin Magazine, Part 2

"Abel"


"Wasp Nest"


"Murder Me, Rachel"

On Starbucks

About six weeks ago, in keeping with its national campaign to turn its stores into something more closely approximating a neighborhood coffee house, the Starbucks across the street from my office made their excellent Pike Place roast a feature of their permanent menu, and trotted out a new line of pastries, to replace the frankly awful pastries that Starbucks has been foisting on its customers for years, ever since they did away with their caramel fudge brownies. As for these new pastries, the miniature vanilla scones are very good, if a little too sweet, and the strawberries and cream coffee cake is good and very rich, though it could use more strawberries. Even the raspberry apricot thumbprint scone is pretty tasty, despite being Kevin Spacey Gay, (and then some.)

Starbucks is justifiably criticized for a lot of things, including the way it has colonized every block of Manhattan with its nearly identical stores. The music they play in their stores, and the books and dvds they sell, are either bland beyond belief (Jason Mraz, Five For Fighting) or else are legitimately good, but well past their sell-by date. But the coffee they sell is a notch or two above what you can buy in any business-district coffee shop, and, for people who work in an office ten hours a day, a trip across the street to Starbucks is an important but inexpensive luxury, a way to reward yourself after a productive morning at your desktop. And they treat their employees well, allowing them to buy health insurance and good rates and allowing them to buy shares of the company's stock at market value. On the whole, Starbucks is a company I can get behind.

Having said all of that, the Starbucks across the street from me is now selling something purporting to be "Top Pot Chocolate Sandcastle" doughnuts. For the uninitiated, Top Pot is a small coffee and doughnut chain with three locations in Seattle, Washington. Without question, Top Pot makes the best doughnuts I've ever had. They are a legitimate reason to visit Seattle, if not to move there permanently. The doughnuts that Starbucks passes off as Top Pot doughnuts wouldn't fool anybody who has actually been to Top Pot; they look different and they all look identical, as if they were mass-produced in a factory, which if course they would have to be if they are going to be sold at 10,000 different Starbucks locations across the country. They may be good (I haven't had one yet) but they're not Top Pot doughnuts - this would be like Starbucks selling plain old pastrami sandwiches in Arizona under the name "Katz's Pastrami Sandwiches" or sauce-and-cheese-laden pizzas in Omaha and calling them "Pepe's New Haven-style pizza." This is just one small example, but this sort of fake authenticity is exactly what makes chains so soulless and hateable - even good chains, like Starbucks.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The National, Live From the Offices of Spin Magazine, Part 1

Its not exactly the Apollo Theater, the Fillmore East, or the London Palladium, but there are worse places for a The National to play a tight six-song set.

"Lit Up"


"Baby, We'll Be Fine"


"About Today"


More tomorrow - I promise.

Anything is possible!

Important question about the celtics win:
at least on Boston network TV, there was an PSA shown with about 4 minutes to go in the game called "celebrate with dignity" (aka "please don't riot"). was this ad shown nationally or only locally?

I am happy for the celtics. I haven't yet grown fed up with them and flipped into backlash mode like I have with the Pats and Sox. but give me a year.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Viva La Vida

Coldplay's new album, entitled "Viva La Vida," hits record stores today. Early reviews rate it a sold A-/B+ type of effort. I've only heard two tracks - Violet Hill and the title track, which Coldplay performed live for the first time at last week's MTV music awards. Here's the video:

I realize that a lot of people whose taste in music is generally similar to mine don't care much for Coldplay. Admittedly, Coldplay's never been edgy, but nobody doubts their musicality, and, in my opinion, Coldplay's genuine warmth and willingness to wear its heart on its sleeve are rare commodities in a music scene in which the trendy posture tends to be an overly calculated and skin-deep badass-ness. And Viva La Vida sort of rocks.

Tim Russert 1950-2008

Tim Russert died on Friday at the age of 58. I'll let the tributes to him speak for themselves, but I will just add that the residents of the city of Buffalo were enormously proud of him. Even after he became the most importantly political journalist in the United States, Russert always made time to praise the city of Buffalo in the national media and to return to Buffalo for fundraisers, birthdays and football games. People in Buffalo who had never met him cried when they heard the news. In Washington, tributes were made by Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Walter Kronkite, Barack Obama and John McCain, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Bill Kristol, Rush Limbaugh, and virtually every other famous politician. He came as close to being universally respected as anybody in the field of politics is going to get anytime soon.

The New York Times' article about his death was entitled "Washington, After a Fall," and discusses how his show was so important to politicians that everybody in Washington referred to Meet the Press simply as "Russert," as in "McCain was on Russert last weekend."

Bill Kristol's tribute to him can be read here.

Here is Tom Brokaw's tribute to Russert on NBC:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Random Thought For the Day

Why can't network news anchors in America look like this?



It is entirely possible that Stone Phillips or Brian Williams have a similar effect on women, but somehow I doubt it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

After the Flood

Remember when President Bush fiddled while Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf coast and ruined significant portions of four states, including one of the most historic cities in North America? I do too. Barack Obama's response to the severe flooding in his native Illinois and neighboring Iowa is more in keeping with the type of leadership one expects from a president.

Out of Time

Jake and I had the good fortune to attend the R.E.M./Modest Mouse/The National concert in Toronto, Ontario last weekend. All three bands sounded good, and it was certainly a lot of music for the very Canadian price of $40.

R.E.M. sounded great, but they were also the band best-suited to the large, outdoor, arena-style venue. I'll always think of The National as small and smoky, more at home playing in bars and nightclubs and old-fashioned movie theaters, like the 10:30 club, or The Orpheum, or The Riviera, but its worth nothing that, in the early 90's, the same could have been said about R.E.M. A breath of fresh air in the saccharine, hair-metal-dominated 1980's, the boys from Athens, Georgia had, by their fourth or fifth album, become far too popular to return to the same small venues that had made them famous. When their album "Out of Time" hit #1 on the charts in both the U.S. and U.K., R.E.M. had to reinvent itself as an arena-rock band. They didn't want to, but when your record spends 109 weeks on the American charts, and 183 weeks on the British charts, you don't really have a choice. The National may have to make a similar evolution, but I'm glad that their early, small-scale live recordings will continue to live on the Internets.

"Mistaken For Strangers" - Live from Park Avenue CDs in New York City



Here's the low-budget original music video for "Abel"


"Mr. November"


"Fake Empire"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Common Sense Guide To Last-Minute Father's Day Shopping

Books

Nixonland - One of the best-reviewed political books in years, Nixonland tells the story of Richard Nixon's decision to combine the Republican party's racially-based "Southern strategy" with a class-based populism that was somehow uniquely personal and yet intentionally vague. Later echoed by Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, this strategy proved effective for forty years.

The Post-American World - Fareed Zakaria is the most intelligent talking head on television, but he first made his name as a precociously successful journalist. The Post-American World has been lauded as a 21st Century answer to Paul Kennedy's 1987 classic "The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers," which is pretty select company.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - The first novel of a middle-aged software designer, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle is "a big-hearted novel you can fall into, get lost in, and finally emerge from reluctantly, a little surprised that the real world went on spinning while you were absorbed." Inspired by Hamlet and set in small-town Wisconsin, Edgar Sawtelle is the best Shakespearean tragedy-inspired novel set in the upper midwest since Jane Smiley's "A Thousand Acres." This is a new writer with serious chops.

Netherland - Everybody from The New Yorker and the New York Times to the International Herald Tribune and the Guardian UK is raving about Joseph O'Neill's novel. Admittedly, we at CSD haven't read this one yet - the waiting list at the New York Public Library is 550 names long - but by all accounts the hype is legitimately deserved.


Movies

Films by the Coen Brothers - Browsing the internets last week, CSD interns noticed that Amazon.com has randomly lowered its prices on Coen brothers DVDs. Two of their earliest successes, Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink, are basically being given away, and No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, and some of their other movies are on sale as well.


Miscellaneous

iPod Speakers - Just about all of the lawyers on my floor have these in their offices, and The Big Man likes the fact that, on the weekends, he can bring them up to the cottage. Remember when you would have had to bring a boom box and two huge cd wallets with you every time you went on vacation? That sucked.

Plaid Shorts - According to our friends in the fashion industry, these are back in style this year, and let's face it - NOTHING is more dad-like than plaid shorts. In fact, if your dad is into golf, you basically have no excuse not to buy him a pair of plaid shorts this summer.

Vote Republican

Its been almost a week since we've posted. Sorry about that. After a couple of twelve-hour days in a row, my brain is more or less mush, so I won't write anything too involved tonight. This video is sarcastic even by Common Sense Dancing standards, and that's saying a lot - keep an eye out for the kid with the toy gun.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Now, That's Edgy

Fredric J. Baur, the inventor of Pringles potato chips, died last week at age 89. Apparently, his will held that he was to be cremated and have his ashes buried in a Pringles can. Now, that's pretty edgy.

A friend - who I'll call Annie Savoy - has suggested that the Pringles can should be put into commercial distribution, with a large cash prize going to the customer who purchases the 'lucky' can. That's an idea we can get behind! In fact, if Pringles ever announces this as a promotion, CSD headquarters may even switch from bold & spicy Chex mix to sour cream & chive Pringles. I'm just sayin'.

Ding, Dong

The last Democratic presidential primaries were held yesterday, and, as you have probably heard by now, Senator Barack Obama clinched the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. That's it. Its over. On paper, Senator Obama has won enough delegates to ensure that he will be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee . . .

And yet, Hillary Clinton has refused to drop out of the presidential race. Rather than concede - which would have been the dignified thing to do months ago - Senator Clinton instead "left it up to (her supporters) to decide" whether or not to "accept the outcome" of the presidential race. So, even though there are no more primaries left to be held, she has refused to concede. Much like a vampire, you have to drive a stake through her heart, even after you think you've already killed her. Much like a soviet commando, you have to check her pockets for hand grenades, to make sure that she, in her last, desperate act, won't pull a pin that destroys the Democratic Party's chances to succeed in the November's general election.

In her non-concession speech, Hillary impliedly questioned the legitimacy of the form of the nomination process - this, despite the fact that people like Harold Ickes, long-time Clinton supporters, organized the nomination process to be most favorable to her, for instance by moving a significant number of primaries earlier in the year, which favors the more widely-known candidate. Anyway, Hillary is just desperate at this point and will do anything to secure a position of power - whether than be a vice-presidential or cabinet position in 2008, or by sabotaging Barack Obama's campaign to give her a chance to run for the nomination again in 2012. Check her body for hand grenades. And please, do what you can to talk some sense into the few remaining Clinton supporters.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

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

You can tell just from looking at the preview that Burn After Reading is going to be cool and funny. The Coen Brothers are most praised for their serious films (like Miller's Crossing, Fargo, and No Country For Old Men) but best loved for their screwball comedies, like Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski. Burn After Reading looks to be in that same tradition, making it a good change of pace between serious literary adaptations like No Country and 2009's The Yiddish Policeman's Union.

Here's the red band trailer:

A Sports Parable

The New Republic's excellent blog, The Plank, is in top form today. At the risk of sounding obvious, Hillary Clinton's rhetoric in recent weeks sounds doubly absurd when used in any context other than electoral politics (where people have sadly come to expect the absurd.)

"A Sports Parable"

Yes, Boston has won four games and Detroit only two. But it's hard to imagine a more arbitrary and undemocratic way to determine this series’s outcome than "games won." It is, after all, a bedrock value of the game of basketball that all points must be counted. But how can that be the case when every point beyond the winning point is ignored? There are literally dozens of layups, jumpers, free throws, and (yes, even) dunks that our opponents want to say don't count for anything at all. We call on the NBA to do the right thing and fully count all of the baskets that were made throughout the course of this series.

Once you abandon the artificial four-games-to-two framework that the media has tried to impose on the series, a very different picture emerges, with the Celtics leading by a mere 549 points to 539. Yes that’s right, the margin between the two teams is less than one percent—a tie, for all intents and purposes. This is probably the closest Conference Finals in NBA history, though I will thank you not to check on that.

Celtics-Lakers

There is a lot of hype surrounding the fact that the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, the NBA's two most storied franchises, are meeting the NBA Finals again for the first time in 21 years. Frankly, a lot of this hype is over-done. Having said that, casual basketball fans like my roommates and my mother are genuinely excited about this series, in a way that hasn't been true about the NBA Finals in more than ten years. This video gives you an idea of what the NBA Finals used to be like. Hopefully, that sort of excitement is back to stay:

Monday, June 2, 2008

Yale University Wins the 2008 NCAA Women's Rowing Championship












Congratulations to the 2008 Yale University Women's Rowing Team, winners of yesterday's 2008 NCAA Women's Rowing Championship, held in Gold River, California.

Yale's crew - which consisted of Mia Kanak, Taylor Ritzel, Christina Person, Jamie Redman, Tess Gerrand, Alice Henly, Maren McCrea, Caroline Nash and Christine Glandorf, and was coached by Will Porter and Jamie Snyder - never led until the final 300 meters, when they caught Stanford from behind to win going away. The Lady Bulldogs pulled a blistering 1:37.01 in the final 500 meters of the race, with the final margin of victory being just 0.9 seconds.

Congratulations are also in store for the U.S. National team, which won two gold medals - in the women's eight and the men's quad - at the 2008 rowing World Cup in Lucerne, Switzerland. Among the winners was friend of the blog Rachel Jeffers (Yale '07). Congrats, Rachel!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Van Damme On the Dance Floor

A Sex In the City fan and loyal reader of the blog has pointed out that a good number of movies targeted at male audiences are just as stupid as Sex In the City. This, I cannot dispute. Here is one such example: