Sunday, November 30, 2008

Shadowplay

I've been in a very Joy Division place lately. Here's a pretty obscure clip of one of their earliest televised performances on the BBC.


I have to say that I don't pay much attention to The Killers, because I'm not a 16 year old girl and its not 2005 anymore, but this Joy Division cover of theirs really impressed me. I half expected them to begin the video with a Chuck Klosterman spoken word poetry slam.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How Do You Know You're In Buffalo?

I heard Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" three times yesterday - once in the car, and once in each of two different bars. Other than (possibly) Detroit, there aren't many cities in which I can picture that happening in the year 2008. Is this a reason why its fun to be home, or a reason that I no longer live here? Can it be both?

Of course, every time I hear that song, I am reminded of The Strangest Thing To Ever Happen Anywhere. I've posted this a couple of times already, so long-time readers of the blog will have to bear with me, but The Strangest Thing To Ever Happen Anywhere was a 2006 concert in Hollywood, California by the cover band Metal Skool, in which they pulled out Dennis Haskins (the actor who played Mr. Belding on Saved By the Bell) and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo out of the audience to sing "Don't Stop Believin'" with them. It only gets weirder from there - Mister Belding admitting to doing coke with the band, then swearing at the audience, Metal Skool's lead singer making half-serious gay jokes at the audience for knowing the words to the Saved By the Bell theme song, and Tony Romo trying to hit high notes during the bridge. By the end of the eight minute video, your jaw will be hanging open - just trust me on this one.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Holiday Reading

Over this Thanksgiving week, I am reading Don DeLillo's Underworld - a book I purchased in hardcover immediately after its release and which has been on my "must-read" list ever since. I think you need to force yourself to read the classics, and even long contemporary fiction like Underworld, because there's always going to be a less challenging book to read, and it isn't easy to read a book that makes demands of its readers.

I am now a couple of days into Underworld, and I'm very impressed. It is so artfully constructed, and its prose so considered, that I am trying to pace myself in my reading of it, so I may not have a review for a while. But it is very good.

What are you reading over Thanksgiving break?

Stuck In My Head

For some reason, I haven't seen this video until now. Its kind of freaky - appropriate to the tone of the song, but not necessarily to the lyrics.


Now, Seven Nation Army - that's how you make a video:

Atlas Shrugged At the Current Financial Crisis

This piece may be the best thing from McSweeney's Internet Concern since the Hamlet-as-a-series-of-facebook-status-updates piece that just about killed the CSD staff this summer. I'm glad that sophisticated satire has more than one home on teh internets.

While we're sort of on the subject, McSweeney's is having a deal through December 17th - buy $60 worth of merchandise from their store and receive a free copy of either Michael Chabon's Maps and Legends or Nick Hornby's Shakespeare Wrote For Money. Not a bad way to stock up on Christmas presents for the literate and sincere twenty and thirty-somethings on your Christmas list.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why Buffalo Is Awesome

In Buffalo, New York you can buy a 24-pack of Labatt's Blue or Blue Light for $18.99, and said case comes with a free Buffalo Sabres stocking cap. I can think of literally nothing to make this a better deal. Its impossible.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What To Make of Greg Oden?

Portland Trailblazers center Greg Oden has been the subject of much debate lately. In high school, he led his team to three consecutive state championships in Indiana, one of the most notoriously competitive states in the country for prep basketball. As a freshman in college, he was a first-team All-American, and led Ohio State to the national championship game, where he put up 25 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocked shots against a Florida front line, all three of whose members were NBA lottery picks.

Oden sufferend a knee injury, and missed what would have been his rookie season in the NBA. He sprained his foot in the first game of this NBA season, and has played less than 180 minutes through the first twelve games of the season.

Oden is far above the league average in player efficiency, he is among the league leaders in defensive rebounding percentage, total rebounding percentage, and blocked shot percentage - before a recent mediocre performance, he was blocking 10% of shots taken by the opposing team while he was on the court. At the same time, the Trailblazers play considerably worse when Oden is on the court than they do when he is on the bench - in two recent games the team played almost 30 points worse per game with Oden on the court than they did with his backup, Joel Przybilla, on the court.

Some heavily hyped players hurt their teams, because, subconsciously, their teammates ease off a little bit when they are on the court, watching the star with the expectation that he will carry the team, effectively playing 1-on-5, whereas, without the star on the court, and the cumulative effect of five lesser players playing at the top of their game would trump having one star player and a bunch of other, passive guys. Is that what's happening with Oden? Is his timing so far off that he throws his teammates off-rhythm, even while his own personal stats are positive? As Oden continues to recover from injury and get his timing back, are the Trailblazers going to improve? Or, once opposing teams recognize his weaknesses,is he going to lost his effectiveness?

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Next Watchmen Trailer

Anticipation continues to build.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

This Is Creepy And Weird

Sara Palin, former Republican Vice-Presidential nominee and Governor of Alaska, pardoned a turkey in her hometown of Wasilla this week, and gave a television interview while a man in the background feeds turkeys into a shredding machine like Gaear Grimsrud feeding Carl Showalter into a wood chipper at the end of Fargo. I don't even know what joke to make here - its hard not to stare at it like a car crash, with jaw agape.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nom

A bit of guilty, absurdist fun. So in this weeks new yorker, there is an article about an international food writer...whose name is Nom! (It is a diminutive of Naomi). Now given my unabashed love of Lolcats (go ahead, bring it on), this bit of cultural coincidence makes me very very happy. (nom is lolcat onomatopoeia for eating) How did I get here from sleeping in an igloo and shooting at polar bears? I ask myself at every day.

while we are talking about my timewasting, go to thisisindexed.com. it's great.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Portis Poetry Straight

There has been some attention paid to clinton portis on teh interwebs for his statement "portis pockets straight." This is a phrase said by clinton portis on during an interview with former redskin brian mitchell (who has a history of attacking portis on-air) and former georgetown coach john thompson. Portis was responding to attacks and perceived slights from mitchell when he uttered the phrase.

on it's face, the phrase is pretty simple. Portis claims he intended it simply as a statement that "I make dollars" or "my paycheck still arrives no matter what you [Mitchell] say." however, if this were his only intention, he could easily have said "Portis straight pockets" and it would have been immediately clear. His inversion of the last two words creates a much more complex phrase.

I was initially skeptical of the attention paid to it. The lovable Mr Irrelevant printed t-shirts with the phrase and even got portis to pose (albeit sheepishly) wearing one. I had chalked it up to that awkward (and I usually, I think, inappropriate) post-racialist version of "black people say the darnedest things." but the more I said the phrase, the more layers were present in it. below are my thoughts.

I make dollars
the sentiment that he gets his money is still the dominant one in the phrase. It now functions as an elided version of "portis' pockets are straight". They are heavy with his money.

defending his manhood
the inversion of 'straight' and 'pockets' turns 'pockets' into a noun from a verb. this allows the interpretation of "portis' pockets are straight"--his groin is heterosexual--he is a man.

alluding to langston hughes
In modern slang, 'straight' serves largely as an intensifier placed before the word it intensifies. It means, "truly" or "solely," such as Randy Moss's famous "straight cash, homey" and the somewhat antiquated "straight dope." but portis has placed 'straight' after the word it intensifies. in "we real cool" Hughes writes "we real cool/we skip school/we hang late/we strike straight". hughes uses straight as an adverb. If you read Portis' phrase the way he intended it, with 'straight' intensifying the verb "pockets", (in what manner does portis pocket his cash? straight) the construction is identical.

alliteration
"portis pockets straight." it is great to say. say it out loud. it is fun. it is easy. it rolls. the repetition of the "Po" helps keep the phrase moving. it's great.

This is not the first time portis' syntax has been the subject of serious consideration. The link is to a column by the washington post's ombudsman about a mini-scandal over the summer in which portis' slang grammar was corrected for him by an editor within quotation marks attributed to him. The question become one about whether his syntax was expressive or would embarrass him. I think we have to give CP the benefit of the doubt.

Four of Our Six Bloggers Are Very Frustrated This Morning

Please, don't apply the expression "wide right" to the field goal that Buffalo Bills placekicker Ryan Lindell missed at the end of last night's game against the Cleveland Browns. Yes, the field goal missed to the right, but then, so do many other field goals. Comparing every field goal missed to the right near the end of a close game to Norwood's miss isn't fair to anybody.

And yet . . . anybody who thought that Lindell's kick was going in clearly hasn't spent much time in Buffalo.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saving Buffalo's Untold Beauty

This past weekend, The New York Times ran an article on Buffalo, New York's architectural history. Pretty cool stuff, even if, as the article points out, much of it is currently at risk, and there is little money available with which to preserve it.

The slideshow, available here, is especially cool.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Black and White Night

Because we all need a little more Roy Orbison in our lives.

The AL Cy Young Award

Cliff Lee won the AL Cy Young Award yesterday, drawing 24 out of a possible 28 first-place votes. My own pick for the Cy Young Award, Roy Halladay, finished a distance second in the voting, with 4 first place votes.

Cliff Lee went 22-3 this season, and had an ERA of 2.65. Its difficult to argue with statistics like those, which in most seasons would allow a pitcher to run away with the award. However, Halladay was 20-11 with a 2.78 ERA and 4 complete games. Halladay pitched 22 and 2/3 more innings, had a lower WHIP (baserunners-per-inning), threw 9 complete games, struck out 36 more batters. Lee's team outscored Halladay's team by 805 runs to 714 runs. Winning 20 games on a team without a .300 hitter OR a .500 slugger isn't easy to do.

Lee had a terrific season, but Halladay had a better season. Halladay would receive my vote for the award. Lee's lead in wins and ERA jump off the page to people who don't look at statistics very closely, which is why he ran away with the award. Lee's individual statistics were good enough that he wasn't undeserving of the award . . . but he wasn't the best pitcher in the American League this year.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Who Else Is Excited About The Quantum of Solace?

Roger Ebert once wrote that not every man wants to be James Bond, but every boy does. Anthony Lane's review of Quantum of Solace discusses the way in which the character has changed over the years, from a playboy with a day job to a more convincing portrait on a professional killer. Of course, Lane peppers his review with hilarious one-liners, such as "the new movie gives us Bond in mourning—a condition that issues, according to Freud, in melancholy and a general indifference to life, but which causes this particular sufferer to stab people in the neck and toss them from tall buildings" and "Is Vesper truly avenged because her beloved James gets to butch it out with the flower-shirted Dominic (Greene, the movie's villain) in what looks like a Ramada Inn?" Just a must-read on several different levels.

Monday, November 10, 2008

This Is Pretty Strong

Get Your War On blew my mind when Paul Smecker first introduced me to it about five years ago. Its changed a lot since then, from an inconsistently updated comic strip featuring clip art characters to a slick multi-media website featuring cartoons, articles, and animation. For me, a little bit of the fun wore off once the War on Terror gave way to the second Iraq War, and also because, as it become more popular, it lost a little of its willingness to take risks - the I-can't-believe-we're-getting-away-with-this quality was lacking. Nonetheless, the new, post-election video is pretty funny.
Get the latest news satire and funny videos at 236.com.

weekend points of interest

1. buried deep in this unfocused Malcolm Gladwell article which is a riff on the new paean to Goldman Sachs lies an interesting idea--albeit one that is rather poorly linked to the actual subject, GS honcho Harvey Weinberg. Gladwell introduces several sociologists who bring us the idea of the "minority middle man." Why is Apu, the fictional proprietor of Qwik-e-mart, Indian? Why are the proprietors of corner stores in urban neighborhoods stereotypically Korean? Why did I have to change my money at Lebanese-owned hardware stores in mainland equatorial guinea? because they are minority middle men. The theory goes that because these are immigrants, excluded from the social community in which they do business, they can operate their business more effectively. Were they accepted ethnic, social, or national peers, they would be expected to participate as community members--helping the needy, not offending distant friends and relatives, allowing people to call in favors. Their outsider status allows them to be better business people because they do not care what their clients think of them after hours. interesting.

2. I went to see DBT and the Hold Steady last night. It was an almost comically bifurcated crowd. You could tell pretty quickly who was there for whom. I was there for DBT, being a sucker for southern rock in almost all of its incarnations. despite the fact that they were opening (DBT and HS decided to alternate being the opening bad on tour dates which is oddly charming), and playing to an audience dominated by Hold Steady fans, I thought they performed well. The departure of Jason Isbell is definitely felt, but they soldier on, great fun, if not mindblowing.

I was excited for the Hold Steady having read all the positive reviews. I was badly underwhelmed. they seem to be living proof that making relentlessly uptempo, middle-of-the-road-tinged-with-indie music strictly targeted to college kids is a good recipe for success. Think hyped-up jimmy eat world with little bits of the killers, and 3rd wave ska. Although not that similar musically, I could not shake the Dave Matthews feel. The frontman's demonstrative antics seemed forced and a little cheap, which is probably a decent summary of the band.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

why vote in the morning?

having read this at lost in texas, and received more than a few emails from friends who live in hyper-energized parts of massachusetts (somerville, cambridge, etc), it seems pretty clear that lots of people waited an hour or more to vote first thing in the morning. I have to ask "why"? I breezed into my polling spot at 7.35pm on the way home from work and was out in 2 minutes. I even got the polling-place PTA bake-sale goods marked down because the polling place was closing soon. what is the appeal of voting first thing in the morning? does it avoid the fear of missing out? is it a hipster thing about being first? is it the joy of wearing the "i voted" sticker and hectoring others at work all day? I don't get it.

I Love New York

The "real America, the pro-America part of America" can go shit in its hat.

Filmed on St. Mark's Place in the East Village of Manhattan, late last night:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

election things:

this article by skip gates is very good. His command of visions of a black president throughout the entirety of american history is impressive and revels some startling precience on the part of the authors. I am sure an army of research associates have been digging up these passages for months prefiguring this day, but it is still a worthy read.

I cannot help but feel irritated by the perceived involvement of other countries with our election. Releasing doves at the Eiffel tower on behalf of the citizens of Europe in support of Obama? buzz off. I felt similarly when living in Canada, I was often confronted wtih anti-bush propoganda. What role do you have in our electoral process? who cares what you all think about this? It is as neutered and pointless as my sporting a "Fuck Vincente Fox" hoodie.

we decriminalized marijuana in Massachusetts. cool. Now cops will take you pot and fine you $100. (unless they are federal cops in which case you will still go to jail forever). Generally I think this is good, but I wonder what the cops will do with all that pot. Would it be a more effective law if they smoked it in front of you? I hope the bill does not usher in a bizarre shadow economy of soft-headed opportuntists.

We also managed to trounce a ballot initiative to essentially eliminate state income tax. Althoguh I know it cements us as tax-and-spend liberals, I think ti shows foresight. "I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.” - Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

President Barack Obama

Where were you when you heard the results of the Presidential election? How did you respond to the news?

I watched the returns come in at a friend's apartment, and then, between 10 and 11pm, when there had been no new results for half an hour and none seemed to be on the immediate horizon, I decided it was time to head home. As the subway briefly poked its head above ground, my cell phone beeped to let me know that I had a new message - it was from my mother, informing me that the networks had called the election for Obama. The walk home along 7th Avenue was memorable - people running out of bars and running out into the street, people shouting out of open windows, cars honking their horns. Just a fantastic scene.

If you have a story about how and when you heard the news, please share it in the comments section.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Happy Days Are Here Again

So long sad times
Go long bad times
We are rid of you at last
Howdy gay times
Cloudy gray times
You are now a thing of the past


Nobody would be so bold as to say that cloudy gray times are a thing of the past, but . . . tonight was a big night.

Election Day

People at my voting station in Brooklyn were lined up down the block at 7:00AM this morning. That's a good sign, isn't it? Politics matters again. What is the voting like where you live?

Also, I would like to give a quick shout-out to Paul Smecker, who voted early so that he could poll-watch in Pennsylvania today.

"I Would Have Gone With 'Hello'"

The Mystery Science Theater guys are back with a new show, "Cinematic Titanic." Here's a preview:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Political Stuff

Is anybody else ready for this election to be over and done with? I almost can't stand to listen to coverage of it anymore - all of the stories are either about the 'horse race,' or else they focus on various political commentators' predictions about who is going to win, and by how much. Neither of those is of very much interest to me, but then I can't blame the networks, since at this point there isn't anything of substance left to report. This election is the story that ate itself.

Did anybody see John McCain's appearance on Saturday Night Live? Wasn't that a weird way to spend half a day, just three days before the general election? One joke was hilarious - the one about him adopting an 'angry grandpa' persona for the rest of the campaign - but he looked slightly uncomfortable for the rest of his appearance, which is understandable, since he probably didn't rehearse. I'm beginning to worry that late night shows have become so important that their political content will kill the audience for real honest-to-goodness political shows like "Meet the Press."

One quick thought about the predictions: some experts are predicting Barack Obama to win the presidential election by a margin of 53-42. Does anybody else not expect that to happen? I don't know if I'd be able to handle it if it did happen - it would be as if the Buffalo Bills won the Super Bowl by sixty points or something. Has anybody ever seen an election with that big of a discrepancy in popular votes? Even Mondale and Dukakis came closer than that.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Mr. November

"We are one people. We are one nation. We are wide awake, in a fake empire. And together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea, 'Yes, we can!'"


Thanks to Lost In Texas for the find.

Get your "Mr. November" t-shirts here. $18 is a small price to pay for street cred in Brooklyn, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, Madison, Wisconsin, Athens, Georgia, Austin, Texas, on the north side of Chicago and probably like seven other places.

Good Writing

The Onion A.V. Club's Andy Battaglia covers David Foster Wallace's memorial service, which was held at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts last Thursday.

David Lipsky's articlein the latest issue of Rolling Stone about David Foster Wallace's last days was really well-written and surprisingly affecting. The story about how Wallace met Jonathan Franzen, and how they both moved to Syracuse to start over in life, is surprisingly affecting. If you've ever read anything by Wallace - or, for that matter, by Franzen - you really should read this article.