Friday, February 27, 2009

U2's First Single

Apparently, the first single off of U2's No Line On the Horizon is "Get On Your Boots," not "Breathe." Here's the video:

Added: You can pre-order U2's No Line On the Horizon for $8.99 and Neko Case's Middle Cyclone for $7.99. There are links over in this blog's right-hand column. The prices probably won't get this low again.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

U2's New Album

U2 has a new album coming out on March 3rd, entitled No Line on the Horizon. Scattered here and there on YouTube are some videos, recorded live in Europe, of U2 performing "Breathe," the first single off of their new album.

Here's some video:

Before I move on, I should say that I love U2. I celebrate their entire catalogue. And they've been on a roll as of late - 2000's All That You Can't Leave Behind is considered to be one of their best albums, and 2004's How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, is a favorite here at CSD headquarters - it has eleven good songs, a couple of great ones, and no weak songs, with the possible exception of Vertigo, which, ironically, is the album's best-known song, and it came out at a time - November 2004 - when I was in the middle of my first semester of law school and desperately in need of a pick-me-up. How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb provided that in spades, and though it may not be an all-time short-list classic like The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby, it still accounts for ten of the best entertainment dollars I've spent in the past decade.

As for "Breathe," I'm more than a little underwhelmed. Bono's voice is going downhill fast - all of those years of smoking are catching up with him - and he spits out the lyrics as if he's been taking voice lessons from Anthony Kiedis. The rest of the band exhibits its characteristically precise playing, but there's no classic Edge riff or dancing Adam Clayton bass line to put it over the top.

I'm skeptical about U2's new album. Then again, "Vertigo" got my hopes down for "How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb," and that album ended up being the best mainstream rock album of 2004 and is still a staple of my iTunes ever since. So you never know.

Good and Bad Subway Experiences

I went to see The Cherry Orchard at BAM (the Brooklyn Academy of Music) last night, with the special lady friend and a few of her former co-workers. The play, which was directed by Sam Mendes (director of Cabaret, American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, etc) and starring Simon Russell Beale, Ethan Hawke, and Rebecca Hall. In case you don't know who Rebecca Hall is, she was the brunette who played opposite Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She is gorgeous. She is luminous. She is making a run at the fabled Jennifer Connelly/Kate Winslet/Tina Fey can-do-no-wrong-in-my-book status.

Anyway, we got on the W train at Atlantic Avenue, and accidentally walked onto a subway car that had a single occupant, a homeless man who was, without question, the single most awful-smelling human being I have ever encountered in my life. To paraphrase 30 Rock, he smelled like a fart of Satan after a healthy portion of cabbage. Suddenly, the car's emptiness made perfect sense. It was terrible - as soon as the train pulled away from the platform, we walked from the car we were in to the next car by using those semi-illegal doors at the end of the subway car. But believe me, no police officer would have written us a ticket if he or she had smelled the odor. It was that bad.

The train stopped at DeKalb Avenue. We laughed as a handful of people walked into the car we had just abandoned, began to turn green, and then came through the doors into our car.

The train stopped at Canal Street. We laughed as a handful of people walked into the car we had just abandoned, began to turn green, and then came through the doors into our car.

The train stopped at 14th Street/Union Square. We laughed as a handful of people walked into the car we had just abandoned, began to turn green, and then came through the doors into our car.

When we got off the train at Herald Square, we saw a couple begin to walk into the car, stop dead in their tracks when they were hit by the smell, pivot on their heels and turn the other way. Really, it was one of the more disgusting experiences of my entire life.

Then, this morning I woke up in Chelsea, walked to the subway, and, just as I got onto the platform, an F train pulled into the station. I got off at West 4th Street to go to the Porto Rico Trading Company, walked back to the subway station, and and F train pulled into the station just as I got onto the subway platform. I then took the F train to Court Street in Brooklyn, went to Trader Joe's, walked back to the subway station, and an F train was pulling into the station as soon as I got down there. Today was as great of a subway experience as last night was a bad subway experience.

If we all drove cars, we wouldn't experience these highs and lows. Some people say that living in New York is isolating, but taking the subway gives all of us - well, all of us with the exception of the VERY rich - something in common. It makes us New Yorkers. And that's worth putting up with the occasional fart-of-Satan-smelling vagrant.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We're So Happy!

CSD Headquarters is abuzz this morning.

1) Michael Cera has signed on to make the long-awaited Arrested Development movie.

2) Andy Richter has signed on to be Conan O'Brien's sidekick when Conan takes over the Tonight Show from Jay Leno on June 1st.

3) The trailer for Crank 2 is just been released. For those of you who missed the original Crank, let me tell you, it is the best unintentional comedy/so-bad-its-good action movie to come out since Cliffhanger, if not Road House (the granddaddy of them all).

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Last Broadcast of Late Night With Conan O'Brien

Friday, February 20th was Conan O'Brien's last night as the host of one of Common Sense Dancing's favorite television programs, NBC's Late Night.

This summer, Conan will take over from Jay Leno as the host of the Tonight Show. I watched Conan throughout high school, college, and law school, and, between Late Night and The Simpsons - which, I should add, for which Conan used to write and produce - it is possible that no person has shaped my sense of humor more than Conan O'Brien. His show was always creative, and had a certain type of improvisational, only-in-New-York energy that I desperately hope he will be able to replicate in Burbank, on the Tonight Show.

In his final broadcast from Rockefeller Center, Conan was everything we hoped he would be - funny, gracious, and nostalgic without being maudlin. The show featured replays of a couple of "greatest hits"-type sketches, and guests (Will Farrell, Andy Richter, The White Stripes, Abe Vigoda, John Mayer) we genuinely wanted to see again. It was a wonderful hour of television.

Conan has said that, in his opinion, the best bit he ever did on his show was the sketch he filed with some 1860s baseball re-enactors on Long Island, who play baseball with authentic period rules, equipment, and costumes. I watched this when it originally aired, and have watched it on YouTube a number of times since then, and its as funny now as it was the first time I saw it:

What's your favorite Conan O'Brien bit? Vote for your favorites in the comments section, and I'll try to track down the clips on YouTube and put them up in future posts.

Update: The embedded video has been fixed.

The New Judd Apatow Trailer

The trailer for Judd Apatow's new movie Funny People was released on friday. My early reaction, based solely on the trailer and what I know of the movie's creators and performers, is that its going to be very funny, but get more sentimental than it earns the right to be. But we'll see.

That's Hateful

The Onion A.V. Club went MST 3K on the Oscars with a running diary. And it was good. Some highlights:

Tasha Robinson: Amy Adams' giant chunky necklace looks curiously like someone overindulged on fruit and then vomited on her neck.

Keith Phipps: Dear Ryan Seacrest: Please do not greet black men with, "What is up, my brother?" Thanks.
Nathan Rabin: he did refrain from telling John Legend's date that she looks dynomite!
Nathan Rabin: Give him credit for that.

Tasha Robinson: Natalie Portman's neck is 40 feet long. Put some spots on it, and she could pass for giraffe. Maybe that's why she's wearing VIVID PAINFUL PINK instead of yellow or brown.
Nathan Rabin: her beautifulosity is engendering profound existential angst in that E! lady.

Noel Murray: Rourke on the Oscar: "You can't eat it, you can't fuck it, and it won't get you into heaven."
Noel Murray: Walters, in reply: "Thank you, Mickey Rourke."

Tasha Robinson: Daniel Craig is delivering his nomination speech as though he's trying to shoot it in the face by spitting words at it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Neko Case

The proud, few long-time readers of this blog know that one of our favorite bands is The New Pornographers. On a related note, pretty much all of us are madly in love with Neko Case. Her profile in The New York Times Sunday Magazine is a little James Lipton-like in its praise, but captures her complexities and difficulties - a must-read for any fan of hers, or of the New Pornographers, or of, you know, good music.

Just for old times' sake:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shane Battier - The No Stats All Star

The New York Times Sunday Magazine recently published a great article by Michael Lewis, the financial writer who brought the sports world the insightful (and best-selling) Moneyball: The Art of Winning An Unfair Game. The focus of the article is Shane Battier, the Houston Rockets forward who is considered an excellent NBA player, despite the fact that he rarely scores, and does not put up impressive rebounding numbers.

Much like Moneyball, "The No Stats All Star" doesn't really tell the serious fan very much information they didn't already know. But, (hopefully) also like Moneyball, Lewis' article will enormously popularize advanced statistical analysis. Hopefully it will stir debate about the best method of analyzing basketball players - the answer, of course, is some balance between quantitative analysis and traditional, subjective scouting, but where exactly that line gets drawn remains to be seen.

I found the article particularly interesting because I've always been a fan of Shane Battier's game. One thing the article doesn't really mention is that Battier was an outstanding offensive player in high school and college, and, as an NBA rookie, showed signs that he could be, if not a high scorer in the NBA, then at least the third scoring option on a good team. Instead, he has chosen to focus on his current game, the best attributes of which are his position defense, hustle plays and stand-still 3-point shooting. In that sense, Battier is, along with New Orleans' James Posey, the best of a particular class of NBA forward that includes, among others, San Antonio's Bruce Bowen and numerous lesser lights, such as Chicago's Thabo Sefalosha and Minnesota's Corey Brewer. Dallas' Josh Howard and Detroit's Tayshaun Prince are higher-scoring versions of the same basic type of player. Since none of these players put up impressive statistics in the traditional categories of points, rebounds, and assists, and since they are all valuagle pieces of winning teams, having a method of comparing them against each other, and against players with more traditionally impressive statistics, is very important. I'm interested in seeing where this sort of research leads.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is It Okay To Be A Snob At the Gym?

My favorite machine at the gym is the rowing machine. I, like several of the other contributors to this blog, rowed in college, and having been coached at a relatively high level I sometimes have trouble not judging the untrained rowers with whom I have to share the ergometers at my neighborhood New York Sports Club. Sometimes, I worry that I'm a rowing snob - not everybody is going to know how to use the rowing machines as well as somebody who rowed competitively for eight years. But then, some people are just terrible klutzes - hitting themselves in the chest with the handle, awkwardly lifting the handle over their knees on the recovery, sitting bolt upright and rowing half slide at 30 strokes per minute with the resistance damper set at 10 while pulling 2:40 splits, you name it - and I can't help but be distracted by them.

Analogy: Let's say you're a serious runner. Consider what it would be like if you were on a treadmill at a gym and somebody from the Ministry of Silly Walks got onto the treadmill next to you and began to exercise in their peculiar fashion.

Would you be able to concentrate and get a good workout with somebody like that on the treadmill next to you? Is it snobby to look down your nose at them? What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, February 16, 2009

job-related whimsy

real companies discovered while integrating giant incompatible databases:

1. BJ Services
2. PMP Limited
3. Aristocrat Leisure Limited
4. Weinerburger
5. Potash Corp of Saskatchewan
6. Country Garden Holdings
7. Compton Petroleum
8. Charles Taylor Consulting
9. Helphire Group

(I think #8 and #9 are my favorites)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lamenting the Return of Designer Label Pornography

Long-time readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear that I am repulsed by the previews for Confessions of a Shopaholic. For years, I am complained about the designer label pornography that has infiltrated women's magazines and television shows, sometimes to the point where I have seriously risked alienating the good friends of mine who enjoy them. I have nothing against fashion - the art of designing and wearing clothes to achieve a certain effect - looking sexual attractive, looking professional, and so forth. Fashion is an art. Fashion is important. What I deplore is the way that designer labels have been fetishized. Fans of Sex and the City did not enjoy watching Sara Jessica Parker wear Prada because Prada made her look good; rather, they enjoyed watching her wear Prada because Prada is expensive, and she was wearing Prada and you're not. The appeal was pornographic; nobody can convince me otherwise. Also, the show seems to have convinced half of the under-30 female population in this country that men find irresponsible, crazy, money-and-label-obsessed women endearing - perhaps its most annoying contribution to our culture.

David Edelstein says it best in his review of Confessions of A Shopaholic. "Any film set in the world of media or finance or real estate in which the central topics of discussion are dating and fashion instead of layoffs, foreclosures, and the end of Life As We Know It belongs to a distant past, like Judy Garland all atingle over those wondrous inventions at the St. Louis World's Fair. Whatever else it is, the aggressively silly romantic comedy Confessions of A Shopaholic is in sync with the curve: Its theme is addiction to spending, its suspense tied to maxed-out credit cards and a bulldoggish bill collector. If the movie didn't pander so madly to the audience for Sex and the City and Legally Blonde, it might have been a comedy touchstone instead of a cringeworthy footnote."

Defenders of Confessions of a Shopaholic say that it is more self-aware than Sex and the City; that its makers recognize the destructive aspects of Sex and the City culture and have created a character that realizes the ridiculousness of her profligate spending, even if she is unable or unwilling to control it. I just don't buy that for some reason. If they want to say that that is the movie's theme, then that's fine with me. Fight Club's theme was that men in contemporary society have to re-establish their masculinity in a culture that is increasingly increasingly status-conscious, materialistic and effeminate, but more men walked out of that movie wanting to start a fight than walked out re-examining their masculinity. Call my cynical, but I can't help but believe that more women are going to walk out of the movie theater wanting to go shopping and marry a rich, fashion-conscious British guy than re-examine their spending habits and patterns of consumption.

Friday, February 13, 2009

That's Nasty

I read an interview with Steven Tyler in Elle Magazine yesterday. (Give me a break, I live with three women.) In the interview, Tyler says that Aerosmith has a band rule: nobody is allowed to sleep with a groupie during the last ten days of a concert tour. Why, you ask? So all of the members of the band return home with "a full cup of chowder."

I just felt like sharing. Seriously, have you ever heard something that's more hilarious/disturbing/disgusting/awesome/tmi?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Want To Go To There

I haven't really posted anything in a while. Here are some random thoughts I've had over the past week or so:

1) There isn't a place on earth where people walk more quickly than Manhattan, or more slowly than downtown Brooklyn.

2) I don't usually talk about work in this space, but yesterday in court I arraigned a guy who listed his occupation as "part-time model." Its entirely possible that the Legal Aid attorney and I were the only people in the courtroom who understand why that was funny. Also, there is a bar in Bay Ridge called the Salty Dog, where people keep getting arrested. Assault, disorderly conduct, violation of an order of protection - it all goes down there. The Salty Dog is Brooklyn's answer The Double Deuce. I think it needs Patrick Swayze to move back to town and clean it up. And if he ever needs back-up, he knows who to call.

3) Last week's episode of 30 Rock, with guest star Jon Hamm, was one of the best episodes I've ever seen. The guest-star thing is beginning to make 30 Rock seem a little gimmicky, but its hard to stay disappointed when the guest stars are used so cleverly, and to such hilarious effect. The "I want to go to there" catch phrase is beginning to stick, even if it strikes me as the sort of "start with a catch phrase, and work backwards from there" style of sitcom writing that 30 Rock ridiculed in its first season.

4) New York Magazine's list of the ten best chocolate desserts in New York City included my personal favorite, the chocolate layer cake from Park Slope's very own Chocolate Room. Just delicious. Unfortunately, it also included Jean Gorges' "warm, soft chocolate cake," also known to comedy fans as the "chocolate mountain thing," which David Cross so mercilessly ripped in "Its Not Funny."

5) Is it just me, or has the medicine ball/abdominal ball thing gotten really out of hand? Sometimes I walk into the gym, notice somebody working out with those thins, change, do some cardio or a few sets of weights, and notice that the same person is still doing abs with those ridiculous props half an hour or forty minutes later. As a general rule, if you're doing the same resistance training exercise for forty minutes, you're not using enough weight. I think that the placebo effect of those fancy props cannot be overstated. If it looks like what you're doing is more difficult and/or complicated, then you walk out of the gym feeling as if you had a great workout . . . despite the fact that 100 or 150 crunches would accomplish more in less time. I've known people who had abs so well-developed that you could see them through their shirts, and they just did ten minutes of crunches every day, instead of fooling around with those three-feet-in-diameter inflatable balls. Medicine balls can be used in great workouts, but nobody at the gym ever seems to be using them to much effect. I get irrationally angry about this sometimes.

6) Chris Brown and Jamal Woolard both have domestic violence charges pending against them. My personal favorite part of this is that Woolard has been repeatedly photographed on red carpets with his wife, despite the Brooklyn criminal court's order of protection, which orders him to stay away from her and not to have any contact with her as long as the case against him is still pending. Its good to know that they take domestic violence seriously. In "Notorious," there is a scene in which Biggie tells his daughter never to let any man call her a bitch. But the real-life Biggie used that word in his lyrics all of the time, and the actor who plays the fake Biggie is a wife-beater. So what are we to take away from that scene? I'm confused.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Inglorious Basterds (sic)

The trailer for Quentin Tarantino's next movie, a WW2 action film called Inglorious Basterds, is now playing in theaters. Tarantino is a CSD favorite, and this movie has been rumored to be in the works for years - at one point, I believe it was supposed to be his next movie after Jackie Brown, predating the Kill Bill movies and Grindhouse. Something about it seems a little off to me - perhaps because Nazi-occupied France in an incongruous setting for Tarantino's trademark blend of sarcasm, gore, irony and low culture-references. But it could be awesome - sixteen years into his carerr the man is more or less batting 1.000.

Monday, February 9, 2009

why is Stanley Fish the only opinionist in the NYT who focuses on academic matters? He is allowed to set forth his rather conservative view of higher education unchallenged. This lack of hegelian focusing allows him to roam far and wide cherry-picking examples from post-60s university culture that distress him rather than focusing on more meaningful issues.
so, I'm a boy and I sometimes get things wrong. but I have been noticing young women coming into our office wearing decently expensive, clearly intentional outfits in which the pants/skirt has belt loops, but the women are not wearing belts. It looks weird to me, and it seems like a fashion faux pas. am I right about this? now remember, this isn't manhattan and these women aren't peacocks, so we are not dealing with a situation in which they are so fashion-forward as to blow my mind. we are talking jackets, skirt, cardigan, a couple of accessories. Am I hidebound by a non-existent principle, or are these women giving away the points for put-together-ness that they have worked pretty hard to attempt to win?

Romantic Comedies That Don't Suck

The Onion A.V. Club's list of "29 falling-in-love movies we actually believe in" is really well-done. I would add High Fidelity and Groundhog Day to the list, but the twenty-nine that they've chosen are really right-on, and if you haven't seen Annie Hall or Jules and Jim by now, get thee to a video store.