Friday, July 31, 2009

John Hodgman at the TV and Radio Correspondents' Dinner

This isn't recent, but I never got around to posting it when it was, and its still hilarious, so what the hell.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

bad graphics

Not to get all Edward Tufte on you guys, but look at this graphic.

This graph is from Baseball Reference. I found it in a Tim Kurkjian ESPN article about pitch counts.

It looks like 120+ pitch starts (the green section) are rapidly increasing. but they aren't, they are, in fact, rapidly decreasing. The graphical representation has managed to convey exactly the opposite of reality, because of bad design. Time is running from right to left on the X axis. This is an error that should have been learned in 7th grade--that the X axis extends to infinity on the right, and larger, later units must be placed out there.

Confusing graphic born of sloppy work.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

North . . . to the Future!

We at CSD headquarters just loves us some Conan O'Brien. Last night, William Shatner appeared on The Tonight Show to read Sarah Palin's bizarre resignation speech, beat poetry-style, complete with bongo and stand-up bass accompaniment. That sort of simple, inspired comedy is what makes Conan O'Brien the funniest talk show host on network television. Anybody thinks that Jay Leno would have attempted anything this weird, hilarious and politically risky is out of their goddamned mind. Also, Sarah - when this guy makes you his bitch, its time to consider careers that require speaking in front of a camera.


Last week, Noel Murray of the Onion A.V. Club wrote about the phenomenon where somebody wants to play their iPod on shuffle, only they press the buttons too quickly and their iPod begins to play their entire catalogue in alphabetical order. Invariably, the first alphabetical song in your iPod is something you would normally only play in a specific context, and wouldn't want to have batting in the lead-off spot as you start your day. Thus, the expression "shuf-fail" was born.

On my first iPod, that song was the sad-bastard 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me," which, let's face it, is not starting your day off on the right foot.

But I played with my catalogue a little bit when I got my new iPod, and now my first alphabetical song is "Mamma Mia." But not ABBA's 1974 classic, but rather, the A-Teens' cover from their 1999 cover album "the ABBA Generation".

All of this raises the question: what would be the best song to have first alphabetically in your iPod catalogue, for you to listen to before you realize you've made a mistake and change the setting to shuffle? It would have to be a song that you won't get tired of, but also a 'song for all seasons,' that you can listen to when you're happy, when you're depressed, when you're running late, and when you don't have a care in the world and just want to strut down Brooklyn's 5th Avenue because you can.

What song would you pick? What song fits that description for you? Extra credit if the name of either the song or the artist begins with the letter "A," and double-extra credit if it begins with a number or a punctuation mark.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Total Workers of the World, Unite

so, it's Infinite Summer, which means some of your more internet-y friends (and CSD blogmigos) might be reading David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. As a representative of the caucus of previous readers, I say a hearty thank you. because now we can talk about the book in public without seeming like pretentious dicks (or maybe just slightly less pretentious dicks). but that's not what I come to talk about. I come to talk about new phrases.

IJ contains the concept of Total Worry. It is described "as a reverse-Buddhism, a state of Total Worry" and conveys the inner life of Charles Tavis, and Enfield adminstrator. I believe that this phrase may itself be an allusion to Clauswitz's "Total War" but I prefer to keep the phrase in its new, urban-neurotic context.

I propose "Total Work."

Certain subsets of my peers and colleagues seem to work literally all the time. Every weekend, every evening until 9. They seem not to exist socially, or if they do, they never totally turn their work brain off--doctors, lawyers, many consultants, bankers. We have long-understood these demands as a society but have lacked a crisp term for this kind of job. We frequently have only the language of our mothers about "careers" and "success". I think Total Work can bring a clear, succinct phrase to the life of such persons.

I also like the whimsy of the term's bellicose origins--as if the Total Worker is waging unconditional work against the world with no regard for impacts on civilians or children.

I myself have been shading ever closer to Total Work, much to my displeasure (due to undercompensation compared to many Total Workers)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Weekend Links

Here is what we've been reading and watching this week:

One of our favorite bloggers, Jen Adams, posted to her rarely-updated Rubber Buns and Liquor this week, for just the third time this year. Her new post, entitled Aperture For Destruction II, is just as good as last year's original Aperture For Destruction. This is as good of a time as any to link to Jason Mulgrew's A Life in Pictures, which is a classic of the genre.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s 1995 essay "Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Black Man" seems particularly relevant this week.

From The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin on the Sotomayor confirmation hearings.

Nicholas Cage's commercials for the Japanese Pachinko corporation are almost indescribably weird.

After taking in a hilarious Reuben Williams show at the Upright Citizens' Brigade on Saturday night, we plan on visiting the web sites of Kate Spencer and friend-of-the-blog Ben Rodgers a lot more often.

And, finally, just because its awesome - The National perform "Mr. November" at the 2009 Pitchfork Music Festival:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

'Now We Can See' What The Big Deal Is

Groan-worthy puns aside, a lot of people have been talking about The Thermals lately, and their critically-adored performance at least weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival (which included a handful of bitchin' 90's covers) seems to have secured them a place on the hipster shortlist.

Also, we at CSD headquarters respect women for their minds (that goes without saying) but we couldn't help but notice that The Thermals' bassist Kathy Foster is sort of adorable. She looks like an edgier Lisa Bonet, but with slightly more of a badonk. We like it so much that "bassist who looks like Lisa Bonet with slightly more of a badonk" may soon overtake "mysterious, genre-spanning leggy redheads with big voices" and "dancing blonde rock violin players who bear a passing resemblance to Emily Procter" as our favorite type of indie rock babe.

90's covers: Green Day's "Basket Case" and Nirvana's "Sappy"

Disturbing New NYC Subway Announcement

Riding the Brooklyn-bound 4 train from the Upper East Side earlier today, I heard a disturbing announcement over the public address system. It said: "A crowded subway is no excuse for illegal sexual conduct."

Is it really necessary to remind people of this? Is the type of person who would grope somebody discreetly on a crowded rush-hour train really the sort of person who would stop because the disembodied, Moviephone-esque Voice of God told him that the practice was discouraged by the authorities? What state of affairs brought this about?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Worlds Are Colliding!!!

When Arrested Development star Will Arnett reading from Judy Blume's Are You There God? Its Me, Margaret, hilarity ensues:

But hilarity is only one of the emotions inspired by The Wire's Domonic West reading from Nick Hornby's High Fidelity, which is funny and moving on its own terms, but, to viewers accustomed to seeing him as the emotionally charged protagonist blue-collar Ballmer cop of The Wire, seeing him riffing on mix tapes and the Jackson Five in a BBC accent while drinking continental coffee and sitting in a big leather chair in a bitchin' country cottage is surreal to the point that it just might blow your mind all over your face. The only question that remains is this: Dominic West reading High Fidelity: Great internet video, or the greatest internet video?

This sort of joke isn't new, but it never stops being hilarious. The first use of it, as far as I can tell, was when Saturday Night Live asked Jesse Jackson to read from Green Eggs and Ham to commemorate the death of Dr. Seuss.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Grizzly Bear On David Letterman

I am slowly beginning to understand the appeal of Grizzly Bear. I picked up Veckatimest about a week ago, and I get it - its pretty harmonies, its complicated compositions, its fussy perfectionism. Which is not to say that its my cup of tea. Give me The National or Arcade Fire or TV On the Radio or Wilco any day. But I can appreciate it, and I understand why so many influential critics believe it to be one of the best albums of the year.

Grizzly Bear played The Late Show with David Letterman last week, and it was the best I have ever heard them sound. Here's the clip:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This Is All Kinds of Awesome

When Dominic West reads aloud from High Fidelity, it can only result in awesome.

Some thoughts:

1) To paraphrase Nick Hornby, I've known that Dominic West was British ever since I first saw Season 1 of The Wire, but I always thought of it as, well, he happened to be British, in the way that Laura's dad happens to have angina and Dalton happens to be a bouncer at the Double Deuce. I never thought that he would do something as British and ack-torish as reading aloud from classic literature while sitting in a big leather chair, like John Malkovich reading Chekov in Being John Malkovich. To hear one CSD favorite read aloud from another, totally out of context, blows my mind all over my face.

2) What a cool idea for a series of coffee advertisements. Other than the discreet sip at the end of the video, coffee is never mentioned. In that way, it is very old-fashioned, like the way that, in the days of radio, or even early television, a company would sponsor an entire show by itself, so that fans of the show would associate that company's products with being happy and entertained, without the show being interrupted every ten minutes for commercial breaks.

3) We have one regular reader who I am pretty certain just threw her ovaries at her computer screen.

4) Also awesome: West reading from Pride and Prejudice

Thanks for the words: Ellen at Wormbook.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Links

Other than starting game 7 of the NBA Finals at power forward for the Boston Celtics and giving an earnest, idealistic speech that changes the President's mind about a pressing matter of domestic policy after righteously firing a couple of douchebags who insulted Emily Procter, there are few things I would rather do than watch The National at the Pitchfork Music Festival with the staff of The Onion A.V. Club.

The Onion A.V. Club also scored this week with this hilarious article about the songs its staff members would like to hear played at their wedding. The comments are funny, too - giving the 'always be closing' speech from Glengary Glen Ross? Introducing the wedding party to the treble guitar and "NA NA NA NA NA NA NA" opening of AC/DC's "Thunderstruck," while is only slightly less trashy than introducing them to "I'm Shipping Up To Boston," which people of the Irish persuasion have been known to do in my hometown. Of course, the best thing I have seen at a wedding recently was when Arsenio Billingham and his bride read Sandol Stoddard Warburg's "I Like You" at their wedding ceremony.

Hendrik Hertzberg's "A Very Merry Malaise," marking the 30th anniversary President Carter's Crisis of Confidence address, is a fascinating look into how spin and political myth-making work.

Former President Jimmy Carter's most recent op-ed in The Guardian UK is really inspiring to read. I vaguely remember being taught that Christianity is about loving your fellow man, performing good works, and forgiving trespasses against you, instead of codifying a political playform antagonistic to the interests of women and homosexuals. That is Jimmy Carter's Christianity.

Changing gears, Deadspin's "Dear Pixar: Stop making me cry like a little bitch" is both hilarious and depressingly accurate.

And, finally, just because its awesome: Wilco and Feist perform "You and I" on The Late Show and knock it out of the park.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Bonaroo Music Festival - Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Indie Music, and Leggy Redheads

Conan O'Brien sent Triumph the Insult Comic Dog to last month's Bonaroo Music Festival, with predictably hilarious results. I particularly enjoyed the interviews with The Beastie Boys and TV On the Radio. (Part One, Part Two).

Apparently I'm not the only New Yorker who has a thing for genre-spanning leggy redheads with great voices, as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog joined Jenny Lewis and Neko Case on stage for jokes, buttfuck references, missed verses and awkward 'harmonies.' Sadly, this footage ended up on the cutting room floor (who could have known that NBC would have a problem with the word "buttfuck?"), but, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, it can find its way to your computer regardless.

Jenny Lewis, "Carpetbaggers"

Neko Case, between-song banter and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"

Friday, July 17, 2009

How Did You Find Us?

Sitemeter tracks the websites that referred people to Common Sense Dancing, whose results consistently fascinates me. A significant number of our visitors are regular readers who either have this site bookmarked or else enter the url directly into their browser; sitemeter returns a result of "unknown." A few high-circulation blogs, like Andrew Sullivan and Feministing, have brought large numbers of visitors to individual posts of ours, and A larger number of blogs written by our friends and classmates bring us visitorys from time to time. But, somewhat predictably, the site that brings us the most new visitors is Google.

From time to time, I check to see what sorts of Google searches generate the click-throughs. The searches that bring us the most visitors are:

1) The Sports Gal/Kari Simmons
2) law firm interview questions
3) David Bowie's clothing line
4) 'you know the rules, and so do I'
5) common sense dancing

Sometimes, a person will arrive at our site by google searching a combination of words, all of which appear on our blog, but in unrelated posts. 'Tim Tebow naked' was the first such search to bring a visitor to our blog; a few of my other favorites are "Doonesbury Analog Rage Choosing an Icon for Barack," "Jake Taylor naked," "Jake Taylor porn star," "naked Argentine men," "is Fergie more lesbian than straight?," "vagina pumping," "Hebrew word for titties," "sweet vagina movies" "i am no longer interested in things i am bored," "the Eel and the Sword," "holy Russian Empire" and "french guys wearing chain mail" and "instrumental cover of 'How Soon Is Now?' by The Smiths."

Other times, I find that our blog is one of the top hits for a term or a combination of words that I would have assumed had more written about it. Examples include "Eiffel towered," "Scott Stapp douchebag," "Scott Stapp thanks for the words," "rock the cradle over Michael Cooper," "student loan repayments for stay at home mother," and, last but not least, "hipster blogs."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The AV Club Interviews Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter

The Onion A.V. Club just published an interview with Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter, in which they discuss The State, Stella, and their new Comedy Central sitcom, Michael and Michael Have Issues, and hint that movie versions of Stella and The State may be in the words.

CSD headquarters is pretty geeked over this - shows with sensibilities this warped do not come around very often. If Michael and Michael Have Issues has even a couple of scenes as funny as these, or as anything in Wet Hot American Summer, then the entire run of the series will be worth watching:

Late Night Hits Its Stride

Six weeks into his stint as the host of the Tonight Show, Conan is clicking on all cylinders. As much fun as it was to see Conan introduce his old gags to his new audience, I am glad to see that the "Los Angeles is weird" jokes have run their course and that Conan is moving on to better things. A couple of my favorite bits so far:

Conan and Andy look into the future - all of the way to the year 2000 3000. Be sure to hang in there until Conan's last joke, but as always the awkward looks they give each other are as funny as anything they actually say:

I missed this episode when it originally aired, but Conan's conversation with Bill Mays and Anthony Sullivan was great - other than Letterman in his prime, its hard to imagine another late night host who could have pulled it off this well:

Monday, July 13, 2009

An Opportunity For Good Writing Sails By Like Dust In the Wind

Last night, I wrote a long, rambling, angry post about ESPN. I am replacing that with this, the most talked-about e-mail from Bill Simmons' most recent 'mailbag':

Q: I was getting on a plane to Vegas recently for a guys' weekend when I noticed some schmuck in first class who looked like a perfect cross between Pat O'Brien and Danny Bonnaducci [sic]. I was fascinated the whole flight and couldn't wait to tell my friends when we met up. We ultimately named him Bon O'Briduchi and for 72 hours of liver-killing shananigans, he was the invisible fifth guy in our group. We even tried to find similar real guys on the Strip and would make jokes like "Sure, that guy looks like he enjoys drinking, fighting and getting crazy with hookers, but he's no Bon O'Briduchi." In fact, my friend actually bought a round of five beers instead of four and justified it by saying, "Bon just went to take a leak, he'll be back in a minute." We ultimately decided that Bon now resides with such legendary fictional alcoholics/sex addicts such as Norm Peterson, Glenn Quagmire and Joey Buddafucco [sic].
-- Dave, Denver

Bill Simmons: I loved everything about that e-mail. Even told my editors, "Don't clean up the grammar, don't fix the spelling, just let it run free like a dove in the woods." Bon O'Briduchi would have wanted it that way. Do you think Bon would have enjoyed having a few drinks with Brian Logan from my Lambeau field trip column?

A few quick thoughts:

1) "Let it run free like a dove in the woods" is one of the more clanking mixed metaphors I have read in some time. Its just brutal, especially since Simmons poked fun at the questioner's grammar in the first part of his answer.

2) This e-mail has nothing to do with sports. I understand that part of the appeal of Bill Simmons' sportswriting is that he mixes in jokes and pop culture references, but, on, sports shouldn't take a backseat to stuff like this. That's just my opinion, but ESPN is beginning to go the way of MTV, and I don't think any sports fan wants to see that.

3) Admittedly, this e-mail is pretty funny. But do you think that a writer actually sent it in, or does Simmons (or some assistant) spend all day coming up with funny 'reader' e-mails? And if this was sent in by a reader, do we think that any of this actually happened? Is it possible to look like a cross between Pat O'Brien and Danny Bonaduce?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Weekend Links

The Onion A.V. Club writers discuss the songs and movies that remind them of their first jobs. My first job was at a fast-food restaurant that specialized in frozen custard and roast beef sandwiches. Before you make fun of me, keep in mind that I went to an all boys high school, and the girls who worked at the custard stand were very pretty, and over the course of the summer I got to see them eat a lot of ice cream cones. Anyway, the custard stand piped in music from some sort of soulless, corporate playlist, but every shift it played Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" and "Together Forever." The girls would all sing and dance along, and, it they hadn't been so pretty, I wouldn't have joined in.

Moving on . . .

In his review of Bruno, Anthony Lane says that Sacha Baron Cohen's "comfort zone of comic reference, predicated on the discomfort of others, begins at the waistline and ends at the kneecaps."

Deadspin whiteboard-diagrams the point guard analogy from Sarah Palin's concession speech.

From Craigslist, some advice from your public defender.

Yet another reason why Chris Brown deserves to have his ass kicked.

When Martha Stewart teaches Snoop Dogg to make mashed potatoes, it can only result in awesome.

And finally, just because its awesome - Broken Social Scene - Fire Eye'd Boy

Twitter Tracker!!!!

Apparently, Conan O'Brien hates celebrity Twitters almost as much as I hate celebrity Twitters, which is a lot. Twitter Tracker is the best running bit that Conan has introduced since taking over The Tonight Show on June 1st. The announcer's Duffman-like voice is fantastic.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Best Books We've Read This Year

The best books we've read in the first half of this year are:

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bronx Is Burning, by Jonathan Mahler - New Yorkers of a certain romanticize the 1970's, when men were men, and women were scared to walk alone at night. The New York of Annie Hall and Taxi Driver would be almost unrecognizable to anybody who moved to the city in the past ten years - a felony was committed every minute, trash filled the streets, infrastructure crumbled, the NYPD and sanitation departments were enormously understaffed, ten-foot potholes lined the West Side Highway, and there were now-trendy neighborhoods in Manhattan where taxis then refused to drive. This New York reached its nadir in 1977, the same year that the seeds of its renewal were planted. That summer, arson brought entire neighborhoods in Brooklyn and the Bronx to the ground, a Con-Edison blackout led to 24 hours of urban terror and vandalism, the serial killer dubbed the Son of Sam terrorized the city's women, Studio 54 reached an apex of decadence, and Mario Cuomo, Ed Koch, Bella Abzug and Abe Beame waged an epic campaign for the Democratic nomination for mayor. The bickering New York Yankees, who seemed to play out all of the city's ethnic, racial, and class problems in the dugout all summer long, came together that fall to give the city something to root for, and its complicated, oft-criticized star, Reggie Jackson, hit three home runs on three swings of the bat in the deciding game six of the World Series. Not only is it the most convincing portrait of life in New York in the late 70's that I've ever read, it is one of the more convincing portraits of life in New York in any decade that I have ever read.

Novel About My Wife, by Emily Perkins - Of all of the books I have read so far this year, Novel About My Wife is the one most likely to be in heavy circulation fifty years from now. Two underemployed artists - she a sculptor and he a writer- living in a gentrifying section of London meet, fall in love, move in together, get married, and get pregnant. The husband is madly in love with his wife, and suspects that she is too good for me. Then, she tells him that a homeless man has been following her around, from work to to the Tube, for the past couple of weeks. They make a police report, and take all of the necessary safety precautions, but nobody other than his wife ever sees him, but its London and she's a beautiful woman - who's to say she's not being followed? She becomes increasingly moody, begins to smell odors nobody else can detect, and her art becomes increasingly weird, but she's pregnant - who's to say that isn't normal? Over 300 pages of torturous slow burn, the reader feels a tragedy coming, but that doesn't make the ending any less devastating, or the events that preceeded it anything less than completely understandable.

This Song Is You, by Arthur Phillips - This novel, about an advertising executive/music afficianado who falls in love with a local rock singer and shapes her career, from a distance, over the internet and through intermediaries, as she goes from nightclub favorite to a major label's rising star, is beautifully written, populated by fully realized characters, and grounded in real-world Brooklyn scenery. As a novel about how music manipulates our emotions and informs the emotion we call 'love,' comparisons to High Fidelity are inevitable, but Phillips' novel is darker, creepier, and more cynical - what Rob Gordon would look like with fifteen years and a profoundly broken heart.

Lush Life, by Richard Price - Its cliche to call Price's writing "Dickensian," but his stories, regardless of the medium in which they are told, portray realistic characters in every social strata, and show how a single event effects different communities in different ways. Fans of The Wire, for which Price also wrote, should love it. See the full CSD Review, May 4th.

Chronicles, Volume 1, by Bob Dylan - Chronicles is about how the Minnesotan named Rob Zimmerman became the New Yorker named "Bob Dylan" in fits and starts, and the very particular artistic choices Dylan has made over the years do not always correspond to the political stances others attribute to them. Its also the best book about music that I've read in a long time. CSD review, March 20th.

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith - Everything you've read about this novel is true. It is to London in the 90's what The Bonfire of the Vanities is to New York in the 80's, a huge novel about class, race, ethnicity, and, to use a cliche, how the melting pot we would all like to believe in is really, at best, a chunky stew. Coincidences and fortunate timing bring these larger-than-life characters together in unexpected ways.

Dear American Airlines, by Jonathan Miles - CSD review, June 30th.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Revenge of the Nerds

The Onion News Network has been on a roll lately - the pie chart near the end of the video damn near killed me.

Added - compare the Onion's video to MTV's trailer for The Real World: Cancun trailer, below.

Mexico Builds Border Wall To Keep Out US Assholes

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Newsweek Wants You To Read More

Newsweek is on a big literacy kick this month, publishing a series of articles on lists of books one should read for different reasons, writer's roundtables, the joys of re-reading, classics that are particularly relevant to our times, and other interesting subjects it doesn't really have the space to fully explore, though it makes a noble effort.

My favorite of these features is Newsweek's 'meta' list of the 'top' 100 books. Using an unusual methodology, Newsweek combined ten 'top books' lists and came up with this composite. It goes without saying that every list of this sort is subjective, and therefore a little bit silly in its attempt to be authoritative. (That one of the lists they include is the list of Oprah's Book Club selections, which tells you all that you need to know about Newsweek's failings as a magazine.) Because a number of the lists have a 20th-century focus, a number of classics published prior to 1900 (for instance, the King James Bible) are ranked lower than they otherwise might be, if not left off of the list entirely (Moby Dick); because a number of the lists are limited to books published in the English language, a number of European classics (like Proust's Remembrance of Things Past) are short-changed; because a number of the lists are limited to fiction, a number of non-fiction classics (like The Education of Henry Adams) are left off the list entirely.

Nonetheless, the counting is fun. If memory serves, I have read 46 of the books on the list. Ellen the Wormbook has read fifty.

How many have you read? Which books would be in your personal top ten, what's overrated, and what books should have been included, but weren't?

Thanks to Ellen for the tip.

*For the record, the list with which I most agree is the Radcliffe College Publishing Course's list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

12 Things I Learned From Michael Jackson's Memorial Service

1) Michael Jackson taught the world how to love.
According to the Reverend Al Sharpton, Michael Jackson literally taught the world how to love. That's right, nobody in the world knew how to love before Michael Jackson - b. 1958 - taught us.

2) Michael never let the world turn him around from his dreams.
No, but he did let the world turn him around from reality.

3) Michael refused to let people decide his boundaries.
Um . . . wasn't that sort of a bad thing? Don't you think that if he had let more people 'decide his boundaries,' he wouldn't have found himself in so much legal trouble over the last twenty years of his life?

4) He put on one glove, pulled up his pants, and tore down the color curtain.
Michael didn't start the fire. Jesse Owens, Jack Johnson, Dorothy Dandridge, Jackie Robinson, Louis Armstrong, Bill Cosby, Muhammed Ali, James Brown, Richard Pryor, Sidney Poitier, and the entire Motown label all did as much or more than Jackson, and they got there years before. Tearing down the 'color barrier' on a one year-old television station specializing in music videos is an accomplishment, but was far from being his biggest accomplishment as an entertainer. Jackson was never about race while he was alive, as far as I could tell. Does anybody have any evidence to the contrary?

5) Seeing Michael Jackson on MTV as children prepared a generation of people to accept Oprah Winfrey on television and Tiger Woods on a golf course, and for people to feel comfortable voting for President Obama.
If this isn't the most revisionist piece of history you hear in the next five years outside of a Bill Kristol interview, I'll eat my hat. Michael Jackson made those things possible? It wasn't Oprah's acting career and likeability, or Tiger's talent, work ethic, and superhuman focus, or President Obama's intelligence, charisma, wisdom, and breadth of knowledge that made all of those things possible?

6) Michael Jackson moonwalked so that Barack Obama could run.
(TM, Melanie) He didn't really say this, but wouldn't it have been awesome if he did?

6) Every time he got knocked down, he got back up.
Except for the 20 years he spent in reclusion? Or are those included?

7) Michael never stopped. Michael never stopped. Michael never stopped.
Except that he only released one album of new material in the past 18 years because the public turned against him and he was ashamed to come out in public?

8) "I want his three children to know: wasn't nothin' strange about your daddy."
Except for the fact that he - allegedly - invited little boys over and consumed alcohol and pornography with them in the company of a chimpanzee. That was pretty weird. Paris, Prince Michael, and Blanket, listen to your Uncle Terry - the fact that your daddy's casket was serenaded by Mariah Carey in front of 10,000 people while Usher and Magic Johnson looked on is pretty good evidence that there was something strange about your daddy. Heck, the very fact that Al Sharpton is eulogizing your daddy means there was something strange about your daddy.

9) The color black is enough to turn even a shiny dress with a plunging neckline into appropriate funeral attire.
Who knew?

10) Its possible for Usher to keep his shirt on in front of a crowd of people for more than ten minutes.
Who knew?

11) Having an eleven year-old girl address an audience of millions while her aunts and uncles surround her like the disco secret service is a good way to show her that she's loved.
Paris' words were devastating, but I think it was a terrible decision to make her go on stage in front of all of those people in the first place, and nobody can convince me otherwise. Does anybody really believe that his children would not have preferred to say goodbye to him in private? I'm baffled.

12) As always, nobody does it better than The Hater.

100,000th Hit

Early this morning, somebody in Freemont, California became Common Sense Dancing's 100,000th visitor. Thanks so much for reading!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Scattered Thoughts On Michael Jackson

I did not watch Michael Jackson's memorial service, but I've got CNN's . . . post game show (?) on the background. Apparently, Stephen A. Smith now works for CNN, as a commentator on issues effecting the black community. Who thought that this was a good idea? He just used the word "classful" twice, within about a minute.

I really liked the music that Michael Jackson made before Dangerous, but the deification of Michael Jackson blows my mind. The revisionist history about his being a role model, and about the leadership he showed in bringing disparate branches of the black community together, just sounds like bullshit to me. If you stopped somebody on the street three weeks ago and asked them if Michael Jackson was a black leader, there is no way they would have answered in the affirmative. I would be willing to believe that about Billie Holiday, Paul Robeson, Nina Simone, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the memebers of Public Enemy, you name it - but not Michael Jackson. He was never politcal, he was never really seen as a good role model, and he did just about everything in his power to ensure that people would not think of him as black. What am I missing? Seeing his brothers, dark-skinned and handsome, sitting together in the crowd, only reminded me further of how much of a freak he had become over the past twenty years.

He was an incredible talent, and in the mid-1980's he was arguably as famous as anybody in the world has ever been. I have long loved Off the Wall, Thriller and The Ultimate Collection's Jackson Five edition for the great dance songs they contained. Now, I will treasure them not just for their music, but because, like Are You Experienced? or Nevermind or college highlight reels of Len Bias, of what might have been, and of the enormous talent the world missed out of because of Jackson's premature demise. I would like to remember him for this:

Blogging Doesn't Take A Vacation

Its been overcast and rainy all week, which doesn't leave you much to do when you are vacationing a little beach cottage on the Ontario shore of Lake Erie. Here are a few YouTubes that have been helping me pass the time:

We Were Promised Jetpacks are the most eagerly anticipated - and worst-named - new band out of the U.K. since the Arctic Monkeys, if not The Gay Dads, and their first album, These Four Walls, hits stores today. I like what I've heard of them so far, but then the same was true about the AMs, and we all remember how quickly they faded from the scene. Here's their first video, "Quiet Little Voices" - what do you think?

Anderson Cooper grills Sarah Palin's spokesperson over Palin's decision to resign. Everything about Sarah Palin is ridiculous, and since every pundit on television has been discussing this for four days, I won't say anything more about it, except that Palin's spokeswoman is the embodiment of every negative stereotype about the political spin machine - much like Palin herself embodies every aspect of Limbaugh-style conservatism - and she uses the word "literally" to mean "figuratively," which is one of my all-time pet peeves.

And, finally, Ron Artest's tribute 'song' for Michael Jackson:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wackos For Jacko

Is it too soon? Nah, its not too soon.

Tennis machine bores public, profits from pulled groin

I watched all of Roddick/Federer on Sunday morning. Despite being recond-settingly long (5-7, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5), 3-6, 16-14) championship tennis, it was a surprisingly dull match. Federer won the match, but that was his first break of serve in the entire match on Roddick's 48th service game. (Roddick broke only twice). It was a bit like watching soccer; we got deliriously excited at half-chances and the innuendo of momentum shifts (e.g. " ooh, a first serve fault by Federer at 15-O, this could be an opportunity. Come on, Andy!") because it was all there was to get excited about.

It was simply hard to build drama when both players could serve their way out of trouble at will. (Federer had in excess of 50 aces. and Roddick won >90% of his first serve points).

It became clear deep into the 5th set that this would be the kind of match that Federer would win. His mental toughness, while impressive, had an dull inevitability to it. he was invulnerable after about 10-10 in the 5th. but early in the match, he was far from perfect. Roddick had a clear opporutnity to go up 2 sets to 0 until he choked a tie-break lead away. Federer seemed unnerved by Roddick's power. I

Roddick slipped and potentially pulled a groin late in the 4th set and was never quite as dangerous after that. The 5th turned into a conservative slog whcih favored Federer now that Roddick's best weapon had been muted by injury.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Weekend Links (and other ramblings)

From the shores of Lake Erie, where Jake and I met the Inspector, and where time stands still . . .

From The New Yorker, James Suroweicki's Caveat Mortgagor was, like so many other well-informed articles on the economy, both interesting and depressing.

All things considered, Steve Martin's parody of Michael Jackson's Billie Jean video has aged pretty well.

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, for the worst first sentence to a fictional story that doesn't actually exist, is absolutely hilarious. I would like to thank Ellen at Wormbook for calling my attention to Eric Rice's entry, which won first place in the "Detective" category:
She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you see in Florida - the pink ones, not the white ones - except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't.

The Onion A.V. Club's round-robin reflections on the life and music of Michael Jackson was really heart-felt and well done. My own personal memories of Michael Jackson are very similar to Zack Handlen's - I remember watching the world premiere of the Black or White video with my parents after an episode of the Simpsons. We all loved it, then became increasingly freaked out by the crotch-grabbing and windshield-smashing that followed it, until eventually my father turned it off. When Michael was in his prime, nobody's music was more fun to listen to. A lot of artists struggle with personal problems, but unlike Woody Allen or Eric Clapton, Jackson's personal problems never seemed to inform or deepen his artistic production, they just made him and his work more disturbing and opague.

And, finally, just because its awesome:
The National - "Apartment Story"

Friday, July 3, 2009

middlebrow madness

Anyone who reads this blog with any frequency knows that basically all we do is consume middlebrow culture and discuss it. so here goes:

I saw Rachel Getting Married a few days ago. You remember that movie, it came out basically at the same time as Margot at the Wedding and you got them confused. well, you should have, because in premise they are largely the same movie. Emotionally destructive sister parachutes into slightly more stable sister's wedding run-up, fraught, neurotic family misery ensues.

I am a sucker for these sorts of family dramas. "Unaccustomed Earth"'s portrayal of middle class family alienation and sadness has been getting me down as well (middlebrow cultural allusion #2).

Rachel is more realistic and less self-consciously quirky than Margot, but not much. (This is largely accounted for by the absence of Jack Black). The family relations are raw and effecting. Anne Hathaway is actually awesome in her first attempt at the role of "NotPrincess".

The movie requires a lot of unspoken shifts in emotional tone which is tough sledding. All the characters have to carry around a lot of unsaid things, and ultimately reevaluate their relationships to one another without any dialogue to make it clear that has happened. Hathaway's character has to show the imperfect vulnerabilty of recovering addicts without devolving into stereotype. The movie is not quite perfect (there are some points where the motivations get fuzzy), but it is very very good.

The multi-cultural wedding is charming until it overstays its welcome and devolves into a charicature of a "cool" celebration. But the deployment of Neil Young's "Unknown legend" is absolutely classic and beautiful.

Overall, a lovely movie.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Look At All Of the Cool Kids

Considering how much we love David Letterman and are in love with Leslie Feist, I can't believe that this clip is almost two years old and I never saw it before today - Feist playing "1, 2, 3, 4" on David Letterman with an jaw-dropping collection of indie rock talent backing her up, including A.C. Newman, Broken Social Scene, Mates of State, Grizzly Bear, and members of The National. Almost everybody involved has sounded better elsewhere, but that's not really the point.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

Yesterday, I went to the Lids on Fulton Street in downtown Brooklyn to buy a Brooklyn Dodgers' cap. I was surprised to find that the store carried Dodgers' caps in white, with a blue "B," white with a white "B," and black with a black "B," but not the blue with a white "B" that, you know, the Brooklyn Dodgers actually wore for fifty years. I'm not sure what this says about the state of our culture, but I know it doesn't say anything good.

Instead, I bought a Red Sox cap, to replace one that I apparently lost sometime last fall, and at the cash register the sales clerk asked me if I wanted to have my hat personalized for $9 a word. I asked her what she meant; she said that people get their names or initials or - best of all - their street names embroidered onto their hats. I was tempted to ask 'when was the last time you sold a personalized hat to a white guy in a suit, or for that matter anybody in any suit that had less than four buttons?' But I held my tongue.

Looking around the hat store, I was surprised to see that the Cleveland Indians had changed their logo from the familiar Chief Wahoo to this simple, 1950's-style retro look, which I really like a lot. I was tempted to buy a Detroit Tigers' cap - historically I have not been a Tigers fan, but their two young starting pitchers, Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, are just so much fun to watch, their crusty, perpetually angry manager Jim Leyland is my favorite manager in the big leagues, and the gothic D's are just. So. Fucking. Cool.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Achewood on Michael Jackson is high quality. It reminds me of a particular Too Much Coffee Man that I was very fond of in high school. Sometimes a little self-aware sadness feels just right. (click to enlarge images)