Monday, November 30, 2009

CSD Book Club Update

This week's discussion of Moby Dick is being adjourned - once again, real life intervened. Next week, we will discuss both this week's and next week's reading.

There's no clear consensus as to what book people would prefer to read for the next long book club. The debate at this point appears to be between Mark Helprin's A Winter's Tale (great reputation, few of our readers have already read it), and one of two Stephen King's Under the Dome (current and well-reviewed, only available in cumbersome hardcover) and The Stand (topically current book with 'modern classic' status.)

If you have a preference one way or another, please leave a comment in this thread. Happy reading!

emo afternoon thought

Your significant other's extended family shall now be included with Bears, hipsters, and snakes on my list of "things that are just as afraid of you as you are of them." Recognizing this improves one's relationship to all list members.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Wild and Crazy Guy

The other day, I picked up a copy of Steve Martin's A Wild and Crazy Guy at a record store. Its awesome. To a modern ear, most stand-up comedy from the 1970's and late 1960's is astonishingly straight-forward; today's stand-up comedy, by comparison, slips its jokes in under several layers of ironic distance. Steve Martin broke ground in this regard; his comedy wasn't so much a series of jokes but rather an extended performance-art riff on what makes people laugh and the corny comedic cliches that people have shoved down our throats since the 1950's. Nobody transitioned so smoothly from snarky funny to sincerely funny to comedy intentionally-so-bad-its-funny and back again. He was the best.

Note: This video isn't from A Wild and Crazy Guy, but it is a) on YouTube, b)embeddable and c)of the same vintage as A Wild and Crazy Guy. Sometimes you have to take what you can get.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Its Good To Be Home

Apologies for the scant posting - Jake and I have been back at our parents' house for the past few days, and sharing an old computer with a slow connection four ways isn't conducive to rapid-fire blogging. We'll try to pick things up early next week.

It is good to be home. Everybody assumes their childhood is a typical one; it isn't until later in life that you realize how many people grew up differently than you did, and when you return to your hometown after several years of living somewhere else, you see it through new eyes. I am thankful for the love of my family, and this Thanksgiving I am particularly thankful for having grown up in such a nice, spacious house, where I always had my own room, and in which I could always find a quiet corner to read, or just to be alone with my thoughts. Those things are difficult to come by in New York City. Growing up, we always had a refrigerator full of food, and by that I mean 'real' food, not 'food products' and frozen dinners. I assumed that most families had two or three vegetables with dinner every night; now that I cook for myself, I wonder how my parents found the time and energy to prepare them.

Being home is good for some other stuff, too. In my opinion, Buffalo has better junk food than any city I have ever visited. Pizzerias, submarine sandwich shops, chicken wing purveyors and sweet shops exist in numbers inconceivable to a person accustomed to a more fashionable and health-conscious city like New York or Seattle. Living here would be bad for my heart, liver, and insulin levels, but it is a fun place to visit around the holidays.

Similarly, record stores, used book stores, and vintage/thrift shops thrive here; people in this economically depressed city are always looking to save money, so the market for second-hand goods is thriving, and rents are low enough that businesses like that can afford plenty of space in semi-bustling parts of the city. It is a great city in which to browse. After an hour of flipping through the used cd bins, I emerged from Record Theatre with The Walkmen's Bows & Arrows, Panic! at the Disco's A Fever You Can't Sweat Out, The National's eponymous 2003 debut, and Steve Martin's classic stand-up album A Wild and Crazy Guy. Used record shops can rarely afford rent in New York City, and those that can are limited to the most heavily artist-populated neighborhoods and are picked clean on a daily basis. Sometimes its good to live in the cultural mainstream - the vanguard moves too fast sometimes.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Autumn of Dick - Week 6 - Chapters 54-63

This week's reading alternated between beautifully written and, frankly, rather suspenseful chapters about the hunt for Moby Dick, and dull, rambling, plot-less chapters which describes whales to the reader and attempt to convey exactly how large and dangerous they can be.

I'm perfectly willing to grant Melville a little leeway here - when Moby Dick was published, a significant percentage of America's population was involved in maritime industries, but if you weren't, how would you ever know what a whale looked liked, or how one behaved, in the era before television, and National Geographic? But even so, a couple of chapters seems as if it should have been enough. Do we really need the chapter-long analysis of different famous paintings of whales, with detailed summaries of the accuracies and inaccuracies of each? Or the analyses of the liteary and artistic representations of whales in American, British, and French cultures? If Monty Python made a movie adaptation of Moby Dick, this section of the novel is where they would randomly cut away to a group of pissed off-looking sailors, pirates, and perhaps even the White Whale himself shouting "Get on with it!"

The same goes for the chapter about brit.

Then, I got to thinking about the 'hysterical realist' novels by contemporary authors I enjoy so much. Salman Rushdie, Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, Zadie Smith, Jonathan Lethem, etc. all use a similar technique - how many characters in their novels work in a bizarre or obscure occupation, which requires ten pages of non-fictionesque prose just to supply the reader with the appropriate context? What Melville is doing is substantively similar, he just goes on a little too long, and his writing, though stylish enough, is sufficiently dated that these descriptive sections drag on, and don't snap along like, say, the section on Infinite Jest that is entirely about the exercises tennis players use to stay sharp between matches.

Laying the Eggs of Doubt

I shared my scattered thoughts on Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma about a week and a half ago, and, since then, I have moved on to his more recent book In Defense of Food. The Omnivore's Dilemma was more descriptive than proscriptive; it is a natural history of the foods we eat, and ends with Pollan encouraging us to make ethical decisions about what we eat, whether it be plant or animal. In Defense of Food (subtitle: An Eater's Manifesto) is more proscriptive than descriptive, and criticizes different aspects of America's government, industry, and consumer culture for conspiring to fill our supermarkets with "food products" (i.e. Twinkies, low-carb pasta, genetically altered foods, reconstituted foods, etc) instead of "food": produce, meat, and whole foods like breads and pastas made from natural ingredients.

Pollan's best argument, in my opinion, is that food has changed more in the 20th century than it did in the previous several hundred years, if not longer. Cultural norms and taboos developed around the world, guiding people in their eating choices. Many of these cultural practices were surprisingly sophisticated - Japanese put wasabi on sushi because Wasabi is an anti-microbial; Mexicans eat corn with beans and lime because that combination forms complete proteins from the incomplete proteins of its component parts, making a meal of beans, corn and lime as efficient a protein source as eating meat. The animal fats (butter, lard, tallow) which hold together many ethnic cuisines are not as unhealthy as once thought; in fact, animal proteins, like margarine and hydrogenated oils, which were meant to take the place of dangerous animal fats, are actually worse for our health. In other words, "food" is good for us, and traditional eating habits are, counterintuitively, healthier and more sophisticated that our eating habits are today, influenced as they are by decades of shoddy, controversial, or corporate-funded science.

Science breaks down food into its component nutrients, and encourages us to eat more of them - more vitamins, more fatty acid, more protein, less fat, etc. However, most attempts to feed people with nutrients instead of food fail; for example babies reared on formula generally struggle in comparison to babies fed on breast milk, though science has for decades continued to add nutrients to formula to make it more similar to breast milk. The natural food is healthier than the scientifically designed food product, no matter how much is invested in formulating the food product. However, science and advertising have successfully persuaded Americans to buy food based on its component nutrients, instead of its properties as a whole food (think of what you look for on a package of food in the supermarket) and, as a result, we as a nation are susecptible to fad diet and new food products.

So far, so good. Pollan's advice, when taken at face value, is difficult to argue with. For the past couple of weeks, I have been shopping at farmer's markets and cooking more of my meals from scratch. I feel healthier. I do. I have also spent a significant amount of time and money on food. For instance, I just bought a dozen free range eggs at a farmer's market, and made an omlette from them. The eggs were beautiful - the yolks are dark orange, like the color of the University of Texas' jerseys, and so firm that you can reach into the pan, grab them with your fingers, and flip them over repeatedly without them breaking. When you crack one of these eggs into the pan, the whites plop into the pan and just sit there - they don't run themselves thin over the entire bottom of the pan, the way that eggs from factory farms do. Perhaps not surprisingly, my omlette was 'eggier' than anything I had eaten in a while - the egg flavor held its own with the cheese and ham, instead of the egg merely being a form of conveyance. But, they cost $4.50 a dozen. That's not expensive enough to break the bank for most people, but it is expensive enough to make them a once-in-a-while treat. If I have to cook something for a dinner party, I'll probably buy the eggs from the farmer's market, but I won't pay $2.00 per dozen above super market price on a regular basis. (Farmer's market vegetables are less expensive relative to those found in supermarkets.)

Also, I am single, and cooking is labor-intensive when it feeds only one person. What do you pack for lunch? Can you take a break from your busy work day to eat something fresh? For that matter, can you find the time in your work day to eat at a table? Even if we all lament the fact that 20% of American meals are consumed in the car, can we realistically change our culture enough to find time to eat sit-down meals on, say, a busy weekday? I routinely get home from work after 8pm. Who wants to cook from scratch at that hour? A generation or two ago, most women stayed home all day, and could cook meals from scratch - if not the 'wife' of a family, then perhaps a grandmother in a three-generation household. For single people, or for families where both parents work outside of the home, Pollan's recommendations - and, for that matter, the recommendations of most food writers - are difficult to follow.

You Are Not Allowed To Pay Us Back In Clunkers

This season of Saturday Night Live has been pretty disappointing, but last night's episode was pretty funny. Weird, but funny. The cold open, press conference in which the Chinese Premier lectures President Obama on how the United States spends its federal budget, and turns it into a running joke that I kept expecting to run out of steam, but which never did. The rest of the episode was pretty hit-and-miss -it was good to see another installment of Andy Samberg's 'Mellow Show', but the homoerotic digital short idea is pretty played out at this point. I won't dwell too much on the skits that fell flat; even in its prime, Saturday Night Live was wildly uneven, and had almost as many failed skits as funny ones. What makes an episode of Saturday Night Live memorable is how funny its funniest skits are (does anybody remember any of the other skits from the "Dick In A Box" episode?), not how consistently funny it is, and the funniest skits last night were the funniest I've seen all season.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Its Like I've Got A Fever

Reigning Sound is coming to Brooklyn tomorrow and Buffalo on Saturday. A disproportionate number of this blog's readers live in one of those two cities. Do yourselves a favor and check them out. Click here to buy tickets to the Brooklyn show.

Me and My Uncle...West Texas Bound

Dream trip: Fall 2010

Fly to Austin/San Antonio Friday night after work.
Sat AM: Snow's BBQ Lexington, TX
Sat PM: UT football game
Sunday: Austin and travel
Monday-weds: Big Bend National Park See Pyrrhuloxia, vermillion flycatcher, elf owl, and varied bunting
Thursday-mid friday: Marfa, TX see Chinati Foundation Donald Judd installations
Friday night: Odessa, TX. High school football game
sat: return to Austin/San antonio
Sunday: Depart

maybe some day. all i need is a partner who like barbecue, football, birds, and minimalism. because the trip doesn't seem to be quite worth the time and money without all the elements.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Will Make You Believe Me?

Neko Case performed at the Beacon Theater on Monday night, and it was a fantastic show. As much as I love her recordings, her voice really needs to be heard in person to be full appreciated; she's a virtuoso. It is entirely possible that nobody in indie rock is as good at playing their instrument as Neko Case is at singing. As always, her band - the same four guys who backed her on the album, and at her Nokia Theater concert in April - were tight, and jokey in an old-pro sort of way. She played some deep cuts, including "Star Witness," a personal favorite of mine, and she looked absolutely gorgeous in a shiny red dress, like a 1930's torch singer. You should check her out, but if you don't get the chance, you can always enjoy her on YouTube:

Also of note - earlier in the day, she performed "Red Tide" on Late Nite with Jimmy Fallon.

All of this talk about Neko Case has gotten me thinking. What would be a more awkward place to run into one of your bros than a Neko Case concert? A stationary store? A screening of Twilight? Bed, Bath & Beyond? An Indigo Girls concert?

Reigning Sound Will Rock You If Give Them The Chance

Reigning Sound is on an independent label, but they're not "indie" rock. They're a 1970's-style garage rock band from Tennessee, made up of dudes in their late 40's, who had long careers in music before forming in 2001. On Friday night, they're playing at Southpaw, five blocks from CSD's Brooklyn headquarters, and at Mohawk Place in Buffalo on Saturday. If you're within shouting distance of either of these concerts this weekend, I recommend that you check them out.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Looting GreenPoint Mortgage

I am considering looting GreenPoint Mortgage.

In case you forgot, I work in a big subruban office park. It was supposed to be torn down in 2008 and rebuilt as a luxury office park, so the tenants were largely cleared out. but then financing and commercial real estate tightened up, so it just sits there at about 10% occupancy with two of the three buildings shuttered.

In our building is a large office that once belonged to famed subprime lender GreenPoint. They moved out in 2007 and the office was locked and untouched. it has been unlocked for the last 3 days, and I am considering looting it. In addition to a lot of terrible corporate art, there is a tolerable mountain landscape photograph. there is also a microwave and about 30 reams of legal sized copy paper. I have no idea who owns these things--the building management company or GreenPoint, but given that they have sat for 2 years, whoever owns these things does not value them.

I feel apprehensive, but I am not sure why. Is it stealing? Am I afraid of breaking the rigid norms of corporate culture? If I hang the print in my office, could something bad happen?

This also feels very symbolic--the act of looting a defunct subprime lender. Is this an act of renewal, of appropriating the mortgage crisis and making something good of it. Am I another vulture picking the the economic hulks for something I can make a buck on? Am I badly overthinking this and looking for larger meaning where there is none? (Probably)

I feel like I am in a Douglas Coupland novel. and I really should have read "Then we came to the end" to know how to behave with regard to the etiquette of drones taking corporate property during a business failure. But I haven't gotten around to reading it.

In my plan, I sell the microwave on CL, give away the paper, and keep the print.

Should I do it?

Hate Will Set You Free

I hate the New England Patriots. I hate how the referees protect Brady and never call Moss for offensive pass interference. I hate how Wes Welker's talks trash non-stop, and how his jersey is disproportionately popular because white people think he's scrapy and over-achieving. I hate Bill Belichek's smug demeanor and bad sportsmanship, and how he illegally used a camera to spy on opposing teams. I also hate his wardrobe of gray hooded sweatshirts, which is a deliberate fashion choice intended to say "I work so hard studying film that I don't have time to dress like an adult." I hate how Bill Belichek refuses to make eye contact or say anything to opposing coaches when he engages in the league-mandated handshake after games. I hate how the NFL chose not to punish the Patriots for Spygate, but will fine the Titans' owner for flicking someone the bird. I hated how they ran up the score against inferior teams, yet took no apparent joy in winning. I hate pretty boy Tom Brady and the bullshit hooded sweatshirt-under-sportcoat fashion trend he helped popularize. I hated how Willie McGinest used to fake injuries to stop the clock, and I hate how broadcasters never called him out on it. I hated Rodney Harrison's blatant cheap-shots, and how the Patriots' secondary got away with defensive pass interference penalties so often that the NFL made defensive pass interference a "special point of emphasis."

I love the fact that 'defensive genius' Bill Belichek did not trust his defense enough to punt the ball on 4th-and-2 deep in his own end, which would have forced the Colts to go 70 yards for a touchdown in two minutes against a nickel defense. And I REALLY love the fact that the Colts are 5-1 against the Patriots since the league placed extra emphasis on defensive pass interference.

No offense intended, Paul.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Feedback Wanted

The CSD staff is debating what book to select for our next long book club. Some early suggestions have been:

Winter's Tale, by Mark Helprin
The Stand or Under the Dome, by Stephen King
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell, by Susanna Clarke
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

If you have any suggestions, or would like to vote for any of the books already listed, drop a comment and let us know!

Autumn of Dick - A Bye Week

A couple of the people reading along with our long book club, Autumn of Dick, have told me that they are behind on their reading this week, which is good, because so am I. So, rather than half-ass it or wait for a couple of days until we've all caught up, let's just take this week off and come back next week. Deal? Allright, good talk - see you out there.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Where Lazy YouTube Dumps Meet Gushing Fanboy-dom

Another repost, but Radiohead's webcast is just so awesome, and the "Ceremony" cover I posted a couple of weeks ago generated a lot of positive feedback, so The Smiths' classic "The Headmaster Ritual." Not only is it fantastically good, but you get the feeling that Radiohead could have kept playing and blown through another couple of hours of songs by The Smiths and their contemporaries without missing a beat. Radiohead is the best.

You are not the cosmos

I like N+1 generally. it is smart (or at least complicated) and mildly topical, if self-involved. But that self-involvement has reached new and terrifying heights. On the n+1 website, which contains about 10 articles there are TWO articles intellectualizing Brooklyn gentrification. There are certainly some interesting ideas here, and the imagination of the "real" past and the post-lapsarian present is a useful idea in America generally. And calling out your fellow Brooklynites on thier various levels of self-delusion and hypocrisy as they promote a culture of authenticity probably feels incredibly necessary. But you have to look a little more broadly. This is why the rest of the country thinks you are self-involved navel-gazers.

discussion of brooklyn gentrification fiction with a focus on amy sohn and an indictment of jonathan letham

Discussion of gentrification using the wire and SATC

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Yo, JOE!

Some delightful cameos in this lovingly crafted piece of art. I hate it when I see something awesome on the internet and see hundreds of thousands of hits already awaiting me. Well, I'm late to the party on this one, but am posting anyways since GI Joe had a special place in the childhood of Wade, Paul and I, and perhaps you as well.

We almost lost our fathers in a raging Canadian thunderstorm, thanks to GI Joe, and their own incompetence. At the tail end of a summer barbecue, young Wade was excited to unleash the GI Joe parachute pack. He had dutifully clipped his flag points from the boxes and waited 6-8 weeks--a significant portion of his life at that point. His patience was rewarded, as the nice people from Hasbro sent him a backpack accessory that would allow our Joes to parachute away from danger in any missions our imaginations could cook up. Sadly, Wade and I lacked the arm strength to lift a Joe high enough for the parachute to fully deploy--we needed fully developed arm muscles, or at least someone man enough to sport a Burt Reynolds mustache. Wade's dad fit both those criteria, and was fresh off of Red Sox Fantasy Baseball Camp; surely he could throw our toy far enough. Keep in mind this fantasy baseball was back in the mid-1980s and actually involved dressing up in uniforms and living out Kinsella-esque fantasies rather than letting computers juggle the stats of juice pigs. Confusing the two fantasy baseballs would be a faux-pas likened to mixing up a Civil War reenactor vs. a Dungeons & Dragons player.

So after eagerly waiting 6-8 weeks for the parachute pack to work its magic, on the first throw from Wade's dad, it promptly got caught up in the huge oak tree. Throwing other projectiles up couldn't untangle it. Wade's father and my father agreed: with the thunderstorm rolling in fast, they would need to use the aluminum ladder and metal rake to get the action figure out of the tree. While balancing precariously above us, Wade's dad jabbed at the tangled strings while my father held the ladder steady. The rain started to fall, and the sky grumbled and flashed as if filled with a formation of Cobra Rattlers firing their ordinance. Finally, the womenfolk pulled rank, "FRANK GET DOWN FROM THERE RIGHT NOW! YOU'RE NOT GOING TO GET ELECTROCUTED IN A THUNDERSTORM OVER A GODDAMN GI JOE!"

The next morning we retrieved the long-awaited, once-used parachute--tattered, ripped and ruined--from the ground.

That summer also saw the collection-devastating Desert Mission, where Cobra forces dastardly buried many of our Joes in the sand, never to be recovered even though we swear they were "right around here somewhere". On this Veterans' Day, we remember and honor our fallen comrades fighting for freedom wherever there's trouble over land, sea and air in both plastic and corporeal forms.

Paul Newman Is Going To Have My Legs Broken

Today I went out of his way to buy organic and no-hormone-added groceries on the way home from the gym, then ate a chocolate chip cookie after lunch without really thinking about it. Somewhere, Michael Pollan shed a single tear.

I've been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, and it is a fascinating book. It is less of a polemic than Fast Food Nation or other books of that sort; it is written from the point of view of a person who really enjoys food, and doesn't want to eat any junk - sort of like how book and film critics who most people would view as being overly critical really just love the media they review and are disappointed when new books or movies don't live up to their high standards.

Pollan's books leaves me of two mind, as I expected it would. On the one hand, the statistics he includes are staggering - one in five meals eaten in America is consumed in an automobile, "food products" like Twinkies and Powerbars disproportionately outnumber "food" like produce and fresh grains and meats in most supermarkets, and ingredient lists on packages of food include increasingly long lists of substances derived from corn and soybeans. There's no actual cane sugar in a can of Coca Cola anymore, but there are several different sweeteners, all of which are derived from corn. At the same time, the proposed remedies all include spending a lot of time and money - buying organic products, eating meat from animals that have been fed natural diets (grass for cows, algae and small fish for salmon and tuna, etc) instead of animal by-products and corn and soy derivatives, cooking from scratch more often and eating meals at tables instead of heating up frozen or canned food and eating on the run. I'd like to buy an enormous freezer, buy a whole skinned and gutted cow from a butcher shop, and carve it myself into its various cuts, which I can then cook slowly and flavorfully and serve with sides of organic brussel sprouts and portabello mushrooms, but, frankly, I work twelve hours a day for very little money, and I just don't have the time or the money to do much more than throw a chicken breast on a the Foreman grill and pour some Frank's red-hot sauce on it. And in none of my small New York apartments have I had the space in my apartment to store that much fresh food in a way that will keep it from spoiling or being ruined by pests.

Eating well is a challenge. Michael Pollan's book has prepared me to meet that challege, but until I win the lottery and/or sign a $10 million per year contract to play centerfield for the Boston Red Sox, it is going to be a challenge I will struggle to overcome.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Call me Herzog

Dear Senator Kerry,

I am writing to express my disappointment at the extension of the homeowner tax credit and my hope that you will work to let the extension expire at its current date of May 2010.

The current version of credit, with provisions to increase the household income ceiling to $250k and the provision to extend the credit to current homeowners does not benefit our society, only real estate brokers, who, I believe, are not a professional class undervalued by society and in need of federal subsidy.

While it can be argued that home ownership strengthens communities (but probably not as much as we think), these new credits do not increase ownership. They simply transfer wealth regressively from renters to current home owners (and increasingly wealthy ones at that).

The goal of having the government artificially re-inflate the housing bubble is not a noble or sustainable one. And while i support the federal government's right to intervene in markets, this seems to be a case where it is clearly inappropriate.

If you can explain to me how this credit benefits our society at large, I am certainly willing to listen. Otherwise, I entreat you to represent your constituents, and let this obvious boondoggle die.


Autumn Of Dick - Week 5

Autumn of Dick is going up a little late this week. These weren't the most exciting chapters in the book, though, thankfully, there wasn't a chapter as tedious as last week's 'The Whiteness of the Whale.' Nonetheless, the chapters in which Melville brings up descriptions of encounters with sea monsters from the Bible and ancient history, and speculates on the reasons why each of these historical or literary sea monsters was probably actually a sperm whale. Needless to say, those chapters don't exactly fly by.

The big development this week was that the Pequod spots a school of whales, its first since setting sail. Ahab had previously taken a gold doubloon and nailed it to the mast, as a reward to the first man who spots a whale. Once the school of whales is spotted, five Asian men emerge from Captain Ahab's quarters to try to harpoon the whales. Ahab sneaked them on board without letting Starbuck, Bildad or Peleg know, and their emergence, dark and wraith-like, spooks everybody on the ship. Clearly, these are the shadowy characters who Ishmael and Queequeg thought they saw through the fog, boarding the Pequod on Christmas Eve. The evidence that Ahab is dangerous and obsessed, concerned with vengence moreso than the safety of his crew, or maintaining traditional lines of authority aboard the ship.

What do you think of the novel so far, and the direction in which it is headed? I think that chapters where something actually happens are fascinating - compelling characters, lots of nautical detail, lots of different types of conflicts, and an impressive narrative drive. But so many chapters are so dry and digressive that the book too frequently loses its momentum. Your thoughts?

As Long As We're At It, O.J. Simpson Is A Free Agent, Let's Offer Him A Contract Too

Forgive me, Darryl, for I have sinned . . .

There are now widespread rumors throughout the NFL that my beloved Buffalo Bills may trade for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. If they do so, they would start an offense putting both Michael Vick and Terrell Owens on the field at the same time. If this happens, I may just throw in the towel and start cheering for the New York Giants.

I'm a loyal guy, and, despite their decade of losing teams, the Buffalo Bills have brought me a lot of joy over the course of my lifetime. There are a lot of reasons why we cheer for certain professional sports teams instead of others, but regardless of what geographic, racial, socio-economic, and personnel issues are in play, the bottom line is that we root for teams that we find likeable and fun to watch. With Michael Vick and Terrell Owens, the Bills would be neither of those two things, even if they succeed in winning a few more games than they would with the double non-threat of Trent Edwards and Ryan Fitzpatrick at quaterback.

I will now go say four Hail Marys, two Our Fathers, and watch the second half of the Oilers comeback game on VHS tape three times before going to bed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Ten Best Internet Memes of the Decade

Its difficult to argue with Paste Magazine's list of the ten best internet memes of the decade. My love of Rick Rolling is well known; I may have made it #1 on my list, if only because "Lazy Sunday" would probably split the vote with "Dick In A Box." To be certain, "Lazy Sunday" made "Dick In A Box" possible, but "Dick In A Box" is the biggest viral video of all time, and it seems silly to leave it off of the list.

Paste Magazine's List of the Top Ten Internet Memes of the Decade

The Jill and Kevin wedding dance video is a personal favorite of mine; not only is the dance itself a lot of fun, but Jill and Kevin and their wholesome midwestern adorableness brings back all sorts of sentimental memories that I didn't really know that I had, and Paste's color commentary (It's the coolest nuptial ceremony since Slash stormed out of the church in the "November Rain" video and ripped a mournful guitar solo" is a homerun.

Friday, November 6, 2009

An Oldie But Goodie

A friend sent this to me the other day, and though it has been years since it first aired, it still absolutely killed me. One of the best things the Daily Show has every done, and a reminder that, though we at CSD headquarters love The Colbert Report, (and realize that, by the fall of 2005, Stephen Colbert had become too big of a star to continue to play second fiddle to Jon Stewart for much longer) the sort of chemistry that Stewart and Colbert had between them comes along only a couple of times in a generation, and it was a shame to break it up.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

evening strategy thoughts

In my travels as new england brewer/patriot, I need to acquire unpasteurized cider for fermenting. It is pretty hard to find. I found a lovely man named Phil who sold me cider. I needed 6 gallons but only had enough money for 3. his response was to hand me an envelope with those free return-address tickers on them and say "mail me the rest. I've only had one envelope not come back" I am convinced that life as a consultant has ruined me because rather than thinking "what a nice man," my first thought was "what a great business strategy." Not only did he upsell me the extra 3 gallons, and I of course paid him, I told everyone about it. I am even going to rep him on my website.
Money is a terrible lens through which to view behavior.

There is a lot of talk about large market and small market baseball teams, but many of the big market teams split their market with another team: Yanks/mets, Cubs/white sox, Dodgers/Angels. I would love to see a normalized statistic about regional GNP per team. Are the Red Sox actually the owners of the best market by this statistic? Or do media revenue not scale linearly with population?

Hipster Hate

So I've been frustrated trying to get from West LA to Hollywood in under 90 minutes during rush hour over multiple times in the past few weeks. Might as well take it out on the hipsters.

Where the Dirty Hipsters Are

Hipster Olympics

I Think We Can Make It

I know I've posted this before, but I can't stop listening to it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Juliet, Naked

Juliet, Naked is Nick Hornby's sixth novel, and one of his most accomplished. Over the past fifteen years, Hornby has become familiar without becoming boring, not swining for the fences but hitting a frozen rope back up the middle every time he swings the bat. In Juliet, Naked, he explores some familiar themes - our emotional attachment to music, obsession, the influence of popular culture on generation X (and on generation X's ability to love), but with a longer perspective than his earlier novels, and an emotional intelligence that has few rivals.

Duncan and Annie have lived together for 15 years in a sleepy seaside town in the north of England. Duncan, a fortyish academic, moderates a website devoted to the music of Tucker Crowe, an American rock musician best known for Juliet, a break-up album often compared to Bob Dylan's Blood On the Tracks. Crowe quit recording in the mid-eighties, apparently after having an epiphany of some kind, and has not been heard from since. Annie is a fan of Crowe's music, too, but no more than that. As they approach middle age, Duncan's obsession with Crowe - including a bookshelf of bootlegged live performances - seems increasingly pathetic to her, as does the fact that they've lived together for fifteen years without marrying or having children.

Then Duncan, in his capacity as the Crowe website moderator, receives a cd in the mail from Crowe's record label, entitled Juliet, Naked - an acoustic album of rough cuts, before Crowe and his band had polished them into the album's studio cuts. Predictably, Duncan loves it, but to Annie it sounds like a rough first draft. Even if those tracks eventually became something great, how can a rough draft be better than a finished product that professional musicians spent months to produce? The elegant, unstated answer is being one of the first people to receive an unreleased cd from a musician with a cult following is one of the few opportunities he's ever had to feel cool, to feel in the loop. Duncan posts a rave review on the website. Annie posts a much more nuanced, critical one. Then, our of nowhere, Tucker Crowe e-mails Annie and tells her that he agrees with her review, and compliments her on her insights.

Annie and Crowe begin an extended electronic correspondence, and, yes, a love triangle eventually forms, but every time the novel seems to be in danger of becoming a predictable romantic comedy, Hornby throws a curveball and takes the story in another direction altogether. It is a testamant to Hornby's ability as a novelist that none of those changes feel forced, or overly manipulative.

Late in the novel, Hornby describes Gooleness, the town in which Duncan and Annie live, as being the sort of town that people visit because their "parents had misremembered a vacation from their youth or because they had failed to spot the romanticism and poetic license in Bruce Springsteen’s early albums.” That sentence is perhaps the perfect distillation of Hornby's style. The same can be said of Juliet, Naked as a novel.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Autumn of Dick - Week Four Open Thread

We're reading chapters 33-42 of Moby Dick this week. I will post my thoughts in the comments thread sometime tomorrow evening, but in the meantime I wanted to let all of you take the lead this week.

Feeling A Little Ceremonious This Morning

Radiohead isn't webcasting as often as it used to, but of all the bands on the interweb, Radiohead is still the best and most innovative. The idea of webcasting casual, tossed-off-but-nonetheless-amazing cover songs from their basement is awesome and should be imitated by other bands. Who wouldn't love to see The Strokes covering The Velvet Underground, or Arcade Fire covering The Talking Heads?

We've posted this video before, but its been a couple of years, and its just too good not to re-post from time to time.