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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Still Ranting After all These Years

I joked yesterday that I could not wait for work today.  Often times weekends, and in particular Holiday weekends, are far more difficult than work days.  Not sure that is the case this week, especially with 90 degree days in sweaty, and most stinky Manhattan.

I wrote a few weeks ago about how the train from Madison is a disaster.  Turns out, the train from Secaucus might  have now been eliminated too.  As we got to the track today we were greeted with maybe the worst smell known to man.  Think sweltering feces meets decaying body.  Not what I want in my nasal passage as I try to drink coffee.  If this is a sign of summer in the Meadowlands count me out.  Yet another obstacle in merely attempting to go to work.  Should have know when there was a Wikipedia page about "Smells at Secaucus Station" I was in trouble.  And I wonder why New Jersey gets a bad reputation.

So glad the smells followed me to the subway too.  Those were odors emitting from humans.  I expect this.  And sorry to stereotype...  but I will.  9 out of 10 times the odor belongs to someone from India.  What gives?  Can this social convention contain itself to that Continent?  In the US we have a universal system of laws and mores that state, quite clearly, that humans should bathe and otherwise not smell offensive.  The same applies to dousing yourself in Axe, or Jean Nate, or any other bad fragrance.  Too much either way is an epic failure.

Much like The Ohio State University and its once storied football program.  Turns out Jim Tressel and his famed sweater got a touch too greedy.  And the problem is they failed to payoff the right people.  Now he leaves Columbus in shame leaving dozens of "student" athletes in limbo.  But really, what did he do that Nick Saban or Urban Meyer or any successful coach in NCAA athletics is not doing?  He recruited questionable kids with supreme athletic ability in an attempt to win titles.  He can coach.  He can provide leadership and some guidance on what to do, and what not to do.  But can he babysit 70 or 80 kids everyday?  24 hours a day?  Of course not.  And I am a Michigan fan, so to see them go down in flames excites me to no end.  But in reality I was hoping ill fated Rich Rodriguez had some of his players.

No one in their right mind expects Terrelle Pryor to finish school and become an accountant.  He went to Ohio State to play quarterback.  What troubles me is many of these kids were selling old game shirts and other memorabilia for free tattoos.  Um, could you be less obvious?  It's like spending drug money on an illegal craps game.  Which I think has to be one of the infractions listed.

I used to look forward to the fall and college campuses coming alive with College Football.  But between the ill fated and irrelevant bowl system (BCS in particular) and now yet another major program taking a huge moral step backward, why should I care?  The game in its purest form is unlike anything amateur sports has to offer.  Afraid the pure form is long gone.  Pay the kids, admit they never go to class, have an 8 team playoff system and move on.  Otherwise I could give a rats ass.  Until Michigan starts winning again.

And finally can we all refrain from christening Lady Gaga as revolutionary and jaw dropping?  There is a fine line between homage and plagiarism.  Her new album passed 1 million sales a mere two weeks after its release, and I am concerned.  Her act is so derivative of Madonna, particularly "Express Yourself", "Vogue" and her confessional film "Truth or Dare."  And I would be lying if I did not say some of here songs weren't good to very good.  But let's be honest, she has not reinvented the wheel here.  She dances, she poses half naked, she sings (adequately) and we all eat it up.

Enough already.  You have a choice and you need to take it.

See these other female performers who write, produce and play with more vigor and originality than Ms. Gaga could only hope for.  Their crime?  Wrong A and R men...  or not as sexy...  or relevant...

All made up nonsense conjured up by a few empty suits in increasingly obsolete record companies.

Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Gold Lion"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMMkP_ofpXg

Adele  "Rumour Has it"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_6BBAVfzqM

Florence and the Machine "Dog Days are Over"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWOyfLBYtuU

Joy Formidable "Whirring"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2BUEzdjfpY

Kate Nash "Foundations"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryH5cga0yUI

Lily Allen "The Fear"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FD-c6cx98ls

Liz Phair "Never Said"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCP-UIs2kpM&feature=related

Lucinda Williams "Joy" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1B4Q0hugV8

Aimee Mann "Freeway" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQF5CXV9cos

Metric "Help I'm Alive" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQm1zs8EjAY&feature=related

I could go on and on...  Girl Power!!!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Post Script

I have heard enough Death Cab for Cutie this weekend to last a lifetime.  Much like Foo Fighters a few weeks back they have dominated Alt Nation the better part of 4 weeks.  To promote their latest effort I sat through many, many tracks the past few days.  As with every trip to the Poconos there was plenty of car time.  And much like Death Cab's first single, I was very much a tourist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkk5wViJo-I.   For the record I cannot stand that song.   But like Black Keys "Tighten Up" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpaPBCBjSVc  I give it the benefit of the doubt because the video is so darn neat.  Here, Death Cab has created the first ever scripted, live video.  A total gimick and totally unnecessary.  I dig it anyway.  They thought of it first and backed it up with entertaining art.  Last I checked the closest art I created was starting a serious debate over how fair 3rd grade softball is.

They win.  Not that I am keeping score.  But now that you mention it...  how the hell can Ben Gibbard be married to Zooey Deschanel??  He is as geeky looking and awkward as I am.  And she is so darn cute.  Put (500) Days of Summer or even the dreadful Yes Man in front of me and watch as rationalize it as essential as GoodFellas.  And please don't confuse her with her sister from Bones.   Hell she even sang the "Cotton, the look, the fell,  the fabric of our lives" jingle.  Super hot.  And Gibbard goes all alt rock star on us and marries her.  Fail.  How does one do this rock star thing again?  Oh right, one must first possess musical ability.

Back to my tourist ways.  Funny as we took the trip to Bushkill Falls on Friday how I continue to take things for granted.  As the signs for the attraction became more obvious and my daughter was aware we were close her excitement was palpable.  "Is this really the Poconos?  I thought that was just a made up place." she said sheepishly.  We passed resorts and weird animal farms/make-shift zoos.  Volunteer fireman collected money with their hats.  Good, old fashioned American stuff.  Even drove by the resort we held our 8th grade retreat.  I remembered vividly the terribly inappropriate things I did at that retreat.  A good Catholic boy no less.

Then the Falls themself.  And it could not have played out better.  Easy, but scenic trails.  Climbing and walking, seeing and smiling.  The majestic Falls providing some cool relief on a sweltering day.  Pictures taken capturing a most successful, albeit cliched Jersey boy in the woods.  And now the little Jersey girl has a greater sense of nature and what good it can provide.  And like many things, I too have taken that for granted.

And I could go on and on about the goodness of family.  This weekend provided huge glimpses of how for the most part I am surrounded by people who genuinely care for others.  Mother in laws babysitting.  Children and grandchildren rallying for an ill loved one.  Group dinners and go-cart races.  Prepping for milestone birthday parties and for the most part, smiling, laughing.

And I could go on about how Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has the highest per capita of adults riding dirt bikes.  Or how I saw a man in his 50s walking Wyoming Ave wearing a battle helmet.  Maybe I could devote an entire post to ending up at Aurants in Duryea.  This restaurant is separate from the rest.  Get the joke?  No rest in restaurants.  I struggle to define that as either supremely cool or off the charts queer.

Either way the place, food and staff were very nice.  Good food and a nice pint.  Better yet they have the cool jukebox that lets you override what some lame-o wasted 10 bucks on.  As I asked the bartender if his machine had that feature "Wonderful Tonight" came on from Clapton.  Seriously?  Can I ask that a few songs never be paid for at public taverns.  Others include "Brown Eyed Girl", "Free Bird," "Stairway to Heaven."  The list goes on forever.

Imagine my glee when I jolted the subdued dinner crowd with Eels, and The National.  A few came back in to combat it, but they are no match for the "Play Next" feature.  I will spend the extra coin to prevent Peter Çetera or Roy Orbison.  It almost becomes a challenge after a while.  I see you making your way back from Table 10.  Save your money.  Tonight I am rockin the mike.  As we established earlier I can't play a lick...  but I will out spend you to play them.

The real beauty of Aurants is I think my wife was there years ago with her paramour.  I had never been in the building but she was having deja vu all again.  A little ironic and somehow super funny to me.

That wasn't the highlight either.  Neither was the entire Middleswarth BBQ Weekender bag I consumed over 2 days.  Or the box of Krimpets that accompanied them.

Why is it these products cannot travel 100 miles??  Although it is probably good they cannot.  I would probably be 3 bills by now.  And don't get me started on Morris County's inability to secure a Wegman's Supermarket.

I also find it compelling I am a bit unnerved/scared walking the streets of Wilkes-Barre.  Yet I walk in and around NYC without any fears.  Not good.

Back home, the coaches softball game and bbq were a treat as always.  I will ignore that some lucky clown robbed me at the wall with a Willie Mays circus catch.  Overall a fun time had by all.  I might try to throw that last line in every post from now on.  Thinking of going all high school newspaper on you.

The one thing that matters is surrounding me.  Settling in to a poorly made animated movie and healthy snacks.  We prepare to entertain guests tomorrow and hope for good things ahead, like most of us.  And for a moment there is optimism.

I indeed celebrate and admire our soldiers this weekend.  I also think fondly of my past, and at times memorialize it.  Some of that s&^* be crazy.  But it has brought me to this place...  to this moment.

And it might very well be getting better.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t43VgJ4U9_Q  Brilliant


Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day weekend

It can be difficult thinking about the trivial things, like music and tv, when distracted (read:consumed) with the battle to save marriage.  But it is an important exercise to step away from the constant battles, and long talks into the night, and tears, and therapy, et cetera. 

So I continue to seeth at the minutia.  For instance, why do European men insist on wearing Capri's and walk soooo slow in the City.  Since when do people avoid making physical contact when walking those same streets.  I thought when two forces are coming toward one another there is an unwritten rule that each force moves ever so slightly to one side avoiding contact with said force?  And it is the women who are biggest culprits?  Do they want to have my shoulder ram into them?  Is this some sort of power play?  One thing is certain, it is a matter of time before I lay one of these chicks out.  I may not hit the weights or have even the slightest bit of muscle, but I do have enough rage to go lower the shoulder and take the 15 yard penalty.  Think Jack Tatum meets Dakota Fanning on a crossing route.

The seasonal allergy season has passed me, but again I suffered this year.  And I never did as a child.  Is it normal to get allergies for the 1st time when you are in your 30s?  Does that speak to a larger environmental pollutant that is destroying us all?  I could stay outside from morning til well into the night as a kid with no repercussions.  Now, in the 3 minute walk from the house to my green, pollen covered Black car, I struggle to take one breath.   And forget trying to eat a Peach, or Nectarine, or worse yet, Cherries.  Nevemind how much I love each of those fruits...  but if I dare eat, even a washed Organic piece of seasonal fruit...  my mouth seizes up like the Parkway on Holiday weekends.  Up until a few years ago I could eat these things without incident.  Someone please tell me what is going on here.

Since I will be headed to the roads like countless others later I certainly need distraction.  I need some good news.  Maybe wings at Dugan's tonight.  Maybe a clean, fulfilling Guinness to wash it down.  Maybe my in-laws will not gang up and kill me?  I have told friends and I may as well get it out there in print...  should I disappear unexpectedly maybe take a closer look for me?  Tongue and cheek of course, but not really.  You get it right, wink.  But I mean it.

At least there is music.  And when you are gearing up for the dreaded car trip...  maybe take 5 minutes and download the following for your preferred MP3 player.  You could do worse, no?  And you really don't even have to be impaired to listen.  But, as always, that would not hurt.

MUSIC:  80s in 2011...  it's an epidemic
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dU9hrd35Dsg&feature=relmfu  Vaccines:  "Post Break Up Sex." More heavy 80's influence from this group of English softies.  You can't help think of John Hughes movies and Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood et.al hearing this piece of pop candy.  Simple chords, succinct intelligible lyrics and goofy fun all wrapped up into one.  Only thing missing is Micheal Schoeffling and Anthony Michael Hall having a heart to heart after an all nighter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bStftGdl9T8  Last Royals:  "Crystal Vases"  Another in a long list of New York hipsters with some attitude, fun and catchy guitars and grooves.  They play Bowery June 25th to promote their 5 song EP. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1Efwi916U0  The Sounds:  "Something to Die For."  Live version.  This Swedish band has been around for a while.  Long story short:   Strip lead singer Maja Iversson of her blonde Swedish, tattooed charm and it would not matter.   It's the voice stupid.  And hers is strong as you can see by this live perfomance.  Bold keyboards and simple chords are also reminiscent of the 80s.  These days what isn't??

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byAKaC4U3Cg&feature=related  A Silent Film:  "Driven by Their Beating Hearts."  Live version.  Oxford, England 4 piece band that clearly has 80s inluences.  I hear some Level 42, ABC, hell even some Thomas Dolby in this track. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xQF0gerTtM  Temper Trap:  "Fader"  Forget for a moment that what you are listening to is an Asian/Austrialian lead singer...  if you can...  I just never knew they lived there?  Thought is was all knife wielding, khaki wearing blondes.  Anyway, good song by a good band.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-E91pPZptU  She Wants Revenge:  "She Must be the One."  Jeez, such an 80s song.  More Mare Winningham meets Judd Nelson on a rainy, Chicago night.  Clearly an elevated train is involved.  This California duo has paid its dues and have a track here that demands your attention.

Finally, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DK77hz_sYE  Graffiti 6 "Stare into the Sun."  The perfect top down, blast off start to the summer.  Fun, brainless and without a hint of pretension.  Every summer needs one and here is hoping this is the Alt anthem of 2011. 

So let the hair down and hit the roads.  Jersey Shore?  Poconos?  Maybe an afternoon at a ballpark?  Cook out (s)?  Bout time we all let loose and enjoy some good weather and an optimistic attitude.  Happy Memorial Day folks. 

And special thanks to all those who serve and served.



Oh, and remind me to tell you about how much dentists suck next time...



Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Game Day

It is probably a little sad I prefer to be in Jersey on the days I coach.  Sadder still I filled out a lineup card around 8:30 this morning.  If only I paid this much attention to other things in my life...

Why do I know the initials DSK?  Do we live in a time when alleged rapists dominate the news and get their own nickname? 

Sad that I know Hines Ward has some sort of "Mirror Ball" trophy.  Oh, and Kirstie Alley lost 40 pounds.  Anna Kournikova is going to be on next season's "Biggest Loser." 

Vancouver is advancing to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1994.  That reminds me of the dreaded Rangers and gap toothed Mark Messier guaranteeing their victory over the Canucks that year.  And then I remember something about him dating or marrying Carol Alt.  Though, maybe I am wrong, she might have dated every hockey player but him. 

Those were the glory days of Supermodels.  But was Alt one of them?  Brings me to Fred Norris and the Howard Stern show...  Fred never classified her as one.  Pretty, but not a "Super" model.  No, that group was Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Helena, Naomi...  not Alt.  Although, she was in Sports Illustrated.  But so was Kathy Ireland?  Hmmm, she wasn't a supermodel either, was she?

And is it true that Ireland is now a major retail player?  How is that?  She selling sheets or something?  That is not hot.  There were 4 or 5 years in a row when she was parading the tiniest bikini known to man all over America.  Now, she is pushing knitware and soaps to house fraus  I don't get excited by that.  In fact, I get a little sad.

Least Paulina Porizkova is still married to Rik Okasek.  That is a bit more rock and roll.  A bit more bad ass.  I like to think she barely speaks English too.  Someone has to still be living a rock star life, right? 

I thought that of Steven Tyler not long ago.  Now I hear a single on Hits 1 fresh off his guest job on American Idol.  Did I hear right that 90 million people voted for a winner last week?  That many people still watch that show? 

Could I be any less relevant?  I have not watched one minute of that show this season.  Am I the only one?

And what exactly is that show producing?  I suppose Kelly Clarkson and certainly Carrie Underwood are bona fide stars.  But how many seasons are we in now?  Seems like way more duds than true stars.  What of Taylor Hicks? that fat guy? the girl,that got that show, that's on that network with the guy, who does the recap shows? 

Then , out of the blue, I am unnerved thinking of this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eldRiGvdbU

Joplin, Missouri is a town of 50,000 people.  That is bigger than my town.  In fact, it's bigger than the town I grew up in and current town combined.  Now it is in ruin.  Maybe my juvenile concerns seem trivial. 

But, not quite.  Because I think all of of those who thought the world was going to end last Saturday.  And we are still here.  And it frustrates me that I have to share oxygen with them. 

Couldn't this have been an opportunity to round them all up, put them on a boat, and set them off to sail.  Then you give some Sudanese pirates a couple mil and their location and sit back and watch some Social Darwinism.  Is that wrong?  They clearly were prepared to die or at least "find salvation."  With that much faith a few pirates will not deter them from almighty salvation.

And these are the ponderous items that clog my tired mind.  Probably all just defense mechanisms meant to prevent me from looking at harder truths.

Like, what is the deal with Oprah?  Is she a deity?  That much power frigthens and confuses me.  You bet I am jealous.

By the way...  terrific Pandora session.  http://www.pandora.com/
I cannot recommend this app/website more.   Be a total nerd and get a few of these stations.  The National, Decemberists, The Smiths and Elliot Smith.  For those super lazy, mellow summer/spring days I swear will happen.  Ok, you might want to have a few beers first, or any other change of "perspective" remedy you prefer.

Some notable tracks:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYhrCsgHa0k  "Detlef Schrempf" by Band of Horses.  I still kick myself for staying too long in Newark's Ironbound and missing them open for Pearl Jam last year.  These guys are terrific.  Loved Schrempf the player too.  Helped he played for my Sonics. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGQEOSbF_mk   "Queen of the Surface Streets" by DeVotchKa Don't know much about these guys...  except they had a song in the overrated movie "Little Miss Sunshine."  Good sound though and I am going to be researching them.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyWoZD5xfM8  "True Affection" by The Blow  Apparently this is a chik/visual artist/Brooklyn hipster who sings over electronic beats.  Whatev.  I dig it.

Back to the important matters of the day...  who plays left field tonight?  2nd base?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Still working on Anger Management

Besides having a child who is clearly getting back at me for all of my know-it-all ness, just dealing with Monday and New York City can be an enormous pain in the...

There has been a battle of wills over the past few weeks on how to deal with an 8 year old and her stubborn persistence that she knows everything.  This is a girl who told us, quite self assuredly and without a hint of sarcasm, that she invented sand.  Think that was during a vacation when she was about 4.  I keep getting told to ignore it, she is just a kid.  But what is it that won't let me leave it alone??  Yesterday we bought some Bottlecaps, the relic candy that tastes like soda.  She insisted they were meant to disolve in drinks, thus making the drink taste like soda.  She even went so far as to translate the Spanish on the label to confirm her point.  WHAT????!!!! 

Today during breakfast I turned on Coneheads the Movie as it was nearing the end.  Immediately she told me "No, this is the beginning.  I remember cause this is where we left off before."  WHAT???  It's 745am and the next movie starts at 8am!!!  How can it be the beginning???  I quietly left the room and banged my head against the kitchen counter.  Who is this girl??  Why must she insist on challenging any and all my authority and knowledge?

Then I think back to me as a child.  I remember vividly my father telling me, over and over, "I have wisdom...  listen to me."  I never did.  It all comes back to me.  Act the part as buster of balls, expect it to come back to you tenfold.

And I am fairly certain the Mrs will be getting hers during the teenage years (which in 2011 start around year 9 anyway.)  Do I remove all the sharp objects from the house?  Should I install state of the art electronic surveillance? 

For years we have joked that we think many around us get divorced more to get a break from their children than their spouse.  You are kidding yourself if you don't look at your divorced friends with some envy time to time.  3 nights a week you can vedge on your couch, not worry about Social Studies tests or maybe get out for an adult evening (without the babysitting fees.)  I can hear some of you laughing now.

Tough work this parenting gig.  And you best be able to turn the other cheek and laugh off all the nonsense.  Let the kid think they know it all, because in time they will come to the realization that they know very little.  And that is crazy depressing. 

What makes matters worse is the Monday commute and NYC day.  Had the pleasure of taking the 7 train today.  And I thought it before, and I will always think it...  John Rocker got a raw deal.  People in masses crammed into a tight spot, all as angry or maybe angrier than me, is a bit unsettling.  And let's not make this about race or ethnicity either.  Mankind is the worst.  And I am a magnet for subway performers.  On my way to 168th St I got the perfectly clean, put together middle aged white woman pleading for money.  Listen, during these humid days my hair is looking very much like Piper Laurie's from "Carrie."  I was never much of a fashion plate either.  In other words, if I look more like a panhandler than you please do not beg me for money.

Same goes for the dance/rap troupe that jump all over me on the way back downtown.  Please stop.  I did not have time to eat today and these folks feel compelled to put a hat in my face.  Gross.  Let me listen to my ipod in my personal misery please. 

And while I am at it no more Lady Gaga, Amanda Knox and Casey Anthony.  One is a killer, another a killer and the other something altogether different.  I will let you define them.  But enough of the coverage.  Italy has its laws and will handle the Knox case in whichever way the deem fair.  If it's not fair so be it.  You want to stay out of trouble?  Don't go oversees and have a roomate get murdered in your apartment.

I would love to see Florida secede so spare me any and all coverage of Ms. Anthony, whales eating trainers, and the world's worst sports fans.  I think Larry Clark's "Bully" was actually too optimistic.  This state can go away and fast.   What?  No Disney and Orlando?  We will live.

And Lady Gaga??  I like her, but c'mon already.  Seems like her "Monsters" are more like cattle.  We get it Gaga, you are bringing everybody to the party and believe in global equality.  Nice.  Now that your record drops tomorrow can I not hear that message every waking second of my day.

Wow I need to be medicated.  For now I am off to read Ramona Beezus or something...  got to make sure the little one is reading what she tells me she is reading.  Wouldn't be an issue except she told me she went to college with Beverly Cleary.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moral Dilemmas

It was inevitable really.  After starting the season 7-0 with some miraculous victories, our 3rd/4th grade softball team took its first defeat yesterday.  And it is fair to say everyone surrounding the team, coaches included, took some lessons from the game.

It started with a mid-week from a parents email asking to give their daughter a shot to pitch.  Seemed like a fine idea.   She had shown some interest early in the year and knowing the team we were playing was weak, why not?  Since only 5 runs can be scored in an inning we started her for the 2nd inning.  The other team scored 5 without our squad recording an out.  No biggie.  We were down 5-1 after and had plenty of game left.  Figures we would not hit a lick the rest of the game.  We played a poor defensive game on top of that and lost 7-3.

Now, we may have put her in a game during the season anyway.  And, in fact, we would like to give other kids a chance to get in before season's end, should THEY want to try.  But at this level do we put a kid in because they want to or their folks want them to?  I have been wrestling with that since yesterday afternoon.  Mainly because I saw the fear and angst on this young girls face as runs kept crossing and she asked to stop pitching.

"Stick it out" we kept encouraging her.  "Finish what you started."  Important to be able to go in there, face your fears, and live to tell about it.  More than anything that is what we are teaching, right?  But again, we also walk the line of putting kids in a position to succeed, not fail.  I may be able to teach a kid the proper batting stance, way to throw or catch.  However, when it comes to teaching confidence...  I am unsure I can do much there.  After nearly 40 years I am still working up the nerve to tell people to quiet down in a movie, or get off their obnoxious phone conversation on the train, or not throw away their garbage on the NYC streets, or wear age appropriate clothing, or wear deodorant, try a breath mint, or put their turn signal on when changing lanes, etc...

And to make matters worse, I have kids on the team who are uber-aware of the score.  So, when I agreed before the game to go only one base at a time in deference to the other team being short players, my girls were asking questions.  We had at least 3 hits that went into their unprotected outfield and ended up long singles.  And with runners on base I kept girls from scoring when they could have walked home.  Again, we want to be conscience of teaching quality sportsmanship, but at this age we have kids who want, er, need to win.

As did our opponent.  And if we were to take a loss I could not have picked a better team to fall to.  I liked seeing the exuberance on their faces and the exasperation on ours.  More teaching moments.  "See kids, we cannot show up and win.  This is why we play the game.  Any given day."  All the cliches you could throw at a 9 year old during the post-game handshake.

"Good game.  Good game.  Good game."

Back to drawing board as another rainy week awaits.  Now, knowing full well we all have work to do to prepare these kids for everything the game (read:life) has in store for them.  When you are feeling on top of the world devastation is always nearby.  When you feel invincible there is always someone hungry for what you have.  When you feel like nothing can stop you brick walls will find you.

And now, with a very important loss on the ledger, we go back to work.  Lessons learned. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Word About Food (and some Guilty Pleasures)

I suppose I am fortunate I can work from home a few days a week.  Although, there are many who would argue typing away on a rainy day about the minutia of my life hardly qualifies as "work."  The main battle I have on these days is what to eat, and when to eat, and how to eat???

I am struggling to work this all out.  Yesterday I found myself starving around 2pm because I had not eaten.  Correction, I usually have some coffee and a banana before noon.  I find the thought of food nauseating right when I wake up.  Consequently, at lunchtime I devour whatever is around.  Yesterday that included leftover burgers and Easter candy.  I may be eating peanut butter cups all summer.  I prepared homemade mac and cheese and red sauce for dinner options, but hardly had the appetite to eat it when time came. 

Naturally, after 9pm I destroy the snack cupboard.  Nacho plates are built the size of airplane hangers.  Sugared cereal bowls filled again and again.  Who created these eating patterns???  And how the hell do I get out of them???  Would it kill me to throw in a vegetable? 

So last week we went out for fine dining, with three courses, and I was up all night because my body did not know what the hell happened.  Porcini mushroom ravioli???  Toscana Lamb Shanks???  "Boy you best take that white linen eating out of this stomach!!!"  I do like food.  I just hate the constant battle to prepare, think ahead, shop... 

My wife has been saying for years there should be some sort of "Food Pill."  We can send (supposedly) folks to the moon yet scientists cannot develop a device that provides nutrients and makes me feel full all at once???   I am looking at a $200 grocery store bill from Monday and I swear we could spend another $200 today.  And we all eat like s&*^!!    Who has the time to think ahead and cook well rounded, nutritious meals??  If you do then please shed some light.  Or better yet keep it to yourself.  I think I would rather think no one eats right.  Just as I prefer to think no one lives and behaves right.

Some Guilty Pleasures:
There is a misconception that I watch a bunch of tv.  Not true.  On days like this, when I am home ALL day, I do not even turn tv on.  At night I am more apt to watch a game than crime shows or reality show.  I do miss scripted series ruling the air.   I still vividly remember Thursday nights in my living room anxiously waiting for NBC's comedy lineup.  Theo Huxtable, Alex Keaton and the gang at Cheers were all welcome friends.

I suppose many kids are experiencing this with CBS these days.  But I never got into "Two and a Half Men" or "How I Met your Mother."  Am I am horrible person for not wanting to see Doogie Howser as a womanizer??  I mean, did you see the Tony Awards a few years back???  That is where he shines!!  I know, if I can suspend disbelief enough to believe we landed on the moon...  I should give him the benefit of doubt.  "Big Bang Theory" is probably good but I just can't do it.  I give CBS my reality family block, and that is enough.  We watch, and still enjoy, "Survivor".  This past season we gave "Amazing Race" a chance too.  Both of these shows move nicely, have amazing production design, and show the entire human spectrum.  You wonder aloud how these young girls sit around and let Boston Rob hijack shows and win a million bucks.  You root for fathers and daughters to make it through India without contracting disease.  Good clean fun examing (albeit in a contrived fashion) the human condition.  And alas we make some popcorn (with lots of butter and salt:  see earlier rant on bad eating) and enjoy as a family. 

When the young one is asleep I have become addicted to (2) very smart and funny scripted shows.  Amazingly, NBC has one of them.  Prompted by reading review after review praising it, I have succumbed to "Parks and Recreation."  Amy Poehler is fine in the leading role.  Poehler is Leslie Knope, a spirited and decicated member of Pawnee, Indiana's rec staff.  But this show is ALL about it's supporting cast.  Aziz Ansari, as sarcastic, failed entrepeneur Tom Haverford and Nick Offerman, Leslie's deadpan superior Ron Swanson stand out.  Rashida Jones, Aubrey Plaza and more recently Adam Scott and, why not, Rob Lowe, are also terrific.  The jokes are plentiful and fast moving.  With such a talented acting and writing group themes range from dating to government furloughs;  censorship to veganism; club going to shotgun weddings.  Laugh out loud funny in a world of not so much.  I am talking to you "Cougar Town."

The only other show on my DVR season pass is the lead in to the dreadful Courtney Cox vehicle, ABC's "Modern Family."  Whereas Parks and Rec has been slowly building its audience and reputation, this show has been a hit from day 1.  And for very good reason.  Following an extended nuclear family and the many issues that surround them, "Modern Family" is smart, relevant and very, very funny.

Weird that both shows follow the same "mockumentary" style that helped "The Office" attract viewers.  In both cases this is mre a gimmick than anything.  The shows are fine without it and can stand on the script/scenarios without problem.  But, as in most art and culture, monkey see/monkey do.

Ed O Neill is patriarch Jay Pritchett.  Think a tad more refined Al Bundy.  Instead of Peg Bundy, he has trophy wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara.)  Her malaprops and English language struggles provide some of the funnier moements.  He has a gay son Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and daughter Claire (Julie Bowen.)  Each child has its own family, including Mitchell's adopted Vietnamese daughter Lily. 

Every half hour connects the three households with various story archs that inevitably bring laughter.  Since Claire has high school age kids we get storylines revolving around dating, popularity and teen angst.  Gay adopted parents provide plenty of laughs too.  I especially liked last weeks episode where Mitchell's partner Cameron (an excellent Eric Stonestreet) felt slighted at play group that he was getting Mother's Day wishes. 

And O Neill is clearly having fun as aged LA businessman feeling a bit self conscious.  This week he had failed Botox which dropped one side of his face.  And I would be remiss if I did not mention Ty Burrell, as Claire's over-eager, wants to be pal rather than dad, Phil.  He can be annoying and try to hard...  but everybody knows a dad like this.  God I hope I am not like that.  Is that why I relate?  Ugh.  Now I am going to be thinking about that all day. 

Fun stuff for sure.  And since I have been told my music is esoteric, isn't it good I have mainstream tv habits?  Or is it only because I haven't found some crazy underground internet tv networks?  And no, that is not an invitation for everyone to send me horrible, disgusting videos found on the internet.  Although I would probably watch.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Very much Untitled

I wonder sometimes how many of us are actually doing what we WANT to do?  If I took a sample of the 100, maybe 200 people I know, my guess would be less than 5%.  Fair?  Does anyone think that is too pessimistic?

I know when I was overseeing a furniture delivery yesterday on the East Side of Manhattan there was a moment I thought of my senior year Shakespeare seminar.  I also took Romantic Prose and Poetry that semester, where I met, what was then, my Birkenstock wearing, hippie-dress loving wife.  From 8 weeks detailing every move Othello made to making sure a loading dock frees up so my cabinetry gets to its home.

Interesting for sure.  Can I somehow draw parallels to the very different worlds.  My carpenter, the Iago of my life: constantly jockeying for position and power.  New York City the cruel and dangerous backdrop, al la Venice.  Water surrounds me as I watch over the jobsite, and its union tuffs.  The mere sight of me brings ire to the watchmens eyes.

"Keep the truck here you are not moving it." yells the foreman.  "At 2pm making a delivery I am not the most accommodating."   He snarls.  "Truth is I never am."

I patiently wait and pace the dirty street.  "This delivery has to get in."  I say in my very non-intimidating voice.  Had originally reserved the loading dock from 10am to noon.  Big problem when product does not arrive until noon.  It's too late...  the dock is full.

Calls and emails get me no where.  And forget about the street/walk up option.  Hells no.  We wait.  And I pay...  Hours later my truck sits on the street running up the bill.

Suddenly, the truck in front of us makes a move.  The last blanket is folded, the door closes, and a engine roars.

2:20 I see my product back in to the dock and product starts hitting racks and dollies.

 "Better late than never."  I tell the laborers and disappear.  I catch a cab downtown and make my way out of the City.  Scared, for a moment, that what I have left behind plans its next move.  Does revolt await me?  Will the job be complete before deadline?  Has the hit been ordered?

Am I just making things more complex?  Do I find drama where none exists?  Probably and attempt to use the English/Sociology knowledge I trained so hard to attain.

I examine the group as a whole.  I anticipate their next move to grab an advantage.  The Castle gets unprotected for one minute...  Iago will seize the Kingdom.

Right.  Just a pathetic attempt to rationalize the student loan bill that stares me in the face.

"Look I study Sociology on a daily basis...  and now I am writing about. " he mutters optimistically...

Maybe I am using my degree...  and maybe I am doing what I want to do...

Problem is I never trained to make money.  I find that does not play real well when you work and live near NYC.  Probably speaks to an overall ignorance that I realizing that now.


added bonus:

NBA PLAYOFF PREVIEW:


Who cares.  But no Heat please.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do I need tickets?

The other day I drove by a billboard, yes billboard, suggesting Jesus is returning Saturday the 21st.  Where have I been???  Is he playing the Meadowlands?  Yankee Stadium?  I have an invite to a friends party...  do I cancel and await special word from his holiness, the Messiah.  King of Kings.  God's only Son sent to free us from sin and return us to Salvation.

Wait, there is another billboard at the next bus stop...  says the World is gonna end 5.21.11.  Damn, now I am confused.  Do I tell my friends to have the party Friday so we can go out like rock stars before our Earthly remains are obliterated?  Should I start partying now?  Does that mean my softball season is over and we can be co-champions with our 7-0 record?  Now I have to really focus on a Bucket List.  And with such little time.  How have I missed all of this???

Oh, right, cause it is all complete and utter nonsense.  If Jesus were coming Saturday I am most certain he would not outsource some housewife in Livingston to pay for billboard space.  He would, I think, simply grab the mic from Seacrest and represent.  "People of Earth, I come to rock this be-och."  That might be pushing it, but you get the point.  I love that people believe in things.  I will never take anything away from those who find comfort and joy in believing in something or someone.

However, when that belief infringes on me and what I believe and/or want I am out the door.  Sadly, the problem only seems to be growing.  Muslims and Jews will never tolerate one another.  Catholics and Protestants are much the same.  Throw in some land debates and watch as the pious masses head to their gun rack.  Got a feeling Muhammed and Jesus might take issue with folks launching hand held rockets at one another cause Yusef thinks Timmy roots for the wrong Savior.

What fascinates me most is when folks hide under their Religion to further political causes.  Do I need Mick Huckabee or Mitt Romney to tell a young woman what to do with her unborn fetus?  Does the bible mention abortion for that matter?  It probably does.  But who has time to read that book?  See how big it is?  I am lucky to get through the front page of my TMZ app.

We can all come up with various theories and scenarios explaining why and when the World will end.  Some signs exist that it already has.  The Red Sox won two Championships in my lifetime.  People pay to party with the Kardashian sisters.  Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver have spilt up cause my boy fathered a child with a staff member.  Ashton Kutcher continues to get work.   The signs are all there people.

Or, you could continue living life like you do every day.  Watch, as Sunday rolls around and all is just as it was before.  Pollen fills your sinuses.  Lawn work begs to be done.  Grocery shopping.  Soccer games in East Jabip.  Bills to be paid.

Hmmm, maybe I could start buying into this End of Days theory.  Or maybe I am just bitter cause therapy awaits tonight.  On the bright side, might be last week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why so angry?

Fairly clear over the past few years that I can be a bit judgemental.  For instance, if someone mentions they looovvveee NCIS and Mark Harmon, I might throw my hands up and say "I guess I can't like you then."  If people inundate my Facebook page with animals they are tending to in some imaginary world, they are immediately unfriended.  And don't get me started on cutting in front of me when you can obviously see there are NO cars behind me for miles.  Are people this dense or just total jerks??? 

And why can't I let it go?  Ok, they cut me off.  No biggie.  Take a deep breath and act like an adult.  I can't do it.  No surprise that one of my daughter's first sentences was a pitch perfect imitation of me calling a clueless driver an "effing dbag."  What do you do with a 9 month old who chirps that from the back seat??  I laughed and ignored it.  Let's be honest, profanity is not a big deal.  And I do not buy the argument that by swearing shows your ignorance, lack of sophistication, etc...  If that were the case I would not hear professional journalists use the expression "Whole Nother."  Sorry, I would be far more willing to hear Bill O Reilly say "F you" to someone than tell me the "Taliban is a whole nother problem."  Wrong.  It is another problem.  Or perhaps a whole other problem.  But nother is not a word!!!  Yet we continue to allow this and other malaprops to become part of our language. 

While we are at it let's stop saying he "wears a lot of hats" and "at the end of the day."  Admit it, you have never seen someone wear more than 1 hat.  You see someone wearing more than hat please punch them squarely in the face.  Then collect their remains and lock em up.  And at the end of the day no one sits on their easy chair reflecting on the minutia of their lives.  At the end of the day, they crawl weeping and feeble, into the fetal position for an uneasy and unsatisfied night of "sleep."  What?  That's not typical?

I came across Foster the People's video for "Pumped Up Kicks" yesterday.  MTV has the audacity to edit the lyrics from the video!!!  Wouldn't you know Lady Gaga was next and they have no problem parading her half naked body all over the screen.  Now, I did not look away mind you.  But what is this hypocrisy we have with censoring artists and their freedom of expression?  Foster sings "All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, outrun my gun. All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you'd better run, better run, faster than my bullet."  MTV bleeps out gun and bullet."  This song is a statment against gun violence.  He mentions how trivial and plain stupid it is to covet other's possessions.  Like Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" the protagonist has had enough and taken matters into his own hands.  Kids can't hear this message as intended? 

Meanwhile, what the hell our these kids playing in their bedrooms?  Call of Duty?  Grand Theft Auto?  What is MTV showing on primetime?  Snooki smooshing.  Skins. 

Then, the opposite holds true in movie houses nationwide.  The MPAA cannot stand sex and sexuality on screen.  Blue Valentine receives an X rating becuase it depicts sex acts between a husband and wife.  The Saw series is an R no matter how many bodies are mutilated, mauled and mistreated.  Penis bad/Decapitation good.  Should I have not put penis and decapitation in the same sentence?  Sorry.

But getting back to the point I made earlier in the week about European ideals...  we could continue to learn.   The guidelines for France and Italy are far more lax than ours here.  Catherine Breillat or Bernardo Bertolucci need not concern themselves with tonign a scene down in order to appease some bureaucratic stiff.  They present an idea and realize it from paper to film.  Never will there be talk of cutting scenes to get an R rating.  Again, more large groups dictating what and how we see, hear things. 

Have we lost all faith in Americans deciding for themselves?  It is my responsibility to teach MY child right and wrong.   If everything is working correctly I will know what she is watching.  Should she see something objectionable let me worry about the repurcusions. 

I saw Faces of Death at her age and look how well I function.

And why does every morning news show think it so important to tell me "Traffic and Weather together?"  Does it make a difference that they are together?  Can I not get out of bed if say, traffic was on the 4s and weather at the 8s?  I have a feeling I would manage.

And why does Major League baseball insist on allowing runners to steal a base in late innings when holding a lead.  "Difference Indifference."  Tell you what, I am spending $75 a seat to see the best of the best...  I wanna watch a catcher throw someone out.  "Indifference" should never be a term used in sports.  Someone asks me if this shirt looks better than that shirt...  Ok, time for indifference.  Take the Turnpike or Parkway...  Indifference. 

But enough of this stupid and lazy play.  The only indifference I expect from pro athletes is how they use birth control.  Someone is on first base I implore you to keep him there!!!

And here I thought I was in a good mood.  I will get there...  after I first uncover why the hell I can't look the other way.  But that's a whole nother story.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

Finally Friday…  and never has it been more welcome.  Ok, there have been many times it has been more welcome.  But after a week that saw my daughter get her first cast, some work turmoil and dread, the Spring school concert, I am beyond ready for the weekend. 

And since I mentioned my injured superstar I devote today’s music selections to her.  Below please find the latest tracks she has either purchased, sung along to or otherwise mentioned over the past few weeks.  Yes, I have a hipster 3rd grader.  How pretentious does that make me?  Before you judge take a look at the 97 Nissan Altima parked in my poorly paved driveway.  The defense rests.

Music:

For weeks I have either skipped over or ignored Paper Tongues’ hit “Trinity.”  Now that the little one digs it I have found myself addicted as well.  It is the old Costanza “By Mennen” theory.  The more often I have sat through it I began to tolerate it.  Soon I was confident enough to ask for a 1st date.  Having seen the video recently http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOBay3G4aQU, and learning they are managed by American Idol’s top dawg Randy Jackson I do feel a bit like a tool recommending this…  but nonetheless.  Hailing from Charlotte and looking all of 15 years old, they have a certain something.  Co-stanza.  And again, excuse me for rolling up the windows in the car when I am rocking out.

The Kaiser Chiefs have been around for a few years now.  In fact, they formed in 1997.  Their big hit, ‘Ruby” from the 2007 album “Yours Truly, Angry Mob” was a nice bit of pop/punk fun.  For some reason their song “I Predict a Riot” has been hitting the airwaves more frequently of late.  Taken from their first LP, back in 2004, I like it mainly for its catchy refrain.  As my daughter will be quick to tell you…  “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it.”  Find your inner English soccer hooligan and have a blast with it.  It is the weekend after all.  And who doesn’t like a good night of wilding??  I can just see Guy Ritchie ruining this song in one of his awful, unintelligible movies.  High time I get working on that screenplay so I can beat him to it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hamKl-su8PE   Also, please take a look at “Never Miss a Beat” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-rgIPIkCl4&feature=related.  More groovy neo punk clearly inspired by Sex Pistols/Ramones/Drunkeness.  A big fan of the line “It’s cool to know nothing.”  Finally, vindication.

Everyone had a song they got psyched up to prior to the big game back in the day.  Funny mine, at the tiniest of West Jersey parochial schools was, Grandmaster Melle Mel’s cautionary tale of cocaine abuse "White Lines"(http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1h9s2_grandmaster-flash-white-lines_music).  When I think back at us lily white kids coming out from the locker room with that bass line beating I am both horrified and amused.  These days en route to either soccer or softball, the soundtrack is decidedly different.   If Bruno Mars or Lady Gaga does not do the trick these next few picks have caught my young one’s attention.

“Second Chance” is Swedish duo Peter Bjorn and John’s biggest hit since 2006’s infectious and then ubiquitous “Young Folks.”  Much like Paper Tongues’ ‘Trinity” I had a hard time warming up to this track.  No longer.  This is yet another catchy, fun pop tune.   Like many newer acts you have to learn to take these guys at face value.  I have no desire to see them perform live.  However, the production they bring to a single song is flawless.  I can appreciate the skill required to mix and over-lap beats, vocals, etc…  If you do something right stick with it.  Why do you think I am such an accomplished listener and watcher.  I know my strengths.  Oh, and did I mention agitator?  First team All State 38 years running.  Back to the point…  take a look/listen: 



California based rockers Airborne Toxic Event had one of my favorite tunes of the past 5 years, 2008’s “Sometime Around Midnight.”  Full of angst, and doubt married nicely with melody and gasp, strings, I could not get enough of this song.  Maybe now that I read of band leader’s tragic background:  (Initially a writer and essayist, Mikel Jollett began seriously writing songs with an acoustic guitar following a week in March of 2006, during which he underwent a break-up, learned his mother had been diagnosed with cancer, and was himself diagnosed with a genetic autoimmune disease that led to the development of two cosmetic conditions: Alopecia areata and Vitiligo) I have found myself liking them more.  Their 2nd LP, “All at Once” brings us the joyful and optismistic “Changing.”  This is the type of song every 8 year old should be stretching to prior to the big game.  What, you expected “Whip My Hair?” 

Now I am off…  can we please put an end to Will Smith and ALL of his family members???  No more Jayden singing with Bieber?  No more bastardizing cherished movies!!!  No more exploiting your daughter for the sake of bad music.  And please, for the love of God, no more Jada Pinkett talking on Oprah’s couch like she was African Royalty!!!  I will never forget he was once spouting about how parents just don’t understand w/ Jazzy Jeff.  Go away please!!!  And take your hangers on with you.

But anyway…  for less annoying stuff (in my humble opinion) check out this small sample from Airborne Toxic Event: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x96taw_the-airborne-toxic-event-sometime-a_music. 

Got more, but I will save for next week.  Will also try to get back to film/tv if and when I see some quality.  A big if/when indeed. 

Peace in the mideast.

PS
take a look at http://madison.patch.com/ for my other blog postings.  They relate more to my town, but the one I wrote on sportsmanship (“Play Nice”) has generated a spirited response.  Would love others to join in the discussion.  Have a great weekend and sincere thanks for reading.

Hank B

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What am I missing?

There are times (many in fact) where I am left very much in the cold.  A friend the other day responded to my Friday music column asking, quite honestly, where the hell do I hear of these bands???  In other words, mainstream music escapes me.  If American Idol is the gold standard for what is good...  then I am most comfortable being bad.

And I do not discount popular music either.  In a pinch I have listened to my 8 year olds iTouch, and I liked it.  There are some though that truly escape me.  To name a few:  Gorillaz, 30 Seconds to Mars, Black Eyes Peas, My Chemical Romance, Nickelback***, Katy Perry, Daughtry, The Strokes, Maroon 5, Amos Lee, Brett Dennen, Matt Nathanson, Spoon...  I could go on and on.  *** indicates most suckish.

If I stop and think about I might feel bad about myself.  Millions and millions of people tune in weekly to see karaoke singers sing Stevie Wonder songs.  Me and about 1000 people know and like the band Caveman.  Now, as NBC trots out another singing contest, The Voice, my old bones might be ready to head to the museum.  Adam Levine is now and arbiter of taste?  Christina Aguilera??  Some Country dude?  Did I forget to mention I am totally not getting the Country thing?  Don't get me wrong, if I had a few beers in me and walked into The "Red Room" in anywhere USA I would not mind hearing me some Hank Williams.  But will I want to pay money to see him live?  Listen to him on the morning commute?  No, thank you.

his is art of the reason I hate the Black Eyes Peas.  They have their place.  I have enjoyed some of the big hits.  But after seeing them at the Super Bowl, and other awards show events, these guys cannot play.  Far as I can tell Will I. Am goes into a studio, throws things together, and BAM...  record.  The hooks are always there and what he produces often entertains.   But this stuff can't be done live.  So stop trying.  And please stop with the ticket prices!!  This is Broadway stuff, like Madonna and Lady Gaga.  Music is there but secondary.  Image and packaging is far more important. 

I have been listening to Howard Stern playing Lady Gaga's HBO concert this week.  For minutes and minutes she is talking to her "Little Monsters."  Endless rants on "being free" and utter nonsense all while charging her fans hundreds of dollars.  Music is no where to be found.  Sad really.  Her "Little Monsters" resemble naive cattle far more.

Probably just a stubborn, childish resistance to the norm on my part.   Maybe a realization that many folks resign themselves to following, rather than leading.  Sometimes I wonder if our culture was more European how quickly our art and culture would change.  For instance, if we add a 2 hour siesta in our work day.  Would our tastes in movies and music change withing 6 months?  I think so.

Hear me out.  We still have the 40 hour week (obviously far more for the middle class.)  But from noon to 2pm the Country closes.  School kids would be able to have lunch, or whatever at home.  Maybe homework, and some physical activity.  Out by 4pm to finish their days.  Ohm and school is 11 months a year too.  Maybe instead of hugging camp in the Poconos our kids can learn some math so we are not China's be-och in 10 years?  Seriously, what does the United States MAKE these days???  First stop, cut NASA and most government agencies.  Oh, sorry, we were talking abotu music.  Anyway.

Adults do the 9 to 5 thing...  but maybe stay til 6 or 7 with the 2 hour break.  And you can work at home or elsewhere during that 2 hours if you want.  But you could also head home, spend time with your wife, kids, whomever.  And maybe you would have some more time to take care of yourself.  Take a walk through the city/park.  See a movie mid-day by yourself.  I don't think I have done that since college.Put on some music while preparing dinner.   A two hour break for you: to breathe. 

And with everyone enjoying this time to themselves perhaps then a dozen or so studio execs could not throw their musical agenda down our throats.  Do we even know how many people are truly in charge of what we here on the radio?  Less still that control what we see on tv or movie houses.

Maybe because we are all so freaking busy making ends.  Tough to really sit down and think about the Alt-18 countdown when teeth need to be repaired, water needs to be softened, driveways need to be paved, tuition needs to be paid, train tickets...  bla bla bla.

I get it...  long day at the plant, poorly prepared unhealthy dinner consumed, time for the easy chair.

Perhaps there is something else out there?  Perhaps there are those who don't want you to hear it?  See it???

Whatever, who gives a s&*^?  Like what you like and have fun doin it.  Just don't tell me to watch.  I have enough problems.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Softball Controversy and Caveman again at the Bowery

Even with one child, a sporty one at that, the weekends can fly by.  They are, in many ways, far busier than the work week.  I will not bore you with the minutia but in short, games Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Mother's Day of all days!!!)  Softball the first two games where she excelled again.  I could get into the story how an opposing manager raged at a young ump, but...  ok I will cause the guy is a giant tool.

He caught my attention a few years ago when all the volunteer coaches held a softball clinic.  He was at the base running station.  When it was time for his demo he got into this awful gait that had him looking like a cross between John Cleese's Minister of Silly Runs and Corky Thatcher on field day.  And I am sorry, but I think this is being kind.  I said to myself, "Is this the guy we are looking to for running guidance."  Granted, my best speed run is 20 years gone...  but I can do a 40 and look respectable.  Here we had an overweight man who clearly never played anything in his life instructing very young girls how to run.  If they followed his lead Madison, NJ would have a permanent block on America's Funniest Home Videos.

There were other incidents over the years, all softball related.  He argued balls and strikes,  safe and out calls.  And one time he called into question my book-keeping during a de-facto 1st/2nd grade championship game.  Now, I may be inept at a great many things...  keeping score on the baseball field is not one of them.  I was not the head coach on that team so I deferred to him and his cronies and took the high road.  I know how to run and have a waist line south of 40 inches I muttered to myself.

Friday night made all these minor issues pale in comparison.  Some quick background...  My daughter played in the 3rd/4th grade league as a 2nd grader last year.  I took a backseat and was an assistant coach in an attempt to learn the league, rules, etc...  When it was time to coach this year it was clear myself and my wife should have our own team.   Mr. Bad Runner is an assistant with the man I coached with last year.  We are keeping score for sure.  There is a playoff at the end of the year.  Let's just say I wanted to win.

We were away and got out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the 1st.  With the bases still loaded one of our girls hit a ground ball to short stop.  Our runner from 2nd and the short stop collided, short stop did not make a play, all runners safe.  4-0 was the umps call. 

As soon as the run scored Mr. Bad Runner stormed the field and began verbally undressing the high school ump.  "Have you never played baseball before?  She can't run into the girl it's interference!!"  On and on embarassing himself, his daughters, the fans, the league, the town, sweatpants, tight fitting shirts, etc...

A spectacle for sure.  And the worst part is he was dead wrong!!!  Rule states: 
Baserunners are generally permitted the free privilege to run from base to base without being physically blocked or hindered by a fielder. The only time a fielder need not "get out of the way" of a baserunner is when the fielder is fielding or in possession of the ball  Mind you, I am quoting rules of big boy baseball, not 3rd/4th grade softball.  Nevermind we are only allowed 5 runs max an inning. 

It was then I calmly turned to the opposing head coach and said I am not playing this kind of game.  "C'mon in ladies...  we will take 3 runs and get in the field."  For the rest of our lopsided win our coaching had more to do with why the big man argued and yelled at the umpire.  These girls do not understand the rules that well and only react when things are out of the ordinary.  For instance, when a grown man runs to the mound to verbally assaults a kid making $10 bucks to call balls, balls and more balls (see what I did there...  very few strikes thrown) they are going to remember that. 

At this level we need to be preparing the girls to pitch, field, run and hit.  There will be plenty of time to argue and fight.  Some of these kids probably have more than there share in their home lives.  The baseball diamond, on a prestine Spring evening, must be a place of refuge for these young, impressionable kids.  And now it is my mission to see this guy not be on the field the next time we play him.

League wide conference call this Wednesday.  Wonder what my agenda might be???


Yuck/Caveman Bowery Ballroom 5.7.11

Ever since I saw Caveman open for White Rabbits a few months back I have been smitten.  There afro-beat, percussion centric, bass line giddiness is infectious.  It also plays great live, and in particular at Bowery.  Saturday night was no exception.  In short, they have an organized dissonance that is hard to describe.  I refuse to pound it into your head over and over...  Take a look at these videos from there April show
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKpPwTVAkKI  "Old Friend" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxxOIwPF8qM  "Decide" and judge for yourself.   These were two highlights again from the other night, in addition to "In Time", Cavestomp" and "Brand Nubian." 

They are very much a collective unit, so please take a look  http://www.myspace.com/thiscaveman.  Members are comprised of singer/guitarist Matthew Iwanusa, bassist Jeff Berrall, drummer Stefan Marolachakis, and guitarists Jimmy Carbonetti and Sam Hopkins.  Should they come back to town I urge you to come with...  I will even provide the hallucinogens, I mean I will drive.

There were a few acts sandwiched between Caveman.  The first, Family Portrait, were a decent enough trio that lacked a certain something.  Maybe since all the bands I have seen, gotten into lately, have had such a heavy percussion influence, and they had none, I was biased against them.  Skinny jeans with shirt tucked in did not help either.  I made the point before, and I have no problem making it again, image and rock and roll are tied at the hip.  I felt a bit uncomfortable during their set.  Almost like I was at a "Bandslam" casting call.  The woman who looked like a band members mother drunkingly dancing next to me did not help.  And either did the fact that Wikipedia does not recognize this group.  Snooty and arrogant right?  For $13 a ticket I should not bitch and I do wish them well. 

The headliners, Yuck, were young and fun, and full of similar sounding chords for an hour or so.  I think we made it through 5 songs before we hit the exit doors.  After Caveman left the stage it was tough sledding for these kids.  As I mentioned to Caveman bassist Berrall as he left the stage...  "You are making it more and more difficult for bands to come on after you."

"That's our job" he replied.

Take note George W.  :  Mission Accomplished.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Guilty Pleasures

There are times when living in the Northeast can be magical and inspiring.  On a glorious Spring Friday, with the weekend approaching, grilling, softball, and the celebration of moms everywhere...  crack the windows, raise a glass, and soak it all in.  Should you need some downloads for the MP3 player...  I bring you another edition of Guilty Pleasures.
Music:
There is a certain excitement as summer nears.  Soon, one thing will capture the essence of the season.  Maybe Fergie, Kesha or Lady Gaga will provide us with the "Soundtrack for Summer."  I might be rooting for Bruno Mars or Rhianna. As my daughter grows up, both the hits and non-hits provide tremendous memories.  "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John, reminds me of Hilton Head.  "Billionaire" by B.O.B. is a Ft Lauderdale song.  This year?  Maybe one of these...

When my 8 year old turned me onto alternative/pop LA trio Foster the People I knew she was on to something.  Their catchy "Pumped up Kicks" has been on the alt charts for months now.  The new release "Houdini" might be a bit better.  Think "Scissor Sisters" with more masculinity.  Something about synths and soft voices that brings out the inner 80s in me.  And I will not be ashamed to put the Wang Chung on either.  Maybe the most underrated band of that decade.  For now check these guys out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04TXoFI6CSM  "Houdini"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3DM_KV0x-w&feature=related  "Pumped up Kicks"  lame homemade video (not by me!!)

Vampire Weekend has been around for a few years now, and has seen many successes.  After a while, or hell after one song, I can see many heading for zee hills.  Something about "White Sky" from their latest album, "Contra" stays with me.  Lead singer Ezra Koenig brings his big falsetto.  Island like beats and harmonies add a nice life to one of their better efforts.  Truth be told "Oxford Comma, " "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" and "A-Punk (used brilliantly in the opening credits of the equally brilliant "Step Brothers") are all solid pop gems.  Sure they are geeky, Upper East Side, starched shirt wearing frat boys.  But chances are you either were one, were friends with one, or dated and/or married one.

To wit:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaTgDgCSh-w  "White Sky"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9wHl9qRsMzw  "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sczh_KjjFNU  opening of "Step Brothers"  "A-Punk"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uhi2_oBdXM  Peter Gabriel and Hot Chip cover

Some repetition here, but I urge you to take a look/listen to these previous(ongoing) Guilty Pleasures.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TTPGAy5H_E  Lykke Li "Get Some"  Percussion is hypnotic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdO85Qf4Poc  The Naked and The Famous "Young Blood"  The perfect mix of harmonies, synth, and strings.  I don't care if this band makes another record.  This song is a marvel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLSOzcEQjiE  The Decemberists "This is Why We Fight."  Colin Meloy can flat write songs.  Maybe I am biased with some (read: barely any) English Lit background.  Lyrically the man is gifted, but his supporting cast is polished and driven.  Having seen him live, and going again next month, I know he can deliver.  Their latest album "The King is Dead" has provided many fine moments.  This song stands out.


More redundancy, but since I have not stopped listening in preparation of their Bowery show tomorrow...  give some Yuck a chance.  Somewhere between Sonic Youth, Local H, Dinosaur Sr, and the "My So Called Life" soundtrack, these kids are crafting their sound.  I could totally see Angela Chase and Jordan Catalano under the bleachers listening to them.  These guys are young and clearly not old enough to care.  Jealous much?  Below is an interview clip which shows the band at ease...  and I mean at ease.  Try finding that much jubilance in writing proposals, or spreadsheets, legal briefs, commuting, grocery shopping...  You get the picture.  I am very much living vicariously.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGU60-6A6Xg  "Get Away"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTUqtxNneyA&feature=related  "Holing Out"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PazrqZSMfM&feature=fvwrel  Priceless Yuck interview.  You must take a look if only to see the drummers hair.  It ROCKS!!!


TV:
Since I cannot avoid the coverage, and for good reason, I plan on watching our President with "60 Minutes" Sunday evening.  Love him or hate him Mr. Obama is a compelling interview.  And with both a well timed execution and lack of Republican challenger, we may be seeing him for several more years.  His poise and charisma carried him to the highest office.  As the Country has gotten further and further into lunacy, and his hair whitens rapidly,  his interviews are must watch tv.   "60 Minutes, " and in particular Steve Kroft, handle these conversation better than anyone in the business.  Kroft is tough, fair and full of vigor.  Obama handles him with a remarkable ease and calm.  I wonder how much detail he will provide regarding the Seals operation?  Will Kroft kiss his ass and ask about the Chicago Bulls?  Doesn't matter. I will be tuned in.

Everyone has a movie or two (I may have hundreds) they stop on if it's on cable.  This week there have been a few for me.  And very glad to be sharing with an 8 year old I must say.  Wednesday night we got some edited "Caddyshack."  Perfect really for an 8 year old to be introduced to.  Rodney on the fairway asking "So What?  So Let's Dance??"  About that time my daughter sheepishly says "He has an awful lot in that golf bag."   Puke in convertibles, dancing gophers, Chevy Chase before he was an d-bag, and on and on.  Perhaps the best comedy of a very good decade for comedy.

Last night she had her first non-"Home Alone" John Hughes moment.  "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" might be Hughes' best work.  I always had something for "Some Kind of Wonderful."  Perhaps the fact that movie did not have the commercial success made me partial to it.  And believe me, if I see Mary Stuart Masterson drumming away I am not passing over the channel.  But from a school age set of eyes, which I am looking through many times, "Ferris" is a very special film.  The Wrigley Field scene.  Stock Exchange hand gestures.  "Yes, I'm Abe Froman, Sausage King of Chicago."  Catchphrases and icons that captured my imagination and never left.  Where have you gone Mia Sara??  Jennifer Grey's nose???  Jeffrey Jones reputation?  Charlie Sheen???!!!

Much has changed since 1986 for sure.  But kids want to skip school and act like kids.  Adults regret all they missed out on and try to squash their kids joy.  And each day we try to see some positives through the nonsense.  Optimism.  The exact point Ferris tries to drive home.  When Cameron finally releases the guilt and watches the Ferrari sail to its death things, finally, are going to be ok.  "It's like that car...  He loves the car, he hates his wife."  he tells Ferris early on.  That ain't cool.  Take notice now mom and dad.

And I will take notice now.  To my mother, wife, and all the mother's that read this: please have a great weekend and especially Sunday.  I understand the challenges and tumult that comes with motherhood.  As with everything there are the thankless moments.  Expectations sometimes go unfullfilled.  A mother has the ability to look past that and see the good in their children.   Unconditional love.  Happy Mother's Day.


Post Script: 

For those interested in learning about bands/upcoming NYC shows below is a nice resource.  Jaime Widder writes weekly for Bloomberg.  Below is an article and email/twitter info.  I was glad to see another one on the Caveman bandwagon.  If you email the address you can get on a well researched gig list.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-02/tv-on-the-radio-sextet-tunes-in-warm-up-caveman-catches-fire-may-music.html

jaime.widder@gmail.com  - widder_twidder













 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Semi-Retired

It has been said I have a short attention span.  Probably true.  But there are days I can bring some focus.  Half days at my daughter's school call on such focus. 

Half days for parent/teacher conferences always seem to be a bit of a slight to working parents.  I get that I live in a town where some (read:lots of!!!) have a single source of income.  Many would argue that mine would fall in that category.  Looking at my pay stub would suggest that, but I do happen to work several hours for it.  Sadly, those hours in New York City...  a few days a week.  Fact is I can't afford to work there.

All that being said, can we agree full days and conferences after hours might be ok 4 times a year?  I think the only time my parents came to school in daylight was to retrieve me from in-school suspension or other deviant, troublesome behaviors I might have been into.  Sensing a trend?

So after scrambling to the 8am conference, dropping off wife @ the train, Stop and Shop, post office, bank, Whole Foods, Toy store, Starbucks X 2, 1 hour work at home (lockers don't fit in freight!!  what to do???), pick up 4 girls for playdate, cook them lunch, laundry, work, some web surfing (nothing offensive- I am babysitting!!), prepare homemade Lasagna for dinner, take kids home, take two to tutoring, come home to eat dinner, back to pick up @ train, drop off and back to CVS, set dvr, back to computer... 

I have time to rant...

Can we put the "Will we or won't we see Bin Laden" pictures to bed already?  Clearly the government does not have folks who can work Photoshop.  Gods knows how we celebrated over his death our folks are not gonna scare seeing my boy with a giant bullet hole in his head.  "Man that's good killin..." 

Gives us all time to talk about Secret Forces and orders to "Only shoot for the head."  The more this story stays in the news the greater concern I have.  I picture a scene from "The Godfather" where Pacino's Corleone sees his opponents, gloating at Sonny's death.  How long before one of his henchmen is pulling rifles from flower boxes?

They got it kinda right.  Kill the bastard, real stealth like.  Verify identity, clean scene, get the hell out.  Dump the body in water.

Move the hell on.  I am no different if he is dead or alive.   Would have been far more impressed had we kept that close to the vest.  I understand Obama has a campaign to run.  This will certainly help his re-election bid.  But strikes me as a bit odd we have made an assassination as juicy a story as Kim Karsdashian's a#$. 

And now, like the Birthers last week, we have more conspiracy theorists.  And I am pretty certain these folks go lower than Dante's lowest circle of hell.  When will I hear Donald Trump say something about why Pinetta has not showed the kill shot.  And do you think the seal cocked his gun kill shot style?

In completely unrelated news...   Why does do professional sports insist on playing music during EVERY break in action.  Between face-offs,  when dribbling up-court, when drinking, coaching, everywhere...  And bad, hair band crap or 90's rap.  Seriously?  10 seconds left and you are hearing "The Final Countdown?"  This song sucked in the 80s.  Now, when the tension is at its apex...  I have to picture a teased haired, spandex wearing, lip-synching he-she?  Let the game breath, please.  I might like to hear the crack of the hat.  The thought of hearing combatants talk to one another is a good thing.  How about the organ???  And no t-shirt rockets either.  I do not want to play the Subway race at the already hideous Yankee Stadium.  Milwaukee's sausage race stays.  7th Inning stretch at Wrigley is also acceptable.  Might let the Luva-Bulls get a pass too.

Silence is not such a bad thing. 

After thinking more of Joy Formidable the other night a few things came to mind.  First, they were very impressive.  Second, I am very much hooked.  Later this week I plan to see Yuck/Caveman at Bowery Ballroom.  Poor house be damned!!!

It provides an exciting and vicarious thrill to see very young bands, kids in fact, start seeing success.  In the case of Yuck they have just released their first album.  Caveman, as I have mentioned prior, are still unsigned.  There is no logical reason I cannot see them both succeed.  Perhaps in an effort to surround myself with drive and determination, I am latching on to music and art, to act as inspiration.

Either way, I urge you to embrace this raw and very fresh sound of tomorrow's rock.  For $13 on Saturday you could join the ride.  That's a tray of Sicilian or 2 gallons of gas, or 3 packs of Silly Bands, maybe 2 Triple Quad Espressos, or a gift card for your daughter's friends birthday, or 12 pack of Guinness, or gallon of milk and ora pound of 93% sirloin, or a one way New Jersey transit ticket to NYC...

Long story short, we all piss money away on far less.

Further reading:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGU60-6A6Xg   Yuck "Get Away"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W66yhfMb4d0  Joy Formidable "Cradle"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxxOIwPF8qM  Caveman "Decide"  live from show @ Bowery

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts on Bin Laden

Lost in the euphoria of our brave soldiers executing Osama Bin Laden is one, very powerful image.  The spot where revelers met, the former World Trade Center, is still very much an empty chasm of despair.  Lower Manhattan looks more like the Newport Pavonia section of Jersey City than the economic centerpiece of the World.

Nearly 10 years have passed since 9.11 and yet I felt no safer commuting in today than I did last week.  In fact, if anything I am more concerned.  What could Bin Laden have been scheming for the past decade?  Do his minions have express orders to orchestrate scenes of mayhem once he has been killed? 

In other words, the more things change... 

The catastrophic events a decade ago are still being felt today, with or without Bin Laden's head.  The banking and car industry never recovered.  We all know how the housing sector took an enormous dive in the shallow end of the pool. 

More and more each day soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and ugh, now Libya, are fighting both a fickle and often unknown enemy.   In reality, most of these events can be linked to Bin Laden and his terror.  Will we recover now that he is dead?  I certainly hope so.  But can we really think this transformation will occur quickly?  Dare I say efficiently?  Doubtful.

We have natural disasters swallowing towns like Joey Chestnut consumes hot dogs on the 4th of July.  Our allies, like Japan, have their own significant issues to work out.  Our reliance on foreign oil and goods (thanks China for loading my house with cheaply made toys) has become more and more comical.  Healthcare continues to be unresolved even though I heard Obama care passed both Houses a while ago.  Tell that to my dentist, shrink and private insurer who bilk me any chance they can.  And who am I to argue??  If they pay anything I feel like I have won a battle.

So, you will excuse me if I will not wave my flag and think we have turned the corner.  I love this Country.  I admire the soldiers that fight for our freedoms.  But to cheer and act as if we won something rings a bit hollow.

And when we cheer the death of someone doesn't it look a bit like those terrorists we are trying to stifle???

In all the footage I saw this morning I was waiting for folks burning an effigy and chanting in arabic. 

There comes a time each day when I wonder what my contigency plan is when terrorism hits NYC again.   Today for instance, we were both in town while my daughter attended school.  When I stop thinking about how she will be picked up, cared for, talked to about why mommy and daddy aren't with her...  that is when I might exhale and be assured progress has been made.  

I have appointments on the East Side near the UN tomorrow and maybe some time near ultra left NYU too.  Without question my eyes will still be open, color coded security warning or not. 

There was indeed a mission accomplished.   For the time being I am unsure and unfazed by the practical implications surrounding it.