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Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Evening in Williamsburg... w/ Eels

In a way I am a bit sad.  For various reasons friends either could not make it or were otherwise disinterested.  The fact is, last night in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, The Eels performed an amazing live show. The tragedy is I am still holding an unused ticket.  So sorry for your loss.


Mark Oliver Everett ("E") and his band of Eels were energetic, engaged and otherwise happy to be there.  This tour (called Tremendous Dynamite 2011) saw E bring a full band on stage.  Tiny Al on Bass and multi-instrumentalist "The Chet" were in their familiar places.  The real treat was having "The Snatch Brothers" horn section along for the ride.  Switching up between flutes, and trumpets, and saxophones, and any other brass instrument that comes to mind, the 2 man section brought added depth to an already DEEP performance.


23 songs or so and each one re-imagined, reworked and revved up.  There was a ska like feel to "Flyswatter."  "Prizefighter" had a blues based feel that pumped life into the building.  "My Beloved Monster" had some Tower of Power meets Huey Lewis sound.  The haunting and beautiful "I'm Going to Stop Pretending That I Didn't Break Your Heart" was a rare slow piece that had the audience wanting more.  "El Hombre Loco" and the 2nd encore "Fresh Blood" were macabre tales of the night that saw  "E" shrieking and howling away both on vocal and guitar.


He veered off and covered, brilliantly, the Sly and The Family Stone classic "Hot Fun in the Summer Time."  Indeed.  Each musician playing off one another with vocal giddiness.  This was a band clearly having big fun and the audience could not get enough.


And when he dusted off his first hit, "Novocaine for the Soul," it was clear "E" was intent on going out with a flourish.  I have seen him on every tour for 15 years or so and this is a song that rarely makes the playlist.  I was beyond glad it made it last night.


This was "E" in an optimistic mood.  This was "E" smiling and having an absolute ball on stage.  He shouted positive one word exclamations after the first few songs and I actually believed him.  "Beautiful."  "Great."  Amazing."


You bet it was.  And when the time came to wrap things up his optimism continued.  The final tracks (including encores) read like the chapters of a self help book.


"Beginners Luck"
"Losing Streak" which if you know it tells the story of how things are finally picking up...  "My losing streak is done."
"PS You Rock My World" A soft little ballad with the lyrics:


I was at a funeral the day i realized
I wanted to spend my life with you
Sitting down on the steps at the old post office
The flag was flying at half mast
And i was thinking 'bout how
Everyone is dying
And maybe it is time to live


Finally, he put down the guitar and played preacher.  With his fine, fine band roaring behind him he closed with "Looking Up."  And as the place lit up like a Baptist Church "E" wailed and looked to the heavens.  "Yeah It's Looking Up, I'm looking up... "  Gospel meets rock and roll.  Blues meets jazz.  Alt meets Country.  And all the spectrums of music in between.

Eels has never made the mainstream and, as "E" closes in on 50, they probably never will.   For the life of me I cannot figure out why.   And this isn't to say "E" is infallible.  I was not a big fan of the show he performed last year at Terminal 5.  It was not the right crowd, venue and "E" seemed rushed/disinterested.

There was a discussion last night about whether another band is out there, right now, that will be able to do what U2 is doing this summer.  Other than them and Bruce, and The Stones/Bon Jovi I think we are getting to a point where "Stadium" bands are becoming dinosaurs.

As arenas and smaller venues become more the norm I urge each and everyone of you to get out of your comfort zone once in a while.    Certainly add Music Hall of Williamsburg (http://www.musichallofwilliamsburg.com/  and http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/30/arts/30music.html)  to your venues list too.  Bowery Ballroom presents redesigned this building a few years ago and with a capacity of 550 it is a real treat for someone like me.  There are ample bars and lounges both upstairs and in the basement (Guinness in cans too!!!)  Most importantly the sound is incredible.  

Williamsburg itself is a bit of a revelation.  Having spent little, if any (I think I drove through it once) I did not know what to expect.  We arrived around 7pm and found FREE street parking.  The neighborhoods are full of chic boutiques, larger commercial retailers, and plenty of bars and restaurants.  It is a lively and fun spot I am already itching to get back too.  We were fortunate enough to find Juliette (http://www.juliettewilliamsburg.com/) for our pregame activities.  It caught my eye because I noticed a roof top bar.  What I did not realize was this was a first rate eatery as well.  Friends enjoyed octopus, beet salads and blt's.  I was most satisfied with a pulled pork sandwich and pommes frites.  Paris in Brooklyn with a twist.  They were pouring Juliette Lager from the tap.  No idea whether it was their own creation or that of another brewer, but it was a smooth and satisfying drink to say the least.   Service was not outstanding, but what would you expect from struggling artists and actors???

It is a rather exciting time for the Brooklyn music and art scene.  More bands are opting to play in the Borough and I am finding it most enjoyable crossing the East River to find them.  In less than two weeks I head back to Prospect Park to see Foster the People and Cut Copy.  Again, I am having trouble getting rid of a ticket.

Am I that big a tool or are folks just content listening to the same old bath soap the "Man" is stuffing down their collective throats?  

I wish I didn't care as much.  Or, I wish I cared about other things as much.  Either way I know, 12 hours removed from Eels, I am still very much on an adrenaline rush.  Don't think I am getting that with Maroon 5.






Addendum:


OK, I like Adam Levine and realize he is talented.  The Maroon 5 dig was probably too harsh.  I think it is the intimate club venues that provide such joy these days.  The emotional response and visceral experience from seeing someone in such a small setting CANNOT be discounted.


Also, I have to admit that my years of driving limousines in and around NYC have paid off in my later years.  I am told folks are scared to drive in and around the City.  I love it.  Not embarrassed to admit some of the highlights of last night included the 45 minute drive home from Brooklyn.  I did it in such great time I had time to hit my local for a nightcap and have a late night diner breakfast with wife and friend.  


We joked that I should buy a bus and do Suburban Man concert/reality tours.  Anyone interested??

Friday, July 29, 2011

Download "E"els

In many ways Mark Oliver Everett, better known as E, has provided the soundtrack for my post college life.  I would say adulthood, but let's be honest, I am the definition of a man child.

One of my first acts of adulthood was purchasing DirecTV in 1996.  It was mostly to watch my Houston Astros (then a winning team, not the embarrassment they are today.)  The added benefit was the music station MTV2.  Much like MTVU today the network only broadcast music videos.  Living in Northeastern Pennsylvania and prior to Pandora and Ipods I did not have access to "newer" music.  This is very much country rock nation.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Zeppelin and Stones etc...  But I have always known there was something else out there.

Without a child and very much footloose and fancy free I could easily crash on the couch after work, catch a good buzz and watch videos.  Mr Everett was an artist I could not ignore.  In 1996 he released Beautiful Freak.  He found a bit of success with the single "Novacaine for the Soul" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTnowC8C9UA.  College stations liked it and the video, directed by Mark Romanek, was a success.  I was late to that show.

But for E's follow up album, Electro Shock Blues, I was on board the entire time.  The story goes that E, a native Virginian, had his sister kill herself and mother die of cancer in a relatively short amount of time.  E's back and forth commutes from LA to home culminated in this masterpiece of songwriting and musicianship.  Make no mistake, this is a deeply emotional record.  It is also a true feeling of hope.

To wit, "Last Stop, This Town" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H8hyCWH1Ww0  Optimism through even the toughest situations.  "Cancer for The Cure" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kDzEcCF5cI found its way on the American Beauty Soundtrack.  And it was around this time I first saw Eels live.  It was live, hearing him perform "Not Ready Yet" from Beautiful Freak, I became a lifelong devotee.  This is a particularly good version:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=362egby9cu0.  However I have heard this arranged or performed differently at least a half dozen times.  Mr E has performed with standard 4 or 5 piece band.   He has had an acoustic tour and string session (immortalized here:  http://www.eelstheband.com/eels_townhall.php  and streaming on Netflix!!!.)  I was able to see the NYC Town Hall show and it stands out as one of my better concert experiences.  Take a look at some highlights:  "Trouble With Dreams" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gNufJ267ek.  "Bus Stop Boxer" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVTI1IozwtA  The clips of E walking through Manhattan and in the subway provide a glimpse into E's uneasiness with the World and general distrust of humanity.  I dig it.

(Some quick side notes...  as my daughter entered the World she was often rocked to sleep listening or being serenaded by Eels tunes.  And her first real concert was a free show at the World Financial Center.  Eels was part of the River to River fest and I remember her sneaking up front with her mother to catch a closer look at the stage and band.  A little boy wearing a Brazil soccer shirt caught her eye and they had a little concert moment in the big city...  at age 4.  So that ties back into the soundtrack to my "adulthood."  Tomorrow may be the final time I see E in my 30s.  Weird looking back and looking at a ticket stub from my early 20s.  As my wife is quick to say she always looks forward to Eels shows because she is the hottest one there.  Geeks unite!!!  And keep your hands off her tomorrow please.)

In addition to his grief prior to Electro Shock his realtionship with his father provided a lifetime of angst. Hugh Everett was a noted American physicist and the author of "The Theory of Parallel Universes."  Many argue his theories and ideas were ahead of their time.  His work at Princeton was largely brushed aside or otherwise ignored.  After years of neglect the Academic World has given Hugh Everett his due credit.  But this has done nothing to overcome the distance he and his son had.  As E details in the BBC documentary "Parallel Lives" his most intimate moment with his father was when he found him dead in his bedroom.  You can watch the documentary on Youtube in 4 parts.  It explains much of how E goes through the writing process and how he got there.  Take a look if time allows I promise you will find it interesting.  He played it as his opening act a few years ago at the Highline.  My friends will tell you that was better than the ventriloquist he had with him last year.  He is eccentric for sure, but I have never seen an opening act outperform him.  As I have stated before, that is smart.  Probably why I will not be killing myself to get there when the doors open in Williamsburg tomorrow.  Documentary can be found here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAhy_7-ndkA&feature=fvsr.

E has been steadily pounding out albums and receiving critical acclaim for years.  He has been featured on all the Shrek soundtracks and numerous other films.  He can easily be called a success.

But I am still very much in the minority.  And when I post a picture on Facebook tomorrow you better believe I am gonna get a whole bunch of "Who the hell are the Eels?" comments.

I can't even get rid of an extra ticket or two for the show.

For the life of me I cannot imagine why?  9 albums in and showing no signs of age Mr Everett and his band of Eels are a musical delight.  In the age of Autotune and dance hits it is good to know E still exists.

Plenty of time to get on the bandwagon people.  Unless of course you had the Cops/America's Most Wanted weekend ahead of you.

Further Viewing:

From Album 3:  Daisies of the Galaxy  "Mr E's Beautiful Blues."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZFLmhFn0mg  You might recognize it from the Tom Green vehicle "Road Trip"

Album 4:  Souljacker  "Dog Faced Boy" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Oh5qgBAq5I  Added Carmen Electra bonus footage.    Also from that album check out "Fresh Feeling" taped with Jools Holland http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4KtFxB1gxC4&feature=related.

Album 5:  Shootenanny  "Saturday Morning"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8fj3rQ9vdc&ob=av2e  Fun pop stuff here.

Album 6: The double album Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is a masterpiece.  I could easily link the entire playlist, but for time and space sake take a look at "Going Fetal" mainly because of its irony, wit and charm.  This homemade video by goofy kids is worth a look alone: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7l7u-8zMQw&playnext=1&list=PL3B710B9D5FB8F88B.

E released albums in 2008, 2009 and 2010 as part of a "Concept Triology."

Hombre Loco has two gems:  "Prizefighter" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3sdPM5mfJ4 and "Fresh Blood" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4Qp1TEKswQ&ob=av3e.

End Times was divorce heavy and an overall downer.  Right up my alley.  "End Times" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6_2E0MF2bY.

I suspect I will hear some material from his latest album "Tomorrow Morning" 24 hours from now.  As the weekend approaches and I am reminded of one of the better cuts from that record.  Indeed, "This is Where it Gets Good" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z22p9dYz-O4.

Happy Weekend all...

Look for my fanpage of Facebook and become a fan http://www.facebook.com/pages/Guide-to-Somewhere/138984679520649

Follow me on Twitter at Suburbandad23 and spread/repost all you can.  Thanks!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Master Plan Phase 1

Borrowing a line from Fantastic Mr Fox.  For today, after 7 months in, I have made it in print.  The local newspaper: newjerseyhills.com, has begun running a monthly music column by yours truly.  Nevermind there is no money involved.  The fact that I put the pen down for 15 years and came back to it with some success is the moral of the story, right?  I will post the link when it becomes available.  I know you can't wait.

This prompted me to start a Facebook fan page.  Please go to Guide to Somewhere and become a fan.  Also, I can be followed at Suburbandad23 on Twitter.  The more folks connect the less likely I am to curl up in a fetal position.  Although that can never really be ruled out.

I have not forgotten the letter E, which I will write about tomorrow.  I am planning to devote this weeks music article on Mark Everett and his band, Eels.  I will be in Williamsburg (Brooklyn!!) on Saturday to see him.  He is without question one of my favorites and deserves an entire column.

For now I am off to watch Championship Under 10 Softball.  I am very proud of my daughter and all her teammates for fighting off early adversity and making it to the final game.  She is already dressed and eye blacked for her game in 3 hours.  The excitement she has displayed the past few days is contagious.  This after hearing earlier she is fighting an ear infection.

No worries, she would not miss it for anything.

Thanks for all the support and I will catch up with you soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On Debt Ceilings and other (far less important) things...

Let me first state that I am neither a fan of our current President (or the one prior) or our current House Speaker.  In fact, I cannot think of one US Politician I support.  I find them all to be loathsome, egomaniacal  and probably corrupt.
Now it seems they want to make waves holding up a resolution on raising the debt ceiling.  Admittedly I am more than a bit naive/uninformed regarding this situation.  I did however find this resource to be helpful: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/06/whats-happening-debt-ceiling-explained.   The moral of the story is the US is in NO position to default on loans.  Compromise must be reached and fast or I cannot imagine what will happen next.  Doomsday I presume.

Mr Boehner and President Obama need not hold press conferences or point fingers.  I cannot be bothered with motivations bolstered by poll numbers and approval ratings.  We get it, the Republicans have shaky candidates (at best ) for 2012 and Mr Obama has NOT lived up to the hype.  Please put all these ideological differences aside, quit the posturing, and iron something out.

Haven't the American people suffered enough?  We miss this boat I am fairly certain our days as an "Economic Superpower" are over, if not already.

Odds and Ends:

I have mixed feelings about the NFL reaching a labor agreement earlier this week.  And no it is not because my Seahawks will again be a nightmare to watch (Tarvaris Jackson rather than Matt Hasselbeck??!!)  I was very curious to see how America would handle Sundays without football.  Would the NHL make inroads?  Would an alternative league form a la the USFL? 

I will pay attention and root like hell against the Jets and Giants.  But a part of me could have done without it for a year.  Sometimes some time off can be a good thing.  Of course I am a baseball fan who sees that sports National interest drop with each passing year.  Count me as part of that growing population should the Phillies meet the Yankees in October again.  And if the Red Sox make it???  Fugitaboutit.

On the other hand I am beyond prepared for the NBA to stay away.  Looks like it will too.  I did find it comical that some folks at a local pub were saying Kobe Bryant and Deron Williams were "Un-American" if they wetn oversees to play during a lock-out.  Um, so an athlete should just sit and wait things out in a falling/failing economy rather than go make a living?  I would argue it is un-American to do that!!  Athletes are good for 5 to 10 years in their profession.  If he or she has an opportunity to make money (anywhere) during that short career span they MUST take it.

Is Jerry Buss (Lakers owner) going to stop making money during a lock-out?  So why shouldn't Bryant and others?  The system needs an overhaul.  If that means less games or foreign teams so be it.  It is not like folks are breaking down the doors to see a January Bucks versus Jazz game.

Quick Observations:

Why does Cialis insist on 2 tubs as their logo/product concept?  If this drug is so effective wouldn't one tub suffice?  Or better yet a shower with a bench or hand rails? 

And if the tubs are on the side of the mountain kindly explain the plumbing situation.  I cannot imagine he and she lug buckets of water up the mountain side to fill these bad boys.  I know with all that labor I would be in the mood for beers, couch and a sit-com.  OK, if it last 4 hours I might get persuaded.

Does anyone logically think Marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol?  If you answer yes please tell me why.

If we legalize and tax accordingly, like say cigarettes and alcohol, how much would that help our decaying government?  I know between me and some friends we could probably have our towns roads paved once a year (hyperbole of course...kinda.)

I happened to see an episode of "Everybody Hates Chris" last week.  My daughter is a big fan.  The episode centered around Chris' character carrying around an egg (as baby) for a school assignment.  Naturally the egg disappeared/hijinx unsued/happy resolution(kinda) followed.  How many shows have used this premise?  And has anyone ever been assigned this in school?  Known someone who has??  Further illustration that Hollywood lacks originality and will look more to cheat than create.  Think about that when you head to the movies this summer...  Smurfs, Captain America, Transformers, Fright Night, etc...

I am a little embarrassed to mention I kept Teen Nick on after my daughter fell asleep and watched a half hour of an Avril Lavigne concert.  Worse that I watched or that I enjoyed it?  Right, that I admitted it!!!

Finally, I was hoping to start a new feature touting a band or show, or movie I deem underrated.  I would also urge any and all readers to give me their feedback.  I will start.

Wang Chung:

There was a time in the early 80s that you could not escape them.  5 top 5 hits in a 5 year span.  "Dance Hall Days" is still one of my favorites and I will excuse them for "Everybody Have Fun Tonight."  It was the 80s after all.  They cannot all be winners and they made more money on that song  than any other.  Far be it for me to begrudge them on their greatest success. 

What I remember is "Fire in the Twilight" from The Breakfast Club and the brilliant soundtrack to another underrated gem To Live and Die in LA."  Read the history here should you care: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Chung_(band)  More importantly, check out these great tunes.

"Wait" http://vimeo.com/6094789  Thanks Todd!!!

Feel free to help a brotha out and repost to any and all social medias linked/listed below.  As always appreciate you reading.  Much love.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Suburban goes Rural

Back to the computer after several days away in remote Pennsylvania.  Indeed this was a welcome change from the ordinary, the routine.

I was isolated with family away from the trappings of the modern world.

And that ain't easy for me.  In fact, I doubt I have ever "roughed" it this much.  Mainly that speaks to how soft I am.  There were showers and a full kitchen so it was far from rough.  I admit I could have used some air conditioning.  Saturday night temperatures hovered around 85 to 90 (inside the house.)  That made for a difficult sleep, but not awful.  

The lake our "Chalet" was situated on was small, but very nice.  The water temperature was perfect and the kids loved it.  Most of us got some fishing in too.  Truly a special moment seeing my daughter out of her comfort zone and NOT going crazy about it.

No  TV.  No video games.  Not much of anything.  Downtime for downtime sake.   And as I sit here I recall maybe one meltdown.  We got one already in the brief time back in the dirty Jerz. 

About 12 hours in I even got used to having no cell phone reception.  I turned the damn thing off and rolled with it.  I was certain the spider living in skin or dad dropping kid to catch foul ball clips would be there when I returned to the WEB.  Wouldn't you know I was right??  

Other than a most pleasant time playing cards, drinking beers and otherwise lounging around one thing really struck me about my time in Bradford, Wyoming and Susquehanna County:  Natural Gas pipelining has taken over that part of the Country.   Never in my life had I seen such an assortment of large trucks and equipment on the tiniest, narrowest roads.  Farmers and laborers have given their land to commerce and I am unsure how it will all play out.  There have been documentaries and studies suggesting this new "Gold Rush" has some issues (namely: http://www.gaslandthemovie.com/)   My initial thought is what was once pristine land with quiet hillsides and wholesome goodness is under a radical transformation.  At our lake compound we met families from Arkansas, Florida and Texas.  Each had his own story about how he ended up there...  but they were all in the pipe-lining business.  Note, do not say "fracking" to one of these folks.  I was corrected when I asked if "You here fracking like the rest of them?"  Probably sounds like calling Casey Anthony a good parent to these hard working kids.  "Fracking" is not what they do.  Creating clean and efficient energy solutions is more appropriate.  Yeah, I am not sold either.  But I am never one to argue with tattoo wearing, beer drinking Southerners.  They work with their hands too...  I would not stand a chance.

I hope those in charge are monitoring like they should be.  But like anything I am skeptical.  Something tells me more tragedy and unrest is around the corner.  And if you take a look at this: http://www.eia.gov/pub/oil_gas/natural_gas/analysis_publications/ngpipeline/ngpipeline_maps.html
I think it is clear more areas' fates are to be determined.

Through the silence and pipeline reflections a few World events managed to alarm me.

First, a moment on the Norwegian shootings.  Wow.  This is a horrifying story I will not pretend to understand.  And I lack the wisdom or clarity to explain or justify it.  So do you.  So does everyone.  Essentially, hatred lurks in every corner of this Planet.  If a man or woman is determined to terrorize NOTHING, not man or machine, will be able to stop him or her.

Here is someone scared his Country is being overrun by Muslims he decides to kill his own Countries children.  Unreal.  Sad too that I thought for a moment that this is somehow good for the US.  We are the Country often associated with these types of lone gunman/massacres.  Madness and depravity are everywhere.  Makes the debt ceiling talk a bit more trivial though, at least for a minute.

Finally, a moment to reflect on the tortured life of Amy Winehouse.  This is another sad, sad story from Europe over the weekend.

27 years of age.  What were you doing at 27?  Starting a career?  A family?  Trying to establish what you might be doing the rest of your life?

Ms Winehouse had burst onto the music scene, captured the hearts and minds of countless followers, and promptly left this Earth.  She was never able to keep it together.  Like many, many before her we wonder what if?  What if she stayed clean?  What if she had the support she needed?  What if she made countless more records?  

I will never understand the tortured artist for several reasons.  Mainly, I am not an artist.  I do not have the genius Winehouse or Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Elliot Smith, et al had.  And I am afraid it is that genius that makes this all the more confounding.  

We ask ourselves why?  But we will never know the torment Winehouse felt?  Did she even want this success?  Was she "happy" singing or on stage?  If so, did she want countless photographers camped outside her flat every day?  There was a death watch the moment "Rehab" blared on all of our radios a few years back.

We got our story now.  And for what?  Right, silence.


Reflections:


Amy Winehouse:  "You Know Im No Good" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-I2s5zRbHg&ob=av3n


Friday, July 22, 2011

Links...

Does anyone else have issues playing the youtube links I provide?  It seems iPad(s) will not play them?

Advise and thanks.

J. Edward Suburban Man
IT Director

Download This "E" (lazy addition)

Furiously trying to pack the car for a trip to the Poconos this weekend.

Download This "E" edition is a hastily thrown together mash up.  You get the drift.  Good news is you get a respite from my endless ramblings.  Unless I get a signal on the Ipad in which case look out.

In any event enjoy the weekend and stay cool.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xRVm-JX5Rk  Editors: "Munich" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xRVm-JX5Rk

Editors "Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59Z9DIH_FAA&ob=av3n

Eels:  "Prizefighter"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3sdPM5mfJ4

Eels:  "Fresh Blood" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K4Qp1TEKswQ&feature=relmfu

Edward Sharpe:  "Home" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHEOF_rcND8&ob=av2n

Elliot Smith:  "LA" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-QdY2BJ0Xo

Elliot Smith "Waltz # 2" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBxYfLqKyew&feature=related

Emmylou Harris:  "Wrecking Ball" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9N5MGRPV0I

Emmylou Harris w/ the Band from Scorsese's "The Last Waltz"  OUTSTANDING!!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76uuKFFArEM

English Beat: "I Confess" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnAQRodZNp0 

Eazy E:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7P6lIYgAZtg  You can take the boy out of Jersey...







Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day blows up

A few things to remember.

1) Never drop your child off at camp or school looking like you are NOT going to work.  It has burned me in the past and am burned again this afternoon.  Granted, my daughter is not feeling 100 %.  But when she woke up groggy and complaining of a sore throat I should have immediately thrown on a suite, shaved and cut my hair.

The shorts and flip flops were never gonna fly.

So, after the pep talk about sucking it up, camp is over in 2 days and you have 6 weeks off, we put out big money for these five days, you have no fever, your friend will miss you,  etc...  it should have come as no surprise when she asked "Are you going to the City today daddy?"

"Um, no.  Gotta do some running around in NJ today" I clumsily replied.

Sure enough at noon her counselor called informing me she is too ill.  A hot shower and some tylenol she is all better.  "Is camp still going on?  I could go back now."

I know the deal.  She realizes she has a game tonight and she wants desperately to go to Dick's to get some ridiculous fan/mister cup.  "All the kids at camp have one and we get to use them tomorrow."  I have to get it or I run the risk of her bailing on camp tomorrow.

I love the battle of minds I have to go through with a 9 year old.  And how poorly I compete!!!  I think about counter-proposals and have some math tutoring worksheets and online school assignments in my back pocket.

"So, we go to Dick's and you spend YOUR money on cheap ass, piece of junk cup and I get you to do (2) worksheets and a Study Island?"

2) I could be working...  oh I am.  Writing this while on a long hold with UPS.  Turns out I had two packages going to an end-user today and I/we/whomever failed to put a Suite # on the ship to.

Look the F out!!

UPS had two packages with a client name and number on them inside their intended delivery address at 9:30am.  It is not 2:20 and no one is sure where they are right now.

A few phone calls (one by me and one by the shipper) have gotten us no where.  I was unable to re-direct it and the shipper (whom I was told HAS to do it) was informed my client can pick it up tomorrow at the UPS on W Houston ST from noon to 9pm.  Yeah, I want to tell my end user to lug a 40 pound box uptown 3 blocks.

These little nuisances are what drive me crazy.  OK, the UPS driver does not have a cell phone.  That is what the dispatcher tells me.  They can reach their office, no?  Can he make a quick call explaining the dilemma..  Can you please call the name and ask what floor is on?

2 seconds later they would be on the freight elevator business as usual.

Now I pay more.  Time is wasted.  And customers are further dissatisfied.  For the life of me I cannot figure out how this laziness benefits anyone.  Except for perhaps China any other global power you can think of?  When will we start producing something everyone has to have??  Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg should get together and see what happens.

Probably woke up a bit angry which did not help.  I saw the shuttle land and all the pomp and reverence that accompanied it.  I know I am in the minority on this but I say good riddance.  We can get into all the accomplishments made with NASA, and there are plenty.

All along I cannot help thinking of all the monies wasted exploring other planets when the one we live on is an enormous mess.  Not to mention the first things that come to my mind when thinking of NASA are the horrible tragedies shown in real time.

With all the rhetoric regarding debt ceilings and budget fallouts I take a much harder look at NASA and other agencies that bleed our Country dry.

Let Richard Branson handle the space exploration thing.  He is part alien anyway.  And these days he has to be more liquid than the US as a whole.  I am just not interested.  There are so many fascinating and unexplored treasures on this planet.  Who needs to know if there is water on Mars?  Do we really think at this rate we will have enough man/brain power to occupy other Worlds???  We cannot control the planet we are on!!!

Let's all take a moment to think the good, good people.

I read Leo DiCaprio dumped Blake Lively today.

Wow.  I don't know how he does it.  This is the kid from Growing Pains for God's sake!!  Just when I thought George Clooney was the biggest bad-ass...

With all the jokers I see throwing their hat in the Presidential Run my support is going his way.  Movie star with the brass to do whatever and whoever he wants.  You gotta admit it would be pretty darn entertaining.

and for the record you guessed it...  I am off to Dick's.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gaga meets Stern (and other pop culture notes)

No secret I drive into Manhattan mainly due to my contempt for New Jersey Transit and the humans that use it.  The other big perk is Howard Stern on the radio.

Say what you will about Mr Stern, and many do, there isn't a better radio program on during morning drive.  He can be foul and offensive.  He can be a bully and inconsiderate.  He can be stubborn and egotistical.  But put an "A" list celebrity in front of him and NOBODY does it better.

Yesterday, Lady Gaga sat down with the King of All Media and the results were amazing.  And I have said, no less than a week ago (http://madison.patch.com/blog_posts/what-are-you-listening-to) that I am not really a fan of Ms Gaga.  What I must admire is her candor, confidence and talent.  They were all on display during the hour plus interview.  She talked frankly of drug usage and her "fame."  She showed a compassion and understanding for her fans and her moment in time.  Then she sat at the piano and sang 2 powerful songs on a borrowed Steinway piano.

Please take a look at these excerpts and decide for yourself:
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_GMgkcc2KM  "Edge of Glory"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWtcRL03FVo  "Hair"

Once you are there you could search for some interview clips too.   If you stick around to check them out I think you will be surprised at her candor and good humor.  In an age when Paris Hilton is a star (what did she do again??  oh, right, she had a "talent") it is a breath of joy to hear a megastar have fun and destroy a 2 song set list.  She good have easily phoned the morning in, play coy and not touch the piano. I have seen others do this with Stern for years.

They moan about how early it is.  They cry that their voices aren't in shape.  I may not be running to download Gaga's album.  But she won me over nonetheless.  Now if Daniel Lanois can produce her next record we might be on to something.

I had the misfortune of watching the HBO documentary Mann vs Ford (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1498566/ )last night too.  This is the type of film that has Tea Party and Republican folks fuming.  It is made by leftist do gooders (Robert Redford's brother is involved.)

The story:  Ford Motors systematically dumped toxins into the Ramapo, NJ woods and reservoir.  The Ramapo indians (native to that area) have become ill at a staggering rate.  Wayne Mann takes up the cause for his people and starts a lawsuit against the auto giant.

You get the drift from there.  In fact, we have heard this story countless times over.  Giant corporation cuts costs and ignores laws and public decency.  Profits are made at the expense of others (read: poor and uneducated.)  Years go by and the repercussions are finally felt.  Corporation settles out of court setting the wheels in motion once again.

The EPA (or any other Federal agency) looks the other way and/or takes some hand out.  In the end nothing changes.

There are still paint deposits and dioxins contaminating land and water just 30 miles North of me.  I have a feeling this story is playing out in dozens of communities nationwide.  Think Akron has good air quaility these days?  Detroit?  How is the gulf coast these days since Katrina and the oil spill?

Say what you will about global warming...  we cannot be making our environment any better here, can we?

They say "Denial ain't just a river in Egypt."  You can be sure if it was in the US we would be polluting the hell out of it.

Finally, can we put an end to the Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake/Marine's Ball story?  These adorable little movie stars are getting a lot of play accepting invites from Corps members to their big fall formal.

It is sweet and I admire and respect any and all service men so here, here!  But if these two stars were not promoting a film (Friends with Benefits http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1632708/ )this story would not exist.  If this movie tanks you best believe the next time you here this story is when they release it on DVD the same week as the Ball.

Cry Me a River.


Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend in Review

The impromptu kid-less Saturday was quite interesting.  Instead of a day at the pool with hundreds of others we stayed pretty much in bed or couch watching movies.  Felt a bit like college after a particularly drunken Friday.  It has been about 10 years since one of these Saturdays.  We managed to get out of the house for about 2 hours, to see a movie.  Our horror to come out of the darkened theatre and find violent daylight.  There was a moment I expected to turn into dust when I glanced too directly into it.

I wrote about the brilliant "Beginners" that night.  I urge you to seek it out.  This is one of the smartest and emotionally rewarding movie I have seen in a while.

Whereas Saturday was a day or recovery and remorse, Sunday was cathartic.  And would you believe it starts in Northern Ireland?  Again!!!  Just as we finished etching Rory McIlory's name in the record books another Irishmen gets his.  Darren Clarke capped off a strong weekend fighting off a Mickelson charge and winning The Open in Sandwich.  Love writing that sentence...  now I am in the mood for an open faced turkey sandwich.

Clarke is beyond worthy and a good champion.  I remember him falling short a few years back at this, or some other event.  His Ryder Cup appearances are always special too.  In those failed efforts I learned about the man.  How, just a few years ago, he lost his wife to breast cancer at age 39.  Just 6 weeks after her death he was representing Europe against the US.  His wife had urged him to play whether she was alive or dead.  He fought back tears and battled gracefully.  His calm demeanor and mental strength contributed mightily over the weekend.  This is a feel good story and I intend to raise several Guinness to celebrate.

In a way, I can say the same thing about the Japanese Women's soccer team.  The simple and poignant statement they made before each game comes to mind.  http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2011/07/japan-womens-soccer-team-thanks-the-world/  "To Our Fans Around the World.  We Thank You For Your Support."  That was the banner the team brought out and showed the crowd (and millions watching) before systematically breaking down its opponents and shocking the World.

Say what you will about penalty kicks deciding the champion.  I hate it and wish it would go away.  But let's be honest:  Japan deserved to win yesterday.  They did not have the best keeper.  They, like many, had no answer for Wambach's head.  They fell behind twice (LATE both times) and tied it!!!  They were not as skilled and it did NOT matter.  Stick around long enough...  let the other team get too confident...  STRIKE!!

I was a little shocked to see a defensive meltdown in front of the US goal.  I was not, however, shocked to see the ball in the back of the net once mistake was made.

And when Wambach put a header in extra time I was not convinced that was it either.  Japan went and US'd us.  After all, who thought we were beating Brazil last week?

You play the entire game.  You do it with grace and style.  You do it with humility and sportsmanship.

We did that.  Japan did it a bit better.

And with its Country facing enormous challenges in the years/decades ahead I say hear!hear!  If this is there Miracle on Ice 1980 Lake Placid moment how I can be down on it?

I implored our soccer team to wear their Godzilla uniforms.

Finally, the most redemption of all occurred on the diamond last night.  No, I am not referring to my beloved Astros.  I fear they may lose 110 games.

The adult wiffle ball league held its first game of the season.  4 on 4 automatics with adult beverages.  Pitchers coming from all angles and speeds.  Batters bringing their own taped bats, each with its own story.

"This one's been in the garage for about 30 years."  Could have fooled me.  I mean, when was the last time you swung one and it broke in half while you held the barrel in your hand.  I think it was the first wiffle ball bat ever made.

The bring your own cooler idea was a good one.  Mexico, the US and Belgium all represented in this clearly international event.  Home runs were hit.  Strikeouts too.  And the trash talking took center stage.

Every town should do it.  2 hours a week to act like a complete juvenile.  I am thinking full leagues with obnoxious t shirts displaying their prentious d-bag names.  "The Plastics"  "Balls Out"  "Take a Whiff of This!"

Can I convince someone to build a park?

You get my point.  I refer to the movie "The Idiots" again.  The overall notion is interesting.  Take a look and let me know what you think.

And should the mood strike take a listen/look at this too...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKWjFa_36L8  Replacements "Here Comes the Regular"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVrAJ5eh3gU  Tragically Hip "Grace Too"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6uzeX6tkjUg  Ryan Adams "Magick"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBPYf7-EIMQ  Gomez "Options"  Could not see them the other night due to a cancellation.  Singer has laryngitis :-(

Eels 7.28 is next show.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DoahQUxyVyw  To wet your beak..







Saturday, July 16, 2011

Advanced Beginners

It is not that I have a problem with multiplex theaters or the giant summer blockbusters that inhabit them.  There is nothing wrong with film taking you to a far away, make believe land.  The fact my daughter was swept away with friends earlier today in the land of Hogwarts and boy (men) Wizards captures the true spirit of summer film.  I am reminded of my experiences seeing Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark.  These are good days.

Turns out they can work in her parents benefit too.  Although it has been odd not seeing her all day, it provided the opportunity to visit our local art film house.  Strip away the oversized transforming robots, hungover buddies, and talking animals for a moment.  Today's topic:  high drama.

Beginners, Mike Mills' (the director not REM band member) second full length film is a brilliant examination of life, love and the struggle to balance everything out.  Ewan McGregor (maybe the most underrated actor working today) plays Oliver.  Sorrow and missed opportunity have surrounded his life of late.  His mother passed away.  Soon after his father (Christopher Plummer) informs him he is gay.

"And I don't want to just come out.  I want to be a gay man.  I want to live the life I should" he asserts to his uneasy son.

The fact that he is in his mid-70's will not deter him from choosing to live truthfully.  Mills takes us back to the early 50's when Plummer's Hal comes out of the war very much aware he is a gay man.  What was a man supposed to do then?

Like many others then (and now for that matter) he suppressed every urge he had to live as intended.  It is as if the "50s handbook to masculinity" destroyed every paradigm it was supposed to cherish.  If your goal is to repress and stifle one's self in an effort to keep up appearances what then of the consequences?

Men from that era never confronted their emotions and have consequently sent these repressed traits down to our fathers.  We, in turn, do the same.

This is the problem for Oliver.  Flashbacks to his odd, and terribly unhealthy relationship with his mother indicate a boy very much aware of his parents unhappiness.  They were living a lie.  They were incapable of finding joy.  They were lost.

As Oliver tries to reconcile this disturbing past and his own trouble with women, his finally liberated father is diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Joy.

Mills paints with a broad stroke and keeps this story difficult to look away from.  With each defeat a victory surely awaits.  Oliver finds a woman (a beautiful Melaine Laurent), herself troubled.  She is both alluring and dangerous.  She is mystery and stability.   The unknown.

What is it that keeps them together?  What is it that tells them to leave?  Once things are so good does that mean it must end?

The fight to reconcile expectations from reality is a real one.  It was happening in the 50s.  It was happening well before then.  And it is very much happening today.

Do you know a man you suspect is gay that is raising a family with a woman clearly not in love with him?

Do you know a woman who cannot find the right guy no matter how hard she tries?

Will these things ever change?

Not bloody likely.

Beginners is a tale of hope.  But it is a cautionary tale.  McGregor and Plummer are superb.  Laurent and Goran Visnjic provide great work in supporting roles.

But this is a Mike Mills vehicle.  He wrote and directed an exceptionally story.  The flow is amazing and he captures mood very well.  This is some heavy material and expect to react to it.  Should you not have an emotional response it may be you have been programmed like our protagonist.  Thus, as Mills wonders, the cycle might continue.  Unless it doesn't.

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1532503/  Beginners on IMDB

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqBCOBRcMqc  Where I first heard of Mike Mills (1998!!!) video for Air's "All I Need"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rui0hzN-EFE   Air "Kelly Watch the Stars"

On my radar:  Mike Mills first film Thumbsucker http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0318761/   If for nothing else Tilda Swinton is in it and she is pretty cool.







Friday, July 15, 2011

Songs of Summer and the Letter "D"

Saddened this morning to see record crowds littering NYC to watch Chris Brown perform on the Today Show.  Now, get on me all you like about watching the Today Show;  but it is the living, breathing microcosm of American culture.  Having said that, I am hating American culture.

It is obsessed with scandal and celebrity gossip, disnterested in political change, overly concerned with reality tv and worst of all musically challenged.

Does anyone remember Chris Brown smacked Rhianna up a mere two years ago?  More imporantly, does anyone know ANY song he sings???  I urge you to boycott everything he does and remember once a woman beater, always a woman beater.  There are plenty of better choices on the dial these days.  And for the most part the musicians I favor tend to abuse themselves, not others.  Let's be honest, that is what rock and roll is all about.

On to the hits:

Alexander; "A Million Years"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUnXgucl748  Real name Alex Ebert, and frontman of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  Trippy LA Jesus figure who spins groovy tunes without the slightest bit of pretension.  Now if only I could write like that.

I mentioned A Silent Film a few weeks back.  Another throw back to the 80s band clearly having fun.  "You Will Leave a Mark" is neither new or groundbreaking.  But it has that certain Loudon Swain meets Ducky feel.  Maybe you will agree:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7xv8ruOUDs

Eyes Be Closed; "Washed Out"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwxK2QsMKeU  Here is one for you Moby/Chill fans.  One guy, Ernest Greene, from rural Georgia.  A keyboard and some additional production techniques.  This is the first track from his debut album.  Great stuff to vedge too or, in this case, write over.  It is so similar to Moby's "Porcelian."  If you are going to be influenced and pay homage you could do a lot worse.

Portugal the Man; "People Say"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGDQOECShw8  Something from Wasilla, Alaska that might not nauseate you.  Guitar driven rock with a blues and pop foundation.  I have heard Oasis meets Black Crowes.  You be the judge.

Dead American Writers;  "Tired Pony" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxaGJNihf28  Some research into the band suggests there are members from Snow Patrol, Belle and Sebastian and REM involved.  A nerdy supergroup!!!  Yeah!  This is the first track from their debut project.

Finally, since I will be seeing them later tonight, Gomez; "Options"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFeIW_6PCe8  English rockers have been doing it for years...  and doing it well.  There have been pop duds and misses in recent years, but the harmonies, humor and sound remain strong.  Tonight, over 10 years since we first saw them at TLA, we look for the same spark that ignited all those years ago.  I could do a whole column on how good these guys are.  Until then, take a look at these classics:

"Get Miles"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPs9BsJPEcQ  Would love them to open with this tonight.
"Shot Shot" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtwX9Bmsob8
"78 Stone Wobble" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWThwfAfLf0

Will review show for sure.  TLA and Philly 2 of my favorite things.  Looking forward to it.

The Letter D:

I went a bit long on the new music so I will try to keep this brief (fat chance.)

The Dandy Warhols' 2000 album 13 Tales from Urban Bohemia was a masterpiece.  Full of hip beats and witty lyrics, the Portland band made its mark on the Alt landscape.  They have recorded several albums since, but these tracks from many years ago still stand out: 

"Bohemian Like You" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z-GRlWPWRfE
"Godless" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7l5kQWjhyeg  In a word, awesome!!!

The Doves came along in the late 90s when English bands like Oasis and Gomez were making more waves.  A shame really, because these guys rock too.  Guitar driven goodness with an eye on melody.

Works Cited:  "Catch the Sun" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Robe6lv0sI0&feature=related  The song that first caught my attention.  The guitar solo(s) are remarkably catchy.

"There Goes the Fear" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ERulrmjfucc   Reminds me of rocking my infant daughter to sleep.  No way she was listening to Baby Einstein on my watch!!!

"Words"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHjfg9K2CPI  Amazing and inspiring.

Dresden Dolls; "Sing" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XUjIXX2j6Y  Goth poetry with a heart.   Lots of bands have songs called "Sing" including Travis (another one of my favorites.)  This is the best of the them.  Try not to open your wrists.  It is actually supposed to inspire.

With that I move on with my day.  As 11am approaches my daughter has awakened from a looonnng sleep.  Probably should feed and water her.  Enjoy the weekend all and remember to follow me on twitter: suburbandad23 and you could friend me on Facebook too (if you can find me:  no hints)




Thursday, July 14, 2011

Damn day job

A part of me likes the challenge of working in NYC and project managing job sites.  Yesterday saw me start at 168th St and end somewhere in the West Village.  Each step of the way (over 3 job sites) their were obstacles that required finesse.

Stop 1 saw a small furniture delivery at a major hospital.  The first issue is always the freight entrance.  We set up a loading dock 3 weeks out yet we wait as others jump in front of us.  My favorite?  We had to wait for a Pepsi truck to unload 70 cases of soda.  Ironic, I thought, that the priority here is not providing furniture to OB/GYN specialists but rather filling the cafeteria with cancer/fat making drinks.  If we think for a moment that this Country is ready to start eating right and exercising we are kidding ourselves.  To make matters worse we are living longer too.

Get used to a World with fat, old people calling the shots.  HMO's and big Pharma will be laughing all the way to the bank.

I laughed about it and headed to the office to catch up on some paperwork. (I will ignore the fact that some of my product was absent at stop 1 and what was there is not what client wants.  That was obvious I thought.)

I was in the office for about 15 minutes before I found out the 2nd stop is proving troublesome too.  Turns out the union shop steward is not allowing delivery to floor 8.

The driver called me:  "The GC said to just leave it on 1.  Nothing is being allowed upstairs."

"I will be right over" I said.

This is my favorite!!  Go chase the Union GC and make nice.  I tracked him down.  "Um, Bill, I am told my guys cannot get my product up to 8.  I was told to come in here today, with install set for tomorrow.  Why can't I get it up?"

As any good union head he made quick reference to me not getting it up being a personal problem.  Classy.  And untrue if I must say so myself!

But after the showing proper id/announcing my presence with authority would you believe we were granted access to the magical freight elevator??  As furniture dealers scramble to deliver all product and storage to a finished floor I thought it brilliant they decided to tile the floor leading to this magically elevator.  Makes perfect sense to leave a 2' x 2' opening for large pieces of custom furniture.   The delivery was made and things went well from there.  That is to say we are picking up incorrect pieces tomorrow and taking new measurements for the remaining parts needed to wrap this job up.  They call it a punchlist or day 2.  I call it par for the course.

Ended up in lovely Soho delivering bookends and color charts to clients.  I managed to stop by another site and gather intel for more "day 2" items.  Was it freight damage this time?  User error?  Vendor screw up?

Nah, probably just me.

Oh, there goes the cellphone again.  Another county heard from -  3rd stop.  Courier never got the floor plan and they have NO idea where the product goes.

"I will be right there" I muttered to myself.  Why do I bother scanning and sending this info if no one reads it?  I take a breath and remember that this is why I am in today.  Make it all work!!

There is a reason my daughter is with my parents this week.  So I can be knee deep in problems and screw ups.  Extinguish the fires and do so with a smile on your face.

I scramble to feed myself around 3 and do my best Joey Chestnut.  Gotta scramble to beat the tunnel traffic otherwise the 40 minute commute is 2 hours.

Of course the moment I leave the garage and wait for the mrs, she texts me.  "Its so nice out, wanna stay and hang in the City."

Ugh, I am in the car, exhausted and sick of this place.  Next time.

And there HAS to be a next time.  Because if that is all the City has to offer me I may as well move to Topeka and sell insurance.

Figured by 3pm I deserved some food.  Ate to excess and

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Altruism as Myth

There is talk of moving therapy from weekly to bi-weekly.  If that is the case I may be looking at a week off next Tuesday.  

I agonized over letting our cleaning lady go last week.  That frees up an additional $160 a month.  Of course now we are responsible for kitchens and bathrooms.  

Throw in the additional $300 we would save with new bi-weekly sessions that is 5 hundy a month net.  Where will we spend that money?  Will we be able to bank some of it?  

Smart money says our Whole Foods orders absorb any and all additional funds.  Maybe as the year is now at the mid-way point it is time for the Quicken audit.

Am I the only one that does this?  Maybe a call to Verizon to see what better prices/plans they can offer?

I am certain there will be more calls to our Health Care provider to fight a $700 bill.  Turns out our plan has a Radiology deductible.  So, when someone has a non-life threatening emergency and decides to go to an in-network facility in lieu of the ER, they are on the hook for it.

Logically you penalize your member for trying to do the right thing.  Obama care?  

I wonder if I wanted to start my own company.  How much would it be to pay for a family insurance plan?  We have been most fortunate our employer has paid for these benefits.  But he is getting screwed and clearly not getting much for his coin.  Every year the Summary of Benefits changes and physicians drop out of the plan.  I have recently lamented about losing our daughter's only pediatrician.  We received letter after letter from them to us regarding our insurer.  

"We are leaving them" they implored us.  "They are making it impossible to align with them."  "They care more about profit than caring for patients."

These things I knew all too well from my time working for a regional HMO.  And I worked for a non-profit!!!

Now my daughter is in limbo.  I have asked her to please not take ill.  

Guess I don't bitch too much about no dental or vision.  Surely no one has that, right?

Good thing I see so well.  Oh, right, a bit on the blind side I am.

I will exhaust the appeal system and try and get this bill to go away.  What else do I have to do?  HMO's and their customer service teams are always so helpful and accommodating too.

The audits are important though.  There is fat to be trimmed.

Which makes the much discussed Derek Jeter home run ball all the more intriguing.  Much has been made of Christian Lopez's returning Jeter's 3000 hit no questions asked.  Everyone praised his altruism and marveled that this is how we SHOULD act.  

Sure, Mr Lopez's actions speak to his character and overall naivete.  His actions are also a bit screwed up.

Once the NY rags got a hold of this story Uncle Sam came knocking.  The Yanks were polite in giving up a plush suite for the rest of the season (no one else is in them anyway) and a bevy of merchandise (signed and everything.)

You best believe those items will be taxed.  So what favors will he get for his good actions that will surpass what he would have gotten had he kept and auctioned the ball off?  And does Jeter really need the ball?  

He had the bat.  He had the uniform.  He has the 3000 hits and Minka Kelly in his bed. 

It is your souvenir my friend.  It is why kids bring their gloves to the crowd and it is why dad's fall to their deaths trying to give that same kid the memory of his life.

I still remember the look on my daughter's face when I caught a ball and handed it to her at Yankee Stadium last year.  "You really did it dad."

Nevermind she bitched about our $150 seats for the 9 innings that follow.

This is not to say that Lopez, a 23 year old cell phone salesman, might not go on to make a nice living.  I just wonder how much being the good guy helped him here.

I think we may need to start our civility a bit lower.

Keep holding doors for strangers.  Let someone take a left coming out of the parking lot when you know if you don't they will be there forever.  Say hello to people when you walk by them.  Don't speak on your cellphone and order coffee at the same time.  

Little things can go a long way.

When it's time to get paid though I think you might want to hop on board.

Those opportunities are few and far between.  

I remember my old Sociology professor and I arguing about the existence of altruism.  "There are no truly altruistic acts" he always preached to me.

"Of course there are" I would say.

As I get older I believe him more and more.  That ain't a good thing.  I will expound on that later, now off to explain other things.

Thanks Moose for at least providing a laugh today:



This is one of the things I am talking about.  Please see all of the links and DO NOT repeat anything the customer does.  People really do suck some(read:most) of the time.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Of Selena Gomez, Jersey Shore and all things Normal, USA

Hard coming up with the proper introduction to the bounty of utter nonsense that fills me brain.

Had a thought about drawing comparisons to the Selena Gomez vehicle Monte Carlo and Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris.  How do I start such a post?  Does anyone really want to read an essay deconstructing these vastly different )yet eerily similar films?

This is a Suburban Guide.  Maybe there is someone out there in need of such information.

Wait, what is that I am hearing?  Oh, Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXnfhnCoOyo.  Then I am off on an exhaustive search.  26 years old was Nick Drake when he accidentally overdosed on anti-depressants.  Tragic.

Then I think of Elliot Smith.  Tragic.

Then Pandora hits another home run.  I am becoming more and more vulnerable when Alexi Murdoch comes on (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WB4dAdPu_lg).  Or maybe I am just tempted to buy a smart looking German sedan.  Is this where the music industry is headed?  Score a sweet TV spot is your big ticket out for indie bands and singer/songwriters.

Fantastic Mr Fox comes to mind.  Somewhere Michael Gambon's bellowing voice is yelling at me.

"You're just making stuff up as you are going along!!!"  That's bad writing Suburban Man!!!"

So here it goes.

Monte Carlo is a movie in search of a theme and most certainly an audience.  Selena Gomez is a spunky high school senior nearing her graduation.  She works as a waitress and serves her snotty, more popular classmates.  For years she has been saving for a post graduation trip through Paris.  Much like Owen Wilson's Gil in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, she has imagined Paris to be full of magic and love and other horsesh#%^ cliches Hollywood forces down our throats.

While Allen had the ability to make France as much a protagonist as his stars, director Tom Bezucha goes all in with tween sensation Gomez.  I am not buying in.  Especially when the story is sooo far fetched.  I feel guilty even detailing it.  Girl takes trip with fellow waitress/high school dropout friend (Katie Cassidy.)  Uptight Step-sister (the wrong Gossip Girl Leighton Meester) gets thrown into the trip by her parents.  Uptight sister knows/resents/dislikes dropout waitress.  Trip starts off poorly with bad tour group, scary hotel and getting stuck in the rain.

Funny how Allen's walks in the rain were joyous moments of love and romance.  Here they make our heroines look like wet rats in need of a hot meal.

Wouldn't you know when the girls do find shelter from the storm it is in perhaps the finest hotel Paris has to offer?  Naturally some princess rolls in (Gomez in her second role...  note to Hollywood:  done with the 2 actor playing other person genre) to the bathroom.  As she goes over her itinerary via cell phone it is determined a) Texas Gomez looks JUST like Princess Gomez and b) we are going to impersonate her to do all the things she would be doing this weekend.

Monte Carlo on private jets?  Check.  Polo Matches?  Check.  Auctions and fund raisers?  Check.  Costume balls with mystery men and love's first kiss?  Enough already!

If this World exists I need to find it.  Then I must destroy it.

Gomez is game and Cassidy and even Meester did not nauseate me.  It is all just to much.  Each women has an absurd love story arch that challenges every convention.  Cassidy's Texas beau travels to France to find her.  Meester randomly (3 times!!!) runs into an ex rugby player and becomes his steady girlfriend.  I mean, they meet at 2 tourist traps in Paris and then randomly in the streets if Monte Carlo.   I can get understand two chance meetings, but 3???  Geez.

Of course Texas Gomez falls for her "prince" (son of a French philanthropist) but cannot tell him her horrible secret.  But ya know, Texas Gomez is gonna teach us all a thing or two about charity, and finding one's real self.

Maybe that is all a good thing.  The two girls I took to see it, ok the 3rd is you include my wife, all wiped away tears from their eyes hailing it as Steel Magnolias meets Fried Green Tomatoes meets The Sisterhood of The Travelling Pants.  Perhaps an exagerration.  But when given the chance I suggesting waiting for the dvd.  This way you can check the scores on your smart phone.  Unless of course you do your shopping at the cliche store.

Oh, and can we be done with the Chipmunks movies!!!  Yet another one coming out this Christmas with the appealing "Chip-wrecked" tagline.  Who is making these movies???  And more importantly, who is going to see them???

In other news, and I write this with some trepidation, Sea Bright, NJ is a wonderful beach day trip.  Located just south of Sandy Hook (a mere 55 minute drive from me) it has lots going for it including free parking (with a very short walk to the beach.)  Kids under 11 get on the beach for free.  Adults will gladly pay $8.  Granted, it is not an enormous beach and Saturday filled up nicely.  What do you expect on a July 90 degree Saturday?

We happened onto Dive (http://jerseyshore.metromix.com/restaurants/american/dive-sea-bright-monmouth-beach/2401531/content) just across the street for lunch.  Guinness was clean and the food was good and reasonably priced.  Kids were occupied and fed while we watched Derek Jeter collect his 3000 hit.  All that being said don't tell anyone about it.  Our little secret, k?

Don't forget to stop at Napoli Bros on 36 North on the way home (Napoli Boys Italian Ice & Ice. 639 State Route 36, Belford NJ).  I suggest the soft serve black raspberry.  They were also brewing Arnold Palmer Half Tea/Half Lemonade ice.  Fairly mild but refreshing.

Years since we did a true NJ beach day.  We will not make that mistake again.  Plenty to like about the Garden State's beaches.  It is high time the little one starts appreciating that the Atlantic Ocean borders our state too.  I do look forward to NC in late August.  But that need not be our only exposure to sandy cars and odd tan lines.

Great seeing Larry David back on tv too.  Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered moments ago and delivered cheap and tawdry laughs as it often does.  Nothing on television produces as much cringe-worthy laughter.  Where else can you find our hero instructing pre-teens on tampon application and questioning his attorney's worth based on his Judiasm?

Thank god for the godless.

And in that vain I leave you with the best joke of the weekend from the champion of godless...  Well said Mr. Maher.  He may be a smug, foul-mouthed mysogonist.  Give him credit for starting a format and changing the way we view news and newsmakers.

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/smallscreen/news/article_1650200.php/Bill-Maher-zings-Kim-Kardashian-over-Casey-Anthony-trial-disgust

Have a great week all.






Friday, July 8, 2011

Summer So Far... Downloads plus letter C

There are always interesting developments in "simple" everyday events.  I mentioned to my wife that I ran into an old high school friend at Stop N Shop the other day.  Truth be told she was a girlfriend.  It was so far out of left field I am still a bit weirded out by it.  The last time I saw her was in another grocery store 15 years ago near my college campus.  I think at that time she was there to run into me.  Back then I politely said hi then and introduced me now wife to her.  And that was it.

And all of the sudden I am staring at her and her two daughters in the freezer section.  She was on her way to her folks from Massachusetts and needed to use a restroom.  I needed food.  And for 2 minutes we caught up and went on our way.  Bizarre to say the least.  But, as I have been reliving the past over most of this year, it seems perfectly normal.  All events lead to this moment.  And I thought about the summer of 1994.  Of Black Crowes, of Ace of Base, of Lisa Loeb.  Then I came to my senses.  That was a bad year in music.  We can do better.

But before we do a quick fist bump to the Twice is Nice Madison, NJ softball team.  This determined bunch of women have been playing for the love of game for several years now.  Each of the past 3 or 4 seasons they had gone winless.  Wednesday night marked their first victory since my wife has joined (and maybe ever.)  These women deserved it.  There are other teams who may be more fit, and certainly more competitive.  This is a lesson in camaraderie and perseverance.  There were several moments in recent history when players could have thrown in the towel and hit the Pilates class instead.  Nope, each year brings new players and trusted friends.  Now, after tasting some on-field success the goals are now higher.  It is the same lesson we try to teach our daughter.  Go out, have some fun, try your best, and good things will follow.

So, when my daughter got her first defensive attempt in Travel softball last night we had several teaching moments.  She picked a line drive cleanly off the infield at second.  Without hesitation she threw home trting to cut the runner down from 3rd.  Nevermind there were 2 outs and an easy throw to 1st ended the inning.  Run scored and she learned a lesson.  Talent will not be your only calling card.  Thinking and understanding are as much a part of sport as they are life.  The age old metaphor I learned many years ago in my Sociology of Sports Class.  Sport as societal microcosm.  So enlightening seeing it play out this week on such different playing fields.  Inspires me to keep playing.  Now, if only I could play something.

Download This:


I had visions and even took notes earlier in the week on an elaborate essay comparing Lady Gaga to Katy Perry.  Mainly, the two women remind me very much of Madonna versus all other pop queens she has dealt with during her illustrious career.  Janet Jackson was a contemporary for several years.  Pre crackhead Whitney Houston had her time.  Madonna has the staying power for whatever reason.  Maybe  her interaction with a Coke bottle in Truth or Dare explains it?  Essentially, there is never 1 singular pop star.  Today, since pop, and in particular female vocals, is so popular, I notice the trend continuing.  Gaga draws the Madonna comparisons for obvious reasons.  My money is on Katy Perry though.  After hearing what is sure to be her 5th straight # 1 single  "Last Friday Night" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KlyXNRrsk4A I am solidly in her camp.  There will be several loonnng road trips this summer and this track is less likely to be skipped than anything Gaga has to offer.

Same too for hottest of all messes Ms. Kesha.  Try as I might to hate her left coast trashy self I have been hooked on "Blow" for weeks.  Hell she resurrected James Van Der Beek from the dead.  Where have you gone "Dawson's Creek?"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CFWX0hWCbng

OK, that felt a bit like confession.  Let me finish my 10 Hail Mary's and 5 Our Father's and get real.

I am going liberal with my alphabet theme with the song "Colours" by American Indie's Grouplove.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ddd70PMxTE.  All you need to know that Yes guitarist Trever Rabin has a son in the band.  Right, that is useless Wikipedia nonsense.  Whatev, the song is good.

A few months ago I caught the Cults video for "Go Outside" on MTVU (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPKbG1CCLx8 .)    I paid it little attention and thought it was overall ok.  Well the programmers at Sirius Alt Nation happen to love it.  Since they have ruined it for me I would like to do the same for you.  Oh, and the video is not online so enjoy a stupid homemade youtube one filled with bad still photos.  Should you care, they are a romantically involved Manhattan duo.  Straight couple that is.  Forgot in NYC we need to be more specific.  I will give it 6 months.  I have undersold this and I am sorry.  The song is good, trust me.

More retro:

Champarticles are from Portland, OR.  Other than that I know very little.  Save for this gem:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGnc9We-ufs.

I searched for it further and noticed you can download their entire debut album on their website.  You might want to look into it http://music.charmparticles.com/album/alive-in-the-hot-spell.  Sultry female singing with some soft chords and overall sense of longing.  Now, if you don't mind I have a 2pm salt scrub appointment.

I have written several times about Cut/Copy so I will not bore you again.  About a month til I see them in Brooklyn.  If you know only one of their sings "Need You Now" should be it:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb1o42RdVzA.

I should include Chuck Prophet when discussing summer and music.  No reason to do any bio's or build-up either.  "Summertime Thing" is pure listening magic.  Of course the only real way to watch and listen is through some guys montage of him flying through Western Pennsylvania and drinking beers:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TedoUrTcU5o&feature=related.

Chris Isaak has been on my iPod from the beginning.  Maybe it was Helena Christensen half naked many years ago that put him on my radar?  Wicked game indeed.  But after a career in film, tv and music Mr Isaak deserves some respect.  His voice and band play well off one another.  No harm in the good writing that serves, most often, as the catalyst.  Some notable non- Wicked game winners.

"We Let Her Down" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoBiEgWqwqE  Fairly certain this live version is from a Friday night Canadian Football game.  Um, weird.  But he is good live.

"Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing."  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPZQ7ZLy3MI  The best part of Kubrick's final, ill fated film "Eyes Wide Shut."  Also serves as the inspiration for the True Blood theme song...  also very good:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0eQL5R3bw4  How many of you knew Jace Everett??  One of these days I will devote a column to that overrated show.  I wish Alan Ball would just bring 6 Feet Under back.  How many fairy tale creatures can there be???  And do they all have to be sexually ambigious??  And how can Anna Paquin be this bad an actress???  She has an Oscar???Running out of space but as you can see I have lots to say on the subject.

See past columns for new favorites Civil Twilight too.  They are in the studio this week starting work on their 2nd album.  Cannot go wrong with these two numbers:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUolwC6rDxE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Wa7dFR09vU

Ok, I was told I should probably eat.  Almost 1:30 and I have not had anything yet.  Perils of working from home.  You always have things to do and eating never seems to fit in.  Weird eating at home by yourself...  never got used it.

Enjoy the weekend all and give me a yell should you like.  Want to hear feedback and/or criticisms.

Follow me on Twitter:  suburbandad23
Also check out http://madison.patch.com/  I am annoying others on that webpage.



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Devil's Advocate (The People v Casey Anthony)

And this is why I fear (loathe) the Nancy Grace's of the World.  And this is why I am troubled by all those who forget we celebrated Independence Day on Monday.  And this is why our country HAS to understand we try cases in courtrooms, not TV sets.  It was not Jimmy Smits suave Victor Sifuentes trying Casey Anthony's case the past few months.  Rather, it was state employee Jeff Ashton and his ill prepared staff that brought this case to the courtroom.

There fatal error?  Well, you could argue the error was bringing her to trial in the first place.  But I am not going there.  The problem is bringing this case to trial with 1st degree murder charges!!!  Maybe Reckless Endangerment/Manslaughter makes more sense, don't you think??

I am not going to write that Ms Anthony is not culpable (and more than likely responsible) for her young daughter's death.  However, we live in a Country that prides itself on fair and equal trial.  Granted, our peers are sometimes jaded and un-educated.  I ask, would you rather Ms Anthony be stoned in public like you see in many 3rd World countries?  If you answered yes, how would you react when someone else is linked to her daughters death years after the last stone has been cast.  Have we learned nothing from the countless DNA cases that are overturned freeing wrongly jailed men and women?  Where then was the physical evidence?  Can someone show me the smoking gun?  My limited "Today Show" knowledge indicates the State of Florida cannot tell us exact cause of death and/or timeline.  These are glaring and obviously alarming details.  Presumed innocent unless proven otherwise beyond a reasonable doubt.  Should you be that strongly opposed to this government perhaps a vacation in Tehran might be in your future.  When you come back (after probably being detained for several years on a trumped up charge, like you are a woman with your face exposed) maybe you change your whole idea of how the jury got it wrong.  Then perhaps the Justice for Kaylee posts make a little less sense.

Justice for Kaylee exists only if that little girl is alive to swim in a pool this summer, or enjoy an ice cream, or do all the things a little girl should be doing.  That all changed when she was killed several years ago.  Nothing will ever bring her back.  Whether Casey was an awful, uncaring, selfish mother is not up for debate.  She is guilty on that charge and several more.  And she has to live with herself.  The guilt sentence she has been sentenced too cannot be overlooked.  I have committed crimes I may never forgive myself for and no one is dead as a result.    But there isn't a day that goes by when I don't remember them, and look for guidance.  Ms Anthony will have this internal conversation every day of her "free" life. 

So when she appears on Celebrity Rehab or Dancing With the Stars, look the other way.  As a Nation we tend to forgive and forget.  Had the bullet been a little more left Amy Fischer would have been a murderer.  Now she is a porn star turned celebiry reality star.  And Chris Brown gets to go to Grammy Awards and continue making records.  And so on, and  so on, and  so on. 

The system is flawed folks, get over it.  It is a Country dominated by the press and consequently slanted toward bias.  DSK is accused of rape, loses his job and credibility and may be innocent after all.  Should the case be dropped how does he get his reputation back?  What becomes of his accuser?  Should she be responsible for any wrong doing?

Weep for the victims my friends, but please do not rail against the system.  It is the only one we got.  And as long as humans are running the show (and watching/participating in it) it will never be perfect.  Sadly, still the best system I have seen.



Final thought:
I would never allow a camera in a courtroom again. 

Some reflection music:

"Free Life" by Dan Wilson http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-mi3CTN3Ufg&feature=related