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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Glorious Day of Sport (AND MUSIC!!!)

Whether you hate baseball or not I feel it is important to know what is going on.  And if you don't know what is going on please pay attention.

Last night was probably the greatest regular season day in the 100 plus year of professional baseball in this country.  This, on a day when Jose Reyes took himself out of the game 1 inning in as to protect his batting title.  It wasn't classy when Willie Wilson did it in 1982, and it ain't classy now.  Unless you are hurt and cannot perform (or are held out due to management decision, I would ask you play the entire game.  Reyes played 125 games this year (missing many due to injury.)  He made about $6 million this year.  His team once again missed the playoffs.  Their average fan spends $100 a piece to see them at Citi Field.  Ted Williams played a double-header 60 years ago with his average at .400.  All he did was go 6-8 in the two games and raise his average to .406.  No one has batted .400 since.  More importantly, we fail to play the game this way.  We take short cuts.  We rest on laurels.  And we bask in mediocrity.

The real beauty of last evening was the playoff push and ultimate collapse of Boston and Atlanta.  Buster Olney from ESPN states the magnitude quite succinctly here:  http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=310928130.  Long story short, 3 teams were one out from either going to the playoffs or sitting home.  Atlanta could not keep a lead in the 9th and eventually fell in extra innings.  At 11:40pm they had tied the record for biggest collapse in MLD history.  20 minutes later the Red Sox surpassed it when Jonathan Papelbon refused to throw his split finger fastball and surrendered a 3-2 lead to the undermanned but resilient Orioles.  And finally Tampa Bay (down 7-0 to the Yankees with 6 outs to go) rode an extra inning home run by Evan Longoria to capture the final playoff berth.  Mind you, the Yankees have not blown a 7-0 lead since the 1950's and Boston was 76-0 this year when leading after 8 innings.

Pure sporting magic.  The smiles on Longoria's face and utter disbelief on Boston's David Ortiz's aere etched in my mind.  The superlatives from all the broadcasters dumb-founded mouths were priceless.  For once, you could not believe what you were seeing.

These are the times when baseball reigns supreme.  It is the cliche "2 outs/bottom of the 9th" stuff.  It is the "not over, til it's over."  No clock telling you when it is over.  Hero's can be a guy sitting on his ass all game and getting a call for one swing of the bat.  Journeyman pitchers asked to get a few outs to protect a lead.   Overworked rookies expected to get 3 more outs to preserve a win.  Arrogant and complacent superstars failing in big spots.  Underdogs playing for the shear joy of the game, if only to feel proud for one moment during an otherwise lost season.

Me?  I did not have a dog in the fight.  My team was eliminated somewhere around March 1.  Not the point.  In a season when Ted Danson is now a forensic specialist and Tim Allen is back on tv, you may not find more drama the next few weeks.

Have you heard the Tigers of Detroit have the best pitcher in baseball?  Do you know he pitches against the Yankees tomorrow?

Do you know the Brewers are a likable, young and hungry bunch eager to show the World their stuff? Take a peek at Ryan Braun, Zach Greinke and Prince Fielder over the weekend.  Don't act surprised when the race past much heralded Philadelphia.

And let's not forget Kirk Gibson and his last to first Diamondbacks.  This is a great story and if you don't get chills thinking of his limp around the bases in 88' you should have your head/heart examined.

Payrolls be damned when it comes to the playoffs.  Talent can overcome most anything and money doesn't guarantee anything.

We will have plenty of time to watch the No Fun League for the next few months.  I admit, I love football and like nothing more than some couch time on a cold Sunday afternoon watching America's new pasttime.

But there promises to be many thrills over the next few weeks on Fox.  Buckle up and enjoy.

Music to play when Joe Buck and Tim McCarver start blathering:


The National:  "Mistaken for Strangers"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgRsYkKb1eI

Psychedelic Furs: "The Ghost in You" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMmA8PsTvPA  Prepping for the show Monday.  Cannot wait!!!

Caveman "Old Friend" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9tsP_sZqR8&feature=related  Clearly my favorite song of the year live.  But their debut album "CoCo Beware" is an exceptional first record.

Foster the People from SXSM "Warrant" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcFITqQeQDM

Cut/Copy "Take Me Over" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqQJrXgbIYA  Cuz I am part lady (and so are you)

Lykke Li "Get Some" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TTPGAy5H_E  Just an incredible pop song. Go find a better percussion line...  I dare you.

Band of Horses "The First Song"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl1tIH5ByDg

Decemberists "Calamity Song"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJpfK7l404I&ob=av3n  Offer still stands from Colin Meloy to give this song to Michelle Bachmann as her campaign theme.  She has declined to date.  Tremendous and smart video with a history.  Worth a look:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/allsongs/2011/08/22/139033489/first-watch-the-decemberists-calamity-song

Naked and The Famous "Punching in a Dream" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kC29pd_5sQU&ob=av3e

Wilco "Born Alone" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTqEB0MyGdY  Finally gave this album a hard listen and this is the track that stands out for me.  It's all strong though.  Newsflash:  Jeff Tweedy has ability.

Washed Out "Amor Fati" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jkpl-N-FGm8  My daughter's highlight from Montclair show.

That should be a nice start for the weekend.  Enjoy the action!!!  Jump on El Tigre and Brew Crew bandwagons while you are at it!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Because we cannot stop for death...

I had several moments to reflect and attempt to come to grips with the harsh realities of death over the weekend.  The matriarch of my wife's family passed last week after a brief, but courageous battle with cancer.  Her family honored her with a nice Irish Catholic wake and burial.  It was precisely how a farewell should be treated.  She was remembered fondly and with laughs.  There were no over the top moments and feuds were squashed momentarily so we could all do what needed to be done.  Celebrate the life.  Celebrate our own lives.


Should you attempt to make sense of it all and rectify any and/or all of lifes mysteries during a weekend mourning you should stop kidding yourself.  We are on this planet for about 10 seconds.  Make your mark and do your best to leave an impression (a positive one preferably.)


With that in mind, as I took brief glimpses into the media world, I was reminded how much minutiae we place on death and those who passed.


Exhibit A:  The People v Conrad Murray.


You mean to tell me tax dollars are actually going into this case?  Michael Jackson hired this man to put him to sleep with heavy sedatives every night.  He went from a seemingly normal black man to a frail, unstable black woman right before our eyes.  He was a recluse.  He was a showman.  His parents (namely his father) mis-treated and mentally abused.  He was a genius.  He was an innovator.  He was unbelievably damaged.  It would not have surprised me had he killed himself.  It would not have surprised me if he purposely over-medicated.


For us to believe one (clearly overwhelmed and unable to grasp the magnitude of his situation) physician was in any way responsible for MJ's death is naive, mis-guided, and in many ways an enormous waste of time.  Dr. Murray is guilty of bad judgement, bad medicine and bad timing.


He is not a murderer any more than I am for watching what was once the King of Pop disintegrate into a walking punchline for undiagnosed/untreated mental illness.  


Side note:  Kenny Ortega is said to take the stand first.  He should be tried for inlicting High School Musical on us!!  Do you think I am happy that I sometimes hum "What Time is It? Summer Time!!" to myself???


Exhibit B:


Much too was made of Tony Bennett's interview with Howard Stern last week where he spoke of us "being the terrorists and two wrongs not making a right."


Scandalous, huh?  Mr Bennett fought at the Battle of the Bulge for Christ's sake.  If he, at age 85, wants to opine about our government's motives and his pascisfism:  LET HIM DO IT!!!


Funny how we throw bombs on people the moment we are attacked in an attempt to protect our freedoms.  Yet, when someone spouts an opinion about something sensitive we want them to shut the hell up.  Not me.  Mr Bennett is a performer who has as much credibility as many elected officials.   Believe me, I hate when artists spout off during concerts and preach during movies.  You know what, I can NOT see the movie or hear the song.  I can give the benefit of the doubt.  And my wife will not have a burka on next to me.  And she can vote.  And all is well.  It has been 10 years since 9.11 and I wonder if we have learned a damn thing.


I will never forget those who lost their lives and would never try and diminish the awful tragedy of that day and the days since.  But we are becoming so polarized about language and free speech it proves once again those attacks did more than take down buildings and lives.  I liked Seth Meyers joke on SNL the other night.


I am paraphrasing, but you get the picture:  "President Obama said his new tax plan is not an example of class warfare.  It's math.  Too bad, since we are far better at warfare than math."


Much easier to fight fire with fire than take a look at some real solutions through meaningful dialogue.  Me?  I would rather talk it out.  And I can think Mr Bennett is an old man who may have misspoke a bit.  Pretty sure he is on our side though.  If you don't get that then I am afraid all is lost.


Exhibit C:


I don't want to start a debate about capital punishment here.  After all, I probably fall somewhere in the middle.  My biggest problem is the cost and the FACT that it does not deter crime.  Sure it is uncivilized and harsh, but I got a feeling if someone harmed my family with malice I would want the boy dead.


Problem is humans tend to be involved with litigation and criminal justice/police investigation.  And you know what we do real well?  Prosecute and convict folks that have not done anything wrong.  Then, in some cases, we kill them.


Um, that's not good.


I could go into the Troy Davis execution now or the applause Rick Perry received when he bragged of the folks he done killed in Texas, but that can all wait.


My big gripe this weekend came from the scumbag in Perry's state who was executed last week.  I could look up his name but he need not get any more press.  Suffice it to say he was involved in the dragging death of a black man many years ago.


As a final insult he ordered the entire left side of the Texas Jail System's menu.  What does that consist of you ask?  Something like this:  two chicken steaks, a triple bacon cheeseburger, fried okra, three fajitas, a pizza, a pint of ice cream, and a slab of peanut butter fudge with crushed peanuts.  A couple issues here obviously.  And I am going to ignore that he did not eat one thing.  


My biggest issue is why we allow inmates to get whatever the hell they want on their execution day?  Texas has now looked into putting this practice away for good.  But what is the point here?  We are rewarding them for a heinous crime?


Secondly, why publicize any of it anyway?  If you are convicted to die the only other time I want to hear about you is in the obituary section.  Does anyone really want to know the culinary habits of a man who dragged someone behind a car until there was nothing left on the end of his rope?  


Oh, he likes fried okra, maybe I should give it a try.


Up to me (if all DNA and videotaped evidence stands up in trial) this guy should have been tied up to a Buick and given some of the same.  


It is what we do isn't it?





Friday, September 23, 2011

Autumn ups and downs

We celebrate the first day of Autumn today.  For me, it has always been my favorite season.  Leaves falling, more crispness in the air, pumpkin picking, football weekends, Thanksgiving, to name a few of my favorite traditions.

The fall/winter movies are always a bit better too.  Within the past few weeks several have come out that I would love to see.  "Drive", "Ides of March", and "Moneyball" lead the early group of Oscar releases the studios will be pushing down our throats.  Ryan Gosling, George Clooney and Brad Pitt huh?  I think I can get the Mrs to join me.

I am a bit curious to see how "Moneyball" translates to the big screen.  Can you make a movie about baseball statistics and get away with it?  I look at the brilliant "The Social Network" as an example of how the mundane can be mesmerizing.  

The new crop of fall tv shows came out this week too.  I mentioned Chaz and "DWTS" earlier this week.  But we finally got to see what "Whitney" and "New Girl" had to offer.   Sadly, nothing.

I think Whitney Cummings is funny and engaging.  When I have heard her on Howard Stern she comes off as personable and good natured.  Her show, meanwhile, was much of the same "Friends" meets "Coupling" meets "The Office" garbage NBC has been trying to shove down our throats for years.  All the sterotypes were there in last night's pilot episode.  30 something worried about keeping relationship fresh.  Role playing games.  Overbearing mother.  Divorced and bitter friend.  A woman who has her boyfriend "whipped."  Only thing missing were laughs.

But there were several from the live studio audience.  And that too was weird and oft-putting.  It is near impossible to reinvent the sit-com.  "Larry Sanders" did it.  "Arrested Development" did it.  If you are going to use the standard formula, a la "Seinfeld" or "I Love Lucy" you will be needing laughs.  

Same goes with Zooey Deschanel's vehicle "New Girl."  You gotta be real damn cute and likeable to carry a show like this.  And maybe because she married Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie or recorded a commercial for Cotten "the touch, the feel..." I like Deschanel has tarnished a bit of her cuteness. 

She was great in "Elf", "Yes Man" and "50 Days of Summer."  Those projects seem very old about now.  More lazy writing and cliches followed by familiar scenarios and inappropriate behavior in restaurants.  The only thing that changes are the pop culture references and actors.  Otherwise this is 'Dharma and Greg" or "Mad About You."  That is, forgetful comedies that look pretty and have characters we might relate to.  Overall, you might vedge out and give these shows enough ratings to last a few seasons.  But that is more telling on our abject laziness than their overall quality.

Should you require some of that I ask you to watch the shows that surround these two efforts.  Fox's "Raising Hope" and NBC's "Parks and Recreation."  They are both absurd, charming, and laugh out loud funny at times.  

Will keep it short today as life has handed us some harsh realities this week.  In a few hours we head out of town to mourn the loss of someone close, someone special.  I am reminded of a similar loss we had several years ago when my aunt passed.  It is a time when you expect friends and family to come together and heal.  Sometimes it just doesn't happen that way.

Sometimes the family splinters and fractures under the magniitude of the situation.  Sometimes years of ignoring or otherwise avoiding deep rooted issues rise to the surface igniting anger that lay latent forever.

Been years since I have talked to several of my extended family resulting from an explosion like this.  And as the years go by I wonder what that all means?  I wonder if problems that have divided us will ever be rectified?  I wonder if anyone else thinks like this or are resigned to the status quo?  

I look toward the weekend and hope we can celebrate the life that was.  We should acknowledge and praise each other for knowing the decedant...  for being touched by her grace and love...  for being better people for having known her.

Cock eyed optimism.  Always my downfall.

AS I have not written music selections for weeks take a look the attached for what I am listening to lately and what will likely get me through the weekend.  Enjoy everyone and have a great fall weekend.  

"Vampirer/Old Friend" by Caveman from SXSM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svx2IV866Ok  I will ride their bandwagon until they appear on the Alt Charts.  This hypnotic double feature falls somewhere between the Dead's "Space", Simple Minds and The Killers.  The end of "Old Friend" live is by far my favorite live performance from the past 5 years.

"She Walks in So Many Ways" The Jayhawks.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pm24ldAcnhc  One of the Alt-Country's finest is back with an impressive and familiar sounding album.  A true comfort food of a band.  

"Colors"  Grouplove  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ddd70PMxTE  Hard rocking and haunting track from English alt darlings.  One of the most popular alt songs out there today and for good reason.

"The Crane Wife #3" The Decemberists http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEZ3lSurNCI  I have been falling back in love with this album from many years ago.  I can see why critics hate the new album.  But you should not hate the band/effort for trying to evolve or experiment.  It is not a crime to have better product in your formative years.  Do we hate Abbey Road because it isn't Sgt Peppers??  It is always dangererous to compare a band to itself.  You try writing 10 songs every 2 years.

"Walk" Foo Fighters.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4PkcfQtibmU  20 years since Nirvana's "Nevermind" and Dave Grohl is still very much alive and well thank you very much.  Looking forward to seeing them in November.  I happen to like the "Falling Down" parody too.  His videos are always entertaining.  This should have been the first single too...  "Rope" was not as good.

"Something Good Can Work" Two Door Cinema Club http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wxu02vp_Vm0  Good, clean pop.

"Tonight, Tonight" Hot Chelle Rae http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzlNFcT2aOE&ob=av2e  Mainly because my daughter sings all the lyrics and I cannot turn it off when she asks me to put on Hits 1.

"Time Spent in Los Angeles" Dawes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFIyx4EaIkk  Another track my daughter can sing verbatim and that makes me laugh.  She likes the dirt under fingernails line best.  An impressive second album from these guys from LA.  Take a listen to "Nothing is Wrong" released earlier this year.










Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chaz and other ironies...

I had a solid 30 minutes of prime-time TV before I had to excuse myself.   The family likes its "Biggest Loser" Tuesdays and for the most part I indulge.  Mainly, I find myself sooo hungry while watching it is embarrassing.   I made home made popcorn (lots of butter and salt), chowed down on some red meat, and if I did not put some gum in my mouth and start writing I am afraid the freezer would be next.  Funny how watching the obese attempt to lost hundreds of pounds inspires me to indulge.

This followed the first study session of the 4th grade school year.   Naturally, a day after I bemoan Jesus Fish bumper stickers, we were knee deep in Jesus studying.  Ask me anything about the disciples and the Blessed Trinity?  Funny too that we were studying plants and how they reproduce too.  Ok, let's take a moment to study the Virgin Mary and her conception then segue into plants and the process of turning sunlight into sugars.  Darwin meet Disney.

That might be a bit harsh, but it is comical.  There is a structure and overall discipline I love with the Catholic education (and the uniforms!!!), but the attempt to reconcile fact and/or fiction (faith) is one I will struggle with forever.

The irony playing on ABC right now is just as compelling.  I am talking of Chaz Bono's appearence on "Dancing With the Stars."  I mean really?  Is he a star???

I suppose the greater question (one raised quite well be celebrity psychiatrist Dr Keith Ablow: http://www.boston.com/Boston/dailydose/2011/09/chaz-bono-dancing-with-the-stars-should-kids-banned-from-watching/EPkM8y89Nb6nK2opxlO9JK/index.html)  is what implications does this casting have on our youth.  Nevermind me and my peers (we are already lost causes I fear.)

Perhaps if I did not have an impressionable and quite adultified 9 year old in the house I might not care as much.  Let the man dance and who cares I might say.

But I am looking over at her now watching the much easier to digest "Biggest Loser" without the slightest of concern.  Simple:  these folks are morbidly obese and need to change their behaviors or likely die.  I can use that message for any vice and feel good about it.

What then of Chaz and her dancing?  Do I want to go into the whole story?  Do I start with Chastity and her adorable childhood played out in front of millions?  Do I want to explain the heavy set man dancing the scantily clad girl really has female reproductive parts?  He has a bizarre beard because he injects himself with testosterone.  He badly wants to have a penis and remove his breasts.  He has a girlfriend.

Ablow suggests most of these tendencies (certainly not all trans-genders) seem to indicate a greater mental incapacity.  Is it possible that Chaz Bono has not fully rectified where he REALLY wants to be after this process has completed?  Is it fair to say his total maturity and/or identity is still very much in doubt?  I can only imagine the pain and confusion that must have gone into making this decision.  And it is still very much in its infancy, no?

Good to be playing this out in front of millions of strangers twice weekly?  Good to be playing in front of children already struggling with their own identities and body images?

I am not convinced.

This is adult content that today's American mores might not be ready for.  After all, it took 18 years for us to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  ABC think we can handle all of this?  And what is the end game anyway?

All signs point to an exploitative move to get some cheap headlines and ratings.  I know, naive of me to think network tv is anything but exploitative.

I am as liberal as they come socially (sorry God).  I will however be pretending this show exists when my daughter asks if it is on.

Sure I do that every season, but this time I might actually mean it.



Quick Hits:

Please download and/or buy the debut album from NY based band Caveman.  It is called CoCo Beware and it is outstanding.  It is on Itunes/Spotify and here:  http://cavemantheband.com/   I am biased and more partial to their I think legendary live gigs...  but I am rooting for them BIG TIME.  Catch a nice buzz and listen please.  You wasted 35 minutes this week on far worse I am sure.


Also, very sad about the thought of Syracuse away from the Big East.  The constant moving and shaking up of the major college conferences is both disheartening and senseless.

Fans don't matter, ad dollars do.  Jim Boeheim NOT in MSG for the tourney in March is absurd.  Much like Nebraska in the Big 10 (12/14/whatever).  Or TCU in the Big East.  Or Notre Dame in any conference at all.

If I could blame ESPN (and ABC its parent company) I would.  But they are mainly the facilitators.  We eat it all up without the slightest of protest.  We wanna watch the games and pay dearly to do so.

Not me.  I like what I grew up on and will never be a fan of these Super Conferences.   And the irony?  The college football dollar is what is driving the whole damn mess.

And they can't ever provide me with a unified champion.

Bring on the NHL.  

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hitting the Wall (but pushing through it)

At some point it is bound to happen.  Work, and school, and 2 hours drives to travel soccer games, and unfortunate hospital visits, and nursing my poor wife back to health, packing lunches, homework, bla, bla, freaking bla.

It's the same for a great many of us so I am not really bitchin about it.  I do love fall and am hoping I can get a day to rake leaves and enjoy a football game in its entirety.  Better yet, can I see the Red Sox fully implode and miss the playoffs???  That would make up for the misery my Astros and Seahawks have and will put me through.

Some quick hits:  

Can I please see Manny Pacquaio fight Floyd Mayweather Jr??  I have had enough of his mouth and undefeated record.  Once and for all he needs to be put in his place.  Too bad Larry Merchant wasn't 50 years younger like he suggested Saturday night.  Take a look:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI24aauDeeg   Also, is this a cheap shot or should Ortiz have known better??  What a weird way to end a fight.  Glad I did not drop the $50 to watch live.   I try and defend boxing and have yet to watch an MMA fight but how long can I win this battle?  The heavyweight game is a joke and if this is the best pound for pound fighter what am I to do?  Where have you gone Hagler/Hearns???

I think I want to put an end to political bumper stickers and/or magnets.  It is bad enough I have to deal with OBX or LBI magnets all over town.  But today I saw a paw on the back of a Lexus with the words "My dog attacks Democrats."

Ok, let's assume for a moment that this is true.  Can I then prosecute you and put your dog down for this seemingly unsolicited attack?  What will the defense be?  The defendant believes in Planned Parenthood and big government so I sicked Fido on his ass.  Yeah, that's sound judgement.

I want to be on board with Republicans or Democrats (since they are all we have), but this kind of douchery will never be accepted.  Save your Jesus Fish and I brake for Tea Party nonsense for the sanctity of your heartless and soulless den.  I am sure the Moose head hanging over your big screen tv will get a kick out of it.   Oh, and lest you think I hate only Right loving freak-shows think again.  I want an end to bike enthusiasts with the "One Less Car" sticker plastered about their pretentious rides.  Um, I need and love my car.  I would not have been able to bike to Pennsylvania this weekend, then back to upstate NJ, then home, within 24 hours.  Sure, we can conserve some energy here and there.  But cars are just fine thank you very much.  I am all for alternative energies to fuel them.  Until then look for me filling up as needed.  

Cars, I suppose, are an extension of your personality.  That said, if you are a Kool-Aid drinking tool,  do you want complete strangers to know that?  You can guess my feelings regarding vanity license plates right?  GR8.

Finally, a moment on my commute into NYC.  Today the tolls went up to $12 at the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels.  Other river crossings were affected too, but for my purposes those 2 are my lifeblood. Now, I have had the debate before and I hear all the naysayers.  Just take the train in.  Not so easy, and maybe more expensive or comparable.  

Round trip ticket is $22 a day.  Parking is $400 a year.  First train I can take after I drop my daughter off is around 8:40am.  I would get to the office around 10am and then have to leave on a 3:00 train to pick her up.  Note, the additional time after 2:45 at school is $8 to $10 bucks an hour.  

Either way you cut it the expense is astronomical.  I can park in NYC for about $15 and I figure the daily car wear and tear/gas is about $15.  Round it off to $50 and compare that with both my wife and I commuting in and you realize my dilemma.  

When does the middle class get a break again?  Which is the party that represents our needs?  

I just want to work and live comfortably.  I am not asking for millions or a fairy tale.  Our credit scores are in the high 700s but it means nothing.  Congrats for paying your bills and keeping the economy afloat...  now go get your shine box and do it again tomorrow.

Bitter I am.  Probably just this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ChfIyHZqEd8&feature=related  I do like the retort too:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=guv5LUT1AFw

It's all good.  Office Space always puts me in a good mood.  I have some hoops later that will surely be entertaining.  I can root real hard for the Rams to beat the Giants tonight and for the Red Sox to fall on their face.  I can hope the UN General Assembly does not interfere with my City driving the next few days.  Really, do all these dignitaries need to come into Manhattan???  Ok, wait, I am getting angry again.

No, it's cool, really.  After all, look at all the good music that is out there these days.  Here are some feel good pics from our endless driving this past weekend:  

"Moves Like Jagger"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEPTlhBmwRg  Wife's latest guilty pleasure.  Perhaps in her weak state she was more vulnerable than usual.  Needless to say she is smitten with Adam Levine and can no longer make fun of Maroon 5.

"Where I'm Going" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw6nviOv3tk  I just like that my daughter keeps telling people that she "heard this live" at last week's Cut Copy show.  So damn cute, and a great song.

"Lucky Now" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSyvZXtA0-w  Ryan Adams in love, sober and happy.  It will take some getting used to but boy can he write a song.

"Different" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QF6wBFh3BII  Another pic from the mrs.  She has had plenty of Kathie Lee/Hoda/VH1 time.  So, naturally she knows who Ximena Sarinana is.  And that JLo is w/ Bradley Cooper and DWTS starts tonight...  etc...

For the record, I will bring up the debate of Chaz Bono participating on that show at some point.  I heard Dr. Keith Ablow debate the merits of a transgender playing to the masses might be detrimental to our youth.  It is something to think about as he/she/it twirls around a scantily clad woman tonight.  You let me know how it looks.  And I will try and pick up the debate later.


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Friday, September 16, 2011

Caveman Band, Mercury Lounge Record Release Party... Walking upright indeed.

It started with the wall of sound that captured my attention last winter at Bowery Ballroom.  We were there to see the supremely talented headliners, White Rabbits.  For me, that night represented a coming of age for both me, and their supporting act: NY based Caveman.


My story is pretty simple.  I had stopped writing for about 10 years.   As Caveman wrapped up a stirring rendition of "Old Friends" it struck me...  I need to be back doing what I enjoy, what makes me happy.  I looked in their faces and heard in their instruments a sort of pureness.  Creative forces banding together and making art.  When done correctly and without pretense, it can bring joy to both artist and audience.


With that, I also decided I need to be around music a lot more too.


It is that kind of inspiration and goodness that comes from Caveman music.  More importantly, it is their live performances that are designed for elation.  Last night, at Mercury Lounge in the Lower East Side, Caveman displayed this prowess celebrating the digital release of their debut album:  CoCo Beware.  For more info on the band take a look here:  http://cavemantheband.com/.


The album, all moody and haunting, happens to be an exceptional debut.  Last night the gentlemen played its contents as headliners.  And it is about time.


As I have written about 5 of their shows during the past year I will refrain from the song by song analysis.  It's 2011 and if you give me the slightest bit of credibility you can look and listen to all of this and judge for yourself:


"Vampirer/Old Friend" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svx2IV866Ok  Live at SXSM.  Probably the highlight of last night's show too.   A perfect mix of guitar and percussion.  The sounds that emit from Jimmy "Cobra" Carbonetti's are unlike any I have heard in recent memory.  Bassist Jeff Berrall stands out as well with his fierce and energetic play.   The crowd in this clip is a touch lame...  but yellow shirt guy is on the bandwagon with me.  You cannot fully appreciate the last 60 seconds of this clip until you are standing 5 feet away from it.  It is what sucked me in and made 2 fast fans last night in my friend and sister.  To accomplish such a controlled mix of chaos and melody in such a short life span for this band is most impressive.  Some bands wait a lifetime to make such sound.  Others never accomplish it at all.


"Thankful" also has am ethereal sound that both gets you out of your seat and puts you in a trance:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3qG0ybmOMI&feature=related


"I got no time on my hands, I mean to a degree" sings Matthew Iwanusa.  His voice soft is both soft and commanding.  The piano fills (Sam Hopkins) and precise/lighting fast drumming (Stefan Marolachakis) add incredible texture to the proceedings.


"December 28th" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43HjWYyQyPU  Taken from an April, 2011 Bowery show.  Not supreme quality for sure, but the bassline is worth it alone.  Soothing and sweet.


"Decide"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxxOIwPF8qM&feature=related  Fast paced and groovy stuff here.  The transition they make from dissonant post-modern material to pop/tribal/surf is worth noting.  You can't stop the groove, only hope to contain it.


Get it yet?  This is a band with a bright future.  I am but one person but damn it I am gonna shout it from the rooftops.  


Their release is available on Itunes and Spotify so go grab it.  I would expect many more tour dates in the near future and recommend strongly you attend.   




Lower East Side:  A look-back


There is talk that maybe I should run an excursion/bus tour for events like last night.  How much woudl people pay to see a different town or neighborhood/eat/shop/see a concert/and head back home.  I would buy an 8 seat van like Scooby Doo and retrofit it with seats.  Picture a lounge on wheels if you like.  Take all the white folk here in town out of their comfort zone for a while.  


Last night's itinerary would have been:  leave town @ 7:30 and arrive on Lower East Side around 8:30.  Park at garage close to venue and walk around for a bit.   Shoe shopping was had for the ladies and then a stop at Teany (https://www.teany.com/) for dinner.  Moby opened this veggie/vegan place almost 10 years ago on Rivington St.  When we end up in this part of town we tend to end up there.  We shared some small plates and "cheesecakes" and enjoyed it once again.  The Chocolate Maccaron/ Earl Grey Teaacchini/Crostini plate were among the highlights.  Turns out I can go through dinner without eating red meat.  Who knew?


Although, after the show I was still hungry so the (2) slices and zeppoli from Ray's (http://www.facebook.com/pages/FAMOUS-ORIGINAL-RAYS-PIZZA/125109203044) hit the spot.   A) It was great to read up about the endless debate about which Ray's came first?  Do they all have Famous or Original in the title?  B)  The pizza and pastry were strong.  I think I was in my right mind enough to discern its quality too.  C)  So funny to see the place hopping close to 1am.  The life of the City that late is so different and kinetic.  And each neighborhood has its own distinct quality.  If you come out of Bowery, or Fillmore, or Webster Hall, the feel of each spot is very different.  And they are all located within about 20 blocks.  


And Mercury Lounge (http://www.mercuryloungenyc.com/) is a real gem.  I had never been there and can safely report that it is SMALL.  Ironic that we ate at Teany prior to this venue.  It was tiny night.  The bartender was first rate and they pour Guinness.  There are several cushioned benches for those hobbled or otherwise inclined to sit.  And it can't hold more than 250 people.  It is a special place, but maybe too small for the sound Caveman put out.  Webster Hall or Williamsburg would be a great fit for them.  I think A Civil Twilight (3 members) would be brilliant at Mercury Lounge.  There were some pops in the speakers last night.


Chaffeur guided the crew outta town after pizza and I am pretty sure I was in bed by 1:30am.


Would you pay 3 bills for that night?


I'm listening.


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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

An Evening in Montclair, Cut Copy/Washed Out (with 9 year old daughter)


Seems like forever ago...  but about 24 hours ago my young daughter and I were watching Washed Out finish a nice opening set supporting Aussie new wave throwbacks Cut/Copy.

Maybe it was the two hard days at work?  Maybe it was the nursing my hobbled wife during the down-time?  Maybe it was the return of therapy Tuesdays?  Maybe it was all of the above?  But around 8pm I wondered what the implications would be if I got a little me time.  Better yet, some me and the little one time.  We of course had concerns about how late the night would be.  It was a school night after all.  But we are early in the year and it is 4th grade, right?  Is it any different if Selena Gomez was in town on a weeknight?  Or if we went to a Yankees game?  Plus, Montclair has a curfew.  11pm the show will be over I thought to myself.

And so it was.  A mad dash to Montclair so we can make it before box office closed at 9.  Turns out you cannot order tix online or via phone on day of show.  As spontaneous and mellow I might appear the fact is I really like to plan these events months in advance.  Seeing how last night went I can now understand why folks enjoy doing things on a whim.  Mainly, the joy and wonderment expressed from the little one's eyes made it all worthwhile.

She showed concern when the Parkway had a construction project.  "Daddy how are we gonna get in?  What will we do if the box office is closed?"

"Don't worry about it.  We will still have had an adventure and tried to do something out of the ordinary." I told her.

"Daddy where are we gonna park?"  "Daddy are you sure it is all ages?"  "Daddy will there be al ca hole there?"

"It's gonna be fine...  Don't worry about it." I calmly replied.

True indeed.  A parking spot right on Bloomfield Ave helped us get to the window at 8:58.  Once inside she was in a constant frenzy.  We started on the floor to catch "Chillwave" newbie Washed Out.   Georgia product Ernest Greene is the main operative in this well polished and smooth band.  It was a great fit for the synth heavy evening.  I had some knowledge of Greene and his project prior to last night.  After this well paced and performed set I will certainly be on the lookout for more.

Know this:  when I asked my daughter about key moments from the evening she said:  "I really liked the song Cut/Copy played before 'Need You Now' and Washed Out."  She was right.  Those two moments were the highlights of the night.  Some reference material from Washed Out:

"Eyes Be Closed" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arfauoVF6aM&feature=related  Their final song and to this point their breakthrough hit.  Equal parts Moby, OMD, Simple Minds, and maybe Erasure.  OK, it could very well be equal parts 4 entirely different bands.  I happen to like it.   This is the stuff House MD montage scenes are set to.

"Amor Fati" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOpDezVSpI8&feature=related  More goodness and kindness set to cool beats.  If you ever liked John Hughes comedies and/or Members Only jackets I may have found something for you.  It counts if you had a Club Member jacket like me too...  I am not ashamed to admit that Members Only were out of my financial reach.  Or that I had Sky Jordan's too.  Big deal.

For more:  http://www.subpop.com/artists/washed_out

I really enjoyed talking my girl through the transition from opening act to headliner.  I mentioned how Washed Out is not quite there yet because they were still breaking down their own equipment.  She was curious about the engineers and roadies that enveloped the stage.
"It looks like they need a lot of outlets" she said.

 I told her how I look for certain things before the main act hits the stage.  When the stage hands test the mics it is a good sign.  If they duct tape the play lists to the floor.  Finally, when an opened beer is gently placed near the bass drum.

"When you see that, you can be sure the house lights are coming down." I proudly told her.

And with that Cut/Copy took the stage and played a very simliar set from last months show in Brooklyn.  I readily admit I knew nothing of this band until a few months ago.  And to this day I really only know their latest album "Zonoscope."  They have 2 other albums so I am late to the party for sure.  But since they played several tracks from an album I enjoy...  I like this set.

"Take Me Over" led off the show just like last month.  "Elisa", and "This is All We've Got",  and "Corner of The Sky" are all fun, dance-centric toe-tappers.  Their latest single "Blink or You'll Miss a Revolution" also hit some high notes.

But, as my astute little girl noted, the encores were worth the wait.  The inspired "Where I'm Going" and their big hit "Need You Now"(which as dedicated to Dj Mehdi who passed recently:  http://www.tmz.com/2011/09/13/dj-mehdi-dead-dies-died-hip-hop-music-electronic-mehdi-faveris-essadi-french-chromeo-dr) worked on all cylinders.  Dan Whitford (vocals/synth) is a tremendous frontman.  He has a strong voice and excellent stage presence.  And, thankfully, when the songs are over he stays away from the pointless chatter.  One song smoothly transitions into the next.  Tim Hoey (guitars/sampler), Mitchell Scott (drums) and Ben Browing (bass) round out the cast.  Good, clean fun.

Should you be interested:

"Need You Now" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tb1o42RdVzA

"Hearts on Fire" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5BvK-HzO9Y&feature=related  Their biggest hit up until this record.  Bass driven club music.

"Where I'm Going" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xw6nviOv3tk&feature=related  Quickly becoming my favorite.  Beach Boys and Queen set to Men at Work.  Or something like that.

"Take Me Over" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OGDOhiqFjY&feature=related   I kinda like this live recording from a Houston outdoor fest earlier this summer.  Gives you a great feel for the snare and synths blending nicely with Whitford's voice.  Wish I had a camera that could capture the sound like the one used here.  It also demonstrates how much these guys love the 80s!!!  I can see them sitting down with Martha Quinn for sure.

We made our way out moments after 11 and I am pretty sure she was asleep seconds after I pulled away from our choice parking spot.  She made it through the morning routine in good shape too.  Her only request was a shower because that is "the only way she could wake up."

A friend joked "in a few years she will be asking for coffee and a shower."

Probably.  For now she was the youngest one in the joint and fitting in quite nicely thank you very much.  Why not?

After sitting through hours of back to school night rhetoric it appears 4ht grade is very much the big leagues.   I am pretty sure I could not handle it.  Hell, I skipped out before the damn presentations were over.  Maybe I work in some incentive program for her.  Doctor said it might be a good idea.

You do your homework without complaining and keep up the good grades maybe we see Brett Dennen and Guster.

Better than working toward a Build-a Bear, right?  Or once again am I being selfish?

In any event we do it all again tomorrow...  Caveman record release party at Mercury Lounge.  There are still tix available!!

Go download CoCo Beware...  http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2011/09/caveman_releasi.html

More on that later...

Be well all.

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Yeah, I remember

Seriously, could you ever forget?  Driving into Manhattan and seeing smoke flying from the Tower.  Listening to 1010 Wins talk about a small aircraft accident.  Then the second plane.  Then the reports.  And watching them fall.  The aftermath.  The eerie drives through the Holland for weeks, months after.  An almost Thunderdome feel to Lower Manhattan.  Quiet remembrance.  First responders.  Mike Piazza home runs.  Wars that continue to this day.  Economic fallout we may never break out of.  A day does not go by I "Never Forget."  The day it doesn't is the day I stop breathing.  Oh, and did I mention the daughter that resulted in the new found free time my wife and I had in the days after.  I take one look into her naive and pure eyes and I am reminded.

And that is a large reason I turned off the coverage this weekend.  I need not see the oversized flags draped over a football field.  TAPS and name readings will more than likely make me sad and angry.  Conspiracy theory documentaries and news footage of the event do nothing for me either.

You know how to politely tell Bin Laden, his cronies, and any and everybody that wants to reign on my freedom parade to F off?  Live American.

Local pee wee football Friday night.  Check.

Big, greasy pork filled Jersey diner breakfast. Check.

Outstanding Hollywood film on its release weekend.  Check.  And by the way, go see Contagion (http://contagionmovie.warnerbros.com/index.html)  Say what you will about what tools Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow are (and they are.)  They are exceptional MOVIE STARS.  Put aside the Red Sox affinity and Coldplay/bad baby naming nonsense and enjoy.  Steven Soderbergh has a real gem here.  I can even put aside the slights given toward bloggers and internet rumors this film is heavy on.

The story is strong and relevant.  The cast is first rate and energized.  And Soderbergh covers all the bases with art direction, cinematography and score.  It may be 10 minutes long but every movie these days is.  Go get a giant bag of candy and popcorn...  drink a big infidel soda...  and drop $12 in an oversized multiplex with hundreds of strangers to see this movie.

Then, after your giant dinner and dessert back home, kick your shoes up and watch some football.

Be it Notre Dame finding every possible way to lose a game.  Or maybe you like rooting against Rex Ryan and his big, foot loving mouth?  Me too.

Not a sports fan?  Read a non-censored book.  Go to a website that catches your interest.  Online shop.  Take a walk downtown.  Do whatever the hell you want to.  And when you do, channel your inner Charlie Sheen.

Always remember, never forget, but keep living!!!  Only then will we be winning.

Now, excuse me while I grab a beer and watch millionaires go beat the hell out of one another.

Friday, September 9, 2011

An Evening in Philadelphia, The National edition...

Several of my friends and family told me how crazy I am to see a weeknight show in Philadelphia.  We do live 20 miles from NYC.  Surely you can find a show there, right?

Well, yes.  In fact next Thursday I will be in Mercury Lounge doing just that.  Turns out The National did not hit NYC this time around.  After their brilliant set I saw last winter in Montclair they were more than worthy of the trip.  And let's be honest...  Philly is a) not that far away and b) is way too underrated in the eyes of New Yorkers.  OK, I get it, the Mets' fan hates the Philly fans.  Giants fans hate Eagles fans.  Bla, Bla, Bla.  Hate the jersey but love the town for God's sake.  We are adults aren't we?

Left the house @ 3:30pm and was enjoying my first belgian ale at monkscafe.com at 5:30 on the dot.  There is a VERY strong likelihood I leave my house next week at 7pm for Mercury Lounge and get there as doors open at 9:30.  Drove about 75mph for a solid hour and a half down the Turnpike.  Stern replays and a hot coffee on a lazy Thursday afternoon.  Sign me up every day from now on.

A moment about Monk's please...  It has been at least 10 years since I discovered it, and it is still an exceptional experience.  They brought a newer food menu to the table and I liked.  Steak Frites were terrific along with their award winning frites dipping mayo.  It really does not get any better.

Throw in 12 or so Belgian on draft and you can understand my allegiance.   I understand Philly is known for its cheesesteaks and it is probably sacrilege to go elsewhere on a daytrip.  So be it...  Monk's will forever have a hold on me.




There was a concert too.  And boy was there a venue.  I have been to plenty of shows in the City of Brotherly Love.  Mostly the lower brow or smaller joints up until last evening.  The Mann, TLA, and Electric Factory was all I knew.  The National decided to class things up a bit.  Enter the Academy of Music on the corner of Broad and Locust.  I come to find out it is the oldest Opera House in the US.  1857 to be exact.  No drinks in the hall itself.  Immaculate and well maintained bathrooms.  Cushioned seats and ushers EVERYWHERE.  This place is special.  It took me most of Yo La Tengo's set to breath it all and fully appreciate the building.  That isn't to slight Yo La Tengo's set.  There were some serious sound issues and the main PA was down for their first 3 songs.  They gamely played instrumentals and were very precise and pleasant.  I have known of the decades old Hoboken trio for years.  I have friends who turned me on to them and are firm believers.  Given they were dealt with some technical issues and an otherwise abbreviated gig, I will refrain from going too in depth.  Their Roland Kirk meets Cosby show on acid induced cover of the Beach Boys' "Little Honda" was both inspired and overdone.  Any way you score it these guys (and girl) are worth a listen.  Their manic horn section was fun, but maybe took away from some quiet moments.  I do kinda dig female drummers.  It's a lot like girls who drive trucks, or work construction.  It's a little bit bad ass.  It helps when you can do it proficiently.   For more info take a look here:  http://www.yolatengo.com/

We found out Yo La Tengo was delayed a half hour so naturally The National was too.  They apologized several times before unloading several tracks from their haunting and beautiful newest album High Violet.  Within the first 6 songs "Anyone's Ghost", "Bloodbuzz Ohio",  "Afraid of Everyone" and "Conversation 16" were played, and played well.  The sweet baritone sounds of Matt Berninger were met well with the Hall's acoustics.  His words were audible and clear.  His command, like always, was most strong.  His energy was not as high as the November Montclair show.  But they have gone non-stop since then so he, and his mates get a bit of a pass.

Not like they need one.  The rest of the band (brothers Aaron and Bryce Dessner and Scott and Bryan Devendorf) fill out this formidable band.  It's also great to see a band incorporate a horn section flawlessly to the proceedings.  It can be overkill and smother the overall sound if used improperly.  This will never happen under The National's watch.  It did not come as much of a surprise to hear their sound engineer fixed the Hall's PA system by switching brains of one system to another.  They are a band that SOUNDS great.  It is cohesive, flawless melody with an unmistakable voice icing the cake.  Drummer Bryan Devendorf is an absolute force and standout.  He defines the expression "drumming to a different beat."  He fills in gaps with such precision it is a pleasure to watch.

The rest of the set had familiar and welcome cuts.  "Apartment Story" hit all the right notes and had the crowd dancing.  So did the song that brought them to my attention years ago, "Mr November."  Maybe because I was born that month, and despite the fact Obama used it for his campaign a few years back, I really, really like that song.  "Fake Empire", "Start a War" "England", and a rousing "Terrible Love" were also stand-outs from a very nice night at the thee ate oar.  I am unsure if a band like The National will end up back at The Hall, but if so it is well worth the trip.

For some examples and/or tracks from the playlist take a look:

"Apartment Story"  http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=apartment+story&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

"Mr November"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxWQMyoYJBU  Live version from Brooklyn Academy of Music.  You get a good feel for what I saw last night.  Similar venue and performance.  Singer is an animal.

"England"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVp7C5vzMgw  again live and amazing.  This takes a while to build but if you hang in it is worth it.  Ok, have a few beers first.  4:50 mark on = :-)

"Bloodbuzz Ohio" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfySK7CLEEg 

"Fake Empire" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KehwyWmXr3U

"Terrible Love"  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efg1h0EzLeE&ob=av3e  Good to see a band having fun and enjoying itself.  It is apparent here in both pictures and sounds.


I should also point out the visual presentation The National employed last night was first rate.   They had fixed cameras and other folks operating handy-cams projecting live feeds to a large projection screen.  A visual artist/videographer/editor mixed in those live shots with other pre-shot images and colors.  The overall effect was stunning and like nothing I have ever seen before.  The show, from venue to performance, was a real treat for the senses.

I could gripe about the crowd yelling out song requests ad nauseum, or the fact that I could not find a WAWA on the way home... but I am not going to let those trivial things bother me.  Less than a week before Caveman!   Then Foo Fighters, Lykke Li, hell maybe even Cut/Copy Monday. Bring on the Fall!!!






Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Jury Process (and all its flaws)

I had little time to celebrate and enjoy my daughter's first day of 4th grade today.  Bad enough I have a wife laid up with a leg injury from (don't laugh) a Labor Day wiffle ball injury.  Today I was summoned for jury duty.  This is the 3rd time in the past 8 years I have been called and the timing could not have been worse.

Whatever, I did my part and spent the day in the antiquated, under-out-leted jury room.  I guess I really don't have a problem with all of that.  In fact, I would kind of like to be part of the process if that meant I could actively participate in the system.  The way things are how can anyone who works for a living sit on a jury?

As I had been through it before I ignored the cheesy instruction video and caught up on the days events via Ipad until around 10am.  We had 4 judges sitting today and quickly we were told only 3 were polling.  "Ok, let's see how it proceeds" I said to myself.  I knew I was in for the long haul.  Totally uncool I could not pick up the little one from her first day.  Again, I can live with that.

Around noon about half the group was summoned to a courtroom.  I was spared.

I took a stroll outside for a fabulous Blimpie lunch and coffee.  I was well prepared for the afternoon session.  Around 2pm my name was called.  Corralled like sheep we followed the clerk to a second floor  courtroom.  When I noticed 3 sheriffs in the room I got the feeling this was a bit different than most cases.  I soon found out we were dealing with a criminal case.  And when the judge announced the plantiff's name it hit home.  There are very few homicides in my county.  There are even fewer that take place in church rectories.  This was going to be interesting.

The kind judge went over with meticulous detail how long this case might last.  He intimated weeks, if not months might be required.  It was going to be our responsibility to detail how this would be a hardship should we be picked.  It was pretty clear for me (and for my peers too as they were excused en masse.)  "All due respect your honor, I work in NYC for a very small firm.  I am 100% commission and was at a significant disadvantage losing today.  To lose more days would be catastrophic."

I was excused immediately.  And that might be too bad.  Granted, I know a great deal about the case.  However, I think I can be impartial and, looking around that room, an asset to the defense as much as the prosecution.  I am educated.  I tend to hate all things equally.  And boy would this have been great blog and/or book material??  Truthfully, what incentive does someone like me have to miss 2 months of work (@ $45 a day) to sit through this.  Who then will this defendant have on his jury?  I say this because everyone who worked or wanted to work or was able to work was excused without prejudice.

Retirees or unemployed had nothing to lose so a few of them made the cut.  This is all before the questionnaire and vetting process that is to happen tomorrow.  I am certain 99% of these folks will be excused due to their prejudices and/or other sociological flaws.  When the dust settles the defendant will have 12 folks who just happen to have time on their hands this fall.

Seems like a good way to decide a man's fate.  I am told this is the best system in the civilized world.  That either means every other country has never tried or could care less.

I suppose the problem lies squarely with the process itself.  Does a trial really need to last months?  Should a jury be expected to sit that long?  Perhaps for a case of this magnitude a judge is better equipped to handle these matters?  We see how long the Casey Anthony jurors deliberated after months sitting?  They had book deals to get to.  This is a nation lacking in attention span.  If I turn the tv during the middle of a Law & Order I forget I was watching it after 2 minutes.  And I still think I am one of the bright ones.  Ugh.

I think we need to tear this s^&* up and start over.  Pay the jurors their salary for the time they sit.  Make them accountable for their actions and demand they take the position seriously.  In fact, make it a true jury of your peers.  If a janitor commits a crime against a priest bring in 6 janitors and 6 priests to decide the fate.  Teachers judge on teachers.  Doctors and Patients decide slip and fall cases.  Politicians' fate will be determined by union leaders and prostitutes.

This way does not seem to be working.  I had a tremendous opportunity to learn and experience the process today.  But, like most everything in life, I cannot afford it.  And I am sure I am not alone.

For the defendant that translates to a life sentence (at best.)



Side Note:

I literally spoke to no one the entire time I was there.  Other folks there became fast friends and engaged in conversation the entire day.  I could not have been more aloof and almost belligerent.  What the hell is wrong with me?  On one hand I am fascinated and enthralled by the process.  On the other I am appalled and repulsed by everyone in that room.  Either the noise reduction headphones are a miracle invention sure to enhance my inner creativity or the last sign of a total mental breakdown that sends me off the grid entirely.

Time will tell.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Better to be 15 now or 1987?

Not all the discussions and debates were frivolous and silly over my vacation.  Sure, we had talks about our first concerts and our jobs.  There was a conversation about credit card debt and mortgages I found pretty insightful too.  But there was a particularly interesting sentence or two that had to do with the 15 year old boy in our group.

Namely, my oldest friend and the backbone to the trip, made an off the cuff comment about what he was up to when he was 15.  He pointed the question at one of his oldest friends and the father to the boy.  Pretty much went like this:  "Boy the stuff we did when we were his age."

I could describe details but I think you get the point.  At 15 in the 80s life was infinitely easier.  In 1987 I was headed out first thing in the morning and coming back sometime around dinnertime.  I would head back out and get home to sleep.  Years before that, at age 9, I was pretty much doing the same thing.  I could get on my bike and head to the high school.  I could take a walk, alone, to buy my dad some smokes.  I could engage in a wiffle ball game in the middle of my street.

At 9, my daughter would never dare walking down our street alone.  She has spent about 10 pedals riding her bike on the street (with me watching over every inch of the trip.)  She could try to get me cigarettes...  but we all know how that would work.

And what of that 15 year old boy today?  Any chance he can get a fake id and get served at his local?  Would he even want to drink?  In many ways he showed a greater maturity than most of us.  Although very much wired in and gaming (Call of Duty, Dance game on Xbox, etc...), he wanted to sail on his free day down South.  I don't think I knew what sailing was at 15.  I barely do now.

Kids are exposed to so many things via all types of media (social and otherwise) I wonder how much of them dare experience the very things they are exposed to.  We fear letting them go yet are content letting them stay inside.  I think I prefer the older model.   That is to say, go out and experience everything you can NOW!  To virtually experience it will never satisfy your human urges.  I would prefer my daughter have a few drunken episodes early in life rather than go crazy week 1 at Harvard.  And as heart-wrenching as it is to write, she better have some dating experiences along the way too.  The sports and/or clubs should continue for sure.  Sleepovers and bike rides through town are mandatory.  I want to be sad and devastated when she says "I am going to a high school football game with my friends dad, can you drop us off."

It was encouraging to see a young man very much aware of what the world has to offer.  He is focused, intelligent, funny and polite.  This is exactly how we should raise our children.

It is a dangerously fine line though.  As we inch closer to the tenth anniversary of 9/11 we have to be very careful not to raise soft children.  I hear subtle references to how delicate some pee-wee football leagues have become.  Boys, often times raised more by their mothers than fathers (and playing video football more than real football) are getting hurt more and unable to withstand the rigors of a contact sport.  More ways Bin Laden's terrorist act has crippled our socioeconomic realities.

If we are scared, how on Earth can we raise children to be unafraid?  It is impossible.

Our children today still have the potential, in fact more, than we did 20/25 years ago.  With so many more problems today there generation will be relied upon. The demand for innovators and thinkers is more prevalent now than ever before.  Should we continue to raise our children with kid gloves how will we find them?  From confidence comes confidence.

10 years later I think it's about time to claim back what is ours.  Gas too high?  Screw it.  Let's re-invent fueling.  Home prices a mess?  Change the system.  Your damn right we have the power to make a difference.  Do we want to our children to be stuck with more trouble or have all the tools to succeed and prosper where we never did.

15 today ain't easy for sure, but it has the potential to be magical.

I can hear my Sociology professor yelling at me about what I just wrote.  "This rant defines my belief that altruism does not exist."

I accept that.  If I am selfish for wanting my child (and others like her) to succeed so be it.  I think that is better than wanting them all to fail.  Plenty of us (ME INCLUDED) have done enough of that.

"Looking up, looking like, my losing streak is done."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOzB6eFGMl8&feature=related      Eels "Losing Streak"

You may know this track from Shrek...


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Topsail Island, Part 2 (Mommy, What's Wrong with Frank?")

It's just too short.  And the quest/goal is to make a one week vacation two weeks.  Even another 3 days is better than this nonsense.  And no, this is not the 11 1/2 hour drive talking.  We all felt this way sometime around Thursday.  Where did the week go??  You finally have the peace and serenity you fight for and next thing you know you are packing up all your gear and headed North again.  Hardly seems right.  And we were the fortunate ones that made it onto the Island last Saturday.

All the naysayers thought we were crazy driving into Hurricane Irene.  You will excuse us if we wanted to get the full week in.  Not really in a position to pay for a week away and not use it for every possible second.  It did not look like New Jersey fared much better.  Our warehouse in Fairfield was flooded all week so we could not even do work if we wanted to.  Not like that stopped the endless calls and emails during my week off.  Would have been nice if I could ignore them for a few days, but if you refer to the previous sentence you understand how that is impossible.  Funny how shelving and lockers are maybe the most important thing in the World.

With that all said the main point is 1 week hardly seems right.  I mean look at this place!!  :  http://www.flipflopinntopsail.com/   5 families, (all absolutely terrific) laughing, eating, drinking, and in a total relaxation state.  Some folks did a day of sailing.  Some, like mine, spent an hour on the Inter Coastal kayaking.  There was a round of golf.  There was fishing.  There was beach.  There was too little time.

Now we have a goal though.  Get through the year and make some bank.  Two weeks is feasible and actually quite necessary.  If we keep working this hard for little reward I fear a total breakdown.  Europeans do it all the time (and all the parents at my daughter's school.)  Why not us?  Why not now?

Well, several reasons.  But I will ignore that all for now.  Goals are good, right?  Now I have one (in addition to several others that have gone unfulfilled to date.)  "Decide what to be and go be it."

I may have been a bit harsh on Topsail Island during my first post.  Truth is, it is a wonderful place.  I almost hate writing about it, or Holden Beach, or Ocean Isle.  They are all so quaint, quiet and peaceful I dare not let out the secret.   I do love the Jersey Shore, but it is not the same.  Why would I want to deal with the crowds when I don't have to?  I feel no guilt in driving for a day to achieve this.  I am certain I would not have had this calm North of Ocean City, MD.  No offense to those who swear by these spots...  just not for me.  I need the desolation.  I was actually ok with waiting for service.  And damn it if it wasn't pleasant to hear meaningful "Thank You's" and "Have a good day."  I even had some head nod hello's both on the beach and off.  I can't tell you how many times folks have walked right by me on my block, or downtown, and certainly NYC, without ANY eye contact, let alone a "Hello."  Manners have gone the way of the Astros wins.

We learned that from now on the house HAS to be on the beach.  It reminds me a lot of why I hate my new Mazda.  It is a nice little car which performed quite well during the big week.  But our VW had just enough features that it will never compare favorably.  Same with last year's house on Ocean Isle.  It had size, it had plenty of features, and overall it was great.  But it was blocks away from the beach.  Consequently we would go in the morning and once we gave up for the day we NEVER went back.  Since we were literally on the beach this time we could do an hour or three in the morning.  We could head home for lunch (hooray I did not have to make 20 sandwiches and pack them) and get back for afternoon beach time.  Several days saw us make it back at nightfall for moonlight walks.  Never have I appreciated the Google Sky Map more or for the speed crabs can run.  Those little guys were all over the beach one night and they can motor!!!  Put it this way, on the beach is worth double the cost.

The extended beach time probably explained our lack of partying at night.  Last year there was far more debauchery and utter drunkenness.  The party broke up by midnight most nights.  And I am pretty sure there were limited, if any hangovers.  I am ruling out maturity and/or adulthood kicking in.  The sun has to be to blame.  I am also blaming Irene and the fact that families were rolling in as late as Monday.  WE were hampered by the stresses of just making it happen.  One time is a fluke.  Next year is sure to be different...  two weeks will help.

Funny how each member was posting photos within about an hour of one another today.  Everyone agreed we name the vacation "What is wrong with Frank?"  So, now Facebook has photo albums from all over the Country with that description.  The fact we debated on whether that title was too offensive shows we are all still very much immature.  

"It suggests Frank is challenged"

"No, just handy-capable"

"I am not sure."

Finally I had to rationalize it.  "Frank is metaphor for all of us.  Even though it was said from 3 year old to 2 year old I think it could be any one of our friends, colleagues, relatives talking to a third person about each of us.  We each have issues that have folks scratching their heads.  In a way we are all Frank.  And in a way society is asking what is wrong with us?"

By my scorecard we are winning.  And I am missing deck time right about now.  I am missing my friends.  I am wanting more questions to be asked.

I like not having the answers.  Especially when it does not pertain to lockers and shelving.  If I am still doing that next year at this time we may have issues.