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Saturday, June 30, 2012

What You Should Know, Summer 2012 Part 2

School is out.  Baseball is headed toward the All Star break.  The 4th of July is next week!  Geez, just like that we are fully immersed in summer.  You ready?  You already vacationing?  What is on your playlist?  When the top down what do you HAVE to hear?  Maroon 5's "Payphone" on your radar?  Train's "Drive By?"  One Direction?  Kimbra?  Nicky Minaj?

That's all fine and dandy.  The alt world is alive and kicking too.  And don't look now, but the 90s are back and in full gear.  Over the past few weeks Garbage, Lit, Smashing Pumpkins and even Marcy Playground have put out new records.  That's a welcome relief from all the synth/tech/hipster deluge that has dominated the indie world for the past few years.  Dive into some of these familiar sounds and dust off the flannels.  Oh, and take a listen to some other tracks that may have escaped you too.

And for God's sake re apply that sunscreen.  Have you learned nothing at your advanced age??  Like Woody Allen said "Everything our parents told us was good is bad...  sun, red meat, college."  Happy listening!

Garbage: "Blood for Poppies"  Shirley Manson personified the 90s grunge/rock chick.  She was a little messy, a little angry and a little hot.  Your mom would have been mortified if you brought her home for dinner, but your dad totally understood.   Is she still only happy when it rains?  That is unclear.  She does still have a solid voice and here she brings an almost Everclear feel to the proceedings.  Fun stuff.

Fiona Apple "Werewolf"  Call her what you will, and there are several adjectives that fit, but do NOT discount her voice,  piano chops, or raw talent.   Oh, and she can write a song too.  Nevermind the pretension (which is evident in her LP's endless title.)  This song is a stand out and deserves some respect (or at least a download.)

Smashing Pumpkins "Oceania"  Like Apple, Billy Corgan was/is a polarizing figure from the 90s.  Do you love him?  Hate him?  No one is ever ambivalent toward him.  Just look at the former band members who can't even speak to him.  Weird.  Especially considering Corgan, like Apple, writes rich and smart material that evokes emotion and raw energy.  The new record keeps his reputation intact.  It is great to have him back.

Marcy Playground "Hallelujah"  It's always good to hear a cover.  And this Leonard Cohen track has been covered roughly a million times.  Jeff Buckley and Mike Myers have both done admirable jobs to name a few.  But there is something to be said about singer John Wozniak belting it out.  After all, he was the guy who smelled sex and candy.  They just released a new record (mixing some new material with their hits/B sides and rarities- titled Lunch, Recess and Detention.)  Good to see they have not lost their sense of humor.  And good for you for remembering how good they were/are.

Lit "You Tonight"  There is something to be said for simply staying together as a band.  For Lit, that means over 20 years playing, recording and touring with (3!) of the original members.  And that includes brothers!  Think Kings of Leon will be together in 20 years?  Listen up to some good old fashioned West Coast rock and roll.

Keane "Silenced By the Night"  Last month the English rockers released their 4th LP, Strangeland.  They are driven primarily by lead singer Tom Chaplin's bold vocals and catchy hooks.  In this song he hits on these points quite well.  They are not as popular as their peers Coldplay, Snow Patrol or Muse.  Chaplin has had problems with booze.  It is an underdog story worth rooting for.  Can they stand the test of time?   Will we continue to care?  Time will tell.

Of Monsters and Men "Mountain Sound"  Iceland is most definitely in the house.  The second single from this group's debut record My Head is an Animal is as good (probably better than) "Little Talks." There is a richness and depth in their sound many kids would not be able to create.  Again, the trend of men and women trading vocals (Givers, Grouplove, Naked and Famous, etc...) is alive and well.  This cut is from an April performance in Williamsburg.  Beyond Worthy!!!

Walk the Moon "Next in Line"  Ohio boys have a knack for creating catchy hooks.  They are also out promoting their debut record (self titled.)  They may have some underlying identity issues, what with the face paint and attitude.  But they capture an 80s nostalgia better than most.  And the line "Won't you stay shotgun til the day I die" remains an early favorite for best of 2012.  They have all the synths, echo and harmony of a young Dream Academy.  Added bonus:  acoustic impromptu performance in NYC's Madison Square Park of Anna Sun:  Watch Here  Loving the sirens blaring behind them!!!

Cat Power "Ruin"  It has been over 6 years since Chan Marshall, otherwise known as Cat Power, put out new material.  If this single is any indication of what to expect from her LP Sun (due out in September) we should all be most grateful.  She produced this record all by herself and, reading up on her tumultuous times since The Greatest came out in 2006, lots has happened!   Chan is a tortured artist.  And as we have seen with Adele sometimes heartbreak and depression can lead to amazing creativity.  She also happens to be super sexy as Richard Avedon captured for the New Yorker several years ago: Cat Power photo

Jimmy Fallon "Reading Rainbow"  This is about a year old, but the editors here rarely stay up for the 11:30pm talk shows, let alone 12:30!!  Fallon promoted his new LP on Howard Stern a few weeks back and this particular number stands out.  His Neil Young, Bowie and Bob Dylan are all amazing...  but this parody of Jim Morrison and The Doors is both pitch perfect and laugh out loud funny.  Enjoy!!

Keep rocking this summer and please join the discussion.  What is on your playlist this summer?  What song can you not get enough of?

Check out the first edition of summer 2012 here:  What You Should Know Part 1

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom (reviewed)

Wes Anderson makes quirky movies. He also makes movies that look beautiful. More often than not he brings out the most in his actors' performances. His latest effort, Moonrise Kingdom, has all of these characteristics and more. But like so many of his previous projects, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums chief among them, this piece has moments of genius and pure fun. But like those films, and most of his others, the end result is goodness, not greatness.

Is he revered now for his quirkiness? For his allegiance to lovable characters like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman? It's not the films, right?

Newcomers Jared Gilman (Sam) and Kara Hayward (Suzy) play star crossed lovers circa 1965 New England. He, an orphan Khaki Scout on the run from his troop. She, a misunderstood rebel from significant means on the run from her lost attorney folks (Murray and Frances McDormand.).

That's about it. 12 year old runaways and the hapless adults trying to make sense of it, all the while coming to the realization that, "Hey, maybe these kids are the ones who have it together... And we don't!?"

Romeo and Juliet set in summer camp. A geeks version of Rebel Without a Cause. An ode to innocence and simpler times. Whatever you label it after a bit it feels a touch familiar. And when the dust settles, a rather pedestrian movie.

Does Anderson have a deft touch in terms of production design? Without question. The set pieces, overall look and jump cuts are his hallmarks. Here they are all wonderfully displayed.

Anderson casts a movie quite well too. Bruce Willis has not been this good since Butch from Pulp Fiction. Here he is the hapless cop trying to make sense of his pathetic life. The two leads are pitch perfect as the mismatched couple. Gilman could have been typecast with his bold glasses and meek lisp. But he plays Sam so well you can see the young man inside and understand why Suzy finds him compelling. Hayward, a little Lana Del Rey look a like, captures the angst ridden pre teen pretty darn good herself. Edward Norton and Tilda Swinton can read TV Guide and make it compelling. And Murray and Schwartzman... well, you know what you are getting there. Which could be the problem too. These guys have all worked together so much you sometimes feel like your peeking in on an inside joke.

This time it isn't as funny. And the heart warming moments are too few, and too far between. Since when did 94 minutes feel so slow?

This film will appear on many Best of 2012 lists later this year. Hollywood will lavish praise on the indie darling. So different! So original!

Sure, if everything else in the multiplex is a retread or superhero story. There are still folks out there who like storytelling and period pieces. But just because you
tell a story and set it in a different era that does not automatically make it brilliant.

Save your time and watch Anderson's only real masterpiece, Fantastic Mr. Fox. Otherwise his ego is going to get big enough to green light a Life Aquatic sequel.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Could it be 10 years?

It was yesterday, wasn't it?  When I was pushing the cumbersome and by today's standards archaic, stoller down the street. Your tiny legs would bounce playfully in the sunlight.  Seriously, these Euro-strollers today make our Eddie Bauer model look like a Range Rover (but heavier.)

It was last week when I left you at the day care door.  There were tears of anxiety, and heartbreak as I drove away putting my trust in others.  You might have been upset too, if only for a moment.

Our dances through our cramped apartment.   All of my misguided attempts to get you to nap.  You would hum along to Ben Folds and Eels songs and raise your arms begging me to "hold you."  But the napping was always short lived.  After all you had lots to do.  Walking at 9 months!  Always with the last laugh huh?  That made the beach vacation a challenge.   My back never recovered from hovering over you as you raced toward the Atlantic.  No fear.  Just the way we ordered it.

Your first day of school and singing "God Bless America" before first bell.

The soccer games with the pop up goals.  The grocery trips that found you "driving" race car shopping carts.  Bagels times in the Starbucks high chair.  Our road trips to Mema's.  Remember when we got behind that fertilizer truck for miles and miles on rt 78?   You didn't know what to make of it.

The trip to the farm when you memorized the receipt and made it your personal password.

How about the Museum of Natural History class trip I crashed?  We had big laughs.  The Globetrotters?  Your first concert (John Mellancamp) and the realization that some cigarettes make funny smells.

That young Brazilian boy you took a liking to at World Financial.  Face painting in DC.  The aquarium in Boston.  The stars and moon crib in your closet we called a nursery.

Our enormous cat trying to eat your formula.  The scratch on your face he gave you as we were heading out for your first year photos.

Now, on the eve of your birthday, you are not even upstairs as I write this.  A sleepover invitation trumps mom and pop on this given Friday.

On your first day of summer vacation you slept til 10:30.  Then you proceeded to play on an electronic device for an hour or two.

You showered yourself.  You made your breakfast.

You take the dog on walks and have marathon girl time with 7th graders.

Long sleeve boys bathing suit tops have been replaced with bikinis.

J-14 now arrives in our mailbox every month.  Pictures of boy bands adorn your bedroom walls.

You have a passport and will be using it, solo, in less than a week.

Camp in a foreign country and all the confidence in the world that you will be able to do it.

It all goes by so fast.  But it's also immortalized in those memories.  You cannot hold on to time so simply accept it.

Those moments have all passed, but new experiences await.

First day of middle school.  Varsity letters.  Honor rolls(?) Dates.  Screaming matches with mom.  Proms.  College (or trade school- just do better than us damn it!!)

But first, 10.

More zoos.  Bike rides.  Walks with the dog.  Mini golf.  Pools.  Practices.  Parents embarrassing your friends. Italian ices.  Concerts.  Movies.

One more year of childhood.

Can we do it?  It's fast, sure.  But we must slow things down from time to time.

Soon enough you will know that Quicken is more than an arena in Cleveland.  It will come to your attention that storks don't deliver babies.  That the internet is more than Youtube.  And that, for the most part, life can get real difficult.

Not this year!

This year we nail it!  Smiles and good vibes for everyone.

Happy Birthday N.  Thanks for coming into our lives and bringing more joy than this aging hipster deserves.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Walk the Moon, Mercury Lounge 6.19.12

Last year around this time Foster the People were just about to blow up thanks to their breakout song "Pumped Up Kicks."  This summer might very well be the coming out party for Ohio synth/pop act Walk the Moon thanks in large part to their catchy, addictive single "Anna Sun."

Their record release gig Tuesday, 6.19 at Mercury Lounge showcased their confidence and ability.  It also had its share of misfires.  A 20 plus minute delay to start the show due to technical problems was the first obstacle.  Frontman Nicholas Petricca kept things jovial as the time passed on.   But he, and more obviously drummer Sean Waugaman were agitated.  Was there not a sound check?  On the night of your first big NYC headlining show shouldn't this issue have been resolved prior to the agreed upon 11pm set time?

This may be nit picking...  but some of us aren't kids anymore.  An 11pm Tuesday night show for those who work (from out of state) the next day is a rather large commitment.

Once the dust settled the quartet played with vigor and enthusiasm promoting their self titled first full length LP.  The good news is they are not a one hit wonder.  "Quesadilla" is a fun little up tempo track.  Their second single, "Tightrope" has all the earmarks of an 80s John Hughes montage track...  echo...  synths...  popping drums.

Perhaps the best moment came from "Next in Line,"  a love song/plea rooted in Human League-isms both in lyrics and groove.  It includes the simple, but effective line "Why don't you stay shotgun til the day I die?"  The crowd and band played well off each other as each verse/chorus built momentum.  This track should be another big hit for the group and if not their management should be replaced.

This are bands doing this act a little better and with more polish.  The aforementioned Foster the People, Cut/Copy and M83 come to mind.

But for a group just starting out it is easy to see them playing bigger venues their next trip through Manhattan.  Petricca has a great voice and confident (maybe too confident) stage presence.  His band mates are ok, but can temper their theatrics a bit.  No one wants to see the bassist jumping around and knocking over the drum set.  They may have announced themselves as a rock outfit, but this is pop gentlemen...  leave the thrashing around to Axl Rose and the like.  And lose the scoop neck striped American Apparel shirts too.  That look does not speak to rock and roll (if that is indeed what you are going for.)

Perhaps the image issues, technical difficulties and higher than normal expectations led to our early dismissal?  Perhaps it was the late hour?  Whatever the case may be the grade is good, not epic.

Could very well the bar is set very high these days.  And that is a very good thing.  This country is too lenient on its young anyway.  No more participation trophies people!!  It is established that live music is one of the last ways to make a living for bands these days.  Commercial and TV work are right there too.

But as every band fights for listeners and the perfect venue the bar needs to be raised.  Bring your "A" game people!  We are keeping score.  There will be winners and losers!

Crowds, we are talking to you too.  If you want to talk to one another or make out with your girlfriend take it outside.  Some folks want to see the show on stage, not around it.   Getting fall down drunk is all fine and dandy...  just not on the floor of Webster Hall (or any hall for that matter!)

Let the Summer 2012 concert season begin!  Who are you looking forward to seeing???

Join the conversation and become a fan here:  Guide2Somewhere on Facebook

More on Walk the Moon here:  Walk the Moon


We happened upon Supper ( for dinner preshow the other night.  1.  TV chef Anne Burrell entered the joint right before us so we were sure the place was rock solid.  After all, if your business is food why would you bother going to a place that sucked.  2.  It far from sucked!!

This is the third restaurant from "the Frank Crew."  That is, Frank Prisinzano's attempt at grandma's Italian Sunday dinner.

With that I ordered simply, garlic bruschetta, spaghetti with tomato and basil gravy and the most succulent veal meatballs I ever consumed.  The Mrs had a pappardelle with peas and other assorted veg that she raved about.  No sharing!  I kept my elbows ON the table to protect this wonderful plate.

Cash only and an extensive wine list for those who are interested.  The kitchen is open and the tables are communal so the whole place feels like someone's home.  But, apologies to grandma, this meal made hers look like peasant food.  Next time you are in the East Village please take a bite.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Coaching Handbook

Tonight marks the first night of daughters 3/4 grade girls softball playoffs.  8 teams, all from town, engaged in some good old fashioned competition.

Mind you, young Jennie Finch is not taking the mound in any of the 4 scheduled games.  There is some talent in the league for sure, but the league does not allow walks, coaches pitch after 4 balls, and high school kids umpire.   The NCAA Championships this is not.  Try telling that to some of the coaches in the league.  There are some that think they are the next Miller Huggins.

Here are some suggestions for the youth coach resume.

1.  Coach must have at least 1 High School Varsity letter.

2.  Let's make sure the coach has a clean criminal record.  * Mandatory!

And for parents:

1.  You are not allowed to criticize game calling or player management unless the coach is abusive.  If you find something wrong with the coaching style feel free to volunteer next season.

2.  If you sign your child up for a sport it is imperative they follow through on the commitment.  Make the practices and games as scheduled.  If you cannot simply let the coach know it will not happen.  Silence and/or no response is not only inconsiderate, it's also a little hostile.

But, I digress...  back to tonight.  This is a competition nonetheless.  And when another team is laced up to beat you should be expected to perform to the best of their ability.

It really does not matter what age you start competing either.  I was witness to a feisty 1st grade travel soccer game yesterday and the combatants were very skilled and hungry to win.  That is a good thing and must not be discouraged.

At the same time we, as coaches, have to be far better at understanding what is important and what isn't.

Helping kids improve with a positive attitude is acceptable.

Yelling and screaming at kids for "not" doing their best should be frowned upon.

Encouraging kids to come out of their comfort zone and try something?  Yes.

Sticking a kid in right field all year and ignoring them otherwise?  No.

Watching both 1st grade boys and 4th grade girls yesterday I was struck with one thing more than any other.  Coaches from a few teams were thugs!  And these were two very good games!  Sad I am reminded more of the overweight coach who verbally abused his group of 1st grade boys: "Get back to bench!  Hustle!!  C'mon James!!  You can't let that happen!!"

And there another coach who read the riot act to the referee.  Brutal.  Coaches coach.  Refs ref.  Players  play.  We send the wrong message when we interfere with that flow.

These were travel games, but again, what is really at stake here?  The goal is to keep kids active and healthy.  They should be learning how to play with one another.  They should be guided by sportsmanship and appreciating and respecting their opponents.

If it is not learned from the top, when will they ever learn?

The best example might have been a 7/8 grade championship softball game we tried to watch last night.  Our town was pitted against our hated neighboring town.  The skies opened up at game time and things the game had a delay.  The field is turf so when things cleared it all looked good for a 7:15 start.  The host town was reluctant to start.  "The pitcher cannot get a good grip on the ball.  The lights don't come on Sunday evenings.  etc..."

Did I leave out the part where they were hoping for a forfeit when our town was not there during the storm?  "They aren't here!  It's a forfeit!"  Duh, why wait at the field attracting lightning when they can go to their house for a half hour??

After some deliberating the coaches said they would not play.  They pushed for another day.

Did they go home after that?  Of course not, they started a practice.   What message does that send?  We would rather practice than play a game with you.  Never mind parents and team were now expected to come back another day.  A jerk move if there ever was one.

The same town, in a different league, asked to move a championship game to their field at a certain time over the past weekend.

Problem is they were not in the championship game yet.  You guessed it, they lost before appearing in it.

Have we all lost our freaking minds?

Let the kids play.  Do your best to facilitate and encourage participation.  There will be plenty of time for trophies and glory in high school and other competitive leagues throughout a child's life.

Is it impossible to NOT live vicariously through your child?

Now if you will excuse me I have to pump my daughter up with steroids and come up with ways to take out the opposing teams star hitter.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Dandy Warhols, Irving Plaza NYC

Dandy Warhols

Portland, Oregon's The Dandy Warhols are more far more than a one hit wonder.  In fact, you will be hard pressed to name that hit.  Was it "Bohemian Like You" or "Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth?"  Doesn't matter really.  They are a throwback to grunge and the re-emergence of alt rock.  They are hard playing, tongue firmly in cheek rockers.

Out supporting their 9th(!) album , This Machine, the quartet played a professional and polished two hours at New York's Irving Plaza.   It was neither great, nor poor.  There were some down moments mixed with some down-right awesome moments.

It is clear the band (singer/guitarist/ego Courtney Taylor-Taylor, guitarist Peter Holstrom, keyboardist/sex-pot Zia McCabe and drummer/singer Brent DeBoer have been together for a while.  They formed in 1994 and other than DeBoer joining the band in 1998 there has been zero turnover.  That kind of longevity is rare and something the Dandys should be proud of.

The problem Tuesday night was in pacing and overall setlist.  Taylor-Taylor had some issues with sound along the way too (mic'd to high or too low.)  And McCabe, and others, were clearly hot and bothered on stage (Irving Plaza brings an aggressive light show and the hairy, hipster crowd was tightly packed.)

There were too many flat balads mixed unevenly through the set.  They came on stage with a quality jam or two and then threw in a slow piece that was difficult to recover from.

Then they jammed four straight tracks from their wonderful LP 13 Tales From Urban Bohemia.  "Horse Pills, " "Bohemian Like You", "Get Off" and "Godless" could have easily been peppered throughout, not blocked/jumbled/rushed together.  And it has been determined that "Godless" should not be played sans trumpet.  This is NYC after all...  isn't their a kid from Hunter College or Parsons that could play the horn for a song or two.  Buy he or she some drinks all night and that will more than suffice.

Keyboards cannot accurately replicate/replace a bass guitar and when a song relies on horns either play it with horns or leave it off the setlist.

Would Chicago and Huey Lewis leave their brass troupes home?

There were memorable cuts and again, this group has NOTHING to be ashamed about.  They have stood the test of time and have a reputable catalog.  There are hints of Ric Ocasek and Nirvana sprinkled here and there.  Taylor-Taylor utilizes two microphones effectively (are you listening Young the Giant.)  His voice is complex and he is able to sing effectively both high and low.  DeBoer is most impressive as well.  Any drummer/singer impresses me...  but he is high energy both with the kit and vocals.

Problem is, after letting the show breathe for a few days I am left with one prevailing impression.   We quickly made our way to the coat check during "Godless." We didn't want to hear what they were doing to it anymore.

This is a setlist from a California show... very similar to the NYC setlist

The News of the Day

On this glorious Friday afternoon you really shouldn't be sweating the small stuff, should you?

So the Heat destroyed the Celtics last night and forced a pivotal game 7.  That is good for the sport, right?
Isn't Lebron James due?  What is his biggest crime after all?  He left Cleveland?  Um, he did his time.  Guys gotta eat and feed his family.  Cleveland was only offering like, 100 gazillion over 10 years or something crazy like that.  An NBA Story... must be bored

The chase for the Triple Crown took a beating moments ago when it was announced Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another has pulled out of the Belmont.  How many will show now that the race is beyond ordinary?  What of all those hats that now will go unworn by countless pretentious women?  No Triple Crown again

And on this beautiful Northeastern morning the lip synching, gyrating and women punching Chris Brown entertained tens of thousands(!) on NBC's Today Show.  So the NBC early show reported prior to Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, et al gushed over this thug.  We here at GTS ain't buying it.  Nor should you.

Don't give me the "He paid the price, and admitted guilt, and everyone is entitled to a mistake" crap either.  Just last year he threw a child like fit on ABC's morning show due to host Robin Roberts (a cancer survivor for God's sake!) asking about his incident with Rhianna.  He shattered glass and stormed off like a kid who didn't get his way.  Does this sound like the behavior of a remorseful man?  Do we think he has been rehabilitated enough that the thought of him raising a hand to a woman is unheard of?

And just last month at the Billboard awards he was heavily criticized for lip synching during his '"live" performance.  Of course this is not the same as assaulting a woman.  But it speaks to his overall lack of integrity.  Explain again how he gets the Today Show audience but Ashlee Simpson was never heard from again after her SNL debacle years ago?  Why do we continue to reward his abhorrent behavior?  Why Chris Brown sucks:  Exhibit A   Exhibit B Exhibit C  and finally Chris Rock on Chris Brown...  Glad someone remembers

Finally the Miss USA pageant was in the news.

That's right, they still do these things.  Essentially it is a vehicle for Donald Trump, Andy Cohen and Giuliana Rancic to stay on television and create a buzz for themselves.  We keep watching it so they keep cashing pay checks.

But the real story is Miss Pennsylvania asserting the whole thing was rigged (sour grapes story here) Really?  A contest judged by humans based on looks, talent and, well, not really sure what else?  Do we expect Miss Rhode Island to write code for Microsoft?  Hell, maybe that is a good idea.

Picture the contest played out like the scene in Social Network where Zuckerberg is looking for recruits to take to Palo Alto.

50 girls (ok, Puerto Rico can come too...) dressed in bikinis situated around a series of desktop computers.  Each of them has a bottle of liquor (they can pick their poison) and a shot glass.  Andy Cohen can ask each one a question and they can surf the web to find an answer.  The first one to ring in  wins the round and moves on.  Everyone else takes a shot.  Move on until you have 1 girl remaining.

Absurd you say? Hardly.

Any contest that parades women and asks on lookers to decide on the best is downright loony.  And yes, we are especially talking to you pageant mom, toddlers and tiaras, etc!!!  It's bad enough that young girls are constantly reviewed and judged by their peers (happens in adulthood too lest we forget.)  Is it really necessary to televise contests determining which women has more worth?   Let's be honest for a moment.  The judges aren't really listening to the answers anyway.  In fact the judges should go right to the lowest circle of Dante's hell.  Arsenio Hall is not only winning fake apprenticeships but he can also determine who is MSA?

Better if the contests were all single moms working two jobs.  Then they can compete in a survivor like game show pitting them against one another.  50 women who have to feed, dress and take kids to different morning stops each day.  For instance, Pam has to get her daughter Jasmine to day care and drop off Timmy at Kindergarten.  Then back through town to either an office or restaurant.  If you choose restaurant the contestant must serve 100 customers at a diner.  In office, the women must complete 100 Word and/or Excel documents.

Once finished they must go the gym for a half hour workout, pick up groceries and dry cleaning.  Off to pick up the kids, make dinner, shower and put on their best to make a 6pm talent show their oldest is in.  First one to get in their seat wins.

That's no fun is it.

Of course it isn't.  But, like watching Chris Brown in record numbers, we eat this nonsense up too.

My colleague Doc S is quick to point out the networks are only concerned with gathering advertisers at any and all expense.  Audience is key and taste be damned!  It is why he has abandoned the tv news and entertainment industry long ago.  Boy is he right.

We are better than this.  Time to turn this crap off.

But we can still watch Modern Family and Parks and Rec, right?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Royal Pain

What exactly is our (meaning: the United States') fascination with England's Royal Family?

Be it weddings, paparazzi chases through tunnels, and now boat processions honoring 60 years of being born into privilege, we eat it up like so many crumpets (but with better teeth.)

Are we that hungry for a diversion?  Does the idea of "make believe" in a World of stark realities help ease our pains?  Our fears?

Didn't we fight a war to get the hell away from the Monarchy?  And those expression-less Beefeaters??

But here we are, some 236 years later, fascinated by the pomp and circumstance of Queen Elizabeth and her royal wave.

Sure, she has been a steadying force during many tumultuous times.  And it is understood her presence provides comfort and warmth amongst many, if not all, Brits.  They refer to her as "Mum" and hold her in regard as if she was their own grandmother.

But why do we care?

She does nothing for Americans.  She rarely visits, and if she does it will not be at your families 4th of July barbeque.

She doesn't write laws or enforce them either.

She held Princess Diana in contempt for divorcing Prince Charles and was near absent when Diana died tragically.  What?  Divorce and scandal are unusual these days Queen Mum?  Or was that more a matter of keeping up appearances and/or not wanting to look like mere commoners?

In any event the whole damn thing is a farce.

Why should we care?  Isn't it all hypocrisy to be spending 4 days celebrating someone's birth while the European union and monetary system stand on the brink of collapse?

What if, instead of the enormous expense incurred by parading boats down the Thames, exploding fireworks into a gray sky, and performances from aged acts like Elton John and Sir Paul, the Royals quietly nodded their heads and threw a benefit concert for Greece?

Nope.  Never even a consideration.

They all want to bask in the spotlight and pat themselves on their collective, overpriced and designer outfitted gowns and military outfits.

Why not?

It's clear they are revered in Europe.

But the USA does nothing to curb their massive egos either.

There is way too much reality to buy into this fairy tale.

After all, the flotilla did not stop Prince Philip from hospitalization did it?

England and the US should get back to sharing one common interest:  hating the French.

Hip Hip...

Further reading from my colleague that might clear some of this up can be found here:

Doc S on Politics and our longing for a King

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Aren't We All A Little Gay?

"An idea starts to be interesting when you get scared of taking it to its logical conclusion." - Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes

"What else can I say? Everyone is gay." - Kurt Cobain, All Apologies

I think we are all at least a little bit gay.

Even in the midst of high unemployment, a volatile stock market, crushing national debt, and a pending presidential election between "The Socialist Secret Muslim" and "The Scariest Replicant Since Rutger Hauer", what seems to stick hardest in everyone's craw is same-sex marriage.

Liberals will say "Why should anyone care who two adults sleep with, love or marry? Each individual has the right to do whatever they like so long as it doesn't harm anyone else. And being offended does not equal harm. Any objection is just bigotry and homophobia."

Liberals think of Cam and Mitchell on Modern Family, who are funny, witty, sweet and never even kiss each other on the lips.

Conservatives will say, "Homosexuality is offensive to my moral values, and best kept behind closed doors. Same-sex marriage is as an insult to and subversion of my own marriage. Sanctioning it creates a poor example and role model for my children ---- as if the prospect of adolescent heterosexual activity isn't sufficiently jarring of a parent's modicum of tranquility!"

Conservatives think of the guys with the ass-less chaps gyrating in the NYC Gay Pride Parade, and the can't-look-but-can't-look-away image it presents.

I'm trained as a lawyer, so I have a bias toward putting as much importance on how someone justifies an opinion as I do on the conclusion they reach. As a result, more often than not I find myself in the awkward position of agreeing with the liberal's conclusions, but having more respect for the conservative's reasoning.

The liberal's protestations to the contrary, we are all inescapably fascinated by sex.

Not because we are perverts, but because we are human beings. And, as I believe Freud pointed out, our feelings about sex get a little complicated. When religions move beyond being a local tribal cult dancing and singing to control the weather and start setting up clergy and rules and regulations, sex is usually top of the list.

I think the conservative's reasoning represents a more realistic, more complex, and richer worldview.

The conservative, in their way, has tremendous respect and awe for sexuality and Eros. They understand that sexuality rests at the grey area between nature and nurture, civilization and the wilderness, knowing that at its most compelling and fulfilling, sex disturbs and unsettles our sense of place and self.

Jerry Seinfeld's brilliantly mordant comment, "Not that there is anything wrong with that!", has become the standard disclaimer following any so-called liberal's gossipy, salacious commentary or joke regarding gays or lesbians, an attempt to lay a thin blanket of enlightened tolerance over their very real ambivalence.

I think underneath the conservative's moralism is not "homophobia", and behind the liberal's sanitizing is not "tolerance", but the tacit acknowledgement that homosexuality is part of the typical spectrum of human behavior.

What if any of us who identify as straight were put in jail for 10 years? Or attended a same-sex boarding school? The real examples of homosexual behavior in these situations -- not just sexual release, but seeking fulfillment of Eros through love and affection-- are legion. I don't think all of these people were simply closeted gays and lesbians.  Put into those situations, could any of us guarantee how we would feel or act?

We can puff out our chests and say "Not me. Never". We can also think of many, many situations where we said "Not me, never" where, when faced with a living, breathing choice, we acted otherwise. Those who have pledged a fraternity or sorority can acknowledge that "Hell Week" activities play with this sexual ambivalence.

Does this mean we are all bisexual? Maybe that's not the question.

Perhaps the question is: Can we acknowledge that our differences are a matter of degree, not kind, and that a broader view of our own, and others, very human capacity for Eros, might be a bit closer to the truth?


Many thanks to some good friends (you know who you are) whose intelligent and stimulating discussion inspired this blog post!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

That Sinking Feeling

No more than two years ago I laughed at the premise/reality/existence of the Ray Romano tv vehicle "Men of a Certain Age."  "This is merely a pathetic generalization of so many Dockers-ad fathers and the stereotypes that envelop them."  (I confidently declared to myself...)

Bladder control.

Job Security.

Intimacy issues.

Physical breakdown.

Impulse Porsche purchases.

Big and bold cliches in the land of cliches.  

Turns out my protests were based in the harsh reality that is stereoyping.  For the most part they are too damn accurate.

For instance, a solid 8 hour sleep is near impossible these days.  Bladder Control exhibit A.

It might have to do with a thyroid condition that, to date, has been ignored with prejudice by this author.  Isn't everybody ready to collapse around 3pm these days?  They have a 5 Hour Energy commercial about it for Christs sake!  

And all your lower backs hurt too, right?  

Job and house security?  Yeah, I don't have that either.

Other than the nasal voice and golf game (and ok, maybe a little of the sense of humor) I am TV Ray Romano.  But without real life Ray Romano's scratch.


And now, a night after a fancy dinner at a local country club, the sad truth.

I'm middle aged.

And with it the hard realties.

A hangover is far worse now than it was 20 years ago.

I am much, much older than this months Playboy playmate.

I know what Playboy magazine is for that matter.  Do 20 year olds?  Do 20 year olds even read magazines?

I read box scores in newspapers.  I care about what happens in the French Open.  The US Open over Fathers Day is must see TV.

I should be taking a daily vitamin.  I should be eating right and exercising.  

My hair is turning gray.  My eyesight is (amazingly!) still getting worse.

I lose my temper on the highway.  I lose patience with my 10 year old.  I use phrases from generations ago to prove a point.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day."  If you do your homework and clean your mom you can watch some stories on the television."  

Acceptance is the first step, right?

And really, what does it matter?

Each day still has the promise of greatness.  

After all, it's just a matter of time before the zombies come for us.  They are already making their move.

The Mets throw a no-hiiter?  John Edwards brought to trial before anyone at BP?  Green Lantern comes out of the closet?

What next?  LeBron wins a championship?  A soda ban in NYC?  Triple Crown winner?  Howard Stern on AGT?   

Let's embrace all the imperfections and roll with the punches.  40 is the new 20!

That's my mantra for the TM I now have to practice as a middle aged man.

I just bought the black socks for my new all white Reeboks.

And I am taking applications for all those who would like to meet me at Dunkin Donuts weeknights for bad coffee and lie, er, story telling.

40 is the new 20.

40 is the new 20.

40 is the new 20.

What You Should Know, Summer 2012 Part 1

The summer is a great time for music!  Put the top down and cruise listening to the latest hits.  Host a barbeque and blast the boom box to the oldies.  2012 promises to be another great summer of music.

We all the know the usual culprits so this space will not indulge in Maroon 5, One Direction, Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepson, Jason Mraz and whomever the flavor of the day is.  That's all good and you need no assistance finding the popular sound of today.  Simply exist...  you'll hear em.

A little off the beaten track there are some fabulous songs and artists who might pique your interest in those 5 minutes you get to yourself.  Angry Birds, Tosh.O and Big Breasts at Work will still be there in the morning...  or late evening.  Open your mind and feast on these little nuggets to get your summer going right!  Happy listening all!!

Walkmen "Heaven"  More surf- alt sounds from NYC based trio.  Good melody and toe tapping grooves wrapped tightly around big vocals.  Tambourines and heavy kick drum add nicely to this feel good # from the 7th record, also titled Heaven, released last week.

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Man on Fire"  Alex Ebert, the trippy leader of this oversized band, is the straw that stirs the drink here.  A modern day Elvis meets cult leader Jim Jones if you will.  But instead of killing you with Kool Aid, he does it with song.  This first single from their LP, Here, which landed last week, is pure pop magic.  Soft vocals with huge vibes.  I see it playing in the title sequence of the latest Bud Cort film.

Chappo "Come Home"  This is the obvious choice from the NY bands debut record.  But dig further in their impressive debut to find far better songs.  "5-0" and "What Are You Kids on?" are incredible tracks too!  Just download the record and listen start to finish.  Does anyone do that anymore?

Imagine Dragons "It's Time"  Cheesy and bubble gum sweet for sure.  But it wears your ass down for sure.  Sometimes you need a good old fashioned pop song.  Nothing fancy.  No frills.  You swear you heard it before performed by someone else, and much better.  But that was then...

Walk the Moon "Anna Sun"  Ohio's own playing Mercury Lounge in a few weeks.  They are out supporting their EP which was just released a few weeks back.  This is a band that will be headlining much bigger venues this time next year.  Mark it down!!  A can't miss single for the summer.  Try to NOT emulate the frantic dance this video displays.

Grimes "Oblivion"  Headed to Canada for this one.  Clair Boucher is Grimes.  Synths.  Synths.  And more synths.  And that pixie like Julee Cruise voice.  Unsure why I dig it so much.  But through trying to rationalize it.  You dig whatcha dig.  Hope you will too.  Video happens to be a hoot too.

Silversun Pickups "Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)"  This is one of those bands you love or hate, I get that.  Lead singer has a fem, albeit distinct and very rich voice.  The beats and grooves are mostly alike and often times familiar.  I find it all very rewarding and a real joy to the ears.  This first single from their LP "Neck of The Woods" is another simple and effective cut.  Chick bassists happen to rock too don't ya know!!  Enjoy.

Dandy Warhols "Sad Vacation"  Moody Pacific Northwest folks are back with a new record, This Machine.  Glad to see they have the the same F-you attitude and chip on their shoulder!  Rock and roll.  No more, and certainly no less.  Sad vacation...  love the title

Ball Park Music "It's Nice to Be Alive"  Aussie kids on the scene with their debut album.  Saw a quote somewhere that I happened to like.  I'm paraphrasing...  "Rufus Wainwright called and said he wanted his song back."  Response:  "He should, it's a pretty good song."  Profane, goofy, but undeniably catchy stuff here.  And again, this space strongly endorses of the Buckingham/Nicks trend of male/female singer/songwriters.


Bruce Hornsby and The Range "Look Out Any Window."   A smile always comes to mind when I hear this 80s hit machine.  In fact, I feel like Hornsby does in many of his songs.  Simpler times.  Futures so bright.  The belief in your brother, your neighbor, your Country.  Hope.  And not just a slogan, or promise.  Actual hope!

"Well, that's just the way it is.  Some things will never change."

Have a great week all!!!

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