Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Paul Blart: Al Qaeda Operative?

The events of the past week aboard a Northwest Airlines flight landing in Detroit have shed light on the shocking speed with which our Homeland Security department springs into action. Far be it from them to be outmaneuvered by some inept Nigerian terrorist - stringent measures were immediately implemented to prevent a more catastrophic event from taking place in our skies.

First, passengers on U.S. flights found that they would not be allowed to hold coats or blankets on their laps for the duration of their trips. This move was based on credible intelligence compiled by our government that substantiates the long-held belief that minutes prior to lighting their shoelaces on fire, nearly every terrorist develops a spontaneous erection. In medical circles, this is known as Abdullah Arousal Syndrome. By preventing passengers from keeping bulky items on their laps, the "warning pointer" as the FAA is referring to it, will be more readily observable, hopefully allowing plane crews to act swiftly in disarming the perpetrators.

Next, air travelers were dismayed to find that they would not be allowed to go to the restroom for the last hour of their flights. In other news: it is suspected that Al Qaeda cells worldwide are currently in a frenzy, desperately trying to rework attack plans that involve assembling bombs an hour and a half before a plane lands. Oh, wait...we're getting word...yes, it's been confirmed by Homeland Security that Al Qaeda has successfully devised a way to assemble bombs an hour and a half before a plane lands. We have a comment from Paul Assnugget, acting chief of Homeland Security, "Dammit!"

And then there is my personal favorite - passengers will not have access to in-flight entertainment during the last hour and a half of their flights. This, after a number of CIA raids of Al Qaeda bases worldwide that uncovered an intricate plot to execute pilots on U.S. bound flights with the aircrafts' DVD copies of Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Other heightened security measures allegedly being considered:

Placing any individuals named "Ramzi Al-Kaboom" on the no-fly list.

Isolating suspicious looking or acting individuals from the rest of the security checkpoint lines in all airports worldwide and torturing them using repeated 2-hour long loops of the seat belt fastening instructional video used aboard U.S. aircraft.

More crying babies aboard all U.S.-bound and domestic flights. Intelligence reports suggest that Al Qaeda operatives really hate babies and will be forced to disembark the aircraft before take-off.

Posting those little yellow signs in the rear window of all U.S. aircraft, "Bounty Hunter On Board"

On all U.S.-bound and domestic flights, immediately following the seat belt demonstration, a short video will be played featuring David Letterman's "Top 10 Reasons Not to Blow Up This Aircraft."

Waterboarding the shit out of every Homeland Security employee until they come up with better fucking ideas.

It's also rumored that Doritos is sponsoring a contest for which people can submit their own ideas for new security measures. The winning contestant will be selected by none other than Osama Bin Laden himself, and will immediately be appointed new acting chief of Homeland Security. Bin Laden is expected to release a video with further details shortly.

So rest assured ladies and germs, your safety is in good hands. U.S. Homeland Security is on the case. Next week, we will have a special CIA panel assembled to discuss ways we can better broadcast all of our planned military operations across all the worldwide television news feeds.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade 30-1

So it's been a long ten years, yet at the same time, it seems like just yesterday we were stocking up on non-perishable food in preparation for the Y2K disaster. But here we are, a mere 5 midnights away from 2010. And I have just one question...where are those damn flying cars already? Anyway, we've finally made it to the end of my Top 210 Songs of the Decade list. Now children all over the world can finally sleep, the angels can sing, and we can all get back to our daily lives. I hope you've enjoyed reading about artists and songs you've never heard of. Maybe one or two of you (read: everyone reading my blog) have even checked out some of the songs and (gasp!) agreed with my assessment. In any case, here are the lucky 30...the songs that topped off the soundtrack to MY 00's (still haven't figured out how to refer to that darn decade, huh? well, are we entering the 10's or the teens now?). The descriptions here are deservedly a little lengthier than in past entries, so settle in. Here's to another ten years of great music...

30. Def Leppard - Now (only appropriate to begin the last post with my favorite band of all time...this was the awesome first single from their poppier, yet under appreciated album, X)
29. Shinedown - Burning Bright (Shinedown has actually gained more commercial relevance with their successive two albums, but in line with my typical nature of going against the grain, I think it's their debut CD, Leave a Whisper, that remains their best...this song is actually only the SECOND-highest from them on my list)
28. Jason Wade - You Belong to Me (if anyone mentions Taylor Swift, I will heave - this is a different song from the 1950's that has been covered by many artists over the, the amazing Jason Wade from the band, Lifehouse, gives his lilting take for the Shrek soundtrack)
27. Gas Giants - I Hope My Kids Like Marilyn Manson (Robin Wilson of Gin Blossoms fame has tongue firmly planted in cheek for this ode to anyone who anyone who does it their own damn way...due to record label hell, the Giants' one-off CD, From Beyond the Backburner was relegated to being a weakly supported indie release, but remains one of the great overlooked gems of the decade)
26. Tyrone Wells - More (may have mentioned it before but it's worth repeating - discovered this incredible singer-songwriter accidentally at the 2009 South by Southwest Music Festival...if you haven't listened to his album Remain, go do it)
25. Glen Phillips - Courage (first saw the Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman do this one acoustic at a Toad show, long before he released his little-known but classic album, Winter Pays for Summer, on which the recorded version first appeared - to say this guy knows his way around a melody is an understatement...still, not his last appearance on my list)
24. Disturbed - Land of Confusion (not easy to remake what was a top 5 hit and breathe new life into it, but Disturbed rock their faces off, transforming the 80's Genesis hit, and almost making me forget about that creepy Ronald Reagan puppet/cartoon figure from the old video)
23. Theory of a Deadman - Better Off (as with their modern rock comrades, Shinedown, my album preference doesn't coincide with ToaD's commercial success...I think 2005's Gasoline was a solid rocker, this single being the best of the bunch)
22. Kelly Clarkson - Since U Been Gone (I was late jumping on the Kelly bandwagon, and it was this in your face kiss-off that grabbed my attention when she did it a cappella on VH1...I instantly realized that despite my shunning of all things Idol, this girl had TALENT...and certain other admirable attributes, which we won't get into here)
21. Daughtry - What About Now (speaking of Idol, how ironic that another alum has become one of my favorite rock acts - this one is a classic)

20. David Cook - Light On - (Idol, we must stop meeting like this...Soundgarden's/Audioslave's Chris Cornell co-wrote this rock ballad and Cook sings the crap out of it - I unfortunately wasn't as impressed with the rest of Cook's debut CD, but this one will be on repeat for years to come)
19. Shinedown - Fly From the Inside (their first ever single, and in my opinion, still their best - crank it up in the car)
18. Phil Collins - Can't Stop Loving You (Collins long ago left his chart domination behind, but he continued to have bursts of success with soundtrack contributions and this adult contemporary hit, which I didn't know until just now, was a British top 10 score for Leo Sayer in the 70's - Collins' best since the late 80's/early 90's)
17. Aimee Mann - Wise Up (I had already been a big fan of the Til Tuesday singer's solo work when she was tabbed to provide the musical backbone to the 1999 flick Magnolia - possibly my favorite movie of that decade - and although many found it to be goofy and sappy, one of the most emotionally gripping scenes in the film was a montage of several characters singing passages from this jolting ballad...the lyrics are simple but pack a punch, and made this the best use of a song I've ever seen on screen)
16. Nada Surf - Always Love (some will remember this band's quirky 90's hit "Popular" - along with this one, still the only two songs of theirs I know, but they score some major pop/rock cred in my book with this one...check it out)
15. Default - Count On Me (Nickelback's Chad Kroeger discovered this Canadian band and they scored a modern rock hit in 2002 with "Wasting My Time" - that was pretty much the end of their success in the States, but this Kroeger-penned track blows away anything else I've heard from them...or Nickelback, for that matter)
14. Will Owsley - Upside Down (a seeming pop/rock genius who unfortunately has left a scarcity of original material for us to enjoy - he released this track as a double-sided single with another song on my list, "Psycho" in an exclusive deal with iTunes, and promptly dropped off the face of the Earth)
13. Helloween - If I Could Fly (I had heard of these guys back in the heyday of hair metal, but I didn't truly "discover" them until many years later, after this 2000 barrage of rock bombast had already been acquired taste indeed, but the piano riff and guitar crunch seal the deal for me...a classic highway rocker)
12. Semisonic - Chemistry (I saw these guys open for Sheryl Crow sometime in the 90's, and as good as Crow was, they upstaged her - Dan Wilson is, as I mentioned before, with few equals in pop/rock songwriting...this one presents a fun analogy between exploits in the laboratory and exploits in relationships - "...and we found out that the two things we put together had a bad tendency to explode." Indeed.)
11. Angie Aparo - Spaceship (the first single that was intended to catapult this Atlanta singer-songwriter to on VH1, touring with Matchbox Twenty...alas stardom was not to come and he had to "settle" for Faith Hill's aforementioned hit cover of the song "Cry," also off his 2000 album The American. Yet STILL not his top mention on my list)

10. Glen Phillips - True (a collaboration with the earlier exalted Dan Wilson...doesn't get better than this)
9. Mike Garrigan - Another Day in Paradise (so hard to choose one favorite from Garrigan, one of the best singer-songwriters of the past two decades...ask me again in ten years, and I may pick a different song of his)
8. Live - Run to the Water (the Pennsylvania rockers have inexplicably had true chart success evade them since the early/mid-90's...don't let their 1999 album The Distance to Here go overlooked though...this single from that collection stomped onto my personal playlist when it was released in the early days of this decade...when you're done, go listen to every album they've put out since then - there are three, and they're all great)
7. Papa Roach - Last Resort (easily the most commercially accessible song in my Top Ten...modern rock perfection)
6. Revis - Caught in the Rain (discovered this first single via a baseball computer I mentioned before, after releasing what I considered to be a classic first album, these guys disbanded - this one shakes you like thunder from your stereo)
5. Joey Tempest - Forgiven (the Europe frontman escapes his hair band days by crafting what can only be described as a perfect pop/rock album, his solo work more in the singer/songwriter vein - makes you forget that this guy ever stood on a table and shouted ROCK THE NIGHT in a cheesy 80's video...his 2002 album, Joey Tempest, is available used for $9 on Amazon - or you can just ask me for a copy)
4. Collapsis - October (my introduction to Mike Garrigan, and I haven't looked back since...contains the best use of the word "couscous" in any song to date...but seriously folks, go to or look up his solo stuff and this band on it)
3. Bad Religion - New America (admittedly not a HUGE fan of this legendary punk band, but I have to say, when they get it right, they get it right...this one is a clarion call through the megaphone of rock music to all Americans that we can't rest on our laurels if we want to achieve true happiness and peace - so many resonant lyrical passages here, but perhaps one of the most telling is, "You can live in staunch denial and mark me as your enemy. But I'm just a voice among the throng who want a brighter destiny." Amazing this was written ten years ago, huh?
2. Nina Gordon - Tonight and the Rest of My Life (what's truly amazing about this song, is that it actually made it onto pop radio and STILL didn't become a smash hit...I mean, what does a singer/songwriter have to do? If it were possible to paint a dream and then sing the painting, this reverie-like melody would almost surely be the result. I got a jolt when Gordon, the seething 90's rocker chick, transformed herself overnight into a Sarah McLachlan-come-lately...especially because she out McLachlan-ed McLachlan in every way. All I can say is, please come back Nina. I want more.

When I started the arduous task of compiling this list in 2006, I honestly had no idea what my number one song would be - or even if it had been released yet. It had. After sifting through all the music of the 6+ years previous, it came as little surprise to me that my favorite currently-working singer-songwriter came out on top. What was somewhat surprising, and what gave me pause, is that my number one was not an original song. Was it right for a cover song to top my chart? Well, being that nobody besides me was ever intended to see this, I didn't give it much further thought, and no song since has given me reason to change this ranking.

Angie Aparo - Champagne Supernova (As I stated before, it takes a certain talent to take a song that was previously a huge hit by another artist and transform it in a way that makes it fresh, improves upon the original, keeps it relevant, etc. Since Aparo's take on Elton John's "Rocket Man" had previously blown me away, I assumed that was the best it could get. Then he released his full album of mostly covers, One With the Sun, and included this Oasis track. To call it mesmerizing would be a gross understatement. As much as I loved the original, this one made me completely forget that the song existed before Aparo. That's an achievement in remaking others' works that can be reached by few. Sadly, for me, Aparo, after his next original album, 2003's For Stars and Moon, largely dropped off the recording scene. I was lucky enough, though, to catch him live one more time in San Francisco a couple years ago, and that performance only reaffirmed his place in my personal music stack as the true #1. Again, for those in the Southeast, or NY areas, where he most frequently performs, keep your eyes out. An Aparo show is something you don't want to miss. Until then, you can find the covers album along with his 2000 classic, The American, on iTunes, and the aforementioned For Stars and Moon used on Amazon. For his amazing independent debut, Out of the Everywhere, along with a boatload of unreleased tracks, you'll have to snag a burned disc from me. All could not be recommended highly enough.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully listening. Happy New Year and an amazing 2010 to everyone.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade 60-31

We're getting ever so close...I know you're all excited!

60. Pete Yorn - Strange Condition (singer-songwriter...released this great song, then kind of lost me after that)
59. Bad Religion - Broken (punk rock)
58. Avril Lavigne - Naked (this is one instance where I broke my rule that I would only include songs that were released as commercial singles if they were by an artist whose songs were played on radio...this was the best song on Avril's debut CD, and best she's done since)
57. Maroon 5 - Won't Go Home Without You
56. Jonathan Kingham - Grace (only know this guy from seeing him open for Glen Phillips...great song, but according to my sister, who bought his CD at the show, the rest of it is crap)
55. Anna Nalick - Shine (this singer-songwriter inexplicably dropped off the face of the Earth after this song was released as the first single off her upcoming's still "upcoming" after 2 years - probably record label red tape? Anyway, really talented at mixing great lyrics with catchy hooks - plus, she's smokin')
54. Alkaline Trio - Mercy Me (accidentally stumbled across this rock gem just this year, even though it came out 4 years ago)
53. Weezer - Pork & Beans
52. Unbroken (Hotel Baby) - Monster Magnet (I don't even know how to describe Monster Magnet...they have a few great songs...check out Negasonic Teenage Warhead or Powertrip from the 90's)
51. Poison - I Never Cry (a remake of an Alice Cooper song I had never heard of...awesome)
50. Augustana - Sweet and Low (one of the standout tracks off of my favorite album of last year)
49. +44 - When Your Heart Stops Beating (one of two bands to rise from the ashes of the previously broken up Blink-182 (the other being Angels and Airwaves) - this album was great...wasn't so crazy about A& Blink is back together, so I guess that's it from these guys)
48. Leona Lewis - Run (how Bleeding Love and Better in Time were huge hits and this Snow Patrol cover wasn't even originally included on her debut CD is beyond is the fact that this didn't make it on radio - the only song that appears on my list by two different artists)
47. A Fine Frenzy - Almost Lover (I could probably make an argument (with myself?) for this to be as high as the Top 10...a lesson in perfect pop balladry)
46. The Alternate Routes - Time is a Runaway (an overlooked pop/folk-rock band...their 2007 debut CD was awesome, the follow-up - not so much)
45. Suzie McNeil - Hung Up (one of the "losers" from Rock Star: INXS, but easily the most talented singer of that bunch - somehow couldn't parlay the TV exposure to success in the States - you wouldn't even know her debut CD was released anywhere but Canada...sang her ass off on her first CD - the follow-up didn't impress me much)
44. Natalie Imbruglia - Beauty on the Fire (her 2005 CD, White Lillies Island was a pop masterpiece - one of the best of the decade in my opinion - plus, she is one of the most beautiful humans ever to walk)
43. Nina Gordon - Kiss Me 'Til It Bleeds
42. Jesse Cook w/ Danny Wilde - Fall at Your Feet (world renowned spanish guitar virtuoso accompanied by lead singer of The Rembrandts on vocals on a remake of a Crowded House can you go wrong?)
41. Angie Aparo - Cry (otherwise known as "the Faith Hill song" even though Aparo wrote he explained in concert, his ex-wife is enjoying the royalties from this one)
40. U2 - The Hands that Built America (I'm probably one of the only people on the planet who would count this classic from Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York as U2's best song of the decade...but I do)
39. Collapsis - Wonderland
38. Mike Garrigan - See You Tonight
37. Lifehouse - Spin
36. Coldplay - Fix You (why does every "Best of" list on Earth count "Clocks" and "The Scientist" as this groups top songs? This one far surpasses any other song they've done in my opinion)
35. Natalie Imbruglia - Wrong Impression (the best from the Aussie princess)
34. Dan Wilson - Breathless (if you haven't listened to Free Life by the ex-Semisonic singer, and you want to know what perfect pop songwriting sounds like, then give it a whirl)
33. Our Lady Peace - Is Anybody Home
32. Glen Phillips - Sleep of the Blessed
31. Fountains of Wayne - Mexican Wine (ah...the fickle nature of the music-listening public - Stacy's Mom goes berzerk and then the band returns to virtual obscurity with this next (and light years better) single)

Saturday, December 19, 2009


So, no sooner did I write a status update on Facebook lamenting how wary I've become about movie reviews, than the film critics decide to get one exactly right. From the varying write-ups I read on James Cameron's long-awaited Avatar, the descriptions and evaluations of the film were mostly spot on. The long and short of it is - the visual nature of the movie is mind-boggling, the script is somewhat of an afterthought.

To say that Avatar is visually stunning would be the understatement of the decade. Being that the decade is over in two weeks, that's saying something. If you are going to see this movie, you absolutely MUST see it in IMAX 3D. I don't know what the regular 3D looks like, but I'm telling you - don't bother unless it's IMAX 3D. This was the first film I'd ever seen in IMAX, and I think my jaw practically hit the soda-stained floor upon the very first scenes. One reviewer, I forget which one, nailed it when he said that somewhere, Brett Ratner, Michael Bay, Roland Emmerich and the rest of the Hollywood action flick elite are peeing their pants because James Cameron just raised the bar for special effects through the roof. Everything - the colors, the creatures, the landscapes - simply mystifying. For that alone, all of the technical crew associated with the film should win every Oscar available. They should probably create new technical Oscars just for Avatar. The one award category in which it will not collect accolades is screenwriting. That's not to say the writing was terrible; it wasn't. The story was just completely overshadowed by the physical beauty of the film. The mythology, the character development, the dramatic turns in the story - they don't suck you in like Star Wars did 30+ years ago. It's not even up for debate as to whether Colonel Miles Quaritch will take a place in film history alongside Darth Vader, or if Jake Sully is this generation's Luke Skywalker. These characters will never pierce pop culture like George Lucas' did. The last quarter of the film was rather silly, actually. And again, that's exactly what was mentioned in some of the reviews.

So is it worth the $15 or whatever it costs near you to see an IMAX 3D film? I'd say yes. It's an experience. And once the movie is out of theaters, the opportunity to have that experience will be gone forever. There's no way watching this one on HBO would even come close to measuring up. I usually laugh when people say they want to go see a film just for the special effects. This is one time when I'm not laughing at that notion.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade 90-61

90. The Season - Where You Are (don't know anything about this band, other than the fact that this song popped up on the free downloads section of the iLike sidebar that is connected to my iTunes...and it's good)
89. Seether - Rise Above This (a great modern rock song from the past couple years)
88. Vertical Horizon - I'm Still Here
87. Juliana Hatfield - Cry in the Dark (a very overlooked singer-songwriter)
86. Jude Cole - Raining on the Moon (see comments at #132)
85. Helloween - We Damn the Night
84. Disturbed - Inside the Fire (modern rock)
83. Live - Sweet Release
82. The Damnwells - I Am a Leaver (favorite song from this Brooklyn band)
81. Sugar Ray - Answer the Phone (not one of their bigger hits, but in my opinion, the best single they've released)
80. Staind - Outside (modern rock)
79. Disturbed - Liberate
78. The Smithereens - She's Got a Way (this band's best work was done in the 80's and 90's, with this one exception)
77. Snow Patrol - Spitting Games
76. Def Leppard - Four Letter Word
75. Marilyn Manson - Personal Jesus (great remake of the Depeche Mode hit)
74. Icehouse - Lay Your Hands on Me (one of my favorite 80's bands who unfortunately has not released an album of original material in quite a long time - but this was the one new track on their remix CD from a few years ago...please come back, Icehouse!)
73. Theory of a Deadman - Since You've Been Gone (modern rock)
72. Lifehouse - Breathing
71. On - Slingshot
70. Dokken - Sunless Days
69. Pat Monahan - Her Eyes (amazing pop tune from the lead singer of Train - just saw them live for the first time, and dang that boy can sayyng!)
68. The Donnas - Take It Off (for some odd reason, I remember exactly where I was when I first heard this song - I was in the car pulling into the parking lot of Palace Station Casino during one of my pre-move Las Vegas trips...I remember thinking wow, who is this...they rock)
67. Angie Aparo - Rocket Man (again, one of my favorite singer-songwriters ever...completely transforms this Elton John classic...incredibly, it's not the best remake he's ever done...stay tuned for that entry later on down the list)
66. Owsley - Rise
65. Gin Blossoms - Learning the Hard Way (I often continue to follow artists long after their commercial success has burned out...and that's why I get to enjoy gems like this pop/rock should-have-been classic)
64. The Exies - Ugly (this was a pretty big modern rock hit, but I still think this band has been largely overlooked)
63. Johnny Cash - Hurt (in one of the most blatant departures from my typical taste in music, I had to include this Cash cover of the Nine Inch Nails hit - funny, since I don't like either Johnny Cash OR Nine Inch Nails very much...this one just worked...and even Rolling Stone agreed with me on this one!)
62. Kelly Clarkson - Behind Those Hazel Eyes (I've slid slightly off the Kelly bandwagon with the last two albums, but her first two had some awesome pop songs...this being one of them. I still hold out hope that she may be my future wife.)
61. Marilyn Manson - The Fight Song (just as a side note, the Manson tune, "Coma White" may very well have made my Top 20, if not for the fact that they never released it as a this is my top entry from Brian Warner and co.)

Stay tuned...

Monday, December 7, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade 120-91

Bored yet?

120. Cold - Suffocate (modern rock)
119. Collapsis - Radio Friendly Girlfriend (lead singer, Mike Garrigan appears on this list solo as well)
118. Collective Soul - How Do You Love
117. Nina Gordon - Now I Can Die
116. Black Lab - Without You (modern rock)
115. Glen Phillips - Always Returning (co-written with The Rembrandts' Danny Wilde)
114. Guster - Amsterdam (guitar pop band from Boston)
113. Gin Blossoms - Long Time Gone
112. The Offspring - Can't Repeat
111. Live - OVercome
110. 3 Doors Down - Let Me Go
109. Mike Garrigan - Sigourney Weaver
108. Guster - Satellite
107. Mika - Erase (standout track from flamboyant, broadway-esque, pop singer)
106. Halestorm - I Get Off (rock chick, Lzzy Hale's amazing vocals drive this modern rock band)
105. Better Than Ezra - Absolutely Still (Better Than Ezra hit #1 on the college charts this week - at #2...Ezra - har har har)
104. Bon Jovi - (You Want to) Make a Memory
103. Guster - One Man Wrecking Machine
102. Saliva - Survival of the Sickest
101. Gin Blossoms - Someday Soon
100. Collective Soul - Counting the Days
99. Vertical Horizon - When You Cry
98. Def Leppard - Long, Long Way to Go
97. Snow Patrol - Run
96. Alanis Morissette - Underneath
95. Candlebox - Stand (great comeback single from 90's modern rock band)
94. Tyrone Wells - In Between the Lines (pop/rock singer-songwriter with an amazing voice - check out his album, Remain)
93. Mark Kano - Walking on Broadway (lead singer of Athenaeum, sometimes singing partner of Mike Garrigan)
92. The Damnwells - 55 Pictures
91. Ken Andrews - Up or Down (lead singer of 90's modern rock band, Failure, and current bands On, and Year of the Rabbit - musical offspring of Beck and Weezer?)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade 150-121

Was in NY for a week, so this section of the list is a little late. The next one will follow on Sunday as scheduled. Check out the song clips (over there ----->) to sample exactly what my crazy taste in music is like.

150. Hinder - Get Stoned (Lips of an Angel was their big, sappy radio hit, but this rocker is 100 times better)
149. Theory of a Deadman - Invisible Man (modern rock)
148. Helloween - I Live For Your Pain (the 80's hair band that never broke through)
147. Fuel - Hemorrhage (In My Hands)
146. Glen Phillips - Thankful (lowest of 5 on my list from the Toad the Wet Sprocket frontman)
145. Gas Giants - Quitter (half of the Gin Blossoms in a side project during GB's hiatus)
144. Athenaeum - Comfort (the band that should have been huge in the late 90's but weren't)
143. Lifehouse - Blind
142. U2 - Walk On
141. Owsley - Be With You
140. Staind - For You (one of the best from Staind - a rocker amongst mostly syrupy radio ballad hits)
139. Collapsis - Automatic (one of the best singer-songwriters out there, Mike Garrigan, fronts this late 90's/early 00's band and lands all over my countdown)
138. Evan & Jaron - Crazy For This Girl (come on, you remember this one)
137. Skillet - Say Goodbye (great ballad from a Christian rock band)
136. Live - Mystery (the lowest of 5 from one of the most underappreciated rock bands of the past two decades)
135. Roland Orzabal - Dandelion (lead singer of Tears for Fears - little known solo album had some great songs)
134. The Bangles - Something That You Said (yes, they made music in the 00's)
133. The Veronicas - When It All Falls Apart
132. Jude Cole - Inhale (great singer-songwriter, now best known for helping launch the career of the band, Lifehouse)
131. Live - The River
130. Mike Garrigan - She Alone
129. Disturbed - Stricken (modern rock)
128. Revis - Seven (the modern rock band that should have been huge, but instead broke up)
127. Kip Winger - Where Will You Go (no laughing)
126. Evanescence - Call Me When I'm Sober
125. Rev Theory - Hell Yeah (great modern rock band)
124. Foo Fighters - Long Road to Ruin
123. Dan Wilson - I Can't Hold You (amazing singer-songwriter, former lead singer of Semisonic (remember "Closing Time"?))
122. Keane - Crystal Ball
121. The Living Things - Let it Rain (one of the few songs on the chart from 2009)

Stay tuned for more on Sunday...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade 180-151

OK, time for the next 30 songs on my Top 210 countdown. There are actually 11 songs here that got some measure of airplay, and some other names that might be recognizable to people other than me. For some of the more obscure ones, I added some info.

180. Liz Phair - Extraordinary
179. Better Than Ezra - Lifetime
178. The Donnas - Who Invited You
177. Suzie McNeil - Believe (contestant on Rock Star: INXS)
176. Iron Maiden - The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg (80's hard rock)
175. The Damnwells - Accidental Man (modern rock band from Brooklyn, NY)
174. Gamma Ray - Lake of Tears (offshoot of 80's hard rock band, Helloween)
173. Papa Roach - Getting Away With Murder
172. Seventh Day Slumber - Caroline (Christian rock band)
171. Avril Lavigne - Runaway
170. Fountains of Wayne - Someone to Love
169. Iron Maiden - The Wicker Man (80's hard rock)
168. Stryper - Rain (80's Christian hard rock)
167. Lapdog - See You Again (offshoot of Toad the Wet Sprocket)
166. Vertical Horizon - Forever
165. Boston - You Gave Up on Love
164. Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American (modern rock)
163. The Exies - My Goddess (modern rock)
162. Avril Lavigne - Sk8r Boi
161. Train - Cab
160. Alice Cooper - Triggerman
159. Trust Company - Stronger (modern rock)
158. Puddle of Mudd - Psycho
157. Seventh Day Slumber - Caroline (Christian rock band)
156. On - Revolution (one of several bands fronted by Ken Andrews, who appears solo later a cross between Beck and Weezer)
155. The Nadas - Life Becomes Me (modern folky rock)
154. Stryper - Make You Mine (80's Christian hard rock)
153. Pet Shop Boys - Minimal
152. Josh Groban - You Are Loved (Don't Give Up)
151. Will Owsley - Psycho (not the same song as Puddle of Mudd - great pop/rock singer who hasn't released too much, but has played with Amy Grant and Shania Twain)

More to come next week...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Top 210 Songs of the Decade

Well, it's that time again folks....when everyone makes their lists of top crap of the decade. OK, well maybe not everyone. And yeah, there is that stuff about the decade actually starting with '01, but screw that. Here, in this post, is the tail end of my 210 songs of the 00's. Why 210? For starters, this is an amount that sufficiently illustrates what a gigantic nerd I am. Secondly, there are 7 Sundays remaining in the 00's, and 210 is evenly divisible by 7 (wow, he knows music AND math). So, starting now, I will post 30 songs each week until this exercise in torturing your eyes and your minds is finally over. When it's all done, you will have learned absolutely nothing, except that I have incredibly weird, random, and sometimes obscure taste in music. And likely, how little you care.

A few notes about my "countdown." First, it's awesome. I don't care what other Top of the Decade lists are out there...mine is the best. Secondly, I pretty much stuck to songs that were commercially released as singles to radio or appeared on film or TV. Because of my obscure tastes, some of my favorite artists don't technically release singles, so I just chose the songs I wanted...because I can do that. I made a few exceptions and included songs that were not singles even if the act released singles...because I can do that too. Also, I'm refraining from commenting on the's just a list...otherwise we'd be here forever.

Number of songs from this year that appear on the list: 6.
Act with the most entries on the list: Live and Glen Phillips (tie), 5 each.
Artist with most overall appearances on the list: Mike Garrigan (4 solo, 4 as singer of Collapsis, 1 as member of Athenaeum).
Number of cover songs on the list: 9.
Only song that appears as both an original and a cover: "Run" by Snow Patrol (original) and Leona Lewis (cover).
Number of entries from American Idol contestants: 5.

I'm sure I could come up with more stats, but I'm tired. So here we go. #210-#181...

210. Iron Maiden - Different World
209. Phil Wickham - Grace
208. Marjorie Fair - Empty Room
207. The Tories - Time For You
206. Linkin Park - In the End
205. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication
204. Soul Asylum - Stand Up and Be Strong
203. Avril Lavigne - Don't Tell Me
202. Crowded House - Don't Stop Now
201. Cold - Stupid Girl
200. Snow Patrol - Hands Open
199. The Veronicas - Everything I'm Not
198. Maroon 5 - She Will Be Loved
197. Josh Rouse - Directions
196. Enuff Z'Nuff - Sanibel Island
195. Eve 6 - Here's to the Night
194. Suzie McNeil - Broken & Beautiful
193. Trust Company - Downfall
192. Midnight Oil - Say Your Prayers
191. Fountains of Wayne - Maureen
190. Better Than Ezra - Our Last Night
189. I Nine - Seven Days of Lonely
188. Daughtry - Home
187. Edwin McCain - The Kiss
186. Seether - The Gift
185. Curt Kirkwood - Beautiful Weapon
184. The Offspring - Can't Get My Head Around You
183. Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body
182. Dishwalla - Above the Wreckage
181. Fountains of Wayne - Stacy's Mom

Stay tuned for more next week...I know you're excited.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Movies of the Decade

The title of this post is pretty self-explanatory. Here, I will list my Top 20 favorite films of the 2000's (my apologies to the ones that have not yet been released this year...tough break). Just some notes - the absolute worst year for movies this decade was the first one, 2000. Best film that year was Meet the Parents, but that doesn't quite make it into the Top 20. 2003 wasn't much better...can't even decide my favorite for that year (not in a good way). The two best years...2006 far and away had the strongest Top 5 films - the only year in which the Top 5 all made it into the master list, including my overall #1...and 2007, which far and away had the greatest output of above-average movies in theaters, but they were all more evenly matched with one another than those of '06. So, here's the Top 20:

20. The Class - One of two foreign films on my list. Normally, the subtitle thing annoys me, and I wouldn't consider myself the most cultured person, but this was a really compelling (and true) faux-documentary about the trials and tribulations of students at an inner-city Paris school, and one teacher's methods of dealing with them.

19. Last King of Scotland - The lowest in my Top 5 of the great year of 2006, but still shows off amazing performances by both Forest Whitaker as the ruthless dictator, Idi Amin, and James McAvoy as Amin's personal physician.

18. The Invention of Lying - The most recent movie on this list. Just saw it a couple days ago. It could have been even better and funnier than it was, but the originality of the script by Ricky Gervais still pushes this into my Top 20 of the decade. The devoutly religious among us likely will not appreciate the overtly atheistic undertones of the story, but it's satire, folks.

17. Tropic Thunder - An outrageous performance by Robert Downey, Jr., and a hilarious cameo by Tom Cruise are the highlights of this film within a film. Downey playing a white guy playing a black guy. Enough said.

16. The Dark Knight - No, I wasn't really all that blown away by Heath Ledger, and didn't buy into the hype. Plus, the ending didn't satisfy me so much. But still, the non-stop action and tight performances from Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman, made it my third favorite from last year.

14 (tie). The Sea Inside/I Am Sam - Every "best of" list worth its salt contains at least two ties. So here is the first of two on my list. These films have something in common - they were elevated by phenomenal individual acting performances. Without Javier Bardem's turn as a quadriplegic who fights for his right to die, this movie, the second foreign film on my list, may not have been all that. I Am Sam was a cheesey, and sometimes cliche-ridden film, but the out-of-this-world performance by Dakota Fanning, given she was 6 YEARS OLD when they shot this, might be the most incredible display of acting of the decade. The fact that she was not even nominated for a Golden Globe or an Oscar is unforgivable. This girl WILL win the big prize one day.

13. One-Hour Photo - Robin Williams is one of the most versatile actors of our generation. Unfortunately, he's wasted precious time on schlock like Flubber, Toys, and Patch Adams. However, it seems like at least once a decade he takes a role and nails it to the wall. Good Morning Vietnam in the 80's, Awakenings in the 90's, and his turn here as a maniacal photo lab employee is his good deed for the 00's. Maybe now that we're almost in the 10's, it won't be that much longer until he wins his next Oscar.

12. The Kingdom - A team of FBI agents travel to Saudi Arabia to avenge and solve the murder of their friend and colleague in a terrorist bombing...blah blah blah. I can't really do this one justice by describing the plot in two sentences. Amazing cast, great action, and what I always love...a movie that knows how to end appropriately. Unfortunately, the whole war in the Middle East thing hasn't had much luck at the box office, but this one is most definitely worth a rental.

11. Blood Diamond - This film has the distinction of being the only one on this list that I was never intending on seeing. Leonardo DiCaprio? An expose on the corruption surrounding the diamond trade? Wasn't really interested. A friend and I just happened to make an unplanned trip to the theater, and this just happened to be the next movie playing. Good move. A stunning and emotional script, great visual backdrop, and a gut-wrenching performance by Djimon Hounsou. Most people thought it was an upset because Alan Arkin beat out Eddie Murphy for Best Supporting Actor at the 2007 Oscars, but the real upset was Hounsou losing.

10. Deja Vu (Sorry I don't know how to make those little accent thingies) - This movie came and went, and shockingly, I had never even HEARD OF IT, much less seen it. I'm usually in the know about even the most obscure films, so when I stumbled across this gem on cable, I was surprised, quite pleasantly. Director Tony Scott and Denzel Washington have teamed up several times, but never with better results than this sci-fi/government thriller. Now things always get a little hairy when you deal with time travel, but they put a new twist on it here, and it works brilliantly. Val Kilmer hasn't exactly racked up the amazing films throughout his career, but oddly enough, this is not his last appearance on my list...

9. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang - ...that honor goes to this grossly overlooked film. Shane Black may have gotten $4 million for writing the awful Geena Davis vehicle, The Long Kiss Goodnight, but this is clearly his masterpiece. A sharp, witty script, pairing the top-notch performances of Kilmer and Robert Downey, Jr., in a film that's part comedy, part crime story. Original, entertaining, and criminally under-distributed - making barely over $4 million at the box office. On principle, Shane Black should have been forced to turn over the dough he made from The Long Kiss Goodnight, just so this vastly superior film could have doubled its rake.

8. Doubt - I snuck into this one (shhhhh), so I can't say it was worth my money, but the theater did charge me full price for what should have been a matinee ticket, so we'll call it a wash. Stunningly, this film only won 1 out of 15 awards for which it was nominated amongst the Oscars, Golden Globes and SAG Awards (Meryl Streep got the SAG for Lead Actress). This is one of Philip Seymour Hoffman's strongest performances, and that is saying something, considering he may be the younger generation's DeNiro. Watching him and Streep go at it for two hours is worth the price, you know what I mean.

7. Talk to Me - If Philip Seymour Hoffman is the younger generation's DeNiro, Don Cheadle may be a very close second. If only he could score more leading roles. The first half of this film had me on the way to thinking that it might just end up in my Top 3 of the decade. Cheadle comes out with six guns blazing as the outrageous ex-con turned DJ, Petey Greene. Chiwetel Ejiofor does a great job as the straight man as well. But somewhere in the middle of the story, it morphs from a historical comedy into a sappy social commentary and a depressing look at Greene's fall from grace. The shift isn't anywhere near dramatic enough to ruin the experience, but it does prevent Talk to Me from charting higher on my list.

6. Waitress - Every good list has to feature at least one guilty pleasure, so here's mine. Felicity's Keri Russell stars as a small-town waitress stuck in an unhappy marriage and a going nowhere life, who is, naturally, dreaming of bigger things. A "chick flick" at first glance, but it's really a lot more than that. It's funny, charming, and emotionally gratifying. The standout performance here is from Jeremy Sisto (also great in the prematurely canceled 2006 TV series, Kidnapped) as the waitress' abusive husband. TV icon, Andy Griffith also adds great spirit to the ensemble. I really thought this film would ride the sympathy card to the Oscars, as Adrienne Shelley, who wrote, directed, and co-starred was senselessly murdered in her apartment before its release. I highly doubt making my list is any consolation, but I guess it's better than nothing. Just try watching this one without singing the "Gonna Bake a Pie" song repeatedly when it's over. The only bad thing about this film is, it was so good, that I was inclined to give Russell another go-round by seeing the abysmal August Rush.

5. The Wackness - Sir Ben Kingsley as a dope-smoking shrink. Sir Ben Kingsley having a love scene with Mary-Kate Olsen. Sir Ben Kingsley being nominated for a Razzie (the anti-Oscars) for Worst Supporting Actor. Sounds great so far, right? Well, the title is certainly appropriate, as the shrink forms a bizarre friendship with one of his patients (also his pot provider), and various familial dysfunctions abound. For me, as someone who graduated high school in 1992, the performance by Josh Peck as the above-mentioned dealer and soon-to-be college student, is pitch-perfect. He plays the role with equal parts awkward faux-confidence, trying to impress a girl, and true heart, just trying to find his way out of adolescence, into the real world. Not a single false note in this one.

3 (tie). Memento/The Lookout - The proverbial second tie on the list. We're getting into serious cinematic territory here. If you haven't seen these Top 4 films yet, go do it. One of the common threads between these two is, they both do that Tarantino-esque thing where the plot doesn't necessarily have a nice, neat order to it, and you don't always know what's going on. In fact, Memento was renowned for featuring a storyline that actually unfolded BACKWARDS. Guy Pearce and Joe Pantoliano are riveting here, while Christopher Nolan began what would be, for me, and up-and-down writing and directing career, featuring the awesome (this and The Dark Knight), good (Batman Begins), disappointing (Insomnia), and utterly unwatchable (The Prestige). Meanwhile, The Lookout features stars of 3rd Rock From the Sun, Dumb and Dumber, and Pauly Shore's Son-in-Law, plus Borat's fiancee. Recipe for an amazing film? Apparently so. 3rd Rock's Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is spot on as a young man whose life is forever altered by a devastating car accident, which leaves him unable to retain things in his memory for extended amounts of time, forcing him to get through the days with guidance from his own written instructions - yet another commonality with Memento, whose main character is afflicted with similar short-term memory loss. Gordon-Leavitt's character subsequently gets tangled up in a bank robbery plot. No synopsis could do either of these films justice though, so just take my word for it and see them. Unless you have no short-term memory...then there's kind of no point.

2. The Departed - Depending on which year my #1 film would have been eligible in if anyone had considered it for any awards, I'm inclined to say that in 2007, for one of the only times I can think of, the Oscars actually got the Best Picture winner right. Dead on. This one is a tour-de-force...mainly because every "best of" list about film is required to use that term at some point. Everyone involved nails this one to the wall...from Scorsese to Nicholson to Matt Damon to Alec Baldwin to Mark Wahlberg...hell, even Leo again. Drama, thrills, violence, comic relief, amazing script. Everything a classic movie should have is found here. My one gripe was that the last 1/4 of the film goes a little overboard on the violence, gratuitously and just plain silly at some points. However, the payoff of the very final scene pretty much renders the slight misstep forgiven.

1. Hard Candy - Regardless of whether you consider this a 2005 film, which is when it was featured at the Sundance Film Festival, or a 2006 picture, which is when it actually hit movie screens, it was the cinematic achievement of the year...and the decade. A pre-Juno Ellen Page should have won a Lead Actress Oscar, hands down. Patrick Wilson should have won for Supporting Actor. The script should have won. But, the film was largely ignored. Page's performance here as a young teen who is seduced online by a much older man, and subsequently lured to his apartment, is simply off the charts. The dialogue is biting, sarcastic, and funny, but this is no comedy. On the contrary, the drama jumps off the screen at some points, climaxing with one of the most brutally in-your-face endings I can ever remember seeing on film. It's an imperfect ending, in the sense that it doesn't tie everything up in a nice, neat bow. But it's perfectly imperfect. As a moviegoer, my absolute pet peeve is when Hollywood screenwriters don't know how to wrap up a story and end the damn film. It happens probably 80% of the time. So it's only appropriate that my #1 movie of the 2000's sticks the landing with a perfect 10. Just wow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some New Holidays

In honor of the useless and completely misguided celebration of Columbus Day, I've decided to create some new holidays to give us more excuses to take off from work, school or whatever other possible productivity might be getting in the way of our slacking off. I mean, I'm all for extra days off, but they should at least have some meaning.

Mr. Columbus, it turns out, really didn't do jack shit...or as they would have said in 15th century Italy, where he was born..."jackiti shitore" (with the little accent thingy above the e). A few reasons why Columbus Day is a farce:

A) My little Italian brother didn't discover anything. To discover, means to find something previously unseen or unknown. Tell me in the Santa Maria can you discover someplace when there are ALREADY FUCKING PEOPLE THERE?
B) He never landed in what we now call the United States. He "discovered" the Caribbean. A milestone achievement if you ask the founders of Carnival Cruise Lines, I'm sure.
C) The dude didn't even know what the fuck he was "discovering." Someone shouted "Land, ho!" and the old Chris-a-nator is like, "Oh cool...Asia!" Yeah masterful orienteering skills there, amico. Legend has it that Columbus died before he could sail to his next door neighbor's kids' snow fort and claim to have discovered Antarctica.
D) Sailor Man was responsible for enslaving and murdering MILLIONS of natives in the areas he explored. Kind of convenient when you're claiming to have discovered a new land to have all the people who already lived there be DEAD. This guy was clearly always thinking ahead.

So we're basically celebrating someone being a disoriented, lying, evil douchebag. Yeah that screams national holiday. So, back to my original are some new holidays I would like to propose:

National Fart Observance Day - Of course millions of guys nationwide already celebrate this...they call it, "Sunday." But we may as well consecrate the tradition of sitting around watching sports, drinking beer and scratching ourselves while we let out our clarion calls of joy and relief. Plus, if we "observe" the occasion on Monday like we ingeniously do with all holidays, we get a deserved extra day off.

Hootie Day - 90's rock pioneers (in the same sense that Columbus was a pioneer) Hootie and the Blowfish just never got their deserved respect. Las Vegas tried to give them their own lounge area in a casino no one goes to...that didn't work. Now Darius Rucker is resigned to creating shitty country music (sorry for the redundancy) without enjoying the constant companionship of his fellow fish. It's high time we give them their national day. Plus, how great would it be explaining to other countries that we're celebrating Hootie Day.

Fuck the Economy Day - I've been celebrating this one over and over since getting laid off in January. Trust me, it's fun and merriment for all.

Blithering Idiot Day - One marvels that we haven't already created this day of observance considering that the proposed honorees are the clear majority in this country. If we make this an official holiday, I think it would clear up a lot of confusion. This way, the next time someone talks about "nucular weapons" or uses twenty-seven apostrophes in a sentence that only contains eight words or perhaps calls your home for the 1,034th time at 735am on Saturday because he "just" realized that you qualify for his special debt consolidation program, you'll silently understand...they're just observing Blithering Idiot Day.

Pizza Day - I mean come're telling me that FOOD doesn't deserve its own day? Trees have a fucking day. The flag has a's a piece of colored cloth for Pete's sake (come to think of it, maybe there should be a Pete Day). Some fat bearded guy we made up who lives at the North Pole has his own day. You'd think that a country full of slobbering mammoths like we are would dedicate at least one day to some kind of food. I vote for pizza, with sausage. (Update: the National Organization for Tofu is gathering to defeat my proposition as we speak)

These are just a few ideas I came up with. Of course, other suggestions are welcome. I just feel like we haven't created a good holiday out of thin air since Kwanzaa and Earth Day broke through into the national consciousness. Think of all the new retail sales...people bursting through the store doors to buy their kids an Idiot tree. I think Amazon's already marked them down. Better act fast!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Dating Schmating

You know what I love? The online dating and relationship advice that you can find out there (particularly on MSN). It's quite entertaining. Of course, it's usually a steaming pile of horsepucky, but has comedic value nonetheless. The latest article was an MSN link to something on matchmaking "expert" who has a reality show on A&E. Guess what people? There is no such thing as a matchmaking or dating expert. Typically, if you are an expert in something, it means that you have a ton of experience in that area. Well, if you have a lot of experience dating a wide variety of people, I really don't want to follow your advice, because I'm looking to just date ONE person. If you're lucky and you met your soulmate, then that's great, but you're exactly that...LUCKY. There are 7 billion people in the world - 3 hundred million here in the U.S. - you think that you know something the rest of us don't just because you met somebody special? It's like all the financial "experts" you see on cable news shows. Did any of them tell us about the giant shitcloud that was gonna burst all over our economy? No. Have many of them made successful stock picks throughout their careers? Sure. In dating, as with finance, people will dispense advice. And often, it may even be good advice. So I'm not saying to dismiss what people say, but you should take it with a grain of salt.

Dating misconception #1: You need to be confident when you go on a first date. Sorry folks, but this is a load of hippo dung. Do you know ANYBODY who is confident on a first date? Anyone who tells you that they are is lying. Confidence, like trust, is something that has to build over time. If you have a perpetual confidence problem, then that could be an issue. But if I hear the phrase, "Women love a guy who's confident" one more time, I'm seriously going to jump off a cliff. Confidence is a function of the other person's actions. If a woman agrees to a 2nd date with me, then guess what, my confidence level goes up. If she stops taking my calls or replying to emails, then I am not going to be confident. That's human nature folks.

Dating misconception #2: Men are more obsessed with looks and superficial things than women. Most people will likely disagree with me on this one, but I am speaking based on my personal observations as a guy who a) Does not look like a movie star, b) Can't fix stuff, c) Doesn't know crap about cars, and d) Is not rich. The first misleading thing here is mistaking obsession with SEX for obsession with other superficial things. Yes, I believe that men are more obsessed with sex and the quest for getting laid. There are likely a lot more males who are playing the field solely for that purpose. However, if you took only the cross-section of people who are specifically looking for a serious relationship, I believe you would find that more women are looking for a guy who is "hot" or possesses other superficial traits than vice versa. The second misleading thing here is that women will not answer a poll question saying that they are looking for a guy who is hot. No, they say they're looking for a guy with a great sense of humor, one who is close to his family, one who is smart...blah blah blah. If one more woman lists "sense of humor" as the #1 thing they're looking for in a guy, I am going to lock myself in a rubber room and put John Denver's Greatest Hits on infinite repeat. Who do we think got more attention from women in their lifetime, Buddy Hackett or Justin Timberlake? The key is not in what women SAY they're looking for, it's what they actually DO when pursuing men. They go after they guys they think are hot. Sorry, but this is the way it is. I can't speak for all men of course, but I know that I try to give a girl a chance even if I am not immediately attracted to her. Of course, physical chemistry is important. We all know that. But sometimes it's borderline. And in those cases, I think you should give the other person at least a 2nd date.

Dating misconception #3: Women can tell within 5 minutes whether they like a guy. Again, a big load. Look, we all mess up on dates. Sometimes we're nervous. Maybe we're having a bad day or are distracted for some reason. The same way that you might watch one episode of a TV show and think it sucks. Well maybe you just caught the wrong one. If you watch next week, you might be pleasantly surprised! If either the man or the woman wants to find a special person, I highly suggest that they not write the other off after one encounter...unless something truly alarming occurs. If someone is outright rude, if someone talks only about themselves and shows no interest in you, if someone seems like a total idiot...these are some acceptable reasons for not calling the person back after the 1st date. Things like "he didn't make eye contact" or "he was late" or "the chemistry just wasn't there" are not good gauges on a first date. Those things might be different next time.

Dating misconception #4: This one bears repeating...that there is such a thing as a dating/relationship expert. The dating experience is vastly different for each person It's a giant crapshoot out there. Sure there are things we can all do to improve ourselves, but for the most part, it's simply incredibly difficult for two completely compatible people to cross paths. Remember - 7 billion people in the world - which leads to the final dating misconception...

Dating misconception #5: It will happen when you least expect it. Remember what I said before about John Denver? Add Yoko Ono to the mix if I hear this one again. Simply put...NO! It will NOT happen when you least expect it. As I tell people, I've BEEN least expecting it for the past 17 years. So what? The truth is, finding your one soulmate out of the 7 billion-person haystack of life is really hard! It has absolutely nothing to do with your expectations or your confidence. It has a lot to do with circumstance, luck, and the willingness of other people to give you a chance. This, in no way, absolves you of the responsibility for not being a total dillhole. But it does mean that a lot of it is out of the control of you and all your experts.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Automated phone systems

One of our favorite activities has to be calling a company's customer service line and wading through the ever-helpful automated phone touch-tone system. Let's examine why we so enjoy participating in this ubiquitous corporate cluster-shtoop:

Upon determining what our problem is and what questions we need answered, we dial 1-800-SCREW-ME or whatever cutesy vanity number the corporation in question has chosen. A couple of exceptions would be ITunes and EBay, which have shrouded their customer "service" departments in such secrecy, that not even the CIA could uncover a working phone number to either of these upstanding entities. Maybe a blessing in disguise?

The first thing we encounter along our telephonic journey is an unusually well-spoken voice, likely resembling that of Donald Sutherland, informing us that we have a choice of listening to options in English or Spanish. So far, reasonable and pretty clear-cut.

Next, Donald informs us that we are about to hear approximately 572 options, and that we can slit our wrists at any time during this call. I know what you're all thinking at this point - I'll just press the appropriate number as soon as I hear the option that best fits my situation. Just hold the phone a minute (pardon that really lame pun)...this is where Donald so helpfully admonishes us that we must listen carefully to ALL of the options, as some may have recently changed. Is there an automated phone system in the known universe that does not feature options that have recently changed? When exactly are these companies going to solidify all of their customer service options and leave the damn phone system as-is? Is there one person in each company whose job it is to review all 572 options every single day and randomly change those which seem not to fit any longer?

Once you have finally ascertained the appropriate option and excitedly punched the corresponding number (or series of numbers if your option is #512), father Sutherland comes back on the line to instruct you further. It's at this point that you are required to enter approximately 5,000 different pieces of personal information...of course so the evasive customer service representative can "better assist you." So, naturally, you must enter your phone number, social security number, numbers corresponding to your mother's maiden name, company account number, current home address, date of birth, and so on. You may even be asked to go down to the local Kinko's and fax a copy of your pet dog's latest immunization records. If you don't have a pet dog, you may have to stop at a pet store...don't worry, it's usually in the same shopping center as Kinko's. But then of course, you need to find a veterinarian's office nearby to get the pesky little thing immunized.

Once you've returned home with Rover, you pick up the phone again and press the # button to continue. This is when Donald informs you that you should remain on the line as all of the customer service representatives are currently assisting other callers. Sure they are. They're not on Facebook or in the midst of a heated online poker game. This message will also be repeated around 789 times just in case you've forgotten how busy everyone is. Rest assured, your call is VERY important to them. In fact, everything is fine, because Donald knows approximately how long your estimated wait time will be. How accurate are these estimations? Let's just say that if this were that mountain climber game on The Price is Right, that little bugger would go sailing over that cliff faster than you can blink your eyes. My estimated wait time is FIVE MINUTES? Right. Is that in dog years? Maybe that's why they needed to verify that you, in fact, have a pet dog, so you'll have a full understanding of the situation.

You may be frustrated by now, but it's OK. The corporate entity that is neither ITunes nor EBay has carefully selected a pleasant musical arrangement to entertain you while you wait. It's likely "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John, as interpreted by the National Pan Flute Orchestra of Myanmar, with accompaniment by Yanni. This is, of course, my favorite version of this song.

OK, so after being on hold for several days and having meticulously mapped out a Yanni assassination plot, you finally hear a joyous ringing, shortly followed by an actual human voice! "Hello, this is Xdugxzrlm, how can I assist you today?" Your excitement is quickly tempered by the realization that this person is not from your country, or even your planet, but is actually calling from a telephone control center located in the distant galaxy of Voltoon. No problem, you simply whip out your Voltoonese-to-English dictionary and follow along, all the while wondering why Donald couldn't just stay on the line and help you. It's now that Xdugxzrlm asks you to repeat all the personal information that you had previously entered into the automated system. (What does a fax to Voltoon cost, you wonder.) OK...back from Kinko's again. Now, if you've somehow angered God recently, comes the part where you may be inclined to slit your wrists, if you've made it this far. Xdugxzrlm sincerely wants to help you, but he(?) regretfully informs you that, as he is in the Completely Useless and Helpless Department, he will not be able to sufficiently resolve your particular problem. This of course, falls under the jurisdiction of the Giant Vacuum of Nonexistence Department, to which Xdugxzrlm will so helpfully transfer you. Yes, the DREADED transfer. We all know where these phone calls then go. But wait, Xdugxzrlm is on the ball today! He(?) astutely thinks to give you the direct line to the GVN Dept., just "in case" you get disconnected. Nevermind the fact that this number consists of only 5 digits, some of which you may not recognize from any alpha-numeric system on Earth.

Next: "CLICK." Two seconds later, your phone spontaneously combusts. But no worries, as you can take comfort in knowing that you've by now likely forgotten all about the fact that your most recent ITunes purchase did not download correctly. So that's one problem you won't have to tackle today.

Moral of the story: Thank God we don't have those stupid rotary dial phones any more!

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Official: Daughtry is Awesome

My days of buying full albums, like millions of other music fans, have long since past. Occasionally, there will be a gem that is worth popping the $10-$14 for, but for the most part, CDs have always contained 3-7 tracks that warrant repeated listening. It's only now with digital downloading that we have the option of purchasing only those 3-7 songs. Hey, if an album has 7 great songs, then I consider it a really solid work, but it's still not going to convince me to spend $12 as opposed to $7. So, these days, a CD has to be pretty much flawless to warrant picking up the whole shebang. Enter, Chris Daughtry, American Idol finalist and bald dude extraordinaire (I seem to have an unintentional affinity for the music of bald guys - the psychoanalysts can determine what this says about me). I purchased 6 tracks from Daughtry's debut album back in early '07. All of those songs were amazing, but still, there were some throwaway songs on the CD (not counting lead single "It's Not Over," which I like, but simply do not need to ever hear again). With his 2nd offering, "Leave This Town" coming up for release, I was expecting a letdown. Typically when an album hooks me on an artist, it's not unusual for the next album to suck. I was able to listen to the full pre-release on and was pleasantly surprised. Dare you to find a below-average song on this thing. Yeah, a lot of Daughtry's songs sound similar, but that's the case with many, many artists. The key is to have a penchant for melody, keep the energy level consistent and not get all experimental on our asses. The new Daughtry CD, now out, simply rocks from start to finish. Well worth the $10 (pretty cheap!) for the full CD on ITunes (sans bonus tracks). In a move that can only be explained using Apple logic, ITunes offers the deluxe album for $13 (a $3 difference, for those of you scoring at home), which does include the two additional songs...however, if you purchase them individually, they're $1.29 each = $2.58. OK, so they also throw in the video for lead single, "No Surprise," but honestly people, you can watch videos for free on Youtube. So yeah, Daughtry rocks...Apple - not so much.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Off the Wall

It's the title of Michael Jackson's 1979 solo album. It could also be used to describe his behavior and lifestyle from that point on. Or to describe the level of journalistic responsibility displayed by the media in reporting on his death. Or, simply to describe the fact that his father, Joe, has seemingly gotten a free pass on the suspected abuse he inflicted upon his kids. There have been some details over the years of how he whipped the boys, with Joe even admitting it himself. But, I have a feeling the truth goes way deeper than a leather belt. You don't turn into what Michael Jackson did without some pretty dark demons lurking in the shadows. Of course, Joe Jackson can't be held solely responsible...legions of golddiggers and power-hungry leeches throughout the entertainment industry hitched their wagons to Jackson's star and undoubtedly manipulated him, all while the mounting fame and untenable media exposure probably had a crushing effect on someone who was likely a fragile individual to begin with. Not to say that he was completely defenseless, but I don't think anyone can truly understand the world this guy lived in. He was quite bizarre, but also many of the "wacko" stories were fabricated and leaked to the media by Jackson himself. And were the sexual abuse allegations true? We'll likely never know for sure. Would it be surprising to learn that Jackson inflicted abuse on a child, given his own history? No need to recite the textbook cycles of abuse. But, as during his lifetime, the media continues its gross irresponsibility in reporting on the death of the King of Pop. You can see the reporters salivating at the thought that there may be some nefarious activity surrounding the circumstances of his death. Oh my God...what drugs was he taking? Did the doctor inject him? How much was in his system when he died? How many millions of dollars did he owe? Except they don't phrase them as questions...they purport that it's already a forgone conclusion that all kinds of crazy stuff was going on. How about reporting on the one thing that has been glossed over? The hideous nature of Joe Jackson. Time to stop portraying him as a sweet old man and expose him for the lecherous beast that he was and is. One only need to listen to the recording of this past weekend's phone interview with Geraldo Rivera to see the truth. All Joe Jackson could say was that the world had lost its biggest superstar, and that he would be bigger in death than in life. Not one word about missing his son. That's all Michael was to this man: a to which this beast hitched his wagon of failed and unfulfilled personal dreams. One that undoubtedly provided him with a lifestyle he (Joe) didn't deserve.

I've never been the hugest Michael Jackson fan. I'm probably one of five people in the world who has never purchased a single Jackson song. But his legacy is part of many of our childhoods. And the guy contributed more to charity and social causes than probably anyone else in history. Yeah, he was bizarre, but with what he endured, it's incredible that he was simply weird and not dead much, much earlier. Instead, he managed to accomplish the incredible, despite everything that came along with it.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The End of an Era in Music

The last Virgin Megastores in the United States have now closed. With them, and the recent shuttering of the remaining Tower Records' stores, goes a piece of our youth. It represents an unbelievably unceremonious end of an era in the music business. As someone who is just entering the industry, the landmark occasion, if you can call it that, carries a heavy significance. My early adolescence through my early adulthood was marked by frequent trips to the record store...The Wiz, Tower Records, Coconuts, and later on...Virgin. As I developed a stronger interest in music, and more importantly, the ability to drive, these trips became part of my weekly routine. Other kids were playing sports or whaling away on a Nintendo controller...I was at the record store...especially after the advent of the in-store listening station. What a could listen to the entire album BEFORE you bought it! I don't know if the digital revolution represents progress or not, but ITunes and others should wake up - the thirty-second sample does me absolutely no good whatsoever. Nothing will replace the experience of spending a couple hours in the record store, meticulously calculating what my next incredible music purchase would be. At one time, my dream was to open my own record store. In crafting that fantasy, I tried to think ahead of the curve; to figure out how I would make my store bigger and better than any that had come before. Little could I know then that it was a pointless endeavor. I was chasing a dinosaur, an old relic, a memory of an era near its end. Oh well...guess I'll dream in digital now.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

MLB Draft

Stephen Strasburg is projected to be the #1 draft pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball amateur draft. He's already being proclaimed one of the hardest-throwing pitchers ever, has been linked to psycho-agent, Scott Boras, and is expected to be asking somewhere around $50 million to sign with whichever team takes him (presumably the Nationals). This is all before ever having thrown a pitch in the minor leagues, much less the majors. I sincerely hope the Nationals pay the $50 million. I also hope the franchise collapses within the next 5 years, while Strasburg watches from home, his blown out arm now useless for any professional-level sport. No, I don't really wish that fate on Strasburg or anyone else. But something has got to happen to give MLB a severe wake-up call. Has anyone bothered to check the history of first-round pitchers in the draft? Sure, there are the occasional gems like Roy Halladay. And young guys like David Price and Luke Hochevar still have a chance to turn in stellar careers. But anyone know where Bryan Bullington is? Mark Prior? How about the other 3 pitchers who went in the Top 5 of the 2002 draft along with Bullington - Chris Gruler, Adam Loewen and Clint Everts? All future hall of famers, right? I'd venture a guess that the majority of pitchers who go on to lengthy MLB careers are picked in the middle of the draft. Jake Peavy - 15th round. Roy Oswalt - 23rd round. Andy Pettitte - 22nd round. John Smoltz - 22nd round. Johan Santana wasn't even in the regular draft. He was signed by the Astros as an undrafted free agent. The fact of the matter is, pitching is too unpredictable of a position to risk anything close to $50 million on one college player. Throwing hard does not, by itself, punch your ticket to the hall of fame. In fact, it can often be the downfall that prevents many talented kids from ever throwing a pitch in the major leagues. The injury risk with pitchers is too great to be able to tell in advance who is going to make it. The body motion required to be a pitcher in baseball runs is simply unnatural and puts undue pressure on the muscular and skeletal framework of the arm. Go out and try whipping your arm in that motion 90-100 times in a row over a 3-hour period every 5 days for an extended period of time and see what kind of condition you're in. All the physical conditioning in the world can't always offset the longterm effects of the torture these kids inflict on their arms.

So I really wish the best of luck to Strasburg. But if I were the President of a major league ballclub, I would never ever choose a pitcher with my first-round draft pick.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The birth of a company

ProGenitor Entertainment Network is officially up and running. As I attempt to launch my own business, after years of apprehension and excuses, I pause to reflect upon the meaning of life. No, actually, the pause is just me holding my breath as I dive headfirst into this pitch black ocean and hope I know what the hell I'm doing!

I wish I could just skip to the good part and start promoting my sister's CD already. The sneak listen of the halfway produced versions of the three songs have given cause for excitement. But all the annoying setup stuff that has to take place beforehand - dealing with lawyers, Quickbooks, my new and frustrating laptop, applying for business licenses, being bled dry of investment dollars - that stuff, I could do without.

Hopefully, next year at this time, some good shit will have happened.

The A-Hole Gene

Another biological mystery for our world's most accomplished scientists and researchers to unravel. If they can decode the human genome, maybe they can determine what causes people to be A-Holes. I feel lucky not to have been cursed with the gene that causes this affliction. Unfortunately, this is an insidious disease that wreaks havoc on others' lives.

Say, for instance, you are a tenant living in a house owned by someone else. Say that you have paid your rent on time for 3+ years, kept the place in great condition and generally have caused no headaches for your landlord. Then, without warning, the A-Hole gene kicks in. You fall behind on rent by almost two months. Then, after several months of your landlord trying to work with you, you decide to break your lease and move back to A-Hole-ville...I mean, California. You give your landlord 5 days notice, and set a day/time for him to come and inspect the condition of the house and collect keys/garage remotes/back rent from you. And finally, to cap off months of A-Holity, you bolt before the arranged meeting time, leaving the house in precarious condition, taking the keys (to the locks on the doors, which you had changed without informing the landlord, who is now locked out of his own f-ing house), garage remotes and money with you.

Do everyone a favor please, and donate your body to science so we can isolate this malicious gene and spare future mankind a lot of heartache.

Monday, April 13, 2009

SXSW Part 7 - Softball

The last day of SXSW was reserved for the softball game. I was on the record label team, and incredibly, we schooled our first round opponent (the agents, maybe?) 27-12. Second round was not quite as productive as we got mercy-ruled (there was no mercy rule in Round 1) 14-4 by the SXSW staff team. Oh well...better luck next year. We won one game, which is something my regular team here in Vegas can't seem to grasp the concept of.

Overall, I had a good time at the festival. Would have been more fun if I had attended with someone else. I hope a few of the contacts turn out to open some doors. Otherwise, I'm not sure the $1,500+ I dumped will be worth it.

Anyway, I hope you all (and by all, I mean the 3 people who may be reading this) will continue to follow my adventures in the music industry. ProGenitor Entertainment Network is in the setting-up stages, so I will try to post entries on a semi-regular basis to keep "everyone" updated on how things are going. Coming soon will be the "It's Alright EP" by Faryn Sand and Stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

SXSW Part 6 - Day 4

Saturday got off to a somewhat inauspicious start. The shuttle was a no-show so I had to call the folks running the service to get one to swing by. The plan was to grab food before the day's festivities began, but I ended up not having time. So onto the...

12pm Quickie Session - "In the Studio." This turned out to involve highly technical discussions regarding recording equipment, the engineering process and the like - way over my head. When I posed questions that were specific to my situation and interests, I got some rather broadbased answers. Not too helpful.

For some odd reason, I was totally fried at this point, so I scrapped plans to participate in the Mentor Session, and picked up some much-needed nourishment. The Mentor Sessions were designed to offer an opportunity to speak one-on-one with a number of industry "experts," but I didn't even see anyone particularly intriguing on the list. Looked like a bunch of local Austin-ites.

At 3pm, I attended a panel discussion on fan-based marketing. A few interesting ideas were thrown out, but again, a little underwhelming. That did it for the seminar portion of SXSW. As you can tell from my comments, I was a little disappointed at the perceived value I got for my money, but I think time will have to tell. If even one of the little tidbits I picked up turns out to lead to something good, then it will likely all have been worth it.

Crashed for a few hours back at the motel and headed back downtown around 10pm. I couldn't for the life of me find anything that piqued my interest on the show schedule prior to the Third Eye Blind set, which was scheduled for 1230am. So I had some dinner at a Thai/Vietnamese restaurant, which was pretty good.

Got to Stubbs about 1145pm, which was about half hour into the Indigo Girls set. I caught the last 4 or 5 songs they played. Surprisingly enough, they were really good. I've never been a fan, and know practically nothing that they sing, but they sounded spot on. Glad I got there early.

After a riveting 50-minute equipment check, Third Eye Blind came on at 1250am. I have mixed feelings about this one. The songs of theirs with which I was unfamiliar (read: most of them) did not blow me away. A couple were decent. And I have to hand it to Stephan Jenkins; he's an undeniably charasmatic front man. I'd heard that they had a rabid following - even years after their commercial peak - and accordingly, the place was packed to the rafters. They did play "Jumper" and "Never Let You Go," which were probably the two lesser-known of their four hits. But continuing in the mind-numbing tradition of one-hit or few-hit wonders who seem to have an aversion to playing songs for which they are best recognized, they left out "Semi-Charmed Life" and "How's It Gonna Be." If you have fewer than seven hits or so in your entire career, your setlist shouldn't really involve that much guesswork. They're about to put out their fourth album. It's not like they've been around since 1972. Unless the set is otherwise blistering, this "hit neglect" automatically ruins the whole experience for me. Sure - the die hard fans knew the other songs. But there's a reason why these songs were hits - they were probably amongst your best. And there were several other fans expressing dismay when the lights came back up. You're there for the fans, not for you. Play the freakin hits. Especially when one was arguably one of the catchiest pop tunes of the 90's. GRADES: Indigo Girls B+/Third Eye Blind (A for stage presence), (F for setlist) - C overall

Thursday, April 2, 2009

SXSW Part 5 - Day 3

So Day 3 started off with another "Quickie Session," this one on the topic of live shows. Still enjoyed this format more than the panel discussions. Spoke with Jordan Burger, the booking agent for one of my favorite songwriters, Angie Aparo. Also had the drummer from Blondie, Clem Burke and the talent buyer for Central Park SummerStage sit at our table.

Next was a panel called, "Artist Development meets Economic Reality." More with the speakers going off on tangents, broad discussion bringing up points we could, for the most part, figure out ourselves - more managers are serving capacities traditionally filled by labels, major label support budgets are lower these days, working as an indie artist does not provide for a glamorous lifestyle, money is in touring not selling CD's, etc. Heard a lot of it before.

Next panel was on licensing music. A few more potentially useful were Web sites thrown out here, but again, I don't think the moderator was really doing his job. They did not touch upon all the different kinds of rights that they mentioned at the outset.

Late that afternoon, I finally got to walk the Trade show. Collected some business cards. A lot of the exhibitors were Web-based businesses with sites geared towards being one-stop shops for "baby" or developing acts. Offering a variety of services including help with development of e-marketing campaigns, ticketing, manufacturing, digital retail. One in particular, has been around since 1997, which generated a little more interest on my part, since many of the others were just launching and who knows if they'll be around 6 months from now? It was good to talk to some folks and see some reinforcement that indie musicians and labels have a plethora of resources at their disposal.

That night, the original plan was to see Margaret Cho at 9pm, but it turned out to be a littany of back-to-back comedians doing 15-minute sets, plus there was no shuttle at that time, so I skipped it. Headed over to The Ale House to see Rocco DeLuca and The Burden at 1130pm, but got there at 11. That turned out to be my best move of the festival. L.A.-based singer-songwriter, Tyrone Wells was going on just as I arrived. Very brief 20-minute set, but far and away the best performance I saw in Austin. Great to discover a "new" musician, albeit one who has apparently been releasing material for a decade. The guy can sing his head off. Grade: A+. Downloaded many of the songs from his latest album, "Remain" when I got home. Check him out. Rocco DeLuca turned out not to be my cup of tea, but oh well. I thought I was going to be sneaky and try to listen to the "surprise" Metallica show from outside Stubbs. No chance of actually getting in, as people had been lined up since the afternoon. Turns out, there was no chance of hearing it either, as the information I had heard - that they were going on around 1230am - was faulty. I got there around 1145pm and they had already been and gone. Not a big deal. Supposedly, some other big name acts showed up for unannounced sets throughout the festival, including Blondie, Kanye West and Jane's Addiction. Anyway, I had planned to catch a couple other late night shows, but once again, my energy reserves betrayed me, and I found myself heading back to the motel.