07.29.09 – Wednesday

Word: symbiosis [sim-bee-oh-sis, -bahy-] n. 1. Biology. the living together of two dissimilar organisms, as in mutualism, commensalism, amensalism, or parasitism 2. Psychiatry. a relationship between two people in which each person is dependent upon and receives reinforcement, whether beneficial or detrimental, from the other 3. Psychoanalysis. the relationship between an infant and its mother in which the infant is dependent on the mother both physically and emotionally 4. any interdependent or mutually beneficial relationship between two persons, groups, etc

Birthday: Alexis de Tocqueville (1805), Booth Tarkington (1869), Benito Mussolini (1883), Ralph A. Bard (1884), Irwin Corey (1914), Jean Baudrillard (1929), Lou Albano (1933), Peter Jennings (1938), Tony Sirico (1942), Ken Burns (1953), Geddy Lee (1953), Patti Scialfa (1953), Alexandra Paul (1963), Martina McBride (1966), Wil Wheaton (1972), Stephen Dorff (1973), Josh Radnor (1974), Afroman (1974)

Quotation: I have known no man of genius who had not to pay, in some affliction or defect, either physical or spiritual, for what the gods had given him.Max Beerbohm

Tune: It’s difficult to, at the present time, find any band as hot as Bon Iver – a huge part of the bearded men movement (Fleet Foxes, Band of Horses) enjoying the can-do-no-wrong phase some bands enjoy at the onset of rushing popularity. Earlier this year, Bon Iver released a new EP titled Blood Bank. And it contains four very good songs. Take a listen to the title track – “Blood Bank.”

Gallimaufry: First and foremost, I’d like to extend my sympathies to the family of Philadelphia Eagles’ Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson, who dies yesterday from cancer at the age of 68. Truly a good guy in a sport dangerously short of them. I don’t know about all of you, but I’d like to have one week where we don’t see someone in public spotlight die for a change. It’s not good for the collective psyche. How is it all these people who, for the most part, bettered our society are dying undeservedly and world-class shithead Osama bin Laden is still running out there somewhere. Justice? I’m not seeing it.  While I’m on the subject of world-class shitheads, if someone is making a list of them, Glenn Beck better be featured prominently on it. Yesterday, on FOX News’ morning show, “Fox & Friends,” the popular talk show host, while discussing the Henry Louis Gates Jr. case, accused President Obama of having “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” (Which is it, genius?) When challenged on his remarks by host Brian Kilmeade, who pointed out Obama has surrounded himself with a mostly-white staff in the White House, Beck replied, “I’m not saying he doesn’t like white people. He has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.” Huh? How can a guy like white  people while simultaneously carrying “a deep-seated hatred” for them? If you’re cool like me, you’ll be at The Manhattan Room (or The M-Room)on 15 W. Girard Avenue in Philadelphia tonight to watch Chicago band Athens open up for Anders Manly.

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04.27.09 – Monday

Word: somnolent [som-nuh-luhnt] adj. 1. sleepy; drowsy 2. tending to cause sleep: For him, the opera was a somnolent experience.

Birthday: Mary Wollstonecraft (1759), Samuel F.B. Morse (1791), Ulysses S. Grant (1822), Jack Klugman (1922), Casey Kasem (1932), August Wilson (1945), Frank William Abagnale Jr. (1948), Kate Pierson (1948), Ace Frehley (1951), Sheena Easton (1959)

Occurence: 1810Beethoven composes Für Elise.

Standpoint: Over this past weekend, I walked into a bar. That’s not the intro to a joke. But the end result was funny. I had unsuspectingly entered the sometimes-strange, occasionally-uncomfortable but always-entertaining world of karaoke.

If you’re between the age of 21 and 120, you’ve inevitably experienced this Japanese form of entertainment. Admit it. Whether an active participant or an amused onlooker, you’ve attended – on purpose or by accident – what Jim Carrey in The Cable Guy called “a karaoke jam.” If you’ve never been, you are either (a) living in some cave on a very high mountain or (b) overly concerned with maintaining your “too-cool-for-karaoke” status. (If you fall into one of those two categories, I congratulate you, albeit for very different reasons.)

In any case, if you’re one of the billions who have actually witnessed it live, then you’ve undoubtedly noticed what I have. No matter where or in what kind of place it takes place, watching karaoke will always brings out the following types of individuals:

  • “The Trailblazer” – This person gets up to sing first because he or she is either (a) dared by friends to do it, or (b) the self-desrcibed “life of the party.” Most likely, the rendition is not awful but “The Ham” is in no danger of being hounded by record label executives. Probable Song Selection: Something by Madonna or Journey.
  • “The Pro” – For the first few songs, you’ll most likely witness this person, sitting with a small group of friends (if any), and stoically analyzing the participants like Simon Cowell. When his or her name is called to step up to microphone, “The Pro” will rise with limited fanfare, walk confidently towards the front and belt out the lyrics. The performance is much better than what been offered so far and most in attendance will turn to a friend and give a look that says, “Hey, this ain’t so bad.” At the end of the song, he or she receives a loud cheer while walking unassumingly back to his or her chair. Probable song selection: Something by Celine Dion or Billy Joel. [Note: Inescapably, “The Pro” will become less and less appreciated over the course of the night due to everyone getting drunker and realizing they have more fun when people suck. After many drinks, “The Pro” is more commonly referred to as “that fucking showoff who keeps singing the sappy songs.”]
  • “The Badass” – Usually a male, this character brings a certain machismo to the mic. His attitude is a mixture of “I’m the greatest,” and “Karaoke is for douchebags.” The beers and shots have gotten the better of him, and he’s decided to show the crowd how it’s done. The song completed, he’ll usually shove the microphone back at the DJ or simply drop it on the ground before strutting off the stage. Shooting the middle finger to all gathered is optional but not a requirement for “The Badass.” Probable Song Selection: Metallica or Guns ‘N’ Roses. Maybe Poison.
  • “The Giggler” – Opposite of “The Badass,” this is commonly a woman or, more accurately, a group of women who’ve collectively gathered the nerve to take the stage after a very long conversation in which, “I’ll go up there if you do,” is uttered close to 900 times. The ladies will take the stage with the best intentions but only two of them will actually sing the song. The other three will look out at the crowd and laugh with hands over their faces. For both the participants and observers, the performance can’t end soon enough. Probable Song Selection: Britney Spears or Cyndi Lauper.
  • “The Longshot” – During the course of the night, there is always a dark horse. Someone who gets up and sings dreadfully but possesses a certain characteristic like being older than everyone else or being cute in a non-traditional way. The crowd will rally around  and spur him or her on. This is unique to karaoke because it’s the only time someone can do something worse than everyone else and get the loudest round of applause. For one night, “The Longshot” is the most popular person in the place.  Our common love of the underdog combined with our penchant for overindulging in booze makes this possible. Probably Song Selection: Frank Sinatra or Neil Diamond.
  • “The Almost” – Wastes the entire night by going back and forth on whether to get up and sing and will annoy practically everyone by polling them on if he or she should, “just get up there and do it.” Never getting the needed encouragement due to the fact that no one really gives a shit, his or her attention will be turned toward becoming the drunkest person in bar (who didn’t sing).

The one undeniable fact about karaoke is that its huge popularity is owed directly to massive consumption of alcoholic beverages. Without booze, karaoke doesn’t exist.

Quotation: Life is something that happens when you can’t go to sleep. Fran Lebowitz

Tune: On every mix CD I’ve made in the past 5 years, Pinback‘s “Fortress” has eventually made it on to each one of them.

Gallimaufry: Britain’s Got Talent‘s Susan Boyle getting a makeover or Simon Cowell’s response to it? It was a dead heat in the battle of news items I couldn’t care less about…Lollapalooza announced its 2009 lineup. Along with the obvious acts (Depeche Mode, Beastie Boys, Jane’s Addiction), some of the chosen (Band of Horses, The Manchester Orchestra, Bon Iver, Andrew Bird) make me feel like the organizers are purposely trying to get me in Chicago this August 7-9…Only in this day and age can something like a cruise ship fighting off a bunch of Somali pirates be spun as a negative against the good guys.

Incoming: As I wrote last week, I moved this weekend. I’m a little behind in terms of being organized for this week’s posts. Stay tuned for more details.

04.22.09 – Wednesday

Today is Earth Day!

Word: espouse [i-spouz, i-spous] v. 1. to make one’s own; adopt or embrace, as a cause 2. to marry 3. to give (a woman) in marriage

Birthday: Immanuel Kant (1724), Vladimir Lenin (1870), Vladimir Nabokov (1899), Robert Oppenheimer (1904), Charles Mingus (1922), Aaron Spelling (1923), Charlotte Rae (1926), Richard Donner (1930), Glen Campbell (1936), Jack Nicholson (1937), John Waters (1946), Peter Frampton (1950), Paul Carrack (1951), Marilyn Chambers (1952), Ryan Stiles (1959), Byron Allen (1961), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (1966), Daniel Johns (1979)

Ocurrence: 1970 – The first ever Earth Day is held.

Standpoint: Twitter. You can’t escape it. It’s everywhere. In the past month, I haven’t read a newspaper or watched a talk show where there hasn’t there wasn’t some reference to Twitter, “tweets,” “twittering,” “tweeting” or one of the myriad of other new terms that has invaded the English language because of the overwhelming popularity of the social networking site. If you haven’t heard of it, you must be purposely trying to avoid it. Twitter (and everything to do with it) is currently big news. Last week, Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN to a race to see which one could get to 1 million followers first. Kutcher won. Also last week, Oprah Winfrey publicly joined Twitter on her show where her guest was Evan Williams, Twitter’s CEO. Her first tweet was unsuccessful. Some guy named Corey Menscher has invented the Kickbee, a device a pregnant woman can wear that will detect her baby “kicking” and post a tweet about it.

I joined Twitter a little over a month ago. I railed against it for a while, but finally succumbed. Really just to figure out what the hell it was all about. So, what have I learned? In essence, Twitter is primarily an outlet for people to braindump. Some denominate it microblogging. I think it of it as more full-dress insanity. The tweets come fast and furious. I’m not particular about who I follow or who I allow to follow me. I employ Twitter to drum up additional traffic for this blog, so I figure, the more the merrier.

But individuals are on Twitter for all kinds of reasons. As I’m writing this, I’ve just passed 400 followers. In addition, I’m following close to 800 people in the Twitterverse. I know all of 12 of them personally. The rest are celebrities (Kutcher, P. Diddy and ,yes, even Wil Wheaton), news sites (CNN, E! Online, The Huffington Post), musical acts (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Band of Horses), companies trying to sell stuff (which is seemingly effective) or fellow bloggers.

Some that I’m following (or they’re following me, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep it all in order), are simply odd. One guy I was following was actually posing as Christopher Walken. His tweets were pretty funny and I could picture the actor writing them. The guy was caught and booted. (He’s now back.)Another person contantly updates conditions on the highways in and around San Jose, CA. I’ve no use for this information but I don’t drop anyone so I’m continually informed on what roads not to take around a city I’ve no current plans to step foot in. These are just two examples. There are hundreds, probably more like hundreds of thousands, more.

So, is Twitter useful? I’d love to give some snarky response about how it’s not, but that would be dishonest. My blog traffic has increased because of my Twitter activity. Not because my clever tweets are necessarily reeling everyone in but because of the promiscuous following habits of most users, myself included. I’m pretty certain that hardly anyone is reading even 10% of all the tweets that appear on their Twitter homepage. So, while it’s doubtful that everyone in TwitterLand is paying real attention to one another, it doesn’t really seem to matter. It’s more about being involved in swirling mayhem and telling people, “Yeah, I’m on Twitter.” 

Quotation: Thank God man cannot fly, and lay waste the sky as well as the earth. Henry David Thoreau

Tune: Sadly, I didn’t get into Guided By Voices until last summer. After listening to Robert Pollard and crew’s many great songs, I quietly wondered what planet I’d been living on that I never ran across them before. Listen to “Echos Myron.”

Gallimaufry: After being hospitalized a few days ago, it appears that physicist Stephen Hawking will make a full recovery…President Obama sure has had his fair share of firsts. Here’s another one. He’ll be the first US President to appear topless on the cover of a magazineFacebook groups are popping against, of all people, martial artist and movie star Jackie Chan for comments he made over the weekend, including that “the Chinese need to be controlled.” Apparently, the guy’s a fan of oppression. Who knew?

Incoming: TomorrowAnnoying Sayings & Misused Words. Friday3 Things To Do in Philly When You’re Dead and more.

03.10.09 – Tuesday

Whereabouts: Philadelphia, PA

Word: segue [seg-way] – intransitive verb 1. to proceed without interruption; to make a smooth transition  noun 1. an instance or act of segueing; a smooth transition

Birthday: Toshitsugu Takamatsu (1887), Bix Beiderbecke (1903), James Earl Ray (1928), Chuck Norris (1940), Osama bin Laden (1957), Shannon Tweed (1957), Sharon Stone (1958), Pam Oliver (1961), Jeff Ament (1963), Rick Rubin (1963), Neneh Cherry (1964), Jasmine Guy (1964), Edie Brickell (1966), Timbaland (1971), Eva Herzigova (1973), Robin Thicke (1977)

Occurrence: 1876Alexander Graham Bell utters the words, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you,” during the first successful phone call. What do you think Mr. Bell’s reaction would be if he knew that conversation would eventually lead to most everyone walking around with a telephone in their pocket?

Irksome: At the beginning of this year, amateur hockey player Don Sanderson died after spending three weeks in a coma, a state he had been in since hitting his head on the ice during a hockey fight in Brantford, Ontario. Since the night Sanderson sustained his injuries, there has been much debate about fighting in hockey. But not much debate is going on inside the game of hockey. As Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke put it, “To me, it’s not a debate within the game, it’s a debate that’s raging outside [the game].” Fighting isn’t going anywhere. The reason why? Because the players, coaches and fans like fighting in hockey. It has a code and a history. This week, the GMs of the NHL will be meeting in Naples, FL to discuss many issues confronting the game, including fighting. I predict that no rules or guidelines will be altered in regards to hockey fights. The NHL will do what they did after the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident; patiently wait for it to go away. For further reading on the subject, check out Mike Heika’s article in yesterday’s The Dallas Morning News.

Quotation: We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way downKurt Vonnegut, Jr. 

Soupçon: Looking for the healthiest fish to eat? According to this article, it’s the Alaskan Wild Salmon.

Tune: Check out “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses, a band that has become one of my favorites in only a short time. Great compilation video.

Link: Hecklerspray – a daily website covering all kinds of entertainment-related issues.

Gallimaufry: Click HERE to read the article “When Man and Machines Merge”. Ray Kurzweil has some well-formulated and interesting ideas on the future of man’s relationship with machines…SHAMELESS PLUG – My friend Kelly has begun chronicling the “mostly quirky, often adventurous, sometimes queasy look into the whack dating life of a 20-something in Philly” in her brand new blog. Click HERE to check it out…Wanna try a great sushi place in Philadelphia? Check out Yakitori Boy at 211 N. 11th Street. You won’t be disappointed.