04.12.11 – a tuesday

word

milquetoast [milk-tohst] n. a very timid, unassertive, spineless person, especially one who is easily dominated or intimidated: a milquetoast who’s afraid to ask for a raise

birthday

Henry Clay (1777), Beverly Cleary (1916), Tiny Tim (1932), Herbie Hancock (1940), Ed O’Neill (1946), Tom Clancy (1947), David Letterman (1947), David Cassidy (1950), Jon Krakauer (1954), Andy García (1956), Vince Gill (1957), Art Alexakis (1962), Shannen Doherty (1971), Claire Danes (1979)

standpoint

I’ve got an imaginative brain. I am constantly wondering about the world around me. Here’s a new segment called I’m Wondering.

Here’s how it works: each one of the following sentences begin with the words I’m Wondering… Easy enough. Let’s start.

I’m Wondering…

…who out there is actually taking Donald Trump and his inane rhetoric seriously? Obama is fair game but he crossed the line when he attacked The Cos.

…if the dudes on Pawn Stars really know as much as they seem to on the show? Also, is the title supposed to be derivative of the term “pornstars?”

…why B. J. Novak enjoys a top billing during the opening credits of The Office? I know he’s one of the show’s writers and producers but the character he plays is relatively minor.

…if I’m friends with anyone who’s remotely interested in the upcoming Royal Wedding and if they’re concerned that me finding that out will immediately end our friendship?

…how in the world it took this long for Glenn Beck to get the ax from Fox News? Who was buying what that clown was selling anyway?

quotation

To poke a wood fire is more solid enjoyment than almost anything in the world. ↔ Charles Dudley Warner

tune

Tragic tales of music bands are a dime-a-dozen but they’re especially sad when a freak car accident kills two members a mere month before the release of their debut album. Such was the case with For Squirrels, a mid-90s group from Florida that could’ve gone on to do great things. Here’s “Mighty KC.”

gallimaufry

Coldwater, Michigan gets it. Now let’s follow its lead and start making sense.

→ The upcoming months will feature new releases by elbow, Foo Fighters, TV On the Radio, Gorillaz, Pinback, Regina Spektor, I’m From Barcelona, Explosions In the Sky, Steve Earle, Times New Viking, Architecture In Helsinki, Beastie Boys, Fleet Foxes, The Felice Brothers, Here We Go Magic, Okkervil River, The Sea and the Cake, David Bazan and Death Cab for Cutie to name just a few. It’s no Spring 2010 but it’ll do, right?

→ How is this for a sad story? The Winklevoss twins pitched a business concept to Mark Zuckerberg, a guy roughly about ten times smarter than the two of them combined. He steals their idea and creates arguably the most successful business in the history of humanity. They get pissed, sue and get $65 million (now worth $160 million) for basically doing nothing but having an original idea. And now some court has, in essence, told them, “Move on. Enough is enough.” It’s pretty damn disheartening when two spoiled nitwits,who are all ready worth a couple hundred million, are told to stop wasting everyone’s time. This is still the USA, right?

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07.27.09 – Monday

Word: pique [peek] v. 1. to affect with sharp irritation and resentment, esp. by some wound to pride: She was greatly piqued when they refused her invitation 2. to wound (the pride, vanity, etc.) 3. to excite (interest, curiosity, etc.): Her curiosity was piqued by the gossip 4. to arouse an emotion or provoke to action: to pique someone to answer a challenge 5. Archaic. to pride (oneself) (usually fol. by on or upon) 6. to arouse pique in someone: an action that piqued when it was meant to soothe n. 7. a feeling of irritation or resentment, as from a wound to pride or self-esteem: to be in a pique 8. Obsolete. a state of irritated feeling between persons

Birthday: Samuel Smith (1752), Alexandre Dumas, fils (1824), Josef Priller (1915), Normal Lear (1922), Jerry Van Dyke (1931), John Pleshette (1942), Peggy Fleming (1948), Yahoo Serious (1953), Bill Engvall (1957), Karl Mueller (1962), Juliana Hatfield (1967), Triple H (1969), Maya Rudolph (1972), Pete Yorn (1974), Alex “A-Rod” Rodriguez (1975), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (1977)

Quotation: Bypasses are devices that allow some people to dash from point A to point B very fast while other people dash from point B to point A very fast.  People living at point C, being a point directly in between, are often given to wonder what’s so great about point A that so many people from point B are so keen to get there and what’s so great about point B that so many people from point A are so keen to get there.  They often wish that people would just once and for all work out where the hell they wanted to be.Douglas Adams

Tune: Boston band Wheat has had one helluva journey. After independently releasing its first two albums Medeiros and Hope and Adams in the late 1990s, Columbia Records signed Wheat and, in 2003, released Per Second, Per Second, Per Second…Every Second, an album that included the radio-friendly hit “I Met a Girl.” It turned out to be one-and-done with Columbia, however, and the band went back to the drawing board. (I’ve heard from some that Wheat felt Per Second… was over-produced, and that may just be a good point.) Its next release, everyday i said a prayer for kathy and made a one square inch, was the result of what vocalist Scott Levesque called, “just 3 guys in a basement…kind of like the old days, for us, by us.” I think a lot of Wheat fans, myself included, were hoping for something a little less over-polished than the tracks on Per Second… but the band may have gone too far the other way – maybe it got a little too rough around the edges. A few weeks ago, Wheat may have released its finest album, White Ink, Black Ink, – a solid compromise of the smooth and the raw. It may be cliché, but after almost two decades, Wheat might’ve at last found their sound. Favorite song so far? “My Warning Song”

Gallimaufry: In reality, the Tour de France 2009 was only three weeks long. But it felt much much much longer than that (most likely because VS. aired it pretty much 24 hours-a-day and some of the guys I work with watched each stage 3 times daily) when it ended yesterday with Alberto Contador wearing the traditional yellow jersey of the overall winner. Not Lance Armstrong. The 37-year old cancer survivor, 7-time Tour de France champion and, most importantly, the guy who played himself during the lynchpin scene in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story that sent Vince Vaughn back to help his team win the championship, came in 3rd. Not too shabby but obviously not what everyone was hoping for. Some are saying Armstrong hurt his chances for an 8th win by helping Contador, his teammate, during different legs of the race. Fear not. Armstrong will be back next year (but not on the same team as Contador), and my advice would be to not bet against him. The guy has always been a master at doing the things people have told him were out of his reach. I’m going out on a very sturdy limb and predicting one last win for Armstrong in next year’s Tour, which I probably won’t watch. The Beastie Boys are cancelling all of its upcoming tour dates and pushing back the release of its upcoming album, Hot Sauce Committee Part 1, due to the fact MCA (real name Adam Yauch) has been diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his parotid gland. From the official press release of the band’s label EMI Music – “Luckily it was caught early and is localized in one area, and as such is considered very treatable. It will however require surgery and several weeks of additional treatment. Fortunately the cancer is not in a location that will affect Yauch’s vocal chords.” Here’s wishing Yauch a speedy recovery. If you follow the NFL and have a working brain (not necessarily a paradoxical statement, by the way), you’re most likely sick and tired of Brett Favre’s continuing indecision on whether or not to play with the Minnestota Vikings (a divisional rival of Favre‘s original team, the Green Bay Packers) this season. At this weekend’s Madden NFL 10 Pigskin Pro-Am, John Elway and Joe Montana, two guys who’ve been in similar shoes, each gave their own opinion of what Favre should do. I like Montana’s best – “If it was the first time he’s done it, it would be different. But we’ve seen it already, and here we go again. I’m sure that’s all [the Minnesota Vikings] are thinking about.” I’m pretty sure he was politely trying to tell Favre to – as my mother is sometimes known to say – “Shit or get off the pot!” At this point, all the vacillating on Favre’s part is only blemishing his amazing career and tarnishing the future Hall of Famer’s reputation. It’s only natural that, besides the thrill of playing the game, the withdraw from the spotlight is what depresses the athletes the most, but still. Come on, dude. Enough already.

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.