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.

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06.11.09 – Thursday

Word: inure [in-yoor, i-noor] v. 1. to accustom to hardship, difficulty, pain, etc.; toughen or harden; habituate (usually fol. by to): inured to cold 2. to come into use; take or have effect 3. to become beneficial or advantageous

Birthday: Ben Jonson (1572), Richard Strauss (1864), Vince Lombardi (1913), Gene Wilder (1933), Frank Beard (1949), Joe Montana (1956), Hugh Laurie (1959), Peter Dinklage (1969), Ryan Dunn (1977), Joshua Jackson (1979), Shia LeBeouf (1986)

Quotation: Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.Irene Peter

Tune: Just got Noble Beast by Andrew Bird. So far, I’m digging “Anonanimal” the most.

Gallimaufry: Trent Reznor, one of the most active musicians on Twitter, may be hanging up his social networking spurs. On the official Nine Inch Nails website “Forum” section, Reznor had this to say, “I will be tuning out of the social networking sites because at the end of the day it’s now doing more harm than good in the bigger picture and the experiment seems to have yielded a result. Idiots rule.” Indeed they do, but did he really need Twitter to grasp that concept? The NFL (National Football League) is ready to play hardball with the NFLPA (National Football League Players’ Association).  With relatively-new NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and brand new NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith not wanting to look weak in their first head-to-head matchup, it should be fun to watch as the two groups square off over revenue sharing. Because, really, in a terrible economy, I can’t imagine what people would love to see more than insanely rich people fighting over money. My advice? Settle this one quickly and quietly, fellas. It’s hard to believe 10 years ago this month, Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker released Napster. I caught onto Napster really early, completely by accident. (A girl at a bar told me about it.) Once I found it, I was completely hooked. Sure, by today’s standards, it was clunky and time-consuming, but for a music junkie like me, it was internet crack cocaine. The day it got shut down, I didn’t light a candle or anything. But still. It sucked. I’ve never been able to bring myself to try the new pay version.   

Incoming: Relax, will ya? Be patient.

05.20.09 – Wednesday

Word: swagger [swag-er] v. int. 1. to walk or strut with a defiant or  insolent air 2. to boast or brag noisily ∞ v. t. 3. to bring, drive, force, etc., by blustering ∞ n. 4. swaggering manner, conduct, or walk; ostentatious display of arrogance and conceit

Birthday: Honoré de Balzac (1799), John Stuart Mill (1806), James Stewart (1908), Gardner Fox (1911), Lee “Scratch” Perry (1936), Joe Cocker (1944), Cher (1946), Ron Reagan (1950), Jane Wiedlin (1958), Israel Kamakawiwo’ole (1959), Bronson Pinchot (1959), Ted Allen (1965), Mindy Cohn (1966), Busta Rhymes (1972)

Standpoint: Monday night, as I was watching the Pittsburgh Penguins take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it was impossible to miss Sidney Crosby. Even when he was doing absolutely nothing, the spotlight shown in his direction. He’s the new poster boy for the NHL, who would love for him to become the next Wayne Gretzky, whose combination of pure skill and squeaky-clean good looks brought the league into prominence in this country two decades ago. The problem is Crosby is no Gretzky. Even in this early stage of his career, he’s not popular with the fans or among his peers. And here’s why.

Most professional sports are just a live enactment of good vs. evil. In any contest, there are the good guys – those we ‘re all waiting to see win in dramatic fashion – and the bad guys – those we are waiting to fall miserably on their faces. And we enjoy watching either one because wishing for a team to lose is just as much fun as wishing for it to win. Sometimes even more so.

Take Joe Montana. With a name like that, he was destined to occupy a place among the good guys. Besides the name, the man possessed all of the qualities that one needs to become one of America’s heroes. In short, Joe Montana was a guy that no one thought would be anything more than a capable quarterback. Of course, as is often the case, people ended up eating their words as he led the San Francisco 49ers to some of the most famous comebacks during one of the greatest dynasties in sports history. His losses were sometimes just as spectacular as his wins. We all rooted for him. Whichever team was playing against Joe Montana became the enemy.

 Then we have Kobe Bryant, who was marked by the NBA to be its replacement for Michael Jordan, its most celebrated good guy. But things went wrong. The Los Angeles Lakers‘ superstar distinguished himself by openly feuding with Shaquille O’Neal and being the only guy in human history capable of pissing off Phil Jackson. Oh yeah, being accused of sexual assault didn’t really help, either. Still, Kobe prevailed and is currently one of the top basketball players in the world. But no one is happy about it and we all root against him. Whichever team is playing against Kobe Bryant becomes the favorite.

So we all loved Montana. And we all love to hate Bryant. But what about Crosby? What group does he fit into? Well, he’ll probably never be shown the kind of love the good guys enjoy. At least not outside of Pittsburgh. On the other hand, he’ll never earn a spot with the bad guys as one of professional sports’ villains. And that’s because he’s more disliked than he is hated. And you might think that being disliked doesn’t sound as bad as being hated. But it is.

Because, no matter what the particular sport or situation, what we’re all looking for is entertainment. And being a human highlight reel is only so entertaining for so long. Here’s what the San Jose SharksJeremy Roenick has to say about Crosby: I think he’s too quiet, too hum-drum, too cliched. I love the kid as a hockey player, but I think he can be more spectacular if he steps up and shows a little personality. Now while the outspoken Roenick might not be the best judge about the proper use of “personality,” his remarks mirror the public sentiment. Mainly, we find the guy boring. Outside of whining to officials about everything imaginable (he complained to the referee during a recent game against the Washington Capitals because he thought the fans were throwing an excessive amount of hats on the ice after a hat trick by rival superstar Alex Ovechkin), and his admittedly sick amount of talent, Crosby is vanilla. And while vanilla is good it doesn’t get anyone fired up.

The impression that he gives is a neutral one. Like maybe he’d be OK playing out the season in spectator-less arenas and simply concentrating on hockey. And, while that may not be true, it’s the vibe he gives off and one thing sports fans won’t tolerate is an athlete who refuses to acknowledge their part in the process.

What really sucks about all of this is, if the Penguins somehow manage to win the Stanley Cup, when Crosby lifts it over his head, most hockey fans will fill ripped off because we;ll feel neither the good guys or the bad guys triumphed. The boring whiner did.   

Quotation: By night, an atheist half believes in God. Edward Young

Tune: On advice from my brother Jeremy, I’m attempting to get into Say Hi To Your Mom. So far, I like what I hear. Try “The Death of Girl Number Two.”

Gallimaufry: Declining honeybee populations represent a potentially disastrous problem for the world’s ecosystem. And no one’s really been able to explain how it’s happening. But it looks like there might be hope. ∞ Hollywood is one step closer to completing its mission of destroying everything from my past. The most recent victim? Footloose, the 1984 Kevin Bacon classic that was so dorky-cool most guys didn’t seem to mind it was about dancing. If the initial casting choices for the remake are any indication, this movie is going to absolutely blow. ∞ Blink-182 has reunited and I’ve watched them the past two nights on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. I’m a huge fan of the band’s albums. Ask anyone. But they’ve always been considered a shitty live act and, from what I’ve seen, that’s not a perception in danger of going away anytime soon.

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