Thursday, December 31, 2009

35 years ago today


over Mexican food, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie and John McVie invite Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to join Fleetwood Mac. Buckingham and Nicks accept the offer, which turns out to be a good move for all five of them.

35 years later, the snow has begun falling in Queens and it's quite lovely.

IFC will show two Woody Allen movies (Annie Hall (twice) and Manhattan) before adopting a New York City theme with A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints and Gangs of New York.

Turner Classic will focus on Hitchcock (including a straight run through the excellent Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho, Vertigo and Rear Window) before playing six Thin Man movies in a row beginning at 8 EST.

last book I ever read: Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem

funniest television episode I've seen in years: "Afternoon Delight," Episode 6 of Arrested Development's Season Two

happy new year.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Vic Chesnutt died


so it's really not the merry Christmas we might've hoped for.

the above photos were taken by the muchly talented Thomas Petillo for a No Depression cover back in the day. and the one on the right hangs in what passes for a hallway in our rather undersized New York apartment.
and if it's hanging in our rather undersized New York apartment (not that we own another apartment, either undersized or large to the point of vulgar, elsewhere) then it'd probably be redundant as well as unnecessary to state that it's my favorite Vic Chesnutt photo ever.

anyway, Vic's dead and, Christmas or not, the world's a little worse off than it was before.

here's an interview I did with him about 14 months ago (but know that it'll take a lot of patience to work through given the multiplicity of poorly formatted apostrophes (it looked better when it was first published)).

God bless you and keep you, Vic.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

the good weekend



Friday:
the Wrens' play The Meadowlands from start to finish at Maxwell's in Hoboken (friends)

Saturday:
Nobu 57 (family)

Sunday:
New Jersey Nets vs. New York Knicks at the Garden (friends)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time Warner Cable: still the worst


a/k/a: THE POWER OF YOU, my rapidly again arse redux.

so the cable's out this morning, and my great suspicion is that the two free months we grudgingly accepted as restitution for almost a month of no MLB Extra Innings service (they do not give refunds on pay-per-view events and even though this is a four-month package Time Warner classifies it as a pay-per-view event; you know, "policy") have come to an end and some not-so-bright Time Warner employee, rather than turning off the Encore, the Starz, the Showtime, the Movie Channel, etc., turned off everything.
but I'm going to (probably foolishly) give these folks the benefit of the doubt.

so after filling out a not-short online form explaining my problem (though I've rebooted twice this morning), I ask if there have been reported service outages in my area in order to initiate an IM chat with a Time Warner representative.
a new window pops up which informs me that I am number 123 in the queue. number 123 in the queue for an IM chat with a Time Warner representative.

five minutes later I receive a message that customer volume is higher than normal.
big surprise there (again, if anyone EVER contacts Time Warner, either by phone or IM chat, and DOESN'T receive the "higher than normal call volumes" message, please shoot me an e-mail because I would think that would qualify as Breaking News).

I receive this message another eight to ten times before, approximately 35 minutes after I initiated the chat, a customer service representative comes on line. he asks that I restate the problem I already detailed on their online form (obviously this is just a stall technique).
I do so, and am told, Why yes, there have been outages reported in my area and they will fix the problem "very soon" and that after some time I should "access my Cable Service."
I ask what "access my Cable Service" means?
and after several minutes without a response I type, "Hello?"
the representative returns to state that he is, indeed, present, but does not answer the question. so I repeat, "What does 'access my Cable Service' mean'?"
at which point the guy says, Oh, I'm an Internet Chat Specialist and I can't really help you with Cable (even though I had specifically stated on the online form that my problem was Cable, not Internet, related), but that he was certain that technicians were working on the problem.
I asked if they were the same technicians that rerouted my Cable chat request into the Internet queue.

we're now almost three hours in (at least, that's as long as I've had the television on) and still no cable.
"very soon," my rapidly aging arse.

in other news, after a break of seven plus months, another submission in the Possibly 4th Street series, this one with the Bowerbirds, has posted online at the Village Voice.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

a favor


those of you who have met my younger brother Wayne know that he is a kinder, gentler, taller, more athletic, less ornery version of myself. even though we look nothing alike.

those of you who have not met my younger brother Wayne should know that he is a kinder, gentler, taller, more athletic, less ornery version of myself. even though we look nothing alike.

earlier this football season, Wayne was selected for a local TV sports segment called Armchair Quarterback. and now the local TV station, CBS affiliate channel 42, is holding a contest to determine the best Armchair Quarterback of the season.

the winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to Dreamland and two tickets to this year's Iron Bowl (for those non-Southern, non-football fans out there, that's the annual Alabama-Auburn football game and it's a very big deal within the state's borders). and I believe my brother Wayne, intelligent and nice guy that he is (remember he's a kinder, gentler, taller, more athletic version of myself (even though we look nothing alike)), is more than deserving of this honor.

so please take 30 seconds to follow this link and cast your vote for Wayne Trucks as Armchair Quarterback (the voting booth is not the easiest to find; look up and to the right, just underneath the channel 42 banner/masthead).
and if you've got more than 30 seconds, vote twice, three times, tell your friends and even your enemies. there doesn't seem to be a limit on how many times you can cast, though voting does end at 1 p.m. EST this coming Wednesday, so please don't dilly or dally.

I thank you.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

there's a new Lambchop album out today


or at least a new soundtrack to a Lambchop concert film that I haven't seen.
so guess what I'm listening to.

(link to 15-month old interview with Kurt Wagner)

if I were live-blogging


ESPN's 2009 College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon (which I'm not but someone must be attempting to cover all twelve games, all 24 hours) I would have to mention that Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton really needs to change barbers.
though in no way similar in style, Burton may well possess the worst basketball coach combover since the Big Ten tandem of Lou Henson and Gene Keady.
it's just, well, angled in a completely nonsensical fashion, like some kind of limp and lifeless, poorly applied triangle.
but his team took down the storied UCLA Bruins for the first time in school history (in double overtime) so I'm sure he's feeling fine despite any unnecessary roughness of my part.
just in case I'm presenting a relatively flattering photo of Burton with baseball cap.
looking a bit Boeheim, I'd say.
congratulations coach.

and know that I'll be changing barbers soon myself.
a long overdue whacking took place earlier this evening, and while the cut itself was fine (so says my spouse who has to look at it more than I), the stylist went nuts with the product, the gel, the spray, the accoutrement and possibly the lacquer (attempting, I guess, to polish my own bald spot so that it shone like a bowling ball on league night) so that upon returning home I had to go straight to the shower as I could no longer stand to smell my own head.
and without the comfort of a win at Pauley Pavilion.
and I didn't even beat UCLA tonight.

a final Fullerton note:
despite a rather persistent (as in multiple) typo on the official Cal-State Fullerton basketball website, the Titans' recent transfer from the University of South Florida is named Orane Chin, not Orange Chin.
though that would be pretty cool and certainly share a lot of Google searches with Chad Ochocinco.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"there are no angels in america"


over the weekend we watched all six "chapters" of Tony Kushner's Angels in America.
a good thing considering it was gone from HBO On Demand on Monday morning.

Friday, November 6, 2009

as a general rule


televised parades are a bad idea, but the Fox5/My9 shared telecast of today's Yankees celebration is particularly atrocious.
it's almost as if no one had prepared.
lots of network time-killing interviews with screaming fans (most predicted a 28th championship next year in and around shout-outs to family and friends).
one correspondent admitted knowing "nothing about baseball" but bragged that she knew Jeter, Pettitte, Posada and Rivera had played together for a long time.
when they did manage to grab a Yankee for an interview, the default question was "what do you want to say to New York?"
and poor Phil Hughes was trapped for so long that we learned that his breakfast was "good," which led to the follow-up: what did you have? (a bagel).
we also learned that police, fire fighters and sanitation crews were doing "a good job" and that "nobody throws a parade like New York."
Fox morning co-host Greg Kelly (whose father just happens to be the NYC police commissioner) spent most of his time trying to shake hands ("put her there") with players who actually strayed close enough to the barricades designed to keep Kelly and his partner out.
another of Kelly's co-workers tried to interview the police officer keeping her from the players lining up to board their respective floats.
the officer's response: just stay over there.
and if we could collect a dollar for every "there goes (insert name of Yankee player here)," several of us could retire comfortably.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birmingham mayor convicted


on Tuesday in Tuscaloosa (change of venue), Birmingham, Alabama mayor Larry Langford was found guilty on all 60 counts against him, causing him to vacate his office and allowing former City Council president Carole Smitherman to ascend. Smitherman becomes the first female mayor of Alabama's largest city.

which raises the all important question, How awful a lawyer do you have to be to go zero for 60?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

hey I, oh, I'm still alive


most likely the first (and last) time I'll quote Pearl Jam for the subject heading.
recent activities are similarly unpredictable.
unless you've married or edited me then there's not much chance you could divine my last book read, my last movie viewed or the last concert I ever saw.
and all of this is not so much a change in direction as much as opening up to random (not amber) waves (of grain or otherwise).
time will tell.
say Hi to your mom.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

today's $hit list


when last we chatted, major world events - the funeral of Edward M. Kennedy, the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the like - greatly overwhelmed the thorn in my paw that is Time Warner Cable.

but the funeral's over and the fourth anniversary has passed.
so has the 48 hours the Time Warner customer service representative assure me was an outside window for restoration of my MLB Extra Innings package.

not so, home slice.

on Monday afternoon (and yes, there were day games on Monday) I called Time Warner Cable (of New York, specifically Queens) once again and once again I received the "call volumes" heavier than normal message (if anyone EVER calls Time Warner on a service related issue and does not get that message, does not have to suffer through a minimum ten minutes on hold (and yes, I'm over my cell phone minutes per month limit), please shoot me an e-mail), but I waded/waited through in order to say, Hey, that 48 hours you promised is long since gone and still no baseball.
Monday's CSR started stuttering about company policy on the two-day credit (when I deserved at least seven), and if there's anything you don't want to try my patience with it's policy. because, as we all know, just because something's "policy," does not make it right.

I said, Look. Forget about the two-day/seven-day credit issue. We're talking about a difference of five dollars here. How about fixing my baseball channels?
so we moved on and we did the little dance where he remotely rebooted the system (even though I had rebooted before I called) and of course it didn't work and he couldn't figure out what was wrong or why IT hadn't responded to the previous Friday night's "ticket," so after (call it) thirty minutes he promised to bring my situation to the attention of a floor supervisor, expedite the IT ticket and seemed to completely understand why I didn't really want to call back, why I didn't really want to spend 15 minutes (give or take five) on hold before giving periodic phone updates like, No, it's a blank screen. Still a blank screen. No, nothing, to a third CSR before ultimately hanging up without resolution.

so the guy says, I'm about to go to lunch but I'll be back at 4. I'll call you at 4 o'clock to give you an update.

do I need to tell you that 4 o'clock came and went without a phone call from Time Warner?

do I need to tell you that Monday night and Tuesday passed without a phone call from Time Warner?

do I need to tell you that channels 431 through 444 on Time Warner Cable of Queens' system, the channels that are supposed to be covering every Major League Baseball
game live, are all completely black on my television?

of course, I still don't want to spend another 15 minutes on hold, another 30 minutes of ineffectual troubleshooting with a climax of misleading information, if not outright fibbery.

what are my options?

how about sending an e-mail on Tuesday night which said, Look, you guys misled, misconstrued and it's obvious by now that you're either unwilling or unable to fix the problem, so just credit my account for the rest of the season and let me put this nightmare behind me.

when you hit Send, by the way, the website tells you that you'll receive a response within 48 hours.

not that a response time of 48 hours is anything to brag about (they respond to e-mails in 48 hours, when you call they suggest that you'd be better off calling back later - it's pretty obvious that Time Warner Cable DOES NOT WANT TO HEAR FROM THEIR CUSTOMERS except in the form of a monthly check).

and this most recent 48 hours? come and gone. just like the first 48 hours. just like the 4 o'clock phone call.

and my screen is still black.

THE POWER OF YOU, my rapidly aging arse.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 29, 2009


today is my mother-in-law's birthday. I celebrated with some fatty, vinegary barbecue pork from North Carolina.
Cliff Lee will yield more earned runs tonight than the combined total of his previous five starts as a Philadelphia Phillie, and I won't see any of it because after more than a week of frozen and scrambled pictures in my not inexpensive MLB Extra Innnings "service," I finally got through to Time Warner Cable (after a 20 minute wait through several suggestions to call back later as "call volumes" were running greater than normal (when don't they play that message?)) who ran a test that resulted in an absence of any picture at all. for the past seven days of unwatchable television, and now no service at all for last night's West Coast games and a predicted two further days of service outage, Time Warner Cable is giving me a credit of two days. gee, thanks.
more importantly, today was the burial of Senator Edward M. Kennedy as well as the fourth anniversary of America's most shameful moment since the Civil War.
no celebration there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

happy Robert Redford's birthday


Redford, a former pitcher for the University of Colorado (he never did graduate, but then his mother died when he was 18 which likely contributed to a lack of focus), turns 73 today.

had he lived, humanitarian, Hall of Famer and former Santurce Crabber Roberto Clemente would've turned 75 today.

Alain Robbe-Grillet (who died just last year) was born on this date in 1922.

it is also the birthday of Rafer Johnson and Parker Posey, Roman Polanski and Vincent Bugliosi (strangely enough), Martin Mull and Elayne Boosler, Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Rosalynn Carter, Denis Leary and Madeline Stowe, Adam Samberg and Frances Bean Cobain, and Edward Norton and Christian Slater (both in 1969).

of course, Jimi Hendrix closed the Woodstock Festival 40 years ago today (but you knew that already), and Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita was first published in the States on August 18, 1958.

Monday, August 17, 2009

happy Robert De Niro's birthday


also Sean Penn's (so maybe if you want to win a Best Actor Oscar you should consider being born on August 17th).

and unfortunately yesterday (unless it's today), and overshadowed by the death of Elvis, was the 60th anniversary of the death of Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell who was struck by an automobile while crossing Peachtree Street (near 13th in Atlanta) by Hugh Gravett, either a 28 or 29-year-old taxi driver, who appeared to be drunk and driving on the wrong side of the road (though several of Mrs. Mitchell's friends testified that she often crossed the street without looking) and who possessed either 23 or 24 previous traffic violations.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

happy Madonna's birthday


and, unfortunately, Elvis' death day.

Madonna's been alive for 51 years (she's in Poland today) and Elvis has been dead for 22 (most people think he's in Tennessee; others disagree).

to celebrate (I'm not sure which), Amazon's offering the MP3 download of Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon (born January 24th; died on September 7th) for just $2.99.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

no doubt (all right, let's do this thang)


first response in the comment box receives a free download link to No Doubt's ENTIRE CATALOG.
don't delay.

Monday, July 6, 2009

from 2666


"Ivanov's fear was of a literary nature. That is, it was the fear that afflicts most citizens who, one fine (or dark) day, choose to make the practice of writing, and especially the practice of fiction writing, an integral part of their lives. Fear of being no good. Also fear of being overlooked. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear that one's efforts and striving will come to nothing. Fear of the step that leaves no trace. Fear of the forces of chance and nature that wipe away shallow prints. Fear of dining alone and going unnoticed. Fear of going unrecognized. Fear of failure and making a spectacle of oneself. But above all, fear of being no good."

- Roberto Bolano

Thursday, June 11, 2009

stand in the schoolhouse door


today is the 46th anniversary of George Wallace's schoolhouse door stand at the University of Alabama's Foster Auditorium.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

the mid-week in review

on Monday I visited the cardiologist and watched the debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien.
on Tuesday I bought a loaf of bread.
on Wednesday I dropped the laptop that had the only current version of the "still in-progress but nearing the finish line" Tusk book. the screen broke. it looks like the combination of a spider web and a color bar test pattern on late '60s television.
good times.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

free from work


it's the normal hour, just before 3, when I should be hard at work on Tusk, but I'm not.
which doesn't mean that there's not more work to do, but this afternoon I dropped the manuscript off with a trusted friend and editor and so tonight is likely the closest I'll ever come to the joy of dropping off a child at the grandparents and then turning right back around towards home and a wasted evening.
not a complete waste, I guess, but wasteful enough.
not only bad movies on television, but bad movies on television with commercials.
just not really something we ever really do.
I used the commercial breaks to check in on the Mets' comeback against San Francisco, which I wasn't exactly hoping for. second day in a row that a top line pitcher (yesterday it was Verlander for Detroit) was forced to trust his work investment to an incompetent bullpen. a shame.
has to be more than frustrating to have that kind of talent, give that kind of performance and then have to watch it blow up. and then share a locker room, a team charter with the very culprits who caused it.

also in the past 24 hours, Wayman Tisdale, by all accounts a stellar human being, passed away, and Green Day's "U2 Week" in the city peaks with the release of 21st Century Breakdown (available as a $4.99 download from Amazon).
tomorrow night they'll serve as the final musical guest of SNL's season, then Monday they'll perform at the Bowery Ballroom with Webster Hall on Tuesday.
tickets for Madison Square Garden went onsale this morning and are most likely gone since they added a second MSG show only 15 minutes in.
but you've still got a chance to see them play one of their smallest venues in years as the Bowery show goes onsale at noon EST Saturday.
good luck.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

it's giveaway day!!!


in honor of my nephew's birthday tomorrow (he'll be old enough to not want to talk on the phone unless you can discuss rodeos or dinosaurs, and maybe not even then) and finally (finally) obtaining Internet access today (lack of technology can paralyze you), I'm giving away a free download code for No Doubt's entire recorded catalog (my nephew would be uninterested, but you pretty much need an Internet connection for this).

first person to respond with their e-mail as a Comment wins (don't worry about your e-mail being broadcast on the Worldwide as I have approval privileges so I'm the only person who will see it).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dylan has a new album

called Together Through Life.
supposedly it's his 48th.
this is hearsay.
I didn't do the counting myself.

he'll be touring the Midwest through Pennsylvania, New Jersey and even Connecticut this July.
minor league ballparks mainly.
Willie Nelson plays on all dates, and John Cougar Mellencamp plays most.
tickets for most shows go on sale this coming Saturday morning.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

my maudlin career,

the new album by Camera Obscura, came out on Tuesday.
as did my piece on the band, based on a couple hour visit with lead singer/songwriter Tracyanne Campbell.
(caution: literary quotient of 8.4)

you may sample the aforementioned disc by clicking to your right (Charlie don't surf and the graphic above doesn't click).

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

happy my sister's birthday


it's dreary in New York (read: drizzling).

and last night I left the apartment for the first time in three and a half years (in people years that's about nine days since I left Queens, though I did go for a couple of long, enjoyable walks over the weekend) for the opening of The Pictures Generation, 1974-1984.
(New York brush with greatness: Salman Rushdie)
(I also met Paul McMahon (his image, "Untitled (Nixon)" is above); nice fellow)
and it was more than drizzling.

over the course of the night I ingested asparagus, pecans, Jack and Coke, chicken meatballs and shrimp wonton.
which possibly explains the internal (yet matching) dreariness.

what I was listening to on the rainy way there: Yo La Tengo's And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out
what I was listening to after the rainy walk home: Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

no day baseball today (with more than a few rainouts in the offing this evening), and Rolling Stone (God help us everyone) has proclaimed Kings of Leon as "America's Hottest Band" on their cover.
puh-lease.
(my most recent (last Fall) interview with the Kings of Leon's primary songwriter. note: they have not, by any stretch of the imagination, cured all of their formatting ills from the recent Voice makeover)

so it seems only fitting that The Deerhunter's playing on my television as we speak.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

happy Tax Day/happy Jackie Robinson Day


not the afternoon, by the way, to take your kid to his/her first ballgame to teach him/her about all the players since everyone will be wearing #42.

if you are what you eat, I will soon be a ham sandwich (Easter leftovers, don'tcha know).

Monday, April 13, 2009

a busy news day


Phil Spector is pronounced guilty, Marilyn Chambers is pronounced dead, Mel Gibson's wife files for divorce (turns out they've been separated since just after his drunken, anti-Semitic tirade in 2006), Minnesota politician Norm Coleman loses the same U.S. Senate race to Al Franken for the fourth time (yet vows to file another legal challenge) and, of course, another round of Opening Days, including the Mets opening Citi Field the same way they closed Shea (with a loss; and the Yankees beaten so thoroughly by Tampa Bay that they used a position player, Nick Swisher (the team MVP thus far), as pitcher for the first time in more than a decade).

but the most relevant news to me was the third baseball death in less than a week. first was the Angels' Nick Adenhart, killed by a drunk driver just hours after the best start of his career. then Harry Kalas (what a voice) died in the broadcast booth in D.C. before the Phillies-Nationals game. and then during that game we learned that Mark "the Bird" Fidrych passed away this afternoon in an apparent accident on his New England farm. he was 54.

(neither Philadelphia nor Detroit were opening parks this afternoon. in fact, both teams hosted their respective Opening Days last week, but I couldn't help but be reminded that Willie Stargell passed away on April 9, 2001, the first day of major league play in Pittsburgh's PNC Park)

his bright, shining moment, of course (though his major league career wasn't much more than a moment in itself), came on June 28, 1976 when ABC broadcast its Game of the Week on Monday night (in apparent hope that they could extend their football franchise).
my friends and I went to our homes early that night to watch, didn't leave until it was over.
longtime Oriole Elrod Hendricks (and whose picture stays on this home page) hit a home run for the Yankees' only score of the ballgame.
I've linked to the boxscore (thank you, Retrosheet), but in no way does the boxscore do Fidrych justice.
he was special.
if ever the words "joy" and "baseball" occurred in the same sentence, there's a good chance that Mark Fidrych's name appeared there too.
we didn't get to watch him for long, but we're lucky we got to watch Mark Fidrych as long as we did.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Carolina's going back to the championship game

thanks to 14 first half minutes of exquisite basketball (about a minute and a half in until about four and a half left before halftime): swarming defense, transition offense capped by lights out shooting.

but if we get the same referees on Monday (Hansbrough's getting thrown to the ground without a call and six other non-whistles) and don't improve on the free throw shooting (a depth perception problem at Ford Field?) it could be a disappointing evening.

as in, it ain't over yet.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

less than 20 hours remain in the month of March

(yes Virginia, it's past four in the morning)
my self-imposed deadline for finishing at least a strong draft of the Tusk book.
and barring some last minute intervention by editing elves inside my computer (something's been inside both our laptop and Mac recently, but whatever it is certainly hasn't been helping), it ain't going to happen.

and tonight Stevie Nicks, who was just in town for several days less than two weeks ago, is coming to New York to mock me.

actually, mocking me probably isn't on her publicist's schedule.
she's scheduled for a CD signing (and where do you physically sign a CD? it's really not the same as a book signing, you know?) tonight at the Union Square Barnes & Noble so probably won't have time for the mocking.
(I'll let you research the details. I won't be there, as I've got a book to write (and the sun's been in my eyes. and I have to wash (what's left of) my hair. and . . .)

it's been 161 days since Lindsey Buckingham ended his Gift of Screws tour in New York.
you know, the date we were waiting on before Lindsey and I could do the two-years-in- the-making Tusk sitdown.

oops. I may be giving away too much of the plot.

avoid pistachios!

and for you Keith Urban fans (Urban, in a USA Today interview published this morning, called Lindsey his "favorite mad scientist"), Amazon will be offering his Defying Gravity album (released today) as a $3.99 download until just after midnight.

(yeah, I'm punchy. did you miss the part where my book's not finished and it's after four a.m.? damn.)

Twitter on, Wayne.
Twitter on, Garth.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amazon recommendation

Amazon's had a pretty decent run of $1.99 per download albums the past few days: Jackson Browne's The Pretender on Thursday, Al Green's Let's Stay Together on Friday (FYI: these sub-$2 prices seem to still be in effect).

but today's offering, the Hold Steady's Boys and Girls in America, deserves its own post, special mention, recommendation.
it'll be the best two bucks you spend all day (assuming you're not compelled to visit McDonald's after viewing their singing mounted fish commercial).

but don't take my word for it.
here's the allmusic review, as well as the Pitchfork review (if you're not familiar with Pitchfork, know that a 9.4 rating is rarefied air).

the Hold Steady headline Irving Plaza here in New York on Monday, March 30th prior to working their way across the country (Buffalo, Bloomington, Boulder, etc.) through Tax Day.

my bracket's got a hole in it

same song, different year (though I did manage to win a valuable prize (and not just the home version) for my women's bracket last season).

the women's tournament has already seen more upsets in the first day than I predicted for the entire first round. and those surprises did not include Georgia defending their home (actually, Duluth, GA) against Arizona State.
Xavier's loss to Gonzaga was particularly painful.

and on the men's side, Duke refused to lose to Texas (though it certainly could've gone the other way) and, most damaging, Ohio State, with better talent, experience and a home court advantage, couldn't put away Siena.
I knew Siena was good and I knew that Ohio State wasn't great, but damn . . .
that was about the ugliest college basketball game I've seen in months.
as in, if I thought there was any chance (any chance at all) that a tournament game could be fixed, Siena-Ohio State would be my primary suspect.
for five of the last six minutes it looked like neither team wanted to win (though Ohio State, again with more talent, did a more convincing job of making stupid mistakes).
if there is a silver lining in this particular bracket cloud (see, I didn't have Louisville making the Final Four and now there's no team left that has even a remote chance of taking them out other than Michigan State or Kansas in the round of eight, and I don't believe that's going to happen) it's only that now I'm safe from having to watch Ohio State play again for at least another seven months.

and just to prove that something else hit the television set over the past 72 hours:
Changeling needed another editor.
not necessarily for length (though it felt long), but for scene balance (the tidy summation on behalf of "hope" at the end is but one of many examples).
characterization (or you can call it writing if you'd like) is also off. the good guys are good (really good) and the bad guys are, well, really, really bad.
John Malkovich was excellent as usual, but the child acting (and there were several child actors) was uneven at best, and I didn't see Angelina Jolie's acting as nomination worthy (though of course they do like to pick at least five finalists, and maybe there's a rule that automatically kicks in a nod if you appear in at least 95% of a film's scenes).
as in, you can lead a long and happy life (yeah, good luck with that) without giving up the two plus hours better spent watching basketball.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"I'm always in for Dick."


the without a doubt best line from the Lucille Ball-William Holden not-quite classic film Miss Grant Takes Richmond which played this afternoon on TCM.

(the line belongs not to Ms. Ball, but rather Janis Carter in the role of "other woman" Peggy Donato as she accepts a phone call from Mr. Richmond (Holden))

Friday, March 13, 2009

wow

I've been waiting for the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament since the end of the Carolina-Duke game last Sunday.
the conference tournaments are fine and all, but my team is a lock for a number one seed and I will neither live nor die (though I would live to see Auburn make it and I watched with interest as my alma mater turned in an extremely sloppy game against Western Kentucky in the conference (if you can call the Sun Belt a conference) championship, but really they shouldn't even have been there) because of bubble teams bursting.

and simply put, the three days of the year it doesn't suck to be unemployed or a freelancer (six of one, half dozen of the other) are the first two days of the NCAA Basketball Tournament (next Thursday and Friday beginning at noon Eastern) and Opening Day of baseball season.
it's like built-in hooky.
like you're getting away with something.

and so I tried not to stress too much that no one (not ESPN or any of the six or so regional Fox Sports channels I can get on cable thanks to an extra $3.95 a month) chose to show Depaul's first conference win of the year on Tuesday.

and I tried not to be disappointed that yesterday's games were so, well, awful (your honor, I enter into evidence St. John's 10-point first half at home in the Garden against Marquette).
you know it's a weak day for conference tournaments when Robert Morris' last second win is the runaway champ for game of the day.

but Thursday.
oh, man.
not that I sat around all day watching basketball.
oh, no.
I left the house for the first time in three days. took a lengthy nap (that was still not enough). and tuned into Jon Stewart's verbal spanking of Jim Cramer on the Daily Show (to be fair, Cramer was taking one for the team. his only possible rebuttal - "I'm not a journalist" - was not a place he could really go (though he came close) when he said he was "a commentator" who hosted "an entertaining program on business. instead he just reiterated that he couldn't have been in cahoots with these fat cat Wall Streeters (I'm using the lingo here) because so many of them lied to him.
and "I'm a victim, too" just really isn't going to work here.
it'll be interesting to see what position CNBC takes as a network when they go back to broadcasting tomorrow morning, because they can't just not mention Cramer's appearance and his many mea culpas and promises to do better.

but back to basketball.
Baylor beats Kansas and Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma (in Oklahoma City) so the top two seeds in the Big 12 are gone.
Georgia Tech took out Clemson in the ACC, but the real games were in the Big East.
West Virginia beat Pittsburgh (who I think have as good a shot as anyone to win it all) and the conclusion of Marquette-Villanova (despite 'Nova leading by 16 at the half) was a shocking classic as Marquette's Jerel McNeal fell asleep while watching the ball and allowed Dwayne Anderson to sneak behind him for a last-second layup win.

and that would've been enough for the day, but after the Daily Show ended I switched over to check out the last four or so minutes of Syracuse-UConn (neither of which are my favorite programs).
and the thing goes on for another hour or so.
six overtimes.
longest Big East game in history.
first six-overtime game in either program's history.
second longest NCAA Division I game ever.
almost 100 free throws.
nearly four hours to play (which is almost as long as I was in the Garden for Neil Young).
seven guys foul out.
they're playing walk-ons with less than 60 minutes of court time for the entire season.
and the walk-ons hold their own.
UConn slips the noose when, upon further review, Devendorf's three-point jumper at the end of regulation is still on his fingertips when the end game light comes on.
then Syracuse avoids death repeatedly through the first five overtimes.
the Orangemen never gain a lead until the sixth when they score the first 8 points. at which point UConn's remaining players deflated like Macy's ballons on Thanksgiving night. I mean, the air just went out.
but who can blame them.
Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn should win tournament MVP for just this one night. 34 points, 11 assists and 16 for 16 from the foul line, with most of those coming in the never-ending, hyper-intensive extra periods.

hell of a game.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

an iTunes landmark (personal)


so my spouse was attempting to download a Kindle application onto the iTouch that I won from the New York Times last year for having the most accurate bracket for the NCAA Women's Basketball Championship (yeah, go figure).
and due to an increasingly frustrating Internet connection (I blame Time Warner Cable), she forced to restart the computer after her purchase.
which somehow triggered a reload of R.E.M.'s "Living Well is the Best Revenge" from their Accelerate album.
reload, as in it's a duplicate.

don't rush me. I'm getting there.

long story long: this duplication of a previous purchase became the 49,000th "item" in our iTunes library.
which strikes even me as a bit excessive.

supposedly this catalog of 49,000 items (I do like that number, though) requires 239.56 GB of storage space on our computer.
and I believe it.
the burgeoning iTunes library, combined with more and more photographs, instigated our purchase of a newer, larger iMac back in October of 2007.
which is when we had to restart the iTunes play count since we transferred it from the old to a new computer.

if you began with the very first track, fellow native Alabamian A.A. Bondy's "Killed Myself When I Was Young" from his American Hearts album, and walked away to allow the computer to exhaust itself on its 49,000 item playlist it would take, according to the notation at the bottom of our iTunes window, 139.4 days to play every track at least once.

the item played most often since October 16, 2007 at 6:35 p.m. (EST)?
the National's "Brainy." surprising since I have never written a word (for pay anyway) on the National.
ever.

world without end.

amen.

Monday, March 9, 2009

U2 Way Week is over.

as is Jimmy Fallon's first week as late night host.

I celebrated with my first Islanders game at Nassau Coliseum (a cozy little bandbox where, while in line for some truly disgusting barbecue, a fellow patron said, Dude, you look just like "James Hetfield of Metallica." despite my relative lack of size and comparatively smooth skin, I decided to accept his observation as a compliment) and a good bit of televised basketball:
Carolina wins over Virginia Tech on Wednesday, Dook on Sunday, Pitt beats UConn on Saturday (though I didn't see all of it), Alabama beats Tennessee on a last second, banked-in prayer Sunday afternoon (I saw none of it), Cornell won the Ivy title by defeating Princeton in Ithaca on Friday night (students rushed the court and "demolished" the scorekeeper's computer (rowdy Ivies)) and South Alabama reached the Sun Belt quarterfinals by holding on against Troy Sunday night (those last two weren't even on cable).
but after two impressive wins over Ole Miss on Friday and Tennessee on Saturday, Auburn's women's team lost the conference title to Vanderbilt Sunday evening, which will probably cost them a #1 seed in the tournament.

watched two weekend movies (Ghost Town: as expected and Iron Man: better than expected) in hopes that Saint Netflix will deliver Synecdoche, New York and Milk no later than mid-week.

and I'm reading five books concurrently (I'll keep the titles to myself for now), which makes the likelihood of finishing any of them remote indeed. not least because I'm spending all of my not-quite-awake hours in all-night writing sessions (though the beginning of Daylight Savings Time will greatly decrease my chances of ever seeing a sunrise again) in attempt to get this Tusk book finished before month's end.

you know where to find me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

U2 just finished night one


of Letterman, and then their album, No Line on the Horizon, went onsale at Amazon.
I think it triggered at 1 rather than midnight.
in any case, right now it's just $3.99 for the MP3 download, and I imagine that'll continue all day today.

a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of U2 release publicity is the newest by Neko Case, Middle Cyclone (Neko got her own Times magazine write-up a couple weeks ago).

totally overwhelmed by all of the U2 release publicity and some of the Neko Case release publicity is Written in Chalk by Buddy & Julie Miller, also out today.
their first official album-length collaboration (of the eponymous variety) was voted Album of the Year by No Depression for 2001.

for those who may be unaware, Buddy, who played guitar throughout the entire Robert Plant/Alison Krauss run (including the Grammys), suffered a heart attack following the Three Girls and Their Buddy show in Baltimore about a week and a half ago and is now a recent recipient of a Johns Hopkins triple bypass.
we hope he feels better soon.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"let's not get into one of those turgid categorical imperative arguments"


as Lindsey, Mick, Stevie and John begin to wind down from opening night of Fleetwood Mac's Unleashed tour, approximately 375 miles east the snow is really coming down. and the hard stuff isn't due for a few more hours (supposedly we're working towards a foot).

so perhaps this weekend's mini-movie marathon (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Frozen River, Superbad and The French Connection) should've been put on hold for another 24 hours.

it's very possible that I may have to stop watching Woody Allen movies as I don't even enjoy the well-reviewed ones anymore.
while VCB certainly wasn't as bad as Celebrity (is anything as bad as Celebrity?), I still don't understand why anyone casts Scarlett Johansson and my puzzlement increases exponentially when a director re-casts her (maybe it was a package deal).

and, of course, when Woody's writing is bad, it's pretty much off the charts bad.
my worst Woody dialogue vote for VCB:
"Let's not get into one of those turgid categorical imperative arguments."

I mean, seriously. I live in New York, attended an MFA program in Creative Writing for more years than I care to admit and have conversed with at least my share, if not more, of academic elitists but I've still never met ANYONE who talks like that.
(thank God)

unless the rumor that Bono is a direct descendant of the Wicked Witch (and therefore overly sensitive to any form of precipitation) is true, then expect U2 to repeatedly announce their presence in the city over the coming week. the Times has already run their big feature, and the band will appear on the Letterman show every night for five nights straight (a Letterman first), followed by Good Morning America and a "surprise" performance at Times has already run their Fordham University on Friday morning.

their new album, No Line on the Horizon, drops tomorrow, but is not receiving the greatest advance reviews. so you might want to consider plunking down a lesser amount ($5 through Thursday night) on the frontrunner (after two months) for album of the year: the much-ballyhooed Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective.

don't forget your galoshes.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

today,


in an effort to stir the economy, I left the apartment to purchase four boxes of Nature Valley Fruit & Nut granola bars, a 45 ounce bag of Peanut M&M's, three two-liter bottles of Mountain Dew and a 1.5 quart container ("the new half-gallon") of Breyer's Vanilla/Chocolate/Strawberry ice cream.

and episode 27 of Possibly 4th Street (with ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead) popped today at the Village Voice.

look out, Mama, there's a white boat comin' up the river.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Randy Bewley


On Monday, Randy Bewley, innovative and influential guitarist for Pylon, suffered a heart attack while driving in his adopted hometown of Athens, Georgia. He passed away this afternoon, shortly after being taken off of life support.
Our thoughts are with Randy's family and friends on this very sad day.
He will be missed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the frequency, tone and volume


of Jeff Bezos' laughter creeps me out more than a little bit.
especially the frequency and volume given Jon Stewart's dubious stance (perhaps he was stealing Letterman's anti-Oprah light).

so over the top is Bezos' laugh that I think he could do a nice twist on an updated Riddler (or at least a henchman) if the latest Batman franchise decides to bring back the Frank Gorshin role.

does it make me want to send the guy money, for a Kindle 2 or other?
not so much.
but at least he wasn't defensive (in the least) during what could be perceived as an attack on his newly-released product.

Monday, February 23, 2009

so the oscars are over


I'm probably not entitled to any opinions on the selections themselves since I can't remember the last time I actually saw a recently released movie in a theater ("recently released" because I will, on occasion, go see a film at the MoMA, though maybe there should be some kind of monetary qualifier as well since I did view at least one entry during last year's Tribeca Film Festival).
my best guess would be The Simpsons Movie. pretty sure that came after William Eggleston in the Real World.

but I do take advantage of my Netflix membership (a good place here to curse Time-Warner Cable for the erratic at best Internet connection that tends to stall out at the most inopportune moments, necessitating either a reconnect or excruciating replay of buffering process), and so I have seen Richard Jenkins in The Visitor (he had about as much chance at winning Best Actor as he did the lottery, which is not to say he didn't give a fine performance in a worthy film), Best Documentary winner Man on Wire (also available for instant viewing on Netflix) and, of course, Dark Knight (Heath Ledger's Supporting Actor win) which has been out on DVD forever.
oh, and I saw Wall-E but didn't see what the fuss was about.

which means I haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire or Frost/Nixon or Milk or Doubt or The Reader or Benjamin Button or Frozen River (though that'll be taken care of shortly) or even The Wrestler.

but I appreciated the twist of bringing back five previous category winners to present the respective acting awards (even though Sophia Loren scared me a bit). Shirley Maclaine actually appeared more human than anyone else on stage with her (a surprise) and even though I'm not a fan of Anne Hathaway I felt good for her that she was able to receive such a tribute from someone who obviously meant a lot to her (either that or she's a better actor than I thought).
very surprised that Forest Whitaker wasn't one of the five Actor presenters, though it was mucho cool to see Deniro out there feting Sean Penn.
but if they do this again, damn they've either got to insist that the presenters memorize their tributes or find a way to put the teleprompter at least somewhere near the nominees. a couple folks (I'm looking at you Adrien Brody) about broke their necks having to swivel from the teleprompter to the nominee they were supposedly addressing. and to hide such, the Awards show director kept the cameras on the nominees' faces entirely too long. I mean, poor "Seymour Phillip" Hoffman trying his best to hide his WTF? reaction to Alan Arkin's butchering of his name during an excessively long take (payback for keeping his hat on, some will say; not me).

also, quit jerking the camera around during the In Memoriam segment. made me dizzy.

it's also time to ignore the instinct to show Angelina Jolie's reaction every time Jennifer Aniston speaks. absolutely unfair that the woman's up there playing straight man to Jack Black (which can't be easy) on some fairly difficult, not inherently interesting categories, and then get undercut like that.

enough already with Beyonce (absolutely the worst part of the show; the musical is back? really? I would've guessed the complete dearth of nominations for such, as well as the need to mine the entire Oscar history in order to provide music for the segment might've been a hint that this idea should've been a non-starter).

and finally, how stupid must Mickey Rourke's management feel right now? I mean, even hinting that the guy would partake of the squared circle at Wrestlemania (actually attempting to start at feud on the SAG Awards red carpet) before the Oscar votes were submitted and tallied was idiocy. because you know those Academy voters didn't take kindly to Rourke preparing to cash in (with the WWE, no less) on his Oscar before receiving it.

Monday, February 16, 2009

weekend in review


Friday night we stayed home to watch Gene Hackman in Night Moves (a Will Oldham recommendation which, shockingly, comes up before the Bob Seger album if you conduct an All Departments Amazon search; Amazon, by the way, is offering, today only, a download of Gillian Welch's Revival (truly a great work) for just $1.99) and Meryl Streep in Sophie's Choice (which was wonderful save for the excruciatingly over-the-top final five minutes (because I don't always tend to read poetry aloud at the foot of the bed where the woman who claimed my virginity lies in a double suicide (no throes), untouched by the myriad police crowding the room who don't appear to have made any move at all towards determining death) while Jemina Pearl listened to Tusk on vinyl.

Saturday we journeyed towards the New York-Connecticut border for a non-Valentine's celebration with a house full of pleasant adults and wandering children (crying "Mommy!" in such a setting generates just slightly less attention than yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater).

Sunday, following a beautiful, somewhat surprising Dook loss, the Tar Heels crawled on the back of an ailing Tywan Lawson for a four-point road win over Miami (I think we'll see Jack McClinton in the pros).
but we left the television with Carolina up almost double digits with approximately 15 minutes remaining in order to catch the final show of Los Campesinos! winter tour at the Bowery Ballroom.
the band played a fine, well-received set (they'll be playing larger venues soon, I'm sure), complete with stage-diving, tales of lost passports and broken equipment, and fulsome feedback on the final song.
we stood next to Harriet's mother and father (a cellist). it's their first trip to New York and parental pride appeared to win out over jet lag. at least last night.

and in case you missed it, Zach Baron caught a mini-Simon & Garfunkel reunion upon the Beacon's re-opening (enough of a reason to make "The Only Living Boy in New York" today's song of the day), and the husband of the New York Times Magazine's deputy editor wrote about Neko Case for the New York Times Magazine.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Van Morrison tickets went onsale about 10 minutes ago


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two shows at the WaMu and two shows and the old and improved Beacon.
but obviously no one has told Mr. Morrison that there's a recession (and that word truly doesn't capture what we're going through right now) going on.
tickets start at $350, and you can sit in the back row for $90 as Van plays the entirety of Astral Weeks, a redo of a similar series of recorded shows in Los Angeles which will be released on the 24th.

looking back, I'm almost certain that Van Morrison is the first show I ever paid north of $100 to see (it happened again with Neil Young at the Garden in December, but that was a different kind of accident), but it was more of an accompanied gift (friend, co-worker, boss who dearly loves Mr. Morrison) than any self-directed desire. though I must admit that his rendition of "And The Healing Has Begun" that evening immediately made it my favorite of all of Van's material.

the Chelsea (AL) High School girls' basketball team saw their season come to an end last night with a loss on the road at Selma in the round of 24. but the Birmingham News ran a short interview piece with the team's leading scorer and her coach.

also last night we watched part of the 10 o'clock news on WPIX, which is something we haven't done in a long time. top stories out of Newark included a woman being crushed by a windblown tree branch while driving on Route 22, and another woman, walking near where neighbors said that she fed pigeons and squirrels every day, crushed by a windblown tree branch (and rather surprisingly they showed video, without warning, of the body crushed underneath).
another report presented the nearly five hour delays out of Liberty International Airport because of the wind (unbelievably strong yesterday, though the reporter's toupee didn't move a scintilla), which makes one question, Why just delays? If it's too windy to fly, why aren't there more cancellations?
then, just a few minutes later, a commuter turboprop affiliated with Continental Airlines crashed into a beautifully quaint home (see above) in Clarence Center, New York just five minutes before it was due to land in Buffalo.
all 49 onboard, including Beverly Eckert, a 9/11 widow flying to Buffalo to award a scholarship at her late husband's high school alma mater, and one person on the ground were killed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New Music Tuesday


another rather lackluster day for new releases. most noteworthy are the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach's first solo album, Lily Allen's It's Not Me, It's You (available all day today for download at Amazon for just $3.99) and Ruins of Berlin by the Dex Romweber Duo (seen above at Bloodshot's CMJ party last October).

we recorded a Possibly 4th Street with Dexter and Sara both backstage at the Apollo and out the back door (126th Street) last Saturday night.

and my interview with Gareth of Los Campesinos! (who released two great albums in 2008) popped at the Voice this morning.

oh. and the financial markets have fallen out of bed. again.
(now (just after 1 p.m. EST) down over 300 points following Geithner's outline, which is pretty much equivalent to a 500 point loss in the Dow a year ago)

(update: at 3:19 p.m. EST the Dow crossed over negative 400 points for the day. or just about 4.8%. good thing that "love is all you need.")

Monday, February 9, 2009

the four questions with multiple grammy winner Robert Plant


believe it or not, before his Raising Sand collaboration with Alison Krauss, Robert Plant had won exactly one Grammy (which says more about the Grammys than it does Robert Plant). he's now won six.
Alison Krauss, still shy of 40, now owns 26 Grammy Awards, the third-most in history.
damn.

I spoke by telephone with Robert Plant on April 22nd as he traveled from Louisville to Knoxville for just the third night of their 2008 domestic tour.
the full feature ran about a month later in the Village Voice.


Can you tell me something that you’ve never ever done before in your life?

(laughs) I never came through the Cumberland Gap before, and that’s exactly what I just did. I mean, when I was a kid, there was a hit record in England by Lonnie Donegan who was a kind of a skiffle player, which I guess is a sort of a kind of combination of bluegrass and folk. And there was an old song (he sings here), "Cumberland Gap/Cumberland Gap/18 miles to the Cumberland Gap," or whatever it was, so when I flew through from south Kentucky last night I went, 'Ah, so there we are.' I’m nearly 60 and I finally put a name . . .

Fifty years later and you know what he’s talking about.


Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s beautiful out here, so that’s a first.

Tell me something you’ve done once and one time only.


Visited Cairo Airport.

That’s Cairo, Egypt or Cairo, Kentucky?


Oh, Cairo, Egypt. I wouldn’t go near an airport in Cairo, Kentucky.

Tell me the name of a book you’ve read at least twice.


Let me just think about this. Okay, I would say that the book that actually I’ve read three times is called Yemen: The Unknown Arabia by Tim Mackintosh-Smith.

So I guess you could recommend it if you’ve read it three times.

Well yeah, I mean, there are so many Arabians, there are so many Americans, it’s just that this guy has just such a kind of great fluidity and, you know, he studies one of the most unique environments on the planet, the most amazing people and a fantastic world. Sometimes you know you can go from one area to the next and there’s this two thousand year difference in just 24 hours driving.

Great. And tell me the name of a movie you’ve seen at least three times.

Wow, that’s a good one. What have I seen three times? I guess The Vikings with Tony Curtis and Kurt Douglas (laughs).

Good. I’ve never heard that answer before.

I was a kid in the beginning, you know, but I got all romantic about some hag steering ships across an ocean using a lodestone. It gave me an idea for a song a bit later on down the line.

What song?

“Immigrant Song.”


(duh)