Friday, February 29, 2008

Seattle Sonics Fans: Stabbed in the Back

Bill Simmons has an interesting column up today which contains letters from a bunch of bitter, betrayed Seattle SuperSonics fans angry about the way in which their franchise has been bought and hijacked, in predictable fashion, by a bunch of Oklahoma businessmen that assured the city they would stay there when they bought the team and almost immediately made plans to move the franchise to Oklahoma City once the sale was finalized. Terrible. Anyway, here is the article, which is worth reading if you want a snapshot of the sort of loving, occasionally over-the-top fandom that I and so many others suffer from.

Also, at the beginning of the article, Simmons quotes from a piece by the wonderful New Yorker writer Roger Angell which I'd never seen before and really does seem to encapsulate the awkward position so many adult-age sports fans find themselves in, and why they still can't give it up:

Nobody has ever summed up being a sports fan better than the New Yorker's Roger Angell in his piece "Agincourt and After," in this passage about Carlton Fisk's famous home run in the 1975 World Series:

    It is foolish and childish, on the face of it, to affiliate ourselves with anything so insignificant and patently contrived and commercially exploitive as a professional sports team, and the amused superiority and icy scorn that the non-fan directs at the sports nut (I know this look -- I know it by heart) is understandable and almost unanswerable. Almost. What is left out of this calculation, it seems to me, is the business of caring -- caring deeply and passionately, really caring -- which is a capacity or an emotion that has almost gone out of our lives. And so it seems possible that we have come to a time when it no longer matters so much what the caring is about, how frail or foolish is the object of that concern, as long as the feeling itself can be saved. Naivete -- the infantile and ignoble joy that sends a grown man or woman to dancing and shouting with joy in the middle of the night over the haphazardous flight of a distant ball -- seems a small price to pay for such a gift.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Said the Gramophone's Fantastic Video Contest

Said the Gramophone, without question one of the most amusing and intelligent music blogs out there, recently ran a contest in which they invited people to create their own original music videos to go along with a song that they love. The results have been amazing so far, so check it out!

As they're doing the countdown of the top videos this week and next, I wanted to share my favorite of the videos they've revealed thus far. Below is a video created for Orilla Opry's beautiful, slow, and perfectly sung song, "I Lied" (and check out this post to get STG's typically original take on the song itself).

Orillia Opry - I Lied from Daniel Woodward on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Drink Your Milkshake!

Well, this probably won't last long, but here is a pretty amusing sketch from last week's Saturday Night Live, hosted by Tina Fey. I can't tell if I'm just getting older and my standards are changing or what, but I feel like the current season of Saturday Night Live (along with the current season of The Simpsons, at that) is much stronger than it's been the last few years. The episode hosted by Brian Williams in the fall had a number of laugh out loud moments, more than I could remember from any episode since Will Ferrell left.

Anyway, check out Daniel Plainview, host of the Food Network program "I Drink Your Milkshake," drinking (you guessed it) people's milkshakes. Thanks to Megan, by the way, for the heads-up about this sketch:

UPDATE: Damn, already down. Check out the Brian Williams sketches from the SNL website, which are a more than suitable replacement.

NEW UPDATE: Back up, at least for now...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Yes, I Now Love Public Radio, Too

As I was reading more of the genius, scarily accurate posts on the "Stuff White People Like" website, I came across the entry on Public Radio and it occurred to me that I even belong in that fan category now, too! Which is interesting, considering that I wasn't really an NPR listener growing up and I can't recall ever listening to it in the car with my family. Without question, if we were listening to the radio, it was going to be music (usually after a bloody fight for control between my brother and I).

Anyway, the point is I didn't really care about Public Radio until I got an ipod. Now, even though I flat-out never listen to the radio these day, public radio has become a daily part in my life. Two programs in particular have dominated my headphones of late, This American Life and The Sounds of Young America.

Of these two programs, the most well-known of them (and my current obsession) is Public Radio International's This American Life. Even though there is a certain, um, tweedy nebbishness (?) about Ira Glass that throws people off at first, he's actually got all the qualities of an ideal host. He's funny and understated, casual without being afraid to ask difficult or uncomfortable questions. He, along with the various contributers, bring incredible enthusiasm to their subjects and rarely fail to be entertaining. One of my favorite parts of This American Life is simply the way he introduces the show. After a cold opening where he usually tells a quick story ("The Prologue") he'll say, as if doing so is such a waste of valuable time that he can't even break up the words: "ItsThisAmericanLife, I'mIraGlass." The story's range from funny and hair-raising (such an NPR correspondent taking on the role of a landlord in a house in Iraq or the anxiety of pitching headline ideas to The Onion writing staff) to sweet and thoughtful (this week's Charles Bausch story "Letter to the Lady of the House" was the inspiration for this post). If for some reason you gave this show a chance in the past and were underwhelmed (as I was last year), I urge you to give it a second chance!

This brings us to
The Sounds of Young America (and I've got to give all credit to Todd for the recommendation), hosted by the wonderful Jess Thorn, "America's Radio Sweetheart." Although I've already delved into it before on my podcast post, I wanted to remind people to check this out if you get a chance-it's a relaxed, consistently funny and interesting look at the world of comedy: perfect for a long walk during those times when you're sick of all your music (an increasingly common problem for me, and a big part of my podcast/audiobook love of late).
Jesse Thorn has been interviewing the John Hodgman's of the world for so long now (even though he's shockingly young) that there isn't anything fawning or sycophantic in his interviews- he's ready to go from the start and the interviewees seem to respond in kind. An interview, for example, that took place with Bob Odenkirk last year was an incredibly illuminating peek into the business end of the comedy world. Even if you're not into the podcast thing, he has a very good blog (that gets updated way more than this one) that's worth checking out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I'm White, and I'm Lame

I couldn't go without posting a link to a site that has been passed on to me by multiple friends already. If you haven't checked out Stuff White People Like yet, you really must do so. Not only is it a really funny depiction of what me and and so many of my (sadly, overwhelmingly white) friends like, it's almost clinical (and alarming) in the way it parodies basically every single one of my interests!

Anyway, a couple posts that struck particularly close to home were the ones on white people's top ten hip-hop songs, the Sunday New York Times, and New York.

If nothing else, you've got to give them credit for posting this heart-warming picture of Brian Posehn and Patton Oswalt...

Friday, February 15, 2008


Thanks to Slate, now you can collect all your handy Obamaisms in one place!

(And yes, I'm the kind of person that actually thinks something this cheesy is funny...)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Endgame Approaches

This picture seems to make clear, more than ever before, that Clinton will stop at nothing on her way to global domination. Watch your back, America!

In contrast, doesn't this seem like the kind of laid-back hipster we want to put forward as our face to to the rest of the world:

Like it or not, elections are a popularity contest and appearances do matter (there's a reason we haven't had a bald President in almost 50 years).

Of course, in the end it may not matter who wins the Democratic nomination, as they could certainly end up losing out to this guy:

(ok, this is admittedly kind of a poor excuse for a post. Once I get over the sickness that has knocked me out this week I'll get back to the kind of "hard-hitting," "incisive," and "genius-tinged" (those are the media's words, not mine) posts that you've all come to know and love.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Gilbert being Gilbert

I'm currently too laid out by a wicked sore throat to do much writing, but I wanted to quickly remind everyone that hasn't done so yet to check out Gilbert Arenas' blog on Arenas, a point guard for the Washington Wizards, is not only a fantastic player, prone to dramatic last-second shots and the kind of agressive game that has Kobe Bryant claiming"he has no conscience," he's also an insightful and sometimes shockingly candid blogger. He provides the kind of spontaneity , uniqueness, and up-close feeling that seems emblematic of what sets the NBA apart from the other sports leagues in America. Check him out, y'all.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Who Needs a Strong Armed Quarterback?

One of the really fun things about sports is the way in which you can watch a particular thread develop over the course of a season:

This football season, I was constantly going on to anyone who would listen (basically no one, though some were polite enough to pretend) that if a quarterback is any good, his top skill will never be considered "arm strength." It's a given that all good quarterbacks have strong arms, but it's the equivalent of saying that Tim Duncan's greatest asset is that he's tall. Sure, he wouldn't be anywhere without it, but that alone has extremely little to do with what sets him apart. Unfortunately, when you begin to think about what separates a good quarterback from a great one, the differences are extremely difficult to explain in ways that don't sound like they're rooted in some relativist, completely unquantifiable category.
So, over the course of this season, Bryan and I would watch football and I would ramble on about how Tony Romo has the ability to be a great quarterback if only because he always seems to be at his best when the play has fallen apart and there's nothing to do but make a decision on the fly. Brett Favre obviously has the same gift (and Michael Vick, once upon a time). Peyton Manning and Tom Brady do, too, though their gifts for experimentation and improvisation are subtler because most of their creativity is mental, e.g. deciding in their head when to abandon a certain play and throw to, say, the 5th option on a particular play.

When quaterbacks do this correctly the results are as close to artful as football gets. For example, check out Brett Farve throwing this shovel pass on the run. Even though this footage is kind of grainy, it gives in some ways an even better sense of the chaos in which a great quarterback makes some of their best decisions:

So, as the season progressed my football obsession revolved around looking for these moments where everything broke down in order to see what the quarterback would do. As my sports passions are always rooted in the players themselves, what more telling moment can there be than the times when everything falls apart and the script has to be abandoned? Romo and Farve both had great regular seasons and provided a number of moments that would make me jump out of my chair screaming, and I loved them for it. Others, such as Jon Kitna, the mistake-prone quarterback of my maddeningly bad Detroit Lions, failed to come through time and time again. Eli Manning, the quarterback I see more than any other due to my living in the New York market these days, also showed a lack of improvisational talent. At least until the Super Bowl...Down by four, third and five, fourth quarter, a minute left. Eli drops back and faces a full-out blitz. With members of the New England Patriots literally grabbing his jersey and starting to pull him down, he somehow escaped, freed himself from the crowd, and threw a pass to what had to have been the 3rd or 4th option on the play. Catch! Followed, a few seconds later, by a touchdown that would put the Giants aheaad for good. It was exactly the kind of moment I'd been watching for all year, and it happened to be the one that led directly to a team winning the super bowl! In the end, Eli Manning's ability to physically throw the ball so well in that situation wouldn't have made a relevant if he hadn't miraculously freed himself from the defenders and thrown a the kind of ball that only David Tyree was able to get his hands on (and make a spectacular catch of his own). Watching this season's theme (if in my eyes only) develop and conclude in such a satisfying way is, in the end, one of the reasons I fear I'll never be able to lighten up on my sports obsession...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's a big fat bloated primary day...

...if you're voting today, please consider this little-known candidate from Chicago by way of Indonesia by way of Hawaii by way of 15 other places:

That's right! After months of internal debate, back room maneuvering, and perfume-scented letters from the candidates, Better Chatter has decided to officially endorse Barack Obama in the Democratic Primary! We plan on spending the next several weeks throwing our considerable political capital and wealth behind him-our only hope is that it isn't too late to make a difference...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Last Week: A Good Week to be in New York

Wednesday: Vampire Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom

Saturday: Hot Chip at the Highline Ballroom

Sunday: The New York Giants Win the Super Bowl

Not a bad seven days. It almost makes the hour and a half I spend every day on the subway worth it, doesn't it?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Vampire Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom 1/30/08

How a band like Vampire Weekend has become as big and popular as they have remains a bit of a mystery to me. When The Strokes and Interpol broke there was a certain logic to it, as their style of rook and roll was rooted in a 70's sound (Television, Joy Division, etc.) that never ceases to be uncool. Vampire Weekend, however, reminds everyone most notably of Paul Simon's Graceland, a much-loved if not exactly hipsterish album. The two biggest reasons I can think of are this:

1. The indie world is starved for accessible pop bands. Beyond, say, The New Pornographers, Sufjan Stevens, and maybe Jens Lekman, there just aren't a lot of easily accessible pop artists that have gained widespread acclaim in the indie sphere in the last couple of years. Thus, when a band comes along that can be liked by obsessives and non-obsessives alike, the press tends to get all out of proportion and a pretty good or even really good band gets touted like a great one.

2. The album is one of the great "college" albums I can remember hearing. If this doesn't become a hit album in college towns I'll be stunned. Songs like "Campus," "M79," and "Ladies of Cambridge" do a pretty good job of idealizing early twenties life and college-town life in particular. Considering that most people, including me, remember college with an extreme (similarly out of proportion) fondness, it's easy to see the way this record could connect with people. Also, as fun as it is to hear it now, I bet it's even more fun when you're still in school. I remember being obsessed with the first Modern Lovers record (another great "collge" album) for almost a year in college-it was so fun to hear young life described in a way that seemed to mirror my own experience so well.

Thanks to the generosity of my friend Dana, I was able to catch Vampire Weekend at the Bowery Ballroom on Wednesday. As I expected, the crowd skewed pretty young, though thankfully not in an extreme or annoying way. Plastic Little, the "License to Ill" style rap group, put on a sensational opening performance and almost stole the show.

After maybe a 20 minute break, Vampire Weekend set took the stage. In what was surely a self-aware gesture and acknowledgement of their "preppy" aesthetic, the band came out decked in sweaters and scarves. They proceeded to put on a friendly, fun, but somewhat unspectacular show, clocking in at just about an hour. Although it was a pretty short show, I can't really blame them for this-with one album to your name, how much can you really do? Their smart, African-flavored songs held up well on stage, and their songs are packed with lines and chorused that are a lot of fun to shout along to. Further, a was happy to hear them play an excellent new song as well as give off the same friendly, just-happy-to-be-playing vibe that I felt when I saw the Strokes play shortly after their first record came out.

They also seemed really young, even more than I assumed they would. As my friend Todd pointed out last week, going to shows becomes a little stranger the older you get. Still, it was a good, enthusiastic crowd and I was happy to be a part of it. When the popular "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" was played, everyone sang along like it was an old standard-certainly a testament to the new era in which "cd release parties" (which Tuesday and Wednesday's shows ostensibly were) commemorate records that everyone has already owned for months. Still, I was happy to spend some money to support the band and I'm optimistic that they'll survive the hype and stick around for a while.

(please note: the concert photos above were taken from the Vampire Weekend website. Eventually, I will actually have a digital camera of my own)