Monday, July 21, 2008

School House Rock! Rocks, Rocks

Last night at a barbecue I had a chance to rediscover School House Rock! Rocks, one of the great tribute albums of my childhood. Much like The Crash Test Dummies' God Shuffled His Feet, I probably played this slightly jokey record about 39 times more than anyone reasonably should have.

That being said, this collection, composed of 90's artists putting their own take on the entertaining, if slightly dippy, School House Rock videos from the 70's, is a legitimately entertaining collection of songs. Plus, it's practically a "who's who" of mid-nineties rock & roll. I'm pretty sure that my introduction to Pavement came via their version of "No More Kings," and a pre-lame Moby has an awesome thrashing, menacing version of "Verbs." The Lemonheads, for that matter, never sounded more pleasantly stoned than during their cover of "My Hero, Zero."

My two favorites are placed right at the beginning of the record. Deluxx Folk Implosion's "I'm Just a Bill" is almost too tongue in cheek but, listening to it last night, I couldn't help but think that it still held up pretty well as both a funny, if still respectful, tribute to the song and a prefect send-up on the earnestness of the original narration (though The Simpsons' "Amendment to Be" remains the all-time classic send-up). In case you've never seen it, here's the original song:

The real gem remains Blind Melon's "Three is a Magic Number," a song that seems so up their silly hippie alley that it's almost hard to believe their version is a cover. Shannon Hoon was born to sing that song, and it's likely the best thing they did after "No Rain." Here's the video (with their cover in place of the original):

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

In the Wheelhouse

Ladies and germs, the long-discussed Brandon and Josh podcast is almost here! There are wheels within wheels, fingers in pies, cogs in the machine, all conspiring to make it one of the 20 greatest podcast experiences of your life! What's that you say? You haven't had one, let alone 20, great podcast experiences? Even better for us!

What can I tell you about it so far?

We have a name: In the Wheelhouse. Please refer to this for a little more info on this sadly underused expression.

We have a website: Which, while empty for now, will soon be a veritable treasure trove of fantastical, heart-stopping information!

We have a producer: our good buddy Steve, who knows more about matters technical (and websites, and organization, and planning...) than I ever will.

We have a theme song which, when finished, will sound a little bit like the slice of genius below:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Catching Up

Sorry, you faithful 3-7 readers out there, for my lack of posting of late. I'm currently finishing the final two weeks of my current job before I switch over to my new one (a job in publishing very similar to the one that I have now, but better) and things have thus been a little crazy of late.

Here are a few things you almost certainly don't need to know:

1. I went to Atlantic City and actually came back to New York with more money than I left with! Thanks go to all the terrible players at my poker table at the Taj!

2. I think that the new Walkmen record, You and Me, might end up being the best album of the year. Extremely, extremely strong from top to bottom. I actually saw them play a few years ago and I still don't understand how Hamilton Leithauser's vocal cords are still working. Head over to the Black T-Shirt to listen to "In the New Year," one of the standout tracks from the album.

3. I'm on a massive John McPhee kick right now. Anyone read any of his stuff? I'm not much of a geology buff (or haven't been in the past) so I'd avoided him for quite a while, incorrectly thinking that nature writing was predominant area of focus. It turns out that he's actually all ove the place as an essayist, covering everything from sports to Farmer's Markets. I'm currently reading the extremely interesting Looking for a Ship, about a trip he takes on the US Merchant Marine. Any other fans out there with books of his to recommend?

4. If I hadn't been so distracted with job-related matters, I probably could have written 7,000 words about that amazing, day-gobbling Wimbledon final. It's certainly the highest-quality tennis match I can remember seeing, and rivals the Sampras-Alex Corretja US Open quarterfinal that I watched with my mom way back in 1996 for sheer drama. And, because I like you all so much, here's a clip from that riveting quarterfinal:

Better (Chatter) posts to come!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Was I the Only One that Read "Low Moon"?

Now that the New York Times Magazine's "Funny Pages" section has moved on to some, not especially engrossing as of yet, new comic, I wanted to recommend that everyone check out Jason's "Low Moon" series that run throughout the spring in the magazine.

I can't totally explain why I was so intrigued by this unusual mix of dogs, chess, and the Old West, but it was the first thing that I read every week in the magazine for it's entire 16 week run. Maybe it was the classic cartoonish drawing style? Or the soft, pleasant colors? Or maybe just the fact that the overall weirdness of the cartoon always seemed to provoke a laugh? Regardless, check it out while it's still up!

(Also, a big thanks are owed to Brandon over at The Black Tee Shirt for the format redesign! Much, much improved!)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Collins, Enberg, etc.

So, even though I complain all the time about the hushed, pretentious way that the television networks present their "marquee" sports programming like The Masters ("a tradition unlike any other") or Wimbledon ("The Championships...Wimbledon"), I've got to admit that sometimes these programs, almost in spite of themselves, have a certain appealing, irresistible warmth.

Case in point: While Wimbledon (which I've made a habit of watching every morning the last couple weeks before I go in to work) was going through one of it's classic rain delays this morning, the network had to kill some time. Their solution: have Dick Enberg and Bud Collins basically sit at a desk and just tell stories for half an hour or so.

Collins, though well known for his ostentatious attire (see above), is also a much-loved and loquacious storyteller. Enberg, though not in my opinion as strong of an announcer as he once was, remains a relentlessly cheerful personality and a great ambassador for tennis.

Anyway, as Collins was telling a long story about some mixed-doubles tournament that he saw back in 1959, a few things occurred to me:

1. Thank god for rain delays at Wimbledon: a sporting event that prominently features a couple of genial old men telling mildly ribald stories is, I must admit, most certainly my kind of tournament.
2. It's moments like that which make it no wonder only about 9% of Americans still give a hoot about Wimbledon.
3. Part of the fun of being a tennis fan is feeling like you're a part of the very clubby exclusivity that a place like Wimbledon cultivates.

The fact is, Wimbledon does make me pretty sentimental. Not only did I play tennis virtually every day as a kid with my brother and my good friends James and Chris, I have surprisingly distinct memories of watching Wimbledon every summer at my Grandparent's Traverse City home. It seemed like every July for years two things we're guaranteed: 1. My brother and I would go up to Traverse City for the annual Cherry Festival and 2. Pete Sampras would annihilate everyone at Wimbledon. Good times. Is there anything, by the way, more likely to make you shamelessly sentimental than the Julys of your childhood?