Monday, November 14, 2011

IRS & GOP Humor

From: Sue Aleksich
Sent: Monday, November 14, 2011 1:05 PM
Subject: Tax Return sent back

 The IRS sent my tax return back AGAIN because of my response
to the question: "List all dependents:"

I replied -

"12 million illegal immigrants";
"3 million crack heads";
"42 million unemployable people on food stamps";
"2 million criminals in over 243 prisons";
"Half of Mexico"; and
"535 fools in the U.S. House and Senate.”
Apparently this was not an acceptable answer.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

If It Is Delicious Bait, Is It Still A Bait And Switch?

I got tricked while trying to treat myself the day after Halloween.  Normally on November 1st, I scour the nearby grocery stores and drug stores looking for Halloween candy that has been marked down by to 50% off.  The stores are trying to clear stuff off the shelves so they can put out the Christmas displays, and I mean that literally.  As I'm perusing the shelves, there is a a guy putting out the red and green stuff.  There are always a few things left, like M&M's and Snickers fun size bars- things that taste exactly the same as the non-Halloween version but that happen to be packaged in a wrapper with now-passe pumpkin designs.  So I stock up when I find these prefectly delicious treats (and some less delicious things like candy corn.) 

What I didn't notice until halfways out the door of Safeway was that they put some regular priced items on the shelves with the discounted stuff.  Since I made the stop on my way to work, I didn't feel like going back and disputing the price.  It's not like a customer carelessly put something back in the wrong place- there were several dozen bags of the regular priced (yet autumnally packaged) Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.  I considered that a fluke and proceeded along to CVS where I really scored- vanilla Tootsie rolls, Kit Kats, and Hershey mini bars.  Six bags of things for $10.  I don't need to buy any more candy until next spring (Well, unless I see some good things on sale the day after Christmas.) 

That was a great deal so just to finish the rounds, I hit a Rite-Aid on the way home from work.  I picked up some more M&M's, Twizzler's minis and some Autumn Mix (i.e. candy corn, but the brown tipped ones- which actually tastes better- plus there are the pumpkin ones in the bags too.)  I also brought some more Kit Kat's to the counter along with the new Snicker's Squares but I didn't buy them.  Can you guess why?  No, not because of self-control around sweets.  That's not likely.  It was because they were full-priced!  Again, the person who set up the discount rack put several rows of regular priced items in with the discount stuff.  It was turning out to be a trend, not a fluke like I thought.  I then had to wonder- did the person doing this forget to change the SKU in the computer or did they deliberately do it to increase sales from people who didn't notice the difference?    For a  second, I thought that maybe they were trying to keep the shelf looking full but then realized that they could have done that just using the sale candy since there was certainly enough of it, even if half of it was candy corn.

So in reality they were try to dupe me, to trick me.  I found it vaguely ironic considering the holiday being celebrated but I still thought it was wrong to do that.  Treats shouldn't come with strings attached, unless they are those chocolate foil wrapped Christmas tree ornaments.  I wish I was the type to raise a fuss because I dislike having a bait-and-switch pulled on me, even if it is delicious bait.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What I’m Checking Out This Month (August & September 2011):

Here are the various entertainment things I’m listening to, watching or reading this month.


None: I didn’t feed my brain this month.  Or rather, I didn’t finish any books this month- I’m in the middle of three of them.


Berlin (Opening for INXS): I was kind of interested in seeing INXS, because I needed to up the number of concerts I see this year after last year’s pitiful total of one concert (Hole/Courtney Love).  Then when I heard the opening act would be Berlin, I got pretty excited.  Terri Nunn, and whomever she brings in to be the rest of Berlin (no original or even heyday members remain in the group), always deliver a great set.  Berlin always seems to be the opening act, so that means I get to hear all the hits and often just the hits.  That’s nice since I get to hear a lot of my favourites, but occasionally I would like to hear some deeper cuts like Will I Ever Understand You, Like Flames or Blowing Sky High or Stronger Than Steel.  For this show, it was just the hits, with a cover of Somebody To Love thrown in along with one new song-in-progress called Break the Chains.  Terri Nunn still sounds as great as always although she wasn’t as energetic as in the past.  (Is she pregnant?  Getting older?  Hungover?) 

I don’t know why some big name artist hasn’t roped her into working with them because she can really wail.  Fergie gets all the props these days for her “rock & roll voice” but Nunn has been bringing it for two decades.  After Berlin, INXS put on a good show too- played all the hits, some lesser cuts, a couple of revamped versions of hits, and just for good measure played the revamped songs again in the normal versions as the encore.  No wonder I couldn’t guess what they’d do for the encore- they had already done a version of Don’t Change, their concert finale staple, earlier.  I was not as taken with J.D. Fortune this time around- his singing was a little too “bellowy” for me but it didn’t greatly hurt the show because the focus was on the whole band, not just the singer.  (As exemplified by the opening where the three Farris brothers were alone on stage playing drums.)


I can’t believe that in the span of the last two months, I’ve only seen three movies in the theatre.  I’ve watched some on DVD, like Soul Surfer which I watched with my sister and brother-in-law while in Colorado.  I had avoided it in theatres despite the fact it had a shark in it because it just looked too earnest and uplifting for me.  It’s that story of the 13-year old surfer girl in Hawaii who had her arm bitten off by a shark and instead of giving up, she triumphantly returns to surfing and becomes a spiritual icon.  I also watched some things on cable, when I randomly stopped on something while channel hopping (which explains how I let myself get sucked into watching The Time Traveler’s Wife.  It was as hokey and maudlin as I imagined, despite featuring the delectable Rachel McAdams.)  I think it says more about the quality of the movies that opened in August and September- and my lack of sleep- than it does about my interest in seeing things because I do drag my tired carcass to things I’m really interested in.  For instance, I saw:

Crazy, Stupid Love: because it got great reviews as a drama-edy but more importantly it has Marisa Tomei!  Steve Carell gets cheated on and then dumped by his wife, Julianne Moore, so he has to start dating again even though he is inept at it.  (Sounds like me, doesn’t it?  Why does Steve Carell always do roles that could be about me?)  Ryan Gosling is the local stud who teaches how to score chicks and Marisa Tomei is the first conquest.  Since she is such a catch, in real life and in this movie, she doesn’t take kindly to a “wham bam thank you ma’am” and eventually goes bonkers on him, to hilarious effect.  Lessons are learned along the way by all the characters but it is still a pretty funny movie despite learning stuff.

Midnight In Paris: This is a Woody Allen movie.  You will probably have a reaction based just on that statement, which is fair but it also means you haven’t been paying attention to his movies recently.  First of all, Woody Allen doesn’t appear in the movie, it isn’t set in New York (Care to guess where it does take place?) and the subject matter could be anything (Match Point was a murder mystery, Cassandra’s Dream was about two brother’s financial woes, Scoop was about journalism and Vickie Christina Barcelona was about…threesomes?)  This time it is a typical theme though.  Owen Wilson plays a screenplay writer who is stuck in a rut and unable to finish his first book.  His wife, the ever lovely Rachel McAdams, is his polar opposite wife.  Whereas Wilson loves the romantic notion of walking around Paris in the rain, his wife would prefer to hop in the limo so she doesn’t get wet. 

After a talking a walk to clear his head, he somehow ends up in Paris in the Roaring Twenties and swap stories with Hemingway and Fitzgerald.  This happens to him every night, except the time he tried to bring along the wife.  This time traveling (delusion?), creates a whole new set of opportunities, and problems.  I really enjoyed this movie.  It had some clever jokes and asked interesting questions.  Plus it was fun to discuss afterwards.  The person I saw it with said that it was refreshing because her workday involves talking to people who have no knowledge of things like literature, art, movies, theatre, music or television.  (She works with nuns, yes, but apparently they lack any interest in these things even though they aren’t forbidden from engaging in them.)   I’m not sure I could handle talking to people and not being able to reference any of those topics.  This movie was one of Woody Allen’s recent better movies and can be counted as a modest success creatively.  Financially though, it is one of his most lucrative movies ever.  Definitely worth checking out.

Moneyball: I saw this because it was written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Sports Night, The West Wing).  I enjoy his style and baseball is usually a good subject for entertaining stories.  Oddly enough though, this film was a bit flat.  There weren’t enough baseball playing scenes and the various characters’ interactions didn’t pop enough.  The Social Network was more lively and engaging even though its subject matter was much less compelling on the surface.  (Computer coding and venture capital meetings versus baseball!  Shouldn’t even be a contest.)  The storyline revolves around the A’s trying to remain a contender the next season after losing players like emerging superstars Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi.  Jonah Hill proposes a radical new way to put together a team, using a system that flies in the face of conventional baseball wisdom.  Brad Pitt did a good job as the harried general manager of the Oakland A’s and Jonah Hill is surprisingly respectable in a mostly straight role.  The performances are what carry the movie, which is surprising considering the talent of the writer.  Don’t get me wrong- it’s a good movie.  It’s just not a great one and it should have been.


Melissa Auf Der Maur- Out Of Our Minds: a female version of Joe Satriani.  She writes songs to show off her guitar playing skills, mixes in some mystical lyrics and has a theme for the album.  I’d gotten her first album and enjoyed it and this one was more of the same.  I found two songs I really liked but the rest was ho-hum.  I expected more from the former guitarist for Hole.

Antonia Bennett- Love Is A Battlefield (Single): Tony Bennett’s daughter covers a Holly Knight written song (or- as you all know it- a Pat Benatar performed song.) It’s okay but I’m really looking forward to the full length album that Holly Knight is producing and writing for her.  I need more Holly Knight songs to exist.  I’ve heard most of the ones already out there.

Class Actress- Journal Of Ardency: I read a review of this band that made them sound pretty intriguing so I bought an EP of theirs.  It didn’t knock me out although one day they might start writing better, catchier songs and get more exposure, like Cut Copy has done.  Right now, Class Actress are doing mid-tempo, contemplative dream-rock. It sounds sort of like the slower songs on a Silversun Pickups album.   I didn’t hate it but there wasn’t anything that made me want to hit rewind.

Cage The Elephant- Thank You Happy Birthday:  If you miss the Pixies, like I do, then get this album.  Cage The Elephant captures the essence of the Pixies sound and aesthetic quite well.  Cage’s songs are not quite as epic but since there is no more Pixies to be had, this is a worthwhile substitute.

The Crash- Melodrama: I heard a song from this band on someone’s iPod while I was playing poker at their house and loved it.  It may have been the alcohol or the lack of sleep since it was 2 AM at the time but the song “Gigolo” just hit me the right way.  It sounded a bit like Catatonia when they’ve had their caffeine.    I ended up getting the album on a whim and it turns out they are a Scandinavian band, which explains a lot about why they sound like a heavier version of Roxette.  The song I’d heard was by far the best one on the so-so album so there won’t be any need to look for any others. 

Foster The People- Torches: This is an indie pop band that I mentioned last year when discussing how much their hit “Pumped Up Kicks” sounded like Peter, Bjorn And John’s “Young Folks”.  Little did I realize that their album had several other less derivative but equally enjoyable songs on it.  In fact, my favorite song of theirs is “Warrant”, because of its’ bright, shiny harmonies and energetic thumping sound.  This is a cheerful, catchy collection of songs.  Perfect music for setting the mood for the day while driving into work.

Human League- Credo:  It sounds like classic Human League, minus the hit singles.  Not worth the import price.  I was kind of disappointed because they’ve done some decent post-heyday albums.

Keane- Night Train: Keane is a frustrating band.  I liked several songs from their first album (Hopes And Fears), especially Everybody’s Changing and Somewhere Only We Know.  They were mid-tempo songs in the vein of Coldplay, without being so whiny.  The second album (Under The Iron Sea) blew me away.  It was clear, crisp, chiming collection of songs that contained a wonderful mix of moods and tones, with charming but sad lyrics.  Listening to it was like living inside Edge’s solo on U2’s In The Name Of Love.  I repeatedly played over half the songs on the CD and then had to wait forever, it seemed like, for their third album.  The lead-off single from that (Spiraling) was terrific, and seemed to continue the spirit of the album from two years ago.  When I heard the whole thing though, it turns out to be a radical departure from that.  It was more of a synth pop album but only a mediocre one at that.  I hardly liked any of the songs and that was very depressing considering how long I’d waited and the expectations that had built up.  

I got their fourth album (Night Train) which came out two years later, although it seemed to arrive suddenly since I wasn’t impatiently waiting for it.  Another album, another radical departure.  This time they mixed up the moody rock vibe of the second album with the jaunty pop leanings of the third with a touch of Santana’s Supernatural concept of guest performers.  I don’t really need a rap interlude on my British mope rock.  U2 ruined things for a lot of bands.  The other bands feel like they also have to make radical sonic departures to stay legit as an artist.  This doesn’t work too well unless you are as talented as U2 and few groups are.  As a whole though, it was better than the third album so now I am wondering how I will react to their fifth album. 

John Legend & The Roots- Wake Up!:  John Legend and The Roots team up to cover some classic, and some obscure, R&B songs.  Most of them I didn’t know so I approached this like a John Legend album.  As such, it is his third best one but it is worth a listen.  It is smooth, enjoyable and has a good message.  The title track is the centerpiece of the album and concept and not surprisingly, one of the most successful tracks.  This was worth the $5 I paid for the download.

Metric- Old World Underground:  Still waiting for Metric to make a great album.  Two good songs don’t cut it.  I don’t care how attractive the lead singer is- I’m listening to her, not looking at her.  To be fair, this is an earlier album and is actually better than their latest and most successful album but they need to really bring it on their upcoming one or I will write them off as a fluke who had one great song.  (“Black Sheep” on the Scott Pilgrim soundtrack.)

The Muppets- The Green Album:  Very disappointed in this Muppets cover album.  The lineup of bands wasn’t that strong and the songs weren’t done justice.  How can a self-respecting band let a Muppets band out-do them?  The only one who succeeds here is Weezer with Hayley Williams.  They take the spirit of the original song (“Rainbow Connection”) and make it work to their strengths- edge, sincerity and harmony.  Hmm- looking over this month, I’ve listened to a lot of cover stuff and the ratio of success has not been on the positive side.  What’s going on?  Have bands forgotten how to perform and just think they can coast on irony or lackadaisical effort?

She & Him- Lotta Love: I love this two-some, singer/songwriter Zooey DesChanel and producer/multi-instrumentalist/everything else M. Ward.  I love the Neal Young song “Lotta Love”, especially the poignant, full of longing version done by Nicolette Larson back in the late 1970’s.  So when I heard this band did a cover of this song, I tracked it down (and boy was that hard because it’s not commercial available for sale.)  I’m not particularly overwhelmed by this version though and I just figured out why.  There are not enough lyrics.  I know that is shocking coming from me, a guy who only sporadically pays attention to the words in a song, but there are only two parts to the song and then lots and lots of repetition of the chorus.  Larson’s voice was so plaintive and desperate though that you could listen to the chorus over and over again while wishing you could sooth her aching heart. 

This version though is catchy enough and true to the original Neil Young version (which also suffers by comparison) that you can’t fault it, but if anyone else ever decides to cover the song, they only have two options for doing it successfully- be one of the world’s best singers and emulate Nicolette Larson’s take or write new lyrics so the focus is on the words and the music and not just the vocals.  I would love to see Juliana Hatfield write a couple of new verses, strap on her electric guitar, and sing the song sweetly and longingly, counterbalanced by her fuzzed-out guitar work. Can I commission her to do this and do it the way I want, or do artists have some silly rules about doing it “their way”?  Still, I recommend the song highly but some incarnations are better than others.

Various Artists- Pitchfork, Lollapalooza, Outside, Newermind, Parklife : Spin, CMJ and other places sometimes offer free downloads and samplers so I get them when they are offered.  It’s a nice way to try different bands or to get a song I like that I don’t feel like paying for.  I dislike the fact that I have to burn this stuff to disc if I want a permanent copy and that I have to copy the track listing, but I get what I paid for it.  Usually I can find one or two gems amidst all the junk and that makes it worth the effort.  The Nirvana sampler contains the worst cover of a Nirvana song I’ve ever heard (Come As You Are) and that includes the Tori Amos cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit.


Washington Redskins- I saw an NFL football game, the Washington Redskins versus the Arizona Cardinals.  It was the second game of the season following the opening day win so optimism was still in the air.  I wanted to see the Redskins win but I didn’t want the Cardinals to lose.  Two people sitting next to me were in the same boat.  A mom was there with her kid.  She was a redskins fan and the little kid was screaming “Go Larry!” every play unless Beanie Wells got the ball, then he started screaming “Go Beanie!!!”  Everyone around him, including his mom, was looking at him like he was an alien.  He did not shut up until the last two minutes when Washington stripped Arizona of the ball to take control of the game and preserve their slight lead. 

TV Shows:

Take The Money And Run:  For this show, 2 people hide $100,000 within 30 minutes before the police “arrest” them and then they try to avoid telling the police where it is hidden.  If they can hold out for 48 hours of solitary confinement, broken up by periodic questioning from the cops, they get to keep the money.  If the cops find it or the prisoners confess as to where it is, the cops keep it.  I’ve seen four episodes and I can’t understand why someone would crack under the pressure of solitary.  I would get bored too but if that happened I’d use the down time to catch up on my sleep, write (since I think you’re allowed to keep a journal), or string along the cops so they keep pulling me in for questioning which would keep me entertained.  For 100 grand, I’d risk the insanity of 48 hours of being by myself.  It’s like things are now, except without any books or TV.  My only fear would be not finding a good hiding place for the loot within 30 minutes. (And I also wonder if someone from the show is keeping an eye on the money because some of the hiding places seem like they would be stumbled upon by random strangers.

Platinum Hit (Finale): I love this show about songwriting.  I hear that ratings were a challenge and it might not be back next season, which would be a shame.  If I have to watch reality shows, since that seems to be all that gets made these days, I’d at least like it to be one about a topic I enjoy.  This show gives contestants- in groups usually- a song theme and a time frame of a few hours and they need to create an original song and perform it in front of Jewel and guest judges like Leona Lewis.  My favorite, Jes Hudick, made it to the finale.  For the final competition, she came up with a killer song and I thought she might win even but no- she lost to someone else who I think won on the strength of her voice and lyrics.  Basically, the opponent let the producer create the music and she added lyrics and then performed it.  This is a song writing contest, not a lyrics or singing contest. If you don’t write the song, you shouldn’t win the competition! 

Fall TV Shows:

How I Met Your Mother, Glee, Castle, Raising Hope, Harry's Law, The Middle, Modern Family, Survivor: South Pacific, Big Bang Theory, Mentalist- These are all returning shows that I like and either watch in real time or shortly thereafter as opposed to shows that I wait for until they hit a rerun cycle during mid-season.  All of these shows remain interesting- no quality slumps, at least not in the first few episodes.

Two And A Half Men- Although I’m not an Ashton Kutcher fan, I don’t hate him either.  (He was the least interesting character on “That 70’s Show” and the only movies of his that I liked were The Butterfly Effect, No Strings Attached and What Happens In Vegas.)  I was impressed with the writer’s choices- killing off Charlie Sheen, via Rose, and making Jon Cryer the love guru.  Despite Cryer’s character’s romantic ineptitude, he is now the experienced ladies’ man of the house who gives advice to Kutcher.  Then in the second episode, toilet humor ruled and I had to re-evaluate my opinion.  Once I did, I decided that it is the same old show that I sometimes would watch.  The writer’s did a great job of changing the premise of the show, without changing the show’s formula.  Now that is a neat trick.

Acerbic comedian Whitney Cummings has two shows on this season.  The first is 2 Broke Girls.  It stars Kat Dennings, from Nick And Nora’s Infinite Playlist and, um, Thor.  She plays a broke-ass waitress with trust issues and a knack for making cupcakes and she befriends another waitress, who is also broke, but her poverty is because her millionaire father ran a Ponzi scheme and went to jail, causing all the family’s assets to be seized.  The two of them work together and live together, with their horse (I have no idea why.)  They are saving their money to open a cupcake store (even though by the time they make enough money for it, cupcakes will probably be a trend that has passed.)  Whitney writes this, along with Michael Patrick King (of Sex And The City,) as a typical sitcom albeit one with great lines and terrific actresses.  The whole thing crackles with energy and the line deliveries zing. 

Whitney’s other show is Whitney.  She stars in this one herself and it has been roundly savaged by critics and most of the people I know, although the ratings are decent somehow and it got picked up for a second season.  I like this show, despite the vitriol surrounding it, because I think Whitney is deliberately choosing to make a show that is a non-traditional comedy.  Her character is vain, defensive, petty, needy, sarcastic, cynical, bitchy and annoying yet still, occasionally and surprisingly, caring and sympathetic.  Her jokes are atypical and the premises veer away from the expected.  During a recent episode when she suddenly realized her boyfriend was enjoying the silent treatment she was giving him, you knew she was going to get him back somehow but what she said first was “That little bitch!”  You don’t expect an aggressive line like that. 

She then gave him the non-silent treatment by talking continuously about every boring, random thought she had.  I took this as a sarcastic comment on how people complain about not communicating enough but when you listen to what they actually say it is mind-numbingly trivial.  Plus on most shows, the girl is the eye candy and the guy gets all the jokes.  On Whitney, she is the instigator and star and the guy is relegated to the “soothing, sensible, supportive spouse” role.  I equate this show to other vehicles for cantankerous, grating characters like All In The Family and The Honeymooners.

Playboy Club- I twice tried to watch this show.  The first time was during the series premiere but I got bored, during the attempted rape scene no less, and switched to something else.  I later finished the first and second episode and didn’t see any reason to keep watching.  I love Amber Heard, the lead character and also from the movie I Am Number Four (as the kick-ass Number Six), but the show was slow, dull and unoriginal and didn’t really do anything with its’ 1970’s Playboy Club setting.  How can you make that environment boring?  I don’t have to worry any longer since the show has already been cancelled.  Although I often complain about shows I like being cancelled, at least the shows I dislike or that I don’t think are any good usually get cancelled too so it seems America gets it right half the time.

Biggest Loser- Jillian Michels isn’t on it this season, the show focuses more on the competition aspect than on diet/exercise tips and the weigh-in segment is interminably long hence I won’t watch it this season.

New Girl- Zooey DesChanel acts adorable and goofy, sometimes in a way relevant to her character, sometimes just because it is fun to do so.  No need to discuss the show’s premise because I’m already hooked. 

Unforgettable- Poppy Montgomery, an attractive red-headed (really brunette or blonde?) cop, has photographic memory.  She solves cases by recalling details from her memories the crime scenes and interviews.  It’s more engrossing than it sounds.  Plus did I mention she was attractive? 

Up All Night- Christina Applegate is back.  I’ve loved all her previous shows (Samantha Who?, Jesse, Married With Children, Heart Of The City) and on this one, she’s team with Will Arnett, and I’ve loved half his shows (Running Wilde, but not Arrested Development.  Go figure.)  After watching the first two shows, I’m thinking that Applegate is now batting 80% and Arnett is down to 33%.  This show just feels too predictable and the characters are too bland.  I see no reason to watch this compared to something else, like Community which is still the most clever, anarchic, hilarious show on right now.   Community started off great and just keeps upping the ante somehow.  Up All Night doesn’t have that feel.  To be fair though, almost no other shows do either. Maybe New Girl, 2 Broke Girls and Prime Suspect.  That’s it.

Free Agents- I would say something about this Hank Azaria show but I haven’t watched it yet, which is good since it has been cancelled after two episodes.

The X Factor- Simon Cowell returns with his spin on American Idol.  I was impressed that they landed Paula Abdul too.  So far I’ve just been turning in between commercials of other shows.  Not a good sign since reality show competition doesn’t usually do repeats so maybe I’ll just say I’m not going to watch this.

Revenge- a female, modern day version of The Count Of Monte Cristo, set in the Hamptons.  It’s a prime time soap opera basically.  I like it but I wish I felt more connection with the lead actress.  She’s not quite pretty enough, doesn’t seem devious or manipulative enough either and doesn’t appear to have backbone of steel I think is necessary for a revenge tale.

Prime Suspect- I like strong willed, powerful woman, especially in my entertainment choices.  I’ll take Linda Hamilton in T:2 or Angelina Jolie in Salt any day.  That’s why I really like the show In Plain Sight.  The lead character is a no-nonsense type who speaks her mind and matches up toe-to-toe with her male counterparts.  Even her recent pregnancy hasn’t softened her.  Now take that mindset and intensify it.  Make a grittier show and put a chip on the woman’s shoulder.  Make her smarter and a better detective than the males and make them resent her for it.  Now you have the show Prime Suspect.  It’s a remake of the British TV series by that name but since I haven’t seen that, I can’t say how true or loose it plays compared to this US version.  All I know is that I like this show and I would love to have Maria Bello’s character on any of my investigations.  She set the ground work for this character with her performances in History Of Violence and especially Payback.    

Charlie's Angels- I watched the first two episodes and wondered how they could bungle things sooo badly.  It tries to tread the line between camp humor, cop drama and action show.  The problem isn’t that it tries to be many different things (She Spies successfully did that same thing for several enjoyable seasons), it’s that it does all of them ineptly.  The humor is telegraphed, the action lacks in both intensity and believability and the plotlines are standard.  Their one good punch was when they killed off a name star in the pilot to make way for Minka Kelly’s character.  If they were going to go over the top, they should have done it like the second Charlie’s Angels movie did.

Person Of Interest- From the creators of Lost and featuring Michael Emerson, the squirrely guy from Lost.  In this show, he plays a squirrely guy with a secret agenda and he manipulates the people around him to achieve his objectives.  Sound familiar?  It is a bit like Lost in that there are secrets lurking underneath everything that is going on but it is also has a lot more action to it because the person being manipulated this time is Jim Cazaviel (from Passion Of The Christ), a former CIA covert operative.  He was recruited by Emerson to carry out dangerous missions for him since Cazaviel is a bad-ass government agent and Emerson is the squirrely nerd who created a massive computer program / surveillance network and knows when crimes are being committed against innocent people but he does not have the skills to stop them.  What I like about the show is the realism.  When people get shot, they get shot.  It’s not an A-Team type show where everyone dodges bullets and there is no sense of danger.  I’m intrigued and want to find out where this show is headed.

Secret Circle- Imagine the witch clique from the movie The Craft.  Pretend the setting is where ever Gossip Girl is set.  Throw in a dash of Heroes.  That’s this show.  I’ve only watched the premiere but I’ll watch a bit more once mid-season repeats start on my other favorite shows.  Same as I’ll do with The Ringer.

Pan Am- Aside from Person Of Interest and Ringer, this is the most convoluted show of the season and prior to seeing the first three episodes, I would have figured it to be one of the least complex shows.  It’s about Pan Am airlines stewardesses.  You’d imagine it has some glamorous settings, some “workplace” romances, and fun interactions with the passengers, kind of like an airborne Love Boat.  You don’t expect the subplots of CIA agents, runaway brides, class struggles, women’s lib issues, dark drama and a sexier vibe than that of The Playboy Club.  You also absolutely do not expect it to feature Christina Ricci.  Yeah, a legit movie star is in this thing and that’s not even the main reason it is good.  It is all of these things combined.  I really like this show.  Let’s hope it makes the cut.


Colorado Springs Zoo:  a pretty decent zoo.  Many of the pens have more space that other zoos and they had a diverse mix of animal.  I liked watching the hippo get fed a cabbage head and lettuce scraps and the monkey house was interesting although I could do without seeing the penises on that one variety of monkey.  It was also fun to watch Brendan pet the giraffe and the wallaby and ride the carousel.  He got a bit cranky toward the end which was right about the time Mom and Dad got hungry so we wrapped it up shortly after that, and dodged the rain again.

Tragedy Happens, Luckily

I saw Tragedy, who are the self-proclaimed # 1 Bee Gees heavy metal tribute band in the world (or the New York tri-state area, depending on where they are and how much they have been drinking.)  They were at the State Theatre in Falls Church (although they constantly referred to it as Falls Church City, and no one calls it that.  Where they goofing on us or did someone tell them to say it that way?  Maybe as a goof on them?)  For $10, what did I have to lose?  If it sucked, I could always leave.  The beer costs $6 and Mike’s deep fried peanut butter and jelly sandwich costs $7 so the price for the show is a bargain.  I consider this as the first tribute band concert I’ve seen because although I’ve seen Abba: A Tribute, they were more of an Abba cover band.  They did not perform in character or dress like the band.  Tragedy did.  Boy did they.  There was more glitter in the air than at a Ke$ha concert.  Their costumes were a perfect blend of 1970’s Bee Gees inspired disco garb and 1980’s hair metal outfits.  Rarely do sparkles and studded arm bracelets go together but this night it worked. 

The band found that precise balance between the campy humor and cool, competent playing that I think is necessary for a tribute band to work.  I’m not sure why I would want to see a straight forward tribute band- it would just make me long for the original.  A humorous take such as this brings something new to the table.  The concept of the band- Bee Gees songs done in a heavy metal style- works so much better than you would imagine.  What people forget about the Bee Gees is that they built their songs on guitars as much as they did synthesizers.  They had some amazing guitar parts that translate really well to heavy metal, which is all about guitar prowess, wailing vocals and heavy drumming.  Does that sound familiar?  The Bee Gees had a good guitar sound (all three brothers played guitar for the band), wailing falsettos and disco is all about the beat, just like with drumming. 

One thing I didn’t realize until I heard it was how their lyrics fit right into the metal framework.  Metal lyrics are all about chicks or sex or excess and the Bee Gees lyrics are all about failed romance, love and sorrow.  There isn’t much difference between choruses like “Pour some sugar on me” and “Love you inside and out”.   Both are metaphors for the same thing.  Tragedy did a great job of making the connections between the two genres.  Often times a song would start and you didn’t know if they were playing a metal intro or a Bee Gees intro.  One song in particular, Mike and I looked at each other because it sounded like they were doing Queen’s “We Are The Champions”, then it seamlessly segued into Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock & Roll” before merging into an actual Bee Gees song.  It was astonishing and entertaining.  I spent a lot of the evening trying to spot the musical reference- Ratt, Led Zeppelin, Scorpions, Kiss, Joan Jett, Queen, Motley Crue.  It turns out I paid attention to, and enjoyed, 80’s hair metal more than I thought. 

Some of the influences were obvious because the lead singer would introduce the song in a way that let us know the style they were about to appropriate.  For instance, when they branched out into one of their non-Bee Gees disco songs, he said “We’re going to play some KC/DC and then they launched into KC & the Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight”.  They also covered Donna Summers “Hot Stuff”- lead singer Barry Glibb intro’ed it by saying “We are going to rename the band for this next song.  How often do you see a band break up right before your eyes only to reform as a new band right before your eyes in a totally spontaneous, completely unrehearsed way?”  You Make Me Feel Like Dancing got the treatment too (That’s a song by, as Glibb said, their protégé “Leo Slayer”.)   

The onstage banter and antics were part of the fun.  Lance would come out in his white jumpsuit and toss around glitter or to mop off the performers sweat, “Robin” played cowbell and disco danced when not swiping drinks from the other band members, the lead singer captured the unspoken superiority of Barry Gibb to the other Bee Gees and Andy Gibb.  At one point, “Barry” asked the audience to vote on what the next song would be although there was a caveat (“Maurice” asked “What’s a caveat?”)  It had to be from one of these choices- “Lemons Never Forget” from 1968’s “Horizontal” album or 1972’s “Paper Mache, Cabbages & Kings” from the “To Whom It May Concern” album.  I really wanted “Lemons” because I like the song, even though most people have never heard it (or think it is stupidly named, which it is.)  Also, I don’t think I’ve ever hear the other song or the album it is from.  Still, the vote went for the second song which they started playing (I think, not knowing the song) but stopped abruptly to give us one more choice- Staying Alive.  Guess what won the vote?

The metal clichés were there too- there was an extended part about oral sex on the flying V guitars, culminating in two V guitars scissoring.  The vocal wails on some of the songs went almost over the top but stopped just short of parody which is why they worked fantastically.  The did the standard metal guitar stuff- synchronized guitar bobbing, “chase and follow” and “back to back” guitar playing and the lunk- headed, shirtless drummer.  “Barry” talked the bands greatness- their album titles are “We Rock Sweet Balls And Can Do No Wrong” and “Humbled By Our Greatness”, and how they play in front of huge crowds. 

This night it wasn’t true (if it ever was.)  There were about forty five people in the audience, including the bar tenders.  They had their own cheering section in the corner though, who kept things lively even when you could hear a pin drop (either deliberately, like on the dramatic pause of How Deep Is Your Love or accidentally because the audience didn’t sing along as expected).  There was also a cute 25-year-old-ish librarian-looking girl who was sitting there by herself.  She wore a black t-shirt with white long sleeves and a blue jacket.  I couldn’t see who was on the front of her shirt so I kept wondering which she was a fan of- the Bee Gees, metal music or someone in the band.  If it is the first one, I’m impressed, if it’s the first two, I’m in love. 

For the encore, they started by playing Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart”, just because they think it’s a cool song.  (“I’m not sure if we should play this song.  Part of the reason for not playing it is because I don’t know the words.  Part of the reason for playing it is because it would sound awesome.  It’s not remotely related to the Bee Gees but we will play, just because we want to. )”  I knew they couldn’t finish with a n on-Bee Gees song so I was trying to figure what the last song would be.  As soon as they started playing it, I smacked my head and said “D’oh!”  Of course they would play the song “Tragedy”!  It’s the name of the danged band! 

It was a pretty thunderous version.  Some of the songs this night almost verged on thrash metal riffage and this was one of them, in parts.  The band started jamming part of the way through in order to allow “Barry” to invite all the girls in the audience to come up front in dance, and for five of them to get onstage.  Then he changed his mind since there were only about 20 girls in the whole audience.  He told everyone to get onstage so there were then 30 people onstage with the band and 12 people in the audience.  (The cute girl was the second one up there although they had to talk her into it- weird, since she was up by the stage the whole night, taking videos and bopping along to the music.  Barry said “Shy girls are welcome too!”)  The band got on the floor and played to the people on the stage, to give them a taste of what it feels like.  Then something weird happened, something I’ve never seen at a concert.  They gave the lead guitar to one of the audience members to play (“Does anyone here onstage shred?”) and he did so competently, although it wasn’t a Bee Gees song.  That wasn’t the weird part though. 

A few minutes later when the audience guitarist still hadn’t finished playing, I noticed the only Tragedy band member on stage was the drummer.  All the other people were gone.  Nor did they ever return.  The house lights went up and the sound was cut off so everyone started to leave, all without a goodbye from the band.  (I guess “Barry” constantly saying “You’re welcome” during the expected applause parts should have been an indicator of their willingness to be unconventional.)  I did see one band member again though.  Robin was in the lobby, along with Lance, selling t-shirts and CDs.  They were only $10 so I decided to get a shirt and the first CD. 

Me- “I’ll take this CD and an XL shirt.”  Robin- “Sorry, we only have 2XL.”  Me- “Is the one on display the 2XL?”  Robin- “Yes.”  Me- “That looks like it will work.  I’ll take that and this CD”.  I gave him the $20 which he tucked into his jumpsuit.  Robin- “Here, I’ll give you the new CD too.”  Me- “Thanks!  I enjoyed the show.  You guys did a great job.”   Then I turned and Mike and I left.  As we go out the door “Robin says “Drive safe!”  so for $43, I saw a fun show, got two beers, a t-shirt and two CDs.  What a bargain!  Plus the CDs had several songs that the band hadn’t even played so I get some new music too.   Like “Shadow Dancing”, “Too Much Heaven”, “The Woman In You”, Xanadu!  I had a stupid grin on my face the whole night and parts of it still remains.  I’ll leave you with this bio from the band’s website (the humorously named which gives you a taste of the band’s sense of humor:

“Tragedy is the No. 1 Heavy Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees in the Tri-State Area, eastern Pennsylvania, New England (excluding Rohde Island, Maine and New Hampshire), Los Angeles City, Anaheim City, Tampa City, Texas (excluding Ft. Worth City and Corpus Christie City), The Rocky Mountains, and the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland and the greater Leeds City area).  Audiences today are craving a metal Bee Gees experience more than ever, and Tragedy has been delivering quality Bee Gees metalization services since 2007. 

A family business, Tragedy was formed by brothers Barry Glibb, Mo'Royce Peterson, and Robin Gibbens. Rounding out the staff here at Tragedy are little brother Andy Gibbous Waning on bass, and family patriarch, The Lord Gibbeth, on drums.

Tragedy has played such amazing venues as New York City's Bowery Ballroom (where they sold out their last concert), Irving Plaza, Nokia Theatre, and Cha Cha's in Coney Island City. Across the pond they have decimated 02 Academies throughout the UK including Shepherd's Bush Empire in London City, as well as Kentishtown Forum, also in London City. They have toured extensively in the UK, as support for Electric Six and The Wildhearts, respectively, and as a headlining act.

They decimated Emo's Main Room at SXSW in 2008, have conquered Houses of Blues throughout Texas and Anaheim City, and have ruled cities up and down the East Coast.  Their first album, We Rock Sweet Balls and Can Do No Wrong, was highly received, being played by Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson on his radio show, and most recently between sets at the Alice in Chains concert!

Oh, and they also opened for Motorhead at the United Kingdom's Guilfest in 2009, where they annihilated 10,000 unsuspecting now Tragedy fans, whether they are aware of it or not.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Subject: New Baby Schaub

From: Susan Schaub, Date: October 9, 2011

So finally here are the details... :-)  My personal cell wasn't letting me send outgoing messages for some reason so I had to wait until I was home and got a few hours sleep - sorry for the delay.

Colin David Schaub was born on Thursday, 10/6 at 5:46 pm. He was 8 lbs, 15 oz and 20.75 in long.  He has dark brown hair and blue eyes.  He likes to sleep during the day and stay up all night so I am a little bit tired but doing well.  Other than being backwards, he's a really good baby thus far.  Brendan is enjoying having a little brother and is being my little helper.  He was VERY excited when we came home from the hospital to say the least. 

I know there isn't a picture yet attached but I promise to send one or two when I can. 

Hope everyone is doing well. 


Colin, Susan, Brendan and Kevin Schaub

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What I’m Checking Out This Month (July 2011)

Here are the various entertainment things I’m listening to, watching or reading this month.


Bad Teacher: Based on the title and premise from the previews (Cameron Diaz plays a teacher who is only there to find a rich husband so she can lounge away the rest of her life.), I was hoping this would be a schoolroom equivalent of Bad Santa. It was. It’s a little less anarchic than “Santa” but it goes down a little smoother. To sum up the tone and spirit of the film, I’ll quote Diaz’ character who says, “I thought I was getting into [teaching] for the right reasons- shorter hours, summers off and no accountability.”

Captain America: I really liked this movie. Yes, it is another comic book movie and it isn’t as deep or complex of a plot as X-Men: First Class and the visual effects are more low key than those in Green Lantern and Thor but Captain America is more sincere and earnest. The movie doesn’t just giving the appearance of nobility and do-gooding, it believes what it is saying. There are some basic human standards of behavior and if you don’t meet them, you’ll pay the price. Maybe a costumed superhero won’t be there but karma will. A couple friends have complained that the movie was too slow. The reason it might feel that way is because it goes more into exposition and character motivation than other comic movies have. This is more of a comic book drama and less of an action movie but there are several good action scenes towards the end. I’ll admit I wanted a few more myself but for a movie that is already two hours long, I can see why some things got downplayed.

As for the performers, both Chris Evans and Hugo Weaving take their roles seriously and do a good job acting and the secondary people did great also (Stanley Tucci, Haley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones). I would like to see a sequel to this (and I don’t mean the Avengers movie next year) with all the same people involved, particularly Chris Evans and the director, Joe Johnston. It doesn’t have to be a period piece, though I did enjoy that element of it. In fact it might make a better picture to juxtapose Captain America/Steve Roger’s 1940’s ideals with modern day greed and self-involvement. Either way, more Cap!

Cowboys & Aliens: I’m tempted to just review this movie by saying it’s about cowboys and aliens, because it is and because the plot is not much more complex than it sounds. There is more to the movie though. For instance, the title is at once simple and clever. It boils the movie down to an easily understandable framework while also ridiculing movies that go through tons of marketing studies to find the “perfect” title to appeal to an audience. It’s like Snakes On A Plane. The title describes the movie while also telling the audience “This is what we are about. Come see it if that appeals to you.”

They do hedge their bets a little because the cast has Daniel Craig (James Bond!) and Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones!) in it, just to expand their potential audience. Who wouldn’t want to see these two go after aliens, which they do, and rumble with each other, which they do, in a Jason Bourne meets True Grit sort of way? Both actors commit to their roles. Craig is excellent as the dangerous loner who tries to work through his amnesia and figure out why he has an alien gun attached to his wrist. He scared me sometimes, he was that edgy. I also wondered what his workout routine was because he was ripped to the point he flirted with being gaunt. Harrison Ford is amazing as well- he drops the laconic attitude he sometimes has and plays a balls-out hardcase. Not a lovable grumpy old man like in Morning Glory or Hollywood Homicide but an angry, complex, demanding, conflicted, domineering and dangerous hombre. You aren’t sure whether he is the bad guy in the movie or the aliens. Eventually you see the human behind the nutso rancher but it takes awhile.

I enjoyed seeing Ford loosen up so much and play a bit contrary to type. The director, Jon Favreau of Iron Man fame, also does a good job- the fights/gun fights are staged well, the dramatic moments evoke emotion and the parts with aliens had tension and didn’t look ludicrous. He did a great job shooting a western and an okay job making a science fiction movie. The picture itself worked the same way- great western, good sci-fi movie. I hope it does really good business- not because I want to see a sequel (which would be called what? More Cowboys and More Aliens?), but because I want to see Craig and Ford get some more roles that let them stretch and show us a different side to their talents.

Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 2: Strangely, I liked part one better even though this had much more action. This was the Return Of The King of the Harry Potter movies and Part 1 was the Fellowship Of The Ring of the split movie based on the last Harry Potter book. The last book was better than either movie but the two-parter is one of the better Potter movies. I won’t bother to summarize the movies or the books because if you don’t know about Harry Potter already, there is no point in discussing it with you now. As always, the books in the series should be where you start and then watch the movie just to see how the visuals bring the plot to life.

I love the way the movie Hogwarts looks, from the exterior shots to the hallway scenes and the dinners in the Great Hall. I will add that aside from Richard Harris as Dumbledore, my favorite thing about the whole film series has been watching Alan Rickman play Severus Snape. He has been a joy to watch and to hiss at. He gives his role a depth equal to the books, unlike the other actors who merely mime their literary counterparts. Once I first saw him in the first movie, I pictured him as Snape in all the subsequent books I read.

Grown Ups (DVD): An Adam Sandler movie in the vein of Big Daddy or Remote rather than Billy Madison or Don’t Mess With The Zohan. A group of former childhood friends gathers at the lake for a week-long get-together to catch up and try to reconnect with their own families. The kids are typical spoiled brats who are into their own lives and their electronic gadgets and ignore their parents completely. Eventually they learn the pleasure of family activities and the great outdoors. The best part of this was the huge number of what must have been spontaneous one-liners, not surprising considering the cast includes Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider and Kevin James.

Horrible Bosses: This is the black comedy version of Office Space. Well, the grey comedy. It’s kind of funny and kind of interesting but not as much of either as it should have been. Definitely worth a watch on DVD though. The standouts here are Charlie Day as the hapless and put-upon victim of his boss’s sexual harassment, Colin Ferrell as the comb-over drug-addled boss’s son and Kevin Spacey as the evil nexus of the movie. You can see why Day, Jason Bateman and Jason Sedakis plot, ineptly, to kill their bosses. I was extremely surprised though that halfway through the movie I had no idea how the movie could possibly end happily. Yes, it was a dark comedy but the tone was still light enough you knew it wouldn’t have a Heathers type ending. (Did you know that Heathers made less than a million dollars at the box office? Even for the time it came out, a million bucks in grosses meant it was a major box office failure. That surprised me when I saw that.) It took a third act twist to point the way to the exit and I guarantee you the twist is not one you are expecting. Between this and Bad Teacher, movies got a welcome little dose of nihilism. I like this trend.

Killers (DVD): Have you seen Mr. & Mrs. Smith with Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie? Knight & Day with Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz? The Tourist with Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie? If so, watch them again instead of this weak re-tread with Katherine Heigl as the clueless spouse/stranger who gets sucked up against her will into a world of espionage and danger by secret agent Ashton Kutcher (no, really- he plays a spy!) and has to learn to adapt, quickly and humorously, or die. If you haven’t seen those others, watch them now and skip this. Plus there is a plot point in the ending that is so ridiculous it ruins what enjoyment I’d gotten previously. You can thank me later.

TV Shows:

Platinum Hit: This is a show on Bravo (?) (Lifetime?) that focuses on songwriting. Contestants have a theme each week and have to write song hooks in thirty minutes and then the winning hook writers select their team from the other contestants and then have two hours to write a whole song. The judges, including Kara DioGardio from American Idol, decide the losing team and who gets booted from the losing team. I like this show because I like seeing songwriters get their due. Singers are only as good as their songs so glorifying someone who sings but doesn’t write songs is a bit misguided. In the echelon of musical acclaim, songwriters should be more valued than guitar players, drummers and singers who don’t write. But they aren’t, which is why no one is watching this show.

The Voice: This was a fun show. It was a bit like American Idol but it was based on vocal talent, not looks, because the judges didn’t see the contestants until after they chose them to move forward. I liked the idea of pitting contestants against each other, like American Gladiator, but I think it should have been one judge pitting his person against another judge’s person, instead of two of the same judge’s people duking it out. That way it would be have more of a strategy element to it and really continue the theme of battling judges. The judges were interesting too- Adam Levine is actually not an idiot, Cee Lo Green was pretty cool and apparently just as talented as DangerMouse, something I hadn’t realized before. Christina Aguilera was sane and Blake Shelton seemed like a good guy who knew his stuff. I didn’t actually watch the last three shows so I don’t know who won.

USA Channel’s Shows- It’s summertime so there is a whole crop of fun shows with new episodes. I watch all their series because they are all interesting in their own way. Whether it is the espionage element of Covert Affairs and Burn Notice, the criminal hijinks on White Collar, the family bonding amidst house calls on Royal Pains, the frothy shrink dramedy Necessary Roughness or the legal machinations of Suits, every show delivers what you want it to. In fact, I’m getting quite fond of Suits, which actually seems to have more real-life legal elements than many of the “serious” lawyer shows. Necessary Roughness is a bit light-weight right now although the main actress, Callie Thorne, does a good job. I’m also looking forward to the buddy detective hijinks on Psych, which doesn’t arrive until October but is being extensively previewed now so I feel like I’m already watching it.

Women’s World Cup: It just started the last week of June so the big matches are yet to come but it will be a good tournament because all my favorites are there- the U.S., Sweden and Norway, with Australia, Germany and Brazil thrown in just to make it interesting. From the looks of things so far, Norway won’t get far, so I’ll be rooting for the U.S.A. and Sweden but basically anyone but Brazil or Germany. So now it’s a few days later and the round-robin part is done. USA lost to Sweden in that phase which means they will play Brazil instead of the less dangerous Australia. Talking to my Mom on the phone the day of the Brazil/USA game, my Mom said that she hadn’t realized that Sweden was in the tournament and asked me who else was a Cup contender now that the USA lost.

I had slept in really late today, like until 1:00 PM, and I knew the game had started earlier in the day so I set the recorder to tape it. Now Mom just told me that the U.S. lost! What a bummer. When I finally do make my way to living room, I see that game is on TV so they must be doing a replay of it. I decide to watch the replay since I already knew the outcome and by watching from the overtime period right now, I’d keep myself from wasting time watching the earlier part that I’d taped. The score is two-to-one in favor of Brazil and it’s nearing the end of overtime so I can see why the U.S. lost- they are not getting any breaks and Brazil is wasting time. In fact, a player just fell down on the field acting like she was shot and when she was finally taken off the field on a stretcher, she waited until the stretcher got to the sidelines and then hopped right off and walked away easily. She was deliberately wasting time.

This added another four minutes to the overtime period but to what avail. Here comes a final push by the U.S.… there is a cross and Abby Wambach goes up for it… and it’s in the net. She tied the game in the final seconds of overtime! Impressively done! I guess they lose in penalty kicks then. Hope Solo is in the goal for the USA and I know Briana Scurry is conflicted about wanting her to do well after the criticism Hope leveled after the last World Cup. Wait- Solo stopped one of the goals so the U.S. is up a PK. How on earth do we lose this? Okay now it’s down to the last USA kick so I guess this gets stopped and we lose in extra kicks. Wait- it went in. what? No- that would mean we win. But Mom said we lose! WTF? I flipped over to ESPN and they reported the same thing.

Later, I find out that Mom meant the U.S. lost to Sweden in round-robin play. She was talking about a game earlier in the week, not the one going on today. Who cares about the old game? That makes the win even more amazing, considering I thought they had lost. That is a sports experience I haven’t had yet. The following game is France and the same thing happens in that one- a last minute header to win the game. Who were those people talking about Wambach’s dry spell? I am hyped about this Cup- it has been very exciting. The only thing that diminishes my enthusiasm is that Sweden lost so I won’t get my dream match-up of a Sweden/USA final. That would have been a win-win scenario for me because those are my two favorite teams. I wouldn’t feel bad about either one winning. At least the stats are on our side- The U.S. has never lost to Japan in 22 games and Japan has never been to a World Cup semi-final, much less won the whole thing. They are on a roll so this bodes well, right? From playing poker, I know stats are always accurate indicators of success. Always. Except if I’m in the hand. Or it is a day of the week ending in “-day”.

So now it is the game against Japan. The USA misses a shot at goal in the first minute of the game. They are really pressing! By half-time there have been 5 or 6 shots for us and nothing for Japan. Still, there are no goals. That’s disconcerting. In the second half, we get a goal! Yay us! Yay U.S.! Japan tries to counter attack but we get to the ball and clear it. No, we push it back across the face of the goal. Get it out of there! Whew- another U.S. defender gets to it and clears it away. No, they kick it right at the Japanese player’s feet and she calmly tucks it past Hope Solo. Are you kidding me? Two defenders get to the ball and they best they can do is pass it to someone standing right in front of the goal?

Now we have to go to over-time. At least it isn’t golden goal anymore. I hated that. Wait- we just scored. Maybe it should be golden goal. Can we just top now and be declared the winner? Okay, fine. It doesn’t matter anyway. We are going to bunker up and keep Japan out of our half of the field until time runs out. That’s what all the Asian teams used to do to us, so turnabout is fair play. I guess that isn’t the strategy because we are still moving a lot of people downfield. An awful lot. Okay another goal would clinch it so let’s get that goal. Um, I’m still waiting for that goal. Still waiting…

Now there is only five minutes left in the game. Let’s start bunkering. Come on, let’s do it. Why aren’t you running out the clock? Pull a Brazil and waste tons of time. Get the ball to mid-field and start passing it back and forth. Pretend it is that episode of The Simpsons. Oh come on, stupid clock. Great. There’s the Japan goal. It’s tied again so now we are going to penalty kicks. That’s fine- we do good at these. It’s how we won our last Women’s World Cup Title. Our first shot is blocked but the second shot sails through the uprights. Or it would if this was football. Unfortunately, this is soccer so the kick missed the goal by a mile. Japan made their shot. The next U.S. shot is…blocked. This is making it kind of hard to win here, gals. Japan gets a shot blocked. Yes, that means we are still in it. Our next shot is blocked. Again? This wasn’t a replay? So we are 0-3 versus 2-3? Solo has to block two more and we have to make all three of ours to go to extra kicks? Easy.

Actually, blocking a kick because isn’t an easy thing to do. In five kicks, you are happy to get one block, like Solo did. Getting, two, like Japan, is a monstrous advantage. That’s why you can’t bang them way over the goal like Carly Lloyd did. That’s the same as giving away a save. Expecting Solo to stop all the rest is expecting a miracle. As with most miracles, it doesn’t happen. We lose the World Cup again. This time it wasn’t to Norway, or some other powerhouse team. It was to Japan, a country who had never been to the finals before. And we had led the whole way going into the Penalty kick phase. The U.S. just couldn’t put away their numerous goal opportunities. They gave up their leads through poor defensive work. They could have won. That’s the killer- after getting past the teams that were supposed to take them out they were ahead twice in the game. They had it won and gave it away. I’m so bummed out right now. This is three days after the game and I’m still bummed.


Burn Notice- The Reformed (By Tod Goldberg): This is like watching an in-depth episode of the show. Since I like the show, I like the book.

I would have read more this month but I’ve been consumed with the Scrabble app on my iPhone and have been playing that before going to sleep instead of reading. It might even help me get to sleep sooner actually because I’ll be staring at the screen trying to find a way to play a word that gives me more than 12 points and eventually my eyes start to glaze over and I go to sleep. I don’t get caught up in the excitement of a computer Scrabble game and stay up late like I would reading a good book. Plus I learned a bunch of new two letter words.


Dennis DeYoung (w/ Pat Benatar): I already posted a set list earlier along with some comments. This was a great show even the Pat Benatar part (which is good, since she was the headliner). What I most enjoyed was how hard some of the songs rocked during DeYoung’s part. Blue Collar Man, Renegade and Rocking The Paradise are rockers, sure, but somehow they cranked up the energy for them this time. I really felt them and usually I don’t get very excited when Blue Collar Man gets played. This time I was riveted. Even though this wasn’t a Styx show, it felt like it because Dennis was his usual cornball, lovable self and in fine vocal form, especially for a 64 year-old man, and the band was great. Plus the guitarists and co-vocalists looked just like JY and Tommy Shaw. I mean down to the scraggly beard and weird pants (JY) and the vest and fly-away long hair (Tommy).

I think either they were hired because they looked and played like their counterparts in Styx or else Dennis got some really good musicians and “suggested” that they cultivate a look similar to JY and Tommy. It was a better Styx show than the last (non-Dennis) Styx show. Plus Dennis had no problem doing songs Tommy Shaw wrote (or co-wrote) whereas the current Styx avoids songs exclusively written by Dennis DeYoung, which means two-third of their catalog. (And before the show we went to the Baltimore Aquarium, which was fun. I hadn’t been in awhile. It wasn’t quite as good as I remembered so now I’m stuck- I have no favorite aquarium. I think an ideal one would be something I pieced together from all the ones I’ve been to.)


Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti- Before Today: I heard a song on Sirius by these garage rockers and liked it. The album had been sitting on my buy list for a long time and when Amazon had it as a $5 digital download, I got it. It wasn’t quite worth $5 so I’m glad I bought it digitally instead of as a regular priced CD. It wasn’t bad but there was nothing interesting about it. I’d much rather get something by Spoon, who sound like a struggling garage band even though they aren’t (not anymore.)

Spoon- A Series Of Sneaks: This is an Austin band focused around main songwriter/singer Brit Daniels. They are very lo-fi. It sounds like everyone is sitting around a chunky, old-fashioned microphone in a ramshackle studio. It always takes me several listens to get into one of their albums because there isn’t lots of overdubs and heavy production to immediately wow me so I have to scale my expectations down to really listening to the guitar or the lyrics or a drum sound. All of these are distinctly noticeable, due to the lack of layering, unlike a Britney Spears song where you can’t tell if a sound is a distorted guitar, a keyboard sound effect or an auto-tuned vocal. This album is an early one from the group that I got since it was a $5 special and it has several gems on it, like Metal School, Quincy Punk Episode (which sounds like Nirvana and Pixies simultaneously), Laffitte Don’t Fail Me and the Minor Tough, which has a nice little guitar sound towards the end.

Was (Not Was): Boo- I like W(NW) and have a couple greatest hits collections but this album was after all most of their greatest hits albums came out so there was hopefully a lot of new and interesting stuff on it. Well, to paraphrase the best song on the album (Semi-Interesting Week), “it was a semi-interesting album.” Nothing blew my socks off except that song, which was the only thing that I already had on a G.H. album. There was no wacky stuff like I Blew Up The United States or any funky, wacky stuff like Walk The Dinosaur or Freaks Come Out At Night. Just reasonable, so-so R&B based pop-rock. Get an earlier album or hits collection and skip this. Even if you are a fan of W(NW).

Airborne Toxic Event (self-titled)- Same story as Ariel Pink. Heard a song on Sirius, liked it, bought the album used, except this wasn’t $5. More like $7 and also not worth it. I liked a couple songs on it, particularly “Does This Mean You're Moving” but I wished I had waited just a little longer because there new album is out now and I really like the song “Changing”. That would almost have been worth $7, maybe even just for that one song.

Adele- 21: Just when I’m about to go off on a rant about the need for getting whole CDs instead of cherry-picking singles, an album like this comes along. The whole album is okay but the only songs worth a second listen are Rumour Has It and Rolling In The Deep. To be fair, I gave the whole CD several listens over a period of several weeks but still didn’t get into any other songs. Rumour will be a good radio song but the reason I got suckered into buying the CD, which is a certified worldwide smash, was because Rolling In The Deep is such a phenomenal song. I heard it late last year but decided to hold off on buying an MP3 because if that was the lead-off single, then album must be fantastic. Wrong. That song is the fluke- a powerful, moving tremendous song with a massive vocal performance. It has an interesting flow to it; it’s not just a ballad- it throws in some 60’s girl group moves too. Whenever it comes on the radio, I turn off the station because I don’t want to hear the song so often that it loses its’ impact. I’m putting this on my end of the year mix CD because everyone should hear this song without having to buy the album.

Aloe Blacc- Good Things: A relative stranger I was talking to mentioned this artist and I had never heard of them. That’s kind of rare- an artist I have never even heard OF, much heard stuff BY them. I filed the name I the back of my head and a couple months later I started hearing this song lyric “I need a dollar, a dollar, a dollar is what I need” in a commercial and thought it had a nice sound. Turns out it was Blacc. When I saw the digital download for $5, I got it and it was definitely worth it. This is an old-school R&B artist, in the vein of Al Green or Marvin Gaye. Although some songs blend together into a pleasant pastiche, there are several standouts that will keep you humming all day- I Need A Dollar, Loving You Is Killing Me and Green Light. Definitely a good thing.

Amy Winehouse- One thing I definitely am not listening to is Amy Winehouse. Not because she died this weekend of a likely drug overdose & joined the 27 Club ( Not because she only had two albums- one really good album (Back To Black) and her first mediocre album (Frank), lending credence to the thought that she was a great singer but her successful second album was the result of a great producer, not her singing or songwriting. Considering she hasn’t done anything of note since then, except do drugs and walk around half-naked, I’m not that surprised or upset by her death. Sure, I don’t wish death on anyone but if someone courts death by abusing themselves, I’m not going to get heart-broken when it inevitably happens, especially if they haven’t really left any significant legacy. The real reason that I’m not listening to her though is because none of the radio stations seem to be playing her stuff. She only had one hit but there were several good songs on her good album (Back To Black, Rehab, You Know I'm No Good, Tears Dry On Their Own) so I don’t know why they aren’t getting any play. If they were, I’d listen but I wouldn’t shed any tears.