Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of the Line

At this point, after 4 years of blogging, I'm kind of out of shit to say. I always approached blogging as something I did for myself, and I never really cared much if anyone was reading it. According to stat counter, few were, so I knew there would be no clamor for me to keep TGWOOfY going.

While I love making lists, posting solitaire scores and going on the odd occasional rant, I found the blog to be a chore over the last few months. So, I'll keep playing solitaire. I'll keep ranting, and god knows I'll keep making list. I just won't blog about it any longer. I won't blog about the genius that is a peep on a peanut butter cup anymore, I'll just post the pictures on FaceBook.

I'm not changing who I am, hell... I'm knee deep in my Top 100 favorite songs of the 90's list as I type this. What I will stop doing is posting it all on the web for the world to see. Now, I'll only share with Inky. I'm sure she'll be overjoyed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Top 100 Songs of '09: 10-1

10) The Mary Onettes - Once I was Pretty

9) The Verses - Forever More

8) The Decemberists - The Rake's Song

7) The Indigo Girls - Sugar Tongue

6) The Avett Brothers - Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise

5) Neko Case - Magpie to the Morning

4) Death Cab for Cutie - Little Bribes

3) Youth Group - All This Will Pass

2) Camera Obscura - Honey in the Sun

1) The Temper Trap - Sweet Disposition

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top 100 Songs of '09: 40-11

On to day three of my top songs of '09 countdown. I go to a lot of different sources for my music these days, and so most years my list has a pretty world wide flavor. 2009 was no exception with just 51% of the songs coming from American acts. The next most was (again not surprisingly) from Australia with 20% of the total. England represented 10% and Scotland placed 4th with 7%. Canada made up 5% of the list while the last 65 came from Scandinavia with Sweden (4%) Norway (2%) and Denmark (1%) all chipping in as well.

Today, I've chosen to spotlight Megan Washington who has churned out a ton of great music over the last few years both in and out of groups. She has been featured with the Bamboos, as on the #11 song seen here, and also been a part of her own group Washington in the last year. Prior to that she has also released a jazz Duet record with Sean Foran and worked solo as well.

40) Colin Hay - Oh California
39) Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band - Roosevelt Room
38) The Living End - Raise the Alarm
37) Missy Higgins - More Than This
36) The Ettes - Modern Game
35) Amy Millan - Low Sail
34) Son Volt - Dynamite
33) Ben Lee - I Love Pop Music
32) Ida Maria - I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked
31) The Duke Spirit - My Sunken Treasure

30) Jet - Walk
29) Art Brut - DC Comics and Chocolate Milkshakes
28) M. Ward - Rave On
27) Silversun Pickups - Panic Switch
26) Wild Light - California on My Mind
25) Kate Havnevik - Halo
24) Jemina Pearl - Ecstatic Appeal
23) A Camp - Stronger Than Jesus
22) Mike Dunn - Princeton
21) Feist & Ben Gibbard - Train Song

20) The Big Pink - Dominos
19) 1990's - Kickstrasse
18) Flying Foxes - Lost in a Low Cloud
17) Kings of Leon - Use Somebody
16) Paramore - Turn it Off (Acoustic)
15) Morrissey - All You Need is Me
14) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Hysteric
13) The Cinematics - New Mexico
12) Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone
11) The Bamboos & Megan Washington - King of the Rodeo

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top 100 Songs of '09: 70-41

Here is the second instalment of my favorite songs of the year that was 2009. This year's list features 86 different acts/singers of which 49% are male, 47% female and 4% are duets.

Among the thirty bands and singers featured here today I chose to spotlight the Arctic Monkeys, who are another of my favorite bands of the decade. I picked two tracks from the Monkey's 2009 record Humbug for this year's list. They placed one track on the '06 list and two on the '07 version, and have well and truly cemented a place as on of my favorite bands.

70) Meiko - Under My Bed
69) Alela Diane - Dry Grass & Shadows
68) The Ettes - Love Lies Bleeding
67) Heartless Bastards - The Mountain
66) Peter Bjorn and John - Nothing to Worry About
65) Jarvis Cocker - I Never Said I Was Deep
64) The Avett Brothers - And It Spread
63) Kati O’Toole - Drove All Night
62) The Temper Trap - Love Lost
61) Diane Birch - Rise Up

60) Noise Addict - I Heart Your Band
59) Jill Sobule - San Francisco
58) The Boxer Rebellion - Evacuate
57) Catherine Ireton - Come Monday Night
56) Kevin Drew - Love vs. Porn
55) Hayley Williams - Teenagers
54) She & Him - Lotta Love
53) Metric - Help I’m Alive
52) Arctic Monkeys - Crying Lightning
51) The Raveonettes - Boys Who Rape (Should All Be Destroyed)

50) Elizabeth & The Catapult - Race You
49) Regina Spektor - Us
48) Camera Obscura - The Sweetest Thing
47) Jenny Owen Youngs - Here is a Heart
46) British India - I Said I’m Sorry
45) Tara Simmons - Domino
44) Green Day - Before the Lobotomy
43) St. Vincent - Marrow
42) Weezer - The Girl Got Hot
41) Augie March - Pennywhistle

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Top 100 Songs of '09: 100-71

I'm back with more of my incessant list making. With the year and decade coming to and end, it's fun to look back on what we've just gone through and for mine, there's no better way to do that than to look at the soundtrack. 2009 was a very good year for music in my eyes, both for established acts that further solidified themselves upon the scene and for new ones who will have my eye going forward.

Today I bring you my first instalment of my favorite songs of '09. In doing so I also would like to take a moment to once again mention how much I enjoy the work of Paramore and their head songstress Hayley Williams. I have two different Paramore tracks on my year end list as well as one solo go from young miss Hayley. They are already one of my favorite bands of this decade and I am hoping for more and more from them in the ten years to come.

100) Animal Kingdom - Tin Man
99) The Lovemakers - Love is Dead
98) Frightened Rabbit - Swim Until You Can’t See Land
97) Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson - I Don’t Know What to Do
96) Girl in a Coma - Empty Promise
95) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Soft Shock
94) Natalie Warner - I Will Take You Under
93) Washington - Cement
92) Parachute - Under Control
91) Robert Francis - Junebug

90) Paramore - Misguided Ghosts
89) Automatic Loveletter - My Goodbye
88) Lydia - I Woke Up Near the Sea
87) Camera Obscura - Careless Love
86) Butterfly Boucher - Gun for a Tongue
85) The Cinematics - All These Things
84) Matthew Sweet - Gone
83) Lily Allen - Fuck You
82) The Fabulous Miss Wendy - I Like Boys
81) Po’ Girl - Isobel

80) Youth Group - Two Sides
79) Girls - Laura
78) Band of Skulls - I Know What I Am
77) Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard - One Fast Move or I’m Gone
76) The Church - Lunar
75) Jemina Pearl - Nashville Shores
74) The Mary Onettes - God Knows I Had Plans
73) Blind Pilot - Go On, Say It
72) Ingrid Michaelson - Maybe
71) Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Ghost of Christmases Past

For the last couple of years I've been saying that I'm not into the Christmas spirit anylonger. Neither is Inky for that matter, and I think some people mistake our current apathay for hatred of the Yule season. I have amazing memories of the first 30 or so Christmases that I was alive, but over the last three or four years, the season has failed to live up to those memories. So, rather than force new memories, I choose to look back fondly at the Christmases past.

1976) My First Christmas, here with My father, sister, and brother:

1977) A lot can change in a year.

1980) Getting ready for Mass at my Aunt's house in Taylor's Island MD.

1984) Here's me in the Metuchen Christmas parade.

1987) Very happy to have recieved the Mask toy "Valcano" but not so happy about the braces.

1990) Decorating the tree back in Metuchen during my first Christmas as a Seminarian.

1993) My last Christmas before turning 18 and as such, the last Christmas as a "kid".

1995) Dressed up in some gag gifts from my mother and aunt which doubled as our inheritance from our grandmother.

1998) My first post college Christmas in the apartment in York I shared with Inky.

1998) It was this Christmas that I proposed to Inky, and just look at her, how could I not?

2000) On our first Christmas in Baltimore, we got a hubcap from Inky's mom and dad, among other things. It was also the first Christmas day we spent at our own place.

2005) Here I am reenacting one of my traditions from my younger years as I "spoon my loot" at Inky's mom's house.

2006) Decorating the tree at our house in York. This was the last tree we put up.

2007) Sitting with Inky at her sister's house in Inky first Christmas as a godmother.

Greazy Claus) It was only a matter of time. As a fat guy, I knew I would end up pulling on the big man's duds like I did here to give out gifts to underprivileged kids in York.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TGWOOfY Best Records of '09

As I mentioned in my halfway lists back in July I haven't been able to buy as many records this year as I have in years past. So, rather than do my traditonal Top 25 records of the year list, I've scaled back to the Top 10. Most of my music comsumption this year has been on a single by single basis, with the lion's share of the full albums I've purchased coming at a deep discount via But, I still think it's a very good Top 10 list nonetheless. Featured are three US groups, three from Glasgow Scotland, two from Australia and one each from England and Sweeden. Six of the groups represented here are making their first appearance on my year end album list, which I'm sure they will tell all their freinds about.

10) The Mary Onettes - Islands. This record has only been out for a few weeks, but it had to make my list. It would have come out earlier but the hard drive containing the recording sessions for the record was stolen out of Philip Eksrom's car. So they went back into the studio and did nothing less than make a complete masterpeice of an album. If it had come out earlier in the year, I might be higher on the list for sure, but I'm still getting to know it. You should too.

9) Paramore - Brand New Eyes. I named Paramore as one of my favorite bands of the oo's, so it's no surprise that their thrid disc made it on my list. I think Hayley Williams has exibited more tallent before her 21st birthday than many other artists wring out of their whole career. This record was a quantum leep forward from what was already a very strong sophmore effort on 2007's Riot!. If the songwriting continues to grow more mature and complex they could become one of the pemeire acts of the next decade.

8) The Cinematics - Love and Terror. One of the three acts on my list from Glasgow, and part of an ever growing stable of fantastic groups who are coming out of Scotland these days. On this their second album they put together a bunch of strong tracks that smack of having been writen on the road. New Mexico is one of those, and is also one of my favorite of the year. One of these days I'm going to have to make my way to Glasgow and see what it is about that place that births all of these great groups.

7) Arctic Monkeys - Humbug. Another of my band of the decade picks, Arctic Monkeys changed it up a bit with there third record. Rather than rushing back to the studio as they did the last time out, they waited a full year to start work on Humbug. They also worked with a new production team; recording the whole disc in the US with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age at the helm. The result is a differnt texture to the tracks than can be found on the first two albums, and noticable growth.

6) The 1990's - Kicks. Another Glasgow group and one that I first got turned on to because former Long Blondes singer Kate Jackson does back up on Kickstrasse. I ended up buying a few singles from iTunes before using a few extra eMusic downloads to pick up the ballance of the record a few months ago. From song to song the style fluxuates but in a good way that keeps the procedings moving.

5) Youth Group - The Night is Ours. This record origianly came out a few weeks after Inky and I left Oz back in '08, but it also got an American release this year. It was worth the wait, as I found this to be one of my favorite records to listen to from begining to end. It's rare to find a solid record these days, but this is one of them.

4) The Temper Trap - Conditions. This was the record I anticipated most this year, after being hipped to the single Sweet Disposition by one of my favorite Aussie music blogs. Having had only one of their songs to listen to for months, and having it be one of my favorite of the year, meant I had big expectations for the disc when I finally got a hold of it. To live up to those lofty expectations is kind of amazing these days, but that's what Conditions did. It's just a phenomanal listen.

3) The Avett Brothers - I and Love and You. The Avett's have been hard at work as a band since the begining of the decade, but they are just now starting to get noticed on a larger stage. I really enjoyed the Second Gleam EP in '08, which put a song on my Top 100 songs of the decade list (St. Joseph's) and so I was looking forward to this record. When I found out Rick Rubin was producing I was even more excited. What Rick and the Avett's came up with is an amazing grouping of alt country tunes. In a year where Son Volt kind of let me down in that area, thank god I had the Avett boys to cary the load.

2) Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career. It is absolutly killing me to not have My Maudlin Career at number one. Camera Obscura is my favorite band of the last ten years and this record is every bit as good as their last three. Tracyanne and co. have put together another hauntingly beautiful roster of songs that uniquly their own. I can't immagine too many music fans who couldn't appreciate what this Glasgow six peice does.

1) Neko Case - Middle Cyclone. As I said before, It killed me to not have Camera Obscura number one this year, but that is just a testament to how much I loved Middle Cyclone. This is Neko Case's sixth full length solo record and it is by far her best ever. I'm not alone in praising this record which has garnered a ton of #1's on year end lists all around the web.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Favorite Poem of All Time

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Just in time for a big snow day all along the East Coast, here's Camera Obscura's cover of Blizzard by Jim Reeves. Turn the volume up, look out the window at the falling snow and enjoy a non-Christmas song about winter. When your done with this, check out The Indigo Girls and Joni Mitchell sing River.

There’s a blizzard comin’on how I’m wishin’ I was home
For my pony’s lame and he can’t hardly stand
Listen to that northern sigh if we don’t get home we’ll die
But it’s only seven miles to Mary Anne
It’s only seven miles to Mary Anne

You can bet we’re on her mind, for it’s nearly Christmas time
And I’ll bet there’s hot biscuits in the pan
Lord my hands feel like they’re froze and there’s numbness in my toes
But it’s only five more miles to Mary Anne
It’s only five more miles to Mary Anne

That wind’s howlin’ and it seems mighty like a woman’s screams
And we’d best be movin’ faster if we can
Dan Just think about that barn with that hay so soft and warm
For it’s only three more miles to Mary Anne
It’s only three more miles to Mary Anne

Dan get up you ornery cuss or you’ll be the death of us
I’m so weary but I’ll help you if I can
All right Dan perhaps it’s best that we’ll just stop awhile and rest
For it’s still a hundred yards to Mary Anne
It’s still a hundred yards to Mary Anne

Late that night the storm was gone and they found him there at dawn
He had made it, but he couldn’t leave old Dan
They found him there on the plains, his hands froze to the reins
He was just a hundred yards from Mary Anne
He was just a hundred yards from Mary Anne

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Into the New Year, With the Avett Brothers

I know I just profiled a song yesterday, but you can never have too much great music. Since we are coming to the end of a tumultuous year and decade I find myself thinking about all that confronts us right now, as well as what lay ahead. I think this song from the record You and I and Love by the Avett Brothers illustrates this thought process perfectly. It is called "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise" and, for me at least, it really resonates. The Avett's are from Concord North Carolina and they are darlings of the Indie scene right now in no small part due to heartfelt songs such as this one.

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
And it comes in black and it comes in white
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it

When nothing is owed, deserved or expected
And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid, with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream till I die or the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
In the find print they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
And it flies by day and it flies by night
And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it.

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream till I die or the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There was a dream and one day I could see it
Like a bird in a cage I broke in and demanded that somebody free it
And there was skid with a head full of doubt
So I’ll scream till I die or the last of those bad thoughts are finally out

There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
in the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Song Spotlight: Paramore - Use Somebody (cover)

As a guy who doesn't really like the Kings of Leon I just so happen to like a few of their tunes quite a bit. I posted a few weeks ago about how much I liked Meagan Washington's version of "King of the Rodeo" which she does with the Bamboos. I I also really enjoy the KOL song "Use Somebody" which was released as a single late last year. Even though their version is one of my favorite tunes going right now, I also happen to enjoy hearing great songs from a different voice. Kind of like when all the artists in the 60's used to cover Dylan: same words/different voice.

So I particularlly enjoyed this version of Use Somebody done by fellow Nashville group Paramore. Maybe It's time I give King of Leon another shot, after all, Australia loves the shit out of them as evidenced by spots 1, 3, 24 and 70 on last year's Hot 100.

If you are one of the 8 people that hasn't heard the song at some point this year, here are the lyrics:

I’ve been roaming around, I was looking down at all I see
Painted faces fill the places I can’t reach
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody

Someone like you and all you know and how you speak
Countless lovers under cover of the street
You know that I could use somebody
You know that I could use somebody
Someone like you

Off in the night while you live it up I’m off to sleep
waging wars to shake the poet and the beat
I hope it’s gonna make you notice
I hope it’s gonna make you notice

Someone like me
Someone like me
Someone like me, somebody

I’m ready now. I’m ready now
I’m ready now. I’m ready now
I’m ready now. I’m ready now
I’m ready now.

Someone like you. Somebody
Someone like you. Somebody
Someone like you. Somebody

I’ve been roaming around, I was looking down at all I see.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Wrinkling My Brain

We all have a tendency to fall in to a static life where we very rarely step out of our comfort zone in order to try something new. Inky and I have been working to combat that for a few years now, and every time we do she says we are "adding a new wrinkle" to our brains. If that is the case, I've been wrinkling the hell out of mine over the last 8 weeks or so.

In that time I've been using the mouse exclusively left handed for all my computing needs. As I've mentioned before, I am a natural lefty but I've always worked the mouse with my right hand, mainly because that's where it was on the desk. Since I've been dealing with a pinched nerve in my right arm, I have slowly but surely taken to left handed mousing like a duck to water. So much so, in fact, that I am quickly shaving seconds off my solitaire time every time I play. This weekend, while listening to the Ettes, I put up a 7018 in 110 seconds.

Put in perspective, that was just about what my new high was back on February 28th of this year when I had a 7080 in 109 seconds. At that point I had been working on my game for about 3 months and I would ultimately peak at an 82 second game. Now I am working on a whole new challenge and I feel like I am ahead of the curve I set as a righty.

Using a mouse right handed seams almost strange to me now, but I hope to rehab my injured right elbow and on day fulfill my promise as a switch hitting solitaire ace. We can all dream can't we?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's Really Good Shit. I Got it From a Wallaby

While I neither condone nor suggest the use of hard drugs, I will say that if you want to score some primo heroin just see a Tasmanian Wallaby. Apparently they can get the really good shit; and they get it right from the source. As of right now, they haven't progressed to the point where they are selling, but it's only a matter of time. For the time being the noble Wallabies are just busting into the legal poppie fields and eating the poppies before tripping out in the fields for a spell. While high, the marsupials hop around in circles creating patterns which some liken to crop circles. Today they are recreational users, but you know that won't last. Before you know it they're going to be slinging so much H we'll need to get Steven Seagal down there to take care of it.

"Watch this guy's pouch..."

This is no joke. Inky and I faced down a few wallaby street toughs in Queensland back in '05, and lived to tell the tale. I can't say definitively if THOSE wallabies were strung out, but while I tried to feed the one you see above another tried to lift my wallet. As we slowly backed away it said to me "aww please mate, just I few bucks. I just need a taste... I'll suck your dick."

Needless to say, I was happy we got out of there when we did... about 15 minutes later... and twenty bucks lighter... and surprisingly relaxed. If only they could all be Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies. Those guys give lousy head, but they never touch the hard stuff and are pretty nice blokes. True story.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Money Vs The Family Business

Inky and I have been Geelong Cats fans for 5 years now. The first of those years ('05) saw a scrappy young club announce its arrival to the footy world, while the next found them floundering and being dismissed. Over the last 3 years they have won 65 of the 75 games they have played and 2 of the 3 league championships. Even though we only got to see one of those games in person, and even though they lost that one, we love the Cats. We've watched them play on TV and the Web and listened to their games on radio via the net when watching was not possible. We've even read all about their phenomenal run from '07 to '09 in a great book, which Inky read all 390 pages of in just one day.

Long story short. We're invested.

And it's not just the team that we love, the players are also great on their own individual merit. They are all great examples of what can happen when a group of highly skilled individuals each play off one anothers strength to make the team that much stronger. They are the classic proof to the saying "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." There is one part, however, who's sum is bald-head and shoulders above the rest of his mates.

It's no secret that Gary Ablett Jr. is the best player in the league. He is the type of player and man that any team would kill to have on their side. As such, the new expansion club that begins play next year is trying to lure Ablett away from his hometown team. The Gold Coast is reportedly offering "Gazza" twice the money Geelong can afford, due to salary cap concessions they will enjoy as a new club. So Ablett is confronted with the same problem The Clash wrestled with back in the early 80's: "should I stay or should I go?"

Compounding the issue for Ablett is his very name. He is Gary Ablett Jr, the son of Gary Ablett Sr who is considered one of the greatest players in the history of the AFL. Junior was brought to the Cats as a Father-Son Pick, which meant the team could sign him without exposing him to the amateur draft. The young Ablett had to agree to the signing, which he did, which is, in and of its self, kind of amazing. Here he was the son of a famous father, trying to make it in the same sport, let alone the same jumper.

Over the last 8 years the younger Ablett has begun to put himself on the same level as his impossibly famous dad. He is recognized as the best player in the game today and despite only being 25 he is already being thought about as one of the best ever. There are very few instances in the world where a father and a son have both been considered to be all time greats. It's certainly not true of the Griffy's, or Bonds' who both are a little heavy on the greatness scale in favor of the son. And while both Barry Bonds and Griffy Jr played a portion of their careers for their fathers clubs, they didn't start there and have to deal with the expectations right off the bat. Rather, they got to become huge stars elsewhere and then "come home" as it were.

The closest thing to the Abletts I can come up with is Bobby and Brett Hull. Both had Hall of Fame careers, but no one would ever consider Brett one of the best of his era, let alone of all time. And while Brett eventually played 5 games in his dad's old #9 sweater, it was with the Phoenix Coyotes who had moved from Winnipeg where Bobby had been the most famous player. Gary Jr may have eschewed his dad's #5 jumper for his own #29, but that is just about all he has, save the Jr and a different position, to separate him. He has the same name, in the same small provincial town and wears the same exact blue and white hoops.

When it comes to Ablett the younger's success he has certainly not been helped in getting there by his famous name. Dale Earnhardt Jr. initially got all the help he needed in getting established in NASCAR and following the tragic death of his father, he got a ready made army of fans while in just his second year. They have pulled for him despite the fact that he has won only 18 races and no Cup titles in his 10 years, hardly an impressive return. In the case of Ablett, more has always been expected of him because of his name. He was a standout U18 player who would have been drafted highly by another club had either he or Geelong decided to pass up the father/son option.

In the end, Gary Ablett Jr is a quintessential Geelong success story. He lives just down the road in Torquay which is home to the world famous Bells Beach which is one of the greatest surfing beaches in all the world. Why would he need to leave all that behind to go to the Gold Coast in Queensland, where the waves are not as good, the footy team is brand new and where he is not the son of the town's favorite sons?

In the end, if he leaves, it will be all because of money. The Gold Coast team can pay him twice what Geelong can, and there are few people in the world who could turn down an offer such as that based solely on principals, loyalty and comfort. Gary Ablett Jr is one of the people who can do that, however, and I hope and pray he does. Inky and I are planing on seeing the Cats in person again in 2011 and it would kill me if they run out without Gazza in their line up.

And I never even got the chance to see his old man play. Imagine how much it would hurt those who did.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Not Good Enough For Tiger, But Fine For Me

The whole world has been paying attention to the Tiger Woods drama over the last 10 days, and I am no different. Unlike a lot of guys who are sports fans, I have nothing to say in defence of Woods who could have just taken the Jeter approach to life if all he wanted was to be knee deep in strange for the rest of his life. Instead he opted for marriage and then proceeded to run up a list of other women that would embarrass a "family first" republican member of congress.

So I decided to use the future ex Mrs. Woods as my motivation for my new solitaire quest. I'm still playing left handed and I'm getting consistently better. With Ilan on the desk top and with my Best Songs of '09 play list bumping I put up this 6683 in 116 seconds. That is a whole 34 seconds slower than my fastest right handed game, but I'm out to be the Eddie Murray of solitaire... just as dangerous from the left as from the right.

Speaking of dangerous, I think Tiger has found out all about that "like a woman scorned" thing and has a lot of work to do to get out of this particular bunker. Once again, I can't feel sorry for the guy. When you've got everything in the world worth having, don't sleep with a chick from every bar, club and Perkins in the country.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Lucky Number 13

It has been a pretty rough year for Inky and I, and we would be well within our rights to be nothing but angry and disenfranchised these days. But with all that has gone wrong over the last few months, I could still walk down the street whistling a happy tune today, if it weren't snowing that is. Ironically, the fact that it is snowing just makes me happier today, because today is our 13th anniversary. As I point out every year, it's not our wedding anniversary, which is also a big day for me, but the anniversary of our first date.

It snowed that day too, but at the end of the day, not at the beginning. That day started off with XL and I doing our radio show, which I had asked Inky to sit in on. That was my well thought out plan to win her over after a failed attempt the year before. First I would invite her to my radio show where she would hear my unfortunate taste in music and my retarded on air banter with my best friend. Then she would be so enthralled by what she heard that she would want to go to a terrible chain restaurant with me at damn near midnight, followed by 32 months of dating and eventual marriage.

Yeah, I'm just as surprised it worked as you are.

I may not have much in this world, and in the last 5 months I have had even less than usual while I keep getting turned down for jobs, but in the end none of that matters. As long as I have the girl of my dreams in the captain next to me I'll be happy. The rest of the problems in our lives can be poked, prodded, cajoled and broken down in the years to come, because we are an ever united team and we are un-fucking-stoppable. I love you baby, more now than on that day in '96. Thanks for saying yes.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Top Songs of the Decade: 10-1

Here are my top 10 favorite songs of the last decade. There really aren't a lot of surprises here as most of these tunes placed on the top of or near the top of my previous best of list's for their year. I didn't do a list from '00 to '04 but there are four tracks from those years including two from 2001 and one each from '02 and '04. Five of these songs are on my top 50 favorite songs of all times list, and five of the acts represented here were also part of my favorite bands of the decade list.

10) Wake Me Up When September Ends - Green Day. This is one of the quintessential songs of the decade from one of the best mainstream rock records of all time.

9) Bunk Trunk Skunk/Bicycle, Bicycle You Are My Bicycle/WildCat! - Be Your Own Pet . I'm kind of cheating here by actually grouping three songs from BYOP's debut record, but even at that the track is only 5 minutes long. The songs flow together perfectly and I wouldn't ever think to listen to one without the other two.

8) Roll On - The Living End . This pro-labour anthem from early in the decade is and example of great radio rock that is also about something. I just wish there was more of it.

7) One Crowded Hour - Augie March. More from Oz with one of the finest written songs I have ever heard. The lyrics may be a bit nonsensical but they are beautiful nonetheless. Coupled with the raising and lowering tempo of the song you get the feeling that you are being told a mystical yet important story that, while you may not fully understand it, still resonates with you.

6) Why I Lie - Liz Phair. While there are legions of 90's Liz Phair fans who can't be bothered to listen to anything she'd done since Guyville, I think this is one of her best songs ever. It's wonderful lyrically and has one of the best guitar lines that she's ever played and brought me one of my favorite lines ever: "If you ask me why I hurt you, I don't understand it. I can't help myself. It's a special combination of predatory instinct and simple ill will."

5) Lies - The Waifs. This is a song that I think should be played on every radio station, iPod and loud speaker for a week straight leading up to every election. In just over 4 minutes the Waifs pretty much sum up everything that's wrong with the modern media and the sheep that line up to listen to whatever they have to say. Plus, it's a catchy little number. (Also on the list at #93)

4) Songs for the Rich - Tristan Prettyman. The slowest of my top ten, this song is also one of the most somber. I think Tristan Prettyman has a simply beautiful voice which is amazingly showcased on this stripped bare song about addiction with only a lone guitar as accompaniment. It's also a great example of what a simple production choice can do for a song, as in this case the guitar itself was miced allowing for the sound of fingers on strings to be recorded rather than lost in the recording of an amp.

3) Eighties Fan - Camera Obscura. This track from the band's debut CD is reminiscent of countrymen Jesus and Mary Chain's song Just Like Honey. Based on the title, and singer Tracyanne Campbell's admission that she was inspired by the 80's group that would be a safe bet. However, it would be wrong to assume that the song is anything less than brilliant all on its own. (Other CO tracks on the list at #62 and #78)

2) Going North - Missy Higgins. This song of determination and destination is poignant and motivating. With Inky and I determined to undertake an Australian adventure in 2011 the only thing keeping us from using it quite literally as our theme song, as it were, is the directionality of the title. Maybe one day we'll get her to sing it as I'm Going South. (Missy is also on the list at #13, #47 & #85)

1) What Sarah Said - Death Cab for Cutie. As much as I love this song, it's one I have to be careful to not listen to when I'm in a down mood. Unlike #2 which can pep me up right away, What Sarah Said is just far too spot on in its description of waiting in a hospital while someone you loves dies to listen to on any but your best days. But pain is the impetus for some of the most impactful art in the world and in this case, Death Cab did a great job of capturing one of the most base experience of any one's life. (Death Cab also placed #69 and #92 with Ben Gibbard also featured with The Postal Service at #15)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Top Songs of the Decade: 40-11

Today I bring you the last group of songs before tomorrow's top 10. I've been working on this list for the last few months, slowly narrowing down the list from about 400 to about 150 a few weeks ago. Once I had it down to 100 and started putting them in order I was surprised to see that I had such an imbalance of men to women. I tend to really like female acts more, but in the final break down it was men 59, Women 39 and duets 2. That was offset somewhat by 8 female acts in the top 10, but more on that tomorrow.

Featured today Rilo Kiley and their lead singer Jenny Lewis. Rilo is another of my favorite bands of the decade, albeit based more on their work earlier rather than later. Jenny's two solo records were fantastic, but seemed to have a bit of an effect on the last two Rilo records, so I had to take the good with the bad. Jenny makes it on the list 4 times based on her one solo track (#74) and the three from Riko Kiley (#14, #37 & #70).

40) Heart of Mine - Peter Salett
39) You Know I’m No Good - Amy Winehouse
38) Ootischenia - The Be Good Tanyas
37) The Execution of All Things - Rilo Kiley
36) Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
35) DOA - Foo Fighters
34) Sentimental Heart - She & Him
33) Divorcee by 23 - Clare Bowditch
32) Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night - Fratellis
31) For a Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic - Paramore

30) 400 Miles From Darwin - The Whitlams
29) TFT - The Fontaine Toups
28) Forever Young - Youth Group
27) Fake Tales of San Francisco - Arctic Monkeys
26) Hey Julie - Fountains of Wayne
25) Mascara - Killing Heidi
24) Breathe Me - Sia
23) Sons of Cain - Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
22) I Feel It All - Feist
21) Still Fighting It - Ben Folds

20) Miserere - The Cat Empire
19) Little Voice - Sara Bareilles
18) Supernatural Superserious - R.E.M.
17) Anna Is a Stool Pigeon - Tom Gabel
16) Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John
15) We Will Become Silhouettes - The Postal Service
14) It’s A Hit - Rilo Kiley
13) Droving Woman - Augie March, Missy Higgins, Paul Kelly
12) Straight Lines - Silver Chair
11) Playing Your Song - Hey Mercedes

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Top Songs of the Decade: 70-41

I'm back with the next batch of my favorite songs of the decade. It should be no surprise to anyone who knows me that a large portion of the songs on this list come from Australian acts. While 54 of the tracks are American, 23 are from down under, placing Oz at number two on the nations represented. England came in third at 13, with Scotland landing 5, Canada 4 and Sweeden 1.

Featured today are one of those bands from Scotland, Camera Obscura, who posted three tracks on the top 100. All four of their records this decade were amazing, and that's why I named them my favorite band of the last 10 years. I was lucky enough to see them play live this year, and it was by far one of the best shows that I've ever been to. Now for the next 30 on the list:

70) Pictures of Success - Rilo Kiley
69) The Sound of Settling - Death Cab For Cutie
68) The Underdog - Spoon
67) Teenage Dirtbag - Wheatus
66) Yellow - Coldplay
65) Hey Boy - The Blow
64) Lord Don’t Slow Me Down - Oasis
63) Waiting For My Real Life To Begin - Colin Hay
62) Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken - Camera Obscura
61) Yo Mama - Butterfingers

60) Plastic Cup Politics - Less Than Jake
59) Debbie - Architecture in Helsinki
58) Hey Ma - James
57) Teen Angst Unrequited Love Song - Killing Heidi
56) Australia - The Shins
55) Ruby - Kaiser Chiefs
54) Don’t Stop Now - Crowded House
53) Genevieve - Girlyman
52) Roll On Summer - Paul Kelly
51) Like the 309 - Johnny Cash

50) Somewhere Only We Know - Keane
49) Motel Blues - Loudon Wainwright III
48) You Are the One - Shiny Toy Guns
47) The Special Two - Missy Higgins
46) The Picture - Son Volt
45) Time to Pretend - MGMT
44) One and Never Again - The Long Blondes
43) The Greatest - Cat Power
42) Mass Destruction - Faithless
41) A-Punk - Vampire Weekend

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Top Songs of the Decade: 100-71

I see no reason to end the decade in any fashion other than the exact same way I've lived most of it. That is to say, making completely superfluous lists that are nothing but opinion and that no one but me cares about any way.

With that out of the way, here is the first of my four posts bringing you my favorite songs of the decade. We don't have a quick and easy was to refer to the last decade (nor will we really have one for the next ten years unless you're crazy about saying "the Teens, which I am most certainly not) so rather than call it "my favorite songs of the 00's I just went with Top songs of the decade.

Featured here is the young Australian artist, Missy Higgins who is on the list 3 times with her own tracks as well as a contributor to another. Despite hitting it big at a very young age, Missy is taking her time between projects which led to her only putting out two full length albums in the decade. Even with such a small about of work, I named her as one of my favorite artists of the decade, and hope that she will stay active in the decade to come.

100) I Believe in a Thing Called Love - The Darkness
99) Sari - Nellie McKay
98) The Ghost of Genova Hights - Stars
97) No One Does it Like You Department of Eagles
96) Another White Dash - Butterfly Boucher
95) Magpie to the Morning - Neko Case
94) Jetsetter - Morningwood
93) Bridal Train - The Waifs
92) Little Bribes - Death Cab for Cutie
91) Furr - Blitzen Trapper
90) Times Like These - Foo Fighters
89) Not a Virgin - Poe
88) Shores of California - Dresden Dolls
87) Short Skirt and a Long Jacket - Cake
86) Moving to L.A. - Art Brut
85) Warm Whispers - Missy Higgins
84) All This Will Pass - Youth Group
83) St. Joseph’s - The Avett Brothers
82) Daddy’s Gone - Glasvegas
81) Beverly Hills - Weezer

80) Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby - Counting Crows
79) Lipstick and Bruises - Lit
78) Teenager - Camera Obscura
77) Y Control - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
76) The Only One - The Cure
75) Magpies - Joan as Police Woman
74) Jack Killed Mom - Jenny Lewis
73) Pinch Me - Barenaked Ladies
72) On the Radio - Regina Spektor
71) Lets Dance to Joy Division - The Wombats

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like Old Times in New Jersey

I know that the last few days are supposed to be all about turkey, and believe me, I had my fair share of Thanksgiving grub in the last 96 hours. What really had me in food heaven over the weekend, however, was my quick jaunt to the Garden State. I took the opportunity to visit with one of my oldest friends on Saturday while Inky was busy getting her hair did. While our original plan called for going to Tastee Subs (where I could get my favorite sub in the world, the #13) I called a last second audible. We made our way up to Highland Park and descended on the genius that is The White Rose System.

When I told XL where we had gone, he was understandably confused. Since we met at College in the White Rose City he assumed that I was back in York, not in the Jerz. This burger stand has been using the name White Rose for over 50 years now, and it has nothing to do with York England or Pennsylvania... or roses for that matter. It is an allusion to slider style burgers, such as those at White Castle, which was the first chain restaurant in the world. There are a ton of different White Blank burger places all over the place in the style of White Castle, like White Diamond, White Tower and White Rose.

I ordered a Cali Bacon Cheeseburger, onion rings and a Pepsi. I was a bit shocked when it took a minute and a half for the grill man to put my plate up on the counter. One of the things that White Rose was always famous for was the astounding speed in which they fill their orders. My delay was due to my request for bacon, which they don't have cooking on the griddle at all times, otherwise I would have had my burger by the time I finished saying Pepsi.

The burger was just as great as I remember it from when I was growing up. They are prepared slider style, which means that they are cooking on the griddle with a bed of onions and topped with the bun. All the cook has to do is pick up the burger with his spatula, place the bottom bun on the plate and then put the upper two thirds on it to complete assembly. Presto: a genius burger for less than you pay at McDonalds or BK. A regular hamburger at White Rose sets you back $2.40 but is far bigger than what you would get at a chain.

Not only is the burger perfect, but the onion rings are remarkably crispy. In all my $10 meal was just what I was looking for on my return visit to Central NJ. While my buddy and I enjoyed sitting on our stools at White Rose as we talked, we figured there was a better place to while away the hours talking. A diner. So we headed up RT 1 to the Menlo Park Diner where I had the most amazing piece of layer cake as we talked.

It was really great to catch up with an old friend and be back in the town I grew up in, but I remembered why I don't live in Jersey anymore. It's not the exorbitant cost of living, the stifling traffic or the fact that my whole family fled the state. No, it's the fact that if I lived there I'd weigh 500 pounds. There are just too many great places to eat, and too many awesome things that you just don't find other places. For example, it was virtually impossible for me to leave the White Rose without getting a Pork Roll, Egg and Cheese to go.

Now that I think about it, I think I left my sun glasses on the counter there. I guess I'll have to drive back and look for them.

Friday, November 27, 2009

My Tank's On E

I know it's cliche to talk about how early the Christmas season seems to start every year, but I'm going to any way. Last year and the year before that I was very low on Christmas spirit but this year my tank is bone dry. I've grown tired of the overblown consumerism that has taken a holiday I once loved and turned it into just another reason for people to deficit finance more crap that they don't need.

I've taken a lot of time over the last three years to examine what it is that I like about the holiday. Sure, everyone likes getting gifts, but let's be honest, how much crap do we all need? I struggle every year to come up with more than 2 or 3 things that I want, let alone need. So it was that Inky and I stopped getting gifts for each other a few years ago. To be honest, it's been quite freeing, in part because I try and get her things she would like all throughout the year and she does the same for me. If you need to be told when and why to buy a gift for a person is it really a magical and joyous occasion? I think not.

The next part of the holiday equation was even easier for me to shed than pointless gifts. I'm just going to say it, and if you have a problem with it you probably shouldn't be reading my blog: I FUCKING HATE 99% OF THE CHRISTMAS SONGS IN EXISTENCE. They're just awful. Sure, I liked them as a kid, but then again I also liked The Dukes of Hazard, burning shit with a magnifying glass and Mad Libs. Since then I've grown up and I only like two of those three things now. You figure out which. So since I can't stand Christmas music, god knows I can't go anywhere in public from mid November till the end of the year, so shopping is out.

I have never been, nor will I ever be a "go to the mall/department store to see the displays" kind of guy. And I am certainly not a "wake up at the ass crack of dawn to elbow a mother of two out of the way to get my hands on a cheep POS electronic device on black friday" kind of guy, although most of the time the elbowing part sounds cathartic when I hear people that are getting all carried away by the festivities.

Once I did the math, I found out that the only parts of the holidays I actually like anymore is spending time with people I like while eating food I like. With that being the case I ask you: why do I have to confine that to the last Thursday in November and December 25th? Why put on all the extra airs and add all the extra stress while spending the extra dough? Sure, if you have kids, then by all means do it up for them. They deserve it. But for the rest of us adults why not just get together eat Turkey, Pie, Cookies, Ham, more cookies and whatever else floats your boat.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What I'm Thankful For

Seat girls - RJ41 Productions from RJ41 & IVENTS on Vimeo.

Sure turkey is great, and when it's teamed up with stuffing, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce it makes one of my favorite meals of all time. But on this day, Thanksgiving of 2009, I'm thankful for the SEAT Girls. They never stop trying to put a smile on my face, and I appreciate it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

With One Hand Tied Behind My Back

I've gotten pretty proficient at using the mouse left handed over the last few weeks. I'm still battling a bit of pain and numbness in my right arm, so I haven't reverted to my old habits which may have contributed to my issues. As a naturally left handed person I'm not surprised that I've taken to left handed mouse operation, but I'm not 100% yet. I haven't been able to get the clicking down, and I've been bouncing back and forth between the left and right handed set up trying to find a sweet spot.

All that said, I decided to play a little solitaire today and was surprised when I put up a number of "good" games while playing southpaw. This 5714 in 137 seconds wouldn't even rate in my right handed days but felt like a win going lefty. I'll keep at it because... well, it's the right thing to do, and because I know my fans demand it of me. I mean, if I just quit the speed solitaire game because my right arm goes all numb when I play what would that say to the children, to say nothing of what it would mean to Australio-American relations.

So, I will vigilantly soldier on, with Megan Washington and the Bamboos playing in the background and this close up shot of the Opera House as my motivation to overcome the odds and post a 90 second game lefty. You're welcome.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hitler Has A Lot on His Mind

The video above is a scene from the 2004 movie Der Untergang (Downfall) which shows the last tumultuous week of WWII in Europe through the eyes of der fuhrer. In the scene Hitler finds out that his armies are losing to the Brits and Yanks to the West and the Russians to the East, and that all is pretty much lost. I'm not going out on a limb when I say that Adolf was a bit high strung, and the actor Bruno Ganz depicts him as such has he kirks out on his highest ranking generals in a delusional rant.

Within this four minutes is the filmmakers presentation of Hitler coming to the realization that the war is functionally over for him, and that the end for him will come at via a bullet, either from an allied gun, or his own. Even with such serious subject matter, the film maker does a good job showing what the last few thoughts of a delusional madman were like. Powerful stuff.

I am quite familiar with all the history surrounding the final capitulation of the Nazi regime. What I didn't know was how much anger Hitler was filled with there at the end. Not just at the Jews, Russians, Gypsies, Americans, Brunettes, Gays and the French. No, he was also quite mad at the Green Bay Packers, Sarah Palin, Campus Parking Authorities, XBox Live, Hannah Montana, eBay and that Gary Ablett Jr won the 2009 Brownlow Medal.

As it turns out there are scores, if not hundreds of these Hitler videos on the web. I tried to find out which one was the first, but couldn't narrow it down. The first one I saw was the Green Bay Packers one and I damn near laughed myself right out of my chair. Then they started popping up on the regular and the creativity began to wane. Now every time a kid feels wronged he takes to his computer and subtitles the worlds worst dictator saying bad shit about his teacher or what have you.

In a world where comparisons to Hitler are thrown around with surprising ease, it would be easy to say all these kids are wrong to do so about their small issues. I'm not totally on board with that, just so long as they really don't think that the UW parking authority is as bad as the Nazis. With some historical perspective and a healthy dose of context we can all enjoy a good parody every now and again. Sadly, originality is one of the traits that seems to be bread out of kids by the web, so this once funny device is becoming worn out.

I'd love to see the next angry kid fight back against the man with a whole new movie parody. Hell, maybe they can even shoot there own video rather than just putting subtitles on someone else's work. On second thought, that sounds like way too much work. After all, kids today are all lazy and worthless. I think Hitler would feel the same way. Maybe I should make a video about it...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Accidents on the Web

As a guy who as a deep and abiding love of Australia, there's really no better tool for me than the internet. Sure, I get a little Hamish and Andy on Leno from time to time and Rove is going to be on Chelsea Lately next week, but by and large most of my Aussie entertainment comes from my computer and not from my TV or radio. God knows this is true now that ESPN fucked me by buying the rights to Aussie Rules Football but only showing one game on TV; relegating the rest to it's 360 online imprint.

So it is that I find myself on multiple websites in order to keep up with my Aussie interests in sports, TV, movies, music and to follow current events. I was on the Triple J site to find out more info about their recent tribute concert for Paul Kelly, who is one of my favorite artists. I was happy to see that many of my favorite Aussie performers were on hand to celebrate the work of one of the nations elder statesmen. Some of the people on the list weren't familiar to me, so I figured I'd google them and find out about them, including the first act: Megan Washington. I'm glad I did.

Megan is a solo performer and also the lead singer of a group called Washington. She has a phenomenal voice and seems to be a rising star down under. The first track of her's that I found was a cover of the Kings of Leon song King of the Rodeo which she does with the Brisbane band The Bamboos as the backing band. I found this track first on emusic, where I was able to download it for 12 cents. While I'm not a big fan of the original, I can't stop listening to Megan and The Bamboos version, which has a nice little video too.

Sadly, that was the only track emusic had of Megan's, and iTunes had nothing at all available in their US store. So, I once again turned to the google to see what else I could find from this obviously talented artist. The first thing I turned up was the video for one of her singles called Clementine set to a really cool video that is miniature stop motion animation. It's worth a look and a listen:

Once I found that I did a little more looking around on the web and found a really cool video of Megan on the Australian music show Spicks & Specks playing in the game called Substitute. In the game the singer must sing the words from a book (in this case "You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay) in the style of a popular song, which the other contestants have to guess. Her singing voice is so amazing and pure all on it's own that's amazing. In a world of vapid artists auto tuning their voice and never singing live at shows because, well, they simply can't, I love hearing a god given talent. While at YouTube I found a few other videos featuring Megan including this one where she sits alone in Woolloomooloo Wharf singing and playing her guitar, once again showing off her stellar voice:

After watching that video I was bound and determined to find more of Megan's work, so I once again turned to google where I found her iLike page which has all the tracks from Washington's new EP "How to Tame Lions" streaming start to finish. Thanks to an external CD burner, I can now add those tracks to my new, but growing collection of Megan's work. Now all I have to do is wait till Triple J airs the Paul Kelly tribute concert and I'll have a few more tracks to add, not only to her playlist but others as well. Without the web the only way I could do all of this is to just live in Australia. Till that day (in 2011) I'll have to do it this way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Greazy Tony's Top Ten

The old saying goes: you are what you eat, and in that case, I am a whole lot of stuff. I love so many different types of food, but sadly for my arteries and waistline, most of the stuff I really love is just no good for me. Doesn't it seem like all the best food in the world is the stuff you're supposed to stay away from? Don't get me wrong, I love a good salad every now and again, but it's not the type of food I'd go out of my way to get. That said, I'd like to stick around for a few more decades, so I try and take it easy. Like Cookie Monster said: some things are just a sometimes food.

So I do my best to not eat this crap to often, but there's just no way I can quit my favorites cold turkey. Hmm, turkey... how did that miss the list? And in November no less. Oh well, there is just so much great food out there. How does one narrow down all the gastronomical delights down to a list of only 10 of their favorites? Here's how:

10) Burrito. As a person proud of his Italian ancestry I have a hard time admitting that Mexican food is just about my favorite thing to eat in general. Specifically I can't get enough of a good burrito. Even more specifically I can't get enough of Roburittos right here in my home town. I opt for the burrito/quesadilla hybrid (it's better for the environment after all) known as the burritodilla. It is all of the things that come in a great classic burrito but folded and grilled rather than wrapped. It is also what I imagine god's sweat tastes like.

9) The Spiedie. It's hard for me to believe that I knew nothing of the spiedie as recently as July of '07. That is when XL and I first sampled this favorite sandwich of New York State's Southern Tier. Since then I've taken literally every opportunity to enjoy the finely marinated and grilled meat cubes both in Binghamton and at home. Mine are good, but I'd always rather have a domestic spiedie at Lupo's or Spiedie and Rib Pit.

8) Shrimp Cocktail. I love shrimp in just about any form, even enough to have downed a dozen or so with the heads on while down under. But for me there is nothing better than the classic: six shrimp, peeled and deveined, hanging off the side of a martini glass containing a ramekin of cocktail sauce resting on a bed of lettuce. It was the first thing I ever developed a love for as a kid that I couldn't have very often. Consequently, I always craved it, so much so, that more than once I took my parents up on their offer of substituting a meal for a shrimp cocktail and a side salad.

7) Hamburger. I don't know if there are many things that are more quintessentially American than a good burger. Not the crap they pedal at Micky Dee's or any other fast food place. I'm talking about a hand formed patty, on a great bun with fresh lettuce, tomatoes and real cheese. If you must get your beef injection over a counter than be sure to make it Five Guys, they are the finest chain burger in the land, bar none. Otherwise, there is nothing better than a finely crafted burger from a local joint.

6) Aussie Meat Pie. The beauty of finger food is the incorporation of multiple tasty ingredients into an easy to handle delivery system. There is no food that brings so much to the table (or the curbside in Sydney) than the meat pie. It's steak, gravy, flaky crust, potatoes, peas and more gravy all right there in your hand. The best one I've ever had was at Harry's Cafe de Wheeles in Woolloomooloo Australia. Since they don't deliver to my area code, I've found suitable versions in the Big Apple at the Tuck Shop and D.U.B. Pies.

5) Wings. It's been more than 45 years since Dom Bellissimo asked his mom to make some bar food for his buddies. But for just about every day since Teressa fried up some wings and tossed them in hot sauce, someone has been eating wings the way they made that at the Anchor Bar. They can be enjoyed so many different ways, but to date the best ones I've ever had were at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. XL and I ate our bucket of Quaker Steak and Lube wings with all the gusto of a lion trying to down an impala before the vultures show up. It kills me that the nearest QS&L location is two hours away, because I've been craving more of those amazingly crispy wings for months now. I make a pretty mean boneless wing, but it doesn't hold a candle to what I had that day.

4) Cheese Steak. As a guy who grew up in New Jersey I happen to like the kind of cheese steaks I used to sling in my pizzeria days. Steak fried in a pan with onions and then placed in a good sub roll, covered in cheese and baked in the oven. Once the cheese gets a bit brown it's pulled and then covered in lettuce, tomatoes and mayo. Perfection! But, if you can't make it to the Metuchen area for one of these, you can find a great combo of cheese, bread and steak just about anywhere. I've done the Geno's vs Pat's taste test in Philly and rocked just about every version of this masterpiece of sandwich making in the world. Hell, I even shrunk them down just to prove it could be done.

3) Pizza. I've covered this topic before, but when I say pizza I mean pizza, not Chicago style, which is fine, but not what I think of when I think pizza. I want thin crust with a great mix of whole milk and park skim shredded cheese and a thick sauce. Once again, my pizza universe will always center around Middlesex county New Jersey where I first learned how to eat the stuff and then learned how to make it to perfection. I'd do almost anything for a slice right now!

2) Hot Dogs. This is the hardest one to nail down, because unlike pizza, there are so many ways to enjoy a tube steak. I like em boiled, grilled, fried, deep fried or dipped in batter and fried. I like them with mustard, relish, chili, onions, sauerkraut and even though it seems to offend people, I even eat them with ketchup from time to time. I love them from Yocco's Grey's Papaya, Nathan's, Ted's, a ball park or a thousand other places. Hell, I even love them out of the twenty year old water in the carts on the streets of New York. While a meat pie may be one of the perfect foods to eat with your hand, a hot dog is the hands down winner.

1) My Dad's Famous Sub. I've blogged a few times about the pure unadulterated genius that is my father's sub, or "The Sub" as it's known around these parts. Given the choice I'd eat one of these combos of salami, provolone cheese, peppers, tomatoes and bread than a hundred dollar steak. Every thing in this meal is in perfect balance and proportion, just the way my old man dreamed it up. Then I did what all good son's should do and carried the ball a few more yards down the field for my dad and made perfection even more perfect.

If that list doesn't make you hungry you should just resign yourself to a lifetime of eating at Olive Garden or Shenanigan's. It was hard for me to not include a few of my other favorites like Ribs, The Turkey Bobbie, Crabs, Tacos, meatballs, The PEC, or chili just to name a few. I think I could open a place where I sling just these ten items and make a mint. I'd call it Greazy Tony's Top Ten. Would you like to make a reservation?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Adventures in Unemployment: Time To Kill

Now in my fifth month of funemployment, with no sign of relief on the horizon, I have found a certain level of stasis in my life. In the beginning I was subject to big swings in my mood based on the amount of free time I had on my hands. For days at a time it would just seem like a really long weekend or a nice vacation. Then, about a month and a half in, it started to feel like a bit of a drag. Inky and I hadn't yet developed a rhythm to our day, and, frankly, I think we got on each others nerves a bit.

That only lasted for about two weeks before we realized that we needed a few hours to ourselves each day. She would go off and write while I send out a few hundred resumes and then at around 5:00 we would rendezvous for dinner. As more and more of those resumes went unanswered, I started to waist way too much of my day playing games or screwing around on the computer. My arm injury took care of both of those as I have pretty much discontinued PlayStation use and only use the computer right moused anymore.

So it is that have all this free time; roughly 112 waking hours of it a week. With that time Inky and I have made a habit of going for a nice long walk at a local park everyday. We do a bit more than 2 miles in about 35 to 40 minutes everyday, and when the time is right we plan on kicking that up to 3 miles in an hour. But, that's just 7 out of my 112 hours, so there are 105 left. So I should be going crazy, right? The funny thing is, I'm really not.

Sure, the fact that I have sent out a tree's worth of resumes and cover letters is maddening. And, the impact of being on half pay can be a huge burden, but for the most part, I've found a happy medium. This time off has forced me to reconsider what is important in my life, and has helped to focus me on what my next steps need to be. Not to mention that it's been nice to just have all this time with Inky everyday.

In every way that matters in life, Inky is my best friend. Even though we can get on each other's nerves, as all friends can, we really do have a great time together. My time on funemployment has been like summer camp, with the two of us just hanging out and taking part in a few activities from time to time. Plus, like any good summer camp movie, there's been plenty of hanky panky. So I've got that going for me, which is nice.

I know this little sabbatical won't last forever, so I'm really trying to look past the negative parts of it and focus on the positive. Plus, as and added bonus, I've spent endless hours scheming how we can live in Australia for all of 2011!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veni Vidi Vici

Eighteen years ago at this time I was studying in earnest to become a priest. I was in my sophomore year of the minor seminary, and I was in the midst of two of the most important years of my life. Even though I had already started to wonder if I could really become a priest, I hadn't fully ruled it out yet, and I sure as hell wanted more time to figure it out. Then came November 22nd of 1991. That was the day we were informed that the seminary wasn't viable any longer, due to the extremely low number of priests that it was developing, compared with the high cost. Of the 60 young men I knew in my two years there, only three went on to the priesthood, and one has since left.

So, they closed it down. What they didn't know then was that even though they weren't churning out men of the cloth they were producing men who were better off for having been there. In the years after I left the seminary I've often thought about how I might have ended up if I had gone to another school. I was an extremely rough-around-the-edges 14 year old who was still coping with losing my baby brother and struggling to keep my anger and violent rage under wraps. In the seminary I found a real sense of what my Aussie friends call Mateship, or what some call brotherhood.

With this being Veterans day, I would compare it to what my father often said about his time in the Navy. We spent all day, every day together and had to learn how to live and thrive as a group. Part of that was conflict resolution, which did at times involve a fight, but nothing like the things I got mixed up with prior to enrolling at St. Joes.

All these ideas were brought back to the forefront of my mind this weekend when I went back to St. Joes for what may be the last-ever reunion of former seminarians. The order is short on cash, and with the campus long past its original purpose, they are thinking about selling it. Maybe it was its impending doom that caused us to reflect on its importance in our lives. Or, perhaps it was just all being there together again with the wisdom only a few decades can provide. Either way, we all had the same story. We all felt like we became the men we are today, for better or worse, because of our years in those beautiful stone buildings.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am prone to flights of full-on nostalgia on my best of days. Drop me in the middle of one of the most important settings in my life, and then tell me that it has an expiration date and you'll really see me get misty. I just can't say how happy I am that I had that experience in my life, with all its structure and discipline that made me deal with the challenges. When I got there I was struggling with so many things but, in the end, I came, I saw and I conquered.