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.

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Left Hand Doesn't Know What the Right is Doing

Kids today are so spoiled, especially left handed kids. It was rough for us left-handers in the 80's and 90's. You couldn't find scissors or a pencil grip (remember those?) for a lefty, let alone a baseball mitt. And forget golf clubs, as I found out on my 18th birthday. We have always been the one minority that it's ok to discriminate against, and it cuts deep. So when the personal computing revolution hit, there was no question what side of the desk the mouse would be on: the right.

So we all learned to use a mouse with our right hand, even the lefties. Sure, Microsoft has a setting in the control panel where you can change the mouse to left handed use so the button on the right becomes the double click button and the one on the left becomes the "right click" button. Not that I've ever done that myself or even observed anyone else doing it. For 25 years the mouse has been a right handed instrument and I've never questioned it.

Then, a few weeks back, I hurt my right arm somehow. I cut back on anything that I thought would strain my injured appendage, including mouse use and solitaire play. Then I got the genius idea to just use my left hand. I moved the mouse pad over and at first I tried it with the buttons switched, but that didn't work. So I reset it to right handed and tried it out with my left. And it worked!

I was surprised too, but after just about a week using it left handed I am at about 95% capacity in everyday web surfing and at about 70% in solitaire. My right arm is feeling a whole lot better and I would guess I could switch back now, but I think I'm going to embrace my left handed heritage and rock the mouse lefty for a while. Even when the computer tried to tell me that my name is Righty, I'll raise my left hand to the mouse and defiantly tell it that I am Kunta Leftae!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

56 Days to Get Used To It

With just under two months left in the decade, we are all getting ready to make a minor change in our daily routine. From year to year we all have to get used to writing the new year on our checks and such by changing the last digit. Once every ten years we have to change the third digit, and of course, ten years ago at this time, we were all thinking about changing all 4 digits.

When the calender turned to 2000 we all not only had to change what we wrote on checks, but also what we said. For our whole lives to that point the year always began with nineteen, and was nearly always spoken aloud as such. It was nineteen-eighty four, nineteen-thirty nine or nineteen-seventy six. Sure you had occasional fancy person who may put on a wedding invitation "the year of our lord: one thousand nine hundred and ninety nine" but that was really only for finery. In the lingua franca it was always a two number system. Other than that or church or a graduation it was always 19 followed by 98.

Then the millennium hit and we were all confronted with 2000. No one was going to say twenty oh-oh, and unlike 1900 which could be said nineteen-hundred, no one was going to say twenty-hundred either. So we all said two-thousand, or the year two-thousand. We could have broken the cycle after just one year by reverting to twenty-oh-one rather than two thousand and one, but as I have blogged about before pop culture stood in the way.

When Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick put out the book and movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" it was always spoken aloud as two thousand and one: a space odyssey, and so we were preconditioned to say it that way. Add to that fact that no one wanted to sound like grampa Simpson by saying 20 ought two, or something like 20 01 (twenty oh one) and we ended up with two thousand and one, two, three etc.

When the new decade starts in 56 days we all have the opportunity to take it back. We can reserve the two thousand and ten for church, weddings, funerals and graduation and go back to twenty-ten like civilized people. I know it's a small thing but if it enters your consciousness at some point it will be like second nature. After all, most of us converted from the two number system to the one number system rater quickly ten years ago. So why can't we change back? Plus, it's faster to say twenty-ten, which is three syllables, than two thousand and ten which is five. I'm just trying to save you time and revert the world back to one of it's time honored customs. I'm here to help.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ain't Nobody Gonna Break'a My Stride

While I've completely cast my Play Station asunder in the wake of my week long battle with arm pain, I can't forsake the solitaire fight. So I sat down to play a few hands left handed today. That just didn't work at all. So I figured I could play 10 hands max right handed and see if I could get a result. It only took three. After two games that I abandoned when the clock hit 100 and I was still many clicks from winning I started a new game just as the new track from The Verses started playing. With Ella in my ears and another Aussie, Nicky Whelan, on the desktop I rocked a 9084 in 83 seconds.

That result is good for the second fastest time I have ever posted. Not just since I rejoined the solitaire fight during my funemployment, mind you, my second best time ever. My all time low is 82 seconds with a score of 9159 back in mid May. The previous #2 that today's game bumps back to #3 was in late April at 84 seconds and a score of 8999. Now all of my top three are in the 80's which leads me to believe that a game in the 70's is probable and one in the 60's is possible. If I can get healthy, that is.

I saw no reason to further aggravate my tendinitis/trapped nerve/carpal tunnel so I called it quits right after that game with nothing left to prove. I'd like to think it was a Kirk Gibson or Tom Harley like performance out of me in that I played on the biggest stage despite obvious pain to my person. I've got a trip to Jersey coming up to meet up with a few of the guys I went to the Seminary with, so I think I'll lay down the mouse for now and see how the arm is doing come Monday. There's no need to push it, after all.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

TGWOOfY's Band of the Decade

In the 4 years I've been writing this blog, I've done many a music list. From the best songs of a year, or of all time to my favorite records and even a review of new stuff from time to time. I'm not saying I'm an expert in any way, because I'm not. I'm one guy who likes music a whole lot, and who can't keep his opinions to himself. The nuns at St. Francis Elementary school can attest to the latter, that's for sure.

While I will always be most partial to the 90's, as it was the decade most influential on me, I've really loved a lot of the music that has come out in the last 10 years. So I thought I would take a look at the 100 songs from the 00's that I most enjoyed (which I'll publish early in December) and the 10 groups that will always say 2000-2009 for me. Here it is.

10) Paramore, Nashville Tennessee. When this decade started Hayley Williams, the lead singer of the group, was 12 years old. I'll let that sink in for a second. By the time 2005 rolled around she was 17 and getting ready to put out the band's first record All We Know is Falling. That was followed by the hugely successful Riot! in '07 and this years fantastic third record Brand New Eyes. The band has a huge future in front of them, but Hayley has already done some solo work which may one day spell the end of this very talented group.

9) Foo Fighters, Seattle Washington. In the aftermath of Nirvana there was a whole lot of people that were let down that we'd never see more from Kurt. I, for one, would take the Foo's over more new Nirvana any day. While the group is in a place that allows them to take some time between records, they were still quite prolific in the '00s. The decade started with singles still on the radio from 99's There is Nothing Left to Lose which was followed in '02 by One By One. 2005 brought us two fantastic discs of In Your Honor which is certainly one of the best records of the decade. Not to rest on their laurels, they came back in '07 with Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace which was another comprehensive rock record.

8) Be Your Own Bet, Nashville Tennessee. I can almost forgive Nashville for unleashing the evil that is Myley Cyrus because it also brought us two members of my top 10. Almost. Sadly, it was BYOP that went away after just two records, when it should have been Billy Ray's devil child. At least I'll always have be your own PET from '06 and Get Awkward from '08 to enjoy. Plus, in the wake of their break up, singer Jemina Pearl went solo and gave us a stand out disc for '09 in Break it Up.

7) Arctic Monkeys, Sheffield England. This dynamic group of lads we all also high school aged when the decade kicked off, but they played a rocking game of catch up with three records in the last four years of the decade. 2006's What Ever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is among one of then best freshman efforts I've ever heard. While they slipped a bit in '07 on Favourite Worst Nightmare, which was still quite good, they took a bit more time for the third go around and killed with this year's Humbug. In a year that say their Brit-pop progenitors Oasis break up, let's hope they have another great decade in them before they do the same.

6) Killing Heidi, Violet Town Australia. Like so many others on this list, Killing Heidi proved that talent knows no age. Lead singer Ella Hooper was just 13 when she and her older brother pulled the group together. She was just 16 when the band hit it big at the very dawn of the 00's, with songs that no one would ever guess were written by a girl in high school. With a hit single to close out the 20th century already to their credit KH earned 2000's Aussie album of the year for Reflector. 2002's Present and 04's Killing Heidi showed how much the band was growing and improving as the years went by. In 2006 the group stood ready to release The Waiting but broke up instead. Many of the tracks made it around the web, and they were some of the best work the group had ever done. Now Ella and Jesse have formed a new group, The Verses, and after hearing the first single from this year's expected LP I'm excited all over again.

5) Green Day, Berkley California. After forming in the late 80's and exploding in the early 90's no one would have been surprised if Green Day were just an after thought in the first decade of the 21st century. They weren't. In 2000 the band dropped Warning, which while solid, may have been seen as some as a step downward. Then in 2004 they put out the single greatest album of the decade in American Idiot. The inertia of that record carried over all the way to early 2007 with single after single popping up everywhere and a huge tour taking the band around the world multiple times. When it looked as if they would let the rest of the decade go by without another release they put out 21st Century Breakdown in '09. On it's own this would be a good record, but, coming on the heals of Idiot it felt a bit too much like a "let's try that again" kind of project. It still doesn't diminish how truly great this band is, however.

4) Rilo Kiley, Los Angles California. It seems like Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley couldn't sit still in the past 10 years. She and the band put out four records and she still found time to be a part of the Postal Service and make two solo records as well. Rilo's '01, '02 and '04 releases Take Offs and Landings, The Execution of All Things and More Adventurous were all positively amazing. After a break in '06 for Jenny to put out Rabbit Fur Coat, the band got back together to make Under the Black Light in '07, which was strong, but not as good as that early triumvirate. Jenny's '08 release Acid Tongue was also very good, but not as strong as her first solo. One wonders if an amazing decade in "the industry" has changed them to the point where their best work is behind them. I'm hoping they prove me wrong going forward.

3) Missy Higgins, Melbourne Australia. Missy Higgins will not be rushed. Another in the group that started the decade in high school, she burst on the scene in 2004 with her record The Sound of White, which pretty much owned Australia for two years. She waited till '07 to put out her next record, On a Clear Night which was about as good of a follow up as you can ask for. Missy is a very gifted singer and songwriter, but she sure does like to take her time in between projects, so it may be a while before she releases another full length album. In the meantime, she keeps dropping a single or a cover here and there to keep us at bay.

2) Death Cab for Cutie, Bellingham Washington. Death Cab has released 5 full length records in the decade as well as a half a dozen EPs and they have all been great. Add to that fact that Ben Gibbard is one half of the Postal Service who inspired indie rock orgasms in '03 with their one and only record Give Up, and you get a consistent driving force of music in the decade. In 2005 Death Cab produced another of the decades signature records with it's much acclaimed disc Plans. That was followed by last year's Narrow Stairs, which was not as well accepted but which I thought was on part with the earlier work. Now, if Ben could just get Zooey to do some work with the band, I'd be in heaven.

1) Camera Obscura, Glasgow Scotland. Anyone who knows me knows that I've been head over heals for Camera Obscura for a while now. Their brand of indie music is just about perfect in my book, and they are consistently excellent. From 2001's Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi to this years best record My Maudlin Career they keep on churning out top notch songs. Lets Get Out of This Country from 2006 is one of my all time favorites from start to finish and 2003's Underachievers Please Try Harder isn't too far behind, and also includes fantastic non album tracks on the singles. Seeing them play all my favorites in DC earlier this year was the perfect way to cap off a great music decade.

While I didn't plan it this way, I ended up with a bunch of pairs on this list. 10 and 8 hail from Tennessee while 9 and 2 come from Washington and 4 and 5 are California born. My two Aussie acts at 3 and 6 both come from Victoria, leaving only 1 and 7 as not being from the same state, but they are both from the UK.