Thursday, September 29, 2005

Need some new desktop images (or wallpaper, as PC users call it)? Here's every Mad magazine cover.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Our pub quiz winning streak was snapped at 1, as we came in third last night. We shared the lead in the first half, getting a perfect score on movie quotes and doing well enough on bowling and hurricanes. Our downfall was "Macy's or Marshall Fields?" -- clearly we don't do enough department-store shopping, as we got all of three points that round to fall into second. The game-end tiebreaker, which was the selling-floor square footage of the Macy's flagship store, dropped us to third.

Third place got us a $15 gift certificate, which worked out to a beer apiece. And the winning team, the heretofore-aptly-named "Bringing Up the Rear," got their first win, so that's nice. The team that commented loudest about us being ringers last week were back again, and making some untintelligible comments. I guess we now have an official Enemy of the Team, so I was happy to finish ahead of those suckas.

I was less happy to get a parking ticket, which I think I will contest due to contradictory signage.

Monday, September 26, 2005

If anyone wants to hit some festival movies with me, this is what I'm planning on seeing. LM = Landmark Century Center, AMC= AMC River East:

10/8, Sat: P, 11:30 p.m., LM
10/10, Mon: Protocols of Zion , 6:45, LM
10/11, Tues: Shorts: Homegrown, 6:15, AMC
10/12, Wed: Shorts: Behind Closed Doors, 6:45, AMC
10/13, Thu: Shorts: Personal Revelations (6:45), The Great Yokai War (9:15), both AMC
10/15, Sat: Night of the Living Dorks (2 p.m.), Shorts: Animation (4:15), both AMC
10/16, Sun: Black Brush (1:45), Brick (4:00), Animal (6:30), The Hidden Blade (9:00) all at LM (same screen)

I'll be ordering tickets for the features tonight, and getting them for the shorts presentations later.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Matt recently opined that this time of year was his least favorite. I think it's become my favorite; more specifically October, between pennant-race and playoff baseball, the start of curling season, and the Chicago Film Festival, the schedule of which just came out. There are about 13 programs I'm interersted in seeing this year. Among the highlights: new movies by Takashi Miike and the director of Twilight Samurai. On the documentary side there's nothing as personally interesting as last year's Nomi Song, but theres a doc on Melvin Van Peebles, as well as Protocols of Zion. Then there's Stoned, a fiction film positing that deceased Rolling Stone Brian Jones was murdered, and something from Germany described as John Hughes meets Dead Alive. The title? Night of the Living Dorks. How could I pass that up?

The higher-profile movies this year are Elizabethtown, Shopgirl, North Country, The Weather Man, and Bee Season, as well as the new Lars Von Trier film. I'll skip all of these, as they'll most certainly get general releases soon. Instead, I'll try to go to three or four of the shorts presentations, because you just can't see them anywhere else.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Once again I spend time with Leah and end up with articles of her clothing in my possession. I speak of course of the t-shirts we were given as swag at the pub quiz last night, which I got back into after a multi-year hiatus. A strong debut, as we had a perfect score after round one (Muppet Show trivia) and never relinquished the lead. Flaxman gives a bit of the blow-by-blow, but doesn't mention the most freakish accomplishment of the night: his geography knowledge is impressive, and to an extent useful, but being able to rattle off 4,294,967,296 like Raymond Babbitt based solely on noodling around with a calculator was just plain scary.

The questions were pretty good for the most part, but relied too much on binary answers. A handful of T/F questions is one thing, but a whole round of "Tennis or Cricket term?" I like the bar; great tap selection, a focus on real football (that is, the kind where feet are used), not Trixified, and Tuesday specials that I actually enjoy drinking. Now how to properly juggle this with the upcoming curling season...

Friday, September 16, 2005

We had a birds-eye view at work. I'm on the 5th floor, facing the construction site. As far as I know, no one at work saw the scaffolding collapse -- as we're between two transit stations, the building is pretty well soundproofed. We've been watching the complex go up for over about a year, and taking a few minutes to see what's going on across the street becomes part of the routine. We end up inappropriately transferring our mundanity onto the hazardous work over there -- usually a highlight is watching the cranes hoist the portajohns up to the top.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

preview of coming distractions

These online single-elimination tournaments are fun, but as Craig points out, like democracy, they never fully satisfy anyone. The latest is the Rolling Stone 192 tournament Flax is wrapping up. He's disappointed at the Beatles getting some crazy number of berths and only having one song survive to the round of 8. I, on the other hand, am none too thrilled about the abuse the Class of '77 took at the hands of the unwashed masses. Sure, London Calling had a strong run, and rightly so. But still...God Save the Queen losing to Every Breath You Take? No. And Anarchy in the UK vs. Strawberry Fields...I disagree with Leah that SFF is a lazy song, but it was a lazy vote, to be sure. So starting in the new year, each Monday I'm going to post a punk/postpunk mp3 on the site for your possible enjoyment. And I'll take submissions -- have a favorite song in this genre, and something to say about it? Send it along.

And speaking of online tournaments, be sure to head over to The Road From Bristol and pour the haterade on horrid broadcaster Ken "Hawk" Harrelson. Since I don't watch much in the way of TV sports, this is the only pick I feel strongly about. Apparently my plea to include creepy Bud Collins in the mix fell on deaf ears, or was too late, or something.

Monday, September 12, 2005

My wife told me this weekend that Britney Spears is picking baby names. Since she's an idiot (Britney), she's suggesting ricockulous names: London Preston for a boy, and Addison Shye for a girl.

Addison!? As long as she's picking Chicago El stop names, why not go all out?

If she lived here, she'd probably be a trixie, so her progeny would need El-appropriate names: Wellington Armitage, perhaps. But she's going for sound, and nothing says upper crust like Ashland Morse, or perhaps Jarvis Granville. I suppose Lucas & Spielberg would sue if she chose Indiana Damen. Hyphenates are all the rage, so maybe somehing like Wilson Sox-35th?

But since this is Britney Spears we're talking about, clearly there's only one El stop name that would truly befit her spawn.

Friday, September 9, 2005

For the wrestling fans in my alleged audience, here is an interesting article (reg. required, or go to on Adnan Alkaissy, who was a longtime heel in the AWA as "The Sheikh" and in the WWF as "General Adnan" during the first Gulf War. Seems he did in fact wrestle in Iraq, and was a favorite of Saddam Hussein way back before the Reagan Administration cozied up to the madman.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Here's how I plan to reclaim my title in the Alison LaPlaca Open television dead pool. I read precious little about this year's new shows, so I mostly concentrated on returning shows that were long in the tooth.

10-Monday Night Football (ABC) - the only absolute gimme this year, as ABC announced this stalwart would jump to ESPN for the 2007 season.
9-Will and Grace (NBC) - slightly less absolute, all the sources I've seen call this season "eighth and final". None of them seemed to be from NBC, however.
8-Malcolm in the Middle (FOX) - Creator Linwood Boomer's leaving, the show's moved to the Friday FOX graveyard, and those kids are too old to be cute anymore.
7-King of the Hill (FOX) - Likely the final season. I'd be sorry to see it go, as I've always found it very sharp. Sadly, FOX has found it more profitable to emphasize animated shows that hurt both my eyes and ears (see McFarlane, Seth).
6-Head Cases (FOX) - Hm. "Monk" transferred to the legal realm, starring lightweight Chris O'Donnell, and in a timeslot opposite Lost and Veronica Mars? I think not.
5-The Night Stalker (ABC) - Stuart Townsend is no Darren McGavin. Alias might be a good lead-in, but it's on Thursday opposite The Apprentice and CSI:Original Recipe.
4-Bernie Mac (FOX) - Mr. Mac won a last-minute reprieve after last year's abbreviated season. Plus it moved to Fridays (see comment on Malcolm, above). All the same, in retrospect this seems like a gamble to me. The show isn't experiencing the creative drain the other FOX sitcoms are having; there may be some renewed interest in the show as it enters syndication; and the shortened season was due to illness, so perhaps the writers spent the time sharpening things. Or maybe they sat around playing GTA. Who knows.
3-Charmed (WB) - another last-minute renewal, plus all the leads' contracts are up at the end of the season.
2-WWE Smackdown (UPN) - final year in contract. Seems to me wrestling's in another decline (give it five years, it'll be back again, like Cher), and UPN's outgrown it (thanks, Kristen Bell).
1-That '70s Show (FOX) - Another show where everyone says "this is it" but the network. It placed higher in the top 10 than Monday Night Football, though, so maybe I've underseeded it.

So there you go. I sure hope there isn't a tiebreaker, since as of this writing the page says the tiebreaker is the predicted ratings for Super Bowl LX. I don't want to wait 20 years to find out who won.
(UPDATE: now corrected to XL. I'm still stinging over incurring a neg-10 at an early Ann B. Davis due to rules about giving years as 4-year digits, so I don't feel bad about poking fun at Mike's Roman numeral error).

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Music Exchange: Disc #3

I meant to be more prompt about writing these up, but there are actually three I have not even listened to in their entirety yet...including this one, as I type. I'm doing these in order of receipt, and it's time to write up Craig's CD.

When these upstart trash players from Michigan (and that's how long ago it seems) hit the scene, I was pleased to see that the one wearing the hockey sweater was the one other person on the circuit writing questions on the Replacements, one of the most important bands of my youth. But over the years, through various message board posts, blog entries, and music tournaments, my perception became that in the Venn diagram of my and Craig's musical likes, the overlap appeared quite small: 'Mats, IRS-era R.E.M., and that's about it. In particular, we're both, erm...passionate...about a certain veteran rock quartet from Ireland, only he's a fan and I am most definitely not. Since we're both very vocal about our likes and dislikes (okay, in all fairness, I'm much more vocal about my dislikes than he; he didn't give me the nickname "h8er boi" for nothing), this perception was most likely skewed.

So I started writing up his disc, and wondered if these preconceptions about our respective tastes were keeping me from giving it a fair shake. I decided that the best thing to do was start over, listen to it blind, liveblog it, and add the track info later. The theme, which we're invited to guess, is apparently a sardonic look at the compiler's adventures in "".


Bad Company, "Bad Company" - I think Bad Company is an underrated Classic Rock Radio band. Nowadays I can't hear their stuff without thinking of Scotland, PA.

Jamiroquai, "Alright" - Jamiroquai is often accused of being ersatz Stevie Wonder, but since Mr. Wonder himself can't be bothered to put out good stuff, I see them as performing a service. Similar to how When Harry Met Sally delivered the funny Woody Allen goods since the real supply dried up years before. The song itself is a pleasant groove; not as memorable as their megahit from a few years ago.

Maroon 5, "Woman" - this more Jamiroquai? Kinda smooth-jazzy, though not quite dentist's-office material. Not my thing at all. But it's...Maroon 5?! Hey, didn't Maroon 5 get some alt-rock airplay? Maybe I'm confusing them with someone.

Kasabian, "Club Foot" - Definite tone shift. I like the bass riff. A good Car Song. the spacey intros/outros go on a little long.

Counting Crows, "Hanginaround" - Don't like Counting Crows and Sideshow Bob Duritz's whining. This is one of their better songs, though.

Clint Black, "A Good run of Bad Luck" - I believe this is the only song to appear on two mixes. It's clever in that country-euphemistic way.

Old '97's, "Victoria" - I like my country with a side of alt, and this fits the bill. Oddly, it reminds me of a Material Issue song.

Gin Blossoms, "Allison Road" - I didn't like the Gin Blossoms much first time around, mostly because I got sick of "Hey Jealousy" very quickly. I like them better now (but still not that that song)

Johnny Cash, "I Won't Back Down" - The best of these Johnny Cash covers redeem songs that aren't so hot otherwise (like "Hurt," which is just whiny when Trent Reznor sings it), or take a different musical approach than the original (again, "Hurt"). Here, he takes a pretty good song to begin with and does a not-dissimilar version that's still pretty good.

Roy Orbison, 'You Got It" - Good song here, but the strings seem out of place; seems Roy should be backed by something rawer, "In Dreams" excepted.

Sarah McLachlan, "Solsbury Hill" - I wasn't sure what to make of this cover until I saw who it was by. McLachlan's voice is surprisingly strong here, and dare I say, rockin'; I'd given up on her around Surfacing when it seemed like she'd stay a yodely waif forever.

Paul Simon, "Slip Slidin' Away" - This song evokes memories of one thing; TV news montages of cars spinning around on icy streets after big storms. Maybe this only happened once or twice, but it sure seemed like an annual tradition growing up.

Starsailor, "Good Souls" - My first impression was "I don't care for this Verve song."

Snow Patrol, "Run" - This isn't too bad. I like the music more than the vocals.

Travis, "Turn" - This is what us 80's kids call a power ballad.

Oasis, "Cast No Shadow" - This Oasis? Sounds like Oasis. I don't mind them. Never felt a desire to own any of their stuff. Now that the hype's worn off, maybe they can be assessed rationally as sound, hooky pop.

U2, "Bad" - Aagh! I knew it was coming. I've heard the song before, several times, and always thought, "I'm wide awake, I'm not sleeping" was a lame lyric, especially for a refrain. But never knew that this was "Bad," the song it seems all the hardcore U2 fans call their favorite. Hm. so this is the cream of the crop, then. Ehhh... I suppose there was a point where my U2 hatred became more stance than passion. I can function in society when subjected to their music -- they're apparently the most popular band in the western world, so it's a survival skill. But I don't see myself ever understanding that popularity. I only pray that someday Paul Hewson will get the fiber in his diet that he so desperately needs.

Coldplay, "Warning Sign" - This is that huge Coldplay band. They're fiercely okay. They're just pleasing enough musically and vocally, and not as oblique as Radiohead. I don't think Chuck Klosterman is wrong whan he says they write "melodramatic alt-rock songs about fake love," but I don't find that particularly damning--in fact, minus the 'alt,' that sums up popular music since 1955, if not earlier. Still, I'm not sure what about them made them so ginormous. And it seems like more males like them than females (at least in my circles). Which strikes me as odd, because they sound like a band that guys would get into (or front on liking) just to score points with women.

And there you have it. The odds of whether a Greg/Craig roadtrip would end in a fiery crash appear lessened. Likes: Bad Company, Kasabian, Mclachlan, Oasis. Dislikes: Starsailor, Counting Crows, U2, Maroon 5. Thanks, Craig!

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Oh yeah, so I went to a Twins game this weekend, a 6-1 loss to the Tribe. And now I understand. It's hard to be a long-distance fan of a team, to get a feel for what's really going on in a box score in a paper or online. But seeing them in person, now I see how God Damn F#$king Infuriatingly Awful they are. Never mind that they came back to win the next two games in the series; then yesterday they waste yet another good Carlos Silva performance vs. the Rangers (7-0 shutout, 5 unearned runs). I'm now actively rooting against them in the wild-card race, just in the hope that hitting coach Scott Ullger gets the boot the day after the season ends.

UPDATE: Batgirl explains just what went wrong on Monday.
quick fair wrapup

Spaghetti & meatball on a stick: Not very good
cheeseburger wonton: if White Castle decided to make Asian food, this is what they'd come up with. As such, I wasn't drunk, so did not appreciate them fully.