28 February 2007

Guitar, of the non-rock sort

For the first time in, like, four years, I missed all of the CSU Guitar Symposium this year. But last weekend's competition is bringing in strong reviews. Director (and fabulous guitarist) Andrew Zohn was proud that, for the first time, a CSU student placed.

The archlute concert was apparently something to behold, too. The instrument was taller than its player, and he would sway it side-t0-side like the mast on a tallship.

Here's the list of winners, just posted on the Schwob School of Music site.

2007 Competition winners
Division 1
1st Joao Paulo Figueiroa
2nd Samuel Klemke
3rd Mark Edwards
4th Andrew Stroud

Division 2
1st James Aluri
2nd Ryan Volstad
3rd Samuel Perez

Division 3
1st Brant Dixon
2nd Ivor Peles
3rd Samuel O'Cain

A guitarist displays the legendary "inverted bird" chord

27 February 2007

Who said that?

Saw this Q&A in an interview with Pete Townshend by the Sacramento Bee. Gives me hope for the tour, actually, even though I had misgivings about Roger Daltry and Townshend reforming The Who...

Q: What do you say to fans who are sketchy about seeing the show since it's only half of the original band?

A: Wait a little longer; Roger and I will both die, then you'll be able to save even more money relying on your ancient memories.

Buford Pusser festival. No, really.

When I was a kid, I grabbed one of my dad's Louis Lamour books and read a bit of it. I think it was called "The Man from Skibbereen," and the hero of the story was a guy named Crispin Mayo. Which implied, to me, nothing more than deep-fried Hellman's. You'd think he was from the South, not Skibbereen -- which is in Ireland. Anyway, I thought, what a great name.

It's only rival might be Buford Pusser, who, as anyone who saw "Walking Tall" could tell you, was the Tennessee sheriff who brought order to his corrupt county with a hickory stick. Why they changed the guy's name when The Rock remade the film I'll never know. Yesterday a friend passed a press release my way about the unveiling of a life-size portrait of Pusser being unveiled at the Henco Furniture showroom in Selmer, Tenn. on March 6. You can't make this stuff up. Best of all, the release mentions that there's apparently an annual Buford Pusser Festival. There's even a Miss Walking Tall pageant as part of the fest, which is in May. Before I die, I will go to that festival and buy a T-shirt. I'll wear it proudly, in the same way I wear my Wassau, Fla., Possum Day shirt. (I also found myself wondering if Henco sells furniture made of hickory.)

For more on Buford Pusser's legend, you can visit his Web site, but to hear a more rounded take on the tale, I'd point you to the Drive-By Truckers' album "The Dirty South," which includes two songs that explore the story of McNairy County. This one tells the story from the side of the guy at the wrong end of the hickory stick.

26 February 2007

A sweet trip to the candy shop

Just took a walk to the new Broadway candy shop with Allison and Spruck. This place could spell trouble.

Fancy ice creams. Giant blocks of uncut fudge. Beautiful stacks of truffles. Hard candy by the pound.

It's called Brother's Candy Store -- or something close to that. It's in the old Falcon's tattoo parlor. It's a husband-and-wife venture run by a likable couple. Here's wishing them many years of creating diabetics! (Although they had some sugar-free candies, too.)

Chattahoochee chili

"How do you do it?"

It's the inevitable question, when people find out I'm prone to holding chili cook-offs at my house. It's not the party hosting they're curious about. It's more like, how do you eat that much chili?

This year there were 11 batches of chili. Yes, I ate them all. The hoofy one (three meats, all from cloven animals), the vegan one, the chicken one, the vegetarian (but not vegan) one, the buffalo one, the one enticingly titled "Burning Sensation," and, well, five others. The trick is practice. My working theory is that with enough sampling, your stomach becomes seasoned -- like your mom's blackened cast iron fry pan -- and the fiber-rich chili can do you no damage.

All the same, after 11 bowls of chili (OK, they were very small portions) last night, I'm now wondering what I can eat for lunch that won't push my teetering digestive system over the brink.

Sounds like I need more seasoning. Eventually.

Oh yeah, the Oscars were going on, too. I'll rant a bit about that in tomorrow's column in the paper.

25 February 2007

Sunday morning coming down

Most days I'm anxious to listen to the newest music I've gotten my hands on. But Sundays are the days I stand in front of the CD shelves and search for old music that hasn't made it out of the stacks in too long. Usually I'll just load up the five-disc changer, then hit shuffle.

Here are today's selections:

*"The Best of Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers": Been listening to Richman's nasally music for more than 20 years. He's sort of like an amalgam Lou Reed (who is a buddy of Richman's) and the music of "Sesame Street."

*"Dry Bones Dance," Mark Heard: Heard was criminally unheard by the masses, mostly because he released his records on Christian music labels. But this album, from 1990, marked his movement to roots music, years before most of us had heard of The Jayhawks or Uncle Tupelo. I'm sad this guy died young, of a heart attack.

*"Gold," Ryan Adams: This disc represents what's good and bad about Adams. The music's stronger than any of his earlier efforts with Whiskeytown, but it's a little too sprawling and, well, just too long, for frequent listenings. Still, this may go down as his magnum opus.

*"You Gotta Sin to Get Saved," Maria McKee: Most famously the lead singer of long-defunct Lone Justice, McKee attains much higher artistic peaks as a solo artist than the band ever did. This record was her second solo effort, and it's got a great, old-school R&B feel to it (and two Van Morrison covers). Mariah Carey could learn a trick from this lady.

*"The Best of Leonard Cohen": I like Cohen later music too, but in his early work, represented here, he's got a higher, sweeter voice. You know, less like the prophet of doom what gives you night shakes and bad dreams and flashbacks to watching "Trainspotting." "Chelsea Hotel No. 2" is playing right now, and I'm having a moment.

24 February 2007

All paws on deck

Spent five hours this morning cleaning the yard of contractors' junk (we just had the house painted). Then I took saw and hammer to a palette and started building a doghouse for our two pups -- a beagle mix named Sidda and a springer spaniel named Seamus. Made a nice platform base before my back decided enough was enough. When I checked on the dogs, though, they were already laying on it. So it seems they wanted a deck more than a doghouse. I'll frame the house another day.

All that's left for the day is for me to whip up a batch of chili for a chili cook-off/Oscar party tomorrow. And then a relaxing dinner with some friends. But not... before... I ...... get....... a......... nap......zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

23 February 2007

Strong women, good looking men, above-average children

This isn't exactly news, at least not if you define news as "new," but a friend just saw this item on CMT.com, and I thought I'd pass it along. It's from a series of Q&A's with Garrison Keillor last June, as he was promoting the "Prairie Home Companion" movie. One of the questions came from an Atlanta fan, after the noisy debacle caused by the crowd at his live performance at Chastain Park. Pretty illuminating where he stands on the big city/small town issue...

Q: I'm a fan from Atlanta and am so sorry that the audience was so rude last year when you brought the radio show to Chastain Park. We've seen many talented artists -- from Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett to Rickie Lee Jones and Dan Fogelberg -- leave the stage in frustration at this elitist outdoor country club of a concert venue. I hope this hasn't soured you on Atlanta, where you are dearly loved. Would you consider returning to the regal and more appropriate Fox Theatre in the future? There you would get the listening ears and warm laughter you so richly deserve!

A: I remember the Fox well, and it's a fine venue, but I was recently in Columbus, Ga., and really came to love that town in short order. Carson McCullers grew up there, and her childhood home is preserved. There's an old opera house there. And there's a fabulous new auditorium that is as fine as any I've ever played in. I stayed in a B&B that I loved in a shotgun cottage on a quiet street, and there was a sweet little café down on the corner where you got pancakes in the morning. The people I met in Columbus were so comfortable. I felt at home there right away. It wasn't "star treatment" or anything like that. It was pure wholehearted Southern hospitality. I did my one-man show and afterward was invited to a newspaper guy's house and sat around on the porch talking with his wife and her parents and her sister and the sister's daughter and a couple of historians, and it was the sort of evening you wish could last forever. For the rest of my life, I prefer to be in the company of people like those and not in the company of rich drunks.

Pretty groovy, eh? The full piece is here, for Keillor fans. And don't forget he's bringing the whole "PHC" crew here for a live radio show on April 28. Check out the details on Sandra Okamoto's blog, over here.

Skirting the issue

I've written plenty about the Modern Skirts for the Ledger-Enquirer, including a bit in this week's edition of my weekend picks. But they're easily worth a $5 cover charge at The Loft tonight.

In my book, the best piece of press on these guys came from Paste magazine, with the story about singer Jay Gulley's response to meeting Michael Stipe for the first time. (Read it here.) Nevertheless, there seem to be no hard feelings toward R.E.M., as evidenced from a recent Skirts Web post stating, in part: "In fact, just before the show, we learned R.E.M. would be taking the stage before us, which was intimidating, but we also can say that one of the biggest bands in the world technically opened for us."

Anyway, the Skirts are good kids. Some day I'll stop saying that they're a combination of Ben Folds and Guster, but that day is not today.

22 February 2007

Anna Nicole Smith: snark attack

This just in, in case anyone:
(a) hasn't heard, or
(b) cares

It's official now. Babies caring for babes. Click here.

Wii-son to believe

Need yet another reason to like Nintendo's Wii video game system? Try this on for size: The rapscallions behind the Homestar Runner webtoons have made their old-school, Atari 2600-style games compatible with the Wii.

So now you can play "Secret Collect," "Kid Speedy," "Population: Tire," and my favorite, "Strongbadzone," in which the antagonist pronounces you dead by saying, "Your head asplode" -- all on the game system voted most feared by flat screen TVs. (Still no ports of "Awexome Cross," "Pigs On Head," or "Where's An Egg?" though.)

If you're not already familiar with the Web universe of Homestar Runner, you've got some catching up to do. It's a collection of good-natured cartoons filled with '80s pop culture references and bad music. It's wonderful. You should visit their Web site. Actually, start by watching this Flash animation. Then try watching a few of the site's most popular features, where Strong Bad -- that's the little fat guy in the Mexican wrestling mask -- answers e-mails from fans. These here are good ones.

Oh, and the Wii games are here.

21 February 2007

Chick'n Bela

No, it's not another food post. I'm just in from the Chick Corea and Bela Fleck concert at RiverCenter. I don't pretend to understand jazz. If music is indeed a language, it's Latin to the Spanish that is the rock 'n' roll I'm so passionate about. Changes in rhythm puzzle me. Shifts in key blow my mind. I've yet to see how improvisation can fit into a gem of a pop song. So I won't be reviewing the show.

But damn.

This was an awesome concert. The material was largely new, from the two's collaborative CD, due out in May. In the aptly titled song "Spectacle," Corea's fingers slid over keys so fast that it would've blistered them, save for the fact that surely his 65-year-old fingers are calloused. The chemistry between the two players was more than enough to span the gap musicians have cut between piano and banjo. They kidded between songs, they applauded each other, and the audience was so enthralled that you could hear Corea tapping his canvas sneaks during quieter passages.

And Fleck pleased the crowd with a portion of the song that drew him to the banjo in the first place -- Flatt & Scruggs' "The Ballad of Jed Clampett," the famous theme to "The Beverly Hillbillies."

I'll not preach about the hundreds of seats that were criminally empty. I'll not fuss about those who left at intermission ("I just don't get jazz," one woman said. You gotta listen to hear, lady). For tonight, I'll just be glad I was there and that Bela and Chick were here, in Columbus. The greatest banjo player in the world and probably the greatest living jazz pianist picked our town for only their second show together. You shouldda been there.

Well, if you can't laugh at venereal disease...

After spending a little more quality time with Seventeen magazine, I just had to share. First, from the unintentionally funny file, there's this image, from the top of a page informing young girls on the various sexually transmitted diseases and their symptoms:

I particularly like how the girl is pulling her waistband out to check down her pants for a disease. And the pants, notice are the PANTS OF DEATH, with skulls and crossbones on them.

On the very next page, there are some tips for what to do if you become pregnant, including a handy letter, with blanks for people's names, to give your parents. No joke. It even has dotted lines so you don't have to think too hard about how to cut out the little letter:

Thanks, Seventeen magazine. How did girls ever know how to tell their parents they got knocked up before you were there to print a coupon to handle the job for them. Sheesh. Couldn't they at least have suggested, I don't know, copying the message to a piece of looseleaf???

20 February 2007

So sad if that's the way it's over

Efficiency of space was always one of the strengths of the Electric Light Orchestra. The group's best album, 1976's "A New World Record," clocks in at around 36 minutes, and the song "Rockaria!" alone tells an epic (and funny) love story in just 3 minutes and 12 seconds.

So the follow-up record, "Out of the Blue," is a mixed bag. Or, I should say "records." Plural. The double album suffers from more sprawl than Columbus Park Crossing. Plus, by the time of the recording, disco clearly started making its stamp on the sound, particularly with lead-off cut "Turn To Stone."

It may seem strange, then, to make a case for this album as an essential piece -- even as today it's reissued in a (gulp) 30th anniversary edition.

But make the case I will. And I can explain why in three words: "Sweet Talkin' Woman," which is unquestionably ELO's finest, most enduring song. And sure, that cut alone could be had for a buck off of a download service, but there's also "Mr. Blue Sky," "Sweet Is the Night," "Wild West Hero," and "Birmingham Blues." So while it's one of the band's most uneven albums, it's still a great one.

(Oh, and while I'm thinking music, fans of alt-country rockers The Silos should know that they've got a new record out today. Read this for details on the record and an ATL show...)

Movie marathon over (Whew)

Since Friday, I've seen "Last King of Scotland," "Breach," and, last night, "Letters from Iwo Jima." I'm movied out for a bit, but at least I knocked out a few more Oscar hopefuls before Sunday's awards. Quick thoughts on those films:

*"Last King of Scotland": I wrote some about this below. Mostly, I was impressed with how well the film was able to communicate Amin's psychotic rage without showing us much of the slaughter of 300,000 Ugandans. Some might say the movie pulled its punch. I think it was admirably tasteful.

*"Breach": The true story about a junior FBI man taking down a Russian spy (played brilliantly by the ever-creepy Chris Cooper). It's very claustrophobic and desk-centric, so no car chases or explosions. But it's very well done, in the vein of "The Falcon and the Snowman." Interesting footnote: The junior FBI-er is an Auburn grad, in real life.

*"Letters from Iwo Jima": As critics have indicated, this is the better of Clint Eastwood's two Iwo Jima movies. But really the two films had different messages. Where "Flags of Our Fathers" served to show the political motivations behind the battles most iconic image, "Letters" served to show the futility of war. Don't listen to anyone who tells you "Flags" has a clear anti-war agenda. It doesn't. But "Letters" does, and it also speaks to the hubris, belligerence and underestimation that made Japan fall -- and, perhaps, could be the downfall of our own country. Important message.

19 February 2007

You say, I say, we all say "Arbor Day!"

The Ledger-Enquirer had some cute pictures in the Sunday paper with kids riding bucket trucks at Lakebottom in celebration of Arbor Day. Which is kind of confusing to us folks who know that Arbor Day is kind of in April.

So what gives? Well, apparently Georgia has it's own Arbor Day on the third Saturday in February. Because planting saplings in the dead of winter sounds like such a good idea. Seriously, do we need TWO Arbor Days? (And if so, isn't that important enough that we should get at least one as a paid holiday?)

And somewhere in a dusty bar in the Midwest, Johnny Appleseed is turning up a tall glass of hard cider, saying, "It's Arbor Day somewhere!"

I'm'a Shave 4 U

I actually heard about Britney Spears' newfound scalp over the weekend, but at the time I thought fried mashed potatoes were more interesting. But after hearing about her all over the morning news on three networks, maybe I was wrong?

If you're clueless here, we're talking about Spears' decision to finish the shaving job she started late last year. NBC has some psychologist on talking about how Britney seemed to be "deconstructing herself" and how all this was very troubling, yadda yadda. I think this here might be the real reason she's done this to herself. Or maybe she suddenly realized she was rich, beautiful and single and had a nervous breakdown.

A few years back, I helped judge a Britney Spears look-alike contest for a local radio station. (The coolest part was sitting one seat away from famed wrestler the Iron Sheik, but that's another story.) I think someone ought to hold a look-alike contest now to see who's really got gumption... Baldest chick wins!

Kelly Clarkson's reaction to the head-shaving: "Well, she's still hot."*** Indeed, Spears now simply moves into he same category as Sinead O'Connor, Natalie Portman, and, of course, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture's" Ilya.


18 February 2007

Potato potato potato. Mmmmm.

Down on one end of the table, someone ordered the trout. Jenn bravely ordered something that the menu called Veggies Fear Not, in which they wouldn't even tell her the ingredients in advance, but this being a gourmet place, she wasn't scairt. (It was pasta with a lovely medley of pasta and fresh vedge-ables, by the way.) I had hanger steak. Eric, next to me had a fillet Mignon. But it was the little fried poofy thing next to it I was most curious about.

He cut into it with his fork. It was a fluffy ball of mashed potato, deep-fried in a light batter. He let me have a bite. And that is why he's my very good friend. This concoction was creamy, crisp on the outside. Heaven. ... So having grown up (a) in the South, and (b) a lover of all things potato, I've now got serious questions about my intelligence, for it never occurred to me to deep fry a ball of mashed potato.
Found a recipe, though, and tried this myself at home this weekend. It was fantastic. (Look how tasty!) I did the potato poofs first, then I used the same oil for some panko-coated shrimp with a recipe I ripped out of Esquire last year. We tamed down these two fried concoctions with some roasted asparagus that Jenn made and had a tasty brunch on Sunday. And yes, that's a Bloody Mary in the background. (Which reminds me. Next tip: Publix has organic tomato juice on sale.)

If you're not afraid of deep frying something once in a while, try this meal. I used peanut oil instead of the canola that the potato poofs called for. But I'll be damned if they could've been tastier any other way.

17 February 2007

The Broad brought me the blues

We went with a group of folks to see "The Last King of Scotland" last night. I can now say that Forest Whitaker's a lock for best actor. Holy crap. About three quarters into the film I was thinking how tasteful the direction was, despite telling such a gruesome story -- you know, the genocide of 300,000 Ugandans and all. Then WHAM (still working on my "Seventeen"-style emphasis). It turns very ugly fast.

Afterward, most of the group headed to a coffee shop to discuss, but Jenn and I pealed off and headed to the new Phenix City blues club to check out the scene. At the time, I was more in the mood for a beer than a stimulant.

We chose wisely. Broad Street Blues, at Dillingham and Broad, was a great breath of fresh air. The parking lot was full, and the stomping electric blues was seeping out of the building. Inside, it was the most diverse crowd I've seen in a Chattahoochee Valley club in a long time. Young, old, black, white. Peggy Jenkins has a killer voice, and she was belting blues in front of a tight house band (Larry Rose was on bass). Folks intermingled and danced, and it was perfect for getting our minds off of the trauma of the movie for a bit. Now, if the club would just take the house lights down a bit, things would be perfect. And kudos for going smoke-free. Check this place out, guys.

16 February 2007

Thirtysomething, going on 17

I'd call it a guilty pleasure, but I'm not sure it's actually pleasurable. It's more like a dirty little secret. But among the magazines subscriptions that float my way as a reporter is, inexplicably, "Seventeen." My coworker, Sonya, loves the danged thing, so she always makes me sit down with her when it arrives and we page through it together. I think she's got a masochistic side.

One of the best things about "Seventeen" is how they pull out quotes and add emphasis by setting shocking words in boldface. This month, there's a piece on a girl whose best friend -- BFF, I guess I'm supposed to say -- actually died after OD'ing, or drinking too much. Not to make light of the situation, but the pulled quote was kind of grotesque:

"She passed out and VOMIT was coming out of her MOUTH."

But by far the best feature in this months' issue was inside a section on what to do if you discover you're pregnant. The magazine actually printed a letter to give your parents, complete with blanks for everyone's names, announcing your pregnancy. It was a 3-inch square box printed with dotted lines around it like a coupon.
Maybe you're supposed to slip it into the Sunday paper's coupon section. I dunno.


(I also spied an add for the Nintendo Wii in this month's issue, which I found interesting. They're really cross-marketing that friendly little game system.)

15 February 2007

Lucky 'View"-er

Congrats to Columbus' Suzy Smith who was announced Monday as winner of $25,000 for a room makeover on "The View's" Room-A-Day Giveaway sweepstakes. (Yay, Suzy!)

Unfortunately, Suzy declined an interview. (Boo, Suzy.)

And congratulations, also, to Rosie O'Donnell, whose on-air sparring with The Donald has given male viewers a reason to watch this often horrible show. (Elisabeth Hasselbeck is admittedly easy on the eyes, but I can't stand to listen to her. Here's one reason. Here's another.)

This is Hasselbeck. Not Rosie O'Donnell

Pixelated pyrotechnics

When we were driving to Savannah last weekend, the first CD I popped in was The Arcade Fire's much-acclaimed "Funeral." Jenn hadn't heard it, and a few songs in she kinda snarled and asked who it was.

I changed it out for something softer. (She's never liked vitriolic, venom-spitting sort of music -- she hates Modest Mouse, for instance -- but she inexplicably loves The Pixies.)

Anyway, I'd been playing the disc in anticipation of the Canadian act's new record, "Neon Bible," which is due out on March 6. But here's good news for people who need a fix before then. The band will perform on NPR's All Songs Considered live online concert series on Feb. 17 (that's Saturday), and the show will include performance of some cuts from the live record. The show starts about 8:30 EST on public radio stations -- look for the Webcast online here. Best of all, the songs will be archived as MP3s thereafter, at this site.

Happy listening.

14 February 2007

Red and yellow, black and white

Stumbled onto this very unusual Web site, in which you can upload a mug shot of yourself (or your unsuspecting wife, heh heh) and have it make you black, Asian or white, change your gender, make you a baby, make you old, or paint you as one of the great masters would.

The Face Transformer is free, and lots of fun to play with. For Valentine's Day, I grabbed a picture of me and Jenn together, aged each face, then, through the magic of Photoshop, placed the old heads atop the current ones. Then I used that image on a card that said I want to grow old with her. It was both sweet and grotesque, which is exactly what I was going for...

To play with it yourself, click here, or visit this Web site:

And here's some of what I did with it:

old Brad

baby Brad

black Brad

El Greco Brad

13 February 2007

Letters about the flags of Iwo Jima

I had to settle for seeing "Flags of Our Fathers" without my wife. She's wary of violence and sobbed her way through "Saving Private Ryan." Anyway, I saw "Flags" last night, and I'll probably go see "Letters from Iwo Jima" on Thursday. Toyed with seeing them back-to-back in a Clint-Eastwood-Second-World-War Fest, but that would've shellshocked even this jaded fellow.

It'd be wrong to say I enjoyed the movie, but it was very good. I think the focus on the Iwo Jima flag, and the picture, and the incidents surrounding it served to dehumanize the story a bit, and that's a merciful thing. "Iwo Jima" -- which tells the story from the Japanese p.o.v. -- has gotten generally stronger reviews, so I'll post thoughts on that after I see it.

Anyway, I'm trying to put these movies behind me, because "The Last King of Scotland" opens here this weekend.

12 February 2007

Keeps the doctor away

First things first: Thirty-five degrees is too cold in which to be tooling around Columbus on a motorscooter. What was I thinking?*

While thawing out, I finally got a chance to sample the new Apples In Stereo record online. It came out last Tuesday, and my delay is almost inexcusable for someone with (a) an avowed love of the Elephant 6 collective bands, and (b) an unnatural adoration of Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys. Mitigating factors: The Apples have always been a bit too bubblegum for me, and when the band disappeared for five years, I'd kinda assumed they broke up.

That said, the new disc, "New Magnetic Wonder," sounds really good. Maybe it's the Todd Rundgren and ELO influences I hear creeping in. I'll definitely be picking up this record. It's not Neutral Milk Hotel, but there a more pronounced edge in the soundscape of these songs, and I can sink my teeth in. Fans of late-era Flaming Lips oughtta give it a spin.

Dollar downloads: "Play Tough," "Sun Is Out," "Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2"

*What I was thinking: Conserve fossil fuels

10 February 2007

Savannah smiles

Happy as a clam, belly filled with shrimp, here in Savannah. Tonight we're celebrating my friend's 30th proper-like. Fun, fun.

One of the best pastimes on the road is reading the ultra-colloquial street signs you pass. In Butler, Ga., one of my favorites has always been Crossroad School Road. So the school was named for the road? Or the road was named for the school? I'm confused.

I also enjoyed Skate-R-Bowl Road, on the outskirts of Savannah. And here's a mouthful, just a bit west: Dixon Grove Lake Church Road. No foolin'.

09 February 2007

Super Bowl ad nauseam

So the latest controversey over Super Bowl ads is the GM commercial depicting a robot arm contemplating suicide. Anti-suicide groups are up at arms (ostensibly human ones, not robot ones) about it.

What. Ever.

I'll write about this in Tuesday's column. Meanwhile, here's a poll related to all the different Super Bowl ad hooplah.

Which Super Bowl ad controversy is most ridiculous?
Gay rights folks upset at Snickers ad
Fast food workers hot about K-Fed's Nationwide ad
Suicide prevention groups mad at GM's suicidal bot
Free polls from Pollhost.com

08 February 2007

Anna Nicole Smith. Good god.

We just got word that Anna Nicole Smith is dead. Craziness. She was found unresponsive in her hotel room in South Florida, per about 17 news stations. Have we even figured out how her son died yet? ... This is really just the last chapter in the train wreck of her life, of course. I don't want to dwell on it too much, because really she represented what's terrible about celebrity -- how people who see the spotlight passing them will do anything to stay in its beam. It's kind of pathetic when it manifests itself into Paris Hilton gossip and Britney Spears cooter shots. It's sad when it ends like this.

So a co-worker just passed by, in disbelief, saying "She was a young woman."

"Thirty-nine," I told him.

"I mean her age," he says.

Something tells me she would've laughed at that. (And then maybe sued us or something.)

Music (Come back, Shane...!)

A few months ago I picked up one of the most-acclaimed albums of '06, "Destroyer's Rubies" by Destroyer. The leader of the band, Daniel Bejar, is one of the guys in the Canadian supergroup The New Pornographers. Anyway, it's an album that glides along beneath the surface, so I didn't give it a lot of plays at first. Really gotten into it lately, though, and wondering why it took me so long.

One of my goals for the new year is to listen to less music, but listen to it more often. I want to make a new album an event again, if that makes sense. I want records to grow on me and stay on repeat until I'm anticipating the next song as soon as one song ends.

But the Destroyer disc is good, so check it out when you've got time. His voice reminds me a bit of the Waterboys. Not quite as high, but a similar timbre. And, for some reason, the Waterboys always remind me of The Pogues. Saw a picture of Shane MacGowan the other day. I mean, I knew he had bad teeth, as is typical of people on the islands over there. But did anyone know it was this bad? Surely, by now, some Pogues fan is a dentist who can donate some time...

Poor Shane. Circa 1987. Now it's worse.

07 February 2007

And another thing about chicken wings

While I'm sort of on the subject (see a couple of posts down), I should mention that through careful and dogged reporting, I've discovered the deep, dark secret of why so many people call Buffalo Wild Wings by the in-the-know monikor "BW-3."

It's the case of the missing W, since by looking at the restaurant's name, it should clearly be called BW-2, right? Right? But as people who hail from New York state -- down here we call 'em Nor'easters -- will tell you, the proper name of the place used to be Buffalo Wild Wings and Weck. Weck apparently is a roast beef sandwich on a special salty roll.

At some point, BW-2 realized that "weck" sounds like somebody hocking a phlegmwad, which was counterproductive to selling food. So they quit selling the sandwiches, wing sales shot up, and, from the weckage sprung a golden franchise.

Finally, call it kismet, but the new webisode of the cartoon Homestar Runner is tied to chicken wings. Clicky here to watch it, though if you're not already Homestar savvy, I'd click the main page link and browse through the "characters."

Bibb City. I mean, Bibb Village

Most folks know that one of my passions for the past four years has been renovating a home in Bibb City. Lots of folks are doing it now, because the houses are (or were) cheap, the land is rolling and beautiful and close to the river. It's a super convenient neighborhood to downtown and to the J.R. Allen Parkway. There are parks everywhere, and a Riverwalk hub two blocks from my place.

Anyway, we're pretty excited that developer Johnny Cargill bought 19 properties in the Bibb (which developers are hoping to rechristen Bibb Village), because he's committed to building houses that are in character with the rest of the mill town. New houses that look like old houses, basically.

He's still formulating what those houses will be exactly, and he's soliciting info from folks who are curious about living in the Bibb.

I'm not trying to sell his land. The view alone will do that. But if anyone's curious, I'd encourage them to drive River Avenue and look at the lots. And he's collecting anonymous survey data about the kinds of houses people would like to live in there.

Here's the survey link. I took me about 3 minutes when I took it.

Won't you be my neighbor?

06 February 2007

Movie hell

I'll tell you what movie I'm not rushing out to see this weekend: "Norbit."

Well, and "Hannibal Rising." But mostly "Norbit." I remember when Eddie Murphy could make humor out of something besides fat people. Or, more accurately, skinny people wearing fat suits making stupid faces.

Seriously, what's the last good comedy he's done (where he didn't voice an animated donkey)? And don't say "Bowfinger," which was tolerable but overrated. Probably "Beverly Hills Cop."

It's kind of like when Drivin' n' Cryin' released that dreck of an album, "Smoke," and it was so bad that you were afraid you misjudged the caliber of the band to begin with. That record was so lously that it effectively erased four really good ones before it.

Eddie Murphy

Ben vs. Willy

I was crushed last year when Ben's Wings & Things closed up shop. Sure, the place wasn't, technically, "clean." Sure the waitstaff earned that title by making you wait, and wait, and wait to place an order. Sure, they perfected surliness into an artform.

But did you ever taste the wings?

Anyway, Sara from the Sandwich Shanty has moved into the place and given it a good cleaning. But I do miss the lip-burning home-made red sauce that crawled under your fingernails and stayed there for hours.

Finally tried Willy's Wings, on Armour Road, off Manchester Expy. The place wasn't exactly hiding, but I'd always avoided it out of loyalty to Ben's. How could anyone compete with the best wings in town? ... But, resigned, finally, that Ben's is gone, I gave 'em a try, and I'll be damned it Willy's doesn't make a really good wing too. Here, three hours later, I still see the red goo under my fingernails.

Now if I could just get them to open up a franchise downtown...

(Oh, and look for a dining profile on Willy's in Thursday's To Do section.)

05 February 2007

Report card

I know what you're wondering. You're wondering how I did on my weekend picks.

Well, I made the best damn batch of pico de gallo ever. The trick, I think, is substituting some red onion for about half of the yellow onion. Sweetens the whole mess. I was also forced to use lemon instead of lime, since I didn't want to brave the grocery on Sunday. But that turned out just fine, too. If you don't have the flu, you can make this dish as a community project in the kitchen at your next party. Last time we did that, folks took to calling it the People's de Gallo. Since pico de gallo apparently means "peck of the chicken," literally, then I guess our concoction became "people of the chicken." Hah.

Oh, and I watched the Super Bowl -- for the first time (at leat in my house) in high-def. Wee hoo! So that's two for two.
I also suggested folks go and check out Arlo Guthrie at the RiverCenter, though since I'm still battling down the last vestiges of the flu, I didn't go. I'd be interested in hearing thoughts from anyone who made the show, though.

04 February 2007

Not gonna let the elevator take us down...

Halftime show's just over. Prince launched a great set with "Let's Go Crazy" -- which was my guess even before I learned it was the odds leader in Vegas. It also led the poll here on the blog, with 57% of the vote.

Kind of surprised Prince didn't launch into "When Doves Cry." Especially since there were doves flying all around the stadium.

Loved his montage of cover tunes, though, and particularly liked the soulful rendition of the start of "All Along the Watchtower." And best of all, he never showed us his nipple.

'Force' to reckon with

Writing a column for Tuesday about the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" fiasco. Meanwhile, I found this lovely link, which lets you play Whack-A-Mole with Mooninites to save Boston. All the while, the critters are spouting off soundbites like "lobster roll!" "Bill Belichick," and "chowder!" (pronounced in the proper Boston way, "CHOW-duh!")

Great fun.


What the...?

So I got a new(ish) record by Migala -- a band I'd been turned onto a few years back as sort of a Nick Cave-styled act out of Madrid. Very trippy, atmospheric stuff. Anyway, I'm listening to the new record, and the first track's an instrumental, sounds great. Track 2 starts, and the guy starts singing in English.

It's clear to me now that part of what I liked about these guys was the mystery in what they were saying. What does it mean when the music's more interesting when I can't understand the lyrics?

OK, Track 3's on now, and he's back to singing in Spanish. All is well in the world. This record is good (It's called "Restos de un Incendio"), and I don't mean to dissuade anyone from checking it out. In fact, I'd encourage people to give them a listen. I was just thrown for a loop...

Oh, and go Colts.

02 February 2007

Tonight we're gonna party like it's Super Bowl XLI

Vegas, which apparently will draw a line on anything (quick, oddsmakers, what are the chances I'll drink a Mountain Dew today?), is taking bets on what song the Artist Formerly Known As Talented will first play during his halftime show at Sunday's Super Bowl.

Maybe it's a sign of the times -- ahem -- that my first guess turned out to be the song that's leading in the odds, but I don't want to taint the poll with my opinion, so I'll keep that guess to myself until later.

What song will Prince play first on Super Bowl Sunday?
"Gett Off"
"Let's Go Crazy"
"Song of the Heart"
"Purple Rain"
pollcode.com free polls

01 February 2007

"Harry Potter" street date set

The final installment of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, titled "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," will hit bookstore shelves on July 21, according to the writer's Web site.

Meanwhile, muggle Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Potter in the film series, is apparently going for a little street cred -- as an actor -- by stripping down for his role in the London revival of the play "Equus." He poses nude in ads for the show, creating quite a stir in jolly ol' England. (I thought the "strip for an acting award" trick only worked for women, though. Who knows?)

The new book's title was revealed on Rowling's
Web site through a game of hangman.

What's really scary? A 10-year-old kid who read the first Harry Potter book on its release would now be a senior in college.

"Pan" vs. pain

Worked a late shift yesterday, so I used the morning to do a renovation project on the old house. Popped off a closet door that didn't quite fit and planed the bottom of it until it would clear the frame. Grated off the top of two of my fingers in the process. It hurts. Don't try it at home. Was bleeding so profusely that I had to use a styptic pencil to stop it long enough to get band-aids on. Fun! Anyway, I finished the job by tearing off the old rim lock on the door and replacing it was a new reproduction brass one that replicates the Arts & Crafts era of the house (which was built in 1914).

So anyway, having finished that, I went to catch the early screening of "Pan's Labyrinth." I can best describe the movie thusly:

(sound of brain exploding)

It's part fantasy, part war story. It was very good, if difficult to watch. Not only are there a handful of grizzly scenes -- a man beat about the face to death, a leg sawn off, and a couple of things that are much worse -- but there's an overriding feeling of gloom and hopelessness that surrounds the whole narrative. It's by Guillermo del Toro, who also did "Hellboy" and the lesser film "Mimic." But his best movie, aside from this one, is called "The Devil's Backbone." It's also in Spanish, and one of the best ghost stories in modern cinema. Netflix that bad boy.

So go see "Pan's Labyrinth" while it's still here, but don't even dream about taking the kids.