Archive for the ‘Music’ category

Who Says?

November 14, 2009

Tuesday marks the release of John Mayer’s latest album, Battle Studies. Before you start calling me a latent homosexual sissy-pants for liking, nay, LOVING John Mayer, perhaps I can sway you not to with two words … please don’t.  He’s come a long way from how you probably remember him on MTV back in 2001, and his music is nothing like it used to be.  Much more blues-inspired, and a lot less douchey-frat-boyish.

Anyway, the first single off of that album is entitled “Who Says” and its words beckon us to let people be who they are.  In it, he asks:

Who says I can’t be free
From all of the things that I used to be
Rewrite my history
Who says I can’t be free?

I’ve listened to the song a couple, thirteen, fourteen times, and it got me thinking.  Who says I can’t do what I want?  I mean, if John Mayer is gonna put it out there, I’m gonna run with it.  So, even though mine aren’t going to be all rhyming and fancy and stuff, I’ve compiled a list of things that I’d like to be pardoned from the record when you decide whether or not I’m a loser.

-Who says I can’t eat Cocoa Puffs for all three meals in a day on a Sunday when I don’t feel like cooking?  I mean, I love those damn things, and if I ever found myself on a deserted island with nothing but a bowl, a spoon, and an endless supply of milk and Cocoa Puffs, then I think I’d be just fine.  Matter of fact, I’d quite prefer it that way.

-Who says I can’t spend a Saturday night watching HGTV with my fiance’s parents?  If Jess is out of town, and I don’t feel like doing anything, then bring on the sweatpants, get me a comfy chair, and let’s plow through some shows about houses and shit.

-Who says I can’t buy a log of Nestle chocolate chip cookie dough with absolutely no aspirations of EVER portioning it out and actually baking cookies?  So what if I want to put it in a bowl and eat it raw with a spoon.  That’s my cross to bear.  Lay off me, I’m starving.

-Who says I can’t secretly listen to Katy Perry songs at work when no one else is around?  If a guy wants to YouTube “Hot N Cold” like sixteen straight times, then let him be.  And while we’re at it, I’m probably gonna watch the “Single Ladies” video by Beyonce a handful of times too.

-Who says I can’t sleep with a stuffed penguin?  Yeah, I’m 26, but we’re a good match, and I’m not gonna let what anyone thinks ruin a potentially good night’s sleep.  I’ve had him for almost five years now, and he is easily worth his weight in gold.

–Who says I can’t buy a box of Uncrustables peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and plow through two or three of them on the car ride home?  Those things are delicious, and are so addicting, I’m beginning to wonder if there are trace amounts of heroine in them.  Clayton, you know what I’m talking about on this one, back me up.

UncrustablesYou’re telling me you couldn’t eat half a dozen of those right now?

–Who says I can’t talk to myself even though I don’t live alone anymore?  Sure, I run the risk of getting caught much more easily than before, but old habits just don’t die that easy.  So let’s just be clear about this one; I’m going to continue to narrate my Nintendo Wii Tennis matches when I think no one else is home, and I will call the other team a couple of fart-smelling hookers in the hopes that no one else hears me.  If they do, well, they just learned a new insult. And speaking of Nintendo Wii …

–Who says I can’t forgo blogging for a week while I polish my Wii skills?  I’m now an ace on the tennis court, I officially take all challengers.  I’m pretty fair in all of the other Wii Sports games as well.  Regardless, I had a very uneventful week, and it was nice to just veg out before work for a few days.  If I had posted something, I would have had to force it, and it probably would have been bad.  Worse than the stuff I actually post.

One love,

10

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2008 Year-End Awards

December 14, 2008

Hello all and welcome to El Casa de Ten!  (For all of you who don’t know, that was Spanish for “The Casa de Ten”).  Anyway, welcome to the 2008 Tennies.  As we bid adieu (you didn’t know I was multi-lingual did you?) to 2008, I’ll be handing out my year-end awards to any and all categories I see fit.  I was going to get a celebrity host for this most gallant of events, but as it turns out Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal were both committed to other projects.  This means two things: 1) We’re more than likely less than a year away from two very horrible action movies hitting theaters, and 2) I’ve gotta do this myself.  So, without further ado, on to the awards!

Best Movie –  Dark Knight.  Maybe it was the special effects, maybe it was the hype, maybe it was the build-up and controversy surrounding Heath Ledger’s death, but however you look at it: This. Movie. Kicks. Ass.  The plot, although filled with holes, was spectacular.  Heath Ledger was INCREDIBLE.  This movie has definite re-watchability, and even though it is two and a half hours long, you would swear it wasn’t because you are immediately drawn in and the action is non-stop.  Hands down, my favorite movie of 2008.

Honorable Mention – No Country For Old Men. This race may have been a lot tougher to call had it not been for the ending of this one.  When it comes down to it though, I think Beach said it best when he said “the first 80% of this movie is some of the greatest film making of all time.”  Agreed, big time.  This one stayed with me for a few days after I watched it, and if it ended up in my Christmas stocking, I would certainly not be disappointed.  Maybe if I watched it a couple more times, the ending would take on new meaning for me.

Most Disappointing MovieCloverfield takes this one in a landslide.  Honestly, I was intrigued by the plot.  I was into the movie.  It had me.  I was able to put aside the camera work, which was in Blair Witch style, and I was able to put aside the ridiculousness of the monster in Manhattan.  I was able to put aside the fact that no explanation was offered whatsoever as to how this thing got there or why it was killing everyone.  I got past all of that, only to have it all completely shit on by the last two minutes.  What the hell happened here people?  The movie was only something like 87 minutes long and it ended so abruptly it made me wonder if everyone on set got explosive diarrhea simultaneously and they just decided to cut and print where they were at.  The government’s plan to just straight up wipe out the entire city is put into motion, bombs start dropping, and the two main characters die in each others arms under a bridge in Central Park.  How fucking cute.  WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE MOVIE?!?!?!?! Did the plan work?  Is the monster dead?  They had been hitting it with missiles throughout the movie and they didn’t seem to phase it in the least bit.  Why can’t we get more closure on this?  Can I get five minutes alone with the director on this one?

Best Album – “Where The Light Is – John Mayer Live in Los Angeles.”  After much deliberation, and the realization that it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want, I decided that I am okay with giving out a Tennie to a non-studio album.  I don’t care, the album is good enough to win, and that’s all that matters to me.  For those who aren’t familiar, the album was recorded during a live show at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles and featured a 22-song set split up into three different incarnations of Mayer’s music.  The first set was an acoustic set, the second was with the John Mayer Trio, and the third was with his full band.  Long story short, it is incredible. Aside from being the best live performance I’ve ever seen or heard, I really liked the contrast between the three sets.  Look, you got a problem with this pick, take it up with the selection committee, and by “selection committee” I mean me.

Best Sports Team – New England Patriots (18-1, Super Bowl runners up).  I grappled with this decision a lot.  A lot. When it came down to it, the Pats were one play away from putting away only the second perfect season in NFL history, and arguably the best one ever.  If David Tyree doesn’t magically pin a pass against his helmet with time winding down and a defender so far up his ass he could see his lunch, the Pats walk away 19-0.  I can’t punish them for that.  99 times out of 100, that play either ends in an incompletion or a sack (remember, Manning shook a tackle in the backfield before hucking up that prayer).  So, after much deliberation, I decided that since no team has finished the regular season undefeated since 1972, and no team has come that close to running the table outright, the Pats deserve the nod.

Honorable Mention – Boston Celtics (66-16, NBA Finals Champs).  Being a T-Wolves fan, it was rewarding seeing Garnett finally get a ring like he deserves.  It was even more satisfying watching the Celts beat the Lakers.  Even though they went seven games with Atlanta and Cleveland, and six with Detroit and LA, they were so dominant throughout the regular season that they deserved a shout-out here.

Best TV Show – The Office, Season Five.  This was maybe the funniest season yet, and each episode has been better than the previous.  How the show continuously manages to top itself is just a testament to the fact that it has some of the best writers in television right now.  More than ever, aside from the comedic value and one-liners, the show has developed a few side plots for us to follow (i.e. Jim and Pam’s engagement, the Dwight-Angela-Andy love triangle).  The key to these developments, however, is that the writers don’t drown us with them.  They don’t devote entire shows to them, they are very secondary to the comedy.  And even the side plots themselves are steeped in comedy.  Basically, the show is moving forward without being watered down.  Brilliance.  Pure brilliance.

Honorable Mention – Entourage, Season Five.  Entourage gets second pony for being only twelve episodes long and being somewhat unrealistic (even more than usual).  I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t the best season so far.  I’ll let Bill Simmons sum it up for me with this quote, chock full of sarcasm, from his December 5th post on ESPN.com.

Well, the fifth season of “Entourage” wasn’t implausible at all: I can totally see Vince’s losing his career after one bad movie (so what if Colin Farrell has made 15 stinkers and keeps getting jobs?), becoming Hollywood poison, getting a job only because his agent passed up a $10-million-a-year studio head position to stay with him — you know, because agents have such great character — submarining an elaborate $120 million action movie that somehow came together in about 2.23 seconds because the director hated him (in the irony of ironies, because he didn’t think Vince, a guy played by Adrian Grenier, could act), hitting rock bottom and moving back to Queens, then climactically rebounding with the lead in Martin Scorsese’s new movie without ever auditioning for it, and while all of this was happening Jamie-Lynn Sigler fell in love with a jobless Turtle, and Johnny Drama starred on an NBC drama that normally would tape for 17 hours a day, unless your show stars Johnny Drama, in which case you tape once a month for a couple of minutes. Awesome. I’d ask for that 390 minutes of my life back, but it’s my own fault for watching. I blame myself.

I think Bill is a little more upset than I am, but he pretty much touched on all of the stuff that was bothering me about the development of the plot.

Best Purchase – My new entertainment center, without question.  It’s funny how quickly your life can change.  One minute you’re sitting there, reading the Best Buy weekly ad and you see a high-end Sony Bravia package deal that includes a 46″ LCD, a Blu-Ray player, and a 5.1 surround sound system, all for less than the retail cost of the TV alone.  The icing on the cake comes in the form of four magic words: “Three years no interest!” Sold. The next minute you’re sitting in your apartment, alone, with your jaw on the floor watching Iron Man and swearing up and down that Gweneth Paltrow is sitting across the room from you.  That’s how good it looks.   As I’ve said before, Blu-Ray has changed movies for me forever, and until you see it in it’s full, clear beauty, it is indescribable.  Far and away the best thing I’ve bought this year … and maybe ever.

Worst PurchaseThe Scrubbing Bubbles Automatic Shower Cleaner.  Do yourself a favor, save your money and don’t spend it on this piece of crap.  The label on the bottle of cleaning solution says that you should use this thing once a day, and each bottle will last up to six months.  That’s funny, because I used it once a day and it lasted about three weeks.  Tops.  Not only that, but it just doesn’t work.  All it does is spray that shit all over hell and back for 15 seconds, and then it drips down the sides of your shower wall.  Let’s face it, we’re just gonna have to get in there once in a while and scrub our damn shower ourselves. As stupid as I feel about this one, I would feel 6,000 times stupider if I had bought a Magic Fuzzle like Eric, B-Weezy, and Cristin implored me to do on Black Friday.  Suckers.

Nostradamus Award – The award for the best prediction of the year is a sports-related one, and I’ll do myself the honor of cutting and pasting from a post I wrote on September 2nd:

Speaking of a possible implosion, I can’t imagine I am the only one waiting for Dallas to go completely up in flames.  Between T.O. and Romo, that team has more distractions than a pedophile school bus driver.

Let’s face it, when T.O. is on your team, you are walking on egg shells and you’re never more than a minute away from a possible meltdown.  My Terrell Owens-related prediction for next year is this: T.O. will be out of Dallas by the end of next season and he may have a difficult time finding another team.  He’s been a ticking time bomb no matter where he is;  San Francisco, Philadelphia, and now Dallas.  He seems to be physically incapable of getting along with a quarterback.  He, simply put, is a fucking psychopath.  I really think he might have bipolar disorder or some kind of manic/depressive syndrome.  It’s just always something with the guy, and sooner or later, owners are going to stop wasting money on a team killer like this one.

Britney Spears Award – This is the award for the biggest comeback of the year.  One might argue that Britney is poised to win her own award for her second comeback (let’s face it, she looks fantastic again), but I’m going to go a different direction.  I’ll say that the Miami Dolphins are this year’s Britney Spears.  After finishing last year with a 1-15 record, the ‘Fins have rebounded higher than anyone could have ever expected.  They are currently 8-5, in a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East, and if they win their last three games they would take their division.

Honorable Mention – Chad Pennington.  After being outcast by almost the entire league, Chad has bounced back and is highly responsible for Miami’s success thus far.  He has only thrown six interceptions and has not lost a fumble yet.  Impressive.  Congrats to Chad for turning it around for himself.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for this year’s awards.  I would like to thank everyone for coming.  I would also like to thank the selection committee for all its hard work.  Hope this was an entertaining read for you.

One love,

10

Kanye Stays True To His Word

December 5, 2008

It’s official.  Mark it.  Time of death: 12:01 AM, November 24th, 2008.

Who died?  Well it’s not “who” so much as it is “what.” What the hell am I talking about?  Kanye West’s run of good albums.  It’s done.  His latest, 808s & Heartbreak, is a total stinker.  It’s difficult for me to type this out because I have always been such a huge Kanye fan and supporter.  His first three albums, to me, were gold.  Each of them earned him a Grammy for best rap album, but I wouldn’t expect a four-peat after this one.  Hell, at this point I think this album is about three weeks away from being sold at truck stops for $2.99 with the purchase of eight or more gallons of gas.

I have always praised Kanye for being so creative and giving us something new with each album, and he was certainly out to do that again.  Good intentions, yes.  But as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  And by this time next month, the road from Dayton, Ohio to Lafayette, Indiana will be paved with the ground up bits of every 808s CD remaining in America.  THAT’S how bad it is.

Okay, so I’m upset.  I’m disappointed.  I’m flabbergasted.  But I have my reasons.  Kanye, in his perpetual quest for new sounds and breakthrough music, went in search of something that he had never done before with his music.  What he found, is Auto-Tune.  What is it?  Auto-Tune, basically, is a program used in modern music to correct imperfections in vocals to make them sound better.  It’s a long, convoluted bunch of jargon, but essentially, it’s what T-Pain uses to make his voice sound the way it does on his songs.

Auto-Tune as a musical style is borderline at best, even for the most compatible of artists, mostly because everything ends up sounding exactly the same as everything else.  This is why I do not care for T-Pain’s music, and this is why I do not care for Kanye’s new album.  He did every track in Auto-Tune and he sounds ridiculous.  Most tracks are well put together until he opens his mouth.  The beats are actually pretty well done, which is pretty much expected of Kanye since he has solidified himself as one of the premier hip hop producers of the last ten years.  But everything else is just piss poor.  Each song is just the same two or three sentences repeated a solid 40 times a piece.

You know how Kiss made a kajillion dollars off of “Rock and Roll All Night” even though it was just two lines of the chorus repeated non-stop for three minutes?  Picture that concept on a much larger scale, and done 12 times … in Auto-Tune.

I’ll put this into an even better perspective.  JK (without question the biggest hip hop head of all my friends) and I have been talking about the album throughout the day.  Here is a direct transcript of our most recent conversation:

Me: This is a fuckin tragedy for real though.
JK: I told you, it’s the worst CD I have bought in a long time.
Me: This coming from a guy who bought the Paris Hilton album AND the Brooke Hogan album.
JK: Both better than 808s.

After I saw Kanye live in June, I never thought I would feel this way about his next project just six months later.  Six months ago I would have given both of my kidneys to Kanye after the show he put on.

I guess, for me, the title of this post sums it up the most.  When it comes to an album titled 808s & Heartbreak, I am truly heartbroken.  Kanye, do me a favor.   Take every dollar you’ve ever made, fund the research and development of a fully functional DeLorean-like time machine, go back in time with Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown, and destroy every recording from this album, all the while being ever so careful so as not to disrupt the space-time continuum; Doc gets all in a tizzy about that sometimes.  And while you’re at it, if you could go into the future and get me one of those sports almanacs Biff gets his hands on, that would be much appreciated as well.  God bless.

Hope everyone’s weekend is good to them.  I’ll be headed out Saturday for a co-worker’s birthday, and I expect the festivities to reach a full, level ten shit show.  If said events are indeed as uproarious as I expect, I will certainly fill you in come Monday.  Have a good one!

One love,

10

Another Successful Big City Weekend

June 16, 2008

Well another trip to Minneapolis is in the books, and once again I had a fun weekend with JK. The main purpose of the trip was to see The Glow In The Dark Tour featuring Kanye West, Rihanna, N.E.R.D. and Lupe Fiasco. The concert was on Wednesday night, and I stayed until Saturday night, so that left a few days in between for JK and I to go and have ourselves some big city fun. And we did just that. Since there are few dull moments on trips like this, and I enjoyed writing about my last trip so much, I figured I would give you all the rundown of the weekend, starting of course with the train ride there.

Note: If at any time in this post I mention my last trip to the Twin Cities, the post about that trip can be found here.

WEDNESDAY

The ride there wasn’t much unlike the last time.  Again, the train was over two hours late, so instead of leaving at just before 1:00 AM, we left at about 3:00.  Since I had some time to sit in the train station to ponder a few things, I began looking around and noticed a somewhat troubling fact.  There is absolutely, positively zero security.  Honestly, this puzzles me since getting on an airplane post-9/11 is more uncomfortable than getting a prostate exam and a root canal simultaneously.  There are no metal detectors, no security guards, no one standing at the door with an ear piece in looking like they’re important, nothin’.  The whole time I was sitting there I couldn’t help but think that I could easily put an uzi in my bag and no one would know.  Then again, why would anyone want to hijack a train?

Also while sitting in the train station, I had one of the funnier encounters in recent history with a lady who was also waiting for the train.  She was sitting across from me, and noticed something that I overlooked when I packed my bag.  Immediately after our conversation, I put it into my BlackBerry so I wouldn’t forget it, and so I have the privilege of giving you this conversation word-for -word and in its entirety.

Lady: (Noticing I brought a pillow) “Your pillow case is inside-out.”
Me: “Oh, indeed it is.”
Lady: “What’s up with that?”
Me: (Sarcastically) “I was probably drunk when I did the laundry last time, who knows?”
Lady: (Dead serious) “I like doing the laundry drunk, it makes things a lot more fun.”
Me: “I’m happy for you.”
(Silence for at least 20 seconds)
Lady: “I’m not ALWAYS drunk when I do the laundry, ya know.”
Me: “No, no, I’m not here to judge anyone.”

Immediately after I said that, I pulled my headphones on so as to cut off the possibility for any further conversation.  I really wanted her to think that I was convinced she was a lush.  Mission: accomplished.

Once the train finally gets in, I go out to board it and the guy taking tickets says the two sentences I didn’t want to hear:  “Please get in a single file line and I will be assigning you all seats.  The train is sold out tonight so no one will have two seats to themselves.”

Shit.  The last time I rode, I was fortunate enough to get two seats to myself on both ends of the trip, and it was glorious.  This time, I got paired up with some random guy who was already asleep when I got on, and therefore was taking up his entire seat and half of mine.  I knew right away it was going to be a long ride.  I didn’t know the half of it.

Between Mister Seat Hogger, the four girls behind me talking, and the baby a few rows up crying for literally two hours straight, sleep was a distant memory for me on that train ride.  When it was all said and done, I finally got some shuteye, but it abruptly came to an end about an hour later when I heard someone booming over the intercom of the train.

“ATTENTION ALL PASSENGERS, BREAKFAST IS NOW BEING SERVED IN THE DINING CAR.  WE HAVE FRESH FRUIT, CEREAL, OATMEAL, BAGELS, MILK, JUICE, COFFEE, AND MORE. FEEL FREE TO COME CHECK IT OUT.”

After I wiped the shit out of my pants and brought my pulse back down under 200, I checked my phone and it read: 6:05 AM.  Great.  So these people really don’t care that we didn’t board until 3:00?  What kind of sick joke was that?  At the volume that guy was speaking, I was honestly expecting an announcement about a nuclear holocaust.  Oh well, I paid it no mind and fell back asleep … Only to be woken up again every half hour with more announcements about breakfast. After the third announcement I gave up and just stayed awake for the final couple hours of the trip.

Total sleep on the train ride to Minneapolis: Between one and two hours.

Once I got in, JK picked me up and we kind of laid low for the rest of the morning.  In the afternoon, I got my first look at Grand Theft Auto IV, and let me tell you, I fully see this game consuming my life for months on end.  I am a huge fan of GTA III, Vice City, and San Andreas, and this one looks like it has outdone them all.  We spent most of the afternoon playing GTA IV, and at about 6:15 we made our way downtown to the Target Center for the concert.

I’ve been dreading this part of the post, because I have absolutely zero chance of doing that show justice with words.  The only thing I can really tell you is that it was simply the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.  I had read and heard a lot about the tour coming into the show, and my expectations couldn’t have been any higher … and that show way exceeded my expectations in every way.  Say what you want about Kanye, that tour changed the way I look at music, and that is no joke.  I’ll say this in closing: the show was so good, I didn’t even care that I paid $7.50 for a beer.  Right after the show, JK and I both agreed that if there was another show in the area within the next couple nights, we would have been in the car on the way there and bought tickets off a scalper for any cost. Yeah, it was THAT good.  Also, there must have been some kind of unadvertised short skirt contest, because I have never in my life seen so many short skirts in one place before.  JK and I were both stunned at the amount of good looking girls there, which really just added to the ambiance of the show.

The show got over just after midnight, and we both were so amped yet exhausted, it was a weird feeling.  We wanted to pace ourselves, so we resisted the temptation to go out and have a few drinks and we decided to call it a night.

THURSDAY

As I mentioned, the concert was the focal point of the trip, so after that, we really didn’t have a single thing planned for the next three days.  We went and got some lunch, and then just went back to JK’s place and relaxed.  It was raining all day, and JK has four channels of television, so we went and saw Iron Man.  Good flick, I’m gonna give it a 4 out of 5.  I like comic book movies, and the fact that this one set itself up nicely for a sequel excites me.

After the movie, we basically counted the minutes until we could go watch the Celtics-Lakers Game 4.  At game time, we went to a good sports bar for some appetizers and a couple beers.  Well a couple beers turned into a couple more, and since the Celtics starting mounting their colossal comeback around the time we were ready to leave, we decided to stick around to watch the end of the game and somehow beer just kept finding its way to our table.

About three hours and an $88 tab later (I know this number might seem small, but our appetizers were half priced and the beer was on special as well, so we put in work while we were there), we collected our belongings and hit the road.  Our waitress thought we were pretty funny since we got “unplanned drunk” and stumbled out.

Afterward, we went straight back to JK’s place and passed out, er, fell asleep.  According to JK, I was in rare form all night, letting loose a barrage of loud farts and open-mouth snoring that would make any old man proud.  Since I have no recollection of this, I can neither confirm nor deny either accusation.

We’re two nights into the trip and we are definitely two-for-two on fun times.

FRIDAY

After we both shook the cobwebs out, JK and I decided Friday would be a good day to hit the downtown area and just see what happens.  The weather was gorgeous, and we had absolutely nothing to do, so why not?  We hit up the downtown Hooters for lunch, had a couple burgers, and got fake hit on by pretty much every server in the place.  I know it’s their job and it plays into the whole Hooters persona, but the girls always seem to go way out of their way to pretend to be interested in the customers.  Nevertheless, we always seem to go there when I am in town.

After we ate, we went and played some games at the arcade (yeah, we’re dorks) and then we just started walking.  A side note on this arcade, it’s a place more geared at the 21+ crowd.  It’s two floors of wall-to-wall games, a bowling alley, and two full bars … so we’re not totally lame.  We were already in the heart of downtown, so we just decided that nothing bad could come from just wandering around and going wherever the wind takes us.  We stopped in a few different places for a beer or two … or three.  We ended up at some place that starts with an M or an R or something like that.  Anyway, we had some dinner, got half drunk, and went home.

Once we got home, we kind of just hung around for a while, and then as the night came we caught our second wind and decided to go back out.  We decided to forgo the downtown scene because we were very content to just belly up at a laid back place and roll with the punches.  Went to a placed called Major’s, which turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.  We got there, both opened tabs (bad idea) and headed over to the Golden Tee game that was calling us like we were late for a meeting.

I’m not going to get into specifics about the game we played, but let me just say this: I went out on a limb a couple times, played a couple shots I probably shouldn’t have, and lost to JK.  But that wasn’t half as funny as the guy playing Golden Tee next to us.  This guy was easily 30-35 years old, but he was the most hardcore Golden Tee person I’ve ever seen.  He had his own player card that loaded his avatar and all his scores and specs and what nots, and he was serious about the game.  To 99% of us, Golden Tee is just a fun drunk activity, but this guy was yelling and swearing at the machine, punching the screen, and acting like a six year old.  Check that, even a six year old would hold something back in front of other people.  This guy was completely unphased by the fact that there were other humans in his vicinity.  He was a show.

After we played our game, JK and I went back and bellied up, had a few more drinks, and while I was on my fourth or fifth beer, I had a revelation.  See, when we got there, we both just ordered, threw the girl our credit cards, and started a tab, so neither of us were told just how much we were paying for our drinks.  So it wasn’t until some guy came up to the bar and asked that I found out how much my beer was apparently worth.  Here was that conversation and my subsequent reaction:

Customer: “How much for a Blue Moon on tap?”
Bartender: “$7.50”
Me: “Jesus Christ!”

Oh well, I was on vacation, what the hell do I care?  So after we closed our tabs, JK and I could only hear one word: Perkins.  There was one nearby and we could see no other option than to go there and eat.  After we sat down, a couple of thirty-something guys were seated across from us.  These guys made my whole night.  At first, they kept talking about “the talent at the venue” and JK and I weren’t sure exactly what they meant, but then the pieces started coming together.  By “talent,” they meant girls.  Talent? How deliciously degrading is that?  Here sat a couple of borderline middle-aged men talking about chasing skirt like they’re 22 again.  So, JK and I, seeing ourselves in 10 years sitting across from us, strike up a convo about this and that, and they go on to tell us where they like to hunt for “talent” and where the hottest talent hangs out on the weekends.  Then this conversation between the two guys ensues:

Guy #1: “I’m getting married in August, so I need to score as much ass as possible now.”
Guy#2: “You mean guilt-free ass.”
Guy #1: “Of course.”
Guy #2: “Even though every married guy I know still cheats.”

Wow.

After Perkins, JK and I retired back to his place and got some much-needed sleep.

SATURDAY

Not a lot happened on Saturday, mostly since my train was scheduled to leave that night at 11:15, so JK and I laid low most of the day.  We went and had some lunch, watched the U.S. Open, played some GTA IV, and just hung out basically.

When it came time for me to leave, JK dropped me off at the train station, and I was greeted by a large sign that said: “TONIGHT’S TRAIN WILL BE ARRIVING AT 1:30 AM.”  Super.  So for over two hours, I sat in a crowded train station doing my best not to kill someone.  There was a family that was in my area, and their 8 year old was running around like an idiot the entire time.  I mean, I can cut the kid some slack, after all he is just a kid.  But he was carrying a map of Minnesota and running around like he just found the last golden ticket to the Wonka Chocolate Factory tour, which led to me getting a lovely papercut on my wrist as he ran by me.  Here’s a heads up to any potential Amtrak customers: they don’t have bandaids in the station.  So I wrapped some toilet paper around my wrist to stop from bleeding profusely, and sat back down.  Don’t worry, even though the kid was tromping around like a tool, his parents made up for it by not apologizing to me about the two inch gash across my wrist.

Once the train finally got in, I was again seated with a complete stranger, and again struggled to get any sleep whatsoever.  More babies crying, people constantly walking around, jackass conductor on the intercom all morning.

Total sleep on the ride home: Less than two hours.

Mark my words, I will never take that stupid train again. I don’t care if it’s cheaper than driving, it’s just not worth it.

All things considered, though, I had a blast over the weekend.  I am now back into work mode, which just isn’t cutting it for me, but I’ve got quite a span before I’ll be able to get out of town again, so I might as well just get used to it.  Now all my focus goes back to work, golf, and in a couple weeks, moving.

Sorry this post ended up being so long, but it was a good weekend and there was plenty worth mentioning. Plus, I figure I owe it to you since I haven’t written anything in a while.  I hope you all have a lovely week, and I’ll be sure to write again soon.

One love,

10

Jesus Spoke To Me. He said “Buy the Alicia Keys album”

March 3, 2008

Okay, he didn’t literally speak to me.  That would make me either a prophet or shit nuts. Anyway … I’ve been kind of busy lately, and I have once again fallen behind on music. So, last week I sat down and made a short list of the CDs I wanted to buy in the near future. This list was about 11 albums long, so I have some work to do. Thankful for me, of the 11 I listed, six of them haven’t been released yet, so I have a little extra time to stretch this out over the next couple months. The list of the five albums that are available now is as follows: Alicia Keys – As I Am, Chris Brown – Exclusive, Keyshia Cole – Just Like You, Mary J. Blige – Growing Pains, and John Mayer – Room For Squares. As you can see, I’m on a big R&B kick lately, mostly due to the decline of hip hop in recent years as highlighted by my previous post. Us hip hop fans have had to find another genre or two that we really enjoy lately because otherwise we would only get to buy about five or six CDs a year that are even worth their weight in doody.

As I was thumbing through this week’s Best Buy ad, which is far and away the MVP of the Sunday newspaper in my opinion, I noticed that of the five albums I desired to purchase, four of them were on sale with Room For Squares being the exception. Immediately in my head I started singing that Rod Stewart song “Some Guys Have All The Luck.” The music Gods really spoke to me on this one. Suffice it to say that I went this afternoon and purchased all five albums. I should manage to get them listened to this week and for those who care, I will probably share my thoughts and reviews with you on here.

Noteworthy: This week is my Spring “Break” week at school. I put ‘break’ in quotations for a couple of reasons. First, I will be working six days this week. Second, my seventh day will probably be spent studying, as I have a test on our first day back. Yes, I have a professor savage enough to schedule a test on the Monday after Spring Break. Would it be in bad taste to find out where she lives and let the air out of her tires? Perhaps I could hire someone to kidnap her and keep her in a cold, musty basement. Not a jury in the land would convict me if they saw the amount of work she has laid on us this semester. Oh well, only about eight weeks left and summer is here. I can tough it out. Besides, I couldn’t fathom being in jail during March Madness. That’s right baby, it’s just around the corner! I hope you all have a fantastical week.

One love,

10

The Search For Hip Hop Perfection

March 3, 2008

You know what I miss? Hip hop music. What the hell has happened to rap music in the last five years? Nas said it best when he released an album last year entitled Hip Hop is Dead. I have a hard time arguing with him, because 90% of what is coming out today is no good. I really feel like people my age are spoiled in this department, because we grew up in the prime of hip hop. The mid-to-late 80s and all through the 90s, rap was really incredible stuff. Sure there was some I didn’t care for, but the majority of it was at least listenable. Is listenable a word? I really don’t think it is, but for this post and this post only, I’m using it. Hip hop used to be an art form, a means of beautiful expression. Most of today’s hip hop is mindless yammering about “apple bottom jeans and the Reeboks with the straps,” (I’m sorry, but that is a terrible song). There is just no thought or love being put into the music anymore, and that makes me sad.

Quick story: Last week I opened up my iTunes and was browsing around the store to see what was new. On the store’s homepage, they gave me some recommendations based on recent purchases. It said based on my purchase of Lupe Fiasco’s latest album, The Cool (an excellent album), they recommend I check out Soulja Boy’s album, Souljaboytellem.com. Now despite the fact that I really hate the only song he has released so far – “Crank That” – I decided to give the album the once over, just for kicks. I listened to the 30 second sample clips iTunes offers for each of the songs and let me tell you, it’s a good thing I didn’t have a gun handy, because Lord only knows what I would have shot, myself included. After I finished puking, I knew I had to balance things out again, or my life would be in constant chaos. So I took a few deep breaths and listened to Jay-Z.

Between those events and the fact that I really enjoyed writing about my top ten favorite video games of all time, I decided that I would indulge you (and myself) and make a list of my top ten favorite hip hop albums of all time. Before we get started though, I should warn you that I will be focusing on albums released from about the late 80s to present, mainly because this is what I grew up with and therefore it is what I know best. I could talk briefly about the early stages of the game, (i.e. Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang, etc.) but I wouldn’t be doing them justice because I just don’t know enough about them and I would feel like a poser having to look that stuff up. I should also mention that I know this is a highly debated topic among hip hop fans, and I want to reiterate that these are only my opinions, so don’t freak out on me when you don’t see your favorite on here. Alright, enough with the disclaimers.

10. Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)
The highly-anticipated sophomore album from producer-turned-rapper Kanye West was a monster. He was a genius on his first album The College Dropout but he really upped the ante with this one. As I mentioned in my Grammy post, he is just constantly creating a new sound for his music, and that is what makes him special. The number of hits on that CD are crazy. “Heard ‘Em Say” with my boy Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine, “Touch The Sky,” “Diamonds From Sierra Leone,” “Hey Mama,” and of course, “Gold Digger.” Those are just the tracks that got regular airplay. The rest of the songs are equally impressive. My favorite track on the album: “Hey Mama”

9. Dr. Dre – The Chronic (1992)
If someone prompted me to describe this album in one word, that would would be “revolutionary.” This was the very first album I ever purchased in CD format. I had the tape and I loved it; it was one of the only tapes I owned that I didn’t bother fast forwarding through because it is just that good. This was Dre’s first solo effort after N.W.A. parted ways, and although he had already proven himself as a producer, this album really solidified him as a lyricist as well. This album was the definition of West Coast rap and it set the tone for all hip hop released west of the Mississippi. This album launched the careers of not only Dre himself, but both members of the Dogg Pound – Daz Dillinger and Kurupt, Warren G, Nate Dogg, and of course Snoop Doggy Dogg. My favorite track on the album: “Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang”

8. 50 Cent – Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (2003)
Think back at the hype about this album. After “In Da Club” was released as the first single, this album leaked like an old faucet. It got into the wrong hands and it was being bootlegged more than the Pam and Tommy Lee video, forcing Interscope Records to release it almost a full week before the scheduled release date. That never happens. You know what else never happens? One hip hop album having six singles go mainstream is unheard of. “In Da Club” was far and away the biggest song of the year; 50 was thrust into instant fame and we got our first look at G-Unit members Young Buck, Lloyd Banks, and Tony Yayo. Do yourself a favor, toss this CD in next time you’re in the car. It’s been a while and you’ve probably forgotten how good it really is. My favorite track on the album: “Don’t Push Me”

7. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle (1993)
After the release of this album, there was no more argument that Snoop was simply just riding Dr. Dre’s coat tails in the rap game. Although Dre was the executive producer of the album, Snoop was official like a referee with a whistle. His delivery is so smooth, it makes it hard not to like every song. The whole album really is incredible. Remember how I said that The Chronic was the first album I bought as a CD? This was the second. Snoop has since enjoyed a long, successful career with six or seven albums released since this one. For me, though, this was his best work. My favorite track on the album: “Ain’t No Fun”

6. Dr. Dre – 2001 (1999)
Beginning to see a trend here? Dre is all over this list, and for good reason. The man basically made hip hop what it is today. Ask any producer in the game who his or her influences were coming up and I guarantee Dre gets mentioned by 99% of those questioned. JK and I were talking the other day and he said this album is miles above any other, and said nothing even comes close. In a lot of respects he is right, but the first 12 tracks or so were just too big for the back half of the album to live up to, so it’s a little top-heavy. Not to take anything away from the last 10 tracks though, they’re good songs. But the hits that came from this album were just so big. “Still D.R.E.” has that tantalizing keyboard riff that sticks in your head for days, but you really don’t mind because the track was so hot. Dre proved himself a perfectionist on this album, admittedly taking several years to put it together and get it just so. Case in point: for “What’s The Difference” he brought live trumpets, trombones and various other horns into the studio to get the sound the way he wanted. It was worth it because that song is a classic. Since about 2004, Dre fans have been living on the edge of their seats waiting for the much-hyped release of his latest work, Detox. It has been delayed several times, and is again slated for release this year. Dre has said on many occasions that the album will change the game forever, and that everyone’s patience will be rewarded. Let’s hope so, because it’s been a long time coming, and it has some very large shoes to fill if it plans to live up to expectations stemming from his first two albums. My favorite track on the album: (tie) “The Watcher” and “Fuck You”

5. Nas – Illmatic (1994)
This is widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best hip hop album of all time by many. His first release, Nas immediately made a name for himself with his flow and amazing writing skills. This album really tells a story, and no one is better at that than Nas. He has such a great delivery and a truly clever style that it makes you really feel closer to the music because you can almost picture the words coming alive in your head as you listen. Nas did for East Coast hip hop what Dre did for the West Coast. Although the album didn’t get mainstream play like others on this list, it was really a record that set the mold for all after it. Nas had a tough time following up the success of Illmatic, but his other albums are also very good if you’re into that sort of thing, and by “that sort of thing” I mean excellent hip hop. My favorite track on the album: “Memory Lane”

4. Notorious BIG – Ready To Die (1994)
In a time when the rap game was being dominated by West Coast rap, Biggie’s album was another point scored for the East Coast. There is not a substandard song on this entire album. Every single track is solid front to back. A conversation about good writing, clever rhymes, and an excellent lyricist cannot be had without mentioning Biggie. He had an innate way of being able to rhyme words we didn’t know rhymed and making everything he said sound good. This album is light years ahead of Life After Death if you ask me, but not because the latter isn’t good. Life After Death is a very good album, but on Ready To Die you could really sense Biggie’s hunger, no pun intended. The music is just very pure, and it really speaks to its audience. Just like his fellow New Yorker Nas, Biggie knew how to tell a story. You can listen to the tracks and you just know he was broke and this was his last chance at making a life for himself. My favorite track on the album: “Juicy”

3. 2Pac – All Eyez On Me (1996)
Four hours. 240 minutes. 14,400 seconds. No matter how you look at it, you’ll never look at four hours again after reading this: That’s how long it took for this album to go platinum. How many double-disc CDs do you own? How many of them can you listen to straight through? For me, the answer to that question is one; All Eyez On Me. Pac somehow managed to put 27 songs together that were all good. Wrap your mind around that for a second. He basically put out two albums worth of music at one time, and it was all excellent. Got it? Good. Now wrap your mind around this – he did it in two weeks. After being released from prison, Pac hit the studio, and in less time than it takes to receive a package from UPS, the lyrics were all recorded. There are few albums that are considered to be more influential than this one, and even fewer are said to have done more for hip hop. Dre’s magic touch was found on several tracks and once again, he was behind the biggest smash to come off the album: “California Love.” I could sit here and write about this album for longer than anyone would want to read about it, so I’ll wrap things up. Pac was the ultimate lyricist. He had countless hits, many of them coming off this album. This CD could easily serve as a greatest hits compilation due to how well-rounded it is. My favorite track on the album: “Picture Me Rollin”

2. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt (1996)
You can say what you want about any of Jay’s albums, but this is his best work. Does that mean his follow-ups are lackluster? Of course not. But in his case, like with Biggie, he was at his purest and most hungry state when he was making his first album … and he did it with minimal guest appearances, and relatively unknown producers. He knew he had the lyrics and talent, so he relied on just those things to make a historic album. As most hip hop heads know, Jay never writes down any of his material. He has some kind of super memory that he says allows him to keep lyrics for up to about ten tracks in his head all at once without too much confusion or clutter. He gets bonus points for this because that is just sick. He is famous for saying that he has forgotten more good rhymes than most rappers have written. If you’re one of those people who only started buying Jay-Z albums after “Hard Knock Life” was a smash single, you’re missing out big time. You owe it to yourself to go out and buy this album along with In My Lifetime, Vol. 1. My favorite track on the album: “Politics As Usual”

1. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton (1988 )
This was the start of gangsta rap, period. (Yes, I wanted to type out the word “period” there). I’m hard-pressed to think of an album that evoked more controversy than this one as well. Despite the fact that it received no mainstream airplay and N.W.A. never toured to promote it, the album went double platinum (and sold yet another million or so after they started touring). This group gave us three superstars of rap all in the same place at the same time. Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E all went on to huge solo careers after the group split in 1991. Most rap fans know that these three comprised the white meat of the group, but few recognize the other two members of the group. MC Ren was a mainstay on many of the tracks due to his sharp delivery and in-your-face rhymes. DJ Yella was the token white guy of the group who did most of the behind-the-scenes production and DJ’ing. Neither of these two enjoyed a fraction of the success that the three aforementioned members did post-N.W.A. but they were pieces of the puzzle while the group was together and it’s tough to imagine some of the tracks without them. Money and power struggles tore the group apart in 1991 and the group never had a chance to reunite due to Eazy-E’s untimely death in 1995 after a brief battle with AIDS. My favorite track on the album: (tie) “Express Yourself (Remix)” and “Straight Outta Compton”

Honorable Mention: Jay-Z – The Blueprint; Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP; Mobb Deep – The Infamous; Run-DMC – Raising Hell; Ice Cube – Death Certificate; The Game – The Documentary; Jay-Z – The Black Album; Common – Be

So there we have it. I really really want feedback about this because I love talking about music. Please note that I refused to include any greatest hits albums because that would be cheap and tacky and completely take away from the whole purpose in my opinion. I really feel like I am snubbing someone on this one, so please kick in your two cents. In case you can’t tell, I really love talking about music and I consider myself to be rather knowledgeable, so challenge my reasoning and let’s see if we can’t get a decent conversation going here. If you like hip hop and don’t have any of these albums, (including the ones in the honorable mention section) take my advice and either pony up the $9.99 for them on iTunes or find a friend who has them and burn yourself a copy.

One love,

10

Grammy-licious

February 16, 2008

MSN.com had their week in review and among their top priorities was the best and worst dressed celebs at the Grammys last Sunday. This reminded me that I had some thoughts about the Grammys that I never really got to expand on. So although I’m almost a week late, I figure I am not gonna get any closure on this stuff until I get my thoughts out a little.

First and foremost, the airing of the Grammys was excellent. If you’re a music fan, it’s tough not to find at least one or two things that you like about the ceremony itself. I’ve never been a red carpet kinda guy, so I won’t even bore you (and me) with those goings on. Instead, I’ll make it about the music, because that is what Jesus would want. No, not that Jesus … the one from The Big Lebowski. Nobody fucks with the Jesus.

As far as the awards go, this year’s big winner was Amy Winehouse, whose album Back To Black won her five large phonograph-looking thingies. What can I say? I guess I am outnumbered on this one because I, personally, am not a fan. I understand she has a lot of talent and I can respect that. Her music was very different from the mainstream and she gets mad kudos for that as well. BUT when it comes down to it, I just plain don’t like her. There’s nothing more to it than that. But hey, the girl won FIVE Grammys including best record, best song, and best new artist. She obviously has something.

My man Kanye West took home four awards including best rap album. There’s something to be said about a man (or woman for that matter) who has released three albums and had them all nominated for album of the year by the Grammy committee. The fact that he has yet to win one is only going to put him back in the studio with even more drive and desire. Let’s face it, the man is a little superficial (read: total egotistical freak) and he hates losing. Every album he has put out has had a completely original sound that hadn’t been explored before. I’ll say it: he is a genius. And you can quote me on this, he will win a Grammy for album of the year before it’s all said and done.

The performances this year were spectacular. I am having a hard time figuring out which I liked better – The Time teaming up with my girl Rihanna or Tina Turner and Beyonce going old school on us all with a rundown of Turner’s hits from her heyday. Kanye’s performance of “Stronger” was alright, but his tribute to his mother in the form of “Hey Mama” off his Late Registration album was something special. Despite this, I would have to say my third favorite performance was the rendition of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” featuring album of the year winner Herbie Hancock. If you’re having trouble figuring out what song this is, do yourself a favor and download it. It’s probably one of my favorite classical pieces of all time and I know once you listen to it you’ll recognize it from commercials, movies, and more. I’m not much of a country man, so Brad Paisley got muted. Alicia Keys’ performance of “No One” was top-notch even before John Mayer came out; he was really the icing on that cake. He is so musically talented it makes me want to punch a cat. Actually, I hate cats so … cats make me want to punch a cat.

All things considered, it was a good night of television for me. I only wish I had written this a little sooner after the Grammy show so it was a little fresher in my mind. But as it stands, the previously mentioned things were what stood out most to me. I feel kind of empty writing this without it being peppered with hate and sarcasm toward the things I didn’t like about the show, but to be honest, I don’t remember disliking anything other than the Paisley performance. One thing I did funny is that Ludacris of all people was chosen to introduce Aretha Franklin. Really? They couldn’t find anyone better than Ludacris? How many people had to pass on that before someone on the production team finally sighed and said “Alright screw it, call up Ludacris.” What happened? Was Ice-T busy filming more episodes of Law and Order: SVU? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the guy, but as an avid hip hop fan I can tell you with some certainty that he hasn’t had an album worth buying since Word of Mouf came out in 2001. He has done the same thing with each of his three albums since then: He shells out mucho bucks for a top-notch producer to make him a smash hit a’la “Stand Up” (produced by Kanye West and featured on Chicken and Beer) or “Money Maker” (produced by The Neptunes and featured on his latest, Release Therapy). Then he releases said single, single becomes an instant hit in every club, fraternity and Abercrombie store across America, single propels his sales of an album on which the majority of the tracks are average at best. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, stop making albums from start to finish in two months and actually put in some effort on making a more well-rounded CD instead of it being more top heavy than Dolly Parton.

Man, I guess I jumped the gun on saying I made it through a post without being a hateful, sarcastic jerk. Oh well, there’s always next time!

-10