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Friday, August 14, 2009

Friday Brain Dribblings

What it is, Solid State?

'Tis a lovely late-summer Friday in the Queen City. It's the sort of day when one's thoughts turn to free flowing flights of fancy. For me, that means a symphony of randomness I like to call "Friday Brain Dribblings." Here we go.

It was sad to say goodbye to Les Paul yesterday. The man was a giant. Predictably, there was a smattering of  tribute-y pieces floating around the interwebs and TV yesterday. But I think our very own Mike Luoma sums it up best with this Twitter post: "Les Paul's contributions to & impact on music tower over Michael Jackson's. So... his passing will get more coverage, right?" Sigh.

Did you realize GWAR is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year? I feel old.

Earlier this week, Phish announced they will release Joy, their first studio album in five years on September 8. That's it. No joke here. Just passing that along. (That was a big step for me.)

Dogfighting douchebag Michael Vick signed with the Philadelphia Eagles last night. As a dog lover and doting owner of a half-crazy half-pitbull, I'm not nearly as upset about the QB's return as I thought I would be. Actually, I'm almost sorta rooting for him. I'm either a sucker for redemption stories, or so fed up with PETA that I can't help but equate their screeching protests to something on par with the Town Hall Meeting idiots.

Speaking of which, fuck Glenn Beck.

I had a nifty conversation yesterday with Alex Budney, who is running "Nectar's South" on Martha's Vineyard. Most of that will appear in next week's paper. But if you're looking for a late-summer weekend getaway, you could do worse. Sounds like a lot of fun.

I had an equally nifty conversation with the esteemed Casey Rae-Hunter — a.k.a "the old Dan Bolles" — this week for the inaugural edition of my forthcoming and as-yet-unnamed podcast, about the Pat Leahy-sponsored Performance Rights Act. Really interesting stuff. I've still got a little editing to do on that. Look for the debut early next week.

Anyone else notice that Higher Ground's fall calendar is looking increasingly awesome? Yo La Tengo, The Decemberists, Sondre Lerche, Andrew Bird, Son Volt, Great Lake Swimmers, etc. I wonder if the "HG never books good indie bands" crowd will actually show up for any of them. Just sayin'.

And finally, I'm reviewing James Kochalka's new album, Digital Elf, in next week's issue — sneek peek: I like it … mostly. And I guess I'm not alone in digging our resident Superstar's singular weirdness. Apparently, Moby is a fan too.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Work? What Work?

So, it's actually a beautiful day in the 802 — at least for the moment … stupid Summer of 2009 — and I seem to have a severe case of of the fuckoffs. It's not that I don't have plenty of things I technically should be doing — reviewing CDs, returning emails, putting together my column, etc. But the sudden burst of moderately not shitacular weather has essentially turned my brain to mush and my already questionable work ethic to something else entirely. I also seem prone to cursing much more than usual. Fuck.

Anyway, whilst avoiding my ever expanding to do list today, I decided to peruse the Tweetscape and see what sort of sub-140 character shenanigans my fellow Tweeps were up to. Amid the usual nonsense, I found that an old friend of mine, IDMPhoto, was tweeting a running playlist of albums he was enjoying. This is something I like to do from time to time as well, and my voyeuristic side always enjoys seeing what other folks are listening to — if only to marvel at the superiority of my personal tastes. Ahem.

In his his last post, IDM Photo informed the world that he had just transitioned from the Specials to Squeeze. A bold move, perhaps. But one that tickles my personal fancies. And really, go big or go home, right? I responded with the following: "Ooh! Pulling Muscles for Michelle!" in reference to that bands classic tune "Pulling Mussels (From a Shell)." I love that song. But until some years ago, I honestly thought the lyrics were "Pulling muscles for Michelle." Really.

In my slack-tastic state of mind, that got me thinking about other famous tunes for which people always fuck up the lyrics. Regular readers know I'm a "lyrics guy." So I hate it when people screw 'em up. Unless it's funny.

This led to a quick interwebs search which led me to my new second favorite time-wasting webspace (FailBlog will always be numero uno. Always.). It's called Kiss This Guy: The Archive of Misheard Lyrics. As you might guess, it is a veritable treasure trove of those tunes we all know and love, and that some drunk asshole is almost guranteed to slaughter when it comes on the jukebox at your favorite dive. A few of my favorites:

Robert Palmer, "Addicted to Love": You might as well face it you're a dick with a glove.

Queen, "Bohemian Rhapsody": The algebra has a Devil for a sidekick eeeeee!

Steve Miller, "Jet Airliner": Bingo Jed had a light on.

Trust me, there are many, many more. So if you're struggling, as I am, to get anything done today, you could do worse than spending a few minutes perusing Kiss This Guy.

Is it five o'clock yet?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Das Boot? I Vant Vone! An Interview With Broken Lizard's Kevin Heffernan

Count yours truly among those very excited for this Saturday's Higher Ground Ballroom performance by comedy troupe Broken Lizard (Super Troopers, Club Dread, Beerfest). In advance of that show, I had the pleasure of speaking with troupe co-founder Kevin Heffernan by phone last Friday. We covered a range of topics, including beer, beer games, BL's upcoming movie — a restaurant comedy starring Michael Clark Duncan as a retired (and crazy) heavyweight champ/ restaurant owner deeply indebted to the Japanese Yakuza — beer festivals, comedy and why Super Troopers was set in Vermont. And beer.

Kevin Heffernan Kevin Heffernan: I hear there's like a big beer fest in Burlington.
Seven Days: Ha! Yeah. It's a brewers' fest, actually. It's down on … there's like a waterfront park. And like four or five thousand people get drunk on ounce and-a-half beers.

KH: That's awesome.
7D: It is fun. But it takes a long time [to get drunk].

KH: When is it? Is it next weekend?
7D: Um … yeah. I guess it is. I think I have to work at it, actually.

KH: We've been getting tons of emails about it [from people in Burlington]. They're like, "You're coming and we're having a beer fest!" So I imagine when we come do our show, everyone is just gonna be shitfaced.
7D: Thaaaaat's a distinct possibility.

7D: So let's start with the new movie, The Slammin' Salmon. This is your directorial debut, right?
KH: It is. It's my first time.

7D: How did that work out for you?
KH: It was awesome. It was  a situation where we put this movie together, and it came together really fast. The last couple of movies we did with studios and we used private financing for this one. So it came together very quickly. Jay [Chandrasekhar] was committed to doing a Warner Brothers picture at the time, so he couldn't commit to this. So I said, "I'll do it." All along we've edited our films and sort of learned the process together, so it was a pretty simple thing to just start doing it. And there is a comfort level with the crew that we usually use and using the same actors and stuff like that. So, it was seamless.

7D: So I was talking to a friend of mine recently, who is a huge fan. And he was talking about the new movie and he said, "You know, I think it kinda sounds like Waiting 2. So if you talk to those guys, could ask them not to do that?"
KH: [Laughing] It's definitely not Waiting 2. It definitely has a strong Broken Lizard vibe. It's set over one night in this restaurant. So it's almost like a parlour comedy, you know? It's like a stage thing. What we did is we just went a built this set [ of a restaurant] inside of a soundstage and just went and shot for 25 days, in this one room. And it was really a blast. It was like doing a stage thing. But it is a little bit different than like a Waiting thing, in the sense that it's  more like comedy contained in the restaurant over the course of one night.

7D: Gotcha. Do you know when that's coming out?The Slammin' Salmon
KH: We're trying to seal the deal right now. We have a company that's going to distribute it in the fall. So we're supposed to sign the contract within the next week or so. But we haven't gotten the official word.

In the meantime we're going to keep showing it. We're bringing it up to Montreal for the Just for Laughs festival, like three days after we're in Vermont. Every time we have a screening it's been great. We took it to South By Southwest and had some awesome screenings there. It seems like fans of Broken Lizard really like it.

7D: Well, as someone who spent a lot of time working in bars and restaurants, it looks like a pretty great premise.
KH: Yeah. Well, between the different guys, everyone has had some good experiences. The funny thing was, it was all about these characters we put together. We got Michael Clark Duncan to play our boss. And he's kind of this crazy Mike Tyson kind of guy. He's really hysterical and the whole movie really centers around him terrorizing us.

7D: He's a pretty imposing figure …

KH: Yeah, he's like 6'6" and 300 pounds. And he has the deepest voice you've ever heard in your life. And he was like, "I just lost 80 pounds, actually." It was like, "Holy shit."

He's also a guy who had unbeliveable comic abilities. He's always kind of a heavy, so you never see him do comedy stuff. But he has some great comedic turns.

7D: I'd like to talk about Beerfest, if we could. That's my personal favorite BL movie.
KH: I'm always happy to talk about Beerfest.

Continue reading "Das Boot? I Vant Vone! An Interview With Broken Lizard's Kevin Heffernan" »

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fun with Semi-literate, ALL CAPS Interwebs A-Holes

On behalf of anyone who has ever been targeted by anonymous, mouth-breathing Internet trolls, thank you, Casey Wilson. From Funny or

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

RIP, Dom DeLuise

Fans of pun laden, lowbrow humor are no doubt saddened today by the passing of Dom Deluise. I know I am. Originally, I wanted to post the pre-pie fight clip from the Mel Brooks classic, Blazin' Saddles, as it's one of my favorites — the clip and the film, in general. But upon further review, I think it may be a tad off-color, even for this blog. If you're not easily offended, you can check it out here. If you are easily offended, please click here.

Instead, I found this scene from Haunted Honeymoon, featuring DeLuise and the late, great, Gilda Radner. It's a tad racy, sure. But it's also funny as hell.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Subliminal Message Attached

(Editor's Note: As inferred by the above headline, Bryan Dondero's ensuing post contains a running subliminal thread. While I won't spoil the fun by revealing exactly what it is, I will tell you that the blatant breach of journalistic ethics — which really do exist, albeit marginally, in the blogosphere, even on this blog — within said subliminal thread is my fault, as I never explicitly explained them to Bryan prior. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn't publish what follows. However, this one time I'm gonna allow it, because 1.) it's a funny post. And B.) it leads into a killer video. Also, I'm waaay too busy to post anything of my own today.

That said, please know that Dondero has been thoroughly scolded for his misdeeds — his punishment may or may not have involved Swine Flu injections and being pelted with disc-golf discs. -DB)


After doing a Facebook test to see what 80s band I was (go see Farm at 242 on Saturday), the result was Journey (Farm). Those who know me (242), know that I have "Separate Ways" as my ringtone (this Saturday). Let me just get this straight, I like Journey. I may even LOVE Journey. I thought that at first my love for Journey was ironic, which made me uber cool. Everyone (Farm) knows that any self-righteous hipster needs at least one ironic guilty pleasure band. Had I come across an old tattered (242) Journey t-shirt at some hip NYC (Sat.) thrift store, I woulda bought it. Hence making me super cool.

But then something unpredictable happened.

Every time my "ironic" ring tone went off, saturating whoever was around me with Steve Perry's searing vocals, I felt something tingle in my spine. His vocals are known to cause that. (And so does Farm) It forced me to face this ironic love of mine, stare it down and say, "What's the deal, man?! Am I going to have to go out and buy all of your albums now or what?!"

(Farm is also at the Vergennes Opera House on Friday night)

What's my point here, other than shameless self-promotion?

It is that you watch this video — and this is one of the greatest rock videos ever made, so buckle the fuck up. And this is in NO WAY meant to flatter myself (Farm rules), in fact it is pretty self deprecating . . .which is not to cause Steve Smith any offense, because he turned out to be one sexy mo fo. It's just that in the era of this video, he was still in that "my hairline is pulling out like the tides, but I'm gonna hang on to my rockin' long hair as long as I can" phase.  And he and I both know, that never works. 

But despite that disturbing hair phase, as it was pointed out to me, I have an uncanny resemblance to drummer Steve Smith in this video. Check it out for yourself.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009

100 Days and Still Barackin'

In honor of President Obama's 100th day in office, I reflected on my own past 100 days. Well let's see how I have been doing . . .

Jan. 27: In New Orleans — was raging drunk on Bourbon St. (go figure).

Jan. 28: Didn't do a heck of a lot. See Jan 27th, above.

Feb. 2: Came home to VT and apologized to girlfriend . . . See Jan 27th.

Feb. 3: Bought some flowers.

Feb. 10: Bought some more flowers, and some nice perfume for V-day.

Feb. 11: Decided to stop drinking and/or doing anything that would cause my liver harm. Also, took up Aikido.

Mar. 13: Made a bold decision which allowed me to spend more time in Vermont. A career change, if you will.

Mar. 18: Wondered what President Obama has been up to lately.

Mar.19: Watched President Obama on The Tonight Show

Mar.22: Lamented the fact that it was still bloody cold in VT?! Also was curious if CEO's at A.I.G. and Rick Wagoner play poker together on Saturday nights.

Apr. 1: Had an awful nightmare that a drunken Dick Cheney shot me in the face with a magical potion that made me sneer uncontrollably at anything that was humane and reasonable.

Apr.11: Got up at 4 a.m. to celebrate the 1st day of trout fishing. Stopped fishing after about an hour because I got tired of clearing the ice off my rod and was beginning to see little pink fairies flying over my head - the 1st sign of hypothermia . . .

Apr.15: Tried to think of a job that would make fly fishing tax-deductable.

Apr.20: Tried to see if there was a business market for a roller coaster theme park at Gauntanamo Bay. But then realized that a waterboarding coaster could be a liability.

Apr.22: To celebrate earth day, I wrote to GM to propose the blueprints for a cow shit car in place of the Volt.

Apr.29: Still haven't caught any fish. But I bet neither has Obama . . . well, 'cept for that one old fish.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I Wish I Was This Bat . . . er . . . um, Man.

As I said to a friend who posted this link on my Facebook page, "that's just fuckin' cool!" For those too lazy to click on said link, the article is about a bat that supposedly latched itself on to the side of the Space Shuttle Discovery as it was launched from Cape Canaveral this past Sunday. Side note: as my Facebook friend points out (he's a math guy) they must have had one crazy camera to be able to spot a flippin' bat on the side of a shuttle as it traveled roughly, I don't know, 17,500 mph!!!  Anyway, the article left me with a whole slew of thoughts. For example:

Have we inconsequentially just started some strange sort of alien life form? Maybe this bat's DNA will be picked up by an extraterrestrial being and used in an intergalactic experiment that will result in the creation of an entity the likes of which the universe has never seen. Maybe said "entity" will evolve over millenia into a whole species of MEGA-BAT-ALIEN-SUPER-CRAZY . . . um, things. Things that will return to Earth and seek their vengeance on the human race for swatting them with brooms for thousands of years, for making shitty movies about them, for following our inane tendency to keep wild animals as pets (see also my previous blog about Monkeys), and for subjugating them to god awful musical montages such as this.

In hindsight, perhaps thousands of years from now, we will have realized that we should have payed closer attention to Adam West's interpretation of the bat.

But really, my Occam's Razor for all of these musings is this: This bat, in my opinion, quite possibly had the coolest death in the history of all species!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Kiss Me, I'm Irish-ish

Happy Amateur Night, Solid State!

In the close to ten years I've been "legally" able to celebrate my sorta-Irish heritage, I've rarely been able to fully partake. Most years, I worked as a bartender and/or bar back in Boston or Burlington. Although just prior to becoming of age, I was actually in Dublin for Paddy's Day — anyone who tells you it's really a "religious holiday" in Ireland is takin' the piss out of you. It's an orgy of drinking, just like it is here.

Being free of obligation on Paddy's Day is a relatively recent development for me. And I gotta say, I much prefer being behind the bar. I'm not sure who exactly decided that wearing a green hat entitles one to behave like a complete jackass. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't St. Pat. In any event, I'm actually glad the "holiday" falls on a Tuesday this year. It provides a built-in excuse to stay the hell home.

Still, I do have a bit of soft spot for drunken tomfoolery. So to that end, I offer you this, in the spirit of the day:

And also, one of my favorite pseudo drinking songs:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Okay, So Obviously Any Monkey Who is a Fan of Chuck Norris is a Threat to Your Scrotum!

(Editor's Note: Bryan Dondero, Solid State. Solid State, Bryan Dondero. This is the last time I'll introduce you to each other. Anyway, today Mr. Dondero takes a slight detour from musical ramblings and gets down to some monkey business. -DB)

The latest headlines in the New York Times show that the monkey debate (don't say "trial," that's completely different) still continues. Let me just say that "I get it."  If it weren't for the whole throwing poop thing, I would totally want a pet monkey. But really, when you think about it, throwing poop is a symbolic gesture that states the underlying truth about monkeys here. THEY ARE NOT MEANT TO BE DOMESTICATED!  Sure, I know a little about evolution and the natural order of things. And yes, given several hundred years of domesticating and breeding, maybe monkeys could be on par with dogs. But I've seen Planet of the Apes. I know what happens if we do that.

Alas, people still love their monkeys. Given last week's tragedy, where some old lady's chimp nearly mauled her friend to death and consequently ended up with the chimp being shot and killed, one would think that the lesson would be learned. Hmmmm . . . maybe I shouldn't be trying to raise orangutans in my living room.  Bob, the monkey owner featured in the above Times article, when asked about last week's monkey mishap succinctly observes, "she was delusional.” He continues, “she anthropomorphized the primate to such a degree that he was more human than chimpanzee.” This coming from a man who's own monkey nearly gave him a vasectomy. They just can't let their beloved primates go, “He bit my arms, legs and face,” another monkey owner claims. “It was terrifying, but I still love him.”

Maybe Heston was right. Maybe we are destined to be outsmarted and overthrown by primates some day.  Maybe our moronic tendencies to value things that are cute and cuddly over the natural order of things will eventually be our demise. Perhaps we should have seen that huge stinking glob of feces being hurled right at our faces . . . and ducked.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

'Tis The Season to Go Bowling

Ho, ho, ho, Solid State.

Now that the last remains of Thanksgiving dinner have been eaten, The Lions have been thoroughly embarrassed on national TV, Church Street is lit up like the Vegas strip and Black Friday has come and gone — and with only one WalMart trampling fatality . . . way to go America! — 'tis officially the season to be jolly. Well fa la effin' la, la-la la la!

Actually, I really enjoy the Christmas season. The big day, not so much. It's always pretty anti-climactic and, as the product of a broken home — cue sad Christmas-y piano music — really kind of a pain in the ass. But the buildup is great. Holiday parties, Christmas movies, old cartoon and stop-motion TV specials and, of course, Christmas music.

That's right. I like Christmas music. Do something.

I know, I know. It's omnipresent. Most of it sucks. And the fact that many of our finer retailers and radio stations have been playing it since Halloween only compounds its truly inspired obnoxiousness. But I can't help it. I'm a sucker for sentimentality. And bells. Shiny, silver bells.

I love the classics, of course: Bing Crosby's "White Christmas," Ella and Louis (Jordan) singing "Baby, It's Cold Outside," Nat King Cole's "O Come All Ye Faithful." But I really dig the offbeat novelty stuff. Give me dogs barking "Jingle Bells," Ray Stevens counting off the "12 Pains of Christmas" or Eric Cartman singing "O Holy Night" and I'm one happy, eggnog-soused elf. Moving on . . .

As some of you know, last year I started a hipster bowling league with my old Middle Eight band mate Jeremy Gantz. If you're just joining us, here's the gist: Every Wednesday night, I get together with 63 of my closest friends and associates to drink cheap beer, roll rocks and listen to some truly killer tunes. The folks at Champlain Lanes are nice enough to let us plug our iPods into the stereo every week, so the mix is always pretty eclectic. Good times, believe me. Anyway, we take a holiday break soon, so I'm working on the ultimate holiday music mix to unveil the week before Christmas. Obviously, I'll be leaning on some less offensive standards. But I'm really trying to find some lesser known gems to make up the bulk of the playlist. Here's a tiny snippet of what I've got so far:

"Christmas at Ground Zero," Weird Al Yankovic
"Christmas With the Devil," Spinal Tap
"Angels We Have Heard on High," MU330
"Christmas in Hollis," Run DMC
"Please Daddy (Don't Get Drunk This Christmas)," The Decemberists
"I've Got a Boner for Christmas," Nerf Herder
"Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)," The Ramones
"Funky, Funky Xmas," New Kids on the Block
"Oi to the World," The Vandals
"F**k Christmas," Eric Idle

Not a bad start — I'm up to about an hour-and-a-half, all totaled. But I could use a hand finding more. So whaddya say, Solid State? Help your friendly local music critic find a Christmas miracle. 

In the meantime, here's a video of what might be my new favorite Christmas tune, Toby Keith's "Have I Got a Present for You" from Steven Colbert's "A Colbert Christmas." Take it away, Toby . . .

Monday, November 03, 2008

O Canada!

Oh. My. God.

Watch more MSNBC Decision 08 videos on AOL Video

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A YouTube Debate, Solid State Style

As Americans, it is of course incumbent upon us to look not to intellectuals, scholars or even leaders for spiritual, moral and political guidance, but rather, to our celebrities. It is especially important in this troubled and tumultuous political season and economic climate. And who better to inspire and moderate these increasingly grave discussions than our most treasured public icons, musicians?

When looking for answers to really tough political questions, in this case McCain vs. Obama, like most red-blooded Americans, I first turn Mr. Shockin' Y'all himself, Toby Keith. Here, he weighs in on Obama (this clip is sound only, and you can skip to the 33 second mark to get to the good stuff).

So it seems Keith is, surpisingly, behind Obama — or at least half of Obama. But to make an informed decision, one really needs to hear both sides of the argument. Representing the McCain camp, Mr. John Rich with his Fox News smash "Raisin' McCain" — Note: here, "Raisin'" is short for "raising" and is not a commentary on the condition of septuagenarian McCain's skin.

Damn. That was persuasive. Lots of flashy red, white and blue stuff, redneck machismo and a hot girl playing the fiddle. And I kind of feel like watching Monday Night Football to boot. Dude's really appealing to my sensibilities as an American.

But to be fair, I can't justify voting for McCain without hearing a musical rebuttal. Thank goodness for Brookfield, VT pop composer, Bobby Gosh. Gosh, 72, wrote the 1976 Top-10 smash single "A Little Bit More" made (sort of) famous by Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. Here, he offers his direct response to Rich's tune, with "Mama's Votin' For Obama." Take it away, Bobby.

Not bad. But this is why Republicans always win. They've got a slickly produced, high-energy, bumpersticker wisdom-laden rock video — with a hot girl playing the fiddle! Democrats get an old guy with a Casio keyboard, a drum machine and soccer moms holding signs. I'm no closer to a decision than I was when we started.

When in doubt, I find it's best to turn to old friends. In this case, Messrs Stuckey & Murray, a comedy duo from NYC who have a new vid out entitled "We Support Bush" — full disclosure: I went to high school with Jon Murray. As always, with S&M videos (not that kind of S&M, sickos), please view at your own discretion. If you're easily offended, click here instead.

And lastly, in a preview of this Thursday's VP debate between Joe Biden and Tina Fey, er, Sarah Palin, I leave you with this. Sigh.


God Bless America.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008



Do any of you Solid State readers have gmail accounts?

I do, and I will admit that I always scan the links gmail fills its sidebars with, even if I rarely click on them. I'm generally amused by what google thinks I will be interested in. As if the content of my emails could determine my life needs.

Well, today came an especially amusing link. My friend Amanda in Portland has been doing some research into the world of online dating. And this afternoon, using gmail, she sent me her conclusions.


I realize that is really hard to read, like, REALLY hard, but basically, Amanda was complaining that everyone on dating sites says the same things about themselves. For instance, "I like all music". Her repsonse was, "No, no you don't like all music. You like all the music on the RADIO."

And based on this email, gmail sent me a link to download the new Lifehouse CD.

Well played, gmail.

I hope you were all as amused by that as I was.

Now on with your days!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Obama Hates White People!

It's been one of those mornings, Solid State.

First, I woke up with the key change part of Meatloaf's "I Would Do Anything For Love" inexplicably stuck in my head — does that song even change keys? In my head it does. And it's epic. And bad. Really, really bad.

Then, walking my beloved sidekick Buckley through Battery Park on our daily constitutional, I stepped in a giant pile of dog poo — at least, I hope it was dog. Uggh.

But the kicker happened at the gas station. Waiting at the counter for my debit card to clear, I glanced down at today's cover of the Freeps which features a big shot of Republican VP candidate — and vaguely school-marmishly hot — Sarah Palin. "She gave a great speech last night," said the cashier, nodding to the paper.

"It was OK," I replied. Out of morbid curiosity, I actually did watch most of her speech. Palin is a mildy engaging speaker. And pandering, right-wing bumper-sticker rhetoric sounds deceivingly wholesome coming from the mouth of a self-described "hockey mom." "She kind of reminds me of Frances McDormand's character from Fargo," I quipped.


"Fargo. The Coen Brothers mov . . . nevermind." I guess the Simon's clerk isn't a fan.

"Well, she's a hell of a lot better than that big phony," he said.

"Obama?" I replied, smirking. He nodded. "Well, I guess I'm inclined to disagree," I said, hoping the conversation might end there. On numerous mornings, I've stood in line waiting to pay for coffee or a Vitamin Water while the middle-aged register jockey has espoused his opinions on myriad topics, from the the global warming "myth" to the appalling "pussyness" of wanting to actually sit down and talk with potential enemies. Without fail, he always adds that he's informed because, and I quote, "I read the Internet." Oh, boy.

"How can you disagree?" He was flabbergasted, his voice rising in volume and pitch. Now I really didn't want to get into it. There's nothing worse than arguing politics with an impassioned stranger.

"I just do," I said, feigning a smile and trying to make my way towards the door.

"Well, you know he hates white people, right?"

Oh. My. God. My jaw dropped. Whatever shred of inner monologue I had prior to my morning coffee evaporated. "That's just garbage," I blurted. Oh, shit. Now I've done it.

"What? What? You don't have a clue, buddy," he sputtered, clearly growing angry.

"His mother is white, dude," I retorted. "His VP is white . . . he is half-white."

"You don't have a clue, buddy," he spat back. "You need to read."

Now I was pissed. "Read?" I guffawed. "Read what? The Free Press?" Gesturing toward the rack of skin mags, "Maybe Juggs? 50-Plus? . . . the Internet?" Admittedly, low blows all. Like I said, I was un-caffeinated.

"Not a clue, buddy."

This was not a winnable battle. "Have a good one, pal," I said as I left the store shaking my head. Or maybe looking for a clue.

Some days . . .

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Apropos of Nothing

It's a simply beautiful summer afternoon and frankly, my thoughts are wandering all over the place as I await my 3:30 interview with Phish bassist Mike Gordon. While we're just hangin' around, let's take a peek inside my stir-crazy head.

Proof That God Has a Sense of Humor: American Idol host/massive tool Ryan Seacrest was bitten by a shark while swimming in Mexico over the weekend. Had he been seriously injured — which he wasn't — there would be nothing even remotely funny about this. But of the thousand or so people basking in the surf and sun, he was the only person attacked. Well played, nature.

Rosehilldrive_4 Where's Clark Kent?: Has anyone ever seen Rose Hill Drive (pictured) and now grown-up Hanson in the same place at the same time?

Things That Go Boom: Unfortunately, I didn't get home from New Hampshire in time to catch Vetiver at Metronome on Sunday night. However, while in the White Mountains I did discover what happens when you mix cheap fireworks and a camping tent. Despite the what the label might tell you, tents are really not flame retardant.

Vantastixprintalbumcover_smallThis Week in Unintentionally Funny Press Releases:
Dick Van Dyke — who, apparently, is still alive — has just released a new album with vocal group The Vantastix. It's a cappella. And it's a children's album. When originally asked if he had any interest in making an album with the one-time Mary Poppins star, Vantastix member Mike Mendyke replied "I thought he was joking." If only.

Bullshit PR E-mail of the Week, or How Not to Impress the Media:
I have recently picked up a phenomenal Pink Floyd tribute out of Music City called ECLIPSE. 
    I would have to classify ECLIPSE as "phenomenal" because they have such a BIG FLOYD SOUND and they hold so true to the recordings, as well as the live performances of Pink Floyd.
    Since their 2007 debut, ECLIPSE has modified their roster to include THREE guitarists, TWO keyboardists, bass and drums. Six of the members have strong vocals with two of them being female. This allows ECLIPSE to utilize the perfect voice to sing leads on a given song while stacking harmonies in the background. Up to five-part harmonies, STACKED. The vocals are LUSH!
    Yes, you heard correct. ECLIPSE now boasts having THREE incredible guitarists. They play various electric, acoustic and steel guitars. Although each guitarist is fully capable of pulling off all the classic Gilmour leads single handed, they all pass 'em around to each other . . . sharing the spotlight. All three play through vintage tube amps and know how to get that classic Gilmour tone.
    ECLIPSE also prides themselves on NOT using "backing tracks" like so many other PF tributes.  IT'S ALL LIVE!
    In other word, ECLIPSE is NOT an ordinary tribute band. They are the real deal and I am looking forward to work with them. I am looking forward to the chance to be able work with you in the near future.

See what I have to put up with? Three guitarists!?! Holy cow! You could double as half an Eagles tribute! My favorite line: "They are the real deal." No. No they're not. Pink Floyd was the real deal. You're a COVER BAND! With a big BUDGET! And a CAPS LOCK problem. Sigh, er, SIGH!

News Somebody Must Care About:
Boy George's August 12 show at Metropolis in Montreal has regrettably been canceled. Insert your own joke here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RIP, George

As most of you have probably heard, the great George Carlin passed away yesterday at the age of 71. I had the pleasure of attending the comedian's performance last October at The Flynn Theater. Little did I know it would be one of his last. What follows is brief piece I wrote following the show that appeared in the October 31, 2007 issue of Seven Days. Given Bridget's last post, I find it an oddly appropriate way to say goodbye to a personal hero. 


If any human being ever deserved to copyright a word or phrase, “fuck” should be George Carlin’s. No single person has explored its many meanings and usages as comprehensively as the 70-year-old comedian, and few, I imagine, have uttered it with such frequency. From “Fuck Lance Armstrong, fuck Tiger Woods and fuck Dr. Phil,” his opening line at last Saturday’s performance in Burlington, to his gracious farewell — which, oddly enough, was expletive-free — Carlin expertly thrust and parried his way through an hour’s worth of new material, eloquently wielding the word as if a verbal épée.Scene_2

In Carlin’s hands, “the queen mother of all swears” is less an obscenity than a tool used to deftly amplify the absurdities of contemporary American culture. He was in fine form, surgically flaying societal conventions with calculated ferocity. From the pseudo-wisdom of new-age bumper stickers to the illegitimacy of the current presidency to the fallacy of religion, no topic was safe, and everyone — and their mother — was fair game.

Like the late Bill Hicks, or even Andy Kaufman, Carlin’s greatest strength is his ability to make his audience squirm. And in between the chuckles and belly laughs, a subtle undercurrent slowly wound its way through the aisles of the stately theater: He’s not talking about them, he’s talking about us. In many corners of the theater — including my own — the revelation turned guffaws into gasps. It was brilliant.

Behind Carlin’s veil of blasphemy lies carefully constructed, searing satire. As the adage goes, “It’s funny because it’s true.” But there’s another saying, in this case equal in its poignancy: “The truth hurts.” Especially when delivered with a few well-placed curses.

Some artists work in watercolors, others in oils. Some take photographs, others sketch in pencil or charcoal. George Carlin paints his portraits in profanity — in particular the “F-Bomb.” And as last Saturday’s performance unequivocally proved, there are few moments in life more compelling or satisfying than witnessing a master craftsman at work.


Monday, April 07, 2008


I don't know about you folks, but today my brain is utterly fried. Maybe it's the recent spate of terrific weather, or maybe it's fact that I've been glued to a computer screen for three days straight. But I find myself in need of mindless entertainment on par with "Girls Jumping on Trampolines" from The Man Show. What follows is the next best thing: The Green Mountain Derby Dames beating each other up on roller skates, courtesy of Jeff Howlett and Howlerman Productions, with music from Boston-based punk outfit, The Faithfull.

Green Mountain Derby Dames from Howlermano on Vimeo.

Thanks, Jeff. I needed that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thug Life

One of my favorite Queen City themed t-shirts reads: "Burlington: A Safe Place To Be A Thug" — although "Girlington" and "Burlingtron" are certainly contenders. I claim no real urban roots, though I was born in an unsavory neighborhood in Providence and, in my early twenties, spent a year living in Dorchester . . . the Polish section of Dorchester (insert joke here). Still, I'm an average middle-class white guy from New England and my experience with life in the ghetto — and no, the Old North End does not count — comes mainly through books, newspapers, TV and movies. And I'm grateful for that.      

About a week ago, I was returning from my afternoon constitutional with my faithful, half-crazy half-pit bull, Buckley. As I strode up the steps to my apartment, a thuggish looking kid with a native Vermont accent standing in front of the house next door stopped me in my tracks with the following line: "Did your fucking dog shit on my steps?"

Taken aback, I turned toward him and, trying my best to sound sympathetic, replied, "No, man. It wasn't my dog." "It fuckin' better not have been," he said, adding, "If I ever catch him again, I'll kick his fuckin' ass. It's fuckin' on." For emphasis, I suppose, he proceeded to take a drag of his cigarette, holding it between thumb and forefinger like a joint.

Internally, I began keeping a running tally of the number of times my agitated neighbor dropped the F-bomb. (This is something I frequently do to amuse myself. I firmly believe there is an inverse relationship between the number of times an individual uses some form of the word "fuck" in a sentence and said individual's level of intelligence. I'm still working out the exact formula. George Carlin — who is a fucking genius — is, of course, exempt.)

Slack-jawed, and more than a little unnerved that this punk had actually threatened my dog — who, though generally a colossal wuss, is still a freakin' pit bull . . . well, half pit anyway — I restated the facts. "Dude, my dog didn't shit on your steps. You didn't see my dog shit on your steps. Frankly, I'm not sure why you think he did. But he didn't, OK?"

As if processing the info, staring at the ground — or perhaps, the dog shit — he mumbled, "It's a fuckin' warning."

Bewildered by the unfolding stream of events, I shook my head and replied, "Uh . . . fuckin' thanks?"

A couple of nights later, I left my apartment to buy some beer at the store across the street. As I opened the door, there was my neighbor, standing with a much smaller, but similarly thuggish friend, smoking cigarettes in front of the house next door. "I feel like slapping the shit out of somebody tonight!" he exclaimed. I crossed the street, hoping the remark was a general sentiment and not aimed specifically at me. Turns out it was.

When I returned, neighbor dude, perhaps emboldened by the presence of his pint-sized pal, approached me. "What did I tell you about about your fuckin' dog?" he said, striding onto the sidewalk. Oh shit, I thought. Here we go. Pulse and mind racing, I desperately searched for the right thing to say to diffuse the situation before it escalated any further. I'm a writer, not a fighter.

Before I go on, I'd like to point out that I'm borderline fanatical about cleaning up after my dog. Regular readers know that errant dog doo is, pardon the pun, one of my biggest pet peeves. That night, my excremental religious fervor might have been my saving grace.

"Would you like a beer?" I asked, extending the six pack of Harpoon IPA towards my potential attacker. "What?" he replied, genuinely stunned by my reaction. Seeing the opening, I set my plan into motion.

"Come here, man. I want to show you something," I said, motioning towards the garbage can sitting at the end of my driveway. I walked toward the bin, waving to encourage my neighbor to follow. He did.

I opened the lid to reveal about a week's worth of poop-filled plastic bags. The aroma was stunning. "Shit!" he exclaimed, recoiling in disgust and covering his nose. "Exactly," I replied, dropping the lid. "It wasn't my dog," I said as I walked past him and into my apartment.


A few summers ago, I was sitting at a patio table in front of Radio Bean with a friend, drinking Five Dollar Shakes and just generally enjoying a pleasant summer evening in Burlington. A middle-aged gentleman approached our table and, nodding toward a vacant chair, asked if we'd mind if he joined us.

It turned out he was a veteran of the first Iraq war and a native of Chicago. Specifically, the Cabrini-Green housing projects, one of the most notoriously violent neighborhoods in the country. We asked which was scarier, Iraq or the projects, and he emphatically answered, "Cabrini-Green, hands down." As if on cue, a tricked out Honda Civic, complete with pulsing neon and mag wheels rolled to a stop at the intersection of North Winooski and Pearl. The bass emanating from the car not only shook the vehicle's frame, but was loud enough that you could actually see rhythmic ripples forming in the beer glasses on our table, a good thirty feet away from the intersection.

The Chicagoan chuckled and shook his head. "Have you ever heard of The Fresh Air Kids?" he asked, referring to the program that brings inner city youth to rural places like Vermont during the summer. We nodded. "I have this idea for something called The Stale Air Kids," he continued. "The gist is that you take fools like that guy," he said, thumbing his finger towards the Civic, "and drop 'em off in the ghetto. If they last a week, then they can wear their hats to the side." At that moment, the light turned green and the Civic took off, loudly screeching its tires before hurtling down the street. "I will never understand why these kids think the thug lifestyle is so cool," he said. Spreading his arms as if to the entire city of Burlington, he added,  "I would have taken this in a heartbeat."


I've encountered my neighbor on a couple of occasions since that fateful night. If he acknowledges me at all, it's with a mumbled "'sup" and a head nod. Honestly, that's fine by me. Still, I can't help but wonder how this dude — or any number of kids seemingly just like him in Burlington — would fare as a Stale Air Kid. It's one thing to be a tough guy for fun, or out of boredom. It's another entirely to be one to survive.

Burlington: A Safe Place To Be A Thug.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Spring?

You might not know it from the gloomy weather currently besieging the Northeast, but today is the first day of Spring, which, in Vermont, means virtually nothing — we probably won't see leaves for another month . . . sigh.

Coincidentally, it is also the fifth anniversary of the day combat operations began in Iraq. President Bush declared war on March 19, 2003, but the attack actually began the following day, March 20, at 5:30 a.m.

In recent weeks, assessing the cost of the second longest war in US history has been a hot topic amongst media pundits of all political persuasions. The estimates range from hundreds of billions of dollars to several trillion. In either case, that's a lot of dough. Good thing there's nothing wrong with our economy, right? (or should I say, "eh?")

But to gauge the true cost of war, one needs to look beyond mere financial tolls and reconcile the deeper effects on soldiers, families and communities from both sides of the firing lines and the global society as a whole. What follows is a sobering statistical breakdown that helps to put some the larger, less obvious intangibles into perspective.

This was sent to me by my good friend Ben Hudson from We'll get back to music tomorrow, I swear.

The Costs of the War in Iraq By the Numbers

The Cost to Our Forces in Iraq

3,990: American troops who have died in Iraq since the start of the war. [, 3/17/08]

29,395: Number of U.S. service members that have been wounded in hostile action since the start of U.S. military operations in Iraq. [AP, 3/11/08]

60,000: Number of troops that have been subjected to controversial stop-loss measures--meaning those who have completed service commitments but are forbidden to leave the military until their units return from war. [US News and World Report, 2/25/08]

5: Number of times the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment has been sent to Iraq. They are the first Marine Corps unit to be sent to Iraq for a fifth time. [San Francisco Chronicle, 2/27/08]

2,100: Number of troops who tried to commit suicide or injure themselves increased from 350 in 2002 to 2,100 last year. [US News and World Report, 2/25/08]

11.9: Percent of noncommissioned Army officers who reported mental health problems during their first Iraq tour [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]

27.2: Percent of noncommissioned Army officers who reported mental health problems during their third or fourth Iraq tour [Los Angeles Times, 3/7/08]


 The Cost to Our Military Readiness

Percent of current and former U.S. military officers surveyed in a recent independent study who believe that the demands of the war in Iraq have "stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin" [Foreign Policy/Center for New American Security, 2/19/08]

94: Percent of Army recruits who had high school diplomas in Fiscal Year 2003 [Larry Korb, The Guardian, 10/12/07]

Percent of Army recruits who had high school diplomas in Fiscal Year 2007 [Larry Korb, The Guardian, 10/12/07]

4,644: Number of new Army recruits who were granted moral waivers in Fiscal Year 2003. [Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07]

12,057: Number of new Army recruits who were granted moral waivers in Fiscal Year 2007. [Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07]

67: Percent of captains the Army managed to retain this year, short of its goal of 80 percent, and in spite of cash bonus incentives of up to $35,000 [Armed Services Committee Hearing, 2/26/08]


 The Cost to Our National Security

Number of global terrorist incidents from January – September 11th, 2001. [American Security Project, "Are We Winning?," September 2007]

5,188: Number of global terrorist incidents in from January- September 11th, 2006. [American Security Project, "Are We Winning?," September 2007]

30: Percent increase in violence in Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007. [Reuters, 10/15/07]

21: Number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2001. [Center for American Progress, "The Forgotten Front," 11/07]

139: Number of suicide bombings in Afghanistan in 2006, with an additional increase of 69 percent as of November 2007. [Center for American Progress, "The Forgotten Front," 11/07]

30: Percent of Afghanistan controlled by the Afghan Government according to DNI Mike McConnell. [Associated Press, 2/27/08]

2,380: Days since September 11th, 2001 that Osama Bin Laden has been at-large.



The Cost of Funding the War in Iraq

$50-60 Billion:
Bush Administration's pre-war estimates of the cost of the war. [New York Times, 12/31/02]

$12 Billion:
Direct cost per month of the Iraq War. [Washington Post, Bilmes and Stiglitz Op-Ed, 3/9/08]

$526 Billion:
Amount of money already appropriated by Congress for the War in Iraq. [CRS, 2/22/08]

$3 Trillion:
Total estimated cost of the Iraq War. [Washington Post, Bilmes and Stiglitz Op-Ed, 3/9/08]

$5 Trillion - $7 Trillion:
Total cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan accounting for continued military operations, growing debt and interest payments and continuing health care and counseling costs for veterans. [McClatchy, 2/27/08]

Percent that the cost of the Iraq War has increased from 2004 to 2008. [CRS Report, 2/22/08]


The Cost to Iraqis and Journalists

8,000: Number of Iraqi military and police killed since June 2003. [Brookings Institute, Iraq Index, March 13, 2008]

82,000-89,000: Estimate of Iraqi civilians casualties from violence since the beginning of the Iraq War. [Iraq Body Count]

4.5 Million: Number of Iraqi refugees both inside and outside the country. [Washington Post, 3/17/08]

61: Percent of Iraqis that believe the U.S. military presence makes the security situation in Iraq worse. [Agence France-Presse, 3/17/08]  

127: Number of journalists killed in Iraq since March 2003. [Committee to Protect Journalists]


Economic Costs of War in Iraq                   

$33.51: Cost of a barrel of oil in March 2003. [Energy Information Administration]

$105.68: Cost of a barrel of oil on March 17, 2008. [NYMEX]


U.S. Troops and Contractors in Iraq

132,000: Number of U.S. troops in Iraq in January 2007, before President Bush's escalation. [Brookings Institution, Iraq Index, 3/13/08]                                     

155,000: Number of U.S. troops currently in Iraq. [Brookings Institution, Iraq Index, 3/13/08]                                                         

Number of U.S. troops projected to be in Iraq in July 2008. [Associated Press, 2/26/08]

35,000: Number of private security contractors operating in Iraq. [Human Rights First, Private Security Contractors at War]

180,000: Number of private contractors operating in Iraq. [Human Rights First, Private Security Contractors at War]


Progress Towards Political Reconciliation Made By Iraqis

3: Number out of 18 Bush Administration Benchmarks Met by Iraqi Government As of January 24, 2008. [Center for American Progress, 1/24/08]

Number of provinces President Bush said would be secured by Iraqis as of November 2007. [President Bush Speech, 1/10/07]

Number of provinces actually secured by Iraqis as of January 2008. [NPR, 1/7/08]  


Bush-Republican Intransigence on Staying the Course in Iraq

Number of times a majority of the Senate has voted to change course in Iraq.

Number of times Bush Republicans in Congress have blocked changing course in Iraq.

1: Number of vetoes issued by the White House over changing course in Iraq.

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