Archive for September, 2009

Maybe We Ain’t That Young Anymore

September 23, 2009

60 years ago today, unquestionably the most important performer in my lifetime was born in Long Branch, NJ. The late Joe Strummer once said in a documentary that “Bruce is great and if you don’t agree with that, you’re a pretentious Martian from Venus.” He concluded by mentioning that “when the DJ puts on ‘Racing in the Streets’, life seems worth living again.” Although I may have issues with Joe’s choice of phrasing (nerd alert!), I couldn’t agree more.

Bruce knows how to connect — lyrically, rhythmically, personally. His honest themes mirror our own personal struggles while finding a way to inspire and instill hope. As much as I love discovering new music, Springsteen’s catalog is the only soundtrack I’ve truly needed.

His albums provide refuge to the stresses of entering adulthood, and his performances prove that live music still matters:

Happy Birthday, Bossman — I’d be lost without your music. While you may not be that young anymore, here’s to hoping there are still many years ahead. See you November 18th.

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I Believe There is Justice in Our Hearts

September 22, 2009

To break from the monotony of job hunting, I sometimes take short recesses to dig into something I find a little more enjoyable and I’ve found that Netflix queuing provides one of the best escapes. For some reason probably attributable to my obsessive compulsive tendencies, I hate feeling in the dark on “important” films that have slipped past my radar, so I frequently research different “best of” lists and award winners to add any glaring omissions to my queue.

Much to my pleasure, I recently discovered that I had the majority of the new-found A.F.I.’s Top 10 lists covered. More importantly, I was reminded of the incredibly relevant closing argument in 1982’s The Verdict while investigating the “Courtroom Drama” section:

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If I could be one actor, I think I’d pick the late Paul Newman. In addition to being the proud culinary owner of a tasty line of salad dressings and pasta sauces (with a mission statement centered around charity), the blue-eyed bedazzler has had a field day with memorable leads in such personal favorites as Cat on a Tin Roof, The Hustler, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and The Sting.

Most of Newman’s famous roles captured a piece of the underlying theme behind The Verdict‘s final court scene. My parents raised me to always value moral responsibility, and one of my favorite aspects of cinema is that the best performances act as cultural reminders to guide us back on track when we might be losing course.

All the Colors Bleed Into One

September 17, 2009

I fell in love with U2 at a fairly young age in large thanks to my dad’s repeat plays of the arguably perfect Best of 1980-1990 on weekend trips to the lake. The “four Irish boys from Dublin” were instrumental in my early realization that rock music had the ability to transcend and, upon discovering the Rattle & Hum documentary years ago, I’ve been determined to experience them in person. Unfortunately for one reason or another, I’ve had to settle for DVDs and tapes for the past 15 years.

As recently publicized, my much anticipated wait finally ended last Saturday after the opening night of the North American 360 tour at Soldier Field. Suffice to say, I feel confident claiming that I’ll never attend a bigger show for the rest of my life:

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The video above doesn’t necessarily do the much-hyped stage justice, but I loved how Bono and Edge decided to cover Ben E. King at the end of the video. Spotting the top of “the claw” as we approached Soldier Field from Grant Park, I knew the stage was going to meet and exceed expectations. For a better grasp of the enormousness, take a look at these designer fun facts:

  • Designed to support 180 tons, the steel structure is 90 feet tall with center pylon reaching out 150 feet
  • Cylindrical video screen weighs 54 tons opening to 14,000 square feet (as big as 2 doubles tennis courts)
  • LCD video screen is made up of 1 million pieces (500,000 pixels, 320,000 fasteners, 30,000 cables, 150,000 machined pieces)
  • Takes 4 days to build and 12 hours to load in screen, stage, and universal production equipment
  • Takes 6 hours for production to dismantle stage and 48 hours to dismantle and load it out of the stadium

Referred to as “our spaceship,” the stage allowed the band to reach all corners of the stadium, thus eliminating the possibility of having a bad seat in house. I felt like I was on stage with the band instead of just another one of the 65,000 fans in attendance. Without a doubt, the band earned their “biggest band in the world” tag Saturday night.

As we stared and admired the stage monstrosity in front of us before the show, Christina asked if the night could potentially claim the top spot in my personal all-time favorite show list. While the production was certainly the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen, I can’t say that I felt as emotionally connected as I have at Springsteen shows.

That being said, U2 embraces their rock-star status and the live show further amplifies that image, so comparing them to Bruce is unfair. I will always be moved by U2’s powerful messages (especially up through Acthung Baby), and last Saturday night certainly felt like one I will never forget.

Pride of the Yankees

September 15, 2009

When Derek earned his 2,722nd hit at Yankee Stadium last Friday night, it was fitting that the legendary Lou Gehrig was finally surpassed by a Yankee captain equally respected and admired:

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The Iron Horse solidified his spot as my all-time favorite baseball player after reading Luckiest Man. Gehrig started his professional career at a time when players began to be seen as celebrities. Though this bigwig lifestyle suited certain teammmates, Lou avoided the spotlight and preferred to speak with his bat.

Luckiest Man showcased Gehrig’s naïvity and insecurity. He’d cry in the clubhouse after disappointing performances, was painfully shy around women, and remained devoted to his German-immigrant mother all his life. Even after earning the league MVP, he still feared the Yankees would release him. Against the advice of Ruth and others, Lou refused to negotiate aggressively and earned less than he deserved for many seasons. Honest, humble, and frugal, I’ve always looked up to the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I would have been upset if anyone other than Jeter broke Lou’s all-time hits record, but Derek deserves it. While he may not have the highest team batting average or most home runs and RBIs each season, no one has been more valuable to the Yankees over the past decade. Like Gehrig, I can never remember Jeter embarrassing the Yankees organization and he seems to always take time for anyone who approaches him for an autograph or interview.

Jeter does everything the right way and deserves the acclaim. I would probably forever turn my back on the game if Derek was ever linked to performance enhancers. He is the reason I can continue to root for the Yankees when so many Steinbrenner business tactics make it hard to do so, and we need more honorable professionals like him:

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As Tim Kurkjian alluded, my favorite Jeter attribute is his drive to win. When asked about breaking Gehrig’s record, Jeter simply responded:

I’ve always had a tough time in my career enjoying things as they happen, because I’m always trying to look to the next game. It was devastating and a great disappointment not getting to the playoffs last year. Returning is our main goal now.

It feels so good to be in first place again. The magic number is down to 12 and I can already taste the brisk October nights in the Bronx. While there may have been some Facebook doubters in May, I’m feeling especially good about the team chemistry this fall.

Sometimes All You Need is a Sign

September 10, 2009

The following beautiful short won big at the 2009 Cannes Lions Advertising Festival with the task of positioning Schweppes as the “adult” soft drink of choice. Gently weaving Schweppes branding throughout, Australian director Patrick Hughes needed to create a film that adults would connect with and want to share with others; considering my grassroots discovery through Christina via her cool older sister, I’d say that Hughes did his job well.

I didn’t even realize that the short was created as a branding project until reading up on its awards afterwards. More than anything soft drink related, the heart of the aptly titled Signs focuses on communication and the art of loving without talking:

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Christina recommended watching because she thought I’d try to make something similar with my friends. She also mentioned that the main character reminded her of me, which I guess I can see considering he comes off as an awkward mute most of the film. Nonetheless, I was grateful for the suggestion and would love nothing more than to have the ability to create powerful little gems like this someday.

While Signs may be no Absolut Vodka promotion, I wanted to do my part in continuing to spread the viral word.

It Wasn’t Over, It Still Isn’t Over

September 7, 2009

I would have never guessed that a certain famous Hollywood actor was the band leader behind the following “Thriller”-esque teaser, but I’m intrigued for a variety of reasons:

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The creepy collaboration known as Dead Man’s Bones formed in 2005 after Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields met via mutual family interests; Gosling was dating my personal favorite Hollywood hottie while Shields was seeing her not-famous sister. Bonding over a shared love for all things scary, the two intended to write their own monster-ghost-love-story play, but scrapped production when costs became excessive.

Fortunately, the boys decided to continue with the play’s songs, which sound like what would happen if Roy Orbison decided to team up with Arcade Fire to make a Halloween doo-wop record:

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According to the band’s first interview with Pitchfork, the pair felt that keeping things as raw and real as possible was an integral part of the album’s creation. They chose to play all the instruments on the record, even those they had never touched before, in hopes of letting any imperfections highlight the strengths of the music.

To aid in capturing that sound, Dead Man’s Bones recruited the children’s choir of Silverlake Conservatory of Music to rehearse and record with once a week for several months. The “In the Room Where You Sleep” video below was filmed on their final day together:

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I’m comfortable in admitting that Ryan already had my respect after The Notebook, Half Nelson, and The Believer, but this musical project could take the admiration to another level. Although I’ve only seen the two live performances above, I’m anxious to hear the final release from the very respectable Anti Records come early October.

Seriously though…with sweet mustaches, sultry romances, and critical acclaim, what more does this man really need?

A Fistful of Quarters

September 4, 2009

Last weekend, I wisely finally listened to Netflix’s recommendation and watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.  The critically acclaimed documentary follows everyday family man Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the world high score for Donkey Kong from reigning champion/Nick Cave look-a-like/arrogant coward Billy Mitchell:

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Managing to be heartbreaking and hilarious at the same time, this film has the power to move you. Touching on topics ranging from coping with depression to living with integrity and discovering the true meaning of being a winner, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is much more than an easy laugh at super arcade nerds.

The King of Kong reminded me of another classic David vs. Goliath gaming battle currently ensuing, but only this time, it’s among the arcades themselves! Of course, I’m referring to the Help Save the Arcades campaign (presented by none other than Stride gum):

Sadly, many arcades across the country are down to their last quarter and facing closure. It’s time gamers everywhere band together and Save the Arcades! By simply playing the insanely epic Zapataur, you can help one of four amazing arcades score $25,000 and continue to provide gaming goodness to their community. Every point you score will be added to the tally of the arcade you choose to support. So the more you play, the better chance that the arcade you’re rooting for will score $25,000.

As of right now, DeKalb’s Star Worlds Arcade (Christina’s new favorite hometown destination) lacks the fan dedication necessary for achieving victory. Considering how cool owner Pacman Pat was the last time we tried to make an appearance on his turf, I’m willing to turn my back on local Game Galaxy to help his cause and you should too. Next time you’re bored and wasting time online (i.e. right now), consider battling the most formidable manbeast in all the forsaken land via a game of Zapataur and donate the points DeKalb’s way.

As Christina elegantly stated on her Facebook profile, “Do it for Pacman Pat! Show that even the underdog has a chance!” I’m betting that Pat doesn’t believe in the saying, “Life’s a video game — no matter how good you get, you’re always zapped in the end.” Let’s help the man keep the faith, Bon Jovi style.

You Are Not Alone In This

September 1, 2009

Mumford & Sons are becoming close friends with my ears this year. Today I discovered another new tune titled “Timshel” courtesy of a MTV UK Session posted by a clutch college repping comprade. While unsuccessfully searching to find a point of purchase for the new ditty, I decided that I actually enjoy their live version from London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts even more than the MTV production:

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Apparently written after falling into the sea at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis, the band played “Timshel” in essentially total darkness that (probably shadowy) March evening. Based on the song’s alleged inspiration, I give the stage concept two thumbs up.

At this point, I’m not sure if Mumford & Sons knows how to do anything less than epic. Like every other song from this band, “Timshel” makes me giddy for a proper full length release. If that mysterious date happens to fall in 2009, I have no doubt it will be a strong contender for Album of the Year.

One more thing — if you’re looking for four minutes of forceful foot stomping, check out the official video for “Little Lion Man” too.