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Here is a long-delayed capsule recap of our most popular feature*, Minor Celebrity Sighting Round-up. What have people you've kind-of heard of once someone describes them to you been doing with their spare time?

ITEM: I saw the guy that plays Artie Buco on The Sopranos walking down 7th Avenue one evening. He looked to be in good spirits while walking somewhere.

ITEM: I was going to some hoity-toity Comic Book party in Midtown when I thought I saw local talk-show legend Joe Franklin walking hurriedly the other way. I had to check to see if Joe Franklin was alive before posting this item. He is, and it was definitely him.

ITEM: At said hoity-toity Comic Book party, I met a bunch of people who write, draw and edit comic books. Their names would mean nothing to anyone, and actually I don't even like the comics half of them write. But some of them bought me drinks, which makes them okay in my book. It is also amusing to hear comic creators shit-talk. The creator of cinematic classics such as Teen Wolf pantomimed punching me in the face.

ITEM: I saw Horatio Sanz in the audience of the UCB Theater. I was on the fence as to whether this one counted (he is affiliated with the theater so it's kind of like a 'sighting' of Al Roker at the set of the Today Show) but you could tell that he was there to be a spectator and not a performer because he wasn't giggling every three seconds.

ITEM: I am fond of the Hold Steady, I think I may have mentioned that before. The last time I saw them, I also saw (at first separately and later congealed into a wad of celebrity) Andy Blitz, Neko Case and David Cross at the concert. I was told later that Cross and Case are dating, so congrats to them and pity to Blitz for being a Third Wheel. In an inverse-celebrity-sighting moment, I suspect I was mistaken for a band member, or at least a minor-celebrity-hanger-on when the bartenders at the after-party insisted that 3/5ths of my drinks were "on the house". Perhaps they were simply generous.

ITEM: Just the other day, I saw Malcolm Gladwell walking near Minor Celebrity Corner. This was a particularly rueful sighting, as I had missed his panel with Steven Johnson at the Strand last week by maybe an hour -- I was going into the Strand just to browse, was momentarily excited to see a flier advertising the panel, then crestfallen to realize it had wrapped up earlier that evening. Anyway, Gladwell's hair is reaching the "Tipping Point" (har har) between "reasonable afro" and "Crazy Sideshow Bob Hair". Here's his press picture:

That's a a perfectly respectable afro. Now imagine him not cutting his hair between that picture being taken this spring and now. I'm not saying it's Phil Spector hair:

But it's getting there. Not that I have any room to talk, I have been artlessly chopping off bits of my own hair for months to combat the fact that I last got a real haircut in early January.

Anyway, there's your MCSR for early Autumn 2005!

*as determined by BigChampagne's latest "Completely Made Up Figures" chart (2005/10/02)
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06 October 2005 @ 12:01 am
To Everyone in New York City:
The kids love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Comedy Central is hoping the kids will also love TDS's spinoff, The Colbert Report. If you are one of the kids, I'm just saying, you can send a message to the e-mail address on that website and get free tickets to a taping really easily. Way easier than the Daily Show or Conan. And it tapes later, like at 7:30pm so you can even go to a taping and work on the same day.

To Everyone not in New York City:
You're probably not going to be able to go to a taping of The Colbert Report any time soon, and I'm sorry. You also have probably been subjected to me talking about how much I like the Hold Steady. Starting tomorrow they are touring the upper part of the United States and may well be coming to a City Near You! Unless you live in Lawrence, in which case they're not coming very near you at all, but keep your fingers crossed. I know you are all smart people and know how to steal intellectual property, but just in case their website has some intellectual property given freely. In addition to being a very good band, they are nice people despite holding controversion views regarding the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. You should try to see them.

To Everyone, More or Less Everywhere:

I like Arrested Development. I like David Cross. David Cross is on Arrested Development and he likes it enough to do talk show appearances promoting it. David Cross does not like talk shows.

To promote the third season (which I hope all of you are watching or at least strongarming your Nielsen-Family neighbors into leaving on in the background while they vacuum), David Cross appeared on Last Call with Carson Daly. David Cross has progressed to High Concept contempt for the talk show format. You can watch it here. It is funny.

To A [Self] Select[ed] Group in the New York City Area:
A drunken fling with eBay last week has netted me two new Trivial Pursuit sets, due to arrive in Brooklyn within the week. Welcoming "The 1980s in Review" and "Silver Screen Edition" into my life has reinvigorated my desire to cajole a number of friends or acquaintances into playing The Most Dangerous Game, which is to say Super Trivial Pursuit -- two dice, six different question sets of varying reasonableness. I feel that this is something that people can only be coaxed into doing through a mixture of alcohol and pity. Alcohol is easy, and my birthday is next month, so indulging this stupid whim can be sold to others as a "birthday present". Personalized pleadings will be distributed in the near future.
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20 August 2005 @ 12:59 am
1. Go here.
2. Pass it on.
my answersCollapse )

nothing doing
15 June 2005 @ 11:32 pm
Seems like as soon as college got out and the temperature hit eighty degrees, two classes of people began stalking the streets of downtown Manhattan - minor celebrities and really pushy panhandlers.

First, the panhandlers: One day I took my lunch break at Taco Bell. Roll your eyes if you want, but it's cheap and sadly about the best Mexican food you're liable to get in most parts of Manhattan. Within moments of sitting down to eat, a woman using that old workhorse, "I am deaf and I have small, worn business cards with a couple of sign language lessons on them, if you would give me a dollar or two you can have them." Only rather than try to get you to take it on the street or otherwise personally exhort you to help out her budding entrepreneurial career, she just walked around to each table and set one down in front of the diners, placing a card on top of my fountain drink. To her credit, she didn't make any further sales pitches when she came back and 'my' card was sitting two tables down from where I was, but she did get into some sort of grunting argument with another customer who had apparently ignored the entire procedure, and was confused when she demanded payment for the card he did not realize he had tacitly agreed to purchase. She was followed within two minutes by another guy who just wandered from table to table, asking people if he could get one of their tacos or something. He was ultimately polite, but quite insistent that people who had more than one item of food on their tray could surely give him a chalupa or something. Finally, as I was putting my trash away a third panhandler came up to me and asked if the soda on top of the trash can was mine, and if he could have it. I finally relented.

This was the most exceptional example, but overall the tenor and frequency of entreaties for money, food, cigarettes, liquor, baby formula, metrocards and all other forms of charity seem to have intensified over the past month or so. Maybe this is a coincidence, maybe it's a case of an as-yet unrecorded economic downturn in Manhattan, or maybe the destitute of New York City have noticed the same thing I have: more semi-famous (and presumably wealthy) people have been coming around lately. In the past few weeks, I have seen:
-Bob Saget, taking his daughter on a tour of my university
-Sean Lennon, looking very Let it Be-era Paul McCartney, walking into Guitar Center
-Jon Spencer, complete with self-promoting Blues Explosion/Boss Hog bedecked guitar case riding the F line (continuing my ongoing trend of only seeing musical semi-celebrities on subways, surely some basic cable actors, authors and other somewhat-notables have Metrocards!)
-Michel Gondry at a friend's post-MOCCA book release party in an abandoned building, drinking wine from a red plastic SOLO cup

I don't mean to point any of these out to brag, more to try to link two phenomena together. Besides, if anyone has room to brag, it is surely my friend Ian, who was so excited (and rightfully so!) about seeing Jay Kordich that he called me to tell me all about it. The Juiceman! On a Lower East Side bench! SMOKING! I can't believe he didn't juice that cigarette!
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19 May 2005 @ 08:03 am

When I was a kid, every time the 20th Century Fox logo showed up on HBO or TBS or whatever channel was showing a movie - every single time - I immediately became transfixed, hoping against hope that it was going to be a Star Wars movie. Granted, this led to disappointment nearly every single time -- from Hell's heart I stab at thee, Man from Snowy River!. But when it worked: Star Wars! I apparently taught myself to read via Star Wars trading cards and picture books, which probably explains why I learned to read and spell things like "treacherous clutches" and "perilous journey" before I figured out why there was an E in "clothes".

Basically what I am telling you is that I really liked Star Wars growing up. I liked it enough to stay up tonight for a 3:40am showing so that I could see Episode Three in the digital theater. I liked it enough that I stayed in the digital theater even after I discovered that their air conditioning broke and the 12:40 showing had left the now-sweltering room with a nerd smell (a weird combination of Spaghetti-Os, corn syrup and feet) stronger than anything I've ever encountered outside of the Gatekeeper's "gaming" room. (And come on, it's not like I don't regularly experience nerd-heavy environments, this is a milestone!) I liked it enough to go to a Star Wars-themed comedy night rather than take a nap after work to prepare for the aforementioned 3:40am showing.

It was good. I'm never going to watch it with the militaristic frequency I did the originals back in elementary school, where even after not having seen them for 8-10 years I found that every single scene, transition and line of dialogue was still burned into my cortex. But it was unquestionably the most satisfying of the three prequels, and I was pleasantly surprised at how gracefully they linked everything together, even though I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to have Darth Vader channel Jon Stewart in a pivotal scene. I can understand the position of the people who remain disappointed at the entire prequel endeavor, the preponderance of CGI, the foregone conclusions and the shameless force-choking-M&Ms merch whoring they pulled out for this one. But I had fun with them. I wish they had at least used a couple of physical, plastic-and-plywood starship models in the prequels, but that's just nostalgia talking.


So anyway, it was an enjoyable evening/morning. I am very pleased that I opted to take today off. Tonight I am going to see The Hold Steady in concert -- a concert that was responsible for shooting the legs right out from under my post-finals serotonin rush last week. But I'm going to do everything in my power to not hold that against it. But for now I am going to take a nap. I don't know why I wrote any of this, except so that there would be some post-spoiler content. If I do not lapse into a coma while "napping", I plan to try to eke out the last remaining possible 'novel thoughts or observations' about the first five movies. But that's almost certainly a futile dream. Both the coma and "something new w/r/t Star Wars".
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15 April 2005 @ 04:08 am
I know I complain about this sort of thing, but this one was vaguely interestingCollapse )

This is obviously a less complex and in-depth dialect survey than that awesome Harvard (Now UWisconsin) prof's one that included "whippin' shitties", but I liked how somehow the only linguistic influence my choices don't betray is Midwestern, seeing as I lived there for something like twenty years. That hardline stance against calling soda "pop" really paid off!
Current Music: Goldie Lookin' Chain
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I've never been a "morning person". Pretty much from the moment I had any autonomy in setting my sleep schedule I've been into staying up late. In addition to leading to an intimate knowledge of the terrain of late night television, this has affected my life in other ways as well. If not for my rebellion against the tyranny of bedtime, I would likely not be such a fan of Sparks and nearly any other stimulant developed by nature or man. I wouldn't have gotten into that car accident in high school where I fell asleep at a stoplight on the way to a 7:35am class across town at Washburn University and rolled into the car in front of me. (I was saved from incident by fortuitously bumping into the car of a harried businessman, who while waking me up behind the wheel looked at the tie and blazer I was wearing and assumed that, "we both need to get to work" and that there didn't seem to be any serious damage. More about my blazer and tie later, I think.) And I probably wouldn't have befriended half of the other damaged, nocturnal people I met in college, either.

Right now my school and work schedule dictates that I do not need to "get up" at any time before about 2pm four days out of the week. My "early" days require me to get out of the house around 11:15am. My roommate is nearly as nocturnal. All of this combined with the recent "springing forward" of Daylight Savings Time has resulted in what feels like the final obliteration of my circadian rhythms. I know I say this every year, but I think I have seen the "wrong side of the sunrise"* out of my window every single morning since DST came into effect. It is my hope that I can fall asleep quickly tonight (Tuesday is one of my "early" days) and get to bed by five. We'll see if I pull this off.

But what brought this all up for me was that as a benefit of Daylight Savings Time (screw you, Indiana!), tonight I actually got to see a sunset while walking to the subway from class. The sky was completely clear in that weird megalopolis "no stars because of the massive candlelight generated by millions of people and buildings", and the moon hung there over 14th street in a jaunty little crescent, and the blossoms on the trees swayed in the breeze and shifted colors as they reflected the lights in Guitar Center's big window displays, and the west half of the sky was this brilliant deep blue owing to the lights and the sunset and this low green glow emanating from Jersey. And it was really really really really beautiful.

I tried taking a picture with my crappy camera phone, but all that came of it was this:

Maybe it's me, but the moon loses something of its allure when it's reduced to a 4x4 pixel blob. In fact, rather than being a jaunty picture of a lovely spring evening, it looks vaguely like a crappy reproduction of some old "big beat" album I bought in high school:

Speaking of which, tomorrow I want to talk about high school some more. I am finally getting into the self-indulgent swing of livejournal!

* Honestly, what is the "right" side of sunrise? I sure as hell don't want to be waking up at six in the morning. Nothing against my father or anyone else who does it regularly, but does it really feel any more "right" to be up at that hour than it does to go to bed three to four hours after any television programmer expects you to be awake?
Current Music: Woke Up this Morning (Drillaz in the Church Mix)
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I'm not good with meeting famous (or pseudo-famous) people I admire. It's got nothing to do with being starstruck, and it's got nothing to do with some sort of axiom where you meet your heroes and discover them to be depressingly human and fallible and you can never view them in the same light again. Most of the "semi-famous people I admire" that I've met have come off as wonderful human beings in my encounters with them. I just end up coming off like some sort of poorly socialized doofus.

In the past couple weeks I've attended two* book readings by authors I admire: Greil Marcus, whose writing on punk rock I really enjoyed and used as a listening guide in high school, and Sarah Vowell, for whom my devotion since Radio On probably borders on if not barrels straight into creepy. In both cases, the act of getting a book autographed by them turned (for me) into the sort of low-but-lasting burning embarassment that can only be allayed through drink.

The Sarah Vowell one wasn't that bad, in retrospect. It was at a Barnes & Noble, and the entire thing was done in an orderly assembly line fashion. We were ushered into line and assistants wrote my name out onto a post-it note attached to my copy of the book. The book was then handed to Ms. Vowell, who for some reason asked for confirmation of the spelling of my name, and then began to sign my book. Our conversation was roughly this:

"So that's just Chris, C-H-R-I-S?"
"Yep. So, I saw that you got to do that "Literary Cribs" segment for the Incredibles DVD."
"That was neat."
"Yeah, for some reason some people at Disney were against putting that on there, but it made it on."
"Well, I'm glad it did."

Nothing bad, right? Maybe I sounded a little inarticulate and maybe adults shouldn't be watching bonus features that are on the DVD of a children's movie, but I didn't make an ass out of myself. I just felt like some sort of intrusive asshole about the whole thing, for reasons I can't articulate. But the structure, the built-in interchangable generic feel the entire process of Barnes & Noble Book Tour Signing #1592 gives the interaction saved me from fumbling into saying anything exceptionally awful.

I had no such safety net when meeting Greil Marcus. He was speaking at New School, and my Popular Music Criticism professor found out about the lecture, which would take place during our class for the night. We went as a "field trip", and at the end I was chatting with my professor about the event when he spied the table selling Marcus's new book, which was the subject of the lecture. He asked me if I was going to buy the book, and impulse and peer pressure -- or professor pressure or whatever -- got the better of me. Books purchased, the professor then declared that we could get the books signed. A capital idea!

I'm not much of a fan of autographing out of captivity. This probably stems when I was in elementary school and I tried to get George Brett's autograph in a hotel bathroom and he brought me to tears with angry interrogation about what "son of a bitch dealer" had coerced me into getting his autograph to resell. After I tearfully promised I was getting the autograph for my own collection, Brett apologized. I don't want to make him sound like a bad guy, but he's certainly helped me be hyper-sensitive about the annoyances of autograph seekers.

Don't get me wrong, Marcus was just sitting behind the table he spoke from, dealing with a small cluster of people looking to get autographed or to ask him questions. I stood behind my professor, grateful for the fact that he would likely do the heavy work for me, explaining to Marcus that he teaches his book Mystery Train, that I was a student in the class, blah blah blah. I could just smile and exude appreciation if need be. But no, my prof decides to be generous and says, "You go first!"

So not wanting to be an inconsiderate jerk who just shoves a book into an author's face and demands an autograph, I begin semi-coherently muttering something about how I'm a big fan of Lipstick Traces and Ranters & Crowd Pleasers, and I liked his reading and I read Mystery Train and--

"I'm sorry, could you speak up, I can't hear anything you're saying."

I'm a big fan of your books and I liked the lecture.

He stares at me, perhaps expecting something better than generic praise.

So I launch into something that I thought was going to say something to the effect that I really enjoyed reading his books about contemporary-for-the-time-of-writing popular music from the 1970s through the early 1990s, and used those books as a roadmap to a lot of music I wasn't familiar with, and really valued them for that purpose. And because of that, I'd be interested to know what he thinks of music that is contemporary-for-right-now.

Instead, I became aware as I was saying it that it came out rather closer to "I like your new books and all and I like the historical perspective you give but have you considered writing about something more contemporary?"

Which given his expression and body language was interpreted as "Why are you writing all this ollllllld shit?" And so he very politely points out how he's been writing a column on "all sorts of music, including new music" for the City Pages in Minneapolis for fifteen -- "no wait, more like nineteen years". Which you would've known if you were such a big fan, you stupid bastard, was my own interpretation of what he trailed off from saying. Then he signed my book, I thanked him, and I walked off. This wasn't quite as bad as the time I somehow ended up telling James Kochalka that KJHK had thrown his CD out and I found it in a recycling bin and most of my friends hated it too, but a couple of friends and I really liked it. But it was still rather lamentable.

There have been other semi-famous people - Grant Morrison, Douglas Rushkoff and Evan Dorkin all spring to mind - who I've felt just peachy after meeting. And it's not as if I have a better won/loss ratio when it comes to managing conversation on my first attempt with people who are not famous and who I have no prior knowledge of. I don't think I'm very good at first impressions. I'm not positive I'm good at any impressions.

Oh, and as a post-script, the dust jacket of the Marcus book containing the autograph of shame got all fucked up on the way home from the reading. So I should probably just burn the thing before it brings a curse upon my whole house.

* Actually I went to see Sarah Vowell twice, so three total readings, but two unique individuals...
Current Music: Lush - Heavenly Nobodies
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17 February 2005 @ 10:37 am
I really don't have a very good story for this one. It's the theme song to a Spanish game show, "El Gran Juego de la Oca" - The Big Game of... well, I'm guessing duck or goose or something, but online dictionaries aren't helping me much. The important thing is that I've had this MP3 kicking around for a couple years now, and forget how I got it. I just know that it is the perfect song with which to start your day.

Give it a listen!

The other important thing is that the show looks great. Like Double Dare, only aimed at adults and with physical challenges that can fuck you up. I wonder if this ever aired in the US? If not, why not?
nothing doing
16 February 2005 @ 10:50 pm
From the virtuoso musicality of JYD, to the proto-rap musings of C.W. McCall, we move now on "Hump Day" to an MP3 that does not have any singing or music at all!

Rising from the murky depths of FYAD comes tonight's MP3, Ol' Dirty Bastard's audition tape for the remake of Mr. Ed! Yes, perhaps emboldened by the modest success of the two Doctor Doolittle features, a television revamp of Mr. Ed had been in the works for a few years, and the minds behind this new version decided that the best way to really illustrate the culture clash between square old Wilbur and Mr. Ed - who is considered his property and less than human - is to give Ed the voice of a sassy black man! They eventually settled on Sherman Hemsley, but not before soliciting audition tapes from a number of other candidates, including the dearly departed Ol' Dirty Bastard.

What follows is a reading of only Mr. Ed's lines throughout the show. You will soon realize this show would not have been very funny, even if they had gotten Dirt to play the horse. In the fast-paced jet-set world of the 21st Century, it's not enough just to have animals talk -- witness Racing Stripes, or the Andy Breckman's struggle to make Hot to Trot funny simply by changing the horse's dialogue. I don't want to say this whole project was a bad idea... but the head writer committed suicide right as the new TV season started.

I expect that in time ODB will produce as many posthumous albums as Tupac, Jimi and Elvis -- or at least as many as other people who have to use full names, like John Lennon or Elliott Smith. I'm sure by 2012, someone will release a new single with "horses can't use phones!" as its hook, but in the meanwhile, here you go.
Current Music: tears in heaven for ODB