Category: Uncategorized

#126 – That Movie You Can Recite Coming On TV

picture1For me there’s a number of choices that fill this role, but here are the top entries, in no particular order.

  • Any of the Back To The Future movies. And yes, that includes the third one, you high-brow son-of-a-bitch.
  • Casino, or as it’s commonly known, Goodfellas 2
  • Goodfellas, which at this point I could almost certainly watch with the sound (and possibly the video) entirely off.
  • Gangs of New York. I recognize this may not be on many people’s lists, but I fucking love that movie. Almost every single scene with Daniel Day Lewis is mesmerizing.
  • The Departed. I know, I know. Gangster movie number four. Predictable. But, for real, this movie is more than that. Sure, the gangster elements are great, but it’s really a complete film–and insanely quotable.

There’s more, I’m sure, but you get the point.

Fact is, when you’re aimlessly drifting through your TV’s guide function and it’s just an endless desert of shit, there’s nothing like coming across that Casino oasis. You’re locked in.

Polar Opposite of this Feeling?: Thinking you’ve found a good one only to realize that in your excitement you didn’t notice it was basically over. The search begins anew.

 

Episode Eight – Zach Schonbrun, New York Times

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Zach Schonbrun, contributing sports and business writer for the New York Times, is the guest this week. Here’s some of the stuff we talked about: is the Times just trying to piss me off with N.B.A and Mr/Mrs’ing everyone? (1:30), my one shining moment at Syracuse–the SU Media Game wherein I destroyed Zach’s ankles and acted like a jackass (4:51), Zach’s decision not to major in journalism while at Syracuse and get the practical education through experience (7:32), why his first job with MLB.com convinced him to go to grad school for journalism (11:09), how the work he put in at the school paper that would keep him there 5 days a week from 5pm to 1am so often felt like being involved in a fraternity (17:05), the brotherhood of the Daily Orange that helped send this year’s class to Indy and Houston to cover the Men’s and Women’s Final Four (20:25), my most burning question: What the hell does a non-beatwriter like Zach do every day? (24:35), Zach discusses the book proposal regarding the intersection between neuroscience and sports that’s been taking up most of his time lately (29:10), how does a contributing writer get paid and make money while avoid being taken for granted? (31:30), how his Kindle Single “One Great Shoe” came to be (37:48), how a writer should and does handle their story idea changing or evolving as they are doing the reporting (41:43), what percentage of story idea/pitches are from the writer or the editors and what makes someone good at coming up with fresh angles? (43:09), why Zach thinks the way sports reporting is done is going to have to change as we move forward (49:03), his concern that journalism is heading more towards the team and player led-media (ThisIsMelo, The Players’ Tribune) and that readers may not be able to tell (or care about) the difference between biased and non-biased media (52:07), how having a business story of his killed at the Times helped hone his bullshit filter (54:22), why he bristles at the notion of having to be a “personality” when being a reporter (1:00:48) and of course, Zach’s chance to ask me a question (1:03:39).

Check out his Kindle Single “One Great Shoe” chronicling the rise and fall of And1 Shoes. It’s good. For real.

Episode One – Steve Gelbs, SNY

scott-spinelli_overthinking

Steve Gelbs of SNY is my first guest. Here’s some of the stuff we talked about: Bruce vs Billy (2:05), what it’s like to officially be an adult (5:49), what he thinks is the real value of internships (12:49), how a mistake basically started his career in television (22:08), the closer’s mentality of being a field reporter (35:01), the most exhausting day of his life last year (49:51) and how insanely long his work days can be (55:12). Plus, a few other things, including his World Series pick, if you care for that sort of thing.

The Best Sitcom On Television Might Not Be For You (It Probably Isn’t)

The irony of Comedy Central’s Broad City is that it isn’t broad at all. In fact, it’s one of the more specific sitcoms on television today. There’s two girls, both wacky in their own right, a dentist/fuck-buddy in Hannibal Buress, a gay pot-dealing roommate and an oblivious boyfriend of a roommate (who you never meet). Forgetting all that: if you aren’t remotely familiar with New York City, the show’s omnipresent 3rd star, a ton of the jokes will fall even flatter.

Here’s the thing: when it comes to comedy, not everything is for everyone.

The problem, though, is that the most popular shit (and in many ways, it is just that) tends to be the stuff that’s casting the widest net.

You’ve seen it a million times. Often, the net starts out specific, cast to a smart, sharp group of people (think: Modern Family). Then, when money enters the picture and viewing expectations and dollar commitments go up, the characters and situations that you came to know and love suddenly start being painted with thick paint strokes instead of fine markers. The jokes become bigger, the stick slappier, the gags longer and wider.

I’ve got no actual problem with shows like How I Met Your Mother or Big Bang Theory specifically. They’re popular for a reason:  a lot of people like them.

The truth about these shows is that their humor is insanely obvious (each and every joke as predictable and repetitive as the next), pandering and way over-the-top. I’ve tried to watch each of these shows at various points during their (literally) unbelievable runs and each time, I’ve been unable to muster even a smile. I’m sorry, just can’t do it.

You see, I’m a tough crowd to please when it comes to sitcoms. Raised on Seinfeld, I’ve set the bar pretty high. There’s been a bunch of shows that I’ve enjoyed for a season or two before falling out due to the issues outlined above. Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The League and Modern Family all still have their moments, but were all best before their writers began attempting to cater to everyone. Hell, even Seinfeld suffered from that in the latter seasons.

Don’t get me wrong, I get why they do it. Wu-Tang wasn’t fucking around.

So, instead of describing specifically why I love the show or linking to what scenes I really enjoyed, I’ll just say what I wish for. We know Broad City is just one episode into its second season (actually, just renewed for a third). Could things get too silly, too ridiculous, too… dare I say it… broad? Of course. But until then, let’s hope this show remembers what channel it’s on and why it’s so fucking hilarious.

#110 – Being a Hit at a Party

That guy in the tie is just waitin’ to pounce.

It’s easy to think you’re experiencing this feeling. People lie, people fake laugh, people get caught in conversations they can’t get out of. Parties are, essentially, designed to make the most talkative person in the room, if they’re oblivious enough, feel fantastic about how the night is going.

While I may be part of that (the talkative for sure, the oblivious, only part of the time), I know that it’s a rare feeling. It’s rare because so many things need to happen in the right order… You need to find yourself in the right group of people, you need to be just drunk enough, but not sloppy, you need to be hitting on all the right conversational cylinders (jokes, stories, references, questions, pauses… they’re all on point tonight, baby).

It’s important to note the article choice in the title… “A” not “the”… Being “The hit of the Party” is a potentially top 10 feeling, maybe even better… But, let’s not be ridiculous. We’ll settle for simply being a hit. People like you, the host isn’t rethinking his/her decision to invite you and you may just get another invite back.

Good on ‘ya.

Polar Opposite of this Feeling?: Forcing your way into conversation at one of these events, then trying out a joke or story that falls COMPLETELY on its face. And no, I have no idea what this feels like.

Suck Fuperman

For the life of me, I’ve never been able to comprehend the appeal of the Man of Steel.

Seriously, what is it that you people love so much about any part of this character?

Let’s go over a few things about this fellow… First off, he really can’t be killed. Sure, there’s the whole Kryptonite thing but we all know that’s total bullshit. You can’t even find it on this planet and even when you can get it, he can sense it’s near. That would be like me, Scott Spinelli, saying my only weaknesses are bullets fired from guns, but I know when and where they’ll be coming from at all times.

Second, his alter-ego is ridiculous. Granted, in all of these stories about superheroes, the capacity that the citizens of these various towns have for ignorance on the part of the identity of their local hero is astonishing. They’ll root out the bad guy instantly, but no one can figure out how to simply follow the fucking Batmobile back to Wayne Manor. Still, that aside, at least a lot of these guys have the decency not to rub it in our faces.

Spiderman, Batman, the various X-men… at least a lot of them wear either masks or other things that cover their identity. Not Clark Kent. The sonofabitch has the audacity to simply put on glasses and no one says a word. Need I remind you, he works at a newspaper… The same newspaper, apparently, where the investigatory journalism was hard-hitting enough to UNCOVER SUPER-FUCKING-MAN… but can’t ID the exact same guy in glasses and a button down. Stunning, truly.

Now, I know what you’re saying… Scott, it’s just a comic book hero. Of course he can’t be defeated and so what if we all know who he really is!?

To the first part of that, I say, fair point. None of these guys ever lose, I get that*. However, at least with the other ones there’s a chance they might. There’s at least that point where they’re a little bit beaten up, weakened. That seems to rarely ever happen with Superman (and when it does, it’s such an obvious forced script point on the part of the writers that it doesn’t even feel true in the context of a movie where the plot centers on an alien from another planet who wears tights and a cape and saves the earth from destruction).

This all is brought about because I recently caught the most recent Superman movie on HBO. In it, there’s a fight scene between Superman and whoever the bad guys are in this movie. Basically, it’s just 10-15 minutes of these people completely and irreparably destroying a small town in Kansas with little to no remorse. Superman throws one guy through a building, another guy tosses a U-Haul van at a flying plane, another one takes Superman and flings him into the local IHOP (where, again, they destroy everything without concern).  And, after all of these things, they each just dust themselves off and get right back to it.

Watching, I got the sense that if neither party got bored, they could’ve kept fighting for hours like that. Just roaming the great plains of the United States, fighting/ruining everything the people of these small towns took lives to build and accomplishing nothing in their eternal struggle.

And why, you may ask, does it go for so long? Well, besides the fact that none of them have any weakness, it’s that Superman, apparently, doesn’t really like to kill people. I mean… come on.

If that right there isn’t enough to turn you off from him, I don’t know what is.

Apparently, they’re making a Batman and Superman movie that’s hitting theaters in a few years. Honestly, I feel bad for the scriptwriters because no matter what, there’s no way to make a bad guy/group of villians that can even remotely threaten those two together. Batman on his own has knocked off some pretty tough foes… how do you think he’ll fare when he has an indestructible flying alien on his side?

Exactly.

Fuck Superman.

 

*In fairness, I always root for the Joker to toss Batman’s ass of the building in Dark Knight Returns, but that’s neither here nor there.

Review: Anthony J. Shears – The Growth: My ENTroduction

“Who the fuck is Ant Shears, anyway?”

A track into The Growth: My ENTroduction, I found myself asking the same question. Here’s what I knew:

  • A fellow by the name of Anthony J. Shears approached me on Twitter and via an e-mail to this site (his answers to my extra questions were priceless… Hellrazor and a Yoga instructor, if you’re curious).
  • I immediately assumed it was spam because… well, come on, it’s Twitter.
  • Then, upon some further research, I discovered he was in fact a real (and very legit music industry) person. I still wasn’t sure he meant to contact me, but I went along with it (see: Hellrazor, Yoga instructor).

So, I put on the CD, but again I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’m a fiend for new music, don’t get me wrong. But a lot of times, what you might call “home-made music” (which, I can’t stress enough, this is NOT) trends towards unpolished at best, wack at worst. These were my concerns.

A handful of tracks in, those doubts were erased.

The sampling is incredible (Paul Simon, James Taylor, Jay-Z, Patti LaBelle to name a few), the production is on point and the lyrics range from fun, bob-along type stuff to stop what you’re doing, I need to listen-type stuff.

Without getting too gushy, it’s the type of hip-hop I’ve been waiting on for a while now. And by a while, I mean about 8 to 10 years. You see, I’ve gone along for the ride with where the genre’s gone. The invasion of that techno/trance, the poppy sounds, the mechanical robot touch that everything seems to have now (ahem, Yeezus). And, I’ll be honest, a lot of it I’ve really loved.

But, for my money, there’s not a lot better than a solid sample, sped up and flipped, with a nice bass beat and guy with a good flow. Listening to Shears, I started thinking he’d have fit in fine alongside the early versions of Kanye’s conscious G.O.O.D. music crew on any number of tracks from The College Dropout. How many people can really pick out GLC in a crowd? Exactly.

One of my least favorite aspects of any music review is when the reviewer tries to describe, in-depth (and often, in vain) the actual songs. Here’s an example of how ridiculous that can be, from Rolling Stone (first) and Business Insider (second):

[Kanye West’s] “Hold My Liquor” is an elegantly wasted house ballad, with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver as dyspeptic diva crooning under the amber waves of drank and teenage Chicago rapper Chief Keef playing the sad gangsta.

[Jay-Z’s] “Tom Ford” survives some lackluster rips with a whale of a Timbaland meat-grinder beat. 

Seriously, what the fuck do those even mean? Dyspeptic diva crooning under the amber waves of drank? A meat-grinder beat? Good lord.

So, I’ll spare you of that. What I will say is that several songs from the album have made it to my iPod. That’s as good of a recommendation as I can give it.

My favorites, in no particular order, are Break You Down (this one’s the James Taylor sample), Mea Culpa, Tears In Your Eyes and 50 Ways (and this one’s the Paul Simon sample).

If the CD is 13 tracks (there’s a new version of Tears In Your Eyes as 14th track. That’s my only issue with the album—just give me the best version, not both), I’d say four songs are iPod worthy right away and seven are repeat-listening-worthy.

That’s pretty damn good.

All I can say is, if this is Shears still growing, I can’t wait to see where’s he at once he’s finished.

Go buy the album on iTunes, here.

Meta, Meet Meta.

About four years ago, I was introduced to him. A friend dropped off three books at my house while I watched VH1’s Best Week Ever. I knew the friend, it was the author of the books he brought that I was being introduced to. Chuck Klosterman was his name. In fact, it’s still his name.

I didn’t read the books. They collected dust on my shelf for the better part of these last four years until I moved out the final remnants from my parent’s house. Then, I read two of the books and some articles.

After that, I can safely say Chuck Klosterman is the best writer of his generation. Or, perhaps, he’s not. But, maybe that’s what makes him exactly that.

The generally held belief is that Klosterman represents the forward-thinking, progressive bourgeoisie class of middle American males in contemporary society. But, the opposite is actually closer to the truth. Klosterman represents everything we don’t represent, pointing out the most meta details of things we take for granted. Does the Lakers/Celtics rivalry represent every great divide this country has ever seen? How different is Marilyn Monroe from Pam Anderson? Is there a limit to how many footnotes an article can have before you’re officially distracted? How detached can someone be before they are officially considered aloof? What is it about Billy Joel that makes him so patently uncool? When did The Real World stop being about the real world and when did the real world stop being about The Real World? Is there a difference? Are you confused yet?

These are just some of the questions pondered by Klosterman, all done in painstakingly plain style and writing.* Writing, mind you, that somehow comes off as both intrinsically humorous and, yet, at the same time, mind-blowingly honest. Reflective, but intelligent. Well-crafted, but allergic to peanuts. Intentioned and simultaneously, both mundane and amoral.

Yet, despite all this, we find ourselves unable to tangle away from the web woven by Klosterman. Whether it’s essays on Royce White and the Houston Rockets, pornography, Zack Morris, or Steve Nash… this much is clear: no one knows quite where Klosterman stands on anything or anyone. Except, of course, that he loves rock n’ roll music.**

After finishing his Decade of Curious Decisions, I put a call into Klosterman’s office looking to get a comment for this article.*** He did not respond. But maybe, that’s precisely what he wants.

You see, Klosterman’s elusivity is what builds his base. It’s a reactionary tendency we all have to fear what we don’t know, like I’d imagine the Winslow family felt when Steve Urkel first came into their lives. Or, when Mos Def released anything after Black on Both Sides****.

But, like most things, the true meaning and importance of Klosterman lies somewhere in the vast middle. The happy medium of discourse that informs those of us in this super-powered information superhighway generation. He’s both a refined scholar documenting topics that interest he and his all-consuming public and a sailor-pirate pilfering the youth of time and enjoyment with verbal dexterity and extremely specific societal references they’ll feel stupid for not understanding.

Tendencies include usage of the word “paradoxically” far more than seems necessary (or, at least, in a direct attempt to avoid the simpler, “ironically”), incessant parenthetical asides (is there another kind [of aside?]), and nearly-ludicrous-yet-somehow-ultimately-vague-but-close-enough-to-some-layer-of-truth-but-also-you’re-just-happy-it’s-finally-over-so-you-no-longer-have-to-pretend-as-if-you-“get it” assertions and analogies. Oh, and he’s also a fan of making impossible to prove but also difficult to fully refute statements (and confusing clauses like that one) like, “Pras is this worst group member of any group in recorded music history.”

He has yet to (I’d imagine) make the following points, but they’re ones (I’d also imagine) he’d likely spend 10 to 15 pages circumventing and tying, inexplicably, to something like Charles in Charge:

  1. How The Fugees breaking up was the first episodic example of real-life disappointment for the white, middle-class Americans that purchased their records in the early-to-mid 90s.
  2. An essay featuring a full deconstruction of “The Boy is Mine” by Brandy and Monica and its ultimate meaning beyond a petty argument over a boy and its true meaning: the plight of the free agent in professional sports and the haggling that would ultimately take place many years later over LeBron James. Because, you see, LeBron James, is every one of us. But, he isn’t. And, yet, he still seems to be. He’s–

Some how, by the end, you find yourself convinced of his point. Or, exhausted.

You’ll laugh, that’s for certain. And, you will find yourself enlightened on some level. But more than anything, I’d imagine you’ll just be confused.

Or, perhaps, you won’t be.

 

*This may not be true.

**This is true.

***This is definitely not true.

****Any fan who says they do not understand this reference simply isn’t a fan. Or, is a cyborg from Terminator. One way or the other, that person simply cannot be trusted.

White Suburban Kid Reviews Classic Hip-Hop Albums

Dark Man X. Earl Simmons. DMX. Whatever moniker you’ve chosen to give your favorite rapper/actor/lunatic/drug addict/autobiographer/reality show contestant, the fact remains, he’s been a fun guy to pay attention to the last 15 or so years. Of course, most of that enjoyment has come in packages other than hit singles.

Like, say, this Christmas treat.

Or, this.

Or, that.

I could keep going, but I think you get the point. So, without further ado…

…And Then There Was X

Right off the bat, you’ve gotta love two things about this album: it’s title and it’s cover. Like many in his catalog, this one is both oddly religious and blatantly boring (though, I personally feel “Year of the Dog… Again” is the best title of his, for many of reasons, not the least of which is that there never was a first “Year of the Dog” necessitating an again.)

Let’s get to a few of the facts… this album was his biggest selling album (then and to-date), it spawned three of his biggest hits, and ultimately the biggest hit of his career, “Party Up”.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of Earl’s music. I’ve enjoyed his hit singles (admittedly sometimes not ironically) but outside of that, he’s never been a guy that produces CDs where I think, “No, I should listen to more than just the stuff on the radio.” I’m convinced, largely, that the best we’ve ever seen from DMX is what we’ve heard on radio. I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

In that vein, we’re going to investigate those three hit songs. For no reason other than logic, we’ll do it in order of appearance on the CD.

Party Up (Up In Here) – Well, for starters, what’s with the parenthetical information? It’s like D’Angelo’s “Untitled” for some reason feeling the need to have a (How Does It Feel). Actually, it’s not quite as stupid as that.* But, it’s close and it’s equally unnecessary. The party couldn’t be going on anywhere else than in here, that would have been illogical to think otherwise Earl. Tsk, tsk.

The song itself is produced by Swizz Beatz, one of his first few enormous hits (the others being “Jigga My N*gga”, “Ruff Ryders Anthem” and “Gotta Man”).  Verse one starts off in classic Earl fashion, dropping the beautifully crafted warning to potential foes:

If I gotsta bring it to you cowards then it’s gonna be quick, aight
All your mens up in the jail before, suck my dick

Well, then.

Moving on, we get the incredible rhyming of “nine one one shit… dumb shit… some shit”.  Pure, genius.

General theme of the song: He’s fairly angry at everyone (namely, other rappers). And he’s about to lose his cool, up in here (specifically, everywhere).

What These Bitches Want (feat Sisqo) – I want to apologize. If you clicked on the previous link, you went to “What They Really Want”, the edited version of the song we all know and love. I couldn’t find the unedited version, but in some ways, watching this video achieves the same humorous goals and then some.

I have so many things to say about this song and video, I’m just going to do it list style.

  1. This is my second favorite DMX song (in terms of pure enjoyment), just behind “How’s It Going Down”.
  2. This is my favorite DMX song (in terms of humor).
  3. Sisqo’s robotic dance moves, coupled with his denim (maybe?) pants, are priceless.
  4. This was the first time, I believe, I’d ever seen under-boob (Veronica, at the 1:46 mark).
  5. That second verse, where he straight-up lists 46 women is absolutely epic (that includes “About Three Kims”, which frankly is a hotly contested point of debate. Did he mean that he had sex with three different women named Kim? Is he joking about how there’s been so many women, one Kim felt like three? If he is telling the truth, how good are his approximation skills?). After he lists them all, he’s even bold/crazy enough to claim that “they were all treated fairly”. Indeed, Earl. Indeed.
  6. This video is clearly happening during the summer, and yet Earl refuses, in the street scenes, to be in anything other than a (seemingly) velour jumpsuit. Granted, no t-shirt but come on. Ditch the tough guy, for once.
  7. This is one of the many songs in DMX’s rhetorical, question-based genre. (“How’s It Going Down”, “Where My Dogs At”, the next song in this list…)

General takeaway: Earl, if you’re question is, “What do these ladies want from me?”, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that the answer is to not be having random intercourse with at least 45 other women at the same time, regardless of your touring schedule.

What’s My Name – This song is hopelessly idiotic. It could’ve very well been a 27 second song. That’s how long it takes for him to answer his own question, one I’m sure no one was asking. You know, honey, I bought this CD but the artist’s name is no where to be found on the packaging, CD art, or tracklisting. If only there was a whole four minute song dedicated to solving this conundrum…

You see, to me, Earl Simmons missed his true calling. Sure, he did fine in the music game, but what he should’ve been doing was voice work, reading books on tape. His voice, along with Christoph Waltz and Christopher Walken, turns just about anything into a more enjoyable anything (See above: Red Nose Reindeer, Rudolph the).

DMX is like Dave Chappelle, in that everything that he says, no matter what the intention, is almost always humorous. The difference, of course, is that Chappelle is a comedian and Simmons is not. But, I can’t help but wonder if this whole thing, this whole career is some sort of Andy Kauffman-esque rouse. That, in fact, Earl Simmons, is just a nice boy from Mount Vernon, NY who wanted to be in show business but didn’t have the chops for it. So, instead of trying the endless, often fruitless cycle of busing tables and hustling to auditions, he decided he’d create a persona that would allow him to live his life as a never-ending drama played out in front of the world.

Or, maybe he’s just Dark Man X.

*The only people that benefited from D’Angelo’s parenthetical title were deaf people, I’m convinced.