Friday, December 23, 2005

'Twas the Week 'Fore Thanksgiving

‘Twas the week 'fore Thanksgiving and all through the land,
People downloaded shows from their favorite band.

The files they flew off with speed,
They had every Dead soundboard an addict could need.

From Cornell '77 to a jam with Grace Slick,
Don't forget Fillmore East '70-- that shit was sick.

All was happy for Deadheads in cyberspace,
Who would never again listen to garbage like Steal Your Face.

But all was not right in the Land of the Dead,
The revenue had turned from black into red.

The Dick's Picks they sat and collected dust,
Especially 35-- Man, that was a bust!

Just then the mean old grinch, who was named Bob Weir
Said, "Hey, what the fuck is happening here?"

"They're stealing my money-- my kid's college fund.
I've been checking my portfolio and feeling quite stunned.

"This cannot go on. The downloading must desist.
If I lose another cent, I'm gonna be pissed."

And with a wave of his hand (and his lawyer's phone call),
The free downloads stopped-- once and for all.

The Archive lost soundboards and audience tapes too,
And Deadheads seemed to think this decision, it blew.

The Deadheads were angry-- they made quite a fuss:
"Why would the Dead pull this shit over on us?"

"Let's boycott every CD and t-shirt and ticket.
If Bob Weir needs money, we'll tell him to stick it."

But then from the East there arose such a clatter,
Phil Lesh had arrived to see what was the matter.

Outraged he was by the Dead’s strange decision.
The policy, he said, needed revision.

In a wave of his hand, he released a free board tape
With a long ‘Caution’ jam that left many mouths agape.

And for Mickey Hart? You know he couldn’t be left out of the flap.
“Remember me,” he cried. “I do the ‘Fire on the Mountain’ rap.”

“I agree with Phil,” he said. “Although it makes me shiver
Because I can’t stand to be near that jerk and his liver.”

The foundation was shaking; they called Dennis McNally.
He traveled in quickly to stop the protest rally.

“On Pigpen, on T.C., on Godchaux, on Mydland,
On Hornsby, on Welnick—Wait. Who’s Welnick? He ain’t in the band,”

“The AUD tapes are back,” McNally had cried.
“There was a misunderstanding.” But it smelled like he lied.

The AUDs were returned to,
But soundboards had been assimilated into the Borg.

“Bullshit!” Deadheads yelled. “Music should be free.”
“Tough shit,” Bob Weir said. “It’ll cost you a fee.”

“The boycott is on,” they said. “We’ll kick your butts.”
“Fine,” Weir retorted. “Suck on my nuts.”

When hopes were fading and the end was neigh,
Someone had pointed up into the sky.

Gently floating, upon a white cloud he sat.
A bushy beard spoke from a big mound of fat.

“Why the hell are you all acting so crazy?
This looks like a scene from a film by Scorsese.”

“Everyone here needs to shut up and chill.
And what happened to Weir? He looks over the hill!”

“Jerry,” Weir cried. “It’s so great to see ya.
But hey man. We’re broke-- just like North Korea.”

“I have an idea,” Jerry said. “From the days of old.
Go sell my toilet. People thought I shit gold.”

Then he picked up a guitar and played for the masses.
And smiles were found amongst those shaking asses.

The solo, it finished with ooohs and with ahhhs.
Then he concluded by saying, “Where’s my Häagen-Dazs?”

My Life as a Suspected Terrorist

Friday, April 29, 2005

The 2005 Jammys Report Card

The 5th Annual Jammy Awards took place on April 26, 2005 at The Theater inside Madison Square Garden. Each year this little “ceremony” serves as an excuse to get great musicians together to collaborate, and, if the audience is lucky, jam. The New York crowd rarely takes the night seriously, but each year the musicians treat the evening with more and more reverence.

This year’s Jammy Awards were falling at an awkward time. Smack in the middle of Jazzfest, a lot of bands (and fans) were unable to attend due to their commitments in the Crescent City. New York City had just recently come down off of the high of a three-night Widespread Panic run, complete with a wide assortment of post-show late-night gigs. A lot of music fans were just plain tired by the time April 26th rolled around, and talk of The Jammys was met with a collective “Eh.”

Past ceremonies featured bizarre combinations yielding ecstatic highs, as well as uncomfortable pairings creating painfully monotonous music. With an unusually large slate of mainstream performers on the bill, the stage was ripe for the unexpected.

Speaking of mainstream performers, the Jammys have become a publicist’s wet dream. I can see the fax now: “Was your client popular between 5 and 35 years ago? Is your client releasing an album or book/mounting a comeback/in dire need of some activity to keep him occupied and out of jail? Is your client capable of repeatedly telling the audience how much they rock? If so, you have found a second home at the Jammys!”

On with the report card:

North Mississippi Allstars – I walked in as NMA was rockin’ out. Umphrey’s McGee’s Kris Myers was manning the drums while Cody Dickinson was going ballistic on the washboard. Cody then got back behind the kit as Mavis Staples was called out with lyric sheet in hand to sing “Freedom Highway.” There was a lot of repetition here, but the beat kept moving. Finally, the segment was closed with Buddy Guy coming out to tear the crap out of “Got My Mojo Workin’.” He had a nice call-and-response going with Cody, and it would have been interesting had the song lasted longer than 3 minutes.
Grade: B

Event producer Peter Shapiro raised the first eyebrows of the evening when I believe he stated that the musicians were not being paid for their time. Regardless, he fared much better than he did last year when he was overwhelmingly booed for thanking the devil incarnate, Clear Channel.

When he was introduced, host Phil Lesh, who didn’t do much hosting but did a fair amount of sitting-in, received a raucous ovation. Somewhere Mickey Hart brooded and plotted his revenge.

Bruce Hornsby with Yonder Mountain String Band and Vince Herman – With Hornsby being capable of playing a phenomenal bluegrass piano, this collaboration had all the potential in the world. So much for potential. Sound problems doomed this unit from the start, and aside from Hornsby, Jeff Austin was the only musician who could be consistently heard. For whatever reason, both Herman and Ben Kaufman exited the stage for a long and puzzling stretch of time. As Hornsby ran through “Valley Road” and “Darlin’ Corey->A Night on the Town,” he had a nice solo breakdown, but I never got the sense he was actually listening to the other guys on stage. (He probably couldn’t hear them either.) If Old & In The Way was ragged but right, this pairing was ragged but wrong. The night was young, and the Jammys had their first major disappointment. Wah-hoo!
Grade: C

The Song of the Year Jammy went to Umphrey’s McGee’s “In the Kitchen,” proving that jamband fans just can’t resist mediocre vocals.

The Lifetime Achievement Jammy, a.k.a. the “You’re Still Alive and You Were Willing To Come Here” Trophy, went to Buddy Guy, and in a funny speech, he energetically thanked everyone who jammed before him and influenced his music.

Buddy Guy, John Mayer, Phil Lesh, and ?uestlove - I was disgusted to see that overrated little piece of Chelsea candy known as John Mayer on stage with a legend like Buddy Guy, and Buddy ran circles around him during “Hoochie Coochie Man.” ?uestlove laid down a nice beat, and Phil played roving basslines while the rest of the band basically ignored him. Truthfully, the blues would not be Lesh’s strong suit, but eventually, the others onstage warmed up to him. As for Mayer, I’m sick of hearing 17-year-olds swoon over his all-flash-and-no-substance watered-down blues antics, and I enjoyed watching Buddy give him a musical spanking. Then the legend suddenly told the audience that he plays with John Mayer because he wants the blues to live. “NO,” I screamed. “Introduce yourself to Derek Trucks! His body is NOT a wonderland!” My cries having fallen on deaf ears, the group started “Stormy Monday” and Mayer proceeded to tear the shit out of his axe. With real soul, he built his solo into a thunderous climax, answering an age old question: Does John Mayer have testicles? Surprisingly, he does. Buddy guided everyone into a short “Rock Me” before exiting the stage. The remaining trio then grinded into a sweet funky jam that sadly suffered from jammus interruptus and ended abruptly. Regardless, Mayer had proved himself to be a man, and I was stunned. The foundations of my world had crumbled, so I retreated to my seat and sulked.
Grade: A (begrudgingly)

The New Groove Jammy had some serious competition, but The Benevento-Russo Duo deservedly came out on top. Last year, New Groove nominee (and winner) Psychedelic Breakfast took the opportunity to shorten their name to The Breakfast, and this year, nominee Bockman’s Euphio followed suit by ditching the “’s Euphio.” Personally, I was hoping that The Benevento-Russo Duo would have been the ones to abbreviate their name because it’s too many letters to type, and I’d like to see everyone call them The.

The Tour of the Year went to Phish. Hey, why not honor a band for sloppy performances, a disastrous finale, and some of the worst live music of its career? Mike Gordon had a great acceptance speech, talking about the band’s three major rules:
1) Dont piss off (soundman) Paul (Languedoc).
2) Dont analyze.
3) Don't Die.
Then Mike said they added a fourth rule at the conclusion of the tour:
4) Don't Play.

Umphrey’s McGee with Huey Lewis and Jeff Coffin - All the Hueyheads were waiting for this moment, and the man with the power of love played his harmonica on “She Caught the Katy.” The combination of UM and HL on this blues classic was flat-out lifeless. If you were watching a UPN sitcom and they needed to show white guys doing a bad job of playing the blues, this performance would make a great punchline. It was dreadfully boring. “Heart and Soul” provided the comedy of the night, as everyone laughed at the shitty music we used to listen to in the ‘80s. As the bowl was passed in my direction, I felt like I was living in an outtake from Teen Wolf.
Grade: D+

Umphrey’s McGee with Huey Lewis, Jeff Coffin, and Mavis Staples – It’s really hard to screw up “The Weight” and they didn’t. On the other hand, it’s not hard to play “The Weight” with passion, and they didn’t.
Grade: C+

Umphrey’s McGee with Huey Lewis, Jeff Coffin, Mavis Staples, and Sinead O’Connor -
Dear Ms. Staples,

Thank you for recording a great song like “I’ll Take You There.”

Your friend,

P.S. The next time you perform this song live with a talented backup band, remember that you are allowed to occasionally stop singing and let the musicians take a solo.

Umphrey’s hit the groove well, but as Mavis never shut her legendary yap, they couldn’t do anything with it. When she finally exited, a frustrated Jeff Coffin briefly soloed in the shadows. Insert your own symbolism.
Grade: C-

I think in the near future, I may begin referring to The Grahamy Jammy as the bullshit award. It’s all about the industry patting itself on the back, awarding promoters who make their livelihood from the jamband world. Whoopdeefriggindoo. Who really holds a candle to the great Bill Graham? There have been some decent winners in the past, but awarding Terrapin Tapes/Gathering of the Vibes overlord Ken Hayes reeked of immorality. While Hayes originally turned a good deed in serving tapers through his company and later creating a much-needed East Coast gathering for Deadheads in the wake of Garcia’s passing, you’d be hard-pressed to find some recent noteworthy accomplishments. His company went bust, and within the past four years, he has presided over some very controversial and ill-fated festivals. And we’re honoring him because? He needs to sell tickets to the 10th Annual Gathering of the Vibes, an event typically sponsored by Relix/ Hayes wasn’t coy about mentioning that tickets are on sale, natch. Excuse me while I puke.

The Download of the Year nominee announcement was noteworthy in that String Cheese Incident was lustily booed by the New York audience. It was the first of several boos over the course of the evening. The Dead’s performance at Bonnaroo proved victorious and was met with hearty approval.

Keller Williams – Keller did a nice but relatively short version of “Best Feeling.”
Grade: B+

Keller Williams with Nellie McKay and ?uestlove – This very unique combo began with a solo McKay number that sounded like punk being played on a church organ. Her somewhat abrasive voice then fueled “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” with Keller on bass. She moved directly into what I would assume was one of her own dirge-like songs before bringing everything back to Dylan’s aforementioned classic. The guy standing to my right begged me to be kind to McKay’s harsh vocals “because she’s really cute.” Who can argue with that kind of logic?
Grade: B

Keller Williams with ?uestlove – Here came the sickness. Keller went wild on the bass, and ?uestlove played some impressive beats. They teased and wound their way through multiple songs before landing on “Word Up” for a lengthy period and then continuing their big funk jam. Actual jamming at the Jammys? Imagine that!
Grade: A+

The DVD of the year went to Phish’s “IT.” Some boos were heard and SCI suddenly didn’t feel so bad. I believe Jeff “The Dude” Dowd presented this award with a rant about the virtues of West Coast sensimilia, proving that you can do a lot of drugs, have no recognizable talents or skills, and still become semi-famous.

The Live Album of the Year went to the Jerry Garcia Band for After Midnight Keen College 2/28/80. The recipient thanked the Jerry Garcia estate, which made me happy because the beneficiaries of Jerry’s money just don’t get enough credit for the music a dead man made 25 years ago. Just as he was on the verge of being booed, the recipient wisely thanked Jerry, and there was much rejoicing.

Ryan Adams – I’m not entirely familiar with Ryan Adams’ music. I’d never seen him live, but I do know some of his studio material, and I really like a few of his songs. At this performance, his sullen rock star persona seemed a little out of place, and his band was deafeningly loud. It doesn’t make much sense to have the rhythm guitarist turned up way louder than the lead guitarist, but that’s what happens when it’s the rhythm guitarist’s band. I don’t know how to describe the music aside from saying it was a big, loud, rockin’ mush of sound.
Grade: B-

Ryan Adams and Phil Lesh
– The volume didn’t drop a whole lot, but this performance really defined the way to do justice to a cover tune. Adams played and sang “Wharf Rat” with intense passion, his lead player soloed with Garciaesque grace, and Phil was dancing all over the bottom end. In the middle of this stirring rendition, the musicians suddenly found themselves deep in a reggae groove, and Adams adapted his vocal delivery to fit the new style. Once again, it was refreshing to find someone engaging in inspired improvisation at The Jammys. This was possibly the best “Wharf Rat” I’ve heard in the post-Garcia era. The “Birdsong” that followed was very short, fizzled out quickly and awkwardly, and should have never been started in the first place. My guess is that they unexpectedly ran out of time.
Grade: A-

The MiMi Fishman award went to Headcount for their impressive work on registering voters.

The Benevento-Russo Duo with Mike Gordon, as well as Les Claypool, Gabby La La, and Phil Lesh – In a racing take on “The Beltless Buckler,” Gordon laid down interesting bass grooves against the swirling psychedelic variety show of Benevento and Russo. Eventually, a pig-masked Claypool joined on upright bass, and the greenhaired Gabby La La played electric sitar on a lengthy jam that also featured Phil Lesh. At one point, all three basses played as a trio and tried to discover if three basses can sound good together. The answer is yes and no. At times, the three created quite a din, although there were moments of interesting clarity. The Claypool composition “Dee’s Diner” closed out the fun. Unfortunately, it’s not a very pleasant song to hear, but there were lots of unique and bizarre moments in the jam.
Grade: B+

The Studio Album of the Year was introduced by two stereotypical DJs from New York’s Q104. Apparently, people must really hate these guys because a large group steadily booed them throughout their speech. Govt Mule’s Deja Voodoo was victorious, and Warren Haynes received a huge ovation when he came out with the rest of Mule to accept. Unfortunately, that was the last we saw of Warren and Mule as they never played a single note throughout the course of the evening.

The Disco Biscuits with Travis Tritt and Travis Tritt’s drummer – I wish I knew Travis Tritt’s drummer’s name, but I believe he was introduced as merely “Travis Tritt’s drummer.” Anyway, the dude can play, and the Disco Biscuits made him tackle one of their tougher compositions, “House Dog Party Favor.” Not being much of a Biscuits fan, I was surprised to really enjoy this progish and complex number. Their playing was tight, the sections of the song had lots of variety, and the drummer smoked. This tune segued into Travis Tritt’s “Honkytonk,” as the country star strode out onstage and seemed to be having a blast with his newfound backup band. A fierce jam ensued, and Tritt tried his damnedest to keep up with the laser-quick fingers of Jon Gutwillig. Of course, no one could hear Tritt’s guitar, so it didn’t really matter, but he gets style points for enthusiastically strumming his axe. Marc Brownstein was very aggressive on the bass and a huge rocking climax flowed right back into “House Dog Party Favor.” Everyone onstage was having a great time, and this odd-pairing wound up being one of the shockingly best moments of the evening. It was quite refreshing to see the Disco Biscuits play without being surrounded by 16-year-olds popping ecstasy and sucking on pacifiers.
Grade: A+

After scheduled presenter Anthony DeCurtis was AWOL, the Live Album of the Year was awarded to Keller Williams’ Stage.

The Live Performance of the Year was captured by Phil Lesh and Friends’ 12/19/04 gig at the Warfield, and Phil gave his organ donor rap, which inexplicably pissed off the guy next to me. I guess the guy was not a fan of transplants.

Medeski, Martin, and Wood with The Antibalas Horns, Sinead O’Connor, and Burning Spear – Beginning with “Chant Down Babylon” this large aggregation fell deep into a very real retro reggae sound. With the aid of the excellent Antibalas horns, MMW sounded as if they’d been the super-tight backbone of a reggae band for their entire lives. Burning Spear was the real deal and Sinead added tasteful harmony…at the start. I wasn’t paying too much attention to her singing because I kept hoping she might be cap her performance by gluing together a picture of the Pope, but it didn’t happen. “Marcus Garvey” kept the deep reggae groove moving, although at this point, it was obvious that the talents of MMW and Antibalas were being wasted. With O’Connor and Burning Spear refusing to stop singing, the instrumentalists never had a chance to move, and they stayed locked in the repetitive groove. Then things took a turn for the worse, as the two vocalists attempted an accapella stab at “Jah No Dead.” Everything has its time and place, and The Jammys aren’t the time and place for accapella ballads. To make matters worse, the two were off-key, and nearly two minutes into the song, O’Connor stopped the performance and made everyone start over, commanding the guitarist to give Burning Spear his note and then reprimanding the singer for being out of key. To make matters worse, the re-started version was still painfully out of key. As you might imagine, this torturous act was met with a nice smattering of boos, a recurring theme for the evening. I have only this to say to Ms. O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 Retirement.”
Grade: B-

Medeski, Martin, and Wood with The Antibalas Horns, Sinead O’Connor, Burning Spear, Luther Dickinson, Jon Gutwillig, Aron Magner, Marco Benevento, Les Claypool, ?uestlove – And we knew The Jammys were ending because the “powerjam” was forming. As in the past, said powerjam featured almost no jamming. “Lively Up Yourself” was a great choice, and Luther Dickinson got in a couple shredding licks. However, we found ourselves languishing back in a familiar problem, as Sinead wouldn’t stop singing and let someone solo or jam. This problem was compounded by Gutwillig, who, during what may be the only vocal sit-in of his life, engaged Sinead in a back-and-forth duet of stupidity. Although Gutwillig’s vocals were surprisingly not painfully out of key, his “contribution” lasted the entire song and prevented any instrumentalist from making a statement. Great. Then MMW launched into “Crosstown Traffic.” Sinead looked confused and just held her mic at her side, never singing once throughout the song. The same goes for the seemingly intoxicated Gutwillig. With the vocalists out of the way, we could be getting somewhere. Unfortunately, no one wanted to play lead, and initially, no one replicated the vocal line of the song, so we were basically stuck with a mass of players all playing the rhythm at full volume. Every once in a while there was a hint of a keyboard solo or a guitar riff, but it was hard to distinguish much of anything. Burning Spear manned percussion, ?uestlove got on the kit, and Billy Martin went nuts on the timbales in what was probably the highlight of this “jam.” Martin then took up the cowbell, danced across the stage and was leading the group. With aplomb, he built the tension to a great climax, but everyone hung onto to it for just a little too long, and the energy fizzled. Without much ado, the powerjam cocktease ended at 12:45, Shapiro came out to tell us it was over, and another Jammys was in the books.
Powerjam Grade: B-

This year’s Jammys was good but certainly not great. There weren’t many peaks, but there weren’t many awful moments, either. It was more of a milquetoast affair, but it was name-brand milquetoast.
Overall Grade: B-

An experiment fails

Within minutes, my secret blog will no longer be secret. To all those who were reading this secret blog, I am sorry...but it is your fault. How would I know you are out there in the first place? You have tortured me so with your silence, and I can't take it any more.

So fuck you, silent people. I used to love you, but it's all over now.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

An Open Letter to George Lucas

Dear George,

I realize that you have pissed off a lot of people in the past couple of years, and a lot of people have been writing letters to you, expressing their anger. Please do not take this letter as a means of venting my frustration, but rather accept this missive as a list of helpful suggestions to prevent the final Star Wars movie from completely sucking ass.

Allow me to begin by giving you a little background about myself. I am not some rabid Star Wars junkie who travels to conventions, attempting to get Carrie Fisher's autograph. I am not like one of my friends, who, on opening night of the Special Edition theatrical release of Star Wars (a version that completely sucked ass, by the way), unwrapped and wore a 1982 lime green iron-on Chewbaca child's t-shirt that was so small, the circulation was cut off to his extremities. I will admit to collecting some of the toys when I was younger, but since my parents would not spoil me, I never got the freaking Millenium Falcon like my neighbor David did. The best thing I ever got was the Ewok Village...which my brother and I had to share! (I am still holding a grudge against my parents for this, and I won't talk to them until they redeem themselves by giving me the Death Star, at the very least.) Nay, I am but a mere casual fan. I grew up in the Star Wars generation and ever since I watched a grainy pirated version of The Empire Strikes Back on a massive Betamax VCR, I've dug your work.

But things have gone horribly awry since Revenge of the Jedi (I refuse to call it by it's renamed title). I understand that these movies have made you rich, and rich people have access to good drugs, but what kind of drugs have you been doing? I mean, you must be getting some really good shit because your mind seems seriously fucked up.

For starters, what were you smoking when you decided that Hayden Christensen can act? Seriously, I want to know. I need to get some of that shit. This guy makes Keanu look credible. I'm not gonna call it a stretch when I say that he may very well be the worst actor to ever set foot on the screen. (At least you could laugh at Pauly Shore.) I see that he is in pre-production for two films, The Decameron and Less Than Kind, and I think these films have a brilliant future as fertilizer. Quite frankly, I am stunned by this little pissant's incompetance.

Unfortunately, we all know that Anakin has to live throughout the next movie. There is no way he can be killed, and that sucks. I am so disheartened to know that I will have to sit through two-plus hours of that little bitch's on-screen whining. However, all is not lost. Here is what I propose:

A) Turn him into Darth Vader within the first five minutes. If you make us sit through six of more minutes of Hayden Christensen pouting, there will likely be an in-theater revolt. Skip all of your typically boring exposition (that's all that Episode I was anyway), and cut to the transformation.


B) Have Anakin mouth off within the first minute and Obi Wan respond by wacking him in the throat with a lightsaber. Anakin will experience serious larynx damage, and he'll have to spend the entire film in sick bay until doctors perform the wrong surgery on him and accidentally transform him into Darth Vader. Since Anakin's voicebox will be damaged, he won't be able to speak, and the audience will be spared from any potentially emotionally transparent, whiny monologues from a hospital bed.


C) Just have James Earl Jones play Anakin. Only a few people will notice, but they'll be those anally-retentive sticklers for detail. Don't sweat them. They're pains in the ass anyway. You can seriously pull this off with little problem. Papa James could use the paycheck, and the film could use one less Hayden Christensen. The role of Anakin should be interchangeable. After all, Bewitched switched Darrens mid-show.

Now that we've solved the H.C. issue, let's move on to Natalie Portman. What did you do to this girl? She seems like she can act until she appears in your films. You must be like emotional kryptonite to this poor kid. I've given up all hope for her in the next film, but an acquaintence recently told me, "I had a feeling that this (film) might deliver the goods when I noticed that Natalie Portman was only in the trailer three times, and she didn't open her mouth once." This is very good news. Perhaps Padme witnesses something horrific (like maybe Hayden Christensen being decapitated?) and she goes into shock and becomes a mute. Yeah, I like the sound of that.

Along the same lines, please kill the love story. Face it, dude, you are not a good writer. Your dialogue is baaaaaaaaaaad, but your two young actors are even worse. Do not toture us with their budding romance. Watching those two onscreen is enough to make any man want to take a vow of celibacy.

What else....? How about Samuel L. Jackson? Why is he in these fucking movies? You did give him a cool name (Mace), and you did let him kick a little ass, but please let the brotha really fuck someone up! I picture him ramming a lightsaber up a stormtrooper's ass and declaring, "The Force just ran right through you, bitch!"

While we're at it, can we find something for Jimmy Smits to do? Maybe give him a gun and a badge or something? Just a suggestion.

Jar Jar Binks? Do I need to elaborate here? You are due some congratulations, Mr. Lucas. With your creation of Jar Jar Binks, you simultaneously invented a new synonym for "asshole." While Roget is appreciative, the viewers are not.

Do we really need Count Dooku? Yes, the guy was great in Lord of the Rings, but that was a good trilogy of movies, while this is... Look, you started him off on the wrong foot by giving him a lame name. Put this guy out of his mercy early on, and save this film.

Speaking of bad names, don't ever name a character "Elian Sleazebaggano." Why don't you just call him Elian Surfacecharacterthatsucksballs?

Okay, I've given you a lot to think about here, and the film is slated to be released very soon, so you had better get your ass in gear. Granted, it will take a lot of money to fix the mess you've made, but dude, you shit Benjamins so it shouldn't be a problem. Save this movie and redeem this trilogy. Otherwise, Episodes I, II, and III wil be fated to lie alongside Police Academy 4, 5, and 6. Trust me, you don't wanna be associated with Steve Gutenberg and Bobcat Goldthwaite.

Your friend,

I Saw The Light

Two months ago, I had ate the greatest sandwich ever. It inspired a late-night rant that was emailed to many friends. For no apparent reason, I'm reposting it here:

Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:58 am

I Saw The Light

Friends, I have happened upon a wonderful discovery. Last night, at approximately 7:30 P.M. I exited Port Authority onto Ninth Avenue. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had ever taken that exit, but good things always seem to happen when you take a new path. In search of a cheap place to eat, I crossed Ninth Ave. and headed uptown. As I glanced over to see scaffolding covering the now depraved den of sin that was formerly the saintly Tobacco Road, I caught a golden glint out of the corner of my eye. There it was. A bright yellow beacon of hope in a world of darkness: Tony Luke's Old Philly Style Sandwiches had arrived in New York.

I knew this place. I knew its mystical lore. I knew that it was beckoning me to come taste its wares. Initially, I had set out to eat something healthy, but after .036 seconds of contemplation, I bolted across the street, and just like little Carol Ann in Poltergeist, I ran to the light.

I opened the door and basked in the glow of the warm but near-blinding yellow fluorescent bulbs. I inhaled the mouthwatering aroma of fried onions and sizzling meat. Drunken with olfactory delight, I stumbled toward the window and asked, “How long have you been here?”

“A little over two weeks.”

I had been gone for almost two weeks and had no knowledge of this landmark opening in Manhattan history. New York City, I will never leave you again during the holidays. I had no idea that such fascinating things happened here in late December. Please forgive me.

Evan, the friendly store owner, asked, “You from Philly?”

I replied, “Mfblemblfelmmmmmmmmmm….”

It may have been the tremendous amount of drool that had accumulated and was barely being contained by my quivering lower lip, but I think I was distracted by the towering menu offering otherworldly delights. I wanted to say, “Don’t talk to me, mortal! I’m reading about the most incredible food Mother Earth has to offer,” but I could only offer a few unintelligible syllables. Then I saw it. My path in life had been decided. It was known as “Roast Pork Italian.”

With a bright future ahead of me, I quickly introduced myself and ordered “Roast Pork Italian Wit.” Evan was taken aback because very few people north of Trenton understand how to properly order a sandwich with fried onions. Instantly, we had formed a bond and could now communicate on a higher plane.

I very briefly thought that since I would be attending a rehearsal in about a half an hour, I should be considerate of my fellow actors and forgo the onions. Then I thought, “I’m about to eat Roast Pork Italian Wit. I’m about to sip from the Holy Grail. I am the chosen one. They will understand.” Nervously awaiting my chance at immortality, I grabbed some napkins and lifted a heaping pile of dill pickle slices from a sneeze-guardless container that is likely to be labeled unsanitary by the New York Department of Health. Of course, I was about to run with Apollo, so my mortality and health were of little concern.

Then the angel behind the sliding glass window shouted one of the best words in the English language: “Brian!”

My time had come. Frothing with anticipation, I slowly walked toward the window to Heaven, and then the manna was delivered. Inside of a brown paper bag laid the keys to the universe: a Roast Pork Italian Wit. In an instant, I unwrapped my prize and like a rabid dog, I gnashed my teeth into the soft bread that had been moistened by the pork juice. A mind-altering blend of flavors danced in my mouth as the drenched bread combined with bitter broccoli rabe and the nutty sharp provolone. And then there was the pork. Within seconds, a large chunk of it had soaked its way through the roll and was now resting on the wax paper, beckoning unto me. I had little choice but to grab that succulent piece of flesh and then slurp it into my waiting mouth. The moist juices gushed from the meat and a small trail of love trickled out of my shaking lips and dripped down my chin. It was nothing less than amazing.

I think I now understand how Sir Edmund Hillary felt upon his descent from the peak of Mt. Everest. Ghandi had nothing on me. Move over Voltaire, this was a whole new kind of enlightenment. I was wise beyond my years.

The sandwich had been consumed, and after a few minutes of staring into oblivion, I came to. I was a changed man, indestructible perhaps. Nothing could stop me-- not even the Italian Fries I ordered, which were alright but not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as my beloved Roast Pork Italian Wit. Oh, Roast Pork Italian Wit, you complete me.

I quickly glanced at the menu and noticed that the prices were about $1.25 higher than those in South Philly, but friends, I ask you, can you put a price on enlightenment? I think not. This branch was also wise to omit the veal cutlet portion of the menu and put a greater emphasis on the “green” vegetarian sandwiches. And if you know anything about Tony Luke’s, you know that the Great New York Cheesesteak Drought has finally ended.

I thanked Evan for his divine intervention in my humble life, and I warned him that I shall return-- perhaps this evening. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Cheesesteak (Provolone Sharp, Wit)!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

The Mexican Standoff

Okay, I've been gone for a month, and here I am making two posts within minutes of each other. Not only that, but I'm also talking to myself because I'm certain that no one is listening.

So today I was taking the C train up to Harlem, and I got on at 59th St. I sat across from this woman with enormous eyes. We're taking huge fucking eyeballs, people. I mean, she could have easily doubled as a mogwai...with much darker skin...without the body hair...or the cute songs sung for an old Chinese man. Anyway, she decided to engage me in the game that New Yorkers love to play on the subway:


I sat on the train, and I noticed her gigantic eyes staring at me. At first, I thought she might be in a daze, staring off into space, so I stared back. After a few seconds, a good riposte stare will usually fend off any novice starer.

But alas, she was a pro.

I tried looking away, pretending to read an ad that was surprisingly not for Dr. Z's acne removal system. Then I darted my eyes back to her, hoping to wake her from a potential daydream. No, she was awake and transfixed on me.

Why was she staring at me? I will admit that I might have looked a little strange. I was carrying a bag containing a Roast Pork Italian wit and a Cheesesteak Provolone Sharp wit from Tony Luke's Old Philly Style Sandwiches, which would later become a delectable dinner for my woman and I. In order to preserve the warmth of the sandwiches, I kept the brown paper bag inside my coat, using my body heat as an incubator. (My coat now has a wonderful pork smell to it.) I clutched the coat under the bag and thought, "Maybe I look like a terrorist. I do have a thin beard now, and despite my lack of olive skin, I guess a bearded guy clutching his coat fits the profile." Then I realized that terrorists wouldn't carry a bomb inside their coat and clutch themselves while reeking of pork. If these were Middle Eastern terrorists, Allah would have made them order the chicken.

I tried smiling and looking relaxed, but she wouldn't budge. She was emotionless, but her eyes were piercing through me. It was unnerving, so I once again tried to stare back. I sucked at this and cowered under pressure. I was starting to get pissed, so I kept trying to regroup and stare again, but I couldn't hold up under her intensity. She owned me.

I have a friend, who when encountering these situations, likes to yell, "You wanna fight or fuck?" (He typically gets lots of responses to the latter, and almost always is ammenable to the suggestion.) I have asked this question once in the past, and it did prove surprisingly effective at warding off the offending starer. But this is not exactly the most tactful thing a man can say, especially to a beautiful woman, especially when there are children around, especially when there are very large, menacing men around, especially when there are very large, menacing women around. I just cowered away in fear, and for the first time in my life, I lost The Mexican Standoff.

But then I regrouped and tried to make it a "best out of three" situation. She had already looked away after thrashing her prey (me), so the game could technically be on for another round. I geared up, rolled my eyeballs back into their sockets, and with full force, I shot my eyelids open and stared with tenacity.


Her eyes were closed.

She was intentionally cutting me off.

You can't do that. That's totally bush league! Just slide into my leg with steel spikes, why don't ya?

Then she got off at the next stop and wouldn't even pay me the respect to glance at my obvious disgust.

I was pissed, and I needed to stare at someone. The next guy who sat down across from me was a very large dude. I got ready to stare, and he immidiately went to sleep. I started to look him over, and I saw that he had a picture of a woman and a girl (presumably his wife and kids) around his neck. His bulging sweat pants had a big hole in the crotch that looked like it had been re-sewn more than once. His head was adorned with a New York Post hat.

It figures.

Times readers would never blow out their crotch.

Bloggus Interruptus

Well, so far, I've successfully remained in a blogosphere vaccum. It's been a month since my last post, and I have yet to receive a single comment. No one knows I'm here, and I love it.

In the meantime, whilst playing my new favorite game of hitting random blogs, I realized that blogs are essentially a medium for non-English speakers and emotionally underdeveloped teenagers. The latter is of slightly more interest to me, and I discovered this one blog by this incredibly smart kid, Kyle. Kyle is working on some huge cyberspace-like project that is far to vast for my feeble mind to comprehend. It has something to do with the world coming together, creating universal harmony and peace, developing a better tasting fat-free potato chip...blah, blah, blah. Anyway, poor Kyle's hormones are raging, and just when he's about to go postal over losing his bitch of a girlfriend, he suddenly discovers this rare flower that he falls head over heels for. Reminding me much of myself at his age, Kyle goes full steam ahead when he should take it slow and the girl gets scared. Then she comes back to him. Then she backs away. The back-and-forth continues, and poor Kyle's heart is about to burst. I swear I've gotten hooked on this Kyle story, and the crazy thing is that I sense he's writing this blog with the full knowledge of not only his friends but also the object of his affection. This kid is so bent out of shape that he's letting the whole world read his diary, setting himself up for either adolation (like in a Corey Haim movie) or extreme disappointment (like in the real world).

Kyle's blog has become my crack. I was addicted, getting the shakes and at one point, checking back every hour or so to see if his heart was beaming or broken. This is how housewives feel when they get attached to soap operas. I wanted to tune in every day to see if Bo and Hope would finally live free of the evil clutches of Stefano Demero. And then it happened. I checked back this evening to see where young Kyle's heart was headed, and he dealt me the death blow. He erased all record of his heartbreak. He cut me off. Kyle's blog was cancelled.

Fuck you, Kyle.

I was going to tell you that the world is full of hope and things will get better when you grow older. But you know what? You, young man, taught me that the world is hopeless and full of disappointment. If you think you have it rough now, sonny boy, wait until you're a bitter old man (or at least you feel like one) and your entire world hinges on living vicariously through a young man half your age. I hope that chick ripped your little post-pubescent heart out of your hairless chest, threw it into a bucket of hydrochloric acid, stomped on it repeatedly with a stiletto heel, forced the pulp through a Jack Lalane juicemaster, and then fed the liquid to her evil black cat.

That's what the world is like, you whiny little pissant.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Round Two

Okay, so it's been over a week and my first post has elicited ZERO responses. Interesting. Perhaps my Rogers and Hammerstein allusion is lost on this younger technofile generation. Maybe they read "Do, a deer, a female deer" and thought that I am into bestiality. At the very least, I would think THAT would generate a comment or two. Isn't that at least worthy of a "You're sick dude," or "Dude, that's whack," or "The Sound of Music blows,"?

You see, I'm new to this whole blog thing. (I know, this is already starting to sound like one of those cliched opening blog posts where some schlub babbles on about nothing before dropping some serious wisdom in the form of a whimsical anectdote about his trip to buy collard greens at the grocery store. But I'm not going there. Please bear with me.) Honestly, I don't even like blogs. I think they're boring. Who cares about the intimate details of some anonymous guy's last bowel movement? "Not I," said the little red hen.

So why write a blog? 'Fraid you got me there. I guess I'm doing it because I want to find out more about these people who read blogs. Will this whole blogging craze go the way of the pet rock? If so, that's a lot of bandwidth to be wasted on some serious angst.

Right before I made my first post here I had just written this passionate review of a restaurant and emailed it to my friends and a few distribution lists. People tend to enjoy when I stay up late and babble on about things of no real consequence, and this review was no different. (Maybe I will post it here someday. Maybe not. Maybe I'll make you beg me for it.) Anyway, ironically enough, Dave Nolan responded to one list by saying, "Brian Ferdman again proving why he is the best fucking writer on the scene! Jeez - you should have a JamBlog or something - some of the only writing on the web I'veever seen that's worth a damn..." Little did Dave know that I had started a blog only ten hours prior to his email of praise.

Ah, Dave. I don't know that we've ever met.

Now I'm gonna have egg all over my face when Dave emails me saying, " Dude, I've worked in the cubicle next to you for the last ten years and I was the best man at your wedding."

Shit-- I'm getting sidetracked.

So Dave doesn't know about this here blog. None of my friends know. In fact, I'm not sure that anyone knows about this. And I think I like it that way...for now. This is sort of like an old Buddhist question or something-- If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Well, if a blog exists but no one sees it, does it really matter? I'll never know that someone has seen this until I receive a comment. Will you comment and put me out of my misery, or will you prolong the pain and stand silent, watching in the shadows? OR am I using reverse psychology on you because I really want no responses and wish to write in public without anyone seeing? OR do I want to control everyone by making them afraid to either comment or not comment?

What's that? Your brain hurts?

For the hell of it, I clicked on that "NEXT BLOG" link in the upper right corner, and horror of horrors, I wound up on stuff teenager's blog with a spectacular shrine to Jessica Simpson. I don't think I'll ever get to open for Jessica again, so this was a real stunner. I went back and tried clicking the "NEXT BLOG" link again and wound up on an Indonesian page. I read along, not understanding anything but pretending that the blog was recounting how I had become a national folk hero in Indonesia because of my dextrous wit on the Internet.

This got me thinking. What if some Jessica Simpson-worshipping teenager or person with poor English skills accidentally lands on my blog? They are gonna be so confused their head will explode. That's it! My goal with this blog is to make pop-music-loving teenagers' heads explode! I have a purpose in life!

So if you are a teenager, I apologize for my foul language, but you're going to have to get used to it if you wanna read my writing. There will be cursing, sex, violence, mental manipulation, and maybe some drugs as the cherry on top. These are a few of my favorite things...

Oh no. The Sound of Music is becoming a recurring theme.

God help you all.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005