Friday, April 30, 2010

Bad Romance

Music video breakdown time by request! Hooray! Anyway, Lady Gaga is a famous individual who has worked very hard to reach her current celebrity status via a two-pronged plan which I imagine went something like this:

1. Sing obnoxious songs.
2. Wear ridiculous things in public.

There may have been another step involving a pact with Satan. I'm not sure on that point. But regardless of possible demonic involvement (Welcome to my blog, hardcore Christian crazy conspiracy theorists!), I think we can all agree on one thing: If she didn't have the word 'lady' in her stage name, no one would be entirely sure. Come to think of it, I'm still not.

If you care, here's a link to the video. I will not be embedding it due to the fact that I have some standards. If you care about this sort of thing, be forewarned that it features some naughty language and very minimal amounts of clothing.

0:01 - It begins in a room from THE FUTURE. Said room features the entire cast of 'A Clockwork Orange' made over by the flamboyantly gay guy on America's Next Top Model. Not that I've seen that show. Let's move on.

0:06 - Zoom in on our heroine, wearing a glittery failed origami project and a pair of square sunglasses which have eaten her entire face, which is really for the best.

0:12 - She has part of a screen window on each fingernail. Of course she does.

0:32 - Oh god, the sounds! Please make them stop!

0:44 - Oh wow. Five or so people who seem to be David Bowie from Labyrinth wrapped head to toe in opaque white plastic have climbed out of pods in the Gaga Bath Haus and are now dancing or having seizures or something. This is simultaneously slightly disturbing and rather hilariously terrible. The video, I mean. Not the song. The song is solely the latter, but with only one adjective. I'll let you pick which one. Also, no word yet on how many transmittable diseases the Haus features. I'll let you know when I do.

1:29 - The lights in the Haus have been turned on. Any time they'd like to turn them back off is fine with me.

1:40 - And someone just ripped off Gaga's shirt. I need a beer. And to unsee all this. Sweet, sweet alcohol. Nectar of forgetting.

2:00 - And now she is evidently an extra from Where the Wild Things Are.

2:03 - Her clothes got torn off again. Can they stop doing that, please? I volunteer to staple them onto her, if that will help.


2:33 - Please make her wear something. And I don't mean the lampshade she has on her head. Please. Anyone.

2:43 - Hairless cat. More or less terrifying? Hmmmmmm......

2:50 - The glasses have been replaced by eye makeup of equal volume. How I miss the glasses.

3:06 - Now she is an underwear model surrounded by hovering diamonds. This makes less sense than Eraserhead.

3:12 - Seizure dance! Seizure dance! No, in all seriousness, it doesn't look like a seizure. It looks like they're trying to do a modern interpretation of how a Tyrannosaurus Rex grabbed onto anything with its tiny arms.

3:20 - Human shiny gyroscope thing in her underwear. I wonder why that superhero never caught on. At least she has large sunglasses on again. Life is about the small victories.

3:30 - Time for the breakdown! So of course she is wearing a sparkly bodysuit made of lizard skin that puffs out around her hips for no apparent reason. Somewhere a fashion designer is thoroughly blotto on her coin laughing hysterically.

3:37 - Also, her hair seems to be modeled on SNL's own 'Coneheads'.


4:13 - Polar bear-wearing woman and metal chin man. A match made in heaven. Please say everyone involved in the production of this music video is sterile. Please. I'm begging you.

4:26 - Fire! Take two steps to your left, please.

4:30-4:57 - I just... I don't... No.

4:58 - Lights out! Hooray!

5:05 - And her bra is shooting sparks while she lies strung out and smoking on a cemetery plot next to a skeleton. This is actually an improved look for her.

In conclusion, I would like to ask a question: Amy, why do you evidently hate me?

Monday, April 26, 2010


Congratulations to Ryan Howard and his agent on Howard's new 5-year, $125 million extension. Lesser congratulations to the Philadelphia Phillies, who now have an entry for the annual 'Worst Contract in Baseball' competition. Because any time you can lock up the mid- to late-30s of an overrated player already in a four-year decline, you make that happen.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Hold Steady

30 some-odd years ago, Neil Young posed the question of whether it is better to burn out than to fade away. Since then, he has spent the majority of his time fading away. So that's nice. Also of relevance: The band whose name conveniently doubles as the title of this post. Because otherwise this would be even more of a load of gibberish than it is currently devolving into. So wait, let's try this: The Hold Steady are an awesome band who recently played in Burlington, Vermont. I was there. It was fun.

That was easy. But not quite what I was hoping for. Or very long. Abortive attempt number 3 to follow.

Ten years ago, Lifter Puller broke up. They were a band who, like so many others, I had not heard about by the time of their demise (Chief amongst these: The Beatles. I blame my parents. And the inevitably linear movement of time). Like many others, they played fairly straightforward post-punk. However, unlike many others, they were fronted by Craig Finn. You see, this is important. Because, rather than singing songs, Craig Finn gets extremely wired and simply yells out the lyrics. The more lines and syllables the better. Typically these words will be tales featuring those traditional topics of rock and roll, sex and drugs. And he approaches the songs as stories, with characters who weave throughout albums, and, to some extent, the band's entire catalog. There is a phrase for this, and it is nerd chic. I am so there. So in 2000, unbeknownst to me, Lifter Puller broke up. This led to Finn and their guitarist, Tad Kubler, forming a new band, The Hold Steady, who were pretty much the same thing, but with a keyboard player. Which will work just fine.

The set kicked off with 'The Cattle and the Creeping Things' off their second album, a jittery rant skirting the edges of religion over a hyper-caffeinated staccato beat. And while the music is quite excellent, the real draw for The Hold Steady live is Finn. He came out with a guitar around his neck, a tool of the trade which would quickly be revealed as a prop. For the entirety of the first song the guitar simply hung around his neck as he used one hand to hold the microphone and stand at various odd angles as he spit the lyrics out into it, the other hand being thoroughly preoccupied with wildly gesturing for the duration of the lyrics. In between lines, he would often continue yelling things at the audience off-mic. If this doesn't sound brilliant to you, we probably can't be friends anymore. And you probably drink less coffee than I do. Well, you probably do that anyway.

They are now four albums into their career, and are gradually tweaking their sound with each album. Because, you see, if you don't do that, you eventually turn into Clinic. Or Boston, if you'd like me to make fewer indie references. Just admit that I'm hipper than you (c. 2003). It's easy to tell anyway, primarily because I have a bad haircut. Anyway, the majority of these tweaks have involved more melody, more singing, and less TOTAL AWESOMENESS AND DOMINATION VIA THE AUDIO FORMAT. As you may have been able to ascertain, I feel this direction is not the best use of the band's considerable talents. I was subtle about it. Their second album, Separation Sunday, was a peak from which the band has been gradually receding ever since. This is not a major fault or anything. Most bands never sniff anything close to the heights that album scaled. Think 'Black Dog', but for 50 minutes. And with better lyrics. And singing. And without that terrible hitch in the guitar riff that makes the entire song terrible. Got it?

That was the format Finn followed for the majority if the set, which hit a number of high points (Hello 'Chips Ahoy'), even if it stayed away from the older material more than I would have liked. And it was a blast. That said, I have grave concerns about the upcoming album. They played six songs off it, and three of them, technically, sucked. One was especially terrible, featuring chugging power chords under traditionally sung verses and chori. And of the three good songs, one featured a mysterious intro that sounded lifted off The Joshua Tree for two minutes or so grafted awkwardly onto a song that only took off once said intro ended. They called the singer for the opening band out to provide additional vocals for one song, stating that he did a lot of singing on the new record. And, most damningly of all, during the breakdowns in several songs, spots which old live recordings will attest used to feature Finn telling stories to the audience, the band jammed. That is a dirty word in these parts.

But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him. After all, burning out leaves a legacy untarnished by decline. However, reputations are built on achievement, something gained by being on top of one's powers, a state hard to maintain for an extended period of time. And a decline phase, while sad to behold, is where bands can generally make money, continuing to ply their trade to an audience growing behind recognition of past achievements. For it is the rare band to become dramatically better multiple albums into a career. Burning out is for purists, but fading away is only too human, especially if one has the desire to eat. And, except in the case of the Rolling Stones, the fade is generally not drawn out over a ridiculously excessive length of years, and allows us to do something we do not always manage: Rather than criticizing the fall of the mighty, let us look at where the ascent peaked, and be impressed with a high water mark most never reach. As a wise man once said, let us remember the good times. Kenny would have wanted it that way.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Attention Muzak Playlist Editors

It is now the year 2010. There are no more excuses for playing 'No More I Love Yous' by Annie Lennox.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

MLB Season Preview

So, here we go. I rather liked the approach Cousin Ben took to his version of this same topic, so I'm going to ape it for a bit. Beginning with the big boy league, let's do this.

AL East:

1. Boston
2. Tampa
3. The Enemy
4. Baltimore
5. Toronto

So, I may be a bit biased here. If I was being a bit more objective, I'd note that the top 3 teams are the three best organizations in all of baseball, and any one of them could easily win the division. Also, it sucks to be either Toronto or Baltimore, although with the amounts of young talent Baltimore has, it probably sucks more to be Toronto. I also loved Baltimore's signing of Garrett Atkins, as an everyday warning to Matt Wieters of what he could become if he doesn't work hard.

AL Central:

1. Minnesota
2. Uggggghhhhhhhhhh. Bad, bad division. Chicago (White Sox), I guess. Confidently.
3. Cleveland
4. Detroit
5. Kansas 'Trust the Process' City

So, yeah. Even with Joe Nathan out, I like the Twins to win a weak division. I loved their offseason moves (Hardy, Pavano and Orlando Hudson headlining), and think they'll take the division even with Joe Mauer's inevitable regression and the sudden realization that Justin Morneau isn't all that great. Beyond that, it's a bit of a crapshoot. I at least trust Chicago's pitching staff, so they get the two spot. Cleveland has a lot of really interesting young hitting (Including absolute beast of a catcher prospect Carlos Santana, stolen from the Dodgers in exchange for Casey Blake) to go along with pitching slightly better than you'll find in an average game of wiffle ball. Detroit has Miguel Cabrera and did I mention Miguel Cabrera? Their actual plan for this season involves having Dontrelle Willis in their rotation. By design. The same Dontrelle Willis who, one month ago, described himself thusly: "To me, the issue is I'm terrible". Good luck with that. And also, there are the Royals.

AL West

1. Texas
2. Los Angeles of Anaheim of California of The United States of Planet Earth of The Milky Way of Whatever is Bigger Than That
3. Seattle
4. Oakland

No knock on Oakland, who could easily finish second in the AL Central. This is a good division top to bottom, with the Rangers riding an amazing wave of young talent right to its forefront (Interesting number of the preseason: 5. That is the number of players on the Rangers 40-man roster over the age of 30. That is amazing). I could see each of these teams finishing over .500. It won't happen in the end, but man, that would be cool. Anyway, after adding more pitching this offseason, I don't like Seattle all that much. I actually think they take a step back. They outperformed their pythagorean record last year, and Cliff Lee is already hurting. Still the best defense in baseball, but it's a small step back first for an organization which is undoubtedly on the rise. As for LAoAoCoTUSoPEoTMWoWiBTT, whatever. They are not at all exciting, and finally lose their death grip on the division this year to a Rangers team poised to start an impressive playoff run of their own.

On to AAAA!

AAAA East:

1. Philly
2. Atlanta
3. Florida
4. Washington
5. NY Mets

Yeah, that's the last-place team. I debated. Do I think it's a lock? No. But man, that's a bad, old team with no depth. At all. If anything goes wrong, it's going to go really wrong. So congrats to Omar Minaya for building the All-Downside Team. Why haven't they fired that guy yet? Anyway, on to more competent organizations. The Braves and Phillies are almost a coin flip at the top of the standings, but I'll take the Phillies riding a resurgent year from Cole Hamels, who was terribly unlucky last year. And I hear there's some 'Holiday' guy. Don't know what that's supposed to mean. The Braves are once again retooling around an impressive crop of talented youngsters, and should take the division from the aging Phillies in another year. In other news, the Marlins are now paying three players a livable wage, and the Nationals suck.

AAAA Central:

1. St. Louis
2. Cincinnati
3. Milwaukee
4. Chicago (Cubs)
5. Pittsburgh
6. Houston

I'm scared that Chris Carpenter's arm could fall off at any time, but I'll bet that he makes it through half the season first, which will give the Cardinals enough of a lead to coast to the playoffs in another bad division. I like Ben's pick of the Reds, but I think he's a year early on them. Next year, providing Dusty doesn't chop off Aroldis Chapman's arm with an axe, watch out for them. They have a lot of young talent, led by certifiable beast Jay Bruce (Joey Who? He's alright, I guess). Milwaukee imported Randy Wolf to try to stop the bleeding in the rotation, which would have been better last year if their opponents had been allowed to use a tee. Chicago has a bunch of terrible, expensive, aging players, and have willingly decided to let Carlos Silva start. Pittsburgh is still bad, but moving in the right direction. As for Houston, I will continue to beat the 'Ed Wade is terrible' drum until he is fired. Should be soon, considering how bad this roster is.


1. Colorado
2. Los Angeles
3. Arizona
4. San Francisco
5. San Diego

The last division. The Rockies have already lost Jeff Francis to the DL, which hurts (He was penciled in as their #2 starter). But I still think they can pull this out, led by a beast of a young offense. Though the sooner they get rid of Brad Hawpe, the better. Seth Smith, currently their 4th outfielder, is a better hitter than Hawpe, and also not the worst defensive right-fielder in baseball. So he's got that going for him. Which is nice. In LA, I think Manny continues his gradual decline, and phenom Clayton Kershaw takes a step back. This leaves a rotation of Chad Billingsley and pray for rain, which probably will not work well. Though I'm rooting for knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who made the rotation as the fifth starter. The world can never have too many knuckleball pitchers. Arizona has some impressive talent, but not enough to make a run at the divisional title with Brandon Webb still not throwing. As for San Francisco, well, they're built entirely on their pitching. However, for some reason apparent only to their management, they have decided to surround the pitchers with players who can't hit or field. I'll probably go into this in more detail later. Cliff's notes version: Bad idea. And there is San Diego, which I'm told means "A Whale's Vagina".

I like Tampa and Atlanta to win the Wild Cards, with the World Series being Boston v. Colorado. And the Sox take it. Yes, I am biased. Now, on to more interesting things.

AL MVP - Evan Longoria. It's only a matter of time. We are all witnesses.
AL Cy Young - John Lester. With that defense behind him, he's going to be awesome.
AL RoY - Will be arbitrarily voted on. And not a pitcher.

AAAA MVP - Pujols. Every year, Pujols.
AAAA Cy Young - Ricky Nolasco. My fantasy team believes.
AAAA RoY - Jason Heyward. And he won't even be that good this year. Down the line, watch out.

And now for some longer thoughts:

Favorite stat of the offseason: Courtesy of Joe Posnanski. Last year, out of all the players in the majors who qualified for the batting title, only nine posted an OPS+ of 80 or less (An OPS of roughly 90% of the league average. Guys below this mark don't tend to stick around that long). Going into this season, the Royals are starting 5 players who achieved that dubious distinction.

Why the Red Sox won't get shut out every game: Dan Shaughnessy is a moron. See, last year, Boston's offense was still third-best in the AL, despite getting less than nothing from shortstop and catcher (Until the victor Martinez trade). Yes, Mike Cameron is an offensive downgrade from Jason Bay, but he is a huge defensive upgrade. The Sox are starting guys who have a legit chance at a Gold Glove at all four infield spots, and have good defenders at each outfield spot as well. All this without sacrificing much (If any) offense, and keeping flexibility down the road with short-term contracts. Awesome job by the front office. The defense will help ground-ball heavy pitchers more than the rest, so I look for big performances by Buchholz and Lester, and stick to my guns that the former will be better then John Lackey this year.

The odd Minnesota defense: the Twins pay close attention to infield defense, so much that they routinely start Nick Punto, who does not, technically, know which end of the bat to hold. This results in wonderful infield D, as well as many, many outs. Their outfield, on the other hand, can (kind of) hit (Delmon Young excepted). However, they play defense slightly worse than if the outfield was manned by me. Drunk. In a sack race. To put it mildly, I don't understand. Fortunately for them, their best pitchers are fly-ball oriented. Look, just because I picked them to win a crappy division doesn't mean I agree with everything they do.

What in the world is San Francisco doing?: They have the best pitcher in the game. They have a very good #2 pitcher. They have Barry Zito, who quietly has become respectable again, if not the ace he used to (appear) to be (He was rather lucky). They have Jonathan Sanchez, who may need corrective lenses of some kind, but is absolutely unhittable. And then, here is their positional lineup, along with whether or not the player can hit and field their position:

C: B. Molina (No/No)
1B: Aubrey Huff (No/Not really)
2B: Freddy Sanchez (-Ish/-Ish)
SS: Edgar Renteria (No/No)
3B: Pablo Sandoval (Yes/No)
LF: Mark Derosa (-Ish. He hits well for a second baseman/-Ish)
CF: Aaron Rowand (-Ish/No)
RF: Nate Schierholtz (Who? Is this a real player?)

Attention, Brian Sabean: You're wasting prime years of Tim Lincecum's career. Please cease and desist.

Worst contract of the offseason: Brandon Lyon, 3 years, $15 million, to Houston. A team way, way out of contention is handing out major guaranteed money to a guy who is league-average at the least important position on the roster. Wow.

Funniest thing of the offseason: The fact that, back in the day, Red Sox scribes used to bemoan the team's lack of pitching and defense in favor of all sluggers. Now that the team has focused on pitching and defense, we get articles about how the team won't score enough runs. I hope the Boston media dies in a fire.

And one more Royals note: Last year, Dayton Moore chided fans for not trusting 'The Process'. This offseason, we learned that 'The Process' is apparently to acquire every player they could find who was deemed not good enough to play for the White Sox. That ought to work well.

So, that's it. Let the season begin! If you have any questions on anything here, or anything I didn't cover, let me know. I'll throw up a comment or post in reply, depending on how long an answer it necessitates.