Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Podcast Heaven.

So, Justin and I pretty much religiously listen to a podcast from a ESPN sportswriter named Bill Simmons. If you know us well enough, I'm sure you've heard us speak fondly of him before you got bored/annoyed and left the conversation. Anyway, we basically both aspire to be this man because he has the best job in the world. He writes about sports and talks to his friends on podcasts. Occasionally, he writes a book about sports, usually with some sort of a Boston angle. See, Simmons is a Boston sports fanatic. He was born and raised there on a steady diet of Celtics, Patriots, and Red Sox. Needless to say, his columns tend toward the Boston ideology and his overall love and obsession for Boston sports. This can be both understandable and irking because the view is so skewed. After reflecting, one can't really complain, however, because if I had the choice, I'd sway the way of Cincinnati every single time.

One of the discerning qualities about Simmons is that he's not solely schooled on sports. He was once a writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which I'm sure only helped the comedic development of his voice as a writer. It also aided him in leading five thousand million riveting conversations concerning such cinematic classics as the Karate Kid and Rock IV: Rocky Defeats Communism (I've convinced myself that Stallone truly fucked up by not adorning the film with its full proper name). There's obvious comedy there and a kind of scathing, biting sense of humor. He's the perfect hybrid of a columnist and podcaster because he touches on a collective of interests, thus resulting in a higher entertainment value. Seems like a simple formula.

Simmons' columns and podcasts weave pop culture into sports and vice versa. There's no lack of Real World and MTV references. He can talk to Adam Carolla about the latest Fast & the Furious installment for 40 minutes and somehow make it utterly entertaining. By the way, one of my favorite things about the podcasts is that Simmons has this group of semi-celebrity studded buddies (Kimmel, Carolla, Chris Connelly, Jon Hamm, etc.) he brings onto the podcasts, and all they do is bitch and describe the painful minutiae of random bullshit that contains little to no intelligent substance whatsoever. You know, the shit people actually want to talk about when they don't give a fuck about spouting off a bunch of regurgitated facts on recent political and socioeconomic developments just to impress people who probably don't give a damn in the first place. I think I just appreciate hearing friends bullshit without encumbrances or cares. It's like being a fly on the wall.

Simmons once spoke about success as being a gradual occurrence in which you basically have to suck it up, take a dick in the ass for a year, make little to no money, and work your balls off. I've always had a similar outlook concerning the "foot in the door" kind of mindset. I slaved away for about a solid six month period, interning for an alt-weekly, slinging pizza as a server at Dewey's, all the while applying for grad school. It sucked hard, but I understood it to be a means to an end . . . to use a fucking terrible cliche. Not to say my job is mind blowing now, but it's a decent job with good people, and I know I wouldn't have gotten it had it not been for that six month period. It's nice to reflect on that from time to time.

Okay, now that I'm done with that aside (and basically nestling Simmons' balls), I want to make the point that I plan on recreating this kind of podcast heaven created by Simmons. I have Summer goals and this is one of them. Justin and I just got done texting back and forth with each other for about two hours during the epic Bulls/Celtics game, all the while knowing that I should've been taking notes during the game so I could be talking to him right now on a podcast about the game and random Seinfeld moments. This is really all I want in life: To talk about sports, music, and random Seinfeld moments. Occasionally, I wouldn't mind a slice of pizza too, or some of Heidi's cookies.

Ending this here seems abrupt, so I'll just end it right here, or after I point out what I'm listening to right now.

Pig Destroyer - Terrifyer
Damien Jurado - Caught in the Trees
Bat for Lashes - Two Suns
Converge - Jane Doe
Crystal Antlers - Tentacles


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Social Network Overload.

I remember Friendster. Shit, I remember Makeoutclub. I assume these are still around in some sad form or another, but whatever. I didn't actually enter the world of Internet social networking until MySpace. Like so many people, I long scoffed at the idea of joining because I wanted to make myself think that I was too cool for school, but eventually I was coaxed in by the idea of seeking out a sort of confrontation loophole where you can communicate via impersonal messages and random comments (very similar to the fine art of texting). You can track people down through the Internet, judge them and form an opinion without ever meeting them. All this based on a few photos and vague, ambiguous personal info comments. Just beautiful. And not to say it wouldn't have happened anyway, but MySpace played some sort of a role in old relationships, both in the initial dating phase and in the "fuck you, this shit's over" phase. See, both are much easier because you don't actually have to confront the person. I find that I'm much more efficient in all secondary forms of human to human contact.

Anyway, within the past year, I've added three different social networking vehicles to my daily life. Is this necessary? One was kind of forced upon me because of work. Hello, Twitter. Don't get me wrong, the idea of Twitter actually appeals to me. The several genius thoughts I have throughout the day can now immediately be reported, in 140 characters or less. To be honest, I use it mainly for work. Journalists and journalism as a whole love Twitter because it gives them the ability to report the news immediately, beating others to the punch. Or, they just continue to regurgitate the same stories over and over until the public is drunk with them and collectively vomits. Makes sense to me. I rarely "tweet" (I don't even know how to express my hatred for that word) outside of work. It's something we were asked to sign up for, and so I did. I mainly keep track of music news (for instance, Pitchfork and Stereogum are at Coachella right now, and it's interesting shit to read their thoughts), sports news, occasionally laugh at my friends' comments, and that's pretty much the extent of it. However, with all social networks, it's a distraction. I admit that every time someone I'm following "tweets," I take the second to check it out, and then maybe I visit the link he or she posted, and then maybe read the article, and you can obviously see where this is going. Do I need the distraction? Don't I have enough to pay attention to without detouring my day of work so I can read a three-page story about some sadly intriguing story about an NYC hipster grifter? I don't know.

Then, there's this blog. I define it as a social network, but I have completely different feelings about it. While I love the comments from random people (hey, it's happened once or twice), this thing is really just a kind of communication with friends. I like doing it, and it allows me to expound on subjects instead of just trying to explain them in 30-word intervals. Plus, it's just good for me as a writer, which I'm not necessarily claiming to be, but in the sense that I'm not trying to pose as anything. It's good for me to develop my own voice because that's really what all this shit is. No editing or revisions. Just shit I find interesting and feel the need and/or desire to spew forth in my own words. Some sort of self-constructed podium for my own amusement. Maybe that doesn't make any sense, but it does to me, so whatever. See how it works?

Finally, this past week I took the Facebook plunge. As Justin can attest, I've stayed away from this thing like rabies. Similar to MySpace, I attempted to display some sort of disdain for Facebook in the thoughts that I was too good for it or something. Why I do this, I will never know. The funny thing is that I've had a fledgling Facebook account since grad school, when it was solely designated for the educated. What a fucking dumb, discriminatory concept. You can only sign up for it if you're in some sort of higher learning institution. Whatever. Anyway, I never did anything with the account, and it just stagnated in the cesspool of social networks. However, within the past year or so (I may be too dense here to really nail down any sort of timeline), Facebook has become the revolution of social networking. The CEO of Sprint mentions it in commercials, parents get on it and embarrass their kids by posting revealing baby pictures, and people I haven't seen since I was a senior in high school track me down and ask me to befriend them. Too weird. I mean, I like the idea of keeping contact with some of my favorite people from the ancient days of high school, but I'm not a fan of some random guy searching out my Facebook to point out some minor error I made in something I wrote for the Reader. Kind of overstepping the bounds yeah? I guess that's one of my main points in this diatribe.

A few years back, my mom set up an invisible fence for her dog Linus. Obviously, when Linus looks around the backyard, he sees a ton of land to roam, and does so accordingly. But he also knows where that invisible fence is because he's been bitten in the ass by it more than once. So, he instinctively stays away. He's been taught that. It's discipline. However, if he's let out the front door without his collar, it's a complete change of environment. The invisible fence no longer applies. He's forgotten about it and runs wild. See where this is going? Where are the boundaries in social networks? Everyone appears too quick to choose the front door and let all inhibitions fly out the window. Given, because I involve myself in several social networks, I may be making a hypocrite of myself by writing some of this. That's fine and dandy. I just think it's important for people to be able to buy tickets to the circus without feeling entitled to confront the trapeze artist after the performance and tell him or her how to swing. With blurred boundaries, there will inevitably be a select few who feel it's always okay to cross.

This thing got long and kind of out of hand, and I probably didn't get to touch on everything I had in mind when I started, but I'll just "tweet" it, post it on my Facebook and MySpace, or blog some more if I happen to remember what I overlooked. Sounds good.

Addendum: Coates noted that I forgot to add my list of the five things I'm listening to. Thanks for the heads up Juggernaut.

These Are Powers - All Aboard Future
Jesus Lizard - Inch (box set of seven-inches)
Various Artists - This LP Crashes Hard Drives
Zombi - Spirit Animal
Cursive - Mama, I'm Swollen

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A Triumphant Return.

I have the Internet at my house again! Damn, that's exciting. Not only that, but it seems to be consistently working. Amazing. These past three weeks have been rough, and I've actually been rather discouraged about not regularly updating my blog. I feel like it's worth my while to spew out random bullshit thoughts onto the Internets. Anyway, I'll update my four loyal followers as to what has recently been going on in my life.

First and foremost, I moved. I stayed in the delightful Logan Square neighborhood because, to be honest, I have no desire to live anywhere else in Chicago. Close to a bunch of shit without having that bunch of shit directly in your face. A little pretension, which is always necessary, but not enough to choke you to death. Community-like flavor, just like Riddle Road. Anyway, my apartment is fucking big and sweet and a five-minute walk to the train, as opposed to being a 12-minute jaunt. Pretty exciting. The sun actually enters through these things people call windows, which were few and far between at my old place, located in the nutty, circus-land Polish neighborhood. Oh, and when I walk outside at my new place, I don't get the crook eye, stink eye, evil eye, or any other eye you can conjure up. You'd think living in a neighborhood for a year people would get used to you. Not true. I eventually just started shaking my head at the gawkers and staring them down. I dominate staring contests. All that being said, however, I do miss the smell of pierogies. And I'm not being prejudice or anything. My street really did smell like pierogies all the time.

Since I was 19, I've lived in nine different places. Nine. That's kind of outrageous. What's great though is that of those nine places, I've been on the top floor in six of them (I'm not including houses I lived in). Sure, the move sucks and your legs feel like they're going to buckle at the end, but being on the top floor is dynamite. I can jump rope, break dance, roller skate, and drop anvils on the floor and shit doesn't affect or bother me because there's no one above me that can do the same. Plus, you feel like king of the mountain or something. I rule this apartment complex. If you haven't lived on the top floor before, I highly recommend it.

I turned a well-seasoned 28 years old last week. Because my birthday was in the middle of the week, no great festivities were planned. A middle-of-the-week birthday should consist of dinner with friends and drinks afterward. No big time partying allowed. That's for weekend birthdays (this is beginning to remind me of a Patton Oswalt bit so I'm gonna stop right here). Anyway, we went to Kuma's Corner (Justin and Russ would love this place) and were actually able to get a table in less than an hour. Let me remind you that it was fucking Wednesday. This place is ridiculously packed all the time. However, it was delicious, and I enjoyed the company of friends.

In thinking back on my birthday, I'm reminded of a discussion/argument I had with my oldest friend, Michael Short (Shortie). I received several heartfelt texts last Wednesday wishing me a happy birthday (Billy was the only one to drop the ball). I appreciated every single one, but do I really have to text everyone back saying thanks? Is that necessary? I don't think so (plus I was running out of valuable texts anyway). However, because Shortie needs verification that his text didn't go unappreciated, he feels acknowledgment is necessary. In response, I told him that I've known him for something like 20 years and he should probably just call me to wish me a happy birthday. Seems appropriate yeah? However, that would almost involve human to human contact, and Shortie prefers the informal communication of a text message. That's all fine and dandy, but I'm not going to reply to it. Can't have your cake and eat it too. Regardless, he knows me well enough to know that I would want him to call me on my birthday (let me repeat . . . my birthday) so that we can have a short powwow. I'm right and I win.

Now, on to sports. The NCAA tournament was a letdown, because it was kind of dull and because my bracket blew up in the first round. I had Wake Forest in the finals (my picks obviously didn't mirror my previous blog post). What was I thinking? Sometimes, you try to outdo yourself and eventually end up doing yourself right in the ass. Well, that's what happened. I did, however, enjoy running a pool this year for the first time ever. I can see that becoming a habit. Well, that and gambling. My two most hated college athletes won titles this year (Tyler Hansbrough and Tim Tebow), plus the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Another rough year on my sports psyche, no doubt.

Baseball season has begun, and with that has come my second year of fantasy baseball. I'm kind of thinking last year was a fluke. I finished third in a league with a bunch of Pennsylvanians (the boys in Sadaharu and their buddies). Given, they're a bunch of Pennsylvanians, which doesn't bode well for them, but they seem to know about baseball. I'm pretty uneasy about my lineup this year. So, guess what? I'm going to show it to you right now. Everyone aside from Justin can begin not giving a shit:

C Victor Martinez
1B Joey Votto
2B Brandon Phillips
3B Adrian Beltre
SS Rafael Furcal
OF Josh Hamilton
OF Carl Crawford
OF Raul Ibanez
UTIL Carlos Delgado

Bench: Lastings Milledge, Alex Gordon, Milton Bradley, and the immortal Ken Griffey Jr.

Pitchers: Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, James Shields, Erik Bedard, Edinson Volquez, Bobby Jenks, and Heath Bell

The whole lineup kind of makes me uneasy (why the fuck did I take Beltre) because I went with some of my big producers from last year, which I feel like won't bode well. I'm not gonna lie, I just didn't do enough research this year. Not having the Internet will do that to you. Once Justin and I start our podcast, maybe I won't bother blogging about sports anymore because I'm pretty sure that's primarily what the podcast will consist of. Well, that and Seinfeld references. Oh, and if you think I'm joking, stay tuned. We're really going to start a podcast. We just need to think of snappy name for it. The material's already there. Have you met our brains?

Finally, I'm going to end every blog from now on with a "What I'm listening to" kind of deal. Just five. It's not meant to be elitist or "Hey, look at me, I'm so in the know about all things music." I just read a lot of music blogs, and I enjoy them. So, I'm going to straight cop that shit.

Yelle - Ce Jeu
Black Dice - Repo
Dan Auerbach - Keep It Hid
Bun B - II Trill
Dan Deacon - Bromst