Friday, October 29, 2010

How I Spent My CMJ

When I see a band multiple times over a weekend it gives me the opportunity to find cracks in the fa├žade. Do they go through the motions? Do they get angry at a lack of crowd participation? Do they tire out easily? Do they act like entitled jerks just because they play music? Tiny Victories, who played last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, didn’t crack at all. At a packed upstairs room at Pianos, a sparsely populated Matchless show and a beautiful late-fall night outdoors at Brooklyn Fireproof, Greg Walters (synthesizer) and Cason Kelly (drums) played energized sets of their anthemic synth-pop. And they were polite.

I’ve got punk roots and I’m still not completely sold on the synthesizer revolution sweeping the Indieverse but the essential life giving properties of Kelly’s live drumming gives a depth to Tiny Victories’ sound that separates them from other synthesizer heavy acts. It also helps keep them loud. They're loud enough, for example, to be heard crystal clear despite being confined to Matchless’ smoking cage and loud enough to get a stamp of disapproval in the form of a wet paper towel thrown down by one of Brooklyn Fireproof's neighbors.

There’s a touch of LCD Soundsystem in Tiny Victories' DNA. It’s easy to pick up in the swirl of melancholy and optimism Walters mixes in the synthesizer. Walters lyrics aren’t as funny as James Murphy’s but he’s got the potential to be based on some of the one-liners he casually tossed off (“If you’re looking for merch or CDs or anything…talk to another band because we don’t have any,” being my favorite).

Get Lost Mr Bones by Tiny Victories

If I had any doubt that this was a band that could keep their energy up it was dispelled when Kelly took advantage of Brooklyn Fireproof's spacious backyard to do a victory lap during Sunday night's set-closer "Get Lost Mr. Bones". It was the kind of joyous improvisational act I rarely see at shows, but maybe I just don't get out enough.

Full disclosure: Cason Kelly and Tiny Victories' manager David Teller are friends. Blogger's honor the above was not editorially compromised.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Perils of Rooting Against, or, Playoff Omnibus Numero Uno

Just because the Mets are too poorly run to make the playoffs doesn't mean I stop watching baseball after Oliver Perez has walked his last batter as a Met. Unfortunately for me, it also means watching at least one team I hate play extra baseball for a week, maybe even a month. More unfortunately for me, this year the Braves, Phillies and Yankees managed to make it to the playoffs. I would only be able to find a real life equivalence for that if I was dumped by my girlfriend minutes after losing my job and then was set on fire by a war protesting Buddhist monk who found self-immolation too constricting.

Rooting moderately hard against three teams takes as much of an emotional toll as rooting passionately for a team that I do like, with the added bonus of not giving back any comparable feelings of joy I get when the Mets win. It's just a moment of smugness that quickly goes away when I remember I'd give anything for them to just make the playoffs next year.

Watching the two games I did tonight, it feels a like I'm being punished for investing as much in a team I hate losing as much as I do in a team I love winning. However, my strict atheism forbids me from believing in any kind of gods, much less The Baseball Gods. No, the truth is that I hate three teams that are really good at baseball. Hell, two of them made the World Series last year and came into this year as the favorites. If I'm being punished by anything, it's baseball science.

The only team I can gin up any legitimate affection for is the Giants, a residual effect of living with Ush. Even with the Giants though, my good will towards them is tempered by their employment of the loathsome Cody Ross. Not to mention rooting for a team that's relying on Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell to carry the offense just seems so hopeless.

With the Yankees and Phillies already up 2-0 in their respective series, I can already feel my molars sharpened from the constant grinding. That I just turned off a game where the Braves came back from a 4-0 deficit mere hours after the Phillies had done the same thing will not help me avoid costly dental reconstruction. After tonight, there's a good possibility of a Phillies/Braves NLCS with the Yankees advancing to the ALCS, followed by the following nightmare scenarios:
  • The Phillies playing in a third straight World Series, winning their second in three years
  • The Braves winning a World Series in Bobby Cox's final year on the bench
  • The Yankees winning their second straight World Series
By then I may just have to throw in the towel and skip the World Series like I threatened to do last year. Not that I was able to, I enjoy the depths of addiction far too much.

  • Being a fan of things that are shiny and new, I started pulling for the Reds after the Mets disastrous, post-All-Star break road trip. Here was a Central division team that wasn't the Cardinals or Cubs, running away with the division. Plus the whole redemption thing after ten years of ineptitude. I didn't get to see much of them all year, so maybe if I had, my expectations wouldn't have been so high. They look terrible so far, chasing Roy Oswalt notwithstanding. Orlando Cabrera, "winning ballplayer" made the play to start the Reds' brain lock on Wilson Valdez' grounder in the second inning of Game 1. Wilson Valdez isn't Usain Bolt, go to first base, get the last out and go sit dow-. Oh no, definitely shovel the ball to second base using only your glove. Kudos as well to Scott Rolen for going to second tonight on an impossible play instead of taking the sure out.
  • The Reds were also singlehandedly outgamed by Chase Utley, who faked being hit by a pitch and missed third base when scoring later in the inning. The former is poor sportsmanship, but the Reds had a chance to appeal the latter and I can't imagine why they didn't.
  • Last night, I watched the Giants strand a runner on third with one out and thought, "Hmm, offense like that can certainly kill you." And so the Giants, despite getting an early lead managed to still look putrid on offense tonight, blowing a first and third with one out in the seventh inning. Atlanta scored three runs the next inning. People: runs left off the board count just as much as the ones you can get up there.
  • Dick Stockton and Bob Brenly made a big show out of talking about how Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell were college teammates and are now great friends. It makes sense on more than one level. Sure, maybe their personalities mesh really well, but they're also two guys who are always going to drag some vague sense of disappointment around with them to whatever team they end up on.
  • Brian Wilson isn't so damn special. He's got great numbers, but it didn't look like he was fooling anyone on the Braves. If your fastball isn't good enough to beat Alex Gonzalez when you miss with it belt high, you aren't going to anchor a championship bullpen.
  • Speaking of bullpens, the last bullpen I remember that collectively grew horrible beards is the Astros' bullpen from 2005. The Giants should be sure to remember that those beards only got the Astros to the World Series, it didn't help them win it.
  • I haven't seen much of Yankees/Twins, but I did see the Jesse Crain vs. Mark Texiera at-bat. From watching that one inning, Jesse Crain came out looking like one of those infuriating relievers who has a great fastball with movement and speed but is too afraid to throw it until his back is against the wall. Science has proven this is the most irritating type of relief pitcher in baseball. Number two? Kyle Farnsworth.
  • The most comedic play-by-play moment of the playoffs goes to whoever was calling Game 1 of Rays/Rangers who claimed having Jeff Francoeur batting seventh provided lineup insurance for the Rangers.
  • Lucky for me I have to go sling fish heads tomorrow while the Yankees and Twins play. I can't stand to watch this sweep happen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Nation, In Decline

I'll start by mentioning that I was in a focus group once. I was unemployed and wandering around the city when someone in front of a movie theater invited me to see Killshot for free (it was terrible). It was boring for the most part, except for a terrifying moment when one woman in the group told another one that if she'd ever had a miscarriage she would have understood Diane Lane's horrible character. I felt bad for the people running it because they kept trying to wrangle straight answers about our feelings about the movie but we were all inarticulate at best, flat out stupid at worst. So I'll give credit to the three consultants who've been sitting in the living rooms of independent voters, it's got to be awkward.

Especially since just like my focus group, none of these people seem to have the slightest clue of what they're talking about:

[I]ndependent voters have tended to side with whichever party can legitimately claim not to be in charge at the moment, and ideology doesn’t have a whole lot to do with it.

It's a wonder that anarchy hasn't become a more appealing form of government with attitudes like that. On the other hand, it definitely explains the appeal of the Tea Party, since those assholes can more than legitimately claim to not be in charge of anything. As far as money quotes go though, our clueless voters only get better:

One woman described a food fight at the middle school that left a mess school employees were obliged to clean up, presumably because the children couldn’t be subjected to physical labor. A man complained about drivers who had grown increasingly hostile and inconsiderate on the roads, which drew nods of assent all around. Another described the Internet as just plain “bad.” [Emphasis added]

The internet as just plain bad. These are the words of a nation on it's way out people. While China is building bullet trains and showing some initiative in the forgery department, we as a nation are still struggling with the ideas of a globally connected system of computers that changed the world for good at least fifteen years ago. No one is forcing your children to overshare, your kids are just idiots.

Things are tough all over. I've got a college degree and I'm selling fish heads to get by. Some of my friends can't find work, others that do still can't afford to live on their own. Despite all of that, I've got a cell phone that communicates with satellites IN SPACE and gives me directions when I'm wandering around lost. You don't even need to be rich to own something like this, considering that I mentioned before that I'm selling fish heads. But yeah, the big problem with our society is that we're about as close to a collective consciousness as we've ever been.

You're angry at Washington? Get in line behind all the dead people. Being angry at those crooks in Washington has survived slavery, segregation, Manifest Destiny, non-integrated baseball, the Red Scare, the Cold War, the NES, Sega as a console producer and of course it survived our latest recession*. The anger and frustration is a great meme for voters and the media now because, as the narrative goes, Barack Obama promised change and has failed to deliver. When someone says "We are the ones we've been waiting for," it's more a challenge to act than it is a promise to wave a magic wand and make it all better. Yet here we are, two years later and a collection of ideologically empty jes' folks can't even articulate a vision for the future of the country they live in, much less make a coherent argument beyond "Road rage makes me sad."
*I guess you're supposed to call it The Great Recession, but I'm not going to sully the name of the actual Great Depression by tying to our sucky but not impossible times. We didn't have bread lines or Okies or whatever the shit it was that was going on during Carnivale.

I happen to have a vision. Two actually. The American voter can quit stuffing his face with Anus Burgers and spaghetti tacos and think clearly about the fact that a party left for dead because they couldn't or wouldn't follow through on their promises of fiscal sanity and moral leadership is about to storm back to power based on promises of fiscal sanity and moral leadership. Or she can ignore that, make David Brooks happy and vote for gridlock in Washington and then wonder aloud why Darrell Issa is greased up and nude on the steps of the Capitol and demanding Obama "release the tapes."

Either outcome is fine with me. I still have hope that Michael Bloomberg harbors a secret lust to separate New York City from this otherwise worthless landmass.