"The only blog we have to fear is blog itself."

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Gimmees vs. Buccos 

So I went to see the Pirates vs. the Astros on Thursday night, and hooray! The Bucs won.

The sellout crowd wasn't actually there to see the 50-79 Pirates, though. It was all about "Skyblast," a massive fireworks display following the game synchronized (more or less) to music. The annual event is so popular that the team is up to three consecutive nights of Skyblast.

This year, the team decided to add a live band into the feast of sights and sounds that is Skyblast (and, to a lesser extent, smells). Not being very plugged in to the whole Skyblast thing before the game, I was startled to discover during a between inning promotional mention that the jokey cover band/punk supergroup Me First & The Gimme Gimmes was to be performing as part of the festivities.

For a few years after the release of their debut album in 1997, the Gimme Gimmes provided a steady source of annoyance to me. I enjoyed their punk renditions of songs like "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard," "Over the Rainbow," and "Don't Cry for Me Agentina," but I used to frequently get requests from the Gimme Gimmes rabid fans who wanted to hear these novelties over and over like kids on November 1st shoveling ever more fistfulls of Halloweeen candy down their sugar-encrusted gullet until they puke. 'People, people,' I used to silently rage. 'Gimme Gimme songs are like Weird Al's stuff: enjoy it once, maybe twice, then move on.'

But seeing the Gimme Gimmes live? At a MLB game, no less? 'This has got to be good,' I thought. I couldn't imagine either (a) the Pirates booking a punk cover band to perform on a stage set up at second base, or (b) the band agreeing to be house band for a big-league fireworks display sponsored by Alcoa. Surreal.

Immediately during and following the band's first song, a punked-up "Stairway to Heaven," things seemed to be going okay, but another round of fireworks started up immediately afterwards (the live music was only during pauses in the explosive activity above) leaving the crowd no time to react.

After their second song (REO Speedwagon's "Take It on the Run"), there seemed to be some scattered booing. I assumed I must have imagined the boos--the band hadn't, in my view, done anything meriting booing.

Following Me First & The Gimme Gimmes' third song (was it Gershwin's "Summertime"? or maybe "Sweet Caroline" or "Rocket Man"--I now forget the set order), the booing was obvious and unignorable--even in the right field upper deck, where I was. For some reason, people were having a vitriolic negative reaction to the group.

Check out the blog post-dissection:
  • The band tonight was about the most hideous thing the Pirate organization has put on the field. And considering Dave Littlebrain put Burnitz, Hernadez, Randa, and others on this team, that speaks volumes.... Honestly, it's so bad, then after the game tomorrow, I am running out of there before it starts. (link)
  • The show was suppose to be spectacular. Instead the 32,000+ fans which attended the game booed the band after they totally cut up some famous songs made famous by big time bands and singers. The band which calls its self a punk band sang a song and then a few minutes of fireworks were to be folowed [sic] by the orginal [sic] playing of the song, but that may of been a mistake as the orginal [sic] version of the song made the band look even worst as fans booed.... Overall the bad [sic] sucked and let;s [sic] just hope they don’t perform at Skyblast 2 and 3 which are tonight and Saturday. (link)
  • That band was so bad that my wife made me change the channel (yes I was actually going to watch the fireworks). (link)
The anger was distinctly felt by those onstage, as well. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Gimmes singer Spike Slawson, who grew up in Shadyside, Oakland and Point Breeze before moving 20 years ago, said he knew something was wrong when they started into Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven."

"There's a fine line between irreverence and lampooning," said Mr. Slawson, "and [the Gimmes] kind of ride that line. It's not supposed to be a homage -- that's not what we do. 'Stairway to Heaven' is, like sacred, though, and everyone started booing. I felt it in the pit of my stomach. That's the most people that ever booed me in my life."
The Pirates organization appeared to not know what hit them. Vice President of Marketing Tim Schuldt said, "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes was hired by the Pirates to perform players' favorite songs during the postgame festivities, but their odd renditions of the tunes did not sit well with the sellout crowd and the result was noticeable booing.... Frankly, though, we missed the boat with the band." Director of Marketing Brian Chiera generouly offered, "Their interpretations of the songs were a little harder than we expected, but it was in keeping with their style of music."

I guess when the band was booked (for what singer Slawson says "was an obscene amount of money for the amount of work we did"), the Pirates staff had been unaware or ignored the title of their last album: Me First and the Gimme Gimmes Ruin Jonny's Bar Mitzvah

The Pirates decided Friday to cut ties with the band "Me First and the Gimme Gimmes" after just one show, thus ending the SkyBlast live band experiment.

The band, which plays punk covers of hit songs, did not go over well with the family oriented SkyBlast crowd. They were booed loudly after their performance Thursday night, and the team received several complaints from fans after the band's performance.

"SkyBlast has been very successful for many years. We tried to enhance it and make it more entertaining -- that's why we added the live band," said Pirates vice president of communications Patty Paytas. "I think we just missed the mark with the type of band we picked. That's why we're not going to include them in the Friday and Saturday shows. They'll be more in the tradition of past SkyBlasts."

The Pirates' on-field entertainment staff will make up for the time the band would have been playing during the final two SkyBlast events by adding more scoreboard presentations of player interviews.

"We really do appreciate the feedback we get from the fans because it helps us decide what to do [in future events]," Paytas said.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

And the fireworks--I mean, the version that is an aerial display via the combustion of explosive or flammable compositions--were pretty awesome, too. Amongst the best I've ever seen.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Playing with time near the lumber section... 

The group Improv Everywhere combines the concept opf the flash mob with Algonquin Roundtable-style "head scratcher" pranks in public spaces.

Their latest was "slowing down time" in a Home Depot:
After everyone had assembled I revealed the mission details. We would sychronize our watches and then walk over to Home Depot and shop. At exactly 4:15 we would all begin moving in slow motion. We'd do that for five minutes, and then shop normally for five minutes as if nothing had happened. At exactly 4:25 we would all freeze in place for five minutes. When that was over we would go back to normal and eventually leave the store.
Photos and video are included on their site.

Almost as much fun as when we set up similar co-ordinated group actions every 5 minutes on the last day of Mr. House's Earth Science class in 9th grade!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Scientific Method 

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has sought to resolve the heated debate about whether Pluto is a planet or not by punting it into a new category called "Plutons." I first heard about this via a link from Washinton Monthly's Political Animal, a political blog, that derisively referenced the old Saturday Night Live "Shimmer" floor wax sketch:
It's a floor wax and a dessert topping!
Now geologists are ticked off about the designation, since they already have a term "pluton."

And, according to Nature.com, here's how the IAU checked whether it would be cool to adopt the word themselves:
Owen Gingerich, an astronomer at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and chair of the IAU committee that created the definition, says that they were aware of its usage amongst geologists, but unaware of its importance to the field. "Since the term is not in the MS Word or the WordPerfect spell checkers, we thought it was not that common," Gingerich wrote in an e-mail to news@nature.com.
Spell check? And do we trust the IAU to be looking at the correct Pluto through its telescopes?

Here's another great quote on the controversy, via the New York Times:
“I think that today can go down as the ‘day we lost Pluto,’ ” said Jay Pasachoff of Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., in an e-mail message from Prague.
Weep for Pluto, friends.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

In memoriam, Joe Rosenthal 

Joe Rosenthal, Photographer at Iwo Jima, Dies:
Joe Rosenthal, the Associated Press photographer who captured the enduring image of the American fighting man in World War II with his depiction of five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising a huge American flag over the Japanese island of Iwo Jima, died Sunday in Novato, Calif. He was 94....

His photograph of the flag-raising atop Mount Suribachi on Feb. 23, 1945, may be the most widely reproduced photo in American history. It was re-created on at least 3.5 million Treasury Department posters publicizing a massive war-bond campaign. It was engraved on three-cent Marine Corps commemorative stamps that broke Post Office records for first-day cancellations in 1945. It was reproduced as a 100-ton Marine Corps War Memorial bronze sculpture near Arlington National Cemetery. And it brought Mr. Rosenthal a Pulitzer Prize.
The true test of how iconic this photo is: mention Iwo Jima to almost anyone today, and they'll assume you're speaking of the image, not the place.

Perhaps too iconic:
Almost from the day the photograph was emblazoned on the front pages of Sunday newspapers as a symbol of embattled patriotism, Mr. Rosenthal faced suspicions that he staged the shot, posing the Marines. He always insisted that he recorded a genuine event, and others on the scene corroborated his account.

“The picture was not posed,” Louis Burmeister, a former Marine combat photographer who was among four military photographers alongside Mr. Rosenthal as the flag went up, said in a 1993 interview for “Shadow of Suribachi,” by Parker Bishop Albee Jr. and Keller Cushing Freeman.

Rebel Who, Rebel What? 

While visiting Gettysburg over the weekend (and not for the omnipresent "outlet" malls), I saw a teenager wearing a Confederate flag T-shirt. It bore the inscription, "If this shirt offends you, you need a history lesson."

It seemed a little silly and perplexing, especially in an overstuffed Perkins Restaurant entryway, so I later tried to search online for some helpful T-shirt slogan explanation website somewhere. After all, the shirt all but invited me to discover more about itself. I couldn't, however, find any such site.

I did find this, though:
Wildwood, like many costal resort towns in South Jersey, is home to a tourist-bating boardwalk. But Wildwood's boardwalk is unlike many of its neighboring counterparts. It's a massive, 38-block stretch that sports no fewer than five amusement parks and hundreds of crooked, carnival-type games.... Perhaps the only source of commerce that's more present [than food vendors] is that of the junky, "sundry"-cum-T-shirt shop. As a rough estimate, we'll say that there are an average of three of such places per block. If there are around 100 places to buy T-shirts (or 75, or 50 or whatever), I'd say that at least half of them have prominent displays like this:

[photo of Confederate flag T-shirts]

We'll get to the actual content of the shirts in a bit (but really, "You wear your X...?" How fucking 15 years ago!). The point here is that this shit is everywhere.

Aggressively everywhere.

Incredibly, though I've visited Wildwood many times throughout my life, I'd never really noticed it before.
The blog entry also featured a photo of the same "history lesson" T-shirt. As a former resident of the Jersey shore, I rarely remember seeing such items and am at a loss as to explain much of it. At least Gettysburg is close to the Mason-Dixon line, so its presence there is not quite as much of a head-scratcher.

But I still couldn't find any shirt-induced history lesson online. I did find a website that was also selling the shirt in question, but it included no explanations with its wares.

Oh well. I guess it's a Rebel variation of the old "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" saw.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

So what's wrong with the music industry? 

"There's so much competition for people's consciousness now that a band has to grab anything that gives them exposure," [new Geffen Records chairman Ron] Fair said. "There's no such thing as selling out, now. There's just getting heard."

That may be the mantra of the money people in the business, but it doesn't make it so. It's just a way to grab short-term visibility over long-term viability.

Monday, August 07, 2006

There's always a catch... 

What a treat for Iowans! Kevin Costner to visit Field of Dreams during movie screening:
On Friday, Iowans will get the chance to relive their state's glory days when the movie is shown on a 30-foot screen at Left & Center Field of Dreams in Dyersville. The screening is part of the 2006 Netflix Rolling Roadshow, which is traveling across the country to show modern-day classics at the locations where the movies were filmed.
Wow--supercool! But that's not all!
As an added bonus for "Field of Dreams" fans, Kevin Costner, who starred in the film as farmer and baseball field builder Ray Kinsella, will make an appearance.
Unbelievable! Excellent!

Hey, wait a minute! Is this too good to be true? Ooop. Yep, there's always a catch.
His unnamed band will play a concert prior to the screening --- the group's first public appearance.
Ugh. Never mind. Cancel my plane ticket to Dyersville International.

We've suffered through the Bacon Brothers. We gritted our teeth to make it through the Dogstar scare. And I don't even know how we pushed through the wall to survive 30 Odd Foot of Grunts.

Haven't we suffered enough?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

ur grammar will brb 

Instant msg-ing messes with grammar? As if! lol!
With 80% of Canadian teenagers using instant messaging and adopting its unique linguistic shorthand, many teachers and parents are concerned about the medium’s potential to corrupt kids’ grammar. But instant messaging doesn’t deserve its bad reputation as a spoiler of syntax, suggests a new study from the University of Toronto.


This research focuses not only on characteristic features of computer language, such as, acronyms like lol, but goes deeper by looking at four features of grammar; intensifiers, as in that's so cool; the future system as in, the show tonight is going to be fun; quotatives, as in "he was like oh hi"; and deontic modality, as in "I have to go to work.


"Everybody thinks kids are ruining their language by using instant messaging, but these teens’ messaging shows them expressing themselves flexibly through all registers," says Tagliamonte. "They actually show an extremely lucid command of the language. We shouldn’t worry."
Of course not. Everyone knows that it's SMS that will destroy all language as we know it, not IM. As if! Lol!

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com