Friday, August 31, 2007

Top 5 Films to Watch When You're Depressed

The title makes it pretty straightforward, but I'll do a little intro. Whether it's troubles with women or with money, there are movies that when watched offer a catharsis. This list is dedicated to those movies powerful enough to make you forget about things like "bills" or your most recent flat tire that you're not sure you can afford at the moment, but have to afford regardless.

Tory's Top 5:

1. Sideways - The only way I can explain this film is that even though I've never been in such a situation, I have been in times when I wanted to drink. Also, the two characters take actions that any high school student in a similar, representative-of-high-school situation would take, and thus makes it a very relateable movie with Paul Giamatti's character being one of the most real characters in a movie.

2. Stranger than Fiction - I finally bought this on DVD for ten dollars, but for some reason this actually was a limited edition and I didn't get all of the special features (I checked wal-mart, best buy and Target.) Either way, I haven't seen it too many times, but I did wait tables during it, and every time I watched the ending that same feeling that the other movies on this list produce was produced.

3. Once - OK, so I just saw this movie two nights ago, but it was one of the best and most touching movies. There is a single action taken by the boy towards the end of the movie that puts this movie on the list.

4. The Fountain - I am not sure how this got so far down on the list (perhaps I ranked prematurely) but it's on here now. This movie doesn't necessarily have that punch only at the end, but the feeling comes towards the beginning (with the first future scene) and then lasts until the end. It might also get to do with the fact that I think Rachel Weisz is the luckiest woman on earth (for being married to Darren, not for being in this movie.)

5. Rushmore - Returning to a comedy, this movie is one of the funnier ones on this list, and it's probably that comedic element to it that helps get it a spot on this list. I love this movie, and can watch over and over and over and over, which is another reason it got on this list. Plus, the ending is wrapped up so nicely.

Honorable Mentions: Amelie, Punch Drunk Love.

Dan's Top 5:

I really can't explain these films at all, except that they are what I turn to when I am down, and for differen reasons - some are funny, some are about a personal triumph, some are just movies I just know and identify with.

1. High Fidelity

2. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas

3. Clerks

4. The Shawshank Redemption

5. Better Off Dead

Honorable Mention: Jackie Brown

Ryan's Top Five

These are the movies that make me happy.

1. Office Space - Not just a movie but a state of mind.

2. Hot Fuzz/Shaun of the Dead - I am sick of choosing between the two so I will cheat.

3. The Full Monty - Excellent picker-upper.

4. Wonder Boys - I think I get the same feeling watching this movie that I get while I watch Quiz Show--I feel somehow smarter, more academic. I am a tough nut to crack. (Today is International Idiom Day.)

5. Rushmore - This and Office Space are my two favorite movies, so I have no idea why I ranked them as such.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Top 5 Pythons

From wiki: "The group's influence on comedy has often been compared to The Beatles' influence on music." So I think a Top 5 is in order. I came up with this idea when I landed on PBS, which was airing the German episode of Flying Circus. Let me preface this list with the obvious, that there aren't remotely any "bad" Pythons in my book, but I'm assuming we might disagree on the ranking scheme.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Michael Palin - I give Palin a slight nod over Cleese, so that someone else can change the order. Palin wrote a pretty good novel in Hemingway's Chair. He was, notably, the dead parrot salesman, the transvestite lumberjack, and the lead cardinal of The Spanish Inquisition.

2. John Cleese - Probably the most talented of the bunch, if we're being objective, which isn't exactly something I pride myself on (hi, my name is Ryan). Played loads of roles, but the ones that come to mind are the Minister of Silly Walks and the double vision leader of the proposed expedition to Kilimanjaro. He was also essentially the host of a lot of the episodes and And Now For Something Completely Different, and frequently narrated. Fawlty Towers is also hilarious, and really so is anything else he's in.

3. Graham Chapman - Probably the most dead of the bunch, if we're being objecti... oh, wait. Played King Arthur and Brian, and he was The Colonel.

4. Eric Idle - He wrote "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life," which really could make him #1. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.

5. Terry Gilliam - I thought about putting Jones here but The Pythons really wouldn't have been the same without their trademark cartoon animation, which even now is eminently and immediately recognizable. He was also great as Patsy in The Holy Grail.

It feels wrong not including Terry Jones, because he was a principal writer of some of the best sketches and also earns bonus points for penning the Labyrinth screenplay. But someone had to go to fit in the animator.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Michael Palin - Unlike Ryan's reasoning, mine is that he truly is my favorite Python. He seemed the most versatile, as well as the most Charismatic. Played practically everything in The Holy Grail, and a number of memorable roles in the television series.

2. Graham Chapman - Probably my favorite of what seemed to be the two "leaders," Chapman and Cleese. I loved the juxtaposition of straight-faced and absurd. Co-wrote “The Ministry of Silly Walks”, "Raymond Luxury Yacht", and “Dead Parrot.” Oh, and here is part of his memorial service.

3. Eric Idle - The musical talent of the group (apart from Neil Innes) and perhaps the most unique of the bunch (he wrote his material alone). Also responsible for "Spamalot," which I would love to see.

4. John Cleese - I really feel bad putting him this low, as it seems like he's one of the smartest of the bunch. However, he's been tremendously successful outside of Monty Python, so I'm sure he'll cope.

5. Terry Jones - I hate to leave out Gilliam, but half of my esteem for him comes from his non-Python directing efforts. So, I feel it's better to have Jones included for his terrific acting and cross-dressing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Top 5 Guitar Hero III Songs You're Looking Forward To Playing

Now I'm only aware of Ryan being the only other person here who plays Guitar Hero. But since I'm so excited about the new game coming out this fall, here's my list of songs I can't wait to play.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Muse - Knights of Cydonia - I absolutely love this song. At times, I wake up to it in the morning. Having the ability to play this song live - even with plastic buttons - is a godsend.

2. Weezer - My Name is Jonas - You know when you're setting up a computer for the first time with Windows XP, how you have to choose a name for the computer? My computer's name is Jonas.

3. Beastie Boys - Sabotage - Easily the best song this band has ever done, I actually know how to play the main riff on a real bass. So, this is probably the only song I'll be able to play in real life, too.

4. The Rolling Stones - Paint It, Black - One of my favorite Stones songs, this is probably the one I'd probably choose to play on Guitar Hero if I could have only one pick.

5. The Killers - When You Were Young - Great song, but if you're going with a Killers song, you should go with something more guitar-centric, a la Mr. Brightside. Though if it were actually Mr. Brightside, I would probably kill someone in sheer anticipation of the game, so maybe it's a smart choice after all.

Ryan's Top Five

Well, there will be a lot of agreement on this list. Song #1 is easy--Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar, of course. Aha, never mind. Anyway, here goes:

1. through 4. The exact same songs and order as Dan's - Yep, these songs alone are reason enough to buy the game. Which is to say, I'd buy the game if it had only these songs. Or only Knights of Cydonia.

5. Santana - Black Magic Woman - OK, it's a cover, but this song still rocks hard tasty abs washerboard style.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Top 5 Directors of English-Language films

Tim's Top 5:
Given the slowing of the posts on this blog, I'm going to resuscitate it with an overly accessible and simple topic. Enjoy. Moreover, I'll arbitrarily narrow this category in a manner that affects my top 5 list in no way, shape, or form, even with the recent passing of my man Ingmar. Incidentally, I think my next pet will need to be named Ingmar.

1) Alfred Hitchcock - Sorry, his worst movies (Frenzy and Family Plot come to mind) are still worth watching, even though the people in Frenzy are as ugly as they come on screen without the involvement of Tod Browning (Freaks). North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, I Confess, Rope, Strangers on a Train, Notorious, Psycho, Vertigo...hell, even Rebecca. No question here. I can't put anyone else on par with him. They're all eminently watchable, enjoyable, and he told better stories than anyone else has ever mustered.

2) Billy Wilder - Better than anyone on the list for covering all genres of film with his mastery. Nobody else was going to put together One, Two, Three and Double Indemnity, let alone be able to toss in Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, and yeah, Some Like It Hot. And, with all apologies to My Cousin Vinny, which is the most realistic litigation-based movie ever made (no, I'm not kidding), Witness for the Prosecution is probably still the best courtroom movie ever made.

3) Stanley Kubrick - Demoted to #3 because his missteps are so blatant -- the absurdly slow ending of Eyes Wide Shut, that ended about 40 minutes too late and ruined the quality of the film in the process; the second half of Full Metal Jacket, which is only passable; The Shining -- a film everyone else loves, but which effectively abandons the source material that has Jack as something other than a monster at the beginning of the film. But every film he's made is defensible, even Lolita, and he took chances where Hitchcock didn't feel a need to. There simply is no other director who could have made A Clockwork Orange, 2001, or Dr. Strangelove...and that alone makes for a fine career.

4) Woody Allen - This is a difficult choice, because if I had to take all the movies a director had directed and put them on my resume, it's much easier to include Scorsese, as he has never directed Celebrity, Anything Else, Interiors, September, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, or Alice, for instance. That said, 1970s Woody Allen excluding Interiors may be one of the finest decades of any director's work -- Love and Death, Manhattan, Sleeper, Annie Hall... yeah, I'd be hard-pressed to turn that down so that I can say I directed Nic Cage in Bringing Out the Dead (albeit an underrated film). Also, Woody Allen won an Oscar for making a good movie, not a really mediocre one.

5) Errol Morris - It's hard not to push him up to #2, but his first two films, including the over-hyped Gates of Heaven just aren't up to par with his later work. And, quite frankly, he doesn't have that much of an ouevre, so it's hard to say that he's accomplished more than Woody Allen, because when Woody Allen had only made eight movies, his resume was better than it is now. He's simply the most impressive documentarian on this earth, and aside from Vernon, Florida, all his movies are intriguing on some level. My favorite is Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, though The Fog of War is worth the Oscar he took home for it. Bonus points for his series First Person, which was uneven, but was occasionally the most fascinating thing that's ever been on television. Negative points for directing too many Miller High Life commercials (e.g., more than zero).

Honorable mention: Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas alone is a magnificent career, throw in Raging Bull and I'm an ass for dumping him off the list -- but what has he done lately??? Not much that's more than ordinary.); Charles Laughton (he is batting 1.000 and now he's dead, well done for directing Night of the Hunter); Orson Welles (almost certainly would fall down this list if I ever managed to get Blockbuster online to send me his actual movies that aren't The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane, and Touch of Evil, but they wouldn't he stays).

Dan's Top 5:

1. Stanley Kubrick - I've not seen anything bad by this director, unless you count the second half of Full Metal Jacket.

2. Alfred Hitchcock - I've only seen North by Northwest, but that, coupled with tons of Tim-praise, is enough for me to feel confident with him at #2.

3. Wes Anderson - There hasn't been a bad Wes Anderson movie. I am guessing there never will be.

4. Terry Gilliam - Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are many who hate them and many who think they're brilliant. I fall into the latter category.

5. Martin Scorcese - I actually liked The Departed, goddamn it. Of course, Raging Bull and Goodfellas were excellent, and I keep kicking myself for never having watched Taxi Driver.

Honorable Mention: Quentin Tarantino. Essentially, he does popular "cover versions" of older movies, only they're originals. To me, he's the "Go! Team" of movie directors.

Ryan's Top Five

I'll use the "I'm going with different people to change things up a bit" ruse to hide the fact that I'm, as Jack Black would say, a cinematic idiot who hasn't seen nearly enough to make this a viable list. Anyway...

1. Wes Anderson - His four movies are four of my favorite movies, and (I think, anyway) exceptionally crafted. He's hilarious and a great cinematographer, and the best soundtrack director ever.

2. Alexander Payne - The fact that I lived in Omaha and still visit often probably pushes him higher than he'd be on most lists. Anyway, I love Election and About Schmidt, and of course Sideways. He really, really gets Midwest life.

3. Edgar Wright - Because Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz rule.

4. Nick Park - OK, technically Curse of the Wererabbit was the only film he's directed, but you could include The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, and A Grand Day Out. Anyway, when I have kids, they will know and love Wallace and Gromit (and Arthur).

5. Christopher Guest - Though I haven't seen For Your Consideration... Everything else has been good: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman.

Tory's Top Five

1. Stanley Kubrick - Besides Lolita, I enjoyed everything that he made (including Eyes Wide Shut, even if it's ending didn't justify it's incredible journey to it; also including the second half of Full Metal Jacket, which I found to be a good portion of a movie.)

2. Darren Aronofsky - Other than Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Darren is definitely my favorite director, and Jeunet is bumped for speaking "French." He has only made three films, but he started out with a cult bang in Pi, arguably the best movie ever made about math/science (10000000000000000x better than What the Bleep do we know, which had a production value that was on par of a educational film made for health class.) He then went on to direct Requiem for a Dream, which is one of the darkest and dreariest movies ever. His most recent is The Fountain, which I loved even if it got a lot of bad reviews.

3. Wes Anderson - The most formulaic director I can think of, but he makes it work. His style lends itself to making each movie have the same feel more so than any other director I can think of, and it's a feeling I will never get tired of and that I am looking forward to in the Darjeeling Limited.

4. PTA - No, guys, not the Parent-Teacher Association, Paul Thomas Anderson. He is bumped down to number four because his movies aren't as rewatchable as most movies I enjoy are. As good as boogie nights is, I can't think of the next time I will take 2 1/2 hours out of my life. However, the fact that he followed Magnolia up with Punch-Drunk Love and didn't get crucified by all of his fans speaks volumes for his potential. There Will Be Blood should be in the top 5 movies of the year.

5. David Lynch - This is obviously simply in terms of him as a director, and definitely not as a writer. I hate the story behind Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, but the look (Mulholland Drive at least; Lost Highway looks like it has the quality of a home movie) he gives his movies is immeasurably dark. Eraserhead, despite it's awkward storyline, look incredible and for some reason I am drawn to his awkward surrealist-like direction. Even when he doesn't do his own films, he can succeed (at least with The Elephant Man; I haven't seen Dune or the Straight Story.) He also triumphed with Blue Velvet. I haven't seen Inland Empire yet, nor have I ever seen Twin Peaks.

Honorable Mentions: Quentin Tarantino - I will never forgive him for Death Proof, the most boring movie ever made.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Top 5 Books You've Been Meaning to Read

Probably the only literature-based Top 5 wherein I have a fighting chance. The problem is that I have so many that I could probably make a Top 20.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange - Probably the most literary of the list. I've recently started on this one again, but it is on hold while I read #2. I have a feeling that I am really going to enjoy it, as the language is not a problem for me and the movie was just so damn good.

2. Kurt Vonnegut - Mother Night - I should say I've been meaning to read Vonnegut for a long time. I was just unsure where to start, after I found Slaughterhouse V to be rather uninteresting. Huge thanks to Ryan for letting me know about this one.

3. Steven Runciman - A History of the Crusades (3 Vol.) - I remember the story behind this one. I was playing the demo of a medieval strategy game and went on a momentary love affair with the Crusades. (I have a love for anything desert-oriented, such as Dune and Lawrence of Arabia.) I found a .edu website online with summaries of all the Crusades for a college-level class (I was still in high school). I e-mailed the professor and he told me to read this set of books. However, I've only been able to find a copy recently.

4. Jared Diamond - Guns, Germs and Steel - I've been trying to read this for at least two years now. Since it's nonfiction, there's not really a narrative to follow, so I get bored with it easily. That's not to say I don't find the material fascinating, it's just that I really suck at reading.

5. Hunter S. Thompson - Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 - Having read two Thompson books already, I'm not sure if this belongs here, given my honorable mentions. But why stop at two books, especially when there's one which I'm sure will be filled with Nixon hatred?

Honorable Mentions: Truman Capote - In Cold Blood, Howard Zinn - A People's History of the United States, Christopher Moore - Fluke, Vladimir Nabokov - Lolita, Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Herman Melville - Moby Dick

Tim's Top 5:
I won't even attempt the last category, since it's just impossible for me to offer an adequate treatment of the topic. But this one...I'm uniquely suited for such a task...

1. Herman Melville - Moby Dick - Reading this book is my white whale. I may start tonight, since I've not read a book for a month and a half after averaging 6 1/2 books a month through July.

2. Don DeLillo - White Noise - I've read much of this book on no fewer than three occasions, and if I were forced to go on television and proclaim my five favorite authors, I think I'd have to include Don DeLillo even though I've yet to finish a single book he's written...after all, I have purchased most of them...just not finished one.

3. Michael Chabon - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - I have read most of Chabon's other work now, including Summerland, which I didn't enjoy at all, so I don't know why I've now read half this book twice without finishing. Granted, it was begun in momentum-less reading periods in my life, but I am afraid to go back to it, because it just seems like a task that's relatively insurmountable for me.

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Tender Is the Night - The only novel of his I've not completed, I blame the fact that there's a character named Dick Diver. I'll just be grateful he's not married to a woman named Muff, but I will read it someday.

5. James Joyce - Ulysses - Damn you, Modern Library, you've forced me to attempt to read James Joyce on several occasions. I've failed every time, and I've not even tried Finnegan's Wake.

Honorable mention: Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray -- phenomenal film, phenomenal start to the book...too bad I was in law school and had no hope of finishing it. I am proud to report that I no longer have to include Lord of the Flies (vastly overrated) or To Kill a Mockingbird (adequately praised) on this list.

Ryan's Top Five

Good topic, and almost certainly my most embarrassing list to date.

1. Joseph Heller - Catch-22 - Yes, I've not read Catch-22. Yes, I am an English teacher. I have no really good answers, other than every time I've started it has been at a very taxing time for school, work, etc. (not including the original time--when it was assigned in high school--where I was operating under the misapprehension that high school was difficult).

2. Anthony Burgess - A Clockwork Orange - See Catch-22. I've started this one slightly fewer times than #1, but I equally have no good excuse not to have read it; like Dan, I didn't have much of a problem with the language after the first little bit.

3. Ernest Hemingway - For Whom The Bell Tolls - I feel less guilty about this one, as A) I've read all his other "great ones" (loosely The Sun Also Rises, Old Man, Farewell to Arms, lots of short stories, etc.), and B) it's really freaking long. That said, I need to read it, as it doesn't make sense to've read all but one of Hemingway's great novels.

4. Truman Capote - In Cold Blood - This gets extra points because I've lived in Kansas for a combined 6 years now of my life, so it's approaching the longest time I've spent in one state (Florida still in the lead with 10). I've also been to Garden City, which is right by Holcomb. In my world, these two facts mean that I should be an expert on In Cold Blood, and by 'expert' I mean someone who will dominate any particular discussion on In Cold Blood...and not just resort to my standard "You know I've been to Holcomb, at night too."

5. Steve Yarbrough - The Oxygen Man - Prisoners of War was one of the best new (2004) books I've read, and I'm a sucker for talented Southern writers. (Something about the South spawns excellent writers--Faulkner, O'Connor, Richard Wright, Capote, Harper Lee, Twain, etc. etc. etc.) This book makes the list because A) it has an awesome title and B) I've started it probably four times now.

Honorables: Too many to mention--every book I've ever bought and not read. "Beasts of No Nation" by Uzodinma Iweala comes to mind; I bought it, and it's short, so why the hell don't I read it? This list reinforces how much more I enjoy buying books than reading them.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Top 5 Movie Punches

I came up with this list while watching Wedding Crashers, and anyone familiar with this movie should be able to link the title to the scene. I suppose it could be a tough list, but I'm including a good deal of honorable mentions to help with options. Unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury, but I did go through all of my netflix rated movies to look for all my options. The idea of this list is the top five singular punches, or knockout punches. If it is a few punches from one guy to another, like he's just beating the shit out of him for a couple punches, I will accept it, as I have one or two like that. If you want to break this rule, you can, but I'm setting that none of these punches have a counter from the victim.

Tory's Top 5:

1. Wedding Crashers - Vince Vaughn punching Sack - There are punches that are perhaps prettier, but none of them come with quite the cathartic "Go, Vince Vaughn." kind of reaction. I'm still not sure if his name is Sack or Zack, but I know Vince punched the shit out of him.

2. Groundhog Day - Bill Murray punching Ned Rier - Not sure how to spell his last name, but this ranks number two as it is definitely the funniest punch in movie history.

3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Sirius Black punching whoever - You've gotta commend someone who is an insanely powerful wizard and then in order to save his Godson, casts magic and spells away and just knocks the hell out of Malfoy (I think that's who he hits.)

4. Rushmore - Max Fischer getting punched - "Don't fuck with my play." ::Whack::

5. Fight Club - Norton punching Pitt - A good deal of these are comedic punches, and this is no difference. Norton, forced to punch Brad Pitt, not sure of what he's doing and hitting Pitt in the ear. Though I've never been in a fight, I have been hit in the ear, and vastly funny reaction by Pitt is understood.

Honorable Mentions - Mr. Smith goes to Washington, the punch montage; Life Aquatic, the sucker punch scene; Snatch, gorgeous George getting hit by Pitt; Hustle and Flow, Terrence Howard's beatdown on Skinny Black; Mallrats, Ben Affleck getting punched by Jason Lee.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Back To the Future - George McFly punches Biff Tannen - The one punch that changed history... literally. This one punch lunched an entirely different course of history wherein George is successful and Biff is timid. Violence may not solve life's problems, but it can make your life a hell of a lot better thirty years down the road.

2. Snatch - "Iron" Mickey O'Neil punches Horace "Good Night" Anderson - Just as important as the punch is the underwater shot of Brad Pitt, having momentarily been knocked unconscious and summoning up a final blow from nowhere. Equally important is the best piece of narration in the entire movie, "Now, we're fucked."

3. Rocky II - Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed punch each other - A boxing match with a dramatic conclusion? Either you're watching an old Muhammad Ali fight, or you're watching a boxing movie. Throughout Rocky II, you're pulling for Rocky just as much as - if not more than - during the first movie. In a way, I was also pulling for Creed as well, so the fight to get back to their wobbly legs is edge-of-your-seat suspense.

4. Independence Day - Capt. Steven Hiller punches an alien fighter pilot - Nothing says "I'm a badass American" than letting humanity's first contact with an alien species be a knockout punch to the head. What's amazing about this punch is that it knocked the alien pilot out for a really long time, right until it was about to die on the operating table.

5. Blazing Saddles - Mongo punches a horse - I take #4 back, this is how you indicate being a badass. Punch a defenseless animal for no apparent reason, other than to punch something. This answers that question, "what the fuck was that for?"

Honorable mentions: Everything Tory mentioned.

Ryan's Top Five

I'll try to think of some new ones...

1. High Fidelity - Dick punches Ian with a telephone - Hilarity, pure and simple. Those are some of my favorite scenes from any movie.

2. Office Space - Michael Bolton punches the printer - What I love is that you can really see the rage right after he throws away the bat and starts punching the machine. Who on earth has watched this and not wanted to participate?

3. Snatch - One-Punch Machine Gun Mickey gets knocked down by Good Night Anderson - Really the other punches from Snatch are better, but this one is an awesome shot. Notably, Brad Pitt's body is at one point parallel with the ground, in mid-air. Also the sound effects are cool.

4. Breakfast Club - Judd. T. Nelson punches the sky at the end - BWA HA HA I THOUGHT OF THE BEST ANSWER EVER! Don't you, forget about this scene...don't don't don't don't...

5. The Simpsons - Drederick Tatum punches Homer on top of his skull - Yes, this is cheating, because it's from a TV show, but The Simpsons managed to make a cartoon punch cringe-worthy. That's pretty good.

Side note: I haven't seen many boxing movies.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Top 5 Edible Animals

Dan's Top 5:

1. Cattle - The way I figure, ground beef is a staple of Americana, and apart from all that juicy hamburger, there's sweet, luscious steak, and various roast cuts. Now, I don't know if I'm allowed to also credit the cow for milk and dairy products, since you don't have to actually eat the cow itself. Yet, beef itself is strong enough to warrant a #1.

2. Chicken - I put chicken here really because it's the most versatile meat I know of. Name me any type of cuisine and I can probably find you a dish in that style that features chicken. If not, then that cuisine probably sucks, because chicken rules.

3. Bison - Before I get too far away from the cow, I want to make sure I give some love to the Bison (namely, love in the form of killing it and eating its flesh). I've had a "buffalo burger" once or twice, and it's really fucking good. Probably the best burger I've ever tasted.

4. Turkey - Thanksgiving is probably the one reason this bird gets killed and eaten so much. As most people know, Ben Franklin wanted to designate the turkey as the national bird. It's also in some ways the mascot of my very own university. This only furthers the respect and thanks that I show towards it as I eat some more white meat.

5. Fish - I prefer a white, flaky fish like cod, haddock, or flounder. Fish and chips is probably the greatest "fast food" ever, especially when I got it in Britain and the serving was huge. Here's a tip - get it served with salt and vinegar. It's more for the potatoes, but it's not bad on the fish.

Tim's Top 5:
1) Chicken - I hate chickens. Hate hate hate hate them as animals and have been deathly afraid of them since I was growing up and spent summers at the farm to discover chickens being slaughtered, see them running around headless, only to find chicken heads strewn about the sand for days afterward. From those days on, I have always enjoyed chicken, particularly good fried chicken (I've never eaten collard greens, Fuzzy Zoeller fans), and am eating chicken toward extinction.

2) Beef - I really eschew beef since it does wonders to make me violently ill in a digestive sort of way, but it's the best flavored of all meats.

3) Turkey - Ground turkey had been my beef for three years and it never mattered since I was only making tacos and chili. Unfortunately, when I moved down here, I couldn't get good ground turkey anymore, so I had to buy the 93% lean beef, which has the downsides of being beef (I like cows, don't give a crap about turkeys) and being expensive.

4) Salmon - Not all fish are the same. I rarely eat non-salmon fish, usually only in a circumstance where I haven't actually been told what the fish is (i.e. fish tacos).

5) Deer - Venison is good, but I won't eat it because it's made of deer.

Tory's Top 5:
1) Cow - There is nothing better than a burger.

2) Pig - How has this been so unrepresented on here? Bacon is the pinnacle of a pairing food: Bacon and eggs, bacon cheese burger, bacon-wrapped ::insert food:: This should sum it up:

"What about bacon?"
"Pork chops?"
"Dad, those all come from the same animal."
"Yeah right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal."

3) Vension - Delicious. I've only had it once, but I remember the one I had was juicier than any steak I'd ever had. It was so delicious.

4) Lamb - This is the taste that never ends.

5) Chicken - Chicken is good, but it's at number five because chicken can also be really really boring.

Ryan's Top Five

I'll make this'n quick as I'm hungry...

1. Cow - It's what's for dinner.

2. Chicken - Healthier. But not good in lasagna, so beef wins out.

3. Pig - Sausage is a gift from the Lord.

4. Turkey - I would also have accepted tofurkey. No, I just like saying tofurkey. TOFURKEY TOFURKEY TOFURKEY!

5. Lamb chop - Was I the only kid who wanted to eat that singing sock puppet? I was? Oh, whoops...forget I said this...

Monday, August 13, 2007

Top 5 Current Favorite Bands/Artists

Defined however you like, but within reason...though The Rolling Stones may technically tour again, for example, I wouldn't rate them here. (Not only for that reason, but you get the idea.) Ditto Paul McCartney. I guess what I'm trying to say is, no old folk. Ben Folds would probably be the oldest on my list.

P.S., Stole this idea from Tory, who had it a while back.

1. Badly Drawn Boy - It's actually kind of difficult for me to explain my love affair with Badly Drawn Boy. More than any other artist, he makes albums before songs. I listened to One Plus One Is One a few times and couldn't find many memorable singles, but upon repeated listens, I began to love every individual track for its contribution to the whole. My favorite songs: "Four Leaf Clover," "The Shining," "Minor Incident," "Something to Talk About," "Born in the UK," "Silent Sigh," "Fewer Words," et. al.

2. Muse - Feels wrong ranking them this low because they kick so much ass. I guess, if they follow Black Holes up with something close to as awesome, they might be my favorite band of all-time.

3. Ben Folds - In the long run I like Ben Folds more than almost everyone else, of course, but if I'm being truthful to the "current" point, I have to put him third.

4. The Decemberists - OK, now I feel comfortable ranking them, after legally (in an illegal sort of way) getting their albums online. I've listened to The Crane Wife in one of those patented ryan-obsessive sort of Musey, Badly Drawny Boyey-type ways lately. Everyone had successfully convinced me that they were lyrically talented, but what's taken me by surprise is their musicality. These songs rock--try listening to "The Perfect Crime 2" without jamming.

5. Sufjan Stevens - Narrowly defeats The Flaming Lips, probably because At War With The Mystics wasn't as good as Yoshimi (a really tall order). I'm in love with Illinoise. I've never thought of seriously using this adjective, but his lyrics really are "haunting." It takes some talent to pull off a mournful song about John Wayne Gacy and make it personally relevant ("And in my best behavior, I am really just like him / Look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid").

Honorables: The Flaming Lips, Gnarls Barkley (like Muse, a good follow-up would affect their rank), Coldplay ("You know why you're gay? Because you like Coldplay."), Fiona Apple

Dan's Top 5:

I'm going to interpret this as both "bands that are active" as well as "bands that I've been listening to within the last month or so." That's the only way I'm going to be able to narrow it down to 5.

1. Muse - Dan's Musefest 2007 is about out of gas, as I've been listening to Muse for quite some time. However, with GH III coming out and featuring Knights of Cydonia, I will most likely again take up listening to them nonstop, while being quick to point out that "I was into them before GH III came out."

2. The Decemberists - Probably the band for which I have to do the most listening work, but I'm really looking forward to it. I only "know" about a handful of songs, but I've never heard one that I dislike.

3. Damon Albarn's Latest Project - I figure this includes Blur (recently reunited), Gorillaz, and The Good The Bad & The Queen. I've listened to every "artist," and they're all good. I'm looking forward to whatever he releases next, and I'm almost guaranteed to buy it without listening to it first (which is what I did for TGTB&TQ).

4. Belle & Sebastian - This is only based off one album, but it was good enough for me to probably get their next one, whenever it's released.

5. Starsailor - I have two albums, but in all honesty have only listened to three songs. Again, they're a band I like, but I just need ot work on getting to know them.

Honorable Mentions: Radiohead (only unranked because they've had no new album in a while), The Go! Team, Doves, Gnarls Barkley

Tim's Top 5:
Having now taken a solid nine months to respond to this, I have a little more hindsight to celebrate, but oh well. That said, I don't think my list will have changed. Since my initial list all involved bands who had put out fewer than three albums except The Old 97's, I've just decided to set that limit.

1. Franz Ferdinand - They may never release a third album, but I'm so enamored with the first two that they still make the top 5. They're British, they're good with writing lyrics and making references to things that make me feel British (ah, Terry Wogen, how you make me feel British)

2. OK Go - I love these guys. I don't care about the videos that got everyone into the band, it took me forever to appreciate them on any level, but now that I do, I'm hooked. Oh No is one of my favorite albums of the last decade, and their debut has a few songs that I consider indispensable. Throw in the connection to NPR and attempting to dethrone Bush...and I can't believe I'm putting them at 3.

3. Arctic Monkeys - Both their debut album and the follow up are dynamite albums and they've already mastered the art of the non-album single with "Leave Before the Lights Come On". They're not strictly a singles band, which makes them absolutely essential to this list.

4. The Killers - All right, I gave up on Sam's Town, only to come around and find it to be a masterpiece, even if it's not Hot Fuss. Sawdust was underwhelming, but they're a young band to be putting out a B-sides disc, and it still has some very solid material. Hot Fuss is one of the most consistently great albums of the decade and Sam's Town has some indispensable tracks, including the title track and Bones.

5. Nine Black Alps - Their first album is a masterpiece, one of the best things Rob Schnapf has ever done, and he's one of the greatest producers of all time (see earlier list). The second album is less wonderful, but still quite good.

Honorable mention: The Decemberists have put out more than three, hence they don't get #5, but they still should count. Kanye West, though he loses me more with each album. The Bravery's last album would get mention, but I didn't think much of their debut. Interpol interests me. The bands I would have put in here don't seem "current" enough -- The Old 97's are almost as old as Pearl Jam, Jay-Z is old, Muse isn't that old, but they've put out five albums, Death Cab is pretty vintage, even if I didn't get into them until Plans.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Top 5 albums released in 1992

Tim's Top 5:
I'm still catching up with Dream Job and Breakfast Cereal Mascots to fill in (blogger swallowed the latter post after I'd finished praising Fruit Brute) I'm trying to force Ryan and Dan to catch up with me.
Wikipedia and ITunes got me to this list...

1) R.E.M. - Automatic For the People - The world didn't need New Orleans Instrumental #5, nor Star Me Kitten. This ends the list of things the world did not need that were included on this album. Find the River is one of the best closing songs to an album, it fits the mood so perfectly and yet it's still totally different from everything else on the album. Everybody Hurts is an important song, though one murdered by MTV. Sweetness Follows, Ignoreland, and Monty Got a Raw Deal are among the best songs R.E.M. ever put on an album.

2) Gin Blossoms - New Miserable Experience - This album took years to catch on, but it's booze-soaked, depressing, and masterful country-tinged Tom Petty broken heart rock. And occasionally you get a bout of near-optimism with songs like Alison Road. Followed by two utterly unnecessary albums, but Gin Blossoms fell somewhere in between The Old 97's and Big Star, laced with more than a touch of desperation. More than perhaps anything else from the 1990s, they seemed utterly sincere...until their second album.

3) Spin Doctors - Pocket Full of Kryptonite - This was the first CD I ever bought, and while I didn't buy it for the right reasons, I still love it (even though I've long since sold it to Homer's when I was trying to be cooler musically...I really wish I'd sold The Doors instead). The album spoke a lot about 1992 -- it was acceptable to be a Seinfeldian comic book dork obsessed with Superman, to be utterly unpresentable (thank you, Chris Barron, for making Kurt Cobain look OCD), and, apparently to say bitch on the radio. Without Little Miss Can't Be Wrong, we couldn't have had Meredith Brooks...and that's why this can't possibly be worth ranking at #3.

4) Dr. Dre - The Chronic - I bought it last year, that's how down with the vibe of 1992 I was. But it's got everything from Nothin' but a G Thang, which is one of the greatest songs of any genre ever to Bitches Ain't Shit, which is just wow. It's not great, it has more skits and intros than necessary (which is to say more than zero) and it inspired lots of bad rap albums, but it was a huge turning point for me and my interest in rap/hip-hop, because soon Snoop Doggy Dogg was a household name...and I was 12.

5) Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 months & 2 days in the life of... - This was the other side of The Chronic's coin -- utterly harmless rap/hip-hop that didn't glorify drug dealers, murderers or gang members, just hyper-literate people who took pride in what they'd overcome. It's preachy to no end, whether it's Mr. Wendal or Give a Man a Fish, but it's highly entertaining and warranted MTV's most premature unplugged special ever (although a possible except for D'Angelo, the last unplugged I recall for an artist I still have not yet heard of). "Tennessee" is one of the best mainstream tracks from the entire decade. Most important of all, it gave Baba Oje a job...and if you know to who I refer, you're officially old.

I challenge you to a game of horseshoes...a game of horseshoes!

Honorable mention: Eric Clapton - Unplugged -- from what I've heard, it warrants most of the praise it was lobbed...and I don't particularly like Eric Clapton, We Can't Dance - Genesis -- ah, they used to be entertaining; The Jayhawks - Hollywood Town Hall -- If I owned the album so I could have listened to all of it, it certainly would be in the top 5; Pavement - Slanted and Enchanted - an album I've listened to more than #4 or 5...but it's stuck here because I can't distinguish it from Crooked Rain Crooked Rain right now.

Dan's Top 5:

Wow, I didn't realize what a down year this was for music. This will be reflected in my list (with exception of my #1)

1. Peter Gabriel - Us - Some would call this a poor follow-up to "So," especially since there were 6 years between the two albums. Those people are known as douchebag idiots. Granted, it's not as good as "So," but this album still sports many Gabriel classics, such as "Come Talk To Me," "Steam," "Digging In The Dirt," "Blood of Eden," and one of his best songs ever, "Secret World."

2. Rage Against The Machine - Rage Against The Machine - I include this because a) I play "Killing in the Name" all the time on Guitar Hero II, and b) because I recognize it as the debut of a very revolutionary band. That being said, I haven't listened to all of it, but whatever I have heard by Rage, I have liked, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt here. Hopefully it adheres to the debut album paradigm and sounds more raw and original.

3. Bill Hicks - Relentless - Hey, no one said this was restricted to music albums. Bill Hicks is by far my favorite stand-up comedian, and this was his second and last comedy album before his death. By now, I've heard all the jokes way too many times for my own good, but they're still funny. The great thing about Hicks was his fearless criticism of the conservative government when they reigned supreme. He inspired countless members of today's comedy scene to incoprorate at least some social commentary, though most of those comedians really suck.

4. Eric Clapton - Unplugged - This is here not because of the acoustic version of "Layla" (quick capsule review - good, but sucks compared to the electric version), but the amazing "Tears in Heaven." Apart from these two songs though, the album seems pretty boring, with most songs written by people whose names are not Eric Clapton.

5. The Cure - Wish - There is no other reason I include this other than the song "Friday I'm in Love," which, as fans of mine (read: no one) will remember, was featured on the very first issue of "Best CD Ever"

Honorable Mention: Blind Melon - Blind Melon (come on, how can you not like "No Rain?")

Ryan's Top Five

Damn it, now that I have professional responsibilities again I can't post eight topics a day. I'm hoping to get back on slothy track by November, so bare with me for the time being, folks.

1992 was t minus two years before I got a CD player and thus got really into music (my favorite song was still Whip It by Devo and I spent most of my time trying to play drums to Beach Boys songs when I did listen to music I owned...everything else was radio singles, which will guide most of my list outside of #1).

1. R.E.M. - Automatic for the People - No argument here, Tim. One of those tweener bands for me, where I already know a lot but I feel I need to know more. The more I listen to Man on the Moon, the more I appreciate it (I initially was bored by it).

2. Arrested Development - 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of... - Oh man, did I love these songs. Tennessee was on one of my favorite songs, and I remember being sad when they stopped playing it on the radio (as I didn't understand how singles worked).

3. The Cure - Wish - Here for Friday, the best The Cure has to offer in my book.

4. Blind Melon - Blind Melon - No Rain. Also one of my early favorite songs.

5. Soul Asylum - Grave Dancer's Union - Here for Runaway Train.

Honorables: Dr. Dre, Spin Doctors (I dislike them because they were supposed to open for Hootie and the Blowfish in 1999 at my first ever concert and they backed out. Fuckers.), RATM.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Top 5 Fantasy Football Draft Picks for 2007

My first draft of the year is tomorrow, I'm picking 2nd, which is a lousy spot to be picking as far as I'm concerned. One spot higher or 8 spots lower, fine, I get the double picks, but picking second leaves me a second-tier running back with serious flaws (like possibly not playing -- LJ, you dirty Paterno-loving douchebag) and no hope of getting a particularly good player on the wraparound in round 2. While there may be a football league involving all four of us, I figure the secrecy can be blown for the top 5 picks, which involve little suspense and no strategy, since all the players would be gone by pick #13 anyway, so you'll not be stashing players for Round 2.

Tim's Top 5:
1. LaDanian Tomlinson - He would have led my team in passing TDs after McNabb's injury if he'd been on my team. Then again, if he'd been on my team, I wouldn't have fallen from first to out of the playoffs after McNabb's injury (thanks, Jeff Garcia/Alex Smith). He is the second best receiver on his team, he has a good offensive line, he's durable, he's got an adequate QB who won't turn the ball over, costing him TDs. He has everything Larry Johnson doesn't have, and he has LT money...which LJ wants.

2. Steven Jackson - He has the receiving yards to cushion the blow of a bad rushing outing, but he doesn't have a great nose for the end zone (16 total TDs, 13 rushing), and this year there'll be another goal line option in Brian Leonard. Still, he's a producer with 2,000+ yards and ... lord, the second pick sucks. I might end up taking #3.

3. Peyton Manning - So long as Yahoo! counts passing TDs as 6 points, then I can consider Manning a more useful player than most. Last year was not his best year since he was missing the third receiver in Stokley, but this year he has Anthony Gonzalez, who I'm a big fan of, Harrison, Wayne, Clark, and a more solidified running back situation with Addai. The downside is there's no depth, so if Addai gets hurt, I'm on the short list of players the Colts can add. You can say that's ridiculous, but if you say I'm no DeDe Dorsey or Kenton Keith, you're only right in that my name is not alliterative.

4. Shaun Alexander - Wow, he got old in a hurry. He was hurt, but that wasn't the whole story behind the drop of 2.5 yards per carry and 20 TDs. That said, I think it was a substantial part of the story and Rob Sims has a year of experience replacing Steve Hutchinson under his belt now. The entire offense was out of sync with Hasselbeck and Alexander missing time (leading me to at one point start Seneca Wallace in all four fantasy leagues due to byes/injuries to Hasselbeck), so I think he's due for a resurgence, even if it's only to about 13-15 TDs, rather than 28. He's got someone behind him, which makes him a better bet than Rudi Johnson, who will be beaten down after two weeks of having to carry the entire load.

5. Frank Gore - It's truly an inconvenient truth that he's floated this high on a list, because I don't have any confidence in his success, not with the way Mike Nolan used Michael Robinson as a greed running back to snatch up the TDs. But I really don't like Larry Johnson's timing with his me moment, I don't like the Chiefs' quarterback situation, I don't like Larry Johnson running with a line that has no Will Shields, and I really do like Priest Holmes' re-emergence, mostly because I hate Larry Johnson and his involvement with Penn State. All these things spell gloom and doom, so I think there's a chance that even with Mike Nolan ruining Gore's fantasy value by using Michael Robinson whenever I'm not on a bye week and desperate enough to play him, that Gore will win out.

Almost making it: Larry Johnson still can't fall that far, because if he plays, he's the Chiefs' entire offense. But that might not be saying much. Rudi Johnson is reliable, though not as reliable as I thought last year when I got him at pick #10 and was still sorely disappointed. But this year's a different fantasy landscape...extremely bleak and foreboding.

Ryan's Top Five

Larry Johnson scares me, as well, and he doesn't have LT money because he doesn't deserve LT money (rare that I agree with Carl Petersen). LJ can't block worth shit and can't catch and run very well either. He can run like a tank, sure, maybe better than anyone in the league, but so can a tandem of Addai/Rhodes lead to a Super Bowl victory. I know that by saying the following I A) illustrate my Chiefs bias and B) jinx his future career, but I really like rookie Kolby Smith, not as a future pro bowler but as a solid fill-in. Anyway, that's irrelevant, regarding fantasy sports.

1.) LaDainian Tomlinson - I think I speak for everyone here when I say I was shocked he wasn't the most "Now" on sportscenter. (Thank God it's over.)

2.) Steven Jackson - The Rams screwed me over when I drafted Kurt Warner the year the wheels fell off, and plus I just inherently hate St. Louis and everything it stands for. That said, I have to be a believer in their offense, as I have Marc Bulger in a pay league. Let's hope he throws a lot of TDs to SJ.

3.) Larry Johnson - Carl Petersen will act cool up until the start of season and then realize how desperately we need LJ, the same thing happened with Tony Gonzalez five years ago. The Chiefs offensive numbers will definitely come down, but when we do score touchdowns, they will be Larry's.

4.) Peyton Manning - Ugh, I don't want to be anywhere near the Top 5 if I don't have first pick. I've never drafted a QB in the first round, but you really can't justify putting any running back ahead of him in this spot.

5.) Larry Fitzgerald - This pick makes no sense. I just want to go out on a limb and guess that this is his first stellar year. Plus, like Tim, I don't like Frank Gore. If I'm right, I'll look like a genius.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Alex Rodriguez - I'm glad that I'm most likely going to see A-Rod break the career home run record within a few years. Obviously last year's A-Rod is gone and the old powerhouse is back.

2. Jose Reyes - I foolishly hadn't heard too much about him until this year, when it was revealed to me that he was the new best shortstop in baseball. So long, whoever it was before... Derek Jeter? All my money is on Reyes now.

3. Ichiro Suzuki - I was shocked at his new contract, but then I looked at what he's actually been doing this year. That shocked me even more.

4. Johan Santana - I know, I know... batters before pitchers. But this guy can just flat-out get it done on the mound, and if I can get him on my team, I won't have to worry about another SP for quite a few rounds.

5. Albert Pujols - Normally I like young talent (like A-Rod), but since Pujols is a Cardinal, I naturally hate him. I can't deny him a spot on my team, though, if he's still available by the time my pick comes up.

Oh shit, "football." My bad. I'm sticking with this top 5, though. I hate the NFL and can make no performance predictions. My draft is going to look worse than a public opinion poll of Michael Vick and Pacman Jones combined.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Top 5 Breakfast Cereal Mascots

OK, what the hell? No new posts since Monday? Well, here's one for you that's completely accessible to anyone and everyone.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Tony The Tiger, Frosted Flakes - Not my favorite, but who am I to deny the king of breakfast cereal his rightful throne? The fact that he's great with kids and ultra-cool has thankfully diverted investigations of steroid abuse, of which I'm almost sure he's guily. I mean, look at the size of his upper body. A tiger isn't supposed to be able to bench-press that much.

2. Buzz Bee, Honey Nut Cheerios - Again, not so much my favorite, but do you remember that older Christmas commercial, wherein Buzz actually warmed the heart of the classic old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge? All with the power of a bowl of cold, yet tasty, breakfast cereal. That means Buzz had as powerful an effect as four ghostly spirits and a handful of grim lifetime experiences.

3. The Trix Rabbit, Trix - Talk about rotten luck. This guy never gets to enjoy what we would assume would be the standard perk of getting to enjoy the same cereal that you promote day in and day out. I remember there was a huge vote held as to whether the rabbit should be allowed to finally have a bowl... "While he is known to have previously enjoyed a bowl in 1976, following this public intervention in 1980 he has not succeeded in gaining access to Trix's fruity goodness again, and anti-rabbit sentiment persists within the animated juvenile community." God, I love Wikipedia.

4. L.C. "Lucky" Leprechaun, Lucky Charms - Really, Lucky is about on par with the Trix rabbit, the only difference being that he is actually defending what is rightfully his - his breakfast cereal. Then again, you can't feel too bad for him, as he has magic on his side. I suspect that at any point he could willfully set the thieving children ablaze, but instead lets them have their fun.

5. Count Chocula, Count Chocula - I didn't actually try this cereal until I was in college. Can you believe that? I can't, especially since it was promoted by the most amiable cartoon vampire ever, even accounting for Count Duckula. His image was cheapened by the existence of boo Berry and Frankenberry, even the Fruit Brute back in the day (see Tarantino's first two movies), but there's no denying that Count Chocula was king of the monsters.

Honorable mention: Sugar Bear (Golden Crisp), Sonny (Cocoa Puffs), Wendell the Baker (Cinnamon Toast Crunch)

Ryan's Top Five

Dan you ignorant slut. How dare you leave off El Capitan?

1. The Cap'n, Cap'n Crunch - O Captain! My Captain! This guy is so good at promoting children's breakfast food that Walt Whitman once wrote a famous poem in his honor--BEFORE HE WAS EVEN BORN. According not to wikipedia but to my own personal wealth of Cap'n knowledge, his full name is Cap'n Horatio Magellan Crunch. His parents no doubt named him after two well-known seafarers: Horatio Nelson and Ferdinand Magellan. With a name like that, how could one not grow up to become one of the best-known children's breakfast cereal nautical icons of the latter half of the twentieth century in the USA?

2. Tony the Tiger, Frosted Flakes - I won't quibble with you here, Dan. Who hasn't spend hours upon hours rehashing the tired drunken argument, "Who would win in a fight between Tony the Tiger and the Cap'n?" We all know so many variables come into play, but I ask again, as I have countless times before: does Tony have access to a cannon? I don't think so. Advantage: Cap'n.

3. Count Chocula, Count Chocula - Growing up, my dad was out of the house on frequent six-month deployments for the Navy. Occasionally in search of a male role model, I turned to Mr. Chocula, who taught me everything I know about manners, humility, and chocolate-flavored corn cereal bits and marshmallows.

4. Toucan Sam - Cereal mascots taught me most everything I know about the animal kingdom, like, for instance, that toucans and tigers can talk, and that they love cereal. Incidentally, Toucan Sam deserves special mention for being one of the greatest salesmen of his time; did you know that, despite the different colors of Froot Loops, they all have the same flavor? I've said it before and I'll say it again: Toucan Sam could sell a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Or an Inuit, rather.

5. The Trix Rabbit - May the children who taunt this rabbit so burn for all eternity in cereal hell (much more chocolatey than real hell).

Tim's Top 5:

1) Tony the Tiger - Frosted Flakes - No contest here, if he'd told me to smoke, I'd have done so, glad that I could fulfill his desire after turning something as wholesome as corn flakes into compressed lumps of high fructose corn syrup. They're grrrreat! is pretty much all I remember from years of Saturday morning cartoons and really all I remember post-Saturday morning cartoons also. This might be a sign of grave dangers ahead.

2) Cap'n Crunch - Note that he's not technically referred to as "Captain", just Cap'n, since he was banished from Her Majesty's navy after keelhauling Dig'Em the Frog. While he doesn't rank as high in my esteem as his naval superiors Captain Morgan or Admiral Nelson, he is a perfect marketing tool for cereal that provides 900% of your RDA of mouth-tearing crunchiness. Whether it's the absurd Village People sailor's uniform or the aged Ron Jeremy moustache, there's just something about the Cap'n that permits me to overlook the wanton homosexual overtones of the whole cereal.

3) Fruit Brute - There's a lot of camp value in a werewolf who feasts on fruity cereal...and he earns a lot of street cred just for being unsuccessful, because General Mills has its head up its ass when it comes to hawking cereal. Frankenberry is the best of the monster-based cereals, yet it's virtually impossible to find in a reputable grocery store, but you'll find Count Chocula in 7-11s nationwide like it's too hard to just go buy some cocoa puffs. (See #5)

4) Frankenberry - Count Chocula is a little too jocular to be selling chocolate, he's not even promoting a cereal that's reddish in tint. It's just utterly inappropriate, since vampires and chocolate are a total mismatch. However, a lust for Frankenberry was one of my strongest emotions in college, proving that it does in fact appeal to the undead. More importantly, it's hardly outlandish that if a person were constructed from the body parts of criminals, they would walk the earth in search of marshmallows. This is a fat country.

5) Sonny The Cuckoo Bird - Cocoa Puffs - Any cereal which promotes insanity = well worth your effort. I don't much care for the cereal itself, but given the additives and chemicals that have seeped into most everyday foods over the last two decades, it's only a matter of hours before Cocoa Puffs are in fact linked to schizophrenia and perhaps bird schizophrenia. Truth in advertising = it works.

Dishonorable mention: The Trix Rabbit for performing a valuable social service by informing young middle-class white children that their role in the world is to either oppress the needy or cause wanton pain in animals. Without you, Trix Rabbit, Michael Vick would just be a lousy quarterback, not a lousy quarterback with a zeal for murdering dogs; Fruity Pebbles because the Flintstones suck. Period.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Top 5 American Authors

A quick and simple one, I thought of this last night and came up with five so, rather than lose it forever, I'm posting.

1. William Faulkner - The master. His way with words and different styles is unparalleled, in my mind. Favorite: Light in August.

2. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - Kurt's up in heaven now. So it goes. Favorite: Mother Night.

3. Ernest Hemingway - Probably the best short story writer who ever lived. Some of his novels and longer works really miss though (The Green Hills of Africa is good, not "greatest author ever" good) Favorite: The Sun Also Rises.

4. Mark Twain - If you think he's not a master of satire and irony, read Puddn'head Wilson. Favorite: PW.

5. F. Scott Fitzgerald - Given, I'm basing this on one book and a few short stories, but that book WAS the quintessential "great American novel." Favorite: R.L. Stine's Say Cheese And Die! Err, The Great Gatsby.

Honorable mention: Flannery O'Connor, Michael Chabon. (Hey, why not.) Oh, and for kicks, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Dan's Top 5:

Mark Twain - Probably one of my favorite figures in the history of American Literature, though admittedly I think I've only read Huckleberry Finn.

Ernest Hemingway - Again, here I've only read the novella The Old Man and the Sea. However, I enjoyed it thoroughly and also just learned that he won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Hunter S. Thompson - I'm probably going to be remembering Thompson as the author that I identify with my early twenties. I have read both Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diary. For me to have voluntarily read two books by the same author is quite a statement. In fact, I can't think of anyone else of whom I can say that. Oh yeah, Hornby...

F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby was fantastic, though sadly I don't remember most of it. I do remember finishing it my math class the day of the final reading quiz and thinking to myself, "Wow, that was a good book."

John Steinbeck - I'm ranking him this low only because I've never read anything he's written. It's a real testament to my status as such a pathetic reader that I have to include someone I've never even read before.

Honorable mention: Isaac Asimov (did not get a chance to discuss whether he qualified as American Author, having moved here as a child of three)

Tim's Top 5:
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald - I've often called Jane Austen "the female F. Scott Fitzgerald if he had been born without wit or literary ability". I stand by this characterization in that I hate Jane Austen more than one could possibly fathom and F. Scott Fitzgerald is dripping with both wit and literary ability. "The Great Gatsby" is an unparalleled literary achievement...except that it's not Fitzgerald's best, because The Love of the Last Tycoon is even better, albeit still incomplete. This Side of Paradise is a bit uneven, but still a good read.

2. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - I've always felt like I should like Kurt Vonnegut far more than I do, but I still enjoy his work. Slaughterhouse-Five is a masterpiece, but, like Ryan, I think Mother Night is superior. I didn't enjoy Cat's Cradle, I did really like Hocus of these years I should read the rest of his novels.

3. John Steinbeck - Oprah be damned, Steinbeck was a good writer before you soiled him with your East of Eden book club invite. Sadly, I've never read The Grapes of Wrath, so I'm really kind of flying blind, but I respect Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men, The Pearl, and what I've read of Travels With Charley. Give the man credit, he had the courage to just say this book is done at 100 pages. He's the anti-Grady Tripp.

4. Michael Chabon - I apparently really enjoy his work on some level, because I keep reading it. I was a bit underwhelmed at The Yiddish Policeman's Union, since it seemed like he was trying to cash in too much on the Jewish themes that got him a Pulitzer, but he creates characters and places in a way few authors do. Even Summerland, bad as it was, had defined characters that I can still recall and picture, even though I didn't enjoy the book on any level. Wonder Boys is a book that didn't really strike me as great when I read it, but after seeing the movie and learning to love it, I admire it more and more. Favorite: The Final Solution -- a book that was the inverse Nick Hornby -- I didn't enjoy it until the very finish, at which it became a masterpiece...see also Steve Martin's The Pleasure of My Company -- a vastly underrated book in comparison to the middling Shopgirl

5. J.D. Salinger - Catcher In The Rye is appreciated by the wrong people for the wrong reasons, but it's a book that I could identify with and those come along very rarely. And it's a very universal book, I've met few who have read it and not been at least somewhat sympathetic, because it's an expression of a period of people's lives more than a story. Franny and Zooey is a much more hollow effort, but one that's worth reading.

* I included him as #5 and then recalled that I had in fact read Franny and Zooey, so I could include Salinger with a little more validity...anyway, enjoy...6. James M. Cain - I've read very little of his work, but he edges out Dashiell Hammett on the list of authors I admire but have no basis to admire list. Cain wrote books that translated perfectly to the screen, but the stories behind them were raw and potent. The Postman Always Rings Twice is a book that really should be mandatory reading, I don't imagine Double Indemnity is any different. But basically it came down to choosing between Poe, Joseph Heller (whose non-Catch 22 work is probably insignificant), Hemingway (whom I've never read a novel by), or Dashiell Hammett. I don't like E.L. Doctorow.

Note: Saul Bellow is Canadian.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Top 5 Surviving Bands

This list is of the best bands that have carried on with good music after one or more of their founders left the band for one of a myriad of reasons (e.g. creative differences, solo ambitions, or death). To give you a good example of what I'm after, I'm not going to be listing Weezer on this list, as in my opinion, all their good music came before Matt Sharp left following Pinkerton. Similarly, the Who never recovered from losing Kieth Moon. For the sake of history, I'll also list who left the bands and why.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Pink Floyd (Syd Barrett, mental problems and drug use) - Pink Floyd is probably the oddest choice I could make, as a majority of their success (both commercially and artistically) comes from songs that were almost directly related to Syd Barrett. So, in essence, the Barrett split defined the band. The most notable of these songs, in my opinion, is the epic "Shine On You Crazy Diamond."

2. Duran Duran (Roger Taylor, retirement, and Andy Taylor, solo career) - In my opinion, the New Duran Duran trio made one of the best pop albums of the 90's in the form of The Wedding Album. Even though the rest of their work is sub-par when compared to before the split, "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World" are just too good, not to mention "Too Much Information." The band would reunite in 2005 for one album before Andy left again in 2006.

3. Genesis (Peter Gabriel, brilliant solo career, Steve Hackett, creative differences) - Really, though this band went through tons of lineup changes, there are two distinct eras - The one with Collins, Rutherford, and Banks, and the earlier one that also included Gabriel and Hackett. The five-member Genesis was extremely artistic, Theatrical Victorian Prog Rock, while the three-member Genesis was the band that produced great 80's pop (see Invisible Touch). Both were amazing, so the band deserves this spot.

4. Van Halen (David Lee Roth, solo career) - The reasons why Diamond Dave split are still debated, but Sammy Hagar took over and led the band (or followed Eddie Van Halen's lead) into more pop-oriented waters. The thing is, it was still good music. 5150 was the first Hagar album as well as their first #1 album, and deservedly so. Gary Cherone sucked, though.

5. AC/DC (Bon Scott, death) - After Brian Johnson joined, they released Back in Black partially in tribute to Bon scott, and that went on to be one of the best-selling albums of all time. However, nothing apart from "Thunderstruck" has really been too good since.

Honorable mentions: The Rolling Stones (I'm sure someone else will put them, so I wasn't worried), The Yardbirds, Smashing Pumpkins

Ryan's Top Five

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers - This is the only band that came to mind at first, so I'll go with it. They lost Hillel Slovak and then went on to produce some of the best music of the (early-mid) 90s. Tory and I, I'm pretty sure, are maybe the only two people who like One Hot Minute more than Blood Sugar Sex Magik.

2. The Flaming Lips - Um, they had quite a few members over the years before they made their two best albums, The Soft Bulletin, and Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots.

3. The Verve - Had a lot of turmoil before Urban Hymns, which, as I pointed previously, is one of the best albums of the 90s. Of course, they've never been as good since, but still. Actually, upon further review, the band broke up before this album, then guitarist Nick McCabe returned to record this album, and then they broke up again. So, I'm keeping it here, because the spirit of turmoil was so determined and admirable.

4. AC/DC - See Dan's entry, Back in Black was by far their best.

5. Pink Floyd - I slot them this low because I really like Syd Barrett's stuff.

I'm out.

Tim's Top 5:
1. Guided by Voices - (Tobin Sprout, Jim Pollard, Greg Demos, Jim McPherson...everyone who was ever in the band aside from Bob Pollard at some point...) This band went through dozens of lineups, but at the core, it remained solid, so that my favorite album of GbV's featured a lineup that would appear on no others (though Doug Gillard remained an integral part until the end).

2. The Ramones - (I can't go through the whole list, I'm not that much of a fan) There were eight of them, their music is, to me, relatively indistinguishable for most of their existence, I don't long for the presence of any particular members of the Ramones. This is all I have to say about the Ramones right now.

3. Pearl Jam - (a Spinal Tap-ish collection of drummers -- Dave Krusen, Matt Chamberlain, Dave Abbruzzese, Jack Irons -- a popular mention on this list) - Granted, it's a drummer, few bands (Zeppelin, The Who) would have been brought down by the loss of a drummer. That said, it's also a ton of drummers. And it's had no impact. Ten is still Pearl Jam's worst album, Matt Cameron is their best drummer, although Jack Irons was certainly sufficient.

4. Oasis - (Tony McCarroll after Definitely Maybe, Bonehead and Guigsy after Be Here Now, Alan White after Heathen Chemistry) -- Again, two of these were drummers, but it counts. They're not a great band anymore, but their albums continue to be better than they'll get credit for from the jaded Americans who seem to have grown skeptical of British acts. Heathen Chemistry and Don't Believe the Truth are both far better than advertised, and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is a better album than anyone really remembers.

5. OK Go - (Andy Duncan, this is purely theoretical) Duncan left after they finished recording Oh No, so his replacement has not appeared on any albums, but they were good live after Duncan left, so I therefore can conclude that his loss will be negligible. I really have no contribution to offer to this Top 5 list whatsoever.

Frankly, I'd do far better with bands that utterly collapsed after a personnel shift (Chris Bell-less Big Star would top the list)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Top 5 Lyricists

Lyrics are what compels me more than music, and this list is to honor those who have realized that lyrics are important and not to just be shoved in between the catchy instruments. I will give one example of their writing, though all of these definitely have much more to offer.

Tory's Top 5:

1. Conor Oberst - The front man for Bright Eyes who started writing music when he was about 13, and put out about 20 songs written from the time between age 13 and 15, all showing the technique of an established poet. It isn't so much cleverness of the lyrics, but the use of rhyme along with half-rhyme, assonance and alliteration to make lines fit together. Has also established about 4 other bands."There's a dream in my brain, that just won't go away, it's been stuck there since it came a few nights ago / and i'm standing on a bridge, in the town where i lived as kid with my mom and my brothers / and then the bridge disappears and i'm standing on air / with nothing holding me."

2. Damien Rice - Simply an incredible writer. Pairs music with his songs perfectly, and writes what some could say are the most depressing songs in existence, but always sings them with an incredible beauty. "Cheers darlin, I got years to wait around for you / Cheers darlin, I got your wedding bells in my ear / cheers darlin, you gave me three cigarettes, to smoke my tears away."

3. Maynard - Fronting Tool, Maynard James Keenan writes some of the most enigmatic lyrics to ever be written, but they still hold the ability to be poignant at least in meaning. He's also appeared in A Perfect Circle and has another band he's put together Puscifier. "Some say a comet will fall from the sky / followed by meteor showers and title waves / followed by faultlines that cannot sit still / followed by millions of dumb-founded dipshits / some say the end is near / some say we'll see armageddon soon / certainly hope we will /i sure could use a vaction from this / stupid shit, silly shit, stupid shit."

4. Roger Waters - I am an immense Pink Floyd fan, so much that they are one of my favorite bands, as fandom goes. One of the whole points behind Pink Floyd is obviously the trippy lyrics. "Oh, how I wish, how I wish you were here / we're just two lost souls swimmin in a fish bowl, year after year / runnin over the same old ground, and hav you found / the same old fears / wish you were here."

5. Cedric Bixler-Zavala - This may be premature, or a current bias, but these lyrics are some of the most awkward things I've ever read, and that's all there is to say about it. Oh, he sings for The Mars Volta, but stared with the band At the Drive-in. "You must have been phlegmatic in stature / the gates of thanos are spread-eagle wide / you let the shutters make sackcloth and ashes / out of a blind man's picaresque heart."

Ryan's Top 5:

This is a good idea for a list, but I'm feeling a bit boring, as you'll see, so all my answers would probably make the editors at Rolling Stone happy--which means, of course, that my list sucks.

1. John Lennon - For me it was a close call between Lennon and Simon, but I'm going to have to go with the walrus on this one. I don't believe that songs are simply poetry put to music. Occasionally, Paul Simon can write songs that, while great, are more poetic than musical (see: The Dangling Conversation, which is like a poem with background music. Good, though). Anyway, not much sense trying to explain Lennon's greatness, so here's a random quote: "Always know sometimes think it's me / But you know I know when it's a dream / I think I know I mean, ah yes / but it's all wrong / that is I think I disagree / Let me take you down..."

2. Paul Simon - Not to discount Garfunkel's contribution to the band--namely, big hair--but Simon has an amazing way with words. You want examples, I mean, take your pick--The Boxer, I Am A Rock, Sound of Silence, Mrs. Robinson, America, etc. etc. etc. "Hello darkness, my old friend / I've come to talk with you again / Because a vision softly creeping / Left its seeds while I was sleeping / And the vision that was planted in my brain / Still remains / Within the sound of silence." Bonus points for never burning out and producing crap (see: McCartney, Paul), and also solving apartheid in South Africa with Graceland.

3. David Bowie - "I'm an alligator, I'm a mama-papa coming for you / I'm the space invader, I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you / Keep your mouth shut, you're squawking like a pink monkey bird / And I'm busting up my brains for the words." I think that pretty much says it all.

4. Harry Nilsson - There were rumors in 1970 that if Paul left the band, Nilsson could've stepped in. That, of course, would have led to Nilsson, Lennon, and Ringo all dying of liver failure by 1973, but it's still neat to think about. "Have you ever watched a moonbeam / As it slid across your windowpane / Or struggled with a bit of rain / Or danced about the weathervane / Or sat along a moving train / And wondered where the train has been..."

5. Paul McCartney - Has done just about everything possible to soil his musical record as of late, but he wrote some of the best songs ever recorded: Eleanor Rigby, Yesterday, Hey Jude, etc. As we've all heard these songs nine-hundred times, I'll forego the lyrics.

Honorable mentions: I won't try to sneak these guys in this time around, but I do think, given some more time, they could be on this list: Sufjan Stevens, Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy).

Dan's Top 5:

1. David Bowie - I think that if I have to explain Bowie to you, you're not worth talking to. A candidate for being overlooked lyrically, though, since the music is so strong. "And you / You can be mean / And I / I'll drink all the time / 'Cause we're lovers / And that is a fact / Yes we're lovers / And that is that."

2. Warren Zevon - Songwriting with sardonic dark humor? Sign me up. Honestly, Werewolves of London, though his greatest hit, isn't very indicative of his true talent. "I'm very well aquainted with the seven deadly sins / I keep a busy schedule trying to fit them in."

3. Damon Albarn - Blur, Gorrilaz, The Good The Bad and The Queen. They're all good. "She says theres ants in the carpet / Dirty little monsters / Eating all the morsels / Picking up the rubbish."

4. Paul Simon - It still astounds me that with all he did in Simon and Garfunkel, he still had enough left in him for a very good solo career. That rarely ever happens. "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school it's a wonder I can think at all / And though my lack of education hasn't hurt me none, I can read the writing on the wall."

5. Colin Meloy - The Decemberists are, according to Colbert, "hyper-literate prog rock," and that couldn't be possible without Colin Meloy. Though I've had their music in my possession for quite some time, I truthfully have only been listening for the last few days. But their specialty for morose sea shanties and upbeat songs about myriad fictional characters lands them a spot in the Top 5. "And they tell her not to say a thing to cousin, kindred, kith or kin or she'll end up dead / And they throw her thirty dollars and return her to the harbour where she goes to bed, and this is how you're fed."

Honorable Mentions: Harry Nilsson, John Lennon, and Paul McCartney, excluded as they've been named by Ryan, who did them adequate justice.

Tim's Top 5:
1. Bob Dylan - No question here. Stuck Inside of Mobile (With the Memphis Blues Again), Idiot Wind, Tangled Up in Blue, All Along the Watchtower, It Ain't Me Babe, all great songs...and he would win for My Back Pages alone if it really came down to it. Time Out of Mind's tracks like Love Sick and Not Dark Yet continue the tradition, even if his last two albums aren't really worth mentioning. Who else could have written The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll and actually turned it into a decent song?

2. Bruce Springsteen - Few artists could have put together an album like The Rising without coming off as a dreadfully trite assemblage of flag-waving garbage. But it's just the sheer volume of great songs that Springsteen has written that involve characters without making them as repetitive as things like Ben Folds' solo work where nearly every song has to have named characters. Born to Run, Thunder Road, Brilliant Disguise, American Skin -- this is great stuff.

3. John Lennon - He does lose some for his all-too-sentimental period around Double Fantasy, but he wrote the Beatles' best material. Imagine, Tomorrow Never Knows, Happiness is a Warm Gun, Instant Karma...McCartney is good, but not on this level...and seriously, McCartney wrote a song called Biker Like an Icon.

4. Elliott Smith - He picked up the John Lennon introspective torch, but took it way farther. Ballad of Big Nothing is one of the best written songs I've heard even though it's extremely simple. Figure 8 may have been his lyrical peak with Stupidity Tries, Son of Sam, but Either/Or isn't far off and From a Basement on A Hill has some great stuff.

5. Noel Gallagher - Sure, I was in high school when (What's the Story) Morning Glory came out, but it had some songs that really struck me as well-crafted -- Don't Look Back in Anger, Some Might Say, really everything except for She's Electric and Chapagne Supernova. And I prefer Definitely Maybe with Rock n' Roll Star and Cigarettes and Alcohol, which really warrants (by itself) a spot higher than 5th.

Honorable mention: Bernie Taupin (hard to admit, but in the 1970s, Elton John actually recorded decent music); Neil Young, Adam Schlesinger/Chris Collingwood (since they're two people, I had to settle for honorable mentioning them), Billy Corgan.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Top 5 Songs I Bet You've Never Heard Before

So, this is apparently pretty tricky, but it's a testament to people like me who love it when they're "insiders" - people you turn to when you want to hear something new and good. Feel free to comment if you've actually heard anything that anyone else posts.

Dan's Top 5:

The Green and Yellow TV - The Wolves Are Out Tonight - I'm actually pretty sure that less than a thousand people know of this band. I stumbled onto a CD of theirs, ordered it, and this was the first track, and it sounds a tad like if the Beach Boys wanted to do Alternative music.

New Order - Regret - My biggest risk here is Tim, as New Order is one of the Killers' main influences, and this was a single. Nonetheless, the song is too good to be left out of this list. Arguably the last great song of the 80's, as it was released in 1989 and sounds really, really good. It could even be released today, and people might mistake it for a Killers song.

Stellastarr* - Arlington Queen - Actually a single that hasn't appeared on an album. It was good enough to stand on its own. The chorus really rocks, and is the lone reason I picked this song.

Starsailor - Silence is Easy - Phil Spector produced this song, but split after creative differences with the band for the rest of the album. This is one of the best songs on the album (of the same name), apart from "Four To The Floor."

Liquido - Narcotic - I heard this one over in Ireland. It may also be a risk, but I think it's one of those songs that's fairly big in Europe that no one has heard of here. I still remember being shunned for not knowing who Robbie Williams was.

Honorable Mention: Honest Bob and the Factory-to-Dealer Incentives - Hey

Ryan's Top Five

Stop me if you've heard these... I'm grasping for a couple of these. Everything I like, I share with people. Often to a fault.

1. Badly Drawn Boy - "Fewer Words" - His tribute to Elliot Smith, this song is short, simple, acoustic, and beautiful. Also, in concert he said, "That's my favorite song...ever."

2. Fiona Apple - "Extraordinary Machine" - This album is mesmerizing, and in this song she sounds most like a 40s era French singer...kind of. Also a really good lyricist. This song is Nilssonesque, which, in my world, is quite a compliment.

3. The New Pornographers - "Twin Cinema" - A rockin' little number. Sounds kind of like The Old 97s.

4. Adem - "Ringing In My Ear" - A British band, they opened for Badly Drawn Boy when we saw him a few years ago. Softer music, but lovely nonetheless. They're really good with bells, too.

5. Corn Mo - "Robert Holiday" - He opened for Ben Folds. You really have to see him to believe him, but it was a pretty cool show, and this song was his best. From wiki: "Corn Mo is a the stage name of Jon Cunningham, a Brooklyn-based musician. Corn Mo sings, plays the accordion, keyboards, and sometimes performs as a one man band. His music style is a mixture of circus music, glam rock, and humorous novelty songs."

Tim's Top 5:
I'm going to make the naive assumption that someone here has listened to Big Star #1 Record/Radio City as some point, hence bringing the diversity of not having five Big Star songs on the list. Here, I'm just including one song per band, since otherwise it'd easily be five Guided by Voices songs. I'm also being consciously mainstream here, since it's one thing to summon a track from the depths of humanity, it's another to open people's eyes to stuff they just barely overlooked.

1. Guided by Voices - I Am a Tree - While in most of my social circles, I could not make this claim, I dare say that no one on this blog has probably ever heard anything from Guided by Voices except for Teenage FBI (College Football 06) and probably Glad Girls (a putrid song co-opted by radio because it was so simple). I Am a Tree is ironically my favorite Guided by Voices song since it's the only song that didn't have any input from Robert Pollard, scion of GbV. Doug Gillard had recorded the song with Cobra Verde or Gem (I don't remember which), and when Pollard decided to grab Cobra Verde, make them his band and call them Guided by Voices, this track apparently caught his attention and got thrown onto the album. But it's as great a rock song as I've ever come across.

2. Sense Field - What Difference Does It Make? (The Smiths cover) - This is a fair assumption that only I've heard it, because as best as I worked to circulate it, it was from an EP titled (appropriately) Under the Radar recorded in advance of an album that was then never released by Warner Bros. I don't care much for the Smiths, but this I later learned was one of their best songs. That said, the cover sounds virtually nothing like The Smiths, hence my appreciation for it. The bad news...since Itunes seems to reject my MP3 transplants, I'll soon never hear it again.

3. Matthew Sweet - Do Ya (ELO cover) - See #2. I don't like ELO, though this song I do enjoy, the cover was from a warm up from Conan O'Brien, and although it's been released on an album (Live from 6A), there's little to no reason to own said album besides this song.

4. Groucho Marx - Omaha, Nebraska - It's a novelty song by Groucho Marx...what are the odds anyone in this state has heard this song besides me? Not good. But it's pure Groucho, a song I'd routinely make a standard if I ever reached dream job #1. If I ever try and go on the fool's errand of identifying favorite first lines, it's a shoo-in.

5. Pearl Jam - Bu$hleaguer (live in Council Bluffs, IA) - It's been released on a CD, and really I'm not cheating, since I'd accept any live recording, but Pearl Jam mostly eschewed from playing this anti-Bush diatribe on tour. It's a shame, because as dull and lifeless as it is on Riot Act, it's an absolute masterpiece that captures just why the song should have been a rallying cry were anyone still listening to Pearl Jam at this time.

Bare Jr. - The Most, any number of songs from Pavement, Ok Go - This Will Be Our Year (excluded since there's a dangerous chance Ryan's listened to Future Soundtrack for America, not because it's not great), Serge Gainsbourg - Je t'Aime Moi Non Plus - excluded since it's basically just recorded sex...which isn't to say it's not good music, Ramones - I Believe in Miracles - no one listened to the Ramones' new tracks in the 1980s...and they probably shouldn't have, except this one, New Radicals - Mother We Just Can't Get Enough

Tory's Top Five

I also share songs like Ryan said, and some of these are going to be on the assumption of the three other people on here and their taste in music ie knowable bands, but songs not heard by them.

1. Mum - "The Ghosts You Draw on my Back" - It's just an incredible song. Experimental and whatnot, with insanely creepy singing. If you can't get past the voice, then you probably won't like this band at all, but if you enjoy it, then it's incredible.

2. The Black Keys - "Don't Let the Sun Go Down" - Heavy blues inspired band that I did not hear until Black Snake Moan came out. This is the second list they appear on.

3. Explosions in the Sky - "Have you passed through this night" - An instrumental band, though this song is accompanied with a spoken word bit. Out of the few recent instrumental bands I've listened to, EITS ranks above them all, especially with this song.

4. Paolo Nutini - "These Streets" - He had a hit with New Shoes, but this song really shows what he can do as a songwriter. The basis that he is rather new is how he's made this list, but he performed at the world concert thing, so maybe this is a miss.

5. Bright Eyes - "Oh, you are the roots that sleep beneath my feet and hold the earth in place" - I am pretty sure none others on this board listen to Bright Eyes, so I used this song that is not on one of his own albums, but a compilation he did with Son, Ambulance. It is one of his best songs, and one of the first that I ever really heard.

Top 5 Opening Lines of Songs

This is a pretty good idea I had, but after I had posted in the August 1st update, so I figured I should make my list before I forget it. Basically, I'm not going to bother explaining why I like the first lines, as I'm sure everyone reading this has a basic appreciation for lyrics. Instead, I'll just recite them for you.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London - "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand walking through the streets of Soho in the rain; He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook's, gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein."

2. Paul Simon - Kodachrome - "When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all."

3. The Beatles - I Am The Walrus - "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together."

4. The Killers - Jenny Was a Friend of Mine - "We took a walk that night but it wasn't the same, we had a fight on the promenade out in the rain."

5. Muse - Knights of Cydonia - "Come ride with me, through the veins of history."

Ryan's Top Five

Only one note: I Am The Walrus is deservedly in the #1-2 spot, but I'll exclude it for the interest of originality.

1. David Bowie - Rock 'n Roll Suicide - "Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth, pulls on your finger, then another finger, then the cigarette..."

2. The Beatles - A Day In The Life - "I read the news today oh boy / About a lucky man who made the grade / And though the news was rather sad / Well I just had to laugh"

3. Harry Nilsson - 1941 - "Well in nineteen-forty-one the happy father had a son / And by nineteen-forty-four the father walks right out the door"

4. Badly Drawn Boy - Four Leaf Clover - [incidentally, maybe my favorite lyric ever] - "Go on, do what you've got to do / You've got your dreams I've got mine too / Be strong, get off at the next stop / Don't worry about a thing / Keep taking it easy"

5. Cake - Frank Sinatra - "We know of an ancient radiation that haunts dismembered constellations / A faintly glimmering radio station."

Tory's Top 5:

This is definitely one of the hardest list.

1. Tenacious D - City Hall - "All you people up there in City Hall, you're fuckin' it up for the people that's in the streets."

2. Smashing Pumpkins - Bullet with Butterfly Wings - "The world is a vampire, sent to drain."

3. Mars Volta - Take the Veil - "You must've been phlegmatic in stature, the gates of Thanos are spread eagle wide."

4. Bright Eyes - An Attempt to Tip the Scales - "Did you expect it all to change, with the wave of your hand, like the sun's just gonna drop, if it's night you demand."

5. Tool - Aenema - "Some say the end is near, some say we'll see Armageddon soon."

Tim's Top 5:
First, let me preface this by saying I think it's an utter fool's errand...too impossible to actually research, so I'm doing that off the cuff, which makes me remember ... very little. I could identify my favorite lyrics of most songs, but I can't do it based on their position in a song in comparison to all songs.

1. Jay-Z - Lucifer - "[Sample] Lucifer, dawn of the morning! I'm gonna, chase you out of Earth Lucifer Lucifer, dawn of the morning.../ [Jay-Z] I'm from the murder capital, where we murder for capital"

2. Kanye West - We Don't care - "And all my people that's drug dealing just to get by / stack ya money till it gets sky high /
We wasnt supposed to make it past 25 / but the jokes on you we still alive/
Throw your hands up in the sky and say / we don't care what people say"

3. Dead Kennedys - Let's Lynch the Landlord - "The landlord's here to visit / they're blasting disco down below / he says "I'm doubling the rent / because the building's condemned" / you're gonna help me fight city hall."

4. The Old 97's - Jagged - "What remains of the day / remains to be seen / by the TV that we never turn on. / Each other's enough / I've never had it so rough / ever since I've been gone"

5. Guided by Voices - I Am A Scientist - "I am a scientist / I seek to understand me
All of my impurities and evils yet unknown / I am a journalist - I write to you to show you / I am an incurable / And nothing else behaves like me

The Beatles - The Ballad of John and Yoko; Marvin Gaye - What's Going On; Old 97's - W-I-F-E; Fountains of Wayne - Hung Up On You; Dead Kennedys - Kill the Poor; The Clash - London Calling