Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 5 Albums of 2008

Dan's Top 5:

OK, this is admittedly a bit premature, but I really don't see any part of my list changing in the last two weeks of the year. I also realize that these albums were stumbled on by myself alone, so consider these my official recommendations for the year.

1. Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke - I got this album not even a month ago, and already Ladyhawke (alias of Pip Brown) has broken my top 5 on This album summons ghosts of the 80's and never fails - it's like The Killers if they didn't go downhill after their first album. And if Brandon Flowers were even more of a woman than he already is. (Just kidding, Brandon.) There are no weak tracks at all, and it would be hard to even put together a top 5 list of tracks from this album. Look for that list in the future, because I'm all about trying to rank things that defy rankability. (Best song - "My Delirium")

2. Darker My Love - 2 - What I like about this album is that it has a wide range of influences. I can pick out a bit of early-era Black Sabbath, some U2, and even some earlier Snow Patrol. There's no single thing that makes this album particularly jump out at you, but it's solid, it sounds really good, and it has no weak tracks. If it got a bit more press, it would be one of those albums that will "save rock music." (Best song - "Pale Sun")

3. MGMT - Oracular Spectacular - This whole album is made of drugs. Then again, most of the classic albums throughout history are. But this is more like pure electro insanity. Overall, the sound is very original and fresh, and the first half of the album will just blow you away. The later tracks are a bit weak, though, which drives this album down the list. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some ecstasy to pop. (Best song - "Time to Pretend")

4. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple - You know it's a good year in music when Gnarls Barkley winds up this far down my list. This is another sophomore release that initially failed to live up to the strength of the debut album, only to become far more listenable as time goes on. And my, how it has since rebounded in my playlist. It's good to know that these guys are not just a flash in the pan. (Best song - "Going On")

5. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend - Yeah, they're cheesy and über-white, but damn it, the music is catchy nonetheless. Though I will never forgive them for the annoying single "A-Punk," the whole album is vaguely reminiscent of Paul Simon's Graceland, Peter Gabriel, or some other African-laced 80's album. Hey, apartheid was horrible and all, but at least there was some great music to come out of it, right? (Best song - "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa")

Honorable Mention: Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak, Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, Muse - H.A.A.R.P. (Quite awesome, but easily bumped to make room for studio albums.)

Ryan's Top 5:

Once again I am reminded of how un-current my tastes are... even the new stuff I get into tends to be a year old (see M.I.A.). Anyway, here goes:

1. Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke - I really can't stress enough how much I like this album. If I were growing up in the 80's and Ladyhawke was around, I'd truly have been obsessed. As it stands I'm doing my best to get obsessed now, and so far it seems to be working. She might be my biggest musical crush since Muse? Favorites: Paris is Burning, From Dusk Till Dawn, Magic, Back of the Van, My Delirium, I mean, the whole damn album.

2. Gnarls Barkley - The Odd Couple - A great follow-up to their debut album, and somehow they still seem to be under the radar, so their semi-underground appeal is maintained and they aren't omnipresent. Favorites: Run, Going On, A Little Better.

3. Kanye West - 808s and Heartbreak - I love this album. I love this album a lot more than his last two albums. "Paranoid" might be my favorite song of the year, and it's certainly in my top 5 (list forthcoming, I'm sure, at some point).

4. Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs - Not nearly as good as previous albums, but whatever.

5. Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords - This album's placement at #5 is probably more a sign of how little new music I listen to than its overall greatness. Don't get me wrong, FOTC is one of the best things to happen this decade, but after the show/comedy acts this album was pretty underwhelming for me. There are numerous glaring omissions (I'm Not Crying, Sello Tape, If You're Into It, Bret You Got It Going On) and this album's version of "Robots" is maybe the worst there is (still good, but the eighteen youtube versions, and of course the show version, are better). Anyway, enough being an FOTC nerd, this album still kicked ass.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Top 5 Movies You Saw For the First Time This Year

Tim's Top 5:

I've not seen much in the way of movies this year in the theater (I think a total of six), but by my count I've seen 37 movies for the first time this year through finally watching DVDs I own, Netflix, or going to the theater.

1. Elevator to the Gallows - Louis Malle's debut film captures the inevitability and femme fatale aspects of film noir, but spins it in an unforeseen direction. The absurdism is certainly convenient and it requires suspension of disbelief, but the whole saga seems so plagued with fatalism that it feels real. The characters are a bit stock, but the scenario feels fresh 40 years later, and the Miles Davis score is unmatched. I'm embarrassed it took me this long to watch the movie, since I'd owned it since law school.

2. The Last Waltz - To make a concert film of The Band excellent was not something I anticipated would be all that easy, I was hardly a fan of their work. So after they'd played The Weight and Up on Cripple Creek, I really didn't think there'd be any reason to watch. Not so much. It's a fantastic concert from start to finish and the segments where Scorsese interviews The Band are pretty interesting as well.

3. United 93 - If 7 years of misguided responses to September 11 seem to have robbed you of how the day felt, this movie might just reopen those wounds. It brought a lot of gut responses back to me and put me right back in the place where I had been that morning. You know how the movie will end, but it's relentless and forces you to make a serious emotional investment in its outcome. It's a triumph of a film that feels heroic and disastrous all at once, but if nothing else, serves as a reminder of one of the most gut-wrenching days in American history.

4. Once - A nearly perfect film, even if it is functionally plotless. The charm of the two leads is immeasurable and their chemistry is flawless. Add Grafton Street and some other Dublin locales that made it feel relate-able, and you've got a can't-miss film. It doesn't, either, and refuses to take the most obvious path at any point.

5. The Dark Knight - I don't know if Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar, because I haven't seen much of any movies that came out this year, but it was a transformative performance. Though it reads as a political screed as much as a film, Batman's moral ambiguity and the willingness to destroy the sequel that was seemingly being set up pays off in spades. Like Casino Royale, it breathed new life into a film series that had a chance of going too far off the rails. The bad news is that the next film is almost certainly going to be worse (hence, the middling Quantum of Solace not appearing on this list).

Honorable mention: Pan's Labyrinth - I never would have thought it possible to like this movie based on what I'd read, but it's superbly-made and plays very straightforward for what is effectively a fairy tale; Standard Operating Procedure - one of Errol Morris' weaker films, but it personalizes the Abu Ghraib saga more than I'd have imagined possible; The Battle of Algiers - a surprisingly even-handed treatment of the Algerian conflict that relates a story others should have learned from in later conflicts like Vietnam; Iron Man - if anyone is ever cast as me in a movie, I'm hoping it will be Robert Downey Jr. He carries this movie single-handedly and brings a lot of humor to what could have been an overly fawning superhero film. Jon Favreau's direction recognized the humor available in the premise and maximizes it while making it modern.

Dan's Top 5:

As far as I can tell, I've watched 60 movies this year, so this is really hard.

1. Schindler's List - I thought that I wouldn't get this movie. It's about the Holocaust, after all, to which I feel no personal connection at all. But really, this is an excellent film showcasing the essentials of human decency amidst the most senseless of human ferocity. That Steven Spielberg made it is even more astounding, since he had mainly been a director for family-friendly blockbuster movies. At least he doesn't have to worry about which of his movies will be remembered as his best.

2. The Dark Knight - Very seldom is it that I go into a movie theater expecting to be blown away. (Even Best Picture contenders lately leave a lot to be desired.) Even more seldom is the case when the film in question surpasses that already high expectation. What likely seemed a strong movie on paper was taken to a completely different level by the performance of Heath Ledger, which turned the movie into a psychological - and at times philosophical - thriller reminiscent of Silence of the Lambs..

3. Wall-E - Every time Pixar releases a movie, I end up saying it's their best yet. I was fully convinced that Ratatouille was going to be the studio's peak and that the narrative quality would start to decline. The movie manages to accomplish so much with the bare minimum of dialogue, expressing character and emotion through imagery alone. It also accomplishes the remarkable feat of getting you to think about environmental concerns and consumerism without making it some forced political message in disguise. Oh, and if Peter Gabriel doesn't get an academy award for "Down To Earth," I will probably destroy something in my apartment.

4. Network - I didn't really know what to expect of this film going in, other than it was a classic. The level of farce in the story increases ever-so-gradually from completely believable to a level of absurdity matched only by the Bush administration. Personally, I think it would make for a good stage adaptation. It remains a powerful movie even now, when there are starting to emerge people, like me, who don't even watch television.

5. Dark Days - This is, to date, the best documentary film I've seen. It follows a series of homeless people who have taken refuge near abandoned Amtrak tracks near Penn Station. All the characters are engaging and often funny in the face of very hard circumstances. The film actually follows a natural plot rather than meandering from one didactic segment to another a la Bowling for Columbine (which I did like). Most importantly, it ends up being pretty uplifting and shows you what human potential really can be. Feel free to use this movie when battling conservatives.

Honorable Mention: Juno, There Will Be Blood, Do The Right Thing, The Third Man, Into The Wild

Ryan's Top 5:

Perhaps solely for this blog, and to feed my ever-growing OCD, I should start keeping track of movies I watch. (I don't.) So these are my top 5 as best as I can recollect.

1. There Will Be Blood - As much as I disdain anything that's not a comedy, this movie was truly brilliant and veritably flawless. You don't see many true modern tragedies, but this surely was one, and a stellar one.

2. Forgetting Sarah Marshall - This movie was A) hilarious, B) heartwarming, C) well-acted with funny actors, and D) funnier than 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up (comparative as all are Apatow movies). Jason Segel and Russell Brand are particularly great. It also boasts a Dracula musical with puppets from Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

3. Wall-E - Differs slightly in tone from my choice for #1. I can't say that I circle calendar dates in anticipation of PIXAR movies, but they really deserve praise for their writing. Animation aside, they rarely make bad movies; some are better than others, sure, but have they ever made anything completely bad? I don't think so, and there have been plenty of shit-tastic 3D animation movies (that shark piece of trash that I actually saw in a theater comes to mind). Anyway, Wall-E may be their best effort to date. I don't have kids, but if I did, this seemingly would be the perfect movie to take them to.

4. The Dark Knight - I think Tim and Dan said it better than I could. I will say that when movies are talked up so much it almost always affects my reaction to the film adversely. This was not the case here, though, as The Dark Knight delivered. And for days after the film I was wiki'ing Batman and hypothesizing who would be the villain in the sequel.

5. Be Kind Rewind - Did critics dislike this movie? I guess it wasn't as funny as you'd hope a Jack Black/Mos Def movie would be, but... on second thought, wasn't it? I dunno, I loved it. Michel Gondry does not disappoint.

Honorables: Run, Fatboy, Run (probably a dumb movie, but I laughed a lot); No Country for Old Men (saw it on DVD in March or so); Dewey Cox (honorable in that I really thought it would suck and it was actually worth RedBoxing, pretty funny); W. (either I'm not smart enough or not politically-inclined enough to expound on the film's realism/lack thereof, but I enjoyed it...the press conference scenes, taken from Real Actual Life, are pretty damn painful); Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr., is one of my favorite actors, and Tim's right, this film minus him is forgettable).

Dishonorables: Semi-Pro (do not watch this film--repeat, do NOT watch this film); Strange Wilderness (I wasted money on renting this, blagghgh); 21 (classic case of I-read-the-book-first-and-therefore-this-movie-sucks, but come on, they distort reality so much it hurts); Leatherheads (should have been better/funnier than it was); Harold and Kumar Escape... (not a good movie, at all, in any sense, and I liked the first one); Made of Honor (N.B. I did not actually see this movie but I conjecture it is the worst Pile of Suck ever created, look at the fucking title and forget about it, Jesus, do not see this movie); Indiana Jones (we waited 20 goddamn years for THIS?!?!); An American Carol (see my critique of Made of Honor).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Top 5 Favorite (New) Books Read in 2008

It's looking increasingly unlikely that I will meet the 50-Book Challenge. I am mired on 37. So I think it's high time to pull the trigger on a list I've been intending to write all year.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater - Kurt Vonnegut - This book blew me away. While reading this book, I constantly thought to myself, "This is the great American novel." I think, when you've read 10+ Vonnegut books and feel you have a pretty good grasp on the author, you don't expect to find an undiscovered gem. But this book has every opportunity to stand beside Mother Night and Slaughterhouse-Five as my three favorite Vonnegut books.

2. Then We Came To The End - Joshua Ferris - What can I say, I love office culture and the books, movies, TV shows, etc., regarding it. Anyway, this book is written in the first-person plural--a fact which would strike one as seeming gimmicky, but it never comes off as such while reading it. Ferris cleverly inserts the singular author/narrator into the story at key moments. This book is also pretty funny. Good stuff. Incidentally, the first book I read this year.

3. Flight - Sherman Alexie - This book should be taught in schools. And it would be, too, if I had the ability to acquire any texts I want. But alas, I do not have said ability. Anyway, every high school kid--and especially every transient-population high school kid, and especially especially every foster child high school kid--should definitely read this mug. A quick, entertaining read with a powerful and refreshingly simple message: violence blows.

4. When You Are Engulfed By Flames - David Sedaris - I don't think I will ever like this more than Corduroy or Me Talk Pretty One Day, but so what? Those books are damn good, and so is this one. Nuts to anyone who said this book was a weaker effort from Sedaris, that he was writing about lighter, less interesting material. Bullshit. Sedaris' masterful ability to coax the Funny and the Interesting from any incident--no matter how mundance--is veritably unparalleled.

5. The Year of Living Biblically - A.J. Jacobs - A fun and interesting read on modern, and ancient, Judeo-Christian beliefs. I learned more from this book than I did from 15 years (read: 15 Easters) of church.

Honorables: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Tom Stoppard; Armageddon in Retrospect, by Kurt Vonnegut; Motherless Brooklyn, by Jonathan Lethem; others.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Watchmen - Alan Moore - Fuck it, I'm just going to reprint my review that I gave it:

In the entire set of books I've read, I've only reread two. Watchmen is one of them. First, being a graphic novel, it's fairly easy to reread. However, even if it were a printed novel of more than four hundred words, I imagine I'd still be rereading it, because it's a great piece of literature.

But then, one of its key successes is what Moore tried to use it to prove - that comics can achieve things that neither film nor printed novels can. (I use "comics" out of respect for Moore, who as I understand it, didn't like the term "graphic novel.") It's easy to dismiss the whole medium of comics after associating them with superhero-based periodical magazines seemingly fueled by sugar and adrenaline, a few steps away from being printed versions of adventurous Saturday morning cartoons. Watchmen changed that and showed that comics could be used to create something great and truly artistic.

This is literature.

It is ironic then, that Moore does this by using superheroes and masked vigilantes. However, every single one of them has their own flaws and depths. Most have a chapter dedicated mainly to them, so that you can gain an appreciation for their character. By far the most popular character to try to dissect is Rorschach, the trenchcoat-clad vigilante whose journal helps narrate the book. As the plot progresses, we can see both a perception of the world that is devoid of any existence of morality and a deep-rooted desire to uphold certain values and principles at any cost.

I imagine that many people will be reading this book in the coming months as the upcoming movie adaptation is hyped amongst the circles of the book's adoring fans. With the degree of achievement that this comic represents, it is not a question of how well the movie will succeed in recreating Watchmen, but how little it will fail. It is hard to imagine a comic approaching this level of perfection again.

There will likely be some who cannot get past the concept of reading a comic and taking it seriously, thus putting it down soon after they start reading. If you've never read comics before, then this book will change your views on what they are able to accomplish, as long as you are able to check any preconceptions at the door. If you have read comics before, but you've never read Watchmen, then be prepared to drink from the Holy Grail.

2. High Fidelity - Nick Hornby - I'm amazed it took me so long to read this book, but then again, I'm a slow reader. There's enough difference from the movie that I can say it was really worth the read, and it provided a fresh new lease on the story. I'm sort of sad and frightened at how well some guy from England knows my life story. You know, except for all the sex that was added to make it interesting.

3. When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris - One of the stories in this collection - Town and Country - made me realize just how genius that Sedaris' work is. If you don't know what I'm talking about, read the whole story and then reread the very first sentence. The circular irony - if I can call it that - takes the story beyond funny and into a realm of the-joke's-on-you that I had previously believed only Andy Kaufman was in.

4. Batman: The Long Halloween - Jeph Loeb - Another graphic novel makes the list, and this may be the best Batman story out there. It's another story that transcends - or expands - its medium. It's really a classic film-noir detective story. It should earn respect as being one of the primary inspirations for The Dark Knight, which many - including myself - are hailing as the best movie adaptation ever of the world of comics.

5. Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson - Corey Seymour - Quite a nice account of the entire life of The Doctor. I have a suspicion that there are better biographies to come, especially if they don't paint such a dreary picture of Thompson's later years, but this serves as a fantastic introduction to understanding the man for those, like myself, who missed his glory years.

Tim's Top 5:

Wow. Apparently this blog still exists. I'm at 59 books for the year, so it's odd that coming up with 5 I loved is so difficult, but so it goes. For a year I intended to plow through most of Shakespeare and Vonnegut...I've read nary a page of either. The number afterward is, of course, the number in the sequence of 59 books where the books were read. Why? Because Ryan mentioned that one book was first and I'm borderline OCD about tracking things that mean nothing. As a modest response to the other lists, I've read The Year of Living Biblically (in January) and High Fidelity (several times years ago), and will never understand people's love for David Sedaris -- nor why I keep trying to give him additional opportunities to make me understand.

1. Werewolves in Their Youth by Michael Chabon - This book is, I think, my favorite thing Chabon has ever written. Though I've yet to complete Kavalier and Clay (and that's the only thing I haven't read), from the half-book I've read, I'm going to find it an unlikely suitor to replace this collection of short stories. The title story is profoundly touching and one of the best instances in creating an offbeat narrator with whom a reader can nonetheless connect, and the remainder of the book is about on par with it. It's a fantastic work that thumps even Raymond Carver's best work when it comes to short story-writing. (#18)

2. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - This is a book that I was consciously reminding myself to be skeptical toward. It's fish-in-a-barrel, right? It's not compelling to basically turn an Asperger's kid into a narrator, it's just Rain Man in book form. Right? Well, if so, it's compelling anyway. The book is emotionally compelling and manages to have a narrator who is by definition static but creates a story that simply changes the reader instead of the narrative voice. (#29)

3. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer - The entirety of Mailer's novel seems so exceptionally odd in every way that it's hard to remind yourself that it really happened. Gary Gilmore, a perfectly ordinary petty criminal with sociopathic tendencies, became a man of huge fame solely because he wanted to die rather than linger in prison for ages. The story of him fighting for his execution while others fight to stop it and others (including Mailer himself, it turns out) fight to make money off selling the story to Hollywood is surreal and bizarre, but gripping, particularly after the first 200 pages or so. It's a good thing, since there's another 800 after that, but it's generally intriguing and a sad tale for everyone involved. It also doesn't hurt that I read much of this book in Spain and some in Morocco. I loved Spain...and enjoyed certain elements of Morocco (#20)

4. Rome 1960: the Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss - Both of Maraniss's books really struck me as impressive works of biography, but this one offered a reasonable biography of around a dozen people in the context of a few weeks in the Olympics. Although I'd grown up adoring the olympics, you didn't hear of 1960 -- 1968 had Bob Beamon, 1972 had Mark Spitz and terrorists, 1984 was Carl Lewis, and 1936 was Jesse Owens. 1960...1960 was nothing. Rafer Johnson wasn't a name, Cassius Clay wasn't an Olympian. Maraniss' book brings the intrigue of the Cold War and the clash of a East/West Olympics to vivid life and doesn't limit it solely to the American perspective -- though that is obviously the primary emphasis. Less emotional than Clemente, which is one of the saddest books I've read, it nonetheless carries a punch. (#40)

5. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer - Murder and religion make a compelling pair. I'm a sucker for Krakauer's book, and this one was more educational than I would have anticipated. Far from being the anti-Mormon screed that the LDS church has made it out to be, it details a lot of their history in what strikes me as a profoundly even-handed manner and constantly emphasizes the differences between fundamentalist LDS and ordinary LDS -- so much that I think it takes it really easy on LDS and its numerous withdrawals from these once-preeminent tenets of their church. (#22)

Honorable mention: The 33-Year-Old Rookie by Chris Coste (#30), Bloody Confused! by Chuck Culpepper (have I mentioned that I am enamored with Premier League soccer? Maybe I need to try Fever Pitch again) (#55), Havana Nocturne: How The Mob Owned Cuba…and then Lost It To the Revolution by T.J. English (#41), Charlie Wilson's War by George Crile (#1), Clemente: the Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss (the end of this book is as upsetting as anything I have ever read) (#46), The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler (#58)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Top 5 Places You Want To Visit

Pretty self-explanatory, but the assumption for this list is that money is no restriction - just assume that the trip is taken care of and you have a reasonable, tourist-y budget.

Dan’s Top 5:

1. Adelaide, Australia - I want to go to Australia in general, just because it seems like such a cool place. I want to go to Adelaide specifically because it's not one that you typically think of right away, and my thesis advisor studied there long ago. I may therefore get the chance to meet some people at his old university in the field of acoustics. And if I'm lucky, my American accent will help me nab an Aussie chick while I'm there.

2. London, England - Yes, I know I've been there before, but damn, did I have a good time. And I could have spent a month there and not have done enough to satisfy me. Of course, I'm enough of an Anglophile that I could just ride the London Underground all day and be satisfied. Last time, I saw the Queen. This time, I want to bump into Stephen Merchant.

3. Tokyo, Japan - Since my friend is off teaching Japanese schoolchildren English at the moment, I figure that if I went to Japan, I could probably get hold of him and we could run riot in Tokyo for a weekend. If even Sofia Coppola can make this city seem interesting, then you know it's got to be good.

4. Niagara Falls, Canada/U.S. - I have been to Niagara Falls (and Toronto) once in high school, and I filled three whole rolls of film with pictures. I got them developed and they were all grey. So this is probably just an excuse to get amazing pictures again, but I also want because it was the highlight of the trip and it's worth experiencing again.

5. Prague, The Czech Republic - I hear from absolutely every one of my European friends that this is likely the greatest city in all of Europe. I'm of course banking on the fact that I'll be able to track down my old acquaintance from the Czech Republic and he can show me around. If not, I may have to cut the trip short and go to Amsterdam for the hookers and pot.

Honorable Mention - Amsterdam, The Netherlands (again, hookers and pot.)

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Top 5 Songs From Wes Anderson Movies

Wes Anderson is the best soundtrack director in the world, says I, so this list is essential. I will try not to make this Top 5 Songs from Rushmore.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Here Comes My Baby - Cat Stevens - Rushmore - I am a sucker for bells in songs, and the reason for this might be this song, which I listened to about nine thousand times in high school. I used to listen to the Rushmore soundtrack in its entirety while doing homework, then start it over, repeat, etc. Yes. I love this song.

2. Life on Mars? - David Bowie - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - I still can't quite place The Life Aquatic in my top 5 Wes Anderson movies (another essential), but I have absolutely loved the scene with this song since I saw it in the theater. Bowie + Wes Anderson = Happy.

3. Making Time - Creation - Rushmore - Raw, excellent rock 'n roll.

4. This Time Tomorrow - The Kinks - Darjeeling Limited - I probably could've slotted "Oh Yoko!" by John Lennon in this list, but in the interest of representing more movies, this one works perfectly. On the other hand, now that I think about it, maybe I like this song more... It's a moot point--it's not like I'm ranking the two, right? Ah, right.

5. Zorro Is Back - Oliver Onions - Bottle Rocket - Some pretty great Joy Music. This was on my Graduation Joy mix, and followed me with extensive play through my first real job at ChryslerFinancial. It's tough to beat singing along to "Here's to being free la la la la la la la Zorro's back..."

Honorables, in no order - Over And Done With, by The Proclaimers; Nothin' In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl, The Kinks; A Quick One While He's Away, The Who; Oh Yoko!, John Lennon; Ooh La La, The Faces; Needle in the Hay, Elliot Smith; Let Me Tell You About My Boat, Mark Mothersbaugh (I fucking love this song); Search and Destroy, Iggy Pop and the Stooges; Staralfur, Sigur Ros; Queen Bitch, David Bowie (great scene, as well); Powerman, The Kinks.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Ooh La La - The Faces - Rushmore - This, to me, is the best example of what Wes Anderson's soundtracks do - they find great music that you overlooked and make you wonder how the hell you ever missed it in the first place. Many know The Faces as Rod Stewart's band, if they know them at all. Now this otherwise unknown song has become a personal anthem with its main theme of the pain and confusion of trying to find love. Bonus points for the use of acoustic guitar and a honky-tonk piano.

2. Powerman - The Kinks - The Darjeeling Limited - This song might be rated a bit high, and it's really hard to single out one Kinks song from this movie. That said, 'Powerman" fits because it's a testament to The Kinks' abilities to create rocking music. Really, the main riff indicates that this is early hard rock in disguise.

3. Over and Done With - The Proclaimers - Bottle Rocket - Otherwise known as "the other Proclaimers song," this one I love exclusively for the first two chord changes, from the major first to the dominant-7th third, to the minor sixth. It's given me quite a bit of insight on how to write a poppy song.

4. Queen Bitch - David Bowie - The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - In my opinion, the soundtrack of this movie outdoes the movie itself. I could not care for the movie that much, or more likely, I just like David Bowie songs that much. I give the edge to this song over the others, as I like Bowie's hard-rocking tone. A very raw sound.

5. Here Comes My Baby - Cat Stevens - Rushmore - This song made me like Cat Stevens. That's all I have to say.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Top 5 Kitchen Tools or Appliances

Dan's Top 5:

We needed another off-the-wall list, I think.

1. Can Opener - Let's face it. If you've been hoarding food for the zombie apocalypse and you don't have a can opener, you're royally fucked. Canning is one of the best ways to preserve food, but pretty final if you don't have the means to open the can again. How are you going to eat those Spaghetti-O's if all you have is a screwdriver? Pretty ironic tool to have, since you'd be screwed at that point.

2. Toaster (or Toaster Oven) - I don't really care one way or another if I have a toaster or a toaster oven, because both accomplish the exact same thing: they get my Pop-Tarts warm. Sure, you could pop these in the microwave, but have you ever done that? Pop-Tarts suck if you nuke them. I keep telling myself I'll use the toaster oven for something else, like toasting bread, but first I'll have to load it with strawberry jam, frosting, and sprinkles.

3. Refrigerator/Freezer - Now, the refrigerator is a great appliance, sure. But sometimes you forget what's in there and have to open the door and decide what it is you want to snack on. In my house, the permissibility of this act was a few notches above performing satanic rituals. For a long time I actually did believe that it was possible to let all of the "cold" out of the refrigerator. Now I'm much wiser, and I've finally decided to have an ice cream sandwich.

4. Microwave - I assume this would rank a lot higher on most people's lists, but let's be honest... how often are you truly satisfied with the microwave's results? Everything that you decide to microwave suddenly "tastes microwaved." Also, employs a technology that has the potential to wreak havoc on a city's water supply (see Batman Begins).

5. Electric Mixer - have you ever tried mixing cake mix or cookie dough by hand using a spoon? If you haven't, let me fill you in - it can become a form of self-torture if you're working with something that's thick enough. A lot of whatever you're mixing does tend to get stuck to the beaters, though licking it off tends to be pretty damn good.

Honorable mention: Dishwasher (overrated), Whisk.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Top 5 Songs About Jail/Prison

Tim's Top 5:

I don’t listen to much country music at all, which really limits the opportunity to hear jail-related songs that aren’t from Dr. Dre. Given that limitation, I really like the list that I have here, though I give you liberty to interpret it broadly to include any sort of police custody or punitive conduct by the state.

1) Care of Cell 44 – The Zombies – The opening track from the seminal and all-too-good album Odessey and Oracle [sic], it’s easily the bounciest and cheeriest song you’ll hear about a prison stay.

2) Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash - It’s hard not to put this at #1, but it’s really just too obvious.

3) Mama Tried – Merle Haggard (by way of The Old 97’s) - This is quintessential country storytelling. If there’s a better lesson to be had for parents that 1) their children’s acts aren’t necessarily attributable to them and 2) people who refer to their mother as mama are invariably homicidal maniacs, I’m unaware of it.

4) Jenny Was a Friend Of Mine – The Killers - Clearly the narrator of this song is in police custody for a killing, making it one of the finest police procedural songs in history. If only someone could write a song for the Miranda warnings.

5) Chain Gang – Sam Cooke - Sam Cooke wouldn’t ever serve on a chain gang, since he’d be shot to death before the police would ever get the chance to arrest him. That said, he still captures the basic ethos, if with less emotional weight than Paul Muni.

Honorable mention: “Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley; “Trapped on Death Row” by Dr. Dre; “Prisoners of Love” from The Producers (non-musical version); “Doin’ Time” by Sublime (note: this song actually has nothing to do with jail or prison); “Jail Guitar Doors” by The Clash

Dan's Top 5:

Welcome back, Tim. I was beginning to think we'd lost you. Sucks about your injury, and I hope recovery goes well.

1. The Clash - I Fought The Law - This may even be my favorite Clash song, so I'm really surprised that Tim didn't mention it. My favorite part of the whole song is when the lyrics mention the "six gun" and there are six corresponding snare hits. Green Day deserves to rot in hell for their cover version. Cruel irony that Joe Strummer died first.

2. Dropkick Murphys - The Fields of Athenry - This one is an Irish tune originally from the 70's that documents the oppression exerted by the British on the Irish for attempting to survive during the famine of the late 1840's. Essentially, a man has stolen food and awaits a voyage on a prison ship to Botany Bay, Australia. It's a very sorrowful and reflective tale. So naturally, I feel its best treatment comes at the hands of the Dropkick Murphys. (It also gains points because it's not overplayed, as "Shipping Up To Boston" is)

3. Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues - No explanation needed. If you feel that there is a needed explanation, go watch Walk the Line.

4. The Killers - Jenny Was a Friend of Mine - Tim summed this one up perfectly. I'm really surprised at how well the content of a police interrogation can be put to music. Funny thing is, in all the years that I've listened to this song, I've never once considered the possibility that the narrator could actually have committed the crime.

5. Elvis Presley - Jailhouse Rock - Though Elvis was apparently the king of rock 'n' roll, I've never had an affinity for most of his work. This song is pretty much the lone exception. The conclusion of The Blues Brothers, quite possibly the only good SNL-based movie in history, earns this enough points that it should be higher. But I like the position of my other picks better, and I'm way too lazy to go back and change things.

Ryan's Top 5:

The time for being obvious is now.

1. Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash - "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." Fucking top that.

2. Jailhouse Rock - Elvis Presley - Hello, my name is Ryan, today I write lists for Rolling Stone.

3. Jailbreak - AC/DC - This song, like many of their other songs, kicks ass.

4. Holloway Jail - The Kinks - I love the way the guitar sounds in this song. And I love simple songs where the theme is People-Taking-Babies-Away. See The Ramones' "The KKK Took My Baby Away."

5. Jailbreak - Thin Lizzy - I also like catchy songs. To-NIGHT there's gonna be a jailbreak...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top 5 Overrated Baseball Players

This list was an idea I stole from a Pittsburgh Pirates message board. (Yes, my sports-fan masochism has extended to the point of joining a Pirates message board.) The list is fairly self-explanatory, but I'm limiting it to recent performances and opinions, primarily so that I can include my #4.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Derek Jeter - I firmly believe that there are probably tons of Yankees fans that believe Jeter is still the best player on the Yankees, despite that his OPS is below the league average and worse than five other Yankees. (I can only assume this, as I have never met a Yankees fan.) Mostly, this one is derived from personal animosity more than anything, as I'm sure that Alex Rodriguez is still not getting his deserved admiration from Yankee fans (I've been an A-Rod fan since his Ranger days), and I'm sure half of the women in New York would risk sacrificing their groin muscles in opening their legs quickly enough to let Jeter infect them with his demon seed. And have you seen his defense? Sheesh.

2. Jason Varitek - This stems almost entirely from the fact that he got on the All-Star team this year, which is a point we've already beaten to death (See this post about the All Star Game). But even though it's been beaten to death, there's no point forgetting past atrocities. Like December 7, 1941, when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor. But before I shoot myself for referencing Animal House, I'm reminded of the recent influx of Japanese talent in the majors...

3. Kosuke Fukudome - In addition to being a Pirates fan, I'm also a Cubs fan. (I'll figure out my NL Central loyalties if and when the two teams can compete with each other.) I remember watching the first game of the season, and Fukudome got a perfect batting average for the game, even driving in a 3-RBI homer. It seems like the rest of the season, which has led him to .269/.369/.399 (.768 OPS, which is the league average and a just a hair better than Ryan Theriot), is lost on the Chicago Cubs fans, most of whom still idolize the new Japanese player.

4. Ken Griffey, Jr. - The only reason that Griffey is on this list is because he was just traded to the White Sox. And Mr. Ken Tremendous over at FireJoeMorgan did such an excellent job writing about coverage of that trade that I'll just redirect you to it. Obviously, I think he's a great player in terms of his career - I mean, who else has his name on two different Super Nintendo baseball games? But clearly he can't be playing for too much longer. He had his name on Super Nintendo baseball games, for crying out loud.

5. Eric Gagne - Remember when I was in high school and I was playing my first season of fantasy baseball? Of course you do. That year, I had both Eric Gagne and "Everyday" Eddie Guardado. That's 97 saves, people. So ten saves and a 6.98 ERA this year? You may be saying, "Dan, how can you say he's overrated when everyone knows he's washed up?" Well, he's still being paid to play baseball, so I think he's overrated.

Honorable mention: Can someone hand me the rosters for the Yankees and the Red Sox?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Top 5 Songs on the Top 5 Albums by Your Top 5 Artists

By far the most ambitious project we've undertaken on this blog, but for our 100th post, could you expect anything else? I'm going to assume for the sake of variety that all these lists are personal preferences, lest we get three instances of The Beatles at #1. Of course, if anyone else is trying to fool themselves by being be objective, then by all means.

Dan's Top 5:
I'm pretty satisfied with this list, having included less than ten songs out of 125 that I don't listen to regularly. I was really considering adding Bowie instead of Pink Floyd, but I had called Floyd my favorite for so long in high school, and Bowie is just too hard to whittle down to five albums.

  1. Peter Gabriel

    1. Peter Gabriel 3

      1. Games Without Frontiers

      2. I Don't Remember

      3. Biko

      4. No Self Control

      5. Intruder

    2. So

      1. Sledgehammer

      2. Red Rain

      3. In Your Eyes

      4. Big Time

      5. That Voice Again

    3. Peter Gabriel 4

      1. Shock The Monkey

      2. I Have The Touch

      3. The Rhythm of the Heat

      4. San Jacinto

      5. Lay Your Hands On Me

    4. Us

      1. Secret World

      2. Come Talk To Me

      3. Digging In The Dirt

      4. Blood of Eden

      5. Kiss That Frog

    5. Peter Gabriel

      1. Solsbury Hill (my favorite song ever, and it's on one of his worst albums. Really, Up deserves to be here. But whatever.)

      2. Moribund the Burgermeister

      3. Modern Love

      4. Down the Dolce Vita

      5. Humdrum

  2. Muse

    1. Black Holes and Revelations

      1. Invincible

      2. Knights of Cydonia

      3. Take A Bow

      4. Starlight

      5. Supermassive Black Hole

    2. Absolution

      1. Stockholm Syndrome

      2. Butterflies And Hurricanes

      3. Hysteria

      4. Thoughts of a Dying Atheist

      5. Falling Away With You

    3. Origin of Symmetry

      1. New Born

      2. Plug In Baby

      3. Bliss

      4. Citizen Erased

      5. Micro Cuts

    4. H.A.A.R.P.

      1. Knights of Cydonia (Live)

      2. Butterflies And Hurricanes (Live)

      3. Stockholm Syndrome (Live)

      4. Hysteria (Live)

      5. Invincible (Live)

    5. Showbiz

      1. Showbiz

      2. Falling Down

      3. Cave

      4. Sober

      5. Uno

  3. Radiohead

    1. The Bends

      1. My Iron Lung

      2. Fake Plastic Trees

      3. Street Spirit (Fade Out)

      4. Planet Telex

      5. Just

    2. OK Computer

      1. No Surprises

      2. Airbag

      3. Paranoid Android

      4. Karma Police

      5. Climbing Up The Walls

    3. Hail To The Thief

      1. There There. (The Boney King of Nowhere.)

      2. A Punchup at a Wedding. (No no no no no no no no.)

      3. 2 + 2 = 5 (The Lukewarm.)

      4. Where I End and You Begin. (The Sky is Falling In.)

      5. Go to Sleep. (Little Man Being Erased.)

    4. In Rainbows

      1. Reckoner

      2. Bodysnatchers

      3. Videotape

      4. House of Cards

      5. Weird Fishes/Arpeggi

    5. Kid A - it took me forever to warm up to this album

      1. Optimistic

      2. Everything In Its Right Place

      3. Idioteque

      4. The National Anthem

      5. Morning Bell

  4. Duran Duran

    1. Rio

      1. Hungry Like The Wolf

      2. Rio

      3. Save a Prayer

      4. Hold Back The Rain

      5. The Chauffeur

    2. The Wedding Album

      1. Ordinary World

      2. Come Undone

      3. Too Much Information

      4. Breath After Breath

      5. Love Voodoo

    3. Duran Duran

      1. Planet Earth

      2. Girls on Film

      3. Careless Memories

      4. Night Boat

      5. Anyone Out There

    4. Red Carpet Massacre

      1. Falling Down

      2. Tricked Out

      3. Skin Divers

      4. Nite Runner

      5. Red Carpet Massacre

    5. Seven And The Ragged Tiger

      1. The Reflex

      2. The Union Of The Snake

      3. New Moon On Monday

      4. Of Crime and Passion (OK, I don't listen to these last two at all. But what am I going to do, say I like Medazzaland?)

      5. The Seventh Stranger

  5. Pink Floyd

    1. The Dark Side of the Moon

      1. Brain Damage

      2. Eclipse

      3. Time

      4. Us And Them

      5. Money

    2. The Wall

      1. Comfortably Numb

      2. Run Like Hell

      3. Nobody Home

      4. Another Brick In The Wall, Part 2

      5. Mother

    3. Wish You Were Here

      1. Wish You Were Here

      2. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts I - V)

      3. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI - IX)

      4. Have A Cigar

      5. Welcome To The Machine

    4. Animals

      1. Sheep

      2. Pigs (Three Different Ones)

      3. Dogs

      4. Pigs On The Wing (Part One)

      5. Pigs On The Wing (Part Two)

    5. Meddle

      1. Echoes

      2. One Of These Days

      3. Fearless

      4. A Pillow Of Winds

      5. San Tropez (I hate this song, but I hate "Seamus" even more.)

Ryan's Top A Lot:

  1. The Beatles

    1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

      1. A Day in the Life (again this song pops up in the #1 spot, maybe it IS my favorite song of all-time, I just don't realize it...)

      2. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

      3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

      4. Getting Better

      5. Good Morning Good Morning

    2. Abbey Road

      1. Here Comes the Sun

      2. The End

      3. I Want You (She's So Heavy)

      4. Because

      5. You Never Give Me Your Money (note: ranking these was very difficult, esp. due to my refusal to consider the medley one song...otherwise the medley should be anyone's #1) (other note: Mean Mr. Mustard sounds like it could actually be on Nilsson's "The Point!")

    3. Magical Mystery Tour

      1. I Am The Walrus

      2. Strawberry Fields Forever

      3. All You Need Is Love

      4. Hello, Goodbye (my dad's favorite, incidentally)

      5. Penny Lane

    4. The Beatles (White Album)

      1. Happiness is a Warm Gun

      2. Helter Skelter

      3. Dear Prudence (I freely admit I have problems ranking #s 2 and 3, see the White Album list and the Top 5 Beatles songs list)

      4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

      5. Back in the U.S.S.R.

    5. Revolver

      1. Eleanor Rigby

      2. Yellow Submarine

      3. Taxman

      4. Got To Get You Into My Life

      5. And Your Bird Can Sing (whew--I don't know what I was expecting with this list, but it is definitely proving a lot more difficult than planned... If The Beatles was that hard, I worry about the projects to come...)

  2. Harry Nilsson

    1. The Point!

      1. Me and My Arrow

      2. Think About Your Troubles (note: so damn good)

      3. Everything's Got 'Em

      4. Poli High

      5. Life Line

    2. Aerial Ballet

      1. Everybody's Talkin'

      2. Good Old Desk (a personal favorite...oh, right, we're doing a list about this)

      3. Don't Leave Me (excellent scat)

      4. Daddy's Song

      5. One (not really one of my favorite songs, but still good...see Coconut below...I originally ranked Nilsson Schmilsson above Aerial Ballet, until I realized this was simply not the case; anyway, I typed up the rant about Coconut before this rant. I'll stop now.)

    3. Nilsson Schmilsson

      1. The Moonbeam Song

      2. Gotta Get Up

      3. Without You (really overdone, but this song is still good, damn it)

      4. Jump Into The Fire

      5. Coconut (admittedly not my favorite Nilsson song, but still a good song...I've downgraded it to 5...this song mainly irritates me because whenever you do a search for Nilsson, anywhere--google, limewire, etc.--this is the first song to pop up. I mean, Nilsson had so many better songs than this one. Meh, whatever.)

    4. Harry

      1. I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City

      2. The Puppy Song

      3. Mother Nature's Son (per wiki, this was the Beatles' favorite cover of one of their songs)

      4. Mr. Bojangles

      5. Nobody Cares About The Railroads Anymore

    5. Pandemonium Shadow Show

      1. 1941

      2. Sleep Late, My Lady Friend

      3. Without Her

      4. Cuddly Toy (hmm, here's some random Nilsson song titles: cuddly toy, the puppy song, good old desk, the moonbeam many ways he appeals to the 4-year-old in me)

      5. You Can't Do That

  3. Ben Folds/Five (nuts to you if you think this is cheating)

    1. Whatever and Ever Amen

      1. Brick

      2. One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces

      3. Evaporated

      4. The Battle Of Who Could Care Less

      5. Kate

    2. Ben Folds Five

      1. Alice Childress

      2. Philosophy

      3. Jackson Cannery

      4. Boxing

      5. Julianne

    3. Rockin' the Suburbs

      1. Still Fighting It

      2. Not The Same

      3. The Luckiest

      4. Zak and Sara

      5. Annie Waits

    4. Naked Baby Photos (this is a compilation CD of previously unreleased tracks, but it has my two favorite BFF songs on it, so I have to include it...see #s 1-2)

      1. Eddie Walker

      2. Emaline

      3. Underground (the best version of it)

      4. For Those Of Y'All Who Wear Fanny Packs

      5. Twin Falls

    5. Songs for Silverman

      1. Landed

      2. Time

      3. Prison Food

      4. Bastard

      5. Late (the first of two tributes to Elliot Smith to appear on this list...see BDB below)

  4. Badly Drawn Boy

    1. One Plus One Is One

      1. Four Leaf Clover

      2. Year of the Rat

      3. Fewer Words (the other tribute to E.S.)

      4. Logic Of A Friend

      5. One Plus One Is One

    2. About A Boy

      1. Something To Talk About

      2. A Minor Incident

      3. Silent Sigh

      4. I Love N.Y.E.

      5. Donna and Blitzen

    3. The Hour of the Bewilderbeast

      1. The Shining

      2. Disillusion

      3. Once Around The Block

      4. Pissing In The Wind

      5. Everybody's Stalking (this song does not sound like a BDB song)

    4. Born in the U.K.

      1. Born in the U.K.

      2. The Time of Times

      3. Journey from A to B

      4. Degrees of Separation

      5. Promises

    5. Have You Fed The Fish?

      1. You Were Right

      2. Born Again

      3. Have You Fed The Fish?

      4. All Possibilities

      5. The Further I Slide

  5. John Lennon (solo career)

    1. Imagine

      1. Imagine

      2. Oh Yoko!

      3. Jealous Guy

      4. How Do You Sleep? (or, "Suck it McCartney!")

      5. Oh My Love

    2. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band

      1. God

      2. Working Class Hero (he says "fuck" twice. Cool.)

      3. Mother

      4. Isolation (hey, according to wiki, this is one of Roger Waters' favorite songs of all-time)

      5. Remember (man this song takes me back to my Lennon obsession in high school)

    3. Mind Games

      1. Meat City

      2. Mind Games (as sung by Kevin Spacey.) (maybe not.)

      3. Tight A$

      4. Aisumasen (I'm Sorry)

      5. Bring on the Lucie (Freeda People)

    4. Double Fantasy

      1. Watching the Wheels

      2. (Just Like) Starting Over

      3. Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) (has "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans" in it)

      4. Woman

      5. I'm Losing You

    5. Rock 'n' Roll

      1. Stand By Me

      2. Be-Bop-A-Lula

      3. Rip It Up/Ready Teddy

      4. Ain't That A Shame

      5. Peggy Sue

Tim's Top 5:

Given that the formatting would take forever, in part because I'm down to typing with six fingers and because it's blurring lines together, I'm forsaking it for now.

I. The Beatles –

A. Abbey Road
1. Polythene Pam
2. Something
3. Here Comes The Sun
4. You Never Give Me Your Money
5. Golden Slumbers

B. Revolver
1. Taxman
2. Tomorrow Never Knows
3. She Said She Said
4. Eleanor Rigby
5. Got to Get You Into My Life

C. Rubber Soul
1. Run For Your Life
2. In My Life
3. Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)
4. You Won’t See Me
5. The Word

D. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
1. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)
2. A Day in the Life
3. Lovely Rita
4. Getting Better
5. Good Morning Good Morning

E. A Hard Day’s Night
1. Things We Said Today
2. Can’t Buy Me Love
3. A Hard Day’s Night
4. You Can’t Do That
5. If I Fell

II. Pearl Jam –

A. Yield
1. Faithful
2. Wish List
3. In Hiding
4. Given To Fly
5. Brain of J.

B. Vs.
1. Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In A Small Town
2. Rearviewmirror
3. Glorified G
4. Daughter
5. Animal

C. Riot Act
1. Save You
2. Love Boat Captain
3. I Am Mine
4. Thumbing My Way
5. Can’t Keep

D. Vitalogy
1. Corduroy
2. Not For You
3. Spin the Black Circle
4. Last Exit
5. Immortality

E. Pearl Jam
1. Life Wasted
2. Gone
3. World Wide Suicide
4. Come Back
5. Severed Hand

III. Bruce Springsteen –

A. Born to Run
1. Thunder Road
2. Born to Run
3. Backstreets
4. Jungleland
5. Tenth Avenue Freeze Out

B. The Rising
1. Lonesome Day
2. The Rising
3. Worlds Apart
4. Into the Fire
5. Mary’s Place

C. Darkness on the Edge of Town
1. The Promised Land
2. Darkness on the Edge of Town
3. Prove It All Night
4. Badlands
5. Adam Raised a Cain

D. Born In The U.S.A.
1. No Surrender
2. Darlington County
3. My Hometown
4. Bobby Jean
5. Glory Days

E. The River
1. The Ties That Bind
2. Independence Day
3. The River
4. You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)
5. Out in the Street

IV. Elliott Smith

A. Figure 8
1. Stupidity Tries
2. Son of Sam
3. Everything Reminds Me Of Her
4. Pretty Mary K
5. Junk Bond Trader

B. Either/Or
1. Ballad of Big Nothing
2. Pictures of Me
3. Speed Trials
4. Between the Bars
5. Alameda

1. Waltz #2 (XO)
2. Bled White
3. Independence Day
4. Baby Britain
5. Bottle Up and Explode!

D. From A Basement on a Hill
1. Pretty (Ugly Before)
2. Coast to Coast
3. A Distorted Reality Is Now A Necessity To Be Free
4. A Fond Farewell
5. Shooting Star

E. Roman Candle
1. No Name #1
2. Condor Ave.
3. No Name #3
4. Roman Candle
5. Last Call

V. Guided by Voices

A. Mag Earwhig!
1. I Am A Tree
2. Jane of the Waking Universe
3. Portable Men’s Society
4. Can’t Hear the Revolution
5. Bulldog Skin

B. Isolation Drills
1. The Brides Have Hit Glass
2. Fair Touching
3. Twilight Campfighter
4. Skills Like This
5. Chasing Heather Crazy

C. Bee Thousand
1. Tractor Rape Chain
2. Echos Myron
3. Smothered in Hugs
4. I Am A Scientist
5. Gold Star For Robot Boy

D. Alien Lanes
1. Game of Pricks
2. Watch Me Jumpstart
3. A Salty Salute
4. Blimps Go 90
5. My Valuable Hunting Knife

E. Under the Bushes Under the Stars
1.Cut Out Witch
2. Don’t Stop Now
3. The Official Ironman Rallying Song
4. Underwater Explosions
5. Your Name Is Wild

Friday, July 25, 2008

Top 5 Nonexistent Bands (That You Wanted to Start)

OK. This is a bit of an awkward list, and I referenced it in my Beatles top 5. It's a bit surreal (as far as this blog is concerned,) but I hope most people can relate. The idea behind it is through the course of listening to music (and writing) one dreams about the bands they could be in. So, it's the top five bands you personally wanted to start (whether through producing them, being the front man as a guitarist, vocalist, whatever.)

Tory's Top 5:

1. The Unnameable - This is my most recent idea, and a band I would actually like to start. I have written plenty of lyrics for it, but it's a matter of finding a couple of guys to go along with everything it deals with. Prog-rock by the simplest definition, but as far as the myspace heading would be it would read Prog Rock / Blues / Folk. The lyrics are mostly topical in nature ie political (Rage Against the Machine being the biggest influence here,) Religious (my own beliefs,) and environmental (my fear of global warming is a big influence here. To list the influences would be too long of a top 5.

2. Tory Fox, All By Himself - For the majority of my writing life, the sonsg I have written have been in the nature of love songs. The biggest influences of thie sband are Bright Eyes and Damien Rice, with a couple other acoustic/singer-songwriter musicians there. The idea behind the band is noted in the title. Me. All by myself with an acoustic guitar and that is all. This band could legitimately take off if I were to learn how to play the guitar well.

3. Awaiting the Moment - This isn't a band that I myself wanted to actually participate in. However, it is a band that I did want to produce. Originally they were created when I first discovered how to make a webpage with geocities. I was there biggest fan, and no one else in high school knew about them. I made sure that everyone heard of them (because hearing them was an impossibility.) The website may still be up: On just checking, no it isn't up. Shucks. This local Va Beach hardcore band (originally from Kansas before relocating) did make it into the script of a mockumentary with them as the stars.

4. untitled band - This band never actually made it to the naming part, but the whole theory behind the band was constructed. Lyrically, the band's influences draw from Slipknot and other death metal bands - essentially really violent songs about murder and whatnot. Musically, the band was going to be an amalgum of distorted 7-string guitars, acoustic guitars, scratchboards, keyboards, synths and of course precussion. They were classified as nu-emo death-electro.

5. Slaves on Strike - Another band that didn't make it too far. It was going to be a band heavily influenced by Rage Against the Machine. As the name says it is obviously a politics-driven band. The singing style was up in the air, as a rap-rock mentality would've been straight stealing from RATM. The farthest I did get with this band was the CD cover art of the first album Geurillas In the Streets. This was the epitome of my Angry White Boy phase.

Dan's Top 5:

1. Me, Huy, and Matt - Basically, two friends and I wanted to make really, really good music based around songwriting, a la Radiohead or Ambulance LTD. We probably had the talent, and we definitely had the drive. The only problem was we had scheduling problems with Matt, who was constantly working. Matt especially gets bonus points because he's actually British, which would have guaranteed our success.

2. Rex Bedlam - This is actually the first and only band I was actually in. It did get started, obviously, so I feel I shouldn't put it at #1. I played bass, and we had a really talented songwriter, lead guitarist, and keyboardist. And whoever was our drummer was usually pretty talented too, but because of scheduling problems with him, the band fell apart just as things were starting to take off. If we ever reunite, though, you'd be best to come to one of our gigs. God knows how many there will be.

3. All Kinds Of Gravity - This is actually a very good Blacksburg band that exists. (Check them out on Myspace.) I co-judged the Rock Music Club's Battle of the Bands in the Spring semester, and this band won it all, including help towards recording a demo. I include them here because of their unique sound - it's something that I would like to try to capture as a producer/engineer, and I suspect that whoever's in the studio behind the mixing board isn't doing it right. I was there from their first gig.

4. Quality Jones - Essentially, this is the band that I want to lead, and this is the band name that I will use. I'm still not even sure whether I'll play bass or guitar, but I will be the primary songwriter. Currently, thanks to how awesome Muse is, I would probably try to take it in the direction of progressive rock, with some additional songwriting kudos to my old heroes Pink Floyd.

5. Phoenix 17 - Another band name from when I was first learning guitar and coming up with my own riffs. Looking back on them, the song ideas were pretty simplistic and not that entertaining, so it would be safe to say that this band would suck. However, the guitar tone would be amazing.

Honorable Mention: I guess if I were an acoustic singer/songwriter.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 5 Beatles Songs

An epic list to end all lists--this is what this blog was made for. We are through the looking glass here, people.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. "A Day in the Life" - Sgt. Pepper - I'm not convinced this is my personal favorite (though it very well could be), but this song really is The Beatles at their absolute best. Revolutionary pop rock sounds and the utter cohesion of Lennon (esoteric lyrics--"He blew his mind out in a car..." I don't care if it's taken from a newspaper, it's still creepy sounding) and McCartney (simpler pop lyrics--"I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head..."). They were masters of the crescendo, and this song has not one, but two, count 'em, two.

2. "Dear Prudence" - The Beatles (The White Album) - Speaking of crescendos... A great song with some rather simple lyrics--just trying to get someone to come out and play. Ruined in a totally useless scene in the movie "Across the Universe."

3. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" - The Beatles (The White Album) - Like I've said before about this song, I'm a sucker for irony. You've got to love the title; it sounds like a Kilgore Trout short story. And the doo-wop background singers (Bang bang, shoot shoot!)... I could go on, but it would just be rambling. I really, really like this song.

4. "Here Comes the Sun" - Abbey Road - I think Eric Idle said it best. I remember seeing him on VH-1 on one of the myriad documentaries about The Beatles (I forget which); he named this song as his favorite song. I can't find the quote online, but his point was that, if we could all hear this song every morning when we woke up, the world would be a much happier place. I concur.

5. "Across the Universe" - Let it Be - Another feel-good song, so 4 almost cancels out 5 (probably in favor of "I Am The Walrus"). But so what? This is what The Beatles excelled at. So feh, non-existent complainers of my wacky self-imposed ranking rules! Feh!

Honorable Mentions: "I Am The Walrus," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "Penny Lane," "All You Need Is Love," "Revolution," "Let It Be," "Eleanor Rigby," "Helter Skelter," and OK, "Hey Jude."

Dan's Top 5:

I agree that this is an epic list, but I certainly hope it's not the "list to end all lists." Let's just say we're blowing the lid off this mug. I've also noticed that your list comprises only later Beatles songs. Interesting strategy.

1. "Dear Prudence" from The Beatles - I'm not entirely sure why I like this song. Actually, that's a lie. I like the song for the cyclical guitar riff. I mean, there are other things to like about the song, such as the childlike simplicity and the lyrics. Yet, all that's needed to gain my affection is a musical hook that repeats endlessly. Perhaps that's why I was so late to join the Beatles camp - it's not what they're known for.

2. "Hey Jude" (released as a single) - Many in music critic-dom will claim that this is one of the best rock songs ever written, or it may even top their lists at #1. Given that this song has so much love from everyone else in the world, I (a) don't feel the need to put it at #1, as my list likely won't mean shit to anyone, and (b) do need to include it, as its omission would be an affront to the Beatles.

3. "Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)" from Rubber Soul - Okay, so for my criticism of Ryan's list not featuring any earlier songs, this is the only early song that my list has to show for it. It's hard to decide between this song and "In My Life," though I prefer this song for its imagery. "In My Life" is a bit too introspective to include here.

4. "I Am The Walrus" from Magical Mystery Tour - If #3 suggested that I like imagery, this seals the deal. Essentially a massive drug trip for those of us who haven't been fortunate enough to take LSD, this is the Finnegan's Wake of Beatles songs. What I do love is the chord structure behind Lennon's ramblings, as the beginning and the end of the chord progression mesh perfectly. It's a neverending circular song that could theoretically have go on forever. Just listen to the repetitive ending and you'll hear that there's no resolution.

5. "Happiness is a Warm Gun" from The Beatles - What I love about this song is the use of multiple parts. (I'm also a sucker for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and Radiohead's "Paranoid Android.") The only reason it ranks so low on the list is because it's been tainted by the film Bowling for Columbine. It was a good movie, but it's like seeing songs by The Who being used as the openings to episodes of CSI: Whatever-City-We're-In. Some songs are just holy and should never be touched. This is such a song.

Honorable Mention: Just about every other song I've heard, but particularly "Across the Universe," "Revolution," "Yesterday," "Blackbird," "In My Life," and a ton of others that I can't remember off the top of my head and would likely exhaust my fingers trying to type out.

Tory's Top 5:

OK. This list is going to be difficult, but I will do it because I have an awesome list that I hope everyone can relate to. Now, even though this list will be hard, I really mean numbers 2-5 are going to be difficult to place...

1. Rocky Raccoon from The Rocky Raccoon Single - I only assume that is the album it's from. It might also be on the White Album, but I'm pretty sure that was the hit single from said album.

2. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da The White Album - There aren't too many songs at all (whether by the beatles or not) that make you feel like nothing is wrong at all in the world, even when a lot of things have gone to shit.

3. Yesterday Help - This was one of my favorite songs of all time for a really long time. I still like it a lot though, and it's brilliant because it's really only about 4-8 lines sung over the course of 2 and half minutes. But it still holds an incredible sense of depth.

4. I've Just Seen A Face Help - I never heard this song until that travesty Across the Universe was made, but the introduction of this song is enough to allow that pretentious piece of shit exist (unless there was some other way for me to be introduced to this song, in which case, let that film fuck itself.) Either way, I'm realizing that Help was a pretty good alubm with these past two entries.

5. Girl Rubber Soul - I'm a big fan of really depressing songs, and this has got to be in that top 5 for beatles songs too. It's also got some unbelievable unobstruced vocals to start the song off.

Honorable Mentions: Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Let It Be, Norwegian Wood (I suppose Rubber Soul was pretty good too,) While My Guitar Gently Weeps.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Top 5 Songs For a Monday Morning

(Note for Ryan and Tim - After trying to scan old posts, I've noticed now that it's better if the individual entries are bolded - along with "[name]'s Top 5:" and "Honorable Mentions" - to better set the important text apart from the commentary. I propose we use this format from now on, especially since it's easier to put the html in.)

Another list idea borrowed from High Fidelity. I'm unsure what criteria I want to use to judge whether a song is good for a Monday morning. I think personally, it's going to be (a) a personal extra-favorite, and (b) something that's uplifting or powerful in some fashion. Really, these are the songs I use to feel good and be thankful that I know how to find music I like. Ryan and Tim can use alternate criteria for your own lists.

Dan's Top 5:

1. "All Around The World" - Oasis - This is pure sunshine somehow harvested and stored in musical form. I'm just waiting for that point at 5:34 when they break into that "Laaaa la la, la La la, la La la la La-La Laaaaa." At that precise moment, it's like balloons and confetti are raining down on me, and I should probably be having some psychedelic drug experience that made hippies claim the word "love" as their own. If it's in my car, then I have the volume cranked and I'm singing/shouting along. God help anyone who happens to be in the passenger seat.

2. "Stockholm Syndrome" - Muse - The best Muse song ever if Black Holes and Revelations didn't exist. To see this song played live is a real treat, and it's usually their last song. Accomplishes both being uplifting (the piano arpeggiation behind the lyrics, "This is the last time I'll abandon you") and extreme, powerful, ass-kicking (literally every other moment of the song.) If only I had discovered Muse between the release of Absolution and Black Holes and Revelations, then I probably would have listened to this song every single day, while constantly being blown away. Wait, no... that's what I did anyway.

3. "My Iron Lung" - Radiohead - This used to be my favorite Radiohead song ever, but now the spot is disputed. Anyway, I feel this is a superb example of balancing a simple, quiet, melodic two-chord verse with a raw study of ass-kickery in the chorus. It also scores bonus points because it was the band's follow-up to "Creep" from the prior debut album, and the lyrics reflect how the success of that single had constrained their creativity ("this is our new song / just like the last one / a total waste of time / my iron lung"). Creep is alright, but I hate it for being the atypical signature song that people identify with this band.

4. "Everyone's a V.I.P. to Someone" - The Go! Team - I remember putting "uplifting" as a possible criterion for populating this list, so I realized that I just had to include a Go! Team song. At first, I was averse to this song because it was introduced with the banjo, but then I realized that I don't hate the banjo, just a majority of music that features it. I now regard this as one of the best feelgood instrumental tracks I know of, possibly even better than "Feelgood By Numbers," ironically, which is on the same album.

5. "Novacane" - Beck - "Monkey, baby!" This is one of my favorite badass songs, and probably should have been included back when we did Top 5 Songs to Blast While Driving. When the song peaks at "NOVACANE!" you feel like you could probably punch or shoot something. You know, one of those faux-badass moments. However, the energy isn't sustained, and the song quickly settles back down for the bizarre effects-laden outro, which really takes away from the force of the song.

Honorable Mentions: "Sabotage" - The Beastie Boys, "Feelgood by Numbers" - The Go Team, "The Number of the Beast" - Iron Maiden, "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" - R.E.M., "A Town Called Malice" - The Jam, "Invincible" - Muse, "The Infanta" - The Decemberists

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top 5 Flight of the Conchords Songs

This was an idea I had a while back. At first I thought this would be too difficult to do--how do you rate these jokes against those jokes? It's impossible to be objective. Then I thought: when the hell has that ever stopped me before?

Ryan's Top 5:

1. "Bret, You Got It Going On" - Episode 6 of FOTC is to episode 4 of The Office (UK) as this song is to "Free Love Freeway." (That analogy vaguely makes sense, try not to think about it too much.) Anyway, I know every word of this song and must complete the entire thing whenever I think of any line. It wouldn't be much fun to talk about it, so just watch. I just laid there and spooned you...

2. "I'm Not Crying" - It's just been raining... on my face. Again, just watch it.

3. "Pencils in the Wind (Sellotape)" - "Another way that love is similar to tape... that I've noticed..." "And people are like paper dolls / Paper dolls and people, they're a similar shape." Every other line is good, too.

4. "If You're Into It" - The best love song ever written? You decide.

5. "Think About It" - A smorgasbord of hilarity. I think my favorite line is: "What's wrong with the world today? Nah-say-nah-say-neigh-neigh-neigh..." But, again, everything else is great.

Honorable mentions: Every other song, Business Time, Inner City Pressure, Leggy Blonde, Mutha'uckas, Robots, Albi the Racist Dragon, The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room, etc.

Tim's Top 5:
Well, it was bound to happen someday. Dan and I must have been editing at the same time, so it's a good thing I typed it elsewhere.

This list would have forced me to just re-watch every episode of the show, but I lent my copy to a friend to do my part proselytize Flight of the Conchords. So we'll have to make do with the two CDs, Ryan's list, and my memory to get us through.

1. "If You're Into It" - Sure, part of it makes me think of another HBO classic track "Double Team" from Tenacious D, but Jemaine's deep-as-Barry-White voice makes this an unmatchable classic for me.

2. "The Most Beautiful Girl (in the room)" - You could be a waitress, an air hostess from the '60s, or a part-time model (but you'd have to keep your normal job). And depending on the street, you're probably in the top 3. Nothing says romance like hedging to achieve honesty.

3. "Robots" - Two words -- Binary solo. That's not the only thing I love about this song, but I love it so much I couldn't possibly move this song down any more. "We no longer say yes, instead, we say affirmative." Like most of the songs, there's a couple different versions, so choose for yourself the TV version or the full version. Well, there's no more elephants.

4. "Think About It" - This song asks the timeless question "Why are we still paying so much for sneakers when they're made by little slave kids? What are your overheads?" It really makes the existence of the Black-Eyed Peas song "Where is the love" worthwhile.

5. "Bret, You Got It Going On" - Read Ryan's post, I'm too lazy to add more.

Honorable mention: "Not Crying", "Inner City Pressure", "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros", "Pencils in the Wind (Sellotape)"

Dan's Top 5:

More importantly, Ryan, since when have we ever tried to be objective?

1. "Sellotape (Pencils in the Wind)" - A song not only about love, but also racial tolerance. Clearly the best part of this song is the end chorus. "Brown paper, white paper, stickin' together with the tape, the tape of love."

2. "Inner City Pressure" - A classic song about the hardships of trying to make it in the city. "You know you're not in high finance, considering secondhand underpants." (Youtube link)

3. "Business Time" - The sexiest song ever about boring, mundane sex. "You know when I'm down to my socks, it's time for business; that's why they call them business socks, ooh!" (Youtube link)

4. "Bowie" - I'm still amazed at how well they're able to impersonate Bowie in this song. Of course, the lyrics aren't nearly as funny as other songs. "Bet you do, you freaky old bastard, you." (Youtube link)

5. "Goodbye Leggy Blonde" - Murray's shining moment about lost potential for love. "I'll never get to tear your clothes off on the photocopier." (Youtube link)

Tory's List

I am going to do a top five. And maybe another. And maybe... another.

1. Bret, You've Got It Goin' On - Hilarious. The funniest song I've ever heard by a non-Tenacious D entity.

2. I'm Not Crying - This song makes the list almost solely for it's intro: "If you wanted to break my heart / you're plan was flawed from the start / it's liquid / it melted when I saw you." P.S. That is half quote - half paraphrasing.

3. Jenny - This one is a bit of a technicality since it's not in the show. I did double check the title of the post and doesn't say anything about songs from the show, so I am putting this unbelievable song (which can be heard on their One Night Stand HBO show - they open with it.) It's hard to quote a song that is seven minutes long, but it's about a girl named Jenny who sees someone she met once, but he doesn't remember her quite as well. "'We talked about how the lights from the buildings and cars / seemed like reflections of the stars / that shined out so pretty and brght / that night' / ... / 'It was daytime.' / ... / 'The daytime... of the night.'"

4. Prince of Parties - This selection was a mixture of both I like the song and wanting to be different. Granted, the lyrics are not what solely takes the cake. The entire concept behind this song from it's context in the show to it's video are what make me love it so much.

5. She-Wolf - Cold-hearted bitch, diggin a ditch

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Top 5 Most Hopeless Franchises in the NBA, NFL, and MLB

The three big ones--in other words, screw hockey. I was feeling another sports Top 5.

Ryan's Top 5:

1. Washington Nationals - The Nationals have a long way to go. Cristian Guzman currently is their best offensive player, Lastings Milledge has the team lead in RBI (followed by Jesus Flores), and their pitching is scant. It's harder to turn around a franchise in baseball than in the NBA and NFL, so the Nationals get the nod over the teams to follow. They continue to employ Jim Bowden.

2. Miami Dolphins - The NFL is the league of parity, but you need some parts before that can happen. The Dolphins need way too much magic to happen at too many positions for them to become good. For starters they need one of their quarterbacks to become good, and by good I mean decent, and by decent I mean mediocre, like, better than Rex Grossman. I don't know if that can happen.

3. Memphis Grizzlies - This is probably a bit high, now that I think about it, I mean they do have that Spanish force in the low-post... oh no wait, they traded him to the Lakers for a can of beans. Yeah, you're going to need an inside presence to compete in the Western Conference. So they draft one (Kevin Love) and trade him away (for OJ Mayo). I just don't see it happening for a while, guys.

4. New York Knicks - The Celtics proved you can turn around a horrible team pretty quick in the NBA. That said, you need to have the parts to pull off trades like that. There's talk of them getting LeBron James in a couple years. OK, so, James goes from a Cleveland team with a poor supporting cast to a New York team with a worse supporting cast? Great, the Knicks will be able to make the playoffs in the wacky all-inclusive NBA and get beat in the first round. They need to make a play for an inside guy.

5. Seattle Mariners - Richie Sexson sucks. Jeremy Reed sucks. Kenji Johjima sucks. Adrian Beltre sucks. Carlos Silva sucks. Jarrod Washburn sucks. R.A. Dickey really sucks. Erik Bedard is getting paid way too much money. Etc. OK, they have money so they probably have a decent-ish shot of turning it around, but still, they deserve mention, because they really suck.

Honorable mentions: Kansas City Chiefs (as long as Carl Petersen is around, who knows what's going to happen...oh, right everyone--we're going to lose. Brodie Croyle does not inspire confidence and Larry Johnson is still owed too much money), Atlanta Falcons, Los Angeles Clippers, Atlanta Braves (I hate the Braves), Denver Broncos (Jay Cutler sucks)

Dan's Top 5:

1. The Pittsburgh Pirates - The worst thing that Barry Bonds ever did (beyond steroid abuse and leaving an irreparable stain on the entire game) was kill the Pirates. Since the very early 90's, the Pirates haven't had a winning season - that's 15 straight years under .500. This season, from what I can tell, Nady and McLouth have led the Pirates to their best first half in years, and they're still 41-47 (only one game ahead of last place). If they manage to have another losing season, they'll have broken the record. After my Cubs win a World Series - which may even happen this year - The Pirates are becoming my new masochist-fan team.

2. The Oakland Raiders - Remember the last time the Raiders were good? Yeah, me neither. I was too busy graduating from high school. I do remember them having Jerry Rice, the greatest receiver in the game's history, and still falling short. The only thing that keeps this team alive are the crazy, god-awful Raiders Fans. They are like cockroaches. Over the past five seasons, the team hasn't achieved more than 5 wins, so I equate that to about two nuclear blasts. But the fans are still there. Only good thing about the Raiders? DeAngelo Hall. And that's a personal bonus more than anything.

3. Seattle Supersonics - Quite literally a hopeless franchise, as the team is packing its bags - borrowed from the Expos - and are headed to glorious Oklahoma City. About the only good thing they have going for them is Kevin Durant, who doesn't seem to be enough to get the team to even break .250. Have fun trying to climb out of the league's basement and win fans in a new location at the same time.

4. Washington Nationals - Man, this team blows. Good thing I hate them.

5. Atlanta Falcons - Really, I think that if they just sort out the quarterback position and adjust their game plan into something that isn't Vick-centric, they should be able to do moderately well. Their place here is more of a testament to how reliant they were on a single player. Perhaps they should take a page from modern businesses and do background checks on their players before they sign them. It could have saved a lot of money in Michael Vick merchandise that has to be burned.

Tim's Top 5:

Might as well start where we all know I’m going to start –

1. Cincinnati Bengals – This team was great enough to make the playoffs once in the last 17 years, and on their first offensive play, Carson Palmer goes down with a knee injury. They have been in defensive rebuilding mode since…Tim Krumrie broke his leg and haven’t been able to draft impact players because they’re too busy replacing injured players (Chris Perry’s hurt? Draft Kenny Irons in the second round!), suspended players (way to go, Odell Thurman and Chris Henry), players threatening to hold out (We’ll show Chad Johnson, we’ll replace him with three rookies) or shitty players (everyone else). The good news is that the team is one step from returning to playoff contention. Unfortunately, that step is going to be really difficult, since there’s not that many elevator shafts that owner Mike Brown could fall into.

2. New York Knicks – Because of basketball’s funky salary cap, it’s hard for teams to make an impact via free agency, and it’s hard for any team that allows Isiah Thomas to run things to make any positive impact in anything. They had the highest payroll in the game, going way over the salary cap – a fact that I don’t even comprehend because of the NBA’s bizarre salary structure that says "Hey, Rashard Lewis…we have a salary cap, we can only pay you $20 million a year."

3. Washington Nationals – Ryan was spot on, this team isn’t going anywhere (in the standings), and it has no reason to, because it has no fans -- which is why they will be going somewhere (sorry, DC...). They threw a huge marketing campaign behind Nick Johnson and Dmitri Young. That tells you all you need to know about how bad this team was at the season’s outset – the players they considered their best…played the same position. Nick Johnson’s hurt again, Austin Kearns has scuffled all season, Milledge is okay, but nothing special. Really, all this team has to be excited about is Elijah Dukes playing adequately in recent weeks to give them a left fielder, and the team’s impending move to Las Vegas in 2018.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates – At least the Royals have cracked .500 in the last 15 years. Once. This team was supposed to be founded on a great young rotation – Duke, Snell, Maholm, Gorzelanny, … and who the hell cares who the fifth starter is! Did you read who the first four aces were? I’m not saying wrap up the World Series trophy…I’m saying pack it in foam, we have four young pitchers who can dominate games and turn this team around. Or…one (or fewer) of them is decent in any given season and they don’t pitch well until the team’s completely eliminated from contention for .500. This was one of the most loaded teams in baseball circa 1990. Since Drabek, Bonds, and Bonilla left via free agency, they’ve replaced none of them. Interesting fact – of the four pitchers I identified above, only one has a WHIP below 1.55 – Paul “Ten Finger” Maholm with a 1.31.

5. Chicago Bears – This team is a shambles. Their defense sucked last season, they chose the wrong running back in Cedric Benson, the wrong quarterback in Rex Grossman (or Kyle Orton), and their defense was awful last year too. They may still finish with a decent record, but that’s because they play in the dreadful NFC North. They make the list primarily because their hopelessness is so remarkable considering where the team was a year or two ago and because I want to dance on their grave, rather than the Arizona Cardinals, who mean nothing to me.

Honorable mention: Houston Astros – they put all their weight behind winning this year, trading a boatload of players for Miguel Tejada and dealing Brad Lidge for magic beans. They’re not going to win this year, so their team’s just getting older; Minnesota Timberwolves – before looking them up, I could name one player on their team – Rodney Carney, who was just traded to them by the Sixers; Carolina Panthers – who are hopeless only at meeting expectations, considering that every other year they’re supposed to be an amazing team and then they finish second or third in a really terrible division; Cincinnati Reds – they hired Dusty Baker. Enough said.; New England Patriots – sorry. I read 'hopeless' as 'shameless'.