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Archive for July, 2008

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Cool T-Shirts

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

I’ve seen ads for a site called BustedTees.com in lots of places, but never really looked through their product line.  Some of the stuff is pretty hilarious.

Here are my favorites. If you want to buy the T-Shirt, click on the image.

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 3 Comments »

It’s Time for Another JibJab Cartoon

Friday, July 18th, 2008

The boys at JibJab have done it again:

Send a JibJab Sendables® eCard Today!

When this aired on The Today Show Wednesday morning, Matt Lauer said this:

There are about ten things in there that you just can’t get away with, except for the fact that it’s equal opportunity on both sides.

For my money, that’s the sign of a successful satire. Well done, guys. Again.

(Hey – did I mention they used to live two doors down from me about 25 years ago? Quite the brush with celebrity, if I dare say so myself…)

Categories: Political Rantings, Random Acts of Blogging | No Comments »

What Lies (are) Ahead for Obama?

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Here’s an article from the front page of today’s New York Times (New York City edition):

Sorry it’s so small.  The Times’ website used to publish full PDF’s of their front page, now it’s a smaller image that makes the headlines barely visible and the text unreadable.  Anyway, if you’re having trouble, the headline is Cast of 300 Advises Obama on Foreign Policy, and the tagline underneath it reads, Testing Lies Ahead as the Candidate Plans an Overseas Trip.

It occurs to me that in the New York Times, the tagline means this:

Public Opinion to be Formed in Near Future as the Candidate Plans an Overseas Trip

But if it appeared on FOX News, most people would read it like this:

Trying out False Statements in Advance as the Candidate Plans an Overseas Trip

Maybe a clearer headline next time, okay New York Times?!?


Categories: News and/or Media | 2 Comments »

ISBS Review: Billy Joel at Shea Stadium – The “Last Play at Shea”

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Billy Joel brought the house down last night. Or, at least, he played to a house that someone else is bringing down later this year.

It what can only be described as an amazing display of talent, guts, and stamina, Billy Joel rocked Shea Stadium last night for more than three hours, steamrolling through his unparalleled music catalog with the determination of a prize fighter in a championship bout. The show had everything, including selections from Joel’s well-known “Greatest Hits” albums, several obscure tracks that he rarely plays live, and a host of other musical surprises that sent the crowd reeling over and over again.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

The stage at Shea Stadium was a bit of a departure from Joel’s standard arrangement. The grand piano was still front and center, of course, but the lack of audience members behind him meant the absence of the typical keyboards and runways that allow him to move about the stage during the show. In their place was a full string section at backstage right, and what has evolved over the last few years into a full-strength horn section at backstage left, complete with trumpet/flugelhorn, trombone, and several saxophones. All of this was flanked by several large viewing screens, designed in the shape of the New York skyline, so folks in the upper deck would have a chance to see Joel at more than a microscopic scale.

The show began with the Shea Stadium announcer asking the crowd to “please rise for our national anthem” in true baseball style. Joel has performed the national anthem at various recent World Series and Superbowl games with, shall we say, “mixed success.” This time, though, on his “home turf” with his very own grand piano and his very own sound system, he delivered a rich, full performance of the song. My hopes were high.

Then the video screens came on. Joel looked completely exhausted. His face was flushed and dripping with sweat, and he was rubbing down his entire head with a towel while frequently drinking out of a coffee mug and spritzing his tongue with artificial saliva to stay hydrated. The first few songs, which included Miami 2017,
Angry Young Man and My Life were separated by conversations with the audience, during which Joel was obviously catching his breath and towelling down for the next song. While his voice was still rich and strong, his body language on stage made me wonder whether he’d survive the evening, let alone put on a lengthy, energetic show.

But then, to quote some of his lyrics, Joel seemed to “get his second wind.” He launched into a few rarely performed songs – Everybody Loves You Now,
The Entertainer, and Zanzibar, featuring the absolutely mind-boggling trumpet/flugelhorn talents of Carl Fischer. I don’t know if it was the fact that the sun had set at that point and the night had cooled off a bit, or maybe the energy from the Shea Stadium crowd boosted his adrenaline, but from that point on, Joel seemed to get younger and more energetic with every song. By the time he got to
It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me and You May Be Right, he was standing on the piano and shadow-boxing with the mike stand like he did back in the ’80s (OK, that’s too generous – how about like he did in the early ’00s?).

The hits kept coming, and Joel took special care to make each one a showstopper. He turned Innocent Man into a church spiritual, and Captain Jack into an all-out gospel celebration. The video work behind We Didn’t Start the Fire, showing all of the various historical people and events mentioned in the lyrics, enhanced the song tremendously. Goodnight Saigon was extremely poignant, given the presence of a dozen or more veterans from various branches of the military who joined him on stage to sing, “We said we’d all go down together.” That song ended with chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd, a la the 1980 Lake Placid Hockey Team’s heroics. The aforementioned string orchestra put an amazing shine on songs like
Goodnight, My Angel and The Ballad of Billy the Kid, and the horn section turned
Big Man on Mulberry Street into a romping, big band jazz number.

In my January, 2006 review of his Madison Square Garden Concert, I said, “There were far fewer piano riffs/solos than there had been in years past, but what he did play sounded great, even if it wasn’t as dramatic as it used to be.” Not anymore. Joel’s keyboard was on fire last night, especially on songs like River of Dreams,
Root Beer Rag, and Don’t Ask Me Why. All told, Joel performed a whopping thirty-four songs over a period of three hours and fifteen minutes, including at least one cut from each of his twelve studio albums. The full set list is here.

But none of that is what everyone is going to be talking about.

Song #10 was New York State of Mind, an obvious choice for a hometown concert. Halfway through, Joel surprised the crowd by introducing fellow New Yorker, Tony Bennett, who joined him on stage to reprise the duet from Bennett’s 2006 album, “Duets: An American Classic.” Bennett, who will turn 82 years old in three weeks, hit the ball out of the park (sorry…). His voice was booming, and his enthusiasm sent the already excited crowd around the moon. When he yelled “New York! The Greatest City in the World!”, one could imagine the stadium coming down several months ahead of schedule.

But Joel wasn’t finished. The show contained three more guest stars, including John Mayer, who played the guitar solo on the rarely-performed This is the Time, Don Henley, who played his hit, Boys of Summer, in honor of Shea’s last season of baseball, and John Mellencamp, who played his hit, Pink Houses.

Joel also recognized Shea Stadium as the home of the iconic Beatles concerts of the mid-60′s. He wove Hard Day’s Night into his own River of Dreams, and ended the pre-encore show with Please, Please Me. During the encore, he said, “I’d like to thank the Beatles for letting us use their room! [They were] the greatest rock band that ever was and ever will be!” and then launched into She Loves You, as the video screens around the stage switched to black & white for the full effect. Given the cavalcade of stars we’d seen that evening, I was half-expecting Paul McCartney and/or Ringo Starr to join him on stage (and, in fact, I’m reading rumors this morning that they may be there at the second show on Friday night). Actual Beatles or not, I can tell you that while he was singing She Loves You, my eyes were transfixed on the pitcher’s mound, where the Beatles stood more than 30 years earlier, in front of a similarly screaming crowd. As a rule, I don’t believe in ghosts, but I could almost see the Fab Four appear on the mound, and the effect sent chills up my spine.

She Loves You was followed by Piano Man, which afforded us all the opportunity to hear 60,000 New Yorkers singing along (and sometimes instead of) Billy Joel on what has become his signature sign-off. As an extra bonus, he tossed in Souvenir after Piano Man, in what struck me as a nod to his advancing years, and the distinct possibility that this could be the last Billy Joel show any of us ever see. All I can say is, if that turns out to be the case, this was a hell of a way to go out.

A picture postcard
A folded stub
A program of the play
File away your photographs
Of your holiday

And your mementos
Will turn to dust
But that’s the price you pay
For every year’s a souvenir
That slowly fades away

Every year’s a souvenir
That slowly fades away

UPDATE: Pictures from the show now posted here.

Categories: ISBS Reviews, Words about Music | 6 Comments »

Dear Celebrities: Please Stop Dying…

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Man…in the last three months alone:

Danny Federici Yves Saint-Laurent Cyd Charisse
Dick Martin Bo Diddley George Carlin
Sydney Pollack Jim McKay  
Harvey Korman Tim Russert  

And then today, we add two more: Bobby Murcer and Tony Snow.

For those who aren’t Yankee fans, all I can say is that Bobby Murcer was one of the good guys in baseball. As a player, and then later as an announcer, he was always a fan favorite, due to his class and demeanor both on the field and off. As the only man to play with both Mickey Mantle and Don Mattingly, he brought a sense of humor and a sense of history to Yankee Stadium and to Yankee television broadcasts, and he will be sorely missed. In one sense, it’s a crying shame that he missed seeing the last All-Star game to be played at Yankee Stadium by just four days. On the other hand, the game (and it’s location) now serve as a perfect opportunity for the entire baseball community to pay their lasting respects.

As for Tony Snow, the story that always jumps to mind when I hear his name is the one he told often about how several of the radical, left-wing television pundits cheered on his initial cancer diagnosis with statements like “Good – I hope that sonofabitch dies!” Now that he has, Powerline points out some of what the Associated Press calls an obituary:

With a quick-from-the-lip repartee, broadcaster’s good looks and a relentlessly bright outlook — if not always a command of the facts — he became a popular figure around the country to the delight of his White House bosses.

[...] As press secretary, Snow brought partisan zeal and the skills of a seasoned performer to the task of explaining and defending the president’s policies. During daily briefings, he challenged reporters, scolded them and questioned their motives as if he were starring in a TV show broadcast live from the West Wing.

Critics suggested that Snow was turning the traditionally informational daily briefing into a personality-driven media event short on facts and long on confrontation. He was the first press secretary, by his own accounting, to travel the country raising money for Republican candidates.

The article contains the requisite quotes from his friends and former employers (including the President, of course), but is stuff like the above really necessary when the man dies?  Can anyone read this as anything other than a petty, partisan, cheap shot?  For shame, AP.  You used to be one of the good ones…


Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings, Sports Talk | 10 Comments »


Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Hat-tip to Jeff Porten for this one:

(Click on the graphic above to watch hilarious video that backs up my oft-mentioned Gaffe Machine meme).


Categories: News and/or Media | No Comments »

Oh yeah, the house…

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

It just occurred to me that while I was migrating my blog (a period that shall heretofore be referred to as “the dark times”), we began renovations on our house, and even though the featured video and photo album on the left refer to it, I never really blogged about it.

Here’s the skinny:  We bought a 5-bedroom, 3,600 square foot, split-level home back in 1997.  After eleven years, we had several minor complaints, but nothing major.  Two of our neighbors were doing renovations, so we made an appointment to meet with the contractor (David Ginfrida, for those who are interested) to talk about those minor complaints and price out how we’d address them.

Just before the meeting, on a flight home from Charlotte, NC, I started sketching plans for our dream house on a cocktail napkin.  After discussing the small additions, I asked David what it would cost if we bought a piece of land and built the dream house on it.  His response surprised us:  “You can accomplish this with your current house,” he said.  And so began the long journey we find ourselves in the middle of right now.

When complete, the house will be a 5,700 square foot, two-story colonial.  Click through to read about all the amenities:

Read the rest of this entry »

Categories: Family Matters | 2 Comments »

New Pictures of Abraham Lincoln

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

The folks at Studio Macbeth present us with some stunning images of our 16th President.  First, his face:

These are “computer generated images [using] research into Lincoln’s facial structure based on photographs and castings from his own time.” Pretty amazing. I find this one even more amazing, though. Abraham Lincoln at breakfast:

I hope that’s not a list of theater showtimes he’s reading about…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

A Bargain at Twice the Price

Sunday, July 13th, 2008

Anyone want to buy a refrigerator? If so, head down to the Lowes Home Improvement store in Woodbridge, NJ. They’re having quite a sale:

What used to cost you $398 is now available at the low, low price of

[EDITOR'S NOTE:  We interrupt this post for late breaking news.  This just coming in now.  It's what, you say?  Exactly the same?  Really?  Well why would they print that on a sign?  Well, of course you have no earthly idea!  Look into this and get back to me immediately!]

Apologies, folks, it seems we’ll have to cut this blog post short for the time being while we work out some technical difficulties.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled lives…

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

Barack Obama – Animation Plagiarist?

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

On our July 4th Weekend trip to Virginia, we were with friends who have a younger child, and so we got to watch some old Bob the Builder cartoons again.  These things were all the rage in our house four or five years ago, but they’ve fallen out of favor now that the kids are older.

Anyway, watching these cartoons made me realize something – Barack Obama has stolen his campaign mantra from a children’s cartoon show!  I’m amazed I haven’t seen this picture on the web yet:

More bad news for Barack:  I hear Barney is endorsing John McCain.  Seems dinosuars prefer the older candidates…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 2 Comments »

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