Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nine Cover Songs From My Itunes

The last few days have been re-write day at work, days I enjoy. Basically, I take the script for a show, and just work on the voice-over, trying to come up with another way to make "unpredictable rip currents" more dangerous and exciting than we have the previous episodes.

When I sit down to hack at it, I'll throw on my headphones and just zone out, read the thesaurus, try writing out ideas, then re-write it so it's good enough for the show. With my iTunes on shuffle, I tend to ignore the rest of the world. Half the time, I'm not even aware of what's playing.

The other day, though, the music caught my attention: it was catchy, familiar, but not quite right. That's when I realized it was a cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone" performed by Ted Leo. It's actually a great version of the song, and it goes into a cover of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs "Maps" in the midst of it. Seriously...

Since U Been Gone/Maps - Ted Leo

It got me thinking about what other great, not-so-obvious covers I have on my iTunes, and I figured I'd share some, because hey, who doesn't like music, right?

Keeping with the "contemporary hit covered by indie-artist" angle, here's a cover of Christina Aguilera "Beautiful" by Clem Snide, one of my favorite bands. I saw them do this live at the Troubadour a few years ago, and it absolutely blew me away. I was pretty pumped when they released this as a single...

Beautiful - Clem Snide

Here's a weird one: David Byrne covering Whitney Houston's "I Wanna Dance With Somebody." I heard that back in 2005, Byrne, with help from the USC Marching Band, played a cover of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love." That may actually be weirder than this:

I Wanna Dance With Somebody - David Byrne

This one came up on Stereogum a few weeks ago: the Foo Fighers doing a cover of Arcade Fire's "Keep the Car Running." Dave Grohl says that he listens to it every morning when he wakes up. I understand why. It's kind of a great song to get you up and moving in the AM:

Keep the Car Running - Foo Fighters

The Faces are one of the more underrated rock bands of all time. When I mention that Rod Stewart was the singer, most people frown, but all they know is that he sucks now. Just listen to him rip through the chorus of the cover of McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," and you'll know how good he can be. And by the way, I think I like this version better than Paul's original, and that's saying a lot for a Beatles freak like me:

Maybe I'm Amazed - The Faces

The White Stripes have done a ton of great covers, but I think my favorite of theirs is "Jolene," the classic by Dolly Parton:

Jolene - The White Stripes

Here's one that may be my favorite cover of all time: Radiohead covering Carly Simon's "Nobody Does It Better." Weird, right? But it's so fucking good. Thom Yorke called it "The sexiest song ever written." Who knew Radiohead were such Carly Simon fans?

Radiohead - Nobody Does It Better

My most treasured cover isn't really a true "cover." It's the Beatles working on "All Things Must Pass," but remember they never released it. The Beatles were working on the song during the "Let It Be" sessions. Of course, they broke up, George Harrison took his own song, and scored the first big solo hit of any of the Beatles.

Well, there's a version of "All Things Must Pass" on the Beatles Anthology albums, but it was just a George demo. This version is a version after the Beatles had worked on it a little bit. I read about this version years ago in Rolling Stone, when they mentioned it in an article. After much searching, I found it.

It's interesting to hear the Beatles performing the song as a whole, a bit bare and rough, along with harmonies, well before it was ever fleshed out. Kind of cool to hear what could have been if they kept working on the song.

All Things Must Pass - The Beatles

Anyone have their own favorite, weird covers in their iTunes?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Word of the Day

My new word of the day is "Blinger!"
It's much more fun to tell people to look at Heather's "Blinger!" than her ring finger.

I bet the usage of the word "Blinger!" becomes a huge phenomenon, and when it does, remember to credit me with the creation of it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Eight Years In The Making

Years ago, when Heather and I first talked about marriage, she noted, "Whenever you propose, you won't surprise me. I'll know it's coming." That put a lot of pressure on me. I made a promise that I would figure out a way, I just couldn't figure it out for the longest time.

A few months ago, we began ring shopping. Finally, about a month ago, we picked out a ring and a diamond downtown at Rondels, a fantastic store in the Jewelery District downtown. We were both thrilled. I made the wise decision of kicking Heather out of the store as I discussed a time table with them. She was clueless as to when it would be ready.

For the next few weeks, Heather kept prodding, "Do you know how you're going to propose? When's the ring ready? It has to be ready by now? Maybe you can just show it to me before you propose because I'm so excited." I kept her at bay, telling her, "No, I don't know how I'm going to propose, and besides, I have plenty of time. The ring won't be ready until Thanksgiving." Hell, she even went snooping into a couple of my drawers hoping to find it.

Well aware of her excitement, I left the ring at the jewelery store until I was ready to propose. I had a plan in my head for months, but only truly settled on it a few weeks ago. When I ran it by a couple of people and I saw their reaction, I knew I had it right. I aimed to do it on Thursday, October 18th for a number of reasons:
  1. Heather knew the ring was coming. If I were doing a "BIG" proposal, she'd get suspicious at the first sign of something out of the ordinary.
  2. It's a Thursday. Most people get engaged on a weekend or a vacation. Not a Thursday.
  3. Heather has an acting class every Thursday night. She usually goes right from work to class, then gets home around 10pm. It's a busy day for her and it would give me plenty of time to get ready.
  4. Heather was going back home to NY on Saturday, and I know she couldn't wait for her friends to see the ring at Christmas time.
So, on Thursday morning, I went downtown to pick up the ring. I left work early in the afternoon to pick up all the last second bits and pieces I needed, as well as clean the apartment. I wasn't nervous about pulling it off, but was FREAKED OUT that Heather would skip her class and get home about 3 hours earlier than planned. Luckily, she went to class.

I cleared out our living room and on the floor, I made a "runway" of tea light candles on the ground. In between, I dropped a whole bunch of rose pedals. It lead to our dining room table, where I put a bouquet of flowers, our candle chandelier, a bottle of champagne, a few framed photos, and a photo book I made on iPhoto.

Here's how the apartment looked:
The table:
The view from behind the table to the front door:
I had everything ready by 8:30. I expected Heather home at 10 or 10:30. So, I paced and kept re-lighting and changing out tea lights. I wanted it to be absolutely perfect. At 9:30, an hour earlier than expected, I heard the jangling of Heather's keys as she unlocked the door. I rushed to the table and sat down, waiting for her to enter.

She opened the door. Her arms were full: she was carrying a backpack, a massive purse, a re-usable lunch bag, a water bottle, and a bag and soda from McDonald's. The door swung open and she stood there for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about 15-20 seconds. Clearly stunned, she looked at me and asked, "What's going on here?" I smiled, "Hi, come on in."

She walked into the room, almost punch drunk, and right away, she stepped on one of the tea lights. I yelled at her to stop and had to direct her towards me, much as someone working at the airport would direct a plane towards the gate. I grabbed the bags from her arms and put them aside.

"What do I do now?" she asked. I told her to take a seat and to look at the photo book I made for her. The book started with a brief introduction about our first eight years together. I took some my favorite photos of the two of us and put them throughout the book. Here's Heather reading the intro to the book:
At the very end of the book, I wrote a short paragraph:

"I hope you've enjoyed all these pictures from our first eight years together. From the first date at Mexicali, it's been a whirlwind. We've had a wonderful time together as "boyfriend and girlfriend," but, I think we're ready for the next step. So, I have a question for you..."

At that point, I got down on my knee in front of her, and I asked her, through my tears, to marry me. And as expected, she said, "Yes!"
It was such a great night, probably the best of my life. Heather admitted moments later, "You completely surprised me," which made me happy for so many reasons. We were both punch drunk for the entire night. I don't think Heather ever really got over the shock that hit her when she first walked into that door.

Heather and I are still giddy a couple of days later. We're still calling each other "fiance" and giggling like kids who've just gotten away with something. It's pretty awesome.

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who helped along the way in making the proposal happen: to Erin and Evan for the recommendation to Rondels, to Patry for listening to me vent as I waited impatiently for the photo book to arrive, as well as stopping by and picking up a lighter at the very last second to light the tea lights, and to my sister, who listened to my plans and kept me calm as I pulled all of it together.

Now, the wedding planning begins...

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Yankees Are Alive!!!

I found a fitting video in honor of tonight's Yankees/Indians game: a promo from the late-70's from WPIX 11 for a Yankees/Indians game. There's some sweet music and awesome graphics.

Let's go Yankees!!!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Danger of Jager

Last night, we went to a game night with a number of friends from Heather's theater company. We held a game night about 4-5 months ago with the same group, and it was a great time. As that night ended, we all pledged to get together soon and have just as fun a time. But it was tough to get this group together again due to crazy schedules, bad timing, etc. Finally, we were able to get together last night for our long-awaited game night.

When we arrived at our friends' apartment, there was a couple who hadn't been at the previous game night. For the sake of this story, they will be renamed Jack and Jill. Heather knows Jack and Jill through the theater, but I had never met them before. They seemed nice enough, but were much more interested in doing Jagermeister shots than anything else. I had about 3 shots with them and was feeling it pretty quickly. I stopped and began nursing a beer so I could function and play games. I mean, we are at a game night. That is the purpose of being there.

But Jack and Jill wanted to continue doing Jager shots. At every opportunity, Jack would ask, "Jager?" And it seemed like Jill was more than willing to join him. A few other people had a shot or two, but for the most part, it was Jack and Jill doing the drinking. The new bottle of Jager they opened just two hours earlier was soon down to just a few drops.

We finally sat down to play the first game, a new game that Heather and I had only played once. As I tried to explain the directions to the rest of the party, Jill was yelling and carrying on about who-knows-what. No one could really hear the instructions, so we tried playing and explaining the game as we went along. But Jill made it impossible as she began wailing like a fog horn being run over by a big rig. She kept up with her guttural howling "UHHHHHH!" as long as she possibly could.

Since the new game was being ruined by her siren-like yelling, we decided to play a more simple game: celebrity, a charades-like game where you have to guess which famous person you're pretending to be. Jill went off to have a cigarette, and we were able to get the game off to a great start. Game night was back on track.

Jill came back into the room and plopped herself into the new, expensive massage chair. She was much more subdued than before and clearly had no intention of playing the game. Jack sat next to her silently, clearly wasted. The game went on, and we were having a blast. Someone looked over at Jill, who had more or less passed out in the chair: she looked half-dead. They asked Jack, "Is she okay." Despite the fact that her eyes had nearly rolled back into her head, he replied, "She's fine."

Our team was poised for a comeback and about to make a big move, when suddenly I heard someone groan the dreaded words, "Uh-oh!" I turned to see Jill sitting upright with a long, thick strand of drool dangling from her mouth. She had just puked on the new, expensive massage chair.

But she didn't make a move to the bathroom. She just sat there, stunned. Then, she opened her mouth and began puking. A lot. Onto the new, expensive massage chair, the white carpet, and her dress. I grabbed an empty chip bowl, passed it to someone so she didn't have to continuously vomit everywhere, and ran to the kitchen, out of harms way. Luckily, I was joined by two others who had weak stomachs and wanted to avoid the stink of vomit.

Jill never made it to the bathroom. She just held strong in the living room and kept puking. In the kitchen, we were all trying to figure out how to get them home. We were ready to call for a cab and chip in, but one of the guys at the party, Matt, who is a good friend of theirs and was sober, offered to drive them back home. As I cowered in the kitchen, Matt went up to Jack and said, "I think we should get going." Jack, despite the fact that his girlfriend was puking all over herself and the furniture, replied, "Nah, I think we're fine." Matt then kindly rephrased himself, "I think everyone would be much more comfortable if we took her home." Jack finally got the clue and they decided to leave. A few minutes after they left, Matt called to say they were home and safe, but that he now had to clean out the backseat of his car, as Jill christened that with vomit as well.

Game night was over. But we all hung out for another hour, trying to figure out what had just happened. Of course, as we talked about her puking, it lead to everyone telling legendary gross stories. Jill's night of Jager and puking on the new, expensive massage chair will be added to my repertoire of nasty, disgusting stories, and told to groups of friends, on a night like last night.

We're planning for another game night soon, but this time, Jack and Jill won't be invited.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Meat-Pocalypse IV: The Quest For Ribs

At work, the big excitement lately has been the grill that Dave got for our show. Dave and I have pretty much used it on a daily basis to grill all sorts of things for lunch, and to be honest, it's much more satisfying (and tasty) than eating out.

Once a week, for the last few weeks, we've grilled for our entire crew of about 15-18. We've dubbed these special, weekly occasions: The Meat-Pocalypse! (I've mentioned this once before, briefly, in a previous post.) For each, we have a main course of meat along with various side dishes. The first three Meat-Pocalpse menus were:
  • Chicken, Carne Asada, and Hot Links
  • Beer Soaked Brats
  • Fennel Crusted Pork Chops (Recipe from Top Chef 3, and I can't take credit for creating the marinade, just for grilling)
Well, the big plan for this week's 'Pocalpse was to do BBQ ribs, something I've made tons of times in a stove, slow-cook style, but never done on a grill before. For some variety, we added chicken to the menu as well. Between the ribs and the chicken, I bought nearly 20 pounds of meat!!

Before I actually purchased the ribs, a couple of people at work were skeptical. They gave me an out a number of times, but I refused. I was determined to make the ribs, come hell or high water.

Not only was there a little bit of doubt as to whether I could pull it off, but I was also working alone today. Usually, when we cook for the crew, Dave and I split the duties on the grill, but of course, today, he happened to get called in for jury duty.

I marinated the ribs and the chicken overnight. They smelled great. Outside, I had a two grill set-up. The large grill, affectionately known as "The Silver Bitch" would be for ribs only. The small grill, "Little Bitch," was for chicken. I loved the idea of working two grills at once.
I began cooking the ribs at 11:45am...
...and I began the first of two batches of chicken at around 12:30...
A little while later, about 20 pieces of chicken were done, perfectly juicy and delicious...
And shortly after that, the ribs were completely done, still tender and delicious.
Meat-Pocalypse IV turned out to be a major success...

Our crew brought in some side dishes, including home-made garlic mashed potatoes, spicy green beans, and macaroni salad.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the food a ton. By the time we were done with it, we were left with 3 small ribs, 3 pieces of chicken, and a few scoops of mashed potatoes. Very quickly, people from other shows came over and helped themselves to the last of it.

I called my dad to tell him how well it went (he gave me advice on how to grill them), and he asked me, "How long did it take?" And I told him, "1 1/2 hours." He asked, "So when do you work?" Good question. I'm still trying to figure out the answer.

As we finished up, I got an IM from Dave, still at jury duty, asking, "How did the ribs go?" With some prodding from the crew, we IM'd back that "It was awful, good thing I made a lot of chicken. Catastrophe." And another co-worker, Paul, photoshopped this photo, which we sent to Dave:
Sorry, Dave, we couldn't help it. We were kidding. It was great. We'll make ribs another day so you, too, can enjoy them.

I can't wait for next week's big day, a slight variety on the 'Pocalypse, where instead of one main course, we'll bring in a lot of different kinds of meat to try. It'll be our very first Meat-A-Palooza.

And in two weeks, we've planned for tri-tip. Man, I love work.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Presto...'s Magic! Springsteen is back!!!
I hope everyone back in Jersey took the day off, picked up the album, took a road trip to the shore, and started some bar fights...all while listening to the new album.

It's pretty damn good.

Whirlwind Weekend

It was quite a quick weekend in North Carolina, but it was spectacular. If you've never been to Chapel Hill before, it is a beautiful place. Lush greens, old-time southern homes, weather in the 70's, sweet tea, and people with silly accents. I've been lucky to have gone a few times before, but this weekend, it was spectacular.

The best part, of course, was watching my sister defend her dissertation in front of her peers. It's fascinating work to see. She was obviously enthusiastic, even mentioning, at one point, "And this is why I'm jazzed about science." Yup, that's right, she's "jazzed" about science. I guess in order to become a PHD, you have to be "jazzed" about what your studying, I guess. (I won't let her live that one down)

One small complaint about her defense: at the end of her presentation, she went through to acknowledge all those (with an accompanying slide show) who helped her/supported her throughout her years of work. It was incredibly emotional. Amazingly, she kept her emotions in check pretty well, but at times, would break down and her voice would suddenly crack, and she'd begin talking in a high, squeaky voice.

As it came time to thank me, she noted, "I want to thank my brother, Brian, who is everything a big brother should be." At this point, she was still composed. Completely unemotional, until she added, "And, I also want to thank him for bringing Heather into our family." The mere mention of Heather sent her over the edge. How could this be? How dare she not break down as she said my name!!! She claims, "I was holding it back and just let it out as I was thanking Heather." That's an excuse, if you ask me. (And no, Erin, I'm not letting you live this one down, either)

After she did her defense, we had to wait for about an hour and a half as a committee of people from her department continued to question her. Finally, she came out as Dr. Erin McCarthy Campbell. To say that we were proud of her would be an understatement. We celebrated that night into the wee hours, and I learned about all sorts of cell experiments that her colleagues are working on. I think I understand what they're studying...okay, maybe not. I ain't such a smart one. (On a side note, as we were partying, the head of Erin's lab, Bob, came up to me, got on his knees, and prayed to me like a God because he liked a show I worked on a couple of years ago. It was quite flattering and, of course, Heather happened to be in the bathroom and missed it).

Throughout the weekend, we went to some fantastic restaurants famous to the area (Mama Dip's, Crook's Corner) and had some amazing food (grits and shrimp are a new favorite), visited an amazing store for cooking junkies (A Southern Season), and drank our share of heavily sugared iced tea.

Hell, I even had a celebrity sighting. As we walked around the town on Thursday night, I spotted Ben Folds walking down the sidewalk. (He is from North Carolina). I am a huge fan and was tempted to stop him, but he was with his wife (I assume) and didn't feel like bugging them. Everyone was pissed that I didn't point him out. To that, I say, "Pay more attention!"

It was a great weekend to have as a family...even if my sister didn't cry when she mentioned my name. Congrats, Erin!