Tuesday, December 27, 2005

There Is Life on Mars

Sorry we haven't posted in a while. We've been very busy lately, and by "busy" I mean we've been shopping, wrapping gifts, eating, hanging out with our relatives, opening gifts, reading books, and watching television. A good chunk of our Christmas weekend was spent watching and re-watching the critically-touted though ratings-challenged UPN series Veronica Mars on DVD. The creator of the series, Rob Thomas, is a UT Austin grad with an interesting career arc, the kind of career arc that secretly makes you jealous.

Thomas' concept for the show ties in the seemingly anachronistic worlds of hard-boiled film noir and teen drama (see the poster design to the left for an over-the-top send-up of the concept). The result is a refreshing take on the done-to-death California teen genre. All gimmickry aside, the heart of the show is the relationship between the titular character and her dad as they deal with their status as outcasts in the fictional town of Neptune, California. The first season's plot is driven forward by the murder of Veronica's best friend, Lilly Kane. Veronica's dad, Keith, the town's sheriff, turns his attention to the Kane family itself in the wake of the crime, and when a disgruntled Kane Software employee confesses to the crime, Sheriff Mars is forced to resign and start his new career as a private investigator where he is aided by his daughter, Veronica, played by the "short, blonde, cute as a bug" Kristen Bell.

The show is truly addictive. The dialogue crackles with smartly delivered zingers, and the suspension of disbelief is not hard to come by when the characters are this well-developed. It's no soapy melodrama either, as all the protagonists have their failings and the lines between right and wrong are constantly being blurred. In short, its damn fine television, and we'd like to kick our shouts out to Jamye's sister, Kara, for letting us borrow the first season on DVD before Santa could deliver us our very own set this weekend.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What my Wife Got Me for Christmas

Too coooooooooool. I'm actually, as the kids say, "jamming out" with it here at work at this very moment, effectively tuning out the constant whirring and clicking of our printers and the intermittent ringing of phones.

It's funny how a gizmo like this can renew our love of music while at the same time signal the end of traditional music sales. As high bandwidth and digital media continue to unavoidably revolutionize the music and video industry and companies continue to grapple with piracy, consumers will be faced with new decisions about their media collections (e.g. physical storage being replaced with computer memory). Purists will continue to decry the imperceptible loss of quality in compressed digital music much like vinyl enthusiasts still curse the full but "sterile" sound produced by a CD. Everyone "in the know" will have an opinion on the future of the music industry, and in the great spirit our country's industrial revolution, companies will either adapt and grow with the changes or be left behind.

In the meantime, I'll just enjoy "jamming out" on my new iPod. What? The kids don't actually jam out anymore? Jeepers, what's the world coming to?

Monday, December 19, 2005

Where have you gone, Dale Murphy?

Our family got cable television in 1984, and with my access to TBS (Ted Turner's Atlanta-based "Superstation"), my love affair with the Atlanta Braves began. This week's news that the Braves are being shopped around to new owners will do nothing to change that, but it puts me in mind of the days when I would sit in front of the television and record the events of the then abysmal franchise's games in my official baseball scorebook.

Yes, before the tomahawk chop and 14 straight divisional championships, I was a Braves fan, and Dale Murphy was my baseball idol.

In 1990, the 7-time All star was dealt from the Braves to the Philadelphia Phillies where he stayed for two more years before being dealt to the Colorado Rockies. He retired in 1993 with 398 career homeruns, but it was in 1990 that my rabid interest in professional baseball began to wane. Murphy leaving Atlanta felt like the end of an era.

Murphy had been with the Braves since 1976, the year Ted Turner took ownership of the organization, and he was the kind of player that seems to have become somewhat of an endangered species in professional sports. He was a 2-time MVP, a superstar and a family man who was often teased by his teammates and the media for his wholesome image. A reporter once tried to find out if Murphy was really as good as his reputation. After an exhaustive search, the only "dirt" he could find was a speeding ticket Murphy was issued for driving 35 MPH in a 25 MPH zone. He was late for a speech he was to give at a church. He was a player with principles who would take his teammates out to dinner but wouldn't pay for their alcohol. Now, he has written a book to guide athletes through the tough decisions they will have to make as a professional, and he is still a great humanitarian whose involvement in different charities are too numerous to mention.

On the field, he was a 5-time Gold Glove winner with a rifle for an arm, and he was especially speedy for a big man. In fact, he was the 7th player in Major League history to join the 30/30 club (30 homeruns and 30 steals). The feat has now been accomplished 36 times by 21 different players since Murphy did it in 1983.

In the era before rampant steroid use, he was the product of hard work and good genes. I got to meet him at a Nashville Sports Council luncheon in 2001 where he spoke to the attendees about his career as a major leaguer. After the event, I got him to sign my Power Alley poster (like the one above), and I shook his hand (it swallowed mine). It was a great moment for me, and one that I'll never forget.

For all his accolades, Dale Murphy has not made it into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. 2006 marks his 8th year on the ballot, and the results for this year's voting will be announced Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2006. I hope he makes it in this time, but even if he never does, I'm sure Murphy will consider his life just as rich and fulfilling without the honor. It won't change the fact that he was the greatest player I ever saw play the game either.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Penny for My Two Cents: King Kong

Jamye and I went to see Peter Jackson's 3-hour gorilla movie last night, and I must say that every frame of it oozes with his reverence for the 1933 original which (as you would have to be living under a rock to not know) inspired him to be a filmmaker. In some respects, that's this film's only shortcoming. In today's world, it is difficult to have the sense of wonder that the original's audiences must have had, but by setting his film in 1933, Jackson tries to replicate that tone through his character's eyes. Even though we get some of the most amazing special effects sequences ever put on film, our 2005 technological saavy causes us to watch these truly amazing scenes with extreme appreciation for the handiwork over reverent awe for the subject matter. This is a minor quibble, and it really has nothing to do with the film, just the context in which it has been made.

All that aside, Peter Jackson's King Kong is nothing short of masterpiece. Even as Jackson ups the ante on digital special effects, he has taken even greater care in giving his marquee monster and his leading lady, played by Naomi Watts, one of the most touching relationships I've seen at the movies in years. It's really the heart of the picture and its greatest achievement. As the sense of impending doom for our hero increases with each reel, it is the love story's beautiful simplicity that makes Kong's eventual demise just as bearable as it is heartbreaking... and its pretty damn heartbreaking, even though we've known the ending for 70 years.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

From the Arcade Archive

There was a time when you could go into an arcade with a dollar's worth of quarters and, if you were any good, play the game of your choice for an hour or more. Pac Man was my game. I would play and play at our local Kroger store (yes, there was a Pac Man machine at our Kroger) while my mom did the grocery shopping.

In the mid-80's video game developers began rolling out games that were smash and shoot adventures with a multitude of immersive levels that you worked through while standing shoulder to shoulder with up to three guys and/or gals next to you. Really, the first such game of this ilk that I remember was Gauntlet.

No matter how good you were at Gauntlet, you were going to get continually smoked by some ogre or ghost or something quarter after quarter, and then you were going to have to meet your folks out in front of JC Penney's while some kid standing behind you and picking his nose was going to step up, put a quarter in, and take up where you left off. Gauntlet was advertised to arcade owners as having unlimited play depth, so I guess that meant that there was no real finish to the game, no matter how many quarters were dropped down the slots. It didn't matter. You would always talk about how far you got without ever knowing or caring whether there was an end result to all your efforts.

By the 1990's, arcades had slowly begun disappearing from the American suburban landscape as an industry that had built itself on the quarters out of kids pockets had turned its attention back to our homes and the foundations laid by Pong, the Atari 2600, Colecovision, Intellivision, Odyssey 2 and the Commodore 64.

As the arcades vanished, so too did the simplicity of figures like Donkey Kong, Frogger and Pac Man. As graphic capabilities improved by leaps and bounds, they were all hustled into the 21st century and given extreme makeovers, leaving their old images in the dust. Most games were built to be beaten and discarded rather than reveled in for their mindless blips and blurps.

I remember the experience of the arcade as a special event that cannot be replicated on today's modern machines, even as game marketers try to tap into my nostalgia by offering me the classic games of my past on shiny discs. Standing in front of a six foot cabinet covered with stickers and throwing your shoulder into evading brightly colored villains at every turn isn't the same as sitting on your sofa in your sock feet.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lil' Joey Kickin' It in His Crib

Our friends in Florida sent us another picture of the wee Disabantonio.

Ain't he cute?

Click on him to see him bigger.

A "Yo Ho" Ho Ho

Everybody seems to be trying to get a leg up on their summer movie marketing with box office receipts down 6 percent from this time last year. I know. We're all really upset that the high dollar denizens of La La Land might have to stand a little belt tightening. Of course, the bigwigs won't smart at all, yet, but the movie industry is definitely changing.

Many blame this year's box office decline on the lack of anything original coming out of Hollywood. Well, the sequel to the surprising blockbuster, The Pirates of the Caribbean, will do nothing to quell that notion, but the first one was damn fine entertainment. It was a particularly unexpected success in that the last pirate movie to hit the big screen was 1995's Cutthroat Island which bankrupted Carolco Pictures, the production company behind the movie, and put a damper on Renny Harlin's meteoric directing career (not to mention his marriage to Geena Davis). Who knew that a movie based on an animatronic Disney ride would be so fun, much less attract the acting talents of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush and solidify the overnight stardom of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley?

Anyhoo, click on Jack Sparrow's Christmas gift for the first peak at Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest. Then, go read this. I'm not sure how I feel about it.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

X Sells

You know, it's not that I'm a comic book geek. I mean, I was once... in my youth. My mom would drop me off at the comic book store on the strip in Knoxville while she went next door to Davis Kidd Booksellers. I would come find her when I had picked up my monthly supply of Batman, The Incredible Hulk and Spider Man books.

The X-Men was never a favorite of mine, but I concede its importance in the comic book canon in that its stories of a group of mutants as originally created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and later re-imagined by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum tapped into the notion of alienation that was a prevalent theme in pop culture in the 60's (see movies like The Graduate and Midnight Cowboy). As the Wikepedia article outlines, the X-Men, became metaphors for other real life issues that would have been either taboo for younger audiences or just too hard to present without being cloaked in the guise of adventure stories. Of course, I was just a kid and didn't get all that stuff until much later... you know, after I quit being a comic book geek.

Anyway, the third feature film in the X-Men series is due out next summer (May 26th, to be exact), and you can click on Wolverine's muttonchops above to watch the first trailer for it in glorious Quicktime HD.

All-SEC 'Dores

By now, you know the drill. Click on the image to read the story. The Associated Press has named Vandy's Jay Cutler as the SEC's Offensive Player of the Year. There's more on the other Commodore AP and Coach's honorees on the VU football page. Follow the link on the right for that.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

You say, "Jump." They say, "Little Children."

Jamye and I braved the cold to catch these fellas last night at 3rd and Lindsley. As you may recall from an earlier post, Jump Little Children (formerly called Jump, and formerly called Jump Little Children) was dubbing this tour "The Last Hurrah" as it would effectively mark the end of touring for the North Carolina band. The reasons given for the decision were vague and personal on their website, and I would direct you to their comments if the link hadn't disappeared.
We arrived at the venue at 6 pm for the 8 pm show that was to be broadcast locally on WRLT 100.1 to find a line already stretched down the sidewalk. After a short wait we got in and found a table in the tiny upstairs seating area. I snapped the picture above without a flash and using some manual settings on our nifty new digital camera just a few songs into the set. As you can see, the array of musicians on the small stage was truly impressive in that it included what could only be called a small chamber orchestra of six backing the five main members of the band.

The two hour acoustic setlist was full of unexpected moments and instruments (mandolin, whistles and accordian), and it was obvious that the band had as much love for their fans in Nashville as the crowd did for them even though the band confessed midway through the first set that it was not always the case. Nashville is a tough town to break into because there are so many musicians vying for a sliver of the spotlight. As a result, Nashville crowds are routinely tough to please. This wasn't in evidence last night as the slightest pun was greeted with enthusiastic applause by the young crowd of fervent and mostly college-aged fans. Admittedly, I was a casual appreciator of their music and Jamye even less so, but I imagine we have a few purchases in our future. We currently only have one of their four albums.

The show did take on a generally melancholy tone at times as it seemed to sink in to all in attendance that they may never see these guys perform live again, but the band never let it become too sentimental. After all, they're a rock and roll band, albeit a thoughtful and earnest one. You got the feeling at the end of the show that they were happy to leave their fans wanting more rather than wearing out their welcome.

Things our Junk Mail Filter Catches

As usual, click on the picture to see it bigger.

You know, it's actually kind of fun reading the subject lines for these gibberish emails of which we tend to get a buttload. They have a theater of the absurd quality if you say them out loud. In fact, let's take the 9:34 pm message and fashion it into a short scene:


At the base of the monument of Juan Montalvo in Ambato, Ecuador, private investigator Steve Creech stands over the dead body of the woman he was trying to protect.

His associate, Alonzo Palmer, comes up from behind him and puts his hand on his shoulder. "Let's go, Screechy. It's Ecuador."

Friday, December 02, 2005

More Kong Stuff

Check out Kong's makeover from the early publicity photo (left) to the current one (right). He looks a little less warm and cuddly on the right, no? Click 'em if you like.

Don't forget, the new flick will be in theaters Wednesday, December 14th.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

More Vandy Stuff

Vanderbilt Quarterback Jay Cutler is the first player invited to participate in the 2006 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Click the photo above to read more about it.

Freshman Earl Bennett was named to the rivals.com All American Freshman Second Team. Click his photo to read about that.

The Return of Memorial Magic

Vandy's Mario Moore might have just shot his way out of head coach Kevin Stallings' doghouse by hitting a buzzer-beating three-pointer last night to defeat the Oregon Ducks 76-75 at Memorial Gym in Nashville. Shane Byars led the way for Vanderbilt with 20 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, a steal, and a blocked shot, but the coming out party for the Virginia transfer was overshadowed by Moore's theatrics as time expired.
Read all about it here, and click on the photo to the left to see more pictures from the game. Plus we've got a new link to the VU basketball page on the right.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One Hour!

It took us one hour this morning to cover the 13 miles (!!??!!) from Bellevue to downtown Nashville with a drop off at Vanderbilt. Now, I'm no misanthrope, but if I'm going to sit in bumper to bumper traffic staring at the same people's 2004 campaign stickers, I had better see a tow truck or something in the vicinity when the traffic starts to thin out. This morning, there was no sign as to why it had taken us 45 minutes to go 5 miles. Supposedly, there was a car on fire west of us on I-40, but what would that have to do with eastbound traffic, east of the accident?

I always assume that some woman applying mascara and lipstick in her rearview mirror or some dude reading the Wall Street Journal and drinking coffee while shaving is to blame for everything.

This brings me to my main point here: Pay attention, people! You're in a metal, combustible machine hurtling across pavement at great speeds within inches of other metal, combustible machines. Take a few extra minutes to shave and put on your makeup at home. If you get fired for being late, so what! At least you're not risking life and limb while irritating me in the process.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nashville: After a Storm

High winds, sideways rain, lightning, and black skies alternating with bright sunlight were the weather conditions in Nashville yesterday, and by the time I left work, the 73 degree high temperature had plummeted about 25 degrees. As I pulled out of the alley behind my office at Second Avenue and Lindsley, the skies had become calm, and the waning sunset light was reflecting off of Nashville's skyline in front of me. I hopped out and snapped the first picture, which doesn't do the effect justice. I turned to the left and snapped the second picture of the sun setting over some of SoBro's more derelict looking buildings. It was kind of a magical little moment in an otherwise dismal day.

Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Turkey Day Postmortem

Why do we put ourselves through this? Of all the major American holidays that call for gorging oneself (I guess that's, like, all of them), Thanksgiving is King. Fourth of July is probably a distant second because how many times have you caught yourself saying, "You know, I think I will have a second cheeseburger."

Thanksgiving has the calendar advantage: it's usually cold and you've got three to four full days to sit on the couch, watch television and eat. If it weren't for the start of the Christmas shopping season, few non-golfers would get any exercise. Of course, we'll ride this bloated wave through Christmas and then resolve to lose weight in the New Year... again.

It's not just the holidays either. As I get older, everything seems to revolve around meals.

"What did you do on vacation?"

"Well, we ate here, here, here and here."

But I digress. Jamye and I had a nice holiday at my parent's house. Yes, food was the main attraction, but the opportunity to sit back for a while and truly be thankful of the many blessings we have received since the last time we watched the Detroit Lions get beat is the thing that will linger long after the tupperware containers in our fridge have been emptied of their turkey and trimmings.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


At the Loveless Cafe, Nashville, TN. 10.29.05

Happy Thanksgiving to the Furlong's, whom we will miss this Thanksgiving Holiday, but will look forward to seeing at Christmas.
We love you!

Monday, November 21, 2005

No Bowl, but One in a Row!

November 19, 2005.

It might be one of the most bittersweet days in Vanderbilt Football history. After a 4-0 start this season the 'Dores dropped six games in a row, including a two-point loss to MTSU (when a Vanderbilt field goal was blocked in the closing seconds), a double overtime loss at Florida (when a bogus excessive celebration penalty kept the 'Dores from going for a two point conversion to potentially win the game in regulation), a 28-35 loss at South Carolina (after coming back from being down 14-28 in the 4th quarter to tie the ballgame) and a 43-48 loss to Kentucky (after Vandy trailed 34-3 in the first half). The Commodores came into Knoxville with their bowl hopes dashed and nothing but pride on the line as they attempted to end a 22-game losing streak at the hands of the Vols.

The last time they beat UT, I was nine years old. 23 years later, I was at Neyland Stadium to see the streak come to an end.

As anybody reading this knows, Vanderbilt came away from Neyland Stadium in Knoxville with a heart-stopping 28-24 win. In a series where Vanderbilt has consistently gone into games as the heavy underdog, but where six of the last 11 meetings have been decided by seven points or less, Vandy was due, and this was the team with the guts and the talent to pull it off. Granted, UT is down this season, but the Volunteer defense is still one of the most formidable in the nation. Jay Cutler and Co. put up 28 points on them with 21 of their tally coming in the first half. The Vol defense stiffened to hold Vandy off the scoreboard until their final 63-yard, 29-second scoring drive which culminated in Cutler drilling Earl Bennett on a quick slant in the endzone with 1:11 left on the clock. In an effort typical of Vanderbilt's early success this season, the defense bent but didn't break in the closing moments. Redshirt freshman cornerback Jared Fagan intercepted Rick Clausen's last gasp 4th down pass to the endzone as time expired to seal the victory.

The short-handed Vanderbilt offensive line performed admirably. Marlon White made two big touchdown catches. George Smith made one of the most incredible catches of the season pulling an underthrown ball out of the grasp of a Tennessee defensive back in mid-air. Cassen Jackson-Garrison, a Knoxville native, played one of the best games of his young career with his running back mate Jeff Jennings on the sidelines after suffering a season ending injury against Kentucky. He rushed for 60 yards and caught 3 passes out of the backfield for another 49 yards. True freshman Bennett, who came to Vanderbilt because no other program would let him play wide receiver, had another stellar game, making 14 catches for 167 yards en route to breaking the SEC record for freshman receptions with 79 (49 of which were in the final four games of the season).

As for Cutler, what can you say other than he will go down as the most prolific quarterback in Vanderbilt history. He deserved a swan song like this, completing 27 of 39 passes for 315 yards and 3 touchdowns, no interceptions, one big win and the hope of a bright future in the NFL.

UT fans will never understand what this feels like. I wouldn't trade this win for anything (although it would have been nice to have that bowl game invitation too).

Friday, November 18, 2005

What would Christopher Reeve think?

The Man of Steel is back. Click on the the S to see the teaser trailer on the official site, and make sure to turn your sound way up.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Nashville Favorites: In Memoriam I

Blue Moon Waterfront Café

This summer just wasn't the same without our beloved Blue Moon. While some complained that the quality of the dining experience had become less than consistent over the years, Jamye and I ignored the criticisms. We spent many a late afternoon wiling away the final moments of daylight at Rock Harbor Marina imagining we were somewhere else. Most of the time, we'd just have a couple of drinks at the bar and maybe devour an order of grit cakes with sun-dried tomatoes and mornay sauce, but rarely were those times any less special than the "special occasions" we enjoyed there.

Jamye and I had dinner on Thursday night before our wedding with several of our in-town and out-of-town friends who were a part of the festivities (Laura, our friend from the Bay area, was a big fan of the risotto). Jamye took her youngest sister, Linsey, and her bridesmaids there to kick off Linsey's bachelorette party. We had a wedding shower for Tracy and Jody there. The list could go on.

My brother confided to me this weekend that one of the best seafood meals he had ever eaten was Chef Dave's Siamese Cat (a pan-fried catfish filet served with hot mustard and plum sauce), and this was coming from a guy who's eaten seafood all up and down the gulf coast and the southern end of the eastern seaboard. Jamye and I would tend to agree, and we can throw the left coast into the mix.

Jamye and I heard that some months after the restaurant closed, the building itself sunk into the harbor when the outer decking was removed, but I have not verified this with my own eyes. Apparently, Uncle Bud's founder Buddy Rogers now serves catfish, barbecue and steak at the Waterfront Café at Rock Harbor Marina very near the old Blue Moon site, but we can't bring ourselves to check it out, starved as we are for local color these days (and waterfront local color at that). I'd like to believe that in that corner of the harbor our favorite summer place is just resting peacefully on the river bed. I imagine that a piece of the building is still protruding above the surface, and a gull of some sort is perched on it. It's early evening. The sun is setting, and the moon is full.

In case you hadn't noticed...

it's November 2005. The election was over a year ago. If your guy lost, get over it. If your guy won, quit gloating. This means taking that sticker off your vehicle. Granted, Jamye and I have had fun levying imaginary fines on people who still display their candidate's logo on their back windows and bumpers, but really, it's getting old... and don't think you're above reproach because you've replaced your Kerry-Edwards sticker with an anti-Bush sentiment sticker. It's the same thing.

This goes for you too, guy with the pithy political statement bumper sticker. Yes, you may say "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention." I say "If you're not outraged, then you must have a nice hobby."

Finally, to the guy in our apartment complex who sports this sticker, "That's just plain lazy."

By the way, if anyone cares, I've edited the post below.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

"You say it [was my] birthday..."

That's us, The O'Neal's, on Saturday, the 12th, my birthday, and coincidentally, the day the Vanderbilt Commodores bowl hopes vanished in a 43-48 loss to Kentucky … yes, Kentucky. Well, when you turn the ball over on fumbles three times on your own end of the field, allow a blocked field goal to be returned 70+ yards for a touchdown and two 50+ yard punt returns (one for a touchdown), you really can't expect to win. The 'Dores made a valiant effort to close the gap on what was once a 41-10 ballgame, but they just ran out of time.

The last time I went to a football game on my birthday (in 2000), Al Del Greco missed an extra point and a short field goal to give the Baltimore Ravens a 23-24 win over the Tennessee Titans to end their NFL record of 12 consecutive victories to open a new stadium. I might start developing a complex.

Anyway, a good time was still had by all this weekend. Jamye came through with a black and gold birthday cake from Publix (mmmm, black icing) and Mom replicated a green chile salsa recipe from Chuy's in Austin, TX in addition to providing ham rolls, something called a Rio Grande mud cake (that my brother made off with on Sunday) and Sangria made with Macaroni Grill's chianti.

Saturday night, we ate at a place called Judge Bean's. They had just relocated to the trendy neighborhood known as the Gulch from a glorified shack near the fairgrounds, and no one, including myself, really knew what to expect, other than Texas-style barbecue, which as far as I can tell just means that it's smoked and it's not pork. The food was actually really good although the presentation left a little something to be desired. I'd recommend it if you can stomach that relocated Texan vibe. You know the one I mean: "Here's how we do it in Texas." and "Don't mess with blah blah." and "Our way is not only bigger but also better."

Now we're gonna get letters.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

More Joey D.

Click his sailboat PJs to see him bigger.

Official Stats for Joseph John Disabantonio V
Born at 3:56 p.m. on October 31, 2005 at Gulf Coast Medical Center in Panama City, Florida
Weight: 7 lbs. 8 oz. Length: 19.5 inches

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Nashville Music Renaissance: Part Four

No, it's not the New Main Street Singers in the picture above. Although their number of on-stage performers rivals the number of members in the fictional band in the Christopher Guest film about folk musicians, The New Pornographers, are pure pop without the saccharine aftertaste. They're edgy without being dark, and their live act (which Jamye, Mark and I caught on October 18th at The Mercy Lounge to finish out our live music tour) is a breath of fresh air for music lovers starved for classic hooks, good harmony and loud rock and roll in an era when people say it's dead.

I actually have very little to say about the show. As usual, the venue was ridiculously hot, but for once I didn't seem to mind. In every aspect it was a tremendously crowd pleasing performance. Neko Case (the redhead in the middle of the picture above) belted out lyrics that could easily be heard over the impressive array of instruments on stage. Carl Newman (the redhead on the far right) deftly led the band through an impressive set list of 20+ songs, and Dan Bejar (not pictured), the reclusive member of the band who rarely tours but shares songwriting duties with Newman, even made an appearance for several songs. All in all it was a great night of music and an appropriate end to our concert-going frenzy.

In case you're wondering, the Vancouver supergroup supposedly got their name from the great theologian, Jimmy Swaggert, who once referred to rock and roll music as "the new pornography".

Monday, November 07, 2005

Heartbreak in the Swamp

Vanderbilt's Jay Cutler played his best game of the season on Saturday. It was arguably the best game of his college career. While Vandy repeatedly marched down the field on the Florida Gator's nationally fifth-ranked defense, a costly mishandled snap that led to a Florida score and an interception in the second overtime to end the game will assuredly be his enduring memories of a game in which he became Vanderbilt's all-time passing yards leader, thereby completing his stranglehold on every significant quarterback record in Commodore history with at least two games still to play before he bids adieu to the Black and Gold.

While Cutler and the Vandy offense engineered a miraculous 14-point comeback with 4:11 on the game clock against 13th ranked Florida in Gainesville to send the game to overtime before succumbing in the second frame 49-42, I cannot help but cry in my beer over the travesty that was the officiating in Saturday night's game. Luckily, I'm not alone in this as Sean McDonough and Mike Gottfried (the ESPN announcers for the game) and the crew on ESPN Gameday Final were very critical of the judgment shown by the officials on the field and in the instant replay booth. Read more about that here.

Granted, committing three turnovers that led to great field position and subsequently 21 of Florida's 35 points in regulation made these calls more important than they should have been, but I can still moan and wail about it for at least another 24 hours before I turn my attention to the urgency of our 'Dores winning the last two games of the regular season. Hopefully they've already done so because I'm not ready to see this team pack it in quite yet.

"It's awfully important to win with humility. It's also important to lose. I hate to lose worse than anyone, but if you never lose you won't know how to act. If you lose with humility, then you can come back." Coach Paul Bear Bryant

Friday, November 04, 2005

"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

The official trailer for the big monkey movie is online in various shapes and sizes. Go see it by clicking on the Eighth Wonder of the World's chest.

The Nashville Music Renaissance: Part Three.two

While Jamye was apparently having a better-than-expected time at the GEC watching The Jazz Singer, Mark and I were being bored to tears at the Mercy Lounge a few blocks away by Chan Marshall. The name she performs under is Cat Power... I should have known.

I used to have a soft spot for all soulful female singers who wore their hearts on their sleeves and sang about being wounded by love; then I went to this show. I just wanted this girl to shut up. Not that I could decipher her mush-mouthed lyrics or discern one song from another, but when her set came to an abrupt end, presumably because there was quite a bit of conversation taking place during her performance, thus ruining the hypnotic trance effect she desired, another band was prepared to take the stage. In other words, they actually anticipated that she would flake out and leave early.

The band that came out next was The Bees, a fairly popular local band with a straightforward canon of pop songs. The few people remaining, including us, seemed to welcome the change. We were gonna stay a little while to get our money's worth and try to shake off the effects of Marshall's Cat Power, which, as far as superpowers go, merely robs you of the will to live.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Nashville Music Renaissance: Part Three.one

Neil Diamond: Channeling Howard Dean

What can I say? The man still has moves.
When I had obtained tickets to see Neil Diamond perform at the Gaylord Entertainment Center on October 17, Jon responded with a simple, "Please don't make me go to that." So I invited my sister to accompany me instead. She replied with an "Um, sure..." which in fact meant, "Please don't make me go to that." But I would not be dissuaded.

I mean, C'MON! How could you NOT go see the legendary Neil Diamond?? The man is a machine: four decades of entertaining, two ex-wives, four children, a couple of movies, and a countless number of hit songs encouraging karaoke singers everywhere...how could you not? Besides, the tickets were free. FREE! If nothing else, it would be a great light show, right? So, Kara and I went--we were both surprised at the number of songs that we actually recognized--and enjoyed the warm fuzzies.

Ever the crooner, Neil performed deftly in his black, rhinestone studded pants-suit, wooing the audience as his full band of 3 back-up singers, keyboard AND piano players, guitar, bass, horn section, drummer AND percussionist provided support. And yes, there was a light show. My favorite song of the evening was, of course, "Kentucky Woman." "Cherry, Cherry" was also fantastic. I think I saw dust rattled from the rafters during "Sweet Caroline." And did you know that Neil had penned The Monkees' "I'm a Believer"??

The real kicker of the show, though--proof positive that the man is still a force to be reckoned with--was during his performance of "Play Me," during which he was quickly rewarded with a black satin bra. And from what I could tell, of the C-cup varietal...so, yeah.
What can I say? The man still has moves.

While we're being sentimental...

My dad turns 60 today. In the picture above, he's flanked by me (on his right) and my brother, who are representing in our Vanderbilt black and gold (although apparently I did not get the Adidas memo). Also notice that I am making a fashion statement that will be adopted by the hip hop nation years later and banned by the commissioner of the NBA, Daniel Stern, just last week.

All jokes aside, Happy Birthday, Dad. You mean more to all of us than we stoics care to admit.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Joseph John Disabantonio V

Joey, for short, son of proud parents, Tracy and Jody Disabantonio, was born Monday afternoon, October 31st. We send all our love to our dear friends in Florida.

"Babies are always more trouble than you thought - and more wonderful." Charles Osgood

Top 10 Acronyms to ban in 2006: 1. WMD....

Although I think my own personal politics (whatever that means) is nobody's business but my own, I did feel compelled to pass this bit along to the handful of people that read this thing. Try to ignore the silliness at the top regarding the analogy between a blogger and a wise religious woman from the middle ages.

In case you're wondering, I received it from a source operating under the condition of anonymity. Well, I assume he/she would want to remain anonymous. We never really discussed it.

"One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half." Sir Winston Churchill

"Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events." again, Sir Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

"What are you lookin' at?"

Click Kong on the nose for an exclusive behind the scenes look at the new movie (due Dec. 14th) courtesy of our friends at Apple.
The Vanderbilt University Commodores need to win two of their last three games to become bowl-eligible for the first time in 23 years. With Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee remaining on the schedule, that will be no easy task, but it's not outside the realm of possibility.

After over 20 years of losing seasons, there should be a fundamental difference between the Vanderbilt football fan and the fan of those teams that, you know, win year after year. While they spend the entire season praying their team doesn't let them down by losing the big game or slipping-up against a heavy underdog, we have the luxury of being optimists: Our team can and might have a storybook season.

Unfortunately, the "same-old-Vanderbilt" refrain is heard all too often in Middle Tennessee. Yes, we squandered the season's 4-0 start by losing the last four games to stand at 4-4 on the season, but we can still win the last three games. Seriously, we can. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people that have followed Vanderbilt football over the years do not share the same optimism displayed by the Vanderbilt student section in the above picture. In fact, these "fans" routinely file out of games when the opposition leads by more than a touchdown in the fourth quarter, presumably to beat the heavy post-game traffic that everyone associates with Vanderbilt football.

As for me and mine, we choose to believe that our team can win, which is far better than hoping they don't lose.

"The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are the things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur." Vince Lombardi

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Nashville Music Renaissance: Part Two

Thursday Night, October 13th

As Jamye and I sat with our friends Brian and Mark at the Corner Pub in Green Hills on the night in question, the discussion turned to this show. I had written it down on a post-it at work and my calendar at home along with another, earlier show a couple of months before as a reminder to seriously consider thinking about possibly going... maybe.

The first show was on September 21st, and I was still upset about forgetting it despite my best efforts to remember to at least mull it over. It was especially troubling because the band in question, Jump (formerly Jump Little Children) had already announced their intent to stop touring indefinitely, and I had heard that their last Nashville show was amazing. Thankfully, they have since announced one more Nashville date on December 4th at 3rd and Lindsley. Jamye and I haven't been there in a good long while, so we'll probably go.

Anyway, I was bound and determined not to miss Metric too. Along with several other bands of this millennium (such as Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, The Bravery and Stellastarr to name a few), Metric has embraced the styles (if not the spirits) of New Wave Music, a label used to classify a wide range of divergent but equally experimental bands during the late 70's and early 80's. Let's just say I was in a nostalgic mood.

After our dinner/drinks companions wussed out and went home, Jamye and I headed down to Elliston Place. Even with the late hour (10:30-ish?) the band had yet to hit the stage. When they finally appeared around 11:00, Metric, channeling Blondie, Devo, The Police and New Order, proceeded to play non-stop and without banter until they had left and returned to the stage for their encore. During the encore set, the lead singer, Emily Haines, who had previously displayed some endearingly (and possibly inadvertently) geeky dance moves to accompany her strong vocals, left the stage for a short bout of crowd surfing. I was not aware that such things still happened, and to be honest, it seemed like the only clichéd moment in an otherwise excellent show.

Perhaps as a testiment to the forgettable nature of many live shows, we were (and still are) hard-pressed to remember our last visit to the Exit/In, which had changed little since the last time we were there (whenever that was), but I'm sure we'll remember this one for some time.

Look for Part Three soon.

"What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun." Ecclesiastes 1:9

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Nashville Music Renaissance: Part One

No, I haven't rediscovered Tootsie's Orchid Lounge or begun frequenting Robert's Western World. No, I haven't gone out and bought a pair of eel-skin boots, a ten-gallon hat, tight-fitting, straight-legged blue jeans, or a belt buckle the size of a waffle iron. No, sir. For the most part, I leave Nashville's lower Broadway haunts to the surrounding county cruisers, the out-of-towners who buy overpriced CD's at Ernest Tubb's Record Store just to say they did (when they can score the same album on Amazon.com for $11.99), the Nashville Predators fans, and the college-aged kids that file into the likes of Graham Central Station, Buffalo Billiards, Red Iguana, and whatever the heck else is down there these days luring 'em in with $1 longnecks and day-glo, test-tube shooters.

Sure, I've gone to see Sportin' Paddy at Mulligan's on 2nd Avenue, and I contend that you haven't seen a concert until you've seen a show at the Ryman Auditorium, but over the course of the last decade, my concert attendance has dwindled to an all-time low. The reasons are twofold.

1. For all its bluster about being Music City U.S.A., the smaller non-country venues in Nashville have had a checkered past. The famous Exit/In has closed and re-opened at least twice in my 13-year residence. 328 Performance Hall which was a staple for shows during my college days has been gone for years. Mercy Lounge in the old Cannery Building has been revitalized, but it still offers terrible sight lines (unless you're 6' 4") and stifling heat, even on a cool night. I've always been a fan of 3rd and Lindsley's intimate surroundings and Sunday night WRLT shows, but if you don't get there early, you'll be in for a long night on your feet being jostled about by servers making their way to tables with trays full of drinks and people making their way to the restrooms with bladders full of drinks.

As for outdoor festivities, Uptown Mix, which started as a free concert series about 5 years ago brought some great acts to Nashville during the Summer months, but the powers that be ran that into the ground by charging $10 at the gate. At least Jamye and I will have fond memories of several shows we attended there, including one in particular. River Stages (our answer to Memphis in May) folded too, as evidenced by their blank webpage. Dancin' in the District is still around, but it's only a shadow of what it once was. It used to be free, but $8 is still a good deal if you can fight your way downtown (and find a place to park) on a Thursday night. The Cannery Row Revival stepped in this summer and offered some good shows in a large sloped parking lot outside the Cannery Building for a mere $5 with free parking, but give it time, and it will probably go the way of the dodo as well.

2. In general, concerts are too d@#* expensive these days. Jamye and I thought about going to see Rilo Kiley open for Coldplay this fall at Starwood Amphitheater, but for two lawn (?!!?!) seats it was going to run us $80 (after you factored in Ticketmaster's $10+ handling and delivery charges, which I could stomach if a uniformed guy on a scooter personally delivered the tickets to our door). Just a few years ago, 80 bucks might have gotten you two front row seats instead of the pleasure of sitting on a blanket 200 yards away from the stage, watching the musicians on a Jumbotron, and drinking $6 Miller Lites. I blame Napster.

So, having said all that. Jamye and I recently did 3 concerts in 6 days. More on that later...

Today's Relevant Quote: "Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it. It would not leave them narrow-minded and bigoted." Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 21, 2005


Dear Michelle,
When it comes to golf, you are better at the age of 16 then I will ever be. In fact, you were better than me and the guys I play with when you were getting coloring books for Christmas. You are also classier (in the light of the brouhaha at the Samsung LPGA event last week) than I remember being in 10th grade, but they say girls mature faster, right? All that to say, lets put this insufferable Michael Bamberger behind us, shall we? You're better than he'll ever be too.

As for me, I will linger on it just a little longer, and then I'm dropping it. I remember that there was a time when I wanted to be a journalist, but even in my short post-academic life I believe that the profession has changed... and not for the better. When did it become okay for reporters to become the story as was the case last weekend? Oh yeah, it was probably when they realized that there was no real money in just reporting the facts in clear and precise prose. There are book deals to be had here, folks. Could Mr. Bamberger be working on his newest title? Everybody Cheats But Me.

My mom sent me this editorial from Golfweek. I'll let this serve as my final word on the matter.

Today's Relevant Actual Culture Quote: "The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands." Oscar Wilde

Ahhhh, Blogs.

You know, that's short for web logs. Web logs was just too long to type and say. Someone had the great idea of calling them blogs, a word that looks and sounds silly. Blog naturally makes me think of blob which makes me think of this.

Anyway, I think it's great that a shortened form of a word for something that didn't exist a few years ago could become so pervasive in our culture in such a short time. My mother reads a lot of blogs, and she still writes checks at the grocery store. They're everywhere, people. Like a soft, amorphous mass they have spread over the vastness of world wide web, packing web server after web server with line after line of aimless ramblings like this. If somebody would have told Al Gore when he invented the internet years ago that people would be able to publish their thoughts, hopes, dreams and other insane diatribes so easily, he would have told you that you were crazy (or the more PC, sanity deficient. Now, THAT'S some up-to-the-minute topical humor, baby!)

So here we are. In this politically correct world of ours, we have come to this last great bastion of free speech, a place where we can write whatever we want and no one will pay any attention. Like the homeless guy on the corner who seems to be talking to no one in particular about something very urgent, this is our blog. We hope you enjoy watching us figure out what it's going to be about.

Today's Relevant Pop-Culture Quote: "If you had half as much fun watching this show as we did making it, well, then we had twice as much fun making the show as you did watching it." Casey McCall, Sports Night