Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My 20 Most Favoritist Tracks of 2010: From "Who are these guys?" to "Ugh, not these guys" to (hopefully) "Yes! These guys!"

20? Why 20? I'll tell you why. 20 was as many tracks as I could possibly fit onto an 80 min CD-R, and even then I had to trim some fade-ins and fade-outs by a couple of seconds. I tried really not to let track length influence my selections. If my favorite song from an artist really was the 7 minute song and not the 4 minute radio single, so be it; even if it meant shortening up my list. It could have just as easily been a Top 17 or 23 list.

Favoritists? Yes, that's not a word and yes, these are my favorites. Not necessarily the "best" tracks, just the ones that continually found their way onto my various iPod playlists and sundry mixtapes I made for my friends. This also meant that I had to fight my urge to make this a mixtape instead of a "Best Of" playlist. Usually I would take things into account like song length (as mentioned above) as well as song placement and overall pacing. All of those went right out the window.

2010? Yup, only tracks from albums released in 2010 were eligible. I struggled mightily with the idea of an including a song from The Promise by Bruce Springsteen, but that album was largely b-sides from Darkness On The Edge Of Town, which was definitely not released in 2010. Also, if I included that I was opening the door for the Pinkerton re-issue by Weezer, which would in turn open other doors. It's 2010 and I'm going green, so I closed as many doors as possible.

One final caveat: one track per artist on this list. Otherwise there would have been only four or five different artists on here.

20. "In The Sun" She & Him, Volume Two

Don't call it a sophomore slump. True, Volume Two may not have been as good as Volume One, but it still had it's share of highs, including this song. As if Zooey Deschanel could do any wrong in my eyes.

19. "Post Acid" Wavves, King of The Beach

Singing this song at the top of your lungs (quite poorly, at that) is a great way to pass the miles on the I-90 headed East to Syracuse.

18. "Tighten Up" The Black Keys, Brothers

The breakdown in this song gets me every time. And the rest of it is pretty good, too.

17. "My Time" Minus The Bear, Omni

I introduced my friend Shennen to this band. He really dug their stuff and ending up doing some Internet research on them and told me how they got their band name. Apparently one of the band members had a proverbial hot date and the other guys asked him how it went. "Do you remember that show BJ and The Bear? Well, like that, except minus the bear." This song feels like an extension of that anecdote.

16. "Garbage Truck" Sex Bob-0mb, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

We are Sex Bob-omb and we are here to make you think about death and get sad and stuff!

So sayeth Scott Pilgrim just before his band faces off against The Katayanagi Twins. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was favorite movie of 2010, which really isn't surprising at all considering how much I loved the Scott Pilgrim Graphic Novels (which was "immensely"). Graphic Novel adaptations are dicey enough, but a Graphic Novel that depends heavily on music and fictional bands is almost asking to be butchered on the big screen. However, just like the 1987 Detroit Pistons forgot about Larry Bird, and rappers in the late '90s forgot about Dre, all the pre-movie release haters forgot about Beck. Yes, that Beck. He wrote the Sex Bob-omb songs for the movie, and he killed it, obviously. Also deserving of credit is Chris Murphy of Sloan, who served as the film's Music Performance Supervisor. He pretty much made sure the actors looked like rock stars, and he, too, killed it. Obviously.

15. "A More Perfect Union" Titus Andronicus, The Monitor

Tramps like us, baby we were born to DIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!

This band tries so hard to be the new Bruce Springsteen & The E. Street Band, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, even if they fall well short of their mark. It was a lofty mark to begin with, after all.

14. "Everything at Once" Superchunk, Majesty Shredding

This year I found myself oddly gravitating to either the first or last song of a given album. For Majesty Shredding, I oscillated between both. In the end, the closer won out.

13. "Giving Up The Gun" Vampire Weekend, Contra

Another problem with making "Best of The Year" lists is time. Contra came out in January and I had all but played out "Giving Up The Gun" by March. Perhaps if this album had come out later in the year it would have placed higher. Or maybe I was actually able objectively rate this song. But I highly doubt that.

12. "K.O.W (Kings)" Cody B. Ware, Kings of Wrestling Entrance Music

I love Professional Wrestling and Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli, The Kings of Wrestling, are easily my favorite Tag Team today. I love them so much that I drove with my brother all the way to Syracuse to see them wrestle in a small gym allegedly packed with 350 fans and also because I thought there was a slight chance that we'd be able to meet the Kings (and even the Queen, Sara Del Rey).

We did. And they were awesome. Claudio is a fellow coffee enthusiast (I alerted him to a nearby Starbucks on Twitter, to which he replied, "Sweet!"). Sara Del Rey wrestled alongside the Kings that night in an awesomely horrible Christmas sweater vest, which ended up costing her the much when one of the dastardly Olsens pulled it over her face and rolled her up in a small package. That Young Knockout Kid, Chris Hero is a huge Hip-Hop fan and loves their theme song just as much as I do. OK, maybe not as much. I mean, my SMS and BBM alert on my BlackBerry right now is "K.O.W. Kings" taken right from this song.

I talked about songs getting played out on the previous entry, which is ironic, because I don't think I could ever play this song out. No matter how many times I've heard it, if it comes up on my iPod I'm listening to all the way through. I can't even so that about my so-called favorite song of the year. In fact, sometimes I found myself skipping through a 100+ song playlist in search of this song. Not bad, considering about 3/4 of the lyrics are simply the Kings of Wrestling's catch phrases and signature moves, yet Cody B. Ware somehow made it work without sounding cheesy at all.

Finish the competition wicka-with the KRS-ONE, the Rolling Elbow, the European Uppercut, son, Riccola Bomb, Flash Kick, your vision is done.

11. "Goodnight Laura" Spoon, Transference

Don't mind Spoon, all they've done this year is release yet another solid album. This album was so solid that I had a hard time deciding on my favorite song, always a good problem to have. Ultimately, I decided that I can never have enough lullabies for my niece, Aiyana; especially when delivered with the sand papery voice of Britt Daniel.

10. "Let's Get Out of Here" Les Savy Fav, Root For Ruin

I'm a sucker for these types of songs, I really am. The song starts out I want you. I want you. Right now. Simple, sweet and succinct. In other words, every thing I am not. Throw in some "oooooohhh"s and you've got yourself a Top Ten song.

9. "The Curse" Josh Ritter, So Runs The World Away

Zombie Love Song of The Year.

Music Video of The Year.

That is all.

8. "Boyfriend" Best Coast, Crazy For You

At first listen, it will seem like there is nothing at all to this song. It's just you're average, run-of-the-mill indie pop rock song about a girl longing after a boy. It's basically a Taylor Swift song. But, is it really? Is it really? Is it really?

7. "Norway" Beach House, Teen Dream

Best Coast made me talk about about Taylor Swift and with Beach House I feel obligated to mention Katy Perry, whose similarly titled album Teenage Dream dominated all sorts of charts this year as well as my cousin Andy's stereo. But on my list, the dream pop of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally reigns supreme.

6. "Laredo" Band of Horses, Infinite Arms

There's just something so warm and inviting and familiar about this song. It's probably Ben Bridwell's beard.

5. "Power" Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West's latest albums is so good (how good was it?) that not only did I have a hard time picking my favorite song from it, I had an even harder time picking out my favorite line. The winners? This song (obviously) and "You got too many Urkels on your team, that's why their wins low" (from the album opener "Dark Fantasy"). I went with "Power" partly because of his electric Saturday Night Live performance, but also because it perfectly illustrates Kanye's self-doubt, but also his self-awareness as not only one of the best rappers today, but as one of the best musicians today, and also the dangers that come along with that recognition. It's a rather vicious cycle, actually. And even if you don't relate to this song that way, I guess every superhero needs his theme music.

4. "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" The National, High Violet

I had the hardest figuring out which song by The National was going to make my list. "Terrible Love," "Blood Buzz Ohio," "Conversation 16" and "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" all dominated my iPod this year. And if that wasn't bad enough, later in the year The National released an "Expanded" edition of High Violet featuring an alternate version of "Terrible Love." After much consternation, "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" was awarded the 4 spot. The lines Man, it's all been forgiven/The swans are a-swimmin' and All the very best of us string ourselves up for love haunted me (in a good way) more than any other from High Violet, except for maybe I was afraid I'd eat your brains 'cause I'm evil from "Conversation 16." The strings and piano accompaniment are lovely as well.

3. "Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)" Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

They heard me singing and they told me to stop/Quit these pretentious things and just punch the clock

As a 26-year-old who works in a factory right in the middle of a suburban sprawl, this album and this song in particular hit really close to home with me. There really isn't a whole lot to do in Western New York. On my days off I often find myself driving around aimlessly and I usually stop at one of the various shopping malls just 'cause. Everyday I ask myself can we ever get away from the sprawl? I guess I'm not the only one.

2. "Infinity Guitars" Sleigh Bells, Treats

This. Song. Rocks.

1. "Dance Yrself Clean" LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening

How dare you, James Murphy? How dare you start this song out almost painfully slow only to catch me off guard and cause me to dance like a fool every time the beat kicks up? How dare you write lyrics that are obvious jabs at me like acting like a jerk, except you are an actual jerk and living proof that sometimes friends are mean? How dare you make me put a 9 minute song as my favorite of the year? How dare you release such a perfect album and then claim it's LCD Soundsystem's last? How dare you?

God bless you, James Murphy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Search for Scott Pilgrim, Volume 6

Confession: I'm extremely late to the Scott Pilgrim party. And not fashionably late, either. Just plain old, rather obnoxiously late. I'm That Guy. That Guy who was aware of the book's existence for quite some time, but never bothered to check it out until a month before the major motion picture adaptation. Don't you hate That Guy? That Guy who swoops in at the last second and then tries to act like he's been a long time fan, perhaps he just wants to be able to complain that the book is better than the movie. I may very well be That Guy; but that doesn't mean that I don't absolutely love and adore Scott Pilgrim.

A few weeks ago I was at a Barnes & Noble when I came across Volume 1, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. So, I bought that, and also decided to pick up Volume 2, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, just in case I liked the first one. And I did like the first one. Really, really liked the first one. After I tore through Volume 2 I went back to Barnes & Noble and acquired Volumes 3,4 & 5, all the while knowing that the Sixth (and Final) Volume was just released, but only available at comic book shops and The Internet. My love for Scott Pilgrim grew and grew and grew with each Volume. It felt like I'd liked this book for a thousand years. Coincidentally, I also hated myself more and more and more because I could have been reading these books for the past 6 years. It was a similar feeling to the one I had when I first realized that Weezer's Pinkerton was released in 1996. As soon as I finished the penultimate chapter, Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe I simply had to have Volume 6, Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour, ASAMFP (HINT: M stands for mother).

Monday, July 26 is my first day off from work after a four day, 56 hour work week. I start the day where I start most of my days, at The Orange Cat Coffee Co. in Lewiston. This coffee shop is less than ten minutes from my house and they have awesome coffee at a more than reasonable price. I only wish that they were open a tad bit later, especially when I'm on midnights. As soon as I walk in the door a girl says, "Hi, Woody!" Now, Woody is one of my many nicknames, but these days pretty much only people I went to high school with call me that, and even then most of them now opt for something a bit more sophisticated, like Joe or Native American Dragon (NAmDrag for short). "Hi," I reply to this girl who obviously knows me, and therefore I should know her, but I don't. "Do you know who I am?" she says. Oh, boy; this is getting awkward for good old Joe Money here. Luckily, awkward is kind of my thing. I thrive under awkward. So, I come up with this flawless response, "Uh....No." "I'm Kaylin, Shannon's friend." "Oh. Yeah! Yes. Hi." Shannon is my cousin Andy's wife and I recently went to visit them up in Waddington, NY, which is only about 300 miles away. They moved there after they got married last year and that was the first time I had been to see them. We spent most of the time kayaking and watching The Hills (Shannon's idea) and The Bachelorette (Andy's idea). And Shannon did tell me about Kaylin, although I didn't recognize her without Andy there to circle her face with a cursor. It now occurs to me that this girl's sole knowledge of my existence may or may not be that I once drove 5 hours to watch The Bachelorette (which isn't entirely true, but it is also not entirely false, either). We both agree that it was nice to meet each other, and we both agree that we are excited for Kasey's return to The Bachelorette later that night.

My friend Julia is working at The Orange Cat today. She's one of the few people who is genuinely interested in the things I have to say, no matter how mundane or self indulgent. I'll bet she'd even read a 3,500+ word essay on the day I spent driving around Western New York looking for Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. She likes The Beach Boys more than radio metal, just like the girl in the Jack's Mannequin song, "Miss Delaney." "I like your stars," she says. She's talking about my BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Status Message. It has a ridiculously low character limit, so the only useful thing I found I could do with it is make it my own personal energy meter using stars (is "useful" the right word?). I tell her how I'm not sure how high it can go, but it can definitely go negative. She apologizes for not replying to my BBM last night, but her hair's doing that thing I like plus she's wearing her glasses and she said I looked dashing today (which is probably just her way of acknowledging the fact that I'm not wearing a Pro Wrestling or Boston Celtics shirt), so right now I don't really care about her not getting back to me last night and tell her that it's OK. She hands me my coffee and away I go with my energy up an additional three stars. BBM Energy Meter: 5 Stars.

Geographically speaking, the nearest comic book shop to me is the House of Fantasy in Niagara Falls on Pine Avenue. However, they do not carry many indie/small press comics, so I don't even bother checking there, even though it's only about a 15 minute drive. The comic book shop that I frequent the most is Halley's Comics in North Tonawanda. The guy who runs it, Randy, I believe is his name, is a really nice guy and I can usually find a copy of whatever I'm looking for, be it a huge event style comic like Secret Invasion or Blackest Night or something smaller like Scalped or The Walking Dead. I consider this to be my Local Comic Shop, or LCS, even though I haven't been there in about three or four months because I've been working so much. I blame the economy. However, his store hours are kind of all over the place. I have it committed to memory that he isn't open on Wednesdays, and I know he's also closed on some other days of the week and I have a sneaking suspicion that today is one of those other days, so I decide not to try there. Sure, I could call him and ask, but where would the fun in that be? Today is about adventure.

Even with a movie coming out, I am still dubious of my chances of actually finding a copy of Volume 6. When it comes to chance and probability, my philosophy is based around three people: Han Solo, Chuck Klosterman and Lloyd Christmas. Never tell me the odds (HS). Everything is 50/50 (CK). So, you're telling me there's a chance (LC). Let's say I knew as soon as I woke up today that there was only a 13% chance that I'd be able to find Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. I probably wouldn't even bother leaving the house. But I didn't know the odds, and I did leave because I know there are only two possible outcomes; either I find Volume 6 or I don't. I have a 50/50 shot, in theory. And sometimes things get desperate (and sometimes "sometimes" means "all the time") and all I have to hold on to is the faint glimmer of a hope that my chances are at least infinity minus one. If I had to pick one store in all of Western New York, or at least the Greater Buffalo Area, to have at least one copy for sale of "Scott Pilgrim, Volume 6" I'd say that Queen City Bookstore on Main St near the Niagara Falls Boulevard has at least a 50/50 shot. So, naturally, I decide to try Dan's Atomic Comics on Transit Road in Lancaster.

For some unknown reason I decide to take 1o4 all the way down to Wright's Corners where it will intersect with 78, which will eventually turn into Transit Road, which will eventually take me to Dan's Atomic Comics. This is what is commonly referred to as "taking the long way." Part of the reason is that I genuinely like to drive and I'm really enjoying this playlist I made comprised of songs from "Scott Pilgrim" creator Bryan Lee O'Malley's writing playlists listed in Volumes 3 & 5. Highlights include "By Your Side" by Beachwood Sparks, "If We Can Land a Man On The Moon, Surely I can Win Your Heart" by Beulah, "I Summon You" by Spoon, and, of course, "Scott Pilgrim" by Plumtree. I think I was also subconsciously trying to locate Reid's Drive-In, a hidden gem of a burger stand in Lockport that I haven't been to in about 8 years. I find it and make a mental note of it and make plans to go there in the near future (SPOILER ALERT: I did). BONUS: I pass by Grover's Bar & Grill, which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.

I have been to Dan's Atomic Comics only once before. Or possibly twice. And Google seems to think it's owned by Don, but I'm pretty sure it's Dan. The one time I remember going there I was with my brother, Ben, and our cousin, Jon, who was looking for some volumes of "DMZ." We were in the area in the first place because Jon was looking for a specific Noam Chomsky book that The Internet told him was only available at the Barnes & Noble on Main & Transit. He didn't find it, but I found, and subsequently bought, Wilco: Learning How To Die. Jon asked a couple of young gentlemen sitting around and about what appeared to be a checkout counter of sorts who were listening to one of the various variations of the Metal genre if any of them worked there and one of them said, "Of course I do! I am Dan, THE ATOMIC ONE!" (This sentence does not sound right in my head when I replace Dan with Don, so it must be Dan) We were all mildly terrified. Dan told Jon that he didn't have any copies of the volumes of DMZ that he was looking for, but said he could order them. Jon told him no thanks and that he probably wouldn't be out this way anytime soon because it's kind of a haul (and that was taking the non-long way). Dan said he would order them anyway. That is why I decided to give Dan's Atomic Comics a shot.

"Sorry, we're closed," the sign on Dan's Atomic Comics smugly says. The blow is lessened by the fact that this location is McDonald's adjacent. A Reese's McFlurry greatly aids in the healing process. I'm actually not that bummed because I was kind of expecting something like this to happen. Queen City Bookstore, here I come. 78 intersects with Route 5/Main Street just down the road, and although I suspect that it isn't the fastest way to get there (NOTE: It isn't), I'm in no big hurry.

I discovered Queen City Book Store the same way Columbus discovered America; when I got there, there were people already there. I was attending University at Buffalo and one of my classes had me going to Talking Leaves on Main Street to buy books. I could barely afford my books for class, let alone comic books. In fact, I was so broke then, and am so wise now, that I can say that I had absolutely no business buying comic books at that point in my life. But that didn't stop me from dropping fifty bucks on a healthy stack from time to time, and I gotta say it was pretty savvy of them to accept credit cards. But, hey, I was twenty years old and broke, if I didn't have any comics I probably would've spiraled into deep depression. Or worse, got a job. ANYWAY.

It's been about one year since I've been in this store. I had to take Young Benjamin (who really is that young) to the offices of The Buffalo News so he could get his picture taken for being a Scholar Athlete (or as I like to call it, "Nerd") and I decided to take the long way home (that happens a lot, I guess). I take it as a good sign that there is a stack of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World movie posters and begin to awkwardly look around, trying to figure out what's going on in the Marvel and DC Universes. I stopped actively following them because I didn't have the time to read all the necessary comic books. So, of course, now that I actually have the money to spend on comic books, I don't have any time to read them. Irony. I also try to avoid spoilers because I know one day down the line there's a chance that I might want to read them. The last I knew, Disney owns Marvel, The Avengers are New again for about the fifth time in six years, Batman is not Bruce Wayne or is dead or possibly alive, Blackest Night was happening and is probably done by now, The Flash was Reborn and there was a Siege. Needless to say, I'm pretty clueless and can't really find a good starting point for any new books, so I check out the Trade Paperbacks. Once again, I'm not sure where to start and where to draw the line. If I buy this, then I have to buy that, and so on, and so forth. I do end up buying Volume 4 of Scalped because I have all the single issues except for one of that story arc and ask the guy if they have any Scott Pilgrim, Volume 6. "No, we only got a couple, and that was for people who ordered it. There really hasn't been that much talk about it." "Really?!" I say aloud (I just learned that "?!" is called an interrobang from one "Brewtown" Andy Fleck, although, now that I think about it, it's more than possible that my friend, Shennen, told me about this a month ago, but I think it was like 4 AM and I was literally slipping in and out of consciousness) and "But-but there's a movie and stuff! You got posters and everything!!" to myself (double bang?). I hand him the Scalped Trade and he says how good it is and then asks me if I'm Native American, but he never really finishes a sentence, because we had this exact same conversation last year. And, just like last year, he hands me his card, and he tells me to check back next week to see if he has any copies. He went on to say stuff about how everyone else in town is probably also sold out, and that he might have some next week and maybe something about me not listening to him; I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention. BBM Energy Meter: 3 Stars.

I really, really, really don't know what I'm doing. I am vaguely aware that there are Other comic book shops in the vicinity. I've even been to some of them before. But only once. And it was on Halloween two years ago with my friend, Ralph (I like to refer to Ralph as Ralphus for obvious Chris Jericho related reasons, but I never, e-e-eeeeever call him that to his face). I also remember this as the day Ralphus became obsessed with the idea of me making a "Ghost Hunters" parody video, even though I never once expressed any interest in either the show or a parody. My refusal to make such a video is directly related to Ralphus not talking to me as much as he used to, I'm sure. Of The Other comic book shops, I distinctly remember Seeley & Kane's on Delaware Avenue being the best of the bunch. I also remember unsuccessfully trying to find it last year. Several times. I've driven down Delaware Avenue countless times and every time I think I'm getting to where this place should be, it's not there. OK, there's a church, so that means it has to be coming up on the left right about...where is it? I even once walked up and down Delaware Avenue led by my phone's GPS, and I ended up at a building that said Seeley & Kane's, but it also said, "We've moved." But the thing is, that building wasn't where I was the previous Halloween. I referred to this shop as one of The Others and now it appears as if it actually is located on The Island. I type "comic" into my new phone's GPS and see what pops up. Sure enough, there are 2 locations for Seeley & Kane's. Suddenly I'm not feeling quite as adventurous as before, so I cheat and call ahead to confirm their existence. They do, in fact, exist. On Elmwood Avenue. Which is, coincidentally, not Delaware Avenue.

View The Search for Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 6 in a larger map

I remember liking two things (not necessarily only two things) about Seeley & Kane's: 1) Copious amounts of back issues. When I went last time I was able to get nearly all of the Secret Invasion issues for both New and Mighty Avengers when I couldn't find them anywhere else. 2) A nifty little section devoted to specific creators. They have a section for Warren Ellis, Frank Miller, Brian K. Vaughan, Brian Michael Bendis and other various Brians [(OK, maybe only one other Brian, that being Azzarello, and not Bryan Lee O'Malley) & (It took me years and years and years to break myself of the habit of following 1) with B), or A) with 2). I never could help myself. I thought it was the funniest thing. I also used to face a similar affliction whenever asked the question, "What time is it?" Of course, now I use the word "nifty.")]. I am able to find the first three issues of Siege and the first issues of Avengers and Captain America which are part of Marvel's Heroic Age. I also get Fortune And Glory and Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis. Actually, only Captain America isn't written by Bendis, it is written by Ed Brubaker. There is a stack of Scott Pilgrim movie posters, but they have a grand total of none Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour. But they might have some next week. That's OK, because there's a nearby comic shop on Delaware Avenue.

Addendum: There's a nearby comic shop on Delaware Avenue that is closed today. BBM Energy Meter: 1 Star.

Now I am really grasping at straws. The remaining search results for "comic" are places I've never been before. One of which, Adventure Cards & Comics, is on Elmwood Avenue, apparently; so I try that one. Pro Tip: Just because two places are on the same road doesn't mean that they are always close to each other; although according to the map I only have to go about four inches. After literally minutes of driving I approach where my destination should be, but I see no feasible place where this shop could possibly be located; but just to make sure I make a right down a side street and loop around. Yup. I can't find it. So I just keep cruising down Elmwood Avenue as my phone tries to route me towards this place that is simply called "The Card Store" on Union near the Greater Buffalo International Airport. I've got a bad feeling about this.

When I was attending UB in the years of 2004 and 2005 I would sometimes try to find alternate ways home, sometimes unknowingly. I knew I was really, really lost when I would start to hear John Murphy's voice in my head. Murph does the radio play-by-play for the Buffalo Bills, and invariably has to plug some sponsors during the action. Those sponsors usually are located in Buffalo. I know how to get to Buffalo, but I don't really know how to get around Buffalo. My Wild & Young years were spent staying in playing video games and reading comic books, not going out on Chippewa Street like Big & Rich. So, whenever I would see road signs for Elmwood, Eggert, Union, Colvin, etc. I would start to hear Murph's voice, and that was when I knew I was lost. And on the way to The Card Store, I hear Murph's voice. But, I am not lost. But, I do see no fewer than three people dressed up in chicken costumes in an attempt to sell jewelry, or at the very least coax people into selling them their jewelry, so that they can sell it again. I have officially driven too far to care.

As soon as I walk into The Card Store, I'm a little put off, as there are cards. Lots and lots of cards. I feel like Michael Bluth looking into a brown paper bag with "Dead Dove, do not eat" written on it. I don't know what I was expecting. I look around a little bit and I see at least a few comic books, but not what I would call a whole lot. Until I see the back room. There are a whole lot of comic books in there. And, of course, there's a stack of movie posters. So, I ask, "Do you have any of the new Scott Pilgrim?" "No, but we might have some in next week." In just one day, "No, but we might have some next week," is making a serious run at becoming my least favorite sentence. It still has a ways to go, though, if it even wants to think about getting a title shot against the reigning champion, "Joe, you're such a great guy, but I just don't see you that way." And then things get interesting. "You can take some passes for an advance screening of the movie, if you want," the guy says. "Um, OK." BBM Energy Meter: Minus 5 Stars.

I head out in the general direction of home, where I will learn from Google what any other form of cartography, or perhaps even my Dad could have told me, that The Card Store is stupid close to Dan's Atomic Comics. I will take the long way home so that I can swing by Halley's comics and double check that he is closed today. He will be. I will try not think about the possibility of The House of Fantasy overflowing with copies of Volume 6. I will order Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour from Amazon and pay the three or four dollars for overnight shipping, which is actually pretty perfect and even almost poetic. I will watch "The Bachelorette: The Men Tell All." I will meet the UPS delivery man halfway down my driveway the next day and thank him. I will go to The Orange Cat, get a coffee, and then go down to the Niagara River and put my headphones on and read Volume 6 with the biggest smile on my face.

But I won't go to the advance screening of "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World." I won't go with Julia. I won't go with Kaylin. I won't go with Ben and Jon. I won't go with Ralphus. I'm scruffy looking. I am ready to be alone now. I am one pathetic loser. Or something.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Michael Tarver Story.

Yeah, via google, I've made my first youtube video. Behold, the Michael Tarver Story.

Friday, April 16, 2010

1 Shall Stand. 15 Shall Fall. 2010 NBA Playoffs Preview

As a young child, only two things really mattered to me: Transformers and Larry Bird. My dad says I used to sleep walk out to the living room at 6 AM just to watch Transformers and that I would scour the cardboard backing of the toys as if I could read them. My Larry Bird swoon didn’t hit me until a little later. It was when I was looking for a VHS to watch (presumably because I had lost my copy of “Transformers: The Movie”) and came across my Dad’s copy of “Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend.” Prior to that, my only exposure to Larry Bird came from the “Jordan vs. Bird” NES game (which I destroyed all my cousins in, because they were suckers and always picked Jordan, leaving me to drain 3’s as Bird) and the Larry Bird shirts I noticed my Dad wearing. I asked my Dad if this Larry Bird guy was any good and he simply said, “Yeah.” So I watched it. And I was amazed. Too bad by that point he was already in the twilight of his career. Optimus Prime and Larry Bird. That was my childhood.

As a 25-year-old (alleged) adult, not much has changed. In fact, I could argue that I love the Transformers and Larry Bird now more than I did back then. Or, at least, I am able to fully comprehend just how much I love them. The back of my truck features an Autobot trailer hitch cover and a Boston Celtics license plate holder. I regularly wear the Larry Bird black Converse Weapon ’86. I often buy my cousin’s little girls Transformers (and they love them). My poor niece will have more Celtics shirts than my sister will know what to do with. I am often found to be rocking out to The Transformers: The Movie Soundtrack. And then, of course, there’s DVDs. In my childhood, all I had to tide me over once Transformers went off the air and Larry retired were those VHS copies of “Transformers: The Movie” and “Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend.” And that was if I could get the tracking to work on the VCR. Today I have both on Special Edition DVD, with tons of bonus features. I have the entire Transformers TV show on DVD, as well as close to a baker’s dozen complete Larry Bird games as well as all the six disc Celtics Dynasty DVD set, not to mention ESPN Classic, the recent HBO documentary, the sundry internet sites and the various books written on both subject matters. Oh, and YouTube. Gotta love the YouTube.

So, it only seems fitting that I combine my two greatest passions (and Passion gets me an automatic eight on the Daniel Bryan Manliness Meter) into my first real blog post: a 2010 NBA Playoffs Preview featuring quotes from “Transformers: The Movie” and the soundtrack. And by “Transformers: The Movie” I of course mean the real one. And by “real one” I of course do not mean the live action movie that came out in 2007. I mean the original animated movie that was released in 1986. The one with all the great lines. The one with the killer soundtrack. The one that shaped my life during my formative years. You know? The real one.

So, who's got The Touch? Who's got The Power?

Round One: FIGHT!
Eastern Conference
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls

Cleveland Cavaliers
Galvatron: Sweeps, terminate him!

The Cavs added Shaq in the off season as a way to combat Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic. Except, they got him after they were eliminated from the Playoffs. And then Shaq kinda stunk during the Regular Season. But Shaq has been stinking during the Regular Season only to turn it up in the Playoffs for the better part of this millennium. Besides, even without any terribly significant contribution from Shaq, the Cavs still coasted to the best record in the NBA. Oh, and they have that LeBron James guy. He should be able to get a few baskets for them.

Chicago Bulls

Megatron: Such heroic nonsense.

The Bulls pushed the Celtics to a Game 7 in one of the greatest First Round Playoff Series of all time last year. And for an encore? A disappointing Regular Season. They finished the year out on somewhat of a hot streak and managed to sneak into the Playoffs right at the very end. Their prize? LeBron James.

The Pick:
LeBron is gonna be too much for the Bulls. After not even reaching the Finals last year (which I think he may or may not have done out of protest for those Nike Kobe and LeBron puppet commercials) LeBron is gonna be like Mo & Mabel in the mid-90's WWF: a Man On A Mission.
Cleveland: 4-0

Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats

Orlando Magic
Grimlock: Me Grimlock not nice dino. Me bash brains.

After making it to the Finals last year by upsetting the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic went and got rid of one of the key components of that team (Hedo Turkoglu) and replaced him with a known head case (Vince Carter). They didn’t really miss Hedo too much in the Regular Season, and Hedo has done as close to nothing as physically possible on his new team, the Toronto Raptors. Vince Carter’s Playoff track record isn’t great, but perhaps now that he’s graduated from UNC that won’t be an issue.

Charlotte Bobcats
Perceptor: I fear the wounds are fatal.

Michael Jordan owns them now….and Gerald Wallace can rebound. That’s about all I got.

The Pick:
Dwight Howard's a beast. Plain and simple. I think the Magic are flawed, but those flaws won't hurt them at all against the Bobcats (who are the proverbial "we're just happy to be here" team).
Orlando: 4-1

Atlanta Hawks vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Atlanta Hawks
Springer: It's not hard to knock 'em down, it's getting 'em to stay down, that's the trick.

2 years ago the Atlanta Hawks pushed the eventual Champion Boston Celtics to 7 games in the first round. Now they are seeded higher than the Celtics. But are they ready to ascend into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference?

Milwaukee Bucks
Dare - dare to believe you can survive/You hold the future in your hand
Dare - dare to keep all of your dreams alive/It's time to take a stand
And you can win, if you dare

It feels like the Bucks have been on the cusp of breaking through to the middle class of the East for years. This year some things came together for them. The Brandon Jennings draft pick worked out and they got some decent production out of Andrew Bogut.

The Pick:
I think this is the best first round matchup for the Bucks as far as the top 4 teams in the East go. They would've felt overwhelmed by the other three. But I still don't see them upsetting the Hawks. The Hawks already have a good amount of Playoff experience on their team and looked really impressive in the Regular Season (especially in their complete owning of the Boston Celtics).

Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat: Miami
Boston Celtics
Iron Hide: Everytime I look into a monitor, Prime, my circuits sizzle. When are we gonna start bustin' Decepti-chops?
Optimus Prime: Iron Hide, I want you to make a special run to Autobot City on Earth.
Iron Hide: But Prime!
Optimus Prime: Listen, Iron Hide, we don’t have enough Energon to power a full scale assault.

The Celtics battled injuries all year and, as a result, chemistry issues. They still managed to fool many people during the Regular Season into thinking they were still an elite team in the NBA. And they are when they’re healthy. But they haven’t been healthy since the Bush Administration. So they’re not an elite team. They did have several quality wins over elite teams, but they also had some absolutely appalling losses. But that was the Regular Season and those were only single game wins and losses. How will they fair in a 7 Game Series? We know KG’s knees are bad. We know Paul Pierce always comes to play in the Playoffs. We know Rasheed will take bad 3’s. We know Doc Rivers will draw up last second plays for Big Bab-er, sorry, Glen Davis and give Tony Allen way too many minutes. So the biggest question mark is Point Guard Rajon Rondo. He went from being trade bait to signing a massive extension. The various team injuries caused him to fluctuate from facilitator to The Guy and back. He is a Triple-Double machine. He is also still very young and quite possibly a bit of a head case. When the Celtics won the Finals in 2008, Rondo was often times left wide open by the Lakers, and with good reason. Rondo wouldn’t shoot unless the shot clock was running out, no matter how wide open he was.

Miami Heat
Springer: I've got better things to do tonight than die.

Dwyane Wade is really, really, really, really, really, really good at basketball.

The Pick:
StarScream: Oh, how it pains me to do this.
Megatron: Wait, I still function!
StarScream: Wanna bet?
Miami: 4-3

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

Los Angeles Lakers
The fortunate ones
To be fast and free and young
I want to count myself among
The fortunate ones
We won't be denied
We know that time is on our side
We've got the passion and the pride
We won't be denied

The Lakers looked like they were on cruise control for much of the Regular Season. It’s a common symptom for Year-After Championship teams.Their main concern is remembering how to find that extra gear. If they do that it’s very hard to foresee anyone standing in their way (Not tonight! Not tonight!.

Oklahoma City Thunder
Perceptor: Ultra Magnus, a cursory evaluation of Decepticon capability indicates a distinct tactical deficiency.
Ultra Magnus: In other words, Perceptor?
Springer: We're outnumbered!

It has been an absolute pleasure to watch Kevin Durant play this year. The Scoring Champ still has much room for improvement, which is scary. But this team is much more than KD, Russell Westbrook in particular. It is, however, their first year in the Playoffs, and they're getting fed to the wolves, and unfortunately not the Timberwolves.

The Pick:
I figure Durant's good for at least 1 game by himself, and the Lakers might take another night off altogether, but that's about it. This series would be insanely exciting if the First Round was still Best-of-5. Instead, it'll only be very exciting.
Los Angeles: 4-2

Dallas Mavericks vs. San Antonio Spurs

Dallas Mavericks
Kup: The Insecticons are in our way!
Hot Rod: Wrong! They're our way in!

Dallas looked like they were headed for another early round exit, until Mark Cuban asked himself, "What would The Situation do?" and committed The Robbery and stole (OK, traded for) Caron Butler. Now all of a sudden they have the 2 seed in the West.

San Antonio Spurs
Hot Rod: Not bad for an old-timer.
Kup: Old-timer? That's something you'll never be if you don't get back to the city.

I love Tim Duncan. Love him. He could have been named MVP in any season of the last decade, and I wouldn't have had a problem with it. I consider the Spurs to be last decade's dynasty, not the Lakers. Gregg Popovich is one of the few coaches in the Association who has a considerable positive impact on his players and team. There may be less than a handful of players who can guard Tony Parker. Their only real weakness is their age/health.

The Pick:
All good things must come to an end. Would I be surprised if the Spurs upset the Mavs in Round 1? No. Not at all. The Mavs have a history of choking in Round 1 and the Spurs seem to always pull out a Tim Duncan 3-pointer right when they need it. But I think this is the year the wheels fall of the Spurs, or the Spurs fall of the horse, or whatever. Insert your own pun.
Dallas: 4-1

Phoenix Suns vs. Portland Trailblazers

Phoenix Suns
Megatron: Their defenses are broken, let the slaughter begin!

The Suns are back to doing what they do best: Running and/or Gunning in 7 seconds or less. It never quite got them to the Finals before, but it is the right style for them and they reach their maximum potential this way. Despite a bad back, Steve Nash is showing no signs of slowing down.

Portland Trailblazers
Kup: Of all the circuit-glitched, diode-blown dimwittery! You left a piece out!

I am so disappointed that Brandon Roy is having surgery and will miss the First Round that I can barely bring myself to write 3 sentences about the TrailBlazers. Even with minimal output from Oden, they were one of the most exciting, young teams, and mainly because of Roy. This sucks.
The Pick:
I was really looking forward to this series, and the games should still be fun. But still...
Phoenix: 4-1

Denver Nuggets vs. Utah Jazz

Denver Nuggets
Kup: I knew you had potential, lad.

Is Carmelo Anthony really ready to ascend into the upper echelon? Will he be a Barkley or a Bird? A Kemp or a Kobe? Speaking of Kobe, don't be fooled by his last second heroics this year, Carmelo was secretly the best crunchtime player this season. Give Chauncey Billups another year to gel with the Nuggets after being traded from Detroit in '08-'09 and a solid supporting cast that's coming off a competitive Playoff series last year and it sounds like you have yourself an honest to goodness contender.

Utah Jazz
Hot Rod: We can't hold out forever, Kup. But, we can give them one humongous repair bill.

Deron Williams is one of the best pure Point Guards today. Jerry Sloan is still one of the best coaches. But the Jazz still seem unable to distance themselves from the middle of the Western Conference pack.

The Pick:
These teams are pretty evenly matched, with the slight edge to Denver. But Utah plays so well at home that this series could easily go 7. And I think it will.
Denver: 4-3

Round Two: FIGHT!

Eastern Conference Semi-Finals
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Miami Heat

Cleveland Cavaliers
StarScream: Who disrupts my coronation?!
Galvatron: Coronation, StarScream? This is bad comedy.
StarScream: Megatron? Is that you?
Galvatron: Here's a hint!

Miami Heat
Instruments of destruction
Tools of foul play
It’s a violent eruption
Existence drips away

The Pick:
I’ll admit it, part of the reason I turned heel on my beloved Celtics was because I desperately want to see a LeBron James vs. Dwyane Wade Playoff Series. Who doesn’t? Plus, it’s always at least slightly intriguing to see Shaq go up against one of his former sidekicks (actually, in this case, Shaq was D-Wade’s sidekick, but it’s hard to consider a 7 foot, 300 pound man anyone’s sidekick). When it comes down to it, LeBron is a slightly better player on a much better team. But how long can we keep referring to him as King James when he doesn’t even have an NBA Crown yet (and Dwyane Wade does)?
Cleveland: 4-2

Orlando Magic vs. Atlanta Hawks

Orlando Magic
StarScream: Pathetic fools! There's no escape! Oh, my foot!

Atlanta Hawks
RC: I was afraid you'd be trapped outside the city.
Hot Rod: Hey, I wasn't worried for a micro-second.
RC: Then you probably didn't understand the situation.

The Pick:
The Orlando Magic are going to shoot themselves in the foot, as long as the Hawks stay calm and let them. Vince will go into some sort of funk and start chucking bad jump shots. Dwight Howard, as dominant as he is, really doesn’t have much of an offensive game. He has a nasty (and not in a good way; well, for him, at least) slingshot hook shot. That’s it. He will definitely out-beast you down low and get easy put backs, but Vince’s inevitable bad long-range jumpers mean long rebounds. But still, this is a series the Magic, the defending Eastern Conference Champions, should win. This should be as easy as StarScream trying to pick off RC and Springer as they’re trying to transform Autobot City. Oh, wait. They got away. And he shot himself in the foot. Besides, the Hawks are in danger of becoming the Matt Hardy of the Eastern Conference. They need to do something to elevate themselves from the midcard, or fans will never take them seriously as potential contender.
Atlanta Hawks: 4-3

Western Conference Semi-Finals
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets

Los Angeles Lakers
Ultra Magnus: Brace for impact! Say something. Anything.
Springer: Remind me to give the Auto-pilot a raise.

Denver Nuggets
Hot Rod: They're closing on us!
Kup: Yup, like the Shrike Bats of Dramadon.
Hot Rod: How'd you beat that?
Kup: I'm trying to remember, there were an awful lot of casualties. Oh, yeah, we invented polarities!

The Pick:
These two teams met last year in the Playoffs with the Lakers coming out on top. How does each team compare to their 2009 counterpart? The Nuggets are a little better, mostly because Carmelo Anthony is better. The Lakers swapped Ariza for Artest, which was actually a slight downgrade; but overall they’re playing better than they were last year. Which means that the Lakers are still better than the Nuggets. It also won’t help that the Thunder will probably have kicked the Lakers out of auto-pilot and into Playoff Mode.
Los Angeles: 4-2

Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns

Dallas Mavericks
SoundWave: SoundWave superior. Constructicons inferior.
Scavenger: Who are you calling inferior?
Hook: Nobody would follow an uncharismatic bore like you.
Rumble: Hey, nobody calls SoundWave unchrassimatic!

Phoenix Suns
I want it so bad I can taste it
It drives me mad to see it wasted
When I need it so bad that it's burnin' me
I'm hungry
I'd do anything to get it and feel no regret
Time is running out and I ain't found it yet

The Pick:
The year after Steve Nash left Dallas and signed with Phoenix there was much talk about Nash being MVP because the Suns instantly got better and won many more games. I, on the other hand, found it curious that the Mavericks never really seemed to miss Nash. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’d be better with him. In fact, I’d rather have Nash on my time than Dirk. It just seemed odd to me that Dirk seemed to come out on the short end of the stick, as far as public perception goes. After all, the Mavericks have remained in the top tier of the Western Conference ever since Nash left, even making it to the Finals in 2006, where they ran into Dwyane Wade and some dubious officiating. Nash, despite all his MVP awards, has never made it to the Finals. Sure, he’s had his share bad luck and his team spent half a season trying to the play the exact opposite way that they should be, but the fact remains that the Dallas Mavericks reached a level that Nash’s Suns never have. Yet, Nash continues to be the Media Darling. Why? Because he’s more charismatic than Dirk Nowitzki. Nash’s teams are always more fun to watch than Dirk’s, what, with all the fast breaks and behind the back passes. Who cares about Playoff success? Don’t you think this leads to the way they’re portrayed on TV? Nash is always shown smiling. Dirk is shown snarling. Nash was David Letterman’s NBA Playoff correspondent. Dirk was snarling. Nash is Canadian. Dirk is German. And still snarling. Snarling Germans do not go over will in these United States. Dirk also has the misfortune of having the most awkward MVP presentation after he was ousted in the First Round by the Warriors. It was David Stern and Dirk trying to fight back a snarl. Or maybe it’s his name. Dirk? It’s kind of hard to root for someone named Dirk isn’t it? Whatever it is, perhaps this series will help give Dirk a little boost in the PR department (and boy, could he use it).
Dallas: 4-3

Conference Finals

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks

Cleveland Cavaliers
Megatron: Constructicons, merge for the kill!

Atlanta Hawks
Perceptor: Do you think you got through to Prime?
Blaster: Let's hope so, cause if I didn't we're all gonna look like burnt out toaster ovens.

The Pick:
This close to the Finals, LeBron will smell blood and go for the kill.
Cleveland: 4-1

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Dallas Mavericks

Los Angeles Lakers
Galvatron: First, Prime. Then, Ultra Magnus. And now, you. It's a pity you Autobots die so easily or I might have a sense of satisfaction now.

Dallas Mavericks
RC: Did we have to let them detonate three-quarters of the ship?
Springer: Seeing as how they would have detonated four-quarters, I think it was good choice.
RC: But now how are we gonna get there in this wreck?

The Pick:
Dallas may have had a chance had they not been through the previous war with Phoenix. And with Kobe and the Lakers clicking on all cylinders and in full-on Playoff Mode, I don’t think there’s much the Mavs can do about it.
Los Angeles: 4-2

NBA Finals
Optimus Prime: One shall stand. One shall fall.
Megatron: Why throw away your life so recklessly?
Optimus Prime: That's a question you should ask yourself, Megatron.
Megatron: No! I'll crush you with my bare hands!

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Los Angeles

Cleveland Cavaliers
Optimus Prime: Megatron must be stopped, no matter the cost.

Los Angeles Lakers
Megatron: No more, Optimus Prime. Grant me mercy, I beg of you.
Optimus Prime: You? Who are without mercy, now plead for it? I thought you were made of sterner stuff.

The Pick:
You're at your best when when the goin' gets rough
You've been put to the test, but it's never enough
You got the touch
You got the power

Winner, and NEEEEEEEEWWWWW Basketball Champions of the Wooooooooooorrrrrrld!
Cleveland: 4-2

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Where Will Amazing Happen This Year?

The NBA Playoffs begin this weekend and I plan on having a full-on preview for them up on Thursday or Friday. In the meantime, this will have to tide you over.

My First Post : Prologue.

Like Gran Turismo 5, this post has a prologue. Unlike GT5, This post will come out within two years of the prologue (Should be completed in a week or so).

the task at hand is to re-watch all six of Ring of Honor's Toronto area shows and rank the cards and matches in order of quality and "it factor".

I will be reviewing:
Northern Navigation (Toronto - 7/25/08)
Bound By Hate (Markham - 11/8/08)
Double Feature II - "Tag Title Classic" only (Markham - 4/18/09)
Death Before Dishonor VII Night One (Toronto - 7/24/09)
Death Before Dishonor VII Night Two (Toronto - 7/25/09)
The Omega Effect (Mississauga - 11/14/09)

The only omissions will be the matches left off of "Tag Title Hunt" as this DVD release was a "Double Feature" combined with a Montreal Show from the night before.

Here goes nothing...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Welcome to The Greatest Night

Old sports-only blog.... DEAD.

New, whatever the hell we want to talk about blog... Alive.

We'll have some posts in the near future, till then follow @greatestnight on twitter.