Monday, August 31, 2009

What Are These Kids So Happy About?

“I don’t understand this sudden popularity of Pop Music. It’s like listening to show tunes. Why are the youth not rebelling?”
-Howard Stern,1999

“Whatever happened to wildin’ out and being violent? Whatever happened to catchin’ a good old fashioned passionate a** whooppin’ and getting your shoes, coat and hat tooken”
-Eminem “Marshall Mathers,” 2000

“Eminem’s ‘Relapse’ didn’t sell that well because these kids aren’t mad like we were”

-Author, July 2009

What the hell is everybody so happy about? Despite the fact that today’s reality includes a world economy that is in shambles, US engagement in a war with no end in sight, a public education system that pushes students through regardless of knowledge acquisition so they can attend expensive universities that will put them into extreme debt and NOT prepare them to enter the workforce, a division of wealth that might as well place the very rich and the very poor on different planets, a healthcare system that is horribly broken, alcohol/tabacco/prescription drug use (the legal vices) keeping huge segments of our population in a narcotics-induced haze and the continual dumbing down of our population through reality TV, sports and internet, and the kids just want to rock expensive gear, acquire hundreds of facebook friends and copy dances they see on youtube. (Note: This abridged list of issues only addresses some of the problems of middle America and is in no way conclusive as it does not even attempt to address the issues of inner cities, the working poor, rural areas, young parents or many other sub-groups of teenagers and young adults).

It is hard to say exactly how or when this happened but the turn of the century is a good place to start. In the 2000’s menacing rappers have been replaced with family friendly versions like Nelly and Ludacris, intellectually challenging movies are relegated to small “art house” theaters while juvenile “the good guy always wins” action movies and romantic comedies with happy endings dominate the box office, on television provocative dramas and smart comedies are continually replaced with reality dating shows or endless sports talk and Harry Potter and esteem building self-help books dominate the best seller list. While there have been several works documenting this generation’s declining academic aptitude, narcissism and sense of entitlement there have been relatively few examinations of why in the world they are so damn happy. To the casual observer the most obvious reason is that there is simply nothing left to rebel against.

Most affluent 15-25 year olds grew up in households where parents were more concerned with being “cool” or “a best friend” than raising competent adults, further many of these households not only allow but encourage underage drinking, look at drug use and minor mischief as integral to the maturing process and place the children on such a high pedestal that when they are reprimanded by an authority figure it is often treated as the fault of the offending adult and not that of the child. Further, they live in a world were the President is one of the coolest men in the country (regardless of political views it’s hard to debate Obama’s cool factor) and has support from 90% of the entertainment industry, it is difficult to convince teens and young adults to beware government intervention in their personal lives when their favorite rappers, actors and reality stars all whole-heartedly embrace the administration. Over the past several decades public and private education as turned away from rote memorization of useful facts and reading classic (and in most cases challenging) literature, in favor of “student-centered” curriculum that aims to keep them engaged and “social promotion” ensures that everyone will graduate regardless of material mastery. Their television viewing, which takes up an alarming portion of their day, is dominated by “reality shows” that depict the rich and famous as demigods to be praised for their good looks and fabulous lifestyles and if they dare to turn on the news there are so many channels that networks can cater to nearly any set of views, so they are given only the news they want in the manner they want to digest. The internet further personalizes the media viewing experience by completely eliminating information the viewer does not want to see, if a 25 year old grown man is more concerned with the winner of “Dancing with the Stars” than the current economic crisis, a school shooting or natural disaster, he can have that information delivered to his desktop and be blissfully ignorant of any news he finds unpalatable.

This bizarre aversion to anything even the slightest bit unpleasant is in stark contrast to the youth of the previous decade. 90’s kids were pi**ed! In the 1990’s rappers killed each other, rock stars killed themselves, movies were ultra-violent, comedians were bitingly sarcastic and shows like “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” consistently showed Americans the seedy underbelly of our culture. The music of the 90’s was legitimately scary to older generations, rappers like Ice Cube, 2Pac and the Wu-Tang Clan took every opportunity to shine a light on the plight of the inner city, while other MC’s like B.I.G., Scarface and Jay-Z turned the light inward and detailed how life in post-Reagan America affected the psyches of young black males. The rise of grunge rock illustrated the growing discontent felt by suburban youth that were the product of broken homes, a failing school system and the rigid high school caste system. Movies were violent and thought provoking, Academy Award winners like “Natural Born Killers,” “Pulp Fiction” or even “Forest Gump” (a pretty sharp commentary on the last 50 years of American history and the idea that someone with an IQ of 75 would make the ultimate soldier is about as biting a critique of the military as you will find) would even see wide release in today’s “blockbuster or bust” climate. The pop culture of the 1990’s ended with a virtual orgy of anger, with 1999 being arguably the angriest year in American history: musicians like Eminem, DMX, Limp Bizkit, Korn, Rage Against The Machine and Kid Rock all either debuted or achieved widespread popularity and the multiplex was dominated by movies expressing extreme and thoughtful discontent at the state of American society, “Fight Club,” “The Matrix” and “American Beauty” were all huge hits, also,the year’s biggest concert, Woodstock ’99, was so packed with aggressive bands that the concert actually ended in a full scale riot (whether the music or the heat and extremely high concessions prices combined with high levels of drug and alcohol abuse actually caused the event to erupt in violence remains unclear, however it is rare to hear of a large, corporate-controlled event of this magnitude ending like this in today’s climate).

Compare that with the anything-for-a-dollar buffoonery of today’s commercial Hip-Hop, the whiny “Emo” that passes as rock and the movies made to cater to the lowest common denominator of intelligence that dominate the box office and the distinction is easy to observe. It is fair to say that the youth of the 2000’s are so radically different than their 1990’s counterparts that some of the biggest musical acts of the decade would either not exist or be niche/underground artist selling their music online and touring small bars and clubs. Today’s typical music consumer is so far removed from the overwhelming rage, frustration and anger displayed during the 90’s that multi-platinum artists like Wu-Tang Can, 2Pac, Nine Inch Nails, RATM, Korn, Eminem, DMX, Onyx, Ice Cube, the Geto Boys, M.O.P., Metallica, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Nirvana would fail to find an audience with today’s youth listeners. And while it may seem somewhat obvious that youth preferences change, up until the turn of this century, the underlying sentiments have been largely similar, even if the means of expression have been radically different. Frank Sinatra, Elvis Pressley, The Beatles, James Brown, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, Run-DMC and Guns-n-Roses all stood in stark contrast to the accepted status quo of the era and represented a legitimate threat to parents and the older generation as a potential influence on the youth. In contrast, today’s superstars like 50 Cent, Lil’ Wayne, Nickelback and Taylor Swift offer nothing more than a reinforcement of the materialistic ideals perpetuated by parents and teachers and an open celebration of living “The American Dream.” While several of today’s most popular artists are talented and entertaining, they are not revolutionary in terms of style, content or ideology.

The youth’s current obsession with happy, feel good music is not only illustrated by what they do buy (Brittany Spears, Flo Rida, Fall Out Boy, Soulja Boy and the bland pop singers turned out by American Idol), but by what they don’t buy. In 2009, records by Eminem, La Coka Nostra, Cage, Street Sweeper Social Club, and Slaughterhouse were all viewed as commercial disappointments (either by industry projections or the artist’s track record). These did not fail commercially because they were bad, in fact they were all very good, they failed because they were simply too aggressive for today’s youth consumer. It is not hard to see why they were overlooked by the legions of teens dressed in vans/tight denim/pastel hoodies and raised on artists like T-Pain, that music fan has no interest in hearing Joell Oritiz vividly detail life in the projects or Eminem graphically recount his near fatal drug addiction, that fan is too busy matching a scarf with his Supras and downloading the new Kid Cudi or Drake (a virtual one-man Bell Biv DeVoe) song to care about the problems of anyone else or even examine their own individual issues and challenges.

An easily identifiable example of the change in the amount of aggression seen in the youth of today as compared to the youth of the 1990’s can be seen by comparing popular white rappers of each era. House of Pain were “dirty white boy” hooligans and the kind of guys you hoped wouldn’t show up to the bar because they would get belligerently drunk, tear the place up and maybe take your girl. On the other hand, 2009’s favorite white rapper, Asher Roth, is the kind of affable young man you hope does come to the bar because he’s probably buying everybody drinks with his dad’s credit card. Or to put it another way, House of Pain said “This is the House of Pain/To come inside is insane” and Roth says “Hey, come on over and let’s hang out, it’s all good, there’s no tough guys or egos around here.” While artists like Roth and similar non-confrontational rappers like Kanye West, Lil’ Wayne and Charles Hamilton make Hip-Hop more accessible for the uninitiated, it does remove some of the intimidating mystique associated with the genre in the 80’s and 90’s and the complete lack of awareness about the state of the world around them could eventually prove problematic for the culture as a whole.

Another glaring example of the differences between pop culture today and that of the previous decade is the designer drug of choice (a clear indicator of the desires of any demographic). In the 1990’s ecstasy rose to prominence, largely through the rave and underground dance music scene. Looking back it is clear that the youth of the era were so angry and disconnected that they needed chemical enhancement just to feel emotions, dance and connect to others the same age. In the 2000’s the drug of choice is Crystal Meth, which basically has no euphoric or hallucinogenic properties, but keeps the user awake for days at a time. This basically shows that these kids are so happy and self-satisfied that they don’t want to sleep and miss a second of their charmed existence. While this example is somewhat comical, the explosion of ecstasy in the 1990’s is probably a legitimate indicator of the anger, and the subsequent need to subdue it with drugs, commonplace in that generation.

Today’s teenagers and young adults are so brainwashed by the version of American society force fed to them by their parents, schools, government, churches, radio stations, television channels, websites, entertainers, athletes, reality TV shows, news outlets, gossip magazines and social networking sites that they completely lack any sense that rebellion is necessary or even a viable option. They are the first generation since the advent of Rock &Roll over a half century ago to not only accept but embrace the fact that, for them, resistance is futile.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Pun's Family

From glow-in-the-dark velvet paintings of Elvis to the yearly holiday release of “new” 2pac albums, families of dead entertainers have long been disrespecting the legacy of their artists in efforts to continue eating off of said artist’s plate well after they have passed away. One needs to look no further than this year’s box office records and see the phenomenal success of “Notorious” for a recent example of how far family and business associates will go to cash in on the ones they supposedly loved (I could be wrong, but I’m willing to bet Bad Boy made more money by portraying Biggie as a womanizing, violent, drug dealing, dead beat dad than they did from all 4 seasons of “Making The Band”). This intense passion to avoid working by any means necessary by the family/estate/”loved ones” of deceased celebrities has reached truly absurd proportions this summer in the form of one Liza Rios, the now homeless widow of the late Big Pun.

Big Pun died in February of 2000, just under a decade ago, in this nine year period Mrs. Rios has contributed to two documentaries that portrayed Pun as a abusive husband and father (one released in 2002 and one due for a September 2009 release), managed to get his oldest daughter to say she was happy her father died (E! documentary about rapper’s wives), will gladly contribute to any urban news story about domestic violence, detailed his medical issues with anyone that would listen, publicly criticized his business acumen, squandered a small fortune and to my knowledge has made absolutely no effort at attaining employment to support herself or her three children (the oldest of which can actually be working too...but I’m sure that’s out of the question). And while it is always difficult to hear that a family has to utilize public assistance and live in a shelter, the internet has gone insane with people calling for Fat Joe’s head for not supporting this woman and her children. It seems as if the claims of Liza Rios and her message board supporters are somewhat misinformed about what has really happened. The incorrect assumptions that many make are as follows:

(Note: I am similarly misinformed, so what follows is strictly opinion with absolutely no basis in fact).

1. Big Pun made millions, upon millions of dollars and his wife and kids should be set for life

While it’s true that Pun’s 1998 “Capital Punishment” album was the first platinum album by a solo Latino rapper and “Still Not a Player” was a huge crossover single, I believe the amount of money earned on this project is greatly overestimated. “Capital Punishment” is an undeniable classic, however, part of what makes it a classic are beats by RZA, Havoc, The Beatnuts, Rockwilder, Domingo, Trackmasters, Dead Prez and Showbiz and guest vocals by Wyclef, Black Thought, Noreaga and Busta Rhymes. Not to mention a re-worked Dr. Dre classic and an interpretation of an R&B hit by Joe. And what do all these contributions have in common? They don’t come for free! Every single producer and guest MC on “Capital Punishment” had to be paid for their services and with an album featuring the biggest names of the era it is not unrealistic to think it had to go platinum just to break even.

Ok, so now they have this sick album with some of the biggest artists of the late 90’s backing up the new artist and they have to move major units just to start to see a profit from the investment. Loud records handled this by launching a huge media campaign involving massive street teams, promotional trucks, magazine ads and several expensive-looking videos. Guess what? All that costs money too! After Loud recouped their initial investment it’s hard to believe there was enough left over for Pun to buy a chain, let alone feed his family for the rest of their lives.

Further diminishing the income Pun could have seen from “Capital Punishment” was the fact that his crippling obesity did not allow him to tour (a major source of income for all artists), he did not endorse products and he rarely appeared on projects by other artists. While selling a million records is a huge accomplishment (albeit much less in 1998, right before widespread downloading, than today), artists like NORE, Cam’ron and Juvenile also went platinum in 1998, and even with extensive touring and guest verses, they are still working today to afford the “Rap Life.”

The idea that there are millions of dollars in either Loud Record’s bank account or Fat Joe’s extra large pockets from the sale of an album this replete with guest artists and popular producers and one of the most extensive promotional campaigns of the year it was released seems false even to someone like myself, with admittedly limited knowledge of the recording industry.

2. Big Pun made Fat Joe a star and he is forever indebted to Pun’s family.

Pun didn’t make Joe. Fat Joe came out in 1993, a full five years (an eternity in Hip-Hop time) before the release of “Capitol Punishment.” Before discovering Pun, Joe was a member or D.I.T.C., had an anthem-like single with “Flow Joe,” released two critically acclaimed and commercially respectable albums and was a hero to Hispanic and Bronx Hip-Hop heads. Sure, introducing Big Pun to the world helped establish Joe as a heavy hitter in the game, but realistically he was already famous and in all likelihood would have continued to be a relevant artist if he never brought Pun to the studio.

Further, Pun and Joe were BUSINESS ASSOCIATES, they were not friends before the music, they did not grow up together and they were not related by blood. I’m sure they were “Best Friends” the same way Puffy & Biggie were “Best Friends,”(questionable at best) but to claim he is responsible to feed the wife and kids of what amounts to “some dude he worked with” seems a little off. I will also fully acknowledge that there may have been some behind the scenes “street sh*t” that I am unaware of that would make their bond more significant than typical business partners, but the fact that Joe had Pun sign numerous contracts and everything was looked over by a lawyer to be legal and binding, I think it’s safe to say that signing Pun was a business deal and had nothing to do with “family.”

3. Fat Joe took advantage of Big Pun with shady paperwork.

Even casual fans of A Tribe Called Quest know about rule #4080. Pun had the right to lawyers, agents and managers and if he got taken advantage of (by Joe, Loud or anybody else) it’s his fault. He was clearly not stupid, anybody responsible for the head-spinning verses on “Dream Shatterer” possessed a high level of intelligence, but if he signed his life away and Fat Joe or Loud Records are still reaping the rewards of those contracts (that Pun signed) it’s hard to be mad at them for taking money that they are legally entitled to.

4. Liza Rios and her children have been completely abandoned by Fat Joe and the Terror Squad.

Liza Rios admits to getting $160,000 when her husband died, $120,000 when the posthumously released “Endangered Species” LP came out, $40,000 from a Pun writing credit on Joe’s smash single “What’s Love” (clearly an effort to take care of the family because the hit was released in 2002 and Pun could not possibly have actually written the song) and an additional $20,000 at some point between 2002 and 2007, also from Fat Joe. That’s $340,000! Most uneducated single mothers of three do not receive that much money over the course of a lifetime and somehow they are able to get by without public assistance and shelters. Clearly, a family can run through $340,000 rather quickly with mortgages, car payments and the like, but if she was to use the money as a foundation and then seek employment or investment opportunities to build on that foundation it is hard to believe her family would be in this predicament. Also, this is the money she admits to receiving, it’s probably a safe bet there is more she is unwilling to discuss.

5. Liza Rios is reputable spokesperson for domestic violence.

She openly discusses Pun’s physical abuse to any media outlet that will listen and encourages her now-teenaged children to do the same, regardless of how rehashing personal stories of abuse to organizations like “Smack! TV,” “Flowlicious” and “E!” is further damaging their psyches. Further, she was repeatedly beaten by a man that spent most of their marriage almost completely immobile. How do you allow yourself and your children to get beat up by a guy that can’t chase you? I’m not saying this to mock domestic abuse, but if you know a 500 lb. guy that can’t get up is going to beat you’re a**, why would you go near him? It seems like she could have avoided most of the beating by staying in the other room. Seriously, a parent that let’s someone abuse their children should not be allowed to raise kids. Also, in many interviews it appears as if she knew his deteriorating health would lead to an early death and she was willing to subject herself and her children to repeated bodily harm in hopes of a payday when he finally passed away, I challenge anybody to point to a more grotesque manifestation of the “Gold Digger” mentality prevalent in Hip-Hop than this.

6. Liza Rios, Fat Joe, Loud Records or anybody else cared about Christopher Rios.

Big Pun was a sick rapper and a sicker man. His inner circle of “friends,” family and business partners could not have been that interested in the health and well being of Christopher Rios, sure they all cared about Big Pun the rapper (aka the cash cow), but it is hard to imagine this “family” allowing someone clearly suffering from admitted depression and most likely numerous other psychological issues to balloon up to nearly 700 lbs. and stand idly by as long as he could keep everyone in new clothes, cars and houses. This pattern is fairly common in the music industry with artists engaging in absurd amounts to drugs (Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Lil’ Wayne?) or questionable lifestyle/sexual choices (R. Kelly, INXS’ Michael Huchence) with everybody in the inner circle just watching as they degenerate into shells of their former selves and then everybody acts surprised when they die or are publically humiliated.

Clearly, if any of the players in this seemingly never ending saga actually cared about Christopher Rios the man more than Big Pun the rapper he would have been forced to seek help and possibly lived to see his thirtieth birthday.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Reviews August 2009

5: iPhone
4: Nintendo DS
3: Old School Game Boy
4: Pocket Simon
5: An Abacus

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra


I had extremely low expectations for this summer blockbuster based on toys from the 80’s, especially after the epic disaster that was Transformers 2 however, I was pleasantly surprised by the best action movie of the summer. The story is pretty straight forward (the bad guys have warheads, the good guys want warheads and they are going to fight about it), the characters are all presented well and there’s a few surprises in the last 20 min. that will entertain adult viewers that may have been dragged to the theatre by a child.

While fans of the cartoon can argue for days about what characters should have been included (personally, I would have liked Shipwreck, Roadblock and Bazooka), the main ones you remember are all there and while the movie script may have taken some liberties with the original mythology from the cartoon, the story is so compelling, the action so relentless and the pacing so break-neck that only super hardcore G.I. Joe fans and obsessed action figure collectors could really complain.

In a pretty weak summer for movies, G.I. Joe provides a riveting and fun theatre-going experience for kids, adults, lifetime Joe fans, casual observers and anyone looking for that summer movie experience.

Slaughterhouse: Self Titled Album


If you regularly read you are fully aware that I often mock collaborative albums as pipe dreams that will never actually be released, so to my surprise Slaughterhouse released its debut album in stores and on itunes on August 11th, 2009. Internet heads have been aware of this epic “Super Group” since the early spring when Joe Budden enlisted fellow slept-on MC’s Joell Ortiz, Royce the 5’ 9” and Crooked I for the original “Onslaught.” The collective kept fans salivating throughout the spring and early summer with a string of blazing collaborative cuts, solo EP’s, appearances on the Rock The Bells/Paid Dues tour, an epic freestyle over Jay-Z’s “D.O.A” beat, and an on-again/off-again beef with the legendary Wu-Tang Clan that culminated in Budden getting punched in his eye on the internet (Personally, I am a huge fan of everybody involved in Slaughterhouse, but this beef seems ill-advised because most potential SH fans are/were fans of the Wu and asking them to take sides seems unfair. Realistically they are dividing a fanbase that should really be united and rallying against artists like Soulja Boy and Rick Ross. Further, even while I was giddy like a school girl at the prospect of a full-fledged Slaughterhouse LP, I could never bring myself to hate on Wu-Tang. I’ve been a Wu fan for 15 years, almost as long as I’ve liked the Jets and Yankees, I have too much history, too many CD’s and too much Wu-Wear in my closet to turn my back on them now).

The resulting LP lives up to most expectations and provides some of the best verses committed to wax in 2009. And while this collection of lyricists could have easily pulled from their expansive rhyme-books and simply tried to out punch-line each other for 15 tracks, they actually craft engaging songs with coherent concepts and experiment with innovative flows that will pleasantly surprise even their most avid fans. Stand out tracks include “Roll Call” where Royce compares the group to Voltron (yeah, Wu did it first, but it also works here) and each member starts his verse calmly but ends in a dizzying crescendo of wordplay that is truly something to behold, “Pray” and “Rain Drops” address serious life issues and the potential club banger “Not Tonight.”

The most interesting track on the LP is “Turn You Lose,” where each MC recounts his love of Hip-Hop and his disillusionment with the music industry. This song illustrates what is so amazing about Slaughterhouse as a collective: although supremely talented none of the members was able to establish himself as a star, however by joining forces they attain that elusive “second chance” in the music industry and have started a movement that is actually much bigger than the sum of its’ parts.

House of Pain: Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again


I found this on the used rack for $3.99 and since I’ve been listening to La Coka Nostra nonstop for the last month I couldn’t resist. This album was largely ignored when it was released in 1996 because most fans thought HOP was over, the East-West feud overshadowed almost everything else in Hip-Hop, Bad Boy’s rampant commercialism was starting to replace the hardcore/reality rap of the early 90’s and it struggled to find an audience in the same summer “Reasonable Doubt,” “It Was Written,” “Stakes is High,” “ATLiens” and “Legal Drug Money” were released. Hip-Hop heads that slept on this in the summer of ’96 dropped the ball. If House of Pain’s second album was called “Same As It Ever Was” this one should have been called “Better Than You Remember It Was!”

“Rise Again” was an overall improvement on the House of Pain formula established on the first two albums: DJ Lethal came into his own as a producer with a distinct style away from his early DJ Muggs- influenced beats, Everlast begins his transformation into the gravelly voiced singer that would have a massive hit with “What It’s Like” two years later (this can be seen in several reggae influenced cuts and the more emotional, boarder line growling, rhyme style heard on some cuts) and the inclusion of Divine Styler and Cockeny O’Dyer on several tracks adds to the expansion of the perceived HOP boundaries. Add in stellar guest appearances by Sadat X on the introspective “Heart Full of Sorrow” and an in-his-prime Guru on the remix “Fed Up” and you have one of the better LP’s of 90’s that has largely been lost in the shuffle.

Biz Markie: The Ultimate Diabolical


This greatest hits package contains 11 Biz classics and 5 of his best videos for one low price. The overall package is awesome and shows the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop at his hilarious best. The CD contains songs from his debut, comedic classics like “Just a Friend” and “Spring Again” and forgotten later cuts like “I’m The Biz Markie” and “Let Me Turn You On.” Put simply, if you don’t like these songs there is something wrong with you. I put Biz in the same category as Huey Lewis & The News and Gym Class Heroes as some of the “Funnest” entertainers ever and if you cannot get onboard for some unbridled silliness every once in a while, it’s YOUR fault.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I Attend Things

5: Fifth Round Weekend
4: 4th of July Weekend
3: A pretty good weekend down the shore
2: Having to work on the weekend
1: Getting dysentery over the weekend

July 2009 was a good month for attending various weddings, baseball games, concerts and birthday celebrations (hence the lack of postings). The events ranged from tolerable to outstanding, so without further ado...a full review of July ’09.

July 3rd: Wedding with Amber DeLeggas


This wedding ended up being a lot more fun than expected and despite several speeches comparing the groom’s love for his wife with his love for the NY Jets, it was actually a pretty good time. A personal favorite quote heard at a lot of weddings is “I can’t believe I’m not wasted, I drank so much.” Here’s the deal, you can drink as much as you want, if you take a break in the middle to eat a three course meal including lobster bisque, a salmon entree and cake, you’re not going to get that drunk, it’s simple biology. Overall, my table was pretty cool, the food was good and the open bar and DJ combined for a good time. Not a bad start to the month.

4th of July Weekend


Not bad, not great. You can’t win the all.

July 8th: Mets vs. Dodgers at Citi Field


I had a personal goal to see both the Mets and Yankees new stadiums this year and thanks to some free tickets from Mike PaulWallSki, I was able to make this dream a reality. Citi Field is a nice new stadium with the requisite souvenir shops, foods from around the world and good sight lines necessary to compete in today’s baseball market. As an added bonus it was one of Manny Ramirez’s first games back from a steroid suspension and the crowd was pumped to unload myriad insults on Man Ram (this is the kind of stuff I really enjoy, baseball is cool, but there’s nothing like hurling insults at a hulking hispanic guy with a drug problem when you know there is absolutely 0% chance he will do anything about it). The stadium is cool and except for an unnecessary women’s apparel store that only caries memorabilia designed by Alyssa Milano (I guess she's the boss when it comes to “designing” pink baseball caps), the place is great. Also, the Met’s won the game and there was an absolutely sick play that was all over ESPN the next day, this was basically the last bright spot in the Met’s 2009 campaign before everybody got hurt, that guy took his shirt off and got fired and Omar Minaya started getting death threats.

July 18th: Aqua-Palooza


People anchor their boats in the middle of the Barnagat Bay, listen to shi*tty music, eat sh*tty food and get sh*tty drunk, sit there for 8564703 hours and then try to drive home wasted...effin awesome. All kidding aside, it wasn't that bad.

July 19th: Rock The Bells/Paid Dues at Jones Beach NY


Insane concert, see previous entries for a full recap.

July 21st: Yankee Game at the new Yankee Stadium


I got tickets on Stub Hub for 30 bucks that were in the last row of the building (theoretically the worst seats in the house), there was a rain delay, our subway train broke down on the way there, we got there too late for monument park... and it was still awesome. This is without a doubt the best sports venue in the country, the views of the game are incredible from anywhere in the building (they let you roam around freely), there are about 25 restaurant choices, the shops are basically like mini-shrines to Yankee history, the museum could be a free-standing attraction, the food prices are high, but not astronomical, and the well trained staff was friendly and well informed. Combine all of this with a great game against the Orioles with several home runs flying out of the park and the ease of transportation thanks to being located right next to a subway stop and you have one of the best sports experiences ever.

July 24th: Wedding with Amber DeLeggas


The second wedding of the month was another winner. This reception actually featured a DJ booth with two large screens projecting pictures of the wedding party, smoke machines and an introduction of the new couple set to the Chicago Bulls intro music. This was clearly for the younger crowd and was more like a night at a club than a typical family wedding.

The end of the night brought about the most emasculating conversation I have ever been a part of, and I was so uncomfortable for this poor guy, I wanted to leave because I knew I could never look him in the eye again. As things were winding down we ran into a recently married couple that Amber went to college with, let’s call them “The Wife” and “The Oaf,” the following conversation took place, please keep in mind that I’ve only met these people one other time and neither was noticeably intoxicated during this exchange.

Wife: Being married is going great, I make him say stupid stuff all the time in front of his friends (this topic was not initiated by myself or Amber). Isn’t that right Oaf?

Oaf: Yeah (reluctantly)

Wife: Who’s the cutest bunny rabbit is all the world?

Oaf: I am

Wife: What?

Oaf: I am!

Wife: And why are you the cutest bunny rabbit in all the world?

Oaf: Because I have big floppy ears

Wife: And why else?

Oaf: Because I have a cute pink nose.

Wife: It’s so adorable! I can go on forever like that, the other night we did it for an entire episode of Golden Girls.

Oaf: I don’t watch Golden Girls

Wife: You F**kin’ love the Golden Girls!

After that final exchange I felt so bad for the kid that I actually pretended I was getting a call on my iPhone so I could walk away. I’ve been surrounded by all manners of buffoonery for my entire, but this took the cake.

July 25th My Father’s Birthday


We went to an Italian restaurant (big surprise) and with the exception of the bread basket catching on fire and nearly enveloping the entire table in flames, the evening was pretty uneventful.

July 27th: My Birthday


Amber De Leggas took me out to an awesome dinner at The Chart House in Weehawkin, NJ, gave me a ton of great gifts and despite being as sick as I’ve ever been in my adult life, I had a great time.

July 30th to August 3rd: Trip to Florida with my Dad and Amber


Again, being violently ill and forced to travel by plane and endure 100+ degree heat made the first few days of this trip pretty rough. However, by the last two days I was feeling much better and actually left the house. The beach was awesome (90 degree water) and getting a chance to relax in different surroundings is always nice.

Movie Review: Funny People


This movie is nowhere near as good as most critics claim even though it features Adam Sandler in one of his “serious” roles as a terminally ill comedian. The first hour is pretty cool, and shows the inner-workings of stand-up comedy from how comics write jokes to getting material stolen right before going onstage. This first half climaxes with a star-studded party that features a speech by Eminem about the trappings of fame and the uselessness of celebrating not dying if you have nothing to live for. Following this funny and poignant conversation, the movie devolves into an absurd drama about Adam Sandler trying to break up the marriage and family of a women he dated years ago but cheated on and lost. This movie had an interesting premise and executed it pretty well for about an hour, unfortunately the movie is two and a half hours long.

That’s it for July, hopefully August will be even better and provide some more fun and excitement before the summer ends.