Get out of my head, New York Observer!

Arghh. It’s amazing how when you get an idea to write an article about some band or actor, a major publication gets the idea at the same time and ends up doing an article on them.

For instance, right as I was gathering contacts in order to pitch an article about Future 86 somewhere (see the Jul. 11 post I did about them), this week’s New York Observer has a big story about them. Crap. That pretty much blows any chance I have of pitching a story about them to a local New York publication, at least for the time being.

This is the second time in a month that the Observer has crawled into my head: just when I thought it would be nice to do an article about Phil Donahue’s new documentary, I click onto the paper’s site and saw this. Double arghh.

Anyway, I will have some good stuff coming up on an interweb and newsstand near you, so stay tuned…

That band… from that ad… with the cute singer… you know the one…

Future86Right now, I’m watching this 1-800-OK-CABLE ad playing during the noon news. In it is a band called Future86, singing a ska-lite tune extolling the virtues of various cable providers’ “Triple Play” service. The singer is this adorable young woman wearing a spangly dress and knee-high boots. She seems to have a decent voice, but I was more interested in… uh, other things.

Anyway, every time I’ve seen this commercial, I think the same thing: “That can’t be a real band.” They just seemed too slick to me, like what an ad agency’s idea of a struggling pop-rock band from, say, Long Island would look like. Maybe they were dressed to nicely to seem like a real band; where are the too-small, ironic t-shirts? The hair in the eyes? The so-retro-it’s-hip aviator glasses? The dirty Chuck Taylors? This group looked like a nice bunch of IT guys and a cute suburban chick who wouldn’t look out of place wandering the tony Short Hills Mall (oops, I’m sorry, it’s “The Mall at Short Hills”).

But out of sheer boredom and journalistic curiosity, I decided to Google the band’s name the other day. Turns out they’re a real band, based out of Queens. The song used on the cable ad, “I Want It All,” is adapted from a song the band released three years ago (you’ll hear it as soon as you pop onto their MySpace page).

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A sign that I need to start working out

My left shoulder’s been bugging me lately. Nothing major; just a twinge. But it it’s been enough of a twinge to wake me up in the morning and make me swallow some Advil, something I tend to avoid if I can.

How did I hurt it? Did I lift something that was too heavy? Throw a ball with a little too much oopmh? Did I sleep on it wrong?

Wii!!!!I wish it was one of those three reasons. No, I’m pretty sure I hurt my shoulder while playing Nintendo Wii.

I know… sounds manly, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I was over my brother Rich’s house on July 4 and discovered that he bought a Wii a couple of months ago. Since I had never played it before, he popped in the Wii Sports disc and handed me one of those remote controllers that you strap to your wrist (I guess they have the strap there to keep the controller from braining someone if your baseball or tennis grip isn’t exactly solid). We played each other in baseball, and the results were what you’d expect from two people who each played one year of Little League: lots of swinging and missing and no score.

Of course, not realizing how sensitive the controller was, I over-swung on every pitch, and when I was pitching, I actually went into a full motion, like some spastic version of Mariano Rivera. Little did I know that you really only needed to move the controller a little bit for it to do whatever you need it to do.

After baseball, my brother handed the controller to my six-year-old niece Samantha, and that’s when the fun began. I’ll relieve the suspense right now: she kicked my ass. I don’t know whether she’s more coordinated than I am or it’s just the usual case of a kid knowing more about video games than her decrepit adult relatives. But she beat me soundly in bowling and golf.

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Once again, New York kicks my arse

DespairStupiditySee this photo gallery of happy, smiling people drinking and having fun?

I was supposed to be one of them.

But as I learned for the 2,123rd time, no matter how many times I go into New York, or how well I think I know the city, something will happen that proves that the city is still capable of grabbing me by my underpants and giving me an atomic wedgie.

And when that wedgie happens because of a brain blurp, it makes the waistband over my head feel all the tighter.

Here’s the skinny: Whitney Matheson, a pop culture columnist for, was holding a meet-up of her column readers at a Lower East Side bar called Lolita. Since I’ve been a loyal reader of Whitney’s for many years, I figured a slow but painful trip into the city from my suburban New Jersey hidey-hole would be worth it. And, as luck would have it, I had been to that bar before, since a writing acquaintance of mine holds debates there every month. Huzzah! All I needed to do was shoot through the Holland Tunnel, make my way up Houston, and I’d be there.

Famous last words…

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Updates to the mothership

JKcom titleFor those who come to this blog via direct links, you may not know that this is a sub-site of, a marketing site that I use to show my writing work to editors and other curious on-lookers.

Every few months, I update the site with new clips, many of which I’ve already listed here, but some of which I haven’t, mainly because the articles were print-only and I had to scan them in before putting them up on the site. But here my favorite recent additions, if you need a good bathroom read (All are in PDF files unless otherwise indicated):

Profile of noted jazz pianist Bill Charlap

Profile of local theater director Barbara Krajkowski and her daughter, Jane Krakowski of 30 Rock

Profile of Edel Rodriguez, an award-winning illustrator who immigrated here from Cuba as a boy

Profile of former New York Giants center Bart Oates

Profile of Shaun Mehtani and his new Morristown restaurants (he was a hoot to interview, so I’m including the article here)

Something I’ve been wondering about…

midsectionYou know those stock shots of fat people’s mid-sections that you usually see on the local news whenever they do a story on obesity?

I wonder if I’ve ever been in one of those shots.

I mean, the odds are pretty good, I’d reckon. I walk around a lot. I have a gut. It seems inevitable.

Maybe one day I saw one of those stock shots of headless obese people and shook my head, not realizing that one of those beer bellies was mine.

I wonder if the local Y is offering membership discounts…

A true brain blurp

BlurpEver think you’ve got the perfect subject for an essay or blog post, then when you actually get down to writing the thing, it comes out all wrong? That just happened to me tonight.

I was going to make some funny observations on how models are the best salespeople because they make even the boring clothes from Land’s End and Eddie Bauer look good (especially the women… the dresses they sell at those places look like potato sacks). But the more I tried to write, the more the blog entry sounded a) more like a true gripe than a humor essay, and b) made me sound like a nerdier version of Mr. Blackwell.

I guess that’s the reason why I started that blog; to have a place where I can work out the “clever” ideas that pop into my head and see if they’ll actually work on paper. In this case, I was able to see my folly before hitting the “Publish” button. But I still think there’s something there, humor-wise (hopefully in a way where I can incorporate the name “Bea Arthur” somewhere in the essay). Maybe you fine folks can help me find the funny in this one; it’s still on the site as a draft if I ever want to go back to it.

P.S. Like the new favicon? I added it on Friday night. It took me a couple of hours to get that bugger done and uploaded, but now it’s there for all to enjoy. Man oh man, I need to go out more…

I’ve been slacking

I’ve heard that in order for your blog to have a realistic chance of being taken “seriously,” that you need to add at least three entries per week. As you can tell, I’m kind of falling behind in that regard. What can I say? I’m not really in a bloggery state of mind.

Final SopranosSo, about this Sopranos mishegas…

From what I’m seeing, the percentage of people who were satisfied with how the show ended seems to be right up there with President Bush’s approval rating, and I can understand why. You watch a show for eight years, put up with its ins and outs, wait eons between seasons, and when the show finally reaches the conclusion everyone’s been waiting to see for almost three years, all they see is the screen go to black. Tony doesn’t get whacked, and we have no idea what actually happened. On top of it all, the show concludes with a cliched song from the second most boring band of all time (after Rush). So I can see how people would get frustrated on many levels.

But, as a writer, I could see where David Chase was going with that ending.
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36 years ago today…

TV Guide May 29, 1971Thirty-six years ago today, my mother gave birth to me after what I’m sure was seventy-two straight hours of painful labor (I haven’t heard the story in years, but I’m sure the number of hours goes up every time she tells someone).

One thing I’ve noticed is that the more birthdays I have, the less I realize that the actual day is upon me, which is strange, since I used to like getting attention on my “big day” when I was younger. Maybe it’s because the years go faster as I get older, or maybe it’s because I’ve been busy keeping my writing career going, but the last couple of birthdays have come upon me suddenly, to the point where I tend to let the day pass just like any other day.

I’m not one of those people who throws themselves a birthday party or gathering; to me, turning another year older isn’t anything special. But every few years, I like to do something memorable — at least to me — on May 30, like when I saw my friend Tom’s (now defunct) band play an acoustic gig in Hoboken on my 30th birthday. It was such a nice, peaceful way to spend a day whose arrival I had been freaking out about in the months that led up to it (that’s a story for whatever memoir I happen to write).

Anyway, instead of prattling on about my birthday, I will utilize the power of Google and link to stories about events that happened on May 30, 1971. Those links will be after the jump.

(By the way, the pic is the cover of TV Guide from the week I was born. It seems perfectly fitting that it was of All In The Family, the hot new show of that television season.)
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Lawyers will sue anybody, won’t they?

Josh HancockI just read that the family of St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, who was killed last month when his SUV crashed into the back of a tow truck, is suing just about everyone involved in the incident, despite the fact that Hancock was driving drunk at the time of the accident.

To quickly recap: Hancock had been drinking at Mike Shannon’s restaurant in St. Louis after an afternoon game. Despite having a blood alcohol level that was twice the legal limit, he got in his SUV. It was reported that not only was Hancock intoxicated, but he was also talking on his cell phone at the time he hit the tow truck. Oh, and he also wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

As tragic as the situation is to his family, mostly everyone has to agree that Hancock was fully responsible for his own death. Everyone, that is, but Hancock’s family and the lawyers they hired. Not only are they suing the restaurant that served him those drinks, but they’re also suing the tow truck company, the tow truck driver and the driver of the stalled car that the tow truck was trying to remove.

Apparently, according to the suit, not getting your car out of the way after it stalls is now an actionable offense. Cripes. Leave it to the law profession to figure out new ways to screw innocent people. I mean, really; so what if the guy whose car broke down could have moved it to the side of the road? And the tow truck driver was just trying to do his job; apparently, he had just arrived a minute or two before Hancock crashed into the back of his truck. Hancock drank too much, he talked on a cell phone while driving drunk, and he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

I know the Hancock family is upset, and they think this might give them some closure on the matter. But why spread your misery to others who weren’t involved? Hopefully, they’ll come to their senses once their grief subsides a little bit and drop the suit. Either that or a judge will make them pay for the legal fees of at least the tow truck company and driver and the driver of the stalled car. They don’t deserve this nightmare.

This one might make some old friends jealous…

KISS Gene Simmons solo CDA couple of weeks ago, I was scheduled to interview Gene Simmons for Radar, mostly talking about his reality show on A&E. The interview was scheduled for a Monday at 3 PM. The night before, I had gone out for dinner and got back at around 9:30. Right before 10 PM, I heard the phone ring, and I saw “Private caller” on my caller ID. Anyone who’s done celebrity interviews before knows that most of them have unlisted home numbers, so seeing “Private caller” on your caller ID is a sure sign that the caller isn’t a telemarketer or other annoyance. So, I decided to answer out of sheer curiosity. Here’s what I hear on the other end:

“Is this Joel? This is Gene Simmons.”

Yikes. He was calling to do the interview with me about 17 hours early. I told him that I was expecting him to call tomorrow afternoon. He said something about lawyers and bill payers and having not knowing where the day was going to take him tomorrow, so he can call me back if I want, but there was no guarantee. So I decided to just do the interview on the spot; I scrambled around and hooked up my recorder while I had the phone down on my table (so this means I put Gene Simmons on hold).

When I picked the phone back up, we had a good talk… he got annoyed at me once or twice, which is something I knew would happen based on some of the questions I wanted to ask. But overall it went well; I even got some good quotes out of him about politics and Sean Penn and that kind of stuff.

For some reason, I wasn’t that annoyed that he called early. It freed up my Monday afternoon tomorrow, and I got a good lead for my article.

The finished interview just got posted this morning. Interesting stuff.

I’m looking forward to hearing my friend Dan’s reaction to this interview; he’s a KISS fanatic, and he pasted the walls of our freshman dorm with pics of Gene, Paul, and company. Because of that, I was probably one of the rare people who listened to KISS right along with the college stoner staples like Pink Floyd. Hopefully he — and my buddy Mihir, who still goes to KISS concerts with Dan to this day — enjoys this.

This needs to be easier…

T60 widescreenMost people who know me know that I’m not an idiot when it comes to computers. Far from it, in fact; before I decided to take on the quixotic task of making a living with my writing, I was an Information Technology wage slave, working for a certain company that will remain nameless for the time being. Because of that, I’ve pretty much have certain computer-related routines down and I tend to do them quickly.

One of those tasks is switching to a new machine. At work, whenever I’d get a new laptop, it usually never took me more than half a day to get all my important data — mail, documents, etc. — transfered from one computer to another. By the next day, I was using the new laptop full-time and wiping the data off the old one.

So when I got a shiny (well, not that shiny, because it’s black) new ThinkPad T60 Widescreen (see pic above), I figured it would be four hours to get the data off my 2002-vintage Dell laptop and start working on the new machine.

What I didn’t count on were two things: a) I’m on my home network, not an office network, and 2) Windows Vista is a pain in the ass.
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One of my favorite shows is done.

Gilmore Girls: Bon VoyageI am not shy to say that despite the fact that I’m a straight male from New Jersey, I’ve always been a fan of Gilmore Girls. I started watching the show in season two, mainly because I had an unyielding crush on Lauren Graham and enjoyed watching her in whatever failing TV show she was in (her guest stint on NewsRadio is one of the first places I saw her, I think). But I was sucked in by Amy Sherman-Palladino’s funny, rapid-fire dialogue, the quirky characters she wrote for the idyllic town of Stars Hollow, CT, the buddy relationship between Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, and the difficult and frigid — but loving — relationship between Lor and her parents.

Anyway, after seven seasons — the last two of which were not as good creatively as the first five — the show aired its season finale last night. As with all the new episodes that have been on for the last year-and-a-half, I reviewed it for TV Squad. In short: I enjoyed the episode and thought the writers tied most stories up nicely, and the ones they didn’t tie up had satisfying conclusions. After such a bumpy season, it was a surprisingly understated and well-done finale. I’m going to miss the show, and I hope Graham (and Kelly Bishop, who plays matriarch Emily Gilmore) gets a chance to go to another show where she’ll show her skills and maybe get the Emmy voters’ attention. She sure as hell deserves it.

(UPDATE: I just found a blog entry I did about GG two years ago. It was in a “double-secret” blog I did in order to audition for my current job at TVS. It was good blogging practice, and I might have kept it up if, you know, someone didn’t decide to actually pay me to write about TV.)

I just realized something…

In July 1986, I, like many Jewish teenagers in the suburban New Jersey and Westchester County — including, I found out 20 years later, a current friend of mine — took a series of “teen tour” trips, conducted by a company called Barron Tours. During those tours, I remember going to see Top Gun, listening to Billy Joel’s new hit “Modern Woman,” visiting the Ontario Science Museum in Toronto, getting wet on the Maid o’ the Mist, and for some reason getting excited about going to see Starship and The Outfield in concert. I was fifteen, and the thing I was most worried about was if my Nikes and Lee jeans were going to make me look poor compared with the tour members, who were all wearing Benetton shirts and Reebok shoes.

Lindsay LohanAt the same time, somewhere in New York City, Lindsay Lohan was being born.

Jeez alou, I’m getting old.

For some reason, I keep thinking Ms. Lohan (who now, for some reason, is insisting that people pronounce her last name “LO-en” instead of “LO-han”) is older than she is. I wonder why? Is it because she’s been doing movies since she was ten? Or that she’s had more drunken, slutty fun in her formative years than two Tara Reids? It just seems like she’s been on our pop culture radar for a long, long time. It’s hard for me to believe that she’s still two months away from being able to drink legally, and she’s still four years away from being able to rent a car.

When I saw her on Conan last night, I was wondering what she’ll be like when she’s 30. Either she’s going to turn out fine, like Drew Barrymore did, or she’s going to look and sound like she’s about fifty, like the aforementioned Ms. Reid? I guess we’ll all find out together, won’t we?