Thursday, January 22, 2009

I hope No. 18 is Randy Velarde [Spring Training Countdown]

Rescued from the jaws of icy death at sea, the guys over at the Yankees and sports blog Fack Youk seem to have burst onto the scene out of nowhere, and by this I mean I have recently added their blog to my reader. Their deft combination of toned-down black and white photography and dirty words speaks to me. What can I say? I'm a simple man who enjoys foul bathroom humor and the black and white - it's easy on the eyes.

Three days ago they started a series counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, matching each day’s number with a Yankee uni number. They started, appropriately enough, with 25 days to go and Big Teixy, then moved on to 24 (The Great Bam-Tino) and 23 (Donnie Baseballs, natch). Today, with 22 days until pitchers and catchers report, they’ve enlisted the help of Wailin’ Suzyn and her incomprehensible reaction to steroid abuser Raw-Jah Clemons' WWE-inspired comeback announcement. I was actually at that game and thus unable to enjoy her legendary call, and didn't even hear about it until the next day. I did however get to watch Cletusmons the Roid Rage Yokel introduce "Cotton Eye Joe" on the jumbotron. /douses face with scalding Beam 'n Keurig, lights beard on fire. This has been an enjoyable series so far and should only get better as the days dwindle towards the start of Spring Training because A). Yankee names only get bigger and badder as the numbers get smaller, and B). It’s sunshiney, hopeful, sweet Spring Training, the only thing that can pull us out of the long, dark, post-NFL winter (Yes, I am every bit aware that the Super Bowl has yet to be played and NCAA hoops conference seasons are kicking into gear. See my favorite teams to understand why Spring Training - and Mark Teixeira - is my only hope).

We never spontaneously burst into song before you got here!

Flash mobs are nothing new, but I’ve always wondered if they could reasonably serve an end, or if they sort of just existed for the sake of existing. They’re a fun idea, and I can always get behind masses of people going pantsless for a day. However, if you’re just spontaneously raving at the library during finals, I know it seems like carefree fun; it just doesn't leave quite the same unfortunate lasting impression as if instead, on that same finals eve, you witnessed a pack of howling, frightened fraternity pledges running through the quiet floor wearing nothing but Santa hats.

Sigh, college. /pouring shot of Beam into Keurig stool softener coffee. "It's a bit nutty." moving on.

T-Mobile is the first company I’ve seen utilize a flash mob in a commercial, and it's just marvelous. Saatchi & Saatchi really worked their ass off and it shows in an entertaining and effective spot. When I was still commuting to the City from Stamford, I woke up many mornings hoping today would be the day when Improv Everywhere would take over Grand Central and shake up my morning commute. I was never as lucky as the commuters at Liverpool Street Station in London last week, who must have been confused when music started blaring from the loudspeakers and one or two individuals started dancing, infecting more and more people as the songs changed until the entire station became engulfed by the jumping, jiving, waltzing(!) mob. The ad was created then on the air within 48 hours, and was shown as an exclusive premiere on BBC 4. Track list for the spot (in order), and the ad itself, below.

Lulu – “Shout"
Yazz – "The Only Way Is Up"
Pussycat Dolls – "Don't Cha"
Viennese Waltz
Kool & the Gang – "Get Down On It"
Rainbow – "Since You've Been Gone"
Millie Small – "My Boy Lollipop"
Contours – "Do You Love Me"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday night Fishin' in the City

Reel Big Fish @ Roseland Ballroom, 1/20/09 (Click for full size)

Yesterday I got an email from a buddy offering me and my friends a free ticket to see Reel Big Fish at Roseland Ballroom, a medium sized concert venue in midtown and a staple for any live music-watching Manhattanite. Because I felt like having 9th grade flashbacks of walking the halls of my high school, brooding over my angsty 15-year-old life is while blasting "Everything Sucks" on my state of the art discman that I got for my birthday at Nobody Beats the Wiz, I decided to check out the show. I also figured that it was as good a time as any to show off my spazzed out, 25-year-old version of the skankin' dance moves I first learned in my sleepaway camp bunk at age 11 when I was rockin out to the sounds of Mustard Plug and Skankin' Pickle. To give you an idea of what these moves look like, please direct your attention to my faithful assistant, Dancin' Pants Ross (You have no idea how long I've been waiting for an excuse to get that on here. Actually, forget that - you can probably imagine).

When we got to the show, we were pleasantly suprised to find that despite the abundance of awkward shirtless teenage boys forming mosh pits and crowd surfing, we definitely skewed closer to the audience's median age. This was verified by the security guard outside, who told us that most of the people there were "Around 21 - too young for you guys." I politely assured the gentleman, as I assure any 21 year old girls reading right now, that 21 is just right for us guys.

We made our way inside and caught the end of Streetlight Manifesto's set. We didn't know at the time that the band included members of Catch 22 (New Jersey and third wave ska go together like lamb and tuna fish), but that wasn't going to stop me from singing along to "Keasbey Nights" regardless of what they were actually playing. As it happened, they finished up their set with a rowdy horn-filled jam and a rendition of "Keasbey," which was pretty funny and left us wondering if Streetlight Manifesto really was Catch 22 in disguise. Well, not exactly, but pretty much yea exactly.

Next up was the headliner, the band we had come to see after years of somehow missing them on the Warped Tour, Reel Big Fish. Turns out they happened to be celebrating the release of their new album, Fame Fortune and Fornication, an all-covers album featuring 10 songs in less than 30 minutes (or your pizza is free?), which had actually come out earlier that day (they gave us 2 cuts from the album, "Authority Song" and "Nothin' but a Good Time"). The band sounded every bit the same as I remembered from the days when I'd listen to their uptempo jams to get my blood pumping before my track races, mostly because the one remaining original member is lead singer and guitarist Aaron Barrett, who somehow has retained his gameshow host-meets-Atlantic City lounge crooner voice after all these years. There was a lot of moshing and shoe-throwing, which I couldn't understand. I tried to reason with the guy standing next to me that you'd have to show up for a concert with an extra shoe if you planned to chuck your kicks around a concert hall, but he assured me that this is not necessarily the case. I don't know how you'd plan to get home with only one shoe, especially when you have to walk the streets of New York in (what has been a particularly brick effing cold) January. Stone summed it up: "I could certainly make do with one sock, but not one shoe." Amen, brotha.

The band played all the hits you could have wanted to hear, from "Sell Out" to their cover of "Take On Me," "Everything Sucks" to "Beer," "The Kids Don't Like It" to "Thank You For Not Moshing (aka "In The Pit"), during which I remarked to Smelly Pelly that I love it when concert crowds actively participate in songs that make fun of them. Barrett echoed my sentiments after the tune when he attempted to offer the crowd a basic lesson in sarcasm. They brought out sisters Nicole and Simone Olivia of their other opening act, Tip the Van, to sing on "She Has a Girlfriend Now," at which point Smelly fell in love. Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better first Reel Big Fish experience, even if it probably came well over 10 years late.

Two more highlights: First, there was this guy.

The picture doesn't do a great job of capturing just how "My Giant" this guy was, but he was standing right next to me and Stone at one point and I can promise you that it was the only time in my life when I got to see a living model of what Gheorghe Muresan would look like if he were skankin' in a crowded ballroom, a spectacle made more hilarious by the fact that he was doing so next to three extremely tiny girls (Oh, what's that you say? Touche, Sportscenter).

Second, Schiff Happens discovered an unofficial new anthem in a RBF tune none of us had ever heard before but quickly picked up and sung along to while gratuitously pumping fists. Watch below, learn the words.

Good times had by all, which is of course why you should go see live music in the first place. Since you missed out, I was gonna give you a chance to wallow in the relative shittiness of your Tuesday night by singing along to my home video of "Everything Sucks" from last night, but I got tired of waiting for YouTube to upload the damn thing so you're gonna have to wait until later. I'll embed it here as soon as I can.

Monday, January 19, 2009

If you only watch one show that never should have been made this year

Big things have gone down over here at Schiff Happens since I posted earlier saying that I was going to do a better job on weekends (actually while finishing up that post). I can only assume that's karma - more to come on that soon.

As far as tonight, I can only assume you're all eagerly anticipating the season finale of Momma's Boys, which airs on NBC in just 15 short minutes. I wanted to write a whole lead-in for this and then go for the gold with my first live blog, but as I have noted, I had some business to attend to in Jersey this weekend. As a result, I'm still gonna go for the live blog (even though the odds are slim that anyone is paying attention, either to me or the show), but here's your 5 minute summary to Momma's Boys, the winner of the Schiff Happens award for "Best show that never should have been made" ever:

Essentially the premise is that 30 young women vie for the attention and love of three eligible bachelors, aptly named "Momma's Boys" because they are A). Most definitely boys, the oldest of whom is maybe 25, and B). Attached to their moms in the most pathetic ways possible. The girls live in a house with the Mommas, and in between the guys have to decide who they want to stay on through the next round. The show is fundamentally flawed in that there are no immunity challenges or real dates - everything is done in such a quick cut, snapshot fashion that the end result is a scattered ordeal with no real flow or structure. The only reason I or anyone I speak to watches is because Rob Kluge, the biggest loser of the three Momma's Boys, happens to have attended my rival high school and grown up best friends with some of my good friends. His Momma, Esther, was my little brother's nursery school teacher, affectionately known as Miss Esther (I have referred to her only as Miss Esther throughout all viewings of and conversations about the show). She's a classic Jewish mother stereotype and she's bummed because Rob is falling for a black chick. So, that's why I watch. The girls are the biggest collection of whores, C-list reality actresses, strippers and nude models ever assembled on one reality show set. The crown jewel of the skank squad is Erica Ellyson, 2008 Penthouse Playmate of the year. Clearly she's looking for true love and doesn't want to be judged, so she's waited until tonight - after forging a trusting relationship with Momma's Boy Michael's mother and wooing Florida Fireman Michael as well - to reveal her secret. So I guess that's why NBC figures you're gonna watch. Oh, and the third mom is basically the craziest racist nutjob in the history of moms. She wants no one for her lisping 21 year old college hockey player son, JoJo "The Idiot Circus Boy" Bojanowski. At first, Mrs. B was an outrageous curiosity, but that act dwindled and now she's just an annoyance who may or may not have an erotic attraction to her son. There's plenty more I could say about this incredible train wreck of a show, but it's just about 10 and time to get this show on the road.

10:03 - While NBC is going through their little recap of the show, just have to say quickly that the best line of the series came within the first hour, when one of the black bachelorettes reacted to Mrs. B's insane racism by simply saying to the camera, "Bitch are you crazy?" Since this moment, the show really hasn't gotten any better.

10:03 - Miss Esther to Rob: "You can see Camilla as much as you want - not on a date, not on a weekend." Which obviously leaves Rob tons of time to see her as much as he wants.

10:04 - Roommate predictions: Rob ends up with Miss Esther's pick, Lauren, the last remaining Jew. One roommate picks JoJo to end up with his last remaining girl, the other says he ends up with his mom. We all agree Michael bails on Erica in favor of the wholesome med student.

10:06 - Mrs. B refused to let JoJo keep more than one girl around, so while the other 2 guys are left to pick between 2 girls, JoJo is currently on a parasailing date with his mom. Says JoJo, as he and his mom continue their date at the scene of his hot steamy date with his last remaining girl, "Not gonna lie, I'm kinda creeped out right now." So are we, JoJo. So are we.

10:10 - First commercial break out-bump shows us Rob sneaking a kiss from Jewish girl and acknowledging to camera that his mom usually knows best. Damn right she does - she taught my kid brother to count and sing Hanukkah songs, she can pick out a girl for her tooly son.

10:12 - Back from commercial, Rob and Lauren the Jew take a jeep ride down to a romantic lagoon. Lauren says eff this conversation bullshit, I'm goin in for a piece of this big Jewball. Makeout city. Rob admits in the voiceover that his mom was pushing a great girl in his direction, and cops a handfull of Jew ass as the waves break.

10:13 - Rob makes up for weeks of getting nothing with more passionate makeouts. Rob reveals that he went to bed last night thinking about Camilla and woke up (in a strange wet spot) thinking about Camilla. Commercial break.

10:18 - Michael and Erica "Penthouse Pet of the Year" Ellyson board an absolutely gorgeous yacht for a romantic date at sea. The announcement is coming, but before she completely ruins his entire decision making process, Erica assures Michael that she wants a family and would absolutely settle down with him. "Tell me more about your modeling life." Oh yea, the bomb is about to drop.

10:21 - Michael carries Erica off the yacht onto the beach, with both wearing different outfits than the ones they started the date wearing. I thought this was only supposed to be a three hour tour?

10:22 - More ocean makeouts, both Michael and Erica declare this the happiest day of their lives. Happier than when you won that Penthouse Pet of the Year award for your groundbreaking spread on vegetable self-satisfaction?

10:24 - Memento-style creepy flashback sequence as Erica gets a massage on the way back to the island, wondering how Michael and his mom are going to react to her secret. Hey Erica, if it doesn't work out, this blog has at least 3 followers who have no problem with your past.

10:29 - Another outfit change for Michael and Erica as she makes the big announcement...

10:30 - With tears in her eyes, milking her time on TV for all it's worth, Erica comes out with it. "I've done nude modeling also. I haven't done Playboy. I'm the current Penthouse Pet of the Year." Michael looks aghast and disgusted. Roommate number 2 says, "Sweeeeeeet." Michael seems specifically agog that it was Penthouse. Better than Beaver, right? No? Just me? Now he's freaking out because she forged such a strong relationship with his mom, stronger than any girl he's ever been with. "I feel completely lied to," he says in an iso on-camera.

10:33 - Back from the date, now it's time for Michael's Momma to learn the news. Looks like someone just ran over her cat when she finds out. Roommate number 2: "It's just a vajeen."

10:34 - Michael's mom doesn't feel any different about Erica. Hot damn I hope Momma Schiff is watching. You know, because then I could finally bring home all those playmates I've been dating that I've had to keep a secret.

10:35 - Michael's mom acknowledges that she's kinda full of shit, considering she hated on a previous girl who eventually got the boot because of her nude modeling past.

10:37 - My friend Jess from UVA just IM'd me to ask if I knew Rob. After I explain the extended connection, she replies "Not really that cute."

10:38 - Text message I just received which officially tops any joke I will come up with for the next 20 minutes: From Goldsmith, "Mrs b drops the bomb in the last 10 min... 1978 miss nude Iraq." Damn it, now I'm mad at myself

10:40 - More great drama between Rob and Miss Esther. "What's right is what's gonna make me happy," Rob says. "No, it doesn't matter." That's motherly love.

10:43 - Michael and his mom are having the Erica conversation. Michael asks his mom a question that every man must ask his mother at some point, "Have you ever seen a Penthouse magazine?" Roommate #2: "I guess it's more than a vajeen."

10:44 - Mrs. B is sobbing as usual. Not the kind of sobbing that you empathize with, either. The kind of obnoxious, constant, unnecessary sobbing that makes you want to smack someone.

10:47 - Looks like elimination time. Roommate #1 says Rob gets to go first because nobody cares. I was gonna steal his joke and claim it as my own, but instead I'm just gonna say I really agree. Just noticed that Camilla is like 6'5". Rob does come from a high school with a storied women's basketball history, maybe he was always kind of into them. He proves that was just a phase, though, and chooses Lauren. Camilla says "He damn near cried in my ear. I know he'll be callin me." Camilla, if you're still single, forget this dude. If you're looking for a Jew to take care of you, just know Manalapan rules.

10:50 - Michael's turn. The other girl he's deciding between, Amanda the trilingual med student, is wearing the tightest yellow dress in a really nice piece of point-of-purchase strategy adjustment.

10:51 - Michael recalls the time when he and Amanda grew closer - attempting to keep Rob alive when he passed out during a challenge on the first episode and eventually had to be taken to the hospital. Camilla, you see what I'm talking about here? You SAW this happen! Call me.

10:52 - Michael chooses Amanda - the yellow dress works! Erica seems pretty upset, but at least she still has her million dollar vajeen.

10:53 - JoJo tells us he's either going home with Mindy or going home with his mom. Yikes.

10:54 - "If I don't do what my mom wants, I'm gonna be lynched. She's gonna have my balls hanging from her rearview mirror." Girl from episode one, you might finally have some competition for line of the series.

10:55 - Classic reality tv faux pas as Mindy interrupts an elimination to stand up for her feelings and eliminate herself. Absolutely killing me Mindy. I'd be bummed to watch her and her personalities walk away forever.

10:57 - JoJo comes back with the classic reality script-flip and brings Mindy with him anyway. Mr. B is storming out, she says she has a broken heart. She really may have a thing for her son. I'm more than a little creeped out.

10:58 - Animal House style subtitles tell what happened after the show: Mrs. Be politely declined therapy... for her rampant racism or potential incestual love for JoJo, we'll never know. Erica's Penthouse contract expired and she reconnected with Lorraine, who says they'll be friends for life. Jess wants to know if I think they've had sex. I love this show. And finally, the star himself: "Rob went home early... alone." I think that one speaks for itself. At least Miss Esther got what she wanted, which is what I was rooting for all along. Roommate #2 has switched the channel to the Chinese restaurant episode of Seinfeld, one of the best episodes of possibly the best TV show of all time. That is until the inevitable Mrs. B spinoff, of course. I'm proud of myself for making it through this thing (both this liveblog and the series itself). See you for the reunion show.

The curious case of King James (the conclusion)

I feel like I gotta apologize for basically taking the weekends off around here. That's not really my intention, although I'm going to claim a free pass for this weekend because I had to head out of town and come back home for the most unfortunate of reasons. Still, my apologies for being lazy on the weekends. In the future I'll pick up the slack, and I'll start with right now since I'm off and at least 2 to 3 of you are stuck at work.

First off, I wanted to get to this item: the exciting sort of anticlimactic conclusion to the saga of LeBron's big "announcement," which we've been following here for a minute. I don't know why anyone would have actually thought that LBJ was about to make a real-life blockbuster of an announcement, either based on that first YouTube "Brace Yourself" video, which was all of 16 seconds long and super vague, or the leaked photos of him in a Browns uni, which to me were very obviously taken from a commercial set (hello giant green screens?). Either way, the actual spot leaked on the internet some time Thursday/Friday night, and I guess as of yesterday it's officially on TV (although I have yet to see it), so finally, if you still care, here it is in all its glory: LeBron's new State Farm commercial. Unlike The King himself, it probably won't live up to the hype.