The Legendary Super Bowl Drinking Game™

January 31, 2009

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Disclaimer: This game is meant to be played with water. Surely, you wouldn’t consider playing it with any other beverage, would you?

This game was perfected through many years of trial and error, starting with Super Bowl XXXII (which my Packers lost, so I needed a lot of water). You could actually use these rules for any football game, but trust me on this, you don’t want to drink this much water more than once a year.

I come from a strange culture where we use the word “beer” to mean “water.” If you read the word “beer” below, and you think “beer” instead of “water,” then you, sir, are a racist.

So without further ado…

The Legendary

Super Bowl

Drinking Game

Each person in the room must pick a team. Annoying people who are only there to watch the commercials and the halftime show shall be assigned a team in such fashion as to get as close as possible to a 50-50 balance in the room.

You drink when something bad happens to your team.

Scoring

  • One beer for each touchdown.
  • Half a beer for each field goal (whole beer if over 45 yards).
  • Half a beer for a safety.
  • Half a beer for a two-point conversion, or a missed two-point conversion.
  • Two beers for a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown.
  • One beer for blocked field goal or punt.
  • Half a beer for a missed field goal.
  • Bonus half beer for defensive or special teams touchdown.

Changes of Possession

  • Half a beer for each turnover.
  • Two drinks for change of possession without a score.
  • Three bonus drinks for three and out.

The Drive

  • One drink for every first down.
  • One drink for every five yards on a run over ten yards.
  • Five drinks for a pass over thirty yards.
  • Five drinks for each quarterback sack.
  • Three drinks for a blocked pass.
  • Five drinks for a tipped pass that is caught anyway.

Penalties

  • One beer for intentional grounding.
  • Five drinks for holding (ten if it causes a touchdown to be called back).
  • Five drinks for delay of game.
  • Three drinks for a five-yard facemask or nine drinks for a fifteen-yard facemask. The NFL changed the rules on facemask this year, eliminating incidentals, so let’s compromise and call it six for facemask.
  • Half a beer for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • Two drinks for false start, offside, or encroachment.
  • Five drinks for unnecessary roughness.
  • One third of a beer for too many men on the field.
  • Three drinks for pass interference.
  • Five drinks for offensive pass interference.
  • Two beers for leverage.

Non-penalty Ass Plays

  • Half a beer for each call overturned on replay.
  • One-third of a beer for calling for a replay and not having the play overturned.
  • One beer for recovered onside kick.
  • Half a beer for missed onside kick.
  • Half a beer for a pass that hits the ref or a player that runs into the ref.

And if there’s any left in the tank, you really should have a beer if your team loses.

You should not play the Super Bowl Drinking Game if you are driving. If you drink this much water and drive, you will have to pull over every five minutes to pee. That doesn’t make for good driving.

My pick this year? Cards in an upset, by less than a touchdown.


For Gordon: Emmylou Harris – “Pancho & Lefty”

January 29, 2009

Here’s a lovely classic video from 1977 of the always angel-voiced and eternally gorgeous Emmylou Harris performing a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty,” a tune later made famous in another cover by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson from their 1983 record Pancho & Lefty.  Emmylou’s version is pretty damned great too.


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 7

January 29, 2009

Idol LogoSo last night, to my surprise, I found out that they’re doing three episodes this week. In addition, there are two cities covered in tonight’s hour, NYC and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

My guess? That means that NYC sucks, Puerto Rico sucks, and this episode sucks so they’re trying to bury it by showing it on an off night.

Let’s find out if I’m right.  Here comes another live-blog…

Read the rest of this entry »


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 6 (1/28/09)

January 28, 2009

Idol LogoOkey dokey, Salt Lake City. Do we finally go to Hollywood next week? I’m not crazy about the Hollywood shows but at least they mean we’re at the door of the real  competition.

I’m predicting this will be a good show.  Let’s find out if I’m right.

Gentlemen, start your blogging…

Read the rest of this entry »


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 5

January 27, 2009

Idol LogoWell, the dog just snuck in and ate half my dinner, so I’m in a foul mood before I’ve even started watching. So will tonight’s episode cheer me up, like week one, or irritate me, like Episode Three? Opening with Journey music is not a good sign. Oh, well, let’s do this thing…

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“Dark Globe” by Syd Barret and R.E.M.

January 25, 2009

For reasons probably best left to psychiatrists, my second or third album purchase ever was Pink Floyd’s early singles collection, Relics.  I fell head over heels in love with it, and I’m sure I’ve listened to it hundreds of times in the ensuing twenty-plus years.  (My junior high and high school friends thought it was a bit odd of me to always play strange psychedelic sixties rock, although some of them came to appreciate it.)

Anyway, at some point I learned that most of the songs on that collection were not written by Roger Waters, but by Syd Barrett–hey, we didn’t have the Internet back then and bargain-bin tapes didn’t have songwriting credits or much of anything besides cover art and song titles.  I also learned that in addition to writing most of Pink Floyd’s amazing debut album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Syd Barrett had also released two solo albums.

Those albums were not in print at the time and my job sorting bottles and cans at the grocery store was not going to fund purchasing the vinyl from a classified in Goldmine or some similar publication.

Strangely, the first Barrett to be released on CD was Opel, a collection of rarities.  I snapped it up and listened to it obsessively (which really annoyed many of my friends–let’s face it, having to listen to a bunch of Syd Barrett demos would strain the patience of damn near anybody).  One of the songs that stuck out was an early version of “Dark Globe,” here titled “Wouldn’t You Miss Me.”

At some point, I read in Rolling Stone that R.E.M. had recorded a cover of the song and it was being released as a flexi-disc.  For those of you younger than me, a flexi-disc was a 45 RPM record pressed on vinyl so thin that it could be bound into a magazine.  This flexi-disc was being released in, of all things, Sassy.

So, yes, I–a teenage boy–had  to go to the bookstore and purchase a copy of Sassy.  I pray to this day that no one saw me.

It was worth the humiliation.  R.E.M.’s take on “Dark Globe” is beautiful.  The piano is an excellent addition, adding  a wistful grace to the song.  This seems to me to prefigure the gorgeous “Nightswimming,” released about three years later on their best album, Automatic for the People.

The following year, Syd Barrett’s two studio albums were released on CD and I heard the original version of “Dark Globe.”  R.E.M.’s version turned out to be much closer to the demo than to the released version, which is sung at a higher register.  Picking which version of this song I prefer is impossible–I treasure all of them.

I’ve included Barrett’s studio version and R.E.M.’s version here, figuring two “Dark Globe”s is enough for one post.  If you’d like to hear the Barrett demo, it’s here.

Syd Barrett:

R.E.M.:

Also of interest: David Gilmour paying tribute to his predecessor shortly after his death by covering “Dark Globe” solo.  It’s quite touching.


All Music Guide Sucks

January 25, 2009

Actually, All Music Guide doesn’t suck.  It’s an invaluable resource.

What sucks is that their technology is so awful that I’ve been trying to pull up a page for about fifteen minutes now and I keep getting errors.  This happens all the time.

Maybe I can talk a venture capitalist into giving me the resources to fund an alternative that, you know, works?


“Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” by The Ramones

January 24, 2009

These days, Ronald Reagan is respected by nearly everyone except for the far left–the guys who pass out newspapers on campus asking you if you’re interested in revolutionary politics, and, if their writing skills are good enough, go on to work for Rolling Stone and The Nation.

This was not always the case.  Like all great presidents, Reagan made tough decisions, and tough decisions inevitably piss some people off.  The far left wanted nuclear disarmament, many in the center-left to center-right favored détente with the Soviet Union, and Reagan said, implicitly, fuck all that.  Or to quote the man in his own words, “Here’s my strategy on the Cold War: We win, they lose.”

Most of Reagan’s hard decisions paid off, as a large percentage of his former political opponents now recognize.

But even the greatest of presidents make bad decisions.  Lincoln appointed many wrong generals to lead the war effort before anointing the right one in Ulysses S. Grant.  FDR interned American citizens of Axis-country descent and tried to rig the Supreme Court.

Reagan’s biggest blunder was probably his handling of Lebanon.  Some would also argue Iran-Contra, but the long-term fallout from that affair does not appear to me to be significant.  His visit to the Bitburg Cemetery pales in comparison to either, but it was a disaster at the time, even if the incident is nearly forgotten today.

In 1985, Reagan and West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed that Reagan would visit a German military cemetery as part of Reagan’s European tour to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of V-E (Victory in Europe) Day.  This would demonstrate the reconciliation between the two former foes.

After the agreement but before the visit, it came to light that of the 2,000 or so graves, 49 belonged to soldiers who were members of the Waffen-SS.  This set off a firestorm of protest.  Jewish groups were understandably angry, as were veterans groups, and they were far from the only ones.

Reagan was in a bind. Canceling the visit would be seen as deeply offensive by our ally West Germany. Going through with the visit would enrage many others both domestically and internationally.  Reagan wanted out, but in the end decided that he had to go through with it.

Reagan had a great appreciation of the horrors of the Holocaust. Seeing films of concentration camps in 1945 had a deep impact on his psyche, and he talked of those films and their impact on him many times. (Witnesses say that on a couple of occasions he claimed to have actually been at the camps and taken the films himself, which I suspect was a miscommunication on the part of the Great Communicator–Reagan was a public figure in 1945 and it was well known that he served in the Army stateside because the military would not send him overseas due to his eyesight.)  Having Holocaust survivors and the American soldiers who had liberated them angry at him and accusing him of being disrespectful of their past must have stung deeply.

Reagan had not wanted to draw attention to the Holocaust on an occasion that was supposed to be about reconciliation with the country where it was perpetrated, but a visit to the former site of a concentration camp was added to the schedule.  Speaking at that site, Reagan said:

All these children of God, under bleak and lifeless mounds, the plainness of which does not even hint at the unspeakable acts that created them. Here they lie, never to hope, never to pray, never to live, never to heal, never to laugh, never to cry…. And then, rising above all this cruelty, out of this tragic and nightmarish time, beyond the anguish, the pain and suffering, and for all time, we can and must pledge: never again.

I don’t know how many people’s feelings those and other words Reagan spoke during this disastrous visit soothed, but Dee Dee and Joey Ramone were not among them, because they then wrote “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg.”  The lyrics are worth quoting in their entirety.  Read along as you play the song (posted below):

You’ve got to pick up the pieces,
C’mon, sort your trash,
You better pull yourself back together,
Maybe you’ve got too much cash.

Better call, call the law,
When you gonna turn yourself in? Yeah,
You’re a politician,
Don’t become one of Hitler’s children.

Bonzo goes to Bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea,
As I watched it on TV, somehow it really bothered me.
Drank in all the bars in town for an extended foreign policy,
Pick up the pieces.

My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down

Shouldn’t wish her happiness, wish her the very best,
Fifty-thousand dollar dress,
Shaking hands with your Highness

See through you like cellophane,
You watch the world complain,
But you do it anyway,
Who am I, am I to say?

Bonzo goes to Bitburg then goes out for a cup of tea,
As I watched it on TV, somehow it really bothered me.
Drank in all the bars in town for an extended foreign policy,
Pick up the pieces.

My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down

If there’s one thing that makes me sick
It’s when someone tries to hide behind politics.
I wish that time could go by fast
Somehow they manage to make it last

My brain is hanging upside down
I need something to slow me down.

What strikes me most about this song is the sense of betrayal. And I suppose it’s understandable. Unfortunately for President Reagan, he had put himself in a position where no matter what he did, he was going to betray someone.

Playing guitar on this song must have driven Johnny Ramone, a conservative Republican and great admirer of Ronald Reagan, crazy. I’m glad he sucked it up and did it anyway. As a huge admirer of Reagan myself, I think the Ramones and everyone else should have cut him some slack. But bad politics can make for great art, and, in the case of “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg,” it did.  It’s one of the greatest songs the Ramones ever recorded.

I guess we can say this about President Reagan’s ill-advised trip to the cemetery at Bitburg–at least one good thing came out of it.

I should add that the shots that (I think) are directed at Nancy Reagan in the second verse are entirely unwarranted.  She was opposed to the visit.

(I have drawn on the Wikipedia article on Bitburg and Lou Cannon’s President Reagan in writing this piece.)


Album Review: Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid

January 23, 2009

I must confess, many times the attitude of the British music press confuses me endlessly.  Plenty of great British bands emerge each year to relatively little fanfare, if not complete indifference, while the chosen few, for seemingly no distinguishing reason in particular, are heralded as the saviors of British rock.  It happened with U2, Blur, Radiohead, Oasis, Coldplay, and most recently Glasvegas.  Meanwhile, great talents like Frightened Rabbit or Pete and the Pirates get little nods here and there, but barely a shred of the praise heaped upon these other sometimes undeserving acts.  Let’s face it, U2 hasn’t made a great album in almost two decades, the mediocre music of Radiohead’s In Rainbows was easily overshadowed by the gimmick of its initial digital-only release, and Oasis was never actually that good.  So what’s the formula?  How does one become the next “it band” in the eyes of the press?  If you figure it out, let me know.

Another very good UK group that has never really gotten the attention or praise it deserves is Manchester band Elbow.  While not likely to ever reach success on the level of some of the aforementioned bands, Elbow has quietly released five solid and successful albums since 2001.  The band was initially lumped in with groups like Keane as sensitive arena rockers ripping off the Coldplay aesthetic, but they have proved with each subsequent release that there is more to their talent than just another blustery Coldplay imitator.  On their fifth release, The Seldom Seen Kid, Elbow push the envelope even further and distance themselves from those other, less creative bands.  But instead of ratcheting up their sound, they take a turn in the other direction, slowing things down and adding a heaping helping of nuance.

Opening track “Starlings” begins over a soft, liquid electronic beat and extremely sparse instrumentation and quiet background vocals before the whole effect is shattered by a one note blast of horns and strings.  It’s a jarring move that is repeated throughout the song, but the tempo never changes, instead remaining deliberate whilst tolerating the occasional joyous bursts of horn.  Meanwhile, lead singer Guy Garvey sings with poetic grace about a man’s lack of confidence in living up to love: “So, yes I guess I’m asking you/to back a horse that’s good for glue/and nothing else.”  Many of the other tracks on this record, such as “Some Riot” and “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver,” follow the same path of restraint as “Starlings,” building upon slow melodies and masterful turns of phrase, but always bubbling just below the surface and never quite reaching the explosive climax to which today’s pop listeners have grown more accustomed.

That’s not to say there are no barn burners on this record.  “Grounds For Divorce” is a standout track on the record mainly for its stark contrast to much of the rest of the songs.  It’s a massive-sounding Led Zeppelin-style stomp that literally shakes your stereo when the bass kicks in as Garvey sings about alcohol’s tendency to destroy relationships with lines like “I’ve been working on a cocktail called grounds for divorce.”  Another up-tempo but more subtle track is the gorgeous “The Bones of You,” in which Garvey’s soulful, gravelly blues vocals carry the tune through a river of minor currents.  The lyrics are again a standout, telling the story of a successful man who cannot escape the memory of the woman who got away: “When out of a doorway/the tentacles stretch of a song that I know,” reminding this busy man that “I can work till I break/But I love the bones of you, and that I can never escape.”

Elbow is a supremely talented band that is taking its sound in a more adventurous direction than other more recognized British bands of the day, but the British press has finally begun to stand up and take notice.  The NME and Planet Sound both gave The Seldom Seen Kid a 9 out of 10 rating, and the record won the 2008 Mercury Prize.  We’re still not hearing about how Elbow is going to “save” British rock, but perhaps that is a good thing, allowing Elbow the continued freedom to explore new sound textures and to produce great music.


Album Review: Plush – Fed

January 22, 2009

Plush is the moniker adopted by Chicago singer-songwriter Liam Hayes, and Fed was in a way his Chinese Democracy.  Hayes had recorded and released an earlier album titled More You Becomes You in 1998, and Fed was to be that record’s follow-up.  By all acounts, More You Becomes You was a sparse and subtle affair, featuring Hayes in full singer-songwriter mode accompanied by little more than his own piano.  Apparently, Hayes decided to completely shift gears for his next album, utilizing an army of studio engineers, professional studio musicians, backup singers, etc.  After two years of recording and a studio bill already breaching six figures, small Chicago indie label Drag City got cold feet from the prospect of having to cover such a large expense.  With no label, Hayes reportedly footed a couple hundred grand of his own money to finish the thing.  At that point, no label on either side of the Atlantic was willing to take on the expense, and, after Fed was given limited release in Japan to massive critical praise in 2002, it faded from memory.  Fast forward to six years later, and UK indie label Broken Horse finally stepped in to expose this lost labor of love to the light of day.

I finally got around to finding the album a couple of days after Christmas, and warming up to it has been a task.   This is not an easy album to absorb on just one, two, three, or even more listens.  It did not help that I also purchased Glasvegas’ debut and Elbow’s The Seldom Seen Kid at the same time, which are both infinitely listenable pop records.  But this Fed, this was a different animal entirely.

I’ve been wrestling with this album practically every day since purchasing it, and I have more than once considered throwing in the towel.  Many of the songs are extremely disjointed, as Hayes creates multiple, fragmented little movements within each song.  If there were such a thing as prog soul, this would be it.  Album opener “Whose Blues” begins with a lazy blues guitar lick before absolutely exploding into a horns and guitar groove just past the one minute mark.  The five minute tune then morphs and shifts multiple times throughout the song, the tempo slowing and speeding up with no warning while Hayes warbly voice struggles with and stresses each note, cracking here and there as he reaches for notes he just wasn’t born to hit.  It’s an exhausting listen, and one starts to get the sense early where that six figure recording bill came from.  Everything but the kitchen sink is included in that first track, and the kitchen sink follows on subsequent tracks.  It’s this excess that I read about before listening to the album, and it’s this excess that made me really not want to like this album.  On the first few listens, it seemed that Hayes had carved his own epitaph with a line from that first song on the album: “My creation has drowned me.”

However, after about three weeks of fruitless attempts, I threw the album onone day, and everything suddenly worked.  My wrestling matches had paid off, and I was finally able to see the genius behind the wall of sound.  Even Hayes’ vocals, which will probably be a deal-breaker for many, began to gel with the music in my mind.  I noticed how, at times, Hayes can sound like a dead ringer for George Harrison.  The swelling and blasting Philadelphia-soul-by-way-of-Burt-Bacharach horns, piano, strings, and funky guitar riffs combined with the raw emotion in which Hayes drenches his strained vocals make these songs ones that I can’t resist coming back to, and I’m finding myself envisioning a long future with this album, when just a few days before I was considering filing it away for good and moving on. 

There are simply too many standout moments on this album to compile into one little review, and more have been revealing themselves on each subsequent listen.  One definite bright spot worth mentioning is the album’s most easily digestible and brilliant song, the late 60′s/early 70′s Brit-pop flavored “Greyhound Bus Station.”  It’s a joyous, horn-drenched exercise in perfect three minute pop.  That track is immediately followed by “No Education,” a slow, gorgeous ballad slathered with healthy doses of Hammond organ and swelling strings.  The infinitely funky “I’ve Changed My Number” coalesces into a simply uplifting chorus with what seems to be Hayes’ mission statement: “Gotta see your soul power.”

I went into this album with a bit of a closed mind, fully expecting a Chinese Democracy situation in which Hayes would be crushed under the weight of his own ambition.  Instead, I am now a convert.  I see Plush’s soul power, and it’s awesome.

There are no songs from Fed up on Youtube, but there is one song called “Take A Chance” that is purportedly a single from Plush’s next album, Bright Penny.  According to Plush’s website, this album is due out in spring of 2008.   Uh oh, here we go again!

Plush – “Take A Chance”


American Idol, 2009 – Episode 4

January 21, 2009

Idol LogoAfter a strong start to the season, last night’s episode was awful.  None of the highlighted singers was too much above adequate, and many were bad to awful, including some who made it through.  That’s got me dreading both sitting through and blogging this one.  But I am nothing if not devoted, so here comes another semi-live blog.  Thank God this one’s only an hour.

Read the rest of this entry »


Shamwho? Shamwha? Shamhuh?

January 20, 2009

Have you seen this guy?  Would you buy anything from Vince, let alone some useless little shammies?  Seriously, the guy looks sketchy.  Like the kind of guy who would be like, “Hey, check out my Shamwow!” before ruthlessly bludgeoning you over the head with his deceptively lightweight-looking ear mic and then rooting through your pockets for spare change to fuel his insatiable meth habit.  Notice how his left eye is always open just a hair more than his right?  Yeah, this guy’s got something up his sleeve, and I think you’d be well advised to keep your distance from him and his products. 

Other evidence of shady goings on in this infotainmercial:

1.  “It’s like a shammy, it’s like a towel, it’s like a sponge.”  Which is it, Poindexter?  You expect me to buy something from you when you can’t even tell me what it is?  No sale!

2.  “The Germans always make good stuff…”  You know what else the Germans made?  The Holocaust!  And blood sausage.  Yuck!

3.  At approximately 0:45 – “We’re gonna do this in real time.”  And yet all the liquid that can be seen under the carpet sample in the previous shot is mysteriously gone before the Shamwow even makes contact with said sample.  Am I to believe that the Shamwow is so magical that it has the power to absorb liquid without even touching it?  If so, Shamwow!  If not, Shamfuck you! 

4.  Who spends $20 a month on paper towels?  That’s a rather extravagant paper towel budget to have in these times of global economic hardship.  And awful for the environment!  Al Gore would be none too pleased.  Not to mention Captain Planet!

5.  At 1:25, while Shamwow Boy is covering his mouth, he says “[The Shamwow] lasts ten years, [a sponge] lasts a week!”  However, the discerning ear will hear that the “ten years” is an obvious voiceover.  What are you hiding, Shamwow?  Are you trying to screw us out of our rightful Shamwow usage years?  I want answers!

6.   Vince is obviously an actor.  I mean look at him!  He is the spitting image of a young, shady, slightly creepy Willem Defoe.  And, as we all know, if you even vaguely resemble a famous actor, then you must in fact be an actor yourself.  Look it up!  I think it’s in the Bible somewhere.  Like in the middle or something.  Keep looking, you’ll find it.


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