This is going to be a long post, because I have jury duty today and I need something to do. I hope you’re ready and resilient.
Gratuitous music quote of the day:
(Don't you just LOVE those people who put "meaningful" music quotes on their Twitter feed or Facebook status? I want in on this bandwagon! But I'll tell you what's better than something "meaningful"--something completely random, nonsensical, or taken entirely out of context.)
“Johnny Twobags doesn’t have the blues and it makes him sad, brings him down…but not down enough to have the blues.” The Vandals, “Johnny Twobags”
Beard of the day:
Something I hate that most people like:
Applause. Man, it’s really annoying when people applaud for something that doesn’t deserve it. My most recent experience happened just a few minutes ago. I’m currently sitting in the Leon County Courthouse, doing my civic duty as a potential juror in what I hope is an awesome felony trial. The county judge came in to explain the process to us and mentioned that today is her granddaughter’s third birthday. That’s cool, it really is. I hope she gets to spend some time with the little girl tonight. But when she told us, a few people decided this was worthy of applause and clapped for her. Fact: needless or over-indulgent applause will take up about nine months of an average person’s life. That’s enough time to grow a baby. (For the record, I made that statistic up. But I’m 99% sure it’s accurate.)
This happens all too often. It’s my birthday! Applause. I got out of a speeding ticket! Applause. The library waived my late fees! Applause. Just…stop. It’s truly not appropriate behavior. A public speaker can solicit applause without even trying and it’s annoying. People need to save their claps for when they’re really needed. I declare shenanigans.
As a musician, I have a special hatred for inappropriate applause. Nothing is more annoying than going to a concert and having some wiseass (or dumbass) decide that it’s appropriate to clap in between movements. This is another situation where it becomes clear that people are all too willing to jump on the applause bandwagon. If one guy claps between movements, even people who know it’s not appropriate will join him. I’m not going to lie, I’ve joined in once or twice myself. It's tough, because if people are going to clap, you don't want the performer to think that only half the audience appreciated the piece. But mostly, I fume. I fume because they’re wasting my time and, consequently, wasting my life.
Also annoying is the standing ovation. Standing ovations are appropriate when something is really, really good. But it’s been ages since I’ve been to a play, concert, or any other event with a curtain call that hasn’t invoked a standing ovation from the majority of the audience. I’ve seen some great shows in my time and I’m the first to stand when it’s deserved. But, from my perspective, people are getting frivolous with their bipedal accolades. It’s much harder to resist the swell of a standing ovation than an inappropriate applause moment. Many times I’ve thought something was worthy of vigorous and hearty, but seated, applause. However, when everyone in my section stands, it makes me look like a negative jerk if I don’t also rise from my seat. It’s a very tricky social situation, especially if you’re among friends. There’s nothing I love more than when three or four guys stand (and it’s almost always guys) and no one else follows suit. You only see this on rare occasions, but it does happen. And when it does, it’s beautiful.
Delicious food of the moment:
Pizza. I really prefer a New York style pizza, but when it comes down to it, I’ve never found a pizza that I truly hated. The closest is Domino's, but even that will do in a pinch. I have a lot to say about pizza, so if you don’t want to read the adoring rants of a foodaholic, it is best to scroll down. Way down, because this is going to be a veritable dissertation.
I went to college in a town that had a multitude of pizza options. There were four independent shops there. I’m going to take a moment to reminisce about all of them.
The worst of the four was Arcata Pizza and Deli. They had some pretty good stuff at APD, but it was generally overpriced and not as delicious as the other options. I may have only had their pizza once or twice, to be honest. Usually, if I went to APD, it would be for the cheese fries, not the $5 slices of pizza.
Live From New York blew APD out of the water. Huge slices for under $2 and no need for toppings due to the amazing cheese and sauce combination. Due to the size of the slices and the thinness of the crust, the best way to eat a slice from LFNY was to fold it in half and eat it like a pizza taco. Delicious.
Then you had Smug’s. Smug’s was amazing. They had no tables, so you either picked up your pie or grabbed a couple slices to eat on the street. You got two slices for $3 or $4, but they were not nearly as big as the other three places in town. Still, they couldn’t have tasted any better. What I really liked about Smug’s is that they sauced their pizzas all the way to the edge before folding the crust over. The delicious result was that the crust was filled with sauce. Occasionally, if you were lucky, they had slices sauced not with marinara, but with pesto. Heaven.
Finally, you had Big Pete’s. This shop opened after I had been in Arcata for a year or two, but it grew closest to my heart. (Long parenthetical aside: Smug’s was arguably better pizza, but Pete’s was in a better location, had places to sit, and was just a generally more fun, open atmosphere. Most important were the televisions. I went to Pete’s several times a week to have a slice while watching baseball. Good times.) Pete’s featured New York style pizza with an array of toppings and sauces. My favorite was a slice with marinara, fried eggplant, and huge smears of ricotta cheese. I’m not even a fan of eggplant, but this pizza was amazing. I also recall a pizza sauced with ranch that had chicken and other goodies topping it. There were barbeque pizzas, buffalo pizzas…so many good kinds of pizza. Oh, Pete’s how I adore you. How I miss you.
In my current town of Tallahassee, good pizza isn’t nearly as prevalent. The two best places in town are Brooklyn Pizza and Momo’s. Brooklyn has some great prices for whole pies, which makes it my usual preference. Momo’s features “slices as big as your head,” and their catchphrase is not an exaggeration. I like the atmosphere at Momo’s, but the pizza is more expensive and the sauce is thin and somewhat tasteless. I generally prefer their cheese bread.
Let’s move on to corporate pizza (I told you this was going to be long, didn’t I?). I’ve already mentioned that Domino’s is the absolute dregs, but what about other places?
Pizza Hut is serviceable because of the stuffed crust. Period. I have some dear friends that invited me over to share some Pizza Hut slices recently…and they didn’t get stuffed crust. I mean, it’s only $2 extra and it enhances the experience exponentially. If it’s a matter of cost, I will pay for the stuffed crust. If it’s a matter of taste, I may have to reevaluate my friendship with this particular couple (just kidding, guys!). Pizza Hut also fails to come through on its variety of toppings. They have pepperoni and sausage, which takes care of my meat preferences, but there is literally not one vegetable on Pizza Hut’s menu that I enjoy on my pizza. I generally get only one topping anyway, but when they have a three-topping special or whatnot, I’m generally left confused and alone. And they don’t allow for extra cheese to count as one of the toppings. Tragic.
Papa John’s used to be my favorite corporate pizza. I think it was due to the buttery garlic sauce that probably packs calories more densely than cheesecake. However, Papa John’s and I have grown apart in recent years. My last several experiences there have been average at best and bland at worst. Whereas Pizza Hut serves thick, cheesy slices filled with moisture and a delectable soft texture, Papa John’s is dry and crispy. In general, soft and chewy always wins out over hard and crispy.
Hungry Howie’s and Little Caesars (yes, I checked. They don't use the apostrophe like everyone else!) are both niche places that fill the need of cheap pizza fast. It’s a tough call to declare a superior of the two. Hungry Howie’s features flavored crusts and a $5.75 pizza ready in about ten minutes. Little Caesars, on the other hand, charges only $5 and the pizza is ready the moment you walk in. The 75 cents is basically inconsequential, but the convenience of Little Caesars goes a long way. Hungry Howie’s probably tastes a little better, but Little Caesars has a delicious buffalo ranch, which is a significant point in its favor. I declare this one a draw.
This brings up another important point. Pizza is perfect on its own, but in the last five years I have discovered the wonders of ranch or bleu cheese dressing as an enhancement to the experience (also buffalo sauce!). On the surface, this is innocuous, but at a deeper level, I’m concerned. A creamy salad dressing adds way more calories than an already calorie-loaded pizza provides and may just be distracting from the flavor of the combination of ingredients that make up one of man’s finest accomplishments. On the other hand, it tastes good.
Just a little more hunger-inducing prose, I promise. My current favorite place is Flippers Pizzeria in Orlando. They have several locations in the area and I’m down there for work and recreation often enough that I’ve had their pizza at least six times in the last six months. It’s not New York style, but the crust is the perfect texture and thickness to not overwhelm the rest of the formula. The sauce is flavorful and delicious, the cheese is applied in just the perfect quantity, and the toppings. Oh, the toppings. My wife and I have found that we prefer the shredded sirloin steak and chopped hot Italian sausage, but they have numerous other mouth-watering choices. Pesto, artichoke hearts, multiple kinds of sausage and meatballs…so many choices, so little opportunity. Finally, their bleu cheese dressing is the best I’ve ever had. I kid you not. Flippers Pizzeria, at least for now, wins the heavyweight championship belt of BEST PIZZA PLACE EVER.
First song to come up after pressing “shuffle” on my iPod:
Today, I’m going to cheat. I’m trying to give myself plenty to write while I have time to kill, and the first random song is one to which I’m not sure I have ever listened. So I’m going to remove superfluous junk from my iPod right now so that a song about which I actually have something to say will be selected. Aaaaand…done. This is the only time I’m going to cheat. Promise. (At least until another day where I have hours and hours to kill arrives. Then I’ll probably cheat again.) Let me just say, I’m not cheating to avoid embarrassment—I just don’t have anything to say about a lot of the stuff on my iPod.
“Polly” by Nirvana.
This is one of the first songs I learned on the guitar and perhaps the first that I was able to sing and play at the same time. Like all Nirvana songs, it’s incredibly easy, so it’s not surprising that this would be the case.
I missed Nirvana by about five years. At the height of Kurt Cobain’s fame, I was only eight or nine and hadn’t really been exposed to any pop music, much less Nirvana. I wrote here about my experience of hearing “Rape Me” for the first time. However, between 1999 and 2001, I made up for missing Nirvana’s heyday in kind. I got all of their albums and listened to them incessantly. I learned all of the songs on my guitar. I even read a biography of Kurt Cobain.
Nowadays, I barely listen to Nirvana, but I still keep them on my iPod. Hence, “Polly.”
Current album, book, video game, and TV show:
Album: The Decline by NOFX
I’ve really reinvigorated my love of punk rock lately. NOFX is one of my all-time favorite bands and I had about ten years of catch up to do. I was familiar with The Decline at the height of my punk obsession, but I’ve really grown to love it lately. From the opening lines, “Where are all the stupid people come? | And how’d they get to be so dumb?” to the final fadeout, this 18-minute song (the only song on the album) hits on just about everything wrong in this country. While I don’t agree with every stance NOFX takes, I am impressed by their dedication to their beliefs. These guys don’t half-ass anything and it shows. Hence, they’ve lasted for nearly 30 years and are still going strong.
Book: The Book of Lights by Chaim Potok
This is the third Potok book I’ve read in a row and fourth overall. I’m only about 60 pages in, but I’m not enjoying quite as much as The Chosen, The Promise, or My Name is Asher Lev. That being said, it took me a while to get into the story of Asher Lev, so we’ll see where this book takes me.
Video game: Lego Harry Potter
My wife doesn’t play a lot of video games with me, but she enjoyed (or at least claimed to enjoy) playing Lego Star Wars. Given that Harry Potter is better than Star Wars (BLASPHEMY), this seemed like a no-brainer. And it has certainly been fun so far.
(Hey, just a quick aside. The Star Wars movies are infinitely better than the Harry Potter movies. But the Harry Potter books absolutely dominate the Star Wars movies. Still, comparing books to movies is an unfair comparison, since movies are, as a rule, inferior to books. Just had to make that clear.)
TV show: Dexter
I’ve been hearing buzz about this show for a while, so I watched the first two seasons over the last couple weeks. BAD. ASS. This show is not for the faint of heart, but I hardly fit into that group. After all, I AM A PRODUCT OF THE LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND HAVE BEEN PROPERLY DESENSITIZED TO VIOLENCE AND DEBAUCHERY. Being that I’m from the computer era, I should also know better than to type a sentence in all caps. I apologize. No, hold your applause. Seriously.
Beard of the day/Obligatory photo of gorgeous starlet:
This may not be the best picture of Natalie Portman ever (far from it, really), but she's standing here with a Hasidic Jew and it is awesome. I really like Jews. I'm not Jewish myself, but there's something about their culture that really appeals to me. It could be the beards.