Plan Tinsel and Rot's Saturday

The time has come, dear reader, for you to take control of the Tinsel and Rot wheel. Through this rare opportunity, you, the slavish, slack-jawed devotee of all things Tinsel and Rot, can determine the content of a future edition of this blog.

How, you say? Listen up.

The great state of New Jersey has three events competing for the Tinsel and Rot entertainment dollar this Saturday. We're intrigued but not bowled over by any of the events, so it's hard to pick where to go:

Event #1-- Chiller Theatre Spring Expo, Secaucus, NJ --Devoted TaR followers know that I've been to the last two of these--and many exciting photos have resulted--but I don't know about this one. There's no one guest that compels me to bus it out to Secaucus. But there are some decent guests (Michael "Steven Keaton" Gross, Kevin "R. J. Fletcher (from "UHF")" McCarthy, Alan "Cameron Frye" Ruck, Steven Seagal...with a guitar) that might be worth my time.

Event #2-- Wrestling Reunion IV, Carteret, NJ --A dazzling array of former wrestlers (and announcers and a referee) that I can't imagine more than, say, a dozen people would be interested in meeting. Who wants Outback Jack's autograph? Fifteen bucks for Howard Finkel's signature? Even my fandom doesn't extend that far? Or does it?

Event #3-- Newport Center 20th Anniversary Celebration --The local mall caps off their 20th anniversary celebration with a live performance from Debbie Gibson at 6 p.m. Need I say more?

So, here's your job. Pick the event of the above three that I should attend. And "I think you should go to all three" is not a proper response. I've worked out the logistics of that, and it makes my head hurt. And it almost induces the long-dormant feeling of shame that once existed in my being.

Leave your response in the Comments field. The decision of the Tinsel and Rot judges is final.

The report of the day's activities should be up before Tinsel and Rot takes it on the road to St. Louis next Tuesday.


Ten Best: Saved by the Bell

Tinsel and Rot's slavish devotion to lists brings you this definitive ranking of the 10 best episodes of the television classic, "Saved by the Bell." We figured such a list needed to be compiled before VH1 or E! or Adult Swim got hold of the idea and mucked it all up. Tinsel and Rot is the blog of innovation. We shall blaze a trail of goodness across the globe! Viva Tinsel and Rot!

[Note: No episodes of "Good Morning, Miss Bliss" were considered in this process. That would've been stupid. Similarly, let's not talk about "The College Years" or, God forbid, "The New Class." We're only talking the prime years of Zack, Slater, Screech, Kelly, Jessie, Lisa, and Mr. Belding. And, OK, the episodes with Tori (aka the "tough chick").

10. The Zack Tapes--Zack Morris discovers the wonderful world of subliminal messages and attempts to woo Kelly through secret messages in a tape he gives her (including "Zack Morris is the blond Tom Cruise," which used to be considered a compliment, I suppose). Hilarity ensues when she and the rest of the gals of Bayside get wise to his wicked, wicked ways and give Zack a public comeuppance. A gem.
9. Rockumentary--Casey Kasem's second SBTB appearance comes in this documentary of the rise and fall of Zack Attack. Kasem narrates the look into the inner workings of the band and the excessive hubris of Mr. Morris that brings the group's success to a screeching halt (pun, of course, intended). As if the acting isn't brilliant enough, there are also the sweet, sweet songs, including the classics "Friends Forever" and "Love Me Now." One can only imagine the immense pride that the musicians who actually recorded those songs still feel.
8. Day of Detention--Proof that the Tori Years had their moments. Rappin' Ken Kelly is giving away the chance to win a trip to Hawaii during a live remote from the Max, and Zack is the lucky listener who gets picked (after some typical Zackian chicanery). But he can't get there because he's in detention. The rest of the gang tries to help him out, but soon they're in detention, too! Finally, after some clever diversion from Screech via his bonsai tree pruning, Zack manages to sneak out. But does he win the trip? I refuse to ruin the suspense for those who may have missed this one.
7. The Fabulous Belding Brothers--Rod Belding, you bastard. You win the hearts of the Baysiders during your substitute teaching gig, get them to change their senior trip plans to go whitewater rafting, and then leave them in the lurch to bang a stewardess? Thank God Richie Belding is there to bail your ass out. I hope the stewardess gave you the Clap.
6. The Last Dance--Admit it, you thought Zack and Kelly would never break up. They were star-crossed lovers, destined for eternal happiness. Until that ass clown Jeff stole her heart. Oooh, what a creep. But at least there was time for one last dance, outside the gym, on a picnic table, while Slater and Jessie sang a Michael Bolton song. And then, of course, Zack and Kelly got back together for, like, a day when they went to Jessie's dad's weddding and then split up, and then finally got married when the bloated cow that was "Saved by the Bell: The College Years" finally got slaughtered.
5. House Party--Until Billy Currington and Shania Twain's "Party for Two" video, this episode was where you went to see the least heterosexual musical performance by ostensibly heterosexual males. Zack, Slater, and Screech's living room lip-synch version of "Barbara Ann"... tough to watch, but still entertaining. And Tori "Violet Bickerstaff" Spelling does her best acting work here as the reluctant paramour of the cleverly named (and subtly acted) Nerdstrom.
4. All in the Mall--An underrated gem that finds the gang in possession of $5,000 in the mall after an unsuccessful attempt to score U2 tickets (surely, one of Bono's greatest achievements is having the band referenced in a SBTB episode). Then the gang thinks they're being chased by a pair of thugs, who wind up being part of a hidden camera TV show. Whoa! Way to turn that one around, writers! I wonder what the SBTB writing room was like. I wonder if they even had one. I wonder how many writers developed crippling drug habits.
3. Dancing to the Max--The first true classic in SBTB history. Who will win the big dance contest at the Max? (There was a lot of dancing on SBTB now that I think about it.) Surely, Lisa's a dead solid lock...until tragedy strikes. Lisa's out of commission after a bad leg injury. But an unlikely hero steps up to save the day. Screech to the rescue! Using his whip-smart creativity, Screech comes up with a brand-new, stone cold slamming dance, the hottest thing to hit the dance floor since the African Anteater Ritual. As Casey Kasem said, "Let's all do ... the Sprain!" Yeah!
2. Home for Christmas (two-parter)--A lot of people just think of Zack Morris as a party boy, always on the prowl for the next good time. But those people miss the real Zack Morris, the preppie with a heart of gold. And that side of Zack is on display in this moving two-parter when Zack falls in love with a hot homeless girl (who hasn't?). And though a lot of guys would drop a gal like a hot potato when they find out she lives with her dad in a car, Zack will do no such thing. He does his best to help her and her dad out, and after an unfortunate incident involving a false theft accusation from that jerkwad Mr. Moody, all works out well. And then the chick and her dad are never mentioned again, presumably off to go live in a land with Jessie's half-brother, Christy the female wrestler, and Zack's dad.
1. Jessie’s Song--She's so excited. She's so excited. She's so scared. Could there be any doubt that this would grab the top slot? Sure, Alex P. Keaton had a problem with uppers, but he didn't do it with nearly enough craziness. Jessie Spano takes the caffeine-spiked cake with her crazed reaction to the pills that have been helping her cope with the stresses of school and her burgeoning music career. Often lost in this all-time TV classic is the fantastic number "Go For It!" Some crazy bastard actually wrote the following chorus to this song: "Put your mind to it, go for it, Get down and break a sweat. Rock and roll, you ain't seen nothing yet." That last line kills me.

Let the debating begin.


Diary of a madman

Thursday, 5.18.06, 4:15 p.m.--After two false starts (whoops, have to change my voice-mail message...whoops, and set up the out-of-office e-mail), I'm out of work and on the PATH train to Newark, where I'll catch the train to Trenton, which will connect with the SEPTA train to Philly, where I will see Marah for, I don't know, the 40-somethingth time. I think they're good. You oughta see them sometime.

Thursday, 5.18.06, 4:56 p.m.--The Northeast Corridor express train to Trenton pulls into Newark Penn Station and, surprisingly, I'm on it. Lately, I've been missing trains by about a minute, which is not so fun. And this is the last train I can get to Trenton and still have time to eat before the show. Eating dinner and ensuring that I don't pass out is an activity that I also enjoy, probably as much as I enjoy seeing Marah. So doing both things in one night would be a kick.

Thursday, 5.18.06, 6:42 p.m.--The SEPTA train pulls into 30th Street Station in Philly, and dinner at the World Cafe Live before the 7:30 show appears to be a definite possibility. I love it when a plan comes together.

Thursday 5.18.06, 6:55 p.m.--After waiting around for a little bit for friends, I decide to just go ahead and eat. Pulled pork sandwich. Pork is at its best when it's pulled, friends.

Thursday, 5.18.06, 7:40 p.m.--One friend has arrived, no sign of the other. Show has begun, with Adam and Dave's Bloodline (featuring the non-Bielanko guitarist and drummer from Marah) opening. No more time to wait.

Thursday, 5.18.06, 8:03 p.m.--Wayward friend calls my cell phone (no, you can't have the number; it's only for travel emergencies). She thinks she will get there by 9. She almost does.

Thursday, 5.18.06, 8:50 p.m. to 10:47 p.m.--Marah plays the rock and roll, I rest against a wall, move sporadically, yell along to "Baba O' Riley" and "Head On," and enjoy the show. Late-arriving, recent college graduate friend only misses three songs. Automotive problems kept her. We'll leave it at that, OK?

Thursday, 5.18.06, 11:32 to 2:something a.m.--After standing in a parking lot for about 20 minutes filling mind of recent college graduate friend with bleak wisdom with help of same-aged other friend, recent college graduate friend drives me back to Jersey City. We only get lost once. Actually, I didn't get lost at all. I just sat there. I can't be held responsible.

Friday, 5.19.06, sometime in the late morning--I wake up. Just in time for "The View." I'll miss Meredith. I wish she'd change her mind. Around noon, I make friend watch Richard Christy get a bikini wax on Howard Stern On Demand. Everybody should have to watch it at least once.

Friday, 5.19.06, 1:45 p.m.--Perfect time for breakfast. Cranberry and apple pancakes at the Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory in Jersey City. The closest thing to the Pancake Pantry in Nashville, TN I will get this year. Friend leaves after breakfast, because she has a normal life. Not me.

Friday, 5.19.06, 3:08 p.m.--Get on line in the Port Authority Bus Terminal to buy a round-trip ticket to Atlantic City, where I will be going to see Elvis Costello and the Imposters at the Taj Mahal for a concert/taping of "Decades Rock Live." The special guests for the show, which will air on VH1 Classic, are Death Cab for Cutie, Fiona Apple, and Billie Joe Armstrong. I don't think they're all that special. But you know what is special? Getting $20 of the $31 price of a round-trip ticket back upon arrival at the Tropicana in AC.

Friday, 5.19.06, 3:30 p.m.-6:27 p.m.--Traffic is just bad enough on the way down that I may not make it to the Showboat Casino in time to play the version of "Family Feud" that runs every night (except Saturday) at 7. When the bus pulls in, I have about 30 minutes to walk the length of the boardwalk to get to Showboat in time. It won't be easy.

Friday, 5.19.06, 7:07 p.m.--I didn't make it in time. I don't want to talk about it.

Friday, 5.19.06, 9:20 p.m.--The Elvis Costello show starts, after a warm-up guy tells the audience in the about 2/3-filled arena that "Decades Rock Live" is the highest-rated show on VH1 Classic (are there any other shows on VH1 Classic?). The night gets off to a bad start when two guys decide that, among the approximately 500 empty seats in the arena, they'll be taking the two right in front of me, preventing me from stretching out my legs, something they were able to do with no problem. Just when I adjust to that, two South Jerseyans sit behind me and, during that magical moment when the stage manager asks for applause levels so they can set the mikes properly, the female South Jerseyan unleashes an ear-shattering whistle that sails right through me. Luckily, they eventually moved. The douches in front of me lounged about for the rest of the show. After trying to maintain my ground, I eventually accepted defeat and moved myself.

Anyway, Death Cab for Cutie proves to be uninteresting but not that bad, Fiona Apple is pretty good (particularly when singing "I Want You"), and Billie Joe Armstrong is fine. And the main-set finale of "Basket Case"/"Radio Radio"/"Pump It Up" is pretty damn cool. I was unaware how many girls worship Green Day. Every time Billie Joe's name was mentioned, high-pitched screaming followed. And when he came out, girls jumped out of their seats to get closer to the stage. It was at that point that the earlier announcement that people shouldn't rush the stage began to make sense. I didn't really think anybody was going to make a beeline to the stage to get closer to Elvis.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 12:20 p.m.--My second, slightly shorter mad boardwalk dash of the last six hours is more successful, as I get to Bally's in time to catch the 12:20 back to the Port Authority. That's key when the next one's at 1:15. After waiting in line for a few minutes, a man and what I assume was his lady friend queue up behind me. The woman is antsy and agitated, while the guy is trying to keep cool. It's obviously not been a good night at the tables. The conversation that ensued went something like this:

Lady Friend: I don't wanna take this bus back. Let's get a room. C'mon, you got a card--what else is it good for?
Guy: I told you, it's Friday night. The card don't do me no good on Friday nights.
Lady Friend: Well, then why don't we book a room for tomorrow?
Guy: Saturdays are even worse. I told you, the card's only good for Sunday to Thursday nights. We'd have to pay full price for a room tonight or Saturday and you know what that costs. I'm telling you, this place is poison.
Lady Friend: Well, how about we book a room for Saturday morning?
Guy: No. It's the same thing. I'm telling you...
Lady Friend: Well, what if I sell this? (points to a piece of jewelry, I assume...I was trying to be surreptitious)
Guy: Nah, they don't want that. The guy said it's no good.
Lady Friend: But it's diamond.
Guy: No. He said he wouldn't buy it
Lady Friend: Where is this bus?
Guy: Ah, you know how they are. They never leave on time.
Lady Friend: I really don't wanna take this bus back. What about the watch?
Guy: Nah. It's junk. They're not interested in it. It's not a good name?
Lady Friend: Not a good what?
Guy: You know, like the maker. It's not a good maker.
Lady Friend: I bet I could sell it to one of these people.
Guy: You think these people have money? They're just like you. Broke.

It went on like that til the bus came. And if overhearing conversations like that doesn't convince you to take a late-night bus back from Atlantic City at least once in your life, you can't be helped.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 3:45 a.m.--Home sweet apartment.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 9:03 a.m.--Rise and shine. Time to go to Baltimore. Mom's driving, so at least there are no more trains or buses involved for the weekend. And the weekend ends with the Avett Brothers at a wine festival in Columbia, MD. So, that's good.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 10:45 a.m.--Mom arrives and it's off to Baltimore.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 1:54 p.m.--We arrive at the Red Roof Inn in scenic Jessup, MD, a ball and chain's throw from the correctional facility. Jessup is also the home of Blob's Park, a premier polka facility that I had hoped we would hit later in the night, but a two-hour nap from 7 to 9 for Mom cancelled that plan.

We have to wait for our room because a housekeeper called in sick, they're overbooked, and, well, everything seems to be going wrong, at least according to the woman at the front desk. But she handles everything well, and we eventually get our room.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 3:08 p.m. to 6:12 p.m.--A sunny afternoon at the Inner Harbor and some sweet crab cake sliders and pretzels at J. Paul's, which offset some not-so-good pulled pork. Surprisingly, I'm not that tired. My body has adjusted itself to being abused. At least until Monday.

Saturday, 5.20.06, 6:39 p.m.--When we get back to the Red Roof, there's a bunch of guys who seem to be having a tailgate party in the parking lot. Wicked.

Saturday, 5.20.06, night--You'd be surprised how little there is to do in Jessup when you don't drive. And there is also nothing on TV. The best options are literally an NCAA softball game and Merv Griffin on "Larry King Live." I'm not sure which would make me seem less heterosexual. So I flip back and forth between both. When my mom wakes up, she puts on "10.5" on NBC. I'm so upset we didn't get home in time to see the sequel on Sunday night. I also stayed up to watch "Saturday Night Live," which, I can confirm, is still not funny. Don't let anybody tell you different.

Sunday, 5.21.06, 11:30 a.m.--Church time. The service is enlivened when a guy falls or something, creating a groundshaking thud in the middle of the Lord's Prayer. Later on, he mumbles something about cholesterol levels.

Sunday, 5.21.06, 1:04 p.m.--Arrive at Symphony Woods in Columbia for the Wine in the Woods festival, where the Avetts will take the main stage at 2:15. I get my designated driver bracelet, mom gets her drink tickets. I head toward the music area, mom shops for jewelry and knickknacks. A little while later, I find my friends and their offspring, also known as The First Child Whose Likeness Appeared on Tinsel and Rot (or TFCWLAoTaR, for short). TFCWLAoTaR, like most females, often demonstrates a strong indifference to me, occasionally runs away in fear, and desperately waves goodbye to me for the better part of our time together.

Sunday, 5.21.06, 2:23 p.m.--The Avett Brothers begin another kick-ass set, slightly subdued for the festival crowd and the Red Hat Society contingent parked near a tree. They do another new song that already sounds pretty good, indicating that they don't have any plans to start sucking soon. Which is good. And they don't break too many strings (about 5 or 6 total), though Bob has some trouble with his bass, which is a new twist on their perpetual struggle to keep their instruments in check. There are some little kids singing along and enjoying the show, including a young boy to my left who wants to hear "Swept Away," but is too shy to ask. Luckily, his mom and several of her increasingly inebriated friends are there to urge him on. Eventually, there are about six adults in wine glasses hovering over him insisting that he yell out "Swept Away." He never does yell it out, but they play it anyway, and he's happy.

My mom hugs the band when the show's over.

Sunday, 5.21.06, 5:28 p.m.--It's farewell to my friends and then we're out of the Merriweather Post Pavilion parking lot and on to Jersey City.

Sunday, 5.21.06, 7:03 p.m.--My first visit to a Waffle House, somewhere in Maryland. It was a big moment. And those were good waffles and hash browns. And as if that weren't enough, they had Bocephus on the jukebox ("Born to Boogie"). Thank you, Waffle House. Hope to see you soon, friend.

Sunday, 5.21.06, 10:18 p.m.--After the usual bad Turnpike traffic, I finally arrive home in Jersey City, late for "The Sopranos" but still glad to be home. For now.


Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs

{Photo taken on a NJ Transit train}

Never let The Man tell you what to do. You get off the train whenever and however you want...

{Photo taken outside of Circus Bar, 9th Ave., btwn 43rd and 44th Sts., NYC}

Always make the best of a bad situation...

{Photo taken at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, Newark, NJ}

Always double-check your work...

{Photo taken at the NE corner of 54th St. and 8th Ave., NYC}

And remember the cold, hard truths of life: all men are jerks, and women can't write good.


These are the days of miracle and wonder

So, last Thursday, I decided to check out magician David Blaine in his bubble at Lincoln Center. I don't really know why, other than (a) I have loads of free time and an inexplicable desire to waste it and (b) I've already been to see him frozen in ice and when he jumped off the big pole in Bryant Park, which I suppose links back to Point (a). So much links back to Point (a).

In any case, it was interesting and, like the other two Blaine "magic" events, it wasn't really Blaine's "trick" (or whatever you call spending nine days in a bubble full of water) that was intriguing but the fact that people like myself (though, for the good of humanity, I offer a silent prayer that there aren't many "people like myself") would take time out of their day to watch a guy in a bubble. I remember walking past the "Good Morning America" studios where Blaine was frozen in a block of ice and overhearing an older lady ask someone on line, "Who's the asshole in the ice?" A very astute question.

I suppose, if you want to get all touchy-feely about it, we, the people who come to watch, are the assholes in the ice, or the bubble, or on top of the giant pole, or buried alive in a coffin. After all, it's not really a magic trick we're watching (the trick part is due to come tonight, when Blaine holds his breath for nine minutes and fights his way out of chains . . . or doesn't, as the latest round of press breathlessly surmises might happen). These are really feats of inner strength and endurance at their core, attempts to somehow rise above the human condition and overcome the limitations we have has human beings. And, with his willpower and determination to emerge victorious, Blaine shows us that any obstacle, no matter how daunting, can be overcome.

I knew I shouldn't have read the David Blaine message board before I wrote this.

Well, whatever the reason why people came out to Lincoln Center this past week to stare at Blaine's atrophying body, it was a pretty entertaining spectacle. You could go right up next to the bubble or, as many preferred to do, just sort of stand around and watch other people go up to the bubble. There really wasn't much of a line when I stopped by, so I figured why not get up close and personal?

Security guards directed people up the ramp to the bubble, where Blaine would spend a few moments on one side before twirling over to the other. Anxious to keep things moving, the guards (and a few NYPD cops) would remind people that snapping a picture shouldn't be a long, drawn-out process. But as families all gathered around the bubble for a lovely family portrait of sons, daughters, and a shriveled-up guy in a bubble, the process occasionally became a little lengthy.

Once you made it up to the bubble, you were encouraged to place your hand on the bubble and connect with Blaine. I took a pass on that, because it made me feel creepy. I was apparently among the minority, though. There was much hand-to-bubble-to-hand contact and a few thumbs up and words of encouragement. And, of course, lots of photos were taken.

As I was leaving, I passed by a man who was talking to another woman about the experience and he summarized it thusly: "This is nice and all, but I like him better when he does the card tricks on the street." I kinda agree, and that got me to thinking. The next time he does this sort of thing, Blaine should bring a deck of cards and do tricks. That would be neat. Something to think about.

Anyway, Blaine's due to bust out of the bubble in a few hours. Yeah, I'll probably be watching. At home, though. I've had enough of the bubble.

But good luck, champ.


What I Liked About April

*Cooperstown, NY
* Sandis Ozolinsh's tap-in goal, Jaromir Jagr's "punch," and everything else that came with the New York Rangers' monumental, hysterical collapse
*The Supersuckers doing "Here I Am" at Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ
*The Soweto Gospel Choir at NJPAC, Newark, NJ

*New CDs from Scott Miller (right) and the Commonwealth, The Yayhoos, and the Drive By Truckers
*A full week of "Game Show Moments Gone Bananas" on the Game Show Network
*Easter Sunday at the Liberty House
*The spring opening of Torico's, Jersey City, NJ

*Jon Langford's book, Nashville Radio
*Tawny Kitaen trying to say "temper tantrum" on "The Surreal Life"
*Neko Case at Webster Hall, NYC
*The willingness of people with cars (or people willing to rent cars) to drive me places