April's Loose Ends

* If you haven't bought Scott Miller's new live CD, please do so now. Thank you.

* And while you're buying CDs, why not purchase the latest Scharpling and Wurster comic gem, "The Art of the Slap"? It's three discs and contains my favorite Philly Boy Roy call. Introduce yourself to the magic of Laser Allin.

* If you're in or near NYC, you could buy that Scharpling and Wurster release at Other Music. They found one of my credit cards and ID last week and went the extra mile to contact me so I could get them back. Thanks, Other Music.

* Reason Why New York Kicks Ass #14,578: After reading an excerpt from I'll Sleep When I'm Dead in Los Angeles magazine, I immediately wanted to get the book. But it doesn't come out until Tuesday. Maybe, I think, some store in the city will put it out early. So, I go into the city on Thursday and in the second bookstore (Housing Works) I go to, I find a proof of the book for $3. Greatest city in the world.

And, by the way, I'm done with the book already. I'll throw a review up this week. Because I haven't had a Zevon-related post in several days. You've been anxious.

* In case you've been busy fretting about violence in the schools and the unwinnable war and haven't noticed, the new season of "Celebrity Fit Club" is upon us. And it appears that our man Dustin "Screech" Diamond is poised to become this year's Gary Busey/Daniel Baldwin/Jeff Conaway. Way to go, big man.


Happy Pretzel Day

Thanks to the crackerjack staff of my work cafeteria, I now know that April 26 is National Pretzel Day. And since buying the crappy soft pretzels available at the cafeteria for 50 cents doesn't seem like enough of a celebration, I now present a salute to our finest snack food. Please join me as I take you on a trip that traces the importance of the pretzel in my life.

The first soft pretzel I had was probably just the kind of 50-cent cafeteria pretzel I mocked above, purchased at either the Staten Island Mall or the Kresge's in the Forest Avenue Shoppers Town (colloquially, and inexplicably, the Plaza). I can't recall the name of the place in the Mall and it is long gone, but I could point out its exact former location if you want to take a trip. And the Kresge's was much revered by Young Me because of its three pretzels for 99 cents special. An afternoon when I could get those three pretzels and the new issue of Pro Wrestling Illustrated from the Sav-On next door, well, it didn't get much better than that.

And those soft pretzels were just fine...until that first trip with the family to Manhattan and the subsequent bite into the street-cart soft pretzel. We would go every Christmas to check out the displays and FAO Schwarz, which were cool, but the real prize was the soft pretzel. That smoky taste, the soft dough that rested under the slightly hard outer shell, the ritual shaking off of the excess salt--it was just about the best part of every December. Until the presents at the end of the month. Those were better.

Of course, we have gathered here to celebrate all kinds of pretzels, as I assume that's the mandate for National Pretzel Day (maybe there's a separate National Soft Pretzel Day). So we must mention the everyday pretzel, be it thin, mini, Dutch, or whatever. And, when I was a kid, that kind of pretzel came to our house every other Saturday on the Charles Chips truck (we preferred the less formal "Charlie Chips," which I didn't realize wasn't the actual name of the company until I was probably in my teens...or maybe it was last week). The Charlie Chips truck would pull up in front of the house, and my dad would go to the kitchen to get the empty potato chip and pretzel tins that would soon be replaced by new, full tins. Usually, my dad and the Charlie Chips guy would let me on the truck to look through the candy and pick out a bag of caramels or Swedish fish (is there a National Swedish Fish Day? There should be). The truck eventually stopped coming. Saturdays haven't been as good since.

But as much as I enjoyed the Charlie Chips pretzels (sometimes we got thin, sometimes it was Dutch), my heart still belonged to the soft pretzel. So, when my sister came home from college one night with these new, buttery soft pretzels from someplace called Auntie Anne's in the Quakerbridge Mall, I was intrigued. And so began a yearlong obsession with Auntie Anne's, which eventually died down as the Auntie Anne's pretzel became more readily available (and, in fact, moved into the Staten Island Mall). I still go back every now and then, but it's not the same. Yes, Auntie Anne's drive to become an economic success made them less appealing to me. Bad move on their part.

I was introduced to the Philadelphia soft pretzel somewhat late in life, which is a shame, because I could have consumed so many more if I had only known. The Philadelphia soft pretzel is shaped more like a weapon than its NYC counterpart, which I assume is to make it easier to throw at sporting events. I still pledge my allegiance to the NYC soft pretzel, but I do stock up on Philly pretzels whenever I'm in town. I'll even settle for the inferior Wawa version if my go-to place in the Gallery mall is closed. I also once bought about 20 from the Philadelphia Soft Pretzel Factoryin Atlantic City in a moment of sheer excitement at seeing a chain devoted to the Philly pretzel. So, maybe I do like the Philly pretzel more.

There are also other pretzels I love, like the ones they used to serve gratis at Killmeyer's in Staten Island or the ones you can occasionally buy at Deising's Bakery in Kingston, NY. And, of course, there are chocolate covered pretzels. And pretzel nuggets. And those Bachman Pretzel Stix that occasionally made their way into my lunchbag.

Point is, the pretzel--in all its varied forms--is a snack unlike any other. So, Tinsel and Rot is proud to celebrate National Pretzel Day, and we ask that you spend the day saluting this delightful taste treat. Buy a pretzel for yourself or someone you love. Or me.

(On a side note, Internet research reveals that today is also Shuffleboard Day. One of the greatest games of all time. Wish I was at Eva's Farm playing it right now.)


I Want My DVD: Vol. 1

Every time I find myself in the TV Shows on DVD section of a store, I am amazed that so many current shows are readily available on DVD for the average viewer. It hardly seems fair that, when I was younger, I had to wait for the syndicated rerun cycle to come back around to see the episode of "The Jeffersons" where George gives CPR to a very ungrateful Klansman (the guy from the Pathmark commercial!). Or the Hawaii episodes of "The Brady Bunch." Or the Doobie Brothers episodes of "What's Happening!!" Now, your average "Reba" fan can just buy the DVD and, voila, see whatever episode of "Reba" is memorable. Or the "Two-a-Days" fan who missed the 19 airings of a particular episode of the series can rectify the situation at the local Best Buy.

Now, I'm all for putting TV shows on DVD, but shouldn't we make sure that every television series that came before, say, "Flavor of Love" is on DVD first? The answer is yes, so please don't bother thinking of an answer.

In that spirit, I will occasionally highlight a TV show that, to the best of my knowledge, is not yet on DVD. Inevitably, the eight people that read this blog will start a movement, and the show will quickly find its way onto DVD. So, let's get cracking.

The first show we will highlight is "Square One," which aired in the afterschool hours on PBS in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The math-themed show was just about my favorite show for awhile, which partially explains why I wasn't cool for any moment of the late 1980s and early 1990s. But, so what? I loved "Mathnet," "Mathman," and, most of all, the math-related music videos. My favorite was probably "Nine, Nine, Nine," which I can remember being astounded by. And though it's not on DVD, it's on YouTube:

I remember testing out every possible "9 X Whatever" scenario after seeing that. For like an entire afternoon. Might've been better served spending that time thinking about girls.

There was also an occasional guest star video, like this one from the stars of "Disorderlies," the Fat Boys:

Seriously, how is this all only available on grainy YouTube videos? Wake up, DVD Producers of America! The time is now!



Y'know, I don't watch a lot of Fox News. But I don't watch a lot of CNN either. Or any all-news network. They all kind of irk me in one way or another. So I stick mostly to print and the occasional half-hour of TV news.

Now, I know people say Fox News has an awful right-wing bias, and from the little I have seen, it's hard to argue with that. But I wouldn't have thought they'd be so, well, blatant about it as they are in the clip below about Kurt Vonnegut's death. If you haven't seen it already, please do take a look. And stick around til the end for what is easily the oddest and probably most offensive ending to an obituary I've ever seen.

Stay classy, Fox News.

[Clip originally seen on the Best Week Ever blog.]


Hockey Monkey

Sorry for the lack of posting, but my beloved New York Islanders made the decision very late in the season to play like a hockey team that actually wanted to win. And so, for the last week or so, I have devoted more time than advisable invested in the greatest annual sports spectacle--the NHL playoffs.

As this year's March Madness proved, that whole tournament can drag when everything follows form. And the pro basketball playoffs don't do much for me either. Football playoffs are enjoyable enough, but the lack of a series takes out a lot of the excitement. And I love baseball, but there will always be too much time-dragging in the postseason to inspire true fanaticism. Hockey, with its promise of seemingly endless, edge-of-your-seat, sudden death overtimes and rugged desperation, has always been the sport most likely to deliver at season's end. So, even with the Islanders' hopes of beating the #1 seed Buffalo Sabres very slim, I plunked down the $68 for a halfway decent seat at the Nassau Coliseum for Game 3 of the series.

True, football is the only sport other than hockey where I have witnessed a playoff game in person (and that was when I was, I think, 9), but I can't imagine that anything can beat a full Nassau Coliseum shouting and waving rally towels as the Islanders take the ice for a playoff game. Of course, because they're the Islanders, they took that energy, wrapped it all up, and wound up losing by a goal because their power play is laughably bad, Alexei Yashin is the slowest, most useless Russian in Long Island since Nikolai Volkoff (OK, he was technically born in Croatia, but I can't pass up a WWF reference) walked down the aisle at Nassau Coliseum, and, sure, the referees made some bad calls (note to refs: offensive zone penalties should only be called with under two minutes left in a playoff game if someone is murdered, and certainly not when someone trips over his own skate). But that comes with the territory of being an Islanders fan, or at least one with a memory of the disastrous 1990s, with its Fishsticks jersey, inept and occasionally criminal front-office management (see Spano, John), and the horrible, wasted first-round draft picks (Dave Chyzowski, Scott Scissons, and, the crowning achievement, Brett Lindros [51 games, 7 points, 3 concussions]). When you've suffered through all that, you expect the worst, and you rationalize that just making the playoffs is cause for rejoicing. Of course, winning a series before I die would be nice.

Still, even when the Isles don't win, being in the middle of an exciting NHL playoff game and wading through the drunk, mentally unhinged Islanders fans in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot after the game is an experience that cannot be topped. Last night's adventure saw a group of Sabres fans screaming "White trash!" at the Isles fans, which elicited a screeching response from a young lass who ended her tirade with a few words that would have also led to Imus's dismissal; a ten-year-old holding back his mother (grandmother?) from attacking a group of Sabres fans as she shouted, "Wheah's ya f**kin' bannuhs? Wheah's ya f**kin' bannuhs?"; and a car almost lose its undercarriage as it tried to ascend over a median in an attempt to take a shortcut out of the parking lot. Hockey fans are easily the most entertaining people in the world.

With the Isles now down 2-1 and the Rangers looking like they'll advance easily to Round 2 (and, God help us all, maybe beyond), it may not be long before the playoffs lose some of their allure for me this year. But at least I got to see a game. You gotta take those when you can as an Isles fan. And, hey, at least I got to see this five years ago:

Greatest live sports moment of my life. And that's why I will always perk up when the Isles make the playoffs. Hopefully they can make some more good memories this year. I could use the $68 I would save by not going to another playoff game, but I don't need the abuse from Rangers fans. No one needs that.

Let's go Islanders.



The kids often write me, saying things like, "Sir [and I insist they call me "Sir," otherwise I just don't read the letter], how can I be more like you? How can I live the Tinsel and Rot lifestyle?" In the form letter that I send with the personally signed (by my intern) 8X10, I tell them that they should go out more and experience the concerts, readings, and encounters with farm animals and senior citizens that I detail here on a sporadic basis. Then, they send another letter, which kind of rankles me, because they should really get everything down into one missive, as I don't really want pen pals at this point in my life. But in any event, that second letter invariably asks what shows, readings, and encounters with farm animals and senior citizens they should attend.

So, in an effort to cut down on the mail I send to children, I now will provide the Tinsel and Rot reader with a monthly list of places I might be and, more important, places you oughta be, conveniently placed on the left side of this page. Each event listed has a link to either a ticketing site (try to avoid Ticketmaster if you can, but if you can't...) or a site with more information. This month's selections include a fundraiser for the lovely people of Hudson Cradle (come buy a raffle ticket from me), readings/discussions with two of my favorite authors (and one Vincent Antonelli), and some cool concerts. I make no promises that I will be at every event listed, but I'll likely be at at least half, giving you the opportunity to reach out and touch Tinsel and Rot. Please, keep it above the waist. At least initially.

OK then. See you around.


My Mind, Satisfied

Tinsel and Rot's March Country Music Spectacular ended with Friday night's Porter Wagoner and Marty Stuart show at Joe's Pub. On my way home from the show, I figured out that Porter Wagoner was the last current Opry member that I wanted to meet. I'd be psyched to see a few others, but they wouldn't give the same thrill that meeting Little Jimmy Dickens, Charlie Louvin, Bill Anderson, John Conlee, and others has. That's why it was such a bummer when Wagoner cancelled his appearance in Lancaster. Luckily, it was only about a week later that the Joe's Pub show was added, so my distress was short-lived. Then I found a perfect copy of "The Carroll County Accident" LP (maybe my all-time favorite record cover, competing with Hank Thompson's"At the Golden Nugget" and Wagoner's "The Cold Hard Facts of Life") in Academy Records soon after that. All was right with the world.

Turns out the show was pretty damn good. Accompanied only by the suavely coiffed Stuart, Wagoner told stories and jokes before carefully delivering songs like "Committed to Parkview" (written for him by Johnny Cash, who gave the song to Stuart to pass along, which he did, several decades later), "Green, Green Grass of Home," "A Satisfied Mind," "The Rubber Room," and "Men With Broken Hearts." Wagoner never had a particularly booming voice, but he has always had a way of telling a story with that voice. He draws the listener in with a down-home, neighborly tone, and you wind up hanging on his every word, wondering where the story's headed next, even if you've heard it before.

Wagoner's probably best known these days as the unofficial rhinestoned leader of the Grand Ole Opry, as people routinely dart out of their seats to take a picture of him in his shiny, eye-catching suits. And though he did wear just such a suit at Joe's Pub, the focus was more on the songs and Wagoner's way with them. The show was, in part, a teaser for his upcoming Anti Records release "Wagonmaster," which Stuart produced. The record, as Stuart noted, makes him labelmates with Tom Waits, Neko Case, and Mavis Staples, and will, with any luck, lead to a resurgence of interest in Wagoner's work. For his part, Wagoner, only about a year removed from an aortic aneurysm, seems genuinely touched by any adulation he receives. He expressed his thanks to the warm NYC crowd several times throughout the show, and made sure to stay until the last person got an autograph and/or photo. I know, because I was the next-to-last person, though I was on my second go-round. I normally try not to get too greedy, but after my six albums, I had a Porter Wagoner figurine I kinda wanted signed. So I got back in line to get that signed and a photo with him. It's unfortunate that I look like I'm pained in it, but sometimes that's how it looks when I smile.

If you're interested in learning more about some of Wagoner's darker stuff, a collection was recently released on CD. I haven't picked it up yet, but it looks like a good selection of tunes. And that's a swell cover.

So, the final total for Tinsel and Rot's March Country Music Spectacular: 3 shows, 12 performers, 28 autographs. Nice.


What I Liked About March

*Last of the Breed, Radio City Music Hall, NYC
*The Avett Brothers on Idiot's Delight
*Sal Governale being hit with paintballs on the Howard Stern Show
*Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble, Beacon Theatre, NYC

*The new bitch of the Sigman family
*Porter Wagoner, Joe's Pub, NYC
*WWE 24/7 On Demand
*Breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Lancaster, PA

*Ryan Shafer's 300 game on ESPN
*Dinner at the Broadway Diner, Red Bank, NJ
*The Ithaca College Student Media Reception Afterparty
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places