Literary Passage of the Month. Maybe the Year.

From the short story "Long Lost" in Richard Lange's Dead Boys:

The other husband's wife joins us at the bar. She's wearing Frosty the Snowman earrings. "So you're Mr. Judy," she says. "You're in publishing, right?"

"Is that how Judy puts it? I'm a proofreader."

"Proofreader," her husband says. "What the hell's that?"

"A job. A bullshit job. Lots of people have them."

"I'll drink to that."

"So you'd rather be doing something else," the wife says to me.

"Not really."

She eyes me over the rim of her wineglass. I can tell she's not going to back down. It's these kinds of conversations that will kill me.


Bears Win!

The Newark Bears are your 2007 Atlantic League Champions, taking the championship series, 3 games to 1 after a come-from-behind 13-7 victory over the Somerset Patriots at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium in Newark Monday night. Tinsel and Rot was there for all the excitement, and mighty pleased to be part of the championship celebration.

As usual, it wasn't exactly a full house in Newark (nor even a half-full house), but there was plenty of shouting from those who did come out to the ballpark. Unfortunately, the early evening found most of that noise coming from the contingent of fans who came to root Somerset on to a series-tying victory. Most seemed to be of the annoying Yankee-fan variety, chanting every player's name like the Bleacher Creatures do and just generally being loud and obnoxious from their section. Or at least that's what it sounded like from across the field. Plus, they made the embarrassing mistake of thinking that every name is chantable. Not so. You can't hold a syllable in a chant. For instance, "Jo-osh Pressley" and "Mi-ike Lockwood" are not acceptable chants. It's just the way it is. Chant only those names that are conducive to chanting, fans. The rules of fandom compel you.

Anyway, they had a lot to cheer about in the top of the first, as the Patriots put three on the board before the Bears even got up to bat. But thanks to two moonshots to left center by veteran Bear, #29, Jose "Mr. September" Herrera, the Bears evened things up after three innings. The tension grew in the next few innings, as did the stench emanating from Bears mascot Rip 'N Ruppert's costume. It was a great relief when he decided to patrol the top of the dugout for the rest of the game. And, for the record, no, Tinsel and Rot does not approve of the bizarre spelling of the mascot's name. I defy you to explain that spelling to me. I also defy you to explain why the annoying little brat and his friend behind home plate kept trying to get the attention of Bears in the on-deck circle, mocked a few for not responding, insulted one because he was playing minor-league baseball, and then cheered when the Bears scored. I know it's not right to hit 12-year-old kids, but it was a few innings away from being really right. I offered one of the Bears $20 to swing at him from the other side of the net. The woman in front of me matched the offer, and we were willing to go to $60 if he made contact. No deal.

As if the little brat weren't enough, any Bear in the on-deck circle had to listen to advice from a guy who kept "revealing" the first pitch he'd see in the upcoming at-bat. The same guy (and/or his buddy) also yelled "en fuego," I think, every 20 seconds, regardless of the situation. In fact, there was a lot of advice being dispensed in Spanish, interrupted only once by "fuckin' breakin' shit." Eventually, it became like a song. Not a very good one, but a song nonetheless.

Oh yeah, the game. Somerset jumped ahead with four runs in the top of the 6th, and when the Bears came out of the seventh inning stretch still down by four, it looked bad. But not for long. They plated two in the bottom of the 7th, endured some whining (and a disturbing lick of the hand from the Patriots' catcher directed toward the Bears' dugout) from the Patriots after a check swing call went against them, and then produced one of the single most exciting innings I've seen in person--an eight-run eighth inning capped by Mr. September's third homer of the game that wrapped up the scoring for the night and pushed the Bears to the championship.

And then the celebration began.

Look, I know the nonaffiliated Atlantic League isn't exactly the top tier of baseball, and I suppose it's easy to dismiss the Bears' championship victory. But the fact is that no matter the level of competition or skill, it takes something to win a championship. And the Bears had that something this year--and especially this series, in which they won Game 3 with a game-winning single in the ninth inning and Game 4 with that spectacular eighth inning. So, today, I am proud to be a Bears fan and proud of the fans who came out night after night to root on a team that Newark could call its own--a gritty, workmanlike squad that didn't feel much like giving up.

Viva los Bears!



ITEM:Lee "God Bless The USA" Greenwood cancels a show in Denver after not receiving his full fee

There's a lot to sort out with this story. First, the concert organizers went on the offensive, explaining that Greenwood walked out on a show honoring veterans, police, and fire personnel after he didn't receive his full performance fee, which his contract stipulated must be paid in cash or cashier's check prior to the show. The organizers claimed they had given Greenwood's management the bulk of the fee as directed, save for a $2,000 check from the Knights of Columbus that would square things. Greenwood, who at least knows he's free, decides to take a pass on doing the show.

Then, after word gets out to the media about his cancellation, Greenwood counters that it was a simple matter of the terms of his contract not being met, and that people who were disappointed at not seeing him in concert should blame the organizers, not him.

Now, what's the shocking part here? That the organizers reneged on the terms of a contract and then tried to harm Greenwood's reputation? That Greenwood would cancel an appearance honoring the military, police, and firefighters over a measly $2,000? That people would actually be disappointed at not having seen Lee Greenwood in concert?

No. The shocking part is that Lee Greenwood commands $20,000 per show. On the strength of one horrible song. Or at least I thought that was the shocking part until I read this sentence in a Rocky Mountain News article:

"The God Bless the U.S.A. singer reduced his usual fee to $20,000 to help out the promoter, Webster said."

Reduced his usual fee? How much are promoters willing to pay to bring in Lee Greenwood? How many people are willing to go to a Lee Greenwood concert to justify this price tag?

There aint no doubt I love this land, but sometimes I wonder about the people in it.

ITEM: Idiot designer Marc Ecko spends $752,467 on Barry Bonds's 756th home run ball and sets up website to decide its fate

I never thought it would be possible, but I finally stand firmly behind a statement made by Barry Bonds. Marc Ecko is indeed an idiot. After spending three-quarters of a million dollars to buy the 756 ball at auction, the designer has set up a website where people can decide if the ball should be (a) sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame as is, (b) sent to the Baseball Hall of Fame with an asterisk branded on it, or (c) blasted into space.

To reiterate, Ecko paid $752,467 to do this (plus whatever it will cost to blast the ball into space if that option is chosen). Man, that's a lot of money. Good thing there are no people in need in the world. Because then Ecko would look like a giant ass.

Look, I'm not well versed in the charity endeavors of Marc Ecko. Maybe he's a great guy who keeps his charity giving under wraps. But a Web search shows that he's given time and money to saving rhinos (which seems more like a marketing tie-in than actual charity) and that Marc Ecko Enterprises "has been funding the Tikva Children's Home of Odessa, a Ukrainian orphanage founded in 1996." Interestingly, the Tikva profile on the Ecko website ends with the following:

"To raise funds for the orphanage, MEE hosts an annual golf tournament known as the Tikva Drive for Life. All proceeds go to the Tikva Children's Home of Odessa. Last year MEE raised over $600,000 for the children and hopes to raise over $1 million this year."

Those good with numbers may note that $752,467 is pretty close to $1 million. I wonder if that goal would have been reached easier with $752,467 that instead was spent for some sort of marketing project/moronic social experiment. Something to think about.

For the record, Tinsel and Rot endorses Option D: brand Ecko with an asterisk and send him to Cooperstown, where he will be blasted into space fom left center at Doubleday Field as I eat some donuts from Schneider's Bakery. And maybe he could be rammed by a rhino, too.

ITEM: A Christian theater group takes out a $90,440 ad in USA Today chastising comedian Kathy Griffin for her remarks in her Emmy acceptance speech

OK, here we go again.

So, Kathy Griffin, being a comedian, uses her acceptance speech at the Emmys to say something she thinks is funny:

"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus," an exultant Griffin said, holding up her statuette. "Suck it, Jesus. This award is my god now."

Decent joke. And I have to think that Jesus isn't losing much sleep over it. But a Christian theater group in Tennessee was outraged and/or, like Marc Ecko, wanted some publicity. So they took out a full-page ad in USA Today to express $90,440 worth of their dismay.

Again, I've gotta think that $90,440 can be used in some kind of better way than an ad denouncing a comedian, who, really, has made a career of saying crazy things. Surely, there are still some motherless children around who could use a few bucks for medical care. Unless that's been solved. I haven't seen anything in the news, but maybe O.J. knocked it off the front pages. I'll do a Google search later.

Oh wait, this just in: the group took out another full-page ad today. So I assume we're over $180,000 now.

I have no more words.


Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll

Two concerts on Saturday proved--in different ways--that as Tinsel and Rot deity Huey Lewis sang, "The heart of rock and roll is still beating." Yes, we are proud to nonironically quote Mr. Lewis. We'll probably do it again.

The concert day began in Cranford, NJ, where I was hoping to finally erase the bad memories of Chuck Berry's set in Bridgewater, NJ, last year. I have never been so thoroughly depressed during a show as I was during Berry's time on stage, during which the band struggled to follow his very shaky lead and only hit upon something listenable at rare moments. There's probably no person in rock and roll that I'm more willing to cut some slack to than Chuck Berry, but even I had a hard time justifying that show. I don't even like thinking about it.

So I was a little nervous about seeing Berry again. But the concert was free, and early word had him being backed by the Smithereens, so I figured it was worth a shot. The Smithereens are a good band, so I figured they'd be able to keep pace with Chuck, or at least make a better go of it than the band in Bridgewater. And even if they couldn't, at least it wouldn't cost me any more than train fare.

Then, I checked the Chuck Berry website in the days before the show and saw that Berry was bringing his band from St. Louis for the show (or, really, for what I assume was the higher-paying gig the night before at BB King's), which was even better news. Surely, they would be well practiced in keeping pace with Berry. And then my sister expressed an interest in going, so the financial considerations of paying the train fare went away, too. So it was looking like giving Chuck Berry in concert another shot was a damn fine idea.

And, amazingly, it worked out just that way.

Yes, Chuck Berry totally kicked ass (at the age of 81) in Cranford. I was slightly nervous when he came out and announced that he would rock the crowd for 30 minutes. But a few minutes later, it changed to an hour, and it wound up being a thoroughly entertaining sixty minutes. The highlights included two versions of "Reelin' and Rockin'" that featured Chuck's daughter Ingrid on vocals and harmonica (his son played guitar in the band, too) and an early-in-the-set rendition of "Sweet Little Sixteen" that danced around between cool and just a little bit creepy (something about singing that song after you reach a certain age doesn't quite sit right). No "My Ding-A-Ling," but, hey, you can't have it all.

Throughout the set, I was amazed at just how much difference a good drummer makes. The drummer at the Bridegwater show seemed fairly frightened while trying to keep up with Berry, who essentially sings and plays at his own pace and stops songs whenever he feels that they're over. But the drummer in Cranford, Keith Robinson, had no trouble keeping things in order. And the rest of the band (Berry Jr., Bob Lohr on keyboards, and James Marsala on bass) was similarly on point. It was night and day between Bridgewater and Cranford (figuratively and literally), and I was happy to finally have that bad memory of Chuck erased. I can't tell you how relieved I am to say I have seen a good Chuck Berry show. Makes me feel a lot better about my life.

We stuck around for the Smithereens, and they were pretty damn good, too. So it was a pretty awesome afternoon, particularly when you consider the price of admission.

Then, things took an odd turn in Philadelphia, where we went to see the mighty Hudson Falcons as they embarked on another two-month-plus tour of the United States (and, alas, one that I will not be joining at any point this year). When Mark (Head Falcon in Charge) told me that the show at the Halfway House was in a basement, I guess I just assumed it was a club that was like a basement. And I was wrong. It was a basement. Of a house. Next to what looked to be an actual halfway house. Interesting set-up. I have no pictures. Aside from the fact that it was way dark, I was afraid that if I took out my camera, the punks would think I was a narc and whip me with their studded belts.

Anyway, after being prepped on what we were walking into, and once I was able to block out the mysterious puddles of mystery liquid and the leaking pipes in the basement (deftly balanced by the old-school, Glaser and Soul "Starsky and Hutch" poster upstairs) and embrace the fact that someone was going to slam into me at some point in the evening, I realized that the show was more rock and roll than Chuck Berry playing at a free festival on a Sunday afternoon. Sure, rock and roll is played in arenas and festivals to thousands of fans--and often quite well--but it's likely not played with as much heart and soul (another Huey reference!) as it is in a dank basement on a Saturday night/Sunday morning in Philadelphia with a bunch of people who need that musical release to make it through to the next day. They're not talking through the set, text-messaging on their Trios, or killing time until the afterparty. They're in the moment, screaming along, thrashing about, and just letting the music take over. It's rock and roll at its rawest (is rawest a word? I don't care), and if it aint that pretty at all, it's still pretty damn beautiful.

Hail, hail rock and roll
Deliver me from the days of old
Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drum is loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feelin' is there, body and soul.


Brett Somers RIP

I was going to post something about this weekend, but then came the news that another "Match Game" regular has left this world. Brett Somers, the female foil to the recently deceased Charles Nelson Reilly, died Saturday at the age of 83 from stomach and colon cancer.

Tinsel and Rot was lucky enough to be among the few heterosexual men to see Ms. Somers's one-woman show at Danny's Skylight Room a few years back, and it was pretty entertaining. She sang in between telling stories of "Match Game," her marriage to Jack Klugman, and various other topics. And she introduced me to a song that's actually now one of my favorites, Hoagy Carmichael's "I Get Along Without You Very Well." Plus, I got an autograph afterward. It was a good night.

Tinsel and Rot salutes the life and game show career of Brett Somers. Rest in peace.


Cream of the crop

I have now attended my first Farm Aid, and I have the pictures to prove it. Sure, a lot of them are of the giant screen next to the stage, but I can't help it if security wouldn't let me go up to take pictures of Jimmy Sturr when they took the stage around 1:30 in the afternoon (at which point there was almost nobody in the front section). Alas, this is the best I can do.

My seats were pretty good, though, and they oughta be considering what I paid for him. But half of what I paid went directly to Farm Aid, so I can at least feel good about my spending, as opposed to the time I went to Charlotte, North Carolina, for a wrestling convention. That one was hard to feel good about moneywise. But I did get better pictures there.

I did not, however, get the VIP treatment I got at Farm Aid, where I got to leisurely stroll backstage in the shade while bands I didn't care to hear played (there were a few). I wasn't mingling with any performers back there (though I did see the Ditty Bops and Mike Mattison from the Derek Trucks Band around), but I did get free, delicious, locally grown food. There was a bit of a logjam when dinner was finally served (forcing me to miss Warren Haynes's and Guster's sets...which I was absolutely fine with), but the wait was worth it. Food is good. Locally grown food is even better. And I'm guessing it was way better than Guster.

Unfortunately, my first few trips back to the VIP area resulted in me missing the starts of both Jimmy Sturr's and Billy Joe Shaver's sets, but I was able to race back and catch much of them. Unfortunately, there wasn't all that much to catch, as the bulk of the afternoon acts were limited to 15-minute sets. Of course, sometimes that was just fine. For instance, I was entertained by Montgomery Gentry for about 15 minutes, and particularly enjoyed the end-of-the-set breaking of the mic stand by Eddie Montgomery during "What Do You Think About That?" But then I was done. Luckily, so were they. But I could've stood to see some more from 40 Points (which featured two of Willie Nelson's sons), Matisyahu, and Billy Joe Shaver (below).

Of course, there wasn't just music at Farm Aid. There was a Homegrown Village where you could learn about biodiesel, composting, and eating locally, among other things. And if you got there early, you could also graze on the free food at various tables. I had some rice pancakes, salad, chai tea, chocolate milk, and yogurt as my sister and I made our way to the seating area. Plus, we got some other free stuff. Good move getting there early. Or should I say good mooooove? Maybe I shouldn't.

After an afternoon of listening, sweating, and taking full advantage of my VIP access, the evening provided an opportunity to finally relax on a full and contented stomach and watch the headliners. I managed to duck most of the Counting Crows' set. which, based on what I saw, was yet another solid decision, but I did take in the Allman Brothers' set, which was perfect for me because I got to see all the really good musicians play without having to sit through a 45-minute version of "One Way Out." In fact, it might have been the shortest version of that song since they recorded it. Fine with me. I can handle the Allmans in measured doses. And the acoustic version of "Midnight Rider" by Gregg Allman and Willie Nelson was cool to see. Here it is on the big screen.

And then after the Allmans it was time for Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, or as I liked to call it, time for dessert and then walking far enough away that I didn't have to hear any of the music. And this was as far away as I could get.

John Mellencamp was next and was sounding really good until he decided to sing "My Country." Maybe it's a good song, but hearing it during every other commercial break throughout the fall of 2006 killed any hope of me ever enjoying it. It's as if he came out and started singing the Alka-Seltzer jingle. Which, now that I think about it, would have been pretty cool. But the rest of the Mellencamp set was solid. Susan Tedeschi came out to sing "Pink Houses," which was one of the better moments of the day. And then at the end of the set, Mellencamp levitated up to heaven.

OK, he didn't really. But it's an entertaining picture.

Considering I once briefly fell asleep at a Neil Young solo show, I was a little nervous about the prospects of seeing Neil Young ten hours into the day. But I had no need to be nervous. It was actually my favorite Neil concert experience (aside from the solo show, which was actually good after the initial nap, I saw Neil and Crazy Horse from a seat in Madison Square Garden that couldn't have been much further away from the stage), and the highlight was a chill-inducing "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere." Neil was backed by his wife Pegi on guitar and Ben Keith on Dobro, and then Willie and Mickey Raphael joined him for "Homegrown." All right with me.

While a surprisingly cogent and coherent Neil was introducing "Homegrown," the young chap in front of me, who apparently only really knew one Neil Young song, was screaming out for "Rockin' in the Free World." That would've been odd with a Dobro and a harmonica.

By the time Willie Nelson took the stage for the closing set (around 11 p.m.) with both his family (sons Micah and Lucas and daughter Paula) and the Family, a lot of folks had cleared out. But they missed out on a good time, featuring a double flute solo from David Amram and a medley of "I Saw the Light" and "I'll Fly Away" that featured a stumpf fiddle player. That was something. I don't have a decent picture, so you'll just have to trust me.

After Willie and the family/Family called it a night with "On the Road Again," my sister and I headed back to the bus line and made the wise decision to forego the X80 going back to 125th St. (long lines) for the X81 to Woodside (no line at all). The bus ride was a little longer than the one to 125th would have been, but then we would have missed seeing the guy who stole a bale of hay to take back to his apartment in Queens.

Good times.

If you want to catch any of it for yourself, you can go to the Farm Aid site starting Thursday to see a webcast of the day's events. I think it's supposed to be up for free for a week, and then you have to join Farm Aid if you want to see it after that. That wouldn't be such a bad idea. Somewhere in between all the music and stuffing my face, I decided to make a greater effort to eat more organic food and food grown locally. Also not a bad idea. That's as much of a soapbox as I'll get on today.


Hail to the Chief (Or at Least Put On a Decent Pair of Pants)

Tinsel and Rot met its second President of the United States Tuesday night (if you consider a handshake and two sentences meeting someone) when Bill Clinton signed copies of his new book Giving at the Union Square Barnes and Noble. That same Barnes and Noble is where Tinsel and Rot met its first President, Jimmy Carter. Dropping some T&R trivia on yo' asses. More trivia: here's my entire interaction with President Clinton.

[President offers hand, Tinsel & Rot shakes it]

T&R: Hello, Mr. President. I was at your first inauguration and I always remember what a great day that was.
President Clinton: [signs book] Yes, it was, wasn't it?
T&R: Yep.

[President shifts focus to next person]

I actually wanted to strike up a conversation about our shared fondness for Kinky Friedman, but retired journalist Bryan Chambala beat me to it several years ago on Martha's Vineyard.

I don't have any exciting pictures for you, but, well, you know what Bill Clinton looks like and chances are you know what I look like. Add several hundred other people and a few security checks and you'll be able to complete the mental picture. Or make something in Photoshop.

A brief note: if you're ever going to meet a President of the United States, why not make a little bit of an effort to avoid looking like a dirtbag. Seriously. If you wake up knowing that you will be in close contact with someone who has held what is probably the most important political office in the world and decide that your best outfit features a pair of bright orange terrycloth shorts, maybe you should look for a second opinion. He's an important guy, and your attendance at his book signing indicates that you have some sort of respect for him, so, you know, why not throw on a pair of pants? I'm just saying some people maybe could have thought twice before leaving their abodes Tuesday afternoon.

And another, briefer note: Stop dressing babies in political-themed clothing. Look, I know people who do it, and I like those people, but it's time I take a stand here. A child wearing an "I'm For Hillary" shirt is not cute; that's annoying. It makes me want to punch the child's parents. Your child is not for Hillary. Your child is for sleeping two-thirds of the day, eating during the other third, and squeezing some waste expulsion along the way (coincidentally, so am I, but that's neither here nor there). Stop it.

Anyway, it was cool to meet a President.


What I Liked About August

*A Staten Island Yankees game, Denino's, and Ralph's, all in one night
*The Homestead Rebate check
*Roy Head, Damrosch Park, NYC
*Jimmy Sturr Orchestra, Hunter, NY

*Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra, Mercury Lounge, NYC
*Pot roast at the Broadway Diner, Red Bank, NJ
*Maybe Pete headlining at the Stone Pony, Asbury Park, NJ
*America's Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic and His Music

*The Flatlanders, Castle Clinton, NYC
*Appearing in the liner notes thanks for "End of the Road"
*The McCollough Sons of Thunder, Damrosch Park, NYC
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places