I think about a world to come where the books were found by the golden ones, written in pain, written in awe by a puzzled man who questioned, "What are we here for?" All the strangers came today and it looks as though they're here to stay.

-David Bowie "Oh! You Pretty Things"

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mediterranean Grills

Hidden in a strip mall in Cascade Township, Mediterranean Grills is one of the best restaurants in the greater Grand Rapids area. The restaurant is owned and operated by Ashtin Raad, an incredibly entertaining man who will give you your money worth just in entertainment. Boy, the conversations I have had with that man...

But on to the food. I'm not the kind of guy who normally orders an appetizer, but it's fairly difficult to pass up Raad's amazing hummus. As for the main course, I strongly recommend the Kafta, lamb or beef wrapped with hummus, parsley, tomato, onion, and tahina sauce. Any entree can be made spicy. I definitely recommend this option. Mediterranean Grills has some of the best Mediterranean food I've ever eaten, and it's in such a humble location in West Michigan.

Mediterranean Grills
6250 28th St. SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Britain's Got Talent

On Wednesday, September 16, 2009, America's Got Talent pulled out their ace in the hole for their season finale performance. Her name was Susan Boyle, a web sensation since her appearance on sister-show Britain's Got Talent. The unlikely hero wowed the audience with her rendition of The Rolling Stones tune "Wild Horses," the first single from her debut album I Dreamed a Dream (made available in the U.S. by Columbia Records on November 23, 2009). Again, Boyle fans flooded YouTube, leaving Mick and Keith with a completely different song on their minds, a song titled "Not Fade Away." (Get it?)

I was first made aware of this situation by my friend Josh, who made the following post on Facebook. "Access Hollywood's poll question asks: Whose version of Wild Horses is better? The Rolling Stones or Susan Boyle?" Josh responded with another question: "Why are we having a third place match?"

What Josh's question brings to light is the fact that Susan Boyle is by far not the first musician to cover the song "Wild Horses," and she certainly will not be the last.Since its release on April 23, 1971, "Wild Horses" has been played by Elvis Costello, Neil Young, Guns N' Roses, Sarah McLachlan, Iron & Wine and Jewel, and that's just the short version of the list. For Josh, "Wild Horses" is at its best when performed by The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Sundays. Both renditions carry with them a controversy of sorts.

Often attributed to American alternative rock band Mazzy Star, the cover of "Wild Horses" in question is actually the work of The Sundays from their album Blind (Geffen, 1992). Mazzy Star has a history of getting credit for songs they didn't actually record. A brilliant cover of the Velvet Underground song "Sweet Jane" is also often attributed to this band. This song was actually recorded by Cowboy Junkies and featured on the soundtrack to the film Natural Born Killers (Interscope, 1994). This controversy is little more than a mix-up as a result of poorly tagged MP3s illegally downloaded on Lime Wire.

The real controversy involves The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Rolling Stones regarding who made the original version of "Wild Horses." The best known recording is clearly that of The Rolling Stones. As for The Flying Burrito Brothers, I'll admit that I had never even heard fo the band until reading Josh's Facebook comment. However much fame each band claims, the truth is that The Flying Burriton Brothers released the song "Wild Horses" in April of 1970, a full year prior to The Rolling Stones release.

It seems that Gram Parsons had a very close relationship with the members of The Rolling Stones. It's often said that he's one of the band's most significant influences. When Keith Richards and Mick Jagger wrote the song "Wild Horses" in 1969, this relationship allowed Parsons to hear the song long before the general public. "Wild Horses" was already too late for the 1969 release of Let It Bleed (Decca), and, as we now know, Sticky Fingers (Rolling Stones) wouldn't come out until 1971. As a result, when Parsons asked his good friends if he could record this song for his 1970 album Burrito Deluxe (A&M), The Flying Burrito Brothers happened to be the band who first brought this song to the light of day.

The question of the origin of "Wild Horses" ought to be divided into two questions: 1. Who wrote the original song? and 2. Who released the first recording of the song? The answer to the first question is Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones. The answer to the second is The Flying Burrito Brothers.

I would like to end this controversy by saying that "Wild Horses" is the child of The Rolling Stones. Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers, recognizing the magnificence of this song, recorded it as a cover. As a matter of logistics of album release, the cover was released prior to the original. A music fan of the 1970s would have had first contact with "Wild Horses" through The Flying Burrito Brothers, but the objective and passive ear of the universe remembers that the song originated with The Rolling Stones. Under oath, members of both The Rolling Stones and The Flying Burrito Brothers would have to attest to this same fact.

How would I rank these four performances of "Wild Horses"?
1. The Rolling Stones (1971)
2. The Flying Burrito Brothers (1970)
3. The Sundays (1992)
4. Susan Boyle (2009)
The versions by The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Sundays are amazing. I believe they will go down in history as a couple of the best cover performances of all time. Gram Parsons brings a simple, home-town feel to the song, a feeling that, of all the versions, seems most reflective of the times. The Sundays add a kind of depressed sexiness to the song that aligns them with the aforementioned Cowboy Junkies and paves the way for what English trip-hop trio Portishead has done in subsequent years.

As for Susan Boyle vs. The Rolling Stones, the thing that makes The Rolling Stones original the best is the same thing that makes the Susan Boyle cover the worst. A recent foray into the discography of The Rolling Stones revealed to me why The Rolling Stones are so amazing. Some would give credit to the creativity of Keith Richards, but I would like to suggest that his contribution was rather his ability to mimic his guitar predecessors as witnessed on Beggar's Banquet (1968, Decca) and Exile on Main Street (1972, Rolling Stones). The key ingredient in making The Rolling Stones great has always been the fact that Mick Jagger is not one of the best singers on the planet. As a result his honest, heartfelt openness gives "Wild Horses" something that Boyle's foray into professional singing cannot. While her piano arrangement is interesting and timely, it's Boyle's skillful singing that, in this case, works against her.

Britain's Got Talent? Of course they do. That's where The Rolling Stones hail from.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Harry Potter: Don't Ask, Don't Spell

Happy Felicia Day

Happy Felicia Day! Felicia Day is a holiday celebrated every year on June the 28th in commemoration of the birthday of actress, writer and producer Felicia Day. Sometimes it seems unfair that having the last name Day qualifies you for having a national holiday named after you, but not with this dame. Smart and cute, she deserves a celebration.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Why I'm Ready For The Exodus

1. Leather Jacket

1 - Mini Maglite
1 - Pocket Knife
1 - 60 Sheet 3.5 Inch Standards Memo Book
1 - Papermate Spirit GP Ink Pen
1 - Standard iPod Headphones

2. Blue Jeans

1 - Justin Brand Leather Belt and Buckle
1 - Samsung Gleam Cell Phone with Verizon Service
1 - 8 GB iPod Nano
1 - Texas State Driver's License
1 - Chase VISA Debit Card
1 - TCU Student ID
1 - Restaurants-America Frequent Diner Card
1 - Chase VISA Credit Card
1 - AETNA Student Health Insurance Card

3. Shoes

Ecco Brand,
Good Support,
Orthotics to Convince My Feet 
They Have An Arch

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Marvel Comics has been turning classic works of literature into comic books for years now with varying success. I think it's a great idea. You've probably heard me talk about how much I love LOST and Harry Potter because they both push people to read good books, classics even, and this is what Marvel has been doing. Their take on L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is said to be more true to the original than the movie was, and the art of Skottie Young is impressive. I actually met Young at a recent comic book convention in Traverse City, Michigan, and got an autographed copy of the book for my beautiful, comic-loving girlfriend (THEY DO EXIST!). I would definitely recommend this book. Comics don't have to be about superheroes anymore. It's an art form that can do anything!

Don't Give Up Hope

Artie, the Strongest Man in the World, of Adventures of Pete & Pete fame, tells us not to give up hope. Purchase this t-shirt as a reminder here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Good Name: Nona

Nona is a common short form of the name Wynona or Winona. Nona is also a numerical prefix meaning nine, deriving from the Latin word nonus, meaning "ninth." But wouldn't it make an oh-so-good name for a beautiful female orange tabby kitten?

Perhaps a silly little alpaca would better fit this name...

But maybe Nona would be best saved for a beautiful and quirky little daughter. She might look something like little Nona from the Nickelodeon series The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Perhaps you remember her. She was played by a young Michelle Trachtenberg.

Slows Bar- B-Q

For my beautiful girlfriend's birthday, we traveled across the state of Michigan in order to go to Slows Bar-B-Q in Detroit, a restaurant she'd seen on the Food Network. Having lived in Texas for two years, I was the self-proclaimed judge of whether or not this was real Barbecue.

Like I said, I've lived in Texas for two years. What I've learned while in Texas is that a measure of a Barbecue joint's authenticity is their brisket. A good brisket should be slow cooked, something that you can tell if you've had enough practice eating brisket. Slows Texas Style Beef Brisket was just that. The next thing a good Barbecue joint should have is good sides. The Mac-N-Cheese was magnificent, but the real test of their sides was the quality of Mom's Green Beans. I would have liked to try their Cornbread, but there was a shortage that day.

My verdict, in case you couldn't tell, is that you can definitely get authentic barbecue at Slows in Detroit. All y'all Northerners should consider heading over there, because it's certainly cheaper than driving all the way to Texas. (However, if you choose to drive to Texas for it, drop me a line: I might need a ride back to school in August.)

2138 Michigan Ave.
Detroit, MI 48216

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Penelope: A Modern Sequel

For one of my recent final papers I decided to write a short epic poem (oxymoron?) titled Penelope: A Modern Sequel. This piece was written in response to Nikos Kazantzakis's Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. A couple of people asked if they could read it, so here you go!

Click here to download Penelope: A Modern Sequel in PDF form.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Never Let Me Go Trailer

What are the donations? Oh Em Gee!

JetBlue Flight 292

One of the most riveting stories I've read on the internet is a series of posts my friend Ashleigh Walker wrote on her blog Keep My Words regarding a plane malfunction that lead to a dangerous landing. (Aside: Is it hokey to call a story "riveting" when it is about an airplane, a machine that, unless I am mistaken, is actually held together by permanent mechanical fasteners known as rivets?)

As you read through these stories I've linked you to, consider how a dangerous landing will be spun depending on where you are in the narrative. On the one hand, the flight attendants and airline staff aboard the plane prepared Ashleigh and the other passengers for a difficult landing, but did so in a manner that seemed to reassure the passengers of their safety. Even if there was immanent danger, one would expect them to do whatever they could to keep people calm. On the other hand, the passengers had access to a television feed with a news report on the unfolding situation where this series of events was portrayed in a negative light. While the reporters couldn't possibly know the details of the situation, it is clear that a tragedy waiting to happen will make for better news. I want you to think about what it would be like sitting in this situation where you're hearing two different stories, both biased by necessity. I want you to consider what it would feel like trying to discern who to trust while your life is possibly on the line.

I also want you to read this exciting story. I'm incredibly impressed by Ashleigh's account.

Ashleigh's account entitled "JetBlue Flight 292" is available on Keep My Words in three sections: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

In addition to this, Ashleigh is quoted in a Washington Post article about the incident which can be read here.

Below are three pictures of the airplane in question followed by a copy of the letter written to Ashleigh by JetBlue following the incident. All of these can be found on Keep My Words.

Bigfoot in North Carolina

My little brother lives in Charlotte, North Carolina now, and he reported to the rest of us this rare little bit of news regarding a self-proclaimed mountain man who confronted a beautiful Bigfoot.

911 call:

Local news coverage:

Click here for the newspaper article.

Pants On The Ground

Take On Me: Literal Version

Thursday, June 17, 2010

30 Seconds to Mars "The Kill"

30 Seconds to Mars, "The Kill" from A Beautiful Lie (2005: Virgin)

Adobe Acrobat.com

I wanted to convert a word document to a PDF the other day, and I was amazed with how simple this can be done on Adobe Acrobat.com - I thought maybe you might want to check it out for yourself.

Hit the Decks 2010

Grand Rapids, Michigan has its own electronic music festival, and Hit the Decks 2010 now has its own web site.

Saturday, July 10, 2010 at Rosa Parks Circle in Downtown Grand Rapids. Be there. I certainly will be.

Barack Roll

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Consequence of Plagiarism

If the English captions do not appear immediately, you may need to access the CC menu from the triangle menu.

James Taylor "Sweet Baby James"

James Taylor, "Sweet Baby James" from Sweet Baby James (1970: Warner Bros.)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


You probably remember I already posted about the blog titled LOST 365. After 89 posts of original art concerning the hit television program LOST, Jared Stumpenhorst posted the first work of art that he feels 100% satisfied with. Here it is:

Prints of this image are available through Society6. Buy one here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Top 5 Season Finales, Spring 2010

Ahem. Spoiler Alert.

5. 30 Rock

I'd like to say that this finale was great because Jack Donaghy finally chose one woman to love, or because that woman was pregnant, but I can't say that. This season finale was magnificent for two reasons: 1. Matt Damon was hilarious as the pilot named Carol, and 2. the finale suggests that we're going to see a lot more of Damon next season.

4. The Office

There's only one storyline that still interests me on The Office, and it is the remaining feelings between Michael Scott and Holly Flax. The fact that the season finale was easily the funniest episode of the entire season (a season that I was tired with almost from the beginning) was not enough to make it a good finale. The fact Holly might be brought back to the Scranton Branch of Dunder Mifflin as a thank you gift for a good deed - now that's something to get excited about.

3. Community

A brilliant ending to a brilliant first season. If you know anything about me, you know I rant about this show pretty much daily. I've never really encountered a better first season in any comedy program, and they ended the season true to form. They even planted clues to the Jeff and Annie romantic ending: 1. the debate team romantic encounters, 2. Annie dressing like a teacher, 3. Annie and Jeff walking together at the beginning of the episode. It was subtle and magnificent. When I saw this finale I thought nothing could top it this season. This just attests to how great the first and second best finales were.

2. House

How was I supposed to know that House was going to deliver the best episode in the entire series? Basically in this episode we see all of the ramifications of House's therapy and what it means to really care about people. It amounts to the greatest agony and the greatest joy on the planet, and both of these things were balanced magnificently in the finale. There was no particular moment that made this episode a shining star. Every scene was perfectly delivered. Bravo!


I know this is going to be a hard sell. There are so many people who simply hate LOST because of how annoying LOST fans are. And a great deal of people who have loved LOST from the beginning didn't get all of their questions answered and are doing a whole lot of pouting. LOST has always been about troubled characters and redemption. In the finale they resolved the stories of all of the characters and offered redemption to some of the most disturbed individuals. It was sweet and honestly, somewhat understated. It wasn't the ending we expected, but it was the right ending.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight is a comic book series published by Dark Horse Comics, a canonical storyline that continues after the epic seven seasons of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television program. In comic book form, Whedon finds new and exciting ways to tell stories that are important and consistent with the tone of the television program. I'd pick up an issue or thirty five if I were you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Second Trailer

Still excited about this film.

RIP Dennis Hopper

Dennis Hopper (May 17, 1936 - May 29, 2010)

Donald Glover for Spider-man!

Spider-Man 3 had barely been in theaters for a week when I started hearing rumors about a fourth Spider-man movie. Personally, I enjoyed the third film and thought it was magnificent how many things they were able to artfully balance, but in light of the critical and popular response to Spider-Man 3 being largely negative it seemed like a Spider-Man 4 was jumping the gun a little bit. (Oh, and FYI, if they wanted to feature Lizard as a villain they should have done it at a much earlier, organic moment. It's just too late.)

Recently, the Spider-Man 4 project was scrapped in order that Marvel could reboot the Spider-Man story (possibly within the same continuity as the Avengers storyline?). The Hollywood Reporter released a list of boring white people lined up to play Peter Parker in the reboot: Jamie Bell, Andrew Garfield, Josh Hutcherson and Alden Ehrenreich. Honestly, if you're going to list a bunch of scrawny little white boys and you don't include the magnificent Jesse Eisenberg then what's the point (of course, they might have to rename it Spider-Man-Land)? Wouldn't it make more sense to get people excited about a Spider-Man reboot?

Marc Bernardin, writing for io9, responded with an article that I don't think he imagined would become so influential in the Spider-Man proceedings. The article was titled "The Last Thing Spider-Man Should Be Is Another White Guy," and it argues brilliantly for the fact that there's no good reason out there to explain why Spider-Man can't be played by a minority:
Lee and Ditko created a wonderfully strong character, one full of complexity and depth, who happens to be white. In no way is Peter Parker defined by his whiteness in the same way that too many black characters are defined by their blackness. He's defined by the people he cares for, by his career, by his identity as a New Yorker (incidentally, one of the most diverse cities in the world) — as too many good people died to prove, a man is defined by his choices, not by the color of his skin.
In response to this article a great deal of individuals began to proclaim that Spider-Man should be played by Donald Glover, who stars on NBC's Community and has written for NBC's 30 Rock. Almost immediately, Glover began campaigning on Twitter and Facebook for the role of Spider-Man and gaining masses of people to support him. Humble Glover recently tweeted, "Some people are mistaken. I don’t want to just be given the role. I want to be able to audition. I truly love Spider-Man."

I believe that, when used right, the internet allows for the possibility of a greater democracy. I can't say that I've experienced this politically, but I know for a fact that it's happening in mass media. What have we accomplished? We elected McLovin. We got Juggernaut to sport a witty line from a popular series of YouTube videos in X2. We convinced Hollywood to add some entertaining Samuel L. Jackson scenes to Snakes on a Plane. We got Betty White to host SNL. As much as New York hipsters want to talk about the Betty White thing on a daily basis and without end, it pales (literally) in comparison to Donald Glover as Spider-Man.

Do you remember how the Iron Man movie turned out much better than the other Marvel movies that came before and after it? A lot of that had to do with the fact that Robert Downey, Jr. worked on dialogue, allowing John Favreau and the writers to focus on story. How much better would a Spider-Man film be with a writer for 30 Rock as the main character? Donald Glover is Spider-Man. He may not get the role. He may not even get a chance to audition. But when it comes to Spider-Man, make mine Donald Glover.