‘Piano Man, He Makes His Stand, in the Auditorium’

“My whole family is down at Dave & Buster’s right now, but I’m just not really into it, so I figured I’d come get my watch fixed. It’s needed it for a while now.”

It was a Friday night in July, and the girl was stuck at her job at a mall kiosk. Sitting at the workbench fixing this customer’s watch, she just wished the woman would stop talking so she could concentrate. It always bugged her when customers felt the need to tell their life story while she was trying not to slice her hand open getting off the back of their watch.

“We were supposed to be at the Billy Joel and Elton John concert…,” the woman trailed off.

The girl’s ears perked up.

“Yeah, I heard it got canceled,” she said. Truthfully, she was a little happy when she heard that news — it had been killing her knowing that she wouldn’t be able to go. “I really wanted to get tickets,  but I’ve spent so much on concerts already lately, and they were so expensive, I just couldn’t do it.

“They were,” the woman said, “but it’s Billy Joel. And Elton John.”

“I love Elton John. I would kill to go,” the girl said. She was actually enjoying this now, going back and forth with this woman about favorite songs.

They kept talking as the girl finished the watch repair and the woman paid for her watch.

“Enjoy your night,” the girl said as she handed the woman her receipt. “I know it won’t be as great as the concert, but…”

“I’ll try,” the woman said with a smile. “And I hope whenever they reschedule the show, you have a really great seat.”

***

When the first rescheduled date, in early December, came out, I debated getting tickets. And then Christmas happened, and after car payments and buying gifts, I still couldn’t bring myself to spend $100 on a concert ticket, as much as I was dying to go.

And then they postponed — again.

I don’t really believe in signs or fate or whatever, and I know how stupid this is going to sound, but I told myself that this was my sign — I needed to be at this show. I’d been given chance after chance, and I was a fool if I didn’t take this one. I swore to my parents that when the tour finally made it to Buffalo, whenever it was, I would be there. I had built this show up in my head to the point where I didn’t care how much the tickets cost, where I was in the arena, or if I had to go scalp seats the night of the show — I would be there, even if I had to sit in the last row of the farthest section, by myself.

Fortunately, I found tickets through a family friend about a week before the show — $100 a pop, on the side of the stage — and my mom decided she’d come with me. The seats were spectacular, and as the lights dimmed and the pianos rose from underneath the stage, I thought about that encounter at the mall eight months ago. I was actually there. Sitting in HSBC Arena. Seeing one of my all-time favorite musicians, and The Piano Man, The Entertainer.

And I kid you not, I teared up a little bit.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————

This is not 1975.  Billy Joel, now over 60, does not have all his hair. Elton John, nearly 63 years old, cannot hit the high notes he could when he was 28.

And it doesn’t actually matter, because they put on a show that, in terms of musicianship and energy, rivals that of some of the best “young” bands out there.

They can both still play the hell out of a piano. John, now a muted version of his once glammy, Vegas-ready self (and that’s not an insult), has turned his already-wonderful songs into flowing masterpieces that sound like the album versions…but don’t. “Rocketman” became a 10-minute journey, while “Levon” and “Tiny Dancer” had sound that was uniquely live, yet still maintained the beauty they have on their respective albums.

Truthfully, Elton John is one of my favorite artists, young or old, period; he could sing me the alphabet, and I’d be happy. Still, he has managed to retain relevance and be a sought-after collaborator (VMA and Grammy performances, anyone?), and is, quite simply, (Captain) fantastic.

Joel seemed more comfortable on-stage, taking some time to joke with the crowd about their respective seats and the many cancellations. My mother and I have this theory that John, for all his loud outfits, is a rather quiet, shy guy. I don’t really know what to say about Joel’s solo set — I like Billy Joel, and I know and like his music, but I hadn’t really thought about what his set would be like, and I didn’t really have any expectations, so I can’t actually say whether they lived up to them or not. Once again, that’s not a bad thing, it’s just that the main reason I wanted to go to this concert so badly was Elton John. I will say, however, that it was a pleasant surprise to see Joel get up from behind the piano for “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and “It’s Still Rock ‘N Roll to Me,” and I really enjoyed just listening to him play.

And while the two still can hold their own on their own, the real treat of the show was getting to see them on stage together, duetting on each other’s songs. “Your Song” was the perfect opener, just as “Piano Man” was clearly the choice closing song, and hearing each lend their voices and put their own twists on the other’s hits definitely makes that $100 ticket price totally worth it — not to mention that you’re sort of getting three shows in one.

So, yeah, Elton couldn’t hit the highest notes in “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” and Billy Joel was making jokes that he was really Billy Joel’s dad. But if you think they’re washed up or has-beens or whatever — think again.

Oh yeah, I hope the woman from the mall enjoyed the show just as much.

Advertisements

Restaurant Week — Where Do I Start?

I was a picky little kid. Forget sushi or steak — I didn’t even like pasta sauce.

Fortunately, I’ve wised up. My picky-ness is more of an idiosyncrasy now — I pick chicken apart because the veins gross me out, and I won’t eat most condiments, especially mayo (whipped egg? really?) —  and while the thought of eating liver or caviar is still too much, I’ve moved far past my distaste for pasta sauce. And I love finding a new place to eat.

Yet, strangely enough, I have yet to experience a restaurant week. I’ve never been home for the ones around here and, well, I was a broke college kid in Boston, what do you want from me?

But now that I have the chance…I’m a little overwhelmed. And I feel like I need some help.

I trust you, WNYMedia readers. So — where would you go? I’m planning on two dinners. My only real criteria: it can’t be somewhere I’ve already been. That’s a short list in comparison to the overwhelming number of participating restaurants.

Make your case. I’ll report back.

After all, if you have to eat to survive, you may as well eat well.

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

What, like you haven’t heard people say that Trade Deadline Day is like Christmas?

I can’t say I’ve ever looked forward to the day that much, but after experiencing two trade days during my college internship, I understand the thrill of it now. I’d almost go so far as to say I miss it a little bit. Getting a text or hearing “[So-and-so] has made a trade” on TV is always an exciting moment. The thing is, any trade can affect your team — not only can the addition of a new player potentially change the way you approach that team, or make said team more or less of a threat in the standings, but, in the short term, a trade between two other teams could mean a trade for your team.

Then you  have the GMs and their staff, who are often under pressure to “just do something” because it’s their last chance,  which means they have to find a balance between jumping at a chance just because and being too steadfast and passing up a really good offer. On top of all that, they have to consider the money aspect and how a trade will affect their salary cap. There’s no way I’d want that job.

One of my teams has already made a trade today — albeit, one that, I’m assuming, is just the beginning of something bigger — and it will  be interesting to see what the Sabres do, if anything. Sometimes standing your ground and not making a move can be the biggest move of all.

If you’re trying to keep track of all the goings-on around the NHL, here are some links to get you started:

Happy Trade Deadline Day everyone!

One Year Later

It’s weird how people respond to tragedy. For the most part, you have some empathy, and you think it’s sad, but there’s a limit to what you can feel because you’re removed from it all. You never really think it will happen to you.

Well, two miles is close. Two miles is really close, close enough to draw you right into the tragedy, to make you learn what it feels like to be a part of a tragedy. Two miles is close enough to make you pray to God it never, ever happens again.

It’s weird seeing your hometown news channels broadcast on CNN. And to suddenly have to worry if your neighbor, who was at that point going to New York for business every week, might have been on the plane. And to have to text your friends in Boston to let them know that you and everyone you know are OK, but, yeah, you drive by that street a lot.

Colgan Air Flight 3407I had flown home the night before the crash for a long weekend. I was on Facebook before I went to bed and saw someone post something about a plane crashing in Clarence, but I figured it was an exaggeration — it was probably just a transformer blowing up or something. But then, as I was falling asleep, a friend texted me asking where Long Street was. I told him I had no idea — I don’t know street names over there — why was he asking?

“Because a plane just crashed there.”

Holy. $*#%.

I was awake. I barely slept that night. I kept flipping between news channels, looking for new developments, just watching the situation get worse and worse. I fell asleep with the TV on, woke up around 7am and kept watching. The stories, the video, everything was absolutely haunting, especially because, as the passenger list slowly developed and more details came out, it seems like most people in Western New York had some connection to Flight 3407.

I can’t even presume to know what the loved ones of those 50 people are going through. They have experienced more pain than most of us will ever know, yet they’ve been stronger than most of us will ever be. They’re turning this horrible experience into a fight to make sure it will never happen again, and that’s something absolutely amazing.

The hard part, for me, was figuring out how I should feel about that crash. I was fortunate to not be directly connected with anyone who died, but it still upset me. If that plane had landed somewhere else, even gone a few hundred feet in a different direction, it could have been someone I know. Getting on a plane that Monday to fly back to Boston was terrifying. I’m a nervous flier as it is, but when I’m on a small plane now, I get even worse.

Most of us weren’t personally involved, yet it affects us because this is our community. And I think, above anything else, that just means we should support each other, most especially the families of those 50 victims.

So please, do something as small as saying a prayer for all those affected. Keep them in your thoughts. Support the airline safety bills they’re advocating. Hug the people you love, and tell them you love them.

And if you’re of the mindset that this story is no longer news, just skip to the next page or the next channel. There’s no need to comment. But be thankful that it’s that easy for you to forget, because it could have been very different.

I’ve Created the Sound of Madness

There’s this moment at a concert where you, as a singular being, basically cease to exist.

The bass takes over your heartbeat — it may  have all together replaced it for all you can tell. You’re screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs, but you may as well be shouting into a black hole because the instant your words leave your mouth, they’re sucked into the beautiful cacophony around you.

Lights assault your eyes, and fog-machine fog (or smoke of both the legal and illegal varieties; it’s always a guessing game as to what you’re actually inhaling) impairs your vision. Moving on your own? Forget it. You link arms with your friends as you, and the hundreds of other sweaty unknowns to whom you’ve surrendered your personal space, jump up and down at the band’s request.

Your body temperature rises exponentially, as does the temperature of the entire room. You’re breathless and sore from standing for three hours, and singing along will most certainly leave you speechless by necessity the next day, but you can’t stop — you won’t stop.

You can’t actually feel that drunk guy standing next to you ramming into your shoulder as he jumps around, and it doesn’t really cross your mind that you should really stop and catch your breath or get a drink of water immediately. I mean, you feel it, but it doesn’t actually matter. And it doesn’t hurt because what you’re experiencing is better and more important than that.

In such a moment — when it’s done right — the music trumps you. It reminds you that what you’re standing in the middle of is universal. It’s bigger than you. And it’s so brilliant.

——————————————————————————————————————————————–

I had one of those moments last night at a Shinedown, Puddle of Mudd and Skillet concert in Rochester.

I feel like I got hit by a bus this morning. I have basically no voice, and I just realized my ears are still ringing — but was it worth it? Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s becoming rare that a concert is as epic as I hoped it would be, and it makes me infinitely happy that last night was everything I was hoping for.

When I listen to a band, I like to imagine how a song would sound live. Shinedown is one of those bands that has seriously hard-rock tracks but can slow it down and still make an impact. Lead singer Brent Smith (who, I just have to say, looked older than I expected) has serious pipes, and I figured the guitars and drums in a lot of their songs would sound absolutely ridiculous in person.

A lot of bands just get up there and play; they don’t say much, they don’t really interact. Others stick to a script night after night, and it shows, because nothing really connects (Nickelback, I’m looking at you; judge me all you want, but I had high hopes for their live show, and it wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted).

Shinedown is one of those rare bands that absolutely electrifies a room.  There wasn’t a moment where things seemed to lag or where the audience got bored. They started out right away with “The Sound of Madness,” which was one of those songs I often imagined hearing live. Even slower songs like “If You Only Knew” and “What A Shame” kept the energy up.

While the whole show was great, there was one song I just had to hear, the song that, if they played, I could die happy then and there — “Simple Man.” It’s, in my opinion, a hard song to cover because you can’t make it too elaborate since the beauty of the song is in how, well, simple it is.

But Shinedown’s cover does it perfectly, just Smith and guitarist Zach Myers (who, by the way, is wicked talented. He also helped out on a quick cover of “Dock of the Bay” and made his guitar sound perfectly like a violin at one point) on an acoustic guitar. The audience was shouting for it all night — ironic since it’s usually “Freebird” that people shout for — so they saved it for the encore…and it was everything I imagined it would be.

I closed my eyes and sang along, and it was absolutely perfect.

——————————————————————————————————————

In case you were curious, the rest of the show was pretty good, too. I could gush for hours about Shinedown, but I’ll just close with this: I listen to, and like, a lot of music, so it’s hard for me to actually pick a solid “favorite” band (after the Goo Goo Dolls, that is, who will always be at the top of the list), but these guys have been in my top ten for a while now. I legitimately enjoy nearly every song on their albums, their lyrics have real meaning, they’re a talented group, and the fact that they are so wonderful live only makes me like them more.

Now, on to the rest:

I actually enjoyed Puddle of Mudd more when I saw them at the casino a couple years ago. I think that was because I’d once again built them up in my head — I figured their new song “Spaceship” would sound really awesome live and have everyone going crazy. It was just all right. Maybe I was in the wrong part of the crowd. Still, their songs create some fun sing-a-longs — especially “She Hates Me,” because everyone just screams the words.

(By the way, if you ever see them, stick around ’til the lights go up — there’s an ingenious jazzy rat-pack version of “She Hates Me” that cracks me up every time.)

“Opener” Skillet surprised me. Then again, I didn’t have high hopes for a group named after a frying pan.

To begin with, the group I was with all thought Skillet was the band that was playing when we walked in. Turns out, that band was actually Like A Storm (don’t bother, they’re forgettable). So when we moved up for the next set, expecting it to be Puddle of Mudd, and had two girls walk on stage, we were sufficiently confused.

If you like “new rock,” you’ll probably enjoy these guys. Their singer sounds a bit like Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier, which is appropriate, because the first time I heard their song “Monster” on the radio, I definitely thought it was 3DG. The one slower song they played (I wanna say the name was something like “Believe”) was more the style of Hinder — think “Lips of an Angel,” and you’ve got this song.

They weren’t anything out-of-the-ordinary or totally special, but I could see myself listening to their music. The female dummer and guitarist/keyboard player probably didn’t hurt, either. I have a soft spot for female rockers.

Strangest fact of all, though: I just looked them up on Wikipedia, and their page claims they are a “Christian hard rock” band — go figure.

2010 Grammy Awards: The Live Blog

I have a love/hate relationship with awards shows. On the one hand, I think they’re boring, run way too long, and try so hard to be cool. On the other hand, I enjoy watching the performances, and…no, that’s really it.

The awkward presentation banter, strange outfits and general host behavior inspire snarky comments (and the occasional legit, that-was-actually-pretty-cool one) that are too good to not share. And seeing as I’m home alone, I have no choice but to use this outlet to share them with all of you!

It’ll be like watching with friends…only I’m here, you’re there, and I don’t hesitate to comment on anything and everything.

The challenge for me is actually sitting through an entire show. I generally get fed up with the ridiculousness or tired because it’s 1130pm, the show was supposed to be over at 10, and I just want to go to bed. So, as an added bonus, let’s play a game — how long can I go before I turn off the Grammys? Will I turn it off because of exhaustion or because I can’t afford to lose any more IQ points?

We’ll find out together….

————————————————————————————————————————————–

11:30pm — So Taylor won. My dad and I are debating if she deserved it, and who we would have given it to instead. Our verdict? We don’t actually know. Out of the nominees, it would have been her or GaGa, in my opinion. They’ve grown a fan base that’s dedicated and totally in love with their music. They create some pretty solid music, and I’d say they’re pretty entertaining. They’ve both also proved they can dominate the radio. I wouldn’t have given it to BEP or Beyonce, but that may just be my personal bias. I suppose you could make an argument for all of them — BEP and GaGa are truly unique and artistic, Taylor is the cute singer/songwriter that would have fit in in the ’90s, and Beyonce is the diva of the bunch. But did anyone actually truly make something that deserved to be album of the year? I don’t actually know. This is me, a 21-year-old, longing for the “old days” of music, when I could have solidly said that, yes, that truly is an album of the year — it will stand the test of time. What do you think? I’ll leave it at that for tonight.

11:25pm — “Smooth” plays in the background as John Legend and Carlos Santana come out to present. That song took everything 10 years ago. Thanks for reminding us about when really awesome songs deserved to win, and won, everything. Thanks, also, for calling DMB’s album “Big Whiskey and the Grou-Grou King” — solid job there.

11:18pm — But, seriously, I cannot take anyone who starred on “Degrassi” seriously as a rapper. Sorry, Aubrey — yeah, that’s right. Aubrey Drake Graham. Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaahahahaha. Anyhow, Travis Barker and the live guitars are actually making this survivable. I miss the funky backbeat that’s behind Lil’ Wayne in the actual track, though. Also, this, right here, with the million-miles-a-minute rapping is why Eminem is talented.

11:16pm — I actually somewhat enjoyed the Lil’ Wayne/Eminem part (another fun fact: I sincerely enjoy Eminem. I think he’s hysterical and very talented. OK, and a little bit crazy). I guess that was called “Drop the World,” and is off his “rock” album Rebirth, which might explain why it actually sounded decent.

11:14pm — There is far too much auto-tuning going on tonight. And we either just lost sound or they actually have to bleep that much out of Lil’ Wayne’s performance. My guess is probably the latter.

11:12pm — Oh, Quentin, always looking…well, you’re on stage and in polka dots and sunglasses. And talking a bit like you’re a 1950’s greaser. Whatever you gotta do.

11:03pm — I really need to see this Crazy Heart movie. Jeff Bridges is out to introduce the Les Paul tribute. I guess it was worth stick around to see Jeff Beck. My father is outraged that they’re not showing Tal Wilkenfeld, the 23-ish-year old bassist he plays with that’s an absolute beast on the bass. Seriously, go look her up. I’ve only ever watched her on…well, I forget, but it was one of the concert DVDs we have around here. She was pretty ridiculous.

11pm — We should be ending right now. Just FYI. Instead we’re doing a tribute to everyone that died this year — among them Mary Travers, who (another fun fact!), as 1/3 of Peter, Paul and Mary, was my first concert. We saw them at what is now the Finger Lakes Performing Art Center for (I think) my dad’s birthday when I was probably 10 or 11. I forgot DJ AM died this year, too.

10:55pm — Somebody named Maxwell is performing. I think I’ve probably heard of him before — or else the name just sounds familiar because the pre-commercial announcer girl has been saying that his performance is “coming up” all night — but this doesn’t interest me. I feel like they throw all the good performances at the beginning of the night, then make you stick around for the rest by not doing the big awards until the very end. It doesn’t help that the recent performances have been R&B and slow jam-y. All I can think of right now is how bad my shoulder hurts. I guess Roberta Flack was a nice addition.

10:50pm — They just rattled off a lot of people who have yet to perform. And we haven’t even gotten to the major awards yet. So much for this ending on time. Yeah, like that would ever happen.

10:48pm — Best Female Vocal Performance…why must Beyonce win everything? This is why these shows get boring.

10:46pm — I was just on the phone for basically all of the Dave Matthews Band performance, so all I saw was a lot of people on stage, and all I heard was a lot of violins. I guess it was good?

10:37pm — I think this guy is the Grammy President? But I don’t really know, I’ve lost interest. Once again, why don’t they televise stuff like the Neil Young presentation? This organization should be trying to keep classic music in the limelight, too. *off soapbox again*

10:28pm — “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” is always a good choice for these situations. Sounded good, but I’m more interested in the fact that my friend from college and a girl I went to high school with not only met each other at Disney in the College Program, but are actually working the same ride. I’m just being honest here. Small world, right?

10:24pm — “A loving son of Haiti,” really? That was lame. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, I mean that the Grammys need to hire some better writers.

10:22pm — I’m getting bored. Too bad Extreme Makeover isn’t still an option.

10:17pm — Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. There are only about six names mentioned among all of the nominees, I think that’s pretty interesting. I was pulling for JT and T.I., and I sort of wish Lonely Island had pulled off a total upset, but I’ll take “Run This Town.” It’s decent, and I don’t totally hate it.

10:14pm — And, for real, how can you NOT want to sing the chorus to “Livin’ on a Prayer”?

10:12pm — Took us a couple seconds to figure out that’s the girl from Sugarland, but she has an unmistakable voice once she starts singing.

10:10pm — Judge me, but I sort of love Bon Jovi. They try a little too hard to be cool, and they’ve totally got that leftover ’80s cheese, but they put on such a show. I’ve seen them twice, and it’s just spectacular.

10:08pm — They should consider a Grammy pre-show that gives all these people who win awards that aren’t shown on TV a chance to speak and be recognized more. They’re actually the ones who have made some serious contributions and matter years after the fact. I don’t think it’s fair to not give them a real moment of glory. *end soapbox rant*

10:01pm — Wait, have we ever actually heard MJ’s kids speak? Because that is NOT the voice I thought would be coming out of that little kid.

10:00pm — The best I can say about whatever that just was is that it wasn’t the strangest thing I’ve ever seen on TV. Actually, I don’t know what that says about my viewing habits.

9:57pm — So we’re letting MJ sing, then just throwing in random parts sung by Celine, Stevie Wonder, Jennifer Hudson and Carrie Underwood. And somebody I think is one of the Jackson kids. How did we pick those people? And it’s all in 3D, and it hurts my eyes. Really loving the random shots of hummingbirds and trees (not).

9:55pm — I’m curious to see how outlandish this Michael Jackson thing is gonna be. I’m a little confused why Celine Dion is here, and seeing 3D without having the glasses is hurting my eyes. Thanks for not providing me with the appropriate eyewear. Guess I’m the only person in America who doesn’t have a set of 3D glasses laying around?

9:50pm — OK, now this is better. Cute little re-mix of “You Belong with Me.” And I think we made it through all the important Taylor Swift moments without Kanye showing up, so that’s an improvement.

9:48pm — Stevie Nicks joins Taylor. Somebody is off-key again. And it’s not the one who originally sang the song. Keep their voices separate, and it sounds fine, but together — yikes.

9:47pm — Ryan Seacrest is right — Taylor Swift has a ridiculous gift for songwriting. I’m actually a little jealous of her. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this song before (probably called something along the lines of “Today Was a Fairytale”). It started out pretty, now it’s off-key.

9:45pm — My right shoulder is sore from typing at an odd angle. I think I’m in this ’til the end though. Just please don’t assault my ears with any more Slash/T-Pain mash-ups.

9:40pm — Dear Zac Brown, thank you for playing the hell out of that acoustic guitar.

9:35pm — Zac Brown Band and Leon Russell are bringing the country back to the Grammys. I’m pretty excited to listen to the stuff of theirs I just downloaded. Deep secret: I have a soft spot for country music (that explanation’s coming in a later blog).

9:32pm — Let’s get this back on track and give out the Best Rock Album award. You really can’t go wrong here, solely because it won’t involve any of the people that appeared on-stage in the last five minutes. I guess Green Day was the obvious choice. And by obvious, I don’t necessarily mean best. “21st Century Breakdown” is nowhere near is good as “American Idiot,” so let’s not pretend it is. I’m glad DMB didn’t win (they’re overrated, over-hyped, and you know it), but I think it shoulda been AC/DC or that MSG album. In any case, someone let me know where to find both them and Kings of Leon and those shots.

9:26pm — No, it just got worst. Justin Bieber and Ke$ha, with the former calling Bon Jovi Beyonce. Yes, I’m serious. Shouldn’t put a 15-year old on stage — have we not learned to read in kindergarten yet, Justin? And Ke$ha looks like she hasn’t showered in days. Please, oh please, make this stop. We started out so well, Grammys…what’s happening?

9:25pm — So now we have Slash, Jamie Foxx, and T-Pain? What. The. Eff? just happened here?

9:21pm — Robert Downy Jr. FTL. What is going on here? Oh, wait, it’s…what’s his name again? “Blame it on the a-a-a-a-alcohol” — Jamie Foxx! That’s it! Nothing like an auto-tuned song about taking advantage of a drunk girl. As my friend Caitlin said, “Jamie Foxx…what you doing? Opera and autotune? SUPER FAIL.”

9:19pm — Kings of Leon!!! I wish it had been for “Sex on Fire,” but whatever. “I’m not gonna lie, we’re all a little drunk, but we’re happy drunk.” Thank you, rock & roll, for taking back the Grammys for 30 seconds.

9:17pm — “That’s Norah Jones?” — my father. “Ringo looks like Steve Jobs” — my boyfriend. So apparently we all disliked that pair. I, however, like when they keep showing that clip of Taylor Swift in the big glasses from the “You Belong with Me” video. It makes me feel like I was cool when I was 12 and had huge glasses for real.

9:15pm — My father has informed me my lead-in to this blog makes me sound like an old crazy cat lady. So, I would like to amend that: I am no longer home alone. My parents are here watching with me. Actually, I don’t know if that makes me sound much better (kidding, love you guys!)

9:1opm — They have a Grammy for Best Comedy Album? And it gets space on the TV broadcast? I’m sorry, what’s that about? Oh, hey, the host won — shocker. He’s the only one I would have given it to, though. I always feel so bad when they push the winners off stage with the music. Then they just talk over it. Oh, celebrities.

9:07pm — “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum is really, really pretty. Their voices sound great together. Apparently the Grammys are having sound volume issues though, so if we could sort those out and not ruin this performance, that’d be spectacular. K, thanks.

9:05pm — Joe Jonas, why would you wear those glasses?

9:00pm — “Welcome to the future!” — No, sir, this is the present. Please learn your times.

8:59pm — PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE MAKE IT STOP! “I’VE GOT A FEELING” IS OVERPLAYED AND NEEDS TO GO AWAY! *clears throat* Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I’m really over this song.

8:57pm — The Black Eyed Peas look ridiculous in their robot costumes. My feelings on “I’mma Be” are still out. I’ve heard the song a few times, and I can’t decide if it sounds bad or good over that beat and with that chorus. It’s sort of like Eminem’s “We Made You” in that way, but I eventually decided I enjoy the way that beat sounds with his lyrics. Actually, that beat is really spectacular; so different and quirky.

8:55pm — Miley Cyrus, go away! Your hair is too long. At least you’re wearing clothes. And not in a blonde wig.

8:46pm — Best New Artist time. I think I really need to check out the Zac Brown Band. There is a ton of buzz around them, and I haven’t heard much, but what I have heard is good. Also, how do Silversun Pickups get nominated? They’ve been around for a while.

8:43pm — Um, Pink’s outfit looks like something that belongs in the Deep South in the 1800s — ya catch my drift? ‘Cept I don’t think they’d be quite that, um…naked? Janet Jackson accidentally flashes the Superbowl, but Pink can get away with being dripping wet and basically naked on the Grammys? Yup, makes total sense. That was quite pretty though. Even Carlos Santana looks impressed.

8:40pm — Yay, Leonard Cohen! “Hallelujah” is one of the most beautiful songs ever.

8:38pm — I just think you should know my dinner is now cold. I need to get up and reheat, but I don’t want to miss anything. I am starving for your benefit!

8:35pm — Aww, Jay-Z looked so proud of her.

8:31pm — She is NOT covering Alanis Morrisette. She is NOT…but it actually sounds good. I can’t decide if I should hate this or love it.

8:28pm — Beyonce seems like a sweet lady, but this diva thing is just…so 1990s. Just sing, don’t overdo it so much. You have a pretty voice.

8:25pm — And awkward presentation banter. Award to Taylor Swift, who looks spectacular (and shocked) as always. Her dress is beautiful. We made it through without Kanye stealing the mic!

8:20pm — Yeah, this sounds epic. I’m a definite fan of choruses. You can’t actually hear Billy Joe with everyone else singing, and this isn’t a dis at his voice, but I love it. I will most definitely be seeing that on Broadway.

8:15pm — I am DYING to see this American Idiot musical when it comes to NYC. This is one of the performances I actually want to see. However, I would have liked to see what they did with a faster song.

8:14pm — I’m sorry, am I the only person who does not “get” this whole Beyonce thing? I’m over the “Single Ladies” thing already. The song is overplayed. And the fact that it was co-written by three guys? I see a problem.

8:12pm — At least we’re all united in making fun of the iPad. And, oh, hey, it’s an award!

8:10pm — Alright, Stephen Colbert. Please stop now. This is what I meant about awkward host moments. I legitimately feel for his daughter. Those reactions from her? I don’t think they’re fake.

8:05pm — Grammy Awards, I’m impressed. I may stick with you this year.

8:03pm — Holy frig, is that Elton John? I didn’t think he could get much more outlandish, but I never thought about what would happen if he met GaGa. Love this dueling piano thing. I unconditionally love Elton John, so all I will is gush over this moment. And I really, really enjoy Lady GaGa when she slows things down like that.

8pm — As usual, Lady GaGa never fails to go all-out. I don’t know what’s up with this freaky musical-ringleader guy. He sort of reminds me of one of those villans out of a cartoon movie.

7:55pm — They haven’t even started yet, and I’m already tempted to skip the Grammys and watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition instead. Teacher with cancer, Oscar winners, new houses — it’s a sob-fest waiting to happen!

Question 13

You are in a plane crash in the Andes Mountains, not unlike those people from the movie Alive. As such, you will be forced to consume the human flesh of the people who died on impact; this will be a terrible experience but it is the only way for you to survive. Fortunately, you did not know any of the victims personally. Would you rather eat a dead baby, or would you rather eat a dead elderly person? Would you gender play a role in your selection process? And how much would it bother you if this meat turned out to be delicious?

That is positively disgusting — making my skin crawl, seeing awful images of chopped up people in my head, really not hungry anymore, disgusting. It’s worse than the time a mouse crawled across my bare foot in a parking garage (I don’t want to talk about it, but, believe me, it was naaaaaaasty).

I would just rather not eat anyone. You can live off plants and stuff, right?

Fine, if that’s not possible, I would rather someone else just give me the…um, chosen piece of sustenance?…and I’ll just keep my eyes closed and nose plugged while I eat it. I don’t want to see the chopped up person, I don’t want to feel it in my hand, I don’t want to feel it in my mouth — in fact, if someone could feed it to me or just blend it in with something else so I won’t even really know I’m eating it, that would be fantastic.

Seriously, I can’t even explain how disturbing this question is.

The “eating human flesh” thing isn’t even the worst part of it all. It’s bad, but imagine, once you’re rescued and home safe, having to explain to someone’s parents, children, husband, wife, friends, etc. that you ate their son, daughter, mom, dad, wife, husband, friend, etc.

What do you even say to that?

“Sorry I ate so-and-so…but I needed to survive. Here’s the watch they were wearing.”

Um, no thanks. I don’t think I’d feel remotely comfortable knowing that, yeah, my loved one died in this plane crash, but he/she helped save other people by providing them with food. Ew. Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew…

I’m not even going to touch the part about “What if the meat was tasty?” That’s just too much to deal with. I honestly think I’d just go throw myself off the top of the mountain.

Question 12

How would your views about war, politics and the role of the military change if all future conflicts were fought by armies of robots (that is to say, if all nations agreed to conduct wars exclusively with machines so that human casualties would be virtually non-existent)?

I have honestly been sitting here staring at this question for 30 minutes trying to figure out an answer. On the surface, I think, “OK, maybe war’s fine now, because the problem of killing innocent human beings is eliminated.”

But then I started to realize that there are two big problems with this question.

First off, even if robots took the place of soliders, the claim that casualties would be “virtually non-existent” is untrue. You’re fighting with robots, sure, but they’re still going to be fighting somewhere around people, unless you stick them in a remote area and say, “OK, last robot standing’s country wins.” So even with robots, you’re still going to have civilian casualties, which probably means people will still have a problem with war.

But even if you can get past that issue and say you’re OK with civilian casualties, there’s still the underlying question that’s at the crux of all this: If you’re against war, is it because it kills innocent soldiers, or is it because, like we were taught in Kindergarten, it’s bad to fight with people?

I know it’s impossible for everyone to always get along. And I know it’s necessary to have a military, etc. for the safety, security and well-being of the country. But I also think it’s stupid to get involved in other people’s problems and fights (the Kindergarten lesson was to not be nosy), unless someone is being unnecessarily harassed or bullied, and that bombing someone just because they bombed you won’t solve much (Kindergarten again — really, do we need schooling past age five?). Wars only end because one side gets so worn down that they surrender, or because a ruler is captured or killed, and after all that, there’s still talking to  be done and agreements to be made. It seems like all that fighting and destruction in the middle really does nothing but kill people and piss people off; the war part doesn’t actually create a solution.

Side note: I would like to take this moment to point out that I’m my opinions are irrelevant when discussing wars that begin to take down a no-good ruler or regime (see: harassment and bullying, and getting involved). In that case, if war is the only option for freedom, then you really don’t have much of a choice, do you?

So, no, I don’t think my view of war would change if we were using robots. If anything, I think it makes war seem even more ridiculous and scary because all you have is a bunch of machines with weapons running around.

But I feel like I could go around in circles trying to figure out an answer to this one, and it’s even harder because I guess I don’t necessarily have a black-and-white view of war (or of many things). This is probably the worst-formed argument ever. It’s hard because we’ve never had the opportunity to fight with robots, so I don’t think many people have really thought about what that would mean.

But I know there are those of you floating around out there who have well-formed opinions about war, politics, etc., so I’m especially curious what you think. Tear me down, poke holes in this theory, because you’re probably right, and I’ll probably agree with you.

Back to the Questions…

It is 1933. You are in Berlin, Germany. Somehow you find yourself in position to effortlessly steal Adolf Hitler’s wallet. This theft will not affect Hitler’s rise to power, the nature of World War II, or the Holocaust. There are no important papers in the wallet, but the act will cost Hitler forty Reichsmarks and completely ruin his evening. You do not need the money. The odds that you will be caught are less than 2% but if caught you will be executed. Are you ethically obligated to steal Hitler’s wallet?

This one’s easy — no, I’m not. He’s not going to lose anything important, and it’s not going to stop him from committing mass murder, which would be the only reason I’d feel obligated (or really be obligated) to steal the wallet. All I’d really do is just piss him off, and I guess you could argue that ruining his night would be worth it — some sort of small retaliation for what he’d do in the future, or something — but that still doesn’t make you obligated to steal it.

________________________________________________________________________________________

In case you’re new to my blog and were curious where this question came from, here’s an explanation. There’s nine questions left, and when I found the link in my e-mail today, I couldn’t just delete it — I had to finish the list.

Question #10 and…

You are placed in the unenviable position of having to compete for the right to stay alive. You will be matched against a person of your own gender in a series of five events — an 800-meter run, a game of Scrabble, a three-round boxing match, a debate over the legalization of late-term abortion (scored and officiated by reputable collegiate judges) and the math portion of the SAT. In order to survive, you must win at least three of these events (your opponent will be playing for his or her life as well). However, you (kind of) get to pick your opponent: you can either (a) compete against a person selected at random, or (b) you can compete against someone who is exactly like you. If selected at random, the individual could be of any age or skill level — he/she might be an infant with Down syndrome, but she might also be an Academic All-American linebacker from Notre Dame. If you pick “the average human,” he/she will be precisely your age and will have an identical level of education, and the person will be a perfect cross-section of your particular demographic — he/she will be of average height and of average weight, with a standard IQ and the most normative life experience imaginable. So whom do you select? Or — perhaps more accurately — do you feel that you are better than an average version of yourself?

Of course you had to pick the math SAT section, didn’t you? Yes, let’s pick the subject I haven’t taken since high school and, as a matter of fact, the section I scored lowest on when I took the SATs. Thanks, Chuck.

At the risk of sounding conceited, however, I’m going to choose a match-up between the person identical to myself, for a few reasons. First off, it would be just my luck that if I chose (a), I’d be matched against that Academic All-American linebacker from Notre Dame, and I’m not taking that chance. I also think that if I chose the person identical to myself, there’s a chance events could end in ties — can I beat the system that way, and we can both stay alive?

And, finally — and this is where that whole “sounding conceited” thing comes in — yes, I do think I’m a better than average version of myself. Doesn’t everyone think that? Don’t we all strive to be better than average, better than that random person walking on the street next to us?

I’m probably never going to be president or find a cure for cancer — but most of us won’t. That doesn’t mean we’re “just average.” I know one hell of a lot about music, and I’m an awesome writer, and I’d like to think I’m generally a pretty cool, down-to-earth person. I’m kind of pretty, and pretty damn smart. I like romantic things like music and art. And as you know, I have a gigantic heart (that’s all mostly true, except for maybe the “romantic things” part, but it’s a song; ten cool points to whomever gets the reference).

Those may not be talents that will win me a Nobel Prize or anything, but they still make me kind of special. I would certainly never tell my friends they’re “average” — to begin with, it’s rather rude, and they’re not average. There’s something amazing about each one of them. That’s why they’re my friends. Average is boring, typical, the same thing, and I will not be that, nor would I choose to hang around that.  The people I know are great because they challenge me and they make me a better person — they make sure I’m not average.

This debate just spiraled into an emotional schpeel, and it’s getting worse right here: If you’re reading this and think you’re average, think again. No one is average. That may sound idealistic or jaded, but it’s true. There is something special about every single person on this planet. If you can’t see that about yourself, how is anyone else going to see it about you?

—————————————————————————————————–

As if I hadn’t gotten touchy-feely enough already (but, you have to admit, that answer was pretty appropriate for the holidays), I just want to wish everyone — all five of you non-average readers out there (haha?) — a very Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Kwanzaa/whatever it is you celebrate. And a Happy New Year. I hope your holidays are absolutely wonderful. 2009’s been crazy, but great, so welcome to another decade of awesomeness.