Big City Rednecks Come Out for Big Dog Daddy

When I lived in NYC, I always loathed the fact that New York, despite being one of the greatest cities on earth, doesn't have a country radio station. Some might say that not having a country radio station is part of why NYC is so great, but I disagree. All preconceived notions and stereotypes aside, country artists have a knack for telling very real stories, capturing little Polaroids of life, that just about anyone can relate to. If you haven't given country a real shot, you owe it to yourself to take a second look.

Anyhow, this Valentine's Day Megan gave me an awesome gift, and one I never would've expected in NYC/NJ: tickets to see Toby Keith in concert at The Meadowlands. Needless to say, the show was unbelievable. Even if you don't like country, there's something about Toby Keith's uncompromising, unapologetic bad-ass attitude that just makes for some good entertainment. As an added bonus: despite the location, the stadium wasn't just packed with yuppy cowboy wannabe city slickers like me. No, no. Every self-proclaimed redneck in the tri-state area came out for the show that night. Pick-up trucks filled the parking lot. Bud Light flowed like milk and honey. And the people rejoiced.

So for any other country fans out there, thought I'd share a few snapshots taken from my phone at the concert...it was definitely a good time. If you have the opportunity to catch any remaining shows on The Big Dog Daddy Tour, I highly recommend you do!

Jack Ingram opened for Toby, playing Wherever You Are, Lips of an Angel and Measure of a Man, among others

Big Dog Daddy Keith himself, soon after taking stage

A shot during the uncompromisingly patriotic encore, including American Soldier and Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)


My Night with the Stars at YouTube Videocracy

So I've never been one to be particularly star struck, but I had a really cool night and wanted to share. Last night I attended YouTube's Videocracy event in NYC. It was a pretty interesting concept, bringing together everyone from traditional media companies to internet content providers to celebs and (of course) YouTube-born stars to celebrate the evolution of online video.

While it was great meeting people from a number of really interesting companies, hearing from marketing gurus and sitting near Damon Wayans, what really caught my eye was the new breed of YouTube stars in attendance.

It's one thing to chuckle at Lisa Nova's biting brand of comedy, but somewhat surreal to see her jump off the computer screen and on stage to host the event. Similarly, after watching Chocolate Rain on loop, it was a bit odd to stand there and chat up Tay Zonday in person. What was cool about it wasn't so much that these people are now famous, but rather that it wasn't so long ago that they weren't. And even now, they seem to remain very real people- a bit shy, timid on stage, not quite sure how to handle the attention, and a host of other very real qualities; the same qualities that made them endearing to millions of viewers.

My second "aha!" of the night was the wide array of ways people have found they can use video to engage each other. I've certainly watched all forms of video online before, but never took the time to think about how different they could be. You have people like Justin Timberlake's find Esmee Denters or Soulja Boy (two of last night's performers) who found fame with music videos. Lisa Nova and Buck Hollywood who've made their names through Comedy. Kentucky boy William Sledd who has become the face of fashion on YouTube, rising from obscurity. Then there's the Blendtec guy showing off his blender's ridiculous blending power by destroying pretty much anything (including an iPhone) in it. Also a guy I met last night, James Kotecki who made a name for himself with political video blogging from his Georgetown dorm room. And this doesn't even begin to touch things like the Cup Stacking phenomenon, seeing a self-taught Korean guitarist redefine Canon in D on the electric guitar, speed painting, how-to videos, family and pet videos and so much more.

The neat thing about user-generated video is its innate reality, something that I think we've all been a bit starved for. I'm not suggesting that high-quality, studio-produced works don't have their place; they certainly do. But there's so much beauty and wonder in day-to-day life that is lost almost by definition when one tries to engineer it. Truly great films and directors find a way to capture snippets of it, but it's amazing to see how raw, unedited clips from everyday people can have a similar impact on the audiences that find them relevant.


Reflections on Super Bowl XLII

On the surface, there are some rather obvious notes to make about Super Bowl XLII.

It was a great game, a truly exciting nail-biting contest. It's so rare to see a Super Bowl result in such a great game that this in itself could be noteworthy.

And of course, there's the fact that the game featured the recurring Boston-New York rivalry that has proven by far the most interesting in modern day sport.

And even more notably, one of the two teams in this rivalry was also fighting against destiny, attempting to join the 1972 Dolphins, the only NFL team to finish a season undefeated, in the history books under perfection.

But if you start thinking about the game a bit more deeply, you see a whole host of subplots and archetypes that we probably all knew we were witnessing even if we didn't sense it at the time. These are the struggles that made this Super Bowl one to remember, debate and learn about for years to come.

1. David vs. Goliath: Not only were the Patriots chasing perfection, but they were doing so against a team who just about everyone except Giants fans and bookies had written off entirely. A team that wasn't even *supposed* to make the playoffs, let alone stand any hope of prying the Conference championship from the grasp of Brett Favre or Tony Romo. A team that ESPN ranked #27 in the league in their week 3 Power Rankings. This game was supposed to be a blow out, only someone forgot to tell the Giants they couldn't win.

2. The Best Offense is a Good Defense: Even stacked against the '72 Dolphins, the Pats may have been considered the best team, or at least the best offensive team, of all time. They weren't only undefeated through 18 games; they crushed their opponents, racking up the league's #1 offense with over 35 points scored per game. Week after week, the Pats showed their offensive prowess leading many, myself included, to say that you couldn't stop the Pats offense, you could only hope to slow them down enough to keep up. Yet again, we forgot to tell the Giants what was impossible. Perhaps knowing that their offense couldn't go blow-for-blow with the Pats, they attacked on defense, holding New England to under 20 points for the first time all season and sacking Brady 5 times, the first time any team had done so since 2003.

3. Karma is an elusive entity: I personally didn't know who to root for during the game. I have lived in both New York and Boston. My Dolfan loyalty may have demanded rooting for the Giants, but shouldn't you also root for the team that beat your own, so you can at least have lost to a champion? Most of all, two blemishes on the NFL's record kept me torn: Spygate and what I'll call Eligate. I certainly can't whole-heartedly root for the Pats after their scandalous early season faux pas. Then again, I don't think Eli will ever sit quite right with me after the way he entered the league, like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum at risk of not getting his way. Apparently, karma has spoken and earn-at-all costs capitalist puppetry is more forgiveable than win-at-all-costs cheatery...or at least its statute of limitations has expired sooner.

4. Great just isn't good enough: In a moment of humility after the game, Randy Moss was asked to comment on what happened. His reply:

"I think their intensity from the beginning snap to the end of the game was really higher than ours. We just couldn't meet that intensity."

Did the patriots just get cocky? Did they buy the hype that they were unbeatable? Or was going 18-0 leading up to the Super Bowl simply sufficient? Whatever the explanation, the Pats just didn't bring it on Sunday, certainly not the way a champion should. If anything great comes out of their loss, it should be that younger players heed their example and hustle a little more next season, sprint off the field a little faster, lift one more rep, because no matter how well they've done, they can always push just a little bit harder. Good is the enemy of Great.