Last Requests: 25 songs you need to hear before the world ends

Judgment Day, the Rapture and the end of the world may or may not take place starting May 21, 2011… But as long as humankind is mortal, all of us will see an end one day or another. So if you have a bucket list, I suggest you try and make a dent in it and do everything you want to do — start with exposing your ears to good music. Here are 25 amazing songs that, if you’ve never heard before, you need to listen to NOW:

1. Playing For Change – “Stand By Me”
One camera and one microphone captured street musicians around the world performing this Ben E. King cover. In a word? Amazing.

2. The Dears – “The Ballad of Human Kindness”
Possibly my favorite indie rock song of all time. The message is powerful and the lyrics are infectious.


3. Peter Malick Group – “Heart Of Mine” feat. Norah Jones

Bob Dylan is a fantastic songwriter but a terrible singer. So just let Norah Jones sing his songs and they’ll all be amazing.

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Goodbye, Michael Scott: The top 20 Steve Carell moments on ‘The Office’

Steve Carell is leaving “The Office” tonight in a special extended episode. As you brace yourself for the tears, remember the laughs he brought us. Here are my favorite Michael Scott moments from the past 7 seasons:

20. The Golden Ticket Idea
Michael adopts a little Willy Wonka ingenuity and hides “golden tickets” in random paper shipments. One company received all of them, getting 40% off their purchase, causing everyone in Scranton to freak out about the consequences.

19. Michael speaks to Ryan’s business school
In the middle of every speech, a speaker should throw out candy bars.

18. Dunder Mifflin’s local ad: The Michael Scott Director’s Cut
Great Scott!

17. Stanley and Michael LOVE Pretzel Day
“Can I get one with everything on it?” The pretzel with the works sends Michael into a sugar coma.

16. Scott’s Tots
Apparently, Michael promised a bunch of students 10 years ago that he would pay for all of their college educations. They’re so pleased when they finally graduate high school that they put on a big production to thank him — until they discover he can’t afford it.

15. “Lazy Scranton”
Michael welcomes his new employees from the merger with an introduction to Scranton – what! – the Electric City.

14. “Hug it out, bitch.”
Michael busts Dwight’s attempt to overthrow the position of office manager after his appointment with a dentist named Crentist… after his hilarious dude hug, he later forces Schrute to wear a sign that says “Liar.”
>> Watch the clip on NBC.com

13. Michael starts a Cafe Disco
After leaving the Michael Scott Paper Company to return to Dunder Mifflin, he used his old office space to be a combination dance party venue and coffeehouse for him to escape work once in a while.

12. “I… declare… bankruptcy!”

11. Michael kisses Oscar after his gay witch hunt
This scene was improvised — Carell wasn’t supposed to kiss his outed employee, but he did and it’s easily one of the 10 most unforgettable moments on the show.

10. Which Asian girl is Michael’s date?
After picking up two girls at a Japanese restaurant, Michael marks one of their arms with a pen so he can remember which one is supposed to be his date.

9. The Dundies
Best. Awards. Show. Ever.

8. “Booze Cruise” Motivational Dance
It’s a toss-up between this and his speech about how the ship is sinking for best moment of the episode. Okay, maybe it’s a three-way tie with “I’m king of the world!”

7. Michael vs. Toby
“I hate so much about everything you choose to be.” He just wanted to have a kickass Casino Night, yo.

6. Scott cooks his foot on a Foreman Grill
“I like to wake up in the morning to the smell of bacon.”

5. Threat Level Midnight
The Michael Scarn movie is finally realized, and it was even funnier than I imagined. Extra thumbs up to Jim playing “Goldenface.”

4. Michael hits Meredith with his car
It’s okay, it actually ended up saving her from the “incurable” disease of rabies. Of every season-opener, this was by far the single best moment.

3. Prison Mike
In Season 3, Michael got a little jealous of the attention that one of his new employees from the Stamford branch was getting when they found out he had a prison record. Scott’s solution? To scare people straight with his own prison experiences.

2. “That’s what she said!”
There are countless TWSS moments on the show, but the best one had to have been when Scott told his employees he was retiring from comedy over concerns of sexual harassment. Jim made it hard. (That’s what she said.)

1. Michael Scott vs. Michael Scott
When he waited to find out if Holly was engaged to her New Hampshire branch boyfriend, he recorded two videos to help him get through the result. One was a sad Michael to talk him out of killing himself. The other, the one we got to see, was a happy Michael that talked back at himself and danced along in a ridiculously awesome moment. Two Michaels are better than one.

By the way, Steve Carell grew up in Acton, Massachusetts — my hometown — and attended school in Concord, the next town over. (Sigh.) I’m going to miss him, but I’m still optimistic the show will be good after he leaves. But, as the 20 clips above show, it’s hard to imagine life at Dunder Mifflin without Michael Scott.

Top 11 Twitter Misconceptions and Misuses

Twitter is the third-most popular social networking site today. There’s a lot of people who are still new to it, so I understand. I’m here to help. These are the 11 biggest misconceptions and misuses of Twitter that I’ve seen and experienced.

1. You’re not a “social media expert”
Wow, you have a Twitter page. That doesn’t make you an expert in anything. You have a lot of followers? Great. Charlie Sheen got 1 million followers in just a day, but he’s not a social media expert; he’s just a famous person who says crazy stuff. The minute he tries to sell something on Twitter (and he will), you’ll see the true value of his influence. I think it’s ridiculous to consider yourself an expert in something that’s constantly changing, but if you must, back it up with a strong social media presence (that means real influence, not a Klout score or how many followers you have) and lots of experience.

2. Resist the urge to immediately complain about a business #fail
Yes, it’s 2011, and every business should be on social media, prepared to respond to customer complaints. But keep in mind, the best way to get customer service is to actually complain to a person when you’re still at the business. If the supermarket doesn’t have what you’re looking for, tell the manager and they can explain or at least tell you when the next shipment will be in. If a restaurant screwed up your order, tell the waitress, don’t tweet it. If they still continue to #fail after that, then share it. Otherwise you’re just complaining to complain and/or a power-hungry weasel trying to get freebies.

3. Twitter Chat
While I don’t think Twitter is designed for “chat,” I do see the value in creating a chat hashtag so other people can easily join the conversation from anywhere in the Twitterverse. Keep in mind, if you’re overly chatty, you’re going to aggravate people who don’t want to see the chat conversation and (probably) lose followers that enjoyed what you were saying the other six days of the week. Minimize that aggravation by NOT retweeting more than one or two really good chat points (and they better be damn good), and start your tweets with @username when responding to other people so regular followers don’t see them. Don’t worry, other people will still see those tweets, because they’re following the #chathashtag. Duh, that’s why you set up a hashtag.

4. Live-tweeting
Like Twitter Chat, be prepared to lose followers. Not everyone wants to use Twitter the way you do. Three rules for live-tweeting: 1, don’t just describe what you’re seeing – say something original or interesting; 2, use a hashtag so people can block it if they choose; and 3, only live-tweet a live event (what’s the point of live-tweeting “Glee” or a sitcom?).

5. 50,000 followers does NOT equal 50,000 people reading everything you say
“No one’s listening!” “Why isn’t anybody tweeting me?” No, your Twitter is not broken. Don’t assume everyone’s just dying to respond to everything you say, and whining about it will just make us resent you even more. Most people I see with 50,000 followers are following 60,000 people — a lot of people have this “if you follow me, I’ll follow you” attitude but don’t actually interact. This is a prime example of how a lot of followers doesn’t equal influence.

6. You’re talking, but not listening
If all you’re doing is posting tweets, but not responding to @replies or tweeting other people, then you’ve missed the point of social media. (Hint: It’s to be social.) Also, if you’ve been on Twitter for more than six months and you’re still following more people than are following you, that’s a sign that you’re not listening.

7. “Exclusive” and “breaking” are outdated – stop using those words.
“Exclusive” and “breaking” are old media terms. Three minutes after your “exclusive” interview appears anywhere, Huffington Post has already re-purposed it and 437 blogs, 92 television stations, and 162 radio stations have the same interview. Further, the speed of share has changed the meaning of “breaking news.” Fifty years ago, Walter Cronkite could say something was breaking three days after it happened, and everyone would accept it. Now, as soon as news “breaks” on Twitter, it’s already broken. Everyone already knows it, and if you claim something’s breaking six hours later, it’s just annoying.

8. A twitpic’s worth a thousand words.
You only have 140 characters, so if you’re describing something you saw, take a picture of it. It’ll get the point across faster and better. “Gross, there’s a fly in my burger” isn’t as interesting as an actual picture of it. Plus, a lot of us need to see it to believe it.

9. Trending Topics
“If you tweet it, they will follow.” Some people think mentioning a trending topic in a tweet will get them followers. Worse, they’ll ask “Why is Urkel trending?” which will just make it trend even more without contributing to the conversation. Also, while big news makes trending topics, not all TTs are actual news – I see this a lot especially in the afternoon, when British people are surprised/excited that some 90’s movie is on TV.

10. Fake News
Mick Jagger’s not dead. Neither is Sinbad, Jeff Goldblum or any other celebrity that you’ve read about on Twitter. Worse, this news gets spread further by people tweeting it because “RIP Matt Damon” shows up as a trending topic. Twitter’s like any other media — only believe it if it comes from a credible source (i.e. @CNN.)

11. Can’t say it in 140 characters? Don’t say it on Twitter.
Clerks director Kevin Smith commits this crime a lot, so I stopped following him. Some “social media experts” tried claiming Tumblr is the new Twitter, when that’s not true – Tumblr is for posting stuff that you can’t say in 140 characters. You keep it short and sweet, but you can’t make it short enough? Blog it.

27 random facts about Geoff Herbert.

I was pretty cute when I was 3. What happened?

1. I am related, on my mother’s side, to Guglielmo Marconi – the inventor of radio.

2. I was born with a profound binaural hearing loss, but I didn’t become “DeafGeoff” until I picked my first AOL screen name when I was 12 years old. The handle’s been with me ever since.

3. My three favorite musicians are BT, Z-Trip and Fatboy Slim. But if I was stranded on desert island and could only take one artist’s catalog with me, I’d take Tom Petty’s albums.

4. I’m a huge Shaquille O’Neal fan. I’ve owned his albums, movies, a collector’s plate, even his Shaq Fu video game. To this day, he’s still an amazing all-around person – he left college early for the NBA but still went back to finish college, he’s done police work in the off-season, conducted an orchestra and never anything even remotely controversial.

5. I have no tattoos or piercings, but I did once consider getting some ink on my back while waiting for a friend to get her tattoo.

6. I made my first website in 1996. It was called ‘The Page of Qaz’ and even had a site mascot: The Qazmanian Devil.

7. I made a bucket list in my high school. I only have three or four things left to do on it. Then I’ll make a new list.

8. Even though I grew up in Massachusetts, I was born in Tarzana, California. For years, I thought this entitled me to wear only Pacific Sunwear (now PacSun) clothing and listen to SoCal punk (Green Day and Sugar Ray, neither of which write punk songs anymore). I also ate pizza without the cheese on top, insisting that was “California-style” pizza. It’s not.

9. ASL? I know very little sign language, but I lipread and speak orally thanks to 10+ years of speech therapy.

10. I have never been arrested. [knock on wood]

11. I start a lot of conversations with “say hey,” which I think is something Willie Mays was known for doing. “Say hey, what are you doing this weekend?” “Say hey, who’s that guy who was in that movie that was out last year?”

12. I’m currently working on/thinking about writing two books. Both of them star a hopeful kid named Geoffrey.

13. I once almost strangled myself with a seatbelt. Accidentally. I was goofing around, wrapping it around my neck when the automatic lock started tightening around my neck.

14. I have one blond eyelash.

15. The Buffalo Bills were my favorite football team when I was a kid (during the, ahem, Thurman Thomas and Jim Kelly years) even though I grew up in Massachusetts. Luckily, I grew out of it to become a Patriots fan.

16. I love speaking to students. I’ve been a guest speaker for numerous high school and junior high schools, I’ve been a keynoter for Disability Mentoring Day, I’ve shared my experiences with special needs students and I’ve organized multiple learning conferences for Syracuse University students.

17. The first concert I went to was Bob Dylan.

18. Out of 206 bones in the human body, I have broken five in my life: left clavicle, left thumb, left cheekbone, right fibula, right tibia.

19. I wrote a lot of poetry when I was in my teens. Some of them appeared in the school literary magazine under my favorite pen name, “the anonymous hater of nameless authors.”

20. I started wearing rings and necklaces when I was 12 years old – not effeminate jewelry, just style I was comfortable with (or certain ones had personal meaning) but I stopped wearing the necklaces when I turned 20 (Marty liked to wrestle me and broke one or two of them) and only recently stopped wearing rings (after I broke my leg).

21. I don’t like hot liquids – no coffee, tea or soup for me. Rarely, I’ll have a hot chocolate.

22. In addition to the six years I worked for Clear Channel radio, I’ve worked at Blockbuster Video, Osco Drug (now Rite Aid), and Victoria’s Secret.

23. I now work as an Associate Producer for syracuse.com, but I still get compliments for funny stuff I did on the radio “this morning.”

24. Before mainstreaming in public schools, I attended the Willard School, a preschool for the deaf and hard-of-hearing in Concord, Massachusetts.

25. I write notes to myself constantly: song mixes and mashup ideas, books I’m meaning to buy, top 5 lists, groceries I need, what Brittany’s favorite drink at Starbucks is, et cetera. I make most of the notes on my phone or computer, but I keep a pen in my pocket at all times because I’m phobic about wanting to write something down and forgetting it.

26. My senior quote in the high school yearbook was from a Red Hot Chili Peppers song: “If I should die before I waked, allow me lord to rock out naked.”

27. I turned 27 today.

Top 5 Super Bowl XLV commercials – and the ones that you’ll never buy from again

If your team isn’t playing, then the best part of the big game is the ads. Of course, you care about the game (there were a few great plays) and want great performances (Christina messed up a line of the National Anthem but still sounded good; Black Eyed Peas were one of the better halftime shows in a long time, though my predictions were off).

Here’s my take on the best and worst commercials of this year’s game…

#1 NFL – Best Fans Ever
Simple, and simply awesome. Hits every demographic by including clips from nearly every popular show of the last 40 years: “Full House,” “90210,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Family Matters,” “The Office,” “Happy Days,” “South Park,” “Seinfeld.” Genius. (Anyone else find it odd that the best commercial was for something that we’re all already watching?)

#2 Pepsi Max – Love Hurts (aka The Jealous Girlfriend)
The girls loved this one the most, and it was pretty funny – no explanation required, just watch. All the Pepsi Max ads were good, but this one was the best.

#3 VW Passat – The Force
This plays on the sympathies of every Star Wars fan who ever tried the Jedi mind trick, but it’s cute, and you can’t help but love the little Darth Vader kid. I wonder how much George Lucas got paid for it. See what the kid looks like without the helmet – cute (and a little like Mark Hamill, oddly enough).
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All’s vanity: 8 self-indulgent websites that feed your ego

You’re so vain, you probably think this blog’s about you. This time, you might be right.

According to MSN, today’s college students would rather be praised than have food, money or sex. So it comes as no surprise that the hottest thing on the Internet are vanity sites that serve little purpose save for a cheap ego massage. Here’s eight sites that’ll do just that.

About.me is a business card-like monument to vanity.

1. About.me
A site for the especially narcissistic, About.me lets you fill the screen with a huge photo of yourself. Add a super-short bio and some links to your Twitter and Facebook, and boom, you’ve basically just posted a giant business card. However, a smarter and more useful business card would be your actual blog or site.

[Pictured: Lauralie Lee, who claims she’s “more than just a pretty face.”]

2. Facto
Is one of your ears bigger than the other? Do you have a hidden talent for karaoke? This is the site where you post random facts about yourself, if for no other reason than to talk about yourself.

3. Klout
You have Twitter, and you have 4,978 followers. You might think that makes you pretty cool, but you’re following 6,239 people. Most people that are following you are probably just following you back out of “you follow me, I’ll follow you” blind courtesy. But you still want to know just how influential you really are, and Klout analyzes your Twitter profile and gives you a score. It doesn’t do much more than that, but it’ll certainly give you a pat on the back.

4. Who Gives A Tweet?
Maybe you don’t care about influence, and you just want someone to tell you that you’re funny. Who Gives A Tweet? won’t tell you who cares, but they will let users rate your 140-character posts on a scale from completely useless to totally worth reading.

5. Formspring
You have a lot of secrets that you bet people are just dying to ask you. Well, put your money on the table. Formspring lets anonymous people ask you questions about anything – usually about yourself. So, in other words, you get to answer questions by talking about yourself.

6. Quora
Sort of a Q&A version of Wikipedia, Quora is a strange cousin of Formspring and Ask.com. The interesting difference is that non-experts get more of an opportunity to pretend they’re experts and answer questions that they might have no background on. Quora has recently gotten a lot of attention, but the buzz will die out once people realize the site serves no useful purpose.

7. Foursquare
Ugh, Foursquare. Businesses and brands love the idea of people “checking in” to their location because every check-in is like a little shout-out for their products. I see the advantage for companies to use it for promotions, but I don’t understand why people enjoy it, because they’re basically endorsing them without compensation. However, there is one fun activity that feeds a hungry ego – badges. If you check in enough times someplace, you can be “mayor” and brag to all your friends.

8. Three Words
Ask your friends to describe you in three words. Even if they’re not using nice words, they’re still talking about you, and isn’t that the point of any of these sites? To have people talking to you and about you. Still, it’d be nice if someone wrote “I love you.”

Happy Internetting, you egomaniacs.

The 5 B’s of Blogging

Starting a blog but not sure where to go? Have one that you haven’t updated in months? Here’s five B’s of Blogging (otherwise known as, ahem, the five Be’s of Blogging) to keep your presence on the internet both relevant and interesting.

1. Be passionate.
There are jobs that people do to pay the bills, and then there are jobs that people love so much that they don’t even feel like jobs. For those that feel like blogging is a “chore,” or a “necessary evil,” you either need to change your attitude or blog about something different. For example, a personal blog should only be about what’s personally interesting to you. I’m good at math – I got a perfect score on the SAT in math and a 5 on the BC Calculus exam when I was in high school, but math doesn’t interest me. I’m good at it, but I don’t care about it, so why would I blog about it?

2. Be informative.
If you’re going to wax political about the state of government, or complain about monopolies in the technology and entertainment world, or even just discuss your favorite TV show… then you should know what you’re talking about. Watch the news, listen to a radio show, read a blog, anything – and of course, Google it. The news changes so fast, that you don’t want to be complaining about something that’s already changed. How dumb will you look if you’re posting about a celeb rumor when it’s already been proven false?

3. Be personal.
Even if your blog is professional or topic-focused, don’t be afraid to remind people that you’re a real person with real thoughts, feelings and experiences. I’ve written a lot here, but the most popular post on this blog was an entry about how I broke my leg playing roller derby. Be you. Because you’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.

4. Be useful.
Share links to related stories or topics. If you’re quoting from another source, link back to it, buddy. If there’s a YouTube video about what you’re talking about, embed it on your blog. A picture tells a thousand words to go along with your 350 words. Give a call to action, if there is one, and tell your readers how to take the next step. You could blog about how you hate sticking to a diet, and then share links to five other sites’ tips for how to stick to a diet.

5. Be interesting.
If you don’t like to write, that’s fine. Get a tumblr and share your favorite pictures. Don’t just re-post or regurgitate crap that’s already out there, though. Add your own $.02 and react to what you’re posting. For instance, if you were blogging about rising gas prices, you could include a story about how you once took a road trip through seven states and how amazing it was to see different gas prices throughout your adventures. If you have a sense of humor, use it. If you’re angry, show it. (Don’t use all caps, though.) A simpler way of looking at it: if you’re bored writing it, then they’ll be bored reading it.

For more advice or professional help, I offer web design and social media services.

My Top 5s of 2010 – the year in music, movies and more

I’m a firm believer in Top 5 lists. It’s a great snapshot of not only what a person likes, but what a person is like. Here’s what I liked in 2010:

Top 5 People to Follow on Twitter in 2010 (that you might not already be following)
1. Tracey Thorn (@Tracey_Thorn)
2. BT (@BT)
3. Kelly Lux (@KellyLux, @SyracuseU)
4. Chris Pinckney (@cpinck)
5. The Kirkegaards (@andCKsays, @RexyMamaK and @BabyRex)
Thorn is the voice behind Everything But The Girl (“Missing”) and still does solo albums, but her tweets are the cutest/funniest things you could expect from a 50-year old woman who loves posting about her kids, TV shows, her DJ husband (formerly the other half of EBTG) and how weird it is to hear remixes of her old songs played during group classes at the local gym. BT tweets about music, his beautiful daughter Kaia, spirituality and genuine positivity. Kelly Lux is the wisest lady in Central New York’s social media clique, and she balances sharing wisdom, interesting stories and local information (she also runs Syracuse University’s Twitter account). Chris Pinckney usually doesn’t post more than 2 or 3 times a day, but he’s always cracking me up with observations like “I wonder if bi-curious cats have to pay double for life insurance.” The Kirkegaards are the proud parents of the too-cute-for-words BabyRex and his Look Who’s Talking-esque inner monologue, but I get a kick out of what mom and dad add to my daily conversation, too.

Top 5 Albums of 2010
1. The Black Keys – Brothers
2. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
3. Scissor Sisters – Night Work
4. Tracey Thorn – Love & Its Opposite
5. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

Eels put out two great albums this year, and I also loved the latest releases from BT, David Gray, Robyn, Bettye Lavette, and Ben Folds’ ambitious co-writing project with Nick Hornby. The most interesting music of 2010 had to be David Byrne & Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love, a double-disc mega-collaborative dancefloor-musical ode to Imelda Marcos.
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Stocking Stuffers: 2010’s 30 best new holiday songs

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear (unless it’s Deaf The Halls, good grief). Every year there’s new music for the season, and here are the 30 best holiday songs that came out this year:

AHMIR – “Pray / Let It Snow” (video)
Andrew WK & Rodney the Mailman – “Silent Night” (video)
Asleep At The Wheel – “Santa Loves To Boogie” (mp3)
Beach House – “I Do Not Care For The Winter Sun” (mp3)
The Boy Least Likely To – “Christmas Isn’t Christmas” (mp3)
Cary Brothers – “Father Christmas” (mp3)
Cavo – “Home For Christmas” (stream)
Coldplay – “Christmas Lights” (video)
Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal” (mp3)
The Futureheads – “Christmas Was Better In The 80’s” (video)
Glee Cast – “Deck The Rooftop” / “Jingle Bells” / “O Christmas Tree” (video)
Jack Black & Jason Segal – “Little Drummer Boy 2010” (video)
Kanye West – “Christmas In Harlem” (mp3)
The Killers – “Boots” (video)
The Magnetic Fields – “Everything Is One Big Christmas Tree” (mp3)
Mariah Carey – “Oh! Santa / All I Want For Christmas Is You” (Mashup) (stream)
Maroon 5 w/ Sara Bareilles – “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (video)
NOTA – “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (video) <– for the a cappella/"Sing-Off" fans!
Rihanna – "A Child Is Born" (stream)
Sean Kingston – “Little Drummer Boy” (stream)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – “Ain’t No Chimney In The Projects” (mp3)
She & Him w/ Conan O’Brien – “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” (video)
The Spill Canvas – “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear” (stream)
The Streets – “Scrooge & Marley (I Don’t Want It To Be Me)” (video)
Sufjan Stevens w/ The National – “Silent Night” (stream)
Summer Camp – “Christmas Wrapping” (mp3) <– Waitresses’ Cover
Train – “Shake Up Christmas” (video)
The Walkmen – “Holiday Road” (video) <– from National Lampoon’s Vacation!

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.