The Electric Commentary

Thursday, August 31, 2006

NFC North

The NFC in general is quite odd this year because the East plays the South, and the West plays the North. The East and South are very talented, whereas the South and West have exactly 2 solid teams between them. The consequence of this schedule is that some very worthy team in the East or South will probably miss the playoffs, and some loser team in the North or West will probably sneak in.

That team will not be my beloved Green Bay Packers, a young, rebuilding franchise who hired a coach that no one else wanted (or could even name), with no depth and little talent.

They also wasted a ton of cap space on overrated and highly overpaid Heisman winner Charles Woodson, who is everything that Ahmad Carrol except that he costs about $10,000,000 more. This debacle will haunt them for years. While rookie WR Greg Jennings has shown flashes the Pack lacks anything at RB, and several members of the O-Line are completely overmatched.

It's difficult to see how this team has improved from last year. Perhaps Jennings and A.J. Hawk will provide immediate dividends, and surely the punting will be better, but otherwise this is very much the team that played so terribly last year. I am very pessimistic again.

An easy schedule may get them to 6 wins, but no more than that. GB will be staring up at Detroit.

Detroit has an improving defense, and while their offense is still largely a disaster they did improve at QB with Jon Kitna. I don't have much to say about Detroit. They'll probably have their best season of the Millen era, but so what?

Minnesota will surprise people even though they have lost many important skill-position players. The O-line is significantly better, the defense really started to come around last year, and since Latrell Sprewell choked that girl on Milwaukee's Best the other day (what's with Spree and choking?) people are forgetting about the love boat scandal.

As for the Bears, they did a great job last year considering that, once again, they fielded the NFL's worst QB (actually, Alex Smith was worse). That defense does not need much offense to be successful, and with either Rex Grossman or Brian Griese the Bears look to be a Super Bowl contender. Throw in a laughably easy schedule (due mainly to the fact that they don't have to play the Bears) and they look like juggernauts. They could be as good as 14-2.

Is there any possibility that they faulter? Maybe. Their RB situation is confused, and third-and-longs are the enemies of the Bears. Mushin Muhammad is now in serious decline, and I heard today that Mark Bradley is banged up again, though I'm not aware of the severity.

But the odds are that the Bears will run away with this thing with the Pack running just as speedily in the opposite direction.

I hope the Buck are as good as I think they will be, because this is going to be rough. And with so much turnover in Wisconsin Football. Ugh.

So:
Bears - 12-4 - 14-2
Vikings 9-7
Lions 7-9 - 8-8
Packers - 4-12 - 6-10

That's turning your life around?

Kotera claims to have accumulated the world's largest ball of twine after being touched by God back in 1979. He says he was told to quit drinking beer and turn his life around, he says. About that same time Kotera heard of some people making a giant ball of twine, and he decided he could make a better one.

With leftover twine from a neighbor's farm, he pursued his vision and began to work two to four hours a day on the ball of twine that would come to be called the "Mr. JFK Twine Ball." Now, 27 years and more than 19,000 pounds later, the ball stands in his backyard, about as tall as a person and twice as long.

I salute you, Mr. Kotera, for having the strength to overcome the time-wasting activity of drinking and replacing it with, well, collecting twine for 27 years.

Corrections and Apologies

Correction:

Question 5 in TBT below is impossible because I misremembered Robb Thomas's team. He's actually on the Chiefs opposite Stephon Paige, although he did play for the Bucs (much) later. Sorry about that.

Apology:

To my brother. Last night he drafted Rudi Johnson in the post-auction section of our draft and I, like a complete asshole, put in an offer sheet for $27.00 on him, (for context, LT and LJ went for around $33.00 each) which screwed up Danny's cap space. In my defense:

1. I thought that my offer sheet on Tiki Barber was going to go through, which would have negated my Rudi Johnson offer, and,

2. If Danny did not value Rudi as highly, he could have let me have him, which would have taken up all of my cap space. I used that cap space to sign Brian Westbrook and Reuben Droughns for a combined $28.00, and I will gladly trade both of them, and eat $1.00, for Rudi. In fact, consider that a trade offer.

3. While my bid was quite high, it did not cost Danny $27.00. There were other bids and in the end, I probably only cost you $11.00 or so.

4. It would have been wrong of me to not pursue a player I wanted just because of nepotism.

Apology:

To the guy that wasn't there, and who left instructions to use all of his remaining cap space on Clinton Portis. I'm the one who bid him up to $28.00. Next year, show up.

I'm not that happy with my team this year. It is deep, but steeped in mediocrity, and averageness does not win championships, but as I was champ last year, I suppose some rebuilding was inevitable. And if Shaun Alexander goes down I suddenly have a very good team, so there's still some hope. Danny's team, incidentally, is very good, my shenanigans notwithstanding. Although he did end up with A.J. Hawk.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Football Time

I have my "Complicated" fantasy football draft this evening up in Milwaukee, which means that I will be kicking out of here in the not-too-distant future, which means that Salman and the Pack will have to wait until tomorrow, which is fine because what really is there to say about the Packers? Ughh.

Anyway, in the meantime, you should listen to the August 26th edition of BP radio with guest Aaron Schatz, and read MDS's latest column on the most significant preseason week, if such a thing can be said to exist.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Tecmo Bowl Trivia

In honor of my first fantasy draft, and with the regular season only 10 days away, it's time for the triumphant return of Tecmo Bowl Trivia. All questions pertain to Tecmo SUPER Bowl unless otherwise specified.

1. Who is the fastest nose tackle in the game, due either to a programming error or a programmer with a sense of humor?

2. Jim Kelly, Randall Cunningham, and ___________ do not appear in the game.

3. In the original Tecmo Bowl, who is the Bears' TE, notable due to his ability to catch passes even on "busted" plays?

4. Name the Arizona Cardinals miscolored RB.

5. Tampa Bay's starting RB's last name, and their starting WR's first name share 3/4 of their letters. Name both players.

6. Later in production Eric Dickerson was replaced in the original Tecmo Bowl by this RB.

7. The Pack featured legendary runners like Herman Fontenot, Keith Woodside, and Darryl Thompson. Their fourth RB was acquired via Plan B Free Agency (now available without prescription). Name him.

8. Who starts across from Anthony Carter on the Vikings, and Sterling Sharpe on the Packers?

9. Tecmo Super Bowl features some great running back-by-committee. Bo & Marcus, Christian & Barry, Otis and David, and Ickey Woods & _________?

10. The Jets had some excellent starting WRs, in my humble opinion. Name them.

Bonus: The Eagles had two now deceased players on their starting defense. Name them.

Computer Problems

Today's slowness is not my fault, as the internet has failed in my building. Tomorrow we'll be back with Tecmo Bowl Trivia, Salman Rushdie, and NFC North predictions.

If everything gets fixed, of course.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bill Simmons takes a pilgrimage to Wisconsin

When you visit a random city like Milwaukee, here's the most common question you get: "Why are you going there in August, did somebody die?"

Nope. I went to Milwaukee last weekend to see some friends, hit two baseball games, abuse my body, do some tailgating and make the holy pilgrimage to Lambeau Field. Call it an old-school male bonding weekend, the kind of thing guys did before Vegas became popular.

The article is kinda funny but I definately came to the conclusion that the Sports Guy is a real A-hole. He completely overplays the "Wisconsintes are fat" stereotype.* Hey Bill, the Packer Pro Shop sells 4xl jerseys because people wear them over huge winter coats. He's also quite negative with respect to Brewer Baseball. Typical of Yankee/Redsox fans, but annoying nonetheless. I would not want to attend a game of any kind with him. He also uses the term "sconnies" like he's a sorority girl or something. That said, it's an okay read. Here are some of the better bits:

6:30 -- Gentleman, start your tailgates! We're drinking outside the ballpark, which looks like a giant Space Vulva from the outside

7:48 -- Not to sound like legendary Hollywood producer Bob Ryan, but what if I told you that Gabe Gross uses a Christian song for his at-bat music that includes lyrics like "help me Jesus!" and "Hallelujah!" Is that something you'd be interested in?

I've been mocking Gabe Gross's at-bat music all season. I've been trying to learn the words.

8:09 -- Milwaukee's Billy Hall ties the game with a homer, followed by Bernie Brewer sliding down his slide in right field and landing, feet first, on a catwalk. Wait, why didn't he land in the mug of beer? Chip informs us that they jettisoned the mug a few years ago for PC reasons. You know, because Bernie Brewer landing in a mug of beer was causing the teen drinking rate in Wisconsin to skyrocket. I'm beginning to hate living in this country.

I couldn't agree more. I will be a happy man when they bring back the giant beer mug and put Bernie Brewer back in lederhosen.

8:45 -- Time for the Sausage Race! You can feel the electricity -- it's like those last few moments before the Kentucky Derby gun. The Italian quickly breaks out to a big lead, scurries away from the pack and wins by five lengths as I'm screaming like Jeff Bridges at the end of "Seabiscuit." Twenty bucks, baby! That's the Italian's 22nd win of the season, nine more than the second highest sausage. JackO quickly wonders if they need to start drug-testing the special sauce.

I called that one too. For the last few years I've been a Brat supporter due to my German heritage. But at this very game it dawned on me that this was a stupid way to pick your racing sausage. Since I prefer Italian Sausage to Bratwurst, I picked the Italian and I will continue to do so.

9:45 -- This seems like a good time to mention that (A) this place is almost sold out tonight, (B) it's the bottom of the ninth, (C) nobody has left yet and (D) Brewers fans are like over-supportive Little League parents. It's an old-school baseball crowd, like those super-supportive WWF crowds from the '70s. Anyway, bases loaded, one out, potential franchise player Prince Fielder at the plate ... and he comes through with a single as the park explodes! Brewers win! They're four games out of the wild-card. Fielder gets mobbed by teammates at first base as JackO jokes, "I can't wait to watch him playing for the Yanks in five years." Actually, that wasn't a joke.

Well that last bit isn't a highlight. I can't believe that Yankee fans actually like that they play that role in the MLB.

11:45 -- You know, going to Milwaukee is almost like climbing in a time machine. It's OK to eat bad food and drink heavy beer. It's OK to smoke inside bars and restaurants. It's OK to make small talk and smile at complete strangers. All we're missing is an NBA star causing an HIV scare and it would be 1992 all over again. Screw it, let's play Soundgarden on the jukebox and turn off the condom machine.

Saturday

2:35 -- After working the iPod (plugged into the car radio) like a champ for close to two hours, I finally make a mistake: Playing a rap song right as we pass one of those "NOW ENTERING GREEN BAY" signs. That's just wrong. Three miles to go.

I'm surprised they didn't get arrested.

2:40 -- Now we're giddy. Just got off at Exit 32 (Oneida Street) and we're working our way through downtown Green Bay. During our '93 pilgrimage (just Gallo, Chip and I that time), we got lost near Lambeau and asked for directions, followed by a local telling us, "See that K-Mart over there? Drive up to that, take a right and you'll see the stadium." He wasn't kidding, either. I loved that moment. Unfortunately, they've since built up the area with the usual suspects (Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Target, etc.) and more restaurants (including an I-Hop, which Gallo calls it "the Whole Foods of Green Bay"). But the stadium still stands out on first glimpse. Imagine driving through a small town where you live, then stumbling across a state-of-the-art, 60,000-seat high school stadium. That's what it's like.

That about sums it up.

3:49 -- Our favorite tailgate: An SUV covered in Packers flags and logos, with a "TIX 61" license plate and a banner that reads, "OEDENHOVEN'S OASIS: SEASON TICKET HOLDERS SINCE 1961." Intrigued, I walk over to meet the guy running the tailgate, leading to this exchange:
--Me: "1961, huh? You go to the Ice Bowl?"

--Guy (thick accent): "Oh, yahh."
--Me: "How was it?"
--Guy: "Cold."

I've seen that guy.

5:55 -- We're walking in. I have goose bumps on my goose bumps. We spent the last 20 years ripping down nearly every stadium or arena that ever meant something -- Boston Garden, Montreal Forum, Mile High Stadium, Chicago Stadium, etc. -- and a hallowed few remain. This is one of them.

I can't wait for football season.

8:40 -- It's halftime and I'm going on a cheese curd mission. Earlier in the game, somebody returned in our aisle with something called "cheese curds." Chip's explanation: "When they cook cheese, they save the fatty part that burns off, then they cook that part again, then they deep-fry it. That's how you get cheese curds."

And they're awesome. Why aren't they everywhere? Everyone that comes to this state ends up loving them.

Read the whole thing.



*Men's Fitness Magazine rated Milwaukee the 5th fittest big city in the country. Boston was 10. New York was on the fattest cities list. I'm far fitter than Bill Simmons.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Fun Friday: X On A Plane

Actually, if you think about it, this may be a prequel.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slow Week

Sorry about the lightness of blogging. I've been setting up fantasy leagues, planning trips, and doing several work/fun activities. I also was out of town last weekend and I've been playing catch-up all week. We should return to normal shortly.

In the meantime, the evidence for "Dark Matter" is growing. Which is nice.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Duh

Forbes Magazine made a list of America's drunkest cities. Topping the list is, of course, Milwaukee.

It will come as no surprise that the residents of a city known as "The Nation's Watering Hole" like to have a beer or two.

But Milwaukee isn't just your average brewing town. It's the hardest-drinking city in America, according to Forbes.com's ranking of America's Drunkest Cities.

Milwaukee ranks high for its drinking habits across the board. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey 2004, more than 70% of adult Milwaukeeans reported that they had had at least one alcoholic drink within the past 30 days--the highest percentage on our list. Twenty-two percent of Milwaukee respondents confessed to binge drinking, or having five or more drinks on one occasion--also the highest on our list. And 7.5% of the population were reported as heavy drinkers--adult men that have more than two drinks per day, or adult women who have more than one drink per day.

What a great city!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Little Big League

Check out 13-year-old Saudi Arabian first baseman Aaron Durley.

I can't imagine playing against this guy at that age. He's slightly larger than Ben Wallace.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Fun Friday, Just...Wow.

Here's the worst video ever. Shatner, eat your heart out.



Hat tip, Coyote.

"Can I ask what you're doing?" asked the Trader Joe's employee in a Hawaiian shirt.

Meadows was caught dumpster diving, though he is neither homeless nor destitute. He considers himself a "freegan" -- a melding of the words "free" and "vegan" -- meaning he tries not to contribute to what he sees as the exploitation of land, resources and animals wrought by commercial production.

Read the whole thing if you find vegans and trash-pickers funny. Like I do.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Defending Dave

If you play a song for fifteen minutes, does that make you a "Jam Band?" Absolutely not. Jam Bands share a few distinctive traits. They tend to have a strong Jazz influence, which manifests in the structures of Jam Band tunes. They stick to major keys (generally) shunning the depressing minor spectrum, and they feature their instruments as well as their singers.

Jam Band songs generally follow a pattern in which a dominant melody is established either by the singer or the lead guitar player, followed by extended riffing on that theme, and variation on that theme, by the rest of the band members. It is this structure that leads to all of the incessant noodling around that bothers pop music fans when they attempt to listen to Jam Bands. To the untrained ear, it just sounds like they're wasting time, and occasionally this is true.

The Dave Matthews Band superficially appears to follow this pattern. They feature frequent violin and saxophone solos based on the established song pattern. The thing is, most Dave Matthews Band songs are too structured to make for good jazz. Tunes like Ants Marching, Tripping Billies, Stay, are for the most part, standard pop songs with an occasional instrument solo.

Dave does have a few jammier songs, The Proudest Monkey springs immediately to mind, but no one goes to see Dave to hear The Proudest Monkey. By and large, people go to see Dave to hear pop music with some jam on the side. This accounts for the "annoying crowds" that some Phish fans complain about.

But let's not focus on the bad jamming. The fact is that the DMB excels (or used to excel) at writing tight pop songs.

Ah, but you say that I've not defended Dave from his accusers, I've merely shifted the focus off of the hippies. This is true, but even the most hard-core Phish-head should praise the existence of the DMB, because by pretending to be a Jam Band, Dave has subsidized the continuation and creation of many other legitimate Jam Bands. Take a look at this post from our Phavorite Phish-lovin' blogger Ace Cowboy:

I guess DMB was the headliner of the six-band sun-soaked fiesta, but we left shortly before he serenaded the popped-collared and oversized-sunglassed masses with his own brand of unintelligibility and inferior musicianship.

Say what you will about the man, but Dave puts on a fantastic undercard. We got to see Ace favorites Tea Leaf Green and Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, as well as Yonder Mountain String Band, Slightly Stoopid (which was Slightly Terrible) and the first half of Government Mule.


Here are some facts:

1. Dave is consistently one of the top grossing concert acts out there, and has been for years.

2. Dave almost always has legit jam bands playing with him.

3. While some Jam Bands, like Phish, don't (or didn't, anyway) need any help making a living, some promise of fame and fortune does inspire new bands, and keeps those bands with potential in the game.

4. Dave is, at least partially, a Jam Band subsidy machine.

Dave helps out other Jam Bands. He's the cool guy who gets you into clubs. Sure you've got personality, but no one will ever find out if Dave doesn't get you in front of those people. And you may not even like Dave's people, but their cash is as good as anyone's, and you can use that cash to help promote yourself to your people.

But just helping out impoverished Jam Bands doesn't exonerate Dave from charges of suckiness. Dave also has to play good music, and on that front, it's tough to argue that he fails. Hits notwithstanding, Dave has made some thoroughly enjoyable pop, especially if you're cruising around in the summer. It has not always been groundbreaking, that much is true, but so what? Most music isn't groundbreaking. Dave is less like Phish and more like U2. (Note: Not nearly as good, just in the same category). Ants Marching, What Would You Say, Crush, and Crash, all would sound fine on a radio station playing Achtung Baby and Out Of Time.

Most Dave songs are perfectly pleasant anthems to doing nothing. They're...nice. If you're looking to see a show where you can sing a little and dance a little, you could do worse than Dave, and that's why people keep coming back. For all of Dave's jammy-style noodling, he's actually pretty consistent (worst concert ever notwithstanding). Some people have no patience for Jazz and Jam Bands because of its instability. Dave gives them exactly what they expect most of the time, and in a genre where everything is in flux, it's nice to look at the concert bill and think to yourself,

"Hey, at least we know that Dave will be OK."

Monday, August 14, 2006

Norm!

Here's Penn's interview with Dr. Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution, via Reason. Dr. Borlaug is still pretty sharp considering that he's 92 years old.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Fun Friday: Busy

I'm unexpectedly busy this Friday, so the Dave defense will have to wait until the weekend, but in the meantime, here's some tumbling:



(H/T, Mike & Katie)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Top 8 Concert Songs

These are, of course, my top 8 concert songs as I have to have seen them for them to count. These are songs that really stood out to me, that I prefer to both their album versions as well as to other songs by these artists.

8. Don't Drink The Water, The Dave Matthews Band

A short preview to a future post in which I will defend Dave from Phish-head assault, Dave is much maligned by true hippy-folk because, even though they play with jam bands, and even though they meander on at length jam band style, they are not a jam band. They're actually a different genre altogether. But this is unimportant.

What is important is that several years ago I saw them play a show at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee that was distinct for its lack of jamming. Every song was 4 minutes long. It was a beautiful thing. Don't Drink The Water stood out for its uniqueness, a true hard rock song performed by a band with a violin and saxophone. They're not always up to the task, but they were on this evening, blasting a raucous version which could have easily been mistaken for an 80s hair metal tune. A few months later they would play the worst concert that I have ever seen at Alpine Valley, but on this night they found their true element as a tight, pop band. I've yet to hear a Dave song that is its equal.

7. Hope I Never Lose My Wallet, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

St. Patrick's Day at The Metro in Chicago featured local Irish rock troupe The Tossers, as well as the Boston ska legends. The Bosstones broke out every hit in their arsenal, but they excelled on this concert-friendly tune with it's eminently singable refrain:

HOPE I NE-VER LOSE MY WAL_LET!

Hearing "Wallet" on the album you immediately know that it's meant to be performed live, and on this St. Paddy's night they knocked it (and everything else) out of the park. As a rule you should see the Bosstones whenever possible, as they are always fun as hell, but they're probably in short supply as lead singer Dickie Barrett is now the announcer for Jimmy Kimmel Live. At least he was the last time I saw that show. Which was like a year ago.

This was one of two truly heroic Bosstones shows that I've witnessed, as they also played the Wisconsin State Fair in 100 degree heat, in suits.

Here's a clip from an old Warped Tour:



6. The Weight, Travis

While I was in law school Marquette managed to book an actual good band to play at their dinky auditorium (and they had Remy Zero opening, pre-Smallville). The lower level was jam packed, but a friend and I managed to sneak upstairs into the press area for the entire show, and everyone just assumed that we belonged there.

The crowd was really into the show and the band seemed genuinely appreciative. They ran through most of their songs (they only had two albums at the time) including what I believe was the last ever rendition of their cover of "Hit Me Baby One More Time," but they still wanted to play a few more. They came back out, played a few verses of AC/DC's back in black, and launched into The Bands' classic tune.

Every member of Travis has a lead singer's voice, and their harmony during the chorus was outstanding. It's tough to sing "The Weight." One of the worst songs that I've ever heard is a Wallflowers' version. Just awful. On this night, Travis was not going to play anything unless it was perfect, and they hit every note, and hit it with feeling. It wasn't The Band, but it was as close as I'm likely to get.

Here's an OK version:



5. Paranoid Android, Radiohead

It was 98 degrees in Grant Park for the brilliant weirdness that is Radiohead, as they played a show that is still legendary 'round these parts. Everyone claims to have been there, and it's quite possible that everyone was. Thom and crew played their greatest song with their greatest intensity, leading an enormous sing-along, and leading everyone out of the punishing heat, at least for a moment.

From a great height, from a great height,
God loves his children, God loves his children,

Yeah.


Radiohead is one of, if not my favorite band, and I'm always glad that I managed to see one of their all-time best performances. This will give you some idea:



4. Dr. Worm, They Might Be Giants

Back in the before time, in the long-long ago, when I was in college, there was a club in Madison called Bullwinkles. It was one of Madison's only dance clubs at the time, and it frequently featured 2 a.m. fights, underage kids, and a seediness that out-skanked the many skanky bars in the general vicinity. A veritable skank-central station. Bullwinkles would soon go out of business and become Club Amazon, which would go out of business and become Madison Ave., which was a prominent player in Danny's graduation party, but that's a story for another day. What is important is that, at this violent, salacious, meat market, I saw They Might Be Giants play a show.

I'm not sure how this happened, but they made the most of the unique environment. They were clearly very entertained at the surroundings and knocked the goofiness up a few notches. While Giants' staples Ana Ng and Birdhouse In Your Soul were up to par, they really got into lesser known Dr. Worm, opening and closing the show with it. Fitting for such strange Johns.

Since MTV doesn't play videos anymore, I may as well pick up the slack:



3. Race For The Prize, The Flaming Lips

On Saturday the Flaming Lips played at Lollapalooza. Wayne came out, explained that, due to the fact that it was daytime, and it was outside, his usual entrance was not going to have the same impact that it usually does, but if anyone asks, we should lie and say that it was amazing. Well, it was amazing. Where do they keep all of that stuff backstage?

Wayne got into his hamster ball and walked around on the crowd, rolled back to stage, and as he exited the band broke into the intro to The Soft Bulletin, and got things rolling in style. So to speak. "Race" is one of the few Flaming Lips' tunes that will get people dancing, and really, what better way to kick off a show.



2. Tear, Smashing Pumpkins

Shortly after releasing the vastly underrated "Adore," the Pumpkins attempted to mount a free, nationwide tour. Every city in the US said "no," citing security concerns. That is, except for Minneapolis Minnesota, which booked them into their Aquatennial festival. (Note: They've only had water in Minnesota for 100 years. Before that they ate ice cubes.) Cracker did a commendable job opening the show, and the Pumpkins, clearly showing appreciation for the city (which had also declared it "Smashing Pumpkins" day) played an excellent, and very long set. "Tear" is a fairly nondescript tune on "Adore." The instrumentals on the album are mostly a recording of a distorted orchestra.

But, if you take those orchestral notes and convert them into Guitar, you get a entirely new, and much better, song. This was probably the best show I've ever seen, and Tear was the highlight, to the point that the album version continues to disappoint.

Here's a version:



1. Add It Up, The Violent Femmes

Daaaaaaaaaaay after daaaaay,

I get angry, and I will say,

That the day, is in my sight,

When I'll take a bow, and say goodnight.


The Violent Femmes play as well as they can every night. This plucky little band from Milwaukee doesn't have a very high ceiling on talent, but they more than make up for it through sheer force of will. Add It Up is one of their many classics, and a tailor made concert tune. The almost entirely distinct first segment builds from innocent angst into creepy vulgarity. What follows is a melding of insane guitar solos and an almost story-like, multi-verse bridge. There's not really anything else like it in pop music, actually:

Oh my my my my my oh my mum
Have you kept your eye
Your eye on your son?
I know you've had problems
You're not the only one
When your sugar left, he left you on the run

Mo my my my my my mo my mum
Take a look now
Look what your boy has done
He's walking around like he's number one
You went downtown and got him a gun.

Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
You know you got my sympathy
But don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
Don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me
You know you got my sympathy
But don't shoot shoot shoot that thing at me

Broken down kitchen at the top of the stairs
Can I mix in with your affairs?
Share a smoke, Make a joke
Grasp and reach for a leg of hope
Words to memorize, words hypnotize
Words make my mouth exercise.
Words all fail the magic prize
Nothing I can say when I'm in your thighs

Oh my my my my my mo my mother
I would love to love you lover
City's restless
It's ready to pounce
Here in your bed from ounce to ounce
Sayin' oh my my my my my mo my mother
I would love to love you lover
The city's restless
It's ready to pounce
Here in your bed from ounce to ounce

I've given you a decision to make
Things to lose, things to take
Just as she's about ready to cut it up
She says
Wait a minute honey I'm gonna add it up


These aren't verses exactly. They're what lies between verses, and this builds and builds and builds, culminating in a musical climax of epic proportions.

If you have an opportunity to see The Violent Femmes, you should. They won't be around for ever...well, actually they might be around forever, but you should see them anyway. Even if you hate every minute of it (which you won't, they also have Blister in the Sun, and Kiss Off, and American Music), it will be worth it for Add It Up.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Scott Adams: The New Dave Barry?

What guy can't relate to this?

Once in a while I experience a problem that I wonder if anyone else in the world has ever had. Yesterday was one of those times.

I was packing for a one week cruise with my new family and spied some briefs in a drawer that I hadn’t worn since I-don’t-know-when. So I figured I’d give them a go as part of my travel outfit. This turned out to be a big mistake.

For the benefit of the ladies reading this, let me explain a bit about the architecture of men’s briefs. We’re all about efficiency, so most traditional briefs have a flap in the front for quick extraction of your Johnson. That allows us to drink caffeinated beverages (from a cup, not our Johnson) right up to the last moment when it would be too late to make it to the restroom. Then it’s just zip-yank-wizzzzzz. It’s all good.

As a practical matter, I think most guys do the “pull down” move as opposed to snaking it through the flap hole. But in any event, the flap hole is there if you need it, perhaps more for tradition than anything else.

Now sometimes a pair of briefs – for reasons I cannot understand – have the most annoying characteristic you could ever imagine: In the course of normal walking and sitting, the wearer’s weinershnitzel ends up poking halfway through the flap hole like a turtle coming out of its shell. And before long, the most sensitive part of your body is wedged between your briefs and the harsh denim material of your pants.

As I walked toward the departure gate, I was choking Private Johnson and giving him a noogie at the same time.


It gets better too.

Lolla-review-za

Let's get a few things out of the way right off the bat. eels. They suck. They were the suckiest bunch of sucks who've ever sucked. Mr. E's musical turd. And I like the eels, which made things all the worse. I think we need a new rule:

If you normally sing your songs, screaming them will not make them better.

I like birds too but you don't have to be so loud about it.

Friday was the day that I saw bands fronted by crazies, assholes, and crazy assholes. Ryan Adams, for instance, is a crazy asshole. I've been burned by Mr. Adams before, and this was no exception. The guy plays great, sings good, writes a mean pop song, but on this occasion he decided only to play songs that no one knows. Not a one. He kept the deranged ranting to a minimum, which was nice, and he was proficient at his weird songs, but man, he's just a huge douchebag.

Aqualung was OK, not great. It's hard to listen to a mellow band during lunch time. It's just a tough assignment They were non-offensive.

The day picked up with Iron and Wine. I always had them pegged as extremely mellow, but they're mellow in an intense kind of way. Plus the lead singer deserves all kinds of credit for braving the heat with an enormous beard. The day had been a bit rough to this point. The sun was blistering, (Literally. I'm not used to putting sun block on the receding portion of my hairline, and I've got a mean baldness burn.) and the bands had been fronted by insane jerks. But Iron and Wine really picked us up.

Next we made the long trek across Grant Park to catch the Raconteurs, Jack White's little side project. This is a good, solid, rock band. They play a fun, loud show, and they play like they mean it. They even played a little Gnarls Barkley Crazy cover. That Jack is a talented fellow.

The reliable Violent Femmes know what people want; Blister in the Sun, Kiss Off, Country Death Song, etc. I'm sure they played Add It Up as well, but we had to vamoose to catch Death Cab for Cutie. If you have an opportunity to see the Femmes, you should. That's my motto.

The much maligned DCFC, unfairly tarnished as pop sellouts for their OC fame, play a very good show. They write interesting instrumentals in interesting time signatures. Instruments go in an out, and it all makes sense. I like it when you can tell that a lot of work went into something, and that it wasn't in vain. Ben Gibbard's voice is not the fullest, but his distinctiveness more than makes up for it. They sounded great, except on The Sound of Settling where someone's guitar was out of tune, which was apt, I suppose.

The following day we got going a bit late. While we were waiting for the Flaming Lips we heard the Dresden Dolls. This band is based on the juxtaposition of weird, gothy clown makeup combined with Jack-in-the-box music, plus disturbing lyrics. They were quite horrible, but, since we didn't feel bad about leaving early we were able to get close to the Lips (pictures to follow). We also saw Matt Pinfield (yep, still alive) interviewing Wolfmother. For the record, they do powder his noggin before going on camera.

Wayne Coyne's toxic super freak-out was a good time for all. He rolled in the the giant hamster ball, they had dancing aliens, Santas, and their stage-hands were dressed like super heroes. They also played a mean set of fantastic songs, and pelted us with blue balloons. And I'm a still a bit high from the second hand smoke.

It is also worth noting that Wayne made a bit on an anti-Israeli speech, which is fine. Musicians make political speeches. However, I couldn't help wondering if this led them to leave Fight Test off of the set list.

We then hiked on over to The New Pornographers, who had been scheduled to play in between Common and Kanye West, which was strange. I'm a big fan, and they didn't disappoint me, although the crowd didn't seem that revved up. They're a little B-52s, and a little Pixies, and I'm a sucker for male/female harmonization for some reason. Good energy.

We kicked off before Kanye. Not a big fan.

As a side note, on our train ride to the park we encountered a guy doing the "3-cups and a hidden ball" gambling game, and people were actually playing. How can people do this? How can you wager actual money on a game that you know for certain is rigged. I'm not sure of the explanation, but I'll bet it explains some breakdown in economic theory. On the way home I rode the train with Chicago street performer icon "The Tin Man." This guy stands on a little pedestal, painted all in silver with futuristic tin man accessories and a funnel hat, and he will only move, robot style, if you toss a buck in his bucket. He stayed in character on the train, which was both impressive and annoying.

Sunday started with The Shins. Nope, it didn't change my life. They were fine, but The Shins lead singer does a lot of self harmonization on their albums, which is tough to recreate live. They were also plagued by tech problems and seemed to be a bit pissed about it. Not a bad show, but also not up to expectations.



From left to right, Katie, Mike, Ben, and Me at the shins show.

Chicago darlings Wilco played a set that would have been nice for a group of insomniacs looking for a fun night sleep inducement. Jeff Tweedy, who is really starting to look like a Muppet, walked through a dull set of dull Wilco songs with little flair. Their one bright spot, the up-beat Heavy Metal Drummer, briefly revved up the audience, but they quickly faded back into their boring ways. Where's Son Volt when you need them?

Blues Traveler played after Wilco to wake everyone up. They sound exactly like you think they should sound. I will say this, John Popper would make a pretty good Jake Blues. Better than Jim Belushi, anyway.

Before the RHCP we caught a few tunes from Broken Social Scene. They were pleasant, and may be worth further investigation.

Finally we have the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They were fine. I'll be honest. We left a bit early to beat traffic. There is only so much crowded L traffic that one person can take. The Chili Peppers were exactly what you would expect, with their funky beats and wild shenanigans. They sounded good, as you would expect, but I was suffering from some show burnout and I was still a bit sleepy from Wilco. Rumors were circulating that some big surprise would take place, so hopefully I didn't miss anything too cool, but I suspect not.

I'm not sure how much I dig the big music festival. Some bands were great, but many did not seem to break out their best stuff. Bad playlists plagued many bands, and I think this may have been the result of having a somewhat captive audience. Still, it was fun, and the bands that I really enjoy did, by and large, play good sets.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Does Your City Have A Fashion Industry?

The City of Chicago is hiring a "Fashion Czar." No, really:

Turner stepped into the $40,000-per-year job this spring after spending seven years as a lawyer working primarily on real estate transactions. Deciding to switch careers, she took classes at the Illinois Institute of Art in fashion marketing and management and volunteered at fashion shows. This is Turner's first fashion job.

One of her initial tasks is to pull together a database of the fashion industry in Chicago. While fashion is worth billions nationally, Turner says she is just starting to get an idea of the economic clout and overall size of the business in Chicago, though she has counted about 150 independent designers.

Next she plans to create a Chicago fashion Web site that will help designers find materials, retailers find designers and tourists find shopping areas.

She is also working with Federated Department Stores Inc. to create a fashion incubator at the Marshall Field's State Street store (soon to be Macy's) where selected designers will receive production space and mentoring from Macy's buyers.


Now there's a good use of tax dollars.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Fun Friday: Heat Wave

It's hot everywhere.

Fun Friday: Lollapalooza

I'm off to the show, to see these guys,



and this guy:



and Jack's new band:



and these old dudes:



and these guys:



Cheers.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quote Of The Day

Castro killed members of my family.

My dad had to pack up his suitcase at 10 years old with his three brothers, who had nothing. And my mother was 11 years old and my grandfather, who’d been a dentist for 15 or 20 years, had to go back to school to be (politically) re-educated.

My cousins were political prisoners. My father-in-law was a political prisoner for 15 years because, at 19, they asked him if he agreed with communism and he said, 'No,' so they sentenced him to death. That’s not the way to live. I know it’s terrible to say, but I think of all of that and I hope he (Castro) passes away.

I don’t care if he dies. There are so many people who have died because of him and there’s been so much wrongdoing and so many human rights violations that I hope he does die. That sounds bad, but it’s the truth.

Reports are that Eighth Street is as crazy as when the Marlins won the World Series, and that was crazy, I think if I was watching the media and I saw that in, say, Jamaica, that they’re celebrating someone’s illness, I’d think it was kind of weird. But what you have to understand, and what hits home with me, is what my family has been through.


-Boston Red Sox Third Baseman Mike Lowell, on Castro.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Big Government War

From Alex Tabarrok:

War is big government, authoritarianism, central planning, command and control, and bureaucracy in its most naked form and on the largest scale. The Pentagon is the Post Office with nuclear weapons.

If this war has been worse on these scores than others, and I have my doubts, we can at least be thankful that the scale of death and destruction has been smaller. At the Battle of the Somme there were a million casualties and 300,000 deaths over the course of a few months. If we remember previous wars more fondly this is only because those wars we won. Incompetent planning and poor execution are not fatal so long as the other side plans and executes yet more incompetently.

Is this a suggestion to put the current war in context? Not at all. It is suggestion to put government in context.

Bailey On Stem Cells and Life

Reason's Ron Bailey wrote the following shortly after the President's first veto:

Bush claims he’s blocking stem cell research because each embryo “is a unique human life with inherent dignity and matchless value.” If that were true, we would constantly be in the midst of a holocaust. John Opitz, a professor of pediatrics, human genetics, and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Utah, testified before the President’s Council on Bioethics that millions of embryos — between 60 percent and 80 percent of all naturally conceived embryos — are simply flushed out in women’s normal menstrual flows unnoticed. This is not miscarriage we’re talking about. The women and their husbands or partners never even know that conception has taken place. What are we to think about the fact that Nature (and for believers, Nature’s God) profligately creates and destroys human embryos?

Of course, culturally we do not mourn the deaths of these millions of embryos as we would the death of a child — and reasonably so, because we do in fact know that these embryos are not people. Similarly, 3- to 5-day old frozen embryos leftover from in vitro fertilization attempts are not people either. It is true that every person was once an embryo, but not all — in fact, most embryos do not become people.

Back in 2001, President Bush declared in a nationally televised speech that he was restricting federal funds to research on existing embryonic stem cell lines, “where the life and death decision has already been made.” The bill that Bush vetoed would have allowed federal funding for research using stem cell lines derived from embryos leftover from fertility treatments. Studies show there are as many as 400,000 surplus embryos currently frozen in U.S. fertility clinics. Since the couples who created the embryos have no intention of implanting them in an attempt to bear children, those frozen embryos are just like the embryos that produced the stem cell lines that President Bush supports — the “life and death decision” has already been made for them. The vast majority of those spare embryos will simply be discarded unless they are used for stem cell research.


 
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