Monday, April 30, 2007

Pressed in love's hot fevered iron

MacArthur Maze is melting in the dark
All the sweet black asphalt flowing down
Someone left their tanker truck in flames
I don't think the maze can take it
And it won't take long to break it
And we'll never have that overpass again

Free transit!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Little hands Clapping

Went to see the Orange Peels last night at the Stork Club, the second of two nights that I saw Seattle's Central Services. I also saw them on an early Friday show with the Bye Bye Blackbirds at the Makeout Room.

Anyhow, I didn't even know the Orange Peels were still actively playing. Last night's show was supposed to be an Allen Clapp solo show, but he recruited 4/5ths of the OPs So Far lineup (drummer John Moremen and guitarist Bob Vickers along with Allen's wife/bassist Jill Pries) for their first show in awhile. Still, they sounded as tight as if they'd been playing together all this time, playing mostly tunes from their first two albums.

I also finally picked up Allen's Something Strange Happens CD, which has all of his lo-fi solo singles and compilation tracks all in one place. He started recording 4-track masterpieces in the late-80s, long before it was fashionable, and kept it up until a few years ago when cheap digital recording and Pro Tools made 4-track cassette recording extinct. Many of the songs (including the title track of the compilation) were later given the full-band treatment by the Orange Peels, but the initial four-track versions sound more definitive. In the recording notes, he says he didn't like to use drum machines , so he would sample drums from various classic bands (the snare from a Stones album, kick-drum from a Doors album) and "play" the percussion like another instrument. This gives these songs a homemade charm , and makes the beats sound more "real" than something generated by a drum machine. I don't know why it took me so long to pick this release up. It's put me in a good mood all day!

And speaking of good moods, hats off to the Warriors. Even if you hate basketball, you've got to love this! Watching the Mavs ower Mark Cuban pout and whine on TV as his overrated team throws the game away is its own reward.

Friday, April 27, 2007

When I was 40 in the year 2007

A belated happy birthday to Anton Barbeau, who hit the big four-oh earlier this week. I somehow dropped off Anton's mailing list when I changed email addresses, so I've been missing his periodic wackiness in my inbox. And he seems to spend most of his time in the UK these days, so I haven't been able to see Anton live since the show he did with the Loud Family on New Year's Eve eve.

I wanted to to mark the occasion by picking a few of my favorite Anton songs to share, but it's difficult to pick just a few. Because I'll be honest with you, I love his music. I do. As Bob Slydell would say "I am an Anton Barbeau fan". And many of you who are reading this may also be Anton fans, maybe because of me.

To whittle it down from his tons of worthwhile choices,here are five of my favorite Anton songs with numbers in their titles. Nothing says "happy birthday" better than buying a CD, so pick up one of his discs you don't already own. All the discs can be purchased here. That Anton photo is stealing their bandwidth so it's the least we can all do.

Anton Barbeau
  1. When I Was 46 In The Year 13
    (from In The Village of the Apple Sun, 2006)
  2. Pop Song 99
    (with the Loud Family, from What if It Works?, 2006)
  3. 6 Hours Later
    (from 17th Century Fuzzbox Blues, 2000)
  4. 3rd Eye
    (from A Splendid Tray, 1999)
  5. Allyson 23
    (from Waterbugs & Beetles, 1995)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Town to town, up and down the dial

One of my favorite shows I've been wanting to see on DVD is WKRP in Cincinnati. It's been stuck in musical licensing limbo, because the rights for the songs used in the show (most of which were integral to the plots) would have been prohibitively expensive to obtain. That's also why the show hasn't been in syndication for awhile.

The first season was released on DVD this week, but with its original songs replaced by generic soundalike songs. So the legendary Thanksgiving episode doesn't have the scene with Johnny playing Pink Floyd's "Dogs", Jennifer's doorbell doesn't play "Fly Me To The Moon", etc. etc.

On one hand, it's nice to be able to watch this classic show (it hasn't even been in syndication for awhile, thanks to music licensing), but many of the songs were an important part of the show, and having the show without the music is like having the pictures without the sound. Apparently it's a combination of Fox wanting to keep the costs affordable, and music publishers asking too much to re-license the original songs.

Hopefully this set will sell well enough that the studio will spring for the music licenses on later seasons. That "Tiny Dancer" episode just doesn't make much sense without the song "Tiny Dancer"! At least most of the dialog is still intact: "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In a golden state of mind

After Sunday night's victory over the Mavericks, I'm solidly on the Golden State Warrior bandwagon for the remainder of their playoff run. I used to follow NBA basketball all the time during the early 90s, but it fell off my radar after the Bay Area got an NHL hockey team, and Jordan's first retirement turned NBA basketball boring. And the local team started sucking big time. This is the Warriors first playoff appearance since 1994, and they haven't even been close to respectable for most of these years. But this year's team are classic underdog favorites. They probably won't get past Dallas (they lost tonight), but they've brought back some of their RunTMC era excitement. It all went downhill for the Warriors after they traded Mitch Richmond for Billy Owens in 1992.

And check out the length of tonight's A's - Mariners game 1:47 I'm a big fan of short baseball games, I think sub two-hour games are like no-hitters. Jerod Washburn and Joe Blanton kept getting guys out, but the M's got a couple of solo home runs and beat the A's 2-0. The baseball game ended before the basketball game that started one hour earlier. One hour and forty seven minutes is the quickest game I've ever seen, in person or on television.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Clouds from both sides now

The new double-CD release by Future Clouds and Radar (Robert Harrison's post-Cotton Mather combo) was just added to emusic.

With 27 songs, this album is probably better to buy the old-fashioned way than via-download, but it's worth checking out in any format.

Cotton Mather's Kontiki is one of my favorite releases of the last decade, and their other two discs are also on my high-rotation list, so I've been looking forward to some new songs from Robert Harrison.
It takes some chutzpah (or stones) for a new band to put out a 27 song double disc as their debut, but nearly all the songs on the FC&R album are keepers. It's a bit more all over the map that Cotton Mather's straight Beatlesque pop, but it's more like Robert's vision expanded to double-length. And Game Theory's Lolita Nation had 27 tracks too!

The other two former Cotton Mather members (Dana Myzer and Whit Williams) have formed a band called Stockton with Ron Flynt of 20/20 fame. They have one song ("Dreamworld") on their myspace page and a new full-length due in "late 2006", which is myspacespeak for "sometime before Guns & Roses Chinese Democracy comes out".

Sunday, April 22, 2007

How Barry got his groove back

I headed to Big Phone Company park yesterday to watch Zito and the Giants against the Diamondbacks. It was a crummy, overcast day with drizzling rain throughout, but a great day. Barry Z. held the D-backs to four hits and no runs over seven and a third, Barry B. hit is 739th career homerun, and the Giants won 1-0. And Armando Benitez even saved the one-run lead in the 9th!

Bonds hit the homerun to straightaway center, and I was in the edge of the right field bleachers about five feet away from where it landed. Say what you will about Barry, but he hits the most awesome home runs. This one was a high flyball that just kept going. Even though Hank Aaron and Bud Selig said they aren't going to be present when BB breaks the HR record, it's probably still going to happen all the same. Hammerin' Hank better get that telegram ready..

And Zito was in his groove. Curveball, fastball, changeup, he was working. Lots of people were quick to hate him after his first two shaky starts, but he hasn't given up any runs in his last two starts against the Rockies and Diamondbacks. I'm still not sure he's worth $136M, but he's fun to watch when he's dealing.

Friday, April 20, 2007

FOMM: Earth Daze

It's April 20th, so everyone knows this weekend is Earth Day, Merry Christmas, Happy Birthday to whoever's being born.

Here are five "meaningful and worthy, kind of earthy" songs from the last five decades about the need to protect Mother Earth.

From the 1960s:
The Turtles - Earth Anthem
(from Battle of the Bands, 1968)

Starting in the 1960's with the Turtles' "Earth Anthem", a spiritual/environmental song from their classic 1968 Battle of the Bands album. The Turtles have many more great songs than their top 40 hits ("Happy Together","Elenore"), and their entire catalog is on emusic, in case you're looking for some cool tunes to fill up your monthly download quota.

From the 1970s:
The Beach Boys - Don't Go Near The Water
(from Surf's Up, 1971)

In a similar vein to the Turtles' song, the 1970's entry is the Beach Boys' "Don't Go Near The Water" from the 1971 album Surf's Up. It was also the B-side of the title track single, creating one of the best contrasting A/B sides ever! ("Surf's Up"/"Don't Go Near The Water"). Despite the attempt at "topical" material and Love/Jardine songwriting credit, it's a pretty good song from the time of the inaugural Earth Day.

From the 1980s:
The Lilac Time - Big Yellow Taxi
(from Welcome to Hell, 1989)

In that same year of the first Earth Day, Joni Mitchell wrote "Big Yellow Taxi", a vaguely ecological song about paving paradise to put up a parking lot. From the 1980's, here's a cover of this tune by The Lilac Time, from the B-side of the single "American Eyes", and the wonderfully-titled EP Welcome To Hell, Here's Your Accordion.

From the 1990s:
- What Are We Gonna Do?
(from Vinyl, 1991)

The Earth Day song for the 90s is Dramarama's "What Are We Gonna Do?" from their Vinyl album in 1991. John Easdale wrote the song as an offhand "theme" to Earth Day II in 1990 and it became a surprise hit on SF's Live 105 and other modern rock stations (they called Alternative "modern rock" back then).

From the 2000s:
Jill Sobule - Manhattan In January
(mp3 only, 2006)

And bringing it up to now, or at least last year, here's an an mp3-only song by Jill Sobule called "Manhattan in January". It's a tongue-in-cheek ditty about the "joys" of global warming that Jill wrote and performed at the TED 2006 festival.

Everyone have a happy Earth Day, and try to reduce your ecological backpack by not burning these tracks to CD-R until you have enough to make it worth the strain on our environment. After all, it's the only environment we have!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Like traffic and weather

The metacritic score for Fountains of Wayne's Traffic and Weather is up to 70 ("generally favorable"), and the early slams by Pitchfork and Stylus have been offset by enough positive reviews to reveal them for the outliers that they are. So now it's time for my reflections on this album.

I like it. I think it's better than Welcome Innerstate Managers and the first one but not as good as Utopia Parkway. If you like FoW's kind of thing, this album is more of the same. But if you don't like the Fountains, it probably won't change your mind about them. So I won't try to change your mind. But I will filch the negative Pitchfork review.
At this point, it's no secret that Fountains of Wayne are not the world's best lyricists.I could fill this review with forced, awkward, and downright embarrassing lines from Traffic and Weather, but few people are looking to this band for lyrical wit and insight.
Count me among "few people", because lyrical wit and insight are the exact traits that I think separate Adam and Chris from their pop peers. And Schlesinger's lyrics are all top-notch: each song is like a self-contained short story with characters and a plot.
The band seems to be veering increasingly towards stories and "themes" in their songs, and the results can be pretty nightmarish-- it's all forced structure and no payoff, like a joke stripped of its humor.
They aren't "veering increasingly" toward stories and themes, it's what they've always done! Nearly every Fountains of Wayne song is a character study. And it's what makes them more than a joke band. As an example, "Someone To Love", the first single from the new album tells the story of two lonely professional, Seth and Beth. Each verse gives more details from their lives and they seem destined to meet up at the end, but they don't.

Seth Shapiro is trying in vain
To hail a taxi in the morning in the pouring rain
Beth MacKenzie sees one just up ahead
She cuts in front of him and leaves him for dead

If it were a movie, Seth and Beth would share a taxi, fall in love and live happily ever after. But in this song, Beth cuts in front of Seth, takes the taxi herself, and they miss the opportunity to meet up. It makes it heartbreaking in a bizarre way, more like real life than a movie.

Most Fountains of Wayne songs have a similar formula, which is finding a meaning in the mundane details of everyday life: getting a tattoo to impress a girl, being stuck in traffic, waiting for luggage at the baggage claim or a coffee refill at the diner. Crafting poetry and songs from regular experiences isn't that easy, but FoW does it so effortlessly. On to the first sentence in the last paragraph of the Pitchfork review.
We should expect much, much more from pop music than this kind of bullshit.
Who is "we"? Like one of the commenters on the Onion AV Club said, "reading people hating on Fountains of Wayne really damages my calm". I realize that musical taste is subjective, and FoW might not be everyone's cup of mocha, but they're hardly worthy of the hatred they're receiving from some corners. Their kind of bullshit is exactly what I expect from pop music.

I bought tickets to see Fountains of Wayne in a couple of weeks. Even though they had a hit single last time out, they're still playing small venues with reasonable ticket prices like the Great American Music Hall in SF. They don't have a reputation as a great live band, but their sound is ideal for a small place like the GAMH. It should be a great show.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

All aboard the playoff bandwagons!

I'll let you on the Sharks bandwagon
if you let me on the Warriors bandwagon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Right Down The Baseline

Two of today's celebrity birthdays in the paper are singer Gerry Rafferty and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who both turn 60. Gerry and Kareem were both born on April 16, 1947, one day after Jackie Robinson entered the major leagues, and have led near parallel lives for the last 60 years.

In the late 60s, Gerry Rafferty started his musical career in a folk duo called the Humblebums with Billy Connolly (yes, that Billy Connolly!) while Lew Alcindor was leading John Wooden's UCLA Bruins to an 88-2 record and three straight NCAA basketball titles. In the early 1970s, Rafferty went on to form Stealer's Wheel with Joe EGAN Ely, and had a major hit with "Stuck in the Middle With You", while Lew Alcindor converted to Islam, changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and helped lead the Milwaukee Bucks to the 1970-71 NBA title.

In the mid-1970s, Stealer's Wheel broke up and Kareem was traded to the Lakers, but both Gerry and Kareem continued to be successful. Rafferty had two mega hit singles on his 1978 City to City album ("Baker Street" and "Right Down The Line") while Kareem starred for the LA Lakers and started acting in movies (Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon and the Zucker brothers' Airplane! being the most known) .

According to imdb, Gerry Rafferty hasn't appeared in any movies, but his best-known songs "Baker Street" and "Stuck In The Middle" have appeared in lots of soundtracks. And Gerry isn't Muslim like Kareem, but he has worked with Richard Thompson, who is. So they're almost like non-identical twins.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

There's the reds and there's the blues

I've only been following English and European soccer since I started getting digital cable (i.e. FSC) a few years ago, but the Saturday and Sunday matches are already one of the highlights of my week. I'm even starting to understand the multiple morass of confusing competitions.

English soccer is split into leagues, with the Premiership being the top league. Each of the 20 teams play the others home and away, with three points for each win and one point for each draw. At the end of the year the champion is the team with the most points. The FA Cup is a single-elimination tournament (unrelated to the Premiership or other leagues) with nearly all of the 600+ professional football clubs in the UK. Some matches are league games and some are "cup ties", but there is no connection between them. The Champions League is an "elite" European competition made up of the top four teams from the Premiership in the previous year as well as top teams from Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and the rest of Europe. Not to be confused with the Championship league, which is the English league below the Premiership. Every year the bottom three teams in the Premiership are relegated to the Championship, and the top three teams from the Championship are promoted to the Premiership. This causes a constant influx of new teams to keep things interesting and gives the bottom clubs a reason to stay competitive at the end of the season.

Unfortunately, the Premiership is fairly top heavy, so the same teams tend to dominate year after year. When I started watching soccer, someone told me that there was a division between top (red) teams like Arsenal, Liverpool, and Manchester United and the next level of (blue) teams like Chelsea, Tottenham, and Everton. This year, one blue team, Chelsea, and one red team, Manchester United, are currently vying for all three competitions (Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League) and may be facing off in three different championship finals next month.

When I started watching, I started cheering for blue teams over red teams, because the red teams were all the established powerhouses. Manchester United is the most successful sporting franchises in the world, they're like the New York Yankees or Dallas Cowboys of international soccer (and every bit as hated). This week they put up a touchdown against AS Roma in the Champions League quarterfinals and beat Watford 4-1 in the FA Cup semis. They're also at the top of the Premiership table and getting ready for the May 9th showdown with Chelsea.

Chelsea is one of the nouveau riche of international sport, recently purchased by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, and just entering the top echelon with the red clubs. They aren't as impressive as Manchester United, but are every bit as dominant. They usually win games 2-1 or 1-0 scoring in the last few minutes, and even though my underdog mentality should draw me to mid-table clubs like Wigan, Bolton, and Blackburn instead of elite teams like Chelsea, they're a hard team not to like. They've already won the League Cup this year (yet another competition among League clubs) and are aiming to win the "quadruple" if they can take the Premiership, FA Cup, and Champions League titles. This week they beat Valencia 3-2 in the Champions League and Blackburn 2-1 (in overtime) in the FA Cup semifinals. Nearly every match is a nail biter, and I'm suddenly finding myself pulling for this team against my better judgement. They're a whole lot more likable than Manchester United in any case. Go blues!

In other sporting news: Mar-co ... Scu-ta-ro!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

For the want of a save

A tale of two baseball games, one year apart:

1) NY Yankees vs. Oakland A's, 04/05/06

With the game tied 3-3 going to the bottom of the 9th, the Yankees bring in Scott Proctor instead of closer Mariano Rivera, saving Rivera for an extra-inning "save situation". Against Proctor, Milton Bradley walks, gets to second on a sacrifice by Jason Kendall, and scores on a single by Marco Scutaro. The A's win 4-3.

2) NY Yankees vs. Oakland A's, 04/13/07

With the game tied 4-4 going into extra innings, the A's bring in Kiko Calero and Huston street to shut down the Yankees in the 10th and 11th. The Yankees again leave Rivera in the pen waiting for that elusive "save situation", pitching Luis Vizcaino in the 10th and Brian Bruney (who?) in the 11th. Against Bruney, Travis Buck triples off the wall and scores on a groundball by Bobby Kielty. The A's win 5-4.

In both of these games, the Yankees left their best reliever sitting in the bullpen with the game tied and brought in lesser pitchers, who lost the lead and the game. They were saving Rivera for a "save situation" after they got the lead, which seems either arrogant (shut down these guys with our fourth and fifth best bullpen guys, and save the ace for when we're ahead) or overly focused on "getting Mariano a save" (deciding who to pitch in a tight game based on a phony statistic that Jerome Holtzman invented in the late-1960s). In either case, this seems like a blueprint for how to lose in extra innings: instead of your best available pitcher, bring in your second or third best available pitcher.

And the Yankees have bad relief pitching this year, even worse than last year. Over the course of a year, good pitching can pick up bad hitting (hello A's!), but bad pitching brings the whole team down. I say this every year, but the Bombers will be lucky to make the playoffs in 2007. Their bullpen isn't going to hold up unless they score ten runs in every game.

Friday, April 13, 2007

FOMM: Love Plus Thirty

The Beach Boys Love You came out thirty years ago this week. Critical consensus calls it "the last great Beach Boys LP", but it's more like a Brian Wilson solo album. It was originally slated to be a BW solo album (called Brian Loves You), and Brian wrote and performed most of the songs with minimal involvement from the other band members.

This was during the mid-70s "Brian is back" period when Brian wasn't actually back, and the songs on Love You reflect that. Complex music with minimal instruments (mostly synthy bass and drum machine) matched with naive childlike lyrics like..

(from "Johnny Carson")
He sits behind his microphone
He speaks in such a manly tone
Ed McMahon comes on and says "Here's Johnny"
Every night at 11:30, he's so funny
It's nice to have you on the show tonight
I saw your act in Vegas, outtasite.

or (from "Solar System")
If Mars had life on it
I might find my wife on it
Venus the goddess of love
Can thank all the stars above
Mercury’s close to the sun
You’ll see it when day is done
Solar system brings us wisdom

These lyrics are, to quote this review, "childlike but not childish", and give a great picture of the mind of Brian Wilson circa 1976/77. I also love the review's description of the album.
The best description of this album, for those who have heard the music of Jonathan Richman, is to imagine Richman suddenly being given the musical talent of Bach, and two days in the studio. Anyone who doesn't love this album will loathe it, but it's their loss. Buy this album.
Presently the only way to buy Love You is in a two-fer tandem with 15 Big Ones, which is one of the worst albums the BBs ever made. Even more unfortunate is that the iTunes/amazon cover art for the CD shows the cover of 15 Big Ones. Buying that album on my 11th birthday (with my own money) taught me the lesson to avoid any album with facial hair on the front cover. This kept me from buying the Beatles' blue album for a while, but has saved me from buying many dodgy records over the years. Love You has their Beach Boys with facial hair photo on the back cover.

The Beach Boys (from Love You)
Johnny Carson
Solar System

Mike Love might love harmony, but Brian Wilson loves you.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Free games for April

Saw Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3 last night at Slim's. It's always a treat to see Robyn, especially with a full band, and he hadn't played in S.F. since Olé Tarantula came out, so he was due for a show here. I first saw Robyn at Slim's way back in 1989 (the night Graham Chapman died) when he was recording Eye, and I think it's my favorite place to watch him play. Good sightlines, early start-times, and PBR for $3.50 a pint.

They played a bunch of tunes from Tarantula, and a couple of new unrecorded songs, plus oldies like "Kingdom of Love", "Brenda's Iron Sledge", and back to back versions (slow and fast) of "City of Shame". The show ended with a version of Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play", which I believe that's the fifth different Syd/Floyd cover that I've seen Robyn play live. And the photo taken in the tinted lights doesn't do justice to the clothes that Robyn was wearing. A purple and green flowered paisley shirt with purple trousers. Syd Barrett wants his 1967 wardrobe back.

And they played the Bye Bye Blackbirds album (the whole CD!) over the Slim's PA between sets. It's strange to hear music by people you know in a public place where you aren't expecting it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Telegram Hank

Hank Aaron, when asked if he'll be present if & when Barry Bonds breaks his home run record, said
I might send him a telegram, but that would be the extent of it.
A telegram? Western Union doesn't even do telegrams anymore, so I guess Barry is out of luck.

And he doesn't care: "If he has other plans, other things to do, I respect that. He's his own man, he can do what he wants to do. No hard feelings." Except from Hammerin Hank.

We're gonna live forever (or die trying)

I saw the Britpop documentary Live Forever on BBC America over the weekend, and thought it was quite entertaining and hilarious, even though I didn't know a whole lot about the scene and the era. The movie frames the "Brit Pop Era" as the three years between the death of Kurt Cobain (Apr 1994) and Princess Di (Aug 1997), which isn't a very long era for something that claimed it will "live forever". It does for Oasis what The Filth & The Fury did for the Sex Pistols.

The story is told through interviews with the principals, including the Gallagher brothers (Noel comes off funny and intelligent, Liam as dumber than a bag of hammers), Damon Albarn of Blur (brooding and self-important), and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp (the most likable of the lot!). It touches on the Blur vs. Oasis "Battle of Britpop" in August 1995, when both bands put out new singles ("Country House" and "Roll With It") on the same week. This chart battle was seen as some large scale class-war in the tabloids, with the "gritty working class" (Oasis) against the "arty middle class" (Blur) and Noel quoted as saying he hoped Blur would "catch AIDS and die" for keeping Oasis out of the #1 spot. There's also a hilarious interview with the Oasis tribute band Wonderwall (who are stone serious in their laddism) , and an interesting look at how Tony Blair's New Labour movement won the general election in 1997 by aligning themselves with the "hard playing" Britpop generation.

Back then, it was hard for me to separate the songs (Oasis, Blur, and Pulp were all decent bands) from the obnoxious singers, so I gave the whole Britpop scene a wide berth. I think the music itself has aged a lot better than post-grunge squall. In hindsight, I've gained an admiration for early Blur (thanks to Graham Coxon's solo work) and the first two Oasis albums, so maybe Britpop will live.. at least longer than I thought it would.

And I only missed one question on BBC America's BritPop Quiz.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Master Zach

Every year, my brother and I have a competition for each of the four major golf championships where we each pick ten players, and the winner is the one whose players do the best. Like our NCAA bracket competition, the only stakes are family pride, but it's pretty cut-throat competition that neither of us wants to lose.

Anyone who's followed professional golf over the last decade knows that one player dominates the sport, so we have the "alternating Tiger" rule for first pick. Each of us gets TW in two majors per year, and the other one gets the second and third picks, then each of us pick two players at a time until the final pick. Here were our picks for the 2007 Masters. My brother (who got the Tiger this year) is M (as in Mark) and I am S (as in Steve).

In our elaborate scoring system, his one ended in a flat-footed tie, which is frustrating. I think Americans haven't warmed to soccer because we don't like sports that end in a draw. We each only had one of our ten picks miss the cut, which is good, but neither of us picked the winner Zach Johnson, which isn't. This is the first time since we've been doing this that the Masters champion has been off our grid. Every so often, an unheralded player breaks through to win a US Open or British Open, but it never happens at the Masters.

Until this year. Before the tournament, the odds on Zach Johnson winning were 150-1 (Tiger was at 5-2). He's not a total unknown (former winner, member of the US Ryder Cup team), but doesn't fit the mold of a Masters champion. My brother and I could have picked thirty players each before one of us picked Zach Johnson. But he won, and he won by beating everyone instead of someone else losing, so yay Zach. And he went to Drake, so yay MVC! And this is two golf posts in a row, but I'll be back to my regular scheduled blogging soon.

Friday, April 6, 2007

FOMM: Fore for the Flounders

When I started occasionally posting song on this blog, I wanted to provide exposure to songs that people weren't familiar with. These songs definitely satisfy that criteria!

This is Masters week, so here are a few tunes by Jake Trout and the Flounders. This was a one-off CD by a band of PGA tour players: Peter Jacobsen (Jake), Mark Lye, and (the late) Payne Stewart. Jake and the Flounders played golf-inflected takeoffs of classic rock songs, mostly songs written by pro-am buddies like Alice Cooper ("I'm On 18"), Glenn Frey ("Strugglers Blues"), and Stephen Stills & Graham Nash ("Love The One You Whiff"). Jacobsen said they were about "14-handicap" musicians, but their songs don't sound any worse than any other middle-aged white guys in Hawaiian shirts playing at the local Black Angus fun bar. If that band photo was in color, I'm sure it would give ugly shirt Friday a whole new meaning!

Two of the best songs on the Flounders album are takeoffs of songs by musicians who aren't usually associated with golf, Neil Young and Randy Newman. "Gary McCord" is their salute to a CBS golf announcer who was banned by the Masters committee using "bikini wax" as a metaphor for fast greens during the telecast of the 1994 tournament (back story here). It's set to the music from "Cinnamon Girl", and sounds like something Neil Young and Crazy Horse would have played in the mid-90s. "I Love To Play" (the title track from the CD, based on Randy Newman's "I Love L.A.") was their theme song, and the title of the Rutles-like Jake Trout & the Flounders mockumentary.

Jake Trout & the Flounders
(from I Love To Play)
I Love To Play

And for some real rock & roll to clear the palate, another golf-themed song of sorts as a bonus track: "There She Goes" by the Beat (this Beat, not that Beat). It's from the soundtrack to Caddyshack, and I've always wondered how this cool tune ended up hanging out on the same movie soundtrack as Kenny Loggins and Journey. Caddyshack is, of course, the greatest golf movie ever! My favorite scene is the one where Carl Spackler (the greenskeeper played by Bill Murray) imagines winning the Masters while swinging at dandelions with his rake.
What an incredible Cinderella story, this unknown comes outta no where to lead the pack, at Augusta. He's on his final hole, he's about 455 yards away - he's gonna hit about a two-iron I think. Oh he got all of that one! He's gotta be pleased with that, the crowd is just on its feet here, uh - He's the Cinderella boy, outta no where, a former greenskeeper now - about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac - It's in the Hole!
The Beat -There She Goes (from the Caddyshack soundtrack)

Thursday, April 5, 2007


In solidarity with Hayward teachers, this blog is on a two-day slowdown, but I'm scratching my head about this quote from Blez's latest Straight A's column on

The A's are still the Ramones of baseball, whereas the Giants remain the Bee Gees.
I don't follow.. Does that mean that the A's are punk rock, while the Giants are disco? Anyway, the Ramones of baseball start a four-game series with the L.A. Angels of Anaheim (the Van Halen of baseball?) that might be tough. Harden pitched yesterday and Loaiza is on the DL, so the A's are throwing their C-F starters (Gaudin, Kennedy, Haren, Blanton) up against the Angels in Anaheim (sorry, L.A. of Anaheim). It's like the Ramones facing Van Halen without Joey, Johnny, or Dee Dee. A 2-2 split would be a great result.

ESPN Classic has started showing late 1970s episodes of This Week in Baseball. Watching these shows from the days of the Ramones and Van Halen brings back memories of that pre-ESPN age when baseball highlights on TV were a big deal. The TWIB "Jet Set" theme music makes me want to go out in the back yard and play whiffle ball, and I don't even have a back yard anymore!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Three chords in a fountain

The new Fountains of Wayne album Traffic and Weather dropped today, and I'm going to be picking it up at my favorite big box retailer on my way home today.

T&W has been getting lukewarm reviews (downright hatred from Pitchfork and Stylus), but to me, their songs are more addictive than chocolate covered crack, and I've been four years without a fix, so it's a first day in the store pickup for me.

I had this exchange with my brother while we were watching FoW on PBS Soundstage a few months ago.

Him: (vexingly) All their songs sound exactly the same!
Me: (groovingly) Yeah, aren't they great?

Robbie Fulks' "Fountains of Wayne Hotline" offers either a tribute or a takeoff to the band, where a songwriter struggling on a new song calls the Fountains of Wayne hotline, where their suggestions ("radical dynamic shift", "semi-ironic Beach Boys vocal pad") turn the song into a FoW song.."I'll ride these three chords til I die!"

Fountains of Wayne - Someone To Love (mp3)
Robbie Fulks - Fountains of Wayne Hotline (mp3)

Monday, April 2, 2007

We are your insect uncles

I was finally able to watch John Edgington's Robyn Hitchcock documentary Sex, Food, Death…And Insects over the weekend.

The movie shows Robyn and his band the Venus 3 (Peter, Scott, Bill) rehearsing new material at his house in West London then playing a couple of shows at Maxwell's in Hoboken and the Crocodile Cafe in Seattle. The sessions feature guest appearances by Morris Windsor ( Soft Boys/Egyptians drummer), John Paul Jones (of Led Zep fame), Nick Lowe, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, and Robyn's niece Ruby Wright (playing the musical saw). It's a fascinating look at Robyn and the Venus 3 writing and recording, interspersed with interviews of the participants.

It's also interesting to note that these sessions for his next album (the one after Ole! Tarantula) were filmed in the summer of 2005, nearly a year before Tarantula was released. Also during the tour footage, Robyn and the band (Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey, and Bill Rieflin) are riding together in a small van, and seem to be having a blast scaling everything down and breaking away from the R.E.M.-level excess. It's also great to see music legends like Nick Lowe and John Paul Jones let down their (gray) hair and just being regular guys.

The movie itself is highly recommended, but won't win any wardrobe awards. Unlike Stay, the clothing in Sex, Death.. and Insects was "worse than almost any other film". For Robyn Hitchcock and Peter Buck, every day is ugly shirt Friday (check out that polka-dot monstrosity that Robyn's wearing in the photo above)

Update: looking for when this movie is playing again, I came across this review:
There was a time in the 1980s and 1990s when mentioning that you listened to Robyn Hitchcock was the easiest way to score a date with the artsy college girl of your choice.
The easiest way? I need to travel back in time to the 80s and 90s and try that line out on artsy college girls!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Opening day genesis

There isn't a conservapedia entry for "baseball" yet, but here's the next best thing from McSweeny.

In the big inning, God created Heaven on Earth. And it was without form, and void. God separated the dirt from the grass. He called the grass Outfield and the dirt He called Infield. God made the Infield a 90-foot square and the Outfield not less than 400 feet to center and 320 feet down the lines. He declared this Fair Territory. All other territory, God then declared, was Foul.

And God divided the players into two teams of nine players each, under direction of a manager, to play The Game on His field. God called some of these players Pitchers and some of them Hitters. He placed a Pitcher precisely 60 feet 6 inches from a Hitter. Then God commanded that it's one, two, three strikes you're out at the ol' Ballgame.

And God granted jurisdiction of The Game to lesser Gods, whom He called Umpires. God said the Umpires are infallible, blessed with Heavenly authority, whose judgment is not to be questioned under penalty of expulsion from The Game. And God looked at his creation and He was pleased. Then God created the Infield Fly Rule to confuse nonbelievers.

And God said, Let there be light beer, and there was. And, God said, let there be peanuts and hot dogs and overpriced souvenirs and let there be frosty chocolate malts with little wooden spoons that you can buy nowhere else except at this Heaven, which God called a Ballpark, and there was. God looked at His creation and it was good.
And God spoke, yelling, PLAY BALL!

It's April and baseball is here... No foolin!