Sunday, August 31, 2008

I am your long lost Kevin Riley

Following a college sports team is a lot like following a small-market major league baseball team. Every few years, all the best players move on, so you have to keep finding new favorite players in this year's team, and keep "cheering for laundry" as Jerry Seinfeld said. Yay blue shirts! Boo white shirts!

The Cal Bears kicked off their 2008 football season yesterday night, but most of last year's marquee players (including DeSean Jackson, Justin Forsett, Lavelle Hawkins, and Robert Jordan) have moved on, so there's a whole new team of blue shirts on offense and defense.

One position where Cal has continuity this year is quarterback, which was supposed to be a battle between redshirt sophomore Kevin Riley (Cal's energetic and exciting quarterback of the future) and senior Nate Longshore (Cal's quarterback of the past, who sucks eggs). Last year, Longshore led the Bears to a 5-0 start before they hit the skids and struggled to a 6-6 regular season, barely good enough to qualify for a bowl. When Cal fell behind 21-0 midway through that bowl game (The Armed Forces Bowl against Air Force), Jeff Tedford pulled Longshore and put the freshman Riley at QB, who rallied the Bears to a 42-36 victory.

That should have given Riley the starting job until he messed up, but the position was open at the start of 2008. For yesterday's game against Michigan State, Riley started and played most of the game (throwing two touchdown passes), and Longshore started a couple of series in the second quarter (throwing two interceptions, one which MSU returned for a touchdown).

After this game, there should not be any quarterback controversy in Berkeley. Kevin Riley will start for the rest of this season (and the next two seasons unless he turns pro early) and Nate Longshore will spend his senior season holding for place kicks and handing off to the backup fullback at the end of 30 point blowouts.

Other than the quarterback nontroversy, it was an impressive start for the Cal blue shirts who beat the Michigan State white shirts 38-31. This year's Justin Forsett is Shane Vereen (who broke one run for an 80 yards) , this year's DeSean Jackson is Jahvid Best (who was impressive last year before he suffered an injury against USC),  and this year's tree people are the same losers from last year.   It's costing $20k per day for the Berkely police to "protect" them. Why don't they just go to Amoeba and pay $10 for a used copy of Reign In Blood?  According to South Park, loud thrash metal is the best way to repel dirty smelly hippies!

For some reason, I still want to call Kevin Riley  "Kevin Gilbert", which means I'm either confusing him with this guy or this guy.  I also keep wanting to call the 49ers new starting quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan "Gilbert O'Sullivan" (due to a childhood listening to 1970s AM radio). I will be spending Saturdays and Sundays this entire Fall shouting "get down Gilbert!" at the TV while people around me say "who's Gilbert?".    

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Anchored down

Today's combination of Sarah-shock and Michelle-shock reminded me of a song which I literally haven't thought about in 20 years.

Hopefully I will now forget about it for 20 more years.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Fiddling While Nome Burns

Today is John McCain's 72nd birthday. Three years ago today he was sharing a birthday cake with the future ex-President in Arizona while a monster hurricane was ravaging a few thousand miles away on the Gulf Coast.

This week, there's another hurricane brewing in the Gulf which might postpone next week's Republican convention, which isn't the best birthday present for McCain, but at least he can weather the storm with his smoking hot VP candidate. (I feel sexist for putting it that way, but she does, and she is!)

There was talk that McCain might select a female VP (a Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson or a former CEO like Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina), but I don't think Sarah Palin was on anyone's shortlist (besides McCain's).

It probably took a lot of looking to find a female candidate who fit the RNC profile (pro-Life, anti-Gay, pro-Gun, pro-Creationism and anti-Wildlife) but after scouring the lower 48, they found one in Alaska. And now a 1.5 year Governor from the second least populated state who was mayor of a town of 5,000 just two years ago will be one 72-year-old heartbeat from the Presidency. Please welcome the least qualified VP candidate since DQ.

On the plus side, the 1st, 48th, 49th, and 50th states are now represented on major-party Presidential tickets in 2008. (Sorry about the back-to-back poli-posts.. I'll find other things to blog about come September!)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

America's next first family

I don't want to get overly political, but for anyone standing in the way of this wonderful family assuming their rightful place in the White House next year... You suck and I hate you!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Come around to my way of thinking

I was recently pointed toward this treasure trove of b-sides, outtakes, interviews, and live sets by New Zealand's own Mutton Birds, all done with the band's blessing.

The material ranges from 1997/98 (supporting Envy of Angels, my favorite Mutton Birds album and one of the lost gems of the 90s) to a live set by Alan Gregg's post-MBs band Marshmallow and Don McGlashan's high-profile U.S. tour supporting (and playing with) Crowded House.

Their actual albums are getting harder and harder to find, but this gives a good picture of how the Mutton Birds sounded back in the day. Here's a video clip of one of my favorite songs of theirs, "Come Around" (by the MBs "second songwriter" Alan Gregg).

For those wondering about the chorus, this came a few years after "Sister Havana" by Urge Overkill (a song with the same phrase), but I think it's a much better song.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tripping on antacid

Acid indigestion is a type of indigestion involving an excess of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Acid indigestion should be distinguished from heartburn, which typically involves aggravation of the esophagus.

When you're checking wikipedia at 3AM for differences between these two conditions while doubled over in stomach pain after having a pepperoni and jalapeƱo pizza and a couple bottles of of Dos Equis Amber at 9PM, and drinking another one to help "neutralize" what you have, since it's the only carbonated beverage in the house, you need to know where your esophagus is.

It's just below the breastbone, so if your pain is lower, it's probably acid indigestion. When this happens, your best bet is to try to neutralize with carbonation, wait for Montezuma to exact his "revenge" on your gastrointestinal system, and swear off spicy foods "forever". By which I mean the next 24 hours. What's the point in living if you can't eat pizza and drink beer a couple of hours before bedtime?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ten by Glen

I've been enjoying the new Glen Campbell album I mentioned last Friday, and think it's successful both at exposing him to a younger crowd and exposing his Branson audience to great songs by Paul Westerberg and the Foo Fighters (among others).

I also listened to Glen Campbell's two-disc Capitol Years 1965-1977 compilation last weekend (with all the hits plus a few deeper cuts) and noticed that the words "Glen Campbell" don't appear in any songwriting credits. He's been adapting other people's songs to his own style for his whole career, so Meet Glen Campbell is just an updated take on that theme, with newer songs.

To continue my new Monday tradition, here are ten great early Glen Campbell tunes on youtube, in chronological order.

Ten By Glen
1. Little Doll (1963)
2. Guess I'm Dumb (1965)
3. Universial Soldier (1966)
4. Gentle On My Mind (1967)
5. By The Time I Get To Phoenix (1967)
6. Dreams of the Everyday Housewife (1968)
7. Wichita Lineman (1968)
8. Galveston (1969)
9. Where's The Playground Susie? (1969)
10. Honey Come Back (1970)

More than half these songs (5-10) were written by the great Jimmy Webb and "Guess I'm Dumb" was co-written and produced by Brian Wilson while he was working on a little record called Pet Sounds. It's like a long lost Beach Boys track (with Glen Campbell on vocals).

Glen Campbell, of course, was a touring Beach Boy in 1964/65 (after Brian stopped touring and before Bruce Johnston joined). As a bonus, here's Glen performing a Beach Boys medley in 1977.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Final Olympic Post

The 2008 Olympic Games wrapped up today in Beijing (about 16 hours ago, even though the closing ceremonies are still on TV here), so here are some of my reflections on the Games.

I'm usually more interested in "team sports" than "individual sports", and the Olympic games provide exposure to a number of ballsports that only get shown every four years (at least in these United States) like field hockey, water polo, and team handball.

The final weekend provided a barrage of gold medal contests in all these sports, as well as classification matches to determine the 3rd, 5th, and 7th place teams in most sports. Here's how they all turned out, for both the men and women.

Basketball: The U.S. swept the gold medals in men's and women's basketball. On the men's side, the U.S. "Redeem Team" held off Spain 118-107 in a wild one, and the American women blew out the Aussies 92-65.

Baseball/Softball: This was a final hurrah for men's baseball and women's softball as Olympic sports. Both sports will be discontinued for the 2012 games in London because the IOC Euroweenies see them as "American" sports that don't have global appeal. In this Olympics, neither the U.S. men or women won gold medals. The U.S. men won the bronze, and didn't even compete for the gold medal (Korea beat Cuba) and the U.S. women were upset by Japan in the softball final, after dominating their group play. Baseball and softball were killed as Olympic sports, but synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics live on.

Football (i.e. Soccer): The U.S. Women successfully defended their gold medal in soccer by beating Brazil 1-0, while Argentina won the men's gold over Nigeria by the same score (1-nil). The U.S. men qualified, but didn't make it out of the group stage.

Handball: The Icelandic dream died in the gold medal game, after they lost to France 28-23. The Norwegian women dominated Russia 34-27 to win their gold medal. Team handball is the best Olympic sport there is!

Hockey: As in field hockey. The winners were Netherlands on the women's side (over China 2-0) and Germany on the men's side (over Spain 1-0). Spain won multiple silver medals yesterday. The U.S. women qualified, and finished 8th (losing to who-else Spain in the 7th place classification match).

Volleyball: NBC showed a lot of beach volleyball, which is sort of a made-up sport paid on sand by two-person teams, but they also have old-fashioned indoor volleyball. The American men won the gold medal after beating Brazil 3 sets to 1 and the U.S. women lost to Brazil by the same score to win the silver, but they beat the Brazilian women in fake volleyball.

Water Polo: The U.S. men's team, who were ranked 10th in tournament, made it all the way to the gold medal game before losing to Hungary 14-10. The U.S. women also got a silver medal, losing to the Netherlands 9-8. The Dutch women won gold medals in both water polo and field hockey.

Other sports: Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt were awesome. The U.S. won the most medals (110), but China won the most gold medals (51). The Chinese people put on a great Olympic games, but their government is still corrupt. If only Axl Rose would release the new GnR album to help steer them toward Chinese Democracy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Morning Joe

I turned on MSNBC this morning to watch the Olympic field hockey final and ended up watching Joe Scarborough and others discussing that Barack Obama had picked Joe Biden as his 2008 running mate.

According to one of the pundits, this might be a risky pick because "Obama-Biden" looks and sounds too much like "Osama bin Laden" (it does?). Another said that Biden adds needed foreign policy experience to the Obama ticket, and helps deflect any charges of "elitism" since Biden only has one house. He lives in Wilmington and commutes to the Senate every day by train.

Apparently Biden's downside is that he's an old white dude, so his selection is apparently a "slap in the face" to non-old, non-white, non-dudes everywhere! I only follow national politics during election years, so I always get Joe Biden and Joe Lieberman confused. All those Eastern "Joementum" Senators are the same to me!

Joe Lieberman was Al Gore's running mate in 2000 but campaigns for McCain now. Joe Biden was a candidate for President in 2008 but didn't make it past Iowa. He endorsed Obama shortly after he dropped out.  I wasn't paying attention during the early Democratic debates, so I missed this Biden zinger about Rudy Giuliani. So that's where "a noun, a verb, and a 9/11" came from!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Something unpredictable

Glen Campbell covering Green Day on Meet Glen Campbell.

Meet Glen Campbell might seem like a strange title for a new album by an artist who's older than John McCain, but it marks his return to pop music and reintroduction to a younger generation. There are nine other left-field covers on the album (like "Sadly Beautiful" by the Replacements and "Jesus" by the Velvet Underground) but producer Julian Raymond doesn't stray far from the classic Campbell sound, with musical help from people like Jason Falkner, Roger Manning, and Robin Zander.

The album marks his return to Capitol Records in almost 30 years. According to a recent interview with the N.Y. Daily News, he left the label because "They wanted me to sing stuff like 'My Sharona', so I used a four-letter word and told them where they could go."

Glen Campbell could totally sing "My Sharona". Even at 72, he still has The Voice.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dig The New Breed

Cashbox top singles for the week of August 21, 1965
(43 years ago today).

1. I Got You Babe - Sonny & Cher
2. Help! - The Beatles
3. What's New Pussycat? - Tom Jones
4. Save Your Heart For Me - Gary Lewis & Playboys
5. California Girls - The Beach Boys
6. Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
7. Don't Just Stand There - Patty Duke
8. Unchained Melody - The Righteous Brothers
9. Down In The Boondocks - Billy Joe Royal
10. It's The Same Old Song - The Four Tops
11. All I Really Want To Do - The Byrds
12. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me - Mel Carter
13. Baby I'm Yours - Barbara Lewis
14. Like A Rolling Stone - Bob Dylan
15. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - James Brown

Listen to a random radio shuffle of the top fifteen.

This was a pretty solid week for the charts, with "I Got You Babe" at the top, future classics by the Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, Phil Spector, Burt Bacharach, and Motown all in the top ten and Bob Dylan and James Brown both cracking the top fifteen with bullets.

It was a great week to be alive, and an even better week to be born.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Iceland Iceland Baby

Midway through this second week of the Olympics, after Michael Phelps stopped winning another gold medal every day, and NBC kept showing gymnastics and beach volleyball day after day, I could feel Olympic fatigue starting to set in.

And then I ended up getting swept up in Icelandic team handball. Iceland has never won a gold medal in any sport, but their handball team is on the verge of a medal after upsetting Poland earlier today.

Next up for Iceland is a semifinal matchup against Spain, and then onward to the finals against Croatia or France (or the third place game if they don't win, but I'm sure they will!).    

The final four in women's handball are Norway, Korea, Russia, and Hungary.  Denmark won the last three gold medals, but didn't qualify for the Olympics, so I'm pulling for my ancestral home of Norway.  Norwegian women are really good in handball.

For people who don't know team handball, it's one of the coolest sports around. It's a combination of soccer, water polo, and ultimate frisbee, played on a basketball court with a small ball, and the games are on MSNBC in the middle of the night because the U.S. isn't very good at it.

I don't know why because team handball seems like a very "American" sport. It's high scoring and fast-paced and every game seems to end 25-24. Plus it just requires a basketball court, which isn't a hard thing to find. I think a summer handball league in the U.S. might catch on, but until then, the Olympic games my only opportunity to watch it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Getting out of the way

I heard John McCain's new campaign anthem today.

McCain has been having trouble finding a theme song after he was rebuffed by ABBA for using "Take A Chance On Me" and sued by Jackson Browne for using "Running On Empty" in an ad. It takes a true maverick like John McCain to use "Running On Empty" as a campaign anthem!

So with nowhere else to go, McCain went to the GOP-friendly country genre to find a new theme for his campaign: "Raisin' McCain" by John Rich. Raisin' the question "who is John Rich?" According to wikipedia, John Rich is the homophobic half of country duo Big and Rich, and a staunch Republican who supported Fred Thompson in the primaries.

At a John McCain rally earlier this month, John Rich said he was sure "Johnny Cash would have been a John McCain supporter if he was still around", but he was later rebuffed by Johnny's daughter Roseanne. If Johnny Cash were still around, I'm sure he'd have his own "straight talk" for John Rich, but that's not for me to guess!

Even without the implied politics, "Raisin' McCain" is a pretty crummy song. It's not Right Brothers level bad, but the lyrics are like 8th grade poetry and the title is too close to "It's Rainin' McCain" (which I thought was a parody?).

Given the choice of "getting on the train" or "getting out of the way", I think I'd opt for the latter. Maybe I'm sheltered in a blue enclave of a deep blue state, but I can't believe for a second that McCain's trainwreck of a campaign is tied in the polls with that other guy!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kid A vs. Kid B

Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler (the guy in the green shirt on the left side of the picture on the right) caused an internet firestorm today for saying in a BBC6 interview that Radiohead's In Rainbows "isn't doing it" for him.
I think they've lost the plot. What are they doing? Where are they going? What's happening? I don't get it any more. They lost me. I still appreciate what they're doing, or what they're trying to do. But I think they're trying too hard not to be Radiohead. That seems a little ridiculous to me.

I like them as a rock band, all the buttons and sequencing and stuff like that I don't really care for. I'm a fan of rock music and what they're doing now I don't think is very good. When you have that kind of money, you can put on a great performance regardless of what you do. If you can't go out and pick up your instruments and play a good show, that doesn't do it for me. I don't have any interest in that
Criticism of Radiohead is internet apostasy, so the internet was quick to admonish Tad for not bowing before the greatness of their latest album. Most of the criticisms have centered on how the Hold Steady (since Tad speaks for his whole band) are not qualified to criticize Radiohead, because they aren't as good, which ended up fueling lots band A vs. band B arguments straight out of Hit Parader circa 1984. "Who's the best lead guitarist in metal today?". "Cavaso rules! DeMartini drools! ".

The NME somehow interpreted Tad's comments as critical of Radiohead's "pay what you want" plan with In Rainbows (which they weren't), while other music bloggers like Matthew Perpetua were quick to go ad hominem, calling the Hold Steady "dim-witted no talent hacks", "a glorified bar band with a tone-deaf asshole shouting over the top", and "essentially just Nick Hornby as a rock band"
(Wilco Tango Foxtrot?).

Hold Steady defenders have fought back with navel-gazing numbers. From some Idolator comment.,"Whether you like (The Hold Steady) or not, they're every bit as well received critically as Radiohead and twice as prolific. They've put out 4 albums since 2004 with an average metacritic score of 83.5. Radiohead have put out 3 albums since 2001 with an average 82.7 score on metacritic."

Idolator posted a poll asking who's side everyone was on in the "conflict" between Radiohead and the Hold Steady (currently neck and neck with "Nobody" running a close third). I'm currently torn, because I like Radiohead (and In Rainbows is one of my faves), but Tad Kubler doesn't have to like them if he doesn't want to. When I saw the Hold Steady last month, Tad played a Jimmy Page double neck guitar and drank red wine from a glass in between songs (it was probably Gallo Hearty Burgundy or something, but he wasn't swigging it from the bottle!) so he's vetted and cultured enough to have a musical opinion without having his band dissed on the internet.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Who's the man that we admire?

After 36 years, Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals has been surpassed by Michael Phelps. My main memory of the 1972 Olympics is staying up to watch the Tonight Show one night, when Johnny Carson gave this joke during his "Carnac" routine.

A: Mark Spitz
Q: What does Mark Spitz do when he gets water in his mouth?
After I heard that joke, I started to realize that "grown-up" humor really wasn't all it was cracked up to be!

I was on a swim team for five years (ages 7-12) and started swimming because of Mark Spitz. I didn't have any delusions of Oympic greatness, but was pretty competitive in my age group. I swam against another future Olympic hero (Matt Biondi) when we were both 11 years old. I had my best time ever in the 50m free and this Biondi kid from Moraga beat it by five seconds! That was my last year of competitive swimming.

Fun with Olympians: This guy got a silver medal in the 100m dash and this guy finished fifth in the 1500m freestyle. You're never too old for a career change!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Premier League Preview

With all this Olympic excitement, I almost forgot that the EPL is back this weekend. It's about time - that three month off-season was interminable!

Last year's Premier League preview was one of the longest blog entries I've done in the past year, even though I'm pretty sure almost none of my readers care so it's the height of vanity-blogging. This year's preview will be short and sweet, with just the teams and no yakking!

The Big Four:
1. Manchester United
2. Arsenal
3. Chelsea
4. Liverpool

It's almost a cinch that these will be the top four clubs, so it's only a question of which order. I hate ManU, but they're so much better than everyone else, that it will be a huge disappointment if they don't three-peat.   

The UEFA Four:
5. Everton
6. Tottenham
7. Aston Villa
8. Portsmouth

The top four clubs that don't qualify for the Champions League qualify for the UEFA cup (European soccer's NIT tournament). These are my picks for the best non big-four clubs this season.  Portsmouth and Tottenham get in this year's UEFA by virtue of their respective victories in the FA Cup and League Cup.

The Drop Zone:
20. Stoke City
19. Hull City
18. Bolton

The three clubs that were promoted to the Premier League this year are West Bromich Albion, Hull City, and Stoke City (replacing Reading, Birmingham, and Derby County). The latter two teams aren't very good, so I'm picking them to go down, but I hope West Brom stays up (they're fun to watch and had a nice FA cup run), so I'm picking them to stay up. There are a bunch of teams (Fulham, Wigan, Sunderland, Bolton) who are constantly on the cusp, and I'm picking Bolton, mostly because I don't know how they stayed up last year.

I'm ready for some futbol!

Friday, August 15, 2008


I've decided to convert my Monday muxtube into a Friday muxtape, but altered the "Shaft" theme from "R&B hits from 1971" to "hit songs featured blaxploitation films". This is mainly so I can use the title (and declare a trademark on the term) "muxploitation".

Muxploitation: African American Pie
  1. Isaac Hayes - Theme From Shaft
  2. Curtis Mayfield - Superfly
  3. Marvin Gaye - Trouble Man
  4. Four Tops - Ain't No Woman
  5. Five Stairsteps - Ooh Child
  6. James Brown - Down And Out In New York City
  7. Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street
  8. Joe Simon - Theme From Cleopatra Jones
  9. Millie Jackson - It Hurts So Good
  10. Jean Knight - Mr. Big Stuff
  11. King Floyd - Groove Me
  12. Main Ingredient - Everybody Plays The Fool
The last three songs are bonus trax that weren't featured in any blaxploitation flix (afaik), but should've been! Any excuse to recycle "Groove Me" and "Mr. Big Stuff".

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Saved by zero

After starting his career with 39 straight scoreless innings, Brad Ziegler finally gave up a run today, which explodes his lifetime ERA to 0.22!
Maybe he is just an "average prospect" after all!

During his the two month scoreless streak, Ziggy broke the career record for consecutive scoreless innings to start a career (27), broke the A's club record for consecutive scoreless innings (36) set by Mike Torres (who I guess had a career before he gave up that famous home run to Bucky Dent)  and took over the closer's role from Huston Street.

When Ziggy became the closer, it basically meant that his scoreless innings streak was going to start moving one inning at a time, and he wasn't going to get many chances since the rest of the A's team is one big bucket 'o suck!

Ziggy managed to extend his streak three more innings and save both of the A's victories in August before giving up a run in the 9th inning today against Tampa Bay. The game was tied at the time, so it wasn't the best time to give up a run, but the A's came back to tie again before losing in extra innings (not that it matters). Anyway, hats off to Brad Ziegler for being the one bright spot in what's becoming a dismal season for the Oakland Athletics.

Accoring to the official website, there are 34 different sports in the 2008 Summer Olympics, but apparently NBC seems to only show three of them: swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball. Thank heaven for internet streaming!

Speaking of which, it looks like at least one of China's gold-medal winning gymnastics team (He Kexin) might have been underage, since reports from last year showed her age as 13, and the IOC requires gymnasts to be at least 16. I really don't have that much interest in this article, but a story female gymnast named "He" makes for a confusing read! "Reports say that she (He) may have been only 13 last November". Wha? Does this mean that she (He) might also be transgendered as well as underage?

If these Olympics really were a flashback to 1936, Abbot & Costello would be having a field day! "Who's President of China?" "Hu!" "The President of China is who?" "Hu is President of China!" "Who is President of China?" "Exactly!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jumping the whale

From Rolling Stone
The Jonas Brothers are acting their dad's age. The boys' fantastic third album is steeped in the fuzzed-up guitars, three-part harmonies and cotton-candy choruses of Big Star and Cheap Trick. Power-pop die-hards awaiting the genre's commercial saviors must reckon with the fact that the messiahs have arrived . . . and they're a Disney boy band.
I've been pre-programmed me to dismiss pre-fabricated Disney boy bands, but my eyes and ears perk up whenever I see references to power pop, Big Star, and Cheap Trick. EW also dropped a couple of CT-bombs on their review, so I've been running through Jonas clips on youtube today, trying to LWP. Of the JBs songs I've sampled so far, I think this one ("Pushing Me Away") has the crunchiest groove.

In this interview with Billboard, Nick Jonas claimed that the song "B.B. Good" was influenced by the Animals and the Rascals. Nick is 15 years old, so I don't know how he could be influenced by second-level 1960s bands, but it's kind of cool if he is. Nick might even understand the historical significance of his band's initials!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Under cloudy skies

My Gmail account was on the fritz for a couple of hours yesterday afternoon, where I could see my new messages on my iGoogle page, but kept getting the following "temporary error" when I clicked on the Inbox link.

I kept trying to log in every few minutes like they told me, and kept getting the same error. Apparently this was part of a global Gmail outage yesterday afternoon. The whole world was without their Gmail from 2pm to 4pm PDT. Oh the humanity!

One of the major benefits of so-called "cloud computing" (webmail and other web-based software services) is that software and data is "always there". Even if your hard disk crashes or your primary computer is lost or stolen, your data is still safe on a magic cloud on the internet.

I've been using Gmail since a few months after it launched, and have had it as my primary personal email address for the last couple of years. I have another email account on yahoo, but that's another web/cloud account. I also have a blog on blogger (obviously) and a flickr account and many other bits of personal data scattered across the intertubes.

But what happens when the cloud is down? If my home ISP or our work network is down, I can still go to the library or Starbucks to get on the internet, but I'm SOL if "the internet" (Google or Gmail) is down. A large part of my internet existence is in Google's hands, even though I've never given them a cent (or even clicked on any ad-words) and they don't provide any guarantee that the cloud will always be there for me. But what happens when it isn't?

Google later apologized for the downtime on the official Gmail blog, saying it was caused by "a temporary outage in our contacts system". Going without email for a couple of hours really isn't the end of the world (and it was only the webmail interface), but it made me think about how much faith I put in that company. Why is Gmail still in "beta" more than four years after its launch? That's enough to cause me to think twice about putting too much faith in it!

Gmail is still the best email I've ever used, and I can't imagine using anything else. Google's products are powerful and easy to use, and not terribly intrusive (unless you want them to be). And their 2008 "Summer Games Gadget" (even they aren't powerful enough to use the O word without paying the IOC) is very cool, but the internet is a big place, so I'm going to try not to use Google as my sole information source.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The sound of Isaac's Law

Looking at Scott Miller's favorite songs of 1971 on the day after Isaac Hayes dies, I can't help but notice how "Caucasian" his selections are.

I'm not really qualified to call someone else's musical selections "too white" (my own collection is probably 95% whitefolks), but any 1971 mix that doesn't include "Theme From Shaft" is Damn Wrong.

In fairness, Scott's 1971 list does include a Led Zeppelin song originally by Memphis Minnie and a swaggery blues tune by the Stones, but it also includes "American Pie": a song that (other than one line about "the book of love") essentially denies the existence of black people in America!

How about some African-American Pie? 1971 was the high water year for funk, soul, Motown and other urban music forms. Here's a muxtube (collection of video links) with some of the best ones from 1971!

1971 - The Sounds That Went Down (Can You Dig It?)
  1. Theme From Shaft - Isaac Hayes
  2. Ain't No Sunshine - Bill Withers
  3. Family Affair - Sly & the Family Stone
  4. Groove Me - King Floyd
  5. Hot Pants - James Brown
  6. If You Really Love Me - Stevie Wonder
  7. Just My Imagination - The Temptations
  8. Let's Stay Together - Al Green
  9. Mercy Mercy Me - Marvin Gaye
  10. Mr. Big Stuff - Jean Knight
  11. Never Can Say Goodbye - Jackson Five
  12. One Less Bell To Answer - The Fifth Dimension
  13. Proud Mary - Ike & Tina Turner
  14. Respect Yourself - The Staple Singers
  15. Rock Steady - Aretha Franklin
  16. Smiling Faces Sometimes - The Undisputed Truth
  17. Stick Up - Honey Cone
  18. Trapped By A Thing Called Love - Denise LaSalle
  19. Treat Her Like A Lady - Cornelius Brothers & Sister Rose
  20. What You See Is What You Get - The Dramatics
R.I.P. Chef McElroy

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Jurassic Basketball

Today's Olympic basketball game between the USA and China may have been the most-watched sporting event ever. The game was watched live by more than a billion (with a b) people around the globe, everywhere from Beijing to the Bernabeu.

Everywhere, except in the Western half of the United States, where NBC tape delayed the game by three hours. When I got up this morning, I tried to find the game on my local TV, but our NBC affiliate was showing "Meet The Press" instead.  The basketball was scheduled to start at 10am PDT (three hours after it actually started), because  NBC time-shifts their coverage so it starts at the same time in all time zones.

It seems very silly to show 21st century sporting events on tape delay, when everything should be available as it happens.  Since I couldn't find the game (which the US eeked out by thirty points) on television, I headed online to watch the live Eurosport feed.   I was using Chinese technology to defeat an American network's suppression in order to protect their advertising revenue.

A large portion of the coverage in this year's Olympics will be broadcast live on, but they're protecting some of the high-profile sports (like basketball and swimming) by showing them exclusively on television without any live streaming. This is to reach a wider audience and charge more money for advertising.

The problem is that they're still shown live in other parts of the world, so it's pretty easy for Americans to find other avenues to watch the coverage live. It's like a triceratops trying to mark its territory by peeing on a bunch of plants right before a meteor drops to wipe out the dinosaur kingdom.

NBC claims that their surveys show that people want to watch events when it's convenient for them, but if they chose to show Olympic events live, viewers would make adjustments to fit their schedule. If they choose to show them after they happen, viewers will find other avenues (whether legal or not) to watch what they want to watch.

The coverage of this year's Olympics (both broadcast and online) is better than it's ever been, even if most of it is tape delayed on the West Coast. I like the McDonald's commercial with "A Minha Menina" by Os Mutantes, and am even enjoying the national election ads, which we don't get in California, since Obama is up by twenty points here. One of the best things about the Olympics is that there aren't any beer commercials!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Fountain suicide

This entry by 2fs about his "exbeeriment" made me think of my lunch at Burger King this week. I hadn't been to a BK in years, but noticed that they had a sign above the fountain with various "soda recipes".   

A "Half & Half" is 1/2 Diet Coke and 1/2 regular Coke.  

A "Black Gold" is 3/4ths Dr. Pepper and 1/4th Coke.  

A "Black & White" is Coke & Sprite. We used to call that a "Sproke" in college, and if you make it a little stronger (2/3rds Coke and 1/3rd Sprite) , it tastes like fake ginger ale.  

Another good non-carbonated mix is a "Lemontea" (lemonade and iced tea), which also works with Sobe or Fruitopia or other punches.   These drinks also mix (individually) with Sprite.

BK also had the "Four Way", which most people call the "Suicide".   That's a splash of everything from the fountain -- Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Dr. Pepper, Orange, Mountain Dew, etc..  -- and usually tastes pretty nasty.   Proof that some great tastes don't taste great together.    

Is there any drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) that mixes well with root beer?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Straight Eights

An eight track muxtape for 08/08/08
  1. Straight Eight - Mitch Woods & His Rocket 88's
  2. Eight Miles High - The Byrds
  3. Eight Days A Week - The Beatles
  4. I'm Henry VII, I Am - Herman's Hermits
  5. Driver 8 - R.E.M.
  6. Pieces of Eight - Styx
  7. Figure Eight - They Might Be Giants
  8. Beat Me Daddy, Eight To The Bar - Ella Fitzgerald

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let The Games Begin

Even though there were a few Olympic soccer games this week (with the U.S. men beating Japan 1-0 and U.S. women falling to Norway 2-0), the 2008 Summer Olympics officially kick off tomorrow evening (8/8/08) in Beijing.  

Unlike many of my blogging friends, I like to watch the Olympics, but usually skip the opening and closing ceremonies. They're like a five hour award show without any awards. This year's opening ceremony features Celine Dion, which is more than enough reason to find what else is on tomorrow night.

I'm also not down with the U.S. nationalism, so I stay away from sports like swimming that are dominated by Americans. Anyone who's ever endured an all-day swim meet (in other words, anyone who was on a swim team as a kid)  knows that watching swimming is really boring, but watching it on TV is even more boring. I hope Michael Phelps succeeds in winning his eight gold medals, but I probably won't be watching him win any of them.

The Olympic sports that I like to watch are all the non-standard ones like badminton, kayaking, field hockey, soccer, team handball, and water polo. Basically any variation on "put the ball in the other team's goal, and prevent the other team from putting the ball in your goal" is must-see TV for me. The marathon and road cycling events should also be interesting to watch, mostly because of Beijing's air quality. There will be lots of huffing and puffing.

The cable coverage for these non-marquee sports usually airs live as it happens, which in China means the middle of the night in the USA, but that's why DVRs were invented. The TV grid for MSNBC shows 12-hour "Olympics" blocks from 11pm to 11am PDT for the next two weeks, so it requires setting the timer manually, but you're saved from hours of flag-waving and annoying commercials and Bob Costas blathering about "the true Olympic spirit", so it's worth it.

And to answer a question posed by a fellow blogger wondering how "folks who normally watch baseball and football all of a sudden get wrapped up in, oh, fencing and water polo, and then promptly forget about them until the Games roll around again", we're now in August, so football (both the American and international versions) hasn't really started yet, and baseball is stuck in the mid-season doldrums, and sometimes you need a respite from that, especially when your team has just dropped their tenth game in a row. Also, you can watch baseball and football anytime, but there's only one chance every four years to watch fencing and water polo. They're really only on television during the Olympics.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Bloody Confused

One of the books I bought on my recent trip to Britain was Up Pompey by Chuck Culpepper.

The book describes Culpepper's first season an English football supporter after fifteen years as a sportswriter in the U.S. He started following Portsmouth FC when they were battling EPL relegation during the 2005-2006 season, and became a dyed in the wool Pompey supporter the following year, taking the train to all their home and away games.
As Culpepper writes in the forward, "it was like childhood, with beer".

Anyway, the book came out this in the U.S. with a new title Bloody Confused and a new cover(left). When I saw this, I thought Culpepper might have a new book out, but it's the same old book with a new title for American readers who may not get that "Play Up Pompey" is Portsmouth's club motto.

The subtitle was also changed from "a clueless American sportswriter bumbles through English football" to "a clueless American sportswriter seeks solace in English soccer", and the new cover makes it look like a different book. That weird-looking dude on the cover of Up Pompey (right) is a Portsmouth fan who legally changed his last name to "Portsmouth FC".

It would be nice if Bloody Confused has an update through the 2008 season, because Portsmouth won the F.A. Cup last year, and Culpepper's L.A. Times article about their triumph would make a nice addendum for the U.S. edition.

Another soccer book that was re-titled for American audiences was Simon Kuper's Football Against The Enemy, which was released over here as Soccer Against The Enemy. At least this sounds like the same book (retitled because we call the sport "soccer", not "football"), but the publisher also changed all references inside Kuper's book from "football" to "soccer" even when it messes up the grammar or the meaning.

The U.S. edition of Kuper's book is full of lines about "American soccer quarterbacks" and players "kicking a soccer" (since "football" refers to both the sport and the ball). Talk about "bloody confused"!

It reads a lot like "Tyson Homosexual" setting a world record at the U.S. Olympic trials.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My song of the fortnight "Lighten Up, Morrissey" by Sparks. After a few listens to Exotic Creatures Of The Deep, this song is on it's way to garnering as many replays as that "Metaphor" tune from their last album.

I got comparisons coming out my ears
And she never can hit the pause
If only Morrissey weren't so Morrissey-esque
She might overlook my flaws

Searching the google for the lyrics to this song, I discovered an ad for Moz's show last year at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks, NV.

I wonder if Sparks have ever played a show in Sparks? Another winner from Exotic Creatures (based on the title alone) is "I Can't Believe That You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song".

Monday, August 4, 2008

Under Pressure

Happy Birthday to Barack Obama, who turns 47 today.  

Prime-numbered birthdays are usually the best birthdays (I've got one coming up this month), so that plus this daily horoscope should make 47 an age to remember for BO.

Today's birthday (Aug. 4): Your stock goes up this year.
Within the next 10 weeks, it'll be amazing how powerful you feel.

One of the things I have to deal with when I go visit my parents is the constant annoyance of Fox News on their teevee. This weekend, Fox's hosts were poking fun at Obama for his suggestion that we could save all the oil that Republicans are talking about drilling in the ANWR by just keeping our car tires properly inflated and getting regular tune-ups. They gleefully reported that the RNC were distributing tire gauges labeled "Barack Obama's Energy Plan".

Pumping up your tires? Ha ha, isn't that silly? Turns out he's right! According to GWB's Department of Energy, 27% of the cars on the road have significantly under-inflated tires and every pound per square inch of tire under-inflation wastes 4 million gallons of gas daily in the U.S. So the production offset is more likely to approach 800 thousand barrels per day. Peak production from ANWR drilling would be 780 thousand barrels per day, which couldn't be accomplished until 2020. So pumping up your tires, and other pragmatic things like driving less and driving slower, will save more right now than drilling will create in ten years.

And if distributing tire gauges with your opponent's name on them isn't a sign of a party and candidate who've lost their way, I'm not sure what is!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Dreaming of birds that are black

The Bye Bye Blackbirds just announced that their long awaited album Houses & Homes is coming out in late September on the American Dust label.  One of the songs ("The Ghosts Are Alright") is streaming at their myspace site, and also downloadable here for awhile.

They've been playing many of the Houses & Homes songs live since before their EP came out, and there are a bunch of top notch tunes there. The album is pre-orderable here. Most titles by American Dust (and their sister label Isota) are on emusic and iTunes, but that cover art is too cool to be rendered as a bunch of pixels on a computer or an iPod!

To prepare for the album, American Dust is also offering up a special four-song Bye Bye Blackbirds EP as a free download. It includes a cover of the Go-Betweens "Apology Accepted" (a song they did the first time I saw them, way back in early ought-six when Grant was still with us), the song "Monster Eyes" (with lyrics from Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet -- the credits read Skaught/Lethem), and acoustic versions of their big radio hit "In Every Season" and bassist William Duke's "Leave A Light On".

Grab it here while it's HOT
(to keep my blogging theme for the dog days of August).

Saturday, August 2, 2008

We all came out to Montreux

As in Montreux Golf & Country Club, the site of this week's Legends Reno-Tahoe Open on the PGA tour.

My dad is volunteering at the tournament this week and had me helping him out. Montreux CC is a beautiful setting in the hills over Reno, NV near the Lake Tahoe shoreline. I'm always tempted to start singing "Smoke On The Water" whenever I go there, which is tough, because I only know about three or four lines in the entire song (if singing the famous riff doesn't count!).

The Reno-Tahoe Open doesn't draw many big names (Michelle Wie got a special exemption but didn't make the cut), but even second-tier professional golfers can put on a show. I saw someone hit a 400+ yard drive on the 8th hole today. I can't remember who it was, but it's impressive to watch someone hit a golf ball 400 yards.

The NaBloPoMo theme for August is "hot" which is appropriate since Reno is really hot in the Summer. The temperatures today were well above 90, even in the shade, even though it is a dry heat, with emphasis on "dry". I was chain drinking bottles of water all day and still had trouble staying hydrated. My blog motto for August is "door to door in the August heat", which comes from a Loud Family song.. but you all knew that!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Rockin' Baseball

Here's the Baseball Project doing "Past Time" on Letterman.

Their album Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails was one of the first things I downloaded after my emusic downloads refreshed, and I've been enjoying it. The concept of an entire album of songs about baseball might sound a little shaky, but Steve Wynn and Scott McCaughey are top-flight songwriters as well as major seamheads, so the album is like a pitcher's duel between two crafty veterans.

For every McCaughey gem like "Past Time" (which mentions Pete Rose barreling into Ray Fosse, Joe Pepitone's sideburns, and Oscar Gamble's afro) or "The Yankee Flipper" (a firsthand account of Scott's night on the town partying with Jack McDowell, Mike Mills, and Dennis Diken - "two guitars, bass, and drums" - before Jack's Yankee Stadium "finger" incident), Wynn fires back with a "Ted F*ing Williams" (which is how Teddy Ballgame used to psych himself up when he was on deck) or "Harvey Haddix" (about the Pirates pitcher who was perfect for 12 innings before losing the game in the 13th. Complete with a roll-call of perfect game hurlers: "Len Barker against the Jays.. and Catfish for the A's. Don Larsen, in the series, in 1956..Why don't we add 'Ol Harvey to that list?").

Listening to this Baseball Project album inspired me to come up with a mix of similar songs about baseball. It's inspired by this baseball mix by 2f's, and featured many of the same songs from his mix.

The title, "Rockin' Baseball", is a pun on that cheesy Terry Cashman song about Willie, Mickey, & the Duke that begat this parody.

Rockin' Baseball

1. "Baseball-Football" - George Carlin
This is an early version of the monologue, that doesn't have my favorite bit about football being about "downs" - "What down is it?" while baseball is about "ups" - "Who's up?". RIP G.C.

2. "Joe DiMaggio Done It Again" - Billy Bragg & Wilco
This is a Woodie Guthrie tune from Mermaid Avenue II. DiMaggio inspired both Hemingway and Guthrie, as well as Paul Simon and whoever wrote that "Joltin' Joe" song.

3. "Catfish" - Bob Dylan
A Dylan song about Jim "Catfish" Hunter that I didn't know about until the 2f's tape. This has Catfish striking out Reggie Jackson, so must have been written in 1976 (the one year when Reggie and Catfish weren't teammates).

4. "Where's That Hit?" - The Hoodoo Gurus
People who claim that baseball hasn't spread to any countries that haven't had U.S. military occupation conveniently forget about Australia, which the sport keeps growing more popular. I think this Gurus song uses baseball as a metaphor for a band "looking for a hit" on the fourth album of a four album deal with Elektra so they can stay in the majors for a while longer.

5. "Cubs In Five" - The Mountain Goats
This song from Darnielle's "lo-fi" period also uses baseball as a metaphor. I'll love you again when the Cubs win the World Series. Which might happen this year.

6. "Harvey Haddix" - The Baseball Project
Steve Wynn's song about Haddix. I'm going up to visit my parents this weekend, and am including this in the mix so I can play it for my dad. He and his brother (my uncle) went to the Braves-Pirates game on the day after Haddix's quasi-perfect game.

7. "Bill Lee" - Warren Zevon
Warren's song about "Spaceman" Lee, who was the Warren Zevon of baseball -- "sometimes I say things I shouldn't".

8. "Right Field" - Peter, Paul & Mary
I heard this in the PP&M concert that PBS used to run during every pledge drive for twelve years. I used to play right field in baseball, and once caught two fly balls in an inning (in 8-9 year old baseball, catching a fly ball is like hitting a homer!)

9. "Moonshot Manny" - Joe Pernice
This song is out of date now, because Manny just got traded to the Dodgers yesterday. He'll be hitting moonshots in Chavez ravine for the rest of his career this year.

10. "Dock Ellis" - SF Seals
11. "Dock Ellis" - Marvin's Garden
Two songs about Dock Ellis, the Pirates pitcher who pitched a no-hitter in 1971 while tripping on LSD. The skips on the SF Seals version are on my original CD, so I need to re-rip that sometime.

12. "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" - The Hold Steady
I downloaded this from stereogum last opening day. The Hold Steady are major ball fans (Craig Finn played the encore in SF this week with a Johan Santana Twins #75 jersey) who bring their own style to this stretch staple.

One of my pet peeves about this song is when people pluralize "Cracker Jack" (there's no such thing as "Cracker Jacks"!). And, as former pitcher Larry Anderson noted, "Why do the fans sing 'Take Me Out To The Ballgame' when they're already at the ballgame?".

This year is the 100th anniversary of "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" -- the lines that people sing during the seventh inning stretch are just the chorus to a much longer song.