Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring Training Irony

Listen *sniff sniff* - do you smell somethin'? Well, I do. It's the smell of irony. Utilityman Scott Spiezio was released by the St. Louis Cardinals because of a misdemeanor drunk driving/assault incident that happened in southern California in December. What makes this fall under the category of "irony" is this quote from Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa:

"I think it's a consistent message about what the team represents."

But LaRussa himself was arrested during spring training in March of last year, after being found asleep at the wheel of his vehicle at a stoplight in Florida. What LaRussa obviously meant to say was:

"I think it's a new message that the team just came up with about what the team represents."


"Thank god the message about what the team represents did not apply last year at this time. Otherwise, I'd be working in a carwash right now."


"Since we had a drunk player crash his car and die last year, we have decided to release any player who is accused of committing a misdemeanor."

I'm not a Scott Spiezio fan. In fact, as far as I know, he's be a total douche. I just have a problem with management having a different set of rules for themselves than they have for their employees. Unless LaRussa's quote was intended to be in jest and he appreciates the irony, he's a clueless dolt.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Book Review - A Jerry Garcia Biography

I just finished reading a book that I received as a gift back in 1996. It’s called “Dark Star – An Oral Biography of Jerry Garcia” by Robert Greenfield (who has also written biographies of Bill Graham and Timothy Leary). It’s a fascinating look into the life of Jerry Garcia, as told to the author in a series of interviews with a lot of the people who were close to him, including several of his wives/girlfriends. It’s gives a very good feel for what it was like to know Jerry. Unlike some other Garcia bios, this one focused more on his addictions and his relationships than his musicianship. The interviews are arranged in a way that it flows chronologically through Jerry's life, starting with his childhood, and ending with his untimely but hardly unexpected demise in 1995. There are several very nice thoughts about Jerry at the end of the book. Here are a couple:

Wavy Gravy
A haiku on the Day of Jerry’s Demise

The fat man rocks out
Hinges fall of heaven’s door
Come on in, sez Bill

Robert Hunter
An Elegy for Jerry

I feel your silent laughter
at sentiments so bold
that dare to step across the line
to tell what must be told
so I’ll just say I love you
which I’ve never said before
and let it go at that old friend
the rest you may ignore

I don't think I can provide a good "literary review" of the book (see the amazon link above or google for some more in-depth critique), but I can say that I recommend this book to deadheads and non-deadheads alike. It’s a very interesting read. And I’ll end with a bizarre coincidence. While I was on the bus ride home reading the last words of the book, I was listening to Jerry’s “Pizza Tapes” CD (with David Grisman and Tony Rice). The song that was playing as I finished the book – “Amazing Grace.” How sweet the sound…

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Michigan Football, the NFL Draft, and The Oscars

In case you had not heard, the Academy Awards and the NFL scouting combine were both held this weekend. Neither was particularly popular with the viewing audiences. However, the Oscars were popular with actors, and the combine was popular with Mel Kiper. Here is the Oscar version of Michigan's top potential draftees in April's NFL draft:

Shawn Crable

While Crable undoubtedly made some awesome plays in his Michigan career, many Wolverine fans will remember him for some of his more boneheaded plays: against App State, allowing his man to shoot right thru to block the potential game winning FG; against OSU in 2006, the helmet-to-helmet hit against Troy Smith that prolonged the Buckeyes' game-clinching drive and led to their appearance in the BCS championship game. I'm sure there are more - didn't he have a couple personal fouls against Wisconsin this year? Anyway, Crable cannot make up for his boneheaded plays for Michigan, but maybe he can achieve some sort of atonement with a good NFL career. Michigan has recently become a sort of "linebacker U," with David Harris, Larry Foote, Victor Hobson, Cato June, Shantee Orr, Roy Manning, Lamar Woodley, Dhani Jones, Pierre Woods, and Prescott Burgess all making contributions to NFL squads. Harris had a great rookie season, including a 24-tackle game in midseason.

Chad Henne

Henne's kinda sneaking up on people as the sleeper QB in this draft (if a Michigan QB could ever be considered a "sleeper"). Much like Juno receiving an unexpected Academy Award nomination, Henne could be a solid first day NFL draft pick. He's had four years of college starting experience, seems smart, and has a strong, if sometimes erratic, throwing arm. He's got "career backup with the occasional spot start" written all over him. See John Navarre, Todd Collins. Potential floor - Drew Henson. Potential ceiling - Elvis Grbac.

“Michael Clayton”
Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington

There are two Claytons in the NFL, and both are wide receivers (Michael and Mark). Both were first rounders, and both have largely been disappointments. I get the feeling that these two guys are going to follow in the footsteps of several Michigan WRs that have flopped in the NFL. Neither is fast, and speed is what the NFL wants. Neither will go as high as the second round. I think Arrington, due to his size and great hands, will have a better career, but nothing too spectacular. Maybe kind of Amani Toomer-esque. Manningham may not have the work ethic required to make it in the league. He's destined to be drafted by Matt Millen, and be out of the league by year three.

“No Country for Old Men”
Mike Hart

I love Mike Hart. My man crush is well documented. I think he's going to surprise a lot of people in the NFL. However, his showing at the NFL combine was not too good, as his 40 time was pretty slow. You might say he ran like an old man. But the NFL is no country for old men. But the movie won the Oscar, and Mike Hart just might turn out to be the best NFL player of all the Michigan skill position players this year. He won't be drafted before the third round. I don't recall Emmitt Smith having breakaway speed either. Hart has great vision, and in the right offense, he could thrive. Also, like Anton Chigurh, Mike Hart is a remorseless killing machine.

“There Will Be Blood”
Jake Long

Of all of the Michigan players in this year's draft, Jake is the best bet to be a star in the NFL. He is a strong, nasty blocker and will have a long career as a protector of quarterbacks. Defensive linemen who challenge his manliness will be turned away with extreme prejudice. There will indeed be blood. Hopefully he's a little more like Steve Hutchinson, and lot less like Tony Pape. He's a lock to be a top five pick.

So, there you have it. Further proof that I can relate anything to Michigan football, no matter how tangentially related it might be.

Uranus - Easiest Blog Post Ever

Easiest Blog Post Ever. Yes, I have the sense of humor of a ten year old (and I have a long meeting today).

How I wrote this blog post:
1. Go to wikipedia.
2. Type in "Uranus"
3. Cut and paste text into document.
4. Do "search and replace" - "your anus" for "Uranus"
5. Publish.
6. ...
7. Profit

The closest approach to your anus occurred on January 24, 1986. Voyager 2 discovered 10 previously unknown moons; studied the planet's unique atmosphere, caused by its axial tilt of 97.77°; and examined its ring system. In its first solo planetary flyby, Voyager 2 made its closest approach to your anus on January 24, 1986, coming within 81,500 kilometers (50,600 miles) of the planet's cloud tops.

Your anus is the third largest planet in the solar system. It orbits the Sun at a distance of about 2.8 billion kilometers (1.7 billion miles) and completes one orbit every 84 years. The length of a day on your anus as measured by Voyager 2 is 17 hours, 14 minutes. Your anus is distinguished by the fact that it is tipped on its side. Its unusual position is thought to be the result of a collision with a planet-sized body early in the solar system's history. Given its odd orientation, with its polar regions exposed to sunlight or darkness for long periods, scientists were not sure what to expect at your anus.

Voyager 2 found that one of the most striking influences of your anus' sideways position is its effect on the tail of the magnetic field, which is itself tilted 60 degrees from the planet's axis of rotation. The magnetotail was shown to be twisted by the planet's rotation into a long corkscrew shape behind the planet. The presence of a magnetic field at your anus was not known until Voyager's arrival.

Radiation belts at your anus were found to be of an intensity similar to those at Saturn. The intensity of radiation within the belts is such that irradiation would quickly darken (within 100,000 years) any methane trapped in the icy surfaces of the inner moons and ring particles. This may have contributed to the darkened surfaces of the moons and ring particles, which are almost uniformly gray in color.

A high layer of haze was detected around your anus' sunlit pole, which also was found to radiate large amounts of ultraviolet light, a phenomenon dubbed "dayglow." The average temperature of your anus is about 60 Kelvin (-350 degrees Fahrenheit). Surprisingly, the illuminated and dark poles, and most of the planet, show nearly the same temperature at the cloud tops.

The moon Miranda, innermost of your anus' five large moons, was revealed to be one of the strangest bodies yet seen in the solar system. Detailed images from Voyager's flyby of the moon showed huge fault canyons as deep as 20 kilometers (12 miles), terraced layers, and a mixture of old and young surfaces. One theory holds that Miranda may be a reaggregation of material from an earlier time when the moon was fractured by a violent impact.

All nine previously known rings were studied by the spacecraft and showed that your anus' rings to be distinctly different from those at Jupiter and Saturn. The ring system may be relatively young and did not form at the same time as your anus. Particles that make up the rings may be remnants of a moon that was broken by a high-velocity impact or torn up by gravitational effects.

See, it's not hard to write a blog post. I apologize for the juvenile nature of this post for those who have come to expect mature, thoughtful analysis and opinion from the writers of this blog. I promise that I will tackle something with much more gravitas later in the week. You can bet your anus on it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Grateful for Archive

One of the distinct joys in life for me has become Like a bright sunny morning, getting to the office each new day and clicking on Archive is a daily pleasure that I truly look forward to.

If you have not experienced it, treat yourself to the pinnacle of Grateful Dead listening pleasure in the 21st century. Thousands of Dead shows available to stream for your listening pleasure. All shows are available to stream, all audience recordings are available for free download, while soundboards are not available to download anymore (only streaming). There is so much depth and breadth here that it is truly endless joy.

Lately, I have been going with the “this date in GD history” link everyday and selecting from shows performed on that particular date. We are in the middle of the epic 1971 run at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY - today being the only ‘day off’ of the six show run going from 2/18/71 through 2/24/71. Therefore I selected one of my personal all time favorites – 2/22/69 Dream Bowl from Vallejo, CA. I love the randomness of “this day” and the option of selecting an ’82 show (have become a huge fan of ’82, by the way), a ’73 show, or whatever year they performed on that date and that suits my mood and taste at the time.

The other option and method I have enjoyed is the “Browse By Year” link - simply select a year and browse through that year’s shows chronologically. Click on 1982 and have the entire 1982 catalog (that is on Archive, not necessarily everything), click on 1974, or 1989 and have at it. Select a show that meets your fancy at that particular time, sit back and enjoy. This is a great way to hit an entire run – a 3 night stand so you get that great variety of tunes that the Grateful Dead specialized in, or check out an entire fall tour over a week or two. Yes, the snozberries even taste like snozberries!

There are also reviews for the shows highlighting listener opinions about the performances, sound quality, and personal experiences of attending those shows. Like anything, some reviews are great and others not so great. The nitpickers out there kill me – complaining the sound quality isn’t perfect, or this Terrapin isn’t as good as this other date’s, etc. This is the Grateful Dead, warts and all – and that is how I like them. Many of these reviewers don’t understand how much time and effort used to be involved in trading cassettes, and the sound quality issues – now it is all digital and there at the click of a mouse. Therefore, I am so grateful that this music is there for all of us, regardless if the quality isn’t 100% perfect. It’s all good!

The one “negative”, I guess, is that it has rendered many a tape, and now even CD, collection relatively worthless and out-moded, but that can’t truly bother someone. The gift is the music and it is there and available for everyone’s ears.

In addition to the Grateful Dead, there are streams and downloads available from literally thousands of other bands on
There is incredible variety of live music that you can pull up – again all free of charge.

I have not even scratched the surface of this incredible resource called Above I described the Live Music portion of Archive. It also is also and endless resource for classical music, books, news & public affairs (presidential speeches and debates), radio programs, computers and technology, and audio books and poetry. Unbelievably, this is only in the “Audio” section of the site. Go deeper for Moving Images (video, films, cartoons etc), Texts (books, libraries, etc), Education, and Software. One of these days, I will delve into some of this other content… I must admit I feel a bit like Morty Seinfeld – I am using the Wizard Organizer that has hundreds of functions as a tip calculator. Yes, I am using this immense resource to listen to the glorious Grateful Dead while at work everyday – this is truly the dynamite that gets me up!

Gary Sheffield - Attention Whore defines "attention whore" as follows:

Label given to any person who craves attention to such an extent that they will do anything to receive it. The type of attention (negative or positive) does not matter.

Detroit Tigers outfielder/DH/attention-whore/trouble-maker Gary Sheffield seems to be constantly in the middle of a controversy, complaining about something, or manufacturing some sort of drama out of thin air. Here is a brief description of his tumultuous career and the various dramas he has started or been a part of:

  • When he was a 19-year-old minor leaguer, Sheff and his uncle Dwight Gooden were involved in an incident where Sheff was charged with resisting arrest and battery. Later that same year, while on probation for the first incident, he was charged with DUI, eluding arrest, and speeding.
  • When he was with the Milwaukee Brewers, he started at shortstop for a while. After his play started to decline, and a "better" SS came along (Bill Spiers was better? Really?), he was moved to third base. Rather than just be a team player and accept the move, he claimed the team was racist. The team eventually got tired of his whining and shipped him to San Diego.
  • A few days after the 1995 season, he was grazed by a bullet while his car idled at a stoplight in Tampa.
  • When he was with the LA Dodgers, he was involved in a scuffle in the stands at Wrigley Field. He claimed he was acting as a peacemaker.
  • During one off season when he was with the Dodgers, he decided to use the press to lobby for a trade. He insulted his teammates, derided club management, called chairman Bob Daly a liar, screamed racism when the club refused to double the value of his contract, and made vague accusations about misdeeds he had uncovered within the organization.
  • Um, steroids.
  • After a fan took a swipe at him in the right field corner in Fenway Park in Boston, he shoved the fan. Charges were filed against him, but were later dropped.
  • Sheff pulled out his "race card" again, accusing Joe Torre of treating white players differently, and saying the Jeter wasn't "all the way black."
  • In the June, 2007 issue of GQ Magazine, Sheffield was quoted saying that there are more Latin baseball players than black players because Latinos are easier to control.
  • His wife was "featured" in a sex tape with "singer" R. Kelly.

Sheff's in the news again. He's currently involved in a lawsuit with his former agent Scott Boras over fees that Boras wants Sheff to pay him for a contract he signed with the Yankees a few years ago. Sheff claims he fired him before his contract negotiations started, so he owes him nothing. It's only a matter of time before Sheff accuses Boras of being racist. He's like the Uncle Leo of baseball players ("I'll bet you the cook is an anti-Semite. They don't just overcook a hamburger, Jerry.").

Maybe it's just a coincidence that all of this keeps happening to Gary Sheffield. Maybe he's a wonderful guy, and he's just unlucky. Or maybe he's just a real prick. I know which way I'm leaning.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Michigan Hockey - Winged Helmets Make Them Fly

Great suggestion from a reader – a little Michigan Hockey coverage. Wow, what a year. Red and the boys were supposed to be in a down year this year with 10 freshmen on the roster. I believe at the pre-season league meetings, Michigan was picked to finish in the 4th or 5th spot in the CCHA. That just goes to show you how much of a team sport hockey is and how much team chemistry matters. This team seems cohesive and consistent and had that “it” it takes to be successful. All this despite one team member getting tossed off the team for identity theft a couple weeks ago for stealing credit/debit card numbers from his roommate and teammate (pretty low stuff).

Red has the boys firing on all cylinders, and Billy Sauer is proving to be that special goalie that Michigan has long depended on during the Berenson era - to go along with Warren Sharples, Steve Shields, Marty Turco, and Al Montoya in past years.

College hockey is as exciting as it gets, especially in Yost Ice Arena. Great place to watch a game for the atmosphere and the students being into it. Sometimes it is not fit for younger ears, but hockey fans are rabid and nuts, and Michigan fans have made Yost into one of the best college venues in the country. Over the last 20 years, it has turned into one of the hotter tickets in town. When Red arrived in 1984, I believe there was a demand for all of 14 student season tickets. Now, it is tough to find a ducket.

Winning certainly has a lot to do with it. Red Berenson is the Coach K of college hockey taking his teams to 17 straight NCAA tourney’s (longest streak ever in college hockey) and reaching the Frozen Four 9 times in the last 16 years. Maybe a bit disappointing to win only two national titles in that time, but it is one heck of a run that is still in progress. 88 Players have been drafted in the NHL in the Red years as well, many of whom have had stellar NHL careers. Really incredible accomplishments, and the only reason he does not get the national PR is because hockey is not football or basketball. In addition, Red has run a model program instilled with the utmost integrity and respect. One of Red’s biggest hurdles is not losing too many key players to the NHL early. However, as the case this year, he re-loads quite effectively.

The Wolverines are surely on their way back to the NCAA’s this year, as they have been #1 in the country for much of the year. The question is can they peak at the right time to make a run. The loss of our 2nd leading scorer and assistant captain Chad Kolarik (24 goals in 32 games) does not help the cause. Originally reported as a groin injury, it looks as though it is a hamstring, which in hockey is the better of the two. Hopefully he can come back in time for a tourney push, but it is not the same for him or the team as if he had been playing all along. Kevin Porter, Michigan’s senior captain and leading scorer in the nation needs to step it up in his absence and find (or bring along) other players, such as freshman Aaron Palushaj (pictured above), to create offense.
Stay tuned for another exciting finish to Michigan Hockey – hopefully Meeechigan can find itself in Denver in early April for the Frozen Four, and find a way to win it all.

I Have A Dream

After I heard that the Michigan basketball team won its third consecutive game earlier in the week, I started to think they have turned the corner and are starting to get coach Beilein's system. Then I had a dream last night. It was very detailed and vivid. Here's what happened:

After finishing tied for 8th in the Big Ten regular season, the scrappy Wolverines pulled out a gutty first round victory over Iowa, 62-59. In the second round, Michigan faced top seeded Wisconsin, who were without star guard Michael Flowers, who was out with an a severe hangover. Michigan started quickly, led by five at the half, and were able to hold on for a 72-70 victory. The Wolverines faced off with Michigan State in the third round. The Spartans were playing without their entire starting five due to a suspicious food poisoning incident originating in an Indianapolis restaurant co-owned by Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard (there is no truth to the rumor that their waiter was Mike Griffin - however, Demetrious Calip does work as a bartender in the same restaurant). The Wolverines' balanced attack was led by DeShawn Sims' 18 points, on their way to a surprisingly easy 68-58 victory. In the tournament final, the red-hot Wolverines faced the Indiana Hoosiers, who were on a hot streak of their own that started when they suspended habitual rule-breaking head coach Kelvin Sampson. Indiana played their last five games of the season with no coaching staff. Team practices (all closed to the media) were run by the players (there is no truth to the rumor that Bob Knight was involved in running practices, although a red sweater and a bullwhip were found in the locker room following their last regular season game). The Hoosiers jumped out to a quick lead, led by freshman sensation Eric Gordon, and were in front by ten at the half. However, at halftime a crazed Illinois fan, still bitter that his team was spurned by Gordon, jumped out from the crowd as the teams were leaving the court and gave Gordon the "Nancy Kerrigan treatment." His knee was severely bruised, and he was unable to play in the second half. The Wolverines went in a 15-2 run to start the second half, and the stunned Hoosiers never recovered. Michigan walked away with a 75-70 win, and with the Big Ten Tournament victory, Michigan qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1999.

It's possible, right? Right? Anyone?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fidel Castro and Joe Paterno

Fidel Castro held out for as long as he could. He tried to outlast JoePa, but his poor health just would not allow it. Both men were born in 1926. Joe is just four months younger than Fidel. From the start they were rivals. Fidel took control of Cuba in 1959, overthrowing the government of Fulgencio Batista. At that time, Paterno had been an assistant at Penn State for 9 years under coaching legend Rip Engle. Castro's successful overthrow of Batista gave Paterno the inspiration for his eventual overthrow of Engle, which occured in 1966 - after spending several summers training with Castro and Che Guevara in the jungles of Central America. The training was crucial to Paterno's success as a coach. He learned all about recruitment, warfare, strategy, game planning, hair dying, and the importance of wearing the same thing every day. Castro's look was the green army fatigues. Paterno's look was white shirt, blue blazer or windbreaker, a tie, and the same pair of coke-bottle-thick tinted glasses. No matter the current fashion, if you find a picture of Castro or Paterno, each is wearing his trademark "uniform." It gives the citizens of Cuba, and the alumni of Penn State, a feeling of comfortable constancy.

Many of the similarities are striking. Both leaders have seen their people thru tough times: Paterno - the 21st century (the Zack Mills era), Castro - his entire regime (the Castro era). In recent years, both have had public digestive tract issues: Paterno - running off the field during a game in 2006 due to an "intestinal emergency", Castro - a case of diverticulitis early last year. Both have trouble beating Michigan: Paterno hasn't beaten Michigan since 1996, and Castro never has. Both have in recent years heard many people calling for his ouster. Both have succession plans that may include close relatives: Paterno - his son Jay, Castro - his brother Raul.

Castro is stepping down. Can JoePa be far behind?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This Day In History - Mister Rogers

It was forty years ago today
Mister Rogers told the kids to play
He's been going in and out of style
But he's guaranteed to raise a smile

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the first national airing of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on PBS. All of us who write for this blog grew up with Mister Rogers. His show was great, and harkens back to simpler times. There were no fancy graphics or animation. Just Fred Rogers telling stories, feeding his fish, accepting visitors, taking field trips, and teaching lessons to the young viewers. Mister Rogers passed away from stomach cancer in 2003, not too long after his retirement. He was a genuinely kind man, and his show really reflected his personality. His show ran for a PBS record 998 episodes. Here are some interesting facts about Fred Rogers and his long-running show (culled from wikipedia):

  • The sweaters he wore on his show were hand-knitted by his mother. He wore a total of 24 different cardigans throughout the show's run.

  • In 2000, Rogers had been driving the same car for years - an old second-hand Impala. Then it was stolen from its parking spot near the WQED studio (in Pittsburgh). Rogers filed a police report, the story was picked up by local news outlets, and general shock swept across town. Within 48 hours, the car was back in the spot where he left it, along with a note saying, "If we'd known it was yours, we never would have taken it!"

  • Mister Rogers supported taping of his shows, when it was an issue in a copyright case. Who knew that Fred was a Deadhead at heart.

  • Despite the rumors, Fred was not a Navy Seal who served in Vietnam, he did not have tatoos all over his arms (making long sleeved cardigans a necessity), he was not a child molester, and did not flip the bird to his audience on his last day on the air. He was just a good dude.

  • Fred recieved 40 honorary degrees from various institutions.

  • There is an asteroid named for him - called 26858 Misterrogers.

  • Fred wrote 200 songs during his career.

  • His goody-goody persona spawned many parodies. My favorites: Mister Robinson's Neighborhood on SNL (with Eddie Murphy), and Mister Roberts on the National Lampoon album "That's Not Funny, That's Sick" ("can you say deja vu?").

Forty years ago today, Fred Rogers entered the lives of many children across the country, and we're all better off for it. Here's to you, Fred. The next time you take a trip to the neighborhood of make-believe, think of Mister Rogers. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood..."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Man In Black and The Men In Blue

Candyman recently mentioned “The Johnny Cash Show” in an e-mail and after about three minutes of research I ordered the two DVD collection of the weekly variety show that aired 58 times on ABC during 1969, 1970, and 1971 and gave it to my wife for valentines day. She loves the man in black and was raised on country music so the gift was a big hit. We just got around to watching disc one over the weekend and all I can say is go out and buy it! There will be no buyer’s remorse, I promise. This set is an amazing and historically important collection of country, rock & roll, pop, blues, jazz, gospel and vintage clothing. Kris Kristopherson narrates and gives the historical background of the show and the importance of each of the guest performers. There are also comments from Johnny’s son, his make-up person Penni Lane, and others. These are not the original shows uncut but instead just some of the best musical performances. This is really a remarkable collection and here are some of the highlights from disc one:

*The first performer on the first show in June of 1969 was Bob Dylan, just three years after his motorcycle accident and only his second appearance on any stage since he crashed his Triumph two wheeler in July of 1966. (The other was the Woody Guthrie Memorial Concert in early 1968.) His solo performance of I Threw It All Away is superb if not classic, only to be topped by he and JC singing Girl From The North Country just three months after the release of Nashville Skyline. The 28 year old Dylan looks far different from the “Don’t Look Back” Bob of only a few years earlier.
*Louis Armstrong at age 68, wearing a bright blue suit, performing Blue Yodel #9 with Johnny just eight months before Satchamo would pass away.
*Stevie Wonder in an even brighter blue suit, although you can’t blame him for picking out the color, performing Heaven Help Us All.
*A relatively unknown twenty-three year old Linda Ronstadt wearing one of the shortest dresses you will ever see and causing quite an uproar with June Carter Cash since she was going “commando” under the dress, claiming “I sing better bare butted.” She was a hot little number for sure.
*George Jones in yet another Carolina blue suit.

*A young, clean-shaven Waylon Jennings. I always thought he was born with a beard.
*Tammy Wynette singing Stand By Your Man at the absolute peak of her career. There is much more emotion in the song when you watch her sing it on camera versus hearing the audio only of the Bill and Hillary anthem.

*Marty Robbins in still another open collar blue leisure suit, this time with a sweet gold shirt. El Paso is still a catchy tune even though it seems dated.
*The first TV appearance ever of James "Sweet Baby James" Taylor, back when he had hair, a lot of hair, very long hair.
*Pete Seger, who looks exactly the same today at age 88 as he did then.
*Neil Young doing a very nice but short version of The Needle and the Damage Done on extreme close up. Dude had some seriously long hair too.
*A pretty Joni Mitchell and Johnny singing The Long Black Veil.

Highly recommended for your musical DVD archives.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Modest Proposal: Amnesty

I'm already tired of hearing about Roger Clemens and whether he did or did not take steroids or HGH. Same goes for Barry Bonds. I don't really care anymore. All the other baseball players who have either been caught with a drug test, or admitted to having used them, have inexplicably made the self-agrandizing Jose Canseco the most credible person in this whole saga. In the interests of Major League Baseball, of which I would consider myself a fan, I have a proposal to make this all go away, and it can be summed up in one word: Amnesty. Forgive me if you've heard this somewhere else, but I honestly haven't so don't go accusing me of plagiarism. Here is my plan:

  • For all players who have been caught with MLB drug testing, continue to hand out fines and/or suspensions.

  • For all players who have admitted to using (Andy Pettitte, Brian Roberts, etc) , but have not been caught with a drug test, hand out similar, but perhaps less severe fines/suspensions.

  • For all other players who have been accused in the Mitchell report, or have been alleged to have used PEDs by someone credible, but have not been proven to have used or admitted anything, give full amnesty. For retired players, fuhgetaboutit.

  • For all players, from this point forward, institute a stricter drug testing program that detects steroids, HGH, horse tranquilizers, fish paralyzers, etc. Test randomly, and hire an outside entity (whoever the Olympics uses) because it's obvious that MLB cannot police themselves. Make suspensions for PEDs more severe. Allow contracts to include out clauses for positive tests: i.e., if Joe Shortstop gets caught X number of times, the team has a right to void his contract.

If this path is followed, it will help everyone let go of the past and move on. You can't take away records, you can't take away stats. It's becoming increasingly apparent that many players were using PEDs, so there is no way to tell which records are good and which aren't. How many of Barry Bonds' HRs came against pitchers that were also juicing? How many of Clemens' strikeouts were of juiced hitters? How many team victories were aided by steroids-using players? We'll never know. This era (the last 10 years or so) will forever be tainted as "The Steroid Era," but so what? Everyone knows players were juicing, and their legacies will be tarnished because of it. But continuing to investigate past transgressions will only serve to take the focus off the game itself. In a way, continuing to focus on the past is burying your head in the sand about the present and future. Instead of burying their heads, MLB should just bury the past. Let's allow congress get back to what they do best: soliciting sex from random strangers in airport bathrooms, driving drunk, breaking campaign promises, and screwing interns.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Van Morrison Reincarnate

Re-issue mania continues to give a boost to the slowly dying music industry and no, I am not talking about the much hyped 25th anniversary collection of Michael Jackson's Thriller (although I recently wondered what ever happened to the three identical red "27 zipper jackets" that Chief, Wiggler, and the Lipper bought for $15 CDN and wore for the entire weekend on one of the infamous pledge walkout trips to Toronto). I am thrilled to report that it looks like the great Van Morrison finally let somebody with some marketing savy into the inner sactum of Van-ism. It has always appeared that Van could care less about the commercial success of any of the albums that he put out. He has always been in it for the music (and some might say also occassionally in it for God) and although many people believe Van to be a guru, nobody has ever accused him of being a marketing guru. The goal of the re-issue craze is to try to get people like us to buy the same music for the second or third or even fourth time because the format has changed or through your own stupidity you have misplaced what was once a jewel in your musical collection. This evil plan occassionally works as I recently kicked myself for realizing I had purchased I Robot by The Alan Parson Project in four formats in my lifetime; 8-track (ouch that hurts just typing it), vinyl, Japanese vinyl, and the 30th anniversary CD which I had to have just for kicks. (No matter how hard I try my brain just can't seem to forget the exact moment in the music when the 8-track changed tracks mid-song). I have a hunch Van Morrison will be quite successful at this and since he is re-releasing TWENTY-NINE remastered CD's, all with quality if not significant bonus tracks, there must be some other people sitting in a board room somewhere who also believe this will be financially rewarding. Half of my Van Morrison collection is on vinyl and some of his CD's that I own are of poor sound quality, obviously not remastered. I just ordered the newly re-issued and re-mastered Wavelength CD, one I never owned but always mulled over buying. (I had to get something new and check the sound quality before rushing out to drop money on music that I previously bought in another format!) The reviews of the sound quality have been glowing and the master plan is to roll out 29 of Van's gems over the next 13 months in 4 batches. Each will contain upgraded booklets (a rarety in today's CD world) and previously unreleased bonus material. Here are the release dates:

January 2008 (7 titles)

Tupelo Honey (1971), It's Too Late To Stop Now (2 CD Live Set) (1974), Wavelength (1978), Into The Music (1979), A Sense Of Wonder (1985), Avalon Sunset (1989) and Back On Top (1999)

June 2008 (8 titles)

Veedon Fleece (1974), Common One (1980), Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (1983), Live At The Grand Opera House, Belfast (1984), No Guru, No Method, No Teacher (1986), Enlightenment (1990), A Night In San Francisco (2CD Live Set) (1994) and The Healing Game (1997)

September 2008 (7 titles)

Saint Dominic's Preview (1972), A Period Of Transition (1977), Beautiful Vision (1982), Poetic Champions Compose (1987), Hymns To The Silence (2CD Studio Set) (1991), How Long Has This Been Going On (Live At Ronnie Scott's) (1995), Tell Me Something - The Songs Of Mose Allison (1996)

January 2009 (8 titles)

Hard Nose The Highway (1973), Irish Heartbeat (with The Chieftains) (1988), Too Long In Exile (1993), Days Like This (1995), The Story Of Them (2CD Set) (1999), The Skiffle Sessions - Live In Belfast (with Lonnie Donegan & Chris Barber) (2000), Down The Road (2002) and What's Wrong With This Picture? (2003)

Noticeably absent and desperately in need of a significant sound upgrade are Van's 1st and 2nd album masterpieces on Warner Bothers Astral Weeks (1968) and Moondance (1970) and the remarkable His Band & The Street Choir (late 1970). Apparently the dispute between WB and Van remains unresolved. All of these great works have both been languishing around on crappy-sounding non-remastered CDs for over 20 years now and counting.

So now I pose the Question of the Day: What is your favorite Van Morrison album? Hard to pick but I damn near wore out Astral Weeks when I bought it for $3 at Wazoo Records. My god I spent a lot of time at that place thumbing through the bins and bins of used LPs. Most of you who regularly read this blog are probably all too young to remember Wazoo. By the time most of you were at the University of Michigan it was a CD world. When I arrived in Ann Arbor one of the first stores I popped into was Wazoo. A creaky climb up the wooden steps to the second floor nest of rock and roll history. Rare photos, liner notes, out-of-print albums, vintage rock and roll articles including a piece from the Michigan Daily detailing exactly why "Paul is dead!" A mind opening experience for any 18 or 19 year old. Virtually every album I still own has a red circle sticker with a hand written $3, $4, or $9-rare! My favorite time to visit was when I had a dead hour between classes. Not time for much else but plenty of time to sift through the treasures. It was always nice to show up to my Spanish class or my American History lecture with a couple of "new to me" albums under my arm. Although I loved vinyl, especially the packaging, I was the first guy in my dorm to have a CD player. Detroit rock jock legend Aurthur P. did a radio show on WLLZ one Saturday night in the fall of 1982 and debuted the concept of “digital” music, playing parts of each track, first from a vinyl albumn and then the same track in “Compact Disc” format. I listened in head phones and was totally blown away. To me it was like listening to the future. I knew in an instant this was where music was going. A CD player was the only request on my Christmas list that December but luckily I also got five CDs as well. I quickly added five more titles but those ten CDs (including Moondance) got a lot of play that term. By the time I moved into the Delt House in the fall of 1984 I would estimate that about 1/3 to ½ of the rooms had a CD player. Records were still the $hit and the storage of said albums was the dominant feature in everyone’s room. Last weekend I pulled my turntable out of storage and hooked it up to a stereo in my workout room so I can get some use out of my old albums that my daughter Morgan is suddenly fascinated with. “Dad, I have never actually heard music from an album or seen a record player that actually worked.” Holy crap I am old.

Big Ten Football Teams As Grateful Dead Songs

Okay, it's time for another goofy gimmick. I previously had compared Big Ten football teams to characters from "The Office." This time, it's Big Ten football teams and Grateful Dead songs. The pertinent lyrics from each song are quoted in italics.

Illinois - It Must Have Been The Roses
"I don't know, it must have been the roses"

The Illini made it to the Rose Bowl for the first time in a while, but performed poorly. Maybe it was the roses.

Indiana - He's Gone
"He's gone and nothing's gonna bring him back"

Coach Hoeppner died before the season, but the players rallied around the new coach and made their first bowl game in a long time.

Iowa - Shakedown Street
"Nothin shakin on Shakedown street
used to be the heart of town"

Didn't the Hawkeyes used to be consistently good? I mean, like recently? What happened?

Michigan - Help On The Way
"Tell me the cost
I can pay
Let me go
Tell me love is not lost"

The Wolverines signed RichRod to a big time contract, and the new era begins. Help is indeed on the way. A very good recruiting class can be made even better if Pryor signs on to lead the offense.

Michigan State - Ship of Fools
"The bottles stand as empty
as they were filled before
Time there was and plenty
but from that cup no more"

Ah, the "golden days" of Spartan football. Duffy Daugherty, where have you gone? The bottles are indeed empty, as Sparty fans drank everything that wasn't nailed down. Depression will do that to you.

Minnesota - Brokedown Palace
"All the birds that were singing
Have flown except you alone"

The Gophers were the only team in the entire conference that was not bowl eligible at the end of the season. Maybe Glen Mason wasn't so bad afterall...

Northwestern - Victim or The Crime
"Am I the driver or the driven"

This line perfectly illustrates the Wildcats team the last 8-10 years. Are they a contender, or are they going to win two games?

Ohio State - Hell In A Bucket
"There may come a day I will dance on your grave
If unable to dance, I will crawl across it"

When The Vest finally gets caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, I'll be happy to dance on his grave.

Penn State - Touch of Grey
"Oh well a Touch Of Grey
Kind of suits you anyway.
That was all I had to say
It's all right."

Come on Joe, quit dying your hair. We all know it has more than a touch of grey. And it's all right.

Purdue - Row Jimmy
"And I say row, Jimmy, row
Gonna get there?
I don't know"

Purdue, despite rowing like crazy, can't seem to rise above the middle of the pack in the Big Ten.

Wisconsin - The Wheel
"The wheel is turning and you can't slow down
You can't let go and you can't hold on"

Every year the Badgers come up with another good running back. The current starter, PJ Hill, is a load who is hard to slow down.

For each of these, I could have gone with any number of songs for each team, but I decided to go with my first instinct. Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


It's about time for a few links.

Also, I just got thru reading "No Country for Old Men," by Cormac McCarthy, and I was blown away. It was a fantastic (and quick) read. The ending was rather surprising. Maybe I'll write a post about it later in the week. Anyway, great book - highly recommended.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Review of My Musical Tastes

Well, the Grammy Awards were handed out last night, and I must admit I'm proud that my musical tastes were rewarded. I know, I know - the Grammys are irrelevant and I normally don't care who wins. However, this year, after we started this blog, I had more of an interest. I'm not talking about the "big" categories (song of the year, album of the year, etc.). In my "best music of 2007" post, I listed five releases. Three of those five won Grammys yesterday: Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, White Stripes, and Steve Earle. In addition, another CD I reviewed a week into 2008 won an award too - Levon Helm's "Dirt Farmer." So, of the six CDs released in 2007 that I reviewed, four of them won Grammys. That is a pretty good percentage. Obviously, what it signifies is that I have impeccable musical taste. It seems to me that if an artist wants a 2008 Grammy, he should come to me for a review next year. Things are already looking good for the Drive-By Truckers for the next year's Grammys. Any other bands wishing for me to give them a positive review can contact me thru this site. I can be bought.

One other thing to note about the Grammys (note, I watched a total of about 30 seconds of the awards show telecast last night) was that a jazz album won album of the year. Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock's "River: The Joni Letters" was the first jazz album since 1964 to win album of the year. He beat out noted crack-whore Amy Winehouse and noted attention-whore Kanye West, among others, for this award. Well done, Herbie. Not being much of a jazz fan, the enduring image of Herbie Hancock for me was his funky/weird/unique 1983 video for "Rockit," which featured robots moving in time to the music.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

CD Review: "Brighter Than Creations Dark" - Drive-By Truckers

I am only a casual fan of the Drive-By Truckers. I have never seen them live, and I had downloaded one of their previous releases (Southern Rock Opera). They always struck me a "hick-rockers," and I don't mean that in a bad way. Kinda like Lynyrd Skynyrd, but with a little more pedal steel guitar. Their latest release is their first since former primary songwriter Jason Isbell left the band last year. It is a bit long, with 19 tracks, but it holds together rather well. The first song (Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife) is simply beautiful. In fact, it was the reason I decided to seek out the CD, having heard the track on a local independent radio station. In my humble opinion, the weakest tracks are the ones that are sung by the lone female in the group, Shonna Tucker. And by "weakest," I mean that they are still good songs, but not up to the same standard as some of the others (Bob, Perfect Timing, Daddy Needs a Drink, The Man I Shot, Self Destructive Zones). There is a certain "hominess" to this CD, and the songs are very well written. The song lyrics remind me of some stuff by the Old 97s and The Gourds (in addition to lots of typical country songs), in that they deal with "troubles" of one kind or another (drinking, meth, women, cheatin' spouses, etc.). The tempo varies throughout the CD, going from slow ballads, to mid-tempo rockers, to fast hard rocking songs. I have listened to it three or four times already, and I have not tired of it yet. I hear something new each time. Since I am by no means an expert on the Truckers, I have to trust the opinions of many others who say that this is their best album yet. I don't know about that, but I think this is an excellent CD, and will probably be on my "best of 2008" list at the end of the year.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Hogs, Mallett, and the NCAA

Arkansas is petitioning the NCAA on behalf of former Michigan quarterback Ryan Mallett to waive the requirement that players transferring have to sit out one year before they are eligible to play. They are arguing "extenuating circumstances." The extenuating circumstance in this case is that Michigan got a new coach that runs an offense he feels he is not suited for. If this waiver is granted, and Mallett is allowed to play this year, it could open the floodgates and force the NCAA to review each and every transfer for "extenuating circumstances." If "the new coach runs an offense I don't like" is an extenuating circumstance, then I can see TONS of players try this type of tactic to get the NCAA to waive their one-year waiting period:

  • New running back coach wants me to run faster. I want to transfer.
  • New secondary coach insists that I cover faster players. I object to this.
  • Old coach said I would start this year. New coach says I have to earn it. I want out.
  • I thought I was going to play linebacker, but they want to move me to defensive end. No way.

I suspect the "extenuating circumstances" wording, when written into the rules by the NCAA, was probably meant for family hardships, unexpected deaths, etc. (QB's mother died, he needs to be closer to home to help his family deal with it; brother has leukemia, needs bone marrow).

If they grant this waiver it would be a travesty. Unless they want to change the rules, which is fine by me. But if they change the rule to "if a coach leaves, you can transfer and play immediately," then coaches would be stabbing each other in the back and circling like vultures whenever a fellow coach is fired. It would be like a college version of free agency. For example, it was pretty well known that 2007 was going to be Lloyd's last year. Would it have been fair if 40 guys decided they were going to transfer out to play immediately next year at ND, or Purdue, or Cincinnati? Michigan's squad would have been decimated.

I've got nothing against Ryan Mallett. I hope he has success at Arkansas. But if he is allowed to play this year, the NCAA becomes a bigger joke than it already is.

Signing Day - Terrelle Pryor

Apparently Terrelle Pryor, the consensus top high school player in the nation, is not going to announce where he will enroll in school play football in 2008. So here are the top seven reasons Terrelle Pryor is delaying his final decision on choice of schools:

7. Waiting until the springtime, where he can get a better look at campus coeds in skimpier outfits.

6. Trying to convince Rodriguez and Tressel to have a steel cage death match to settle it. If they both die, Paterno wins.

5. Does not feel loved enough yet. Waiting for more national press coverage.

4. Enticed by a promise of a Hummer from anonymous PSU booster. Due to the ambiguous nature of this promise, he wants to see which kind of hummer he'll actually get (and from whom) when he takes his visit to Penn State.

3. Wants to play basketball too, but he heard that Michigan and Penn State do not have basketball teams. Was rumored to have attended a Michigan basketball game on his visit to Ann Arbor, but spent the entire game sending text messages to PSU and OSU coaching staffs. Thought he was at a high school game.

2. He's holding out for a big party suite like Thornton Melon created in "Back to School."

1. He is busy traveling into his possible futures, George Bailey style, to gauge his prospects at each school. Coincidentally, the future with each team includes a couple 10-3 seasons, a knee injury, a nasty case of herpes, and a early departure for the NFL. Oddly, each team's future without him is the same as it is with him.

Just make up your mind Terrelle! I have one piece of advice for you (because I'm certain he's reading this): Go Blue!

As always, leave your suggestions in the comments...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Football Season's Over - How 'bout Some Politics?

Well, the Super Bowl is over, and election season is in full swing. Super Tuesday is upon us. It's a two-way battle on both sides. Clinton and Obama are fighting it out on the Democratic side, while McCain and Romney are battling on the Republican side (Huckabee's all but finished). Here's something interesting (at least it is to me): Every Republican presidential ticket since 1976 has had either a Dole or a Bush. Every single one. Have a look:

1976 Ford-Dole
1980 Reagan-Bush
1984 Reagan-Bush
1988 Bush-Quayle
1992 Bush-Quayle
1996 Dole-Kemp
2000 Bush-Cheney
2004 Bush-Cheney

Ever since all of us associated with this blog have been eligible to vote, a Bush or Dole has been one of our choices on the presidential ballot. So it stands to reason that we should put our money on Jeb Bush or Neil Bush being the running mate of whomever wins the nomination on the Republican side (unless Bob Dole is taken out of cryogenic suspension). Jeb Bush has had some family troubles though. I guess his family is the the Bush family equivalent of Billy Carter or Roger Clinton:

  • Noelle Bush (that's her on the right), the daughter of former governor of Florida Jeb Bush, has been arrested multiple times for various drug and alcohol offenses, prescription forgery, and served time in jail in 2002.

  • George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush, broke into his ex-girlfriend's family house and drove circles in their front yard with his car during a fit of rage.

  • John E. Bush, Jr., son of Jeb Bush, was caught by the police, literally, with his pants down in a parking lot, having sex with a teen-age girl. He was also arrested for public drunkenness and resisting arrest down in Texas.

Doesn't look too good for Jeb. Neil's family is not so embarrassing, but there is some personal sketchiness there:

  • Neil was on the board of directors of Silverado Savings and Loan during the 1980s. Silverado collapsed in 1988, costing taxpayers $1.6 billion. Neil Bush was accused of giving himself a loan from Silverado, but he denied all wrongdoing.

  • There was a curious deal earning $2 million with Grace Semiconductor, run by Jiang Mianheng, the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

  • Divorced his wife in 2003, in part because of his own marital infidelity. He admitted to having sex with women on trips to Thailand and Hong Kong. The women, he said, simply knocked on the door of his hotel room, entered and had sex with him. He said he did not know if they were prostitutes because they never asked for money and he did not pay them. Uh huh.

  • His daughter Lauren is a model (shown at right). Very nice.

I don't know who the republican ticket will include, but if the ticket does not include a Bush or a Dole, I know I'll feel a little disoriented. I won't be sure who to vote against. Who am I kidding - I'll know exactly who to vote against.

Interesting bit of trivia that I picked up from wiki. Lauren Bush is dating (or was dating at some point in time) Ralph Lauren's son David Lauren. If they get married, will she be Lauren Lauren?

On the another political topic, I found this nice post from "Hey Jenny Slater" about the upcoming election.