Monday, December 31, 2007

Best of 2007: Tome Time

As far as end of year lists go, Blugold Matt has the YASR music list duty locked up. Believe me, if I discovered new music this year, it went into the blog. So I am going with my end of the year book list. This is not like the typical list where I basically get to move a few books around from the NY Times list. And my categories are completely capricious -- this is my excuse to write about books that I want to write about, so the category fits the book, not the other way around. These books may not have been published in 2007, but that is when I read them and it's half my blog.

Best Book About a Subject That I Am Marginally Interested In:

Chris Jones is one of the best writers you have never heard of. A writer for Esquire, Jones wrote an unforgettable feature on Ricky Williams a few years ago and this book is based off an award-winning article. In the wake of the Columbia disaster, NASA's fleet was grounded. One small problem: there were three astronauts living on the International Space Station who needed to be brought home.

This book tells an incredible story about those astronauts -- in some ways, you could see an Apollo 13-style movie being produced based on that story -- but it isn't what made the book so good. It put that drama in the context of the entire space program. It illustrated how our astronauts have changed from the swashbuckling ace pilots to science geeks like Don Pettit. And even in the light of that change, we still look like Chuck Yeager compared to the Russian cosmonauts, who are in many ways robots. Nikolai Budarin, the cosmonaut on the ISS, said his favorite hobby was "picking mushrooms." Can you see an American astronaut saying that? Context is what makes this book.

For better or for worse, you can see the Tom Wolfe influence on the material. But even for people who are generally disinterested in science and space, Jones does a superb job.

Best Out of Print Book About Politics I Read This Year:
The Ambition and the Power
by John Barry

TANGENT ALERT: I love any place that sells used books. I make a point to wander around the local used bookstore, a place that is heaven to me. It features books all over the place, like a tornado hit a library and they never got back around to filing the books by Dewey Decimal system, just throwing them wherever they may land. The owner is a classic music-listening, slightly cranky book snob who lights up when you ask him about books or politics or anything else he finds interesting. But I digress; you can find good books even in places like Goodwill, where I found this tome. END TANGENT.

If I taught a class about Congress or legislative politics, this book would be required reading. While the book is supposed to be about former Speaker of the House Jim Wright -- who has turned out to be largely forgotten -- it is really a book about how the House of Representatives works. Barry was given incredible access -- the general rule was that if staff could be there, so could he -- and he interviewed everyone, even Newt Gingrich, the man who brought Wright down. Most books that promise to tell you how Congress really works are nothing more than warmed over diatribes about how Congress is in the pocket of (insert name of corporation or lobbying group or special interest). This shows how personality and trust and power are the currency of the House. Had there been blogging in 1989, I would would have blogged about this book endlessly. If you get a chance, get your hands on a copy.

Best Book About The Bush Administration
Dead Certain: The Presidency of George W. Bush
by Robert Draper

I will preface this by saying that I haven't read Charlie Savage's book, Takeover, which I hear is amazing.

Draper comes the closest of any book/article of figuring out what makes Bush tick. Fair-minded observers would have to conclude that the President is not a dumb man. A graduate of Harvard and Yale, Bush can immerse himself in policy (despite his "Is our children learning?" gaffe, he can sound downright wonkish on education policy). In the end, the President has proven to be the exact opposite of his father. Bush pere was a master of the details, but lacked the "vision thing." His son loves the idea of the grand vision (converting Iraq into a democratic secular society, going to Mars, etc.) but is uninterested in the details. Draper never quite gets Bush completely. I don't know if anyone will ever write the definitive piece to get at the heart of Bush, but when they do, they will rely on ancedotes from this book.

The book also shows how the White House works behind the facade. Rove might be Bush's Brain, but the President is not a Manchurian candidate beholden to his whims. Rove didn't want Cheney (picking an old foreign policy hand was not exactly the best way to align Bush as the agent of change) and didn't like the Miers pick. Well worth your time.

Best Non-Fiction Book That Reads Like Fiction:
It Never Rains in Tiger Stadium
by John Ed Bradley

If Everybody's All-American was about the ex-player who couldn't move past football, this book is about his polar opposite. Everybody's All-American was about the ex-player who gets the question, "What was it like playing for LSU?" and revels in telling the war stories as a desperate way to connect to his glory days. It Never Rains is about the ex-player who mumbles a few words and tries to change the subject.

Bradley, an one-time 2nd team SEC center for LSU and accomplished writer, couldn't get away from football fast enough. He shunned old coaches and teammates and stayed away from the program generally because the experience was so powerful that, like dueling magnets, it pushed him away. It feels like a novel -- Bradley does not make himself out to be a hero, instead settling on something more along the lines of a highly coordinated tormented artist. There are times when that gets a bit old, but his journey to reconnect with coaches and teammates and come to grips with his career is moving. Toss in a relationship with a woman that his parents disapprove of and you have the makings of a terrific book. A must-read for anyone that was part of a life-defining activity (be it sports, chess team, Boy Scouts, whatever) and coming to grips with it being gone.

Best Book That Was Turned Into a Movie That I Haven't Seen (Yet)
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

It is the universal dream. Nearly every man, regardless of situation, personality or opportunity, will dream of spending their life living off the land. Stubble growing on their weathered face as they hunt and fish and grow food away from civilization; just them and God's majestic Earth. It's a way to escape their problems or to grow closer to nature or to enjoy some romantic ideal of manhood. For nearly every man, it is just a passing thought, an enjoyable dream akin to daydreaming about owning your own bar or writing the Great American Novel.

Chris McCandless is not your average guy. He reminds me a lot of Pat Tillman. Both are free-spirits who reject many of society's conventions and seek out life. Tillman quit football to enter the Marines and be part of something larger than himself. In an odd way, McCandless hitchhiked across the country, ending up in Alaska to find that same thing: that sense of something larger than himself. Woefully unprepared to live the way he did, his story is a tragic one. But Krakauer makes sure that it is also completely unforgettable.

Best Book That I Fear Will Be Turned Into An Awful Movie
The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

There are so many ways this book could fall into caricature when the requisite movie is made. The denziens of the bar will be turned into one-dimensional punching bags -- comic relief gone awry. The dysfunction of his family will be mined for laughs without the underlying sadness. His stuttering grandfather will be a martinet without showing his times of greatness and complexity.

This is a memoir about a boy whose father is long gone -- The Voice as a radio deejay -- and whose mother has her hands full just keeping food on the table and rent in the landlord's pocket. His grandfather is miles away from being a pleasant person and his grandmother can only be described as long suffering. Uncle Charlie, a barkeep, and the rest of the patrons at Publicans end up teaching J.R. about being a man and serving as a male presence in his life. It's hiliarious without being imperceptive, sentimental without being maudlin and insightful without being overbearing. The book is nearly perfect and given the small margin for error, I fear what Hollywood would do to it.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


So, we have almost set a record for snowfall in Wisconsin in December...I couldn't have planned my trip home any better...This is from the above article:

Todd Messerschmidt, manager of the Kitz & Pfeil Power Center in Oshkosh, said it’s been “an awesome” month for sales of snow blowers, parts and service.

“We haven’t had snow like this in a number of years,” he said.
Now I am imagining that Todd's "Awesome" is like Chris Farly's at the end of the deer destroying car scene from Tommy Boy [it can be found at 4:26 into this video montage].

On Christmas Eve my sister and I got into "a discussion" about religion and religious thoughts have been floating about in my head more often than usual ever since...And as I was siting watching the snow fall yesterday something occurred to Noah's time when God hit the reset button and flooded the Earth and killed everyone, it seems like that was done pretty easily for people around the equator or the Middle East. I mean you only really need a few inches of really quick falling rain to cause a serious flood or mud slide...and a few feet could cause some serious damage and wipe out most everyone...

But lets assume that God picked the winter to wipe everyone out...well, this changes everything doesn't it?...Can a civilization be wiped out by snow? It certainly is a preferable alternative to rain...and I think a well organized town with some shovels and snow blowers could hold God off for quite while...or they could just build cities under the snow...this is what I think about when I run out of episodes of
The Honeymooners to watch.

I guess my point is this...what would the Bible be like if it had been written by someone with say a Norwegian or Swedish perspective?

Rivers Cuomo -- Lover in the Snow
From the demo album: Alone: The Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo.

2007 Video of the Year

I am trying to put together my favorite songs of the year like every music blogger is contractually obligated to do but first I thought I would start with something easier, Video of the Year. In my opinion there is no greater video of 2007 than Bat for Lashes video of "What's a Girl To Do?"

Bat For Lashes -- What's a Girl To Do?
This track is from Fur & Gold.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Predicting the Future

It's time to put up or shut up in Iowa with the Caucuses around the corner next here are my predictions for the Democratic and Republican results:


1. Obama
2. Edwards
3. Clinton
4. Biden

Obama finishes two percentage points above Edwards, who finishes two percentage points above Hillary. In the end, Edwards support is surprisingly high but overall, not much is determined. All three candidates declare victory and we are on to New Hampshire. Biden has a surprisingly strong finish...maybe 9% and survives to fight another day in New Hampshire...


1. Huckabee
2. Romney
3. Paul
4. Giuliani
5. McCain
6. Thompson

The surprise here is that Huckabee wins by 8% and Paul finishes third by only 1%. Romney is on the downward slide into the "what could have been" category of American politics, right next to Howard Dean. Giuliani comes in fourth but his campaign is unfazed by it due to the already low expectations. Thompson's campaign is effectively over and McCain must win New Hampshire to stay alive.

Regina Spektor -- The Ghost of Corporate Future
From her debut album Soviet Kitsch.

Dan Wilson

I didn't get too much music for Christmas this year but I'm not complaining...what I did get is awesome...My favorite by far is Dan Wilson's Free Life and particularly the song "Breathless."

Dan was is the lead singer of the great band Semisonic and since they broke up went into semi-retirement he has been keeping himself busy by writing half of the The Dixie Chicks album of the year and putting our his first solo album. Produced by Rick Rubin, each track is great. I particularly love these lyrics from "Breathless":

"Your voice is echoing again / through catacombs inside my mind/
and I've been dreaming of revenge / to make you love me more than even you can try"

Dan Wilson -- Breathless
From the Free Life album.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


Christmas Light Display From Car Window at 5mph
Chippewa Falls, WI
December 25, 2007

Kanye West -- Flashing Lights

This track is from Graduation.


I don't think I could be more excited for a movie than P.T. Anderson's new one There Will Be Blood. After all, Magnolia is my third favorite movie of all time and I was one of the few people that enjoyed Punch Drunk Love.

But there are always naysayers...Salon disagrees with my my undying affection for anything Anderson, calling the movie a "maddening folly." The review itself doesn't use those terms so this may be a case of an editor giving a title to an article that the author never intended. Yet, reading the review is maddening as I am confused as to why reviewer Stephanie Zacharek doesn't like the movie.

To grab just one line from the review, "But the greatest disappointment of "There Will Be Blood" is the way its actors seem to matter less than its themes." I find this funny as I think about my P.T. Anderson experience and my hometown Wisconsin audiences. I love to hear what people say to each other about the movie they have just seen as they leave the theater. When I lived in Wisconsin this was especially entertaining as movies are often viewed as entertainment and not much else. This is the group of people I was with when I saw Magnolia in which several people walked out in the middle and one person shouted as they left "you know, you can get your money back!" I just have this feeling that if There Will Be Blood makes it to a theater there, no one will ever say the following words "you know, the themes of that movie really mattered a lot more than the actors staring in it." But if I'm wrong and if they did, why is that a negative statement for a movie? It seems to me to be just criticism to fill up a negative review that was a 100 words short.

Danielson -- Bloodbook on the Half Shell
This track is from the Danielson album Ships.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How Could I Have Forgotten?

How could I have forgotten to mention in my last post that I visited the Mecca of Wisconsin, Lambeau Field, last week...I had a job interview in Manitowac and on the way home I stopped by the Packer Pro Shop and Lambeau...Outside the Pro Shop they have statues of Curly Lambeau and Vince Lombardi.

I'm not sure what "G-Force" is but I am pretty sure you feel it after four brats and a six pack.

Elbow -- Forget Myself

This track is from the great Elbow album Leaders of the Free World.

10-2, 11-2, 12-2, 12-3

I've been out of practice writing about the ups and downs of the Packers seasons these past few weeks with finals wrapping up, traveling, and hacking up a lung for weeks on end...but last weeks loss to the Bears for the 2nd time this season set me over the edge...

But I have to take a step back...breath in, breath out...I didn't think the Packers would make the playoffs this year let alone be in a position to get home field advantage in the playoffs...breath in, breath out...It is a miracle we have gotten this far....breath in, breath out...I should appreciate every game like it is Brett's last....

But the team that made up 1/2 of the Ice Bowl, now looked like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they used to regularly visit Lambeau Field in December. All the receivers were huddled around the little heaters they had or bundled up in their parkas. Brett looked like he was discovering the North Pole. I know he is from Mississippi but what good is having home field advantage in January if in fact we aren't very good at playing in cold weather and in stormy conditions.

This song ties in nicely I think...the way the Packers played is a lot like the way Ella's abusive husband ends up in the song...dead in the market. This is essentially the opposite of the infamous Carole King song, "He Hit Me (It Felt Like A Kiss)." Ella's version should have been called, "He Hit Me And I Beat His Brains In."

Ella Fitzgerald -- Stone Cold Dead in the Market (He Had It Coming)

This song comes from a 75th Anniversary Decca Boxed set of Ella's work that my sister found in the clearance rack at the Electric Fetus for $15.99.

Mitch Harder

I'm chiming in a little bit late on the whole Mitchell Report thing but my take on it is that it demonstrated that steroids helped a bunch of "below average" players get to "average." Beyond that there isn't too much to be said in that the report relied upon so few sources that came forward and "spilled the beans" so to speak. I'm looking forward to "Mitchell Report 2: Mitch Harder."

LaGrecia -- You Like Baseball I Like Ghosts

Monday, December 24, 2007

Winter Wonderland

I prayed for snow when I was in Seattle, and the man up stairs was listening...Thanks God, thanks a lot!

I haven't had my cheeks wind-burned in ages!

Dean Martin -- Let Is Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

Perry Como -- It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Both of these songs can be found on the Time-Life Treasury of Christmas -- Holiday Memories 2-CD set.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Stumbling, bumbling, rumbling

As dedicated readers have learned by now, I generally discover new music by happy accident. And that is no different for the two songs currently stuck in my head.

One of my ways of discovering new music is the tracks on EA Sports games. Since I am one of the seven people in America who play college baseball video games, I wasn't expecting a ton of tracks on MVP Baseball 2007. And while it is mostly college fight songs (Hail, Hail Meechigan, the champions of the west), the one song on there is positively addicting. It's Play by the Canadian group, The Suits XL. I shouldn't like Play's pop sound and simple lyrics, but it just works. It was a top 10 hit in Canada and the group deserves a wider audience.

The other song I stumbled on to by accident while perusing iLike on Facebook. On a lark, I searched for the Eau Claire Blues All-Stars (led by all-time great Adrian Klenz). They weren't in there, but there was a song called "Girl from Eau Claire" by The Returnables. Not only is "Girl from Eau Claire" really good, but so are the rest of their songs. I wish I could say this group was headed for bigger and better things, but the Returnables are no more.

Their lead singer was murdered in a car accident. He and two other musicians were killed when a suicidal woman attempted to take her own life by driving into them. She lived and was found guilty of reckless homicide. It's a story that makes you whisper, "there but for the grace of God, go I."

Girl from Eau Claire -- The Returnables

Here is Play. The Suits XL has a single available for download on their MySpace page.

Reading the Palmetto Leaves

Iowa and New Hampshire will be virtually meaningless in determining the Republican nominee for President in 2008.


Hopefully David Yepsen will be able to stop breathing into a paper bag long enough to join the Union Leader in kicking my ass. But its true.

Consider where we are right now. Huckabee has gone from also-ran to contender, but hasn't made the sale. McCain is moving to the left to grab New Hampshire independents. Fred has yet to catch fire, but the potential exists for him to do well if he would ever And Rudy still has a national lead and is praying for Feb. 5th to come around ASAP. Meanwhile, Romney is Romney, being the safe, cautious pick that everyone accepts, but no one loves. He is in danger of being the Steve Forbes (2000 edition) of this cycle: the candidate who has all of the right positions to unite the social and economic conservatives, but whose flip-flopping and slightly off-putting personality have hindered his progress.

Iowa looks to be two separate races. There is the race between Huckabee and Romney for the top spot, with Huck holding a consistent lead. And there is the race for third, which Fred will probably win. If the race generally holds to form, Huckabee will beat Romney by 3 to 7 points, with Fred at about 12-15% and everyone else in single digits. The post-race spin will revolve around whether Huck beat Mitt by enough. If the margin is more than 5, Huckabee probably gets the winners spin. Less than 5 and Romney will be hailed as the winner for getting it so close (cf. Bill Clinton in New Hampshire in 1992).

New Hampshire will be similar. McCain and Romney will battle it out for the top spot, with another race forming for third place. McCain needs to win it or come in a very close second or his campaign is toast. If he can't revive the 2000 Granite State magic, he has no chance of being the nominee. Meanwhile, it will be up to Huckabee to prove that he can win over more than just evangelicals while Fred needs to keep his momentum going. Rudy needs a third-place finish to give him any kind of momentum before Feb. 5th. His national lead is only good if his campaign gets some oxygen before then.

Lets assume that Huckabee beats Romney by 5 to 7 points in Iowa (with Fred at 15 and the rest in single digits) and McCain and Romney have a photo finish in New Hampshire, with Huckabee third and Rudy fourth, both well back of McCain and Mitt. What do we know? Huckabee isn't a flash in the pan, but he hasn't shown the ability to pivot and expand his reach. McCain can still win over the independents, but hasn't proven he can win over the rank-and-file. Romney is the only candidate to post top-two finishes in both states, but hasn't been able to close the deal. Fred is still searching for the lightning to get his campaign going and Rudy still hasn't shown an ability to actually be competitive in an actual primary.

How is that any different from what we know right now?

South Carolina is where any of them can win the nomination. That is its history -- South Carolina selects the Republican nominee. It was Bush's firewall against McCain in 2000. It is where Bob Dole recovered from losing the NH primary to Pitchfork Pat Buchanan. It is where George Bush the Elder showed that Buchanan would not be a threat after his performance in NH in 1992. And the Elder took over the 50% of the vote there in 1988, using his comeback win in NH and the SC blowout to ensure the nomination. He knocked Bob Dole off balance with the NH and drove a stake through his chances in SC. Reagan beat back the Thurmond-endorsed front-runner John Connally in 1980 in SC. There is a reason that the Palmetto State is so early in the process -- Lee Atwater put it there to serve as a market correction. SC takes in the results of IA and NH and sorts them out.

If Romney wins South Carolina, it's over. He will have shown the ability to win over Christian conservatives and with his strong showings in IA and NH, combined with his money, he will cruise. If McCain wins, it shows that 2000 was ancient history and he can win over the base. Without a follow-up victory, New Hampshire success won't mean a thing for McCain. If Huckabee wins there, he will have shown that his persona works in places other than Iowa, where they like their politics nice. South Carolina is not for the faint of heart. If Fred does well, it shows that his campaign has staying power. And if Rudy can get a top-3 finish here, not only does it show that he might be acceptable to the base, but it gives him some much needed momentum for Feb. 5.

With the notable exception of Romney, most candidates are either very strong in Iowa (Huck, Fred) or New Hampshire (McCain). They might be well served by taking resources out of the other state and pouring them into South Carolina -- they need to show that they can win elsewhere. There are only five days between Iowa and New Hampshire, which might not be enough time for Iowa momentum to really translate into votes. But there are 11 days between New Hampshire and South Carolina, which is more than enough time for the Palmetto State GOP to take everything in.

In the end, I think Romney is the nominee. He seems to be everyone's second choice, which isn't a bad place to be. He is almost always in the top 2 of any early primary state and South Carolina might be where the GOP base looks at the rest of its choices and decides to firewall for Romney.

The one way that Romney could get knocked off is in a Gephardt-Dean mudsling. South Carolina will be desperation time for every candidate, with the possible exception of National Strategy Man. With Romney as the putative front-runner, Fred or McCain or even Rudy might direct all of their fire on Romney, figuring that if they can knock him off, the path to the nomination is much clearer. In that environment, I don't see Romney just taking it. His campaign strikes me as one that would not only return fire, but would completely ignore proportional response.

Lets also not forget that Romney might be the least-liked candidate in the race, among the other candidates. McCain has said nice things about all of the candidates except Mitt. And I don't think he is alone in this. Could McCain or Fred or Rudy -- who seem to have a bit of a mutual admiration society and non-aggression pact amongst themselves -- decide that, with their campaign flailing, they will go kamikaze and take down Romney in the process? It might be the only way to keep Romney from getting the nomination.

Could this all change? Definitely. There are rumblings out of Iowa that Fred might be poised for a surge circa John Edwards in 2004. A week in politics IS an eternity. But with the notable exception of Huckabee, this race has been playing out to form. Absent someone catching the political lightning or an unexpected event turning the race upside down, I don't see that changing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Report IS Noise Pollution

You may have heard. The much-heralded Mitchell Report has been released with all of the hype and fury of the Iran NIE Report.

Except that the NIE actually told us something the public didn't know. Based largely on hearsay, the Mitchell Report tells us exactly what we knew.

If you went up to most baseball fans and said, "I think that Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Gary Sheffield, Miggy Tejada, Kevin Brown and Eric Gagne took steroids/drugs during their career," the response would be somewhere between, "Duh" and "Yeah, probably." And finding out that Steve Woodard, Nook Logan, Hal Morris and Paxton Crawford used performance enhancing drugs is not going to rock baseball to its core.

To paraphrase Denny Green, the steroid problem is who we thought it was. None of the game's exciting young stars (Grady Sizemore, Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, David Wright, Jose Reyes, Felix Hernandez, Miguel Cabrera, etc.) were implicated by the Mitchell Report. There is not one name on that report that will cause the casual fan's jaw to drop and go, "No way." Derek Jeter? Not in there. David Ortiz? Nope. Derrick Lee? No. Griffey, Ichiro, Schilling? Nope, nope, nope. So none of the game's current or future stars was unexpectantly tainted by this scandal. All of the big names were ones we had heard before.

The Mitchell Report either failed to get a good grasp on all of the players who used performance enhancing drugs -- rendering it virtually meaningless -- or it showed that the problem is one of the past (none of the big names implicated can be said to be in their prime). Either way, it rehashed what we already knew.

It Doesn't Really Matter -- B.A. Baracus Band

The Band

CNN has the uplifting story of Levon Helm, the full time drummer and part time singer of Bob Dylan's former backing band, The Band. He had lost his voice from treatment of throat cancer but has slowly regained it and recently just completed a solo album.

The band gave everyone a chance on vocals and Levon was the lead on two of my favorites "Up On Cripple Creek" [the first ever Band song that I heard...I thought they were Lynyrd was not one of my proudest musical moments] and "Rag Mama Rag."

The Band -- Up On Cripple Creek

The Band -- Rag Mama Rag
Both songs can be found on The Bands Greatest Hits collection that is a must own for everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Father of Rock Is Dead

Rock/Pop/Soul music has a lot of key leadership position that have been filled:

"The King" of Rock: Elvis Presley
Godfather of Soul: James Brown
King of Pop: Michael Jackson

and some lesser known ones:

Grandfather of Grunge: Neil Young

If Elvis is the "King," who is the "Queen?" Doing a quick Google search, I find that Freddie Mercury's band Queen is actually Queen of Rock...not exactly what I was going for here...the other name that I see a few times is Tina Turner, which is not a name I would have thought of at first but the more you know about her career and her early early music the label of "Queen of Rock" makes sense.

Tina Turner is forever connected to her ex-husband Ike Turner. Mr. Turner died today at the age of 76. I'll let MSNBC sum up why, although Tina may be the Queen of Rock, Ike was the Father of Rock:

Turner, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is credited by many rock historians with making the first rock ’n’ roll record, “Rocket 88,” in 1951. Produced by the legendary Sam Phillips, it was groundbreaking for its use of distorted electric guitar.

But as would be the case for most of his career, Turner, a prolific session guitarist and piano player, was not the star on the record — it was recorded with Turner’s band but credited to singer Jackie Brenston.

And it would be another singer — a young woman named Anna Mae Bullock — who would bring Turner his greatest fame, and infamy.

Ike Turner -- Rocket 88
This version comes from the Sun Records collection The Blues Came Down From Memphis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

When Hillary Met Rudy

Salon wrote an excellent article over Thanksgiving break about a little remembered aspect of the potential Hillary vs. Rudy Presidential showdown that might occur next year: that Hillary can from down 10 points to beating Rudy in the polls during her first run for Senate in 2000 before Rudy dropped out for health reasons...

The author of the article, Rob Polner, tracked down the defining moment of the campaign...the moment when things changed for Rudy and Hillary was during an early campaign stop in which the Clinton campaign accidentally played the Billy Joel song "Captain Jack" [which is essentially about cocaine use] instead of the campaign's theme song "New York State of Mind." The next day, Rudy lost it:

The next morning, Clinton's Republican rival for the Senate seat put her on trial at a press conference in lower Manhattan. Sounding like the federal prosecutor he once was, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani read aloud a political indictment, the lyrics to "Captain Jack."

"'But Captain Jack will get you high tonight,'" Giuliani recited from a paper in his hand, "'and take you to your special island. Captain Jack will get you by tonight ... just a little push and you'll be smiling.'" Then he raised his eyes to address the assembled media. "I think the message that got out by mistake was, 'Let's say yes to drugs.' I think it's a very, very dangerous message."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton had already flown off to Buffalo, where she trudged through the snow and talked about jobs and economic recovery. By that November, Clinton was the senator-elect from New York, and Giuliani's political career seemed all but kaput.

Billy Joel -- Captain Jack

Billy Joel -- New York State of Mind

Both tracks can be found on The Essential Billy Joel.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The price to be paid

Talk to a football fan of a certain age and they'll tell you that the greatest running back they ever saw was Earl Campbell.

He combined overwhelming power with speed and deceptive grace. Here is a play that sums up Campbell: the speed to get to the outside and the power to send the defender flying. His running style, which required a posse to bring him down, took its toll and he only had six good years in him (78-83).

My father's generation speaks of Campbell in the same reverent tones that my generation speaks of Bo Jackson. Both may have been the greatest running backs to ever carry the ball. But each brings forth feelings of sadness. Fans are always tantalized at the prospect of how good Jackson could have been if he had not suffered the hip injury against the Bengals. And Campbell brings up sadness for having to see him realize his potential, but play beyond that point. No one wants to remember him struggling for the Saints. There was no slowdown. Campbell went from Hall of Fame running back to mediocre has-been seemingly over night.

The same man who single-handedly destroyed opposing teams is now effectively wheelchair-bound. He denies that his career is the reason that his body is breaking down, citing a back defect. But I was reminded of a paragraph I once read from this article:

And the savagery takes a toll. Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Al Toon --all forced from the game by repeated, malicious head injuries. Nor should we stop with the brain. Look at Johnny Unitas, with his chronic limp and his ruined right arm. Johnny Unitas' body was broken for your pleasure.

It's the flip side of being a famous athlete. For all of the adulation that comes with being Earl Campbell or Brett Favre or Dick Butkus, there is the enormous physical toll. Just as the cheers stop, the physical pain begins. It is the Faustian bargain that they make. But it cannot be denied. Their body was broken for your pleasure.

Dire Straits -- Fade to Black

Van Morrison -- What's Wrong With This Picture?

More on Radiohead & In Rainbows

The Sunday New Yawk Times has a very good article about In Rainbows. It is more about the process of the process of making the album in terms of refining the songs rather than the decision to go with a "pay what you want" economic model. It's well worth the read.

Radiohead -- Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Friday, December 7, 2007

More on the House of Brothers

So beyond studying for my health law final, this weekend will be all about catching up on my reviews that I have promised but haven't delivered upon yet...first up is House of Brothers...I have previously talked about them here.

Over Thanksgiving break my sister visited Seattle and while we were driving around one day I brought some of the new music to review with me to see what she far her favorite was the House of Brothers EP...In her words David Grey-like lyrics and Damien Rice-like music...and thus began her love for her new favorite band, "Damien Grey."

House of Brothers -- Deadman

House of Brothers -- These Days

Both tracks are from the House of Brothers EP which is available here.

We're Baaaaaack

The week and a half of hell is over and I'm only staring down the barrel of my Health Law Final next week...CS started a group on Facebook called "I went to law school...and it ruined my life"...I have more appreciation for that feeling everyday...

Babyshambles -- Back from the Dead
From the Down in Albion album.

Warren Zevon -- Back in the High Life Again (Demo)
This track is a demo from the recently released Preludes album.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse -- Get Back On It
This is from the little known or appreciated Re-ac-tor album

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Love, Actually

Think you've found the perfect gift for your parents this Christmas? Find a great sale on the power drill dad wanted? Buy a sweater you think your mom will adore?

You can give up now. You won't be able to top the present that Alexis Goggins gave her mother:

-- A 7-year-old-girl is being hailed as an "angel from heaven" and a hero for jumping in front of an enraged gunman, who pumped six bullets into the child as she used her body as a shield to save her mother's life.

Alexis Goggins, a first-grader at Campbell Elementary School, is in stable condition at Children's Hospital in Detroit recovering from gunshot wounds to the eye, left temple, chin, cheek, chest and right arm.

I don't even know what to say. I can only imagine the emotions going through her mother's mind and heart as she looks at her little girl and realizes that her little girl took those bullets for her. Wow.

Beautiful Girl -- INXS