Friday, December 23, 2011

Feature Presentation: Looking Back

EPL Goals 1992-2007

This is one of the many I items I treated myself to for my birthday.  Got the three disc set pretty cheap, but no price can be put on the memories I had from the early days of the Premier League.

I started following (very distantly) Manchester United during the first season of the Premier League when they ended their 26 year drought of winning the title.  Robson, Bruce, Hughes and company led the Red Devils to glory in those early years, followed by Keane, Cantona, and the kids before Cole, Yorke, Solskjaer and Stam took over. 

Going through the seasons, I picked up new information, like Nicky Barmby played for Spurs?  Had no idea.  Plus there were all the clubs that have fallen away like Crystal Palace and Norwich and Swindon and Charlton and QPR.

Great goals and great memories.

I picked this up at the library because I had just finished The War for Late Night.   The tour looked brutal and showed Conan’s struggle between the rush of performing and the need to always be “on”.  Loved the fly on the wall nature of the documentary and feel that I may have missed out a comedic voice.

Love this show because almost everything is in my wheel house: sense of community amongst the study group, pop culture references throughout, the yearning for the days of college, and just a hint of awkwardness. 

Not every episode is a winner but the season as a whole is thoroughly enjoyable, especially the trampoline episode and the epic two part, Fistful of Dollars/Star Wars inspired, paintball finale.  Even the Zombie episode wasn’t too bad and that’s not really my thing. 

Is the show the most amazing thing ever?  No but it’s a fun, non-nutritious snack that I can’t get enough of. 

ESPN, to celebrate their 30th anniversary, released a series called 30 for 30, which covered a wide range of sports and topics.  One of the first ones I heard about was Once Brothers, the story of the Yugoslavian Basketball Team from the late 80’s, early 90’s.  This was particularly interesting to me because of my love of the Croatian Sensation, the Waiter, Toni Kukoc.  I knew of their success—silver in 1988 Olympics and 1990 World Champions—but I didn’t know their story.

The film is Vlade Divac’s account of his rise from small town to Yugoslavian basketball club star to world champion to NBA players and the relationships with his teammates, which became more and more strained as the former Soviet Republic broke apart.  It was heart wrenching to see him and Drazen Petrovic drift apart after a moment of nationalistic pride from Vlade.  The whole film had me on the verge of tears, as the glory and drama and tragedy of that team was retold.  I highly recommend this movie.  This is bigger than basketball and is story of friendship and hard work and redemption.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Your Ear

It’s been a while, so I’ll just start and see where this goes.

Some of the member of Arcade Fire were in studio for theSound Opinions podcast.  Nothing earth shattering, just cool to hear their story and some of their tunes.  I am super behind on this pod and hope to catch up over the holidays.

Florence and the Machine opened up for U2 earlier this summer.  My brother-in-law didn’t know anything about U2 but was super stoked to see this group.  I checked out their debut album, Lungs.  I love the opening track, Dog Days Are Over, and can’t help but clap and smile during the chorus.  Drumming Song is a driving track that is pretty good.  The final track You’ve Got the Love is fantastic.  Love all the instrumentation and the tune is super catchy.

I don’t even know how I came across this song, So Cool by Bewitched Hands on the Top of Our Heads, but I love it.  Work is another track that is pretty good.

At a Halloween Party, the hosts had a party mix on Pandora and Beyonce’s Crazy In Love and I started jamming, which surprised everyone there.  Have to admit this is a guilty pleasure of mine.  Love that song

Moving on . . .

I admit I am late to the Kings of Leon phenomenon.  I was aware of their music somewhere out in the ether but never really sought them out, so I’ve decided to start at the beginning and give them a whirl.  Their first album, Youth and Young Manhood, is ok, nothing special in my opinion.  The first cut, Red Morning Light, is not too bad, and it is followed by Happy Alone, which was a popular song that I was familiar with.  California Waiting is decent, and Molly’s Chamber is another song that I had heard but didn’t really do it for me.  Holy Roller Novocaine might be a favorite track.  I have the next record on hold, so we’ll see how that one is.

Finally, I saw sloan for the umpteenth time at St. Andrew’s Friday night.  The band was touring in support of their 10th album, The Double Cross, which I had listened to it a couple of times on their website but hadn’t thought much of it.  After hearing most the tracks live, I am really coming around.  I already thought Unkind was up there as one of their best tracks ever, and the live version kicked ASS!!  There are several more great cuts, including The Answer Was You, It’s Plain To See, Beverly Terrace and Traces.

The band keeps cranking out the tunes, and their live versions of Ill Placed Trust, Who Taught You to Live Like That? and Money City Maniacs were epic.  They also played Deeper Than Beauty during the encore, which was sweet because I hadn’t heard that live in years.  Chris mentioned that they want to do a tour just playing songs from Twice Removed.  Sign me up as it is my favorite album

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Feature Presentation: Lots of Laugh, Fire and Blood

Hot Tub Time Machine

When I saw the previews for this movie, I thought it looked interesting.  What could be better than a hot tub, some girls and some brews?  A couple of the guys on my soccer team raved about it, so when I saw it at the library, I picked it up.

Meh.  Talk about the funny parts being the in the trailer.  It was a Back to the Future rip off and not nearly as good.  Yes we know life is about choices, but you don’t get a redo.  Shut up and suspend disbelief.  Ok, but make it worth my while.  Have better jokes and 80’s hair band flashbacks and poke a little fun at yourself.  Don’t have Chevy Chase wandering in and out, mumbling incoherent Zen comments. 


Season 3 sees Walter White struggle to keep his marriage and family together while being hunted down by vengeful cousins from a drug cartel.  Tensions are at an all time high in the White house as Skylar files for divorce, knowing the truth of Walter’s activities, but won’t tell anyone else in the family why.  Her stress leads to an affair with her boss, while Walter tries to keep things together.  All the time, Gus is protecting his key cooker from getting axed while trying to get him to make one last batch. 

I only made it halfway through the season before I had to return it to the library and I can’t wait to finish the season.  I see a lot of parallels between this show and the Sopranos in regard to leadership.  Walter White has a skill and some street savvy, yet he undermines himself with some of his decisions, reuniting Pinkman being his chief mistake. 

Anyway, the show—writing, storylines and performances—continue to be top notch and I hope I can completely catch up on the series soon.

Again reading for comprehension.  For some reason I thought this was a new Coen Brothers movie, not their first.  As soon as the first frame flickered across the screen I knew that this movie was not made in the last 20 years.  The film was a preview of the genius to come.  Very deliberate pacing, solid acting performances, a touch of the unusual, all leading to a dark conclusion.  Not their best by far, but interesting to see the beginning of these film-makers.

See it for film history reasons if nothing else.

As I tweeted after I watched the first episode, I have found a new personal hero.  Nearly twenty years on from Seinfeld, Louis CK takes the sitcom built around the comedian to a new level.  Part stand up, part struggling divorcee, part loving father, part depressing wanker, Louie looks at modern life with a very different perspective.  I admit he goes way over the line with some his comments, but when he looks at his childhood and examines his day to day routine, there are some real nuggets there.  He is not always the hero, but the light he shines on some issues really makes you stop and think.

See it.

I finally finished Rescue Me.  After seven seasons, the story of the guys from 62 Truck finally came to an end.  Tommy’s battle with his demons and addictions took several dark, funny and strange turns as the show built towards the finale.  In the end, he was able, for the time being, to remain in control and become the father, husband and firefighter that everyone could be proud of.

I really enjoyed the show.  I always say I hated season 4 because that’s the season he got sober and there was no edge.  This season, his road to sobriety had several speed bumps, dare I say roadblocks, and the tension created really kept the viewer interested.  As for the series finale, it was ok.  The last scenes were a little melodramatic but I don’t have a suggestion (right now) of what I would have done, so I’ll shut up.

Watch this show.  The relationships and developments of the characters are phenomenal.  The respect you will have for fire and law enforcement will grow exponentially.  And you might even learn a little about yourself, your demons and how you treat people.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Feature Presentation--The Modern Family goes Eastbound and Down Once in a Lifetime

A film about the rise and fall of the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League, it is a story with so many great characters—Steve Ross, Chinaglia, Pele, Clive Toye, Beckenbauer, Messing.  For a short window of time, soccer was popular in the US.  I'll be honest, the only thing I actually remember was the name Chicago Sting.  Don't know why.  The couple takeaways from this viewing were the fact that the Cosmos really were ahead of their time in assembling talent from all over the world; say what you want about Maradona, Best, Zidane, and Messi, Pele is truly a global icon; MLS did their homework and have built a stable league that will never conquer the American market but will continue to flourish. 

If you any interest in the history of American soccer, a must see.  If you enjoy locker room bust ups and athletes living the high life, you’ll enjoy this as well.

A well written, well acted comedy about life in these times.  Really enjoy the dynamic of Claire and Phil.  All of the kids are great and bring an added dimension to the show.  My favorite episode may have been the fencing/ice dancing one.  I can’t believe I passed on this show three times before finally watching it.  The 20+ episodes are daunting but they go by quickly

If you like Arrested Development, they you would definitely enjoy this show.

I had heard decent things about this show but really had no idea what to expect.  Well how about a profane, raucous, highly inappropriate comedy about an athlete on the downside of a career?  The show covers a lot of ground in only six episodes, with the cameos by Will Farrell providing moments of comedy gold.  I won’t rush out for season two, not because it wasn’t funny, but I’m not sure I need my vocabulary reinforced in quite that way.

Not for the faint of heart or family viewing, but worth a watch.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Your Ear-Favorite U2 Songs

My trinity of music is as follows: U2, sloan, Oasis. None is necessarily greater than the other, all accentuating different aspects of my love of music. Music in three parts, all in one.

I fell in love with U2 in the late 80’s, just before I went into High School. My initial exposure to the band was Joshua Tree albums, with I Still Haven’t Found What I'm Looking For and With or Without You all over the radio, but I didn't really get interested until I saw Rattle and Hum in the theater. This movie changed my life. I couldn't believe there was music like this, which was so refreshing from the teen pop, hair metal and new wave I had listened to before. I immediately bought the tape (remember cassette tapes and the huge anti-theft packaging?) and played it over and over and over and then went back and bought War, which had some really great tracks. Over the years my love of the band has come and gone. I really loved Achtung Baby but didn't really like another album until Atomic Bomb. Yeah, there were some good tracks, but sorting through the waste and excess and experimentation was time consuming and mildly aggravating.

I've seen them three times in concert. The first time was the Zoo TV Tour at the Pontiac Silverdome, which was memorable for several reasons, with Wayne and Garth cutting into the concert from the MTV Music Awards being at the forefront. Next was the PopMart tour, again at the Silverdome, at a show that my future wife missed because she lost her ticket. As a spectacle it was beyond belief, but the concert itself was just ok. The last time I saw them was at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the Vertigo Tour. Solid night of music, with the stage slightly stripped down, better selection of tracks to draw from, a more intimate setting. Right now I have tickets to the show at Spartan Stadium but am still debating whether to go. I would probably rather sit outside the venue and just take the music in (and drink) but we'll see. Note: didn’t go, but my wife went and was 176th in line, thereby getting in the inner part of the amazing stage set up.

Originally I was going to go through every album in detail in anticipation of the 360 tour, but I’m lazy and have been putting off this post for months, giving up on reviewing over 30 years of music and giving up on the concert. In the end, I decided to give a quick comment on each album and then go through some of my favorite songs over the years and try to narrow it down to a couple.

Boy (1980)

I wasn't really that familiar with this album (since I would have been 6 when it was released) but going back I found it was ok. You can hear the beginnings of their sound, especially with I Will Follow, which starts off the album. Twilight wasn’t that great and I’m not sure what they are going for on The Ocean. The other song they put out as a single, A Day Without Me, was just meh. I actually liked Another Time, Another Place better.

October (1981)

Not a great album to be honest. Don’t have much to say about other than I didn’t really feel that they were sharpening their sound, with most of the tracks having a lot of energy but not much direction. An album that rambles, with the only consistent the piercing guitar of The Edge. Gloria wasn’ too bad

War (1983)

This is when it gets good. Kicks off with Sunday Bloody Sunday and just keeps going with New Year’s Day, Like a Song, Two Hearts Beat as One, and Surrender. Each member is fine tuning their sound, providing a glimpse of what is possible with the band. The album finishes with 40, a track that continues to explore religion in their song writing.

The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

I totally forgot about this album. I went back and listened to it a couple of times. Pretty good. The tracks I like (A Sort of Homecoming, Pride (In the Name of Love), the title track and Bad) are really good and set the stage for The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum. The other tracks range from meh to awful. The end of the album really goes off the rails.

Anecdote: the precursor to Audio Adrenaline (A180) played this at a youth group event in like 1990 or 1991. Blew my mind.

The Joshua Tree (1987)

This album created a sound unlike almost anything else the radio was playing. Guitars that could pierce you or take you a place of peace; drumming that took what the guitar was doing and perfectly complimented it; vocals and lyrics that made you feel something. Besides the huge hit singles, I really like Exit, which starts softly, almost imperceptibly and crushes you at the end.

Rattle and Hum (1988)

One of my favorite albums of all time, not just of U2, I mean ever. A definite deserted island must have. I could play this record and watch this movie over and over again. It starts with a cover of Helter Skelter and takes the listener on a “musical journey” of uncompromising quality and range, finishing with a ponderous All I Want is You. I could do an entire entry on this album, with almost every song in the top 10 for me. Big faves are Hawkmoon 269, God Part II and Silver and Gold.

Achtung Baby (1991)

One of the first CD's I ever bought, I wore this thing out. Different from Joshua Tree and Rattle & Hum, this album starts the band off in a direction that takes them to away from their traditional sound before returning on All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Zoo Station kicks things off and this song was awesome live at the Pontiac Silverdome. Loud, energetic, with lots of attitude, it is followed by another high tempo song in Even Better Than The Real Thing, where The Edge just kills it. These songs were written for stadium shows. One slows things down a bit, and I loved it when it first came out but now not so much.

The Fly is one of my favorite tracks, with great a drum part and a unique guitar sound. Bono's falsetto on the chorus changes things up and adds to the song. Mysterious Ways comes next with unforgettable opening chords.

The album changes gears again with Tryin to Throw Your Arms Around the World (a great idea by the way), which I like for Bono's little rap during the bridge. Ultraviolet is another top song from the band. I'm usually not one to pay attention to lyrics but there are some great lines in this song, especially the last verse.

Zooropa (1993)

They continue to experiment with their sound, taking slivers of Achtung Baby and seeing where it would lead. There is a lot more production on this album, using sampling, loops, more emphasis on the bass and electronic sounds. They get out there, with more misses than hits, but the hits are totally different than anything that came before it. The title track is decent and Stay (Faraway, So Close) is fantastic tune. Dirty Day is a hidden gem, with tempo changes, interesting lyrics and a bombastic finish, which I could listen to over and over again.

Pop (1997)

At the time of release I was into electronic music so it was a fusion of a genre and a band, and the album went in some interesting places. I’m not one of those fans who hates this record. Discothèque is a track I love, especially the single with all of the remixes. Good times. This is followed by Do You Feel Loved, which is a good song. Then things go a little sideways before the chorus of Last Night on Earth and the guitar part of the end of Miami. I have passed out to If You Wear That Velvet Dress many times. Please is one my favorite tracks, especially towards the end.

All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)

Along with October, my least favorite album and my go to comment on this album is: give me Beautiful Day and Elevation and you can throw away the rest. Beautiful Day re-launched U2's campaign to be the best band in the world with a great sound, each member really hitting the heights, and a song of tremendous commercial appeal. Elevation just plain rocks the house and Walk On isn't too bad. The album doesn't take the sound all they way back to Joshua Tree but it was definitely a return to a more traditional U2 sound, with too many mellow track for my taste, too many songs that would wear out my lighter at a concert.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)

One of my favorite albums from the band, and of the few U2 records I can listen to from start to finish. Vertigo is pure pop but kicks ass. The rest of the album has tracks with great hooks and slightly edgier U2 sound for me. All Because of You is a driving song, which takes the sound from all that you can’t leave behind and amps it up

Crumbs from Your Table is a pretty good tune as well. This album got me back on the bandwagon and while it’s far from perfect, it was going in the right direction.

No Line on the Horizon (2009)

When I first heard it, I was disappointed. I actually railed against it and said it was worst than All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Several people whom I respect told me to give it a chance, and I’m glad they did. The more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it. Not as rockin’ as Atomic Bomb but more soulful, with Magnificent being my favorite track on the album.

Favorite U2 Songs:

All Because of You

Beautiful Day

Bullet the Blue Sky

Crumbs from Your Table


Dirty Day


Do You Feel Loved



The Fly

God Part 2

Hawkmoon 269

Hold me, Thrill me, Kiss me, Kill me

I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight

Love and Peace or Else


No Line on the Horizon

Pride (In the Name of Love)

Silver and Gold

Stand Up Comedy



Where the Streets Have No Name

Zoo Station

The Best of the Best:

I tried to stay away from overloading it with tracks from Rattle and Hum while sampling their entire catalog, which is thirteen albums, and range of music, which ranges from rock to poetic to political to contemplative to electronic. As usual, I couldn’t stay with just five, so here we go.

All Because of You

Dirty Day

Do You Feel Loved


The Fly

Hawkmoon 269


Silver and Gold

Where the Streets Have No Name

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feature Presenation--A Boxer, A Fish & A Dog all walk into Mel's Drive-In

Resurrecting the Champ

Saw a preview for this movie and decided to pick up because of the story. Basically, a young reporter has a chance to “make it” but at a price. I'll leave it there.

Thought Samuel L. Jackson put in a solid performance. Hartnett was great when he got sucked into the lures of success but still not convinced as the morally confused reporter or dutiful dad.

After watching the film, did a little research on the story it was based on. If you want a spoiler, then read this article:

You've seen this movie before, probably better. Pass.

A Fish Called Wanda

I saw this movie years ago and really enjoyed it. Picked it up at the library, put it in the player and had to take a break after 30 minutes. I eventually finished it but it was a struggle. There is a great cast and decent performances, but too many sidebars. Could have been tighter, which would have given the movie more punch.

Some things are best left back in the 80's.

Best in Show

Funny every time you see it. This film has an amazing cast that brings the unique characters to life. Who thought a story about the seedy behind the scenes of a dog show could be so rich? Fred Willard steals the show as his character embarrases the hell out of his English co-host.

Great comedy. See it.

American Graffiti

Think I heard about this movie on the Tony Kornheiser Show. As luck would have it, I was scanning recently returned movies at the library and there it was, on VHS. Thank goodness we kept the VCR.

The film is about the angst and hope and awkwardness of leaving high school and home. Taking place on the night before two of the main characters head to college in 1962, it encapsulates everything about being a teenager: status, chasing after girls, doing nothing, looking for a beer, contemplating the future.

Many things race through my brain as I watched: how this was a precursor to Dazed and Confused, which was set about 15 years later; how great the music was (link to sound track info from Wikipedia:; and how the movie was a Hollywood snapshot of parents' teenage years.

A fun, melodramatic, and timeless tale. Worth seeing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In Your Ear-7.28.11

Drive By Truckers

Southern Rock Opera

Over the July 4th Holiday, the crew at the Sound Opinions Podcast interviewed Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers. I wasn’t familiar with their music and didn’t particularly enjoy their in-studio songs, but I listened to his stories and his influences and decided to give them a try.

The downtown library had their first release, a double CD, which as is an homage to the South and to Alabama in particular. Heavy guitar driven tracks with lots of twang and blues and references to Southern culture and history. The alternating vocalists provide a nice change of pace as you make your way through songs.

A couple of songs that I really liked:

Shut Up and Get on the Plane

Life in the Factory

Birmingham (reminded me of the time I lived there)

72 (This Highway’s Mean)

KEXP—Music that Matters Podcasts

Episode 250: Mix of techno based of songs. Very chill. Golden Child by Okay Colour was my favorite track.

Episode 251: Mixture of different sounds and genres.

Fave tracks:

Blue Sky Black Death - Our Hearts Of Ruin

New Division - Bucharest

Moby - Sevastopol

The One AM Radio - Sunlight

The Kills - DNA

Episode 256: Lots of electronica songs. OK on in the background but only Numbers in Action by Wiley caught my attention.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Feature Presenation--A Home Run and a Couple of Singles

Breaking Bad Season 2

I watched Season 1 of this show and thought it was ok. Interesting story lines, tricky situations, and really enjoyed performance of Cranston.

The second season starts with a bang and really moves. Each episode starts with a clip in and around Walter’s pool and the show builds on it the entire season. There were several plot lines that I thought it foreshadowed but the eventual circumstance was beyond belief. The dynamics between Walt and Jesse continue to be a rich source of story telling, providing tension, humor and life lessons. Odenkirk is a fantastic addition as the sleazy lawyer and I hope he stays on. The finale is dripping with tension and Skylar's decision sets up some great plot lines for season three.

I realized early in the season that the show is Weeds meets The Wire—character turns to drugs to meet financial needs and then has to figure how the drug system works, staying ahead of law enforcement while battling the competition.

Get into this show.

I watched three movies recently that I don’t know if I love or hate.

The Propostition

This was recommended to me by a co-worker and it is a brutal story set in Australia. Ray Winstone is great as sensitive yet hard edged colonizer for the Empire trying to humanize this savage country while battling the natives and unsavory elements on the fringes, and his character’s choices contribute to a jarring, unnerving and terrifying conclusion. Guy Pearce gives a great performance, providing the springboard for the plot to develop. The movie is slow in places and the violence, seen and unseen, is horrific.

The Darjeeling Limited

I have wanted to see this for a while, only because I love Rushmore and enjoy most of the other Wes Anderson films (haven’t seen Life Aquatic). The movie is a variation on the road trip formula, with the characters using a spiritual search to work through their familial issues. I imagine me, my brother and sister doing this, so my liking and simultaneous dislike is somehow wrapped up in that.

The Fountain

This movie caught my eye at the library and it took me a second to realize what it was. As I turned over the movie to see the director, it clicked—Darren Aronofsky. He creates a weird film (shocker) with elements of the genesis of the world, the Spanish Inquisition, the love and pursuite of science blended with scenes of everlasting love and the end of the universe. Thought Hugh Jackman was quite good in his multitude of roles, with Rachel Weisz providing an excellent love interest.

All of these are worth seeing once. After that, I don’t know what to tell you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

My vacation plans fell through for this summer. Usually I go to the Neshoba County Fair, spending a couple of days with extended family in ridiculously hot conditions, having some beers, watching people and catching up on cousins, aunt, uncles, that sort of thing. This year I was planning on going to Atlanta during that time with Erin to spend a couple of days away, but that plan was put on hold because she couldn't get out of work (two experienced co-workers left, leaving her as the most senior employee). I then started looking into doing a soccer trip, either to the East Coast to see Juventus, Manchester United and FC Barcelona on tour, or to the Pacific Northwest to check out the Portland Timbers, Seattle Sounders and maybe the Vancouver Whitecaps. Between money and time, that trip never came together. It's something I definitely want to investigate for next summer.

So an extended trip away is probably not going to happen this summer, which is fine. But what to do what my vacation days from work? I've decided to try to attempt a practice sabbatical. Written into our employee handbook itstates:

After every five years of full time service, full time employees will be eligible for a three month paid leave of absence.

Guess what? On January 2nd, 2012 I will have put five years in, and I have already put together a tentative schedule.

Possible Sabbatical Schedule (sometime in May through end of July):

Euro 2012
June 8 - July 1
Site: the bar(s)

MLS trip?
Pacific NW

Neshoba County Fair
July 27- August 3
Site: Neshoba County, MS

So come back from the Fair and back to work just in time for the Annual Franchisee Meeting.

Besides watching soccer, what else am I going to do? I plan to finally sit down and write, type up and edit all the crap I've been jotting down over the years. I have an idea for a second story, but first I need to edit and post the first one. That will be job one. Job two, will be to assemble the raw materials for my next whatever it is I do. This is all assuming that I edit and finish all previous materials over the winter. To prepare for all of this, I plan to take long weekends, four to five days, where I simulate what this might look like. You have to practice? Absolutely. If I have time off with no plan, ie nothing to do, I will do nothing. I mean I'll play FIFA and read and watch TV and sit around but I won't get to this stuff sitting in the corner of my closet.

I plan to use these days to help set habits to be the most effective. I start this weekend, taking Thursday and Friday off, plus having Saturday mostly to myself, to get my new soccer blog ready. I have been wanting do this for a while and things came together to launch it in anticipation of the upcoming season. I want to have a lot of new material ready ahead of time to supplement some older posts and the new posts that will be generated from the events of the season. Discipline is the only way the blog will be dynamic. If I wait until the mood hits, the blog will be boring (even more boring that it may be) and will die a slow death. So Thursday morning I am going to get up and hit the ground running, and this will be the first day of a ten month process to get me ready for my sabbatical next summer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strip Club—FC Barcelona Dollar Dance

It’s a less than a month until the new soccer season kicks off. I was going to do a semi-comprehensive review of upcoming kits for the 2011-12 season but @footballfashion has already done most of the heavy lifting and I’m lazy, so I strongly encourage you to visit their site (they cover a lot of ground) and get ready for some eye candy and horror shows for this campaign.

Also, @avoidingthedrop did a winners and losers post for this year:

It’s a nice smattering of kits, with an emphasis on the EPL. Follow the comment thread for comments from the readership.

Instead, I will focus on the clubs I follow and some of the items that have caught my eye as I have browsed the interweb.

FC Barcelona


For this season, Nike went to thinner stripes with some sort of asymmetrical design, and after a couple of views, the kit grew on me.


I love the black away kit. FCB is going to look badass in those (can you imagine them wearing that in the Bernabeu next year—all white versus all black?!?!) and this jersey is ten times better than the yellow, neon yellow, mint green, salmon and teal versions of the last couple of years.

Now there is some consternation re: the sponsors. I admit I don’t know enough to say whether The Qatar Foundation should or shouldn’t be sponsoring a team. FCB joined the 21st century and is getting 125 million Euros over the next 5 years. Enough said. UNICEF gets pushed to back(side) but what are you going to do? Money talks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

In Your Ear-7.12.11

Blood Pressures by The Kills

I came across this band listening to KEXP podcasts and found their latest album, which is pretty rocking, at the library.

The records opens with Future Starts Slow, a track I absolutely fell in love with, drawn to the stripped down instruments amplified by a hypnotic guitar part. My other favorite track is DNA, which haunts and rocks at the same time. Tracks 5 and 8 are completely at odds with the rest of the album. The first time through I thought my CD was broken. Really did not like Wild Charms (5), The Last Goodbye (8) is ok. Baby Says (track 7) doesn’t hit the heights plus the sound quality seems very odd.

Halcyon Digest by Deerhunter

I listened to the album a couple of weeks ago on Grooveshark and it didn’t really grab me. I must not have been playing enough attention because there are several great tracks on this album.

Fountain Stairs, Memory Boy, Revival, and Don’t Cry are short, unique pop songs that are pure Deerhunter, which Wikipedia describes as: Noise rock, Ambient, Shoegaze, Post-punk revival, Indie rock. If you say so. I just know that this band doesn’t sound like anything else I’m familiar with. Coronado uses the sax to create a light, fun pop song. My favorite track by far is Desire Lines. I could listen to the chorus and the end of the song forever, the instruments fusing together to create a sound that is out of this world. I love this about this band!

Recent Tracks I’ve found:

You’ve Got the Love by Florence and the Machine. They opened for U2 a couple of weeks ago and my brother suggested I check them out.

Cheated Hearts by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I came across the song during a rare listen to commercial radio on the Impact 89FM. Went online immediately and found it.

I Luv UR Sneakers by Poly Styrene. Sound Opinions featured this song as they remembered her influence and her passing.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Feature Presenation--Draper, Dud, and The Devil

Mad Men Season 4

After listening to recaps on Tony Kornheiser, I was eagerly anticipating this season. Of course, I had forgotten much of what had been said, so nothing was ruined.

The opening episodes were quite depressing and having a cocktail, in the spirit of the show, was not the way to go. After two episodes, I was curled up in a corner, not wanting to come out.

Don Draper was in the quite the shame spiral as his tight knit, well constructed life unraveled quickly, and he spent a while on the bad choice mat, sleeping with his secretary, losing potential clients and allowing an award to go to his head.

Plus there were weird asides like hooking up with the doctor (to whom he reveals his real identity), journaling (goes introspective and then ditches it) and the return of his ex-f*** buddy who has become an artist (which reveals that this guy just has money to burn).

The season ends with him proposing to his secretary, which cannot end well. But we may never see how it ends as circumstances are coming together which may delay the next season, dare I say end the show. I would like them to at least go one more season and wrap up some of the loose ends but you never know.

If you’re not on the bandwagon by now, I don’t know what to tell you.

War Inc.

This could have been good as a commentary on nation building, Halliburton’s role in the military and the industry of celebrity, but ends up falling flat with a convoluted story involving the main character (Cusack), his love interest (Tomei) and his newfound daughter (Duff). The ending never seems to end and the credits are a welcome entrance back into reality.



Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

The performances by Hoffman and Hawke make this worth watching. Hoffman’s life is totally falling apart and he will stop at nothing to try to use money as a problem solver. His intensity is palpable as he lies to, coerces, and manipulates everyone around him. Hawke, usually the good looking lead, plays a timid, luckless mama’s boy who lurches from one failure to another. Everything he touches turns to shit and the key point of the film is no exception.

The film is not only what would you do for money, but the consequences of those actions, and the movie is very deliberate in taking its time towards a stunning finale.

See it.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

USA post Gold Cup--Quick Thoughts

I watched most of the Gold Cup and here is my analysis of the current player pool and what we have to look forward to for World Cup 2014:


Howard: Solid, sometimes spectacular. His comedic failure at the feet of Gio can be excused for the shambolic defending in front of him. Does tend to yell a lot. Surely you yell before the problem develops?


Lichaj: Became a big fan. Provides width, pace and edge to balance Cherundolo. Suspect defensively, his gaffe for Mexico’s second goal shows he has a lot of work to do.

Bornstein: Wynalda made some interesting points on his appearance @beyondthepitch podcast, but let’s face it, no one believes in this guy.


Bocanegra/Goodson: This pairing will probably get them through qualifying but not much further. I still worry about Bocanegra’s age come 2014, but seems better than the alternative. Onyewu, please pick up a white courtesy phone. Ream, maybe in 2 years he will have developed.


Cherundolo: His performances got me on his bandwagon. Solid going both ways, he revealed the biggest takeaway from the tournament—he can never go off again—but he will be pushing almost 35 in Brazil.

Outside mids

Dempsey: Take way the Guadeloupe game, and he was probably the first or second best player for the US. Must continue to get touches and lead the team offensively.

Donovan: Very hit and miss couple of weeks. He is a good player but maybe the US will have to sacrifice him for the good of the group.


Bradley: Well positioned, pulls the strings, high work rate. Heartbeat of the team. Just need to find him a partner.

Jones: Just not good enough. Feel there are deficiencies in each part of his game. Why is Edu not getting a run?

Kleijstan:. Don’t see how he starts but decent sub option.


Altidore: Play two years, every day at a high level and we’ll talk. Until then, stay away.

Agudelo: Meh. Young, raw, needs more playing time as well. There is something there, just not sure he is every match starter. Feel he should continue to be impact sub.

Bedoya: Not sure what his position is but was serviceable. May have a future because he has enough tactical flexibility to contribute.

Going forward we have to shore up the center of midfield and defense. I’m not too worried about the attack really because I think Bradley has found that the 4-2-3-1 is the way to go and the US has got enough attacking talent to make this work (imagine Stu Holden back in the squad!!), assuming the backline is not being overrun and just whacking the ball out and into touch. The next World Cup cycle will be interesting because Donovan’s position is under threat, the forward role needs to be sorted out and the CB pairing must become rock solid.

Monday, June 27, 2011

USA v Mexico--Quick Thoughts

If the Gold Cup Group game against Guadeloupe was World Cup Algeria Part II, then the Gold Cup Final versus Mexico had to be Confederations Cup Final v Brazil Part II. Before I get too far . . . what a game. End to end stuff, great saves, glaring errors, huge momentum changes, and fantastic goals.

The US came out and attacked, very much like United v FCB last month, and capitalized on their first set piece, one of the few advantages they had going into the match. Then the Americans finished off a swift move of quick passes, including a tremendous shield by Adu (surprise starter) that led to Deuce finding Donovan, who coolly finished. And then the lights went out just like 2 years ago against the Brazilians.

How big must have the Mexican eyes been when Bornstein came in? Cherundolo going off changed the match, and I don’t know any Spanish, but surely they said go at #12. With Chicharito occupying the two center backs, Gio and Barrera had their way with poor Jonathon, which led to Mexico being all over the US like white on rice, which totally disrupted any possession and rhythm from the Americans. Hoofing the ball up to the Roma like rotation of target players was not working. Once the ball trickled in to make it 2-2, the game was over. The US looked unlikely to score and the Mexicans had their tails up. Not much changed in the second half and Barrera’s sublime finish told us everything—Mexico is simply better. Gio’s ridiculous finish put the Americans in their place and now it’s back to the drawing board.

There has been a lot of talk about Bradley and his status as head coach. Sean Wheelock says that some of his sources say the US has peaked and grown stale. @UFStretfordEnd has started a #BradleyOut campaign on twitter. Going through a second World Cup cycle is tough enough and here is a coach who cannot win, who cannot win big matches and cannot win the PR battle. He either starts slowly, responding with smart substitutions that either change the match in his favor or cause the fan base to wonder why he didn’t start with those players; OR he gets a lead against a tough opponent and simply cannot hold it. I think Bradley is competent, professional and well organized, while being solid if not spectacular. If you can him, you have to ask, who would you replace him with? If you don’t have a replacement, you must continue on this course, sad and predictable as that might be.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In Your Ear-6.24.11

Black Angels, Phosphene Dream

I’ll be honest I don’t know how to classify this band—Wikipedia classifies them thusly: Psychedelic rock, Neo-psychedelia, Garage rock—I just know that I like their music. Stumbled upon the band somehow and have grabbed songs here and there over time. I listened to their album Phosphene Dream and was reasonably satisfied. Lots of guitar work through the album, which created some very interesting songs. Particularly liked the title track, Entrance Song, and Bad Vibrations. The cut Telephone is a catchy song that blends 60’s beach with heavy rock. In and out in two minutes. The album ends with The Sniper, which takes things down a notch before ramping up to rhythmic anthem for when that bender goes completely off the rails.

Sound Opinions Show #281

The guys replayed a Butch Vig interview from a couple years ago, in which he talks about how went from small time producer in Wisconsin to producing Nevermind and Siamese Dream to being in a band.

The interview was fascinating as Vig shared some stories about Cobain and Corgan, their moods, their genius, their interplay with other band members. These were some of the biggest bands and influences growing up so it was neat to hear a little behind the scenes. Vig also talked about his time with Garbage. Really enjoyed their first album; subsequent releases, not so much.

The hosts moved from the interview to a review of the new Foo Fighters album, which did not rate highly. They did have some good words about the Paul Simon’s new record, which should please Mr. Tony immensely.

iTunes Summer Sampler

Overall the sampler was ok. Found some really good tracks:

San Pedro - Mogwai

Driving garage rock instrumental track that I can get behind.

What About Us - Handsome Furs

Favorite track on the sampler from a group that I’ve found recently. Like what they are doing electronically in the background on this cut.

On the Corner - The Twilight Singers

Another favorite of mine. When I first heard this cut, I thought it would right off The Afghan Whigs Gentlemen CD. Turns out Greg Dulli is lead singer. Really could get into this band.

You Gotta Lose - Obits

Energetic cut with a punk vibe that hits you in the mouth and keeps on going. Dig it.

Here were a couple of losers:

Grown Ocean - Fleet Foxes

Haven’t really gotten on the FF bandwagon. This track didn’t help.

Mister Heavenly - Mister Heavenly

Uhhh . . . no. Couldn’t get into this track.

The Fox - Niki and the Dove

Didn’t really like this track. Too much going on plus I had mid 80’s flashbacks to Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and the like.

Comments on the rest of the tracks:

Lost in My Mind - The Head and the Heart

Slow build on this track with an enjoyable piano part.

Is It Done - J Mascis

Long time since I’ve heard anything out of Mascis or Dinosaur Jr. Not too bad, very understated track.

He Gets Me High - Dum Dum Girls

Hints of Elastica pepper this cut, which would be great for driving around.

Skull (Remastered) - Sebadoh

Had a little Pavement/Nada Surf flashback on this track, which was nice.

Do You Really Wanna Know - Papercuts

Ethereal track that has a 60’s vibe with some Decemberists and another band I can’t quite place.

Eyes Be Closed - Washed Out

Wish I could describe the track but I can’t. Imagine this is a take it or leave it track. I took it.

Can't You Tell - Vetiver

Dreamy song that reminds of early 90’s BritPop (blur, Charltans UK, etc.)

Swerve... the Reeping of All That Is Worthwhile (Noir Not Withstanding) - Shabazz Palaces

Track totally different that any of the others, with a rap vibe.

O My Soul - Daniel Martin Moore

The Band meets Blue Rodeo if that’s your sort of thing.

Especially Me - Low

Would have to be in right mood to enjoy this melancholy track. Could happen.

Endless Summer - Still Corners

Organ based track that easily would have fit into Twin Peaks soundtrack. Very haunting.

Sleep Patterns – Memoryhouse

If you like the sound of the Editors or Interpol with female vocals, you’ll probably like this track.

Sara - Chad VanGaalen

Voice sounds like several others I’ve heard. So so track, nothing to get excited over.