Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Your Ear-Ripped Book Review

Finished Ripped, which is a fascinating recap of the move of music from CD’s to mp3’s, from corporate control to artist control, from commercial radio determining the songs heard and the frequency played to individuals creating their own playlists and playing whatever, whenever. Hard to believe that 15 years ago, everything was SoundScan charts and programmed radio and TRL and marketing campaigns. Now almost every artist has a myspace page; tracks are swapped from fan to fan; and some big artists are choosing to release everything on their website.

In high school and college I followed several bands and was exposed to new music via the radio—89X out of Windsor, 92.1 The Edge out of Lansing, and Impact 89 FM at Michigan State. I would hear a new song, fall in love with it and either tape it off the radio (so 20th century) or search out the CD at local music stores. Inevitably, I would love the one song and hate the rest of the album. So my CD collection would grow and grow, but there would tons of dead space and wasted money.

Think of the last album that was great from start to finish. For me, Definitely Maybe from Oasis, The Bends from Radiohead and Baby 81 from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club spring to mind. There are no tracks that you skip. Every song is great and builds to create an amazing 45 to 60 minutes of music. Most albums are a waste, filled with throwaway tracks because the artist has to meet a commitment of x amount of albums in x amount of years. It takes years to build a best of album because, out of 5 records, there might only be 6 or 7 decent tracks. I love Oasis but Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, Heathen Chemistry, and Don’t Believe the Truth have a lot of filler. They could have made an album approaching Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory had they been patient and really selected the choice songs. Of course, people have to eat and some tracks considered core songs I wouldn’t give a second listen to.

Now I find music through podcasts, Pandora and personal recommendations. I still hear a new song, fall in love with it and but find it either on limewire or from CD’s I check out of the library. I have several playlists on my iTunes that are simply labeled singles. Do I know any other song from Phoenix besides Napoleon Says or from The Wrens other than This Boy is Exhausted? No. The only bands that I have been exposed to that I have chased down more than a single track are Deerhunter, Thievery Corporation, Arcade Fire, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Stereophonics.

My core bands are Sloan, U2, Oasis, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Tragically Hip, Moby, and the Dandy Warhols. Years ago I would search for news and concert info about the bands. These days I don’t even pay attention. Oasis breaking up. That’s too bad. Bono brining attention to some new cause. Fine. I don’t need to go to concerts. I would much rather buy the live DVD and watch that. Sloan has got a new album coming out but I’m not counting down the days. Does that mean I like them any less? Maybe. But I’ll always give these bands a chance before all others.

The book makes several arguments for and against downloading music illegally. Have to admit that I have done so. In fact, I think the last CD I bought with my own money was Sloan’s Parallel Play sometime in 2008. I have not resolved the issue about paying or illegally downloading or ripping CD’s. I want to support artists and their product but I don’t want to pay for it. I really should use iTunes, especially for all the single tracks from the myriad bands that I come across. But I don’t. I have gotten better about using the library instead of limewire, but that only solves part of the problem. The artist is not seeing one dime from me. And since I really don’t buy merch or go to shows, I’m not financially supporting them at all. The only real support I give them is word of mouth. If I find a band or song I like I will not stop talking about it. Seems like that only goes so far.

Read the book. It’s a quick read that provides a great trip down memory lane and does provoke some thoughts about the future of music.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feature Presentation--Movies and March Madness

Terribly Happy

Weird Danish film about a police officer Robert Hansen, who is exiled to a remote town due to an incident in the big city. This plot thread is slowly unveiled as he interacts with a town in which everyone knows everyone’s business. Recently divorced, he falls for Ingerlise who is married to the town bully. Jørgen. Tension ensues and creates a critical mass that sets up the climax and denouement. Be prepared for a slow but interesting pace and good performances all around

Worth seeing.

The Town

When I saw the preview for this film months ago, I was interested in seeing it. Heard several decent reviews from friends who had seen it in the theater, so when it came up at the library, I made sure to create some space to see it right away.

Laying my cards on the table, I’m not a big Ben Affleck guy. Liked him in Good Will Hunting, he was ok in Chasing Amy, fantastic in Mallrats. I tend to stay away from movies involving him, but this movie had Jon Hamm (big fan of his in Mad Men and 30 Rock) and Jeremy Renner (really enjoyed his performance in Hurt Locker), so I figured if nothing else, they would cancel him out. I was surprised by his performance. Brooding but not overly so, clearly caught in two minds about his future, so it gave his character a nice dynamic tension, which he did well with. The ending was clear, and you were given two choices, would he get away or get caught. I’ll try to avoid the spoiler for those who haven’t seen it.

I felt at times, I was watching Heat, but The Town never quite hit the those heights for me, plus no Ashley Judd. I thought Heat had more intensity, more edge, with The Town having more of a slow burn.

My initial comments sparked these comments on twitter from @UFStretfordEnd:

I actually found Heat's intensity more contrived. Yeah, I knew where The Town was going, but I was happy to come along.

I thought it (The Town) was better. I really enjoyed it. Heat was buried under the weight of its own importance.

Had never really considered the last one. Interesting point but for me Heat will always win out.

Not bad after a long day of work.

NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament (aka March Madness)

I won’t bore you with my history with college basketball, but will just that if someone who knew me in high school or college heard that I didn’t watch a single minute until the end of day 3 (Saturday), they would have been shocked. Shocked.

I didn’t do a break so I really don’t have a rooting interest. I carved out some time for Michigan v Duke because 1) a friend was watching it; 2) it hearkened back to the Fab Five of my youth; 3) I could watch soccer on my computer (see my last Old Football Buffet post). Duke survived after a stirring rally from the Wolverines. The following Sunday afternoon I watched Kentucky v North Carolina. Two of college basketball’s most storied programs played a great game with UK’s three point shooting giving them the edge and sending the Wildcats to the Final Four for the first time since 1998.

This weekend we are planning a little shindig to watch the Final Four (preceded by the Milan Derby). The brackets are set up so that a traditional power (UConn or UK) will face a Cinderella (Butler or VCU) in the final. Who knows if I will stay up for the final, but Saturday should be fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old Futbol Buffet--All You Can Eat

Editor’s Note: after weekends I gorge myself on footy, I plan to post on what I saw, heard, thought. This is a little late because I lost my flash drive (momentarily) and then was on the road for work.


The rest of the family was away, so I was given free reign over the weekend to watch footy and basketball. I missed the Manchester United game (BERBA BABY!!) but got some work down around the house and headed out for the afternoon matches.

Ran into a couple of Arsenal fans who were drowning their sorrows after the Gunners dropped more points in a 2-2 draw with West Brom. They mentioned that Alumnia had a poor game, which is usual. I watched the hilites later and his contribution to a calamitous second goal. Looks like his fine performance against FCB in the second leg really is the anomaly.

The couple conceded the league to United, but there is still a ways to go. However, the loss in the Carling Cup Final has really put the pressure on them. No trophy from a match which they were heavily favored, and now the club out of Champions League and FA Cup. Everything is tied up in the league or it’s another season of “Wait til next year”.

I watched the end of Lazio and Cesena. Not too much happened. Lazio had a point blank header saved but picked up all three points in 1-0 win.

FCB v Getafe

FCB got off to a nervy start due several factors: Real Madrid playing after so the Blaugrana had to put three points on the board; Puyol out still; and the drama around Abidal. A goal by Alves on 16’ seemed to settle the team. Messi was dangerous but not sharp enough; Villa was looking for PK’s instead of finishing his chances. Bojan was lively but still not up to Pedro’s high standards. The midfield was solid, with Masch winning several challenges. Milito was shaky, but with his injuries and lack of playing time, what do you expect? Felt Adriano could have played better.

Getafe had a great chance to equalize, but Valdes came up huge. FCB continued to create chances but the HT whistle blew with only one goal being scored. Last week Sevilla came out of the blocks in the second half and surely that was part of Pep’s comments during the interval.

Bojan, who has been marginalized over the last two seasons, scored a vital goal early in the second half. It took a slight deflection but will probably do wonders for his confidence. The third goal never came and Getafe set up an interesting finish with a fine finish by Manu. FCB saw out the match and put pressure on Los Merengues heading into the Madrid Derby (which of course they against the choking dogs know as Atletico Madrid).


Athletic Bilbao v Villarreal

Watched the last half an hour of this match while watching the Duke/Michigan game. Looked like a tense, hard fought game but I didn’t see much action. The Yellow Submarine picked up three vital points with the 1-0 victory to solidify their spot in the top four and keep the pressure on Valencia. This followed an impressive victory in the Europa League. They continue to fight on both fronts, with very little chance of losing their Champions League position, because, skimming results, Espanyol have lost 7 of their last 9 to fall away from the Champions League places. They are now 1st for the rest of the table, holding a one point edge over Bilbao.

At the bottom, Malaga have finally caught fire and now have the momentum in the relegation fight. Hercules have hit rock bottom and look to go down despite being the only team to beat FCB this season. The relegation battles in Spain and England should be nail-biting right to the last minute of the season.

Marseille v PSG

I usually have not been impressed by French games, but the first half was very open and entertaining. OM really took it to PSG, which looked very average. Lots of turnovers and too much hesitation when they finally got into the final third.

Heinze opened the scoring 15’ with a fantastic free kick. Coupet didn’t even move. Who knew he could take free kicks? However PSG took advantage of poor clearance, and scored when a shot off the post from Nene was fired home by Chantome. OM responded quickly and Ayew scored with a relatively free header from Gignac to put the Champions in front on 35’.

The exciting first half caused two thoughts: Where was this against United? And I had made the right choice as Valencia v Sevilla was 0-0 at HT.

The second half was a little more disciplined. PSG really didn’t create enough chances, even though Marseille looked to have settled for the lead and invited PSG on to them.

Ayew had a great chance after a fine individual run turned away by Coupet, then Mandanda kept PSG out with a nice save 10’ into the half. Lucho and Abriel came on with half an hour to try to maintain OM’s grip on the game.

Guily best chance came with 10’ to go with interplay creating a real chance on goal as opposed to the half chances for most of the half. PSG threw bodies forward in an effort to equalize and OM squandered two gilt edged chances to kill off the game, with Lucho and Remy at fault.

After that result, this what the top of Ligue 1 looks like. With OM out of the Champions League, they could still make a final push to retain their title.




































Thursday, March 17, 2011

In Your Ear-3.17.11

Sound Opinions Podcast 1/31/11

The guys at Sound Opinions took a look back at the year 1991. The podcast starts with Brian Adams, (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which was played ad nauseam for what seemed like forever. The show quickly gets better as, twenty years on, they examine a year that set the stage for the next movements in music.

Here are some quick highlights from their show notes:

Nirvana and the birth of Grunge
My Bloody Valentine and the growth of Shoegaze
Lollapalooza and the rise of the Alternative Nation
N.W.A and the reign of Gangsta Rap
Massive Attack and the “tripping” of hip-hop

For full notes, visit:

For me, it was grunge and the emergence of Alternative Rock. Nirvana burst on to the scene, there was Out of Time by REM (Losing My Religion), Gish by the Smashing Pumpkins, and Use Your Illusion I and II by Guns n Roses.

Other bands and albums:

13 Engines


Girlfiend by Matthew Sweet

Achtung Baby by U2

Road Apples by The Tragically Hip (although I didn’t know it at the time)

Pocket Full of Kryptonite by Spin Doctors (ugh)

Temple of the Dog

Anyone from GenX should listen to this podcast. Anyone from Gen whatever comes next, should check it out to get some context for what happened while you were in diapers. Another great show from this podcast.


Somehow Jet got on my music radar, so I took a listen. My previous experience had been Are You Gonna Be My Girl, which was used in the iTunes campaign a while ago. Their first album Get Born is tolerable. Some decent tracks (Cold Hard Bitch, Get Me Outta Here and Get What You Need) with catchy hooks, pop metal undertones and a punk vibe. The slow, girly songs are dreck. Overall, a decent debut effort.

The next album, Shine On, is utterly unremarkable. I played the CD in the background at work and not a single track stood out in any way. Just white noise. So that’s a pass.

What struck me after a while is that the band is a second or, dare I say, third rate Oasis. You can hear what they’re going for but never actualize. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but whatever.

Temper Trap

I checked out the album Conditions from the band Temper Trap. I knew Sweet Disposition from the 500 Days of Summer trailer and really loved the full track. The album gets off to a good start with the first three cuts. After that it meanders and doesn’t grab me until Resurrection, which I really liked. A hypnotic opening that slowly builds toward a kick ass conclusion.

Recent tracks on I’ve found on

  • 1901 by Phoenix
  • Desire by Deerhunter
  • Budos Rising by Budos Band
  • Still Alive by Three Mile Pilot

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Strip Club—LFK Edition

See here for definition:

I am an American. Not by choice, but by birth. For that, I feel I should support my homeland in their quest to join the rest of the world at the feast of football. The country has made great strides since my birth (1974), actually qualifying in 1990 for the first time in 40 years and for every World Cup Finals since, peaking with a quarterfinal loss to Germany in Japan/South Korea.

I really started watching soccer in 1994 when the USA hosted the event. Wynalda’s fantastic free kick against Switzerland at the Pontiac Silverdome and the epic win versus Colombia at the Rose Bowl. I watched as Meola got beat at his near post against Brazil and was sickened. France 98 was a disaster as Sampson and the squad were shown to be overmatched. Japan/South Korea was a roller coaster ride of emotions. The absolutely amazing opening half against Portugal, which was followed by a tense draw with South Korea, before a shambolic finale against Poland. However the US progressed and controlled the match against arch rivals Mexico before falling to some questionable calls against Germany. Germany 06 was France all over again, this time with terrible marking, red cards and poor play. The summer of 2010 in South Africa was very disappointing despite the US winning the group. Poor starts to matches, poor personnel choices and poor performances led to an early exit against Ghana.

The 2014 cycle will interesting to watch develop because the old guard—Donovan, Onyewu, Dempsey and Howard—will be in their 30’s, and I’m not convinced that there are younger players of quality to replace or supplement them. But a lot can change between now and then.

I wore this kit watching every match of WC 2010, not that it helped, and it is far superior to 1994 choices from adidas. In a bout of World Cup fever, I bought the T-shirt version of the striped jersey which I did like much more than the stars version, because I couldn’t pony up for the real jersey. 1998 was drab for me with the large band across the middle. Plus they had that light aqua variation that was terrible. 2002 was ok. Nice and simple, nothing extravagant. The 2010 World Cup kit was solid, with an homage to the 1950 team. The navy blue with white sash was quite cool and I plan to buy that when it goes on sale. (Editor’s note: I bought a personalized version on for 20% off the sale price. STEAL!!)

This jersey template from Nike was introduced for Euro 2004, and I have the Holland home and away from that edition. I love long sleeve jerseys, and the shirt breathes pretty well. It is great for a cool day in spring or fall, and I wish I had had it personalized but bought it before that phase of jersey purchasing. This leads to another tenet of purchasing: I recently decided to not buy jerseys from other nationalities (have one from Holland, Spain, France, Germany, Ukraine, and Croatia). I figure, I yam what I yam.

All in all, a respectable kit. The new one is about to be launched, and I hope that is it as dynamic and striking as the new Brazilian and French kits. I would really like to see a red jersey, something that stands out against the other CONCACAF countries. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Old Futbol Buffet--Juventus v AC Milan

So my football extravaganza did not go exactly as planned. The original plan was to watch the first half of FCB/Zaragoza, then Juventus/AC Milan, followed by the second half of Atletico Madrid/Villarreal.

After going to the gym and doing my errands, I went to Claddagh’s. As soon as I got there, something did not feel right. First of all I was tired. I usually arrive jacked up to watch some footy, but Saturday I was just blah. Second, it was a little busier than I expected. Usually Saturday afternoons in between the lunch and dinner rushes, things are relatively low key. Third, I didn’t reserve a TV as soon as I got there. Saturday was the big MSU/UM basketball game, and by the time I had checked twitter, Facebook and soccer scores, each TV was getting primed for the basketball game.

So I had my one beer and went into the office to get ready for the game. I tried to take a nap but that didn’t work, so I opened up ESPN3 for the Juventus game and settled in. The first half was energetic if lacking in quality. Krasic was up for it for the Bianconeri but failed to deliver the final ball. Melo was running around and putting in a good shift, with Marchisio wearing his invisibility cloak. As for the Rossoneri, Ibra missed a great early chance and Cassano, who was very lively, squandered a fantastic opportunity after skinning most of the Juve back line. The opening stanza ended scoreless, but each team giving a decent accounting of themselves.

I then switched over to the last 15 minutes of the FCB game at the Camp Nou. Keita had put the Blaugrana up just before half time. Based on checks of my twitter feed, it was typical Barcelona domination, with a couple of quality chances from Zaragoza. By the time I tuned in, the bus was firmly parked by the visitors and damage control was in full effect. Villa came on as a sub and really stepped up the game for the hosts. A second goal wouldn’t come, but three vital points pushes FCB ten points clear of Real Madrid and now all eyes will be on the Camp Nou for the potentially epic return leg against Arsenal.

Back the Juventus game. I really should have taken a nap for the second half. The game was pretty scrappy, with Juventus not offering very much. The energy level was down and neither team could really turn the screw. Then Gattuso somehow created a relatively weak shot for himself just outside the box which beat Buffon. Game over. The subs did not come off for Del Neri and the black and whites slumped to their third straight defeat. Forget the Champions League. They will be lucky to make the Europa League.

This season has been exhilarating, disheartening, frustrating, and optimistic all at the same time. With a rebuilt squad, expectations had to be in check, but an away win against Milan and an away draw against Inter showed the possibility of a strong squad. But too many lost points to average or worse teams revealed a maddening inconsistency. The defense has been all over the place, the midfield can only consist of four players and the forward line has been a cluster since Quags went down. I should have known it could get worse before it got better, but I really thought a top six finish was reasonable. Now, I really don’t know how bad it can get. Surely Palermo will get there act together and keep us out. I’m more worried about Catania catching Juventus and sending them closer to the bottom half then making Europe.

Del Neri’s position has to be in some doubt. I wouldn’t mind him getting a second season. He has shown that with the correct players healthy and motivated, this team is top 6. The problem is that the main 11 are either not healthy or not motivated. Surely some depth or quality must be brought in this summer, but it is the motivation that I am most worried about. These players cannot just show up for the big teams, and coast/underperfrom against the minnows and strugglers. That is where titles are won. Look at Inter and Manchester United over the last couple of years. They beat who they are supposed to. United loses the mini-table every year but hasn’t lost to Wigan in their last 15 matches or something.

After the full time whistle, I posted this tweet—Juventus: not entertaining, not winning. even victories r stressful these days, w/ losses sickeningly disappointing & familiar. #nextyear—then packed up my computer and went home. Didn’t even bother with the final La Liga game. Instead took a nap and got some stuff done around the house. So my day did not come off as I had hoped. Win some, lose some.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Feature Presentation--Too Busy for TV

Between work, preparing a sermon for our church retreat, working out and family life, I have not had much time to just veg in front of the TV. Guess that’s good and bad. But here’s what I’ve checked out over the last couple of weeks.

Spartacus: Blood and Sand

I saw this on a preview for something and put it on hold at the library. Months later, I picked it up. I quit after the first disc. Where do I start with my criticism? I didn’t care about a single character; the graphics were over CGI’ed; the dialogue was a mix of Shakespeare, soap opera and clichés. I won’t criticize for the amount of blood. I knew that going in, although it was still a little over the top. Also the sex was gratuitous and really unnecessary. They wanted an R rated series. They got it.

Avoid like the plague.

The State (complete series)

I bought this a while ago and I’m going through it again. Love this show—love its sensibility, its characters, its attitude. It starts off a little slow, but season 2, especially episode 3, is of the highest order. I’m glad these guys burst on to the scene and then went on to other things, Reno 911 in particular. After SNL of the early 90’s, this was way better.

Check it out.

Manchester United: The Official History 1878-2002

Watching this again, I was really struck by the Busby era. Matt Busby built a team ready to compete for domestic and European honors and lost almost all of them on that night in February, 1958. He started over and 10 years later finished the job. That is just amazing.

I also noticed how poor the 70’s and early 80’s were, with the club out in the wilderness compared to the heights of the mid 60’s. Once Fergie arrived and finally won the FA Cup in 1990, they reached the stratosphere in terms of success.

Watching the Treble year gives me goose bumps every time. What a dramatic ending to the season of a lifetime.

If you love Manchester United, a must.

If you love soccer, you should really check it out.

If you want to be able to talk to me, watch it.

Everybody, take it or leave it.