Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Abbreviated Thoughts of a Sick Man

Under the weather as I am, I'll let you fill in the pontification on:

1. Ichiro. He deserves your admiration. Pay attention.

2. Jay Leno announced he will host the Tonight Show until 2009, when he will hand it over to Conan O'Brien. Which means 5 more years of not watching the completely awful Tonight Show.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Great Article on the Cubs,1,474045.story?coll=cs-cubs-headlines

(you'll have to cut and paste; it seems this doesn't hyperlink. And you may need to be registered to read the article)

It's A Shame About Rex

Obviously, it's a shame when a star athlete suffers a season ending injury, particularly if its someone that plays for "your team" and seems classy. That said, I feel particularly bad for Rex Grossman, the Bears second-year quarterback who suffered a season-ending knee injury stretching out for a touchdown in Sunday's game against the Vikings. Along with a new coaching staff that seems much more "human" than the past regimes, Grossman was a large part of my renewed interest in rooting for the Bears. I didn't expect them to be particularly good this year, but I was looking forward to seeing Rex develop in his first year as a starter. Hopefully backup Jonathan Quinn will be watchable and the Bears will be too, at least for awhile, but now I have to wait at least a year to see if Rex will be the quarterback all Bears fans hope he can be.

Down For The Count

I like boxing. Watching it that is. Though I really can't recall the last time I watched a live boxing match. That's because as far back as I can remember, all the fights you'd want to see were shown exclusively on pay-per-view, or maybe HBO, which I haven't had until recently. But though I actually saw very few of them, I vividly recall caring about many big fights, mostly in the 1980s. Leonard-Hearns, Leonard-Duran, Hagler-Hearns, Holmes-Cooney, Leonard-Hagler, Tyson-Spinks. But probably dating back to when Tyson went away to prison -- voiding an anticipated Tyson-Holyfield fight while both were clearly in their primes -- I can't recall a truly "huge" fight, one that truly captured America's interest, including the non-boxing public. So combined with the fact that even a "good fight" to boxing fans never elicited me to pay $40-60 to watch it, my interest in boxing has unavoidably waned. Tyson became not only a madman, but a criminal madman, Holyfield just wouldn't stop, Lennox Lewis was fine but not terribly interesting. Over the past 10 years or so, the only boxers who really stimulated any interest -- I followed their fights on the internet, or cared about the result enough to stay up watching ESPN -- were Oscar de la Hoya and Roy Jones, Jr. Admittedly, I was drawn to them largely by hype, including self-hype, but combined with unarguable talent, they were at least notable enough to sustain a passing interest in boxing a few times a year. Well considering that both of them keep getting their asses kicked -- formerly unbeaten Jones has now been knocked senseless by a single punch two times in a row, including last Saturday when he was out cold for 4 minutes following a 9th round KO by huge underdog Glen Johnson; de la Hoya has lost 3 or 4 big fights over the last 3 or 4 years, including most recently being KO'd and left writhing in pain from a body shot by Bernard Hopkins -- it's time for them to stop. Just stop, it's over. And if my ever-diminishing interest in boxing goes out with Oscar & Roy, so be it. The whole WBO-WBC, Arum/King, Tyson, etc. mess made me believe the whole sport's corrupt anyhow, and now with the two remaining bright spots being darkened, I can now care even less about boxing. And I think I can live with it.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Play Like Champs, Not Chumps.

Far be it from me to predict doom, and on paper the Cubs should still be the front runner to be get into the playoffs as the National League wild card, but I don't like what I'm seeing on the field or off. They continue to play and act like a bunch of idiots. This morning's Tribune quotes Moises Alou as saying the umps are "after me." You stupid baby, like that's going to help things. Just hit the damn ball, perhaps take the bat off your shoulders. And stop blaming Chip and Steve while you're at it. And Sammy, ever think about breaking out of your slump by just trying to make contact, go to right field, get base hits, instead of swinging from your heels and missing every damn time. That game Saturday was a killer -- they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 3 run lead in the 9th -- and then they laid down and died Sunday, again to the lowly Mets playing for a lame duck manager. Believe me, I still want the Cubs to win, and I think they can, but they are certainly making it harder to root for them.

Can It Really Be Something Positive? Oh My, It Is!

This year, I've seen live performances by many outstanding musicians, including Buddy Guy, Prince, Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton, the guys from Rush, Metallica, Aerosmith, plus more songwriter types such as Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Van Morrison, Neil Young and David Byrne. And as a display of sheer musical virtuosity -- not the songs themselves, but the playing -- none has topped Robert Randolph and the Family Band, who I saw Saturday night at a special WXRT/American Express show at the Vic Theatre; I actually won tickets. Robert Randolph plays the pedal steel guitar and man is he phenomenal. I have his most recent album -- Unclassified -- and while it's good, Randolph's terrific live shows aren't so much about songs as long funky jams, extended solos, good natured interplay with the audience, etc. The band even takes a turn at trading instruments, and could easily fool latecomers into thinking the "switcheroo" arrangement is how it's supposed to be. You can check out the album, but it really doesn't do them justice. If you get a chance to see them live, even on TV, check them out.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Joey, I'm not watching anymore

I watched "Joey" again last night, and after 3 episodes, I have to say that while the show isn't quite awful, it's certainly not "Must See" either. After the first episode, I thought that the problem was Joey himself, that while in Friends his stupidity was at times amusing, it wasn't enough to base a show around. Like other great ensemble characters, or even the actors themselves, e.g. Kramer, George/Jason Alexander, Joey was good as part of the ensemble, but too much of a one-trick pony to carry a show himself. While this may be true -- for the show to succeed, they do need to expand Joey beyond his now predictably dumb self -- I realized last night that a greater problem with "Joey" is the rest of the cast & situations surrounding Joey. The sleazy sister, geeky nephew, pretty but married neighbor, etc. are already getting old and it's only been 3 episodes. And unlike Friends, where there were 2 apartments, the coffee shop and several situational locations, it seems like the whole Joey expereince is happening in his apartment. I can see this show potentially getting better -- as someone pointed out, many good shows had poor beginnings -- but it seems the problem is, they're aiming too low. Dumb Joey and dull supporting characters won't be enough.

I also tried watching CSI (the original one) for the first time, as it seemingly has become the most popular show on TV and I like William Peterson. But I couldn't even get through a half-hour. It just bored me.

And just wait til I really get going on a state of TV rant. Something to look forward to, I'm sure.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

A Tip Of My Virtual Cap

...and a raising of my virtual Old Style to Greg Maddux, who was the winning pitcher for the Cubs today. It was his 15th win of the season, making it 17 straight years of 15+ wins, something no one else has done in the history of baseball and really quite a remarkable feat. I don't know if he broke his own record or was tied with someone, but is really incredible considering every stupid caller to sports talk radio wanted run him out of town when he was struggling in April. And he really should be about 17-9 instead of 15-10 as he is, if the bullpen hadn't blown a couple of games he was on the way to winning. Also amazing is the fact that this should become the 14th straight year he hasn't lost more than 11 games. All told, he is 304-173. Quite a career that isn't close to being over. Here's hoping he gets a chance to improve his mediocre playoff record this year :) A trivia question for anyone who's actually reading this: How many times has Maddux won 20 games in a season?

Happy Birthday Boss

Today is Bruce Springsteen's 55th Birthday. This is a weird highfaluting thing to say, but is something I've been thinking, particularly in light of the Jewish high holidays -- and my own Judaism obviously -- not ever really meaning a whole lot to me other than a respect for my family & ancestors. I guess a lot of people take comfort in religion and that's fine if it comes naturally. But I've always felt "religion" should be that which gives you comfort, and since I was about 12, as much as anything, that's been the music of one Mr. Springsteen. So Happy Birthday Boss. "I believe in the faith that can save me."

Opera Nights & Green Days

So last night I went to the Lyric Opera in Chicago to see Mozart's Don Giovanni. A night at the opera isn't exactly a new thing for me, as this is my second year as a subcriber and I think I've been to something like 12 operas in the last few years. But I am still fully an opera novice, in terms of my knowledge, familiarity and appreciation of opera as a whole, particular operas and particular performances. I have a thorough respect for the art form, have truly enjoyed many of the operas I've seen and can now occasionally listen to opera on my iPod, willingly, albeit in small doses. That said, I kept nodding off last night during Don Giovanni. And though I thoroughly respected its many moments of obvious beauty and artful brilliance, the truth is, I was never really enthralled, enraptuped or engrossed. I basically sat through two 1-1/2 hour acts looking at my watch every 10 minutes or so, waiting for the time to pass. So I guess my efforts to learn to appreciate opera, as part of a wider mission to expose myself to new things, cannot yet be termed a success. I take the blame for not more thoroughly familiarizing myself with the music of each opera I see -- such as I do with Broadway musicals, with much greater enjoyment -- but I guess you can only like what you like, and while I'm trying to like opera and do to an extent, it's a work in progress. At best.

That said, I have been greatly enjoying Green Day's new American Idiot album, probably the best "rock" release so far in 2004. The dearth of good rock & roll -- particularly as presented on American radio -- is in large part what has spurred my exploration of Broadway (which I greatly enjoy), Jazz (which I now wake up to each morning, but am still just dabbling in), Classical (small doses at best ) and Opera which I discussed above.

Though stories & comments I've read/heard about American Idiot reflect surprise at Green Day's newfound relevance, I've been a fan since the day I heard Dookie and have purchased every release of theirs since, including their Greatest Hits and Rarities collection. They have tons of great -- though somewhat similar songs -- and they've been great live each time I've seen them. So I personally don't consider American Idiot a shocking return to brilliance, but merely the continuation of a solidly great band. Supposedly, it's a concept album, but I haven't even picked up on all that yet -- it just came out Tuesday -- I just like the songs. And hearing some fucking guitars again. Are you allowed to swear in a blog or will the FCC be knocking on my door?

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This morning I listened to...

Placido Domingo, Maria Callas, McCoy Tyner, Howard Stern, but ultimately Nirvana's In Utero. I was reminded how great an album that is; I remember that after it's release in 1993 I felt it was a better album than Nevermind, and I have to say I still do today. But there's a weird phenomenon with that. If asked to name the 10 best albums of all time, Nevermind would clearly make my list, yet In Utero wouldn't. Yet if asked to rank the Nirvana albums, I'd put In Utero on top, over Nevermind. I think it's a better, bold artistic statement, yet lacks the cultural impact that makes Nevermind a more universally important work. If that makes any sense.

I remember that at the time of its release, In Utero got overshadowed by press stories about Kurt's fights with Geffen, the record label, over the rougher-edged songs like Milk It and Very Ape. It was vastly outsold by Pearl Jam's simultaneous sophomore release Vs., somewhat eclipsed by Nirvana's own MTV Unplugged performance and even further overshadowed by Kurt's suicide only 6 months after it's release. But its worth noting that while Kurt wrote Nevermind when nobody knew who he was, In Utero was the only album he wrote as a superstar, "voice of a generation," husband, father and publicly-documented drug addict. As such, his decision not to take the safe route, but to include songs that made his record company cringe and drop Nirvana clearly a notch below Pearl Jam in popularity, is all the more noteworthy. He could have easily made another Nevermind; he didn't, but in my mind made something -- amazingly as it sounds -- even better.

Monday, September 20, 2004

10 Bands On My iPod But Not Yours

1. Stereophonics
2. The Wildhearts
3. Ash
4. Longwave
5. The Killers
6. Death Cab For Cutie
7. The Jam
8. The Move
9. Love
10. Husker Du


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