Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Get me down to F-L-A

Some of you have expressed some frustration with the infrequency of my entries here. I apologize. I'm actually headed to F-L-A for about a week, so don't expect anything until next Thursday. But I'll be back, I swear.

In the meantime, here's what's going on out there...
In fast food news, a Stafford, VA Taco Bell worker was recently arrested for something that no doubt happens hundreds of times each day. She now faces up to 10 years in prison.

Tanning salons marketing to teenagers. No way. I want to make sure my hard-earned tax dollars went to funding research like this. But seriously, if you were opening a tanning salon -- purely a vanity business -- who would you target first? You might advertise in sorority newsletters or something (do they have such things?), but I'm guessing your second target audience would be teenagers.

Slate is keeping a running log of hilarious "Bushisms". Check them out.

In sports news...
No real shocker, but Dolphins RB Ricky Williams has been suspended for the 2006 NFL season. I understand it's time for him to go, but you have to admit that doing what he did while smoking that much is fairly impressive. He now owes the Dolphins $8.6 million for breaking contract.

Ahead of the NFL Draft this weekend, what the hell is going on with Reggie Bush? So we got something like three potential agents, one known felon and ex-gang member, a random Indian tribe, and his folks' dirt floor house? Huh? Also, at NFL Rumor Central, John Clayton reports Raiders CB Charles Woodson may be a Packer or a Buc next season.

My main man John Clay reports that this years Derby entries are imitating their celebrity fans and arriving fashionably late.

Arsenal held off Villareal for a 0-0 draw, giving them a 1-0 aggregate victory and a place in the final in Paris. German keeper Jens Lehmann made a dramatic savefrom Argentinian Juan Riquelme's final minute penalty kick to preserve the Gunners' overall lead and vindicate German national team coach Jurgen Klinnsman's decision to bench 2002 World Cup hero Oliver Kahn at this summer's World Cup in Germany. One quick comment: as much as I love the Champions League, I think ESPN has to strongly consider whether or not they want that to be a major year long investment. The quality of soccer is great for a knowledgeable fan -- very tactical, often very defensive -- but it occasionally lacks the adventure, excitement, and -- let's go ahead and say it -- the goals that might draw in new fans. What about showing a weekly Premier League match? What about a weekly match from La Liga? What about an hour long highlight show?

DC United continued their strong start to the season this past weekend with a 4-1 win against the New York Red Bulls. Alecko Eskandarian scored twice. After the first goal, he celebrated by grabbing a can of Red Bull from the sideline, taking a swig, then shaking his head and spitting it out. Clever? Sort of. But anyway, in the most confusing PR move of the young season, the MLS fined him $250 and also named Esky player of the week. I don't really know how much $250 is to Esky -- I'm guessing it's not a ton -- but just think about how much this would cost him in the NFL.
DC United also named their all time best 11. It's a testament to how good some of their teams have been that no other franchise -- save maybe the league's biggest underachievers LA -- could field a team that holds water to these guys. Don't know about Nick Rimando in goal, but the only way anyone could score on the Pope, Llamosa, Nelsen, and Agoos backline would be if ol' Goos went ahead and stuck it in the net for you.

In the music world...
Pitchfork discovers a newly minted Scarlett Johansen song, the standard "Summertime". Sounds like it might be worth listening to once. But just once.
They also reviewed the new release from Bruce Springsteen on Monday, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions. Despite making it out to the tour for The Rising, I haven't really cared for any of his last releases. As has been well documented, they're terribly overproduced, sterilizing the joy and exuberance of his earlier work. I'm looking forward to hearing him go after someone else's songs too, as the lyrics on the last two albums were a little too literal, lacking the punch that his imagery often carries.

Also, much to my delight, Ween's infamous tour diaries are back. They just returned from a little swing through the Southeast and are gearing up for some West Coast dates later (including two with the Flaming Lips) this summer, with supposedly more TBA. Check them out.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The best 60s song by an Australian band - What is "Friday on My Mind" by the Easybeats?

Friday on my mind, here's some news...
Have you checked out the new allmusic set up? They've really updated the look of the page, but, best of all, they've added new features. My favorite so far is the chat room style run down of this week's American Idol episode. It seems like everyone -- myself included -- is getting pretty attached to this show. Somehow aspiring blond bombshell and complete idiot Kellie Pickler survived another week, with American Idol voters showing the rest of us a little mercy and voting Ace Young off. He was just a little too much to take, especially when he actually showed us his scar a few weeks back to coincide with a line in the song he was singing.

Slate's Tommy Craggs laments the loss of the upper deck in America's baseball stadiums. I have to add a couple things to what he says, because I strongly agree with him. I used to go to Riverfront Stadium (former home of the Reds) as a kid and I loved the place. Sure, it was a product of 60s-70s functionalism in stadia, where you built large concrete fortresses that could shift quickly to house a concert or a football game. Places like Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, Veterans Stadium in Philly, Busch (the old one) in St. Louis. Places that were undeniably unattractive but very much welcoming and inviting. Riverfront has now been replaced by a much nicer stadium whose name currently escapes me. I've been there and I like it, but for whatever reason I long for lime green astro turf, concrete pillars, and a mostly empty upper deck with 5 buck seats. The "intimacy" argument is BS anyway; baseball owners have figured out that most of their home games will not sell more than 30,000 seats anyway. Most MLB teams won't play a home playoff game in the next 5-10 years, so a sellout of 55,000 is pretty much out of the question except on Opening Day or unless a player is chasing a longstanding record. So...why not get the city to build you a new park, where you can raise parking fees, the prices of dogs and beer, and tickets themselves in the name of atmosphere and intimacy? You'll still sell the same number of tickets, but get twice more back for the city's investment in your own wealth.
To sum up...I went to Rome and visited the Colisseum this past summer. That thing is about 2000 years old. Sure it's fallen apart, but you can't tell me that: 1) there's a bad seat in the house and 2) if they can build something that simply lasts that long, we can't stick with the same stadium for 30 years.

New Drive-By Truckers album came out Tuesday, A Blessing and a Curse. I picked it up, and it's quite good, by far their most streamlined album to date. Standout tracks include the opener "Feb. 14", "Goodbye", and "Wednesday", which sounds like the Truckers traded in their Skynyrd for a healthy dose of the 'Mats (finished off with an almost Built to Spill three guitar outro). And on the closer, "World of Hurt", Patterson Hood makes a claim to the throne of rock's most affecting spoken word singer (see his historical rant on "Three Alabama Icons" or the intro to "The Boys from Alabama" for more proof). It lacks the specificity of past albums, and may not have such finely drawn characters, but to me this sounds like a breakthrough, a chance for them to gain a whole new legion of fans, dancing drunk at frat parties everywhere. Long live the Truckers.
Of course, Stylus wasn't as big a fan, and Pitchfork scored it lower than their other albums. My friend pointed out, however, that allmusic's review sounds pretty similar to Pitchfork's, just with differing scores.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

McCain, the Park, and Other Things...

In the news, etc...
Slate is chock full of good stuff today, including two specials on John McCain. Jacob Weisberg examines McCain's new right wing "act", while John Dickerson quetions whether McCain has what it takes to be a frontrunner.
Of course, taxes have to be postmarked by the beginning of next week, but Slate also looks at ways to a void paying taxes.

In our daily Iran watch, Iranian President Ahmadinejad has shocked the world and stated that Iran will continue its nuclear program.

Former Senator Mike Gravel will become the first officially announced Democratic Presidential candidate today. If you haven't heard of him, it might be because he hasn't served in your lifetime and is also from Alaska. He would be our second President from Alaska, right behind McKinley, who, of course, has a mountain there named after him.

I'm just going to provide the link to this story and keep my comments to myself. Strange situation though: Condi/Watermelon math test question seen as racist.

In other stuff...
Not everyone loves Band of Horses' debut album.

Rocket Summer

Following the trend Manchester United set a few years back, Spanish giants FC Barcelona will tour the United States this summer, playing three matches. They'll face off against two Mexican clubs before taking on the newly named New York Red Bulls in Giants Stadium.

This, of course, will come on the heels of a World Cup summer where key players like Argentinian Lionel Messi, Brazilian Ronaldinho, and Dutchman Mark Van Bommel promise to be very busy, virtually guaranteeing that you will see a subpar Barca team fielded. Which makes sense, but it's a shame. Last summer Manchester United and Bayern Munich squared off in Chicago and played what -- by most reports -- was one of the dullest, drabbest games ever attached to those two teams. I guess what I'm trying to say is that these tours are great, and they definitely get some fans out there and create some interest in soccer, but the difference they're making is either negligible or hasn't been seen yet. Soccer still lags behind all four major team sports, despite a few facts that should be working in its favor: 1)Hockey's popularity is at an alltime low. 2)More kids are playing soccer than ever before. 3)Soccer players and families represent a fairly affluent section of the population.

I think in the next five-ten years, you'll start to see some signs of whether soccer will or won't turn the corner. As the population (those under the age of, say, 28) that grew up playing the game as a kid in AYSO gets older, and their kids play the game, will it then start to take root? The 2002 World Cup TV ratings suffered from bizarre start times, where only the die-hard fans were called out of bed at 3 am to watch Croatia lose to Mexico by a solitary penalty kick. World Cup 2006 in Germany will see most of its games played in the daytime, but there should still be some improvement.

For me, the real barometer will be the MLS. We've already seen a women's league fail, despite the fact that the US Women's National Team sells out most games and is revered pretty much anywhere it goes. The Men's National Team is, by some comparisons, less popular, but the MLS has survived, mainly on thrifty business decisions and not taking too many chances. Is the quality getting better? It's hard for me to tell. Undoubtedly the league was better off when National Teamers like Brian McBride, DaMarcus Beasley, Carlos Bocanegra, Tim Howard, and Bobby Convey were counted in its ranks. But like so many solid smaller, foreign leagues (the Belgian and Dutch leagues seem like good examples), feeding the bigger leagues is a natural and healthy consequence.

For me, step one is getting the real soccer fans -- the people who were up for Blanco's nifty footwork and ensuing penalty that won that 2002 game against Croatia -- who have to commit to the MLS to make it successful. The league can't count only on soccer moms and dads carting a Nissan Quest load of replica-jersey wearing 10 year olds. The league's success requires the devotion and (required) patience of the hardcore fanbase -- those of us who recognize that a Tuesday night game between FC Dallas and Houston Dynamo ain't exactly Liverpool-Man U, but that there's something appealing about watching potential.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Fletch Lives!

In the news...
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher -- who, with any luck, will not be in office much longer -- revoked a phrase in the state government's employee policy that protects state workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. A number of Kentucky Democrats joined a few prominent Republicans groups in speaking out against the hopefully-soon-to-be-former Governor's actions.
Now normally this would be a pretty stunning display on its own, but, somehow (SOMEHOW) the Governor had the good sense to announce all this on the day he proclaimed as "Diversity Day".

In the most redundant and least surprising news story of the day, Iran has been urged to stop its nuclear activities. It appears to be a slow news day.

I'm not totally in the know, but it seems like a good thing that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert are both backing off legislation that would make illegal immigration a felony. Of course, they're also insisting the Dems were the ones who wanted to keep this provision in the bill, which seems odd since Republican House Judiciary Chair James Sensenbrenner originally pushed the bill that included such provisions. It seems like something of a spin job, but, like I said, I'm not exactly in the know, so I'll wait for this to fully play out before I pass judgement.
*Side note: I recently had a new idea for my blog. I'm going to be announcing official comanche/soul policies in regards to current events and issues, when appropriate. I'll consult with my Board of Directors, some third party consultants, and let you know.

Pretty funny political cartoon today on Slate.

Pitchfork reports that Bright Eyes have a new album in the works. Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, singer Gillian Welch, and, one of comanche/soul's personal favorites, gruff country-rock troubadour M. Ward are all contributing.

On Monday they also published a very entertaining interview with Neko Case. Those not familiar with Case -- often referred to as a "chanteuse" by inane rock crits everywhere -- might still enjoy it. It's one of the first times I've read an artist be so direct, self-deprecating, and generally accessible in an interview.

Last week published a series of reviews of Continuum's 33 1/3 book series. The series is made up of small books (about 100 pages or so) where a writer tackles a classic album. There is no Revolver or Dark Side of the Moon, but rather most editions go after a so-called "cult" favorite. I've personally read the one on Love's Forever Changes, and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on Velvet Crush and Tyde drummer Ric Menck's take on the Byrds' foray into country, Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Also, I got an email from my buddy Andrew Huffer recently urging me to check out the new Band of Horses' LP, Everything All the Time. He's headed to their show in Seattle soon, so to honor his request, here's a link to their single, the very fine "Funeral". Mr. Huffer describes them as sounding like "(My Morning Jacket's) Jim James' little brother formed a less hair band." Apt.

Rolling Stone reviews Built to Spill, Carleton College's own (sort of) Tapes N Tapes, and give us 5 bands that hit big at SXSW.

Monday, April 10, 2006

April Morning

On this day in the history of the decline of Western civilization, the duet "Ebony and Ivory" by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney first charted (April 10, 1982). It would rise to number one, and hold the position for seven weeks.

Breaking news...
Pitchfork reports that Arthur Lee, leader of the band Love, has been diagnosed with leukemia and has undergone chemotherapy. Like most musicians, he has no health insurance and thus a benefit is in the works to help fund his recovery (Calexico, who have covered Love songs before, and Cake are amongst the possibilities). Pitchfork's article incorrectly states both that Love's classic album Da Capo and their truly indispensable third album Forever Changes were released in 1977; they actually came out in 1967. I'm assuming this is just a typo, because surely the folks down there know that sort of thing by heart. I think it's even on the entrance exam.

Dave Jamieson of Slate examines the Duke Lacrosse rape scandal by taking a closer look at the East Coast lacrosse culture. I personally have had few run-ins with lacrosse players, and the game itself was always pretty entertaining to watch. I'm not sure Jamieson's point isn't a little narrow-minded...maybe the Duke incident is a symptom of a problem larger than just the prevailing lacrosse team culture.

The DCist predicts a hellish evening commute today, as protests on Immigration Reform sweep the country and the District. Montgomery County schools are even offering community service credit for protest participation, angering many local parents.

In sports...
With less than a month before the Run for the Roses, the Derby preps start to heat up. Looks like trainer Nick Zito may have finally found a likely Derby entry in Little Cliff, to run in the Bluegrass Stakes this weekend at Keeneland. In the Illinois Derby on Saturday, Sweetnorthernsaint cruised to a 9 length victory. The Bob Baffert trained horse Bob and John won the Wood Memorial derby prep on Saturday as well.

Friday, April 07, 2006

F is for...

The end of yet another trying week, but still much to look forward to.

Allmusic, bless their thorough little hearts, have profiled The Razorcuts' R is for..., an album I have been longing for ever since I read a capsule review in an issue of Record Collector magazine at the Virgin Records Superstore in London last summer.

CokeMachineGlow to close its virtual doors after this week. Sad. A high-quality Canadian based indie website was just starting to make a name for itself -- a move which saw a vastly improved interview section (such as one with the Hold Steady's Craig Finn) and the writing really start to take off -- when they made the announcement earlier this week. In the meantime, savor their last series of reviews, including the pre-release teaser of Built to Spill's You In Reverse (available Tuesday March 11). Speaking of teasers, if you really can't wait, you can listen to two new tracks from the BTS LP here.

NFL Schedules announced yesterday. The Skins open at home against Minnesota (preseason openere at Cincinnati, where hopefully Pops Cornwell will be in attendance) on Monday Night Football. Somehow, that's our only MNF game of the season.

Keeneland race track opens up today back home. Wish I was there but I will be in a week for the Toyota Bluegrass Stakes to get an early peek at some Kentucky Derby contenders. Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Maryjean Wall profiles and ranks the Derby hopefuls here.

ESPN's Robert Gotta profiles the fall of the Italian giants Inter Milan and Juventus in the European Champions League, also alluding to the lapse in form of AC Milan's once-formidable and stereotype-breaking Brazilian keeper Dida (Check out his subtle but great pun on Dida's first name and post a comment if you get it).

Let's drink to the Salt of the Earth

I went to an ear/nose/throat doctor last week to take care of this sinus/allergy/something pressure that had been in my ears for a while now. They tested everything, found that nothing was really wrong with my ears, and then asked: "Do you eat a lot of salt?" My reply was iffy (I think I said, "Sorta"), but it has occurred to me since that I eat a ton of salt. They told me to go on a super low sodium diet (I guess sodium causes some kind of build up in your sinus passages?) and to start taking Claritin. Initially, I figured eliminating the bowl of Ramen noodles I have most days at lunch would do the trick, but then I started looking into exactly how much salt is in certain foods.

For example, 1/3 of a box of flavored couscous probably has almost 1/3 of your daily salt intake. 17 Rold Gold pretzels make up a quarter. Any normal, snack size bag of chips is easily a quarter, probably more if you go for Fritos or something like that. Cheese has salt. A slice of pizza has 1/3 your daily salt intake by itself. Bread has salt. Frozen vegetables, sometimes, even have salt.

I've been trying pretty damn hard not to eat too much salt (oh, and I can't have caffeine), but I've come to the simple conclusion that salt is the single hardest thing to eliminate from your diet. For example, I had to request my fries without salt at Chadwick's on Wednesday (they obliged) and then had to correct myself to order the grilled tilapia, instead of the blackened tilapia, which, of course, is rubbed with spices that include a pretty solid amount of salt. I didn't salt my grits or eggs last weekend either.

So that's pretty much where I stand. Someone asked me a while ago how salt just naturally got into foods. Fresh vegetables, for instance, have about 32 mg of sodium per serving. That's not much, but where does it come from? I'm at a loss, and Google ain't helping. Any possible answers would be appreciated.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Yeah it took some time, cuz it's a lot...

The new Flaming Lips reviews are starting to pour in. Allmusic have thrown their ever-optimistic two cents into the pile. You have to love them. They find good things to say about just about everyone. Even the Vines' new album, roundly dismissed by other folks, allmusic said, "feels like the Vines may still regain the momentum they had earlier in their career." Though it is your one stop shop for pretty much every record known to man -- especially if you're disproportionately obsessed with a particular sub-genre, like, say power-pop or something -- it's sometimes hard to get a good feel of just how good a record is. For example, you might only be able to find one Mayflies USA review on Pitchfork but all four on allmusic, including their best, Walking In A Straight Line. Of course, the fact that this particular record received four stars does not mean that it is on par with other four star records, such as Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or is a better record than Neil Young's self-titled debut. In this sense, the volume of reviews hurts.

But for the voracious music consumer, there is nothing finer than having a web of thousands of reviews that exalt traits like "production with lots of character", "pop instincts", "insidious hooks", and, of course, "the double backbeat". In the past couple weeks alone, allmusic has added a number of entries to my ever-expanding wish list (quickly rising to the top of the list is The Possibilities' Way Out). The more you dig through the site, the more a wonder it becomes. Their staff is so well-versed in pretty much every style of pop music that they can cover everything from a newly rereleased early Them LP to the brand new smash from Ashlee Simpson with equal enthusiasm and attention to detail. It's all relative on allmusic, and, so long as you understand that, it's the best site around.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Everything All the Time

The aforementioned new Flaming Lips LP, At War with the Mystics, is out today. Pitchfork jumped the gun and reviewed it yesterday.

They also look into the new Terrell Owens single, which sounds about as ugly as that last Cowboys blowout loss to the Skins in December. But better, check out their review of the Paper Cranes' single "I'll Love You Til My Veins Explode", then move directly to their my space site and listen to it for yourself.

In sports news...
Florida claims the national title. From this fan's perspective, they looked absolutely dominant. They may not have had the most difficult run to the title game, but they did knock off the Big Ten champs and #1 seed Villanova. Joakim Noah, the best player on the court despite his face, set the record for blocks in a title halftime.

Kentucky point guard Rajon Rondo will turn pro. Coach Tubby Smith will join him for a 1 pm press conference at men's practice facility and women's game facility Memorial Coliseum. Smith has advised him not to sign with an agent to maintain his eligibility.

Barry Bonds started strong with a ground rule double in his first at-bat, but finished 1-4 and had
a syringe thrown at him in a 6-1 loss at San Diago.

Slate Magazine breaks down your trip to Trader Joe's just as the first opens in New York City. Their guide to TJ's follows-up Andy Bowers's guide to cheap wine that isn't Two Buck Chuck.

Finally, a good recap of the Dems' "Real Security" plan. Not that I necessarily disagree with them most of the time, but it seems likely that if Bush and Co. cured cancer or created 10 million new jobs for Americans in a week, we Democrats would find things to complain about.