31 January 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Playoffs!!! Superbowl XLI Edition)

It's finally here, the big game, the last one of the season. Pitting the two teams that went deepest into the season undefeated, yet at times both teams looked unimpressive as they piled up their victories.

Nevertheless, we have Indianapolis versus Chicago in a game pitting a questionable offense versus a solid defense and vice versa.

If both teams play like they did last week, it will be an excellent game. The odds of that happening . . .?


Speaking of odds, betting on the Superbowl is a crazed frenzy where sane people do insane things with their money (nobody should ever bet real money on a coin flip, ever).

(yes I know there were two evers in that last parenthetical phrase)

The odds that Prince kicks all sorts of ass and turns in the best halftime show in the history of big time Superbowl halftime shows . . .?


(almost a sure thing)

As far as the humiliation, I'll pick the winner (against the spread), the over under, and a select group of those ridiculous props that crop up during this week at the various casinos and gambling sites.

Ridiculous prop lines are from Bodog as of 11:45pm ET 01/31/07

Chicago Bears v. Indianapolis Colts (-7) (o/u 48.5) Chicago +7 Over 48.5
I'm not sure why I'm leaning towards Chicago in this game, maybe it's just cause I like rooting for the underdog, and though the Colts clearly have the greater potential to put together an excellent game on both sides of the ball, I suspect that they won't. Also against this pick is that Chicago is much more likely to screw up either on offense or defense and turn in a terrible performance. But I think Grossman will be smart enough to not lose this game and given that both teams play the Cover 2 on defense, will get lots of practice seeing the same kind of defense that he'll see on Sunday during the week. Indianapolis' sudden improvement in stopping the run during their playoff run is an aberation I believe, and they'll be killed by Chicago's run game. Peyton Manning will play well, but he's not going to be able to do it alone, and if they're playing from behind, he'll get sacked, hurried, and knocked down too often to be able to engineer a comeback. If Chicago manages to jump out to an early lead of 10 or more points, I expect the Colts to crumble rather than rise to the occasion as they did against New England. It's just a hunch, not based on stats, recent performance, or anything that resembles reason. If Chicago loses, it will be a blowout, though. I suspect this game won't be close whichever team wins.

On to the crazy bets (I'll choose from 5 of these, just for kicks with a total budget of a completely fictional $1040)

1) How long will Billy Joel take to sing the National Anthem? o/u 1m44s (yes, that's a real wager available). Tough call, but I think he's not going to do a long drawn out version, so I'm going with the under on this one. UNDER 1m44s $125 laid to win $100

2) Team to Use Their Coaches Challenge First? Another one where it could go either way, but I believe Dungy is a big fan of throwing the red bean bag, so I'm going to go with Indy on this one. IND $115 laid to win $100

3) Team to Have the Longest Punt Return? The obvious choice would be to go with Chicago given that they have the electrifying Hester returning punts, and has scored multiple times, but because of this the Colts will avoid kicking towards him and settle for shorter, easier to cover punts, so Indy is more likely to have the longest return despite having less talented return ment. IND $100 laid to win $130

4) Will the Bears Score in Every Quarter? The line on this wager is heavily against the Bears pulling off this feat. To win $100 you need to wager $310, while if you bet $100 on yes, you win $215 dollars. This is a suckers bet if there ever was one, but I'm a sucker and I say YES. YES $100 to win $215

5) Alternative Game Line Chicago -3.5 points? These are interesting wagers, by changing the line you can alter greatly how much money you have to lay, or how much you get back. Since I have a hunch that Chicago will win outright, it would make sense to forego the points pick and instead go with either a money line play (no points, but you lay more money on the favorite to win $100 compared to the underdog). Most of the bets available on the Alternate Game Line bets are for a massive lopsided Colts victory, this is the only line favoring the Bears. Since I'm so confident in the Bears, and since I'm not betting actual money, I'd go ahead and drop a whopping $500 on Da Bears to win by better than 10.5 points for a potential profit of $2500. Hard to pass up a 5:1 shot. BEARS -10.5 $500 to win $2500

If I'm right on all these, I'm going to hate myself for not wagering real money, here's hoping I'm spectacularly wrong!

If you're wondering, yes, I'll be doing a commercial post of some kind, and my screen caps will be *New* and *Improved* and in *HD*!!!!

"Fidel Castro, Strength to Win Battles"

That's the lead top story on Google's news feed. The report is taken directly from a Prensa Latina, a fully controlled by the state organ of the Cuban dictatorship.

Given the tone of the piece, I suspect that the "Maximum Leader" will expire before the Ides of March (though lacking any stab wounds like a previous dictator who died on the Ides, unfortunately).

The more the Cuban propaganda machine reminds their people of how glorious their revolution has been, the more you can be sure that things are falling apart even more rapidly than before.

My prediction and suspicion for this mess is that Hugo Chavez is negotiating a deal that would put him in charge of Cuba as well as Venezuela, thus legitimizing in his own sick twisted mind his belief in himself that he's a neo-Bolivar.

Raul Castro is weak, Venezuela has oil wealth (even though they mismanage it terribly, Chavez still has access to cash, which the various generalisimos and would be Castro, Jrs. in Cuba don't), and Cuba needs a patron to survive given their half century destruction at the hands of their dictator.

Of course, all they have to do is overthrow this dictator, and any dictator that might want to replace them, and embrace the United States, the Cuban exile community and corporate development and they'll be the most prosperous country in the region.

But that would make too much sense.

And I seriously doubt that Google would ever foist a press release from the Bush Administration as a 'news story', I am beyond disgusted that they think nothing of doing such a service for a vile, murderous and evil dictator like Fidel.

This Post Is Best Read Aloud In a Slightly Husky and Teasingly Sensual Female Voice

Do you want to bring back the heat in your life?

Do you want to feel the warmth and excitement that you remember from your younger days?

Do you want to burn with desire (or at least burn, anyway)?

Then look no further, I've got the perfect product for you.

The Truly Surprisingly "Articulate and Bright and Clean" Senator (Given His Background)

I would say that the Senator in question is indeed surprisingly articulate, bright and clean, given the challenges he suffers given his background.
Most Cephalorectal Americans (folks with their 'heads up their asses' in the vernacular) have trouble speaking, let alone being frequent guests on the Sunday morning news shows.

Furthermore, unusually for Cepha-Americans (I believe that's the term they now prefer, they like to focus on the head, and not the ass portion of their genetic inheritance), this Senator also suffers from Pedo-Oralitis, commonly known as 'foot in mouth' disease.

Though the biological topology required to achieve both at once is unlikely, and even stretches the very fabric of timespace, this Senator manages to have his foot deeply planted in his mouth while simultaneously keeping his head firmly up his own ass. Folks politely never mention how odd he looks hopping around Capitol Hill with only one leg, and despite the confluence of body parts that in many people can occasionally be somewhat odoriferous, he manages to smell mostly like a rose.
I can completely understand why the press loves him so, to strive against so many impediments and still get his message out, no matter how confused and strange it may be (it's difficult to know how much of his thinking comes from his brains, and how much comes from his feces, but I'd say the split is probably 70-30 in the feces favor) his pronouncements never seem to happen far from a TV lens or microphone.

So, as stated in this post's title this Senator is indeed, "articulate, and bright, and clean" (at least for someone like him).

[Sen. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. in business attire, captured in rare moment without either foot in his mouth]

30 January 2007

Because This Day of Posting Has Obviously Been Leading Up to This, All Along

Speaking of PYTs

Maybe to balance out the geekfest that is the release of Vista today, I've blogged a lot about PYTs.

(and yes, I'm blogging this from a computer with a freshly installed version of Vista Premium, thank you very much, it maybe an OS X wannabe, but I don't care)

By request (from Bill in the comments on this post), I guess I'm compelled to mention that the Queen of YouTube has offered up another one of her brilliant little works for us all to see (way back on Jan 17th, I know, I know, I've been slacking off on my Kat Dennings fan appreciation duties).

Thank you, Kat.

I adore your artistry (and to those who dare doubt the brilliance that is "cheese and cracker", you live in a sad, small, humorless universe that doesn't resemble mine).

Speaking of Kat, her co-star on the short-lived Raising Dad, the filthy, filthy, filthy (he probably deserves a few more filthies than I've given him) Bob Saget directed a direct to DVD parody of March of the Penguins, farcically called, Farce of the Penguins that hit stores this week. I can't vouch for the goodness, or badness of this film, but the array of talent (including Kat Dennings) who lend their voices to this project is astounding. Did I mention that Samuel L. Jackson is the mother^%$^#$ing narrator?

And seriously, to all you folks who do a google search (I seem to get a couple a week) on "Kat Dennings Bra Size" and click on this blog, first, I don't know, I don't care to know, and why do you want to know, anyway?

And, anyway, if I were in a position to know (which I'm most certainly am not), do you think I'd share that information with the likes of you?

(besides, I suspect her sister is more my type, anyway)

NMT: 30 JAN 07 Lily Allen --- Alright, Still

Took you long enough!

I've been waiting for this album to become available in the US for quite some time. I was even tempted to buy the import CD, but thought better of those import prices.

Lily Allen is the last of today's PYTs.

For what it is, this is a great album. One strong track after another.

Don't liste too it with the kids, though.

She's a foul mouth bird, that one.

I've been hearing songs off this album since it came out in England on the local public radio stations, and loving it every time I hear stuff of off it.

She has a rather ludicrous 'tough girl' stance and sings with a seriously cockney accent, despite having a rather posh upbringing. I don't care about all that stuff, I just like this album, a lot.

Don't forget to check out her site and visit her blog (can't link direct, but follow the links, plus you can here a lot of her music over there).

On to the music . . .

1) Smile
If this song doesn't make you smile, then I don't know what will. Lovely looping, ska-ish beat with her talk singing a story of revenge. I've already mentioned the video in a post about the director of this video (Sophie Muller). Go watch it again.

2) Knock 'Em Out
Another snotty little song built around a wonderful crazy beat. About being chatted up by a loser.

3) LDN
LDN is text short hand for London, of course, and this song is another summery confection, yet lyrically there's some real darkness below, example:

There was a little old lady, who was walkin down the road

She was struggling with bags from Tesco

There were people from the city havin lunch in the park

I believe that it's called al fresco

Then a kid came along to offer a hand

But before she had time to accept it

hits her over the head, doesn't care if she's dead

Cause he's got all her jewellery and wallet

Yeah, that's city life. The layering of the vocals is absolutely brilliant on this song.

4) Everything's Just Wonderful
Another beautiful song, sung bouncily, yet with a sad edge to the lyrics. So many contradictions packed into one pop song. Instead of the ska/reggae influence this song goes with a more 60s flavored pop sound.

5) Not Big
More snottiness, this time slagging off an ex-boyfriend in the foulest, most personal manner possible. Does that sound like fun to you? Well it's very, very fun, indeed.

6) Friday Night
More ska-pop done well. Another song about clubbing, this time she's slagging off some other girl.

7) Shame For You
There is no shortage of mucus on this album, that's for sure. Yes, more snot, and again, that's a good thing. Any song that dares to trot out this bit of rhyme, "Oh My Gosh, You must be joking me, If you think that you'll be poking me" is alright in my book.

8) Littlest Things
A fascinating song, everything is kind of out of synch, nothing really matches, her sing-talking doesn't match the beat, but then when she gets to the singing sort of catches back up to the beat. The piano sounds like it's from a different song. Brilliant stuff, this. It works, surprisingly well.

9) Take What You Take
Great guitar/drum intro, then settles down into a nice little groove. One of the more song like songs on this album (you have to hear the other songs to understand what this sentence means). Excellent stuff, should be radio friendly (minus the swearing).

10) Friend Of Mine
A pretty straight forward (yet interesting and dense) reggae tinged song. Lily has a thin, high voice, but she doesn't push it where it doesn't want to go. She knows her limits as a singer and works brilliantly within them.

11) Alfie
Did somebody say Polka?!? This song brings the oompapa, and brings it hard in a song about how her little brother smokes too much pot. How could you not love that?

12) Nan You're A Window Shopper
Back to the reggae influence about her Nan being too cheap and too old. More bizarre rhymes in this song that just have to be heard to be believed.

13) Smile Version Revisited (Mark Ronson Remix)
Smile remade into something that could have been put together by Phil Spector way back in the day (and around the way).

I don't have words to describe how much I love this album. This will have a permanent presence on my hard drive and portable music players for now and quite some time to come, I suspect.

I can't imagine that she has much more like this one in her, though, this might be lightning in a bottle.

NMT: 30 JAN 07 Katharine McPhee --- Katharine McPhee

Katharine McPhee --- Katharine McPhee

Following in the Idol tradition of eponymous albums comes this release from that PYT Katharine McPhee.

She was the runner-up to Taylor Hicks (reviewed here), and missed the big Christmas record season.

Was the wait worth it? Probably not.

Is it bad? No.

Is it good? Not exactly.

Are you glad I included a picture of the album cover? (you know you are)
On to the songs . . .

1) Love Story
A textbook example of soft/R&B/pop. No hard edges, well produced, peppy, and well sung. Will connect with the target audience readily. If you aren't in the target audience (presumably 13-17 year old girls), then this song won't test your patience.
2) Over It
They pull out all the tricks to hide a weak vocal, which is kind of strange cause she doesn't have a bad voice. Guess all those tricks are habits now since producers are so used to pumping up weak talents. Very by the numbers. Could have been released on any major R&B/Pop album by any radio friendly artist at any time over the past 10 years. As far as this song goes, I'm over it.
3) Open Toes
It could have only been better had it been called "Stripper Shoes". Her ode to open toed shoes. It's so wrong for her, that it's right. It's her call for all the girls to go out there and work their stripper shoes. The whole song is built around a sound that sounds like a morse code being tapped out. Fascinating song.
4) Home
The cliche factory that pumps out the soulful ballads worked overtime to stuff this product full of their full line of tricks. Piano, check. Chunka-chunka-thunk drums, check. Ponderous bass line, check. Strings, check. Ever emoted vocals, check. Vaguely self-esteem building girl power lyrics, double-triple-quadruple check.
5) Not Ur Girl
Well, if you misspell 'your' in a Princean way, you better damn well bring the Princean funk. There is some funk to this, but not nearly funky enough to get away with stealing Prince's misspelling style. A good song, just more Klymaxx then Sheila E. (damn, everybody's got a website), I've got high standards, what can I say?
6) Each Other
Well done, but utterly devoid of a soul. This song is an R&B, radio-friendly zombie.
7) Dangerous
Dangerously like every other song you've ever heard of this ilk.
8) Ordinary World
Back to the ballads. Surely this was in some Disney film from the early 90s? No, you say? Oh, well, better than most of these songs. She's a strong singer in her comfort zone.
9) Do What You Do
This is sick (that's the first words in the song). Her "club" song, if somebody else had done this song, I might have liked it. For her it's just, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong.
10) Better Off Alone
Sometimes singers shouldn't enunciate too clearly. She has a habit of enunciating every word, and for a song like this that tendency drags down the song and sucks the potential emotional impact out of it.
11) Neglected
I could snarkily complain about how much like this song is like other songs in this R&B-lite style, but it's well enough done, musically interesting, and her voice works in this song, so instead I'll say, well done, and brava.
12) Everywhere I Go
One of those songs that wash over you without it touching any of your synapses in a significant way.
Overall, safely commercial, definitely corporate, and yet somewhat unexpected that she'd tackle so directly an R&B/Urban sound rather than sticking to the more broadway/show tune-y stuff that was her strong point when she was on Idol.
It's hard to approach this album without thinking about the potential marketing of it, and which audiences it's designed to attract. This isn't meant to be art, it's meant to be commerce, and there's nothing wrong with that.
In some ways, this is a white-bread repackaging of an 'urban' sound a la Pat Boone, but in a lot of other ways it's probably just a young singer trying on a new guise and seeing if it fits.
It doesn't fit her well, and doesn't play to her strengths.
She clearly has potential, and in this album it's not realized.

NMT: 30 JAN 07 Norah Jones --- Not Too Late

Norah Jones --- Not Too Late

To kick off the triple edition of New Music Tuesday (special PYT editions), thought I'd start with Norah Jones.

I wasn't a huge fan of her last album. Nothing was wrong with it, and it was all quite well done, but it didn't exactly set my world on fire, either.

As far as this album, it's quiet, contemplative, low-key (very, very low-key), and pleasing. She's pleasant of voice, and is surrounded by top notch musicians all in a clean, precise setting (possibly a little too clean and precise for the nature of these songs).

No new ground is broken, no genres are bent, no paradigms are shifted, but it's not a safely commercial unit pusher, either.

It's all good, but it has no real compelling reason for existing, either. On to the tracks

1) Wish I Could
Very folky and pretty. Lyrically kind of weak, sounds like it is meant to mean something, but upon closer listening, there's no there, there. Probably an anti-war song, but hard to tell.

2) Sinkin' Soon
Ooohhh, banjo . . . (strummed langourously)

3) The Sun Doesn't Like You
The arrangement on this sucker's kind of interesting, and yet it kind of sits there at the same time.

4) Until The End
Another lazy song (in a good way). She really has a way of sounding like she's just woken up on every song. Novacaine on her tongue before singing, maybe?

5) Not My Friend
She tests her higher register with this song, it works for this song. Gives the song a delicacy it would have lacked lower. Another song where a lot is going on, yet it all goes on very slowly.

6) Thinking About You
This would be the radio friendly track. It's very friendly, indeed. Sounds like something that Van Morrison might have written in the early 70s, but decided was a bit too slight to record and set it aside. It grows on you, though, a strong song for something seemingly so slight (argggh that sentence got a bit alliterative on me).

7) Broken
Another solid song, but also a bit sleepy.

8) My Dear Country
Her plaintive cry about how horribly traumatic Bush's 2004 victory was (no really, every album has to have one or two of these songs).

9) Wake Me Up
That's a dangerous song title for a Norah Jones album.

10) Be My Somebody
How many different ways can I call these songs, pleasant, slow, well produced, well musicianed, and well sung? (yet still slightly empty) This song is all those things, and a little less empty.

11) Little Room
Sounds like a bit of a goof that found its way on the album, anyway. Probably one of the better tracks on the album because of it. Just her voice, a guitar and a bass (and a little whistling thrown in the middle), and that's all she really needs. It's hard to resist a song with a good whistling bridge.

12) Rosie's Lullaby
Covers the same territory that most of the rest of this album does. But does it slightly better.

13) Not Too Late
I've run out of words, it's just more of the same, not bad, very good in spots, but nothing memorable, either, just like the whole project.

You'll Buy the Whole Chair, But You'll Only Need the EDDDDGGGGE!!!!

That's what it's like at Lakers games recently.

OT losses to the Bobcats (swept in the season series), and San Antonio (a game which they had in hand before a scoring drought late in the 4th quarter) on Friday and Sunday at Staples means lots of nervous time for home town fans.

The Lakers are consistent in their inconsistency. They've played great against the good teams most of their chances this season, and they've played terribly against bad teams just as often.

They are lucky to be ten games above .500, and yet they could be doing much better.

They're 0-2 since Odom returned, but he's looked good (with a little rust), unfortunately, Walton went down in the same game as Odom's return, and though it's hard to believe, Luke Walton has been an integral part of the Lakers' success this season. He's a versatile defender, great passer, and the triangle offense works much better when he's on the floor, regardless of whether he's playing with the starters or the scrubs.

If everyone gets healthy by April and they maintain a 4, 5 or 6 seed in the West (there is absolutely no chance of catching the Suns this season), they'll be that dreaded 'team nobody wants to play' come the real NBA season.

Also, Kobe suspended for a game for an unintentional elbow to Ginobli's massive nose?!?


I don't know how that schnozz doesn't get hit in every game he plays, that proboscis is architecturally impressive.

Blogging About Not Blogging

I missed a week of blogging, doesn't seem like it from this end.

Did you miss me?

(don't answer that)

As a make up, this Tuesday will be a special PYT edition of NMT.

Not just one, not just two, but THREE!!! new releases by three very different pretty young things will be reviewed, dissected, and deliberated upon here on this blog.

Lily Allen, Katharine McPhee, and Nora Jones all have new albums being released in the USA, and I feel it's my duty to you to listen to them and give you my impression.

As far as not blogging, nothing really happened last week any different from any other week, there was Barbaro's death, and the outpouring of grief seems a bit outsized for a 3 year old horse, and there was the huge protest that finally got the media to realize how wrong their utter and total support for Bush's illegal war has been these past 5 years (sorry, I made myself just a little sick even typing those words).

I'll be blogging up a storm from now on, even if you didn't miss me, I missed doing this.

23 January 2007

NMT: 23 JAN 07 Exploding Star Orchestra --- We Are All From Somewhere Else.

Exploding Star Orchestra --- We Are All From Somewhere Else.

For this week's dose of New Music Tuesday, thought I'd venture into some avant-jazz territory. Seriously, like I could refuse listening to a band with the name "Exploding Star Orchestra".

Is it good? Funny you should ask that question, sometimes there is no simple answer as to the 'goodness' or 'not-goodness' of an album. Some albums sit on a plane outside of any sort of metric system where merit based on the entertainment value of the sounds contained can be measured.

This is one such album.

Influences are pretty clearly, Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, some Sun Ra Arkestra, Jaco Pastorius, Can (lots and lots of Can, actually), and lots of other prog/funk/jazz that existed in the late 60s and early 70s but has long since receded to a forgotten corner of the music world.

I'm a sucker for that kind of stuff when played well and with a slight sense of humor. This is that.

For an idea of what this album is like, I'll pull directly from the album's webpage
“Psycho-Tropic Electric Eel Dream” is a group improvisation centered around the sound of electric eels. The electric eel tanks Mazurek recorded at INPA contain two species of eels, Pulsating and Waveform. The sound was recorded in a special tank of 15-20 eels of various sub-species, each with its own tone. The results are fascinating tonal clusters not unlike the sound of violins. This track reveals the beauty of these fine creatures and juxtaposes our improvisation with them, and concludes with spoken word by Rob Mazurek (“Robert Ashley was in my head during this part”), some ARP by Jim Baker and some final cascades of Nicole’s flute, which was snuck into the recording on the bass amp mic sitting in the hallway while Nicole was playing in another room. “Black Sun” features Jim Baker’s lovely piano playing. “This piece was originally written for the great French pianist Jeanne-Pierre Armengaud,” says Mazurek, “who I had the pleasure of working with at Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud in France during my residency there.” What you hear is Jim’s emotionally charged and understated improvisation on the theme of the composition. The sound corresponds perfectly to the text/poem of the recording in which the death of the stingray is a new re-birth of the bird and eventually a new star.

It's so nice to see that musicians still take massive quantities of various drugs. Some things should never change.

On to the album's tracks.

1) Sting Ray And The Beginning Of Time, Part 1
Did you say you wanted some flute? This song has lots and lots of jazz flute. Hell, Yeah!! A deep percussive horn holds down the rhythm while the flute floats above and around the solid bass. The drums are also let free to go crazy and not just keep the beat. Good stuff, or possibly really, really, really annoying, depends on your taste for this sort of freeform improvisational composition.

2) Sting Ray And The Beginning Of Time, Part 2
Part two adds some feedback noise to the mix, and goes for a more acid-bop feel than the more proggy first track. Sorry if my language doesn't make much sense, all these words mean something to me, and if they don't convey meaning to you, then this probably isn't an album you'll like.

3) Sting Ray And The Beginning Of Time, Part 3 (Psycho-Tropic Electric Eel Dream)
More electronic noises, supposedly provided by actual eels (somehow doubtful). This is pure tuneless noisy experimentation. And that's not always a bad thing. Not for use as a mood setter for some 'action', and definitely not some morning commute background music, but for a challenging aural assault, it's not a bad listen. Does it sound like the dreams of eels? I can't say that it doesn't, so maybe so. Who knew LSD was still popular in Chicago?

4) Sting Ray And The Beginning Of Time, Part 4
The final movement of the first piece on this album, it's a return to musicality. This track even approaches lush tropicality, but from an askew angle. The flute and cornet interplay is beautiful. Not instruments you often see co-featured, but it works. A nice walking bass line keeps the whole thing from running off too far afield.

5) Black Sun
A pretty piano solo to break up the two main movements of this recording. Still some odd notes thrown in, it has some odd patterns thrown in, but works well.

6) Cosmic Tomes For Sleep Walking Lovers, Part 1
This starts with what sounds like the ending. Begins with one of those big loose, everyone seeming to solo jazz/improvisation moments that either drive you crazy or excite you in ways that are hard to describe. I could go either way on this one, I like for this kind of stuff to move somewhere and settle into something that resembles a rhythm more quickly than this one does. Sometimes testing the boundaries of composition, tonality and rhythmic structures is a worthy challenge to the audience that can be given some leeway to find its way, other times it's just orchestral onanism that tries the patience of anyone willing to listen. I'm leaning to the latter rather than the former on this track.

7) Cosmic Tomes For Sleep Walking Lovers, Part 2
Maybe the noise of the first movement was all a psych-out to get you ready for the tighter tonal and rhythmic structure of this second part? Sounds like this composition might have actually been written on paper before being performed, imagine that! As rigid and formal as the previous piece was loose. A phrase repeated with small, but interesting variations. Hypnotic, but not sleepy, I like it.

8) Cosmic Tomes For Sleep Walking Lovers, Part 3
Again, another track that practically sounds like a song. Another solid bass line, with some great drum work floating around the beat. Bop, but not bop, but not, not bop, either, if you get my drift. Miles-ish in a Kind of Blue kind of way, but with electric guitars (which is definitely not something that would have happen on Miles from that period in his career). Great horns on this track, really, really good stuff.

9) Cosmic Tomes For Sleep Walking Lovers, Part 4 (Fifteen Ways Towards A Finite Universe)
It takes longer to type the title for the track then, it does for the track to play (it's all of 11 seconds).

10) Cosmic Tomes For Sleep Walking Lovers, Part 5
Spacey, which is to be expected given the track's title. Really seems like this whole movement was assembled backwards, if you listen to it Part 5 through to Part 1 then the structure follows a more typical compositional pattern, but the order is reversed on the album. Go figure. More good flute. I like me some good jazz flute in a lush dreamy setting. I'm easy, what else can I say?

The writer is former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs

The writer also happens to be married the daughter (oops!) of the current Vice President (You mean there's a difference between Lynne and Liz?)

· Our soldiers will win if we let them. Read their blogs. Talk to them. They know that free people must fight to defend their freedom. No force on Earth -- especially not an army of terrorists and insurgents -- can defeat our soldiers militarily. American troops will win if we show even one-tenth the courage here at home that they show every day on the battlefield. And by the way, you cannot wish failure on our soldiers' mission and claim, at the same time, to be supporting the troops. It just doesn't compute.

I suppose Hillary Clinton's announcement was a sign of progress. In 2007, a woman can run for president and show the same level of courage and conviction about this war many of her male colleagues have. Steel in the spine? Not so much.

America deserves better. It's time for everyone -- Republicans and Democrats -- to stop trying to find ways for America to quit. Victory is the only option. We must have the fortitude and the courage to do what it takes. In the words of Winston Churchill, we must deserve victory.We must be in it to win.

The writer also happens to be one hundred percent correct. Read the rest for yourself, it will do you good.

But if you take away one thing from her Op-Ed, it should be her repetition of Churchill, WE MUST DESERVE VICTORY.

(the obverse is even more true, the bad guys deserve to lose, repeatedly, completely, and spectacularly)

OK, This Is Getting Ridiculous

I was OK with being older than most Pro athletes. They have a short shelf life (except baseball pitchers, it would seem), and you don't expect folks in their mid 30s to still be starring in the various big leagues (though it is a bit strange to see folks your age be retired for years).

But now, I'm older than a few coaches in the various major sports. That ain't right.

I shouldn't be significantly older than the new head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

In all likelihood, 31 year old Lane Kiffin will be hired and then fired by Al Davis before his 20th high school reunion.

(I am showing great restraint in not making a crack about his first name)

I guess you really feel old when Presidential candidates graduated high school after you did (luckily, not quite there yet).

Oakland has a fantastic defense, but they had an historically inept offense last year (averaged 3 points in the 2nd half of games in 2006), there's a rumor that they'll package unhappy Randy Moss and their #1 pick in the 1st round of the draft for unhappy Michael Vick and Atlanta's #10 pick in the 1st round hoping to turn things around sooner rather than later (instead of drafting Jamarcus Russell and waiting for him to develop).

I predict whichever way the Raiders go, Lane Kiffin will be fired before the end of his 5 year contract.

And on the official Raiders website, could they have found a picture of Kiffin that looked more like he was a deer caught in the headlights?

(all indications point to NO)

My Oscar Prediction Was Correct!!!

Back in July I made this Oscar prediction

I'm not predicting which movies will be nominated, but I will predict that the total grosses for the three Best Animated Film of the Year nominees will be at least be equal to, and probably double the total grosses for the five Best Picture nominees.

Now the results are in, and I was right! (sort of, follow the link back to the original post if you want to see the details that were wrong, that one paragraph I pulled was spot on, though)

The three animated nominees were Cars $244M, Happy Feet $191M, and Monster House $74M, with an approx. cumulative total of $509M dollars (I thought Monster House was the best of the lot, bet it got lost in the shuffle and deluge of these sort of pictures this Summer/Fall).

Compare that to the five best picture nominees, Babel $24M, The Departed $122M, Letters From Iwo Jima $3M, Little Miss Sunshine $60M, and The Queen $36M for an approx. cumulative total of $242M. (I can't make a pick out of these, the only one I saw was Departed, and that's no Best Picture in my opinion).

Cars alone beat the total for the five Best Picture nominees, and if it weren't for The Departed's $100+ performance, it wouldn't even been close.

In no way shape or form should The Departed deserve to be considered one of the five best films of the year, it was an overly long exploitation/action picture with delusions of grandeur, nothing more (though it was enjoyable if you have a tolerance for violence). Had the director not been named "Marty", and the lead ham not been named "Jack", then nobody would have considered this film as anything more than what it was.

If I were doing the choosing I'd only choose two Spanish films for Best Picture, and skip rounding out a top five as both Pan's Labyrinth and Volver are that much better than anything else I saw in 2006 (and admittedly, I avoided more films than I saw this year), that to round out the list with 3 other pictures would be pointless.

This prediction could pretty much be a standing prediction for the next decade or so. The 3 animated nominees will most likely dwarf the box office of the 5 best picture nominees, unless something like a Lord of the Rings breaks through and gets critical praise, but those events will be rarer and rarer.

What could change that is the glut of 'kiddie' CGI pictures. Academy members may seek out animation aimed at an adult audience and ignore all the big spring/summer/fall popcorn pushers (if Through a Scanner Darkly had received more wide acclaim, it might have been nominated as an animated picture this year). Also, as the tools for making these films get cheaper and cheaper, it won't just be pictures designed to gross $200M and garner a wide audience that will be made using animation techniques.

Clearly, the Academy views this category as the 'kiddie' category, and it would take a concerted effort by a studio to challenge that assumption to get a more 'serious' picture considered in that category but it seems like that should happen at some point as despite their increasing irrelevance, Oscar nominations are still used as a marketing tool.

22 January 2007

It's the Latest National Pastime

Over at Ace of Spades (via Instapundit)

Pardon the a[m]biguity of the referent of "his" in that sentence. But I think the ambiguity serves the headline. Once Instapundit gets done explaining to Andrew Sullivan what Instapundit's position is on the surge, perhaps he can tackle the thorny question of telling Andrew Sullivan what Andrew Sullivan's position on the surge might be.

The latest national pastime, finding new ways to describe the incosistency of Andrew Sullivan.

Shhhhhh! Mr. Lileks, Now You've Gone and Given Mr. Glass an Idea That He'll Probably Do As A Project With Peter Sellars . . .

That's not a misspelling, I do mean this Peter Sellars.

What Lileks wrote in the most recent Bleat

For once the Philip Glass score didn’t annoy me, even though the lyrics might as well consist of “teeter totter” repeated ad infinitum. Someone should do a Philip Glass concert, play all his works, and have a massive choir sing Teeter Totter for nine hours. Or perhaps “Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater / Had a Wife and Couldn’t Keep Her.” Then the sopranos could sing a “Pattycake Pattycake” ostinato over that. Bingo: instant Glass.

What I can imagine happening . . .

Phil: "Hey, Peter, I was googling myself (XWL's note: Yes, I imagine even Philip Glass googles himself now and again), and found this suggestion from some guy in Minnesota that all my scores sound like a bunch of singers droning on for hours with nonsense lyrics of snippets of playground conversations--"

Peter: "Don't say another word! I was just thinking of doing something along those lines, this would be perfect! Let's do it! (XWL's note: Yes, I imagine Peter Sellars speaks nearly every sentence as if it ended in an exclamation point)

Phil: "Any ideas for a plot?" (from his end of the conversation, Phil hears a thud, some clanging noises, and then uproarious laughter)

Peter: "Sorry, you actually had me rolling on the floor laughing with that one! Plot?! In one of my original operas! Ha! And double Ha!

Phil: "No, seriously, what should this opera be about?"

Peter: "Besides about nine hours? Well, naturally it will be about how Boooosh is evil, and then you got to throw in some sort of pending global warming catastrophe angle, so howabout this, for
nine hours we'll have various singers act like a five year old school yard bully while wearing a huge Chimpy McBu$hHitler papier mache head, while other cast are dressed like the locals of various foreign places. . ."

Phil: "Brilliant, so far . . ."

Peter: "OK, and after three acts of him pushing kids around a playground set, and this set, I'm thinking, huge oversized playground equipment, like a 50 foot tall jungle gym built to resemble the WTC, and a huge swing that's about 30 feet tall, and maybe a tetherball that's on a massive pole, something like that . . ."

Phil: "I'm loving it, the music is already written, I've got 4 notes already picked out and I've put them in the randomizer to chose the order they'll be played . . ."

Peter: "Wait! I haven't gotten to the best bit! At the last act break, we'll enclose the entire stage in airtight waterproof glass, and flood the whole stage in murky water to simulate the ongoing disaster that is global warming"

Phil: "Enough, enough, I can't take anymore, this is just too good, now let's apply for some government grants, and when they reject us, scream about how the evil Booosh Regime is stifling

Peter: "Sounds great, I'll have my people get on it! Always great hearing from you, Phil."

I Haven't Been Much In A Writing Mood, But If I Trawl The 'Net for Good Quotes From Favored Bloggers, It Will Seem Like I'm Blogging

A little nugget from Ken Jennings.

Somebody e-mailed me over the weekend to ask if any of the (apparently several) Ken Jennings pages on MySpace are actually me. Nope, I’m not on MySpace. They must all be fake. I prefer to attract my sexual predators and creepy online “friends” via this blog, thank you very much.

Why Editors Suck (and Bloggers Rule)

Daniel Drezner, commenting on his recent Op-Ed published in the LA Times

Read the whole thing, but you should know that I submitted a different byline than the one they used.

The byline reads -- online at least -- as "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He maintains a blog at danieldrezner.com/blog/."

Which is great, but the byline I submitted to them was, "Daniel W. Drezner is associate professor of international politics at Tufts University's Fletcher School and the author of "All Politics Is Global." He has never been invited to Davos, but is not bitter about that fact in the slightest."

I think I'd be less upset if I didn't fear that the deleted sentence was the best line in the piece.

As a blogger he gets to let folks know how he meant for his piece to be taken, and not how the editors chose to present his piece.

Why edit out the insouciant little self-deprecating joke in the bio blurb?

(unanswerable as it was done without good reason, probably some sort of style book they're following, or fear, or stupidity, or whatever)

And it needn't be repeated, but I will anyway, as he writes on his blog, read the whole LAT Op-Ed, it's a good 'un.

(if I had an editor they never would have let me get away with "good 'un" (or all these parenthetical phrases, for that matter))

Also, it bears repeating, it's nice that they chose to include his blog's name in their bio for him, but would it be that much more difficult to make it an actual link on their online edition?

19 January 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Playoffs!!! Conference Championships)

It's the big time now. Four teams, two advance, two wonder what might have been. In some ways it's hard to pick for or against any of the four teams left. New Orleans have the best story, but the worst secondary. Chicago were tough early, struggled late, and barely beat a so-so Seattle team last week. Indianapolis suddenly has the best defense in the playoffs, but have struggled on offense (go figure). And then there's New England, I still don't believe they've won three Superbowls recently, there's no there there as far as I'm concerned, but then you look at the record of Brady and Belichick in big games, and you get scared for the Colts, even if they are at home.

Since there's only two games, I'll open myself up for extra humiliation and pick the over/under as well as the winner versus the spread.

New Orleans at Chicago (-2.0) o/u 43 Chicago -2.0, under 43
This will be a methodical dismantling of the Saints. New Orleans is 'America's Team' for the moment, but Chicago gets them at home in sub-40 degree weather. It's hard to believe that Chicago would lose this game at home, and the New Orleans secondary has been beaten deep too often to have confidence in their ability to cause trouble for Grossman. He had a much improved game last week, and ought to remain confident enough to put enough points on the board early to leave it to his defense to hold on against the Saints' formidable offensive attack. I'd be happy to be wrong about Chicago winning this game, but I think the feel good story that is New Orleans ends on Sunday in a 24-10 game. Each ESPN 'expert' picked New Orleans, so that cinches it, it'll be Chicago for sure.

New England at Indianapolis (-3.0) o/u 48 Indianapolis -3.0, over 48
Peyton Manning hasn't played well yet in the playoffs, but Brady hasn't been all that great either. Both teams have beat good teams to get this far, and both teams have weaknesses that the other team can take advantage of. I would imagine that the Colts are hungrier for this trip to the Superbowl than the Pats, and Peyton has to prove that he's not only the best QB statistically of his generation, but that he can rise to the challenge in a big game (which so far, he's proven the opposite). New England has had a way of winning games that they should have lost this decade, but this week the magic runs out. I expect a high score from both teams, but with the home team prevailing in a 45-34 battle (poor Adam Vinatieri won't get to beat his old team in the closing seconds).

17 January 2007

RESULTS (Divisional Weekend) Weekly NFL Related Humiliation


Original post here.

Indianapolis 15 Baltimore 6 Baltimore -4
Doh! The Ravens defense played well, as expected, but the Indianapolis defense might have proved that the previous week's success v. Kansas City may not have been a fluke. Dungy was hired cause he was a 'Defensive' coach, and Indianapolis will get to host the AFC Championship game. The Ravens offense might have been more terrible than the Indy defense was good, however.

Philadelphia 24 New Orleans 27 New Orleans -5.5
Doh! Congrats to the New Orleans Saints (but boo! for not covering the spread). They did enough to win, and controlled the clock and the game when it counted. Payton has been the best play-caller in the league this year, and with their weapons on offense, they'll give Chicago all they can handle. Philly played better than they should have, but they couldn't put together enough drives to win. The Saints offense is very vulnerable to the big play, but luckily, Rex Grossman is as likely to throw the ball into a CBs hands as he is to a WRs hands on the deep ball.

Seattle 24 Chicago 27(OT) Seattle +8.5
Woohoo! The only game I picked correctly against the spread. Was a game that Seattle could have won, but came up short. Was I perplexed as to why they didn't run Alexander between the tackles more often, given that he made 8-12 yards on most of his carries? You betcha. Chicago won, will host the NFC Championship, and look ripe for an upset. Also, it's well past time that the NFL adopt the NCAA OT system. Exciting game, anyway.

New England 24 San Diego 21 San Diego -4.5
Doh! San Diego got Schottenheimered!!! Brady threw more interceptions than TDs, but put his team in position to go ahead when it counted, while San Diego mismanaged the clock at the end and were forced into a poor field goal attempt to tie the game. A great game by LT was wasted, and his tantrum about the celebration was out of character, but emotions run high in the playoffs. If you don't want the visitors to celebrate on your field, then take care of business and beat them. San Diego's sole loss at home came when it counted most. Go ahead and laugh it up this week Mr. Cottage, I still don't believe in the Pats (not that I feel so confident about Indy, either).

16 January 2007

NMT: 16 JAN 07 Above & Beyond - Tri-State


Howabout a little electronica/dance music for this week's dose of New Music Tuesday? Not like you get a choice, so here it goes.

All bands are required to have a myspace, it would seem, so here's the link to Above & Beyond's.

First, my overall impression of the album, then the individual tracks. This is like finding a lost Underworld project from circa 1994 or 1995. It's good stuff in the ambient/chill school of electronic dance music. If that description is something that intrigues you, then you'll like most of the tracks, if that doesn't mean anything to you, or sounds like a bad idea for a good time, then avoid this album.

They have their own style, they aren't stuck in the past, but it's not exactly the most fresh sounding album, either.

It's the kind of album that can function well as background, which in some cases is a good thing.

Expect to hear a track or two used in a commercial for some random products over the next half decade or so (that seems to be the normal fate for electronic music lately).

Now the individual song breakdown.

1) Tri-State
The title track, an instrumental only, it's moody, atmospheric, sounds very much like a beginning. More of a sketch of a tune, rather than a song (and yet it's over 4 minutes long).

2) Stealing Time
A real song, with vocals and everything! Lot's of reverb, on the vocals, got to love that. All the old school tricks are piled on thick on this track. That's meant as a compliment, not a putdown.

3) World On Fire
Another instrumental, begins very Eno, but then becomes more standard dance/groove soon in (with the Eno touch as a theme underneath the thump-thump-thump). Interesting composition, for something that could be rather standard, there's a lot going on, and yet at the same time there isn't a whole lot to it. This kind of music is hard to talk about in any coherent fashion.

4) Air For Life
Another hard to describe track, on the surface it's pretty anonymous electronic/dance music that you'd find in any club, but another song where the cliches are used differently than normal. The vocals are so deeply buried that they're just another accent on the song, more voice as instrument than singing. Evidently, these blokes believe you can't get enough high-hat rather than cowbell.

5) Can't Sleep
Starts with the thump-thump, but then when the vocals kick in it goes more for a chill type mood. The requisite synth-swirl follows, and then the thump-thump kicks in again. The vocals are pretty nice though. This song has grown on me after repeated listening.

6) Hope
Hope, ain't just a city in Arkansas, it's also this song. A little too typical for my taste. Nothing horribly wrong, but nothing horribly right, either.

7) Liquid Love
Another song that feels more of a tribute to the last 10-12 years of chill-techno-ambient music out of England rather than a song in of itself. Not bad on its own, but not very meaningful, either.

8) In The Past
Kind of an interstitial sketch between songs rather than a composition to be taken on its own merits. Of course, most interstitial sketches don't go on for 2':36".

9) Alone Tonight
This song bounces more than it thumps. The songs with vocals are generally stronger on this album than the purely instrumental tracks. These blokes, really, really are addicted to the reverb. Sounds familiar, depending on your mood that could be comforting or annoying. Dude's voice is pleasant enough, though. Another track that has appeal.

10) Good For Me
A sweeter more down tempo track than the rest of the songs with vocals on this album. Let it wash over you.

11) For All I Care
This one goes back a bit further than the 90s and flirts with 80s new wave a bit. Wouldn't have been entirely out of place on an OMD album (but the vocalist sounds entirely different, from a song structure standpoint only). This comment is directed only at the 20 or 30 folks who still remember what OMD is an abbreviation for.

12) Indonesia
Another track that had me waiting for something to happen, and yet nothing ever did. Not bad, but not memorable or unique in any fashion.

13) Home
They're bringing this album home with a song called "Home". I have a weakness for thin-yet-prettily-voiced women who still let a faint British accent seep into their singing. I can't possibly judge this song impartially (actually I can't judge any song impartially, nor can anyone else, I suspect). With that said, a good chill song, nothing spectacular, but something not awful, either.

All in all, it's a good listen. Also, after visiting their myspace page (where you can listen to a few songs if you care to), I noticed they'll be playing a few dates in the North America soon. Judging from their itinerary, the person who booked them is pretty clueless about the distances involved. Another British band that will get swallowed up by our vastness.

15 January 2007

The Best Written Document of the Last 50 Years

Nothing else compares to that letter written from a Birmingham jail, in pencil, on scrap paper.

(but I think this holiday trivializes rather than honors Rev. King's legacy)

Here's one small key passage

It is true that they have been rather disciplined in their public handling of the demonstrators. In this sense they have been rather publicly "nonviolent". But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system of segregation. Over the last few years I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek. So I have tried to make it clear that it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or even more so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Maybe Mr. Connor and his policemen have been rather publicly nonviolent, as Chief Pritchett was in Albany, Georgia, but they have used the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of flagrant racial injustice. T. S. Eliot has said that there is no greater treason than to do the right deed for the wrong reason.

It's hard to fathom writing this from jail, without reference materials, or in this day and age, google, and getting it into a comprehensive and comprehensible whole, and yet that's what he managed to do.

Also it contains one of my favorite author's notes

------- *AUTHOR'S NOTE: This response to a published statement by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter, Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray. the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings) was composed under somewhat constricting circumstance. Begun on the margins of the newspaper in which the statement appeared while I was in jail, the letter was continued on scraps of writing paper supplied by a friendly Negro trusty, and concluded on a pad my attorneys were eventually permitted to. leave me. Although the text remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author's prerogative of polishing it for publication. -------
Here's a link to the letter by those eight clergy for which Rev. King was responding.

11 January 2007

"In 1989, Reagan resigned and Vice President George Bush took his place"

American history, BBC style.

(not exactly how I remembered it, but it's how his bio reads on the BBC website, so I guess Nixon isn't the only President to have resigned)

Let's Chat Up That Other Kind of Football . . .

The Queen's English ain't what it used to be.

Here's one of the first comments on a BBC Football message board regarding Beckham coming to the MLS and playing for the LA Galaxy

He was at Man U winning trophies year in year out with great players, he gets to
Real a team full of hasbeens of pre madonnas and he wasnt able to win anything
big there

I love the term, 'pre madonnas', in some ways that makes so much more sense than the correct term.

You still won't catch me heading out to the Home Depot Center to see him in action, but maybe I'll watch his Galaxy premiere on the telly.

To Which Audience Did the President Speak?

From the speech

Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East. I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region.

I don't think the American people were the primary audience for Wednesday's speech. I don't think the Iraqi people or leadership were the primary audience for the speech, either. Rather I think this speech was aimed at the primary mischief makers in Iraq, which would be the Mullahs ruling Iran, and Assad the Lesser's government in Syria.

If they haven't already soiled their pants, they probably will soon, that speech was a direct threat and provocation to those groups, and if they continue to support the violence in Iraq, violence will follow them into their own territories.

That was the implicit promise within the speech.

Of course, if you read Reuters and listen to Rep. Kucinich, you might think that's a bad thing.

Subtle (Or Not So Subtle) Form of Flirtation?


(or it could be stalking behavior, I'll leave it up to you, the public, to judge)

10 January 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Playoffs!!! Divisional Weekend)

The NFL is down to their 'elite eight', time to pick the winners and the losers (at least as far as the spread is concerned).


Indianapolis at Baltimore (-4.0) Baltimore -4.0
A blow out in the making. Peyton Manning is going to look like his brother in this game (and that ain't good). The Ravens defense will pound the Colts offense into submission, and McNair will lead the Ravens offense to the end zone with enough regularity so that the final score won't be close. Ex-Cleveland will trounce Ex-Baltimore.

Philadelphia at New Orleans (-5.5) New Orleans -5.5
Sean Payton, best coach in the league whose last name doesn't start with "B"? The Saints creativity on offense will keep the blitzing Eagles defense guessing, and Bush will break at least one big play, if not two or three. The Saints defense hasn't gotten as much credit for the Saints success as they deserve, but they'll finally expose Jeff Garcia as being Jeff Garcia while bottling up Westbrook. If Garcia is forced to win a game, rather than to keep from losing one, the Eagles are in big trouble. In other words, the Eagles are in big trouble.


Seattle at Chicago (-8.5) Seattle +8.5
Chicago is vulnerable, and deeply flawed right now as a team. Their defense has not been as invincible as they were at the beginning of the season, and their offense is easily the worst in the playoffs. Seattle has more of a recent history of success within the playoffs, and they have a coach who knows how to get it done. Chicago's last playoff game was their fiasco against Carolina where they allowed Steve Smith to beat them and didn't adjust their game plan to prevent their opponents best player from making them look bad. They may win this game, despite all this, given that Seattle has plenty of flaws of their own, but they won't win by more than a touchdown, so even if I'm not confident that the Seahawks can pull of the upset, I am confident that they can cover the spread.

New England at San Diego (-4.5)
San Diego -4.5
The hardest game to pick this week. New England is playing very well together, but San Diego has been the best team in the league, and they have the record to prove it. Two excellent defenses will be trying to stop two excellent offenses. Two veteran coaches will be trying to out guess the other veteran coach. Belichick has a much better record in big games compared to Schottenheimer (Coach B 12-2 3 Superbowl rings v. Coach S 5-12 0 Superbowl rings, hasn't won a playoff game since 1993), and Tom Brady is as close to John Elway as you'll get in the league right now (if anyone can put together a 'Drive II' against a Schottenheimer team, it's Brady), but San Diego's defense is pretty fearsome, and they have LT on offense which is a dimension that New England lacks and will have trouble countering on defense.

I think Saturday will be a day of blowouts, while Sunday could be pretty interesting, but nothing is certain until the games are actually played. Ask 100 folks on Sunday what they thought would happen in the NCAA Championship game, and I don't think you'd get more than 2-3 that would have expected a Florida blowout.

One thing's for sure, all the folks assigned to holding the snaps for point afters and field goals probably did some extra practice this week.

09 January 2007

Luke Said It, So I Don't Have To

"We outplay the better teams right now, but we're getting outplayed by the teams that aren't as good," Lakers forward Luke Walton said. "Sometimes, we just end up winning at the end, but this is too good of a league and too long of a season to get a high playoff seed if we keep playing like that."

Beat Dallas, and lose to Memphis, that ain't right. If every team played a zone defense, the Lakers would be 11 games below .500 instead of 11 games above.

Luckily, most teams don't practice it, and they can't put it in just for one team that can't seem to figure out how to fight for inside shots when their opponents deploy a zone.

NMT: 09 JAN 07 Anna Netrebko - Russian Album

Anna Netrebko - Russian Album

I know what you're thinking, 'That XWL, when is he going to review some Opera?' howabout right now?

Due to problems downloading other albums released today (Andy Dick, and Ultramagnetic MCs) I'm instead going with a review of the new album from Russian soprano Anna Netrebko.

The nature of this disc differs from previous albums I've covered so instead of a song by song breakdown, just an overview (anyone purchasing this album is unlikely to just buy her version of Pimpinella, per se)

(Though, come to think of it, Pimpinella would be a fantastic name for a Rap singer)

(if Anna ever considers doing a rap side project, let me be the first to suggest that she go by the name Lady Pimpinella)

Back to the album, it's a Deutsche Grammophon release, which usually means quality production values, and in this case no different.

As the title implies, all the selections are from Russian composers (Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, and Prokofiev), it's an excellent match of vocal style and composition.

I personally prefer Russian as a language for opera singing over Italian or German, the mixture of guttural and lyrical within the Russian tongue gives it the right mix. Italian can get too lyrical, while German is far too guttural. Russian, when it comes to opera singing, is the Goldilocks language, just right. Plus I'm a sucker for those 19th and early 20th century Russian composers, they kicked some serious ass.

Every song is in Russian, and she sounds right at home singing in her native tongue. I assume she's equally capable in singing in the other languages most operas are sung, but she definitely sounds like she's within her comfort zone singing these songs.

One problem with these 'just the highlights' compilations is that it's one big moment after another. Taken out of their context some of these compositions can come off as being overwrought.

If you like this stuff, this is an easy album to recommend, the Rachmaninov she sings is particularly moving (Rachmaninov, does indeed Rach!).

I haven't been to the Opera in a long time, but if she performs a Russian Opera with the LA Opera again, I may be tempted.

Is it inconsistent for me to rail against screechy broadway style pop and praise opera?

I don't think so, for one, the volume control, runs and range exhibited by opera singers is honed to such a fine point that it comes across as vocal athleticism rather than showy theatrics. Also, these compositions support the vocals much better, whereas that crappy pop singing tends to work against the compositions, rather than with them.

And for the fellas out there, here's a photo of Ms. Netrebko (does it matter that she's also a hottie?)

This has little to do with this album, but here's a music video of Anna Netrebko singing an Aria from Don Giovanni (It's very Mozart meets MTV circa 1983, but it works).

And reading more about her around the net, she seems to be a bit of a polarizing figure, she's the opera singer folks love to hate at the moment.


This and this?

(gimmick stolen from Althouse)

(she managed to do it without explanation, but I can't resist highlighting the intersecting sections of the two articles)

The pertinent passages in the two articles

The fast-moving but short-lived blaze began inside Malibu Bluffs State Park, Los Angeles County Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman said. Windblown embers spread below to Malibu Road and set fire to the homes along the beach, he said.

Malibu Mayor Ken Kearsley, who said he has lived through nine fires during his 40 years in the area, was driving past the blaze and saw flames 10 to 15 feet high blast south out of the park, pushed by 50-mph winds.

and in the second article

Clad in crisp blue dress uniforms and knee-high black boots, the French officers traveled over Kanan Dume Road and several other Santa Monica Mountain roadways before taking Pacific Coast Highway to Paradise Cove, where lunch was served.

Retired police officers Roy Kautz and Jerry Reisinger followed the motorcade on their own personal motorcycles. Reisinger, a former CHP motorcycle officer, laughed when several French officers pulled out cigarettes and lighted up after they parked their machines in a long row outside the Paradise Cove restaurant.

"Probably not one motor cop in 100 smokes here," Reisinger said.

I'm not saying anything, but a scenario where visitors who don't know the extreme danger of even the smallest spark on a day like Monday (sub 10% humidity, wind gusts over 50 mph) who was visiting SoCal for the first time and was enjoying a smoke while watching the sunset over the Pacific might not think twice about flicking their cigarette to the ground.

If there's anything left of the ignition source, and it's one of these brands of smokes, then we'll have a good idea.

07 January 2007

A Fugging Self-Fugging From Fugging Kat Dennings

Kat Dennings noticed and reacted to her recent fugging by Go Fug Yourself.


RESULTS (Wildcard Weekend) Weekly NFL Related Humiliation

Original pick post here.

Should I be trite and write, "wildcard weekend was wild, indeed!"?

(don't answer that)

Kansas City 8 Indianapolis 23 Kansas City (+7.0)
Doh! The play calling on offense from KC was questionable. They did not make an attempt to enforce their will on the Indianapolis defense, and paid for it. Indianapolis had an excellent game defensively (so-so offensively), but it's hard to accept the huge transformation from the worst team against the run to a hard tackling run stopping juggernaut. The Ravens will eat this team alive. KC lost this game more than Indy won it.

Dallas 20 Seattle 21 Dallas (Dallas +3.0)
Woohoo! It's a subdued woohoo, really. Dallas had the game won, and it slipped through Romo's fingers. Great game to watch, though. Exciting finish, didn't work out for the Cowboys, but at least they covered the spread, and that's what's really important. Seattle showed flashes of the team that made it to last year's Superbowl, and if Grossman continues to struggle, could upset Chicago next week.

NY Jets 16 New England 37 (New England -8.0)
Woohoo! New England looked impressive in victory and countered everything the Jets tried to do on both sides of the ball. The hug seems to be big news, liked the way Belichick muscled the photographers out of the way to get at Mangini. New England played efficiently on both sides of the ball, and Brady had an excellent game. It will be much harder to look this good in sunny San Diego next week, though.

NY Giants 20 Philadephia 23 (NY Giants +7.0)
Woohoo! Another game where the losing team covered the spread. Neither team looked impressive, and after giving up a touchdown after having the Giants in 2nd and 30 on their game tying drive, it looked like Philly was in trouble. They pulled things together, gave their kicker a chance to win the game for them, and he came through. I'm still not buying Jeff Garcia as a QB to lead this team to playoff greatness. New Orleans ought to be able to end the Eagles' playoff run next week.

I was a respectable 3-1 against the spread, and would have been 4-0 if KC had used their advantages over Indy better, but it's a lot easier to coach from a keyboard then it is from the sidelines.

06 January 2007

Capitalism is Hazardous for Your Health

Or so the LA Times would have you believe (via Drudge)

First, the Nigerian oil fields are managed primarily by the Nigerian government. If they granted foreign companies better access and more autonomy, those oil fields would be much better neighbors.

Instead corrupt kleptocrats line their pockets with the oil wealth and mismanage the resources they have. Foreign companies do supply equipment and some expertise, but the 'on the ground' management of infrastructure and pollution controls is local.

These corrupt oil states, which Nigeria is just one example (Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Iran, even Russia fall under that category), are the problem, not the multinational corporations that are just trying to turn a profit and provide a service.

To suggest that the Gates Foundation should divest from oil, big pharma and chemical concerns is ludicrous and would lead to the kind of stupid politically motivated decisions towards large fund management that has lead to CALPERS to grossly under perform compared to other funds. The investment side of the Gates Foundation only responsibility is to grow their assets, by any legal means. Anything less than that would be malpractice.

Read the whole article if you dare, it's so naked in its hatred of capitalism and biased in its perception what 'good practices' would mean, that the term 'yellow journalism' doesn't even come close.

I guess the best way to summarize the article would be, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Anyone with their head outside of anyplace other than their own rectum know how well that philosophy works in the real world.

05 January 2007

Weekly NFL Related Humiliation (Playoffs!!! Wild Card Weekend)

Four games, all count, loser goes home, winner can still dream. Why can't they do this in college, too?


Kansas City at Indianapolis (-7.0) Kansas City (+7.0)
Larry Johnson and the KC offensive line versus the worst run defense in the league. No contest, I don't care if it's at the RCA Dome. Besides even if KC doesn't pull this off, it will be close. But I think KC will run away with this game (literally and figuratively).

Dallas at Seattle (-3.0) Dallas (+3.0)
This is a difficult game to predict. Neither team has played well of late, and both teams are coming in with mediocre records, but it's the playoffs, and Dallas has Parcells on the sideline. He'll find a way to squash all the turmoil, fingerpointing and general stupidity and get the Cowboys to play as a team, at least for one week. Seattle won't be repeating as NFC Champions, and they won't be making it past this weekend.


NY Jets at New England New England (-8.0)
I hate to do this, I really, really do, but I'm going to have to pick the Pats in this game. Both teams come into this game playing excellent football. Also, the Patriots home field advantage isn't as big when there's no snow on the ground and there's that global warming going around so there won't be a snowflake within hundreds of miles of Foxboro come game time. But I pick the Pats anyway, In Belichick I trust. He'll want to prove that his protege Mangini isn't yet a genius and I think that Bill will run up the score so that 8 point spread will be meaningless.

NY Giants at Philadelphia NY Giants (+7.0)
The Giants have looked awful for most of the past two months, and Philly has looked solid. So why pick the Giants? Cause they have the talent to win, they have to play better than their other games lately, and I can not in good conscience pick a team lead by Jeff Garcia to win a playoff game. It's not going to happen, not in this lifetime, I'm not saying he'll never win a playoff game, I'm just saying I'll never pick a team he leads in a playoff game. Sometimes no reason is reason enough.

For a bunch of playoff match ups, it's hard to get excited over these games. Every one of these games could be a blow out. But I'll be watching each game in all their HD glory, anyway. HDTV was made for NFL playoffs (as was beer, potato chips, and french onion dip).

I have reason to worry about these picks, other than picking NY Giants instead of Philly, my picks are the same as Joe Theismann's, ugggghh.

RESULTS (Week SEVENTEEN) Weekly NFL Related Humiliation

The final weekly dose of humiliation for the NFL regular season. Here's hoping that the playoffs will largely be humiliation free. The original post is here.

NY Giants 34 Washington 28
Washington (+3.0)
Doh! If Tiki Barber had taken my advice and skipped this game, I would have been much better off. Saved his career game for his last regular season game. We'll see if he has a few more like that in him for the playoffs. It was still close at the end despite Barber's tremendous game. That doesn't bode well for the Giants' playoff hopes. The less said about the season the Redskins had the better.

St. Louis 41 Minnesota 21 Minnesota (+3.0)
Doh! I could have been more wrong, but not by much. I still believe that had the game counted for St. Louis after a Giants loss on Saturday that they would have played tight and lost this, but they had nothing to lose, and played well. The Rams might have a team to fear next year. Minnesota will continue to look better on paper than they do on the field.

Carolina 31 New Orleans 21 Carolina (-3.0)
Neither team had anything to play for and the Saints rested their stars, so the result was meaningless. But it was a meaningless result that I predicted correctly, woohoo! (of course my prediction assumed Carolina was playing for something, oh well). Carolina is another team that will improve next year, while the Saints were the feel good story of the year, and have a good chance of winning the franchise's second, third and maybe even fourth playoff game (In their entire previous history they have a grand total of one playoff win).

Atlanta 17 Philadelphia 24
Philadelphia (-9.0)
Doh! The right team won, but not by the right margin. Neither team had anything to play for, neither team fielded their best players. Philly gets ready to play this weekend, while Atlanta gets ready to hire a new head coach who won't be able to figure out how to utilize Michael Vick. Good Luck to the poor sap who takes the Falcon's job.

Green Bay 26 Chicago 7 Chicago (-3.0)
Doh! Chicago looks like the worst one seed in NFL playoff history. Rex Grossman was bad, really bad, totally sucktacular, an utter disaster, an Uwe Boll film bad. They'll get a week off and a home game to try and set things right. Green Bay looked good in defeat and Favre may be tempted to return next season. If so, the Packers should add some offensive line help and get him the protection he needs to be successful.

A fairly humiliating 1-4 overall, and I put most of the blame on Tiki Barber. Had he sat out the game, or not given it his full effort, then the Giants would have folded like the gutless wonders they've demonstrated themselves to be for most of the second half of the season. Oh well.

04 January 2007

Alright Then, The ICK Party It Shall Be

Guest poster Echidne over at Eschaton had this request,

Would it be too difficult for all you conservatives to stop dropping the "ic" at the end of the Democratic party? It's like that Obama-Osama thingy. Probably just an oversight, but as we are now all civil and courteous, how about fixing this little irritation?

Seems reasonable to me. From now on I'll refer to Democrats as representatives of the "Ick Party".

That works on so many levels, that I am truly thankful for the suggestion.

This whole bipartisanship might work after all.

Speaking of the Ick Party, did you see Grandma Pelosi invite all the children to touch her gavel?

Gender does make a difference, if Denny Hastert had a bunch of children fondling his 'gavel', I think the public reaction would have been completely different (I'm waiting for the Timberlake/Sandberg video, "Gavel in a Box").

Also, I call the new Speaker of the House Grandma Pelosi, not to demean her or 'put her in her place', but because that's how she presented herself at the end of her speeches on her first official day on the job.

Do I think it's a cynical attempt to swath herself in 'Family Values' and distance herself from the label 'San Francisco Liberal'?

(Despite the year only being four days old, will the above question remain the most rhetorical question of 2007?)

03 January 2007

What Do You Do? Me, I Nitpick . . .

That describes most bloggers pretty well, but in this LAT article (front page of the Business section, with a big photo no less) the nits being picked aren't figurative.

Unlike the LATimes, I link to businesses when talking about them (to pick my own figurative nit).

We've Covered the Flute, What About the Children's Chorus?

The other very rock n roll trope that shouldn't be rock n roll at all (besides violins) is the Children's Chorus.

The use of said device reached its apogee in the late 80s/early 90s, it's a gimmick not deployed as often anymore. Just three examples here, let's not go crazy with these YouTube posts here.

Come on, you know you wanted Martika back in the day. Cheesy? Yes. Pretty sweet anyway? Hell yes. Probably the main song I was thinking of when thinking of this gimmick.

I've never bought a Smiths album. I never had to, usually had a girlfriend who owned one or two at least (never liked full on 'goth chicks' but always had a thing for 'goth-lite chicks'). The Marr/Morrisey collaboration produced some amazing songs. Love hearing the kids singing 'hang the DJ'.

I'm leaving out plenty of good choices, but you get the idea already, and any list tackling this subject would be inadequate if it didn't have a little Pink Floyd.

Now go eat your pudding, you've earned it (even if you skipped eating your meat, I guess that makes me a sensualist).

"Justice Appointed by Ford Remembers the Late President"

I should hope so . . .

Otherwise maybe it's well past time for him to step down from the bench.

Flutes Rock, Don't They?

Surely you have a favorite flutestrumental in rock/pop?

Here's a few (not necessarily my favorite, possibly the only I could think of and could find on YouTube)

Nicolette Larson - Lotta Love

The Moody Blues - Nights In White Satin

Prince - Gett Off (possibly where I got the term "flutestrumental" first song I recall with a 12" 'flutestrumental' mix, no flutes in this live performance, but it does have the famous 'cheeky' pantsuit, and that's so wrong on so many levels. And it's a shame he's found God again, he doesn't do the seriously nasty songs like this one in concert anymore)

Jethro Tull - Aqualung (you knew it would come to this, didn't you?)

Other songs that would have been included had the videos been available on YouTube: Hyperactive by Thomas Dolby and Disco Dazz by The Dazz Band (probably the best of the lot, but nowhere to be found in all its disco/jazz glory).


I knew I forgot something, I'm not the world's biggest Will Ferrell fan, but this scene from that Ron Burgundy film fits, and tickled me, so below it appears as if by magic.


This could go on for ever if I let it, but here's three more anyway (and that will be it)

Yes, Bill is right, Spill the Wine has some mighty fine flute action (a horrible lapse of judgment on my part to forget that song).

The Smiths you say? Yes, the Smiths I say.

Finally, the original in your face anthemic protest song. I say this IS ROCK AND ROLL!!! (or drum and fife, at any rate)