You know you're getting old when...

...there's apparently enough distance between you and the music you loved in college to make it alright for a new indie band to name themselves after a Belle & Sebastian song. Don't bother listening to the tunes at Dylan in the Movies' internet home. They don't sound a damn thing like Sinister-era B&S, let alone any other era. The fact that they distracted me with their petty theft of a great tune's title means that these Bostoners should be forced to drive to my home and dust off my record collection, free of charge.

There's also a local band that's now calling themselves Watery Domestic, a nod to the excellent Pavement EP of the same name from 1992. Again, I'm not getting my hopes up that they'll be channeling vintage Pavement, cause we all know that you could fill up a New Jersey landfill with the corpses of bands that have tried, and failed, to pull that off.

In other news, Yo La Tengo's new album, Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics, got a poor review in today's Fork. If you don't know the story behind the music (bwahaha), Tengo annually performs live on the always-enjoyable WFMU during the radio station's fundraising drive. The catch: they do covers, as requested by the folks listenin' in. So the band has no idea what to expect, and neither do the listeners. Reviewer Joe Tangari pegs the record as more of a comedy album than a rock record, and says the record's 30 songs are difficult to make it through in one sitting. Whatever. I'm buying it just to hear them butcher the baseball standard "Meet the Mets" as well as The Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner" (which they apparently do quite well). Oh, and Archie Bell & the Drells' "Tighten Up"!


Albert the Great

Seriously, have you checked out this guy's numbers lately? Not including stats from today's game, which featured yet another game-winning RBI by Albert, here's what he's on pace to do this year:

HR: 93
RBI: 216
RUNS: 177

Add to that his current .338 batting average (just five points higher than his career average), .489 on-base percentage, and .926 slugging percentage, and you've got the makings of one of the best offensive seasons ever. Take Bonds' steroid-inflated years out of the picture, and Pujols is on pace for a Ruthian season with no contemporary equivalent. He would tie Ruth's mark of 177 runs scored (best post-1900), erase Hack Wilson's RBI mark of 191, and easily take down the best marks for slugging percentage and home runs.

Now, of course, I don't expect him to keep this pace up. That's not because Albert isn't a model of consistency; he's actually a significantly better hitter after the All-Star break. I just don't think any manager will continue to pitch to him. If he stays hot for even another few weeks, any manager worth his job will walk Pujols if anyone is on base or if the game is close and late. With runners in scoring position, he's hitting .533 this year. Would you pitch to him?

If managers try to pitch around him, it will be interesting to see how Pujols reacts. I would not be surprised to see him expand his strike zone early in the at-bat and swing at pithes off the plate, if only to encourage the pitcher to try and battle him instead of walking him. That's possibly not the smartest strategy. Baserunners are baserunners, after all. But Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds are not quite their prime selves, so I'd rather take my risk with Pujols hitting with two strikes.

Here's my guestimate as to how his year will finish:

Plate appearances: 675
Walks: 140
At-bats: 515
Hits: 182
2B: 36
HR: 52
RBI: 123
Runs: 148
On-base %: .487
Slugging %: .753
Avg: .353

Let's see how close I come. If true, this would be Pujols' best season -- by far -- in his career. But I don't think that's so outrageous considering he's in his age 26 season, considered by most to be the beginning of a hitter's "prime" years.


I'm not going to discuss politics on here very often, mostly because plenty of other writers are far more knowledgeable than I about matters of left and right. However, I do take a special interest in how the Bush administration has dealt with the press, because I used to be a member of the press, and may again be someday down the road. This morning, it was announced that former Fox News anchor Tony Snow will be replacing Scott McClellan as supreme dodger of all relevant questions. Finally, the link between Fox News and the Republican right can be formally cemented.

Of more interest, however, is news that Snow lobbied for certain rights -- namely the right to have a voice in White House decision-making. Apparently, Bush agreed. Or at least paid lip service to Snow's wish. I find it alarming -- but not surprising -- that the press secretary is going to have any say in shaping national policy. It's as if Snow has watched one too many episodes of The West Wing, and thinks that if it plays on TV, it surely must play in reality.

Anyway, bio material out of the way: Tony's background is in print journalism, he's suffering from colon cancer, and apparently he's at times been critical of Bush (who hasn't by now?) -- although he assured the president that he's said worse about the president's political rivals. And he's already got a great feel for the job: At his first press conference announcing his hiring, neither Snow nor the president fielded a single question from the press.


The Noiseboy goes Fifties

So, as I said I'm DJing my parent's 50th wedding anniversary this weekend. I don't know what's more remarkable, that they're celebrating a 50th, or that they asked me to DJ the party. My parents always berated me for wasting so much money on music. But now it's that very record collection that's saving them some money.

I decided to stick with period music from the time they got hitched, the mid- to late-'50s: rock and roll, country, some rhythm & blues, and the like. One Rhino compilation in particular has come in handy: Loud, Fast & Out of Control: The Wild Sounds of '50s Rock. Although the "loud" and "out of control" portions of the box set will not, for the most part, be making an appearance at the shindig, many of the comp's artists -- from Buddy Holly to Bobby Darin to Fats Domino -- are the perfect sort of tunes to play for 60- and 70-somethings like my 'rents and their friends and family.

One particular outtake struck a chord with me. I hadn't heard The Viscounts' 1959 cover of "Harlem Nocturne" in a while. It's a fabulously cheesy, blow-slow tune with a distinct back alley feel, making it the perfect song to not play at my parents' party. But I gotta share it with you. Dig the radio promo tacked on to the end of it!

The Viscounts - "Harlem Nocturne"

Old men paying (& paid) tribute

News from the Fork today delivers two items of note. First, Bruce Springsteen's ode to Pete Seeger receives a heaping of praise from one writer I trust, Amanda Petrusich. The album, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, drops tomorrow on CD and in a month on vinyl. I'm picking up the disc tomorrow mostly due to this one nugget from the review (my emphasis added): "The resulting collection happily drowns out echoes of Springsteen's underwhelming recent efforts, and just might be the very best -- and loudest, and most inspiring -- album Bruce has produced in more than a decade." Viva la rock, Bruce! After I've had a chance to digest the album, I'll post a Seeger "original" and Springsteen cover for comparison purposes.

In other news, there's a Leonard Cohen tribute film set to drop in late June that was funded by, gulp, Mel Gibson. I know what you're thinking ... how many Jewish men does Gibson plan to lionize in his lifetime? Wim Wenders calls this film "one of the greatest music films of all time." And of course, Bono and U2 pop up throughout the film, which is part documentary, part concert footage from an Aussie tribute to Cohen that featured Antony & the Johnsons, Nick Cave, Beth Orton, the Wainwrights, Jarvis Cocker, The Handsome Family (?!), Linda Thompson, and others. I suppose those of us in Champaign-Urbana will have to wait until August or September to see the flick.


"Brushes" with "greatness"

A few days ago, M and I were doing some quick shopping at Osco when, lo and behold, I spotted the "Old Man," Illini shooting guard Rich McBride (pictured above on the left next to Dee). This isn't the first time I've run into members of the Illini basketball team at Osco. Matter of fact, I witnessed current LA Laker Brian Cook purchasing laundry detergent there several years ago. It's odd seeing these guys in public, no matter how much I remind myself they are student-athletes, and hence may from time to time have the need to venture into public to purchase things at Osco. But as much as we glamorize our collegiate athletes -- at least those in the "power sports," namely men's football and basketball -- it's still a bit of a shock to the system when we actually run into them on the street. (Especially for me, since I'm rarely on campus, a logical place to run into athletes, or students for that matter. A couple weeks ago on a trip to the Sports Information office I saw fellow Illini Marcus Arnold and Chet "the Jet" Frazier, but didn't find it quite so odd since I was in their neck of the woods.)

Anyway, I also recently completed work on a book that we're doing with Dee Brown. I didn't get the opportunity to meet him, although he is coming to our office this Saturday to do a book signing, which is open to the public. I'll be out of town this weekend, attending (and DJing at) my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. I'm sort of disappointed about missing the event, because I really would like to meet Dee. I did a book with Brian Cook a few years ago, and didn't get to meet him either (although he did autograph a book for me, as I'm sure Dee will do, too). It would be kind of cool to be able to say that I've met a professional athlete in a sort of personal setting. I guess the closest I've come is exchanging e-mails with guys like Cook and Clyde "the Glide" Drexler, who I've also spoken to on the phone on several occasions.

Anyway, crushes aside, how about true romance: the Cardinals? We failed at the sweep, but I'm still happy with the results. Sure, Encarnacion still stinks, my Edmonds prediction was only partially correct, and the ex-Cardinal factor still needs some time to get its legs, but the Cards are now ahead of the Cubs in the standings. And Pujols collected his 1000th hit, a bomb off of Jerome Williams, as well as 6 RBI. Not a bad weekend at all.


The blog as fad?

Here's some interesting number crunching on the popularity of blogs, if you're into that sort of thing. Around 75,000 blogs are created daily. By my estimation, that's a lot. Of those new bloggers, 55% are still posting three months later. This research doesn't make me feel quite so ashamed to be such a (wasteful) creator of blogs. The blogosphere is doubling in size every six months, and I'm doing my part to see to it that that trend continues.

I suppose the real question is, now that people have the power to publicize their journals, will they eventually become bored or annoyed with their "new toy"? At the rate that we're on now, by 2007 there will be approximately 70 million blogs on Earth; by summer of 2007, that number will balloon to 140 million. Doesn't that seem a bit of a stretch? At some point, the phenomenon will have to hit its peak for a variety of reasons. I just wonder how tall that peak is? And ten years from now, will I still be posting on the world wide web? Eh, I doubt it.

(Note to self: store this post in a time capsule.)


I-55 Series, pt. II

Tony La Russa is in his 11th season as Cards skipper. It doesn't seem like he's been around that long, but the dates don't lie. The numbers don't lie, either: over that time frame the Cards have beaten the Cubs 51 times in St. Louis, against only 21 losses. By my math, that's a winning percentage of 71 per cent. Not too shabby. But last year the Cubs finally changed their luck at Busch II, posting a 5-3 record there and a 10-6 record overall against the Cards.

Away from Busch, the Cards-Cubs series has tilted distinctly in the Cubs favor. Over the past five-plus seasons, the Cards have gone 19-30 at Wrigley. Two weekends ago, the Cubs continued the abuse in the Windy City. It wasn't just that Chicago swept St. Louis in a three-game series, it was how poorly the Cardinals played. The pen surrendered leads and game-changing home runs; the defense resembled a Little League team at times; and Albert the Great went 1-9 at the plate. It was a tough series to watch, and possibly their worst performance in a series since the '04 World Series. (On the bright side, maybe this year we're getting our disgraceful performances out of the way in April, instead of October.)

The Cubs are off to a solid start this year, just a half-game behind the first-place Astros. But the Cards are just a half-game off their pace in the tight NL Central standings. If the Cubs are swept this weekend, it will help to silence the bravado of Cubs fans, whose confidence already took a big hit when Derrek Lee broke his wrist earlier this week. (I'm actually saddened a tad by their loss. Derrek Lee in the lineup makes for better TV.)

As for the Cards, this will be a big series for Isringhausen, as he needs to build upon two positive outings and settle some nerves amongst fans. It's probably an even more significant series for Juan Encarnacion, who has but 1 RBI on the season and has stranded around 30 runners on base. I thought Juan would be a bust when we signed him to a ridiculous three-year deal, and sure enough, he's doing his best Tino Martinez impersonation so far, laying a goose egg in box score after box score.

Edmonds is still searching for a break-out series, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be it. He's our only legitimate power threat from the left side -- I was surprised the team failed to address this concern in the offseason -- and hence is crucial to the success of our lineup in the long haul. His bum shoulder is shot up with cortisone, which doesn't inspire great confidence from me considering the team's recent shoulder woes (Rolen) and cortisone failures (Walker). If this turns out to be a chronic problem -- and considering Edmonds isn't likely to see much rest this year it likely will -- we could be in for a diminished season from our Gold Glover. A .475 slugging percentage from Jim doesn't seem too unlikely given his health woes and age. And that just isn't going to get the job done in the four-hole. But Jim has played through nagging injuries throughout his Cardinals career, and done so successfuly. So I'll try to remain optimistic that the streaky slugger will find more silver in his bat.

An interesting side note before I wrap this post up: For the first time in several seasons, the Cards feature no ex-Cubbies on their roster, after trading away Burger King and passing on re-signing Julian Tavarez and Mark Grudzielanek. Laugh all you want, but I'm a stern believer in the ex-Cub curse. This year, the Cubs feature ex-Card Mabes on their bench. I'm not certain if there are any ex-Card curses that I should know about, but we'll find out soon, as Mabes will likely see a lot of time at first base now that Lee is on the DL.

Game times:
Friday - 7:10
Saturday/Sunday - 1:15


This time of year is not just the start of softball/baseball season. With spring also comes the beginning of another cherished sporting season in this household: mini golf. Game 1 took place yesterday on a gorgeous April night. Conditions on the course were fair, wind was minimal, and my putting was atrocious. M took the opener with ease, but there is plenty of time for a rematch.


A new (winning?) season

They'll be plenty of time for me to bitch and moan about the Cardinals as spring turns to summer. (I'm already up in arms about their weak bullpen, the joke of a right fielder they signed to a 3-year contract, the lower payroll cap, and the price of tickets at Busch III.) On a positive note, thanks to the local cable provider dropping Fox Sports Chicago and picking up Fox Sports Midwest -- I made at least 10 phone calls to them pleading to do so -- I can now watch just about every Cardinals game this season. Tonight I'll be watching yesterday afternoon's game, which I taped but couldn't watch last night after work. Since the Cards don't play tonight, M and I are going to catch up on that missed game -- Chris Carpenter's domination of the Pirates. I've managed to steer clear of any giveaways about the game, other than the fact that the Cards won, 4-0.

But Major League Baseball aside, it's also a new season for slow-pitch softball and the company team, the SP Sluggers (yes, a truly inventive and inspiring name). The question, as always, is, "How well will the knees hold up?" Something about the specific movements in baseball -- maybe turning to leave the batter's box as a lefty, or rounding the bases at full speed -- cause the knees to ache. A few seasons ago, I developed a case of tendonitis in my right knee. It really was painful, keeping me out of serious athletic activity for a couple months. I bought one of those cheap knee braces that slip on, and used that while playing basketball. That seemed to do the trick, but when I returned to the diamond, so did the pain.

Over the past year, I developed some minor tendonitis in my left knee. I tried wearing knee supports on both knees while playing basketball, but that didn't work out so well. I just experienced extreme cramping in my upper legs, which I attributed to the braces cutting off the blood flow to some degree. (Oddly enough, the sudden movements in dodgeball didn't seem to bother the knees too much. Maybe that's because I didn't move too suddenly?)

Anyway, we've got a lot of players this year on our co-ed team, so I'm going to fill the role of super-sub, playing only on nights when they need an extra guy. I hope the knees hold up, because I need to do start contributing on the field to make up for my laziness off the field. I'll keep track of my stats for you, including outfield assists. (Hey, you laugh, but I nailed five baserunners a few seasons ago.)

By the way, for some reason my mom saved the stats from my 1984 Little League season spent with the Rangers, which correspond to the above photo. (Not certain why our manager -- or anyone for that matter -- was keeping track of stats for 8 and 9 year-olds.) Enjoy:

AVG: .294
Extra-base hits: 1 (woo-hoo -- a double!)
Strike outs: 10 (I've always been a free swinger)
Runs: 3
Sacrifices: 0
RBI: ??? (apparently the stat heads were too busy tracking sac flies)

As you can tell from the stats and the photo, I was more in the mold of Willie McGee rather than Jack Clark.


NY vs. GW

If you missed the news, Neil Young is releasing an honest-to-god protest record, titled (in a DUH sort of way) Living with War. It's nice of Neil to try and do for protest records exactly what he did for sideburns and flannel. (Take that however you want.) He's also got this movie out that you may want to see. I forgot it was at the local art theater this week; it leaves town tomorrow, so maybe I'll catch it before then.


My inspiration for this blog's title comes courtesy of The Sonic's 1966 cut of the same name. I probably could have used the above image of The Sonics for the blog's title header at the top of the page, as it's a pretty cool photo. But the pic I chose is a tad more humorous. And since I don't want to take myself too seriously in this here space, I went with the photo of '70s Swedish rock band Garvis, who obviously thought of themselves as stylin' dudes.

Anyway, "Maintaining My Cool" is one of the last tunes recorded by the Tacoma quintet, who in their brief career lunged between breakneck, distorted, garage-punk, and the more accessible teen-lovin' frat rock popularized by fellow Northwesterners like The Kingsmen. We're treated to the latter here. But regardless of style, singer/organist Gerry Roslie -- declared by scribes to be the white man's Little Richard -- was a raunchy force to be reckoned with and worthy of such praise.

The Sonics - "Maintaining My Cool"


So, you're probably wondering...

...why I'm starting yet another blog. Fair question, considering this is the fifth blog that I've created in the past two years -- and the other four are in varying states of abandonment. The truth is that I have a problem with intimacy. When my blog and I get to that tender stage where delicate emotions can no longer be tip-toed around -- where something greater than awkward silence is required on the morning after -- I find it's best to sever all ties rather than risk being hurt.

That, and I just become disinterested in myself rather quickly. (Maybe you do, too. In me, I mean.) Boredom is a bitch. It's what causes lulls in my blogging, but it's also what eventually pulls me out of such silences. I don't think it's a coincidence that I usually start these blogs while at work.

Anyway, we may never know why this blog is here, so we can only accept that it is here, and learn to live with it. I plan to write about music (Jukebox Upchuck will lie dormant for a while, or longer) and post some mp3s, but I'm also going to share more of my personal life, both domestic and work-related. That means discussions of baseball and basketball, books that I'm editing, bike rides, barn chasing (?!), 50-year wedding anniversaries, style (and lack thereof), my new iBook G4, animal warfare (from high atop the treehouse), flat-panel TV ogling, donuts, and so much more!

As Dylan Thomas once quipped, "Someone's boring me. I think it's me." Hence, a new blog begins, until I tire of my words once again. Possibly, this time I will not. Anyone want to take bets?