St. Louis: Bad food, bad drinks, bad weather, GREAT baseball

So the trip to St. Louis began with a whimper but ended with a bang, specifically an Albert Pujols game-winning home run. It's hard to judge a city when it's closed, as a good deal of St. Louis was on Sunday/Monday, but I can say for certain that I still don't want to live there, despite some pleasant neighborhoods.

We drove down on Sunday morning and spent the early afternoon traversing by foot through the Central West End, which has some tree-lined private drives with lovely turn-of-the-century brick homes. We found our way to T.S. Eliot's childhood home (pictured here), which was one of the more plaintive homes in the neighborhood. It was a balmy 94 degrees, so walking around wasn't really ideal. But the architecture and detail -- even on the slummier homes -- was gorgeous. We contemplated going to an open house, but instead just grabbed a streetside flier on the 2,000 square foot home, which was selling for less than we anticipated.

We drove to University City and poked around in a few shops, including the 7,000 square foot Vintage Vinyl. While the sign and the store name both would lead you to believe you've reached a vinyl mecca, there was no truth in advertising. Our local used record shop in C-U stocks as much vinyl, and the selection was far from great. I picked up a few back catalog selections for $4.99 or less, but found nothing that excited me. They did have a lot of CDs, but I didn't bother gnawing through the fat after finding next-to-nothing in the vinyl.

We headed back to the hotel -- an Embassy Suites on the river, just a mile up the bank from the Arch -- in the early evening. We debated going to dinner in The Hill, St. Louis' Italian blue-collar neighborhood known for having the best Italian cuisine in the Midwest, but decided against it since our prior research told us that a number of the restaurants would be closed on Sunday. Since we were staying on Laclede's Landing, St. Louis' tourist trap of bars and restaurants located near the sports complexes, we opted to try our luck there. Let's just say that after a long wait, the Old Spaghetti Factory sucked. I take full ownership of the guilt associated with suggesting the place. I had eaten there several (ten maybe?) years ago, and my memory of the place was skewed horribly. Which is not to say that we would have had better luck elsewhere on the Landing. We had a couple beers at a brew-pub there, and M found her selection undrinkable. All in all, it was a poor evening for taste buds, and we headed back to the hotel around 11.

The game wasn't until 3 in the afternoon, so the following morning we decided to drive out to The Hill to get a sense for the area. M found it much the same as Pittsburgh, on a smaller scale. Everything was closed, so we drove over further west to try some frozen custard from the legendary Route 66 hang-out, Ted Drewes. I tried a chocolate "concrete", their term for a cup of custard so thick that you can turn it upside down without worry. (Hmmm, not true if eating it while standing on the tarred parking lot on a 90 degree day.) It was delicious, but I have to say that Jarlings still owns my heart. Post custard, we decided that more walking was in order, so with an hour to kill we ventured to the 79-acre Missouri Botanical Garden, located in the city. M enjoyed the various sculptures as well as the diverse vegetation, and I found the koi in the Japanese Garden to be intimidating -- some of them easily the length of my arm.

We arrived at Busch Stadium an hour-and-a-half prior to game time, and after finding the shortest entrance line we headed down to the field level to snap a photo of Albert and watch the Redbirds take batting practice. The weekend's real surprise awaited us when we sought out our seats. We thought for $90 a ticket we had purchased some fine seats close to the field of play. However, we couldn't locate our section anywhere on the seating diagram on the Cardinals' web site. Turns out, that was for a good reason: we were sitting in one of the many new "party rooms". Each room seats about 30 people outdoors, plus features an air-condition room where you can also watch the game. The bonuses were abundant: 1) we were sitting under the second-deck overhang, in the shade; 2) the rooms were catered with barbecue chicken and pork, hot dogs with the works, nachos, and desert; 3) beer was poured for us by our room's bartender; 4) the food and drinks were free of charge; 5) there was no waiting in line to use the bathroom. By the time you figure that I drank six beers and ate a hot dog, a chicken sandwich, some nachos, and some pretzels, the price tag on the ticket suddenly seems like more of a bargain. Plus, the seats weren't too bad, down the first-base line in the outfield.

All in all, the ballpark is just okay. It looks very similar to many of the other new ballparks that offer a view. Our view from the first base side of office buildings in downtown St. Louis, left a little to be desired. (The view from third base includes the arch.) The stadium's new amenities, including better food, are nice and all, but they don't add to the stadium's aesthetic appeal. I suppose the change of scenery will wow those who weren't that into the old Busch's donut shape, but the old Busch was an excellent place to see a game if for no other reason than the concrete cookie-cutter really played up the "sea of red" and held in the sound, making for a loud and raucous affair.

We didn't have much reason to test out the new acoustics until the 7th inning. Jason Marquis had held the Astros to just one run up until then, despite doing his best to frustrate me (back-to-back hit batsmen that led to the Astros lone run, more flyball outs than groundball outs, a fielding miscue). But Roy Oswalt responded by tossing six shutout innings. We collected seven hits against Oswalt, but couldn't come up with a timely hit with runners on. Pujols had the best swing on Oswalt, absolutely crushing a pitch to dead center on a line, but Willy Taveras snatched it up at the track. In the 7th, we got things going with lefthander Trever Miller into the game in relief of Oswalt. With two outs and a runner on first, John Rodriguez earned a walk in front of Pujols after falling behind in the count 0-2. Phil Garner went to the pen again, lifting the lefty for righthander Chad Qualls, who surrendered a game-winning home run to Albert on a 2-0 count. The towering fly ball barely snuck out, landing in the second row of the left field seats. It was the 11th time this season that Pujols has hit a home run to put the Cardinals in front.

Other observations from the game:

1) Watching Adam Wainwright pitch was a thrill. His stuff looks electric, as they say. According to the gun at the stadium, one of his fastballs hit 99mph, which had to be wrong. He usually throws 93-94. He's going to be filthy next year in the rotation.

2) Izzy actually pitched well in the ninth, although his defense, namely Juan Encarnacion, nearly let him down. Nothing about yesterday's game made me appreciate Encarnacion any more than I did going into the game. In the ninth, he was slow in getting to a Texas Leaguer that dropped in between him and the second baseman, and he dropped a foul fly ball that also should have been an out. He did hit a double earlier in the game, but it was more luck than anything. He beat the pitch into the ground just a few feet from home, but managed to swing hard enough to hit the ball past the third baseman down the line. Hardly a "he knocked the hell out of it" double.

3) La Russa needs to get control of his "hit and run" reflex. He does it as much if not more than any other manager, and over the last week it's backfired on him numerous times -- sometimes with Pujols waiting in the wings. Yesterday, he tried the hit and run with no one out and Gary "I'm hitting .179" Bennett at the plate and So Taguchi on first, and of course Oswalt struck out Bennett and Taguchi was out at second. Yes Bennett is slow and a ground ball probably means a double play anyway, but I'd rather take my chances to that end rather than forcing the situation with a lousy contact hitter and a great pitcher. Save the hit and run for one out, runner on first, with the slap-hitting Aaron Miles at the plate and a good-hitting pitcher (Marquis) on deck.

4) Edmonds was out again yesterday with some sort of stomach problem (varying sources differ on the ailment). I have to say, I don't mind seeing So in center. His defense lacks the occasional wow factor you get with Edmonds, but he makes the routine plays and has been steadier with the glove and arm this year than Edmonds with his bum shoulder. Not to mention, Edmonds is a glorified singles hitter this season. His shoulder has got to be killing him, because his power is zapped. He's collected just two extra-base hits in the month of May and is slugging .379 on the year. Ouch, indeed.

More Cardinals talk later in the week, as Anthony Reyes takes the mound tonight for his second start of the season in place of the injured ace. M and I talked about staying an extra night in St. Louis to watch him pitch. But alas, we've got more trips planned for later in the summer, including a game at PNC in Pittsburgh featuring the A.L.-leading Detroit Tigers (geesh, that sounds weird). So, money needs to be saved for now.


The Freestylin' Bob Dylan

File this under: Uh, weird. Bob Dylan is a DJ for XM Satellite Radio. Apparently, he does a weekly theme show, and so far he's tipped his cap to mothers and baseball. (Not that far of a stretch on the latter, if you remember that a couple summers ago Dylan toured with Willie Nelson, and the venue for each performance was a minor-league ballpark.) Anyway, he incorporated "Mama Said Knock You Out" into his Mother's Day show, and spun this joke into his baseball segment: "If diamonds are a girl's best friend, why do so many girls get mad when you want to go to the ballpark? You tell me."


More on Albert the Great

With all this buzz about Albert Pujols on my blog (hehe), I figure it's time to post an article that looks at what Pujols was like as a juco ballplayer. Southern Mississippi's Sun-Herald caught up with the scout, Dave Karaff, who recommended Pujols to the Cards. The Cards drafted him in the '99 draft, at the bequest of Karaff and his superior. Karaff was fired four years later as the Cards shook up their scouting system, bringing in "numbers guys" to replace some of the aging traditional scouts. Nowadays, Karaff is semi-retired and living on a golf course. He stocks shelves part-time at Wal-Mart for the insurance benefits.

Karaff admits in the story that Pujols was far from a sure thing. He was a bit meaty at the time, especially for a shortstop. Karaff envisioned him moving over to third, and thought that if Al could find some consistency (boy did he ever) he had a chance to be a pretty good hitter.

It's hard to gauge how prep success will carry over to college or the pros, but from his earliest days of organized ball, Albert was a phenomenal hitter. In his first year of organized ball in the States -- his sophomore year of high school -- Albert hit .471 with 11 homers and 32 RBI to lead his team to Missouri's state championship. The following year, opposing coaches wised up and he was walked 55 times in just 88 plate appearances. (He sill homered eight times.) He graduated high school a semester early at the age of 18 -- a long story -- and enrolled at Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. There, he continued to be a man amongst boys, hitting .461 with 22 homers. His old juco coach says, "he had baseball instincts that just couldn't be taught."

It was his strength that impressed Karaff, who thought he had Pujols all to himself until he found out that Tampa Bay was interested in drafting Albert, too. They flew him down for a private workout, but apparently Pujols did not impress the Devil Rays brass. With Tampa Bay passing, Pujols fell all the way to the Cardinals in the 13th round, over 400 picks into the draft. Pujols spent the summer holding out for a better signing bonus -- the Cards offered just $10,000, and he ended up getting $60,000 -- and played for a collegiate summer league team in Kansas. His coach there raved about him: "He was so aware of everything -- how to hit certain kinds of pitchers, how to run the bases, how to play every situation. He came to us with a purpose in mind. He had a goal in mind, and he wasn't distracted from it."

Albert made short work of the minor leagues, advancing from single-A to triple-A in one season. (And of course, he played in Peoria, Ill., for a bulk of that time, and I didn't go see him.) He continued to display an unparalleled work ethic in his one season in the minors. Cardinals minor-league hitting instructor Mitchell Page remembers: "He wasn't happy hitting .330 or .340 in A ball, so I gave him all the work he wanted." His manager at low-A Peoria, Tom Lawless, concurs: "He was a very good student. He worked hard and wanted to learn. ... He was very professional in the way he went about his business." His play in Peoria was drawing the eye of opposing scouts, too. In '99, the Cardinals made a mid-season deal to acquire Padres catcher Carlos Hernandez, who ended up being only a half-season rental as he was forced to retire at the end of the season due to a bad back. (Side note: Hernandez caught Ankiel's famous playoff game against Atlanta in which the hurler imploded, turning into "Wild Thing". Some of the blame was later placed on Hernandez's bad back, and his inability to get to a couple high pitches that sailed to the backstop.) Anyway, the Padres wanted either Pujols or outfield prospect Ben Johnson, and the Cards convinced them to take the latter in exchange.

Pujols was leaving a legacy behind at each stage of his development, in part because of his mammoth home run blasts. After hitting memorable home runs in high school and college, Albert hit a ball over the left field fence in Peoria that carried to the roof of the team's dressing room -- well beyond the outfield wall. In 109 games at Peoria, Pujols hit .324 with 17 homers and 84 RBI, striking out just 37 times. That earned him a mid-season promotion to high-A, where he remained for 21 games before getting the call to triple-A Memphis for the team's playoff run. In 11 postseason games, he hit .302, capping off his time there with a 13th-inning, pennant-winning home run.

That got him some at-bats in the Arizona Fall League, an invite to the Cards' spring training camp, and (thanks to Bobby Bonilla's bum knee) a roster spot on the Cards opening day roster in 2001. The rest is "historic history". Anyway, I've blabbed on long enough in defense of Al. The dude is a natural-born hitter, just like Donnie Baseball and Big Papi and Joltin' Joe. The only thing missing is a kick-ass nickname.


More discussion on music intelligence software

I've raved about how cool Pandora is in the past. My "Hawkwind" station has produced such gems as Gong, Ghost, Acid Mothers Temple, Grupa 220, and the like. A co-worker who's in love with Pandora sent me the following e-mail today: "Only Pandora could go directly from Dinosaur Jr. to Sebadoh to Jason Loewenstein." If you're slow on the uptake, consider this a nudge. With some fine tuning from you, Pandora can work wonders. Pitchfork ran a lengthy article about Pandora and several of its related brethren, which is well worth reading if you're interested in the history of such software and what its impact may be down the road.


Made to look a fool

As the Cardinals head to San Fran to take on Barry Bonds and the Giants at ROBBING YOU BLIND AND HANDING OVER YOUR PHONE RECORDS TO THE GOVERNMENT PARK, I'm ready to watch three nights of baseball with the TV on mute. It's to the point where the discussion revolving around Bonds has stolen the spotlight from worthy stories around the league, not to mention worthy stories on Bonds' own team. Even on days when his teammates deserve to be the entire story (which if you've been watching the Giants this year is most days), Bonds is still the focus. For example, yesterday, Giants pitching phenom Matt Cain threw a one-hitter against the A's, yet a lot of the post-game coverage focused on Bonds (he had two hits in the game, but no homers) and his upcoming series against Pujols and the Cardinals. Cain has underperformed this year to say the least, and this should have been a wonderful coming-out party for him. Instead, he became an asterisk to Bonds. Figures. I went through this all with McGwire in '98; I hated it then, and I hate it still today.

Anyway, I strongly dislike Bonds, partly because he's become a media whore for all the wrong reasons, and party because he zapped what remaining innocence baseball possessed for me by proving steroids to be true. As a writer for my college paper in 1998, I did a column defending Mark McGwire's andro usage, stating that the steroid-like drug may have helped to keep McGwire healthy (which it certainly did), but it didn't help him hit hanging breaking balls 450 feet (which it certainly did). I was naive to just how serious a drug problem baseball had, and I was protective of my bulky, broad-shouldered, red-headed basher of baseballs. In retrospect, drugs (steroids or otherwise; legal or illegal) certainly saved McGwire's career. After near career-ending injuries sidelined McGwire for the majority of three seasons -- 1993-95 -- he came back with a vengeance in 1996, hitting 52 homers in 130 games. We all know what happened after that: 193 home runs in just three seasons. That rebound wasn't simply a broken man putting the pieces back together, it was a broken man magically putting the pieces back together to resurface better than ever. It's true that McGwire learned a lot while on the DL all that time -- like how to be mentally prepared (thanks in part to counseling he received for a divorce), and how to use video tape to his advantage -- but that can't solely account for his bizarre upswing in overall production. The muscle helped him hit almost as many homers in three seasons as he did in his first six.

McGwire's denial of wrongdoing -- or simply a refusal to admit -- will probably keep him on the fence with voters come next year's Hall of Fame voting. (It's McGwire's first year on the ballot, with two clean-bill-of-health sure-things in Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken working against him.) But as far as I'm concerned, by not being man enough to say something -- anything -- definitive when it counted, Mark is a loser. He's tainted the '98 season for me, and considering that I was there for his 62nd, 69th, and 70th home runs that year (as well as a few earlier ones), I feel a bit ashamed that I once held those ticket stubs in reverence. I feel ashamed for being made a fool.

All this is just an admission on my behalf. Feels good to get it out in the open. And it feels even better that I've now got a new hometown hero to root for in Albert Pujols, a guy that's as straight as an arrow. When it comes to hand-to-eye coordination, bat speed, the brains to go with the brawn, and the perfect swing, I'll stand by Pujols on his quest to become the greatest hitter of the past 50 years. He's well on his way.


After receiving some challenging comments from Listmaker on this post, I'm going to take a stab at visually defending Al Pujols re: steroids. Granted, I'm no expert, and I don't claim that you can tell with certainty just by looking that someone is on the juice. That said, Pujols has remained consistent in his body type and size throughout his pro career. Here's the visual proof. First, we start with a given. This is what a steroid user looks like (click on image for close up):

Note the biceps and shoulders. Man, that is one ugly dude.

Okay no here's Pujols in 2000, playing in the minor leagues.

And here's a good shot of him in spring training 2004, prior to the start of the season. Note the arms. They don't look particularly toned, nor do his shoulders. Plus, he doesn't look any larger than he did in 2000.

Finally, here's Al during the 2005 playoffs, holding his son. Again, he looks the same as he did two seasons prior. And again, he doesn't look chiseled in the least, except for those stunning forearms. (But hey, I hear you get those from swinging a bat.)

So, what say you now?


Mixed Up: My girlfriend is a witch!

I love mix tapes (er, CDs) as much as -- but not more than -- I love chocolate-peanut butter ice cream from Cold Stone. Anybody who received my three-volume Best of 2005 mix will attest to that. (And M can attest to the ice cream.) But I don't just mean making them. I love receiving them, too. As of late I've received a couple good ones, which are two more than I received in the previous year. Why don't people make mixes anymore? Or maybe more precisely, why don't people make me mixes anymore? If ya'll think I'm just gonna snub my nose at your mix, you got another thing coming. Just because I write about a lot of obscure music doesn't mean I won't enjoy the less-obscure music you may be diggin' on. Matter of fact, I'll probably really appreciate it, because I don't get a chance to hear a lot of what's passed off as "more popular" indie music. That's the downfall of blowing most of my cash on obscure stuff.

Harman made me a great mix recently. It is full of a lot of obscure artists, but that's not entirely why I've been wearing it out. It also features a lot of great old soul, the sort of thing I just don't listen to nearly enough. Roy Hamilton's 1961 version of "You Can Have Her" is fucking tops. (And on an eerie note, another mix I listened to recently and will write about down the road featured Waylon Jennings' version of the same song.) I know nothing about Helene Smith (pictured), but the cut here from the Eccentric Soul compilation, "I Am Controlled By Your Love", is spectacular. The cut is a typical '60s soul ballad drenched in a haze of reverb. W-O-W. Harman also added Eddie Kendricks (of Temptations fame) and Syreeta, reminding me that I've spent far too much time neglecting the '70s soul scene. I need a helper here. Anyone want to make some recommendations to that end? (Harman, I'm ready for a second mix.)

Harman knows his way around Black music in general, and this untitled mix features plenty of funk and dub to prove it. Bootsy Collins' "I'd Rather Be with You" is proof that Bootsy can never get enough credit. One of the stranger cuts on the disc comes courtesy of Bohannon, who earned some dough in the '70s working for Stevie Wonder and recording disco tracks. His song "Save Their Souls" is a pseudo-spiritual nod to Funakdelic. Jamaican rocksteady legend Ken Boothe also makes an appearance. I'd never heard Boothe despite being familiar with his name. Harman included Boothe's remake of the ska hit "Artibella", which Boothe co-wrote and originally recorded with Stranger Cole. For a little world flavor, Harman added a track from Ethiopian songwriter Mulatu Astatge, whose blend of latin music with funk and jazz ends up somewhere in the ballpark of Tortoise, if we're searching out modern comparisons. The Black portion of the mix is capped off with a rare dub cut from Wackie's Rhythm Force, the moniker Lloyd "Bullwackies" Barnes worked under in the '70s and early '80s.

There's also some excellent rock included here. The mix begins with "Drug Song" by Janko Nilovic, a composer born in Montenegro who moved to Paris in the '60s. His dirty, funky, instrumental rocker pipes in some flute, and would sound right at home on Andy Votel's Vertigo Mixed, one of the best compilations of '70s prog on the planet. Harman also introduced me to another songwriter I was unfamiliar with, Travis Wammack, a guitarist from Memphis who released his first record at the age of 12 (no shit!). The fact that the song included here, "Scratchy", was a hit in 1964 only proves how fucking lame the music biz is now. Sounding like the bastard child of Duane Eddy and Link Wray, Wammack was quite the accomplished guitar player in the instrumental rock and roll vein. "Scratchy" is just fucking ridiculous, however, featuring a brief, completely nonsensical vocal break that's played forward, then looped backward -- completely absurd.

I was even more stoked about the rock portion of the mix after research on October Country -- whose tune "My Girlfriend Is a Witch" is destined to be a cult classic in my collection -- turned up the name Michael Lloyd. Seems L.A. legend Kim Fowley took Lloyd under his wing at the age of 13 (no shit again!), and nursed him along until Floyd later penned this brilliant tune. Floyd went on to join West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, whom I absolutely love.

Overall, there's some stuff on here I was already familiar with (and enjoy), like Jennifer Gentle, The Millennium, Vashti Bunyan, and The Human League (!), but a majority of Harman's mix was news to my ears. Like with any great mix, I've been turned on to a lot of new artists. So for that, I say thanks! Here's a selection of tunes for your listening pleasure.

October Country - "My Girlfriend Is a Witch"
Travis Wammack - "Scratchy"
Syreeta - "I Love Every Little Thing About You"
Helene Smith - "I Am Controlled By Your Love"


The Redbirds versus the real birds

There's always something new to annoy me at work. I finally get a big break -- a legitimate, nationally-known writer whom I respect is interested in working with us on a book idea that I came up with. But, of course, what he wants to be paid for an advance is far more than I'm able to offer. It's not that he's asking for something outrageous by normal publishing house standards, just by ours.

On top of that disappointment, some birds have nested above my office window, and their babies are now chirping 24-7. I don't mean outside my office window. I mean directly above my office window, inside the building. We work in an old converted warehouse space, and apparently some birds have figured a way through the brick exterior and have taken a liking to my ceiling. They're above the ceiling tiles and insulation, nesting directly on top of my window frame. In short, I can hear them as clearly as day, and they're driving me up the fucking wall. So, I've had to relocate to another office upstairs to find some peace and quiet. (Good thing I lobbied for that laptop during my review.)

Anyway, work sucks right now. Big time.

But all's not gloom and doom in The Noiseboy's world. For starters, my attempts to resuscitate my long-distance running hobby have proven to be a success. I'm not anywhere near my high school self, but I'm doing better than I expected. I've made a goal this summer to get my ass in better shape. I'm hoping to get up to 25 miles on the bike, which would be about twice as long as I averaged last summer. And I'd like to get my 2-mile run down to 20 minutes. (Well, in truth, I'd like to get it up to 2 miles, period.)

The weather has sucked as of late -- lots of rain to balance out the gorgeous April weather we enjoyed, I suppose. Softball was rained out this week, so no update there. My batting average is still frozen at .500, gosh darn it. Basketball was rained out as well, although it's supposed to be gorgeous this Sunday so I suspect the high tops will make an appearance. Hopefully my jump shot will feel like showing up as well.

Athletics aside, the best news I've saved for last: today marks M and I's three-year anniversary. I've got something fun planned for tonight, and in a couple weeks we're going to down to the new Busch Stadium to celebrate. We took our first trip together down to the old Busch Stadium almost three years to that date. It was sort of our "coming out" party, in many ways.

I'm excited to see some live baseball. Along with the new ballpark, there's a new product on the field and hopefully some new food at the vendors. To a certain degree, there's a new us, too. Sure, we're a replica of the old us; we've carried over some of our old traits into Year Four. But we've also improved upon the product we're running out to the field on a daily basis. I hope the new Busch Stadium can boast similar results.


What does Pepsi, Trio, and soccer have in common?

See for yourself. Deadspin doesn't care much for this, but I found it fucking hilarious. I mean, they're covering Trio's "Da Da Da". God I love foreign commercials. (This is a foreign commercial, right?) Maybe Coke could try a spinoff using Trio's "Sunday You Need Love". Now that would be worth watching.

My "DJ name"

I've written before about why I adopted the nickname The Noiseboy. I like it, and it's not going anywhere. But I did stumble upon this quiz online, which produced an interesting result:

Quiz Me
Doug E. Fresh spins tunes as
DJ Divine Slayer

Get your dj name @ Quiz Me

Obviously, I told the quiz my name was "Doug E. Fresh", cause, like, it should be. When I re-took the quiz and told it my name was simply Doug, I got "DJ Hell-Bent Fluff". Doug + my last name produced "DJ Melodious Bootie". Yeah, no shit. Douglas netted me "DJ Ambient Record", though, so that's cool. Maybe I could adapt that to "DJ Music for Airports". Word.


This week on Younger Than Yesterday

This week's episode of Younger Than Yesterday finds another guest in the studio. I gotta say, I'm digging having guests on the radio show. It sure takes a lot of pressure off of me, especially on the weeks that I don't feel like coming up with an interesting theme. Truth be told, it seems people enjoy the weeks that I don't plan anything -- simply grab some CDs off the shelf an hour before the show -- as much as the weeks that I spend several hours selecting songs or fine-tuning a theme. But I guess I enjoy the latter weeks more, even if ya'll don't.

Anyway, my partner DF is out of town for a couple weeks, so I'm manning the boards by my lonesome. Except for this week, of course, which finds my friend Jonathan V. in the studio with me. (Maybe I'll call him Jonnie V. on the air. Every good DJ needs a nickname.) We've decided to do a freak-folk/Americana/acoustic blues/outlaw country & western set. Or something along those lines. I've been wanting to do a set of such material for a few months, and since Jonathan is such a big fan of the genre(s), this worked out perfectly. Expect to hear everything from Townes to Fahey to Blind Willie. And Michael Hurley, too.

You may not be familiar with Hurley, but that's probably only because you didn't know you were. Ms. Cat Power is a big fan, having covered two of his songs -- "Sweedeedee" on The Covers Record (his version is way better) and "Werewolf" on You Are Free (her version is actually pretty good by comparison). Hurley also has ties to The Holy Modal Rounders, who borrowed several of his songs on their earlier records. He's enjoying a minor comeback as of late, thanks in no small part to artists like Cat Power and Devendra Banhart, who is the curator of a small summer festival in Los Angeles and has asked the 64 year-old Hurley to play at it. (Anyone wanna pay for my plane fare?)

Hurley's guitar playing is simple, almost to the point of boredom, and his tunes are often melancholy and odd in nature. But his best songs possess an edgy electricity that's quite disarming, similar to Chan Marshall. Here's the aforementioned "Werewolf", taken from his first recordings in 1964 for Folkways (from the Blueberry Wine compilation). Enjoy.

Michael Hurley - "Werewolf"


Feeling Six Feet Under

So I just finished watching the final episode of Six Feet Under, and I can safely say I've never felt more depressed after viewing a television show than I do now. Not an agonizing sort of depression, but definitely pensive and withdrawn. Often with TV dramas, the viewer is drawn to one or two characters and their plight. But with 6FU, I became emotionally invested in almost all of the characters for lengthy periods of time. And there are a LOT of characters in this show. Hence, I was left contemplating the pain, sorrow, and to some degree satisfaction of several characters. That's a lot of burden.

I'm not going to spoil anything if you've never watched the show -- and much thanks to those who resisted the temptation to spoil things for me over the past couple years -- but I do want to discuss the ending in vague terms. I thought the choice during the final episode to take the viewer into the future to show how the lives of key characters turned out was a poor one. In the past I've left other series or movies wanting to be led in a direction, to have the question answered ... "How did this situation turn out?" But with this show, I did not have that urge. Part of the show's appeal was that it led the viewer in such drastic and unpredictable directions. I would have been happier without having a big red bow tied on the season's final episode. The imagery of Claire driving off into the sunset in her shiny new Prius was enough for me; it gave me the sort of closure I expected, furthering the message that life is unpredictable, which permeated each episode's opening scene.

Still, one minor flaw aside, this was an exceptionally powerful TV series, the likes of which I doubt I'll ever see again. Amazing acting performances; characters with bottomless pits of depth; well-written scripts that balanced the emotionally charged scenes with lighthearted, humorous moments of relief; and plot twists that tugged at the essence of human nature. If you haven't watched it yet, don't be stupid. Start with season one and be ready to devote several days of your life to the TV screen. In this one case, I can say it was worth it.


Value Over Regular Person

Many thanks to InsideSTL.com for reminding me that it's all about perspective, especially when considering the struggles of young Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.

In other news, my hamstrings are feeling frisky once again, so I suspect I'll be back in the Sluggers lineup come Monday night, trying to improve upon my .500 average and the team's 0-3 record. Wish us luck.


Maybe not murder, but definitely manslaughter

As promised, here's a few words on Yo La Tengo's latest release, Yo La Tengo Is Murdering the Classics, which I think is only available from their web site. (At least, that's where I ordered my copy when the local record shop had no listing for it.) The premise of the disc, in case you missed my last post on it, is a collection of spontaneous covers Yo La performed live on WFMU, as part of the radio station's annual fundraising drive. They've been doing this every year since 1997, and this album collects tunes from 1997-2003.

The disc is every bit the novelty item I thought it would be, so I wasn't let down by the fact that some of the covers are, uh, suspect at best. The covers range from bizarre (Yoko Ono, Yes) to predictable (Modern Lovers, Velvet Underground, Replacements) to silly ("The Hokey Pokey," "Oh Bondage, Up Yours!"), and even cover some of the "classics" (Bachman Turner Overdrive and Billy Joel, anyone?). The performances are all over the map, although it's clear that three or fours years into this venture they decided it would at least be beneficial to Google the lyrics before playing the song. They're at their best when they stray furthest from their normal sound, as on "Meet the Mets" (the NY Mets old theme song), T. Rex's "20th Century Boy" (with James McNew on lead vocals!), '70s pop standard "Rock the Boat," and R&B classic "Tighten Up," originally recorded by Archie Bell and the Drells in '68. I mean, they're cover of The Stooges' "Raw Power" is fine, it's just a bit of a yawner.

I've selected "Tighten Up" for your listening pleasure. If you're not familiar with it already, do listen to the original first. What I love about Yo La's cover is that they distill the song down to its fundamental core, the shout-out solo sections where Archie demands specific band members to "tighten up". It's a standard call-and-response R&B move, one that James Brown used to great effect on many of his recordings. To here Ira demand Georgia to "tighten up" on the drums is, well, funny, because it's so far out of their natural element. (FYI, that's Lois Maffeo and Bruce Bennett that Ira refers to in the song.) So, if you like witnessing a fish out of water, then you'll probably find a good deal of this album to be charming.

Archie Bell & the Drells - "Tighten Up"

Yo La Tengo - "Tighten Up"

Do click on the cover art up top to read the individual panels.

Another form of bird flu

This one is a most disturbing strain. It appears that my beloved Redbirds seem to catch an infection every time they play a team with an above-.500 record. Against the Marlins, Nationals, and Pirates (i.e. those who suck), we're 11-2 on the season. Against everyone else, we're 10-11. Against the NL Central, we're 11-11. That's not going to cut it.

If you follow the fingers that point, they all lead to the offense. Pitching hasn't been a problem, or so the media will lead you to believe. Our 3.51 ERA tops the NL, and our bullpen ERA is easily the best at 2.53, thanks mostly to the contributions of some surprising folks (Wainwright and Hancock heading the list).

But that sparkling ERA overlooks the struggles of our closer, Izzy, who has been doing his best impersonation of the Kansas City Royals pitching staff. Last night -- after Albert the Great hit yet another game-winning home run to give us a 4-2 lead -- Izzy came into the game in the top of the ninth to attempt the save. Izzy hasn't been getting much work lately, cause we've either been losing or blowing out our opponents. In a week-and-a-half, he had made just two appearances, both of them scoreless frames to lower his once astronomical ERA to 5.23. But as any Cardinal fan knows, scoreless frames from Izzy can be deceiving. Sure enough, he allowed SIX baserunners -- four of them on walks -- in both outings combined. Meaning, he had the bases loaded each trip out, but somehow snuck out of harm's way.

Last night was a breath of fresh air, however. Izzy actually struck out the side, setting down the Rockies (including Todd Helton) in order. I honestly didn't think I'd see that happen this entire season. But one good outing does not wipe the chalkboard clean. Even with the three Ks from last night's game, Izzy has now walked 11 batters this year to only 9 strikeouts. That's not a ratio that's going to produce the desired results, especially from a guy you hope is your stopper. So, even if the rest of our pen maintains their valiant effort, I suspect we'll still see our share of woes come the ninth inning if Izzy doesn't get straightened out soon.

As for that struggling offense, as reported by Viva El Birdos, we're actually keeping pace with last year's squad (OB% +3 points; SLG% -5 points; HR even). The problem is that we've done our damage against those weaker teams. Against the better pitching staffs, our bats go silent. The facts are the facts: despite hitting fairly well as of late, Rolen hasn't had an RBI in 21 games; Edmonds has been driving in runs, but he's not getting on base OR slugging at anywhere near his career clip; despite hitting three solo home runs in back-to-back-to-back games a little over a week ago, Encarnacion still only has 12 RBI on the year (which projects to just 59 for the season); Molina has been a big old zero with the bat in his hands (.438 OPS!); and our No. 2 hitters this year (that all too important slot right ahead of Albert) are getting on base a lousy 30 percent of the time thanks to just 8 walks.

So, the offense does indeed need a kick in the rear, and I doubt that's going to come from recently called up outfielder Larry Bigbie, who at his best is like Encarnacion with a bit more plate discipline. But things will improve over the next month. Tony appears to have finally "gotten it" concerning the No. 2 hole, allowing Luna and J-Rod the bulk of at-bats there recently. And they've responded by getting on base at a .410 clip. I suspect that Rolen is just in one of those unlucky RBI slumps, where the hits just aren't falling with runners on. He's swinging the bat well, especially considering he's coming off of shoulder surgery. There's two problems addressed.

However, Edmonds (and his bum shoulder) truly have me worried. He's to the point where surgery is the only answer, and since that's not an option, he's going to be playing with pain the entire season. At his advanced age, I just don't see him having a productive season with the bat -- at least not what we've become accustomed to. To make up for his step backward (and the utter lack of production we're seeing from the catcher's spot in the order), we need to trade for a legitimate left fielder. Since Tony doesn't seem convinced that J-Rod can play every day (despite an .859 OPS in 194 career at-bats), we need to acquire an everyday left fielder that will produce in the No. 2 slot. That puts J-Rod and So on the bench or platooning with Encarnacion (who has a new 3-year contract to protect him) in right. I'm okay with that option, as it strengthens our bench.

But who to get? Without looking up contract details, I'd consider Seattle's Raul Ibanez, who is being paid $5 mil this year, is getting on base at a .350 clip, and hitting for power. He's 33, but performing to his career norms. If he's not to our liking, what about the recently acquired Brad Wilkerson, who is turning it on after a bust of an April? He's in his prime, knows how to get on base, has some pop in his bat, and is a million bucks cheaper than Ibanez. He'll also be harder to get, however, as the Rangers are in the divisional race. So, let's strike him from the list. The Twins sure do stink this year, so what about trading for the pricier ($6.5 mil) Shannon Stewart? He doesn't hit for much power anymore, but he still gets on base at a .350 pace and makes good contact. At 32, he probably has a few good years left in him.

It's not in the Redbirds nature to make a trade this early in the season. I doubt anything will happen before July, to be honest. But the next month-plus of the season will be a telling time for us: 31 of our next 43 games are against teams that currently have winning records. We'll see if the trend continues...


Bird Flu strikes southern Florida

Okay, it's no laughing matter considering all the recent reports of how unprepared we are for the real thing. (See M ... I'm sensitive to the issue.) But when a co-worker forwarded me this photo with the attached message, "how tragic," I couldn't help but crack up. A little humor never hurt anyone.


50 cents a pack: Lenn Sakata

Welcome to the first installment of a new series dedicated to my favorite baseball cards from my youth. Ah, the days when a pack of cards cost two quarters, and you even got a stick of incredibly stale, flavorless, pink gum to boot. Here we go...

At least one reader of my blog will appreciate my first selection: bespectacled, puny, utility infielder Lenn Sakata. Here's his 1984 Topps card, No. 578 in the set. As a kid, I gravitated toward Sakata -- or rather his card -- because there weren't really any other Major Leaguers who seemed more foreign to me. Sure, baseball had plenty of Latin players at that time, but for some reason they weren't as strange as Sakata. As an 8 year-old, I didn't know any better: I thought Sakata was Japanese. (We didn't have any Asian population to speak of in my podunk Illinois town.) But little did I know, Sakata was not Asian; no, he was Hawaiian, born in Honolulu. (We didn't have any Hawaiian folks, either.)

Anyway, ethnicity aside, Sakata was a fairly pathetic infielder. Sure enough, he's earned a spot on Futility Infielder's Wall of Fame. Sakata sucked at the plate, to put it mildly. He hit below the Mendoza Line his first two years in the pros with the Brewers before going 7-for-14 for the Brew Crew in '79. That earned him a trade to Earl Weaver's O's, where he enjoyed his glory days until he became a free agent following the '85 season. He signed with the A's for $75K and hit a whopping .353 in 34 at-bats, which garnered him a $50K raise from the Yankees the following season. (Yes, even in the mid-'80s the Yanks were over-spending.) He retired following the '87 season, a .230 career hitter.

Sakata was truly unspectacular at just about everything. For a light-hitting middle infielder, he didn't draw enough walks. Nor was he particularly adept on the bases, owning a modest career success rate of 63% on stolen base attempts. He was a slightly below-average fielder, steady with the glove but lacking range. The silver lining: he was a career .333 pinch-hitter, with a robust .583 slugging percentage. (Of course, that was in the tiny sample size of 24 at-bats.)

I really only remember Sakata as an Oriole. I didn't follow the American League much as a kid -- hell, I still don't -- so my memories of him are limited to what I could learn from reading the backs of baseball cards, a common pastime amongst my friends. We liked to ask multiple choice trivia questions like, "In Canseco's rookie season of 1986, did he strike out A) 100 times; B) 140 times; or C) 175 times?" (Answer: C) Glancing at the back of Sakata's '84 card, I'm reminded of the good old days of baseball cards, when the manufacturers put ultimately useless nuggets of information on the card in addition to a player's stats. For example, in Sakata's case we learn that Lenn "clouted a 1st-inning homer at New York, 6-27-83." Do a little research, and you'll learn why they had to use such powerful language as "clouted." The homer was a solo shot; and the O's lost the game, 4-3. And this was one of Sakata's highlights, a meaningless solo home run.

Ah, but wait, the card also tells us of the 10th-inning, 3-run homer he hit on August 24, 1983. Now we're getting somewhere. Probably a game-winner, right? Yup. But there's more to the story. Click the above link to the Wall of Fame for the complete recap. But in short, Sakata entered the game against the Yankees as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning, then scored the tying run in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to 10th inning. Due to manager Joe Altobelli using up most of his roster to push the game to extra innings, Sakata had to move from second base to catcher -- the only time in his career he appeared behind the plate. (As part of the defensive realignment, left fielder John Lowenstein had to come in to play second, a position he hadn't played in seven seasons. Gary Roenicke, also a regular outfielder, was asked to play third.) You still with me? Good. I'll let Futility Infielder pick it up from here:

The makeshift infield wasn't much help as [Orioles] pitcher Tim Stoddard surrendered a leadoff homer to Jays DH Cliff Johnson and then a single to Barry Bonnell. Lefty Tippy Martinez entered the game in relief of Stoddard and promptly picked off Bonnell, who had taken a big lead against the inexperienced catcher [Sakata]. Dave Collins drew a walk from Martinez, and in preparing to challenge Sakata's arm, was picked off by Martinez as well. Willie Upshaw then beat out a single to Lowenstein. Yet again, Martinez picked off the runner, ending one of the most bizarre half-innings in major-league history. But the game wasn't over yet. Some guy named Ripken led off the Oriole 10th with a homer, tying the score.

A few batters later, Sakata came up with two outs and two on and promptly deposited a Randy Moffitt pitch into the stands, giving the O's the 7-4 win. It was one of just three homers he hit that entire season, but it was a fairly significant one as it kept the O's a half-game back of first-place Milwaukee, a game in front of the Tigers, two games up on the Blue Jays, and three games in front of the Yanks in a tight AL East race. The O's had posted a 10-12 record in August up until that game. From that point on, however, they went 29-12 to win their division by six games, then breezed through the playoffs to win the World Series. So, in a small way, you can argue that Lenn Sakata played a pretty big role in the O's fortunes that year.

Okay, enough about Lenn Sakata for one day, eh?

Go fish

It's too easy to poke fun at GW, but I still love to do so since he practically begs for it. GW was recently asked for his favorite and least favorite moments from his presidency, and his reply was typical. (And for once, I concur!)

Worst moment: 9/11 (a long rambling answer provided)

Best moment (with my commentary provided in italics): "The best moment was -- you know, I've had a lot of great moments. Bicyclin' with them Chinese sure was fun. I don't know, it's hard to characterize the great moments. I mean, they were great and all. They've all been busy moments, by the way. Busy, like a beaver with his three wood. I would say the best moment was when I caught a seven-and-a-half pound large-mouth bass on my lake. Then we threw it back, cause, you know, you can't trust that dirty water."

Ah, yes. That was indeed the bright spot of GW's presidency.


Sad news for Go-Betweens fans

Grant McLennan passed away in his sleep on Saturday at the age of 48. He was the co-founder of Australian indie pop group The Go-Betweens, who always seemed on the cusp of breaking through to the mainstream in the '80s. McLennan paired with Robert Forster -- who was the Lennon to McLennan's McCartney -- to forge one of the better songwriting duo's of the past three decades. Their lyrics were often esoteric and odd, their melodies exquisitely crafted, and their guitars jangly. The group went on hiatus after the release of their sixth record, 16 Lovers Lane, in 1988, a decade or so after forming. I'd recommend their entire catalogue, although the best place to start is probably with their greatest hits comp, Bellavista Terrace, which unfortunately doesn't include their first single, "Lee Remick" b/w "Karen", which has to go down as one of the best opening statements in indie pop's history. Maybe I'll post about that single at some point down the road. For more on the band, see this post I wrote in August.

I got into The Go-Betweens several years ago thanks to a long-distance friend, Tom, who thought that no fan of Belle & Sebastian could resist The Go-Betweens. He was right, at least in my case. Tom and I met up in Chicago to catch the reformed Go-Betweens (just Robert and Grant) in 1999 (maybe?), and I was floored by their performance. They went on to release four records in the new millennium, including a live disc in January of this year. Their resurgence was fueled in part by admirers Sleater-Kinney, who backed the band on their 2000 album, The Friends of Rachel Worth. Here's a couple Grant McLennan-penned tunes to enjoy.

The Go-Betweens - "Right Here" (from 1987's Tallulah)

The Go-Betweens - "Going Blind" (from Rachel Worth)


Working for the weekend

Or, in my case, not working for the weekend. Friday afternoons are always tough to slog through at work, especially when you've got the new Yo La Tengo disc, Murdering the Classics, blaring through the laptop's puny speakers. I'll post a highlight or two from it next week.

A few random notes to touch on:

1) I'm 2-for-4 on the young softball season, but the SP Sluggers are 0-2. Actually, we've been murdered so far, losing by a combined 26 runs in two games! That explains why I've only been to the plate four times in two games, despite being the leadoff hitter. (Yikes!) I do have a double and a run scored to my credit, though. I scored our only run in our second game. Needless to say, softball practice is in our team's immediate future.

2) The Cards travel to Miami this weekend for a series against the Marlins. Hopefully we can break our four-game losing streak. We haven't had one of those in a loooooong while. Free Adam Wainwright!

3) Check this tidbit out: Schaumburg assigned the contract of right-handed pitcher Nigel Thatch to Fullerton of the Golden Baseball League in exchange for 1 pallet (60 cases) of Budweiser beer. I couldn't make this up if I tried. (Scroll down to May 1.) Gotta love independent league baseball -- keepin' it real! We don't need no stinkin' steroids. Now, beer, on the other hand...

4) The other day I ran across a small stash of baseball cards from my youth that I had set aside because they were some of my favorite (named) players. I'm gonna scan a few of them in and share them with you. They're too awesome to keep to myself.


Something good from Albuquerque not named The Shins?

Oh how I've been longing for a new indie pop sensation to bully a path into my headphones, and lo and behold today it happened. Meet Beirut, a 19 year-old kid from Albuquerque who is sure to find fans among the Jens Lekman set. His record is set to drop on Tuesday on Ba Da Bing! (who knew they were still a label?), and has been generating a ton of buzz via the blogs. The Lekman comparison is only partially on, but is accurate in terms of preferred instrumentation: There are no guitars on his album, but plenty of ukuleles, mandolins, cellos, glockenspiels, accordions, horns, and the like. He's also been compared to Neutral Milk Hotel, because his music has that rustic, rag-tag collective feel, and because Jeremy Barnes (of NMH fame) is on board here. But my favorite description yet is "a Balkan Magnetic Fields" -- also not entirely accurate, but wildly fascinating nonetheless.

Listen and like.

Beirut - "Postcards from Italy"


What European city do I belong in?

According to this six-question survey, I belong in Paris.

You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris. You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Uh, I beg to differ. Maybe the quiz should have asked me more than six questions. I'm guessing I got Paris instead of, oh, Dublin or London (which I'd much rather reside in), because I answered "culture" instead of "beer" for No. 2.

But wait, when I changed the answer for No. 2, I still ended up with Paris. Let's see what happens when I change No. 3 from "eclectic" to "introverted". Aha! Now I belong in Amersterdam.

A little old fashioned, a little modern -- you're the best of both worlds. And so is Amsterdam. Whether you want to be a squatter graffiti artist or a great novelist, Amsterdam has all that you want in Europe (in one small city).

Much better.

Must-see TV

If you, like I, missed former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's appearance on The Daily Show, do check it out. Albright was invited to the White House -- along with several other former big-wigs -- to have some face time with the President. You can probably guess how this turned out (here's a hint: the segment is titled, "The Decider, not The Listener").

And if you still haven't seen Stephen Colbert's speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner, it's definitely worth your time. To answer AC/DC's question: "Who's got the biggest balls of all?": Stephen Colbert. Between Stewart on the Grammies and Colbert at the press get-together, I don't think Comedy Central talking heads are going to be invited to any speaking engagements anytime soon. Just a hunch.


Well, duh!

Salon posted a rather long review of a new book by Hal Niedzviecki titled Hello, I'm Special. The book deals with the concept of the counterculture becoming the acceptable culture, right under our very noses. We're all "conforming individualists". In short, the book discusses the idea of individuality as a pressure pill many of us swallow, spoonfed by those who market "hip". The concept of being one's self is simply a facade we all convince ourselves we achieve. In reality, we're just bah-bah sheep who shop at the same stores, eat at the same restaurants, and consume the same art -- because that's what has been defined to us as "tasteful". We believe that we're after our own specific destiny, but we shape our concept of that destiny based upon the pop culture we wade through on a daily basis. We're reactionary, even in determining our course through life.

Is it just me, or is that sort of obvious? Do I truly not understand that my desire to be a DJ or a music journalist stems from the fact that I grew up idolizing such figures, and that I get off on being a tastemaker? That by being in that position of "power", I'm not a sheep but a shepherd? But in reality, my views as tastemaker are still shaped by others -- music magazines I respect, friends whose opinions I value, record labels that release and promote music I enjoy. Sure, ultimately I make up my own mind about what I like and dislike, but not without the influence of a massive wave of hype. So, I'm attempting to pull the wool over my own eyes in thinking that I may be less a follower, more a rebel, because I like Animal Collective, Cat Power, Band of Horses, and other artists with animal-themed monikers.

Getting back to the original point, of course the counterculture is now the mainstream. The art, style, opinions, and consumption habits of those perceived to be a part of the counterculture will eventually become hip, and once that happens it will be replicated and marketed to those considered less hip. It's how icons are built, and why they eventually crumble if not adaptable to the new hip. Look at the second generation of punk, the '80s and early '90s craze that was a reaction to the punk of 1977. If The Clash wanted to continue to sell records, they had to adapt to a new slew of less edgy bands who threatened to overtake their throne. Likewise, bands like Green Day and the Red Hot Chili Peppers had to morph into arena rock outfits if they sought to uphold record sales as they aged. Those who don't change, ultimately fade away or at the least become less vital to those peddling hip.

Taken in more broad terms, the counterculture works in cycles like anything else. Punk was originally an outsiders movement which eventually developed into a hot commodity once marketers figured out how to make rebellion sell. Look at the third generation of punk that we're suffering through right now, the sort of watered-down piss that gets pumped into the headphones of 15 year-olds round the globe. Does that music owe any real debt to The Sex Pistols? Well sure, in that both forms seek to sell style. (But at least The Sex Pistols backed it up with substance.) Go back to the counterculture movement of the '60s, which blossomed into every other youth and his or her hippie neighbor growing long hair, experimenting with drugs and sex, and adopting -- at least temporarily -- a "fuck the man" attitude. Once it was deemed to be hip to be a hippie, plenty of people wanted in. But once the trend became a commercial endeavor -- as evidenced by the success of Woodstock -- it's core members who had defined the movement became disillusioned, and eventually the trend passed until another trend (punk rock) could usurp it.

Blah blah blah. I'm sure that there's some original analysis happening between the covers of Hello, I'm Special -- not to mention plenty of references to well-respected philosophers -- but I just don't find the concept all that original. Certainly, not to the extent that it merits a book. Then again, maybe I'm just pissed off that Niedzviecki beat me to the punch.


Some light afternoon reading, perhaps?

So there's a meme making the rounds in blogdom, which asks of its participants the following:

1. Grab the nearest book
2. Open it to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Copy it onto your blog/journal along with these instructions

For shits and giggles -- and keep in mind that I'm at work -- let's play along. I'm including sentence six as well, so you know how the drama ends.

With only one out and Concepcion and Foster due up, Tanner called in his ace reliever, Kent Tekulve. Tanner looked like a genius the moment Concepcion grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Taken from a book on the '79 Pittsburgh Pirates, aka "The Fam-A-Lee".

(The first book I grabbed off the shelf actually featured a full-page photo on page 123. That should tell you all you need to know about books published for the lowest-common-denominator sports fan.)

An Evening of Firsts

The Noiseboy drew rave reviews from both the blue-hairs and the 5 year-olds at my parent's 50th wedding anniversary. For the first time in recorded history, I played a song twice in the same set by request. And not just one song, but two: "YMCA" and "The Hokey Pokey".

"Outrageous!" you may say, but I ask you, "How could I say no to this?"

The Miller High Life flowed from the tap like the cheap swill it is, enabling myself and a host of Social Security earners to enjoy some fine tunes from the '50s. I was acutally surprised to see several of my aunts and uncles -- all of them in the 60+ crowd -- dancing to upbeat tunes. (Going in, I thought the "fast" songs would just be background noise, and the "slow" songs would be the favorites to dance to. But I was pleasantly surprised. Far more dancing took place than at any other gig by The Noiseboy. Maybe I've been catering to the wrong crowd this entire time?) Anyway, my parents enjoyed their turn on the dance floor as well.

While I don't anticipate any future longing for the wedding and anniversary scene, I can say that I plan to purchase one of these (see below) to hang up behind me at all future gigs. Call it a good luck charm, if you will: I received more kisses from women at my parent's 50th wedding anniversary than at any other gig in my storied past.