Happy Xmas

Please, if the spirit moves you, share with others...



It appears as if SP has launched. For a limited time only, I'm the lead article!


A regular writing gig

After much peer pressure from Chris and plenty of deliberation on my end, I've decided to start writing again for a more "professional" publication, this time local online culture zine Smile Politely. "Several of my friends are doing it, mom, so why can't I?"

Anyway, I'll be doing a thrice-weekly music column under the old Jukebox Upchuck name, as well as a weekly sports column. I believe the site is officially launching within a few days, so check the link and enjoy more of me, as well as others' blogs about food, music, art, news, etc.


Why no Sharon Jones?

An astute listener picked out the Sharon Jones track in my soul/funk set at Mike 'n' Molly's and wondered why I hadn't included Ms. Jones and her Dap Kings on HORNS! Well, I had to hold something back for Vol. 2. (Like, maybe 70+ songs.) If you haven't checked out her new album, 100 Days 100 Nights, and you call yourself a fan of good soul music, then you have no excuse for living. Get ye to a record store, pronto.

The Budos Band, also on the Daptone label and featuring some overlap with the Dap Kings, is fucking tight, too. Check this shit out (scroll down a bit for the video).


10 random thoughts as Fall settles in (for good?)

1) I, for one, have been pleased with the colder temperatures of late. With the chill comes a higher heating bill, but also blankets, portable heaters, and possibly the use of our tiny wood-burning stove -- all of which I enjoy.

2) I'm done working 70+ hours a week. DONE I TELL YOU!

3) I DJ'ed at Mike 'n' Molly's on Saturday. Thanks to those that came out. It was my first time DJing in a bar in, well, I'm not sure. Maybe three years? Has it really been that long? Seems like it, or maybe longer. I split time with DJ Hellcat and had a good time. Spinning for 2 hours was just about right. My soul set was especially spectacular, I thought.

4) The Bulls at 0-4 are doing nothing to help their "keep the young nucleus together" cause. Not with Kobe lingering nearby. Sure, the Bulls get off to a slow start every year. That's a given, just like Kirk Hinrich picking up his third foul before the half and Andres Nocioni overreacting to every whistle against him. But I for one had bought the hype that this year's team was going to make some noise -- immediately. They have more depth than you can shake a stick at, but all I've noticed over these first four games is the team's many flaws, ballhandling and transition D chief among them. Last night against the Clippers, Skiles stuck with an offensively-challenged bunch for too long in the second half. They were shutting down Los Angeles on defense, but couldn't score on offense. I'm of the opinion Chicago should trade away a couple of its younger core for a talented 4/5 who can score in a multitude of ways. But screw Kobe ... he can rot in L.A.

5) Don't tell anyone, but M and I are doing a college fantasy basketball league using Big 10 players. My idea, but she's game. The draft is tonight!

6) I didn't make it to 10 on my last list, so I'm feeling the pressure this time around to really push it. Hmmm... Hey D-Finn, thanks for the suggestion of Kashi TLC. It has added some welcome variety to snack time at work.

7) I haven't heard much feedback on HORNS! Like, dislike? Should I get busy on ORGANS!?

8) Am I the only baseball fan that has zero interest in the A-Rod sweepstakes? With the Red Sox winning another World Series, I'm now well past my quota of big-market, Eastern seaboard baseball coverage. The Yankees got a new manager. Torre's in L.A. Curt Schilling re-upped. SO WHAT! The Cardinals have made enough moves over the past few weeks -- picking a new GM (blah) and bringing back La Russa (blech) -- to keep me somewhat interested in the hot stove league. But I can do without the constant updates on Scott Boras' richest client, thankyouverymuch.

9) I have four words for the Big Ten Network and Comcast: STOP SCREWING THE FANS! I'm glad that one of you will eventually "win" this stupid "argument" about who has the best interest of the fans in mind (and both of you will go on to make money hand over fist). But in the meantime, can I pretty please just watch some thrilling exhibition basketball without having to drop $25 at a bar?

10) I'm taking all next week off from work. If you're around town and would like to get a drink, holla.


On seeing Jens Lekman and a sky phenomenon

On the drive to Bloomington, Indiana to see Swedish pop sensation Jens Lekman, we experienced a hint of what Jens once sang about in the song, "Sky Phenomenon".

you stare at the sky, colors reflecting in your eye
could it be, what they call the northern lights
but here and at this time of year
it's like someone spilled the beer all over the atmosphere

One of the most vibrant and surreal sunsets I've ever witnessed coated the belly of low-lying clouds seven shades of orange. Trees in the distance, all turning colors already, became almost red in tint with bright orange leaves appearing to be aflame. It was simply stunning, one of those rare glimpses of natural beauty that we are afforded in this region where topography has hit the snooze button. Five minutes later, just as we completed our trip through the psychedelic forest, we ran smack into a rainbow. Not a wimpy embarrassed-for-itself rainbow, but a bully of a rainbow, punching through the clouds and arcing through the sky. Tim thought he saw its other leg land in the horizon. Then we saw it, much to our disbelief -- a second rainbow, nowhere near as prominent as the first. We joked that god wanted our trip to see Jens to be a special one, giving us a wink and a nod to Jens' very own song.

I would never recommend going to Jake's in Bloomington to see just any show. For Champaign folks, it's much like a marriage of the Canopy (with its obnoxious screens on either side of the stage) and a crappy campus bar like C.O. Daniels. A sign at the entrance let us know that if we so chose, we could return the next evening for beer pong.

Jens was spectacular. Playing with a 7-piece backing band of mostly women — with a horn and string section and a sampler — he went through a lengthy set of songs from his new record and old favorites. The new stuff really begs to be seen live, where his energy and charisma can work its way inbetween the notes to chart a new course for each song. He neglects his more melancholic material for the brighter moments, then sells the audience with the same sort of witty asides that form the basis for many of his songs. Jens is uplifting in concert. It's fun to watch him hit his stride as he transcends comparisons to Jonathan Richman.

The drive home couldn't have been more a lesson in opposites. While I slept most of the way, I was awoken by a loud thump as we crossed state lines. Tim had run over the remains of a deer that was strewn across most of the highway. A few miles down the road we pulled into a rest stop to determine the damage. I'll spare you the gory details -- of which there are plenty -- and let you know that while Tim's car was by and large unscathed, he did take some of the deer with him.

I don't know what message to take from the night's ending, so I'll leave it be.

If you have the chance — no matter if you are familiar with his music — go see Jens. He's a rare find.


10 random thoughts after an exhausting workout at the gym

1) The gym experiment is still a functioning reality. Unlike past attempts at joining a gym, which have imploded after about two weeks, I'm well over a month into this gamble and still going strong. What can I say ... Maybe life after 30 is all about polishing the guns?

2) This past weekend I made a mix for my oldest brother, who just turned 50. (I know, that's as old as some of your parents.) It's full of things he listened to in the early to mid '70s: Zeppelin, Creedence, Cheap Trick, ZZ Top, The Stones ... plus some things I felt like tossing in like The Kinks' "Victoria", Big Star's "Don't Lie to Me", and The Band's "The Weight". Here's the mix cover.

I gotta say, I'm on a roll with mix covers.

3) Searching out new snacks for work is one of my part-time hobbies. I've stumbled upon Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets, and I have to wonder how snack time at work ever existed without them. They don't get my fingers messy, so I don't need to worry about using the keyboard while eating them. And they're delicious!

4) I got an e-mail from Tracy McGrady today:

Hey, it's T-Mac.
You can always watch me light up the
scoreboard for the Rockets. But when you
play Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Basketball,
you can watch me light it up for you, too.
I’m ready. Are you?
See you soon!

Alas, T-Mac, you will not see me soon. I'm opting out of defending my fantasy basketball crown this year to catch up on my reading list, among other things. Maybe I'll still make it to your birthday bash, though?

5) Has anyone else heard any of the songs on the new John Fogerty record? No, I'm not kidding! It's seriously fucking good. KEXP played a track from it, an anti-war garage rocker in the vein of Neil Young's Pearl Jam revival days, that totally floored me. He's going to be this year's Loretta Lynn, just you watch. It's available at Sam's Club, in case you just want to pick it up the next time you run out to get a huge tub of Peanut Butter Filled Pretzel Nuggets.

6) Bright Eyes. Man Man. Ryan Adams. Andrew Bird. Fiery Furnaces. Ween. Mount Eerie. Melt Banana (at the Highdive!), The Black Angels, Kevin Drew, ...Trail of Dead, The Mountain Goats, Spitalfield, Xiu Xiu. These are just a few of the shows that have recently come to town or are coming in the near future. Shows that I've seen in town in the past four months: ZERO. I'll be going to a few of these, though. Plus Jens Lekman in Bloomington, Indiana!

7) I've been listening to Sam Cooke's Night Beat a lot lately. It's a great fall record -- subtle, sometimes sparse, a tad on the heavy side. I first heard the album several years ago on a trek to Denver to see Jon. Then I picked it up a year ago and for whatever reason -- probably because it's a good downer record (in that it's got a bit of upper hidden within the many moody ballads) -- I've been playing it non-stop over the past week. You should pick it up. It's not like his pop stuff -- "Cupid" or "Chain Gang" or "Another Saturday Night". It's infused with more of a studio session jazz feel, but like I said rather sparse and contained. And his voice has rarely sounded more spiritually anxious.

8) Fuck it, not gonna make it to 10. Too hungry.


Wes' new film

Until today, I had not checked out the trailer for the new Wes Anderson flick, The Darjeeling Limited. It looks like a typical Anderson flick/script, which means I'll go see it. It doesn't hurt that he's using a couple of my favorite Kinks songs in the trailer. God I love The Kinks. Most underrated band. Ever.


In my nature...

It's in my nature to over-analyze my past writing. Yesterday I flipped through some old issues of Skyscraper and was left cringing at my features. My reviews, on the whole, were okay. But my features I did detest. Just now I re-read some older blog posts on now-defunct blogs, and again I cringed after reading my thoughts. I find myself objecting to style ... content ... opinion. Eh, I suppose I should just accept myself as my own worst critic and leave it be. Most writers have glaring flaws that eat away their insides.

M pointed out that a rapper named will.i.am used a similar concept on his new release to my three-disc comp Songs About Girls. Of course, his songs are original. Plenty of others in the recent past have used the same title for an album. Our good man William is the third in the past two years. At any rate, if anyone else wants to use HORNS! for the title of an LP, go for it. But know going in that your album will suck compared to mine.

And that in two years time, I'll cringe when I read this.


10 random thoughts while watching postseason baseball

1) Is it too late to make my predictions about the postseason considering that two games are in the bag already? Eh, fuck it.

Rockies in 5: I love the Rockies' hot streak, but I think the Phillies will make a series out of it. Their offense is too good not to. But their pitching stinks, save for Hamels.

Cubs in 4: Two pretty darn good pitching staffs, but the D-Backs aren't a good offensive club. The Cubs have effective starting pitching, a solid if unspectacular pen, and Alfonso Soriano.

Red Sox in 4: I like the make-up of the Angels pitching staff and think they'll tame the vaunted Red Sox lineup for one game this series. But the Red Sox are just too spectacular a team: their pitching is unbelievably underrated.

Cleveland in 5: I'd like to think the Cleveland pitching staff — which is quite good — can contain the Yankees offense. But the men in pinstripes scored 968 runs this season for a reason. (They can hit.) Still, I'm giving this one to the Indians. Something tells me they're due, and they have homefield advantage. This should be a wild series.

NLCS — Rockies in 6: I'll be puking on myself by this point in the playoffs. I hate the Cubs. This is a weak group of NL teams. Big Z and Angry Lou can't stop Mr. Helton and Mr. Holliday. Troy Tulowitzki as the secret weapon!

ALCS — Red Sox in 5: I just think the Sox are gonna roll through the playoffs. 'Nuff said.

World SeriesSox over Rox in 6: How long will a Big Papi home run travel in the thin air of Coors Field? There's no humidor known to man that can keep Ortiz out of the right field upper deck.

2) Now for my sporting life: I beat Emily in tennis. Yay!

3) The HORNS! mix just needs me to get off my lazy ass and finish the cover design. I haven't come up with anything that thrills me yet. But the mix is good.

4) Talk amongst friends has me leaning toward ORGANS! next over STRINGS!

5) Back to sports: The Cards fired GM Walt Jocketty today. That was a big surprise. I can only hope it means the end of the La Russa era. Pretty please.

6) Speaking of eras, how about the Ron Zook era? Hells yes baby! Thanks to Alan, M and I had fourth-row seats on the south endzone goal line for the Illini's win over Penn State. It was a blast — from the State fan dressed up as JoePa to the 90-yard kickoff return for a TD to the football team celebrating in the student section after the game.

7) I missed the Deerhunter show this week. Jenny and I actually talked about going, we're out on the town just waiting for the show to start, then realized that it was a 7 p.m. start and had ended already at 10. Figures. I bitch so much about shows starting late on weeknights, then miss the one show that started early. It would help motivate me and my memory if there was actually a weekly worth reading in this town.

8) Ten of the last fifteen albums I've bought have been comps. Comps are the new 45s for me — a perfect proving ground for new bands. (Of course, most of the comps I'm buying are the sort that feature old bands so rare that I couldn't afford to buy their full-lengths anyway, even if I was lucky enough to find them.)

9) Just a quick shout out to Wan and Finn. It's a perfect night for a backyard ice cream social and I'm sad that it's not gonna happen.

10) Guitar Hero 80s ... I will own you soon.


10 random thoughts while listening to Tim Buckley

1) Who is, I may add, far superior to his offspring.

2) Pointless rant: My password for my e-mail account is way too long. I fuck it up about half the time, then curse myself and start over again. I've had the same password for about three years, so why haven't I changed it? "They" tell you to change it up at least once a year. I guess I'm just too lazy to remember a new one. It's far easier just to retype it over and over again.

3) My M googled my name tonight and on like the seventh page -- after a whole bunch of work-related entries, old music reviews, and fantasy sports crap -- was a comment someone had left in response to an M. Dodds review that got picked up by the Springfield weekly of the Living Blue's last album. The commenter called her something along the lines of the worst music critic of all time and then ripped me (?) for comparing the Living Blue to Blue Cheer and Mudhoney. This person was pimping Tummler, so they're clearly one of the hard rock fanatics that lives around the area that had also read my unrelated praise of the Living Blue and felt that the old Octopus/Cityview snubbed hard rock/metal bands. Which is mostly true. But largely because most (local) bands in that genre happen to suck. Which is not to say that Tummler sucks. But the thought process went something like this: Why say something negative if you're only going to discourage some naive person from checking out said band -- or at least that's what I was often told. The one time I did rip some Alice in Chains soundalike a member of the band sent me the strangest, mistyped, drunken slab of hate e-mail I've ever received -- even stooping so far as to call me "gay". The rage-stricken fool later apologized. Thinking back on that, I should have written about that scene more often, if only to receive such poetic wall art.

4) I'm moving into a new office soon. It's much larger than my current office, and will afford me some privacy. That means I can finally listen to more music at work!

5) Speaking of offices, who's excited for the new season of The Office? Me!!!

6) Thoughts on Superbad: not the funniest movie I've seen in five years, as others have claimed, but not far from it. The entire kid-draws-dicks tangent was simply brilliant -- odd enough to be true enough to be hysterical. And it plays right in to the homosexual undertone to the film.

7) If you live in town, then you should play some trivia this Thursday. Unlike the excellent Drink 'n Think at Mike 'n Molly's, which the Grumpy Dougs will one day win, this trivia night is a one-time affair put on by some friends who are tirelessly trying to keep WRFU on the air. (As you may recall, D-Finn and I used to DJ for the low-power station.) They're trying to raise an insane amount of money to get a new off-site tower for their antenna so that once again I will not be able to get good reception at my house. Anyway, that's another matter entirely. I'm going -- and you should too! It's Thursday at the Esquire at (I think) 7:30.

8) Time to put on something not named Tim Buckely. How about The Move? Sure, sounds good.

9) It seems like forever since I've made good use of my backyard deck. That will change this week as the temperature dips into the 60s while the sun is still out.

10) Tennis: I finally beat Chris! I'm a little late in my bragging, as he has since beaten me yet again. But, hey, I finally beat Chris! It was a momentous occasion to be sure, which is why I'm glad I captured it by taking a victory lap around the net. Now, if I could just beat Emily...


HORNS! is done ... almost

The research for HORNS!, a mix two months in the making, is complete. From over 100 songs, I whittled the tracklist down to 22. I think I'm happy with the sequencing, which means all that's left is to design a cover. I often feel this way after completing a mix, but this particular one rings truer than others: This is probably the best mix I've ever made. The research was far more challenging than on Songs About Girls; with that one, I had only to select songs with a girl's name in the title. With this mix, I had to listen to a LOT of songs to ensure that the horn parts were memorable and the song was to my liking. Basically, I listened to a healthy portion of my record collection.

Now it's on to new territory. ORGANS!, anyone?


10 random reasons my back hurts (or not)

1) I never thought my back would actually be fucked up at the age of 31. But it is. Mostly, it's my lower back and it's all my fault, the result of 8+ years of bad posture at the desk job. So ...

2) M and I joined a gym. My past gym exploits have been laughable and ugly. (Seriously, old naked men are both.) The new gym features none of that, and possibly I'll stick with it this time. My back reminds me on a nearly daily basis to get to the gym by screaming at me in the morning and at night. Since I'm in no shape to throw down 3 grand on a new mattress set, I'll have to settle for weights and stretching.

3) Tennis: I suck. I've finally found a sport that I really like and have little natural ability to excel at. That's not saying much, really. There are plenty of sports that I know I suck at — say, football — and hence I've never given those sports much of a chance. Then there is basketball. I could go an entire calendar year without touching a basketball, then hit the court and at least do a good Dickey Simpkins impersonation. A few times out, and I'm a regular Horace Grant. But tennis is another story. There's no Roger Federer hiding inside me, but the sport is a lot of fun regardless and gets my competitive streak fired up. If only I could learn some fundamentals, like a forehand or a backhand for example. My serve is actually my best ally. I've been playing once or twice a week, and so far I'm basically oh-for-the-world. I have a lovely tendency to get up 3-1 or 3-0 and then lose 6-4. I chalk my inconsistency up to said lack of fundamentals, and hope for the best next time out. At some point, I just have to get better, don't I?

4) Beans. They don't really cause back aches, per say. But I suddenly enjoy them in varieties previously foreign to me. M's white bean salad is delicious! There, I said it.

5) Superbad was funny. Who knew the best character plot line of the year would come in the form of a kid overcoming his sketchy past as a dick-drawing maniac?

6) Big Ten Network. Fuck you. Comcast. Fuck you, too.

7) Research on the HORNS! mix is nearly at end. Lo and behold there's hardly as much new(er) music in my collection featuring horns. I'm troubled by trying to mix the old with the new, while still maintaining a congruency. Then there's the whole issue of Chicago apologists.

8) I just finished Ladies and Gentleman, the Bronx Is Burning. Good book. I wonder if the ESPN miniseries will hold up. The book wanders for large segments of time away from baseball to deal with rioting, bankruptcy, politics, and the Son of Sam. I'm guessing ESPN knows their audience and stuck with the Yankees for the most part.

9) We just went through massive layoffs at work, which is saying something when you work in an office with 20-some peeps. My department has been reduced to just me (the editor) and a designer. Good thing the title list is shrinking too, even if it's not significant enough. My guess: We'll be out of business in five months. I hope I'm wrong, but having gone through this process in my previous job at the newspaper, I have a pretty good feel for this sort of thing.

10) Guitar Hero II was an unexpected hit at a recent party. M even digs it! I had never played the game prior to receiving it as my surprise b-day gift from M. It's incredibly addictive — and fucking hard. I can't play a lick on the hard level, despite being pretty good at medium. My pinkie is just not used to such workouts. (Insert joke here.)


Being a fan these days isn't easy

This morning's Post-Dispatch web site displays the obvious complexity. Is it possible for a newborn star to be reborn in less than a month? If you've read the Daily News story then you know what all the hub-bub is about. Baseball can't catch a break. Its fans can't catch a feel-good story. And now I can't even enjoy the small sample of this season that's been enjoyable for me, the Cardinals fan. Or can I? Can I just block out the suspicion? Can I justify that prescription (regardless of its legality) as part of Ankiel overcoming a bunch of significant injuries and attempting to battle back to the majors as a hitter? Do I believe that he is now clean, accepting that we may never know because baseball doesn't test for HGH? What a fucking dilemma. And all it does is distract from a great pennant race between three mediocre teams.

Up until today Rick Ankiel has been the opposite of the typical jock storyline of 2007, which is to say he hasn't been in trouble with the police, in and out of court, beating his wife, being a reckless, gun-toting idiot. He has figures in his life — like his dad — who fit that mold. Yet he rebelled from that stereotype, seeming unbeatable, invincible, able to do the impossible and walk that thin line.

I'll need some time to process this. Being a Cardinals fan hasn't been easy after the McGwire hoopla. I didn't know if I would ever be able root as hard for a team or a player again after that. And then came Rick Ankiel. And then came his scandal.

I hope someone gives him the best advice of his life: Be honest. Do it for yourself. Do it for the game you love. Do it for your fans. Do it to be a real hero, to set an example for all the other players around you who are too chickenshit to own up. Tell us why. Maybe your reasons are legit. Maybe you did stop using when HGH was banned. Or maybe you didn't. Either way, just tell us the truth. It can even be your interpretation of the truth. Just speak. Now. Please.


Repeat after me...

Five hundred. As in POINT 500:


The Cardinals will try to reach that magical, mythical level tonight against the Stros. For those keeping score at home, STL hasn't been at (or above) .500 since April 16. It's hard to believe that we're still in this crawl to the finish in the N.L. Central, that we've still got meaningful work to do as we near September. Much like last year, the credit goes to the young'uns for keeping us going when it matters most. Here's to you, Ryan Ludwick (above), Yadi Molina, Brendan Ryan, Rick Ankiel, and ye who possesses a truly nasty knee buckler, Adam Wainwright.


10 random thoughts on a boring Friday afternoon

1) It's really difficult to stay awake post-lunch when you're working on a spreadsheet. Try it sometime.

2) Research is well underway on my new mix, HORNS!, which I hope to have completed before the end of September. You will want to own this mix. It will be guaranteed to fill the dance floor every time you put it on.

3) For the longest time I've been looking for something representative of Sweden's psych scene circa the early 1970s. I've heard International Harvester/Parsson Sound, but they are too proggy. I've been searching for something more song-oriented, and I've found it in Pugh Rogefeldt. I've got his first two records now, and they're fucking tops. It's easy to see how Dungen was influenced by this dude. Unfortunately, he will not be featured on HORNS!.

4) I still like tennis, but my twisted ankle has prohibited me from playing for a couple weeks. I think that's going to change this weekend.

5) HBO has canceled John From Cincinnati. After sticking with it for the entire first season -- I'm one of the few to have done so -- I have to say I won't miss it one bit.

6) Flight of the Concords, however, is another story. HBO better keep it on for a second season. There's not much reason to watch HBO other than it, and Big Love, which has avoided the dreaded sophomore slump. Nothing tops AMC's Mad Men, though. It's spectacular.

7) The Cards could actually be in first place after this weekend if everything breaks their way. How fucking weird would that be, considering that this team has been littered with walking dead for weeks now.

8) The Illini are supposedly making a decision on Jamar Smith by the start of the semester. Reporters are saying he will either be suspended for a handful of games and then allowed to play this year, or he will be asked to redshirt this season (which sucks, I suppose, but allows him to maintain an additional year's worth of eligibility). Being booted from school/the team is apparently not an option. I'm still a bit baffled by the school's handling of this entire situation, but I'll reserve further comment until the verdict is made public.

9) I briefly got my hopes up for a Jens Lekman show at The Highdive, which I had heard was "in the works." Ain't gonna happen. It's sad when the last show I was excited about in this town was Jose Gonzalez (that's not the bad part) at the Courtyard Cafe (that is) almost three months ago. Whatever happened to the mildly intriguing stream of concerts we used to get in Champaign-Urbana? Why have the priorities of our local promoters shifted to bringing in run-of-the-mill indie crap and repeat performances from shit bands? No one gives a fuck about raising the standard if it doesn't have an immediate impact on the bottom line. I seriously wonder how much the lack of good concerts in this town has contributed to my lazy music-mindedness over the past year or so.

10) M and I are planning a trip to NYC in October. If it goes through, it will be my first time spending significant time in the Big Apple ... ever. How the hell did I make it to 30 years old (fuck, almost 31) and never really visit NYC?


Welcome back, kid

It's been too long.


His boots were made for walking...

Lee Hazlewood

He is known to some -- if at all -- as the man who penned Nancy Sinatra's smash hit "These Boots Are Made for Walking". But Hazlewood is so much more than that minor entry in pop country's history. First of all, he also penned and sang "Some Velvet Morning" with Sinatra. Second, his pegging as a country artist is at times unfair. His roots are there, but he was always more a fringe artist, one of the first alt-country acts, if you will. He first broke Duane Eddy and his twangy guitar, then launched a lengthy career in the '60s as an iconic producer/songwriter. It's his own catalogue of albums, however, that garnered my interest a few years ago when Smells Like Records reissued several of his 1960s and '70s releases. Hazlewood's lyrical Americana pastiche and dry baritone voice make for quite a pairing. Plus, the man simply knows how to write a memorable hook, whether he's dabbling in roots country, AM pop-rock, or swinging horns-drenched pseudo-lounge. Your record collection will be better off with at least a couple of his albums included. Unfortunately, there is no career-spanning "best of" album for Hazlewood, something that hopefully will happen in death. So many of his best albums were long out of print, and sadly are close to returning to that state. Hopefully, Smells Like will re-release A Cowboy in Sweeden, as that's the one record I didn't get (and can not afford to drop $75 on).For more on Lee, read this.

I'll close with a suitable tribute in song.

Lee Hazlewood – "I'll Live Yesterdays"


I'm numb to it all

I should probably be a little more affected by the fact that a good percentage of my close friends are moving away. First it was Jason last month. No big deal, he's just one of many. Then Renee headed out of town last weekend. Donovan and Amy W. are leaving next week. Amy L. is leaving next week, too. Erin, my favorite co-worker, is also gone as of this week.

That's the risk of befriending grad students and people married to grad students, I guess. Eventually, they're all going to pack their bags. And so am I, most likely in a year.

The sheer number of friends I'm losing to other locales hasn't really hit home yet, I suppose due to the fact that everyone is leaving at the same time. I haven't had time to really get stuck on any particular person's departure, because there's always someone else right around the corner who's saying goodbye. I'm sure in mid-August there will be a night when those remaining will meet up for drinks at Mike & Molly's and then it will hit us all: Oh, it's just us left. Hmmm.

I dread that day.


Summer mixin'

I finished the sequel to last summer's mix, which is still available for download. This summer's mix is a bit longer and hence not suitable for download. But let me know if you'd like a copy, and I'll mail you one. Like last summer's mix, it's a psychedelic venture with plenty of instrumentals, all blended together into one long track – perfect music to listen to while soaking up some sunshine.

The Blues Control is No. 1!
01 Blues Control – "Blues Control"
02 Offside – "Small Deal"
03 Them Two – "Am I a Good Man"
04 Oscar and the Majestics – "House of the Rising Sun"
05 Vanijairam – "Thanimayil"
06 Mulatu Astatqe – "Yekermo sew"
07 Yura Yura Teikoku – "It was a Robot"
08 The Seeds – "Fallin"
09 Panda Bear – "Ponytail"
10 Yabby U – "Hungering Dub"
11 Fela – "Zombie"
12 Bango – "Rock Dream"
13 Blue Cheer – "Babylon"
14 The Mops – "San Franciscan Nights"
15 Blues Control – "Boiled Peanuts"


10 things I learned over the past week

1) I like tennis again. When I was a kid, tennis fascinated me. I remember watching Boris Becker and John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf do battle at Wimbledon, and just being in awe of the game. I specifically enjoyed how quiet the game was when watching on TV, how I could hear every grunt from the players and the smack of the ball off the top of the net on a failed serve. I never played tennis when I was a youngster — there just wasn't a culture of tennis where I grew up — but I did watch a good deal of it on TV, in the few instances that it was televised. Well, I've fallen back in love with tennis again, in large part because ...

2) I've started playing tennis again. While it's taken me a while to shake off the rust — I hadn't played consistently in about a decade — I'm starting to get the hang of it again. And after this week, I now know that I can beat Donovan in tennis, at least in a short match. I was beginning to wonder about that.

3) I'm enjoying my new baseball trivia blog. You should, too.

4) My entire family visited this Saturday. While it was a bit overwhelming and M is a lifesaver, the entire process was less of a struggle than I anticipated. Much grilled food was consumed, horseshoes (damn my dad is good for someone with a replaced hip and knee) and bocce (the victors!) were played, and my brother even briefly rediscovered his old Clash records. I don't share much in common with my family, but I have grown to enjoy hanging out with them in small intervals.

5) Sophie the Cat did not enjoy the company. She had to share her loft space with sleeping guests, and that had her even more moody than usual.

6) I need to wear protective goggles or glasses while mowing the yard. Our woodsy backyard has too many small sticks, pine cones, and wood bark lying around, and those things do not feel good when they strike you after being spit out of a mower.

7) My back yard is tolerable in the 90-degree heat. The above mentioned woodsy feel has one benefit in shade.

8) People who light off firecrackers at three in the morning three days after the 4th should lose a finger or limb in the process so they remember the next time they consider repeating the process that it wasn't such a good idea.

9) I'm saddened that my baseline hook shot was not named to the updated list of the 7 Wonders of the World. Clearly, people worldwide need to get outside more often and experience all that the 30-something Champaign-Urbana elementary court basketball league has to offer.

10) Rick Ankiel needs to be freed. The AAA slugger now has 26 homers. Sure, most of those have come against lesser talent, but for the love of baseball, fans in St. Louis need something worthwhile to cheer for at the major league level. Bring him up already!


Post-fireworks "Fireworks"

The 'Fork released a teaser to the upcoming Animal Collective album, Strawberry Jam, due to drop in September. The video for "Fireworks" is nothing to write home about — typically odd and missing a narrative — but the song is spectacular. They're moving in a Flaming Lips direction with this one.

P.S. Two new Destroyer songs. Woo-hoo!


That old familiar feeling

Expect more posts here, as I'm back in the blogging mood after a grueling three months at the day job and a tiring move to a new house. First some sad news: Jukebox Upchuck/Good Moanin', my music blog(s), is dead. I just don't have the desire to keep it going when there are so many other worthwhile music blogs that I'd rather read instead of keeping up my own site. But some good news: inspired in part by my friends recent trivia nights, I have a new daily trivia blog. (Sorry, non-baseball fans, it's specific to the diamond.) If you know any fans of the game, please pass along the good word.


That robot song had me in stitches

One episode in, I'm liking HBO's new comedy series, Flight of the Concords. It's part Extras, part mock-musical, and part indie rock hipster in-joke -- and very enjoyable. We'll have to see how it holds up over the course of several episodes, of course, but I'm hooked after just one. The premise of the episode was so simple -- two bandmates are temporarily torn apart by a girl -- that you wouldn't think it could sustain enough jokes for a 30-minute show. But you'd be wrong. And the musical numbers are actually the show's strength, which is saying something considering how I hold actual musicals in disdain and find little to laugh about as far as Tenacious D is concerned. I'm interested to read what the critics have to say, but in the meantime, do give it a try.

I'm also digging John From Cincinnati. I'm not sure if I'm ready to invest all this emotion in the characters just yet, and the show is already asking its audience to do just that after a dramatic episode two. (The writers wisely chose the kid to be the target of your emotion, and its hard to say no to that naive kid.) By and large, this is a show full of oddballs, and my three favorite characters so far are the hotel owner, Ted Bundy, and the namesake, who I can only describe as Rainman meets Morrissey.

As for the first episode of the second half of Entourage, I can already tell I'm going to tire of Billy's character -- and fast. Unfortunately, it looks like he'll be around for a good while.

N/P -- Peter Bjorn and John


Illini head to the Dance, undeservedly

While I thought we would get a bid to the Big Dance, I don't think we were deserving. Especially when you consider some of the teams that were left out, like Syracuse, Florida State, and Oklahoma State. The Big East didn't get as much love as I expected, which is surprising considering that I think it's the best basketball conference in the nation. Top to near bottom, it's a bitch. When you compare us to Syracuse, you can see why Jim Boeheim might have a good argument. SU beat Penn, 'Nova, Marquette, and G'Town, all teams in the Tourney. I think they're big two wins, over Marquette (on the road) and Georgetown (a game I watched) stand up much better than our two marquee wins over Indiana (at home and neutral). Then there's Oklahoma State, who has two elite college players, and beat Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, and lost by just two to Tennessee. Florida State beat Florida, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Duke, and North Carolina State.

We're damn lucky to be dancing, methinks. And I think we'll get bounced in the first round by Virginia Tech, ruining the possible Weber-SIU matchup the tourney folks set up for round two. Here's what I know about the Hokies:

1) A Hokie is not a turkey, as their mascot would lead you to believe. It's actually an old-timey, sorta made-up word that basically means "hooray." True story.

2) They're beatable, as they proved in their non-conference season, beginning the year 4-3 with losses to Western Michigan, Southern Illinois, and George Washington. They dropped another game in surprising fashion when they lost at Marshall (by one). Other than that, their remaining losses were all to good teams within conference.

3) They're also damn good, as evidenced by their two wins over North Carolina. The Hokies can put the ball in the bucket. They scored 90+ points this season twice in ACC play, including a win over the Tarheels. They're led by guard Zabian Dowdell, who is averaging 18.0 points per game and hits 39 percent of his threes; Deron Washington, a 6-foot-7 wing with mad hops; point guard Jamon Gordon, a talented distributor and defender; and swingman A.D. Vassallo, their best three-point shooter. In general, they shoot fairly well from both inside and outside the arc, but like us can struggle at the line. They force a good number of turnovers and create havoc on defense with their athleticism. They remind me in many ways of a poor man's Ohio State -- poor in the sense that they're lacking a Greg Oden.

Our best bet to win: we take a sudden liking to feeding the post, hit a majority of what open looks we can get from beyond the arc, and better our season average at the charity stripe. My prediction: VaTech 61, Illinois 54.


10 random thoughts the morning after watching some incredible NCAA hoops

1) You can assume from the title of this post that I was not watching Big Ten basketball, because there's been far too few Big 10 games that would fall under the headline "incredible". (Even though the end of the Penn State-Iowa tilt was entertaining, at least.) No, the hoops I refer to was Texas A&M versus Texas in Austin. This game has been on my calendar for weeks, and unlike the teams' previous meeting @ A&M, this one was all it was billed to be -- tons of lead changes, and a close, well-paced game throughout. Kevin Durant, the best "big man" in college ball, versus Acie Law, the best guard in college ball. It did not disappoint. If you missed the game (eventually won by Texas by two points in double OT), then allow me a brief recap of the game's single-most defining moment. First, the set up: Durant drilled a three with around 20 seconds left in regulation to put Texas up by three. That set the stage for Law, who has earned his rep this year time and time again as the NCAA's best performer with the game on the line. With time winding down, Law dribbled to the wing past a screen, causing Durant -- he of the ninety-foot wingspan -- to switch onto him. Law needed a three to tie the game and send it into overtime. He had to shoot with Durant in his face, so he released a three-pointer that somehow arced over Durant's outstretched arm and, after dusting off the rafters while in orbit, swished through the hoop. Best shot of the year. No doubt. Law hit another three to send the game into a second overtime. But by that point, the Aggies, with two of their starters long-since fouled out, were dead-tired and just couldn't quite get it done on the road. To think that Law isn't being mentioned as a lock for a lottery pick just yet is sad. Yes, this year's draft is deep. But if Brandon Roy can go in the lottery and put up good numbers as a rookie, then Law is a lock to make some NBA team very happy. He'll be a great scoring-dishing PG in the pros. As for Durant, there's no doubt he's the best player in the country. He dominates games in a way that Greg Oden was supposed to, but never has.

2) In general, I've seen more memorable, entertaining NCAA games this year than in any year in recent memory, save for possibly the '04 Illini's run to St. Louis. The influx of freshman talent has had an astounding influence on the NCAA, and if you've been missing out, please pull your head out of your ass and try to catch a game or two before the tourney starts, especially if Kansas, Texas, Texas A&M, Ohio State, Wisconsin, North Carolina, UCLA, or Florida are on. One of those teams will win the title this year. That's not saying much, I realize, except that I don't think there will be any surprises in the final field of four this year. The cream of the crop is too good. My two darkhorses to make the Final 4: Pitt and Georgetown.

3) Enough NCAA discussion, let's talk pro ball. (Enter collective moan.) I was a bit shocked that the Bulls didn't pull the trigger to get Pau Gasol of the Grizzlies, as was widely rumored. But in the end, I'm still glad that Paxson didn't break up the nucleus. It's true that he also didn't improve the team's most glaring weakness -- interior scoring -- but I like the roll of the dice he's taking. He's got a talented team that defends relatively well and, if their shots are falling, will win at least one playoff round this year in the mediocre East. The Bulls hold a likely Top 10 (probably somewhere between 8-12) pick in the draft, and with that pick its still very likely they can get a very good big man who can step in next year and contribute offensively, say Al Horford, Spencer Hawes, Brook Lopez, or Aaron Gray.

4) My trip to Louisville with M proved rewarding, at least on the record-shopping end of things. The city in general isn't all that interesting on the surface. There's the Louisville Slugger Museum (pics from that later), which was interesting if you're a baseball fanatic but no so much otherwise, the Ali Museum (didn't go), some theater and art, and a variety of restaurants and locally-owned shops. However, we didn't get to experience much of that in the time we were there. There's one mile-plus strip -- Bardstown Road -- where a majority of those shops and restaurants are located, but it's a non-walkable, heavy traffic strip, which makes it difficult to discover much in one day. I concentrated on record stores, and found just two worth visiting: 1) Ear X-tacy, a truly great independent with massive selection and back catalog, but unfortunately no used vinyl, which is what I was after; and 2) Underground Sounds, which had some used vinyl but also a fairly decent '60s collection of new records from Sundazed and the like. I found a couple rarities of note there which I'll post about later on Good Moanin'. Certainly the town had more to offer in terms of music stores than Champaign, but that ain't saying much, of course. I was disappointed. Highlight of the trip: the fried pickle I ate at The Pub, a British pub knock-off. (They also had a diverse and plentiful selection of draft beers, but they were pricey.)

5) I can't wait for my first taste of baseball on TV this year. Wainwright -- remember him, Mets fans? Tigers fans? -- started our first game yesterday, tossing three scoreless innings against the Fish. Rick Ankiel -- remember him, baseball fans? -- went 2-for-2 at the plate. Today, Carpenter faces Glavine. Woo-hoo!

6) Al Green has one of the best voices, ever.

7) Would you read a well-written book on America's introduction of baseball to East Asia, their cultivation of the sport into a distinct style with their own branding, and then East Asia's come-full-circle influence on MLB? I'm gunning for such a book.

8) I've basically stopped taking this multivitamin that M tried to get me to start taking a while ago. I've had this huge bottle of 'em for some time. As foolish as this sounds, taking a daily vitamin makes me feel old, or at least older than I am. I suck at taking vitamins. Always have.

9) The Oscars suck. How did Jennifer Hudson ever defeat Adriana Barraza for an acting award? Of course, I was pitiful once again at picking the winners at this year's Oscars Party. I failed to finish in last, though. For the second year running, I was basically next-to-last, after winning last in my first try three years ago.

10) I like Rice Krispies treats -- a lot. There were some at the Oscars Party, and I enjoyed several. Maybe if I could just place a multivitamin inside a Rice Krispie treat...


Time for a change at the top

When Jamar Smith arrived on campus as a green freshman, I had a certain mental image of him that formed as a result of a couple articles I had read about him shortly after he had his break-out game against Memphis. The image was of a kid who was so determined to become the best basketball player he could be that he spent hour after hour, night after night, shooting jump shots in a rec center gym. He displayed a track record of discipline, drive, and determination. He hadn't been a highly-recruited high school player, yet he turned himself into a success story: all of a sudden, against immense competition, he couldn't miss a three-point shot. He was showing that he could raise his game to another level. So, how did this kid turn into such a mess in a little over a year? That's the question we need to find an answer to right now. While everyone debates what his punishment should be, I'd rather focus on how this basketball program has fallen from grace under Bruce Weber's watch.

I'm all for second chances. But in the case of Jamar Smith, his second chance needs to come at his hometown Bradley University, or some other college. He needs to lose his UI scholarship. No ifs, ands, or buts. He's out. Now.

The sort of unhealthy behavior Jamar demonstrated has been infecting this Illini team for some time, as we all know. From the burglary to the previous DUI to spitting on bouncers, this team has been spiraling out of control for some time. Of course, significant blame resides with the players. They are ultimately responsible for their actions. But what concerns me isn't that a group of college kids have made considerably poor decisions -- that's to be expected. It's that there doesn't appear to be a culture surrounding this team of helping each other to learn from mistakes and steer clear of trouble. For that reason, I blame Weber. The kids aren't responding to him, and he isn't making his point clearly. (Case in point: McBride's six-game suspension for a DUI -- a mere slap on the wrist if that -- doesn't lead to better behavior from the team; instead it leads to another, more serious, DUI.) Leadership begins at the top, and clearly Weber needs to increase his effort in this regard. He needs to get control of his team. Now.

Additional details from the police report indicate that multiple players are also at fault in this particular incident. It's quite possible that fellow Illini players were also drinking at this party, might have supplied the alcohol, and also made significantly poor judgments in both allowing Jamar to drive, and how they responded to the wreck. (Update: other Illini members were likely NOT drinking, but did make poor decisions post-wreck. Chet Frazier has been named.) If any of that turns out to be true -- and I'm down suspending my gut feelings on matters of UI basketball -- then those players need to be outed by the school and basketball program, before the police do Weber's job for him. Those players need to serve lengthy suspensions. Not during next season's pre-season schedule. Now.

I'm tired of the leadership of this program sending mixed messages to the team, as well as the fans of all ages who follow the team. Stop taking this shit too lightly, and start making lasting impressions. How did a gym rat with little trouble in his past end up with two felony charges on his record? And what is Bruce Weber going to do to change the culture that helped to create such a situation? Is he the right man to make such a considerable change? These are the questions we need to address. Now.

P.S. Fuck the Chief discussion. Let's concentrate on a real issue that matters, instead of the end of a dancing white kid dressed in fake feathers.


Ready for some baseball?

I am! And this is the perfect video to wake me from my off-season slumber. Thanks for passing this along, Tandy.


Yacht Rockin' in the snow

The only thing better than a Yacht Rock party when there's snow on the ground ... is Yacht Rock itself. If you're not in the know, you best be learning.


Obama 08

M and I and CM and L'felter got up early this morning to drive to Springfield and attend Barack Obama's presidential announcement. Wow, was it ever cold -- in the low single digits when we arrived. I haven't had frostbite on my toes since I was a wee lad. But it was worth it when Obama finally took the stage for a brief, 25-minute speech. His speech was what we've come to expect from Barack -- a message of change in our political climate, and what we've come to expect from our politicians; a message of ownership of America, of energizing a nation of despondent folks so that they may realize the true meaning of citizenship; a message of a country living up to its true potential, instead of accepting where its chosen to settle.

The big announcements: 1) Obama wants universal healthcare in America by the end of his first term; and 2) He wants to bring home all troops -- and give them the proper homecoming (medical and otherwise) they deserve -- by March of 2008. Neither of those messages necessarily separates him from Hillary -- I think she "shares" a similar viewpoint as we speak -- but in Obama's delivery one senses a sort of invigorating immediacy that's hard to resist. He also spoke bluntly of a need to accept our failures -- instead of blaming them on "the other party or gay people or immigrants" -- and seek to correct them, and the fact that no amount of U.S. soldiers in Iraq can resolve that country's civil war and age-old political power struggle. Hear his whole speech at his site, U2 introductory music included. (His closing music -- classic r&b like Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" -- was a much better choice.)

I have no idea how many were in attendance, as it was hard to get any sort of vantage point that would allow me to take in the scene. But for a wild guess I would say 25,000 people. If anyone has read a more accurate number online, please post it in the comments. The turnout was impressive -- even in his home state -- considering how bitterly cold it was outside. Here's my snapshots, including a photo of the security detail that were atop most of the buildings surrounding the old Capitol building.


Snow days are back!

Woo-hoo! We trudged through the snow to eat sushi, then tossed snowballs in the park. (Well, actually I tossed snowballs and M complained.) And the apartment was toasty warm upon our return.


Prince gets...

...a big thumbs up on his Super Bowl performance. "Purple Rain" was quite appropriate and a great set-ender. Plus it totally made up for the Foo Fighters cover (coming out of "All Along the Watchtower" no less). Bold choice to do so many covers, but I liked that, as well as the marching band appearance (which reminded me of Outkast on the Grammys a couple years ago).


Heaven to me...

...is when form and function combine to give me the best set-up I've ever had for The Records Room.


R.I.P. Illini, Devine

Wow. Did the Illini suck today against Purdue or what? Let me count the ways in which their offense continues to be utterly inept. (Oh, fuck it. Who has that sort of time?) Frazier looked dumbfounded in the second half as the Purdue D gave him the Jason Chappell treatment and sagged into Pruit on the post. I keep attempting to come up with new excuses for this NIT-bound bunch, and I just can't do that anymore. They lack leadership, skill, and most importantly, smarts. I don't see how things are going to improve next year either, unless this McCamey kid is the second coming of Bruce Douglas.

In other sad news today, former Cards GM Bing Devine, who was the architect of the Cards '60s dynasty, passed on at the age of 90. Cubs fans will remember him as the mastermind of the Brock-for-Broglio deal. I was lucky enough to work with him on his memoir (titled Stealing Lou Brock) three years ago, and got to meet him. Incredibly nice guy.

I'll end on a bright note. The first book I have acquired hits the shelves this week. If you're a fan of baseball, the Negro Leagues, and history in general, it's worth a read.


10 random thoughts prior to having my picture taken

1) It's win or go home for the Illini tonight. Lots of reason to hate Coach Sanctions and IU, but tonight it needs to be about the W and not Eric Gordon. If we don't win tonight, I don't think we make the NCAA Tourney.

2) I realized yesterday that my driver's license expired in August, and I didn't renew it. Oops. So today I'm taking care of that little mistake, and getting my picture updated. For the first time, I'll have a piece of plastic in my wallet that has a photo of me on it with a beard, which seems odd since I've had a beard for what seems like forever. In reality, forever is just two years.

3) At work, I'm considering doing a book on an African-turned-American long distance runner who just happens to be an Olympian. That, and a book about the slimey underbelly of college basketball recruiting. Oh, and a coffee table book on the history of sports in NYC.

4) So far, so good in keeping up my stamina at the other blog. Some of my posts are just silly, which I realize. But silly is part of who I am (although I wonder if I lost that part of me a few years ago and have only recently rediscovered it).

5) The Cardinals resigned Mark Mulder. Barf.

6) The Records Room has been successfully remodeled. For those of you who weren't at M's b-day party, maybe I'll post a picture later. I'm happy with how it turned out. Quite functional. Quite comfortable. Quite to my style.

7) I've been toying recently with the idea of taking a class in Photoshop. It's been a long time since I've used Photoshop on a regular basis, and while I can do some things, there are plenty of other tricks I'd like to learn. I'm basically self taught, and I'd like to become proficient in it so that I can tack that on to my resume. Also, I'd like to improve at Quark while I'm at it.

8) Question for the sports fans out there: If you could have a lovely calendar hanging on your wall featuring legends from your favorite team (say a Cubs calendar featuring Ron Santo and Andre Dawson and Fergie Jenkins and Ernie Banks and Hack Wilson), would that interest you? Would you plop down $12 on that sort of wall art for the office?

9) I've been so utterly depressed from reading about the continued deterioration of the Middle East situation on CNN and Salon that I've sworn off reading the two sites during the work day. Too hard to concentrate on my work.

10) My office situation sucks. I work in a loft space, and my particular office has walls but no ceiling or doors. If I have my music on at the slightest volume, then everyone in the loft (even those 50 feet away) can hear what I'm listening to. I don't care about that, but they do. So I've had to bring in my monstrous over-the-ear headphones to both block out their noise and contain my own. I really miss my old office, with a window and a door and a ceiling. Oh, the little things...


For a good time...

...on the night of Wednesday, January 10, call Brian Randle.

(At the game I couldn't tell that he had pounded his forehead on the backboard on that dunk. That was insane!)




That was a pathetic performance and complete collapse against an incredible team.

It's easy to look at the obvious lack of athleticisim and talent we ran out on the court compared to a team like Ohio State. We can talk about inferior recruiting all we want. But what I'm concerned with is Bruce Weber's inability to get his team to execute on offense, and to place them in a position to succeed. You've got use the tools you have. Weber's motion offense worked wonderfully when Deron Williams and Luther Head and Dee Brown and Roger Powell were on the floor for the Orange & Blue. But without them, it's a rather week strategy, don't you think? Against superior athletes, the Illini can not get open looks, whether running around screens or with ball in hand. Basketball is all about taking high-percentage shots, and this Illini team is simply not getting many. Weber needs to add more wrinkles and set plays. There's no reason why Smith, Carter, and Pruitt shouldn't take a collective 35-40 shots per game. It's Weber's job to create enough opportunities for them to accomplish that goal.

Other than that, I blame Weber -- who looks as if he's losing his team -- for not finding a way to challenge this team to rally against adversity. To fire the team up -- in game, in the huddle, on the sidelines. Make them the aggressor they are not. The fact that we don't get to the line very often and settle for too many contested threes will just continue to punish this team as the season wears on.

The 2007 Illini are an effective defensive squad. Even with Ohio State's intense offensive surge in the first half, the Buckeyes still finished the game shooting just 31 percent on threes and 34 percent from the floor. Great offensive teams will go through hot stretches, and that hot stretch essentially won the game for Ohio State, because we folded after it. But I can't fault the defense for the breakdown. It happens. However, offensively we took more bad shots in one game than we've taken in the previous five combined. We looked lost, without a game plan and without a leader.

It's easy to say, "Man, we should've nabbed Thad Matta as our coach when we had the chance." But that's not the hand we've been dealt. I'm okay with Weber as coach, as long as HE starts making some adjustments and finds a way to get his team to respond to a true challenge.

My two cents.

/end rant

I was dead-on in my guess of a 12-3 pre-conference mark. So far, my 9-7 guess for their Big Ten record may be a bit optimistic. Hope I'm wrong.


New Year's resolution

Same as some of you ... blog more. Longer posts will occasionally pop up here, but shorter, daily, less serious and often musical posts have a new home.