January 2008 Archives

Gopher Stadium Rising

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Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a resurrection of biblical proportions is happening just north of University Avenue in Stadium Village. Blink twice and you see ghostly images of the band marching down University Avenue. If you listen carefully you can hear Ray Christianson announcing the names of Bronko Nagurski, Carl Eller, Tony Dungy swirling in the wind and a loud roar fills the air as the Golden Gophers enter the sun-drenched field ready to play football the way it was meant to be played: Under a fall sky.

Weekend Movie Review

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So who would win in a fight between Daniel Plainview, the protagonist in There Will Be Blood, and the Cloverfield Monster? Both characters are singularly focused on their goal of defeating all opponents. Both apparently hate people (Plainview says as much; the Cloverfield Monster’s actions speak louder than words). Both characters leave their mark on the landscape that may take centuries to overturn. Finally, although the stories are a century and a continent apart, they both try to relate their stories to modern day concerns. All-in-all a pretty fair fight. This weekend I went to both movies to find out for myself.

Critically, it’s no contest with There Will Be Blood garnering 8 Oscar nominations and Daniel Day-Lewis the hands down favorite for the Best Actor award. Cloverfield, while receiving some nice reviews, is generally consigned to the cheesy monster movie category and most critical reviews are reserved for its creative marketing campaign as much as what is seen on the screen.

There Will Be Blood sucks you into its story as Daniel Plainfield’s oil man is mesmerizing as he works over a small, desolate California town to get its oil. In addition, the movie's fascinating score (by Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead) sounds as if it were played by a field of recently hatched cicadas. The problem with There Will Be Blood is that it presents all these “big? ideas but then doesn’t answer them, it strives to be bold without actually being bold. The end is almost farcical and ultimately the movie leaves you wanting more.

Cloverfield, on the other hand, pulls no punches on what it is or what it’s trying to say. The only question we have is what kind of monster is attacking the City: sea monster? government experiment gone awry? Rosie O’Donnell? The movie is a roller coaster ride experienced through a hand-held camera as NYC is being attacked by the monster and defended by generic army troops. There is no omni-present government agency watching the proceedings from afar, no scientist explaining everything that is happening. The only outside news we get is from random TV sets our heroes happen across.

I thought the movie did a good job of showing the street level view of a City under monster-siege. It’s loud, it’s dirty, it’s confusing. We get glimpses of the monster here and there but rarely a whole picture. The movie is also helped in that it is populated by unknown actors. We don’t know who is going to be the hero and who’s going to be monster meat. (much like the first Alien movie). The movie ends like you think it should. With no reason for sequels or spin-offs. An overall very scary, thrilling, monster movie.

Did you see There Will Be Blood or Cloverfield? What did you think?

Friday Random Top 10

My desire to play every one of the nearly 7000 songs on my I-pod is coming to an end. I have around 300 songs left and hopefully this weekend I can finish them up. Wish me luck! Here's this week's top 10...

1. Please Don't be Gentle With Me - Minutemen
2. Are You a Hypnotist? - Flaming Lips
3. Little One - Beck
4. Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own - U2
5. Oh Sheila - Prince
6. Los Angeles - X
7. The Willing Conscript - Pete Seeger
8. Please Don't Go - K.C. and the Sunshine Band
9. All the Things She Gave Me - Waterboys
10. In The Real World - Roy Orbison

O.k. that's diverse. Not sure if I can glean a theme with this one. What's your top 10?

Newpapers in Trouble

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David Brauer over at Minnpost.com has an interesting article about the latest grim news over at the StarTribune. According to a leaked memo, the Strib is still hemorrhaging money ($75M), even with its recent staff cuts and reorganization.

It seems that the biggest culprit is the collapse of classified ad revenue. It’s dropped by nearly 50 percent and is below levels from eight years ago. While these trends are industry wide, apparently they are a little more stark at the Strib. The newspaper business seems to be on a death watch. Will we even have morning papers in 5 or 10 years.

I’m not really surprised by this situation. Over the last six months I’ve sold some concert tickets and tried to sell my sister-in-laws car. I didn’t even consider newspaper classifieds. Craigslist, E-Bay, Carsoup, and other web based sites are what I considered. Same goes when I’m looking to buy stuff. I never check the classified. Doesn’t even cross my mind.

We subscribe to the Strib but it’s somewhat out of habit. I get most of my news from the web and I religiously check a number of sites, some of which are newspaper sites. Also with up-and-coming news sites like Minnpost.com and dailymole.com, I’m getting a lot more local news from the web. My wife is pretty much a techno-phobe so I don’t see us anytime soon dropping our subscription. Plus I’ve never been satisfied doing the soduko and crossword puzzle on-line.

So if newpapers went away, I would still get my news. Who knows, maybe I could even teach my wife to go online too! It would be the end of an era but we’ve survived other ends of the era too like the death of picture magazines such as Life and Look and the death of sheet music.

What about you, do you still subscribe to a newspaper?

UPDATE:
Brian Lambert over at MSPMag.com has another take on the issues facing the Strib in light of the memo. Very interesting. His take: Look for the St. Paul and Strib to merge into one paper.

Oh so Close!

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This was going to be the week. The weather was going to be cold but we would warm up the stadium. Our team had been playing surprising well all season, much better than any one expected. Now this week we were home against a high profile team from the east. Win this week and we would be in the national spotlight, with a chance to play for a national championship. But alas we lost, our senior leadership let us down and although we played gutty, in the end we lost by only a few points to an opponent that was just a little bit better than we were.

I’m talking about the Packers right? Uh no. I’m talking about your Minnesota Golden Gopher basketball team and their gut-wrenching home loses to #8 Indiana and #10 Michigan State. Going into this week everyone thought that here was a perfect time to make a statement. Gopher basketball was back. Win these games and we would be a ranked team with a good chance to be invited to the big dance. We played well, kept the games close but ultimately lost and exposed this team for what it really is: An up and coming team that is probably best suited for the NIT this year.

Let’s face it Dan Coleman and Spence Tollackson just aren’t that good. Tollackson especially had brutal games. If you are then left to rely on Freshman, well you’re going to lose tough ones in the end. That’s what happened this week.

And just like those besotted Packer fans who are just now clearing the cobwebs from their pickled brains, we have hope for next year. Tubby is actually coaching some decent basketball and help is coming from a top 20 recruiting class. The Gopher fan base is actually excited about the basketball being played at Williams arena. Instead of this weekend being the beginning of good times for Gopher hoops we need to look at this weekend as the end of the dark times.

And if that doesn’t give you hope just think of this: Brett Favre’s rancid play kept the Packers from the Superbowl. If that doesn’t put a smile on your face, you’re not a Minnesotan

Friday Random Top 10

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Quite a weekend coming up. I'm looking at Huckabee winning South Carolina and Obama winning Nevada. Cloverfield opens today, NFL Conference Championships (Patriots, Packers btw), Gophers bballers host Michigan State and colder than a witches teat. Must kick it all off by going to Uptown Chipotle for a Burrito with Shane, Cheesehead, and SBG.

Here's this week's Top 10:

1. Vamos (Live) – Pixies
2. Lawyers Guns and Money – Warren Zevon
3. Apple Tree – Wolfmother
4. Pleasure Seeker – Social Distortion
5. Superstar – Sonic Youth
6. Never Loved A Man – Aretha Franklin
7. It’s Not Over Yet – Klaxons
8. Dumb – Nirvana
9. Do the Ostrich – Neal Pollack Invasion
10. Ugly – Violent Femmes

Looks like another episode of be a college DJ for a day, but a fun list nonetheless. What's your top 10?

Dylan at Newport

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I received the Dylan at Newport DVD for Christmas and if you are a Dylan fan it is absolutely fascinating. It’s a little over an hour long and shows Dylan’s multiple performances at the 1963, 1964, and 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Of course everyone knows the story of Dylan “going electric? at the 1965 Newport Fest, and the DVD shows that moment, but there are other key points in Dylan’s career shown on the DVD.

The DVD is so interesting because we get to see a snippets of Bob Dylan from when he was a little-known folkie to the time when he was verging on superstardom and Like a Rolling Stone was entering into the public conscience.

The DVD opens with Dylan’s performances in 1963. At this time he’s not well known except for a few old-line folkies in Greenwich Village and Cambridge. This is the Dylan that was still aping Woody Guthrie, wearing workshirts and dirty boots. This was actually Dylan’s introduction to a larger audience as Joan Baez, who at the time was the queen of folk music, invites Dylan on stage during her set to sing one of Dylan’s “message? songs. There are a couple of other scenes of Dylan performing at one of the myriad of workshops that were part of the Festival.

By 1964, Dylan was getting notice beyond the cafes of Greenwich Village and was popular for his protest songs such as Blowing in the Wind. We get to hear a version of Mr. Tambourine Man that was sung before it was ever released. We also get to see how Dylan is starting to impact popular culture as a number of other Newport participants are performing Dylan songs. The 1964 section ends with an absolutely stunning version of Dylan singing Chimes of Freedom. Dylan just throws himself into the performance and you get goosebumps at how good it is. The audience felt the same as they literally refuse to allow Odetta to take the stage as they keep on cheering for Dylan. You can see at this point that Dylan was becoming much bigger than the folk music genre that he was pigeonholed into.

Finally 1965, Dylan goes electric. By this time, Dylan had left behind the folkies and was performing Rock and Roll. Like a Rolling Stone had been out for a couple of weeks and was charging up the charts. Although he was still performing acoustic sets, he had also been working with a band playing electric sets as well. Besides the Beatles, there probably wasn’t a more popular musician. I’ve always loved the introduction to Dylan before the electric set, I think it’s Joan Baez (I could be wrong) and after a short introduction talking about “the voice of the generation" she ends her introduction with “you know him, he’s yours….Bob Dylan!?

Dylan comes out with the Paul Butterfield Blues band and is wearing a black leather jacket. The then tear into Maggie’s Farm. Lore has it that Pete Seeger tried to cut the electric cords with an axe because he claimed no one could hear the political lyrics due to the loud guitars. Problem is, at least for the DVD viewer, the words are quite clear. Now the recording could be from the mixing board so Seeger may be right, but the viewer can hear the lyrics. After Maggie’s Farm they do Like a Rolling Stone. After the performance you can hear booing, you can hear cheering too, but to the DVD viewer, there is booing.

God, how I wish they had a camera off stage because apparently it was chaos. The camera shows Paul Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary on-stage imploring the crowd the cheer for Bob to come back. Eventually Dylan does come back with an acoustic guitar and tears (or sweat) visibly streaming from his eyes. Dylan ends the performance with a strong version It’s All Over Now Baby Blue and the concert ends.

If you’re a Dylan fan and have even passing interest in Dylan’s performances at Newport, this DVD is a must. Some of the performances are truncated but it is still a thrill to see what has been described in thousands upon thousands of words. Dylan’s Newport performances are part of music history and it is a heady time for the millions of us who didn’t get to see those performances live but are still able to experience them.

Below is the You Tube of Dylan playing Maggies Farm at Newport 1965;


Winter Kite Fest

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Living in Minnesota you have to embrace Winter or go insane. Now how you embrace Winter can range from curling up with a book and blanket to going ice fishing. I tend to settle toward the former but have been known to participate in the latter as well.

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This weekend I participated in our Neighborhood's annual Winter Kite Festival. Yes that's right we flew kites on a frozen-over lake. The weather cooperated to the hilt (25 degrees and sunny) and there were tons of people out.

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Besides kites there was ice fishing, hay rides, treasure hunts, marshmallows over fires, and a ton of neighbors. It really was a lot of fun. There wasn't a whole lot of wind but enough to get some kites up in the air.

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Now I'm not going to argue that Minnesotans are somehow tougher because we do stuff in freezing weather. Actually I think it's more of a coping mechanism. During these cold months those four walls can close in pretty tight. Throw in too many gray days with a few hours of sunshine and no wonder we dispose of our enemies via the woodchipper.

How do you cope with Winter?

Friday Random Top 10

Man I thought I lost my I-pod, which would have been a major buzz kill. Alas, someone put it in a placxe it shouldn't be!! I'm obsessed with listening to every song on my I-Pod and I would have had to start over. Any way here's this week's top 10:

1. Hillbilly Drummer Girl - Young Fresh Fellows
2. Curtain Calls - Old 97s
3. Lucinda - Tom Waits
4. Sun of a Gun - Nirvana
5. Honey, I'm a Big Boy Now - Billy Bragg
6. San Quentin - Johnny Cash
7. Mystery's All Mine - Jules Shear
8. Blue Monn of Kentucky - Elvis Presley
9. What's Tickling You - Jack Logan
10. Tried to Hide - Hypstrz

Fun list, kinda obscure, but not really. This could sustain me on a car ride.

What's your top 10?

Blogging from the Dead

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What if you could blog from the dead, what would you say?

Well a soldier who was stationed in Iraq did just that. Major Andrew OImstead blogged from his perch as a soldier in the Iraq War. Most postings were typical: outling the boring and terrifying moments of modern day soldiering in a war zone.

However Andrew also wrote an entry that was to be put on his blog if he was killed in Iraq. Sadly that day came last week.

His post is a mixture of humor, sadness, regret, and no apologies. He takes an interesting perspective. He knows that the only way we are reading his words is because he is dead. Of course there is gallows humor but there is also perspective. It's a provacative and thoughtful post and I encourage you all to read it.

Walk Hard - The Dewey Cox Story

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So, I dragged the Misses to Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. I thought it was funny with some dumb parts, she thought it was dumb with some funny parts.

If you've seen Ray, I Walk the Line, The Buddy Holly Story, La Bamba, etc. You know this movie: Young singer from a small town uses his music to get out of town. Soon fame and fortune bring him far away from what he grew up as. Drugs, women, etc are readily available. After the inevitable downfall it's the love of a woman and his family that bring him back up.

It's got all the cliches, except they are spoofs and it's hilarious. When Dewey sings at his first dance, girls are literally ripping their dresses off and the dance soon turns into a melee. Dewey accidently cuts his brother in half with a machete, after which Dewey loses his sense of smell. You get the idea.

Besides music biopic cliches there are hilarious spoofs on Elvis, the Beatles in India, Bob Dylan, and Brian Wilson during his acid-drenched, bearded Pet Sound and Smile days. In the end Dewey is sampled by some gangsta rappers and is re-descovered. At his lifetime achievement award banquet, Jewel, Jackson Browne, and Lyle Lovett sing his famous song Walk Hard and Eddie Veddar gives a speech. (The real singers btw).

The movie ends as a 71 year old Dewey sings a new song that sums up as entire life as his life passes by on the screen. I was literally in tears. When Dewey hits that final high note and the camera switches back and forth between modern day Dewey and 50's Dewey, while I was blubbering.

Jenna Fischer from The Office is great in this movie, she just lights up the screen. You forget how hot she is when she is in The Office.

Anyway a funny movie, probably not Oscar caliber but definitely a rental when it comes out soon on DVD.

Any one else see Walk Hard? What did you think?

Rock Snob Venn Diagram

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The discussion below about the relative merits (or lack thereof) of the latest Shin's album reminds me of this:

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Friday Random Top 10

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Wow! Obama puts the smackdown on HRC in Iowa. His victory speech was pretty good and if you were new to Barack Obama you had to be impressed. I see him rolling over the remaining candidates over next couple of weeks or so. If you want to see how enthused the D’s about their candidates over the R’s and their candidates, take a look at these numbers:

Iowa Caucus Democrat participants: 237,000
Iowa Caucus Republican participants: 115,000

If all votes were compiled together:

24.5% Obama
20.5% Edwards
19.8% Clinton
11.4% Huckabee

This week’s top 10:

1. Here Today – Beach Boys
2. I’m Always in Love – Wilco
3. Carolina Moon – Thelonious Monk
4. Rockin’ in the Free World – Neil Young
5. Always – Patsy Cline
6. Summerteeth – Wilco
7. Drop the Pilot – Joan Armatrading
8. Without a Trace – Soul Asylum
9. Sudden Stop – Kelly Hogan and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts
10. Car Song – Woody Guthrie

Ringing in the New Year with the Bodeans

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I saw the Bodeans at the Fine Line New Years Eve which meant I spent my new years with more drunken Wisconsin-born 40 year old women who were pretending to be 30 that you could find this side of Eau Claire.

The deal at the Fine Line was $100 all inclusive which meant free food and open bar. The food wasn't that great but free booze (including call drinks and shots) now that's what I call ringing in the new year!!

We took a bus downtown and my wife staked out an excellent spot right at the stage while I checked our coats. Some sensitive singer-songwriter with long hair and 2 days beard sang some pretty good songs and then we got ready for the Bodeans.

At first I was drinking vodka tonics but I was closer to the bar that served only beer so I switched to Bud (after I had a Jagermeister shot). It took me about two hours to figure out to ask for more than one beer so I didn't have to leave my spot and fight the crowd as often.

The Bodeans were a lot of fun. They played all their fan faves and they put on a pretty good show. I saw the Bodeans at the 7th Street Entry in 1984 with about 50 people and that was a hot, sweaty, rockin show. So being this close some 23 years later gave me a minor mid-life crisis. It was weird to think that 23 years later I was seeing this same band again with them grayer and heavier but just as fun. Don't worry I snapped out of it.

Kudus goes out to a couple that were behind us. Early in the show the guy gave me a beer that I thought he just wanted set on the stage until he needed it. His wife/girlfriend got kinda obnoxious as the show went on (in a good way). I noticed his beer was empty and asked if he wanted his second one. He said it was for me because he knew his woman would act that way. I know it was free but a nice gesture nonetheless.

One other thing I overhead was pretty funny. As I was in the coat check line a rather buxom young lady handed her boyfriend about three other coats to check. The guy kinda complained about the three extra coats but took them. Another guy behind me said, "If my girlfriend was that racked out, I'd hold 10 coats if she wanted me to" Good stuff.

After the show, the wife picked up a Bodeans CD, we easily hailed a cab and got home to start nursing our soon to be coming hangovers

How was your new years?

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

December 2007 is the previous archive.

February 2008 is the next archive.

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