March 2008 Archives

Baseball 2008

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Given that we’re currently amidst the “Winter the Wouldn’t Leave? and that the Twins had such a lousy off-season, it only makes sense that it is snowing on the opening day of the 2008 baseball season. Not only is it snowing, but we are expected to get 6-8 inches of snow! Today it’s just hard to get all misty-eyed about the beginning of baseball season representing rebirth when you can’t see 20 feet out your window because of the snow so I will spare you the sentiment.

Here are my thoughts on the Twins and baseball as we begin another season:

I think the Twins are on a 75-78 win season. About a month ago I wrote the following haiku regarding the 2008 Twins:

Michael Cuddyer.
Justin Morneau. Joe Mauer.
Delmon Young. Then what?

Those four batters should have a great season but there is no one else, maybe Go Go surprises in Centerfield but other than that a lot of questions at the plate and in the field. Couple with a pitching staff that will be mediocre at best, and we are looking at a sub-.500 season. Future may look bright, but not this year.

I don’t believe in the Tigers, the Cabera and Willis additions nonetheless. I think the Indians take the Central walking away. Red Sox and Angels also will crush in the East and West. Cubs and Brewers should battle in the NL Central, Mets in East, can Rockies catch fire again in the West?

Also I think Torii Hunter will have a monster season. Much like David Ortiz when he went to Boston, Hunter will see a lot of juicy pitches now that he is surrounded by a number of good bats (I’m looking at you Vlad). The Angels may hate that contract they gave Torii in years 4 and 5, but they are going to love what Hunter brings in these first couple of years.

Finally I can’t leave with out mentioning that the ballpark skeptics will be using today’s snow to say the Twins were foolish for not insisting and/or paying for a retractable roof but my mind remains unchanged on the need for a roof. First a roof would cost $125 million not including inevitable cost overruns. Second a roof would never have fit on the current ballpark site. 3rd in the future, Twins can start season on road if need be. Finally I would always be concerned that the Twins would get Miller Park disease and insist on closing the roof at any hint of weather below 60 degrees. Also Indians lost a few games to snow last year, didn't seem to hurt them on the field or at the gate. It's a non-issue for 95 percent of the games the Twins will play and $125-$150 million is not worth dealing with that other 5 percent.

What are your thoughts on the 2008 baseball season?

New Car

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Today I picked up a new Honda Civic Hybrid. $4.00 gasoline? I'm ready. Plus it has an auxiliary outlet for my I-Pod so I don't have to worry about CD's anymore.

It's definitely smaller than my Accord so I'll have to get used to that, but otherwise it looks, good.

UPDATED Golden Ticket - FRUSTRATION!!!

I was at Snail Lake Regional Park Today from 7:45a to 11:00a with no luck! Today's clue obviously refers to a tunnel and there is a tunnel at Snail lake right at Gramsie Rd. Also the clue says you will be on the right route, which I took to mean if the trail forks, take the right fork.

I am still assuming that the Ticket is under a stone. In fact since the clue says look under every stone, I am assuming it is not at a solitary stone. A lot of people must agree because every rock within a 500 yard radius of that tunnel was overturned.

As of 11:30 the Strib wasn't announcing a winner so it may still be out there. Unless I am missing something completely only dumb luck will find it without another clue. I might have to be back at the crack of dawn on Saturday, although I expect the park will be looked over pretty closely this afternoon.

Any other ideas, use the comments.

Saturday Morning UPDATE:
Last clue says the ticket is under a giant tree "cloaked like Chicago" Cloaked means dressed or hidden. Could it mean White Socks? A giant tree with a white base? It is 7:00a Saturday morning I'm debating whether to go or not. It's kinda cold and it's about a 20 minute drive.

Twins Golden Ticket - UPDATE 1

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The Twins Golden Ticket contest is in full swing again this year and I’d like to use this blog to try to figure out where it is. The Twins Golden Ticket is a treasure hunt contest where the winner gets Twins season tickets, jerseys, a free vacation, etc. Three years ago I was literally in the same park as the ticket but couldn’t find it before I had to go to another engagement. It was found a mere hours after I left. Below are the clues with some discussion, use the comments to speculate..

Sunday’s Clue: The Ticket rests a ways away from our covered home in a place of open space where squirrels and rabbits roam.

Obviously the ticket is in a public park, do squirrels and rabbits mean anything?

Monday’s Clue: When you watch our boys play, hustling you’ll see, however you’ll want to ignore Mr. Greely’s plea.

Greeley said go west young man. Ticket is east of the Dome. Play and hustling are other interesting words here. Could this refer to athletic fields?

Tuesday’s Clue: Strain your neck, look up and stare, for shades of the Twins in the air.

Up in the air, Shades of the twins. This one has me baffled. Where ever the ticket is, you can see shades of Twins in the air

Wednesday’s Clue: You’re getting warmer, it’s time to go on foot. Turn over every stone to find out where it’s put.

Thursday's Clue: Only those who move at a snail's pace, will be the ones to win the race.

UPDATE:
O.k. we are getting somewhere. There is a Snail Lake Regional Park in Vadnais Heights. Problem is I can't get there until Friday morning. If you get there remember to look for "shade of the twins" and apparently it's under a rock.

Any other ideas? again use the comments section, I’ll also update any thoughts I have in comments section. I will definitely share winnings with anyone who helps out finding the ticket.


It's Raining McCain

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I just had to share this. It is absolutely incredible. I think this is what Republicans think of as hip.

As for the past weekend, 12 of my Sweet 16 teams made it and besides Georgetown going to the Final Four, I think I'm in good shape. I'm tied for first in one bracket don't know the standings yet in another.

Gophers women BBers ran into a team that was just too athletic. Gopher wrestlers gave up their national champ crown, Gopher pucksters rode Alex Kangas to a 3 seed in the NCAA's and today word is that the Go Go Gomez era has just begun for the Twins. More on the last two items later this week.

Tourney Time!!!

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There's a reason grown (and not so grown) men shed a tear when they hear the opening notes to One Shining Moment. It's because 3 glorious weekends of college basketball have just come to another conclusion. But no need for tears here. Those three weekends are about to begin. Got your picks in?

Like last year it looks like the top seeds should rule your brackets. Sure there are some cutesy teams like Louisville or Pitt, but if you don't have the big dogs in your final four you will be out of the money. Here is my sweet 16:

North Carolina
Notre Dame
Louisville
Tennessee

Kansas
Vanderbilt
Wisconsin
Georgetown

Memphis
Pitt
Standford
Texas

UCLA
UConn
Xavier
Duke

I have UCLA beating Texas and N. Carolina beating Georgetown in the finals. UCLA as champs.

Who do you like?

Dick Cheney: Angel of Doom

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Dick Cheney was in Iraq yesterday and said that the war in Iraq was a “..successful endeavor ... and it has been well worth the effort.? Also yesterday in Iraq there was the following:

• Five persons were killed and 12 others injured when mortar shells hit a football play ground in eastern Baghdad...

• A female suicide bomber attacked a group of Shiite worshippers near a mosque in Karbala on Monday, killing at least 39 people and wounding 51...

• A roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers when it struck their vehicle in a district north of Baghdad...

• A minibus packed with explosives killed three people and wounded eight others in Karrada district...

• A roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded another as they patrolled Mansour district in western Baghdad...

• Three bodies of U.S.-backed neighbourhood police were found two days after they were kidnapped in the town of Udhaim...

• ...police said they found the bodies of three members of a U.S.-allied group fighting al-Qaida in Udaim...

• A roadside bomb targeting a U.S. convoy injured four civilians in Baghdad...

Just think what kind of shape Iraq would have been had the war not been a “successful endeavor??

Gopher Weekend

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The Gopher men’s hockey team extended its disappointing season at least another weekend with a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over Mankato on Sunday. The undisputed star of the weekend has to be Alex Kangas who played all three games, only allowed 4 goals in something like 260 minutes and made some truly insane saves in overtime when a goal meant the end of the Gophers season.

The weekend series also demonstrated once again how punchless the Gophers’ scoring threat is. The Gophers went 0-12 in the powerplay and time and time again they would be in odd man rushes and weren’t able to even get a shot off, or someone was out of position, or if they got a shot, would miss the net. I’m not enough of a Gopher hockey rube to know if they have some scorers coming in next year, but I sure hope so. With Kangas, the Gophers may finally have that elite goalie they’ve been looking for, add some fire power and we may see a frozen four team once again.

Oh btw, can anyone now agree that the Wisconsin Badgers’ national championship of a couple of years ago was a complete fluke? They were lousy for years before 2006, they’ve been lousy since. It was a classic case of riding a super hot goalie to collect some hardware. Gotta wonder how many disappointing seasons Mike Eaves can squeeze out of his squad before he’s in hot water.

Gophers’ basketball had an amazing win on Friday and disappointing and winnable game on Saturday. No doubt that this team is NIT-quality only. It’s even amazing that Tubby was able to coax 20 wins out of a team that had only 9 wins a year ago. Although that may land more on Dan Monson that Tubby Smith. The Gophers offense was maddenly pedestrian at times this year and that really showed during the Illinois game. Late in the 2nd half when the Gophers needed a basket, all we saw was a bunch of dribbling while four other guys stood around. I hope that more reflects talent than coaching, I guess we’ll see next year when the talent level should greatly improve.

This week, Gopher wrestler’s defend their national championship, NIT starts, WCHA frozen five, and March Madness. Hopefully I’ll have my Sweet 16 up by the end of the week.

Friday Random Top 10

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Instead of clapping, people start blogging at the end of each song - Michael Stipe at SxSW.

Here's your Top 10

1. 23 Beats Off - Fugazi
2. Bouncing with Bud - The Amazing Bud Powell
3. Sun of a Gun - Nirvana
4. Freddie the Freeloader - Miles Davis
5. Shore Leave - Yung Wu
6. Divorce Song - Liz Phair
7. Atlantis to Interzone - Klaxons
8. Generals and Majors - XTC
9. Perfect Circle - R.E.M.
10. Fatman - G. Love and Special Sauce

After starting off with an epic punk v. jazz battle, the list settles into a cozy alternative music vibe. Bring on Friday! What's your top 10?

TV on the Internet

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With the rise of You Tube, TV broadcasters have struggled mightily to control their content on the internet. They obviously don’t want to follow in the footsteps of the music industry which has fought (fights) tooth and nail against the distribution of music over the internet only to see literally billions of songs being transferred illegally from thousands of peer-to-peer sites. The music industry’s response to the internet has even passed Decca Records not signing The Beatles as the biggest bonehead move in the music industry.

Recently there have been a number of “TV on the internet? efforts by broadcasters and they’re actually pretty good. For a couple of months now Comedy Central has put all of its The Daily Show episodes on its web site and its great. You can easily search and view any The Daily Show item. Want to view all of Lewis Black’s rants? Easily found.

Now NBC and Fox have come out with their own version of You Tube call Hulu. Unlike You Tube, it doesn’t accept videos from the masses. Instead it has episodes from over 200 TV series, movies and sporting events. This includes series currently on the air like The Office and SNL as well as long ago episodes like The A-Team. It’s easy to use and commercials are at a minimum. There is another service called Joost that has similar TV episodes, but not as many current ones (but does have Star Trek!). If only the BBC would do something similar so that we could view old Monty Python’s or the Young Ones from our computers

Now of course watching TV on your desktop or notebook computer doesn’t match watching TV from the barcalounger but it is good deal if you have a few minutes to kill and want to see something that you recently missed. Want to check out the Hilary-Obama debate skit from SNL a couple of weeks ago? Hulu will get you there.

However the melding of your computer, internet access and television is only getting closer. We have been looking at new HDTV’s for our home and a couple of sets do include a way to connect your computer to the TV. I’m guessing that this will be a standard feature soon and we will have yet another reason to stay inside away from all human contact.

The Apple Orchard

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When I was growing up I lived practically kiddy corner from a 50-tree apple orchard. The orchard really wasn’t tended and the neighborhood kids had free reign over the orchard, its trees, and, most importantly, the apples.

In the summer we would spend hours in the orchard playing games and eating apples. Although the trees weren’t really taken care of, they still produced some pretty good apples and it was nice to be able to pick off an apple from a tree and bury your teeth into that juicy, crunchy fruit. Birds would also enjoy the fallen fruit and it was funny seeing drunk birds who had imbibed on too many apples fermenting in the sun. Being boys, apples also made perfect missiles and there is nothing better than hitting someone with a rotten, soft apple that’s been baking in the sun for months. Firecrackers put into apples and tossed also make quite an effective weapon. In the fall we would have epic apple wars which would leave the entire neighborhood covered in smelly, smashed rotten apples. If it was warm enough, the apple stench would last for days.

That apple orchard really represented the carefree days of youth and after my brother died, I found myself walking through the apple orchard once again. I was 23 at the time and it had probably been 5 years since I was last in the orchard. I was inextricably drawn to the orchard, probably trying to recapture that youthful innocence that had been shattered that terrible day. I didn’t know what I would find there but it was a comforting place, even if it was for a moment.

Today the apple orchard is gone. A fence has gone up around it and houses sit where apple trees used to dislodge their fruit. I don’t know exactly when it happened and glad that I wasn’t around to see them go. Living in the city, my kids and their friends don’t have a place like an apple orchard to spend countless hours and I am not sure their mothers would let them if they did. Which is too bad. Kids need a place where they can go without adult supervision, where fruit, and all that it represents, is just there for the picking.

Friday Random Top 10

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File under sexist pig: I can’t figure out of Cindy McCain is scary hot (for her age) or just scary. She’s like one of those vision pictures: at first glance it looks like a vase, then looks like two faces looking at each, then a vase again. Anyway, here’s your Friday Top 10...

1. Unscathed – Jack Logan
2. Tame – Pixies
3. Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen
4. In the Time it Takes – X
5. Christ for President – Billy Bragg and Wilco
6. Explain it to Me – Liz Phair
7. Passenger Pigeon – Handsome Family
8. Prime of Life – Neil Young
9. Conclusion of the Railroad Earth – Jack Kerouac
10. Where Have All the Flowers Gone – Peter Paul and Mary

O.k. A little mellower this week. Christ for President is appropriate given the election season upon us. A nice vibe to chill to, especially since Winter refuses to leave the Upper Midwest. What’s your top 10?

Hilary!

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For supporters of Barack Obama, last night was suppose to be the night. When finally it became inevitable and Hilary Clinton would have to throw in the towel. After winning Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island, obviously she’s in for the long haul, alas.

Technically it looks like HRC is only going to net about 10 delegates meaning that Obama has a 100 plus delegate lead with a number of upcoming states also looking good. But this take glosses over the fact that momentum counts in politics. One can legitimately ask can Obama close the deal? Will it get too negative? Will reporters get to go to more ass kissing bbq’s with John McCain?

While I think Hilary Clinton would be a much better president than John McCain and I have to admit that she can be quite charming and funny when she wants to be, I’d still rather see Obama as president. I just feel like there’s too much baggage associated with the Clintons and that she has surrounded herself with too many insiders who are dependent upon the wretched status quo of the D.C. muck. I don’t want a Democratic version of George W. Bush, Clinton hasn’t convinced me that she would be a different kind of president.

Anyway looks like we have 7 more weeks to figure it out. In some respects its good, we will get too know our candidates and building up a democratic organization is a good thing. Let’s just hope the D’s don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory come this November.

One interesting note from the Texas Primary: More people voted in the Texas primary on Tuesday than voted for John Kerry in 2004. That bodes well for November, regardless of the candidate.

Brett Favre Retires

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From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

"Boo hoo hoo. The Packers didn’t sign Randy Moss, the Packers didn’t tell me they liked me enough. I 'm staying home and hunt me some possum."

Gram Parsons

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After spending most of 2007 on this blog discussing my favorite albums, this year I want to spend time with my favorite musical artists. Instead of starting with an obvious choice like Bob Dylan, Paul Westerberg, or Johnny Cash, I want to start begin with Gram Parsons, the artist pretty much credited with the birth of County-Rock and the grandfather of alt-country.

I recently finished reading 20,000 Roads – The Ballad of Gram Parsons and His Cosmic American Music. This book takes a pretty straight-forward, unsympathetic biographical look at Gram Parsons, his art, and his controversial death. I would highly recommend it for anyone interested in the life of Gram Parsons. In addition I rented the documentary Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel which is a slightly more sympathetic look at Grams life and is basically a shorthand version of the book in video form.

I’m not going to go into a lengthy recap of what’s in those two sources, but just to say that Gram was born in a quite wealthy family headed by a Florida orange baron. Growing up in Florida and southern Georgia, Gram was exposed to country music and hit NYC in the mid 60’s with a musical vocabulary that was closer to George Jones than John Lennon. Parsons eventually found his way to Los Angeles to pursue a musical career. What I found most interesting about Gram Parsons is that when almost all of his cohorts were into psychedelia and blues-based rock, Gram was into the Louvin Brothers and Buck Owens. Remember this was in the late 60’s when there was a wide cultural chasm between conservative, racist, Nashville and free-love, dope smokin’ L.A.

After creating a classic country album with the International Submarine Band, Parsons was hired by the Byrds, at the time one of the most popular bands in the country, to record an album. From this collaboration in 1968 came Sweetheart of the Rodeo. While at the time not well received or a big seller, its influence has grown exponentially over the last 40 years (ranked 117 by Rolling Stone’s top 500 albums) and is cited by many as the ur-text behind such musical movements as Country Rock, New Traditionalism, and Alt-Country. Interestingly Grams’ lead vocals were removed from the original album release. At the time it was revealed because of contract issues with Parsons’ label. Since then Roger McGuinn has admitted that he chose not have Parsons’ vocals on the album because he didn’t want to share the spotlight with GP. Today you can get the album with both the originally released and Parsons-sung tracks. Listening to both versions, one can understand McGuinn’s concerns. Parsons’ versions are much richer than the McGuinn sung songs.

The Byrds with Gram Parsons played the Grand Old Opry (almost exactly 40 years ago 03.13.68). The Byrds were the first long-haired rock band to play the Opry and were not received well. Parsons in his typical self-promoting, iconoclastic manner, substituted at the last minute his own song -- Hickory Wind -- as the second performed song instead of a Merle Haggard cover, much to the consternation of the Opry powers. It caused a big stink at the time, but today the Opry lists the performance as number 33 out of the 80 greatest Opry performances. (An event completely passed over by the Gram Parsons documentary. I don’t know why, it’s a pretty compelling chapter of the Parsons mythology).

Parsons hung out with the Rolling Stones a lot during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s and definitely wanted to be part of the band. There is some proof that he at least collaborated on the song Honky Tonk Woman (if not exactly wrote it) and Gram’s influence on the Stones, especially Keith Richards, is all over Exile on Main Street. At this time Parsons was in a band called The Flying Burrito Brothers and released a minor classic album Gilded Palace of Sin.

It was at this time that Parsons came up with what he called his Cosmic American Music which is a cross between country, southern boogie, and psychedelica. It was a hybrid sound that was too country for mainstream rock, too psychedelic for country. During his time with the Flying Burrito Brothers, Parsons also went out and got the band members Nudie suits which were garish suits worn by many of the country stars of the day. Parsons’ was a white suit with every conceivable drug imprinted on the jacket, flames at the bell bottoms, and a huge southern cross on the back. Jeff Tweedy wore a similar Nudie suit on SNL over the weekend (03.01.08) – an obvious homage to Gram Parsons. At the end of this post is a You Tube video from the Flying Burrito Brothers that shows quite clearly the Nudie suits and a pretty good example of Cosmic American Music.

In the early 70’s Parsons released two solo albums: GP and Return of the Grievous Angel which typically can be purchased on one CD today. At was at this time that Gram “discovered? Emmy Lou Harris and their duets are the high points of each album. Both albums have original songs written by Parsons and covers of classic country songs. Each album, along with Sweetheart, should be in the library of any country music fan (and by country I don’t mean what’s being passed off as country on K-102).

Parsons was a big druggie and his music suffered greatly because of it. It’s really sad, who knows what else he could have created if he wasn’t so fucked up all the time. Parsons died of a drug overdose in 1973 before Return of the Grievous Angel was released. His body was stolen by some friends before it could be shipped back to his family in Florida. They took Parsons’ body and burned it at Joshua Tree National Monument in a drink and drug-fueled fiasco. His unfortunate cremation only added to the mythology and Parsons’ influence has grown exponentially since his death. Without Parsons it is unlikely we would have had Uncle Tupelo and Whiskeytown and countless other kick-ass beer soaked country rock bands.

Must Have Albums: Byrds - Sweetheart of the Rodeo (with bonus tracks); Parsons - GP; Return of the Grievous Angel.

For Fans: International Submarine Band – Safe at Home; Flying Burrito Brothers – Gilded Palace of Sin.

For Completists: Flying Burrito Brothers – Burrito Deluxe; Gram Parsons – Early Years; Live 1973.

Books: 20,000 Roads – David Meyer

Movies: Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel (Stay away from Grand Theft Parsons, it's trash)

Musical Influences: Buck Owens - Greatest Hits; Ray Charles -- Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music; Louvin Brothers – Satan is Real; George Jones - Essential George Jones

Musical Progeny: The Eagles, Poco, Uncle Tupelo, Whiskeytown, Lucinda Williams

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