August 2008 Archives

Friday Random Top 10

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It’s been welcome week here at the University with lots a kids and their parents in and around campus. The kids have that combination deer-in-the-headlights/I am so excited look while the parents look a little shellshocked, especially as they come out of the bookstore having dumped $300 on books. Speaking of shellshocked, John McCain that nasty headache you have, that’s because Obama took a 2x4, aimed it squarely at your nose and swung.

Here’s your Friday top 10:

1. To Be Myself – Belle and Sebastian
2. Hole in the Ground – Thom Parrott
3. Blue Moon of Kentucky – Elvis Presley
4. Changes – David Bowie
5. Having a Blast – Green Day
6. Ballad of the Green Berets – Hypstrz
7. Summersong – The Decemberists
8. I Shall Be Free #10 – Bob Dylan
9. Wild Flower – The Cult
10. Cold, Cold, Cold – The Handsome Family

Another decent list. What’s your top 10?

College Football 2008

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers come into the 2008 college football season after one of it’s worst seasons ever. A record of 1-11, including loses to teams that were considered cream puffs, a defense that ranked last in the nation, and basically a team that was blown out week after week. The team did improve as the season went on but no one can find a whole lot of positives out of the reeking mass of crap that was last season’s football team.

I was one who thought that former coach Glen Mason left the shelves pretty bare for newcomer Tim Brewster, but not 1-11 and bare. At least Mason knew what shortcoming he had on defense and that is why he ran a time-consuming, run-heavy offense. Brewster didn't seem to realize what he did and did not have. Everyone knew going into last season that Brewster could recruit but could he coach? Well after one year we still know he can recruit but we don’t know if he can coach. I hear other things about Brewster that worry me, but let’s see how the season plays out.

Things should be better this year for the Gophers. A decent recruiting class and a year of experience for both Brewster, and QB Weber should help. This team isn’t competing for the Rose Bowl or the Music City Bowl but is should win more games. I think a successful season would be around 5 wins with a sweep of the non-conference season and two Big 10 wins. Not getting blown out when the team loses would help immensely as well.

This team and Coach Brewster is at a crossroads. Brewster has to demonstrate that he has the composure and smarts to coach a big-league team. These high-faluting recruits need to demonstrate their ability on the field and keep their nose clean off. This is the last year in the dome and everyone will be excited for next year anyway. It would be nice to have a team that creates some excitement as well.

How do you think the Gophers will do this fall?

Hilary's Night

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I wasn’t a big fan of Hilary Clinton in the Democratic campaign and I think she has only herself (and advisors) to blame for the fact that she gave her big speech on Tuesday and not Thursday. But man what a nice speech she gave.

Of course the best line was “were you in it for me or for that young marine? and the others like him who have struggled over the past 8 years. I think that should really hit home with a lot of Clinton supporters who have been reluctant to support Obama. I also liked the reaction shots of Bill Clinton who looked so proud of his wife. They must have one complicated relationship. He obviously loves and admires her but at the same time can’t (or couldn’t) help himself from cattin’ about. I’ll leave that to issue to the psychologists.

Republicans are Borg-like in their response that Clinton didn’t address Obama’s experience issue, which she hammered at so effectively at the end of their campaign. Thing is if she had addressed it, they would have accused her for changing tunes, saying something she doesn’t mean.

Bottom line is that Hilary Clinton told her supporters “I’m not going to be your therapist.? There’s a real election going on here with real issues. McCain means more of the past 8 years, Obama means a new future. That’s way more important than whether or not Hilary Clinton is given her proper due/ With this speech, the issue of the Clinton voters has been effectively been put to bed. Will 100% of Clinton’s supporters vote for Obama? No. Probably a small percentage will never vote for Obama. Will it have any noticeable impact on the Presidential race. No it won’t. It would be nice if the media moved on to something that did.

Random Thoughts

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Things I have been thinking about lately…

It’s convention time! It’s only one night but I love the images from the Democratic National Convention. Blacks, whites, Asians, Hispanics are side-by-side throughout the crowd (I even saw a Sikh!). To think that within my lifetime the Dems wouldn’t even sit a black contingent from Mississippi at their convention. These images will be in sharp contrast to the upcoming Republican Convention which promises to be Űber-white. Don’t worry, the cameras will find the token Republican black attendee.

Twins pick up Eddie Guardardo. The Twins needed to do something about their bullpen and this is probably they best they could do so late in August. Eddie was a fan favorite and if he does well on this road trip, look for an enthusiastic reception when the Twins return. Now if they could only beat Seattle on the road!!!!!

High Gas Prices and SUV’s. If this weekend is any indication, where I was consistently passed on the interstate by 1/3-the-MPG-of-my-hybrid-SUV’s going 80 MPH, gas prices haven’t really changed people’s behavior that much. If they only realized that their gas guzzlers help subsidize Saudi extremists and Russian foreign aggression.

Washington Avenue Pedestrian Deck Closed. Only 10 days before classes begin and the County closes most of the link between the west and east bank of the University Of Minnesota, a link that accommodates over 5000 people and bikes a day! Again our lack of investment in infrastructure means officials have to take drastic measures to keep us safe. Maybe now when politicians say they are going to cut government spending we will have the balls to ask how they plan to keep the bridges up.

Joe Biden as Veep Pick. I predicted it last week. Decent pick that should be entertaining to say the least. Can’t wait to hear Joe on the campaign trail. I predict a verbal gaffe every two weeks.

Friday Random Top 10

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Last night at the Harriet Bandshell I saw an Elvis Impersonator. About mid-way through the act Elvis brought out his long lost (blonde) “son" and they did dueling Elvii for a couple of songs. The crowd, mostly people in their late 50s and early 60s, went absolutely nuts. In honor of Elvis and his son, here’s your weekly top 10:

1. Larry – Buffalo Tom
2. Chinese Lorraine – Jack Logan
3. Folks on the Block – The Magnolias
4. Moondance – Van Morrison
5. You Can Never Hold Back Spring – Tom Waits
6. Room a Thousand Years Wide – Soundgarden
7. For All the Cows – Foo Fighters
8. Free Nelson Mandela – Special AKA
9. Who Will the Next Fool Be – Charlie Rich
10. Expectations – Belle & Sebastian

A little stoner rock, a little jazzy folk, a protest song, rockabilly, punk, plus Belle & Sebastian. Not a bad list at all. What’s your top 10?

Twins at the Road Trip - Can They Do It?

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When the Twins season started nearly 5 months ago fans were nervous. The team had an awful off-season, losing Torii Hunter to the Angels, trading Johan Santana to the Mets for a bunch of minor leaguers, signing aging, washed-up veterans Craig Monroe and Livan Hernandez, trading two promising youngsters to Tampa , and signing half of the Astros infield, both of whom didn’t offer a whole lot of promise. Most felt that this Twins team was slated for about 72-78 wins.

Most of our concerns have come true: Monroe and Hernandez added very little and have been released; after some early success, the only player in the Santana trade to be in the majors has struggled of late; former Astros Mike Lamb and Adam Everett have been non-factors too. Mike Lamb barely even plays anymore. Garza and Bartlett have helped propel the Rays to the top of the American League East while the players we got in return have been serviceable but not great. Oh and Michael Cuddyer has been hurt most of the year. As predicted, the Twins are at 72 wins. The thing is, there are still 36 games left to the season and the Twins are only a game out of first.

How did that happen? Well first and foremost the Twins starting pitching has been much better than expected. Five starters under the age of 26 and all have done very well. No one thought that these pitchers would do so well. Morneau, Mauer, and Jason Kubel have been stellar at the plate and Casilla and Span have surprised. The bullpen has been good, especially early, although causing concern now.

Now due to the Republican National Convention, the Twins are going on a 14 game, 15 day road trip to Anaheim, Oakland, Seattle, and Toronto. The next 24 of 30 games are on the road. In the next two weeks besides knowing who the Vice Presidential candidates are, we will know if the Twins have a shot at the playoffs. These next 14 games are crucial. Thankfully 7 games are against the stinky Athletics and Mariners, while the Angels have put it on autopilot and haven’t been playing as well. Toronto, well, they’re Toronto.

Twins need to win 8 or 9 games on this road trip to keep pace with the White Sox. Plain and simple. This road trip makes or breaks this season. They’ve surprised all summer, (or as Paul Allen says: “The Summer of Stun?) can they surprise one more time?

Potential Democratic Veep Picks - A Primer

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All indications are that Barack Obama will be announcing his Vice President pick in the next day or so. As a public service, below is my rundown of the candidates thought to be under consideration:

Hilary Rodham Clinton. Senator from New York, former First Lady, presumptive Democratic nominee until they started having contests. Pros – A close second in the Democratic contest, has a lot of supporters, could bring more women/working class voters to the ticket, is considered to have more government experience than Obama. Cons -- Very divisive, the one candidate to rally lackadaisical right wingers to vote against the ticket, ran an awful campaign, Bill Clinton brings a lot of baggage to the campaign and potentially to the White House. Odds of being picked: 20-1.

Evan Bayh. Senator from Indiana. Pros – Young, handsome, “up and coming? Democrat, could bring red state Indiana to the Obama fold, moderate who appeals to working class voters. Cons – unexciting and dull, little known outside of Senate or Indiana, voted for Iraq War, doesn’t bring enough “experience to the ticket. Odds: 7-1.

Tim Kaine. Governor from Virginia. Pros – Young, handsome, “up and coming? Democrat, could bring red state Virginia to the Obama fold, moderate who appeals to working class voters, proven vote getter who re-built Democratic Party in Virginia. Cons – little known outside of Senate or Virginia, doesn’t bring enough “experience to the ticket, too moderate for red meat liberals? Odds: 5-1.

Joe Biden. Long-time Senator from Delaware, former presidential candidate. Pros – Articulate, feisty, with lots of foreign policy experience. Appeals to working class voters, could easily fill attack-dog veep role, most easily counters Obama’s weaknesses. Cons – gaffe prone, doesn’t easily fit Obama’s change message, voted for Iraq war (reluctantly), Delaware not really a battleground or big state. Odds: 3-1

Kathleen Sebelieus. Former Republican now Democrat Governor of Kansas. Pros – Could bring more women supporter to Obama, fits with Obama’s change message, could appeal to independents and moderate republican. Cons – Probably doesn’t deliver Kansas and wouldn’t matter if she did, does her selection piss off Clinton supporters? Too moderate for liberals and lefties. Odds: 10-1

Bill Richardson. Governor of New Mexico, former presidential candidate. Pros – Could bring Hispanics to the ticket, puts SW states (NM, Nevada, Colorado) into Obama reach, fits with Obama’s change message, lots of government experience. Cons – Not the greatest campaigner, Too much change will America vote for two brown faces? Whispers of about adultery in the pass. Odds: 15-1.

Al Gore. Former Vice President, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Oscar Winner. Pros – Rock star qualities, appeals to many voters, including those guilty about their 2000 vote, brings lots of experience to the ticket. Cons – Second only to Hilary Clinton as the candidate to rally conservatives against Obama, does he overshadow Obama. Former considered “stiff? has he shaken that image. Odds: 50-1.

If Obama wants to pick between Bayh and Kaine, he should go with Kaine as there is more electoral upside with Kaine. My money is on Joe Biden. I thought he was a week presidential candidate but he makes for an intriguing vice presidential candidate. Biden would be generally well received (not so much on far left), and would be pretty good on the campaign trail, but not without a crazy day here or there. Don’t count out a “surprise? candidate not on the list. What’s your thought, who do you think Obama should/will pick?

Tropic Thunder

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I have to admit when I first saw the trailers for the movie Tropic Thunder I was uninterested. The movie looked kinda dumb and the premise -- a movie crew is stuck in the jungle and don’t realize that they are in real trouble and not filming a move – seemed a little far fetched. Then I saw a new trailer in front of The Dark Knight and the movie looked a lot more interesting. Finally the reviews came out very positively so I had to see it.

Well no disappointments here. Tropic Thunder is hilarious. The movie is really a big spoof on Hollywood and self-important actors, cheesy action movies, and cliché that pass for dialogue in today’s “event? movies. The opening, a war scene that practically rivals Saving Private Ryan, would be horrifying if it wasn’t so over the top, including fountains of blood that can only be described as Pythonesque. Tom Cruise is amazing as an out of shape, balding studio producer, and there are numerous cameos from Alicia Silverstone to Jon Voight.

The jokes come fast and furious and the movie can tend to be a bit silly at times but the movie is fast paced and doesn’t get bogged down. If you ever wanted Ben Stiller to extend one of his MTV Movie Awards skits to a full length feature – and pull it off – this movie is a must see. This is definitely a "guy movie" as there are practically no women, save for a few cameos, in the entire film. It also has humour more geared toward a guy's sensibility. Fun to go to with your teenage son (like I did) or with a bunch of buds to get away from the gymnastics competitions on TV.


Friday Random Top 10

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There’s an article today in the Star Tribune that mentions some of the musicians who will be in town to “entertain? the attendees of the Republican National Convention. The “big? names include Gretchen Wilson, Sammy Hagar, LeAnn Rimes, Big Head Todd, Smashmouth, and Daughtry. Woo boy, gonna have big times in the Twin Towns the first week of September!! Here's your top 10:

1. She Wants to Know – Guided By Voices
2. Candy’s Room – Bruce Springsteen
3. Puff the Magic Dragon – Peter, Paul and Mary
4. Dead – My Chemical Romance
5. I Can’t Explain – The Who
6. Polly – Nirvana
7. Can’t Let Go – Lucinda Williams
8. Legionnaire’s Lament – The Decemberists
9. Arkansas Traveler – Jerry Garcia and David Grisham
10. Geek Stink Breath – Green Day

O.k. That was different. Puff the Magic Dragon has always intrigued me. No it's not about smoking pot. Even though Peter Yarrow says it's about lost innocence, I also think it's about parents letting go of their children. Something that is very real to a parent of two teenagers.

What's your top 10?

Lewis or Phelps - Greatest Olympian

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Stick and Ball Guy brought up the issue of who is/was the greatest Olympian: Michael Phelps or Carl Lewis. It’s a pretty good question, one ripe for discussion. SBG falls firmly in the Carl Lewis camp citing evidence that Lewis got his 9 gold medals over a longer time period, track and field is a more “prestigious? (my word, not his) sport, and that his performance in 1984 winning gold medals in the four most glamorous events (the 100, 200, 4X100, and the long jump). SBG also feels that the fact that swimming world records keep falling precipitously means that the sport isn’t as mature as track and field and clearly swimmers haven’t reached the full human potential for that sport. Compelling arguments I have to agree.

In Michael Phelps corner is the fact that he will have more Gold medals, is breaking world records by leaps and bound, as opposed the 1/10th of a second typically found in track records, and is doing his feat in a number of different events (Four of Lewis’ Golds were in the Long Jump). Also one has to wonder if Lewis would have done so well in 1984 if the Soviet Bloc countries had participated. Then again, would Lewis have won any medals in 1980 if the USA hadn’t boycotted those Olympics?

SBG makes a pretty good case for Lewis and right now I have to think he’s right. If Phelps comes back in 2012 and wins another 2-4 Gold Medals then I think it would be difficult not to label Michael Phelps the greatest Olympic Athlete ever.

What do you think?

John Edwards and the late, not-so-great Hilary Campaign

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So Johnny “Ken Doll? Edwards was bangin’ his videographer. But it’s o.k. his wife was in remission from cancer when it happened. I don’t who care who Edwards nails, just don’t do it if you’re gonna run for president. Just think how crazy this past weekend would have been if Edwards was the Democratic nominee? He could’ve sunk any chance of Democrats picking up the White House. Sheez, what a self-centered jerk.

Now a spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign has said that if news of Edwards affair had come out before the Iowa Caucus’ Hilary would be the nominee. It so easy to play the “what if? game but here are some pretty well known facts that greatly contributed to Hilary losing the nomination, a contest in which she started out with all the advantages:

1. She didn’t take Obama seriously until too late.
2. Positioned herself as the “experience? candidate when Americans clearly wanted “change?
3. Had no strategy for after Super Tuesday
4. Had no strategy to gain delegates in large caucus states
5. Blew through $100 million dollars by the time of the Iowa and New Hampshire contests and was basically broke the rest of the campaign.

There is an absolutely fascinating article in the Atlantic that shows how ineptitude, internal strife, and indecision drove the Hilary campaign to its ultimate fate. Click here for the link. For someone who said she was ready to lead from day 1, the suckiness Clinton and her top aides brought to the campaign seriously makes me question whether or not she would have made a good, even competent president. Sorry John Edwards had nothing to do with your loss Hilary, all you need to do is look in the mirror.

Friday Random Top 10

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Know what I hate about the Olympics coverage? All those “up close and personal? features. I don’t care if someone grew up in an orphanage in Albania and worked at a TGIF to pay for her archery training. Just show me the dang archery competition. Here’s your weekly top 10:

1. Chinese Rock – The Ramones
2. Space Boy – Smashing Pumpkins
3. To Have and Have Not – Billy Bragg
4. Star of Bethlehem – Neil Young
5. One Step at a Time – Husker Du
6. Climbing Up the Walls – Radiohead
7. People Have the Power – Patti Smith
8. I’m Leaving Now – Johnny Cash
9. Daddy Don’t Cry – Elvis Presley
10. Conduit For Sale – Pavement

Not a bad list. That Ramones song got me thinking about my favorite song about drugs. I would have to say Heroin by The Velvet Underground. Now that is a wild song. What is your top ten?

Blogs on Songs

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O.k. I just discovered something real cool on the web. There are blogs out there that are solely dedicated to reviewing, commenting, and just plain writing about a band’s musical output song-by-song. These blogs typically chose a song by their favorite band and take 2-4 paragraphs to review it, deconstruct it, and basically reflect on the song, and what it means to them and how it fits in the bands oeuvre. As you can guess, the quality is hit or miss, but interesting nonetheless. Below are some of the song blogs that I have found the most compelling:

Guided By Voices
Radiohead
REM
Wilco
Weezer

I’ve wanted to use this blog to do something like this for a long time. Not necessarily concentrate on a specific band, but to pick a song every so often and then really dig into it. What was the band trying to say here, what does the song do for me. Why do I love it so much. Heck Greil Marcus took a whole book to describe Like a Rolling Stone surely I can write a few paragraphs on a song. (btw, speaking of Griel Marcus, his description of the song Roadrunner in his book Lipstick Traces is pretty amazing, only took a couple of pages and not a whole book.)

Unfortunately something like that takes a lot of time. You have to listen to the song numerous times, do some research on the song to find out what the band and other reviews have said about it, and then come up with something coherent to say. Not something you can blast out at the top of your head (like most of my posts). Anyway I’m going to try to do something like that every so often. The blogs above have given me inspiration. Who knows maybe I can do a whole blog on Replacements songs!?

NYC 2008

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So for the 2nd time in two years, the family spent over a week in Manhattan. Both times we were lucky to use someone’s apartment so that we could avoid the $250+ a night hotel room fees. We were also in some cool neighborhoods: two years ago in the heart of the West Village, this year in the East Village. Instead of giving a travel log (on Wednesday we went to….) I’m just going to give some perspectives.

First New York is extremely busy. Late July is the high tourist season and many New Yorkers don’t leave town until August. So the streets were absolutely packed. Crazily so. Also since the dollar is so low compared to other currencies, there are a lot of foreign tourists too, taking advantage of a cheap vacation. It was much more crowded this year than in 2006.

Even though (because of?) the streets are so busy, in two visits and nearly 20 days of visiting, we have never felt threatened, seen a crime, or been subject to anything that would be considered even mildly threatening. Of course we are in touristy areas, but we are out late at night sometimes. I went to NYC a number of times in the mid-1980’s and there is a big difference. Also some parks that were open drug areas (Thompkin Square Park, Union Square, Bryant Park) are open, safe places to spend time with your family.

Some highlights include the Museum of Modern Art and the Salvador Dali exhibit, Rockaway Beach in Brooklyn, Bryant Park in mid-town, and a David Letterman taping. We saw Wicked on Times Square. There were a lot of teenage girls at the show and the story definitely was geared to that age group. It was a classic big Broadway show with over the top sets and huge songs. I was a little disappointed that the Wicked story intruded on the original Wizard of Oz story a little more than my liking, but still it was a fun time.

Now for the quiz. The photo above is a current picture of something very (kinda?) famous. In fact any male over the age of 35 should know exactly why that building is well known. Shane, this is your surprise and you should especially know what it is. Just a hint, you may know this image from something in the past so it won’t be exactly how you remember it. Know what it is? Use the comments section. This image was a few blocks from where we were staying in the East Village and is indicative of the architecture found throughout that part of the City.

Back and Ready to Blog

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I am back from a week in NYC and hope to give more details on my trip in a future post (including a surprise for Shane!). Needless to say we had a great time, the only hassle was the flight to and from. Crowds were huge everywhere we went but the City is looking good. Here are some other items that have been rattling around my brain:

Twins in First Place. O.k. the guy who had the Twins in first on August 3rd can step up and collect their prize. I put it all on the starting pitching as no one thought that Slowey, Perkins, and Blackburn would be this good. We all had hopes for Baker. Lots of road games coming up, I think everyone has bated breath to see if the good play can hold up for another 8 weeks.

Brett Favre. God I love this. Remember when those with rationale minds said Favre was a prima donna, was in it for himself? Now you Cheeseheads know what we're talking about. The guy is willing to destroy his team so that he can continue to stroke his ego. What did you kill all the possum in Kiln already Brett?

The Dark Knight. Saw this last week in NYC and it's as good as advertised. Very dark and intense. Yes Heath Ledger is amazing. Kicks the snot out of Batman Begins. Kinda bummed that Harvey Dent died, he's a good character.

Paul Westerberg - 49:00. Paul Westerberg has a new release out that you can only get via download from Amazon.com. Even though it's called 49:00 it clocks in at about 42 minutes and its his first release in about 4 years. It's one of those self-produced deals where Paul plays all the instruments and it's listed as one track but is actually about 12 tracks. The album is a little rough as songs play on top of each other. It rocks though and one of Westerberg's strongest releases in a long time. Oh it's also only 49 cents, so you can't go wrong.

John McCain's ads. Comparing Obama to Paris and Britany? Comparing him to Neo and Moses? Sure everyone likes a little snark now and them but this from a major presidential candidate? Hey John leave the craptastic to the McCain Girls. Let's hear what you have to offer the country.


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