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June 29, 2009

Favorite Things -- The Wire

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For about 16 months I have been pretty religious about going on the exercise bike at least 2-4 times a week. My secret is that I have set up a portable DVD player and watch DVDs of TV series that I missed during their first runs. I have picked shows that are more serial in nature so that I am motivated to keep watching. My first show was Battlestar Galactica. Last week I finished five seasons of The Wire.

The Wire played on HBO and was an extremely gritty portrayal of Baltimore, its drug trade and police and government reaction to the drug trade. The show was very cynical as it demonstrated that our institutions are just as corrupt as the drug runners they are responding to. What was really interesting is that each season the show focused on one institution as it responded to the urban ills of the early part of this decade. Season One concentrated on the Police; Two looked at the Unions and dock workers; Three examined City Politics; Season 4 took on the Schools; and 5 focused on the Newspaper industry. All was interwoven with the drug trade in Baltimore, the guys who controlled the drugs and the thugs who sold and controlled the street.

One was drawn into the series because of the characters. Characters, whether Police, drug thug, or politician were shown warts and all and you could be sympathetic to a character even though he was a ruthless murderer, a stats-juking bureaucrat, or a cynical politician. Also there were no sacred cows. Favorite and key characters would be killed off or shown cheating on their spouse. Characters were shown as complex people with conflicting motivations who sometimes made mistakes. Just like people in real life.

Season 4 was especially devastating. It concentrated on the schools, specifically four 8th grade boys as they tried to go to a school that is underfunded and sitting literally sitting in a war zone of the drug trade. My own kid was also in 8th grade as I watched that season and believe me his life is completely different than those kids. These four were also followed in season 5 and only one made it through as anything considered safe. But one became so attached to these kids that it was a kick in the gut to see how they turned out. In fact I even uttered a sad "oh Michael" when one of the kids made his first killing (shooting a street thug who had been on the show from the beginning).

As I mentioned above, The Wire is extremely cynical and dark. Its message really is that our Cities are failing, our institutions are failing, and that we are in an endless loop. We can eliminate some drug thugs, but others are ready to rise up and take their place. We can eliminate our urban slums but the things that make those places slums, just move to someplace else. Good people may try to fix things but The System beats them down and corrupts them so that in the end nothing happens. It sound pretty sad and grim and in a sense it is. But the stories are so rich, the characters so real that I heartedly recommend anyone to seek out The Wire and dive in.

Up next for the Exercise Bike? The Sopranos

June 26, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

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Wow, bad day yesterday. Farah Fawcett and Michael Jackson are gone and the T-Wolves draft eight point guards. We definitely need a random top 10:

1. Lafayette - Lucinda Williams
2. Forgotten Works - Klaxons
3. Infected - Bad Religion
4. Secondary Modern - Elvis Costello
5. Talking in the Dark - Elvis Costello
6. Down There by the Train - Tom Waits
7. Down on Penny's Farm - The Bently Boys
8. If My Heart Was a Car - Old 97's
9. Two Rooms - The Feelies
10. Make You Feel My Love - Bob Dylan

Bonus: Radio Cure - Wilco

You got your folk, punk, double shot of Elvis Costello, the Feelies and Wilco. Nothing wrong with that list at all. What's your top 10?

June 25, 2009

NBA Draft Day

Today's the NBA Draft and without Kevin McHale at the helm, Wolves fan(s) are excited that an epic Taylor Hainsborough and $1 million dollar for Kevin Love deal is very unlikely.

With four number 1 picks (including #5 and #6) and a new GM who has promised to bring some excitement to the local NBA franchise, there is actual Draft anticipation and not dread out there. Now of course, in typical T-wolves fashion, they own 4 picks in a draft that by all accounts is considered weak.

The Strib's Wolves beat guy is tweeting the draft goings on and says that the Wolves are working all trade and pick scenarios hard so I am guessing we won't know the entire outcome of the draft until close to midnight. So when the dust settles on the 2009 NBA draft, here are my hopes and dreams and fears (ht Canis Hoopus).

Dreams
Rubio and Harden
Curry and Harden

Hopes
Either Rubio or Curry
Ty Lawson at 18
Harden and Flynn

Fears
Evans and Flynn
Thabeet
Any scenario that trades #5 or #6 and Kevin Love to get to #2

I really like Rubio because I think he could bring a level of excitement to Target Center. They aren't going to win a lot of games anyway so let's have some fun while we're losing. Curry is in the same level, but without as much buzz. Combine one of those and add Harden. That would be awesome.

Wolves please stay away from Thabeet. Sure you can't teach size, but I just don't see him as being tough enough to be an NBA inside player. And what the heck, if we can get Hainsborough with the 28th pick, I wouldn't even cringe.

What do you think, what should the Wolves do? What will this team look like tomorrow?

June 23, 2009

Green Day -- 21st Century Breakdown

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Being a guy in his mid-40's who sometimes borders on rock-snobbery, I realize I am not suppose to like Green Day. Sure, Green Day was "cool" back when they were East Bay punks, but now with a second album in 5 years that wears its pretentious sermonizing on its sleeve, the sentiment that Green Day speaks to anyone outside it's target market of 10-14 year old boys is usually met with eyes rolled at best, derision at worst.

Pitchfork Media, self-assigned arbiters of cool music, led the anti-Green Day charge when they gave 21st Century Breakdown only 4.8 out of 10 stars and slagged the album with the following:

21st Century Breakdown is just as pompous and dumb, but it lacks even that old misguided passion. It's a slog, but not the kind that results when a band forgets the importance of editing when in the throes of "trying to say something." Its sprawl feels entirely unearned, three men worried about meeting expectations rather than driven by urgency. The performances are blandly professional, because any major-label rock band of Green Day's abilities could shit this stuff out in their sleep, and emotionally inert. This is the crafting of a modern epic as a dreary day-job routine.

Obviously I am writing this post because I disagree. Now don't ask me what the "story" is all about, I couldn't tell you and to be honest, I couldn't care less. What I like about 21st Century Breakdown is that it rawks. Hard. Is it big dumb rock? You bet your stack of Marshall amps it is but big dumb rock has always had a place in my musical tastes, especially when it marries punk sensibilities with arena-style guitar anthems.

Classic rock grandiosity, punk rock fury, pop song hooks, this album has it all. There is a blatant rip-off of a Hives song that absolutely kills and a shout out to G..L..O..R..I..A in another song.. The last 3rd of the album thunders with a ear-crunching trio of Horseshoes and Handgrenades, The Static Age, and 21 Guns -- songs not only thrilling but bringing the album to a rousing conclusion. The Static Age is particularly fun as it combines hard rock bombast with garage rock sentimentality.

So is 21st Century Breakdown derivative? No doubt. Are the lyrics kinda dumb? Yes. Does it try to hard to be profound? Oh God Yes. But it rocks out from start to finish and is a strong antidote to all the whiny buzz bands that all the cool kids seem to like.

June 22, 2009

Replacements at U of MN Great Hall -- Spring 1984

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This is really a test of the new slide show feature of LFAD. I took these pictures over 25 years ago (!!!) from a Replacements show at the U of MN Great Hall. I believe it was April or May of 1984. Enjoy and let me know how well the slide show worked.

June 19, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

A jury says a woman must pay the music industry $80,000 per illegally downloaded song. Even though the music industry values their songs at 99 cents. Wow! Does that mean this list is worth $880,000? Here's your top 10:

1. Good Morning, Good Morning -- The Beatles
2. C'mon Everybody -- Eddie Cochran
3. The Wild Wagoneer -- Jilson Setters
4. Love and Happiness -- Al Green
5. Shirley MacLaine -- The 757s
6. Ain't that Enough -- Teenage Fanclub
7. Tommy's Holiday Camp -- The Who
8. Soma -- The Strokes
9. Oh Very Young -- Cat Stevens
10. About You -- Teenage Fanclub

Bonus: Mod Lang -- Big Star

Ooh the rare Teenage Fanclub double shot. What's your top 10?

June 18, 2009

I've Got My Twins 2010 Twins Tickets

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We finally got our tickets selected for the inaugural year at Target Field. I will be in Section 324, row 4 for ten games next year and we will not only have an awesome view of the field, but also of the downtown skyline. See above for ticket location.

These are $12 seats but I am extremely happy. Ten games, now we gotta figure out who goes to what game. Should be fun! You better let me know pretty soon if you want to go to a game.

June 17, 2009

Changes to LFAD!

Obviously I have made changes to the look and feel of LFAD. More coming I promise. We've moved to Movable Type 4.something and it has a lot more features to play with. I am kind of poking around see what works and what looks good and am wishing I knew html better than I do. Let me know in the comments if you want to see some feature or like something I'm doing better than others.

June 16, 2009

(Almost) Gorgeous Weekend

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We were in Chicago over the weekend to see the Twin-Cubs play in the friendly confines on Sunday. Even though we are less than a year away from seeing outdoor baseball here in Minneapolis we didn't want to pass up an opportunity to see baseball played how it was meant to be played: In a outdoor, urban ballpark dedicated to the game and not squeezing every last dollar out of fat cat sometime fans.

Most have seen the coverage of the weekend with Twins fans coming out in force for the three-game series. Reading some coverage of the series, Cubs fans were saying that it was one of the biggest visiting team invasions they can remember in a long time. Apparently Wrigley was 1/3 Twins fans on Saturday. Sunday probably didn't have as many Twins supporters but there were definitely a lot of us.

Sunday was one of those great days to watch a game: 75 degrees with some clouds, and a bit of a breeze blowing in. We got down to the ballpark early (someone on the EL saw us and said "Piranhas on the Train!") walked around the ballpark and had a hearty omelet and hash browns at a cool little diner on Clark Street. The scene around the ballpark was electric with people hawking tickets and t-shirts, bars open to the streets, and lots of people watching. Some of the unofficial t-shirt sellers were the best and I had to explain to my 13 year old that Fukudome was a Japanese outfielder for the Cubs and not some sort of pejorative against the Metrodome.

We had awesome seats about 15 rows behind the Twins dugout and had a few foul balls hit in our general direction. We had full view of the game and the ivy-strewn wall and after about an hour we were bathed in sun for the rest of the game. Fans were passionate but were not obnoxious to Twins fans like they would be at Comiskey Park.

The game was close and well played and in the top of the 9th all tied up at two, the Twins had 2 guys on with one out and Mauer and Morneau due up. The Twins fans were really rocking the joint but neither came through. The bottom of the 9th was a Crain-wreck for the Twins and the Cubs prevailed. No problems though, Twins took 2 of three from the Cubs, we had a wonderful time and got to take in one of the ultimate baseball experiences: A game at Wrigley on a glorious summer afternoon.

June 12, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

Going to Chicago this weekend and will be at Wrigley on Sunday to see the Twins-Cubs. Right now it promises to be 75 and nice that day. We have tickets 19 rows behind the Twins dugout. Any one else going to any of the games? Let’s start off the weekend with a Random Top 10:

1. Finding Devine – Hank and Ruth
2. With a Girl Like You – Alex Chilton
3. Careless Love – Ray Charles
4. Because – The Beatles
5. Is She Really Going Out with Him – Joe Jackson
6. No Body but Me – The Human Beinz
7. Feeling Called Love – Wire
8. I’ll Never Let You Go – Elvis Presley
9. Town of Mirrors – Guided By Voices
10. Soon – My Bloody Valentine

Bonus: Many Rivers to Cross – Harry Nilsson

That was a different list for me. Lot of older stuff and five of the songs by solo acts. What’s your top 10?

June 11, 2009

Got Hate?

Yesterday a white supremacist shoots up the National Holocaust Museum, killing a guard. Last week, it was right wing nut job killing an abortion doctor in his church. In April a guy worried that “Obama was going to take his guns” shoots and kills three Pittsburgh police.

Sure it was funny when Michelle Bachmann says something crazy, the Texas Governor says he wants his State to secede, or thrice-divorced, drug addicted Rush Limbaugh tries to lecture Democrats about values. But clearly the right wing ranting about President Obama is unfortunately causing the more unstable elements of the loony right to start killing people. Even Shepherd Smith of Fox News(!) said over the air that he was upset about all the hate e-mails he was getting.

The First Amendment allows the wing-nuts to say what ever they want about Obama and the state of the world. It’s what makes this country great. However, these commenters have to take responsibility for the actions that their hate speech has generated. Bill O’Reilly can’t use the airways for years stating that Dr. Tiller should be taken out and then wash his hands of all culpability when someone actually does the deed. Right-wingers who tolerate and encourage white supremacists now all of a sudden have blood on their hands. It would be nice if they would man up and admit their responsibility in these heinous actions. I won’t hold my breath.

June 10, 2009

Epic Bike Ride

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Last Friday promised to be a nice day and the weekend was looking to by dicey (which ended up to be correct) so I took Friday off and decided to go on a long bike ride. My goal was to ride from my house in southwest Minneapolis to my childhood home out in Mound, all via bike trails. It is a 58 mile-round trip ride which would be the longest single ride I have ever attempted.

The impetus was a new 13-mile bike trail that recently opened between Wayzata and Mound. This trail followed abandoned railroad tracks and passed right by million dollar houses, wooded areas, Lake Minnetonka, the old Tonka Toys factory, and my old house. As a kid and teenager I spent a lot of time on various parts of those tracks and the ride promised to be nostalgic.

Getting from Minneapolis to Wayzata is relatively easy. From the lakes to Theodore Wirth Pkwy to the Luce Line trail and I was in the western suburbs in a flash. The Luce Line has not quite connected to Theodore Wirth but the base is there. That last connection should be done later this summer. The highlight was the Dakota Trail which connects Mound and Wayzata.

Boy did it bring back memories. Riding across the Arcola RR Bridge (see above before it was a bike trail), where we used to bridge jump and where one day my friend Todd was walking one way on the bridge with a case of beer in his arms and coming the other way was a Hennepin County Sheriff. He dropped the case (doh!) and jumped off the bridge into the water. The trail also goes right through the Lafayette Country Club where I spent two summers working on the grounds crew and once saw Mick Jagger up close. The trail passed by houses where kids grew up that I liked and hated. Old mailboxes that I use to destroy would catch my eye as I passed by.

The trail goes right into Mound, which looks completely different than when I was growing up. Past downtown Mound is my house and the trail passes within 100 yards of my old house. As a kid we spent a lot of time on those tracks and the hills surrounding them. I noticed that there were still dirt paths going up the hills so I think kids still play in those hidden areas, unseen by adults. While I was tooling around Mound my I-pod, set on shuffle, was playing Dylan’s Desolation Row. Not sure if that meant anything but it sure produced a smile.

Unfortunately I had to ride back home and by the 50 mile mark my thighs were really feeling the miles. I made it home a little sore but feeling pretty good. I will definitely take that trip again.

June 5, 2009

Friday Random Top 10

Off on a 55 mile bike ride but I got get a top 10 in to motivate me...

1. Approaching Pavonis Mons by Balloon -- The Flaming Lips
2. Open My Eyes -- The Nazz
3. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Ban -- The Beatles
4. Watch Me Jumpstart -- Guided By Voices
5. Old Chunk of Coal -- Johnny Cash
6. Box of Rain -- Grateful Dead
7. The Lake -- Trip Shakespeare
8. King Who Wouldn't Smile -- The Handsome Family
9. Because -- The Beatles
10. Open Up YOur Heart -- Buck Owens

Bonus -- Nashville Blues -- The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

Started off kinda weird but ended up rootsy with some Beatles thrown in. Not a bad way to start off a gorgeous day. What's your top 10?

June 4, 2009

Spring Sports Roundup

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It’s June which means finally we transition from Hockey and Basketball Playoffs to full bore Baseball some thoughts as it stays light to nearly 10:00 here in the northland.

Stanley Cup. I was disappointed that Boston or Washington didn’t get to the finals but a Detroit-Pittsburgh finals is a lot of fun too. Detroit just has too many tools, but if Crosby and Malkin turn it up a notch, it could get wild. With a 2-1 lead, I see the Red Wings winning in 6 games. I will definitely be tuning in.

NBA Finals. Yawn. Of course everyone wanted Kobe v. Lebron. Instead we got a bunch of no-names w/Dwight Howard against the Lakers. No way Howard dominates the paint like he did against Cavs. Lakers in 5. I won’t be watching.

Twins. Even though Mauer and Morneau had monster Mays (nice alliteration), the Twins were still under .500. Basically the bottom of the line-up is wretched with Punto, Delmon Young, Buscher, Tolbert, and now Casilla contributing nothing at the plate. Combine that with Baker and Liariano disappointing every outing, the Twins are struggling. Thankfully June brings lots of games against the AAAA National League so I expect a winning month. The highlight will be our trip to Wrigley to see the Twins-Cubs next week. The rest of MLB season has been pretty pedestrian. It looks like 87 wins will win the AL central.

Also Gardy is coming around as a manager. Mauer batting second, Nathan pitching in the 8th in key situtations instead of Crain, Gomez getting more playing time over Young because of his glove. These are changes bloggers have been pointing out for months. Gardy may be slow but he does eventually get it.

Soccer. U.S. gets ripped 3-1 in Costa Rica. We are now 0-7 at that crazy stadium in Costa Rica. Somehow I just don’t think the U.S. is still ready for the world stage. When will it be?


Golf, NASCAR, Tennis. Huh?

June 2, 2009

1984 -- Greatest Year for Music?

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Slate.com has a real good article by Simon Reynolds about music and the “in-between periods” of rock history that get ignored or lack a name. For example what happened before and after “grunge” is just as important as the grunge movement itself. Also in the article Ritchie (who has written two cool books about punk and rock) quotes someone who states that 1988 was the best year for rock ever: Surfer Rosa (Pixies), Daydream Nation (SY), Isn’t Anything (MBV).

While 1988 was a good year for rock, personally I think 1984 was better. Here’s the proof:

Prince – Purple Rain
Husker Du – Zen Arcade
The Replacements – Let It Be
U2 – Unforgettable Fire
R.E.M – Reckoning
The Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
Metallica – Ride the Lightning

So the challenge. Was there a better year for music than 1984? If you think so, provide your evidence in the comments section.