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October 29, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Every year I like to get leafs raked, gardens cut down, summer stuff put into the garage by November 1st. Guess what I will be doing this weekend? Also Gophers game v. OSU too, with seats close to the 50 yard line!!! Here's your top 10....

1. Buffalo Solder -- Bob Marley
2. That Summer Feeling -- Jonathan Richman
3. Surfin' Safari -- The Beach Boys
4. Nothing's Ever Gonna Stand in my Way -- Wilco
5. You are my Sunshine -- Johnny Cash
6. Front Yard -- Bellwether
7. Between and Erupting Earth and an Exploding Sky -- Los Campesinos!
8. Lost Someone -- James Brown
9. Off The Record (live) -- My Morning Jacket
10. The Future is in Eggs -- Guided By Voices

Bonus: Don't Cry Daddy -- Elvis Presley

If KQRS was a cool "classic rock" station, they would play about 80 percent of this list. As it is they maybe play the Marley song. What's your top 10?

October 25, 2010

Marketing the World Series


Readers of this blog know that I like baseball better than football. Sure, I'll watch the Vikings and big games between exciting teams, but I enjoy baseball more, am more invested in how the Twins do than the Vikings. This doesn't mean that I can't acknowledge that professional football is more popular than baseball. It's an unfortunate but given fact.

Some have said that football is the perfect TV sport. A few seconds of action punctuated by delays so that TV can go over what happened and get ready for the next action. However you can say that about baseball too (but without the violence). I think the main difference is that the NFL long ago learned to market the entire league to the American public. Sure there are glamour teams but all teams are created and marketed equally. Compare that to baseball where the Yankees and Red Sox get most of the attention, followed by the Mets, maybe the Cubs and Dodgers, then all the rest. It can be maddening if you're not a fan of those few teams. Unfortunately MLB perpetuates this focus as well.

No better example is last year's Super Bowl vs. this year's World Series. This past Super Bowl had two very small market teams (New Orleans and Indianapolis) playing for the championship. Sure you had a nice story with New Orleans and its 40 plus years of futility and the issues related to Katrina, but still two pretty unglamorous markets as far as sports go. But it doesn't matter for the NFL, the game got monster ratings, some of the highest ever.

Now compare that with this year's World Series, which is already getting slagged as boring because there's not a big market involved. Fact is there are two huge markets involved. Dallas-Fort Worth is the 5th largest market in the U.S. behind NYC, LA, Chicago, and Philly. San Francisco/Oakland is sixth. So we are talking big markets here. Also California and Texas are the two biggest states in the union, and undoubtedly there will be folks from Houston, Austin, LA, San Diego, etc., tuning in. In short these are two large market teams, vying for their first Championship and MLB has focused so long on Boston-NYC that it can't figure out how to get people excited about any other team or match-up.

Unfortunately, the non-ESPN media has bought into the Yankee-Red Sox as well, even to their detriment. I was in Chicago this weekend, and some of the local sports talk shows were discussing "worst World Series ever?" topic. Chicago! If there ever was a market that would want to break out of the eastern seaboard mentality of ESPN and Fox Sports you would think it would be Chicago.

Now I don't know how to fix this. Sorry. But I know I will be watching, I'll be excited even if my sports media overlords aren't. And when the poor ratings come in, instead of thinking of ways to increased the likelihood of a Yankees-Red Sox World Series, perhaps MLB should think of ways to market 30 teams across the country. Ask the NFL how they do it.

October 15, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Beautiful Fall Friday, I'll be walking around campus at lunch, high school football game in the evening. Can't think of a better way to spend the day. How about a random top 10?

1. Southern Rock Opera -- Drive By Truckers
2. Armalite Rifle -- Gang of Four
3. Black Diamond -- The Replacements
4. Wigwam -- Bob Dylan
5. Did I Tell You? -- To La Tengo
6. Legionnaire's Lament -- The Decemberists
7. Paper Tiger -- Beck
8. French Film Blurred -- Wire
9. She's Just a Girl -- Devo
10. Portland, Or -- Loretta Lynn w/Jack Black

Bonus: Southern Girls -- Cheap Trick

Nice variety. What's your top 10 list look like?

October 14, 2010

Guided By Voices at First Avenue -- Review

Club is open.jpg

I've been having a hard time getting my head around Tuesday's Guided By Voices show at First Avenue. Not that it wasn't great - it was. But in these reviews, I also try to find a hook to write about, figure out what it all means. I haven't been able to do with my GBV experience.

Like I said, the show was great. The band was in fine form and absolutely rocked. Robert Pollard was in fighting form, drinking of course but not hammered. Also he was in great shape and it looks like he's lost a bunch of weight which was nice because a few years ago it looked like Pollard's love of booze was going to make him a sad casualty of alcoholism.

gbv stage.jpg
Photo by Steve Cohen

Forty songs, three encores, two hours of music in front of aging, mostly male, hipsters will make for a fun evening regardless but when the band is Guided By Voices and the fan adoration is off the charts, well then you're talking something special. One of my favorite scenes was during the song Smothered in Hugs. This is a slower tune and there were two, large bearded guys in their thirties absolutely enthralled. They were singing at the top of their lungs complete with hand motions and absolute adoration in their eyes. It was like something out of a Taylor Swift concert but instead of 14 year old girls it was 30 year old dudes.

gbv crowd.jpg
Photo by Stacy Scwartz
(that's me by the PBR can in the "A" cap

Since the band was the "classic line-up" most of the songs were from the Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Propeller, Under the Bushes Under the Stars discs. It's hard to talk about a highlight since all the songs were fan favorites with solid performances. Of course Game of Pricks was a particular favorite of mine (see video below). City Pages also had a real nice review (plus slide show).

So I don't really have a hook for the show but maybe that's the intent. Guided By Voices has never been about hooks or meaning. It's just been about rock and roll, drinking beer, and having fun. And we had that in spades on Tuesday night at First Avenue, which if you think about it is really all you need.

Below is a video from Tuesday of Game of Pricks and Smothered by Hugs and here is a nice slide show as well from Steve Cohen.

October 12, 2010

GBV -- Tonight!!!!!

gbv suitcase.jpg

So tonight's finally the night. Guided By Voices at First Avenue. Normally I take a jaundiced view of these reunion tours. Usually the band is clearly just looking to cash in and playing the hits for anyone who wasn't old enough or cool enough to see them the first time around. That's why I avoided both the Pixies' and more recently, Pavement's recent tours -- even though I never saw either of those great bands in their prime. But for me, this is different.

I came to GBV late. One day in 2006, Mary Lucia of the Current played Motoraway, saying that GBV was one of her all time favorite bands. I remember listening and thinking that I've heard a couple of GBV songs, what's the big fuss? I did a little research, found out that Bee Thousand was considered a classic lo-fi album and I picked it up. The first song sounds like it was recorded on a little 4 track recorder in someone's basement. Which it was. A cool guitar solo all of sudden is gone and then back, just like if someone had accidentally pulled the cord out of the amp. After just a few listens I was hooked. From there I couldn't get enough GBV and now have over 400 songs (including Robert Pollard releases) on my I-pod, a couple of DVDs, a book, etc.

Of course I was bummed when I found out that GBV had actually disbanded a couple of years before I "discovered" them so I lamented the fact that I'd never get to see them live. I actually had a good excuse. GBV's main touring years were 1994-2004. Which was exactly my prime child-rearing years as we had a baby in 1993 and 1995. I didn't get to a lot of shows during that time period and only after the kids got a little older, did live music make it back into my entertainment choices.

So I'm making an exception for Guided By Voices. One it's at First Avenue, which is the perfect place to see this band. They've been touring for a couple of weeks now and the reviews are great. Set lists indicate a heavy dose of Bee Thousand, Alien Lanes, Propeller, and scattered other classics in a two-plus hour show. But mainly it's Guided By Voices: A band with infectious pop songs that thrill me today like they did when I first heard them.

Review (with pictures) will come tomorrow.

Cutout Witch from a couple of nights ago in Seattle

October 11, 2010

Requiem for a Losing Playof Team


You know I had a bad feeling about the Twins chances during game 1 last Wednesday night when Span got that leadoff hit and Hudson immediately bunted him over to 2nd. Why were we giving up an out in the first inning of the first game? If we wanted to stay out of the GIDP why not have Span steal off a noodled-arm Posada? I was worried right then and there that the Twins did not have the right kind of attitude to win a series against the Yankees.

It's a pisser because they obviously brought the moxie when they faced the White Sox in mid-September. By all accounts the Whities needed a sweep and the Twins, who could have easily survived by winning one game, went out and took down the Sox all three games. Maybe it's the difference between the White Sox and Yankees. Maybe they turned the switch off and couldn't turn it back on. I don't know. Oh and also, the loss of Justin Morneau finally caught up with the Twins.

IT was a fun season, especially putting the pedal to the metal during August and September. But the playoffs were a major buzz kill. This team will look a lot different next year, hopefully with a couple of players with a little grit and fire in the belly.

October 8, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

gbv collage.jpg

Guided By Voices are coming to First Avenue on Tuesday so this blog will be GBV-heavy over the next few days. To kick off the festivities instead of a random top 10 I thought I would list the top 10 GBV songs on my I-pod based on the number of plays they have got. GBV or Robert Pollard consists of over 400 of the 7,800 songs on my I-pod and the top 89 songs (based on # of plays) are GBV and 106 of the top 110 are as well, so I listen to a lot of Guided By Voices. Below are the top 10 songs and the number of times played on my I-pod.

1. Fly into Ashes - 27
2. Running Off With The Fun City Girls (demo) - 26
3. Choking Tara (demo) - 26
4. My Valuable Hunting Knife - 26
5. Hardcore UFO's - 25
6. It is Divine - 25
7. Motor Away - 25
8. You're Not an Airplane - 24
9. 7 Strokes to Heaven's Edge (outtake) - 24
10. Still Worth Nothing (outtake) - 24

Bonus: Game of Pricks -24

Now these aren't my favorite GBV songs (although a lot of them are) but the one's that just happened to get played the most. However no complaints about any one of these songs. What's your top 10?

October 6, 2010

Biking Recap 2010

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Entering the second week of October usually means the bike riding season is soon over (well at least it is for me). Although it appears that the next week or so will be beautiful and perfect for fall rides, definitely my 2010 bike riding days are numbered. Makes sense to look back on the year and see how I did.

Goals - After riding 1,200 miles in 2009 I wanted to hit 1,500 in 2010. Although I am not quite there yet, with the promised good weather and some effort on my part, I should get to 1,500. No epic rides this year but lots of rides in the 35-45 mile range and a couple in the 65-75 range. I didn't get to ride to Duluth, which was a goal, but maybe next year. I rode in April's Iron Man race even though it was cold, rainy, and windy. Also in the Urban Assault Ride this past August in 90 degree weather. Me and my teammate Paul finished 42nd out of 250 teams, so that wasn't bad. Definitely want to hit a couple more rides next year, maybe the Itasca Iron Man in August. I rode to work a lot this summer as the weather was one of the best. Oh and I've signed up for the Ice Cycle race on the Calhoun-Lake of the Isles Lagoon, scheduled for February 5th of 2011. My first winter race.

Routes - I stayed mostly in the Twin Cities but found a few new routes to the south. I need to expand my routes next year, just to keep it fresh.

Speed and Endurance - I definitely picked up my speed this year, with an easy 15 mph on straightaways and sometimes when I felt good I could push it to 18 mph. That's an improvement over last year's 13 mph. Also my endurance is much better as I could finish a 40 mile ride with no stops, in the past I would have to take a break.

Bike - As the miles pile up the old bike is showing its age. I broke my seat of all things this summer and my derailleur is definitely in need of a complete overhaul. Rear brakes are shot and the rear bike tire has no tread. However no flat tires and no broken spokes this year, which is a first. Repair or replace will be a major decision for the off season.

The most important thing is that riding is still important to me and a great way to exercise, relieve stress, and get out and enjoy our beautiful state. I still maintain there is no greater feeling than riding over the Mississippi River at 7:00a on a cool Fall morning, trees ablaze, the University Campus on my right, downtown Minneapolis on my left, tunes blaring in my ears. That's what I was doing this morning.

fall bike.jpg

October 4, 2010

Target Field Myths v. Facts

Photo: Jared Wieseler

Even though the playoffs start on Wednesday, we've finished one year of regular season baseball at Target Field and it's time to evaluate some of the myths that cropped up in the planning and design of Target Field and how they actually played out over 81 games and 6 months.

Myth #1 - No Roof means rainouts.

Fact - There was one official rainout and one suspended game this year, actually below league average. Rain had practically no impact on baseball played at Target Field this year.

Myth #2 - O.k. no rain but it will be cold in April and October.

Fact - Opening day saw temperatures in the 70's. I went to two games this past weekend (Oct. 1 and 3rd) both days were quite pleasant, yesterday was quite warm. Two playoff games are scheduled for later this week. Forecasted temperatures those two days? Low to mid 70s.

Photo: Ballpark Magic

Myth #3 - Target Field had to be shoe-horned into a small space. It will be a bandbox with lots of cheap homeruns hit.

Fact - Target Field had dimensions quite similar to the Metrodome and had the 3rd least amount of homeruns hit of any Major League park this year.

Myth #4 - I can't believe they built Target Field next to a garbage burner. It's ugly and going to smell like rotting garbage.

Fact - Funny how not one word has been written about smelly garbage once 3 million plus people started showing up. This was and is a non-issue.

Myth #5 - Twins will make a lot of money at Target Field but the Pohlad's are cheap. They aren't going to spend any money on the team for a couple of years to "make up" for the lost opportunities at the dome (Dan Barreiro was a big proponent of this one).

Fact - Twins payroll went up nearly 50 percent this year and is around $100M with all indications that it will continue to stay at this level if not higher for the foreseeable future.

Photo: Ballpark Magic

UPDATE! One more Myth:

Myth #6 -- Downtown Traffic is going to be a bear during Twins games, it can't accommodate all that Twins traffic.

Fact -- Traffic was no issue, even when there were events at the Metrodome, Target Center, etc. People used public transportation, bikes, and parked all over downtown to get to the game. I went to 13 games this year and I drove, biked, carpooled and took the bus. I found it was easier to get out of downtown this year then in past years at the Metrodome. And this was with full houses every game.

Clearly the ballpark haters were wrong on all counts. Also I haven't heard of any family going bankrupt paying 15 cents to help fund the ballpark every time they buy $100 worth of electronics at Best Buy in Hennepin County. Target Field has been a huge success aesthetically, the way it plays on the field, national exposure, and for the Twins bottom line. The Twins and Hennepin County hit a home run with Target Field and it look forward to enjoying it for many many years to come.

October 1, 2010

Friday Random Top 10

Jim Thome and Target Field on cover of Sports Illustrated. Since then Mauer, Thome, Hardy, and Rausch hurt, Twins lose a bunch of games looking the Cleveland Indians, and a new billboard goes up in the plaza, much to the consternation of the Twins and the City. And who says there's no SI jinx? Looks like we need a Friday Top 10...

1. Newark Wilder -- Pavement
2. Dumb Dumb Dumb -- Teenage Fanclub
3. Corduroy -- The Wedding Present
4. Out Of The Picture -- Son Volt
5. Today -- Smashing Pumpkins
6. I Found Someone/Why Do You Do Me/I Want You So Bad -- James Brown
7. Nausea -- X
8. Ashamed Of Myself -- The Blasters
9. Golden Years -- David Bowie
10. Wonderboy -- The Kinks
Bonus: Remote Control -- The Clash

Nice mix of old and new. What's your top 10?