Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Drop Dead Dream, The Chosen One

I've been listening to this song a lot recently. I've had Sam's Town for awhile and I can tell you that I've enjoyed it. For whatever reason though (well, I saw the video) the song stuck with me.

A couple of new links I've added. Confessions of a Fanboy is a music blog I found earlier today. He recently wrote about the producer for R.E.M.'s new album and pretty much echos my feelings on what they've done in the post-Bill Berry era. It looks like he's got some good commentary over there. Second, I've added German Joys to the list because for some reason I have an inkling to all things German. Speaking of which, here is a list of 20 things to keep in mind while visiting Germany. These are pretty much dead-on.

Well for those swimming folks out there, the 12th Fina World Championships are happening right now. Since the US is so smitten with swimming, chances are you probably haven't missed the races since they're constantly being broadcast. (note: extreme sarcasm). Anyway the legend that is Michael Phelps continues to make his case as the Greatest of All Time. I've got two races below, the first his is 200 Free in which he beats the "unbeatable" record of one Ian "the Thorpedo" Thopre. Notice his fly kick off his walls -- he gains so much distance by just doing that. The second one is his 200 Butterfly in which he breaks his own world record by over a second and a half. Be sure to watch the "world record red line" on that one. Side note: I kinda like the non-English announcers

The last race I'm including is the Men's 400 Free final. Watch first and then I'll comment:

Park had an amazing last 50. I've never seen someone make up so much distance at that part in a race. It was crazy ridiculous.

Alright, time for Lost. Are they ever goign to get off this island/figure it all out? Seriously.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Let's Begin Again

First off I must say a very nice birthday to the OFOMOL. Her birthday was yesterday and make a holiday I could care less about (St. Patrick's Day) something worth celebrating. Even though we're an ocean apart she's ever-present with me.

For whatever reason I wasn't very tired last night. It was around 1:15 and I was ready to kick it when I decided to click through the channels one more time. I flipped to VH1, saw Eddie Vedder and immediately knew what it was. Call it fate because I turned to the channel right as he was beginning his induction ceremony for R.E.M. into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame & Museum. Needless to say I was psyched.

Mr. Vedder had some nice words to say about one of the most respected and influential bands of all time. Yes I am biased, but I believe this to be true. The band helped to user-in the age of college radio in the 1980s. They toured incessantly during their first five years (and albums) to establish a fan base that would help make them one of the biggest bands of the 1990s. They have always done things their way and, while earing millions of dollars, have had creative freedom to make the music they want.

Yes these guys are nearing (or in Peter's sake, have reached) 50 years old but they are still rocking. That is one thing that I've always enjoyed about them. The last time I saw them (2003) I was amazed at their enthusiasm and the energy they had I would expect from bands half their age. Most people know them from their Out of Time and Automatic for the People days. These albums are more subdued then earlier albums and causual fans peg them as the "Everybody Hurts" band. Both albums have some great songs, but are not indicative of their catalogue as a whole. They can play the quiet ballads but also can put energy into their up-tempo rockers. Its a nice dichotomy that few bands can do. One a side-note, it was really nice to see Bill up their with the band and he looked like he was really enjoying himself.

They were lucky enough to be inducted the same year at Patti Smith. Smith's Horses was one of the albums that had a major impact on young Peter Buck and Michael Stipe. Stipe and Smith have a tight friendship and she even sung on E-Bow The Letter (one of their most underrated songs) off of 1996's New Adventures in Hi-Fi. R.E.M. with Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye put on a great rendition of The Stooges Now I Wanna Be Your Dog. This was probably an endorsement of The Stooges to be inducted into the Hall. Be sure to check-out Peter at the end:

I'm happy for the band. Even though their last couple of albums (Up, Reveal, Around the Sun) have not done so well commercially or critically, the band is working on a new album. I believe that the band has one more blockbuster in them. Am I asking for an album that sells 10 million? No. I'd just like to see the band have mainstrem success one more time so that their music can be exposed to a new group of fans. After everything they've done for the music world, they deserve it. I'm also hoping for a "return to rock" album that strays away from the acoustic mindset from their last couple of albums.

In closing, I'll do my best to rank their albums. Everyone always asks me what my favorite is. I've always dodged this question because I've never wanted to pigeonhole myself, but I think it is about time to rank them.

First Tier
Murmur (1983)
Lifes Rich Pageant (1986)
Automatic for the People (1992)
New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996)
These are all must-have albums. Murmur is the legend that started it all. LRP may be my favorite album as it has a nice ratio of rockers to ballads and initiated in the band's political messages via song. AFTP captures the band at their commercial and critical peak and is one of the few "perfect" albums of all-time. NAIHF is probably their most underrated album.

Second Tier
Reckoning (1984)
Fables of the Reconstruction (1985)
Document (1987)
Monster (1994)
These albums lost a bit from the first tier. Each one has its moments, but each also has a song or two that just is a step below the rest of the album. Fables is an album that many folks would rank lower but beneath the surface the album offers a lot. Monster also gets a bad rep but an album I think has really endured in the 13 years since it has been released.

Tier 3
Green (1988)
Out Of Time (1991)
Around the Sun (2004)
These albums have songs that are great and memorable but contain a lot more of filler and throw-away songs. Initially I hated ATS but it has grown on me and I do like a fair amount of the songs on the album. The problem is the songs I don't like, I really don't like.

Tier 4
Up (1998)
Reveal (2001)
These two albums I listen to the least. They are difficult albums to listen to. They are also the first two albums in the post-Bill Berry era. The band has talked about how hard Up was and that they really rushed into recording it. They are not bad albums per se, but compared to the level of the previous 12 albums here...these are the low marks. That being said, below-average for R.E.M. is still better then a majority of the stuff out there.

I congratulate those who reached the end of this post. Most of my faitful readers are familiar with my fixation with R.E.M. and by enduring this post I promise that any future R.E.M.-related material will be considerably shorter.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday, I'm all High

It's Monday. Not a whole lot going on but there are a couple of things on my mind:

My new favorite blog. They've got a lot of pop-culture over there. A fair amount is sports-related, but there is plenty of other valuable output. They've got a series of collaborators working on it and it is updated several times a day.

March Madness
If you're living uder a rock you know that its that time of the year again. I've got a couple of brackets. In my experience, I do better when I don't think alot about the match-ups; I just go with my gut. I did win the annual CWRU Swimming pool last year, so i do have a title to defend. That victory is the only one I've had in Fantasy-related sports. I pretty much suck at all other Fantasy Sports. The one thing about this tourney that strikes me is that there is no clear-cut dominating team. I like how Kansas and OSU are playing right now. As an OSU fan I'd like to see a Buckeye/Gator rematch of the BCS game, but I don't see that happening. I do question some of the geographical choices the committe makes. They're supposed to reward the #1 seeds yet have OSU in the south and Florida in the Midwest...makes me scratch my head. As for my Spartans, they're a #8 seed with a potential 2nd-round game against UNC. They're not expected to get past this game so this means, of course, they'll beat UNC.

And I'll finish this off with a great headline:
OMG, Paul from the Wonder Years!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Deep in the Jeans She's Wearing

The OFOMOL recently returned to her homeland after spending 5 weeks here in the states. While she was here she had a mission of buying a new pair of jeans. Jeans are one article of clothing that is very particular for men or women. A pair of jeans is part of your personality and need to both fit your body, make you feel comfortable, and look good on you. It can be a daunting process to find that right pair. Its an investment that will last a year or two and you want to make sure you make the right choice.

So we took a weekend trip to Pittsburgh. We were in a mall and went into Macy's to look for jeans. She found a couple of pairs and wanted to try them on. Being the good boyfriend, I was there to help her out. She wanted me to come into the dressing room to give my opinion. OK, no big deal, we've done this plenty of times before. I start walking into the dressing room area and some woman says something like "you're not supposed to be in here, its for women only." I replied saying I was just helping out my girlfriend but I guess that wasn't a good enough reason as after I sat down outside the dressing room a Macy's associate came over and told me men are not allowed in there. I commented rather loudly "I understand, but my girlfriend needed some help...its not like we were going to have sex in there."

Really, its not a big deal to me, I quickly got over it. But it got me thinking. First off, there was no sign saying it is for women only. What if the OFOMOL was handicapped or didn't speak English (this is entirely possible!)? What if I was a cross-dresser and didn't feel comfortable changing in the men's dressing rooms? And the last thing, which I think shows the double-standard at work here...if the roles were switched and she was coming into the men's dressing room, no one would have a problem with it. And if there was a woman in the men's area and I said something to them about it, they would laugh at me. There are lots of other stores that have central dressing rooms where everyone goes and no-one has a problem with it. Needless to say, we didn't buy jeans there.