Style Points

March 9, 2010

It’s dated now, but I felt like posting it here.  Originally on Third Coast Digest…  (alternate headlines were going to be either “Rocky: On Ice”, or “Subject to Style”)

American League versus National League. Lakers versus Celtics. The Greatest Show on Turf versus the 4-3. As all sports fans will ponder at some point, “Am I a purist, or am I a spectator?” Do you live to watch practice pay off in victory, or crave the unpredictability that raw athleticism can bring to sport? While who wins and who loses is recorded forever in the box score, a sports fan lives to discuss the game well past when it’s recorded in an almanac.

In an argument that will eternally rage, I now add figure skaters Russian Evgeni Plushenko and American Evan Lysacek into this list of diametrical opposition. At first glance, they have all the great traits of classic rivals — Johnson/Bird, Bjorn/McEnroe, Balboa/Drago — but has there ever been a stranger pair of rivals than at last night’s Olympic skate-off?

This is what was so intriguing: Skating scores are weighted based not only on what is achieved, but on how it is achieved. What we saw last night is two athletes performing the same required feats, but receiving a different score — as a rule. In the weird world of professional skating, this is how it works. Plushenko, the mulleted graceless athlete versus Lysacek, a slick-coiffed ice-dramatist are on equal footing. It’s such a strange, unique situation.

Imagine footballer Chad Ochocinco’s post-TD antics yielding him a favorable .3 point edge to sneak in front of a mundane Dallas Clark hand-the-football-to-the-ref celebration. Or Curt Schilling’s edgy sock decoration eeking out a nail-biting World Series game.

The question remains: Is it a “sport” if a game is subjectively scored, or worse yet, scored only by the well-informed elite? One would argue “no” if a golfer’s exaggerated fist-pump would take a stroke off their total. Meanwhile, mogul skiiers, gymnasts, all X-sporters and perhaps even the BCS would have to emphatically disagree.

The arguments will continue to rage, but as Plushenko’s mullet whirls as he lands his patented quadruple axle, and Lysacek glides by be-feathered in a Vera Wang onesie, ask yourself: Does rewarding dramatics devalue sports, or is it just the honest admission that we watch sports for the entertainment, not just the final score?

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Bears Open their Checkbook and Little Black Book for Free Agent Signings

March 3, 2010


As the NFL Free Agent signing period begins on Friday, let’s take a quick look at the Chicago Bears’ [sarcasm] remarkable successes recognizing and nurturing free agent talent while compensating them fairly [/sarcasm].

In Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith’s tenure there has been one over-arching acquisition trend: The coaching staff hiring athletes that used to play in “their system” who turn out to be no good at all.  (Highlighted in orange are some good transactions.  Note the lack of orange.)

Let’s take a look at some of their transactions since 2007…

2007
DT – Anthony Adams
S – Adam Archuleta *cut* *retired* (Former Ram (01-05) player for Lovie Smith and Gil Byrd)
DT – Darwin Walker *retired* (Former Eagle player for ST Coach Dave Toub)
DT – Matt Toeaina

2008
RB – Kevin Jones *perennially injured* (Former Lion player for Rod Marinelli)
WR – Devin Aromashodu (Former Colt player for Tony Dungy)
WR – Brandon Lloyd *cut* (Former 49er WR during QB Coach Pep Hamilton’s tenure)
WR – Marty Booker *traded away in ’06 – re-signed in ’08 – cut in ’09* (Former Bear player for Lovie Smith)

2009
Asst Head Coach / DL Coach – Rod Marinelli *0-16* (Former Buc coach with Lovie Smith)
TE – Michael Gaines *cut to make room for Gaines Adams* (former Lion player for Rod Marinelli)
DE – Gaines Adams *traded for 2010 2nd round draft pick, deceased* (former Buc player for Jon Gruden)
OLB – Tina Pisaismioa *injured in quarter 1, game 1* (former Ram player for Lovie Smith and Bob Babich)
T – Orlando Pace *waived March 2010* (played for Rams during Smith/Babich tenure)
QB – Brett Bassonez (played for Northwestern during coach Eric Washington’s tenure)
QB – Jay Cutler
G – Frank Omiyale
T – Kevin Shaffer
CB Coach – John Hoke (Former Missouri coach with Dave Toub, Harry Hiestand and Chris Tabor, ties to Lovie Smith)
S – Josh Bullokcs *benched*
DB – Glenn Earl (former player for DB Coach Jon Hoke)
LB – Cato June *signed then cut within 2 weeks* (Former Colt player for Tony Dungy)
CB – Rod Hood *signed 9/1/09, waived 9/4/09*

Senior Director of Pro Personnel Bobby Depaul *fired*

———————————————————————–

March 5th Update.

Wow.  Twelve hours into the free agent market the Bears (who lack any real draft picks this year) snagged Panthers’ Defensive End Julius Peppers, Vikes’ Running Back Chester Taylor, and Rams’ TE Brandon Manumaleuna.  So… if you’re keeping score… the trend really hasn’t changed, hopefully the outcome will.

2010 (To Be Continued…)
Offensive Line Coach – Mike Tice
Offensive Coordinator – Mike Martz (former Rams coach with Lovie Smith)
DE – Julius Peppers
RB – Chester Taylor (former Vikings player for Mike Tice)
TE – Brandon Manumaleuna (former Rams player for Mike Martz)


Write an Album in a Month

February 5, 2010

“But Brian,” you ask, “do you know what you’re doing?”

NOPE!  RPM’s encouraging me to do so, and I’m encouraging my friends to do so, so I’m considering taking a shot at it as well.

I think Carl Newman once said an original voice comes from being inept at mimicking your favorite artists.  I’m inept!  I can do this!


This is What it Means to Be Brett Favre

February 2, 2010

Divisionaries' Brett Favre poster, comprised of kittens and puppies.

Sadly, our football column, Divisionaries for Milwaukee’s Third Coast Digest will be concluding for the season soon and Rob wrote a great re-cap of Brett Favre’s most epic fail yet.  I did too, and I decided to post it here, now:

As the third team in as many years learned Sunday, you live by Brett Favre, and you die by Brett Favre.   In a season that saw both former Favre teams make the playoffs with “lesser” quarterbacks, the Packer faithful in  Milwaukee, Rhinelander, Superior, Madison, (and yes Rob, even Neenah),  said in unison, “Toldya soooo.”

Nothing should solidify Cheesehead faith in quarterback Aaron Rodgers more than watching Brett Favre (and his double-edged throwing arm) toss an ill-advised cross-field pass in the waning seconds of regular time to the opposing New Orleans Saints in an otherwise dominant Vikings performance.

Aside from “destiny”, all things were were going Minnesota’s way.

Worse-case scenario, the Vikes would set up a considerably long game-winning field goal. If missed, all things looked good in overtime for a Vikings team that owned every statistical category worth mentioning, aside from the one that decides games the most — turnovers.  In a Favrian effort, the Vikings looked unstoppable, save for their constant knack for fumbling the ball over.

It was sadistic. It hearkened back to the decade-plus reign of Favre in Wisconsin, when fans would tolerate the troughs (on and off the field), living for the exultant peaks of his game.  It was entertaining for Packer fans probably …  finally able to watch Favre as an informed spectator, observing the near-Greek Tragedy of highs and lows play out in a game that meant nothing (directly) to Green Bay faithful.

Thought assisted generously by questionable officiating the Saints assuredly marched towards an OT win while Favre, reminiscent of his last “Pick Heard ‘Round The World” against the NY Giants, watched from the sidelines after his most-recent (and perhaps last?) boneheaded interception.

Minnesotans finally bore the weight of what it is to have Brett as your quarterback.  As unwilling soothsayer Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune said after Favre’s win against the 49ers earlier this year, “This is what it means to be Brett Favre. This is what it means to have Brett Favre. This is what it means to watch Brett Favre.”

Feel free to shoot me an email if you would like an extra-large poster of Puppy/Kitten Brett.  Price: Negotiable.


Conan: High Budget Low Brow Gold

January 22, 2010

Though I’m sad Conan O’Brien will not be carrying on the legacy of The Tonight Show, I feel partly vindicated that once O’Brien knew he would be off the air, he lightened up again, and his ratings soared.

If feels the new time-slot (ney, audience) forced him to be more buttoned up, less silly/absurd, which really is what made Coco the beloved goofball that he is.

Seeing a new clip this week reminded me of how far Conan had come from his self-admitted low budget late night gig.  Take for example, Whale Week, a week’s worth of skits from mid-era Conan in which they incorporated a giant whale costume because it was too expensive to use once:

Look how far we’ve come.  Earlier this week Conan claimed to be planning unfunny but very expensive skits, including this alleged $1.5 million prank of dressing the most expensive car in the world up as a mouse, while playing a rare Rolling Stones original recording.  Hilarious.

Check out the video here (as NBC has pulled it from their website).  First of all, it’s funny.  Second of all, it’s expensive (though prolly not $1.5 mil expensive, as you can borrow a car of the lot for the free pub).  Thirdly, it’s funny-cuz-it’s-weird Old School Conan.  The skit seems to reference his old absurdist one-offs I always loved (isn’t that right, Cactus Chef playing ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ on the Flute?).

Oh, Cony-cone-cone.  We still love you.  Can’t wait to see where you’ll wind up next.  Cabin Boy 2?


Indie Rock: For Sale

December 7, 2009

So, in advance of my trip overseas for New Years, I figured I should clean house on my CD collection and sell some on eBay.  With the advice from TeeCycle Tim, I bundled them in groups of 5 to 10 based on categories.  Some of the categories are a bit of a stretch, but I think I did a good job.  If you’re curious…

  • 6 Rap / Hip Hop CD Bundle here*
  • 6 CD Bundle: Folk and Indie Singer/Songwriters here
  • 9 CD Bundle: Emo Punk Rock here
  • 6 CD Bundle: Brit Pop and Brit Rock here
  • 9 CD Bundle: Alternative Grunge 90s Rock here
  • 6 CD Bundle: Female Singer/Songwriters here
  • 7 CD Bundle: GREATEST Rock Artists of All Time here
  • 8 CD-DVD Bundle: Rock and Pop here **
  • 5 CD Bundle: Punk Indie here
  • 6 CD Bundle: Punk Indie Emo here
  • 7 CD Bundle: Indie / Pop here
  • 8 CD Bundle: Indie/Electro here
  • 6 CD Bundle: Indie Rock here

*(yes, I purchased a Limp Bizkit album.  I was young).

**(Hilarious.  Though, I will defend to death why I bought each of these albums)


Interview with indie-popper When I Was 12

November 5, 2009

*cough* Hi… well, um, Twee is back, sorta.  You know?

Depending on which circles you hang around in, Twee is either hailed as “punker-than-punk“, or maligned as “music for bedwetters.”  Nevertheless, the most misunderstood pop genre continues to tout cuteness over coolness and has the market cornered on Growing Up Awkward.

Twee has always been the most unapologetically emasculate sect of “Indie”, but it always seems to hover, smirking, just on the outskirts of popular music.  It’s too catchy to ever be marginalized, but it’s just too fey for the trampy-or-macho American taste.  Pitchfork’s excellent essay of all things Indie Pop, “Twee as Fuck” said it well:

…”indie” and “alternative” became popular in precisely the hard-rocking, masculine, centralized form that indie pop usually shied away from. The mainstream honed in on the underground’s hard-rock side, and, acts like Superchunk and Modest Mouse would go on to become Important Bands; acts like Tiger Trap and Heavenly would, for good reasons and bad, fade into history. And there on the television, ironically, was the K-tattooed Cobain, still wearing his cardigans and covering songs by the Vaselines.

So there twee sits, like the kid not picked at recess, rewarding anyone willing to seek it out.

Maybe it’s because of the excellent Juno soundtrack, but twee artists seem to be on the rise again.  The playfull Architecture in Helsinki, sallow Vivian Girls, the spider-fearing Boy Least Likely To, and the self-referential spunk of Los Campesinos!, have all attracted the blogosphere masses in the past few years (and, oddly, a large number of television commercials to boot). Fast on their heels are artists like New Jersey’s When I Was 12 – producing the sonic equivalent of a painfully joyous (or joyously painful?) prolonged adolescence.

I ran across WIW12 searching a now-defunct music site and really enjoyed their aesthetic.  The endearing strum-hook-and-harmony style burrows deep into your head and doesn’t go away — like a library volunteer into Franny & Zooey.

Earlier this year their principle songwriter, Adrianne, was nice enough to swap a few Q&A emails with me before their first non-basement gig of her young career:

Brian B (BemBang): First things first… Who’s in the band, or is it a “swinging door” type thing where there’s a core and people come and add vocals and accompaniment etc?

Adrianne Gold (When I Was 12): First things first… When I Was 12 consists of two main members: Adrianne Gold and Camille Bayas. Then some other beautiful revolving members; our friend Brianne Evans did some harmonies on “Dear Eskimo” with her angelic voice, and my guitar teacher, Mike Yelle assisted with lead guitar. When we play live friends Jenn Diaz plays bass, and Will Samtur on drums. We are so lucky to know so many wonderful people.[ …] It’s been a little hectic we’ve been getting offered shows and things lately!.

BB: Good to hear you’re busy… I hope things are going well. Is there some sort of tour in the works? When I hear the name “When I Was 12″, I immediately think of both the charming and awkward aspects of that transitional age… was that the aim?

AG: We still have two more months of high school so we’re not exactly planning a tour but we’ve been getting offered a lot of shows lately! I suppose so about the name, I mean we definitely try to be charming and I definitely am a bit awkward!

BB: Ha. Since there’s not much info about you guys online I couldn’t tell if you were in high school, or if you were just channeling your inner-highscooler to write the songs.

Your music, lyrics, production, etc seem very attuned to what I would consider classic indie-pop/twee. That is to say; sweet, clever, and fixated on youthful experiences… even when the person singing may be 30+ years old.

Ha. You’re the real deal, apparently.
What inspiration do you draw from … musically or otherwise?

AG: We are the real deal! We write about things on a high school level because it’s what we know! It’s what we are familiar with. But like I said only until June! We are so excited for summer and then of course for college! We are inspired by so many things.

Camille really likes bands such as: Los Campesinos! Beirut, The Submarines, and Seabear. I on the other hand am insanely inspired by Bright Eyes (of course, who isn’t!) Tilly and the Wall, Mates of State, and Saturday Looks Good to Me. We were actually just featured on an online mix CD, “Birdsongs, Beesongs – Eardrums Spring Compilation 2009″ and so was Saturday Looks Good to Me! So that was exciting to see!

Inspiration otherwise would of course include every boy i’ve ever known, even if only for five minutes. The boys who’s hearts I’ve broken, the boys who have broken my heart, and the boys who have yet to break my heart. Boys in bookstores, coffee shops, New Brunswick basements, and any other place you can imagine. However! I did write about my grandmother, “You Me & Symmetry” is about my grandmother, I love her. We still do arts and crafts together.

BB Hahahaha yes, the album is definitely heavy on the boy-crazy.
So…  you brought it up…  you’re from Jersey.

NJ tends to get a bad rap; some of that probably because you’re so close to the self-proclaimed cultural capital of the world.

Many big names spent time in New Jersey… , George Clinton/P-funk, Les Paul, Sinatra, Springsteen among them. What are your feelings about ‘repping from a place that has been home to many musicians but also the target of many a joke?

AG: Well I’m going to college in Philadelphia so soon i’ll have that rep and I can’t wait! It’s such a great area and so many opportunities arise there! However New Brunswick is a pretty fun area in New Jersey just last friday, we played a basement show there! Such a great vibe, I mean those are people who love and understand music! Unfortunately I cannot say the same for those at my high school!

BB: Congrats on going off to school next Fall… where in Philly? You’ve started playing a few shows in the area — will you be doing that this summer as well?

AG: Yes! We have a show tomorrow in fact, and then another one this coming friday and then the next! It’s all very exciting, I’m even starting to manage my stage fright a bit! I’ll be attending Drexel University actually so I’m absolutely pumped!

BB: That’s really cool that you were on the same comp as Saturday Looks Good To Me. How did that whole Birdsong, Beesongs thing happen? Are you familiar with any of the other artists on the album, or are they from all over?

Do you find yourself playing alongside / opening for the same bands… like, is there a like-minded scene in Jersey, or are you on your own singing to whoever listens?

AD: To be honest I am not sure how we were spotted but I am glad! The band Thunder Power from Omaha Nebraska on Slumber Party Records spotted us on the compilation and have now asked us to play a show when them they come through New Jersey touring! And we got invited to play a show in Brooklyn! We’ve been having so much fun and meeting so many wonderful people!

BB: What happens after this Summer. Will Camille be in the general area? Will When I Was 12 go on the back-burner once you start school up again?

AG: Camille will be attending Cornell, (Congrats to her! It’s really a great accomplishment!) On the contrary, once college begins, I hope When I Was 12 will be going full throttle! Because I write most of the music, melodies and lyrics, I am going to look for permanent members once I arrive on campus! You’ll have to wish me luck!