13
Oct 03

AMERICAN SPORTS ALERT!

TMFDPost a comment • 192 views

AMERICAN SPORTS ALERT!

So, over here, there’s this sport that resembles cricket, in a way, except the ball-hitting implements aren’t as flat, and the hurlers throw differently, and, sometimes, the people playing this sport tend to treat it like a mix between the football gaming essayed in both North America and Australia. For example: Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.

And after having talked down to you in the first paragraph, I’ll switch gears and talk like you know what the hell’s going on. (And you might’ve read this on ILE already – it reads better the 2nd time, though.)

Granted, Pedro Martinez acted like one of those social pariahs former Boston GM Dan Duquette was fond of collecting (cf. Jose Canseco, Carl Everett, Mike Lansing, Dante Bichette, etc etc etc), but Pedro’s a little better than those folks (combined) (times 100), so head-hunting / rope-a-doping incidents like this have been tolerated. I’m still not sure why he was egging on Karim Garcia, and I’m also not sure why, aside from the throwing-at-head thing (which, duh, is a big deal) (and undoubtedly the impetus behind Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer cowboying up and taking a run at Pedro), 4th-outfielder posterboy Garcia A) took SUCH umbrage @ Pedro deigning to throw a baseball near his personage and B) felt it necessary to exact revenge by sliding into Todd Walker @ 2nd base long after Walker had gotten rid of the ball (which is how I understood what happened on that double play) – it’d be a neat trick to see a runner break up a double play when the ball’s already 3/4ths of the way to 1st. Of course, given the purported cleat massage that Garcia (& super-terrific good fella Jeff Nelson) gave to the groundscrew member, perhaps it’s not too surprising to see Garcia act like such a chump.

As for Pedro’s run-in with Zimmer, I’ve heard some rumblings regarding Zim’s less-than-cherubic personage, though I would like some stories to back this up. Regardless, it might’ve behooved Pedro to not toss Zimmer aside (but, heat of the moment, damned if I wouldn’t have done the same), though it might’ve behooved Zimmer to not charge a guy half his age. Never mind the whole “I’m gonna hit you / I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” shift of the entire encounter. And never mind the Yankees playing up the travesty of the entire fracas by having poor old defenseless plate-headed Don Zimmer shipped off to the hospital, while anyone with alleigances to the Yankees and New York City called for retribution. Of course, none of this would have happened had Manny Ramirez realized how far Clemens’ pitch was from hitting him and reacted accordingly.

Given what went down, the umps should’ve either A) tossed Pedro after the head-pointing thing & warned both sides or B) let Clemens stoke the fires with a little chin music & warn both sides. Issuing a warning immediately after the Garcia confrontation totally screws the Yankees, in that Manny’s overreactive fucknuttiness regarding a middle-of-the-plate ball can actually be vaguely justified, and morons like Garcia feel the need to channel Ty Cobb in exacting vengeance.

Ideally, I would hope / had hoped that Garcia would simply take his base, swallow his pride, and let his teammates get back at Pedro’s insolence by smacking him around. Of course, that’s what they were doing prior to The Pitch – the Yankees had scored 4 runs through 4+ innings – and I guess Pedro was successful with The Pitch (if his intentions re: The Pitch were to establish dominance again and get his slop-throwing self back on track). That said, the Yankees (& Clemens, in particular) showed a LOT more restraint than I thought possible, & I might throw up in my mouth after typing this, but it’s that sort of professionalism that typifies the Yankees and their pseudo-mythical ability to win the big games.

Honestly, I’d feel better about sympathizing with the Yankees’ plight were it not for the YES Network’s post-game coverage and their inability to even attempt to fashion a feasable facade of journalistic impartiality. Like, y’know, if you’re going to comment on how harping on all the Pedro / Garcia / Zimmer nonsense detracts from the greatness of the actual game (and, yeah, the game was pretty good, as most of the games involving the Red Sox have been this post-season), then how about backing that shit up by practicing what you preach?

Of course, what I just did here goes entirely against what I wanted YES to do, and this insta-punditry isn’t much different than what professional sports writers cobbled together this weekend, so, in conclusion, I’ll shut my yap and defer to what Baseball Prospectus writer Joe Sheenan offered in his eloquent summation of Saturday’s events:

1. Karim Garcia acted like a moron
2. Then Pedro Martinez acted like a moron
3. Then Manny Ramirez acted like a moron
4. Then Don Zimmer acted like a moron

Oh, and, hey, how about them there Cubs?

26
Aug 03

FACE IT, TIGER

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 379 views

Cat Yronwode on her unfinished Steve Ditko biography – “The unexpected core of the book became the issue of how and why an obviously brilliant young boy with great natural art talent was placed in the “industrial track” in a steel mill town while his teachers justified their plans to make him a mill worker — followed by how and why he left there and became an artist in New York and a proponent of Objectivism. Through the yearbooks, i saw Johnstown as the dripping wet “ten-ton doo-hickey” and Steve Ditko as the plucky teenager who somehow finds the inner strength to throw it off of himself and take control of his own destiny.”

After reading through that, you might want to reacquaint yourself with Ditko’s akimbo career via Steve Ditko’s World (including this rejected cover to Amazing Fantasy #15), and the more recently updated Ditko Looked Up. For those of you looking for something a bit more esoteric, there’s Ms. Yronwode’s companion to the Dr. Strange comics, The Lesser Book of the Vishanti.

(Link to the Ditko letter pilfered from The Comic Journal’s Journalista blog.)

20
Aug 03

JENNIFER LOPEZ ‚Äì ‘Baby I Love You’

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For me, it’s enough that this track rescues the main melody from Musiq’s lackluster ‘halfcrazy’ and implements it beautifully in the pre-chorus bridge. Hell, I’ll even let the obvious vocal Pro-Tooling slide. Ever since JLo took to claiming (in song) that she as multi-media multi-millionaire trend-setting mogul is no different from the Jenny that took the 6 from dance lessons and auditions back to her block every day back in the day, I sighed and rolled my eyes. Every time she gave the Bronx a shout-out or tossed one of Puffy’s shiny baubles aside or struck the down-ass-chick pose in one of her umpteen videos (or movies) (god, those movies), I cringed. And now, after all that primping and pimping, she tosses would-be fans the 4th single from her (shock!) highly successful 3rd album, in a clear attempt to wring out any possible cream and cache the CD — now looking up at the Billboard Top 100 – has left. And, of course, it turns out to be the ‘no-frills’ track that presents the strongest case supporiting Ms. Lopez’s earnest WYSIWYG stance. Stronger than anything involving Jadakiss or Flashdance, at any rate.

Even the video — featuring enough makeupless JLo in-your-pores close-ups to make Jonathan Demme break his camera — favors this somewhat mawkish yearning. It’s less cloying if you turn away during the verses and just focus on the vibe. And the DeBarge windchimes. People! You know what I’m talking about, when a song gets in your soul, and won’t let go… After the nadir that will forever be linked with Ishtar and other cinematic stinkbombs, this serves as a nice pre-Jersey Girl sorbet. (Only 5 / 8 / 11 more months!) (Wait a second — Gertrude Steiney?!?!?)

16
Aug 03

ACTION AND DRAMA (or lack thereof)

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 220 views

Well, I can say one good thing regarding Chuck Austen’s upcoming gigs on Action Comics and The Avengers – it’ll save me an extra couple of bucks every month. While his thoughts on what to do with Marvel’s Greatest Heroes sound like a watered-down interpretation on the stupendous work Peter Milligan and Mike Allred have performed in X-Statix, they’re thoughts worthy of superfluous praise and adulation compare to the soap-operatics he’s got planned for good old Clark Kent. Oh no a hotshot reporter is going to steal Clark’s thunder! Oh no Lana Lang is going to try to come between Big Blue and that gold digging Lois Lane bitch! I’m sure tapping into the homoerotic tensions of the Jimmy Olsen / Perry White dynamic will be next on Austen’s Hott List.

It’s not the ideas that have me up in arms – reducing Grant Morrison’s initial New X-Men storyline to “Cassandra Nova, mastermind behind the destruction of Genosha, and Professor Xavier’s twin sister (who he tried killing while in the womb) has her plan to destroy mutantkind thwarted by being tricked into placing her consciousness into a powerless mitochondrian-looking construct” – sounds pretty ludicrous, but turned out to be a fantastic read. No, in Austen’s case, it’s the mind executing the ideas that has me rolling my eyes. Over in Uncanny X-Men, it’s Clorox Plus as Austen has weddings broken up mid-vow because the groom (Havok) just realized that he’s in love with the nurse that cared for him during his coma – this, of course, causes the bride (Polaris) to go apeshit & start wreaking magnetic bedlam all over the mansion grounds. Austen also has teenage characters respectfully coping with the loss of a dear friend by having one of them stand at the gravesite wishing ALOUD she could’ve had sex with the deceased. Meanwhile, the group is licking their wounds after foiling the Church of Humanity’s plot to install Nightcrawler as the Pope and … oh, hell, The X-Axis does a much better job of explaining all this. Needless to say, it seems as if Austen’s ideas are at the same subterranean level as his characterizations and his plot executions and just about every other aspect of his writing.

For the record, the Avengers interview is even-keeled and surprisingly restrained, while the Action Comics interview features Austen in full-on irrational spew mode – assuming you’re one of those 12 internet trolls Austen continually rants about, you’ll definitely enjoy the spew.

7
Aug 03

LIZ PHAIR — ‘Rock Me’

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If you’re already down with the new album, regardless of your reasons (though I really hope they’re better than Gina’s), then you already know where I’m going. However, if you’re a whip-smart Guyville fan up in a tizzy about her ‘new direction’ (if 4 songs can actually qualify as a ‘direction’), then you need to pay attention. Dismount that indignant little high horse, disregard all the spurious name-calling and wheedling, and just go buy or download the album. Give a listen to ‘Bionic Eyes’ and ‘Little Digger’ and ‘It’s Sweet’, and get your mouse on the comeandgetit EP as soon as possible. See? The old idiosyncratic Liz is still kicking around. Motherhood doesn’t necessarily mean mental freeze. Don’t let a few supposedly duff tracks besmirch the rest of the album for you.

Now, for those of you feeling a bit more adventurous, I’d also like to recommend you give a second or third listen to this track, too — it’s the best of the 4 Matrix productions available here, and that’s saying something, since the work they performed on Liz Phair might be the best post-Avril music the Matrix has birthed. (Yeah, so what if it’s some of the ONLY post-Avril Matrix stuff? Stop bothering me & see for yourself.) The Matrix treat Liz in much the same way that Liz seems to treat the boy toy in this song — bend, shape, tease, please. The guitars shift from 11 to 0 without hesitation, the song switches from pensive and halting to gaudy noo-wave yea-yea, and Liz herself is transformed into a multi-tracked fem-bot. Everything’s gloriously over the top, including Ms. Fuck-and-Run’s pursuit of Joe X-Box, and no more so than when one realizes all the orgiastic revelry centers around an apologetic request to be rocked – ‘you know, Joe, if you’re done playing DOA Volleyball, maybe we can…?’ Yes, this song is totally ridiculous. So is sex. The honesty in this track is no different than the confession Liz made in ‘Flower’ 10 years ago — ‘I want to fuck you like a dog / I’ll take you home and make you like it.’ Plus ca change, plus ca la meme chose, n’est pas?

11
Jun 03

LISA MARIE PRESLEY — ‘Lights Out’

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Oh, go ahead and project — it’s not as if you can discuss royalty without discussing lineage and history. Of course, Lisa’s doing much to dissuade folks from talking about her father, and that’s to her credit. Even a casual listen will have the following words standing out in boldfaced caps — MEMPHIS, FAMILY, SPACE, DAMN. ‘Damn’ gets a whole lot of play during this song; she hits the word with a full-on sneer every time it comes up, which gives the song another hint of meaning that a straight reading of the superficially dry lyrics can’t seem to muster. (As in a lot of cases with the pop music, the lyrics are better appreciated as mulch nourishing the song’s soil than as plants keeping the dirt in place.) Of course, noting the sneer might have one think that it’s intentional, a little sly wink towards that grassy plot in Graceland. Perhaps. But if you watch the video, the aforementioned unavoidable lineage and history slaps you right in the face — the face that looks a lot like her daddy’s face, naturally — and it turns out that intentionality might be conveniently (uncontrollably) dovetailing with atavistic learned behaviors. Even if the video goes out of its way to give you a glossy (yet gritty) behind-the-scenes stare at Making the Video, the gaudy lights and the angled hips summon ghosts of Vegas and ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra’ and, of course, gratuitous karate flourishes. Some might like to think that it’s possible to grow beyond one’s upbringing (especially if said upbringing wasn’t as perfect as one would hope), but family has a strange viral way of making its presence known.

28
Jan 03

JOHN MAYER — ‘Your Body Is a Wonderland’ (a conscientious rebuttal)

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This isn’t the wonderland you’d find a hyperactive grade-school kid pinballing through — sure, the kid’s happy to pull on pant leg & dress hem screaming MOMMY DADDY LET’S GO HERE I WANNA SEE MICKEY WHERES MICKEY MOMMMMMY!, but what about their flagging enthusiasm? Undoubtedly, their once-boundless happiness at seeing little Horatio geek over Captain EO for the 15th time becomes subsumed by sore legs and crotchety financial concerns and those ever-so-brief thoughts to distract their bundle of joy with nice animated rodentia while exiting stage left for a quick soak and a quicker snog.

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21
Jan 03

FAITH HILL — ‘Cry’

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This song surprised me at first — granted, it was the video that surprised. I didn’t think I’d see Faith sulking through a sweltering dystopic lovelorn backdrop any time this century – I didn’t know she could sulk! With my cursory exposure to Ms. Hill coming via her teeth-rotting hits of sunshine (‘This Kiss’, ‘The Way You Love Me’, ‘Breathe’), the bitterness and anger seething between the swooping strings sounded — not authentic, and not more real. Different. A different sort of different I didn’t expect — fie on me for having low expectations.

Of course, after beating the song into my head these past couple of months, it’s pretty clear that ‘Cry’ isn’t much more than the root canal flipside to all the sugar and spice she fed the Billboard charts these past couple of years. It’s not a personal glimpse into that bitterness & anger you get with love gone wrong, though. ‘Cry’ is a Rorshach blot that doesn’t leave much room for interpretation — unless you’re the type to take round-trip plane rides with your Frequent Flights of Fancy Miles, you’re going to see the same thing in that amorphous blob as millions of other listeners. And shame on you if you’re reading that assertion as a criticism of the song – most songwriters would fold, spindle, and mutilate for just one opportunity to tap that universal vein. (Brief aside – show me a songwriter / musician that doesn’t want to communicate with as many listeners as possible, an artist that wants to entertain and inspire on their terms and their terms alone, and I’ll show you about 1000 CDs from my collection, days’ worth of music made by talented, creative folks struggling / that struggled to rub two coupons together.) (OK, I was wrong – 1250 CDs, give or take two hundred.)

If you notice Faith’s pushing through the words instead of singing them (like she’s never done that before), there’s no need to grouse — it’s belabored a wee bit, but the conviction is there. Professional actors know when to mug for the camera and be totally, shamelessly obvious. Sometimes, there even has to be a little effort put in by Happy Me in order to wake up my inner Goth and realize some quality existential angst. Even if it’s only for 4 minutes, it’s worth the effort.

7
Jan 03

GOOD CHARLOTTE — ‘Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous’

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Far be it from me to bitch about Good Charlotte selling the ideals & crusty tenants of punk rock to the strip malls and outlet stores of suburbia. I’m all for young, upwardly mobile punks using the system to their advantage. Get yourselves on the MTV pushing the ‘new’ rock music. Drop your name like a ton of bricks every single night. Drill your Charlie-Sheen-in-Ferris-Bueller good looks (cough) into the brain of every single grumpy teenager in America — that is, every single grumpy teenager in America watching MTV at 11 PM on school nights. (Maybe if they stole some beers from Dad’s stash and copped a feel or two, they’d be less grumpy — yeah, fuck the system AND the anti-system system, too!) If one desires to move some merch off the crowded shelves at your local Best Buy store during the Christmas shopping season, that’s probably the best way to do it. So far, so good – one platinum record and counting. But, like I said, that’s not what’s chafing my dish.

No, I’m going to get on these huggable, snuggable reprobates for bitching about the rich & famous bitching about being rich & famous. It’s kind of cute that they don’t get the joke – like, duh, you didn’t sign to a major label for the cred factor, did you? Regardless of how dopey one is, you can’t blithely ignore nearly 80 years of popular music by claiming (in a contrapositive fashion) that money can be exchanged for happiness and contentment and other non-tenderable services. Alas, in the world of Good Charlotte (which just happens to be the world at large), because a small sect of people have oodles of moolah and 10,000,000 fans and gold lame suits up the yin-yang, they should smile and wave and be happy twenty-four seven. Starving kids in China yadda yadda yadda, so just shaddap and eat your spinach. Well, you know, spinach isn’t all that tasty – if those aforementioned grumps just flipped on the set an hour or two earlier, they would probably catch one of a handful of shows depicting just how hard it is to be rich and famous. By the way, sticking it to Marion Barry really hits those bourgeois bastards right where it hurts — look out Billy Joel, looks like some folks are looking to have themselves a wee little protest. Don’t forget the toilet paper this time, boys.

Given the little wink-wink flourishes that accentuate the song (which, with verse vocals turned down / totally ignored, is pretty OK, in a Blink-182-meets-rhythm way), you’d think the group would know of, say, a couple HUNDRED songs that succinctly nip those misplaced Robin Hood ideals in the proverbial tuck — OK, maybe they just know a couple hundred Cake songs. (As if they didn’t steal that ba-bum-ba-bum-ba-bum-ba-bum pre-chorus drum flourish from ‘The Distance’.) Even if you’re going to shiny-happy your way through a wrong-headed anti-establishment anthem, you have to know a little bit about your forefathers and their struggles. Call me crotchety, but I’d like to think that the inspiration for the beat came from a well-worn vinyl copy of Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and not a Carnival Cruises commercial.

Word of advice — when the post-Pump Aerosmith gives the eat-the-rich wheel a spin 10 years before you get around to placing your bet, just cash out.

26
Dec 02

GONG!

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 366 views

GONG!: So Neil Strauss wants you to believe that “the musical taste of the [United States] seems to have changed.” He supports this claim by listing all of the albums to have held the top position of the Billboard album charts in 2002. This list includes baby-faced noobs like Creed, Dave Matthews Band, Eminem, Shania Twain, Santana, and Faith Hill. A little bit of research shows the kind of straw Mr. Strauss used in fashioning his anti-pop Frankenstein. (Pssst – it’s the same straw pro-pop mad scientists use, when they’re not building with reinforced concrete and good ol’ American iron.) If you’ve got pitchforks & torches handy, feel free to riot over here.