Monthly archives: January 2007
Prince Career Retrospective (Plus a Super Bowl Pick)
Most of the time, Super Bowl Halftime shows are as dismal of a television event as can be produced. With such illustrious performers as New Kids on the Block to the Miami Sound Machine, most of these halftime shows have as much to do with the spike in domestic violence (highest day of the year), as does the game itself.
If you think that maybe they are better in person, I would argue against your point. I was at the most famous Super Bowl of all-time, which took place in Houston's Reliant Stadium. Why it was the most famous was this was the SB Halftime when Janet Jackson let fly her star-spangled nipple. I didn't meet one person who was at the game who actually saw the unveiling, as between the smoke still covering the field from Kid Rock's pyrotechnics and all the fake enthusiasm being provided by the hired crowd next to the stage, it was hard to tell what was going on.
It took the NFL 37 years to have a performance that wasn't a joke. The first Super Bowl after 9/11 featured U-2 and they were so great that no one will ever match their magnetism. The NFL has finally figured out that considering how huge the spotlight is for whoever performs in this spot, they can get pretty much anyone they want. Thus, we have had Paul McCartney and the Rolling Stones the past 2 years. Both had decent performances, but they are so old that instead of putting in earplugs and cranking up their guitars, the only cranking up they did is to the miracle ear's they installed in their heads.
This year seems like an inspired choice, as Prince is truly one of the greatest live entertainers this world has ever seen. While not in his prime, Prince has put out his most vibrant album in a decade. I can't think of an artist who appeals to more groups of people than him, as the purple freak mixes funk, rock, soul, rap, and pop in a blend that Sly Stone only hinted at.
If you are interested in my thoughts on the game, I think the Colts will win by 10, but it's just a small 2-star play. Instead of previewing the game, I thought I would use this space to give my rankings of the Top 15 Prince albums and the Top 40 Prince songs.
1. Sign of the Times
Sign is one of the top 20 records in rock history. It is Prince at his peak, melding every musical genre, while including biting social commentary.
6. Diamonds and Pearls
If Prince would have released Diamonds after Sign of the Times, he might never have lost momentum on his world-wide domination. Instead Lovesexy came out in 1988 and despite being an interesting song-cycle, it lacked more than a couple stand-out tracks.
11. Graffiti Bridge
Truth be told, if I was listing complete records that had Prince's name on them, Graffiti Bridge would be number 7 on my list, as the contributions by the Time and Tevin Cambell are really top-notch. Bridge is a really great piece of music.
Top 40 Prince singles
1. When Doves Cry
Not going to go through all of these, so just let me mention a couple of things. I'm tired of Little Red Corvette and Let's Go Crazy, which is why they aren't here. When Doves Cry and Sign of the Times are in my top 100 singles of all-time. Prince has come out with a few different best of collections. These 40 would make up my 2 CD-set.
I haven't heard anything from Crystal Ball, N.E.W.S, or the Rainbow Children, but I have listened to pretty much everything else ever recorded by the most talented single performer in rock music history. His mastery of so many different instruments and genres of music is amazing in its own right. When you add to this his incredible dancing ability and spectacular showmanship, well it's hard to put anyone in his class. This is one halftime show where you won't want to miss the entertainment.
Please Explain: Biopics
As a child, I loved seeing movies about famous historical people. Films like "Pride of the Yankees" and "Brian's Song" had a way of showing these men as mythical figures. Sorry, but my innocence left a long time ago, and so did the appeal of biographical motion pictures.
The first problem I have with these films is how can you show someone's entire life in a 2 hour time frame? Sure you can demonstrate some of their characteristics and even a few major events that happened to them, but it is bound to fail compared to any decent biographical book on the same subject.
Even one of the best biopics ever made, "Malcolm X" falls short, because how can you condense such a man in a little more than 3 hours and get the real truth? Author Alex Haley's 2 greatest works were the "Autobiography of Malcolm X" and "Roots". The latter was presented in a long TV mini-series, which allowed for enough time to give a true essence of Haley's book. While Spike Lee did a great job of hitting the bullet points of Malcolm X's life by basing the screenplay on X's auto-biography as told to Haley, the lack of time Lee has causes the film to fail versus the book.
Another problem I have with the genre is that it's hard to focus on the story. I say this because no matter how good a job someone does portraying the actor, it's hard to watch the film without thinking "hey, Jaime Foxx is doing a good job impersonating Ray Charles." This problem keeps me from staying truly connected to the film.
I have been friends for a long time with Frank Caliendo, who I believe is the pre-eminent impressionist in the world. I name drop here to establish that I'm not a snob about people who mimic the famous. I love to watch people impersonate others in a comedy sketch or on a talk show panel, but even I am not about to spend 10 bucks at my local cineplex to watch "Boom! The John Madden Story".
When I finish watching a well-done biopic, I can acknowledge that the people involved with the film did a nice job, but I also feel kind of empty from the experience. There is something about seeing a big Hollywood film covering the life of a famous person which leaves me with that "made for TV movie" feeling.
The one way a biopic can still connect with me is by showing the life of someone I know little or nothing about. The best of the genre are "Raging Bull" and "The Elephant Man", which both follows this formula. Jake LaMotta and Joseph Merrick were not household names and their lives didn't exist in your high school history textbook. By not knowing much background about the protagonist, these extraordinary films are able to engross their audience much like a great fictional screenplay does.
The one director who has managed to make consistently interesting, if not flawed biopics is Oliver Stone. Stone plays loose with the facts to the point where his films are more docudramas than true historically-accurate recreations. "Nixon" and "The Doors" do a great job of displaying the essence of character (or lack thereof) from the famous men they focus on. Similar to the historical fiction of a Gore Vidal, Stone tries to make a broader point than "here is where Nixon's and Morrison's boyhood homes were", taking on more the social significance their lives had in impacting the times that they lived in.
Historical movies which cover short periods are a whole different matter, as the good ones never have a "paint by the numbers" feel. "Schlindler's List", "Hoosiers", "Rob Roy", and "Braveheart" are some of the best films I've ever seen, as by covering a short period of time, they have a more authentic sensibility to them. While technically considered biopics, I think of them as being in a different category, as these films are focused more on a specific event, not just covering one famous person.
I'm done with movies like "Walk the Line", "Ray", and "Ali". If I want to learn about Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, or Muhammad Ali, I will pick up a book or watch a documentary. I think most biopics are great for kids who want to learn more about a famous historical figure, but besides a few exceptions, I feel they are vanity exercises for the participants involved in making the film. Please Explain why I'm off on Biopics.
State of the Blog 2007
The year of 2006 was one marked with lots of change here, as blog founder, Will Carroll, moved on to the world of corporate control. (Most bloggers wouldn't admit it, but we would love to follow in his footsteps. Will has been a pioneer in going from the internet to actually making money in the mainstream.) Considering that Will was the nameplate that drew most of the traffic here, I thank those of you who have continued to check in at the juiceblog.
Now that this site is under my diabolical control, expect for the juiceblog to be even more irreverent in its tone, constantly trying to give a contrarian view to a world that strives for political correctness. I've said in my stand-up comedy act that if I didn't offend you at least once during my show, I will try to do so as you walk out the door. The same thought goes into this blog, as I really appreciate the readers here, but I think much of the best dialogue comes out of conflict. So please speak your mind in the comments.
In regards to baseball, it is the main focus of the parent company Since most of the sites at the Toaster focus on specific teams, there is a lot of great stuff that comes out daily that is not covered by the mainstream media. The juiceblog has always looked at the sport from a broader perspective, which in some ways make it harder to come up with fresh viewpoints on the game. Considering that sites like Baseball Prospectus do such a great job of covering baseball, I often am left with the feeling of "what can I offer up that hasn't been analyzed in 10 different ways, already?"
Here is where you come in. I'm looking to incorporate some of the readers at Baseball Toaster to contribute to the juiceblog. What I'm looking for are baseball pieces that have some of the irreverent and thought-provoking style that the best stuff at the Toaster presents. Send me your idea submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will contact you back on if I think it fits what I'm looking for. A few things to keep in mind are...
As others who have submitted stories to me before know, I'm not going to edit much, so don't worry about that. The one thing to keep in mind is that when you put your name on something, the firing line is ready to aim, so the thin-skinned need to go somewhere else.
Looking forward to Spring Training!
New Gossip Columnist Joins Juice Blog
Today's scoop is that I observed Scott Long at a Wendy's on Friday, splitting a double with Kirsten Dunst. Strangely, they were talking about their mutual admiration for Dave Matthews. What a FREAKING hypocrite!
Stay tuned for more scoops on the real truth which happens here at the Baseball Toaster.
Please Explain: Wendy's
It might not be something many of us are proud to claim, but no other country has the myriad of fast-food offerings that the United States has. With so much choice, I've never understood how Wendy's continues to thrive in the marketplace.
I'm not a huge fan of McDonalds, but I understand its charm, especially to little children. Plus their double cheeseburger and fries stack up well against the competition.
Burger King has gone downhill a bit on the quality front over the past decade, but the charbroiling niche is a good one. Also, BK's new Whopper Jr. ad-campaign is really funny. "Don't sell yourself for a buck, son", I wish I never had been broiled", and "get your head out of your bun" are ironic comedy 30-second gems.
Carl's Jr/Hardees Angus beef makes for some of the best tasting burgers on the fast-food scene. Also, their male-driven ads have done an excellent job of featuring their products.
Dairy Queen has pushed their Angus burgers as well. They have a very diverse menu, with ice cream their obvious profit focus.
Sonic is a strange company in that it's not in all the country, but in enough of it that they need to do some national advertising. Their ads are also really well done. Sonic has found their unique place in the crowded field, as a drive-in, more eclectic version of Dairy Queen.
A&W has had somewhat of resurgence over the past 5 years, after being bought by Yum! Brands and then combined with some of the company's other fast-food restaurants in multi-branded stores. (Long John Silver's, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell also are part of Yum! Brands.) A&W has the unique advantage of having the best beverage served at any fast-food joint.
White Castle (or) Krystal, depending on what part of the country you live in has the drunk burger down to a science. While I'm not sure why any sober person eats one, I'm not above the slider's charm after a few pitchers of brew.
Rally's/Checkers are strictly drive-through restaurants, but the lack of overhead keeps their costs down and I would argue they are the best value in the burger market.
Jack in the Box is another fast-food joint that caters to drunks and stoners, as they stay open late. They also offer 2 tacos for a buck, which gives them some diversity that no other burger joint can claim. It has always been weird to me that they are mainly located on the West Coast, but also have a strong presence in St. Louis and Nashville. Doesn't seem like a good marketing plan, as getting supply trucks to these areas would seem to pose certain logistical problems. Still, their ultimate cheeseburgers keep them worth checking out.
Whataburger is the worst fast-food burger joint I've ever eaten. A poor man's Burger King, I just don't understand why anyone eats there. Why I didn't choose Whataburger as the Please Explain candidate is that they are a regional chain, not one of the top fast-food restaurants in the US like Wendys.
Steak and Shake is a bit more upscale in the way they sell themselves, but the quality of their products is often worth the extra cost.
Culvers is Wisconsin-based and I think the best candidate for growth in the burger field. Their specialty is called a butterburger, which is one of the best sandwiches I've eaten. They are a bit more upscale in their approach, but it fits with the quality and wider menu they have. Frozen custard is their other big seller.
Backyard Burger was the first place I tried that used Angus beef and I can see why so many others in the marketplace joined them in going with this type of meat. Hardees co-opting the Angus beef has made Backyard less unique and when Yum Brands decided to go with A&W over them in the combo restaurants they franchised, I wonder how long they can continue to exist in such a cut-throat field.
In-N-Out Burger is mainly located in the SoCal area and it's hard to say there is a better burger you can find. The only negative about In-N-Out Burger is since they are made fresh, they take longer to get. Combine slow cook times with how busy they get and your wait pushes the fast-food notion. (I waited 20 minutes once at the location by Hollywood High.) They were the first burger chain to offer the Atkins designed lettuce wrapped burger, which is called a Protein Burger at In-N-Out.
If you haven't figured it out yet, I eat a lot of hamburgers. I'm on the road constantly with my job and since I generally follow a high protein diet approach, this puts me at a burger joint 3-4 times a week. I thought Fast Food Nation was one of the best books I've ever read. I loved Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me" film. I know that I would be a better citizen if I was more moderate in my cheeseburger intake, but there is no other food that manages to taste good, fill me up, and do it at a reasonable price like ground cow.
My credibility is legit on this subject, so I think I have the right to offer up an opinion on the burger field. With so many choices, I just don't understand why people choose to get a Wendy's burger. I would only rate Whataburger lower on the taste scale. I also think there is no bigger fraud in advertising than what Wendys shows on TV and what you end up getting after ordering. Where are these juicy beef patty squares they demonstrate in their ads?
I realize that Wendy's has a pretty diverse menu, with chili, baked potatoes, and salads being a big seller for them. While these offerings are better than their burgers, I know it's not enough to keep them open. Actually, the salads at McDonalds and especially Arbys are superior to what you get at Wendy's. Add to this that the biggest rip-off I've had at any fast-food restaurant over the past few years is the new Frescata sandwich Wendy's has touted. Save your money and go to any of your local sub shops, as the Frescata pales in comparison to what you can get at Quizno's or Subway. Oh and their fries suck as well.
Please Explain to me why Wendy's is one of the top fast-food chains in the world, as I don't get it. Outside of the Frosty, I don't think Wendy's do anything better than their competitors.
NFL on Fox this Weekend
As most of you are aware, I am writer for the sketches that appear on the NFL pregame show on Fox. This Sunday is our last one of the year and I think it has the potential to be one of our best in the 4 years I've been involved. Frank Caliendo will be playing more than 1 chararcter, doing a group of people no one else would dare. If you want to catch it, the sketch is set to air on Fox before the NFL Championship game. My guess is the sketch will appear sometime between 3:15-3:40 EST time.
I didn't make any picks last week, as the schedule seemed to be a bit of a trap. Since I picked the Colts to win it all at the beginning of the year, I'm going to stick with them to finally put away all their playoff demons, by beating the Pats by more than 3 points. (3 star selection)
While most have been focused on the offense of the Bears, it's their defense that I have problems with. Since they lost safety Mike Brown, they haven't been the same and when all-pro defensive tackle Tommy Harris joined him on the IR, it only added to their decline. The weather seems to be decent and even though I'm not crazy about dome teams playing in cold weather, I think Brees and McCallister will control the ball. Mild play on the Saints getting 2 points. (2-star)
Prelude to Top TV Shows List: Battlestar Galatica Bias
Sometime in the next couple days, I'm going to post my Tivoworthy Show List of 2006. Over the past couple of years, the one show I haven't included that many readers here felt was overlooked was Battlestar Galatica. To be truthful, I didn't overlook the show, it's just that I have little interest in the Science Fiction genre. I've enjoyed books by Orwell and Bradbury, but when spaceships get involved, I generally lose interest. While it's bigger than this, whenever I see someone wearing a uniform jumpsuit, like all the Star Trek type shows sport, I think the future doesn't look that much fun. Kind of like going to Catholic school in zero-gravity.
I'm just not enthusiastic about us meeting other civilizations, as I'm more concerened about problems on this planet. Now before you think I'm ripping Science Fiction like I did Dave Matthews, I'm not. I have friends and family members who are Trekkies and I have a lot of respect for them. I just realize that like Indian food, it just doesn't please my palate.
I would make a hypothesis that a majority of the sabermetrically-inclined happen to also be big fans of Science Fiction, so I know around here I'm probably in the minority. I'm a weird one, as I'm a devotee of the statistical approach to baseball, despite having few mathematical skills and not being a fan of the Sci-Fi channel. Since some of my favorite readers here had told me I was missing the boat on Galatica, I tried to open my mind and take in the show. Hey, I enjoyed Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, so I figured if I could embrace the dueling overacting of Shatner and chestplated Montalban, I thought there was a chance I would dig Galatica, as well.
Sorry, it just doesn't do it for me. The acting is better than most TV dramas. Mary McDonnell is always good, plus Grace Park and Tricia Helfner are fun to watch on many different levels. It just comes back to my biases against the genre. It goes beyond just spaceships, as I have a hard time with any supernatural shows. Never a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Ally McBeal, as I need my shows to resemble more of a documentary style. I know I'm missing out with my inability to step out of my head, but it's just who I am. (The one type of genre that I'm able to suspend disbelief and go with it. PORN!!!)
Now I wrote this piece because I knew when I posted my Top TV shows of the 2006, the comments section would be overwhelmed with Galatica's absence. Here is your place to tell me again why I'm wrong. You aren't going to change my mind because my feeble brain is incapable of marveling at space travel, but maybe you can help persuade other followers to join your way of life. So fill your pocket with quarters and put on your new Nikes, it times to take off.
Please Explain: Kirsten Dunst (No.2)
The Juice Blog's newest contribution to society, Please Explain is on to its next subject. I've never understood how actress Kirsten Dunst gets so many high-profile movie roles. The first time I ever remember seeing Dunst was as a 12 year-old in "Interview with a Vampire." It was one of the best child acting performances of all-time. Guess what, it's still her best work.
I don't like to get too personal on the looks front, but if you are a lead actress, you need to be sexy. Kirsten Dunst is not. The biggest role of her movie career has been playing Peter Parker's girlfriend in the Spider Men movies. When you watch a scene on the big screen and think that even Toby McGuire is slumming it, I think you need to reconsider casting your lead actress.
Looks are only half the problem, as I don't think Dunst is a particularly gifted actress. Glenn Close doesn't turn me on, but I've enjoyed her as the female lead before, because she is a powerhouse actress. Dunst has starred in movies done for top-notch directors like Cameron Crowe, Mike Newell, Michael Gondry, and Sofia Coppola. She's not the worst actress, but her mix of talent and looks makes it a mystery to me why she has gotten such high-profile gigs.
If you are a fan of Kirsten, explain why my feelings are wrong. If not, please be as descriptive in what you don't like about her. I chose her as the second subject for Please Explain, as I know she isn't as easy of a target as Dave Matthews.
Alan Trammell: Baseball's Forgotten Star
While most of 2007's Hall of Fame discussion has been about Mark McGwire's failure to get enough of votes, there are other deserving candidates who have once again been left by the side of the road. I generally am a supporter of baseball writers, not slamming them on the level that the average blogger does. I realize that they have to be in the locker room with the team they cover on a daily basis, so it's not as easy as sitting in your bedroom ripping away like most of us bloggers do or worse, what Jay Mariotti does. When it comes to the Hall of Fame ballot I can't defend a lot of them, though, as they seem to have little understanding of the game.
Many in the sabermetrical community have mentioned how players like Ron Santo, Bert Blyleven, and Goose Gossage have been cheated out of their rightful place in Cooperstown. I would agree, but Alan Trammell seems to get little discussion even though he is as worthy, if not more.
What position generally is considered the most important one on the field? Many would answer the shortstop position. Despite being one of the Top 10 non-active shortstops to ever play the game, Alan Trammell received a paltry 13.4% of the votes. There are 23 total shortstops in the Hall, but somehow Trammell is left off of most ballots.
Let me go over some of his qualifications.
Won the 1984 World Series MVP on one of baseball most dominant single season teams.
I'm sure his dismal record as manager of the Detroit Tigers has hurt him, but his merits as a player should override it. As part of the greatest career double play duo in baseball history with Lou Whitaker, Trammell's exclusion is pathetic. Here are the 7 players that I think belong in the Hall that aren't in. I have listed them in order of how I would vote for them.
1. Pete Rose
Please Explain: Dave Matthews
In what I'm hoping will be a very interactive weekly segment, I will mention some person(s) that I don't understand why they are so popular. My goal is not to rip, but to get some insight on why the pop culture phenomenom exists for these "celebrities".
I chose Dave Matthews to begin the list, as I think a lot of people who attend his concerts I would like personally. I don't really hate the guy and think that his song "Crash" is a great erotic tune, even though it has been played into the ground by radio. My basic problem is that I can't figure out why he sells out arenas, despite being such a quirky voiced dude of moderate song writing ability. How is this guy the master of unlocking Patchouli's* box? (*Patchouli is an oil worn by hippie chicks. Many of these women are big fans of South Africa's biggest musical export.)
If you are a fan of Dave, explain why my feelings are wrong. If not, please be as descriptive in what you don't like about the guy. I will weigh-in with greater detail about DMB later on in the commentary area.
Finally a Little Variety at this Site
If you haven't noticed, let me point out that an indecent portion of Oscar quality films have very similar titles. Here is a link to an article that I wrote for Variety on the subject. Thanks to a wise man named Jon for helping me with the editing of this piece.
The Biggest Mistake of the Playoffs
After the first-round of the NFL playoffs there were many different scapegoats to point to. Some would mention how the referees blew the John Runyan personal foul call, which ended up being a real momentum changer. Others might go after the pathetic offensive gameplan the Kansas City Chiefs used. Many would choose Bill Parcells not having someone besides his starting QB hold for kicks. Here is my choice.
Networks buy the NFL as much to drive traffic to their other programming, as they do to try to make money. It could be argued that without the NFL, Fox would never have become a viable competitor to the Big 3. Fox has continually taken advantage of their NFL tie-ins, by promoting male-driven shows like 24, Prison Break, and House. Smart marketing choices to pitch themselves to the pro football fan.
Now let's go to NBC, who made a big splash back into the NFL world this season by offering a ton of money to be the big show in town. By taking Monday Night Football and switching it over to Sunday night, they have revitalized the idea of the prime time game of the week. They also made the biggest mistake of the playoffs.
At a time when they could count on their biggest viewership, what is the new show that NBC chooses to push? If you guessed a reality show where hopefuls are trying to be part of a new production of an old Broadway show let me sing at the top of my lungs "Girl you are so right!" "Grease: You're the One that I Want" was the program that NBC decided to promote to its NFL audience.
Without me getting into my opinion if this show will be a success, it was a horrible marketing decision by NBC. I can't think of a show that the average football fan would find more excruciating to watch than a reality show which features Broadway-style singing and dancing. ABC's Dancing with the Stars has been smart in its 2 seasons to include a former NFL star like Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith. Unless NBC plans to have Tony Siragusa play the part of Danny Zuko, I just don't see how this show is going to draw more than 2% of the males who were watching the Colts/Chiefs or Cowboys/Seahawks games played Saturday on their network.
Outside of My Friend Earl, the Law Order franchise, and maybe a couple of its other dramas, NBC seems to have turned their back on primetime shows which try to appeal to men who don't consider themselves urbane (or for that matter even know what urbane means.) Hey, that's fine, but why would NBC invest this much for the NFL then? Promote Friday Night Lights or Las Vegas, but not some sorry American Idol rip-off. (By the way, American Idol features a few contestants who sing classic rock or country, so they can try to interest more men.)
Now if NBC would have had Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick fight it out in baby oil for the honor to be Sandy in their new reality show, well...then disregard my diatribe.
Will Carroll Follows Up His Top 10 Music List
This blog has become known as the site which majors in baseball, with a minor in music. During the off-season, the subjects tend to flip-flop. Believe it or not, I'm planning on having more baseball pieces here in 2007, but it will be hard to tell this until Spring Training time.
Making a return trip is "football writer" Will Carroll discussing his previous post on the best music of 2006.
By Will Carroll
The one question I got on my Top Ten list this year ... and why should anyone care what a football writer says about music? ... was about what was missing rather than what was there. Perhaps my list wasn't alternative enough, not far enough out on the edge. You know why goth kids congregate to look miserable or why biker gangs come up with evil-sounding names? We all want to be special, but none of us want to be alone. Music is like that. There's a thrill in the discovery, a seduction in exploring, and a pride in having a band in your back pocket.
The question -- Where's Damien Rice? -- is a valid one. Looking at my list, the Irish singer-songwriter stands out in his absence. "O" might be the best album of the decade and while it finished behind "American Idiot" the year it came out on my list, it holds up better. High praise given just how resonating "Idiot" is even today.
Rice's new album "9" isn't quite the album that "O" was in much the same way that PIcasso's "Old Man WIth A Guitar" isn't "Guernica", that "Bitches Brew" isn't quite "Kind of Blue", that the Disney Center isn't quite the Guggenheim Bilbao. It's a lesser masterpiece. The sound is still there, so painfully close that you half expect to feel Rice's breath on your neck as you listen. The heartbreak is palpable, each note dripping with the immediacy of a break-up and as calculated as a symphony.
But as it says on the iTunes review, you can only jump out of the box once. Rice's second album doesn't have that OMG moment where it sinks deep into your consciousness, where the cello sounds like it's coming out of your own head rather that into it. There's no amazing sequence like "Volcano", "The Blowers Daughter", and "Cannonball" to make you almost forget that the rest of the album is just as good. There's no left-field moment quite like the end of "Eskimo."
If "9" is defined more by being "not O", it's hardly "Fairweather Johnson" either. Rice sounds a bit more angry this time, a bit more over the love that remains his muse. Cursing can be an art or a crutch, but there's no other artist that can spit F -bombs as a chorus and make it sound like Rice has in "Rootless Tree." The building chorus is just unbelievably brilliant, the orchestration behind it infinitely deep, and the emotion as raw as a cut. The sheer volume of the spit venom is a kick to the sonic groin and then sliding back to snare drum and plucked nylon acoustic is as jarring as make up sex.
Rice's second album is not a soundalike either. His distinctive voice, the beautiful scoring, the haunting cello, and Lisa Hannigan's ethereal voice are all back. In fact, Hannigan's voice actually is the first sound of the album. It's an interesting move as Rice tries to establish "Damien Rice" as collective rather than individual. The song, "9 Crimes", works so much that it's already been used by "Grey's Anatomy" and "CSI" as a centerpiece. Rice remains an often inscrutable lyricist. His words are chosen as much for sound as they are content. He can become a bit precious and repetitive at times, falling in love with his own phrasing as he does on "Dogs", repeating the syncopated phrase "the girls that does yoga" seemingly a million times.
Rice's brilliant second work isn't on my Top Ten because I can't define how I feel about it yet. It's going to take hundreds of listens, of trying to find out how the demonic campfire song "Coconut Skins" holds up over years, of what moment brings up a memory of a lyric before I know where this album rates. It's an album that demands more than a list, more than a cursory expression of my admiration. It's an album that taps on my shoulder, like the angel or devil we're all supposed to have. I'm not sure which one it is yet, but I know that I can't wait to hear Rice's next work and that's my highest praise.
NFL First Round Playoff Picks
Well, so far my college football bowl picks are a sparkling 10-6, with only 2-star Ohio State left on the schedule. For the season, my college selections are 45-31 overall, with a plus 29 on the star basis.
My NFL picks last week were only 2-3. I like 3 games this week, with only the spread of the Patriots/Jets game giving me concern, as it appears like Mangini has Belichek figured out.
4 star Seattle(-3) Dallas
The Seahawks have been a mess all year, but being in a weak division has helped them get to this point. The key to this game is weather, as it looks to be wet and windy. The Seahawks home field advantage is vital, as I suspect the Cowboys will struggle in the conditions.
While the Colts haven't shown the ability to stop anyone's running game, this is not the same KC running game that they've had over the past few seasons. The offensive line is not as good and Larry Johnson looks pretty worn down. If the Colts score the first TD, I think they will end up winning by double digits. If KC puts the first 6 on the board .the game is a toss-up.
The Giants are starting to get back more of their starters. I've always liked Jeff Garcia as a player, but I think Andy Reid will have a hard time staying patient with the running game that has been the major reason for the Eagles turnaround. Goes down to the wire.
The Most Illuminating Interview You Will Hear By a GM
Readers here know I'm not big on linking, as thejuiceblog is a mouthpiece for me to feed my ego-driven soul. Look, I know many of you think this and you would mostly be right in coming to this conclusion. Every once in awhile, though, I run into something I think you should check out. With the transition which took place this off-season, where free-agent pitchers were able to ask for long-term, massive money deals and get them, the most out front GM in bucking this trend was White Sox GM Kenny Williams. Below is an interview where he discusses his thoughts on the subject.
During this long radio interview with Chicago sports morning show host, Mike North, Williams in his Barry White-lite baritone, explains much of why he decided to make the trades that he did during the off-season. Discussion topics include the out of whack free agent pitching market, picking up players that fit well for your ballpark, and even Scott Boras.
North, who is the living, breathing embodiment of the SNL "DaBears" character can be a really tough listen for out-of-towners, but his bombastic style of interviewing did pull out a lot from Williams. Has there been a sports GM of any team who has went from being seen as bad to suddenly good at his job faster than Ken Williams? While many teams have spent a lot of free-agent dough to affect their 2007 season, the White Sox have gambled losing impact players (Garcia, Cotts, Gload, McCarthy) to gain in exchange a lot of young, power arms. It will be interesting to look back in 3 years to see if they seem prescient in their decision making. I seem to be one of the few White Sox observers who think they have timed the market, magnificently.
The link comes from Southsidesox.com. Run by a man who goes by the moniker, The Cheat, it's one of the best baseball blogs out there.
Top 30 Downloads of 2006
To wrap up our year-end review of music, below are the Top 30 singles of 2006.
1. Crazy- Gnarls Barkley
2. Chasing Cars- Snow Patrol
3. When We Were Young- Killers
4. Ain't No Other Man- Christina Aguilera
5. Steady as She Goes- Raconteurs
6. Stop, I'm Already Dead- Deadboy and Elephantmen
7. Black Horse and the Cherry Tree- K.T. Tungstall
8. I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor- Artic Monkeys
9. I'm Not Ready to Make Nice- Dixie Chicks
10. Rise Up With Fists!!- Jenny Lewis
11. Ready to Fall- Rise Against
12. Mama's Room- Under the Influence of Giants***(see comments)
13. Save Room- John Legend
14. Sexy Back- Justin Timberlake
15. Black Sweat- Prince
16. Little Razorblade- Pink Spiders
17. Hot Girls in Good Moods- Butch Walker
18. Tonight- The Fags
19. Throw It Away- Juke Kartel
20. Crazy Bitch- Buckcherry
21. Assassin- Muse
22. Woman- Wolfmother* (Check comments for correction)
23. Get Myself Into It- Rapture
24. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is- Jet
25. You Only Live Once- The Strokes
26. Dani California- Red Hot Chili Peppers
27. Call Me When You're Sober- Evanescence
28. Leave the Pieces- The Wreckers
29. Boondocks- Little Big Town
30. Girl in the War- Josh Ritter
Societal Critic at Large: Scott Long
About the Toaster
Baseball Toaster was unplugged on February 4, 2009.
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