Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter at Terry & Liz's (2008)

11 People, 9 Dogs, two Easter Egg Hunts, and a lot of fantastic food and libations. Coming soon to a blog near here. Chock full of insufferably cute pics like this one.


The pics are up. The web-address is www.easterlud.blogspot.com , or you can click here, or you can access it by clicking on "View My Complete Profile" in the left-hand column of this blog-page (under my portrait).

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy 5th Anniversary

We got the triple whammy. 5 years in Iraq; 4,000 troops killed; and ½-3 trillion dollars spent, depending on who you believe. And for what? Happy Anniversary, Dubnutz. Thank God your idiotic reign is coming to an end. You twerp.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Saturday, March 22, 2008

ASU beats ASU !!

Yes, it's true. ASU (Arizona State) whupped up on ASU (Alabama State) in the first round of the NIT. Final score was 64-53. That's Jeff Pendergraph (above) and James Harden (below) doin' some serious dominating.

ASU also defeated the Southern Illinois Salukis (is that a cool team nickname, or what?) in the second round, 65-51. All that stands between Arizona State and a trip to the NIT Final Four is playing Florida, here, next Wednesday.

There is some disappointment in not being invited to the "Big Dance" NCAA Tournament, but frankly, this is an over-achieving team of overall modest talent. Perhaps it is better to be a big fish in a small pond, than first-round dog-meat for some national powerhouse. Bottom line - we're still playing hoops, while the under-achieving blue-chippers at UofA are sitting at home watching TV.

And in other news,,,

ASU (#1 in the nation) beat UofA (#2 in the nation) in collegiate baseball, 6-5, earlier this week. True, we finally lost last night to Northern Colorado (who?) after starting the season with 19 straight wins.

All in all, it was a good week for Sun Devil athletics.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dumber & Dumberer

The dolt on the right doesn't think we're in a recession yet. The dolt on the left thinks that the Shiite regime in Iran is training the Sunni group Al-Qaeda-in-Iraq. At last Dubnutz has found someone who won't talk down to him.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Roadrunners Hockey (a)

We went to see the bottom-feeding Phoenix Roadrunners take on division-leading Victoria on Friday night. This is much better - and much cheaper - than going to see our NHL team, the Coyotes. There was a decent turn-out, but you could still sit anywhere you wanted.

Roadrunners Hockey (b)

It was also "Hairy Back Night", but we'll do a separate posting on that bit of insanity.

Roadrunners Hockey (c)

There were some decent fights, which is the only real reason to watch a hockey game now, isn't it?

Roadrunners Hockey (d)

One perk about going to a Roadrunners game - you can get your picture taken with the cheerleader cutie.

Roadrunners Hockey (e)

In the end, we drubbed Victoruia 5-1. Three cheers for the Roadrunners (especially our goalie), and we'll post the exciting "Hairy Back Contest" pics sometime soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Ides Of March

Title : The Ides Of March (1948; 191 pages)
Author : Thornton Wilder (1897-1975)
Genre : Classical Literature
Rating : C+

This Month I Read...
Thornton Wilder was an American playwright and novelist. He won Pulitzer Prizes for The Bridge of San Luis Rey (1927) and Our Town (1938).

TIoM is one of his later works, and frankly was not a big seller. It deals with the 6 months or so leading up to Julius Caesar's assassination ("Et tu, Brute", and all that). At 191 pages, it was an opportunity to read something "high brow" for a change, without too much of an investment in time.

This is not a historical novel - Wilder makes that clear from the beginning. He 'borrows' a number of things that actually occurred 5-15 years earlier, and time-shifts them to 45-44 B.C. for the sake of his book.

What's To Like...
The style is wonderfully unique. There's a high-falutin' word for it : epistolary. Basically, the story here is written as a series of letters from/to the various characters - Caesar, his wife, a lady named Clodia, Cicero, Cleopatra, etc. You can read more about this style here. It works. I'd enjoy trying to write a story in this mode.

Being a series of letters, there's always a convenient place to stop if you're a late night reader like I am. Overall, Wilder divides TIoM into 4 "books". They are not chronological; instead, they deal with different themes. Book 1 introduces the characters; Book 2 deals with Love; Book 3 focuses on Religion; and Book 4 details the events that lead up to Caesar being perforated 23 times.

The book provides some delightful glimpses into the daily thoughts and activities of people living at the height of the Roman Empire. Okay, actually it's all just Wilder's opinions as to what these would have been, just like Shakespeare did in his play. But it's still quite interesting.

The central theme of the book is the "human-ness" of us all. Slave or emperor; ancient Roman or modern reader; we all put our pants on one leg at a time. Inspiring? No. But can you relate? Absolutely.

What's Not To Like...
PWP? For the acronymically-challenged, click here. If you're looking for an action-packed storyline, you're better off with Gene Wilder than with Thornton. Ditto for hoping for any humor and/or surprising plot twists. This book can drag at times, especially if you have to plod through a verbose diatribe by Cicero or some flowery prose by Catullus.

What Makes Thronton Wilder Worthy of a Pulitzer Prize...
I've read The Bridge of San Luis Rey, and will comment on it at some other time. And I've had to sit through Our Town at least once a long time ago, as it used to be the default choice for every High School Drama Club director who found himself with a limited budget and a dearth of talent.

There are recurring themes in Wilder's works. First and foremost is the focus on our humanity. We may aspire to have the world revolve around us, but the truth is, God makes the rain fall on everyman.

Speaking of the Deity/Deities; Wilder doesn't seem to have a high regard for theism of any sort. At its best, the concept of God(s) serves to give us inner comfort and inspiration; at its worst, Religion exists to be manipulated for self-serving purposes.

So what is important to Thornton Wilder? Love. Pure and simple; and in all of its aspects. We live; we die; and in a couple generations, no one remembers us. But to love, and be loved, makes it all worthwhile.

Ah, but I digress. The Ides of March is a decent book, if you're in the mood for something philosophical, rather than a thrill-a-minute tale. We'll give it a C+ and snort condescendingly to indicate we've read something high-brow. We'll recommend it to others, but I don't think this will motivate me to pick up anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne or Elizabeth Browning.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Friday, March 07, 2008

Mermaid Avenue

Artists : Billy Bragg, Wilco, (& Woody Guthrie)
Album : Mermaid Avenue (1998)
Genre : Alt-Folk
YouTube Link : calif stars
Rating : ***** *** (out of 10*)

This Week I'm Listening To...
Here's the scoop. In the 90's, Nora Guthrie, the daughter of folk-icon Woody Guthrie (1912-1967), asks leftist-activist folk-singer Billy Bragg if he is willing to take a bunch of Woody's unpublished lyrics and put them to music. BB agrees, and in turns asks alt-rock-country Wilco to collaborate. Bob Dylan gets miffed, claiming Woody promised him that honor, alas without any documentation to back that up.

The result is Mermaid Avenue, 15 tracks and 45 minutes of some of the freshest Alt.Folk to come along in quite some time.

What's To Like...
The blending of three disparate styles works out quite well and yields some refreshingly new Alt-Folk. The music is a mellow mixture of BB/Wilco; and is definitely not Woody-Guthrie style. I for one and thankful for that. Woody is first and foremost a lyricist, and his half-century-old lyrics are still quite relevant to today's world.

There are a slew of stand-out tracks : California Stars, Christ For President, Walt Whitman's Niece, and the John Prine-esque Hesitating Beauty.

There are a couple tracks from this album up on YouTube; the link to one of them is given above.

What's Not To Like...
Both groups seem to be holding back a bit. It reminds me of a CD put out by Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler a few years back. With talent like that; you expect the spectacular. Instead they both seem try to crawl into the shadows behind each other. Maybe Bragg/Wilco were doing the same thing out of respect for each other. Or maybe they were saving their best efforts for their individual albums.

There is some filler. And if you're looking for Wilco-style rock, it ain't to be found.

It's Folk; It's Not Supposed to be Musically Great...
What makes a great folk album? Well it isn't great guitar-work; I defy you to find anything beyond simple chording on a Simon & Garfunkel album. Nor is it the vocals; no one has accused Joan Baez of having anything beyond a mediocre voice. The themes in Folk may be progressive, but the music certainly isn't. And as Jewel found out, Folk won't getcha a lot of radio-play.

I think Folk, as with any album by a "singer", needs to be catchy and diverse. Catchy lyrics; catchy chording; and a variety of themes. John Prine has managed to stay fresh and interesting through four decades of singing/song-writing. Dylan did too, until his brain fried. Paul Simon had it up through Graceland; but hasn't found it since. Joan Baez had it for about two albums, but we tolerated that because she was against the war. When the war was finished, so was she.

But I digress. Mermaid Avenue (which is named for the street on which the Guthries lived) is a very good album (eight stars), but only if you're in the mood for Folk. There is a Mermaid Avenue 2, which I've not yet heard. If you want to rock-out with Wilco, or kill the Fascists with Billy, you might want to "try before you buy". But if you still think this genre has some new directions to explore, give this one a listen.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Alpaca Lips Now

Someone has managed to give me the nasty cold that's been going around. There are a half-dozen suspects at work, but the main suspicion falls on Liz, who's had it for a week. She denies it, of course, claiming that she couldn't've (*) given it to me since she still has it. So we'll go with an old Worth1000 image that has nothing to do with my coughing, wheezing and sneezing.

(*) : Gotta love those double-apostrophied words.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Sheryl Crow - Detours

Artist : Sheryl Crow (b. 1962)
Album : Detours (2008)
Genre : Country - Pop - Folk - Rock
Rating : ***** ***½ (out of 10*)

This Week I'm Listening To...
Sheryl Crow's latest release finds her reuniting with Bill Bottrell, who produced her breakthrough, early albums. It is also a "coming out" effort - Sheryl touches upon a number of political themes - including global warming, the war in Iraq, post-Katrina New Orleans, and the idiocy that is Karl Rove. Some of the songs are also introspective - a lullaby to her new (adopted) son; her brush with breast cancer, etc.

What's To Like...
There are 16 tracks, and about an hour's worth of music here. "Side A" is exceptional - a beautiful mixture of themes & styles, all of which have catchy, upbeat lyrics that you'll be singing to yourself long after the album is done. The studio production is flawless. If her last couple CD's have been so-so; this one recaptures her muse.

What's Not To Like...
"Side B" slows down a bit, and turns inward. They are meaningful tracks if you know the background to them; if you don't, they aren't very memorable.

Most of the criticism comes from C&W wingnuts who are offended that Ms. Crow should disagree with our Chimperor Dubnutz on things like the war, global-warmng, etc. Hey, dittoheads! The latest polls show our Preznit setting new all-time records for umpopularity - 19% and falling. Your ostracization of the Dixie Chicks didn't work; you'd better get used to the fact that 4 out of 5 people are fed up with your brown-shirt politics.

God Bless This Mess...
I tried hard not to like this album, partly due to SC being the poster-child for the RIAA; partly due to the fact that it's "just another chick-singer album". Alas, it really is an excellent CD; and I chided myself as I kept putting it in the CD player time after time.

Personally, I'd rate the first half of the album 9½ stars; and the second half 7½ stars. Best tracks : God Bless This Mess; Peace Be Upon Us; Motivation; and first-and-foremost, Gasoline. Weakest tracks : Diamond and Lullaby For Wyatt.

Highly recommended.