Saturday, November 10, 2007


I'll be the first to admit that I had my doubts about Ron Zook when he was hired to coach the Illini three years ago.

Well, I for one am ready to eat those words.

The rap on the man has always been "great recruiter, zero as a game coach." The first part of that equation has held true (much to the consternation of "the great" Charlie Weis), but yesterday laid the second part to a lie.

Illinois 28, #1 Ohio State 21.

Read it and weep, Brutus. Midguidedly blame it on the refs if you want, but this was an old-fashioned smashmouth beating, delivered by a team that was better prepared and, yes, better coached than yours.

All kinds of key stats, but here are just a few:
  • Zero Illinois turovers;
  • One Illinois penalty;
  • 4th quarter time of possession: Illinois 13:46, Ohio State 1:14;
  • Illinois 28, Former #1 Ohio State 21.
The game was won very simply. Nobody in the white unis was asked to do anything they weren't capable of doing. And in the final blood-draining drive, all that was asked was to block somebody and let Juice hang on to the ball. Four times in that drive Juice ran a keeper to get a first down. 4th & 1 inch, 3rd & 7, 3rd & 10, 3rd & 2. Each time the play call was right out of the 1912 smashmouth football playbook, and every time it worked.

The reason? How about Illinois' players were just plain tougher than the vaunted Buckeye defense. Just plain tougher.

One of the biggest question marks going into a season full of question marks was the play of the O-line. Were they up to Big 10 standards? Yesterday answered that and how. The offensive line won the game by winning the line of scrimmage over and over and over again in the 4th quarter.

And that's it.

It was football at its most primitive, visceral level. The Illini were up to the task and the Buckeyes weren't.

I can't count the number of times the Illini have been on the receiving end of that 8 1/2 minute game-ending drive in the dark to close-out a tough home loss. To be on the dispensing end, to mete out that tough home loss to 100,000+ Buckheads? Nirvana.

Now, barring a letdown vs. Willy next weekend (always a possibility), it should be on to a New Year's Day bowl game. And who would have thought that three months ago?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shortest. Honeymoon. Ever.

It's not Michigan-Appalachian State.

It just might be worse.

Gardner-Webb 84, Kentucky 68.

I've been following Kentucky basketball for a lot of years, and this is without question the worst loss the Cats have ever taken. Realistically, it has to be the worst they could take. How do you top a home loss by 16 to a team that has to be in the bottom 40 in any ranking of the 340 D-1 teams?

The only reason it might not be worse than Appy State is because it's basketball, not football. Appy State effectively ruined Michigan's chances to win a national championship in the first week of the season. This loss technically can't do that to UK, but this will take them out of any discussion about winning anything for a very long time.

In terms of national embarrassment, this has to be even worse. Although Appy State is D-2, they were already acknowledged as a powerhouse at that division. Not so for Gardner-Webb.

Also, Appy State at least needed some late game heroics to pull out a tight upset. This one was effectively over in the first 5 minutes. It was 11-0 before UK hit the board, and they never threatened the rest of the way.

Utterly embarrassing and humiliating in every way.

We'll see how the team and coaches react, but obviously the honeymoon is over for Billy Clyde.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Annnnd...We're Off!

In what must surely be the earliest start that I can ever remember, the first edition of Billy Gillispie's Wildcats took the floor last night for a game that counts.

Granted, the opponent (Central Arkansas) was only marginally more impressive than last Saturday's exhibition foe (Seattle), but the 67-40 victory counts towards the season total nevertheless.

Lots of head-scratchers (a double-double from walk-on Mark Coury in 36 minutes on the court, 14 productive minutes from another walk-on, Kerry Benson, 20 minutes in about 16 minutes of court time from Joe Crawford), but some idea of the defense that's likely going to carry this team all year (20% shooting for the Scotties, and barely a point every other possession).

Another win tonight, this time over Gardner-Webb, will propel the Cats to the Garden next week and a date with UConn or Memphis or Oklahoma.

In Rainbows

Having lived with In Rainbows for almost a month now, I can tell you one thing that might not be exactly earth-shattering.

Radiohead knows what they're doing when the make a record.

You could wish they did it a little more often -- it's been 3 years since Hail To The Thief -- but in one way or another they always seem to make it worth the wait.

Maybe it's just a hangover from the fabulous final episode of Mad Men, but the dominant emotion of this record seems to be the subject of Don Draper's emotional Kodak pitch: nostalgia.

Not overtly, of course, but this record is deeply suffused with a knowledge of and a feeling for the past 45 years of pop music, all filtered through a solid grounding in their own canon. They're not going to directly ape anyone else, but the Revolver-era Beatles vibe in the riff on "Bodysnatchers," or the Lamb Lies Down-era Genesis vibe on "Weird Fishes" are but a couple of examples of how this record serves to fuse past and present. The closest recent analogy is Beck's Sea Change, which seamlessly updated an early-70s feel to the 21st century.

Pulling it all together, of course, is Thom Yorke's voice, one of the most distinctive, divisive and, yes, beautiful instruments in music today. Much like Neil Young's voice divided the faithful from the unwashed in the '70s, Yorke's falsetto splits today's scene like Heston's staff.

Worth £4? To economists, maybe not. To me, most definitely.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Television As Pure Art Direction

Well, it took most of the 13-week season, but in the end we finally got a little bit of character development to go with the art direction that has so far been the only apparent reason for the existence of Mad Men.

At times the show seemed almost to be a form of experimental television -- the TV show as pure look with almost no real story or character development. Now for me it actually worked on that level. The attention to detail in the sets and costumes is really nothing short of remarkable. It's like a full-scale version of an old home movie that rather shockingly brings to colorful life a previously black-and-white world.

By the end of the run we discovered chunks of Don Draper's misty past, Betty Draper discovered a bit of his smoky present, and Peggy discovered the mysterious reason for her ever-enlargening ass. For a while it seemed as though the show would never outlive its initial run, if only because it didn't seem to be heading anywhere in particular, but the final few episodes -- and in particular the wonderful season-ender -- leave open all kinds of possibilities for the folks at Sterling Cooper (Draper, Sterling & Cooper?) head into 1961 and the birth of Camelot.

Might Kuhn Be Proud?

I might have taken part in a paradigm shift this week.

I downloaded an album

That alone was not the paradigm shift. What's new is who got paid -- and how much.

Radiohead released In Rainbows this week. But they didn't release it in any physical form. It wasn't in stores, but it was priced to move. And that's where the paradigm shift comes in. It was priced by me -- and by everyone else who wanted a copy.

The band released an mp3 version on their own website and invited all who wanted it to take it at whatever price they were able and willing to pay. From £0 to whatever (I paid £4, or a little more than $8). By signing up for it you do add your information to their marketing database, but the choice of how much to pay for the record is up to everyone individually.

And all the proceeds proceed directly to the band. Currently without a label, this all represents a giant experiment in how a major band can thumb their noses at the traditional distribution routes and take the product directly to the fan base, cutting out the middle man in the process.

It will be interesting to see what the results are (assuming we ever get to see the results), and equally interesting to see what the impact will be on sales of a more traditionally distributed physical product down the road (a plastic CD should be available in a couple of months -- part of this week's availability was a super box set which included a two-album vinyl version, a two-CD digital version, a bunch of extra graphical material, all available in December and an immedate download).

The most important question, of course, is whether the album is any good. Unsurprisingly, it is. But more on that later.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Well now. Lookee who's 3-0 in the Big Ten (no, I don't mean Ohio State). Lookee who's one win over a MAC team (or a bad Iowa team, or a bad Northwestern team, or a really bad Minnesota team) from being bowl eligible. Lookee who's riding a 5-game winning streak. Lookee who's riding a 2-game winning streak over ranked teams. Lookee who finally beat the arrogant Cheeseheads for the first time since 2002.

And Lookee who just got ranked (#18) for the first time since the end of 2001.

Aw hell, I'll just say it.

The F-ing Illini. And that's "F" as in "Fight, Fight, Fight."

The naysayers are still out there -- both inside and outside fan base. The "they must be cheating in recruiting" meme lives and thrives. A persistent (if shrinking) undercurrent of Zookophobia remains -- when will he pull a bonehead coaching move to lose a big game? Not yet this year, anyway.

In the end it was too much of The Chosen Person (160 yards rushing and 3 TDs for Rashard Mendenhall) and too much of the rapidly developing folk tale of Eddie McGee, who continues to do a Rollie Fingers -- creating the new position of football closer -- by running for the winning touchdown, and later adding a 3rd down run and a 4th down sneak for the game-closing first down.

The excellent new tradition of the team rushing the stands (i.e., the student section) after a big win was seen again (I wouldn't mind seeing it again and again and again). And the scene was filled out by a tremendous beauty. That's right, the wife was in the stands. Oh, yeah. I guess Erin Andrews was there as well.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is This A Test? Guess Not

Oddly, for someone running in order to "protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," John McCain seems to have never read it (which is also apparently the case with a majority of his fellow Americans).
Mr. McCain said in the interview that he agreed with the results of a poll that showed that a majority of Americans believe the Constitution establishes a Christian nation. “I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation,” Mr. McCain said.

-- NY Times, September 30

For the record, the results of a quick Constitution word search.

"God" - 0 mentions
"Jesus - 0 mentions
"Christ" - 0 mentions
"Christian" - 0 mentions
"Church" - 0 mentions
"Religion" - 1 mention ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" - Amendment 1)
"Religious" - 1 mention ("no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States" - Article 6)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Why NOT Us?

Perhaps last weekend's debacle at Michigan Stadium exposed Penn State as pretenders this year, but I still say that the Fighting Illini made a statement yesterday at Memorial Stadium. A couple of statements, really.

One statement is, "Meet Arrelious Benn." He turned his first kickoff return of the year into possibly the last kick he sees all year. The Phreshman Phenom parlayed a blasted middle of the Penn State coverage into a quick six and an Illini lead that they never relinquished in beating the formerly ranked Lions. A quarter later he broke a handful of tackles on the way to a 29-yard slant and run TD pass from Juice Williams.

The second statement is actually a question. "Why NOT us?" In a league full of what looks to these eyes as Ohio State and a bunch of question marks. At the moment we sit on top of the league (albeit with Bucky, Brutus & "the largest land-dwelling species of the Mustelidae or weasel family") and the first home win over a Top 25 team since 1991 make us 4-1, 2-0 with the only loss against yet another Top 25er.

A little more of this (starting with another Top 25 visitor next week, this time from cheese land) and that means a little trip somewhere at the end of the year.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

More Unrelated News Items

Item 1

Line in sand: Health-care veto
Bush opposition to bigger program reflects issue's importance in '08
By Mark Silva
Chicago Tribune
September 21, 2007

WASHINGTON - President Bush's promise Thursday to veto a major expansion of government-paid health care for millions of children reflects the political stakes in a newly potent health-care debate that is beginning to shake up Congress and resonate through the 2008 presidential campaign.

Just days after Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) made a splash with her own health plan, Bush abruptly called a news conference to strike back against Democrats' assertions that he is indifferent to children's health needs. A Democratic plan for greatly expanding the pool of children eligible for government-financed health insurance, the president warned, would move the country toward nationalized health care.

"I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care," Bush said in the White House press room. "Their proposal is beyond the scope of the program, and that's why I'm going to veto the bill."

The increasingly vocal fight over health care, in Washington and on the campaign trail, reflects the public's growing anxiety over the cost and availability of medical coverage. More than a decade after President Bill Clinton's health reforms died amid concerns that they would limit patients' choices, some analysts believe the public is now willing to consider significant changes to the system.

Item 2

'GM has options, union doesn't'
6 days after their contract expired, automaker and the UAW struggle with terms, including competitive wages versus loss of U.S. jobs
By Rick Popely and Stephen Franklin Tribune staff reporters
September 21, 2007

The outcome of contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers and General Motors Corp. could determine how many vehicles GM builds in the U.S. and the size of the UAW rank and file.

Talks between the two sides have continued six days past a contract expiration -- an indication that both sides know they face a critical juncture. GM is seeking major concessions on labor costs, while the union is trying to stem an alarming loss of jobs that began in the early 1980s.


GM wants to shift its $51 billion retiree health-care liability to the union, which would manage a fund and take on cost risks. The sides apparently haven't agreed on how much of the liability GM would accept, with the automaker reportedly offering 65 cents on the dollar and the union seeking more.


The union has helped out before, agreeing in 2005 to accept cuts in health-care benefits for GM and Ford retirees and over the years boosting productivity to lower the labor cost gap with Toyota to about $1,300 per car from $2,500.

But GM wants more, reportedly pressing for cuts in pension and health-care benefits for active workers, who now pay less than 10 percent of their medical costs; wage freezes or cuts; more flexibility in job assignments; and a two-tier wage structure in which new hires would get considerably less in pay and benefits.

The base UAW wage is $28 an hour, but GM says benefits for active and retired workers push the labor cost to $73.26. The Center for Automotive research says Toyota pays its non-union U.S. workers $45 an hour, including benefits.

That's why Cole thinks GM will move production to Canada, where national health care reduces GM's per-vehicle cost by about $1,000 compared to that in the U.S.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Hodgman's Keys To Success In Iraq

"So long as you refuse to ever acknowledge failure, success becomes eternal, a downward curve always approaching failure but never quite reaching it. And that way it will go on forever."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why You Love "The Sports Guy"

From his fantasy football Top 50...
15. Travis Henry
A little scary because of the fumbling problem and Mike Shanahan's abject hatred for fantasy owners ... and that's before we get to last weekend's remarkable "nine kids by nine different women" revelation. Remember when we were all blown away when it was reported that Shawn Kemp had seven kids by six different women? If Kemp was like Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile, then Henry just brought the sports fertility record down to the 3:35 range. You have to admire the way he's spreading his seed around. According to the guys at Football Outsiders, Henry has the highest kids-per-partners rate (100.0) since they started keeping track of the stat in 1993.
The story.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Alberto No Mo

The Tribune hits the bulls-eye with its editorial this morning regarding the end of our long national nightmare -- otherwise known as the Alberto Gonzalez years.
But Gonzales was less the cause of the problem than a symptom of a deeper ill: the administration's unwillingness to recognize that the attorney general has to put the interests of the citizenry above the interests of his president or party. To politicize law enforcement is to risk forfeiting the public's basic faith in our system of government, by suggesting that prosecutions are just a matter of who's got power.
I imagine the President and his minions must understand how thoroughly cynical all of these political actions look to the public. I suspect that it's part of the purpose. Encouraging cynicism regarding government only serves their ends, even as they nuzzle up to rip off the treasury while it still has something left to give them.

The only thing that would be more thoroughly cynical than what has happened so far is if the timing of this resignation was all based on allowing the President to make a recess appointment of another toady who would never be able to get Senate confirmation.

Anyone want to bet against that?

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Year Of Netflix

I recently passed the year anniversary of having a Netflix subscription. Using their handy rental history I can see that I've rented 72 titles, starting with Bottle Rocket and ending with the two I have out now (and haven't watched yet), Badlands and The Bourne Supremacy (need to see that before seeing the new one). Included in that, though, is three seasons worth of "The Wire," which appears to have taken at least of couple of months to go through (but worth every second, of course).

Probably a good 80% of these were watched while running on the treadmill, so I have to thank Netflix for making it possible to keep up with the schedule because man, that can get really boring.

Anyway, it seemed like a good time to make a list -- is there ever not a good time to make a list? -- of the Top Ten movies I've rented from Netflix in the last year.

Of course, right off the bat the Top Ten list has to go to eleven. Just because. Of these eleven, six were movies I'd never seen before at all. I'd seen at least parts of the other five, but hadn't actually watched any of them through in their entirety for awhile. Maybe never.

Anyway, since five of the movies on this list were American movies from the era between 1967 and 1975 I can definitely say that this was a golden age for movies as I'm concerned. It's common wisdom that the one-two punch of Jaws in 1975 and Star Wars in 1977 changed the way American movies were made and marketed, and that seems to have become a truism for a very good reason. It's true.

So, in alphabetical order.

Blow Up (1966) - As this post makes clear, I have a timeless fascination with the era when "London swing like a pendulum do." This movie captured the feel of the era like nothing else -- so iconically that it was thoroughly ripe for the tender satire that Mike Myers gave it in Austin Powers. David Hemmings is cool as a cucumber, Vanessa Redgrave is young and shirtless, and the birds are brilliant. Not really typical of the recently passed Antonioni, but interesting in every way.

Bonnie And Clyde (1967) - The movie (along with another one on this list) that kicked-off the golden age of American movies. The Faye Dunaway of this era may well be the most oddly beautiful movie star ever. But beautiful, really? Probably not, but dead sexy? Jeez yes. The level of violence seems tame today, but at the time it was seriously controversial and you can see why because it's not so much the graphic nature of the violence as it is the sensuousness of it -- particularly in the iconic final scene of slow motion mayhem.

Children Of Men (2006) - It's another truism that the best fiction about the future uses the setting as a mere trope to tell the audience about something timeless. Such is the case with Alfonso Cuaron's tale of hope in the midst of death, devastation and destruction. The tracking shot of Clive Owen leading Kee and the world's only infant through the sudden truce of solemn silence is just brilliant. Equally brilliant is the scene using "In The Court Of The Crimson King," one of the most cinematic numbers in rock history.

The Conversation (1974) - One that I had seen before, albeit quite a while ago. This is the movie that Coppola made between The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II -- only two of the half-dozen best movies ever made. Think about that for a second. It's impossible to imagine a better series of three movies having ever been made. The movie equivalent of Talking Heads' triple-play from "More Songs" to "Remain In Light." Gene Hackman is pure paranoia as he completely misunderstands the nature and the scope of the conspiracy he has stumbled into.

The Graduate (1967) - Along with Bonnie And Clyde, the movie that kicked off the golden age. While the movie gave Dustin Hoffman's career a kick start, Anne Bancroft is the real revelation in re-watching this one. While it's notable that she was only six years older than Hoffman (she was 36, he was 30 at the time), what is even more notable is just how incredibly hot she was in this role as a sex-starved suburban mother. She absolutely sizzles. But at the same time, she never loses the pain and vulnerability that is also so central to the character.

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) - If anyone had a stretch equal to Coppola's during this time, it might have been Robert Altman. Between this one, M*A*S*H and Nashville, Altman had a hell of a run as well. Warren Beatty plays the role he seems destined to always play, a mostly good-natured, thoroughly befuddled and utterly star-crossed striver. In this case, John McCabe fails to realize when the deck is stacked against him, pushes his luck just a bit too far, and winds up paying the ultimate price. And Julie Christie? I guess that it's possible that there has been a more luminously beautiful actress in the past few decades, but the name is slow to come to mind.

Pan's Labrynth (2006) - Guillermo del Toro's bookend to his buddy Cuaron's. A fantasy set in the past rather than the future, but equally conversant in both fears and hopes. Rightly known for the terrific art direction, set design and costumes, it is the fairy tale story set amidst the harsh realities of the last days of the Spanish Civil War that makes this movie so lastingly memorable. That combination of shining illusion and harsh reality holds right up until the last heartbreaking scene of the movie.

Shampoo (1975) - Take John McCabe, move him forward a century in time, and you've got George Roundy. A simple (simple-minded?) man with no mind for business and a bod for sin. Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn are nothing short of ravishing -- big surprise there, huh? Julie in a backless evening gown could only be matched by Goldie in a lamé micro-mini-skirt. And Lee Grant's turn as Jack Warden's disaffected wife is truly amazing. Hard to believe in this day and age, but there was a time when movies could be made that had three real-life female characters in them. A movie that loves women almost as much as its main character.

Trainspotting (1996) - The only movie on this list that I'd watched within the past couple of years. A movie filled with some of the most reprehensible characters you could ever not take your eyes off of. Has there ever been a more screamingly psychotic character than Begby? Claims that it glorifies heroin use couldn't be further off the mark. There is literally almost nothing that these guys do that you would want to have any part in -- apart from jumping into a cab back to Kelly Macdonald's place.

24 Hour Party People (2002) - Tony Wilson, R.I.P. Between this, Tristram Shandy, Alan Partridge and the ridiculously hilarious Saxondale, Steve Coogan fits easily into the pantheon of funniest Brits ever. Mancunian magic is in the air in this two-part tale of Joy Division and Happy Mondays and everything in between. Great music (obvs), but great acting as well. Sean Harris inhabits Ian Curtis to a degree that is downright spooky. Every taut, twitching fiber in place.

The Kids Are Alright (1979) - The Who at Woodstock was almost certainly the coolest that any rock band has ever been. Just the embodiment of what that word has ever meant. And it's very difficult to ever imagine Keith Moon making it to the age that Townshend and Daltrey are now -- his star was just that incandescent. The first (and only?) lead drummer. I don't know if anyone else was ever capable of playing the drums that way, I only know that no one ever has.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Funny Comedy Jokes

Sooooo sweet (via You Aint No Picasso)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Music Biz: 2007, Part 2

Robert Sandall, in The Prospect, gives a great British perspective on the sea changes going on in the music business these days.

From a macro level, the value of the typical "music company" has both completely shifted internally, while taking a nose-dive overall.
This decline in fortunes has been noticed in the financial markets: EMI is being bought up by private equity group Terra Firma, for £3.2bn.

Almost as soon as the offer was accepted, Terra Firma were reported to be in discussions with Warner to offload EMI's recorded music division. The side of EMI that interested Terra Firma was its song publishing arm, the world's largest and a profitable performer. It is regarded as a safer bet because the exploitation of song copyrights is not subject to the same feasts and famines as the hitmaking process. As well as receiving around 14 per cent of the profit on any CD sale, the publisher has its fingers in other pies, such as licensing fees for films, adverts or any of the other myriad outlets which now employ music. Once upon a time, EMI's publishing arm accounted for about a third of the market value of the whole group. Now it's the only part that's worth anything to the people who venture their capital. It is no coincidence that Terra Firma's offer valued EMI at about a third, in real terms, of what it nearly fetched ten years ago when a sale to its competitor Universal was mooted.
In other words, the only real value of a music company is in the rights to license its music to commercials. Selling the music to consumers is a complete non-starter. Incredible.

And online music sales, the Great White Hope of the industry? Say hello to Jack Johnson's right fist.
The market for digital downloads was worth around $981m in the US last year, around a tenth of the value of the CD market. Yet the labels' great hope is that the slump in demand for physical formats will be offset by growth in the download market. This looks wildly optimistic. The latest figures from the US reveal that while paid-for downloads are increasingly popular—up 74 per cent in 2006 on the previous year—the surge in demand is slowing. And while the total value of music sales across all formats remained more or less static in 2004 and 2005, it declined by more than 6 per cent in 2006. The trade body of the American record industry, the RIAA, optimistically predicts that by 2011, the global online music market will be worth $6.6bn; three times what it currently amounts to. This situation will, as the RIAA delicately puts it, "leave the industry better positioned to offset physical sales."

Yet however it finds itself in 2011, the underlying truth is that recorded music, on or offline, has moved from being a high-margin, "high-end" product to a low-margin, low-prestige commodity.
The upshot? It really is a simple matter of Economics 101. What is cheap and what is dear. As Sandall points out, the development of the CD in the early 1980s was actually the first step on the road to where we are now -- awash in a sea of recorded music availability (both legally and illegally obtained).

If you can quickly and easily access most of a band's recorded catalog at a reasonable price (often zero), then it -- and any structures built around it -- becomes cheap.

What becomes dear is what cannot be quickly and easily accessed, and that is seeing the band live.
It is difficult to prove that the rising popularity and price of live music has been directly affected by the superfluity and cheapness of the recorded stuff. But it seems more than a coincidence that just as fans are spending less on the tunes they listen to at home, they will pay unprecedented sums to hear them in concert. Ticket prices, especially for A-list artists, have soared.

Back in the 1980s, a seat at a concert by a superstar cost about the same as one CD album. By contrast, last summer you could have bought Madonna's entire catalogue for less than half of what it cost to see her perform at Wembley Arena. ... Ticket inflation with smaller bands is less intense. But even a relative unknown like the American singer-songwriter Laura Veirs charged £15 for her London show at Bush Hall this July. More telling is the ubiquitous presence of touts outside low-key venues where no secondary market for tickets existed ten years ago.

Attendance at arena rock shows grew by 11 per cent in Britain last year, and looks set to rise again in 2007. The bigger the concerts, the more we seem to like them. Hence the explosion in the festival trade. In 2007, there are 450 such large-scale gatherings scheduled, ranging from the recent Glastonbury festival to the one-day Underage festival in Hackney on 10th August, which claims to be the first to be aimed exclusively at 14 to 18 year olds.

A rediscovery, or a renewed appreciation, of the communal source of music-making—and listening— must lie near the root of this upending of the music business. As personal stereos and MP3 players have grown in popularity, so has an appreciation that music isn't just something that goes on between your ears. The guitarist of the American hardcore band Anthrax expressed this rather neatly: "Our album is the menu," he explained. "The concert is the meal."

In his book e-Topia, William Mitchell relates the increasing value of shared experience to the isolating nature of electronic or online virtual worlds. "In conducting our daily transactions, we will find ourselves constantly considering the benefits of the different grades of presence that are now available to us, and weighing these against the costs," he writes. Being in the same place at the same time as a live performance, music fans appear to have decided, is the rarest and most precious presence of all.
So maybe it all comes back to what Neil Young once said. "Live music are better."