Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Most Recent iTunes Random Christmas Plays

  • Skating - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • White Christmas - Dean Martin
  • Light Of The Stable - Duvall
  • Joy To The World - Duvall
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Tom Scott
  • Now In Flesh Appearing - Carolyn Arends
  • The First Noel - George Howard
  • It Came Upon A Midnight Clear - Frank Sinatra
  • I Want To Come Home For Christmas - Marvin Gaye
  • Silver Bells - Kevin Eubanks
  • Christmas Time Is Here - Patti Austin
  • O Tannenbaum - Gary Burton
  • O Tannenbaum - Vince Guaraldi Trio
  • This Christmas - Boney James
  • O Holy Night - Duvall

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Comeback Cats Claw Cards

Well, I'll admit I stopped watching this one for large stretches before and after halftime.

UK scored 5 points in the first minute-and-a-half of the first half, and only 11 more in the remaining 18-and-a-half. 16 points in a half was their lowest output since 1983 (11 points in a stall-ball game against Cincinnati), and the Cats were lucky to only be doubled, down 32-16.

Being behind like that on your biggest rival's homecourt is not a good situation, and it didn't get a whole lot better in the second half -- Louisville still led by 10 with 5 minutes left. In the end, the hero was Patrick Sparks, who scored 15 points in the last 7 1/2 minutes. He saved the best heroics for the last, drawing a three-shot foul with 0.6 seconds on the clock and then calmly draining all three to end Louisville's 2-game streak in the series.

Beating the Incubus is sweet. Seeing him go down this way is as good as it gets.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Cats v. Incubus

The Cats renew the nation's most torrid basketball rivalry today. They dispatched one rival (Indiana) on the Freedom Hall court last Saturday for the 5th time in a row. Unfortunately, in the series against Louisville the Cats are currently on the short end of a 2 game streak, and Freedom Hall will be much less hospitable this weekend. The Cards are four-point favorites.

Kentucky basketball fans are notoriously neurotic (yours truly no exception), but this game is currently tailor-made to drive us 'round the bend. The reason, of course, is the presence of the incubus on the other end of the court. The Sports Illustrated profile of the Commonwealth included a poll question regarding the "Enemy of the State." The #1 answer -- more than twice as hated as the runner-up (Christian Laettner) -- was, you guessed it, Rick Pitino. This is only the first (although here too, first by a wide margin) of many reasons why this is a much more heated rivalry than North Carolina-Duke. For more reasons, read here.

Good luck Cats, make the traitor pay. No pressure, though.

Friday, December 17, 2004

The Top Ten ... er, Sixteen Albums of the 1970s

In no order (well, chronological) --

The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars

Who: David Bowie
What: The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars
When: Released June 6, 1972
Why: One of the great concept albums ever made ... I guess. I do know that I love every song on this album -- whether or not they make any sense as a whole. While "Ziggy Stardust" and its companion star, "Suffragette City" have garnered the most notoriety over the years, it is the first side of the original vinyl that contains the unsung heroes of the album. This is especially true of the opener, "Five Years," a description of the world's reaction to the news that it is on the clock and that it has "five years left to cry in." Will the world be saved by the Starman waiting in the sky? The one with the snow-white tan? Who the hell knows, but it's great music regardless. More here.

For Your Pleasure

Who: Roxy Music
What: For Your Pleasure
When: Released March, 1973
Why: Roxy Music was in many ways the birth of the new wave that would engulf music (at least for me) later in the decade. Bryan Ferry influenced an entire generation (or two) of theatrical frontmen, none of whom could match his world-weary tuxedoed ennui. This album was a confident step forward from the scattershot debut. It also had something none of Roxy's succeeding albums could boast -- Brian Eno in the band. The combination made for a song set that still sounds as fresh and interesting as the day it was released. The centerpiece of the album has to be "In Every Dream Home A Heartache," Ferry's ode to a blow-up doll. More here.

Houses Of The Holy

Who: Led Zeppelin
What: Houses Of The Holy
When: Released March 28, 1973
Why: What would a '70s list be without a Zeppelin record. The paradigmatic band of the decade, this album remains the best of the lot for me. "D'yer Mak'er" was one of the first singles I ever bought (b/w "The Crunge"). Talk about a perverse choice for a single (leaving aside the fact that it wasn't until much later that I had any idea what the title meant)! More here.

Call Me

Who: Al Green
What: Call Me
When: Released July, 1973
Why: The Reverend was the greatest soul singer of the greatest generation of soul singers. The peak of his collaboration with producer Willie Mitchell was this unparalleled set of nine soul classics. Really, though it was seven soul classics and two soulful reworkings of country classics (Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away"). The album closer betrays the eventual direction of Green's career ("Jesus Is Waiting"), but the album reaches its most delirious heights on the eponymous opener and the penultimate song ("You Ought To Be With Me"). No other singer's pleas for romantic reconciliation and redemption could ever come close to matching The Rev's silky delivery -- nor could any other musicians match the Memphis pros who provide the solid foundation for Green's soaring tenor/falsetto. More here.

Tonight's The Night

Who: Neil Young
What: Tonight's The Night
When: Released June, 1975
Why: Actually recorded in 1973, but considered far too dark and brooding to release on the heels of Harvest, this album explores the black midnight of the soul in the starkest terms. A perverse testament to the life and death of Crazy Horse guitarist Danny Whitten (and of roadie Bruce Berry), the album is bookended by versions of the title cut -- the finale clearly recorded after more than a few shots of tequila (Neil forgets the words halfway through). The entire album seems to have been recorded in the middle of an epic bender, which was basically the case. The quiet centerpiece of the album -- "Borrowed Tune" -- features nothing more than Neil's voice, harmonica, piano and enough self-doubt, self-pity and self-destruction to fill a concert hall. Has there ever been a more despondent set of lines (at least for a talent the size of Neil Young's) than "I'm singing this borrowed tune / I took from the Rolling Stones / Alone in this empty room / Too wasted to write my own." More here.

Another Green World

Who: Brian Eno
What: Another Green World
When: Released November 1, 1975
Why: Although his ambient projects were still a couple of years off, this was clearly the album that set Eno off on his journey to find the ultimate in mood music -- "music as ignorable as it is interesting." While much of the album does consist of memorable songs ("St. Elmo's Fire," "I'll Come Running," "Golden Hours"), even more notable were the ambient tracks ("In Dark Trees", "Becalmed," the title track) -- shapeless and formless, but incredibly beautiful and enticing. This album clearly still influences ambient composers to this day. More here.


Who: The Ramones
What: Ramones
When: Released 1976
Why: If the album's opener ("Blitzkrieg Bop") didn't tell you that something new was afoot, the second track ("Beat On The Brat") sure as hell did. Into the static void of mid-70's rock came the raging maelstrom of the Ramones -- and the void never knew what hit it. More here.

Never Mind The Bollocks

Who: The Sex Pistols
What: Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
When: Released October, 1977
Why: I'll admit that they weren't much more than a novelty when they hit the States -- and most notoriously across the South (Georgia, Tennessee, Texas) -- for what ended up as a two-week tour in January of 1978. Their influence, however, seems to have only grown in the intervening years. As far as a recorded legacy for the most notorious band in history goes, this record is about it. Oddly, 27 years later, most of the songs still hold up as some kick-ass music -- novelty be damned. More here.
More Songs About Buildings And Food

Who: Talking Heads
What: More Songs About Buildings And Food
When: Released July 14, 1978
Why: When smart people have enormous creativity, this is what happens -- the best record ever made. While their first album, Talking Heads '77 was more than serviceable, their sophomore record was something else altogether. Nervous, edgy, downtown music, exemplified by the kickoff of Side 2, "Artists Only," which sums the creative process in one outstanding phrase -- "I'm cleaning my brain." Just for grins, of course, they throw in perhaps the most distinctive cover song in rock history, a nervous, edgy, downtown version of "Take Me To The River." The importance of the gesture is easily lost in the midst of time, but for an (at the time) lily-white new wave art-rock band to reach across the racial divide (so evident in music circa 1978) to put their own stamp on a song by the greatest of all soul singers -- needless to say it was a bold statement at the time, and represented the band's first tentative step in an entirely new direction. More here.

This Year's Model

Who: Elvis Costello
What: This Year's Model
When: Released July, 1978
Why: My first "release day" new wave album purchase in the summer of 1978. As good as Costello's debut was, this effort (backed by the Attractions) was definitely a Great Leap Forward -- both the music and the lyrics contained a razor-sharp edge that was not to be found on My Aim Is True. The first couplet of the album -- "I don't wanna kiss you, I don't wanna touch / I don't wanna see you 'cause I don't miss you that much." -- on "No Action typifies the vituperative nature of much of the album. This vituperation reach its zenith on the record's final cut, "Radio Radio," Costello's roaring renunciation of the radio world that had no place for a spiky talent like his. Some things never change. More here.

Armed Forces

Who: Elvis Costello and The Attractions
What: Armed Forces
When: Released January 5, 1979
Why: Costello's follow-up to This Year's Model found the music slightly mellowed (although hardly mellow). Steve Neive's organ takes over center stage musically, front and center on songs like "Senior Service" and "Moods For Moderns." Hovering over it all, however, was the same bad attitude that powered the earlier record. Hearing songs like "Oliver's Army" and "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" makes you wish that there was someone out there today who was able to write such forceful dissections of public manias. More here.

The B-52s

Who: The B-52's
What: The B-52's
When: Released July, 1979
Why: One of the seriously great party albums of all time. The opening fade-in of "Planet Claire" let you know very quickly where this band was headed -- a rollicking mix of surf guitars and spy-movie smirkiness all covered over with a space-age patina. I can guarantee you this -- there were not many album covers around like this one in 1979, you knew that this band was different. You also knew that this band was a good time. You also knew, after you heard "Rock Lobster" for the first time, that your head would never again be quite the same. More here.

Fear Of Music

Who: Talking Heads
What: Fear Of Music
When: Released August 3, 1979
Why: I can quite definitely remember being non-plussed and rather confused by this album after buying it in the summer of '79. Having grown to love the band from their first two albums, I wasn't quite prepared for what I heard after first putting it on the turntable in Nedley's basement. "I Zimbra" ... what the hell is that about? Why do so many songs sound like disco? Luckily, I listened to the album a second time, and it all started to fall into place. "I Zimbra" was merely the next step following "Take Me To The River," and "Cities" and "Life During Wartime" were the next steps following that. In the end I grew to love this album as the inseperable twin of More Songs About Buildings And Food. And of course the twin of a beauty like that is a beauty itself. More here.

London Calling

Who: The Clash
What: London Calling
When: Released December 14, 1979
Why: The Clash all growed up. A brawny, muscular record of a band which is reaching full flight, understanding the full expanse of what they're capable of. While the cover ranks as one of the best ever, it really belies the range of the talent displayed within. Some punk, some grandiose grandstanding, a bit of honky-tonk, a lot of reggae influences -- the styles were diverse and breathtaking. The first time I heard it I knew I would be listening to it a lot, and for a long time. I was right. More here.


Who: Gang Of Four
What: Entertainment!
When: Released 1979
Why: An album that truly sounded like no other when it was first heard. An album with no curves, only straight lines and 90-degree angles -- jagged like a broken bottle aimed at your head. The "devout Marxist politics" were, as is almost always the case with such things, just so much precious posing, but the music -- now THAT was radical. More here.

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Head - Prince
  • Jackals, False Grails: The Lonesome Era - Pavement
  • 1/2 - Brian Eno
  • Olsen Olsen - Sigur Rós
  • The Upper Peninsula - Sufjan Stevens
  • Nicotine & Gravy - Beck
  • Ex-Girl Collection - The Wrens
  • What Is Happening? - Cornershop
  • The Hardest Walk - The Jesus & Mary Chain
  • New Direction - Echo & the Bunnymen
  • Don't Drop the Baby - The Judybats
  • Bob Dylan's 49th Beard - Wilco
  • Other Voices - The Cure
  • Alec Eiffel - The Pixies
  • Down by the River - Neil Young

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

The Five Senses Of Christmas


The enduring image of Christmas for me is light in the midst of darkness. I know, I know, that's supposed to be the iconic image of Hanukkah, but while they attach different stories to that image, both obviously share a common season and a common environment -- the shortest days of the year and a desperate lack of sunlight. The Christmas-time response is to shine light against the darkness -- light that is symbolic of the star that announced Jesus' birth, symbolic of the light than shone around the shepherds, symbolic of the idea of Jesus' birth as the light of the world, etc. In particular for me, the most significant image is the lights of the Christmas tree in a dark room. That is the sight of Christmas to me.


Sounds also abound at Christmas -- the ringer at the Salvation Army kettle, the sounds of kids ripping the wrapping paper off of their eagerly awaited gifts, but for me the sound that means Christmas is music. Christmas music gets a pretty bad rap -- and much of it is deserved. There certainly is a lot of shlock Christmas muzak out there. For every "O Holy Night" or "The Christmas Song" there is a "Frosty The Snowman" or "I'll Be Home For Christmas" (hands down, least favorite Christmas song -- way too depressing). But on the whole, the good outweighs the bad, and the most evocative (for my money) is this, along with everything else on A Charlie Brown Christmas.


All kinds of smells say Christmas as well -- the scent of Christmas candles, the smell of Christmas cookies baking, the smell of Christmas dinner -- but hands down the most recognizable scent of Christmas is the smell of pine sap that fills the house when you first bring the tree into the house. When you smell that, you know that Christmas is just around the corner.


Glug. Sickeningly sweet. Use it in moderation. But if you're tasting it, it must be Christmas. No chance you're drinking it any other time of year.

The feel of that kiss under the mistletoe? You better believe it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Zero - The Smashing Pumpkins
  • Born Slippy - Underworld
  • Section 9 (Light & Day) - The Polyphonic Spree
  • All Our Ancestors - Tuu
  • Viva Las Vegas - Dead Kennedys
  • Spar Wid Me - The English Beat
  • The 15th (Felix Da Housecat Vocal Mix) - Fischerspooner
  • I Put a Spell On You - Screamin' Jay Hawkins
  • Hotel California - The Eagles
  • Here, There And Everywhere - The Beatles
  • Magnet's Coil - Sebadoh
  • Under The Sky - That Petrol Emotion
  • Don't Believe in the Sun - The Magnetic Fields
  • Jacking The Ball - The Sea And Cake
  • The Puppet - Echo & the Bunnymen

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Dog Bites Man

Cats flatten Hoosiers. No news here.

Extending their dominance of what used to be a rivalry, Kentucky used a combination of defensive pressure and an almost complete lack of any discenable offensive talent in an Indiana uniform (none outside of Bracey Wright) to win their 10th of the last 11 games in this series.

The last time Kentucky lost to Indiana in Freedom Hall, Bobby Knight was still wearing the checkered coat and Kent Benson was patrolling the middle of the lane. The Hoosiers (what exactly is a ... aww never mind) jumped out to a 13-4 lead, but quickly stalled, and a 14-3 Wildcat run in the middle of the second half put the game away.

This was the first time I've been able to actually see the Cats this season. Some quick observations:

  • Shagari Alleyne is looong, and he is starting to learn how to play the game. At 7'3" tall, and weighing about 77 pounds, he's still a little easy to push around but he's getting better at holding his position. He's gaining some footwork, too, and his drop-step and dunk move in the second half was a bit of a revelation. Keeping in mind that he doesn't even have to jump in order to dunk, this is a very effective move. He will soon become unchallengeable on defense straight up. At one point in the first half DJ White pump-faked him into the air and Shag still blocked his shot flat-footed after descending. He's really very tall.

  • Chuck Hayes and Randolph Morris combined for back-to-back inside wrap-around passes leading to dunks. The first Hayes-to-Morris, the second Morris-to-Hayes. Starting to build a nice inside game here.

  • Rajon Rondo is quick. As you might expect with a Freshman, he needs to keep it under a little tighter control. If he can consistently break his man down off the dribble, though, once he gets into the lane look for the quick lob to Alleyne to be a signature play for this team.
Indiana blows, so this particular game may not mean much, but this is a very young team which seems to be progressing both offensively and defensively. Next up, the Incubus.

Wha, Did Someone Step On A Duck?

Yes. It was Chief Illiniwek.

The Oregon Ducks can return to Eugene proud that they made a statement regarding Chief Illiniwek and their opposition to his ... reign of terror ... or weapons of mass destruction ... or whatever.

On the United Center floor, however, the message was quite different. There the message was, "More orange sauce for your duck, Mr. Head?" As has become their MO in most games, the Illini put Oregon away before the first TV timeout -- Deron Williams' two free throws at 16:47 put the Illini up 12-2, and the game was effectively over. All five starters scored in double figures, and the team rifled the nets at a 58% clip.

On the other end, Oregon looked as befuddled as anyone by having to carry the Illini around in their shirts all day -- although they did manage to get the FG% above 40% (40.4% to be exact). To be fair, the Ducks are very young -- and Freshman forward Malik Hairston sure looks to be a star on the rise -- but this one was never in doubt as the Illini extend their winning streak in these Christmas in Chicago games to 10. And for the first time in a while, the UC game was a sellout. Given the paucity of other sports options in this town, this may finally be the year that Chicago truly embraces the Illini.

Friday, December 10, 2004

O Holy Night ...

... is a wholly remarkable new Christmas CD from Duvall. Duvall is the current band of Chicago's own Caterer brothers, Josh and Eli, formerly of Smoking Popes. Josh's conversion to Christianity and his leap into Christian-themed music has been pretty well documented. This Christmas album is notable for a couple of things. First is the religious nature of the song choices. No "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" or "Rudolph" remakes here -- these are straight up Christmas songs ("O Holy Night,""Away In A Manger," "O Come All Ye Faithful," etc.). Most are done, however, with the straight-ahead propulsiveness of a Popes tune.

What ties them together, of course, is the second notable thing about this record -- the utter distinctiveness of Josh Caterer's voice. A tenor unlike any other in rock music, Josh takes these songs into a sublime realm and allows you to hear them as new -- no matter how many times you've heard them before.

Take a listen here (or right click to download) to "Angels We Have Heard On High", but take my advice and get this album before Christmas so you can fully enjoy it in the season for which is was meant.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • It's Nearly Africa - XTC
  • Fire - The Red Hot Chili Peppers
  • Sugarlight - X
  • Little Willy - Material Issue
  • Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Metal Man - The Breeders
  • Mt. Everest - Royal Crescent Mob
  • Not Just A Wish - Blake Babies
  • Just The Way You Are - Billy Joel
  • Still Flat - Built To Spill
  • Leperskin - Julian Cope
  • Rainy Night in Georgia - Brook Benton
  • One Armed Scissor - At the Drive-In
  • In A Big Country - Big Country
  • Spark Plug - Stereolab

Cats Toy ... Kill

After a first half which required a halftime Tubby tirade, the Wildcats shook off the languor caused by their UNC spanking and nailed outmanned Morehead State (best school name in Division I?) with a 20-0 run to open the second half last night. Next on the horizon is a punchy Indiana squad, fresh off of a home loss to Notre Dame -- their third straight quality loss. The Cats will try to make it four straight quality losses for the Hoosiers, and five straight in the series, on Saturday.

The West Wing - Didja Know?

Did you know that they are still making and airing episodes of "The West Wing?" Me neither. It's apparently still on Wednesday evenings on NBC. I watched it last night for the first time this season (although I'll confess I had read a couple of episode recaps at Television Without Pity). Just to recap myself, last season -- the first since Aaron Sorkin had been given his walking papers and the show had been given over to John Wells (remember him, he ruined ER?) -- was a complete disaster, literally and figuratively. By the end of the season the show was all but unwatchable -- outlandish plots, little or no character development and (worst of all for this show) unbelieveable, leaden dialogue. It was so unwatchable, in fact, that I hadn't bothered turning it on this year. At least until last night.

The good news is that the dialogue, while still far short of Sorkin's best, is at least serviceable and believeable. The people on the show often talk like real people. This was rarely the case last year. Better still, there does seem to be some real plot and character development. From all appearances, the Bartlett administration finally seems to be winding down, leaving its characters -- Josh especially -- with some real decisions regarding their futures.

Might actually be interesting to see where things go.

Childhood's End

Remarkably perceptive article by Hara Estroff Marano on Psychology Today's website regarding recent changes in the way children are raised in this country -- and the effects of that on adolescents and young adults. Some highlights:

"In the hothouse that child raising has become, play is all but dead. Over 40,000 U.S. schools no longer have recess. And what play there is has been corrupted. The organized sports many kids participate in are managed by adults; difficulties that arise are not worked out by kids but adjudicated by adult referees."

"A lot has been written about the commercialization of children's play, but not the side effects, says [Tufts University Professor David] Elkind. "Children aren't getting any benefits out of play as they once did." From the beginning play helps children learn how to control themselves, how to interact with others. Contrary to the widely held belief that only intellectual activities build a sharp brain, it's in play that cognitive agility really develops. Studies of children and adults around the world demonstrate that social engagement actually improves intellectual skills. It fosters decision-making, memory and thinking, speed of mental processing. This shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, the human mind is believed to have evolved to deal with social problems."

"In his now-famous studies of how children's temperaments play out, Harvard psychologist Jerome Kagan has shown unequivocally that what creates anxious children is parents hovering and protecting them from stressful experiences."

"The end result of cheating childhood is to extend it forever. Despite all the parental pressure, and probably because of it, kids are pushing back--in their own way. They're taking longer to grow up."

"What if parents have micromanaged their kids' lives because they've hitched their measurement of success to a single event whose value to life and paycheck they have frantically overestimated? No one denies the Ivy League offers excellent learning experiences, but most educators know that some of the best programs exist at schools that don't top the U.S. News and World Report list, and that with the right attitude--a willingness to be engaged by new ideas--it's possible to get a meaningful education almost anywhere. Further, argues historian Stearns, there are ample openings for students at an array of colleges. "We have a competitive frenzy that frankly involves parents more than it involves kids themselves," he observes, both as a father of eight and teacher of many."

I'm sure everyone has seen the crazy parent on the sidelines or in the stands at a game. The one that just can't seem to shut up, enjoy the game, cheer appropriately, and STOP YELLING! The pernicious effect of such behavior should seem obvious, but apparently it isn't. And we wonder why kids get burned out on organized sports. Almost invariably, we start them too early and push them too hard -- never letting them grow to love for the sport (whatever sport) for its own instrinsic allures.

The value of pick-up games and unsupervised play in the development of problem resolution skills just can't be overestimated. Choosing up sides and working through disputes should be a fundamental learning expereience of childhood. Unfortunately, as this article makes all too clear, it is increasingly an anachronism.

As far as the college admission process goes, my kids won't be going through it for a few more years so I probably shouldn't throw stones (which may actually be boomerangs), but ... by all accounts many parents are little short of psychotic in this arena. As the last excerpt above makes plain, you can get a good education almost anywhere if you are willing to become educated -- that is, if you are willing to learn new ideas, test old ideas, discard bad ideas and defend good ideas.

I want to be careful not to make a trap that I'll eventually fall into, but the purpose of a child's education should be something more than stoking a parent's ego -- which is what much of the college admission rat-race appears to be about (as seen from afar).

Rummy Redux

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the news again -- this time for a shockingly glib and unserious response to a soldier's questioning of the lack of armor for Army vehicles in Iraq. As recounted by Fred Kaplan in Slate:

At a cavernous hangar in Camp Buehring, Kuwait, the secretary of defense appeared before 2,300 soldiers to boost their morale before they headed off to Iraq. During a question-and-answer period, Army Spc. Thomas Wilson of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, a unit that consists mainly of reservists from the Tennessee Army National Guard, spoke up to complain about their inadequate supply of armor.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our vehicles?" Wilson asked, setting off what the Associated Press described as "a big cheer" from his comrades in arms.

Rumsfeld paused, asked Wilson to repeat the question, then finally replied, "You go to war with the army you have." Besides, he added, "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and it can be blown up."

Such a leader of men.

As Kaplan points out, the planning for the Iraq incursion began in earnest soon after 9/11. It wasn't a case of going to war with the army you have. The U.S. went to war with the Army its leadership wanted -- for the war it declared over on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.

The core issue, though, is what Kaplan points out here:

Last month, the day after Bush won re-election, I wrote that he now faced a test. He could rouse himself out of his campaign mode, take a serious look at the world, face up to mistakes he might have made, and do something to correct them—or he could stay mired in fantasy. One sign of which way he was headed would be whether he fired Rumsfeld and his neocon entourage or let them stay. He has now taken that test, and we all see the grim results.

"Mired in fantasy" seems to be the recurring theme of the entire Bush term of office. Don't expect that to change in the next four years.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

OK, So Why Are We Doing This Again?

The Sunday Herald, a Scottish newspaper, published this article which recounts "a shockingly frank “strategic communications” report, written this autumn by the Defence Science Board for Pentagon supremo Donald Rumsfeld." The Defense Science Board advises the Secretary of Defense, particularly on issues of force deployment and military procurement.
According to the article, in the report the Board advises Rumsfeld that
"American direct intervention in the Muslim world has paradoxically elevated the stature of, and support for, radical Islamists, while diminishing support for the United States to single digits in some Arab societies.

Referring to the repeated mantra from the White House that those who oppose the US in the Middle East “hate our freedoms”, the report says: “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedoms’, but rather, they hate our policies."

I wouldn't expect to hear Rumsfeld, or anyone else in the Bush Administration discussing this anytime soon. Wouldn't want to let a few messy facts get in the way of the story they've developed to explain the world.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Well, At Least He Knows The Color Scheme

It's official. Against my advice, Ron Guenther has hired Ron Zook as the new head football coach at Illinois. Now that it's done, I certainly hope it works out for the best. He does have a reputation as a tireless worker bee. I can only assume that that will help, particularly in the recruiting process. Hopefully next year the view from the 22-yard line will be more pleasant. With at least some chance for forward progress on the part of the program, it seems likelier that season tix will be re-upped one more time. Let's all keep our fingers crossed.

Some Favorite Album Covers

No doubt that these skew old, but is that any surprise. It's just very difficult for a CD cover to match the impact of a vinyl LP cover. Not as big, you know? In any case, more to come later.
Blonde On Blonde

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

The Jerry Schatzberg photo is a Dylan song in light and color. The blurred image that makes you feel as though you can see into the soul of the singer -- even as you realize that you really can't see him at all. The photograph as impressionistic painting. Manet with a camera instead of a brush. More details about the vinyl cover art here.

London Calling

The Clash - London Calling

The most famous and compelling image from the punk era. Photographer Pennie Smith caught Paul Simonon in mid-bass-smash at a 1979 show at the Palladium in New York. The colors and the typography hearken back to rock & roll's roots in the '50s, but the black and white shot was pure U.K. punk rage. The bass did not survive, but the photo certainly has. More details here.


Joy Division - Closer

The aura of death hung closely about this star-crossed band, and particularly around their lead singer Ian Curtis. Within two months of recording this album, Curtis took his own life in Macclesfield, England. Closer was released in the U.K. two months after that, and the mourning scene on its cover (designed by Martyn Atkins and Peter Saville, photographed in Italy by Bernard Pierre Wolf) would certainly bring to mind both the tomb of Christ and (perhaps) the tomb of Curtis. Could the reference be a coincidence? Not likely. More details here.

More Songs About Buildings And Food

Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings And Food

A picture made up of 529 separate pictures. Each square on the cover portrait of the band was a separate polaroid photograph. The result is a startling effect -- like looking through a glass block wall, but with each glass block in perfect focus. The micro effect in any square is negligible, but the overall effect is profound distortion. The sum is greater than the parts.


David Bowie - Heroes
Perhaps the least naturalistic portait ever taken for an album cover. Not sure if Bowie was looking to expand upon the alien themes of Ziggy Stardust or the Station To Station cover, but has the man ever looked more alien than this photo? All studied effect, of a man who is all studied effect, in one portrait.

My Photo

Spinal Tap - Smell The Glove

"It's like, 'How much more black could this be?' And the answer is ‘None. None...more black’"

Most Recent iTunes Random Plays

  • Look What You Done For Me - Al Green
  • Dumb (Unplugged) - Nirvana
  • Hand in Glove - The Smiths
  • Garden - Pearl Jam
  • Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want - The Smiths
  • The New Pollution - Beck
  • I Gotcha - Joe Tex
  • The Ghosts Around You - Longwave
  • Golden Slumbers - The Beatles
  • Still Life - Suede
  • William, It Was Really Nothing - The Smiths
  • Talk About the Passion - R.E.M.
  • Into The Light - The Mysteries Of Life
  • What You Want - My Bloody Valentine
  • Seven Steps to Heaven - Miles Davis

Cats Go Down

Kentucky found it rough away from Rupp. The Kitty Cats began play a few minutes after the Tar Heels, and it cost them the game. The Heels went up 16-4 by the first TV timeout, 22-6 before the Cats decided to join the fray. While they clawed their way back into it (within 6 with 18 minutes left) the issue was never really in doubt, as no answer was found to the question of how to defend Rashad McCants. The mercurial McCants finally showed up to play against the Cats (28 points), and the result was the end of the Cats four game streak against the Heels.

UK is a very young team, and if a game like this will help them grow and learn, the loss will have been worth it.

Of course none of this was viewable in Chicago. Wouldn't want to miss that UConn-Indiana matchup. In any case, I should be able to get my first view of the new team this coming Saturday as the Hoosiers add the Cats to their death-march December schedule. A win on Saturday will make it 5 in a row, 10 of the last 11 against this ancient rival.

Illini Rise To #1

Well, the Illini made the jump. Their dominating blowouts of Gonzaga and #1 (at the time) Wake Forest at the Hall made the voters in both polls sit up and take notice. This counts as the third time that the Illini have found themselves atop the AP poll -- and they're already ahead of the standard set by the other two. In 1952 the Red Kerr-led Illini made it to #1 in January, then turned around and lost their next game at DePaul. In January of 1989 the Flying Illini again made it to #1, only to lose their first game from the perch at Minnesota. This #1 team took care of business last night in their first game as the top dog -- albeit at home against an abysmal Chicago State squad.

The good news about the standard set by those other two #1 teams is that both ended their seasons in the Final Four.

Red State/Blue State

Andrew Sullivan writes of the true nature of the differences between the so-called red states and so-called blue states. In truth, he points out, the picture is a great deal more complicated. As recent divorce rate figures attest, the highest divorce rates in the nation are to be found in the heart of the red state swath across the South. The lowest divorce rates in the blue states of the Northeast. Hypocrisy? Could be. Maybe these states are just thoughtfully trying to save gay couples from an institution that their citizens are unable to make work.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Ron Zook?

Apparently Ron Guenther is actually talking to this mope. Is there a reason why we'd be interested in someone who took a top-shelf program and threw it into reverse? How about someone like David Cutcliffe, who took a crummy Mississippi program and thrust them into the mix for the 2003 SEC West title. Apparently that wasn't enough for the Rebs as they threw him over a cliff yesterday. Not sure if he'd be willing to come north, but this guy's got a stellar record as an assistant at Tennessee, and a pretty good record as an HC at Ole Miss. I'd give him a look.

Illini Fly To #1?

Total domination. Led by four double-figure scorers, and powered by 11-26 shooting from the arc, the Fighting Illini trashed Wake Forest, the #1 team in the country, by 18 and it wasn't that close. As was the case against Gonzaga on Saturday, the Illini smoked their opponent right out of the gate. If the Illini can continue to shoot like this -- on top of their typically tough defense -- they really do have a shot at grabbing the school's first national championship in their 100th year of basketball.

The Cats, meanwhile, continue to roll, trouncing their 4th mid-major opponent to start the season. The victim this time was Tennessee Tech, coached by former Tubby assistant Mike Sutton. The real season starts Saturday, as the Cats travel to Chapel Hill to take on the Heels. The Cats are running a 4-game streak against the Tar Holes, 2 straight at the Dean Dome. We'll see what this team is made of real soon.