Thursday, March 31, 2005

Most Recent Random iTunes Plays

  • The Stars Are Projectors - Modest Mouse
  • Else - Built To Spill
  • Dear Lord - John Coltrane
  • Panorama - The Cars
  • Exit Music (For a Film) - Radiohead
  • Mind the Gap - The Soundtrack of Our Lives
  • Here - Luscious Jackson
  • 23 Minutes in Brussels - Luna
  • Green Eyes - Coldplay
  • She Sells - Roxy Music
  • Rosa Parks (DJ Mattos Remix) - OutKast, Snoop, & 2Pac
  • Mad Flava - Fatboy Slim
  • Free Ride - Nick Drake
  • Never Make Me Cry - Camper Van Beethoven
  • Human Touch - Elvis Costello
  • Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello
  • If You Want Me to Stay -Sly & The Family Stone
  • Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker) - The Rolling Stones

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Ramblin' Man: The Power Point Outline

  • Opening Existential Statement
    • I am innately a “ramblin’ man;”
    • My actions represent my attempt to procure funds and otherwise exist to the extent of my limited abilities;
    • If there is a requirement for me to travel elsewhere – and there will be -- I believe that it is incumbent upon you to realize that this need to “ramble” is beyond my control.
  • Background Information
    • Father: Fatally incompetent gambler in Georgia
    • Mother: Poverty stricken (e.g., unable to afford personal transportation at the time of my birth)
  • Second Existential Statement
    • It is my nature to “ramble;”
    • My meager needs still require me to work, which I do as well as possible;
    • My nature will compel me to seek other opportunities. Please do not judge me for this. As I have mentioned previously, it is my nature to “ramble.”
  • Current Travel Status
    • Destination City: New Orleans, Louisiana
    • Originating City: Nashville, Tennessee
    • Reasons for Travel:
      • Bayou is the site of uninterrupted revelry;
      • Females near the mouth of the Mississippi River are amenable to my existential nature as described elsewhere.
  • Final Existential Statement
    • The result of evolutionary biology, at least in my case, is an inherent need to “ramble;”
    • Even while meeting this need I am open to opportunities for wealth creation, insofar as they are within the scope of my paltry talents;
    • Hey, the grass is greener. Deal with it.
This one was mine. For about a million more of these from about a million other people, go here.

Monday, March 28, 2005


The Wildcats' season came to an end yesterday in an excruciating rollercoaster double-overtime game against Sparty and his minions. The capper on an unmatched set of regional finals over the weekend (two overtime games on Saturday and this double-overtime thriller on Sunday), this game on the heels of the Illini overtime victory the night before just about caused my head to literally explode.

In short, the heart was there; the execution was not.

Sparty seemed to have wrapped the game up, taking an eight-point lead with 4 minutes left in regulation, but as we found out all weekend, no lead is safe. The Cats battled back, and an incredible three-pointer by Patrick Sparks at the buzzer sent it into overtime. The shot was incredible for several reasons. First, because it was actually the Cats' third attempt at a game-tying basket. Sparks missed a shot from the right wing, which was rebounded by Kelenna Azubuike, who then dribbled to the right corner and fired a turn-around three pointer, which caromed out to Sparks at the top of the key. Patrick then pumped-faked and leaned into Kelvin Torbert (no call, not this time Pat) and let fly.

The second reason it was incredible was the fact that the ball literally took a tour of the entirety of the rim before settling through the net. Quite frankly the second bounce, the one at the front of the rim, seemed to defy the laws of physics themselves by working its way towards the backboard rather than rolling off.

The third reason it was incredible was the fact that his toe was mere nanometers from the three-point line. CBS examined this fact in excruciating detail for the assembled referee corps before the call was finally made that it was indeed a three-pointer and that overtime was in store.

The first overtime saw the other two defining sequences of the game. With 4:05 left in the overtime Azubuike made two free throws to give the Cats a 79-75 lead. The next Sparty possession involved no fewer than five offensive rebounds culminating in a Shannon Brown three-pointer to cut the lead to one. A defensive rebound on any one of those five missed shots would have given UK the ball and a four-point lead. Not to be.

Instead, the game seemed to come down to the final possession for the Cats. Unfortunately, they exhibited absolutely no idea what to do with the ball during this critical possession. Rajon Rondo held the ball too long, finally passing to Azubuike 22 feet from the basket with 5 seconds left. Then Azubuike was unable to find a path to the basket or a clean look and the buzzer sounded without a shot being fired.

That was the death knell, and the second overtime was a mere formality. Sparty 94, UK 88, end of season.

A great one it was, 28 wins 6 losses, an SEC Championship, a berth in the Elite 8, but that one possession will surely leave a bitter taste for a long time. Let's hope it serves to motivate next year's team, one which has all the makings of a pre-season Top 5 club with every possibility of finally returning to the Final Four.

For now, though, GO ILLINI!

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Do You Believe It? I Don't Believe It!

What happened last night at the Allstate Arena didn't happen, couldn't have happened. With 3:28 left in the game Jawaan McClellan made the second of two free throws to push the Arizona Wildcats to a 14 point lead in their regional final with the Fighting Illini. 14 points with 31/2 minutes left means that the game is over. A good team should never, ever dissipate a 10 point lead with 4 left. 14 points? 31/2 minutes? Forget it.

But it happened.

It happened with Deron, Luther and Dee on the floor. Those three, with key assistance from Jack Ingram and Roger Powell, shored up the crumbling psychology of the decrepit hangar and dragged 14,000 or so Illini fans (including yours truly) to unimagined heights.
  • A Luther three, down 11.
  • A Dee Put-Back (play of the game for me -- pure playground -- how does the smallest man on the court come up with that ball? Big, big heart.), down 9.
  • A Luther steal and layin, down 7.
  • After a McClellan free throw, Deron races the length of the court unimpeded for a layup, down 6.
  • After two Stoudamire free throws, a Luther three, down 5.
  • A steal by Dee at mid-court, followed by a layup, down 3.
  • Following an Arizona time-out, a steal by Jack, who runs to the top of the key to set a screen for Deron, who nails the tying three.
  • Adding the cherry was Luther's amazing block of Stoudamire's game-winning attempt at the buzzer. Where does he get the energy and the legs for that?
That's a 17-3 run in the final 3:28 of a regional final against an experienced and talented opponent, with one of the most experienced coaches in the business. Doesn't happen. Couldn't happen.

But it happened.

Any doubt about the outcome in overtime? Well, a little. Channing Frye's dunk gave 'Zona a brief lead with 3:30 left, but a 7-0 Illini run gave them a (barely) insurmountable lead. Hassan Adams' wild three at the buzzer (pestered by the ubiquitous Williams) drew no iron and the impossible was in the books.

Do you believe it? I don't believe it!

But it happened.

Some pics from the game:



First Half

Illini Crowd

Second Half



Coach + Net


Saturday, March 26, 2005


Over the past two days, the Illini and the Wildcats each marched on to the Elite 8.

The Illini pushed into the Final 8 on the backs of their 3-guard combo: Deron Williams (21 points, 8 assists) controlling the tempo of the game masterfully, Dee Brown (21 points, 5-8 on threes) throwing daggers from the deep, Luther Head gutting through a bad hammy to put the clamps on Wisconsin-Milwaukee's leading scorer (ed McCants, 4-17 shooting). The Illini kept the game in a comfortable zone, in the 10-point range, by cutting off UWM's two favorite mechanisms: turning the ball over on the press and hitting the three. With Deron in charge, Illinois turned the ball over a mere 9 times (Alabama had done so 19 times, BC 22 times in the previous UMW wins). With the perimeter defense charged up, UMW shot only 24% from 3-point range (7 of 29). Take these weapons away, and it took a career effort from Joah Tucker (32 points) to keep the score a respectable 77-63.

Arizona now awaits at the moldy Allstate Arena, where yours truly will be in attendance.

Last night it was the Wildcats turn. The opponent was the Utah Utes (what's a Ute?), for the sixth time in the last 13 NCAA tournaments. The key opponent was to have been All-American center Andrew Bogut, but the key opponents instead turned out to be the boys in the striped shirts. Four Wildcats, including three starters (Morris, Hayes & Azubuike) were whistled for 2 first-half fouls. Per Tubby's hard-and-fast rule, this meant pine time for all four (an energized Ravi Moss being the fourth). The result was a serious test for the bench which Tubby had spent the entire season developing. The test was passed, particularly by the two bench bigs, Lukasz Obrzut and Shagari Alleyne.

In the end, Bogut got his numbers (20 points, 12 boards), but it was an ugly process to get there (8-19 from the floor, 4-11 from the line), and the Cats, much like the Illini, kept the opponent at arms length for most of the game.

The Cats now await Michigan State. Sparty destroyed CBS's hopes of replaying the Laettner shot ad nauseum by taking out the suddenly sucky JJ Redick (4-14 for the game, 10-38 for his now completed NCAA tournament), the always sucky Shavlik Randolph (5 points total in the tournament for the McDonalds All-Stiff), and the Duke Blue Devils. Sparty joined Bucky and Chief in the Elite 8 as the Big Ten completely rehabilitated its somewhat tattered reputation at the expense of the ACC (Bucky made the trip on the back of North Carolina State). In fact, the ACC was one ridiculous traveling call from being out of the tournament altogether, as North Carolina hung on by the length of Tom O'Neill's whistle string to beat Villanova 67-66 in Syracuse.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Most Recent Random iTunes Plays

  • End Of The Day - Beck
  • Prisstina - Sleater-Kinney
  • Explain It to Me - Liz Phair
  • Black Shuck - The Darkness
  • When It Started - The Strokes
  • Theme - Cibo Matto
  • Seen and Not Seen - Talking Heads
  • The Thin Ice - Pink Floyd
  • Act 1: Moved - Drive-By Truckers
  • Cake - The B-52's
  • Tusk - Camper Van Beethoven
  • Hang Wire - The Pixies
  • Toddler Hiway - They Might Be Giants
  • Destination Unknown - Erectus Monotone
  • Can U Keep A Secret - De La Soul

The Top 26 Albums of the 1990s (Part 3)

Automatic For The People

Who: R.E.M.
What: Automatic For The People
When: October 6, 1992
Why: Desolation, heartbreak, loss, anguish. If you’ve ever felt these types of emotions, then you’ll know that this is the album that most perfectly encapsulates those feelings. While obviously the most downbeat album of R.E.M.’s career, this was in fact their best since Murmur, and it’s arguable that it’s even better than that debut. No other album I can think of does such a great job of sustaining a tone – both sonically and emotionally – that succeeds through every song regardless of the tempo.

“Drive” sets that tone immediately as the album opener. Over the years R.E.M. had traditionally used their album openers to kick start the disc into high gear (think “Radio Free Europe,” “Harborcoat,” “Begin The Begin,” “Finest Worksong”). On Automatic, “Drive” does just the opposite, kicking the album into the lower gear necessary to bring it through the mountains of grief and solitude that ensue.

The album reaches its conclusion and climax with the twin closers: “Nightswimming” and “Find The River.” The first of these features the sparest of instrumentation, Micheal Stipe’s voice and a piano (along with brief interventions by strings – orchestrated by John Paul Jones -- and oboe), and contains the single line that most perfectly captures the emotional tone of the album, “September’s coming soon.”

The finale uses the band’s traditional instrumentation (supplemented this time by accordion), but continues both the aquatic themes and somber tones of “Nightswimming” to provide both a perfect couplet and a perfect closer. A great album by a band at the height of it’s immense creative powers, and unfortunately one that they have not come close to equaling since.

Exile In Guyville

Who: Liz Phair
What: Exile In Guyville
When: June 22, 1993
Why: The chick is titillation personified, but at least on this album she was a titillator with the surest sense of how to write a classic pop song. Loaded with pretension at the time (it was said, and rather inanely repeated ad nauseum, that the album was a song-by-song response to Exile On Main Street), what remains to this day are the dozen or so great songs (on a 19 song album) that continue to give great pleasure.

Chief among these are the most emotionally searing (“Divorce Song”) and musically interesting (“Stratford-On-Guy”). There’s real depth in those songs, which only serves to spotlight the pity that her efforts since this debut have veered towards the shallow bump and grind mentality of “Flower.” Hey, I love her boasting of being a blow-job queen as much as the next guy, but you can’t really make a career out of it. Right? Right?

Last Splash
Who: The Breeders
What: Last Splash
When: August 31, 1993
Why: When the Pixies flew apart in 1992 the smart money was on Frank Black (nee Black Francis) to have the stellar post-breakup career. While nobody connected with the band actually had a stellar post-breakup career, the only work of any real merit came with this album from bassist Kim Deal (nee Mrs. John Murphy) and The Breeders. The Breeders had actually formed a couple of years earlier as something of an alt-rock side project supergroup with Tanya Donnelly of Throwing Muses. By the time Deal picked up the group again after the Pixies broke up Donnelly had moved on to form Belly. Her place was taken by Kim’s sister Kelly Deal, and the sisterly duo fronted the band for Last Splash.

While the album suffers from some of the same fillerphilia that haunts Exile In Guyville, its heights are just as high as Le Liz’s. “Cannonball” was, of course, the star-maker for the band (assisted by the Spike Jonze video which wowed many), but gems such as “Do You Love Me Now?,” “I Just Wanna Get Along” and “Divine Hammer” continue to stand the test of time as well.

This turned out to be a swan song debut for the band. Soon afterwards Kelly began to run afoul of the nation’s drug laws, with the expected decrease in productivity. Eventually Kim saw the dollar signs in Frank’s eyes (and Joey’s and David’s as well) and the inevitable Pixies reunion tour followed in recent days. Can the Breeders reunion tour be far behind?

Sweet, Sweet Sixteen

The Illini and the Wildcats swing back into action today and tomorrow (respectively) ... along with 14 other teams, of course, in the NCAA regional semifinals. The games for both teams feature a great deal of historical baggage, some lurid, some memorable.

On the lurid side, the Illini take on Wisconsin-Milwaukee, coached by Bruce Pearl. Pearl still stands as the Great Satan to Illini fans with a long enough memory. It was Pearl, as an assistant coach at Iowa, who infamously (and illegally?) taped a phone conversation with 18-year-old recruit Deon Thomas during which Thomas made statements regarding inducements from Illinois to enroll in Champaign. Pearl promptly turned these tapes over to the NCAA, which launched an investigation.

Thomas later recanted this story, claiming that he merely wanted to remove himself from an increasingly uncomfortable conversation with Pearl. This was later borne out by the extensive and expensive NCAA investigation (most of the expense shouldered by The University of Illinois, of course) which found no evidence of wrongdoing. This, however, did not keep Chuck Smrt and his bullyboys from throwing two years of probation at the Illini for a nebulous charge of "lack of institutional control."

As Mark Tupper relates in this article, "The arrogance of the NCAA came to a head when sanctions were announced. Chuck Smrt, the NCAA director of enforcement, was asked how the NCAA could justify such harsh sanctions when the organization ruled "not guilty" on all major allegations. His comment still rings with absurd arrogance and convoluted logic. 'We believe the Committee (of Infractions) did not say the allegations were false, but they did not find that they were true.'"

While the national press still has a hard time understanding the long memories of Illini fans for this Pearl person, same Illini fans could hardly care less about the understanding of the national press. The boos will ring out long and loud from the Illini faithful tonight in Rosemont, and I say let them ring! BOOOOOO! BOOOOOOO!

The other history culminates tomorrow night at the Ervin Center in Austin, Texas as Kentucky takes on Utah. The history consists of the remarkable number of NCAA meetings between these two teams over the past dozen years.

Here's the rundown:

3/21/1993 - Kentucky 83 Utah 62 - NCAA Southeast Regional 2nd Round
3/21/1996 - Kentucky 101 Utah 70 - NCAA Midwest Regional Semifinal
3/22/1997 - Kentucky 72 Utah 59 - NCAA West Regional Final
3/30/1998 - Kentucky 78 Utah 69 - NCAA Championship
3/23/2003 - Kentucky 74 Utah 54 - NCAA Midwest Regional 2nd Round

Tomorrow's game will make it 6 NCAA tournament meetings since 1993. I haven't researched it, but I can't imagine that any other matchup has recurred with anywhere near that regularity. At the same time, if history is a guide, this certainly doesn't appear to be a matchup that Kentucky should fear. That's a 5-0 record, with an average victory margin of 18.8 points. Let's hope that history is not bunk, Henry Ford.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Steve & Garry

Yesterday's Tribune had an article about Garry Meier and his recent career troubles in Chicago. Basically he seems to have recreated, at least to an extent, his breakup with Steve Dahl of over a decade ago. This time he broke up with his recent partner Roe Conn at WLS.

Can't say I've really spent a lot of time listening to Meier and Conn. I do still listen a bit to Steve Dahl, although his current incarnation is a bit soft and a bit contrived. Honestly it sounds more like (gasp) Wally Phillips than the Dahl of his heyday.

It did get me thinking, though, of just how great Dahl and Meier were together all through the 1980's. Always interesting, always provocative. Never soft and never contrived, in other words. A bit like Howard Stern & Robin Quivers during their news segments -- only for a full five hours rather than the 30-45 minutes of "hurry-up" offense that Stern now puts that segment through. The show was good enough that I well recall staying up (on Friday's anyway) for a rebroadcast of the show which would begin at 1 a.m. The perfect content for my secret vice of listening to the radio in bed in the dark. Sorry that that partnership had to end, but I guess that the creativity probably would have died on its own anyway.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

One Weekend, Two Stinkin' (Meaningless) Upsets

Oh well, there goes the undefeated season...

The Ohio State Buckeyes (of all teams) finally took down the top-ranked, Big Ten Champion, Fighting Illini, 65-64 in Columbus on Sunday. While there were some downsides to the loss (for one thing, it keeps alive the fact that the last undefeated Big Ten champions wore Crimson & Cream), none of them really had anything to do with this season.

The Illini had, of course, already long wrapped up the solo Big Ten Championship and the #1 seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament. The loss also had no effect on the Illini's poll ranking (still #1 in both), nor on the liklihood of their earning a #1 seed (still a lock for the #1 seed in Chicago). Listen, if it gives the Buckeyes a chance to make their season, why be stingy?

Meanwhile in Gainesville...

The Florida Gators (of all teams) finally took down the 3rd-ranked, SEC Champion, Kentucky Wildcats, 53-52, also on Sunday, for the first time in the last nine games overall and in the last four in Gainesville.

The Wildcats had, of course, already long wrapped up the solo East Division and overall SEC Championships, and the #1 seed in the upcoming SEC Tournament. The loss also had little effect on the Wildcats' poll ranking (down to #4 in both), and little effect on the liklihood of their earning a #1 seed (still likely to pull one down, unlikely to draw anything below a 2 seed). Listen, if it gives the Gators a chance to make their season, a chance to rip off their jerseys, jump on the scorer's table and act as if it was the greatest thing in the world that the preseason choice to win the division had just beaten the six-time defending division champion at home, by a point -- to basically look like complete idiots -- why be stingy?

The Top 26 Albums of the 1990s (Part 2)


Who: My Bloody Valentine
What: Loveless
When: November 5, 1991
Why: The ultimate in shoegazer bands makes their (his?) ultimate album. Kevin Shields was always the auteur extraordinare behind the band, albeit a reclusive and anal-retentive one. With this album he went into an extended hiding period (although if you want to see what he’s been up to more recently, check out the DVD or soundtrack of Lost In Translation – the movie makes spot on use of “Sometimes” from this album, as well Kevin Shields old and new, Jesus & Mary Chain, Air, etc.). The album opener, “Only Shallow” sets a perfect tone for the album, with its heavy, heavy lead riff looming as the instrumental chorus between the strummed guitar and ethereal vocals (and intelligible lyrics) of the verses. Exhibit 1 in the "Wall of Sound" approach that this album exemplifies.

Check Your Head
Who: Beastie Boys
What: Check Your Head
When: April 21, 1992
Why: Phat beats abound on this follow-up to Paul’s Boutique. On Paul’s the B-Boys completely revamped their sound – keeping the metronomic raps (always with the accent on the final syllable), but layering it over all kinds of jazzy riffs and bassy licks. This album kicks it right from the start – “Jimmy James”, “Funky Boss” and “Pass The Mic” make for a righteous opening trio. “So Whatch’a Want” follows soon after with the megahit template for several Beasties singles in the ‘90s. The most interesting tunes, though, are the beat-filled loping instrumentals at the back of the album: “Groove Holmes,” “In 3s” and “Namasté.” A far cry from the days of “Fight For Your Right.”

Babe Rainbow
Who: House Of Love
What: Babe Rainbow
When: August 18, 1992
Why: A truly underrated band. The band was often considered, if at all, as an afterthought to The Smiths, and their popularity was seemingly cut short by the appearance of the Madchester bands on the scene at the turn of the decade. By the time that Babe Rainbow was released it seemed that little remained of a once dedicated fan base. More’s the pity, as this is an outstanding album from step-off to stern. Alternating chugging rockers (“You Don’t Understand,” “Feel,” “Yer Eyes”), glistening mid-tempo gems (“Crush Me,” “Cruel,” “High In Your Face”) and melodic ballads (“Fade Away”), House Of Love manages to take The Smiths formula one step better. They manage to have the ringingly tuneful guitars without any maudlin lyrical comedowns. A lamentably underappreciated gem.