Saturday, February 27, 2010

USA Soccer

The brand-spanking-new USA World Cup Away Jersey was released yesterday, & it's pretty awesome. Perhaps you've noticed a certain sarcasm towards Landon Donavon, here, but LD's displays @ Everton over the last month have made me reconsider this anti-Landy Cakes stance, & I may even consider ordering the brand new Landy-Shirt... I may be getting a bit carried away though; we'll see.Speaking of the World Cup, I booked a few nights @ campgrounds up North for the 1st weekend in July yesterday before I realized the trip could conflict w/ the end of the tournament. (I checked & it turns out I just might have to watch the 1/4 finals @ a bar up there... so we're good.) We've got Canada Day @ Tahquamenon Falls & then the 2nd & 3rd in Petoskey. Going to the UP is a 1st for the fam as Stephanie has an intense fear of bridges... & getting there w/o crossing the Mackinaw Bridge is a bit circuitous. She agreed to go for it though so we're all we're looking forward to a little adventure. On the evening of the 2nd, there's a reception @ the High School to honor the soccer coach who has been there since I was a kid. When he took the job, my dad became the JV coach. The fact that he's still there & has won the State Championship a few times w/ a program my dad & his friends started is pretty great so getting the invite to the party (& alumni match) is exciting. I haven't seen some of those folks since since a GD show in Indianapolis in 1995, others since a HORDE show in 1994 (& a soccer game a month before that) & others since I was in school there in 1988. Hopefully, we'll be able to watch a World Cup game together... a France v Italy match w/ the Rossis would be fantastic... especially if France wins.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Obligatory Olympics Post

We attempted to watch the Olympics last night, but it didn't go over very well. I know everyone seems to have been struck w/ a nasty case of Olympics-fever, but I just don't get it. I like that the world can come together & celebrate this, I dig sports, I even dig some of the sports in the Olympics, but I just can't watch. For one, some many of the sports seem fake. Not fake like pro-wrestling, but not real sports. Bobsled, luge biathlon... who does this? They seem invented just for the Olympics. Why not include more sports in which real people actually participate like dog-sled or snowmobile racing. Stephanie was wondering how someone becomes an Olympic bobsledder... & we couldn't really figure it out. It must just be that mediocre athletes from other sports get recruited to be stars in a field that no one else ever considered. And then the luge people must just be frustrated bobsledders & the skeleton people must in turn be frustrated lugers.

Conversely, these are ironically the sports I prefer to watch. Of course, I like curling & the skiing events too, but that leads us to the 2nd problem. I hate the way it's covered on TV. We get 4 hour blocks of random shit w/ no clear knowledge of what will be on when. Which then means we have to sit through the random shit for hours before getting 20 minutes of curling or downhill skiing. Many of those hours seem dedicated to figure skating. I know that's what the audience wants (although I have no idea why) & I know that those kids have spent 8 of their 12 years on the planet training for this, but I just don't care. Clearly, it's not a made-up sport like skeleton, but it just doesn't do it for me. And neither does hockey which people often think is weird since I love soccer & hockey & soccer are so similar. I just don't enjoy it though.

My final issue concerns the fact that while I'm trying to watch curling or skiing, I have to suffer through those fluff pieces for 20 minutes. I don't care that Alberto Tomba's cat died when he was 12 or that Hans Brinker lost his inspirational grandfather who had bought him his silver skates. Just make w/ the fucking curling already! That said, you can order your replica Norweigan National Curling Pants here! Order placed baby!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Date Night Sans Casablanca

Rather than dwelling on Arsenal's ridiculous showing in Porto yesterday, I want to talk about Béla Fleck. On Monday evening, I saw a Facebook ad for his show @ Hill Auditorium last night, & the cheep balcony seats were only 10 bucks. We hadn't seen him since a Flecktones' show @ EMU in 1996, so for 10 bucks a pop we were in. Back in '96, their show was the same week as Phish @ the Palace & in Grand Rapids & Blues Traveler @ Hill Auditorium, so we had a fun-filled week of local music. This time, I realized the only show I've been to in the last couple years was the Springsteen concert I worked for Nicola's.

After class, I raced home & we hit Amer's for falafels & fries then walked over to Hill. The show was amazing. He's touring w/ his "Africa Project," an ensemble he put together while traveling through Africa (Mali & Tanzania mostly) & studying the origins of the Banjo. These musicians are amazing. Anania Ngolia on the thumb Piano accompanied by a guitarist & then Ngoni Ba, a group from Mali fronted by Bassekou Kouyate on lead Ngoni. The ngoni is an instrument made from a calebasse gourd w/ a goat-skin stretched across it (very much like a banjo) & this dude was like the Jimmy Page of the ngoni... standing on the edge of the stage w/ his foot on his amp & rockin'! Béla Fleck was MCing & would come & go playing w/ these different musicians & then letting them do their own thing. I'm so glad we went. I'd never done anything based on a Facebook sidebar ad, but this was well worth it. Check out this video of Ngoni Ba... you won't be sorry.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Few Films reviewed This Moring

French Film
A cute romantic comedy w/ everyone's favorite Karate Kicking French striker, Eric Cantona. He plays a film maker being interviewed by a British documentarian about the art of love. The film was directed by Jackie Oodney, a female Scottish directer... maybe the only one on the planet. when she was younger, she worked on the Second Unit for Spice World which leads me to ask a few questions. 1) Spice World actually had a Second Unit? 2) Why is she loving to work w/ people associated w/ Man U... first Victoria Beckham & now Eric Cantona? It's not fantastic, but it's fun watching Cantona ham it up... although I still think this display was his best performance ever. Play Beautiful, indeed!

Fear and Trembling
The video box suggests that it's a cross between Lost in Translation & Secretary so we gave it a whirl the other night. I see why those comparisons were made, but it also has a sort of Gone w/ the Wind/Birth of a Nation thing going on. It's a beautiful film w/ really cool performances, but the racist undertones are really apparent. It's about a Belgian woman working for a Japanese corporation in the early '90s. She faces every stereotypical Japanese character known to film. Of course, when it's made clear that she has some homoerotic desires for her boss, the alluring, beautiful, angry Japanese woman, we never even get to see the hot scenes they suggest will be coming.

Angels & Demons
I've never had any desire to read Dan Brown's books, but I kind of lke the movies. They're fun & thoughtless... kind of like National Treasure. It seems as though Tom Hanks & Ron Howard got together & said, "Hey, you're a liberal intellectual... I'm a liberal intellectual... let's make an action movie for liberal intellectuals." It's exciting, but not too exciting. It's fun, but not too fun. It's thought-provoking, but not too thought-provoking. As if they custom made it for the 50-something, rich, guilty, pseudo-Buddhists in Ann Arbor & Madison. Ewan McGregor is pretty good though... @ least once his character actually gets to do something.

The Time Traveler's Wife
Recently, I've heard a few different people say, "This is my favorite book... ever!" which makes me assume they haven't read that many books. It's fun & worth reading, but to suggest it's the greatest ever is clearly ridiculous. And the film is a kind of watered down version of the book. The punk stuff is left out... as are the Michigan references (her childhood house is in it, but it's not clear where it is & I don't even think it's clear that it's on the lake). The sexiness of the book is totally left out in favor of some sort of soft-focus designed for Lifetime. If you're like me & dig time travel stories, it's definitely worth watching, but it's not going to win any awards. We watched a Twilight Zone episode last night where Russell Johnson (well, not him, but his character) goes back in time to the night of Lincoln's assassination & tries to stop it. I was hoping he'd use some coconuts to radio for help, but, alas, it was not to be. Of course, Lost is on tonight, so I guess we get to get inundated w/ crazy time-travel stories this week!

Taking Woodstock
This was a pretty cool movie. Maybe even the best thing I've seen since Inglorious Bastards. Eugene Levy & the guy ho plays Michael Lang are great, & it's got the most accurate representation of an acid trip I've ever seen in a movie. (Of course, this claim is based on things I've read & what I've been told by friends & acquaintances. Overall, it's kind of cheesy, & it's romanticization of the 1960s is over the top, but it's well worth seeing. Maybe Ang Lee's best film since Sense & Sensibility.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Performance @ The White House

Last night on PBS, Obama hosted a celebration of the music of the Civil Rights Era. As always, Smokey Robinson was fantastic. As always, I found Natalie Cole kind of creepy. And as always, I had no idea what to expect from Bob Dylan. Before he came out though, Jennifer Hudson sang a couple songs; she's pretty fantastic. I've never seen Dreamgirls, & @ 1st, I wasn't sure who she was. But her voice... wow. Yolanda Adams also has a nice voice, but she's really fucking weird lookin'. I've never even been a fan of a little plastic surgery, but hers is freakin' freaky. John Mellencamp basically gave a "I'm not racist; I have black friends" speech, but we'll let it slide because he does have 30 years of civil rights work under his belt. (And because he's new here on Visions of Ypsi.) I'm not embarrassed to admit that Joan Baez's "We Shall Overcome" brought a few tears to my eyes... it clearly brought some to Obama's eyes too. The Bind Boys of Alabama were great, but that just seems to be their M.O., & The Freedom Singers were really good too. They closed w/ a cool group version of "Lift Every Voice & Sing" which I am covering this week in class so I suppose we'll watch that clip them too.

As far as Dylan was concerned, I was expecting one or two songs (wee only got one), but I couldn't figure out which it would be. I was kind of hoping for "Pawns in the Game" or "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," but I expected "Blowin' in the Wind." We got a sweet acoustic version of "The Times They are A'changin'" and it was fantastic. I was worried that a single song on TV would be shit... like the Grateful Dead, he usually needs a few songs to really get going, but it's really, really good. Just him, Tony Garnier on upright bass, Patrick Warren on piano. Watch it here now!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day?

As far as I can remember, the last time we had classes canceled @ EMU due to weather was in December of 2000. I was teaching Eng.121 & sharing an office w/ Annette. It was my very 1st semester as a Lecturer, and while Annette & I were in an office together, I really didn't know her at all. Seeing as it's been almost 10 years, today's snow day came as a bit of a shock, & while I'll have to reshuffle the next couple weeks of class to get us back on track, I think I might be able to actually make good use of the day off. Here are the things I'll do:

1) Blogging: Lately, the blogging has played second fiddle to the rest of my life. I suppose that's the way it should be, but I've tried to keep up a steady pace of 10-12 posts per month over the last 5 years, but that hasn't been happening this year.

2) Reading: I feel as though I've been reading The Savage Detectives since Halloween. It's really good, but it's been really slow going too. I guess confining my "fun" reading to bathroom time & breaks @ Plum Market don't make for fast books. However, recently, around page 350, something resembling a plot appeared so the pace might start picking up. We'll see.

3) Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series: I rented it last week & it's due back on Friday so today'll be a good opportunity to watch it. It looks like it might suck, but in keeping w/ my new-found love of all things Terminator, I feel wee need to watch it.

4) Star Wars: We've been talking about watching the whole saga again, so we may need to start today w/ a viewing of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. I think Isaiah wants to watch it.

5) Sledding: I image that @ some point this afternoon, probably while Isaiah is taking his nap, I'll take S & A out for a little while @ Riverside Park.

6) Chili: I'll take the day to slow-cook some chili & fix Coney Dogs for dinner.

7) Arsenal: There's a match this afternoon vs. Liverpool, but it's not on Fox Soccer Channel. I was considering resubscribing to Setanta, chose not to. Today, I'm regretting that decision. If I were in my office, I'd be able to watch it on-line w/ a much better connection than I have @ home... oh well. Who wants to come over & watch Arsenal go down in their 3rd consecutive defeat today?

Friday, February 5, 2010


Not just running! Something that needs endurance! Something that needs stamina! Like, long-distance running! Cross-country running!I've never been much for competitive long-distance running; when I've run, it's always been in order to get in shape for soccer. Courtney suggested that I register for the Dexter-Ann Arbor 10K though, & I think I might do it. When I was at my peak... 20 years ago... I was running 8 miles a day. Let's just say I' not at my peak any more. A few years ago, I was up to 3 or 4 a day though, & after yesterday's mil and a half, I was feeling pretty good, so we'll see.

I got new shoes, but running pants and an Under-Armor shirt... an imitation, Target brand Under-Armor shirt (made by Champion Sportswear). It was 1/3 of the price, but does the trick. Like an anti-McDLT container, it keeps the hot side cold & the cold side hot. I figured if I spent some cash on running, I'd be motivated to stick w/ it for a while. The main goal, rather than the 10K run, is to be ready for soccer in May. A few miles a day should get me there. The other goal is to look less sausagesque in my fake Under-Armor shirt.

Monday, February 1, 2010

If You're a Nerd Like I'm a Nerd...

Like many of you who know what's up, we rewatched the 1st 5 seasons of Lost over the last couple months in order to get ready for tomorrow's big Season 6 Premier. Along w/ the rewatch, you should check out some of the better parodies. I found a couple on Jorge Garcia's blog. The first one uses the Petula Clark song, "Downtown," in a fun way... & it's a fucking Petula Clark parody! And I was just thinking the other day that we don't get enough Petula Clark parodies... dreams do come true, my friends. The second one is an extended Italian family in Brooklyn (I don't know for sure that they're in Brooklyn; I'm going on stereotypes here... it could be Jersey or Philly too)reenacting the 1st 5 season in about 5 minutes... it's odd. After that, there's the Mad TV season 1 parody & then the coup de grace, the sweet, sweet, Star Trek parody: Star Trek: The Lost Generation. Oh, & here is Wendy's list of things we need to learn... it's not exhaustive, nor will we get everything, but it's a good list none-the-less. And why not read a list... Jacob made a few, Ben made a few, I imagine Richard has made more than his fair share of lists @ one time or another, Hurley made at least one... read Wendy's too.

On the down side, I have a bad feeling about Season 6. I don't think we're gonna get many of the explanations for which we've been so patiently waiting.It just doesn't seem like they'll have time to get to everything. I'm sure we'll get Adam & Eve, the Smoke Monster, & Richard, but Horace & Ann Arbor... I doubt it... we'll keep our fingers crossed though.

So now, do what Andre does: order up some Chinese food, get a 4-pack of imported stout, & prepare to be a little let down by the parodies.


Italian Family

Mad TV

Star trek