Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Champions League Draw Today

Group A: F.C. Internazionale Milano,* SV Werder Bremen, Tottenham Hotspur FC,** & FC Twente

Group B: Olympique Lyonnais,* SL Benfica,** FC Schalke 04, & Hapoel Tel Aviv FC

Group C: Manchester United,* Valencia CF, Rangers FC,** & Bursaspor 1963

Group D: FC Barcelona,* Panathinaikos, FC Kobenhavn, & Ruben Kazan**

Group E: FC Bayern Munich,* AS Roma,** FC Basel 1893, & CFR Cruj 1907

Group F: Chelsea FC,* Olympique de Marseille, FC Spartak Moscow** & MŠK Žilina

Group G: AC Milan, Real Madrid FC,* AFC Ajax,** & AJ Auxerre

Group H: Arsenal FC,* FC Shaktar Donesk,** SC Braga, & FK Partizan

* My pick for the 1st place teams in each group
** My fick for the 2nd place teams in each group

Here's my initial reaction to the draw:

Inter has Group A wrapped up already, but the 2nd place team will be tough. I think both Spurs & Bremen will be too much for Twente though.

Shalke could pip Benfica in Group B, but Tel-Aviv better hope for some lucky home wins if they want to finish anywhere but the bottom of the group.

Like Inter in Group A, Man U have Group C sealed already. Valencia could manage to get past Gers though. These Buraspor people will have a tough go of it... good luck to them upsetting Man U.

In Group D, I'd like to see Ruben Kazan make it out. They had a nice little run last year in the group stage. Maybe this is their year to reach the knock-out stage.

Roma got lucky to fall ass-backwards into a group w/ Basel & Cruj. Otherwise, I wouldn't have picked them to get out of their group.

It looks like Abromovich wasn't able to pull the strings to get an easy group for Chelsea like he usually does. It's nice to see them w/ a bit of competition for a change. They should still roll over everyone in Group F though.

Visions of Ypsi is unofficially the 1st blog to refer to Group G as the "Group of Death." It'll be a tough one for all of the teams. I'm sure Madrid will pull it together, but who knows?

Arsenal have, what looks on paper anyway, their easiest draw in ages. I hope they don't crew it up.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Four Nice, Young Boys from Liverpool

And no, I'm not talking about Everton's Reserve back line or some random group of strikers who were never given a chance @ Liverpool under Rafael Benítez. I'm talking about The Beatles. Rolling Stone just released a list of the 100 Greatest Beatles Songs of all time. It's available in a fancy oversize issue w/ little fun facts about the songs (mostly just summary of the fun facts that we all learned in the Anthology series & the fun facts we learned growing up as members of the human ace). Here's the top 20:
1. "A Day in the Life"
2. "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
3. "Strawberry Fields Forever"
4. "Yesterday"
5. "In My Life"
6. "Something"
7. "Hey Jude"
8. "Let It Be"
9. "Come Together"
10. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
11. "A Hard Day's Night"
12. "Norwegian Wood"
13. "Revolution"
14. "She Loves You"
15. "Help"
16. "I Saw Her Standing There"
17. "Ticket to Ride"
18. "Tomorrow Never Knows"
19. "Lucy in he Sky w/ Diamonds"
20. "Please Please Me"
A couple of the songs seem a bit high on the list & while "She Loves You" is historically important, I don't know if it's really that great of a song. Ditto that w/ "Please Please Me." A couple months ago, RS released an updated version of their 500 Greatest Songs of all time list on which the Beatles songs are placed in a different order: "A Day in the Life" is the 6th Beatles song on that list (after "Hey Jude," "Yesterday," "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," "Let it Be," & "In My Life." This contradiction seems to be raising some eyebrows in the Beatles fan/blogging community, but we must realize they used different critics & musicians to compose the lists so they were bound to differ.My real concern isn't in the slight differences but in the glaring omissions. As if a top 100 Beatles songs list isn't stupid enough considering that they only recorded about 200 originals in total (@ least 200 released on official Beatles records). It's an obvious money grab from RS sure to be followed up w/ yet another ridiculous compilation released before X-mas. Of the glaring omissions, "It's All Too Much," "Savoy Truffle," "Cry Baby Cry," & "Revolution #9" are the most glaring in my eyes. To suggest that "I Should Have Known Better" & "Ticket to Ride" are better than "#9" & "Savoy Truffle" is just sheer folly. Here's my Top 20 Beatles Songs:
1. "A Day in the Life"
2. "Helter Skelter"
3. "Revolution #9"
4. "Across the Universe"
5. "Tomorrow Never Knows"
6. "Strawberry Fields Forever"
7. "Rain"
8. The Abby Road Medley ("You Never Give Me Your Money" through "The End")
9. "She Said, She Said"
10. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
11. "Day Tripper"
12. "Come Together"
13. "Here, There, and Everywhere"
14. "Gotta Get You into My Life"
15. "Savoy Truffle"
16. "It's All too Much"
17. "Glass Onion"
18. "I Wanna Hold your Hand"
19. "Lucy in the Sky w/ Diamonds"
20. "Something"
I know this list is no less problematic than the RS list, but that's OK... I'm really just interested in know what y'all's list would look like. Think about it for a few minutes & then let's see your top 20 Beatles songs in the comments section!
John digs a sporran

Monday, August 23, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine & a Thought About Reviews in General

We watched it the other night, & Joel asked for a quick review, so here it goes.

It is a lot better than I expected. The plot has a few holes that would teach Goatsee a new meaning of the word "gaping," but for once, I didn't really care. The references to 80s films & time-travel films were fantastic... & more subtle than in most movies like this. Plus, Crispin Glover plays the 1 armed bell-hop. As a general rule, 80s time-travel movies are never complete until he makes an appearance. i say, "See it."

In other movie review news, At the Movies aired its last episode last week. Roger Ebert presents At the Movies will supposedly replace it, but the original show has ended. I must say, I loved that show. Film fans said they were dumbing down criticism by reducing it to such basic terms ("Thumbs up" / "Thumbs down") & others complained that they were too intellectual & that reviews "destroy the movie-going experience, but I liked to watch them about over the films. I still remember the 1st episode I saw; they reviewed Raider of the Lost Arc & I knew I HAD to see it. I think it was the same episode on which they reviewed some comedy that featured a scene where couple met @ a mattress store & humped on the show-room floor. I have no idea what film it is, but i might be an Alan Alda film. I also remember, a few years later, their review of Blame it on Rio. I never actually saw the movie until just a few years ago (in the height of my Michael Caine period), but the review always stuck w/ me. It was a long run, & like it or not, their impact on the movie-going experience can never be overlooked. Here's a little clip from your favorite 90s animated review show, The Critic, which features some fun references to The Twilight Zone, An Affair to Remember, &, oddly, Family Ties.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some "New" Music

We've gone on a bit of a music buying kick lately. It's been quite some time since I'd purchased CDs, & now suddenly I've picked up a bunch. We watched a documentary on PBS a few weeks ago about Merle Haggard... I think that's what started this. Here's a quick overview of what we've gotten:
1) Gram Parsons: GP/Grievous Angel
I know there are people out there who have based their lives on The Burrito's Guilded Palace of Sin & Burrito Deluxe, but I've always thought they were a bit too slick & over-produced. This feeling has lead me to ignore Gram's solo stuff until now... & that was a big mistake. I'm sure most of you know this already, but these 2 albums are fantastic. More closely resembling his work on The Byrds' Sweetheart of the Rodeo than his stuff w/ the Burritos. I've been enjoying this a lot lately!
2) Kris Kristofferson: Kristofferson
This is a pretty strange album. It's got his biggest hits on it but them some silly 70s singer/songwriter talking blues stuff & a song that sounds like it could have come from Kurt Weill. I like it a lot though. "Sunday Morning Coming Down" is soooo cool... but you knew that anyway.
3) Phish: Colorado '88
This is the earliest Phish recording I have. (I used to have older tapes, but I don't know what happened to them over the years.) This finds them right in the middle of their circus music meets Zappa phase before they got into the jazzier stuff a couple years later. It has all of The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday stuff plus a few tunes from Junta 7 some cool covers. It's an amazing document from the early day. It's crazy to think about how long they've been around. I haven't seen them since 1997, but I think if they were to come around here, I'd be sure to go again.
4) Emmylou Harris: Elite Hotel
This has been in Stephanie's car since I brought it home & thus I haven't listened to it yet. One of these day, Emmylou... One of these day!
5) Neko Case: Live in Austin, TX
I listened to this a few times already & loaned it to Liz & Dan who promptly returned it already too. I imagine people who like her already know that this is worth getting & people who haven't listened to her wont run out & get this, but do yourself a favor & give it a go. Her cover of "Buckets of Rain" is amazing!
6) Merle Haggard: 16 Biggest Hits
This is horrible! The track listing is good, the original recordings are great, but this has some fucked up rerecordings. His voice & he pedal steel are fine, but the drums sound like they were programmed on an old Casio keyboard. It's almost unlistenable... I take that back... it is unlistenable.
7) Norman Blake & Tony Rice: Blake & Rice
I've been loving Tony Rice since Drivetrain introduced me to him in 1997, but my knowledge of Norman Blake has been limited to cover versions of "Ginseng Sullivan." This is a fun rootsy bluegrass album (I know... big surprise). I've really been digging "New River Train" & "Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar," but everything is well done on the entire album.
8) The Flying Burrito Brothers: Close Encounters to the West Coast
Although it was recorded few years after Gram's death, & as such, doesn't feature Gram Parsons, I think this is my favorite Burrito Brothers album. The fact that it's live means there isn't the same studio slickness & they include some fun covers too: "Rocky Top," "Rollin' in My sweet Baby's Arms," "White Line Fever," & "Truck Drivin' Man."
9) Del McCoury Band: Del & the Boys
I've never really listened to them before, but people have been raving about them for 15 years. I'm glad I found this @ a garage sale for a buck, because I doubt I would have shelled out the money elsewhere, & it's really cool.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Something evil's lurking in the dark

I've never been much for zombies. The resurgent zombie craze has, in fact, left me a bit baffled. I saw Night of the Living Dead, but I was more interested in the racial politics than the zombie stuff. I never even got around to Shaun of the Dead... & I really liked Superfuzz. (I never saw Run, Fat Boy, Run either though, so maybe my interest in Superfuzz is solely Timothy Dalton related.) As far as zombie books are concerned, there have been a bunch recently: World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, etc. Believe it or not, I haven't read any of those either. There is even a prequel to the Pride & Prejudice book although @ the moment, I can't recall what it's called. W/ this in mind, you can imagine my shock @ really being interested in this story. You should check it out... scientific evidence for zombie ants straight from The Guardian!

In other zombie news, I was watching a bit of the Man U game the other day & came to a fun realization. People have compare Berbatov to Dracula on many occasions, but it goes far beyond that. Alex Ferguson's House of Fucked Up Horrors also includes Igor, Michael Jackson's zombie from Thriller, & some weird cyborg. No wonder those bastards win so much... they're obviously dealing w/ the dark arts.
(I found the Berbatov & Nani pics on-line but I had to make the Rooney & Owen ones... you better enjoy the effort!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Carnies, Cokes & Cotton Candy

In the build-up to the big Kelly Miller Circus, we watched a couple circus movies: The Greatest Show on Earth (which wasn't even the greatest show on TV that night) & Roustabout (an Elvis film that bares the distinction of being the only Elvis Film I've ever seen). I wonder if Elvis movies (all 31 of them) might be a good follow-up to the Spacey movies. I realized while watching it that I really have a predilection for loving crap. At t turns out, Roustabout is only vaguely circus related because it's only 1/2 circus; the other half is carnival, but it's unclear what it's supposed to be. We also saw a Dukes of Hazzard episode yesterday morning in which Luke joins some sort of traveling stunt-driving road show which is sort of circus related. And I watched the last hour of Octopussy in which a rogue Soviet officer plans to detonate a nuclear bomb in a circus tent on a US military base in West Berlin & James Bond dresses like the knife thrower (& later, like a clown) to infiltrate the roustabouts & save the day. Did you follow that? Good; there may be a pop-quiz @ the end of the post. As far as other circus movies go, we forgot about Big Top Pee Wee & Dumbo didn't come in time... oh well.
Roger Moore IS James Bond!
As or the actual circus yesterday, I took Isaiah to watch the tent raising in the morning. He brought his little stuffed elephant toy to show the elephants. He liked the camels too, but the elephants were his favorite. Afterwards, I called my sister & she came out in the afternoon to go w/ us to the show. We went to the 4:30 show so as to get home early, make pizza, & chill out in the evening rather than leaving @ 9:30 & fighting w/ Isaiah's bed-time.

I wish we could see a circus w/o the residual guilt that always comes after watching animals jump through hoops (similar to the guilt I feel every time I eat meat). That said, we had a good time watching the animals jump through hoops. Isaiah loved the dogs, the tigers, & most importantly, the elephants. The older kids dug the ropes/tumbling stuff & Aiden seemed to love the clowns too. I think Elizabeth had fun, & Sam was paying much more attention than we expected he would. He's also developing a strong interest in watching the other kids. While Isaiah couldn't b bothered while watching the elephants, Sam couldn't be bothered while watching Isaiah. It was pretty cute. The down side this year was 2 fold. 1) It was moved from Riverside Park to Parkside Park which just isn't as good of a location. 2) It was hot as Hell in the tent. Other than that, a good time was had by all. They're playing Fowlerville this evening, so you should go check it out.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jamboree Day 2

Woke up Saturday morning, poured an XL Rum & Coke, & walked up to the park in time to catch the Mayflys set. Lots of EMU folk were in attendance, but most took off w/o coming back for the other stuff later. It's nice that people came out to support the band, but they missed a lot of good stuff later in the day.

A good mixture of the stuff from the CD & some new tunes. Super fun dancin' in the AM. There's talk of a Mayflys' appearance @ Daye & Pete's Pumpkin Day party in Oct. That should be cool. There's also talk of a Mayflys' gig in Chicago so I guess we'll be up for a road-trip... I hope Jim has a big floor. If only they played "The Eleven"... or "Whippin' Post". Joe loves the 11/4 so I assumed it was coming.

These guys are a fun funk/hip hop/fusion band from the K-Zoo. Daye was losing her mind for them, so I suppose we can expect them to get an invite to Pumpkin Day too. Overall, that seems to imply a 3 band event 9assuming that those guys from Wisconsin come back again. Anyway, while Funktion as playing, I took Solstice to get some henna from Kelly, my former student & current Facebook Scrabble partner. We @ Visions of ypsi are also proud of her as we introduced her to Charmie & she's been writing for Charmie's Medical marijuana newspaper, The Midwest Cultivator. Afterwards, I took Aiden to meet Brandon Inge @ the Verizon Wireless store next on Washtenaw. he was thrilled & I got to use it as good bribery to keep him havin' fun throughout the fest. Afterwards, we enjoyed the S. African portion of the Foods of the World Cup, fixed another XL Rum & Coke, grabbed our mitts & baseball, & headed back to the park. (We missed Hullabaloo & Rootstand during this Inge/lunch break.)

Dick Siegel:
I hadn't seen him since I went to the Gypsy Cafe w/ Jenn about 11 years for a Bob Dylan b-day celebration when he played "Positively 4th Street." I dig him. Fun acoustic jazzy pop... just like he song y'all know from "Sunday Morning Over Easy."

Wayward Roots:
After a nice, if unintended, tribute to the Grateful Dead (ie: 15 minutes of tuning before the 1st song), these guys pulled off some really good Bluegrass. I love a band w/ dobro & these guys are a band w/ dobro. Maybe the 1st Dobro I've seen in a local band since Drivetrain. Check them out if you get the chance.

Nervous but Excited:
A fun, eclectic folk duo in the style of The Indigo Girls. We all dug them & their cover of "Faith." See them when they play around town.

Black Jake & the Carnies:
These guys are fun as fuck! See them again & again & again! Like punk bluegrass. Loud, silly, a little angry, & featuring a guy who just moved in down the street on banjo (& vocals)... & he played both Scruggs style & claw-hammer throughout each song. They are fantastic... definitely my find of the fest. Isaiah seemed to dig them too as he sat on my shoulders (IE: "Up-Top") as we danced & watched some guy break-dance in the dirt in front of the stage. We also got our pc taken & it should be in the Ypsilanti Courier this week!

The Ben Miller Band:
Good stuff, but I wasn't quite as into them as everyone else seemed to be. I would have preferred the Glen Miller Band, but they're fun... & have a washtub bass.

October Babies:
I didn't dig them nearly as much as everyone else. well, Stephanie didn't really like 'em much either. The bass player is really good & has been in tons of local bands over the years, but the singer is obnoxious as hell. I think she can get away w/ it because she's Asian & people can say, "Ohhh, she's sooo exotic!" Yeah, exotic like a Japanese game-show. If she were white, people would see through it quickly. She's like Yoko meets Bai Ling. I know this sounds pretty negative, but I won't say I disliked them. They sounded fantastic... it was just the stage antics that kind of got to me.

Laith Al-Saadi:
A damn good guitarist... & he covered "Whippin' Post"! Finally, the 11/4 for which we'd been waiting. He also covered "Ophelia." I love that song too. His 3-piece power-trio reminds me of Gov't Mule. They play @ the Savoy every Monday night for free... check 'em out.

The Ragbirds:
I hadn't seen them in a few years. They're really good, & it's nice to see they've been able to stay together. Interesting folk/multi-ethnic stuff going on. Most of you have seen them before, so there's not a lot I can add.

Over-all, the fest was fantastic. Maybe next year we'll get a couple more out-of-town headliners like The Meters or Phil & Friends. Phil might be a bit too much to ask for, but maybe Los Lobos would do it. Up next, we've got the Kelly Miller Circus coming to town on Thursday. It's fun if more than a little problematic in terms of it's animal situation. The web-site responds to criticism not w/ a nice logical defense, but simply by attacking PETA... uncool. We'll be there anyway though. Besides, Tony the Clown's potato shtick will never get old.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Jamboree Day 1

After a morning @ the DIA to check out the "Through African Eyes" exhibit (more about that in a few days), we stopped by my parents' house to drop off some boxes. They're moving across town so I grabbed some from Nicola's & Stephanie grabbed some from the Co-Op. Once Isaiah had his nap in the afternoon we headed down to the Jamboree. After checking out the vendors, we found a nice spot behind the tapers (all 2 of them) & settled in to watch the music. We missed Mr. Shz, but having seen them once before, we really didn't miss them @ all.

The 1st band we saw was Tokyo Sexwhale. They were pretty cool. Instrumental electronic jams kind of like Particle. They did a 15 minute version of the theme from Magnum PI & closed w/ a fun version of Henry Mancini's theme from A Shot in he Dark. I'll definitely keep my eyes & ears peeled so as to see these guys again.

Next was Theo Katzman. Apparently, he's in My Dear Disco. I liked them when I saw them, but solo, he was lacking something... like an interesting band I guess. His songs all sounded the same & he could have fit nicely on the early to mid-90s pop-charts w/ Matthew Sweet or Tom Cochran. or on the soundtrack from Reality Bites. He was talented, but didn't do it for me. I think Stephanie like him though, so it wasn't a complete wash.

We then went up to Aubrees w/ Georgina & missed most of Dragon Wagon. It's too bad because what we heard @ the end was some good bluegrass. I love me some good bluegrass. I want to say they were playing "Rollin in my Sweet Baby's Arms" & then "Shady Grove," but we were mingling & getting our chairs set up so I may be wrong.

Chuck's band Smokestack was up next. Maybe I'll post the Saga of Chuck from the 1996 Further tour on here soon to make y'all smile. Once you've read that, you'll realize why I was so shocked that he is actually a really good guitarist. I was impressed.

The penultimate performance came from The Macpodz. As far as local bands are concerned, I'd gotten tire of hearing "This band is really good; you should check them out." So I'd never seen them. I was never floored by Back 40 the way I was supposed to be. Hullabaloo are playing this afternoon, but the time I saw them I was under impressed. The Macpodz fell through the cracks... unfortunately. They're pretty fucking great. They're playing The Blind Pig in October & we might have to go. A trumpet player, a drummer, a guy on keys w/ some funky, "Superstitionesque" tones, a singer who also played some hand percussion & the flute, & an amazing bassist. The lack of a guitar threw me for a loop @ 1st, but the bass & horn filled in those gaps nicely. Very, very cool.

Last up was ekoostik hookah. We hadn't seen them since 1999. They haven't changed a whole lot. The guitarist is amazing, but the lyrics blow. I was loving the jams, but then they'd start singing again & it would become boring. They're cheesy sophomoric tunes about getting high & being a hippie. W/ a good lyricist, they could be a good band... or by dropping the lyrics & just doing instrumentals & covers they could be a cool band. As it stands, they're fun & maybe in another 10 years I'll give them another chance.

I'm about to make some PB&Js to bring up there in a few minutes as we check out The Mayflys. Be there! They start @ 11:00. Brandon Inge will be signing @ some Verizon place on Washtenaw @ 1:00 so I think I'll take Aiden up there while Isaiah takes a nap & then we'll be back @ the Jamboree for the rest of he afternoon & evening. See you there!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Spacey-a-thon Post #4: Some More Reviews

Beyond the Sea:
This is a really cool movie. it got some mixed reviews, but I think a lot f that is due to the fact that it doesn't work like a normal music bio-pic. The flashbacks & dream sequences work nicely to give it a strange mythic feel. It does some nice stuff w/ Bobby Darin's political life during the late '60s. I had no idea he became some sort of anti-war/pro-civil rights hippie. Maybe that's common knowledge, but I didn't know it. I also didn't know he was married to Sandra Dee... but then again, all I knew about Sandra Dee I earned in Greece.
Shackleon's Antarctic Adventure:
I wrote the Wikipedia page about this movie for my ENGL 121 class in May. I wish we'd seen it in the IMAX theater when it was new. The cinematography is amazing. As is the life of Shackleton. Although, he may also have been bat-shit crazy. I wish it went into his relationship to the time period. It seems like that crazy drive to conquer stuff should be put into the context of the early 20th Century British ego 7 the fall of the British Empire.
Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil:
This movie is about 10 minutes too long. It's good, but a bt more editing would have helped the pace. It's a pretty crazy story based on a true murder in Savannah. I almost considered picking up the book, but true-crime isn't really my thing. Spacey plays the Southern gentleman/murderer & does a great job. It left me wondering if people down there really wander the streets w/ open booze @ all hours of the day & night. And if so, why don't we do that up here?
A Time to Kill:
Again w/ the open intoxicants. Them there down in Dixie are some rascally varmints. It's a good movie, but it plays on too many stereotypes. It's really predictable. Also, Ashley Judd is a shit actress. Her boob-sweat in every scene makes no sense either. Matthew McConaughey, on the other hand, was really good. What ever happened to that dude? He was so promising & then he went to shit.
The Usual Suspects:
Awesome. I hadn't seen it in about 10 years. But you all know it, so there's not much to say other that the usual "It's an awesome post-modern story about story-telling & the construction of reality."
I saw this when it was 1st released on video & stayed clear of it ever since. And rightly so. It's a shit movie. spacey is good as the friend who dies. When his character contracts the disease & dies rather quickly, it's left unexplained how Renee Russo can then survive much longer & remain pretty hot until she is saved.
I'd never seen this. It's almost as cool as its reputation suggests, but like w/ A Time to Kill, the relationship between the main character & his wife is done 1/2-assed. When she dies in the end, I just didn't care.
See No Evil, Hear No Evil:
An offensive, ridiculous, shameless, funny as hell movie. Pryor & Wilder were never afraid to take the blind/deaf jokes a little further than I expected. Spacey as the bad guy w/ the generic European bad guy accent is silly. I saw it in the theater when I was in middle school & I think it holds up pretty well. I was surprisingly entertained by this chimilicious piece of shit.