Sunday, May 20, 2012

Got a Revolution!

Jefferson Airplane
1969, RCA
produced by Al Schmitt

Grace Slick - vocals, piano, organ
Paul Kantner - guitar, vocals
Marty Balin - vocals
Jorma Kaukonen - guitars, vocals
Jack Cassady - bass
Spencer Dryden - drums

  • Volunteers
I like this band.  Mostly known for their second album, Surrealistic Pillow, this album proves to be a strong studio record, complete with catchy melodies, and thinly veiled lyrics.  The album overtly expresses the late '60s, early '70s protest spirit, including utopian sentiments of anarchy, and ecology.  This would also be the last album before the band begins to implode, beginning with Marty Balin and Spencer Dryden departing in 1971.  Jeff Tamarkin muses in the liner notes of Bless Its Pointed Little Head that the perceptible tension in the band at the time was harnessed on stage allowing for incredible sounds and stage presence. This album is an example.  Honestly, no one should have been surprised.  A band with three lead singers all with huge egos couldn't possibly coexist. 

Nicky Hopkins guest appears, performing with the band famously at Woodstock.  Jerry Garcia guest appears on pedal steel guitar, an instrument that he would give up as he thought it messed with his guitar playing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

American (history) Lies

I'll just leave this here.  It's from, which is a blog that loves to publish articles in the form of listed items...  usually the 5 or 10 or whatever number of some nerdy theme.  Sometimes they publish interesting things, like this article about the Monkey Sphere.

The specific article I want to talk a little bit about today though, is titled the 6 Ridiculous Lies You Believe about the Founding of America.  The title is a little misleading, as the 6 items are actually more about the 6 lies we (Americans) believe about American Indians, the discovery of America, and Pilgrims, not so much about the founding of the United States of America.  Either way, this article can be placed in the history category and highlights some of the same sorts of things Howard Zinn, and James Loewen have been talking about for years.

This of course is more of the same in a recurring theme around here, the misinterpretation of facts used to prop up the status quo, oppression, etc.  When I hear people (politicians, talking heads, media,  angry protesters, etc) talking about old school American values, founding fathers, and what this country should stand for, I think back to things like this article.  If people are unaware of the real truths behind the history of the "new world" what else have we been lead to believe about the rest of our collective history?  Also, Vikings!  Who doesn't like Vikings?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Even the Old School has an Old School

Lately, I've been listening to folk music more than normal.  By folk music, I don't necessarily mean stuff like Leonard Cohen, Lou Reed, Michelle Shocked, or even newer contemporary stuff like Flogging Molly, and Mumford and Sons, although I have been listening to those too.  I mean folk music by the earliest definition.

I mean traditional folk ballads, stuff that predates my grandparents.  I like it when contemporary artists cover tunes like these, from both British and American folk culture.  Bruce Springsteen did it on his Seeger Sessions album.  Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys cover at least one or more traditional songs on each of their albums.  Even Greg Graffin from Bad Religion recorded an album filled with folk covers.

I enjoy these bits of music past.  I like Fairport Convention, Steel-eye Span, the Dubliners, etc.  This post will be the first of many that will highlight a famous traditional folk ballad.  Since today is Mother's Day, I decided to begin with this song:

Mrs. McGrath

Oh, Missis McGrath, the sergeant said,
Would you like to make a soldier out of your son, Ted?
With a scarlet coat, and a three-cocked hat,
Now Missis McGrath, wouldn't you like that?

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa

Oh Mrs. McGrath lived by the seashore
For the space of seven long years or more;
Till she saw a big ship sail into the bay,
Here's my son, Ted, wisha, clear the way!

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa

Oh, Captain, dear, where have ye been
Have you been in the Mediterranean?
Will ye tell me the news of my son, Ted?
Is the poor boy livin', or is he dead?

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa

Ah, well up comes Ted without any legs
An in their place he had two wooden pegs,
She kissed him a dozen times or two,
Saying, Holy Moses, 'tisn't you.

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa


Oh then were ye drunk, or were ye blind
That ye left your two fine legs behind?
Or was it walkin' upon the sea
Wore your two fine legs from the knees away?

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa


Oh, I wasn't drunk and I wasn't blind
But I left my two fine legs behind.

For a cannon ball, on the fifth of May,
Took my two fine legs from the knees away.

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa

Oh, Teddy, me boy, the old widow cried,
Yer two fine legs were yer mammy's pride,
Them stumps of a tree wouldn't do at all,
Why didn't ye run from the big cannon ball?

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa

All foreign wars I do proclaim
Between Don John and the King of Spain
And by herrins I'll make them rue the time
That they swept the legs from a child of mine.

Wid yer too-ri-aa, fol de diddle aa

This particular song is about, basically, an Irish son who joins the King's Navy (British King), during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.  The song focuses on the mother of the sailor and how foreign wars affect the homeland.  The power of the song lays in its ability to paint together the emotion of reunion, and celebration of life, with the despair and horror, and trauma of armed conflict, and how difficult that can be to share even with loved ones.  These themes can be seen in later contemporary work by Dylan (John Brown), and Steve Goodman (Ballad of Penny Evans) and I'm sure in others.  

This particular song, although it predates the 20th century, became a political statement and protest anthem during the Easter Rising in Ireland in 1916 at the height of World War One.  Folk music would continue to be used for protest culminating during Vietnam conflict and beyond.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Biting the Hand

Fuck the South: An Open Letter                                                    also see:

I read this today.  It was published in 2004, but seems to be still relevant.

It is an open letter to the Southern States of the United States.  From how the letter is written, I'm assuming that not only is the writer addressing the former Confederate States of America (Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee), but also states that are recently known as Red States, a term used lately to divide the country along political lines.

Although the language is harsh and juvenile (the writer uses the word asshole 7 times, fuck 42 times, and manages to sprinkle the letter with several dicks, asses, and goddamns) the rant is focused on some facts that conveniently some critics of the government have forgotten.

I find this sort of thing interesting, not just because I'm sick of hearing "right wing", "moral majority", "traditional family values", sound byte loving, revisionist history fanatics talk down to me, but because I hadn't really tied these current political issues to the civil war.

The letter begins by stating the nation ought to turn its back on the southern (red) states as they constantly point to the rest of the nation as unamerican, godless, and arrogant.  The writer points out that a majority of the founding fathers that the red states love to bring up in support of traditional family values, the right to bear arms, and proof that government doesn't need tax money, are from northern east coast blue states.  The writer doesn't name names.  But I will.

Benjamin Franklin, and Gouverneur Morris were from Pennsylvania, John Adams, his cousin Sam Adams, and John Hancock were all from Massachusetts.  Alexander Hamilton was from New York.   Ethan Allen was from New Hampshire and Vermont.  Also, of the 56 delegates that signed the Declaration of Independence, 39 were from northern states (if you count Delaware and Maryland...  if you don't, it's still 30, which is still a majority).  The president of the Congress was John Hancock (from Massachusetts).  The Constitution was signed by 40 guys, 27 from blue states (including MD and DE).  True, there are an awful lot of Virginians who helped shape the United States, and held presidential office, but to think blue states had little to do with founding the country is absurd.

Family Values has been coming up constantly for decades in political rhetoric.  Often this term is used to try and restrain and oppress the "gay liberal agenda" which doesn't really exist.  People want basic civil liberties which are being denied due to ignorance and hate and "traditional family values" is the club by which homosexuals are oppressed.  The letter points out that the very arguments of protecting marriage come back to bite red states.  If marriage is so sacred and gay marriage threatens to ruin traditional marriage, explain how Massachusetts, the first state to legalize gay marriage, has the lowest divorce rate?  I checked this out, no other state is even close.

If "thou shall not kill" counts as a family value, then murder rates should be examined, as the writer did in the letter.  I found this, which is way more up to date than the study the writer used for his letter.  The murder rate for the region labeled "the South" was 5.6 in 2010, which is 1.2 points above fellow red state region the Midwest, and 1.4 points above the Northeast and West (blue states).  Individually, Louisiana has the highest murder rate at 11.2, no one else comes anywhere close, the next state on the list is Maryland with 7.4 and Mississippi and Missouri both at 7.0.  In contrast, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont have rates of 3.2, 1.0, and 1.1 respectively.

Taken in Tennessee
Now...  the letter addresses church going god fearing southerners.  I looked up attendance rates for church by state just to make sure, because it would be hilarious if southern states had a smaller percentage of church goers than Vermont.  But the truth is, the top 10 church going states are red states, and the bottom ten are blue states.  Louisiana has 56% going to church, coming in at number 4.  I guess they take communion and sing hymns between murders.

The part of this letter that I think needs to be shared are the parts about federal money.  The writer vulgarly points out that, while small government types love to complain about hard earned money taken for taxes each year, red states providing the least tax money get back the most.  Basically, the leftist, socialist states (blue) provide for the less fortunate states (red) who, instead of being humble and thanking their blue state brethren, complain.  This trend is documented by Dean and Donald Lacy in their paper “Taxing, Spending, Red States, and Blue States: The Political Economy of Redistribution in the US Federal System” (Ohio State, 2006), and in “Why Do Red States Vote Republican While Blue States Pay the Bills? Federal Spending and Electoral Votes, 1984-2008″ (Dartmouth, 2008), and by Paul Rosenburg in "Red State Moochers: Federal Taxes Favor those Who Complain the Most about Federal Taxes" (Daily Kos, 2010).
I do not think this letter is written from the same viewpoint of the typical right wing American who doesn't want to pay taxes and believes that privatization is the answer to everything (which is essentially a plea of greed), but from a proud American who is fed up with being taken for granted, and therefore decides that it is time for half the country to start pulling their own weight and paying for things on their own.  This idea of Americans as self reliant is a myth, no one can go it alone.  Perhaps misinformation about where tax money comes from and where it goes is to blame for perpetuating that myth.  Is a wake up call in order?  "Pay for your own STOP signs" indeed.

I kind of hope the South does rise again, so the blue states can watch them secede, and then not ask them back.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Repairing the NBA

I love basketball. I like the pace of the game, I like the team oriented aspect, the athleticism, the strategies used. However, the business aspect of the professional sport has changed basketball.  Expansion has diluted talent. The talent is spread out over 30 teams with plenty of subpar players gaining contracts to fill out rosters. How does Brian Scalabrine still have a contract? Free Agency has made it nearly impossible to keep a team together long enough to gel, putting money over team loyalty, and competition.

If you look back at the 1980s, largely called the best decade for the NBA, there were only 23 teams until 1988 when Miami, Orlando, Charlotte, and Minnesota entered the league. Only one of those expansion teams has won a title, basically being useless franchises that drained talent away from the others. The only reason to have franchises in these cities would be to make money in these markets. Wouldn't it be easier to promote an already existing franchise close to these cities, rather than cannibalize the nearest existing market, dilute the talent pool, and then piss off all your new fans in the new market when this new team is perpetually terrible? Instead of having an awful Charlotte team in Charlotte, why not market the already existing Wizards and Hawks who are close by, and already have a history and identity?

Any way, this post is much like this post I already wrote. And also I read Bill Simmons, who has been saying stuff about how the NBA could help itself for quite some time, most obviously in his The Book of Basketball. Steve Kerr recently wrote an article too about changing the draft age requirement, and how much this ought to solve several issues with younger players. I also have a few ideas, some stolen from Simmons.

1.  Collapse bad franchises.

The NBA will never do this. They are so concerned with keeping markets in every viable city possible that they would rather leave poorly managed franchises where they are and open brand new ones in new cities. Sometimes teams move cities. Like when Seattle lost their franchise and Oklahoma City received the Zombie Sonics in the shadiest business deal in sports since the Celtics stole Larry Bird. The reason the '80s were so successful, with Magic and Bird and young Jordan, and Isiah Thomas was due to fewer teams with a higher concentration of talent, and superstars being happy where they were.

Why would well paid athletes want to leave the cities where they made names for themselves and have a huge fanbase during their prime? This is a huge trend recently with Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and soon Dwight Howard leaving teams in their prime to go to another city to play with other superstars. The stars of the '80s would never do that. However, there are now 7 more teams in the league to compete for star players, so instead of having two or three star players on a team, some franchises are lucky to have one.

Some fans can't understand why the Celtics of the '50s and 60's can be considered special, since they competed against other teams with 6 hall of famers. Doesn't seem fair, until you consider that the NBA in the 50's and 60's fluctuated between 14 and 8 teams for that 20 year span. Every team had multiple star players. and the Celtics hardly had a monopoly on the best talent in the league. Imagine what current rosters would look like with only roster spots for 100 players instead of 450. Lebron would have never left Cleveland, the odds of him already playing with three or four other stars would have been very high.
This could be the Lakers vs the Bulls
I thought about what sorts of moves the league could make in order to collapse things for the good of competition. I decided that if a team has ever won a championship, the franchise deserves to be allowed to stick around, no matter how long it's been. The team at one point earned a spot in League history by winning a title. Therefore, the Celtics, Lakers, Pistons, Hawks (in St Louis), 76ers, Knicks, Kings (as Royals in Rochester), Warriors, Bucks, Wizards (as Bullets), Trailblazers, Thunder (as Sonics in Seatle), Bulls, Rockets, Spurs, Heat, and Mavericks are all protected. In addition, the other 3 ABA teams ought to be protected also, if for any other reason than they represent the merger, and were already saved once from being folded (unlike the unlucky Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St Louis). That brings the league to 20 teams. A good league size would be an even 24, 12 teams per conference. So, the league would have to look to close 6 teams.

With this said, Charlotte should be folded. They already had a chance with the Hornets franchise, and now the Bobcats are looking to be the worst team in league history. They have no significant history for fans to be proud of and loyal to. The last expansion team ought to be the first to close.

Minnesota should be folded, along with the Toronto Raptors. Both these teams can't entice good players to come play there, and quickly lose the good players they get in drafts to free agency. They are small markets with cold weather and no history of winning. Boston has trouble selling itself to free agents and it's the most winningest franchise ever. Fold both these teams and market the regions to closer franchises, like Milwaukee and Detroit.

The Utah Jazz had the best chance to win titles in the '90s and could not get past Jordan and the Bulls, understandably. But before and since the Malone/Stockton era, the Jazz have been non contenders. When the Utah franchise folds, the Jazz name needs to go back to New Orleans where it belongs.

Florida is a pretty big place with many lucrative sports markets including Miami, Tampa, Tampa Bay, Orlando, etc. However, I've noticed the fan bases for sports not named Football are not very reliable. Heat fans, for instance, arrive late to games and leave early; and that team is successful. The Orlando Magic ought to be folded. They went to the finals twice since their inception, and both times failed to win a title. They possessed two of the biggest (literally) stars in the game since Wilt Chamberlain and were unable to keep them from leaving for other teams (Shaq went to the Lakers, and although he hasn't left yet, I'm predicting Dwight Howard is on another team next season). Florida seems to be barely capable of handling one franchise in each sport (aside from football), and the Heat market should be extended to all of Florida. Plus, Atlanta is pretty close by.

The Clippers need to be closed, sacrificed for the betterment of the league. I know they have significant history in the league, but aside from longevity, this franchise has done nothing but move three times (Buffalo, San Diego, Los Angeles) and the franchise mismanagement is legendary.  

2.  Do something to make pre-season more interesting.

Pre seasons are super fun, if you're the sports equivalent of a nerd. For everyone else, it's boring. Especially in basketball, where the fanbase is pretty sure who the starting lineup will be during the real season, and although it is like a mini tryout for fringe players to try and get a roster spot, most of the spots are already guaranteed. The competition is light, most of the stars don't play more than half their normal minutes, and wins and losses are meaningless. The only good use of the pre season is giving rookies and young talent time to play and develop, and letting fantasy nerds get a look at things.

That all being said, I have a few ideas to make things more interesting, develop young talent, and bring in more revenue (which is really what the NBA is excited about).

A: play pre-season games in other places.

there are plenty of local schools with gyms
When the NBA collapses those franchises, they're going to need to start promoting another team from another city in its place in order to keep the market. The NBA already knows how good exhibition games are at selling the game. There is a reason there are so many Celtics fans in Eastern Europe. Cultivating larger fanbases is easy when you showcase your games in other neighborhoods.

Some teams already do this. The Celtics, for example, play games in Hartford, CT, and Manchester, NH. I propose doing this more and in other cities. Expand the NBA market to other places, play for the small town fans who can't travel to the big cities or afford regular season tickets along with travel expenses, etc. The NBA talks often of giving back to the communities. This is a very public way to show that commitment.

B: Tournament.

I borrowed this idea from Bill Simmons. The teams can play their pre-season games in those neighboring cities, showcasing their stars, and developing new talent and building team chemistry. However, pre-season is still pretty boring. So...  at the end, one city will host a pre-season NCAA style tournament. Host cities should be cities without an NBA franchise (like St Lious, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Kansas City, etc) in order to showcase the NBA in those markets.

Single elimination means one win moves a team on, and the losing team is done. This will go by pretty quickly. The NCAA tournament lasts a few weeks and includes 64 teams. The NBA only will have 24 teams, so it could last a few days. 24 teams is a weird number for a single elimination tournament, but I'm sure NBA people could figure out how to make it work, maybe give byes to last season's Finals contenders or something. This is a good way to end a pre-season and gear up for opening day. Stars don't have to play, and the young players get exposed to a play-off style atmosphere.

The problem with this is how to get teams interested and eager to play well enough to make the tournament not a joke. The All-Star Game has the same problem. My solution: the winner will actually win something.

The team that wins the tournament would secure the All-Star Game for their city and will host the weekend in the upcoming February. Right now, cities have to lobby to get the All-Star Game, which brings business and tourism to the host city. That's a pretty good incentive without making the tournament super competitive. And since cities like Las Vegas, without a franchise, will be allowed to host the pre-season tournament, they won't be attempting to take the All-Star hosting duties away from an NBA franchise.

3.  Expand the NBDL

Right now, there are two other professional leagues that use extensive, successful farm system minor leagues and one other professional sport that uses the NCAA as their farm system. The NBA has been having issues with young players not living up to potential and ending their careers prematurely, having not developed in ways the league had hoped. A lot of this has to do with poor development early on. There isn't much incentive to stay in college when there can be so much money to be made as a pro.

The NBDL was a step in the right direction, but cannot seem to be profitable or create quality fanbases with strong, sound label recognition. There are some players recently who have come out of the NBDL, developed enough to be quality players in the NBA, but not enough.

More money needs to be funneled into the NBDL in order to advertise, expand, and attract television deals. The NBDL should expand while the NBA itself collapses, in order to give each franchise its own minor league system. Currently, the Lakers are the only NBA franchise that owns its own NBDL franchise, more teams need to invest to give the minor league permanency. Not only is a minor league franchise a good way to develop new talent, like baseball, it also gives a place to rehab injuries, and it puts the NBA in smaller markets. Those 6 cities that lost their franchises several paragraphs ago would all be good places for NBDL franchises. Once again, expanding the NBA market without diluting the NBA talent.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Im as Cool as a Cucumber in a Bowl of Hot Sauce

Just like any white kid from the suburbs in the '90s, I became a fan of the Beastie Boys.  Three white Jewish kids from Brooklyn, and their Filipino DJ made hip hop acceptable and available to the mainstream.  Not only did the group prove that white kids can do hip hop too, but also showed how to successfully blend rock and rap without being overtly angry like Rage Against the Machine, or a colossal joke like Limp Biskit.  The greater music industry has seemed to forget about the Beastie Boys when discussing white people in hip hop, or the potential for musicianship in rap music.

Beastie Boys
Licensed to Ill.
1986, Def Jam
producer: Rick Rubin

Mike D
Rick Rubin

  • Hold it, Now Hit It
  • Its the New Style/ Paul Revere
  • Paul Revere
  • Brass Monkey
  • Fight for your Right
  • No Sleep til Brooklyn/ Posse in Effect
  • Girls/ She's Crafty
I remember the video for (You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party), which played on MTV when I was in elementary school.  I didn't actually hear this album in its entirety until high school, and didn't truly appreciate it until much later.  It seemed to me, especially after hearing later albums like Ill Communication, and Check Your Head first, that this album was pretty much a gimmick and mostly an unlistenable relic from the mid '80s.  Kind of like DIY punk albums.  If I could, I'd go back in time and slap 15 year old me.  This album is a great example of rock/rap hybrid.  Fight for your Right, No Sleep til Brooklyn, and Girls sponsoring guitar solos and singing.  Other tracks like Paul Revere, Rhymin and Stealin, and Brass Monkey prove that overproduced and over sampled tracks are unnecessary when you have a drum machine.  The Beastie Boys would continue to defy contemporary views of what hip hop was and what it could be, and it all started here.

Beastie Boys
Ill Communication
1994, Grand Royal
producer: Mario C

Eric Bobo

  • Sabotage
  • Get it Together/ Sabotage/ Dope Little Song
  • Get it Together/ Sabotage/ Resolution Time
  • Sure Shot
  • Root Down/ Ricky's Theme
So, like Fight for Your Right, Sabotage was a huge music video that I distinctly remember watching in middle school.  This whole album is fantastic, and although many fans point to Paul's Boutique as being the group's finest album, I'd argue that Ill Communication is just as good, if not better.  Not only did the album feature Q-tip from A Tribe Called Quest, and Biz Markie, but also showcased some instrumental jazz tracks.  The group ditched their drum machine for live drummer Eric Bobo.  Also featured is the short punk rock track Tough Guy, which reminded everyone of their early '80s roots.  Not only did the first single, Sabotage, bring commercial success and radio play, but the video also was nominated in 5 categories at the 1994 MTV Music Awards and lost them all, which prompted MCA to interrupt Michael Stipe's acceptance speech in protest, dressed as Nathaniel Hornblower.

Beastie Boys
Hello Nasty
1998, Capitol
producer: Mario C

Mike D
Mix Master Mike
Eric Bobo

  • Intergalactic/ Hail Sagan
  • Intergalactic
  • Body Movin/ Peanut Butter and Jelly
  • Body Movin/ Dr Lee PhD
  • The Negotiation Limerick File/ 3 MCs, 1 DJ/ Puttin Shame in Your Game
  • Remote Control/ 3 MCs, 1 DJ
Enter Mix Master Mike.  I was in South Dakota when this came out during the summer of 1998.  I know this, because a friend of mine anticipated the release, and had her mom mail it to us. Clearly this couldn't wait until we got back.  This album encompassed everything the Beastie Boys had worked toward since the '80s, and coalesced into a masterpiece.  Eric Bobo's last album with the group is also Mix Master Mike's debut.  Biz Markie makes another appearance also.  This album won Grammys.  The over all feel of the album, marked by the tracks Intergalactic and Super Disco Breakin, is very science fiction.  The group is finally able to successfully blend their rock and hip hop together without sounding clunky, and without having distinct rock tracks and hip hop tracks breaking the flow of the album.  Mix Master Mike throws in some Latin influenced samples and what you get is gold.

"Pay attention, my intention is to bust a move"
Tragically, a third (or fourth I guess, if you count Mix Master Mike) of the Beastie Boys, Adam Yauch (MCA) died the other day of cancer.  So, of course, I had to write this up, as the Beastie Boys are on my mind recently.  MCA was my favorite part of the group.  His more distinct gravelly voice played off of Mike D and AdRock's more high pitched, sometimes indistinguishable sounds.  He will be missed by many.