Thursday, December 29, 2011

Spike's Top Albums of 2011

Tough year. Maybe we say that every year. But it was, again, a tough year to crack the top 10. Kudos to all the musicmakers I love for making this exercise way more agonizing than it ever ought to be. I could, without any trouble whatsoever, compose a top 10 just from Charlie T's also-rans. I could also craft a handful of drastically different lists each with their own compelling criteria (most listened, most likely to still matter to me in 1 or 2 or 5 years, most important, most whatever). I could, but I won't.

And as usual, as if that first paragraph wasn't already a steaming heap of disclaimers, this list could change in the next hour.


10. The Decemberists //The King Is Dead

9. Jim Lauderdale //Reason & Rhyme

I was totally surprised by how often I came back to this album, how many times I found myself singing this album, how many times I referenced this album when working on my own songs. Lauderdale and co-writer Robert Hunter created a timelessly great bluegrass-ish record.


Tom Waits // Bad As Me

7. Joe Henry // Reverie

6. Megafaun // s/t

5. Low // C’mon

Alan Sparhawk with his yearly bid for Song Of The Year (Try To Sleep).

4. Wilco // The Whole Love

3. Gillian Welch // The Harrow & The Harvest

2 people. On every song. Live. This is statement on the power of simplicity (and subtlety and smarts and virtuosity). No bells. No whistles. Just two people playing some finely crafted songs on, most of the time, two guitars with two voices sewn so beautifully that it's impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

2. Fleet Foxes // Helplessness Blues

It has come to my attention that it is no longer hip to like Fleet Foxes, that it is cooler to write them off as "better back then" than it is to like them now. Which makes it all the more logical that I love this album. I listened to it every morning all summer and there are still songs and moments on the record that register goosebumps. I promise: I wanted to be cool; I tried not to like it. But I love its ambition. I love its melodies. I love what Robin Pecknold has to say and how he says it. Of course the harmonies and retro-neo-folkie arrangements are the calling card. But it's a fine, cohesive record that, much like most of the albums on this list (but especially Megafaun), is an argument for THE ALBUM. An experience. Something better in one sitting than cut up into shuffled mp3s. A unified vision that feels like a family of songs, a home constructed on ideas and tones and voices.

1. Over The Rhine // The Long Surrender

Yes, this was #3 on my list last year (and I would still put it behind The National and Justin Townes Earle). I did that, knowing that usually January releases get the proverbial shaft due to the amount of time (and familiarity) they have versus the freshness of later releases. But I love this album as much today as I did this time last year. That says something. One of the musical moments of my 2011, maybe even my life, was listening to Linford Detweiler play an extended outro to "All My Favorite People" that, with no words, moved me to tears. To read what I said about the album last year, click here.

THE NEXT 10 (in no order)

Steve Earle // I'll Never Make It Out Of This World Alive

David Bazan // Strange Negotiations (some of the best songs out this year. why didn't it crack the top 10? Because I pressed PUBLISH.)

Radiohead // King of Limbs

Lisa Hannigan // Passenger

Lucinda Williams // Blessed (her best record, in my opinion, since World Without Tears)

Buddy Miller & The Majestic Silver Strings (if this won't make you re-think Leann Womack, nothing will. she DESTROYS the songs she sings on this)

Milk Carton Kids // Prologue (perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the year for me. a real Gillian/David soundalike that didn't feel derivative to me. good playing. good songs.)

Jason Isbell // Here We Rest

Jessica Lea Mayfield // Tell Me

Bon Iver // Bon Iver, Bon Iver (I know: what's my problem?)


Feist // Metals (I have a feeling this one will rank higher years from now)

Dawes // Nothing Is Wrong

Paul Simon // So Beautiful Or So What

Ryan Tanner // Seven Years EP

Blind Pilot // We Are The Tide (the first song is one of my favorites all year)

Foo Fighters // Wasting Light

David Lowery // The Palace Guards (I Sold The Arabs The Moon!)

Wye Oak // Civilian (for once, the hype was right. I liked it a lot. Just didn't get enough listens before list-time. I was late. Sue me.)

Rave On, Buddy Holly // tribute album (especially Jenny O and John Doe's songs)

Adele // 21 (I know...but I liked wee doses)

The Devil Whale // Teeth

Dustin Christensen // Highway Lines

The Jayhawks // Mockingbird Time

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Charlie T's Top Albums of 2011

*This post has been updated with annotations for each album

There were 102 albums released in 2011 that made it onto my listening radar. I managed to give a full listen to 79 of those albums, and partial listens to most of the rest. From that list of 102 albums, there were 35 albums that were inspiring enough to deserve a shot at making the top 10 list. The last weeks of 2011 were dedicated to teasing out the top 10. This was a banner year for music, in my opinion. Many artists from my pantheon of artists threw down the gauntlet and released great, great albums. This didn't make trimming the list down from 35 to 10 very easy. Since they all deserve some recognition, I present both the top 35 and the top 10. The 25 that didn't make the cut are in no particular order. That way if anyone is completely appalled by one album or another not making the top ten, I can always say it was the last album to get cut. But to be honest, every album on the Runners Up list was seriously considered for the top 10 and if I re-wrote this list tomorrow, one of them might find it's way into the top 10. But as of right now, I feel confident that the top 10 are the albums that I liked the most in 2011.

The 25 Runners Up
Over The Rhine - The Long Surrender
The Get Up Kids - There Are Rules
Iron & Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean
Lia Ices - Grown Unknown
The Head And The Heart - The Head And The Heart
Low - C'mon
The Low Antherm - Smart Flesh
Radiohead - King Of Limbs
Wye Oak - Civilian
Bill Callahan - Apocalypse
Kurt Vile - Smoke Ring For My Halo
The Kills - Blood Pressures
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit - Here We Rest
St. Vincent - Strange Mercy
Beirut - The Rip Tide
Megafaun - Megafaun
Dawes - Nothing Is Wrong
Feist - Metals
Joe Henry - Reverie
Ryan Adams - Ashes And Fire
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know
Battles - Gloss Drop
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Paul Simon - So Beautiful or So What
Richard Buckner - Our Blood

The Top 10 of 2011
10. Tom Waits - Bad As Me
This one got in on the strength of the songwriting alone.  Sure there were other great songs written on albums that didn't make the top 10, but these songs really stuck with me, especially New Year's Eve.

9. Little Scream - The Golden Record
It came down to this album and Feist's Metals.  They were similar albums to me, aside fromt he fact that Little Scream backs up Feist on some of the songs, and both got a lot of listens.  But I came across Little Scream from their *Take Away Show and I went back to it for the tie-breaker.  The intro on Cannons was still as strong as the first time I heard it.  And as fresh sounding as I thoguht Metals was, this album had a little something more.

8. David Bazan - Strange Negotiations
This album made a late surge.  I listened to it once or twice early in the year but it didn't take.  I came back and realizzed what I had been missing.  Not only are the songs great, but there is enough fuzz and rocking to keep an edge on the songs.

7. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
I didn't put the debut Fleet Foxes album on my top 10 list way back when.  In hind sight, I probably should have.  I made sure I gave this album the time it deserved, and it gave me back exactly what I wanted; introspective lyrics, crisp harmonies and a chance to give them credit for their efforts.  And to be clear, this isn't a make-up pick.  This album is great on its own.

6. Tune-Yards - WHOKILL
I didn't want to put this album in the top 10 because it had gotten so much hype.  But I couldn't deny the infectious hooks and the enthusiasm, even if it is doused in face paint and ukeleles.

5. The Lost Notebooks of Hank Williams - Various Artists
I love Hank Williams.  One question I've always asked myself is "If late, great musician X released an album now, like it had been locked in a time capsule, how would it stack up against current albums?"  This was my chance.  It's not Hank singing, but they are his words and they are just as good as ever.  An added bonus is his pedal steel player making an appearance or two to bridge the eras.

4. Gillian Welch - The Harrow And The Harvest
This was one of a couple albums that I thought were top ten albums the minute I heard them.  Not all those albums made the cut, however.  Low, Joe Henry and Wye Oak lost out when push came to shove for the top 10.  But not this one.  This one looked me in the eyes and made me give it a top 4 spot.

3. Bon Iver - Bon Iver
I went back and forth a little on this album.  First, I was surprised at how different it sounded.  Then I realized it was still the same sound, just bigger.  I saw them perform almost all the songs live.  I heard the stripped down, piano only version of Beth/Rest.  It was really a journey to a lot of different places, like the track names suggest.  And the fact that it made me work, but continued to reward me for my efforts had to merit a top 3 slot.

2. Wilco - The Whole Love
This album had its own journey, but it was more of a nostalgic journey through the Wilco catalogue.  At least a handful of songs made me reminisce other Wilco songs.  Sometimes I would think the melody was taken from another song, or a lyric was borrowed.  That is evidence that it fits into the tomes of songs from Tweedy and Co. but it also made those other songs sound better and more fresh to me than they ever have.

1. The Decemberists - The King Is Dead
This album battled Iron & Wine at the onset of 2011 for early year supremacy.  Usually, albums that come out early and come on strong fade towards the end of the year as casualties of over-listening, stronger competition, or boredom.  Iron & Wine faded despite a number of strong songs.  But this album kept coming and coming.  When it came down to deciding which album should be number one, I felt that an album that could withstand 12 month of listening and scrutiny was worth of the top spot.

*Yes I know Feist recorded a Take Away Show, but it hasn't come out yet.  Sorry, Leslie.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Black Converse's Massive NBA Preview

Like most fans, we are excited about the start of the NBA season. We don't know what is going to happen with this shortened, compressed season. Surely chaos will ensue; there will be surprise teams, veteran teams that don't quite get going, injuries, tanking for the best draft since '03*, and an influx of overseas guys comig back in time for a stretch run. It will be a strange year and but we can all be relieved that there will be basketball**. Here are a list of fake prop bets that we came up with.*** Each bet tries to highlight a different storyline for the season. Enjoy.

Over/Under 2.5 Leg Injuries for the Clippers
Spike: Under
Charlie T: Over

Over/Under 12 playoff wins for the Bulls
Spike: Under
Charlie T: Under

Over/Under 12 playoff wins for the Thunder
Spike: Under
Charlie T: Over

Over/Under 1.5 top 5 picks for the Hornets
Spike: Over
Charlie T: Under

Higher Playoff seed: Lakers or Celtics
Spike: Celtics
Charlie T: Celtics

Higher Playoff seed: Spurs or Knicks
Spike: Spurs
Charlie T: Knicks

Over/Under 1.5 Heat MVP Awards
Spike: Under
Charlie T: Over

Over/Under .5 All-Stars for the Jazz
Spike: Over
Charlie T: Under

Over/Under 2.5 All-Stars for the Heat
Spike: Over
Charlie T: Over

Over/Under 4 combined Playoff wins for Washington, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Detroit, New Jersey, Toronto, Cleveland
Spike: Under
Charlie T: Over

Over/Under 4 combined Playoff wins for Houston, Phoenix, Golden State, Clippers, Sacramento, Minnesota
Spike: Over
Charlie T: Over

Over/Under Black Eyed Peas songs being played on every NBA telecast
Spike: Awesome
Charlie T: Over

There you have it. You can be sure we will forget about these wagers we have made as we get engulfed in the drama of the season. I know it will be one for the ages. And who knows, Spike might come around on Chris Bosh before it's all said and done.

*At least that's what David Stern thinks

**For at most 6 more years...then we're going to get crapped on again.

***We had 12 and had planned on releasing them one per day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but that seemed a little douchey since there isn't much substance to each bet. Besides, who doesn't prefer ripping open all their gifts as fast as they can?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Every Tear A Basketball

Earlier this year, as Coldplay announced a new album and tracks from it started making their way around the internet, there was a rumor that one of the new Coldplay songs was a rip-off of a Peter Allen song. There was outrage. "How can Coldplay do something like that? Can they not write their own songs anymore?" "Coldplay is a fraud. Everything they have ever done up to this point is a sham." "Chris Martin is the worst thing to happen to music since the Day the Music Died. How does he sleep at night." "Coldplay lost is as soon as Chris Martin married an actress. They are just in it for the fame."

Then the buzz died down. The album came out and the themed tour began to roll along. The dialogue shifted from critique on the songs to condemnation for the stage show and band's thematic uniform couture. Glow in the dark punk. Blacklight homelessness. Their SNL performance looked like a redux of Ke$ha's set from last season. How dare they.

Amid all this Coldplay discrediting I noticed something. I couldn't hate Coldplay. I turned up the radio or the TV anytime a new Coldplay song of came on. I got the songs stuck in my head. I set the DVR for any late-night performances. I did everything short of cover my jeans in fluorescent nail polish. Part of me wanted to break-up with them and move on and to have some disdain for Chris Martin. But I just couldn't do it. Despite having all the reasons to Coldhate, it wasn't within me.

I found the same kind of rhetoric coming at me this wek as the NBA and its players wnet "nuclear" with their labor negotiations. "I'm done with the NBA. How dare they do this to ME." "Without the fans, you are nothing. Stop being so greedy and think about US." "I'm boycotting the NBA...let's go college Basketball!" "Go ahead and bicker over billions of dollars. I won't be here when you get back." "I'm switching to hockey. NHL is so much better. I've always loved it."

I'll admit, I was defeated for about 24 hours after the decertification/disclaimer/disbanding. I was ready to #occupy the nearest NBA arena, write my local congressman, boycott the nearest business of an NBA owner, and burn my Dwyane Wade t-shirt. But as I held the match up to the shirt, I realized I would regret this. I realized the league would play again and I would want to put that shirt on before every televised game and then take it off if the Heat fell behind because I was jinxing them. And then put it back on after they made a furious comeback. I would miss wearing it during the playoffs and hopefully the Finals. I wouldn't be able to hold my anger towards the league. I wouldn't be able to boycott the NBA any better than I was boycotting Coldplay.

Sure, I'd rather be devouring analysis of the Heat/Celtics matchup that was scheduled for tonight. I'd rather Coldplay have made an album more in line with Parachutes or A Rush Of Blood To The Head. At the very least I wish there had been a labor agreement already in place, even if some games were missed, just as I would rather enjoy Mylo Xyloto without the black light psychedelia. But this is where we are. Those decisions aren't mine to make and I can only hold it against them as long as my heart will allow. Turns out it's not very long at all.

Some time from now there will be a montage of LeBron cocking back for a dunk, Dwight Howard blocking a ball into the 4th row, Kobe hitting a turn around, Chris Paul whipping a behind the back pass in traffic, Dwyane Wade making some circus shot and one, and Kevin durant knocking down an effortless 30 footer. It will likely be set to "Para, para, para-dise" and I will likely get a smile on my face as the music fades to Stu Scott setting the stage for Magic, Wilbon and Jon Barry.

I can't hate the NBA. I can't hate Coldplay. And deep down inside, I don't think you can either.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The New, New NBA

Its clear that many NBA players (and fans) have the idea to put on exhibitions in order to make some money and stay sharp against elite competition. We have seen summer league teams go at it, NBA players making cameos in Asian exhibition games, and even guys showing up in playgrounds. Since there doesn't seem to be an end to the lockout in sight, here at The Black Converse, we have decided to take matters into our own hands. We call it the Rolling Thunder Basketball Revue. It is a completely crowd-funded, traveling basketball league, funded by those who care - The Fans.

The Premise:
A traveling league of teams made up of NBA players. Teams are chose playground style with the captains being selected from the All-NBA teams this past season. Captains would be Durant, Kobe, Rose, Howard, Wade, Westbrook, Gasol, Dirk, Amare, Joe Johnson (LeBron opts out so he can play with Wade so Joe Johnson becomes the last team captain...just because you're not on the All-NBA team, doesn't mean you can't get paid like you are) Each team must have at least 5 players, but they can pick as many as they want. This is where it gets interesting. Players aren't guaranteed a salary, but rather they earn their paycheck by winning games each weekend in this traveling basketball circus. The money that comes from the crowd-funded campaign goes into a big pool and it is divided up to be distributed after each game. Winners get 65% of the pool and losers get 35%. This means that the guys are actually playing for something each game. And it also means that team captains can control how much they can earn. Less players on their roster means less of a split.

The Season
It's a 25 week season, with teasm traveling to a new city each weekend. A potential list of cities has been put together and the top 25 cities in terms of crowd fund-raising will be chosen to host the games. All teams travel at the same time, to the same city and play two games each between Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Maximizing TV Viewers) Thats 50 games per team for the season. There is a tournament at the end of the season for the top 8 teams. This tournament takes place in Las Vegas and will be a single elimination tournament (yes this means less games, but higher'll see in a minute)

Each game has a purse that is divided up from the crowd-sourced funding, with the winners taking a mojority share. A large chunk of the money is set aside for a winner-take-all tournament in Las Vegas. The top 8 teams play each other, single elimination style, for a chance at the big prize. Presumably this sum of money would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million. We want it to be appealing. This would be a 4 day tournament. First day has 4 games, second day has two. The third day is like All-Star Saturday; three point contest, dunk contest, H-O-R-S-E, two-on-two tournament. Then the fourth day is the championship game.

If this is successful, we could add new wrinkles in future campaigns. Wrinkles like "Winner Stays" where the team that wins the tournament gets to keep all their players for the next year. Or they get to decide who the other team captains are, thereby splitting up potential dominant teams. Another fun wrinkle would be managing roster moves in a more fun-to-watch way. Roster moves could be made Real World/Road Rules Challenge style.*

Now to the funding tiers.

Base Level: $10 donation
Satisfaction of knowing that professional basketball will be played. And you get to follow along. Think of how much you enjoy two $5 footlongs. Now think about how much you will enjoy this. A much more fulfilling way to spend $10.

Fan Level: $150 donation
This guarantees you a seat at one of the games. It might be a good seat or it might be a nose-bleed. All tickets aside from the first couple rows will be put into a lottery. Donating $150 will buy you a ticket into that lottery.

Real Fan Level: $1,000 donation
This is where you buy the courtside seats. Only you can't buy them for yourself. Sure it's fun to see Spike Lee barking at the refs, or Jack Nicholson being Jack Nicholson. But if you're a true fan, you'll buy these seats and give them away to Make-A-Wish kids, veterans, cancer survivors, widows, other people who deserve a courtside seat.

Official Sponsor Level: $100,000 donation
This gets your logo somewhere on the court, in the stadium, in the telecast, or wherever else we can come up with for logos. Obviously the more you donate, the more visible it will be.

Godfather Level: $80,000,000 donation
This essentially buys you the entire weekend to sponsor how ever you want. Let's say Facebook wants to do something in San Jose, well this is the cost of getting everyone for that weekend. Let's say Google wants to broadcast this on YouTube, this is the cost. Fan Level donations will still be honored. This isn't a private party.

Godfather Part II Level: $160,000,000 donation
This gets you the Vegas Tournament. If you want it and think you can handle it. Don't disappoint us. Fan Level donations will still be honored. This isn't a private party.

Godfather Part III Level: $2,000,000,000 donation
You get to run the entire league, pick the cities, design the uniforms, and make it entertaining. Basically you get to be the Mark Cuban of the entire league. We realize this is a lot of money and probably shouldn't happen. But The Godfather Part III shouldn't have happened either, so it seems only fair that the option is available. Fan Level donations will still be honored. This isn't a private party.

There you have it. Now get out your wallets and lets see some basketball this fall.

*No voting occurs, but there is a faceoff to stay in the league. (televising this could also provide additional revenue) A free agent could challenge a player on any given team to a one-on-one battle. If the free agent wins, they are on the team. If these lose, they are off and cannot challenge again for that leg of the season, nor can the player that was challenged be challenged again for that leg. For example: Team Kobe has Mike Beasley. Well Derrick Williams thinks that he can take Beasley in a one-on-one match. He challenges him and wins. Williams is now on the team. Team Kobe also has Rudy Gay. Brandon Roy has been nursing his knee back to health and thinks he can take Gay. So he challenges him and loses. Gay remains on the team and has "immunity" for the remainder of that leg of the tour. Roy is not allowed to challenge anyone else for that leg of the tour as well. So you have to pick your battles. Hopefully these types of battles wouldn't just be between the guys at the bottom of the food chain. Maybe Gilbert Arenas thinks he can take Kobe and he wins. Kobe is out and has to sit out the remainder of that tour leg. So Kobe is a free agent now and decides to go after Wade, and he wins. Now Wade is out. (This could be kind of exciting, right?) trade could happen the same way. If a player wants onto another team, they must challenge someone and win. If they lose, they are off their team. If they win, the players swap teams. Another example; Pau Gasol decided he wants to play with his brother Marc, but they are on different teams. So Gasol challenges Joakim Noah and wins. Now those two swap teams. Then Bosh decides he wants to get on Wade and LeBron's team. So he challenges Kevin Love and loses. Bosh is now out of the league until the next leg and his team gets to pick up someone else.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Dating Jeff Tweedy

My first taste of Wilco was a couple of songs from Being There. I don't remember which songs they were because shortly after that, I found, and was overwhelmed by, the bootlegged Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (can you call it a bootleg if the band themselves releases it?). From there I dug back into Being There and to a lesser extent, Summerteeth. And then the Mermaid Avenue albums. In my world, until the release of A Ghost Is Born, this was Wilco. These albums had a long time to sink in and wear a groove into my soul. They were all part of the same idea from my perspective. To me, those will always be the albums that make up the heart of Wilco, no matter what else comes along. Those albums are my reference point, my Wilco Polaris.

My story likely mirrors that of many third generation Wilco fans. The first generation fans came over from Uncle Tupelo. They loved AM and Being There but consequently struggled with Summerteeth and YHF because they were too different, too experimental or poppy. The second generation of fans came on with Being There and Summerteeth. They didn't seem to have as much of a challenge accepting YHF and A Ghost Is Born, but have likely struggled with (the album) and Sky Blue Sky to some degree (which is considered by some generations of fans as the beginning of the Adult Contemporary phase* of Wilco).

So, Wilco has a history of its fans feeling betrayed and alientated. Lurking just under the surface of those feelings is a less documented history of Tweedy responding to those feelings -- by writng songs to those fans. These responses are usually heavily shrouded in metaphor or guised as a love songs, so most fans don't realize what is happening. But there was one instance where the curtain was lifted and the song was clearly directed at a group of fans; during the Sunken Treasure Northwest Solo Tour he did in 2006.

Here is a brief history of Tweedy writing to the his fans based on their relationship status at the time.

Being There - "Misunderstood"
This one is written to the Uncle Tupelo fans who were upset with the break-up of the alt-country pioneers, and bashed Wilco's first release, AM. He starts out by being nostalgic about being "back in your old neighborhood" where everything is better because it hasn't changed. He ends the song by thanking his fans for nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing at all.

Summerteeth - "Via Chicago"
Tweedy's relationship with his fans had been pretty tempered up to the release of Summerteeth. But I think he had a suspiscion that the album might not be well recieved since it was a sonic divergence from the previous albums which were heavier in the country-folk rock department. The song opens with a pretty little verse about him killing someone in a dream and then watching them bleed and die. The song wraps up with Tweedy exclaiming that he is searching for a home over and over before finally coming home. Home is obviously a metaphor for a place of comfort, for fans that are accepting.

Yankee Hotel Foxtrot - "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart"
This is not so thinly veiled. He comes right out and explains to his fans what his intent is with the experimental shift in this album. But he does so with a hint of regret when he asks, "What was I thinking when I let go of you?". The song ends with a whispered exlamation that he is the one who loves them. This is clearly an abusive relationship.

A Ghost Is Born - "At Least Thats What You Said"
Following a trip to rehab, Tweedy realizes he needs to try and work it out with his fans. This song tells us how that went, and its worth noting all the abusive, love/hate lyrics. "Maybe if I leave, you'll want me to come back home" and "You're irresistable when you get mad" shed some light on Tweedy's past actions towards his fans.

Sky Blue Sky - "Please Be Patinet With Me" and "Hate It Here"
One song is an owner's manual to a relationship with Tweedy and the other is a confessional abou thow much he needs his fans. When Tweedy's tongue turns into dust, it doesn't mean that he doesn't care, rather it means he's partially there. So, we are "gonna need to be patient" with him. Because after all, he hates it when the fans aren't around. There just isn't enough to do that will keep his mind of the fact that he needs them.

Wilco (the Album) - "You and I"
Things are finally starting to work out between Tweedy and the fans. Or at least it seems like they are becoming more amicable, despite sometimes feeling like strangers. Even though there are some misunderstandings and words get misconstrued, there is hope for this long and tortured relationship. There is the glimmer of something that can't be had by anyone but Tweedy and his fans.

The Whole Love - "Open Mind"
Well, its been a bumpy ride following (the Album). The fans have left and instead of begging them to come back, Tweedy simply expresses his regret of what could have been. "I could only dream of the dreams we'd share if you weren't so defiant, if you would let me be the one to open up your mind."

Tweedy realizes that "the longer you make music, there is no way you can compete with the early records". There are surely some fans holding that against him. But I think this time I'm going to number myself outside those fans and take his advice. Lets see what letting him open up my mind gets me.

*Sometimes known as the Starbucks phase, due to the album being sold in Starbucks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gladwell, Edvard Munch and Empty Museums

After consuming any Malcolm Gladwell article, book, quote, thought and interview, I find myself convinced that his argument is simply the way it is. I find his writing is compelling and convincing. So much so that if he were writing about why its good to drink 3 quarts of motor oil daily, I would have a tall glass of Castrol in my hands before I even finished reading. I also need about 2 hours after reading to follow every thought and idea that comes to me. Yesterday's article about NBA Franchises, their owners and Van Gogh paintings was no exception. In the interest of validating the mental energy used yesterday, I give to you my post-Gladwell thoughts.

All of the NBA's majority owners, with the exception of Michael Jordan, earned their money doing something entirely unrelated to basketball. This means that they are experts in whatever they did (most commonly running business that grew to have enormous value) before becoming owners. Thus, they own their teams like they've owned anything else in the past. With the exception of Michael Jordan. Jordan tends to be the owner who "can't get it right". This would require further analysis, but chances are he isn't doing it wrong, he's just owning from a completely unique perspective. I personally hope he continues to do it his way and mops the floor with all the accountants and micro-finance geeks, once the Heat have banked about 5 titles of course.

Tying this thought back into the comparison of NBA franchises to fine art, I would imagine that 95% of fine art collectors are not artists and that wealthy artists own art differently than non artists own art. I bet Damien Hirst, Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor and Jasper Johns have an entirely different philosophy about buying art than Warren Buffet, Paul Allen, Howard Schultz or Bill Gates do. Its probably not even a stretch to think that the artists actually decide the art they buy while the wealthy simply hire someone to buy art for them. Apply that thought back to the NBA and I think it starts to illuminate more nuances with the state of the league and the lockout.

Extending the metaphor to NBA teams being museums, collections of art, lead me to a new set of thoughts about the lockout. Imagine Prokorov owns The Scream by Munch, a Monet, 3 or 4 other expressionists, and a handful of paintings by painters you've never heard of. People obviously come to his museum because he has The Scream. Everyone wants to see that painting. Its not quite worth it for everyone to pay 90 bucks to come see that painting, but since he has a Monet and a couple other expressionist paintings hanging nearby, its worth the cost of admission. Bottom line is, you want a signature piece of art but you also can't have just one piece of art hanging in your museum. The collection has to be rounded out.

Most museums loan art to other museums for special exhibits, events, the heck of it. I believe there is usually a fee for acquiring some piece of art from another museum. This is how they make money. they invest in art hoping that people want to come see it at their museum and also that some other museum might want to borrow it at some point. The right investment can pay for itself 10 times over the course of a couple decades. Now back to Prokorov's collection. Which paintings is Prokorov most likely to be willing to loan out? He could probably make a killing of loaning The Scream, but then his museum is empty. So he's probably going to try and pawn off some of the expressionists that nobody will miss or his other filler pieces. On the rare exception that somebody offers him a kings ransom, he will loan out The Scream and hope that his patrons buy their tickets before finding out his signature piece is gone.

Back to real life Prokorov. His signature player, Deron Williams, is taking his talents to Turkey this fall (unless there is a miracle). Only real life Prokorov isn't getting a loaning fee. And if Williams gets hurt or doesn't come back, Prokorov is out about 16 million in cost, but there is no telling how much he might lose from people buying tickets to come see Williams. If museum owner Prokorov lost The Scream (last valued at about 82 million dollars) he would be out a whole lot more up front, but now has just as big of a hole to fill as real life Prokorov without Williams. Bottom line is that both Prokorovs stand to benefit from having signature pieces in their collection.

And that leaves us, as fans, in a good place as long as we can see our favorite works of art hanging somewhere. Sure we'd prefer that they were hanging in Brooklyn, Miami, Milwaukee or Salt Lake City, but if we have to tap into some Turkish TV channel to see them then that's okay. The real tragedy is when the art isn't hanging anywhere at all.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Kevin Durant's Solo Career

It starts with a taste of the stage without a backing band. It starts with a bandmate strealing your girlfriend. It starts with a need for artistic freedom. It starts with needing more of the spotlight. It starts with unloading the dead weight the third guitarist and that guy on the keyboard. It starts with the lead guitar player getting too much attention.

A solo career can start in a lot of different places, but it usually ends up passing through most of these places listed above. For Kevin Durant, he just took the last step towards a solo career last night. He had the bandmate stealing his girl (Westbrook submarining a trip to the Finals), he has had the need for artistic freedom (spot up shooting never was his game), he has need more spotlight (he won't admit this but I can't imagine the bright lights in OKC are giving his ego* enough of a tan), he has carried some dead weight (Harden was that third guitarist before he found his mojo), and we are all familiar with his lead guitarrist dominating the headlines in the Playoffs. Last night in Rucker Park, Kevin Durant just had his taste of a big stage, without his backing band. And from the looks lof things, he liked it.

Personally, I'm excited to see where this solo career goes. I hope he doesn't take it to Lithuania and start making weird euro-pop. I hope he doesn't team up with Pacquiao's producer in the Phillipines. Will he be Thom Yorke and balance a solo career and a successful band? Will he be Jeff Tweedy and moonlight occasionally? Will he take the Beyonce approach and leave the rest of OKC's Children high and dry? I see him a bit like a Justin Timberlake with last night being his Super Bowl XXXVIII. He had a solo album out before, but the wardrobe malfunction thrust him into the spotlight.

Kevin Durant, here's your solo record deal. Don't screw it up.

*Yes Kevin Durant has an ego. You don't make it to the NBA without an Ego. Tim Duncan has an Ego. Steve Nash has an Ego. They may not be the same Ego that Marbury has or that Kobe is packing, but they are Egos. And Egos have needs.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Another Pointless List Post By Spike, Using The Word Pantheon Too Much

There was talk around these parts that 2010 was a pantheon year, in league with the 2001s, 1989s, 1967s, and other banner years yet to be explored by TBC. Only time will tell how that in-the-moment assessment fares. But it got me thinking. And by now you know that me thinking = lists.

This list? Well, it starts with this thought: I can’t remember the last year that had releases from so many acts I concurrently loved and anticipated like this year. Yes, there have been years with music that, at the time and later on, resonated more deeply or hit harder or even I liked better. But the same-year output of so many artists I love is pretty staggering, just from a pure "what are the chances?" standpoint (I will let Charlie handle the statistical answer to "what are the chances"). Let’s look at albums released in 2011 by bands that have Pantheon-level albums in my collection (new albums in bold, Pantheon album[s] in parentheses and italics). Yes, Pantheonability is arguable. But this is my blog. They are at least arguably Pantheon for me. And we start at the top, with an artist who has a lot of all-time entries for me.

Neil Young // A Treasure (After the Goldrush, Harvest, Tonight’s The Night, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, On The Beach, Freedom, Harvest Moon, Sleeps With Angels, Déjà vu, Ragged Glory, etc) This is a release of long-lost recordings, so it's not necessarily new and it might be a way of coping with the fact that Le Noise was better in concept than in execution. But the fact remains: this band was on fire and Neil was loving his life. It's not knocking on the door of the hall of fame. But it's a solid release.

Joe Henry // Reverie (Tiny Voices, Scar, Civilians, Trampoline, Blood From The Stars) Henry is calling it a ragged, all-acoustic affair. And I can't wait. While Blood From The Stars is, for me, his weakest recent album, one must also note that it still made the parenthetical italicized club, so that's saying something.

Gillian Welch // The Harrow & The Harvest (Time [The Revelator], Soul Journey, David Rawlings Machine) How dare I ignore her first two records? Well, how dare any fan gravitate towards a specific epicenter of an artists' career arc? The Harrow & The Harvest is to Time (The Revelator) as the album Ryan Adams' fans have been pining for is to Heartbreaker. They feel like brother/sister to me.

Megafaun // s/t (Gather, Form, & Fly) Their last EP Heretofore was quite good, but I think Megafaun is built for the long player so the songs have a bigger family, more room to breathe, a place to stretch their legs. I might be irrationally expecting too much.

Bon Iver // Bon Iver, Bon Iver (For Emma, Forever Ago) How do you follow up an instant classic? Well, if you want to do well on TBC, you throw out the template (see also: Swell Season, Kid A) and do something else. This record doesn't sound much like the much-adored For Emma, but for that voice (physical and literary) that is unmistakable and inescapable and undeniable.

Radiohead // King Of Limbs (OK Computer, The Bends, Kid A, Amnesiac, Hail To The Thief, In Rainbows) There's nothing new I can add to the Radiohead As Saviors Of Music pile or the Is The New Record Great Or Even Good pile or even the Did Radiohead Jump The Shark pile. Because we all have our questions and loyalties. I will continue to follow the boys. That is all.

Low // C’mon (Things We Lost In The Fire, Secret Name, The Great Destroyer) Alan Sparhawk has managed to have one of the best singles every year for the past, what, four years? And "Try To Sleep" is no different. Great record from a band that deserves a lot better.

Wilco // The Whole Love (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Mermaid Ave, Being There, Summerteeth, Sky Blue Sky) Another band that doesn't need more words dedicated to all its question marks. Again, I will follow until they give me reason not to.

Iron & Wine // Kiss Each Other Clean (The Creek Drank The Cradle, Our Endless Numbered Days) It bothers me that I have suddenly found myself sitting in Cliche Class on the I Liked Their Earlier Stuff Better row.

Steve Earle // I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive (El Corazon, The Mountain, Transcendental Blues) Like with Elvis Costello, I am in the seemingly rare I Like His Mid-to-Late-Period Material Best camp, where a lot of loyalists fawn over the early records. This record, however, changed that dramatically. Best in years.

David Bazan // Strange Negotiations (Curse Your Branches, It’s Hard To Find A Friend, Achilles Heel) Honesty will take you a long way.

Lucinda Williams // Blessed (Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Essence, World Without Tears) Like Earle, I have followed all of her records for a long time, but this is the best since WWT by quite a bit.

Foo Fighters // Wasting Light (The Colour And The Shape, maybe the next two…) Say what you will about the formula or Nirvana Was Better or boorrrring. But this record is tough. And that second album is full of amazing, whether or not you want to admit it because it sold well and had some hits.

Paul Simon // So Beautiful or So What (Graceland, The Rhythm of the Saints, You’re The One, plus S&G) Weird record, but I have always loved what Randy Newman said about Simon years ago (referring to Graceland), and this is paraphrasing, "What I love about Paul Simon is that he is still grasping for the cup, trying to blow people away, trying new things, killing it." Simon has kept searching rather than coast like many of his contemporaries.

Ron Sexsmith // Long Player Late Bloomer (Cobblestone Runway, Retriever) Afraid to say that one listen to the single got me a little gloss-averse. I will go back.

REM // Collapse In to Now (Life’s Rich Pageant, Document, Automatic For The People, Monster) Much has been made of the demise of REM, but Accelerate was a step in the right direction. Will they keep stepping?

The Strokes // Angles (Is This It, Room On Fire) The fact that the band, before it was even released, were talking about how they were excited for the next record was not promising.

See what I'm saying? Whether or not these new records are great or boring or interesting or retreads or revolutions, it is pretty amazing to me how many albums are coming out that have older brothers on Rushmore.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Date with Washed Out

Its been nearly 18 since I last went out with Merriweather Post Pavillion. In case you forgot how that turned out, it lasted about 4 dates (the last three being very difficult and forced) and we haven't seen each other since.

This week, unsuspectedly, a new album came into my life -- the latest release by Washed Out. I will admit that the cover art caught me, struck me as a little "She Wants Revenge". The album seemed dateable, worthy of the same treatment I gave to MPP. Many folks had determined that I should love this album -- that I should think she was funny, attractive, intelligent, the whole package. So I asked her out for a long lunch, at some place nice but ot too nice. Here's how it went.

(During Eyes Be Closed)
This isn't too bad. I thought I might be more repulsed right at the beginning.

Am I that jaded by blind-hype dates?

(During Amor Fati)
If I wanted to listen to this kind of music, why wouldn't I just call up one of my old flames, The Smiths or The Cure, who are better anyway?

Actually there is a little bit of Duran Duran in here. Oh Duran Duran...I wonder if I still have her number?

(During Soft)
Fading in and out of this conversation.

Hearing more of the conversation on the table next to me than whatever she is saying. But I do think she is nice.

She at least isn't overbearing and too eccentric for her own good.

(During Far Away)
I don't know why I am thinking about Sneaker Pimps but I am. I never think about Sneaker Pimps. Is this a good sign?

I can't even remember how that Sneaker Pimps song goes...or can I? I know its something "da da da..Underground..." Is there a six in there? Six underground? Sixth Avenue? No, that's The Wallflowers. Bringing Down The Horse. I always liked that as an album title. I wonder where that album ended up. I remember leaving it in my mom's car once upon a time.

Okay Chuck, get it together. Focus a little more and give this a fair shake.

(During Before)
I'm kind of liking this now.

Don't get carried away, its not to second date status yet but there is a nice hip-hop element here. I feel like I'm am in a club on South Beach during the summer, at 3 A.M. I've never been to South Beach though. Maybe its more like being in a club on Tron, which would mean there is a chance the Tron: Legacy girl would be there. Focus. Tron isn't real. That girl is an actress. Maybe I'd run into here on South Beach.

I still can't believe the Heat lost. #$@%^ Jason Terry. Even his name makes me mad.

(During You and I)
Am I in Urban Outfitters?

(During Within and without)
I really need to focus. After all, I am paying for this date.

Wait a minute, why do I keep agreeing to things like this? I am way too cynical.

I feel like Washed Out deserves another spin just because I am so negative.

(During A Dedication)
This is exactly how I ended up on 4 dates with Merriweather Post Pavillion. I thought it I was the problem, that things didn't work out because I lacked commitment.

I don't mind this song. Its got a good lo-fi vibe going on.
Wait, its over? That was it?

I really want to go back and listen again just to make sure I didn't miss anything...even though I know I didn't miss anything.

I didn't go back and listen again. I decided to go hang out with my friends Gillian Welch and Jason Isbell. Much more rewarding. They are always good for a good time and I never end up questioning why I am with them.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

If Bon Iver, Bon Iver is a place then I'm not there yet

In some interview I heard with Justin vernon he wanted the title of the new Bon Iver album to be Bon Iver, Bon Iver -- written like a city and a state -- rather than calling it a self titled album. He carries that metaphor over into the song names creating fictional places like Hinnom, TX and Lisbon, OH. This metaphor work really well conceptually and is something I have never considered applying to music. Most artforms are actual physical places like sculptures, paintings, architecture. Other artforms create places like literature and poetry. Music would fall into that category. It creates a space you inhabit mentally.

As I make my way through multiple rounds of experiencing Bon Iver, Bon Iver, I am not sure I have arrived quite yet. Each listen, each song gets me a little closer.

At first, I'm not sure where I am. I'm in Perth. It feels familiar, like I've been there before but it has a newness to it. In Minnesota, WI can feel the large swaths of farmland giving way to smaller plots of land and small homesteads. see farmland giving way to the outskirts of town. Around Holocene, the city lights are glowing just over the horizon.

At this point I think I am getting closer, but the problem is I just don't know how to get there. There is no beaten path to Bon Iver, Bon Iver. There are trail markers. And I am alone on this path, forced to make my way on my own -- if I so chose. I climb the Towers to try and get my bearings. From up here it looks so close. I can feel its warmth.

I climb down and press on. Once inside Michicant, I start to get lost. Not in a bad way. More like the way Ulysses, Pete and Delmar lose their way when they come across the sirens singing in the river. I may have even slipped into a dream, because Hinnom, TX feels like I waking up and trying to shake the dreams out of my head.

Now I'm in Wash. It definitely feels like a state but I think its more of a temporary state, like I'm cleaning up in preparation for something bigger. The piano chords is the water dripping in the background and the violin is the soft towel around my shoulders. Wash. gives way to Calgary. I don't know when it happened but I find myself indoors now. The room is big but its mostly empty. I wander, exploring. Looking behind columns, peeking into doorways. I am slowly drawn down a corridor that is getting brighter and brighter, and more narrow. Finally I step through into a large green field. My shoes are gone from Wash. and I can feel the grass. Is this Bon Iver, Bon Iver? No, its Lisbon, OH. Wondering if I had arrived seems to have disoriented me.

By now I am in Beth/Rest. It doesn't feel like a destination. Its more of an explanation. I long to be somewhere else, but Perth feels so far away as does Lisbon, OH. I am in Beth/Rest. I am nowhere else. I can be nowhere else. I wait. I don't know when I am, if I'm in the past or the future. But I am getting a better sense of where I am. I am in Beth/Rest.

I come back around to the beginning, to Perth. The explanation seems clear now. I was in Bon Iver, Bon Iver the entire time.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Both Teams Played Hard

It was a good game, both teams played hard. Both teams played hard, my man. Both teams played hard. Both teams played hard, God bless and good night.

-Rasheed Wallace

I like post game press conferences. I like trying to name the reporters asking questions while at the same time convincing myself that I don't have a sports problem. For anyone wondering, I'm about 50% this post season. I need to spend the off season working on my local newspapers.

But sometimes I wish all press conferences were like Rasheed's because then we could just move on to playing the next game. Instead, we get canned responses and overreactions. We had Dirk saying that this was a huge momentum swing for the Mavs. Of course he would say that. He has to. They have to believe that as a team to try and get a leg up. Of course LeBron blames the defense. He wouldn't dare say he bailed out the Mavs defense by taking 26 footers for the last 5 minutes of the game. Of course the Mavs said that Wade's pose after his three pointer in front fo their bench motivated them. Of course coach Spoelstra says his team will respond. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

Nor should this series being tied at 1 game a piece going back to Dallas. There was a moment when I was expecting Miami to sweep somewhere between 9 minutes left in the game and Wade's 3 pointer. I even had a Dwyane F. Wade tweet loaded up to send before deciding to take a more even tempered approach. But we all knew this would end up being a back and forth series.

After Game 1 we were planning parade routes in Miami. After Game 2 we were on the phone with the engravers spelling Nowitzki. I think they hand out the MVP after Game 3, so be sure to stick around for the post game.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Next Dylan Revisited

Nobody will ever have a life that mirrors Bob Dylan with his influence, longevity, relevance and success. Likewise, nobody will have the cannon of apocryphal tales that surround the persona that is Bob Dylan. This is a series of articles that compare different prominent pop culture figures that, at some point in their career, have paralled Dylan. The original Next Dylan ramble can be found here.

Early on in his career, Dylan was the folk music darling. He was connected to the past legends including a relationship with the aged Woody Guthrie. He had a very successful debut into the recording industry and his fans lived and died by his every word and saw him as a messiah who had come to deliver them. He may not have been pinned as a phenom from an early age, but he definitely burst onto the scene relatively young and had immediate success. Whether he had sold his soul or was given his gifts, he was undoubtedly talented beyond measure.

I wasn't around in July of 1965 when Dylan plugged in at the Newport Folk Festival, a stones throw from New York City, and went electric. But I know it has gone down in folklore as being an alientating and momentus event. I'm not sure if Pete Seeger really had an axe and was considering cutting the microphone cable and if he really thought that Dylan was disgracing folk music by going electric. But I do know that people booed Dylan, that he was called a traitor, that his artistic decisions were questioned. Everyone had a comment and a critique about his decision and for years, it would be the moment that defined his career.

There’s no way, with hindsight, I would’ve ever called up Larry, called up Magic, and said 'Hey look, let’s get together and play on one team.' - Michael Jordan

Fast forward to July of 2010. A similar parallel develops just outside of New York City at the Greenwich Boys and Girls Club. A young, talented superstar alienated his fan base and set off a chain reaction of responses and accusations that paralleled those of Dylan going electric. The lore behind his decision is more defined by the media coverage than first hand accounts, but it has still managed to find a way into our pop culture cannon.

Dylan went electric and LeBron made a decision. Dylan went on to release Highway 61 Revisited that has one of the best songs ever written and was the ultimate response to the backlash following his treason. LeBron has gone on to have a fantastic post season and has gone a long way to quiet his critics. And we are about to find out if he has a "Like A Rolling Stone" waiting for us in the Finals.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Bibby Fined By Bulls For Defensive Play

Breaking Story: Mike Bibby fined by the Chicago Bulls for playing defense.

ESPN's Greg Stink reports that Heat guard Mike Bibby was caught on video moving his feet on the defensive end of the court and keeping his body between Derrick Rose and the basket. The Bulls have fined Bibby $125,000.00. Sources say Bibby will not appeal the fine and he issued an apology through his agent this afternoon.

"It wasn't until after the game, when I was out of the heat of the battle, and I saw the tape that I realized how disruptive my actions were. My coaches have been telling me for years that defense is something I shouldn't play. I don't know what got into me last night and I sincerely apologize and I promise that it won’t happen again.”

Bibby also said through his agent that he didn’t expect any further action from the league and that the fine from the Chicago Bulls should be seen as sufficient punishment.

Later, after the media was let into the practice facility following the Heat’s practice, Bibby addressed the media further on the issue. He referenced the Lakers and their recent string of post-season success with an over-the-hill point guard occasionally playing some textbook defense. His point was that just because someone happened to catch his defense on tape, upload it to YouTube and then share it across Twitter and Facebook, doesn’t mean his offense was any less egregious than Derek Fisher’s undocumented defensive play. When asked about the fine as a deterrent in the future Bibby responded by saying that the culture of defense in the league is too engrained and will likely persist even with fines and public backlash.

Bibby’s later comments will surly draw repercussions from the league but he also raises some intriguing points. Surely the league will look into how to curb this recent spark in defense before fans start tuning out in exchange for something more open to offense and scoring.

Wire Tapped Conversation

The following conversation was leaked by an as yet unnamed government operative who happened to be wiretapping either Chris Bosh (suspicion that he is actually an alien?) or Carlos Boozer (just trying to deport for the hell of it). It occurred someplace in South Beach last Saturday night.

BOSH: Hey, Booz.
BOOZ: Hey, Bosh.
BOSH: (awkward silence) Look, yo. I got to clear the air.
BOOZ: Sure. And why are you suddenly talking like you're some urban playground dude?
BOSH: Not sure.
BOOZ: Fine. Continue.
BOSH: OK. So I need to clear the air– when you referred to the Miami Heat as the Big 2, that kind of hurt my feelings. I mean, I make as much money as they do!
BOOZ: Ah, man, Bosh. I'm sorry. I didn't think you would take it THAT way...
BOSH: What do you mean.
BOOZ: I mean, I know and everybody knows that you make as much money as they do. You're undeniable that way.
BOSH: (blushing) Aw, thanks, Booz.
BOOZ: Yeah. What I meant was: they are the Big 2 of SKILLS, of SUPERSTARDOM, of PLAYING BASKETBALL. Not money, Bosh.
BOSH: (relieved) Oh good. I thought maybe you were trying to insinuate that I don't get paid like they do.
BOOZ: Never.
BOSH: Man, I'm glad we talked about this. Now look there's this other thing...
BOOZ: Yeah?
BOSH: I was thinking...
BOOZ: Go on, Boshie.
BOSH: What if, tomorrow, we just sorta let each other go off. Shut up the naysayers who are saying we're soft and overpaid and not producing. Just a gentlemen's agreement. You get your 20-10. I get mine.
BOOZ: Interesting.
BOSH: I just think it's mutually beneficial.
BOOZ: It is. It is. But I'm gonna need at least 15 boards just to shut up Noah.
BOSH: I'll give you 15 boards. You give me 3o points...I'm a scorer. Ight?
BOOZ: Ight.
BOSH: (pauses) What about who wins?
BOOZ: (waits, watches Bosh for a reaction) You know we don't care about the W's. Just the GW's. (laughs maniacally as if he has just dunked on a role player when the game is already out of hand)
BOSH: (laughs)
BOOZ: (laughs more)
BOSH: (tries to laugh more than Boozer, gets tired) Look, we get paid the same for an L or a W. And we both know neither of us is gonna win or lose a game for any team, much less these two.
BOOZ: So...we on? 20-15 for me? 30-10 for you?
BOSH: We on. (shakes hand)
BOTH: (letting go, wringing hands gingerly with overdramatic winces)
BOSH: You know I played more than you in the Olympics, though, right?
BOOZ: Huh?
BOSH: Nothing.

Friday, May 20, 2011


First of all, the headline is pretty funny.

The man is known for many things– his iconic and unstoppable skyhook, the goggles, championships at UCLA, MVP awards in the NBA, appearances in Airplane! and Full House– none of which are his absolute contentedness. It's a headline in the vein of "Sky Is Above Us" and "Music Has Notes." It doesn't exactly shatter our idea of Kareem or make us feel like we're learning something new. It's a little more like what my friend used to say about listening to female artists like Sarah Mclachlan and Natalie Merchant; he always felt like he'd hear their songs and think, "Awww...what's wrong now, Natalie?"

As a kid, I read Kareem's autobiography, the second one, entitled Kareem. I was a fan of Showtime. I can rattle off the names of the role players on those Laker teams. I remember Kareem's big farewell season, when teams were gifting him rocking chairs and stuff. And as the brother of somebody who died of cancer, I have deep sympathy for his battle with leukemia. So I come from a place of at least moderate measuredness.

I get that Kareem is one of the Lakers' and the NBA's and the history of basketball's greatest players. Dominant at every level, a crazy specimen in both his peaks and his longevity. He's way more than a Hall of Famer. He's in the argument for most dominant ever (the argument only, though, because it's still Jordan) I will not argue that.

And that's precisely why this statue tantrum is so crazy. Are all the other accolades not enough? Was being recognized as an All-Star NINETEEN times a little condescending? Were you not awarded your SIX MVP trophies with enough fawning adulation? Were the SIX championships and TWO Finals MVP trophies not given enough weight in the public eye? Is it feeling a little snubby to have only won THREE NCAA titles and who knows how many All-NBA and All Defensive team spots? Is the fact that the NCAA banned the dunk primarily because of your dominance not quite outstanding enough?

Kareem has been honored plenty for his playing, which he stopped doing 22 years ago. Now, I'm not going to argue that there shouldn't be a statue of Kareem outside the Staples Center. That's not the point. Magic has one. Chick Hearn has one. I think Kareem meant as much to basketball as those two greats did.

The point is: since when are we entitled to statues? Since when does anyone DESERVE a statue? Especially while we're still alive? David slew Goliath and got a statue in Florence, Italy hundreds of years later; not even the place where he downed the giant. Beethoven only got a lousy bust that goes on top of your grandma's piano; the least she could do is dust it.

Want a statue today? Commission it yourself, Kareem. You've gotten more recognition and opportunities and money in your post-playing career than most of us will ever see in a lifetime. You're a legend. Even your biggest critics have to admit that. Now stop acting like a jealous toddler, EXPECTING a statue and move on with your life.

Kareem has a history of shoulder chips, abrasiveness, and moaning about opportunities that haven't been his, mistreatment, and more. Some of the chips are probably justified. But not the statue tantrum.


Game 2 of both the Bulls/Heat and the Thunder/Mavs series' have featured key players and all-stars banished to the bench in the 4th quarter. Boozer, Noah and Westbrook. This got me thinking, which albums, that have been on rotation in the first half of 2011 are at risk of being benched and who might be stealing their playing time.

In order to qualify for a shocking benching, they must have performed at a high level throughout the season, or at least have been highly touted. In otherwords, its not bad to be on this list right now, just don't be on the bench in the 4th quarter.

First half All-Stars who could be at risk of being unseated:
Iron and Wine
The Decemberists
The Low Anthem
Wye Oak
Bill Callahan
Jessica Lea Mayfield
Paul Simon

Albums coming up that I expect a lot from/could get some play in the 4th quarter:
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Wilco 8th LP
Richard Buckner (making a long overdue return to my radar)
My Morning Jacket
Jane's Addiction (with Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio)
Fiona Apple
Avett Brothers
Death Cab For Cutie

One of the things Blake Griffin said he took away from his rookie campaign was being able to pace himself. He would play all out in the first quarter and first half of games and then end up with nothing in the tank when the 4th quarter rolled around. As a takeaway lesson from his rookie season, he said he was going to learn how to pace himself and save something for the 4th quarter so that he could close out games with the same intesity that he used in the 1st quarter.

The same could be said for artists planning an album release. Sometimes you're so excited about what you've just done in the studio that you want to get it out to the public. If you want to end up playing in crunch time, making year end lists and garnering editorial praise, sometimes its better to pace yourself.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Life or Death or Basketball

As The Black Converse lies writhing on the ground, mere breaths away from a finally being being freed from this cruel world, there are some around the NBA wondering if their fate is somehow running parallel to this blog. There are others (cough...Spike...cough) who are wondering if their fate on this blog is tied to an NBA roster. Indeed it is a strange time for all things basketball and blogs.

In a matter of weeks we might see the passing of an entire generation of champions. 17 of the last 21 championships are in the hands of Phil Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal and the Spurs. All may have had their last rodeo. Or they might be back like one sequel too many in an action series, complete with "I'm getting too old for this @#$%" quips and all the grunts and groans that come with aged bodies. Its also fair to say that these upcoming Conference Finals may contain 17 of the next 21 champions. Or they may fail to yield put anyone ahead of Adam Morrison on the NBA rings ladder.

It’s this uncertainty that makes sports so great. We actually get to see it happen rather than some grainy YouTube video or contradicting third hand accounts or Hollywood reinterpretations.

I'm a homer. I probably always will be. I like all things Heat and resist most things not-Heat. But I am trying to enjoy how things are playing out in these playoffs. I was fixed on every Lakers game that "was headed for a terrible wreck, and like good tragedy it’s what we expect*." I found myself, along with Spike, being able to fully enjoy Chris Paul like we were listening to Dashboard Confessional — in a sound proof, hip proof room and turned all the way up, singing along. I have loved the tension and brilliance between Westbrook and Durant and I can't help but feel like they are going to give us a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot before painfully splitting up a la Tweedy and Bennett. I have especially enjoyed seeing Wade and LeBron play beautiful basketball without the weight of the world on their shoulders. I have unexpectedly enjoyed Memphis' improbable run like I unexpectedly enjoyed seeing Animal Collective live (and with the same parallel of not being interested in anything else the Grizzlies ever do).

*Josh Ritter "Thin Blue Flame"

I had a big long post about how the Heat have done things their way, regardless of the second guessing and criticism, and have been successful in doing it. But I felt like that took away from the spirit of excitement around every game, every night. Maybe LeBron can't do it alone. Maybe Wade can't either. Maybe winning a championship is such a heavy task that it can't be done alone. I'm struggling to find a player who won it all with a team of 4th graders. Heck, Frodo couldn't even throw a ring into a volcano without help. Who really cares? This isn't life or death. It's basketball. There is a month of basketball left this season, and regardless of who is playing I am going to enjoy the hell out of it.

Especially because the Lakers are out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

10 Things I Expect To Happen In The Next 6 Weeks

1 - That I will like the New Fleet Foxes record more than I will like the Western Conference Finals.
I messed up when I wasn't patient enough with Fleet Foxes last album and I wrote it off as "too boring." And the WCF will probably be Lakers/Spurs. Now thats boring.

2 - Derrick Rose will regret gunning for the MVP.
This might mean Wade and LeBron eviscerating him on the night he receives the trophy or it might mean he will run out of gas halfway through the second round (see also the 1987-88 Bulls). Don't count out Dwight Howard's elbows taking issue with it as well. We'll need a bloody face at some point to add some drama to the ABC promos.

3 - Mark Cuban on Shark Tank is going to be more successful than the Mavs postseason run.
And no, Shark Tank doesn't look good.

4 - If Heat/Knicks happens, we will see Jeff Van Gundy swinging on someone's leg again...somehow.
You think this sounds crazy now, but the apocalypse is already upon us.

5 - There will be one series in the Eastern Conference playoffs that is less exciting to watch than Butler/UConn.
And it will be Magic/Hawks.

6 - We will see Wade's 6th gear again.
We saw it at Marquette in 2003, in Dallas in 2006 and we'll see it somewhere in the Conference Finals. (Yes, this means I'm picking the Heat into the Finals...but you already knew that)

7 - OKC is about to hit their ceiling.
However far the Thunder make it this year, will be about as far as they ever make it. I will probably eat my words on this one, but I kind of get the feeling that they will become some hybrid version of the Magic and the Hawks in the Western Conference. They've made their step forward and we keep thinking they will make another leap but it never happens.

8 - Pop vs The Zenmaster will be the most cerebral coaching matchup ever.
So cerebral that they will actually take over Duncan's and Kobe's bodies at some point in the 7th game and finish the series by proxy.

9 - Everybody is going to win this year.
I mean the fans. This is likely the best Playoffs we have had since the 90's.

10 - Spike will spend more time re-writing lyrics for his Star Wars themed The Band cover band than he will watching playoff basketball.
Thats what happens when you're nursing a broken basketball heart. Thanks, Deron. "Moisture Harvest (Has Surely Come)" about moisture farmers on Tatooine doesn't quite do it for me. But I can't help but think that "It Makes No Difference" was on a mixtape Anakin sent to Padme before he knew she had died.