Friday, December 31, 2010

Songs of 2010 - "I Think Ur A Contra"

And no, I have no real idea what that means. I just like the song, a lot, even if the album left me somewhat cold.

Songs of 2010 - "The Wig He Made Her Wear"

Two versions:

The second, being a "webisode" produced by the band:

It's just a great, great song, the highlight of their 2010 album, "The Big To-Do." I'm just sorry they didn't play it the night I saw them in Chicago!

Songs of 2010 - "Crystalised"

Another 2009 song, but one that I didn't really get into until 2010 - "Crystalised," by The xx.

Songs of 2010 - "Lasso"

And now, we're getting down to the real nitty-gritty: the songs that always perked me up when I was down, the songs I turned up loud when they came on the radio, and the songs that most frequently made it onto my MP3 playlists.

The first of those is "Lasso," by Phoenix.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Songs of 2010 - "Kick Drum Heart"

I could have chosen a lot of different Avett Bros. songs for the best-of list this year, even though none of them were released in 2010. But I didn't discover the duo until last Fall, and chose this song for two reasons - it came close to being released in 2010, and it comes as close as anything I've seen to capturing the exuberance and joy of their live shows. I was lucky enough to see them in April during their visit to Sacramento, and hope to see them again someday.

Songs of 2010 - "No Better Than This"

Ol' John had gotten a little boring on his recent releases, but "No Better Than This" was a great comeback - even though it sounded old, it never sounded less than vital.

And I don't know if the woman dancing in this video was planned or spontaneous, but either way, it works beautifully.

Songs of 2010 - "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

As I have noted elsewhere, I really like the sound of this band, which is encapsulated quite neatly in this song.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Songs of 2010 - "Hey Ahab"

"The Union" was surely the best album that either Elton John or Leon Russell has released in over 30 years. While I'd still like to spend more time with it before I render a final opinion, there's no question that "Hey Ahab" is a terrific song - one of the best of the year.

Songs of 2010 - "Flume"

Peter Gabriel's album of cover versions, "Scratch My Back," was a bit of a mixed bag, but at least three songs were spectacular - Elbow's "Mirrorball," Talking Heads' "Listening Wind," and this one - Bon Iver's "Flume."

And for comparison, the original:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Songs of 2010 - "Silver Rider"

It was a pretty damn good year for the old white guys, as I like to call them. John Hiatt, Elton John & Leon Russell, John Mellencamp...and Robert Plant.

Robert made a great album with a host of southern and folk luminaries, and here he is joined by the great Patty Griffin on a terrific live version of "Silver Rider," my favorite song on his album "Band of Joy."

Songs of 2010 - "XXXO"

M.I.A.'s "Maya" was another album I didn't quite get into like its immediate predecessor ("Kala"). But "XXXO" jumped out of the earbuds on first listen, and after six months is still sounding great. And it's bound to sound great one, five and ten years from now.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Songs of 2010 - "Get Downtown"

A year ago at this time, I'd never heard a single song by the Drive-By Truckers. Now, they may be my favorite band.

Their 2010 album, "The Big To-Do," was not their best, but it was 3/4 of a great album. The strength of the band is that they have two terrific songwriters and singers, Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley, whose styles are very different but complement each other perfectly.

This won't be the only DBT song on the list, but we'll start with a great Cooley rocker - "Get Downtown."

Songs of 2010 - "We End Up Together"

"Challengers" was one of my favorite albums of the last decade, but the new one, "Together," didn't quite click for me the same way. I'm still holding out hope, because it took a LONG time for "Challengers" to sink in.

But no matter how you cut it, "We End Up Together" is a great song, and a perfect example of what the band does so well.

This clip was filmed at The Vic Theater in Chicago, where I was lucky enough to catch Drive-By Truckers in April. More on that later.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Songs of 2010 - "My Mother and My Sweetheart"

This is actually a song that was released last year, but I didn't get around to buying the album until this year - Loudon Wainwright III's "High Wide and Handsome - The Charlie Poole Project." On the album, Loudon sings it, but the only version on YouTube is the one above, with Rufus handling the vocal with Loudon playing guitar. I don't know what it is about this song, but it never failed to bring a smile to my face - even though it is a bit of a sad one.

Songs of the Year 2010

From now until the end of the year, I'm going to be posting videos of what became my favorite songs of the year.

I think 2010 was the year that I finally allowed the MP3 revolution to overtake the way I listen to music - I've always been an album man, but now the bulk of my listening is on my MP3 player (usually when I'm running), and I find that for the most part I lack the patience to listen through an album in one sitting. That makes me a bit sad, because I think there are still a lot of great albums out there, but when I'm out running, what I really want is variety.

So instead of listing my top albums of the year, I'm going to share my favorite songs - the songs that defined the year for me.

Leading off, the great Johnny Cash, from what I assume will be the last Rick Rubin collaboration that gets released. "Ain't No Grave," the terrific title track from American VI.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

"Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)"

And as always, the calendar concludes with the greatest Christmas song of the rock era. Darlene Love, singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)."

Merry Christmas, everyone. I hope your holiday is filled with joy and good cheer.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Island

For all of those who are suffering with winter weather...a little Hawaiian slack key guitar. Jim "Kimo" West doing a take on "White Christmas."

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


No, not because of the holidays...

No, not because today is my last day of work until January 3...

No, not because I'm just generally in a good mood...

Why? Because I was able to get my email inbox down to 155.

Perhaps a sad commentary, but one which still makes me feel pretty darn good.

Man in Black, on White

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure this version really works. But it is Johnny Cash, and that in and of itself makes it worth watching.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Legends Roamed the Earth...

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra, turning in a less-than-serious version of "Marshmallow World." Of course, with a song like that it's hard to keep a straight face.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"The Christmas Song"

Entering the home stretch now...with Rosemary Clooney, singing the all-time classic Christmas song - in my not-so-humble opinion.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Smooth as Silk

Johnny Mathis, singing the perennial classic "I'll Be Home For Christmas," including the rarely heard first verse.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


I just happened to be channel surfing the other night, and landed on Turner Classic Movies just as this tribute was running.

An amazing piece of work, and the perfect pairing of material and song - in this case, Sophie Hunger's "Headlights."

A Little Country Christmas

The great Chet Atkins shows how it's done.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Once and Future King

I don't hesitate in calling this one of the two greatest rock and roll Christmas songs ever written - thank you Lieber and Stoller!

But as David McGee once wrote, the King was spitting fire back in those days, and this song was no exception.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It Wouldn't Be Christmas Without A Little Andy Williams

When I was growing up, we wore out a copy of "The Andy Williams Christmas Album." Side One was the secular songs, and on Side Two you had the religious classics. Here is one of the latter, Andy turning in a great rendition of "O Holy Night."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oh That We Could Always See Such Spirit Through The Year

A very nice version of the Vince Guaraldi Classic, "Christmas Time Is Here," by Mike Conley and the Beef Manhattans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Little Drummer Dylan

This is that rare instance when the video is actually more interesting than the performance of the song.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ricky does "The Christmas Song"

He may have been a teen heartthrob, but he was that rare one with talent - and a lot of it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


The great Otis Redding tackles one of the all-time great Christmas songs. As you might suspect, he does a pretty fair job with it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Bonus II...A Merry Dexter Christmas

A Holiday Bonus...She, Him, Conan

"The Big Chill"

Make no bones about it - I love this movie. I've seen it so many times now that I have most of the dialogue memorized, and begin to smile even before the funniest lines are read onscreen.

The movie has a 7.1 rating on the Internet Movie Database, which is good but not great. It received mostly positive reviews upon its release, but some leading critics - Roger Ebert included - thought it mediocre. Rock critic Dave Marsh also blasted it at one point or another, mostly criticizing the film's sense of nostalgia and the shallow politics of its characters.

Marsh's criticisms are somewhat valid - to this day, I cringe a little bit when Harold Cooper (Kevin Kline) makes his comment about there having been no great music released since the 1960s. It's an attitude I've railed against plenty in my lifetime, and it just isn't true. And when you hear someone say something like that, you can pretty much guarantee that they have a closed mind about a great many things.

But, 27 years later (which I can hardly believe), the movie can be watched and enjoyed on the basis of how it portrays the relationships between the characters, rather than on the politics of those characters. Frankly, those politics weren't particularly believable in the first place - to believe that all seven of those characters morphed from being college radicals to becoming successful capitalists is just a little bit too much belief suspension to expect from any audience.

But no matter - because the writing and acting are superb, and there is a great deal of truth to how each character has come to grips with their own lives, and is now trying to figure out how to work their loved friends into that reality. If the movie strikes a false note at all, it's on its seeming insistence that those friends were "better" in college than they are now, when that just isn't true. You can't possibly know such things when you're 23 years old (my age when I first saw the movie), but after a lifetime of living and experience, you know that it can't be true. As Nick (William Hurt) says to Sam (Tom Berenger),

"A long time ago we knew each other for a short period of time; you don't know anything about me. It was easy back then. No one had a cushier birth than we did. It's not surprising our friendship could survive that. It's only out there in the real world that it gets tough."

The only character that truly comes off as unlikable is Karen Bowens (JoBeth Williams), and that could be because writer-director Lawrence Kasdan decided to make her the example of what happens when you "drop your dreams and decide to have children instead." Of all the roles in the movie, this is probably the one that is most under-written, and it ends up as a choice that isn't really real. You don't "give up yourself" when you choose a different path, and that seems to be the argument that Kasdan is making with the character.

The other actors are all given wonderful, and wonderfully funny, lines to work with, particularly Jeff Goldblum as Michael Gold, the quick-witted and somewhat cynical writer for People Magazine, who writes articles that can't be any longer "than it takes to read during the average crap." Of particular note are Mary Kay Place, whose character after all these years seems more real than any of the others, and Meg Tilly, who turns in a terrific "fish out of water" performance as Chloe, the young but very wise woman who was living with Alex (the character who committed suicide, bringing all the friends together again) at the time of his death. She doesn't know these people, but she seems to instinctively know when they are wandering in absurdity, and there is a wonderful moment when you can see that she really wants to say something to snap them back to reality, but holds back at the last moment.

So it may not be a perfect movie - but it's sure close enough for me.

Those Christmas Lights Keeping Shining On

There's always room for a new Christmas song in the world, and this is a good one - "Christmas Lights," by Coldplay.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'll Be Back At Christmastime

A very nice cover of the Pretenders' "2000 Miles," by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Will He Or Won't He

Now that the second annual Urban Meyer retirement festival is almost complete, we can now turn our attention to the other pressing matter of the football day - is this finally it for Brett Favre?

Finally, the obvious answer seems to be yes. As beat up as he is right now, and given the fact that the Vikings are playing for nothing but pride for the rest of the season (and Leslie Frazier's job, which seems to be secure right now), it's incomprehensible that anyone would even contemplate Favre returning for another season.

And so what hath Brett wrought with his ongoing "will he or won't he" soap opera of the past few years? At this point, as awful as I think the whole escapade was, I doubt it will matter much. The fact that it is not ending well for Favre will probably even allow him to regain some of the fans that he lost with his behavior over the past few off-seasons. The sexual harassment issue appears to be be going away (and please don't interpret that as commentary on the justice or injustice of that), so I imagine that within a season or two, we're going to see Favre running onto Lambeau Field, to tumultuous cheers, to receive some sort of award or other.

It's not the script I would have written, but then again, it wasn't up to me.

Sixpence's "Silent Night"

And now, for something completely different. "Silent Night," a beautiful version of a beautiful song, by Sixpence None The Richer, with an assist from Dan Haseltine.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

John Lennon

Like hundreds of thousands of other people, I remember exactly where I was when I heard that John Lennon had been murdered, because I was watching Monday Night Football when Howard Cosell broke into the telecast to make the announcement. Of course it was a huge shock, but Lennon was not an artist that I’d thought about for a long time. Unlike his fellow Beatles, Lennon had decided to drop off the face of the Earth for five years, upon being reunited with Yoko and celebrating the birth of his son Sean. And in the years leading up to that joyous occasion, Lennon had set something of a record for embarrassing public drunkenness, going on what he referred to later as an 18-month bender which featured such highlights as getting thrown out of the Troubador one night after putting a Kotex on his head. Hardly the stuff of which legends are made.

Like all The Beatles, Lennon’s solo career was maddeningly inconsistent. He was capable of greatness, and he was capable of pure dreck. And most astonishingly, he was capable of perfectly adequate, mediocre music – something that he’d never been accused of as the leader of the fab four. Listen today to something like “#9 Dream,” and your first thought is “yeah, that’s pretty cool, that sounds good.” But then you remember you’re listening to the same guy who just 4 years earlier had sung “I Want You (She’s So Heavy),” as vital a piece of music as has ever been recorded during the rock era, and all you can think is “what the hell happened?”

And of course, the comparison is patently unfair. Because as Robert Christgau once wrote, John Lennon’s greatest accomplishment was The Beatles. And make no bones about it, John Lennon was the leader of The Beatles. And that is in no way intended as a slight to the remaining Fab Three. Paul McCartney was a magnificent collaborator, and fully capable of greatness on his own. George Harrison was a great lead guitarist. And Ringo Starr, while not Keith Moon or Charlie Watts, deserves his place in the pantheon of great rock and roll drummers. But it was Lennon’s wit, and Lennon’s audacity, that made all the difference. He was the straw that stirred the drink.

And John Lennon was smart enough to know that what he had with The Beatles was something special. He was never going to top what he had accomplished as the leader of the greatest band of the rock era. So he cleaned himself up, he reunited with the love of his life, and he dropped out of the public eye so he could take care of his young son. And then, while on vacation in the summer of 1980, he went into a club and heard The B-52s, and in a spasm of excitement, immediately realized that the sounds they were making represented exactly the kind of music that Yoko had been wanting to make for years. And so he went back to the studio, recorded new (and outstanding) songs of his own, but primarily to make her the star he always thought she should be.

And then, on the night of December 8, 1980, Lennon heard, in the words of a great essay penned by Jay Cocks for TIME magazine after the murder, “a voice out of the American night.” He turned, and he was cut down.

No one can know what would have happened, had Lennon not died on that night. It would have been nice to find out. After all, Bob Dylan went 22 years between masterpieces, and I like to think that John Lennon could have done the same thing. Everyone who cares about music – even a little bit – should be missing John Lennon today.

Hey, It's All About Priorities

A great story about an argument at Christmastime - one that involves the great Warren Zevon.

Over at A Lucky Dog Life.


A nice post from Sheila that includes some fascinating information on the subtle - but critical - changes that President Roosevelt made to the speech he delivered to Congress following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"Little Drummer Boy"

Jars of Clay is a Christian rock band out of Nashville, Tennessee. It's not a genre I normally go for, but this is the Christmas season, after all - and wouldn't you expect a Christian rock band to do a good job with Christmas songs?

Here, the band takes on "The Little Drummer Boy," and turns in a nice performance.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Don Meredith R.I.P.

For anyone who grew up watching football in the late 1960s and the 1970s, Don Meredith was a key figure - first as the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, but later (and more importantly) as one of the first announcers on ABC's Monday Night Football broadcasts.

He was a very good but not great quarterback, and he certainly was not a great announcer. But he was a great personality. The first Monday night play-by-play man, Keith Jackson, once famously referred to it as "corn pone and bullshit," and even though Jackson (truly a great, great play-by-play man) did not intend the comment as a compliment, he was pretty much spot on. When Meredith and Howard Cosell almost immediately developed a chemistry that has rarely been seen in the booth (the dumb country boy and the city intellectual), it was apparent that Jackson was the odd man out. That was a good thing for Jackson, who went back to college football and became the greatest announcer ever of the college gridiron. ABC added another jock to the mix, USC and New York legend Frank Gifford, and for a couple of years the trio could do nothing wrong. It was the one of the golden eras of the NFL, and the Monday night ratings went through the roof, no matter who was playing.

Maybe it was inevitable, but after a couple of years it appeared that success went to Meredith's head. He moved over to NBC, where in addition to being paired on NFL broadcasts with Curt Gowdy (who by that time was far past his prime, and the team never really clicked) he was allowed to test out his limited acting chops, most notably in a recurring role on Police Story. What became obvious when Meredith was part of a crew that was actually interested in calling a game was that the game was slowly passing him by, and that he was never that good with the analysis or the details in the first place.

He went back to ABC for another 7 years on the MNF crew, and after that, he pretty much dropped off the face of the earth. But he always seemed like a nice guy, and he was a genuinely funny guy. And after all, MNF did revolutionize the sport - or at least the television coverage of it.


That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!

I'm on record as being a huge fan of Sufjan Stevens' five-disc Christmas collection, the songs on which were recorded for friends and given as Christmas presents.

Some of the songs are traditional, some are original, some are joyous, and some are...well, not.

This one falls into the latter category, but it's a wonderful song.

Sufjan Stevens, with a live performance of "That Was The Worst Christmas Ever!"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Everywhere you go.

Harry Tackles a Classic

Harry Connick, Jr. has released three Christmas albums, and before his career is over I suspect we'll be over half a dozen. He's a talented, charismatic guy, and very likable to boot - in short, perfect for the holidays.

Catching Up

So, after a week of being away for work, the old Google Reader was up to over 200 posts. Not surprisingly, one of the best comes from Joe Posnanski, who dissects the soap opera that is the Miami Heat.

As Joe puts it,

"...and, in the end, who beside for some people in Miami will care about a pretty good, star-laden, self-indulgent NBA team that plays boring basketball? There are so many star-laden NBA teams that play wonderful basketball. If I were one of those poor shleps forced to follow around this Heat team, I'd beg to be reassigned to Oklahoma City."

Read the whole thing.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Going Viral for Christmas

This one seems to have caught on like wildfire, and it's too cool not to include in this year's calendar.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Kicking Off the Musical Advent Calendar 2010

And so it begins...the 3rd (or 4th) annual Musical Advent Calendar! Today we kick off the festivities with a little British pop from the great British pop band, Pet Shop Boys, with "It Doesn't Often Snow at Christmas."

And now it can be safely said...Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The City

This is filler; I admit it. A view of San Francisco, taken yesterday morning.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Good Omen

On my run this morning, the shuffle playlist brought up a nice tandem - "Life in the Factory," a song about Lynyrd Skynyrd by the Drive-By Truckers, followed by "Sweet Home Alabama."

That's got to mean something good, right?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Yes, I know that doing anything to support Mel Gibson in this day and age is not popular. But I don't think that adding "Apocalypto" to the Netflix queue is going to make the difference between making or breaking Mr. Gibson.

It's an odd film, and I doubt that it would have gotten made had it not been for Gibson's previous success as a director. I don't recall that people were clamoring for a movie about the Mayan Civilization, with subtitles, and featuring a group of actors that no one had ever heard of.

"Entertaining" may not be the word for a movie this violent, but "Apocalypto" is never less than interesting. I have no idea whether it is accurate in its depiction of the Mayans, but I'm not sure whether that really matters in the consideration of whether it is a good film. The parts that got the most publicity for being disgusting are indeed disgusting, and the extended chase scene which comprises the film's final act is as exciting as everyone said it was. And the final scenes of the "visitors" coming on to shore, while entirely predictable, do pack a bit of a punch.

So, a mixed bag.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"Deathly Hallows, Part I"

With “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I,” the Harry Potter journey is almost over. And while none of the individual films seem destined to take their place in the annals of cinematic history as all-time greats, taken as a whole the series has been quite remarkable.

Aside from the characters, there is very little in common between the first film – “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” released almost a decade ago – and the newest entry in the series. We are now familiar with Harry, Ron and Hermione, and we know what is going to happen to them (I say that because I think it unlikely that anyone who hasn’t read the books is going to bother trying out the movies). “Deathly Hallows” doesn’t need to spend time on character development, because these characters have been fully developed. They are not children anymore, though they’ve had their childhoods stolen from them. They have faced adversity together, and sometimes that adversity has threatened to tear them apart.

The tone in “Deathly Hallows” is dark; even in the celebratory moments like Bill and Fleur’s wedding, disaster lurks right around the corner. And in the end, Harry, Ron and Hermione must go off together in order to find the answers to the nightmares that lurk before them. The first part of “Deathly Hallows” tells the story of that journey, in preparation for the final confrontation yet to come. It is a movie of moments, none greater than that moment (which I don’t believe appears in the book) when Harry and Hermione set aside their cares for just a moment, and share an impromptu dance. Danger and tragedy have brought them together. But in that sweet moment, you see that they have not lost their humanity.

The movie ends abruptly, which should come as no surprise to anyone. But it accomplishes everything that it sets out to do – setting the stage for what should prove to be a compelling finale.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What Better Way... get the holiday weekend started than a game of "Nazi Zombies?"

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

More Awesome

Sheila O'Malley's take on Moon, and Sam Rockwell's acting in it.

I chose Moon as my favorite movie of 2009, and wrote about it (not as well, and in much less detail) here.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Patterson Hood writes about "Darkness on the Edge of Town," and sings songs from "Darkness on the Edge of Town."

On Aquarium Drunkard.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


You have to look carefully.

Big Game 2010 - A Bear Disaster!

Today was my 12th Big Game with my friend Steve, and with Stanford's 48-14 victory, he took a 6-5-1 lead.

I took this shot just before the game started, and what you see here is a near brawl breaking out during the pre-game captains handshake. Yep, Big Game indeed.

We got lucky in that the torrential rain held off until the drive home, but it was cold and windy. Definitely the worst weather we've had, in all the years we've been going to the game.

Friday, November 19, 2010

American Top 40 Flashback - Billy Swan and Ringo

It's been a while since I've done one of these...

"I Can Help," Billy Swan, the #1 song on this day in 1974. In this clip, I particularly like Bobby Vinton's jacket, Billy Swan's shirt, and the jeans being worn by the bass player. Classic 70's stuff. It doesn't seem fair to call Swan a "one-hit wonder" given what a professional he was for so many years, but I don't recall ever having heard another song by him. But this was a great one.

And to make up for the long break, here's another:

This isn't much of a video, but it's a great song - "Photograph," Ringo Starr, the #1 song from this week in 1973. If I recall correctly, George Harrison wrote this one, and it is a classic slice of pop that still sounds good today.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's All About the Work

The vagaries of blog hits are interesting. I don't think I've written anything interesting for a week, yet my hits have gone through the roof in the past few days (assuming that SiteMeter is to be believed). I'm not sure what it is that triggers these runs, but they do happen every now and then.

Right now it's all about the work, the busiest time of year in a year that, shall we say, has been somewhat unusual. Things are looking up and going well, but it is probably not a coincidence that, as my mind was wandering the other night, I was thinking about how I felt shortly after I got my first job - at McDonalds.

Back in those days (we're talking the late 1970s), the work force of McDonalds consisted almost entirely of high school kids. The approach to training was somewhat stringent, and not unlike throwing a small kid into the deep end of the pool just to see what would happen - you either sank, or swam. There were a ton of rules - the boys wore white shirts, ties, and those nifty little paper hats, and hair wasn't allowed to touch the ears. Don't even think about being late, and do what you're told. And if you didn't do it well, you could expect a manager to point it out, and usually in a way that was not very polite.

And, funny though it may seem now, it was hard work. If you were on the grill, you worked one of three stations - meat, which meant that you slapped the patties on the grill, turned them, made sure they were done correctly, and then slapped them on the dressed bun. Buns, which meant you were responsible for toasting (excuse me, carmelizing) the buns. Trust me, it was harder than it sounds. And dressing, which means you got to whip all of those condiments on those buns, while at the same time watching those filet of fish and apple pies. Timing was everything, and it only took one bad cog in the machine to throw the whole damn thing off.

When I was trained, they really didn't spend enough time on training (something I tried hard to change when I became the training coordinator for the grillmen after a year on the job). So it was pretty much guaranteed that you were going to screw something up, and you either picked yourself up off the floor and learned how to do it, or you were out of there. No in-between.

Let me tell you, I hated that job for the first three months. To the point where I would lie awake at night before a morning shift and hope that the whole building was going to burn down before the alarm went off in the morning. Really.

And then, all of a sudden, one day at work I realized that I knew what the hell I was doing. I stopped being nervous, and I actually started to make some friends. Some of whom are still friends today, more than 30 years later.

So what's the point of all this? I'm not sure, but it felt good to write it down.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Posnanski on "The Promise"

It's bad enough that he writes brilliantly about baseball, and just about every other sport you can imagine...but writing brilliantly about Bruce Springsteen as well?

Well, that just doesn't seem fair.

But that shouldn't stop you from checking it out: Joe Posnanski on "The Promise."


I have to admit that this isn't ours - it belongs to our neighbor.

Black Ops

This is a great commercial, but what it really proves is that when you use "Gimme Shelter" as your theme song, you're guaranteed an audience. It's impossible to avoid looking at the screen when this comes on, and it's the music that grabs you. And that's why it's the Stones' greatest song, and one of the great songs in the history of rock and roll.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Flock of Eagles

The Pleasant Grove High School marching band, at today's Veterans Day parade in Elk Grove.

Happy Veterans Day!

The giant flag flying across Elk Grove Blvd. at the annual Veterans Day parade.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Surprised He Lasted This Long

Off the top of my head, I can't think of a sports team that I dislike more than the Dallas Cowboys. Maybe the Miami Heat will pass them by the end of the season (it probably depends on how many times that ridiculous commercial runs), but for now and for a long time it's been Dallas.

When the Cowboys hired Wade Phillips, I was pleased, because there was no doubt in my mind that Wade Phillips was never going to take the team - or any team - to a championship. Phillips is a nice guy and has a great football mind, but he's just one of those guys that is better suited to be a coordinator than a head coach.

At 1-7, Jerry Jones really had no choice. But no one should be patting Jones on the back right now, because he never should have hired Phillips in the first place.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Lazy Sunday

Time For A Netflix Catchup

As son #2 keeps reminding me, I'm way behind.

Sideways. I liked this one a lot. Paul Giamatti pulls off a difficult trick, which is making a guy who is kind of a snob, kind of a geek, and a bit of an ass come off as friendly and likable. Thomas Haden Church is great as his friend who definitely is a jerk, especially when it comes to women. You can't help but like the guy, and I'm sure that everyone has met a guy like him at one point or another in their lives - the frat boy who never grows up, who has money and acts as if he is entitled to have or do just about anything, including treat women poorly.

At its heart, it's a road movie. And the road trip in this case is a fun one, a wine trip. I'm a Cabernet person myself so I didn't really get the obsession with Pinot Noir, but I can definitely agree that Merlot is not anywhere near the top of my list.

The real surprise to me was Sandra Oh, who - for reasons that are not entirely clear - I was prepared to dislike. I ended up liking her character quite a bit, as I did the character played by Virginia Madsen. They're both level-headed people who seem to have come to grips with life's little vagaries much better than their male counterparts.

Get Smart. Not great, but fun. Nothing could come close to the original TV series, but this was definitely a lot better than "The Nude Bomb," the 1980 flick starring the original stars of the series. Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway were fine as Agents 86 and 99, but the real acting highlight was probably Dwayne Johnson, who has a pretty darn good touch when it comes to comedy.

Rushmore. This was my first exposure to Wes Anderson, and I can't say I was that impressed. It had its moments, but overall there really wasn't a single character that I cared about, and most of them - particularly Jason Schwartzman in the lead role - I just found annoying.

Slumdog Millionaire. It's a good thing I knew this one had a happy ending, otherwise I might not have made it until the end. Overall I thought it was very good, but it's going to take me a while to figure out whether it really deserved the Oscar. The concept of using "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire" was brilliant, but I'm not sure that the execution was up to the idea. The questions seemed a little too easy, and (and this is hardly the movie's fault) every time I looked at the host, I kept thinking of the actor's role on "24" last season as the leader of an unnamed Arab country. The movie was expertly done, but struck me as a little contrived.

Flying the Giants Colors

In case you were wondering, the blog will be "flying the Giants colors" for the entire month of November.

On December 1, we'll move to a holiday color scheme to celebrate the 3rd annual Musical Advent Calendar.

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I've tried a lot of beers in my life, but this is my all-time favorite: The Anchor Brewing Company's Christmas Ale. Sometimes hard to find, and only available from November 1 until shortly after New Year's Day.

Each year is slightly different from the one before. But one thing you can be assured of is that it's going to be awesome.

Find it today!

"Biodynamic Grapes"

This is the wine we're having for dinner tonight - it's a new one, courtesy of BevMo's 5-cent wine sale.

It may be hard to see in this photo, but if you look at the bottom of the label, you'll see that this wine is made with "biodynamic grapes." I don't really know what that means.

Fairytales Don't Always Have A Happy Ending

She came out on the track, her groom leading her to the barn to be saddled. She knew she was the center of attention, and she seemed to instinctively know that she was at the most famous track in the land. She also seemed to have a sense that, one way or another, history was going to be made on this day.

And she pranced. She strutted. While her groom tried very hard to keep the crowd quiet, she seemed to revel in the attention. She took it all in, and it was as if she was thinking to herself, "yes, I am the best, and I know it. It's time to have a little fun."

The race began, and she quickly dropped to last place. The gap between her and the horses in front of her was amazing. "Something must be wrong," I said to my wife. At any moment, I expected Mike Smith, her jockey, to pull up and lead her off the track.

He didn't. And as the field ran down the backstretch and approached the final turn, she began to look as if there was still something there. Mike Smith led her through the pack, and then to the outside, where it was time for one last, desperate stretch run.

It was one of the most amazing scenes in the world of sports that I can remember. It brought to mind Dave Wottle's amazing 800-meter run at the 1972 Olympics, with Jim McKay screaming "He's got one Kenyan! He's got the next..." as Wottle stuck his head in front of Yevgeny Arzhanov at the tape to win the gold medal.

She had a clear view of the finish line, and she was clearly the fastest horse on the track - the best horse on the track. She gained ground, with blazing speed.

And she lost, by a head, for the first time. But even in losing, she was a champion. And now she will be able to prance to her heart's delight, out in the field, without having to worry about running down those pesky, arrogant boys.

Zenyatta. A great champion.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

"The Empire Strikes Back" Is the Best Star Wars Film - And I Always Knew It

Yes, that is a pretty vain headline, obnoxious even. But it is true.

Thirty years ago, there was no doubt in my mind that "The Empire Strikes Back" was a great, great movie. I've kind of lost count over the years, but I think that my brothers and I saw it at least 7 times that summer. Or maybe I saw it seven times, and just a few of them were with my brothers.

30 years later, everyone seems to agree that "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best Star Wars movie. So now, the film is getting its due. Like this interview with director Irvin Kershner in Vanity Fair.

Films of fan and fanboys alike bitched about the prequels. I saw all of them in the theater, and there were parts of each of them that were great (particularly the final prequel). But there's little doubt that none of them reached the heights of the original trilogy, and part of that has to be laid at George Lucas' doorstep. I don't know what happened between 1980 and 1999-2005, but all you have to do is read this remembrance of Irvin Kershner to know that something changed:

There was really only one disagreement [with George Lucas]. It was the Carbon Freeze scene when Princess Leia says, “I love you.” Han Solo’s response in the script was, “I love you, too.” I shot the line and it just didn’t seem right for the character of Han Solo. So we worked on the scene on the set. We kept trying different things and couldn’t get the right line. We were into the lunch break and I said to Harrison try it again and just do whatever comes to mind. That is when Harrison said the line, “I know.” After the take, I said to my assistant director, David Tomblin, “It’s a wrap.” David looked at me in disbelief and said something like, “Hold on, we just went to overtime. You’re not happy with that, are you?” And I said, yes, it’s the perfect Han Solo remark, and so we went to lunch. George saw the first cut and said, “Wait a minute, wait a minute. That’s not the line in the script.” I said ““I love you, too’ was not Han Solo.” Han Solo was a rebel. George felt that the audience would laugh. And I said, that’s wonderful, he is probably going to his death for all they know. We sat in the room and he thought about it. He then asked me, “Did you shoot the line in the script?” I said yes. So we agreed that we would do two preview screenings once the film was cut and set to music with the line in and then with the line out. At the first preview in San Francisco, the house broke up after Han Solo said I know. When the film was over, people came up and said that is the most wonderful line and it worked. So George decided not to have the second screening.

Cleveland's Response

Cleveland's classic response to LeBron's horrific piece of narcissism in his latest Nike commercial.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Random Thoughts on the New Nike Commercial with Lebron James

- It may be the single most narcissistic advertisement ever to feature an athlete.

- Don Johnson looks great - unless, of course, that's old footage made new through the miracle of modern technology.

- My advice, assuming Lebron is serious with his question? STFU. The sooner, the better.

Suddenly It's Christmas

Yeah, This One's A Keeper

Quote of the Day

"I like our chances. I know we were picked for fourth place this year. We've got to at least be moved up to third -- you would think."

- Giants closer Brian Wilson, when asked about the Giants' outlook for 2011.

Year 26 - Sacramento Kings

My dad and I went to the Sacramento Kings game last night, and it was a disconcerting experience - not the fact that the Kings lost to the Lakers, which was expected, but the fact that almost half of the crowd was Lakers fans. If there was ever a clearer demonstration that the Kings have not yet won back their fan base, that's it, right there.

I don't want to say that we're getting old or anything, but when we first started going to these games, dad was 50, and I was 25. Now I'm 50, do the math!

This is action from the 4th quarter, with Kobe at the line. To give you an idea of the tenor of the crowd, there were chants - loud ones - of "MVP! MVP! MVP!" that could be heard at this moment.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Savoring a Giant Championship

I rarely listen to the radio when I'm in the car, but this morning I made an exception. I turned on KNBR from San Francisco, because I knew they'd be talking about the Giants, and even though it was election day, the Giants were all I really wanted to think about.

The timing was perfect - they were replaying the 9th inning, so I got to hear Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow call the end of the game. Classic stuff.

The rest of it wasn't particularly deep or meaningful, but it didn't matter - at that point, all I really wanted to do was savor the win. They played recordings of interviews with players like Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. They played an interview with Brian Sabean. They talked about what it was like on the late night plane coming home from Texas last night. They talked about tomorrow's parade. It was all wonderful.

As sports analysts do, on sites like and, the experts are already talking about what the Rangers and the Giants will have to do to repeat their success next year. And you know what? At this point, I don't even care.

This was a very special season that will never be repeated. It was the story of great pitchers and not-so-great hitters who always seemed to come through when it mattered the most. It was the story of a city and a group of fans that fell in love with a team over the course of a season. Giants fans are very lucky to have Duane Kuiper, Mike Krukow and Jon Miller as their announcers - because even when the games are a lost cause, they make things entertaining, and without trying they manage to create a community around a team. Some of the most fun moments watching "Kruk and Kuip" are when the games get out of hand, one way or another - because they work to find things in the crowd that are interesting and fun, whether it be someone with a panda hat on their head, or a kid at his first game with his glove ("wear a glove, get a ball"), or even the lonely Dodgers fan who is just ASKING to have his face erased on the telestrator.

As long as we keep this group of pitchers around, we're going to be competitive. But you know what? Whatever happens from here on out matters less than what just happened. We've got our championship. No one can ever take it away from us.

"Torture's Over"

In Case You Were Wondering...

Yes, it feels just as good the next day.

Monday, November 01, 2010

World Champion San Francisco Giants

It just sort of rolls off the tongue.

This may have not been the best team in San Francisco Giants history, but it will now always be remembered as the greatest team in San Francisco Giants history.

Aubrey Huff.

Freddy Sanchez.

Juan Uribe.

Edgar Renteria.

Pablo Sandoval.

Andres Torres.

Pat Burrell.

Cody Ross.

Buster Posey.

Aaron Rowand.

Nate Shierholtz.

Travis Ishikawa.

Tim Lincecum.

Matt Cain.

Jonathan Sanchez.

Madison Bumgarner.

Jeremy Affeldt.

Santiago Casilla.

Guillermo Mota.

Ramon Ramirez.

Sergio Romo.

Brian Wilson.

Javier Lopez.

Mike Fontenot.

Barry Zito.

Bruce Bochy.

On July 4, this team was 41-40. They always had a great pitching staff, but something began to happen in the summer and it carried on throughout the fall. It may have been often was torture...but with a pitching staff like that, the Giants were almost always in every game.

From the time the playoffs began, I had a feeling this was the year. THIS was the team that was going to bring the trophy to the greatest city in the world. A team with a bunch of characters; a team with a bunch of castoffs. Guys that you had yelled at in August and September? Those were the same guys who came through in October.

Anyone who knows me knows what a huge sports fan that I am. I've been lucky; there have been a lot of great moments along the way. But I'm not sure I've ever felt exactly like I did when Edgar Renteria hit that 3-run home run. The only thing that comes to mind is Joe Montana to Dwight Clark, against the Dallas Cowboys in January 1982.

World Champion San Francisco Giants.

Giants Flair

It's 1:30 p.m. and I'm already nervous. But then again, games don't come any bigger than this:

- The first game the Giants have ever played in November.

- The first World Series game they've played with a 3-1 lead in the series.

Part of me wishes they could win it in front of the home fans, but man, I want this to be over.