Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Window in the Skies - Video

A very clever video for U2's "Window in the Skies" just came out a couple of days ago. It was directed by Gary Koepke (thanks to Calvin in Spain). It recalls the masterful Mark Romanek video for "Hurt" by Johnny Cash. It shares the same fancy editing chops - splicing together video, documentary film & concert footage. The visual & emotional effect is one of tweaked nostalgia mixed with discovery. Perhaps you've never thought of Frank Zappa & Joe Strummer as musical brethren. "Window in the Skies" poses many of these possibilities - Mary J. Blige & Elvis Presley, Beck & Frank Sinatra, Keith Moon & David Byrne. It gets your head thinking about what these artists have in common. But it also intrigues because it must have taken the director a lot of time & effort to sync the singing footage with the new song's lyrics.

U2, by the way, has its own official YouTube page.

The two Rick Rubin/U2 collaborations - "The Saints Are Coming" & "Window in the Skies" are nice appetizers for the next U2 record. Rick Rubin had never worked with U2 before. Apparently he was made aware of this through an interview with U2 in which they mention him as an artist with which they'd like to work. This coupled with the fact that Bono is learning how to play piano - maybe for the sole purpose of using the instrument as a songwriting tool - is a clue to possible new musical directions. That they recorded these songs at Abbey Road is trivial when you listen to them. They are bursting with the energy of much younger bands. Makes you wonder what keeps them so engaged.

Friday, December 08, 2006

John Lennon Remembered

The Dallas Morning News Interactive division remembers John Lennon's death - December 8th, 1980 - 26 years ago today. This is a snippet of pop-culture before CNN, MTV & the Internet.

John Lennon's death is one of the first big events that I remember as a kid. I had the commemorative issue of Newsweek. And I remember going through my older brother's Beatles book: "The Beatles Forever" by Nicholas Schaffner, and marveling at the pictures. All those places they went - the colors, the phases they went through. It was all too much!

Even at that young age, you could feel the vacuum that Lennon's death left music & popular culture. We had a hard time getting our heads around it all - especially the sudden nature of it . "Why would someone shoot a Beatle? Why does it sound & feel like he's still here? He's all over the radio still. For such a character - who was so full of life, how can he really be gone?"

One good product of all this was the wave of Beatlemania that came in the years after his death. I remember recording the Beatles A-Z marathons on the radio. I would get the 10-packs of 90 minute Maxell blank cassettes to record them on. I would carefully pause the recording during the commercials and wait carefully for the DJ to come back on. I would cringe when the end of the side would approach in the middle of a song. Then I'd flip the cassette over as quickly as possible to continue recording the sequence on Side B.

I remember loyally listening to the Lost Lennon Tapes with Elliot Mintz and hearing about his 1970's post-Beatles wanderings. And who hasn't listened to Breakfast with the Beatles?

Photo of The Beatles Forever bookjacket courtesy of London Collectibles eBay account.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

We Got A Hit

Great night at the American Airlines Center with The Who &
special guests The Pretenders last Friday.

Pretenders came on at 7:32pm. Really glad to be on time for this. A lot
of concert-goers missed it - probably stuck in traffic or finishing up
their chicken wings. The chicken wings on the table would disappoint
Chrissie Hynde - I had forgotten that she's a vegetarian. She thanked
the crowd for stopping by the PETA tables in the lobby. And she teased
the meat-eaters in the crowd by flaunting her great body. (She looks
fantastic - like a strutting Madame Tussaud's version of herself
preserved from 1980.) They played an hour - Martin Chambers flailing
away behind plexiglass and their very able guitarist Adam Seymour &
youthful bassist Andy Hobson. Chrissie is sassy & sweet. After "My City
Was Gone" she recognized the guitarist for his searing solos. "Don't
you all wish that you wouldn't have hidden away your guitar in your
closet in favor of a workaday life? You could have lived this life!"
She reveled in that.

Approximation of their setlist:

Up The Neck (? - I'm forgetting a song in here somewhere - and the song
order's not exact either)
Message of Love
Don't Get Me Wrong
Day After Day
I'll Stand By You
My City Was Gone (Way to go, Ohio)
Back in the Chain Gang
Room Full of Mirrors

I would have liked an encore from them - they have so much material
from which to choose - but they played a solid, hour-long set. Any more
and it would've shortened The Who set. Needless to say - the Pretenders
were an inspired choice for an opening act. FAR better than Unamerican
were anyway. Anyone from Dallas remember that? What were they thinking
there? Dreadful.

I've read both the Dallas & Fort Worth papers' reviews. No big
disagreements with either of the mostly positive reviews (Although I
prefer the Star-Telegram's review). Other than to explain to the rest
of the world how much a grump the Dallas Morning News' Thor Christensen
can be from time to time. He complains about Rog's vocal performance on
some songs. But no one came to this show expecting Steve Perry - we
don't need or want that. Who cares? It's ROCK AND ROLL - not an
Oratorio! And in complaining about Rog's voice on some songs, he
neglects to recognize its strength on some of the other songs - Mike
Post Theme in particular. He roared like a lion on that one - and the
crowd took notice.

Highlights: There were a couple of kids with their Dad in the row in
front of us. The little boy was no more than 4 or 5 years old. The girl
was maybe 6 or 7 tops. And they were singing along to the Who songs!
They knew all of the words - standing on their folding chairs! They
were really wonderful to watch - they were every bit as enthusiastic as
their dad was.

There were some young twenty-something hipster dudes a couple of rows
behind us - they were having a blast. Never without a beer in hand,
they parried to and fro in the aisle - teasing the ushers & dancing
their buns off. Between the Pretenders & The Who set - one of them, a
tall guy who happened to be a dead ringer for the Dwight Shrute
character on NBC's version of The Office, shimmied his way into the
crowd's heart - so much so that the lighting guys found him & put the
spotlight on him - very fun - we all cheered. I have to say, it's
refreshing to have a few rabble-rousers at one of these big arena shows
- this is what rock's supposed to be all about after all!

The band were tight on all the songs - surprises: "Real Good Looking
Boy" was a revelation - very sharp guitar from Pete - harder-edged than
the Then & Now version. Rog's voice was terrific - much better than the
last visit through Big D - where California's drought left his voice
bone-dry. Simon has really filled out the sound of the band - kudos to
him - his vocals were essential to the success of the evening - and I
really enjoyed the mandolin during "Endless Wire". "They Made My Dreams
Come True" is a real grower - it was one of my favorites of the new
songs - Pete & Simon harmonized beautifully to that one.

Pete recognized the missing Texan in the band - keyboardist Rabbit &
asked that we pray for his wife Sue. He introduced Rabbit's keyboard
tech (he emphasized that he's really only a technician!) - Brian Kehew
- and praised him for coming to their rescue. Then he introduced Pino
by saying that he came to their rescue when John died back in 2002 -
filled his boots & then, thankfully, took them off - to which the crowd
cheered. And then introduced Zak - monster applause.

Between Mike Post Theme and You Better You Bet, Pete had a pointed
exchange with some of the front-row crowd. Apparently they had been
bugging him to sign some poster & give them some guitar picks. He
really sounded peeved - his body language said it all - exasperation -
as if to say "How am I supposed to play this show AND sign your
bleeding posters & toss out picks?!?" And he called them out for
spending a ton on front row seats then acting like beggars for a stupid
pick or an autograph. "Fucking savages? What do you expect me to do?!"
But before he got too severe with them, he turned his attitude around
180 degrees & said how much he loves us - and that the next song is
about them loving us. He was clearly keeping his temper in check. It
was almost "It's not a fucking tea party!" time - but he showed great

The new songs were fantastic. I miss Quadrophenia, yes - but I'm so
grateful for the new material. Not everyone was - a lot of people sat
during the mini-opera. They clicked away at blackberries until Baba
O'Riley - then they all stood up in unison. Pretty funny to observe -
like a school of fish.

They then played feverishly through the rest of the regular set - big
riffs, guitars & drums blazing. Pete seemed to be using "Won't Get Fooled Again" to
exorcise whatever misgivings he had about the pesky goldfish in the
front row. After a short break - they came back for an encore with the
Tommy suite - and it was inspired. The songs felt brand new - Rog
sounded great and was twirling away like a dervish with the mic cord.
Pete seemed to be channeling an old blues man fused together with an
ornery pirate during the Captain Walker part of Amazing Journey &

Setlist courtesy of the German site: The Complete The Who Concert Guide

The Who
Fri, 17. November 2006:
Dallas, TX, American Airlines Center

Lineup | Go back

I Can't Explain, The Seeker, Substitute, Fragments, Who Are You, Behind
Blue Eyes, Real Good Looking Boy, Sound Round, Pick Up The Peace,
Endless Wire, We Got A Hit, They Made My Dreams Come True, Mirror Door,
Baba O'Riley, Eminence Front, A Man In A Purple Dress, Mike Post Theme,
You Better You Bet, My Generation, Cry If You Want, Won't Get Fooled
Again, (Encore) Pinball Wizard, Amazing Journey, Sparks, See Me Feel
Me, Tea And Theatre

Roger Daltrey
Harmonica, Vocals, Guitar
Pete Townshend
Guitar, Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Pino Palladino
Zak Starkey
Simon Townshend
Acoustic Guitar, Guitar, Backing Vocal
Brian Kehew

Set list not confirmed

Last update: 2006-11-18 13:55:36 - # 62

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Review

Dallas Morning News Review

Top photo courtesy of Dallas Morning News Special Contributor Jason Janik

Bottom photo courtesy of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram Special Contributor Mike Fuentes

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Who in Dallas Friday!

Friday night is the big concert of the week: The Who with special guests, The Pretenders. I'm a huge Who fan - have been for years. (I regularly lurk about the alt.music.who site). This will be their 9th show in our fair city. Saw them in '89, 2000, & 2002. (Here's a gig guide list of their Dallas shows with details such as setlists, local paper reviews, copies of ticket stubs & fan reports - very neat.) I'm excited that I'll be there for another great evening of rock and roll.

I'm particularly excited that they're touring with new material. My brother won't be happy about this. He'll protest a little too loudly for our comfort. "Stick to the classics. Yawn!" Then he'll look our way for a nod or some sort of approval. And he won't get any. You see, I prefer my favorite artists to sport new material when they come to visit. They don't need an album or single to be for sale. They just need to play the new stuff along with the classics.

One of the highlights for me of the 2002 show at American Airlines Center was the end of "My Generation" when they played a potent snippet of the Thunderfingers homage "Old Red Wine". It rocked more than any other part of the evening. (Roger complained about his voice being dry - but he always delivers.)

Pete's a contemporary of my father-in-law. And I suppose you could call him a sage. But he's a lot more accessible than Dylan. He's every bit as inspired as he was in the late 60's. I have been reading his website since at least 2000. I keep going back - I suppose to keep up with him - thrilled that such a rock legend would bother with such an immediate type of communication. Last year he used a blogspot.com blog to post a serial called "The Boy Who Heard Music". I was so excited that he was posting chapters & seeking input from fans. I didn't understand the serial but I posted a comment - nothing particularly helpful to him, I'm sure - just another "good on ya" like many others who posted. Certainly it wasn't anything helpful input-wise. But Pete managed to use the serial to crank out the mini-opera Wire And Glass. And now it's very pleasing to have the new Who album out as well. I hope it leads to more creative product from them on a regular basis.

He's one of my favorite rockers - he's always a sharp, literate interviewee. He isn't afraid to voice unpopular opinions. He's honest. He can be arty & difficult, cranky and cantankerous. But occasionally he's very sweet and reveals so much of his process with readers. (I hope to hear "How Can I Help You, Sir" on a B-side or something soon!) It's oddly reassuring to see him piddle about procrastinating at his studio. And it's refreshing to see him genuinely excited about his craft.

I'll let my brother make his impatient remarks about new Who songs. I do have fond memories of him driving us both to Sunday mass - listening to "Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy" on cassette. His clunky '76 Mercury Monarch seemed a heckuva lot cooler while listening to "I Can See For Miles" and crossing the Dallas County line over the railroad tracks. Knowing that "Pinball Wizard" awaited us after church made it easier to sit through the homily. And I couldn't wait to get my own driver's license.

Last night they played Denver. Hope Roger gets to rest his voice tonight & tomorrow!

Photos of "Pete Leap" & "Birdman" courtesy of photographer William Snyder. Found in the News section of PeteTownshend.com. It's from the show they just did Indian Wells, CA.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Lost Discussion Deficiency Syndrome

Our pal Mari sent in this clever vid clip to Pablo's Point... a very nicely produced homage to big pharma TV ads - it acknowledges the casual viewer's difficulty in following the hazy, labyrinthine plot mechanics of "Lost". J.J. Abrams is brilliant for devising the mid season "finale". It allows for his Hawaii-based, drunk-driving cast to dry out for 2 months. And it gives Lost's writers time to figure out plot-lines for February-May. The writers must wrestle with the delicate balance of how many cliff-hangers they can get away with in one season vs. delivering the occasional "fish biscuit" to the loyal "Lost" viewership. We will eagerly devour tonight's episode hot off the DVR. But how much longer will the spell last? Only Desmond knows.

My favorite big pharm TV ad is for the sleeping pill Rozerem.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Battle of the Album Covers

My buddy Chris sent me this little montage. Some graphic design kid has a lot of time on his hands. But God bless him!

It's a Legal Matter, Baby

Turns out that Roger Daltrey was spot-on about Miss Heather - months before the big separation between Beatle Paul McCartney & Heather Mills McCartney. She's been Macca's worst nightmare since Yoko. Shortly after the big Live 8 Concert in London's Hyde Park in the summer of 2005, Roger had these things to say about Heather Mills McCartney to the English paper, the Sunday Mirror :

"She was at Live 8 with a camera...scary. I looked down the barrel and saw her face - and I thought: 'This is the coldest human being I have met in my whole life.'

"She was one cold fish."

Mind you, this was well before anyone knew of any marital problems between Paul McCartney & Heather Mills McCartney. I thought at the time that Roger was being pretty harsh on Heather. She seemed very direct, yes - but we had no overt reason to dislike her. "Roger must be one cantankerous fellow," I thought. But I have to give credit to the Who's lead singer - knowing how many other rock stars that were backstage at Live 8, it's interesting that he was the only one to note Heather's bad behaviour. What can I say besides that the man is a damn fine judge of character.

And now we see the divorce proceedings between Sir Paul & Heather get very confrontational.

In other music news, listen to the new U2/Green Day single of "The Saints Are Coming" at U2.com. This track will be on their upcoming Best Of set entitled "U218 Singles". It's a rousing version of the Skids 1978 single. Never had heard of The Skids - but I do know now that their lead singer was later to become Big Country's Stuart Adamson. Stuart took his own life in Honolulu 2001.

Links in this post:

image of Roger: http://www.petetownshend.co.uk/diary/display.cfm?id=412&zone=prI

Details of Heather's abuse claims: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/showbiz/article-23371201-details/article.do



Friday, October 13, 2006

Found: The USS Macon

It's been a while since Pablo's Point has posted anything about Zeppelins, blimps or dirigibles. This week I found an article on the USS Macon (through Arts & Letters Daily) from Der Spiegel in Germany. It details the deep sea discovery & subsequent ocean floor investigation of the great Zeppelin Aircraft Carrier - yes, that's right - a flying aircraft carrier. From the Akron Beacon Journal: "The Macon had acted as a flying aircraft carrier; planes were lowered from the cargo bay with their engines running at flight speed. When they were released, they were already in full flight. To return to the ship, pilots had to maneuver under a catch-hook to be pulled back into the bay."

This beauty was designed to carry 5 Sparrowhawk fighters on it - the fighter planes took off from the zeppelin & hooked back up to it upon return. In mid-air they'd have to hook up their plane to the harness to "land". The pilots were called "trapeze artists". Amazing. The Macon was a helium dirigible built by Goodyear & The Zeppelin Company of Germany. And ironically it's the remains of these Sparrowhawk fighters that are the most visible remains on the ocean floor off the coast of California. (Der Spiegel has a photo gallery where you can really see the outlines of the wings of these biplanes.)

Wikipedia also has a nice entry on the USS Macon with photos & more stories - as does OceansLive. LucidCafé.com has an interesting piece on the crash and the subsequent end of the US Navy's Airship program. The Christian Science Monitor has a report on this and a great undersea picture of the Macon's landing gear. The Akron Beacon Journal also has a nice piece on the phenomenon that was the USS Macon. The San Jose Mercury News has a neat article on the exploration of the wreckage too.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out

While recently on vacation in lovely Maui, I picked up the new Andy Summers' memoir, "One Train Later". It got a nice write-up in Entertainment Weekly (compared favorably over U2's new coffee-table book, U2 X U2 - not to mention more travel-friendly). And being on vacation, I splurged and picked it up at the Kahului Borders. (Despite the fact that I already had 3 books that I hadn't touched on the 9 hour plane ride over from Dallas!) The Police are one of those music acts that I come back to every blue moon and rediscover. They were my first concert in 1983 back in the brand-spanking-new Reunion Arena.

We got the tickets for the 2nd and final night's show from our 8th grade pal, Jimmy Farrell. He had extras and they were on the floor! But they were $15 tickets. Wow. That's cost a few lawn mowings. UB40 opened up the show for them. Sting had the flu. Stewart played the drums really fast. They tore through their set.

I'm 3/4 of the way through the book. Andy just got to the early days of the Police (by page 155 or so). Surprisingly, he had a long music career before the advent of punk music. He played with the Animals. He pal'd around with Eric Clapton. He makes it very clear how tough a musician's life can be. I'm going to have to dig up my old Police cds and listen to them all over again. It's always nice to hear them for a fresh listen after a few more years life experience. They are still very fresh sounding. There's an exuberance there throughout the albums that reminds me of the EE OOO EEE YAY, EEE YAY OOOH chants that kept me up past my bedtime back that night in '83.

I remember driving around Plano in Leo's Suzuki Samurai listening to Regatta de Blanc on the tape deck. Was Leo at the '83 show too? Can't remember. Leo?

The Police were huge back then. Hard to compare to today's standards of course. This was before the wide acceptance of the compact disc - at the beginning of MTV - way before the internet, YouTube and MP3s. I recall a junior high talent show where some classmates of ours put together their own power trio - played spot-on Police covers - a triple shot that had the hall jumpin' - in spite of their amps being plugged into the school's crappy PA system. It was Dave Barton on drums, Kevin McKinney on guitar and - who was on bass? Anyone? Regardless - it was exhilarating to see our buddies rock like that. But at the same time, it was devastating to see them up there instead of us. We had to stick to air guitar and clock radio shower vocals.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians on World Café

Back in the late 80's, my friends Mitch & Matt would always venture down from the 'burbs to Deep Ellum to catch dark, brooding, clad-in-black local bands like Shallow Reign, Three on a Hill, Course of Empire, etc. Occasionally they'd convince me to take in a show. I remember being impressed with the intensity of a small-venue show. But I was not into the dark, brooding stuff. I guess I didn't identify with it very much - happy, bucolic childhood & all.

Mitch tried to lure me a few times to go and see Edie Brickell & New Bohemians. He would say, "Come out & see this band - I think you'll like them." - knowing very well my reservations about the then dangerous Deep Ellum (yes - I know - it's deja-vu all over again!). I never did get a chance to see them - partly because I was certain that it would be another too loud & too heavy gig. Then the New Bo's had their big "Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars" album & the cat was out of the bag.

Well, I finally saw them - back in late June at Club DaDa - their old late 80's haunt. It was a Saturday night show of a two-night stand. The show started around 10:30 or so - after Dead Thing. The Dead Thing played inside in the cool AC. But the New Bo's played the patio - and it was hot something fierce. It was the kind of hot Texas summer night where the air doesn't flow a bit. But the band was great - very much enjoying the show & the moment. We were just a row back from the stage - so I got to see them up close. Kenny Withrow's a really fun guitarist - very inventive licks - great rhythm. And the band played very well - clearly well-rehearsed. (As you can hear for yourselves on NPR's World Café.)

I didn't want to stare too much at Edie. I know how the band felt about the lasting image most fans kept of them - that of Edie's mug: pretty & quirky. But it started to feel like she was staring at me. She does make eye contact with a lot of the fans - no doubt. But this was weird. I was starting to get embarrassed. My wife later pointed out to me that her kid was right next to me during the show. So much for all the attention!

I really enjoyed the new music they played for us from their then upcoming CD - "Stranger Things". It's really terrific. Grab a copy & enjoy!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Flashback: World Cup '94 Dallas

With tomorrow's World Cup 2006 Final upon us, I am posting this photo of my brother Larry & I in Fair Park arriving for a World Cup 1994 Dallas match - 12 years ago. I volunteered for the U.S. Soccer Federation to work FIFA protocol - I welcomed them at DFW as they arrived for the games & helped with the Spanish/English interpreting for the officials & various FIFA muckety-mucks. I had a great time!

The perks: free admission to all of the Cotton Bowl matches, a World Cup USA tie that we wore to events, invitations to the parties & FIFA memorabilia pins left & right. I was also looking for a job at the time - so I had plenty of time to volunteer - and I remember hoping that I could parlay the experience into some cool job opportunity - (nothing materialized).

It was blazing hot throughout group play & the Dallas games. Outstanding game memories - Hristo Stoitchkov blew me away - he was absolutely explosive for Bulgaria. I was also thoroughly impressed with Nigeria's Super Eagles & the drums that the Nigerian fans brought. The volunteering really served as my re-introduction to international soccer (not that the NASL qualified as world class international soccer - but it did the trick when Dad would take us to the Dallas Tornado games at SMU. Hey - we saw Pele play!)

One of the best times we had during the Dallas matches was the Spanish consulate's Paella Party at the Anatole Hotel. I remember seeing Real Madrid's owner just a few feet away from me. And they were trying to break a Guinness Book of World Records record for largest paella ever made. I don't remember any Guinness officials being present however.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Cold Comfort for Dirk - Return of dür Hasselhoffmeister

I noticed today that Google's finally made it simple to post Google Videos into blogs. So here's my first Google Video post - in honor of Dirk Nowitzki & his valiant NBA Finals effort and Germany's big match tomorrow against Argentina in the World Cup. The Germans do love their Hasselhoff. Can you blame 'em?

Here's Google's official description of this zaniness:

Well That's right, it's Hofficial... your favourite cult icon wants to take you home! The one and only David Hasselhoff of "Bay Watch" and "Night Rider" fame returns with a cover of the
1975 classic 'Jump In My Car' and its a doozy. Recorded in Sydney last year with the legendary Harry Vanda (AC/DC, The Angels), the Ted Mulry Gang tune has been re-vamped with full Hoff gusto and this music video promises to rock the socks off all his Hofficial fans. Watch it, enjoy it, share it on Google Video, courtesy of Sony BMG Australia.
Here's Google's official description of this zaniness:

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

They aren't the Budweiser Frogs - Brad & Hall sell Bud to the Brits

Yes - I know - more World Cup coverage - those of you reading this who have not been consumed with Soccer Fever will be disappointed by me again. Yes - another soccer post. So sue me. It beats more coverage of the NBA draft & pre-training camp coverage of the NFL. There'll be plenty of time for boredom once the camp coverage begins. That's when the real dog days of summer begin.

And you soccer purists will note that I'm not really blogging about the games so much as the coverage - well, true enough. I did get to enjoy the first halves of the Brazil/Ghana & Spain/France games. The play was superb. Sorry Spain & Spanish friends - I guess Spanish Coach Aragones' Thierry Henry slurs caught up with him. Has Hooliganism moved to España? France & Brazil are still powering up - believe it or not. Upcoming matches should top those games though- tomorrow - Argentina versus the 2006 hosts - Germany. That one will surely be a doozy.

Can Argentina beat the hosts at home on European soil? Can Brazil do the same to France? They'll be looking to get revenge on France for 1998. As soon as the U.S. was ousted, my favor fell to the Socceroos of Australia. Now I'll root on the South Americans. The Argentines need this win more than Germany.

The NY Times' World Cup blog has been a treat to read. Turns out they're following the coverage here stateside more than the soccer too. Yesterday they posted a great link to the British Budweiser series of ads starring the hapless American soccer broadcasting team of Brad & Hal. You can enjoy them at the British Budweiser site or enjoy them here at Pablo's Point courtesy of YouTube:

Do they really drink Budweiser in Great Britain?

Great article in the New Yorker about the 1966 World Cup hosted and won by the English in England. (E-mail me if you can't get the NewYorker.com link).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Linux, Soccer - the Metric System?

Ghana gana a EEUU

Well - so much for the U.S.A. in this 2006 World Cup. We had some exciting moments - in particular in the Italy match. There is lots of discussion about firing Coach Bruce Arena. There's complaints about the referee's calls. (Mark Cuban might take some solace in knowing he's not the only one complaining!)

But today's all about the Black Stars from Ghana - in their very first World Cup appearance. This win means so much more to them as players, their country & Africa - as the sole remaining African team than it does to disappoint us. And they played beautifully throughout the group round. Congratulations, Ghana. Well done and good luck against Brazil.

There's really no alternative as a U.S. Soccer fan - might as well be philosophical about our early exit. It was a great feat to make it to the World Cup to begin with. We tied a European perennial contender on European soil. And we finally scored a goal on our own today. And it was an MLS star who did it - Clint Dempsey. It's not all bad news.

Linux & Ubuntu

I'm posting this entry on my old computer. It's 6 years old - ancient in computer-years. I've installed Ubuntu LInux on it - a distribution of Linux that's based on Debian - which was concocted by an American - Ian Murdock - back in 1993 - but has been worked on collaboratively ever since with help from programmers all over the world. Ubuntu was begun as an effort to make an Open Source desktop OS available that's relatively simple to install & use for non-techies around the world. And it was started by a very successful South African businessman by the name of Mark Shuttleworth. "Ubuntu" is the South African philosophy of humanity to others.

I mention all of this techie stuff because I draw certain very loose connections between the popularity of Soccer as a sport here stateside with Open Source Software. (Humor me, here, patient readers.) Folks here have tasted the greatness of the sport through our national team's qualifying matches, the 1994 World Cup, the MLS, & the 2002 World Cup Quarterfinals. In a country where football, baseball, basketball, even golf & hockey are so dominant - it's a real accomplishment to get a small percentage of interested spectators. And what that percentage represents is a very vocal & passionate group of outsiders who are thirsty for soccer - its uninterrupted play, agility, athleticism. As fans, they are the types that make up the feverish ranks of Sam's Army, & locally, the Inferno.

I see the same kind of enthusiasm from users of Open Source software. They're interested in something besides the dominant operating systems. They first tasted Open Source goodness within their commercial OS desktops with the Firefox browser. And this is where I started. Having used Firefox in place of Internet Explorer since 2002, I became very interested in trying out Linux. It was the first time I saw how advantageous not having the limits of proprietary software was to being stuck with the same ole, same ole.

Joga Companion

Along came Ubuntu in 2004 & my old Sony VAIO PC (from 2000) was so sluggish running Windows XP that - not having anything to lose - I installed Ubuntu Linux over Windows on it. It has been challenging but fun - much like following soccer in the World Cup. The passionate fans of both Linux & Soccer are a big part of why I have enthusiasm for both groups of outsiders.

South Africa 2010

The next World Cup happens to take place in South Africa - the land of Ubuntu, the Truth & Reconciliation Committee, Endless Summer surf adventures & Nelson Mandela. This will be the first time a World Cup has been held anywhere on the continent of Africa - a milestone without parallel. (I give FIFA credit for awarding it to South Africa. The Olympics have some catching up to do!)
I'm hoping WAY ahead of schedule that our U.S. squad qualifies for this 2010 World Cup. I think it'll take the continued success of Major League Soccer & its expansion into Canada & the inclusion of Mexican League teams, Youth Soccer, Americans playing in Europe, and who knows what else - Freddy Adu will be of drinking age!

I've never followed the different international soccer leagues - Spain's Primera Division, the Bundesliga, Serie A Italia, the English Premiership. But it would be nice to, at the very least, follow our American players playing abroad. Who knows - maybe the MLS could start a European team like Chivas Mexico did with the MLS. And I know the Redbulls will be trying to pull another NY Cosmos in the coming seasons.

My pal Chris has fallen head over heels with Arsenal & following the English League. He loves how teams must fight to stay in their division season-to-season. That makes every game count. It's a real embrace of free market values in Europe that perhaps MLB & the NFL could learn from - a funny lesson to learn from Europeans admittedly.

I'm also hoping that Ubuntu or some other Open Source platform finds great popularity among desktops here stateside & throughout the world. No - not quite ready to embrace the Metric System - but I'll put it up for consideration.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

So long Golf, Hello Again Rabbit

VW lovers everywhere are jubilating or cringing - depending on their preference...but the stateside VW compact car will no longer be called the Golf. It is being rechristened the Rabbit.

I never did understand the Golf name for this Volkswagen car - were it an automobile made for the game of golf, then it would be a gas-guzzling Cadillac-style cruiser with plenty of room for a set of clubs in the trunk. Say what you will - but at least a rabbit more closely resembles this car. It's not furry and can't hop - but it's got 4 wheels - similar to the 4 legs that our bunny friends have - and it's small. Welcome back to the VW Rabbit, I say. We barely noticed you absent - but we're glad to have you back.

My pal B-Bry will have to hold on to his Golf - he surely will appreciate its uniqueness now.

Soccer Simpsons' Style

Confession: 4 years ago pledged to go to Germany

Confession: 4 years ago after the U.S. beat México in the Korea/Japan World Cup 2002, a few of us pledged to travel in 4 years' time to Germany for 1-2 weeks of World Cup 2006 games, fun & travel. "Oh the beer, pretzels & schnitzel we'll consume!"

We didn't follow through on our pledge. Point of fact, none of us have dared speak of it since. I guess 4 years ago, getting up in the middle of the night - or staying up until the middle of the night to watch a game felt enough like being in college again to think that in 4 years' time we wouldn't be so busy with work & family that we couldn't get away with such a plan. Hah!

I'm content to watch the so far fantastic tournament reveal itself to us through TV, radio & internet. That's plenty good enough and I don't have to worry about accomodations in Leipzig or filling prescriptions or too much luggage. But it's disappointing having to watch games at 8AM while getting ready for work - work that I know my European counterparts are probably on vacation from - or at the very least they get to watch the games at night their time.

And no one has yet to get together to watch any of the games yet either - that might help me get in the spirit of things. But it helps to read these terrific Dispatches from the World Cup on Slate.com. These posts really transport you.

(Congratulations to Slate.com for their 10 year anniversary!)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Coffee left in the cup!

Do you ever have those forgetful kinds of Monday mornings? I'm referring to those moments when you're sitting at your computer and you're trying to remember what the task at hand is. Then you look over at your coffee cup and realize that there's still some coffee left! YES! It's scary just how slippery the mind's gears get over a weekend. This morning I was so pleasantly surprised that I still had 1/4 cup left of coffee to drink. Weird.

I'm posting as I watch Switzerland beat Togo (1-0 at the 70').

I'm surprised that the ABC/ESPN commentators for the World Cup don't mention what MLS teams the U.S. stars play for more often. Given the lag that soccer here stateside will experience after the World Cup, you'd think they'd be doing everything they could to spur more interest in seeing these players at your local soccer stadium.

Major League Soccer renamed the NY/NJ MetroStars the NY Red Bulls. Did anyone notice this? I see also that August 12th that Giants Stadium will be hosting F.C. Barcelona & Brazil's star Ronaldinho. Nifty. We need to get these kinds of friendlies more often in Frisco.

USA/Italy on Saturday was a blast to watch. It's really fun to think of Europe's soccer powers being taken completely by surprise by our USA squad. From the U.S. players' perspectives it must be akin to being pirates. Even though we only got a tie out of it, it felt triumphant. Bongiorno, Italia. Did anyone else think of the movie "Breaking Away" while watching this? You know, when the Bloomington, Indiana townie is obsessed with Italian cycling? And when he finally gets to ride with them they ruin his image of them?

(I see that Owen Wilson does a nice little homage to "Breaking Away" in the trailer to his new movie "You, Me & Dupree". Nifty.)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Recap This Week en el Mundo Deportivo

Rather than recap every great moment in sports this week, I want to focus more on how we're following the action in 2006 - that is, the technical advances and changes in media coverage.

Following the 2006 World Cup in Germany

Korea/Japan was a booger to follow - you had to get up at 3AM to watch matches live. It was exciting at the moment but you would really feel it about 12 hours later at work trying to stay awake. But you could watch the games in their entirety - really get into the flow of things. This time around, the time change has been a bit more "Breakfast At Wimbledon". The live broadcasts of each game here in Dallas have been at 8AM, 11AM & 2PM. You find yourself at work wondering about the game & its progress. So you keep up with it online or sneak out to the pub for lunch.

Technical Advances

Online I've been using a combination of things - Yahoo!'s Official FIFA World Cup page with video highlights, Google's Joga Bonito Companion for Firefox, & FootieFox. Here is when I would urge you - if you are still using Microsoft's Internet Explorer or Apple's Safari browser, to switch to Mozilla Firefox. The Joga Bonito Companion add-on to Firefox gives you game updates right in the browser as you work. The companion lets you know when an infraction occurs (Yellow card to Ballack! 49') or when someone scores. (It's 1/2 time now for Mexico/Angola 0-0). After a game, you can mosey on over to Yahoo!'s World Cup page & watch video highlights of all the important moments in the games with quick-loading Macromedia Flash video.

I managed to convince the office to have a TV rolled in to the common area to catch the Univision broadcasts "for the students' enjoyment". But it's torture having to keep up appearances while in the other room there's a whole world of soccer excitement going on. (I might even prefer getting up at 3AM in the morning to knowing there's a great game going on during work hours.)

Back home, Satellite TV & the DVR have really helped me follow more closely the tournament. Univision, Telefutura, ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPN-U aka"the Ocho" (Does ANYONE get this channel?) all show the games, interviews & highlight shows.
World Cup Live -, Eric Wynalda & Julie Foudy are semi-pro commentators doing their best to cover the game with a SportsCenter sensibility. Ideally we would have a combination of the fun that is the Spanish broadcast & the analysis that ESPN offers.

My brother Larry mentioned to me that he'd been listening to the World Cup matches on XM. I had no idea that XM was going to be broadcasting the games! XM channels 147 & 148 American Soccer Radio Call-In, Andres Cantor (Can someone tell me WHY this guy's not on the network broadcasts?!!) on the Spanish play-by-play and it's all offered 24-7. I can't recall this kind of coverage for ANY sport event - not to mention soccer. So these are good times.

I've had the XM World Cup coverage on all week in the car. It has really been terrific to hear America calling in to talk soccer with the announcers. If there's a burgeoning sport sub-culture, it's soccer. But as one of the callers said, the World Cup is a special event - and the rest of soccer pales in comparison really. So - there's always a bit of a let-down after the month-long international soccer extravaganza that is World Cup Soccer.

Univision & ESPN - The Joy of the Festival & The Sober Analysis

Spanish-language television vs. ABC/ESPN English-language coverage is not a fair comparison. We simply don't have the same caliber announcing as Spanish-language television does - and that's merely a function of the regular practice that Spanish-language announcers have. But even with practice, I wonder if ESPN/ABC could match the enthusiasm that the Argentines & Mexicans bring to the games? We get bogged down in the stats & analysis and are afraid to dance.
Nice to see that Major League Soccer is now covering World Cup too. Before they almost seemed to completely ignore it.
Kicks - Steve Davis' World Cup Blog is the Dallas Morning News' attempt to cover the travel expense for their Germany correspondents. Belo Gang - buy a vowel & put an RSS feed on the blog for cryin' out loud. How can we be expected to follow it otherwise?

Online newspapers (like the Star-Telegram & the Dallas Morning News) have a really difficult time putting together successful blogs. It's understandable that reporters with looming deadlines would be less than enthusiastic about the blogging medium and yet another writing assignment. Frontburner is a successful blog in comparison because it's maintained by writers and guest contributors that work for a MONTHLY publication - they don't have the pressure of the daily deadline. Frontburner is also refreshingly irreverent in a way that the regional newspaper of consequence can't afford to be.

The end of the 2006 World Cup won't spell the end of soccer this summer for us here stateside either. There's Major League Soccer, yes. But also coming out July 14th is the documentary on the New York Cosmos, "Once in a Lifetime". This was directed by the same guy who did the neat production work on "Dogtown & Z-Boys" and it looks like it's going to capture the same 1970's magic-in-a-bottle that Dogtown did. (Not to mention the killer soundtrack to expect from them!)

NASL, the NY Cosmos, Kenny Cooper, Kyle Rote, Jr. & The Dallas Tornado - all of this brings back really good memories of soccer spectating in the seventies/early eighties. As we were learning the Metric System AND the English System, we were also following American Football, Baseball, Soccer, Tennis - maybe it was all too much. Anyone out there remember the Metric system?

I'm not forgetting the Mavs Heat finals. It's an honor for Dallas to finally be in the NBA Finals. But the timing is difficult. I can only imagine what Dirk's going through trying to focus on the next game & knowing that his countrymen are completely rapt with the soccer right now.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Soccer!!! One month till World Cup 2006

The spectacle that is the world's most watched sports event - Soccer's World Cup - begins in one month. Happened to see this fantastic commercial yesterday.

I want to know which ad agency put it together for Gatorade here. This is a fantastic tv ad. Regardless of how our U.S. squad performs in Germany, this ad captures the state of the game of "futbol, soccer, football" in the United States in 2006. There's the frustration of early-stage growth vs. high expectations. And we see plenty of how the rest of the world feels about us trying on their sport for our XXL size: "Yankees Go Home!". Then it ends with the thrill of qualification for the big show - goal-by-beautiful-goal. In 30 seconds I was ready for World Cup 2006 - no matter the outcome.

I'm lobbying hard to get my office to bring in a television during the World Cup to show the games live. (With a lot of 11AM & 2PM CST game times, what else am I supposed to do?)

D Magazine's FrontBurner blog is a guilty pleasure for Dallasites. I noticed this Adam McGill soccer-related post tonight. Adam's FrontBurner post links to a great LA Times article responding to W's weak endorsement of soccer. Dallas' role in the history of U.S. Soccer has come full circle with Kenny Cooper Jr. playing for F.C. Dallas.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The faux Irish pub revolution & the Texas Wine Industry

"Whether you are in Kazkhstan or the Canary Islands, you can now hear the lilt of an Irish brogue over the sound of the Pogues as you wait for your Guinness to settle. "

Happy St. Patrick's Day! This is an article written by Austin Kelley in Slate Magazine. It explains the development in the early 1990's of the "Irish Pub Concept" by the Irish Pub Company. The evolution of modern Irish acceptance of St. Patrick's Day, American-style revelry is also detailed.

I've conducted my own fairly extensive research into this phenomenon. My studies began at The Dubliner on Greenville Avenue. But the Dub is the real Nellie. It's featured in today's Dallas Morning News. Having celebrated many a St. Patrick's Day at the Dubliner, I can attest to its authenticity as a proper Irish drinking establishment. (Well - I've never been to Ireland in person - but I had Astral Weeks & The Unforgettable Fire on my headphones constantly as a kid.) So visits to an Irish pub were embraced with open arms. And on the many St. Patrick's Day celebrations that I've witnessed at the Dub, it's always fun to see the Irish waitstaff observe up close what we Americans do with their religious holiday. They positively revel in it.

I've seen faux Irish implemented everywhere - Dallas, Austin, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago. Our very own Trinity Hall was built, assembled, dismantled in Ireland & shipped over to Mockingbird Station in order that we here in Dallas also enjoy our very own variety of "craic". From the article: "IPCo will assemble your chosen pub in Ireland. Then they'll bring the whole thing to your space and set it up. All you have to do is some basic prep, and voilà!"

Other favorite local establishments overflowing with Irish "craic":

The Old Monk

The Londoner

The Idle Rich

And Guinness has even taken the step of reaching into your homes with the Surger!

The other mentionable article is from CNN/Southern Living & it's about the burgeoning Wine Industry in the Texas Hill Country. My wife & I were down in Fredericksburg in February & conducted our very own sampling of the local varietals. It was splendid. And it's nice to see it highlighted in the national press. Too bad we didn't take the Texas Wine Trail back home.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Monty Python at KERA Studios 1975

Python in Dallas, 1975

This is brilliant! KERA engineers unearthed this marvelous PLEDGE DRIVE footage from 1975. It begins with the promo "11 Nights of Great Public TV" - which is borderline Pythonesque in its irony. (11 Nights followed by 354 hum-drum evenings of nature broadcasts & Nova.)

Who would've thought that a Public TV Pledge Drive would be so enjoyable to watch? All you have to do is wait 31 years before you have a look! The telephones are ringing in the background & volunteers pick up the yellow standard-issues while the interview is conducted with the Python gang.

No John Cleese here, but the rest of the players are having a smashing time in Texas. They remark about how large & deserted DFW airport is. (It's still huge, but no longer empty!) They discuss the soon-to-be-released Monty Python & The Holy Grail (and the Dallas studio audience giggles at first hearing the title.) Then they play the Lumberjack scene from Flying Circus & the camera lands on Michael Palin for a reaction shot.

Loved seeing Graham Chapman smoking his pipe. He doesn't chime in until near the end of the footage but his limited moments are masterful.

I'm so proud of my hometown & KERA for having been WAY ahead of the rest of the country in embracing the now legendary troupe of Brit humorists. It's funny to hear how much more distinctive our Texas accents were back then before Dallas was invaded by both coasts.

And we learn just WHO Monty Python is!


KERA's Online Argument Clinic

I wandered by the D Magazine Frontburner blog & found this link to footage at The Sound of Young America blog.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Alamo Drafthouse & the Casa Linda Theater

Sorry to see this deal fall through. Alamo Drafthouse in Dallas would be fantastic. "Why another movie theater" you ask? The Drafthouse is a draw not just because of Granada Studio Movie Grill-style eats & drinks. But also because they are movie buffs & hold special events - festivals, speakers, actors, movie premieres.

Walked by the Casa Linda Theater. It's a mess. They could really use a well-matched tenant. The Alamo Drafthouse was one last year when they signed the letter of intent. In 2005, Entertainment Weekly called it "the best theater in America".

The Dallas Business Journal reported last August that, "Retrofitting the theater will cost about $1.2 million. The Austin-based company will "maintain the look and feel of the landmark," says John Martin, president of Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas. "We are not bringing in a megaplex. We want to keep it cool and open to the community."

They also pointed out that, "Alamo Drafthouse also is actively scouting sites in west Frisco, where it would like to build an eight-screen prototype, said Vaughn Miller, president of Dallas-based Henry S. Miller Commercial's retail division."

Copia from the Trial Watch blog talks about how the investment group was a different management team than the Austin Drafthouse. She spoke with Karen Davis: "I cannot say how the franchise will develop their programming style there in Dallas. I do not know if they are willing to take the risks in Dallas that we do here in central Austin with our liberal demographic. I can tell you one thing. The more they hear input like yours, the more likely they will be to take such a risk. We love getting programming suggestions. Tell your friends who feel the same way to write the franchise folks."

A couple of thoughts as to why the potential investors backed off - first in regards to parking - not enough spots & not enough area to really make more available without a multilevel parking garage. It's noteworthy to see just how crowded & cramped the lot is. Secondly - the theater tower & Casa Linda location are significant historical & aesthetic draws here. But perhaps the megaplex theater being finished at Northpark is too much competition for Alamo Drafthouse to handle with a charming location like Casa Linda.

Monday, February 20, 2006

BlimpSpotting - Future Flights of Fancy

News this week from two sides of modern airship development - the military and travel & tourism. CNN & Popular Science report that Igor Pasternak of Worldwide Aeros Corporation in California is developing a hotel in the sky (as in the doctored-up airport photo above). His Aeroscraft (pronounced out loud, is this too similar to Eros Craft?) is an airship that would cross the continental United States in 18 hours - not exactly jumbo jet speed - but not snail slow either. And it really looks comfy!

A part of my enthusiasm for these airships is a frustration with the current air travel system. It is largely based on 1950's technology. I'm 6'3" tall (1.9m) and loathe trying to squeeze into the seats of these glorified Greyhound Buses in the Sky they call jet airliners. I can really see myself stretching out in an airship like this one.

It's kind of hard to hide a blimp

The military is interested in troop & gear transport. From the LA Daily News article: "Code-named "Walrus," the new airship would fly using a combination of lighter-than-air gas - like conventional blimps or World War I zeppelins - and aerodynamic lift generated by the craft's shape, as well as thrust vectoring." The photo below is from a Lockheed Martin test flight on Valentine's Day. Looks a little like the Aeroscraft, huh?