Thursday, February 5, 2009

My lame attempt to talk about Punk

The real innovation of punk was its authenticity. It was hard, angry, badass working class rock and roll, written and performed by hardened angry, badass working class rockers. Was there rock with a similar sound and purpose behind it? Yes, the Rolling Stones being the prime example. But the Rolling Stones were not angry working class youths. They were middle class art students who liked Blues music. I don't mean to diss the Stones, but they were basically dilettantes. They were like today's suburban rich kid who loves Fifty Cent and decides to imitate what he hears. They sing about the excitement and the freedom and the fun of being a poor working class youth, without the part of not knowing where your next meal is coming from. Yes, the Stones were great. But they weren't real. Mick Jagger has never been in a street fight, no matter how well he sings “street fightin man”. “Satisfaction” may be a great song, but Keith Richards probably has no real reason to complain. And for years, this is what music was, people singing about experiences they have never had, from Elvis Presley singing blues, to John Lennon singing about giving up all your posessions and being a working class hero while sitting in his penthouse, to Led Zeppelin singing about demons and medieval battles, to the Who singing about being deaf, blind, dumb, and good at pinball. Punk completely blows this out of the water (not that there aren't flashes of authenticity during this time, like John Lennon's “Cold Turkey” and Eric Clapton's “Layla” two songs about situations those artists were actually going through, heroin addiction and unrequited love respectively) . It first starts with the Velvet Underground. Lou Reed did not actually write his songs about himself, as far as we know. But Reed is no dilettante. Reed is not a rich kid who just wants to sing about whats great about being poor. Reed is a writer, who wants to write about things he knows nothing about, but not to romanticize them, He wants to show them in all their dirty, gritty realistic glory. Take the song “Heroin”. If there is a more brilliantly written song in the history of popular music, I have yet to hear it. In 6 and a half minutes of slow agonizing chords alternated with fast manic screaming and screeching guitars, Reed describes the life of a heroin addict in with a gritty realism that simply compels you to brave the fingernail on chalkboard guitars, and keep on listening. In a way, Reed is a journalist. He brilliantly writes about all the subtleties and motives behind this addiction, putting all the disparate details into a coherent work. But its so much more than that. In that 7 minutes Lou Reed has ceased to exist. Like a man possessed by a demon, Reed is channeling another being altogether, this character that he's created (come to think of it, this is probably why him and David Bowie got along). Reed's there in person, but his voice is just another instrument, that song is being spoken by the heroin addict. Not only do you believe him, but you start to feel it too, your heartbeat goes up and down with the song, and you feel a sort of sick desperation when the addict (with Reed as his mouthpiece) screams “Thank your god that I'm not aware!/ and thank your god that I just dont care!” and you fully understand what drives a man to heroin, even if you can't put it into words. Reed, as a writer/performer has done his job. He has conveyed reality to you, in all its dirty and unglamorous glory, in a way that makes you seem like it's happening to you. This is something the Rolling Stones never could have done. The next step however, was taken by the Punk Movement. Lou Reed had suceeded in writing about a fictitious world in an ultra realistic way. What Punk did was take Lou Reed's sense of realism and use it to convey reality. And because their lives were bad, the music they produced was intentionally gritty and amateurish, full of anger, resentment, and desperation. Case in point, the Sex Pistols. They actually fired their competent bassist, Glen Matlock, because he just looked like he hadnt skipped a meal in his life. He was too close to being a Rolling Stone, a rich kid who wanted to pretend to be poor (Ironically, Matlock would go on to play in a band called “The Rich Kids”). They replaced him with a messed up, mentally disturbed druggie who could not play the bass if his life depended on it. Why? Because their music needed to be grittily realistic, not the romanticization of the poor life that had been the norm until then. That authenticity is palpable in any of their songs. The ferocity and seething anger just beats you over the head, Johnny Rotten's hate and anger seethes right through your speakers, and the loud buzzsaw guitar just dares you to just try to turn down the volume, but you wouldn't dare because the cacophony of noise goes straight to your gut and refuses to leave. You're struck by the fact that this music is absolutely real, they mean every word they say. And they say so. The most important single lyric in all of the Punk canon is Johnny Rotten snarling “we mean it, maaaaan”. That is punk, in a sentence. We mean it. However, this kind of pure authenticity usually doesn't last long. . Punk's biggest strength, that it was simple enough that any kid could start playing and form a band quickly, was simultaneously what caused its ruin. Soon enough, you had rich people who romanticized the life of the working class picking up a guitar and learning three chords and pretending they were angry and desperate, in the same way the Rolling Stones pretended to be poor youths by playing dirty grimy blues. And then once you have 50$ gold safety pins being sold on 5th avenue, you know that the authenticity is gone, and you get the feeling you've been cheated. That's not to say that authenticity has been completely absent from rock music for the past 20 years. Every so often, an artist who is authentic and real shows up and takes the music world by storm, until they flame out quickly among a barrage of imitators. Nirvana, for one, blew up the previous 10 years of music when “Smells Like Teen Spirit” took the world by storm, and a big part of that was the sense that Kurt Cobain really meant every mumbled and growled word. Here was a man who had issues, who decided to do the world a favor by pouring his troubled soul into his music. Nirvana in turn, inspired a spate of imitators who had Nirvana's sound but not its troubled soul. Grunge then quickly burns out, and dies with Cobain in his garage from a self inflicted gunshot wound. These “mini revolutions” have occurred periodically since the fall of punk, and I figure they'll keep happening until whites finally adapt rap as the new blues, a Beatles for a new generation come out, and the whole process starts over again. But that's a post for a different time.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Idiocy 101

Rickey Henderson. All time stolen base leader. All time Runs leader. The Best Leadoff Man Of All Time. Over 3,000 Hits. Playoff Success. Clutchy Goodness. Is this man a hall of famer, by any standard you want to set? Seemingly, yes. Bill James has been quoted as saying, "If you'd split him in two, you'd have two hall of famers". But not according to this BBWAA member. In his column written for a senior citizen community paper, Corky Simpson, a man who combines the name "Corky" with the last name of a cartoon character known for being an idiot, published his ballot for this year's Hall Of Fame class, which included some borderline deserving candidates (Bert Blyleven, Alan Trammel, Tim Raines), some understandable but not deserving candidates (Jim Rice, Andre Dawson, Don Mattingly) and some "wtf?" candidates (Tommy John? Matt Frickin Williams?). But the most "wtf?" aspect of this list is the glaring omission of the aforementioned Rickey. There is no possible explanation for this. Even old time baseball men types, who think Bill James ruined baseball and that VORP is something you eat on a hike would appreciate Rickey's stolen base skills and general clutchiness. It's not that he can't appreciate Rickey's particular skill set, because he voted for Tim Raines, who's like Rickey Lite. And he can't be he just had a senior moment and just forgot about Rickey, because he puts him in a list of candidates"honored with nomination this year and who may well be voted into the Hall of Fame" a list Rickey shares with luminaries like Dan Plesac and Greg Vaughn, (Rickey is located between Mark Grace, a personal favorite who's a borderline Hall Of Famer, and Jack Morris, who gets a lot of old baseball man votes). It might be because Corky seems to be an unabashed D-Bax fan who wanted desperately wanted Matt Williams to get in. But that can't be, because a) Mark Grace? and b) the HOF vote is no time to be a partisan idiot. Some people have said that Simpson is old and out of touch and the BBWAA should have an age limit. However, I don't believe in insulting the elderly by associating them with Corky Simpson.
Having exhausted all that, it's time to come to our final conclusion. Corky Simpson is simply an idiot. I have no better explanation for why somebody believes Matt Williams is a Hall Of Famer, and Rickey Henderson is not. He does quite a bit to prove my assumption, saying that he didn't vote for Mark McGwire because McGwire took steroids, when Williams was busted by the Mitchell Report for guess what, taking steroids.
What can we do about this? Well, the dude's like 80, and married with children I think, which unfortunately means he has already passed his toxic idiot genes to the next generation. However, I think a stripping of his BBWAA membership is an order, as is a personal apology to Rickey Henderson. I think we should also make him do something immoral and demeaning, but I leave that to people with better imaginations than I.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Francisco's Folly: Why Signing Closers To Huge Contracts Is Generally a Bad Idea

The New York Mets recently signed the best free agent closer on the market and the recent setter of a single season record for saves, Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez, to a 3 year deal worth 36 million dollars, immediately upgrading their horrid bullpen and momentarily satisfying the bloodlust of the rabid weasel that is the New York press. This move seems to make a lot of sense, but upon further review, it becomes apparent it may not have been such a tremendously great move. There are two types of issues with this signing. The problems with Mr. K-Rod himself, and the issues with closers in general. First, K-Rod himself. K-Rod is quite simply, overrated. "But Mr. Blogger Person! Didn't this man just set the record for saves in a season? Does that not count for anything?". No, it does not. K-Rod did not set the record for saves because he was particuraly good. He set said record because he also had a record number of save opprotunities, on a team which provided plenty of them. In the handy Bill James 2009 Handbook I recently bought, it says that of K-Rod's record 62 saves, 39 were "easy saves", which came up by 3 with the bases empty. Only one save out of those 62 was a "tough save" where the tying runner was in scoring position. K-Rod was not a great closer. He merely was on the right team in the right place in the right time. Furthermore, his skills have actually been degrading. In the past 3 years, his walk rate has gone up along with his ERA, while his K rate has sloped downward, a couple of trends Met fans better pray don't continue. On top of all that, he may not be healthy much longer, considering his mechanics. Watch him pitch. You wince just watching that.
But assuming he is that good, and assuming he will stay healthy for the duration of his contract, is he, or any other closer, worth 36 million dollars of a teams money, money that could be used elsewhere to get hitters and starters and such? Think about it. K-Rod's new Mets teammate, Johan Santana, is paid approximately (all the figures below are approximate, just to make it easier on everyone) 18 million dollars. That means, at his 2008 stats, (234 Innings Pitched, 964 Batters faced) Johan Santana, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, was paod approximately $77,000 pr inning, and $19,000 per batter. To poor folks like me and you, that does seem like a lot. However, take K-Rod's new salary, and apply it to his 2008 stats (68 Innings pitched, and 288 Batters faced0 you come out with approximately $176,000 per inning(!) and $41,000 per batter faced. Essentially, Johan Santana, one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, is being paid less for the work he does then K-Rod is. I dont care how good of a closer you are, a good closer does not equal a good starter, who is way more valuable. Why, then is K-Rod paid as much as he is. "Fine. A little overpaid. But you need a proven closer, and you gotta spend to get a good closer!" you might say. But, while this is the conventional wisdom, recent evidence suggests otherwise. Many teams have found thier closer not by signing a free agent proven closer, but by taking a raw young fireballing starter and letting him close, or by taking an injury prone starting pitcher and letting him close. Trevor Hoffman? Failed starter. Mariano Rivera? Failed starter. Bobby Jenks? Failed starter, picked up off waivers. Kerry Wood? Injured starter. John Smoltz? Injured starter. I can go on and on, but the point is, there are plenty of ways to find yourself a closer by acting intelligently and creatively, rather than spending 36 million dollars. People, for whatever reason, like to attach mystical qualities to the closer, but at its core its a relatively simple job. Pitch one inning. Dont Screw Up. There are plenty of raw young fireballers who can do that but never get that chance because thier team is too busy wasting money and talent trying to sign that "proven closer" (like K-Rod's former team, the angels, now chasing free agent Brian Funetes, even though they have plenty of capable young guys like Jose Arredono) so he could be that mythical stopper the press all loves. Take the ongoing drama with Joba Chamberlain. Closer? Starter? Starter? Closer? It seems clear to me that Joba can be a dominating closer. However, it also appears to me that he can be a dominating starter, which is a more valuable role. Wasting that talent on one inning a night, while paying 160 million for a guy to fill that rotation spot, is a cryin' shame, plain and simple, when there's dozens of other guys who can fill that particular role. The moment David Price saved Game 7 for the Rays in the ALCS, i remarked sardonically, "if he was on the Yankees, everyone would be clamoring to keep him at closer". Unfortunately for the human race in general, I was right. The next day, a local sports columnist advocated keeping Price at closer because "while statistical analysts may say Price would be more valuable as a starter, there's no way to quantify the edge a team has by knowing they have a shutdown closer". Putting aside the slap at science and reason, putting aside the pseudo-mystical qualities he assigns the "shutdown closer", there are 50 other guys who can do the same thing who are not the number one frickin prospect in baseball!!!!!!!!! You say David Price has the right attitude, the right demeanor to close? Well one of those 5o probably does too. One of those 50 will become a Trevor Hoffman, a Bobby Jenks, a Brad Ziegler, etc etc.
In sum, the Mets signing of K-Rod was a no-brainer in all senses of the word. It was an obvious solution to an obvious problem, but a solution that lacked in thought or creativity. The problems is solved, essentially, but it could have been solved cheaper and better if Omar Minaya had ignored the press and thought a little out of the box.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I wish I wrote this

A facebook note i shamelessly ripped off from one Benjy Tocker, I wish I had written this, but I didn't so I shall post it now and claim it my own. Take that, copyright laws!
and here it is...
by Benjy Tocker

k so i just finished watching a video called "7 things men can learn from edward cullen" {link is on the bottom} and I'd like to respond to what this creepy lady (and any obsessed twilight fan) has to say.


Edward Cullen is not real. He is merely ink on a paper. E.D.W.A.R.D.C.U.L.L.E.N.
There you go. Edward Cullen is in this note right now. Say hi to him.
Not only is he a fictional character, he is also created by a woman. So, this woman was merely projecting her own feelings of emptiness and lust and longing for a man. She wants a decent man in her life. I bet you that Stephenie Meyers just wanted a decent man in her life so she just created one. Now who is she to tell us men how to act around women.
This video repeatedly tells us to "be man enough" to do this, or "man up" and do this. My answer? You are a girl. Do not tell me how to be a man. When you grow male genitalia, let me know how it feels to be a man, and then maybe you may tell me how to be a man. Being the type of man that twilight suggests will actually guarantee you not to girls. Why, you ask? Because none of the girls i am pursuing is a fictional character named Bella. If by some chance i were to be pursuing a fictional girl named Bella, I would no doubt succeed, she could join me in late night conversations in the psych ward, and possibly even help me take my pills. I would show her off to all of the doctors and nurses and see their stunned reactions to how unbelievably good looking my imaginary girlfriend is. But I will never get Bella, because I am not Edward Cullen.

I digress:
Edward Cullen is not even that great of a character. The dude is '17' but he can live forever, and his random spewing of sentiment like your 80 year old grandfather is supposed to be appealing???!!!
All he does is spew platitudes in his icy vampire tone. At least Barak Obama delivers his worthless platitudes with warmth. The way he shows his love for Bella by telling her how perfect she is just emasculating himself. And I'm being told to "be a man" just like him?!! No thanks, I'd like to keep my genitals. This is what I found on askyahoo: Every sentence describing him features the words "perfect," "flawless," "beautiful," "astonishing," and/or "breath-taking." (Here's a fun game: take a drink every time Meyer uses some elaborate adjective to describe him. You'll be in the hospital by chapter seven.)

I wholeheartedly agree. She overemphasizes his beauty to the point where it is impossible for some naive teen not to fall in love with him. My point is, Edward Cullen is merely a figment of some girls Utopian imagination, projecting her feelings for the flaws of the male gender by creating one man gay enough to sacrifice his manhood for some chick.

Now, for Bella: You are an idiot. A naive little teenage girl. You obviously have some weird desire to snuggle against a cold marble slab named Edward Cullen. The good part of this is that he will live forever, and you will not. You will die, and in a few hundred years he will have had millions of other girls who are better looking than you snuggle up against his icy marbleness and listen to his platitudes. Do you honestly think that everything he says about you being the most beautiful looking girl he has ever seen in his entire (unknown amount of year) existence is true? Good thing you're only ink on paper, otherwise I'd say that you're an idiot.

Edward Cullen is abusive and a stalker. Girls only like him because he is good looking.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Running Commentary On Election

Just started this. It's 8:15 right now, im watching CNN. I decided on CNN because Fox News is well, Fox News, and MSNBC is also sickeningly partisan. Im waiting till the daily show goes on at 10.
anyway, they just had reports from correspondents at each home rally for McCain and Obama. I think what their homes bases are like is a perfect sum up of the differences between the candidates. At Obama's rally, they had to get a new microphone for the correspondent because they couldn't hear her over the raucous crowds in Grant Park. McCain's supporters, however, are situated in a nice hotel in Phonenix. The Phonenix Boys Choir just performed. Need I say more?

CNN is holding out on calling Pennsylvania for Obama, but others have already. Numerous people have said McCain has no chance without Pennsylvania. So that's good. In other battleground states, Obama seems to have the edge in all of them.

I cant imagine what its like to be running for president and watch a wall of TV's telling you you're losing. I think its something like this

But as we all know, John McCain is used to torture... (yes, i know. I'm a terrible human being)
Now, imagine how Hilary Clinton's doing....(throws chair at tv screen.."IT SHOULD'VE BEEN ME!!!)

CNN just called Pennsylvania for Obama. McCain is pretty much screwed now.

...and Elizabeth Dole goes down

CNN just had a guy on saying that race was not a factor in this election, as people polled said it wasn't, as compared to other factors like age. Thing is, that if you ask a guy point blank, basically if he's a racist, even if it was a factor for him, he'll probably say no. a) as Malcom Gladwell showed in his excellent book Blink, our reactions to race often operate on a subconscious level, and b) why would you admit this? It's considered taboo to say you're a racist, even if you are. This is where the Bradeley Effect comes from. In short, CNN just said something silly.

What i am enjoying is watching the ultra-conservative idiots from my school and elsewhere post mournful, almost emo-like, status updates on the election. Some highlights.

"------- is on the verge of crying at the stupidity of the self righteous liberals."
(replace "self righteous liberals" with "my girlfriend" and voila! emo!)

"------- is please people, vote McCain. Vote for a future by not voting Obama."
(vote for a past that never existed by voting for McCain)

has to fast if Obama wins the election."
(has to? seems a little harsh)

lets all pray that obama loses."
(lets all pray you get gonorrhea)
s wow america. a fucking socialist nouchebag now runs your lives. fuck that im moving to australia"
(enjoy australia, sucker)
"------ posted a video...The End by The Doors"
(...of bush's presidency, thank god)

Also on facebook, possibly the stupidest group I've ever seen: If Barack Obama wins, I'm Moving To Canada. Apparently to flee socialized healthcare.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The First Rule Of Moneyball Is....

According to a Variety piece, Moneyball, one of my favorite all time books, is being made into a movie, with Brad Pitt to star. That means that the actor who played one of my fictional role models will now play one of my real life role models. My worship is all confused now. But anyway, Pitt appears to be a good choice to play Beane, but I can't help but intersperse scenes from Moneyball with Fight Club in my head. Like Beane throwing a chair into a wall and yelling "YOU ARE NOT A BEAUTIFUL AND UNIQUE SNOWFLAKE, JEREMY BONDERMAN!", or Scott Hatteberg saying "I am jack's picking machine", or Lenny Dykstra beating the crap outta Beane and saying "I wanted to destroy something beautiful"....ok, time to stop the bad Fight Club before I make snide remarks on Troy, I shall go....
But god, I wonder how it must feel to actually be played by Brad Pitt...just like walking around, introducing yourself to random women "Hey baby, Brad Pitt played me"

Random Band I'm Obsessed With At The Moment: A Reoccuring Segment

This weeks random band I'm obsessed with at the moment (drum roll)....
The 22-20's

This British band, which sadly broke up in 2006, has got a great bluesy, folky, somewhat punky sound to them. One reviewer has described them as sounding like "Jimi Hendrix covering the White Stripes". The white stripes are one of my favorite bands, and Hendrix is Hendrix. They only managed to release one album before they broke up, but i recommend tracking it down.
Illegally Download: "Shoot Your Gun", "Devil In Me"
Sounds like: White Stripes, Gun Club, Arctic Monkeys,