Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The Future Is Now?

On Sunday, the White Sox traded starting catcher Miguel Olivo, top prospect outfielder Jeremy Reed, and AA shortstop Michael Morse for pitcher Freddy Garcia and catcher Ben Davis.

In short. White Sox general manager Kenny Williams was taken for a ride. Yet again.

Before I say anything else, I must say that Freddy Garcia is a very good pitcher. He will help the Sox this year and is better than what the team was throwing out there. But...

*He's a free agent after this season. The Sox have rented him for three months in exchange for a great haul of prospects for Seattle. There's no guarantee the team will be able to re-sign him, and with this organization's history with pitchers, I don't feel confident he'll be back.

*Garcia is moving from a severe pitcher's park to a severe hitter's park. Plus he's a flyball pitcher coming to Coors East in Comiskey. His numbers will almost undoubtedly suffer.

*He's had ERAs of 4.39 and 4.50 the past two seasons. Yes, in 100 IP this year, he's been better. But I'm not going to discount the past two seasons just because he's off to a nice start.

Now the White Sox have a giant, gaping hole at catcher. I believe at this point the Sox have the worst catching situation in the majors. Alomar is old, not productive, and probably just should have been hired as the bench coach instead of Baines. Let's not let 30 at bats this year cloud the fact Jamie Burke is a 31-year-old career minor leaguer. And Ben Davis has been a huge disappointment. A .670 career OPS. Striking out 1 out of ever 3.9 at bats in his career. OBPs routinely less than .300. SLG less than .400. Add to the catching hole the fact that Crede has been struggling all season long and may or may not turn it on. Willie Harris was just in a huge 0-fer slump. Juan Uribe is 4 for his last 31. Aaron Rowand, great against LHP, still can't hit right-handers. And now the team's one productive catcher is gone.

Compare what the Royals got for Carlos Beltran, a superior player, to what the Sox had to give up for Garcia. KC got 3 decent prospects, the best being Mark Teahen. The Sox gave up a starting ML catcher, one of the best prospects in all of baseball in Jeremy Reed, and another Top Ten prospect in the organization in Mike Morse. Seem equal? Of course not. Not to mention that just two years ago all the booty KW could get for All-Star Ray Durham was Jon freaking Adkins.

I know the Sox have organizational depth in the outfield, but Reed was the one "untouchable" guy in the organization. He's a left-handed bat with great patience, decent power, good speed, and the ability to play center field. Reed is the best hitting prospect this organization has had since Frank Thomas. He walks, something most players in the Sox oganization are afraid to do. And if the rumors are true about Bavasi wanting Crede, but the Sox forcing him to take Reed -- well, that's ridiculous. Would you rather see a hole at catcher and Crede at 3B or Olivo catching, Uribe at third, and a Rowand/Perez platoon in CF? Especially since the Sox just drafted Josh Fields in the first round who, god willing, will supplant Crede at third in two years anyway.

"Going for the jugular" and "being aggressive" are great things. But it didn't work in 2001 with David Wells. It didn't work in 2002 with Todd Ritchie. It didn't work in 2003 with Bartolo Colon and Billy Koch. It didn't work in 2003 with Carl Everett and Roberto Alomar. And there is NO guarantee it will work this year either. The difference being never has so much of this team's future been put on the line for potential present success. Olivo still had 5 years under Sox control. Reed hadn't played a game in the majors yet and is just about as sure of a thing as there is in the minors.

If the White Sox make the World Series this year, I'll take it all back. I'll never question KW again. But, I still don't think this team is strong enough to do that. I hope I'm wrong. Nothing will make me happier.

My bottom line? Garcia will help this year, but the only way the trade will make sense is if the Sox make the World Series. If not, we have just mortgaged a HUGE part of the future for the right to finish with 84 wins instead of 82.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Pitchfork's Top 100 Albums of the 1970s

Pitchfork Media has compiled the Top 100 Albums of the 1970's, which apparently consisted of listing every album Brian Eno had even a partial fingerprint on. There were mistakes, ovbiously, but better to discuss are the complete misses. What follows are the Top Nine albums to be ignored by Pitchfork on their list. I'd place each of these in my personal Top 20, if not maybe 30 of that decade. If any of these bands had just hired Brian Eno to turn a knob in the studio...

1. Elvis Costello -- Armed Forces (1979, Columbia)

If there's room for 16 Brian Eno albums and 25 David Bowie discs, there's gotta be room for the third release of the decase from the best songwriter of his generation. "This Year's Model" popped in the list at #52 with "My Aim Is True" at #37.

2. Rolling Stones -- Sticky Fingers (1971, Virgin)

Are you kidding? One Stones album on the entire list? While "Exile" has the reputation, it's "Sticky Fingers" that is the Stones at their absolute apex. "Let It Bleed" still held onto some of the styles of the '60s, but "Sticky Fingers" had the band roaring into the new decade with the underrated Mick Taylor helping to shape the band's sound.

3. Joe Jackson -- Look Sharp! (1979, A&M)

The list ignores a lot (or all) of the late-70's Angry-Young-Man/New Wave/pub rock, which is surprising since this stuff isn't very far away from The Clash (ranked #2) or bands like the Ramones. Joe Jackson's debut is a masterpiece, bouncing through different genres like two drunks on the bumper cars at the circus. Of all the albums on my list, I'm probably most surprised this didn't crack Pitchfork's 100 or EVEN GET ONE SINGLE FREAKING VOTE. "I'm The Man" appeared on one list. (sarcastic clapping begins)

4. Gram Parsons -- GP (1972, Reprise)

The list ignores most (or all) of country music in the 70s, even groundbreaking stuff like Gram Parsons' two albums. Apparently, listening to less popular genres of music is only OK if it makes you look cool. Dance, disco, funk, jazz and Kraftwerk are all over Pitchfork's list. But the man who basically invented country-rock and paved the way for the 90s alt.country movement gets no credit.

5. Graham Parker -- Squeezing Out Sparks (1979, Arista)

See comments for #3. Parker was more focused with his effort, however. This is the sound of a man with complete confidence in his craft.

6. Flamin' Groovies -- Flamingo (1970, Kama Sutra)

One of the latest, greatest forgotten bands. The Groovies smoked on three early 70's releases. Keith Richards once said the Groovies album "Tennage Head" is what he wished "Sticky Fingers" turned out to be. I prefer one release before that album, "Flamingo." Check out the guitar outro solo on "Heading For the Texas Border."


7. AC/DC -- Highway To Hell (1979, Atco)

"Highway To Hell" was AC/DC's finest moment. Bon Scott's last album with the group. If Van Halen's debut album cracked the list, this also needed to have a spot.


8 The Kinks -- Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1 (1970, Reprise)

The Kinks had finished off back-to-back slices of British life with "Village Green Preservation Society" and "Arthur." "Lola..." is a step below the high-water marks of those two albums, but still a tremendous effort from one of the most underrated bands of all-time.

9. New York Dolls -- New York Dolls (1973, Mercury)

Put simply, this is better than anything the Stooges ever released. And both "Funhouse" and "Raw Power" made the list. Make some room for the band with the guy who would later become Buster Poindexter and record "Hot, Hot, Hot!"

I'll take comments. I'll even respond.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

A Little Wild and a Little Strange

The female lead of Dodgeball and Zoolander, Christine Taylor, who I feel has been in 85% of similar comedies (she hasn't, but does embody the archetype), was Melody on Nickelodeon's Hey Dude. She's also Ben Stiller's wife. Sadly, she's the only Hey Dude alum to successfully move beyond tv (or beyond Hey Dude at all...). Ted was in White Squall and Mr. Ernst was an ER regular. And that's it.

On a related note for all you non-Trekkers (and all you Trekkers as of yet unaware), the ex-wife at the heart of Jack Ryan's (Republican running for Senate) nail-in-the-coffin scandal is none other than Jeri Ryan, Seven-of-Nine from Star Trek : Voyager.

On Silence in Coffee and Cigarettes

I really enjoyed Coffee and Cigarettes, the recently released film of black-and-white vignettes featuring mismatches of musicians and actors. There's enough change in style between segments that each sketch is fresh in its cute-and-awkwardness.

But one thing I found tiring was director/writer Jim Jarmusch's absolutist treatment of silence in dialogue as a rift in communication. Whenever characters are quiet they appear to be at odds with their counterparts, realizing their train is somewhere in Albuquerque they are plainly contemplating catching a ride back to Buffalo. Iggy Pop contemplates leaving Tom Waits, whom he has inadvertently offended. Cate Blanchett restrategizes her conversation with a black sheep cousin (Cate Blanchett). Pauses are never comfortable. In real dialogue, though, the pause can imply an exact understanding: a way for conversers to think the same thought without speaking over each other, to conversely observe an event or item, to actually communicate via body language or simply through the lack of speech. We don't find such silence in Coffee and Cigarettes; a pause is a certain sign of a derailed conversation.

True, the movie is largely about uncomfortable combinations (why else pair Bill Murray with RZA and GZA). But there are mutual moments in the positive spaces, so why not the negative space? In a movie so intimately focussed on unpaced, diner conversation, heavily one-sided use of momentary pauses is a definite weakness. Moments of silence are tense because of it. A tempo has been set; breaks feel unnatural and can leave the audience feeling as awkward as the characters on the screen.

Of course, maybe that's the point.

How Come...

How come my not-internet-enabled discman will display track titles on a cd (original, copy, or mix cd) and Winamp or Media Player can't do it without contacting CDDB?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Too Fahr' To Care

A good explanation about why a lot of us get so worked up about You-Know-Who's recent diatribes (from Christopher Hitchens on Slate):

"So I know, thanks, before you tell me, that a documentary must have a "POV" or point of view and that it must also impose a narrative line. But if you leave out absolutely everything that might give your "narrative" a problem and throw in any old rubbish that might support it, and you don't even care that one bit of that rubbish flatly contradicts the next bit, and you give no chance to those who might differ, then you have betrayed your craft. If you flatter and fawn upon your potential audience, I might add, you are patronizing them and insulting them. By the same token, if I write an article and I quote somebody and for space reasons put in an ellipsis like this (…), I swear on my children that I am not leaving out anything that, if quoted in full, would alter the original meaning or its significance. Those who violate this pact with readers or viewers are to be despised."

Friday, June 18, 2004

Unpaid Vacation 04 : Eagles

this is an audio post - click to play

Unpaid Vacation 04 : Catching a Turtle

this is an audio post - click to play

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Unpaid Vacation 04 : Harry Potter

this is an audio post - click to play

Unpaid Vacation 04 : General News

this is an audio post - click to play

Making Free Music Work

I'm constantly on a soapbox about how getting free MP3s online from bands is pretty much the only way to be exposed to new music. So why don't more bands do it?

Here's a great piece on indie artists and their websites from John Scalzi's blog.

This is the bottom line: I want to hear new music. I can't hear it on the radio. I live in Rockford. No one plays here. The only way I can hear it is on the web. It's the only way I can hear about bands like the Kingdom Flying Club and Runner and the Thermodynamics. I've bought CDs from both bands in the last few months based solely upon MP3s I've downloaded online. This is the way things should work.

Next time I'm ambitious (hopefully tomorrow), another post on the glut of great music that will be released in the next few weeks/months. Someone's got to pick up the slack while Mike's on vacation.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Vacation!

I'm on vacation right now, but in an exciting development will be posting audio posts during my trip.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

The World's First 52,000 Megapixel Camera

Since we're on the subject of digital cameras, here's an interesting tidbit from CNN on a World War II aerial reconaissance camera converted to a digital behemoth.

Blog of a Bookpunk

Small-time publisher Ben Brown is taking duties over for the week at the Bookslut blog and has been doing a nice job. He's not a link sniffer like full-timer Jessa Crispin, but he's a bit better at expounding on the links he does have. It's a One Week Only kind of thing and should be interesting to anyone who likes books but doesn't screw every one he/she sees.

Coolpix.

I'm inclined to tell you that the Nikon Coolpix 5200 (and 4200) is the real deal.

Pulled one out of the box today and was floored. The camera is hardly larger than its younger sisters (2200, 3200), but is almost half as thin with a metal face plate. Lithium rechargeable battey, sexy menu system, and what may be the fastest shutter/autofocus response time I've found on a digicam so far - which, as I tell most customers, has been the number one complaint from digital camera buyers. People should go nuts over this thing...

As long as the image quality is there, the camera is going to be hot hot hot. I'll try and take some pics and post them here. In the very least, I'll describe the results to you.

A disappointing three day weekend ends today.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Message from Space

I was beginning to think that a mythic Saturday afternoon where my friend John and I discovered (upon my dad's recommendation) the Star Wars knock-off Message from Space was just a dream.

As I would attest to others, unable to provide evidence, the story is centered around a galactic struggle over magic walnuts. Not mystic globs resembling walnuts... Magic walnuts, literal, period. Vic Morrow is a professional drunk. Wood sailing ships float around space at full mast. Things happen for no explicable reason.

Film Threat proves that it exists and others have seen it (click title for link), and this site has a full synopsis and sound clips.

Barrel of Oil

Sometimes I think it would be fun to buy a barrel of oil just so that you could show it off at parties or walk around telling people, "I'm not worried about no three dollar gas prices as long as I gots me this barrel of oil."

Only $42... although I'm not sure if the barrel is included.... or shipping.