Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What A Weekend! (Part 2 - Rock 'n' Roll Girls On A Saturday Night)

(This is the second of a three-part post. Part one can be read here.)

As fantastic as Friday night's show at The Trocadero in Philly was, the weekend actually picked up steam on Saturday night. My brother and I headed to West Chester, PA, to see The Donnas with Gorevette opening (there was one other band...I'll get to them in a moment). This was the third time The Donnas came within shouting distance of Lancaster, PA in the last two and a half years, and both of the previous times they were here, plans to go see them fell through. I decided I wasn't missing them a third time. Boy am I glad I didn't!

The venue in West Chester was called The Note. It was the first time I had been there - indeed the first time I or any of my friends had ever even heard of it. Of the three places we went this weekend it was the smallest, yet this was the show that had the largest crowd. I estimated there to be about 300 - 325 people there, crammed like sardines into the long, narrow building. When you first walk in, the bar is to your right; to your left is the wall. You've got about a two-person width from that wall to the back of the bar stools (provided the two people considered are very close friends). At the far end of the bar the place widens slightly, and about four steps lead you down to the floor in front of the stage. To the left is the only access I saw to an upstairs area that I never saw. When a band is playing and the floor is packed, going up and down the stairway appears to be no easy task.

Despite the sardine-can accommodations, The Note is not an entirely uncomfortable place, and unlike many places where I have seen shows in my time, it is not in the kind of neighborhood where you take your chances getting to and from your car. We had a good chuckle at the establishment directly across the street, though: it was a barber shop in the kind of storefront that has two full-length window boxes on either side of the door, and both windows were crammed full of KISS memorabilia. Posters, LP jackets, t-shirts, mannequin heads made up like KISS - anything you could think of! So, if you're looking for the Gene Simmons haircut, I know a place...

The KISS barber shop across the street

I mentioned in Part One that first bands are often throwaway acts. The band that first took the stage at The Note Saturday night certainly followed that rule of thumb. The less said about Fatal Flaw, the better, but I feel I should try to describe how bad they were. Picture four guys who looked like they would have been far more at home at a frat party in 1992 than a Donnas show in 2010, playing light-alternative music that makes Toad The Wet Sprocket sound heavy in comparison, and you'd be picturing something better than Fatal Flaw. We couldn't figure out how they got on the bill with The Donnas; in school, The Donnas would have beaten these guys up and stolen their lunch money. They broke out every cliched rock-n-roll move you can name, from rocking the guitars back and forth in unison to the drummer twirling his sticks. My brother summed them up perfectly when he said, "These guys would get booed out of a prom!" The most positive thing I can say about Fatal Flaw is that they eventually stopped playing and left the stage.

From there, though, the evening skyrocketed! Gorevette was up next. I arrived in West Chester not knowing who Gorevette was. I will forever kick myself for not looking them up online before leaving for the show! Gorevette, it turns out, is a collaboration between Amy Gore of The Gore Gore Girls and the legendary Nikki Corvette of the classic Detroit-based bubblegum-punk band Nikki & The Corvettes. Had I realized that, I'd have shown up with a fistful of Nikki & The Corvettes records to be signed!

Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette of Gorevette

Gorevette was awesome. With Lianna Castillo on bass and Al King on drums, Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette ratcheted up the fun and energy in the club exponentially. Gore is an exceedingly talented guitarist, and Nikki Corvette bopped around the stage with her Raggedy-Ann-red hair flying, tearing through a set that included originals as well as covers of classic punk tunes like The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get?" and The Saints' "Wild About You." Nikki also had the line of the weekend, when she told the crowd that Gorevette's CD would be available for purchase at the merchandise table, and "we'll sign it, we'll hang out, we'll drink, whatever!" What more can you ask for?

While we waited for The Donnas, I happened to overhear a conversation among the three folks directly in front of me. It seemed to be a couple and their friend. The girl asked the friend about the upstairs, and he told her that there was a bar up there, and that there was a rumor circulating that Johnny Knoxville was up there to see the show. Her eyes widened as she turned to her boyfriend and said, "I've got to get up there! Johnny Knoxville might be up there!" As she determinedly began pushing her way toward the stairway, the boyfriend deadpanned, "Oh good. Maybe if you ask him he'll stick something up his ass." OK, so maybe Nikki Corvette didn't have the line of the weekend.

The Donnas did not disappoint. For just over an hour they burned through their set. They stuck mostly to their more recent material, and that combination of punk/metal/hard rock was the perfect tonic for the crowd. Frontwoman Brett Anderson has become quite the performer over the band's sixteen year (!) history, and she worked the crowd to a fever pitch all night. At times she verged awfully close to the paint-by-numbers rock 'n' roll script (mention the town you're playing in after every other song, tell the crowd that tonight is by far the best show of the tour, do the "I wanna hear you make some noise!" routine, etc.), but there was enough of a knowing smirk behind it that you can't fault her for playing the game. And boy did the crowd respond! We all wished they would have gone longer, but this was the last night of four-stop East Coast mini-tour, and they had a 5:00 AM plane to catch.

The Donnas

Still, they came out for their encore, and this was when the "rock 'n' roll" act was completely dropped and The Donnas reverted before our eyes to the Palo Alto high school teens who decided to form a band based around their love of The Ramones and and Motley Crue. After revving the crowd up for their slightly rewritten cover of KISS's "Strutter" (hmmm...did they see the barber shop across the street?), they got through about four bars of the song when guitarist Allison Robertson's amp went silent. It was endearing to see the tough-chick swagger fall away a bit as they determined what happened. The roadie diagnosed a failed cable, hooked Allison up again, and the swagger was back in full force. Once again they launched into "Strutter," and once again, the amp went silent just as they reached the middle of the first verse. Allison could only drop her head in disbelief.

Now the swagger was completely gone, and The Donnas were suddenly four somewhat nervous girls grasping for a way to fill the time while the roadie fixed the guitar. Bassist Maya Ford told jokes, Bret Anderson giggled nervously, drummer Amy Cesari (filling in on this tour for regular drummer Torry Castellano) kept a beat going for the crowd to clap along with. They almost apologetically took their third stab at "Strutter" and this time made it all the way through. Feeling confident, it was time for one last song. They closed with "Take It Off," or at least tried to. Once again, the guitar failed! Determined to finish their set, they soldiered on with a back-up guitar, and tore the house down to close the night. It was a great, great show, technical difficulties notwithstanding.

After The Donnas were done, we made our way back to the merchandise table, where Amy Gore and Nikki Corvette were taking the time to chat with fans. I told Nikki that I wished I had brought my records for her to sign; she promised she would sign them the next time they came through the area. I picked up the Gorevette disc and a solo Nikki Corvette CD, and both Amy and Nikki were happy to sign. Got a laugh out of Amy Gore when she asked if I had put my email address on their mailing list at the table. I said I had, and then signed my name next to it, telling her, "There! Now you have my autograph, too!" They were both very friendly and great to talk with, and for as fantastic as both their set and The Donnas' set were, getting to meet Nikki Corvette and Amy Gore was the high point of the night.

Getting to meet Nikki Corvette

An hour's drive back home and another night's rest...and there was still more music ahead before the weekend would be over! Part Three will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned...

(Visit That's What I Was Going To Say's Facebook fan page to see more pics from Saturday night's Donnas/Gorevette show. I've opted not to post the video I took Saturday night because the sound was even worse than Friday's video. If you'd like me to post it anyway, leave a comment either here or on the fan page.)

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Recommended Reading: Look Back in Anger

One of my favorite early '80s New Wave acts was the duo of Pal Shazar and Andrew Chinich, Slow Children. Their two albums have remained in mid-to-heavy rotation on the turntable around these parts since my high school years, and when I first began the New Wave for the New Week series over a year ago, Slow Children were among the bands that inspired the concept. They were the 9th entry in the NW4NW series.

While researching links for that blog post, I found Pal Shazar's current website, and through it I was introduced to the wonderousness of Shazar's post-Slow Children creative world. I had not heard her solo music before; now I wanted to find every release (still searching on some!) In addition to music, she has found expression through the written word (Penthouse Magazine published excerpts from her novel, Janitor) and through her paintings and illustrations. On top of it all, I discovered Pal has her own blog, Look Back in Anger. It has become a regular read for me.

Look Back in Anger
focuses on the imagery surrounding great films, and is as much, if not more, a visual blog as a written one. In each post, which often come in spurts of three or four in a day, Pal shares a photograph or maybe two or three and a brief comment. Each presentation pulls you right in and puts you in the picture, in the movie, or in the era. The level of feeling she is able to evoke with a few images and often a relatively stark economy of words is astounding. Shazar's blog is nostalgic without being maudlin. She does not mourn the loss of classic cinema and its icons; rather, she celebrates the fact that the medium in which they shared their talents with the world is one which allows us to continue to enjoy them today, and will afford future generations the same pleasure. She is both curator of history and siren calling you to step through a portal to another time and place, where the greats of the silver screen never age, never fade out, and never fail to entertain.

To say that I was happily surprised and honored when Pal Shazar responded to my request to be a part of this series would be putting it mildly. That is, I suppose, one of the more surreal aspects of the Internet: here is someone whose work I have admired and whose records I bought and loved for years, and here we are communicating not as fan and musician, but as fellow bloggers. Allow me to share Pal's responses to the Five Questions I've asked each blogger (please note that, as seen in her blog, her preferred writing style is reminiscent of e.e. cummings - no capital letters. I have kept that style in presenting her words here):

What or who inspired you to begin blogging?
PS: a friend who has a boutique (kaight shop nyc) told me that she lamented having to rely on others to update her website. she was unable to do it herself but she found that having a blog was much simpler. so, she created one on blogger and showed me how to do it. the very next day i created my film blog. i knew that my passion for films would be a lovely gift for others as interested as myself. plus, i am very visually oriented and there are just countless beautiful stills to share.

some of my least favorites experiences involved standing in a film rental place and looking at all the titles with my head swimming. if my knowledge of great cinema can spare one individual those moments of anxiety i will have made a useful offering.

as i like to write as well as paint, having a blog is a really fun way to be creative without investing that time with any ambitious thoughts! it is simply a gift for anyone who may stumble upon it. believe it or not, there are some people who have yet to see 'camille' or 'love with the proper stranger.'

Is there a story or meaning behind your blog or its name?
PS: the greatest (favorite) performance i have seen on film is richard burton's role as 'jimmy' in 'look back in anger.' what the british term 'kitchen sink drama' is exactly the style of film i adore. these films were made in the 1960's depicting individuals with great passion living in fairly grim circumstances. some of the terrific actors associated with these movies are: alan bates (a kind of loving) richard burton (look back in anger) and tom courtenay (the loneliness of the long distance runner). john schlesinger, joseph losey, and tony richardson are some of the directors who brought these tales to life in their exceptional black and white films.

Which post would you choose from your archives if you had to provide only one that best represents what your blog is all about?
PS: rain/tears: powerful concoction, my blog's namesake

When you first log on to your computer each day, what is the first site you go to? Why?
PS: i like to check into one or two culturally driven information sites and see what's up with the world.i also love to peek in on fashion.

What one other blog would YOU recommend that you read regularly, and why?
PS: there is a guy named tom sutpen who has a blog called 'if charlie parker was a gunslinger, there'd be a whole lot of dead copycats.' if you google his name you can easily find it. he is a culture lover and always posts great images. it is very inspiring to see faces and places that are gone but not forgotten. i am regularly amazed by how many people in their twenties are so passionate about early cinema. of course we all love james dean, but so many people are praising the talent and personality of people such as carole lombard. indeed she was one of the most incredible comedians. it was a blogger in her twenties who brought to my attention the great actor lon chaney.

I hope you will take the time to visit Look Back in Anger and spend some time there. Seldom in today's jaded world do we get the chance to be swept away such as those classic movies could offer. Escape a bit into that world, and you just may find yourself going back to visit again and again.

My most sincere thanks to Pal Shazar for her willingness to be a part of this series and for taking the time to share her thoughts with us!

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5 Opening Day Milestones

The Major League Baseball logo.Image via Wikipedia

With only 5 days remaining in our countdown to Opening Day of the 2010 Major League Baseball season, let's review 5 of the most important milestones achieved on Opening Days past:

1. Opening Day, 1907
Roger Bresnahan, catcher for the New York Giants, takes the field wearing shin guards such as those worn in the British game of Cricket. It is believed that Bresnahan on this day became the first catcher in MLB history to wear such protective equipment. In short order, the rest of the catchers in the league would (probably gratefully!) follow suit.

2. Opening Day, 1910
In Washington, DC, the Washington Senators begin their season at home. President William Howard Taft tosses out a ceremonial first pitch, making him the first President to do so.

3. Opening Day, 1940
One of my favorite baseball trivia questions is, there has been exactly one game in MLB history where an entire team's roster finished the day with the exact same batting averages they had coming into the game - how did it happen? Answer: Bob Feller, on this day, took the mound for the Cleveland Indians and threw the only Opening Day No-Hitter in MLB history. The Chicago White Sox players all began the game with batting averages of .000; when they left the field hitless, those averages were still .000!

4. Opening Day, 1947
Jackie Robinson takes the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers, and Major League Baseball's sixty-plus-year-old color barrier is broken.

5. Opening Day, 1974
Hank Aaron connects for his 714th career homerun, tying Babe Ruth's lifetime total. Four days later, Aaron would pass the Babe, and then go on to finish his career with 755 - a record that would stand until Barry Bonds passed Aaron in a cloud of controversy. Bonds may have the higher total in the record books, but for my generation, Aaron will always be baseball's Home Run King.

Please feel free to share some of your favorite Opening Day moments in the comments below!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What A Weekend! (Part 1 - Friday in Philly)

It has taken me until now, Tuesday afternoon/evening, to completely process and begin to write about the past weekend. Three nights. Three cities. Nine different bands, two of them twice. Meeting and talking with four very cool musicians, two of whom are unqualified punk rock legends (one I expected to see and one who was a complete - yet pleasant - surprise!). It was a wonderful weekend filled with great music; it reaffirmed for me how much more I enjoy seeing a band in a tiny club with 200 - 300 people than in an arena with thousands. And, at an average of $15 cover per show and $4 a beer, plus $20 to pick up 2 CDs, the whole weekend took less out of my wallet than seeing some big-name band in some stadium somewhere where you need binoculars to see the band and your chances of actually meeting and talking with them are slim to none. Let me share the highlights with you.

The weekend kicked off Friday night in Philadelphia, at the fabulous Trocadero, seeing ex-Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra's newest band, The Guantanamo School of Medicine. (Many years ago, friends and I got into the habit of always calling it "the fabulous Trocadero." Given it's history - dating back to 1870 as a vaudeville theater, through the middle 20th century as a burlesque house, to its current incarnation since the 1980s as a club where many a Punk Rock show has taken place - it just deserves more than simply "the Trocadero...") Probably about 300 people were in attendance Friday for an all-ages show that featured three opening bands.

Mirrors and Wires

When we arrived, Mirrors and Wires were already into their set. Wish I would have caught them from the beginning. As a rule, first acts are kind of throwaways; in this case, they left me wanting to hear more. Playing all instrumental psychedelic punk material, the band delivered a solid performance. I see that they have a couple of releases under their belt; may have to check them out. Up next was Common Enemy, a local thrash band who were unfortunately just not my cup of tea, mainly due to the garbage-disposal vocals which made every song sound pretty much the same. But the band had a strong fan base among the kids in attendance, and to their credit, they got the crowd moving. Always does this old punk's heart good to see the youngsters out there slamming in the pit like we used to in the old days...

Common Enemy

Witch Hunt took the stage next, and impressed the hell out of me. This was my first time hearing the local Philly band, and I'm kicking myself for not picking up their CD. The four-piece band (two girls, two guys) blasted out energetic hyper-speed material interspersed with mini-speeches about the injustices of the world. Call their stuff emo-thrash, I guess, but I loved it and so did the hometown crowd.

Witch Hunt

Then it was time for Jello. I was very excited to see Jello perform live - I was lucky enough to catch the Dead Kennedys in Charlottesville, VA in 1985 on what would be their last tour before splitting up in the wake of Biafra's obscenity trial, and they have always ranked among my all-time favorite bands. The current band playing with him includes Ralph Spight (from Victim's Family), Andrew Weiss (ex-Rollins Band), Jon Weiss (ex-Helios Creed) and Kimo Ball (from Freak Accident), and the new material from GSM's debut The Audacity of Hype compares very favorably with anything Jello has done in his myriad musical collaborations since the DKs disbanded. The band is tight and powerful, and Jello is mesmerizing as ever on stage. Pacing, frothing, sneering, pantomiming lyrics, ballyhooing and pontificating between songs, Biafra commands your attention unlike any other performer I've ever seen. He hasn't lost a step since 1985.

In fact, the whole performance in Philly was like a Punk Rock time machine taking me back to 1985. The kids were stage diving and crowd surfing (yes, the club allowed it - more about that in a moment), the pit was constantly swirling, and the energy was positive. The band played for almost an hour and forty-five minutes, giving us all the new material and - to the elation of everyone from the old fogies like me to the kids in the pit - a handful of Dead Kennedys' classics: "California Über Alles," "Let's Lynch The Landlord," "Holiday In Cambodia" and, in the second of two encores, "Bleed For Me" were all played as solidly and as well as the original band played them back in the day. I felt the urge to dive into the pit myself, but thankfully the voice in the back of my head reminded me I'm not 18 anymore!

Jello Biafra

About the stage diving. I have not been to a show where the club allowed stage diving in at least 20 years. Most clubs forbid it because it is possible to get hurt, and the club would then of course be liable. In fact, during Friday night's show, we saw two kids land badly. The first did a sort of feet-first leap into the crowd and hit the floor hard; the bouncers helped him off to the side, but he seemed more shaken up than banged up, and he was back in the mix in short order. The second, however, took the headfirst dive and came down where there were not enough people to properly catch him. He was carried off to the side and attended to by the bouncers; at one point I caught a glimpse of him and he had one heck of a knot on the side of his forehead. After the show, I asked one of the bouncers how that kid was. "He took a header," the bouncer told me. "I expected him to be leaving in an ambulance, but he walked out of here on his own." I told him how surprised I was that they were allowing the stage diving; he said the band had requested no barriers at the stage and they had to respect the band's wishes, but they were concerned, too.

Hoping to meet Jello and maybe get some records signed, we hung around for twenty minutes or so after the show, talking briefly with the road crew. The Trocadero staff let us hang out for a bit even after they pretty much herded everyone else out, but it was late and we had a 90-minute drive ahead of us, and when word came that the band had high-tailed it out of there, we did the same.

A great night of music in Philly, a great deal of fun, and had that been the only show I saw this weekend, it would have been enough. But the weekend was just getting started...stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Below is some video I attempted to take Friday night. Unfortunately, the sound is horribly distorted (cheap video camera too close to the amplifiers!), so it is virtually unlistenable - I highly recommend turning the volume way down. Still, the visual is there and gives you a sense of the energy in the club.

Visit That's What I Was Going To Say's fan page on Facebook to see more pics from the show...

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6 Pitchers Who Were Perfect...And Then Some!

Pitching a Perfect Game in Major League Baseball is one of the most difficult feats in all of sport. A Perfect Game is one in which the pitcher faces the minimum number of batters possible (27) and retires every one of them. No opposing player reaches base during the entire game by any means. In the history of the game, it has only been done 18 times.

More common is the No-Hitter, where no batter on the opposing team hits safely during the game, although opposing batters may reach base by other means, such as a walk or an error. Major League Baseball has seen 263 No-Hitters in its history, including those 18 Perfectos - still an enormously difficult feat to accomplish, but certainly more likely than a Perfect Game.

No pitcher has ever thrown multiple Perfect Games; a mere 23 have thrown multiple No-Hitters. But only 6 have ever accomplished the amazing, and thrown a Perfect Game and at least one other No-Hitter. With 6 days remaining to Opening Day, let's recognize those six for achieving the nearly impossible!

In chronological order:

1. Cy Young
Young tossed three No-Hitters in his career. The first came on 10/15/1892, when Young, pitching for the Cleveland Spiders, no-hit the Cincinnati Reds. On 5/5/1904, Young became the first player to join this Select Six by throwing a Perfecto for the Boston Americans against the Philadelphia A's. Young would add a final No-Hitter on 6/30/1908, again for Boston (who by now were called the Red Sox) against the New York Highlanders.

2. Addie Joss
Joss pitched his Perfect Game on 10/2/1908 for the Cleveland Naps vs. the Chicago White Sox. His second No-Hitter came a year and a half later, on 4/30/1910, again leading the Naps to victory over the White Sox, making him the only pitcher on this list to shut down the same team twice!

3. Jim Bunning
Bunning is one of two pitchers on the list who tossed a No-Hitter in each League. His first came in the AL, when he was with the Detroit Tigers. On 6/20/58, Bunning no-hit the Boston Red Sox. By 1964 Bunning was in the NL with the Philadelphia Phillies, and on Father's Day (6/21) of that year, he spun a Perfect Game against the New York day after the six-year anniversary of his first No-Hitter!

4. Sandy Koufax
Koufax has the most No-Hitters on the list. He tossed four of them, all with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and all in successive seasons. On 6/30/1962, Koufax sent the New York Mets home hitless; 5/11/1963 was the day he did the same to the San Francisco Giants. He celebrated 6/4/1964 by no-hitting the Philadelphia Phillies, and on 9/9/65, he finally got his Perfecto vs. the Chicago Cubs. Think of what he might have done had his arm not hurt all the time!

5. Randy Johnson
It would be almost four decades before the next pitcher would join this list. Randy Johnson threw his first No-Hitter for the Seattle Mariners against the Detroit Tigers on 6/2/1990. Fourteen years later, on 5/18/2004, Johnson took the mound for the Arizona Diamondbacks and tossed a Perfecto against the Atlanta Braves.

6. Mark Buehrle
Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle became the sixth man in MLB history to accomplish this impressive pitching feat just last year. Having one No-Hitter already under his belt (4/18/2007 vs. the Texas Rangers), Buehrle achieved perfection against the Tampa Bay Rays on 7/23/2009

There you have it: the only 6 pitchers in MLB history to have thrown a Perfect Game and at least one other No-Hitter. If you can think of a more difficult pitching accomplishment, I'd love to hear it!

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Monday, March 29, 2010

7 of the Worst Trades in Baseball History

The negotiations for trading players between major league ballclubs can be tense, drawn-out matters, because you just never know what you're actually going to get or give away (especially when it comes to prospects) until the deal is done. With 7 days remaining until Opening Day, here are my picks for 7 trades that I'll bet each club would love to have been able to take back:

#7: 12/9/82 Philadelphia Phillies trade FIVE players to Cleveland Indians to get Von Hayes

During his unremarkable stint in Philadelphia, Von Hayes was known as "Old 5-for-1" thanks to this deal. One of the baseball trivia questions is: Can you name the five players the Phillies dealt away for Hayes? Answer: Manny Trillo, Julio Franco, George Vuckovich, Jay Baller and Jerry Willard. The biggest names there, Trillo and Franco, were at the end and beginning of their careers respectively, and Hayes was a hot commodity at the time, but five players for one?

#6: 1/27/82 Philadelphia Phillies trade Larry Bowa and Ryne Sandberg to Chicago Cubs for Ivan DeJesus
Yeah, a month later, the Phils made an ever more lunkheaded trade, again sending away a supposedly aging veteran and an untested rookie to get a fair-to-middling player. In this case, Bowa put in some decent years with Chicago and Ryne Sandberg went on to have a Hall-of-Fame career. Ivan DeJesus? Not so much...

#5: 12/10/82 San Diego Padres trade Ozzie Smith to St. Louis Cardinals for Gary Templeton
Whatever was affecting the minds of the Phillie's brass when it came to trading in the winter of '82 was also in the air in San Diego. Smith was still early in his career, but his abilities certainly were not a question. Gary Templeton was a decent shortstop, but nowhere near The Wizard's level. What were they thinking?

#4: 7/31/97 Oakland A's trade Mark McGwire to St. Louis Cardinals for TJ Matthews, Blake Stein and Eric Ludwick

Fifteen years later the Cardinals were still stealing bargains from California-based teams, this time picking up one of the game's most noted (and most controversial) sluggers for the equivalent of a handful of magic beans.

#3 8/30/90 Boston Red Sox trade Jeff Bagwell to Houston Astros for Larry Andersen
Ah yes, the classic prospect-for-veteran trade. The Astros were looking for late-season pitching help, and figured, hey, it's only going to cost us one prospect. Bagwell turned out to be one helluva prospect, and Andersen still chuckles about being involved in this trade.

#2 12/9/65 Cincinnati Reds trade Frank Robinson to Baltimore Orioles for Milt Pappas, Jack Baldschun and Dick Simpson
The Reds figured that at age 30, former NL MVP Frank Robinson's best years were behind him, but that he'd be enough of a name on trading market to bring them a few good prospects. Pappas was probably the best of the three they picked up, and he wasn't that good. Old Man Robinson? Oh, he just went on that year to win the Triple Crown and AL MVP honors for Baltimore...

#1 12/10/71 New York Mets trade four players for Jim Fregosi
One shy of matching the Von Hayes 5-for-1 deal in numbers, this may have been the worst trade ever. Fregosi would be much more successful as a manager than as a ballplayer, although he was no slouch on the field. Three of the four players the Mets traded (Don Rose, Leroy Stanton and Francisco Estrada) didn't accomplish a whole heckuva lot. But the fourth player they traded away in the deal? Some hard-throwing pitcher the Mets didn't feel had the control to be successful. He went on to prove them very, very wrong. His name was Nolan Ryan.

Any head-scratchers I missed? Share your favorite terrible trades in the comments section below!

New Wave for the New Week #59

Marilyn in München, January 1984Image via Wikipedia

The Music Industry doesn't like to take gambles, unless it's betting on a sure thing - or a reasonably good knock-off of a sure thing. For a period of time back in 1982-1983, there was no surer thing than Boy George's band Culture Club. George's pseudo-reggae/soul-crooner hybrid sound and scandalous (but not threateningly so) gender-bending had made him a world-wide star, and Culture Club's string of six straight Top-10 singles and two Top-20 albums on the US charts made that particular formula seem like a winner.

And so the Music Industry, hoping to cash in on that successful formula, went searching for the next Boy George. On these shores, they never quite succeeded; in the UK, however, they thought they had found him in one of George's fellow London scenesters, Peter Robinson.

Robinson went by the name of Marilyn, and was well-known (along with Boy George) in the British club scene as one of the "Blitz Kids," a group of regulars at Steve Strange's The Blitz nightclub, a venue that was a focal point of the early-'80s New Romantic movement: Strange was a founding member of the group Visage; members of Spandau Ballet first came together there as well.

UK-based Phonogram Records signed Marilyn in the hopes that he would realize the same sort of success as Boy George. Marilyn landed a cameo in The Eurythmic's video for "Who's That Girl?" and, perhaps more famously, became the answer to the trivia question "Who is that blonde in the yellow shirt in the 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' video?" People were starting to notice; Marliyn's name was popping up in various music magazines, especially in the UK. Now it was time to deliver the goods: an actual record.

Things began promisingly enough with Marilyn's debut single, "Calling Your Name." A catchy bit of bubblegum-soul that went Top Ten in the UK and Australia and hit #1 in Japan, "Calling Your Name" hinted that Phonogram's gamble had paid off.

It hadn't. Culture Club had run out of steam and the Boy George backlash had already begun by mid-1985 when Marilyn's debut album Despite Straight Lines landed on store shelves. Even worse, the album was terrible. Marilyn's thin voice was not even up to the bland formulaic Culture Club-lite music written for him. He received virtually no airplay at all in the US, and the album - and Marilyn - sank without a trace.

25 years on, Marilyn is little more than a New Wave footnote, still leaving people scratching their heads when they try to name all the artists involved on that old Band Aid Christmas record. The shame of it is, "Calling Your Name" is really a very good song that got lost in the muddle of a misdirected and poorly-timed attempt at a Music Industry cash-in. So, this week's NW4NW entry rescues "Calling Your Name" from oblivion for your listening enjoyment:

Marilyn - Calling Your Name
Uploaded by GaleMcDonald. - Watch more music videos, in HD!

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

The 8 Ways a Batter Can Reach First Base

AAAA0144Image by Keith Allison via Flickr

Getting on base is key in helping your team win ball games. After all, runs cannot be batted in unless someone gets on base! According to the rules of Major League Baseball, there are exactly 8 ways a batter can reach first base. Can you list them all?

In case you're stumped, here they are:

1. Hit
2. Walk
3. Hit by Pitch
4. Fielder's Choice
5. Reached on Error
6. Dropped Third Strike
7. Catcher's Interference
8. Fielder's Interference

Now, you will find people who argue additional ways exist, but they are almost always variations of one of the 8 listed above. For example, yes, a batter can reach first on a wild pitch with 3 balls already in the count, but folks, that's still a walk, covered in #2.

And for you wise-acres who want to add "Being inserted as a pinch-runner," clever but wrong. The list is ways a batter can reach first, and a pinch-runner ain't a batter!

There also happen to be exactly 8 days until Opening Day 2010...can't wait!

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Best 9 Position Players Ever in One Game

9 is the baseball number: 9 innings in a game, 9 players in a lineup, 9 positions in the field, and today, 9 days left until Opening Day!

And so, I share with you my pick for the best 9 to ever take a field in a single game. It happened in 1946, for a little-known team called the Tea-Totallers:

1. Catching: Bugs Bunny
2. Left Field: Bugs Bunny
3. Right Field: Bugs Bunny
4. Pitching: Bugs Bunny
5. Third Base: Bugs Bunny
6. Center Field: Bugs Bunny
7. First Base: Bugs Bunny
8. Shortstop: Bugs Bunny
9. Second Base: Bugs Bunny

From the classic 1946 cartoon, Baseball Bugs:

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Friday, March 26, 2010

10 Damn Good Reasons to Be a Phillies Fan

In the list of the 20 worst seasons in MLB history, the Philadelphia Phillies appear four times. The only other team whose name appears on that list more than once is the long-defunct St. Louis Browns. The Phillies are a team that one year finished 62½ games out of 1st place, in a 154-game season. This is the team that, in 1964, blew the National League pennant that they needed only one more win to clinch by losing 10 straight games, 7 of them at home. Life as a Phillies fan has not always been a bed of roses. Over the past four decades that I've been on this planet, the Phils have had many a season where cheering them on was an exercise in painful futility.

The Phillies also have always had some of the most loyal fans any team can hope to have. From the joyous successes they have achieved in the past few years to the darkest days of the late '80s and early '90s, the Phillies Phaithful have always been there. Why? Well if you love the game of baseball, with all its ups and downs, its quirks and follies, its moments of exultation and its moments of despair, you can't help but love the Phils - they've seen it all, experienced it all, and have had more staying power than any other club (since 1883). They embody everything baseball is and hopes to be.

Not buying that? OK, then how about, with 10 days to go until Opening Day, I give you 10 damn good reasons you should be a Phillies fan starting with the 2010 season (if you're not one of us already!)?

10. "High Hopes"
The Phillies' version of "Win one for the Gipper." The Phillies' legendary Hall of Fame broadcaster Harry Kalas would lead the club and the fans in the singing of this song after they clinched the 1993 National League Championship, the lyrics being perfect for a team that went from worst to first. When Harry left us last year, the song began being played after every home victory, and the entire stadium sings along!

9. The Phillie Phanatic
Named "Best Mascot Ever" by Sports Illustrated and one of only three mascots enshrined in Cooperstown, The Phanatic is the team mascot all other team mascots wish they could be! All the antics your local team's mascot does? The Phanatic did 'em first, and with more personality! Other mascots have come and gone - including San Diego's fabled Chicken - but the Phanatic endures and continues to entertain!

8. Bull's BBQ

As the slugging left-fielder on the great Phillie teams of the '70s through their World Championship 1980 season, Greg "The Bull" Luzinski was beloved by Phillie fans. As the creator of Bull's BBQ, home of the greatest pulled pork and pit beef sandwiches you'll ever find at any ballpark anywhere, The Bull has endeared himself to a whole new generation of Phillie fans. It's a must-visit concession when you're at Citizens Bank Park. And if you're lucky, The Bull himself might serve up your sandwich and sign your ticket!

7. Phillies Tradition
To be a Phillies fan is to be steeped in tradition. The club's moments of glory are ingrained in every Phanatic. Parents tell their children, who learn and recite their Phillies history as well as they do their multiplication tables. Even the youngest generation of Phillies fan knows about - and those who were there can and happily will tell you all about - The 1950 Whiz Kids, Jim Bunning's perfect game on Father's Day in 1964, Rick Wise hitting two homeruns while pitching a no-hitter in '71, the "Shootout in Chicago" in 1979 when the Phillies beat the Cubs 23-22 in ten innings, Schmidtty's 500th homerun, the Divisional Champ teams of '77 & '78, the World Champs of '80 & '08, the Wheeze Kids of '83 and the Worst-to-First misfits of '93. Phillies fans celebrate these and many more as if they happened just yesterday - it's a team whose history remains alive!

6. Harry & Whitey
Speaking of tradition...being a Phillies fan means honoring the memories of the finest, funniest, most knowledgeable and most entertaining duo ever to broadcast a ballgame. For many a fan my age, the voices of Harry Kalas and Richie "Whitey" Ashburn are what a baseball game is supposed to sound like. They were two old friends sitting down to watch a game and share some stories; we were lucky enough to be within earshot. They brought the game to life on radio, and added to the game we watched on TV. They rode every emotional roller-coaster the Phillies took us on with us - they were the ones in the front car, screaming their heads off at the most exciting points. Ashburn left us in 1997, and Harry passed last year, but to Phillies fans everywhere, they still call the games.

5. Leslie Gudel
For the past 10+ years now, Leslie Gudel has been covering the Phillies (and other sports) for Philadelphia's Comcast Sports. You can keep your Jeanne Zelaskos, your Erin Andrewses, your Melissa Starks, your Hazel Maes...Leslie beats them all! She became Philadelphia's first female sports anchor She knows her stuff, and while she's definitely a fan of the Phillies, she's not afraid to speak up when they screw up. Over her time in Philadelphia, she's become one of the best, male or female!

4. Larry Anderson
Simply put, L.A. is the best color man in the business, bar none. When Whitey passed away in 1997, Anderson stepped into to the booth. He never once tried to fill the shoes of His Whiteness (no one ever could); instead, L.A. brought his own brand of story-telling, strategy explanation, and game description to the booth, and helped us heal from the loss of Whitey without replacing him. Paired with Harry Kalas, L.A. became more confident behind the mic with each season. That he's a naturally funny guy helped, but his love of the game comes through every word, and that is what connects with the fans. Now paired with Scott Franzke in the radio booth, there are many, many fans who wish that we could have L.A. back on TV! I know I'm not alone in occasionally watching the game with the TV muted and the radio broadcast supplying the soundtrack!

3. Charlie Manuel
Charlie Manuel took over the managerial reigns of the club from Larry Bowa in 2004. It took a little while for Manuel to find his footing with the club and for Philadelphia to fully embrace Charlie, but he has proven himself over his tenure with the Phillies to be the perfect manager for this club. Manuel's public style is relaxed and down to earth, and he believes in his players - sometimes supporting them to a point that drives fans crazy, such as his decision to stick by Brad Lidge last year as his closer despite disastrous outing after disastrous outing. But you can't argue with success, and I'd say leading the club to three straight NL East pennants, two straight National League pennants, and two trips to the World Series - winning one of them - is success by anyone's measure.

2. Chooch, J-Roll, The Flyin' Hawaiian, Hollywood, Ra-UUUUUL!, and more
You have to love a team with personality, and the Phils have personality in spades! Just look at the nicknames on the team right now. And what makes this team work is that there are no prima-donna superstars. Everyone plays his role, and they celebrate each other's successes, stepping back to allow each teammate their share of the spotlight. Come on, could you ask for a better infield than Howard, Utley, Rollins and Polanco? Or a better outfield than Ibanez, Victorino and Werth? Ruiz has proven himself to be a valuable captain behind the plate and quite the clutch hitter when he's up to bat. With the addition of Roy Halladay and the return of a revived Cole Hamels, the pitching staff will again be among the toughest in the league. This is a team that's been to the Series twice, and still has its best years ahead!

1. The Phans!
Philadelphia fans may have a bad reputation outside of the City of Brotherly Love, but those of us who live the Phillie-Phan life know that those on the outside are simply misinterpreting our passion for our beloved Phillies! Phillies fans will strike up conversations with you, debate strategy, talk about the old days, whatever - whether they've known you for years or just met you by sitting in the same row. New Phillies fans are welcomed with open arms. The excitement in the stadium is electric, and again, when the whole stadium joins in singing "High Hopes," well, there's nothing better! The fans here are the best - but they are fiercely loyal. (Walk into Citizens Bank Park wearing a Mets jersey if you doubt our loyalty!)

So what are you waiting for? Declare your Phillies Phandom today, and join us in cheering on Your Defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies as they begin the journey back to the World Series and regain the championship!

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

11 of My Favorite Baseball Quotes

The history of Major League Baseball echoes with the wise (or wise-acre) words of those who have played the game. With 11 days remaining until Opening Day 2010, I offer 11 of my favorite baseball quotes:

11. "Good pitching will always stop good hitting, and vice-versa." - Casey Stengel

10. "Well boys, it's a round ball and a round bat, and you've got to hit the ball square." - Seattle Pilot's manager Joe Schultz

9. "If you had a pill that would guarantee a pitcher 20 wins but might take five years off his life, he'd take it." - Jim Bouton

8. "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring." - Rogers Hornsby

7. "They throw the ball, I hit it. They hit the ball, I catch it." - Willie Mays

6. "Baseball? It's just a game, as simple as a ball and a bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. It's a sport, a business, and sometimes even religion." - Ernie Harwell

5. "Baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical." - Yogi Berra

4. "Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you." - Satchel Paige

3. "Why does everybody stand up and sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' when they're already there?" - Larry Anderson

2. "You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all." - Earl Weaver

1. "Hit 'em where they ain't." - Wee Willie Keeler

Your turn - have any favorite baseball quotes to share?

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Recommended Reading: twenty(or)something

Susan Pogorzelski and I share two passions: words and sushi. We also share the fact that either of us would be hard-pressed to rank one above the other if required to do so. In her response to my invitation to be a part of the Recommended Reading series, she wrote, "'s a great idea and I'd love to be involved! And when are we getting that sushi tweetup together?" Yes, Susan is another of the local Lancaster Twitter crowd, and it has been through her tweets and getting to chat with her a few times in person at local tweetups, as well as through her blog, twenty(or)something, that I have come to admire her work.

twenty(or)something is almost an anachronism in the 2010 Blogosphere, in that it is exactly what a blog originally was before the days of "celebrity bloggers" and blog monetization: an online diary, or weblog, written as much for personal catharsis as for public consumption. You won't find the list-based posts or the "how to be the best 'you' you can be" advice or the nifty things to download that are the stuff of the modern blog. What you will find is some of the most honest, poignant, open writing out there; you will find poetically beautiful imagery delivered in conversational prose; you will find yourself invited along as Susan's guest on her personal journey to find the answers to the two most puzzling questions the human mind can ponder: Who am I and What am I Doing with My Life? (Questions, incidentally, that this particular forty(or)something still wrestles with...) She pulls no punches and hides no imperfections. It's all there: some posts are philosophical, some are whiny, some are jubilant, some are laugh-out-loud funny. Every one of them, though, is real and honest, and that is some of the toughest writing to be able to pull off well, as it can at times be weighty, self-indulgent stuff.

Susan knows how to ameliorate that weightiness with a fair dash of silliness, though. I personally find her to be at her best when she uses one of her favorite devices, her conversations with The Universe, which (who?) she often attempts to bribe with Tootsie Rolls to give her answers, give her direction, or just give her a pep talk. The Universe often responds with sarcasm, gently mocking her but eventually leading her to find her own answers or her own motivation, and then runs off with the Tootsie Rolls anyway. And isn't that how The Universe treats us all?

Susan's responses to the Five Questions I've asked all of the bloggers in this series follow:

What or who inspired you to begin blogging?

SP: It had been two years since I graduated from college, and two years since I'd really written anything substantial. I was feeling lost -- not knowing where I wanted to move, where I was going with my career, and struggling to rediscover and redefine myself. I wanted a place to get out those emotions, to have an outlet that could help me sort through situations, to just write again -- something that has always been such a huge part of my life. The blog grew and transformed into the story of my life -- the changes, the memories, the understanding and rediscovering of my introspective self and questioning the world.

Is there a story or meaning behind your blog or its name?
SP: twenty(or)something was meant to be kind of tongue-in-cheek. I'm an older twenty-something and thought that would be the basis for the blog -- navigating young adulthood. I was testing out some possible names and this came out a bit dryly -- a bit indicative of my sense of humor -- and it just stuck.

Which post would you choose from your archives if you had to provide only one that best represents what your blog is all about?
SP: "Apparently The Universe Has Hijacked This Post" from November 2009. I feel like this post was a reminder of where I've been, how far I've come, and where I'm going. I philosophize a lot, have questions, wonder what if, and hold fast to beliefs. This post has wrapped up my fears and my weaknesses and my strengths all in one. And it served as a good butt-kicking, too.

When you first log on to your computer each day, what is the first site you go to? Why?
SP: Twitter, of course! I absolutely love the community that has formed here. Smart and kind blogging friends from all over the world and fun, warm people from within the local community. It's amazing that something so simple can draw people together. I'm always fascinated by how quickly deep connections and strong friendships can form.

What one other blog would YOU recommend that you read regularly, and why?
SP: This is a toughie since there are so many fantastic blogs that I read on a regular basis. As a whole, I'd check out It used to be a blog network and still regularly features bloggers -- in fact, 90% of the members are bloggers. If you're looking for something fresh and new, definitely begin your search there.

Please take the time to visit twenty(or)something and share a little bit of Susan's world. You may just find yourself running out to buy a bag of Tootsie Rolls with which to bribe The Universe for your own answers...

My great thanks to Susan Pogorzelski for being so enthusiastic about taking part in this series. Don't worry, Susan, we'll get that sushi tweetup together very soon!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

12 of the Greatest Baseball Player Names in History

We are headed into the final stretch of Spring Training. Only 12 days remain until Opening Day of the 2010 Major League Baseball Season! Honestly, I cannot wait - it's been a long, cold, snowy winter, and I'm ready for the Boys of Summer to take the field again; to sit in the stands with a beer and a hot dog and root, root, root for the home team; to hear the crack of the bat and smell the pine tar.

These last two weeks are always the longest, so to pass the time, I'll be posting a different baseball-related list each day from now until Opening Day. Call it "The Twelve Days 'til Baseball."

To kick it off, here are my picks for the 12 greatest baseball player names in history. These may not be the greatest players ever, but their names are either so melodic, so perfect for the game, or so odd as to never be forgotten. To get the full effect, in your mind imagine James Earl Jones intoning each name in that deep, rich, Darth Vader voice.

Let's count 'em down, shall we?

A right-handed relief pitcher who bounced around among 8 teams in his 12-year major league career, Sosa's lifetime W-L record of 59-51 with 83 saves and lifetime ERA of 3.32 are respectable enough numbers. He makes my list out of personal nostalgia: when my brother and I were collecting baseball cards as kids in the '70s, it seemed as though every other pack of cards we bought contained Elias Sosa. We would announce the acquisition of yet another duplicate of his card by saying his name in a very sing-songy way, running the two names together and dropping pitch on the first syllable of "Sosa." We thought that was hysterical. We were 6 and 10 at the time, OK?

Named the National League Rookie of the Year in 1975, and a member of the 1976 National League All-Star Team, John Montefusco's last name alone is a thing of majestic beauty: MonteFOOSko. But, combined with his nickname, John "The Count of" Montefusco, he is elevated to pantheon of great names.

Even though he plays for a team I, as a Phillies fan, consider "the enemy," I must begrudgingly give Jones his due. Over the past 16 seasons he has proven himself to be one of the best in the game, and good thing too. I mean, with a name like Chipper Jones, what else would he do besides play baseball?

Jim Hunter was a damn good pitcher - good enough to be elected to the Hall of Fame. But in his early days with the (then) Kansas City A's, infamous owner Charley Finley decided all of his players needed flashy, catchy nicknames. Hunter had very little flashy about him at the time, so Finley invented a story out of whole cloth about Hunter catching the largest catfish anybody in his hometown had ever seen when he was a boy, and from that day forth, he was Catfish Hunter. I think a nickname with no connection to the real world at all deserves mention on this list!

Yep, that's how he spells it. One L. Drives me nuts every time I see it - I keep wanting to call him "Wiley". Still, his name is fun to say. And after his being released by both the Nationals and the Mets last year, who knows how many more chances we'll get to hear sportscasters say it?

Arnold Ray "Bake" McBride lasted ten seasons in the majors with the Giants, Phillies, and Indians. Over that time, "Shake 'n' Bake" (as he was affectionately called as he sped around the bases) not only sported one of baseball's greatest names, but also one of baseball's greatest afros - second only, perhaps, to the legendary Oscar Gamble afro (just wait...)


Teammates on the legendary pitching staff that was part of the Oakland A's dynasty in the early 1970s, Vida Blue and John "Blue Moon" Odom had opponents singing the blues game in and game out. But what were the odds of having two outstanding pitchers with "Blue" in their names on a team whose colors were green and gold?

The early part of the 20th Century was a haven for great and unusual baseball names, but one of my favorites of the era was Eppa Rixey. In my lifetime, I've never known of any other person with either that first name or that last name. Rixey pitched for twenty years in the majors, splitting his career between Philadelphia and Cincinnati, and retired in 1933 as the winningest pitcher in National League history until he was surpassed by Warren Spahn.

When a 6'4", 230-pound gorilla tells you he wants to be called "Boog," you call him "Boog". The Oriole legend became known first as an all-star first baseman, then, after his career ended in 1977, as a beer commercial pitchman. Nowadays, he can be found sometimes manning the grill at Boog's Barbecue in Camden Yards. If you see him there, say "Hi Boog!" Just try to say it without laughing.

"Buddy Biancalana." It rolls mellifluously off the tongue. Try it: "Buddy Biancalana." His name became famous in the mid-80s thanks to David Letterman. As Pete Rose was counting down to passing Ty Cobb's all-time major league hits record, Letterman began the Buddy Biancalana countdown. Buddy retired a little shy of Cobb and Rose, with 113 career hits, but as he quipped to Letterman, "I'm closer to Cobb than you are to Carson!"

"Super Joe" Charboneau is one of baseball's all-time great flops. When he burst on the scene with the Cleveland Indians in 1980, his 87 RBIs and .289 batting average were good enough to earn him AL Rookie of the Year honors, and baseball thought they had their next big star. The media played up his charismatic personality and quirky off-field behaviors (he drank beer through his nose and did his own dental work). The next year, he struggled to get his average as high as .210, and became the first Rookie of the Year to be sent back to the minors the following season. He came back to the Indians for 22 games in 1982 but played even more poorly, and that was it. Still, the name lent itself so well to the hype: for that one great summer, cries of "Go Joe Charboneau!" could be heard all around Cleveland.

Far and away the greatest name ever in Major League Baseball. A fair-to-middling pitcher for the Dodgers and Giants in the 1930s and 1940s, his name was so singularly fantastic that in 1969, David Frishberg had a minor hit record with a bossa-nova number called "Van Lingle Mungo." Stringing together nothing but names of ballplayers from the past as lyrics, Mungo's name became sort of an odd refrain repeated occasionally throughout. Enjoy Frishberg's composition in the following video clip:

OK, those are my picks. Any names you want to add to the list?

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Monday, March 22, 2010

New Wave for the New Week #58

A couple months back, Ian MacKaye, singer and founder of two of the most important independent bands of the past 30 years (Minor Threat and Fugazi), unintentional instigator of the Straight Edge movement, and creator of Washington, DC-based Dischord Records, without which many bands would never have gotten their music heard, came to Lancaster to speak at the campus of Franklin & Marshall about his life in punk rock. Of course, MacKaye's version of punk rock history is from the point of view of the thriving Washington scene. With bands like Teen Idles, S.O.A., The Slickee Boys, Government Issue, and MacKaye's Minor Threat among many, many others, our nation's capitol spawned one of the most influential scenes in the country. During his talk at F&M, MacKaye repeated and underscored a point he made in the excellent documentary American Hardcore: None of those bands, indeed none of that scene, would have even existed if not for one band - the band all those DC punks looked up to, were inspired by, and aspired to one day play as well as: Bad Brains.

Starting out in the mid-'70s under the name Mind Power, the band that would morph into Bad Brains originally played jazz-fusion, but soon found themselves enthralled with the new, rough sound of bands like The Dead Boys and The Sex Pistols. Renaming themselves after a Ramones song, Bad Brains took the energy and angst of punk rock, the complex polyrhythms and arrangements of their jazz-fusion days, and a healthy dose of their Rastafarian beliefs, and forged something new.

Unlike the typical bands popping up in punk's "anyone can do it" universe, Bad Brains were accomplished musicians - something they demonstrated through hyperspeed playing. Fast? Oh you bet! Faster than most, but never sacrificing melody for speed, never missing a tempo shift or a modulation, never flubbing a note. Their debut single, 1979's "Pay To Cum", set the bar for what was to become Hardcore Punk; it's a bar that has never been equaled. It is one of the most stunning pieces of vinyl ever - a whirling tornado of a song that blows through you in an instant leaving a trail of destruction but leaving you wanting more. A lyric sheet helps a bit, but it's better to simply ride the cyclone and see where you end up when it's over.

Bad Brains weren't always stuck in hyperdrive, though; their discography shows an evolution that has at times brought reggae and dub rhythms to the surface, at times revisited their jazz roots, and at other times focused more heavily on melody than power.

Over the years, the Bad Brains core of singer H.R. (Human Rights), Dr. Know, Darryl Jenifer and Earl Hudson, along with various permutations of other musicians brought into and thrown out of the mix, have split apart and reformed more often than anyone can count. The constant underlying tension in the band in part drives their music, but there is no telling when the next explosion is coming. As of 2010, the original members are together and touring again; how long it will last this time remains to be seen.

For this week's NW4NW, here is one of Bad Brains best, 1986's "I Against I." As a bonus, I've also included a second clip of an early performance of the legendary "Pay To Cum." Enjoy!

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Recommended Reading: Inkling Media & I Threw A Brick Through A Window

If you've joined That's What I Was Going To Say's Fan Page on Facebook, or if you follow @TWIWGTS on Twitter, you know that there have been hints about a new series of posts being launched here today. This post begins a weekly feature, Recommended Reading. Have you ever taken the time to scroll down through all the goodies on the left-hand side of the page here, down to the list of blogs I read regularly? Yeah, didn't think so. Many blogs carry such "Blog Rolls;" many blog readers miss out on them because they stop by, read a post or two, and then are off to the next webpage. Curse this ADD world we live in!

So, beginning today, every Thursday, I'll be featuring a blog from my Blog Roll in a "spotlight post." I've been in the process of contacting the bloggers who pour their heart and soul into these works and getting them to answer five simple questions about their blog and themselves, to give you a little insight into who they are and what their writing is all about. I have only one request of you, Dear Reader: give their blogs a chance. Visit them and read at least a post or two. You just may bookmark more than a few...

Ken Mueller was one of the first people I interacted with when I joined Twitter in the fall of 2008. My beloved Philadelphia Phillies were in the playoffs, headed towards their first World Series victory in 28 years, and I discovered a fellow fan in Ken - in fact, one of our first conversations began at my mention of Bake McBride, centerfielder for the 1980 World Champion Phillies and owner of one of the greatest baseball names ever. Over time and the course of conversations on both Twitter and Facebook, Ken and I learned that we had common interest in other areas: radio, music, and this newfangled Social Media craze. In addition to common interests, we found that we shared a common friend: the same guy who was General Manager of the University of Richmond (VA) radio station WDCE the year that I was Music Director there worked as an assistant to Mueller at a time when Mueller was heavily involved with the Museum of Radio and Television in New York City.

Remarkably, it wasn't until after these connections were discovered that I learned that Ken lives about six blocks away from me. Here is a person who has turned out to be a good friend and a fountain of valuable information and advice as I have begun navigating the Social Network Marketing waters both for my employer and myself, and who is virtually within shouting distance of me; yet without social media, we might never have met.

That Social Network Marketing creates that kind of serendipity more often than not fuels one the two blogs that Mueller authors, Inkling Media. The blog is really an offshoot of his Social Media Consulting business, and is a treasure trove of information and advice for both the novice and the experienced online marketer. What makes the blog a daily read for me, though, is that Ken takes that marketing advice and applies it to life in general. His advice could be (and, on a certain level, is) geared toward basic lessons in how to restore a sense of neighborhood and community in your own world. He has the ability to take situations we are familiar with, from the mundane to the topical, and glean axioms from those situations that apply to both Social Network Marketing and to basic human interaction, present them in simple terms, and all the while make you feel like you're just sitting with him on his fabled porch sharing some neighborly advice and some sweet tea.

Mueller also authors his own personal blog, I Threw A Brick Through A Window, where he writes about his other areas of interest. A bit more eclectic and a bit less formal, ...Brick... isn't updated as often as Inkling Media, but is always a treat when it is. Recent posts there have focused on historic radio broadcasts and broadcasters, and have seldom failed to inspire me to do a bit of Googling on my own to learn more.

In both blogs, Mueller invites reader participation through the occasional weekend music games and, in the case of Inkling Media, turning the reigns over to the occasional guest blogger.

I asked Ken the five questions that you will soon become very familiar with in this series of posts, as a way for him to introduce himself and his blogs to you. Here's how he responded:

What or who inspired you to begin blogging?
KM: Originally it was just a way to give voice to things on my mind. Not sure there was an inspiration. The Brick Through Window blog has evolved quite a bit over the years. For Inkling, it's a way to write about my field and give information to others.

Is there a story or meaning behind your blog or its name?

KM: Threw A Brick Through A Window - from the U2 song...and much of what I blogged about early on could be considered...throwing bricks thru windows...
Inkling - blog and company name came from my love of the literary group The Inklings - consisting of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, etc.

Which post would you choose from your archives if you had to provide only one that best represents what your blog is all about?
KM: Brick Through Window - I'm On A Porch
Inkling - I Live In An Amazing Community

When you first log on to your computer each day, what is the first site you go to? Why?
KM: I usually fire up Twitter, my G-mail, and my own website. I go to my own site to make sure my blog of the day get's published. Twitter and G-mail allow me to connect with my community and the world.

What one other blog would YOU recommend that you read regularly, and why?
KM: That's a tough one. So many great blogs. I think to keep up on social media stuff my favorite lately has been Social Media Examiner.

So there you have it, a little bit about Ken Mueller and two blogs that he writes that I highly recommend you check out, Inkling Media and I Threw A Brick Through A Window. Read a few posts, and then come back here and let us know your thoughts.

My sincere thanks to Ken Mueller for agreeing to be a part of this series and taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his responses with us.

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