Archive for December, 2008

Star-Ledger born to run

December 31, 2008

When I was starting out as a cub reporter for the company that owns the Newark, N.J., Star-Ledger, I would tell people my paper was on the bottom of the company’s Ledger-anchored totem poll.

I didn’t mind admitting that because the Ledger was such a great paper and, well, my dinky paper was pretty much the exact opposite.

Like newspapers everywhere, the Star-Ledger has suffered through lay-offs and buyouts of key newsroom staffers over the last few years, making it less of the great paper it once was.

Still, thouh the paper’s 11-person Trenton crew that snatched a Pulitzer for its coverage of the McGreevey scandal has shrunk along with other key areas, the paper continues to be  a reliable watchdog in the Garden State.

A recent Editor & Publisher article shows how the paper read by Tony Soprano continues to rock on in times of tremendous uncertainty.

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A ‘curious’ concept of color blindness

December 31, 2008

One of the distinguishing characteristics of modern American conservatism is that it believes in a curious concept of ‘color blindness.’ In this view, racism is bad. But absent truly egregious behavior, it’s not something you’d really get all that upset about nor is it something you should be really attuned do. But so-called ‘political correctness’ — meaning something like anti-racism that’s gone too far — is a really serious problem. Any hint of political correctness is worth getting upset about. And the views of actual members of racial minorities as to what is and isn’t racist should be completely discounted. Rather than saying that the prudent and decent white person will steer a mile clear of racist activity — sending out ‘Barack the Magic Negro‘ CDs, for example — the best course of action is to deliberately drive straight at the line and then get really upset at anyone who says you’ve crossed it.

Matthew Yglesias

2008 in review: Scott Hatch’s picks

December 31, 2008

Top 10ish records (in alphabetical order)*

1970’s Algerian ProtoRai Underground (Sublime Frequencies)
Birchville Cat Motel – Our Love Will Destroy the World cd and Second Curved Surface Destroyer 3xcd
Earth – Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull deluxe LP
Johan Johannsson – Fordlandia
Julian Koster – The Singing Saw at Christmastime
Mount Eerie – Dawn, Lost Wisdom, and Black Wooden Ceiling Opening
Max Richter24 postcards
Shadow Music of Thailand (Sublime Frequencies)
sigur rosMeð Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust
Cat Stevens – Harold and Maude Soundtrack, deluxe LP editions on Vinyl Records
Sun Kil MoonApril
Sunn o)))The Grimm Robe demos 3xLP re-issue
Ulaan Khol – I
Eddie VedderInto the Wild Soundtrack, deluxe LP edition on Vinyl Records

Stuff I gave 4 or 5 stars to on Netflix in 2008 and put into this list:

1. The King of Kong!!!! I don’t know of many documentaries I’ve ever seen that hold up so well upon re-watching. I’ve seen this probably 5 or 6 times and had many of my friends watch. This is a life changing movie. You will become an expert on Billy Mitchell. I think I may have first seen in 2007, but who’s counting. I did watch again in 2008.

It doesn’t matter much after number 1, but here goes:

30 days series
The Assassination of Jesse James
Big Love Season 2
Blades of Glory
Curb Your Enthusiasm Season 6
The Darjeeling Limited
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Into the Wild
My Blueberry Nights – Wan Kar Wai
The namesake
No Country for Old Men
Shadows – cassavettes
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Lady Vengeance – Chan-wook Park

Top live shows:

Sunn O))) in the Unitarian Sanctuary
Efterklang in the Unitarian Sanctuary
Rhys Chatham at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport
Earth at Johnny Brenda’s
Jimme Dale Gilmore at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago

* Scott excluded all releases on Burnt Toast Vinyl, the record label he runs.

Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman

December 30, 2008

A trailer has been posted at Facebook for Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman, a documentary about the late Christian icon by David Di Sabatino (“Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher“).

The film is almost guaranteed to attract some controversy because it doesn’t paint the “father of Christian rock” in a completely sympathetic light. Heaven forbid. 

Fallen Angel is slated to premiere at a San Jose film festival in late February/early March.

In the meantime, you can read more (if you haven’t already) about the bizarre back-story of Di Sabatino’s encounters with the late rocker detailed in an Orange County Weekly article back in October.

Baseball teams take a cue from Blago

December 30, 2008

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blogojevich gave a figurative middle finger to the choir of voices calling for him to step down today by naming a Senate successor to President-Elect Barack Obama.

Unsurprisingly, the person Blago named isn’t Bob Evans, the director of operations for the Quad Cities River Bandits, but you can’t blame the team for trying to grab some press by releasing a public endorsement for the Illinois resident last week.

Blago, of course, has been accused by federal investigators of trying to essentially auction off Obama’s Senate seat. The Quad Cities River Bandits offer included four club season tickets and a host of other perks “in exchange” for the appointment of Evans. 

The Peoria Chiefs took it a little further by announcing last week that they will be auctioning off their two best “Senate” seats for each game this year. All proceeds from the seat auctions will go to charity. 

Like the Washington Wild Things and countless other attention-hungry minor league teams before them, PR staff for the Chiefs and the River Bandits saw a chance for some headlines and went for it. 

More power to them.

Mega-church, heli-port

December 30, 2008

Apparently, an hour drive is sometimes just too far for a couple of mega-church pastors in Washington State to make.

According to an article in the Tacoma News-Tribune, the Christian Faith Center in Federal Way recently received approval to construct a helicopter landing pad.

The landing pad is reportedly needed for ego-inflated co-pastors Casey and Wendy Treat (check out the church’s Web site address – it’s caseytreat.com) to fly back and forth from the church’s two campuses in Federal Way and Everett, Wash.

The helicopter, according to a church spokesman, will only be used on major religious holidays, for guest speakers and on special occasions. One of the special occasions cited as an example: Wendy Treat’s birthday.

2008 in review: Marty B’s favorite tunes

December 30, 2008

 

* PortisheadThird — I can’t stop listening to it once I put it on. The most engaging thing I heard all year.
* Dead CSecret Earth/tour LP — A pummeling return to form for these veteran noise makers from New Zealand.
* LeviathanMassive Conspiracy Against All Life — one-man American black metal that makes me air drum in the car, even though I totally can’t keep up.
* WireObject 47 — Wire continues to do it up right. Compared to the Read/Burn EPs, this album reminds me of Colin Newman’s other band, Githead, but with more punch.
* EarthThe Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull – A layered and beautiful album with some of the most patient musicianship I’ve ever heard.
* Randy NewmanHarps & Angels — Randy Newman still writes my favorite love songs and my favorite political songs. “Feels Like Home” is everything you wanted to say to that special person in your life, but couldn’t because you’re not Randy Newman.
* SpiritualizedSongs in A&E – A more restrained outing compared to “Amazing Grace,” but the songs are still there, especially “Borrowed Your Gun…”
* DestroyerTrouble in Dreams — I can’t stop humming various parts of this album to myself…at work…in meetings…on dates…it’s a huge problem.
* Harvey MilkLife…the Best Game in Town — A killer mix of sludge and classic rock with some really poignant moments.
* Big DipperSupercluster: The Big Dipper Anthology (reissued and unreleased material) — Woefully underappreciated ’80s band gets the reissue it deserves with a third disc of unreleased songs up to par with their best material.
* WomenWomen — A late addition to the list, thanks to a friend. Kind of like Animal Collective meets the Shins. Just a great listen.

I also fell in love (in some cases again) with the following older albums this year:

Bruce SpringsteenDarkness on the Edge of Town — The perfect Springsteen album. The songwriting is so crisp, but he hadn’t totally become the Woody Guthrie parody he would later become (which I still love).
Jerry Jeff Walker Viva Terlingua — Google the lyrics to “London Homesick Blues.” So good.
MadonnaConfessions on a Dance Floor — It’s ok to dance.
Diana RossDiana — Disco as hell.
Bathory Bathory — Classic, charging black metal.
Screaming FemalesWhat if Someone is Watching Their TV? — A current New Brunswick, N.J., band that just plain rips.

Bottom gun

December 30, 2008

I can’t name another American icon who has been so popular, and for so long, and yet so hard to like, and for so long.

-Stephen Metcalf, writing about Tom Cruise in Slate

2008 in review: Jesse Eubanks’ best music, film, TV

December 29, 2008

 

BEST MUSIC 2008
The Verve – Forth
Sixpence None the Richer – My Dear Machine EP
Ray LaMontagne – Gossip in the Grain
The Lassie Foundation – Jetstreams / Three Wheels
Interstates – Run Run
Hammock – Maybe They Will Sing For Us Tomorrow
Coldplay – Viva La Vida

BEST FILM RENTALS 2008
Dan in Real Life
Run, Fat Boy, Run
The King of Kong
Gone Baby Gone
Once
Iron Man
Flag Wars
Jesus Camp

BEST TV 2008
The Shield – Season 6
Battlestar Galactica – Season 4
Lost – Season 4
This American Life – Season 1
The Office – Seasons 4 & 5
Ninja Warrior

Baseball’s parity

December 29, 2008

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As Joe Posnaski points out in a recent Sports Illustrated column, 20 different Major League Baseball clubs have won a World Series title over the past three decades.

During the same span:

-22 different drivers have won the Indianapolis 500
-20 different golfers have worn The Masters’ green jacket
-19 teams have won a D1 college basketball title
-17 teams have won a Champions League title (soccer)
-16 teams have won an outright D1 college football title
-14 teams have won a Super Bowl
-14 different men have won Wimbledon
-12 different women have won Wimbledon
-13 teams have won a Stanley Cup
-11 teams have won the Japan Series (baseball)
-Nine teams have won an NBA title

It may not seem like it when the Yankees go on the kind of spending spree they have of late, but baseball has still somehow managed to have more parity – when it comes to the teams that win it all at least – than most other major sports have had.