Monday, November 29, 2010

Blogging is on the Decline, Therefore I Write (Randomly!)

Fear not oh faithful 16 blog readers/people who visit this blog because Google directs all people who search “awesome instruments” here, do not take this slow down as a signal that yet another blogger has fallen prey to the blog-for-a-year-then-shut-it-off disease. Indeed the reasons for my slowdown are two-fold and completely explainable. Primary amongst those reasons is that my spare blogging-potential time has been spent constructing “The List”, aka my annual Music Megapost. And yes, I tend to capitalize in order to make them seem more important and exciting. So instead of doing album reviews as often as I normally do I’ve been chipping away at the greatest succession of music posts. It will be awesome. Oh, and the second reason is my schedule with work, which now puts a premium on my evenings instead of my days. That’s a poor excuse. If not for being too lazy to delete my saying that there were two reasons, I might just tell you there was one.

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Tennessee. Favorite state east of the Mississippi River, which apparently divides America for some reason that we all just accept. When I look at a map of the US it seems like the Missouri River is a better middle point, but I guess these things have already been decided for us. But I digress. Tennessee. Every time I go there I find a new reason to love it. The Smokies are real mountains, unlike the prominent hills that sometimes pass for mountains in mountain-deprived states. The food is delicious, combining southern fried-ness and BBQ. I HEAR the girls are pretty, although I haven’t noticed this myself, since I am married. Knoxville is top notch, Nashville is great. I haven’t even been to Memphis yet. And then the other day it stopped raining as soon as we crossed the border.

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Not to bring the mood down, but the last time the Mariners made the playoffs I was 16. Almost a decade now. Perspective: since the last time my favorite team made the playoffs I have lived in California, moved back to Washington, graduated high school, picked a college, passed field training, earned a commission in the AF, graduated college, moved to Idaho, got married, worked a full tour, and have now moved to Ohio. Depressing.

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Every time I remove an ingredient from my guacamole recipes it gets better. I’m starting to think I just like mashed avocado.

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Every time I hear “All the Single Ladies” I find myself rocking like an idiot and pointing at my ring. This is a problem. I am working on it.

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I have decided that car mechanic is the snobbiest profession. They always treat me like I’m an idiot. Of course, they might be right. But still…

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Winter approaches! This is a good thing. The more clothes I put on, the better I look!

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As I conclude, I would like to take a minute to thank my trusty TI-83 Plus calculator, who has been there for me in the best and worst of time, has never broken, has never gotten lost, and keep on trucking with minimal battery requirement. Here’s to you, TI-83 Plus.

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Give this one a listen. It’s called “Goldskull” by Miniature Tigers. Looking forward to seeing them on Friday!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thoughts on the Passing of Dave Niehaus

The death of Dave Niehaus hit me hard last week. It was Dustin who first alerted me, sending me a text that I never thought I’d get. When these kind of things happen—however inevitable they might be—you always hope for some sort of warning, like a hospitalization, or something. Although he’d had health issues in the past, there was no warning about this one. He was just suddenly, gone.

Now I know that Dave Niehaus is not a household name for many of you. His national name recognition is not near the level of announcers like Al Michaels, Bob Costas, Vin Scully, or even the now departed Jack Buck or Harry Carey. But from 1977 through 2010 Dave Niehaus was the ever-constant voice of the Seattle Mariners.

To understand my connection to this man one has to understand the passion I have for the game of baseball. You see, from the first days of my conscious memory I still remember reading old beat up Mariners programs from the late-80’s, featuring players who weren’t on the team anymore. I imitated batting stances solely from pictures on baseball cards.

Back in the early 90’s I loved basically one activity: baseball. My main connection to this game came in the form of radio broadcasts. My parents didn’t own a tv, and even if they did Mariners games on tv were a rarity back then. I used to listen to every single game that I could, and they play 162 of them. I would sit in my room and keep score. I would listen to them deep into the night, back when 10 PM seemed like it was super late. When we drove places or went camping, we would always have the games on. We were terrible, but I didn’t know better. I always loved to listen, and to this day I still do.

Those who knew me as a kid know I played baseball by myself in the front yard up to an embarrassingly old age. Beyond the probably hilarious scene of a 12 year old throwing a ball in the air, hitting it, running after it, and repeating 100 times was a very detailed and intricate league that ran in my head. And if you watched closely you probably saw my lips moving as I muttered a barely audible impression of announcers announcing my game. And my impression was of one man: Dave Niehaus.

There was a reason that I would yell “fly away”, “belted”, or “my oh my” when I played baseball. It was because those were his catchphrases. And if they were his catchphrases, they were my catchphrases. From the age of 4 to the age of 25 I listened to same man paint the picture of my life’s favorite activity every single summer. Outside of my family I don’t think there’s a bigger staple in my life than Dave Niehaus and the Seattle Mariners.

That’s why it breaks my heart to know that he is gone, and it’s why I get emotional just typing this. Even now I don’t think it’s sunk in. I don’t think it will until I tune into the broadcasts next year and he’s not there. I don’t really understand the celebrity culture following, and how people fawn over the details in the lives of the people they’ve never met. But to me Dave Niehaus was different. He is likely the only celebrity that I could shed a tear over, and having him gone right now is hard to shake. I read somewhere that the only person who could accurately describe what it’s like to lose Dave Niehaus was Dave Niehaus. That statement couldn’t be more true.

I’m going to miss you, Dave. I wish I had known before it was the last I heard you yell “fly away”. But my life will always be influenced by your calls, and I will likely have no greater sports memory than of you announcing Edgar Martinez’s double, sending the 10 year old version of me into a frenzy and still giving me goosebumps every time I listen to it to this very day. Goodbye, Dave.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

New Music Review: Kings of Leon - “Come Around Sundown”

kings-of-leon-Come-Around-Sundown 

The hardest album to make is not your sophomore album, it’s the album after you get big. Some people might be surprised to find that “Come Around Sundown” is Kings of Leon’s fifth album. You might be even more surprised, if you go back to their actual sophomore album, “Aha Shake Heartbreak”, that this is the same band. Go ahead, try it.

But times have a-changed and Kings of Leon find themselves at the crossroads. They built a following with Southern rock with an alt rock flavor. The Pearl Jam of the South, I’ve called them. They started gritty and cleaned it up a tad on “Because of the Times”, then they released the more studio-friendly and personal favorite album of 2008, “Only By the Night”. Then they got huge. Ridiculously huge. “Use Somebody” was a top 10 hit in the US, Britain, Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Belgium, and many others. It was nominated for song of the year. Now instead of Pearl Jam, people were calling them U2. They had complained about not being bigger, and now they are bigger than big.

I doubt lead singer Caleb Followill is stupid, even if my wife is in love with him. How do follow this all up? How do you make an album when you already know there’s a marked difference between two separate fan bases that both adore you? How do you play to the fans who love “Charmer” and the fans who love “Use Somebody” simultaneously? While listening to “Come Around Sundown” you get the impression they did everything they could to meet in the middle. Half for the old fans, half for the new fans. Half gritty, half arena. Good song after good song, but completely devoid of a coalescent feel of an album.

Right up front “The End” is decidedly new school while “Radioactive” is decidedly old school. Both of them are good—maybe even better than just good--on their own. Neither of them feel like they should be on the same album. “Mary” and the nearly straight country romp “Back Down South” bring back the heavy Southern influences, and the fantastic “Pickup Truck” drives those Southern influences home in the best of fashion. “No Money” is old school, “The Face” is new school. “Pony Up” is old school, “Birthday” is new school. They are all over two distinctive maps.

Three stars is the only thing I could think to give an album that confuses the tar out of me. It’s a rating that balances the presence of numerous solid-to-good tracks, the lack of a consistent feel, and an understanding of what they were trying so desperately to do. When you make an album like this you’re hoping that all your old fans and your new fans find a happy middle ground, all the while knowing you might risk alienating them both. All in all, I think they did a pretty good job. It’s not nearly as good as “Only By The Night” or “Because of the Times”, but it’s yet another collection of songs worth listening to. All I know for sure is that when you hear Caleb Followill sing, voice filled with romanticized (and perhaps only partial) regret, “I hate to get so emotional/I didn’t mean to get physical…/But when he pulled in a revved it up/I seen you crawl outta pickup truck/and in the moonlight I run him down/all kickin’ and screamin’ and rollin’ round”, it’s awful hard not to love them.

Monday, November 1, 2010

I’m Tired of Doing Homework, Let’s Do a Blog

Tucked away in my office on hour 6 of homework, interrupted only by a stop to watch Raising Hope, which, if you haven’t seen it, is the greatest thing to hit television since, uh, sliced bread?

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I find it annoying when a company tells me I can "go green" when all they really want to do is save money on paper, printing supplies, and shipping costs. “Get your bill online and save a tree (and we don’t have to pay postage!)” should be the slogan.

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Saw a commercial for Law and Order: Los Angeles that advertised itself using a 3-star review. That show must be awful. But even if it is, wouldn’t the advertisers just put clips up of the show and not blatantly tell everyone that the best review they could find proclaimed them completely average?

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On a similar note, I think we all know that trusting the critics completely is a bad idea. But when you’re watching a movie preview the most important thing is not what the critics are saying, it’s who is saying it. If Roger Ebert gives your movies 4 stars, they’ll put that in the trailer in big letters. But if they flash up 4 stars from Connie Wendelstadt at the Tucson Daily Review that means that they best they could do was a good review from some writer in Tucson. It gets really bad when they quote some blog.

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When I die I’d like a freeway overpass named after me. I always think that’s funny. The “Derek Rubino Memorial Freeway Overpass”. Yes.

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Moving around lets you try lots and lots of new things. Let’s go down the list of things I’ve tried for the first time lately:

1) Dunkin Donuts – Solid coffee, not so good breakfast sandwich. I’d return for coffee and a donut.

2) White Castle – Very low expectations led to decently tasty burger morsels, but it’s not worth driving to unless you’re Harold or Kumar.

3) Dan Pablo – Disgusting! Made me miss my Mountain Home taco truck.

4) Panera Bread – Quite solid! And I didn’t feel like I was going to have a heart attack after I left.

5) Graeter’s – Best smoothie of my life.

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Almost time to start putting together my annual list, “Derek’s Ultimate List: Best Music of 2010”. I get excited just thinking about how it’s time to start ranking the songs and constructing the list. Should I release the Top 50 in stages or in one massive post??

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I’m not built for calculus. Somewhere between derivitives, the quotient rule, the product rule, the chain rule, and the power rule I felt the urge to have a good cry and run into the loving arms of a political science text book. Is it normal to fear your thesis less than calculus?

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Anyone else ever try Groupon? It’s pretty cool, says I.

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Forget new songs. Here’s an old one that’s amazing.