Archive for March, 2008

Baseball Gets Fresh Grass

After a bruising off-season, Major League Baseball is finally getting back to basics. And once again, Opening Day has sparked its usual slaughter-rule of reading material. A lengthy Baseball Preview supplement in the Sunday New York Times sends readers to the warning track (one highlight: “The American League Superiority Complex“). ESPN does what they do best (flood readers with developing MLB news). The Chicago Sun-Times reflects on the Chicago Cubs‘ “century of ineptitude,” goats and all. The Boston Globe tracks the “Homeric odyssey” that the Boston Red Sox have endured while returning to the US after their season opener in Japan. And for a literary curveball: The New Yorker and The New Republic go post-Clemens.

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Staking Their Claims…

While the Hillary Clinton campaign continues to backpedal from the candidate’s repeated “misstatements” that she avoided sniper-free while listening to an 8-year-old recite poetry on a tarmac in Bosnia, the national media has missed reporting on a few other dubious claims. A man in Oregon is claiming he’s pregnant. Two forensic scientists claim there was a second gunman in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. A driver in Connecticut claimed it was a “bad Oreo dunk” that led to his speeding through a Connecticut town. (Has the “Twinkie defense” been usurped by the “Oreo defense”?) And in a major story that was given its due in the national press (somewhat), Dick Cheney claimed that, in light of the 4,000 families who have lost loved ones serving in Iraq, it is the president who “carries the greatest burden, obviously.”

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Dr. Democracy

We really thought we had seen some crazy marketing and PR schemes diehard Guns’N'Roses fans in our time, but Dr Pepper just one-upped everyone. Chinese Democracy, the G’n'R album that’s been in the works for over a decade, was supposed to be released about a year ago, was shelved (i mean, come on…if his people are telling him that going out in public looking like an albino Milli Vanilli is OK, can we really expect them to get it together to put out an album?). Axl is apparently sitting on that shelf with no intention of getting up. So, Dr. Pepper has offered a free can of their soda to everyone in America if the album comes out in 2008 (excluding Slash & Buckethead….I mean, I know they had their differences, but are you really going to tell Slash he can’t have a can of soda when he comes knockin’? And he will. Trust me). They even have a blog to go along with their offer. This would be even better, but we can settle for soda.

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Blind Willie Johnson - Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying

When springtime starts to show it’s face and then retreats back into whatever hole it crawled out from, sometimes I can’t help but sing this song. Although complaining about the weather is trite and irrelevant compared to what real blues cats sang about, this song always seems to be on the brain. I’m not cut out for this midwest winter stuff. I’m over it. Anyway Blind Willie Johnson passed away in Beaumont, Texas (which happens to have a subtropical climate which I would much prefer to this) 17 years after this song came out. It’s one of his masterpieces that has been on mixtapes I’ve made for friends consistently for the past decade or so. It’s available on a number of reissues, most notably from the good folks at Dust To Digital, who included it on their masterful Goodbye Babylon collection.

Audio — Blind Willie Johnson - Lord I Just Can’t Keep From Crying

- Post by Eli Russell

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Remembering the “Fifth Beatle”

Neil Aspinall, the one-time road manager of the Beatles who George Harrison affectionately referred to as the “Fifth Beatle,” passed away on Sunday night in Manhattan. He was 66. Aspinall, who was also the one-time manager of the “Apple music empire,” is remembered in the pages of the Independent, Mojo and NME. In the Guardian Hunter Davies wrote, “Neil knew everything, everybody, and now, alas, has taken it all to the grave. Unless there is a posthumous memoir, waiting to be released, which I doubt. … Neil was there from the very beginning, a constant friend and associate, never leaving the magical mystery circle…”

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A Word From the Writer…

The NY Times Book Review lands an interview with the urbane Tom Wolfe. (Audio available here.) Richard Price, the novelist, screenwriter and veteran of The Wire, is thanked by Terry Gross for talking with us. (Listen to the interview here.) Jill Lepore of The New Yorker comments on the latest rash of fake memoirs. David Mamet writes “an election season essay” for the Village Voice titled “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal.’” And the Independent reports on chatter out of London that publishers are competing to release the first novel from director David Cronenberg.

And two quick notes for the 21st century writer. First, the Guardian reveals the “New look for the short story.” And the Canadian publication The Walrus poses the ultimate question to the paranoid writer: “Where do computer files go when you die?”

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Iron Skies

Iron Maiden has commissioned a Boeing 757 with lead singer Bruce Dickinson in the cockpit. There’s plenty of commentary to go along with this one, from the argument that this is a Spinal Tap-esque level of excessiveness, to the notion of a carbon footprint (no huge arena tours get all the equipment, all the crew and the band all on one plane at onee time). But my first reaction, like many rock fans, was more like this: “Wow. That totally rules”.

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(Blank) Is Bliss. Three Letters. First one “D”.

While the election is all anyone seems to be talking about, it’s seems a bit strange to us that dude has never heard of Barack Obama. Remember this? Now it’s pretty funny.

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Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

“Giant among imaginative promoters of the ideas of interplanetary travel, the colonizing by man of nearby planets and the urgent need for peaceful exploration of outer space, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who has died aged 90, was preeminent because of his hard and accurate predictions of the detailed technologies of spaceflight and of the use of near-earth space for global communications.” (Anthony Tucker of the Guardian)

Praise from the English press: The Daily Mail reports that fans of Clarke “have been paying their respects as the author’s body lies in state at his Sri Lanka home.” The Independent offers an expansive obituary. The Guardian has compiled reactions from scientists and authors. And writer Andrew Pulver comments on Clarke’s collaboration with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Two other prominent figures of the English cinema have passed: Actor Paul Scofield (A Man For All Seasons) has died at 86, and director Anthony Minghella (The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient) has passed at 54.

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Resolution Revolution

As technology progresses, it’s getting easier and easier for users to upload high-quality videos to any number of video-sharing sites and start spreading them around the internet with impunity. Thus, it’s a shame that YouTube, the place that trumps all others as the go-to site for any video on the net, has had such notoriously low quality videos. Until now. They are upping the resolution on new videos throughout the site. There are a few ways you can see YouTube clips at higher quality, according to a Wired blog post, including a URL addition (add “&fmt=18″ to the end of any YouTube video URL), a Firefox extension, and one option that made me feel like a fool for not ever thinking about this before: you can opt for higher quality video in your settings. Doh. (Image: Stop Smiling video projects, coming soon to a YouTube near you)

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