Friday, January 30, 2009

The Casual Fan's Guide to Watching the Super Bowl (and I don't mean just the commercials)

With the big game coming up on Sunday, I thought it would be a good idea to write a little primer for the game so that those who do not watch football every Sunday can have an idea what is going on during the game. I always thought this would be a great idea for some female oriented talk show (The View, Oprah. Rachel Ray): They should have a segment where a guy comes on who is funny and will give the audience a basic run down of what is going to happen in the game, which would probably make the game more interesting for those people watching only because the "have to". Because there really is something going on more than just new commercials (which have gotten increasingly lame over the past few years, I mean, really, can you name one truly memorable Super Bowl ad in the past few years?) The players and coaches involved in this game has decdicated the better part of their lives for the chance to be a part of this game, and I think that what they do should not be a secondary consideration to advertising.
So here are some quick hit thoughts on each team that will make the game more interesting while you watch:
Pittsburgh Steelers, they'll be wearing white jerseys with black helmets on Sunday:
The franchise has won 5 Super Bowls already - won Super Bowl XL 3 years ago - their coach is Mike Tomlin, and he will be the youngest ever to head coach a team in the Super Bowl (36) - their DEFENSE is what they are known for - their QB is young, and played very poorly in the Super Bowl three years ago - their best Wide Receiver (Hines Ward) is hurt, and we don't really know how much he will be able to contribute on Sunday - they are favored to win by 7 points, which is a pretty big margin, but not immense
Arizona Cardinals, they'll have red jerseys on with white helmets:
The franchise has never been to the Super Bowl, and are usually considered to be among the worst franchises in professional sports - their Quarterback is Kurt Warner, who is one of the truly inspiration stories in all of sports - #11 Larry Fitzgerald is really an amazing wide receiver, be sure to watch whenever he gets the ball - they had a miserable ending of the season, and no one believed they would win even one playoff game (they have now won 3) - if you had bet $100 on them to win the Super Bowl before the season started, a win for them on Sunday would mean you would be collecting $4500 (now you know why people gamble) - most people do not think they can win, and that this might actually be a blowout
There are two sets of conventional wisdom regarding how the game will go - one for how the Steelers will win and one for how the Cardinals will win. They go like this:
The Cardinals cannot make hardly ANY yards at all on offense for their first 3 or four drives. Meanwhile, the Steelers are running the ball ok, and they have a trick play that works, and it is something like 13-0 Steelers and the Cardinals still have not done anything on offense. Maybe Kurt Warner has turned it over once or twice as well. The Cardinals are in big trouble if the game play follows this kind of scenario.
The Steelers turn the ball over early, and the Cardinals capitalize. They are moving the ball well, running it some and passing it more. Kurt Warner has lots of time to throw, and Larry Fitzgerald is already making his mark on the game. The Steelers start to press, Hines Ward looks like a guy with a bad knee, and have another turnover. The Cardinals are keeping it close, and need just one or two big plays (maybe in special teams where the Steelers have had problems) to take the lead.
Usually the two sets of conventional wisdom both turn out to be wrong. That's where the promise in sports lies really - ANYTHING can happen, and often does. I'll give you ONE thing to look for as you are watching that will tell you if the Cardinals have a shot to win: Watch their QB Warner when they have the ball. When he goes back to pass, watch to see if he has 3 or more seconds to stand there and throw. If he has time to throw, the Cardinals have a chance. On the other hand, if Warner drops back and is getting pounded by 300 pound guys before he can look down the field, the Cardinals will be in for a long evening.
Remember, there's more to this game than the spectacle, there's a game going on, and sometimes it's even a really good game. If you have a couple of things to look for, it can make the game more interesting for you.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Hold Steady

Anyone following my twitter feed lately can see that there is an obsession building within me. See, when I find something I really like, I will absolutely wear it out. For some reason, certain albums just get inside me, and there is nothing I can do to prevent myself from listening to that album and only that album. I am not there yet with The Hold Steady's Stay Positive release - and at the time of this writing, I don't expect it to reach the same status as Death Cab for Cutie's Plans, or Coldplay's X&Y, or The Last Waltz, or any number of Phish albums, or the movie Flash Gordon (I was in 5th grade then, but watched it almost every day). But still, it is currently receiving my full attention. I think it should receive yours as well.

Voice-- Well, he obviously knows how to sing. It makes me think of the first time I heard Pearl Jam, I was actually watching the Evenflow video, and how could you not sit there and say to yourself, "wow, the man can sing, he has a distinctive voice, he enjoys the song, and oh, did I mention he has a distinctive voice?" I think this guys has a voice that is easy to listen to, and is made to ROCK.

ROCK. Here is the heart of my enjoyment of these guys. This is rock music. It makes me feel like I am at a big rockin party, and this is the band that is playing on one end of the room. They aren't necessarily dominating the room, BUT everyone who is over listening to them is having and AWESOME time. And the rest of the people in the room are thinking about going over to listen to them.

NO SHAME. There's a guitar solo in "Lord, I'm Discouraged" that is just over the top. And you can tell that the band is absolutely loving it, and probably told him to go more over the top while he was playing it. In straight ROCK music, over the top is what everyone wants, so there is no shame in giving it to people. In ROCK, like Gordon Gekko says in Wall Street, over the top "is good". It makes ROCK better, and it is what drives rock music, because it is that over the topness that makes rockers write the way they write.

IT'S FUN. Sometimes, we listen to music because we want to have a good time, and these guys deliver it. Even their sad songs just make you want to drink more. After just a couple of times through the album, I felt like I could see this band "Staying Positive" at a really awesome party.

So I have been staying positive at the party at work all week this week, and I think you might like to get a little piece of that too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Uh Oh

I did it. You can find me on facebook now. I am STILL considering this research for work...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Top 10 Continued

Pure. Piano. Pop.

If I am going away to island forever, I am going to need something I can sing to. Since I may have been seen driving down the road singing this one as loud as I could, it seems like a good choice.

This one just soars, and I love Chris Martin 's voice. I love it so much, that many times, when I am listening to this one, I try to pretend I have the same voice he has. Thankfully I am generally alone when this occurs. One thing I like about this one is that there is absolutely no doubt that Martin loves this song. And I personally think it takes some amount of guts to say, ok, I am doing at least half this song in falsetto. And I can practice my air drumming while I sing this one. It's such a simple song, and I find that to be a fascinating part of many of the songs on this list. So simple, yet so magnificent. Also, I will be able to spend all my time on the island thinking about what The Hardest Part of living on the island is.

Lots of Work To Do

I had to chuckle at this one: has a scrolling bar on their website with comments from people regarding the inauguration. I am sure you can guess what most of them were, but this one caught my eye:

Too much. This is an inauguration not the Super Bowl.
Rebecca, Sumter, S.C.

Apparently Rebecca in South Carolina thinks that a football game played every single year is more important than the peaceful transition of power at the highest levels of the most powerful nation in the world. A transition of power to a man whose race would have had him sitting in the back of the bus and using different bathrooms just 50 years ago. But hey, maybe Rebecca is right - I mean, if the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl, it would be a pretty big deal, right?

Some people worry about the decline of our great nation, but to them, I point to Rebecca, who clearly has her priorities in the right order.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

To Facebook or Not to Facebook

As you might be able to tell from the sub-title of this blog, I don't have a Facebook page. I have three primary reason for not participating:

  1. I really do think I am too old for it. Facebook began as a way for Generation Y (or are they Gen Z now? Gen AA?) to connect with each other. I am fundamentally disconnected from that generation - I don't know many of them (just family really), so anything that would connect me more to them seems like a weird attempt on my part to become more like them, to get younger. That feels creepy to me. And funny, too. My wife's father and my boss have pages, and they are both over 60. My first reaction when I heard they had Facebook pages? I laughed to the point of wetting my pants. I don't want other people to have the same reaction towards me.
  2. I just do not want to be that accessible. There are a lot of people out there I don't want to deal with. Having a Facebook page greatly reduces my ability to not-connect with those people. Some dude from high school I sort of knew? How should I handle their friend request? "Um, thanks, but I have been able to survive the past 15 years without having the slightest idea what you have been up to, so I think I will try to go a little longer and see if I can make it. If I find myself unable to live another day without knowing what you are doing very second of the day, I will let you know, and we can be friends." There's a Seinfeld episode where Jerry gets introduced to a new person and Jerry decides that he doesn't need anymore friends - he has enough. I feel the same way (and yes, I realize that being such a Dick in a public place increases the chance that I will have fewer friends now, but this is simply the truth).
  3. I don't need one more thing in my life that I need to carve out time to take care of. My wife stated that this was her reason for not participating early on, and this was her number one fear as she was creating her page. It seems to me that maintaining a Facebook page is more work that I don't need. I would rather be playing mandolin or Xbox or impressing liberal views upon my daughter. What if she turns into a Republican because I was poking or tagging "friends"? What kind of a father would that make me?

Yet the urge is there, and it grows stronger everyday. I have a strong conformist streak within me, and I can feel the pull of Facebook like the Millennium Falcon in the Death Star's tractor beam. There's an interesting article on Slate today that outlines many of my objections even better than I can. But the author also extols the virtues of Facebook, and I think they are important. One of my goals at work this year is to learn about social networking sites, and discover how 21st century marketers can put them to use. This idea was applauded by my boss, and I have been wondering since then, "will I be able to research and learn about these sites without actually participating on them?" I am not sure yet, but I think I know the answer. My sister-in-law called it awhile back: "You're going to get a page. I know you will."

There another interesting article on Slate today discussing the impending crossroads that Google and Facebook will reach. I believe that sometime in the not too distant future Google will DOMINATE the web in ways that are hard to imagine right now. Maybe I can wait it out, and instead of a Facebook page, I can get a GoogleFace page instead...

What SHOULD Adam Do?

I received the following email from a client the other day:

Thanks Adam. I have just one other question . . . Al Franken?

I had been answering some questions for this client, and this was the reply I received. This is a good client for us (not from Minnesota), a very nice person, and I have no desire (or reason) to sow any kind of ill will here. I am probably running a small risk by even publishing this email and discussing it in this blog (my boss said he was looking at it recently, although it's probable that he won't read anymore because he was bored by what he read). But I think it represents an interesting dilemma, especially for us "Minnesota Nice" folks who have been taught not to discuss politics or religion under almost any circumstances.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to discussing non-business matters with clients? Or co-workers? I have strong feelings about Sen. Al Franken, and have friends who worked on the campaign. I have strong feelings regarding former Sen. Norm Coleman as well. Obviously, a meandering rant on the evils of Coleman is not an appropriate response to the email from my client. Above all, I desire to remain professional, and to maintain what has always been a good relationship with this client. At the same time, I do feel compelled to take this opportunity to outline some of the qualities that I like about Sen. Franken, and why I was very proud to vote for him. It would be a bit of Political Evangelism, if you will.

But is that necessary? What's wrong with just leaving well enough alone? And do you know what is disturbing me the most about this? What can't I think of something hilarious and appropriate to send back to her?

I welcome any input others might have on the issue. Remember, this is a paying client, who could do great damage to me professionally if they wanted to, in response to some sort of snide or inappropriate remark by me. What would you do in a case like this?

Friday, January 9, 2009

K-Fed Never Saw This Concert

That's a picture of Brit and K-Fed from Halloween 2005. I am sure that I can speak for all of my children and parents and let you know that they could not possibly be prouder of us!

On to more civilized matters...

Felix Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto in e minor

Ok, no surprise here, a violin concerto (which is very heavy in violining, surprise sirprise). If the original question had been "You get to pick on violin concerto to take with you to the island and you can't listen to anything else ever again, what would it be?" I would have picked this one. The performance linked to above is by Joshua Bell, who gets a lot of media attention because he has a marketable face and oh, by the way, he rules. Missing him completely during his leadership of the SPCO was a travesty that I may never outlive. But you can pick whatever recording you want, this piece absolutely rules.

Mendelssohn himself was an excellent violinist in his day. While his live was short (he dies I believe from tuberculosis at 37), he contributed mightily to musical development. I think it is interesting to go back and look at pieces that were written so long ago and try to look at them as though we had never heard them before, or any music that has come since. We forget that some of this music was quite new at the time - that no one else was making music like this then, and that the ideas Mendelssohn put on paper had never been though of before. It's hard to do because a lot of these ideas have been copied so much since then that we take them for granted now, and we hear this music and think of it as just another concerto, even though in its time it was almost revolutionary. It's like the story of Romeo and Juliet. There are so many tragic love stories that have come since that was written, that when we think of Romeo and Juliet, we think of it as just another tragedy or love story with a sad ending. But when it was first conceived it was original, and no one had ever put a story like that down before. I like to try to listen to music in this way, as though I was hearing the original performance of the music, although that is very difficult to do.

This concerto starts out quite differently than concertos traditionally began at the time, with the solo violin entering almost immediately. More typically, the full orchestra would play the main theme before the soloist entered. Also, all three movements run together, without breaks. The lonely bassoon note that ties the first and second movements together is sublime. This concerto is widely viewed as ushering in the Romantic period in classical concertos. Oh, and it's really hard, although it is accessible enough to the masses that it is also considered one of the cornerstones of violin repetoire.

A bit of controversy here for me personally, as I selected all three movements, rather than just one track, to include on my mix. And the overall length of this piece (along with some others on the list, I ended up picking long songs although not deliberately) made it so that in regular audio format, the entire Top 10 will not fit on one CD. But in mp3 format, there is plenty of room, so sue me if you want.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What a view!

That's Nicole and I at the "summit" of Flattop, right outside Anchorage in July, 2003. Seems longer ago than that. For some reason we were woefully unprepared - our footwear was NOT appropriate even for the simple climb. But I can guarantee you that we listened to these two songs at some point on that trip - yes, the Top 10 continues...

Astral Weeks - Van Morrison

I know I know, I don't get to take the whole album with me to the island, but if I could, this would be a tempting one to take. But the title track is so great, and while I normally don't put a whole lot of weight on lyrics in music, for some reason I love the lyrics on this one: "When I ventured into the slipstream/ between the viaducts of your dreams..." It goes on from there of course. Three things about this song:

The man can sing. It is not easy to sing what he sings, and if you think it is, go try it sometime. He's an incredibly talented singer.

This was the first song that I ever listened too that made me think I could play violin and be a rock star. It was the first time I ever sat down with my violin and tried to play along - it's not that hard really, but the string part on this song shows exactly how I would like to try to sound when I play. It's color on top in this kind of setting, and it is very important to the music, but it sounds silly on it's own. Just imagine the violin playing its part in this song with none of the other instruments. BORING.
This song was introduced to me in high school by my friend Owen on yes, you guessed it, a mix tape. I asked him for music to listen to, and he always came up huge. I still have some of those origina. l tapes, and while I don't listen to them anymore, they are a very important piece of the music I love today.

You might start to notice a violin theme with these songs - it was unintentional, and I was as surprised as anyone when I realized how much violining there was on these songs.

Skyscraper - Bad Religion

If you haven't heard any Bad Religion and you like any kind of punk at all, you should come over to my house sometime and we'll waste an hour listenting to all of their songs. Yes, most of their stuff is very short (their album No Control has 15 tracks and does not last 28 minutes), but I like it because there is nothing extraneous in any of their music. Everything has a purpose, there are no extra notes, no extra choruses, no extra solos. They hit you hard, make their point, and are done.

This is my favorite of all their songs, although a lot of what they do sounds similar, and I could have come up with a different one and been just as happy. I have no idea how someone can play drums like that, but the real magic of Bad Religion really is lyrics and harmonies. Whoever figured out that harmonies sounds cool over lour guitars and pounding drums deserves some sort of award. The nice thing is you can always understand what he is saying, and sometimes it makes you think. Those two qualities are lacking in 97% (scientifically calculated!) of the music I hear coming out today. I'm not saying that the music has to have a message, and I am not saying that I have to understand what you are singing - but if you do have a message, I better be able to make the words out.

I actually saw these guys once, in 1991 while on a school trip to Germany. I don't remember much of the show, but you know those German kids love them some punk, and I do remember having a good time.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Top 10 - Why So Fussy?

For once it appears as though Connor is not the fussiest one in the room. Can you guess who it might be?

Over a month late, I am going to start releasing the Top 10 finally, so comment away if you want. And remember, with this blog, you get exactly what you pay for.

Heroin - The Velvet Underground

Like many of the songs that have made this final list, Heroin has a little bit of everything in it. It's a simple song, but I think that this song is a perfect example of what real musicians can do with even the simplest of ideas. There's only three chords used in Heroin, but the group makes the most of them, changing the tempo, dynamic, and texture several times through the song. And that really is an electric viola in the background there. No bass player in this one either.

I love how the song starts slowly and calmly, you might even say it's pretty. Then we are taken on the journey all the way up and all the way back down again. It's one of the best absolute freak outs that you will ever hear in any song. And we know that no one is doubting Lou Reed's credentials and his influence on future musicians, but if you listen to a lot of the popular grunge music of the 90's, there is no way you can tell me that those guys didn't listen to a LOT of Velvet Underground, and this song in particular.

I could listen to that thumping drum line and feedback viola all day long.

Harry Hood - Phish

When I got the idea to do this, there was only one song that I knew would be on the list for sure, and this is it. I prefer this recording from A Live One to almost any other recording of anything I have ever heard. I often listen to this track while flying, usually when I think I am around 20 minutes from landing. I don't think that there is one note out of place in the entire song. And it has a little of everything of course. There's some sort of a bridge section in the middle that just blows me away - they are playing together so precisely, but I have no idea what the count is. It's a remarkable show of what "tight" really means. And Trey's guitar solo over the last several minutes of this one is absolutely beautiful. And you get the double climax in the last section too - I still get goosebumps listening and this has been around for over 10 years.

If you made me pick one track, one single recording of something and told me that it was the only thing I could ever listen to again, this would be it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Spectacular Christmas

Originally uploaded by adamchose
Christmas was very excellent in Chose-ville this year. As you can see from the picture, I got the North Face vest I have always wanted as well as some kick ass red Crocs for wearing around the house. I got so much other awesome stuff that I can't even go into it here because it really was an embarrassment of riches.

Josephine had a great Christmas as well - I think she will start remembering these from now on. We had lots of time to spend with family and friends, which was also excellent. Christmas Eve featured fondue with Grandma Sugar, Terry and Uncle Banle. Grandma Sugar was very generous with her gifts as she always is. Christmas Day was spent with Nicole's family. We stuck around at her parents house until almost 9 pm!

To say that we were blessed is to make a bid for understatement of the year. Our first Christmas in our new hoome will always be special!