Saturday, January 31, 2009

Back in the saddle

This week I took a big step. I successfully convinced the editors of the Las Vegas Weekly to accept the idea of a semi-regular sports column, penned by yours truly. This reminds me of the heyday of Channel 4000, when I wrote a weekly column -- unpaid -- for a full year before the parent company finally decided to bring me on-board full-time.

I won't have as much leeway with this column -- my topics will have to have some sort of local hook, which could entail just about anything since Las Vegas is such a national-interest city, so I'm not complaining, I'm just saying. Anyway, here's the debut:

"Las Vegas has a long and complicated history with the National Football League. In the realm of mutually beneficial yet often dysfunctional relationships of the last half-century, you have Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Batman and the Joker, Terrell Owens and his ego and Las Vegas and the NFL."

Read more of "The NFL's Secret Lover" ...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Top Ten of 2008

So many music pundits offer up their annual Top Ten lists in early December, but to me, that's cheating the process. Do Oscar nominations come out before Christmas? Hell no! The Academy waits until its members have had a chance to fully digest all releases from a given year.

Here at WHIH, the same concept holds true with our annual Top Ten list of my favorite music. I need most of January to pore over late releases and records that I received as holiday gifts. So, without further delay, here are the fruits of my labor and the soundtrack of my life, circa 2008.

10. Duffy – Rockferry. More blue-eyed soul from across the pond from a blonde Amy Winehouse minus the tattoos and drug problems. Download it: Mercy, Warwick Avenue

9. Kings of Leon – Only by the Night. Former hillbilly rockers move into soaring arena-rock anthems that echo former tourmates U2 and The Strokes. Download it: Sex on Fire, Use Somebody

8. Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue. Rilo Kiley lead singer's second solo effort is edgier, more challenging, but ultimately more rewarding. Download it: Carpetbaggers, The Next Messiah

7. Tift Merritt – Another Country. Diminutive chanteuse finds her voice with a stirring, soulful, emotionally raw effort. Download it: Broken, Something to Me

6. REM – Accelerate. I loved the return to angry, bouncy, show-oriented rock after too much studio doodling for my taste. Download it: Horse to Water, Man-Sized Wreath

5. Old 97's – Blame it on Gravity. Another return to form, as twang-and-bang formula rises again after too many years in the pop wilderness. Download it: The Easy Way, The One

4. Marah – Angels of Destruction! Dylanesque vocals (in a good way) coupled with bluesy, bar-band boogie. Download it: Wilderness, title cut

3. The Baseball Project – Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails. You don't have to be a baseball nerd to love these 13 songs about the great American pastime – warts and all – from Peter Buck and three alt-rockers. Download it: Past Time, Ted F***ing Williams

2. Drive-By Truckers – Brighter than Creation's Dark. Wide-ranging country-rock album from two of the greatest songwriters working today. Download it: The Righteous Path, Self-Destructive Zones

1. The Hold Steady – Stay Positive. Fewer Twin Cities references, even more fun-loving, head-bobbing, fist-pumping singalong songs. Download it: Sequestered in Memphis, title cut

Honorable Mention
Calexico – Carried to Dust, The Decemberists – Always the Bridesmaid (singles), Murry Hammond – I Don't Know Where I'm Going But I'm on My Way, Bon Iver -- For Emma, Forever Ago

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New Review -- Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird -- Noble Beast

Genre: Quirk-rock

For fans of: Violins, loops, gentleman farmers, whistling, guys in vests, thought-provoking lyrics, complicated arrangements, Martin Dosh.

Download it: Effigy, Fitz and the Dizzyspells

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

It could, indeed, happen to you

To: The Arizona Cardinals

From: Fans of the Detroit Lions, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Clippers, and the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher football team

Re: Your upcoming Super Bowl appearance

Thank you! That's change we can believe in. You're selling hope, and we're buying! Because if you can get to the championship game of your sport, there might be hope for our teams after all. And you didn't even need to rely on Nic Cage's hairpiece to get you to the promised land.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The end of ignorance?

With one week remaining in the Bush presidency, the time has come for a look back at the administration's many failings. But lost amid all the talk of 9-11, the response to Katrina, the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, our crumbling infrastructure, etc., is the faux cowboy's greatest achievement -- the triumph of anti-intellectualism. Or, to put it in terms he'd probably prefer, the dumb guys won.

Simply put, in the Bush years, being smart was no longer a good thing. If you went to a good college -- or any college -- you were branded "elitist." God help you if you were a patron of the arts ... you elitist creep. If you believed in global warming or evolution or if you drove one of those sissified hybrid ve-hicles ... that's right ... elitist!

So it thrills me to no end to see the walking, talking embodiment of this attitude ambling his way out of the White House. But of course, this doesn't mean the end of the line for the Know-Nothing crowd, so it never hurts to remain vigilant.

Which brings me to Population 485 by Michael Perry. He's a pretty intriguing guy who straddles both worlds -- a writer who also owns a rusty pickup and fights fires as a hobby. Yesterday, I reached a passage in the book that just floored me, the best summary of the brain wars I've read to this date. He'd just attended a lecture by noted feminist philosopher Martha Nussbaum and he was contemplating the intellectual divide on the drive back to his small-town oasis of New Auburn, Wisc. He writes:

Part of the blame lies with intellectuals who are unable or unwilling to convey their ideas in terms that will play down to the cafe. But anyone who sits in that cafe and dismisses complexity by reveling in their own simplicity is no less pretentious. Civilization itself depends on complication. As a dyed-in-the-slop farm boy, I find I have an almost atavistic urge to poor-mouth anyting more theoretical than a bag of feed. I have come to realize this is not always attractive.

For the last eight years, this country has been run by the kind of people who booed the principal at every school assembly. Now, under President Obama, this country has a chance to bounce back. Let's declare a War on Ignorance. Actually, let's not -- you can't eliminate ignorance, just as you can't eliminate terror, although if we'd had a president who was less ignorant, most of the country would have figured that out by now.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Confounding conference clashes coming

Now that I've 86ed the notion of continued football coverage (see previous post), I have to at least mention the upcoming conference championship games. I am completely flummoxed by the two games for similar and differing reasons.

In the NFC, I've clearly overlooked the Cardinals, but they wouldn't have won (as easily, at least) on Saturday had the Carolina Panthers not handed them the game in a flurry of interceptions, fumbles and unforced errors that might or might not have included quarterback Jake Delhomme soiling himself at midfield (I turned the game off early).

Meanwhile, the Eagles slipped into the playoffs on the last day of the season (with help from the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders, of all teams), then drew the ideal first-round matchup against scatterarmed quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, scatterbrained head coach Brad Childress and the rest of the starcrossed Minnesota Vikings. A rematch with the Super Bowl champion Giants turned into a snoozefest on Sunday as Eli Manning threw more knuckleballs than a Niekro brother, leaving the Eagles as three-point road favorites this weekend in the desert.

Over in the AFC, the Ravens were "the team nobody wants to play" until the Titans exposed their vaunted defense on Saturday -- fast, shifty runners like Chris Johnson (or Willie Parker) can exploit aging veterans like Dancin' Ray Lewis, who hasn't made a play since the first Cheney Administration. But for three red-zone turnovers and an ankle injury that knocked Johnson out of the game in the second half, the Ravens would be crabbing on the Chesapeake this weekend, instead of preparing for the AFC Championship Game.

Their opponents are the Steelers, a five-point favorite on the strength of their being the only home team to win last week, not to mention a two-game sweep of the Ravens in the regular season. The Steelers have been underwhelming, especially on offense, much of the year, but they exploded for five touchdowns against an improved Chargers defense on Sunday. Their quarterback (lovingly called "Ben" by today's telejournalists) suffered a concussion in Week 17, and chances are the Ravens might find a way to make contact with his gourd once or twice this weekend. But Fast Willie Parker seems to be back at full speed, and as anybody who wasted a high fantasy draft pick on Parker this season could tell you, his legs should be plenty fresh. Their defense is still pretty wicked, and you have to think they'll make Joe Flacco look like the rookie quarterback that he is.

Guh. I have no idea where to go with these two games. Maybe I'd better give Smooth Jimmy Apollo a call.

A few changes

Careful observers will note that we've made a few changes here at WHIH. The most obvious is the new template. Not sure if I like it or not, but I'll keep it around for awhile and see if it grows on me.

I've also dispensed with the triathlon talk for now. It was fun, and I am still training -- quite possibly for another one here in Vegas this spring -- but I think the obsession has run its course (no pun intended). I'll still write about the whole process from time to time, but don't look for much flogging of the trials of training any time soon.

And now that the football season is nearly over, the gambling updates will cease until next fall. One bit of housekeeping -- I didn't post a Week 17 parlay because I was in Minnesota, but I picked out a five-teamer anyway and went 3-2. So my season ended with one victorious five-teamer and an aggregate record of 42-41-2 in those games.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Back from my NBC ban

I didn't want to point any fingers or make any excuses for my prolonged absence from the blogorama, but it's somebody's fault, so I'll just come out and say it: Screw you, NBC.

Taking a cue from the inimitable Ann Coulter, I too am outraged by the Peacock Network's decision to ban me from its numerous media platforms. I mean, that's the only conclusion I can draw from my continued absence from NBC's various shows. It must be a conspiracy to keep The Man (i.e. me) down. Because remember, I'm a man. That reality is no longer in doubt.

What other reason could the brain wizards at NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, NBC Sports, and Bravo have for ignoring my accomplishments and freezing me out of their programming? When I completed my triathlon, did I get an invite to the Today Show? When I hit my five-team NFL parlay, was I interviewed on Football Night in America (aka "Sunday")?

The answer to both questions, sadly, is a big, fat, resounding "no." So I've decided that I will no longer remain silent in the face of this obvious discrimination against Minnesota ex-pats in Las Vegas. Sure, maybe I'm just trying to grease the wheels for an appearance on the couch with Leno, Lauer or Conan when my first book comes out in June, but let's not automatically assume my motives are that cynical.

After all, it worked so well for Coulter. All she had to do was whisper into Matt Drudge's ear when her "Today" appearance was postponed, and 24 hours later, there was her enormous Adam's apple bobbing to and fro on the morning show.

So, I will continue to protest NBC's decision to deny me my rightful publicity by refraining from blogging until such time as they see fit to invite me to 30 Rock for a sit-down with Ann Curry, let me host "SNL" or cast me in the next season of "The Biggest Loser."

OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little. I'll probably start posting here again on a regular basis very soon. But it still sucks.