Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to divide the Big Ten

It appears that Iowa won't be paired with its top rival, Wisconsin, when the Big Ten announces how it will divide the two divisions in order to make room for a football championship game. Considering the buzz of Michigan being separated from Ohio State, here is how I am guessing the divisions will go:

North
Wisconsin
Minnesota
Michigan
Michigan State
Penn State
Northwestern

South
Iowa
Nebraska
Illinois
Purdue
Indiana
Ohio State

I am certain in this scenario, the Big Ten will ensure that Iowa/Wisconsin, Illinois/Northwestern and Michigan/Ohio State are games that are played every season even though the teams are in opposite divisions. The SEC manages to align certain teams so they play every season, such as Tennessee and Alabama.

Here is how I would align the divisions:

West
Nebraska
Iowa
Minnesota
Wisconsin
Northwestern
Illinois

East
Michigan
Michigan State
Purdue
Indiana
Ohio State
Penn State

The obvious fear is that this division is too stacked for football because three championship contenders would be in one division. The problem with that logic is that conferences see major power shifts, and the SEC is a good example. A few years ago, Alabama was far from a contender and the SEC East was much more powerful with as many as three top-10 teams in its ranks. In just two years, Alabama, Arkansas and Ole Miss have surged ahead of programs like Tennessee and even Georgia, shifting the balance of power to the West.

Similar shifts will happen in the Big Ten so, with that in mind, I would align the divisions geographically, create more natural rivalries and make travel easier on non-football sports. But what do I know? This deal is going to rake in millions for the Big Ten so obviously I'm mistaken. And the idea of a November game between Michigan and Ohio State for a chance to go to the Rose Bowl is very intriguing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Airplanes!

A happy song that's soundtracking my wait on pins and needles


Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Swell Season

"So how'd that Swell Season show go the other night?"

"Not great actually."

"You're kidding, they're one of your favorite bands. What happened?"

"Some guy committed suicide onstage during the set."

I was rocked by the news yesterday that a man committed suicide during the Swell Season's show in California. So many thoughts run through my mind. Was he trying to become a YouTube legend? Did the Swell Season's music, rooted in lost love and gorgeous melodrama, play a role in his decision to end it? Which band's live show would be worthy of my own suicide?

Thoughts like that.

In all seriousness, Once is one of my favorite indie films in recent memory. Its soundtrack is emotional and catchy, and the film created the group the Swell Season. The band is led by the frontman of the Frames, who I fell in love with a lifetime ago. If there is an artist that could pull a suicidal man over the ledge, it is the Swell Season. See for yourself below -- a video of their song Falling Slowly set to clips from the movie.

NFL Predictions

NFC
North
1. Packers: The youngest team in the league, a star quarterback on the rise, and plenty of depth to offset injuries
2. Vikings: Favre missed too much camp, isn't quite right and the ball won't bounce their way 100 percent of the time like 2009.
3. Bears: Mike Martz improves the offense, the defense benefits from Peppers and others returning from injuries
4. Lions: Spunky, improved, but still a mistake-prone shaky QB at the helm
(editor's note: i flip-flopped the bears and vikings. i think minnesota has enough weapons to still be better than the bears, whose offense could be truly awful this season. we'll see if this pays off)

East
1. Cowboys: No real weaknesses, but can Romo get over the hump?
2. Giants: They couldn't get quite right last year, but I see them as one of the proverbial non-playoff teams that contends
3. Eagles: Great coach, but will Kolb pay off? They'll be in the playoff mix for sure
4. Redskins: Shanahan was only so-so when he left Denver, and this team has a lot of fat to trim. I dislike their roster.

South
1. Falcons: My sure-shot team to make the leap from missing playoffs to contention. Good D, like their QB and running game.
2. Saints: Back in the playoffs, but their D won't be good enough to keep them at the top
3. Panthers: This could be the surprise team. Can Moore/Clausen give them enough at QB?
4. Buccaneers: I have no faith in this team to be anything besides awful.

West
1. Cardinals: Death, taxes and the Cardinals as the best team in the West.
2. Seahawks: I think Carroll (with Alex Gibbs) will surprise people.
3. 49ers: Why can't some teams come to their senses and fix their broken QB position?
4. Rams: Hopefully this season isn't so bad that it leads to the Rams leaving St. Louis.

Wildcards: Giants and Saints
Champions: Falcons

AFC
North
1. Ravens: Ferocious D, good coach, just enough at QB. Super Bowl or bust.
2. Steelers: Big Ben's F-U season to everybody, or a big cluster-cuss. We shall see.
3. Browns: Mike Holmgren finally gets to be a GM-only, and there will be improvements, but not enough.
4. Bengals: They fall flat on their faces with their over-stuffed, far too complicated roster. Good D though.

East
1. Patriots: This pick is made out of spite for the Jets.
2. Jets: Sanchez is still shaky and the Revis holdout is concerning. I just don't see contenders, but perhaps I'm wrong.
3. Dolphins: I like the direction the team is headed but they gotta stay healthy on O.
4. Bills: Lackluster, boring roster. Too many unknowns combined with early injury problems at RB.

South
1. Colts: There is no reason to doubt this roster or this team.
2. Jaguars: A team with a great leader in MJD and a chip on its shoulder.
3. Texans: Can they finally get over the hump? We saw how much Owen Daniels meant to them last year.
4. Titans: I wonder if it isn't time for the Titans to clean house, and I wonder if this won't be the year where they have the excuse to do so.

West
1. Chargers: OK, now go out and show the world you didn't need LT.
2. Raiders: Addition by simplification. Great D, less complications on offense. Just win baby. My sleeper team.
3. Broncos: I want to see the real coach McDaniels stand up. Orton is so-so, but there is youth and depth. Tebow amounts to nothing.
4. Chiefs: This is the team I know the least about and therefore the biggest question mark.

Wild Cards: Jets and Raiders.
Champions: Chargers

Super Bowl: Chargers over Falcons.

I will have my Packers preview soon. I have a quiet confidence about this team. I want to guess Super Bowl, but I'd settle for a division title and a win at Lambeau over the Vikings.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Could the sentence, 'my sex is on fire,' possibly be said with a straight face?

I heard the Kings of Leon come on the radio the other day and felt a real sense of disappointment. What might have happened had the band not been transformed into a skinny-jeaned, PBRd mess? We're all left to wonder that.

My sex is on fire? What does that mean. If it's some kind of inside joke, I could understand, but KoL play the song with such a gaudy self-awareness, it's embarrassing. The band deserves props for the scraps they threw at The Features, a far superior fellow Nashville band.

But a whole generation of impressionable adolescents are growing up thinking that inflamed sex is something to be touted. I remember Blink 182 being popular when I was in high school. They sang about immaturity with a bravado too, but they seemed to recognize the joke was on them.

And I concede that Caleb Followill can sing. Early KoL albums, which for full disclosure's sake I'll admit I bought, show the guy can howl with the best of them. But just because you can sing like a MoFo doesn't mean you've got something to say.

Don't believe me? Next time you're in an intimate moment with your partner, tell them your sex is on fire. It's the romantic equivalent of a whoopie cushion.

And to cleanse your pallet, try this:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

I haven't seen a movie I disliked as much as Hot Tub time Machine since my buddy Landon and I walked out of Dirty Work at the $1 theater. Awful. Makes me question everything I ever thought of Darryl from The Office, not to mention John Cusack. Maybe Say Anything, Better Off Dead and even High Fidelity weren't good movies after all.

Part of me wants to suggest that friends never go see it, but the other part wants me to tell them to go see it so we can sit back and make fun of it together. Bad. I booed during the movie, and I watched it in the comfort of my own living room. If there had been something within arm's reach to throw at the TV, I would have done it. Chevy Chase showed up with a bumbling cameo. Horrible movie.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Suburbs



If you're Arcade Fire in 2010, you're left in limbo. Your carefully engineered sound has been revered by fans and critics, and imitated by several of your contemporary bands. Your music is built on the foundation that the world, America to be specific, and middle American life more specifically than that, is kinda pointless and stupid. Yet, you've also managed to make atheistic we're-smarter-than-you music sound spiritual and sometimes downright churchy. I'm guessing countless angry suburban youths believe Arcade Fire to be authors not just of great music, but of an entire point-of-view t justify their own Starbucks-drinking, Scion-driving, Mac-toting self-loathing.

To drive the point home, you spent 2008 campaigning for Barack Obama to become the next president, while secretly believing all those middle-class Americans whose intelligence you didn't really respect even though they're the ones who've been buying your music, would never elect a guy with such a complex name and even more complex roots.

But, then something happened. America wised up and elected the guy whose name sounded like a terrorist, and all of a sudden the woe-is-me schtick didn't really make any sense.

How do you make a third album relevant when your audience has taken away your punching bag -- themselves. Well, Arcade Fire named their third album Suburbs. That's a less than subtle way of saying, we're not changing our message even though the world is changing.

But, there are some revelations on this album. I didn't want to slit my wrists at the end of the first listen. I kinda wanted to dust off my old U2 records. And I kinda wanted to go to church, not for forgiveness for being unaware enough to live in the "sprawl." But to give thanks because, if this whole thing we call life is just one meaningless mess, why not sit back and enjoy the ride.

If America has already sold its soul and decided that Chinese food should taste like PF Changs, well then I'm at least going to enjoy a lettuce wrap or two.

"Quit these pretentious things and just punch a clock..." That's a mocking line from Arcade Fire on my favorite track off from Suburbs -- Sprawl II, Mountains Beyond Mountains. What do they mean there? Pushing a mop for a living makes for a simple life. But is it meaningful? Is it somehow superior to the suburbanites who scratch and claw for enough money to buy an iPad to make the trip to Disney World more comfortable? This album left me with more questions about its message than previous Arcade Fire offerings.

Maybe they're easing up on all of us dullards. Maybe they realized that some of those Americans with W bumperstickers on their SUVs do have souls after all.

Setting the meaning of Suburbs aside, the music is predictably wonderful. Something has occurred to me after a few listens. Arcade Fire still haven't achieved their masterpiece quite yet. They've come close with Neon Bible. Suburbs doesn't achieve the genius of its predecessor, but I'd offer it as proof that the band is capable of greatness. If they could only learn to smile a little more, I think they could get there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The New Pornographers perform Moves

I realized something today... in order to compensate for my total lack of musical talent, I try to turn other people on to songs that I like. As if taste could trump, somehow, talent.

I'm sure that's not the case, but then, I'm often caught off guard at how much more music I consume compared to actual musicians. Poor Ali, she's stuck lending me her time so I can regale her with the latest song that's caught my ear. Anyhow, lottsa good stuff this summer. Here's what I have been listening to the most, a song off the new New Pornographers record.

Cool song, pretty good live performance.