Friday, August 19, 2005

Summer Sports Notes

So while I've been lounging around the house this summer, I've noticed a few things happened in the world of sports. Here's a few thoughts:

Little Boy Green. I have always hated the Philadelphia Eagles, and when Mr. Owens signed with them, I had all the more reason to do so. People use the word "distraction," "disruptive," and sometimes "distasteful" to describe this person. I say epitomizes all that is wrong in the world of sports. He used the phrase "be a man" in his invitation to have his coach do what he wants. He tells people "I'm a grown man" as some sort of excuse for being allowed to behave as he does. Mr. Owens is not a man; he is a child. He is like a spoiled teenager whose hormones and impulses drive his thoughts and actions.

And he was given a timeout by the Eagles, a move I heartily applaud. But he has been coddled enough. When (not if) he throws his next tantrum or his next prank, this team and the league need to send him to his room until he realizes he isn't the only person on the planet and that he and football can survive just fine letting others have attention. That or send him, in his infamous fatigues, to Brat Camp.

(I refused to call him "T.O." because nicknames and cute shortened versions of one's name lend an air that he is actually important.)

The right to remain silent. What seems to have been lost in all the rhetoric here is that Rogers was harangued by people for some time before he blew his stack and injured men doing their jobs (sort of). Mr. Rogers should not have attacked these men; however, everyone has a breaking point and given his circumstance we should be surprised he held his temper so long.

Further, the incident has brought me back to a problem I've noticed throughout sports. Why must an athlete or coach talk to anyone? Dale Hanson, among others, whined long before the violence about Rogers's refusal to talk to the media. Could it be that much of the anger had come from reporters initially, and not from Rogers?

Sports fans should notice that often players and coaches are fined for not speaking to the press, and not just when they refuse to participate in special media days (another odd idea--everyday is Media Day) or autograph sessions. I'm sure in most cases, it is good PR to speak to the media who can easily hurt a man's career (right Mr. Switzer? right Mr. Reeves?). However, what is the rationale for forcing players and coaches to give their usually banal thoughts?

A little juice, Mr. Palmero? I'm more than a little disappointed the Rafael Palmero has not only tested positive for steroids, but that he lied so much and so long about it. He should probably quit trying to convince us that there was some sort of accident and that he is going to discuss "his side of the story." Unless his side is to tell the truth (including why he seems to have lied so vehemently to Congress, a moment that strikes me as being like gangsters shooting other gangsters for being gangsters), I'm not sure anyone is going to be listening except to find more soundbytes for talk radio hosts and comedians to skewer. Otherwise, just shut up.

Does anyone remember Steve Moore? Hockey is back, and none too soon. I am excited that soon I will be able to watch slap shots and hear the scrape of blades on ice. But wait a minute! Bertuzzi gets to return to play after serving only twenty games. Why this guy isn't living out the next ten years in prison followed by an exciting career sacking groceries is beyond my comprehension. Both Commissioner Gary Bettman and the Players Union should be ashamed for letting this happen. I'm also taken aback that Wayne Gretsky supports the decision, noting that he is happy Bertuzzi will now be available to play for Team Canada.

Bertuzzi will earn 5.2 million dollars this year while Steve Moore will struggle to walk normally. If we can't get rid of Bertuzzi, how about a clause that states Moore's family gets at least half of Bertuzzi's salary until Moore can play again?

The most popular sport an afterthought. Just thought I'd throw in a thought that while the U.S. National Team is poised to go back the World Cup, and this team may be even stronger than last, the sport of soccer still gets little or no press. Most of the local media coverage for FC Dallas has been over the new stadium, not the actual games. I know that soccer is not the most popular sport in the United States (most who even mention it on talk radio do so in derision), but how much broadcast time does Mr. Owens really need?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Music notes for July 2005

So I got a couple "new" discs from my CD club and have been listening to them lately.
Whisper Not by Jarrett, Peacock, and DeJohnette (2000). Many who read my writing will note that I am particularly drawn to Keith Jarrett's music. I think it must be the intense, but controlled, emotion in his playing that makes me almost need this music. This two disc set, recorded in Paris, makes me wish all the more that I could see his "Standards" trio in person. The group moves quite naturally between bebopping numbers like the opening "Bouncing With Bud" and ballads such as the closer, "When I Fall In Love." I'm not sure why, but I really love "Poinciana," which earns its groove with skillful, emotive playing rather than tricks. I prefer to listen to this disc with the next selection in a playlist on my computer so I can have a few hours of uninterrupted bliss.

The Out-of-Towners by Jarrett, Peacock, DeJohnette (2004). I have heard a few of these pieces on KNTU, most notably the title track and "It's All In The Game" since the disc's release, and have looked forward to hearing the whole thing. I am certainly not disappointed; however, I do wonder why this isn't also a two disc-set. I feel as if I'm getting highlights from a terrific concert. I keep wanting more. Every cut is a winner. The trio plays like one might expect from three men who have been listening to each other for decades, but who have the energy of musicians just starting out.

I do wish to comment briefly on the fact that these discs have no liner notes. I suppose I can live without more pontificating prose, but something in me wants more to read. However, it is more important perhaps to let the music speak for itself.

As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls by Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays (1980). I had heard this album before and enjoyed it as much as the group recordings from this time period, however I had not listened much to it. A few weeks ago, on the way to visit someone in the hospital, I heard the title track. Well most of it. The song is over twenty minutes long, so I didn't get to the end. I couldn't remember for sure which disc it was on, a problem furthered by the fact that I probably first heard this song on Travels, one of the best live albums I've heard. Most of this disc is made up of the title track, a 20 plus minute opus that prefigures what we have twenty-five years later with The Way Up. This is an exciting and thoughtful composition, highlighting both virtuoso players. Nana Vasconcelos's percussion and vocal work is excellent. One can see why Metheny and Mays have used, in their group and in their solo projects, great percussionists. I remember hearing "September Fifteenth" on the Imaginary Day Live DVD and "'It's For You'" is featured in Metheny's Rarum: Selected Recordings disc. This is a must particularly for fans of Metheny's group works. (Now if we could get the duo to a release of acoustic duets as they have done on tour.)

Weather Report's Live and Unreleased. Critics have faulted this two-disc work with being uneven. It does juxtapose recording from different sets between 1975 and 1983 in what seems to be a haphazard collection rather than placing the cuts in chronological order. Perhaps if I was a more astute listener or musician, I would be bothered by this. Perhaps I need to listen closer. I enjoyed these quite a bit, however. I worried that this would have a bootleg quality that would belie the sound that never gets old or dated for me. I hear this and wish I'd been listening to jazz when this group was still together (I'm already sad that I never got to see Jaco Pastorius in any setting.).

What does trouble me about this is the omission of two of Weather Report's best songs, "Birdland"and "Boogie Woogie Waltz." Both of these are found on 8:30 a disc I haven't heard yet, but which gets pretty good reviews from fans of the group. The first song is probably their most popular and the second, one of my personal favorites, is even mentioned in the liner notes to this disc as being a breakthrough tune for the band. However, there is much to enjoy here and I'm likely to keep at it. I sure am thirsty to find 8:30 however.

For next month...Bill Frisell's Unspeakable and Live At Budokan by Dream Theater.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bookmarks for July 2005

Have been looking at a smattering of things this month, taking a bit of my cue from my Mom who likes to alternate light books with heavy ones.

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham. Found a first edition of this book at a little garage sale in Mineola when visiting my brother John. Did not intend to read it right away, but having forgotten to bring the books I was reading, and not able to sleep one night, I started it.

So far I haven't seen the movie version of this book, but from the commercials, I sense the film is supposed to be a comedy. This book does have its funny moments (It is somehow hard to keep from laughing at a man hanging upside down by an extension cord), but it seems that Grisham wanted the story to be somewhat serious, at least in the beginning. I was mostly interested in seeing how the Krank family was going to get through not doing the usual, material, Christmas thing. The book was a fun read, but a little disappointing. The story seems a bit uneven and some of the prose needs a little polish. On the other hand, watching Luther Krank rebel against his neighbor's and then find the power of community (however heavy handed) was enjoyable, a nice Christmas in July present.

The June issue of Poetry. Okay, I was a bit slow on this one. But I have a tendency to read this magazine in no particular hurry. I actually started it last month and finished in July.

Some of the poems in this issue baffle me, even with re-reading, and a couple seem, to be blunt, too average for what many consider the premier publication of verse. However, I must be honest: I feel that way about pretty much every journal or poetry magazine I encounter.

I have noticed that much of the space in Poetry is devoted to essays and reviews. Though many reviews are perhaps unnecessarily harsh, and most essays repeat the lament of how too much modern poetry comes from the universities, I do find snippets that are interesting to read.

The July/August issue of Poetry. This is the once a year issue devoted to humor. Garrison Keillor, a fan of good poetry (see his fascinating anthology), once told Larry King that one thing missing from American poetry is humor. I am inclined to agree. So it is refreshing to me to find that one of the most prestigious publications in letters devotes its double issue the subject. And here we find humor fit for a variety of tastes. I honestly did not get all of it, but that didn't bother me. Most of the poems were enjoyable and not "light" in the sense of being an easy to read source of momentary chuckles. There were a few disappointments (notably parts of Richard Wilbur's poem, but mostly because I think he is a better poet that some of this suggests). On the whole, this was a good read.
I have mixed feelings about the prose material. I'm glad to see that Poetry doesn't, at least for one issue, take itself too seriously, and even pokes a bit of fun at the pretensions of the community. Particularly interesting, as well as funny, is Kay Ryan's "I Go To the AWP." The piece is probably depressingly insightful for those who are hoping to make their way into the "business" of writing poetry. Dean Young's fake reviews were quite humorous. These and Michael Lewis's "How To Make A Killing From Poetry" struck me as satire that is easily could be mistaken for real criticism.
Three volumes by Wallace Stevens. Stevens himself admitted late in life that he seemed to write for a rather limited audience. I felt I might not be in that audience, but I must admit that I might not have been reading in the right frame of mind. Usually it was late at night and I was tired; therefore, I may have hurt my best chances to be edified in some way by his well-crafted verse.
Harmonium (1923, 1931) was Stevens's first book. It contains his most well known , and I think most powerful, poems. While Ideas of Order (1936) had some moving and interesting passages, I was felt lost most of the time. The Man With The Blue Guitar (1937) was fascinating one moment and infuriatingly dense the next. I am taken by the theme of imagination's importance; however, I may need to look at these volumes at a later date, a date I could bring more of my own imagination to the task.
Presently reading: The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Perhaps next month I can give a fuller report of this book. For now, know that I consider Merton to be one this country's most neglected poets. I have no evidence to this fact, but I suspect that one reason more is not known about him and why he is not anthologized is that he is a hopeful poet during a time of literary history marked by themes of doubt and alienation. Anyway, should I manage to make my way through this huge book, I'll try to write about it next month. In the meantime, I do recommend this poem, "Aubade: Lake Erie" at the Academy of American Poets website and his Selected Poems.