30 January 2012

Michael Jackson was talented, insane

Spent my Saturday night with The Girl at the Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour show at Staples. The show itself is performed sort-of live. I couldn't discern how much was recorded and how much was actually played live. They had some theatrical guitar playing going on but I think that was just motions while the music was playing off a recording. Michael's voice was definitely recorded (no trouble figuring that out) but the backup singers seemed to be doing it live as far I could tell. The drums and horns looked legit.

The show was pretty good. The parts that with were mostly cirque and/or older music were fantastic. The parts that were Michael reading his poetry and/or anything made after 1991 were seriously awful. At several points during his reading he could be heard to break down and cry. Gimme a break. Also lame: the artistic interpretations of his tree of dreams (WTF?) and his weird laments about how didn't have a childhood. If you ignored all that crap and focused on the dancing and acrobatics and aerials and effects then you would have a really great show. As it was you had a good show occasionally interrupted by crazy self-indulgent garbage.

Michael Jackson was a hugely talented, insane, drug-addled pedophile. Don't get me wrong: drug-addled pedophiles can make some really great art. But still: Jackson was best when he had a producer that could focus and direct his genius. When he got big enough that he could make his music on his own it all went to shit.

Most of his old songs have held up really well so it was fun to hear them re-worked and see the performances that Cirque put together. They even mixed in the hook from Rockwell's Somebody's Watching Me, which was a nice touch. (At the time of this writing the second most 'thumbed up' comment on the Rockwell video is "I MISS MICHAEL A LOT =( " - this is a common theme on all the youtube vids for MJ. It's weird.)

The older Jackson 5 songs were a particular highlight for me. You think anyone will be listening to Justin Bieber songs in 40 years? Yeah me either.

Check this out and try not to dance. If that doesn't get you moving then you probably need to turn it up.

26 January 2012

You said it

This blog started out as a sports blog, years ago. Originally I kicked this thing off because I copied the guys at Fire Joe Morgan. I wanted to Fire Dick Vitale. (Unfortunately that hasn't happened. Joe Morgan did get fired, but Dick Vitale got elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Tex Winter, a man who - unlike Vitale - actually had a significant impact on the game of basketball, is not. As you might imagine, none of this has done much to ameliorate my loathing for Dick Vitale. He remains the worst kind of ignorant, blowhard shill.)

Anyway, we love the good sports writing here at GJAW, and Grantland is doing it right. This week they had the best sentence I've ever read about boxing (or fighting in general), and while I strongly urge you to review the entire article, here is the sentence:

Devilment seemed to emanate from Hopkins' body, too, a machine-like instrument not of god-given pugilistic evil, but the precision wickedness that comes with deprivation and autodidactic repetition.

Nicely done, sir.

24 January 2012

Your first and last football commentary for 2012 (maybe)

Picture Unrelated, except maybe I ate too many cookies already this week
I don't much care for the New York Giants. Never have. I always thought their coach was a jerk, their players were clowns, and their football ugly. Plus their uniforms are boring and ugly and their players get way too much attention because they play in the largest media market in the country.

Not much has changed, except now that the 49ers play ugly football I still think the Giants coach is a jerk and their players are clowns. Manning has been a punk since draft day.

Here's the thing: Alex Smith isn't very good at football, but he doesn't have to be. The 49ers defense is so good that he can Trent Dilfer his way to a superbowl victory. That is, he could if he were as good as Trent Dilfer. Which he is not. Zero conversions on third down? Sure no problem. Numerous checkdown passes in the dirt? You bet.

Some have suggested that part of the fault for the 49ers ineptitude lay with the receiving corps. I'm not buying this. It's like saying that your food sucks because the waiter brought it out wrong. It's not the waiter's fault that the food tastes like shit. That's the fault of the chef, and in this case Chef Smith cooked up some garbage (please pronounce that last word with the accent on the 'ahge', as in the french: gar-bahhhge; thank you).

The fact is that it doesn't matter how good the receiver is if the QB can't get them the ball. And Smith cannot. Apparently he can only throw to the tight end, and then only rarely. You can maybe lay some of the blame on the offensive coordinator for not devising a scheme that would enable his receivers to get open. But even when open can you count on Smith to deliver the football? No.

In summary: If your team is built on defense and special teams and your special teams takes two massive dumps on the field then you will lose. Every time.

Also, if you cannot convert a single third down you don't deserve to go the Superbowl. Even if your defense is totally, insanely awesome. Patrick Willis makes it appear as though Optimus Prime got tired of saving the planet and decided to play some NFL football. That guy is a walking clinic on tackling and kicking ass. And I'm pretty sure I saw Justin Smith pick up two Giants offensive lineman, smash their heads together, then knock down the littlest Manning like he was one of those inflatable boxing dolls for little tykes (any resemblance to Eli Manning strictly intended)

Alex Smith watched all this from the sideline and said, damn, I need to step up my game. And then he went out there and sucked. Shameful.

One saving grace for this season is that the Niners should be pretty good in Madden next year. So that's something.

20 January 2012

Not bad...

I'm not much of a Ducati fan. They are the Panerai watches of motorcycles: overpriced, overrated toys for rich guys who buy them because that's what they have heard of, not because it's the best or most unique. Until this year the 1198 (and the 1098 before it) wasn't even the best Italian motorcycle in the premium sportbike segment. That distinction belonged to the Aprilia RSV-4. If you wanted to go even more exclusive you could get MV Augusta F4, which is everything that the 1198 is, only more: expensive, faster, lovely, and temperamental.

The new-for-this-year 1199 vaults Ducati to the front of the segment again. It's beautiful, fast, light, and  beautiful. It comes loaded with all sorts of fantastic electronic gewgaws to help you manage the ferocious power and enormous brakes. In short: it's the shit. Unlike previous iterations, this Ducati actually IS one of the best sportbikes you can buy, right out of the box. And did I mention that it looks beautiful?

For the record, I would never buy one. It might be awesome but it's not good value for money.

It's still mostly a rich guy's toy, but at least he's getting performance to go with his 'lifestyle' branding. Great job, Ducati.

Now if only Honda could get their act together and update the CBR1000RR...

19 January 2012

Well allow me to retort

Comments from the readership:

Anonymous, in responding to my post about the flooding going on outside of Eugene, Oregon, says:
consider a 3rd satellite dish next Christmas. I heard an array really boosts reception

To which I reply:
I think they have one dish for TV and one for the internet. No cable in the rural area where they live. You take this stuff for granted when you live in the big suburb.

And from Sweet Katie, regarding the news of my 20th high school reunion:
Hi! Just thought you should know about it... thank god I didn't kill you with the announcement!

I was (mostly) kidding. Since I log in to facebook to post pictures of motorcycle stuff I'm not really affected. I'm glad to be kept informed. I think you should go and then tell me all about it.

In related news, The Girl has started to put together an outfit for me to wear to the reunion.
This was her initial suggestion:

It's still available in every size. How unexpected. I'm holding out until it goes on final sale.

Tough lie

Maybe I should take a free drop?
My folks retired to a golf course in remote Oregon several years ago. Normally the view out their back window is a cloudy, green 18th fairway. This is their view now.

The house is built on a bit of a hill but the basement and surrounding property are all under water. The 18th fairway is now a river - that's 3 feet of water on the course. Fun. But not. 

That was mean

Died a little bit today when my 'friend' Sweet Katie put me on the notification list for my twenty year high-school reunion. Not sure what induced her to commit this heinous act of cruelty. Ahh, I kid. Kind of.

Anyway, the official date hasn't been set yet but I figure to be busy my entire summer (these things are usually done during the summer, right?), just in case. I spent several fruitless minutes trying to figure out how to remove myself from the facebook list but couldn't do it. Finally decided that it was probably irreversible, like aging.

I've stayed in touch with the two people from high school with whom I care to stay in touch. The rest of the folks? Meh. I'm sure they're nice but what the hell will we talk about? Drinking 40s of Mickey's and riding around in Ronnie Ledesma's truck?* Some other youthful hijinks? No idea. It'll either be that or talk of babies and similar. I enjoy those types of conversations with friends but from relative strangers it's numbing. From relative strangers that have suddenly become 20 years older than when you last saw them? Too much for my delicate nature to withstand. 

On review there are a handful of people that I'd like to catch up with. I'll contact them directly. Done and done.

* My comment about Ronnie making the 20 year reunion proved prescient: he was killed in prison a couple years ago.

18 January 2012

Leading by example

Spent the weekend in TJ to build living quarters for church pastor / rehabilitation center director. We had enough people to build a 'double' this year, which means that there's roughly 2x as much as work as on one of the 'single' homes.* (Pictures to follow later - I took a couple in the car but none at the site.)

After two years of warm weather and relatively easy builds we had more of a middling challenge this year. Weather was cold and damp (it rained overnight on Sunday), which always makes the job a bit tougher: the jobsite gets muddy and slippery, sometimes your stuff gets wet, etc. "Mud" might be giving it some credit; at one point we were regularly walking through sewage runoff from one of the houses. (Never been happier with my waterproof boots than I was at that moment.) Also, the bano (please insert an enye thing over the n) on the jobsite this year was rugged, even by local standards.

The thing got done, lessons learned, lives improved.

Friend Blair was his usual inspirational self. I can't say enough about the effort he makes to put the trip together and keep everyone involved/invested. I said it last year, but I'll say it again here: He works tirelessly, but that's not the most impressive thing. (Anyone can work hard; yours truly gets more done than just about anyone except the aforementioned team lead, a fact which has much more to do with years of experience swinging a hammer and pushing a shovel than it does with a commitment to hard work. Quite the opposite: I'm lazy so I work efficiently; a by-product of exerting the least amount of effort is that you can get more done than someone who tries really hard but doesn't know what the fuck they are doing.)

What's most impressive to me is the attitude with which Blair approaches his work. He is endlessly upbeat, patient and kind. Every year I make a commitment to having a good attitude on the final day but invariably I become churlish and short. It happens to most of us: limited sleep, no hot water, stinking banos, bucket showers (if any - most opted out), stepping over human feces, people that get on your nerves at the best of times, blah blah blah. These are things that tend to scrape away the pleasantries. Not so for Blair: He cheerfully answers an infinite number of questions, is always ready with a smile and hug, words of encouragement. Whatever it takes.

As an atheist I don't believe in God, but friends like Blair (who is religious) help me believe in people.

* The pedantic project manager in me is compelled to point out that it's not quite 2x as much work, and exactly how much work it actually is as compared to the 'single' was a fun intellectual exercise to which I devoted considerable time while I was otherwise physically engaged.

13 January 2012

That looks good

I've never been a big fan of LCD Soundsystem. Couple good songs, couple okay songs, and that was pretty much it. I have heard the shows were good. I'll never know, but the movie looks compelling.

10 January 2012

If it were easy then everyone would do it

My man-crush on Thierry Henry has been going on for ages. He was the best player on one of the best teams of all time (and, not coincidentally, my favorite team). But it wasn't just that he was great - there have been many similarly great players that left me cold. It was Henry's imperious style and panache that I loved. He was the best player and and he knew it. The attitude wore thin when he was no longer the best player, but when he was great he was the greatest, all ego and brilliance.

Example: he famously scored on a quick free kick that was whistled back by the referee because he hadn't given the opposing team enough time to set up. After taking a ponderously long time to re-kick he scored again. At which point he looked at the referee and asked, "Was that enough?"

His recently-back-after-four-years-afield goal against a not-very-good Leeds club is hardly the stuff of legend, but it's more goals than anyone else on the Arsenal squad could manage in the game. So.

09 January 2012

Let's do this: Fontana track day on 6 Jan 2012

Looking through the turn. Or something.
Track day went well. No crashes in my (slow) session, so I got to turn a lot of laps compared to the medium session. Best time was 1:58, which is old news to you if you are one of the people to whom I already emailed pictures.

I was disappointed not to go more quickly but my times were good enough to move up to the middle group. The cutoff is 2 minutes but I'm confident that riding with faster guys will help me go faster (that's generally how it works - they tow you around the track). We'll see. The bike ran very well. The new paint job looked great and there were no mechanical issues. The big difference from last time was the brake pads - they were upgraded since last time. I can't say that I noticed a difference from my last outing but it's been six months since I rode the bike so it's really hard to say.

The photo above (at right?) is my favorite, mostly because the bike is in the way and I can't see all the ways my body position needs to be corrected. And I'm not covering the brake (right hand), which is a street-riding habit that has no place on the track. Next track day is likely next month. Get excited.

Of course I buy all the pictures available; view at your leisure.

Pleasant surprises

(Yeah the lighting is lame but the cellcam was all I had)
I don't do much celebrating around the holidays. Mostly I spend time with my family and friends and buy gifts for the handful of people with whom I exchange gifts. It's a short list.

The Girl and I exchanged some gifts, but not in traditional fashion. She's not much for opening gifts on xmas morning and I'm really bad at surprises so I gave her all her gifts early.  The big surprise for me was that she gave me a copy of Paradise Lost.

She tracked down an early edition, first run* copy printed in 1742. It's in lovely condition for something that was crafted 270 years ago: bound in leather, with lovely gold leaf on the binding and woodcut illustrations throughout. It had spent most of it's life on a shelf in a (cool, properly humidified) library in France before it found its way to me.

Given the weight and history of the story the book itself is quite small - you could just about carry it around in the back pocket of your jeans on your way to the coffee shop. (If you were the type of person that read this type of book in a coffee shop.**) My first thought on picking it up was "Wow, all those words fit in here?" My second thought was "WOW, all those words FIT in here! That is so awesome!"

About 5" tall x 4" wide, and the text is tiny. Compounding the size of the text, the 's' looks more like an 'f', as in the original edition, so it's tricky to decipher at first. Also, Milton does not reward the casual reader. In other words it's plain hard to read. I don't know that I would take it with me to the beach, but I look forward to digesting it at my leisure. Modernized text and punctuation? Only after I've had a chance to struggle (again) through the close-to-original version.

A lot happens in the story so any attempt to summarize here is woefully inadequate. Also, it can be (and has been) interpreted myriad ways. You can read it and decide for yourself. But you can't borrow my copy. You can read an annotated edition on the interweb for free, which is a pretty sweet deal.

If you need a refresher on Book 2, lines 433/34 I've got you covered. Just let me know.

Paradise Lost, Book 2, Line 433/34

* 'First run' means that it is the first printing of that particular edition.
** If you are that type of person I think you win at the hipster and pretentiousness olympics. I would say that I hate you but I'm probably just jealous.

03 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Picks you up, knocks you down
To: The Readership
From: (me)
Date: Whatever it says at the bottom of the post
Subject: Calendar year 2011, calendar year 2012

Glad you could make it. I hope you had a nice holiday and New Year's.

I had kicked around the idea of going to San Francisco but didn't make it. Instead I went to Morro Bay and Paso Robles for a few days. Wine tasting, long walks on the beach, hikes, sunsets, nice dinners, etc and so forth. A good time was had by all.

Big news of the week is the first track day of 2012 on Friday. As in, this Friday, 6 January.

In a couple weekends I'll be in TJ to build a house for a needy family. That is always a fun trip, depending on your idea of what constitutes 'fun'. The first two years were so back-breakingly hard that I had to take the following two years off. This proved prescient, because although the subsequent houses were much easier (shorter trip, slab was pre-poured) I skipped one year when it rained and another when it snowed. As in, actual snow. South of San Diego. Last year was such a breeze we finished early AND I had time to take a rinse-off after the workday. I'm hoping for more of the same this year. We'll see.

Re: the photo - that's a schooner from Mutt Lynch's with a 5 hour energy floater. Drink them both and you'll be feeling pretty good about yourself. For a while, anyway.