Ruminations from Raleigh Court

Monday, February 13, 2006

Thoughts after a week of not posting

So, it has been a while since I wrote anything on here. It has been a hectic week here in the wife's birthday is tomorrow, going to a wedding on the weekend, working on revising the dissertation, starting a new article for a conference in Montreal, teaching two new time to do much of anything else, even cut my hair which is getting way too long and approaching mullet status. Right now, it looks kind of like James Spader's hair circa Some Kind of Wonderful.

Some thoughts that have been mulling around in my head of recent:
  • The biathalon is a fascinating bit of sports theatre. Any sport that combines skiing and guns is alright by me. I did not buy, however, the claim by the idiot NBC announcer the other day that it got the highest TV ratings of any sport in Europe...any empirical data to support this, Mr. Ted Robinson? Call me crazy but I imagine the Portuguese and the Greeks care not a bit about Finnish biathaloners in general. I could go on a rant about how it fits America's anti-soccer tendencies, but I will save that for another day.
  • Speaking of the beautiful game, good match by the US v a strong Japanese side in SF on Friday night. My current 23 is the same as the one after the Norway match except that I now have Todd Dunivant in and Pat Noonan in. I am now getting rid of Greg Berhalter and Josh Wolff, though O'Brien's place on the side is contingent on his health (he's never fit). In the EPL, Chelsea lost 3-0 to crappy Boro. I hate Chelsea with the flame of a 1000 suns. The right wing, fascist club of London owned by a billionaire Russian oil baron...they are as evil as it gets.
  • My wife and I are currently obsessed with grifter tales, both on TV and film. We're big into the AMC/BBC show Hustle, loved the grifter/Sawyer back story thread on Lost last week, and watched The Sting on Sunday night. Anyone interested in getting a crew together to get some long cons going? Let me know and send along your skills that might be useful to a serious crew. We're only going after rich ass Republicans.
  • Finally saw Walk the Line yesterday. Loved it and have had Ring of Fire in my head all day. Gotta say, that Reese Witherspoon can act. She's in one of my top five high school movies (Election) and was just brilliant as June Carter Cash. She got the SW Virginia twang down pat, ala the Carter Family from down Bristol town way.
  • is in the midst of retooling their business model to a subscription service. Good luck to 'em, I like the station. Too bad I'm poor and am trying to adopt a child or I would join myself. As is, I am foolishly squandering funds on food and shelter at the moment.
Anyway, ciao for now.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Thoughts on the week in tv and Teenage Fanclub

It's Super Bowl Sunday and I can hardly wait for the hype. My favorite is when the pre-game invariably degenerates into displays of hyper-nationalism-the bombers, salute to our troops defending our freedoms, and general worship of all things Americana. I expect the usual over the top display this evening. As for the game, I think I'm pulling for the Seahawks. I've always liked those helmets. Speaking of TV....

  • Glad to see Johnny bite the dust on the OC on Thursday. I actually kind of liked him as a character at first, then he just became pathetic. The OC is really close to running off the tracks this season. They need some energy and scandal pronto.
  • Veronica Mars gave us a great episode on Tuesday, as Weevil looks down and out and Keith Mars continues to uncover clues about the bus accident. This show is so better not be taken off the air with the whole UPN/WB merger afoot.
  • I don't know why but I actually enjoy watching Numb3ers on Friday evenings. It is so ridiculous and over-acted but I am strangely drawn to it. Perhaps Charlie can explain my attraction to the show in some complex formula. Maybe I've just got an old school man-crush on Judd Hirsch.
  • Fox shows the last four eps of Arrested Development on Friday evening...if that show is picked up by Showtime, I will have to coax my financial manager/wife into shelling out a bit of coin for the channel.
  • Good new show on BBC America called Conviction. When paired with Night Detective, Monday night is a must TIVO event on the beeb.
On a different note, as I was driving home from campus the other day, my trusty mini I-Pod chose to rock out a couple of Teenage Fanclub songs. It got me thinking about just how much I love that band and how much they are underappreciated in the American musicscape. I know my friends Chris and Mary from the NYC dig these Scots, as they played Planets as their first dance song at their wedding. Apart from them and my friend Euan, I don't really know any other devotees. And in terms of press and general appreciation in the USA, they had one brief moment in the sun in the early '90's after the release of Bandwagonesque on DGC records. It got them a gig on SNL in 1992, the episode with Jason Priestley hosting (a classic episode featuring a great 90210 send off).

That record, their first major label release, remains a solid one and includes early hints at the pop songwriting genius of the band. Though they had the grunge hair, the bands songs were 60's influenced power pop gems a la Big Star and the Byrds with harmonies galore. Norman Blake sang most of the songs on this record, with tunes like Star Sign, Metal Baby, What You Do To Me and I Don't Know ranking as my favorites from this record. (Note: As Chris rightly pointed out to me, I neglected to mention their first stateside release on Matador Records called A Catholic Education. An oversight on my part, as I never actually owned that record and have only heard the tracks on there via a crappy cassette mix I had back in the day. That said, my thoughts on that record are that it is very much in the Bandwagonesque vein, but not as slickly produced. One for the hardcore fans, to be sure, and somewhat hard to come by these days.)

Their 1993 follow up on DGC was Thirteen, a bit more uneven and scattershot than Bandwagonesque. I've grown to appreciate it more now that I see where the boys were headed. The songs forshadow a move towards more pure pop arrangements and hint at their potential as songwriters. Fave songs include Norman 3, 120 mins, and Hang On.

I sort of dropped interest in the band after this record and their 1995 release Grand Prix sort of passed me by. I only heard it b/c my roommate Euan at Syracuse had a copy. The big trend on this record was that Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Ray MacGinley began to share the songwriting duties. A big, big plus for the band, as all three bring a different sound to the mix. Like Sloan, Teenage Fanclub manages to incorporate all of the sounds of disparate songwriters together to create a sound that most bands with one songwriter cannot match. Grand Prix includes gems like Versimiltude, Mellow Doubt, and About You.

Two more years passed, I moved to North Carolina and was in a serious Guided By Voices phase in 1997. While at a record store in godforsaken Greenville, NC, I stumbled upon the newest Fanclub record Songs from Northern Britain. Needing something to listen to other than Mag Earwhig!, I bought it without having heard a track. Smart move by me, as this proved to be the best record of that year in my opinion. I remember Chris telling me at the time that it was the comeback record of the year and I have to agree. Quite simply, it is a classic pop record, one where the band finally lived up to all of their potential. This is a great late summer record and can transport you to the rural Scottish Highlands, a region they wax lyrically about in the classic song Planets. There is really not a band song on here and I rank Take the Long Way Round, I Don't Want Control of You, Ain't that Enough, Winter, Start Again, and Speed of Light among their best ever offerings. If you don't own this record, you are missing out on a classic.

Following SFNB, Fanclub recorded a record with Jad Fair that I'm somewhat indifferent to. Though they next recorded Howdy in 2000, it takes until 2002 for it to show up on American shores with Thirsty Ear Records releasing it. Another fine effort from the boys, including I Need Direction, Near You, If I Never See You Again, and Accidental Life ranking as my favorites. The review on I-Tunes for this record is quite harsh and claims the band showed no energy here. To use Scottish parlance, that's a bunch of shite.

Finally, Fanclub's most record stateside offering Man-Made was released last year on NC's Merge Records. Because of the production from John McIntire of Tortoise fame, this record has a darker and more reflective tone that some critics did not respond to. I find it a really interesting turn for the band, full of really somber pop songs that are the yang to the SFNB's upbeat yin. Time Stops, It's All in My Mind, Save, Nowhere, Cells, Fallen Leaves and Feel stand out for me here. The I-Tunes review calls it a cool fusion b/w the 70's band America and Stereolab. I'll buy that.

Anyway, that's my tribute to Teenage Fanclub, a band that has had a major influence on me over the past 15 years or so. They have a retrospective called 4,736 Seconds if you need a good introduction to the band pre-Man Made. As Ali G is wont to say, give 'em some respeck and a serious listen.

Until next time.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The State of Footie

After each of the friendly matches the US plays before Copa Mundial 2006, I am going to guess the 23 based on current form. Assuming full health (always a huge assumption when you are dealing with players like Johnnie O'Brien), this is my current 23:
GK: 3
Keller (Borss. Monchengladback-GER Bund)
Hannemann (Reading, ENG-Champ)
Howard (Man Utd-ENG-Premiership)

D: 8
Onyewu (Standard Leige-BEL Jupilar Prem)
Bocanegra (Fulham-ENG Premiership)-Nice winner versus Spurs yesterday...
Gibbs (Ado Den Haag-NETH Eridivisie)
Berhalter (Energie Cottbus-GERM 2nd)
Pope (Real Salt Lake-MLS)
Cherundolo (Hannover 96-Germ Bund)
Lewis (Leeds United-ENG Championship)
Hejduk (Columbus Crew-MLS)

M: 8
Reyna (Manchester City: ENG Premiership)
Donovan (LA Galaxy-MLS)
Maestroeni (Colorado Rapids-MLS)
O'Brien (Ado Den Haag-NETH Erid)
Convey (Reading-ENG Championship) Good goal for Reading yesterday, God bless Sky Sports News.
Beasley (PSV Eindhoven-NETH Erid)
Dempsey (New England Revolution-MLS)
Olsen (DC United-MLS)

F: 4
Brian McBride (Fulham: ENG Premiership)
Josh Wolff (KC Wizards-MLS)
Ed Johnson (FC Dallas-MLS)
Taylor Twellman (New England Revolution-MLS)

On the fringe/Next in Line:
Todd Dunivant (LA Galaxy) Left back
John Spector (Charlton Athletic) Versitile Defender
Chris Albright (LA Galaxy) Right Back
Jimmy Conrad (KC Wizards) CD
Heath Pearce (FC Nordsjaelling) Left back/midfield
Patty Noonan (New England Revolution) Outside M
Chris Rolfe (Chicago Fire) F
Nate Jacqua (Chicago Fire) F
Kerry Zavagnin (KC Wizards) M
Matt Reis (New England Revolution) GK

Any thoughts?