Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Too Much Outrage?

Perhaps I'm a little insensitive or something. But I've been partly amused and partly annoyed with all of the anger over the Air Force One flyover in New York. Obama was not aboard, but the White House Military Office evidently wanted to update some of their photos of the plane that serves as Air Force One when the president is aboard by flying it around the Statue of Liberty. They had a later mission scheduled for several Washington D.C. landmarks, but that has since been canceled.

I'm sure you've seen the footage by now, but this flyover caused a semi-panic in a city still jittery after 9/11, with people pouring out of buildings screaming in terror. Obama is "furious," and the usual suspects are all enraged and calling for the head of Louis Caldera, the poor sap in charge of the WHMO who made the admittedly ill-advised decision. I was reading a story on CNN.com that quoted some New York therapist named Linda Garcia-Rose saying that all of her 9/11 patients have high anxiety now, and she is "considering filing a class action lawsuit" against the government. Someone needs to teach Garcia-Rose about governmental immunity. And frivolous lawsuits. I mean, come on. People are not entitled to reparations every time they get upset.

Perhaps that was not the wisest of moves, but you know, there are very good reasons that it is not our policy to publicize the whereabouts of Air Force One ahead of time. And I, for one, am sick of that photo of Air Force One over Mt. Rushmore. It is high time for new pics. The Statue of Liberty would have been a nice one. Maybe Bloomberg could have been alerted, but other state and federal officials were informed of the flight, including officials with the NYPD.

The reaction to this situation seems way out of proportion, at most it was a bad judgment call. This, and the swine flu silliness (not a single death in the U.S. as of yet)...we are becoming a country of weenies.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An Appreciation of BSG, 2003-09

Although the series finale of 'Battlestar Galactica' (BSG) was on about a month ago, I finally was able to watch it this last weekend (thanks, DVR). For the last six years, BSG has been the most daring and exciting sci-fi anywhere on television. BSG was originally a cheesy but much beloved series that lasted but one season back in 1978, television's attempt to jump on the Star Wars bandwagon. Count me as a fan of the original series.

The announcement that the Sci-Fi Channel would attempt a "reimagining" of BSG was met with much excitement (and also concern) in 2003. You see, as with many sci-fi properties, the original fanbase for BSG were a small but dedicated lot.

BSG is the dark story of human beings creating robots and computers to do their heavy lifting. The robots, called "cylons," at some point become so advanced that they gain consciousness and freewill. Naturally, they turn on their creators. A holocaust occurs, where cylons wipe out the human race save about 500,000 or so survivors who gather on a ragtag convoy of space ships searching the galaxy for a new home and avoiding cylons. These are humans, but not earthlings. In fact, "earth" is part of their religious mythology as a "lost tribe" of humans. As if this weren't enough, there are certain new models of cylons that are indistinguishable from humans, and several of these models are with the fleet. Some are even "sleeper" cylons who do not even know their own identity. There are many details and plot twists, but this is the very basic premise.

ABOVE: The brilliant Edward James Olmos plays the always intense Admiral William Adama, seen here scowling at the latest challenge to the survival of the human race

After a flawless opening mini-series in 2003, BSG was up and down through its four seasons and various supplemental webisodes and TV movie entitled 'Razor.' That is the honest truth, notwithstanding the orgasmic reviews that the show received during its run. While missteps were surely made at times and the byzantine plotlines (often an issue with good sci-fi) sometimes frustrated, I appreciate that the show always challenged, took risks, and kept evolving in surprising ways. It would have been easy to please fans season after season with space battles and sci-fi action, but BSG chose instead to excite primarily with ideas and plot twists. Edward James Olmos as the brooding Admiral Adama and James Callis as the cowardly but dangerous Dr. Gaius Baltar were especially rewarding throughout the run of the series. Through the sci-fi template, the creators of BSG were able to address a host of issues, including religious faith, destiny, man's relation with its creations, the environment, political systems, revolution, war, peace and terrorism.

The second half of the final season was a microcosm of the entire series. Amongst some episodes that were confusing or a bit emotionally overwrought (this is an almost unrelentingly dark show), there were also some of the best of the entire series. For instance, the three episode arc dealing with the brutal mutiny aboard the Galactica led by revolutionary Tom Zarek (played by Richard Hatch, a lead from the original 1978 series) and disaffected officer Felix Gaeta was especially exciting and powerful, and asked serious questions about democracy vs. strong leadership in times of crisis. Scenes such as when Zarek has the entire Quorum (the fleet's fledgling attempt at a democratic legislature) executed when they do not back his revolution and his arrest of Admiral Adama stay with you long after you have seen it. The entire series was full of such powerful plots and stories.

The finale was inevitable in some ways, and I found it somewhat satisfying. Don't worry, no spoiler here. But a show that proposes that the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" have cosmic and mathematical significance to unlocking the secrets of the universe and the ultimate relationship between cylon and human (this is a major plot point in the end)...well, that's just kinda cool.

Sincere thanks to BSG for 6 years of sometimes brilliant, sometimes frustrating (but never boring) frakking television.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NBA, Season 2

Well, as a long suffering Houston fan, I should have expected the Rockets to make the absolute worst of their opportunity last night. They get to open on the road in Portland. Woo hoo. And we can't even blame She-Mac this time around.

Aside from the top spots in each conference, there is quite a bit of intrigue in the 2-8 slots. Here are my predictions...


Cleveland (1) handles Detroit (8) in 5. Iverson is poison on a team. Boston (2), even with Garnett out for the playoffs, can still handle Chicago (7) in 6. Orlando (3) is also injured, but they can still get by Philadelphia (6) in 6. Atlanta (4) and Miami (5) will be the most interesting match-up in the first round of the East. The reason why Wade should be seriously considered in the Kobe-Lebron MVP discussion is that he has worked with so little around him. This is kind of a toss-up, but I'd love to see Atlanta get to the second round, so I give the home team the edge and say Atlanta in 7 (pushed to seven solely because of superhuman Wade).

In the next round, Cleveland takes care of Atlanta in 5. The Boston v. Orlando match-up is interesting, since both are injured teams. Assuming KG is really done, I have to go with the underdog and give it to Orlando in 7.

Then Cleveland beats Orlando in the East Finals in 5.


Lakers (1) sweep Utah (8). Denver (2) finally advances beyond the first round against a disappointing New Orleans (7) team that has lost its juju in 6. San Antonio (3) v. Dallas (6) is tough to call. You've got SA without its play-off X-Factor Ginobili and Duncan not at 100% against a Dallas team that is soft or dangerous, depending on the night you are watching. SA has traditionally had Dallas' number and they have home court, so I'll go Spurs in 7, but I'm not confident in that pick. Portland (4) v. Houston (5) would be fun to watch if I weren't a Rockets fan. I will be too nervous (and probably pissed off) to enjoy it. That will be a great series. Young, dangerous, but inexperienced up and comers (Portland) vs. rough and ragged. As much as I would love for the Rockets to get out of the first round for the first time in the T-Mac era without said T-Mac, I just don't have confidence that they will do it. Not with Portland having home court and nothing to lose. Portland in 7.

In Round 2, Portland will give The Lakers a tough time. Portland has beaten L.A. twice in Portland, and they present match-up problems. Plus, all of the pressure will be on the Lakers. Could be a fun series. Lakers in 6. Denver and SA is tough to call with SA not at full strength. Billups will be the difference here combined with home court for Denver. Denver in 7.

Then the Lakers will sweep Denver in the West Conference Finals.


The Lakers are the only team that has beaten Cleveland at home this season (I don't count Philadelphia's victory there last night since the entire starting line-up of the Cavs didn't play). In the Kobe v. Lebron debate, I think Lebron is the greatest player on the planet. But Kobe's got a better team, and Kobe has more desire to win than Lebron does. I say Lakers win the championship in 6.

Disagree? Agree?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why It Was Fun to Be an American This Week

* Today at the Tea Party held in Austin, Texas, Gov. Rick Perry spoke to an enthusiastic crowd. Later he allegedly made the remark that if the federal government keeps spending the way it has been spending, perhaps Texas would be better off seceding from the Union.

* Our Navy Seal snipers are bad asses. Taking out three Somali pirates in the same instant. Now doesn't it feel good when we allow our military to do what they are trained to do? While I'm not a big Obama fan on a lot of things, I've got to give the commander-in-chief props for giving the Seals the nod to take care of bizness.

* Douchebag former NBA great and former terrible Knicks coach Isiah Thomas has landed a new gig as...head coach for the Florida International University Golden Panthers. And if that isn't embarassing enough, today when he was introduced by the FIU administration at an event, he was introduced as: "we are proud to introduce the new head coach for the Golden Panthers...Isiah Thompson."

ABOVE: Isiah "Thompson" of the Florida International University's Golden Panthers

* Who says the NBA season is too long at 82 games? Tonight is the last night of the regular season, and Houston, San Antonio and Portland are all tied for 3rd in the West. Depending on the outcome of about 4 games all played tonight, the Rockets could get the 2nd-5th seed. Go Rockets!!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Dez Reviews Neil Young's Fork in the Road, 2009

Neil Young is stoked about his '59 LincVolt car that he has converted into an electric hybrid. So he's made an album all about it. Most of the songs on this wonderful piece of crap record are about how he digs his car. "Fuel Line," "Get Behind the Wheel," "Off the Road," "Hit the Road," "Fork In the Road"...you get the idea. This is a new record from your crazy Uncle Neil who lives up in the mountains somewhere. The one who your mother is afraid will show up to the family holiday party and do something really embarassing...and you really hope he shows up just to make things interesting.

Neil has long been a master of odd, tossed off records that come close to saying "F*** You" to all but his most loyal fans. While this isn't quite Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, I could see how some might say this comes close to it in intent.

In recent years Neil has perfected a new type of rock record: the record that is as immediate, topical and forgettable as a blog post. Several years ago he put out the angry rant of a record Living With War, which was an ultimately boring but admirable screed against the Iraq War. Now he's thrown together another quickie about his hybrid car, but this time around his tunes are so raucous that it is a much better and more fun record than Living With War.

Does Neil have contempt for his legacy? Does he have contempt for his fans or the music industry? Does he just not care? I don't know, but I'm loving this. I had so much fun listening to this today. Neil is keeping the spirit of true garage music alive and well. It is immediate, rocking, loud, irreverent and beautifully disposable. Throw some riffs together and jam out and sing about your cool car.

Check this great verse out from the hilarious and incoherent "Fork in the Road": "I'm a big rock star / My sales have tanked, but I still got you / Thanks! / Download this / Sounds like shit / Keep on bloggin' till the power goes out, and your battery's dead / Twist and Shout's on the radio / Those were the days, bring 'em back / There's a bailout comin' but it's not for you." What makes the song somewhat irrestible is the garage groove he's got going underneath as he's mumbling/talking these angry old man lyrics ("Forgot this year to salute the troops / They're all still there in a f***ing war" and "I've got hope, but you can't eat hope"). "Fork in the Road" and the ridiculous "Cough Up the Bucks" are Neil at his most caustic and fun. I generally don't like quoting Rolling Stone magazine, but I love how their reviewer characterized "Fork in the Road" as an "awesome old-coot tirade." Couldn't say it better myself.

But amidst those silly and gritty rockers he'll throw a pretty gem in there like "Light a Candle," where he addresses with optimism and in a much more eloquent way the possibilities that his hybrid car represents for the future of the environment.

I can't get it to post here, but follow this link for an absurd and funny video for "Fork in the Road" (where you can see what Neil thinks of iPods and digital music in general as he plugs his earbuds into an actual Apple and takes a big bite and then tosses the apple aside, dancing around the entire time).

For regular listeners: probably a ** out of *****
For Neil fans who love his absurdist projects: ****1/2 out of *****

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2009 Induction Ceremony

First things first: a big, fat “F-You” to Fuse TV for advertising since at least January that they would be streaming the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony held last night on their website and then having nothing more than Twitter updates. Fortunately, after hunting around online for awhile, I found some site based in Chile that was streaming the feed from Fuse TV’s actual television broadcast. Disaster narrowly averted, no thanks to Fuse. The amateur Fuse hosts that they had interviewing the various artists were ridiculous. Some dude named “Steve” couldn’t go five words without saying “awesome” or “amazing.” He’s sitting there with Bobby Womack, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, etc. and he can’t think of any interesting questions to ask beyond “so, how does it feel to be in the rock and roll hall of fame?” “That’s awesome. Your performance was amazing. Let’s go back to the main stage now. Amazing. Awesome.” Who hires these people? The clowns at Fuse TV, that’s who.

ABOVE: Run/DMC and Metallica were both members of the Class of 2009

It was cool that the ceremony was held in Cleveland this year instead of the usual New York. They also opened it up to the general public, holding it in an arena instead of some expensive hotel. Although next year it returns to New York for the 25th anniversary of the Hall of Fame.

I know that it seems somewhat silly for me to be caught up in the Rockhall and its machinations, but I truly do believe in what the Rock Foundation could be if it were just in the right hands. Preserving the history of this great music is an important and worthwhile endeavor, but people have to buy into it. And until they wrest the power on the Nominating Committee away from Jann Wenner, Jon Landau and their cronies, there will continue to be gaping holes as far as who gets inducted each year. But it is hard to argue with this year’s class, I have to admit that it was quite good.

Roseanne Cash gave a great induction speech for Early Influence Inductee Wanda Jackson. Roseanne told some great stories about her father, Johnny Cash, trying to hit on Wanda when they were touring together in the 50’s. Very funny. At 71, Wanda is still a firecracker and she gave a spirited performance (well, as spirited as a 71 year old woman can give).

I was so glad to see Bobby Womack get inducted, one of the great but overlooked giants of soul. He still sounded spectacular as he jammed through “Across 110th Street” and “It’s All Over Now.” Ron Wood of The Rolling Stones gave the induction speech, and, uh…wasn't Woody supposed to be off drugs? Woody was so freakin’ high as he rambled through confusing recollections of him and Womack hiding in a closet as they watched Hell’s Angels beat the crap out of Wilson Pickett. That was the bulk of the speech. I love watching these ceremonies!

Eminem gave an excellent induction for Run DMC, and it was one of the more emotional moments of the night when Jam Master Jay’s mom remembered her slain son. I loved Joe Perry’s Cruella deVille look.

Wonderful to see Spooner Oldham (of the Muscle Shoals rhythm section) and Bill Black and DJ Fontana (Elvis’ original rhythm section) inducted in the Sidemen category. Truly the unsung heroes of rock and roll that this category tries to honor each year.

BELOW: Nigel Tufnel...

BELOW: Jeff Beck...

I was so happy that Jeff Beck got inducted this year as a solo artist (he’s already in as a Yardbird). The opening montage was well done, especially when they threw in the clip of Nigel Tufnel of Spinal Tap amongst the Beck clips! (It is a well known fact that Tufnel was based largely on Beck). Jimmy Page gave a classy induction speech for his old friend, and Beck was predictably witty in his own speech. (One of the great moments in Rock Hall history was during the Yardbirds induction many years ago when he went off on the rest of the band as they were gathered on stage together during their acceptance…”I should be honored to be up here, but I’m not, because these bastards kicked me out of the band…” as he jokingly lectured his uncomfortable former bandmates, including Eric Clapton and Page). By the way, as Page admitted in his speech, Beck can outplay both Clapton and Page any day of the week. Loved the sleeveless tux shirt. The highlight of the night for me was Beck’s performance. He freakin’ shred it up on the guitar, as expected, bringing the entire arena to its feet. It was guitar nirvana when Page joined Beck on stage for a medley of “Beck’s Bolero” and Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” (where Beck played Plant’s vocal line on the strat). I mean, what the f*** else could you ask for?

ABOVE: Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page jam out last night on "Beck's Bolero" and "Immigrant Song" at the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I'm sorry for the poor sound in parts (especially right when Beck gets into his solo), but it is still worthwhile

But rightfully so, the night really belonged to Metallica. Flea gave the speech of the night when he inducted them (gleefully dropping F-Bombs all over the place as Fuse tried to beep them all out). I gotta hand it to James Hetfield, who had a special message for the Nominating Committee as he gave some “suggestions” of great innovators who have been overlooked so far by the Rock Hall. It kicked ass as he rattled off Judas Priest, Rush, Motorhead, Kiss, Thin Lizzy and others…a litany of notoriously overlooked bands hated by Wenner & Co. on the Nominating Committee. (Rock Hall power broker Dave Marsh has famously said that as long as he is on the Committee he will do everything in his power to see that Kiss never gets nominated, much less inducted.) Metallica gave a killer performance of “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman” before the predictably muddled All-Star Jam at the end. It was cool to hear James Hetfield growl through The Yardbirds' "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" and then say "Mr. Beck..." as Jeff tore through a ripping solo.

Overall, a good night, but as James Hetfield pointed out, the Rock Hall needs to rectify some past wrongs.

Here's some Bonus Beck with better sound. Check this out...