Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

NBA Fantasy Draft

Had my NBA fantasy draft last weekend. I've been in this league with these guys for about 7 or so years now, so I do look forward to it each year. We usually have about ten teams, with a solid core of guys who return each year and a couple of newbies who rotate in and out.

For those of you who know fantasy sports, this league is a rotisserie style system, where we use points scored, shooting %, free throw % (weighted for how many free throws attempted), 3-pointers made, rebounds, blocks, assists, steals and turnovers. We draft a Point Guard, Shooting Guard, another Guard slot, Small Forward, Power Forward, another Forward slot, two Centers and two Utility slots (any position), with three Bench slots.

Out of ten teams, I randomly got the 5th pick in this year's draft. What made it difficult was that the two players that would be most likely picked in that slot are both injured (Kevin Love out for a month, Dirk Nowitzki out through December). The picks before me in the first round went Lebron, Durant (I would have picked Durant first, by the way), Paul and Westbrook (a bit high for him methinks, but it was The Ignorant Masses picking, afterall). Love and Nowitzki were out for me, so I went with Deron Williams as my first pick. Not a huge fan, but he is an elite PG and the star of the new Brooklyn Nets, and I subscribe to the theory that the key to fantasy basketball success is strong PG's and strong PF's. The rest of the first round went Wade (no freakin' way I'd touch Wade this season, he is way too injury prone and there is only one basketball on the court and he's on a team with Lebron), then Josh Smith, Bynum, Love (this guy couldn't make the draft, so he got stuck with the autopick by Yahoo, he also got Nowitzki through autopick and Dwight Howard, which means he is guaranteed last place in Free Throws) and Al Jefferson.

The draft snakes, meaning that the 10th pick also gets the 11th pick and then Round two counts down (meaning 1st pick doesn't pick again until 20th). For me, being 5th, the snake doesn't really matter. Sticking with my PG/PF formula, my 2nd pick was Pau Gasol. With Nash at the helm in L.A., Gasol should really benefit. I am optimistic that Gasol could have his best year (but the "only one basketball" issue also applies to the All-Star Lakers team, and I'm not too sure that Kobe will suddenly become a selfless team player). I've got a history with Gasol, this will be my third season with him on my fantasy roster. My third round pick I am really excited about, he could contribute in every category and is poised for the breakout year experts have been predicting. Nicolas Batum in Portland. Not exactly a household name, but should be a fantasy beast. My friend Paul was quite upset that I snagged him before he could get to him. Batum could be the key to my fantasy triumph.

ABOVE: Nicolas Batum should help me prevail over The Ignorant Masses and the other roadkill that make up my fantasy basketball competition this season

Another breakout candidate is Paul George, and I really wanted him, but he was snagged in the 4th Round three picks ahead of me. Those of you who have done fantasy drafts know that sinking feeling when one of your prime targets is snagged just ahead of you. So I picked up Stephen Curry of Golden State. He is a fantasy monster when healthy. But "when healthy" is the key. The guy's a walking china plate.

The rest of my draft went David Lee (I needed to start grabbing some Centers), Jeff Teague (more PG firepower), Kenneth Faried (lots of potential, prime breakout candidate), Michael Beasley (his career has been a bust so far, but he's in the best place for him to finally reach his potential - Phoenix), Sam Dalembert, O.J. Mayo (with Dirk out in Dallas until 2013, the rest of that team is wide open for fantasy production), Jonas Valanciunas (purely a fun long shot breakout prospect who will sit on my bench until he proves he's the real deal), Greivis Vasquez (hey, we're into the 12th round here) and Byron Mullins.

I like my team, but honestly I'm not super-excited (last year I had the first pick and rode Durant to 2nd place). But we'll see.

Those of you who know basketball, thoughts?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

IV's, Adenoids and Scamp

My two and a half year old daughter was diagnosed with pretty severe sleep apnea not too long ago (I've got it too). In her case, it was due to huge tonsils and adenoids. I still don't know what adenoids are, but apparently hers were huge. In fact, the doctor said that 90% of her airway was blocked by these damn things. So they had to come out.

Fairly routine surgery, but still a surgery, and anytime you do something like that on a toddler it is still a serious matter. The surgery went fine, but the overnight stay in the hospital for observation was not very fun. First and foremost, I got thrown up on three times. The anesthesia makes you nauseous. My wife: zero vomits. Me: all three. How did that happen? Each was a different color too. The first one was immediately post-surgery, so it was thick and yellow and full of bile. The second one was clear, since she had nothing left to get rid of since the first time. The final one was red due to the two popsicles she had just finished. I had only brought two changes of clothing with me, so I got to rotate my now smelly jeans.

We didn't get a private room (because there were none available), so we had roommates. If you think roommates in general are bothersome, try it in a hospital. First there was some little girl who had a nasty abdominal infection that the doctors could not figure out. Her extended family were all visiting and distraught, so there was a lot of "aye, dios mio" and so forth from various grandparents. Additionally, the kid's siblings were visiting, and they were bored and had colds. So we are in this small room with only a curtain separating us, with little kids hacking all over the place. If you want to get sick, go to a hospital. I wanted to throttle the little bastards. Guess what. On top of her recovery this week, my daughter seems to have a little cold now too. Hmm. Where did she pick that up?

The girl's condition worsened, so they finally moved her to a different room. Ah, our own private room! Until about an hour later when they wheeled in a 2 month old with respiratory problems. I didn't mind the crying of the infant so much as the parents, who wanted to read until 1 a.m., and therefore kept the light on in the room. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I assume they thought the thin curtain that did not go to the ceiling or the floor kept the light from bleeding over, but it did not. When they finally shut it off, my wife was so pissed she immediately turned our light on to flood their side. I joined in and cranked "We Are Siamese" from Lady and the Tramp on our TV as loud as it would go. (Don't worry, the children did not suffer. Their infant was out of the room being fed or something. My daughter was wide awake anyway.)

Also, try explaining to a two year old why she can't take out the IV stuck in her arm for 24 hours. She just could not see reason on this matter. "I want it out, I said!" "Daddy, you take this out!" This is where the art of distraction comes in. Which brings me back to Lady and the Tramp. Lady is her current obsession, and thank Dios Mio that I thought to bring the DVD with me to the hospital. We basically had that on in a loop.

I am staying home with her for the week during her recovery. She can't go back to day care for two weeks due to a slight risk of hemorraging. Nice moment today: we went outside to play and it was a breezy fall day. We both sat down on the concrete driveway, leaned back and just quietly listened and felt the breeze as it rustled through my neighbor's very tall, neglected grass and weeds. This was one of the first times that I felt like I was with a real person, vs. just my infant or toddler. I don't know if that makes sense, but it was a great moment. This was not just my baby to take care of (which I love doing, don't get me wrong), but I was able to watch her sitting, smiling and enjoying the breeze and for the first time she struck me as more than just a baby or a little toddler.

I bought Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (straight to video from 2001) to spice things up. These days I'm watching both films several times a day (we also have to keep her from being too active during recovery. Try explaining to a toddler why she can't jump on the couch when she has been allowed to do so for her entire life). I now know both films intimately. I must say, I love the original Lady and the Tramp from 1955. It is so simple, elegant, gentle and flows at a lovely pace. As for Scamp's Adventure, not so much. Scamp, by the way, is Lady and Tramp's son (remember at the end of Lady, they had three daughters who looked like her and then a rambunctious son who looked like Tramp? That is Scamp.) The new one is much faster paced for today's ADD kids, but it loses so much in comparison to the elegant original. It is crude and shallow in comparison. My daughter differentiates them by saying "old Lady" and "new Lady." Although, just through repetition, Lady II has grown on me a little. Being the obsessive that I am, I have purchased all of the classic Disney animation features up through the 1970's for her, but Lady is the one so far.

Below is the famous spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. Below that is a recreation/homage from Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure. How they eat says it all. The classic of a bygone era and the crudity of today. F*cking ridicuous...

ABOVE: Buster (voiced by Chazz Palminteri) is the antagonist/bad influence in Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure.

Lady and the Tramp: ***** out of *****
Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure: ** out of *****

Posts on the way about Bond's 50th B-day, my latest NBA Fantasy Draft, the attacks in Bengazi and the Peter Gabriel reissues.

I leave you with Kraftwerk's "Ohm Sweet Ohm" (not to be confused with Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home").

Thursday, October 11, 2012


One of the things that I enjoy about following the doings of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is that each year with their nominations and inductees, it makes me focus on artists I may have overlooked. Naturally I know who Kraftwerk is and I know why they are important. I’ve owned their seminal Autobahn for awhile, and found it interesting without falling in love with it. But once they were nominated for the class of 2013, it reminded me that I had wanted to explore a bit more. So this last week or so I’ve been on a Kraftwerk binge, a strict diet of the Aryan digital pioneers.

For those readers unfamiliar with them, they are one of those groups who get name dropped a lot as influential, yet a relatively few casual music fans are familiar with their material. That is a shame, I have recently discovered. Formed in 1970 in Germany, they use only electronic instrumentation. Their music leans heavily on repetitive synthetic rhythms and melodic, often atmospheric, keyboards. The list of bands and genres that they have influenced is ridiculously long, from their direct electronic progeny like Depeche Mode, Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, to other artists as diverse as David Bowie, Coldplay, New Order and Franz Ferdinand (hell, what is Neil Young’s Trans other than an attempt at a Kraftwerk album?) They are also one of the most sampled groups for rap and hip hop music, and are considered the pioneers of modern house and electronic music. (Funny that this most Aryan and stiff of bands is one of the most important elements in a modern black artform in hip hop and rap). It is difficult to overstate their influence, so on that alone, they deserve induction into the Rockhall.

Aside from giving Autobahn a fresh listen, I also grabbed their other most famous records, Trans-Europe Express, The Man Machine and Computer World. All are great, great records. I would also recommend the strong live recording Minimum-Maximum, which can also act as a solid introduction and overview.

My favorite has to be 1981’s Computer World. It may seem a bit obvious nowadays. A concept album about how computers and technology are taking over our lives and even effecting our emotions, but it was more of an astute observation in ’81. It is probably their most minimalist recording, with early 80’s computer bleeps and blips darting all over the soundscape, alternating between acting as sound effect and actual notes and melody. The bouncy “Pocket Calculator” is Kraftwerk at their most silly and whimsical. I don’t know how to verify this, but I read that the jerky and infectious “Numbers” is one of the most sampled songs (by rap and hip hop artists) in history. Give it a listen and you can see the early 80’s break dancers having a field day with these beats and blips. But “Computer Love” is the real treat. Not only does it predict isolated digital lives that we can lead nowadays (as well as online dating), but the music is simply lovely. People forget just how melodic Kraftwerk could be, and this song is so pretty, especially in the second half. I was listening to it and it was immediately familiar, and then I finally placed it. Coldplay’s “Talk” takes this beautiful melody and adds muscle with guitars and full band. I looked it up, and indeed Coldplay got permission from Kraftwerk to rework the music of "Computer Love."

What sets Computer World apart as one of the great concept records is that everything works towards the concept. Obviously the songs (“Computer World,” “Pocket Calculator,” “Numbers,” “Computer Love,” “Home Computer,” etc.) and the lyrics. But most concept records stop there. As in, they are “concept albums” because the songs are all lyrically related or tell a story, but the music is like any other rock record. Here, the entire sonic structure works for the concept along with the lyrics, creating a completely electronic-based music about a new electronic world. Brilliant.

Add Kraftwerk’s Computer World to my five star (*****) records list. As for the others…

Autobahn ****

Trans-Europe Express ****

The Man Machine ****

Electric Café ***

Minimum-Maximum (live) ****

They have a few others, but these are the most notable releases and the ones that I have been focusing on. Radioactivity and Tour de France are also available.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 Nominees

Whoo! Now this is what I’m talking about. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Central Committee For Rock and Roll Affairs has come up with a ballot for the class of 2013 that is the strongest they have had in years. Out of the 15 nominees, there are only three that I think are borderline, and even those at least can have good arguments made in their defense. As always, I can still nitpick here and there (and yes, I will, but at the end of the post). As a reminder, artists are eligible 25 years after their first single or album release. First, let’s take a look at the nominees, then I’ll give you my prediction and I’ll give you my ballot that I will be submitting, followed by some closing comments.

You read that right. I have a ballot this year. My voice will be heard. And so can yours. OK, it is a very tiny, tiny voice, and more a symbolic gesture than a vote that will really make a difference, but I still appreciate the gesture. At the Rockhall website, when you vote in their poll, this year the results will be tallied and submitted as one “fan ballot” that will be counted alongside the other 500 ballots. Hey, I like it. I can participate in a small way at least. The other 500 or so ballots come from prominent music critics, industry insiders and all current Rockhall inductees (I seriously question whether B.B. King really should be judging the impact of The Cure, as would have occurred last year, but that is the subject of earlier and I am sure later posts).

But here are the nominees and some brief thoughts on each:

Chic: This is their 7th nomination, so the Committee clearly wants to keep pushing them. With Nile Rodgers’s illness, there may be some urgency to get them inducted before he passes on. They were great, important dance music innovators. I’d have no problem with their eventual induction, but not gonna happen with this class.

Deep Purple: Up to this point, one of the most egregious omissions. Shockingly, this is their first nomination. The Committee has shown hostility towards certain genres, and hard rock/metal is definitely one of the most underrepresented in the Hall. Their induction would go a long way in moving the ball for hard rock and for rehabilitating the Hall as far as some of the glaring omissions go. Like them or not (and I'm lukewarm on them at best), they were one of the pioneers for hard rock.

Heart: I was surprised that they did not make it in last year with their first nomination. They help to fill out hard rock and get more women in the Hall, two goals the Committee should be jumping to fulfill.

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: I dig Joan Jett. How can you not? She is the ultimate rocker chick. That being said, I think she is on the bubble as far as being Hall-worthy.

Albert King: One of the last essential bluesmen still on the outside looking in (I'd also like to see Sonny Boy Williamson II inducted). I have a feeling that Albert will get the shady Wanda Jackson / Freddie King treatment. That is, being nominated, not making the vote cut, and then the powers that be slide him in anyway in the "Early Influence" category, even though his most influential work was done during the rock era, not before. It's a BS move, although Albert definitely deserves a spot in the Hall.

Kraftwerk: So pleased so see these electronic pioneers get another shot. They were nominated once before awhile back. First and foremost, the Hall should honor the pioneers.

The Marvelettes: Not that familiar with them. "Please Mr. Postman" is their best known tune. Not getting in this year anyway.

The Meters: Great New Orleans soul/funk pioneers, but in this weighty class, I think their induction is probably the least likely of any of these candidates.

Randy Newman: Yes! Yes! Yes! And yes! Zimmerman aside, of course, I think that Randy Newman is the most interesting singer-songwriter that the 60's and 70's produced. His chances are good. The trend lately has been to get one singer-songwriter in per class (Tom Waits, Laura Nyro, Leonard Cohen...all recent inductees. Randy is the man and better than all of those.)

NWA: Pioneers of West Coast Gangsta Rap, I'm all for their induction. And I'd LOVE to hear Ice Cube's speech. But with someone else also in this nominee list (see two below), I think NWA will probably have to wait.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band: LOVE this band and I think they were so innovative in an early period. I don't think they have a chance in hell of getting inducted in this class, though. That's a shame. East/West is absolutely brilliant.

Public Enemy: The consensus, and I agree with it, is that Public Enemy are the surest thing in this group of nominees. While I personally prefer NWA, Public Enemy definitely needs to be inducted for their injection of the political into rap. Flava Flav's speech will also be entertaining.

Procol Harum: This is a marginal pick. I'm glad that they are getting to some prog, but come on. Yes, King Crimson, ELP, ELO and the Moody Blues are yet to be nominated (ever), and the Central Committee in all of its wisdom are offering up Procol Harum?

Rush: I don't think there has been a louder chorus of outrage for any other band's snubbing. As the years have gone by, it seems more and more absurd that Rush had not even been nominated. Well, finally the Committee relented and gave them a shot. I'd be shocked if they did not get in with ease. This at least insures that the performances at the ceremony will kick ass.

Donna Summer: Here is the rare case where the Committee is right and the voters are wrong. This is her 5th nomination, and add to that her death earlier this year, she's got to make it this time. I'm not a fan of disco, and neither are the voters, apparently, but come on. She wasn't the "Queen of Disco" by accident. If you are the "King" or "Queen" of any genre of popular music, your Hall credentials are pretty strong. She had a boatload of hits and was a leading force in the genre. It is just a shame that she did not get in while she was here to enjoy it.

The trend has been five inductees per year, although last year it was six (I think mainly due to the fact that they really wanted the Small Faces/Faces to get in, who were probably just outside the top five in voting).

Anyway, if it is six again this year, my prediction is:

Deep Purple
Randy Newman
Public Enemy
Donna Summer

And Albert King getting slipped in as an Early Influence

If that is the case, that is a really strong class. If I had my choice and I were King of Rock, my six would be:

Deep Purple
Randy Newman
Paul Butterfield Blues Band

NOTE: On the Rockhall site, they only let you vote for five.

Hard rock, metal, prog, the entire decade of the 80's...all are still woefully underepresented. My shortlist of the most egregious snubs (not including those nominated this year): The Cars; Chicago; The Cure; Depeche Mode; Devo; Duran Duran; Hall & Oates; Iron Maiden; Journey; Joy Division; Judas Priest; King Crimson; KISS; Lou Reed (solo); Love; MC5; Motorhead; New Order; Ozzy Osbourne (solo); The Replacements; Peter Gabriel (solo); The Pixies; The Smiths; Steve Miller Band; Steve Winwood (solo); Stevie Ray Vaughan; Willie Nelson; Yes and Kool & the Gang. There's more, of course.

Anyway, go to Future Rock Legends for great analysis and discussion of all things Rockhall.

Thoughts? Comments?