Thursday, September 29, 2005

Brian Roberts update, B.J. Ryan likely gone, Jim Beattie incompetent

It's official. Brian Roberts will be having Tommy John surgery, which is bad news no matter how you look at it. After seriously tearing ligaments and dislocating his elbow against the Yankees on Sept. 20, Roberts saw his breakthrough season end and a nightmare season for the Orioles continued its hellish descent.

While there have been several success and comeback stories for players undergoing the procedure, most of them pitchers, it will be interesting to see not only how long it takes for Roberts to recover, but also how effective he will be upon his return. There's a good chance that Roberts will never be the same player that he was for a majority of the 2005 season, during which he established himself as baseball's best overall second baseman, offensively behind only
Alfonso Soriano. Here's to a quick and complete recovery.

In other news, co-GM Jim Beattie today made known on 1300 AM WJFK that the Orioles need serious upgrades at several positions, blasted
Eric Byrnes as a disappointment, and revealed that the team tried to re-sign B.J. Ryan last offseason, but failed. Talk about stating the obvious. Beattie, who is known to be as good as fired around all of baseball, should take all the blame he's been getting and more for the O's collapse this season, and I'll be glad to see him go, more because a change will give us a fighting chance for improvement. His favorite transaction seemed to always be the non-move, preferring to wait and ultimately do nothing.

The revelation that Ryan couldn't be signed last season reveals much. First, it says that the Orioles recognized Ryan was a talented commodity. Also, it unfortunately implies that: 1. Ryan will be looking for a big contract, which he deserves. 2. The Orioles will not be willing to offer a lucrative contract in order to retain him. This could be a disaster, because if the Orioles fail to re-sign Ryan, I guarantee that the Boston Red Sox will. They are in sore need of a closer, and they would much rather have Mike Timlin setting up games in the seventh and eighth innings. This would create the dreaded scenario of losing a dominant player to a divisional rival, and the team would potentially face a former teammate shutting the door on them several times next season.

Back to Beattie. I'll always remember him for saying "We don't want to make a move just for the sake of making a move." Well, maybe he should have tried that a little more, rather than failing the team when additions needed to be made at the trading deadline this past July. The overachieving and thin Orioles could have saved their season with more pitching and a decent outfielder, maybe not ultimately competing for the postseason, but if anything finishing above .500 for the first time since 1997. The bottom line is that Beattie's mentality and philosophy was ill-taylored for a front office where everything has to be approved by a egomaniacal (not to mention inept in the knowledge of baseball operations) owner in Peter Angelos. Maybe Beattie could never have succeeded in Baltimore, but the time for change is now, and the sooner the better.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

4th-Grade Spelling Adventures

Nick Delgado
Spelling Test
1. make
2. take
3. bite
4. trade
5. dive
6. hate
7. shake
8. wake
9. wipe
10. rule
25. space
26. scrape
27. plane
28. stole
29. twice
30. surprize [surprise]
31. liqudate [liquidate]
32. sindacate [syndicate]
33. carbohydrate
34. exzagerate [exaggerate]
35. franchize [franchise]
36. critisise [criticize]
37. desisefe [decisive]
38. hitmitise [hypnotize]
39. lownsome [lonesome]
40. siclone [cyclone]

The above is a recent spelling quiz that Nick, one of my little brothers, took in his quest to dominate the fourth grade. It is letter for letter exactly as he took it, with #11 through #24 omitted. Correct answers are in italics, and correct spellings of incorrect words are bracketed.

So far he's experienced sporadic success and mediocre results.

I'll probably get more "going to hell" points for this, but I get a kick out of spelling errors in general, and the academic escapades of my younger siblings in particular. Ah, 4th-grade memories. It's good to see that they still demand that students fold their looseleaf in half, creating the well-known and ubiquitous second column.

Let's do a little play-by-play of this quiz.

- We can note that my little brother started off this quiz on fire, as we see that he is torturing the test with a respectable score of what turned out to be 28 for 29.

-#30 through #40 are a completely different story. After Nick has his way with the first 29 questions, the quiz turns the tables abruptly - as soon as the challenge words enter the fray. My brother obviously didn't study the challenge words, and the quiz fulfills its revenge by terrorizing him for 10 questions. Elementary school curriculum has the last laugh, as Nick erroneously answers 9 out of the last 10 words.

- Gallant attempts are made to spell decisive (#37) and hypnotize (#38). Both attempts fail miserably.

- The highlight of the quiz is undoubtedly #33. Out of nowehere, in the midst of a massacre at the hands of the quiz, Nick manages to spell the word carbohydrate correctly. He comes nowhere close to such spelling fidelity for the remainder of the exercise. It's really quite unexpected. My theory is that Nick has seen the word 'carbohydrate' so many times on the nutrition labels of candy bars, sodas, and energy drinks that it was a no-brainer for him.

songs and singles I've been digging PART 1

Death Cab for Cutie - Soul Meets Body

This has been one of my favorites for a while, it's a cool mid-tempo song with a simple but catchy guitar hook. The record this is from, Plans, is a decent one, although I was disappointed that there weren't too many songs that were as good, or better, than this one. The best tracks on Plans are mostly the acoustic and ballad-oriented ones, which is fine, but I was hoping for some more upbeat and fast paced offerings. I'm definitely withholding further judgement on this band until I hear their earlier work, which I understand is quite good (although apparently Ben Gibbard's already higher registered-voice has deepened, which is a bad sign since high-pitched and whiny vocals is one of my main reservations with the whole "emo" universe) . Either way, this is an outstanding track.

download "Soul Meets Body" here
stream of "Soul Meets Body" here

so brown eyes
I hold you near
cause you’re the only song I want to hear
a melody softly soaring
through my atmosphere

Franz Ferdinand - Do You Want To?

This is another catchy song; it has a cool frivolity to it, and it rocks. Franz Ferdinand's self-titled debut was extremely solid, and hopefully their next record will keep up such high quality. "Do You Want To?" sounds heavily influenced by Devo, David Bowie, and the Talking Heads. I'm not much of a fan of Devo, but the Talking Heads, on the other hand, I enjoy quite heartily. I love their whole attitude/ demeanor/ approach, which is goofy, aloof, and artsy; they even seem to exude a quasi-homosexual aura. Watching these guy play live, watching their videos, and listening to their lyrics, I constantly find myself saying "These guys are so gay!" But that doesn't matter - I wouldn't care anyway, they seem to have fun with the idea, and they churn out some damn fine tunes. I'm looking forward to their upcoming CD with guarded optimism, but if this song is any indication, Franz Ferdinand could take a place as one of rock's best new bands who made a stellar debut record within the past two or three years (the Killers would probably have to be the leader of this group).

check out

the awesome video for "Do You Want To?" (scroll down)
the actual song here

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Cherry Lane

This is just a sick, sick song. Ryan Adams, one of my favorite artists, is set to release his second record in less than 4 months, Jacksonville City Nights, with a third CD of material recorded for inclusion in Cameron Crowe's upcoming movie, Elizabethtown. This tune, though, is off his double CD masterpiece Cold Roses. One of his best songs, of which he has many, "Cherry Lane" starts as a country-ish, bluesy mid/fast-tempo rocker that slows down and then builds back up, culminating in an epic and melodic outtro. This is off the first disc from Roses, and it's a great start for anyone not familiar with Ryan Adams.

You can listen to a stream of Cold Roses
I love Ryan Adams. I gotta admit, I celebrate the guy's entire catalogue.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Ain't No Easy Way

This is a stomping blues/rockabilly monster. Their new album, Howl, is a completely new and drastic departure from their previous two albums, which, while still blues-based, were electric rockers in the spirit of Nirvana, the Jesus and Mary Chain, and louder Oasis. On Howl, basically every track features acoustic guitar and a simple rhythm section. Given the talent of their drummer, this is a little disappointing, but it's still an interesting and worthwhile detour for the band. B.R.M.C. are one of the victims of rock's current state and the complicated record industry, but hopefully we'll see continued output from these guys.

Listen to "Ain't No Easy Way" here
download an MP3 here

Coldplay - The Hardest Part

Alright, I admit it, I like Coldplay. Aside from the stellar one-liner from The 40-Year-Old Virgin making fun of them, and despite the multitude of people who hate them, Coldplay is a very good band. "The Hardest Part" is their best song to date, and a highlight from X+Y, which is a superb record. What makes it even better for me is that it sounds exactly like classic piano-based R.E.M., and Chris Martin has specifically mentioned that
the song is an ode to R.E.M. and Michael Stipe, who have influenced Coldplay and Martin. There are probably lots of people who dislike both bands, I'll take the low road by saying they can eat my ass - fuck them, they wouldn't know great music if it jizzed on their face.

"The Hardest Part" here

the Rolling Stones - Rough Justice

It's great to know that the fathers of rock one one level, and the grandfathers of rock on another, can still kick out the jams at 60 years old. One of the greatest bands to ever pick up instruments (#2 on my best rock bands list), A Bigger Bang is a return to their raw and bluesy MO. This is the first track, and it's a naughty and exhilirating way to get things started. Everyone sounds 40 years younger than their age here, with Charlie Watts ignoring his corpse-like state and Keith Richards and Mick Jagger lighting the fuse. Good to hear two part guitar interplay in most of the songs. This is one of the better loud tracks on the record, along with "Look What the Cat Dragged In", "She Saw Me Coming", and "Infamy".

listen to
"Rough Justice" here

Nine Inch Nails - Only

Continuing the return to form theme, it's good to have Trent Reznor back in the land of the relevant. "Only" sounds a lot like classic NIN from the Pretty Hate Machine and Downward Spiral years, featuring Reznor's trademark angst and anger, along with the cool riff that dominates the song. Awesome f-bombs never hurt good tunes, either.

Audioslave - Doesn't Remind Me

This track also harkens back to classic early 90's-era rock. Tom Morello, despite his immense talent, still manages to frustrate guitar aficionados with his simple guitar solos, overutilizing what he describes as making barnyard animal noises. Nevertheless, the solo here is incendiary (to use a line from Almost Famous), and it's one of the better solos you'll hear from a mainstream radio song these days.

video stream

Nickel Creek - When In Rome

I like bluegrass a lot, and I especially took to it after first seeing O Brother, Where Art Thou? and enjoying its soundtrack a few years ago. Nickel Creek is a great modern bluegrass-fusion band, if you will, and "When In Rome" is the first track off their excellent new album Why Should the Fire Die?. They've been evolving since their first release a few years ago, and besides being talented musicians, Nickel Creek know how to write songs not only within the bluegrass genre but also combining the music they were raised to enjoy with the best of other facets of rock, 'alt-country', and folk. This track fits in well with two other favorites of mine, "The Fox" and "Smoothie Song". I highly recommend it for those who enjoy their pickin' and fiddlin', in addition to anyone who appreciates good music.

Listen to an NPR stream of a live peformance, including "When In Rome", here

the Shout Out Louds - The Comeback

An infectious little track that has an early Weezer feel to it, but sonically owes more to new wave bands like Television and various-era Flaming Lips (their lead singer sounds a bit like the Lips' Wayne Coyne and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus). "The Comeback" reminds me a little of Matt Sharp's sideproject the Rentals, the song "Friends of P" in particular. If you like the Strokes and other 'indie rock', you'll dig this. There's been a surprising number of acts coming out of Sweden recently, including the Hives, the Caesars, the Perishers, and these guys, among others.

Listen to
"The Comeback" here (scroll down, then click on "Free" under where it says "choose download type")

more to come...