Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Man Man

On Sunday night I went to the Modest Mouse concert at the Eagles Ballroom. I had some of those "free" tickets where you get in free but have to buy two drinks for $25. Awesome deal. I enjoyed the show, but I'm getting too old to be going to [indie-] rock concerts on Sunday nights. For me, the highlight of the whole night was the opening band. It was this punk band called Man Man. They were like nothing I'd ever seen before. If I had to guess, I'd say their major influences include David Bowie, Blue Man Group and Dr. Teeth & The Electric Mayhem.

These five dirty guys come out, all wearing plain white t-shirts and unusual hair and beards. One looked like a tennis player from the 1970's, another had a giant scruffy hipster beard, stuff like that. They were all clearly on really good drugs. Nothing was conventional about this band. Each member played a bunch of different instruments; from keyboards, guitars and saxophones to steel toms, kazoos and milk jugs. Every member had some sort of percussion instrument. And they jammed. Go see them next time they're in your town. Until then, here are some Man Man clips on youtube:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tell me what's in the envelope.

Criss Angel is cooler than I ever would have guessed. There's this new show on NBC called Phenomenon. It's basically American Idol, but replace the singers with "mystics" and "mediums" and crap like that, and replace Simon, Randy that tubby Laker girl with goth magician Criss Angel and spoon-bending douchebag Uri Geller. When I first saw ads for this show I had very low expectations. One thing that drives me nuts is pseudoscience. I can't stands that guys like John Edward (The A-hole that hosts Crossing Over, not the A-hole that's running for president) can become gazillionaires by manipulating vulnerable people.

From the ads, two things struck me as troubling about Phenomenon. The first is that they never described any of the contestants as Magicians. This implies that the contestants are suggesting that what they are doing (reading minds and shit) is not a trick, when it should be obvious that it is just a trick. The second problem with the show is Uri Geller.

Uri Geller came to fame in the 1970's by performing various psychic tricks, bending spoons with his mind, dousing and stuff like that. It's obvious that many Americans are not familiar with Geller or have forgotten his downfall since he has a job. Geller has been debunked time and time again. Perhaps the most famous incident occurred when Geller appeared on The Tonight Show in 1975. Prior to the show, Johnny Carson, an amateur magician himself, contacted friend James Randi, a well-known debunker of pseudoscience. He told them to provide their own spoons and other props. As you might have guessed, Geller couldn't do any of his tricks. Here's a video:

But now Uri Geller is back on network TV propagating his bullshit. Luckily, his co-host is Criss Angel. I was unfamiliar with Angel prior to seeing Phenomenon, but apparently he's a very popular street magician similar to David Blain. He's hosted several specials and a TV show called Mindfreak. Although Angel has been the subject of some controversy, he admits that his act is all trickery and doesn't claim to have any supernatural powers. He's one of the good guys.

On the second episode of Phenomenon, a contestant named Jim Callahan did a performance in which he claimed he was in contact with a dead guy named Raymond who told him what object was in a closed case. Uri Geller ate his performance up. Criss Angel didn't:

Angel took a page out of the James Randi playbook and made Callahan look like what he is, a phony.

No Geoff, thank you.

Geoff Jenkins is a really classy professional athlete. The Brewers have decided not to pick up his option so his ten year tenure with the team has come to an end. Today he took out a full page ad in the sports section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in which he thanked the Brewers, the fans and the city for supporting him. I wish I could link to it, but it's only available in the print version. I have never heard of any player on any team doing something like this in the past and it strikes me as a very classy move. Word is, that that's the kind of guy Jenkins is.

Last year, my 11-year-old cousin lost an important little league game. Afterwords, he and his team went to Kopp's for frozen custard. Jenkins was there with his family. He took the time to hang out with my cousin's team. He took the time to ask a bunch of star-struck little leaguers what team they're on and what position they played and that sort of thing. It seems like everyone I know has a story about meeting Jenkins and they are all very positive. Milwaukee was lucky to have him.

When he joined the team ten years ago, he was "that kid on the Brewers that looked like Brett Favre." Here's a clip from Jenkins's rookie season of him and Favre joking about their similar appearance.

In this state, #4 enjoys god-like admiration. But #5 has made a name for himself over the last ten years as well. Jenkins was the brightest spot in some dismal Brewers seasons and it kills me that we couldn't get him to the playoffs in his last season with the team. He hit 200 home runs for the crew and has a career average of .278. He's been streaky for the last few years but he's still an outstanding defensive player. I'm sure some team will pick him up and I wish him the best of luck. I hope that if Jenkins ever returns to Miller Park, we give him the standing ovation he deserves no matter what color his uniform is. Thanks Jenks.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

For Art's Sake

I spent the better part of today sitting in a conference room that overlooks the sculpture garden on the roof of The Milwaukee School of Engineering's new Grohmann Art Museum. The museum and the collection were donated by Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, an MSOE regent and area rich dude. The collection is titled "Man at work" and features sculptures and paintings from a wide range of styles and time periods that all focus on industry and labor. It strikes me as fitting for an art museum at an engineering school. I haven't visited the museum yet but I'm pretty sure that a lot of the paintings in the collection used to hang in MSOE's library. A while back, I was researching some shit about welding for a fire case I was working on and I noticed that the paintings on the wall at MSOE's library were really great. I spent a half hour walking around looking at paintings there. Lots of glowing molten stuff and people swinging hammers and axes and shit. Don't worry, I didn't bill that time. I'm anxious to check all this stuff out in it's new home at the museum.

Recently this completely private museum that is opened to the public and charges no admission fee and was built due to a multi million dollar gift from a generous man has come under attack by some crusty old art snobs. It started with this old lady named Whitney Gould who chastized the museum because the building is a refurbished warehouse and because the collection contains a bunch of paintings that were commissioned by the Third Reich. She starts with this:

But not to point out its shortcomings would be dishonest. Those shortcomings start with the building itself: a remade garage and former check-processing facility now capped with a heavy, Kaiserkopf dome and a ring of monumental bronze statuary perched along the roofline. The effect is rather like Old World Berlin as reinterpreted by Walt Disney.

And continues:

As my colleague Mary Louise Schumacher and I reported recently, one of the artists most heavily represented in the collection, with 81 works, is Erich Mercker (1891-1973), who was commissioned by the Third Reich to record its muscular infrastructure: bridges on the Autobahn, one of Adolf Hitler's proudest achievements; shipyards building U-boats; factories churning out steel; quarries producing stone for the Chancellery in Berlin, seat of the power in the Reich. At least two other artists in the collection also had Nazi ties. And, according to one of the art historians whom we consulted, some of the figures portrayed in paintings from the war years likely were slave laborers.

What a snotty bitch. She basically says that the Museum has some sort of duty to explain every painting in its historical context or some crap like that, as if a reasonable person couldn't guess that a German artist painting U-Boats being built in 1938 couldn't guess that the commission had some sort of tie to Hitler. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board echoed this sentiment too.

Ms. Gould and the MJS editorial board strike me as being tremendous tools. I'm admittedly a left-brained person so I really don't "get" art in the same way that many people do. I definitely try to pay attention to art and get some culture now and again, but this kind of thought process--that the meaning or the context needs to be known for the artwork to be enjoyed - drives me bonkers.

I few years ago I read an article about this artist named Christo, who is famous for doing these major outdoor art projects. For example, he wrapped the Reichstag in plastic and placed like 2000 yellow umbrellas along the California coast line. At first I thought Christo sounded nuttier than a squirrel turd, but after I thought about him a little more, I thought he was pretty cool. I'm obviously no expert on Christo, or art in general, but what I liked about him was that whenever he was pressed to explain why he created a particular work, he seemed to respond by saying something like, "because it's beautiful." Nothing pretentious. No cause or symbolism or reason. Just because he thought it looked cool. And usually it did.

I think this bird from the MJS needs to lighten up a bit. When people see the Great Pyramids at Giza I assume they say something like, "Holy shit, that's a big, cool, old building. Nobody says, "there should be a plaque explaining that these were built by slave labor." Just like nobody made Christo put up a sign explaining his umbrellas. This is a museum at a school of engineering. If she wants to be a useful art critic, she should tell us whether or not the collection looks cool.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Uh oh, th Vikings just signed Koy Detmer

Hah. As much as I was looking forward to seeing Brooks Bollinger start for the Vikings this weekend, Koy Detmer might be even more entertaining. Remember last time he tried to take on Favre?

I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I know Koy (Ed. Who names their child "Koy"?) threw a late TD pass, and thinking he had the game wrapped up, did a celebration dance in which he mimed pulling his junk out and swatting a girl's/guy's (Ed. which do you think he was imagining?) ass as he mimed doing her/him. Very classy Koy. Very classy. So then Favre gets the ball back and.... the Packers win.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"If it could happen to Steve it could happen to anyone"

I'm watching Access Hollywood while I'm folding my laundry and they're interviewing Terry Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter's wife. She has a new book out in which she discusses Steve's "sixth sense" about his death. Apparently, Steve "somehow knew that he would go suddenly." She added "if it could happen to Steve, it could happen to anyone." Huh? Not to speak ill of the dead, but the man spent his waking hours in the jungle catching snakes and wrestling with crocodiles. And he was kind of a spaz. The only sense it would take to predict that Steve Irwin might meet his end at the hands (or stinger?) of some wild animal is common sense.

Save water, drink beer.

My old cross country coach always used to say, if it takes more than two beers to get drunk the night after the race, you didn't run hard enough. Apparently, he was on to something.

Having a beer after exercise could do you more good than drinking water, a new study suggests.

I'm not going to quote the rest of the article because it's really poorly written and I want to continue thinking that beer is good for me.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Some off season baseball notes

I just finished reading Moneyball by Michael Lewis. It was awesome. For those of you that aren't familiar with the book, it's about Oakland A's GM Billy Beane and how he fields competitive teams with a low payroll by figuring out which stats are undervalued. Since I'm a pretty frequent reader of Baseball Prospectus and Fire Joe Morgan, I had a basic understanding of Sabermetrics before reading Moneyball, so I'm not going too get into why old-school baseball conventional wisdom is retarded and OBP is the shit. What I do want to know is when are Billy Beane and/or Michael Lewis going to apologize to Prince Fielder?

You see, there's this section about the 2002 draft. A's GM Billy Beane is creaming his jeans over a slugger named Nick Swisher, but he's not sure whether Swisher will be around by the time Beane gets his first pick. In order for that to happen, according to Beane, either the Brewers or the Tigers will have to make a stupid pick. According the Beane, the Brewers did make a stupid pick. They took Prince Fielder. You know, that all-star that became the youngest player to clout 50 dingers this year and was like 3rd in the NL MVP voting. Lewis recounted how Beane mocked the Brewers because Prince Fielder is too fat to be a good baseball player. Beane says he's too fat even for the Oakland A's! [Now I wouldn't go so far as to call the brother fat, I mean he got a weight problem. What's the nigga gonna do? He's Samoan. Or the son of Cecil Fielder]. Whatever. The point is that the whole purpose of Moneyball is to explain that you can't pick players because of how they look. Stats tell you what scouts can't. And Prince Fielder is a prime example. Because he's really really awesome, even if he's built like Babe Ruth. Wait, he was pretty good at baseball too. If you're going to suggest that it's important to judge a player by how he plays rather than how he looks, Prince Fielder was obviously a pretty good pick.

Speaking of baseball, an interesting possibility has recently entered into the consciousness of the Brewers' front office and fans. Blogger/starting pitcher Curt Schilling announced on his blog that he was filing for free agency for the first time in his 21-year career. He also put up a list of teams that he wanted to play for:

The list of teams that our family has talked over, that we think would be a fit for next year, should we not come back, are pretty much teams in cities we agree would be ok for our last year, and teams I think have a legitimate shot at being in the post season and/or World Series. Teams we didn’t include aren’t for any one reason. There are a million little things that go into this from stadiums to school districts to travel to spring training to etc. etc. etc. but the list represents the teams after Boston that have some of the off the field things that are big to us, plus the potential to go into October next year.

Cleveland, Detroit, Anaheim, New York Mets, Philadelphia, Atlanta, L.A., S.D., Arizona, Chicago Cubs, St. Louis, Milwaukee

Huh? Milwaukee makes your list due, in part, to it's chances of making the post season? This is outstanding for a number of reasons.

To begin with, it speaks volumes about what Doug Melvin, Mark A and the rest of the Brewers organization have done with the team over the last few years. A big ticket free agent is looking at us. Granted, he's in his forties, but he just won a bunch of post season games and I think he's got another good year left in him. The fact of the matter is that if Curt Schilling thinks we're good, we just might be.

Secondly, I really hope we actually sign him! He's looking for around $12 to 15 Million for a one year contract. That's pretty spendy, but rumor has it we're considering throwing that much at Cordero and he's a closer. Now, I love CoCo, but if Billy Beane was wright about one thing, it's that closers are overvalued. They're main stat, "saves," is easily faked and they usually have short shelf-lives (is that the plural of "shelf-life?"). A kick-ass SP is a better use of $15 Million than a kick-ass RP.

Update: And like that *poof* he was gone.