Sunday, October 30, 2011

Music Review: Return of Phlegm & Gravel

The new Tom Waits album is his 20-somethingth release and might well be one of his best. "Bad as Me" debuted last week to much accolade among those who claim to know good from awful these days. In typical Waits fashion he wheezes along, sometimes growling, rasping, other times working up to his unimitable falsetto. No new ground covered but the ground he covers is so unique - the mold was shattered when Mr. Thomas Alan Waits came into this world in 1949 in Pomona, CA.

The deluxe edition of Bad as Me has 16 tracks and kicks off with the jaunty "Chicago", which rattles along like a box car, driven by on by sax, trombone, harmonica, and a certain Keith Richards on guitar. The organ on "Raised Right Men" is like a knife and lyrics like "You need the patience of a glacier, If you can wait that long" are wheezed out with urgency. Somehow, Mr. Waits elevates his voice on "Talking at the same time" to that of a female blues singer in a smokey basement nightclub. Guitar accompaniment on this track is David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.

"Go Get Lost" sounds like a late 1950's rock & roll... "Face to the Highway" is a slower number, featuring some terrific guitar and violin. And so "Bad as Me" continues on with one gem after another. No filler or weakness here. The title track is Waits at his crazy-rhyming rumba bumbling best.

For the uninitiated, this is a very accessible album (not always the case with Tom Waits) and definitely one of the best I have heard in 2011.

Five out of five.

Damn thee, little Red Birds

The aforementioned symmetry resembles more a cemetery as the Rangers came up short in the World Series for a second year running. Even after a week of reflection, the wounds are raw. This loss hurt more than 2010. Against the Giants the mood was "Hey, we just beat the Yankees, these games against the Giants are just gravy". This years, after brushing by the Rays and the Tigers with not too much effort, a Championship was expected. The Cardinals had other ideas.

In Game Six, now regarded as one of the greatest ever, the Rangers were twice within one strike of winning it all. But the Gods of Baseball conspired against us. Several times, we thought we had it won: when Beltre and Cruz homered, when Hamilton gave us a two run cushion in the 10th... but it was not to be. The Rangers were in the baseball desert of futility for years and only recently emerged but back-to-back losses in the big one is tough to stomach.

The core team will be back in 2012. If we can make some tweaks in the bullpen, upgrade the starting pitching, we should have no trouble winning the A.L. West again... as long as Pujols or Fielder do not join the Angels. Well, only another 100 days or so until pitchers and catchers.

The view from left field

Anticipating a ball on Greene's Hill

Last sunset at a 2011 Ranger game

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Boys of October

There has been a certain symmetry in this love affair with baseball. Within a few months of moving to NYC in 1986, the Mets conquered the wilderness years from 1969 and triumphed over Buckner & Co. Similarly, our move to Connecticut in 2004 coincided with the Red Sox slaying their curse. The Nutmeg state is very much part of the Red Sox nation, no small thanks to ESPN and their Bristol HQ. In 2010, our first full year back in Texas, the Rangers made it to their first ever World Series after seasons of futility. We move to your state and your baseball team is guaranteed success, well sort of...

The Rangers symmetry is as such: I was at the last home game of 2010, there to see the Giants win the W.S. Thanks to a friend at work, I was the first home game of 2011, a tense affair in front of a raucous crowd but the Rangers prevailed. We were at the last regular season home game of 2011, a laugher with an inside the park grand slam home run. This was for Kevin's birthday, the Rangers were already champions of the AL West.

Fiona and her friends were in attendance and unfortunate enough to witness the 9-0 shellacking handed out by the Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS. We went back to the Temple again to see the nail-biter extra-innings ALCS battle with the Tigers, settled by a Nellie Cruz grand slam in the 11th. And after we beat the Cards at their own game in Game 2 in St. Louis, it was time to start eyeing Stubhub again. But last night, Pujols and Co. gave the Rangers a taste of our own boom-stick medicine and have grabbed a 2-1 lead in the best of seven series.

We have two more home games but the Cards now have the momentum and we will need some serious mojo to pull this one out of the fire. Where's this symmetry when you need it?

We need the Dutch Oven (Derek Holland) and his faint little mustache to shut down the Redbirds tonight. Stache Power indeed!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hullabaloo, Caneck, Caneck

What exactly is a caneck? What does "Gig-em" mean? Who needs to practice yelling?

All this and more was to be answered with a trip to Texas A&M University in Bryan, TX. We took a drive a few Saturdays back to see the Aggie football team take on the Idaho State Vandals and also with the purpose of working in a campus tour for our H.S. Junior.

A&M, formerly the Agriculture & Mechanical School of Texas was founded in 1871 and bills itself as the oldest public university in Texas. It is certainly one of the biggest with an enrollment of 46,000+ students and a campus spanning 5,200 acres. It is in the middle of nowhere, lost in between Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Although a nice campus and a great school, the tour was so-s0; however, the football experience was unbelievable.

The Aggies have more traditions than you can shake a stick at. There is (or was) bonfire, the 12th Man, the huge marching band, the Corp of Cadets, the sway during the fight song, the pronounced disdain for the Longhorns, and of course, the idolatry bestowed upon Miss Reveille (the school mascot, a collie).

The Ag's refuse to refer to the University of Texas as anything other than t.u. In this part of Texas, you better be sporting maroon an not burnt orange. Ironic that the fight song begins with "Goodbye to texas university" for the Ags are soon to depart for the SEC and the longtime Thanksgiving game with UT will be no more. It is a shame what money will do - the A&M / UT rivalry is one that should never be compromised.

Here is a view of the student side of the stadium. Seems like every student goes to the game.

To the right is another stand - same size - where the alumni sit. Our seats were in a similar sized grandstand in the end zone - all in Kyle Field holds over 83,000. And in 2011, they will fill it for every home game. The noise and atmosphere is incredible.

At half time the 300 member strong Fightin' Texas Aggie Band takes the field and trust me, no one leaves their seats. When the band cranks out the first few notes of the Aggie War Hymn, it sends shivers down the spine. Here they are in the Block T formation.

Thanks to to Destopanimation95 for this nice compilation which captures the spirit of Aggieland and arguably the best fight song in all of college football.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why did the Snake cross the Road?

We will never know but right in front of chez Beirne a good size serpent succumbed to a Sequoia and the punchline goes unanswered. My guess is that he was about three to four feet long before he became pancaked. We think it was a rat snake, a non-venomous type but one that vibrates his tail despite not having a rattle and is therefore often confused with his much more dangerous cousin. In some parts this reptile might be considered good eatin' but in the heat of the Texas sun, this roadkill began to stink almost right away. After a few days of roasting on the road and pounded by tires he was obliterated.

There's not a mile of Erin's isle where dirty vermin musters
St. Patrick gathered them all up and murdered them in clusters
The frogs went hop and the toads went plop, slapdash into the water
And the snakes committed suicide to save themselves from slaughter