Saturday, February 28, 2009

Can Hope Bring Progress?

I just watched "Right America: Feeling Wronged," an HBO documentary by Alexandra Pelosi. If the name sounds familiar, it should - she is the daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, a democrat from California.

The description of the program read, "A documentary filmmaker talks with social conservatives, many of whom were very much opposed to the election of Barack Obama as president, on their feelings about the future of our nation now that he has taken the oath of office."

What the description should have read was, "A documentary filmmaker talks with rednecks, racists, religious fanatics and the right wing fringe in an effort to further political stereotyping and create a more divisive gap within America's two party system."

In 2009, America is a country defined by two things: Our past and our hope for the future. And why not? Who in their right mind would want to be defined by our present? We are a nation divided at every front, and a nation where division is introduced at an early age, encouraged throughout our youth, and embraced in adulthood.

No? Introduce me to an elementary school where the pudgy kid with glasses is picked first in kickball. Where the awkward girl with braces gets as much positive attention from boys as her doe-eyed classmate. Where it doesn't matter what kind of clothes you wear, what holiday you celebrate, or what kind of house you live in.

Find me a high school where the football coach tells his players that they're no better than the math team, and where cheerleaders want to date the guys on the debate team. How about a city that isn't divided by color and nationality? A Boston Red Sox fan who doesn't hate the New York Yankees?

Or maybe a democrat that has a single productive thing to say about a republican. Or vice versa. Politics are just another sickening example that we are a country bred to divide.

And that's what's wrong with America today.

It used to be The Cold War. The United States of America verses the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Russia was the bad guy, and it was us against them.

Now we don't have a common foe. We have nobody to unite against, so we unite against each other, and fueled by politics we have become more divided than ever before. Sure, we rallied against terrorism for a while, but as soon as the memories of 9/11 faded away, so did our united spirit of patriotism.

We live in a nation where it's the democrats verses the republicans. Blue verses red. Right verses left. Us verses them. You have to choose a side, because anything else is a wasted vote.

It doesn't need to be that way, and it shouldn't be that way. The United States was never built to be a two-party system, but it evolved into that as the political machine realized that the fewer choices people had, the less power people had.

But the real question isn't how much power we have as a people, it's what power we have as a people. Right now, we have the power to stay focused on the task at hand: Making America a better place tomorrow than it is today.

If every American embraced that responsibility, it wouldn't matter that the bulk of our elected officials are more concerned with political biases than they are with what's best for our population. On Capitol Hill, it's about advancing agenda over advancing change. From our vantage point, we just have to cross our fingers that the agenda is working for us, not against us.

As a people, we have to be bigger than the politicians who are blinded by partisanship, and smarter than the public who think that being a democrat or a republican makes you right or wrong.

Before we can hope for progress, we need to have faith in ourselves. Because if we can't have faith in ourselves, who will?

My brain tells me that the recently approved economic recovery package is flawed, but my heart wants me to be believe that the spirit of the package can prevail.

I'm not one to attack a problem with touchy-feely sensibilities, but we're faced by a problem that needs more than legislation. We're faced by a country so torn and divided, we need to mend its core before we can build for the future.

Are more food stamps, increased unemployment benefits, freezing foreclosures and a few extra dollars in every working man's pocket going to fix the problems that are inherent in our infrastructure? No, this country needs more than a cosmetic touch-up. But if they give the average American hope to feel like they can matter in the scheme of change, we might actually be onto something.

And that will be one hell of an accomplishment, because progress has to start somewhere...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

25 Songs, 25 Answers: "Comin' Home"

As far as internet time-wasters go, this one is actually pretty fun and interesting: Set your designated music player to shuffle and let the first 25 songs it plays answer each of the following 25 questions (in order, no cheating). My answers were as random as I'd expect, given my collection - while a few of them couldn't be further from the truth, it's pretty shocking how randomly accurate a few actually are!

1) If someone asks if you're okay, how do you respond?
“Other Voices”
from THE CURE Staring at the Sea - The Singles

2) How would you describe yourself?
“Waste of a Pretty Face”
from AMPS II ELEVEN Amps II Eleven

3) What do you like in a guy/girl?
from CRACKER Garage d'Or

4) How do you feel today?
“Travelling Light”
from PAUL MCCARTNEY (THE FIREMAN) Electric Arguments

5) What is your life's purpose?
“We’ve Got the Right”
from BOY GEORGE Sold

6) What is your motto?
“Dreamer’s Ball”
from QUEEN Live Killers

7) What do your friends think of you?
“Straight into Darkness”

8) What do your parents think of you?
“Soldiers of Metal”
from ANTHRAX Fistful of Metal

9) What do you think about very often?
“For Britain Only”
from ALICE COOPER The Life & Crimes of Alice Cooper

10) What is your biggest turn-on?
from GODHEAD Unplugged

11) What do you think of your best friend?
“Spiderbaby (Yeah-Yeah-Yeah)”
from WHITE ZOMBIE La Sexorcisto

12) What is your life story?
“The Devil Went Down to Georgia”
THE CHARLIE DANIELS BAND from the compilation Once Upon a Song

13) What do you want to be when you grow up?
“Some Devil”
from DAVE MATTHEWS Some Devil

14) What do you think when you see the person you like?
“A Little Ain’t Enough”
from DAVID LEE ROTH A Little Ain't Enough

15) What will you dance to at your wedding?
“The Smell”
from LYNYRD SKYNYRD Greatest Hits: Skynyrd's Innyrds

16) What will they play at your funeral?
“Wicked Sensation”
from LYNCH MOB Wicked Sensation

17) What is your hobby/interest?
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
from GARY HOEY Ho-Ho Hoey

18) What is your biggest fear?
“Black Bone Torso”
from W.A.S.P. Dying for the World

19) What is your biggest secret?
“Rock & Roll”
from DIO Killing the Dragon

20) What do you want right now?
“Heaven Don’t Want Me (And Hell’s Afraid I’ll Take Over)”
from JACKYL Relentless

21) What is your obsession?
“Mary Jane”
from SHWAYZE Shwayze

22) What will your child's first words be?
“Skinny Sweaty Man”
from THE RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS The Uplift Mofo Party Plan

23) What do you say when you look in the mirror?
“Industrial Size”
from ANDREW DICE CLAY Dice Rules: Live at Madison Square Garden

24) What is your opinion of sex?
from HOLE Celebrity Skin

25) What will you post this as?
“Comin’ Home”
from DEEP PURPLE Shades: 1968-1998

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Valentine's Day the Ted Nugent Way

Looking for some last-minute romantic advice?

Guitar-wielding rock and roll hero Ted Nugent is here to save the day, pulling out his bow and arrow and playing cupid with this personalized Valentine's Day playlist offering a little bit of tenderness, a healthy dose of soul, a spark of electricity, and more than enough of the Motor City Madman's jackhammer riffs to either spice up the night, or make unworthy mates take flight:

1 - Howlin' Wolf "Wang Dang Doodle"
2 - Cheap Trick "The Flame"
3 - AC/DC "Whole Lotta Rosie"
4 - Ted Nugent "Wango Tango"
5 - Percy Sledge "When A Man Loves A Woman"
6 - Otis Redding "I've Been Lovin' You Too Long"
7 - Foreigner "Feels Like The First Time"
8 - Ted Nugent "My Love Is Like A Tire Iron"
9 - The Rolling Stones "Brown Sugar"
10 - Ted Nugent "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang"

I only have one complaint, but it's a big one - Where in the name of Bo Diddley is the sexiest guitar song ever written?

Don't worry Uncle Ted, I've got your back... Here's a Valentine's Day soundtrack of my own:

1 - Ted Nugent "Stranglehold"
(set on "repeat")

No disrespect to Otis, Percy, or Mick's flappin' lips, but if "Strangehold" doesn't do it for you, nothing will.

That's a fact, Jack, look it up!

It trembles with power, bleeds with soul, and sends a squeal through the speakers that will make the woman, man or animal of your dreams blush, coo and cry, and that's all before the track breaks off into instrumental overdrive at 2:35, ripping one's insides asunder before gently returning them to planet Earth four minutes later.

"Stranglehold" is eight minutes, twenty-three seconds of carnal lust and spiritual fury, a rock and roll arrow straight through the spine of Valentine's Day.

Want it to feel like the first time? "Stranglehold" feels like the first time, the last time, and every time in between. And then some.

What's more romantic than that?

# # #

Official Ted Nugent Website

Click here for an archived review of Ted Nugent's 06.15.08 performance at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, CA.

Is Manny Smelling Green and Seeing Blue?

One of two things is about to happen to Los Angeles baseball: Manny Ramirez will sign with the Dodgers, or the Angels will get a rapid boost in their quest to coax L.A. fans south to Anaheim.

For the Dodgers to be taken seriously if they don't resign Manny Ramirez, one of the most dominating hitters in all of baseball and the heart of the blue batting order for the final two months of last season, they would have to replace his loss to their lineup

And now they can't.

With the signings of Bobby Abreu and Adam Dunn late this week, Ramirez becomes the only marquee hitter remaining on the free agent market.

Neither Abreu or Dunn are in the class of Ramirez, but both could have filled the hole in the Dodger batting order. Despite his low batting average, Dunn would have been the better fit, filling the need for a power threat in the heart of the lineup.

Hitting at least 40 home runs in each of his last five seasons, Dunn would have provided some much-needed force in a lineup that, while well-rounded, only features three serious threats to hit even half as many long balls (Matt Kemp, Casey Blake and Andre Ethier).

Dunn's drawback is his average. A lifetime .247 hitter with a propensity for strikeouts, he signed a two year, $20 million contract with the Washington Nationals Wednesday.

Abreu can't match Dunn's power, but he is one of the most rounded hitters in the game, a lifetime .300 hitter who has scored at least 98 runs in 10 consecutive seasons, tallied at least 100 RBI in seven of his last eight seasons, hit 20 home runs in eight of his last ten, and stolen at least 22 bases a season for the past decade.

Turning 35 on March 11, Abreu joins Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson as the only players in history to hit 200 home runs and steal 300 bases with a lifetime on-base-percentage of at least .400. He signed a one year, $5 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels Thursday, including bonus incentives that could push the contract beyond $6 million.

Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI in 187 AB after coming to the Dodgers in a deadline deal with Boston and Pittsburgh August 1. To put his impact in perspective, only Blake (21), Ethier (20) and Kemp (18) hit that many homers for manager Joe Torre's Los Angeles team all last season.

One of the games elite talents, Ramirez is a .314 lifetime hitter who has averaged 99 runs, 36 HR and 118 RBI over the last 14 seasons. His age (he will be 37 when the season starts) and motivation are heavy concerns, which is why he remains a free agent this late in the off-season.

Seeking a contract that would keep him under wraps until he turns 40, Ramirez and uber-agent Scott Boras are looking for a four year deal in the neighborhood of $100 million. So far, the Dodgers have come to the table with a two-year, $45 million deal, and a one-year, $25 million offer.

With Spring Training already underway and no free agent options remaining, the negotiations have tilted in the slugger's favor. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has commented that the trade market would be an in-season option and, yes, trimming salary has its advantages in today's economy, but neither of those would mean much to fans heading into the 2009 season.

In addition to a lethal bat, the acquisition of Manny Ramirez also brought a high-profile Latin superstar to a city whose blue collar population was hungry for a baseball hero. His presence electrified Dodger Stadium, and with the Southern California economy crumbling, a player of his magnitude will no doubt help in selling tickets.

The only other team thought to be considering Ramirez are the Dodgers' upstate division rival San Francisco Giants, who have one of the best pitching staffs in the National League. Though their offense ranked amongst the worst in baseball last season, the addition of Ramirez would make them an immediate favorite in the NL West.

While the Dodgers might be able to contend in their weak division without the addition of Ramirez, fan excitement will no doubt be tempered by a team forced to play small ball with emerging talent and little star power.

Ramirez pending, last season's entire starting lineup is returning intact. But the same can't be said for the starting rotation.

After losing Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and Greg Maddux to free agency, the only addition was veteran Randy Wolf. The fifth starter is likely to be either Jason Schmidt, who at 36 has been nagged by injuries and pitched only 25 innings since 2006, or converted outfielder and top prospect James McDonald, who impressed in relief as as September call-up last season, but whose endurance is still a question mark.

Where does this leave the Dodgers?

Without Ramirez, their lineup lacks a spark plug and their rotation will be in constant need of run support.

Not a good place to be heading into a season with hopes of repeating as division winners for the first time since 1978.

This means a Manny-sized payday may be on the horizon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Christian Bale vs. Wesley Willis

Wesley Willis is a real rock star. And a real super hero. And a real teddy bear. He's an artist who, if you were blessed enough to meet him, you never forgot. I am glad I had that opportunity.

Here, in true fiasco fashion, he tears Batman to pieces...

I hope you're resting in peace, big guy!

# # #

Direct link to the video remix on YouTube

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Limp Bizkit Have Built It...

Limp Bizkit know that the music game has changed, and they're not afraid to change with it.

Or in many cases, ahead of it.

Say what you will about their music - they're definitely one of the most polarizing bands in modern rock - but a textbook can be written about the camp's marketing savvy. Their latest coup?

It's nothing that isn't being done all over the internet, but it's something that isn't being done in the world of hard rock.

And it should be.

Fans can get their news anywhere. And in today's world of breaking rumors rather than waiting for facts, tomorrows news is old today. Hell, it seems like TMZ knows who's getting pulled over for drunk driving before the person even has their first drink of the night. It's information saturation. And it's here to stay.

Go to most band websites and it's the same formula, different layout. Worst part about it is, it's the same mundane content that fans already know, the only twist being the presentation.

Fan is short for fanatic, and it's the fanatics that keep the career gears greased in this depressed economy. If the artist gives the fan something to show they care, the fan will give the artist the support they need to pay for their tour bus.

That's what makes so compelling.

Not only is it for the fans, it's by the fans. And it's so simple, it borders on insulting.

But in true spirit of Limp innovation, they've nailed it.

This is the camp that, when they couldn't get radio airplay for their first album in 1997, bought advertising time on radio stations, played snippets of the single, and then directed potential fans to call the station if they wanted to hear more.

Suburban hard rock doesn't get more guerilla than that.

Then came Ladies Night In Cambodia, a three band bill with Sevendust and Clutch that was not only one of the most enticing tours of 1998, but went one step further by letting ladies in for free.

That isn't guerilla, that's just genius. Let the ladies in free, and the guys follow. When the ladies have a good time, they'll bring three girlfriends with them next go round. Guys go where the girls go. It's the circle of life. And marketing.

And the legions of haters that seemed to grow by leaps and bounds? It's as if it's all part of the plan.

What's a great rock and roll band without a backlash? It's about the passion, and nothing makes someone more passionate about their favorite band than having someone else hate them. It's the yin that every yang needs to keep it going.

Don't get me wrong, Limp Bizkit have made their share of mistakes over the years, but the best hitters in baseball reach base safely less than a third of the time.

You can't swing for the fences and be afraid to miss.

As much as people in the music industry act like there's a formula, the proof is in the album sales. What album sales, you ask? That's my point. You need to take risks to reap rewards, and Limp Bizkit aren't afraid to take risks.

Now, after selling more than 33 million copies of their first three albums worldwide, Limp Bizkit are back, reuniting their original lineup for the first time since 2001.

"We decided we were more disgusted and bored with the state of heavy popular music than we were with each other," frontman Fred Durst and guitarist Wes Borland said in a joint statement released today. "Regardless of where our separate paths have taken us, we recognize there is a powerful and unique energy with this particular group of people we have not found anywhere else."

While I still contend that Cruel Melody from Borland's Black Light Burns was one of the more criminally underrated records of 2007, there's no denying the kinetic energy at play when he and Durst are playing mad musical scientists together.

But back to that website... When you land on the page, you're facing a split-screen, a video player on the left and a real time chat box on the right. Fans log in, and they are the center of attention as they discuss Limp Bizkit, their bad school lunch, or whatever else might inspire them at any given moment in time.

Sure, half of it is absurd gibberish, but that's true of every message board on the world wide web.

The site launched early this morning, and a topic of fan debate throughout the day has been whether Borland deserves to be back in the band or not. This is precisely what makes Limp Bizkit such a heated topic of conversation - they don't give a rat's ass what you, me, or anyone else thinks, they just roll with it.

And at one point today, Durst was even in the chat box, fielding questions.

Anything can happen, and a lot of it will just be made up as it goes along. If you're not there to see it, you just might miss it. It's a band website for a generation with ADD and an addiction to Twitter.

It's all part of the buzz, and the buzz is all that matters right now.

Speaking of Twitter, the entire Bizkit band is on it, you just click on each guy's head on the website and you are redirected to their Twitter page, where you can subscribe to their updates.

And the videos. While the latest video, a webcam of Durst creating beats for 1:28, is about as entertaining as watching paint dry, it's the type of shit fans eat up. And why shouldn't they? It's content that they're not getting on Blabbermouth.

Every video the band's done is up there, including a few rarities like Bizkit's cover of Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home," as well as live footage of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here," a stunning rendition done with Goo Goo Dolls frontman Johnny Rzeznik at the 9/11 tribute concert at Madison Square Garden.

The site is that simple: Twitter, videos, real-time chat and a blog. All on a single web page that doesn't dizzy the mind with too many bells and whistles. This isn't yet another MySpace eyesore. Less is more, and it's more than enough to help fans start revving the engines on the Limp Bizkit hype machine.

I've had more than a handful of people ask me in the past few days, "is anyone really going to care about Limp Bikzit?"

The answer is yes. Because the Limp Bizkit camp know how to make them care. It's not about million dollar marketing campaigns, it's about defining their core and expanding from there.

Build it, and they will come.

Limp Bizkit have built it...

# # #

Limp Bizkit Official Website

Limp Bizkit MySpace

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Farewell Favre (This Time He Means It)

Brett Favre retired today.


But this time I think he means it. Last year, something just didn't seem right. Now, there seems to be a natural finality to his legend.

And I still think there's more to the story of him leaving Green Bay than we've been privy to.

I interviewed Brett Favre at Lambeau Field, when he signed his first contract extension in 1994 and I was an editor for the Associated Press. It was long before anyone could even fathom that he might become the most prolific quarterback in NFL history.

At the time, Green Bay was still stinging from the fact that Don Majkowski proved little more than an injury-plagued one-season wonder, never replicating the 'majik' of his all-star campaign in 1989.

Green Bay - both the team and the city, because you can't talk about one without talking about the other - had high hopes for Favre, but the fervor was nothing like it would be when signed his seven-year extension three years later.

He was a southern-bred bundle of unrealized potential at the time. More of a 'hope for the best' signing than a Hall of Fame franchise tag. And his laid-back Mississippi state-of-mind was a perfect fit for the limited northern exposure of the frozen tundra.

Speaking from firsthand experience, Wisconsin is hardly a media shark tank for professional athletes. If anything, it's a microcosm of Midwest simplicity. A far cry from the all-seeing eyes and ears of New York. Forgiving, and maybe even a bit forgetful, to be polite.

In New York, the media will create drama where it doesn't already exist. And if it exists? They'll turn sparks into a bonfire.

In Wisconsin, drama is having to choose between deer hunting and a family wedding.

Reading between the lines of Favre's muddied departure from Green Bay, there was some bad blood brewing between the quarterback and the franchise he had revitalized over the past decade-plus.

Brett Favre was the boy who cried wolf with retirement, but Ron Wolf wasn't there to hear him. The Packers forced Favre's hand, and he fumbled, rushing the call a year ago. Green Bay shouldn't have been too surprised, they'd lived and died by his gunslinging ways for 15 years, and he's got a track record of iffy decision-making when he's rushed in the pocket.

And like more than a few plays he'd made on the field, Favre and his schoolboy demeanor wanted to reel back his career-ending retirement bomb. But it wouldn't happen on the Packers' playground.

When a well-worn Rocky was explaining his comeback in Rocky Balboa, he said "there's still some stuff in the basement."

Was anyone really that surprised to find out that Brett Favre still had a few pump fakes left in his shoulder?

Those tears he cried at last year's press conference? Could they have been tears of confusion, hurt, sadness or betrayal? Right, wrong, indifferent or otherwise, it's unlikely Brett Favre truly wanted to end his career anywhere but Green Bay.

But Green Bay didn't want him back.

So he went to a team that did want him, because he needed one last chance to extinguish that fire that was still burning down below. It was the same fire he always felt, this time heightened by a hope to avenge his exile from title town.

If it couldn't be Green Bay, where better than Broadway?

New York never embraced Favre, they embraced the legend of Favre. They knew he was a stopgap. And to compound the issue, the players had to know in their hearts that they weren't a Super Bowl contender. The chemistry just wasn't there with the Jets. Locker room favorite Chad Pennington may have been replaced by a legend, but he wasn't a New York legend, and he never would be.

Brett Favre was a deity in Wisconsin. In New York, he'd play second fiddle to Peyton Manning's kid brother.

To add insult to injury, due south on I95, Pennington was playing with the composure that he flashed the Jets in '02.

Chad had more juice than Tropicana, and Favre was running on pulp.

What made New York the perfect swan song? The chances of a fairy tale ending were slim, the fun factor of the game would be marginalized in the media glare, and an emotional attachment wasn't likely to prolong the decision-making process.

Few fans were shocked when Brett Favre re-announced his retirement earlier today. Yes, it is the end of a legendary career, but this time the end felt right.

As for his legacy... Was Reggie White's tarnished in Carolina? Joe Montana's in Kansas City? Vince Lombardi's in Washington?

"I think if you live some place long enough, you are that place," Rocky Balboa said in his own swan song.

Brett Favre is Green Bay, and always will be. No season in New York will ever change that, nor will it tarnish his place as one of the game's all time greats.

It didn't matter if Rocky won or lost, what mattered was that Rocky did what Rocky had to do, and that when he was finished, the beast was gone from the shackles of his basement.

Brett Favre has unleashed the beast.

Next stop, Canton.

* * *
There's not a journalist I enjoy reading more than Peter King, or a football player I've enjoyed watching more than Brett Favre. When Favre was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 1997, King wrote a piece that not only captured his eloquence as a writer, but also Favre's true character, both on and off the field. Click here to read the column.

UPDATE (02.13.09)
As an interesting follow-up to the above column, Favre did an interview with ESPN today detailing his anger towards the Packers and how they handled his departure, as well as his lack of comfort in a Jets uniform. Click here to read the article.

UPDATE (02.16.09)
Peter King offers more insight into Brett Favre's retirement in his Monday Morning Quarterback column for, the Sports Illustrated website.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A-Roid the Great

I don't know what is worse, the fact that I wasn't surprised, or the fact that I simply don't care.

Alex Rodriguez did steroids? No way! Please don't say that he cheated on his wife, too...

I tried to catch up on sleep this morning, and learned the news of A-Rod's steroid use via a forward of a CNN "Breaking News" alert from my father on my Blackberry. His entire email read, "Do I really care? If this is 'breaking news,' we're in worse shape than we think we are!" Even with that disclaimer, when I scrolled down to see what the actual news was, I admit I was a bit disappointed.

An athlete does steroids? I'm just glad rock stars don't do drugs, and that actresses and supermodels don't take pills.

Truth be told, I was actually a little happy to read the headline.

There has always been something about A-Rod that has rubbed me the wrong way. His holier than thou perception, his tabloid relationship with Madonna that neither will confirm or deny, the fifth-grade bullshit between him and Derek Jeter... It's nice to see him fall a few rungs and have that smug persona of his take a hit.

I like my athletes with a little bit of gristle, some dirt on their uniform, and a character flaw that reminds me that they are human. If I want to see superheroes, I'll watch Iron Man, 24, or a Harry Potter movie. Even those character have problems, and they live in the land of make-believe.

Why? Because it's a lot easier to be absorbed by entertainment when the characters are at least plausible. Kids will look over the small detail that Harry Potter flies on broomsticks and has a cloak that makes him invisible if he at least has acne and is awkward around girls. What's the difference between Jack Bauer and John Rambo? Rambo is a mechanical killing machine, Keifer Sutherland is human killing machine who has a daughter that doesn't talk to him and has lost every woman he loves.

America loves a tragic hero. And even more than we love them, we love to forgive them.

Just ask Michael Phelps, who's been all over the headlines lately because someone got a picture of him smoking dope. Oh, the tragedy! How will we move on? We'll manage. Remember when an underage Phelps plead guilty to drunk driving little more than four years ago? Don't worry, most people don't remember it. It fell out of our collective conscience faster than George W. Bush.

We don't want a world that isn't shocked by a Christian Bale outburst, but a little bit of Tom Cruise jumping on a couch seems to be good for our collective psyche. It makes us remember that the people we pay far too much attention to are still really human. It allows us to remember, if even for a fleeting moment, that they're really no different than you or I.

Apart from the paycheck, ego and attitude, maybe.

People act surprised when I say that Joe DiMaggio is my favorite baseball player. So what if I never physically got to see him play? My wife's favorite bands are the Beatles and Queen, and she's never seen either of them perform live.

I loathe the Boston Red Sox, but love Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski. How? Because when I grew up, not so long ago and in a galaxy not so far away, baseball was a different game. It was a game where players actually meant something more than a line of fantasy statistics.

Graig Nettles had a lifetime batting average of .248 and is still one of the greatest Yankees ever. Nobody cared that Thurman Munson was the captain, but not a media darling. And Reggie Jackson wasn't afraid of being the straw that stirred the drink, because he wasn't worried about endorsement deals.

Everybody wrote a book, and nobody cared. You didn't have to talk about "the sanctity of the clubhouse," because nobody in said clubhouse was delusional enough to think their "sanctity" was that important. When did Major League Baseball become the Roman Catholic Church?

If Major League Baseball honestly expected fans to believe that their drug-testing policy was going to rid the game of a problem that they claimed to know nothing about, then they truly believe us to be one dumb breed. Maybe we weren't all members of the National Honor Society, but that doesn't mean we still don't read a book or two. Some with words, even.

Are we really supposed to buy the idea that the only players doing steroids are the ones that get caught? It's convenient to pretend that the only people taking them are the players that sit on the bench, because they're looking for that extra something to get them in the lineup... Until we hear that Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire got caught. So now we know the guys on the top did them. It only makes sense, then, that the guys in between might, too. Right? Or is it just more convenient to stop making sense?

Major League Baseball enacted their mandatory random drug testing program in 2004, after an anonymous sampling in 2003 resulted in at least five percent positive results. That means we know that at least five out of every hundred guys were doing steroids at the time of the test (A-Rod being one of them). That's one of twenty. Or, more concisely, more than one player per active roster. My guess? It probably wouldn't be a stretch to say that there were at least a handful of guys doping in every team's dugout.

I see your five percent, Major League Baseball, and raise you to 15 percent. And I bet I'm still low. Would it be that surprising to find that one in every five players used steroids at one point or another in the late '90s and shortly thereafter?

Don't forget, MLB never released the results of their tests, they only stated that it was a number "greater than five percent."

The real "breaking news" to me isn't that A-Rod did steroids, it is the allegations buried paragraphs into the story that he was tipped to when his "random" tests would be the following year.

In other words, its okay for Jorge Piedra to take a random test, but the players union will warn poster boy Alex Rodriguez in advance.

I still love the game of baseball as much as I did as a kid, but now I love it for different reasons. I love the game, not the players. I love the chess match on the base paths, it doesn't matter which pawn it is trying to steal. And I love a home run more than the next guy, regardless of where it comes in the batting order.

Baseball is a great game, and it is played by great athletes. But being a great athlete doesn't make you a great person.

The great Alex Rodriguez - A-Roid, as he will be known from this day forward - taught us that today.

We were also taught that as great as the game of baseball may be, it will never be as great as it once was.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Manny Smells Green, Not Dodger Blue

I have no problem with professional athletes making obscene amounts of money.

They are the top of the talent bracket in their given profession. No, they're not surgeons, teachers or world leaders, but if you're going to criticize an athlete for making $20 million a year, you also better criticize the highest paid actors, musicians and other entertainers.

And if you're going to criticize entertainers, don't be a hypocrite - stop watching sports, television and movies, and make sure you don't listen to any music... Good luck with that.

If a professional baseball player makes an absurd salary demand and an owner bites, all the power to the player. Like musicians and actors, their value is dictated by the market, and until there's a system in place to better contain baseball's open market (ie, a hard salary cap) stars have every right to play the system for as much money as they can.

Manny Ramirez and his agent Scott Boras have been playing the Dodgers since the end of last season. So what do they do when the Dodgers finally bite, offering Ramirez a one-year contract worth $25 million? They turn the Dodgers down.

Now I have a problem with Manny Ramirez.

The Man-Ram wants a guaranteed four or five year contract worth $25 million a year. He's one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game, but turning 37 in May, he's entering the twilight of his career. He's also got a reputation for only playing hard when he wants to, and sulking, moping and pouting just as hard.

We've all read about how well that goes over in a locker room - and if we haven't read it yet, we can in Joe Torre's book, "The Yankees Years," which came out today.

Maybe the problem isn't the money for Manny, it's Joe Torre. Knowing that Torre, now in his second year as Dodgers manager after 12 years in the Bronx, has such a flair for writing, maybe Manny's afraid that a one-year contract coupled with another Torre tell-all could dampen his future contract talks.

Not likely, I know.

The fact of the matter is, Manny Ramirez changed Dodger baseball. Before him, the city had so little allegiance to its Dodgers that the Anaheim Angels were able to waltz right up and change their name to the Los Angeles Angels. It's 40 miles from Anaheim to Los Angeles. That's two hours in typical 405 traffic. If you're lucky.

But when Manny came here, he gave the city's abundant Latin population a hero to rally behind. Families of 14 now had a reason to come to the ballpark, and even transplanted baseball fans like myself now had a reason to more aggressively cheer for their new hometown team. With Manny in the lineup, the Dodgers not only had a bona-fide bat as the heart of their order, but the owners also demonstrated that they have a will to win.

The Dodgers offered Manny a three year, $45 million contract in November, and the offer was ignored. Yes, ignored. (Hey Boras, did you check your spam folder?) Then the team offered him salary arbitration, and that was declined. So now they offer a one year, $25 million contract that will make Ramirez the highest paid outfielder in the history of baseball, and the second highest salary in baseball this season, behind only Alex Rodriquez.

And he turned it down faster than most of us could brew our morning coffee.

Los Angeles has a county-wide unemployment rate that is flirting with 15-percent, and the nation is an economic free fall. And Manny turns down a guaranteed $25 million because he wants a longer contract?

Here's a thought, how about earning your $25 million this year, then re-signing for the same amount next year? What's the worst that can happen, you might only make $15 million if you have an off season?

Manny Ramirez not only said no to the Los Angeles Dodgers' contract, he also sent a message to Dodgers fans, and baseball in general: The Red Sox were right to dump him when they did. The city he's playing in means nothing to him, and the money only means something if it is guaranteed til he turns 40.

Motivation? He has none.

That's a Man-Ram no teams needs in the backdoor of their clubhouse.

Welcome to the Dodgers, Adam Dunn, don't forget to send Manny a thank you note.

Monday, February 2, 2009

ARCHIVE: Liner Notes & Packaging

DAVID LEE ROTH Crazy From The Heat (softcover, 1998)
**Back Cover text

FAITH NO MORE This Is It: The Best Of (2003)
**Liner Notes

L.A. GUNS Shrinking Violet (1999)
**CD booklet photo

MEGADETH Rude Awakening DVD (2002)
**Special Feature: Paul Gargano on Megadeth

POISON Power to the People (2000)
**Back Cover photograph

QUEENSRYCHE Live Evolution CD/DVD (2001)
**CD Liner Notes; DVD Special Feature: Biography

QUEENSRYCHE Sign of the Times (2007)
**Liner Notes

STRAIT UP Tribute to Lynn Strait (2000)
**CD booklet photo (Lynn Strait and Max Cavalera)

STUCK MOJO Violate This (2001)
**Liner Notes

TYPE O NEGATIVE Symphony for the Devil DVD (2006)
**Special Feature: Band Member Bios

VH1 CLASSIC: Metal Mania Stripped, Vol. 2 (2005)
**Liner Notes

ARCHIVE: Artist Bio Links

Alphabetized list of links to select artist bios archived online:

ANTHRAX reunion (2005)

BIGELF (2008)




JOURNEY (2005)



PRIMA J (2008)


SHWAYZE (2008)

STAIND (2008)