Swing Music’s 80th Birthday August 23, 2015Posted by intellectualgridiron in Uncategorized.
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Eighty years ago this past Friday, on Aug. 21, 1935, the Swing Era was born. The energy that was released along with its birth was propelled musical revolutions and helped define the high-points of American popular music since that one evening eight decades ago, and it all began one night with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra performing at the Palomar Ballroom at 2nd Street and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. Ironically, they had no idea that they were about to make history.
The night started out disappointingly. His first segment of the show was tepid at best, playing the safe, “sweet” stuff that pacified his conservative Middle American audiences that made up most of his cross-country tour. During the break of that segment, Benny decided that if they were going to go down, they were going to go down swinging – figuratively and literally! To the rest of the band’s delight, he called for the hot stuff – specifically the Fletcher Henderson arrangements. When they reconvened on the bandstand to start the next segment of that evening’s concert, they immediately kicked things off with “King Porter Stomp.”
The fans in attendance immediately recognized the tune, and it created an instant (and positive) sensation! He and his band quickly followed up with “Sometimes I’m Happy”, followed then by “Sugar Foot Stomp”. With each number, the fans were hollering for more. Every tune the band played during the rest of the night resulted in all sorts of Lindy-Hopping and Jitterbugging. The atmosphere for the remainder of the night was electric; the sensation that was created that evening made Benny Goodman an overnight superstar, and the Swing Era was officially born.
What explains all of this? How could a bandleader and his men, who had to endure disappointment after disappointment during a grueling cross-country tour in the summer of 1935, finally find this unexpected pot of gold at the rainbow’s end?
Two major factors explain this, factors that Goodman never took into consideration at the beginning of that fateful night.
One was a radio show hosted by disc jockey Al Jarvis, entitled the Make-Believe Ballroom (a title later borrowed by Charlie Barnet for his hit 1936 tune, with the Modernaires on vocals). This show was based on playing records over the radio – a novel idea at the time. Jarvis built up Benny’s audience playing records, specifically, Fletcher Henderson’s choice arrangements.
The other, even bigger factor, was that Benny Goodman actually enjoyed a national audience through his weekly “Let’s Dance” radio show out of New York City. The show had three different bands, one built for three different music genres. One segment was filled by Kel Murray (actual name: Murray Kelner), who provided the “sweet” music, strings and all. Another segment was filled by Xavier Cugat, who provided the Latin music, and Benny Goodman’s band capped things off with the Swing. The “Let’s Dance” show, brought to a nationwide audience courtesy of the National Biscuit Company (you might have heard of them by their abbreviated moniker of Nabisco), helped build Goodman’s fan base all over the country, although in uneven concentrations.
As mentioned earlier, many of his Middle America audiences preferred the sedate stuff. When Benny and his band tried to push the proverbial envelope with hot swing arrangements, they often received negative push-back. One particular low point came in Denver when the audience demanded their money back.
Things started to look up a bit on the West Coast, however. His Oakland, Calif., concert was very positively received, as was a subsequent concert at Pismo Beach. But after all the disappointments the band experienced, they took these two high points as flukes, thinking that such success could in no way be sustained. Better to play it safe, survive, and get the rest of the tour over with.
What Benny failed to consider was that the aforementioned “Let’s Dance” show had built up a nationwide audience for his band, and that fans were particularly concentrated on the West Coast. Hence, the fans were hungry for the good stuff when they were finally able to see the King-of-Swing-to-be in person. Hence, moreover, their consternation when Goodman and his band started off the evening playing the safe, sweet numbers that they thought would ensure their survival.
It turned out in hindsight the band’s unexpected, earlier successes at Oakland and Pismo Beach were not flukes. All it took was Goodman to have the intestinal fortitude to play the hot, swinging songs that he and his band were built to play….that and a highly receptive audience that he did not even realize he had until he already decided to play the Fletcher Henderson arrangements.
Needless to say, his concert the following night was just as successful, and we can be grateful 80 years later that somebody on August 22, 1935, had the foresight to record an aircheck of the concert for posterity.
The legendary Palomar Ballroom, the birthplace of Swing (or, at least is era) is sadly no more, and has not been for a long time. It burned down in 1939. Today, a Von’s grocery store occupies the spot where, 80 years ago this weekend, the greatest era of American popular music was born.
On Presidential Deaths and Economic Growth February 19, 2015Posted by intellectualgridiron in Politics.
Tags: bacteria, cholera, death, disease, FDR, Franklin Roosevelt, George Will, Grover Cleveland, James K. Polk, pathogen, president, Salmonella, sewer, typhoid, Warren G. Harding, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor
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In honor of the recent Presidents’ Day — which we used to correctly acknowledge as Washington’s Birthday before political correctness — let us play a little trivia game. How many presidents died in office other than those who were assassinated? Give up? The correct number is four, five if you count James K. Polk (more on that later).
They are, in chronological order: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. The latter two did not die of pathogen-caused disease, but rather of other maladies. In Harding’s case, it was a heart attack. In FDR’s case, it was a cerebral hemorrhage brought on by, well, being in office for three terms and change.
So what of the first two? Harrison, for example holds two dubious distinctions as President: the first to die while in office, and shortest length of time while in office, at about 30 days. But why? We have been conditioned to think it was on account of pneumonia. Turns out that is not the case. Yes, he did himself no favors by giving an 8,445-word Inaugural Address (still a record to this day for Inaugural Addresses, making the Hero of Tippecanoe a holder of three Presidential records!), which he did in the freezing rain without a hat, overcoat, or gloves. Not the smartest of moves, and he actually did catch a cold from it. But he recovered from the cold, and it never grew into pneumonia. So what happened?
A fascinating article published in the New York Times last year sheds new light on Harrison’s untimely death. It details the findings of a new medical investigation in that year, which followed the clues and concluded that the cause of death was typhoid, not pneumonia. The latter was merely a guess from Harrison’s attending physician who, understandably, had comparatively limited medical knowledge. Even then, the doctor acknowledged pneumonia to be a secondary diagnosis.
Typhoid actually makes all the sense in the world. The disease is bacterially-based, and the pathogens in this case ravage the gastrointestinal tract, particularly the stomach, until they do their damage which allows them to enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis. In the middle part of the 19th Century, not far from the White House was a man-made fetid swamp produced on account of daily deposits of, er, night soil — at government expense, of course. This fetid, man-made marsh became a breeding ground for the bacteria that cause typhoid and paratyphoid fevers (both of which, interestingly, belong in the same genus of Salmonella). It claimed two other presidents, too. James K. Polk contracted severe gastroenteritis (a variation on the exact same theme, practically tomayto-tomahto) while in the White House but he somehow recovered, only to die of cholera — the nature of the infection is practically the same, as they are often brought on my contaminated food and water — merely three months after leaving office in 1849.
Polk’s successor, Zachary Taylor, also died in office, having contracted Salmonella-caused gastroenteritis during the 4th of July celebration in 1850. He died just five days later.
Frankly, it is a wonder that more of our presidents did not die of similar causes. Antibiotics, which would have stopped these pathogens in their tracks, were not available until WWII, roughly a century’s span from this time.
So how come subsequent presidents in the remaining 19th Century avoided meeting such an untimely demise? George Will’s insight provides an answer, and does so within the context of marking the 25th anniversary of AIDS in a 2006 article:
“AIDS arrived in America in the wake of the Salk vaccine, which, by swiftly defeating polio, gave Americans a misleading paradigm of how progress is made in public health. Pharmacology often is a small contributor. By the time the first anti-tuberculosis drugs became available in the 1950s, the annual death rate from TB had plummeted to 20 per 100,000 Americans, from 200 per 100,000 in 1900. Drugs may have accounted for just 3 percent of the reduction. The other 97 percent was the result of better nutrition and less urban crowding. Thanks to chlorination of water and better sanitation and personal hygiene, typhoid, too, became rare before effective drugs were available.”
“Which suggests,” he adds, “that the most powerful public health program is economic growth. And the second most powerful is information.”
Indeed. Economic growth provides the resources necessary to better dispose of human waste as well. DC introduced its first sewer system in 1885, for example, thus greatly reducing the chance of Presidents Cleveland through [Franklin] Roosevelt contracting the same maladies that felled two, if not three, of their predecessors in the mid-19th Century.
That said, as an aside, there seemed not to be a universal utilization of Washington, D.C.’s sewer system as recently as 1941, as George Will points out in an article seven months prior to the aforecited one.
“Ol’ Blue Eyes” and “Ted” February 18, 2015Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: album, All The Way, Can I Steal A Little Love, Capitol, Charlie McCarthy, Come Fly With Me, Damon MacFarlane, Edgar Bergen, Frank Sinatra, Mark Wahlberg, records, single, Super Bowl, Ted, Tom Brady, Where Are You?, Witchcraft
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After three years, fans of the Seth MacFarlane comedy “Ted” are about to be relieved from suspenseful waiting, as a sequel, “Ted 2,” is about to debut in theatres come late June. In case the reader is unaware, the protagonist is a live, talking teddy bear, who is foul-mouthed, lecherous, super-lascivious, and given to bouts of indolence, drunken revelry, and pot-smoking, yet altogether strangely endearing nonetheless. Basically, he is a modern, crude adaptation of Charlie McCarthy (or, to put it another way, MacFarlane’s Ted is analogous to Edgar Bergen’s McCarthy), and needless to say, it has proven to be most amusing!
This commercial-length preview — which debuted during the Super Bowl, no less — alone is enough to have one rolling in the aisles. Once the dear reader has recovered from hysterics, though, re-run the ad again and listen to the tune used for background music. That’s right, they are using Frank Sinatra’s “Can I Steal A Little Love?” which has, er, interesting implications, given the sub-theme this part of the movie explores!
“Can I Steal A Little Love” was released in 1957, and one of Sinatra’s many wonderful swinging singles from that year. Indeed, that year turned out to be yet another banner one for Ol’ Blue Eyes, who not only had a spate of hit singles, ranging from “Witchcraft” to “All the Way,” to three albums produced as well, such as “Where Are You?”, “Come Fly With Me,” (both title cuts remain famous in his repertoire) and his ever-popular, ever-timeless, ever-wonderful Christmas album. But as a brief summation, “Can I Steal A Little Love” is one of a plethora of great examples of why not only was 1957 a banner year for Sinatra, but also why his body of work at Capitol Records remains so timeless to this day, as is evident by its use in a major movie commercial 58 years later.
The Top Three Greatest Christmas Albums December 18, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: album, Baby Please Come Home, Bethlehem, Bing Crosby, Bob B. Soxx, Capitol, Christmas, Darlene Love, Dean Martin, Deck the Halls, Frank Sinatra, Gordon Jenkins, Hark, Herald Angels, Jingle Bells, Judy Garland, king, Mistletoe and Holly, music, Nat Cole, Nelson Riddle, Phil Spector, Ronettes, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Sleigh Ride, The Christmas Song, The Christmas Waltz, The Crystals, White Christmas, Winter Wonderland
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No. 1: Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song. What merits this as number one? Start with the fact that the title cut of the album is perhaps the most iconic recording of a secular Christmas song. Add in the fact that A) this is Nat “King” Cole, whose vocal talents just feel perfect for music to promote Yuletide cheer, and B) this is a Capitol Records album, produced at the time (1960, specifically) when the label included both Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as its stablemates and thus pretty much owned the mainstream popular music market in that era. But Cole mixes well the secular and religious songs, making fun, upbeat versions with some (e.g., “Deck the Halls” and “Hark! The Herald Angels”) and poignant versions with others (e.g., “O Tannenbaum” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem”), making for a compilation that spans the proper emotional gamut during this sentimental time of year.
The only irony is that it does not contain the best version of “The Christmas Song,” a tune that Cole himself would record officially at least three different times, but that is a discussion for another time.
No. 1a: A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra. Make no mistake about it, this album was cut in 1957, when Ol’ Blue Eyes was on top of his game, only a year or so removed from recording his two greatest albums ever (“Songs for Swinging Lovers” and “A Swingin’ Affair”). It shows in this album, too. Just as the previously mentioned album introduced me to Nat “King” Cole, so too did this particular album introduce me to Sinatra at a very early age.
Certain songs grab you in such a way that you remember where you were the first time you heard them. For me, it was Christmastime while I was in kindergarten when I first heard the opening track, “Jingle Bells,” on this album, and it stuck with me ever since. The song is so well-known as to be trite, but every once in a while, one hears a version that is so well-rendered as to rise above the triteness. This is one of those songs.
But if you are first grabbed by that opening track, you stay for “Mistletoe and Holly.” To this day, few have attempted to cover it because Sinatra did it so well the first time. But two additional tracks truly cement the album’s timelessness. Sammy Cahn’s “The Christmas Waltz” truly helps define the song collection, and no Christmas season is complete without enjoying this track a few times. Others have tried to duplicate Frank’s efforts with this song over the years, but each time, they keep coming up short.
The other track that seals the album’s greatness for all time is Sinatra’s definitive version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Sinatra truly captures the essence of the song itself, arguably outdoing the other definitive version by Judy Garland from 1944. Listening to this song proves to any discerning listener why Frank Sinatra was indeed the singing voice of the 20th Century.
The religious songs on the latter part of the album are not too shabby, either. Recent re-releases of the album include an alternative version of “The Christmas Waltz,” which is not quite as good as the official rendition, but it remains a good listen nonetheless (it being a Nelson Riddle arrangement, compared to the Gordon Jenkins arrangements that populate the rest of the track line-up).
No. 3: Phil Spector’s A Christmas Gift For You. One unique aspect of this album is that it does not center on one artist, but rather on several artists/groups that were the talent pool on Spector’s label at the time. The recording effect that defined the legendary producer’s records came to be known as the “Wall of Sound,” (a primer for those unfamiliar with this effect of recorded sound) and while that effect lifted many Spector-produced tracks to legendary status and made for a definitive element in some music from 1960s, one could argue that this effect was perfected on this very album. If that exceeds credibility in the minds of some readers, I invite them to listen to the last several bars of instrumentation of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by The Crystals: it’s vintage Phil Spector (this is not to mention that the song’s arrangement has been copied by many artists in the 50+ years since).
There is not a bad track in the line-up, and they include some of the most iconic versions of certain secular Christmas song. The Ronettes’ version of “Sleigh Ride”, for example, remains the definitive version of this song – in most circles – to this day, though ironically paced with a shuffle beat (one of the oldest rhythmic patterns in popular music). Bob B. Soxx’s rendition of “Here Comes Santa Claus” is a fresh take on that song, too. Indeed, there is a timeless “hipness” to these tracks, which is what makes the album so classic.
Of course, Darlene Love contributed the lion’s share of musical gems. Her version of “White Christmas” is the closest one to rival Bing Crosby’s eternally popular 1942 and 1947 versions. “Baby Please Come Home” has become an iconic song in its own right, and her multi-dubbed vocals on “Winter Wonderland” have made it arguably the best version of that winter-themed song to date. With such a strong line-up of recordings, it almost makes “Marshmallow World” get lost in the mix, but an attentive listen reveals that this track is the most underrated on the album. This is easily the greatest version anybody has made of the song, and the energy that Love puts into the vocals on this track are positively contagious. Moreover, if one focuses just on Love’s contributions to this song compilation, one cannot help but conclude that these make up the very cornerstone to her musical legacy.
Put all three albums together, and you have a solid trifecta of timeless Christmas music that has stood the test of time for more than five decades, which is all too fitting for a holiday season partially defined by timeless traditions.
The College Football Bowlgame Breakdown for 2014-2015 December 17, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: Air Force, Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, BC, Belk, Birmingham, Boca Raton, Boise State, Boston College, Bowl, Bulldogs, Butch Jones, Central Florida, Central Michigan, Chick-Fil-A, Clemson, college, Colorado State, Cotton, Dana Holgersen, Detroit, East Carolina, Fiesta, Florida, Florida Atlantic, Florida State, football, game, Gator, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Hawkeyes, Heart of Dallas, Idaho Potato, Illinois, Independence, Iowa, Lafayette, Las Vegas, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, LSU, MAC, Mark Dantonio, Marshall, Miami, Michigan State, N.C. State, NCAA, Nevada, New Orleans, Nick Saban, North Carolina, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Orange, Oregon, Owls, Peach, Pinstripe, Rams, Rose, Russell Athletic, Schnellenberger, South Carolina, St. Petersburg, state, Sugar, TaxSlayer, TCU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, UCF, Urban Meyer, Utah, Utes, Volunteers, Western Kentucky, Western Michigan
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Yes, folks, we are but a few short days away from looking LIVE at a bevy of bowl games. This plethora of postseason pigskin contests will span two weeks and change, and we will likely be satiated with college football, at least until the Spring games in April. So, here is a break-down of what not to miss, and a few that you’d like to miss, but will not be able to help yourselves just the same.
Ticket to die for: Oregon vs. Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Thurs., Jan. 1. Actually the real ticket to die for is the playoff championship game held a week later, but the semifinals must be played first to determine who plays then. Fair enough, you say, but what about Bama vs. the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl? That’s a good one, to be sure. But in the minds of most fans and commentators, the Ducks vs. the Seminoles seems to have just a slightly greater degree of sex appeal, that’s all.
Best non–Power Five vs. Power Five match–up: Utah vs. Colorado State in the Las Vegas Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20. For one, this might be the only worthwhile bowl game to watch on the first day of the post–season. For another, there are actually a few other decent match–ups to keep one’s eye on as said post–season unfolds, namely Illinois (wait, they’re in a bowl this year?) vs. Louisiana Tech in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and N.C. State vs. Central Florida in the St. Petersburg Bowl (wait, what happened to it being called the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl?), both on Fri., Dec. 26. Indeed, the latter line–up might be cause to reconsider who merits the “best” distinction. The reason I say that is, with the Rams’ coach having bolted to take the Florida job (who can blame him for taking such a prestigious post?), nobody knows what sort of team will show up to face the Utes.
Then again, this is the mystery that shrouds most bowl game line–ups.
Best non–Power Five match–up: Marshall vs. Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tues., Dec. 23. So Florida Atlantic is going to host a bowlgame? Apparently they’re good for something after all. Sorry, Owls, but things haven’t been the same since Coach Schnellenberger retired. The Huskies won the MAC decisively in Detroit, while Marshall has been a strong non–Power Five team all year long, notwithstanding almost coughing it up to the La. Tech Bulldogs recently.
Upset alert: Oklahoma vs. Clemson in the Russell Athletic Bowl, Mon., Dec. 29. This is the safest upset to predict because whereas the Tigers are ranked (No. 17), the Sooners are not, and Clemson’s postseason performance is unreliable, right, Dana Holgersen?
Must win: Ole Miss vs. TCU in the Peach Bowl, Wed., Dec. 31. The winner of this game will be the team that is the least disappointed to be there after having much higher aspirations during the regular season. A win here will also help them salvage some consolation from not having lived up to said aspirations.
Offensive explosion: Boise State vs. Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, Wed., Dec. 31. At least, this match-up has a good a chance as any to rack up some points. The Wildcats and the Broncos both have been fairly adept at that this season, after all. The bonus in this game is that there is great potential for snazzy colors in the team uniforms on both sides of the ball!
Defensive struggle: Boston College vs. Penn State in the Pinstripe Bowl, Sat., Dec. 27. Neither team really lit up the scoreboard this year, did they? Add cold weather on top of that (it will be played in Yankee Stadium, after all), and that is likely to put a further damper on offensive output.
Great game no one is talking about: Iowa vs. Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Fri., Jan. 2. This used to be called the Gator Bowl for the previous 67 years, fyi. What makes this game so good is that the Hawkeyes have been very quietly winning a critical mass of games this year, while the Volunteers are a year away under Coach Butch Jones before becoming really good. Translation: this is a closer match–up than most SEC fans would be willing to acknowledge.
Intriguing coaching match–up: Nick Saban of Alabama vs. Urban Meyer of Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl, Thurs., Jan. 1. This is a no–brainer. They’re arguably the two best coaches in the business, no what it takes to win, and both of multiple national championships under their belts. Moreover, the two have gone head–to–head before when Meyer was coaching at Florida. This oughtta be a good one, folks!
Who’s bringing the body bags? LSU vs. Notre Dame in the Music City Bowl, Tues., Dec. 30. The only way this game is remotely competitive is if the Tigers just lie down for most of the game, for the Irish have been exposed time and again as overrated frauds late this year.
Why are they playing? Florida vs. East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl, Sat., Jan. 3. The only reason in any known universe that these two programs would be playing each other in a bowl game is because the Gators are that far down as a program at the moment.
Plenty of good seats remaining: Western Michigan vs. Air Force in the Idaho Potato Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20. Nothing against Western Michigan and the fine year they have had (by MAC standards, at least). Nothing against Air Force, because they’re the troops. But still, it will be in frigid Boise, Idaho. Unless you’re going there to ski, why bother being anywhere near there this time of year?
They shoot horses, don’t they? Nevada vs. Louisiana–Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl, Sat., Dec. 20. Yes, I know, these past 13 years, the New Orleans Bowl has been the traditional kick-off game for the bowl season, but let us be honest: this strikes us as only a slightly better–than–average non–Power Five early season match–up. Do I lie?
That said, an honorable mention for pointless match–up is Toledo vs. Arkansas State in the GoDaddy Bowl (played in Mobile, Ala.) on Sun., Jan. 4.
Red–and–Black Special: Louisville vs. Georgia in the Belk Bowl, Tues., Dec. 30. These two teams seem too good for the Belk Bowl. Still, the bowl itself has managed to climb its way up the prestige ranks a bit over the course of a decade. It must be the sponsor: “Belk Bowl” has far better ring to it than “Continental Tires Bowl”. Yes, that’s what it used to be called. Honest!
Most exotic location: Central Michigan vs. Western Kentucky in the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl on Wed., Dec. 24. Do not adjust your screens, for you read that correctly. Yes, there is now a bowl game in the Bahamas (Nassau, specifically), an obvious “first”. Let’s hope the teams have the opportunity to enjoy things and live it up a bit.
Two great programs in a so–so bowl: Miami vs. South Carolina in the Independence Bowl, Sat., Dec. 27. Maybe after these two proud programs get down knocking heads, the bowl game will be a bit less so–so, and more reminiscent of recent times when the likes of LSU and Notre Dame slugged it out (1997) or when Mississippi State and then–Big XII rep Texas A&M duked it out in a blizzard (2000). It already has made us forget the less–than–memorable match–ups of the past few years.
The explosive offense meets the immovable defense: Baylor vs. Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, Thurs., Jan.1. Plus, there will be lots of green! Seriously, though, the Bears have put up scorching numbers on offense, but the big knock against them has constantly been, whom have they played this year? On the other hand, Michigan State has proven themselves to be a force with which to be reckoned after upsetting Stanford in the most recent Rose Bowl. Lesson learned: Mark Dantonio and the Spartans are not to be taken lightly.
Consolation game: Mississippi State vs. Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, Jan. 1. Similar The Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, if Mississippi State wins this, it will be because they overcame their disappointment of not making the Top 4 in the playoffs. With that said, when was the last time that the Bulldogs have made it to such a prestigious bowl game? Certainly not in my lifetime!
The “Troubled” Song from 80 Years Ago Still Has Energy Today. December 11, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Pop Culture.
Tags: Artie Shaw, big band, Big Joe Turner, Bix Beiderbecke, Bunny Berigan, Chords, clarinet, era, Frankie Trumbauer, Moonglows, Rattle, rock, Roll, saxophone, Sh-Boom, Shake, Sincerely, Swing, Tram, Troubled, trumpet
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Eighty years and three weeks ago, a very seminal recording was produced by a band that legends in music who were up-and-comers at the time.
Of the many interesting parallels between the start of the Swing Era and the start of the Rock n’ Roll Era, one that readily stands out is the 20-year gaps between the two. Rock’s era started in 1955, and most historians agree that Swing began in earnest in 1935. But just because those are when the genres’ eras began does not mean that those forms of music did not exist prior to then. Far from it. Indeed, anybody remotely schooled in popular music from the 1950s would readily recognize a plethora of recordings from 1954 that would rightly have their place in the era that started the following year. From “Sh-Boom” by the Chords to “Shake, Rattle and Roll” by Big Joe Turner and “Sincerely” by the Moonglows, records like these contributed greatly to the energy that led to Rock’s explosion in 1955, even though they all date from the year before.
Similarly, key records from 1934 contributed to the build-up that led to the unleashing of Swing’s energy onto the scene in 1935. One of the most important records, therefore, to come out of this year was “Troubled” by Frankie Trumbauer. “Tram,” as he was known, was a key contributor to the early era. His primary instrument was the C melody saxophone, a rarity unto itself, especially in the modern era of B-flat and E-flat saxes (tenor and alto, respectively). But he also cut records with legends, both current and soon-t0-be, from Bix Beiderbecke to Bunny Berigan.
The first few, haunting notes at the instrumental’s beginning establish the record’s key signature tone. After those notes, one experiences the establishment of a more upbeat tempo. One thing that makes the record unique is that it is both upbeat with a minor key — no doubt reflecting the song’s intriguing title — something more of the exception than the norm.
The real strength of the record is its powerful solos, the largest plurality of which comes from the trumpet of the great Bunny Berigan himself. His first brief solo teases the listener early in the tune, but Tram’s C-sax solos tide said listener over until he returns. His (Berigan’s) return solo more than satisfies, for it immediately grabs both the audience’s attention and imagination with its sizzle and flare. What one also comes to notice on the track are excellent clarinet solos, the keen talent thereof clearly shines. Upon learning that the clarinetist in question is none other than the King of the Clarinet himself, Artie Shaw, all is explained!
The song’s title may have been “Troubled”, but its melody certainly was not. Indeed, this important, seminal record foreshadowed the incredible, einmalig musical energy and genus that was soon to arrive, and soon to define an entire era of culture in America.
Nebraska fans are delusional. December 5, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: assistant, B1G, Big Ten, Big XII, Bo Pelini, coach, coaches, college, Cornhuskers, delusional, fans, football, Georgia, NCAA, Nebraska, SEC, Southeastern Conference, TCU, Texas, USC
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In case any reader has missed the news, Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini has been fired…for going 9-3. Most fan bases would be happy with their team having such a record. Of the fan bases that would not, most would at least tolerate it if they sensed that the program was still headed in the right direction. Of the few remaining fan bases that would not tolerate such a record, let us put them through a litmus test. Test Item A: are you an upper-tier program in the Southeastern Conference? Yes or no? If no, are you Florida State, Southern Cal, Oklahoma, Baylor, TCU or Texas? No? Then the problem is not with your coach, it’s with you.
Specifically, it is with “you” in two ways: first and foremost, it is with your school’s geography. Second, it is with your unreasonable expectations in this new era. This includes you, Nebraska, and I shall explain.
First, let us point out the obvious: gone are the days of Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne when the Cornhuskers were regularly competing for the national title. For, you might acknowledge, but why? The reason is simple. Thirty years ago, Nebraska was one of the relatively few teams that regularly got on TV. Therefore, if a prized high school football player was being recruited nationally, that recruit had a vested interest to play for a Notre Dame, Nebraska, Michigan or Penn State if he wanted to get national attention. All that changed when college football television coverage started to expand, as it did in earnest starting 15 years ago. All of a sudden, top-ranked recruits with options did not need to go to cold, isolated, academically-rigid schools in order to get on television regularly and earn their fame. Now, with a much-expanded list of school options, they quickly noticed that schools in the Sunbelt did not have the problems of snow drifts in winter, did not have the academic rigidity of most schools up north, and best of all, the co-eds were much prettier. You’re an 18-year old kid who can run a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, and can pick any school you want. Are you going to go to Lincoln, Nebraska, where it is cold, is isolated, and you have to deal with snowbanks for four months out of the year, or are you going to pick USC or Texas, where it’s 70 degrees in January, and the girls are [mostly] knock-outs? These days, it’s a no-brainer.
Second, Nebraska is not exactly the kind of state the produces its own in-state talent. States that do not are at a structural, geographic disadvantage from those that do. Usually, they have to go several states away to get the players they need, be it California, Texas, or even New Jersey. Now that Nebraska is out of the Big XII, their recruiting pipelines to Texas have been largely severed. Moreover, most 17 and 18-year old kids don’t even know who Tom Osborne is/was (heck, they were toddlers when he retired), let alone give a hoot about the tradition of Nebraska’s team, or even Notre Dame’s for that matter.
Given that the key to success in college football is talent acquisition, when you have a host of schools that can offer more to prize recruits than you can offer, that puts you at certain structural disadvantages. It is not anybody’s fault per se, but it speaks to the fact that the patterns of life in America themselves have changed. Sorry, but those are the breaks.
But that is not all. The other issue is finding good coaches themselves. It used to be, again, in the days of Daveney and Osborne, that being an assistant coach at Nebraska was a relatively plum job, as far as assistant coaching went. Not anymore. To be sure, the Cornhuskers do pay their coaches a bit better than more Big Ten schools (their offensive coordinator, Tim Beck, got a raise in January of 2013 from $365K to $700K), but that’s still chickenfeed compared to what most coaches make in the Southeastern Conference or even at, say, Texas.
Again, you’re a coach with options. You have a pretty wife and good-looking kids. Are you going to be able to persuade her to move with you to cold, isolated Lincoln, Neb., when you also have the option of taking her to Tucson to coach for the Arizona Wildcats, to Tempe to coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils, or to Austin to coach for the Texas Longhorns? It’s a surprisingly easy sell to persuade her to let you take an assistant job at TCU, since that plugs you into the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. If you take a coaching job at Georgia, that puts you within an hour-plus of Atlanta, and in Athens, Georgia, one of the most ‘happening’ college towns in America. So, wives of assistant coaches, what’s it going to be? Lincoln, or Tucson? South Bend, or Austin? Ames, Iowa, or Atlanta? State College, Pa., or Los Angeles? This, my friends, is the “game within the game” that nobody ever mentions, but plays a huge roll inmany a football program’s fortunes, especially in this day and age.
Given all that is working against the Husker Nation’s favor these days, Bo Pelini’s job of going 9-3 is, frankly, miraculous. This is to say nothing of the job he and his staff have done (remember the aforementioned challenges of putting together a good coaching stuff in the Corn State?) regarding player development, because keep in mind of the other aforementioned challenge of not having the pick of the recruiting litter anymore.
And yet he was fired, for a 9-3 record this year. Does the deluded fan base of Nebraska think they will be able to do any better than Pelini? If so, who? Granted, the man had a rather abrasive personality, and he could thus easily rub lots of people the wrong way. But behind closed doors, away from the cameras, all coaches can be at least occasionally abrasive. It goes with the territory. So I ask again, whom does Nebraska intend to find that will do a better job than Pelini? The reason I posit this question is, if the Huskers no longer have the first dibs on prize recruits, what makes them think they will be able to attract a prized head coach?
College Football Week 14 Awards November 30, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: Alabama, Arizona, Arizona State, Art Briles, Baylor, Bill Snyder, Bobby Petrino, Boise State, Brian Kelly, Cincinnati, Clemson, Colin Cowherd, Colorado, Dave Doeren, East Carolina, Florida, Florida State, Fresno State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Iowa State, Jim Mora, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Louisville, Mark Richt, Marshall, Mississippi State, Missouri, N.C. State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Ole Miss, Oregon, Paul Johnson, Rebels, Rice, Rich Rodriguez, SMU, South Carolina, South Florida, Stanford, Steve Spurrier, TCU, Temple, Tulane, UCF, UCLA, UConn, USC, Utah, Western Kentucky, Wisconsin
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Wish I were him: Rich Rodriquez, Arizona
Glad I’m not him: Steve Spurrier, South Carolina
Lucky guy: Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
Poor guy: Mark Richt, Georgia
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Bobby Petrino, Louisville
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Dave Doeren, N.C. State
Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Jim Mora, UCLA
Desperately seeking … anything: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Kansas State (defeated Kansas 51–13)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Utah (defeated Colorado 38–34)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Notre Dame (lost to USC 49–14)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kentucky (lost to Louisville 44–40)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: N.C. State (defeated North Carolina 35–7)
Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: South Florida
You know, they’re not so bad: Georgia Tech
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Mississippi State
Did the season start? South Carolina
Can the season end? Notre Dame
Can the season never end? Arizona
Play this again: No. 11 Arizona 42, No. 13 Arizona State 35
Play this again, too: No. 22 Louisville 44, Kentucky 40
Never play this again: Louisiana Tech 76, Rice 31
What? Western Kentucky 67, No. 24 Marshall 66,OT
Huh? No. 16 Georgia Tech 30, No. 9 Georgia 24
Are you kidding me? Stanford 31, No. 9 UCLA 10
Oh – my – God: No. 19 Ole Miss 31, No. 4 Mississippi State 17
(rankings are current AP (post-week 14, pre-week 15)
Ticket to die for: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 17 Missouri
Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: None
Best non-Power Five matchup: UCF @ East Carolina
Upset alert: No. 12 Kansas State @ No. 7 Baylor
Must win: No. 14 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Ohio State
Offensive explosion: No. 11 Arizona vs. No. 2 Oregon
Defensive struggle: Temple @ Tulane
Great game no one is talking about: Oklahoma State @ No. 20 Oklahoma
Intriguing coaching matchup: Bill Snyder of Kansas State vs. Art Briles of Baylor
Who’s bringing the body bags? Iowa State @ No. 5 TCU
Why are they playing? Fresno State @ No. 23 Boise State
Plenty of good seats remaining: SMU @ UConn
They shoot horses, don’t they? Houston @ Cincinnati
Week 14 Random Thoughts:
As Colin Cowherd so wisely predicted, the landscape of college football has been seriously altered after this, the rivalry week. Start with Ohio State losing their second quarterback to injury. Already on the outside looking in to the playoff picture, at No. 6 and with a third–string QB, it is unlikely they will have the credibility to be let into the top four of the playoff, even if they beat a coming–on–strong Wisconsin.
South Carolina was already a team that we know what they were this month: a team that blows 4th-quarter leads (notwithstanding beating Florida at game’s end a couple of weeks ago). Such a tendency has already ruined their season. Such ruination was given an exclamation point when they laid down and died to in–state rival Clemson. “I the guys, 6–6 might be what we are,” he sighed in the post–game press conference. Let us hope this is not the last we have seen of the Ol’ Ball Coach, and that he has an opportunity to go out on a high note (along with a better record) next season.
Of course, nothing has altered the current college football picture like Mississippi State losing ignominiously to their arch–rival Ole Miss. All they had to do was beat the Rebels –– a tall order, to be sure –– and they would likely have secured a coveted spot into the top four playoff picture. Not anymore, in all likelihood, and more the pity.
Meanwhile, chippy UCLA had a golden opportunity –– wink –– to play for the Pac–12 title as the south division representative against Oregon. All that was before they dropped the ball to an apparently resurgent Stanford, thus giving the south division championship berth to Arizona instead. Hello, offensive explosion!
My prognostication for the final four playoffs? Alabama, Oregon, Florida State, and TCU –– if these shadows remain unchanged, which, at this rate, they will not.
College Football Week 12 Awards November 18, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports.
Tags: Al Golden, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Bo Pelini, Bobby Petrino, Bret Bielema, Brian Kelly, BYU, Cardinals, Central Michigan, Charleston Southern, college, Curtis Johnson, Eastern Michigan, FIU, Florida, Florida International, Florida State, football, Gary Pinkel, Georgia, Iowa, Jerry Kill, Jimbo Fisher, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, LSU, Miami (Fla.), Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, NCAA, Nebraksa, North Carolina, North Texas, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Pat Fitzgerald, Purdue, Savanna State, South Alabama, South Carolina, TCU, Tennessee, Tulane, UCLA, USC, Western Carolina, Western Michigan, Wisconsin
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Wish I were him: Bret Bielema, LSU
Glad I’m not him: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame
Lucky guy: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Poor guy: Al Golden, Miami
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Gary Pinkel, Missouri
Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Bo Pelini, Nebraska
Desperately seeking … anything: Curtis Johnson, Tulane
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: Tennessee (beat Kentucky 50-16)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: TCU (defeated Kansas 34-30)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kentucky (lost to Tennessee 50-16)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Kansas (lost to No. 4 TCU 34-20)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Wisconsin (defeated No. 16 Nebraska 59-24)
Dang, they’re good: Alabama
Dang, they’re bad: Tulane
You know, they’re not so bad: Iowa
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Arizona State
Did the season start? Notre Dame
Can the season end? Eastern Michigan
Can the season never end? Wisconsin
Play this again: Northwestern 43, No. 18 Notre Dame 40
Play this again, too: South Carolina 23, Florida 20
Never play this again: Western Michigan 51, Eastern Michigan 7
What? No. 5 Alabama 25, No. 1 Mississippi State 20
Huh? No. 15 Georgia 34, No. 9 Auburn 7
Are you kidding me? No. 20 Wisconsin 59, No. 16 Nebraska 24
Oh – my – God: Northwestern 43, No. 18 Notre Dame 40
Told you so: Arkansas 17, No. 17 LSU 0
(rankings are current AP (post-week 12, pre-week 13)
Ticket to die for: USC @ No. 11 UCLA
Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: South Alabama @ South Carolina
Best non-Power Five matchup: Western Michigan @ Central Michigan
Upset alert: Louisville @ No. 18 Notre Dame
Must win: South Carolina @ Florida
Offensive explosion: North Carolina @ No. 21 Duke
Defensive struggle: No. 10 Ole Miss @ Arkansas
Great game no one is talking about: Northwestern @ Purdue
Intriguing coaching matchup: Jerry Kill of Minnesota vs. Bo Pelini of Nebraska (also: Bobby Petrino of Louisville vs Brian Kelly of Notre Dame)
Who’s bringing the body bags? Charleston Southern @ No. 15 Georgia
Why are they playing? Western Carolina @ Alabama
Plenty of good seats remaining: Florida International @ North Texas
They shoot horses, don’t they? Savanna State @ BYU
Week 12 Random Thoughts:
- Forget Notre Dame being overrated. They are frauds. Allowing Purdue to be competitive against them early in the season was one thing. Struggling against mediocre North Carolina and Navy teams raised an eyebrow or two. Getting embarrassed in the desert completely exposed the flaws in the façade. But losing at home to one of the worst Northwestern teams in Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure? Inexcusable, whether you are an Irish fan or foe. Look for Bobby Petrino and his Louisville Cardinals to come into South Bend and make like hard for ND.
College Football Awards Week 11 November 11, 2014Posted by intellectualgridiron in Sports, Uncategorized.
Tags: Alabama, Arizona State, Arkansas, Auburn, BC, Bill Snyder, Boston College, Brian Kelly, Buffalo, Butch Jones, Cards, Cincinnati, Clemson, college, Crimson Tide, Doc Holliday, Duke, East Carolina, Florida, football, Gary Patterson, Georgia, Georgia Southern, Gus Malzahn, Horned Frogs, Houston, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Irish, Kansas, Kansas State, Kentucky, Kevin Sumlin, Kirk Ferentz, KSU, Louisville, LSU, Mark Dantonio, Mark Stoops, Marshall, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Navy, NCAA, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Ole Miss, Pat Fitzgerald, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Presbyterian, SEC, South Carolina, Southern Miss, Sun Devils, TCU, Temple, Tennessee, Texas, Texas A&M, Tigers, Todd Graham, Tony Levine, Troy, Urban Meyer, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wildcats
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Wish I were him: Todd Graham, Arizona State
Glad I’m not him: Mark Dantonio, Michigan State (hon. mention: Brian Kelly, Notre Dame)
Lucky guy: Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M
Poor guy: Gus Malzahn, Auburn
Desperately seeking a wake-up call: Tony Levine, Houston
Desperately seeking a P.R. man: Doc Holliday, Marshall
Desperately seeking sunglasses and a fake beard: Kirk Ferentz, Iowa
Desperately seeking … anything: Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Thought you’d kick butt, you did: No. 11 Ole Miss (defeated Presbyterian 48-0)
Thought you’d kick butt, you didn’t: Penn State (defeated Indiana 13-7)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you did: Kentucky (lost to No. 20 Georgia 63-31)
Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t: Wake Forest (lost to No. 21 Clemson 34-20)
Thought you wouldn’t kick butt, you did: Marshall (defeated Southern Miss 63-17)
Dang, they’re good: TCU
Dang, they’re bad: Iowa State
You know, they’re not so bad: Louisville
Can’t Stand Prosperity: Michigan State
Did the season start? West Virginia
Can the season end? Buffalo
Can the season never end? Ohio State
Play this again: No. 3 Auburn 35, No. 3 Ole Miss 31
Play this again, too: No. 24 Duke 51, Pittsburgh 48
Never play this again: Marshall 63, Southern Miss 17
What? Texas 33, No. 23 West Virginia 16
Huh? No. 9 Arizona State 55, No. 10 Notre Dame 31
Are you kidding me? No. 14 Ohio State 49, No. 8 Michigan State 37
Oh – my – God: Texas A&M 41, No. 3 Auburn 38
(rankings are current AP (post-week 11, pre-week 12)
Ticket to die for: No. 1 Mississippi State @ No. 5 Alabama
Best non-Power Five vs. Power Five matchup: Temple @ Penn State
Best non-Power Five matchup: East Carolina @ Cincinnati
Upset alert: No. 16 LSU @ Arkansas
Must win: South Carolina @ Florida
Offensive explosion: Missouri @ Texas A&M
Defensive struggle: Virginia Tech @ No. 22 Duke
Great game no one is talking about: No. 14 Ohio State @ Minnesota
Intriguing coaching matchup: Mark Stoops of Kentucky vs. Butch Jones of Tennessee
Who’s bringing the body bags? No. 6 TCU @ Kansas
Why are they playing? Georgia Southern @ Navy
Plenty of good seats remaining: Troy @ Idaho
They shoot horses, don’t they? No. 12 Michigan State @ Maryland
Week 11 Random Thoughts:
- So many good games took place from 19:00 or later on the 8th of November. Start with Louisville at Boston College, which should not have been interesting on paper, but was, unfortunately, due to the Cardinals’ inability to get it together for the first half (they did in the second). Then again, the Cards have always had their troubles with BC! But then came TCU vs. Kansas State. Bill Snyder has put together an excellent team for this year, and the Wildcats being well-coached shows on the field (especially against Auburn early on in the season). But even a good time like KSU was no match for Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs, who are making every statement they can in order to vie for the playoffs.
Or, look at Ohio State vs. Michigan State. After the Buckeyes laid an egg at home to a mediocre Virginia Tech squad, everybody was skeptical as to how good a team they truly were. Leave it to Urban Meyer to coach his talented bunch up to be more than a match for Mark Dantonio’s Spartans.
But it turned out the most important game, and the one with the biggest national title implications was the Alabama-LSU game. In typical fashion, it was a defensive struggle, and just to make things even more exciting / to heighten the already high degree of urgency even further, the game went into overtime. The Crimson Tide still have a brutal slate of games ahead, but their win is certain a step in the right direction for them
- As I have noted before, Notre Dame is overrated. To be sure, I also noted (in other article) that they are enigmatic. But the overrated question mark remained; lurking, hidden, just waiting for the right opportunity to emerge. Thanks be to Todd Graham and the Arizona State Sun Devils to confirm that which us skeptics felt all along. After all, to have the Irish be among the final four, thus displacing a far-more deserving second SEC team in the process, would have been a travesty beyond words: a travesty, thankfully, that will be pre-empted before it even began.