Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Little brother knocked big brother out cold

It took a half dozen years to do it, but the Michigan State Spartans finally beat the (once) mighty Michigan Wolverines. It took 18 years to do that at Michigan Stadium. The score: MSU 35, UM 21.

The score wasn't even that close. Michigan got a free touchdown from the replay official. There is no doubt that the controversial pylon play was not a TD and Jim Delany, Big Ten Commish and UM grad, said as much. MSU also missed 3 field goal opportunities.

Javon Ringer hung 194 yards on your pourous defense and scored 2 TDs. A former walk-on receiver, Blair White, had 4 catches for 143 yards, including a 61 yard TD. A former walk-on...

MSU didn't get any help from clock operators or uncalled penalties. This game was a drubbing, an old-fashioned ass-whoopin'.

Wolverines fans have already tried to downplay their loss, claiming MSU was lucky to catch UM in a "rebuilding year." I won't even waste my time highlighting all the raw talent on UM's team. Lets just say that if coaches around the country could take entire rosters and had to chose between UM's and MSU's, they'd probably pick UM's.

The "it's a rebuilding year" excuse is lame. It's loser talk. MSU has been perpetually "rebuilding" since Duffy Daugherty last walked the sidelines. In fact, they've been rebuilding my entire life! If we need to discount victories during the opponent's "rebuilding years," UM's last 31 victories over MSU have to be tossed out the window.

I couldn't be more happy for the Spartans. Wolverines, your program is terrible this year. Don't look for sympathy from me. Since your favorite son, Mike Hart, made his "little brother" comments about MSU last year, your team is 3 and 8. Mark Dantonio tried to warn you: pride comes before the fall.

Take heart: you'll be back. If MSU takes care of business, maybe this will remain a competitive rivalry.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The death of the adverb

It seems that no matter what the media, I daily read or hear people who have no idea what an adverb is or how to use it. I really should start keeping track of the numerous examples I see of this on the internet. I follow local sports somewhat closely, and sports fans, writers and talk show hosts seem to be the worst offenders. Surprisingly, many of these folks have college degrees or at least some college under their belts.

Day after day, I read or hear something like these:
  • The receiver ran the route perfect!
  • He gets down the field quick.
  • Drive safe.
  • He did that nice.
How can they not possibly know that those adverbs should be "perfectly," "quickly," "safely," and "nicely"? Any middle schooler has learned this stuff.

Similarly, people do not seem to know when to correctly use "good" instead of "well" and vice versa. "I like your picture. You did real good." No, he or she did real well.

I have no idea why I'm ranting about this. But the slow destruction of the English language is driving me to my grave quick...err I mean quickly.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Michigan State University: THE university of Michigan

It's rivalry week. MSU vs. UM. Trot out all the cliches: backyard brawl; civil war; brother against brother. Blah blah blah.

The Spartans roll into Michigan Stadium favored by 5.5 after both teams were completely blown off the field last Saturday. MSU is still in Big Ten title contention, though they have to get lucky to share the title this year. MSU needs one more win in the next five games to guarantee a bowl trip. A win Saturday keeps their hopes alive for a New Year's Day bowl.

UM, for the first time in my lifetime, is playing just to get to .500. If they win the rest of their games -- which isn't going to happen -- they can go 7-5. The Wolverines are not used to be in that position. With a conference title completely out of the question and a bowl berth not very likely, UM can play spoiler to the Spartans. A win Saturday earns them a bit of least temporarily.

As bad as Michigan is this year, I think they could shock the Spartans. MSU hasn't beaten UM since 2001 and hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1990. I don't put much stock in history. Different coaches. Different players. Different circumstances. Mentally, though, the Spartans have to forget that the last time an MSU team beat UM on the road, most of these Spartans were in diapers.

State should and probably will win this game. The Spartans want this one badly. Mark Dantonio hates UM and emphasizes this game as maybe the most important single game on the schedule. The kids should be ready to play. The Wolverines are a lousy team this year -- I say that not as a put down or insult but as a statement of fact. This is MSU's opportunity to beat a team that has been better than them almost every year in the last 40 years (with some notable but few exceptions.)

My pick: MSU 31, UM 24.

Go Green! Go White! Beat the Wolverines!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Not yet ready for the big time

The Ohio State Buckeyes blew the Michigan State Spartans off the field today. Sadly, this game was over before the end of the first quarter. MSU was maybe the better team in the 3rd quarter, but they were too far in a hole by then.

MSU's future looks bright. But today's game was supposed to be their opportunity to show that the future is now. A win would have probably meant that the Spartans would have a special season. Now we have to wonder whether they can return to form and find ways to win the remaining games.

The Spartans take on the hated Wolverines next Saturday. Michigan is a talented team that is playing lousy football and which has some mental problems. It's a game State should win. But will the embarrassing loss to OSU linger? MSU hasn't beaten Michigan since 2001 and hasn't won at the big hole in the ground (Michigan Stadium) since 1990. Can they get over that hurdle? Can they break those ugly streaks?

What they do Saturday will show us how much they have improved over last season. Last year was a lot of fun. But if this program wants to develop into a championship-caliber program, 8 wins this season should be the minimal expectation, especially now the Spartans already have 6 wins under their belt. C'mon, boys, beat the Wolverines. Show 'em that Spartans football is back and that today's game was just a bump in the road.

More about the MSU-UM game in the coming days...

Go State!

Beat Michigan!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ringo goes barmy

Having heard the flap created over this video message to his fans, I have to say that Ringo's behavior seems more odd after having viewed it. There is no doubt that Ringo could have found a better way to express what he said. "Peace and love, peace and love..." seems all so insincere in this video.

Nevertheless, Ringo owes the fans nothing beyond what he has given over decades! George Harrison had a great quote in the Anthology about what it was like to be a Beatle: "They (the fans) gave their money and they gave their screams,but the Beatles gave their nervous systems. They used us as an excuse to go mad, the world did, and then blamed it on us."

When they were at the height of their popularity, the Beatles faced death threats, could go nowhere in public without being mobbed. A "diplomat" at the British Embassy in America once snipped off -- without permission -- a lock of Ringo's hair while at a party. George was punched in the face once because Pete Best was replaced by Ringo. Oddballs used to bring handicapped people backstage at Beatles shows, and were asked to touch them as if they had healing power (at least that's how the Beatles saw it.) Worst of all, John was shot to death and George almost stabbed to death by so-called "fans." They gave the world the best rock n' roll that ever has been or ever will be made. I don't think they owe us a thing more.

Ringo has probably tired of signing items for collectibles dealers/traders.

Cheers to Ringo. Go live your golden years as you see fit.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Spartans! Prepare for glory!

My MSU Spartans take on the Ohio State Buckeyes this Saturday in East Lansing. These two hard-hitting, run-first teams will line up and punch each other in the mouths. MSU coach Mark Dantonio looks to best his former boss and mentor, Jim Tressel. A slew of MSU kids from Ohio -- Javon Ringer, Brian Hoyer, Justin Kershaw, Greg Jones and B.J. Cunningham, to name a few -- no doubt want to prove something against the football power in the home state.

For the first time in years, the 6-1 Spartans look like they actually deserve to be ranked. This will be a tough game, one they aren't expected to win, but the Spartans will play well, maybe even upset the more talented Buckeyes. They certainly have the mental and physical toughness to make OSU pay for every point they get.

I'm pretty excited about this game. After years of horrible football in East Lansing, a lot of credibility has returned. The coaches know what they are doing. The players give maximum effort on every play. They also play pretty smartly.

On paper, Ohio State has more talent, but they've shown some weaknesses over the last few weeks. They are certainly beatable.

If I had to bet straight up, I would take the Spartans in a close upset. The game really could go either way. Win or lose, this is a different Spartans team. I am proud of they way they play and represent the University.

Go State! Michigan State, I mean.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Godspeed to the sound of the pounding

Oasis's 7th studio album, Dig Out Your Soul, is out and it's great. Though Oasis left behind so-called Brit-Pop nearly a decade ago, DOYS is even further removed from the sounds that made Oasis the biggest band in the world in the mid to late 90's.

This is a heavy guitar rock album with lots of feedback and electronic noodling. If you think of music as a wall -- thanks Mr. Spector -- Oasis has built a monster of brick and mortar, the brick heavy, crunchy guitars, the mortar slapped on electronic effects and reverb. But it's straight-forward rock. No games. No gimmicks. Just rock and roll.

Noticeably absent from this Oasis work is any sort of anthem a la "All Around The World." As has been the trend on Oasis albums of the new millenium, Beatle-isms -- blatant Fab Four rip offs -- are rare. Don't Believe The Truth had "A Bell Will Ring," which was a purposeful attempt to recreate the sounds on Revolver. There's nothing like that on DOYS. The closest they come to nicking from the Beatles is the (fabulous) outro to "The Turning," a near carbon copy of the guitar intro to "Dear Prudence."

Tired of stealing from the greats -- or perhaps having left no classic song un-pinched -- Oasis has borrowed bits and pieces from their own catalog. To their credit, most of the re-treading has been quite subtle and probably only noticeable to people that pay close attention to their the "deep cuts." With each album, Oasis continues to expand on its own sound. Fourteen years after their debut album, they sound like...well...Oasis. If you doubt this, pick up a Jet album and look for all the bits and pieces they've swiped from the Gallaghers (and others.)

DOYS opens with "Bag It Up," a medium tempo grungy bit with a stomping back beat. It has the energy to kick open the door to the album.

"The Turning" is equal parts "I Can See a Liar" and "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" from Standing On The Shoulder of Giants, though stronger lyrically than either of those two numbers. It's one of many big guitar songs and the first of two songs about "the rapture." I wonder if Noel has some interest in the Christian notion of "rapture" or if the word simply appealed to him. The outro, as mentioned, is great. It's a 90 degree turn from the body of the song, reminscent of "Cry Baby Cry" ending with McCartney's "Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back...?"

Noel sings "Waiting for the Rapture," which, on first listen, I almost mistook for The Doors' "Five to One." Here, Noel dreams of a girl that has come to save him from "the rapture," or, perhaps, he is saving her from it. Probably meaningless.

"Shock of the Ligtning" is the most obvious "hit," a big guitar, three chord sock in the nose. Liam's on top of his game vocally, a great counter-point to the rather repetitive guitar riffs. It has a pinch of "Hindu Times" (from Heathen Chemistry) flavor. Shock is as good of a rock song as Oasis has put out in years. The best line in the song: "So godspeed to the sound of the pounding." Mega!

If you're familiar with "Let's All Make Believe," you'll get the vibe of "I'm Outta Time." This is the more intelligent, less cliche child of "Stop Crying Your Heart Out." It's something of a power ballad, the only truly "poppy" song on the album. For the first time since "Song Bird," Liam actually sings! He sounds great, too. The last few albums have hinted at the toll years of smoking and drinking were taking on his voice. On Outta Time, he sings falsetto like a castrato. (OK, maybe not quite that high.) EDIT: I originally overlooked that Liam wrote this song. Very nice work. It excuses the weaknesses in "Ain't Got Nothin' on Me." See below.

The second it starts, you'll be tempted to sing, "Ev'rybody's talking about Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism..." as (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady opens with that familiar stomp-and-clap. Noel takes the vocals on a tune that just feels like it would fit well somewhere on Ram or McCartney. Unfortunately, Noel's vocals are run through a garbage mic or with a bit of reverb. Whatever the effect, it sounds like he's singing into a tin can. Still, the song has a nice little groove to it.

"Falling Down," another Noel-sung bit, is driven by bass, drums and strings. Underneath that, listen to the sweet little guitar hook. Songs like this are reminders of what a good singer Noel can be. There are a lot of little things going on in this song. I'm tempted to say "Falling Down" has bits of "Roll It Over" and "Who Feels Love," but that would be misleading. It's something of a new sound for Oasis.

"To Be Where There's Life" opens with sitar and funky bass riffs. Imagine a trip-hop tune with vocals by Liam and some psychadelic mists swirling around it all. It might be Oasis's biggest departure from their more classic sound. One might call it "experimental," but that's too cliche and a perhaps a slight exaggeration. Different (for Oasis) certainly works.

"Ain't Got Nothin' On Me" is a Liam-penned song and very obviously so. Even with a few years songwriting practice under his belt, Liam would do us all a service by leaving the song writing to his big brother. This is one of the songs that leaked last spring. Noel's "I Wanna Live A Dream (In My Record Machine)," which was leaked at the same time, should've made the album in its place. It's the worst song on the album but, yet, not horrible by any stretch.

"The Nature of Reality," Andy Bell's contribution, is feedback laden. It's a bastard child of "Helter Skelter" as done by the likes of U2 and Oasis themselves. It's a heavy hitter, with in-your-face guitars, big, banging drums, and pseudo-spiritual lyrics.

Liam's other song, "Soldier On," is better than Ain't Got Nothin'. The intro sounds almost exactly like "Who Feels Love," and Liam's vocals sound trippy. It's a three chord song. To his credit, Liam's vocals do most of the work.

In all, this is a pretty impressive album. As much as bits and pieces are familar, Dig Out Your Soul is its own work. It pays homage to the band's more recent past without repeating those mistakes. It's new and fresh(which should be expected after a 3 plus year break since Don't Believe The Truth.) Oasis have proved, once again, that they are a high octane rock band, British cousins of great guitar rock groups like the Black Crowes. Two thumbs up. Five stars. Run, don't walk, to your nearest music retailer to pick up this one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Resurrection Mary

One of my favorite ghost stories is about Chicago's Resurrection Mary. Hers is a fascinating story. I definitely believe in supernatural encounters, but I don't believe in ghosts in the sense of spirits of the dearly departed being trapped on earth. Regardless of whether any of this is true, it's a great story.

I first heard the story while watching Unsolved Mysteries back in the early '90's. I told the story to some friends while we were camping and I freaked everyone out. I still get goosebumps watching the video. Check it out.