Steelers Thoughts #3 (7/30/14): Are we there yet?

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Steelers Training Camp is officially underway in beautiful Latrobe, PA, though today is an off day for the team. Yesterday, the boys practiced in pads for the first time this year, and, though Mike Tomlin has in his press briefings kept things in strict perspective and been typically (and, I might add, properly) circumspect about praising anybody, there is nevertheless lots to talk about, both on and off the field. The air is thick with possibility, which, of course, is so much fuel to the fires of speculation. Soon enough, they’ll be raging, but I’ll do my best to keep this piece comparatively breezy in feel. There is, of course, absolutely no news to be found here, but this is just too fun a time of year for fans for it to go wholly unremarked upon. So, without further ado, my quick takes on some recent Steeler headlines, plus other tidbits. Mmmm…training camp! Continue reading “Steelers Thoughts #3 (7/30/14): Are we there yet?”

Concert review: Clutch

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also appearing: All That Remains                                                                                                Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, Columbus, Ohio – July 26, 2014

Clutch gets it. Clutch knows what rock & roll is, what it has been, what it’s supposed to be. They are a breath of pure, bracing oxygen in a smoggy, dire musical landscape. Whenever I hear internet denizens grumbling about the latest rap, folk or foundational country act elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, part of me is very sympathetic, no matter how much my musical palette might have expanded in the years since it was first forged. The music I love most dearly has always been Rock & Roll (capital R, capital R, for emphasis), which is to say the distorted, amplified blues of The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and Cream, the tasty licks and unshakeable groove of AC/DC and ZZ Top, the crowd-pleasing bombast of Queen and Kiss and Van Halen, the intensity of Hendrix and The Who, or the blue collar impact of Springsteen and Bob Seger and The Ramones. Continue reading “Concert review: Clutch”

Concert/Movie review: “Monty Python Live (Mostly)” (2014)

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O2 Arena, London, England – July 20, 2014

The pioneering British comedy troupe Monty Python effectively ceased operations as a creative entity in 1983 with the release of their provocative and underappreciated cinematic swan song, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Through the years of radio silence that followed, fans clamored for any sort of reconstitution they could get, and the lack of a grand retirement announcement, plus the fact that members kept popping up in one another’s projects*, continued to stoke faint hope that the Pythons might reunite. Graham Chapman’s death in 1989 should have closed that book definitively, but the thirty+ years since 1983 have been thick with retrospectives and articles, documentaries and oral histories, all of which painted the original partnership as rewarding but fraught, occasionally extremely difficult, and their salad days as something certainly worth remembering but not really worth revisiting.** Continue reading “Concert/Movie review: “Monty Python Live (Mostly)” (2014)”

The Top Ten (+5): “Weird Al” Yankovic song parodies

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Obligatory disclaimer: What follows is my latest list of highly specific things I like, presented in the order I like them. This list makes no allowances for anyone’s taste but my own, nor for colossal, head-slappingly obvious omissions, of which, I’m sure, there are many. It’s pretty much as complete as it’s ever gonna get. By reading further, you absolve me, the author, from any liability related to your potentially scarred psyche – permanently furrowed brows, heart palpitations, etc. Feedback on your own favorites, or what I got wrong or right (or wrong), is both welcome and encouraged.  

My appreciation for “Weird Al” Yankovic has spanned 30 years now, and was built and cultivated authentically, from the ground floor up. “Eat It”, his sterling Michael Jackson parody, is one of the first pop songs I ever remember hearing (it was track 1/side 1 on a mix tape my cousin and I wore out over the course of a summer weekend), and the album it’s from, 1984’s Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D, was the second album I ever bought. In 3-D has the further distinction of being the only comedy-tinged album to sit among my 20 or 30 all-time favorites (alongside Rush and Iron Maiden, Alice in Chains and Tori Amos, AC/DC and Nirvana, The Police and Pantera). It and he are just that good, the latter a truth lost on so many people who might seek to discount or dismiss his prodigious musical output just because it’s so especially, sublimely silly. Continue reading “The Top Ten (+5): “Weird Al” Yankovic song parodies”

Evasion of the Body Snatcher: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez SD12 Erislandy Lara

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Watching Saul “Canelo” Alvarez doggedly pursue Erislandy Lara around the MGM Grand Garden ring tonight, I could not help but reflect there are some things that, as a boxing fan, you just innately know.

If indeed the axiom that “styles make fights” holds, then a matchup between two brawlers – say the late Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward – is going to produce a solid matchup regardless of the eventual winner. The same is generally true for the classic puncher vs. counterpuncher fight – think Manny Pacquiao vs. Juan Manuel Marquez. These are not deep thoughts. The two pairings I just used as shorthand examples produced a total of seven fights for a reason. Far trickier is the standard boxer vs. puncher fight. Continue reading “Evasion of the Body Snatcher: Saul “Canelo” Alvarez SD12 Erislandy Lara”

Movie review: “Team America: World Police” (2004)

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“You walked out, Gary. The team went on a mission without you, and, without an actor, they were like pigs to the slaughter! I’m supposed to leave the fate of the world in your hands?!”

Film animation is the great enabler. Untether any movie from the bonds of the “real world” and suddenly its creative possibilities increase tenfold, provided, of course, that the audience buys into the process and accepts the change of venue. Among animation styles, almost every one of which – Disney’s traditional cel, or Pixar’s computer, Nick Park’s Claymation, or Henry Selick’s stop motion craftsmanship – has credibly created rich alternate universes on screen, marionette puppetry is surely among the least used and therefore most novel. There are numerous practical reasons for this, namely the insane amount of work necessary to make marionettes look or behave with the least bit of realism. Continue reading “Movie review: “Team America: World Police” (2004)”

Concert review: The Dave Matthews Band

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First Niagara Pavilion, Burgettstown, Pennsylvania – June 28, 2014

2014 marks my twentieth year as a fan of The Dave Matthews Band, and almost every year of that twenty, I’ve had the good fortune to see the band live at least once. DMB has, in that time, assumed the mantle of a true successor to The Grateful Dead as the sort of critically marginalized but super-successful live draw that inspires a peculiar strain of fanatical devotion from a surprising cross section of (not necessarily but often) young people. They follow the band around the country, reveling in the live experience like no other fan base I know, collecting live recordings both in person and secondhand, memorizing absolutely everything and obsessing over minutiae with their fellow afflicted. Comparatively, my own affliction is mild. Continue reading “Concert review: The Dave Matthews Band”