Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Random Notes from a Crank

I haven't watched Triumph the Insult Comic Dog's show on Hulu. In fact, I didn't know he had a show. But here's a clip from the show where he tackles political correctness, trigger warnings, and other issues at the University of New Hampshire. If you're interested, check out "Watch Triumph the Insult Comic Dog Slam Politically Correct Youth Voters." It's like he's channeling George Carlin but has taken it up a notch. 

Well, Trump and Sanders won the New Hampshire primaries. It sounds like the GOP establishment is worried because Trump and Cruz are doing well. However, if you take the percentages Kasich, Bush, and Rubio garnered in NH, that number would rival Trump's percentage. I doubt Kasich will do well in South Carolina because he's not nasty enough. SC is used to Lee Atwater style campaigning. And apparently South Carolinians love the Bushes. In that last debate Rubio looked like a stooge. If you're a Republican, you can't have a lot of confidence in Rubio right now. 

As for the Democrats, Sanders kicked Clinton's ass, especially among young people and people of more modest means. People have dismissed Sanders for quite a while, so we'll see what happens in Nevada and South Carolina. The article I was reading last night noted that there hasn't been a poll done in those states for a good while, possibly before the Iowa caucus. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Music Friday: "Silicon Valley" & "The Season/Carry Me"

I am a dedicated viewer of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

His program provides an eclectic array of musicians to close out his shows. 

Of all of the performances so far, the recent one by Anderson .Paak was quite the deal. I don't have any music by this guy, but I may have to get Malibu soon. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Music Friday: "Human Nature"

I'm back to having a subscription to The New Yorker, and I read an article in the most recent issue about Vijay Iyer, the jazz pianist. 

I don't have any of his albums yet, but I have heard of him, and I'm told he's majorly talented. 

Here's "Human Nature" by the Vijay Iyer Trio

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Random Notes from a Crank

The other day I roasted a head of garlic because as cooking ingredients go, it's nice to have some roasted garlic around the kitchen. Having to blow your nose is much more pleasant when your fingers smell like roasted garlic.

As I've related before on this blog, Denmark is kicking ass with generating electricity via wind turbines. 42% is impressive

If you've ever wondered, "Why Aren't There More Black Republicans?," mash the hyperlink. 

"Bigwigs Have Big Ideas for Cutting Food Waste" informs readers about an initiative by some heavy hitters to reduce wood waste and in turn greenhouse gas emissions. 

"It's like [choosing between] being shot or poisoned." That's how Graham sums up choosing between Trump or Cruz for the GOP nominee in "National Review Aims to Take Down Trump." 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Music Friday: "A Boy Named Sue"

Here's a classic that almost always makes me smile. 

Have a good weekend, folks. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Music Friday: "I Can't Think About It Now"

Dawes' All Your Favorite Bands came in at number seven on my "Top Twentysomething Albums of 2015" post. 

Here's one of my favorite tunes from the album. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Scouting the 2016 Crimson Tide

The national championship was Monday, and Mark Schlabach's already has his "Way-Too-Early Top 25." He has Alabama at number 2, but I don't know about that ranking. The Crimson Tide will lose many key players. 

Here's a my modest breakdown of the position groups for next year's squad.

With Coker departing, that leaves three, possibly four if you include a freshman already on campus Jalen Hurts, vying for the starting spot. Since Bateman started the Ole Miss game, you would think he has a grasp on the job, but the coaching staff is apparently really high on Blake Barnett. Cornwell is supposed to be really talented, but there have been rumors about attitude issues. 

Running Back
It's safe to assume Henry will be go in the draft, and Drake, unfortunately, is a senior. The Tide will replace those two with players who will be sophomores next season: Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris. Scarbrough reminds me a lot of Henry though I think he runs with a lower pad level. Harris is a highly regarded running back out of Kentucky. Ronnie Clark could get a shot too. 

Offensive Line
The right tackle who had a tough game against Clemson will depart along with a great center Ryan Kelly. Cam Robinson will remain at left tackle, Pierschbacher will likely man left guard, and Shank Taylor will likely return at right guard. We could see Hassenauer take over at the center position, and there are all kinds of possibilities at right tackle: Bozeman, Cotton, Warmack, Casher, et al. 

Wide Receiver
This is probably the strongest position group. Robert Foster will come back from injury, and he was one of the starters at the beginning of the season. Ridley, the guy who became the focal point of the receiving corps, will only be a sophomore. Stewart will be back, and Charlot, Sims, and Falkins round out a stacked position. 

Tight End
I really hope O.J. Howard does not go into the draft. He showed what he can do for Alabama's offense in the final two games of the season, and with another solid season he could be a first round pick. True freshman Hentges played quite a bit this season, though mainly for blocking purposes, so I look for him to see the field even more often. I'd also like to see Ball play more often. 

Defensive Line
The Tide had an outstanding DLine this season. Reed, Pettway, and Lake are gone. In addition, I suspect Allen and Robinson will go into the draft. There is a lot to replace here. Payne will play NT, and he'll need a backup. Tomlinson and Hand will likely start, but Alabama needs to develop a strong second line. Tim Williams will return as a speed rusher/LB on passing downs, and I wonder if he'll nail down a regular starting LB slot. 

Jack Linebacker
Devall will graduate, but Evans and Anderson will man that hybrid position quite well. Both really developed this season. 

Ragland is a big loss, so it'll be interesting to see who becomes the next captain of the defense. Foster could be that guy. Holcombe is likely to get more playing time. Hamilton looks like a rising star, and I've heard good things about Miller. 

Defensive Backs
I hope Eddie Jackson returns for this senior year. He only has one year of playing safety, so another year would possibly help his draft stock. A trio of freshman got important playing time this season: Fitzpatrick and Humphrey at cornerback and Harrison at safety. They were good and should be even better. Maurice Smith could see more playing time or perhaps Hootie Jones. With Fitzpatrick and Humphrey likely to be the starting corners, if Tony Brown is still with the team after being sent home by the team's leadership council prior to the Cotton Bowl (and he didn't suit up for the national championship), he could be the third cb in the nickel package. The Tide loses Cyrus Jones, who was the team's best corner. 

Losing Jones and Drake are major losses because as we saw against Michigan State and Clemson, they can take it to the house. I have no idea who be the punt and kick returners. Scott and Griffith return. 

Overall Assessment
As I said, the Crimson Tide will lose a lot from the national championship team. Pre-season number 2 is way too high because of key losses on the defensive line and running back and questions at quarterback. Somewhere in the top ten is more sensible. 

On offense, I could see the team being more reliant on the passing game because of the strong talent at wide receiver. I think the offensive line could be better. They certainly need to improve in pass blocking. If the team loses Howard, that'll be a big blow. 

As for the defense, if Jackson returns, that grouping is the strength of the defense. The defensive line will likely be strong, but it needs depth. Younger defensive linemen and new recruits will get a shot at a great deal of playing time. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tuesday Hangover: Clemson

Last night's national championship was epic. 

We saw signs of the offense using O.J. Howard in the Michigan State game, but Kiffin really dialed up plays last night to feature Howard. He was the offensive MVP of the game with 5 catches for 208 yards and 2 touchdowns. 

Of course, the well designed onside kick and Drake's fabulous kick return for a touchdown were the difference because Deshaun Watson is an absolute freak. If anyone is doing a pre-season top twenty for college football, Clemson needs to be number 1 because they will not lose many players from their squad, and that quarterback carried the offense. 

Besides the one long run for a touchdown in the first quarter, Henry had a relatively quiet game. He amassed 158 net yards on 36 carries and had one touchdown, but the Clemson defense gave Alabama's offensive line some trouble, particularly the right side of the line. 

Congrats to Alabama for its 16th national championship and its fourth in the last seven years. 

Roll Tide. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Music Friday: "Southern Sadness" & "Burn. Flicker. Die."

Wolves by American Aquarium was ranked 17th on my annual best albums list

"Southern Sadness" is one of my favorite tunes on that album. 

And here's the band performing "Burn. Flicker. Die." It's from the band's previous album. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Random Notes from a Crank

The other day I was driving on I-57 and passed a heavy duty pickup truck pulling a very large boat, a vessel that looked like you could live on it. The name of the boat was "Final Argument." I'd like to learn the story behind that name. 

I'm desperate enough for some small-screen drama that I'm rewatching the seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones on Netflix. 

Mrs. Nasty and I decided we're going to do some 5Ks this year. To follow up on that verbal commitment, I bought some running shoes recently ~ a fancy pair of Sauconys. Thank goodness I bought them at a store that had all their stock 40% off. I do look forward to the Zen quality my mind gets when running, but I'm not looking forward to getting started and running in the cold. 

I ran today on a little over a two-mile route that I ran on a regular basis years ago. I had to stop about halfway through because it was cold as heck and I felt a little upchucky. After a bit of walk, I started running again and finished off the route. I probably ran a mile and a half. Baby steps...

Friday, January 1, 2016

Friday Hangover: Michigan State

The last time Alabama played Michigan State was after the 2010 season. With the help of Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Trent Richardson, Greg McElroy, and many others, the Tide whipped the Spartans that day.

I was concerned about this game because this Michigan State squad had a highly regarded defense. 

The Spartans held Henry to 75 net yards and Drake to 60 net yards on the ground. However, Henry scored two touchdowns, and Coker and the receiving corps had an outstanding game. 

Ridley had a monster game: 8 receptions, 138 yards, and 2 TDs. Stewart caught 7 passes. Mullaney had some timely grabs. And O.J. Howard has 3 excellent receptions for 59 yards. 

The defense gave up some yardage in the passing game from time to time, but the D got a key stop at the end of the first half with Cyrus Jones's interception near the end zone. 

In addition to that important play, Jones set the single-season mark for punt returns for touchdowns since he had a sick punt return for TD in this game. This season he had four touchdowns on punt returns, which topped both David Palmer and Javy Arenas who had three in a season.

Robinson, Reed, Allen, and others all played well on the front three/four as usual, but Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams have really stepped up their games over the past few games. I'd like to see more of that in a little over a week. 

Next up is a match with the Clemson Tigers on January 11.

Music Friday: "Before We Disappear"

Chris Cornell's Higher Truth came in at 5 on my "Top Twentysomething Albums of 2015." 

As we start a new year, I give you "Before We Disappear." 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Top Twentysomething Albums of 2015

It's that time of the year again.

Like I did in 201020112012, 2013, and 2014, I'm providing my top twenty some albums that came out this year. After the top twenty, there's a list of albums that deserve honorable mention. 

As for the year in music, I see it as a decent year. On a personal level, halfway through the year, my car's cd player malfunctioned, so I've had the misfortune of having to listen to the radio stations around here. iTunes and my iPad have given me solace. 

The year saw some solid albums from artists who have been on my end-of-the-year list before, but there are some new bands featured. 

If there are other albums you would recommend, please let me know in the comments section.

1. Josh Ritter, Sermon on the Rocks

I listened to this album a lot this year. Like his other albums, Ritter puts together interesting arrangements and lyrics. On first listen, some of the songs will surprise you from a musical standpoint. Some sonic curveballs. This is one guy who has the misfortune of not getting noticed enough by the mainstream music scene. If we were still in the 90s, he would have racked up a number of hits. "Getting Ready to Get Down" is one of my favorite tunes of the year. 

Favorite songs: "Homecoming," "A Big Enough Sky," "Where the Nights Goes," and "Getting Ready to Get Down"

2. Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free

Some readers might be surprised that Isbell's album got second on this year's list. He shows off his songwriting craftsmanship again on this album. It's an opus that bears witness to listening to it from start to finish, especially the lineup of songs five, six, seven, and eight in the middle of the album. My only minor complaint is that I want more uptempo, rock-oriented songs. Isbell is a very good guitarist, and I wish he showed that off more often. Still "Speed Trap Town" is the best song of 2015, and in these times it's easy to understand these lyrics from "24 Frames": "You thought God was an architect./ Now you know he's something like a pipe bomb ready to blow./ And everything you built was all for show goes up in flames." 

Favorites songs: "Palmetto Rose," "Speed Trap Town," "24 Frames," and "The Life You Chose"

3. The Bottle Rockets, South Broadway Athletic Club

Huzzah for straightforward rock and roll. As is the band's character, this album gives you the perspective of the everyman, the regular joe who might visit the South Broadway Athletic Club in South St. Louis to watch wrestling matches. Themes include Monday sneaking up on you, just relaxing, building cars, and man's best friend.

Favorite songs: "Building Chryslers," "Big Fat Nuthin'," "Shape of a Wheel," and "Monday (Everytime I Turn Around)"

4. Punch Brothers, Phosphorescent Blues

This outfit has put out albums and EPs at a steady clip over the past few years, which makes me wonder what will happen once Chris Thile takes over for Garrison Keillor on Prairie Home Companion. Regardless, this is a stunning album with the usual intricate arrangements and soaring lyrics. I've sat on the couch and just let the album wash over me. It's something. 

Favorite songs: "Little Lights," "Magnet," "My Oh My," and "I Blew It Off"

5. Chris Cornell, Higher Truth

Soundgarden is one of my favorite bands, and Chris Cornell is one of the major factors why I like the band so much. I only have one other of Cornell's solo albums. I like this one much more. And it's not often you see an artist put out an album with sixteen songs. There's a lot to listen to here. The album's lineup generally alternates between slower and more uptempo songs. It's a fun ride. Lyrics to ponder: "Time ain't nothing if ain't fast,/ Taking everything that you ever had,/ Giving nothing in return but a cold bed in the quiet earth." It's a modern day "Thanatopsis." 

Favorite songs: "Before We Disappear," "Let Your Eyes Wander," "Our Time in the Universe," and "Murderer of Blue Skies"

6. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

This is a fun record. Though this description could lurch toward an oxymoron, this album could be described as introspectively peppy. Barnett is an Australian singer-songwriter who was recommended to me by a reader of this blog. I guess if people are going to label her work, it could get filed under alternative rock or college rock. The songs certainly have a young person's perspective to them although the lyrics reveal an old soul. 

Favorite songs: "Nobody Cares If You Don't Go to the Party," "Dead Fox," "An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)," and "Pedestrian at Best"

7. Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands

Dawes' fourth album is another strong offering. If you like their sound like I do, you'll enjoy this album. Like Ritter, this band would have done well in an earlier musical era. They compose strong rock-pop musical arrangements and have good lyrics. "I Can't Think about It Now" is yet another song that makes me wish the band had more songs in which Taylor Goldsmith had guitar solos. That song has great lyrics too. 

Favorite songs: "I Can't Think About It Now," "All Your Favorite Bands," "Things Happen," and "Somewhere Along the Way"

8. Langhorne Slim & The Law, The Spirit Moves

Even if you're not familiar with this artist, you've probably heard the first part of one of his songs, "Changes," via a commercial for something I can't remember. Once again, Mr. Slim brings his distinctive voice to the fore often with jangling guitars that remind me of early R.E.M. (to a small degree). The album is gritty, fun, and jaunty. 

Favorite songs: "Strangers," "Bring You My Love," "Southern Bells," and "Spirit Moves"

9. The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

Combine one of the most innovative jazz trios with one of the best jazz saxophonists, and you get a fine album. Pretty simple math.

Favorite songs: "Dirty Blonde," "County Seat," "Lack the Faith but Not the Wine," and "Friend or Foe"

10. Brandi Carlile, The Firewatcher's Daughter

This young lady has some pipes. Offering a mix of rock, country, and bluesy tunes, this album is on par with Bear Creek

Favorite songs: "Mainstream Kid," "The Eye," "The Things I Regret," and "The Stranger at My Door"

11. James McMurtry, Complicated Game

The salty singer-songwriter put out another fine album this year. Like Isbell and The Bottle Rockets, he spins narratives about common folks. One of my favorite songs on the album, "These Things I've Come to Know," has the persona talking about and admiring a female bartender. 

Favorite songs: "How'm I Gonna Find You Now," "Deaver's Crossing," "These Things I've Come to Know," and "Carlisle's Haul"

12. Lucero, All a Man Should Do

Some fans of Lucero complain about the band's new sound. I don't. I certainly like the older albums that are gritty and very guitar oriented. But I like the more recent sound (with horns) that Lucero is putting out. I like this album better than Women & Work. It seems like a more complete album. 

Favorite songs: "Can't You Hear Them Howl," "Young Outlaws," "Baby Don't You Want Me," and "I Woke Up in New Orleans"

13. The Yawpers, American Man

This is one of the stranger album covers I've seen in a while. I have very little background on this band, but they play a strong brand of rock ~ no frills, guitar-oriented rock and roll.  They take their name from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself, and their music is reminiscent of "barbaric yawp"s. I'd like to see them perform. I imagine they'd put on a fun show. 

Favorite songs: "Doing It Right," "Burdens," "Deacon Brodie," and "Walter"

14. JD McPherson, Let the Good Times Roll

I got introduced to this artist this year. This is his second album, and it's a raucous, 50s-rock-inspired affair. Good stuff, people.

Favorite songs: "Let the Good Times Roll," "It's All Over But the Shouting," "It Shook Me Up," and "Mother of Lies" 

15. Radkey, Dark Black Makeup

The Wikipedia article on this band describes them as a "garage punk band." That's a fair description of what they do. The band consists of three brothers who were home-schooled in St. Joseph, Missouri. Their first major performance was opening for Fishbone. That's awesome.

Favorite songs: "Love Spills," "Le Song," "Feed My Brain," and "Glore"

16. The Railsplitters, The Faster It Goes

I always have time for some traditional bluegrass, and this album fills that need. The singers have beautiful voices backed by sometimes traditional sounding arrangements. 

Favorite songs: "It's a Little Late," "The Estuary," "Goosetown," and "Tilt-A-Whirl"

17. American Aquarium, Wolves

I've enjoyed AA's raucous rock over the years. Dances for the Lonely and Small Town Hymns are excellent albums. Wolves is a good one though some of the lyrics tend to either complain about the road or discuss personal demons. Those are decent themes, but the former can get tiresome. "Southern Sadness" is one of my favorites: "There's a certain kind of despair/ that hangs heavy in the air./ And everywhere I go I always smell the Piedmont pines./ There's a Southern sadness that won't let go of this heart of mine." 

Favorite songs: "Southern Sadness," "Wolves," "Wichita Falls," and "Old North State"

18. JJ Grey & Mofro, Ol' Glory

If this dude puts out an album, it's highly likely it'll be on my annual list. His soul-rock-funk sound moves me. I wish he'd play the harp more often because he's an outstanding harmonica player. Regardless, it's another fine album by Mr. Grey. 

Favorite songs: "Light a Candle," "Turn Loose," "Brave Lil' Fighter," and "Everything Is a Song" 

19. The Turnpike Troubadours, self-titled

Along with Sturgill Simpson and Hayes Carll, this outfit is one of finest country artists out there right now. There isn't Nashville-inspired pop-country @#$% smeared all over their sound. It's good stuff.

Favorite songs: "Bossier City," "Ringing in the Year," "Down Here," and "The Bird Hunters"

20. Joe Pug, Windfall

It's not that he ever had a weak voice, but on this album Joe Pug's voice sounds stronger. Maybe it's just me. If you like traditional folk-rock songs, this is a good choice.

Favorite songs: "Stay and Dance," "Burn and Shine," "Bright Beginnings," and "Veteran Fighter"

Honorable Mentions

Blitzen Trapper, All Across This Land

Ben Folds, So There

John Moreland, High on Tulsa Heat

The Lone Bellow, Then Came the Morning

Robert Earl Keen, Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions

Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi

Jayme Stone, Lomax Project

Gary Clark Jr., The Story of Sonny Boy Slim

Justin Townes Earle, Absent Fathers

Calexico, Edge of the Sun

Craig Finn, Faith in the Future

Music Friday: "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

With the holiday, I forgot about Music Friday. 

To make amends, I'm offering a Xmas song, a video from 1978.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Music Friday: "Liar"

Henry Rollins was on The Late Show with Steven Colbert this week, which reminded me of the trio of albums I have from the Rollins Band.

Here's a famous song from Weight