Friday, March 30, 2012

Been a while since I've written. Not on purpose, of course... but rather things I've had batting around in my head haven't seemed particularly noteworthy. Not that they usually are, but still.

I guess even now I still feel that way. Been sort of re-evaluating what exactly I want from life, and I'm not really sure where writing fits into that. So that's been a bit of a deterrent from doing anything.

But I'm gonna feel lazy if I don't make somewhat of an effort to keep flexing those muscles, so to speak, so... here goes.

Sigur Ros announced this week that they are putting out a new album. It's called "Valtari", and I believe that it comes out May 28th. Now, since they happen to be a favorite band of mine (and are responsible for my favorite album of all time as well as my favorite song), I'm going to be quite excited about this, even if their last album was more pleasant than breathtakingly monumental. It's still Sigur Ros.

So in anticipation of the record, every so often (i.e. whenever I feel like it), I'm going to post a song of theirs, and instead of writing anything in-depth about the song (since I feel like I've written about them ad nauseum), I'm just going to post a picture that sums up how I feel about the song.

First, Svefn-g-englar.



And...








Quick things:
1) This picture could sum up a lot of Sigur Ros' music for me.
2) Sara, if you're reading this... this is the seagull song. There are no seagulls in this picture. I hope that is OK.

Friday, March 16, 2012

So everything else in my bracket was completely wrong, BUT... I accurately called Lehigh and Norfolk St slaying the Duke and Missouri dragons, respectively.

I feel like this is about as good as my calling VCU to the Final Four (which I will bring up for the rest of ever any time the tournament rolls around.) The weird thing is that Sara also called for the two 15 seeds to win, which like the VCU Final Four appearance last year--is the only substantial thing we agreed upon.

So... that means, that if we combine our prognosticating forces and find a way to agree on every single winner in the tournament--we'd probably make millions and millions of dollars in winning every tournament pool/contest we could enter.

Yeah, this is probably my calling in life...

Monday, March 12, 2012

So it's NCAA Tourney time.

Last year was my most successful year ever, as I correctly predicted VCU would make it ALL THE WAY to the Final Four. It was so successful, that I even contemplated just retiring the method of coin flipping my bracket and finding a new random/arbitrary way to choose my tourney bracket. Just because I felt that there was no way of topping what happened last year.

But then I looked at my bracket from last year. And I noticed that I actually didn't *technically* pick VCU... and rather picked the person who won the play-in game between VCU and USC, because ESPN didn't allow me to pick between the two (my coin would have totally favored VCU, though.) Not only that, but Sara actually beat me with her own arbitrary bracket predicting method(which is... basing picks on the coolness of the college name), as she predicted both VCU and the eventual winner UConn making the Final Four.

Which means that stupid methods of predicting sports can pay off more than I had imagined. And that my coin flipping could produce two Final Four teams... or even three, or even four if I'm a little lucky. I just need to keep at it. And I need to believe.

So here we go. Everything that you'll read below you can most likely take to the bank:

SOUTH BRACKET:
I'm assuming that Kentucky is going to be the favorite to win it all in a lot of people's minds. Yeah, well... they lose in the 2nd round to #9 UConn. Who then lost to #13 New Mexico St. Who then lost to #6 UNLV, who are our representatives in the Final Four. Other highlights: #2 Duke losing to #15 Lehigh. Also, Duke losing in general.

WEST BRACKET:
Another #2 seed went down, as Missouri lost to the #15 powerhouse Norfolk St. But the main upsets belonged to #13 Davidson and #10 Virginia mowed down the competition to finally meet each other in the West final. Fortunately Davidson won... because double digit seeds seem disingenuous when they're from power conferences.

EAST BRACKET:
Our first upset of the tourney as a #16 goes over #1... as UNC-Asheville beats Syracuse. And really... I might as well put this in an actual bracket, because it seems like Syracuse could be the weakest #1 seed in the field right now. (Or at least this simulator says they are... I simulated the tourney 100 times, and they made the Final Four the least amount of times out of the #1 seeds by a large margin... also, never let me near a sports playoff simulator.) Other highlights include #13 Montana over #4 Wisconsin... and #10 West Virginia making it all the way to the Final Four.

MIDWEST BRACKET:
#1 UNC goes down to the #16 seed... which is either Lamar or Vermont. Again, ESPN doesn't let me predict the game, because they apparently put little stock in these types of games. Nothing else interesting happens, though. #2 Kansas wins the region... which is probably going to happen in real life.

FINAL FOUR:
In the battle of mid-major teams, #13 Davidson totally rolls over #6 UNLV. On the other side, #10 West Virginia goes over #2 Kansas.

So the championship is #13 Davidson over #10 West Virginia. If you had to ask me who I would have preferred to win, it would be Davidson. I'd think that God would also prefer them winning.

So the coin came up heads, and it was decreed that Davidson will be your 2012 NCAA champions. Congratulations, Davidson fans... if you're out there.

Let me see if I can link to my bracket or not...

BONUS BRACKET:

This is Sara's bracket, which is actually more interesting to talk/write about, but it's not mine... so I feel like most of my attention should be devoted to my own.

Here's the link to it in case it works...

SOUTH: Some interesting things happen here: one, last year's runner-up in UConn ended up somehow losing to Wichita St. I'm thinking that it was more of a matter of Sara not wanting to completely replicating last year's bracket... because usually teams with "State" in its name bow out pretty early. Also, Lehigh wins over Xavier, which is another perennial contender. Which is less controversial in my opinion, because it's a better name. And rightly, it goes to the Final Four.

WEST: This was a relatively straightforward bracket, as the most riveting contest happened in the first round, with Marquette facing off against Iona. Which the upstart Iona ended up winning. Again, this may have been a case of a name that has had multiple opportunities to win over the years in Marquette losing to the name that seems newer and fresher. Which I probably would have done anyway... but you know. Just trying to analyze this a little bit, as any reporter of best-name-based brackets should. Iona demolishes everyone else. It beat Memphis in the final. It was no contest.

EAST: This was the most interesting bracket. Last year's Final Four entrant Syracuse almost repeated... but lost in the Elite Eight. Also, another favorite in Gonzaga lost in the 2nd round to Loyola... which is a pretty great name. But technically, it's showing up as Loyola Maryland everywhere I go (I guess to differentiate between the other Loyolas), but I didn't report the "Maryland" part when reciting the bracket to Sara yesterday... and I'm wondering if that omission meant that Gonzaga lost a contest that it wasn't supposed to. Even then though, it produced the MOST INTENSE matchup of them all, in Loyola versus the behemoth in St. Bonaventure. It was so intense that Sara asked for more time for deliberation.

St. Bonaventure won. It was a good decision. It's in the Final Four.

MIDWEST: This was a terrible bracket. Vermont and Kansas were in the Elite Eight through sheer terribleness in the other teams' names. Vermont won. I'm pretty sure I clicked St. Bonaventure to defeat it before I even allowed Sara to make her decision.

FINAL FOUR:
For the record, the highest seed in the remaining teams is 14. Two 14 seeds, one 15 and one 16. So if Sara replicates her success from last year and gets two teams into the Final Four, it'll probably be the greatest tournament of all time.

IONA VS. LEHIGH

I believe this lasted in the second longest deliberation. I remember her stating that both had a nice lyrical quality to them that made it difficult to choose between the two. But eventually Lehigh won. I should note that I pronounce it as LEE-high... and I'm not 100% certain that it's pronounced that way (although it should be.)

ST. BONAVENTURE VS. VERMONT

Obviously.

LEHIGH VS. ST. BONAVENTURE

It had some really good competition this year, but obviously the tournament belonged to St. Bonaventure. I mean... he's a saint... and his name is Bonaventure. You can't really beat that. Ever. I might name my kid that, and it'd be the coolest kid in every room it would ever walk into. I think that's how it works.

That's all for now. Will report back in a week when Davidson and St. Bonaventure continue their crash course towards each other in the championship.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One of the highlights at my job is that I get to sit around and do a whole lot of nothing on Saturday nights. Which means that left to my own devices, I'll either find a movie to watch, or watch Saturday Night Live--since for some reason there's not much else to watch past 10 PM on Saturdays.

It's actually kind of fun, because it reminds me of the time I grew up watching SNLs during the Will Ferrell years (which is why I'm probably more forgiving than most people are towards his movies), taping all of them then rewatching the good parts whenever I had the chance. I miss my old VCR.

Most of the time it's not nearly as great as I remember it being during the late 90's-early 00's (although that's just because I obviously have fond memories for those years). But every once in a while something's legitimately funny, and then I find it on the internet and rewatch it that way. Not as charming as the old VCR, but still.

None of last night's sketches were that great.

But The Shins were on, and they played this song.



And... wouldn't you know it, I find myself excited for a Shins album.

My opinion on the band has been varied during the years. I remember really loving "So Says I" back in the day, then always meant to explore them more fully but never got around to them. Then I realized that the film Garden State existed, and they became quite overrated through the sheer willpower of Zach Braff. Then they settled into "OK" territory for a long while.

But NOW--well, maybe I was wrong about them all along? Or something. I mean, I don't think I'll ever consider the band important or brilliant or anything like that, but they have a couple good songs. And those songs are nice. So basically, they're still in "OK" territory... except in a more respected "OK" territory.

But I don't know about this song--it's just pushing my buttons right now. I can appreciate well crafted pop songs, especially when it has a lurking weirdness underneath. And I've played it about 20 times since hearing it yesterday... not that it's that good to warrant that many plays, but it's stuck in my head every other moment otherwise. And its appeal has yet to wear off, so that's encouraging.

And the upcoming album--well, I don't expect to enjoy it as much as I do this. But--I mean, the single did its trick, and got me interested in the full length released, so I feel it's my duty to be somewhat excited and eventually seek it out. And maybe it'll be great and the band will suddenly morph into one of my favorites.

Which won't happen, of course. And more likely, I'll forget about all of this tomorrow and move on to some other song that catches my ear. But RIGHT NOW, I'm all about this damnit.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

So, if the season ended today, your Minnesota Timberwolves would be in the playoffs.

It's all very exciting.

Of course, they're going to go something like 3-7 over the next 10 games, rendering this all moot, but still. When all your other sports teams are bottoming out completely, you grab any positivity whenever you can. And being in the 8 seed for the playoffs almost 2/3rd of the way through the season... after having the worst record in the league last year... that's pretty impressive, really.

I'm gonna make this a stereotypical Alex post. I've already delved into the useless sports comment. Now here's the YouTube video.



I really wanted to post his cover of The Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers," which appeared in the closing moments of The Big Lebowski--and also just might be the best cover of all time (if you judge your covers by whether or not it is so strong it makes you reevaluate why you even liked the original in the first place.) But I couldn't find the correct version on YouTube. So I decided to go with this song--except I wanted to post the version from the Live At The Old Quarter release. Again, no luck.

The actual studio version will suffice, I suppose. I like the live version because its mood seems ambiguous, really depending on your own mood at the time. The posted version retains a little of that ambiguity, but it sounds a little rosier in its outlook. In any case, I've repeated multiple times, and I'm not even sure why.

Been listening to a lot of Townes Van Zandt, and again... I'm not really sure why. I think it comes down to his voice, which evokes a certain melancholy that's always going to rope me in. But more country needs to sound like this. Here's another song.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

*dusts self off*

I'm just going to write without rhyme or reason. I'm really bored right now.

-Been watching the No Direction Home Bob Dylan documentary (which I got at the U of M art museum gift store as a prize for winning some writing contest... and it only took me about 5 years to fully watch it) over the past few days, and it's pretty excellent... although kind of morbid knowing that a lot of the interviewees have since died (although it's explainable, since apparently the interviews were conducted up to 10 years before its 2005 release).

I don't really know if it made me appreciate his music any more, but it definitely made me like him a lot more. I mean, I'm going to like anyone who spurns his "voice of a generation" label and association with the protest music scene just because he wanted to do his own thing and explore new ideas, and that's pretty much what the documentary is about.



Also, it allowed me to come to the conclusion that the above is--in my opinion, of course--Mr. Zimmerman's best work.

I've gone back and forth trying to determine whether his version or The Byrds' version is better. A couple weeks ago it might as well been The Byrds', but now it's leaning towards Dylan's. Not that it matters much anyway, since both are transcendent in their own way. The Byrds' version is this ethereal, perfect slice of pop that also essentially invents the 12-string guitar sound. But Dylan's is this mystical, hazy ride through the unknown--with that warm guitar melody complementing Dylan's acoustic strumming perfectly, as if it's the source of comfort through this journey. It's pretty wonderful.

-So the New Orleans Saints were exposed as the dirty bounty hunters that I'm pretty sure a lot of people already assumed they were. (In all honesty, when I read the headline for this story, my first thought was "wait, they just realized this?" The 2009 NFC Championship game might turn out to hurt just as much as 1998 game.)

This story has made me realize that growing up watching professional wrestling has skewed my perception of sports for good.

Cause really, I should be thinking about how disgusting this conduct is, where a whole team has basically tossed aside all principles of good sportsmanship--all just to perhaps get a leg up on the opponent by purposefully injuring them in an already dangerous sport. And, to a degree, that has been part of my thought process. (Honestly, if Pete Rose can get banned from his sport for life for betting on his own team, then Gregg Williams should not get off any better for encouraging intent to harm (although I also believe he's not the first to do this, nor is he the only one still practicing it.))

But really, all I'm thinking about is how this'll make the Saints a threat to the Patriots as the biggest villains in the NFL, and how they essentially stole from pro wresting's playbook in order to do that.

I don't think it really happens a lot in pro wrestling nowadays, but back in the 80's putting a bounty on a wrestler's head was an easy way to make the person instituting the bounty, as well as the person collecting the bounty, instantly hated. I know that the famous Andy Kaufman/Jerry Lawler feud involved one, but the best example I can find that is also available on YouTube is the Harley Race/Ric Flair feud. And if you watch the next video, imagine that it's Gregg Williams speaking, and substitute Ric Flair's name for Brett Favre--it kind of seems like something Williams would say to fire up his players.



Of course, this occurred back when a decent amount of the fans still perceived wrestling to be legitimate, so the reason why it riled people up so was that they couldn't believe such a thing as a bounty would be allowed to occur in a "legitimate" sport. But such a thing did occur in the biggest sport in America... and now the Saints are bigger heels than even the Patriots. Well--maybe. If Gregg Williams was still part of the Saints' coaching staff, then I think the Saints would be more despised as an entity. But since he's moved on to the Rams (for the time being), it seems it has split the venom between both Williams and the Saints organization, when it would seem much stronger if the two were still connected together.

I don't remember where I was going with this. But anyway, I wouldn't be thinking about any of this were it not for pro wrestling and all of its attempts to portray itself as a sport while also engaging in over-the-top villainy.

Oh, and in terms of real life sports mimicking pro wrestling, nothing is ever going to beat LeBron James leaving the Cavs to join the Heat correlating to Hulk Hogan turning his back on all his fans after 15 years to join the NWO. There was even a video that was produced combining the two.



In any case, now you know I'm a dork.