Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


Play to win

Filed under : Baseball,Gadgets,Stores,Tennis
On June 24, 2010
At 7:30 am
Comments : 5

Was yesterday the greatest day in sports ever or what! You notice I didn’t put a question mark there because there is no other option. Of course, you’d have to have the unique set of circumstances I did and be American, a tennis fan, and a Yankee fan to feel this way and I know that’s true for only .0008% of you. I was reminded of the fact that I started my blog in earnest about four years ago during the last World Cup because I used the title I wanted to use today then, Magic Jewball, Sporting Fool. But let’s count all the great things that happened:

1. USA! USA! (That was the soccer part, duh). I knew this because they announced it during the Wimbledon match I was watching which was…

2. … thirty hours long! I swear, I woke up late-ish as usual and since John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were carrying on from the day before and just finishing their match from the previous day (it had gone too long and Wimbledon doesn’t have lights or final tiebreaks), I figured I’d eat breakfast when it was over. Folks, in case you weren’t following, I had breakfast at 4:30pm. And they still weren’t done, it was like 118-118 in the final set or something. Maybe it was infinity+1 – infinity+1. I’m not really sure these guys are human, I think they might be comprised of those machines that just shoot balls at you across the net. And they finish today.

It’s the third day now and the longest tennis match ever. Actually, the fifth set alone is the longest match ever. The really important thing to note, though, is that suddenly tennis is on the news which it never is and even more so because soccer which never is has been using the last 30 seconds of sports time that is allotted to sports no one cares about. So, right, wow. But the pinnacle, I think, of shattered earth is the fact that Deadspin is reporting on a tennis event which doesn’t involve a shot of jiggling breasts or a view upskirt. Mind blowing.

3. The Yankees won in the middle of the night in an extra inning thriller. I made up the thriller part, it was actually a very poorly played game, but the ending was teh awesome.

4. Jonathan Papelass had his save blown in Colorado by a former Yankee. I’m sorry, I just don’t like that guy and I wouldn’t no matter what team he was on.

So right, that was all good. It was a good day to be a sports fan in New York. And even if you are a Mets fan, Jerry Seinfeld was calling the game at New Shea, so you had that. I don’t know who won that game, I only tuned in to hear Jerry call Lady Gaga a jerk and to see Keith Hernandez look embarrassed as they showed his old scenes from the show. And it was worth it.

In non-sports news, it was also an exciting day for me because I finally got a new phone. If you remember, my old one had a giant crack formed in its screen as I attempted to check email at 4 in the morning. You may think based on the timing that it is an iPhone but you would be wrong! That’s a red herring because I actually used the release of the iPhone to convince T-Mobile to give me a free smartphone since I was thinking of switching. In fact, I was thinking about having no money but you know, I might switch in a few years. They didn’t ask me when. And the Internets informed me that T-Mobile took that as a good reason to give away phones so I am now the new, proud owner of a BlackBerry Bold which I lovelovelove. Everything looks good and sounds good and moves quickly and it can do all sorts of fun things.

But this is also good news for you because I took that occasion to change my mobile theme to one that works on more devices. If you normally visit me on a mobile phone, you are probably looking at it right now and I hope it’s clear and legible, if lacking in the frippery of my normal theme. If you’re looking at a little screen and seeing my normal black & gray & flowers, please let me know in the comments what device you’re using so I can get on that. If it’s an iPad, I can’t help you… yet. But they say they’re working on it. You are very important to “them.” They will be right with you, please stand by.

By the way, and back to sports for a moment, people sometimes ask me why I’m a fan of one person or another. Is it their nationality? A big forehand? Hotness? Sometimes! But not usually. Most often it’s by personality (see the Papelbon example above there) and I find that out by sitting through my yearly matches at the US Open and seeing who appeals to me. Someone determined and classy, who respects the fans and doesn’t argue with the linespeople, and who seems to be having a good time. I know, it’s a tall order. A few years ago, in fact, I saw Nicolas Mahut play and he was an ass. I even mentioned it in a post. But see, if you can maintain your composure and give it your all for ten hours (and counting), I will become your fan. Of course, I was already a fan of John Isner because of Twitter. If you are funny on Twitter or even just talk to your fans on Twitter, I will be your fan. New rule. Also, tiebreaks. That should be a new rule. But of course, then I’d just be reading articles about Venus Williams’ underwear on Deadspin, so there’s that. Hooray for week long matches!

Heaven 17 – Play To Win


Summer of Becca

Filed under : Life in general
On June 21, 2010
At 2:00 pm
Comments : 7

[George reads a letter]
George: Severance package…The Yankees are giving me three months full pay for doing nothing.
Jerry: They did it for three years. What’s another few months?
George: I’m really going to do something with these three months.
Jerry: Like what?
George: I’m gonna read a book. From beginning to end. In that order.
Jerry: I’ve always wanted to do that…
George: I’m gonna play frolf.
Jerry: You mean golf?
George: Frolf, frisbee golf, Jerry. Golf with a frisbee. This is gonna be my time. Time to taste the fruits and let the juices drip down my chin. I proclaim this: The Summer of George!

Hey, it’s the first full day of Summer! And the longest day of the year. Which gives me even more time to do not much of anything. Are you one of those people who wish there were more hours in the day and you dream about what you might do with extra time if only you had some? So was I! Then it happened. I lost my student job and am only taking one class for the first third of the summer. So you can only imagine the novels I’m reading (and writing!), the museums I’m visiting, the leisurely walks in the park.

George: Hey, ‘The White Shadow’ is on…
Jerry: Boy, you’re really packing it all in.
George: Jerry, my vacation just started. I need a day or two to decompress. Besides, I did plenty today.
Jerry: Like what?
George: I bought a new recliner with a fridge built right into it.

But like George Costanza, my actual Summer of Me has mostly involved sitting around wearing clothes you would not be seen outside in and watching a lot of TV. I’ve traded in his block of cheese, though, for Internet surfing.

George: All right, that’s enough. I gotta go home and take a nap.
Jerry: It’s 10:30 in the morning.
George: I tell you, I’m wiped.
Jerry: So, has the Summer of George already started or are you still decomposing?
George: Decompressing.

This has sort of happened to me too. If you’ve been reading this blog a long time and have a good memory (both of you) then you know that in periods of non-9to5, my sleep schedule edges slowly towards the nocturnal, with me finally ending up going to sleep at 4am and waking up at 2pm. But, you know, I never had a chance to see how far it could really go. Because my one class happens to be online and so I don’t really have to ever get up in the daytime barring the odd doctor’s appointment. Lately, I have begun to go to sleep at 9am and sleep all day. At first I tried to adjust this but then thought, eh, what’s the point?

This week I do have a few daytime appointments, though, plus Wimbledon is on from about 7am, so I need to be up through the early part of the day. Oh, and in July I have actual, physical, in person classes which begin at noon, so I’ll need to be awake at some sort of decent hour (for me). But it is hard to get back on track. I’ve tried alcohol and supplements and drugs of the legal variety. But my body is stubborn. So today, NO George naps in the middle of the day. Because I have found that if you are sleepy and there is no risk of your boss coming in and saying, “is that report finished? Wait, are you sleeping?” then you just tend to drift off for as long as you want.

Now, I realize that I am incredibly lucky to have this time in my life (even if the Yankees aren’t paying for it) and that while I was, in fact, chained to a desk, I was jealous of people strolling down the street with no particular place to go. It’s a temporary respite from life and I am insanely thankful to have it. Eventually, I will have a 9 to 5 and it will probably even be 7-4 which will be torture. And, let’s be frank, I’d love an income even more than I love sitting on my ass watching the fan spin because I can’t afford to turn the air conditioner on. But for now, I’m going to get up whenever I want, watch a lot of tennis, and taste the fruits. The cheaper fruits.

The B-52’s – Summer of Love


The joy of the bodega, part 328

Filed under : Music,New York City
On June 13, 2010
At 3:50 am
Comments : 2

The set-up: while I was doing all that research on the two Talk Talk posts, I repeatedly came upon mentions of the No Doubt version of It’s My Life but I tried hard not to think about it or remember how it went because a. I dislike No Doubt b. I dislike remakes of songs that were already great and c. it was hard enough to erase it from my brain the first time around in 2003. So not only have I not heard it since then, I have been pretty good at forgetting it now.

Fast forward to tonight/this morning, when, as is my habit, I’m up during the wee hours and am hungry. So I started to make peanut-sesame noodles since I had all the ingredients… except I didn’t, which I discovered midway through and too far along to go back. So I ran out to the bodega on the corner in my skater shorts and Local H t-shirt, where, naturally, I was the only one there and thus had the full attention of the grocer. After about 30 seconds of scanning the racks, the song on the sound system ended, I heard a syncopated beat, and then – you know what comes next – Gwen Stefani started singing It’s My Life. I actually burst out laughing right in the middle of the store before remembering that the elderly Korean grocer was looking right at me. He was utterly expressionless and impassive. I guess this is far from the weirdest thing he sees at 3am.

In conclusion, I lead a dull life and you can’t escape No Doubt.

And no, there will not be a music link!


We don’t have to change at all!

Filed under : Movies
On June 10, 2010
At 2:45 am
Comments : 6

I’ve resisted adding to the mountain of bad reviews of Sex and the City 2 and by now you’ve either already seen it or have read all the rotten reviews or both. That is, assuming you’re the sort of person who would see this movie or read its reviews. And it was an awful, awful movie and every time I discuss it with someone, we manage to bring out more of its terribleness. But I met up with KP last week and I think we niggled down to the thing I disliked the most about it. In order to get there, I first have to tell you why I actually saw it when I knew it was universally panned and I am so not a current movie person that if I see one movie in a theater all year, it’s a big year.

So I knew before I even spent twelve dollars on the ticket that it was going to be atrocious and yet I whipped out my credit card nonetheless. That’s because I watched the show since the start and I grew to feel for the characters, as obnoxious as they can sometimes be. I mean, I regularly cringed over something one of them did or said every single week but that was OK, they were human. And despite my not having a life like any one of them, they often faced situations and had feelings similar to those I do as a single woman in New York. My favorite episode is A Woman’s Right To Shoes where Carrie’s shoes are stolen at a party for a friend’s new baby and the friend chastises her for how much the shoes cost when she tries to reimburse her. “She shoe-shamed me!” Carrie declares to her friends. Now, I am not a collector of shoes or purses; I mostly wear the same shoes every day (Privo flats) and buy maybe two pairs a year, mostly when mine have worn out. But the indignation Carrie feels at having her lifestyle choices belittled because her friend has “a real life” with husband and kids resonated with me. Even more so when Carrie adds up how much she has spent on wedding, shower, and birth gifts as well as travel and expenses with no return at all. Gifts are, obviously, just that, and no return is expected. But it’s hard to give gift after gift and never, ever be registered yourself. So I got that and lots of other things.

Over the years, the characters did develop, especially in the last season as Carrie hooked up with an older man, Miranda had a child, got married, and moved to Brooklyn, Charlotte converted, married, and struggled with infertility, and Samantha had the fullest relationship of her life. But somehow, in the intervening close to ten years between that end and this movie (and I leave out the first SATC film, although I didn’t love that one either), they haven’t changed a bit and in some cases have reverted. I have to think that the filmmakers drew women in on the basis that we have stayed connected with the characters and want to keep up with them. Do they think we have all stayed the same in the last ten years? Because these women seem not to have grown emotionally or intellectually. They are in a constant self-involved, memememe, what am I going to wear, what about my needs kind of space that seemed OK in the first couple of seasons but at 45 or so seems a bit of a stretch. It just doesn’t ring true and is almost insulting. Do they think that’s how mature women act? Or are they saying that these women we’ve connected with never mature?

I’ve read a lot about how some people feel the real issue was 40-something women trying to act sexy but I don’t think that hits it at all. I think, rather, that it’s not sexy to act 10-20 years younger than your own age. These women are like parodies of their former selves. It was a lazy cop-out to not develop them and then market the movie like it was a reunion between us and our friends. How could it be when you freeze-dried them? We have moved on but they remain the same in older bodies. That’s what’s not pretty.

Oh, and also, Anthony and Stanford? Yeah, no.

Title comes from:
Diana Ross – When We Grow Up


Turns out, it IS his life, don’t you forget

Filed under : Music
On June 6, 2010
At 12:00 pm
Comments :Comments Off on Turns out, it IS his life, don’t you forget

Hey, you know what’s better than one random post about Talk Talk? Two. Yes, we’re giving Talk Talk the Depeche Mode treatment this week here on JBall. But see, I wasn’t satisfied after the last post. I realized I know so little about a band I like very much. For starters, I don’t own any of their records and while I know now that their lead singer had the kavorka, I didn’t even know his name until I looked it up for that post. Why do I know so little about them and what should I know about them?

Let’s start with what I do know. I know that they have lots of songs I like but none of them sound the same. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? I mean, Talk Talk (the song) doesn’t sound like It’s My Life which doesn’t sound like Dum Dum Girl which doesn’t sound like Life’s What You Make It which doesn’t sound like…. wait, what came after that?

That’s the really important question with Talk Talk. If you’re a student of pop music (well, a pretend student), you can probably name ten or twenty bands that had big hits and then there was that one album that didn’t sell and maybe one more that sold even less and then they started fighting and then their label dropped them (or in reverse order) and they they broke up. But that’s not really what happened to Talk Talk. I mean, ostensibly it did, in a literal sense, but the story is more complicated than that. And after extensive research in the wee hours of the morning, I have the answers, as much as we know them, anyway.

So Mark Hollis turns out to be a pretty interesting guy. And the reason Talk Talk songs don’t sound the same from one album to the next is the same reason Radiohead songs don’t; because the writers want to try new things and they progress. And that’s not a coincidence because lots of people think Radiohead were influenced by Talk Talk. Now personally, I try not to take everything I read about labels vs. bands at face value because I’ve worked at labels and quite often, in fact most of the time, the goal of the bands and their labels is the same: to sell a lot of records. So when the label gets blamed, as they invariably do, I take that with a grain of salt. But this time, it seems like the band did get the short end of the stick.

Talk Talk had troubles with their label from the start. The label, EMI, who happened to be Duran Duran’s label too, thought they had another band in that vein and tried to fit Talk Talk into the same mold. They brought in Duran’s producer, sent them on tour with Duran, and molded their image into one they didn’t especially recognize. But after that early experience, each album Talk Talk made was a little more experimental and moved further away from the band EMI thought they were getting. They dropped the synthesizers in favor of organic instruments. They made their sound a little jazzier. Life’s What You Make It, my favorite song by them, if you recall, has no chorus and is actually just the same bassline repeated over and over. But it worked and was a hit so no one seemed to mind too much.

In fact, that album, The Colour of Spring, was such a big hit around the world that the label gave them a lot of money and all the freedom they wanted to create the next record. If you know the scene in 24 Hour Party People where the label has sent the Happy Mondays abroad to record their next hit album and after much time and expense they send back a cassette with a rambling, vocal-free tune and the label people go bonkers, well, I can only imagine what it was like for the staff at EMI. See, Talk Talk went away for fourteen months and recorded a haunting, glacially-paced, multi-instrumental, freeform, genre-busting, unclassifiable, single-free suite of six long tracks (imagine a Yes album, but even less commercial). I mean, have you heard It’s My Life? No Doubt covered it! I certainly couldn’t have seen this coming. And I can’t imagine any label in 2010 allowing an artist to have free reign in a studio for over a year on the company’s dime without any sort of feedback of what they were doing. Amazing.

Now if you’d asked me what happened to Talk Talk after the Colour of Spring last week, I think my answer would have been, “I believe they put out an album or two that were really bad and then they got dropped and now work at carwashes.” But in fact, they put out an album that’s considered a huge, genius masterpiece! If you look up reviews both formal and by regular joes, you get things like “a singular experience,” “one of the greatest albums of all time,” “sounds like no other record ever,” “the most remarkable piece of recorded music in my experience,” “the album I listened to while my child was being born,” “changed the way I listened to music forever,” and so forth. Pretty freaky, huh?

But you know, EMI weren’t all that entranced. And as a person who was part of the formula of marketing records (single to radio, video to MTV, etc.) I absolutely know why. I think I love this line from a review best, “it is the kind of record which encourages marketing men to commit suicide.” They say the A&R guy cried when he heard it, and not in that good way, more in that “I’m going to lose my job” way. And one of the things you count on is the band’s promotional efforts and this band didn’t want to promote it at all. I read lots of interviews with Mark Hollis from that release and mostly he answers with things that all mean, in effect, “the music speaks for itself and I have nothing to say.” And he didn’t want to have pictures taken or to do videos or tour either (Talk Talk never toured again after 1986).

This is all really staggering to me. The record didn’t stiff because it was bad, but because it was too good! It was gorgeous but simply unmarketable and maybe a little difficult for the casual listener. In fact, I’m listening to it right now for the third time in a row. It’s hard to describe and I am not a reviewer by nature. I point you instead to all the rapturous reviews on Amazon. One person even came back a year later to say he still listened to it every day.

Later, as you might have predicted, Mark Hollis and Talk Talk went through several lawsuits with EMI (including one suit by the label on the basis that the delivered album didn’t sound enough like Talk Talk) and eventually moved to another label. They then put out another, even less commercial record which some people say is better but others say is not quite as good. After that, they broke up. In 1998, Mark Hollis put out a solo album and then was never heard from again. Well, maybe not that dramatic but apparently, he no longer makes music, lives in obscurity with his family, and almost no current pictures of him exist.

What I think is amazing about Mark Hollis is that, more than Frank Sinatra or Sid Vicious, he did it his way. And when people asked him about his old music, he wasn’t ashamed of it, he just had moved on and had new things to say. And when he felt like making music, he made brilliant music, and when he didn’t, no commercial pressure has made him do it. When the label made him make a commercial video, he lip-synched ridiculously. When they put out greatest hits and rarities packages without his approval, he made the artwork a bird in a cage and a bird in a noose sitting on a golden egg.

Everywhere I looked for things about Talk Talk, places like Rolling Stone and Mojo and other critics would all say, “one of the most underrated bands ever” and “we pray they come out of retirement.” Lots of bands of that era are: the Pixies, Yaz, PiL, OMD, etc. But somehow, I don’t anticipate that Talk Talk will be hitting your local shed this year or next.

So what do I think of Spirit of Eden, the unmarketable Talk Talk masterpiece? On the third listen I will say that it’s not like anything I’ve ever heard and I certainly wouldn’t have dated it to 1988. It’s really, really beautiful…. we’ll see if it changes my life.

We all know the usual level of commentary on YouTube, but I swear to you, the comments on the below six tracks are different. And man, this post is a lot longer than it looked in my text editor. To explain this, I quote the following YouTube comment on the last track: “Anyone else think its funny that Talk Talk videos have an inordinately high concentration of posts that essentially make an attempt to provide some musical-historical analysis of Talk Talk’s growth as a band? Talk Talk really has scholars for fans.” I guess I throw my hat in that ring.

Stream Spirit of Eden on YouTube: 1. The Rainbow, 2. Eden, 3. Desire, 4. Inheritance, 5. I Believe In You, 6. Wealth