Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hearts and Thoughts

The Jive is back! Thank you Joe for submitting this. Perhaps this will be the catalyst I need to write again. - C.C.

  I am honored to be a part of Top5 Productions and their Jive.  For our friend group, Pearl Jam is universally liked and is probably the band most in our Top5….but that conversation is for another day.  Pearl Jam has been an American staple in the last twenty years in regards to “grunge rock.”  Pearl Jam has recently came out with a new album that I believe is their best in ten years.  For this jive though I haven’t included any of those songs to the list….but give them time.  (Yellow Moon, Sirens, Lightning Bolt, Getaway)

  For most of my life I have been able to say that my favorite band is Pearl Jam.  As an awkward 6th grader I remember listening to ‘Ten’ with friends and cousins.  When I got a little bit older and “matured” I can remember many high school nights after practice or even on the weekend “cooling down” by listening to some PJ as I played video games (really cool high schooler as you could imagine).  I can even remember celebrating my first date with a girl by coming home and listening to the entire Vs album.  Later in life after having surgery and being down in the dumps I turned to my old friend Eddie to guide me through my walk.  I am not a concert junkie but seeing PJ in Dallas in 2003 was a highlight in my musical voyage.   Even coaching after a big win I can remember vividly hearing “Amongst the Waves” and rocking out on the bus.  Now I can’t think of a better gift to give to Nolan than a list on my iPhone of Pearl Jam for us to enjoy together.
  I love the band and can’t wait to see them live again. Pearl Jam is a band that everyone knows but few understand.  I have spent a great deal of time listening to PJ in the past three months to write this, I guess time on the mower paid off after all.  I hope that if nothing else you can take a few minutes just to listen to the new album or even some old stuff that makes you think about the past, enjoy. 

Joko’s Top PJ Songs
1.       Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town
2.       Off He Goes
3.       Black
4.       Daughter
5.       I Got Id

HM:   Man of the Hour; Yellow Ledbetter; Faithfull; Rearviewmirror; Alive

Bonus Joko’s Top PJ Songs You Won’t Hear on the Radio
1.       Amongst the Waves
2.       Release
3.       Thumbing My Way
4.       Around the Bend
5.       The Fixer

HM:  Nothingman; Red, Black, Yellow; Just Breathe; Present Tense;  Nothing As It Seems; No Way; Porch

Bonus Bonus Joko’s top PJ Covers
1.       Everyday People
2.       Rocking in the Free World
3.       Baba O’Riley
4.       Patriot
5.       Sittin on the Dock of the Bay

HM:  The Kids Are Alright; You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away; Harvest Moon; Can’t Help Falling In Love; I Believe In Miracles; Rein on Me

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

...And Knowing Is Half The Battle

Accessing Netflix from an Ipad is wonderful...especially for an insomniac who prefers to watch movies in bed, positioned flat on his back. I've recently discovered the films of documentary filmmaker, Nick Broomfield. Not only did I enjoy watching all four films from this one-of-a-kind English documentarian, but I felt like I learned something as well. So I thought I'd share....

I first watched Biggie and Tupac (2002)

Broomfield delves deep into the deaths of the two rappers by interviewing friends and family, while exploring the East Coast-West Coast Hip-Hop rivalry that culminated with the murder of both Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Christopher Wallace.
Had he survived the drive by shooting that occurred on March 9, 1997, I'm not sure that Biggie would be too famous nowadays. Tupac, on the other hand, was a huge talent who I think would still be relevant today. While I got the impression that Tupac was definately a punk-ass, Six bucks and my right ___ says he would be a major movie star today; kinda like a Hardcore Will Smith, if you will.
I enjoy being presented with evidence/testimony and then forming my own theories and opinions on what transpired. It's one reason that I consider myself a "True-Crime Buff." I've always wanted to be "a Buff."

Anyway, here's some nuggets of information that I learned from this documentary:

1. Nobody has ever been charged with either of the two homicides. It's very strange, particularly in Tupac's case. I mean afterall, he was murdered on the Las Vegas Strip in almost stand-still traffic after a Mike Tyson fight.

2. Tupac had made it known that he was leaving Suge Knight's Death Row Records and was to be owed 10 million dollars on his departure. Many people suggest that Suge Knight hastened Shakur's departure by ordering The Hit as Tupac rode in the passenger seat with Knight at the wheel.

I don't buy it. No way would Knight order a Hit where his own life would be in grave danger (he was grazed in the head by a stray bullet). Also, security cameras in the casino in which the post-fight brawl took place captured Suge stomping a mud-hole in a guy (a.k.a. Giving him the 'ol "Frank at the Boars Nest" treatment) which ended up costing Knight many years behind bars for violating his parole. If the rival gang members did whack Tupac after the fight, I don't believe it was because Suge Knight had ordered them to do it.

3. I'm almost certain that Suge Knight had everything to do with the murder of the Notorious B.I.G. After Knight was incarcerated for his parole violation, a fellow inmate confessed that The C.E.O. of Death Row Records had told him so. By the way, if Suge Knight confessed to me that he was The Zodiac, I'd probably keep it to myself out of fear.

4. Police officers from the LAPD (David Mack and Rafael Perez among others) who were rumored to have ties to "The Bloods" street gang, we're spotted outside the Soul Train after party moments before Biggie was killed. It's all but absolute fact that these guys shot Biggie at the behest of Suge Knight, in retaliation for the death of Tupac.

5. Contrary to what many people believe, I'm not the inspiration for Denzel Washington's memorable character named Alonzo in Training Day...that honor goes to Rafael Perez. As G.I. Joe would say, "now you know, and knowing is half the battle."

BTW, this movie inspired me to create my first Music Mix since "Chris Chamberlain's Nashville Nostalgia Trip" (see Jive archives). "Still C.W.C.: Based on the Mix Frank Outta Compton by Franker" chronicles The Old School Rap that we still have to turn down low when we drive through a black neighborhood. Lemme ax you this: you like you some Snoop, Dr.Dre, Ice Cube, Coolio, LL Cool J or Pras featuring Mya and Ol' Dirty Bastard? If so, you'll dig this compilation.

I then watched Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003)

Although it wasn't Nick Broomfield's purpose, I've never really considered whether I was for or against the Death Penalty until I watched this documentary. In this film, Broomfield covers Aileen's trial in which the issue of mental competence is examined leading up to her execution in 2002. The film begins with Wuornos contradicting her convincing testimony from a decade earlier in which she gave specific details regarding the seven murders that she committed while working as a hooker. She tells Broomfield that nobody should go to their execution without accepting responsibility.
Broomfield was confused at Aileen's recent confession. He was totally convinced that her testimony regarding abuse she took from the "Johns" who paid for her services was absolutely legit. As a viewer, I can tell you that there was no way that Aileen was that great of an actor. Charlize Theron, who won an Oscar for portraying Wuornos in Monster(2003)couldn't have acted that convincingly.

At one point during a jailhouse interview, Aileen believes that Broomfield is not recording and admits to him (in a whisper) that she's only now changing her story because she couldn't take having to spend the rest of her life in prison. She wanted to be executed. Well, despite the fact that she was certifiably insane, she was definately going to get her wish. Afterall, Jeb Bush was the governor.

After hearing Aileen whisper her feelings to Broomfield, I decided that life in prison without the possibility of parole is the ultimate punishment. However, I think Aileen deserved to die-and not because I necessarily believe she murdered in cold blood. After years of parental neglect, living out in the wilderness, sleeping in the snow, and withstanding mental and physical abuse by perverts, I think that Aileen needed the break.

Then I watched Sarah Palin: You Betcha! (2011)

I really enjoyed this one. I learned a lot about the character of the former Mayor of Wasilla, who went on to be elected Governor of Alaska and then chosen as John McCain's Vice Presidential Candidate. I don't discuss politics unless I know the listener/reader shares my beliefs. Therefore, all I'm going to say is this: If a politician has a Nixon-like list of political enemies....well, they're trouble. That's all:/

And finally, I watched Broomfield's Kurt & Courtney.

What I learned:

I learned that the 90's Grunge-Look originated from a self-conscious Cobain; who weighing about 120 pounds, attempted to look heavier by wearing long thermal underwear and sleeves under his ripped jeans and flannel shirt.
I also learned that it was universally known that Kurt was going to divorce Courtney in the days before his death. Broomfield interviewed a ne'er do-well, punk rocker named El Duce, who was asked by Courtney Love if he would shoot Kurt for $50,000. He was given the same lie-detector test by the same guy who tested O.J. Simpson in '94. While Simpson understandably failed miserably, El Duce passed. He was also run over by a train two days after he was interviewed in the movie.
I can see why Broomfield wanted to research the death of Cobain. Let's face it, being as Kurt was going to divorce Courtney before his death, she would have about a half billion dollars less had he not committed suicide. However, Broomfield doesn't find sufficient evidence supporting anything other than Cobain's death was self-inflicted. However, he does uncover enough evidence that suggests Courtney Love is a mean-spirited, hateful woman.

Nowadays, I find it extremely difficult to listen to Nirvana. Their music isn't nostalgic or even pleasing to me. It's just noise. After seeing this depressing movie and how mean-spirited even Kurt could be, I don't care to listen to them ever again.

Because of Netflix on the IPad, I'm now a huge fan of the Documentary genre. I am able to watch films that I normally wouldn't have the chance to see in theaters. I watched Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" just last night. You need to see that one, fellow Jivers.

Top5 90's Alternative Bands that I can't listen to:
5. Alice In Chains
4. Everclear
3. Nirvana
2. Bush
1. Offspring

Feelin' Good All The Time

Friday, July 29, 2011

I was an Amy Winehouse fan

I was watching back to back episodes of Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin on the Biography Channel and had a few thoughts.

First of all, I think that it's ludicrous for someone to think that Winehouse's legacy isn't comparable to Joplin's. To say I was "saddened" by the news of Winehouse's death would be an overstatement because it doesn't affect my life in the least bit. However, I was a little "bummed out" after hearing the news. Simply put, I thought Winehouse had the coolest sounding female voice I've ever heard. It was powerful, eerie, and completely was Joplin's.

Second, for those who feel that it's blasphemous to compare the two and feel that Winehouse's career was vastly inferior, I pose this question to you: Can you name 5 Janis songs? I can't. I can name 3 great ones but that's it.

Besides, You Know I'm No Good and Rehab, I strongly urge you to take a listen to Winehouse's version of It's My Party (Leslie Gore cover) and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Shirelles cover). My favorite song of her's is a little known gem off the Back to Black album entitled Love is a Losing Game. It's a great song that makes you want to Bogart-it up, alone with only your thoughts and a bottle of bourbon.

While watching Joplin's Life Story on Bio channel, I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. She was quoted as saying, "I make love to 25,000 fans at a show and then go home alone." Janis wasn't physically attractive and from all accounts, was very unpopular in school.
In 1970, the year she died, Janis decided to get some Sweet Revenge by attending her 10-year High School reunion in Port Arthur, Texas. She wanted to show everyone that this "Ugly Duckling" had made it big and that she had risen above all the bullying and teasing that she encountered in high school. She made a spectacle of it; dressing like a gypsy with an entourage in tow, flamboyantly parading around town while embarrassing her family in the process. Her big charade was halted after the news crew that followed along seized an opportunity to sit down with Janis and ask her a few questions. Their questions about her old high school classmates and how she was treated, struck a nerve with Joplin. She stopped smiling and began being evasive and uncomfortable. With a few stutters, she finally whispered, "No comment." Janis couldn't hide the sadness in her eyes...even behind those purple, circular sunglasses. The look of meloncholy on her face was proof that she was still carrying around the weight of being chastised in school. The reporters then asked about her High School Prom. Joplin's shoulders dropped and she quietly told them that she wasn't ever invited. She was visibly destroyed and her plan's of Sweet Revenge had pretty much back-fired as her act deflated on live t.v. The next day, from all accounts, Joplin's mother told her that she wishes she had never been born. It was the saddest damn thing I've seen in a while. I don't suppose I condone her rabid drug use...but after watching the show, I undersand it.

Anyway, I found the Bio's of these two tragic Rockstars pretty interesting. Do you agree with my opinion that Winehouse deserves the Joplin comparison? She was a brilliant singer.

Top5 Female Artists (not a lead singer of a band ex Debbie Harry of Blondie and in Brent's case, no Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders and in Frank's case, no Zooey Daschnell from She and Him)

5. Loretta Lynn
4. Joan Baez
3. Amy Winehouse
2. Lucinda Williams
1. Alanis Morrissette

I'll try to "livin'" it up in my next Jive. Pun!


Friday, July 8, 2011

Learning to Listen...

by contributing author Dana Caudle

“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent” --Victor Hugo

I’ve always loved music. I’ve just not always appreciated it to the level that I do today. Today, I like to think of music as an extension of the senses: there is seeing, tasting, touching, feeling, hearing…and then there is music. Music can take me back to a time or place in my life as swiftly and specifically as the scent of coffee and bacon frying intermingled can take me back to my grandparents’ home on the mornings after I, as a child, spent the night. Today, there are songs that I match to my various moods; happy songs, funny songs, angry songs, sad songs. And, today--because of my love of music--the variety of artists I am willing to listen to is immense and continually growing. I was not always this way.

I grew up around music lovers. My dad was himself a musician; his tastes ran mostly to Elvis and 70’s alt-country ala the Eagles, James Taylor, and B.J. Thomas. Oldies were a staple on the car radio when we took our family vacations. At the time, I enjoyed this music; however, my understanding of it was more along the lines of me hearing it rather than actually listening to it. It didn’t necessarily provoke any kind of emotion within me.

Around the 6th grade, I decided to become a fan of country music. Because I’ve always been one to throw myself into things full-force, I decided that I should look the part, too. My hair began to take on the immense proportions and heights popular in country music at the time, blowing up to the point of resembling Mt. St. Helens circa May, 1980. (Yeah, it was pretty bad. In fact--and this is off-topic--my husband has seen basketball pictures of me from this era, and proclaimed that I must have been a great defensive player. Not only did the other team have to shoot over me, they had to make it over my hair as well.) I also acquired the ubiquitous “Garth Brooks” shirt; a red and purple color-patched atrocity with pearl snaps, worn with,--of course--red Rocky Mountain jeans and lace-up boots.

Though I played country music extensively on my Walkman, in the car, and on my stereo, I really don’t believe that I was really listening to music yet. I mean, how can one get really excited or emotional over the lyrics, Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots…? I’m not being snobbish, the song is enjoyable, yes, and great to dance and sing along to (and I will sing it, loudly, any time it gets played in my vicinity), but nothing that grabbed me by the heart and squeezed. Plus, I’d always liked to think of myself as an individual, a square peg in a round hole, and the fact that nine out of ten girls in my small-town Texas school wore Rocky Mountains and lace up boots didn’t sit well with my sense of eccentricity. It was time to move on. To what, I just didn’t know.

Now, I had not lived in a complete hole, just one partially buried by ten-gallon Stetsons and Justin boots. I did, at this time, know who the Beatles were. My cousins were already huge fans, my brother--who was always more willing to try something new than I--was indoctrinated, and I had been forced to watch a documentary on the band, albeit half-heartedly. My vision of the Beatles was four guys in suits and a bowl-headed haircuts singing antiquated songs from long ago. And, I’m embarrassed to say, I ridiculed them…loudly…to anyone who would listen. But looking back I think maybe, just maybe, I was more intrigued than I let on. Sort of like the kid who picks on a girl because he secretly has a crush on her--I don’t know, I can’t really say for sure. But I do know that I began to gradually change my mind.

I remember my interest first being piqued when I heard one of my cousins enthusiastically describing all the “Paul is Dead” clues on the Sgt. Peppers album. It probably appealed to my inherent sense of the macabre; I listened…and began to wonder. I wanted to hear these clues! But, I would not swallow my pride enough to ask my brother if I could borrow the copy of Sgt. Pepper’s he had attained from my cousins, knowing fully the unmerciful teasing I would endure. I had talked enough smack to eat my words unto gluttony if I even hinted at liking the Beatles. So I waited and wondered some more.

My chance finally came one day when I woke up with a stomach virus and couldn’t go to school. I was home alone! I was well enough to sneak into my brother’s room and find his Sgt. Pepper tape. The copy was in poor condition, having been made by the speed-dubbing recorder on his stereo (fancy stuff at the time, before cd’s made copying albums an almost instantaneous process.) The songs were in fragments, quite a few were incomplete. But then, “A Day in the Life” came on in its entirety. My life was changed forever.

This was a song that was so simple, yet so complex. The lyrics were so inconsequential, mostly about some guy reading the morning paper. But the morbidity of the words--someone blew his mind out in a car--combined with the nonsensical--someone actually counted how many holes filled Blackburn Lancashire--combined with the various complex movements of music--including the Beatles’ frequent use of the “middle eight” convention--escalating to the final cacophony of instruments…!!!

It might have been that I finally saw the light (or, most probably, my 102 degree fever), but I actually began listening to the music. Until then, I thought popular music was simple, about loving or losing a lover, drinking and doing people wrong, or someone doing the singer wrong. After hearing this song, I began to realize for the first time that music is an art form, and that a perfect blend of lyrics and musical arrangements could move me in ways I’d never imagine. And from then on, the Beatles--who were no longer just four bowl-cutted guys, but in my opinion, visionaries--became my favorite band! I wanted to hear more.

It wasn’t easy, I was still ashamed of my close-mindedness. The next time I went shopping with my mom I snuck Abbey Road into the cart, much like someone trying to smuggle hemorrhoid cream without anyone else noticing. My mom noticed. She glanced at the cover and said nonchalantly,

“I thought you didn’t like them.”

Nothing more was said. I wasn’t teased by my family for my new appreciation, either (though close-minded kids at school didn’t hesitate to do so. However, that appealed to my square-peg thingy, and I didn’t really care.) And years later, Mom and I went together to see Paul McCartney in concert, celebrating simultaneously my birthday and graduating from college. It was a momentous occasion for me. I was beginning a new chapter in my life and celebrating one that I will always fall back on--the beginning of my love for music--while listening to a member of the band that had opened my eyes to this affection. The Beatles ended up being just a stepping stone of my music appreciation, and now this appreciation is vast and includes many genres. But the Beatles will always be the first, and “A Day in the Life” will always be the song that “turned me on” and made me actually listen…to music (and also the song that, literally, deflated my hair.)

Now, since this Jive is usually a catalyst for expression, I would like to know the songs that inspired others to start listening to music. I know that tastes vary, and that there’s no real prescription for what makes a person actually like a song, the differences in preference are as vast and complex as music itself. But if you are a music lover, you can usually remember the song that inspired you and lead you in pursuit of more and more musical inspiration.

“Music is what feelings sound like.”--Author Unknown

At a movie you can feel it touching your heart
And on every day of the summertime
You'll hear children chasing ice cream carts
They'll play it on your wedding day
There must be 'bout a million ways
To add some music
To your day--The Beach Boys “Add Some Music to your Day”

Monday, February 14, 2011

Been Thinkin' About Jivin'....

It was Early November when I scrapped my first Jive. I remember I was going to begin by adapting an Ol’ Johnny Carson routine to paper. It was gonna go something like this right here….

1. Spend 2 hours strapped to a gurney like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange and forced to watch Revolutionary Road for the 2nd time….

2. Attend a 2 hour “VH1 Storytellers” event where Darryl Worley gives in-depth analysis of the meanings and inspirations behind his lyrics…..

3. Spend 2 hours listening to a girlfriend try and explain to me why she’s leaving me for Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino….

......Name 3 things I’d rather experience than 2 hours of gridlock traffic in any city…at any time.

Last fall, as I was frequently traveling long distances by plane and by automobile to the southern tip of the state, I had weekends that were almost completely sabotaged by flight delays and gridlock traffic. One Friday, it was my turn to pick my friend up from the airport. I was looking forward to experiencing the satisfaction that comes with the successful implementation of “the perfect airport-pickup”. I left earlier than anyone would ever have even considered leaving. I was way ahead of schedule…that was until I merged on to North Stemmons Fwy. My friend flew from Houston to Dallas before my car moved an inch. “Now, Christopher, surely you moved a mile, a block, or at least a car-length”, you might suggest. Nope…I didn’t move one damn inch. Literally. Instead of being cool, calm and collected, I arrived at the airport as an out of breath, sweaty mess. When I was asked why I wasn’t there waiting, I almost lost it. It set the tone for what would be another aggravating weekend. Written with the same gusto as the unforgettable spoken phrase about what water will do to mattresses or what mustard will do to shirts, I planned to comment on how “Gridlock Ruins Plans”...and it really does. And that’s a fact, Jack.

I was gonna write it…but scrapped it.

Then I was going to write a Jive that would showcase the entire 1st Act of a screenplay that I’ve been writing. Feeling as though my intellectual property would be wasted, I wanted to post it so that someone might read it, film it, and make a fortune. Then, I would attempt to sue them for “stealing” my idea. It was a stupid idea that I dismissed fairly quickly. However, the idea did spark a question about what would be the Top5 titles of a screenplay written about my life. Get Rich or Quit Tryin’ would have to top that list.

I was gonna write it…but didn’t.

On a related topic, I was going to write a Jive that would voice my excitement about making movies again. For the past five years, I somehow managed to get paid for making “videos”. It has become my identity and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. However, during this period, I only made music videos; shelving all other ideas I may have had. Well…I did make Frank Goes To The Klan Rally (2007) in which I fought off actual Network News Crews in order to “get the shot”, but it did not require much preparation. I was proud of myself for creating something “off the cuff” like that, though.

I was going to Jive about our “Return to the Streets” and all the webisodes that I hope to showcase in the Top5 Drive-In in the months to come. I was going to discuss my pleasure in realizing how much I’ve improved as a director and the satisfaction I've derived from witnessing Frank’s improved acting ability. I didn’t have to mutter my “go-to line of direction” either. I never once suggested to Frank that he should “try and act more natural”.

Then there was the Jive about American Idol that I started and never completed. Yep…I thought about it. I was going to make a bold statement by suggesting that this has been the most enjoyable season for me since Taylor Hicks won in 2006. Not to sound creepy or suggest that I’m obsessed with her or anything, but of course my new-found enjoyment has to do with the addition of Jennifer Lopez to the show. She’s Just About As Pretty As It Gets. I’m no John Hinckley* or anything…just an admirer of her beauty. I was going to “caboose” the Jive (thanks, Brent) with my Top5 Most Beautiful Actresses. I would have listed:

5. Mila Kunis
4. Rosario Dawson
3. Salma Hayek
2. Eva Mendes
1. Jennifer Lopez
* I originally placed Catherine Keener at #5 until I was called out on it. She's my favorite actress but not in the league of the other Top5.

I remember I was asked on more than one occasion which Beatle I preferred - John or Paul. I thought about writing about that too. I love Paul McCartney's music and consider him to be the most famous entertainer in the world. However, I base my decision about who I prefer on this scenario - I can "Imagine" (Pun!) a situation in which John and Paul are sitting around sharing a smoke in the Dakota Apartments. Obladi Oblada plays on the radio. John says to Paul, "You are a more talented bloke than that, man. Really, Paul"? I can't think of one John Lennon tune where after listening to it, Paul could retort by posing the same question back at his former bandmate. Think about it. If you prefer the optimistic sounds of Paul McCartney's beautiful music, I can't fault you. Just know that John was realistic enough to know better.

Ringo was the "Funny one", George was the "Quiet one", Paul was the "Cute one, and John was the "Talented one". Enough said.

I say that knowing full-well that Oh Darling is one of my favorite songs of all-time...maybe even Top5 Beatle tunes...

....And then there was the Jive I scrapped about my anger at Roberto Alomor being voted in to the MLB Hall Of Fame. A product of the 90's Steroid Era being voted in first round...WHAT? He makes Michael Irvin look like the Rev. Gene Ratliff**. Looking past the fact that Jeff Bagwell did not even get voted in and the fact that Alomar played on a Baltimore Oriole team with such proven "sluggers" as Brady Anderson, Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro (tear) , the SOB spit in umpire John Hirschbeck's face. This is such a dasterdly move that I failed to even include it in Video Joe's Moral Code of Ethics (see Jive archives). I would not even spit in Bin Laden's face. I was gonna write about how such an act would rank just below pushing a fully-clothed man in a swimming pool ,while the man in question was in mid-conversation with a Blind Date. I was gonna write about that but instead, wanted to let that soggy cousin of mine know that I'm so happy that it all worked out for him in the end.

Roberto Alamor is lucky that he wasn't good enough to hit 762 homeruns and that his measily-steroid-induced 210 homeruns snuck him into the HOF. He snuck into the Hall of Fame faster than that Nolan Ryan fastball sped by him in The Express' 7th No-hitter.

Anyway, in the spirit of Dwight Yoakum...I've been thinkin' about Jivin', long enough to change my mind.
Feelin' Good ALL the Time
* John Hinckley attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in an effort to impress Jodie Foster. BTW, I bet he took her "coming out" announcement personally.
** Gene Ratliff was a former Minister of mine at Gordon Methodist Church. He was my favorite.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rangers Baseball

Today is a very special day in the life of a Texas Rangers fan. No, I don’t mean those greenhorn sorts that started wearing a Rangers’ hat 2 weeks ago. I’m talking about those of us who have truly LIVED life as fans. Those of us who have grown up with the Rangers in our homes and experienced the anxiety of waiting for a World Series. And, coincidently, wondering if it would ever happen in our lifetimes. As any sports fan will admit, there is a certain level of nostalgia that accompanies their “team’s” road to victory. After success, it is only natural for fans to acquire a sense of entitlement in their belief that they somehow contributed to the triumph. And, yes, I too am going to go down that road. Well, not just myself, but also my family. See, I grew up with two younger brothers and 7 close knit cousins, all of which were Rangers fans. The “Cousins”, as Toby Harrah labeled us, were staples of every Texas Rangers event during the mid-80s to early 90s. Countless miles traveled to games, baseball card conventions, and autograph sessions have attributed to oodles of stories, and coincidently die-hard fans. I feel that this World Series is for the “Cousins”. We earned it because we LIVED it.

Let me start by stating my belief that baseball is a dying sport. Don’t believe me? Ask any 5th grader who Joe Maurer is and see what you get. Hell, ask them who won the batting title in the American League last year. Follow it up by asking to see their baseball card collection. In a world where we have a million different components competing for our attention, the game of baseball seems to have fallen behind. We live in a fast paced society, with short attention spans, and a general desire to appreciate only what is sexy. Baseball is not sexy – but it is beautiful. I don’t need to go into a melodramatic description of why, but it is. And I believe that the only way to find beauty in the game is to LIVE it. Well, the “Cousins” have certainly done that and my Top 5 Jive will examine some of the moments.

On July 31, 1990, Nolan Ryan recorded his 300th victory against the Milwaukee Brewers. I don’t need to look up any of the details of that particular game because I remember it crisply. I watch the game with all of the “Cousins”. See the day before, our Grandfather had passed away and we had come together as a family. Like most kids, we all had different emotions and were dealing with them in our own certain ways. But there was a brief moment where we were able to escape reality. None-the-less we came together, as a family, amongst the mounds of food that neighbors from the community had brought over, and cheered for Nolan to get the victory. He did, and in a way it felt like he did it for us.

I tell the previous story, not to dramatize, but to paint a picture of how important a singular game was to me. How important it was to the “Cousins”. And there are more. Many of which are extremely insignificant to most, but not to us. In ode to the Top 5 Jive, I have comprised my top 5 list of fondest Rangers memories. Coincidently, they all revolve around the “Cousins”. Funny how that works.

1. How Frank nearly changed the history of baseball by trying to get an autograph.
On the day that Nolan Ryan was expected to record his 5000th strike out, Arlington Stadium had the fortune, or misfortune of having the “Cousins” in attendance. After several attempts to get Nolan’s attention while warming up, Frank decided that he would throw the baseball that he wanted autographed. Without warning it one-hopped from the outfield bleachers and hit The Express in the shoulder. No harm was done, but crazier injuries have been inflicted. In typical, stoic, Nolan Ryan fashion he picked up the ball and threw it back.

2. Advise from a former Knuckleballer.
While getting an autograph from Bobby Witt, Jimmy Ray Kostiha, who had experienced glory as a Gordon Longhorn baseball pitcher in the 60s, sat the struggling pitcher down and gave him a motivational “talk”. We have all had the “talk” with JRK and know that there are no boundaries that prohibit the conversation. No one knows exactly what was said, but Bobby Witt went on to win 12 and 17 games the following two years. He also experimented with a knuckleball to no avail.

3. Showing Love for your favorite Ranger with a Mullet.
Idealizing your favorite Ranger is normal for a 10 year old kid to do. Until you look back and realize that you cut your hair into a Mullet, because of Steve Buechelle. Certainly the history of baseball will not show in influx of mullets because of this particular player, but any photograph from 88-91 will show myself proudly supporting one. BTW – I also named my first dog after him.

4. $25,000 Grand Slam
When Frank’s name was called during the Sonic Grand Slam inning, there was a certain feel that something crazy was going to happen. It was midday on the 4th of July and we were watching the game at our house. The Chamberlains were watching at theirs, which was just down the block. What I can remember is running down the street screaming like a banshee all the way to Frank and Chris’ house, where we proceeded to dance in the middle of the living room. You would have thought “Crazy Game of Poker” was playing.

5. Juiced gives Lyle a game ball.
Every kid who has the fortune of catching a ball at a baseball game will never forget it, especially when it is from Jose Canseco. In the center field bleachers Canseco saw a joy-filled little guy pleading for a ball and made it a point to throw him one. A bully, who was at least twice his size, jumped in front of Lyle and took it away. Canseco could see the disappointment in the young fans eyes and sternly told the bully to give it back, which he obliged. I’ve always though a lot of Canseco because of that moment.

As you can see the Texas Rangers hold a special place my heart. You ask if I’m excited that they will be playing in the World Series. Damn right I am!!! But for reasons that supersede the normal fandom that follows a winning hometown team. Win or lose, we have LIVED Rangers baseball.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

"That's Not Justice"

If it is true that The Godfather is the sum of all wisdom, refer to the opening scene of Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 Masterpiece. In it, the local undertaker looks to Vito Corleone for revenge on the two guys who raped his daughter and left her for dead. As he whispers into the Don's ear, we deduce that the guy wants The Godfather to have them killed for what they've done. "That I cannot do", says Corleone. "Your daughter is still alive. That's not justice."In A Time To Kill,the offensive, morally objectionable, sweaty movie from Joel Schumacher starring Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, and Samuel L. MF'n Jackson, the The Donald Sutherland character says, "If you can win this case...justice will prevail...but lose and justice will also prevail." Nuh-uh. This philosophy certainly contradicts the sentiments of one of the greatest movie characters to ever grace the Silver Screen. This is enough proof that A Time To Kill's logic is flawed.

Here is a movie that is so well-crafted that it successfully fools the movie-going public into thinking that the beliefs held by its characters are shared by your average American living in the Southern region of the United States. "Everybody knows that a black man can't get a fair trial in the South", this movie suggests. Oh really? I wasn't aware of that. But then again, if I was a juror, race would not weigh in on my decision on guilt or innocence. I would analyze other factors such as eye-witness testimony, the defendant's courtroom demeanor, and the indisputable evidence presented in court before choosing a verdict. This movie tries to make it perfectly clear that if the Black defendant draws an all White jury, he is sure to "hang". If he draws an all Black jury, he is sure to "walk". Nobody in this movie seems to disagree with this ignorant generalization about racial predjudices in the South. You mean to tell me that there would not be ONE sensible juror who happens to live in the South who would judge without prejudice?

The Plot (in case you have not seen the movie):

After his daughter is raped and left for dead by two rednecks, Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson)takes matters into his own hands and murders the two degenerates in cold blood. Hailey felt like he had no other choice but to blow them away with a machine gun in a crowded courthouse...while their mother looked on in horror. Apparently he thought that since the two suspects were white...and despite that there was so much evidence against them that even Chris Darden and Marcia Clark could score a conviction, they would still "Beat the Wrap" and be found innocent. He then enlists the services of a Hotshot, young, sweaty lawyer named Jake Brigance (McConaughey)in hopes of him being able to sway a jury full of buffoons that Carl Lee should not be punished at all.

Not to "put on airs" like I'm Steven Seagal or anything, but if I ever find myself in a similar circumstance, I hope that I could find my way to the perpetrators and provide Swift Justice with a pair of plyers and a blow-torch (shoutout to Pulp Fiction) before the cops can lock them up. If I decided that their horrible crime against my family deserved the ultimate punishment, I would understand that my murderous action would undoubtedly reserve me a room at the Grey-Bar Hotel for an extended stay with no check-out day in sight. I would know that goin' in. I would not go to trial and proclaim my innocence when half of the town witnessed me committing the crime. If I was the Judge in this case, after asking the defendant how he pleads, I would find it very difficult not to respond like Michael Corleone did after informing Carlo that he had to answer for the death of Santino - "Don't tell me that your innocent. It insults my intelligence...makes me very angry".

The most offensive scene in the movie takes place near the end of the picture as The Sweaty Young Lawyer gives his closing argument in defensive of his client. Here is an exerpt of his speech:

Jake Tyler Brigance: [in his summation, talking about Tonya Hailey] Now comes the hanging. They have a rope. They tie a noose. Imagine the noose going tight around her neck and with a sudden blinding jerk she's pulled into the air and her feet and legs go kicking. They don't find the ground. The hanging branch isn't strong enough. It snaps and she falls back to the earth. So they pick her up, throw her in the back of the truck and drive out to Foggy Creek Bridge. Pitch her over the edge. And she drops some thirty feet down to the creek bottom below. Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl. Now imagine she's white.

WHAT??? Imagine she's WHITE? WHAT? If I were a juror, I would be held in contempt of court after my violent outburst after being treated so disrespectfully. It is offensive to me that someone would think that the race of the victim would play any part in my decision. I would have to demand an apology.

In the film's climax, a kid busts out of the courtroom and exclaims, "He's innocent"! What? The closing argument worked with those 12 Bozos? What? No second-degree murder, no involuntary manslaughter, or not even reckless endangerment? Whaaaaat? If I were the Keifer Sutherland character (who's brother was murdered), I would be floored with disbelief and filled with anger and hatred. I would be Fred Goldman - mad. I would be madder than Hall of Famer George Brett in the Pine Tar Incident* - mad. I'd be madder than Chris Farley after finding out that someone switched his coffee - mad. Mad. I would have to be escorted out of the courtroom like DeNiro in the Untouchables (1987). Realizing that American Justice had failed me, I would be forced to incur it on my own. Carl Lee Haley just got away with it so why couldn't I? This is the irresponsible message that A Time To Kill gives us.

Even though I disagree with this film's message, I must point out that it is a very entertaining movie that engages the audience from start to finish.It definitely has its opinions. Just remember that The Godfather always knows best.

I'm a fan of Charles S. Dutton who plays the local sheriff/chief of police in this movie. Here are my Top5 Movie Sheriffs...

5. Tommy Lee Jones as "Ed Tom" in No Country For Old Men

4. Roy Scheider as "Chief Brody" in JAWS

3. Denzel Washington as "Alonzo" in Training Day

2. Michael Parks as "Earl McGraw" in From Dusk 'Til Dawn among others

1. Gene Hackman as "Little Bill" in Unforgiven

*This is just about as mad as anybody can get...

BTW, You might wonder why I decided to voice my disdain on a movie that was released over 14 years ago. Well....recently I was rummaging through the $5 pile of DVDs at Wal-Mart. I found it, bought it, watched it, and hated it. Then I just decided to write about it. (In Forrest Gump voice) I just felt like writing....

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