Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"A Cinderella Story" (As Told By Monkey 2)

Ever since Monkey 2 turned down a starring role in The Hungry Preacher's original motion picture "It's All in Your Head", she has regretted it like Tom Selleck watching "Raiders of the Lost Ark."  Once she saw her sister on the big screen (uh, monitor), she has regularly asked, "Can you do that with me?"

The other day, she brought me some drawings she had made that progress like a story, then narrated the story that went with it.  I asked her if she'd be willing to do it again with me filming, and she lit up.

The first take ran about 4 minutes, but was too dark (the lighting, not the content).  So a couple of days later, we went through it again in a brighter room--and it ran about 11 minutes.  Doh!

So off the editing room I went.  This is the trimmed down version, and it's still about as long as the original album track of Bruce Springsteen's "Backstreets," so grab some popcorn.  I didn't cut TOO many details of the actual story, so you should be able to follow.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That's What She Said, VOLUME 2

The Hungry PK's are both wont to offer up unique and insightful perspectives on life, the universe, and everything.  PK 2, however, is especially adept at coining expressions "just right."  In an earlier post, I shared some of her greatest quotes.  Since then, she's offered up a few more gems, and now I pass them on to you.  Enjoy.


"If you want to play with me, don't hit me again, then I'll play with you."

DAUGHTER 2: "I've got something to say, and I'm as serious as I can be."
ME: "OK."
DAUGHTER 2: "So here I go."
ME: "OK."
DAUGHTER 2: "Are there any baseball stadiums in Egypt?"

"Did God even invent bad stuff like mosquitoes and boo-boos?  Oh, I know!  Is it because God invented dragonflies and dragonflies eat mosquitoes and God didn't want them to die?"

We had pulled into a Jack in the Box drive-through only to find that the fruit-smoothie machine was broken.  The woman asked me if I'd like a shake instead, to which I replied, "No thanks.  I'll just hold off for now."  Then we drove away, after which Monkey 2 asked:
"Did you hurt her feelings?"

"Did you remember our towels, or is that the only thing you forgot?"
-on the way to swimming

"Dear God, we pray for anyone outside that they don't die and that they have raincoats.  And that you are with them and that they know you are with them."

"Are monsters your favorite bad animal?"

After mommy had made biscuits, she went upstairs to get ready for church while the girls and I ate.  One of the jams we had available was huckleberry.  I told Monkey 2 that, when mommy came back down, to say, "I'm your huckleberry."  When mommy came back down, Monkey 2 paused, did her best to remember what to say, then looked at both of us and said:
"I'm your guyses huckleberry."

"I think it's going to rain, because I feel the wind and it feels like rain wind."

MONKEY 1: "There is a dangerous street on the way to Tyrone's house [Tyrone is a cartoon character].  It is very curvy and ends at another streeet.  So people don't like to go to his house very much."
ME: "Because it's too dangerous to get there?"
MONKEY 1: "Yeah.  But the construction workers made it very curvy so that people can't drive too fast on it."
ME: "Oh, are you talking about the street in San Fransisco?  Because there's a street in San Fransisco like that--did you read about that at school?"
MONKEY 1: "No, I'm talking about Tyrone's street."
ME: "Oh.  Because that's exactly what they did on this street in San Fransisco.  They made it really curvy so that people couldn't drive too fast."
MONKEY 1: "No.  The street in San Fransisco is Lombard Street, and Tyrone lives on Lafayette."

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Springsteen "Gave It a Name"--and Some Were Better Than Others (PART 2)

For ground rules and Bruce's first 8 albums, read PART 1 here.

9.  HUMAN TOUCH (1992)
Pop:  It's a cliche, which means the pop could probably max out at about a 3.  So 1, 2, or 3?  As cliches go, this one has an average amount of pop.
2 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
Without the title as a guide, the theme of "Human Touch" is murky (notoriously so, among Springsteen connoisseurs).  Using the title as a guide (which is circular), one could suggest that the songs of "Human Touch" collectively focus on relationships.  Chronologically, thematically, and even musically, "Human Touch" is a transition between the hardships of "Tunnel of Love" and the peace and contentedness of "Lucky Town."  The Boss is still searching for what relationships are all about and--literally and metaphorically--he finds stability in the "human touch" of another.
*Does the album title capture this theme?
In a self-fulfilling sort of way, yes.  In a vacuum, would a neutral party independently listen to the album then choose "Human Touch" as the name of the album?  It's iffy.
3.5 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  Did Bruce want this album to be immediately forgotten?  He released it alongside the superior and more-memorably named "Lucky Town"; he titled it with a cliche; bizarrely, the title track isn't even the most memorable song called "Human Touch" by people who either are, or who have been mistaken for, Bruce Springsteen.  He had to know this last point, right?  Was it an inside joke?  If it was, that's kind of funny, kind of memorable, I guess.
1.5 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  In Springsteen's defense (sort of), he didn't have a lot to work with.  Most of the other song titles--say, 9 out of 14--are "plain-yogurt bland": "Cross My Heart," "All or Nothin' at All," "Roll of the Dice," "Real Man," "Man's Job," "Real World."  Those last three make me wonder if he used a starter set of refrigerator poetry magnets as a song-title prompt.  Most of the songs are as generic sounding as their titles.  Case in point: this is the Springsteen album that I cut my teeth on, and have probably listened to it from beginning to end a good 50 times--and I can't even think of how "Real Man" goes!  I don't even think it's on the tip of my tongue.  "Real World," both as a song and a theme-capture-er, rises above the competition, but its title isn't memorable and it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue (for a 2 syllable title, it takes about 3.5 syllables worth of time to say).  Could "Soul Driver" be a dark horse candidate?  Maybe--thematically it fits pretty well, and it's memorable and easy to say.  On the other hand, I think I like that song more than most Springsteen fans (a longtime friend of mine and Springsteen convert hates it).  And it just doesn't feel like an album title.  Where does that leave us?  Right back to where we started...  "Human Touch" it is.
5 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "Human Touch":
3 strings out of 6

10.  LUCKY TOWN (1992)
Pop:  Distinct enough--it's a figure of speech, but not one that anyone uses earnestly.  Short.  Easy to say.  Objectively, it's fine.  Subjectively...  well, I'll get to that.
4.5 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
Bruce finds something like happiness.
*Does the album title capture this theme?
Almost.  What doesn't quite sit is that most of the songs attribute this happiness to an array of causes, and to Bruce opening his eyes and seeing them.  Maybe luck is a contributing factor, and I'm probably reading too much into it.  I mean, it's OK for Bruce to feel like the luckiest man alive.  But the songs betray a more nuanced and effort-driven arrival into "Lucky Town", and for Bruce to title the album as he did undercuts those complexities.  Of course, album titles are supposed to distill complexities into soundbites--it just feels like Bruce distilled in the wrong (or at least the shallowest) direction.
4 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  Bear with me here, but my brain doesn't know how to remember "Lucky Town" in any meaningful way.  It knows that a "Lucky Town" is a place, a concrete noun.  But it can't picture anything concrete.  Compare with "Nebraska".  I hear "Nebraska" and my brain pictures Nebraska: fields, silos, thunderstorms, corn, etc.  I hear "Born to Run" and my brain immediately knows we're talking about abstract concepts, and begins to wonder abstractly what it means to be "born to run."  But when I hear "Lucky Town," the part of my brain that interprets "Nebraska" tries to do the same with "Lucky Town," but there are no pictures evoked, nothing concrete at all.  My brain, with no concrete images, and not finding the phrase very alluring in the abstract, kind of just gets bored and decides that "Lucky Town," as an album title, is functional but forgettable.
2 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  Oh, what could have been.  "Better Days" is an obvious choice, and would have been a good one.  "Living Proof" is a highly regarded song on the album and distills better than "Lucky Town" does what the album is all about.  "Leap of Faith" is cliched, but also better describes what Bruce is talking about.  "My Beautiful Reward" spells it out a little much, but at least sounds personal.  Even "If I Should Fall Behind" (though long) would have provided a layered and humble introduction to the album (and perhaps shined some light on Bruce's best love song).
1.5 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "Lucky Town":
3 strings out of 6

Pop:  Unconventional pop, but pop nonetheless.  A shout-out to "to the protagonist of John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath" (quoting wikipedia) may not excite the younger crowd, but you gotta tip your cap for trying something different.
5 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
Stories, characters, despair--think "Nebraska," but with a southwest flare.
*Does the album title capture this theme?

Confession time: I have neither read nor seen "The Grapes of Wrath".  I have some idea what it's about, and Tom Joad could have easily been a character that Springsteen came up with on his own and sang about on this album (or "Nebraska").  The characters on this album are modern day (mostly), hence their summoning Tom Joad's ghost, since Tom has long since passed away.  In a way, they are Tom Joad, continuing to provide new bodies and settings to the anguished spirit that he is.
6 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  I like the album OK, but I never forget the title.  Like a relief sculpture, both the album and its title are shaped by what is missing: it is the absence of easily interpreted choruses, enhanced instrumentation, and radio-friendly catchphrases that define "The Ghost of Tom Joad."  Paradoxically, these absences create a memorability of their own--indeed, like a ghost in the corner of a photograph.
5 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  There's some potential here.  "Youngstown" went on to become one of the best-known and best-loved songs on the album thanks to Bruce's full-band electrification of it on tour a few years later, but 1) you can't know the future, right?  2)  "Youngstown" is too similar to "Nebraska" as a title, and 3) geographically, "Youngstown" is something of an outlier concerning where most of the songs are set (or at least feel like they are set).  "Across the Border" would have worked, but you lose some subtlety.  "Dry Lightning" has some grip to it, and probably could have worked.  But "Joad," though a little long and beginning with "The" (usually a strike against a title, in my book), probably works as well as any alternative could have.
5.5 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "The Ghost of Tom Joad":
5.38 strings out of 6

12.  THE RISING (2002)
Pop:  A title with pop should both catch your attention and draw you to investigate.  This title does both of those things poorly, but not abysmally--think "D+" instead of "F".  The pop level increased for me when I really thought about it, but if I have to really think about it, it's not really pop--it's more like "intrigue". Thus, we have: [(not quite failing) x 2] + [intrigue / 3] =
2.5 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
No other Springsteen album lends itself to using the album title as a legitimate self-fulfilling guide for establishing a theme.  One could listen to the album and ascribe either a dark or a hopeful theme.  There are some dark songs ("Nothing Man," "Empty Sky"), some brighter songs ("The Rising," "Mary's Place,") and some that are a mix of hope and despair, musically and/or lyrically ("Lonesome Day," "Into the Fire").
*Does the album title capture this theme?
Having just suggested that--thematically speaking--Springsteen could have reasonably gone either direction with the album title, here I'll go on record as saying that he chose correctly.  A darker title would have undercut the currents of hope more than a brighter title would have invalidated the sorrow.
5.5 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  For as little pop as I initially recognized in the title, "The Rising" has aged like a fine wine.  The song has absorbed character through the years, first as a post-9/11 anthem of resilience and later riding sidecar along with Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" campaign.  Like a prism that is clear to the naked eye, the song affects how we see the various contexts that shine through it.  As an album title, "The Rising" has proven to be similarly adaptable, framing the entire album first as a soundtrack for the heartache and hope following 9/11, but subsequently as a challenge to the downtrodden of every setting to not lose hope and, instead, to rise.  
5.5 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  While "The Rising" errs on the side of vagueness, other potential titles would have been too tied to their context to work well as album titles; or they would have leaned too far away from the theme of hope; or both.  The closest contenders are "Lonesome Day," "World's Apart," "Into the Fire," and "My City of Ruins," but none of these capture the album as "The Rising" does.
6 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "The Rising":
4.87 strings out of 6

13.  DEVILS & DUST (2005)
Pop:  An original phrase coined by Springsteen, one that piques curiosity, but leaves surprisingly little to the imagination: "Devils" is metaphorical, "dust" is literal.  Not his best, not his worst.
4 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
See "Nebraska" and "The Ghost of Tom Joad."  I'm overstating some.  On the one hand, "D&D" certainly piggybacks on the styles and themes brought up in those albums (e.g., Wikipedia even points out that the song "Matamoros Banks"...seems to continue a story first told in 'Across the Border' in The Ghost of Tom Joad.").  There are lots of loner-types narrating the songs, telling their stories of struggle and desperation.  On the other hand, more than "Nebraska" or "TGOTJ," "Devils & Dust" has a few more seemingly-autobiographical songs interjected into the mix, creating am impression that Springsteen sees himself as a comrade of the characters.  Unstated but perhaps implied is the fact that Bruce has achieved some measure of victory in his struggles, and that in coming alongside his characters, he seeks to provide them with both empathy and assistance.
*Does the album title capture this theme?
The title track could be labeled (albeit simplistically) as a musical, political call to "Bring home the troops!"  As such, it captures well the twofold themes of "raising awareness" (empathy) and "offering help" (assistance) to those bound in difficult and/or desperate situations.  Furthermore, the metaphorical "devils" are not bound to (presumably) Iraq or Afghanistan; they live in America, too, in places like "Reno" and the "Matamoros Banks".  And dust?  Well, dust is everywhere, and is an image evoked many of the songs on this album.
5 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  I'm not typically a fan of having the first single of an album be the title cut, and this is a good example as to why.  The album title actually could have timelessly transcended the title cut more than it has.  But because the title track was released first, "Devils & Dust" was never really given a chance as a theme-capturing album title; it's just first track from the album.  That said, the name "Devils & Dust" is probably better remembered by the masses because of the promotional efforts regarding the title track, but it is likely recalled merely as a way of identifying the album rather than an artistic statement in its own right.
4 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  Not much competition on the track list.  An ultra-context-specific title like "The Hitter" or "Silver Palomino" would have been novel, but not as memorable or appropriate.  More general titles like "All the Way Home" or "Long Time Comin'" are too general and don't offer much to capture the themes of the album.  "D&D" was the best choice.
6 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "Devils & Dust":
4.75 strings out of 6

14.  MAGIC (2007)
Pop:  Oh-boy. calls this Springsteen's " record since 'The River' in 1980."  I'm calling it the least-interestingly-titled album since then.  Please, make this title disappear... 
1.5 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
This might be Springsteen's most political album, and with George W. in office, troops overseas, and individual rights being compromised left and right in the name of national security, Bruce isn't exactly conservative (pun intended) in expressing his opinions on the state of the union.  American liberties are being threatened, and the enemy is within at least as much as it is without.
*Does the album title capture this theme?
Meh.  There's nothing about the word "magic" that captures this theme.  The lyrics to the title track have a poignant moment or two, but you need to read the theme into the lyrics to make the connection.
2.5 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  If the effectiveness of "Devils & Dust" as an album title is compromised by the over-promotion and release of the title track, "Magic" suffers on the opposite end of the spectrum.  "Magic," the song, is lost in the shuffle, the last one I noticed and the first one I started skipping.  It certainly wasn't released as a single, and was played on a little more than half of the concerts in support of the album.  As an album identifier, "Magic" is OK, but it does little to bring the tracks together under a thematically distinct umbrella.
2 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  "Your Own Worst Enemy" immediately jumped out at me as a pretty bad--s title, and the cover photo of Bruce looks like it was taken with that track in mind; and it would have nailed the theme to a T.  "Radio Nowhere" and "Livin' in the Future" each have more character than "Magic" does, and sacrifice nothing regarding thematic significance.  "Long Walk Home" would have scored high on pop, appropriateness, and memorability, and is arguably the best song on the album.  Or, we could go with the track that was best known as the title of an Olivia Newton John song, until it became even better known as the title of a Cars song.  Sigh.
1 string out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "Magic":
1.75 strings out of 6

15.  WORKING ON A DREAM (2009)
Pop:  My normal response to one of Bruce's album titles is to wonder, "What does that mean?"  For the best ones, I ask the question with sincere curiosity, eager to unwrap the plastic and find out the story behind the cover.  For the less-good ones, I ask, "What does that mean?" in a skeptical manner, as in, "What does that even mean?"  These less-good titles err in their failure to evoke a specific, meaningful image or idea.  Guilty parties include (to varying degrees) "Darkness on the Edge of Town," "Human Touch," "Lucky Town," and... (drum roll) "Working on a Dream."  These titles--and probably "Working on a Dream" more than any other--offer something like an "unpersuasive specificity," which is to say that I'll assume that Bruce really did have something specific in mind when he coined "working on a dream", but my image receptors find nothing tangible or emotive about the phrase.  My mind says, "This is fine."  My heart just shrugs.
2 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
This Bruce's least thematic album since "Human Touch" (or maybe ever; I'm not counting "Tracks").  Word is this album evolved out of "Magic" sessions, and the content backs that up.  It's like someone tried to make a consistent meal out of what they had left in their refrigerator after a weekend of entertaining guests.  On a song-level, that's fine.  Some are good.  And I don't have any problem with Bruce mixing together different styles and themes within one album.  Could that in itself be the theme?
*Does the album title capture this theme?
Maybe the title "Working on a Dream" does capture the implied optimism demonstrated by Bruce's relaxing of his legendarily rigorous criteria for a song's inclusion on an album (even Bruce eventually admitted that including "Because the Night" on "Darkness on the Edge of Town" would not have reduced the album to an incoherent pile of sludge).  And the album does have a more hopeful feel than any album since "Lucky Town," so it's not as if there is a gross detachment between the title and the content.
4 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  "The Rising" proved to be a title that--though vague--absorbed life and detail from its contexts, like a once-blank passport stamped with ink from exotic and varied locales; each stamp holds a memory and--by association--the passport itself becomes a powerful symbol of a life well-traveled.  If "Working on a Dream" started off as a blank passport, well, it still kind of is.  Maybe a civil rights movement or politician will adopt the title track as a theme, but until then...
1.5 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  While "Working on a Dream" is pretty ho-hum as a title, there's not a whole lot of competition.  We can probably agree that neither "Outlaw Pete" nor "Queen of the Supermarket" would have been good, timeless choices.  Other options are broad and bland: "Life Itself," "This Life," "My Lucky Day," "What Love Can Do".  Maybe the best alternative would have been an outside-the-box choice like "Surprise, Surprise," which would have both captured the optimism of the album and served as a double entendre, bragging, "Hey, bet you weren't expecting an album like this!"  I actually kind of like it, but can see that it's not a slam dunk.  "Working on a Dream" may have been this album's equivalent to being the best beach volleyball team in Tibet.
4 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "Working on a Dream":
2.88 strings out of 6

16.  THE PROMISE (2010)
Pop:  Ah, "The Pattern", the mashed potatoes and meatloaf of Springsteen album titles: comfortable, easy, bland, nourishing enough, but nothing to write home about.  As far as single words modified by a definite article in a 2-word album title, "Promise" has more pop than "River," but less than "Rising".
1.5 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
Unlike Springsteen's other multi-disc release of previously-recorded tracks (that would be "Tracks"), "The Promise" indeed petitions to be an actual "lost album" of sorts, and not just a collection of rarities and B-sides.  And for a double album with 30 years between its recording and release, "The Promise" succeeds surprisingly well in creating at least a consistent motif, if not a full-fledged theme.  The songs have the radio-friendly structure of "The River", but are still set in (presumably) the streets and bars of Jersey.  They're simultaneously gritty and romantic, exuberant and longing.  A couple of reviews call this album something like "blue-collar soul".  That sounds right.
*Does the album title capture this theme?
"The Promise," as a title, doesn't really communicate anything.  It's not until we listen to the title track that we can see that said promise was more broken than kept, and that the track might be the most somber song on the album, both musically and lyrically.  As a song, it's an outlier that should have been placed on "Darkness..." or "Nebraska," and as such, no, it doesn't capture the theme of this album very well.  It seems as though this album wasn't named so much to reflect its content as it was to honor Springsteen's faithful who have, for decades, heard tell of this long, lost treasure known as "The Promise".
1.5 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  Even though "The Promise" is not even a year released, the above-mentioned "legend of 'The Promise'," offered a significant dose of advanced memorability.  But that's kind of cheating.  Trying to imagine a world where Springsteen fans had never heard of "The Promise" until it hit the shelves leaves us, well, kind of forgetting about it.
2 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  With 20 potential alternatives, it's not surprising to find a few gems.  "Because the Night" is a legendary song, and sentence fragment titles have a personal allure to me--I want to find out how they end!  But "night" is such an overdone image, incorporating it into an album title is risky.  "Wrong Side of the Street" is also overdone, but it's hard to argue with how perfectly appropriate that would match the "blue collar soul" motif of the album, and "Wrong Side..." would have been a brief but distinct shorthand way to reference the album.  "Breakaway" stands out as a track and a title, and had this album been released 30 years ago may have been the slam dunk choice; Kelly Clarkson kind of messed it up though, with her #1 hit of the same name.  These are still good choices, but the winning "what could have been" title in my book (uh, blog) is "Outside Looking In".  The image captures the album, as does the pace and feel of the song.  It's short, catchy, familiar but not too overdone, and memorable.  It may have even turned the track into another "Hungry Heart" in terms of radio play.
1.5 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "The Promise":
1.63 strings out of 6

17.  WRECKING BALL (2012)
Pop:  A piece of construction equipment that swings around and smashes buildings?  You had me at "smashes buildings."  Quaint but cool, the only detriment to the pop of this album title is that a live version of the song "Wrecking Ball" had already been released months prior to the album, robbing the title of much of its mystique.
5 strings out of 6

*What’s the theme of this album?
Steve Leftridge at suggests that "Wrecking Ball" will be remembered as Springsteen's "occupy album."  The explicitness of that theme may be a bit overstated, but it's a fair summary, especially given Springsteen's recent history of crafting his albums within the rumblings of his culture.  That the narrators of his songs are angry and broke is nothing new; what is new is the culprits.  Usually, the culprits are a mix of bad luck, bad decisions, and the bad crowd.  On "Wrecking Ball," the culprits are anything but street-level, and are frustratingly nameless and faceless.  On the other hand, perhaps because of the distance between the narrators and their antagonists, there is a distinct "ah, screw 'em" vibe in many of the songs.  How else could someone sing "Death to My Hometown" with such jolly and carefree melody?  One moment, the narrators lash out at being reduced to anonymous economic casualties; in the next, they seem to be relishing the feelings of liberation that come with such anonymity.  At least, it seems, there is no longer any pretense of us all being on the same side.  The fat cats are on their side, and us rats are on the other.
*Does the album title capture this theme?
Beautifully so.  What could smash away all pretenses better than a wrecking ball?  More literally, consider what wrecking balls are used for: dramatically tearing down old structures to make way for new.  Something is dying so that something new can live.  A wrecking ball is a condemnation of the failure and/or outdatedness of past decisions.  And it is a condemnation far more decisive than passively assuming that that old, boarded-up building can be repainted and reused.  No, screams the narrator: "Bring on your wrecking ball."  The structure is flawed.  Boarding up the windows or painting the walls will not do.  There is no hope in that, no life, no opportunity.  If we are going to rise up above this "Rocky Ground" to a "Land of Hope and Dreams," we need don't need bailouts or legislation.  We need a wrecking ball.
6 strings out of 6

Memorability/Longevity:  Jury is still out, but so far it's looking good.  The phrase is specific and brief.  The theme is clear.  It's even better than memorable--it's hard to forget.
5.5 strings out of 6

Alternatives:  There are some good options here.  "Shackled and Drawn" certainly conjures up some images.  "We Are Alive" is striking, but not very nuanced.  "We Take Care of Our Own" as a song captures the ambivalence of an album full of death and life (a form of each of these words can be found in the titles of songs on this album); as an album title, though, "We Take Care of Our Own" is a little long and nondescript.  There are some contenders, but "Wrecking Ball" was the best choice.
6 strings out of 6

Average Strings for the Title: "Wrecking Ball":
5.63 strings out of 6

With that, we wrap up our critique of Springsteen album titles.  For people like me who like to skip to the bottom line, or who just like to review how they spent their last 20 minutes, here's the final ranking of Springsteen's album titles in best-to-worst order, followed by their scores out of 6:
  1. Born to Run (6)
  2. Wrecking Ball (5.63)
  3. Nebraska (5.5)
  4. The Ghost of Tom Joad (5.38)
  5. Born in the U.S.A. (5.25)
  6. The Rising (4.87)
  7. Tunnel of Love (4.75)
  8. Devils & Dust (4.75)
  9. The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle (4.38)
  10. Darkness on the Edge of Town (3.13)
  11. Human Touch (3)
  12. Lucky Town (3)
  13. Working on a Dream (2.88)
  14. Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. (2.17)
  15. The River (1.88)
  16. Magic (1.75)
  17. The Promise (1.63)
Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for updates a couple of weeks after the release of #18.  'Til then...


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sobe It: Updates from Miami & the Bahamas, PART 5

Beth and I saw the movie "Face/Off" in the theaters during our honeymoon in Maine.  The precedent was set.  We've taken some movieless trips, of course, but we regularly manage to squeeze in a show while we're on the road: "Julie & Julia" in Seattle; "Hands on a Hard Body" in Austin; "Chicken Run" in Minneapolis; "A Simple Plan" & "Gladiator" in Kansas City.  I think I'm missing a couple, to say nothing of the road trips we took during college to Columbia or Des Moines for the primary purpose of seeing a movie or two.

Anyway, after our ship returned to port and before our flight left back for the midwest, we had a whole day in Miami to kill.  What's a stranded couple to do?  Uh, see a movie, of course!  This time, it was "Moneyball."  We saw it at a mall, and spent some time in Barnes & Noble beforehand.  If it weren't for days 1 and 2 of our trip, I'd say Miami is a lot like St. Louis.

"Moneyball" was good.  It's got some early Oscar buzz for picture and actor, and I'm OK with that.  I've got a soft spot for acting nominations that are NOT for evil and/or mentally/physically challenged characters.  Subtle nuances usually get overlooked, and Brad Pitt did a good job embodying a character in a believable manner WITHOUT having any "Oh, I hope this scene lands me an Oscar nomination" scenes.

The movie had an even-keel-ed pace for a sports movie, but still had its excitement.  I've read a couple of reviews of the movie from sports sites that are basically like, "It's a very good and realistic movie, if you can get past a few little things."  One of those "little things" is that the Oakland A's winning streak--and really much of their success for the duration of the season--was due to the talent of their "Big 3": Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, and Tim Hudson.  In real life, this Cy Young caliber trio of pitchers was regarded enough to have a collective nickname; in the movie, I'm pretty sure none of them is even mentioned.  So there's that.

Also, the A's didn't win the World Series (or even get there).  And the team that the movie sites as having been influenced by this newfangled approach to putting a team together--the Boston Red Sox--also happened to have the second highest payroll in MLB in 2004, when they won the World Series.  So there's that, too.

Out of the context of reality, the moral was great: that sometimes you can achieve something great even if you don't realize it at the time.  If you want a movie that better reflects the economic realities of baseball and the impact that those realities have on the field, we can wait for this movie to get made.

Back to vacation...

After the movie, we had a happy-hour dinner at a restaurant in the mall that reminded us of McCormack & Schmicks, where I used to work.  It was likely the tastiest meal we had on the trip, and a great note to end on.

The real highlight of the trip, though, was coming back home and having this waiting for us:


Friday, October 7, 2011

SoBe It: Updates from Miami & the Bahamas, PART 4

On Friday, September 23, we decided to get the heck out of Miami, and figured the best method for doing that was on a cruise ship.  For 3 nights, we sailed on Royal Carribean's "Majesty of the Seas," stopping on land on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday we visited the island of Coco Cay, and Sunday we stopped in Nassau, a town of the Bahamas that is inhabited entirely by tourists.  Both of these stops we nice: the first was relaxing with nothing to do (in a good way), and the second was more bustling, what with trying to make every street vendor feel valued as a person and not just a perveyor of trinkets and copyright-infringing t-shirts and hats.

With all the resting and shopping of those two days, we barely had any time to take any pictures.  But we did snap a few, and I've copied them into the video below.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

SoBe It: Updates from Miami & the Bahamas, PART 3

When we were kicking around Miami, after checking in to our hotel but before visiting with Billy the Marlin, we decided to check out something called the Vizcaya house.  Somewhere on the internet it was dubbed "Miami's Hearst Castle", and when eccentric billionaires build houses, Beth and I check them out.

Turns out, Miami must have been going to the bathroom when they were handing out Hearst Castles.  BUT, in its own right--and, really, compared to almost every other house in the world--Vizcaya is pretty nice.

It was built long before Miami was the bustling metropolis that it is now, before anyone even knew what a "Sound Machine" was.  If you want to read the history, the internet (yes, the same internet that built up my expectations by comparing it to Hearst Castle) can give you that.

But, if you want visual evidence of the Hungry Preacher and his wife visiting the house, feast your eyes.

For those of you patient enough to scroll through the still photos, a special so-called "moving picture," or "movie," waits for you at the end.  Enjoy!


From the pier of the house, looking back at the house

"But does it have a stone, faux marooned-pirate-ship in the back?  Yes?  Oh, then we're very interested."

If not for the plants, this would make for a great wiffle ball field.

I wish I knew how they kept their hedge mazes so green.

Beth, from above

Me, from below

Now, prepare for some pure awesomeness.