Time and Place
I'm making an effort to cut down on the amount of political stuff I post, as I'm well aware that I tend to sound cranky (mostly because the only things that motivate me to post tend to be things that piss me off in one way or another). As a result, there's been a huge upsurge in the pop-culture content of this weblog. The physics content will return in a week or so-- now that the term has ended, I won't be spending my whole day thinking about physics, and thus will be more likely to devote some of my free time to it.
For the moment, though, we'll add another post to the "pop-culture" column.
I threw an old mix tape into the tape player in the car this week, and heard the song "Every Generation Got Its Own Disease" by Fury in the Slaughterhouse for the first time in a long time (despite having mentioned it in the Ten Top Albums post, I didn't actually listen to the album aqt that time). Immediately, I flashed back to DC circa 1994-- it's just the right sort of song for that effect, catchy and sort of creepily atmospheric, plus WHFS played it every ten minutes or so one winter when I was in grad school. I remember sitting in traffic on the Beltway listening to that song, and can picture the inside of the piece-of-shit car I was driving at the time.
That got me thinking about other songs and albums that are strongly tied to a particular time and place. It's another odd category of music-- for whatever reason, while I'm incapable of remembering to do things like paying bills, I can remember where I first heard a lot of the music I listen to, but the flashback-inducing stuff is an odd subset of songs and albums. Some of these are tied to the time and place where I first heard the songs, but other times, they're songs that just became associated with some specific activity or another.
(As with the last list of albums, there's also a fair amount of weirdly confessional stuff here, particularly regarding my lowbrow taste in music back when I was in high school. But, what the hell...)
In no particular order:
- "Werewolves of London" by Warren Zevon. The first time I recall hearing this one was freshman or sophomore year in college, played by a bunch of guys on the rugby team with acoustic guitars, in the cramped, filthy basement of an off-campus house. It's a terrific drunken-sing-along song, and hearing it today brings back memories of stumbling around trying to avoid low-hanging pipes and cobwebs in the North Street basement... "Southern Cross" by Crosby Still and Nash has much the same effect. "Sympathy for the Devil" is another one, though that summons images of a different basement, and a different band, with backup singers too drunk to put the "woo woo"'s in the right place...
- "Fool in the Rain" by Led Zeppelin. Freshman year in college, the guy across the hall from me developed a real Led Zep fixation. Unfortunately, the only Led Zep tape he has was Led Zeppelin II, plus a few songs, which he played incessantly on auto-repeat. To this day, I can't hear "Whole Lotta Love" without flinching. "Fool in the Rain" is the one song to survive that treatment-- this is mostly associated with the regular trips a friend (who now works as chief of staff for a Republican Senator) and I used to make to the local pizza joint. We figured out that the right selection of a dollar's worth of tunes on the jukebox would take exactly the right amount of time for us to order and eat a large pizza. This was one of the songs.
- "Piano Man" by Billy Joel. Dipping back into the embarrassing high school material, here. This one was on a mix tape that some guys on the soccer team had made, that we used to listen to on the bus after games. I'm not sure how this worked its way into the rotation (other featured tunes included "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City" by Guns 'n' Roses), but this is the one I remember.
- Hysteria by Def Leppard. A whole album this time, and another high-school sports piece (I had the misfortune to graduate high school in the middle of the Hair Metal Era). This one was the basketball team-- the coach was old school, so there were no boom boxes allowed, but we could listen to whatever we liked on a Walkman. My associations with this one thus involve bumping over back roads between tiny little towns in a pitch-dark bus.
- Pump by Aerosmith. Another whole album, and another sports connection. This one was sophomore year in college, on "Tour" with the rugby club. We bought a copy of this tape for the drive down the East Coast and back, and played it until it literally fell apart. The opening tracks ("Young Lust" and "F.I.N.E.") are preposterous symphonies of exaggerated machismo, and "What It Takes" is another fantastic sing-along tune. Great album cover, too.
- Black Love by the Afghan Whigs. You just knew they had to be in here somewhere... I got dumped, right around the time this came out, and was in a black funk for weeks. This album, and "Bulletproof" in particular ("Every time I dream about you baby/ Your hands all over me/ I never forget anything,/ don't forget that I'm asleep"), was the soundtrack for that stretch. This has morphed into a stuck-in-traffic album in more recent years, but I never hear it without remembering that stretch.
- "Don't Pull Your Love" by Sam and Dave. A happier one, this-- a particular group of college friends (pictured here, in more respectable circumstances, and here in less) used to get drunk and sing this one at parties. Why this song? I don't remember. I just remember singing it a lot. The local oldies station insists on playing an absolutely abominable version of this done by somebody with all the soul of a Danish modern coffee table, but the Sam and Dave version is brilliant-- accept no substitutes. In a similar vein, "Tracks of My Tears" always brings back a memory of doing a mean a cappella rendition of it at about 2 am on the porch of a rented house in North Carolina. Also "Tupelo Honey" by Van Morrison.
- "Lost in the Supermarket" by the Afghan Whigs. Warning: Shmoopy Stuff Ahead! May Be Nauseating to Single People and Small Children. This one will forever be associated with the Big Wedding. I got this track via Napster, back when that was a going concern, and Kate really liked the song. I found a copy of the CD for $2 in a used record store that was going out of business, and slipped it to the DJ at the wedding reception. It wasn't the first dance (that was "Through All That Nothing" by Del Amitri, for those who care), but I may remember it better than the actual first dance...
And that's about enough of that. There are others, even more weirdly specific (Saturation by Urge Overkill reminds me of lying out in the sun behind the house I lived in for one year in College Park, and there's an old Genesis album that reminds me very specifically of a trashy fantasy novel by Raymond Feist, of all things (Duke and Silverthorn, respectively)), but this has gone on for a long while already.
Ragged Start (UMD 64 Miami 49)
(There's at least one person who reads this weblog who also reads rec.sport.basketball.college; this will probably be familiar to them. For everyone else, I tend to write up miscellaneous comments about Maryland games that I catch on tv, and post them there. As I now have a "shrine to [my] ego" on the web, I'll post them here, as well...)
One of the many weird quirks of my fate as a sports fan is that I always get nervous when my favorite teams are facing a team with a really obvious weakness. When the Giants prepare to play the worst rushing defense in the NFL, for example, I know that I can look forward to 427 plays where they attempt to run between the tackles, and get stuffed. If they would just play their usual game, and let the rushing yards come as they may, they'd be fine. Instead, they consciously decide to pound the ball on the ground, and end up doing things like honking a game to an expansion team.
Similarly, I always get twitchy when I hear that Maryland's next opponent features only one player over 6'6", because I know that what will result is, well, what we got last night. Facing a much smaller Miami University team, Maryland consciously decided to exploit their height advantage and pound the ball inside at every opportunity, resulting in ugly, uninspired basketball as Tahj Holden and Ryan Randle chunked one two-footer after another. Faced with teams that have no obvious weaknesses, like Kansas last year, they can turn in brilliant performances, but present them with a small opponent, and they grind it out in the half-court set, and keep the game closer than it needs to be.
All in all, not a particularly inspiring start for the Terps, who looked more or less like what you'd expect given that they lost four of last year's starters, and are trying to integrate a bunch of new players. This isn't a team that's going to get an automatic shot at defending their title. Gary Williams played absolutely everybody he had (even starting Calvin McCall), and was mostly trying to see what he's got.
He's got some pretty good pieces, it's just a matter of putting them together. Steve Blake continues to do amazing things with a basketball (other than shooting it, that is)-- the around-the-back pass is the one that made the SportsCenter highlights, but I was actually more impressed with the fifty-foot bounce pass he threw in the first half (probably because I know how hard that is to do...). Holden and Randle continue to goon it up like they did last year as reserves, but they should be fine. Travis Garrison looks like a player with potential, and Nik Caner-Medley had one of the more impressive one-point outings you'll see.
For the most part, though, the game was a good display of the kinks that need to be worked out. Passes were dropped, rebounds batted around ineffectually, and easy lay-ups clanged off the rim. Drew Nicholas alternated between shying away from shooting the ball, and trying too hard to be Juan Dixon. As usual in the early season, the defense looked better than the offense, a problem exacerbated by the ugly, ugly, ugly pound-it-inside offense they were running.
A win is a win is a win, though, and Miami looked like a decent team. Maryland's got a couple more tune-up games, followed by games with Indiana (next Tuesday), Notre Dame, and Florida, which should provide a real test. They didn't look great last night (though the AP liked it better than the Post did), but they looked good enough, and will hopefully get better as the season progresses.
Obligatory Architectural Note: This was also the first I've seen of the new Comcast Center in College Park. It looks pretty nice, especially the "2002 NCAA Champions" banner up in the rafeters... It's hard to really tell much from a telecast, but it sounded good and loud. The only way to really judge, though, would be to see a game there, so if anyone has tickets they'd like to give me...
Death of Journalism Watch
The Washington Post article about the Maryland game opens with this paragraph:
A spotlight shown on Maryland's freshly unfurled 2002 national championship banner at Comcast Center for about 30 seconds yesterday afternoon before the lights were officially turned off on last season. The Terrapins then turned their attention toward establishing a new identity for the program.
Three words into the new season, and we have an error.
Who Cleans Up After the Janitors?
The Washington Post's Michael Dirda reviews Terry Pratchett's Night Watch today, and says very nice things about it. In this, he follows in the footsteps of several other people, including your arrogant correspondant. Advantage, booklogosphere. Or something.
If you read Pratchett, and haven't read this book yet, go get it and read it. Now. This weblog will wait until you get back.
If you don't already read Pratchett, don't start with this book, but don't let that stop you from reading Pratchett.