It Sure Beats Working For A Living

Al had The Best 'Stache In The AL

One of my first sports memories was in 1978 or 1979. I was about 10 at the time and I’d been invited by a friend to see the Royals play the Yankees in the playoffs. This was back when baseball was still competitive and the pinstripes were hated rivals.

Our seats were high in the upper deck, but almost directly behind home plate. As I remember, it was a close game – close enough that skipper Whitey Herzog went to his best reliever to close out the game. Al Hrabosky was a hard-throwing lefty with one of the best mustaches in the league. (And that’s saying something – this was the seventies, after all.)

But what set Hrabosky apart, aside from his considerable talent and facial hair, were his on-mound antics. Acting out on the mound wasn’t unique, this was the era of Mark Fidrych, but Hrabosky’s act was unusual, to say the least. When he needed to really get himself up for a batter, he would walk behind the mound and turn his back on home plate. He would then talk his glove, yell at the ball while pounding it into his glove with more and more force each time. When he had finally worked himself into a lather, he would abruptly turn and walk to the pitching rubber and go into his windup. It was quite a sight to see.

The first batter Hrabosky faced that night after being called in from the bullpen was Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson. Hrabosky, or the Mad Hungarian, as he was known, took his warm up and then went into his one-man conference behind the mound. As he stood there, pounding the ball and screaming at himself, the sellout crowd bought into his madness and became enraged themselves. The stadium erupted with screams, applause and mayhem. Enraged, he spun on his heel and marched to the mound. The crowd and Hrabosky were one, his manufactured anger amplified by 39,000 screaming voices.

Jackson stood a little tentatively in the batter’s box, his left foot planted, his right foot outside the line, as he tried to decide what to do. Hrabosky, now nearly foaming at the mouth, yelled at Jackson to get in the box, as he gestured wildly with his hands. The crowd built to a crescendo again, trying to intimidate the Yankees slugger. But Jackson readjusted his helmet, hiked his pants and stepped in. Hrabosky pounded his glove some more and threw his first pitch – hard, fast and high. Jackson was out of the box almost before the ball snapped in the catcher’s mitt.

The crowd approved.

Jackson was rattled. With a foot in the batter’s box he held his hand up to the home plate umpire to ask for a time. The umpire granted Jackson a timeout and he stepped back from the box, staring at Hrabosky, trying to make sense of this madman. Needless to say, the crowd only increased its intensity.

Sadly, I can’t remember what happened next. In all likelihood, Jackson got a hit, which put the Yankees ahead. This was often the case in the late 70s. It was a great rivalry, but the Yankees too often got the better end of it. All I know is that the memory of Hrabosky and Jackson facing each other is so vivid to me, it could have happened yesterday. It is certainly my first sports memory and the first time I ever felt a part of something bigger – caught up in the emotion of the crowd, feeling like we could affect the outcome of that at-bat – simply by yelling a little bit louder.

Hrabosky left Kansas City soon after, as do all decent Royals players these days. I hope it’s not too nostalgic to think of those days as being better baseball, but I think they were. The Royals were competitive and the crowds were large. And while I’d like to think those days will be here again, barring a salary cap or other agreement that levels the playing field, I’m not sure they will.

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Switch Up, Change My Pitch Up

I’ve done a lot of work in Photoshop – both for work and for fun – and something always amazes me when I go back to look at a good piece: whether it’s a simple image or a really involved picture, the number of layers, smart objects, layer masks, etc. are always more than I remember. And, most of the time, that’s the key difference between an average image and something that gets a lot of attention.

Consider this image by my buddy, Tony2Nice, which has more than 55 layers – not including those that were merged at some point during the process:

When Hell is full, Tony2Nice will walk the Earth. And he'll be pissed.

Working with digital media allows lots of freedom, but it also requires seemingly non-stop repetition and attention to detail. Where a painter might just switch colors and splash on a few strokes to add dimension, digital artists point & click, ad naseum.

I’ve done a little video work, too. So I know that really good video work involves a lot of the same endlessly echoing mousework. But it wasn’t until I watched the video below that I understood how tedious that digitally produced music could be. What follows is a reproduction of The Prodigy‘s “Smack My Bitch Up” by a Ukranian DJ, using nothing more than Ableton, a few choice samples and a hell of a lot of time. (And I thought Photoshop demanded a lot of layers!)

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2009’s Final “Fuck You”

2009 Says "So Long"

I just found an e-mail in my spam folder from the editor I’ve been working with on a story I wrote for an upcoming Chicken Soup book. Technically, the news arrived yesterday, so I guess this gets accounted for in the 2009 ledger. The publisher cut the chapter that my story was going to be in, so I’m out: no publication, no money. Figures.

2009 was such a shitty year, it’s still screwing with me … even in 2010.

FML.

You Say You Want A Resolution …

I’m gonna get one of these and one of these and display them prominently in my living room.

“Do you like Huey Lewis and the news? Their early work was a little too new wave for my tastes, but when Sports came out in ’83, I think they really came into their own, commercial and artistically. The whole album has a clear, crisp sound, and a new sheen of consummate professionalism that really gives the songs a big boost. He’s been compared to Elvis Costello, but I think Huey has a far much more bitter, cynical sense of humor.”

I want to give you everything everythingeverythingeverythingeverything

While I know a lot of people aren’t crazy about electronic music, I really love a good techo song. Whether it’s big beat , trip-hop or trance, turn it up, increase the bass and start moving. And Underworld is one of my favorites. I’ve been a fan since Dubnobasswithmyheadman. This is a great combination of the songs Rez & Cowgirl, set to video from the film Koyaanisqatsi.

The meld of music and video is very nice, they almost seem perfectly paired for each other. And the music – it’s so fucking fantastic – as Rez builds and builds towards Cowgirl, I can’t help it, but it just puts a big, huge smile on my face. If you like these songs, you ought to check out their collection 1992-2002.

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Up Close & Personal With Three Great Guitarists In “It Might Get Loud”

Like Kids at Christmas

So, yesterday, I finally got around to watching It Might Get Loud, a documentary that might have been the best of 2009, if not for Anvil! (despite what the idiots at the Academy Awards think). This documentary brings together three rock guitarists – Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page – for a conversation about how they started playing, what music means to them and some discussion about their techniques.

If you’re into rock bands or guitars, it’s an absolute delight to watch. There’s not that much actual music in it, but it is jam-packed with trivia and wonderful little stories about where songs were recorded, early gigs and first instruments. The Edge talks a good deal about  his fascination with hardware and effects – a conversation that’s interlaced with Jack White complaining about how music has become too dependent on computers and pedals and how it has become too easy for people to sound good. Whether or not that makes The Edge less of a musician is open to debate and there are lots of arguments to be made on each side. To be sure both he and Jack White are talented musicians. Unfortunately, for me, White comes off as being a bit pretentious, which is unfortunate, because he has added a lot to music over the past decade.

Then there’s Jimmy Page who, at age 64 when the movie was shot, still had all the swagger, moves and licks from his vintage Zeppelin years. Unlike some musicians of his age (or even younger), his fingerwork doesn’t seem to have slowed down a beat. One of the best scenes of the movie comes about halfway in when Page starts playing the opening riff from “Whole Lotta Love”.  Immediately, both White & The Edge get these wonderfully happy, ear-to-ear grins on their faces. The Edge moves around so he can see Page’s fingers work the neck a little better and you see on their faces that they’re just watching as fans, like you and me, appreciating one of the greatest guitar heroes of all time. It’s a very special moment.

Altogether, “It Might Get Loud” is a fascinating movie, for its insight alone. Director David Guggenheim (whose previous work includes a fictional account of the coming ice age, errr, global warming errr, climate change, errr, climate crisis) has done a great job weaving three very diverse stories together. The end product is a great homage to the contribution of several very talented guitarists and – even more so – a celebration of the electric guitar.

Don’t forget to watch the DVD extras, which include some deleted songs, a jam session or two and a wonderful discussion about strings. Buy at Amazon or rent at Netflix.

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