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Archive for December, 2007

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My Thoughts on Baseball’s Mitchell Report

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Former senator George J. Mitchell has released his Report to the Commissioner of Baseball of an Independent Investigation Into the Illegal Use of Steroids and Other Performance Enhancing Substances by Players in Major League Baseball.

Clearly, the title has been taking some steroids of it’s own.

In all seriousness, I’m glad it’s out there now, so we can stop speculating about what it would say. And what it said, of course, is of no surprise to anyone. Baseball’s got a widespread problem with performance enhancing drugs, the owners buried their heads in the sand during the great home run races of the mid-90s until they were forced by publicity to do so no longer, and the union fought any effort to stop it in fear of one of their members possibly being punished for breaking the rules.

So today, no one’s really talking about any of that. All they’re talking about is “the list” – the 80 or so names of players who Senator Mitchell “outed” as part of the steroid problem. The biggest name on the list, by far, is Roger Clemens, who Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports calls baseball’s white Barry Bonds.

For his part, Clemens vehemently denies everything the report has to say about him. This is an interesting tactic for Clemens to take, and quite a refreshing one too, especially when placed next to Mark McGwire’s famous “I’m not here to talk about the past” speech in front of Congress a couple of years back. Instead of lawyering up, Clemens is adding the charge of “lying about steroids” to the one of “using steroids” that Mitchell delivered this morning. For all of his on-field accomplishments, he’s counting on being proven (or believed) innocent at this point, because if he’s ever actually proven guilty, his actions today will do just as much to keep him out of the Hall of Fame as any drug he ever took.

As a New York Yankee fan, I’ve watched Clemens closely for several years. I obviously don’t know what drugs he’s taken, but I can tell you that the guy has a genuine love of the game and of it’s history and traditions. For him to be kept out of the Hall of Fame because of this will be a serious blow to him personally. I don’t know if you could say the same about Mark McGwire.

And speaking of Big Mac, it’s interesting to note that while the report mentions him by name, it is only to recount the “Andro” story that first prompted forced Major League Baseball to begin looking at a potential steroid problem. In fact, the report states that of the many people Senator Mitchell interviewed that knew Mark McGwire, only one (Jose Canseco) claims to have personally witnessed him taking steroids. As such, the report does not accuse him of anything he hasn’t already admitted to doing (i.e., the Andro from 1998). But that won’t keep the press from printing his name as someone “mentioned in the report.” More trouble for Big Mac, I’m afraid…

Finally, I’m most surprised by some of the non-power hitters on this list. For instance – Chuck Knoblauch? Here’s a guy who never hit more than 18 home runs in a season, and who’s batting average only varied from his career .289 average by more than 40 points four times in his career. If he took steroids, he obviously didn’t take the right ones. And, as one New York writer put it, “clearly, steroids don’t help you throw to first base.”

Categories: Sports Talk | No Comments »

Headline of the Year…

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Ike Turner died this week. And since his death pre-dated Tina Turner’s death, here’s the headline the New York Post decided to run:

Ike “Beats” Tina to Death

It’d be an instant classic if it weren’t just a little too mean…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging, Words about Music | 1 Comment »

A Whole Year, One Sentence at a Time

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

A meme from Jason Bennion over at Simple Tricks and Nonsense:

Repost the first sentence of the first blog entry in each of the previous year’s 12 months.


January: “‘Tis the season for the unending streams of lists – The Top 10 Outrageous Moments of 2006, The 40 Most Offensive Celebrity Arrests of 2006 (categorized by offended ethnic/religious group), and of course the always reliable List of Dumb Holiday Gifts You Can Buy on the Internet.”

February: “I realize this story is a couple of days old at this point, but I saw the headline the other day, and didn’t bother to read the article until today.”

March: “Mmmmmmm…….Computer……..”

April: “Man, talk about solving a problem no one knew they had!”

May: “OK, so there’s a nutcase out there writing threatening letters to the TV networks because they’re only televising cheerleaders who are not dressed provocatively”

June: “I may be falling behind on my ISBS Tech Guide (I’ll start again soon, I swear!), but Google Analytics has provided me the tools to create two monthly features.”

July: “Well, I couldn’t very well have a blog and not comment on the iPhone this weekend, could I?”

August: “So check it out: CNN’s story on Danica McKellar’s book links back to my post on the subject.”

September: “Oof.”

October: “Well, as promised, it was an exciting weekend.”

November: “OK, I was prepared for this.”

December: “From the Pittsburgh Business Times: Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. said late Monday it agreed to acquire privately held Chick’s Sporting Goods for about $40 million in cash and assumption of about $31 million debt.”

From which we learn………nothing at all.

Such are the way of memes…

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 1 Comment »

I Should Be Sleeping: Billy Joel FAQ

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

The most recent analysis of my site statistics (How People Found Me – November Edition) got me thinking: 237 unique Google queries about Billy Joel that found their way to my site. And while these people were able to read my 2006 Concert Review from Madison Square Garden, my preview article about that tour, and the lyrics to All My Life, I couldn’t help thinking that plenty of questions went unanswered.

So, based on the Billy Joel-related queries used to access the site in November, 2007, I’ve decided to compile a Frequently Asked Questions file about Billy Joel. This is not intended to be canonical, nor is it thoroughly researched (I’ve added links where I could, and recounted from memory where I couldn’t). I just figure, if people are coming here looking for Billy Joel information, I can at least provide them my best efforts at some answers.

So, as the man says, Come ou, Virginia, don’t let me wait…

Q1: Where Can I Find a Billy Joel Concert Review? (82 queries)

Well, there’s always mine, but if you want more, the best advice I have is to Google “Billy Joel Concert Reviews” and go from there. Joel’s official site, billyjoel.com does not have concert reviews, nor do I see any sanctioned, dependable source in my own Google search. So, it seems you’re at the mercy of folks like me who attend the concerts and tell you what they think.

Q2: Does Billy Joel Have an Opening Act? (48 queries)

No. Billy Joel concerts typically begin with the house lights going dark, followed by a stirring piece of classical music blaring from the arena speakers. While that’s happening (and the crowd is screaming with anticipation), Joel and his band take the stage in darkness. The classical music either fades out or stops entirely, and then the band kicks into their opening number – usually Angry Young Man or something from the album he’s promoting. (During The Bridge tour in 1986, he opened with Matter of Trust, and during the 1993 River of Dreams tour, he opened with No Man’s Land.)

Q3: Where Can I Find a Setlist for a Billy Joel Concert? (35 queries)

The canonical list seems to be here. Click on a decade, and then a particular show for the setlist. Or you can search the database with keywords. A very handy site.

Q4: Where Can I Find Lyrics/Information about Billy Joel’s new song, All My Life? (20 queries)

Here, Google is not so friendly. Because All My Life is named so similarly to the much more popular My Life, I found it very difficult to find the lyrics to this song online when it first came out. It’s easier now, but if you made it to this page, you might as well just click on my blogpost on the subject.

Q5: Why Doesn’t Liberty DeVitto Play with Billy Joel Anymore? (10 queries)

There are many stories floating around out there, and I’m sure most, if not all of them are laced with false rumors. I can tell you that the story I heard was that DeVitto was upset with some of the things Joel told Hank Bordowitz for his Billy Joel biography, Billy Joel: The Life & Times of an Angry Young Man (which, by the way, I thought was excellent), and that this led to a falling out between the two to such an extent that DeVitto didn’t even attend Joel’s most recent wedding to Katie Lee. Wikipedia, by the way, is strangely silent on the whole thing, both on the Billy Joel page and on the Liberty DeVitto page.

Q6: Where Can I Find Lyrics to Billy Joel Songs? (8 queries)

If you want the lyrics to a particular song, I’d once again recommend a Google search. Type in “Billy Joel <name of song> lyrics”, and one of the first few links should get you exactly what you want. If you’re looking for a discography, complete with lyrics to all of his songs, I’d suggest billyjoel.com, which is affiliated with Billy Joel himself, and has a complete and accurate lyrics list for all of his songs.

Q7: How Long is a Billy Joel Concert? (7 queries)

Obviously, that’s up to Billy Joel, and any concert on any given night can vary in length. Typically, though, his shows tend to start around fifteen minutes after the time printed on the ticket, and then run for around two hours. Like most artists of his generation, he would occasionally do a three or four hour marathon show when he was younger, but I haven’t seen or heard about a show like that in a very long time. If you’ve got after show plans, I’d recommend counting on two and a half hours, just to be safe.

Q8: What is the Stage Layout at a Billy Joel Concert? (5 queries)

The stage layout varies from tour to tour, but the basic configuration is always the same. The grand piano is either in the center of the stage, or at stage left (that’s the left side from Joel’s perspective, the right side from the audience’s perspective). His guitar and sax players stand upstage (closer to the audience) on stage right, with auxiliary percussion behind them. The drummer is almost always center stage near the back of the stage (which is true of almost any rock and roll concert, I guess), and any other musicians (e.g., horn players) tend to be downstage on stage left, behind the piano. Joel’s stage also typically has two wings, with an electric keyboard in the back corner of the stage on each wing.

As you would expect, Joel spends most of the show at the grand piano. In the more recent concerts, the piano is typically on a turntable, so it rotates around in a circle during the show, giving everyone in the arena a chance to see him from every angle. In older shows (or smaller arenas), the piano is stationary. At some point during the show, he runs to the wings of the stage and plays a few songs on the electric keyboards, which gives him a chance to face those fans sitting on the sides or behind the stage (see Question #13 below for a discussion about sitting behind or on the side of the stage). I’ve heard Joel say many times in interviews that a piano is not like a guitar – you can’t strap it on and do rock and roll moves with it. He often apologizes to those he has his back to, and promises to turn around when he can.

Most shows also feature a block of songs that Joel sings from a microphone in the front-center of the stage. These typically include Glass Houses hits like You May be Right, Sometimes a Fantasy, and It’s Still Rock and Roll To Me, as well as the title track to the Innocent Man album. When this happens, someone in the band usually moves in to play the grand piano, although the person is never prominently lit or acknowledged on the stage, lest the attention be drawn away from The Piano Man himself.

Q9: Where Can I Find Information About Billy Joel’s Band Members? (5 queries)

For this, I would recommend Wikipedia’s Billy Joel page. They have a complete list of Joel’s current and former band members, including links to their respective Wikipedia pages. Here’s the list, reproduced as of this writing, for easy access:

MembersFormer members
Billy JoelRichie Cannata
Tommy ByrnesLiberty DeVitto
Chuck BurgiDoug Stegmeyer (Deceased)
David RosenthalDavid LeBolt
Mark RiveraDavid Brown (Deceased)
Crystal TalieferoRussell Javors
Carl FischerJeff Bova
 Jeff Jacobs
 Larry Russell
 Rhys Clark
 Ron Tutt

Q10: What’s the Story with Billy Joel, the OCC, and a motorcycle? (5 queries)

On March 25, 2006, Billy Joel played The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York for 39,000 people (breaking the record for the largest crowd in the Carrier Dome, previously held by The Rolling Stones). During the show, the hosts of the Discovery Channel show, “Orange County Choppers,” came on stage and presented Joel with “The Billy Bike,” a motorcycle they had built specifically for him. The event was covered on the show (Episode #82).

Q11: Why Doesn’t Billy Joel Play Just the Way You Are in Concert Anymore? (3 queries)

Just the Way You Are was a love song that Billy Joel wrote for his first wife, Elizabeth Weber-Small. He has said in recent interviews that when he told her the song was for her, she asked him if that meant she would get the royalties for it, but that might be the divorce talking. At any rate, Joel claims that he took the song out of regular rotation because of Liberty DeVitto’s habit of singing along with songs during concerts in order to keep his place in the song. In the chorus of this particular song, DeVitto would often replace the actual lyric, “I love you Just the Way You Are,” with his own creation – “She Got the House, She Got the Car.” Once that began happening, Joel claims, it was time to put the song away.

For what it’s worth, my take on it is that Joel simply got bored with the song, and didn’t feel it was getting the kind of energy it deserved when performed live. Not to say his story isn’t true, but distractions like that are more effective when an artist is “going through the motions” on a song he’s played thousands of times than on songs that are fresh and new.

Q12: What is Billy Joel’s Concert Schedule? (2 queries)

Once again, I’d recommend billyjoel.com, which has an On The Road menu item, currently listing the remaining shows scheduled for 2007 (no word on any 2008 shows just yet). I don’t know how quickly the official dates get posted, so if you’re more interested rumored tour dates, I’d suggest a search in Technorati, since a quick pass through the blogosphere may be more informative than the standard entertainment/news websites.

The one rumor I can pass along today is that Billy Joel has agreed to be the last event at Shea Stadium before they tear it down at the end of the 2008 baseball season (October, 2008. Late October if Met fans have anything to say about it UPDATE: Turns out, the “Last Play at Shea” is happening in July, just after the All Star Game. For more on that, including the story of how I got tickets to the show (!), click here).

Q13: Where are the best seats at a Billy Joel concert? (1 query)

This, obviously, is a matter of taste. Some people like to be on the floor, right in front of the stage. If that’s your cup of tea, I will warn you that Joel typically leaves the first couple of rows unsold, and then has people walk through the crowd (typically in the upper levels) and choose young, enthusiastic (and, while I can’t prove it, it would seem attractive and female) fans to come down to the front row. His rationale is that the show has more energy when there are screaming kids right up by the stage, rather than old, rich men who can afford the most expensive tickets. So if you’re looking for close to the stage, and you can get seats that aren’t exactly front row, grab them – they might be the best ones available.

Another option at Billy Joel concerts is to sit directly behind the stage. As I mentioned above, the piano is often on a giant turntable, so you get a good view of him while he’s performing, and he also has the keyboards on the wings of the stage that he uses to play to the back of the house. It obviously depends on the arena, but these seats tend to be almost as close to the stage as the floor seats, plus they’re a little elevated, which provides a better and more comfortable view (at least in my opinion. Your mileage may vary).

As for me, I prefer a seat just next to stage left, where I can get as good a look as possible at Joel’s hands while he plays the piano. As an amateur piano player myself (and an avid player of Joel’s music in particular), his concerts are almost as educational for me as they are enjoyable, as I get a real kick out of watching what he’s actually playing while the familiar arrangements are performed by the full band. On a good night, I’ll improve the way several of his songs sound when I play them, just by watching how he plays them in concert. But that’s just me…

Q14: Where can I find a Billy Joel concert poster? (1 query)

I honestly have no clue. I did a Google search, and this site came back as the “Billy Joel Official Store.” I’ve never heard of fanfire.com, so I don’t know how legitimate it is, although they do seem to have an impressive collection of T-shirts, concert programs, teddy bears, hats, and yes – posters, available for sale. I can’t vouch for them at all, but at least you have a starting point.

Q15: Where can I download Billy Joel Music? (1 query)

Well, you can buy his music at the iTunes Music Store, or on CD at various retailers. Also, sites like amazon.com and billyjoel.com offer samples of many songs. If you’re looking for free downloads of Joel’s (copyrighted) material, then I’m afraid you’re on your own. I’m sure it’s out there somewhere, but I don’t care to look for it or help anyone else find it. Sorry…

Q16: Is Billy Joel sober now? (1 query)

It’s none of my business (and, IMHO, none of your’s either). But, given the realities of celebrity, the question does get asked often. Everything I’ve heard/read about Billy Joel suggests that he went into rehab to fight an alcohol addiction at least twice (Wikipedia says 2002 and 2005), and that he’s been clean and sober ever since. Of course, anyone who doesn’t know him personally is just guessing about this, so I don’t tend to put a lot of stock in what I read on this topic and hence, don’t care to read too much about it in general.

If I’ve answered your question here, I’m glad. If not, I’d suggest heading back to Google and seeing what you can dig up.

Categories: Words about Music | 2 Comments »

TV Theme Treasure Trove

Monday, December 10th, 2007

A little alliteration goes along a-way.

Anyway, this comes from James Lileks at buzz.mn: 3,589 TV Themes in MP3 format.

The mind boggles…

Categories: Primetime TV, Words about Music | No Comments »

Is It Too Soon for Christmas Carols?

Friday, December 7th, 2007

Now this is how Christmas Carols should be done:

(Hat tip: deMaurie Mackie)

This post dedicated to Michael Weinmayr, loyal ISBS reader and a heckuva caroler in his own right…

Categories: Words about Music | 2 Comments »

In Case You Thought You Could Never Feel Sorry for Simon Cowell…

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

They may not admit it publicly, but every guy in the world who looks at this picture winces a little:

Caught in the act…

Categories: Primetime TV | No Comments »

The Handcuffs Don’t Fit – He Only Has Four Fingers!

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

From Jeff Porten via e-mail:

Tweety, Donald Duck Summoned to Court
An Italian court ordered [Tweety Bird], along with Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and his girlfriend Daisy, to testify in a counterfeiting case.

In what lawyers believe was a clerical error worthy of a Looney Tunes cartoon, a court in Naples sent a summons to the characters ordering them to appear Friday in a trial in the southern Italian city, officials said.

Instead of naming only the companies and their legal representatives, clerks also wrote in the witness list the names of the cartoons that decorated the toys and gadgets the man had reproduced, said Fiorenza Sorotto, vice president of Disney Company Italia.

The Naples court will have to rewrite the summons, although this will probably delay the trial, said Disney lawyer Cristina Ravelli.

Ya know, first the baseball players are all on steroids, then the pop singers are going to jail for DUI, and now Mickey & Donald are found counterfeiting. What’s a kid to do for heroes these days?

Personally, I think I’m going to steer my kids away from Italian Court Clerks…

Categories: The Disneyverse, The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

Why You Don’t Send the Police to do Diplomacy

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Here’s a story that starts out strange, and then only gets stranger:

Back in October, the drummer for The Police, Stewart Copeland, gave an interview with Mercurio, a Chilean newspaper, in which he said, “Look, the future President of Argentina would be good for one beer; yours (would be good) for four.”

Here’s how Reuters described the incident:

While it was not clear what Copeland meant with the comments, many Chileans took them to mean he found their first woman president, Bachelet, less attractive than Argentine president-elect Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who will be her country’s first elected female leader.

Apparently, someone asked the Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, what she thought of the remark, and she declined comment. Copeland sent her a letter which said:

I was mortified to learn this remark reached you and you were asked to comment on such a trivial matter. . . If by chance you are able, Sting, Andy (Summers) and I would welcome the opportunity to personally express our admiration for you and your wonderful country by extending an invitation to you and your guests to attend our performance.

So, let’s review:

A rock and roll drummer says something incomprehensible about two female, South American world leaders. The press in one of the countries says, “we’re not sure what he means, but we think he just called our President ugly. Let’s ask her what she thinks about that.” The President says, “Leave me alone.” Then the drummer sends a letter to the President saying, “Sorry about that, Madame President. Won’t happen again. Hey – would you like free tickets to our concert?”

And why wouldn’t he – after all, she’s good for four beers!

Categories: Words about Music | No Comments »

Bush Administration Beseiged by Good News

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Power Line points us to this Washington Post article about the recent NIE finding that Iran halted it’s nuclear weapons program in 2003.

The title of the article is A Blow To Bush’s Tehran Policy.

Here’s a sample:

The new intelligence report released yesterday not only undercut the administration’s alarming rhetoric over Iran’s nuclear ambitions but could also throttle Bush’s effort to ratchet up international sanctions and take off the table the possibility of preemptive military action before the end of his presidency.

Iran had been shaping up as perhaps the dominant foreign policy issue of Bush’s remaining year in office and of the presidential campaign to succeed him. Now leaders at home and abroad will have to rethink what they thought they knew about Tehran’s intentions and capabilities.

This could possibly be the most twisted logic I’ve ever seen in a mainstream news article. Basically, they’re saying that Bush and Co. were gearing up for war in order to stop Iran’s nuclear program, and now that we’ve learned the nuclear program has stopped, the whole “gearing up for war” plan is a miserable failure.

By “failure” here, they could just as easily have meant “success.” The point is not (nor is ever) to go to war. I realize that those seeking to paint the President as an indiscriminate war hawk say that over and over again, but in the real world, the point is to promote the best interests of the United States. If our actions (both our military actions in Afghanistan/Iraq and our diplomatic saber-rattling regarding Iran) helped convince Iran to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, then the policy worked, and we’re happy to achieve our goals without military conflict. To declare something a failure because the contingency plan you had in case of failure had to be scrapped is twisted logic indeed.

National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley tried to say as much:

The White House said the report vindicated its concerns because it concluded that Iran did have a nuclear weapons program until halting it in 2003 and it showed that U.S.-led diplomatic pressure had succeeded in forcing Tehran’s hand. “On balance, the estimate is good news,” said national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley. “On the one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen.”

Hadley disagreed that the report showed that past administration statements have been wrong, noting that collecting intelligence on a “hard target” such as Iran is notoriously difficult. “Welcome to the real world,” he said.

Indeed. In fact, the big risk now, as I see it, is what happens if this intelligence estimate is found to be wrong. After all, we were pretty convinced that North Korea had given up their program after signing a treaty during the Clinton administration, only to find out later that they’d been continuing in secret. If we find out two years from now (or heaven forbid, just before the 2008 election) that Iran still has a nuclear weapons program, will statements made today be held up as evidence for “Bush lied, people died?”

Our leaders certainly deserve a great deal of criticism of late, mostly for not modifying their approach in the face of new information. When they do acknowledge a new direction, dragging them through the public square for it seems rather hypocritical.

Categories: News and/or Media, Political Rantings | No Comments »

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