Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Does BU need football?

As readers of this blog may know, my alma mater, Boston University, killed it's D1-AA football program in 1997. BU had about zero football tradition, and games at Nickerson Field were sparsely attended at best. However, I do have fond memories of fall Saturdays, the mighty Terriers taking the field against arch-rivals like UNH and Maine. Good times.

Brian Roach, in today's Freep, attempts to make the point that a dominant hockey program makes up for the absence of a mediocre football program. He reminds us of BU's multiple National Championships, 2009 being the most recent, bitter rivalry with that other school right out the B branch of the Green Line, and Beanpot triumphs. He doesn't mention, but could have, the semi-household names like Eruzione and Craig, Drury and Tkachuk, and, of course, Jack Parker.

Well, I'm not so sure. I have some great Beanpot memories, sure. One of the great sports moments of my life occurred at the Beanpot. I some really good times at Brown Arena (the Rathole On Babcock St). Scott Shaunessy was sorta fun to drink with at Father's Too on Beacon Street. I mean, it was nice being around a superior hockey program, no doubt.

But college hockey is a fringe sport. It's not even on the same map as college football or college basketball. It's lumped in with other third-tier sports like baseball, soccer, swimming, etc. All very worthwhile pursuits, don't get me wrong. But they just aren't the same as the biggies.

I have NOTHING in my experience to rival Game Day in Austin, or the atmosphere of Cameron Indoor or the Dean Dome. I've never been in an arena with the hoisted jerseys of Walton and Kareem, or where there are 100,000 people wearing maize and blue.

Now, of course, that's not to say BU could ever achieve that sort of success in the big sports. BU football was a very average 1-AA program. There was no history or tradition. The most spectacular players to ever roll thru Nickerson, guys like Jim Jensen and Bill Brooks, wound up with very solid, but unspectacular, NFL careers. A guy like Paul Lewis, who set every rushing record the school has, couldn't catch on with the Patriots as a free agent when the Patriots were terrible.

Hockey is all well and good. And it is nice to be able to say "I went to BU, home of the hockey National Champions of 2009". And it's probably better to have a dominant hockey team than it is to have a spare football team.

That was a long rant for not much payoff. I guess the moral of the story is its better to be really good at something sorta spare than it is to be really spare at something sorta good.

It probably also pays to not do too many stream-of-thought blog posts late at night!

Tiger giggle

I don't remember him being presented with THIS trophy, but perhaps I wasn't looking closely enough.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Live Music Field Trip Report: The King Bucks


CIT took a a field trip to Tolbert’s in Grapevine on Sat night to catch the King Bucks.

The short version: Solid A. Maybe pushing for an A+.

First, the venue: Tolbert’s is in the historic part of Grapevine, a nicely-preserved/redone small-town Texas downtown area. Lots of multi-step-up sidewalks, street parking, and one- or two-storey storefronts and offices. It’s got that “this is the only street in town that matters” feel of your average one-A Texas town. Nice to walk thru, even on a cold evening like Sat. If you haven’t been to Historic Grapevine, it shouldn’t take much of an excuse for you to go.

Tolbert’s itself is a chili-parlor also reminiscent of small-town Texas. A bar running the entire length of the left side of the single long room, stage in the back with a small clear area in front for a bit o’ dancin’, and tables throughout. You’ve been in places like this before.

Food is basic but good. The Fredericksburger (bacon and your choice of cheese) gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. The draft beer is cold, cheap, and comes in a good sized glass. It’s enough to bring a smile to your face. it did mine.


The band is way better than your average bar band. Danny, Chad, Keith, Joe, and Chris have all played in tons of area bands, often with each other. You can tell. They seemed to have a planned first set, but I am convinced the second was made up on the fly. These guys have so many classic country songs on the internal CD player they could easily be unbeatable in “Golden Age of Country Stump-the-Band”.

A ton of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Buck Owens, Porter Waggoner, and the like was the order of the evening. Mostly rockin’, some slower, all played and sung as well as you can ask. We all know Chad and Keith can sing, as they have on countless records and bar sets over the years. Danny Balis’ voice, however, is a relatively recent, and welcome, find. His baritone, while not quite in the Johnny Cash class of resonance, reminds of, and may surpass, Waylon, Merle, and even The Man in Black Himself at times.

By my less-than-expert count, the boys played none of their own stuff, neither off the band’s album nor off Danny’s solo record. Instead, they played two+ hours of old-timey country and honky tonk. You knew some of it, you had heard others somewhere before, some of it you have never heard before. Mostly up-tempo, but enough slow numbers to allow the many 40-something white guys in the audience to grab a dance with their squeeze.

This was the first time I have seen Joe Butcher play live, and I have to comment on his musicianship. Pedal steel is a cool instrument under any circumstances, but Joe’s skill is noteworthy, as are his guitar and singing. On a stage full of talented and experienced guys, Joe stands out as slightly more equal than his co-luminaries.

Joe and Chad, and Keith to an extent, interjected a bit of entertaining banter, but it was pretty much all music all night.

There are plenty of bands rattling around the area doing far more cutting-edge stuff, who are more creative and who may interact with the audience more or better. But you are not going to find a tighter, more professional group of musicians who enjoy their craft more than the King Bucks. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find a better show, too.

Really glad we went. Tolbert’s is worth a visit, either for dinner, a show, or both. And the King Bucks are on our list of bands we plan to catch again. They should be on yours too.


Olympic time again

vancouver_2010_logo It’s that time once again, when we stop down for a couple weeks of rapt viewing of otherwise-obscure sports, passionate debating about the relative merits of athleticism and artistry, and wistful musing regarding the debauchery going on within the Athlete’s Village even as I type this.

Yep, it’s the Olympics again, my preferred Winter version, this year taking place in a region I have known but fear I will not know, at least not the same way, again.

Is that last part cryptic? Too bad. I know what I meant.

At any rate, I do enjoy an evening of watching slightly insane humans hurtling down mountains on waxed carbon fiber, right on the very edge of catastrophe as they try to squeeze a few more meters per second out, a few less clock nano-ticks elapsed during the run. Its even more entertaining being able to say I was there, I rode that lift, skied that run, walked those streets, saw an event there, etc. Maybe even seeing a familiar face in the crowd, glimpsed in the sea of humanity in Gastown or Richmond, etc.

And the day-to-primetime handoff from the greatness of Al Michaels to the greatness of Bob Costas, Dan Patrick in a silly hat, Scott Hamilton’s emphatic “She NAILS it!”, all the hallmarks of Olympic TV.

I do so enjoy this.

Stories to watch? Heck, I don’t know. Hockey is fun, but not as much fun as when it was college boys against the roid-monsters of Red Army. Bode Miller has turned in too many disappointments in past opportunities to get excited about now. Lindsey Vonn sure is nice to look at, and seems to have a legitimate shot at a number of races. But I don’t see anything that’s truly must-see TV.

And it’s hard to keep cynicism at bay when talking about the kind of money present in modern Olympics. You need only get a snoot-full of the spin being spun about the death on the luge track to OD on fake hand-wringing and contrived tribute.

But, despite the lack of pre-packaged stories and the hypocrisy of modern sports-entertainment, I’m still glued. It’s a chance to see true greatness – how many kids in the world have the Olympics as their goal, and how many make it? And of those who make it, how many excel?

Yes, I love the Olympics, and NBC loves me.

TX Gov race: Are you freaking kidding me?

Yet another candidate for TX Governor, this time Dem dark horse Farouk Shami, commits political suicide on the public airwaves over the topic of 9/11.

Just in case his 9/11 Hot Sports Opinions didn't do him in, he throws in the ever-popular "white people don't want to work" view.

What the heck is going on around here? Is everyone in this race nuts? Bill White is my last hope, but a faint one.

Time lapse - NBA All-Star Game at the Death Star

Here, in two minutes of time-lapse video, is how the Mavs, Cowboys, and the NBA got the Death Star set and filled for the NBA All-Star Game last night.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Debra Medina - oh my goodness

We're not following the Texas governor's race all that closely here at CIT because, quite frankly, Rick Perry is going to have to pull a Clayton Williams to lose this thing. However, one Debra Medina has been slowly creeping up on Gov Good-Hair and Kay Hutchison.

Or, at least she was until she appeared on the Glen Beck radio show yesterday and gave the very clear appearance of being a 9/11 Truther.

Texas is a crazy place, but we're not crazy enough to vote for this, are we?

Listen for yourself. I am no fan of Glen Beck, but I can't fault him one bit for this interview. He asked what should have been a no-brainer question, and even tried to stop Ms. Medina strangling herself.


Local band worth a listen: The Orbans

Formerly The Lifters, now The Orbans. Album drops in March, or that's the plan. Alt-country, country-rock, a bit of Old 97s guitar and The O's banjo. Good stuff.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Upcoming live music field trips

Here at CIT, we’re making a concerted effort to take in more live music (and that was a kick-ass joke, I don’t care what anyone says). My compadre Wild Bill and I, along with anyone who’s interested, will be taking in shows in a variety of Dallas venues and passing along reviews and opinions in these pages.

We’re just getting started, and we have severe time constraints (having, like, jobs and kids and stuff), so the calendar is pretty sparse at the moment. Definites are:

Beyond these two, there are no must-sees right now. We’ll be on the lookout for Old 97s when they roll through, and there’s interest in Calhoun, Eleven Hundred Springs, and a few other local acts. We’ll take suggestions. Please keep in mind we are 40-something white guys who are trying to get the groove back when you submit ideas.

Good stuff ahead for the Rangers?

One of our favorite Dallas sports bloggers, the great Richie Whitt, keeper of the Soon-To-Be-Great Sportatorium over at the Observer (and the links list over there on the left), posits that there is a whole lot to look forward to in Rangers baseball, both in the short and longer terms.

Why, you ask?

Because, retorts RW, new Rangers’ owner Chuck Greenberg reminds him a heck of a lot of a certain other casually dressed Pittsburghian (Pittsburgher?) who took over a moribund Dallas sports franchise and turned it into a winner seemingly overnight.

Yep, Richie sees a lot of Mark Cuban in this guy.

This is, perhaps, too lofty a dream for long-suffering Ranger fans. Its too much for me to buy into sight-unseen. But, you know, what if…?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bolivia: The next Saudi Arabia

Here’s a little tidbit from the “I Did Not Know That” file: Bolivia sits on top of 70 to 80% of the world’s supply of lithium.

And this is important to know…why?

Take a look at the batteries in your mobile phone and laptop. I’ll bet dollars to your donuts they’re both lithium batteries.

Take a look at the specs of the soon-to-be-in-production Chevrolet Volt. It is powered by, you guessed it, lithium batteries.

It turns out lithium holds an electric charge longer than any metal yet discovered. It will be THE most sought-after element there is in our upcoming (and can’t come soon enough) move from fossil fuels to electricity (generated by…nuclear fission? wind? tide? fusion? all of the above?).

And here’s little, third world, basically socialist Bolivia, sitting on a whole shed load of it. Bolivia, right next door to Hugo Chavez’ Venezuela, where the nation’s most precious commodity (oil) has been nationalized.

The Bolivians are not oblivious to their impending good fortune. They are currently discussing the “To Nationalize or Not To Nationalize” question. They are distrustful of the US, mostly because of our past unwelcome interference in South American politics. Thus, the French, South Koreans, Japanese and, you better believe, the Chinese are swarming all over La Paz, President Eva Morales, and anyone with a smidge of influence in the Bolivian government.

The lithium is found primarily on the high Andean plain, in an area historically dirt poor and currently almost completely isolated from the rest of the world. Which all sounds a lot like the Arabian Peninsula in the 1930s or so, when the oil companies started to move in and build infrastructure.

The Bolivians are taking careful notes on just how the Arabs and their mates next door in Venezuela have managed to hang on to a substantial chunk of their oil revenues, and looking askance at countries like Mexico which have managed to screw themselves out of most of their own windfall. Expect the Bolivians to be pretty stiff negotiators. Further expect a lot of environmental hand-wringing and Power-To-The-People-style sentiment regarding the indigenous dirt farmers. And, since it’s the third world, expect a bit of Wild West – lots of corruption, violence, and double-crossing.

While the demise of oil spells doom for the Arabs, at least as a political force in this world, someone is going to take their place. At this point, Bolivia seems to be the odds-on favorite to be the power behind the soon-to-be-convened OLEC (Organization of Lithium Exporting Countries).

Mossad strikes again, Hamas isn’t happy about it

The Israeli foreign intelligence service, the ever-secretive Mossad, zapped another senior Hamas guy, this time frying him in a Dubai hotel.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing, died under rather unclear circumstances in January while staying at an unnamed Emirate hotel. Hamas leaders have expressed all sorts of official outrage over this targeted killing of a legitimate target, seemingly forgetting the hundreds of completely innocent Israeli women and children they have blown to bits over the years.

I don’t condone this sort of action, of course. But I also don’t pretend to know what the Israelis should be doing instead. Short of a better idea, I think its best for me to just pass along the news and keep my mouth shut.

The Woodall Rogers Deck Park

My soon-to-be new overlords in the City of Dallas are busily building a deck over a pretty significant length of the Woodall Rogers Freeway canyon on the north edge of downtown (between the Arts District and Uptown, because it's important to use CoD's lingo when describing "neighborhoods").

An interesting idea when first floated, it gets a bit more interesting after you view this highly slicked-up "virtual fly-thru".