Monday, December 28, 2015

The Year In Music - 1965

As we come to the end of 2015 we also come to the end of the 50th anniversary of 1965. That was a very important year in my life. I had the first true love of my life, I graduated from high school, started college away from home and had to register for the draft. There was one other important element in 1965 and that is the music from that year. That's what this post is about, not my love life, high school graduation, college initiation or draft status.

It was a very good musical year. Top 40 radio was thriving. It was still AM radio that ruled. FM was really just getting started. There were other music radio stations. The Oldies stations of the day mostly played big band stuff. There were easy listening stations that played pop music by Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Sinatra, etc. There were also Country-centric radio stations. Even some classical music spots on the radio dial. Those Top 40 stations really did play whatever songs were on the music charts. That meant that there could be a rock song followed by country followed by Sinatra followed by folk followed by Soul. Rinse and repeat. I'll get into some of the specifics of that diversity shortly. Many of the pop stars of the 40's and 50's were still performing live and selling records. Country moved toward pop and rock and had several crossover stars and songs. The British Invasion was firmly entrenched. Motown was spitting out new groups and new hits every week. The Surf/Beach music wave was breaking on the charts. The Folk explosion of the early 60's was still hanging on. I am grateful that I was exposed to many genres of music. Although I primarily listen to the various forms of rock music, I enjoy mixing it with the other genres. My normal way to listen to Pandora is to shuffle several stations together. My music library is made up of numerous types of music. I usually shuffle that too and build diverse playlists.

So on to some specifics. I will be citing Billboard and Tunecaster music charts from 1965. The first #1 song of the year was either I Feel Fine by The Beatles or Come See About Me by The Supremes depending on which chart you look at. The last #1 hit of 1965 was Over and Over by The Dave Clark Five or We Can Work It Out by The Beatles. So the Beatles opened the year and wrapped it up. They had a few other hits in the middle too. There is a dispute about what was the top song of the year. Billboard says it was Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Tunecaster picked (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. Another poll selected I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch) by The Four Tops. All good but I think the Stones' song has proved to have much more staying power. There were some surprises to me in the year's top 100. Herman's Hermits has five songs on the year-end chart and The Beatles had four. Gary Lewis and the Playboys had three entries. The Beach Boys and Rolling Stones only two each. In retrospect, I think The Beatles, Stones and Beach Boys contributed way more to our song catalog than Gary and Herman. 

You can peruse the charts yourself. Tunecaster's year-end Pop 100 is here. Billboard's year-end Hot 100 is here. The list of weekly #1s on Tunecaster can be found here. Billboard's list of #1s is here. You will notice that the two weekly charts start on different days of the week. That explains some of the discrepancies. 

There were a few one hit wonders in 1965 too. Boy From New York City by The Ad Libs, Land Of 1000 Dances by Cannibal and the Headhunters reached #2 in May, Liar, Liar by The Castaways, and Keep On Dancing by The Gentrys climbed to #3,

The top-selling album of the year was the soundtrack from Mary Poppins. Looks like moms were buying most of the albums. This is also somewhat misleading since many of the top artists released multiple albums in a year. The Beatles released four. Most teens probably couldn't afford to buy all four. It didn't take long to produce an album back then. Singers or groups went into the studio with all the supporting musicians assembled and sang the songs. The tracks weren't all recorded individually in separate locations and then run through several computer programs, synthesizers, cut, spliced, rearranged, enhanced, etc.

1965 was a very good year for music and not a bad year for me. I still listen to a lot of the songs from that year. For most people, the music of our teens becomes our favorite. I like some of the contemporary music but I always go back to the songs of the 60's. Music brings back memories and 1965 was mostly good times so listening to that music is also mostly memories of good times.

So crank up the volume on the old AM radio, cruise the burger joint and enjoy some very good music from 1965.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

College Football Silly Season 2015-16

Here we go again. The college football bowl season begins on December 19, 2015 and doesn't end until January 11, 2016. During that span there will be 41 bowl games played. Exactly three of them have any real meaning, the two semi-final playoff games and the championship game. The other 38 games are just exhibitions. Sort of like soccer "friendlies". 

I'm not against bowl games but I think 41 is way too many. I remember when there were fewer than 10 bowl games and it was an honor to be invited to one of them. Now 80 teams go to a bowl. I think there are 127 FBS division schools. That means 63% of the teams go to bowls. Quite an elite group. Teams are supposed to have at least six wins a .500 winning percentage to be bowl eligible. With this many games it is usually impossible to find a full compliment of eligible teams. This year there are three bowl teams with losing records. That isn't right. 

ESPN is one of the major reasons there are so many bowls. They have started several bowls just so they have more games to televise. Watch some of the lesser games and check out how few people are in the stands. Almost all the game revenue comes from TV and the title sponsor. The NCAA has said that they are looking into a fix for the current situation. 

I'm certainly not going to go into all the games, but here are a few things I find interesting.
There is the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, is that the bowl color? There is the Cure Bowl in Orlando, no clue what they are trying to cure. Always enjoy the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, I don't think I've ever seen a famous potato. There is the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl, is it named for the animal or the clothing company? Popeyes Bahama Bowl is actually played in football crazy Nassau. I think the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl wins the longest name title. What is the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl? The Gator Bowl, one of the oldest bowl games and one I attended a few times when it was played in the actual Gator Bowl, has completely lost its identity. After a couple of years as the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl, it is now just the TaxSlayer Bowl. 

How about this exciting matchup, Middle Tennessee vs Western Michigan in the Bahamas. It is rarely good when two directional schools meet.

I'm sure I'll watch a few of these games, some might even turn out to be good. I'll watch my teams, Florida, South Florida and TCU. 

The two College Playoff semifinal games are on December 31st in Texas and Florida. The winners meet on January 11th in Arizona.

Let's hope with 41 games in the next month we get at least a few good ones. Let's also hope that in the near future they reduce the number of bowls and require a winning record to participate. And let's get the Gator back in Gator Bowl.


Friday, December 11, 2015

My Lebanese & Syrian Friends

Every day we hear about some new atrocities by the middle east terroristsI. The latest one was the shooting in San Bernardino, before that the tragedy in Paris. There was a bombing in Beirut the day before Paris but that barely made the news. That is because terrorists attacks in Lebanon are too common plus "westerners" weren't killed. "Black Lives Matter" is a popular saying and movement here in the United States. I say "Muslim Lives Matter" too or more accurately, "Arab Lives" matter because they are not all Muslims. I realize that all ethnic groups in the middle east are not Arabs, I mean all lives, other than the terrorists, in the middle east matter. I feel for my Lebanese and Syrian friends every day because there are news stories everyday.

I said my Lebanese and Syrian friends. I don't mean that in just an offhand or generic manner. I truly have several Arab friends, some of them for over 60 years. I grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. That city had a large established Arab community. Many of them were Christians, Catholics in particular. I went to Catholic school with many of them. Young kids don't know or care that people come from different places or what prejudices are unless they are taught that by adults. I had no idea that these Arab kids were different from me. Sure, their complexions were a little darker than mine but that applied to about 95% of the kids. I was a freckle-faced red haired kid. It took me most of the summer to get a little color and about three hours to lose it. Jacksonville was a very racist and segregated city when I was growing up. I don't know how much prejudice the Arab community endured, I'm sure there was some. The kids I went to school with were all born in the US. It was their grandparents or parents who had immigrated to this country. I'm not sure why so many Lebanese and Syrians settled in Jacksonville other than the fact it is a port city. I'm sure there were those native whites who were not happy with these new residents.

The Arab kids I grew up with were just part of the gang to me. We were classmates, teammates, friends and yes, sometimes enemies. You know how kids are, sometimes your best friend becomes your worst enemy overnight, then back to best friend. None of these decisions were based on ethnicity. We did all the stuff kids growing up together do. We played all the sports, mostly baseball and softball in my case. 

When I was in high school gym class I has a small 1'x1'x2' locker. Just big enough to stash my gym clothes or my school clothes during PE. My buddy who I had gone to grade school with for eight years, had the locker right next to mine. He played football so it was a full size locker. One big enough to hang clothes up in. For two years he shared his locker with me. I had the hook on the left side. I knew his lock combination, he knew mine. Never once did I worry about getting Lebanese cooties on my stuff. I assume he didn't worry about catching any Irish cooties on his. 

I could go on about all the good times, tough scrapes and just day to day activities I shared with these friends.

Let's try to come to grips with the fact that most people are the same at their core. We all want the same things for our families and ourselves. Yes, there are bad guys in every racial, ethnic and religious group. So what.

If the current mood of banning Syrian and Lebanese immigrants and refugees had been prevalent 75 or 100 years ago, I would never have had friends like Greg, Doug, Mitchell, Mike, Paul, Ronnie, Joe, Nelson, Sharon and a few others I'm sure I forgot. That would have been my loss.

Let's try to stop the hatred. For a country that brags about being brave and strong and macho, we certainly seem to be paranoid and afraid of almost everything. That includes children from Syria and Mexico. Man up America, don't cower in the corner.


More Of The Same, The Newest Prejudice

As this first half of December 2015 passes, I find myself sick to my stomach for several reasons. First off, there was the mass shooting in San Bernadino. There are 16 dead as a result, 14 victims and two shooters. Several others were injured. There have been well over 300 mass shootings in the US this year, defined as four or more victims, with the possibility of reaching close to 400 by year end. Yet, nothing has changed. No new laws, no new procedures, not even any good ideas about how to stop the killing. Just empty sorrow for the victims and then back to normal, until the next incident. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Secondly, the prejudice against Muslims and Arabs because some members of those groups are terrorists. The following was posted on Facebook and showed up on my news feed. 

This is racist, bigotted and Islamaphobic. Don't think so, replace "Muslim" in the caption with Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jew, Gay or many other labels and see how it sounds. Racist, bigotted or antisemitic. I can only assume that the person who posted it is either racist, bigotted, Islamaphobic or completely insensitive. Neither is a good choice. To make it worse, a few other people agreed with the post. What does that make them?

It seems we Americans always need some group to oppress, hate and fear. The Blacks handled that role for a couple hundred years. Every other ethnic group took their turn. The Irish, the Polish, the Jews, the Germans, the Italians, the Asians all had their time. Currently it is the Hispanics and the Muslims and of course still the Blacks. Some of these groups eventually get completely accepted and integrated into the American mainstream. Some others don't. It seems to me that those that are easily distinguished physically have a much harder time. It is hard for the white majority to tell the difference between someone of Irish heritage from a Scot or Belgian or Swede or German or Pole or Jew... You get the idea. It is a little easier if the group has black or brown skin or has Asian features or wears ethnic clothing.

I grew up in the still-segregated South. There were separate water fountains and restrooms. Whites only restaurants and hotels. Segregated schools. Separate sections on the buses, the Blacks got the back end. They had to sit in the balcony at movie theaters if they were allowed in at all. I am sure that I grew up feeling that whites, and thereby me, were better than Blacks. Negroes or Colored back then. It wasn't overt in my house but just the day to day circumstances would lead a white kid to think that way. Just as a Colored kid would think the opposite. I guess if I had stayed in that environment I might still feel that way.

I didn't stay in that hometown. I went to college out of town and then went to Atlanta to work. Atlanta had been a very racist city but was actively working to change that. I was thrown in with many Blacks in those early days. I worked with Blacks, rode the bus to work as often the only white person. I got to know those people and got to become friends. I've written about the day MLK was assassinated. I was on a bus with 99% Blacks that night and had to work in downtown Atlanta. It was a life-changing event. It could have been a life-ending event had the African-American community in Atlanta lashed out at the white populace. 

I also went to elementary and high school with many Lebanese and Syrians. They were Christian Arabs but still from the now evil Middle East. I don't remember there being any ethnic tension with them or any clues from our parents that there should be. We were all just kids going to school. Some were my best friends, some were just classmates and some were adversaries. Just like the kids from every other ethnic background. Looking back, I'm pretty sure that those Arab families had to put up with prejudices from the redneck majority. I was just too young and naive to see it. 

I digress only to make the point that I have lived through prejudice and racism. It is never justified to define an entire group based on the actions of a few or even worse the perceived behavior or inferiority. 

It is absolutely true that most Muslims, including those in the US, are peaceful. They are not terrorists. If the majority of US Muslims were bad guys, they could throw the country into panic and turmoil tomorrow. One way to turn them against the US is to treat them as second class citizens or worse. 

The photo and caption above are disgusting. They are racist and those who think it is proper behavior for an American or a Christian have seriously misread what those terms mean. 

The vitriol pouring out of a certain presidential candidate is disgusting and un-American. 

Let's concentrate on the real terrorists, not the law-abiding ethnic family next door.


Monday, December 7, 2015

Sinatra 100

On Sunday night, CBS had a special that celebrated what would have been Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday. It also opened their Grammy coverage. Nominations will be announced on Monday. The Grammys won't be awarded until February 15th. Expect more Grammy related hype on CBS over the next couple of months. 

This show had a cavalcade of stars singing Sinatra hits. As with all these kind of programs, some guests are up to the task, some are fair and a few should have stayed home.

The show opened with several artists performing parts of songs. Seth MacFarlane was introduced as the host and spoke about Frank, his music and life. Although Seth was the alleged host, it seemed to me that LL Cool J actually performed that function.

  • Zac Brown was the first to perform a full song. I thought he was a strange selection and he looked out of place in a tux. Nevertheless, he did an OK job on The Way You Look Tonight.
  • Garth Brooks then did The Lady Is A Tramp in a tux and cowboy hat. He should have stayed home, it was not good.
  • Celine Dion did a fair job on All The Way. She was a little over the top and a little off from her vocal best.
  • Another country star, Carrie Underwood, sang Come Fly With Me a little too loudly. Remember, Frank was a crooner. Decibels were not the most important quality.
  • Host Seth MacFarlane, who is mostly known as a TV and film producer, sang Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. He did a good job.
  • Zac Brown came back, this time in a top hat and with help from Carrie Underwood and Seth on a shortened version of Stars Fell On Alabama
  • One of my favorite contemporary singers, John Legend, did a very good rendition of Young At Heart.
  • Another good performance was turned in by Harry Connick, Jr. on Luck Be A Lady. Harry can sound like Frank although this was not his best performance. 
  • Next up was the highlight of the evening for me. Alicia Keys did a hot, sexy, sultry rendition of I've Got A Crush On You. Full disclosure, Alicia is one of my favorite singers so she could probably sing the phone book, remember those, and I would like it. Still, this was a very good performance.
  • The old guy had to follow that. Tony Bennett sang I've Got The World On A String. It was OK, but Tony's age is showing and he is not the premier singer he once was.
  • The next slot was some U2 BS from London. Bono and Edge did a song they wrote supposedly for &/or about Frank called Two Shots Of Happy, One Shot Of Sad.  Bono was his usual over-important self. I thought this was completely out of character for the show. All the other performances were of songs that Sinatra recorded and mostly used his original arrangements.
  • Carrie Underwood came back to sing another too loud version of Someone To Watch Over You. Besides the volume, I thought she had some off tone parts of the song. Some country nasal came through.  
  • Usher did a very good job on That's Life. Besides sounding good, he had the right stage swagger. He's a talented guy. 
  • After a brief clip of Frank and Antonio Carlos Jobim doing some Bossa Nova, international star Juanes did a tune with the same beat. Nice, but Juanes is no Sinatra. I don't remember ever seeing Frank do Latin music. Of course he was good at it.  Have a look -
  • The Best Is Yet To Come was done by Adam Levine. He did OK but seemed kind of nervous to me.
  • A surprisingly good performance was done by Nick Jonas. I never did catch what the song was. It was much higher than Frank ever sang, parts close to falsetto. Better than I expected.
  • Trisha Yearwood, Garth Brook's better half, did a much better job than hubby. She did a decent version of I'll Be Seeing You.
  • Seth MacFarlane came back to do another good job on One For My Baby. He did it from a bar stool with a drink. He captured the mood of the song although not quite the voice of Sinatra.
  • The finale was Lady Gaga in a tuxedo and fedora. She put in a good performance of New York, New York. This tune had the most elaborate set and production. Not surprising for a Gaga performance.
Overall it was an enjoyable show. Besides the above performances, there were pictures and clips from Sinatra's life. It seemed odd that there were so many country artists. None were outstanding and Garth was bad. There are enough good singers around who do standards and jazz. 

As the credits rolled, there was a video of Frank singing My Way. Perfect.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Very Random Thoughts - November 2015

  • If we get an annoying weekly Emergency Broadcast System test on TV, why do we also need a separate monthly test?
  • Is the HGTV show "Tiny House Hunters" about normal size people looking for tiny houses or tiny people looking for regular size houses?
  • I get a kick out of TV commercials that put up the graphic "real people, not actors". I was under the impression that actors were people.
  • Do you ever open the refrigerator door, stare in only to realize you have no idea what you are looking for? Me too.
  • How can you be a fat ass football, or any, coach at the same time you are demanding peak physical condition from your players?
  • Political "debates" aren't. They are group, Q&A sessions sprinkled with junior high school bickering.
  • We have become a society of hollow symbolism as opposed to real substance.
  • I know there have always been ignorant people but when did we start to celebrate them?
  • Do any of you really think that typing amen or sharing a Facebook post will get gods attention? Kinda like thinking your sports team is somehow blessed.
  • The "Golden Rule" has been severely tarnished by our allegedly Christian politicians.
  • I find it hard to respect your position if you use false statements and fear tactics to justify that position. 
  • Unless you are a Native American, your ancestors were refugees and/or immigrants to this country at some point. They were most likely treated poorly and feared. Seems to have worked out OK. 
  • After watching the national and local newscasts tonight, I finally figured out what their purpose is - Scare the shit out of us.
  • Along the same line, didn't leaders in our country used to try to instill pride and confidence? Not fear and prejudice. 
  • Why do people go out of their way to find insignificant things to get upset about, like Holiday/Christmas coffee cups or the shape of Reese's trees?
  • Paranoia is contagious and many of our politicians are carriers.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Football 2015 - Week 14

There were some changes in the week 12 College Football Playoff Rankings. The top two slots remain Clemson and Alabama but #3 is now Oklahoma and Iowa is #4. Ohio State with a loss and Notre Dame with a poor showing fell out of the playoff spots. Florida fell from #8 to #12 after their ugly game against an unranked opponent. TCU is now at #19 a drop of only one slot after their one-point loss to now #3 Oklahoma. Four SEC teams are in the top 25.

This is the last full week of the regular season in the college ranks. There will still be a few regular season games plus all the conference championship games.

The Football week started off with a Thanksgiving night game between in-state and AAC rivals USF @ UCF. These schools are about 100 miles apart on Interstate 4. This is a down year for the winless (0-11) Knights while the 7-4 Bulls have won three straight and six of their last seven. The Knights scored first with a FG about five minutes into the game. USF looked a little sluggish but put together a long drive in the middle of the quarter for a 7-3 lead. It was all Bulls from there on out. UCF didn't score again and USF did often. Final score was 44-3. Bulls QB Quinton Flowers threw for three TDs and ran for two more. USF outgained the Knights by over 250 yards. The Bulls improve to 8-4, 6-2 and still have a shot at the AAC East title. They need a Temple loss. The East winner will play West winner Houston. If USF does not win the East, their next game will be a bowl game. Saturday update, Temple did win over Connecticut and won the AAC East. The Bulls now await a bowl bid.

There was a big rivalry game Friday night in Fort Worth. The hated 9-1, 6-1 #7 Baylor Bears came to town to play the 9-2, 6-2 #19 TCU Horned Frogs. It was a miserable night, cold and rainy. The game start was delayed 45 minutes due to lightning. Both teams scored TDs on their initial possessions. Baylor also put together a long drive on their second possession for a 14-7 lead. Then the elements started to play into the game. There were a couple of interceptions. TCU scored on a Bears fumble to tie the game at 14. There were five total turnovers in the first half. The weather and the field deteriorated in the second half and neither team was able to score. So these two high powered offenses were stopped by mother nature. Remember, last year's game score was 61-58. In the first OT, Baylor scored a TD on a short pass. TCU answered with a TD.  The Frogs passed for a TD in the second OT then held Baylor short on a fourth and one. TCU wins in double overtime 28-21. Statistics were unimpressive but pretty even. Baylor did better on the ground and TCU did more through the air. The Bears five turnovers led directly to one TCU TD and stopped several drives. The Frogs limited their turnovers to two in the wet conditions. TCU Heisman candidate QB was just back from an ankle injury and still somewhat limited in his mobility. He went 18/33 for 148 yards, two TDs and an INT. He also rushed for a TD in OT. The win moves the Frogs to 10-2, 7-2 and ends their regular season. Next game will be a bowl.

The big FSU-Florida game was in Gainesville this year. On paper it looked like a dead even matchup between the 9-2 #13 Seminoles and the 10-1 #12 Gators. Unfortunately, the Gators luck ran out this game and their lack of a QB and offense plus no kicking game caught up with them. It was not surprising. The defense and luck had gotten Florida to their 10-1 record. Once again, the defense was up to the task but they got absolutely zero help from the inept offense. They held FSU to 10 points in the first half and 13 through three quarters. They were finally worn down and allowed 14 fourth quarter points for a 27-2 FSU win. Amazingly, Florida had only about 40 fewer total yards and actually held the ball about five more minutes. The Gators had more total yards until the fourth quarter. There problem is that they cannot convert on third down and sustain drives. They also missed two FG attempts, an old story this season. Gators QB, Treon Harris, was 19/38 and no interceptions which doesn't look bad. On closer look you will see that those 19 completions only netted 139 yards, a pitiful 3.5 yard average. Neither team looked very strong on the offense side of the ball. There were 16 punts in the game. This was mostly due to strong defensive units, but neither offense is great, although FSU's is at least functional. Florida drops to 10-2 for the regular season. Much better than expected, although this loss nixes any dreams of making the playoffs. They now have the unenviable task of facing #2 Alabama in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. Hide the children, that could be ugly.

There were several important rivalry games played. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 and cement their spot in the top four. Alabama won the Iron Bowl over Auburn to win the SEC West and remain #2 in the nation. Stanford knocked Notre Dame out of the championship race. Clemson survived over an inferior South Carolina to remain #1. Ohio State climbed back into the national championship picture with a convincing win over Michigan. Iowa beat Nebraska to stay in the top four. There were other regional rivalries games that had no effect on the national picture. 

The Gators suffered in the polls for their last two poor performances. The Week 14 AP Poll has Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma and Iowa in the top four spots. Florida fell eight spots to #18. TCU moved up four spots to #11. There are still four SEC teams in the top 25 but only the Crimson Tide in the top 15. 

After a disappointing Saturday, there was no relief on Sunday. First up are the Jaguars. They got off to a good start with a 6-0 lead after one quarter and 9-7 halfway through the second. Then they gave up 14 Charger points in about two minutes, the second on a short drive set up by an interception, for a 21-9 halftime deficit. The Jags outscored SD 13-10 in the second half but it was not enough to overcome the deficit. Chargers win 31-25. Blake Bortles had a good day going 30/49 for 329 yards, two TDs and one INT. Unfortunately that INT led to a Chargers score which proved to be the difference. It was the only turnover of the game. Jacksonville falls to 4-7 but is still technically in the playoff run because of the weak AFC South. Next game is in Nashville against the even more inept Titans.

Last week Tampa Bay's rookie QB, Jamis Winston, was setting NFL records. This week he was another mediocre QB on a losing team. The Bucs traveled to Indianapolis  to play the Luck-less Colts. This was not a very exciting game. There were six FGs on seven attempts. Final score was 25-12. Neither team lit up the stats which were pretty close overall. TB was held to a dismal 27 rushing yards on only 26 attempts. The Colts only tried 21 rushes but did manage 132 yards including a 56 yard run. The Buccaneers are now 5-6 and will host the free-falling Falcons on Sunday in an NFL South clash. Which Jameis Winston will show up for that game?

Speaking of the Falcons, they continue to disappoint. They were very good hosts to the Vikings, putting up little resistance. The game ended at 20-10, but Atlanta didn't score their TD until there were less than two minutes remaining in the game. Falcon's one-time pro bowl QB, Matt Ryan, had another bad game, throwing two interceptions. Atlanta also lost a fumble. Minnesota didn't exactly light up the statistics, but they did enough and capitalized on Falcon mistakes. Remember, the Falcons started the season 5-0. They are now 6-5 and have lost four in a row. Their next game is in Tampa to play the Bucs. Which Matt Ryan and which Jameis Winston will be there that day. The QB that shows up should be on the winning side. 

It was a week that started good with USF and TCU and ended miserably with Florida and the NFL. Next week's college schedule will be limited to conference championships and a very few other games. The college playoff spots will be set by the end of Saturday.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Football 2015 - Week 13

In the latest College Football Playoff rankings, the top four spots remained the same. If the season ended today it would be Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame. There are still two undefeated teams, Iowa and Oklahoma State at #5 and #6. Florida moved up to #8 and TCU is at #18. There are four SEC teams in the top 25.

The football week started Thursday night with the 2-7 Titans @ the 3-6 Jaguars in an exciting battle for last place in the pitiful AFC South. This is one of the few times either team has the national NFL spotlight. I don't get to see many Jacksonville games and when I do, I never know if it is treat or torture. This one was a little bit of both. First let me say that the all gold uniforms were pretty ugly. I was not a fan of the shade of "gold" which looked more like mustard to me. Do you have any Grey Poupon? Then there was the game. These are two teams that have potentially good young quarterbacks and little else. They both have better defenses than offenses. That is not a prescription for an exciting high-scoring game. There were no first half TDs which ended tied at six. The Jags pulled ahead 9-6 midway through the third period and then Tennessee scored one of those touchdown things to take a 13-9 lead. The Jaguars absolutely dominated the fourth quarter with 10 points and the 19-13 victory. OK, they didn't score the go-ahead TD until there were less than four minutes remaining in the game. The add-on FG came with a little over two minutes to go. Both young QBs had fair nights. Mariota for the Titans was 22/35 for 231 yards with no TDs or INTs. The Jags Bortles went 21/30 for 242 yards with a TD and an INT. Overall statistics were very even. This was an important win for Jacksonville. They could find themselves tied for first place in the very weak AFC South by the end of the weekend. They improve to 4-6 and the next game is at home again against the Luck-less Colts in another AFC South match.

Even though my high schools are done for the season, there were still Friday night lights. The Cincinnati Bearcats were in Tampa for an AAC game. This game was as big a surprise as the next one I'll talk about. The Bulls scored 65 points. That is not a typo, the final score was 65-27 and USF had the 65. They have been mostly inept on offense this season although there have been signs recently that they are improving. South Florida had 34 points before Cincinnati got a FG and it was 51-3 at halftime. USF took their foot off the gas pedal in the second half. The stats were closer than you would think. Cincy was all passing with 333 yards and USF was all rushing with 361 ground yards. Of course the Bearcats won the turnover race, they had six. USF moves to 7-4, 5-2 and still have a chance to win the AAC East. Next up is the I-4 battle in Orlando against the 0-11, 0-7 Central Florida Knights.

On to Gainesville and what was thought to be a partial week off against the always mighty Florida Atlantic Owls. It turned out to almost be a nightmare. Florida Atlantic is a low rung member of C-USA and came into the game with a 2-8 record to play SEC East champ 9-1 #8 Florida. The Gators have been flirting with disaster all season and have pretty much played up or down to their competition. This should have been a blowout with the fourth string walk-ons playing the last quarter. Instead it was tied at 0 at the half. The Florida defense finally forced a fumble deep in the Owls territory for an easy TD more than midway through the third quarter. About four minutes later they had a 91 yard drive capped by a 53 yard pass play for a 14-0 lead. That seemed like an insurmountable lead based on the Gators staunch defense. Not quite, Florida Atlantic put together a drive late in the third quarter. In the fourth period the Owls recovered a fumble for another score. All tied up in regulation.The Gators had missed two FGs during the game. It looked good in overtime as Florida scored a TD on three plays. Of course they then missed the extra point, leaving the door wide open for FAU. They got to the nine yard line for first and goal. A loss of two on a run and three incomplete passes ended the game. Florida had their easy 20-14 victory. Besides the ugly score, it was statistically an ugly game. FAU actually outgained Florida. This is a game all Florida fans want to forget. The Gators are now 10-1 and host their big in-state rival the #14 FSU Seminoles. 

After a great start this year, #18 TCU is suffering the double whammy of devastating injuries and ranked opponents.They had to go to Norman to play #7 Oklahoma in a Big 12 game, always a tough task. The Frogs are playing without their Heisman candidate QB and their top receiver plus numerous other injuries. It turned out to be a close game. It was tied 7-7 after one quarter. The Sooners went on a run in the second quarter to take a 23-7 lead. The third quarter was mostly a push and OU led 30-13. The Frogs missed a two-point conversion try in that quarter. The fourth quarter was TCU comeback time. They scored two TDs and a FG. After the second TD with less than a minute remaining and the score 30-29, They again went for two and failed. If they had made either two-point try or had just kicked the extra points it would have been a Frogs win. One of TCU's backup QBs threw three interceptions. They also lost a fumble. Oklahoma won the statistical battle with 150 more yards and a 13 minute possession advantage. The Frogs fall to 9-2, 6-2 and are out of the running for the Big 12 title. Their final regular season game is at home against #10 Baylor. Frogs QB Trevone Boykin may be back for that game. Let's hope so.

There was good news when #9 Michigan State upset #3 Ohio State in the Big Ten. #10 Baylor beat #6 Oklahoma State which muddied up the Big 12 standings. The only other real upset was unranked UCLA's win over #13 Utah. There was movement in the latest AP Top 25 poll. Their top four are now Clemson, Alabama, Iowa and Notre Dame. Oklahoma and Michigan State are in line to step in if any of the top four falter. The Gators dropped two spots to #10 after their poor performance. TCU falls to #15 after their loss. There are still four SEC teams in the top 25.

In the remaining pro games, it was a split. The winner was Tampa Bay with a 45-17 victory over the Eagles in Philly. The outstanding Jameis Winston showed up for the Bucs. He tied an NFL rookie record with five TD passes. The game was close for 15 minutes before TB pulled away. The Eagles were limited to one FG in the second half. Winston was 19/29 for 246 yards with the five TDs and no interceptions. Jameis continues to be a Jekyll & Hyde. This week he was the Doctor. The Buccaneers running back Doug Martin also rushed for 235 yards on 27 carries. TB dominated the stats plus Philadelphia had four turnovers. Amazingly, the Bucs are at 5-5, a .500 record is rarified air for them. Next game is against the also 5-5 Colts in Indianapolis.

What is the deal with the Falcons? Remember they started the season 5-0. This week they lost at home to the Colts who are playing without their starting QB, Andrew Luck. Atlanta held a 14 point lead twice but still managed to lose 24-21. The Colts winning FG was kicked with less than a minute remaining in the game. Falcons QB Matt Ryan used to be good but certainly not lately. He threw three interceptions. Atlanta also lost a fumble.The Colts weren't much better with three turnovers. Not a pretty game. The Falcons are now 6-4 and look clueless. Next up is another home game against the 7-3 Vikings.


Saturday, November 21, 2015

Adele 25

The new Adele album was released on Friday, November 20th. It is titled 25 which is in keeping with her two previous albums, 19 and 21. They are named after her approximate age when the albums are started. Adele is now 27 at the time of this release. Her full name is Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, although I've never heard anyone refer to her that way. 

Her first album was a breakout work which brought her to the world stage. Adele 19 went double platinum in the US and contained the hit single Chasing Pavement. It sold seven million copies worldwide. Pretty impressive for a first album by an unknown. Adele and the album were nominated for four Grammy's and won two. She was just getting started. Adele 21 far exceeded 19. It has sold over 30 million copies worldwide and produced three #1 songs in the US. She won six Grammy's in 2011 and one in 2012 based on the album, She also won a Grammy and Oscar in 2013 for the title song for the James Bond movie Skyfall.

Adele 25 contains a single released last month, Hello, that has already reached #1 and sold over a million copies in the first week. It is an excellent song. Now the rest of the album is out. There are 11 songs on the album. I saw or read that Target has an exclusive CD with three bonus tracks. 

So, does 25 live up to expectations? First impression is that it is a solid album. It runs a little over 48 minutes. Adele co-wrote all 11 tracks. The first thought that came to me was that this album has more production than the previous two. Kind of like Adele's new look has more production and effort. There is only one acoustical track with just a guitar and her voice. That's not necessarily a bad thing. After her success, she has access to better producers, equipment, studios and money. Second impression is that there aren't as many hits as were on 21 and overall it is not as strong of an album. It would be tough to duplicate or exceed the success of 21. As I mentioned, the first single release, Hello, is a solid hit already. It is also a very good song. 

I was a little surprised that most of the songs are still about love lost. I expected at least some happier songs since Adele has become a mother since her last album. Some of the song titles prove my point; 
"Send My Love (To Your New Lover)", "I Miss You", "Water Under the Bridge", "Million Years Ago".
Not exactly cheery subjects. 

There are also a couple of tracks that fit into the style of many of today's young female singers. They have a pop sound with a dance friendly beat. The difference is that Adele is a far better singer than 99.9% of those others. She also writes better lyrics. 

Track 1 - Hello is a solid Adele ballad and already a #1 single.
Track 2 - Send My Love (To Your New Lover) is a pop song in the vein of Katy Perry, et al.
Track 3 - I Miss You is almost dominated by the drums. It too has a contemporary pop sound.
Track 4 - When We Were Young gets back to a simple ballad with mainly just piano accompaniment. Soaring Adele vocals. This is a possible single candidate.
Track 5 - Remedy continues the piano ballad theme. 
Track 6 - Water Under The Bridge also has a strong drum and pop vibe. 
Track 7 - River Lea more drums but a much more somber song
Track 8 - Love In The Dark  is another piano ballad but with a more elaborate orchestral arrangement.
Track 9 - Million Years Ago is mostly an acoustical guitar and Adele. Very simple.
Track 10 - All I Ask goes back to the piano, this time with minimal backup.
Track 11 - Sweetest Devotion wraps up the album with a full orchestra and backup singers.

I like the album. It has a few different sounds and, of course, Adele is a fantastic singer. It will be interesting to see how many singles it produces and how successful it ultimately is. 

I recommend it. I pre-ordered it for $9.99, I think it is $10.99 now. It may be worth checking out Target if you are interested in the bonus tracks. One twist to this album is that it is not available on the various streaming services so you won't be able to hear it with a subscription, ie rent it. You'll have to either buy the CD or a digital copy, at least for now.

This one gets a solid A grade. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Football 2015 - Week 12

The week 10 College Football Playoff Rankings had Clemson remaining in the top spot, Alabama moving up to #2, Ohio State remaining at #3 and Notre Dame breaking into the playoff picture at #4. The Gators dropped a spot to #11 despite a win and TCU fell all the way to #15 with their loss. There were two one loss teams in the top four yet there were still three undefeated teams between #5 and #8. Some of this will shake out since Baylor and Oklahoma State meet in two weeks. It also looks like Iowa will have to play Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Stay tuned.

Only Bishop Kenny was still playing in my high school world. They had to travel about 85 miles west on I-10 to Live Oak to play the Suwannee Bulldogs in a playoff game. It was not a successful trip. The Crusaders fell 34-7. The Bulldogs led 20-0 by halftime. Kenny's only score came in the third quarter. There were no details of the game in either the Times-Union or at MaxPreps. BK finishes the season with a 6-5 record and now moves on to 2016. That ends the 2015 high school portion of this blog. 

I'll start the college coverage with #11 Florida @ South Carolina. This will be the first UF-USC game in ten years and only the fourth since 1990 that Coach Steve Spurrier hasn't been on one sideline or the other. He will be missed. The Gamecocks come into the game with a disappointing 3-6, 1-6 record. That is the main reason Spurrier wasn't coaching. This was a no lose game for South Carolina and except for national rankings didn't mean much for Florida either. Still, it was an SEC East game. It was not overly exciting. The Gators defense mostly shut down the Gamecocks until the fourth quarter. Florida scored TD's on two long first half drives and then added a third quarter FG for what looked like a solid 17-0 lead. Then the Fighting Chickens scored two fourth quarter TD's to pull within three points. Leave it to the Gators to make it exciting and/or exasperating. Florida cemented the game with a TD with about two minutes to go for the 24-14 victory. Despite what ended up a rather close score, the Gators dominated the game. They had over 200 more total yards, 20 more minutes of possession and held SC to a mere 21 yards rushing on 23 attempts. Turnovers were even with two interceptions for each team. It wasn't exactly pretty, but it moves the Gators to 9-1,7-1. Their SEC regular season is over with a trip to Atlanta for the title game assured. It looks like Alabama will be the opponent. Next up is an easy game against 2-8 Florida Atlantic.

Speaking of easy games, that is what TCU should have had in a home Big 12 (only 10 teams) game against the 0-9, 0-6 Kansas Jayhawks. Not so fast football fans. TCU got off to a quick 10-0 lead, the TD on a 49 yard punt return. The already wounded Frogs lost their Heisman Trophy QB, Trevone Boykin, who was injured early in the game. That is in addition to an already gimpy top receiver, Josh Doctson. Kansas managed to tie the game at 10 by halftime. The Horned Frogs led 13-10 after three quarters and 23-10 midway into the fourth before the Jayhawks got close again with a TD to make it  a one score game at 23-17. TCU held on to improve to 9-1, 6-1. It doesn't get easy for the Frogs. They now have to go to #12 Oklahoma for another Big 12 game followed by a home game against #6 Baylor.

I was pleasantly surprised by the USF Bulls who hosted #22 Temple. The Owls came in at 8-1, 5-0 and a virtual lock on the AAC East title. As they say, on any given Saturday... Somebody lit a fire under South Florida. After a boring 14 minutes of the first quarter, both teams scored a TD in the last 30 seconds. Then the Bulls reeled off three TD's and a FG in the second quarter for a 31-10 lead. This scoring blitz was aided by an Owl turnover and a staunch Bulls defense. Temple made some second half effort but USF held them off and the scoring wound up a stalemate at 13 each. That resulted in a 44-23 victory for South Florida. easily their best game of the season. Besides the score, the Bulls won the statistical battle too. Hopefully, this is the beginning of an upswing in the USF football program. They improve to 6-4, 4-2 and are now bowl eligible for the first time since 2010. Next game is at home against AAC opponent Cincinnati.

In other big college games, unranked Oregon beat #7 Stanford 38-36. Arizona beat #10 Utah. #12 Oklahoma went to Waco and beat #6 undefeated Baylor. That throws the Big 12 race wide open. There are now three one loss teams behind the undefeated Oklahoma State Cowboys. Several of those teams still have to play each other. The big SEC upset was unranked Arkansas over #5 LSU 31-14. That pretty much assures Alabama the SEC West title. Besides leading in the won-loss column, the Tide owns the tie-breaker over the teams behind them. It looks like a Florida-Alabama SEC championship game in Atlanta on December 5th.

The latest AP Top 25 has some changes at the top. Their top four are now Clemson, Ohio State, Alabama and Oklahoma State. That's two OSU's in the top four. The Gators move up to #8 and TCU is now #11. There are only four SEC teams in the AP 25. Not nearly as good as recent past years.

It was another perfect week for me in the NFL. No, not the usual kind of winless record, but the opposite. Atlanta had the week off so they didn't lose. Their next game is at home against the Luck-less Colts.

The local Dallas Cowboys were in Tampa. This was a battle of the 2-6 Cowboys against the 3-6 Bucs, very exciting. The game lived up to its low expectations until the last couple of minutes. It was 6-3 Dallas after three quarters, quite an offensive battle. Finally, TB put together a drive and scored with less than a minute remaining. It looked like Tampa blew it again when Winston fumbled at the goal line while trying to vault for a TD. Fortunately, the Cowboys committed a holding penalty on the play. Jameis made good on the next play with a bootleg for the score. That made it 10-6 which wound up as the final score. The Bucs had better offensive numbers than Dallas but as usual had trouble in the red zone plus Jameis Winston threw two interceptions.Ugly game by both teams.The Bucs are now 4-5. Next game is in the city of brotherly love to play the also 4-5 Eagles. One team will be at .500 after the game. 

The teams from Florida were on a roll (Miami also won). The mighty Jaguars went to Baltimore to play another 2-6 team. The Ravens have always been a defensive team and the last few years the Jags have been too so I expected a low scoring game. It was 14-10 Ravens at the half, 14-13 after three. Baltimore pulled ahead 20-19 midway through the 4th and failed on the two point conversion attempt. That would prove costly. With no time on the clock, Jacksonville's Jason Myers kicked a 54 yard FG for a 22-20 win. The NFL is now saying that the penalty against Baltimore that allowed the FG was an incorrect call and the Ravens should have won the game. I'll still take it. The game was pretty even statistically except the Ravens had 150 more passing yards. They also had four turnovers to only one for Jax. Bortles had a less than stellar day at 22/45 for 188 yards with two TDs and an INT. Still, a win is a win where the Jaguars are involved. They now stand at an outstanding 3-6 record. They head back home now for an AFC South game against the 2-7 Titans. Somebody has to win that game. 

Pretty nice week for the good guys. Except for Bishop Kenny, everybody won. I better savor this because it doesn't happen very often.


Friday, November 13, 2015

Late Night TV Checkpoint

It has been a few months since the new late night TV hosts had an almost 100% turnover. As a long time connoisseur of the genre, I feel qualified to weigh in on how the new guys are doing. I also realize that I am nowhere near the target demographics for these shows. 

Jimmy Kimmel is now the dean of network late night TV. He has been doing his Jimmy Kimmel Live! show on ABC since 2003. He does a pretty good show but can not be considered one of the new guys at this point.

So let's begin with a recap of who took over which show in the last year or so. Jimmy Fallon took over from Jay Leno, Seth Meyers took over for Jimmy Fallon, James Corden replaced Craig Ferguson and Stephen Colbert took David Letterman's slot. I'll tackle these new hosts in chronological order. There was also a shakeup at Comedy Central late night which I'll also address.

For the second time, NBC pushed Jay Leno out of the chair at the Tonight Show. The first time was in 2009 when he was replaced by Conan O'Brien. That change failed and Jay got his gig back in 2010. Leno kept that job until Jimmy Fallon took over in 2014. That means Fallon is just into his second season as host. I watched the first few shows last season and couldn't stand it. The only bright spot was The Roots, the new house band. Fallon was absolutely terrible doing the opening monologue. He was uneasy doing interviews, overly fawning of the guests and the show was mostly a mess. After the first week of shows, I quite watching. I only tune in now if there is someone on that I am interested in or all the other late night shows are reruns. Fallon is still awkward doing the monologue and he still is overly enthusiastic with his guests. Everybody who comes on is his favorite, best in the business, most accomplished actor/singer/performer/author in the world and whatever project they are promoting is the best movie/play/musical/album/TV show ever. I will give Jimmy credit for coming up with some good skits. He has musical and impersonation talent, but he is not my cup of tea. 

Since Jimmy Fallon was hosting the Late Night show before moving to the Tonight Show,
NBC needed a new Late Night host. They picked another Saturday Night Live (SNL) Weekend Update anchor for the job. That would be Seth Meyers. Remember I mentioned that Fallon was awkward doing the opening? Well, Meyers was way worse. In his first few shows he was lucky to get a small chuckle from the studio audience. He was stiff, awkward, unfunny and it was uncomfortable to watch. The set for his show looked like they got the furniture at Goodwill and the band is very mediocre. Like the Tonight Show, I stopped watching after a couple of shows. Apparently I wasn't the only one who thought the set was ridiculous because they changed it after a few weeks. I recently saw an episode or two and Seth has abandoned the stand-up monologue, good move. He now opens at the desk with a fake newscast type bit. Seth comes up with some good jokes, but I don't find him very likable. He also is not a great interviewer. I would say he is the least talented of the new late night guys.

One other point about the NBC late night lineup, Lorne Michaels, the force behind SNL, is the executive producer of both shows which have SNL alums as hosts. Amazingly, the shows are full of current and former SNL cast members as guests. Seems a little like nepotism to me.

Over on CBS, Craig Ferguson cashed it in on the Late Late Show after 10 years. During the summer James Corden took over. He entered the job as a mostly unknown British actor. He also had a rough start sprinkled with some very good bits. James was weak on the opening monologue. He had a tough time with the cue cards or teleprompter. He was and is overly enthusiastic about his guests and their projects although not nearly as bad a Fallon. On the plus side, he has come up with some very good bits and obviously puts a lot of work into those. One difference of his show is that he has the two or three guests come out at the same time and sit on a couch for a group interview. This is a hit or miss tactic. The interviews are always disjointed as Corden jumps from guest to guest. Sometimes there is chemistry among the guests and the sum is better than the parts. Other nights it is just a disjointed interview or worse yet there is awkwardness among the guests. Overall the show is mostly watchable. I was a huge Craig Ferguson fan so anyone following him would have a tough time in my view. Given that Craig is not coming back, Corden is OK.

Finally this fall, Stephen Colbert took over the Late Show after over 20 years of David
Letterman. Those are big shoes to fill. Besides Letterman's run on Late Show, he also hosted Late Night on NBC for over a decade. Overall he hosted a late night network show for 33 years. Full disclosure, I probably watched most of those 33 years of programs by Letterman and was a fan. I watched Letterman and Ferguson most nights for the last decade. I also watched Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report on Comedy Central most nights, so I was very familiar with him when he took over the Late Show. I thought Colbert's first few shows were a little hyper and crowded. Probably understandable. He does a shorter monologue than Dave or Jay or Johnny did and not with the same skill but it is OK. Most nights he does a faux newscast in the mold of his Comedy Central show but without the fake idiot persona. He is mostly a better interviewer than his peers. Colbert also has more unusual guests. In addition to the usual celebrities, he has had politicians, authors, scientists, CEO's and other offbeat guests that match his interests. It is refreshing. You can tell that Stephen is whip smart, curious and informed. He has calmed down a little but I think he still tries to pack too many different segments into each show. Overall though, I think Stephen is a worthy successor to Letterman.

Over on cable, Comedy Central also had turnover to their late night lineup. First to go was Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report. Larry Wilmore was chosen for that timeslot with the new Nightly Show. Larry is a longtime veteran of TV comedy as a writer, producer and performer. Prior to this new show, he was the "Senior Black Correspondent" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His new show is somewhat similar to the Daily Show and the Colbert Report that proceeded it. The emphasis is satire on the news of the day with a liberal bias. Larry's show has a black/minority slant too. I think the show got off to a rocky start. Wilmore seemed uncomfortable and the format was less than ideal. There was a short commentary on the day's headlines and then a roundtable discussion with Larry and four guests. The roundtable was too long and the guests weren't always great. It seemed forced. Over time, the top of the show commentary has increased, there are more skits and the group discussion has decreased and is now usually limited to three guests. Another change is that at least one and sometimes two of the roundtable panel are Nightly Show staff members. They also now do some one-on-one interviews. The show is better now than the first few weeks. I mostly like it although it has not risen to the level of the show it replaced, The Colbert Report

The other Comedy Central change was at The Daily Show. After around 15 years as host, Jon Stewart stepped down. He has been replaced by Trevor Noah, a South African comedian. The show's format has remained the same. It is based on a fake newscast with Trevor as the anchor and pieces by field correspondents. There is usually a guest interviewed by Trevor. It is almost impossible to replace Jon Stewart. He built the Daily Show brand. I somewhat question the choice of Noah as the replacement. This is a mostly political satire show dealing with the often ridiculousness of US politics and its players. Noah is a rather recent immigrant to our country and can not possibly know the history as well as someone like Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert. A foreign perspective is valuable, but maybe more suited to one of the field correspondents than the anchor/host. I still enjoy the show but I am having a hard time warming up to Trevor and his style.

It has been a tumultuous year or so in late night TV, almost 100% turnover. The jury is still out. Is it better, the same or worse? Time will tell. For the most part, I think it is mostly worse. Some of that may just be getting familiar with the new guys. Letterman was around for 33 years, Leno for over 20, Stewart for over 15 and Ferguson and Colbert, in his old gig, for ten years. They were all comfortable old shoes. The new shoes are taking some time to be broken in. Check back with me in a couple of years.