Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Hail to the Thiefs

Pop music for the most part is a redundant art these days. There are only so many chord progressions you can go through before you start repeating something that likely was done many times before by many other artists. The smaller nuances and melody variations are what allow G-Em-C-D to be used literally thousands to times on commercial singles without many accusations of plagiarism.

Yet from time to time, the charge of being a copycat is leveled against an artist, usually on the basis of similarities within the melody more so than chord progressions or rhythmic similarities. And for the most part, it seems that the public reaction to such a claim has more to do with the parties involved than with the actual work at hand. For example, take these three recent cases into consideration.

Coldplay vs Joe Satriani:

Satriani sued in December, but what's interesting here is that most people's opinion on the musical similarities has less to do with the melody at hand, and more to do with their opinion of Coldplay. That is to say, those who love Coldplay think a claim of plagiarism is absurd, but those who hate Coldplay couldn't be happier to have another reason to find their music abhorrent. The fact that a respected musician is going after them adds to the intrigue. Everyone knows Satriani is one of the most amazing guitarists living, and yet nobody actually likes his music. He just seems like someone with credibility to music critics and middle-aged cover bands. Expect a similar reaction should Steve Vai ever sue anyone.

U2 vs Escape Club:

Some have compared the new U2 single to Elvis Costello's "Pump It Up" or Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire," but these comparisons don't hold water, because both those songs are far better than this. Remember four years ago when "Vertigo" was being shoved down America's collective throat? It was awful, but it was a semi-original kind of awful (or at least as original as U2 gets anymore.) This song is awful, but is also derivative of a song that was universally regarded as terrible when it was first released twenty-five years ago, when Escape Club themselves were accused of ripping off Elvis Costello. There has been no lawsuit filed as of yet, presumably because the members of Escape Club figure that any monetary gains will be outweighed by reminding the public that they are in fact members of Escape Club.

It should be pointed out however that not all plagiarism is worthy of ridicule. In many ways, judgment of stylistic rip-offs is dependent on whose style is being ripped off in the first place. It's not just the case when it comes to music. Critics of Paul Thomas Anderson would point out that his ambitious tracking shots are derivative of Martin Scorsese, but that doesn't make them less impressive. There are fewer ways to re-invent the wheel, so if you have to imitate, you might as well imitate the best, right?

This was on my mind as I recently heard the title track from the new Kelly Clarkson album:

That bass riff sounds downright Spoon-tastic, does it not?! And yet ultimately, it's a killer pop song. When I heard this, I didn't think "She's totally ripping off Spoon." What I thought was "I wish more bands and singers had more songs that sounded like Spoon." FM radio/MTV/ABC dramas would be enhanced if their soundtracks consisted of better music, so if that happens as a direct result of co-opting aspects of better bands, then we come out ahead, don't we? Ultimately, perhaps that's the key with pop music. Everything is going to be lifted in some way from something that came before it. But who it's being lifted from makes a difference.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Season Done...until Tomorrow

On the eve of the latest/most important NCAA tournament, I feel the need to reflect on the most recent season.

To date, the Boilers have accomplished five of my pre-season goals, but as per the course, they've done it in a peculiar way. There's a winning season in the books. They took down Iowa, Indiana, and Illinois though it took 3 tries to knock off the Illini. The boys brought home the first Big Ten Tournament championship in school history, and in route locked down a 5-seed in the tournament.

Where do we go from here?

Northern Iowa is on the bill for tomorrow, and many folks are taking the sexy upset pick. I doubt it. The Boilers should be tipping with Washington on Saturday afternoon. The real question lies in the prospects of playing two weekends this March.

Sure, Purdue could shit the bed and bow out with most people lamenting "if only Hummel hadn't torn up his back." On the other hand, the Boilers could put the past to rest and try to take on the world one UCONN at a time. Time will tell.

I'm reserving my end of the year reflections until later. For now, the Doritos are ripe, the beer is cold and the Tivo is humming.

God, how I love this.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mountain Song

Dear Gregg Doyel,

As if it wasn't enough of an outrage that a team ranked #27 in the RPI gets an 11 seed (and subsequent date with the best 6 seed in the field) while two middling Big Ten teams pull 10 seeds, you've now taken my crushing despair and transformed it into a sea of pure bewilderment. You may be a national columnist for CBS Sports, but you are also out of your damn mind.

Exhibit A:

Dark-horse pick: I came dadgum close to putting Dayton into the Final Four. Yes, I did. As it is, I've got Dayton beating West Virginia, Kansas and Michigan State to get into the region final, but I didn't have the guts to pick the Flyers over Louisville.

Most likely upset: Clearly Dayton over West Virginia, and not just because I'm picking the Flyers. West Virginia shoots a ton of 3-pointers, and if it's missing ... well, game over. Dayton has great athletes who score close to the basket, and they will do that against the Mountaineers.

I'm only assuming that he's not including Dayton's starting center, who shoots 40% from the floor (while never taking a shot from further away then 6 feet) when he references those "who score close to the basket."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I Hate Jim Nantz

Jim Nantz, the smarmy, overly self-confident play-by-play announcer, has always been a bit of an oxymoron for me. On one hand his voice is an instant Pavlovian trigger exciting the unbridled love I have for the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, I think he's a moron.

Some of my ire is due to the company Nantz keeps. Spending season after season next to that ultimate blowhard, Billy Packer, would sully the reputation of Mother Teresa. Now that Nantz has a competent partner in Clark Kellogg, the idiocy is fully in Nantz's lap.

During today's Big Ten Tournament game between Ohio St. and Michigan St. Nantz and Kellogg were discussing a graphic of the top ten RPI teams. Turning back to game action, Nantz punctuated the conversation by saying, "And tomorrow the RPI will be RIP."

Nantz had also earlier called the RPI the "computer rating." Evidently Jimbo isn't too familiar with the source of his smug outrage. The RPI is as much a computer rating as the digital odometer in my car is a computer rating. Just because a computer is involved doesn't mean that all algorithmic numbers are inherently evil or the product of some godless plot from the basketball netherworld.

The RPI formula is quite simple. It's a combination of a team's winning percentage (25%), their opponents' winning percentage (50%), and their opponents' opponents' winning percentage (25%). The formula was tweaked recently to weigh a road victory and home loss more heavily, but otherwise we're dealing with sixth-grade math here. There is little to no subjectivity involved.

So, in essence, when Jim Nantz decries the RPI he's basically saying he hates fractions, and most likely other unclean statistics like batting average, assist-to-turnover ratio, and greens in regulation.

Now, it's not too much of a stretch to think that Nantz is projecting a hate of the BCS ratings onto the RPI. But the formula is quite simple and not proprietary like the Sagarin algorithm, a major component of the BCS. The RPI also does not consider the subjective weekly polls. If a team wins, it goes down as a win. If they lose, it goes down as a loss. If you don't like your rating then schedule different teams or just win your damn games.

If one wants a problem, we can rightly bitch about the role the RPI plays in the tournament selection process. But I find it fascinating that the current top 8 in the RPI - Pittsburgh, Duke, North Carolina, Michigan St., Oklahoma, UCONN, Louisville, and Memphis - are also the top 8 seeds in Jerry Palm's latest tournament projection. Palm could just be mimicing the RPI, but I doubt it.

Jim Nantz is out of his mind and mad at an inanimate formula. It reminds me of Howard Cosell's adamant distaste for the Pythagorean Theorem.

You can't please everyone.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Too Little, Too Late, Krabbenshit

We knew.

I heard a radio interview with NCAA Head of Officiating John W. Adams during the halftime of today's Penn St. romp over Indiana.

When asked about changing protocols about officials "going to the monitor," Adams said something to the effect of, "We already made a rule change after the Purdue - Wisconsin game." Adams went on, "In that game, there was an official right in front of the play and he missed an elbow from the Wisconsin player. He didn't even go to the monitor."

There it is folks. The head of officiating can admit in a live interview what the Big Ten Conference studied and swept under the rug.

Take a look at the cheap-shot again.

It prompted a frickin' change in the rules.

Get your head out of your ass, Big Ten.

The Last Shining Moment

Conference tournaments are in full swing, and March Madness is right around the corner. Of course, tragedy gets in the way, and today we receive the sad news that Doug Towey has died.

Who is Doug Towey, you ask? Well, he was the creative director at CBS that chose to create a montage of the NCAA Tournament during the closing credits of the final game. And the song he chose to soundtrack the clips? Everyone together......"One Shining Moment."

Now, my love (obsession) for this yearly tradition has been well documented on this site. So it's no surprise that I'm taking this news rather harshly (almost as bad as I'm taking this news).

And so, to honor Towey, I've taken the liberty of jotting down some highlights from his very 1st montage in 1987 (the clips begin around 1:50).

  • First, I love that even in its first year, they chose a literal approach to the clip organization (show a ball being tipped when he sings "the ball is tipped"!). It was a precursor to all of those literal music videos we're seeing on youtube today.
  • Is that Kevin Durant at the 2:20 mark? Did Doug Towey create LOST? Is Kevin Durant a time-traveling smoke monster?
  • What school is APSU?
  • Don't miss the Santa Clara "almost kiss" at 2:53
  • Boeheim gets a Gatorade shower! I thought the Celtics were the first to do that on a basketball court. I need to go change that wikipedia entry.
  • I love the juxtaposition of how Bob Knight gets pissed and Dean Smith gets pissy at 3:05

I'm sure this won't be the last you hear from me on this topic, so I'll end with an interesting tidbit regarding the song's writer, David Barrett.....he wrote, trying to explain to a girl how awesome Larry Bird is. That sounds about right.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tell Tale Signs

We've touched base here before on the merits of the Westboro Baptist Church. Unbeknownst to me, these God fearing do-gooders were at University of Chicago yesterday, protesting the fact that Barack Obama was once was a professor at the Law School. He stopped serving as a lecturer there in 2004, so the Baptist Bruisers were in fact protesting something that last occurred FIVE YEARS AGO. I find this concept to be brilliant. It makes as much sense as attending the American Idol episode taping tomorrow to voice your outrage over Ruben Studdard winning season 2.

Until recently, the biggest problem with this crew has been that people didn't know how to handle them. Confronting them doesn't help, and constitutionally, there's nothing police can do about hatemongers on public property. Luckily, the UC kids put their thinking caps on, and much to everyone's delight, came up with signs of their own. A sampling can be seen here and here.

The code has clearly been cracked! We can only hope this leads to an ongoing battle for best combatant signs at a Westboro protest. I'm going to have my "God's Life Would Suck Without You" sign ready and waiting.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Bad Idea Live Blog: Dayton/Xavier Game

Final thought:
  • Basketball is stupid and I can't care about it anyway so whatever.

- Final score: Xavier 76 Dayton 59

- Timeout so the senior (citizen) Raymond can retire....literally....because he's so old.

- It's just not a Dayton basketball game until London Warren airballs a three.

- Awesome! Chris Wright gets an easy dunk. How come Xavier had to be jerks and play defense most of the game?

- At this point, maybe Dayton should just pull an Artest.

- Offensive rebounds for Xavier. Killing us.

- I also love this State Farm Insurance commercial with Lebron dancing to Kid N Play. It's almost as good as this dancing-related commercial.

- Is this badmitton Aleve ad a national commercial? I hope so. That 50-year-old visor-wearing woman is killin' it out there

- text from Tom "Those signs for Raymond look like they were drawn by the jerry lewis telethon kids" Or Xavier students.

- Little misses a dunk. It's the first half, all over again.

- Oldy Oldson just hit back-to-back threes. Drat. This is where Dayton starts chucking threes like crazy.

- A Skyline Chili montage? God, I hate Cincinnati. And Hubert hates Skyline. I love him!

- Marcus Johnson!!!!

- As I was typing that last one, the autistic kid hit a three...dammit

- chip chip chip away...within 6

- Kurt Hueslman always looks confused and never closes his mouth. He's our Tyler Hansbrough

- London Warren flops. And Hubert hates it.

- That offensive rebound for Xavier is about to create a 49-point swing.

- text from Tom "When will they break down Frease's race? Romanian? Latin? Jason Kidd's race? It's wide open"

- I've been trying to find a Necessary Roughness clip so I could make a BJ Raymond/Scott Bakula joke. But apparently that is the one movie that someone hasn't uploaded onto youtube yet. Sorry, Rob Schneider.

- I'm amazed we're only down 8. But moral victories aren't good enough.

- Sweet. I blogged about it, and Gregory put him in. Ah, the power on the internets!

- I just can't understand having Wright sit on the bench. It virtually guarantees that at best, Dayton will still be down by 10 when he comes back in with 8 minutes to go. Coach Teen Wolf, what are you doing? Is Stiles telling you to do this?

- the word 'field' is the funniest part of that text. Well, Clarke saying "my girl" is pretty funny too.

- text from Clarke "My girl just looked at London Warren and asked: 'Is that a girl on the field?'"

- Sorry, Garman. I agree with Hubert. Chris Wright needs to be on the floor right now.

- Little scores on Dr. Frease.

- Marcus Johnson is single-handedly keeping Dayton in this game.

Halftime Thoughts
  • text from Garman "We are in trouble unless our coach goes teen wolf in the second half"
  • I guess that means we should surf on top of a van? I don't see how that will help matters.
  • Chris Wright needs to get his head out of his ass...well, first, get his ass off the bench...well, whatever. Doesn't he realize that he can dunk the basketball crazy good?!
  • I figured it out. Garman thinks they should get a keg of beer.
  • If Dayton's going to come back, they have to (a) get Chris Wright the ball (b) hit their lay-ups (c) not rely of Fabrizius to guard the paint....this is NOT his coming out party and (d) get McLean under control. And yes, I'm talking about this McLean.
  • text from Basford "How old do you think BJ Raymond really is? I put the over-under at 34. I'll take the over"

- I was hoping to be able to say "Well, we're only down by single digits at the half, so that's a good sign." Yeah, I can't say that.

- Damn you, McLean.

- An assist for Dayton. What an idea!

- text from Basford "Did you realize TO got cut and ARod has a bum hip? You can read about it on the bottom line every 27 seconds"

- I think Xavier just realized we aren't (and haven't been) playing with a center.

- Xavier, your cheerleaders. WOOF!

- Hubert Davis jinxes the Musketeers. He's on our side!

- A Three! Johnson three'd a shoot!

- That charge on Wright was crap. Crap, I say.

- Dunk! Little dunked the shoot!

- UD memory fun fact - our freshmen intramural basketball team name: the Squirming Coils. I remember asking Ben and Pat what that meant. They said it was a Phish song. Then I asked again what it meant. They had no clue, and then probably offered to sell me a veggie burrito.

- It's a rock. With a Sharpie-drawn face. Thankfully, Hubert Davis acknowledges how stupid that is.

- Sean Miller puts something in the Xavier lockers when they don't "value the rock."

- Xavier refused to shake hands after the national anthem....what a bunch of terrorists.

- text from Sas "10 minutes in and just now realize we are the team in black uniforms...I'm at a bar"

- Tonight will be Luke Fabrizius' coming out party. The good-at-basketball kind. Not the other kind.

- Marcus Johnson just airballed a lay-up. Wow.

- text from Basford "This is the brand of low scoring, turnover laden shitty basketball I have come to know and hate"

- text from Tom "Black jerseys must be condusive to missing lay ups"

- Dammit, London Warren. Everytime you touch the ball, I feel like I'm watching a toddler trying to walk for the first time. Easy, buddy. Easy.

- Huelsman with 2 fouls early....no Searcy....crap

-Basford chimes in on the uni-debate. He loves them. He also loves the Bengals, so.

9:11 - Jill hates the black unis too.

9:09 - black jerseys for Dayton. But it's 11-2. Can you change uniforms during a TV time out?

9:06 - text from Greg "If I wanted to watch nova I would turn the tube to PBS"

9:00 - the teaser during the Providence/Villanova game....words have already been exchanged on the court. Someone get ahold of that Redford kid! By the way, I have to give it to Xavier. How inspiring that they gave Redford a chance to play Division 1 ball. They saw his potential back when he was counting toothpicks in high school.

Pregame Notes:
  • I drove to Dayton to watch the Flyers break Xavier's 6-game winning streak against them. 2 minutes after arriving, Rob Lowery got hurt for the year, but thankfully, we had another dreadlocked point guard to take his spot.
  • The game's in Cincinnati, which is bad news for the Flyers. They haven't won there since before I was born. Will the 28-year drought end tonight? This was a positive sign.
  • Xavier's coach, Sean Miller, held a meeting with the student body to plead with them to not go on spring break, because it fell during Dayton's visit. He also refuses to wear throwback jerseys, because he doesn't want Dayton to think the game means anything. Division 1 coaches always have pep club emergency meetings when the game means nothing.
  • Right now, the Dayton Flyers are likely in the tournament [24-5 (10-4), RPI: 27, SOS: 109]. A win tonight clinches it. A loss means we've got to win against Duquense. A loss there means we'll have to sweat it out and I'll start to spout off about RPI and the lack of respect the A-10 gets (because, you know, St. Bonaventure and Richmond are awesome).
  • My prediction- Dayton 66 - Xavier 60
  • FUXU