Saturday, March 29, 2014

Deadwood: One Helluva Dramatic Series



All I can say after finishing up the series "Deadwood" is "WOW!". I didn't expect to enjoy it and be as engrossed in the story and characters as I was. It's sort of a western, but it isn't your typical "cowboy" movie or program that most of us are used to seeing. It is a true dramatic series with layers of black humor and metaphor. HBO has always delivered great television and this program was no exception.

I see the United States and how it came to be as the real story of "Deadwood". Deadwood was a mining town on Indian territory that basically cropped up without law. It didn't have to have law, because it was an illegal settlement due to it breaking a treaty between the US government and the Sioux native Americans. The government didn't break the treaty, but miners and those from the east looking to strike it rich did. As a lawless new town being founded by people looking for wealth and to start new lives, I see it as representing the founding of the United States. The native Americans were drove back and demonized at every turn as that was what was best for the town and the only way to maintain distrust enough to ensure that people would be unified in believing they had a right to this land and the riches, because the Sioux were savages (at least that was the narrative that helped keep the camp united). 



The people that founded the settlement didn't want law, but as the population continued to grow, it was inevitable that there would have to be some organization and rules that would be expected to be followed. Our nation underwent the same thing. As we (the United States) grew, there was a need to develop a way of life that would protect the interest of the people and give order to everyday life. 



The two main characters, Swearengen and Bullock, both want to enjoy the benefits of being business owners in a lawless territory where wealth or the potential for wealth was abound. They were at odds often times and there was almost a father/son aspect that grew out of their stormy relationship. They and the town were challenged by Hearst, a wealthy and ruthless business man who came to Deadwood to buy up all the gold claims and exploit the labor and the town itself for all he could get. The lack of law allowed him to manipulate different aspects of the town and to pit greed and opportunism against the common good. This brought Swearengen and Bullock together and eventually led the town to bring order through a sort of psuedo-government. The Hearst character represented ruthless greed. The "corporate" interest in Hearst character wasn't good for the town and if it were to survive, then the common man and business owner were going to have to unite so they could continue to carve their place out in this place they wanted to be their home. These things along with other story lines revealed that the story of "Deadwood" is about the town itself and how it developed, just like our nation did. 

There is so much more to write about the subplots, but if you have read this far, you have likely already watched it or you are contemplating it, and I don't want to ruin any of it for anyone. 

I've watched a lot of good drama series, but as a whole, this ranks right up near the top of the list. "The Sopranos" is the best series I have ever watched, with "Lost", "The Wire" and "Breaking Bad" right up there and I have to say that "Deadwood" is certainly in that group and if not for it ending without a true conclusion, I'd say it would best those programs. The story never takes on more than it can deliver for you to understand. But don't think that means there isn't depth and subtlety. There is plenty and most of it revolves around how individual relationships have an effect on the development of the town. The acting is simply superb. The characters are fleshed out as not "old west" characters, but as real human beings with flaws and hidden virtue that are usually revealed with a deft touch, so as not to allow a black and white view of who that person is. 



"The Sopranos" seemed to be about how organization and living by a code effected individuals and their behavior, and "Deadwood" is probably the opposite. It's the story of how individual behavior fostered the need for organization and law. 

There is so much more I could write on this in regards to the actors and the characters, but if you are at all interested in this program, that's left for you to enjoy! Check out this list of actors and you just have to know that you are getting some authentic depictions of many characters that really existed and some composites. The leads are played by Ian McShane and Timothy Olyphant (who does a spot on Clint Eastwood without reducing it to strict imitation), but Powers Boothe is a strong presence and Brad Dourif is brilliant as the town's doctor. Other highly regarded actors that brought their skills to the show are Garrett Dillahunt, Brian Cox, Jeffrey Jones,  Keith Carradine, Titus Welliver, Molly Parker, John Hawkes, William Sanderson, and W. Earl Brown. Most of the main characters were real people that were in Deadwood and many of the story lines are based on actual events. 

If you like dramatic, authentic television and are a fan of seeing great acting, then give this show a whirl! I don't think you'll be disappointed. Yes, it's only three seasons, but it was well worth my time and left me wanting more.

This is a really cool "trailer" using "God's Gonna Cut You Down". 












Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Different Angle On Louisville Hiring Bobby Petrino


Yes, I am a Louisville Cardinal sports fan. I have been for almost all of my life. It's only natural that I would have some sort of opinion on the Cardinals hiring Bobby Petrino to coach the football team again. How do I feel about that? Well, I'll be honest, because that's all I ever am. 

I like it and I'm not ashamed to say I like it for mostly football reasons. I like watching the team win games and that's my primary focus as a fan. It's also the primary focus of most fans, because most fans of a college program didn't get their education at that school. They have no stake in the reputation of the university. The stake most of us have is in the amount of time and money we put into following our favorite team. Louisville is going into the toughest division in the ACC with Florida State and Clemson. This program is bigger than it was just a year ago. It's not every day you get to hire someone that has the kind of experience that Petrino does when it comes to winning games against big competition. 

The reason that this is even worth writing about is because there is an angle to this hiring that goes beyond wins and loses for a lot of people. Some Louisville fans and fans of other programs that compete with Louisville think it's terrible that Petrino got another chance. I don't. Why? Because the best athletic director in the country seems to have the best interest in his heart, not only for the university, but for people. Oh, and winning....make no mistake about that. This is also about wins and losses. That said, Tom Jurich has been a guy that isn't scared to give people a second chance. As a human being I find that supremely important. If nothing else, we are all flawed creatures and if it were not for the dozens of second chances I have been given by family, friends, employers, and mentors in my life there is no telling where I'd be. Most of us grow as we age because we have been through times where we were not up to snuff, which is to say the standards of those who love us and even more importantly, our own standards in many cases. We grow because we gain knowledge and insight from situations that test our ability to rise up from dark, difficult, or unhealthy places.

This hire is more about Tom Jurich than it is Bobby Petrino. Jurich has put himself out there. This is on him. If Petrino screws him, it's just a snake being a snake and the guy that gets bit is the fool. If  Petrino doesn't come through and make the most of this opportunity then Jurich will be held accountable by his employers, employees, and supporters of the program. Nothing is shameful or disgusting about grace. In sports there is nothing shameful or disgraceful about wanting to win. Sports is character building? Your damn right. And nothing has the potential to build character like having yours revealed and then, hopefully, having to evaluate who you are. Some learn and become people of substance and value. Others don't and life can be difficult as they never find a place of peace in their life. 

I don't know Bobby Petrino and I'm fairly confident that anyone reading this blog doesn't know him personally either. I do know he's a human being though. I know he has a family. I know he has friends. And I certainly know that if he has people sticking up for him (former players, his children, the employer that he pissed off royally) that are close to him, then he must be a person worthy of salvage. 

Not one of us can throw a stone at Bobby Petrino. Let each one of us put our darkest secrets on the table for others to see. Let each one of us put our worst deeds on the table for others to see. Let each one of us put our transgressions against friends and family on the table for others to see. Do you feel me yet? Thing is, most of us don't have our mistakes posted all over the paper and ESPN do we? So we get a bit of a pass because we don't have hundreds of thousands of people (or millions) knowing exactly what you have done. We have the balls to pass judgment on others for their deeds and want to deny them their right to move on. That's less human than anything Bobby Petrino, Bruce Pearl, Jimmy The Greek, Pete Rose, John Calipari, Tiger Woods, Rick Pitino, or any other of a myriad of public sports figures have done. For some reason, we don't want to give benefit of the doubt to public figures. We want to see them hurt. I've certainly been guilty, but as many of you know....that isn't me these days, or at least I'm trying for it not to be. Ups and downs, ups and downs.

The bottom line for me is that Bobby Petrino is a football coach. He has never been investigated for cheating and he has won. He may not have been the type of person you want your daughter to marry or even the kind of person you want as a friend, but he has done his job. I don't "like" what he has done in his personal life any more than anyone else, but it's not my place to judge him any more harshly than those who know him best. 

I am not making a case to change any one's mind about how they feel about Bobby Petrino. I am making the case for human understanding and seeing the bigger picture. And I will take it another step before I close this out;

Have any of you cheated on your spouse?
Have any of you had your spouse cheat on you?
Have any of you ever lied to your employer?
Have any of you ever lied to a friend?
Have any of you ever had a friend lie to you?
Have any of you ever taken advantage of having an upper hand at some point in your life? 
Have you ever been treated badly by people you love?
Have you ever treated people you love badly?

Have any of you ever been given a shot at redeeming yourself by someone that has grace and your best interest at heart? Have you ever given grace to those that have wronged you? If the answer is yes, congratulations....you are winning the game. 

When it comes right down to it and you strip away the unimportant window dressing of sports or any other form of entertainment, we are all human beings. We are capable of redemption. I find that more uplifting and motivating than I do seeing someone scorned and punished for being what each of us are; human beings that make mistakes, but are also capable of turning it around. A big part of turning it around is the grace and support of those around you. Without them, you would be an island and life isn't worth living if we are not willing to allow each other to make mistakes and try to come back from them. 

For now, the hiring of Bobby Petrino by Louisville is a football or sports story, but when all is said and done the story will be much more human, whether it turns out good or bad. 

Oh and by the way....I can't see this picture;

without thinking of this;






Thursday, January 2, 2014

Some Musings....


I don't have much to say these days, so I've pretty much given up on writing. It feels like self-indulgence most of the time anyhow, but to keep up the charade, I wanted to put a few things down. If you want to read on, do so....but at your own risk. You have been warned. I'm feeling a bit "saucy" today, or old and bitter....you can choose.   

Duck Dynasty

I prefer to refer to it (if only in my mind) as "Dumb Fuck Dynasty". If you watch it, good for you, but seriously, isn't there something on that you could learn from? Maybe pick up a book? I do get the fascination with hicks, idiots, bad mothers, skanks, and "guido" types, because they are so ridiculous that they are amusing. For any of these shows to last more than a year or so just reveals how pathetic and empty we have become when engaging our entertainment. I'm proud to say I have NEVER watched a minute of the Dick Dynasty. So how can I judge it? By listening to the people that watch hours of it. By the way, I have no problem with what that dude said about gay and black folks or marrying a 15 year old. I like the stupid to reveal themselves. It's their right as Americans to say things that they believe, influence others and hold society at large back. It's also everyone else's right to tell him he's a moron or stop watching the show. Don't censor these people.....leave them on the air!

Music

The state of pop music is pretty sad. Between boy bands and untalented Disney bitches you just can't find anything on the radio that is worth listening to. Oh, I guess I could turn it on the country station and listen to songs about pickup trucks, dirt roads, and fucking plastic cups, but that doesn't really take me up a rung on the ladder does it? Oh, and what's the deal with Miley Cyrus' tongue? Put that thing back in your head already you ugly little troll. She's built like a 14  year old Asian boy, but insists on running around in "clothing" that would be better suited on a real woman. At least Madonna has talent. 

ESPN

They don't just cover the sports news, they make it! Between their scheduling games at 9 or after on week nights and causing all of this conference upheaval, I don't have much to care about on that network any longer, unless it's a Louisville game. For all the greatness they have brought over the years, they have just about equaled it in how terrible they  have been for sports. They have turned sports into a highlight competition and pretty much control college athletics now. The NCAA is filthy with ESPN money and it's been to the detriment of college athletics. It's not about the students or the athletes....it's about the money. Don't forget that. 

Religion

I've gone from Christian to atheist to agnostic to spiritual seeker and have finally settled on this;
Ehh....I don't really give a shit. If there is a god; great. If there isn't a god; great. I don't really care. Atheists that gather for meetings and try to convert people are every bit as annoying as the religious zealots. I'm very much in favor of personal religion. It can be a positive thing. Just don't think that what works for you will work for everyone. Not everyone needs Jesus to live a good life. If I hear "What keeps you from raping, stealing, and killing if you don't have Jesus?" one more time I think I will claw someone's eyes out and respond "Nothing, I guess." Seriously if you need to believe in Jesus to keep from hurting others, you need to stick with it. It tells me a lot about a person when they say stupid shit like that.....as in...."this person is potentially dangerous".

Stand Up Comedy

OK, something positive! We are in a new golden age of comedy, even if you can't see it in the mainstream. Comics like Louis CK, Bill Burr, Doug Stanhope, Joe Rogan, and Jim Jeffries (among others) are just killing it these days. Get on You Tube or Netflix and find some specials by these guys or Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron, Daniel Tosh, or Tom Papa. You will get a ton of laughs consistently. Our culture is ripe for ridicule and these guys take it on from all sides. 





Saturday, October 26, 2013

How NOT To Turn 45 (or How I Got Old In Three Weeks)



Aging is something I never really thought about very much until the past six or so months. Before that, I was one of those people that believed numbers are numbers and how you feel and perceive the world says more about you than an age. To some degree, I'll hold that as true, but we have to face reality. Being in your 40's basically means you are probably at the half way point and more than likely, you are past it. That can be a startling reality when you let it seep in and you start taking stock of who you were at 30 and who you are in your mid-40's. 

I guess I should have seen the train wreck that has been my last month or so coming. I am not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point in the past year I started saying my age was 45 when I was asked. I didn't turn 45 until recently. Why was I doing this? I didn't make a conscious effort to do it. I just started saying it. It didn't bother me at all to do so. Maybe my mind was preparing me.....taking care of me, well aware that I have an underlying fear of growing older and furthermore, death. I have been brave in the face of what I thought was catastrophe with death imminent, but that only served to mask my internal thoughts about how and when I may kick the bucket and how lonely that moment may feel. 

Anyway, this isn't about death, it's about aging and how to deal with it. Forty-five. No going back. There are things that I can't really do anymore to my satisfaction. That depresses me. There are things I should have done, even as late as 5 years ago, that I have not done. That depresses me. I see a road in front of me paved with an attitude that has me playing out the string. Hell, if I live to be 70, that's another 25 years of waiting. Holy fuck!! 25 years and I'll be 70!! When did this happen? Nobody told me when I peaked, but they sure don't have to tell me I'm on the way down the slide. 

In some ways, I am who I want to be. In many ways, I'm not. In the past month I have taken stock of most of the things related to my life. From something as simple as the books I read to things as complex as my marriage and relationships with my extended family. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm not throwing a pity party. I just can't help but feel this 45 thing strongly. I have a lot going on for me, and I know it. Great wife. Great kids. Great friends. A nice job. A healthier relationship with my extended family. I have a fairly comfortable life. So why the roller coaster emotionally? If you know, throw me a life line! The things I have been enjoying most for the past few years, I have backed away from, as if I were being over indulgent in my own happiness or satisfaction. I've felt "in my own head" a lot more and not really wanting to share with anyone. Perhaps the death of my grandfather has thrown a monkey wrench into my psyche. My link to my beloved grandma is now gone. That portion of my life is forever gone. Did I somehow equate my grandparents being alive to my being "young" with most of my life in front of me? The closest connection to her is gone. I've had three consecutive nights of dreams where my grandpa was present. What's that all about? Is it just another part of what is dogging me? Is there something I am missing that has me so withdrawn? I don't know. Do other people go through this? When will these odd feelings pack up their shit and move on? 

I know, I know....it's just a damn number. It just seems like an awfully scary number for me. I sort of have to accept that I can never be the same person I was, even if I wanted to. That ability slipped away when I wasn't looking. Didn't even bother to leave a note!






Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Replacements, GWAR, Public Enemy & Riot Fest!



I now have the Replacements Chicago performance in my rear view mirror by three weeks. My perspective of the show isn't much different than it was three hours afterwards. I have only been to a couple of music festivals, but I have to hand it to Riot Fest; it was a really great event. Entertainment everywhere. Music, carnival rides, street performers, affordable grub, and a nice even for people watching. Above all though, I enjoyed the music. 

I got to see a lot of bands play, and while I liked Blondie, the Violent Femmes, Joan Jett, and others, the stars of the weekend for me were GWAR, Public Enemy and of course, the Replacements. Perhaps GWAR and Public Enemy hit me so hard because I had not seen them before and wasn't really sure what to expect, but they delivered. 

On Friday night, Chris and I had decided that we would go over and see GWAR. We had both heard from friends that they were a crazy act and not to be missed. I guess I didn't quite understand what I was getting ready to see, but right from the get go, the music didn't agree with me, but the theatrics did. I'm not much into heavy metal and GWAR brings the thunder. Loud guitars, screaming lyrics and a relentless drive. To each his own....I'm not knocking it. The stage show was a different matter. I love some insanity on stage and that's just what GWAR brought. This is a family blog, so I really can't go into much detail. Yeah, it was THAT crazy. Lots of "blood" and "semen" and "semen and blood". Lots of entrails being ripped out. The rape of a priest. A zombie Jesus. A few people left and I'm guessing that they had no idea what they were in for. I will post a You Tube link to some video of their act, because I just can't do it justice with the written word. I'm not that strong of a writer! If I had to try to pin the show down to one word, it would be "HILARIOUS"! I couldn't stop laughing. Back in my Christian days I would have been appalled....offended....angry. But, without that prevailing worldview to sort through any longer, I was able to laugh at some of the ridiculous depictions that took place. I wouldn't go out of my way to see this band, nor would I buy their music, but they sure know how to put on a show!


Public Enemy was another act I wanted to be sure to catch while in Chicago. Not so much because I'm a big fan, but because I appreciate their place in both musical and popular culture. Not quite the kick in the balls that NWA provided at their peak, but they were (and still are) artists that highlight social injustice and provide lyrics that promote human unity and "fighting the power" when the power needs to be fought. My friend Greg had turned me on to them in college and again, while I'm not a big fan, I really did have an appreciation for what they did. Chuck D, Professor Griff and the rest of the band came on and immediately the crowd reacted positively. It wasn't until Flavor Flav hit the stage that things went to the next level. The guy is a show unto himself and he clearly loves the "love". When he wasn't pimping every single social media/internet site that you could find the word "flavor" on, he was doing his thing as the best "hype man" in the game. He's got some solid skills though and even sat behind the drum kit and kicked some ass too. Chris and I were right in the middle of the crowd, fist pumping and feeling the love. The DJ was superb as was the musicianship. A genuine highlight of the weekend for me. A really fun time.



The reason I was at Riot Fest at all was The Replacements. Sure, I love all sorts of music, but there is no way I travel 5 hours and spend what I spent to see anyone else. This is MY band and the chance to see Paul and Tommy share the stage again was something I wasn't going to pass on. Sure, they could continue to tour and come to Louisville, but that's far from a sure thing and again, no way I'm missing a "life opportunity". It was rainy on that much anticipated Sunday, so Chris and I lounged at the hotel for most of the day. As I explained in my previous post, we had a charmed experience getting to Humboldt Park. Got a nice spot just across the street for an easy $20. The rain relented and we went in and surveyed the damage from the weather. LOTS of mud, lots of muddy people. That did nothing to dampen my spirits. We hit the tents and grabbed some t-shirts and waited. We wanted to see the Pixies, but to get a prime time spot for the 'Mats, I let Chris lead the way and we gave up on watching Black Francis. We watched AFI and started moving through the crowd. When that show was over, we fought against the tide and made it damn near to the stage. A tremendous spot to see my musical heroes! 



During the hour long wait, we were packed in like sardines. That's not a situation I'm always comfortable in, but with all the fans surrounding me talking about this anticipated show, it made it much easier to tolerate. I spoke with quite a few people half my age. Florida, New York, Boston....people from all over had gathered to see this reunion. We swapped stories about the songs we loved, which albums were our tip top favorites and discussed why this bands legacy had endured. A legacy that is strong, with deep roots, but has stayed mostly outside the mainstream. The Replacements have had a huge influence on a lot of bands through the 90's up to today. That influence has been expressed in the press quite often since Paul and Tommy dusted off the Replacements name. They are an important part of the alternative movement. They helped build the foundation for bands like Green Day, Nirvana, the Goo Goo Dolls and so many others that hit it big with a sound that wasn't always polished. Raw and real was a sound that many music fans wanted coming off the prefabricated, over synthesized sounds of the 1980's. 

Back to Chicago. Twenty two years ago, the Replacements played a July 4th show at Grant Park (in Chicago) and stopped touring and recording together. Now, here I was, on the cusp of watching them return. I was a bit anxious, not exactly knowing what to expect. Sure, I had heard the Toronto performance a couple of weeks earlier, but this was Chicago! This is a city that had embraced the Replacements in their "Heyday" and was ready to do so again with a crowd of tens of thousand packed around the stage.



As soon as Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson made their appearance along with new Replacements Dave Minehan and Josh Freese, the outside world was forgotten. Even though I would ordinarily be out of my element in the middle of the chaos, right up front by the stage, I totally got into it. The crowd up front was truly like an ocean, you had to move with the ebb and flow or you would go down and that wouldn't be a good thing. "Takin' A Ride", "I'm In Trouble", "Favorite Thing".....these tunes opened the show and were played with fervor and passion. By the time they go to "Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out" there was no doubting that they could still pull the passion out of themselves to do these songs (now at or over 30 years old) without a hint of nostalgia. Paul noticed the digital clock (the festival had hard times for the bands to go on and be done) in front of him and picked it up to examine. Clock, we don't need no stinkin' clock. I shouted "Fuck that clock!!" and the guys next to me picked up on it and suddenly there was a contingent chanting "FUCK THAT CLOCK, FUCK THAT CLOCK!!!". Paul pulled the clock up and threw off the back of the stage. "You got your way. I'm an old hand at this. A music professional."



I felt like I was right where I should be, having a great time, absorbing the music and the energy of the crowd. For 25 songs time, age, work, the grind of day to day life went away. It was all about the music and seeing a band that I loved play the songs that meant something to me. Those songs and so many others that the Replacements played over the years are a part of who I am. Musically, my life is pretty much complete. I've seen Roger Waters and Paul McCartney, but I can't see Waylon and I can't see the Beatles, the Beastie Boys, or The Band, so the MUST SEE has been done. It was not anti-climactic at all for me. The performance was kick ass and I enjoyed myself as much as I ever have at a music show. I was home. They wound up the show with songs that couldn't have been any more perfect to send the crowd home with; "Hold My Life" and "IOU". A great experience that I'll never forget.