2015

If Frank Zappa composed any piece of music that, to me, sounds like the new year, it is “Sofa.” And, I am especially fond of this Austrian brass combo’s version. So. Here it is. Happy new year.

Rivalry? What rivalry?

I remember the pep rallies.

We, the marching band, would play that dirge, and they’d sing: Poor, poor Ravens, the worst is yet to come.

Then I think we burned a big stuffed Raven in effigy.

They were the Ravenna Ravens, and we were told that we, the Roosevelt Rough Riders, had a rivalry with them. And so we played the dirge, and we strung up the fake stuffed bird, and we awaited the game on Friday.

It was a competitive rivalry. Sometimes the Ravens won. Sometimes we won. That’s what made the rivalry interesting. There was always the precious threat in the air that our football game against this most despised rival of ours would not go our way.

Because we could lose. I mean there was a chance. And that is what fed the rivalry.

Which brings me to the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the Baltimore Ravens.

In the last decade, the Pittsburgh Steelers have played in three Super Bowl games and have won two Lombardi trophies.

The Baltimore Ravens have played in one Super Bowl game and have won one trophy.

The Browns have not qualified for playoffs in a decade.

In 2010, the Baltimore Ravens were a potential obstacle for the Steelers, challenging them in the divisional championship game. In 2011 and 2012, the Ravens bested the Steelers, taking first in the AFC North.

The Browns have not qualified for playoffs in a decade.

Where’s the rivalry?

If we can agree that a rival should be a worthy competitor, then, Browns fans, you are trumpeting every football season about a rivalry that no longer holds and has not for some time.

Many Pittsburgh fans opted to recognize its rivalry with the team from Cleveland what moved south in 1996, now known as the Baltimore Ravens.

I think they’re right.

And yet, every year I hear from Browns fans. Predictable memes about how bad the Steelers suck. It’s usually early in the season; this year, it was in week six, when the Browns blew the Steelers out 32-10. Last year, it was in week four, when the joke of the season was “knock knock,” “who’s there,” “owen,” “owen who?” “0-4!” (This was the Steelers’ record at the time.)

The Browns ended up FOUR AND TWELVE.

Do you believe in the whatever high atop the thing yet?

Cleveland fans need to face it. There is no longer a credible rivalry between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers will face their legitimate rival at 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the wild card round.

And they’re Ravens, too.


Source Material

2004
Steelers: 15 – 1, won the AFC North. Won divisional playoffs versus New York Jets, lost AFC championship to New England Patriots.
Ravens: 9-7, second in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Browns: 4-12, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2005
Steelers: 11 – 5, second in the AFC North. Won wild card playoffs versus Cincinnati Bengals. Won AFC championships versus Denver Broncos. Won Super Bowl XL versus Seattle Seahawks.
Ravens: 6-10, tied for third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Browns: 6-10, tied for third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2006
Ravens: 13-3, first in the AFC North. Lost divisional playoffs to Indianapolis Colts.
Steelers: 8-8, third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Browns: 4-12, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2007
Steelers: 10-6, first in the AFC North. Lost wild card playsoff to Jacksonville Jaguars.
Browns, 10-6, second in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Ravens: 5-11, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2008
Steelers: 12-4, first in the AFC North. Won divisional playoffs versus San Diego Chargers, won AFC championship versus Baltimore Ravens, won Super Bowl XLIII versus Arizona Cardinals
Ravens: 11-5, second in the AFC North. Won wild card playoffs versus Miami Dolphins, won divisional playoffs versus Tennessee Titans, lost conference championship to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Browns: 4-12, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2009
Ravens: 9-7, second in the AFC North. Won wild card playoffs versus New England Patriots, lost divisional playoffs versus Indianapolis Colts.
Steelers: 9-7, third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Browns: 5-11, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2010
Steelers: 12-4, first in the AFC North. Won divisional playoffs versus Baltimore Ravens, won AFC championship playoffs versus New York Jets, lost Super bowl XLV to Green Bay Packers.
Ravens: 12-4, second in the AFC North. Won wild card playoffs versus Kansas City Chiefs, lost AFC divisional playoffs to Pittsburgh Steelers.
Browns: 5-11, third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2011
Ravens: 12-4, first in the AFC North. Won divisional playoffs versus Houston Texans, lost AFC championship game to New England Patriots.
Steelers: 12-4, second in the AFC North. Lost wild card playoffs to Denver Broncos.
Browns: 4-12, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2012
Ravens: 10-6, first in the AFC North. Won wild card playoffs versus Indianapolis Colts, won divisional playoffs versus Denver Broncos, won Super Bowl XLVII versus San Francisco 49ers.
Steelers: 8-8, third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Browns: 5-11, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2013
Steelers: 8-8 Second in the AFC north. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Ravens: 8-8, third in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.
Browns: 4-12, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.

2014
Steelers: 11 – 5, first in the AFC North.
Ravens: 10-6, third in the AFC North.
Browns: 7-9, fourth in the AFC North. Did not qualify for playoffs.


TK Zappayore

December 26-29, 1976: The @Zappa Band plays The Palladium in New York City. http://bit.ly/1t8O94H Special Guest: Don Pardo #ZappaYore

The result, of course, is the album @Zappa in New York. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zappa_in_New_York #ZappaYore

Christmas 2014

We were across the street at 1030 on the nose. More or less. Kids, grownups, dawgs, grandparents. We ate sticky buns and drank coffee and exchanged gifts. Then we retreated to the farm to finish the carnage, of which the aftermath is pictured in the thumbnail above. Yes, it is clickable.

Gosh the panoramic camera is cool.

I was scheduled to work in the afternoon, but I think I got to make the most out of my Christmas morning.

Among my most intriguing gifts was the Brookstone Perfect Bake from my brother. Thing looks like a heck of a way to nail down some baking essentials. Can’t wait to play with it. My Mom picked away from the Amazon wishlist, and I got all kinds of tea accessories, a loose tea sampler, and a great seasonal cookbook, several other books to add to the reading list, and not to mention a snappy denim shirt.

Quite a haul indeed.

I was fortunate that a kindly chef was working today at the company store. He prepared quite a nice pot roast with rice pilaf and vegetables. Cuz there is NOTHING open today unless you want to survive on Doritos and powdered donuts.

We will extend the Christmas to tomorrow with a ham dinner and scalloped potatoes, as tomorrow is my Saturday as usual. That is all.

Christmas Eve 2014

We basically have two areas of low pressure, the first one off to the west with some colder air, and the second one bringing a whole lot of Gulf moisture, and this is really what’s impacting our weather.

That’s what the lady on the TV said last night. And, what it means, essentially, is NO SNOW FOR YOU.

I reckon we’ll get by. I opted not to dispatch my PTO for this portion of the holiday season, so I’m at work Christmas Eve and Christmas Night anyways. Lucky for me, the family opted to do a nice dinner on Friday rather than Thursday so I can eat too. That was nice of them. And I’m still gonna be there Christmas morning in my jammies, believe me you.

On the plus side, for once all of the shopping and wrapping were finished last weekend. That’s unusual for me. I found that if I employed two countering strategies for Christmas shopping, I could do better. Strategy 1: List the people I need to buy for and things they might like. Strategy 2: Go to weird stores, preferably in unfamiliar settings.

Another strategy: While you might not want to go out on “Black Friday” amidst the crowds, make use of it anyway. At least let its passing light a fire under your butt to make you get something done. If not Thursday, go get something done Saturday, at least.

One of these strategies is not as effective without the other. And so I did better this year, though gift-giving is not a strength of mine. It’s a matter of making the mountain of it seem too insurmountable, and so I inevitably procrastinate. I think I did okay this year. We’ll find out in the morning, won’t we?

#ZappaYore

I am trying to find a fairly non-intrusive way to keep the @zappadan Twitter somewhat active year-round. This of course is to help gather followers and to keep the account relevant.

How about a bit of Frank history? I’m calling the hashtag #ZappaYore and gleaning historic Zappa points from various sources. The first one dropped today:

December 23, 1984: Frank @Zappa plays the Universal Amphitheater in Universal City, Calif. Chronology

Guest guitarist was @DweezilZappa.

Tracks from the Universal City show are included on You Can’t Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 and Vol. 3

Setlist is here #ZappaYore

High Time We Went

When I hear a competitor on one of these TV talent shows perform “A Little Help From My Friends,” I always get a little snobby.

You know, there was another band who did this before called The Beatles, I says. Why not perform it straight like Ringo?

But. C’mon. Who am I kidding?

The lilting pipes, the majestic 6/8 time, the big, big Jimmy Page guitar up above, and let’s not forget Madeline Bell, Rosetta Hightower, Sunny Wheetman, and Patrice Holloway lending power and cred*; of COURSE you’re going to do the Joe Cocker version. Of course you are.

You kind of have to.

If you do, you’d better bring it. I call this the “Bill Withers Test,” but it could just as easily be attributed to Joe Cocker, who died today at 70. If you’re going to cover the Grease Band’s version of “Friends,” friends, you had better bring it.

And they rarely do.

Because this song arrangement makes the attack of the song’s first note vital. It is utterly exposed and in a specific place within that quiet pocket of music. Due to that, I think that this arrangement of this song may be one of the most difficult things to do as a singer.

Usher did it okay I guess. But even these seasoned professionals missed their marks.

But this kid just blows it. He floats up to find the pitch. (Not that the judges you know, notice this.)

You need to nail it. Right on the pin. Like John Robert Cocker did.

When I was a kid, my Dad gave me a cassette tape, Joe Cocker’s Greatest Hits. Like many things passed down generationally, I was too young at the time to understand its import. I did eventually listen to it, and my life changed. The best thing on it, the one that sticks with me hardest, is Randy Newman’s “I Think It’s Going To Rain.” The erstwhile Claudine Longet standard gets a badly-needed injection of soul here. It’s brilliant and stands as one of my favorite tracks ever. And I can’t imagine how blessed an experience it would have been to be present in the room when they performed the barn-burner “Cry Me A River.”

One hears the phrase “musician’s musician” from time to time. I suspect that Joe Cocker headed that list. He picked good music and the players with the best chops. He was fabulous, and I adore his music.

* None of these singers were even referenced in the film 20 Feet from Stardom, a highly praised documentary that I found to be a bit lazy, case in point…


P.S. It would be wrong to mention Joe Cocker and not mention Bobby Keys, who also appeared in Mad Dogs and died earlier this month.


Zappy Birthday

My Dad and I have a similar dilemma. We are serial binge watchers of a television program called The Gilmore girls. When you are, what happens is that you get the show’s theme song lodged into your head. Thanks to Stephen Colbert, we have been able to plug off this nuisance “We’ll Meet Again.”

Which, as he reminded me this weekend, caps then ending of a little film called Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

So, that was sort of a theme this weekend.

Oh, by the way: Zappy Birthday.

You might want to listen to this rare acoustic jam between Frank Zappa and Shuggie Otis. On the Johnny Otis show, of course.

I for one am sad to see the Zappadan holiday end. I always appreciate the opportunity to listen, to research, and to reflect. I raise a cup and I say, “Next year! In Montana!”

Raisin’ it up….waxin’ it down…

I Come From Nowhere

One of my favorite Zappa productions is “I Come From Nowhere” from Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch. I mean, this song. The absurdity. The voice. The raucous send-up of arena rock.

In Zappa’s time, this was strictly a studio production; he never performed it live.

His son, however, thought it should be taken to an audience. Not only do you get that with this clip, but you get a really great story to boot. Here we go, kids. “I Come From Nowhere” by Zappa Plays Zappa.

Did I mention that I am really looking forward to Dweezil’s new album?