Monday, July 31, 2006

Nothing like a little disgusted rage at a magazine list to fire up the ol' blogger

I just made the mistake of perusing Paste Magazine's list of the 100 Best Living Songwriters.
Reading such a list was only ever going to lead to tears... of rage.
Speaking of... I have no problem with Bob Dylan topping the list.
However, I could go on and on about Paul McCartney listed at No. 5 or Randy Newman (No. 11) ranked higher than Holland-Dozier-Holland (No. 17... that's not racism, it's stupidity) or even that Mick Jagger and Keith Richards couldn't even crack the Top 10 (at No. 12, they even fell shy of Randy Newman!).
But I will save those battles for other pissed off, blogging music lovers.
Nope. My rage primarily concerns one man.
Brent Dey describes XTC (Andy Partridge, songwriter No. 64) as "the most underrated and underappreciated band since The Kinks." Then, a few pages later, his magazine lists Kinks leader Ray Davies as the 41st best living songwriter.
What? Are they being ironic? Am I dyslexic?
They meant it?
To put this laughable ranking in perspective, it is a mere six spots ahead of Sufjan Stevens, who although a promising talent has produced just a handful of albums, and 17 spots behind 24th-ranked Jeff Tweedy.
Don't get me wrong... I adore Uncle Tupelo and I think Wilco is a great band.
Just let me know when Tweedy writes as good a song as "Waterloo Sunset," OK?
It's not like I don't appreciate current indie music. In fact, I thought Mountain Goats' main (only?) man John Darnielle was seriously underrated at his measly No. 82 in the ranking. In fact, I think Tweedy himself would feel a little ashamed at his higher-than-Davies ranking.
I just think people who rank bands/songs/songwriters/etc. often try to lend credence to their hip credentials by overly lavishing praise on the present. Or they have REALLY short attention spans.
Either way, I will endlessly/tirelessly/boorishly champion Ray Davies as among the greatest of songwriters. Living or dead.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Daddy Who? Daddy Cool!

Around here, "Eagle Rock" might be remembered by a few 70s rock fanatics... perhaps. More likely, the song might sound vaguely familiar but people would draw a blank when asked about Daddy Cool.
I have been playing and replaying the "Eagle Rock" video on YouTube the past couple days.
Somewhat like my firm favorites Mud, Ross Wilson's Daddy Cool played 1950s rock in the glam-rock era of the 1970s.
Australia's Daddy Cool avoided the fashion excesses of the glamsters, however, concentrating on the good-time factor of the music.
That's where "Eagle Rock" comes in to the frame. It is one of the all-time, good-time rock songs. So much so that this 1971 down-under classic reportedly influenced Elton John into his "Crocodile Rock" period.
"Eagle Rock" is better. It dominated the Aussie charts, holding the national top spot for eight weeks and the Melbourne local chart for 17 weeks.
On payday I will order a Daddy Cool compilation off of Amazon. Then, I can rock away the rest of the summer.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Lorelai, Howie, I'd like you to meet Batman

OK, so please stop me if you have any questions...
Jill flew to Florida today and the girls and I wanted to have some time hanging out so we played Polly Pockets only I got to be Batman *AND* Superman, which is so cool, and Kerstin was Lorelai Gilmore and Howie Day of "Collide" fame (that's him in the photo, with the stylish hair and painted on undergarments) and Annika got to be Hannah Montana (using a black-haired Polly Pocket for at home and a blond-haired one when on stage, like, duh! cause she wears the wig!) and Annika also got to be Hannah's boyfriend Nick Elodeon (that's really his name, but most people called him Nick for short) and Lorelai and Howie were getting married and they lived in San Francisco and the reception was going to be on Baker Beach but first they all had to go to a party in Oakland (which was really on our staircase) and then it was back to San Francisco for the wedding at Old Saint Mary's and Lorelai's dad walked her down the aisle but then had to be the priest as well because we didn't have enough male Polly Pockets (and although it *WAS* San Francisco things apparently aren't progressive *ENOUGH* for women priests in *POLLY POCKET* San Francisco) and so then Howie sang "Collide" at the reception and Batman and Superman didn't have to go save anybody the entire time and then I went upstairs to lie down for a couple hours.

Friday, July 28, 2006

How many say "60 Minutes?"

Route 1 takes a detour with this week's FRIDAY QUESTION: What was your favorite television show when you were a kid?
Mike D. -- When the new Saturday morning kids programs came out in the fall, my sister and brother and I used to sit down with the TV listings and plot out which shows we were going to watch. "Wacky Races" and "The Banana Splits" were great, but "Johnny Quest" and the original "Scooby Doo" (before it jumped the shark by adding Scrappy Doo) were my favorites.
Steve M. -- "The Wild, Wild West." I liked "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and "Mission Impossible" about as much.
Rick T. -- "The Howdy Doody Show." (Way too long ago!)
Kerstin H. -- "Winnie the Pooh."
Mark B. -- I had two, "Rawhide" and "Cheyenne."
Roseanne H. -- My two favorites were "Dragnet" and the "Ed Sullivan Show." Oh, and I can't forget "Gunsmoke." My dad watched it every week and we all loved it.
Dave B. -- Two hours of Looney Tunes every Saturday morning.
Erik H. -- I watched the "Lawless Monster Zone" episode of "Ultraman" on DVD yesterday and the clash of titanic creatures reminded me why I watched the show so religiously as a kid and why I spent so much time around our Concord, Calif. condo complex chasing imaginary monsters. I also liked "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" (but I couldn't stand Johnny Whittaker) and "Land of the Lost." Darn those Sleestaks!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

I (Heart) Mentals

I have been listening to an imported "best of" CD by Mental as Anything since receiving it from Amazon last night.
Here are seven great things about the band:
1) Founding members Greedy Smith, Martin Plaza and Reg Mombassa met at a Sydney art school and formed the band in a bid to secure free drinks.
2) All three founders became accomplished painters, and Mombassa eventually quit to further his art career. His designs help popularize the Mambo clothing company.
3) Their music combines the roots-rock simplicity of Rockpile, the bouncy, melodic pop of Squeeze and the quirky, self-deprecating humor of Madness -- perhaps never better than in the hit "If You Leave Me Can I Come Too?" -- yet the band remain as Australian as an Akubra hat.
4) Their art-school sensibilities (and enduring connections) helped them concoct some of Australia's most creative music videos, such as the clip for "Spirit Got Lost." Look them up on YouTube.
5) As a promotional ploy, the band spent part of an early 1980s tour mowing lawns in each of Australia's major cities.
6) In Smith, Plaza, Mombassa and Peter O'Doherty, the band boasted a quartet of stellar songwriters.
7) Greedy Smith, Martin Plaza, Reg Mombassa and Wayne "Bird" DeLisle? Yeah, right. Their real names are Andrew Smith, Martin Murphy, Chris O'Doherty (Peter's older brother) and, er, Dave "Bird" Twohill.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

They're the Happy Schnapps Combo of Jamaica

My friend Eileen lent me a funny CD yesterday. It's a collection of tunes by The Happy Schnapps Combo, the most famous polka band from Eileen's hometown, Manitowoc, Wis. "We're on a Beer Run," "Dis Ain't My Toilet" and "The Bears Still Suck" (they "really really really really really suck," according to the Happy Schnapps) are songs that place the combo clearly at the forefront of Beery, Eastern Wisconsin Polka-Party Bands.
Standing at the forefront of a slightly more crowded field, The Paragons represent the pinnacle of early 1960s pop music from Jamaica and provided the soundtrack to my life yesterday.
Lead vocalist John Holt later went on to solo stardom, but I don't think he ever bettered such Paragon efforts as "Wear You to the Ball," "On the Beach" or "Talking Love."
Every Paragons song I have ever heard sounds like a classic.
I even got two calls at work yesterday from 11-year-old Kerstin.
She wanted help finding the Paragons' masterpiece "The Tide is High" on our iTunes library. Kerstin first heard Blondie's cover of the song, sung from Debbie Harry's female perspective, but the Paragon original became her favorite. That's the greatness of the Paragons.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Mach Go! Go! Go!

I just watched the original, Japanese-language introduction of "Mach Go! Go! Go!" on YouTube.
American television renamed the show "Speed Racer" and the rest, as they might say, was cartoon history.
I watched "Speed Racer" with an odd, religious-like fervor when I was a kid.
I remembered soooo wanting to own the Mach 5, Speed Racer's elaborately tricked-out car.
After watching the "Mach Go! Go! Go!" introduction and visiting, located here, I once again soooooo want to own the Mach 5.
Remember these standard features, accessible by pushing the appropriately lettered button on the steering column?
A -- Releases powerful jacks that can cause the Mach 5 to leap short distances.
B -- Sprouts special grip tires for traction in any terrain.
C -- Powerful rotary saws protrude from the front of the Mach 5.
D -- A Deflector dome seals the cockpit into an air-conditioned, bullet-proof chamber.
E -- Activates special illumination headlights.
F -- Supplies the sealed cockpit with oxygen when underwater and raises a periscope.
G -- Releases a homing robot from the front of the Mach 5.
Those features are STANDARD with the Mach 5. Throw in an adapter for my iPod, and that would be one sweet ride!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Jazzing out to Scratch

The girls are spending the morning with their grandfather, Jill remains asleep and I am rocking out to Lee "Scratch" Perry's "Cloak & Dagger."
If "rocking out" is really the appropriate phrase. I don't think it is, actually. It feels like I am "jazzing out."
Perry had produced a number of organ-driven instrumentals -- many inspired by spaghetti western soundtracks -- by 1973. Then, this Jamaican musical genius took a revelatory turn for the experimental. He began to subtract musical elements -- the organ, a guitar, horns, etc. -- from his previous creations. The result was dub, a jazzy concoction of sound that sometimes jars, sometimes floats but never leaves me bored. I am continually surprised by his experimentation, and what could only amount to "background music" instead has me listening intently to see what he is going on about.
In fact, it seems to me to be the perfect accompaniment to a lazy Sunday morning.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Reading about the heat

I have been listening to my Aussie playlist on iTunes -- Brisbane's Fun Things are blasting out "When the Birdman Flies" right now -- and reading more of Roff Smith's "Cold Beer and Crocodiles."
Smith bicycled the circumference of Australia. I have reached the part of the (really entertaining) book when he was reached the hottest and most desolate part of his journey -- the trek through the Great Sandy Desert in Western Australia.
Days passed by Smith in a sweltering blur. His travels took him through an area of Western Australia, between Whim Creek and Marble Bar, that the Guinness Book of World Records notes to be the hottest part of the country. Marble Bar endured 163 consecutive days of daily high temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in 1923.
It's not funny but I had to laugh.
I have just completed a story for tomorrow's newspaper about the Dubuque area's worst heat wave. This area *only* managed 100-degree plus weather for a record 11 days in a row.
As for the Fun Things, they were the high school punks out of Brisbane with the guitarist who would eventually find stardom with Hoodoo Gurus -- Brad Shepherd.

Friday, July 21, 2006

G'Day Question

This week the FRIDAY QUESTION heads Down Under, as ROUTE 1 asks readers:
Who is your favorite Australian singer or band?
Dave B. -- INXS... and the Number two song of all time, "Don't Change."
Steve M. -- Gotta be Hoodoo Gurus.
Tom J. -- I know, I know, it's lame... but I've been trying to get the song "Who Can It Be Now" by Men at Work out of my head since 1982.
Mike D. -- Men at Work? Rick Springfield? INXS? Olivia Newton-John? No! My musical tastes have atrophied since I've had kids. I have to vote for The Wiggles! At least I've been to one of THEIR concerts.
Gary D. -- AC/DC. Who else would it be?
Annika H. -- The Wiggles.
Rick T. -- I don't really have one. I like that guy in the movie, "Crocodile Dundee."
Jim S. -- The Little River Band are right up there.
Kerstin H. -- Keith Urban, but I'm still mad at him for getting married.
Erik H. -- Not only are the Hoodoo Gurus my favorite Australian band, the buggers just might be my favorite band from anywhere. Struth! They fair dinkum are! Dave Faulkner's songwriting and unmistakably Strine-accented vocals and Brad Shepherd's guitar playing get me every time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

It all happened in the "dark ages" of the newspaper game

Jill was sick last night and the girls were tired.
It made sense to watch a DVD.
So, I introduced them to one of my old favorites -- Howard Hawks' "His Girl Friday."
I adore that 1940 film for its depiction of the inherent conflict between human relationships and being "a news-getting machine," which is how Rosalind Russell as Hildy Johnson describes the newspaper business -- a business that has ensnared me for the past 14 years. I also admire Hawks' directorial abilities. He takes a challenging scenario and keeps it flowing so smoothly. The film lover in me just sits back and enjoys the ride.
Jill laughed at the jabs at journalists.
"I know all about reporters, Walter," Hildy tells Cary Grant's Walter Burns. "A lot of daffy buttinskis running around without a nickel in their pockets and for what? So a million hired girls and motormen's wives'll know what's going on?"
The girls loved the verbal sparring between Hildy and Walter and especially loved the thrice-jailed, would-be Hildy husband Bruce Baldwin, played with increasing exasperation by Ralph Bellamy.
We howled at one of the film's classic in-jokes. Walter directs a girl to find Bruce and trap him into a "mashing" episode by giving her this description:
"He looks like that guy in the movies. He looks like Ralph Bellamy."
It comes so fast, you have to be waiting for it.
Much of the movie is like that, and it is part of what makes it one of the greatest films of all time.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

See Australia the tortuous way

Roff Smith decided to really get to know Australia, a place he had lived for 15 years.
How do you really get to know a place?
Smith decided to bicycle around the great southern land, even though he was not an accomplished long-distance cyclist. He wasn't even all that fit, which lends a "regular bloke" tone to "Cold Beer and Crocodiles," Smith's 2000 account of his incredible journey. I began reading this book last night.
The opening chapters speak to Australia's present: It takes Smith two days just to emerge from the sprawling Western Suburbs of megalopolis Sydney.
The irony of Australia, however, is that apart from the big cities there are only small towns -- if even that. The next stops on Smith's journey include many bumps in the road that feature a smattering of homes and the requisite pub or roadhouse. He doesn't encounter many bike trails, either. Instead, Smith spends an inordinate amount of time bumping along on dusty, red-dirt tracks.
I would recommend "Cold Beer and Crocodiles" to the armchair traveler. Smith writes with humor about what must have been the most arduous of journeys.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Missing Legends

For a nation with a relatively small population (at 20 million, Oz has about 16 million fewer people than California), Australia has certainly produced a large number of "legendary" bands.
There's Radio Birdman, the Lime Spiders, The Denvermen, The Loved Ones and Scientists for starters.
For my money, however, one band stands alone when it comes to creating indelible legends in the annals of Down Under rock.
The Missing Links.
The "new rock and roll group with the Rolling Stones sound" were nonetheless kicked off a support slot for the touring Stones in 1965 for being "long-haired animals," according to promoter Harry M. Miller. Legend has it Miller feared the Missing Links would upstage Mick and the lads.
They were baned from the TV pop show "Sing Sing Sing" for being "a particularly obnoxious gaggle of guitar thumpers."
It's not their persona, but the way this gaggle thumped their guitars that truly made them legends.
Their signature tune, "Wild About You," would not sound out of place on the Nuggets compilation of other 60s garage rock. They were among the first Aussie bands to employ feedback in their sound, and the result sounds menacing -- even 41 years later.
The fact that they burned brightly for about two years before fading into the ether of failed bands contributes to their legend, I think. Like many enduring legends, they died before they got old -- or stale.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Wandjina, Foster's and the Throb

We have kept to the air-conditioned shelter of home as temperatures soared here in the American Midwest.
While Jill and the girls watch seemingly endless interior design shows on cable, I have been immersing myself in Australia -- from afar.
* I read about the Wandjina cave paintings this morning. Located in the northern reaches of Western Australia, the Wandjina are among the most famous of Aboriginal art traditions. Their enigmatic, wide-eyed stares haunt Western observers. Research indicates these "cloud beings" date back 8,000 years. The local Aboriginal population would retouch the cave paintings every season, hoping to assure the life-giving return of the annual "Wet" season.
* I listened to my Aussie iPod playlist while walking on the treadmill. It opens with Slim Dusty's version of "Waltzing Matilda," then moves to Midnight Oil's outback anthem "The Dead Heart" and Hoodoo Gurus tirade against formulaic radio, "Less Than a Feeling." Underrated Sydney noise merchants Ratcat blast through "Skin," then The Throb's Aussie chart-topping, 1966 version of "Fortune Teller" is followed by the Go-Betweens' bouncy debut, "Lee Remick."
* I am now sipping an ice-cold Foster's Lager. It's almost a living, Down Under cliche I am living today. Just need some big prawns to toss on the barbie or some Vegemite to spread on my toast. Mate.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Burrowing away from the heat

It's already 83 degrees at 10:37 a.m. The forecast says we will get up to 95 today and 96 the next two days.
That would be considered a chilly day in Coober Pedy.
I am reading "Travelers' Tales: Australia" and just completed Joanne Meszoly's essay "Bedrock City," about Coober Pedy. Located about eight hours north of Adelaide, Coober Pedy is an opal-mining town of 3,500 people. The temperatures hover around 120 degrees for eight months of the year, so most inhabitants live underground. Coober Pedy must surely rank as one of the world's weirdest cities.
The extreme desolation and other-worldly residences make Coober Pedy famous. Several films -- including "Mad Max" have been shot on location here.
Here in Dubuque, the girls and I have drawn the shades and jacked up the air-conditioning unit. In a little way, it's our own approximation of Coober Pedy.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Songs about war

This week's ROUTE 1 FRIDAY QUESTION asked readers to name a memorable song about war.
Rob K. -- It would have to be "War" by War, or Johnny Horton's "Sinking of the Bismarck."
Mary N.-P. -- "The Battle of New Orleans" by whoever that hillbilly singer was (Johnny Horton). I've loved it ever since I was a kid.
Rick T. -- "Fighting Side of Me" by Merle Haggard.
Jill H. -- "With God Our Side" by Bob Dylan, as sung by Matt Kittle.
Brian C. -- For the blunt message, "War," by Edwin Starr, an anti-Vietnam anthem. For the more insightful message, "Blowin' in the Wind," by Bob Dylan.
Steve M. -- Cause it was at Woodstock, that Country Joe and the Fish Song... "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag."
Shannon H. -- Does "Sunday Bloody Sunday" count?
Mike D. -- A Billy Joel song from about 20 years ago -- "Goodnight Saigon" -- as lyrics that present some haunting imagery from the Vietnam War. For example, "We came in spastic, like tameless horses. We left in plastic as numbered corpses."
Erik H. -- Edwin Starr always summed it up for me: "War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Five thousand miles from anywhere

After reading Tim Parks' "A Season With Verona" to roughly coincide with Italy's soccer ascendancy, I am now reading "Travelers' Tales: Australia" to coincide with another, albeit slightly less, momentous occasion.
Any day now I should receive my anniversary gift that Jill purchased from Amazon -- an import "best of" CD by Mental as Anything.
No worries if you haven't heard of them. I will ramble on and on about them once the CD arrives. For now, simply think of them as an Australian equivalent to Canada's Barenaked Ladies crossed with England's Madness. They were a funny band of art-school students who could churn out hit singles (in Australia) with astounding ease.
Reading, I am deep into the collection of Australian essays. Distinguished travel writers such as Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin and Pico Iyer are writing about Aboriginal songlines, the Great Barrier Reef and sheep shearing.
Uluru -- Ayer's Rock -- features prominently in my armchair travels, as do strands of spinifex (the Aussie equivalent to Nevada's sagebrush).
My musical choices betray my current reading choice. Midnight Oil, Slim Dusty, Ratcat and other Oz bands have spilled out of the iPod in recent days.
It's all in anticipation of that Mentals CD. I hope it comes before I finish the book!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

So long, Crazy Diamond

Some people would argue that Syd Barrett left us all a long time ago. He was most certainly one of rock's most celebrated casualty of fame and drugs.
Still, I was saddened to hear of his death today.
I never really learned to love later Pink Floyd, but I ADORE such early classics as "Arnold Layne" and "See Emily Play."
Barrett's influence as a pioneering psychedelic rocker will probably never diminish. He laid the pavement for everyone from David Bowie to the Paisley Underground bands to follow. I listened to Syd-era Floyd on the iPod today in tribute to the one they called the "crazy diamond."

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Calcio like life?

Happiness. Sadness. Intelligence. Stupidity. Despair. Elation.
The people who make the SOCCER IS LIKE LIFE analogy will probably bookmark today's World Cup final.
Italy made all five penalties to claim a 5-3 shootout victory, even though France probably played better throughout the whole of the 1-1 regulation draw.
The night's true shock came in extra time, when French talisman Zinedine Zidane, playing his final game before retirement, brutally head-butted Marco Materazzi in the chest. The referee didn't see it, but his assistants did. After a consultation, the referee produced the red card and Zidane's career was completed.
At that point, I had the feeling Italy would win. It would have seemed evil for Zidane to claim a world title after what he had done.
Fabio Grosso coolly scored the winning spot kick. Italy won.
Campioni Del Mondo!
And soccer does seem a lot like life after that match. At least to me.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Rip Van Winkle Jr.

I came home from work last night and felt SICK. Feverish... Dehydrated... Exhausted... By 6:30 p.m. I felt like death was slowly descending. Being the sensible one, my wife Jill said: "Why don't you just go to bed."
Well! It is now 13 hours later and I feel better, albeit a bit like Rip Van Winkle.
Bonds hit HR No. 720? The U.S. offers bilateral talks with North Korea?
What day is it? What year is it? How long have I been gone?
I think I was laid low by a "stomach bug" of some sort, although in my feverish delirium of last night I was convinced it must be West Nile Virus.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Remember that first record?

This week's ROUTE 1 FRIDAY QUESTION asks readers to dip into their memory banks to recall the first record they ever purchased.
Dave B. -- "Cool Change" by Little River Band. A 45 that cost $.99.
Tom J. -- Greg Kihn Band's "The Break-up Song"
Rick T. -- The song called "Lonesome 7-7203" by Hawkshaw Hawkins.
Diane H. -- The first cassette I ever had was Wham's "Make it Big," which I received for Christmas in either fifth or sixth grade. The first cassette I ever purchased was the "Ghostbusters" movie soundtrack when I joined a music club at a young age. I think I liked Ray Parker, Jr. or something.
Shannon H. -- I don't remember the first one I bought myself. But the first album I remember really wanting and asking for was Men Without Hats, the album with "Safety Dance." Damn, I loved that song.
Ken B. -- "Venus" by Shocking Blue.
Mike D. -- When I was in high school, I think it was Twix candy bars that had a promotion for a free record if you sent in like 40 or 50 candy bar wrappers. For weeks, I collected them from friends, garbage cans and off the street, until I had enough. The 45 had four songs -- one each by Journey, Cheap Trick, Molly Hatchet and REO Speedwagon. Rock on, kids!
Brian C. -- I spent some of my paper route proceeds to buy "The Beatles Second Album." Believe it or not, it cost me $2.54 at EJ Korvette -- the ShopKo of its day -- in the Chicago suburbs. How (or why) I remember that amount, I can't say. But that was all it cost in 1964.
Erik H. -- Memories of my eight-track tape purchasing habits remain murky -- probably rightly so. However, I think my first eight-track that I purchased as "French Kiss" by occasional Fleetwood Mac contributor Bob Welch. Remember "Sentimental Lady" or "Ebony Eyes?" They were on that eight-track.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Italia Gran Finale

I was certain Germany v. Italy would finish in a penalty kick shootout win for the hosts.
Then, as if by some strange miracle, Grosso and Del Piero scored for the Azzurri in the final two minutes of extra time.
Cue tifosi leaping into fountains all over Italia. Cue me sipping a Peroni Nastro Azzurro and yelling: "I can't believe they did it!"
Since England crashed out, I have thrown my lot in with the boys in blue.
I have to work during tomorrow's France v. Portugal semifinal, but I have cleared my calendar for the final. I just have to get more Peroni Nastro Azzurro. It must be Italy's good luck charm.

Si sente meglio adesso?

Forza Italia!
Through an odd combination of factors -- mostly dealing with calcio (soccer) -- the whole house is gripped in Italian fever this morning.
I have been reading Tim Parks' insightful chronicle of a season of Serie A calcio, "A Season With Verona." Kerstin has been discussing her wish to become an exchange student when she gets to high school (the soon-to-be fifth grader wants to go to Venice) and Annika has been learning how to say "Good day, friend" -- "buon giorno, amico" -- by studying a "Berlitz Italian for Travelers" book circa 1954. It had belonged to my grandmother.
Yes... We are all caught in a grip of Italian fever. All except for Jill, but that is sure to change when the Azzurri take the field against the Germans this afternoon. Never mind that her maiden name is Beckman and that her favorite local tavern is a bierstube. No, she is sure to catch this Italian fever of ours. It is so contagious.
Per piacere, chiami un dottore! Sono ammalato!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Forza Gialloblu!

I am enjoying a rare Monday off, reading Tim Parks' engaging tale of an Italian soccer campaign: "A Season With Verona." The Verona resident attended every match, home and away, during the 2001 Serie A season.
The "gialloblu" -- "yellow and blue" -- barely muddled through the season, eventually beating Reggina in a playoff on away goals to ensure their top-flight survival.
Parks' book is a fascinating look at Italy and its obsession with calcio (soccer). I am fairly obsessed myself with the sport these days, thanks to the ongoing World Cup.
Verona claimed only one Scudetto -- title -- in 1984-85 (the side is pictured above). Hans-Peter Briegel, Preben Larsen Elkjaer and Giuseppe Galderisi powered the northern club to its unlikely championship.
Now, sadly, Hellas Verona have been eclipsed not only by Italy's other clubs, but by crosstown rivals Chievo Verona. Hellas Verona spent last season in Serie B, eighth from bottom with little hope of advancing.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

It's all over now

England won the World Cup the year I was born -- 1966 -- but won't be repeating the trick 40 years later.
The team went out of the competition on penalties to Portugal. The pain of the defeat amplified by the fact that England outplayed Portugal for nearly the entire match, even after Wayne Rooney's dismissal for a stupid bit of unnecessary aggression.
The girls cheered England on with me. We agonized together during the penalty shootout, too.
At least France beat overrated Brazil. I couldn't stand the commentators who before the tournament had proclaimed that Brazil's second team could probably win the cup easily. When it came time to play the matches, Brazil looked decidedly ordinary. So I suppose I'll be supporting France. They have the most Premiership players remaining in the tournament!