Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tegan & Sara's Heartthrob Out Today

Tegan & Sara's new album Heartthrob is out today.

Admittedly, what's been made public thus far is a poppier effort than their previous work, but if they're into more synths and programmed beats than guitars these days I won't be the one to say it's wrong.

It's been an interesting evolution to be sure. The indie darlings have paid their dues and making music that's a bit more accessible to the mainstream is fine. Hopefully it pays off, but even if it doesn't they still seem to be happy with what they're doing.

Below are two songs they performed acoustically for a Billboard session.

The first is the lead single from Heartthrob, the infectious "Closer" and the second is the Cyndi Lauper hit "Time After Time".

I'll be the first to admit I never really cared that much for Cyndi Lauper, but this version of "Time After Time" proves it's actually a legitimately good song once it's stripped of it's studio sheen and 80s pop aesthetic.

So check these performances out and enjoy Tegan & Sara's new album.

EDIT: For whatever reason, Billboard has made it damn near impossible to properly post the embed code for these videos. No matter how I do it, there's a duplicate of one video or another and logging in with my blogger account hasn't helped. Here's the original story on their website.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Super Bowl Pick By The Good Doctor

Editor’s Note: We once again welcome a new writer to our increasingly impressive collection of literary titans. It’s not entirely clear what W.T. Salisbury is a doctor of, but as his business card states he claims to be a, “Medical expert, filthy drunk and purveyor of cheap jokes”. Little is known of the man beyond his origins somewhere in Maryland. Rest assured, we shall monitor his output as best we can, but I’m generally opposed to censorship so some strange things are liable to sneak through. Whatever’s right.

By Dr. W.T. Salisbury

Few things in our culture represent America quite like the excesses of the Super Bowl.

From the moment the match-up is set until the final whistle, the spectacle of the thing overwhelms even the most diehard of football freaks.

It’s one enormous orgy of advertisements, flashing lights and celebrities all front and center with the backdrop of a football game.

There are so many commercials that the damn game takes over 4 hours. Bear in mind, studies have shown that football games have only about 11 minutes of actual action, the rest is just oversized athletes preening for the cameras and girding themselves to once again smash their bodies into one another with the force of a serious car crash.

Front and center will be that fair-haired idiot Roger Goodell. He’ll likely be preaching his hollow sermon about “safety” while expressing his concern for the behemoths poised to cripple themselves for our utter enjoyment behind him.

"Hmmmm $10,500 seems a reasonable fine for someone wearing their socks improperly."

It’s true, we’re no better than the Roman’s and their bloody coliseum, but at least they had the good sense to admit their bloodlust instead of hiding behind a fa├žade of caring about the fate of the gladiators.

But what about the game Doc? We need a prediction so we can take out a loan and go lay down some money.

Good heavens, the game! Right then, all you degenerate gamblers need to know who’ll win.

As you may know, I’m from Maryland, which means I’m naturally biased towards anything faintly smelling of crabmeat and old bay seasoning. That distinction may not apply to the Baltimore Ravens directly, but anything located that close to the Inner Harbor will no doubt pick up those scents in time.

Most of the talk surrounding the Ravens has been centered on terrifying veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, who will allegedly retire after the game.

People who dislike him will often point to his involvement in that murder investigation years ago, which is fine.

The truth is, whether he killed someone or lied is immaterial because he’s just a hired assassin like all the other brutes on Sundays so who cares?

Great for crabs, shrimp, chicken...one of these meats is not like the other ones!

These are dangerous people trained to be as violent as possible and revered for these traits by the masses. You can understand if they struggle to separate football from life on the street on occasion. Besides, it makes for juicy storylines and God knows we need as many as possible.

Lewis and his vicious defense have actually lost a step or two and pale slightly to the juggernaut stoppers on the 49ers. But make no mistake, they are still quite good, and San Francisco’s first year accidental starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick has plenty to fear.

The Raven’s quarterback Joe Flacco is decidedly mediocre, oscillating between stupendous and incompetent, but all he really has to do is hand the ball off and not throw to the gold helmets. 

It’s similar to what Kaepernick will be asked to do. Both will be treated by their coaches with kid gloves, but the defenses will do their best to turn them into human hamburger.

Right. So who will win you filthy idiot?!

I have to side with my bias in this case, but never EVER disregard the gut.

Both tell me that the Ravens will edge out the 49ers in a grimy, unfulfilling game next Sunday.

We’ll all be entertained like the jackals we are and there may even be some iconic plays during the game, but it will be a slog. 

Caw CAAAAW!!! Gaudy yet prophetic? 

I see Baltimore on top 26-22 for the record.

So enjoy the chicken wings and beer….oh, and the game!

Just don’t overdo it on the old bay seasoning. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Everything I Need to Know About Women I’ve Learned from Baseball

Editor's Note: Today, we welcome our newest writer to the fold, my (Justin) long-time friend Nick Badinelli. His interest in writing has recently been re-sparked and I was eager to have his bizarre, challenging and sometimes perhaps upsetting views and unique writing style become a part of Stars & Slights. It's a new year and this is the first of many efforts we'll make to continue to improve and expand our little operation. I hope you enjoy, and as always questions, comments and insults are appreciated.

By Nick Badinelli

Women are a mystery. They have been for the better part of human existence. Their thoughts, motivations, and most frustratingly, their emotions, have been the source of near constant speculation and confusion for the more animalistic sex.  

To my knowledge, no man has ever cracked their code and “understood” the fairer sex. That being said, I will graciously admit that the following attempt to derive meaningful conclusions about women from the game of baseball, will in large part be complete bullshit. I caution you however, to read it in its entirety as I plan for this bullshit to be of the utmost quality. 

Baseball. It’s a game of millimeters in which winning and losing is decided by the most minute factors.  Many times a player will find himself standing on the field wondering how the game got away from him in the final few outs of the 9th inning. The player stands, dumbstruck, attempting to learn a lesson from the events that most recently befell him.  

Men often find themselves, after a failed attempt in pursuit of women, just as lost and searching for answers. Like the ballplayer standing upon the grass, the answers lie between the foul poles. Analyzing the game of baseball will provide the answers, and will better prepare a man to play to win before the first pitch of the next game. 

The nature of the game, and its required attention to minor details, make it a perfect construct for explaining female behavior and subsequently mans ability to understand it enough to play ball. There are two distinct facets in baseball, as with most sports, that mirror relationships with desirable effect:  Offense and Defense.

Offense. This tends to be the primary focus for man in most matters. Whether in sport, or real life, man strives to dominate, destroy, and conquer. Its importance cannot be understated. Without offense, you can never “win” the game, only keep it going as long as possible.  

"This field, this game...There's a lot of wisdom here Ray."

When it comes to Women, a lack of offense will land you in the friend zone by the 5th inning. While a late surge of offense can still result in a win, the opportunities become fewer and farther between.  Especially when she starts throwing relief and closing pitchers with swooping curves and blazing fastballs. Don’t take a chance with late breaks,  score early and as often as possible from the get go.  Offense is broken down into the following categories. Preparation, Timing, Plate Discipline, and Base running.

Preparation. Always be ready. If you’re not prepared she’ll know exactly what pitches to throw to keep you at bay. It’s critical to keep this from happening. The best way to do this requires the same swagger it takes to hit a ball. Stand in there, stare her right in the eyes, and let the confidence ooze from every pore. Go ahead and put a lil' wiggle on the bat to let her know you’ve got style to couple with that confidence. Throw on a nice shirt, smell good, and make sure you’ve brought the right equipment: watches, sunglasses, a cool phone, etc. Its important the pitcher gets the impression that you know what you’re doing. Once everything is in place, its time to swing.

Timing. Timing is everything. You swing too early or too late and you’ll either miss the ball completely or awkwardly hit it in a less than desirable direction. Good timing has everything to do with hitting the ball directly over the plate to ensure solid, impressionable contact.  

When it comes to women, timing can make or break your chances of getting on base. Look for scenarios in which something has changed. For example; she just got out of a bad relationship, she’s hurting, and looking for someone to fill the man sized hole in her heart. Another, opposite, example could be she just got a new job, everything is going well, and she’s in search of someone to make it even better.  

If you find yourself presented with such opportunity, get your feet set, dig in and wait for just the right pitch.

Plate Discipline. You’re now prepared, you’re looking good, you’re confident, and she’s presented you with a golden opportunity for success. She is going to start throwing you pitches, also known as flirting.  As a hitter, this is the start of the nitty gritty of your plate appearance. She’ll likely lead off with fastballs, i.e. what’s your name, what do you do?  

While you may be tempted to go ahead and try to tag one over the center field wall, hold off in the early innings of the game. You’re gonna want her to throw a lot of pitches and expose her defensive weaponry so you can best determine when to make your move, ensuring the greatest chance of success. If she’s a talented pitcher, you may want to play some small ball, use your teammates, and just focus on getting on base. A savvy pitcher is going to throw what she hopes will get you off balance and force you into making mistakes.  

You don't always have to launch one into the seats Larry.

For example, don’t try to smash a 3-2 curveball off the outside part of the plate over the left field wall. Hit the ball where it’s pitched. If she won’t put that fastball middle-in to set you up for the Yahtzee shot to center, get on base and wear her down slowly. 

This is a good time to focus on the team aspect of the game. When you’re forced to play small ball, let your friends bat you around. Once you reach the relative safety of first base, a teammate’s offensive production will still foster success as you are already the lead runner and closest to scoring. It's OK to bat for average.  

Swinging for the fences may provide a satisfactory amount of runs for most men, but expect to strike out more often than not. Not every at bat will produce runs, but it’s a nine inning game with potential to go into infinite innings, i.e. marriage.  So wait for the right pitch and make the best of each at bat….and avoid extra innings as it will leave you tired, battered and broken.

Base running. Once you find yourself on base, and you’re allowing your teammates to attempt to bat you in, you still have a job to do.  

It’s important to keep the attention of the pitcher on yourself as a base runner. Don’t let her focus on the next batter, she needs to know that she’s still at risk of letting you round the base paths and making it home. Get a good lead to start. Before she begins pitching to your teammate, let her think she can still get you out at first. 

It’s vitally important at this point to be sure you can safely get back to first if she tries to catch you off guard and send your ass to the bench. Once you’ve established your presence on base, and she’s well aware that you only intend to advance, it may be time to attempt a steal.  

You’re gonna need to stretch that lead out a little further and get ready to make your move. Wait until the right pitch when you know she’s shifted her focus away from you for a moment.  That’s when you make your break. If your timing is right, and you manage to catch her off guard, you’ll easily progress to the next base without much of a fight. With any luck, her teammate will overthrow the base, and grant you an opportunity to steal two at a time.  If she and her team make enough errors, you may even find yourself lucky enough to steal home. However, do not get over zealous.  

You can quickly find yourself in a pickle and next thing you know shes got her whole team blocking any chance of advancement, or possibility of returning safely back to the previous base. The result of which is offensive failure coupled with a bolstering in confidence for her and her defense. It takes a hell of a base runner to get out of a pickle.  

Defense. The defensive side of the game is less complicated due to the nature of relationships in our society. Men more often than not are forced to focus primarily on offense due to the prowess of the female defense. That being said, defense is crucially important. Without it, even if you’re a slugger, she can put together enough offense to negate your efforts.  

If that’s the case, you may find yourself in a really high scoring, absolute mess of an extra inning game… a tragedy truly avoidable with good defense. Defense can be broken down into two major categories, pitching and fielding.

Pitching. Once you’ve scored a few runs you’ll want to protect your lead, and ideally, throw the best game you can for posterity. A win is a win is a win, however, perfect games go down in history. Keep her off balance. Work inside and out, and don’t throw her anything she can hit over the wall. Keep it simple and throw nice safe pitches.  

"You don't respect yourself, which is your problem. But you don't respect the game and that's my problem."

Its imperative to protect your lead and keep the hittable pitches to a minimum. Don’t give her the opportunity to gain the upper hand. Don’t let her in your head. If a hitter gets in your head she’ll move in up there and start rearranging furniture and throwing out your favorite things.  Keep that door locked tight. Remaining a mystery will help ensure you don’t have to call in early relief and take yourself out of the game.  If you’re going to give her a fastball, place it low and on a distant corner and Keep your curveballs in the dirt....Basically, don’t say I love you unless you’re drunk!  

Fielding. This is not important for personal success. Fielding better illustrates what it means to be a good wingman or teammate. If your pitcher throws a ball that gets hit, you do everything you can to make sure that she doesn’t get on base and get the upper hand on your boy. It’s your job in the field to make sure your teammate keeps his ERA to a minimum.  

If she gets on base, its better for the pitcher that it’s because you booted the ball. It’s also important to keep errors to a minimum as every good pitcher has lost a game or two due to the other 8 players on the field. Make the play however you can. Be smooth, quick, and fluid in your efforts. You’re the last line of defense. Play like a gold glover.

The ballplayer mentioned previously, the one dumbstruck and disheveled, unable to walk off the field and move on to the next game, has finally made it to the locker room. He pulls his copy of this piece from his bag, and reads it through, as he does after every game, and reviews his keys for success. He re-commits to offensive prowess and defensive synergy. He’s ready for tomorrow's first pitch. As he hits the showers a smile creeps across his face and he mutters under his breath..."Play Ball."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Assessing Virginia Tech's New Football Coaches

This season, for the first time in two decades, Virginia Tech football was downright mediocre, so it was perfectly logical that the first coaching staff overhaul since 1992 would follow suit.

Back then, Frank Beamer was on the ropes after a 2-8-1 season and only kept his job after he let several of his assistant coaches go.

Jump to present day and there aren't many calling for Beamer's job—though there are some, which is mind-numbing.

Loyalty simply has its limits, and as Frank creeps further into his late sixties, he realizes he only has so many chances left at winning that elusive national championship.

Granted, it's been painfully obvious to most observers for about a decade that the offensive "system" in Blacksburg just wasn't cutting it, but at least change is finally afoot.

Still, change for the sake of change helps no one. So let's take a look at the three new coaches headed to the 540.

Scot Loeffler- Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach

Bryan Stinespring has finally been relieved of OC duties, being reassigned to recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach. That brings to town Scot Loeffler (LEFF-ler). 

Loeffler has an impressive track record of tutoring quarterbacks and his references are even better. He's helped send six QBs to the NFL, including Tom Brady, Brian Griese and yes even Timmy Tebow. 

He came highly recommended to Beamer by coaches like current Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and former Michigan head man Lloyd Carr. 

The only knock on Loeffler is that he has very little experience as an offensive coordinator.

He was the OC at Temple in 2011 when the Owls finished 9-4 and ranked 7th in the nation in rushing offense. Last year he went to Auburn where the offense—and everything else—struggled greatly.

The Tigers finished 115th in total offense and 112th in scoring out of 120 FBS teams.

The good news is, I think those issues are more indicative of Auburn's overall struggles under Gene Chizik. He wasn't a very good coach, he just got Cam Newton to go to Auburn under let's say, dubious circumstances, and parlayed that into a national championship.

Loeffler and the other new coaches are all young guys, (Scot is 38) yet he's amassed 15 years of coaching in the NFL and college.

Jeff Grimes- Offensive Line

Yes another coach from an unsuccessful offense, but one whose unit was a bright spot. 

Tre Mason rushed for over 1,000 yards as a sophomore in the SEC, and while the offense struggled in many facets a lot of that had to do with the quarterback play. 

The Tigers leading passer threw for 753 yards and the inconsistent play at that position led to high sacks allowed and tackles for loss numbers. 

Grimes was at Auburn since 2009 so he was there for the national championship run when the team set a myriad of school records on offense. 

He's also spent time at Colorado, Arizona State, BYU and Boise State. Grimes has helped send a number of players to the NFL and seems like he has the right mindset to restore the nastiness up front that was sorely lacking on the last few Hokie offensive lines.

Again, here's another young guy (43) who brings youth and energy to Beamer's staff. 

Aaron Moorehead- Wide Receivers

Moorehead is by far the youngest of the new coaches at just 32 years old and comes to Tech after having some success at Stanford.

Word is, he came highly recommended by former Stanford OC Pep Hamilton who interviewed for Tech's offensive coordinator slot before taking the same position with the Indianapolis Colts.

Moorehead played at Illinois before transitioning to the NFL where he earned a Super Bowl ring during his five seasons with the Colts.

Again, young, energetic and knows how to use Twitter. That sounds outrageous, but when your head coach is an old man who said a few years ago that he doesn't even know how to "log on" to the Internet, that's a big deal.

That's especially true given the new NCAA rules that will for some reason allow unlimited contact with recruits via private messages on Twitter and other social media as well as text messages.

Also, a young guy with three BCS bowl appearances and a Super Bowl ring will certainly not hurt when attempting to relate to recruits.


On the whole, I think these are good moves. It's an upgrade on the offensive line and at coordinator, and time will tell on the young receivers coach. The Hokies managed to keep their best recruiter (Stinespring) while also getting him away from the offensive game planning.

What more could you want??

Now will the results be immediate? Probably not. I could see the o-line coming in with a different mindset and maybe some new technique, but you can't develop players there in just a few months.

The offense will likely be a work in progress. Loeffler supposedly runs a complicated system. That doesn't mean lots of plays—New York Giants running back David Wilson said this season that his playbook at Tech had more plays than his with the NYG—it means lots of adjustments within those plays.

Make the correct reads at the line, adjust your protection and routes and BOOM touchdown! (said in Madden voice).

The biggest difference will hopefully be with Logan Thomas. He needs some help to realize his potential and he understands that, which is why he returned for his senior season. If he can refine his technique and learns this new system well enough, Tech can have a nice season and the problems can start to turn around.

It won't be overnight, but we'll all sleep better knowing Frank Beamer finally made the tough decision to make sweeping changes.

Few will sleep better than Bud Foster.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Notre Dame v. Alabama Live Blog

8:20 PM- Things are about to kick off. I'll add thoughts as they come up.

8:22- I'm picking Alabama to win a close one.

8:27-Brian is on the scene in person. I'm sure he's currently a nervous wreck. ND wins toss and defers. Boring. Bama ball to start.

8:35- Eddie Lacy with a 20-yard touchdown run. 7-0 Alabama. 12:03 1st qtr. Bama offense looks strong.

Eddie Lacy has three carries for 31 yards so far. 

8:51- A.J. McCarron is a smooth operator. The Bama O-line is handling the Irish Defense both running and passing.

8:53- play-action touchdown pass Bama 14-0 6:14 1st qtr.

8:58- If This Notre Dame fumble stands, that might be it, but I don't think it should.

9:04- They kept the ball but couldn't move it. ND must punt.

9:06- I actually didn't know what A.J. McCarron's girlfriend Katherine Webb is Miss Alabama.

9:11- First quarter is over at 14-0 Bama and they're at the goal line poised for another six. Awful start for the Irish. 

9:15-Touchdown for Bama 14:56 2 qtr. Pure domination folks. Didn't really see this coming. Score next drive is crucial for ND.

9:16- 203 total yards for Alabama 23 for Notre Dame

9:19-Probably a good call to go for the 4th down. Not sure about the deep pass though.

9:27-Irish D finally has a nice drive, then they muff the punt.

10:11- Sorry. Missed the last touchdown. 28-0 is a grade a whoopin'. Good halftime music by the ND band at least.

10:27- Haha Clinton-Dix has easily one of the best names in college football, and he has a devastating interception here.

10:51- At least it isn't a shut out anymore. 35-7 Alabama on top after the Golson touchdown run. Bad game.

11:28- Just time to let this one die at 42-14. For some reason Alabama's offense is very upset.

11:30- "Barrett Jones, A.J. McCarron...a lover's quarrel!" -Brent Musberger


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