Monday, December 26, 2011

Music for the Ages?

The Czarina and I have been discussing popular music lately.  The concert featuring the Beatles tribute band a couple of weeks ago sparked this ongoing disagreement.  I believe that the songs created by The Beatles will be played in the decades and centuries to come.  Songs like "Yesterday, "Something," "Help," and even "She Loves You" have a polished quality and even joy that are difficult to shake.  The Czarina disagrees.

She maintains that The Beatles will never stay with us the way music created by Beethoven, Bach and Mozart has.  The Czarina believes that modern pop music is simply too simple to have the staying power that these giants of classical music created.  I understand where she's coming from.  A three minute pop song pales when you listen to the works of a master composer.  But I think she's missing the mark.

I think great popular music, whether it came from the 20's (Irving Berlin), the 30's (Benny Goodman or Glen Miller), the 50's (Hank Williams) and on through the years will always have a place in the musical lexicon that has yet to come.  The discussion gained added energy when because of one of my Christmas presents.  I received the box set of U2's "Achtung Baby", the Irish bands mind blowing album that opened the 1990's.

I hadn't cared much for U2 at all until I went to see them live on their Zoo TV tour in 1991 at Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium.  It was one of the great concert moments of my live.  Not only was it an overwhelming experience for the eyes and ears but something about the band captured my heart.  In that massive stadium they managed to reach into my soul and connect in a way that I hadn't experienced musically except on very rare occasions. 

As much as I love Bob Dylan and I've seen him more than a dozen times he's never come close to doing what they did that night.  Neil Young's done it only once in the more than half dozen times I've seen him live.  I can only name four or five times where I've been completely blown away at a concert.

U2 is one of those bands like The Beatles that I think will survive the passage of time.  The Czarina disagrees.  Modern music, whether it's Dylan or Springsteen, Neil Young, or ABBA, lacks the complexity in her mind to reach across the years.  I don't know about you but I can't see going out on a run while listening to Beethoven's 9th.  But an hour or so on the roads with U2 is a completely different matter.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Black Hole That Is Thomas Robinson

Thomas Robinson is a great basketball player.  However, if he continues to play the way he is playing Kansas will lose a half dozen games or more before we even hit March Madness.  When he gets frustrated he saunters back on defense.  It's happened more times than I care to count this season.  On offense when the ball goes into the low post to him it disappears.  Time and again he misses the opportunity to hit the wing man for the three.  He's an incredibly selfish player.

It made me think back to another player who was the centerpiece of a Kansas team that lacked depth and complimentary players who could score.  I had to go back 40 years.  What I'm seeing this season reminds me a lot of another Kansas junior with All-American credentials.

The 1969-70 Jayhawks featured a slick shooting left hander from Illinois who could rebound all night long.  Dave Robisch reminds me a lot of Thomas Robinson.  Robisch was a better outside shooter but Robinson is a much more dominating interior player.  Robisch had ungodly stats his junior year.  He averaged more than 25 points a game and double digits in rebounds.  But that Kansas team was mediocre.  Part of it I think was because Robisch was selfish player.  Part of it was the lack of maturity on that team, a lot like this year's version of the Jayhawks.

Ironically in his senior year Robisch shot less and got a lot more support from his teammates.  Other than the addition of couple of pretty decent sophomores, big man Randy Canfield and long range bomber Mark Williams, Robisch had the same supporting cast.  But Bud Stallworth became a dynamic shooting small forward and center Roger Brown made major strides offensively.  That team went to the Final 4 losing only one game during until they ran into UCLA in the semi-finals.  Robisch went on to enjoy a long NBA career.

The best part of tonight's USC game was when Bill Self sat Robinson for about four minutes after he jogged down court letting his man slip free for an easy layup at the other end.  I'd rather watch Kevin Young flail around and hustle than watch T-Rob pout.  Granted, Robinson's endured more than any college junior should have to suffer with the loss of his mother and grandmother in the last year, but it's time for him to grow up on the court.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Night Out

With my birthday approaching it seemed that some fun was in order.  I pondered running in a Sunday marathon in Cape Coral but the thought of spending two or three days in complete misery wasn't all that appealing.  Then an email landed in my in box mid-week reminding me that Rain was playing at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall on Saturday.
I figured it would be fun for the Czarina so I decided to surprise her with a night of Beatles music.  We had seen Strawberry Fields, another Beatles tribute band, in New York City three years ago.  She enjoyed that show but then again the Czarina loves live music of almost any kind.

The show brought back a flood of memories.  I can remember the Fab Four's first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  I was glued to the TV for each and everyone of their appearances.  I also remember their performance of "Hey Jude" on the Smothers Brothers Show. 

That song in particular brings back a flood of memories.  I can remember driving with my cousin Mike Hendon in the late summer of 1968.  We were in his Mustang heading out to another cousin's farm.  Mike was babbling along about the newest Beatles single "Hey Jude" when just outside of the tiny town of Enterprise it appeared as if by magic on the radio.  You have to understand hearing Beatles music over the radio in North Central Kansas was a rarity to begin with because the airwaves were dominated by country.  This stunning seven minute plus song was mind blowing.

Sitting in the concert hall hearing that song along with more than 90 minutes of magic caused my mind to drift to my family and the role this music had played in my life.  For the Czarina some of what we heard wasn't familiar to her.  Growing up in the Soviet Union she didn't hear much Beatles music until the band had already broken up.  It was the forbidden fruit that she would come across on the radio as she searched out foreign radio stations which could blast through the Soviet efforts to block the signals.

It was a great way to spend a Saturday night.  Plus it was a hell of a lot less painful than running a marathon.  The show was almost as good as Beatlemania which I saw almost 30 years ago in Kansas City's Uptown Theater.  But then again it's hard to go wrong with a night of Beatles music. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Child Abuse

The Czarina didn't watch much television at all during the first six years or so of our marriage.  Then she started watching American Idol and that sort of threw the barn door open.  Now she watches The Biggest Loser, The Amazing Race and the new FOX show XFactor.  I don't care that she watches these shows except for the fact that the Czarina expects me to watch them with her.

I must admit I like The Biggest Loser and The Amazing Race.  But I don't have much use for either of the FOX shows.  I don't like the idea of finding stars by letting TV audiences vote for singers, many with dubious talent.

Tonight only confirmed my worst feelings for these singing crap fests.  What happened to Rachel Crow tonight was akin to child abuse.  A 13 year old girl shouldn't be put up before a national television audience in that manner and made to suffer.  Watching Drew get voted off last week was painful enough but this week's spectacle topped that slice of television agony.

American Idol has an age limit and now I think so for good reason.  I'm not sure anyone under 16 is equipped to go through what Rachel Crow just experienced.  Adolescents shouldn't be exploited in this way.  But I have to admit, the end of XFactor made for some great television.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Getting older is not without consequences.  My legs on Sunday felt the way they used to after the first session of intervals on the track in spikes during high school cross country.  My calves were sore and my legs were just beat in general. 

My dearly departed coach Tom Dowling used to equate training to making a deposit in the bank.  Racing always required withdrawing some of those deposits. The difference is then I used to incorporate some speed work, whether it was repeat miles on the roads or 400's on the track during the course of that training along with some fast tempo runs.  After Saturday's race I've come to realize that I need change some things up if I want to keep racing because I'm still paying the price.

Monday's run wasn't much better than Sunday's with the calves still barking throughout the course of my five mile slog.  Today the leg's were no longer sore but certainly felt heavy.  During the seven plus miles I put in I pondered the necessity of time trials and tempo runs.  I have ruled out in interval training because this a guaranteed injury.  Besides my neighbor who started running about six months ago stopped by the house this evening to complain about a groin strain.  He was out running 100 meter sprints with his son.  This guy is just about six years younger than me.  I pointed out to him all out sprints at our age is a recipe for disaster. 

But I must point out that six months the neighbor's gone from a 29 minute 5K to mid-22's.  That's not bad for a novice master runner.  It looks like I've got a little competition just around the corner!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

River Run

I can’t remember the last time I went an entire year without running at least one race.  In fact, I’d be willing to bet that I’ve run at least one race every year since 1971 when I started running track at South Junior High.  I’ve had a couple of years where I ran only one or two races but I’ve always managed to sneak one in regardless of my conditioning.

The last time I laced up my racing shoes was a year ago.  I ran a leg for a relay team at the California International Marathon.  I wasn’t in the best of shape then having been beaten up from the St. George Marathon which dampened my enthusiasm for training.  Despite my poor condition and 8 miles of rolling hills I managed to help my team to a victory.

With only four weeks of racing left I figured it was time to give it a go and a popular 10K this weekend seemed as good a time as any.  I had no idea where my fitness level stood.  Since moving back from California I had enjoyed five months of decent training.  Problem is out of those 800 or so miles of training less than a dozen of those miles clocked in under 8 minute per mile pace.  I had serious doubts as to whether I could even break 50 minutes for a 10K.

The Czarina who had shown an absolute lack of interest in racing helped seal the deal by deciding to join me in getting up at the crack of dawn to give it a go.  90 percent of the races around here are pancake flat.  This race traverses two of the bridges that span the Caloosahatchee River which meant we’d actually have to run up a couple of major hills.  Given my sketchy hip I had no idea how it or my right hamstring would react to the hills.

The gun went off at 8 a.m. and I decided to keep an eye on one particular runner in my age group who I always beat but is never very far behind me.  The year before he had run around 48 minutes so I figured it would be best to start out behind him and pace myself off of his effort.  He opened up about 30 yards on me in the first quarter mile but by 1 mile I was just 10 feet behind him rolling along at an easy feeling 7:30 pace.
Before we headed up the first bridge I scooted on by him and decided to concentrate on reeling in runners while making sure I stayed within my comfort zone.  Over the next 5 miles I caught 30 or so runners.  Two caught and passed me but one I reeled in over the last quarter mile. 
More importantly I ran an even pace throughout the entire race and even caught one of the top women masters competitors who I had never beaten before.  When all was said and done I hit the finish line in 46:45, a good minute or so faster than I thought I could run.  I feel one spot short of an age group award but I was a good 90 seconds behind him.
The Czarina came rolling in more than 10 minutes later looking no worse for wear.  Surprisingly she didn’t earn an age group award.  One of her rivals beat her to the finish line by a mere 30 yards but the Czarina was in good spirits just the same.  It was her first race since St. George, more than 14 months ago. So we’ve got one under the belt and a whole winter and spring of racing ahead.