Saturday, February 28, 2015

Dishing Out Some Spoon

This is part of why I really dig me some Gheorghe.
Personal thoughts on music, as on any form of art, are to be taken with salt grains.  So goes the crude adage on opinions.  I read rock and roll reviews all too often, and more often than not they're onanistic drivel. (Adding a huge caveasterisk to this entire post.)

And then there's Gheorghe.  (And then there's Maude.)  By now I have come to know those among you scribes with musical tastes that approximate my own.  And even the Gheorghies with different leanings make me at least want to sample your recs.

TR's selections are usually within my area code of favorites, if not my ZIP code.  Although we don't always jibe about our jive (he was luke on KoL's Because of the Times excepting "Fans," whereas I liked it quite a bit and would rank "On Call," "Knocked Up," and especially "Ragoo" above "Fans"), most of what he tells me to hear, I enjoy.

Which is why I raised an eyebrow when he gave a vigorous shout-out to Spoon's 2014 effort, They Want My Soul.  I had somewhat passed it by after a handful of listens last year.  "Inside Out" I dismissed, "Do You" I liked fairly well until SiriusXM drove it into the ground last summer, and "Rainy Taxi" was a finalist for 20 for 2014 (x 2) inclusion but fell short.  Eh.

It may have stemmed from a disappointing show I took in at the amazingly great Outside Lands Festival in August.  They had the short straw of an early-in-the-day, drizzly weather, not crowded, largest stage time slot.  And let's face it, I had a wicked hangover, so I wasn't in fine fan form.  The set was absent a few of my favorites, and it just wasn't what I had hoped it would be. 

Subsequently, and maybe because of that, I didn't wriggle out of an obligation in September, thereby missing their show in my town.  Big mistake, I now think.  Overall, my penchant for all things Spoon (except for Spoonerisms and spooning) was on the wane.  But now, thanks to TR's praise, I'm revisiting TWMS.  (Acronym!) I haven't vaulted it to the top of the list, but I'm workin' on it.

Here's why I have such lofty expectations for new Spoon releases.  I've assembled a list of my Top 20 Spoon tunes (Spunes?), counting down to my most liked even though the numbering goes up.  (I don't know.)

I first heard the band in 2000 when a fellow W&M alum and DC neighbor (former cheerleader) told me to give it a spin.  And the first Spoon song I ever heard is still my favorite one.

A few quick facts about the band as you listen:
  • They were formed in Austin in the early 1990's -- before the town became a hip, hip place like Seatthens.
  • They named themselves after the song "Spoon" by the German band Can.  Which I don't love.
  • Their tunes comprise much of the soundtrack to the 2006 Will Ferrell/Maggie Gyllenhaal film Stranger Than Fiction.  Which I do love.  Especially her.
  • Lead singer Britt Daniel also fronts the band Divine Fits.
Okay, good people.  Enjoy some Spoon. Especially you, TR.

Friday, February 27, 2015

More Non-Filler! Girl vs. Death Squad

Things are humming along right now at Greasetruck Studios: I've upgraded my DAW software and my operating system-- Sonar Professional and Windows 8, respectively-- and I've replaced some essential equipment . . . both my digital/audio converter and my MIDI drum machine died in the span of a week, but fortunately this tragedy occurred in the general vicinity of my birthday (which gave me license to buy some stuff).

I'm doing something really weird and retro: working on a collection of songs that are vaguely related, both sonically and thematically . . . I think they used to call this an album (or, even worse, a double album . . . which is generally the kiss of death for a band; e.g. Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion and Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness).

My goal is to record ten good songs, and insert a few musical monologues in between the main tracks (I love musical monologues). I've got an awesomely phenomenal new name for my project: Slouching Beast. Sounds cool, conveys the way I feel most days, and contains a literary allusion . . . so it covers all the bases.

If anyone wants to collaborate (Clarence . . . vocals? Rob . . . rubber whale? Teej . . . groupie?) head on up to Jersey. People from Jersey need not "head on up," you can just get on the Turnpike and "head on over."

Here is the first track-- it is inspired by all the Mexican drug cartel stuff I read last summer.

I met a girl, I really liked her.
Thought it was going somewhere.

But she was with the revolution.
I didn't know she cared.

So when the death squads came,
what could I do?

You would have done the same--
step in my shoes.

Call me a coward, call me a snitch--
but when the death squads come,
you'll be their bitch, too, 
yeah you.

I met a girl, I kind of liked her,
but she wasn't all that.

When times are tough
you've got to think quick.
You've got to learn to adapt.

So when the death squads come
what will you do?

Look out for number one, not number two.

Call me a coward, call me a snitch--
but when the death squads come
you'll be their bitch, too, 
yeah you.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

This Week in Wrenball: The Greatest

The record came calmly and quietly, at the foul line, with an easy, fluid motion honed and perfected over thousands of hours of practice. That’s Marcus Thornton. 

What led to the record-breaking free throw was also Marcus Thornton. Movement, recognition, an open lane to the basket. An explosive, almost violent dunk attempt that would impose his will on the game, that would provide one more memorable moment in a career full of them.

In somewhat typically Gheorghian fashion, we wrote our farewell appreciation of Marcus Thornton back in December. So we won't rehash it in painstaking detail this morning, twelve hours after a first-half free throw against Towson gave him 2,053 career points and broke the nation's longest-standing career scoring record. If you're into the details, we commend to you Dave Fairbank's gamer (which includes the quote above), which will tell you that Thornton scored 23, but junior do-everything wing Terry Tarpey dropped 24, grabbed 13 boards, blocked 5 shots, and recorded 3 steals and as many assists in W&M's 65-50 win. (While you're at it, you should read Fairbank's feature on Chet Giermak, who held W&M's career scoring mark for 65 years.)

I really like listening to W&M coach Tony Shaver talk about Marcus, because his love and admiration for William & Mary's greatest-ever basketball player is evident. The words are one thing: “I’m just really proud for Marcus,” Shaver said. “I mean, this is not about him and I think our team really understands that. But I am happy for him. He’s helped take this program to a new level, and he deserves it. He works so hard. I’ve never coached a player who spends as much time in the gym as Marcus – ever.”

But watch Shaver's face, and listen to the tone of his voice. Makes you proud to have had the opportunity to watch Thornton wear green and gold for four years.

Those four years are nearly at end, that skinny hyper-kinetic kid replaced by a still-lean, coiled, explosive yet controlled veteran. Saturday marks the final home game of Thornton's decorated Tribe career. While he'll justifiably receive the loudest cheers from the Kaplan Arena crowd, the entire team still has work to do.

With a win against a depleted Drexel squad, missing its best player, CAA Player of the Year candidate Damion Lee, W&M will clinch its first-ever CAA championship. Sure, they'll likely share that honor with at least one other school (UNCW and Northeastern are good bets to finish with the same record), but the Wrens hold all the tiebreaker advantages. The win would give the Tribe the top seed in next weekend' CAA Tournament, and advance them to at least the NIT.

Miles to go before they sleep, then. And Marcus Thornton's great promise to keep.
Late update:

Here's a great video of the point that broke the record. Voiceover from Tribe radio play by play man Jay Colley, and a terrific shot of Thornton's parents. Check out the smile on Marcus' face after he was fouled on a dunk attempt that would've made SportsCenter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The G:TB Review of Books: Hinkle Fieldhouse: Indiana's Basketball Cathedral

Eric Angevine is a proud member of the CAA diaspora, his ODU Monarchs now a part of some far-flung conference that isn't Virginia-based. One of the proprietors of the late, lamented Storming the Floor blog (which remains intact on tumblr), we first connected with him over a shared affinity for CAA hoops. He even published a long, whingey piece we wrote on W&M basketball's historical 'achievements' back in 2008 (lost, sadly, to the sands of time - trust me, it was pretty great).

He's also the author of Hinkle Fieldhouse: Indiana's Basketball Cathedral, which will be released on March 2 as a part of Arcadia Publishing's Landmarks series.

Angevine's written about college basketball for, CBS, NBC, and a number of other generally more reputable outlets than ours, but we're pleased and grateful that he spent a generous amount of time answering our moronic questions about his new book. We're told that we're important in reaching the jackass demographic, so we're happy to help. G:TB's questions in bold, with Eric's answers following. Probably should've given the guest of honor the bold-type treatment, I guess:

Hinkle's obviously one of the great cathedrals of college hoops, but there are certainly others. What convinced you to choose Hinkle as the subject of a book? 

This was actually almost a case of the butterfly effect. Back in 2010, before Butler had been to the Final Four, I was freelancing for ESPN, and the Final Four was going to be in Lucas Oil Stadium. I had always wanted to see Hinkle, so I proposed making a trip there and making it do double duty: I'd write about Lucas Oil for one article and Hinkle in another. As it turned out, Butler was the big story that year, and both articles got a lot of views and were re-run a couple of times. So, when the History Press was looking for someone to write this book, and all the reputable writers had said no, they found my articles and asked me if I'd do it. I said hell yes.

In retrospect, there are things about Hinkle that make it an ideal subject for this kind of book. Tony Hinkle as the sort of human embodiment of the athletic program for decades gives it a through-line. The single-class high school basketball tournament being played there allowed me to write about players like George McGinnis, Oscar Robertson, John Wooden, and others who never suited up for Butler. And the building hosted presidential speeches frequently, so that gave me a lot to write about.

What's the relationship between the Butler student body/community and Hinkle? Do they revere it, or is it just another building on campus? 

It's a very tight bond. There are only around 2,000 students at Butler, so you could put every one of them in the building on game day and still have room for all of the alumni and fans who want to attend. The fieldhouse is also used as classroom space and the school's commencement is held there, so even those who might not love sports the way we do have a deep connection to it.

We know the Hoosiers story, and Butler's history at Hinkle. Since our producers haven't been able to procure an advance copy of the book for us to read and prepare questions, what was the most interesting story about the building that you uncovered in your research? Also, do you have any leads on producers, as we seem to need some?

Like you, I felt I had a pretty good grasp on the building's basketball legacy, so it was some of the other events that really drew me in as I researched them. In the 1930s, the building hosted a six-day bicycle race, which was apparently a huge deal back then. I spoke with a historian who really brought the event to life for me. I also loved getting volleyball legend Karch Kiraly on the phone to talk about the 1987 Pan Am Games, when he and his teammates faced off against Cuba during the cold war (though he said it was blazing hot inside un-air-conditioned Hinkle that summer).

Basketball-wise, the story that meant the most to me, and that I hope I got 100% right, is the story of Oscar Robertson and Crispus Attucks becoming the first segregated all-black team to win a state title. It happened the year after the Milan Miracle, and it didn't resonate as much with the state at large, so I felt it needed to be told and emphasized as an important historical event. (Note: this story is excerpted on NBC Sports Game Changers site.)

You have an undergraduate degree from Kansas (if we have our research right). Were you a big basketball fan before you made your first trip to Allen Fieldhouse, or was that formative for you? For those of us that have never attended a game in the Phog, give us a sense of what it's like to be part of 'Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk'.

I should have my degree from Kansas. I spent five years there but was defeated by Calculus. I went back to school at Old Dominion as an adult to finish up, which is how I stumbled into the bad part of town and met you losers. (Editor's note: Of COURSE we didn't have our research right. Probably Teejay's fault.)

HOWEVER, Kansas was THE formative influence in my reverence for college ball. I was a freshman in 1988 when Danny and the Miracles won it all. Prior to that season, I had a passing interest in the game, which was the annual talk of the town in Lawrence, of course. But that was the first time it really felt like my team, and I was hooked.

Allen Fieldhouse is an unusual structure. It's huge inside, but the acoustics are ideal. It gets loud. And the rock chalk chant is haunting as it echoes throughout the arena. As for how it feels? I got goose bumps just typing that sentence.

Obvious question here, perhaps, but you've now got a foundation from which to tackle other great collegiate hoops landmarks. Is that something that you're planning? What great old arena(s) interest you from a historical perspective? 

I actually sent a promo postcard to the staff at Williams Arena in Minneapolis with the note Got Next? That's a hidden gem that I've never been to, and I suspect I could find some good stories. My bucket list still includes The Pit in Albuquerque, Rose Hill Gym at Fordham, and Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, OK. Now that I have some publisher street cred, I would love to leverage it into more writing about old, possibly endangered venues.

Counting Michael Litos and Jerry Beach, we now know three authors of books about sports. Do you think you could take the other two in a game of '21'?

Oh, god, I just pictured that game in my head. There are no winners. I do have a sneaking suspicion that Litos cheats, so he'd probably win.

The book is subtitled, 'Indiana's Basketball Cathedral', and Hinkle had a close association with Indiana high school hoops for decades. How do people in the rest of the state view the building today? Is it considered part of the state's heritage, or now that Butler has ascended to a more national profile, does the rest of Indiana downplay the historical association?

It is a statewide point of pride for exactly the reason you mention. Just about every corner of the state can point to some local team or player who made his mark there. I wondered if younger generations had lost that reverence, since the high school game is no longer played there, but I spoke to Brandon Crone, who played for Butler under Todd Lickliter, and he assured me that the mystique was still present for his generation.

How does the gameday experience at Hinkle compare to other arenas you've visited? Are the soft pretzels there as bad as the ones Teejay and I ate at LaSalle's Gola Arena?

It's a fantastic gameday experience, because it starts feeling special as you're walking from your parking spot, and you see the building in the distance. Then you go inside and wander around and look at the historical displays in the corridors. There's no secret entrance to the floor, so you end up passing the team in the hallways. And I love the moment early in the game when the bulldog Trip runs across the floor and the student section gives him a massive rawhide chew toy to enjoy during the game.

In the old Hinkle, there was almost no room for concessions, and I don't remember anything they served being particularly special. Not sure if that's changed in the renovated space. But Trip usually shares the rawhide (not a euphemism) so I never get hungry.

Please tell us the book has pictures from the Sonja Henie Ice Show. Or at least a Mellencamp concert.

I wish. I keep hearing about some of these other events that happened there, but I could never find pictures.

When William and Mary makes the NCAA Tournament and plays Kansas in the first round, you'll be rooting for the Tribe, correct?

Incorrect. I know rooting for Kansas is like rooting for Darth Vader in some circles, but I grew up in Lawrence, so it'd be like rooting against my own childhood. However, I am a rational fan. When one of those small schools takes down the Jayhawks, I'm happy for them. I don't get the logic of being mad at another team for taking advantage of your own failures. And if it was the Wrens, I guarantee I'd be thrilled for them. I guess I could live with the fact that it would make you guys insufferable to be around.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sony Answers Back

The last time I posted about Jack Urbont I described his motion for summary judgment. Sony recently replied to that motion and made their own motion for summary judgment presenting two basic arguments. First, Sony asserts that Mr. Urbont does not own the copyright to the Iron Man Theme because it was a work for hire and thus Marvel Comics owns it. Second, Sony asserts that the Iron Man Theme is not a "sound recording" under the Copyright Act of 1976 and thus Mr. Urbont's state law claims are preempted. In either event, Mr. Urbont lacks standing to sue, according to Sony.

In support of all this, Sony submitted a "counter-statement of material facts" to combat some of Mr. Urbont's assertions, a bunch of exhibits, and a declaration from one of their in-house lawyers. It's the same lawyer who said he didn't know that Robert Diggs is the RZA. Interestingly, his declaration says that he has "personal knowledge of the fact[]" that "Robert Diggs ... is also professionally known as 'RZA,' ...." I guess he learned that during or after his deposition.

Anyway, Sony's first argument goes like this: there's a test for whether a copyrighted work is a "work for hire," and facts surrounding the creation of the Iron Man Theme satisfy that test, so Marvel owns the copyright not Mr. Urbont. The only reason Mr. Urbont made the song (and six others--four more superhero themes and two generic Marvel-related ditties, more on them later), according to Sony, is because Marvel asked him to. He had no idea who any of these characters were before Marvel contacted him and send him some comics to read as background, and he would not have done so absent Marvel's offer to pay him to write the songs. Marvel paid Mr. Urbont a fixed sum of $3000 to write and record the song and Mr. Ubont did not retain any royalty rights. So far so good ... but then it gets a little murky.

Sony argues that Mr. Urbont can't rebut their argument that the Iron Man Theme is a work for hire. In support they note that there is no written agreement between Mr. Urbont and Marvel stating that he owns the copyright. This is true with respect to the 1966-ish timeframe when the songs were created for Marvel. But later, in 1995, Mr. Urbont entered into a "Settlement Agreement, Release and License" with New World Group and Marvel (Marvel was owned by New World at the time, Rupert Murdock later bought the whole shebang) for various superhero songs, including the Iron Man Theme.

The license agreement refers to Mr. Urbont as "Owner" and New World as "Licensee" and requires New World to pay $90,000 for a license to the various superhero songs. The license only allows New World to use the songs in conjunction with the cartoons. According to the license agreement, "Owner reserves all other rights of every kind and nature to use and to license others to use" the superhero songs.

This strikes me as strange. If the songs are a work for hire, why would Marvel license them from Mr. Urbont? They would already own them. The agreement is also stylized as a "settlement" so perhaps Marvel found it cheaper to pay Mr. Urbont than to litigate when he came after them for using the songs in the cartoons. But if that were the case, why didn't they take a license to all rights to the songs (or just buy them outright)? I guess it was a business decision to only use the songs with the cartoons, but it seems odd that a sophisticated publishing company like Marvel would own the copyright to something, but then pay someone else for a limited license to that work (and acknowledge the licensee as "Owner") without trying for more. The brief is redacted so maybe this would be clear upon reading the whole thing.

Perhaps most interesting is this part of the license agreement:

If this license agreement supersedes all previous agreements between the parties, does this mean that it makes Mr. Urbont the owner even if these songs originally were works for hire?

Also strange, for several reasons, is Sony's argument that Marvel owns the copyright because in 1967 Marvel released a record containing two of the non-superhero-specific songs written by Mr. Urbont: "The Merry Marvel Marching Society" and "The Marvel Super-Heroes Have Arrived." The record was distributed to members of Marvel's fan club, the Merry Marvel Marching Society. That isn't strange I guess. But I found the record on eBay for $99.99 and that's some strange shit to spend a hundo on. Seriously, would you pay a hundred bucks to listen to this?

Or this?

Sony asserts that this record is proof that Marvel owns the superhero songs because these two songs are from the group of seven Marvel asked Mr. Urbont to write. The record says "COPYRIGHT 1967 MARVEL COMICS GROUP" and it has the C-in-a-circle symbol on it. This is a strange assertion--I could print copies of "For Esme--With Love and Squalor" and write "COPYRIGHT 2015 ZMAN" on the books but that doesn't mean I really own the copyright. And if Marvel owned the copyright then, again, why did they take the limited license in 1995? Also strange--the 1995 license agreement does not mention these two songs, it only mentions the five superhero intros. So if these songs are related to the other five, why aren't these two included in the license? Perhaps the unredacted brief makes this clear.

The license agreement also references certain "master recordings" of the superhero songs as Schedule A to that agreement.

Schedule A isn't included in the copy attached to Mr. Urbont's brief though, and Sony alleges that they asked for but never received proof from Mr. Urbont that he owns any actual recordings of the Iron Man Theme (as opposed to, for example, sheet music for the song). Why hasn't Mr. Urbont produced these master recordings? Do any exist? If not, then how could Ghostface and RZA have copied them? Which segues into Sony's next argument.

Sony alleges that there is no recording of the Iron Man Theme separate and apart from the cartoon, therefore, the song is part of an audiovisual work and is not a "sound recording" for purposes of the Copyright Act. Here's the cartoon with the song on youtube. I'd embed it here but that seems like bad karma in light of the foregoing. In any event, it appears that RZA copied the song from a recording of the cartoon. Mr. Urbont even testified that this is probably what happened--he said that he has the "master recordings" and that no one copied those because they're in his apartment so RZA must have copied the song from a home video of the cartoon.

Sony argues that copying the sound from an audiovisual work does not constitute copyright infringement of a "sound recording," so Mr. Urbont's state law claims are preempted by the federal 1976 Act. You might say this is why people hate lawyers, but I think Sony is right here.

After reading briefs from both sides I'm confused. I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Urbont wrote multiple Iron Man Themes and retained ownership of one and sold the other to Marvel, or something weird like that. That might explain the various other oddball documents in the record--apparently conflicting copyright renewal forms, documents reciting ownership by Urbont Music, by Jack Urbont Associates, by Mr. Urbont individually. Or maybe the facts are just confusing, at least as presented in the briefs.

I am, admittedly, a stupid guy, but the asserted facts in this case are too unclear for me to figure out exactly what happened. The preemption argument is stronger than the work for hire argument but even there, is it really clear what RZA copied from? So I don't think either side will win a motion for summary judgment--there's a genuine dispute.

Monday, February 23, 2015

You Can Stream "Sour Soul" Now!

Ghostface Killah's latest album is called "Sour Soul" and it's a collaboration with some Canadian guys called BADBADNOTGOOD. You can't buy it yet but you can stream it. I suggest you go get your headphones and start listening. For the third album in a row Pretty Tone chose to work with a live band instead of rhyming over samples or computer-produced sounds. All three have a vintage soul vibe but these particular tracks have a 70's funk feel reminiscent of the movies I used to watch on Sunday afternoons on WWOR and WPIX when I was a kid.

That probably provides no context for you, but suffice it to say that there's something authentically vintage about this music. I don't think this will go down as one of GFK's all time classic albums, but it's definitely an interesting continuation of an already interesting departure from his previous style.

My favorites are Ray Gun, Nuggets of Wisdom, Mind Playing Tricks, Food and Gunshowers.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


Hyperbole is the coin of the sports media realm. Perhaps it's always been so. But 35 years ago today, the greatest upset in the history of international sports took place, and you'll never convince me otherwise.

I watched it in the living room of my family's cramped military-issue apartment. After the second period, the local news cut in and told us that the USA had won (the game itself was tape-delayed). At once incredulous about the result and annoyed that it had been revealed, we nonetheless watched the third period on the edge of our seats. Even as we knew what was coming, we couldn't make ourselves believe it.

Here's the final minute. Without fail, it produces goosebumps when I watch it. Without fail.

And if you've got some time to kill, here's the whole glorious thing.