Freezer Burn by Joe R. Lansdale

Freezer Burn by Joe R. LansdaleIf you are easily offended by graphic descriptions of sex & violence, copious profanity, and/or circus freaks then this book is definitely not for you.

However, if you’ve ever read any of Lansdale’s work, especially his wonderful Hap & Leonard series, then you’ll appreciate this as classic Lansdale at his rude, crude, politically incorrect, boundary pushing best.

A Foul Is A Foul Is A Foul

I hear this comment, or something similar, far too often when talking with people about basketball and how it is officiated:

“You should never expect the officials to make a game-deciding foul call in the final seconds. It’s not going to happen, nor should it.”

I should “never expect” a call in the final seconds? “Not gonna happen, nor should it”?! I am sooo sick of that attitude. I think it is complete BULL$#!@ to say refs should “swallow the whistle” just because it is (1) a star player, (2) the end of the game, (3) a playoff / championship game, (4) insert your own excuse du jour here.

That “sliding scale” attitude about when a foul should be called is just wrong. If you’d call it in game one of the regular season, you should call it in Game 7 of the Finals. If you’d call it in the first 2 minutes of a game, you should call it in the last 2 minutes… either it gets called always, or not at all. A foul is a foul is a foul.

People argue that the refs blowing the whistle in a last second situation would be taking the game out of the hands of the players and having the officials make a game-deciding call. Well, I say that officials not calling a foul in that situation is just as much the officials deciding the game by allowing a foul to take place with impunity.

I hear this one a lot too:

“Officials who do make calls in those situations are going to catch major heat and be ridiculed.”

So what?!? So they shouldn’t make a correct call just because some pundits, talking-heads, and homers will blast them and make fun of them? That is ridiculous! Hey, I don’t want sour-grape “whining” in my sports, but I do want justice. And if an official doesn’t have the cojones to make the tough call at the end of a game / in hostile territory then they shouldn’t be officiating. Period.

Heat Completely Burn The Suns

Word on the street is that by the time the day is over Shaquille O’Neal will officially be traded from the Miami Heat to the Phoenix Suns. If this trade goes through the Heat will have pulled off a major deal and given their fans serious hope for next season (this season is irretrievably shot) and beyond.

Inarguably one of the greatest players ever to step on the court, the brutal truth is that Shaq is currently so far over the hill he’s down in the valley. He hasn’t contributed when he’s been on the court, fouled out of 5 straight games at one point (and was sat down by the coach or it would have been 6), didn’t make the All-Star team for the first time in 14 years, and has already missed 14 games (and counting) this season. And yet he’s guaranteed $20 million a year… for two more years!!

Getting Shaq off their books will give the Heat more room to sign a young, desirable free agent in the off season, which will be a key to keeping All-Star (and arguably the best player in the league) Dwyane Wade, who can opt out after next season and has intimated he will do so if he doesn’t see serious change in the team’s focus and direction (“We’ve got to do everything in our power to try to change it hopefully this season, and if not this season, then change next season,” he said. “We don’t want to go through this constant losing, like the last year and a half.”). The Heat also get Shawn “The Matrix” Marion in the trade, a career 16 & 10 player and 3 time All-Star.

The Suns, on the other hand, inherit a $40 million dollar anchor who can’t run, is perpetually injured, is having a career low year in scoring, rebounds, and minutes played (even when “healthy”), can’t shoot free-throws, and who (according to insiders) wasn’t wanted by the head coach or All-Star and 2 time NBA MVP point guard Steve Nash. Yeah, sign me up for that.

The Suns run up and down the court like thoroughbreds, yet they’re trading for a Clydesdale… it just doesn’t fit. The only hope I can see for this to turn out well for the Suns is if Shaq can get healthy enough to play immediately following the All-Star break and somehow manages to swallow his MASSIVE ego long enough to want to stick it to the Lakers now that he’s back in the West. But to do that he is going to have to be willing to take a back seat to both Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, and make an honest effort to haul his big butt up and down the court at a pace faster than a glacier.

Maybe, just maybe, if it all comes together just right the Suns can catch lightening in

Sports Cliches That Should Be Retired

Ok, first let me be clear that I love sports. I love watching them (well, most of them) and, when I was a bit younger and in slightly better shape, I loved playing them. And while the “sports cliche” has always existed, things have really gone off the deep end of late. It seems as if you can’t watch a game without hearing at least 2 (or 40) cliches every 10 minutes.

In fact, there are some sports cliches that are so painfully worn out that they really should be retired. Here are a few that you hear, from players, coaches and announcers, that make me wince and roll my eyes every time I hear them:

They’re going to have to bring their “A game” tonight. As opposed to what? Shouldn’t they always bring their “A” game? Does anyone ever deliberately bring their C+ game?

We came to play today. Um, good. That’s what you’re getting paid to do.

I’ll tell ya, that guy’s a football (basketball, baseball, etc.) player. No kidding?! I’d never have figured that out…. except for the fact that he’s, you know, playing football (basketball, baseball, etc).

We gave it 110% tonight. This one’s first cousin to “bringing the A game”. Shouldn’t you always give 100% (not sure 110% is a realistic goal mathematically speaking). 😉

This was a good win for us. As opposed to a “bad” win?

We’re just taking it one game at a time. I don’t think you can do it any other way. I’ve yet to see a team play two games at once… or take the schedule and play it out of order.

He has the heart of a champion. Ok. I would think (hope?) owners/GMs/coaches wouldn’t pick someone with the heart of a loser.

They need to get the monkey off their back. This one I take personally. What’s wrong with monkeys? Why have we gotten the bad rap? Why not say get the platypus off their back?

Again, I do love sports and this is just good natured poking fun. I know what they are really trying to say/the point they are trying to make when they spout these cliches. It doesn’t make them any less funny/painful though.

A Sign Of The Apocalypse

I don’t like phones. Period. Landline or cell. In our house we let all calls go through to the answering machine. Doctors or other professions where one is literally “on call” aside, when I’m not at work I don’t want you to be able to reach me… that’s the point of being not at work. So if I want to screen my calls, then I’ll screen my calls. People who know us are not offended by this, they know we’ll pick up for them. Those that are offended, well, we don’t care.

As for our cell phone, we don’t even bother to give out the number because 99% of the time we don’t have it turned on. I personally view the exponential proliferation of cell phones (and crackberries and the like) as a sign of the apocalypse. Really, when (how?) did we reach the point where people think it’s actually a hardship if they can’t be in touch with the world 24/7 no matter where they are or what they are (supposed to be) doing… like driving!

In my opinion, only a fraction of the people who have cell phones and the like really need them, at least not for the reasons they use them. Having them for emergencies – car break down, family crisis – is fine. But do we really need to be stuck in line behind someone at Subway who’s relaying orders for half their office via cell phone? Or be forced to listen to someone’s mindless conversation with one of their friends when we’re in the movie theater? I applaud and support businesses that refuse to serve people on cell phones.

I also believe that driving while on a cell phone should be completely banned / against the law. Even if the reason you are using it is an emergency, you can still pull over. After all, why add to the emergency by causing an accident? Some studies have actually shown that drivers who are (moderately) impaired from alcohol actually perform better on a driving course test than drivers on cell phones! At least the drivers who had been drinking knew they were impaired and so focused extra hard on their driving. People on cell phones are continuously distracted, yet honestly don’t think they are… a very dangerous combination.

Do us all a favor and back away from the cell phones people. Believe it or not, your life will go on without it. Give it a try.

Baseball…. I don’t Get It

I don’t get baseball. I mean, I do, but I don’t. If a game is on television I can certainly follow it. I understand what the various positions are, what the object of the game is, etc. I even know a fair amount about the teams and players because I am a sports fan in general and tend to remember the things I read (sports magazines) and hear (ESPN radio & tv). But there are most definitely some aspects of baseball that, not only do I not “get”, I find downright silly.

Different Leagues, Different Rules?

Hockey has the national hockey league – one league, one set of rules. Football has the national football league – one league, one set of rules. Basketball has the national basketball association – one league/association, one set of rules. But baseball is made up of two different leagues, with different rules. What? Baseball is a sport that, above all others, prides itself on statistics, right? The game is built on and measured by stats out the wazoo, right? Well how in the world can those stats be worth anything when people aren’t compiling them in a uniform environment with uniform rules??? From team to team, game to game, the players literally aren’t playing on the same field.

Sure the infield may be the same from park to park, but the outfields sure aren’t. Not only might one park have a right field wall distance of 325′ while another’s is 340′, the distances aren’t even consistent within the same park! Comerica’s right field wall is 330′, while the left field wall is 345′. That’d be like the goal posts at Lambeau Field being 10 yards deep in the end zone at one end and 25 at the other. And not only is the distance from home plate to the outfield walls not standardized, the height of the outfield walls isn’t either. Some parks may have outfield walls that are 8′ high, while others may be 15′ high (or more). Oh, and one side may be higher than the other even within the same park. Again, that’d be like the goal posts being 10′ high in one NFL stadium and 15′ in another stadium… or, even weirder, 10′ high in one end zone but 20′ in the other end zone of the same field. How would that make sense??

Forget steroids (for the sake of this discussion), with no uniform size to ballparks how can home run statistics mean anything? One player could play in a “hitter’s park” his entire career and rack up big home run numbers by hitting balls out over a close (312′), short (8′) outfield wall, while another may play in a cavernous setting (345′ outfield walls) with a Green Monster (37′ high) to contend with. Again, for comparison, that’d be like comparing touchdown numbers between running backs where one played on a 100 yard home field

Poor, Innocent College Kid Gets Tasered*

I’m sure by now you’ve read about / seen video of the student who was tasered and removed from a campus auditorium where U.S. Senator John Kerry was appearing. And let’s get this out of the way right up front: who the politician was has no bearing whatsoever on what happened. He did not request or authorize the campus security officers’ action. So let’s not make this a republican vs. democrat issue, because that is irrelevant.

What I can’t believe is that people are trying to make this sound like some poor, innocent college “kid” (the man is 21 years old and weighs 200lbs) was removed just because he asked a controversial question. It is abundantly clear from the video that he was there to cause a disruption, and in fact he has a history of filming himself pulling “stunts” like this (which he posts on his website). By his own description he “occasionally finds himself angry enough to rain down fire and brimstone on an unsuspecting politician or celebrity.” Noooo, he wasn’t possibly there to deliberately cause a problem.

Other students who were there say that when “final question” was announced he cut to the front of the question line (where others had been waiting patiently for their turns), used up his allotted time at the microphone, then continued to shout questions and make a mini speech even after the mic was turned off. The video shows the campus security officers initially trying to calmly escort him out of the auditorium, in response to which he clearly, physically resists them and would not leave.

He may have had a right to be there to begin with, but he forfeited that right by not following the same procedures everyone else in attendance apparently had no trouble adhering to. Just because it was a political function on a college campus doesn’t mean someone should be allowed to hijack the event and run roughshod over the proceedings under the guise of “free speech”.

Lesson for the poor, innocent college kid to learn here? Don’t cause a premeditated public disturbance, disrupt a university function, resist arrest (taunting the officers to boot: “What are you going to do? Arrest me?”) and then act surprised when the officers do what is required to subdue and arrest you.

*In case it wasn’t abundantly clear from the post, that was sarcasm.

Dance With The One That Brung Ya!

I’m sure not too many people follow the USA Women’s soccer team, but something very interesting happened in their September 27, 2007 match at the World Cup that I felt the need to write about.

As a quick recap, the team reached the semi-final game in the current Women’s World Cup, and played today against Brazil. On the way to this semi-final game, the USA Women’s team rang up a 51 game unbeaten streak, including all of this year’s World Cup matches, with goalie Hope Solo as the starter.

Yet, less than 24 hours before this game, the head coach made the decision to switch to a different goalie. Now, to be fair, the reason the coach made the switch was because goalie Briana Scurry’s lifetime record against Brazil is 12-0, with 8 of those games being shutouts.

BUT, as Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, “A player on a streak has to respect the streak.” I’d argue that goes for coaches too. IMO the coach should not have messed with a 51 game unbeaten streak, and a perfect run in the World Cup, by removing Solo from goal.

So, what happened? We lost. BIG TIME! Brazil beat us 4-0 which, in soccer, is like an NFL team getting whipped 49-0.

Would we have beaten Brazil if Solo had started? We’ll never know now.

Justice Is Served (Greg Ryan Fired)

As expected, there was more to the “Dance with the one that brung ya!” story. A still visibly upset/emotional Hope Solo was interviewed shortly after the loss to Brazil and was openly critical of head coach Greg Ryan for benching her (as had been every professional sports/soccer analyst I saw, even before the loss), stating that it was absolutely the wrong move to have made and that she was confident she would have played well had she started. The coach’s reaction? He banished Solo from the team. Yes, banished.

She was not allowed to attend any more practices, was not allowed to attend team meetings or meals, and not only did Solo not play in the “consolation” (Bronze Medal) game, she was not even allowed to be present on the sidelines with the team when the game was played. Nor was she allowed to appear with the team when their Bronze Medals were received. Remember, this team had gotten to that game by riding a 51 game unbeaten streak with Solo playing goalie (and arguably would have been playing for Gold had she not been benched). The only game they lost in the World Cup was the one the coach “brilliantly” decided she shouldn’t play in!!

Yet, in the ultimate act of cutting off one’s nose to spite their face, this coach decided Solo did not deserve to take her rightful place with a team she had carried and receive her Bronze Medal, all because she had the nerve to criticize him for a decision which, inarguably, was in fact a disaster! Treating this situation like he was dealing with his children and sending Solo “to her room without dinner” (her medal) was unprofessional, spiteful, classless and unconscionable.

Well the story now comes full circle, with news that Coach Ryan has been benched by the U.S. Soccer Federation, who fired him as head coach of the women’s team October 23, 2007. Contrite after his firing, Ryan said, “I understand and accept the criticisms that accompany the decisions I made in the World Cup. Soccer is a fluid game and not every decision or strategy always works as planned. In those cases, players, fans and the media have the right to express their opinions.” Oh really?!? You “understand and accept the criticisms” and acknowledge that “players… have the right to express their opinions.”

How ironic considering that Ryan may have been able to survive the criticism of his original decision to bench Solo and the subsequent loss to Brazil, but it was his full fledged mismanagement of the situation that followed (his player’s criticism of his decision) which demonstrated that he was simply not cut out to lead a team of professional athletes and represent our country on the world’s biggest stages.

Justice hasbeen served.

TOOL: Live In Jacksonville – Concert Review

Earlier this year when TOOL released their tour schedule and my husband and I saw Jacksonville was listed as one of the tour stops we were beyond ecstatic! We have been to Jacksonville to see Godsmack (twice), Disturbed and KISS and have never been disappointed.

Though TOOL has been around for a while, we only really got into their music right before the release of their previous album “Lateralus” in 2001. Since then we have picked up the rest of their catalog, including their latest release “10,000 Days” (2006), and felt that this was one band we would really love to see live someday and hoped that we would get that chance. Easier said than done because the band does not tour often, primarily because they don’t crank out albums every year and they only tour when they have a new album to support.

In this case, it has been 5 years since the last album and tour (2001-2002). Needless to say, we were very excited that TOOL was finally back on tour and that they were coming near enough for us to be able to go see them. The show was in Jacksonville on Saturday, June 2, 2007. Below is our review of the concert and some information about the band if you are not too familiar with their work.

Unfortunately the opening band, Melt Banana (yes, you read that right), was quite possibly the worst thing we’ve ever had the misfortune to hear. They are a band from Japan that is categorized as “noise rock” (that’s an official term actually). Well, it was definitely noise. Rock? Not so much. They were the loudest thing we’ve ever heard, and we’re hard rock fans, but this was literally a painful level of sound. Imagine a very bad B-movie with a post-apocalyptic setting. Now imagine a run down bar in the middle of that post-apocalyptic wasteland. Melt Banana would be the “house band” in that run down bar. And to be clear, that is not a good thing. But hey, they’re somebody’s cup of tea… they’ve released 8 albums. Anyway, on to TOOL.

West of Eight by Tod Howarth – CD Review

West of EightIt turns out that Tod Howarth’s previous two solo releases, Silhouette and Cobalt Parlor, while both very impressive and enjoyable, were only the tip of the musical iceberg Tod had in store for us all. With his newest release, West of Eight, Tod serves up a sonic assault of an iceberg big enough to sink the Titanic!

Clocking in at slightly over an hour, the fifteen music tracks (plus a spoken “liner note” track called “Thanks,” which is exactly that) assembled here represent some of the most complete, satisfying musicianship that I’ve had the pleasure to experience in recent memory. Well written and well presented, every track has a clear theme, purpose, evolution and satisfying conclusion – no endlessly looped fade outs here.

Tod, an extremely accomplished musician, handles all lead and backing vocals, lead and rhythm guitars, keyboards (used sparingly and to great effect – don’t get scared!), acoustic, baritone and bass guitars. Whew! He does leave the drumming in the hands (and feet) of the very able Dave Aaron, and the lightening fingered Jamie Eden steps up to the plate for both lead and rhythm guitar work on eight of the album’s tracks.

Put all that together, simmer for two to three years to make sure all components are aged to perfection, serve LOUD, and you have the musical masterpiece otherwise known as West of Eight. I am not exaggerating when I say West of Eight has not left my cd changer since I received it. Read on for my review of some of the album highlights (I have to leave you some surprises).

West of Eight: “I’m finally home/I’ve traveled far but here I am/West of eight,” sings Tod on this kick ass album opener in which he extols the virtues of his home, San Diego. However, the song avoids being a maudlin “tribute” to home sweet home by allowing for the listener to come away with their own impression of whether or not the song is actually signing the praises of the familiar – home is where the heart is? – or referencing home as a sanctuary (retreat?) from the brutal surroundings of the “outside” world. Either way, there’s definitely a “secret” revealed. The secret? Well, “Dorothy had the secret all along/seldom should you venture from your home.” This track rocks along relentlessly, instilling a feel of urgency in the need to return “home”, with Jamie Eden weighing in with the first of several extremely impressive guitar performances, whetting your appetite for what’s to come.

Tod With Red BaritoneValley of Artifice: What an absolutely awesome showcasing of Tod’s vocal abilities! From the velvety purr of the verses to the desperate wail of the choruses Tod gives the pipes a true workout on this saga, which recounts the experience (hopefully fiction!) of being broken down in the hot desert of the “valley of artifice.” The crunching rhythm guitar chords

Voodooland by Karl Cochran – CD Review

Voodooland BandFormer Ace Frehley Band member and “Into the Void” co-writer Karl Cochran has a new band, Voodooland. If you liked ESP, which also featured Karl’s impressive musical talents, you’ll love Voodooland. The band’s self-titled seven song EP, which reflects a heavy blues-rock influenced sound, is the 70’s rock sound at its best. Along with special guests Ace Frehley (1 track only) and Eric Singer, Voodooland is comprised of Karl on guitars, bass and vocals, Bruce Terkildsen on bass and vocals, Billy Orrico and Dave Halprin on drums, and Tommy Lamb on harp. Every track on the disc rocks hard, and below is just a sample of the treat in store for those who are smart enough to grab a copy of this awesome debut CD.

Freedom: Every great album has a kick ass opener, and Voodooland is certainly no exception. The driving guitar – which screams off into a nasty solo midway that takes on a life of its own through the rest of the track – nicely mirrors the lyrics, which urge people not to be followers who need rules; you don’t need ’em…. scream Freedom! This is no bullshit, straight ahead GUITAR ROCK at its best.

Caroline: The guitar work on this track, both rhythm and lead, are what really stood out to me. This song has the catchiest rhythm guitar hook I’ve heard in a long time, and it’s complimented very nicely by a throbbing, grooving bass line. The lead guitar swirls seamlessly around the hook throughout the track, which also features really nice vocal harmonies during the chorus. “Caroline” strikes the perfect musical balance in its presentation; it’s a love song, but with a little bite.

Music Reviews: Coming Soon!

My music reviews are in the process of being transferred from their original locations. Come back soon for reviews of works by artists such as KISS, Karl Cochran, UNION and more.

Mark St. John – The KISS Asylum Interview

©Elizabeth A. White – Please do not reproduce without express written permission.

Are you ready for a treat KISS fans, because KISS ASYLUM is happy to deliver a big one for you! We were fortunate enough recently to be able to conduct an in-depth interview with the one and only elusive Mark St. John. Though Mark has been slowly venturing back out into the world of KISS fandom recently from his self-imposed seclusion by attending a couple of KISS Expos, we were aware that most fans would not get the benefit of attending those Expos to see Mark in person. Therefore, we made arrangements to conduct a phone interview with Mark so that all the online fans would be able to read what Mark has to say after his 15 long years away.

Mark was very gracious, laid back, open, and a real pleasure to talk with during the interview. He never shied away from any topic, instead seeming more than ready — almost relieved at times — to address all issues head-on. Mark seems to be genuinely enjoying getting back in touch with the fans, and had a great time during our interview relaying all kinds of stories about himself, both in and out of KISS. Don’t be surprised to see more of Mark in the coming months and years in interviews, at Expos, and musically because Mark is back and he’ll tell you so! Of course, there were so many possible areas to cover with Mark that there’s no way we were going to be able to cover them all.

However, we’re confident you’ll find Mark’s perspective on a variety of topics very interesting, including: memories of Eric Carr (“The best musician in the band. He was just always solid, he always played it right and he never really made any mistakes as I remember.”); why he says his time in KISS was actually “the worst time” of his life (“Everyday was lies and deceit, all kinds of little weird things. Everyday was like a little test or mind games.”); the interesting story of the Animalize album back cover photo (“Oh, it is a total cut and paste job!”); what he thinks the real reason is he developed arthritis (“I never had arthritis in anywhere in my family. I was playing violin concertos on the guitar before KISS, you know? I think it was just the stress of the whole thing.”); his feelings on being replaced by Bruce (“I’m thinking that Bruce is just helping, but which turned out to be that it was another plan in the big picture.”); how his KISS experience affected his music life (“Paul and Gene kind of wrecked music for me for the longest time, and it made me not like the whole thing anymore because of what I went through.”); working with Peter Criss (“We finally did the big recording and all that stuff and we sent the