Archive for July, 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: July 31st

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

My Morning Jacket, “Highly Suspicious”

Don’t hate this song: It’s too awesome. You may initially be a little freaked out by it, simply because it probably sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before and MMJ frontman Jim James is singing about a “peanut butter pudding surprise” in an eerie falsetto. I’m not really sure what a peanut butter pudding surprise is myself, but this song makes me want one. The track’s heavy bass line and crunching guitar provided a stark contrast to James’ ungodly high lead vocals. “Highly Suspicious” shouldn’t work on so many levels: the lyrics are gobbledegook; the music feels like it’s ripped from a 1980s sci-fi movie imagining what “the music of the future” would sound like; and it seems that Jim James’ creepy laugh somehow escaped from your local haunted house last October. Yet, despite all of these completely logical reasons, MMJ still rock my face off every time. I can’t tell you why I love this song; I just hope you do too.

Listen to: My Morning Jacket, “Highly Suspicious”

TECH: The Battle For The Net Begins

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Tech

For those of us with iPhones, one thing has become abundantly clear since we signed that two-year service contract: AT&T is a huge, miserable failure. Lack of tethering, MMS, dropped calls, missed texts, voicemail failures: its just one thing after another. So it really shouldn’t surprise us that AT&T has fired the first salvo in the battle for net neutrality.

For those unfamiliar with the term, net neutrality refers to the concept of an open Internet. A neutral network would be a network free of restriction on content, sites or types of equipment connected. Basically, any Internet-enabled device could connect and use the Internet for any purpose conceivable. In recent years, many advocates of an open Internet have expressed concern about the ability of Internet service providers (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) to block certain websites and services. For example, Comcast is first and foremost a cable provider; therefore, they could conceivably block websites like Hulu so their customers are forced to watch Comcast’s cable and not view their television online. Likewise, AT&T could block Skype so their customers had to use their cell phone minutes, Verizon could block Apple so people don’t realize how much they need an iPhone, etc. Proponents of net neutrality believe your service provider should provide you with an Internet hookup and not dictate what services you use while on the Internet. Many believe that, if Internet service providers were allowed to begin censoring web content, it would only be the first step in them beginning to charge users for things like e-mail, bandwidth use and special packages (i.e. Comcast beginner package gives you access to Facebook, Google, and eBay for only $19.99 per month; Upgrade to the experienced package for only $5 more and receive YouTube and Amazon!)

This vision of the Internet is obviously not what we want. While the Internet as we know it is in no way perfect, the ability for easy, open communication and distribution of information is what makes it great. An Internet connection should be an Internet connection: it should not be up to Comcast to decide what websites or services we use through the Internet. Some supporters of net neutrality include Google, Microsoft, Steve Wozniak (of Apple fame), Yahoo and Amazon, while opponents include AT&T, 3M and Alcatel.

On Sunday, reports began circulating around the Internet that AT&T DSL subscribers were unable to access 4Chan.org. 4Chan is an imageboard Web site with minimal rules on posted content. Users post anonymously, and 4Chan has been used in a variety of ways that link it to Internet sub-cultures and activist movements such as Anonymous (essentially the Internet equivalent of a gang) and Project Chanology (an online anti-Scientology movement). Previously 4Chan has been used to distribute pornography, pirated material and coordinate Internet attacks. As the day wore on, it was confirmed by 4Chan that AT&T was indeed blocking the website in several regions around the country, although the block only seemed to affect wired AT&T customers, while people using the carrier’s 3G network were unaffected. Within hours, 4Chan began organizing counter-attacks, including a plan to circulate a rumor about the death of AT&T’s CEO in an attempt to artificially lower the stock price. On Monday, AT&T effectively retreated and unblocked 4Chan, reopening the site to all of its users.

While I am in no way condoning the content on 4Chan’s website, it is the right of those users to post said content. AT&T’s service is (and should be) providing people with a connection to the Internet; It is the user’s prerogative to censor any content they don’t want to see. While the 4Chan block may not have even been legal under FCC regulations, it further raises the issue of net neutrality laws (or the lack thereof) in the United States. While net neutrality generally exists in the United States, there is no clear law protecting it. Politically, net neutrality continues to be a hot issue: seven different bills have been introduced in Congress regarding net neutrality — and each has been voted down. During his 2008 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama pledged to make net neutrality legislation a priority during his first year in office. While he has understandably been occupied with issues like the economy and health care reform, I hope net neutrality doesn’t stay on the back burner forever. Companies like AT&T and Comcast will continue to push this issue and challenge net neutrality until more comprehensive regulation is adopted.

Ben Wagner is a tech correspondent for Rhombus and, ironically, works for Comcast. Follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.

SONG(S) OF THE DAY(S): July 29th and 30th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

The Killers, “Smile Like You Mean It”
Tally Hall, “Smile Like You Mean It”

As some of you who actually pay attention to this daily feature have noted, there was no Song of the Day posted yesterday. In order to remedy the situation, I have posted two songs for today — or, more accurately, two versions of one song. Hope they help heal the wound.

The Killers‘ “Smile Like You Mean It” was one of the many highlights on their iconic 2004 album, Hot Fuss. Featuring a moaning synth line and Brandon Flowers’ hook-laden chorus, the song was the band’s third single in the U.S. and contributed to the band’s meteoric rise to worldwide fame. Even as the Killers have become more self-assured and (by extension) polarizing over the past five years, “Smile Like You Mean It” remains on of the great alternative pop songs on the decade.

Michigan-based pop group Tally Hall covered the track for the final season of FOX’s The O.C. back in 2006 and, I must say, did so magnificently. The band’s unique sound and tight vocal harmonies give the more stripped down arrangement its own expanded feel. Tally Hall relies on swelling harmonies in place of Flowers’ trademark synthesizer line to augment the sing-along chorus and even throws in a delectable vocal transition to the song’s bridge to boot. Altogether, a great cover of an excellent song from a band that I’ve never quite been able to pin down stylistically. Hopefully both versions will help our loyal Song of the Day fans fan forgive our tardiness.

Listen to: The Killers, “Smile Like You Mean It”

Listen to: Tally Hall, “Smile Like You Mean It”

SPORTS: The Resurrection Of Mike Vick

Written by Jake Welch on . Posted in Sports

Mike Vick

Mike Vick

Three years ago, Mike Vick was on top of the world. The Atlanta Falcons quarterback was living the dream as one of the highest paid players in the NFL and had many successful years of football ahead of him. He was playing for a legitimate playoff contender and the city of Atlanta was eating out of his hand. To top it all off, he was the focus of one of the best commercials in recent history.

I’m sure you remember seeing it: A scrawny little pip squeak gets strapped into a padded harness and goes for a ride on the “Michael Vick Experience.” He gets to feel what it’s like to dodge defensive ends, sprint past linebackers and flip over safeties.

Three years later, this commercial has become a reality: the life of Michael Vick has now become a figurative roller coaster. After reaching such great heights, he has now hit the lowest of the low. Serious jail time, bankruptcy, unemployment: these are the realities the once great Vick now faces.

Now that he is out of jail and done with his house arrest, Vick is looking to make his way back to the NFL. NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell has suspended Vick until the sixth week of the upcoming season, but there is the possibility he could be on the field sooner.

While the actual length of the suspension is still in question, the real quandary is which team (if any) will take a risk on Vick. There have been many teams with a reported interest, but every time a GM is approached about the issue, they steer clear. No organization is willing to take that kind of P.R. risk at this point.

There is someone, however, that has accepted Mike and he very well could be the key to the player’s future, on and off the field. That person is Tony Dungy.

Some might ask why one of the most respected men in the NFL would connect himself with a troubled person like Vick. That’s just who Tony is. A devout Christian, Dungy has always been about doing good. He has been a constant supporter of numerous clubs and organizations and his service has been recognized by both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. This situation is a perfect example of a man practicing what he preaches. Instead of seeing Vick as an immature delinquent who could be considered hazardous material, Dungy saw an opportunity to help a young man in need.

While Vick was in prison in Leavenworth, Dungy made a few visits to give the troubled quarterback some advice. Dungy talked to him about his faith and what he could be facing upon returning to society. He urged Vick to stay in touch and to keep him updated. Making the first of hopefully many good decisions, Vick continued communication with his new found mentor.

Now Vick is back in the real world and Dungy is right there to help him through. Recently, Dungy met with his protege, not to discuss his looming suspension or what he needs to do to train, but to talk about his family and how he is doing as a father. That’s something we need more of in the NFL — and in life.

For the next few weeks, the sporting world will be abuzz with rumors of possible teams for the formerly sensational Mike Vick. The Vikings, Jets and Seahawks remain his most likely destinations. However, even with his vast potential, Mike Vick will be seen as more a risk than a reward. Organizations fear the reaction of their fan base and the constant harassment of PETA; But if players like Ricky Williams, Onterrio Smith and Sebastian Janikowski can find work after their criminal activity, then Mike Vick deserves a shot to clear his name and move on with his life.

There is no doubt that what he did was wrong, but he has served his time and done everything necessary to return to the game. If anything, these teams need to take a page from Tony Dungy’s life playbook and give the man a chance. It’s the right thing to do.

Jake Welch is a sports writer for Rhombus. He recently learned that you can get away with anything in America — except organizing dog fights. Follow him on Twitter @jraywelch.

MUSIC: RuRu Goes Big

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Isaac Russell

Isaac Russell

Provo’s favorite folk-singing son Isaac Russell, formerly known to fans as RuRu, has made the big time.

The 17-year-old Rhombus-approved phenom recently signed an exclusive recording contract with Columbia Records, one of the few major labels left standing in an industry increasingly decimated by online file-sharing. Russell recently told Rhombus he is excited about the possibilities the deal will present for his music.

As part of his transition to the national stage, Russell will drop his longtime stage moniker, RuRu, and will record simply as Isaac Russell for Columbia. While it remains unknown exactly why the title was thrown aside, it is possible that the label wanted to avoid confusion with (and lawsuits from) a Japanese animation company with a similar name.

Russell began negotiations with Columbia following an April showcase he and his brother, Spencer (of local band Mudbison), played for record company scouts, including representatives from Universal and indie label Asthmatic Kitty. While it has taken a few months to hammer out the legal and compensatory details of Columbia’s buyout of Russell and his songs from local label Northplatte Records, the deal is now done.

“[I am an] exclusive recording artist of Columbia Record label,” Russell announced via his Twitter account on Tuesday.

The newly minted star plans to re-record portions of his 2008 album, Elizabeth, and lay down new material in a month-long recording session beginning August 7th. The recordings will be helmed by producer Dennis Herring, who has worked with several prominent artists, including Modest Mouse, Elvis Costello, Counting Crows, Ben Folds and the Hives.

The new album, which will be recorded at Herring’s Sweet Tea Studios in Oxford, Mississippi, will likely include old fan favorites like “Elizabeth,” “Excuse” and “Why,” but also feature fresher tracks like the heartfelt “Made Me A Man” and the rambling “Anniversary Song.” Russell recently told Rhombus that Columbia is shooting for a late 2009/early 2010 release.

Meanwhile, Russell and his band will tour the country this fall in support of the upcoming disc. He has been in California over the past week, playing shows in Los Angeles, Bakersfield and even a set at the California Mid-State Fair, alongside the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Journey and — Lord help us — Judas Priest. Unfortunately, Russell may not grace the stage at Velour for awhile with his new found fame, but his many local fans hope their favorite teenage folkie won’t stay away too long.

For an interesting look at Russell’s skyrocketing career, watch this video from Bakersfield’s NBC affiliate, KGET 17. To hear more, visit Russell’s MySpace page.

Steve Pierce is editor and co-founder of Rhombus. His weekend plans will take a serious nosedive now that RuRu isn’t playing local shows.

MUNCHMOBILE: Taste Of The Valley

Written by Jamie Wood on . Posted in Food

WEEK 4 — TASTE OF THE VALLEY

Nothing says “pioneer” like gluttony.

For this week’s Munchmobile, Jake Welch, Jamie Wood and Ben Wagner took to the mean streets of downtown Provo to savor the selection of a variety of local restaurants at the “Taste of the Valley” festival, in conjunction with Pioneer Day. Nothing says “pioneer” quite like thousands of fair-skinned foodies standing in line for an itsy bitsy slice of BBQ pork from Goodwood Barbecue or a sliver of beef from Tucanos. The weather was scorching as the hosts of young and old meandered between the various vendor tents in search of the tastiest morsel in the park — and the Munchmobile was right there with them every step of the way.

In order to participate we had to pay $10 for a punch card and wristband. We were then handed little cardboard paper baskets to put the food in as we went from tent to tent. The general atmosphere was fun and lighthearted. The music selections in the background alternated between a recorded playlist and live acoustic sets, providing an upbeat setting for the afternoon. Utah Valley was well represented by a wide range of vendors from the well established Denny’s, Tucanos and California Pizza Kitchen, to the lesser known Down Under Oven, Pizzeria 712 and La Carreta. Now that we’ve set the scene, it’s time to get each of the crew’s bit on their top picks from the Taste of the Valley.

Jamie Wood
I’m always eager to get my “graze on.” The Super Bowl tends to be more exciting for me than Thanksgiving because of all the Lil’ Smokeys, Ruffles and french onion dip, and all the other finger foods to fit my fancy. “Everything tastes better on the end of a toothpick,” I always say. As such, the opportunity to put my affinity for small portions to good use for the benefit of all those who read this column seemed like a mighty exciting proposition. In the spirit of sampling, here are just a couple of my favorite tidbits from the event, the best and worst.

Best: La Carreta (Ceviche) — ceviche is a dish made of fish that’s been “cooked” by lime. There’s enough acidic content in lime juice that it, in essence, cooks the fish without it ever feeling a flame. (Thankfully, Nirvana taught us that it’s okay to fish because they don’t have any feelings.) I’m generally pretty leery of consuming seafood that’s 800 miles away from the ocean, but I hadn’t had ceviche in so long that it seemed like a shame to pass up the opportunity. It was a little bit fishy, but the flavors combined nicely with the sliced onions and cilantro to create a lively taste. Definitely worth a try of the whole dish.

Worst: Honey Baked Ham — Perhaps it was because Honey Baked Ham was the last place we went, but it gets my worst rating. Or perhaps it just wasn’t very good. I’m always up for a nice slice of ham (especially when coupled with a nice green bean casserole) and looked forward to the small plate with a slice of ham, a cookie, a mini slice of pecan pie and a spoonful of potato salad. The cookie: incredible. The pie: divine. The ham, on the other hand, was dry and cold, lacking that “baked in honey” flavor I was expecting. Kind of a bummer, considering the giant bee mascot parading around attracting hungry visitors. Oh well, stop in for a cookie and you’ll be very satisfied.

Jake Welch
Best: Tucanos (Grilled Pineapple) — This is a very bum choice for all of you who were expecting me to come up with something new. Granted, I have tasted the grilled pineapple before, but trust me: On this particular day, nothing was as tasty as this juicy fruit. It seems to be a lot tastier when you eat it as a chaser for grilled sirloin. I was also a huge fan of Melanie’s Sensational Gourmet. This is not a restaurant, but rather a company that sells sauces, rubs and dips. We were lucky enough to try their world beater of a barbecue sauce, “The Contender” — and contend it did. Let’s just say that the plate was licked clean when all was said and done.

Honorable Mention: Goodwood and Rooster

Worst: Denny’s — This really doesn’t deserve any explanation except for why I decided to get food from their tent. I saw that the line was very short and that the portions of food they were giving out were very large. I went into Hungry Man mode (when you willingly sacrifice quality for quantity) and hopped in line. They had chicken salad, which surprised me. I was expecting pancakes, which would have been a lot better. The chicken was dry and the greens were rather brown. They tried to make the experience somewhat enjoyable with a bit sized piece of cheesecake, but I still left embarrassed. There is a reason why Denny’s is open 24/7.

Dishonorable Mention: California Pizza Kitchen and Xango — Lord only knows why that elixir of death costs $40 a pop.

Ben Wagner
Best: Tucanos — Yeah yeah, everybody in Provo knows about Tucanos and everybody knows that it’s good. It was the best thing I had at the Taste of the Valley and Tucanos deserves its reputation. The grilled pineapple was excellent, as was the meat served alongside it. If you have the money, you owe yourself a tasty dinner at Tucanos.

Honorable Mentions: Pizzeria 712, Melanie’s, Down Under Oven — Pizzeria 712 gave us a sampling of its margarita pizza and it did not disappoint. I had the good fortune of getting the first slice of a pizza pulled freshly out of the huge brick oven they brought with them. Melanie’s “Contender” barbecue sauce was quite excellent and I can’t wait to make a trip there to pick up a few bottles for myself. The Down Under Oven was only offering a pavlova desert as its selection for Taste of the Valley. This tasty treat is an Australian favorite, a meringue dessert with kiwi and banana. I’m not sure what else the Down Under Oven has on its menu, but it’d be worth checking out just to get another try of that pavlova.

Worst: Denny’s — The chicken was dry, the lettuce was flavorless and they towed Rhombus Resident Armchair Economist Daniel Anderson’s car once upon a time. They’re on my hate list.

For suggestions on where you’d like to see the Munchmobile head next week, send an e-mail to rhombusmag@gmail.com or send a message on Twitter to @rhombusmag.

Jamie Wood, Jake Welch and Ben Wagner are contributors for Rhombus. They are true Hungry Men: they regularly choose quantity over quality in many aspects of their lives. Follow them on Twitter: @jamie_wood, @jraywelch and @ben_wagner, respectively.

SONG OF THE DAY: July 28th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

Camera Obscura, “French Navy”

Camera Obscura‘s brand of indie pop tinged with ’50s girl group flair is perfect summer music. “French Navy” is the kind of melodic fun that is ten times better with the windows down and the stereo up. Featuring a traditional rock accompaniment tastefully augmented by restrained horns and strings, the song is a little gem of pop perfection off an album (My Maudlin Career) full of them. People wondering what happened to the glory days of pop music (before Top 40 radio was ruled by T-Pain and his gang of buffoons) should give Camera Obscura a spin.

Listen to: Camera Obscura, “French Navy”

OUTDOORS: A Rock Climbing Primer

Written by Tristan Higbee on . Posted in Sports

You live in one of the best places in the country for rock climbing, and you probably don’t even know it. Sure, you’ve been to The Quarry climbing gym and gone climbing outside in Rock Canyon once or twice. Maybe you even have your own harness and shoes. Bully for you. It’s time to take the next step and realize what huge, untapped recreational resources we have the privilege of being surrounded by.

The Wasatch Range (the mountains that run north to south, along the east side of Provo, Salt Lake, Ogden and Logan) is the western-most edge of the Rocky Mountains. It is also heralded as one of the greatest mountain ranges that is so close to major population centers. Widely lauded for its world-class skiing, the range also harbors world-class rock and ice climbing. Whether you’re into (or want to get into) bouldering (climbing ropeless on large boulders with foam pads for protection), sport climbing (roped climbing where preplaced steel bolts in the rock are used for protection), trad climbing (placing your own specialized protection in cracks in the rock; short for traditional climbing), or even ice climbing (climbing frozen waterfalls with ice axes in your hands and spikes on your feet), the mighty Wasatch’s mountains and valleys have something to tickle your fancy.

Within one hour of Provo are enough canyons with established climbs to keep you busy for several lifetimes. No other place I can think of boasts such a wide variety of climbing in such a concentrated area. There are climbs on no less than five different types of rock (limestone, quartzite, granite, sandstone, and conglomerate), and each type of rock has its own distinct character and requires a different style of climbing. Each is unique and fun in its own way.

Here’s a rundown, with driving times, of some (though not even close to all) of our local areas:

Rock Canyon (5 minutes) — This is our home turf. With a large number of easy, accessible climbs, it also happens to be one of the best areas in the Wasatch for learning the ropes (pun very much intended). The red rock in the lower part of the canyon is quartzite, which lends itself well to low-angled sport and trad climbs. Flat edges and cracks for your hands and feet are plentiful, though the rock can at times feel slippery and polished. The gray limestone rock higher up in the canyon requires a bit more hiking to get to, but is well worth the effort. The climbs there tend to be steeper and harder sport climbs, but there are some beginner areas too. Soon this canyon will also have the longest sport climbs in the country, clocking in at well over two thousand feet! These routes are currently still in development, but should be completed by the end of the year.

Provo Canyon (15 minutes) — Not to be confused with Rock Canyon, this is the canyon that contains Bridalveil Falls and the canyon you take to get to Sundance. There’s not a whole lot in the way of rock climbing, but this is the Wasatch’s premier ice climbing venue and is a world-class destination for many. One of the longest pure ice routes in the lower 48 (the aptly-named “Stairway to Heaven”) ascends more than one thousand vertical feet of frozen, terrifying goodness up the canyon’s walls. If you have high pain and cold tolerances, ice climbing can be an incredibly beautiful and rewarding experience.

American Fork Canyon (30 minutes) — This is one of the areas where the American sport climbing revolution was born. The pocketed limestone cliffs were too broken to accept traditional protection, so the first ascentionists placed bolts instead. The approaches to the cliffs are generally short (you can drive all the way up AF Canyon, which is prohibited in Rock Canyon), and you can always find walls in the shade. There aren’t as many good beginner routes or areas as there are in Rock Canyon, but steep and hard routes abound. There are more than 500 routes in the canyon.

Little Cottonwood Canyon (45 minutes) — LCC is the shining granite jewel in the Wasatch’s climbing crown. With several cliffs over a thousand feet tall, climbers aren’t the only people who have had their eyes on the rock. This is where the LDS Church quarried stone for its Salt Lake City temple and conference center. Containing the Alta and Snowbird ski resorts, along with great mountain bike trails, this canyon is truly a multisport paradise. The climbs here tend to be slabby (less than vertical) and traditional, though there are some bolted sport climbing areas. There are also some limestone and quartzite walls with climbs on them. Close to a thousand climbs and a ton of boulders are housed in this beautiful, glacier-carved canyon.

Big Cottonwood Canyon (1 hour) — North of Little Cottonwood and directly east of Salt Lake, this canyon has a wide variety of climbing. There are hundreds of climbs, ranging from 30-foot sport routes to thousand-plus-foot traditional climbs. The quartzite cliffs suit the beginner and advanced climber alike.

Maple Canyon (1 hour, 15 minutes) — Okay, so this one is a bit more than an hour away but, man oh man, is it worth it. Maple Canyon is unique in the country for its climbing on funky conglomerate stone. Imagine some potato- and melon-sized quartzite cobbles sticking out of the hard standtone, and you’ve just imagined Maple Canyon. It’s like climbing on a bunch of petrified bubbles. The plethora of bolted sport climbs here run the gamut from easy beginner stuff to routes of world-class difficulty.

So, now you’ve been converted. At least, you want to believe. Your eyes have been opened to the wonderful, sublime truths that are rock climbing in the Wasatch. You want to immerse yourself in it and fully partake of the blessings, but you don’t really know what you’re doing and you don’t want to kill yourself on the rocks. Understandable. Here’s what I would suggest: Learn as much as possible about the rope systems involved with climbing. Climbing is a safe activity if you know what you’re doing, but it’s also an easy way to get yourself killed if you’re clueless. Read up about it in books like John Long’s How to Rock Climb! Watch climbing and how-to videos on YouTube. Go to Mountainworks (the great climbing store by Movies 8 that is attached to The Quarry climbing gym) and talk to their friendly and knowledgeable staff. Find someone who is more experienced and start your apprenticeship. Mountainproject.com is essentially an online guidebook for many of the areas in the Wasatch and beyond. Rockclimbing.com has extensive forums where you can ask questions and find answers. Learn as much as you can before you go and you’ll be sure to get the most out of your climbing experience.

I climb because it’s fun. I climb because I enjoy being so close to nature. I climb because I love the rush of dangling off a cliff by my fingers and toes. I climb because it gives me an escape from the headaches of everyday life; the higher I go up, the further away those problems seem to get. But that’s just me. That’s the beauty of climbing — it’s such an intensely individual and personal pursuit. You can get out of it whatever you want. You can climb only once a year or every day. It can be just a fun thing to do every once in a while or it can take over your life. With such beautiful and accessible surroundings, it would be a shame not to try it at least a few times. Give it a shot and, who knows, you might even find yourself joining the ranks of the true believers.

Tristan Higbee is an outdoors correspondent for Rhombus. He is apparently well-versed in rocks.

SONG OF THE DAY: July 27th

Written by Steve Pierce on . Posted in Music

The Hold Steady, “How A Resurrection Really Feels”

The Hold Steady are one of my all-time favorite bands and I’m never quite sure why. By all accounts, they shouldn’t even be close. Lead vocalist Craig Finn’s gravelly growl is far from beautiful. His lyrics deal almost exclusively with tales of parties, alcohol and drugs — all things with which I have little to no experience. They are the quintessential American bar band — and I can count the number of times I have been to a bar on one hand. For all intents and purposes, I should be completely unable to relate to the band’s music.

Yet I do — completely. Finn’s exceptionally literary stories of young people coping with life by any means possible are familiar in the same way as J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye: they are tales of adolescent debauchery that fascinate and enrapture even the most straight-laced of audiences. You come to know and love Finn’s revolving cast of characters as friends; You care about them. As he weaves metaphors of religion and faith throughout his narratives, the songs become about much more than a couple drug-addled Minnesota twentysomethings looking for the next high. They become a series of diagonoses of an entire generation (our generation) set to crunching power chords and fluid keyboard licks. These people exist in real life — they are your friends, your neighbors, maybe even your family members. And that’s why the Hold Steady’s music is so salient: Craig Finn is writing music that provides the soundtrack to our generation’s lifestyle of decadence and excess, whether or not we choose to indulge ourselves.

Listen to: The Hold Steady, “How A Resurrection Really Feels”

SPORTS: "Starbury" Finally Loses It

Written by Ben Wagner on . Posted in Sports

Recently, the antics of much maligned NBA point guard Stephon Marbury have gone from the normal garbage one expects from him to levels of Michael Jackson-esque insanity. “Starbury” promised his loyal fans (apparently he’s under the impression that those exist) via his Twitter account that he would be doing a live 24-hour video chat from inside his home. While this, in and of itself, sounds ludicrous and completely narcissistic, the best moment of said live chat came when Stephon broke down into sobs for a good five minutes while listening to some R&B music. Take a moment to watch the whole thing. You won’t be disappointed:

NBA fans are undoubtedly aware of Marbury’s career history. After being drafted by the Bucks and then promptly traded to the Timberwolves, Marbury spent two good seasons in Minnesota and was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team. During the lockout season of 1999, he fell out of favor with T-Wolves management and was traded to the New Jersey Nets, while Minnesota went on to make the playoffs for the next six years, including the Western Conference finals in 2004. While in New Jersey, Marbury became an All-Star without ever leading the Nets to the playoffs. He was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2001 in exchange for Jason Kidd, who subsequently led the Nets to two straight NBA Finals appearances. (Beginning to notice a trend?)

Marbury led the Suns to the playoffs in 2003, where they were promptly ousted by the Spurs. He was then traded to the New York Knicks during the 2003-2004 season, as the Suns went on to contend in the Western Conference for the next several years and Steve Nash (the guard who replaced Marbury) won back-to-back league MVP awards. Marbury played for the 2004 USA Olympic team, the only American basketball team to fail to win gold since the team started fielding NBA players. During the ensuing years, the Knicks failed to field competitive teams and finished under .500 every season and failed to make the playoffs. Marbury was involved in several off-the-court incidents, including spats with Hall of Fame Coach Larry Brown that resulted in Brown’s termination by the team.

As the Knicks continued to struggle, Marbury also continued his involvement in several off-court incidents involving new Coach Isaiah Thomas, including a sexual harassment suit being filed against the Knicks organization and the coach. Marbury continued to feud with Thomas, with some reports indicating that the pair even came to blows on the team airplane. Marbury was eventually placed on the inactive list when Chris Duhon won the starting point guard position in training camp. When offered more limited playing time, Marbury reportedly refused to become active again and was banned from all team practices and facilities.

The Knicks eventually bought out Marbury’s sizable contract and he was subsequently signed to the then-defending champion Boston Celtics as a reserve point guard. The Celtics failed to repeat as champions and Marbury’s impact on the court was negligible. Now a free agent, recent rumors have tied him to the Wizards organization or possibly some European teams.

Now, after having reviewed his tumultuous career, both Marbury’s on- and off-court performances have revealed him to be a selfish and troubled individual. If nothing else, the ridiculous video above further proves this. The question is what drove him to break down and what drove him to think it was a good idea to post a video of said breakdown on the Internet for the whole world to see. I have a few guesses.

Reasons Why Starbury Was Crying:

A) He feels guilty about having “improper relations” with an intern in the back of a truck at a strip club (yes, he has admitted to this, and yes, he is married.)

B) He feels guilty about running Larry Brown out of New York.

C) He realized that nobody likes him and that he has no friends other than the guy consoling him in the video. (I’m guessing that’s Glen “Big Baby” Davis, but I could be wrong.)

D) He just finished The Notebook.

E) He’s legitimately scared that Kevin Garnett is going to eat him (and/or has threatened to go to war with him. Both have the same end result.)

F) He realized every team he plays for becomes instantly better as soon as he’s gone.

G) He’s discovered the truth behind the NBA’s officiating problem and David Stern has threatened to kill him if he talks, yet he feels morally obligated to inform the world about the conspiracy.

H) The King of Pop is dead.

I ) He looked in the mirror and realized he can never get rid of that ridiculous tattoo on the side of his head.

J) He realized that, with Steve and Barry’s closing all 240 of its locations, there will be a significant loss in revenue from his Starbury line of shoes and clothing.

K) Drugs.

L) Alcohol.

M) The realization that no one wants him except the Wizards and some crappy European teams.

N) All of the above.

Personally, I’m leaning towards E — and I can’t blame him: KG scares me too.

Ben Wagner is a tech and sports correspondent for Rhombus. He knows far too much about Stephon Marbury’s career. Follow him on Twitter @ben_wagner.