Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Lewis Hamilton's Victory at Monaco

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton on his win at the Grand Prix of Monaco. Hamilton was earbender Sports Personality of the Year during his rookie year of 2007, and in his own words the race was, "the highlight of my career and probably will be for the rest of my life." The 23 year-old tcb in the rain after crashing early in the race and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls was in his pit. Well done Lewis!

BBC has a comprehensive wrap up here.

F1's Grand Prix of Monaco map of the circuit includes gears and speeds.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Scarlett Johansson's Music Career Offends Me

I just took a little trip through the snippets of Scarlett Johansson's debut recording, "Anywhere I Lay My Head (Deluxe Edition)," courtesy of iTunes. She has got some nerve putting out this dreck! We all agree Tom Waits is a genius and that many of his songs would soar with a more "conventional" voice singing them, for example "Jersey Girl" in the hands of Springsteen or even "Downtown Train" as performed by Rod Stewart.

There are many examples (Linda Ronstadt on "Old Paint," The Eagles' version of "Ol' 55"). Waits own recordings are challenging and excellent, not many of them are alike, and he shows no signs of slowing down either in productivity or in his intense creative/business vibes. I had minimal dealings w/him when I worked at Island but the compilation I promoted, "Beautiful Maladies," compiles a lot of his weirder albums and would serve as a good intro to the man's music, as opposed to the millennial's Molly Ringwald.

I don't appreciate Scarlett Johansson very much as a movie star, already felt she was very overrated and a big reason was her deep and often monotone voice. This album might have been fun for them to make but it sure is not fun to listen to. As my friend Cheech would often say, "what is the purpose of this music?" If it gets some young people into the great Tom Waits, then hats off to Scarlett Johansson, but I'm not buying it.

In fact, this album is offensive to me because even though it is an indie movie star and Tom Waits, "Anywhere I Lay My Head (Deluxe Edition)" is no different from any co-branded, American Idol-style debut recording these days. We are only interested because of her name recognition, and judging by a few minutes with the album, there is not much more to appreciate. Who wants a techno Tom Waits?

Maybe Scarlett Johansson was signed for her ability to sell t shirts, get a GOOD band into a cool movie she is star of, generate alternative revenue streams or just general publicity, and I am offended by an industry that clamors for her. Maybe it just shows how dismal it is for new artists in general. Who wants to write or even worse, fund something that won't make a dent in the media or the bottom line?

Entertainment Weekly has a good bad review here and also provides a link to watch Scarlett on MTV here. She uses a music stand to remember lyrics but has a snazzy "S" logo on projected on to the walls. Terrible.

Reuters' summary of negative critical response made me feel better. Seems like they will take the opportunity to bring her down a few pegs for doing this album.

Now playing: "Young Man's Blues" by The Who.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Jamaica Track Team Stamps for the Olympics

I always point to the Jamaican National team's achievements in running as an example of the country's reputation for hard work in pursuit of excellence. Aside from favorable weather, my guess is the team has many disadvantages in training compared to the other teams from much bigger and richer countries, yet Jamaica has many world record holders and is consistently competitive.

The Postal Corporation of Jamaica describes the stamps as follows:

"Featured persons were decided on the basis of on their tremendous exploits. The stamp shows Jamaica’s ‘Golden Girls’ - the Women’s 4 x 100m relay team that competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics final of that event. They are Tayna Lawrence, Veronica Campbell, Aleen Bailey and Sherone Simpson. Of note was the victory by Veronica Campbell in the 200m as she created history by being the first woman from Jamaica or the Caribbean to win an Olympic Gold in a sprint race. On that occasion (Wednesday August 25, 2004) Campbell ran her personal best of 22.05, beating her main rival, American, Allyson Felix, to the finish line.

Asafa Powell was chosen to highlight the incredible feats of speed for which he has received much acclaim. In 2005 he broke the 100m world record with 9.77 seconds, and stamped his mark on the title of ‘Fastest Man on Earth’ by twice repeating that feat. Then in 2007 he again smashed the world record: his time – a stunning 9.74 seconds."

As the Olympic torch made its way around the world, I admired the many protests for human rights in China that gained attention through its travels and subsequent media coverage. I do not support an Olympic boycott, it didn't work against the USSR in 1980 and hurt many athletes' careers. The Olympics are not apolitical, as 1972 proved, but if we want to expose the injustices of China, let the world travel there and take a closer look. Even if the media is suppressed, that will be reported in detail.

Singer Yungchen Lhamo has lead protests in San Francisco on behalf of her native Tibet. The video below shows a demonstration in Berlin set to her music.

If I were an athlete, I would not support a boycott. I think we can make more noise over there and hope that Volkswagon and the other sponsors can make a difference for the people of China.