Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prediction: Tennessee will lose to California in high scoring game

The college football season starts for real on Saturday night when the Tennessee Volunteers visit the California Golden Bears out in Berkeley. I have always had a soft spot for Cal because they were Tennessee's opponent the first time I saw the Vols play in person. That was back in 1987 and Tennessee rolled that day 38-12.

However, things have changed a lot for Cal since then. They are the second best team in the PAC-10 conference, trailing only USC, and they have had a dynamite offense the last couple of years. Most importantly, I believe Cal has the psychological advantage heading into the game.

Last year, Cal opened the season in Knoxville in what was billed as a measuring stick in the development of their program. Tennessee dominated that game, winning 35-18, but the game was not that close. The Volunteers jumped out to a 35-0 lead before coasting for most of the second half. Frankly, Cal looked intimidated by the raucous Neyland Stadium crowd.

Obviously, Cal has a lot of egg they want to wipe off their face. In addition, Tennessee has some significant issues, including inexperience at wide receiver and in the defensive secondary. Toss in some shakiness at placekicker, and the Vols still have some big questions that need answering.

Since Cal has the emotional edge, look for them to get off to a fast start, but Tennessee will rally in the second half to make it a close game. After all, it wouldn't be a Tennessee game if they didn't make you chew your fingernails down to the nub. As a Tennessee graduate and a believer in the dominance of the Southeastern Conference, it's tough to pick Cal, but it is the prudent pick in this case.

The pick: California 28 Tennessee 27

Other SEC picks: Vanderbilt over Richmond, Florida over Western Kentucky, Georgia over Oklahoma State, Kentucky over Eastern Kentucky, South Carolina over UL Lafayette, Alabama over Western Carolina, Arkansas over Troy, Auburn over Kansas State, LSU over Mississippi State, Memphis over Ole Miss

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Beatles' "Yellow Submarine" is good, lightweight entertainment

Recently, a friend of mine surprised me when she rented the Beatles' animated film "Yellow Submarine" for me. Despite being a Beatles' fan, I had not seen this film since I was a boy, but I remembered having warm feelings about it. Animation has come a long way since this was made in 1968, but it holds up quite well.

The film was assembled under the supervision of German poster artist Heinz Edelmann, according to Beatles' biographer Nicholas Schaffner. It was assembled from five million separate sketches that were later sold. Given the value of Beatles' memorabilia, I wonder how much one of those original sketches would be worth now.

The efforts really paid off because the film is much more successful as a visual image than as a conventional, plot-driven piece. The plot is actually pretty flimsy. The people of Pepperland are attacked by the Blue Meanies and Apple Bonkers, and it is up to the Beatles to save them. A co-writer of the script was Erich Segal who later wrote "Love Story," which probably tells you all you need to know.

So, the script is not the film's strongest point. However, it is a visually beautiful and engaging film with, of course, lots of good music. In recent years, the original soundtrack has been altered to include all the Beatles' songs used in the film while discarding the orchestral score. To me, that is disappointing. Many of the Beatles' songs can be found on other albums while the orchestral score only appeared on the soundtrack. Keep that in mind if the chance to purchase the soundtrack arises.

This film is a good way to spend 90 minutes if a person is looking for some entertainment.

A person could find worse ways to spend a rainy afternoon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

ESPN's 25-hour pregame show another example of overkill

ESPN's decision to air a 25-hour pregame show in advance of Thursday's LSU-Mississippi State football game can only be described as overkill. What is the point of this? I enjoy college football probably more than the average person, but the prospect of spending 25 hours with all of ESPN's college football talking heads makes my head woozy just thinking about it.

The marathon begins on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT and will continue until game time the following evening at 7 p.m. CT. Given ESPN's penchant for favoritism, this program has a chance to be a real train wreck. Even though it is leading up to a Southeastern Conference game, I find it hard to believe that they will not spend a substantial amount of time flogging their pet teams and conferences.

Just imagine how many times they will mention Ohio State and Michigan or imply that the Big 10 conference has the football credentials of a conference the caliber of the SEC. ESPN definitely has a raging love for the Big 10.

Or, how many times will Lou Holtz sing the praises of South Carolina and Notre Dame, both of which are places he coached at? Or, how about Lee Corso talking up his beloved Florida State. Or, how about Kirk Herbstreit singing about his alma mater Ohio State.

I know this is only sports, but I don't think it is asking too much for the most prominent sports network to at least keep up the pretense of objectivity when it comes to their reporting and commentary. However, that does not happen. Commentators openly campaign for programs that they have connections to.

I may watch a little bit of this program, but I can't imagine spending much time with it. College football is special, but some folks want to exploit it until it is worn into a fine powder. It's too much, too soon in the year.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The most important words spoken by Michael Vick on Monday

Shortly after entering a guilty plea on Monday to a federal dogfighting charge, Michael Vick made a wide-ranging statement in which he apologized to everybody who has been affected by his actions. He also took responsibility for his crimes and acknowledged that it is time for him to grow up.

However, seemingly lost in his apology, there was one simple statement that was the most important comment he made. The statement was both simple and profound, and it will have the most lasting impact on his life if he really meant it.

He said: "Through this situation I've found Jesus."

For his sake, I hope this is true. Many times, people find the Lord after their lives have collapsed and are surrounded by the rubble of what once was. This is especially true of famous and wealthy people like Vick. Materialism seduces us into believing in our own greatness and that we do not need anybody else. I'm not saying that happened to Vick, but history is littered with people that it did happen to.

Of course, many will say that this is just a ploy to shape public opinion more favorably toward him. It is a valid point, and he would not be the first person to exploit Jesus for personal gain. However, because I cannot see into his heart, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on this.

After all that has happened, his simple statement is the defining moment of his life. It doesn't matter how many touchdowns he has scored, how much money he has made or how many women he has slept with. Those are the types of things that impress mankind but are small potatoes within an eternal picture.

My prayer for him is that he will surround himself with Godly people who can help him develop his spiritual walk. His life in prison will certainly provide plenty of time for study, and let us hope he spends time in the Word. There is no substitute for that.

Much of the debate surrounding Vick's life is whether or not he will ever get to play football again. However, the most important issue is the condition of Vick as a man. The football issue will work itself out over time.

Based on what he said Monday, this whole sordid event will likely produce a much better man. It will be very difficult on him in the short term. But by staying close to God, it will all be more bearable.

Remember, punishment is the most important reason for having prisons, but rehabilitation is crucial, too.

Let's hope Vick backs up his statements.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

No matter how hard we try, we can't get rid of O.J. Simpson

When observing the 24-hour-a-day news cycle the media exist in, a common tactic they use to fill up all that time is to focus on one particular story and then grind it into the ground.

It is a classic tabloid approach that has been around for centuries, but with the mass communication explosion of the last couple of decades, media organizations have taken it up a notch.

I think all of us could cite specific examples of this lately. It seems every month or so a story comes along that the media clamps on to and does not let go until every drop of juice is squeezed from it.

For example, the scandal involving quarterback Michael Vick and his role in animal cruelty activities has been a staple of media coverage lately. It has multiple issues to attract an audience: wealth, celebrity, race, horror, and many other factors that seemingly hypnotize the public.

The story has definitely been a 'golden child' when it comes to filling up blocks of time on talk radio and news channels.

When referring to this case in this way, I don't mean to trivialize the seriousness of the issues involved. Animal cruelty is a serious subject, but there can be no questioning that Vick's celebrity status is the only reason this case is getting so much attention.

Unfortunately, crimes of this nature take place frequently, but they were only a blip on the radar until the Vick situation occurred.

Of course, another case involving a prominent athlete played a significant role in the development of the type of media coverage that has been focused at Vick.

In 1994, when NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson was implicated in the deaths of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman, an unprecedented media frenzy was born.

It was all O.J., all the time on many networks, and a large segment of the public could not eat it up fast enough. Even though it has been more than a decade since the Simpson saga played out, it still pops back into view from time to time.

Recently, a book publisher announced plans to publish Simpson's hypothetical book, "If I Did It." The book reportedly contains Simpson's theoretical account of how he could have committed the slayings of his ex-wife and her friend. Last year, the existence of the book was made known but public outrage and family anger caused it to be shelved.

We live in a cynical age in which many folks can hear horrible news and not flinch one bit. We have gotten bombarded with negative images and news to the point that our hearts have become calloused.

So, it is saying something when a sleazy book like this can provoke such a passionate response.

The bottom line is this book is about as bad as it gets. A book about how somebody could have hypothetically murdered two people? I guess money is still green even if it is dripping with the blood of the two victims.

Still, I can't help but think that many folks are being hypocritical when it comes to criticizing this book. After all, the reason a book like this has even been written is because of the public's fascination with Simpson.

It doesn't matter that he was held accountable for those deaths in a civil trial. For those who believe he is guilty, it does not come close to the punishment those folks feel he deserves.

Because of this, the most infamous product of the 24-hour news cycle will continue to be a person of extreme interest. Simpson was inducted into the professional football hall of fame for his success there, but if there was a CNN hall of fame he would likely deserve a place there, too.

Their willingness (and the willingness of other media) to repeatedly cram his situation down the throats of America for ratings while ignoring many noteworthy news stories earned them a lot of money. However, the idea of being a guardian for the people became a little less important during that time.

Their decision to do that has probably impacted us in ways we do not know.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

August is creeping to a halt, but the heat is not

From a weather perspective, August has been one of the most challenging months that I can remember in my lifetime. It seems like temperatures have reached 100 degrees more times this month than in the last five summers combined. In Nashville, it has been 100 degrees or hotter 14 days out of the last 17. I haven't had rain at my house since August 1, so now my yard has transformed into a remarkable combination of brown grass and powdery dirt.

It is expected to remain in the 100s through at least Friday. Just to illustrate how big a difference a drop of a few degrees can mean, I went to Crossville last weekend on a golfing trip. Crossville is up on the Cumberland Plateau, and the drop of temperature was delightful. The temperature was still 90 degrees, but a steady breeze made it feel great. Normally, I would denounce 90 degrees as being too hot, but after the last three weeks, it was a welcome relief.

It looks like the heat wave will continue for at least a little while longer here in Middle Tennessee. If the Weather Channel decides to cover this heat wave and drought with the same intensity as it does hurricanes, Jim Cantore should be showing up at my front door any moment.

But, hopefully, it will not come to that. We are now two-thirds of the way through summer, and the end is in sight.

I am hoping for an early autumn.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

USC is the consensus No. 1, but should we have polls this early?

USC is ranked number one in both the Associated Press and USA Today college football polls to start the season. In fact, the Trojans are the pick of most experts to win the national championship. They have a lot of experience returning this year especially on defense.

The Southeastern Conference is well represented in both polls. LSU and Florida are both ranked in the top 10. Tennessee is ranked fifteenth in each poll. Also, Georgia, Auburn, and Arkansas are ranked in both polls.

However, I have never understood the need for polls before the start of the season. The polls are supposed to rank the top 25 teams in the country, but how is that possible if no games have been played? True, the preseason polls are largely ceremonial and play an important roll in adding to all the preseason chatter related to the sport. But don't these polls give an unnecessary advantage to teams that have not earned anything yet?

Every year, it seems like there is at least one team that is ranked low in the polls or not at all, but they emerge as one of the top teams. However, because they began so low, it is harder for them to reach the top than it is for teams that are bestowed with high rankings without playing a game.

When Tennessee won the national championship in 1998, we began the year ranked tenth and had to slowly but surely jump teams on the way to the top. Conversely, the Volunteers started the 2005 season ranked third, but we stank it out and finished with only a 5-6 record. Clearly, the Vols were vastly overrated that year.

Polls should not be issued until the first week of October. By then, all the teams have been playing for a month, and we should have a pretty good idea of who the better teams are. It will not guarantee that teams won't get overlooked, but it will greatly reduce the possibility. If we aren't going to have a playoff system, then we must look at ways to refine the current system. And this is one way.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Underrated album: Pete Townshend's "White City: A Novel"

For an artist with a rich history like Pete Townshend, it is easy to overlook a lot of his work.

Townshend, who was guitarist and main songwriter for The Who, has written hundreds of songs for that band and his solo career.

However, given what commercial radio has become, listeners usually only hear 10 or 15 of his most popular songs because of the stagnant formats many stations have. And, usually, none of those songs are from his solo career.

In 1985, Townshend released White City: A Novel. The record is actually the music from a long-form video written by Townshend of the same title. Even though he is a rocker at heart, Townshend has also shown considerable ambition when it comes to his music. After all, The Who’s Tommy and Quadrophenia were both rock operas that were eventually adapted into films.

But, like most of his solo work, the music on White City does not sound like The Who. Of his solo work, 1980's Empty Glass is the only record that is reminiscent of that band. Still, White City does rock and has several memorable songs. The most well-known song is "Face the Face" which hit the Top 30 on the Billboard singles chart. Also, "Secondhand Love" and "Give Blood" rock with gusto.

"Hiding Out" and "I Am Secure" visit recurring themes in Townshend's work: alienation and isolation. While both these songs are gentle when compared to his angry classic "My Generation," they both convey the melancholy feelings of those two themes. Maybe that is part of getting older. Instead of having the anger of youth when we feel isolated or outcast, we feel more wistful later in life when we confront these two issues. I don't know.

The bottom line is this is an underrated but memorable record. If you ever stumble across it in the bargain bins, it is well worth having.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy days are here again: $2.50 a gallon gasoline

It is amazing how perspectives change. When I was a young man, the idea of paying a dollar a gallon for gasoline outraged me. Back then, I'm sure I called the oil companies every name in the book each time I filled up my gas tank.

Fast forward a couple of decades and obviously, gas prices have gotten a lot more outrageous. We have all paid three dollars for a gallon, and unless a person is an executive for Exxon, paying that amount was pretty hard to swallow. However, I don't really blame the oil companies anymore. After all, we as consumers have proven we will spend three dollars a gallon for gas, so why shouldn't they charge us that much for it? It's basic supply and demand.

Here where I live, prices recently dropped down to $2.50 a gallon. How did I react? I was happy, which I guess we all should be. But, in a way, that reaction was troubling. Happy to pay $2.50 a gallon? Apparently, it doesn't take much to make me happy these days.

Unfortunately, this drop is only temporary. I'm sure prices will start shooting up again soon. It's too bad Americans can't show more discipline and cut back on the amount they drive. Unless demand drops, prices won't truly get lower anytime soon.

Then again, Hurricane Dean may be the culprit in driving prices back up in the coming days.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Text messaging turning cars into rolling death machines

Let me say right up front that I own a cell phone. It is a reliable and convenient way to stay in touch with people who need to reach me.

I am not anti-cell phone in any way. However, I am becoming more and more anti-people when it comes to folks who do not think twice about imposing their cell phone use on me.

Because as use of cell phones continues to increase, people are showing more and more disregard for the way their phone usage impacts others. This not only applies to where folks choose to talk on their phones, but also how they use other features cell phones provide like text messaging.

For example, consider the results of a recent Harris Interactive survey. In that survey, 91 percent of respondents believed that sending text messages while driving is as dangerous as driving after having a few drinks.

However, 57 percent of those people admitted that they have sent text messages while driving.

What is going on here? Text messaging while driving?

For folks who don't know, text messaging is done by typing out a message on your cell phone's screen and then sending it to another cell phone. It’s just a variation of e-mail.

Of course, this begs the question: why are people typing out messages while they are driving? Even the most accomplished text messagers have to look at their cell phone while sending a message, which means they have to take their eyes off the road if they are doing this while driving.

This is about as moronic as it gets. It also says a lot about how big of an ego many Americans apparently have.

Think about it. A person must have a really big ego to believe that others absolutely have to hear from them at the very moment the impulse to send a text message occurs.

They can't wait five minutes until they get home or even take the time to pull off on the side of the road to send that message.

They have to send it now, and they really don't care whether or not they put you at risk while they do it.

When we drive each day, I think most of us would agree there are already a lot of sloppy drivers out there. Many drivers don't use their turn signals. They speed through intersections just after the light has turned red.

And God help somebody if he actually tries to go the speed limit. People either zoom by or tailgate you until you break out into a cold sweat.

Now, we have to deal with folks who drive while typing out text messages.

I know it is easy to take the responsibility of driving for granted. We all drive successfully every day, and that makes us indifferent to the danger that exists on the road.

We just don't believe anything serious or deadly can happen to us.

However, this isn't the case, and this is something that we all need to take more seriously.

People who text message while driving do not care about the safety of other motorists. It is that simple.

It is an insensitive, selfish, and dangerous act.

But, it is also another example of how big a nuisance cell phones can be if the person who uses them does not show restraint.

For example, how many times have you been eating at a restaurant and the person at the next table starts yapping away on their phone? Because of the noise in most restaurants, cell phone users often have to speak above conversation level just so the person on the other end can hear what they are saying. By doing this, everybody around them becomes an unwilling participant in their phone call.

And, perhaps worst of all, cell phones ringing during church services have become common. A primary blessing of going to worship is that we can leave the issues of the world outside the church. However, many of us just can't remember to turn off that cell phone.

Cell phones aren't that bad. It's just that many of us lack discipline when using this technology.

Do everybody a favor; show some restraint.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Prediction: LSU to beat Florida in SEC championship game

Okay, so I'm not exactly going out on a limb by saying LSU will beat Florida to win the SEC championship game. Then again, most college football forecasters aren't either because the Tigers seem to be the most popular pick this year. True, some folks are picking Florida to repeat, but most feel the power is in Baton Rouge.

However, given the parity in the conference, it wouldn't surprise me if neither LSU nor Florida made it to the title game. As I stated in other blog entries earlier this week, I believe four teams could win the eastern division. Even though LSU is the clear frontrunner in the west, who is to say another team won't get hot and steal it from them?

I really believe this will be a banner year for the conference. The talent level appears as high as ever. The conference will never get as much recognition as it deserves as long as ESPN continues to prostitute itself to the Big 10, but it really doesn't matter. I think most folks 'in the know' understand that the SEC is the country's best.

The bottom line is this should be a great year for college football lovers. Even without a playoff system, I believe it is the best sport. Maybe the lack of a playoff is what makes it so compelling. Every week, the games mean something. Games in October have a 'win or your season is over' feel to them.

Most sports don't offer that type of drama.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Prediction: It's LSU then the rest in the SEC West

A couple of days ago I picked Florida to win the SEC Eastern Division. Now, it's time to turn our eyes to the SEC West.

The consensus is that LSU has the most talent in the west, and I agree. The most intriguing battle in this division will be for second place. Arkansas has a lot of horses and can run the ball down the throats of most good defenses. Alabama is in a tizzy about having Nick Saban as head coach but will he be able to turn the Tide around this year? Auburn appears to be on the brink of another excellent season, but will quarterback Brandon Cox be healthy and consistent enough to make that happen?

Let's take a look:

1. LSU Tigers – Obviously, the Tigers have a big hole to fill now that quarterback JaMarcus Russell has gone to the NFL. To ease that transition, they have eight starters back on a physical and fast defense. The schedule also gives the Tigers a break as they play Florida, Auburn, and Arkansas at home. The result is another divisional title.

2. Arkansas Razorbacks – The Razorbacks had a lot of off-field distractions during the off-season (heralded quarterback Mitch Mustain transferred, controversy regarding Coach Houston Nutt's personal life, etc.), but if a team can consistently run the ball in the SEC, they will have a good year. Arkansas definitely has that ability with Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden and fellow running back Felix Jones. A possible red flag is the weakness of last year's passing game. If quarterback Casey Dick does not improve, defenses may successfully stack the line to stymie the running game. The Razorbacks have a critical early season match up when they visit Alabama on Sept. 15.

3. Alabama Crimson Tide – I don't like Alabama. Mark this down for Oct. 20: Tennessee 56, Alabama 2.

4. Auburn Tigers – On the bright side, the Tigers have a senior quarterback in Brandon Cox. On the dark side, they only have one returning starter on the offensive line. In the SEC, a team can have all the experience in the world in the backfield, but if the line cannot deliver, problems will occur. Also, Auburn has a killer road schedule with visits slated to Florida, Arkansas, LSU, and Georgia.

5. Mississippi State Bulldogs – Things are getting better at Mississippi State, but many would argue things couldn't get much worse. To those folks, I would remind them of how strongly State finished last year. They beat Alabama on the road, and had Georgia on the ropes before letting them off the hook. The passing game improved last year with Michael Henig, and if his knee and collarbone injuries are fully healed, that success should continue this year. Plus, there is enough experience on the offensive line to protect him and consistently run the ball. They won't go to a bowl, but State will be better this year.

6. Ole Miss Rebels – The Rebels have a chance to be good on offense with four offensive line starters returning, plenty of depth at running back, and the fact that quarterback Brent Schaeffer can't be any worse than last year. However, with linebacker Patrick Willis gone to the NFL, there is a huge hole on the defense. Expect another losing season at Oxford. If I was an Ole Miss booster, I would be wondering why we fired David Cutcliffe.

Coming next: Who will win the SEC Championship game?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Prediction: Unfortunately, Florida will repeat as SEC East champion

I know the college football season is still about three weeks away, but I can't stand it anymore. It's time to take the talk up a notch. Pre-season predictions are as inevitable as summer heat and ESPN's Skip Bayless getting on my nerves, but they are fun to make.

Today, the ball gets rolling with a look at the SEC Eastern Division. First, a bold claim: all six teams in the division will make it to a bowl game. Obviously, Vanderbilt and Kentucky are the jokers in the pack when it comes to this, but they both will get enough wins to qualify.

The other four teams (Florida, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina) could all win the division. That's correct; under the right circumstances, I believe Carolina could win the division. There will be lot of parity, and I expect the divisional champion to have two conference losses.

So, let's look at how I believe things will shake out in this super-competitive division.

1. Florida Gators – It makes me choke to pick Florida, but I guess I am from the old school. I believe the champs are the champs until somebody beats them, and of course, the Gators won the conference and national titles last year. However, they face some big challenges. They only have two starters returning on defense. Plus, sophomore quarterback Tim Tebow now has the burden of being the full-time quarterback. On the bright side (for them), two of their three toughest conference games (vs. Tennessee and Auburn) are at home, but they have to play LSU on the road.

2. Tennessee Volunteers – If the Volunteers young wide receivers and defensive backs mature quickly, then they will be the biggest threat to Florida. If not, things will be more difficult. Tennessee's schedule is a little better this year after last year's brutal one. LSU drops off the schedule and is replaced by Mississippi State. Plus, they get Georgia, Arkansas, and South Carolina at home. The key to the season is quarterback Erik Ainge. Will he have another excellent season like he did last year? Or will the Ainge of 2005 show up in which he was inconsistent and rattled for most of the year?

3. South Carolina Gamecocks – Despite Coach Steve Spurrier's reputation as an offensive genius, it is the defense that gives the Gamecocks a shot at the title. Nine starters from last year's defense returns. The path of their season may well be defined on Sept. 8 when they visit Georgia (a game I believe they will win). In order for them to challenge for the title, they must find ways to steal a couple of wins on the road because that is where the toughest part of their schedule lies. In addition to Georgia, they play road games at LSU, Tennessee, and Arkansas. Ouch.

4. Georgia Bulldogs – The Bulldogs are inexperienced in the offensive line and the defensive front seven. Those are not good weaknesses to have in a conference as physical as the SEC. They finished strong last year, but also suffered losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky. Who are the real Georgia Bulldogs? We will find out quickly because in addition to their early game against South Carolina, they open the season hosting Oklahoma State in an intriguing non-conference game then visit Alabama on Sept. 22.

5. Vanderbilt Commodores – I have already discussed Vandy in a previous blog entry (see June 12 posting). As I said then, they will go to a bowl. However, their talent level is not to the point where they can finish better than fifth in this division.

6. Kentucky Wildcats – It says a lot about Kentucky's football tradition when they can go 8-5 and win the Music City Bowl like they did last year, and it is considered one of the best seasons in program history. They will finish last in this division, but their schedule is set up for them to win six or seven games overall. Quarterback Andre Woodson may be the best in the conference.

Coming soon: The SEC West will get the same treatment.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Keith Richards to write memoir -- if he can remember his life

It really is not that big a deal to write a book these days, and this especially applies to celebrities who write autobiographies.

However, every now and then, there comes a celebrity book that might be worth giving a chance.

I thought of this recently after hearing that Rolling Stones' guitarist Keith Richards is currently working on a memoir. He received $7.3 million to write it, and it is scheduled to be published in 2010.

This may be one of the rare instances where a celebrity is able to deliver the goods when it comes to compelling subject matter. Because regardless of whether a person is a fan of his or not, most would agree he is an important figure in the recent history of popular music.

Richards has been right in the middle of most of the significant musical events to take place since the Stones hit the big time in America in 1965.

He has co-written many memorable songs, and he should have an endless supply of stories regarding them.

If he shares those with us, the book could be absorbing.

However, as most folks know, Richards is almost as well known for the wild life he has led as he is for his musicianship. Many folks are surprised that he is still alive and that he can even remember enough to write a book.

Because of this, the book could primarily focus on the seamy side of his life.

To a certain degree, he will have to address those issues in order to write a truly honest book. If he were to ignore them, he would come off as a phony.

But, it would be a tremendous mistake if he allows the book to become just another account of the wacky life of an outlaw. Since Richards is aware of his public image, he could just serve up a superficial account of his life that would likely be well received.

Let's hope he avoids that because there are a lot of topics that I would like to hear reflections about.

For example, what was going through his mind during the disastrous acoustic set he played with Bob Dylan and Ron Wood at Live Aid? Live Aid was a fundraiser for African famine relief, and the set was hyped as a climax to all the performances that had taken place in London and Philadelphia that day.

However, the set was a catastrophe. Guitars were out of tune as he, Dylan, and Wood never quite seemed to be on the same page. What was it like to flop in front of hundreds of millions of people like that?

Additionally, the Stones have produced a half dozen classic albums. What was it like when they recorded "Beggar’s Banquet" in 1968? The group was in a trough at that time, and it was a possibility they could have broken up if that record had failed. If they had split up, Richards certainly would not have become the star he became and received a pirate's ransom for his autobiography.

In the face of all that adversity, the band delivered one of the greatest albums of the last 40 years. Everybody arrives at a crossroads a few times in their life. This was one for him, and if he hadn't delivered, lives would have changed.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. The potential for a vibrant and entertaining book is there.

It would be a shame if Richards reduced it to a telling of outrageous escapades just to make a ton of money for his publisher.

The low road is often the easy road.

Keef, don't take the low road.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mark your calendars, movie lovers

If you haven't gotten enough movie sequels this summer, you are in luck because Hollywood plans to serve up more re-fried beans later this year.

"Saw IV" will be coming out in October followed by "Alien vs. Predator II" this Christmas. Ah, yes, nothing says Christmastime like going to the movies and watching aliens and predators disembowel each other.

Deep sigh.

But can we really blame Hollywood? They wouldn't serve up this crap if folks didn't go watch it.

Raise your standards, America. This means you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Oh, mercy, it's's really hot

It has been a hot and dry summer so far, but only now have we officially entered the first heat wave of the season. Tomorrow, the high is supposed to be 101 degrees here in Manchester. For the next few days, the forecast is for it to be in the upper 90s and dry.

I don't like this. True, life could be a lot worse, but as I have written before, I just don't like hot weather. The only way this could be more uncomfortable would be if I put on an itchy, black turtleneck sweater and played 36 holes of golf on Wednesday.

It is a little over six weeks until autumn so relief is not that far away. But in order to make this heat a little more bearable now, here is Wednesday's forecast for several cities where the living is a little easier right now. This may seem silly, but it's either do this or go sit on a block of ice.

Barrow, Alaska -- partly cloudy, high of 51
Reykjavik, Iceland -- light rain, high of 56
Buenos Aires, Argentina -- sunny, high of 62
Sydney, Australia -- sunny, high of 72
Nuuk, Greenland -- showers, high of 59
Johannesburg, South Africa -- mostly sunny, high of 65
Oslo, Norway -- showers, high of 71
Santiago, Chile -- afternoon showers, high of 52
Base Orcadas, Antarctica -- light snow, high of 33
Lima, Peru -- partly cloudy, high of 64

Now, that is some tasty weather. However, I don't feel any better. There is only one thing left to do. As you are reading this, I am now slowly descending onto the coldest of compresses (unfortunately, no blocks of ice were handy).

Ahh....aside from the part of me that is shriveling up, I feel much better now.

Monday, August 6, 2007

We all go a little Mona Lisa sometime

Consider this quote attributed to pop singer Britney Spears: "I kinda think (Mona Lisa's) like my alter ego. Whenever I feel like being mean or bustin' people to get stuff right, it's kinda easier to be called Mona Lisa instead of Britney."

She makes a good point. Sometimes the tough and dirty jobs have to get done, and you have to get in a totally different mindset to make that happen. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

For me, when I need to bust some heads, I take on the persona of my main man Ernest Borgnine. When I go Ernie B. on people, they know it is time to either get things done or move on.

So, folks, you would do well to remember that when you start hassling me. Because if you aren't careful, you might get an up-close and personal taste of Ernie B.

And, trust me, you wouldn't want that.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Barry Bonds helping Hank Aaron in one respect

In the brief life of this blog, I have been critical of ESPN in several ways. However, if I am going to be critical of them when they do something wrong, then I have to praise them when they do something right. And the thing they did right was in relation to their coverage of Barry Bonds.

Amidst all the coverage concerning Barry Bonds' breaking of Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, they dusted off a jewel of a documentary last week that gave insight into what Aaron went through when he set the record in 1974. Titled "The Long Winter of Henry Aaron," it originally aired on NBC in October 1973. NBC showed the documentary after the end of the 1973 season, which ended with Aaron only two home runs away from breaking Babe Ruth's record. Aaron had to wait an additional six months before breaking the record the following April.

Interviewer and host Tom Brokaw did an insightful interview with Aaron. The entire program did a great job of giving the viewer the flavor of what Aaron is like as a man and what he went through in breaking the record. The racist taunts, the death threats, and the dignity in which Aaron dealt with it were examined well. It's hard to believe that a person had to go through all this just to set a sport's record, but unfortunately, he had to.

I like looking back at old programs like this because it lets us experience the mood of the moment. Sometimes we can understand historical events better if we look at how they were originally reported. The historical impact of an event can sometimes be watered down over time, but watching this documentary helped bring focus to this subject.

It also allowed the viewer to compare and contrast Aaron and the man who is about to break his record. It is easy to take cheap shots at Barry Bonds so I won't do that. Let's just say I am glad that I got to see this documentary if for no other reason than it gave Aaron some much needed acclaim and publicity for the being the man he is.