Sunday, April 29, 2007


Here we are at the last Sunday in April already, a third of the year just about over. The good news is that after a colder spell in the middle of the week, the weekend has been gorgeous here in NW Indiana (it's supposed to be in the low 80s today!). Even better news is that I worked hard yesterday (a two hour training at work, cleaning the house, taking apart the trampoline, mowing the lawn, and taking off the storm windows), so all I have to do today is the laundry. I plan on enjoying the weather, watching sports, and reading. And giving you ten songs of my iTunes, of course...

1. Old College Try/The Mountain Goats (10)
2. The First Vietnamese War/Black Angels (11)
3. Pregnant/Cold War Kids (6)
4. Down in the Valley/The Brokedown (13) - also listened to 9 times on their first album as The Broken West
5. Van Occupanther/Midlake (4)
6. Puttin' on the Dog/Tom Waits (4)
7. Moral Centralia (demo)/Harvey Danger (7)
8. Game Shows Touch Our Lives/The Mountain Goats (11)
9. The Birth And Death Of The Day/Explosions In The Sky (4)
10. End of Amnesia/M. Ward (4)

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Last night we watched "Spider-Man 2," continuing our countdown to the new movie. I hadn't seen it since I saw it in theaters and I'd forgotten how much I liked it. From the continuing development of Peter Parker's pain to the great action sequence on the elevated train to the weaving of threads from the first movie, it's a first class effort. I hope the third movie lives up to the promise...I should find out on Friday.

Fox cancelled "Drive" after only 4 episodes - I was just starting to get into the show (anything with Nathan Fillion is worth watching) and I'm annoyed that we'll never get any sort of closure. Stupid Fox.

Speaking of Fox and closure, I deleted 2 episodes of "24" from the DVR today. I'd let the previous 2 eps sit for a while before I forced myself to watch them and I realized I just don't care anymore. Season 5 was awesome and I let that carry me through watching Seasons 1 and 2 on DVD, though I was forcing myself at the end of 2. I still have the first 5 seasons on DVD but I'm going to look to get rid of them. Enough "twists" and similar storytelling...I don't care anymore.

I enjoyed the return of "Heroes" this week, though it still bugs me how quickly the characters seem to move across country. I'm always a sucker for episodes that take place in the future, so I'm looking forward to Monday's.

I'm also a sucker for alternate dimension stories; Grant and I watched one from Superman Animated Volume 2 this week - "Brave New Metropolis," in which Lois Lane travels to a dimension where she was killed and Superman joined with Luthor to become a fascist dictator. Good stuff.

Other good stuff? "Lost." "The Office." "30 Rock." Last Sunday's episodes of "The Sopranos" and "Entourage" too.

I just finished reading Grey, the debut novel from Jon Armstrong. It takes place in a future where the rich "families" lead a much different life than those in the "slubs." One member of those families is Michael Rivers (heir to the powerful RiversGroup) and the book opens with him on a date with Nora, the daughter of the head of another company (MKG). Their arranged marriage is the lead-in for a merger of the two companies. The good news is that they are in love with each other; the bad news is that Michael is shot at a post-date press conference and things go to hell.

The world is run on fashion and magazines and drugs and the philosophies of music such as Ultra (with an umlaut over the "u!"). One of the big sports amongst the city folk is competitive ironing. By amidst all of this, Michael tries to reconnect with Nora, which goes against his father's wishes. Michael spends the first part of the book as a whiny spoiled brat but he toughens up as he learns some things about himself and the world around him. There's corporate intrigue, debauchery, plenty of references to Pure H (the magazine both Michael and Nora are devoted to), a love story, and just a whole bunch more. It's a very stuffed book but the 240 pages move by at a pretty breezy pace. It reminds me of David Louis Edleman's Infoquake in a lot of ways and that's a good thing. I will definitely read more by Armstrong.

This was my 10th book of the year; I read it in 6 days...a decent clip. Since there are only two days left in April, I doubt I'll get another book read, though I was contemplating on starting the second Harry Potter tomorrow. I should have 12 books read by this point to have a shot at 40 on the year, so I'm still behind. Oh well.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Yesterday I dove back into the world of Hellboy by reading the fourth trade, Hellboy: The Right Hand of Doom. It collects mostly short stories, though it does include the two issues mini-series, Box Full of Evil. More importantly, it's full of goodies.

The trade starts off with the hilarious two page short, "Pancakes," which describes the young Hellboy's first taste of pancakes and the dire consequences of that first bite. In fact, that's one of the things that can be overlooked - the humor of the series. When Hellboy is in Japan and dealing with heads that detach from bodies and wish to eat him (in "Heads"), things come to a humorous end. Much of the humor comes from Hellboy himself in the form of his reactions to the various situations he finds himself in; then again, sometimes funny things happen to him.

It's not all lighthearted, of course. Hellboy has to deal with the fact that his right hand potentially spells doom ("The Right Hand of Doom") and that he wears the Crown of the Apocalypse on his head ("Box Full of Evil"). There's plenty of mythology throughout, from Norwegian ("King Vold") to English ("The Nature of the Beast"), and plenty of encounters with ectoplasmic entities ("Goodbye, Mister Tod") and vampires ("The Varcolac").

As always, Mike Mignola's art is gorgeous. I could spend a long time just staring at the panels - the detail and energy are amazing. Of course, it's enhanced by the superb coloring of Dave Stewart. This is comics at its highest form.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I made a great discovery this week. Jason Falkner has a new album coming out; in fact, it was released in Japan this past week. There isn't a domestic release date nailed down just yet but you can head over to his MySpace to hear three tracks from I'm OK You're OK. It's been way too long since we've had new music from him - the Bliss Descending EP came out in 2003! Welcome back, Jason.

Word came out the other week that Jason Isbell and Drive-By Truckers were parting ways. That's depressing news. I first came to Drive-By Truckers with The Dirty South, so even though I've gotten all their albums I still think of them as the three-headed songwriting/guitar attack of Patterson Hood, Mike Cooley, and Jason Isbell. In fact, Isbell's songs have been some of my favorites on the last three albums - "Outfit," "Decoration Day," "Danko/Manuel," "Goddamn Lonely Love," "Easy on Yourself," and "Daylight" are all fantastic. Of course, I love Hood and Cooley too and I know that they write enough songs to fill DBT albums by themselves. And even though it won't be the DBT I fell in love with, Isbell has a solo album, Sirens of the Ditch, coming out in July (some tracks here). I was already planning on buying it even before this news. I also think things can't be that bad, since Jason's wife Shonna is still part of the band (she plays bass). The end of an era, though.

As for music I've bought recently, I am absolutely in love with the new Kings of Leon, Because of the Times. It is rockin' and it is eclectic and it just sounds amazing. It has also given me a new appreciation for their debut (which I bought when it came out), Youth and Young Manhood, and makes me want to go out and get their second album, Aha Shake Heartbreak, which I missed (in fact, I might go get it today). This is one you must own, people.

Other albums still high in my rotation...

The Broken West/I Can't Go On I'll Go On
Arcade Fire/Neon Bible
Ted Leo + Pharmacists/Living With The Living
Fountains of Wayne/Traffic and Weather

Last night I finished the new novel from Arthur Phillips, Angelica. I read his previous novel, The Egyptologist, in paperback in 2005 and absolutely loved it (I believe it was on my Top Ten books that year). When I found out that he had a new novel out, it was a no-brainer to buy it in hardback (the fact it was on sale and that I also had a coupon helped as well).

Angelica starts out seeming like a ghost story and it is set in England in the 1880s. The titular Angelica has just been moved into her own room from her parents' bedroom; she is four. Her mother, Constance, comes to believe her daughter is being harmed by a spectre that is somehow linked to her husband's desires to harm her. Constance almost died in childbirth and had lost other children previous to that and has been warned by doctors not to get pregnant again. The events of the novel spiral out from there.

What is more interesting than the setup is the execution. The book is told from the points of view of four people in the novel - Constance, Anne Montague (a spiritualist brought in to help rid the Barton home of the troubles), Joseph (the husband and father), and Angelica herself. We see the events from those points of view and it can change your opinions about what happened or what the people are like. In addition, all of those viewpoints are actually written by one person, which further obscures the truth. The Egyptologist also featured unreliable narrators and while the two books are different, there are also similarities.

I liked this book quite a bit, if not quite as much as The Egyptologist. I will definitely pick up his next book and now have even more reason to go back and pick up his debut, Prague.

That was my 9th book of the year (and it took me 10 days to get through it). In order to be on pace for 40 books, I should finish April with at least 12 books read...that's probably not going to happen at this point. I'm not quite sure what I'll read next. I had hoped to space out the Harry Potter books but I have a few novels on preorder that will be arriving in early April, both of which I'll want to read immediately. I'm also interested in The Road and have been ever since it was published; now it's out in paperback and has won the Pulitzer, so it'll be pretty easy to get a hold of. I don't know. Maybe I will end up diving into the second Potter next. I do know that I'm getting back to "The Hellboy Project" in the immediate future, though.

Spider-Man 3 comes out on May 4, which is now less than two weeks away. I'm a big fan of the previous two movies and the trailers for the new one are very encouraging. One of our goals for this year is to get Grant to branch out and watch movies that aren't just animated (though he can still be a fan, obviously - I'm looking forward to Ratatouille and The Simpsons Movie as much as he is). He is now at the age where he's a big fan of super-heroes, so Spidey 3 is a perfect one for all of us to go see. However, Grant has not seen the first two yet. So, Friday night Grant and I watched Spider-Man with Graham and Sarah (Jill was busy with a battle of the bands at her school). Grant really liked it, as I figured he would. And it's been quite a few years since I've seen it, so I was happily caught up in the story. That ending, it just kills me. Anyway, next weekend we will tackle Spider-Man 2 and then we'll get out to the new one the following weekend (which also happens to be prom). After that out next project will be to get him to watch the Harry Potter movies in anticipation of the fifth one arriving in July.

Also on the DVD front, Grant and I finished Justice League Unlimited Season 2 last weekend. We'd seen about half the episodes as they aired but there were still a number of really good ones that were new to us. Of course, I loved "Far From Home," which had a few heroes going into the future to meet The Legion of Super-Heroes. I also liked seeing Warlord and the whole gang from Skartaris and the big finale against Darkseid was very cool. The only bad thing about the collection is that it's the last of the great Justice League run. But we still have everything on DVD for easy watching. And now we're working on Superman Animated Season 2 - Grant wanted to start with that rather than Batman. Fine with me.

It's a Sunday where it is supposed to hit 80 degrees - a far cry from the cold temperatures of not that long ago. I mowed the lawn for the first time yesterday and we went to a birthday party in one of the parks last night and it was gorgeous. A good time too. Plus, the White Sox won their fourth in a row (they go for 5 and sweep of the Tigers today) and the Bulls beat the Heat in Game 1 of their playoff series. And now, some music...

1. Buzz Fledderjohn/Tom Waits (5)
2. Please/The Brokedown (14) - Now the Broken West!
3. Theologians (live)/Jeff Tweedy (4)
4. Manitoba/Tapes 'n Tapes (4)
5. Backwash/Archers of Loaf (11)
6. I Was Meant for the Stage/The Decemberists (4)
7. Getting Saved/Portastatic (11)
8. Ballad of Big Nothing/Elliott Smith (14)
9. The Compromise/The Format (7)
10. Watch Out For Me Ronnie/Yo La Tengo (7)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


I wrote another new song today. Well, I figured out the music a couple days ago...just picked up the guitar, put the capo on the first fret, and there the song was - with a lead line too! That's something new for me. I had a lyrical idea, mostly on the chorus, but I couldn't think of how to fit it all together. Then today I was in the shower after being in the pool for a couple hours and it hit me that I could use a lyrical idea I had last week. Took me about no time to write the first four verses (as is typical in many of my songs, two smaller verses form a larger verse, so this would be two large verses). I went out on a walk with Grant and had some dinner and was talking to Graham online and then I got the last large verse. I'm always amazed when they come that quickly. Anyway, I debuted it at Anneliesje's tonight and it went pretty well for being so brand new. It's called "Let's Get Married Tonight." Got a request from Andrea for "Holding Pattern" tonight too, which was cool. Been a while since I played that one.

Yesterday we got a box from Amazon - a CD for Jill and the second volume of Nexus Archives for me. I'm looking forward to diving into stories from 20 plus years ago. Of course, I have a lot to read before I get to it but maybe by the end of May!

Monday, April 16, 2007


A number of years ago, I got a couple books for Christmas - a gift from my mother. It was the first three books of a series she had read about and thought I would like, based on my love for the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings as a child. They were by a new writer, J.K. Rowling and were about the adventures of a boy named Harry Potter. My mom was right - I liked them a lot. This was before full-scale Pottermania, though I noticed that when the fourth book came out the following summer. My wife and I have read the new ones as fast as possible, sometimes picking up the book when the other puts it down. This summer, of course, brings the seventh and final book of the series. I always said I would reread the series so I could have everything relatively fresh in my mind as to enjoy the last book as much as possible. A couple weeks ago, I started the project.

The first book of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, is very readable. The plot moves at a fairly quick pace, the language is descriptive without bogging down, and the energy of the book makes you want to read it as fast as you can. It's full of cool ideas and names - Muggles; Quidditch; Bertie Bot's Every Flavor Beans; broomsticks and spells and evil and and and... It's fun. And it's good. Reading it again makes me want to read the rest of the books right away, though I'm going to spread out the remaining books. I do have until the end of July...though at the rate I've been reading, I do need to be careful.

One other note, I've been keeping track of how many books I've read since the start of 2001. From that time, I read 215 books before I started this project and this is the first time I've reread anything. Not a bad streak.

Another month, another 65 downloads. Here's what I grabbed this time around...

Ted Leo + Pharmacists/Living With The Living - Great rock record
M. Ward/To Go Home EP - Well, the three songs that were new
The National/Cherry Tree - Had to get some more of their back catalog in anticpation of the new one!
The Decemberists/Her Majesty The Decemberists - Because I love them and need to fill in the back catalog
M. Ward/End of Amnesia - Ditto
Jarvis Cocker/Jarvis - Figure I'd give this a shot; it's solid
Okkervil River/"The Room I'm Hiding In" - The other song from "The President's Dead" single

Sunday, April 15, 2007


I've read two Hellboy collections since I last wrote about it. My urgency has lessened since I will no longer be picking up the new mini-series as it comes out but I still want to finish within the next couple weeks, as I'll probably retain the story better that way.


The return of Rasputin (he was the unnamed sorcerer from the first story), more Nazis, vampires, mythological creatures, an homunculus, and more. Turns out the devil of the title is Hellboy himself but he stays true to himself. Good stuff.


This is a volume of short stories and is full of great stuff as well.

Yeah, you can see how I needed to clear the decks. Ah, well.

There's no way I'm going to get to all the posts I've been planning, so I'll just mention a few things quickly and maybe throw a couple separate posts up (such as "The Hellboy Project"). I started out the month of April deciding I would keep track of all my pop cutlure intake - the shows I watched, the music I listened to, everything I read, etc. Well, I finally dropped that on Thursday. Yeah, it took me long enough. I think it was a way of promising myself I would post more often and then it just became a way to pretend I would start posting on all that stuff. Anyway, here are a few things worth mentioning...

I went to see both "Blades of Glory" and "Grindhouse." In both cases, I was glad I went. "Blades of Glory" is quite funny, way better than "Talladega Nights." I greatly enjoyed Will Arnett and Amy Poehler and now have an even bigger crush on Jenna Fischer. "Grindhouse" was fun and gross and stupid and silly and cool. I went into it with the right attitude, which I think is the way to go.

We've also watched a couple 2006 films on DVD - "The Departed" and "The Illusionist." I loved "The Departed" and thought Leonardo DiCaprio was fantastic. "The Illusionist" was pretty darn good too, especially Paul Giamatti; I'd like the read the Steven Millhauser story it was based on (I have read only one of his story collections to date).

As for TV, "Friday Night Lights" finished up a very good first season. "Lost" has been fantastic lately. I let a few eps of "24" pile up on the DVR but now I'm all caught up and still interested. It's been great having "The Office" and "30 Rock" back. Well, and "The Sopranos" and "Entourage" too.

I almost dove back into full-time comics but now I'm definitely going back to all trades. I will buy the last 3 issues of 52, so I can finish the story, and I will also buy the five issues of the crossover between Justice League of America and Justice Society of America, because I can't resist the Legion's involvment. But that's it. The good news is I have rediscovered my love for all kinds of comics and I will most likely pick up 2 to 3 trades each month - not only the new stuff but filling in some of my gaps and things I've let fall by the wayside.

Anyone else underwhelmed by the new Bright Eyes? To be fair, I've only listened to it twice but it really isn't grabbing me. By contrast, the new Fountains of Wayne and Kings of Leon albums have grown on me with each listen. I'll cover more music in a separate eMusic post.

I read an issue each of F&SF and Asimov's, with good stories in both. And I'm now reading my ninth book of the year. That about covers it, except for the aforementioned extra posts.

Halfway through April already and the weather has felt like February for most of it. Looks like spring might be here to stay now, as we're promised highs in the 50s and then 60s by week's end. This weekend is also progress report weekend for my job, so I've been keeping busy with that. I do plan on getting back to some other posts but for now, you'll have to settle for more random music from iTunes...

1. Take A Rake/Centro-Matic (3)
2. Heavy Metal Drummer (demo)/Wilco (10)
3. Billy Liar/The Decemberists (4)
4. I Don't Know Why/Ben Kweller (16)
5. Another Sunny Day/Belle and Sebastian (10)
6. Jet Stream/Brendan Benson (10)
7. If Work Permits/The Format (9)
8. Go-Go Gadget Gospel/Gnarls Barkley (3)
9. Panthers/Wilco (10)
10. Where I'm Anymore/Grandaddy (10)

Wow, some interesting trends today. Five songs were pushed into double digits; another is now one step away, plus the one that's closer to 20 than 10. The other three are all very low. And it's been a while since I've had a two song Wilco day. Enjoy the rest of your day!

Sunday, April 08, 2007


Sometimes I think I should just change the name of this blog to "Sunday Shuffle" would be either the worst or the best blog ever. Hmm, I think I might have said this before. Ah, well. Anyway, Happy Easter to all...

1. Too Much To Hide/Joseph Arthur (10)
2. Right Or Wrong/Sloan (8)
3. Running The World/Jarvis Cocker (2)
4. Where Have Those Days Gone/Cracker (6)
5. Dress Me Like a Clown/Margot and the Nuclear So & So's (6)
6. Pass The Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind/Yo La Tengo (8)
7. Let's Get Out of This Country/Camera Obscura (13)
8. Station Approach/Elbow (11)
9. Hair Down/Cold War Kids (6)
10. Beautiful Machine Parts 1-2/Apples In Stereo (6)

Sunday, April 01, 2007


As I mentioned earlier in the week, this past week was spring break for all three members of the Steiner household. We spent the week hanging out, eating out, relaxing, and so forth. I also decided to make a new mix, my second of the year. And speaking of mixes, TJ just put up two new ones - hop over and check them out. Obviously, I'm not as cool since I don't offer mine up in mp3 format but if you regular readers want one, just let me know and I'll hook you up.

Here's the tracklist...

1. Another Sunny Day/Belle and Sebastian
2. Drained/Michael Penn
3. Circadian Rhythm/Son Volt
4. Phantom Limb/The Shins
5. Shiftee/The Broken West
6. Heimsdalgate Like A Promethean Curse/Of Montreal
7. Intervention/Arcade Fire
8. I Get Along/Bishop Allen
9. Baby I/Amy Millan
10. International Small Arms Traffic Blues/The Mountain Goats
11. You Are What You Love/Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins
12. A Stone/Okkervil River
13. Swan Swan H/R.E.M.
14. Country Mile/Camera Obscura
15. Penny on a Train Track/Ben Kweller
16. Continuation/John Vanderslice
17. Autobiography/Sloan
18. Vincent O'Brien/M. Ward
19. Colleen/Ted Leo + Pharmacists
20. You're Still Standing There/Steve Earle with Lucinda Williams

Two weekends ago I spent a couple days reading the latest novel from Jonathan Lethem, You Don't Love Me Yet. It was my sixth book of the year (Fantasyland, which I wrote about in my last post, was the seventh).

I'm a fan of Lethem's work, even though I haven't read all of it yet (hmm, why is that?). I count Motherless Brooklyn among my favorite books; I liked The Fortress of Solitude quite a bit, as well as his most recent story collection, Men and Cartoons. Heck, I even read his book of essays (The Disappointment Artist). So I was planning to read his new novel when it came out. I decided to see what the early reviews were saying and was surprised to see mostly middling reviews. Many seemed to be disappointed that it wasn't a big "ideas" book along the lines of the last two novels (though Motherless Brooklyn was most effective in the execution of an idea). It appeared that the reviewers weren't giving it a fair shake based on what it was, a short novel about music and sex.

I liked the book. No, it's not an "idea" book per se but there are still a lot of ideas in it. Ideas about sex and music and art and life. It's a love story in that it's about what two people do when they decide not to be together anymore. The decision ends up destroying a band. Before that, the band becomes successful when borrowed ideas become lyrics for their songs. It's full of great turns of phrase and descriptions...Lethem can write. And yes, I'm being vague about the book. I think it's worth reading.

Now maybe I'm biased towards liking a book by Lethem and that colored my reading of the book. But I'm certain that my bias is no different than many of the professional reviewers of this book. It's okay to let writers put out different kinds of books, stories, whatever. They shouldn't be punished for it. Not that Lethem is necessarily being punished, of course. It just seems to me that he wasn't given a fair shake on this one. I encourage you to read it and make up your own mind...and you can feel free to wait for the paperback too. Just get around to it sometime and come to it with an open mind; I think you'll enjoy it.

MAR. 21

52 #46 - Most of the issue focuses on Black Adam's attack on Oolong Island, though we also see Luthor trying to escape justice yet again and Atom-Smasher wanting to rejoin the JSA in order to track down Black Adam. There are some funny bits with the mad scientists of Oolong and some character work with Will Magnus. It's a solid issue but not amongst the best of the series.

Justice Society of America #4 - This is the conclusion of the first arc of the relaunched title. Wildcat and his son battle Vandal Savage while other members of the team go up against the Nazis. And you know, I've accepted the Nazis as villains here, since the JSA and All-Star Squadron dealt with them a lot back in the 40s. It makes sense in an arc looking at the "Next Age" of the JSA. A solid conclusion to the story with a few interesting developments at the end and a humdinger of a last page that points to the continued existence of the Legion of Super-Heroes I grew up with. I will have a hard time waiting for a trade with this title, so I may still buy this in singles.

The Brave and the Bold #2 - A very good second issue to another title that I may resist waiting for the trade on. And yes, it's as much for the busy Perez art as Waid's writing. The main hero combo here is Green Lantern and Supergirl, which has a bit of humor with Hal reminding himself that Supergirl is only a teenager. We also see the new Blue Beetle pop up alongside Batman, which is the focus of the next issue. And yes, more of the Book of Destiny. This comic is right in my wheelhouse.

Checkmate #12 - I can't believe this book has been around for a year already. It's another solid issue as we see game within games, most played by Amander Waller. Fire stands up for what she believes in at a cost to her family loyalty and Tommy Jaeger shows restraint in fighting Bane, the man who killed his father. I will probably move towards trades for this title, especially since next issue starts a crossover with The Outsiders.

The Spirit #4 - We meet C.I.A. Agent Silk Satin, see Hussein resurface, learn about The Octopus and his criminal organization The Octagon, and get great more great art from Darwyn Cooke and J. Bone. This is good comics but I can probably wait for trades on this as well.

MAR. 28

52 #47 - Finally, more Animal Man! He is pulled into Space B by the yellow-skinned aliens and show the future in one month's time (does this mean we won't see him again until #51?). We also see Wonder Woman, Robin, and Bruce Wayne in Nanda Parbat; more with Intergang and their crime bible; Montoya discovering the disappearance of Batwoman along with Nightwing; more with Will Magnus; and find out what Steel and his niece are up to. A catch-up issue in a lot of ways but with some good setup for the final five weeks.

Batman #664 - This issue is a bit disjointed and I'm not sure how successful it was. Sure, the Andy Kubert art was great but the story came down to a tease about "the black casebook." I love Morrison but this book may end up shifting to trades as well.

I also left 2 comics in my box and will probably put them back on the shelves - Action Comics and Wonder Woman. Not too interested in a fill-in on the former (even though it's written by Dwayne McDuffie) and not sure about following another new writer on the latter.

Yes, it's that time of year again. The 2007 baseball season starts tonight with a game between last year's NLCS teams, the Mets and Cardinals. Tomorrow brings the openers for the White Sox and Cubs and a bunch of other teams and by Tuesday, every team will be in on the action. There is an episode of "Baseball Tonight" on at 11:30 and again tonight at 6:00. I will probably DVR "The Amazing Race: All-Stars" (and guilty pleasure "Girls Next Door") so I can watch the game tonight. Obviously, I love baseball.

Every year I try to read a baseball-related book before the season starts to help get me in the mood. Last week I read Fantasyland by Sam Walker. It's an account of the author, a sports columnist for The Wall Street Journal, playing in the country's most preeminent fantasy baseball league, Tout Wars. The competitors are in the business of "touting" players and publish books or run websites about baseball that many fnatasy players consult to try and get a leg up in their own leagues. Walker brings in two people to help him and his season becomes a dichotomy between looking at baseball by the numbers and from the heart. It's a very different look at a baseball season and is highly entertaining.

I've only played fantasy baseball once, back in 2005. I found I wasn't able to devote the time to keeping up with it. I also don't need it to carry me through games that don't feature my favorite teams; I love the game enough and know the players well enough from all teams to find enjoyment in watching any baseball game. I will say that reading this book made me think about trying fantasy baseball again this year but with everything I have going on, there's not much point. And there's always next year, right?

Turning from fantasy to reality, what is this season going to bring? I read the baseball preview issue of Sports Illustrated and I also have the same from ESPN The Magazine on hand, though I haven't yet read it. How do they compare and where do they place the White Sox and Cubs?

SI predicts...

AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Indians
AL West: Angels
AL Wild Card: Red Sox
ALCS: Angels over Yankees

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Braves
NLCS: Dodgers over Mets

World Series: Angels over Dodgers

White Sox - 3rd in AL Central
Cubs - 2nd in NL Central

EPSN The Magazine predicts...

AL East: Red Sox
AL Central: Tigers
AL West: Angels
AL Wild Card: Indians

NL East: Mets
NL Central: Cardinals
NL West: Dodgers
NL Wild Card: Phillies

World Series: Tigers over Mets

White Sox - 4th in AL Central
Cubs - 3rd in NL Central

Lots of similarities and more than a few differences. Neither magazine has the Chicago teams making the playoffs. It will be an interesting summer for the Sox and Cubs. Both appear to have offenses that will get the job done but both have questionable pitching staffs. We'll see. I'll be watching as much as I can but as always, the White Sox will be my priority. I'm ready for the season to start...

I was able to steal some time on Mar. 13 to get out and play. It was the second week of Jill's show and she only had practice on that Thursday night (the open mic at Anneliesje's is on Tuesday). It was quite crowded that night and most of the crowd were high school kids. Usually people only half listen during the open mics at Anne's but when I started performing, it got very quiet. It was a weird feeling but also very cool. Afterwards, I had some nice comments from some people I'd never met before.

Mar. 13 - Woke Up; Dear Prospective Employer; Song For A Day; That's Okay

I was able to get back to Front Porch the following Thursday, after having to miss the festivities for a month. I felt nice to be around the usual gang and to be a part of the community again.

Mar. 22 - Dear Propsective Employer; Decoder Ring

This past Tuesday I was back at Anneliesje's for the open mic and it was dead. I was the only person signed up to play until Graham came in as I was getting ready to start. I played four songs, debuting "The Only Thing" (which I had finished writing that afternoon) and having Graham join me for a song, then hung around to watch Graham; after that the hosts asked if anyone else wanted to play and things got weird. Eventually they asked if I wanted to play more, so I grabbed Graham and we did two songs together (I borrowed a bass from the hosts to do it). It was good practice, anyway.

Mar. 27 - Dear Prospective Employer; Decoder Ring; The Only Thing (debut); 23 Across (Graham on piano); Jews & Gypsies (Smith) - bass, backing vocals; Liquor Sink (Smith) - bass

I honored "The Year of 35" by playing at Front Porch on my 36th birthday the other night. It was the perfect way to spend my time, getting to hang out with friends and listen to them play as well as getting to play my own stuff. I also debuted another new song, which I had finished writing that afternoon.

Mar. 29 - The Only Thing; A Phase (debut)

Last night Graham and I had a show. We were part of a triple bill with our friends Adam Roney and Mike Pancini. The show was in a comic book shop in Lansing, IL of all places - Stand-Up Comics. If you had told my 16 year-old self that I would one day be performing in a band at a comics shop, my head would have exploded. Adam went first and pulled another friend, Tom Adamson, up to play with him. They'd never played together before and sounded good. We were next up. It wasn't our best performance - we had some technical issues and I also had the capo in the wrong position for our first song, which was a bit of a problem, but I redeemed myself by doing a good job in my debut as lead guitar for one of Graham's songs. We did get a good response from the small crowd, though. After us, Pancini played with an accordion player and his wife Jillian on theremin and xylophone and backing vocals. Like I said, a small crowd but it was a fun night. We also had someone from the press there...the same guy who reviewed our show at the Blue Room Cafe last summmer. So, we should see a review or write-up in the near future.

Mar. 31 - A Phase (Graham on slide guitar; Justin with the capo in the wrong position on his guitar); Tuesday (Graham on slide guitar and kick drum); Wednesday (Smith) - guitar; The Sigh Begins (Smith) - keyboard; The Only Thing (Graham on guitar); My Little Zombie Girl (Smith) - keyboard

Jill and Grant got me a nice shiny silver iPod Nano for my birthday. I loaded on about 300 songs and have been listening to it in shuffle mode, of course. I plan on rotating the albums I have on the iPod...mix it up from time to time. But today's Sunday Shuffle is through iTunes as usual - lots more variety.

1. Nothing Left To Make Me Want To Stay/Sloan (6)
2. If Work Permits/The Format (8)
3. Microphone Song/Canasta (5)
4. Post-War/M. Ward (18)
5. Hello Lola/Apples in Stereo (5)
6. Division Day/Elliott Smith (7)
7. Between The Bars/Elliott Smith (10)
8. The Geese of Beverly Road (Live)/The National (5)
9. Phone Sex/Superchunk (8)
10. Linda Blair Was Born Innocent/The Mountain Goats (10)