Oldies: Sunday, July 18 - Saturday, July 24, 2004...

Friday, 23 July 2004: Lately, my old high school friends and I have been exchanging a ton of e-mails on anything from the Cubs to the opening of a Portillo's restaurant in Los Angeles in the near future. I'm talking something like 20+ e-mails are sent back and forth among the six of us each day and it's getting a bit out of hand.

So one of the guys, Frank, decided to set up a message board. We ran a naming contest and I came up with the winner. Since the bulk of our e-mails relate to sports and we're from Chicago, the name is now WaitUntilNextYear.com (yes, we already registered the domain name). We'll have a public section for anyone else who wants to join us, but the six of us will have a private section just for us.

Oh, and I also designed the banner for the site. I'm quite proud of it.

Keep an eye out for it.

Thursday, 22 July 2004: I love The Simpsons. I dunno about you, but I do. And I gotta say that I'm looking forward to this next season's Super Bowl episode. Katie called me and told me she heard about this episode on the radio, so I looked it up and here's what I found in terms of synopsis (courtesy of epguides.com)...

"Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass"
Guest Stars: Warren Sapp (Himself), LeBron James (Himself), Yao Ming (Himself), Michelle Kwan (Herself)

After Homer inadvertently performs a wild crowd-pleasing dance at a local carnival, he will stumble across a new career as a "victory dance choreographer." After working for defensive tackle Warren Sapp, basketballers LeBron James and Yao Ming, and figure skater Michelle Kwan, he's called upstairs to choreograph the Super Bowl halftime show. In over his head, Homer turns to neighbor Ned for help. Together they create a clean and classy, non-violent, deeply meaningful halftime show, only to have America turn on them for such a "blatant display of decency."

This episode will air on February 6 and I'll be waiting with baited breath for it.

Wednesday, 21 July 2004: Here's some pretty big news if you're a fan of the TV show 24... only Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) is returning next season. Everyone else is gone insofar as being a regular cast member of the show. They may pop up every now and then, but not regularly. It's going to be interesting to see how they write off everyone. Especially his daughter. Apparently, Jack will no longer be working for CTU (Counter-Terrorism Unit) so that would explain the writing off of all his co-workers. The President has already told Jack he's not running for re-election, so the new season obviously post dates the election as the guy who played President Palmer's political nemesis last season is now the new President.

We shall see.

Tuesday, 20 July 2004: Today marks the big day for so many Van Halen fans the world over. The first time in God-only-remembers how long that VH has released an album with new material. Yes, it is just a two-disc greatest hits collection, but there are three new songs written and recorded since the band reunited with, who I feel to be their best vocalist, Sammy Hagar.

It was heaven to be able to buy a new VH CD. Lemme tell you that right off the bat. It felt so nice to see Van Halen in the new releases section at Best Buy. Here's the playlist for the set...

Disc 1:

  • Eruption
  • It's About Time (new track)
  • Up For Breakfast (new track)
  • Learning to See (new track)
  • Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love
  • Finish What Ya Started
  • You Really Got Me
  • Dreams
  • Hot For Teacher
  • Poundcake
  • And the Cradle Will Rock...
  • Black and Blue
  • Jump
  • Top of the World
  • (Oh) Pretty Woman
  • Love Walks In
  • Beautiful Girls
  • Can't Stop Lovin' You
  • Unchained

Disc 2:

  • Panama
  • Best Of Both Worlds
  • Jamie's Cryin'
  • Runaround
  • I'll Wait
  • Why Can't This Be Love
  • Runnin' With the Devil
  • When It's Love
  • Dancing in the Street
  • Not Enough
  • Feels So Good
  • Right Now
  • Everybody Wants Some!!
  • Dance the Night Away
  • Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love (live)
  • Panama (live)
  • Jump (live)

First, the new tracks...

I've been sketchy about "It's About Time" since it first aired on the radio a little over a month ago. It's got some good guitar wailing as we would expect from Eddie Van Halen and it's got a nice intro beat. Kinda modern which shows a good evolutionary ability for the band. However, the rest of it feels like a patchwork quilt of songs that never quite materialized throughout their years on hiatus.

"Up For Breakfast" is interesting. It has it's highs and lows. The "helicopter" propeller sound in the beginning made me think I was listening to "Love Walks In" at first. All the musicians are strong in their skills. It's almost as though they never really left. However, the lyrics are weak. Yes, it is Van Halen attempting their good ol' double entendre lyricism. But it just doesn't work well anymore. Not at their age. Maybe back in the 80s when this sort of songwriting was rampant. I dunno.

Finally, "Learning to See" is probably my fave of the three. It has its heavy, confident moments interlaced into a relatively sweet ballad. I hope this is released as a single. It's far better than "It's About Time," but IAT is good as a first single simply because of the implication of the title. In other words, "It's about damn time Van Halen got off their asses and released some new stuff."

My biggest issue with this set is the ordering of the songs. To start the album with "Eruption" and not follow up with the radio-friendly 1-2 punch of "You Really Got Me" is practically sacrilege. Also, "Jump" is not preceded by "1984." What the hell!?!?! Those are two of the classic intro/follow up song combos in rock history. Along with Queen's "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" and Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker" and "Livin' Lovin' Maid." I don't get why they would separate these tracks and not even include "1984" at all.

"Eruption" is followed, instead, by all three of the new tracks right in a row. It's like we're being lured in with the promise of greatness and then force-fed the new stuff. Left a bad taste in my mouth. The remainder of the set is a back-and-forth leaping from album to album and singer to singer with no sense of order or flow whatsoever.

Bear in mind, when I say "singer to singer," that only relates to Hagar and David Lee Roth. Gary Cherone, from the third incarnation of Van Halen in the late 90s, is noticeably absent from the set. I know Cherone's stuff wasn't the most memorable in VH's otherwise impressive catalog. But there were a couple of decent songs on Van Halen III. They could have included "Fire in the Hole," "Neworld," or "Without You." I would have loved to have "Fire in the Hole" in the set especially since it was used so prominently in Lethal Weapon 4.

Speaking of movies, where the hell is "Humans Being" from the Twister soundtrack? I love that song and it was a relatively strong radio track. I always felt that was one of the best, and heaviest, tracks from Van Halen in quite a long time. They included "Me Wise Magic" which was one of the Roth reunion songs and they couldn't include stuff from Gary Cherone or one or both songs from Twister? Bad decision. How easy would it have been to eliminate the three live tracks and put some of this stuff on there instead? Not hard at all. You could've also thrown in "Little Guitars" from Diver Down and I really would have been beaming.

One last thing and I'll shut my yap... with all the history Van Halen has over the course of two and a half decades, you think they could have included a more comprehensive booklet with photos showing their evolution and better text accompaniment actually written by the band instead of just a letter from David Wild of Rolling Stone. Talk about your tours, give some history on recording each of the albums, talk about your inspirations for the songs. Anything. Please. I'm sure you've got plenty of stories each of you could tell. Hell, I'd even be happy just to get information and photos from Sammy's two Cabo Wabo bars or, hell, gimme an order form for Michael Anthony's signature hot sauce. It would have been something.

All in all, I would have to rate this a 3-star effort on a 5-star scale. And garnering another star just for song selection would have been so easy. Well, you can't win 'em all, eh?

Wow, was that long enough for ya?

Soapbox dismounted.

Monday, 19 July 2004: Got both an e-mail and voicemail from my friend Jason telling me that his wife, Kara, on her return trip to California from Chicago, was sitting right next to Tim Fluckey, one of the guitarists from the band Adema, and right behind Dave DeRoo, their bassist.

Apparently, Tim took it upon himself to be the calmer since Kara doesn't like flying and neither did the other person in their row. Kara said he was a really cool guy to talk to and nice as could be. That's cool. But, if you were to take a look at his picture, you might not expect it. Even I, at 6'0", 240 pounds, would likely think twice before messing with either of them.

Check them out at www.ademaonline.com.

Sunday, 18 July 2004: I don't think that, combined, Katie and I have watched this much MTV since we've been together.

Tonight was a slow night on TV, so we flipped to MTV (yeah, I know, I couldn't believe we were that desperate either) and watched two back-to-back episodes of Punk'd, an episode of The Assistant (much to my Andy Dick-hating chagrin), an episode of Best Week Ever, and two episodes of A2Z featuring Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and Nick Lachey/Jessica Simpson.

Okay, shoot us now.

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Oldies: Sunday, July 11 - Saturday, July 17, 2004...

Jul 17
Saturday, 17 July 2004: Martha Stewart was sentenced to five months in prison with two years home confinement and two years of probation. Damn, she got off easy. And I think it's complete BS. And, of course, she's appealing it....
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Oldies: Sunday, July 25 - Saturday, July 31, 2004...

Jul 31
Saturday, 31 July 2004: In the immortal words of my wife, "We got the Nomar! We got the Nomar!" Yep, the Cubbies scored big in a blockbuster four-team deal by nabbing shortstop Nomar Garciaparra from the Boston Red Sox. We...


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