Friday, July 02, 2004

Sux to be a Dookie today

Well, it sux to be a Dookie any day, but after Joe Alleva's press conference yesterday announcing that Coach K is in discussions with the Lakers as a possible replacement for Phil Jackson, it's got to be extra sucky.

My first reaction was "why the hell would he want to do something like that?". He's a god on the Duke campus, he's the most respected coach in the college game, he's in no apparent need of money (particularly now that his daughters are now all on their own), he's become a real contributor to the Durham community and frankly, I don't think he's got anything to prove. Add to that the dubious record of long-time college coaches going to the pros (not too many successful ones beyond Larry Brown) and you've just got to wonder what's in it for him (besides the greenbacks).

On reflection though, I did start to wonder if the timing wasn't almost too perfect. If he was ever going to make the move, even to another college program, what better time than now? Alleva's press conference was on the day that the new Duke president made his first official appearance on campus and marked the day that two more football schools officially became part of the ACC (Frank Dascenzo in the Herald-Sun had some similar thoughts). Coach K was publicly (and reasonably) unhappy with the ACC expansion. It will only serve to hurt basketball - there's really no upside from a hoops perspective. And don't dismiss the chore of breaking in a new university president - anytime you have a new administrator coming in to a school with a towering coaching figure, even one with the stellar academic record of a Dean Smith or a Coach K, there's an inevitable sorting out of power that has to happen. Again, if he's ever going to make the move, now would probably be the time. Add to that the defections from the program going back to Cory Maggette a few years ago up to Luol Deng (still can't fathom that one) and Shaun Livingston and again, you have to think that if it doesn't happen this time, it ain't going to happen.

I get a chuckle thinking that this is Mitch Kupchak's way of getting after Dook one more time, but I'm not sure that Coach K leaving Dook wouldn't be a bad thing for UNC. I know the rivalry didn't start with K (I certainly remember the Gminiski/Spanarkel late 70's team under Bill Foster, even if I'm not old enough to remember the Vic Bubas-coached Final Four teams of the 60's) and it didn't end with the retirement of Dean Smith, but I think we all hope for at least a few years of Roy Williams vs. Coach K battles before one or the other retires.

As far as the Lakers go, a couple of days ago the conventional wisdom was that Rudy Tomjanovich was a lock for the job, so this is something of a shock. With the Bryant/Shaq feud and Shaq's feeling (rightly so) that Jerry Buss is siding with Bryant, it's not a fun situation for whoever steps into it. Hell, it's certainly not in any way clear that Bryant won't be wearing an orange jumpsuit instead of purple and gold next year regardless of who the coach is.

I can only guess this is serious given the need Alleva felt for a news conference. The only thing I really feel strongly is that if it doesn't happen now, Coach K will retire from Duke. Oh, and I feel strongly that Dook sux, but that was a given.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Things I Think About While Running (Hege V edition)

I was running down Airport Road Wednesday morning and realized that Hege V's House of Tears was starting up on the MP3 player just as I was coming up on the real House of Tears and I thought, "hey, that's a good lead-in for a blog entry about Hege!" And it went a little something like this...
I was running down Airport Road Wednesday morning and realized that Hege V's House of Tears was starting up on the MP3 player just as I was coming up on the real House of Tears - the house Hege and some of the other guys were living in (and featured on the cover of the album). Kinda cool!

I didn't know Hege in high school in Charlotte despite being the same age since he was at Myers Park while I was at Independence (and Charlotte's a mighty big place). I do remember as a freshman at UNC noticing this long-haired guy wandering around downtown with his jeans tucked into his cowboy boots and a Tom-Baker-Dr. Who-length muffler hanging around his neck looking like somebody's idea of a cowboy poet. I saw him playing at Festifall a couple of times but it wasn't until I was a senior and my friend Handsome Dave was playing bass in a band with him that I knew who in the hell he was, or more accurately, who his daddy was. But I didn't actually meet him until I booked Gumbo Ya-Ya at the club. They weren't zydeco as the name might imply - more a rock and soul review, lotta Stax-Volt kinda stuff but without the horns. Good party music. Hege was great - you could tell he was born to be on stage. Then he switched gears and formed Hege V and the Bijous with some of the same guys but doing country rock or rocking country or ten years before its time. That prompted our one instance of getting the club on national televison, when TNN sent a crew out to tape one of Hege V's shows for a segment of "Crook and Chase" on George Hamilton IV and his following-in-his-footsteps (sorta) son. They taped the whole concert and I think about 10 seconds of it made it into the show, but you could clearly see the club banner at the back of the stage so that was pretty cool. House of Tears is still one of my favorite albums from that period - all original Hege V material produced by Mitch Easter.

The last time I saw George was at Spirit Square in Charlotte a couple of years later when his dad was part of a History of Country Music live thingie - actually got a chance to meet Mr. and Mrs. IV for the only time. I know it was partially the setting, but having grown up in Nashville around the Ernest Tubbs and Hank Snows and Porter Waggoners, I got a real kick out of how South Charlotte the IV's are (and I mean that in a good way). Instead of a country twang, Mrs. IV's got that honey-dipped Charlotte accent that I can hear anywhere in the country and know when a woman's spent a good deal of her life shopping at South Park Mall. Very nice folks...

So I guess Hege V really is following in his father's footsteps by being more famous in Europe than in the States. He's got a number of CDs out that have no US distribution but that apparently rake in the euros - if anybody finds a source for 'em, let me know. I always thought he was a hell of a nice guy and an incredible showman so I hope he really is doing well!
About this time I realized that the song was going to run out before I actually got to the House formerly known as being Of Tears so I had to decide - do I pretend that it really did all kind of come together? Or do I change the first line to something less coincidental and cool? Well, I refuse to embellish just for literary effect but I liked the first line - so I hit "replay"...

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Less Microsoft = Good Thing

I know this won't be a big deal for the geeks among you, but I'm pretty psyched about dumping Infernet Explorer and Outlook Express in favor of Mozilla. Not that I can, like, actually uninstall IE and not have pretty much everything within Windows grind to a halt, but I don't have to use it to actively browse the web anymore. With the growing number of vulnerabilities and exploits associated with it, I feel a lot safer (so all you good people keep using IE so that they don't start writing viruses that attack the Moz). It's less bloatsome that Netscape 7.1 was (I know the underlying core is the same, but I'm telling you, it's a lot leaner), the tabbed browser windows rock, the built-in anti-popup code is cool - why the hell not? I'll post on any problems I run into with either the browser or the mail client - I figure a thirty-day tryout is a good round number - and let you know if I'd recommend it for those of you even less geeky than me!

Monday, June 28, 2004


As you might have guessed from my previous post about comic conventions, I'm something of a comic book fan. I can't claim to be a comic book geek, as I don't know nearly enough about them and am not nearly single-minded enough to merit that title. As a matter of fact, I'm somewhat cursed with a generalist's sensibility, so that while I might know more than 99% of the rest of America about the last twenty years in comics, or about mathematics, or about 80's new wave, or about computers, or about Carolina basketball, that means there's probably almost 3 million other people that know as much or more about those things. Hardly geek territory. And you can pretty well bet that the guy that happens to sit down in any bar in America at the empty stool next to me and strikes up a conversation is going to know more than me, much more than me, about something. Anything. And that's all he's going to want to talk about. It'll either be something that I have no knowledge of (and therefore likely no interest in) or it'll be one of those things that I know a lot about, but nowhere NEAR as much as this guy. He might know doodley-squat about anything else, but he can tell you who did the fucking lettering for every goddamn issue of Animal Man that Grant Morrison wrote or the assist-to-turnover ratio of every freaking Carolina letterman in the 1950's and he'll want to IMPRESS you with how much more than you he knows. That's why I tend to stay out of chat rooms and message boards, by the way - since they tend to be single subject boards, they tend to draw the geeks and anyone else just may as well find something else to do.

My granny worked at W T Grants Department Store in Nashville when I was growing up and she used to bring us torn covers, mostly Gold Key Comics (Scrooge McDuck and the Beagle Boys, the Warner Bros. cartoon characters) and Harvey (Casper and Wendy, Hot Stuff, Richie Rich). I never really bought them myself until I was out of college and taking an IBM class in Crystal City, Virginia and wandered into Geppi's Comics. I wandered out with a copy of Uncanny X-Men 193 and Flaming Carrot 6 and my life was never the same.

Recently two independent comic titles that I've read for years came to an end, to mixed reactions from me. Cerebus finally ended its promised 300 issue run and I have no problem saying good riddance. For all the cleverness and uniqueness of the title, as the letters page began to take up more of the book (mostly filled with long diatribes against women) and then with Dave Sims' own anti-woman, anti-liberal screeds, the book lost any interest for me. Despite that there were times, even in the end, when the writing in the comic was brilliant. But I breathed a sigh of relief when it was over. Not so when Jeff Smith's Bone ended this month after 55 issues. Similarly self-published and black-and-white, it was always a joy from beginning to end and I'll miss it terribly.

I noticed my subscription bag was much lighter last week - it appears that Crossgen Comics has gone down for the count. It was started in the late '90's by Mark Alessi (dot-com zillionaire) as a new concept in comics - wholly produced by an in-house studio to try to cut down on the sporadic, ship-date missing sloppiness that has plagued the comic industry for a long time. I guess it did that - ship on time I mean - but that didn't translate into sales. Some of its titles were quite good - I thought the writing was hit-or-miss but some of the artwork was breathtaking. Meridian, Sojourn and Route 666 were actually stellar for much of their runs. There were strong signs of financial trouble last year, and many of the original series were actually brought to an end but it appears now that with the company having filed Chapter 11 last week, the rest will just die. Quite a shame.

So what's good now? Promethea from Alan Moore's America's Best Comics has been tremendous - most of the ABC stuff has been far above average (bring back Top 10!!!) Joss Whedon is now writing a new X-Men title (Astonishing X-Men) - the first two are out and are pretty good. Neil Gaiman's 1602 run either is or will soon be available as a collected work - it was quite wonderful, but if you aren't pretty well-versed in Marvel Comic characters, you might not get a lot of it. There's a spiffy little Sam Kieth mini-series called Scratch over at DC - if you remember the Maxx (and who doesn't?) you'll know why I love both his art and his writing. X-Statix has taken the "superhero as pop star" thing and had some fun with it (pretty bloody gruesome fun at times - comic code be damned). And I highly recommend anything from Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith - their 30 Days of Night a couple of years ago became a huge seller with a million dollar movie rights deal - all for a 3 issue mini from a publisher no one had ever heard of about a group of vampires finally realizing that "hey - there's a month-long night in the Arctic Circle! Let's eat!" They've done a number of titles since then, some related and some not - all of them good. Finally, Grant Morrison has a new title - Seaguy - I've read the first two and as is so often the case with Morrison, I haven't the foggiest idea what to make of them.

Sore Butt-a-thon

Last Sunday (not yesterday - the Sunday before that) when we got one of those wonderful, sunny, dry non-working days that are so rare in summer around here, I decided to take the bike out. Two and a half hours later, I made it back home. That was by FAR the longest I'd ridden at one time since I was in middle school in Gwinnett County, Georgia and a couple of friends and I would ride down to Stone Mountain State Park and ride back. I'm guessing it was between 25 and 30 miles - a little hard to guess since about 45 minutes of it was trail riding with the rest on the road. Oh, and what I'm riding is decidedly NOT a road bike - fat steel frame, nubby tires and front shocks do not make for a smooth effortless ride in the country. My ass was good and sore 'til at least Friday.

That reminded me of Dad's friend, Mark. Mark's a professor at UNC-Asheville and for the last few years has spent most of his summer bicycling. A day's ride for Mark on these trips is double to triple what I did last Sunday - now imagine doing that every freaking day for almost two months straight! Mark has done a remarkable job documenting these trips on his website, complete with a daily trip log (usually posted from the laptop he takes with him) and some rather wonderful photos (he's quite a good photographer). I highly encourage you to check out the above link for the pictures if nothing else, particularly the last couple of European "jaunts". But for a trip that might resonate a little more if you haven't spent much time in Europe, imagine starting out in Portland, Oregon, riding up the coast into Canada, hanging a right and riding across the plains through Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, hanging another right at International Falls and riding, er, home to North Carolina. And doing it a little over 7 weeks. At last report for this year, he was at day 18 out of Oregon (different route this time) and had crossed from Nevada into Utah. Go, Mark, go!

Free Stuff

Light blogging the past few days, partly because I had such a great weekend! There are a couple of posts rattling around in my head that should see the light of 'net over the next couple of days - until then, check this out!

For those of you that think open source software and free software are good things but think that they only live in the Linux environment, check out They've collected a number of free applications and utilities for the Windows environment and packaged them onto one CD. You've got (a Microsoft Office replacement), Mozilla (web browser), GIMP (full-featured image manipulator) and other good stuff. I've been running StarOffice on my home machines for some time and love it (StarOffice is the Sun Microsystems-distributed version of OpenOffice). I've used the GIMP a little bit on Linux but not enough to really learn it - it has a reputation as being PhotoShopian in its capabilities. I know Internet Explorer doesn't cost you anything and is hard to avoid and I won't claim that Mozilla is more secure than IE or Outlook Express, but there aren't nearly as many people out there writing worms, viruses and other malware for Mozilla as there are IE or Outlook.

There are other goodies there that I haven't tried but that are worth a look. There are links to a number of mirror sites where you can download the ISO image and burn a CD (many of the mirrors had too much traffic, but I got great download speed from the mirror in Ireland!). If you don't have broadband and ask me nicely enough, I'll send you a copy of the CD.

And oh by the way, did I mention that its free?