March 30, 2008

Neil Young with Phish

I've been looking for a copy of this show, Phish playing with Neil Young, ever since it happened 10 years ago, and although this is only one song I wanted to post it here for everyone to enjoy.

I remember very distinctly finding out these two played together over the weekend. I was married at the time, and just plugged in to my first high-speed Internet connection, which was unbelievably fast at the time - seemed like warp speed. I remember we passed a very boring weekend (it rained like crazy all week, so we were stuck indoors Fri. - Sun.) watching VH1 Behind the Music, new at the time, and playing some ridiculous card game she invented.

When I logged on to the Internet Sunday night to check up on the latest Phish news, and look at the set lists from the shows we caught that summer at Portland Meadows (my ex-wife's first show, now officially released as part of the Live Phish series) and at The Gorge that summer, I couldn't believe my eyes; just hours earlier they had performed at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit in the Bay Area over the weekend. It takes eight to 10 hours to drive from Portland to San Francisco, easily accomplished in one day. We could have left on Friday night, drove back on Monday and only missed one day of work. In other words, we sat around on the couch all weekend while we could have been at the show.

C'est la vie ... opportunities lost ...

March 27, 2008

Simpsonize Yourself

Ever wondered what you might look like as a character on The Simpsons? Now you can find out.

Click on this link, upload a .jpg photo of yourself, a voila! You are now part of The Simpsons universe.

Free Online Version of Photoshop Now Available

How cool is this?

Adobe Systems, Inc., makers of the quintessential photo editing program Photoshop, which normally retails for more than $600, announced today the availability of an online, free version of the software called Adobe Photoshop Express.

This is great news for people, like me, working in the communications field who have a need to use Photoshop from time to time, but just not enough to justify plopping down $600+ for the program.

I've used a pirated version of Photoshop, because of the price, for years, but only for cropping photos, or for shrinking the size of an image to fit a Web page, newsletter or whatever medium I happen to be working with that day.

If you've never used Photoshop but love taking pictures and sharing them with people, either via e-mail or by printing them out on glossy matte paper - the do-it-yourself approach to photography that takes out the local drugstore or photo developing lab - and mailing them at birthdays and holidays, this free program is for you.

They even offer free storage space for your photos, and your own personal URL (Web page) where you can post your photos for anyone to see.

Give it a test run. You'll never again use the photo editor that came on CD with your digital camera, or whatever Windows/Mac program came bundled with your computer.

March 25, 2008

Still Doubt Global Warming?

Earlier today, Antarctica's Wilkins Ice Shelf, a floating ice platform located at the southern end of the continent's peninsula that is seven times larger than Manhattan, or roughly the same size as Northern Ireland - about 5,450 square miles - broke off, leaving just a thin strip of ice all that holds it in place.

You can see this for yourself thanks to video posted on YouTube by scientists with British Antarctic Survey, the organization that has been monitoring this situation for the last 15 years.

Republican conservative talk show hosts, like Rush Limbaugh and Dennis Miller (yes, that Dennis Miller has gone to The Dark Side), don't believe global warming exists. Watch, or rather listen, tomorrow. I bet they'll be saying that penguins have been secretly toiling away since 1993 with ice picks, hacking away at the ice shelf, and finally managed to cut all the way through. Or, perhaps they will intonate arctic penguins jumped up and down all at once causing a tremor large enough to dislodge the Wilkins Shelf.

Really, now, if you doubted global warming before doesn't this sort of thing make the hair on the back of your neck stand up?

Anyway, BAS official David Vaughn, who recorded the YouTube video himself, predicted in 1993, and hinted at again in 1999, that the Wilkins Shelf would disappear in 30 years at the then-current rate of global warming. Today, he said the remaining ice strip holding the Wilkins Shelf in place could disintegrate at any minute, leaving the ice shelf to float away into the Arctic Sea.

BAS officials said worldwide sea levels will not be affected when this happens because the "new" iceberg is already in the water, but added that the Wilkins Shelf buffers existing land ice from warmer sea temperatures that don't normally reach into Antarctica's mainland. If Antarctica's landmass comes into direct contact with ocean waters it could result in the gradual melting of the continent, Vaughn stated in published reports.

Let me go ahead and make the understatement of the year ... This is not cool.

Seriously, though, I have a question to pose regarding public awareness of the Wilkins Shelf: It's early Tuesday evening, March 25. Why is this story not splashed all over the mainstream media?

The only place I've seen this story covered - and it's arguably one the most important stories, if not the most important, of the year outside of The Road to the White House - is in The London Times, other European publications, and aggregate domestic news services. Nothing by the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, USA Today or even the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the United States media spent the day focusing on Sen. Hillary Clinton lying about coming under sniper attack during a trip to Bosnia in the 1990s. Hillary and her camp - we might as well call it her Administration - backtracked, saying the senator from New York "misspoke" about the event. Comedian Sinbad, who along with singer Cheryl Crow traveled with Hillary on that trip as part of a USO tour, crawled out from under a rock to add his two cents to Clinton's acid flashback, saying the only danger they were in was trying to figure out where they were going to eat next.

Nice job Hillary.

I think it's safe to say you officially blew out of the water any chance you had left of securing the Democratic nomination this fall.

Please, do us all a favor - and by "all" I mean American citizens, not just Democrats - and bow out of the race now before you spend any more time disparaging Sen. Barack Obama and pushing independent voters' favor toward Republican Presidential Nominee Sen. John McCain.

You're becoming the Ralph Nader of 2008 Hillary. What the hell are you thinking? Your recent actions show you are in this for yourself, to satisfy your own ego and sense of self-worth, rather than running for president to help Americans become better off than they were four, or really eight, years ago.


Bow out before you cause us to go through a third straight Republican term in the White House ... before it's too late.

2008 Baseball Season Throws Out First Pitch

Opening Day, er, Opening Night, of the 2008 Major League Baseball season gets underway at 3 a.m. PST; 6 a.m. EST this morning, and it's about time. The 2007-2008 off-season seemed to go on forever, especially being forced to watch the Atlanta Braves try to figure out how to replace Andruw Jones in center field.

Quick recap: they couldn't.

Why the ridiculous time for the season's first pitch? It seems Major League Baseball's resident genius leader, Commissioner Bud Selig, decided it's important to plant baseball's seeds of discovery in Japan, specifically Tokyo, to help develop international interest in the game.

Every year, MLB is becoming more and more of an international game, no doubt, with athletes from all over the world coming to the U.S to compete against the best ballplayers in the world. That makes Major League Baseball's championship match, The World Series, finally deserving of its moniker, if you look past the fact that the league has teams located in just two countries - the U.S. and Canada.

There is just one problem with Selig's idea to gain exposure for baseball by sending the Boston Red Sox and the Oakland Athletics to Tokyo to play two regular-season games to open the 2008 regular season ... baseball is already huge in Japan, and has been for years.

The Japanese operate their own major league called Nippon Professional Baseball (Puro Yakyū, or プロ野球 if you speak Japanese). It's only been around since, oh, I don't know, let's see, that would be ... 1950! (Professional baseball in Japan actually can be traced back to 1920, with the modern NPB officially forming 30 years later.)

Come on, Bud. Your intentions are great, but once again you've managed to make a boneheaded decision for MLB operations, making yourself look like a Keystone Kop-type of bumbling idiot and giving non-baseball-loving American sports fans more ammunition to rail against our national past-time (just like your decision to end the 2002 All-Star Game at Miller Park in Milwaukee after 11 innings by declaring it a tie, when both teams ran out of relief pitchers).

I wonder how this "false start" of sorts to the 2008 MLB season is going to affect the Red Sox and A's over the long haul? Granted, they are only playing two games in Tokyo (before returning to the states to play spring training exhibition games for another week and then playing their third game of the series in Oakland), but these games count.

What if the Red Sox and Yankees are embroiled in another bitter Eastern Division brawl for first place this September? If the Red Sox lose both games in Japan and end up two games behind the Yankees in the standings at the end of the regular season, the Tokyo Opening Day games will be to blame.

On a side note ...

Major League Baseball's Opening Day is a holiday for me, traditionally. When I had an employer, I either called in sick to work or scheduled a paid (personal) day off weeks in advance so I could stay home and watch games on TV all day. (I could squeeze in three full games, starting about 1 p.m. EST and ending close to midnight, when I had a TV subscription that offered the Major League Baseball Extra Innings package. Here in Oregon, Bend Broadband doesn't offer it, meaning I may be changing to DirecTV soon, but I digress ...)

When I was married, my ex-wife and I both skipped out on work, spending all day drinking beer and barbecuing - pork shoulder, 12-hours, slow roasting North Carolina-style. When I was self-employed, I simply let voice mail field all my telephone calls and e-mail pick up correspondence, letting clients and/or editors know in advance that I was taking the day off "to deal with personal matters."

Thanks to Mr. Selig, though, my annual holiday will not take place on the "official" Opening Day. No doubt, I will be up at 3 a.m. to witness the first pitch from Tokyo (I'm betting it's fouled off) because I am that much of a baseball junkie. And I am excited that the Atlanta Braves will be in the first televised game on U.S. soil this Sunday night when they play the Washington Nationals in the new ballpark the Nats built in D.C.

But the first day every team plays their opener isn't until Monday, March 31. The good new is I still get to play hooky. The bad news is March 31 won't really be Opening Day.

As for the game being played a little less than an hour from this posting, it'll be cool to see Boston starting pitcher Dice-K (Diasuke Matsuzaka) play in his home country in front of the Japanese faithful. That guy is a rock star over there, and I hear the Japanese get rowdy at ball games, much like Europeans do at football (soccer) matches.

And now for some stats ... What would a baseball discussion be without 'em?

In Japan, Matsuzaka pitched for the Seibu Lions, debuting in 1999 in a win over the Nippon Ham Fighters (dig that team name). Thanks to the hype surrounding Dice-K following his kick-ass performance in the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, the Red Sox set some kind of new record for greed by bidding $51.1 million just for the right to talk to him about playing in Boston. (Way to flash your wallet in Steinbrenner's face, Theo.)

Boston went on to sign Dice-K to a $52 million, six-year deal, and he had a pretty good "rookie" season in 2007, going 15-12 with 201 strikeouts while posting a so-so 4.40 earned run average. The Wagger has a good feeling Dice-K is going to break out this year, leaving his rookie MLB performance in the dust.

Anyway, here's to a fabulous, drama-filled 2008 Major League Baseball season ... and here's praying the Atlanta Braves can get past the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets to make it back to the World Series this year.

How about winning the Fall Classic this year boys?

The Beatles feat. David Lee Roth

OK, this is quite possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life. Well, at least one of the top 10 funniest things I've ever seen - that I can say for certain.

Recently, a video posted on YouTube circulated with audio of David Lee Roth's isolated vocal track from the song Runnin' with the Devil - the opening track off of Van Halen's debut album, which is one of the best rock recordings of all time, hands down.

Someone got real creative with that clip and superimposed it, along with some old Van Halen footage from a music video, one they made before the days of MTV, and another video of The Beatles performing "Drive My Car" on TV somewhere, so that it appears Diamond Dave is singing with The Fab Five.

The Wagger salutes whomever created this thing.

Be prepared to pee in your pants when you watch this video. Seriously. Just the opening scene with Dave shaking his shoulders is funny enough. This is side-splitting shit. And don't forget to pass it on. This is too good not to circulate it. Enjoy! - Wag

March 23, 2008

How the Economic Crisis Hit

Finally, someone wrote a story that sums up how the U.S. creeped into this current recession - or, according to that financial genius President George Bush, the current "economic slowdown."

It's scary when the President of the United States is asked his thoughts on the likelihood that domestic gasoline prices will top $4 per gallon sometime this spring, and he responds to the questioning reporter by saying, "Wait? What did you say?" What's even scarier is the Bush-Walker family is in the oil business.

Well, President Bush did run several companies into the ground while making millions before the Supreme Court appointed him president back in 2000. So, it comes as no surprise to The Wagger that the U.S. has been run with the same determination during the last seven years.

According to my calendar, there are only 302 days left until a new president is sworn into office. Tuesday, January 20, 2009 can't come soon enough for this U.S. citizen and registered voter.

By the way, if you are not registered to vote and are eligible ... what's wrong with you? Register to vote now by clicking here. It only takes a few minutes, and if you think your vote does not matter, or will not count, just remember - it was thinking like that in 1999 that got us into this current mess.

March 22, 2008

Trey Anastasio & Warren Haynes

Two of the best guitar players around today, Warren Haynes (Allman Bros. Band, Phil Lesh & Friends, Gov't Mule) and Trey Anastasio (Phish, Trey Anastasio Band, Oysterhead) discuss what it's been like performing together at impromptu jam sessions over the years, and how a certain style seems to have evolved between them in the process. Very interesting, especially if you've ever seen these two rock-n-roll monsters perform together.

The song they tear up here is your basic 12-bar blues called Funky Bitch, a regular in Phish's repertiore (originally written by Son Seals).

After watching this video it dawned on me that Trey & Warren have never worked on a full-fledged project together. Hmmmmmmm ....

March 20, 2008

The Worst Web Site Design in History

Seriously, check this out. This is not a fake. My three-year-old son might be able to throw his hat in the ring and suggest a better layout.

Michigan Primary Re-Vote Plan Bites the Dust

Michigan's plan to conduct a re-do presidential primary collapsed today, and Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton started arguing over the fate of the state's 156 available delegates.

Democratic leaders in Michigan proposed conducting a do-over primary on June 3, to be funded by private donors, and state lawmakers were supposed to vote today on a bill authorizing a second Democratic primary. Michigan senators, however, were less than enthusiastic and adjourned this afternoon without even bringing it up in session.

In the original primary, held last January, so early in the voting season that it violated Democratic party rules and subsequently stripped the state of all delegates, Hillary won 55 percent of Michigan's delegates.

Obama, who did not appear on the original ballot, now wants the delegates split in half, while Hillary, rightfully so, rejects the idea.

I think the only thing to say here is, "Nice going Howard Dean." Dean, the Democractic National Party chairman, made a huge mistake, in the opinion of The Wagger, by stripping both Michigan and Florida of all delegates, disenfranchising Democratic voters from both states.

In Florida, a record 1.7 million voters turned out on election day, and that's just on the Democratic side. Again, nice job Howard. The Republicans punished both states, but at least let half of the delegates count.

How about a scream, Dr. Dean? Idiot ...

So, if Michigan and Florida Democrats decide to vote for McCain this fall, rather than the Democratic candidate, Howard Dean will be to blame. You can tell Dean what you think of his decision, and offer him a suggestion for dealing with Michigan and Florida (why not? no one else has a clue what to do ...) by going to the Democratic National Committee Web site and sending them an e-mail.

On a side note, I am from Palm Beach County, Florida, and I have to say that my people back there in the Sunshine State, the fourth most populated sate in the union, shouldn't get to participate anymore. They screwed up the election in 2000, causing Bush to be awarded the presidency by the Supreme Court, and they screwed up again in 2004. Florida Voters knew their delegates were not going to count when they went to the polls back in January, or at least the DNC's ruling was public knowledge at that point. The same holds true in Michigan. ,

So why didn't anyone make a stink about it then? Your guess is as good as mine. Therefore, it is The Wagger's opinion that neither state deserves a re-vote, and here CNN backs me up.

Vernal Equinox Marks First Day of Spring 2008

Last night at 1:48 a.m. EST the sun passed directly over the equator, marking the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and the first day of fall down under.

Today is one of only two days in the calendar year when the sun spends an equal amount of time above and below the horizon everywhere on Earth, meaning night and day are the same length.

In reality, the day is longer than the night at an equinox. Daytime is commonly defined as the amount of time sunlight hits the ground. From the Earth, the Sun of course appears round rather than a single point of light, meaning the upper edge of the sun remains visible when its center dips below the horizon.

But who cares? The point is the days are getting noticeably longer, baseball season is set to open next weekend (Go Braves!) and most of us can comfortably switch from winter coats to sweaters.

Barack Obama's Speech on Race in the U.S.

If you haven't heard Sen. Barack Obama's 38-minute speech on race relations, "A More Perfect Union," take the time to sit down and watch it. If you're lucky enough to have your family all in one place for 38 minutes, gather everyone in front of the computer and watch it together. This is the most important speech given by a U.S. public figure since the 1960s, and you should not let the moment slip by without checking in.

No public leader has displayed this type of critical thinking since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's. "I Have a Dream;" President John F. Kennedy's Inaugural Address, or Robert F. Kennedy's speech on the death of Dr. King.

For me, Obama's speech essentially lifts him above Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the presidential candidate who will have the biggest impact on the U.S., now and in years to come. Sen. Obama may not have any experience with foreign policy. He may be too idealistic, or even naive, especially when talking about sitting down and having lunch with world leaders like Cuba's Fidel or Raul Castro, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Venezuelian President Hugo Chavez. OK, he's a little green when it comes to getting things done in Washington D.C.

This speech, for me, however, sets him apart as the candidate exemplifying the best judgment, character and sincerity of the three, all traits that are evident in the best of our U.S. presidents past.

I think Obama's speech just opened the door to a new era in the U.S., and quite possibly the world. It's just a gut feeling, but I think we may be entering a phase similar to the 1960s where people will come together again as a nation; one with differing points of view, yes, but one that is again involved together in national and local affairs - a people that cares, and not the fleeting type of interest witnessed in the days following 9/11 when everyone stuck American flag magnets on their vehicles.

I can't put my finger on it yet, but just watching the way the media is reacting to this, there is a buzz, an excitement I've not felt since ... well, that I have not felt or witnessed in my lifetime.

I still don't know who is going to get my vote, but I do know this - Obama just revealed himself as a thought-provoking, forward-looking leader, and that is exactly what the U.S. and the world needs at this point in history.

Hello World

My family and friends for several years now have been urging me to start a Blog, and I always had a million excuses not to do it. I've always sent out little e-mail "news blasts" to my nearest and dearest with things I believe are worth pointing out. The Wagger is an attempt to legitimize this activity.

I've finally reached a point where I'm tired of viewing and visiting the same handful of Web sites while attempting to gather, read and disseminate news and information that is not only interesting to me but also of great importance to all of our lives, or at least entertaining.

I'm sick of reading Elliot Spitzer-type stories, garbage mascarading as news, and not being able to find real stories. Spitzer was news at first, but going on and on about the woman's MySpace page was not newsworthy in the slightest, regardless of what the New York Times says. It was purely voyeurism, and nothing less. Time and space dedicated to Ms. Dupre takes away from issues we should be focused on, like the underlying reasons for the current U.S. recession, the actual position of the presidential candidates on issues (any issue, please, God ...), the truth behind global warming and energy prices, and new information just coming out about Saddam Hussein trying to move chemical weapons out of Iraq and hide them in Sudan just before the U.S.-led invasion five years ago.

Real news that matters, and reporting that digs beneath the surface to see what's really going on.

The Wagger will not always focus solely on serious stuff. I, just as much as anyone else, enjoy watching something ridiculous on YouTube, discovering creative Web sites, or just checking out new shit that someone pointed out or forwarded to my inbox. But I also have a fond distaste for tabloid-style reporting.

So, I'm creating The Wagger with the hopes of entertaining, enlightening and informing any and all who stumble across my humble, little Blog. (In case you don't already know, a Wag is a term used to describe a journalist, specifically a news writer; not a dreaded TV reporter of which only a few legitimate ones remain. Similarly, in public relations a PR rep is known as a Flak. Wags and Flaks have relationships not unlike a one-night stand, but the beauty of it is that this unspoken informational tryst is understood and expected in advance. They use each other, and do it well.)

I hope you all find something here that sheds some light on an issue you wanted to understand a little better than you already do, that you discover something entertaining, preferably something that makes you laugh, and leave here with a little more knowledge than you had when you woke up, even if it's only good for answering Trivial Pursuit questions.

Any and all submissions and comments are welcome, and I hope that in the days, weeks, months and years (hopefully) ahead this Blog is able to make even a small dent in the news world.