Saturday, April 30, 2011

Howard: "It's That Simple"

By Clemente Lisi – Tim Howard is used to high-pressure situations. He suits up for Everton every weekend against some of the best clubs on the planet and has played at the World Cup for the USA. Each time Howard puts on his gloves and gets into position to guard the goal, he knows what he has to do.

“The objective for me is to keep the ball out of the net,” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Simple it is not. Howard makes it look easy as the USA’s first-choice keeper. Howard, known for his quiet demeanor off the field, isn’t afraid to get vocal during games. Shouting at defenders and ordering them into position is a big part of his job – and he isn’t shy to do it.

“For a goalkeeper, that’s what I have to do (on the field) and the defense is a big part of that for any team,” he said.

Howard, 32, is one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever play for the National Team. The USA’s starting keeper since 2007, Howard was a key member of the team that qualified for the 2010 World Cup. In South Africa, Howard would go on to play every minute of all four of the US’s games before being eliminated by Ghana in the Round of 16. This summer, he will be expected to do the same as the National Team vies for the Gold Cup.

Although the most indelible image of the 2010 World Cup remains Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal to beat Algeria and win its group, Howard’s saves against England in the opening game went a long way in helping the US advance. Howard also had a hand in Donovan’s goal, throwing the ball back into play that resulted in Donovan’s emotional strike. After the goal, the entire team piled up on Donovan in jubilation. The only exception was Howard.

“I just bent down. I couldn’t run. I was just too exhausted,” he recalled, a smile still taking over his face whenever he thinks back to the match.

Howard was not always the world-class shot-stopper he is today. Born in North Brunswick, NJ, Howard was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome when he was just 12. As a teen, he fell in love with basketball, but eventually took to soccer after he enrolled in a day camp. Tim Mulqueen was the first to see the potential that Howard possessed as a soccer player.

“I didn't think he was going to be a great keeper when I first saw him,” said Mulqueen, author of the book The Complete Soccer Goalkeeper. “I don't think any coach can tell if a player at 12 will be great. There are too many variables yet to consider. However, he did immediately stand out because of his athletic ability. As we began to spend more time together I saw that was special and that he could be a great goalkeeper.”

By the time he was 15, Howard was already playing for the US Under-17 team. In 1997, Mulqueen, who was the goalkeeping coach for the NY/NJ MetroStars, was also named head coach of the North Jersey Imperials of the now-defunct USISL. Even before graduating from high school, Howard was playing for the Imperials. After just six games, Mulqueen told the MetroStars about Howard and he was signed as Tony Meola’s back-up.

In 1998, Howard was victorious in his MLS debut (the only game he would play that season), recording five saves in a 4-1 victory at home over the Colorado Rapids. He made eight starts for the MetroStars in 1999, compiling a 1.58 goals-against-average in a season where the hapless club won just seven games.

In 2001, Howard was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, recording four shutouts and a league-leading 146 saves. He played every minute of every MetroStars game and finished the regular season with a 1.33 GAA. Two years later, Howard caught the eye of Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson. The English club paid a $4 million transfer fee for Howard, who replaced France goalkeeper Fabian Barthez as the starter at Old Trafford. Howard’s meteoric rise included being the first American to win the FA Cup.

“I will say that if I had to pick one keeper to win me a game, it would be Tim Howard,” Mulqueen said.

In May 2006, Howard was loaned to EPL side Everton. In February 2007, Howard severed all ties with Man United and signed a contract with Everton that runs through June 2013. With Howard as Everton’s starting keeper, the EPL club rose up the standings. A club that used to fight to avoid relegation, Howard has helped transform Everton, which typically finishes in the top half of the standings.

“Everton has been a great place for me,” Howard said. “I’d like to keep playing there for as long as I can.”

At the same time, Howard has excelled for the National Team and was named the best keeper at the 2009 Confederations Cup, where the USA lost to Brazil in the final.

“We’ve earned a lot of respect over the past few years and I think the Confederations Cup and World Cup played a big part in changing perceptions,” said Howard.

In last month’s friendly at the New Meadowlands Stadium, just outside New York, Howard put together another amazing performance, holding Argentina to just one goal off of 12 shots to help the USA earn a 1-1 draw. Howard said playing near his hometown is always a big deal.

“Playing in the New York-area is always special for me,” he said. I’m from here. I grew up here. My friends are here.”

Capping off that game was Howard’s ability to keep Lionel Messi from scoring – the second time he had been able to do that in three years after holding Argentina to a scoreless draw at the old Giants Stadium in 2008.

“I just played my game, as I always do, and sometimes it works,” he said.

Mulqueen believes Howard is one of this country’s best-ever goalkeepers because of his ability to read the game.

“The first thing that makes Tim great is that he is an incredible athlete. America has never had that kind of athlete play in the goal,” he said. “Second, he is extremely competitive and wills himself and his team to succeed. I also think he has great technique and therefore is one of the top shot stoppers in the world. Finally the part that separates him from others is his ability to read the game. He makes plays look easy because he is always analyzing and eliminating where danger can come from. He has great anticipation.”

Howard, of course, is too humble to discuss where he belongs on the list of all-time greatest US goalkeepers. Instead, he said he is looking forward to returning home and playing in the Gold Cup for a chance to win a trophy and a trip to the 2013 Confederations Cup in Brazil.

“I love playing at home,” he said. “The moment I enjoy most is when they play the National Anthem and I get shivers down my spine.”

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Letter from Team Sapsucker

April 27, 2011

A stunning Golden-cheeked Warbler seen during our week of scouting in Texas. Photo by Chris Wood

As members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Team Sapsucker, we'd like to thank everyone for the amazing show of support during our Big Day efforts to raise funds for bird conservation. Our total for the day was 264 bird species, three higher than the previous U.S. record for most birds seen on a Big Day! Thanks to the generosity of friends and members of the Cornell Lab, we raised nearly $200,000 for bird conservation programs. If you made a donation, thank you! If you haven't yet made a contribution, you can still do so at .

Our Big Day quest began on Friday with a Yellow-crowned Night-Heron and Barred Owl spotted in the glow of park lights near San Antonio's famous Riverwalk—followed by a calling Common Pauraque, a tropical relative of the Whip-poor-will. In the first frantic moments of daylight in Uvalde we noted both a Blue Jay and Green Jay as well as the slow melodious song of an Audubon's Oriole. From there we went to the Hill Country near Neal's Lodges where Golden-cheeked Warblers and Hutton's Vireos sang from the hillside, a Scott's Oriole flew overhead, and a Spotted Towhee scratched on the ground. Heading back through San Antonio after the morning rush-hour we scored a Monk Parakeet at a nest along the Interstate.

In the afternoon, a promising kettle of raptors turned up a Swallow-tailed Kite soaring far above Swainson's Hawks and Mississippi Kites, and a huge migrating flock of some 400 American White Pelicans. The woodpeckers in Victoria were wonderful—Downy, Red-bellied, and a nesting Pileated. The rice fields produced Glossy Ibis, American Golden-Plover, and Buff-breasted Sandpiper. Sunset near Corpus Christi brought only a handful of migrant warblers, but enough to pull us near the record. As the sun set, Northern Bobwhite called while Clapper Rail grunted from the marshes. In darkness, the calls of Virginia and Black rails signaled our final birds to end the day at the new high-water mark of 264.

It was a memorable 24 hours, not only for the spectacular diversity of birds we experienced in such a short amount of time, but for the inspiring support of all who contributed to advance bird conservation. Next up: best wishes to our student team, the Redheads (named for the Cornell "Big Red"). They will compete in New Jersey's World Series of Birding on May 14 to raise funds for undergraduate research!


Chris Wood (captain), Jessie Barry, Andrew Farnsworth, Marshall Iliff, Tim Lenz, Brian Sullivan

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WAITIKI 7 Captures the Vinyl Magic of High Fidelity Exotica on WAITIKI in Hi-Fi

From egg-shaped plush chairs or towering cabinets carved like totem poles, hi-fi sound once poured over the conversation pits and cocktail hours of yesteryear. The warm tone and stop-and-listen vibe continue with exotica innovators WAITIKI 7’s latest venture, WAITIKI in Hi-Fi. The vinyl-only release of new material finally gives listeners—die-hard exotica connoisseurs, record collectors, or the merely tiki-curious—a chance to sit back and savor the group’s fresh look at a midcentury music in clear, rich analog.

Timed to honor the 100th anniversary of Martin Denny’s birth, the record pays homage to the exotica pioneer with whom several band members had the privilege to work with before his death. Thanks to Denny and many other highly skilled musicians, exotica’s tropical soundscapes, Latin dance grooves, and potent jazz chops became mainstays on turntables around the world.

WaitikiVinyl_cover Often misunderstood as kitsch, exotica was born in Hawaii’s vibrant postwar music scene and went mainstream when musicians like Martin Denny performed on national television shows like American Bandstand, Andy Williams, and Steve Allen. (Denny’s ’59 hit single “Quiet Village” reached #4 on Billboard’s charts, with his Exotica album eventually reaching #1).

The scene Denny helped spark found new life in the 1990s when groups like Combustible Edison took a serious new look at a funky old art form. Part of the lounge revival, which included renewed interest in neglected cocktail recipes, vintage technology, and midcentury pop design, the band spearheaded a movement that continues to flourish, thanks to a new generation of dedicated ensembles like WAITIKI.

A major figure on the East Coast exotica scene was (and is) Jack Fetterman, an architect with an ear for vintage sounds who hosted a legendary New York lounge party in the 1990s and still does cunning retro remixes, like his take on WAITIKI’s arrangement of the Denny classic “Similau,” exclusively available on vinyl. Fetterman, a long-time WAITIKI fan, approached the group about creating a hi-fi vinyl release, something exotica aficionados had been requesting for years.

The project was about more than retro recreation and pure nostalgia for the bygone days of LPs, however. Vinyl can capture the imagination, create a new kind of listening experience, and, under the right conditions, blow iPod addicts away with its warm, full sound.

Fetterman’s hi-fi system reflects how vinyl and analog systems can work their magic. “My set up has an elegance that you just can’t feel with something wireless, with a little box in the middle of the room,” Fetterman explains. “It doesn’t conceal what it’s doing, that sound is being pumped through these garden hose-shaped cables into the speakers. The pre-amp tubes glow and have to be replaced every couple years. But it sounds like nothing else.”

The sound and visual presence of a hi-fi still packs a punch, as do 12” records, with their big-format, bold artwork and potentially better sound quality. “You know when you listen to or look at a record that you are enjoying it exactly the way the artists meant it to be,” reflects WAITIKI bandleader Randy Wong. “Everything about this album is produced in super hi-fi fashion. I was surprised how much things opened up when I heard it. This is WAITIKI like you’ve never heard before.”

Supervised in part by Combustible Edison’s Brother Cleve, In Hi-Fi features alternate studio takes of rolling, lush tracks like “Flower Humming,” with all the sparkling color and depth of the vibes, flute, and Latin-infused percussion. A special live version of the Denny hit “Quiet Village” does beautiful justice to the piece’s animal calls and graceful melody, and brings out WAITIKI’s approach, which focuses on the bass line’s subtle drive.

While giving listeners a chance to hear WAITIKI’s exotica in all its glory, vinyl also encourages more relaxed way of listening, recalling the days when music formed the centerpiece of many a living room dance or cocktail party. “Man cannot live by earbuds or WiFi alone,” muses WAITIKI’s Tim Mayer, who plays reeds and flute with the group. “Here’s an example: There was as junk shop around corner from my house years ago, run by a guy who was a huge vinyl collector. In the summer, he would drag out sofas, lamps, and a 78 player from late ‘50s. Neighborhood people would stop by, listen for a while, and chat. That’s the irresistible allure of vinyl.”

CONCACAF Announces Revamped WCQ Plan

CONCACAF has announced the qualifying format they intend to submit to FIFA for final approval next month. The plan CONCACAF is proposing includes a preliminary phase followed by three group phases. The United States would enter in the second group phase, with three groups of four teams. The top two teams from that group phase would advance to the Hexagonal.

The new system would reduce the number of games for the United States from a maximum of 18 to 16 should they qualify from one of the top three places. Seeding for World Cup Qualifying would be based on the March 2011 FIFA Rankings, where the United States was the top ranked team in CONCACAF.

Teams Entering Preliminary Round: Anguilla, Aruba, Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands

Teams Entering First Round: Antigua, Barbados, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent, Suriname Trinidad & Tobago

Teams Entering Semifinal Round: Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, United States

Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrity rehab has never been this fun! Be sure to catch Steven Schardt & Sean Nelson's hilarious black comedy / Hollywood satire TREATMENT at the Tribeca Film Festival this week!

Joshua Leonard (HUMPDAY) and Sean Nelson (former front man for the band Harvey Danger) star as failing L.A. screenwriters who learn that superstar actor Gregg D. (Ross Partridge from BAGHEAD) has checked into a rehab facility, so in order to get close enough to pitch their latest project to him, Leonard pretends to have a drug problem and checks himself in. Also starring Brie Larson (UNITED STATES OF TARA), John Hodgman (THE DAILY SHOW) and cult singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock.

Here's a look at the supplementary materials made for the film including a TMZ-style story about Gregg D checking into rehab as well as a Vanity Fair questionnaire parody (View those here!).

Additionally, check out these two clips from the film:

Gregg D and Leonard "Getting Real"

Wingspan Rehab Orientation Video

Tags: , , ,

Lionsgate is excited to share the new trailer from the upcoming THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE, starring Dominic Cooper, on Yahoo! Movies:

We'll have the trailer available for download tomorrow. THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE debuts in theaters July 29th, 2011.

For more about the film, make sure to fan the film at

To get updates about the film on Twitter, make sure to follow

For additional publicity assets including the poster and new stils, make sure to visit

Official Website:


Based on a gripping, unbelievable true story of money, power and opulent decadence, Lionsgate's THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE takes a white-knuckle ride deep into the lawless playground of excess and violence known as Bagdad, 1987. Summoned from the frontline to Saddam Hussein's palace, Iraqi army lieutenant Latif Yahia (Dominic Cooper) is thrust into the highest echelons of the "royal family" when he's ordered to become the 'fiday' - or body double - to Saddam's son, the notorious "Black Prince" Uday Hussein (also Dominic Cooper), a reckless, sadistic party-boy with a rabid hunger for sex and brutality. With his and his family's lives at stake, Latif must surrender his former self forever as he learns to walk, talk and act like Uday. But nothing could have prepared him for the horror of the Black Prince's psychotic, drug-addled life of fast cars, easy women and impulsive violence. With one wrong move costing him his life, Latif forges an intimate bond with Sarrab (Ludivine Sangier), Uday's seductive mistress who's haunted by her own secrets. But as war looms with Kuwait and Uday's depraved gangster regime threatens to destroy them all, Latif realizes that escape from the devil's den will only come at the highest possible cost.

Featuring a riveting double performance by Dominic Cooper (AN EDUCATION, MAMA MIA) in the roles of Latif Yahia and Uday Hussein, THE DEVIL'S DOUBLE is a dynamic, chilling adaptation of Latif Yahia's autobiographical novel, charting one man's defiant struggle to survive a viper's pit of corruption and brutality. The film is directed by Lee Tamahori (DIE ANOTHER DAY, XXX: STATE OF THE UNION) and written by Michael Thomas (BACKBEAT, SCANDAL)

Tags: , , ,

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Converting A Corner

Converting A Corner

By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Apr 20, 2011) US Soccer Players -- Your team is down a goal and putting the pressure on its opponent as the minutes tick away. Just when the game seems lost, your team is able to win a corner kick. With the exception of being awarded a penalty shot, getting a late corner is a solid scoring opportunity. The chance to freely cross the ball into an opponent’s penalty box is indeed a tantalizing prospect. Bring everybody up including the goalkeeper and take advantage.

More often than not, however, teams fail to score a goal. The ability to effectively put the ball past a goalkeeper from a play that initiates from the corner flag requires a combination of size, speed, and positioning. There was a time when coaches and players believed that what separated great teams from good ones was the ability to take advantage of such chances. That may no longer be the case.

Corner kick success has been hard to come by – whether it’s the UEFA Champions League or the World Cup – over the past few years. It took teams competing in the Champions League, the world's best club competition, an average of 54 corner kick attempts to score during the 2009-10 season for a total of just 23 out of 320 goals. That translates to roughly 7% of all goals. UEFA says the success rate from corners has declined a staggering 46% over the past three years.

The Barcelona team that won the Champions League in 2009 - one of the best club sides in modern history - had a poor corner-kick success rate, finding the back of the net just twice in 82 attempts taken. It’s not surprising to learn then that defender Rafa Marquez, a member of that Barcelona team, has done a poor job this season taking corners for the Red Bulls. Marquez has attempted 29 corners over four games and New York has scored off just one of them – a goal by Luke Rodgers to open the scoring in this past Saturday’s 3-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes.

Of Barcelona’s 36 goals scored in the Champions League that season, 20 came during the run of play (mostly give-and-go situations and crosses), six from shots made from outside the box, and five breakaways. Set pieces in general were not relied on too much – only two penalty kicks and one free kick resulted in goals.

Rob Bagchi, writing for The Guardian, noted in a February 2010 blog post that taking corner kicks has become a dying art, adding that for defenses it has become nothing more than a routine exercise in clearing balls.

Defensive tactics are indeed to blame. I witnessed the trend in South Africa at last year’s World Cup. There were 145 goals scored over 64 matches. Of the 627 corner kicks that were attempted, FIFA said 271 connected with an offensive player (about 43% of the time). Of those, only nine goals were scored – equal to 6.2%.

For MLS, the focus is rightly on New York’s Marquez and the Los Angeles Galaxy’s David Beckham. After all, they are the only regular corner-kick takers in Major League Soccer who have played at the highest levels in Europe. So far this season, Beckham has taken 18 corner kicks in three games (he was suspended for this past Sunday’s game against the Chicago Fire for yellow card accumulation), and while he is known as a master of the set piece, his attempts have resulted in just one goal – the opening goal in the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw two weeks ago at DC United.

In MLS last season, 7.6% of all goals scored during the regular season came off corner kicks. The League has maintained records on goals that have resulted from a corner kick since 2003. Over the past seven seasons, the percentage has spanned from a low of 6.5% in 2005 to an all-time high of 8.1% in 2007. Five weeks into the season and the League says the percentage of goals scored off corner kicks is 12% (14 out of 116 goals). Last year at this time, the number was at an above-average 9.3% before it began to decline.

The key to a corner kick is the service. Any coach will tell you that the better the ball is served into the box, more likely a team is to convert. An accurate passer like Bobby Convey, who finished last season with 10 assists, took 92 corners over 28 games for the San Jose Earthquakes. The result was the Quakes leading the League in goals resulting from a corner with seven.

Overall, MLS production is a bit higher than in the English Premier League. The EPL averaged about 5% last season. Manchester United, which finished second in the standings in 2010, tallied just six times as a result of 240 corners for a success rate of just 2.5%. A League like MLS has seen a higher-than-usual amount of goals resulting from corner kicks because coaches continue to stress the fundamentals, particularly early on in the season. It’s not a knock against MLS coaches. Clubs like Barcelona rely so heavily on creative players to move the ball forward, that something like corner kicks suffer. In MLS, an opportunity like a corner kick is not to be wasted.

Since corners are one of those few situations that can be practiced over and over, it is critical for an MLS team to convert whenever it gets the chance. Last season, DC United and Kansas City Wizards failed to make the playoffs and both scored no goals as a result of a corner kick.

It is telling when a club like Manchester United, playing in one of the best leagues in the world, struggles to regularly score from corner kicks. So don’t get too excited the next time your favorite team earns a corner kick. Chances are they won’t score.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Come celebrate the life of Boyd Etheredge this evening at 6:30 at the Point Theatre in Ingram . . . everyone who knew Boyd is welcome, and please invite others!

What a wonderful night at the Austin Slam Championship!!! Huge Congrats to Kevin Burke, Austin's new Slam Grand Champion, and to Lacey Roop and the rest of the brand new Austin Slam Team headed to Nationals in San Francisco!!! Pics and film by late tomorrow . . .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

never mind - i thought it was very funny, but i just offhandedly ran a little google test and . . . yep, it was plagiarized - i won't be continuing that thread . . .

so, i judge school poetry contests on a fairly regular basis - and sometimes they crack me up - coming up: the best of today's little pieces

just a reminder to the theatre folks in these parts that the Celebration of Boyd Etheredge's Life is tomorrow evening at the Point Theare

Monday, April 18, 2011

Best of luck to ITM Tennis at Regionals!!!

Birding Trip to Big Springs Ranch for Children, 9 miles N of Leakey, Real County, Texas, with April, Ellen and Ben Lucas, 17 April 2011

[] = unconfirmed identification at this time

NCR = new county record

* = new ranch record

@ = photographed

+ = too many to count

Dragonflies and Damselflies

1 Double-striped Bluet

4 Kiowa Dancer

6 Aztec Dancer

1 Violet Dancer

1 Springwater Dancer

1 Springtime Darner

1 Dot-winged Baskettail

10 Prince Baskettail

20 Pale-faced Clubskimmer

5 Flame Skimmer @

1 Neon Skimmer

2 Roseate Skimmer

2 Common Whitetail @

4 Jade-striped Sylph @ (1m, 3f)

1 Ivory-striped Sylph

[1 Straw-colored Sylph @*NCR]

3 Variegated Meadowhawk @

2 Red Saddlebags

4 Wandering Glider

12 Spot-winged Glider


2 Orange Sulphur

2 Sleepy Orange

3 Lyside Sulphur

1 Southern Dogface

2 Checkered White

1 Eastern Black Swallowtail @

40 Pipevine Swallowtail @

10 Western Queen

1 Texas Tawny Emperor

5 Gulf Fritillary

1 Variegated Fritillary

2 Question Mark @

1 Northern Cloudywing

3 Eastern Dun Skipper

2 Fiery Skipper


+ Red-breasted Sunfish


1 Cliff Chirping Frog

+ Blanchard’s Cricket Frog

1 Rio Grande Leopard Frog


2 Crevice Spiny Lizard @

3 Texas Earless Lizard @

1 Red-eared Slider


3 Great Blue Heron @

1 Green Heron

10 Turkey Vulture @

8 Black Vulture

[1 Osprey]

[1 Red-tailed Hawk]

1 Red-shouldered Hawk @

2 Broad-winged Hawk @[*]

20 Mourning Dove

9 Eurasian Collared-Dove

2 Inca Dove

1 Greater Roadrunner

25 Black-chinned Hummingbird @

2 Green Kingfisher

2 Ladder-backed Woodpecker

2 Golden-fronted Woodpecker

6 Eastern Phoebe

1 Black Phoebe

10 Ash-throated Flycatcher

3 Vermilion Flycatcher @

10 White-eyed Vireo @

6 Yellow-throated Vireo @

5 Black-capped Vireo @

4 Hutton’s Vireo

2 Western Scrub-Jay

6 Common Raven @ (at nest)

+ Cliff Swallow @

9 Cave Swallow

12 Barn Swallow

2 Tree Swallow

8 Northern Rough-winged Swallow

8 Carolina Chickadee @

15 Black-crested Titmouse @

6 Bewick’s Wren

2 Carolina Wren

2 Ruby-crowned Kinglet

1 Golden-crowned Kinglet

15 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

1 Hermit Thrush @

2 Northern Mockingbird

2 Northern Parula

6 Nashville Warbler @

1 Yellow Warbler

14 Yellow-throated Warbler @

12 Golden-cheeked Warbler @ (nest-building)

4 Black-and-White Warbler

3 Louisiana Waterthrush

50 Warbler sp. (migrants)

25 Summer Tanager @

20 Chipping Sparrow @

1 Rufous-crowned Sparrow

12 Lark Sparrow

8 Northern Cardinal

1 Indigo Bunting

8 Lesser Goldfinch @

1 Pine Siskin @

8 House Finch @

1 Red-winged Blackbird

12 Brown-headed Cowbird @


6 Edwards Plateau Fox Squirrel

2 Black Rock Squirrel

1 Domestic Dog (Bassett Hound)

8 Aoudad @

2 Domestic Goat (Boer, Domestic Ibex Cross)

10 Domestic Cattle (Texas Longhorn) @

1 Sicilian Donkey

10 Domestic Horse (Miniature, Arab, Thoroughbred, Quarterhorse) @

Plants of Note

Giant Helleborine Orchid @

Black Sedge

Texas Mock-Orange @

[Post X Lacey Blue Oak] @

Other species seen on the road in Real/Kerr County

1 Crested Caracara

2 Wild Turkey

40 Mouflon

25 Barbados Sheep

7 Persian Red Sheep

3 Eld’s Deer

40 White-tailed Deer

+ Axis Deer

40 Blackbuck

+ Domestic Cattle (Black Angus, Black Baldy, Chianina, Red Criollo)

1 Scimitar-horned Oryx

40 Blackbuck

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, April 16, 2011

And wonderfully tied up by Someone Like You at Pampell's!!!

Followed by the Casey Hubble Band playing at 10 at the Guadalupe River Club!!

Noel McKay and Brennen Leigh tonight at 8 at Roddy Tree Ranch will start an incredible night of music!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

personally, i think this better than maradona's famous run . . .

will be rooting for Man U today, but also for Fernando to break out of his slump . . . if both happen i can smile a little . . .

RIP Richard Hargrove . . .

Temp post from World Music News Wire -- to be updated . . .

“The birth of my son was bittersweet,” singer Azam Ali reflects. “He would never meet a large part of his family. And he was not alone in this: So many children are born in diaspora, so innocent in all this. Yet they suffer the consequences of turmoil in the world.”

Ali unfolds the complexities of exile and love, motherhood and motherland in her striking, sophisticated exploration of Iranian, Turkish, Lebanese, and Kurdish lullabies, From Night to the Edge of Day. The Iranian-born, Indian-raised vocalist makes traditional and newly composed songs smolder with dreamy longing, with the grief of exile in a conflict-riven world, and with a keen edge of hope.

AzamAli11_cover The first night of her son’s life, singer Azam Ali sat awake, stunned, until dawn. She began to sing. “I was in shock, staring at this little person,” Ali recalls. “I realized singing was the best way to communicate with him, without language. There’s something profound about singing to a child, which is why women have done it for thousands of years.”

This profound something is rarely about mere soothing. Traditional lullabies, with their latent darkness and emotional complexity, are not really for children, as Ali’s decidedly “grown-up” treatment of them testifies. They attempt to cope with difficult lives and the harshness and sorrow of the world, with loss, exile, and pain.

They scintillate under the influence of Ali’s unique vocal abilities and aesthetic, honed on three solo albums and during a career that has spanned all genres. Ali has collaborated with everyone from Mickey Hart to System of a Down, with musicians from Nine Inch Nails and King Crimson. She has appeared in film scores including 2007 box office smash, 300. She has taken global sounds in new directions as part of Niyaz, with help from producer Carmen Rizzo (Seal, Coldplay).

And as Ali sang to her son, cradlesongs became urgent pleas for an end to politically induced suffering in her native region. Lullabies flourish where the highly personal intersects the intensely political, flowing out in what Ali feels are “invisible waves” of quiet communication between adult and child. Ali kept singing the melody of that first night with her son, slowly crafting it into “Tenderness,” a bank of lush, warbling sound that rises from a dreamy drone and evokes love, loss, and longing.

Lullabies began coming to Ali out of the blue. Friends returning from Iran brought her a collection of traditional lyrics, including texts in Farsi dialects that became tracks like “Mehman (The Guest).” Other friends from across the Middle East sang her classic favorites (the Turkish favorite “Dandini”) and obscure gems (the rarely-heard traditional Turkish song, “Neni Desem”). Her close friend, Palestinian oud player Naser Musa, spontaneously wrote a stirring lullaby for Ali’s son, after speaking with Ali about her project (“Faith”).

Rich with strings, unexpected bursts of Middle Eastern percussion, and contributions from virtuosic players like Musa, Ali’s songs nestle dreamy layers of vocals in contemplative soundscapes that evoke both the softness and sadness of night. Yet this emotional and sonic world has a drive that goes beyond the pulsing drums of tracks like “Dandidi.” Ali has thoughtfully chosen lullabies from minority communities across the Middle East, such as Iraqi Kurds (“Lai Lai”) and the Azeris of Iran (“Shirin”), in a plea for peace and an end to conflict. “You go to the Middle East, and the West is blamed for everything. However, many of our problems stem from our own way of thinking, from cultural divisions, interethnic conflict,” Ali explains. “No matter what culture you are, we are all the same at the core. Lullabies communicate this. And that perspective alone can change a lot of things.”

“To do this project, I worked with Kurds, Azeris, a Palestinian Christian, Iranians from all over,” recounts Ali. “You could write a book about each one of them, about their difficulties in life and their diaspora. It was a profound experience for me as person.” Despite oppression, war, and exile, Ali heard “hope and the belief that good will always come out in the end” in the traditional songs and in the musical contributions of her friends.

It is this ray of light that gives Ali’s voice and arrangements their edge and elegance. “From childhood, we are fed all these ideologies that end up shaping the way we view the world,” she says. “If our parents and society could feed us more enlightened ideology from childhood, it would have such an effect on how we grow up and see people.”

Thursday, April 07, 2011

it's a good thing he scored . . .

Temporary posting of this article, will be updated . . .

Deep Trancing: The Hypnotic Grooves, Camel-Skin Bass, and Unifying Spirit of Club d’Elf

The music of Club d’Elf flies through North African trance, glitchy turntablism, freeform improvisation, and rock psychedelia, but it’s playfully altered states of musical consciousness that truly guide the band. Witness founder Mike Rivard’s first night in Morocco, the country that had fired his musical imagination for more than a decade: In a strikingly vivid dream, he felt himself swimming upwards in the air as fantastic landscapes, mountains, and tiled buildings stretched out beneath him.

The band—a rotating group of players drawn from a pool that includes keyboardist John Medeski, DJ Logic, David Bowie’s guitarists or any number of Moroccan musical icons—swims in the same dreamlike atmosphere, both live—Club d’Elf tours New England this April—and on their new double album Electric Moroccoland / So Below.

ClubdElf_cover Club d’Elf grabs the elusive subtleties of North African rhythms and puts them through their edgy paces on Electric Moroccoland, the first disc of their new two-CD set. Here, the group is influenced by Morocco’s rich musical heritage and Rivard’s dedication to the three-stringed, camel-skinned, bass-like sintir. On the second disc, So Below, Rivard and company de- and reconstruct musical forms from funk and dub to free jazz, creating an anything-goes exploration that holds true to the spirit of trance and the affinity that connects Club D’Elf’s diverse players and their varying styles.

”The crux of Moroccan music is trance,” Rivard explains. “Trance as a quality in music has always attracted me, whether it’s an extended James Brown cut, or something by Fela or Steve Reich. I’ve always sought out music that allows you to forget where and who you are and to break free from the mind’s constant chatter.”

Rivard’s fascination with Moroccan, and specifically Gnawan music, began thanks to a fellow traveler in trance, the late Mark Sandman of the legendary indie rock band Morphine. One night, Sandman threw on a CD by Hassan Hakmoun, Gnawa musician extraordinaire. After begging to borrow the album, Rivard went home and listened to it over and over again. “I never returned it, and that was something that Mark always grumbled about,” Rivard laughs. “I played it constantly, and it became the soundtrack for my life. That’s when I dedicated myself to playing sintir.”

The three-stringed deep-voiced instrument forms the foundation of ceremonies among the Gnawa, whose ancestors came as slaves from sub-Saharan Africa 500 years ago. Their music blends animism and Sufism in rituals designed to induce trance, to contact spirits, and to heal. Rivard began learning to play the instrument on his own, practicing long hours with recordings and trying out rock riffs to see what worked. He also began taking cues from Moroccan musician friends like oud (Arabic lute) player and percussionist Brahim Fribgane, who introduced him to Moroccan émigrés in the Boston area, a community of expats who provided encouragement and inspiration for Rivard during late-night hangs in the basement of a Moroccan store.

Eventually, Rivard’s fascination with the instrument led him to the Moroccan coastal city of Essaouira, where he spent time in the home of one of the great Gnawan malaams (a master of ceremonies and master musician). It was there that he began to grasp just how intense and complex sintir technique could be. “It’s amazing what you can do on an instrument with only three strings and a one-octave range. But in the hands of someone like Malaam Mahmoud Guinea, the sintir has infinite possibilities that go beyond the physical act of playing. He uses the instrument as a device to connect with the spirit world. It’s both powerful and humbling.”

Rivard uncovered a whole soundscape of subtleties as he became more and more deeply attuned to Moroccan music. One challenge came as Rivard tried to unpack the rhythmic pattern of the chaabi, a beat in 12/8 with a mysteriously elusive “one.” “Brahim and I used to take long car trips together and listen to North African cassettes,” Rivard recalls. “I’d clap along with him, but then I’d move to the wrong beat and he’d shake his head no. I had to train myself to hear the ‘one’ in the right spot, to really feel how the upbeats and accents worked. Once I got it, it felt like I was initiated into a secret society.”

These details add a richness and depth to Club D’Elf’s music and bring Moroccan sensibilities into unlikely places. Rivard wanted to do a tribute to Sandman, who passed away in 1999, so he and Club D’Elf covered Morphine’s “Rope on Fire”—adding a chaabi beat, electric oud, and a sinuous bass line, propelling Sandman’s hypnotic tune.

Unlikely Moroccan influences struck again when Rivard was improvising at a remote Maine cabin, and a riff from Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” kept sneaking into his sintir line. The song also fit the chaabi, and while it worked as an instrumental, Rivard dreamed of adding vocals. He had a Berber scholar friend translate the lyrics and got friend and frequent Club D’Elf contributor Hassan Hakmoun to sing them. Rivard explains, “Hassan really got into it and added his own extemporaneous touches while Medeski rocked the mellotron,” an analogue keyboard big with prog rock bands like King Crimson and Yes.

While Club D’Elf pays homage to several other musical greats, including Morocco’s version of Louis Armstrong, Haj Belaid (on “Ambib”) and Nass El Ghiwane (“Ghir Khoudouni”), Rivard and company gain most of their musical insights through improvisatory juxtaposition. “We mine contradictions; combining things that don’t necessarily go together. To that end, we’ll mash up free jazz saxophonist Joe Maneri with rock guitarist Reeves Gabrels [ex-David Bowie]. Or Moroccan strings, Indian tabla, and turntables,” Rivard reflects.

What brings all the disparate, dynamic elements together is the magnetism of trance, a power that cuts across cultures. Along with musical mixtures, Rivard has drawn on diverse approaches to trance, and was as inspired by the thoughts of psychedelic explorer Terence McKenna (whose voice is woven into “Trance Meeting”) in both shaping Club d’Elf and naming the band (McKenna communed with “elf-like entities” on some of his travels).

For tracks like “As Above,” he brought together master Ghanaian drummer Dolsi-naa Abubakari Lunna with DJ Logic, creating a fusion of ancient rhythms with modern turntablism, enhanced with a rousing piano part by John Medeski, played on a battered upright in his Brooklyn studio. On “So Below,” Rivard took some of Sandman’s last recordings and carved out a trancey core from layer upon layer of takes, tracks, and musical input from a dozen musicians.

The results, like the band’s live performances, draw listeners in through repetition, atmospherics, and a solid rhythm section meant to fill the dance floor. The songs also hint at the power of trance to do more than just mesmerize the listener, but also to transcend barriers. Much of the new Club d’Elf music developed during rehearsals at drummer Erik Kerr’s Christian church, where Brahim would break into rousing praise of Allah. Yet no one batted an eye.

“Our music is about surrender and giving in to something more powerful than one's self, and as corny as it sounds, really feeling love for your brothers,” reflects Rivard. “It amazed me at how open Erik could be to a different faith, and likewise for Brahim. Certainly life is a lot more complicated than the simple ways of us musicians, but if our little musical brotherhood can embrace different beliefs and cultures, then maybe it’s possible for such cooperation to exist in society at large.”

U-20’s Exit CONCACAF Qualifying

The United States Under-20 National Team will not be participating in their 8th World Cup in a row following a 2-1 Qualifying defeat to Guatemala on Wednesday in Guatemala City. Playing in front of a crowd happy to stress home field advantage early and often at the Estadio Mateo Flores, the US went down a goal in the 33rd minute. Conor Doyle equalized in the 66th, but Guatemala went in front for good thee minutes later. The win sends the US home while Guatemala moves on to the semifinals. In CONCACAF Under-20 Qualifying, all semifinalists advance to the Under-20 World Cup.

“Obviously we are extremely disappointed by this result,” US coach Thomas Rongen said. “If you look at the game, you have to take your hat off to Guatemala. The home team came to play. They had a good game plan. We have to move on, and I firmly believe that within this group we have very capable players who will move on to represent our team at the senior team or Olympic level, but today wasn’t our day. It was a good host team and our team wasn’t able to click on all cylinders.”

6.5 Earthquake reported in Veracruz . . . that's close to home . . .

Mark Bartosik always captures incredible images of bird behavior, but this one is my new favorite . . . a Whooping Crane on the attack

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

another huge week of events coming up! tonight it's Schreiner University Coffeehouse with Thom the World Poet, tomorrow it's the Texas Writer's Conference at Schreiner, and starting at 2 tomorrow, the ITM One-Act Play is in Llano for the second round of UIL 'playoffs', Oliver Rajamani is in town Friday, Saturday Monte Montgomery plays the Ingram City Park Benefit at 2, and Saturday night it's the incomparable George Ensle at Roddy Tree Ranch!

Monday, April 04, 2011

RIP Calvin Russell