Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pirates' Offseason - Good But Incomplete

As one who is perpetually frustrated by the Pirates’ front office  – exacerbated after its failure to really support the team at last year’s trading deadline – it’s a pleasure to feel a bit optimistic for this coming season. I remain skeptical; we’re still talking a pretty minuscule payroll in baseball terms, and there were a lot of things they could have happened this offseason which didn’t get done.  We all watched, for example, as one potential 1B after another was taken off the board. And I am not talking about the Pujols and the Fielder types; they were never realistic. But the Penas, the Kotchmans, even the Cuddyers or Willinghams, were all grabbed up by teams not called the Pirates.

But let’s focus on what did get done. I would put it this way. Generically speaking, the Pirates had three big needs – bring strength and consistency up the middle; bolster the SP staff; and improve the offense. I would give them credit on two of these.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Dirty Work: The Rolling Stones' Masterpiece By Accident!

Introductory Note: I plan to use this blog to sometimes highlight music that I believe is overlooked.  This is the first of those reviews. However, the album in question is one that I have wanted to write about for a long time, and I ended up working on this piece for months, never quite satisfied that I “got it.”  A lot came out because in my mind a lot had to be said!  So please don’t be scared off by its length, and enjoy reading about an often overlooked but essential album by the Rolling Stones!

Dirty Work is an often dismissed, usually maligned Rolling Stones album from 1986.  Yet many of the reasons the album is written off are the very one that make it great.  The overall disarray of the band, the feuding between Mick and Keith at the time, and the fact that Keith had to pretty much put the album together on his own all contribute to making this a truly essential, if imperfect, album. 

The criticisms of Dirty Work are well known.  Fixated on advancing his solo career, Mick brought little of value to the studio.  Keith’s anger at Mick permeates, and sometimes overwhelms, the whole thing.  The songs are an overproduced mess, with only THREE attributed solely to the famous Jagger-Richards songwriting tandem.  At least three additional percussionists are on the record, covering for a smacked out Charlie.  Wyman barely showed up – Ronnie covered on bass, and on one track (Had It With You), there’s no bass at all!  They didn’t even care enough to add it! what a mess!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Interview: Melissa Hiller, Curator, Pittsburgh's American Jewish Museum!

Hello loyal readers! I recently had the opportunity to talk with Melissa Hiller, who is the Curator of the American Jewish Museum, located in Squirrel Hill’s Jewish Community Center! Melissa has served in this position since 2008.
Melissa Hiller with publisher Adam Parfrey (l), historian Mel Gordon

The JCC is a special place to me because I used to perform in plays there. Really good plays too! But that’s not what this interview is about. THIS interview is an opportunity to learn more about Ms. Hiller, who is making such an important contribution to Pittsburgh’s cultural scene, and to learn more about the AJM’s current exhibit, based on the Funnyman comic strip produced in 1948 by the creators of Superman, Joe Siegel and Jerry Shuster! Here's a link to info on the museum, and the exhibit: