The Latest from Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Hello all,

This is an intimate message from the Ritland Rambler himself, one Erik Ritland.

I’ve been writing blogs under some semblance of the Rambling On name since 2012. It started with a weekly run of several articles (in a newspaper type format) in January and February 2012. I quickly ran out of funding to keep it going, and after a second attempt in the summer I had to reconsider my direction.

Throughout 2013 I wrote a few blogs under the Music, Sports, and Sunday Ramble names. Finally in April 2014 I launched the latest version of Rambling On, a regular blog and podcast, that I’ve been running ever since.

Speaking of, Rambling On is seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. I encourage you to check it out.

I’ve kept each of the former incarnations/incantations of my rambles up for the sake of archive. Enjoy them but be sure to check out the latest and greatest stuff at http://www.ramblingon.net.

Erik Ritland Archive Sites

Rambling On (original series)
The original run of seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. Archived winter and summer 2012.

Music Ramble
Longer articles about music of all kinds. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sports Ramble   Local and national sports coverage. Mainly baseball and football related but some commentary on hockey and basketball as well. Archived from 2012-2014.

Ritland Ramble
Erik’s former culture blog. Society, politics, current events, and more. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sunday Ramble
Religious commentary. Archived from 2012-2013.

Daily Ramble
Daily blogs covering sports, music, culture, and more from January 2014.

The Weekly Ritland
Short-lived site that linked to each article I had posted for that week. Archived September 2012.

Main Ramble
Articles about politics and culture from the original run of Rambling On in 2012. Archived fall 2012.

Football Ramble
Commentary on the first few weeks of the 2012 football season. Another project that ran out of funding. Archived fall 2012.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volume 2, Issue 3, Friday July 6, 2012

Updated, newly edited versions of most of these articles can be found on these pages: Sports Ramble, Music Ramble, Ritland Ramble

Volume 2, Issue 3

Friday July 5, 2012

In Today’s Issue
Click on each heading to view the article or view the entire issue below

  1. Opening
  2. Main Ramble The tale of a drunk and his conversation about the integrity of the Constitution.
  3. Sports The Minnesota Wild sign free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Is it as big of a deal as it’s being made out to be?
  4. Music An initial appreciation of Neil Young’s new album Americana.
  5. Final Thought

Somebody say howdy to me…
Hello boys and girls and welcome once again to Ramblin’ On! I hope everybody enjoyed their holiday. I celebrated by not reading my Jesse Ventura book or looking up/promulgating any conspiracy theories. You could say I’m an American hero.

I’ve written several articles this week but figured I wouldn’t inundate ya’all with more than the typical three. Hope you enjoy them. Please let me know what you think and thanks for reading.

Main Ramble

Drunken Constitutional Ramblings
Who has the power to declare war? Are the current laws on who can declare war Constitutional? Get me drunk and I’ll tell you. Or you can read this article.

I don’t get drunk very often. Some of my friends may call that a preposterous statement but, while I drink what some may call often, I very rarely do in excess.

After a few beers and a few too many pulls out of a bottle of Jack Daniels, though, I was indeed quite drunk at a party the other night. My better judgments were certainly impaired as I decided to jump in to a political conversation. While I am all for talking about important issues in day-to-day conversations (as I have recently written about), I do not condone drunken party conversations about politics. Unless you want your IQ to go down, have a good laugh, or get into/see a fight.

Yep.

The conversation I jumped in to was about the various wars that wacky Texan George W. Bush and Mr. Nobel Peace Prize Barack Obama (Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and beyond, etc.) started and perpetuated. I don’t remember much about the conversation but I do recall that the people who were having it were a lot more sober than I was and they were actually having a decent conversation. Poor guys.

I made a point I often make, though: that no war or conflict since World War II has been constitutionally legal. Which is true. According to the Constitution Congress has to approve going to war. Remember all that stuff from Jr. High Civics class about how great the system of checks and balances is at keeping the branches of government from going crazy with power? Well that’s all been thrown out, as each conflict since WWII has not had a Congressional Declaration of War. The War Powers Acts have relaxed authority on who can declare war and why. While it is a law it still goes against what the Founders of our country intended and. In short, while using the War Powers Acts to declare war without a Congressional Declaration of War is legal, it’s still unconstitutional.

“There are a lot of flag burners who have too much freedom/I want to make it legal for policemen to beat ’em”

I don’t blame the guy I was arguing with for writing me off. For one he was obviously a hardcore Republican. Drunk or sober it is impossible to get through to hardcore people on either side. Also he was very sober and I was very drunk; I probably wasn’t as articulate as I usually am. Finally, I’m sure he saw my beard and long hair and assumed I was an ignorant hippie. I can’t blame him.

Our exchange reminded me of one of my favorite moments in the Simpsons. Lisa and Bart are watching a Schoolhouse Rock parody called “Amendment to Be” in which the Constitutional Amendment on flag burning bemoans the fact that he can’t get into the Constitution because he is, well, unconstitutional. Watch the bit here. The highlight is the Amendments conversation with a young boy:

Boy: “Why can’t we just make a law against flag burning?”
Amendment: “Because that law would be unconstitutional. But if we change the Constitution…”
Boy: “…then we can make all sorts of crazy laws!”
Amendment: “Now you’re catching on!”

I won’t give away the ending, but let’s just say that it accurately describes what happens when such ideas come to fruition. The War Powers Acts are the same, as they make unconstitutional actions legal.

Did I learn any lesson at that party? Umm, not really. I know I shouldn’t discuss politics when I’m drinking. At least it reminded me of a kick-ass Simpsons bit I hadn’t thought of in a while.

Sports!

Ladies and Gentleman…We Got ‘Em
Incredible! The Minnesota Wild shocked the world by signing the two biggest free agents in the NHL.

While most of America celebrated the 4th of July with a relaxed work schedule, barbecues, and lazy days on the beach, a handful of people across the country kept close, practically stalker-like watch on who would sign NHL free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. To the surprise of pretty much everyone the duo, two of the best in the league at what they do, signed with YOUR Minnesota Wild.

Still with the “State of Hockey” tripe, huh? Shakin’ ma head.

While this has gotten an amazing amount of coverage in Minnesota it is just: this is indeed a big deal for several reasons. For the first time in their existence the Wild are now an elite NHL team (for some perspective, their Stanley Cup odds went from 200/1 in Vegas to 20/1 with the signings). The Wild now really have it all: two legitimate stars in Parise and Suter to lead the way, top-tier players Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi right behind them, solid, above average 2nd and 3rd line guys in Matt Cullen, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, and Pierre Marc-Bouchard, usually good and often great goaltending, a young, solid defensive core, and a handful of prospects that should become stars.

The specifics of the deal are also important. Both Parise and Suter took a lot less money than they could have gotten had they signed elsewhere – a paltry, for stars of their caliber, 7.5 million dollars a year. Because of this the Wild not only still have salary cap room to use this year, but they will also have a lot of money to throw around for the entire duration of their contracts. The combination of money to spend on free agents in the future and the star power of Parise and Suter makes the future of the Wild look very good even if, for some strange reason, the current roster can’t get anything going.

Most importantly, though, for the first time in their existence the Minnesota Wild are now a legitimate force in the NHL – and an immediate Stanley Cup contender. Considering how little Minnesota sports fans have had to cheer for in the past, I don’t know, 20+ years, I don’t blame them for getting a little excited.

Music

What Neil Young’s Americana Means to Me
Although I’m not a fan of personalized record reviews I need to be honest about my background and how it affects my view of Neil Young’s latest album before I review it next issue.

I’m in the middle of writing a series of articles about why music criticism today is god-awful, ignorant, self-absorbed tripe. Since music is infinitely above the individual reviewer it is a great disservice for it to get dragged down into the mire of a reviewer’s personal opinion.

But according to the Full Disclosure in Praise Act I have to be up front about my personal feelings about Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Americana. Because of my background there was a very small chance that I would not really like this record.

First and foremost I’m a huge Neil Young fan. He’s my favorite guitar player, one of my top 5 favorite songwriters, and top 3 favorite vocalists. More than that, though, I respect that he does whatever the fuck he wants regardless of what he’s told to do, what’s most beneficial for him, or what’s expected of him. And for me, as it ideally for anybody, respect goes a long way.

Despite my love of Young I still haven’t listened closely to his last few efforts. Chrome Dreams II holds a place in my heart, especially the wonderful, grandiose “Ordinary People,” and I listened to Living with War as a curiosity, but in general I’ve paid about as much attention to Young as I have any new records in the last, I don’t know, ten years.

The other reason that there was a pretty good chance I’d love Americana is the concept of it. Crazy Horse doing hard-hitting, electric guitar drenched versions of American folk songs, sometimes with a kids choir? Yes, please! The idea of it is pure Young: something out of left-field, the idea a creative mind. It is ideas like these that make me love and admire Neil Young as much as I do.

Finally, the soul, romance, and aesthetic of all things America that embody the Americana tradition – which includes folk, blues, jazz, and country music, authors as diverse as James Fennimore Cooper, Walt Whitman, and William Faulkner, social and political icons beyond number, and the nameless mass of farmers, workers, and vagrants that paint the landscape – has become a significant part of me. More than history, more than where I’m from, this long tradition is soul, is life, is endlessly meaningful.

Suffice it to say as soon as I saw the video for “Oh Susanna” it was all over: Americana was destined to be a musical event in my world.

And it has been.

Now that I got all that self-indulgent tripe out of the way – don’t blame me, I didn’t create the Full Disclosure in Praise Act – I can get on with the actual review of the album. Which will be coming in next week’s Ramblin’ On.

Final Thought

Well that’s it for now, knuckleheads. Thanks for reading. Please comment on my articles so I feel like I’m not just talking to myself out there. Love ya’all.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volume 2, Issue 2, Friday June 29, 2012

Updated, newly edited versions of most of these articles can be found on these pages: Sports Ramble, Music Ramble, Ritland Ramble

Volume 2, Issue 2

Friday June 29, 2012

In Today’s Issue
Click on each heading to view the article or view the entire issue below

  1. Opening
  2. Main Ramble Today I begin a series of articles about why having conversations about significant issues today is so difficult and what we can do to change it. In the first part I discuss how damaging it is to not talk about religion or politics.
  3. Sports The good and the bad of LeBron James.
  4. Music Reviewing two recent singles: “That’s Why God Made the Radio” by the Beach Boys and “Cruising California (Bumpin’ in my Trunk)” by the Offspring.

Somebody say howdy to me…
Hello boys and girls and welcome once again to Ramblin’ On, the weekly magazine of culture, sports, music, mayhem, tomfoolery, and skullduggery. I’ve learned something this week – when I have a lot of free time and am not close to deadline it takes me forever to write an article. When it’s deadline day, however, the articles just roll on out of my fingers. Maybe Ramblin’ On should be a daily magazine! Haha. I won’t torture you with that (or my thoughts on Obamacare). Have fun folk and, as always, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment.

Main Ramble

The White Flag of Intellectualism Part I

This, the first of a series on the contemporary fear of engaging in real conversation, discusses the real reason we find it difficult to discuss religion and politics with our peers.

Most people believe that religion and politics are off-limits in everyday conversation. This is somewhat understandable considering that discussions about them, and any other weighty topic for that matter, tend to quickly sour and devolve into heated, mean-spirited arguments.

This happens foremost because too often people don’t give the loving attitude and respect of other views that they wish to receive for their own. An attitude of love and respect is the only foundation for an intelligent, thought-provoking conversation. If a conversation begins with any other attitude it de-evolves into hateful arguing.

Perfect.

It is fear of this happening that keeps most people from wanting to discuss religion, politics, and any other truly important topic for that matter. If people were as loving and respectful of points of view that weren’t there’s, however, this wouldn’t be a problem.

But it is a problem. The first step to fixing a problem, of course, is to recognize that there is a problem in the first place. Instead of admitting that this problem exists, much less addressing it, our culture has instead convinced us to do away with discussing important things entirely. We have resigned ourselves to not discussing important things because it is easier to do than to take a hard look inside ourselves to see what it is in us that makes us unable to have these discussions without them turning into arguments.

Obviously this isn’t a good thing. Just because people aren’t loving and respectful enough to have discussions about life’s most important topics doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be discussed. By imposing the “no religion or politics” rule on conversations we are ignoring flaws in our personality traits that need improvement and, far more importantly, doing ourselves and our culture the great disservice of not discussing the things that are most important in life.

Why are religion, politics, and other weighty topics worth discussing at all? How is not discussing them a disservice to ourselves and our culture? I’ll answer those questions in part two next week.

Sports!

“The LeBron is the LeGay” -The Iron Sheik

First off let’s get one thing straight: LeBron James is not in any way a king. Elvis was the king of rock n’ roll. Michael Jackson was called the king of pop but in actuality he was simply the man who perfected 80s pop. By either standard, though, LeBron is not a king. Calling him ‘King James’ is also blasphemous so watch yourself.

Being anti-LeBron James has been easy ever since that ESPN special where he revealed who he was signing with. At that time he seemed like an obnoxious, arrogant, attention-starved prick. The way he left Cleveland, his hometown and everything, was so despicable that he deserved every slander uttered by Cavaliers GM Chris Grant, whether the media or those influenced by them want to admit it or not.

The REAL King.

However since the backlash from the decision LeBron has steadily moved up the ever-important PR chart. He says the right things and seems nice enough. The good guy LeBron of his pre-Heat days that he shattered in light of ‘the decision’ has seemed to resurface.

Which is why it is no longer practical to hate LeBron James. He made a mistake and he even apologized for it. Since then he has moved on and his personality has been downright likeable if you don’t look at it with anti-LeBron Horace Grants. Every time I hear anti-Lebron stuff on sports talk shows, in the beer hall, or wherever, I think to myself: Come on guys. Get over it.

The other end of the spectrum, of course, is LeBron adulation that is just as annoying. Perfect example: ESPN’s over-the-top masturbatory coverage. If I took a shot every 5th time that obnoxious video of LeBron kissing the nameless basketball championship trophy played over the next few days I would have been on a serious bender. Or died.

The message to both sides is simple: get over it. So LeBron got his stupid championship. Haters, who care. Lovers, okay, celebrate, but in moderation, please.

Music

Two (relatively) New Singles

“That’s Why God Made the Radio by the Beach Boys

When I heard that the Beach Boys were getting together for a tour with their leader and resident genius Brian Wilson I was sort of excited. Why not, right? It seemed the natural next step for Wilson after the Pet Sounds tour, the Smile album, and a baseball player stealing his name.

“That’s Why God Made the Radio” is what you’d expect from a reunited Beach Boys in 2012. To say that this song is ‘classic Beach Boys’ would be overdoing it – and may actually be preposterous – but it does contain all the classic Beach Boy elements in all their glory. The jaunty 50s Malt Shop number has a great melody, rich arrangement, and even a “Good Vibrations”-like breakdown in the middle.

At the very least it isn’t as bad as “Kokomo.”

“Cruisin’ California (Bumpin’ in my Trunk)” by the Offspring

It’s looking to be a good year for alt.rock fans. The Offspring came out with a new album, Green Day are coming out with three albums…and I’m sure Scott Weiland will do something stupid.

The Offspring’s new single “Cruisin’ California” is damn funny. Like, laugh out loud funny. It’s so similar to the shitty pop songs that its making fun of that I’m sure it could easily get radio play on top 40 stations. The lyrics are so god-awful its bound to fit in nicely.

The big, Katy Perry-like synthetic beat and catchy chorus meld surprisingly well with the pop/rock sound that the Offspring rode in the ‘90s that they continue here. The autotune and black girls singing “I know you heard that bass bumpin’ in my trunk” are nice touches. All in all fairly entertaining.

Final Thought

I hope everybody is having a “kick ass summer.” Listen to some great music, eat some great food, drink some great beverages…and just all around have a good time. Take care and never be too old and ornery to enjoy fireworks.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volume 2, Issue 1, Thursday June 21, 2012

Updated, newly edited versions of most of these articles can be found on these pages: Sports Ramble, Music Ramble, Ritland Ramble

Volume 2, Issue 1

Thursday June 21, 2012

In Today’s Issue
Click on each heading to view the article or view the entire issue below

  1. Opening
  2. Main Ramble Remember those fun facts underneath the caps on Snapple bottles? Well they aren’t so fun anymore. I explain why while tying in conspiracy theories and what I’ve been doing with my summer vacation.
  3. Sports Less than we deserve: the 2012 Minnesota Twins
  4. Music The first of a multi-part series about one of my heroes, the Band’s Levon Helm.
  5. Bonus Ramble Party on, St. Paul.

Somebody say howdy to me…
Hello boys and girls and welcome once again to Ramblin’ On! Various obnoxious life obligations (school, work, house, family, etc.) have kept me from enlightening the world with my thoughts but here I am with the Summer series of Rambles. For now it’ll be back to being weekly and issued on Thursday or Friday.

Main Ramble

Of Snapple
The dangers of sugar, water, and aligning yourself with a shitty reality TV show

There’s a good chance that Jesse Ventura is smarter than you think he is.

Since I haven’t been working much I’ve had plenty of time to catch up on conspiracy theories. When I was a boy I thought that conspiracy theories were for idiots. Eventually I matured and realized that, as my homeboy Jesse Ventura says, when it comes to topics like the JFK assassination, 9/11, and the Oklahoma City bombing you have two choices: to believe the government’s conspiracy theory or to believe an alternative conspiracy theory.

So recently I’ve been finding out certain things and adapting my life accordingly. For example, high fructose corn syrup and all sugar substitutes (sucrose, sucralose, splenda, etc.) are probably really, really bad for you (that government-run University studies say otherwise doesn’t impress me). Also, like Nazi Germany before them, America pumps a ton of fluoride into its water. Look it up – not only does fluoride not help your teeth but it instead promotes Alzheimer’s, cancer, and has been known to have mind numbing Prozac-like effects.

To the best of my ability since these discoveries, then, I’ve tried to lay off tap water and artificial sugars. Since I’m so weak and I like all sorts of crap that isn’t good for me, this has not come automatically. But in my search for non-artificially flavored beverages I re-discovered Snapple Peach Tea. It’s not too expensive, it’s delicious, and when combined with a B-Vitamin and some fruit can give you a semi-natural energy boost.

Some may remember that Snapple always had fun facts underneath the caps of their products. An example would be something like “The aardvark’s name means “earth pig,” even though they are not related to pigs” or “Baseball pitcher R.A. Dickey doesn’t have an ulnar collateral ligament.” Trivial, sure, but it was nice that, where a product could advertise or have an inane ad campaign disguised as a “contest,” Snapple instead had something fun for their customers. The fact that they basically got nothing out of it made it appear that just maybe they cared about something other than money.

During this new-found foray into Snapple I had forgotten about these facts. After drinking a couple of bottles, though, I innocently and unintentionally glanced underneath my cap. I was very confused by what I read: “The oldest contestant on America’s Got Talent was 75 years old.” “Wow,” I thought, naïve as ever, “what an uninspired fact. Snapple really isn’t trying anymore.”

Maybe America’s Got Talent isn’t so bad after all…

The next “fact” I had the pleasure of reading was even worse: “Contestants on America’s Got Talent have waited in line for up to 24 hours.” “Okay,” I wondered, “this is getting stupid. What the hell is up with this?” I then realized that in addition to being naïve I am also not very observant, as there are ads for America’s Got Talent plastered predominantly on each bottle. Obviously Snapple had sold the rights to their under the cap “facts” to AGT. In addition certain caps have numbers on them that you bring to the Snapple website to redeem prizes – the two-headed monster of capitalistic advertising bullshit that I had always admired Snapple for avoiding. After one last puke-worthy “fact” (“It takes 11 cameras to capture all the action on America’s Got Talent”) I vowed to never look at them again.

I’ll admit that it was stupid of me to ever think that big money conglomerate Snapple ever cared about anything but the bottom line. The generic facts that Snapple used to use were most certainly put there not as a way to make people who buy their product smile but to do something unique in order to try and make a name for themselves in the market and drive up sales. Either way it’s still sad, stupid, and even annoying. Furthermore, I also found out that Snapple contains beet sugar as opposed to cane sugar, which, according to the conspiracy theorists, isn’t much better for you than artificial sugar and sweeteners. All the more reason to (almost certainly unsuccessfully) try to not drink Snapple anymore.

Sports!

Less Than We Deserve
The 2012 Minnesota Twins

Gardy looking as surly as always.

I’m really glad I didn’t do a “MLB 2012 season predictions” article like I did with the NFL last year. While such speculation is fun even professionals mostly look stupid for most of the predictions they make.

Going into the season I was cautiously optimistic about the Twins. This may be revisionist history, but thanks to the help of the exper-…above ave-…decent Twins beat reporters I was able to ascertain basically how the Twins season shook out before it happened. Our lineup, being one of the best in our division, would not be too much of an issue. The bullpen had potential to perform well if each member lived up to their strengths. Finally, our entire season would ride on how well our starting pitching would perform.

All of these have basically come true. While their overall batting numbers seem abysmal at first sight – 22nd out of 30 in all of baseball and 12th out of 14 in the American League – most days the lineup gives the team a chance to win. It could be argued that the numbers are lowered by failed experiments and general underachievers (Clete Thomas, Erik Komatsu, Danny Valencia, Luke Hughes, Sean Burroughs, and others).

Bright spot Josh Willingham

Our top 7 hitters – Span, Revere, Mauer, Willingham, Morneau, Plouffe, and Doumit – could be the strongest top to bottom 1-7 in the AL Central (though none of them are Fielder, Cabrera, Konerko, or Dunn). Throw in the sporadic success of Dozier and Carroll and I don’t think there’s any question that the Twins lineup is among deepest in baseball top to bottom. Its main problems are lack of a consistent, raw power hitter and poor performance in clutch situations.

Our bullpen is overworked and, considering that, relatively underpaid (but don’t be afraid). Matt Capps is better than he was last year which is nice but certainly isn’t saying much. I’m interested in seeing how many more times that Ron Gardenhire will send him out during tie games considering that he’s single-handedly lost the game 4 out of 5 times he’s been put in that situation (something he’d never do with that horse guy…uh, Joe Nathan). Glen Perkins, Brian Duensing, Jared Burton, and Alex Burnett have all been solid, especially considering how overworked they are. Swarzak is an admirable workhorse and the two mediocre Jeffs – my boy (who da) Manship and Gray – are serviceable for the back-end of the bullpen.

Former Twin and Cy Young candidate R.A. Dickey.

This leaves the biggest weakness of the team – starting pitching. In my article about the Twins offseason transactions I failed to mention that, while overall they did a pretty good job, they failed to address this, their number one issue. They picked up bust Jason Marquis but didn’t make any move for a really solid arm. What we were left with, then, was old and now injured Carl Pavano, injured and ill-treated Scott Baker, sporadically successful not-so-sinker baller Nick Blackburn, and a myriad of minor league starting talent including P.J. Walters, Scott Diamond, Anthony Swarzak, Cole De Vries, and I’m sure eventually Jeff Manship. Pitchers are expensive and the Twins can’t really afford them if they want to actually keep their payroll low enough to continue being a profitable organization. This sad fact is what will most likely keep the Twins out of serious contention unless they’re able to cultivate some arms in their farm system (or they just get lucky).

All in all I’d like to think that most people didn’t think the Twins would be doing too much better than they are. I had hopes that they’d be a little better but knew that the possibility laid solely on the success of starting pitching. I’m excited at the prospect of the Twins doing some trading around the time of the deadline to get some prospects for the future.

Music

Levon Helm and the Band, Part I
Levon Helm was the drummer for the Band, one of the most highly regarded bands of the ‘60s. On
April 12, 2012 he died of cancer. This, the first of a series of articles about him and the Band, gives a brief introduction to him and his group. The main influence behind this series of articles is Levon’s autobiography This Wheel’s On Fire.

Levon during the Band’s famous Last Waltz.

Levon Helm was a rare human being. Words like hero, legend, icon, and idol are so often misused and overused that they have been reduced to meaning a little less than nothing. As such, Levon is none of them, yet all of them, above them. He was the type of person that any alive person desires to be.

Levon was drummer for acclaimed and revered 60s rock group The Band. His voice, soulful to the point of being soul itself, is featured predominately on all of the Bands most important songs (“The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”). His drumming, like his singing, is evocative, subtle, and nuanced.

The Band’s music is equal parts Americana, folk, and rock, with more than a bit of country and blues influence. They brought together this variety of influences and, with their talents, worked them together into a coherent whole that created a unique, organic sound. This approach, while shared among the greatest songwriters and bands of the 60s (Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dylan, Elvis, many others), is lost in our contemporary homogenized culture. This has led to the lack of soul and creativity in music after the 60s.

A more recent picture.

Levon wrote his memoir, This Wheel’s on Fire, in 1993. He writes with the love and soul that permeated his life and his music. His sense of appreciation and love of the good life are found on every page, even in the later chapters in which he describes the eventual bitter relationship between the Band and its guitarist Robbie Robertson in their later years.

Fortunately, though, Levon devotes most of his book to his pre-Band days and the making of their first two classic albums. He spins stories of his childhood days as a cotton farmer, his early forays into music, his time as rabble rousing Ronnie Hawkins’ right hand man, and the early days of the Band with the same effortless, unique simplicity that he brings to the drum kit and his vocal performances.

Levon’s intriguing story makes for great theater. Although it is worth much more than any words I could say about it, I’ll be spending a few articles delving into his autobiography and the immortal music he made with the Band.

Where to begin
At the end of each of these articles about Levon and the Band I’ll be showcasing one of their essential songs.

“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” From the 1969 LP The Band

This is the quintessential Band song. On top of one of Levon’s most soulful vocal performances are the classic, Staples Singers-inspired Band harmony vocals from Richard Manuel and Rick Danko. The story of the song, a tender Civil War drama from the side of the south, is the Band’s most successful attempt at conjuring up America’s ghosts. Typically for a Band song the instrumentation and arrangement are tight and dynamic, with Levon’s unique, stilted drumming, Robbie Robertson’s tasteful acoustic guitar, and Richard Manuel’s piano blending to create an organic backdrop to fit the lyrics. It’d be hard to argue that this song is not one of the best of the ’60s.

Bonus Ramble

Party on, St. Paul
— So I went onto Facebook on my computer the other day. I rarely do that because of all the ads and promotions you have to put up with. One page FB suggested me liking was St. Paul (the city, not the saint). I was actually surprised that I hadn’t legitimized my love for my home city with a Facebook like so I dutifully did so. Because Facebook can’t go a half a second without another promotion or ad immediately another suggestion came up for me to like something – this time it was “partying.” Reaction number one: what have I ever said or done that would make FB think I like partying? Reaction number two: replacing a suggestion for St. Paul with a suggestion for partying is sort of hilarious if you get it.

Final Thought

It’s been really nice to “get back on the horse” as it were and put this issue of Ramblin’ On together (except for the ridiculously time consuming task of formatting). Writing, being inspired, and cliches are my three favorite things. Thanks for rambling with me. Please feel free to comment and let me know what you think. Until the next one, adios.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volume 1, Issue 5, Friday February 17, 2012

Updated, newly edited versions of most of these articles can be found on these pages: Sports Ramble, Music Ramble, Ritland Ramble

Volume 1, Issue 5

Friday February 17, 2012

In Today’s Issue
Click on each heading to view the article or view the entire issue below

  1. Opening
  2. Main Ramble Jesse Ventura once claimed that organized religion is a sham and a crutch for the weak-minded. I agree with him and apply it to our culture at large for some surprising results.
  3. Sports Linsane in the membrane! Crazy Linsane, got no brain!
  4. Music 2012 Grammy recap. Adele, the mystery of Bonnie Bear, Dave Grohl’s speech, and more.
  5. Final Thought

Somebody say howdy to me…
Hello boys and girls and welcome once again to Ramblin’ On. Three fun articles this week. Let the Linsanity begin…

Main Ramble

Jesse Ventura was Right

“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you’d want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live.” – Jesse Ventura in an interview in Playboy (November 1999)

Jesse looking pleasantly disheveled

It would take several articles to comment thoroughly on the totality of the enigma that is Jesse Ventura (and I plan on writing those articles). Many people take one of two easy roads: either praising him and agreeing with him for his many rebellious stances or, more frequently, just writing him off as a lunatic.

But simplistic minds will always come to simplistic conclusions; that’s not something that will be going away anytime soon in the current CONtemporary American landscape. It’s our current culture largely that creates, sustains, and motivates people to be simplistic. Which begs the question: progressing towards what?

So simplistic minds need not worry about reading this article. Don’t worry; once I’m done writing it I’ll be sure not to read it over.

Jesse Ventura is often a polarizing figure. Lately he’s been into conspiracy theories, especially those relating to 9/11. The two most common reactions, as I describe above, are to either to agree with him and think that his thoughts are somewhat revolutionary (he isn’t himself, as he has stolen all his material from other people, especially Alex Jones) or to think that they prove, like almost everything else he’s ever said or believed, that he’s an idiot.

This is the same sort of reaction people had, and continue to have, when they hear about his thoughts about organized religion. “Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers,” Ventura said in a 1999 interview with Playboy. “It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business. I live by the golden rule: Treat others as you’d want them to treat you. The religious right wants to tell people how to live.”

The problem is that, as a Christian, you have to admit that he’s pretty much right (as I am, and I do). At least he’s right too often of the time in contemporary American Christianity.

Too many people in America don’t understand that much “Christianity” in America today – and since its inception – would not be recognizable to Jesus, his disciples, or most Christians from the time of Jesus to the time leading up to the Reformation.

While there has always been what one today would call a “moral” element to Christianity it

What Jesse looks like when they work really hard to make him look presentable.

was never the defining characteristic of the religion itself nor was forcing that morality on to others so commonplace. Personal submission, one of the many things Christianity has in common with Islam and Judaism, was always a bigger emphasis than forcing morality  on to the culture at large. So when Ventura complains about organized religion telling people “to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business” and that “the religious right wants to tell people how to live” he is completely justified and completely correct in his criticism of the landscape of contemporary American Christianity.

This is a problem that Christians in America today should own up to and try to change. Instead of forcing the culture at large to become more “moral” they should understand, from the context of their history, what they are actually called to do: be moral themselves, be a good example, speak out for the truth and against lies, and let their example do the talking.

Christians are supposed to be the sort of people who everybody else wants to be. Early believers touted themselves on this fact. So many people were drawn in to the faith initially, without being forced at all, because Christians stood out from the culture, because their good works, good deeds, and good attitude made them a group that other people wanted to be a part of. Obviously that is not the case today.

The good old days.

Ventura is also right, at least in the context of contemporary American Christianity, when he says that “organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers.” Many Americans who call themselves Christians today only do it for the community aspect; that is why there are thousands of independent “off-shoot” churches that basically make their own rules and do whatever they want under the banner of being “Christian.” Today practically any charismatic, charming person who can keep a crowd entertained for a ½ hour sermon can have a 100,000 congregation “non-denominational” church.

It is essential to mention, however, that I am not at all against organized religion. The fact of the matter is, though, that in America today too many people use organized religion as a crutch because they are weak-minded and need strength in numbers. That is not organized religions fault; it’s the fault of the culture at large, a culture that creates, sustains, and motivates people to be weak-minded and need crutches. For some it’s alcohol. For others it’s drugs. Many immerse themselves in their job or in their leisure activities. Many join a church.

The point is that alcohol, drugs, occupations, leisure activities, and organized religion are not bad in themselves; they’re just bad when they’re a crutch, which they are to far too many Americans today.

In the context of Christianity in America today Ventura is quite correct in his assessments. He just isn’t smart enough to understand that, in the context of our contemporary culture, organized religion is only one crutch among many. And one of the least destructive at that.

Sports!

Linsert bad pun here
Is Linsanity a trend…or mirage…

The Asian Sensation himself.

Whatever you say about New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin, don’t call him an overnight sensation. While his rise to prominence in the NBA was quick and unexpected to call him an overnight sensation minimizes the fact that he’s spent his whole life perfecting his talents as a basketball player.

There is nothing annoying about Jeremy Lin. He’s a great basketball player and a nice guy. It’s too bad that the media, especially ESPN, had to beat his story to a bloody violent death and make everybody sick of hearing about him.

Lin, for the most part at least, lives up to the hype. He’s an exceptional basketball player with “great vision of the court” as the basketball minds say. He is an important helping his team win. He’s not perfect by any means (he set the NBA record for turnovers by a player in their first five games), and nobody imagines him continuing to score 30 points a game, but Lin will continue to endure as an effective basketball player.

This is what sets him apart from the other overhyped superstar of the last year, Tim

America’s favorite Asian and favorite Xian.

Tebow. The Tebow hype was so annoying because he’s a bad quarterback and thus was undeserving of the praise. The Broncos won games with him as quarterback, sure, but there’s more to the game than just winning (just ask the ’98 Vikings, ’06 Patriots, or ’11 Packers). Winning also takes more than just a quarterback. Similarly, winning a basketball game takes more than one player.

Regardless of Lin’s talent (or Tebow’s lack of it) the most annoying part of both of their stories is the masturbatory adulation and excessive attention the press has placed upon them. In our world of 24 hour sports and news stations the “next big thing” always gets beaten to death so hard and so fast that the public is sick of hearing about the person before they even have a chance to prove themselves.

Until the next big thing comes along, though, let the Linsanity continue.

Music

2012 Grammys
To be honest I had no idea that the Grammys were last Sunday until my Twitter feed got inundated with updates about it. Wait a minute, I thought: since when do people care about the Grammys? Reminds me of the episode of the Simpsons when Homer’s barbershop quartet the Be Sharps beats Dexy’s Midnight Runners for the prestigious best new artist award. Homer, despondent with the trappings of fame, throws his Grammy out a hotel window and it hits a person who exclaims, “Hey! Don’t throw your trash down here!”

Folks must have been privy to news I hadn’t heard about because, for the first time in my lifetime, the Grammys were mildly interesting and even somewhat entertaining. Here, in no order, are my thoughts on the various performances and shenanigans.

Adele domination

— I’m convinced that I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t like Adele. Her songs are repetitive and pedestrian and her voice isn’t any better than most of the contestants on American Idol, the Voice, or whatever other talent shows there are these days. She’s a white, female Reuben Studdard (see what I did there?).
— But yeah, it seems like everybody really digs Adele except for me. Even though I dislike her music I do like a lot of what her popularity represents. It’s nice to see people who have an organic sound, and some genuine talent, top the pop charts and take a lot home at award shows. Plus she doesn’t look like she’s related to Starvin’ Marvin like most “attractive” women today. She’s also a much better role model than, say, numbskulls like Nicki Manaj, M.I.A., Katy Perry, or Lady Gaga.

The stain on humanity strikes again

— Speaking of Manaj, she managed to one-up her horrendous performance at the Super Bowl halftime show with her contrived spectacle at the Grammys. I was happy that almost everybody thought her performance was stupid. At this point it’s pretty banal to be blasphemous against the Catholic Church. Want to really be edgy? Blaspheme Islam or Judaism and see what happens.
— The worst part about her eye-roll inducing performance, though, is that it gave more fodder to all the good folks who believe that the illuminati is putting messages everywhere in pop culture. Yawn. Thanks a lot you twat.

Who the hell is Bonnie Bear?

— Much to the chagrin of douche bags everywhere (and to the pleasure of an entirely different set of douche bags) indie rockers Bon Iver won best new artist over such luminaries as Minaj and Foster the People and some idiot named J. Cole. While I’m not a huge Bon Iver guy I’m glad that they beat their weak-to-awful competition.
— Everybody was rightly up in arms that our youth are so stupid that they didn’t know who Paul McCartney is (see the story here if you don’t). What’s getting lost amidst that mess, though, is the flurry of tweets about people’s confusion regarding Bon Iver. They were so confused, in fact, that they didn’t even pay enough attention to get their name right. Several people hilariously thought Bon Iver was called “Bonnie Bear” leading to hilarious tweets like “Who is bonnie bear and how did he win a grammy (sic)?” and “Who’s Bonnie bear or whatever?” The award for funniest non-Bonnie Bear tweet is “Who the fuck is bon iver? Hello bitches nicki minaj should have won, she has her own nail polish line. And lipstick by mac.” Ialto! For more hilarity check out the original story here.
— As a funny postscript read this story about how Bon Iver is now considering collaborating with the real Bonnie Bear – a kid’s group.

Miscellany

— Dave Grohl’s Foo Fighters, who are one of the only bands still carrying any sort of classic/alternative rock torch, deservedly took home a few Grammys. During one of his acceptance speeches he said that he’s happy that people still play and enjoy organic music that’s made from the head and heart, not perfected and artificially made on computers. In the middle of his speech, though, he was cut off. It was getting a little long but they could have given him a few more sentences. The message he was sending must have hit too close to home.
— Lots of people hate Chris Brown for a lot of reasons. Of course what he did to Rhianna was despicable; but that doesn’t mean he should never be forgiven and given another chance. His awful, fake “music” on the other hand…
— One of the reasons this years Grammys were so successful is that it perfectly balanced old and new acts, often in the same performance. It wasn’t all dinosaur oldies to appeal to old folks or all new artists to try to seem cutting edge. Instead you had decent to good performances from Glen Campbell, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, and the Beach Boys and performances of varying results from Brown, Katy Perry, and others. Then to wrap it all up there was the amazing jam at the end led by McCartney. A pretty good display all around to be honest.

Final Thought

I legitimately enjoy thanking, whenever I possibly can, everybody for reading my humble little magazine. I am overjoyed and beyond grateful that so many people take time out of their busy lives to read what I have to say. Readership is far greater than I ever expected and I appreciate every person who is reading this immensely.

Pleas leave comments and let me know what you think (comments so far have been few but very thought-provoking). Or if you’d like to get a hold of me via email please do, at here.

Until the next one…be good, my friends.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volume 1, Issue 4, Friday February 10, 2012

Updated, newly edited versions of most of these articles can be found on these pages: Sports Ramble, Music Ramble, Ritland Ramble

Volume 1, Issue 4

Friday February 10, 2012

In Today’s Issue
Click on each heading to view the article or view the entire issue below

  1. Opening
  2. Main Ramble The more interesting second half of my article on the deficiencies of the current anti-bullying fad cause in which I point the finger at inadequate parents and the society that creates them.
  3. Sports Short reflections on four aspects of the Super Bowl – what it means to Americans, the game itself, the commercials, and the halftime show.
  4. Music A classic piece of country music, and songwriting in general, from an unlikely source. If you love music then check it out whether you like country or not
  5. Final Thought

Somebody say howdy to me…
Hello boys and girls and welcome once again to Ramblin’ On. Nothing to say except, as always, thanks for the continuing support. This venture is far more successful than I ever imagined it being. If you love it let your friends know. I’d love you forever.

And, as always, please comment on the posts you like. Send all gripes (and even compliments or otherwise) to erik@erikritland.com.

So, as my good friend and realtor always says, upward and onward.

Main Ramble

Get Real: The Deficiencies of the Current Anti-Bullying Campaign Part II
The entire anti-bullying campaign/fad is nothing more than parents trying to find a scapegoat for the poor job they do raising kids.

If his mom had just spent more time with him when he was a kid…

This is the second in a two-part article. Part one appeared in the last issue of Ramblin’ On.

One of the hottest trend causes today is the anti-bullying campaign. Its message? Tell kids who bully to stop doing it because it hurts the feelings of the kids they bully. Dohkay. In the first part of this article I explained how stupid and pointless that approach is. While nothing will make bullying disappear forever there are better ways to try to help the situation.

The most important way to do this is to educate parents on how to raise children (and doing whatever we can as a society to dissuade people who aren’t ready to have kids to not have them – but that’s an entirely different topic). Parents need to drill into their kids that they should not give one shit at all what awful people who are obviously just trying to be mean think of them. If you’re strong enough as a person, that is, if you’re happy with who you are, then no amount of some asshole calling you “gay” or “ugly” will make you think any less of yourself.

It begs mentioning that there’s a difference between a tormenting bully and a friend/classmate who is trying to give advice that perhaps another classmate might not want to hear. That is, while it is essential to teach kids the strength of self necessary to put bullying in its proper context, it’s also equally important to teach them to keep their minds open to criticism that is actually constructive. Part of being a strong human being is also being able to seriously and realistically understand your faults and how you can work on them. Bullies obviously don’t do this; and it’s easy to tell the difference between the two types of people.

This may all seem like a bit too much to successfully teach to children. But believe me, it’s not. Too often adults get into the habit of treating children…well, like children. We stunt their growth, though, when we treat them softly, don’t challenge them, and always assume they’re too stupid to internalize things.

A fatal flaw in my theory is assuming that parents can actually do their job well. And parents not doing their job is actually the real problem here. While there will always be some bullies, if more parents taught their kids respect it would not be as much of an issue. Also, as I stated above, if more parents raised their kids with the intelligence and self-worth enough to put people who bully them into context than bullying wouldn’t have as much of an effect.

Assuming that parents will do their job is almost as stupid of me as assuming that parents

Pretty sure a girl with cans that big would not be getting made fun of.

are equipped enough to actually do their job. That is, most parents today aren’t okay with themselves, aren’t able to differentiate between friends and co-workers who are criticizing them constructively, and have the same insecurities as the children who they are trying to raise. It’s a cycle that goes on and on and on.

My ultimate point is this: the entire anti-bullying campaign/fad is nothing more than parents trying to find a scapegoat for the poor job they do raising kids. Instead of taking a look inward it’s easier to point the finger (like children! like the bullies themselves!) than to take a look at themselves.

It also goes deeper than this as well. Why do parents lack the self-worth necessary in order to be a successful parent? Why do parents not know how to raise kids? Because our culture has shoved raising kids aside in favor of both parents groping for the tit of greedy, materialistic, corporate America. Also, our school system and society around us does not equip people to think critically or be okay with themselves.

So my message to the anti-bullying campaign people is this: stop bullying bullies and look at yourself. Once you have yourself figured out then you can try to fix the problem of bullying. If more people – especially parents – took the time to figure themselves out there would be less bullies.

Sports!

The Super (Boring) Bowl
…at least until the last few minutes

Aren’t you glad the entitled, large-market team is going to win instead of the entitled, large-market team winning again? –The Onion Sports Network

So another Super Bowl is behind us. Thankfully, I say, because this time of year I’m usually fine sports-wise with casually watching hockey and basketball and holding my breath waiting for baseball to start.

Below is a short four part analysis of the Super Bowl including a commentary on what the Super Bowl is (and isn’t), a part about the game itself, a little bit about the commercials, and my thoughts on the halftime show.

Generally speaking…

If the question is for football to be over the answer is me.

Before the Super Bowl this Sunday I posted my prediction for the game on Facebook: that it’d be super boring, the commercials would be awful, and Madonna would look like an old hag. Although each of those things were easy to predict I’m still going to boast about how I was right (remember that the game itself was still boring for almost its entirety).

I’ve never been much for any of the pre-game crap. After last year, though, I promised myself that I wouldn’t ever watch another one. In clips and videos they talk up football – and the Super Bowl – as though they are more important than they actually are. Last year there was a montage with, like, Martin Luther King and JFK and stuff, trying to make football look like it’s a part of the American fabric in the same way as politics and important things are. Um, no. It’s football. People only watch the Super Bowl for the parties and the commercials anyway.

Speaking of that point, people who only watch the Super Bowl for the parties and the commercials are really annoying. It’s like people who only go to church on Christmas and Easter; it’s just fake. If you don’t like football then don’t watch the Super Bowl. Period. Equally annoying are people who brag about how they don’t like the Super Bowl, or about how they only watch it for the commercials like it’s some badge of honor. Congratulations, we’re happy for ya. It doesn’t make you special to not care about the Super Bowl just like it doesn’t make you cool to actually enjoy it. It just is.

The good guys won

So yeah…Tom Brady is probably still doing pretty alright.

As far as my prediction of who was going to win I was obviously wrong. Embarrassingly, really. Leading up to the game itself I was pretty shocked that so many people were figuring the Giants would win easily, that they outmatched the Patriots, and that the Patriots didn’t have a chance. Despite how underrated I think Eli Manning is, though, I always find it pretty hard to cast my vote against Belichick and Brady.

My feelings escalated as the week progressed and people’s feelings got even stronger. Not only were people sure that the Giants were going to win but the general attitude was that the Patriots were the bad guys. Why? Probably because they have had a lot of success and, as I seem to mention a lot in my articles, people hate it when people are successful and find it pleasing to tear them down so it makes them feel good about themselves.

In the end I thought that Belichick and Brady would be well motivated, come out firing, and beat the Giants pretty handily. I didn’t think it’d be much of a game, honestly. Maybe something like 42-24. As sometimes happens, though, my elite football mind fails me.

So, the good guys won. Good for them. For my thoughts on how happy I am for them, see the quote from the Onion News Network at the top of this article and that basically describes my feelings.

The commercials
—What the hell is up with commercials having hash tags? I’m a fan of hash tags on Facebook, simply because it bothers so many people, but on commercials? Come on!
— Most of the other commercials were fairly to mostly vomit inducing. I loved the idea of Elton John as a maniacal king – and adding Flava Flav to anything will always get a thumbs up – but that Pepsi commercial was still as awful as…well, a Pepsi commercial. The M&M one was probably the worst of the bunch, but any of the ones with babies or dogs, or that were for cars (except the Fiat…), were all pretty bad. The one great video: the Seinfeld one. It warmed my heart to see the Soup Nazi again…

But hey…at least it wasn’t the Black Eyed Peas: Madonna’s Halftime Show

In case you’re wondering that’s the illuminati’s sign for “I really love peanut butter and jelly.”

— First things first: after all these years I’d still bang Madonna. Two points about that observation: 1) It doesn’t say much and 2) For the money she’s spent on keeping herself looking young it only makes sense
— The opening of the halftime show with all the idiots marching in Roman Soldier garb looked absolutely stupid. The idea is sort of out there, sort of creative, even a little original…but still completely stupid.
— I, for one, was a fan of Madonna’s initial outfit. Smartly and predictably she did not try to look hot by dressing in something revealing. Which made it hotter anyway. Hotter than something revealing would have been; not necessarily hot in and of itself. Her boots were sort of hot, too.
— She was lip synching, right? It sounded way too clean to be real and live. Also, I had no idea that the word “bourgeois” was in the song “Music.” More pop songs need to use the word “bourgeois.” But less should be as awful as “Music.”
— I wasn’t nearly as annoyed with the LMFAO appearance as I thought I’d be. But only because their outfits were ridiculous and kind of cool, it was only like 10 seconds long, and it was really, really funny, especially when Madonna started, like, doing leg exercises in the middle of it. I laughed out loud as I did not for any of the commercials.
— The cheerleader bit with Nicki Manaj and M.I.A. was by far the worst part. Mostly because Nicki Manaj and M.I.A. are two stains on human history but also because it was, like, super lame.
— Things got immediately redeemed when Cee-Lo joined Madonna in a hilarious high school band get-up for “Express Yourself.” His Reverend-looking black thing for “Like a Prayer” was pretty cool too.
Postscript: it was nice to see a commercial with Christina Aguilera right after to get the sour taste of that old hag Madonna out of my mouth. I’ve always had more of a thing for Christina than I have for the rest of the singer sex symbols of her era (although I’m not really sure why). The fact that Aguilera, Britney, and the other prefabricated female singers from that era seem talented and original compared to Manaj and M.I.A. is very sad indeed

Music

Heroes and Friends
Sometimes inspiration comes from the least likely of sources

I discovered Randy Travis when he appeared on the Marty Stuart show. Stuart is the foremost ambassador of the traditional country music today. His show, which appears on RFD-TV, is a must-see for anybody interested in what is best about America.

Growing up in the early ‘90s I had heard of Travis despite the fact that my parents were not fans of country music. You couldn’t get away from songs like, say, “Forever and Ever Amen.” When I got into country music a little later in my life I still saw Travis as a boring 80s/90s country artist that it wouldn’t be worth listening to.

I’ve since dropped such pretense and come to enjoy many ‘80s and ‘90s country singers including Travis Tritt, early Alan Jackson, George Straight, and others (still hate that poser Garth Brooks though). Top of the list for me is Travis, whose mellow, well-paced, and expertly, lovingly arranged brand of country is endearing and enjoyable. I owe the pleasant revelation of discovering Travis to Marty Stuart, who I am proud to say, is a hero of mine.

“Heroes and Friends,” a gem among many in Travis’ vast catalog, is certainly one of the greatest country songs of the ‘80s, and could even be one of the greatest of all time (please click the link and watch the video, as it is very cool). While the music is great – it’s a classic, lilting piece of 80s country with a tight, traditional arrangement – it’s the songs touching, thoughtful, creative lyrics that set it apart from so much country music (and popular music in general) from that era.

Travis simply and effectively sets up the song in the first verse:

I ain’t lived forever but I’ve lived enough
I’ve learned to be gentle and I’ve learned to be rough
I’ve found only two things that last till the end
One is your heroes, the other’s your friends

I’m continually struck by the simple beauty of those lines. A song called “Heroes and Friends” could easily be preachy, simplistic, or overbearing. Travis avoids those pitfalls by relying on simple statements and truths to guide his lyrics, making them easy to relate to.

“Heroes and Friends” is an ode to Roy Rogers, a cowboy icon of the 1950s and one of Travis’ childhood heroes. Travis more explicitly refers to him in the second verse, but in a subtle, creative way:

I grew up with cowboys I watched on TV
My friends and I sometimes pretended to be
Years have gone by but now and again
My heart rides the range with my heroes and friends

Tribute songs often suffer from lyrics that are too up-front, personal, or obvious. Travis instead creatively puts Rogers in the broader context of his childhood by reminiscing about when he used to watch, and look up to, cowboys on TV. Anybody who looked up to and imitated their heroes growing up can relate to this. The last two lines, which evoke the feelings of thinking back on those memories, finish the verse meaningfully.

The chorus simply and directly brings the song together:

Your heroes will help you find good in yourself
Your friends won’t forsake you for somebody else
They’ll both stand beside you through thick and through thin
And that’s how it goes with heroes and friends

*          *          *          *          *

At its most basic level “Heroes and Friends” is a classic country song with a message that is simple and uplifting without being trite. But beyond that it is a subtle, creative, and emotive piece of songwriting that has stood the test of time and will continue to as long as there are people worth calling heroes and friends.

Final Thought

Here we are again at the end of another Ramblin’ On. I’d like to thank everyone, like always, very sincerely, for all the support. I’ve talked to a lot of you personally about your thoughts but I’d love to hear from more people. Please comment on articles or email me at erik@erikritland.com.

Next week I’ll be starting a section that I’m very excited about called Midwest Underground. In it I’ll be reviewing CDs and songs from all the good musician folks around the Twin Cities and beyond who are coming out with music under the radar. I’ve been gathering ideas and CDs and am very excited to begin what I hope will be a popular section.

Talk care, brothers and sisters.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Volume 1, Issue 3, Thursday February 2, 2012

Updated, newly edited versions of most of these articles can be found on these pages: Sports Ramble, Music Ramble, Ritland Ramble

Volume 1, Issue 3

Thursday February 2, 2012

In Today’s Issue
Click on each heading to view the article or view the entire issue below

  1. Opening
  2. Main Ramble Get Real: On the deficiencies of the current anti-bullying fad cause.
  3. Sports The second part in my two part series on the current state of the Minnesota Wild, a defense of the Detroit Lions oft-criticized Ndomakan Suh (get it? a defense?), and why I hate Blake Griffin.
  4. Music An article about the Rolling Stones’ song “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and two great cover versions by Muddy Waters and David Bowie. Includes commentary on the Stones hilarious performance of the song on Ed Sullivan where they were forced to sing it as “let’s spend some time together.”
  5. Final Thought

Somebody say howdy to me…
Hello boys and girls and welcome once again to Ramblin’ On. I have to start out, as I do every issue, by thanking my Lord and savior Jesus Christ…oh wait, that’s Tim Tebow’s bit. Regardless of my thankfulness towards Jesus I’d like to take this time to thank everybody for supporting Ramblin’ On going into its third week. The amount of people reading and enjoying my articles and ideas is overwhelming and I thank all of you.

I also thank you in advance for your continued support. Each hit on each article is a big deal and comments are always, always loved and appreciated.

Alright, here we go.

Main Ramble

Get Real
The deficiencies of the current anti-bullying campaign

This is the first in a two part article. Part two will appear in the next issue of Ramblin’ On.

The latest fad “cause” sweeping America is the anti-bullying campaign. I see at least a few

This may be the coolest picture ever. Who wouldn’t want to be the bully?

Facebook statuses dedicated to the cause every week. There are billboards, commercials, school groups, and everything else.

I can hear the audible sighs already. Where are you going with this, Ritland? Certainly you’re not pro-bullying, are you?

Of course not. Bullying is never acceptable. I may be an obnoxious, cold-hearted asshole but even I don’t condone bullying.

Like most ideas, ideologies, fads, trends, causes, and everything else in our CON(temporary) society, though, the anti-bullying campaign says more about the flaws in our society, and the people in it, than it does about the cause.

The approach of the campaign is a joke in itself. Telling kids not to bully? What bully is going to listen to a bunch of squares telling them not to bully? If I were a bully I’d bully all the more if I saw some stupid advertisement at the mall telling me how much I’m hurting all the nerds and geeks and goths and emos that I’m bullying. The reason why most kids do it is to have the power of hurting somebody else. Having a confirmation of the success of their efforts isn’t going to dissuade them.

Kids also bully to build themselves up, both in their own heads and in the eyes of their peers. Most bullies are the type that aren’t very happy with themselves for one reason or another so they have to exploit the flaws in those around them to distract themselves from seeing the flaws in themselves.

Aside from the methodology the entire approach of fad causes like this always comes off as really fake. Where were all these people who have hopped on board to the anti-bullying campaign a few months ago when nobody was bringing it up? If it actually mattered to so many people, if it was actually such an epidemic, then a cause against it wouldn’t have come up until now, and people who have embraced and promulgated the message would not have waited till a fad cause was created to speak out against it.

In light of the reasons why kids bully it’s also easy to see how a simplistic campaign like the current one will probably not do much good. The issues that cause kids to bully run so deep that simply telling them not to do it will not even begin to scratch the surface of the problem. What, then, could possibly be done to prevent bullying?

Don’t worry, Sally, there will always be douche bag boys who prey on girls with low self-esteem.

In short: nothing. Spreading the anti-bullying message is insufficient because bullying is a problem that will never go away entirely. No matter how many commercials and billboards there are there will always be kids who have it in their genes and their mental makeup to make fun of people for one reason or another.

That’s not to say that bullying is not something that an ad campaign can’t help lessen or make not as prevalent. But there are better ways of going about it than advertisements and Facebook statuses.

Look for part II next week which turns the question of bullying inward on parents and society to reveal the true source of the problem.

Sports!

A Short History of the Minnesota Wild (part 2)
2012 will certainly not be their season but for the first time like, ever, things are looking up for the Wild.

This is the second in a two part article about the Wild. Read the first part here.

Wild Coach Mike Yeo (what up?)

When we last left the story things weren’t looking so great for the Wild. New owner Craig Leipold and General Manager Chuck Fletcher were attempting to pick up the pieces after nearly a decade of floundering under Bob Neagele and Doug Risebrough.

While the problems they were handed couldn’t be fixed overnight their first couple moves weren’t very impressive – the hiring of rookie coach Todd Richards, another rookie coach in Mike Yeo, the signing of Martin Havlat, etc. etc. Initially it practically seemed like things were moving in the same direction as the first regime.

Then came the shocking summer of 2011. The Wild made three very, very good trades (I’d say “blockbuster” but this IS the Wild we’re talking about). First there was the draft day trade that sent Brent Burns and the Wild’s 2012 second round pick to the San Jose Sharks for their 2011 first round draft pick, highly touted prospect Charlie Coyle (their first round draft pick last year), and 24 year old potential rising star Devin Setoguchi. Merely weeks later came another big deal, the Wild sending bust Martin Havlat flat out to the Sharks for Dany Heatley. Finally, in a relatively minor move, the Sharks gave up their 2013 third round draft pick for James Shepherd, a former first round pick who has done about as much for the Wild as I have. Actually, considering the fact that I work at the Xcel Energy Center, he certainly did even less. You could even say nothing. Except eat up salary cap room.

These deals were all so lopsided in the Wild’s favor that it’s really hard to pick which of

Setoguchi and Heatley

them was the best deal. Brent Burns is a great player and lovable guy but his identity crisis as a defenseman who couldn’t play defense was often infuriating. It was sort of hard to give him up but when considering the mother load the Wild got for him – three number one round draft picks in all – it’s pretty obvious that the deal was too good to pass up. The defensive depth in the Wild’s farm system also proves how good this move was.

The Havlat for Heatley trade has already proven, and will continue to prove, to be another lopsided trade in the Wild’s favor. The Wild learned something about Havlat in his tenure here that obviously wasn’t disclosed to them when he signed his contract: he’s not very good. Heatley, while not a superstar, is indeed very good, especial when teamed up with playmakers, the type of guys the Wild have in abundance, both locked up on the team and in their farm system.

A rare moment in which James Shepherd has something to celebrate

The Shepherd trade, while the most low-key of the bunch, was more a mental victory for the Wild than anything. Shepherd, a Risebrough number one round draft pick bust, may be the biggest stain on the Wild’s stain-filled resume of poor decision making. Unleashing him for anything – even a third roud draft two years down the road – is a victory in the Wild’s favor.

These trades, combined with the Wild’s replenished, deep farm system (the Houston Aeros, their minor league affiliate, almost one a national championship last year) make the future for the Wild seem pretty pleasant. They have no lack of defensemen and goal tenders, some hot looking prospects, and a solid core in Koivu, Heatley, Setoguchi, and Cullen. Add a hot shit goal scorer (Zach Parise?) and this team will become a perennial playoff team in the years to come – and even make an appearance or two in the Stanley Cup.

Postscript: 2011-2012 Season

This season looked really promising for the Wild at the beginning. For the first time possibly ever they had not only a real, actual first line that could run with the best (Koivu, Heatley, Setogucci) but also some depth behind them. Matt Cullen, Guillaume Latendresse, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard were a formidable second line while the perpetually overachieving Kyle Brodziak and Cal Clutterbuck anchored a more than respectable third.

Unfortunately, as has happened to often in Minnesota sports, injuries have really ruined everything. Latednresse and Bouchard have missed significant portions of the season and there’s no timetable for the return of either of them from their concussion symptoms and Koivu and Setogucci have also spent weeks apiece on injured reserve.

With that in mind it’s hard to believe that the Wild are still in the playoff picture. But will they make the playoffs? I don’t think so. There are just too many obstacles for them to overcome with all the injuries to key players, the already tired rookies constantly having to bounce from Houston to Minnesota, and a rookie coach with a new system trying to keep it all together. Better luck next year, boys. Your time will come.

Sports Ramble

How could anybody ever think that this man would ever want to intentionally hurt anybody?

So Suh Me

— Because of a few questionable hits, and especially his “stomping” of a Green Bay Packer on Thanksgiving, Ndamukong Suh has gained a reputation among football players and fans alike as a dirty player. Suh claimed in an interview this week, however, that he is not. “A dirty player, in my estimation, would be somebody that is going out there intentionally trying to hurt somebody,” he said. “I think there are some players in this league that do that. I’ve come across some of them. For whatever reason, that’s their M.O.”
— Unlike everybody in the universe I sort of agree with Suh. Sure he plays hard. He also has a lot of energy and is very physical. But this is football isn’t it? It isn’t competitive ballet or synchronized swimming, right? Suh plays hard and physical in a physical sport and, far from being out of bounds, he’s only doing what he’s paid to do. Very rarely, if ever, has he stepped outside the rulebook with his hits or actions.
— Suh goes on in the interview to comment that he believes his bad reputation is the invention of a media and populace that just wants a story. I agree with Suh here 100%. It’s very popular to see him as a dirty player. It’s a great story, a way for people, once again, to point the finger at somebody and think they’re better than them to build themselves up.
— All of the evidence of Suh being dirty is exaggerated. To see his hits as “dirty” you have to look at it through the lens of assuming he’s dirty before you even see them. If you look at them all outside of that context they seem merely like a defensive player making hard hits on quarterbacks and running backs. But since Suh has that reputation, since it’s so fun to talk about how dirty of a player he is, it’s automatically thrust into that context and he’s automatically seen as a dirty player.
— One last comment. The stomping incident was a strange one, eh? Like everybody else I’m disinclined to believe that he didn’t do it on purpose. The one piece of evidence against this is Suh’s reaction to what happened. Once he got up he acted like what happened wasn’t that big of a deal; he wasn’t fuming or angry or anything. As quickly as on the sideline you can see him explaining himself to his coach – he wasn’t stomping, he was regaining his balance. It seems like a blatant lie but, if it is a lie, credit goes to him for so immediately thinking of a lie and acting, the entire time, like he was innocent.

Blake Griffin is stupid and overrated. Kevin Love is awesome and underrated. Fuck Blake Griffin.

Not only is Kevin Love a better basketball player that Blake Griffin he is also much more handsome.

— I’m really starting to get sick of everybody fawning over Blake Griffin. It’s one thing to talk up a really great player. It’s another thing completely to absolutely fawn over, and give ridiculous amounts of attention, to an above average player just because he can do some obnoxious flashy shit. And that’s exactly the story of Blake Griffin.
— What makes it even more annoying is that the flashy shit he does isn’t even that cool. I remember hearing last year that he dunked over a car and thinking, “Wow, that sounds really cool!” Then I saw the video and realized what he actually did was jump a few feet over the lowest part of the hood on a Kia. A fucking Kia! I’ve seen people running from the cops who have made more impressive leaps over cars.
— Then there was his latest dunk this week over Kendrick Perkins. I kept hearing that this was the dunk of the year, maybe the dunk of the century, one of the best of all time. Like a sucker I was once again pretty interested in seeing it and once again I was disappointed. First off it was the shittiest defense I’ve ever seen; Perkins doesn’t even leave his feet, like he’s not even trying, like he’s a defensive back in the Pro Bowl or something. Any basketball player with any amount of power could have thrust themselves as Griffin did and make that play. There was literally nothing extraordinary about it. Actually it wasn’t even a dunk! He can’t make it to the basket so he tosses the ball into the net! It was about 4 inches away from being a lay up for fuck’s sake!
— What adds the fuel to the fire for me is that, while Griffin is getting stupid amounts of attention for doing flashy stuff that isn’t even that cool, Kevin Love is scoring more points, getting more rebounds, and being more important to his team and getting zero recognition. Isn’t that the way it goes, though? The guy who works hard gets shoved aside because he isn’t interesting enough, because he isn’t as much of a story, while the person who isn’t as good who gives more of a show gets all the attention.
— Also, Blake Griffin is ugly and stupid.

Music

Let’s Spend Three Nights Together
The evolution of an underrated Stones classic

The Rolling Stone’s raunchy “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” an obvious ode to casual sex, made quite a stir upon its release in 1967. Many American radio stations refused to play it. The BBC banned it. Ed Sullivan made them change the lyric to “let’s spend some time together” on his show with hilarious results (that I go in to detail about below). The flip side of the single, “Ruby Tuesday,” (a catchier song anyway) became the bigger hit in America because the backlash to the song was so severe.

In our overly sexualized society “Let’s Spend the Night Together” seems tame indeed, lyrically at least (except in China, that is, where as recently as 2006 the Stones were amazingly not allowed to play the song there). Yet amid the hoopla of the lyrics it’s easy to overlook that the song itself, and the energy of the performance, are stellar. In addition to the original version the song has also inspired a few creative cover versions that are each at least as good, if not better, than the original. Below I highlight, chronologically, three of the best versions: the original, Muddy Waters’ revolutionary psychedelic blues/rock version, and Bowie’s glam masterpiece.

The Rolling Stones
Originally released as a single in 1967; can be found on the American albums
Between the Buttons and Flowers. Hear it here.

It’s obvious that the Rolling Stones are going to be at their high octane best for this track right from the hot piano/bass lick and the thunderous drums at the beginning of the track. The bass, drums, and piano are all absolutely pounding to the point that I swear you can feel their energy coming through the speakers. While the backing vocals (which are ejaculated after practically every line) can seem excessive the energy of them is undeniable.

Charlie Watts drumming, which is borderline brilliant as far as taste goes, anchors the entire song. His fills, while simple, are all perfect, and the way he switches from a straight groove in the verses to hitting the snare on the upbeat during the pre-chorus and chorus of the song perfectly creates the “build ups” that the songs energy feeds off of.

The infamous Ed Sullivan performance of this song has to be mentioned. Sullivan, it must be noted from the outset, was a total dumbass. He, like many prudes in America, took offense to the overtly sexual lyrics and told the Stones that either the song had to go or they couldn’t play the show. As a compromise the band agreed to sing the lyrics as “let’s spend some time together.”

The results, as should be expected, are hilarious. The Stones look completely uninterested and Keith Richards intentionally slurs the lyrics at several points. The part that makes it so funny, though, is that members of the band visibly roll their eyes at no less than four instances during the performance (:54, 1:36, 2:06, and 2:48 were the ones I noticed). This has to be seen to be believed. Jaggar’s handshake of Sullivan that ends the video couldn’t be more forced and, although he seemed pleased with the performance, Sullivan refused to let the Stones perform on the show after that. PLEASE click here to view.

Watching that video also makes me grateful that so few people have moves like Jaggar. Embarrassing. However fashion would be a lot cooler if people still dressed like him.

Muddy Waters
Originally found on the 1968 album
Electric Mud. Hear ithere.

1967 and ’68 were the golden years of psychedelic rock. Amidst all the wonderful excesses of that era came the idea to have Delta bluesman Muddy Waters cut an album of raw, raunchy, psychedelic blues rock in the vein of Cream and other such blues oriented psychedelic rock bands.

The version of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” from Electric Mud  is a good representation of exactly why entire album is so mind blowing. The riff that the piano and bass provide in the original recording is scrapped altogether and replaced with a fuzz-guitar riff reminiscent of Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” Instead of relying on the build up that the drums provide in the original recording the band backing Muddy finds a groove based on the riff they created and then run with it with stunning results. Add in the swirling organ, exemplary guitar work, and Muddy’s impassioned vocal and it becomes hard to imagine that this version of the song could ever be topped.

David Bowie
Originally released as a single in 1973 and the album
Alladin Sane (released the same year). Hear ithere.

It’s amazing to consider how relatively normal I turned out considering this was my favorite idol in middle school.

Then comes Bowie’s version.

Even as a fan of the original (and as a person well-versed in the glam era of Bowie) I still had no idea how to digest this version of the song when I first heard it when I was in middle school. It’s just so…raw. I walked away from it after the first time I heard it in absolute shock.

Bowie’s band from that era, the Spiders from Mars, are one of my favorite rock bands of all time. The way they translated Bowie’s attitude and songwriting of that era into flashy rock n’ roll is one of the high points of rock music in the ‘70s.

Their version of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” is a perfect example of just how good they were. All three versions of the song commented on here have great openings but this one, with its initial electric guitar blast, loud synth fill, and piano insanity is by far the best and sets the tone for the rest of the song.

The energy of the original is replaced with absolute recklessness. The guitar, piano, and synths of the intro never let up; they actually get more and more raucous as the song goes on. Trevor Bolder’s fluid, fret-destroying bassline, Mick “Woody” Woodmansey’s pounding drums, Mick Ronson’s perfectly glam guitar fills, Mike Garson’s insane piano playing, and Bowie’s intense and (as always) spot on vocal performance all come together to create one of the best rock performances possibly ever.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *                   *

All in all it’s really hard to choose which of these is the best version of the song. Each has their own appeal (so much so that I listened to each one very loudly on repeat as I wrote each part). Choosing a best version is stupid anyway; it’s enough to say that each is a great rock n’ roll song and leave it at that.

Final Thought

Thus ends another edition of Ramblin’ On. Is there a topic you’d like to see me do an article on? Email me ideas in a comment on this (or any post) or email me at erik@erikritland.com. For your trouble I’ll send you a copy of my CD Firelight. Due to the popular response of the first few contests I’ll only be able to give prizes to the first five people who respond.

Thanks again everyone! I look forward to talkin’ at you all next week. Keep the peace.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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