Recent Faves

Hello, is there anybody out there? Of course there is! Hello faithful readers, and welcome once again into the world of the Bear Team. Today I want to try something a bit different. Ordinarily I’d regale you with stories from the stranger than fiction existence that we inhabit. But for a change of pace, I’d like to instead give you a look at some of the things that have grabbed my attention of late. Without further ado, here are some of my personal faves from the recent past.

The Baseball Project – I recently discovered this super group, which consists of Young Fresh Fellows front man Scott McCaughey, former Dream Syndicate front man Steve Wynn, drummer Linda Pitmon, and Mike Mills and Peter Buck of REM fame. As you could probably guess, the band’s songs feature baseball themed lyrics. Some of my favorites include “Ted ‘f***ing’ Williams,”about the Red Sox legend, “To the Veterans Committee,” a plea to get former Brave Dale Murphy into the Hall of Fame, and “They Played Baseball,” which lists a rogues gallery of former MLB stars who struggled with legal issues.

The Baseball Project closed out this years Athfest, rocking the main stage with a lineup of McCaughey, Wynn, Mills and Pitmon. No mention was made of Buck’s absence, but the band put on a great show anyway. My favorite moment came when Mills brought former REM drummer Bill Berry, who retired from the band in 1997, onstage for a rendition of the Reckoning classic “Don’t go back to Rockville.” Great song, greater moment.

World Cup – I’m not normally much of a fan of “the beautiful game” but as the U.S. Women’s team continued to march toward its first FIFA World Cup championship since Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and company famously pulled it off in 1999, I found myself drawn in. So it was that on Sunday, July 5 I did something I’d never done in more than 30 years as a sports fan: I watched an entire match from beginning to end.

And what a performance to witness! Led by Carli Lloyd, who notched a hat trick just 16 minutes into the game with an incredible mid-field strike, the U.S. demolished Japan 5-2 to become the first country to win three Women’s World Cups. Not a bad way to close out an Independence Day weekend.

Whiplash – This film, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, is one that you’ll have a hard time forgetting. J.K. Simmons won an Oscar for his portrayal of famed jazz conductor Terrance Fletcher, who berates, mocks, and insults his students at the prestigious Schaffer Conservatory in an effort to get the best out of them. Miles Teller is nearly as good as a drummer who is nearly driven insane by Fletcher’s abuse. It is a haunting movie that I still find myself thinking about weeks after watching it for the first time.

Boyhood – Written and directed by the one and only Richard Linklater, this is another film that really made an impact on me. Using the same cast over a period of 12 years, Linklater chronicles the childhood and adolescence of Mason Evans, played with heart and feeling by Ellar Coltrane. Boyhood also features strong performances by Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents. Who else could undertake such a project? It is perhaps Linklater’s greatest achievement.

Sonic Highways – The latest album from the incomparable Foo Fighters has barely left my CD player since I picked it up. The eight tracks on this masterpiece were recorded in eight different cities, each drawing from the musical sound and history of the host city. The accompanying documentary was great, but the album is incredible. Some of my favorite tracks include “In The Clear,” recorded in New Orleans with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “Congregation,” recorded in Nashville, and “I Am a River,” recorded in Chicago.

I’ll be experiencing the Foos live in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park in October, and I look forward to hearing a few tracks from this album. Of course, I’ll have a full report on the show, as well as the trials and tribulations I will undoubtedly encounter en route. Can’t wait!

The Scientist – Originally recorded by Coldplay for their 2002 album A Rush of Blood to the Head, this song was covered in magnificent fashion by the legendary Willie Nelson for his 2012 album Heroes. I first heard Nelson’s version during the end credits of the movie “The Judge,” starring Robert Duvall and Robert Downey Jr. The film was very good, but this song really got to me. Give it a listen.

The Brink – This new HBO series, which stars Tim Robbins as Secretary of State Walter Larson and Jack Black as Foreign Service Officer Alex Talbot, is a satire which focuses on a geopolitical crisis in Pakistan. I love political humor, and the first few episodes have been hilarious. Here’s hoping it gets picked up for future seasons.

Down to the Last Pitch – Tim Wendel’s excellent account of the 1991 World Series between Atlanta and Minnesota is a must read for any baseball fan; particularly fans of the participating teams. As much as it pained me to relive the heartbreaking game seven loss suffered by my Braves, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. The ’91 series was one of the best ever played, and Wendel does an excellent job of capturing all of the drama.

Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken – This new addition to the cuisine of Athens, Georgia has rapidly become a favorite of the Bear Team. The small, independent chain also features four other locations in Alabama and Tennessee. As you might expect from the name, Champy’s is best know for its chicken, and with good reason. Every time we’ve been there, the chicken has been hot, fresh, and delicious, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Also worth trying are the hush puppies, mashed potatoes, and fried green tomatoes.

New Horizons – Okay, I know I may lose a few of you here. Some people just aren’t interested in science, or NASA. But I’ve been fascinated by space flight for years, and this mission is unlike any other. On Tuesday, July 14, the New Horizons spacecraft will complete a fly by of Pluto; formerly the ninth planet in our solar system until it was downgraded to dwarf planet status a few years ago. It will be the first visit to Pluto in the history of space exploration.

I won’t bore you with too many scientific details, but just consider that the probe was launched in 2006. That’s right, it has taken nine years to make the voyage. I don’t think any of us can really conceive of just how massive the universe is, but the fact that it takes that long just to reach what was once thought to be the most distant object orbiting the sun kind of brings the idea home. After studying Pluto, the craft will continue deeper into the Kuiper Belt, which is a collection of icy bodies at the edge of the solar system. But again, I won’t bore you with too many details.

That does it for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed my list, and that you check a few of my choices out for yourself. I’ll be back soon with more completely and utterly random ramblings. Until next time…

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