I told you so! The Yankees win the Series.

The World Series has just ended with the New York Yankees hoisting their 27th championship. Yours truly takes pride in having predicted it. Check out the “Sports’ archives--my only qualm about the team was whether the Yankees would stay healthy. They stayed healthy enough and were clearly the best team in Major League Baseball, despite what Phillies resident loud-mouth Jimmy Rollins thinks.

Overall I did much better than most of the baseball prognosticators, though I got badly sucker-punched by a few teams with greater hype than stats. Here’s a capsule of my crystal ball highlights and lowlights:

--Predicted a Yankees championship. Check.

--Said that people who denigrated Derek Jeter were nuts and that the Yankees infield was the best in MLB. Double check.

--Predicted that Theo Epstein’s Red Sox team depended upon too many question marks. I nailed concerns that neither John Smoltz nor Brad Penny would pan out and that Baldelli, Wakefield, and J. D. Drew were fragile. (When wasn't Drew fragile?) Also right on target re: Dice-K and Jason Varitek.

--Predicted a falloff by the Rays and speculated whether Scott Kazmir would ever emerge. No, he didn’t and now he’s gone.

--The Jays were only slightly better than I thought they’d be and the Orioles were even worse!

--Picked the Twins to win the AL Central, so ring the bell on that one. But I got totally flimflammed by the Indians, who I thought would make a run for the crown. Instead they imploded and dismantled. It will a long time before they contend again.

--Picked the Angels in the AL West—a no-brainer, really. I was also right that it’s a team that’s only good enough to win a lousy division.

--I was also hoodwinked by the Oakland As, whom I thought might challenge the Angels. Billy Beane has lost his magic.

--NL East: I picked the Phillies, so chalk up that one. But I also thought the Mets would finish second. Ouch!!! The Mets prove that money can not buy championships. Or even respectability.

--I was off on the Marlins, though not as much as it might seem. Subtract their 11-0 start and this team was just one game over .500 for the season. I pretty much got the Braves right.

--NL Central: When will I ever learn? Break out the Dumbo costume; I picked the Cubs. From now on I advocated they move the team to Missouri, the Show-Me state, before I ever again pick them. I had the Cardinals slotted for third, largely because I didn’t think the magnificent Chris Carpenter would make it back from injury.

--The Cubs weren’t my worst pick. I had the pathetic Diamondbacks slipping by in the NL West and had the Dodgers fourth because of bad pitching. Turns out I was right about the Dodgers’ staff; they barely held onto a huge lead. But the D-Backs were cellar-dwellers and a very, very boring team to boot (which most of their opponents did). How bad to do you have to be to finish below the Padres?

--I predicted the Nationals, Royals, and Pirates would stink, but who can take credit for that? They’re not even major league teams.

Four out of six division winners, plus the World Series champs. Not bad! I'm tempted to give myself an A- but will listen to arguments I should get marked down for the Cubs, Diamondbacks, and Mets.




Blue Gentian 002
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The cover of the new Birdsong at Morning CD is a partial headshot of astronomer Sir John Herschel taken by 19th century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. If that doesn’t signal that the material contained therein is heady stuff, the music and lyrics will. If there is a category called “art folk,” Birdsong (Alan Williams, Darleen Wilson, Greg Porter) is in it. This is ethereal, introspective stuff that’s true to the album’s title. “Astronomy” kicks off a six-track album that muses over the cosmos, humankind’s place in it, and the mysteries that refuse to be unraveled. The album’s virtue is intelligence; its major drawback is inaccessibility. “Clean,” for example, is about a man in existential crisis, and “Adrift” about one lost amidst the stars. Both have the expansive open feel of infinity, but each also envelops the vocals in a dense aural soundscape that melds the lyrics into the instruments. In like fashion, “Moonlight Mile” reworks a Rolling Stones song as something that resembles a meditation grafted to a chant grafted to a lullaby. Smart stuff, but not exactly material that will imprint on the brain…

This is part two of a four-part project. As experimental music, give it high marks. Most listeners, however, will gravitate to “Mystery,” the album’s catchiest song. It’s one that builds slowly and quietly on the verses and explodes into the chorus. It’s the perfect frame for Williams’ warm voice and it adds drama to the very singable/quotable lines:“I don't want to look in the eyes of heaven/I don't want to see what I can't believe/I don't want to run to the arms of Jesus/I just want to keep the mystery.” It’s such a great song that it suggests that Birdsong might want to explore ways to merge heaven and earth on part three.



Mill River Body Work
Leeds, MA
October 21, 2009

Music comes in such slick production packages these days that it’s easy to forget that a “concert” used to mean a bunch of folks sitting around in someone’s living room listening to the music instead of dancing to it. As complexity rises, so do costs and this has spawned a cottage-industry throwback: the house concert. Until a few weeks ago it had been years since I attended a musical event in which there was no microphone, amp, or set up of any sort. The glorious voice and repertoire of Diana Jones made me very happy to step back into the past.
When you’ve got a set of pipes as strong and lovely as hers, who needs a mic?

Mill River Body Work is basically a big living room in a private residence that’s big enough for the small yoga classes. A dozen rows of folding chairs, some home-baked goodies that come with the price of admission, a warm cup of coffee, and a roomful of smiles provided the backdrop for Jones’s concert. It was a homecoming of sorts for Jones, who now resides near Nashville; she briefly lived in western Massachusetts. Jones joked that she simply couldn’t take the New England winters and followed that remark with her old-timey “Cold Grey Ground” and its line “When I die don’t bury me/In the cold dirt of the north country.” Although the song is actually a meditation on Civil War soldiers one is tempted to take the Jones’s quip literally. Jones has lived a lot of places but “Cold Grey Ground” is one of numerous songs that indicate she really is a Southern gal by disposition. Her voice retains the twang of her birthplace in Tennessee and her repertoire favors Appalachian-tinged Country folk, the likes of which has been covered by artists such as Joan Baez, Mary Gauthier, and Nanci Griffith.

The Leeds concert was a testament to the intimacy of the setting and the power of small things done well. Jones spoke freely of her adoption as a child and her successful search for her birth parents. Artistically it led to the song “Pony,” an imagined journey of a Dakota girl taken from her home by missionaries, complete with an expertly rendered Native chant. She trotted several new songs, material from My Remembrance of You (2006) and Better Times Will Come (2009). She also intrigued on an antique tenor guitar, a four-stringed instrument that’s a cross between a mandolin and an acoustic guitar. Among the evening’s highlights was a particularly well done version of her love-as-a-gamble “All My Money on You.” Who needs the glitz and glamour? Jones’s expressive vocals, poignant songs, disarming honesty, and nicely crafted arrangements turned a living room into a palace.



Management advises they'll need extra time to clean the rooms and suggests avoiding the pool. --Hadley, MA

The importance of punctuation--Does the puppy get the pizza, or does he "get" it? Inquiring puppies want to know.--Haydenville, MA

Well, yeah--it's a natural combination!--North Hadley, MA
P.S. Where else but Hadley could such a cook-off exist!?

We have ways of making you become a friend of great coffee! Northampton, MA

We've drunk quite a bit of Melissa's coffee. It might not be the best, but the shop is indeed cute! Northampton, MA