Playing A Blue Note For Mr. Hubbard

Top-flight jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard died today at the age of 70 in Sherman Oaks, after a life of amazing playing with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy and numerous others.

In his honor, here’s a live performance with Hancock on the latter’s classic “Cantaloupe Island.”

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Death Is Not The End

Q.

“I was working, actually. I was sitting in my chair at the office in the gym (the job basically consisted of handing out towels and locks to students for four hours a shift), and someone had left a copy of his short stories in the back room. I opened it, and was fascinated by the fact that he’d written an entire short story — beginning, middle, end, with obvious climax and development — in one very long, run-on sentence that lasted about three pages — one page after he’d written one that was two paragraphs.  I would finish two stories in this book a shift, and when I was done, I asked my bosses if anyone had come for it, and if I could keep it. They let me, and I still have that copy.”

Q.

“I think he spoke to me, and was an added inspriation in my desire to write fiction at the time (my other favorite author at that point? Walter Mosley) because he wrote about subjects that I’d known fairly well. In that book, there’s a story called “The Depressed Person.” It’s about a woman, but it addresses all the nervousness and contradictions that one has to rack their brain about when it comes to a relationship with a person you pay to listen to your troubles, diagnose, and medicate you. Having gone through years of that sort of thing as a teenager while feeling entirely uncomfortable about it, it reflected that back upon me.”

Q.

“Oh, sure. You can see the reflections of satire throughout; I still peel through a few pages of Infinite Jest every now and then to see how much closer we’ve come to that world, and also, on the off-chance I’ll find something I didn’t see last time in the rush of footnotes.”

Q.

“I suppose it’s the background as an essayist, y’know? That’s the only thing I can think of. But to tell entire stories in footnotes; to make them useful as a device in the story itself — I mean, it still seems like literary genius to me at 26 in the same way it did when I was 19. I was in awe . It was just another unexpected way of telling a story. When I was taking creative writing and fiction classes, I would try to aim for that kind of ideal while trying not to steal his concepts (easier said than done, I know.)  Imagining the questions to the brief interviews was a challenging exercise; it informed your view of the characters as much as the responses. That’s still my favorite device of his; it was so simple, yet so revelatory.”

Q.

“When I learned he had been teaching at Pomona, I was kind of well, ‘Damn, I wish I could have had him for a professor,’ because that was one of the few schools that accepted me, and it was a tough decision to not go there.  But at least we all still have his work, in various forms.  I know it’s totally trite to feel sad about musicians, writers, etc., whom you’ve never met when you hear about their deaths, but I feel awful for his wife, and I hope he finds comfort now, wherever he is.  I remember my mother telling me at a very young age: ‘Son, there are people who are extraordinarily talented out there, but they’re always a bit different. They may have trouble talking to other people. They may suffer from depression. In some ways, they can’t function like you or I do.  Those are the trade-offs people are assigned when they are given or develop such talents.’ It was a speech she meant to tell me, to comfort me about not being a well-adjusted teenager, like many of the others in school (and I did have some talent musically and in terms of writing), but it was comforting to think and maybe know this; that we were all fallible and human in some way.”

Q.

“I’d have thanked him for writing stories that I stumbled on right at the point when I needed to read them.  You know how the music you listen to is linked to the memories associated with the time period? That’s what that time in college, in terms of expanding my idea of what writing could be, was like with his books in my first year of school.”

Fighting For His Players: Gene Upshaw Dies

Much as I have cracked upon Gene Upshaw for not fighting harder for better guaranteed money from the NFL and for seeming callous towards the old-school players and their medical concerns, on the day of his passing, he ought to be lauded — not only as a Hall of Fame offensive lineman for the Oakland Raiders (a reminder of when the franchise was feared rather than a joke), who led the union through a strike and repeated negotiations with some of the most tight-fisted rich men around.

Although the thoughts go to his family (more and more black men die younger lately, huh?), it leaves the NFLPA in a difficult spot as it anticipates another tough go-round with Lord Rog and the owners, who opted out of the current CBA because the players get too much, in their eyes. Upshaw managed to get the players a very, very good deal.

Upshaw was voted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987, the same year he led union members on a strike that prompted owners to bring in replacement players. But in 1993 Upshaw helped negotiate a seven-year deal that included free agency and a salary cap, and ever since then player salaries have shot up along with league revenues.

This year, the players will receive about 60% of league revenues of $4.5 billion, according to figures provided by owners, and each team’s salary cap is at an all-time high of $116 million. The NFLPA has, since 1994, also benefited mightily from its own marketing arm, Players Inc., is now a multimillion dollar operation.

There’s his legacy as a union head right there.

This MF’er Shouldn’t Have Been Allowed To Die

Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia still walk among us, yet the mortal coil decides George Carlin must go. Simply unfair. He was on my personal list of people I would grant immortality to, had I the power.

Here are a few routines. First, the “baseball and football” that everyone’s posting today:

The famous “Seven Words” routine:

A particularly good riff on reproductive rights/abortion:

And, finally, on white people:

Without him, there is no Bill Hicks, no Denis Leary, no Mitch Hedberg. Lewis Black, only 11 years Carlin’s junior, doesn’t have a career if Carlin isn’t there first.

Rest in peace, sir.

Cheap Shots #111

Another Useless Hearing: It’s amazing how huffy Congresscritters can get over drugs in sports, spending another day in an office building with commishes, union heads, and USADA types this morning. Wake me when they show as much concern for more important issues — I could swear there’s a war going on and a housing downturn to deal with. Careful what you wish for with a bill that takes drug testing out of the hands of the individual sports, Rep. Bobby Rush — you want a handle on the testing, you may have to take control of more aspects of the leagues.

Olympic HGH Testing: I believe WADA will have an effective test in time for the Olympics just as much as I believe Olympic athletes who say they aren’t doping. Let’s call it very specious. Someone will be ahead of the test. [AP/SI]

Investigating the Rocket: Reps. Waxman and Davis recommend the Justice Department check further into the story of Roger Clemens. Will it lead to perjury indictments? Don’t know at this point. Clemens is politically connected, and as the past hearing with McNamee went, has too many people on his side to go too quietly. [AP/ESPN]

Apparently The Lessons Post-Josh Hancock Didn’t Take: The fuzz in Irvine has a warrant out of various DUI and hit and run related charges for Cardinals’ utility man Scott Spiezio (who was in rehab during last season, too.)  If St. Louis’ baseball team was a college team, there would certainly be a question about “lack of institutional control.” [TMZ]

R.I.P., Myron Cope: The radio voice of the Steelers passed away; TSW has a nice compilation of links of what made him special. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Black and Gold Tchtchkes]

Randy Johnson Is Not Very Green: The D-backs pitcher zipped in and out of NYC in order to catch one of the three nights at MSG of Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton. Overheard: a band calling itself “JD and the Straight Shot” wanted to open, but the headliners had enough pull to say no. [Sports by Brooks]

Not Too Much Shock About The Vols: Five minutes at the top after Vandy, and some people aren’t particularly shocked. [The Legend of Cecilio Guante]

Why You Don’t Talk Politics While Still Playing: Remember that Jeff Pearlman Page 2 piece on Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson and baseball players not caring much about the election? Well, I wrote last week that there’s a reason athletes don’t do political talk until they’re retired — and Wilson is getting some blowback from the clubhouse. [Dallas Morning News]

Sam Zell Thinks Selling The Naming Rights To Wrigley Will Increase Value: I call this a stunt to get money out of the Wrigley family before selling the team. Certain franchises have so much value tapped into their stadiums and their names — we’re thinking Boston and Fenway, L.A. and Dodger Stadium, and the Yanks and their eponymous digs — that it’s actually counterproductive to re-name it. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Doesn’t Wilbon Have Better Things To Do: Threatening to beat down Dan Steinberg, even jokingly. Hopefully this eventual conflict gets live-streamed somewhere. [DC Sports Bog]

Cheap Shots #107

Rough week full of day job and working for the other place. As usual, tips et al can be sent to the email.

In The Wake of Tragedy: Northern Illinois University’s athletic events have all been called off for the weekend in the wake of yesterday’s shooting by a former graduate student. Five were killed before the shooter took his own life. [Chicago Tribune]

One Hell of a Typo: So, some time yesterday afternoon a release gets distributed saying Barry Bonds tested positive for ‘roids after hitting 73 in a season — and a few hours later, turns out that “2001” really was “2000”, and an already disputed test. So, no new ground there, but you could have seen the spinning go as soon as it hit ESPN. Still, this will hit the ground running. [SF Chronicle, ESPN]

It’s Not Just Devean George That’s Wrecking A Trade: More on George himself in a separate post, hopefully — but Jerry Stackhouse’s openly talking about being bought out and re-signing with Dallas after 30 days may put the Jason Kidd trade in further danger of not happening. [Yahoo Sports]

Now The NFL May Get A Taste of Congressional Kabuki Theatre: Ack, ack, ack. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) wants to keep going on the Patriots’ videotaping investigation, and now the Judiciary Committee chair, Pat Leahy (D-VT), is encouraging him. Don’t you guys have intelligence bills and judiciary scandals that require more immediate attention? [ESPN]

Visa Problems Hold Up Twins Pitcher: Francisco Liriano is having trouble getting to spring training due to a DUI arrest from 2006, and it’s part of a new immigration law — he’s got to go through a program first in his native Dominican Republic. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune via SbB]

Kelvin Sampson Death Watch: IU prez holding a news conference, is still coaching for now. My guess as to whether he makes it to the end of the season and the tourney: yes, but he will be gone at the end of the season.

Sampson vs. Slimer: Yep, as odd as you think it sounds. [Rumors and Rants]

Watch The Tree People: Stanford, under the radar (well, I suppose so if you’re not up late enough to watch the Pac-10.) [West Coast Bias]

Why Power Rankings Blow: You start them WAY too early. [Crashburn Alley]

R.I.P., Sean Taylor.

The Redskins safety did not make it through the night, dying from the gunshot wound to his femoral artery.  Condolences to his family and friends.

(Note: the portions of the prior AP article in my earlier post that I complained about are still there, although they belong as part of an obit.)

Photo: AP/Kevin Wolf