Tournament of Rock IV: the Stevie Nicks pod

And order is restored: after a couple of notable upsets, #13 seed Def Leppard rallied to win pod 14 after falling behind Toto and The Beach Boys early. Congrats, and we’ll see them in the Sweet 16.

Moving on to pod 15, where our highest seeded female artist seeks to weave her formulaic gypsy magic over a dangerous field of challengers.

  • #8 Seed: Stevie Nicks
  • Daughtry
  • Hootie & the Blowfish
  • The Outfield
  • Ozzy Osbourne

Stevie Nicks

Famed for her mystical chanteuse image, singer/songwriter Stevie Nicks enjoyed phenomenal success not only as a solo artist but also as a key member of Fleetwood Mac. Stephanie Lynn Nicks was born May 26, 1948, in Phoenix, AZ; the granddaughter of a frustrated country singer, she began performing at the age of four, and occasionally sang at the tavern owned by her parents. Nicks started writing songs in her mid-teens, and joined her first group, the Changing Times, while attending high school in California. During her senior year, Nicks met fellow student Lindsey Buckingham, with whom she formed the band Fritz along with friends Javier Pacheco and Calvin Roper. Between 1968 and 1971, the group became a popular attraction on the West Coast music scene, opening for Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. Ultimately, tensions arose over the amount of attention paid by fans to Nicks’ pouty allure, and after three years Fritz disbanded; Buckingham remained her partner, however, and soon became her lover as well.

Brian: Is it Stevie Nicks or is it a goat (think South Park)?  Your call.

Jim: Every time she sings, an angel’s wings fall off….

Me: I was so happy when Stevie went solo. I thought with her out of the way Fleetwood Mac could get back to making decent music again. [sigh] I was so young and naïve back then….

fikshun: Ozzy is in this pod. There’s nothing I can say against Stevie that I couldn’t levy against Ozzy. In fact, Stevie at least has had the class to keep her private life mostly private. Ozzy’s private life might just be his music career’s most valuable asset.


Daughtry was featured heavily during [American Idol]’s seemingly never-ending audition rounds for two reasons: he was telegenic, and he capitalized on the rocker promise of Bo Bice and Constantine Maroulis from the previous season. Moreover, he was bald and handsome, had a terrific smile, and his devotion to family made for great TV. Daughtry sailed through to Hollywood and made it into the final 12, where he was hailed as a standout and soon seemed to be a favorite to win. Daughtry mania began to peak in March when his rendition of Fuel’s “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” caused such a sensation that rumors began to fly that Fuel wanted to hire him as their lead singer — something that proved to be no rumor, as the modern rock group, savoring the new press, practically pleaded for his presence after he was voted off the show.

Jim: I personally know many great, great musicians from North Carolina. They are not famous. Chris Daughtry is. This is one of the existential mysteries.

Me: Seriously. The dB’s are from NC and they never got famous. Don Dixon is from NC and nobody knows who he is. The Right Profile died on the vine. Jeff Foster makes the best music of anybody alive and sells what, eight CDs? But this tepid saucer of cat wank makes it big? I hope there’s a hell. And when he gets there, I hope they strap Simon Cowell down and make him listen to the “music” he pimped on America for the rest of eternity.

Bonesparkle: If Avril Lavigne can be a “Punk,” then Daughtry can be a “Rocker.” Excuse me, I meant “Rocker®.”

Hootie & the Blowfish

For a short time, Hootie & the Blowfish was the most popular band in America. Grunge music ruled the airwaves during the mid-’90s, but Hootie played a mainstream pop variation of blues-rock, and their easy-going sound netted them a string of Top 40 hits. Formed at the University of South Carolina, the group featured lead vocalist/guitarist Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber, and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld, and the band’s name referred to two mutual friends (not Rucker and the group itself). Cracked Rear View, the quartet’s first album, was released in the fall of 1994 and became enormously successful, due in part to the album’s first single, “Hold My Hand.” The song had worked its way into the Top Ten by the beginning of 1995, propelling the album to number one and paving the way for three additional Top 20 singles: “Let Her Cry,” “Only Wanna Be With You,” and “Time.” Cracked Rear View became the most popular album of 1995. By the time Hootie & the Blowfish returned to the scene with a second album, Fairweather Johnson, in early 1996, the debut had sold 13 million copies in America alone. Fairweather Johnson didn’t replicate that success. It entered the charts at number one and sold two million copies within its first four months of release, but it didn’t produce any singles on the level of “Hold My Hand” or “Let Her Cry.” Musical Chairs followed in 1998 and experienced even less success, and the bandmates decided to take a short break after its release.

fikshun: I have this nightmare sometimes where I’m being led down a metal grate stairwell. The air is hot and dry as though I were two feet from an open fireplace. There are shadows moving below, framed in orange light. It feels like some sort of foundry, like something out of a Terminator film. But at the same time, I have a generalized animal fear that the source of the orange glow isn’t molten metal, but rather something closer to Soylent Green. As I reach the bottom of the stairwell, I see a dark blue Rick Perry suit standing at a lever, slowly pulling it back and forth. Where the suit’s head should be, I see the AT&T logo, hovering over the collar like some menacing Eye of Sauron. The orange glow is coming from some imitation of life essence that is pouring into molds on the floor. The molds creep by me on a conveyor belt toward the suit. Some nights, the molds resemble a hollowed-out likeness of Huey Lewis, but most nights it’s Hootie.

Jim: I paid $3 to see them at a club in NC many years ago, before they sold 13 million copies of Cracked Rear View. I could have flushed the money down a toilet. I shall always regret that I didn’t choose the toilet option….

Otherwise: When I was a teen I used to shoplift magazines. We have all done things we are now ashamed of. Thank you for trusting us enough to share. Although, I must confess, I doubt any of us have done anything as heinous as paying to see Hootie. Maybe sex with an animal or a random thrill killing, but not paying to see Hootie. That’s sick, man.

Brian: There are few groups whose collective output should be gathered up, loaded into a rocket, and blasted at the sun. Hootie is one of those deserving of that special honor.

Me: No, Brian. The actual band should be blasted into the sun. I actually paid to see them live once. This was before anybody knew who they were. They routinely played a club in my hometown and a friend said “dude, you’ve never seen Hootie? They’re AWESOME!” So I went. They played for an hour and I swear, I can’t say for sure if they played a bunch of different songs or if it was the same one over and over. The friendship was never the same again.

Alex: If any band really cries over the Miami Dolphins, they deserve to be on this list. I hereby sentence Darius Rucker to be called “Hootie” for the rest of his days.

The Outfield

Ironically, given their obsession with America’s favorite pastime, the Outfield got their start in London’s East End. Playing under the name the Baseball Boys, the trio of bassist/singer Tony Lewis, guitarist/keyboardist John Spinks, and drummer Alan Jackman played around London and recorded some early demos, attracting the attention of Columbia/CBS Records. They were signed shortly thereafter and began working on their debut album, Play Deep, which was released in 1985. The album was a smash success, going triple platinum, reaching number nine on the album charts, and producing their biggest song, “Your Love,” which was a Top Ten hit. To support the album, they launched an international tour opening for Journey and Starship. They began recording their second album in 1986 and in 1987 issued Bangin’. While not duplicating the huge commercial success of their debut, it did produce two hit singles, “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “No Surrender.” The band’s third album featured a bit of a stylistic shift and was more meticulously produced than their previous efforts. Voices of Babylon, released in 1988, produced a single of the same name, but the band’s commercial success was slipping. Jackman left the band after it was recorded and they hired Paul Reed to step in as drummer for the Voices tour.

fikshun: If you took two parts debut album era The Cars, one part Cutting Crew, and a dash of Split Enz, you’d have The Outfield.  No, really.  You could totally clone that band exactly by just following that formula.

Jim: Sam liked them. I don’t know why. I don’t know why anybody liked them.

Me: Hey, step off The Outfield. Yeah, they were corporate, but they’re one of those bands that’s like Rick Springfield – there was more going on than people seemed to notice. Voices of Babylon is still one of my favorite CDs from the ’80s and there is nothing like rolling down the windows on a summer day and driving around town with Play Deep cranked to 11.

Bonesparkle: Yeah, you liked their music, but when you saw them live how many tubes of SPF 30 Chapstick did John Spinks have smeared on his nipples? Dude, put a fucking shirt on.

Me: Okay, to be fair, they were touring with Starship. I think Craig Chaquico had a no-shirt clause written into the contracts for their opening bands so he wouldn’t be the only topless douchenozzle out there.

Ozzy Osbourne

Though many bands have succeeded in earning the hatred of parents and media worldwide throughout the past few decades, arguably only such acts as Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, and Marilyn Manson have tied the controversial record of Ozzy Osbourne. The former Black Sabbath frontman has been highly criticized over his career, mostly due to rumors denouncing him as a psychopath and Satanist. Despite his reputation, no one could deny that Osbourne has had an immeasurable effect on heavy metal. While he doesn’t possess a great voice, he makes up for it with his good ear and dramatic flair. As a showman, his instincts are nearly as impeccable; his live shows have been overwrought spectacles of gore and glitz that have endeared him to adolescents around the world. Indeed, Osbourne has managed to establish himself as an international superstar, capable of selling millions of records with each album and packing arenas across the globe, capturing new fans with each record.

Jim: If Curly Howard had been a rock star, this is what he would have been like. Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk….

Me: First-ballot inductee into the CorpRock Hall of Fame. Anybody who can mainstream Satan worship is a king-hell god of branding.

fikshun: If ever you need a dancing monkey, Ozzy’s your man. I’ve heard rumor that he was at one point a top flight front man of evil, but that’s unsubstantiated. The only Ozzy that I’ve ever been aware of is the grinning idiot hiding behind round-rimmed shades. If there’s any pain in those eyes, they don’t make it as far as the crows feet for us to see. Eez eet taym tuh heet thuh road fuhr ah-noothuh tour, Sharunn? No?  Ookai, Ayll joost be down een mee stood-yo, fiddlin’ weeth mee plonkuh!  G’night, loov!


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Private lives, public surveillance

An example of a Tracker Device

Whether people think about this election’s hot button issues in this framework or not, many of our country’s so-called “social issues” are issues of privacy. While lawmakers fought over the economic and religious implications of hot topics like gay marriage, abortion, health care and cybersecurity, they were essentially deciding what level of privacy Americans should be entitled to under the law, and how strictly the Constitution should be interpreted to provide or deny that privacy.

I thought about this struggle between the private lives of citizens and the public decisions of legislators and administrations when I saw a story from Texas about high school sophomore Natalie Hernandez suing her school following her expulsion. Hernandez was expelled from her high school because she refused to wear her school’s name badge, which contains an RFID tracking device. Hernandez says the badge violates her religion – the badge is considered a “mark of the beast” – and by forcing her to wear it, the school district is violating her 1st Amendment rights. After the school offered her a name badge without the tracking device, which she refused, the school expelled her.

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Iron Dome’s effectiveness is not an argument for missile defense

It’s one thing to intercept a Hamas rocket, another to shoot down an inter-continental ballistic missile.

The success of Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, which has intercepted 80 to 90 percent of the rockets launched from Gaza, is viewed by many as a cause for celebration. Worse, it’s being used as evidence that missile defense works.

In fact, the odds that missile defense can protect a state from inter-continental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons are slim to nonexistent.

Equally troublesome, it’s an ongoing bone of contention between the United States and Russia. The United States seeks to implement defense systems in Europe ostensibly to protect the NATO countries from — however hypothetical — a nuclear attack by Iran.

Perhaps partly because of how preposterous the Iran pretext sounds and because it serves the purposes of the Russian defense establishment, Moscow views missile defense in Europe as an even larger affront to the stability of nuclear deterrence than missile defense on American soil. Currently, aside from a radar installation in Turkey, U.S. missile defense in Europe is deployed only on ships in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile, drawing conclusions about missile defense from Iron Dome is like comparing apples and oranges. At Foreign Policy, Yousaf Butt explains.

That this small battlefield system has been so successful against the relatively slow-moving short-range rockets doesn’t mean that larger and much more expensive missile defense systems, such as the planned NATO system, will work against longer-range strategic missiles that move ten times as fast.

In other words, Iron Dome is not missile defense, it’s rocket defense (which, in fact, is also a subsection of U.S. missile defense).

In contrast to the short-range Hamas rockets, which fly through the atmosphere during their whole trajectory, the longer-range ballistic missiles … spend most of their flight in space. For decades it has been known that trying to intercept a warhead in space is exceedingly difficult because the adversary can use simple, lightweight countermeasures to fool the defensive system [such as] cheap inflatable balloon decoys.


… an 80 percent-effective tactical missile defense system against conventional battlefield rockets — such as Iron Dome — makes a lot of sense. If 10 conventional rockets are headed your way, stopping eight is undeniably a good thing. The possibility of stopping eight of 10 nuclear warheads, however, is less [impressive] since even one nuclear explosion will inflict unacceptable devastation. Just one nuclear-tipped missile penetrating your missile shield is about the equivalent of a million conventional missiles making it through.

Nor should we forget that

Even the largely successful Iron Dome system, while providing a worthy cover has not provided normalcy for Israeli citizens: the terror is still there.

Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.

Telling History vs. Making Art: Gods & Jacksons

Part four in a series.

One of my favorite places to work at Fredericksburg & Spostylvania National Military Park is the Stonewall Jackson Shrine, the small plantation office building where the Confederate general died. It’s a story I love so much that I wrote a book about it, The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson. But no book gives the story the kind of adoring treatment that Jeff Shaara’s Gods and Gene

rals gives it. Shaara’s “sentimental remembrance” puts Jackson, and Lee as well, on such pedestals that many of us jokingly refer to the novel as “Gods and Jacksons” (some imbuing the phrase with more dismissiveness than others).

“He had tried not to think of Jackson, of the death,” Shaara writes of Lee near the book’s end,

had kept his mind on the papers, but there had to be the moment, this moment, when the distractions would fade, when he must talk to God, to ask, Why? There would be no reply, of course….

Now, [Jackson’s] face came to him, the clear image, and he let it come, would not block it out, saw the lightning in the ice-blue eyes, the old cap, and he felt something inside him give way, and he leaned forward, put his face in his hands, and began to cry.

In God’s and Generals (and in his subsequent books), Shaara employs a technique used by his father, Michael, in the Pulitzer-winning The 

Killer Angels—a novel that tells the story of the men who led the fight at Gettysburg. “It was not an attempt to document the history of the event, nor was it a biography of the characters who fought there,” the younger Shaara explained of his father’s work in the forward to Gods and Generals.

“I have not consciously changed any fact,” Michael Shaara wrote in The Killer Angels’ “note to the reader”:

I have condensed some of the action, for the sake of clarity, and eliminated some minor characters, for brevity; but though I have often had to choose between conflicting viewpoints, I have not knowingly violated the action. I have changed some of the language. It was a naïve and sentimental time, and men spoke in windy phrases. I thought it necessary to update some of the words so that the religiosity and naïveté of the time, which were genuine, would not seem too quaint to the modern ear…. The interpretation of character is my own.

It’s worth noting that Shaara faces many of the same issues a Civil War historian faces when constructing a battle narrative: What actions and which troops get more or less attention? Which competing accounts are more credible? How far should an editor go in correcting the poor grammar and erratic spelling and capitalization of soldiers and eyewitnesses? How do you determine a person’s motivation?

Most, if not all, of these issues are driven by the primary source material—how much is available, when was it written, what were the agendas of the writers, and so on. The methods for attacking such questions are different for historian and novelist, but the core issues remain the same. “Both types of writers seek truth, but the historian operates within the limits of the documents, and the novelist works within what is ‘historically possible’—whether ‘psychological fact, historical fact, sociological fact,’” explains historian Howard Jones.

Shaara clearly outlines the aesthetic reasons that guide his choices: clarity, brevity, relevance. He’ll tinker with action but won’t tinker with the larger plot. He will, however, interpret character. The plot—the battle—is clearly predetermined for him as a novelist by the facts, although specific details of the plot can be tweaked as necessary; character is even less determinate because characterization gets built on opinion as well as fact, and Shaara had plenty of opinions to draw on.

Alas, in the Lost Cause tradition, opinions about Lee are so universally positive that he’s become known over time as “The Marble Man.” Not everyone shared that opinion, though. Ulysses S. Grant, in his Personal Memoirs, described Lee as “a good man, a fair commander, who had everything in his favor…a man who needed sunshine.” He believed Grant was treated like a demi-god. In the Lost Cause tradition, he still is. Shaara generally sticks with that interpretation. “He is a man in control,” Shaara writes. “He is the most beloved man in either army.”

Where Shaara deviates significantly from Lost Cause tradition, though, is his choice to make Lee’s “Old Warhorse,” the controversial Lieutenant General James Longstreet, a hero of the novel….

Next: Killer Angels, real and fictional


Cross-posted at Emerging Civil War.