Marimba player sighting?

An anonymous tipster tells me that the Bo Wagner who sells natural health services to the stars is the same Bo Wagner who played the jaw-dropping marimba solo on Starbuck’s Moonlight Feels Right.

Evidence supporting this claim: Someone claiming to be Bo Wagner tells the full story on this site.

Evidence against: Why couldn’t I find any other reference to the good doctor being the marimba player from Starbuck, and why does the Starbuck bio page say his whereabouts are unknown? Especially when the person writing on the site above says he’s in touch with Bruce, the guy who posted the Starbuck bio page?

The battle for Rachael Yamagata’s soul

Rachael Yamagata’s style is hard to pin down, but the critics seem to like the melancholy … subtle … drama of her slow songs, which occupy one of the discs on her new double release.

I, on the other hand, like the faster stuff (including a song called Faster, linked below). She’s like PJ Harvey without the crazy.

Consider the video evidence, which I’ll just link up rather than embedding since everything I embed gets taken down. (And really, it’s about the music, not the visuals. Well, maybe on the one live clip I’ll explain.)

1. This is her most radio-friendly song, 1963. Upbeat, pleasant, fun.

2. From her new album, the slow, slow song Elephants. Compelling, but would you want this to be the bulk of her repertoire?

3. A live Tonight Show performance of the song I’m playing over and over again on my iPod these days, Faster. The live performance isn’t bad, but the studio version is astounding, full of rhythmic surprises and jolting lyrics.

4. One of her older piano ballads, Reason Why. It’s a pretty song that holds up even when she’s playfully getting a couple of obnoxious guys to shut up.

I’m conflicted about that, too. On one hand, I’m impressed that she comes across as so charming when she’s just trying to get a couple of people to shut up long enough for her to sing a pretty, popular song of hers. On the other hand, doesn’t she end up encouraging a couple of guys to be assholes just because they’re cute?

Most popular stories of the year (among those I wrote)

After some year-end number-crunching, here’s what people read — and what they overlooked:

Top stories:

1. U.S. women rout New Zealand to reach quarterfinals. Not surprising in the sense that it’s Olympic women’s soccer, which accounts for most of these. Surprising in the sense that this was their least interesting game, and I covered it by TV and phone.

2. Weight lifted with U.S. soccer victory, gold. The biggest event I covered, and in re-reading it, I’m still happy with the story.

3. Liddell KO gives Evans shot at UFC light heavyweight title. We started covering MMA in earnest this year, and it paid off. This was the first UFC card I attended, and it was worth it.

4. UFC has fight on its hands against Elite XC. Funny to read that headline in retrospect, but this was a breakthrough story — my first cover story and, as far as I know, our first MMA cover story. A headache to write — try summing up a sport’s history and its current political/business in-fighting in one piece that isn’t a 10-page magazine spread — but worth the effort.

5. USA secures rematch with Brazil for gold. Not my favorite bit of writing this year, with a lead that seems a little disjointed upon re-reading it months later, but this was a vital game in Beijing.

6. Words heat up for colossal Shamrock-Slice showdown. Quotable guys, to say the least.

7. In year 1, Beckham on target for MLS.  Should’ve been higher. Exclusive interview with one of the world’s very biggest celebrities.

8. Russian Emelianenko brings big reputation to the States. Another exclusive with a big name, though not quite as big as Beckham. In Beckham’s case, I was literally alone with him — in Fedor’s case, we were talking by phone via translator.

9. Kai scores winner in extra time; U.S. women advance. Another big game in China, another one I covered by TV and phone.

10. UFC champion Couture has been MMA’s elder statesman. Another good exclusive interview, but I really didn’t have the time or space to do much with it.

13. Tiny Iceland on verge of handball glory, sans Bjork. Skipped a couple of routine MMA stories to dig up my best-read non-soccer story from China. Interesting numbers you can see here — no comments, 42 “recommends.” That’s unheard-of.

Here are the ones that, in my humble opinion, deserved a bit more interest.

American men’s soccer team settles for 2-2 draw with Netherlands. One of the best games I’ve ever seen.

Striking career for Fire’s Brian McBride. Cover story overshadowed by the World Series. There are some back stories behind this story that I won’t get into. They have nothing to do with Brian or the Fire, both of whom couldn’t have been more gracious.

Revenge not on Jackson’s mind in third bout vs. Silva. Must have been an early Christmas lull on the site, because this is an interesting guy.

Gold medalists return home as new pro league. Maybe the headline should’ve read, “Hey! More about Hope Solo!”

From bar fights to Vegas lights, Torres has striking career. One of the most exciting guys in MMA, and a great interview, too.

Last shot sinks American again. Just read it. Amazing turn of events, and the story turned out well. My story, that is — I’m not saying I wanted to see Matt Emmons miss. I actually remember gasping when I saw the score pop up.

U.S. women get team sabre bronze; Ukraine is upset winner. Emotional day in Beijing. Also one of the more interesting interview settings for me — Becca Ward was leaving Beijing the next day to go to freshman orientation at Duke, something I know a bit about it. I jokingly asked her why she’d do that, and she responded with a fantastic quote.

Crooning Crew fans band together in show of support. “Columbus ’til I die, Columbus ’til I die …”

American falters on badminton’s big stage. How often do you get a glimpse inside one of the biggest sports in Asia? IN Asia.

No Olympics in 2009, but I hope to get a few more interesting stories out of it.

A journalist’s resolutions

Specifically, mine, but many are applicable to other journalists as well.

1. Think broader, read deeper. Books in my in-pile include …

The Crusades: A Short History. Not that short, actually.

Bowling Alone. A study of Americans’ retreat from public life into their cozy homes, doing less in public groups.

The Unfinished Presidency. Douglas Brinkley’s study of the remarkable post-presidency life of Jimmy Carter.

Public Intellectuals: A Study in Decline. I remember starting this and thinking the definition of “intellectuals” was a little too narrow. This might just be a complaint from the author that he’s never booked on TV talk shows because their attention spans are too short. Valid complaint, but not necessarily the right guy to make it.

Big Game, Small World. Alexander Wolff loves basketball in all its forms, and while I wouldn’t agree that it’s on the verge of surpassing soccer globally, I’d like to see what he found in checking out the rest of the world’s skills.

2. Don’t complain. Reinvent. For most journalists, this means ignoring sinkholes of insight like Gannett Blog (begging the question “These people were employed as journalists?”) and figuring out how to move forward in a difficult economy. For me, it also means getting in shape. I’m also planning to work on my writing this year. (I’ve never been one of those “find your voice and stick with it” people, especially not in this day and age.)

3. Get out of the rut. Journalists tend to get tunnel vision. Don’t we all? This is a good perennial. Go see something you don’t usually see.

4. Think about charity. For journalists, this means thinking beyond government when it comes to solving problems. NGOs rarely get much mention, though they work they do should often give us reasons to remember that the atrocities and misery of the world are exceptions, not rules. (Granted, there’s also a watchdog role to play in covering charities.) For me, it means remembering to support my organizations:

Schools: Athens Academy, Duke

Health concerns: Alzheimers Association, MS Foundation, Leukemia and Lymphona Society, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, Humane Society of Fairfax County

Relief groups: Red Cross, Episcopal Rescue and Development

Public life: WETA, Rails to Trails Conservancy, National Wildlife Federation

Local care: Capital Area Food Bank, Catholic Charities, Vienna Volunteer Fire Department

The gamut: Carter Center

5. Don’t waste time with pointless conflict. Equally applicable to my Web-browsing habits and journalists’ news judgment. Particularly on cable, where the easiest way to fill time is to get a couple of people to yell at each other. Sometimes, that’s utterly contrived — I had a fun conversation with Frank Shamrock about his appearance on Outside the Lines, in which he suddenly found himself being asked to defend the sport of mixed martial arts in light of the film clips of 7-year-olds wailing on each other in the presence of inattentive coaches and officials. (As opposed to earlier times, when 7-year-olds wailed on each other in the presence of inattentive parents and teachers.)

6. Enjoy every sandwich. Zevon lives.