The Challenges in Reforming the Left

from Sargon of Akkad

The nine points needed to be understood to make the American Left a competitive party again: The Challenges in Reforming the Left



Meet the Dead Rockstars, Part I

You’re probably wondering already if there will be a part II to this series–the answer is probably not. This damn thing had been sitting in my drafts folder for about a year, and I kept on trading my fake players and eventually ran out of racist jokes to make about the nationalities involved. So I figured I’d just stick a “Part I” on the title and be done with it.

So anyways, I have this fake baseball team on No, not fantasy baseball, although I do that too. This involves an extra level of geekdom because the players themselves are computer generated figments of our imagination. They come equipped with skill ratings in various baseball tasks, but not with personalities like the real ball players. So I decided to fix that today.

There are a lot of young promising players for the Seattle Dead Rockstars, a team that is surely destined for greatness in the near future. Let’s meet a few of them:

Designated Hitter – Brent Stewart

Brent Stewart
Dead Rockstars
Age: 25 B/T: R/R
Born: Saratoga Spgs, NY
Position(s): DH

This power-hitting righty hails from Saratoga Springs, New York–home to a number of sporting legends, including Seabiscuit and former Las Vegas Craps owner Tom Peretti. Brent’s parents own the popular chain of Stewart’s convenience stores that are a ubiquitous staple of upstate New York. Note that although they have almost the exact same logo as the Stewart’s soda brand, they are not the same company. The Stewart’s soda pop company is owned by Brent’s uncle Earl. Earl says that Brent is welcome to take over his soda pop chain one day. Brent said thanks, but that he was much more interested in playing baseball at the moment.


Catcher – Willie Sweeney

Willie Sweeney
Dead Rockstars
Age: 22 B/T: R/R
Born: Hancock, MI
Position(s): C/DH

With a powerful bat and patient eye, Bill Sweeney has established himself as one of the better young catchers in the game. While not playing baseball, Willie enjoys taking bong hits and playing Magic GarageBand on his computer. He also has a dog, Jim, who was named after the lyrics to a Phish song. Sweeney is a decent pitch-caller but struggles to throw runners out on steal attempts.


First Base – Neifi Almonte

Neifi Almonte
Dead Rockstars
Age: 23 B/T: L/L
Born: Cariaco, VE
Position(s): 1B

This swinging slugger from Cariaco, Venezuela was recently named AL Rookie of the Year! A few summers ago, Neifi hurt his neck beating up some roughians back home–members of the Venezuelan kidnapping mob Los Diablos who were after his Aunt Esmeralda. He unfortunately suffered a herniated disk while repeatedly slamming a mobster’s head in the front door of his Chevy Chevette. He’s since made his full recovery, hitting 63 homers in his rookie season to establish himself as one of the top young sluggers in fake baseball.


Second Base – Carter Fassero

Carter Fassero
Dead Rockstars
Age: 22 B/T: R/R
Born: Madill, OK
Position(s): 2B

This hot-shot youngster is a real all-around gamer. In addition to his dynamic repertoire of hitting, speed, and defense, he also possess top-notch health and durability ratings, thanks to his daily regimen of greenies and HGH.

Do you like to party? Carter sure does… in both the normal sense and the “wink-wink” sense of the word. A rampant cocaine habit has left his patience short and his temper high. Never since Tim Raines and Keith Hernandez has a 6-tool player come along quite like Fassero–his abilities to hit for average, hit for power, field, throw, run the bases, and consume narcotics are up there with the game’s elite.


Shortstop – Einar Ramirez

Einar Ramirez
Dead Rockstars
Age: 25 B/T: L/R
Born: Anzoategui, VE
Position(s): SS/IF/OF

Our International Scouting team really did a bang-up job in Venezuela. We saw young Einar playing in the streets one day; he and his friends from the small town of Anzoategui were using rocks as baseballs and milk cartons for gloves. The way Einar attacked those bouncing rocks with a folded milk carton in his left hand, we knew he would bring the same tenacity and enthusiasm to the shortstop position in Seattle. When asked about his hitting skills, or lack thereof, Einar chuckled and recalled being the subject of ridicule at many of his friends’ Piñata parties.


Center Field — Edgardo Tejera

Edgardo Tejera
Dead Rockstars
Age: 20 B/T: R/R
Born: Guayubin, DO
Position(s): 2B/LF/CF

Known as the Dominican God of Walks, or Dios Dominicana de Bases sobre los Bolas in his native town of Guayubin, Edgardo is a solid all-around talent.

In reality, Edgardo is merely above average in taking walks. However, Dominican youths are frequently taught to swing at every pitch thrown, as this strategy increases their slim chances of making it to the United States. But under the tutelage of his father, Eduardo Tejera (a notorious stickler for plate discipline as a Little League manager) Edgardo developed a keen batting eye unmatched by his local peers. As a result, Tejera is considered a prodigy of the base-on-balls in his homeland.


I’m afraid that’s all I have for now. Stay tuned for a continuation of the Presidential report card series!

NFL Draft Analysis

Greetings, sports fans. The greatest non-athletic event in sports kicked off yesterday, and it was quite an eventful day. I sat down with a couple of brews and a generous helping of wings courtesy of the new Parsippany Cluck-U to watch it all unfold.

From the perspective of a fan of the New York Giants and the NFL in general, here is what I saw:

Round 1

1) Detroit Lions — Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia
Meh. I’ve seen this guy a couple of times on TV. Granted Georgia was a disappointment this year. And he did look like an NFL quality QB. But #1 overall? $48 million guaranteed?? Personally I think he’s halfway between Alex Smith and Carson Palmer, but we’ll see.

2) St. Louis Rams — Jason Smith, OT, Baylor
6’6″ 305 lbs! Very pedestrian name though.

3) Kansas City Chiefs — Tyson Jackson, DE, LSU
Considered a reach, but I like that the Chiefs are using their annual Top 5 pick to assemble an all-LSU front four.

4) Seattle Seahawks — Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest
Did you know that “seahawk” is actually another word for osprey?

5) New York Jets* — Mark Sanchez, QB, USC
*from Cleveland
At this point I was rooting for the Browns to select Crabtree, which would have signaled a Braylon Edwards deal (hopefully to the Giants) was imminent. Of course, that wasn’t in the cards, but I like what the Jets did here. I think Sanchez can be a reliable, Joe Flacco type of guy for a team with a lot of other pieces in place.

6) Cincinnati Bengals — Andre Smith, OL, Alabama
The first “character issues” guy off the board. Honestly, I think all this finger-waiving by the NFL and the media is getting a little out of hand. It used to be that “off the field problems” meant running over kids who beat you in touch football, or pointing a gun at some kids in a McDonald’s parking lot. Now, we’re raising red flags when some guy leaves the NFL combine early? Kudos to the Bengals for not buying the negative hype.
7) Oakland Raiders — Darius Heyward-Bey, WR, Maryland
The Raiders are like the guy who takes Cole Hamels in the first round of your fantasy baseball draft. It’s not that I have a problem with Cole Hamels, it’s that you could’ve gotten him in the 2nd round at least. In the Raiders case, why didn’t they trade down?

8) Jacksonville Jaguars — Eugene Monroe, OT, Virginia
Wow, this guy makes Jason Smith look like Gary Coleman, coming in at 6’6″ 315 lbs.

9) Green Bay Packers — B.J. Raji, DT, Boston College
One of the more impressive highlight reels I saw. Also fills a big need for the Packers, I like the pick.

10) San Francisco 49ers — Michael Crabtree, WR, Texas Tech
Good fit for the 49ers, and fell into their lap at 10. He’s not as good as Calvin Johnson, the last marquee rookie wideout in the draft. But he’s certainly better than Arnaz Battle.

11) Buffalo Bills — Aaron Maybin, DE, Penn St
Doesn’t excite me.

12) Denver Broncos — Knowshon Moreno, RB, Georgia
This guy has a lot of O’s in his name.

13) Washington Redskins — Brian Orakpo, DE, Texas
This one could be a steal. The Redskins have really loaded up on defense this offseason, it should be really interesting to see how that group performs in 2009.

14) New Orleans Saints — Malcolm Jenkins, DB, Ohio St
I don’t think he will solve the Saints defensive woes, but he doesn’t need to with the teams high-powered offensive attack led by Drew Brees.

15) Houston Texans — Brian Cushing, LB, USC
At first I thought his name was “Crushing” which would be an unbelievably awesome name for a defensive player (outside of CB and FS perhaps). But “Cushing” is much less intimidating. What’s he gonna do, attack me with pillows? Lame.
16) San Diego Chargers — Larry English, DE, Northern Illinois
With Tomlinson and Gates wearing down, I would’ve gone for offense here. Maclin would’ve made sense.

17) Tampa Bay Buccaneers* — Josh Freeman, QB, Kansas St
*from N.Y. Jets through Cleveland
Ahoy matey! This 6’6″ scurvy dog be a very excitin’ prospect for ye. Lots o’ upside.

18) Denver Broncos — Robert Ayers, DE, Tennessee
The Broncos finally address their laughably bad defense. This guy is apparently good, but he will not prevent the Broncos from going 3-13 next year. Josh McDaniel will clearly be fired.

19) Philadelphia Eagles* — Jeremy Maclin, WR, Missouri
*from Tampa Bay through Cleveland
Probably not a good sign that the Eagles traded up for the guy I was hoping the Giants would trade up for. With Brian Westbrook, Deshaun Jackson, and Maclin, they have 3 guys on offense who are exceptional in space, and should give defensive coaches nightmares. The main question is whether McNabb and Westbrook can stay healthy and productive.

20) Detroit Lions* — Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma St
*from Dallas in the worst trade of all time
The Lions certainly have a lot of defensive issues, but I like the strategy of trying to build one side at a time. They’ll suck again next year, so they should have a top pick to use for a stud defender.

21) Cleveland Browns* — Alex Mack, C, California
*from Philidelphia
Who can blame Cleveland for trading down three times for…
In addition to a 6’4″ 316 frame, Alex Mack’s strengths include telekinesis, electrokinesis, and the ability to morph into a liquid puddle. One area of concern for scouts is how Mack responds to bullying from co-star Jessica Alba.

22) Minnesota Vikings — Percy Harvin, WR, Florida
Considering the most recent Florida wideouts taken in rounds 1 & 2 have been Ike Hilliard, Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green, Travis Taylor, Jabar Gaffney, Taylor Jacobs, Reche Caldwell, and Chad Jackson, I can’t exactly give a ringing endorsement of this pick.

23) Baltimore Ravens* — Michael Oher, OT, Mississippi
*from New England
Great value here, getting a potential stud LT late in the first round.

24) Atlanta Falcons — Paria Jerry, DT, Mississippi
I love typing out the word “Mississippi”. It’s like doing a little dance with your fingers. This guy probably sucks.

25) Miami Dolphins — Vontae Davis, DB, Illinois
Solid late 1st rounder, and what the Dolphins needed. I do know it took the Giants about 6 or 7 tries to draft a quality CB, so this guy could be hit-or-miss as well.

26) Green Bay Packers* — Clay Matthew, DE, USC
*from New England
I like how the Packers have addressed their defense in the 1st round. Considering they went 6-10 but actually scored more points then they gave up last year, the Pack may rebound very quickly.

27) Indianapolis Colts — Donald Brown, RB, Connecticut
The first of four UConn Huskies taken in the first two rounds! Nice player, although I would’ve gone with a defender myself.

28) Buffalo Bills* — Eric Wood, C, Louisville
*from Philadelphia through Carolina
Kinda looks like the fat kid from The Sandlot…”Hey, want a smore?” “How can I have some more of nothing?” “You’re killin’ me, Smalls.”

29) New York Giants — Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina
As far as Giants fans are concerned, this guy better be good. With established receivers Braylon Edwards and Anquan Boldin on the trade block, GM Jerry Reese refused to include this 1st round pick in any potential deal. They also had an opportunity to trade up for Jeremy Maclin, but chose to stand pat while the Eagles “swooped in” by making a trade of their own.
Luckily, I think the Giants got the right guy. Nicks has good size, sticky hands, and is a beast after the catch.

I could even see him having the best NFL career out of the six WRs chosen in the 1st round. However, he might need some time to develop. And I doubt teams will double-cover him right away, meaning defenses can still keep an extra defender up for the run. The pressure will be on Eli, Nicks, Smith, Hixon, and Manningham to execute in the passing game in order to keep defenses honest.

30) Tennessee Titans — Kenny Britt, WR, Rutgers
The Giants could have opted for this hometown hero instead of Nicks; at 6’4″ he does provide more of the size element they were missing without Plax. But Britt does not have the same playmaking abilities as Nicks, and will probably not be an elite receiver in the NFL. He is probably a better fit for the Titans, who do not throw the ball as often as the Giants.

31) Arizona Cardinals — Chris “Beanie” Wells, RB, Ohio St
This OSU product is not to be confused with Evan Wells, a member of my pledge class who would have been picked #1 overall, but sustained a devastating knee injury running house laps. Beanie Wells is nevertheless a steal for the Cardinals at #31. Although he is not the ideal fit for Arizona’s spread offense, I think his overall talent and the added dimension he gives them is enough to justify this pick.

32) Pittsburgh Steelers — Evander “Ziggy” Hood, DT, Missouri
The Steelers primary need was offensive line, but they are also aging on defense and Ziggy gives the Super Bowl champs a long-term plan up front. Also, both his nickname and his real first name rule, and that’s more or less enough for me.

Rounds 2-7
Right now, as I sit here typing, we’re in the middle of Round 5. Here are some random thoughts on Round 2 from yesterday, and the action so far today:

-So far, hear is what the Giants have done:
45) Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia: We do need depth at the LB spot, and Sintim could mesh well with recently acquired Michael Boley. While Boley is terrific in pass coverage and pursuit, Sintim is a good run stuffer and can rush the passer. Personally I would have gone with Conner Barwin, whom the Texans selected with the next pick and seems as though he could probably play OLB.
60) Will Beatty, OT, UConn: An excellent pick. The Giants O-Line is one of the best in the league, but if there is any weakness, it’s LT David Diehl. He is an above-average offensive tackle, but has been exposed on occasion and could begin to wear down. But now he might have some competition as the Giants got a steal with this pick. Because of this draft’s depth at left tackle, Beatty slid past his true value, which was around late 1st/early 2nd according to most scouts.
85) Ramses Barden, WR, Cal Poly: At 6’6″ 227 lbs, this guy is built like a refrigerator, yet he clocks in at 4.5 in the 40. He is not an explosive player, but could be a reliable target for Eli once the Meadowlands winds start swirling.
100) Travis Beckum, TE, Wisconsin: Another good upside pick for Jerry Reese. He does not block well, but the Giants already have a sturdy blocking TE in Kevin Boss. Beckum’s strength is in the passing game, and the Giants will be thrilled if he can become a receiving threat.
129) Andre Brown, RB, NC State: This pick makes sense with the loss of Derrick Ward. More of a power back who will probably end up with a Reuben Droughens type role (hopefully better though).

-ESPN needs to promote Erin Andrews right away. Possessing a rare combination of Irish good looks and an unparalleled intellect and enthusiasm for journalism, Erin Andrews is the premiere sideline reporter in all of television. I find it criminal that Suzy Kolber and Michele Tafoya are allowed to roam the sidelines for Monday Night Football, while the clearly superior Andrews is deprived of an opportunity to shine on the national stage.

Erin Andrews, a beacon of quality journalism
Erin Andrews, a beacon of quality journalism

-You have to like what New England did in Round 2. Trading out of the 1st round left them with 4 picks, which they used on: Patrick Chung (DB-Oregon), Ron Brace (DT-Boston College), Darius Butler (CB-UConn), and Sebastian Vollmer (OT-Houston). All of these guys have the potential to start and contribute. Also note that Vollmer is a 6’7″ 315 lbs German guy who barely spoke English upon arriving at Houston, which rules.

-The Eagles made their 2nd scary offensive pick taking LeShaun McCoy (RB-Pittsburgh) in Round 2. McCoy is a scat back but gives the Eagles yet another guy who is difficult for defenses to wrap up, especially when he gets the ball in space. With Westbrook becoming more of a health risk as he gets older, this is a very smart pick by Philly. However, they still lack a power running back that can pick up short yardage and move the chains.

-To the delight of both Giants and Eagles fans, the Dallas Cowboys officially suck. Already with the losses of Terrell Owens, Julius Jones, and Chris Canty, the Cowboys compounded their woes by trading their only pick in the first day of the draft. This 9-7 squad from a season ago is moving in the opposite direction as the rest of the division.

Please Welcome Guest Blogger Bill Simmons

I’m completely obsessed with the NFL. I know if you’re a guy, chances are you think that you are equally as obsessed as I am. Au contraire, my friend. 

I like the professional football more than pretty much anything that has ever existed, with the (possible) exception of my friends and family. From early September to late January, I completely disregard six out of seven days of the week, sleepwalking through life until the hour of 1 o’clock on Sunday mercifully arrives.

The reason I bring this up is because not only am I a football fan, but I am also a nerd. Recently, I have been able to combine the two vis-à-vis gambling. I’m pretty much a small timer right now, but here are a few money-making tips I have learned so far:

1) Don’t fall in love with high-powered offenses. Vegas and fans both get excited by teams that throw the ball, like the 2004 Bengals or the 2007 Browns, because they are more entertaining to watch. In a toss-up, they’ll usually prefer the high-flying gun-slingers to a methodical, plodding team like the 2008 Buccaneers. When in doubt, take the team that is less entertaining to watch, because you’re probably getting a free point or two.

Nice catch ... Vegas is probably impressed too.
Nice catch ... Vegas was probably impressed too.

2) Avoid complicated logic. Stuff like “The last 14 times the Browns played a team with a winning record, they covered 11 times” is crap. I know this because that quote came from an email sent to me by a gambling website. These websites are highly-profitable businesses, not charities. Also, this stat is obviously contrived. What’s their record the last 14 times they played on the road? What about the last 17 times they played in a dome? Who gives a shit?

3) Find new trends each year. This season, Vegas can’t seem to grasp the fact that the San Diego Chargers stink. It makes sense, they have a traditionally deep pool of talent, and they’ve scored more points than they’ve given up. But they’re not a good team. They’re poorly coached, LT is wearing down, Merriman is on the shelf, Cromartie is getting exposed, and Rivers plays like he’s trying to pad his stats and get Norv Turner fired at the same time.

At least when preparing his resume, Norv can add that he coached the best 5-11 team ever.
At least when preparing his résumé, Norv can add that he coached the best 5-11 team ever.

So the Atlanta Falcons come to town, with hot-shot rookie Matt Ryan and Michael Turner facing his former team, and get 6.5????!?!?!? The single worst line of the season, in my mind. But my point is, next year is different. The Chargers and Falcons could easily flip/flop their overrated/underrated status. Check the early season lines for trends and try to ride them out as long as possible.

4) Disregard lines of 2.5 or less. Only 8% of games are decided by 0-2 points, In fact, assume every game will be decided by 3, 7 or 10+ points, and you will be right 75% of the time.


From what I can tell, Vegas has no concept of shadow prices: they assume moving the line from -2.5 to +2.5 should cost just as much as moving it from +2.5 to +7.5. You can exploit this folly by taking the money line instead of a +0.5-2.5 spread, buying points, or teasing a game from -8 down to -2. 

5) Teaser rules: never tease the line up! You always get more incremental value by moving the line closer to zero. Never tease from one side to the other. Only one game every 5 years is decided by zero, making the -0.5 to +0.5 range essentially worthless. The best line for a 3-team teaser is -10.5, since 55.4% of victories are between 1-10 points. Only tease point spreads of -10 to -12.5 for 3-teams and -7.5 to -8.5 for 2 teams. 

6) It is a common expression to “take the points” in game considered to be a toss-up. This only makes sense for a line >3, and even then it is iffy. 65% of all games are decided by at least 7 points. If you’re not sure about a game, don’t bet on it! If the line is less than 3, I’d actually be more inclined to take the favorite. 

Then there are two useful strategies that I learned from Sports Guy (I guess now is a good time to drop the premise that he is actually guest-blogging here. I imagine Simmons being such a big shot now that he’s probably sitting in a penthouse suite somewhere yelling stuff like “Where the fuck is my caviar!” or “I ordered 7 limos, not 6!” but I do still read him anyway). One strategy is to try and guess the lines before actually seeing them. This allows you to formulate your own opinion first without being swayed by Vegas.

The second strategy is to try and rank all the NFL teams. Moreover, having a tiered ranking structure is ideal for gambling, because it allows you to make easy decisions. For instance, if two teams in the same tier are playing each other, you might just take the home team. I think this week, all of the teams fit nicely into nine categories. So without further adieu, here are the Week 15 Tiered Power Rankings.

Total Suck: 32.Lions 31.Bengals 30.Chiefs 29.Rams 28.Seahawks 27.Raiders

Slight Pulse: 26.Jags 25.Niners 24.Browns 23.Bills 22.Texans

Underachievers: 21.Chargers 20.Packers

Jekyll/Hyde: 19.Bears 18.Redskins 17.Dolphins 16.Saints

Cruise Control: 15.Broncos 14.Vikings 13.Cards

Crafty Veterans: 12.Jets 11.Pats 10.Colts

Idiot Savants: 9.Cowboys 8.Eagles

Puncher’s Chance: 7.Falcons 6.Bucs 5.Ravens

Contenders: 4.Panthers 3.Steelers 2.Giants 1.Titans

Also for good measure, I’ll throw in a Super Bowl prediction: Giants 24, Steelers 20. Til next time, sports fans!

My Experimental Phase

Some new shit for you. This first song is very abstract; it contains a multitude of themes and motifs that can be summarized by the picture below…sort of.

Just for fun, here is a cover of the song “Schizophrenia” by U-Melt…sort of (FYI the original is much cheesier). I accidently deleted the project for that one, so I can never edit it again–so I figured I might as well be done with it.

Hopefully I haven’t alienated my entire fanbase of 4 people with these fucked up songs. But at least I’ve had fun working on them. Stay tuned for more shit, I’ve got a lot of projects that are about half-done. Punk rock, techno, blues, probably anything is fair game.

Spoon/Beltway Weekend – Quick Synopsis

It’s me again, welcome to Part II of the series: Concerts I Went To, and Other Shit I Did That Weekend. I have some more work to do today so this story will be even worse than the last one, but I’ll at least attempt a quick synopsis:

Showed up to Spoon @ Sonar in Baltimore 1.5 hours late, still had to sit through 1.5 more hours of the 2nd opening band. Drove to DC & was staying with Julienne, she usually has entertaining shows saved on Tivo. I had no idea the Beltway was just a big circle, I’m kind of a moron but that’s good to know for future reference. Also there was some really cool looking building in Virginia and I tried to take a picture of it, but it was hard to do that without swerving off the road, and by that time I had already driven by it. We hung out with Dicky and infamous blogger DC Hero on Saturday night. Dicky likes to talk about funk albums from the early 80’s and DC Hero will usually comment about how drunk he is. On Sunday we went to the Nats/Braves game where Tim Redding continued his inexplicable run of success in 2008, and youngster Lastings Milledge was named Player of the Game in the team’s 5-4 victory. Here is the setlist for Friday night’s Spoon show:

Main Set:
Chicago At Night
Rhthm and Soul
Stay Don’t Go
Jonathon Fisk
The Delicate Place
The Ghost of You Lingers
Peace Like a River (Paul Simon Cover)
Don’t You Evah
Don’t Make Me a Target
Someone Something
Back To The Life
I Summon You
I Turn My Camera On
Finer Feelings
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb
The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine
The Underdog

Encore #1:
Anything You Want
The Beast and Dragon, Adorned
Small Stakes

Encore #2:
Rocks Off (Stones Cover)

Grade: A. All of these songs are good, but in particular: “Jonathon Fisk”, “The Ghost of You Lingers”, “Don’t You Evah”, and “The Two Sides of Monsieur Valentine” were the highlights of the main set. They played most of their best songs, although “My Mathematical Mind” and “Vittorio E” were notable exceptions. For those of you unfamiliar with Spoon, the last two songs of Encore #1-“The Beast and Dragon, Adorned” and “Small Stakes”–are arguably their two finest (I’m not in love with “Anything You Want” but it’s not bad or anything). I’m very pleased with this new trend of covering awesome British Invasion songs for encores. After watching Stephen Malkmus cover “Taxman” two weeks before and totally nail it, I was happy to see Spoon come through with a very tasteful song choice, and a performance which frankly was probably better than the original. Also, lead singer/guitarist Britt Daniel sings like a British guy, but he’s actually from Austin, Texas and sounds like Jim Belushi when he talks.

Someone asked me a question about encores in the previous post: yes all rock concerts have an encore. Some bands play two entire sets, then come back for a one song encore; other acts play one long set, then do a couple songs for an encore. This is the 1st show I’ve been to with multiple encores, but it’s not necessarily unheard of. The encore isn’t really a surprise as such. In my experience, when the show is actually over they turn the lights on, so you can always tell if the band is coming back for another encore or not. Ideally, your original set will leave the audience wanting more, so the encore provides a good sense of closure to the performance. I think for that reason, cover songs are very popular as an encore. Out of the 4 really good bands I’ve seen live–White Stripes, Spoon, Phish & Steven Malkmus–all of them performed cover songs during their encore. This would be a good Wikipedia entry for “encore”.