Saturday, September 29, 2007

Last night's reunion

The majority of last night's All-Class Reunion was a blast. I really enjoyed hanging out with my friend and date, Barb. Walking into our old high school brought a quick rush of emotion for me, and a much higher level of comfort than I was expecting, which was nicely theraputic. It reminded me that at least 2.5 of the 4 years I spent in high school were awesome. One of the people who deserves a lot of credit for this is our music teacher, Rita. Rita was the person who encouraged me to get involved in music at school, which is where I met the high school friends that I still have with me today. It also gave me my first shot of self-confidence, which I sorely lacked. I got a bit choked up seeing Rita at the assembly last night -- she looked amazing, especially considering that she just underwent surgery for breast cancer. When she did her performance as part of the assembly it was as if I was seeing the return of Elvis or something. She did such a good job. Overall I felt an incredible sense of pride in being part of what makes up my high school community. For the first time I made the connection between my life as a high school student and the academic achievements I've had as an adult. It was a pretty powerful thing.

Following the assembly (which dragged out way too long), Barb and I headed over to Gastof's in Northeast to see Popbang! play a few sets. The band was really good last night, and it was fun mingling with the old high school crowd, at least until the Octoberfest people started stumbling in. The place just got too crowded and drunk after that. Still, overall it was a fantastic night. Oh yeah - and I got this super cool baseball cap at the merchandise table at the high school (see pic).

On my turntable: Wendy & Lisa - Eroica

Eroica (1990) is my favorite Wendy and Lisa album. It was a CD that I was listening to a lot during a life transition back in August '90. For some reason music from transitional periods seems to hold stronger memory attachment for me. Not sure why. In this case I was transitioning into a house near the St. Paul campus of the U of M, in the gorgeous St. Anthony Park neighborhood. One day I decided to familiarize myself with the new neighborhood, so I grabbed my walkman, equipped with a tape of Eroica, and ventured towards campus. The first signs of fall were showing, and I just remember feeling significant peace that afternoon with Wendy and Lisa providing the soundtrack.

The first five years of the 90's were the period (perhaps I should say "dark period") when CDs were my primary music format. Before I wisened up and realized that LPs were superior I had purchased many many CDs (actually, since I worked in record stores from '88 to '93, a large percentage of the CDs were freebies). It's a thrill for me now to listen to albums from this period on vinyl -- in some cases it's like experiencing the music again for the first time. I love me my records.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Go Tommies

So my high school is having its 85th Anniversary All-Class Reunion this weekend. I normally stay far away from this sort of thing, but I'm almost looking forward to it. My friend Barb and I are going as each other's dates to the All School Assembly, and then to a local watering hole to see our friends (and fellow alumni) Popbang! play. It could be a blast, it might suck, but it will be memorable for sure.


I got a PERFECT score on my third lab assignment in my Statistics class. Those of you who know how anxious I have been about this doctoral level stats class will understand why I am so friggin proud of this.

So, I decided I get to boast about my points parfaits for the rest of the day, and then I need to focus on my first stats take-home exam which is due next Tuesday. No rest for the wicked.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Top 10 of Quarter III, 2007

As we enter the final Quarter of 2007, I present to you, kind readers, my personal Top 10 favorite songs of the past Quarter (July-August-September).

1. The One U Wanna C - Prince

2. Don't Stop Now - Crowded House
3. In This Town - Andrew Thompson
4. Only Mama Knows (live - iTunes exclusive) - Paul McCartney
5. Two Times Blue - Deborah Harry
6. Second Sight - Kula Shaker
7. Anime Eyes - Blip Blip Bleep
8. Watch Us Work It - DEVO
9. Baby Fratelli - The Fratellis
10. One I Love - Bridges

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On my turntable: George Harrison - Wonderwall Music

I love this album. It's typically a winter album for me, one that I don't listen to often. This is another one of many records that I bought at the Fridley Great American Music store (winter of '78/'79). My friend Nicky was with me when I bought it (he referred to it as "that album with the naked ladies on the cover."), and he was there when I listened to it for the first time. I remember how friggin hilarious he thought it was that there was no singing, just a bunch of weird eastern indian stuff. He laughed until he cried over that. At the time I admit I was a little disappointed, as I wanted something along the lines of All Things Must Pass (1970), but as I said I love this album now. I find it to be calming, and overall an interesting record.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

2:15 pm

study day

Van Halen rehearsal

There are a number of new videos on YouTube of a recent Van Halen "dress rehearsal" show, which was done for 300 guests. It certainly sounds like the band is ready to kick ass again, based on these clips. Here's a snippet of "Beautiful Girls":

Friday, September 21, 2007

On my turntable: The Beatles - Help! (US version)

The American version of Help! (1965), just like A Hard Day's Night (1964), features incidental music from the film between actual Beatles songs. When I was younger this sequencing annoyed me, but now I enjoy it. Of course, the British version of Help! is a better album, but from a historic standpoint it's fun to have both versions.

I bought this album in the summer of 1980 (I think), at the Fridley Great American Music store. I remember riding my bike home from the store, LP under my arm, and being pulled over by the Columbia Heights police. On my bike. Turns out I went through a stop sign, which is understandable because I had a new record to listen to once I got home. Stop sign, schmop sign.

So anyway that's my Help! story.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


This morning I received a call from my brother at about 6:30. Turns out he had received a vague phone message from our mom. She hadn't called me so we figured it wasn't urgent. Around 8:00 I got a call from mom at the hospital. She had taken dad to Emergency and the powers that heal were planning to keep him there for a while so they could keep an eye on him. Fortunately one of my fellow instructors offered to teach my class so that I could go visit him (thanks again, Kristina).

I feel so bad for my dad. He lives with lung disease and is so uncomfortable sometimes. Lately it's gotten to the point that he can hardly do anything without losing his breath. The good news through all of this is that his sense of humor is still intact. My dad is a very funny man, and he had us laughing (intentional or not) today at the hospital. Our family, like most, has had its tough times, but we're tight. We are able to find things to laugh at, which is a healing thing. I just pray that my dad will be able to heal to the point where he's not so miserable. If you happen to believe in prayer please feel free to say a prayer for my dad.

So tonite I tried to take care of myself. I ordered a pizza from our local pizza joint, did a little studying, played some records, and even made a little time to write some music, which I don't do so much these days. Leo's working an evening shift tonight so I expect he'll be nicely surprised to find leftover pizza when he gets home.

Seeing as the title of this entry is "Today", here's a video of Jefferson Airplane performing "Today" at the Monterey Pop Festival. Note how the camera stays on Grace Slick, even though Marty Balin is singing:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On my turntable: The Partridge Family - Up To Date

Up To Date (1971) is another back-to-school record for me. Not sure why. It's one of maybe a dozen records that I distinctly remember borrowing from the NE Minneapolis Public Library. I love The Partridge Family, both the show and the records, and I've certainly taken my share of hits for this over the years. But what's not to like? The records are fantastic and very well crafted, using amazing songwriters, musicians and singers. And as a kid from the 70's, I'm sure I wasn't alone in wishing I could be the 6th Partridge, traveling in that awesome bus, playing concerts at the drop of a hat. Seriously - I totally could have stolen Tracy Partridge's job - girl could not play tamborine to save her life.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Wacky Packs series 6!

On my turntable: J. Geils Band - Freeze Frame

First of all, let me explain that I'm not a particular fan of J. Geils Band, and Freeze Frame (1981) isn't anywhere near my Top 200 fave albums of all time. Having said that, I gotta say that after 26 years I'm able to appreciate this album again. It could be the autumn weather that's starting to creep in, making me think of high school. It could be that next week is my High School's all-class reunion (which Leo and I plan to attend). Who knows. I've blogged about this before, but in 1981-82 there were several essential albums that everyone seemed to have: Journey - Escape, REO Speedwagon - Hi InFIdelity, Foreigner - 4, Billy Squire - Don't Say No, and Freeze Frame.

Also essential, at least for this post, is this charming photo of yours truly from my 1982 yearbook.

A Message From Barry Manilow

Posted yesterday at

Hey guys,

I wanted to let you know that I will no longer be on The View tomorrow as scheduled. I had made a request that I be interviewed by Joy, Barbara or Whoopi, but not Elisabeth Hasselback. Unfortunately, the show was not willing to accommodate this simple request so I bowed out.
It’s really too bad because I've always been a big supporter of the show, but I cannot compromise my beliefs. The good news is that I will be on a whole slew of other shows promoting the new album so I hope you can catch me on those.


Go Barry! You know, although I certainly don't wish any harm to Ms. Elizabeth, I have to admit she's getting on my nerves as of late.

Monday, September 17, 2007

On my turntable: R.E.M. - Murmur

Of all the 80's R.E.M. albums, Murmur (1983) was the last one that I needed to buy, until this past weekend. I'd heard the album a couple of times, which might have been why I felt no urgency to buy it. It just doesn't excite me much.

There are those among you who believe that this was R.E.M.'s shining moment, as if they peaked with this album and everything since has sucked. Granted, I understand that there are some later R.E.M. tracks that were completely overplayed. "Losing My Religion". I get it. Still, have you listened to Automatic for the People (1992)? New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), dare I ask? Have you heard even one track from the lovely Around the Sun (2004)? Sorry -- that sounded confrontational. I just don't understand the alure that hooks some people to Murmur. It's a nice record, but that's about it, if you ask me. So help me out, Murmur fans. What is it about this record that is so friggin magical? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

"sweet jeeeeezus!"

I gave the bunnies a little something extra on top of their salads tonite -- a couple of spoonfuls of pineapple juice and a few teeny tiny pieces of pineapple. I try not to do this too often because I don't want them to come to expect it. On the occasion that I do add a little something sweet it's fun to watch their eyes get super big as they realize they're eating something uberlicious. Here's a pic of Austin attacking and then munching his dinner almost faster than bunnily possible. (kronsche kronsche kronsche)

fave sneaks

Skatetown U.S.A.

Another rollerdisco movie disaster, although I think I actually want to see this one!

In all of its glory...

The theatrical trailer for Roller Boogie:

Saturday, September 15, 2007

On my turntable: Roller Boogie OST

Oh my. Perhaps Roller Trainwreck would have been a more apt title. Has anyone out there seen this film? It stars Linda Blair in what I assume was her first and final rollerdisco picture. The soundtrack (1979) is equally impressive, with two LPs worth of music I've never heard before, with the exception of "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth Wind & Fire. I bought the LP today for a buck, mostly because it features a Cher song I'd never heard, "Hell On Wheels". It's an OK song. The rest of the album's stellar lineup includes the illustrious Johnnie Coolrock, Mavis Vegas Davis, Ron Green, Cheeks, and Bob Esty, who also produced, arranged & conducted the album. OK, um, WHO are these people?? I can just picture a group of coked-out execs in the Casablanca records board room saying "We're sittin' on a goldmine here, people. Roller Disco is all the rage right now. We can't miss. It doesn't matter that nobody has heard any of these artists. We've secured Cher for one song, and we've got Linda Blair in the starring role on the front cover in roller skates. It'll be gangbusters, man - we're gonna sell millions. And since it's a double album, that's twice the profit! Hey man - pass the coke."

New Andrew Thompson

Andrew Thompson is an indie artist from New York. He cites influences such as ELO, De La Soul, and the pit band from the Muppet Show. His new song "In This Town" is clothed in bits of Beach Boys, Bacharach, and Sesame Street. Check out the happy video:

Friday, September 14, 2007

On my turntable: Donny Osmond - Superstar

K-tel struck it rich with Donny Osmond Superstar (1973), released at the peak of Osmondmania. I must say I don't think I've ever listened to this album in its entirety, as I'm not a huge fan of Donny's early records. Most of his solo hits were simply sappy remakes of songs from the 50s. What I discovered tonight is that there are some gems hidden on Donny's early LPs written by his brothers. Case in point: "Love Me", which was on the Portrait of Donny (1972) album and the b-side of "Too Young". The song rocks, with heavy guitar and a big brass arrangement. Considering that this was around the same time that the Osmonds were releasing hard rock/pop albums such as Crazy Horses (1972) and The Plan (1973), it's not too surprising. Polydor (or whoever owns the rights to the recordings) should release a CD of Donny songs written by the Osmond brothers. If someone could get on this for me that would be great. Thanks.

On our fridge

A sampling of some of the icons adorning our icebox:

Historian, huh?

You know how I like my Top 10 lists. So I took this little career survey online and here's the Top 10 career matches it gave me:

7.ESL Teacher
8.Political Aide

Some of these are good matches (composer, writer, teacher)--it's interesting to me that Historian wound up at the top of the list. But Epidemiologist - WTF? Isn't that someone who works with old peoples' feet?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

On my turntable: The Jacksons - Triumph

It was the last week of August, 1984 and I was a new freshman at the U of M, Duluth, moving into my dorm room in Griggs Hall. After all the boxes and crates had been transfered from my parents' car, the first order of business was setting up the stereo and turntable. The first record to be played: The Jackson's Triumph (1980). It was, in fact, the first time I had ever heard the record. I purchased it the previous week at the Musicland store on Hennepin Avenue in downtown Minneapolis and set it aside, unplayed, with the intent of making it the first record I heard in my new home. A ceremonial sort of thing. Twenty-three years later this record always brings vivid memories of my first months in Duluth.

Triumph is, in my opinion, the greatest album by The Jacksons. It was still a couple of years before Michael would become "Michael Jackson", and the brothers sound hungry to make a great record, which they did. The songwriting, the arrangements, the grooves, it all works. It was the last time that The Jacksons created something that I would consider "stunning".


I may have mentioned my fear of statistics. It's probably more of a fear of failing statistics, since I actually find stats to be fun once I figure it out. It's sort of like a sport, except it involves math.

So a couple of days ago I reluctantly turned in my first lab assignment for my stats class. I say "reluctantly" because I feared that it was full of errors and that it would be the first in a long line of bad assignments for the class. Well, today I got the assignment back and I earned 17.3 out of 20! At first I was shocked, then proud, and then a little angry. I felt angry because somewhere in my youth I learned that I wasn't good at math and that I wouldn't be good at statistics. I want to be good at stats, and I know that I can be. So there. You heard me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

On my turntable: The Monkees - Instant Replay

It was a big thrill for me, roughly ten years after wearing out my first batch of Monkees LPs, to learn that there were several LPs from 1968-1970 that I never even knew about, albums such as Head, Monkees Present, Changes, and the album I'm listening to now, Instant Replay. Although I would have to wait until the 1986 Rhino reissues for Present & Changes, the other two were available as Japanese imports in the early 80's. By the late 80's Rhino was also issuing new albums of previously unreleased Monkees tracks, as well as an album of all-new material (1987's synth-heavy Pool It!).

Sunday, September 09, 2007

On my turntable: Lou Reed - Transformer

For years I was reluctant to like this album. I bought it in 1996 in a flury of used records, based on a MOJO magazine Top 100 list. Some of those records have since been sold back to the record store, and at one point I was tempted to sell this one as well, but I'm glad I kept it.

I'm not sure why I had such an attitude towards Lou Reed. It might have been his singing. It might have been all the little pseudo punk emo kids who worshiped Velvet Underground - I just didn't get it. So why is it that now I like this record? Dunno. Over the past few years I've developed a finer appreciation for early Glam records, like T-Rex's Electric Warrior, and the first New York Dolls LP. While I don't consider Transformer (1972) to be straight ahead glam, it does have Bowie's Hunky Dory-era stamp on it. The music is bare bones rock, with the occasional horns or strings thrown in for sweetening. It might have taken ten years, but I can now declare that I am officiallly a fan of this album.

On my turntable: The Monkees

Today is study day. To keep myself more alert I've been listening to the first three Monkees LPs.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

On my turntable: Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat

The first year or so of high school suuuuuuucked. There was the occasional bright moment, such as seeing the Go-Go's perform "Our Lips Are Sealed" on Solid Gold. I hunted down an import copy of the single at Hot Licks downtown, another bright moment. Soon I bought the full album at Don Leary's and joined the Go-Go's International Fan Club.

The Go-Go's broke up in 1985 but reunited for good in the 90's. In 2001 they released what I consider to be their best album, God Bless the Go-Go's.

Official Go-Go's

Friday, September 07, 2007

Wrecka Stowe

I had a good night at the record store, coming home with 5 records for $10, including a near pristine condition of KISS' Dynasty (1979), which still has the original poster. Kick ass. I've had my eye out for this for quite a while. Dynasty was the first KISS record I ever bought -- I remember exchanging the LP at the record store twice because each copy skipped through the intro of "I Was Made For Lovin' You." How was I supposed to get my rawk on if my fave song kept skipping? Interestingly, the copy I bought tonight also skips at the beginning of the same song!

Speaking of KISS, I ran into a fellow member of the KISS ARMY today at Target, my old friend and record store comrade Shelley. I was strolling through the shoe section looking to see if any of the sneakers were leather-free, and I heard "Jeff Anderson!". I almost pissed myself when I turned around and saw Shelley - I think the last time we saw each other was at her wedding 10 years ago. I told her that she's been on my Top 5 list of people I've lost touch with that I didn't know how to find. So today was a good day. Fun and Friends.

Happiness Is...

...that Hershey bar you had stashed in the fridge last week but forgot was there, which you just discovered at 11:05 pm tonight.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


On my turntable: Paul McCartney - Give My Regards To Broad Street

I bought this album the day it was released back in October 1984. It's a pleasant album from a rather dismal film. The only clunker here, in my opinion, is the unnecessary remake of "Silly Love Songs".

Broad Street (1984) is most definitely a Duluth record for me. That fall I was a awkward lowly freshman living in the dorms, trying to understand what this college thing was all about. Seeing as I wouldn't leave home without bringing my turntable and a couple crates of LPs, my roommate Randy and I had the most kickass stereo setup on our floor. I spent lots of time that year connected to my headphones when I should have been studying.

Here are a couple of pics that I found of the walls in our freshman dorm room, D114 Griggs Hall. These pics were taken in March, 1985. Note the presence of Broad Street posters alongside, well, Culture Club and Wham! posters. Hey - it was the 80's, what can I say.

(Click on the pics for a larger version, if you like.)

joy (?)

Around 2:50 this afternoon I was sitting in a hot and sticky classroom and felt a rush of what I think was joy. I could be wrong, because it's been a while since I've had this feeling. I'm wondering if this is an indication of how unhappy I was in my previous job. It's not that I am less busy now than I was before; I teach four days a week, attend classes three times a week, and I have statistics lab on Fridays. I think the difference is that now I'm getting energy from what I do.

On my way to class today I ran into two of my students from Fall 06, and we had a great little conversation. It reminded me of why it's so great working with students, in a university setting. It's hard to describe, but this is where I fit. It feels good having this realization.

Go Gophers.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New Crowded House

This is the brand new video for "She Called Up" from the latest Crowded House LP. At first I was bugged that the band is absent from the video, but now I think it's pretty cute:
Great song, too.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Fall, 2007

As I type this I wonder if I'll get enough sleep tonight. Tomorrow I start my new classes, both as a student and as an instructor. This is the third college course that I've taught, my second at the U of M. At this point I don't know whether teaching is a long-term goal of mine, but it's nice to have the experience on my resume should I decide that I do want to be a professor. One of the reasons that I'm pursuing a PhD is that it gives me the option of teaching as a professor at the college level, which I really can't do with just a masters degree.

So, the first day of the next phase starts tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

On my TV: MDA Telethon

On my turntable: The Beatles - Let It Be

This battered copy of Let It Be (1970) was one of three Beatles LPs I was given for my birthday back in 1977. I was a brand new Beatles fan that year, and all I wanted from my friends was Beatle records. So John Gump gave me the first Beatles LP (Meet The Beatles!), and Charlie Anway gave me the last Beatles LP (Let It Be). Over the next few years I dutifully filled in the gaps myself. Since '77 I've acquired a couple of nicer, cleaner copies of this album, but my first copy always seems to sound best.

Somos Familia

Today was the memorial service for my Aunt Marlene. It was pretty intense, but not necessarily in a bad way. Of course losing a loved one is sad, but it was great to see everyone in one place. Every single cousin from the Dietrich (my mom's) side of the family was present and accounted for, some of whom I've probably not seen for almost 20 years. It felt legitimately sweet to be around so much family, people I've known my whole life. It also felt great to have my partner Leo with us, since no one (except, ironically, Aunt Marlene) has had the chance to meet him. The service itself was very nice, and at times tearful. Marlene had 11 great-grandchildren, so you can imagine the place was pretty full.

Lessons learned this week?
1) Life is short and can end at any second. Thus, best to enjoy it.
2) Appreciate those that you love.
3) Whenever possible, laugh. One thing for sure about my mom's side of the family is that they like to laugh a lot. Even though there were a lot of tears today there were also lots of genuine smiles and chuckles, a reminder of the importance of humor. It's medicinal.

So, happy travels, Marlene. Thanks for the laughs. You are loved and missed by many.