Monday, December 31, 2007

The Best of 2007

Tonight for New Year's I just didn't feel like going out (sorry, friends). I took an amazing nap this afternoon and remain a bit groggy. Since Leo is working tonight I opted for hanging out at home with the bunnies, cleaning things up a bit around the house, and assembling my second annual "Fancy Best-Of".

So, without further delay, I present to you, kind readers -

Jeff's Fancy Best of 2007:

Best new artist: The Bird and the Bee
Best live show: Bangles at First Avenue
Best new vinyl LP: The Beatles - LOVE
Best new vinyl single: Peter Bjorn & John - "Young Folks"
Best vinyl re-issue: Bee Gees - Studio Years 6-LP box (Rhino)
Best local store for new vinyl: Cheapo Uptown
Best local store for used vinyl: Roadrunner
Best veggie menu: Camdi's, Dinkytown
Best breakfast if you're crazy hungry: Dinkytowner veggie Tex Mex
Best breakfast: Al's Breakfast, Dinkytown
Best sitcom: 30 Rock
Best bunny: (tie) Austin & Simon
Best classic candy: Chuckles
Best non-gelatin fruit snacks: Scooby Doo
Best new soda: Diet Pepsi Max
Best movie theater: Riverview
Best Vietnamese Restaurant: Kihn Do, Uptown
Best bunny food store: Chuck & Don's, Uptown
Best human food store: Trader Joes
Best vegan Buttery Spread: Earth Balance
Best whole bean coffee selection: Rainbow Foods, Quarry
Best schoolwork organizing system: Trapper Keeper
Best online music store (indie): insound.com
Best online music store (audiophile): MusicDirect.com
Best vegan muffins: Bordertown Coffee, Dinkytown
Best Pizza: Campus Pizza, Stadium Village
Best Twin City: Minneapolis (better luck next year, St. Paul)

Thanks for reading. Best to everyone in 2008!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

On my turntable: Cheap Trick - In Color

"December 1979" is what I have scrawled on the inner sleeve of In Color (1977), my favorite Cheap Trick album. In 1979 Cheap Trick was nearing their initial peak of popularity in the U.S., and for some reason that fall (around the release of Dream Police) cut out bins were overflowing with discounted copies of the first two Cheap Trick albums. So I bought them both.

Thirty years later Cheap Trick has yet to top this album (No, Jay, Standing on the Edge is not better. No!), although they've certainly had some moments of recorded brilliance, and they're still one of the best live bands in the world.

Breakfast

Scooby Snacks. I'm addicted to these things.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

On my turntable: George Harrison - Dark Horse

Dark Horse (1974) is another introspective winter LP for me. I first owned the album on 8-track in the late 70's, along with a dozen or so other Beatles solo 8-tracks that I snatched up out from the clearance bins at Musicland (Apache Plaza, Northtown, Rosedale). In December 1980 I purchased this vinyl copy at the late, great Music City store that used to reside on 7th & Hennepin in downtown Minneapolis. The day I bought the album was very much like today, weather-wise -- grey and snowy and moody.

Speaking of George Harrison albums, Leo got me the ridiculously handsome brand new Traveling Wilburys Collection (2007) for my big fancy xmas present, which is now resting comfortably in my collection (see pic). Aside from Peace on Earth and feeding the children, this was the one item I wanted most for Christmas. Thanks, puddin'.

My fancy year in review

So I'm big on re-capping the passing year when New Years comes around. Can't help it. Anyway, I saw this posted on someone else's blog and thought I'd give it a try myself:

The first sentence of the first post of each month of 2007:

January:
Anyone else remember this?
February: "Guitar", a brand new song by Prince, was released today as an exclusive download purchase through 3121.com.
March: Demolition of my childhood movie theater started earlier this week.
April: As someone who shares his home with companion rabbits I certainly know how adorable bunnies can be.
May: My professor gave the class an extra weekend to complete our final essay, so I'm able to relax and get caught up on laundry and dishes tonight.
June: I’m writing this in the van on our return from the Duluth conference.
July: Leo and I read a nice prayer tonight called "Blessing Prayer For Renewing a Commitment Between Two Persons", written by Edward Hays.
August: I just got home from a Remicade infusion (for the Crohn's disease).
September: Today was the memorial service for my Aunt Marlene.
October: (no text, just a picture)
November: Life definitely feels like a fast moving train at the moment.
December: 11:03 am. First major snowstorm of the year.

Thanks, as always, to everyone who reads this humble blog. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2007

On my turntable: K-tel - Right On

So as I was working on my statistics (see previous post) I wanted a long LP that wouldn't require me to get up and flip the record too quickly. I chose this 1976 gem from K-tel. Aside from boasting one of the best song line-ups of the 1970's K-tel albums, Right On also features one of the label's most memorable covers. Now, I don't mean to sound sexist, but I have a feeling this little lady on the cover was, shall we say, very popular with the boys for reasons other than her intellect. I'm sure she was a very smart girl, but apparently not smart enough to know that it's not right to dress like a hussy in public, let alone on a million-selling album cover. Just kidding of course - I'm sure her parents were very proud of her. (trivia: according to the tiny print on the back cover, this gal's name is Kerry Cardrelli, lead vocalist of a band called Free Fall. Who knew.)

Here is but a sampling of some of Right On's awesome tracks:

"The Boys are Back in Town" - Thin Lizzy
"Magic Man" - Heart
"Strange Magic" - ELO
"Saturday Night" - Bay City Rollers
"Love Hangover" - Diana Ross
"Magic" - Pilot
"Dazz" - Brick
"You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" - Lou Rawls

I figure a K-tel compilation can't miss when it includes three bonafide hits with the word "magic" in them. Am I right? K-tel outdid themselves with this one.

*zoinks*

I may have mentioned that I took incompletes for my Fall semester classes, as it didn't seem realistic to work on this stuff while grieving for my dad and doing the necessary things with my family. This week I've slowly been inching my way back into this coursework, and today I managed to get so much done. I took this pic just moments after completing my final stats lab:

*heavy sigh*

So now my finals week can technically begin, albeit a little late. I'm at a point now where I just want to complete everything so that I can move on. I have one last take-home exam to complete, and one final paper. Then it's on to the new challenges of Spring semester. Thanks to everyone for your words of support & encouragement. It has meant a great deal.

On my turntable: Barry Manilow - Swing Street

I'm no Manilow expert, and by that I mean I've not heard all of his albums. After hearing Swing Street (1987) for the first time this weekend, however, it appears to me that Barry's best work has surfaced when people weren't paying attention. Examples:

1984's Paradise Cafe
The 1990 holiday masterpiece Because It's Christmas
Nancy Wilson's With My Lover Beside Me (1991), produced by Barry

and this album, Swing Street. These albums were not created with the intent of generating hit singles. I think by the mid-80's Manilow knew that all the money in the world couldn't buy him a hit, so he might as well make records that he could be passionate about. It's that passion that make these records so worthwhile.

Of course these days Manilow looks like a 50-something botoxed suburban housewife, and his albums are selling like hotcakes again (thanks to Wal-Mart shoppers). Is it wrong for me to want people to stop buying his CDs so that we can see more genius from him? Is it?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas jammies

Tonight as I put on my fresh new Christmas pajamas (thanks Mom) I recalled how much I hated getting clothes for xmas as a kid. In contrast I love these new pajamas and find much comfort in them. Does that make me old?

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas at Apache Plaza

Christmas always makes me a bit sentimental about my childhood mall, Apache Plaza.





Here are a couple of old pics of Apache from the 1960's, taken around the holidays.

Fave xmas tree ornament

This Partridge Family ornament plays "C'mon Get Happy" when you press on the doors of the bus. How fancy is that?

SAFE

It's been snowing pretty heavily in Minneapolis today. I don't typically enjoy driving, but I REALLY hate driving in a snowstorm. Despite this, I reluctantly ventured out to finish my Christmas shopping this morning. Ugh.

Surprisingly, I remained in decent spirits throughout the whole adventure. I was most surprised by my calm demeaner at the grocery store, which was packed full of crabby shoppers. When I'm surrounded by that many unhappy people I sometimes tend to be extra nice and polite, if just to spite them. For example, the lady in front of me at checkout was so obviously aggitated, with her hands in her face, sighing heavily, and scowling at the cashier. Here's the deal: if you're at the grocery store at 1:00 on the afternoon before Christmas eve, you have nobody to blame but yourself. Those who manage their time better do not find themselves in this predicament. So suck it up, Lady. Anyway, when I got up to the cashier I made sure she got a big smile and extra cheerfulness. Ho Ho Ho.

I made it home from my trip in one piece. I'm now on the couch with a handsome little bunny rabbit lying next to me on the floor. Seems like a good time for a nap...

Friday, December 21, 2007

On my turntable: The Beatles 1967-1970

Known by many as "the blue album", 1967-1970 was the first Beatles lp that I purchased with my own money, back in 1977. Earlier that same year I received three Beatles lps for my birthday, thus jump-starting my obsession with the band. Thirty years after becoming a Beatlemaniac, 1967-1970 remains one of my all-time favorites.

I've upgraded many of my old lps over the years, and will likely purchase a new copy of 1967-1970 eventually. Still, there's a certain comfort in pulling out the older, worn & tattered copies of records that have been with you for a long time. It's not easy to explain, although it's an experience that digital music will never provide. Analog is like comfort food, like a big ol' plate of mashed potatoes.

Mmmm mashed potatoes.

When I Grow Up

I often find these little blog personality inventories to be annoying, unless of course they tell me something nice or affirming. :)
You Should Be a Teacher

You are patient, optimistic, and good at explaining things.
You work well with all types of people, and you are a good role model.
Success and positive outcomes are extremely important to you.
You are both a good leader and instructor. People look up to and depend on you.

You do best when you:

- Can see the results of your work
- Are able to teach someone a new skill

You would also be a good nurse or non fiction writer.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All dressed up for Christmas

Leo (on a stepladder) putting the star on the tree. On our turntable tonight while we decorated: The Carpenters' Christmas Portrait (1978) and The Osmonds' Christmas Album (1976).

Monday, December 17, 2007

On my turntable: Elton John - Madman Across The Water

Madman Across The Water (1972) is a winter album for me. My good friend Kim grew up with her sisters' Elton John records, and for many years she would give me an Elton LP (and later CDs) for each birthday and Christmas. She gave me this album (if my memory is correct) for Christmas 1986. While Madman isn't in my Elton top 5ive, it's still a damn good record (Thanks, Kimberly).

Naked




Top 20 songs of 2007


So...

As promised, here they are, ranked in order, my top 20 fave songs of the past year. Of course, I'm very interested in your lists as well (be they ranked or not), so you ambitious types feel free to post!

1. "Again & Again"
- The Bird and the Bee

2. "Ever Present Past" - Paul McCartney
3. "Put You In Your Place" - The Sunshine Underground
4. "Young Folks" - Peter Bjorn & John
5. "Let's Get Together" - Go-Go's
6. "Call Me What You Like (if you like rock-n-roll)" - Puffy AmiYumi
7. "The One U Wanna C" - Prince
8. "Don't Stop Now" - Crowded House
9. "Second Sight" - Kula Shaker
10. "Makes Me Wonder" - Maroon 5
11. "Wind It Up" - Gwen Stefani
12. "In This Town" - Andrew Thompson
13. "Falling Down" - Duran Duran
14. "Grace Kelly" - Mika
15. "Lloyd, I'm Ready To be Heartbroken" - Camera Obscura
16. "The Silence Between Us" - Bob Mould
17. "Baby Fratelli" - The Fratellis
18. "Two Times Blue" - Deborah Harry
19. "Parachute" - Sean Lennon
20. "Thou Shalt Always Kill" - dan le sac VS Scroobius Pip

On my turntable: Dan Fogelberg - NetherLands

I've never been a fan of Dan Fogelberg, outside of a short period in 1980 when "Longer" was in heavy rotation and my brother owned the Phoenix lp. Still, this morning when I learned that Fogelberg had died of prostate cancer, I couldn't resist digging out my partner's copy of NetherLands (1977). It's a very nice album, in a late 70's soft-rock sort of way. My sympathies go out to the many fans who grieving today.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Best of 2007 Quarter IV

“Let’s Get Together” – Go-Go’s
“Falling Down” – Duran Duran
“Kid” – Barry Cowsill
“Peekaboo” – The Free Design
“You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” – Tal Bachman
“The Silence Between Us” – Bob Mould
“Big Casino” – Jimmy Eat World
“In The Sun” – Michael Stipe
“You Never Party” – The Sunshine Underground
“PFunk” – Prince
“Tranquilize” – The Killers w/Lou Reed
“Pomade Suite Version One” – Prefuse 73
“I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times (Bullion remix)” – The Beach Boys
“I Should’ve Been After You” – Rooney
“Sooma (all this vision)” – Jackdaw4
“Carol of the Bells” – The Bird and the Bee
“Close Your Mouth (It’s Christmas)” – The Free Design
“Crescent City Snow” – Susan Cowsill
“Sometimes You Have to Work On Christmas (sometimes)” – The Long Winters

On my turntable: Xanadu Soundtrack

So last night at mom's house my brother says "Xanadu was a great movie", which begged the question, "When was the last time you watched Xanadu??" Xanadu starts out with so much promise and sparklyness, but halfway through it becomes a train wreck and totally derails. Not a great film, but that doesn't mean I don't still love it. The movie's greatest strength? It's soundtrack.

In the second half of 1980 the Xanadu soundtrack spawned five major hits, which received heavy rotation on the radio, at the roller rink, and my parents' basement. It's hard to believe that an album this awesome could actually come from such a dud of a movie. Xanadu is definitely in my top 10 greatest soundtracks of all time.

10:34 pm

Dad's funeral service today was gorgeous. Folks from all different corners of the family were there, along with many many friends. The service itself was short & sweet, just as dad would have liked. The church was filled with afternoon sunshine and lots of love. An emotional peak was when the church sang "Silent Night", while the immediate family placed five white roses on the altar next to dad's ashes. Not a dry eye in the joint. Afterward we were all treated to a true Northeast Minneapolis lunch catered by Marino's Deli (luckily there were leftovers too). A heartfelt *thank you* to everyone who contributed to making the service so special. I'm pretty confident that dad would have been pleased with the whole event.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Twelve 13 oh seven

It's been just eight days since my dad passed. His obituary was printed in this morning's paper, which was surreal to see. Tomorrow is his memorial service, which I am both looking forward to and dreading. I like the idea of having family and friends come together to recognize how awesome my dad was, and to mourn his passing together, but I somewhat dread the high level of social activity. Like my dad, I tend to be phobic of certain large social gatherings. I know it will all be OK, though. No worries.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Fave new tee

So Monday night I was supposed to go with my supercool friend Ellen to see The Lemonheads play in Dinkytown, but due to everything that's happening it didn't seem wise for me to go. So what does Ellen do? She surprises me today with this kickass t-shirt from the show. I heart my friend Ellen like nobody's business. I also heart my new t-shirt.

Fun & Friends.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Business card of the week

I found this tonight as I was cleaning and preparing a space for our kickass Christmas tree. It's one of my dad's business cards from the 80's. I don't know much about the company, or whether they even exist anymore.

baby steps

Tonight I made an effort to re-enter the real world. Sounds dramatic, doesn't it? It hasn't even been a week yet since dad died, so I suppose I could cut myself some slack. Anyway, tonight I went to class, which was a little harder than I expected, in terms of being able to fully concentrate and participate. At one point tonight it felt a bit like I personally just got out of the hospital (which isn't totally untrue, considering how much time I spent there last week). Still, I'm really glad that I went to class. Tomorrow I plan to go to work and teach my final class of Fall semester. I had an excellent group of students this term and I want to be able to get some closure with them. Tomorrow's class may not be the best I've ever taught, but that's OK. I'll do my best.

Thanks to everyone for the wonderful words of support and encouragement. You are all awesome.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Top 10 LP's of 2007

Well, here it is - my Top Ten favorite New Vinyl Releases of 2007. Four of the 10 were technically released in 2006 (as noted below), but they didn't reach my turntable until this year. Omitted from this list were reissues, which is why you don't see the awesome "Bee Gees - The Studio Albums" listed here.

1. LOVE - The Beatles
2. The Bird and the Bee
3. Vision Valley (2006) - The Vines
4. Memory Almost Full - Paul McCartney
5. Time on Earth - Crowded House
6. Friendly Fire (2006) - Sean Lennon
7. Endless Wire (2006) - The Who
8. Let's Get Out of This Country (2006) - Camera Obscura
9. The Lemonheads
10. Can Cladders - The High Llamas

Honorable mention: Cosmic Peekaboo (2006) - The Free Design

Top 5ive 7" singles of 2007


I've developed a renewed appreciation for the 7" single recently. Although I purchased a good number of them this year, these are the only five with a "2007" release date:

1. "Young Folks"- Peter Bjorn & John
2. "Ever Present Past" - Paul McCartney
3. "Second Sight" - Kula Shaker
4. "Grace Kelly" - Mika
5. "Nothing Changes Around Here" - The Thrills

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sad

Today I feel really sad about losing my dad, more so than any day so far. It's starting to feel real, that I'll never speak with him again, or hang out with him. I know it's all part of life. Still sucks though.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Thursday, December 06, 2007

J.E.A. 10/12/32 - 12/5/07

My Dad passed away last night with his family around him. We held his hands and told him how much we loved him. It was very intense, but mostly peaceful and very much a blessing for the family, as we were able to spend his final hours at his side. It was awful to see and feel him leaving us, but also a relief to know he would no longer be living with the pain and struggle of COPD.

Thanks to all our friends who have been so supportive over the past several months. Thanks to my family for working together in supporting Dad. Of course, thanks to Dad for everything. We love you and will never forget all that you gave and did for us. You are our hero.


"There was never a time when I did not exist, nor you - nor will there be any future in which we shall cease to be."

-SRI KRISHNA, THE BHAGAVAD-GITA

Peace.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Snow Day

Well, I hate to say this but the snow kept me from venturing out to see Shonen Knife tonight. I hate driving in this stuff. Does that make me old? Probably does. It snowed all day, somewhere between 4-8 inches. Our friend Joan sent us the above picture of Chunky McChunkersons, who was in her front yard earlier this afternoon. Pretty much sums it up.

Look what I can do

Do you ever just get the urge to dig out the coloring book and the crayons? This afternoon I was taking a break from studying and instinctively went to turn on the television, but instead paused and thought "Hey - I wonder whatever happened to that Peanuts Holiday Fun coloring book we used to have..." So here you go:


Franklin says "Happy Holidays".

Look Through My Window

11:03 am. First major snowstorm of the year.