Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On my turntable: The New Pornographers - Twin Cinema

I bought this album in Fall 2006 after hearing the title track and then seeing the record listed on my friend Amy Dietz's "Best of 2005" list. I figured if Amy liked it that was reason enough to check out. What can I say - I trust her taste.

Twin Cinema is a real swell album. At times it reminds me a bit of Quasi, another band that Amy introduced me to. The New Pornographers released a new LP, Challengers, in 2007, which I've not yet heard. Any of you readers out there heard it? Recommend it?

lunch

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

ACTING!

One of the great works in classic literature, presented by a Shakespearean actor...

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thank you, Juan Valdez

I barely managed two hours of sleep last night. Unfortunately it was not due to my rock-n-roll lifestyle of endless parties and wild nights on the town. No, I was in bed by 9:30, and lied there in a pre-sleep state until around 4:30, when I finally drifted off. Time the alarm went off: 5:30.

I would personally like to thank Mr. Juan Valdez for saving my life today. Oh sweet coffee bean, where would I be without ye.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Tattoo

The peace sign on my left ankle was my second tattoo. It's hard to believe I've had it for almost 12 years. My first tattoo, 13 years old, is a round Hindu "Om" symbol, to represent spirituality.

I'll probably still get one more tattoo, a 45 adapter on my upper arm (see pic, right), to represent music. If I don't do it in the near future I'll definitely do it on my 45th birthday ('cause it's a 45 adapter, get it?).

On my turntable: The Smithereens - 11

There were a lot of bands that I eschewed in the 80's because they were considered "College Rock". Of course, most of those bands, including The Smithereens, ended up being some of my favorites. I think that by the late 80s, when the whole hair-metal craze was in full swing, college-rock started looking like a very attractive alternative. So by the time 11 was released in 1989 I was ready to enjoy The Smithereens, and after seeing them play live the following summer I was indeed a fan.

11 remains by far my favorite Smithereens album, although I can't say that I've heard all of them. Last year the band released their own track-for-track version of Meet The Beatles! (appropriately titled Meet The Smithereens!), which seems like a great concept, but overall I found it uninteresting. The songs were pretty much true covers of the original versions, and who needs that when you've got the originals? I'm not necessarily against cover albums, though. Some of the songs that I've heard off Paul Anka's Classic Songs, My Way (2007) for example, are awesome. And Steve and Eydie's cover of "Black Hole Sun" is untouchable, in my opinion (you can listen to that track here).

Apache Plaza 1961-2004

video


Some of you know that I'm the webmaster for ApachePlaza.com. I admit it's a pretty geeky thing to take credit for, but I'm sorta proud of it. In the last couple of months of Apache's existence, my website was the official site for the mall. Apache was a classic, architecturally gorgeous building, and it was demolished to make way for a WalMart. I say harumph.

This is the first "movie" I've made on my mac. It's just a little something I threw together last night, showing Apache's history in three and a half minutes. It's been a while since I've had the time for a fun creative project, so I really enjoyed doing it. The soundtrack is the b-side of an ELO single I purchased at Apache Plaza in 1981. Seemed like a fitting track for this little homage to my deceased childhood mall.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Allow me to introduce...

New cardigan:

Angie & Jesse

I began watching All My Children in the summer of 1981. Occasionally over the years the show would piss me off and I would quit watching for a while. I've been tuning in regularly now for about a month, and I must admit this week's return of Angie Hubbard has been really good. Angie and Jesse were one of the great couples of the early 80's, along with their best friends Jenny and Greg. Of course Jenny died in that tragic jetski accident, and Jesse was shot and died on camera, or so we thought. Apparently Jesse has been alive all this time, even though there were recurring scenes of him from heaven, but as we know nothing is ever final in soapland. Jesse is expected to make an appearance on today's show, which I'm watching right now. Very exciting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Al Gore is MY President

Al Gore has now come out in support of equal rights for same-sex couples. He is a bona-fide superstar. When I think of how different this country might be if George Bush hadn't stolen the 2000 election, it makes my stomach hurt. (Then again, lots of things make my stomach hurt. Twizzlers make my stomach hurt, but I still love them.)

On my turntable: De La Soul - Impossible Mission

When I was an undergraduate in college, I idolized De La Soul. They were a mix of social consciousness, humor, smart psychedelic sounds, and a little bit of updated hippie style. They were unconventional, and groundbreaking. After De La Soul I branched out to other "Native Tongue" artists like Jungle Brothers, Monie Love, Black Sheep, and A Tribe Called Quest, but De La Soul remained my favorite.

The group self-released Impossible Mission in 2006. It's a mish-mash of new and unreleased stuff, sort of like a mix tape or a podcast, with bits of commentary and history thrown in. Good album. I hope there's more to come.

...and scene.

What a friggin' journey. Fall semester was without question one of the most challenging terms I've ever had as a student, both academically and personally. With the death of my dad, and going through the process of being diagnosed with ADD (which ended up being more positive than negative), in addition to having two very challenging courses, I sort of went through the wringer. BUT, yesterday I submitted my final paper and exam for my classes, and by this morning my awesome professors had already posted my grades. Done. I actually did alright, too.

On to the next round.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Some people just don't listen

So I just received a call from the Minnesota DFL party asking for donations. The young lady started her call by launching right into her monotone speech, concluding with "Could you help us out today with a donation of $100.00?" Now here's the deal. Cold calling and fundraising is hard work, and I have mucho respect for those who do it.

So I kindly told the woman that I'd love to help, but as a graduate student who is behind on his heating bill I don't even have $10 to give. I gots nuttin'. Empty wallet with moths flying out of it. You know the routine. So here's the best part: Without missing a beat she says "I understand, sir. Perhaps you could help out with a more modest donation of $75.00."

Slight pause.

Hmm. Riddle me this, Curly Sue. If I don't have ten dollars to give you, how would I magically have seventy-five dollars? I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure this is first grade math: 10 is less than 75. If Jack does not have ten apples to give Janet, he most certainly does not have 11, 25, 50, or 75. My guess is that fundraiser lady knows this, and that she just doesn't listen.

I thanked her for her hard work and told her to have a nice night.

And now, as an added bonus, here is a delightful short from The Electric Company, examining further the premise that people do not listen. (This cartoon always makes me laugh, by the way. Always.)

"Woolworth's Stereo Spectacular '71"

I want a way-back machine, so that I can attend this sale:

Remember

MLKMartin Luther King speaking at the St.Paul campus of the U of M, 4/27/67.
(Photo from MN Dept of Human Rights)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sharpened

It's been less than two months since I started taking meds for A.D.D.. I remain surprised by how long I am able to stay on task with my schoolwork. It's amazing, like having a mental pencil sharpener. I'm not totally used to it yet; I feel sometimes like my brain is still adapting to this new way of functioning. I think about how many years I struggled and tried to compensate for my inability to concentrate, and it just makes me so grateful that I finally took the plunge and looked into it.

photo: my fancy orange pencil sharpener

What I'll be reading

My course textbooks for Spring '08 semester:

Saturday, January 19, 2008

study break

On my turntable: The Glove - Blue Sunshine

I remember being intrigued with Blue Sunshine (1983) and its psychedelic cover art when I first saw it in the '80's, but I never took a risk to buy it until I found this used copy earlier this week for three bucks. I am listening to it now for the 2nd time, and the jury is still out on whether I like it or not.

The Glove, from what I understand, is actually The Cure performing under an alias. I have never been a Cure fan - I find Robert Smith's voice to be highly grating. One thing that The Glove has going for it is that most of the vocals are sung by someone else (Jeanette Landray, who I really know nothing about). I'm going to have to keep listening to this album to see if it grows on me...

Friday, January 18, 2008

On my turntable: Blondie - Eat to the Beat

Blondie is one of my favorite bands, and Eat To the Beat (1979) is probably my favorite Blondie album. I remember the day I bought this record at Zayre's Shopper's City in Columbia Heights, in the early winter months of 1980. I also remember renting the full-length video version of this album, and being so impressed that a band would make a video of a whole album. Since then I've been lucky enough to see Blondie in concert a few times, and they still kick ass. The members of the band (especially Jimmy Destri) are still capable of writing really catchy pop songs, Clem Burke is, in my opinion, one of the best rock drummers alive, and Debbie is still a legend.

Here is the video for my favorite ETTB track, "The Hardest Part":

The Chicken or the Egg?

This weekend is the final stretch in my completion of Fall '07 semester. Seeing as I have a lot to complete in the next three days, I scribbled down a tentative schedule earlier today to help keep me on track. Which got me a' wonderin':

Do I write out schedules because I'm busy,
or
Am I busy because I write out schedules?

It's true that I am sometimes rigid about time. I suppose It's either a strength or a weakness, depending on how you approach it. I choose to believe that it helps me get everything done, so that I'm not scrambling to finish things at the very last minute. I know people who function very well and produce great stuff under pressure. I don't consider myself one of those people.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

TIME: "Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back"

Well, if TIME magazine is writing about vinyl's resurgence, then I guess that makes it official:

Vinyl Gets Its Groove Back

"It's all about the sauce"

I love this commercial, and I'll tell you why. It's the little sound that is made, at approximately :19 seconds, when the dog dips into the sauce. It makes me laugh every time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Amazon.com opens new Vinyl Store

The demand for new vinyl LPs keeps growing. Just last night I learned that Amazon.com has added a Vinyl Store to its site. I've certainly navigated friendlier sites, but it's still very cool to have a monster like Amazon recognizing this market.

Amazon Vinyl Store

Monday, January 14, 2008

On my turntable: The Kings Are Here

Those of you who read this blog regularly probably know how music is seasonal for me. Minnesota is experiencing cold snap this week, which has me itchin' for some winter music. So I go to the LPs, and scan until something strikes me: The Kings Are Here (1980). Bingo. I check to see if there's a receipt inside, and of course there is. The purchase date: 1/16/2005, two years ago this week.

In 1980 The Kings had a pair of songs that got a lot of airplay here in the Twin Cities. The double hitter of "The Beat Goes On"/"Switchin' to Glide" was tailor-made for 1980 pre-MTV radio. New Wave was very hot, and The Kings' sound fit right in alongside other new artists like Gary Numan, M, and The Vapors. The Kings Are Here was produced by Bob Ezrin, who was fresh off of producing Pink Floyd's mammoth The Wall. It's a great record, very much an audio time capsule that captures the frantic energy at the start of the '80's. It was an exciting time in music.

The Kings are still a band, still residing in their homeland of Canada. They have an official website that you can check out here:

THE KINGS ARE HERE

On my desk

Sunday, January 13, 2008

1.13.08 (Crohn's, stats, and napping rabbit)

Just wanted to post a quick follow-up to my post from last Monday. I did get my infusion on Wednesday and by Friday things were feeling better. This morning feels quite good, with no pain in the gut. Whew. I am mucho grateful for this, since the coming week is filled with a lot of activity, both academically and at work. Classes start a week from Tuesday so I've got a lot of loose ends I need to tie up. It will all get done. No stress. Today I'll be working on finishing up my stats exam, and spending a little more time on my paper.

So in the time since I've started typing this our bun Austin has parked himself behind the couch. I just took this pic of him - right now he's in the pre-nap position. I expect that in 10 minutes he'll be reduced to a big puddle of fur on the floor. Such is the life of a rabbit.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

On my turntable: Paul McCartney & Wings - Red Rose Speedway

I tend to picture McCartney as being really stoned throughout the making of Red Rose Speedway (1973). Case in point: "Loup (1st Indian on the Moon)" an instrumental that serves no real purpose, except maybe unless you're super high. Also, the four song medley that closes side two (a la Abbey Road) is so half baked (pun intended) that Paul must have been just high enough to think that it was a brilliant masterwork. In reality, it's a series of incomplete musical ideas strung together into a dull "medley". Of course, Paul's strength - melody and skillful arrangements - are intact throughout, but he has certainly proven that he is capable of much more. Still, there are highlights on the album, mostly the first part of side one: "Big Barn Bed", "Get On The Right Thing", and the superb single, "My Love". Mere months after Red Rose Speedway, Paul and Wings would release the masterpiece Band On The Run (1973), cementing Paul's reputation as a pop genius.

On my turntable: God Save The Clientele

I don't know much about The Clientele. Up until a couple of weeks ago I'd never heard of them. One of the music blogs that I read rated God Bless The Clientele (2007) as the best LP of last year, so I thought it might be worth the risk. Turns out it's a very lovely album. One of the online reviews I read likened it to The Monkees and The Beach Boys, and I suppose there are elements in some of these songs that fit that discription. I would also add Belle & Sebastian and Prefab Sprout to the list. To be honest, the lead singer's voice is taking some getting used to, but I'm warming up to it. So far I'm glad I picked this one up.

9:34 am

Quote of the week: Don Shelby


"I can teach a lot. That's not because I'm smart, but because I've made a lot of mistakes."
-Don Shelby
Twin Cities news anchor

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New year, new music

When a new year starts, I usually scramble to find new tunes. Who wants to listen to last year's music? So I've been scouring the music blogs, seeing what other people are listening to. Ten days into 2008 I've stumbled on a nice little playlist of new stuff:

"Liverpool 8" - Ringo Starr
"By Torpedo or Crohn's" - WHY?
"See You At the Lights" - 1990s
"Drink Tea" - Kula Shaker
"Take My Time" - Junior Senior
"Sensual Seduction" - Snoop Dogg
"How Deep Is Your Love" - The Bird and the Bee
"Lost With You" - Loverboy
"Isn't Life Strange" - The Clientele
"Wierd Fishes/Arpeggi" - Radiohead
"Pistol Grip" - The Blakes
"Hey Kate!" - The Fire Apes

What are YOU listening to? Any recommendations?

gaki no tsukai ya arahende

Ellen showed a clip from this Japanese game show today, and it was one of the funniest damn things I've seen in a long time:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

peace.

On my turntable: Beach Boys - Made in U.S.A.

In the summer of 1986, one year after the release of the very pleasant The Beach Boys (1985) LP, Capitol released yet another hits collection. Yawn. Don't get me wrong - it's a really good collection, but how many do we need? And seriously, "Barbara Ann" is one of my least favorite songs by anybody, ever. The song gives me hives. In concert they usually played it as the final encore, by which time the ladies in the audience were good and liquored up on wine coolers, and they'd go crazy because this was a song they could all sing along with. (cut to scene): "Oh my god Jennifer I love this song! You're my best friend, Jennifer. I'm sho glad you dragged me to this concert. No-I'm sheerious. Shut up - I am not drunk! OK maybe a little. Beach Boys rule! WOOO!" And then she'd lift up her tube top and start making out with some random guy. Happened every time (OK maybe not the bit about the tube top). For me this song always meant "OK concert's over. Let's go."

The highlight of Made In U.S.A. was the inclusion of two new tracks, particularly the first single, "Rock 'n' Roll To The Rescue" (great song, but its video was painfully bad). The first time I heard the song I didn't recognize the singer. It took a while for me to realize that it was Brian Wilson (along with Al Jardine) on the verses. He sounded so good, I thought. Exciting as the song was, it pretty much tanked on the charts, although the follow-up single "California Dreamin'" fared a bit better.

videos:
Rock 'n' Roll To The Rescue
California Dreamin'

11:17 pm

Bedtime.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Rosary

I didn't grow up Catholic (I "converted" in 2006), so praying the rosary is not something I've done much. I think I did it once. Perhaps now that I'm being treated for ADD I might have the attention span for it. Leo bought this rosary for me (right) because it is orange (my favorite color). It hangs on the wall on my side of the bed.

Leo grew up Catholic, and since we've joined the church our house has become filled with icons and crucifixes and candles and all sorts of Catholic Jesus and Mary knicky knacks. I like them, party because I know how much they mean to Leo, but there's also a comfort that I find in being surrounded by them.

"The Death of Hi-Fi"

There is a very interesting discussion going on over at RollingStone.com. Of course there are a number of people using the discussion as an opportunity to tell the world how smart they are, which is amusing. "You people obviously know nothing about anything. I know everything and I shall now proceed to share my smarts with you, and you shall all marvel in my smartitude." The best part of the discussion is seeing so many people sharing their love for vinyl.

Link

Monday, January 07, 2008

funk.

I woke up this morning in a foul, depressed mood. It's a mix of a bunch of stuff that's probably too personal to share on the internet, but WTF. Why stop now?

I started having some gut pain last night, which persisted today (although it feels better at the moment). I get my bi-monthly Remicade infusion this week, so I'm not too worried about it, but it still made me a bit cranky this morning. I've lived with Crohn's disease now for over 20 years, but every once in a while I still have self-defeating thoughts and brief one-person pity parties. I suppose that's natural. Eventually I come around and remember all the positives in my life, but this morning my sour gut just seemed like the icing on a nasty cake that's been baking since my dad died.

After dad passed I didn't really start to miss him right away; when he was alive I would sometimes go two or three weeks without seeing him. This weekend marked four weeks since his passing, and his absence feels more permanent. For the moment it appears that I'm not moving on with my life as quickly as I thought I was. Perhaps my grieving was a bit delayed with the activites around Christmas. All I know is that today I'm sad, and I am allowing myself to be OK with that. It's all a part of healing, I suppose.

Tomorrow's gonna be another day, right?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

On my turntable: The Monkees - Changes

Changes (1970) is a stinker of a Monkees album, but it is an interesting part of their history. The record was deleted soon after its initial release, and did not chart until Rhino re-issued it in 1986 (at which point the entire Monkees catalog was in the Billboard Top 200 LPs chart). The songs on Changes aren't particularly bad, but there's no heart or spirit in the grooves - it just sounds like a contractual obligation record. The one exception is the album's opener, "Oh My My", which is a pretty killer track with a great lead from Micky.

The Monkees quietly disolved after Changes, although there have been multiple reunions over the years. Davy Jones was recently reported as saying he wouldn't rule out another reunion, and Peter Tork has also expressed interest, so who knows what the future holds. It would be nice if The Monkees could get into the R&R Hall of Fame before they're all using walkers.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bunny bonding update

We had another reasonably successful bunny date tonight (see previous bunny entry here). We placed them in the tub and I immediately started scratching Simon behind the ears, hoping this would prevent him from getting aggressive with Austin. It worked. Simon was even purring, which is the ultimate sign of bunny contentment. I scratched and petted Austin with my other hand, and once again the two of them leaned in towards each other, but this time they were cheek to cheek, and at one point Simon's head was completely under Austin's chin. It was so incredibly sweet. Seriously - the only thing cuter and sweeter than a bunny rabbit is TWO bunny rabbits snuggling.

So as I type this I'm feeling optimistic. We'll try the process again in a day or two. On Monday morning the buns have a trip to the vet, which could be a good test of our progress.

Soup & study day

I recently acquired a vintage red 70's Crock-Pot (background of photo) at the thrift store for a measly 5 smackers. Today I'm making a hearty batch of minestrone, which is so ridiculously easy, thanks to the wonders of Crock-Pot technology. All I had to do was chop some things, open a few cans and a couple of bags of frozen veggies, throw it all in, and set the cooking temp to "low". Off to the library to study. Amazing, and what a time saver for busy people on the go. Whoever it was that invented the Crock-Pot (was it Mrs. Crock?), I'd like to shake your hand.

Today is the day that I start kicking butt on my Statistics final. I would like to finish it by the end of the week. I'm pretty optimistic, even though there are some questions that I'm clueless about at the moment. I'm hoping that my professor will be able to help me make some sense of it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

On my turntable: Kula Shaker - Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts

One of the things that initially turned me on to Kula Shaker (back when K (1996) was released) was how they integrated eastern indian music into power pop. It's a great mix that works just as well on 1999's Peasants, Pigs & Astronauts.This album managed to slip past me back when it was released, but I luckily came across it yesterday, buried in a stack of dusty vinyl, at one of the local second hand shops. This album has so many great elements to it, and I am sure it will only improve with repeated listenings. It's a very dense sound, full of upbeat psychedelic layers, melodies, harmonies and hooks.

Kula Shaker has a new CD, Strangefolk, that is being released in the US next month (no word on a vinyl release yet). Although I've not yet heard the whole album, the first single, "Second Sight" was one of my favorite songs of 2007.

In our kitchen

feel the love

Look Through My Window

The view from my office at work.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Bunny bonding

Some of you who have read my blog for a long time may know about the perils of our rabbits Austin and Simon. We adopted them in May, 2005 as a bonded pair. They had to be adopted together; they were mates for life. They were adorable, constantly grooming and snuggling each other, playing together, getting into trouble together. That September, the week of Hurricane Katrina, they started to fight. Brutally. It was so awful that we had to separate them until they could be bonded again. Two years and four months later...

Bunny bonding is sometimes a long, gruelling process, especially with two dominant males. It requires finding a nuetral space in the house, and scheduling time for multiple, usually short, interactions between them until they (hopefully) show signs of being friends. Such signs could include grooming, or even just laying next to each other peacefully (see pic from 2005, right). This week we decided to give it another shot. Tuesday's session ended with Simon lunging after Austin and getting a mouthful of fur. Tonight was different, however.

The neutral space we chose was the bathtub, which both bunnies hate. If they dislike the space, supposedly, they may cuddle together, which could lead to grooming, and eventually, friendship. Tonight we sat the boys in the tub, where they sat for a few seconds, staring each other down. Then Simon walked over towards Austin, and I distracted him by giving him little scratches behind his ears (which he loves). I scratched Austin's head with my other hand, and then the unexpected happened. Simon and Austin leaned in towards each other, heads down, bodies touching, just enjoying the scratches and pets. It almost made me cry, it was so sweet. This went on for a few minutes with no confrontations or biting or kicking. We decided to end the session so that they would have positive memories for the next session. Before we picked them up, Simon put his head under Austin's chin, which is bunny language for "groom me, dammit." Again, adorable, and somewhat encouraging.

I'll be sure to post any bunny bonding progress here. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

On my turntable: Radiohead - In Rainbows

Here we have the first official 2008 release to spin on my turntable.

In Rainbows (2008) is the first Radiohead album that I've bought since OK Computer (1997), and the first that I've owned on vinyl. This new album garnered considerable attention last year when the band gave it away on their website, allowing fans to pay whatever they thought the album was worth. This is revolutionary, expecially for bands who release their product in vinyl format. Speaking as someone who no longer buys CDs, I would certainly pay a buck or two to download an album online if I knew that I would also be buying the entire album later on vinyl. It will be interesting to see if this is a trend.

About In Rainbows -- I like it.

big baby

I have a cold. I'm miserable, and I am being a big whiney baby about it. Boo hiss. My entire world is focused on my nose at the moment, which is raw from too many kleenex, and it's all dripping and stuffy. Delightful.