Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On to the next round...

3.24.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

I've been experiencing some mixed emotions as I approach the end of my run with the University's Graduate & Professional Assembly, for which I've served as the Vice President for Student Affairs since the summer of 2008. Overall, the experience has been extremely positive and worthwhile. A highlight from the past two years has been sitting on committees and task forces with Student Affairs professionals and faculty who are passionate about their work. I've been able to gain an insider's perspective on how University governing systems work. I have met and worked with people for whom I have great respect and admiration, and I've enjoyed contributing to the work of these dedicated teams. Another highlight, without question, was traveling to D.C. last year to lobby on behalf of graduate & professional students. It was an invaluable experience that I have been able to tie directly to my research interests.

The negative parts of this experience stem mostly from my health challenges of this past year, which have forced me to step back a bit in terms of how I am able to contribute to the Assembly. Having gone through similar struggles in the past (as far back as high school), I knew that I needed to be upfront in saying "I need to be absent from X,Y and Z". I believe that I managed to do this in a way that protected my dignity and self-respect, and for the most part I got the support that I needed from my peers. Although I toyed with the idea several times over the past few months, I am glad that I chose not to resign from my position. With recent improvements in my health I am now hoping to finish out my 2nd term knowing that I did the best that I could, given the circumstances with which I was dealt.

While I will not be involved with GAPSA's Executive Board in the next academic year, I am not ruling out the possibility of future activity with student governance. Right now I need a year to heal, get my head together, and focus on my academics. A big shout-out to everyone who joined and supported me on this journey - it has provided some of the biggest highlights of my educational career.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"It's Time to Count Everyone"

Just finished filling out our census form. Before mailing it
we attached this sticker to the back of the envelope.

2:54 PM

3.30.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

Viva la spring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Happiness is...

Happiness is finding a record that
gets you closer to completing a collection.

I collect records on the Colgems record label, most well-known for being home to The Monkees. Aside from Monkees records, most of the Colgems catalog consisted of movie soundtracks (the label was a subsidiary of Columbia Pictures). Casino Royale (1967) is one that I've been seeking for quite a while, and I finally purchased a copy this afternoon. The fact that the soundtrack was written by the legendary Burt Bacharach is a definite plus!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

8:44 PM

3.21.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

Back on our lawn tonight with pride.

On my turntable: Bee Gees - 2 Years On

3.21.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

Ever since my "confessions of a vinyl geek" post earlier this week regarding the Odessa reissue, I've been spinning a lot of Bee Gees records. I've posted about this album before (see link below), but one thing I neglected to mention in the previous post was that 2 Years On (1970) was the first Bee Gees record to feature Robin since Odessa. When Robin had split from the group in late '68, tensions and egos were high. This friendly 1970 reunion of the brothers includes one of their most well-known hits of the early 70's, the very Beatle-esque & harmony-laden "Lonely Days".

(previous entry re: this album from 2/1/2006)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Today's thrift store booty

I found this record this afternoon stuffed behind a bunch of kids 45s at the thrift store. I almost missed it!

"Gigolos Get Lonely Too" by The Time, 1982 Mono/Stereo promo copy. It appears to be unplayed, and I paid 40 cents for it. Forty teeny tiny pennies.

The joys of record collecting!

Teabaggers on Capitol Hill shout gay slurs at Barney Frank

While it's not surprising, I admit I still find this news a little shocking. Earlier today a Teabagger at the Capitol yelled "Barney, you faggot!" at Barney Frank (followed by laughter amongst the crowd of protesters). From
Frank told the Washington newspaper The Hill that he was also called a “Homo Communist” and told to “go homo to Massachusetts." He also had to call Capitol police “to move away” five or six protesters who were banging on his office door and yelling through the mail slot.
My question is, who is telling this crowd when to stop? Who is stepping up to say "Hey - You're not allowed to come in here and say that." From what I understand, nobody was asked to leave the building after the Barney Frank incident. How is this possible? There should have been no warnings, no "hey pal - cool it"; They should have all been ejected, pronto. Period.

I sense that there's still this feeling among the general population that these Teabaggers were exercising free speech, but this is not the 1950's, assholes. Hell, it's not the 1980's either. You don't get to go to someone's place of work and use hate speech like this. There's a part of me that wants to just let them keep on talking, because the louder they get the more apparent they become, but at some point violence is bound to happen.

Friday, March 19, 2010

On my turntable: De La Soul - The Best

This is one of the most uniquely cool records I've picked up in quite a while. The Best (1993) is an Italian 2LP collection of the best tracks from De La Soul's first two albums. Most of the songs are taken from various 12" singles, such as the "Native Tongue Decision" version of "Buddy", which I've always thought was far superior to the LP version. The LPs come in a handsome gatefold jacket, and the sound quality is pretty kickass. While I don't think this collection is particularly common, I got this copy on eBay for less than $10, so if you're a fan it's worth keeping a watch out for it.

Props to my brother who bought this for me as part of "Jeff's b-day booty, 2010". I don't remember a birthday when I've scored so many super sweet LPs!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Remembering Alex

I resisted Big Star as long as I could. In my mind I saw all these hipster kids praising the band, and I didn't want to be seen as part of that crowd. If you like a band, I thought, it has to be because YOU like them, not because you want other people to think you're cool for liking them. It might sound twisted, but I was always wary of being a "fake fan" of any artist. It's just like being a "fake friend"; It's about integrity, I suppose.

In the spring of 1994 I was beginning graduate school and figured the time was right to join BMG music service (again) to take advantage of the 10 CDs for a buck, or whatever the deal was. I was starting a new life in a new town, which meant I needed new music. One of my CDs was a two-fer of Big Star's first two albums. I figured it was a relatively risk-free way to find out if this band was worthy of all the hipster hype. It didn't take many listens for me to reframe how I was looking at Big Star. Before the end of my little contract with BMG I would order Big Star's Third and Columbia: Live At Missouri CDs, and by the end of the decade I was lucky enough to see a Posie-fied Big Star perform at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

I've always viewed the relation to music as one that's deeply personal (which is why I admit it's a little wierd writing about it sometimes). I think this is why this morning's news of Alex Chilton's passing hit me like a wrecking ball. His work, especially with Big Star, mattered. Yeah that sounds melodramatic, but I'm sure there are people out there who get it. In fact I know there are. Some of them were probably in that hipster group I despised back in '94, but today I am proud to be in their company as a true fan of Alex and his band.

My thoughts and prayers are with Alex's family today. I think history has already proven that we've lost a special, important artist.

Alex Chilton 1950 - 2010

God bless ya, Mr. Chilton.
Thank You Friend.

(Thx to my friend Mark for alerting me to this video)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bee Gees - Odessa

velvety soft
When Leo picked me up at work this afternoon he said "You might want to go straight home because there's a big box outside the front door." I dropped Leo off at work, zipped home, and grabbed the box. What I found inside the box caused me to pause. Breathe in. Exhale. Enjoy the moment. Where's the camera?

When I first learned that Rhino was planning to follow its flawless Bee Gees Studio Years 6LP box set (2007) with a restoration of the 1969 epic Odessa, I piddled a little. I soon cooled down after seeing the LP's price tag ($40+), but I knew that I would eventually get my hands on a copy.

Last week for my birthday I received $100 from my brother, with the stipulation that I spend it on records. Odessa!, I thought to myself. Since I was post-surgery and couch-ridden, I spent the gift cash at, and Odessa was the first LP in my cart.

The Rhino/Reprise Odessa (2009) may be the best re-issue I have ever seen, heard, or felt. The cover faithfully restores the gold lettering and red velvet flocking of the original pressings (all that's missing is the vintage ATCO logo that graced the bottom front of the '69 issue). The inner gatefold artwork (pictured, right) is also beautifully restored . This is the first reissued album for which I've thought "It feels just like the original!".

Then there's the sound. One thing that I have always loved about the pre-disco Bee-Gees is the orchestration, and Odessa is probably the finest example of the Gibbs' gift for string and horn arrangements. I thought my original copy sounded nice, but within the first 10 seconds of this reissue I knew I was hearing something very special. The sonic detail in the chaotic opening of "Odessa (city on the black sea)" was startling. Instrumental tracks such as "Seven Seas Symphony" and "British Opera" are beauty beyond description.

Albums like Odessa, Sgt.Pepper, Pet Sounds, and (to a lesser extent) Dark Side of the Moon, represent an era when music was not just a disposable medium. It was something you made time for; You went to the store to find it, buy it, examine it, experience it, and eventually this music would become part of the fabric your life.

My first copy of Odessa was on CD in the early 90's. I upgraded to a nice used vinyl copy a few years ago, and now with this new LP I feel like the journey is complete. If you are a fan of this album (and I know there are many), I strongly recommend that you hear the 2009 Rhino LP. Put aside a little money every week, and treat yourself to something special. Then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

This week in political theatre

I realized this afternoon that this week is quickly turning into Political Theatre. Ah yes - the theatre. At the moment, anxieties and emotions are high among liberals and conservatives, and it's times such as this when the crazy shit tends to rise to the surface.

Today's crazies: Minnesota's own Michele Bachmann, and Iowa representative Steve King.

I've got to give Michele Bachmann credit. I personally am not convinced she believes everything that comes out of her mouth in public forums. Don't get me wrong - I still think she's batshit crazy (for Jesus), but I also think she has learned how to masterfully play the politics game like lotto. She knows that when she steps up to the mic and says something completely devoid of logic or reality (as she did today with multiple media outlets), the press will pick it up, expound upon it, and basically give her free press. Say what you will about her lack of moral character, but I'm starting to think that she may just be a brilliant political strategist/opportunist.

So what did Michele actually say today that was so nuts? I happened to be listening to Sean Hannity's radio show in the car this afternoon, and she was yapping on the air about how unconstitutional this Health Care Bill is, and if it passes, American citizens are not obligated to pay taxes toward it. Hmmm. That's right, America - just quit paying your taxes. Michele says it's OK. She also remains convinced that conservatives (more likely Tea Party folks) can still kill the bill, and she is asking Americans to please come to Washington on Saturday to make their presence known on the hill. Sure thing Mitch. We'll just drop everything we've got going on in our humdrum lives and book a flight to D.C., so we can join your little fake grassroots party (!?).

Our other crazy, Steve King of Iowa (pictured, below right), is asking Americans to "storm" D.C.. He is even going so far as suggesting that a revolution is warranted, and it's urgent. Comparing the U.S. to "Prague under communist rule," King told the Huffington Post, "It is the nationalization of our liberty and the federal government taking our liberty over. So there are a lot of similarities there." Riiiiight.

Here's what concerns me. The extreme left folks like Bachmann and (I assume) King are shouting about how Americans need to forcibly take their country back. This is not new -- rather, it has been brewing (a little Tea Party pun there) for months. It's no secret that Tea Party folks like their guns. They attend these rallies (often with their guns in tow), and get all riled up by these speeches about "Patriotism" and the "sanctity of the Constitution", and how we need to "KILL" big government. Who represents big government? President Obama. (Oh, and Jesus is in the mix somewhere, because we all know the bible says Jesus HATES health care reform. And Gays.).

The point that I want to make is that I really sensed while listening to Bachmann's crazed ramblings today that she was being very calculated in her choice of words: FIGHT. KILL. It doesn't seem accidental to me that she's using such stark, bold, violent words (remember last year when she asked Minnesotans to be "armed and dangerous" in preparations to fight Obama's energy plan?).

The danger, and I hope it's just me being over dramatic, is that conservative politicians are whipping these Tea Party hillbillies into a frenzy by suggesting things like revolution. When the frenzy froth hits the boiling point, the result is likely to be violence. Remember: these people carry guns, and at this point many of them are convinced that they must defend their freedoms by any means necessary. Viva la Revolution! In the aftermath of violence the politicians can simply feign shock and disbelief, saying "When we said that they should forcibly take down Washington, we didn't mean it literally!"

It's going to be an interesting week.

credits: Michele Bachmann photo from
Steve King photo from Associated Press.

8:25 AM

My view from the couch,
where I've been spent most of the past 5 days.

On my turntable (b-day booty edition): Emmylou Harris - All I Intended to Be

I struck vinyl gold this year for my birthday (Thanks to Leo for the gift-certificate that purchased this album!). I purposely sought this LP thinking it could serve as nice healing music as I continue to recover from my gallbladder surgery.

This is as close to 'audiophile' as new releases come. The hardcore audiophile stuff tends to be re-issues of the proven classics, but it's becoming more common to see new music treated with the same level of care, which is nice (but also expensive ). The album's heavyweight LPs are in static-free sleeves, housed in a heavy cardboard gatefold cover, accompanied by a full CD of the album. It's a beautiful package, and the sound quality is stunning. I paid $18.99 for this copy, although I've seen it priced as high as $25.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On my turntable: The Beatles - Yesterday and Today (mono)

I don't know much about this release. My guess is that it is counterfeit, and that it was released some time in the late 80s or early 90s. Here's what I do know: It's a mono pressing of Yesterday...And Today (1966) on dazzling green vinyl. I purchased it used, still in its shrinkwrap, at one of my local shops for $20. The sound quality is good enough to pass as a legit release, so perhaps Capitol did release this?

On my TV: Sonny & Cher's Good Times

Joan Jett & The Blackhearts: Greatest Hits (VINYL)

Released this past week (on 3/9, yours truly's fancy birthday): the definitive Joan Jett Greatest Hits collection, on double vinyl.
Track Listing:
LP 1:
1.Cherry Bomb
2. You Drive Me Wild
3. School Days
4. Love Is Pain
5. Bad Reputation
6. You Don't Know What You've Got
7. I Wan't You
8. I Love Rock N' Roll
9. (I'm Gonna) Run Away
10. Crimson & Clover
LP 2:
11. Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)
12. The French Song
13. Everyday People
14. Fake Friends
15. Light of Day
16. I Hate Myself For Loving You
17. Backlash
18. Activity Grrrl
19. Love Is All Around
20. Androgynous
21. A.C.D.C.
  • "Backlash" (1991 collaboration with Paul Westerberg) is probably my all-time fave JJ song (which I had the great fortune of seeing Jett perform onstage with Westerberg at Prince's Glam Slam nightclub in Minneapolis in '91).
  • "Love Is All Around" (Mary Tyler Moore theme) was previously available as a 7" single, but I think this is its first appearance on a full vinyl LP.
  • "Light of Day" is from Jett's 1987 feature film of the same name (which also starred Michael J. Fox).
  • "A.C.D.C.", I believe, is making its vinyl debut on this collection. Jett outdoes the original on this version, in my opinion (no disrespect to Sweet fans!).
  • This album includes new recordings of several Runaways classics, which, according to a report from my brother, rock (pronounced RAWK!).
  • It's great to have so many awesome tracks in one place, especially on shiny new vinyl! You can sample tracks right now at The Blackhearts' official website.

On my turntable: The Zombies - Begin Here

I've had a bit of a lousy week. Between the dread I was feeling over my scheduled surgery (from which I'm now recovering), and several consecutive days of lethargy and nausea, I had a nagging need for some rest + the healing powers of a new record. So Wednesday afternoon I canceled my evening agenda at school and stopped at the record store on my way home. Considering that the sucky week was also my birthday week I decided it was appropriate to spend a little outside of my standard "new LP budget" (which is usually around $20 max).

Begin Here (1965) was the Zombies' first British full-length LP, and is definitely more R&B based than subsequent releases. I remember reading a positive review somewhere of this 2008 mono reissue released by Sweet Dandelion records. While looking at the LP at the record store I didn't recognize all of the song titles, but I figured I'd heard all of the tracks at some point. Upon listening I was pleased to find a number of songs I didn't recognize. Among my fave tracks: "I Don't Want to Know", "The Way I Feel Inside", "What More Can I Do", and the hit single "She's Not There".

Friday, March 12, 2010

...and After

3.12.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

Being shaved makes me look all pink and fleshy, and with the doctor's notes on my belly I look like the butcher's special of the day. But the gallbladder is gone, so let the healing begin!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meet Austin!

I threw this little number together as an editing exercise. I am sure that Austin is going to think he's a rock star now that he's getting facetime on the internet.
Within a few days Austin's bunny groupies will probably start convening outside of our house, clamoring for a glimpse of their new bunneh sex symbol. He'll start getting centerfold offers from BunFancy magazine. Feh. I told Austin if his little fan club gets out of hand I am taking the video down, because the last thing we need is a house rabbit with an overblown ego. He's bossy enough as it is.


3.11.2010, originally uploaded by jeff's fancy blog.

I'm undergoing gallbladder surgery early tomorrow morning. For some reason I felt compelled to document my skin before it gets all sliced up. I'll post an "After" picture this weekend.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


3/10/2010: So this is what 44 + one day feels like. Hmmm. If anything I suppose it reinforces that change is constant. I continue to notice physical changes: skin, hair, creaky bones, eyesight. Personally I feel challenged. At 22 I was driven to create things, such as music, visual arts. At 44 I still have my creative needs but I'm meeting them in different ways. I think part of being creative (and having A.D.D.) is the drive to find new ways of expressing that creativity, to avoid feeling stagnant.

At 44, like 22, I am again a college student. I suspect that this meets some kind of need. I remember when I was undergraduate, having the nagging fear of losing my desire to learn. I thought that if the fire for knowledge ever died I would lose my purpose. These days I'm just as driven to make sense of the world around me, if not more so. I have a greater sense now that I am able to create positive change, or at least be a part of the process, which enhances my sense of purpose. I feel more a part of communities now, something that I highly value (I think this stems out of growing up in the community of N.E. Minneapolis).

One of the biggest differences between 22 and 44, for me, is who I am as an activist. At 22 I was interested in activism because of my fascination with the 1960's, but I was unfocused and unschooled in politics. Plus I was still figuring out who I was. 22 years later I'm still figuring things out, but I have a much clearer picture of what I value, which makes up so much of who I am and how I choose to manage my time & channel my energies. Now I get to make choices based on what I know, rather than simply reacting to my own anger.

Monday, March 08, 2010

On my turntable: Duran Duran - Red Carpet Massacre

Red Carpet Massacre (2007), was Duran Duran's follow-up to 2004's "reunion" album, Astronaut. In '08 the band made a very limited pressing (2000 numbered copies) of Massacre on double red vinyl, including a bonus track and lyric book. The LPs were sold through Duran Duran's website for a price that was grander than what I was willing to pay, so I waited it out. Last month I finally nabbed a new copy for under $30 on eBay.

I am glad I waited, since the album isn't worth an exorbitant price. It's a good album, although not as catchy as Astronaut, in my opinion (much like Liberty (1990) was not as good as Big Thing (1988), or how Seven and the Ragged Tiger (1983) didn't rank as well as its predecessor, Rio (1982)). One thing that I have always appreciated about Duran Duran is their ability to stay fresh and not repeat themselves. I look forward to what the band has coming up next.

Happiness is...a new phono cartridge

So I decided to save $30 and went with the Grado Blue cartridge rather than the red (as written previously).

Since I only buy a new cartridge every five years or so, I tend to forget what a chore it can be to install a new one. Still, the process was, as always, worth the effort, as was the upgrade in cartridges.

The first song I listened to post-Grado-Blue-installment was "If There Were Time" by Captain & Tennille, a song that was written by Beach Boy Bruce Johnston with Rod McKuen, and recorded live in the studio by Tennille backed by a 30 piece orchestra. I figured the track's string arrangement would serve as a good test drive for the new cartridge (and it did).

At $110 the Grado Blue is technically considered a budget-line cartridge. Some audiophiles will spend thousands on high-end cartridges (the Koetsu Jade Platinum phono cartridge retails for a staggering $15,000).

For now, on my budget, I am more than satisfied with today's investment.

Junk or No?

This is either the latest in high-tech audio, or it's a happy-meal piece of crappy scrap metal. It's supposed to be a portable USB device that captures audio from vinyl for your computer. Seriously?

What do you think? Would you buy one? See more at

Friday, March 05, 2010

7:11 PM

My latest eBay score, this fancy vintage record case, arrived in the mail today. Actually, it wasn't quite so fancy when it arrived - it was a bit scuffed and ragged looking - but I was able to spruce it up with some groovy stickers before filling it with my Captain & Tennille, Carpenters, Bay City Rollers, Osmonds, and Partridge Family 45s.

I see red...

When it comes to my turntable, my general rule of thumb is to replace the stylus every six months, and the cartridge every five years. I have designated March 2010 as the month when I'll not only be replacing, but upgrading my turntable's cartridge. For the past five years I've been praising the warmth & beauty delivered by my Grado Prestige Green series cartridge. This year I hope to upgrade to the Grado Prestige Red series, which retails for around $140. That's about $30 a year over five years, which I reckon is well worth the investment.

Stay tuned...

Monday, March 01, 2010