Sunday, September 30, 2007

Touching All Bases

A few weeks ago, if I would've guessed which members of my extended blogroll would still have local horses in the MLB playoffs, I would've never guessed that Flasshe's Rockies would still be alive while Jestaplero's Mets and 2f's Brewers were dead. The 2007 Mets will go down with the 1964 Phillies and 1969 Cubs (who lost to the Mets) as all-time collapse leaders.

In the S.F. Bay Area, both local teams were eliminated long ago, so it's hard to keep interested in the pennant races. I've really only been following the A's since 1999, so I've never known a year where the team was out of the race. Until now. It's kind of nice to get a one year reprieve from pennant races, but I don't want to make a habit of it, so hopefully the Athletics will be back in the race next year.

Currently, I like Cleveland in the AL playoffs (against three of my least favorite teams) and the Cubs in the NL (mostly so their fans will finally shut up), but in short I'll take anyone but the Yankees or Angels (AL) against who cares (NL).

I'll heading away for the next week and a half, so updates may be a bit less timely, but I will have my laptop, and my camera, and a USB cable to link them, so maybe updates will be as timely as usual, just more remote.

Bands of Gold

If or when I ever get married, I'm definitely going to hire the Bye Bye Blackbirds to play the wedding show!

The Blackbirds performance last night at Bradley's wedding show was amazing. After a few songs from their Honeymoon EP and a few from their upcoming (sometime) full-length, they embarked on on an odyssey of cover tunes and guest stars, Including "Cinnamon Girl" (the song performed above, but that performance is from a few months ago), The Byrds' "One Hundred Years From Now" with Paul Tyler of The Family Arsenal, a Buck Owens song with Bradley's dad, another Neil cover ("Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"), a few songs with the Reverend Scott Miller, including a grand finale of "All The Young Dudes" with guest stars too numerous to mention (which really wasn't a grand finale because they played a few songs after that).

The three songs the BBBs did with Scott Miller ("Rocks Off", "Mavis of Maybelline Towers" and "Sleeping Through Heaven") were major highlights of an evening full of them. I've never seen Game Theory or the Loud Family play "Sleeping Through Heaven", but I've seen Scott play this song solo a couple of times (including once at another wedding) and once with Belle da Gama (last night's groom's former band) , and am pretty sure that last night was the best-ever performance of "STH" -- more energetic and rocking than any GT or LF lineup could ever play the song. Here's hoping for more off collaborations between the Bye Bye Blackbirds and Scott.

Opening the show were Statuesque and the The Family Arsenal (who take their name from either Paul Theroux or the gunners football club). The Family Arsenal (with special guest Paul Tyler and Adam Symons of the groom's former band) played some their own (Shelter Records circa 1977) songs before launching into a couple of their own cover tunes: Cheap Trick's "Southern Girls" and Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat" (as performed by Humble Pie). Unfortunately they didn't get to their epic cover of the Stone Roses "Fools Gold" that they played the last time I saw them and the Bye Bye Blackbirds at the Starry Plough.

This Statuesque setup had Stephen Manning (of course!) with two Blackbirds (Bradley on drums and Lenny on guitar) and a bass player whose name I didn't catch. Stephen Manning's songs, like Scott Miller's songs, aren't the sort of thing that bands can just play, but they sounded pretty good. They played new stuff from an upcoming (when or where, who knows?) album which has songs up on myspace, plus some oldies including a set-ending "Ton of Feathers, Ton Of Steel" (Statuesque's version of "Sleeping Through Heaven"). And it was fortunate that the person who maintains the new tunes on myspace was there -- a Statuesque show without Sarah in attendance would be like a tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it!

And a tip of the hat for Gil Ray's debut as a solo performer, with a two song set sandwiched between Statuesque and the Bye Bye Blackbirds. Check out his youtube video for "Queen of Blood" if you haven't yet!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Like, Ohmigawd!

Moon Unit Zappa turns 40 today.

After this song hit the charts in the Spring of 1982, my classmates in Singapore went from ridiculing my "California Speak" (I was from NorCal, which is a different sort of Val-talk, but I was fond of "bitchen","gnarly", and "bogus") to saying "grody to the max", "gag me with a spoon" and the rest. The whole Valley Girl phenomenon lasted less than one year, and had pretty much passed by the time the movie was released in 1983.

I didn't get around to watching Valley Girl until a few years later when it was a mainstay on HBO, and I was surprised at how good it was. The casting of Nick Cage as Randy, the "bad boy" from Hollywood, and Deborah Foremen as Julie the valley girl was inspired, and the soundtrack was great. It was such a low budget movie that they didn't release a soundtrack album, but Rhino licensed all the songs for an ex post facto soundtrack in the early 90s.

A few songs that appear on that soundtrack are still not available elsewhere on CD (like "Girls Like Me" by Bonnie Hayes from the opening credits), a few are "80s staples" like "I Melt With You" and "A Million Miles Away", and the live sequence with the Plimsouls is one of my favorite live sequences from a movie, like ever.

For Moon's 40th birthday, here are a few songs from the Valley Girl soundtrack. I tried to focus on songs by girls, but the Sparks contribution is one of my favorites by them, and largely unknown outside of their hardcore fanbase.

Songs from Valley Girl:
  1. Bonnie Hayes & the Wild Combo - Girls Like Me
  2. The Flirts - Jukebox (Don't Put Another Dime)
  3. Josie Cotton - Johnny Are You Queer?
  4. Sparks - Eaten By The Monster of Love

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Wrapped Up In Books

Emusic announced two enhancements to their service last week. They started selling Audiobooks and released a new download manager called Emusic Remote. The Audiobooks require a separate subscription to eMusic Audiobooks, which costs $9.99 for one month and entitles you to one book credit.

I'm paying $9.99 for 40 music downloads, so $9.99 for just one book in MP3 form seems a little steep, but a bargain compared to the cost of audio books on Audacity or iTunes (they cost $20-30 each -- as much as hardbacks). I just don't have the patience to sit and listen to a book, and unlike songs, I'd probably only listen to an audiobook one time. It just seems overpriced.

Emusic Remote is the new download application that was initially required just for their Audiobooks, but when I tried to fill my quota of music downloads last weekend, I couldn't download with the old manager and had to get Remote. I couldn't download anything at first, and had to disable the iTunes integration (after checking the message boards). From the posts on their message board and 17dots, a lot of Emusic users were having the same problem.

And Emusic is not without it's problems. It's an integrated browser window designed to work like iTunes, but it's nowhere near as versatile. First, it doesn't keep my password, so I need to log in everytime the program opens. It's also kind of buggy, and shows downloads as complete when they aren't, so you need to download the songs again.

With all the issues I've been having the past few days, I'm thinking of scrapping Emusic entirely. They haven't been adding many new albums on the day of release anymore, and it's hard to find the older stuff they've added. I just discovered a few days ago that they have Dear Catastrophe Waitress, the one Belle & Sebastian album I didn't own (mostly because it wasn't available on emusic).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


I just finished reading Brainiac by Ken Jennings. Jennings gained fame and fortune when he won 75 consecutive games on Jeopardy over a four month period in 2004, and the book talks about his experiences on the show, but it's mostly a discussion of the history and culture of trivia. It's a great read, very highly recommended.

Every chapter in the book is footnoted by a series of trivia questions to keep things interesting, and Jennings is a good storyteller as well as a smart guy. He says that trivia recall shouldn't be confused with intelligence, but in my experience, people with lots of general knowledge tend to also have lots of regular knowledge. As well as something to talk about with strangers on airplanes.

I've been fascinated with trivia for my entire life, and have always dreamed of appearing on Jeopardy or another quiz show. I still haven't been able to do that, but I once won a free trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in a rock trivia contest, and was a lifeline for a friend on Who Wants to Be A Millionaire a couple of years later. I wasn't called, luckily, but "Banana 2000" from my last post may have been on 250 Records if I'd been consulted on his final question about the fisherman's favorite baseball player in Hemingway's The Old Man And The Sea. (it was Joe DiMaggio -- I thought everyone knew that!).

They don't have lifelines on Jeopardy, but I also would have been able to answer the "Daily Double" question that caused Ken Jennings to lose his 75th game "Most of this firm’s 70,000 seasonal white-collar employees work only four months a year.". (Answer: H&R Block). This probably doesn't make up for the hundreds of questions that would have stumped me in the 74 games that Jennings won before that.

When you ever find yourself in a rock trivia contest, study up on your bass players. There were questions in the VH1 contest about the original bass players for the Kinks (Pete Quaife) and Booker T. and the MG's (Donald "Duck" Dunn). Most trivia contestants got both of these questions wrong.

Befriend the Banana

From a Splendid E-Zine interview with Anton Barbeau.

AB: I wrote "The Banana Song".

And "The Banana Song" now has its own myspace page, with four versions of the song: The original version on A Splendid Tray (Frigidisk, 1999), a live version on Mood Hat Live (self released, 2000), "Banana 2000" on The Golden Boot (125, 2001), and a more recent version with Su Jordan "Banana wiff Su".

Missing are his version of "Revolution 9" (essentially a splice-job on the original "Banana") from Will Ant For Frond (125, 2002) and the original original demo from 1996. I've been seeing Anton play for the last 12 years, and he's played "The Banana Song" at nearly every one of them, so it might be time to retire it, but at least it's a better set-ender than "Drug Free".

Monday, September 24, 2007

War is Hell

I've been watching Ken Burns' The War on PBS the last two nights, and it's riveting and disturbing at the same time. The film is the story of the Second World War told from personal accounts. Like his other films, it's extremely U.S.-centric.

The first episode starts with the attack on Pearl Harbor, and works in chronological order through 1942 from the Bataam Death March to the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal to the Japanese internment camps on the West Coast. Not exactly light entertainment, and this was only the first hour of 15-hours of coverage.

When you watch all those WWII documentaries on the History Channel about this battle and that battle that focus on the top-down strategies and tactics, it's easy to forget that those battles weren't fought by little plastic Risk armies, but real soldiers on both sides. And many of those soldiers died.

My main issue with Burns' last couple of high-profile PBS series (Baseball and Jazz) was that both series lost steam over the last few episodes. The coverage of the 19th Century and the Negro Leagues in Baseball was fascinating, but the last "inning" that covered the years 1960-1993 was a mess. And the final episode of Jazz (covering the same period) was even more of a mess. As a historian, I think Ken Burns works at his best when he keeps away from the post-war era, so this series might work better than the others.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

BB F's up

In honor of yesterday's 30th Anniversary of Bert Blyleven's no-hitter against the California Angels, here's a clip of Bert dropping a couple of F-bombs on Twins TV last year when he didn't know he was on the air.

I can't get enough of (should-be) Hall of Fame pitchers cursing on live TV!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Equinox is a sign of the Fall

It's one of the a rules of the internet: whenever someone dismisses Styx or Journey or REO Speedwagon in an online forum, someone else will pipe in to say "their early albums weren't half bad!".

Which is about one third true. The early Journey albums with Gregg Rollie are nearly unlistenable. REO Speedwagon was a barely competent bar band early on with one or two decent songs (okay, one decent song -- "Ridin' The Storm Out". That song rocks!)

The one band from this unholy triumvirate whose early albums I would describe as "not half bad" is Styx. Before they signed with a major label, Styx made four albums for Wooden Nickel Records that melded meat and potatoes rock (ala REO) with prog rock flourishes (aka keyboard solos). Thanks to the internet, which provides the ability to listen to music without paying for it, I've listened to all four of these albums. The first two (Styx and Styx II) are kind of interesting, like a mix between Yes and the Moody Blues. Styx II included their breakthrough hit "Lady", which was a sign of things to come.

"Lady" became a hit in 1975 (two years after it was released), Styx signed to A&M and released Equinox. After the release Equinox, Tommy Shaw replaced John Curulewski and Styx became a lot more commercial and less interesting. Their first album with Shaw, Crystal Ball had a few moments (like the title track), but after Equinox, they had crossed their celestial equator and were on their way to longer nights and impossible odds.

To mark the Autumnal Equinox, here are five songs from Styx's first six albums (all but Serpent). Their early albums weren't half bad. Or maybe they were half bad? It depends on if you view their early sound as half empty or half full.

  1. Best Thing (Styx, 1972)
  2. Lady (Styx II, 1973)
  3. Rock and Roll Feeling (Man of Miracles, 1974)
  4. Lorelei (Equinox, 1975)
  5. Crystal Ball (Crystal Ball, 1976)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

No Way Jose

Following a couple of "disappointing draws" this week against Blackburn at home in the Premiership and Norwegian side Rosenberg in the Champions League, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has left the club "by mutual consent".

Or was he dismissed? In any case, I can't imagine the blues without Jose at the helm. He's only been managing them for three years, but in that time (about as long as I've been following English soccer), he's led them to two league titles and an FA Cup. I don't see how he could leave or they could let him go. I guess Chelsea's billionaire owner Roman Abramovich was channeling his inner Steinbrenner.

It's like 1978 all over again. The Yankees are just one and a half games behind the Red Sox, but both teams will make it to the playoffs this year. The Oakland Athletics will not make it to the postseason this year -- they were mathematically eliminated earlier this week.

And that guy singing "Wheels On The Bus" in the Volvo commercial who sounds like Stephin Merritt... really is Stephin Merritt.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

There Are But Eight New Pornographers

Last night I saw the New Pornographers at the Warfield.

I saw the New Pornographers last night at the Warfield. I don't like buying advance tickets to weeknight shows anymore, since I'm usually not sure until the last minute if I'll have the energy to make it out and stay up late, which is the main reason I don't go to as many shows as I used to. One nice thing about being a loner who doesn't have any friends (at least any friends who still go to rock shows on a Monday night) is that there are almost always single tickets available outside the door for less than face value.

I from a balcony ticket for $10 (one third of face value) that turned out to be the best balcony seats in the venue -- Lower Loge, Section 108, Center stage, right by the soundboard. And got to sit next to the nice lady I purchased the ticket from who's "friend" bailed on her, probably because he or she didn't feel like going out to a Monday night show. It was just like the first verse of "Bus Stop" by The Hollies, except in this version, that's the way the whole thing started and the way it ended.

I never liked the Warfield balcony in my younger days, but as I've grown older I've come to appreciate being able to sit in a comfortable chair and watch a show without having to stand and deal with drunks and moshers for three hours. For cross-generational shows like the New Pornographers or the Decemberists, the balcony draws an older crowd who are there for the show, instead of to hang out, so there is more watching and listening and less chattering and text-messaging, except between sets.

The main downside of the balcony is that you aren't allowed to drink, which prevents you from buying a drink for the nice lady that sold you her extra ticket for less than face value. But the Warfield charges $6 for beer and well drinks, so there's a big upside to making it less convenient.

Oh yeah, the show! The Pornographers are touring with their full slate of members, including both Neko Case and Dan Bejar. I'd never seen the NPs with Bejar and have never seen Destroyer, so I didn't even know what he looked like, and for the first couple of songs I was wondering who invited Devandra Banhart onstage. With Dan and Neko, there were eight band members onstage, enough for a four-on-four curling competition. Bejar slunked off to the side of the stage when he wasn't singing, but they played most of his tunes, which I think are some of the highlights of their last two albums. Dan was a nice addition to the live band.

The last time I saw the Pornographers was without Neko, so I should mention that they're a whole lot better with her than without her. Nobody sings Neko's parts like Neko! They played most of the new songs from Challengers early on, and saved the heavy artillery of "The Laws Have Changed" and "Letter From An Occupant" for the encores. One of the best things about shows at the Warfield is that even with three bands on the bill, the shows always end by midnight, so there's no need to worry about missing the last BART train.

The two opening bands were Fancey (side project of New Pornographers guitarist Todd Fancey) and Lavender Diamond. Fancey were kind of 70s AM radio pop, not much like the NPs. Todds's voice sounds a bit like Nilsson's, which he's probably heard before since Fancey's latest album is called Schmancey (Fancey Schmancey, get it?). I can take or leave Lavender Diamond (and given the choice, would prefer to leave them), but lead lady Becky Stark has nearly enough stage presence to make up for her Joanna Newsomesque singing voice. I would have preferred another NPs related act (Immaculate Machines or Destroyer or hey, how about Neko?) but Lavender Diamond were better than I thought they'd be.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Downloading Communism

With the flurry of recent articles about when the Beatles will finally appear on iTunes, I keep wondering who really cares? Are there any Beatles fans waiting for their albums to be made available at the iTunes music store so they'll finally be able to listen to Revolver on their iPods?

Even though there isn't any legal way to purchase Beatles songs in digital format, most people have probably learned how to import their CDs to iTunes. And people who don't own the CDs have learned how to borrow them from the public library and import them into iTunes. And people who don't want to deal with CDs at all have learned how to download them via P2P.

And for people who want to buy Beatles songs online in a legally gray way, there are always the Russian sites like AllofMP3 and MP3Fiesta (obvious URLs, but I'm not linking to them). These sites have almost everything the Beatles (and Led Zeppelin, and Radiohead) ever recorded, in mp3 format for around 10 cents a track.

And that's not just everything they ever released, but everything they ever recorded. In their lives, the Beatles released 12 albums and 168 songs. There are 151 Beatles CDs available on MP3Fiesta, mono and stereo mixes, US and UK versions, and tons of "unauthorized limited edition" recordings (you know, "bootlegs"). One of the ways I deal with the guilt of dealing with these shady sites is by trying to use them to obtain material that I couldn't legally purchase even if I wanted to.

It somehow seems less wrong to download bootlegs from unauthorized sites than it does to download legally available material from these sites. When you're ripping off bootleggers, it's almost like you're doing a good thing, but in another way, that sounds like the sort of logic that O.J. would've used last week?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Roll On

Today I saw my first big time college football game at UC Berkeley. Not my first game, just my first game since Cal became a powerhouse a few years ago.

The last time I saw the Bears at Memorial Stadium, they were on their way to a 1-10 season and there were less than 30 thousand people in the stands for a game against Oregon State. Today the attendance was twice that many for an early season non-conference game against Louisiana Tech that Cal eaked out 42-12.

Back in 2001, the cheapest Cal ticket was $10, and now those same tickets were $30. That's what happens when your team is #8 in the country. The turning point in this game was the opening kickoff that Lavelle Hawkins ran back for a TD. After that, everythig else was gravy. Here's how the touchdown looked from the 30 dollar "cheap" seats.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The sound of old T. Rex

Marc Bolan died just a few days after Stephen Biko died. This Sunday is the 30th anniversary of Marc's Deathday, which was two weeks before his 30th birthday. Here is his last performance, a duet with David Bowie on the Marc TV show, which aired on September 9th 1977.

Mark Bolan died in a car accident one week after this show. He went through a "fat Elvis" phase late in his career, but he looks pretty good in this clip. If I were transported back in time to September 1977, and told that one of these guys wouldn't make it to the end of the year, I would have picked Bowie instead of Bolan as the one who died. Bowie appeared on Bing Crosby's Christmas Special a few days later (right before Bing died) so he was like the Grim Reaper of 1977.

When people talk about great songwriters and bands from the 1970s, I don't think Marc Bolan T. Rex get mentioned as much as they should. Most of their songs sounds just as good now as it did then, and Bolan's sound and image has been hugely influential. His songs have been covered a bunch of times by everyone from Big Star to the Shins, and here are five of them.

1. Baby Strange - Big Star
(from Nobody Can Dance, 1974)
2. Mambo Sun - The Bongos
(from Drums Along The Hudson, 1981)
3. 20th Century Boy - The Replacements
(from "I Will Dare" 12-inch, 1984)
4. The Slider - The Smithereens
(from Resurrection of the Warlock, 1992)
5. Baby Boomerang - The Shins
(from "Fighting In A Sack" single, 2001)

Note: I uploaded these mp3s to divshare last night, but their site is acting up, so I'm having trouble linking to them today. They're all really good covers, so have patience and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

You can't blow out a fire.

On the list of tragic evens that happened this week in history, this is the 30th anniversary of the death of anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko. South African police claimed his death was the result of his extended hunger strike, but it was later discovered to be the result of a beating by police. Like most people my age, I learned about Stephen Biko from the song by Peter Gabriel.

Last weekend I watched the movie Cry Freedom, which was adapted from the book Biko by Donald Woods, which was PG's inspiration to write the song "Biko".

There's a powerful scene at the end where "Biko" plays over a list of prisoners who died in police custody during apartheid alongside their "official" causes of death ("suicide by hanging", "accidental trauma"). It's still one of the most powerful scenes I've ever seen in a movie, and was even more powerful when Cry Freedom came out in the dying days of South African apartheid in 1987.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What a Bonanza!

Some East coast football fans who didn't watch the end of last night's 49ers-Cards game (which ended just before 2am EDT), and only saw the final score (20-17) and this highlight of Arnaz Battle's winning TD with less than a minute to go, may have thought they missed a great game.

They would be wrong. It was a bad game for 3.8 quarters, and the only thing "good" about it was the Niners final drive. For 57 minutes, neither offense could move the ball, and all the scoring came as the result of turnovers. Then with three minutes to go, Arizona decided to go into a soft zone defense to stay away from a big play, and Alex Smith started moving the 49ers down the field with a series of small plays.

It was the late game of ESPN's Monday Night Football doubleheader, so it didn't start until 7:30pm, and was announced by the ESPN morning radio team of Mike and Mike with extra analysis by Mike Ditka (the three Mikes). They were really bad, so after about one quarter, I decided to turn down the TV and turn up the (few seconds out of sync) 49er radio broadcast on 107.7 FM, which helped save my sanity.

If only just. Joe Starkey has been announcing games for both of football teams I follow (the SF 49ers and Cal Golden Bears) for as long as I can remember. Joe's announcing style can be summed up in four words "look at that play". As in "Leinert drops back, throws across the middle, and LOOK AT THAT PLAY BY WALT HARRIS!". At some point in every broadcast, Joe Starkey will tell the listeners to "look at that play", while announcing a football game on the radio (pause for ironic effect). Uh, Joe, we can't look at the's radio!

Also while calling a game, Joe Starkey doesn't concern himself with football mundanities like down, distance, time, or score, so it normally takes awhile to find out what's going on in the came. The only way to listen to Joe call a game is while you're either watching on TV or at the stadium and really can look at that play when he tells you to. One of his favorite interjections (after "look at that play!") is "What a Bonanza!", which he uses whenever the Niners or Bears make a great play. He dropped one "WAB" during the final 49ers drive last night, and probably after DeSean Jackson's punt return against Tennessee, but he doesn't do it as often as he used to.

Joe Starkey's signature moment as announcer will always be his call of The Play from the 1982 Cal-Stanford game ("The band is on the field!"), which has inspired the names of two Cal football blogs (The Band is On The Field and Excuse Me For My Voice). He's really not a very good announcer, but it would be strange to have anyone else announcing a football game.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pitchfork Gives Music 6.8

CHICAGO—Music, a mode of creative expression consisting of sound and silence expressed through time, was given a 6.8 out of 10 rating in an review published Monday on Pitchfork Media, a well-known music-criticism website.

According to the review, authored by Pitchfork editor in chief Ryan Schreiber, the popular medium that predates the written word shows promise but nonetheless "leaves the listener wanting more."

"Coming in at an exhausting 7,000 years long, music is weighed down by a few too many mid- tempo tunes, most notably 'Liebesträume No. 3 in A flat' by Franz Liszt and 'Closing Time' by '90s alt-rock group Semisonic," Schreiber wrote. "In the end, though music can be brilliant at times, the whole medium comes off as derivative of Pavement."

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Funny, you don't sound American!

The Rugby World Cup started this weekend in France, and this morning I watched the USA Eagles against the defending champions England ("watched" on my computer, since the match was only available here on PPV). The USA is usually overmatched in the Rugby W.C. and have only one two matches ever (both against Japan), so it wasn't a surprise they ended up losing to England 28-10. At least the US did better than Japan, who lost 91-3 to Australia.

What was a surprise to me was the number of Pacific Islanders on the US team. The national rugby team used to be made up almost exclusively of "old blues" from UC Berkeley, but this World Cup squad has players from all over. Or at least all over the San Francisco Bay Area. They're still mostly from the West Coast.

Midway through the second half of the US-England match, the British match commentator mentioned that US center Albert Tuipulotu's name "doesn't sound like an American name to me", implying that he was some sort of ringer from another country. Albert Tuipuloto is an all American boy, born and raised in San Mateo CA.

This made me wonder what an "American" name should sound like. The United States is such a melting pot, with citizens from all over the world, so nowadays Rodriguez and Nguyen and Tuipuloto sound every bit as "American" as Smith and Jones. In fact, I can't think of a single surname that couldn't "sound American". I guess nothing fires up my patriotism like a misguided comment from a British rugby announcer!

Friday, September 7, 2007

Fifty Years On the Road

I'm really big on anniversaries, and this week marks the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, which was written in April 1951, but not published until September 1957. Here's Jack reading from On The Road on the Steve Allen show a few years later.

The idea of Jack Kerouac doing a "book tour" for On The Road seems a little strange. Last year I saw the actual scroll he used to type the manuscript at the S.F. Public Library. It was like looking at an original draft of the Declaration of Independence.

Like most people, I went through an "On The Road phase" during my early 20s after I graduated from college and moved to the SF Bay Area. Around that time (mid-1987, 20 years ago) there were a few songs out that mentioned JK by name. "The House That Jack Kerouac Built" by the Go-Betweens, "Hey Jack Kerouac" by 10,000 Maniacs, and "Beatnik Beatch" by Beatnik Beatch (Andy Sturmer and Roger Manning's pre-Jellyfish band) with the refrain "hit the road Jack Kerouac, Beatnik beach".

It's been twenty years, but I still think Beatnik Beatch may be the stupidest band name in history! This is where I'd link to mp3s, but the only one of these songs I own digitally is the Go-Betweens, and I'm having trouble connecting with divshare, so I uploaded it to my former hostspace on esnips. The other two are links to youtube videos.

The Go-Betweens - The House That Jack Kerouac Built (mp3)
10,000 Maniacs - Hey Jack Kerouac (video)
Beatnik Beatch - Beatnik Beatch (video)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Manually through the automatic door

Today I've been enjoying The Automatic Door, the new album by Anton Barbeau and Su Jordan.

Anton has released 3.5 albums in the past year (counting the one with the Loud Family as a half and this one as a whole since the songs are all his), which is kind of overkill, but each album has at least three or four brilliant tracks that discerning listeners can assemble into their own killer Anton album.

I've had The Automatic Door for a few weeks, but it took me awhile to finally listen to it, since the tracks didn't come up when I tried to import the CD into iTunes, and I was too lazy to type in the tracks myself. I could have listened to it the old-fashioned way, on my car stereo, but I decided to wait until someone else submitted the tracks to CDDB. Someone was sure to add it eventually.

That someone turned out to be me. I waited and waited, then finally gave in and typed in the tracks last weekend. The CD is credited to "Anton Barbeau with Su Jordan", so I typed that into the artist field, typed in all of the track names, and even uploaded the cover from his website. After I was done, I hit the submit, so save future listeners from the trouble.

Before work today, I played the first track ("Staring at the Sun") on iTunes, which created an "Anton Barbeau with Su Jordan" artist entry on This artist only has one play scrobbled currently, but should eventually have more, given my efforts to spread the word and standardize the "Anton Barbeau with Su Jordan" name on the internet.

There are currently separate entries for "The Loud Family and Anton Barbeau", "Loud Family And Anton Barbeau", "The Loud Family & Anton Barbeau", and "Loud Family with Anton Barbeau". Also for "Anton Barbeau With The Bevis Frond", "Anton Barbeau W/ The Bevis Frond", and "Barbeau, Anton With The Bevis Frond" .

Anton Barbeau may be one of the most cataloged artists on, but The Automatic Door is really good and everyone should get it. It's only out in the UK, but is available through the usual place in the US. A few Anton albums, including his last pre-AD (BC?) one Drug Free, and his collaborations with the Loud Family and the Groovie Ghoulies were also added to emusic recently. Now everyone on emusic can sample, download, and enjoy the genius that is Anton!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Revenge of the Hippies

I felt guilty about making fun of those hippies living in the oak trees by Memorial Stadium yesterday, so I headed to Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park for the Summer of Love 40th Anniversary Celebration. It was an all-day free concert featuring the survivors from the era.

I was mostly there to see the reunions of Moby Grape and the Charlatans (these Charlatans, not those Charlatans) , but their sets were a few hours apart so I rode my bike around the park in between, which was like acres and acres of 1960s stock footage of hippies in Golden Gate Park coming to life! Both of the bands I came to see didn't really fit the hippie stereotypel. The Charlatans were a folky jug-band, a West Coast Lovin' Spoonful, while the Grape were a straight rock band. These were bands who played three and four minute songs instead of twenty minute jams. To my good fortune, there were no performances by former Dead members yesterday, but we were "treated" to the current incarnation of the Jefferson Starship, with Paul Katner and Marty Balin. Plus Country Joe and Barry Melton (performing separately).

Moby Grape had all the surviving original members with Omar Spence standing in for his dad Skip. Omar sounds just like his old man (hopefully without Skip's mental health issues) and they sounded really good, even though they played an even shorter set than they played at The 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Joel Selvin wrote in the Chronicle article that he couldn't see them playing together again, but I don't see why they couldn't. They recently won a lawsuit against their former manager which allows them to use the name Moby Grape, and all five of their original albums are being reissued by Sundazed next month, so the time is right for a Moby Grape revival. All they need is a web site (or at least a myspace presence)!

After MG's set, I ducked into the Kezar Pub for the end of the A's game. Right when you're ready to stop following baseball, something happens to drag you back. Even when the team is out of the pennant race, seven run comebacks are always exciting!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

We're gonna live in the trees

The Cal Bears football season kicks off tonight against Tennessee, in a battle of top 20 teams, if meaningless pre-season polls are to be believed. This is the biggest game at Memorial Stadium in awhile, so there's been a lot of media hype for this game.

A big part of the hype has centered on a group of protesters who have been living in a grove of trees near Memorial Stadium for the last six months to prevent the University from cutting down a few dozen trees to build a new athletic training facility. With the added publicity of the Tennessee game, the protesters were preparing to kick their protest into high gear.

And then the university built a temporary fence around the groves for the "security" of protesters and football fans. The protesters said that the fence violated their right to free speech, but yesterday a judge ruled that the fence could stay. Another disaster thwarted.

It seems to me like there are so much more worthy causes than a few dozen trees on a campus full of them. There are oak trees all over the UC campus, which are constantly being cut down and replanted, with no protests from anyone, but now that these trees going to be displaced to build a sports training facility, everyone is up in arms. It seems like they're mostly in it for the publicity. And the trees are on university property, the protesters are trespassing, essentially sitting in a tree in someone's backyard and telling them how to do their landscaping.

I wanted to see how the Tennessee media was handling the tree controversy, and came across this article in the Tennesseean, that talks about the "culture clash" that Vols fans who make the trip will find in Berkeley.
Wander a few blocks from the stadium and you'll get a refresher course in the '60s. Telegraph Avenue is there in all its tie-dyed splendor, complete with its used record stores, health food and ethnic restaurants, and shops that cater to many and varied tastes.
Used record stores? Ethnic restaurants? Shops catering to varied tastes? Won't anyone think of the children??

Maybe some Tennessee fans will pick up copies of Slayer's Reign in Blood CD at Amoeba before the game to help drive those protesters out of the trees. Everyone who's seen South Park knows that tree-hugging hippies can't handle thrash-metal.