Friday, November 30, 2007

Lolita in twenty years

After careful deliberation a few months ago, it was determined (and verified by wikipedia) that Game Theory's Lolita Nation was released on December 1, 1987.

This means that its 20th anniversary is tomorrow, and my self-assigned mission for today (the last day that we're blogging on NaBloPoMo) is to "explain the importance of Lolita Nation".

It was twenty years ago tomorrow that Lolita came out in three formats: A double vinyl LP, a double-length XDR cassette (guaranteed to break after twenty plays or so, and a single (non redbook compliant) compact disc. Lolita was the first Game Theory album released on the newfangled CD format, and its mastering shows that weren't quite up to speed on digital mastering yet. It's still one of the quietest CDs in my collection.

A few years later, Game Theory broke up, their record label (Enigma) folded, and lots of Lolita Nation records, tapes, and CDs fell out of circulation. The album has been "out of print" for at least 15 of its 20 years, and original CD copies fetch a sultan's ransom on ebay and amazon. The time seems ripe for a reissue, but Lolita still remains rare and out of print. If Lolita Nation were reissued and widely available, scores of songwriters would probably quit in frustration, hopelessly trying to duplicate Scott Miller's Lolita perfection.

The main thing that keeps the album from absolute perfection are the five tracks that Scott didn’t write, especially the two written by Donnette Thayer. Opinions seem to be divided on Donnette’s contributions to Lolita Nation, and (despite the undeniable rockiness of “Look Away”) my opinion is that they don’t fit the album. The instrumentals by Gil Ray (“Choose Between Two Sons”) and Shelley LeFreniere (“Toby Ornette”) flow with the rest of Lolita, but still kind of disrupt Scott’s flow of perfection. It's like Brian Wilson getting Carl and Dennis to contribute songs to Pet Sounds.

There are quite a few Game Theory performances from Lolita Nation on youtube (thanks to the tireless efforts of the GT/LF archivist whose nom-du-tube is "angrylambie"). They may be one of the most documented independent bands of their era.

Here are a handful of Lolita-era live clips.

The Waist And The Knees (The Fillmore, 9/8/88)
The World's Easiest Job (The I-Beam 12/14/87)
The Real Shelia (The I-Beam 12/14/87)
One More For Saint Michael (The I-Beam 12/14/87)
Chardonnay (Jackson, MS 1988)
Last Day That We're Young (The Stone, 1986)

For me, these clips are fun for trying to spot younger versions of me in the audience. I wasn’t at the 12/14/87 I-Beam show, but was at that 1988 Fillmore show where Game Theory opened for Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians. So were 2000 other people, but I was up front and center for Game Theory’s set.

As an added bonus, here are a couple of mp3s from Lolita Nation. “We Love You, Carol and Alison” should have been a moster hit single, and the album’s final coda, “Together Now, Very Minor” is one of my favorite songs ever, and one they didn't play live very much.

Lolita Nation mp3s:
Together Now, Very Minor

NaBloPoMo will end for me as soon as I click the "Save Now" button, so it’s time to say "I made it!" Thirty blog posts in November, one for each day of the month. I'm going to try to keep this up in December and onward, but probably won’t keep it up forever.

It's been fun. And Lolita Nation rules!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

El Juego Gigante

Or "The Big Game". And I'm not talking about tonight's Dallas-Green Bay game that's going out to a whopping 15% of the country tonight on the NFL Network. As everyone in the Bay Area knows, there may be other big games, but there is only one Big Game.

This Saturday, the 6-5 California Golden Bears will face off against the 3-8 Stanford Cardinal in the 111st Big Game (take that Grey Cup!). Cal started out of the gate 5-0 before losing five of their last six games, while Stanford had an up and down year that included a win over #1 USC and a bunch of losses. They still tripled the one win they had last year, so at this pace of improvement they should be playing in the Rose Bowl by next year!

Stanford currently leads the Big Game series 55-44-11, so this year's result will mess up the numerology no matter who wins. Cal has won the last five Big Games, but Stanford won the seven befor that, so the series tends to run in cycles. It always seems like both schools can't be good at the same time, so they take turns sucking.

Cal his having a down year by Jeff Tedford terms in 2007, but Stanford is still young and rebuilding, so I look for the Cal Bears to win the game, take the Axe, and take the lifetime series to 55-45-11. They're still playing for a bowl (alebit a nd one) while Stanford is playing for pride. And regaining the Axe.

The most famous Big Game was the 1982 game that Cal won on a last second kickoff return, which included five laterals and a final run through the Stanford band. It's normally referred to as The Play round these parts, and this year marks the25th anniversary, so there's been a lot of talk this week about The Play. More excuses to play Joe Starkey's call over and over:

"The band is on the field! Oh, excuse me for my voice, but I have never, never seen anything like it in the history of I have ever seen any game in my life! "

I wasn't living in the Bay Area back in '82, but have seen the highlight a few hundred times in the past 25 years, and still haven't seen anything like it in the history of I've ever seen any game in my life either.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

It still doesn't smell like Christmas spirit

Thanksgiving was last Thursday, and there now just 26 shopping days until Christmas. I'm usually in a big holiday mood by mid-November, but it just hasn't happened this year. It still hasn't begun to look a lot like Christmas everywhere I go. It still looks a lot like Thanksgiving to me.

As most of my readers know, I've been assembling a holiday mix compilationfor the last dozen or so years, first on tape and more recently on CD-R. Usually I'm completely done with the track selection by December 1st. I've only got seven songs so far this year, and haven't been motivated to complete it. Thankfully we had an early Thanksgiving so I'm still a few days away from my December 1st deadline.

Looking at the latest batch of holiday releases at, there isn't a lot of good new stuff out there. I checked some of the new holiday-related stuff on emusic, and wasn't overwhelmed by anything. I've got enough Christmas music to throw together a mix without any help from internets or record stores, but it's always good to be contemporary. Does anyone have any new discoveries or other suggestions?

Also, I'm pondering the idea of just doing a virtual mix this year by zipping up a bunch of mp3s and uploading them to divshare or wikiupload or something so folks could just download them and burn their own discs, or copy the songs to portable listening devices, or just keep them on the computer. This would take the USPS out of the equation, and also make it so I didn't have to go to the store to buy blanks CD-Rs. Any preferences or suggestions?

Gee whiz, I'm trying to be interactive now, breaking the third wall to ask the audience questions! Maybe I'll get more comments if I ask more questions. How are you feeling about these holidays? Is this going to be a year without a Santa Claus? Who would win a conflict between Heatmiser and Snowmiser? Or Mr. Scrooge and the Grinch? I'm sure I'll be in a holiday mood as soon as my favorite Christmas cartoons start showing up on TV.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Back in the arms of a good friend

I kept hearing the familiar lead break from Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend" playing over and over while browsing through the local Fry's Electronics a few months back, almost like the song was playing in a loop. It was actually someone playing "Guitar Hero II" where "Girlfriend" was one of the featured tracks.

Checking the google for more info, I came upon this review of Guitar Hero III that opines "The first thing you'll notice about GH III is that there's not a cruddy song to be found here — unlike its predecessor, which burdened us with the yawn rock of Matthew Sweet, among others". Subjectively speaking, "Girlfriend" is so Not a cruddy song. And what the heck is "yawn rock"?

Did anyone hear about the Romantics suing Activision (the makers of "Guitar Hero") for including a soundalike version of "What I Like About You" that sounds too much like the original? Romantics singer said that the (licensed) cover infringes on their "distinctive" sound. Somehow I don't think a I-IV-V progression can be trademarked?

Anyway, hearing Matthew Sweets non-yawn rock on "Guitar Hero II" got me in the mood to hear the Girlfriend CD, so I tried to dig it up when I got home but couldn't find it. I think I might have sold it back during one of my disc purges. I probably decided at some point that I could live with Time Capsule (compilation of all the best songs from Matthew's 90s albums) and without each of the individual albums. This true for his later albums, but Girlfriend is its own thing, and I suddenly felt empty without that thing (that I didn't even know I didn't have), so I put it on my mental list of albums to pick up the next time I was CD shopping.

The original Girlfriend is pretty easy to find in used bins, but I decided to splurge for a brand new copy of the extended version released last year, and I'm glad I did. The bonus tracks include live performances and alternate/preliminary demo of the album called Goodfriend. It has to be one of the most endurable and timeless albums of the early 1990s. I'm not sure why I sold the disc back in the first place. It's also an album that should be heard on CD instead of mp3 for a full dynamic listening experience. I've been listening to more and more albums on my hi-fidelity stereo, and forgot how great they sound after years of car/computer/iPod listening.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Workin' Overtime

"This is BTO -- Canada's answer to ELP. Their big hit was TCB. That's how we talked in the 70's. We didn't have a moment to spare! " -- Homer Simpson

I've got a bucket of work-related things to do in this last week of National Blog Posting month so I'm going to carry on with my third sports-related post in a row.

Ann Killion's headline in today's San Jose Mercury news about how adding Ted Tollner as an offensive assistant jump-started the 49er offense in yesterday's overtime win against Arizona: "Maybe 49ers' copy machine just needed some Tollner". Ugh.. Bad pun, no biscuit.

If Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner had just taken a sack in the end zone during yesterday's overtime period instead of fumbling the ball for a 49er touchdown, I could have satisfied my lifelong dream of watching a football overtime end with a safety. I'm sure it will happen eventually -- it's just a matter of time!

After spending the better part of my Thanksgiving weekend watching college and professional football games, I've decided that college games are way more exciting than NFL games. This time of year, most college teams play like they don't have anything to lose, mostly because they don't. The overtime rules for college games (where the game goes to "extra innings" and each team gets a chance to score) are a lot fairer than NFL overtime rules (where game goes to "sudden death" and the first team that scores wins). College teams in overtime games need to score and prevent the other team from scoring. The NFL overtime is a crap shoot based on a coin flip, where the team can win the toss, march down the field and kick a field goal.

There were two exciting overtime games over the weekend (LSU-Arkansas and.. another SEC game that Tennessee won) that went to five rounds of OT before there was a winner. They need to go for two point conversions after the third overtime, and both teams in these games kept scoring. If they were NFL gamex, it would have been like boom-bam game over. Maybe the NFL is worried about violating NLB fair labor laws if overtime games run too long? The Players Association might need to be paid time and a half or something.

Speaking of Bachman Workin' Overtime, even the CFL uses college rules for overtime. Canadians are ahead of US in everything. Touques off to the Saskatchewan Rough Riders who beat Winnepeg 23-19 to win the 95th Grey Cup yesterday..The 95th Cup, eh? That's nearly four cases worth of Grey Cup!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Digesting England by the pound

Last Wednesday the English national soccer team were eliminated from next year's European cup after losing 3-2 to Croatia. This means that the national team of the country that invented the sport isn't one of the 16 best teams in their continent. It's kind of like the USA not qualifying for the basketball competition in the Pan Am Games.

One day later, national coach Steve McLaren and his assistant were fired. The English media and public are still under the impression that they're a major soccer power even though they haven't won an international tournament since the 1966 World Cup. There was lots of talk in the media about how their players just didn't get the opportunity to play at the international level because there are too many "foreigners" playing in the English Premier League. I don't get the opportuntity to play international soccer either. Probably because I'm not good enough.

It seems like England is having a rough time dealing with not being a soccer power, even though they've never really been one. They're usually at least good enough to make it to the finals at least. The last time the English team was eliminated from a major competition was for the 1994 World Cup in the USA. I remember wondering why England and France weren't playing in that World Cup, and was surprised to discover that they hadn't qualified. I thought those countries always made it to the World Cup.

After their elimination from Euro 2008, there's been talk of limiting foreign players in the English Premier League to help develop their domestic talent. I'm a big fan of the EPL and think setting up a domestic quota would kill the league quicker than anything. It's like trying to make Americans better at baseball or basketball by limiting international players in MLB or the NBA. In order to be the best, you need to be able to compete against the best.

The problem isn't that there are too many foreign players on the top teams, it's that there aren't enough top level English players to field a competitive national team. And the solution to that is to make the players better. It just seems so obvious!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Remembering JoKe, sans frontieres

Joe Kennedy 1979-2007

The last game I saw Joe Kennedy pitch was the last game he started for the A's on the 4th of July against Toronto. He got lit up for four runs and didn't make it out of the first inning. After that outing, the A's moved him back to the bullpen, then waived him a few weeks later. He was claimed by Arizona then traded to Toronto where he finished the season. And now Joe Kennedy is dead. He collapsed at his in-laws home in Tampa and died from an apparent brain aneurysm. It was 44 years to the day after another another Kennedy was assassinated.

The A's acquired Kennedy from Colorado in the Eric Byrnes trade. Joe was a starter for the Rockies, but after his shoulder injury at the start of the 2006 season, the A's moved him to relief and made him their LOOGY. It was Joe's job to come in in a crucial situation to get lefthanded hitters out, and he was magnificent. He had a Zitoesque curve and a 90+ mph fastball that made it almost impossible for lefties to do anything. Kennedy was one of the most important parts of the 2006 A's club that made it to the ALCS before losing to the Tigers.

Kennedy did a good job in relief in 2006, so the A's made him a starter in 2007. It wasn't a role that suited his skills. Joe could always get left-handers out at will, but he had trouble with right-handed hitters, which is a bit of a problem since MLB has more right handed hitters. After that July 4th game versus Toronto, he was 2-7 and they moved him back to the bullpen, but his confidence was shaken from the early season starting experiement, so he was never the same. He would've continued to have a long and distinguished career, because in this age of MLB specialization, every team has a job for a left-handed pitcher who can get left-handed batters out.

As a left-handed person myself, I've always been drawn to left-handed athletes like McCovey, Stabler, Vida, Clark, and Zito, so I always pulled for Joe Kennedy to do well. With Joe's struggles at the start of last season, A's bloggers started referring to him as "JoKe", but it wasn't his fault he was tasked with a role that he wasn't set out to perform.

In this rough year for Bay Area sports, this helps me realize that every struggling athlete or embattled coach is someone's husband, someone's father, someone's son, someone's brother. No matter what we think of anyone's performance, it's always best to stay away from their character or their manhood, or any of that other personal crap. They're just dressing up in costumes and paying silly games. While we're hiding out in treetops, shouting out rude names.

Joe Kennedy leaves behind a one year old son and a pregnant wife. My heart goes out to his wife, his son, his child-to-be, the rest of his family, and all of his former friends and teammates. Joe was a good pitcher, but I'm sure he was a much better person.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Your voice across the line gives me a strange sensation

Friday is usually the time on Hot Rox when I post a few mp3s for my dozen of readers. Today is Friday, but I'm here and my songs are there, so I can't really post any songs. but with the help of youtube, I will post a few of my favorite versions of one of my favorite songs ever: "Hanging On The Telephone", originally by The Nerves.

The Nerves - Hanging On The Telephone (1976, s/t EP)
The Original version and still the best. The Nerves only released one four song EP during their time together, but it was one of the blueprints for modern (post-punk) power pop. The band included Peter Case (future Plimsouls leader), Paul Collins (future Beat leader), and Jack Lee (mostly known as the guy who wrote "Hanging On The Telephone").

Paul Collins & Peter Case - Hanging On The Telephone (live 2007)
Performed earlier this year at an in-store at Antones Records in Austin, TX during SxSW. This shows that Peter and Paul may be a little wider around the middle and thinner on top thirty years after the Nerves, but they still know how to Rock.

Blondie - Hanging On The Telephone (1979, Dutch TV)
The most famous and best known version of "HOTT" is the hit version by Blondie. This was the first song on the first side of Parallel Lines (1978), an album that will always remind me of those awkward junior high years. It's great how "HOTT" can be covered by a chick singer without any gender modifications.

Cat Power - Hanging On The Telephone (2005, Cingular ad)
Even Chan Marshall couldn't mess up "HOTT". This sounds like a cover-of-a-cover based on Blondie's version. This was supposed to come out on Cat Power's new album of covers (hasn't she already done one or two of those?) but isn't listed on the tracklist. The ad is no longer in rotation since Cingular (the company) no longer exists (they're the new AT&T), so this version is probably lost forever, which is too bad.

Def Leppard - Hanging On The Telephone (2006)
Really? Def Leppard covered this song? Yeah they did, on last year's album of covers, and it's pretty good. The other selections on that album also look interesting, even though no one should be allowed to cover "Waterloo Sunset" without a written recommendation byRay Davies.

Bonus clip - How to play "Hanging On The Telephone"

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Now Be Thankful

From 1970 AD, here is the post-Sandy Fairport Convention performing "Now Be Thankful".

Like yesterday's entry, this is just one dish of a six course Fairport Thanksgiving available on the youtubes. The entire performance is also available on a new DVD for people who still adhere to the old distribution model where people have to pay for stuff.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

This includes a couple of songs (parts 4 and 5) by Matthews Southern Comfort, Iain Matthews post-Fairport band who I always thought were some duelin' geetar SuhthinRawkBand, but these two tunes are folkier and Britisher than that. I don't know why Iain chose that band name.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Be thankful for good things below.. and above.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

As God is my witness

For the last 29 years, there may have been debates about the second funniest Thanksgiving sitcom episode ever, but this will always be the funniest Thanksgiving show ever. No debate.

The entire "Turkeys Away" epidode is here, here, here, and here.
Happy Thansgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Segmentation fault - Core dumped

In today's NY Times, David Brooks talked to Steven Van Zandt about the segmented society of music in the 21st century and the loss of a shared Rock culture. Their article is basically a complete load of snarkpiffle, which I'd usually just ignore, but I need to post for the remaining ten days of NaBloPoMo, so I'm going to crack a cold one, quote the best bits, and reply to them all by talking back to the TV, MSTK style.

On Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles played on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Or as Steven Van Zandt remembers the moment: "It was the beginning of my life."

Little Steven's life actually began on November 22, 1950. JFK was assassinated on his 13th birthday. He's turning 57 in a couple of days. Happy Birthday, Silvio Dante! You do realize that there was music before the Beatles hit America, right?

The 1970s were a great moment for musical integration. Artists like the Rolling Stones and Springsteen drew on a range of musical influences. These mega-groups attracted gigantic followings and can still fill huge arenas.

These mega-groups mostly fill huge arenas with middle-aged white people, but I think Brooks probably means "integration" in the marketing sense not in the "ebony and ivory together in perfect harmony" sense. The 1970s weren't that great for that either.

There are now dozens of niche musical genres where there used to be this thing called rock.

"There used to be this thing called rock". WhatTheFuzz??

There are many bands that can fill 5,000-seat theaters, but there are almost no new groups with the broad following or longevity of the Rolling Stones, Springsteen or U2.
U2 started in the post-fragmented 80s. And it would be impossible, temporally speaking, for new groups to have the longevity of the Stones, Springsteen, or U2.. because they're new groups. Ipso facto idioto!

Technology drives some of the fragmentation. Computers allow musicians to produce a broader range of sounds. Top 40 radio no longer serves as the gateway for the listening public.

When the public has access to a broader range of sounds, they're exposed to more types of music. They don't need top 40 radio to tell them what to like, they end up liking what they really like. I fail to see how these are Bad Things. Anyway, boo Technology and Computers!

But other causes flow from the temper of the times. It’s considered inappropriate or even immoral for white musicians to appropriate African-American styles.

Immoral? Which era is David Brooks living in? Pretty much every musician working in the dozens of musical subgenres that fragmented from what used to be called "rock" is appropriating an African-American style! The Beastie Boys were nominated for the Rock Hall of Fame this year working in the most prevalent African-American style going.

(Van Zandt) argues that if the Rolling Stones came along now, they wouldn’t be able to get mass airtime because there is no broadcast vehicle for all-purpose rock.

Classic rock radio is the broadcast vehicle for all-purpose rock, and they play the hell out of the Rolling Stones. If the Stones came along now, they'd definitely get airplay on Little Steven's Underground Garage, but they might not, because they're all over 60 and stuff!

He says that most young musicians don’t know the roots and traditions of their music. They don’t have broad musical vocabularies to draw on when they are writing songs..As a result, much of their music (bowdlerizing his language) stinks.

This reminds me of that episode of Red Dwarf when Lister travels back in time to meet his younger self and urge him to give up on his musical dreams.

OLD LISTER: I've come to try and change your future.
YOUNG LISTER: Change it? Aren't you happy being a rock star?
OLD LISTER: You don't make it as a rock star. You don't make it 'cause ... you're crap.
YOUNG LISTER: Oh, and how would you know, grandad? You're too old to receive what we're trying to transmit!

Van Zandt has a way to counter all this, at least where music is concerned. He’s drawn up a high school music curriculum that tells American history through music. It would introduce students to Muddy Waters, the Mississippi Sheiks, Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers.

If someone else came up with this idea forty years ago when Steve Van Zandt was in high school, it would've probably gone over something like this.

High School Teacher: You should start listening to good music like Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey, Steven. Rock & roll is a passing fad!
Young Little Steven: What a drag..Big bands are Squaresville, daddy-o! And rock & roll is Nowsville!

These days it would go over something like this..

Old Man Van Zandt: You kids should listen to good music like Bob Dylan and the Allman Brothers! Your music doesn't have deep roots or a broad musical vocabulary, man!
High School Kid: And how would you know, old man? You're too old to receive what we're trying to transmit!

(cue Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", then fade to black)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Throwbacks and throwaways

The 49ers wore their classic uniforms (red jerseys with white numerals, gold pants with red and white stripes) for yesterday's game against the Rams. Even though they lost the game 13-9, at least they looked like five time Super Bowl champions.

There was also a glut of so-called "throwback" jerseys in the stands. Tons of Steve Young (#8), Joe Montana (#16), Ronnie Lott (#42) and Jerry Rice (#80) jerseys and not a lot of Alex Smith (#11), Frank Gore (#21) or any other current Niners. It seems like everyone at Candlestick Park is pining for the days of the 49er dynasty.

I saw a couple of folks wearing this guy's #32 jersey, which is like wearing a giant sign reading "I Am An Idiot". Even if you're wearing your O.J. jersey ironically, there's nothing funny about double murder and armed robbery ( no matter what Jay Leno thinks)

I did a web search for "O.J. Simpson jerseys" to see where someone would pick up something like that, and (surprisingly) they're mostly counterfeit. O.J. ended his career with a couple of undistinguished years in San Francisco, but if this Pro Bowl jersey with "Simpson" on the front and "National" on the back were authentic, he would've had to play in the Pro Bowl as a 49er.

That O.J. Simpson NFC Pro Bowl jersey can be yours for $19.99. It's interesting what happens to jerseys for players that move to other teams. You can buy a Terrell Owens 49er or Eagle jersey for $19.99 and a Randy Moss Raider jersey for $9.99. Michael Vick Atlanta Falcon jerseys are also at $29.95 and falling fast, but they're an even larger "I Am An Idiot" sign.

All those stories about sports leagues donating mislabeled merchandise ( "2007 World Champion Colorado Rockies" t-shirts and the like) to third world countries are apparently true.

The article even has photographic evidence of a bunch of Zambians proudly showing off their "Super Bowl XLI Champion Chicago Bears" t-shirts.

The Bears missed the chance to record their updated "Super Bowl Runner-Up Shuffle" rap.

We didn't lose because we're seedy
The Bears got beat to clothe the needy
Our Super Bowl loss might have caused a ruffle
But at least we didn't rhyme "trouble" and "shuffle"

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Then again, I probably won't feel a whole lot better when you're gone

Yesterday was Gene Clark's birthday, so here's a Teenage Fanclub covering his best-known song, "Feel a Whole Lot Better" sometime in the mid-1990s.

According to wikipedia (and if you can't believe wikipedia, who can you believe?) Clark's royalties from Tom Petty's cover of this song on his multiplatinum album Full Moon Fever gave him (Gene) enough money to finally drink himself to death. That's very sad if it's true, but I'll always feel a whole lot better living in a world where "Feel A Whole Lot Better"was written.

Here's a vintage clip of Gene and the Byrds performing the song on "Shindig", back when silly granny glasses were the height of fashion.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Broken windshield special

The late Pete Axthelm used to dub late season NFL matchups between underperforming teams the "broken windshield special". Meaning if you were to leave two tickets to the game on the dashboard of your car, you'd come back you'll find that someone's broken the windshield and left two more.

Ax's broken windshield story was added to snopes a while ago as an unverified urban legend, but I thought of it because my brother and I have tickets to this weekend's brokend windshield special between the (1-8) St. Louis Rams and the (2-7) San Francisco 49ers. The two teams are a combined 3-17. It's my first NFL game in more than a dozen years, so I'm still looking forward to it (we might actually see the Niners WIN), but it's pretty much the opposite of a quality matchup. Baseball games between bad teams are usually entertaining, because bad teams have bad pitching and bad pitching means more offense, but bad football teams tend to play bad football games. A football field full of bad football players on both sides of the ball.

This has been a rough month for Bay Area sports. Since I came back from my trip to Europe on October 10th, the Raiders and 49ers haven't won a game, the local college teams (Cal, Stanford, SJSU) all went into a slide, the Warriors were winless until yesterday, the Sharks.. wow, the Sharks are in first place in the Pacific Division but even I don't pay attention to early season NHL hockey!

Then there's the whole Barry Bonds indictment thing. I'm really conflated about that development, so I'm trying not to write about it, but I need to come up with daily posts for the remaining two weeks of November, so my "Bonds gasket" is in danger of blowing anytime. I'm mostly annoyed that his trial is going to be bigger than O.J's, inescapable here in the SF Bay Area, and it all seems so pointless and silly. The story is only two days old and I've already had my fill many times over.

Tomorrow I get to watch two NFC West bottom feeders duke it out in the stadium where a skinny kid named Barry Bonds with a normal sized head used to play left field. I just have to move the tickets somewhere where they won't start spawning overnight. I sure don't want to wake up to two pairs of 49er-Ram tickets!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Forty Love

I wanted to mark the 40th anniversary of Love's Forever Changes, except that I'm not sure about its exact release date. All the web sources that I've seen (amazon, wikipedia, rateyourmusic) show the release date just "November 1967". I'm choosing today (11/16/2007) to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Happy birthday to Forever Changes!

Forever Changes is a wonderful record that should be in everyone's collection. It's been one of my desert island discs since I first acquired it in the mid-1980s. I was intrigued by the five star review in the Rolling Stone Record Guide that called it a "lost psychedelic masterpiece" and "indescribably essential" (among other superlatives), and also by constantly seeing Love mentioned in reviews of artists I favored at the time like Echo & the Bunnymen and Lloyd Cole & the Commotions (there was a line in "Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?" about "listening to Arthur Lee records") . I thought it was high time to chase the river back to its source.

Finding Forever Changes became my search for the holy grail during my second year of college. I think I had to special order it, since it wasn't readily available in the pre-CD era. Once I found the album, it was love at first listen. Other people just like me have discovered the album the same way over the past 40 years, but still very much a product of its place (L.A.) and time (late-67). Here are cover versions of four selected songs from Forever Changes

1. Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs - Alone Again Or
(from Under The Covers, 2006)
"Alone Again Or" has been covered a bunch of times. Along with this cover by Sweet & Hoffs (Sid & Susie), it's also been covered by UFO , the Damned, Calexico, and the Boo Radleys. Among others. One of the two Forever Changes songs written by Bryan MacLean

2. Bryan MacLean - Old Man
(from Ifyoubelievein, 1997)
The other MacLean-penned song on the album is "Old Man". This is a 1966 solo demo of the song from the album ifyoubelievein, released by Sundazed in 1997. Bryan MacLean died of a heart attack one year after this album of his early demos came out (Christmas Day 1998)

3. Yo La Tengo - A House Is Not A Motel
(from Ride The Tiger, 1986)
Around the time of the Damned version of "Alone Again Or", Yo La Tengo released a cover "A House Is Not A Motel", the second song on Forever Changes, on their debut album. It was also the B side of their debut single ("River of Water", 1985).

4. Baby Lemonade - You Set The Scene
(from 68% Pure Imagination, 1996)
Baby Lemonade later became Arthur Lee's backing band, helping him finally take Forever Changes on the road in 2004-2005. There are parallels between that and Brian Wilson's sMiLe tour, but one main difference is that the musical direction on Wilson's tour was by the backing band (the Wondermints and Jeff Foskett) while Arthur Lee was the one in charge on the Love tour, and Baby Lemonade were his backing band.

I saw one of the final shows on the Forever Changes tour, at the Great American Music Hall in the spring of 2005. Arthur Lee & Love (aka Baby Lemonade) co-headlined with the Zombies. It was younger crowd (full of indie kids) and they all knew all the FC songs. During the Zombies set, Rod Argent asked if everyone was there to see someone else, because most of the audience would have been about negative 10 years old when Forever Changes and Odessey & Oracle came out. Shortly after that show, Arthur Lee split with his backing band (either they fired him or he fired them), and he died of leukemia one year later on August 3, 2006.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Firing up the canon

I'm trying not to clutter up this blog with too many rants, but a couple of items from yesterday's and today's internets are causing me to reach for my (metaphorical) revolver.

(Cannon, get it?)

First was Joel Selvin's crochety column in yesterday's SF Chronicle about this year's "lackluster" Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees. According to Selvin, Chic and Donna Summer were "one hit disco bands", Afrika Bambaataa and the Beastie Boys belong in the "hip-hop hall of fame, not the Rock and Roll Hall of fame", and the RRHoF nominating committee has a "musical education began in the '80s". Get off my damn lawn, you damn kids! grumble grumble.

Selvin has been the Chronicle's "senior pop writer" since the days of wax cylinders, and has been out of touch for the last 30 years. S.F. Weekly used to run a weekly "Selvin watch" from his columns, until the piece ran out of steam and the Weekly got acquired by New Times and started sucking even more than the Chronicle. Some of Selvin's columns, like last Saturday's writeup of the Costello/Clover show are pretty good (probably because My Aim Is True came out in July 1977, a few months before Joel fell out of touch), but he sounds like Bill O'Reilly (or Roger Friedman) whenever he tries to tackle "current" post-boomer music.

I'm not overly whelmed by the latest batch of RRHoF nominees (Afrika Bambaataa, Beastie Boys, Chic, Leonard Cohen, Dave Clark Five, Madonna, John Mellencamp, Donna Summer, the Ventures) and think the whole concept is questionable, but Selvin's "that's not ROCK AND ROLL" arguments against Madonna, Chic, Donna Summer, and the Beasties are even more of a joke, just as old and tired as he is.

I'm embarrassed that my own list of worthwhile acts who haven't made it to the Hall of Fame yet (the Hollies, the Zombies, the Monkees) all fall safely within Joel Selvin's restrictive definition of "rock & roll". Except the Monkees -- who according to the Selvin generation weren't a real R&R band, just actors who played a band on television. They were schlock, not rock.

Arguing about who does and doesn't belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame might be a tiring exercise, but at least it's more fun than arguing about who is and isn't "indie rock". This list of the "100 Greatest Indie-Rock Albums Ever" from the latest issue of Blender actually isn't too bad, even if its definition of "indie-rock" ("Born 25-odd years ago in suburban garages and spread via college radio, it has made distortion into something hummable, boredom into something thrilling and aimlessness into a raison d’être — and these days, thanks to blogs and the fine people at Grey’s Anatomy, it’s more popular than ever." -- that's one sentence) doesn't jibe with any reality I've experienced in my life.

If indie-rock was born 25 years ago, what was the first indie-rock release? Blender's list includes the self-titled Velvet Underground album from 1969 (on non-indie MGM/Verve) and the first Thirteenth Floor Elevators album from 1966, but perhaps they were proto-indie-rock?. The Velvets and Elevators fall within Wikipedia's definition of indie-rock: "a genre of alternative rock that primarily exists in the independent underground music scene", but quote indie-rock unquote didn't really exist until the 1980s. They've also got the Shaggs at #100. Like the bartender said after the priest and the rabbi walked into the bar "is this some kind of a joke?".

Blender's list fueled the usual discussion on music blogs like stereogum and idolator ("where's This? And how could anyone rank That over The Other?")
including hair-splitting pedantry about how That could be called "indie-rock" anyway, since it came out on Interscope.

PS: I've been a Barry Bonds apologist for a long time, but this has to cheapen his home run record a little.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Los Grandes Exitos

Janet's mention of Chicago IX in the comments to my last entry made me think of greatest hits albums today. Lots of hardcore music geeks seem to hate best-of albums because the songs are "out of context" or whatever, but I love them! They're ideal for bands like Chicago who had a handful of decent songs spread throughout their career, but never made a great album.

Greatest hits albums make good "gateways" for checking new artists out, since they provide all the best songs in one place, and a few of them make great starting and ending points. Off the top of my iPod, here are some of the greatest hits compilations in regular rotation for me.

  1. Abba - Gold
  2. David Bowie - ChangesBowie
  3. Buzzcocks - Singles Going Steady
  4. CCR - Chronicle, Volume 1
  5. Donovan - Greatest Hits
  6. The Hollies - Greatest Hits
  7. Bob Marley - Legend
  8. Sly & The Family Stone - Greatest Hits
  9. Squeeze - Singles 45's and Under
  10. T. Rex - T. Rextasy
I cut it off at ten, so I'm probably missing quite a few. With a few exceptions (like Bowie) most of these fall in the "All the songs by {Artist Name} that I'll ever need" category.

When I was a younger music geek, the only records available by CCR, Donovan, the Byrds, the Hollies, Sly & the Family Stone, and all the other old schoolers were their greatest hits albums. These collections are like old friends from my childhood. The Buzzcocks and Squeeze comps were some of my first forays into "new wave". T. Rextasy (long out of print) is the only T. Rex comp that has their pre and post Electric Warrior output in one place. And everyone in the world owns a copy of Abba Gold -- I think it's required by law!

I'm also fond of the "greatest hits" from Continuum's 33 1/3 series of books about albums. They've put out Volume 2 just in time for the holidays. The 33 1/3 books (pocket sized paperbacks where someone expounds about an album) retail for $9.95 each, which seems a bit overpriced for something you can read in the time it takes to listen to the album. The "greatest hits" (with the best bits from 20 individual books) only costs $10.85 for five times the word count. They also give excerpts from all the recent 33 1/3 books to help readers decide which books might be good and which ones might be bad. They're like literary mix tapes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Guerillas on the wings of Eagles

The new Eagles album The Long Road Out of Eden is exclusive to Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, but according to this blog entry by Don VanCleave, the president of CIMS (the Coalition Of Independent Music Stores), it's somehow finding its way to other stores as well.

When I got the CIMS chart yesterday morning, I quickly scanned it looking for where the WAL-MART EAGLES had landed. Yeah, I know it is a Wal-Mart exclusive, but we practice guerrilla retail. Between Best Buy, Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and Sam's club, we can't decide who to award as the "Distributor of the Year." With their retail prices generally much lower than our direct from distributor prices, it is always a pleasure to buy all of the hits on deep discount.

So naturally, many of our guys picked up the WAL-MART EAGLES new release at Wal-Mart to resell back in their stores. We heard stories for the past few weeks about customers asking indie stores for the WAL-MART EAGLES. When informed that they would need to go to Wal-Mart to pick up the title, the customers responded "Dude, we don't go in that damn place" or something similar. So, supply and demand dictates that we make it available for our customers.

This causes a Soundscan problem because the CDs are technically being sold twice, but I think it's a resourceful way for independent stores to deal with big box exclusives on hot ticket releases. Wander over to the local Wal-Mart or Sam's Club, pick up an armload of Eagles (or WAL-MART EAGLES, as Mr. VanCleave calls them) discs at $11.99 each, mark them up by a few bucks and resell them at your store.

Or even better, get someone to "liberate" a bunch of CDs from the Wal-Mart (five finger discount style) and sell them for a 100% profit. People always talk about how illegal downloading hurts artists just like shoplifting their CDs from Tower Records Sam Goody Wal-Mart, but discs stolen from retailers don't really hurt artists at all. Apparently the Eagles sold 3 million return-free copies to Wal-Mart, so they've already made their money whether Wal-Mart sells those discs or not. Liberating the discs from Wal-Mart doesn't hurt the Eagles, just Wal-Mart and their insurance company.

I think shoplifting might be against the law, but that's how I'd acquire the Eagles CD if I was interested in getting it. I shop at lots of other big box chains (Best Buy, Target), buy coffee from Starbucks, and eat at multinational fast-food franchises (McD's, BK, KFC,TB), so I'm not the world's most conscientious consumer, but I draw the line at Wal-Mart. When I enter a Wal-Mart store, I feel like I'm supporting organized crime.

The Eagles CD is also available from their website, so independent retailers can also order discs directly from the band (and resell them at a profit) but I'm sure that Don Henley and Glenn Frey do all the order fulfillment from (just like Santa Claus reading every letter from the kids that write to him every Christmas), so I imagine the following exchange between Don and Glenn when they get unusually high-volume orders from their website.

DH: Hey Glenn, we just got an order for 200 copies of Long Road Out of Eden from Amos B.Music in San Francisco. Ca-ching! Amos must be a big fan.
GF: Uh, Don... that looks like Amoeba Music! Aren't they one of those independent record stores we're trying to drive out of business?
DH: Oh yeah. No discs for Amos, then. Direct sales are only for fans!

The new Eagles CD will probably be a huge seller this holiday season, because the first disc sounds like a pastiche on their 1971-1975 Greatest Hits album (only the top selling album of all time!) and the second disc sounds like three new solo albums by Henley, Frey, and Walsh rolled into one. It took six years to make, so you know it's good. I'm basing this entirely on other reviews, because I haven't heard one note of the damn thing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Ty-D-Bowl Championship Series

I love how the NCAA BCS College Football Rankings are expanded to four decimal places. Everything looks so much more "official" when it's extended to thousandths of a point.

With the Ohio State University losing to Illinois last week, the BCS rankings this year are even more messed up than they usually are. Their standings are based on rankings from two human polls (the USA Today Coaches poll and the Harris Interactive poll of former players, coaches, administrators and current and former media) and an amalgam of six computer rankings.

The six computer rankings are by Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsley, Wes Colley, Kenneth Massey, Jeff Sagarin, and Peter Wolfe. These rankings are all extended to many decimal places, but none of them mention how they come up with their rankings. These six things somehow bang together to score LSU at .990, Kansas at .940, Oregon at .930, etc.

Here is the current BCS Top Ten along with their conferences.

1. LSU (9-1) - SEC
2. Oregon (8-1) - Pac 10
3. Kansas (10-0) - Big 12
4. Oklahoma (9-1) - Big 12
5. Missouri (9-1) - Big 12
6. West Virginia (8-1) - Big
7. Ohio State (10-1) - Big 10
8. Arizona State (9-1) - Pac 10
9. Georgia (8-2) - SEC
10. Virginia Tech (8-2) - ACC

At the end of the year, the top two teams in the poll play for the national championship. There are two undefeated teams (Kansas and Hawaii) and seven teams with one loss (Oregon, Oklahoma, Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio State, Arizona State, Boise State). Kansas is third below LSU and Oregon, because even though they're undefeated, they haven't really beat anyone yet.

The other undefeated team, Hawaii, is currently 17th in the BCS rankings. In fact, they're ranked outside the top 25 in five of the six computer polls. Why do computers hate surf and sand so much? Probably some sort of silicon envy?

Every other college sport (including lower division football) determines their champion by a championship, where schools play against each other and the last one standing is the national champion. Upper division college football is determined by a poll of humans and computers. It reduces the top sport in the country to the level of figure skating, where you're docked points if the Ukrainian judge doesn't like the sequins on your gown. Extending the rankings to four decimal places just makes them more accurately subjective, but it's still a popularity contest.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My favorite waste of time

Marshall Crenshaw turns 54 today, so he was almost 30 when he did this video for "Whenever You're On My Mind". How old is too old to dress up like a pirate?

Here's an older and more dignified Marshall performing "Favorite Waste of Time", which was the flipside of his first (and only) hit single "Someday, Someway".

"Waste of Time" has become something of a standard, with covers by Owen Paul, Bette Midler, and Ronnie Spector, among others. Ronnie's version is on an EP of five Marshall Crenshaw covers called Something's Gonna Happen, which is available on emusic.

While I'm in a birthday mood, Neil Young turns 62 tomorrow. This note's for you, Neil!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Writers versus Wrongers

I'm trying to understand how the strike by the Writers Guild of America affects me. I don't watch that many first-run network shows, and mostly watch sports and old reruns on TV. I could live without original shows for a long time without a whole lot of hardship.

Television writers going on strike are a lot like professional sports leagues going on strike. Sports and entertainment aren't really essential commodities. If people can't watch NHL hockey games or new episodes of "The Office", they will find other things to do with their time, and over the long haul, both the management and the workers end up losing, no matter who "wins" the settlement.

This is probably a short-sighted view, because there are bigger issues involved in the conflict between television writers and network management. The writers want a larger cut of DVD rentals and "new media" (i.e. internet) sales, which are becoming a more lucrative revenue streams for TV networks than first time, over the air, programming. This WGA video puts their fight in perspective.

So itt's not just first run episodes of "The Office" that you'll be missing. It's reruns of "The Office" and DVDs of "The Office" and iTunes downloads of "The Office" (NBC pulled their shows off iTunes a few months ago -- I'm speaking in the abstract).

By saying "this doesn't affect me, because I don't watch much television", I'm missing the most important part of the WGA argument. Networks are making lots of residual money from programs without sharing it with the writers who created the programming. Corporations invest their profits in the war machine while keeping everyone else blind. It's like The People versus The Man.

A few days ago, Sue said that without writers, "all we are left with is a turned-off TV". At least a TV that only shows reruns, reality shows, news, sports, and other programming that doesn't use guild talent. It's probably no coincidence that the writers chose November to start their strike. It's not only sweeps month, but the worst sports month of the year. Nights and nights of meaningless regular season NBA and NHL games will turn anyone into a supporter of the writer's guild.

Did you know the National Lacrosse League was also on strike? I didn't either.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Shubh Diwali

Given the ethnic breakdown of the IT workforce in the SF Bay Area, it's probably not much of a surprise that my office doesn't celebrate Halloween much, but we throw a big celebration every year for Diwali.

Diwali (or Deepavali -- the Hindu festival of light) is based on the Hindu calendar, so it's kind of like Easter Sunday, falling at a different date on the Gregorian calendar every year, usually sometime in late October or early November. This year it falls on Friday November 9th, which is today, so I thought this would be a good day to explore the music of the Indian subcontinent.
Bollywood here we come!

That's Mohammad Rafi's "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" from the movie Gumnaam (1965), more famous in the Western world as the song that Enid is dancing to in the opening sequence of Ghost World.

The movie Gumnaam (based on the trailer on Youtube) was "India's first suspense thriller", loosely based on Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. One of my co-workers gave me a bootleg DVD of the movie (copyrights on 40 year old films are a little looser in India) and this dance sequence really is the best thing about the film.

If you look closely, you'll see that the band is called "Ted Lyons and His Cubs", which baseball historians might find funny because the real Ted Lyons was a hall of fame pitcher for the Chicago White Sox. Ted and his Cubs (or at least their bass drumhead) also appeared in the 1965 movie Janwar, dressed up in Beatle wigs and backing up Shammi Kapur on "Tumse Hai Dil Ko".

This clip has been floating around the internets for awhile (I think the Jestaplero posted it a few months back), and it really deserves to be watched multiple times. India's music scene isn't as insular as Westerners think it is, they have boy bands and Madonna clones just like the rest of the world, and in the mid-60s when Beatlemania was in full bloom, there were bands like Ted Lyon & his Cubs bringing the rock and roll to the Indian kids. It's like audio chicken tikka masala, an eastern attempt to imitate western taste that ends up as delicious synthesis of east and west.

It's interesting to note that in 1965, these Indians were trying to ape the Beatles while George Harrison had discovered the sitar and was starting to explore Indian Music in "Norwegian Wood". Tjinder Singh and Cornershop's Punjabi cover of "Norwegian Wood" could have been what completed the cycle thirty years later.

Cornershop - Norwegian Wood (this bird has flown)
Mohammad Rafi (with Ted Lyons & his Cubs?) - Jaan Pehechaan Ho

For hours of rainy day enjoyment, watch all six part "Bollywood A Go Go" clips on youtube. One of the Bollywood backing bands has "The Monkees" written on their bass drum. Did Mickey Dolenz have to pawn his drum kit on the way to the Maharishi's ashram in 1968?

Happy Diwali everyone. I'm going to sign off now. It's nearly lunchtime and the chicken tikka masala catered from Swagat isn't going to eat itself!

Thursday, November 8, 2007


Don Shula said earlier this week that the New England Patriots should get an asterisk next to their record if they finish the season undefeated, since the record would be tainted by the "Spygate" scandal when they were penalized for filming the Jets sidelines on the first week of the season. (Why does every scandal these days need to be prefaced with "-gate"?)

Shula's 1972 Miami Dolphins were the last NFL team to go undefeated, way back in the year of Watergate (now that makes sense as a "-gate"!), but several teams have come close. The 1976 Raiders should never have lost that one game, the 1984 or 1989 49ers could have easily gone undefeated, and I don't know how the 1985 Chicago Bears ever lost a game.

I was only seven when the year the Dolphins went undefeated, but I remember that they really weren't dominant in the same way those 80s teams were and New England is this year. They just never lost. The 1972 Dolphins were helped a lot by being in a weak division, just like the 2007 Patriots are (in the same AFC East/North division) and clinched the division title early on, just like New England is about to do this year.

I think the lack of competition in their own division is the main reason the Patriots probably won't go undefeated this year. They will have an easier time with their 6 conference games, but won't be ready when the tough games come. Their victory over the Colts last week meant that this year's AFC championship will be played in Foxboro instead of Indy, and in a few weeks, they'll have everything wrapped up and won't have a whole lot to play for. The 1972 Dolphins won the AFC East by 7 games, and after week 9, the chance of an undefeated season was the only thing that kept them motivated to keep winning.

It's hard to talk about sports and asterisks without mentioning Barry Bonds. The guy who won the online auction for Bonds' 756th HR said that he would donate the ball to the Baseball Hall of Fame branded with an asterisk. Barry said he would never appear at Cooperstown, even to be inducted, if they display his home run ball with an asterisk. "There's no such thing as an asterisk in baseball" he said. Tell that to Roger Maris.

I'd like to see Major League Baseball follow the Onion and preface Bonds' name in the record books with an asterisk, a pound Sign, an exclamation Point, and a letter 'F'. In reverse order.

"F*#! Barry Bonds, 756 F*#!^&% home run".

If they replace the asterisks with percent signs or some other glyph, they might even get Barry to visit his 756th home run ball!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Watching the shows go by

I was recently hipped to iConcertCal, which is an extremely clever iTunes plug in that scans your music library and provides you with a personalized calendar of upcoming album releases and local shows by artists in your iTunes library.

These days I don't keep up with upcoming shows like I used to, so it's nice to have a calendar of artists that are coming to town. I found out that Jonathan Richman and the Rubinoos are playing at the Great American Music Hall on December 6th. What a double bill? Hopefully they'll play some songs together.

Tomorrow night at the GAMH, Elvis Costello is playing two shows with Clover (the Bay Area band that backed him up thirty years ago on My Aim Is True), performing songs from that album as a benefit for Austin de Lone's son. I found out about that show when it popped up on iConcertCal, which was before the fact but well after the $100 tickets were sold out for both shows. That would be fun to see, but I'm not sure it would be a hundred bucks worth of good, even if it is a worthy cause.

Aimee Mann is playing another set of Christmas shows at Bimbo's on December 2nd and 3rd. maybe she'll invite Scott Miller as a "special guest" again this year?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Bad Medicine

Last week, IRS and DEA agents raided one of the three medicinal cannabis dispensaries a few blocks from where I live.

According to the DoJ, the "Alameda County Compassionate Collective" (these places have the best names!) generated sales of more than $74,000 in 2004, $1.3 million in 2005, $21.5 million in 2006 and $26.3 million through June 2007.

The facility was permitted by Alameda county and California state laws, but U.S. federal drug laws trump both local and state laws, and the owners apparently weren't reporting all their millions of income, which is where the IRS entered the picture.

I'll admit that I've always been a little uncomfortable having marijuana dispensaries in my neighborhood. I did vote for Prop 215 to make medicinal marijuana legal in the treatment of cancer, glaucoma, or "other illness for which marijuana provides relief", and I do think that federal drug laws are outdated and draconian, but I'm a little NIMBY with having the "goods" being distributed in my backyard.

The dispensaries are all concentrated in a few blocks of downtown Hayward, and have armed guards protecting the "merchandise". And most of the "patients" that frequent the dispensaries (which all have holistic-sounding names like "Patients Resource Center" and "Alameda County Compassionate Collective") don't look like people with serious illnesses. They look like healthy Twentysomething potheads trying to score some righteous bud.

Two of the patients interviewed in last week's newspaper story were 21 year olds who require marijuana for "back pain" and "severe headaches". If I were feeling cynical, I'd say that California's medicinal marijuana initiative was being abused for non-medicinal purposes. This quote by the dude with "severe headaches" deserves its own blockquote..
"This is the best pharmacy around. It has the highest-quality medicine at the most compassionate prices."
I haven't bought any medicine in a long time, but it must take a lot of volume sales at "compassionate prices" to generate $50M in sales in two years.

Gov. Arnold recently got into hot water for telling an interviewer that "Marijuana is not a drug. it's a leaf". If it is a drug with legitimate medical uses, it should be treated like one, and allowed to be distributed by regular pharmacies instead of backdoor "buyers clubs". And if it's not a drug, then it shouldn't be illegal.

To quote Dr. Winston Hubert McIntosh,"legalize it, don't criticize it".

Monday, November 5, 2007

My Date With Ikea

After my brother moved out last week, I suddenly found myself with half as much furniture and twice as much space that needed furniture. I also suddenly found myself without a desk and with two bookshelves worth of books and only one bookshelf to store them.

I needed to do something last weekend to rectify that situation. Enter the big blue box to the rescue. My brother and I bought identical bookcases at Ikea a few years ago, shortly after their first Bay Area store opened in Emeryville. A few years later, Ikea has opened a store in East Palo Alto, which is 4 miles further than Emeryville for me, but a much easier and less stressful drive, even with a $4 bridge toll.

I needed pick up another FLÄRKE (aka cheap particle board bookcase), and while checking its inventory online, I found a desk/workstation (HANNES) and chair (ALLAK) that I wanted, and verified that all the items were in stock in the East P.A. store in the colors I wanted before heading to the store. I arrived shortly after they opened the doors at 10am, shopping list in hand, found the row/bin locations of all three items, and managed to pick up everything (with a few extra items) in less than half an hour for a total cost of less than $100.

After loading the items in my car (and struggling to fit a desk, a chair, and a bookcase in a 2001 Acura Integra), I went back to the store for a mid-morning fika before heading back home. It may technically be possible to visit Ikea without buying a cinnamon roll, but it isn't something I've ever managed to do. Luckily I only visit Ikea once a year at most.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I don't want to change the world..

But I do know what to do. Everyone who guessed "four days" as how long it would take for me to resort to embedding YouTube videos to keep my daily quota in National Blog Posting Month guessed correctly.

In honor of the still-undefeated New England Patriots, who beat the Indianapolis Colts 24-20 today in the greatest regular season NFL game of the 21st century, here is a video of Billy Bragg performing "New England".

This video of Kirsty MacColl's cover of the song is also worth watching, but I don't know who told her that hat was a good idea for the video shoot!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

A battle of reds

I usually break my streak of daily posts on Saturday and/or Sunday. I find it difficult to write on the weekend, because I'm not sure anyone is actually reading. So I'll use this opportunity to write about something almost none of my readers care about, something like the English Premier League.

One day before the NFL's "Super Bowl 41.5" between the Patriots and the Colts, the top two teams in the EPL (Arsenal and Manchester United) faced off today at the Emirates Stadium in North London. That picture shows the stadium on a rainy Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago.

In the few years I've been following the EPL, I've become an ABMU (Anyone but ManU!) fan. United are the New York Yankees of English soccer, the most valuable sports team in the world, and a true evil empire.

Arsenal is Nick Hornby's favorite team (as everyone who's read Fever Pitch knows) , probably the second most valuable club in the EPL, and another team that's quite easy to dislike, except when they play Manchester United. To quote Billy Bragg: "Which three English football teams have swear words in their names? Arsenal, Scunthorpe and Manchester F--ing United."

Arsenal and ManFingU entered today's match tied at the top of the EPL standings with 26 points (8 wins and 3 draws each). United had one loss to their local rival Manchester City (Ian Curtis's favorite team, at least according to Control) but Arsenal hadn't lost yet. When top teams square off in soccer, the result is usually a scoreless draw, because good pitching(defending) stops good hitting(attacking) and teams that don't lose have really good defending and goalkeeping.

Today's game was a 2-2 tie, so each team managed to score two goals, but they're still tied on top of the table with 27 points (8 wins and 4 draws each). It was a lunchtime fixture in London, which is 5am Pacific Time even with the early time change in the UK, so it was all decided by the time I got up this morning. When two teams you don't like square off against each other, the best result you can hope for is probably a tie.

Friday, November 2, 2007


For my first NaBloPoMo entry (after the announcement that I've joined NaBloPoMo this month), I have decided to explore the genius of Nigel Blackwell (aka Half Man Half Biscuit).

All of their/his albums except one were recently added to emusic, so I've been slowly filling the vast holes in my HMHB collection, since I only had two of their ten albums. They're only available in the USA as pricey imports, so I was buying everything I could find used, so it would have taken a long time for me to pick up the entire catalog if emusic hadn't come to the rescue earlier this year.

HMHB seem like an ideal artist for one of those those song blog thingies, since Nigel's songs are full of obscure British pop-culture references that need to be footnoted for full appreciation by non-Brits. It helps to know that Bob Wilson of "Bob Wilson, anchorman" fame is an Ex-Arsenal goalkeeper turned TV pundit (an American equivalent "Tim McCarver, analyst") or that Bob Todd (from "99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd") was the bald guy from the Benny Hill Show, but you can still appreciate the songs even if you aren't sure who or what they're about!

Here are some audio and video samples of HMHB's world view, in chronological order by release, starting with this performance of "All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit" from the Old Grey Whistle Test in 1986 (even Nigel Blackwell had "80s hair"). I keep considering that song for my annual holiday mixes, but it misses the final cut every year because, title aside, it isn't about Christmas at all (lyrics and back story here).

Ten albums in twenty years equates to a steady stream of HMHB releases at regular year intervals with glorious titles like Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral (1998), Trouble Over Bridgewater (2000), and the most-recent one Achtung Bono(2005).

With titles like that, you know they're going to be good. And they also come up with the best titles for the songs on these albums. Here's a half video/half audio sample of their wares.

Half Man Half Biscuit

(three youtube videos)

All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit
(from Back in the DHSS, 1986)
Paintball's Coming Home
(from Voyage to the Bottom of the Road, 1997)
Vatican Broadside
(from Editor's Recommendation, 2001)

(three mp3 audios)

Twenty Four Hour Garage People
(from Trouble Over Bridgewater, 2000)
The Light At The End Of The Tunnel
(from Cammell Laird Social Club, 2002)
We Built This Village on a Trad-Arr Tune
(from Achtung Bono, 2005)