Thursday, January 31, 2008

All Hail Chicken Rice

I've now been posting to this blog daily for the last three months, from October 30th until now. And even though some of my posts are fairly substance-free (some youtube links and an entire month of Christmas songs), I've never had to resort to posting recipes. At least until now.  

Here is my recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice (or "chicken rice as they call it in Southeast Asia -- sorry vegetarians!). This was one of the regular dishes at my high school cafeteria in Singapore, and I think it's one of nature's most perfect foods. It only has five ingredients (chicken, ginger, garlic, rice, and water) not counting spices, but these five ingredients make a magical combination.

Chicken Rice is an institution in Singapore and Malaysia. There have even been movies made about it! Every coffee shop and hawker stall in those countries has its own variety, but it's pretty easy to make yourself.   I make it myself a couple of times a month. Stewing rice in water and chicken fat isn't super-healthy, but it sure is yummy. Plus it's easy to make in the crockpot, which is perfect for my busy lifestyle. Here's the way I do it.

Chicken Rice

Dark chicken parts (I usually use thighs)
1 large hunk ginger, minced and sliced
Many cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
4 cups water


- Stuff chicken with salt, ginger and garlic. Put in a high crockpot with enough water to cover and set on medium for 8-9 hours (morning til night). Ideally the water should never boil, but nicely stew the chicken thighs.

- After you get home, remove chicken and retain stock for making rice. Heat 1 tbsp oil over high heat. Add minced garlic and ginger and fry till fragrant. Add grains of rice and stir fry until they change color (2-3 minutes) then add two cups of stock to cover and cook the rice.

- Serve with more minced ginger and garlic (ginger and garlic are good) and sweet chile sauce or sambal oelek. Enak sekali!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

All the junk food you can eat

The Oakland A's have designated a few sections of the upper deck at the Coliseum(previously tarped off last year) as "All You Can Eat Seating". For $35, you get a game ticket and you can consume. It's almost like they're encouraging gluttony.

At least encouraging low end gluttony.  The free offer only applies to the standardized items at the "all you can seat" sections.   You don't get free garlic fries or Everett & Jones spare ribs or chile verde burritos from the concessions in the lower sections that serve better (i.e. edible) food. And "all you can eat" doesn't mean "all you can drink" (besides soft drinks) which is something that would make it a lot more appealing to some people. You can recoup your $35 pretty easy with a few $7.50 Gordon Biersch Marzens.

As the Chronicle points out, this would mainly appeal to people with kids, especially giving a birthday party for a bunch of kids. All the hot dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, or ice cream you can eat, plus there's a baseball game too.   What more could an 8-12 year old kid want?  The price goes down to $30 for groups of  25 or more, so you can feed and entertain a couple of dozen kids for just over $700.   What a deal?    I think I'll give the "all you can eat" section a pass though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Away From The Numbers

Missing the From The Jam show tonight, because I'm just too tired. I've been trying to reconcile my company's numbers across the various systems for the last few weeks, so I've had numbers on my brain this whole month.

I'm also finally reaching the end of the listening to all songs on my iPod in alphabetical order, which comes to all the songs that start with numbers. The songs are sorted alphamerically, which is confusing for songs that start with numbers. I don't understand why "1,000,000" by R.E.M. comes before all the 10 songs or why numbers come after letters in the iTunes sequence when they used to come before them.

In any case, here are all the songs on my iPod that start with numbers.
  1. 1 1/2 Way Street - Mitch Easter
  2. 1,000,000 - R.E.M.
  3. 10-5-60 - The Long Ryders
  4. 10:01 - Rogue Wave
  5. 14 Cheerleader Coldfront - Guided by Voices
  6. 15 Step - Radiohead
  7. 17 - Field Music
  8. 1941 - Harry Nilsson
  9. 19th Nervous Breakdown - The Rolling Stones
  10. 20 Questions - Amy Rigby
  11. 2AM - The Primary 5
  12. 32/20 - The Flamin' Groovies
  13. 36 Inches High - Nick Lowe
  14. 40 Watt Solution - Cotton Mather
  15. 4th of July - Aimee Mann
  16. 5D (Fifth Dimension) - The Byrds
  17. 65 Love Affair - Paul Davis
  18. 720 Times Happier Than the Unjust Man - The Loud Family
  19. 8:05 - Moby Grape
  20. 9-9 - R.E.M.
  21. 92 Subaru - Fountains of Wayne

Monday, January 28, 2008

Hey now, you're an All Star!

Yesterday was the NHL All Star Game, which the Eastern Conference won in an 8-7 squeaker with a last minute goal. Last year the Western Conference won the game 12-9. I watched it mostly because there wasn't anything else on television, but the NHL All Star Game is always worth checkin out if your problem with hockey is that there isn't enough scoring. There's no body checking at the All Star Game, so there's always a bunch of scoring.

The All Star Game phenomenon for professional sports is limited exclusively to (North) America. Nearly every major and minor sport has it's own version. And February is All Star season. The Pro Bowl is in two weeks (after the Super Bowl gets out of the way) and the NBA All Star Game is the week after that. Every professional sport in the USA and Canada has its own All Star Game.

There aren't any "All Star Games" in overseas sports leagues though. Japanese and Latin American baseball don't have all star games. None of the European soccer leagues have "all star" competitions. There's no Russian hockey all star game. All Star Games are clearly something that the rest of the world hasn't caught on to yet.

Probably because they really don't make a lot of sense. The Major League All Star Game gets a big buildup for the homerun derby and who ends up getting voted on the team, but very few people care about the game itself, even if the winning team does get a home field advantage in the World Series. The NFL's Pro Bowl is after the regular season, and most of the players seem to be focused on getting a free trip to Hawaii and not getting hurt.

All the various college football All Star games seem to serve no purpose whatsoever. Why aren't there any college basketball all star games? And I don't understand the minor league all star games in baseball. If these guys are so good, why aren't they at the next level? The NHL All Star Game is the most fun to watch though, especially if you like 12-9 hockey games. It's almost like playing without a goalie!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bittersweet Symphony

Yesterday was Australia Day, here are two different videos of the Hoodoo Gurus performing "Bittersweet" with Cyril Jordan of the Flamin' Groovies last March at the Cafe du Nord . Two different videos of the same performance. Try sync them up!

The second song of the Gurus encore with Cyril was the Groovies' "Teenage Head". There are also two videos of that peformance.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The rock album meme is a mighty good meme

Since almost everyone else on my RSS list is contributing to the Foma* rock album meme, so I thought I'd play as well.

1. Pick a band name by visiting a random Wikipedia page.

My band name is Systemic Constellations

2. Pick an album name by going to this random quote page. Take the LAST quote on the page and select the last four words of that quote.

My full quote is..
As a scientist, I am not sure anymore that life can be reduced to a class struggle, to dialectical materialism, or any set of formulas. Life is spontaneous and it is unpredictable, it is magical. I think that we have struggled so hard with the tangible that we have forgotten the intangible.
Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider,
Northern Exposure, Zarya, 1994.

The last four words are "have forgotten The intangible". So this is one of those albums where the title completes a sentence with the artist name as its subject. (Barenaked Ladies Are Me, etc.). Or in this case Systemic Constellations Have Forgotten the Intangible

3. The album cover art is the THIRD image on the random Flickr page.

Here is my image. Another copyrighted photo of a beluga from the Vancouver Auditorium. I decided to use a script font similar to the copyright notice (Brush Script MT) for my artist and album name.

Frank Viola! So long, and thanks for all the fish.

Friday, January 25, 2008

You'll get one number and one number only

Too busy for a fully fledged "Friday music" post, so here's the last song from the last Sex Pistols gig ever (until they reformed 18 years later) at SF's Winterland on January 14th 1978. Thirty years and eleven days ago.

Thirteen more numbers from that gig on the youtube.
  1. Anarchy in the UK(USA)
  2. God Save The Queen
  3. I Wanna Be Me
  4. Seventeen
  5. New York
  6. Pretty Vacant
  7. EMI
  8. Holiday in the Sun
  9. Liar
  10. No Feelings
  11. Bodies
  12. Problems
  13. Belsen Was a Gas
Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Songs in the key of You

I'm running out of time to keep up my daily posting streak alive, and got a lot of comments on my "Songs in the key of U" post, so here's another list of all songs on my iPod that start with "You".

You Are - Stephen Duffy
You Are The One To Make Me Cry - Crowded House
You Can't Always Get What You Want - The Rolling Stones
You Can't Be Too Strong - Graham Parker & the Rumor
You Can't Say No Forever - The Go-Betweens
You Can Decide - Field Music
You Can Make Him Like You - The Hold Steady
You Can Move A Mountain - Anton Barbeau
You Could Die (Or This Might End) - Ted Leo
You Get What You Deserve - Big Star
You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb - Spoon
You Just Can't Ride the Boxcars - The Long Ryders
You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby - Kirsty MacColl
You Just May Be the One - The Monkees
You Set the Scene - Love
You Started It - The Rubinoos
You Still Believe in Me - The Beach Boys
You Tell Me - The Go-Betweens
You Tore Me Down - The Flamin' Groovies
You Tore Me Down - Yo La Tengo
You Will Be Loved - Future Clouds and Radar
You Will Never Be No Good - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

I really like the back to back "You Tore Me Down"s.. One of the most fun things about playing songs in alphabetical order is getting two versions of the same song back to back.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

For the sake of future days

Cisco Field - Fremont

Looking at the current Oakland Athletics 40 man roster, it's fairly obvious they're starting a youth movement. The A's have just six players over thirty, and fifteen who weren't even born when I graduated from high school in 1983. They've traded away all the older guys (like 27 year old Dan Haren and 26 year old Nick Swisher) to make way for younger and cheaper talent that won't start to bloom until they move to the new stadium in 2011.

For the first time since 1997, most Oakland fans like me are entering this season with fairly low expectations. I didn't follow baseball that closely back then, but remember that the A's weren't very good, but became a lot more exciting when they traded away the old guys like Mark McGwire and Scott Brosius to make way for youngsters like Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada, who both became league MVPs a few years later. I don't know if there's anyone on their current roster with that level of potential, but it should be interesting watching some of their kids develop into bona fide major leaguers.

I still think the A's will be lucky to win 75 games this year, but they might become really good by the time they open the new ballpark in Fremont in the third year of President Obama's first term.I live about equal distance between the old stadium in Oakland and the new one in Fremont (13 miles vs. 17 miles), so I'm like the epicenter of the Athletics fanbase! 

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Songs in the key of U

I've been trying to listen to all 1700 songs on my 8gb iPod in alphabetical order this month, and today was all the songs starting with the letter U. I thought it made a nice little playlist, and I can't find anything else to write about today, so I'm reposting it here.

All the U songs on my iPod.

  1. Uncorrected Personality Traits - Robyn Hitchcock
  2. Under the Hedge - Ted Leo/Pharmacists
  3. Under the Milky Way - The Church
  4. The Underdog - Spoon
  5. Underground Sun - Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3
  6. Underneath the Bunker- R.E.M.
  7. Underwater - The Three O'Clock
  8. Underwater Moonlight - The Soft Boys
  9. Underwhelmed - Sloan
  10. Unexpected Packages - Cindy Lee Berryhill
  11. Unfinished Business - The Go-Betweens
  12. Unguarded Moment - The Church
  13. Unguided - The New Pornographers
  14. The Universal - Blur
  15. Unsatisfied - The Replacements
  16. Untouchable - Glenn Tilbrook
  17. The Unwanted Things - Ted Leo / Pharmacists
  18. Up In The Air - DM3
  19. Up the Junction- Squeeze
  20. Up With The Larks - The Pearlfishers
  21. Ups And Downs - The Flamin' Groovies
  22. Upside-Down - Yo La Tengo
  23. Use It - The New Pornographers

Two New P's songs.  Two Ted Leo songs.  Two Church songs (and I only have 10 Church songs on my iPod).   Two Robyn songs and one Soft Boys song.  One Squeeze song and one Tilbrook solo song.   A nice little mix, and it's only 78 minutes so it would fit on a CD too.. I think everyone could make a decent playlist by playing all the U songs from their iPods or iTunes in alphabetical order!

Monday, January 21, 2008

From New York to Boston

This Super Bowl XLII matchup between the New England Patriots of Foxboro(ugh) MA and the New York Giants of East Rutherford NJ raises a lot of questions. Here are some of them.

  1. Will the Patriots be able to wrap up their 19-0 perfect season?
  2. Will Eli Manning take the Giants to the promised land?
  3. Who cares? How many days until pitchers and catchers report?
My answers to these questions are (1)Yes, (2)No, and (3)24.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

When the lights go down

RIP John Stewart 1939-2008

Probably most famous for writing this song, but he wrote many more during his 50 year career that included replacing Dave Guard in the Kingston Trio from 1961-1967 and taking this song to the US Top Ten in 1979, with some help from Stevie and Lindsey.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

US States renamed after countries with similar GDPs

Via strangemaps

California would have the 8th largest GDP in the world if it was its own country. Comparable to France, with a similar population of wine drinking and cheese eating surrender monkeys!

Friday, January 18, 2008

I think I'm goin' back

We've just passed the 40th anniversary of The Notorious Byrd Brothers, so here's a vintage performance of "Goin' Back" from the Smothers Brothers show in late 1967.

Those are four of the five original Byrds. It was during the period after David Crosby had been fired and Gene Clark had rejoined the band. By the time of the release of Notorious Byrd Brothers a few months later, both Clark (Gene) and Clarke (Michael) would be gone, leaving Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman without a band.

This caused Roger and Chris to recruit Gram Parsons and Kevin Kelly for Sweetheart of the Rodeo and subsequently cause Hillman and Parsons to leave to form the Flying Burrito Brothers, leaving Roger as the last Byrd standing. Ric Menck's 33 1/3 book about The Notorious Byrd Brothers outlines how the Byrds were in constant turmoil during 1967 and 1968, and still managed to put out two classic albums.

The Bye Bye Blackbirds just covered "One Hundred Years From Now" for this Byrds tribute outlining their "country rock" phase. It includes two covers of songs from Sweetheart (including the BBBs) and a couple more from Notorious. That album isn't strictly country rock, more like "LA Canyon Rock". Here are a couple more covers of songs from Notorious Byrd Brothers from my iTunes library.

Goin' Back - Chris Wilson & the Sneetches
Draft Morning - The Chills

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I have my start but I've never begun

I finished reading You Don't Love Me Yet during my evening BART commute tonight, so I've read my one novel for NaJuReMoNoMo.

I haven't read anything else by Jonathan Lethem, but I thought this story was pretty good. The one issue I had with the book was that I could only relate to one of the characters (the lead songwriter Bedwin) and he was a minor one. All the other characters were kind of annoying. It was like the first season of Friends, where you could only relate to Ross's monkey Marcel. That show went straight to hell after the monkey left.

My favorite part of the novel was the bit on page 168) where Bedwin mentions that "every movie has one actor you wished the whole movie was about. In a bad one, you might only see them for a minute, they'll be playing a bellhop in a hotel or something. In a pretty good movie, they'd have a supporting part. In a great movie, they'll turn up in every scene". That was how I came to rate You Don't Love Me Yet as "pretty good", because Bedwin is just in a supporting role. If he was more prominent, I'd rate the book as "great".

My other favorite part was when the band in the book was trying to come up with a name, and Bedwin suggested calling themselves Monster Eyes after one of their songs. This prompted a long discussion about bands named after song titles then Bedwin said "
Black Sabbath has a song called 'Black Sabbath'. And Devo has 'Are We Not Men? We Are Devo'. There's 'Clash City Rockers','Give It To The Soft Boys', and the Verlaines have a song whose whole chorus is the word 'Verlaine' over and over again."
This prompts the drummer Denise to say "that's enough Bedwin", but I have to give my props to any novel that mentions the Soft Boys and the Verlaines. Bedwin is the sort of guy who constantly mentions music and movie esoterica, not so much to impress people, but because it's the only thing he knows enough to talk about.

There's another part where Lethem mentions "carapace shells" when they're eating lobsters on the beach. If he could have followed it with a reference to "black lace thighs" or "I Don't know how he ever gets anywhere with you", You Don't Love Me Yet would have been my favorite novel of the 21st century. As it was, it's just "pretty good".

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Proportion Distortion

One of my New Year's Resolutions was to reduce my intake of physical CDs to one disc per month. I've already purchased my one CD for January, so I would've either had to wait until February to pick up the new Magnetic Fields or blow my resolution midway through January. The album Distortion is on major label subsidiary Nonesuch (like their last one i), so it probably won't make it to emusic.

I got one track ("The Nun's Litany") from doug's 2007 end-of-year mix and another one ("Mr. Mistletoe") from a Christmas blog, so I already had mp3s of two of the 13 songs, so I headed over to The Hype Machine yesterday to see what else I could grab from Distortion. Between yesterday and today, I've been able to find the remaining 11 tracks posted to various music blogs, so now I've acquired the entire album without paying one cent. The songs I've heard are really good, so I'll probably buy the CD at some point (whenever a used copy turns up), but I have all the songs on mp3 until then.

The Magnetic Fields are playing a couple of nights at the Herbst Theater next month for the Noise Pop Fest. I tried to buy a ticket to one of the shows when they went on sale, and somehow ended up with a ticket to another Noise Pop show (The Mountain Goats at The Bottom of the Hill). The two band names (Magnetic Fields and Mountain Goats) scan alike when you're looking at them, so I just ended up buying a ticket for the wrong band. At least it's an afternoon matinee show! That's my one Noise Pop show for 2008 and my quota might go down to zero next year, so it might be my last NP show ever, unless there's a Game Theory reunion or something.

I'm trying to prune my SF concert attendance down to a manageable number, which is about one show per month. This is my show for March, because I already have shows for January and February. I might need to expand that to two shows a month if there's something I really want to see.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cowboys ain't easy to love

"The Catch" in 1982.. greatest day in football history!

Back in the early 90s, when the Buffalo Bills were in the process of losing consecutive Super Bowls to the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, the late writer David Halberstam said that he always cheer against sports teams from cities where presidents were killed. The three cities of assassination were Washington DC (where Lincoln and Garfield were killed), Buffalo (where McKinley was killed) and Dallas (where JFK was killed).

I've never had many problems with the Buffalo Bills, but usually cheer against the Redskins and Cowboys, so I grabbed on to the Halberstam theory. I've been in the strange position of pulling for the New York Giants during the last two weeks against the Cowboys and the Redskins.

My hatred of Dallas goes back to my first football playoff memory ever, when the Cowboys beat the 49ers on a last minute pass from Staubach to Sellers in 1972. This was after the Steelers had beat the Oakland Raiders on the Immaculate Reception. Both of my favorite teams losing in the final minutes should have been my clue to stop following football, but I used it to establish my lifelong vendetta against the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys.

In the last 35 years, Dallas and Pittsburgh have won the Super Bowl five times each. I have pulled against both of them in all their Super Bowl victories, including the three that they played against each other. Nothing makes me happier than either Dallas or Pittsbugh losing in the playoffs.

This is my long way of saying that I was pretty happy watching Dallas lose on Sunday. The Cowboys broke my seven year old heart, so I'll be cheering against them until I'm 77. And the Steelers lost to Jacksonville last week, so this has been a fun NFL playoff season for me.

Of this year's remaining NFL final four, I'll be pulling for San Diego to pull off the upset of the 21st century against the Pats and Green Bay to finally turn back the Giants. But no matter who makes it to Super Bowl XLII, it won't be Dallas or Pittsburgh. And we should all be thankful for that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

All But One Mod Cons

Two thirds of the Jam (bassist Bruce Foxton and drummer Rick Buckler) reunited last year without Paul Whatshisname as From The Jam. The idea of the Jam without their frontman and lead songwriter sounded like a dubious proposition, but their shows in Europe were enough of a success that they're taking their act across the pond in early 2008.

It will be Foxton and Buckler's first shows in North America since the final Jam tour in 1983. I'm not sure how successful the shows over here will be, but I'm thinking of checking them out. Apparently their new lead singer Russell Hastings sings exactly like Weller used to sing, and the band sounds better now than they did then. At least that's what their press releases say, and the tracks on myspace do sound pretty good.

Tickets for their SF show at the GAMH are $25 each, which is almost as much as that other guy charges for his shows, but at least they aren't charging twice as much for having twice as many original members.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I haven't read my novel yet

We're almost halfway through "National Just Read More Damn Novels Month" (NaJuReMoDaNoMo), and I haven't even started my novel yet. The city library didn't have Perrotta's Abstinence Teacher, so I grabbed another book from the New Fiction shelf: Jonathan Lethem's You Don't Love Me Yet.

I was interested in reading this since Lethem did a reading of You Don't Love Me Yet last April at Moe's in Berkeley, and had the Bye Bye Blackbirds "open" for him portraying the band from the book. The BBBs covered the song "You Don't Love Me Yet" (the Vulgar Boatmen's not Roky Erickson's) and even wrote a song called "Monster Eyes" from Lethem's lyrics provided in the book.  The reading and performance is archived at the Moe's website.  

I didn't make it to the reading (other plans that night or something), but had the book circled as something to read, and there's no time like nine months later. It's just over 200 pages long, so I might have a fighting chance to finish it before the end of January. I know it's not fair to judge a book or (an album) by it's cover, but I'm prejudiced against any books with pictures of the author on the cover, especially when the author is some hipster dude that buttons his shirt all the way to the top. I'm also prejudiced against novels that have the words "a novel" written on the cover. So this book has two strikes against it going in. I'll try to finish it by the end of the month, but might have to find another novel for January if this one doesn't capture my interest.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bowsy wow wowsy

Maurice Gibb died five years ago today. Here is one of his rare lead vocals on "My Thing" from the 1970 Cucumber Castle TV special.

Looks like the Patriots won again.
Now they're 17-0, just like the 1972 Dolphins.
"Stick That Up Your Asterick*" as this sign reads.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Revenge of the Rubinoos

When we last heard from the Rubinoos back in July, they had noticed that Avril Lavigne's summer smash "Girlfriend" sounded a little too similar to their 1979 song "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and sued Avril for infringement. Here is the story behind the story.

Six months later, Avril and the Rubinoos have decided to settle out of court, but Lavigne's people still aren't admitting that she ripped off their song.
Members of the Rubinoos, a '70s rock band that neither you nor your dad has ever heard of, filed the suit against Lavigne, claiming she ripped off their 1979 song, "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend." Lavigne denied the allegations, claiming - much like most people under 45 - that she'd never heard the song before.

Mraw! I'm not surprised that Avril hadn't heard "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" before. She mispronounced David Bowie's name (to rhyme with "Maui") at the 2003 Grammy nominations, so she probably isn't that well versed in rock and roll history. Avril's "Girlfriend" co-writer (in quotes) Luke Gottwald also claims that he never heard the song, but he produced a band called the Party who covered "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" (on a different album) so he's probably lying. And I don't think the "I've never heard the song" defense would hold up in court.

I think the Rubinoos were just after a little cash, and who can blame them really, so this out of court settlement is best for both sides. Hopefully the Rubes got enough cash so they can afford to play more locally, which Tommy Dunbar says costs them about $1500 for every show. They've certainly gained a lot more name recognition from the Avril generation, which was probably another part of what they were after.

Even though "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" is one of my all time favorite songs, I don't like Avril's "Girlfriend", even though it's almost the same song. "Boyfriend" has a a nice buildup of verses leading up to the "hey you!" chorus while "Girlfriend" is nothing but chorus. It's like being hit on the head over and over with a mallet.

I know the similarity is just five words, but there isn't much left if you take those five words out of Avril's song. The chorus even more prominent in her remake with rapper Lil' Mama -- it's all "hey you" and "Lil' Mama and Avril Lavigne". Why do they need to spend the first minute of the song saying their names? It's like some bad early 80s SNL rap parody by Joe Piscopo "I'm rappin' dad and I'm here to say! I'm the rappinest dad in the USA!".

Even better is the cover by Avril and the Chipmunks. That's something the Rubinoos could probably get behind, because they opened their show at the GAMH last month with a cover of "Witch Doctor" by Chipmunk svengali David Seville. Having the fake Chipmunks cover a song that lifted from one of their songs makes up for not getting any of their songs on Chipmunk Punk. Three Knack songs and no Rubinoos songs.. what was up with that?

This article in Miami's new times claims that Avril's "Girlfriend" is "one of the all-time top 10 songs by that name", going on to say that it's "definitely better than the crappy version done by the Rubinoos, some Seventies bandmates who claim she ripped them off". Forgetting for the moment that the Rubinoos' song is called "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" , I can admit that Avril's song has to be one of the all time top ten songs with the title "Girlfriend".

I have around 6000 songs in my iTunes library, and 5 of them are called "Girlfriend". This means that .083% of the songs in the world have "Girlfriend" as a title. Unfortunately for Avril, the four other "Girlfriend" songs in my library are better than hers. They're older songs from the 60s and 70s (plus one from the 90s) which might not be familiar to most people under 45.

Four "Girlfriend" songs better than that Avril's

1. Harry Nilsson - Girlfriend
Most people know this as "My Best Friend". It was the theme to "The Courtship of Eddie's Father", a sitcom that ran on ABC from 1969-1972. It was in an episode of "That 70s Show" (the one with Tommy from "Third Rock") but the song itself was from the 60s.

2. The Modern Lovers - Girlfriend
The Modern Lovers were labelmates of the Rubinoos on Beserkley Records. This song was recorded in the early 70s but not released until the mid 70s. They were before your time, but you might remember the lead singer Jonathan from the movie "There's Something About Mary".

3. Wings - Girlfriend
Wings were another 70s band. Back in the 60s, their leader was in a band called the Beatles. Then he died and became an angel. That's why he called his 1970s band Wings.

4. Matthew Sweet - Girlfriend
This song is from the early 90s. It had a cool anime video and was featured in Guitar Hero 2.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We've got one year, what a surprise

This blog is one year old today.

During that time I've made 308 entries, or one every 1.185 days. I've also posted at least once every day since October 30th 2007, or 73 days in a row. I'm on track for blog365, which requires blogging every day for 2008, but I don't know if I'm up for that.

Right now my two blogging goals are to make it 100 days in a row (which would put me through the first week of February) and to outlast flasshe, who has also posted every day since October 30th, 2007.

Posting every day of the entire year just seems too much like a job..

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Goose Step Mama

I'm glad that Goose Gossage finally made it to the Baseball Hall Of Fame. He was one of the best pure closers ever, and his induction was long overdue. He joins Hoyt Wilhelm, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, and Bruce Sutter as the only relief pitchers to be elected to the Hall of Fame.

Gossage played for nine teams during his 22-year career. I forgot that he spent a couple of seasons in Oakland at the end of his career. This means that three of the five Hall Of Fame relievers (Fingers, Eckersley, Gossage) are former Athletics. Hooray Oakland!

Gossage is also one of the many players who played for both the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants. Another thing Gossage has in common with Eckersley is that they both gave up World Series home runs to Kirk Gibson, but Eck's was a little more dramatic.

Gossage was the only player voted in this year, and Jim Rice was the only one close to the 75% necessary for induction. I'm old enough to remember the entire careers of most players on the ballot, so here would be my HoF votes on the remaining eligible players. I don't think Rice is Hall of Fame caliber.

Thumbs Up: Andre Dawson, Bert Blyleven, Tim Raines, Mark McGwire (steroids schmeroids!)
Thumbs Down: Everyone else. Who voted for Todd Stottlemyre? Chuck Knoblauch? or Chuck Finley?

I think Raines belongs in the HoF if only for the stories about how Rock used to slide headfirst when stealing bases so he wouldn't break the coke vials in his back pocket. That's up there with Dock Ellis pitching a no-hitter while tripping as one of my favorite baseball stories ever.

Of course The Man of Steal becomes eligible next year (unless he's planning another comeback at age 50), so Raines and the rest of these guys may have to wait awhile. 2009 is Rickeytime!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Calculate how eclectic your musical preferences are.

Take your top 20 artists.
  1. Field Music
  2. R.E.M.
  3. Fountains of Wayne
  4. Teenage Fanclub
  5. Future Clouds And Radar
  6. Ted Leo and The Pharmacists
  7. The Beach Boys
  8. Harry Nilsson
  9. Rogue Wave
  10. Flamin' Groovies
  11. Radiohead
  12. The Byrds
  13. The Loud Family
  14. Spoon
  15. Yo La Tengo
  16. The New Pornographers
  17. Bruce Springsteen
  18. The Shins
  19. Game Theory
  20. Robyn Hitchcock
For each of these artists, collect the top 5 similar artists. The resulting number of unique artists is your eclectic score. If the score is small (extreme = 5) your musical preferences are very limited, and if it is large (larger than 80, extreme = 100), then you have an eclectic musical preference.

You can compute your own score at

My eclectic score is currently 84/100

The 84 related artists for my profile are A.C. Newman, Barenaked Ladies, Beck, Belle and Sebastian (2), Ben Folds Five, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Broken Social Scene, Buffalo Springfield, Built to Spill, Camper Van Beethoven, Coldplay, Cotton Mather, Counting Crows, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, David Bowie, Death Cab for Cutie, Donovan, Eagles, Farrah, Future Clouds & Radar, Game Theory, Grand Atlantic, Jarvis Cocker, John Lennon, Julian Cope, Let's Active, Love Tractor, Low vs. Diamond, Maxïmo Park, Modest Mouse, Muse, Neil Young (2), Neutral Milk Hotel, Paul McCartney & Wings, Paula Carino, Pavement, Pixies, Radio Birdman, Rain Parade, Randy Newman, Ride, Robyn Hitchcock, Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians, Sigur Rós, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Spoon (3), Sufjan Stevens, Teenage Fanclub, Tell-Tale Hearts, The Arcade Fire (3), The Beach Boys, The Beatles, The Boo Radleys, The Decemberists (3), The Feelies (2), The Flaming Lips, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Futureheads, The House of Love, The Kinks (2), The Lemonheads, The Loud Family and Anton Barbeau, The Lovin' Spoonful, The New Pornographers, The Paybacks, The Postal Service, The Primary 5, The Raspberries, The Rolling Stones, The Shins (4), The Smashing Pumpkins, The Sonics, The dB's, Thom Yorke, Tommy Keene, U2 (2), Van Morrison, Weezer, Wilco (2), Wolf Parade (2), XTC, matt pond PA, of Montreal

Monday, January 7, 2008

Big fun on the bayou

Congrats to the LSU Tigers, who just beat the Ohio State Buckeyes to win the BCS National Football Championship. This means that "national champion" LSU and OSU both have two losses and OSU has consecutive losses in the BCS Championship. And one loss in the NCAA basketball finals.

This also means that my 2007-08 college bowl bracket ended with 17 wins and 15 losses. A winning record (just like the California Golden Bears) but not much better than a monkey flipping a coin. I ended up 2-3 in the BCS games, winning only the two "sure things".

1/1 Rose = USC
1/1 Sugar=Hawaii Georgia
1/2 Fiesta=Oklahoma WVU
1/3 Orange=Virginia Tech Kansas
1/7 BCS Championship Game=LSU

It's outings like this that make me glad I don't bet real money on these brackets.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

It's in you, if you're into it

An animated video of Syd Barrett, who would be 62 years old today if he weren't, you know.

This clip is only 30 seconds long, so here are a couple more animated "Sydeos".

Saturday, January 5, 2008

2007: Read It In Books

This January is National Just Read More Novels Month (NaJuReMoNoMo -- all monthly internet memes sound like the company that patented MSG). I wonder if the "National" designation means U.S.A. only? To participate, All you have to do is read a novel from start to finish within the month of January.

I usually read non-fiction books, since I prefer to read about stuff that actually happened, but I'm sure I can find one novel to read this month. I think Tom Perrotta's The Abstinence Teacher comes out in paperback. That's a novel I want to read, and haven't been able to find at the library yet. I don't like to buy books, so usually end up reading what's available at the library since I can't be bothered to reserve things I want.

Every two weeks or so, I go to the library (city or county) and find a book that looks interesting. I only check out one book at a time, and when I'm done reading it, I return it and check another book out. Sue said that she read 59 books last year. I haven't kept track, but I think I read somewhere around 24 (two books per month on average). Commuting on BART gives me two hours of reading time every weekday. Here were ten of my favorites from last year.

Stephen T. Asma - The Gods Drink Whiskey
A study of Theravadan Buddhism masquerading as a Southeast Asian travelogue.

David Barker - 33 1/3 Greatest Hits (Volumes 1 & 2)
These are selections from each of the 33 1/3 books about albums. Literary mix tapes.

John Feinstein - Tales From Q School
I'm a big fan of Feinstein as a sportswriter, and this book about the strains and perils "Q School" (PGA Tour Qualifying) was one of the best things he's written.

Franklin Foer - How Soccer Explains The World
I've become really interested in the sociology of soccer (football) over the last couple of years, and Foer explains the sociology better than any of them.

Ken Jennings - Brainiac
Inside the world of competitive trivia challenges. These people are pedantic turbogeeks.

Ed Jones - Northern Soul
Not about northern sould, but how Wigan Athletic made it to the Premier League. I thought it was fascinating, and read the whole thing on the plane from London to S.F.

Rob Jovanovic - Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band
Writing a whole book about Big Star is tough because there isn't a lot of information out there. Writing one without Alex Chilton's cooperation is almost impossible.

Michael Lewis - The Blind Side
Moneyball author Michael Lewis branches into football for this exploration of the value and importance of the left tackle position (the blind side of a right-handed QB).

Alan Schwarz - The Numbers Game
Another baseball book, explaining the importance that numbers (statistics) have had in baseball since the game was invented.

Rob Sheffield - Love Is A Mix Tape
Rolling Stone editor Sheffield writes a story about his late wife Renee through a series of mix tapes that they sent each other. I don't care for Sheffield as a reviewer (his taste or his attitude), but liked his book quite a bit. Just stay away from the audiobook version. Rob has a nasally "rock critic" voice that kind of grates.

I think that's ten. One of my goals for 2008 is to make more use of the 'books' tag in my blog.
Onward to NaJuReMoNoMo.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Accelerate Driver 48

We can reach our destination, but it's still a ways away. And we won't get there until you put the petal somewhere near "the metal". And switch off that damn turn signal!

Michael Stipe turns 48 today, and his band has a new album called Accelerate coming out in April. The new album is evidently R.E.M.'s return to The Rock. I join this guy from one of our local papers in thinking this is a Good Idea.
After delivering four consecutive albums of mostly mellow, moody and introspective indie-pop, R.E.M. is apparently ready to rock once again.
Bring on The Rock! It should be a welcome respite from the mellow, moody and introspective indie-pop of albums like New Adventures In Hi-Fi. Judging from these new songs I found on the youtubes, the new songs are sound like a return to their roots. It's like R.E.M. found the fountain of youth, because they almost seem 25 years younger in these clips.
  1. HarborcOat
  2. 7 chineSe Bros.
  3. so. Central Rain
  4. Pretty Persuasion
  5. second GuessinG
  6. letter Never seNt
  7. (dont Go back TO) Rockville
  8. little america
(Update: Apparently these actually songs are from a record called "Reckoning "that R.E.M. made in 1984. That's why they look 25 years younger. Mea culpa! )

Still, these 1984 songs still sound fresh, even in 2008. Here's Michael Stipe back when he was half as old as he is now. Those were the days!

And the singer, he had long hair
And the drummer, he knew restraint
And the bassman, he had all the right moves.
And the guitar player was no saint.
Pavement - Unseen Power of the Picket Fence

Thursday, January 3, 2008

A pocketful of mumbles

Searching through my 2007 blog entries, I noticed that other than a mention during the mid-year rundown listing my favorite albums of the first half of the year, I haven’t blogged about my #1 Album Of 2007 (Boxer by The National) yet. I figured I’d better do that while it's still timely, and want to give this album the kudos it deserves.

Boxer is really good. Great. Stunningly great. Album of the year good. A total masterpiece from start to finish. And the best way to hear the album is from start to finish. I sometimes skip Boxer songs (besides “Start A War” or “Fake Empire”) when they crop up in shuffle play because they don't play nice with songs by other artists, but everything fits in the context of the album.

When I first heard The National a couple of years ago (someone put “Abel” on a mix CD for me), I wasn't sure what to think. They're a difficult band to appreciate in isolation. Matt Berninger has a singing voice that's definitely an acquired taste ( a deep baritone somewhere between Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen) and their songs rarely crawl above "mid" in the tempo-meter, but there's a lot going on under the surface. Anyhow, I was intrigued enough by "Abel" to download the rest of Alligator from emusic, but wasn't quite as taken by any of the other songs on the album. They all sounded a little samey to me, not as immediate as "Abel" was.

I finally turned the corner on the National when I saw them live late in 2006. I was expecting them be all deep and dour like Nick Cave or Ian Curtis, but they’re completely enthralling live, with lots of interplay between the bandmembers. I just wish they weren't so popular. All three 2007 S.F. shows by The National sold out in Plancks, so I've only been able to see them that one time in 2006. At that show, they played a handful of songs from their “upcoming album” Boxer (this video of "Start a War" was shot at that show) which gave me strong hopes for the album.

The pre-release mp3 ("Fake Empire") helped set the stage for the release of Boxer, and I grabbed the entire album from emusic on the day of release. It took a few listens to sink in, but I kept finding myself listening more and more, at least once a week during my 45 minute commute. Always start to finish from "Fake Empire" to "Gospel". In this age of instant gratification, it's really reassuring that there are still albums like Boxer that reward repeat listening.

This year at the movies was the year of the "three-quel", but my top twenty albums list was full of "four-quels": Boxer is the fourth album by The National, Living With the Living is the fourth Ted Leo/Pharmacists album, Traffic & Weather is the fourth Fountains of Wayne album, Challengers is the fourth New Pornographers album, and Ga x 5 is the sixth Spoon album but the fourth since they signed with Merge and started being good. All contenders for my artist of the decade (2000s) -- it's all down to who releases the best albums in 2008 or 2009.

Most critics and polls have Spoon and the National somewhere in the top ten, and I'm a little concerned that my tastes are jibing too much with the indie consensus. I consider my musical taste to be fairly singular, but as I get older it gets more and more in lockstep with the indiescenti. I think I like what I like, and if other people like it too, it's probably because it's good. Maybe everyone else is finally coming around to My way of thinking?

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007: The Year in Sports

While we're recounting the year that just passed, here are my top twelve sports stories of 2007. One story for each month of the year, checking the sports tags in this blog from from December 29th back to January.

1. December 29: New England Patriots go 16-0
First undefeated 16-game regular season in NFL history.
Crown their ass.

2. November 22: "Old England" eliminated from Euro 2008
The country that invented modern soccer doesn't have one of the 16 best national teams in their own continent.

3. October 6: Stanford 24, USC 23
I was out of the country when this happened, and found out by noticing that USC somehow dropped from #1 to #8 in the Yahoo NCAA football poll. Given the way that USC finished the year, this might have been an even bigger upset than the one below.

4. September 1: Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32
A ranked division 1A ("Bowl Subdivision") team loses to a 1AA ("Championship Subdivision") team for the first time ever. Conform or be cast out. The restless dreams of youth.

5. August 7: Barry hits #756*
Uneasy lies the head that wears the asterisk.

6. July 30: RIP, William Ernest "Bill" Walsh 1931-2007
With all respect to Msrs. Belichick and Parcells, there was only one "Coach Bill".

7. June 10: The A's sweep the Giants in S.F.
This didn't really matter in the long run, but it was the high water week of the Oakland Athletics 2007 season -- 2 out of 3 from the Red Sox followed by a sweep of the Giants, and it was all downhill after that.

8. May 3: Warriors eliminate Mavs 4-1
The 2007 Golden State Warriors -- We Believe!

9. April 4: Florida 84, Ohio State 75 (NCAA basketball)
The Florida Gators became the only school to win NCAA football and basketball championships in the same year, beating Ohio State in both championships.

10. March 24: Okay, March was a slow sports month..
India & Pakistan eliminated from the Cricket World Cup

11. February 6: Colts 29, Bears 17 (Super Bowl XLI)
The game itself was super dull, but Tony Dungy became the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl. And Lovey Smith became the first African-American to lose one.

12. January 1: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (Fiesta Bowl)
Only the greatest football game ever played.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

2007: The Year In Music

All is quiet on New Year's Day. A world in white gets underway.
I want to be with you be with you night and day.
Nothing changes on New Year's Day.

Twenty Albums From 2007
20. Sloan - Never Hear The End Of It
19. Silver Sun - Dad's Weird Dream
18. Anton Barbeau w/ Su Jordan - The Automatic Door
17. Broken West - I Can't Go On, I'll Go On
16. Foreign Films - Distant Star
15. Shake Some Action!
14. The Pearlfishers - Up With The Larks
13. Crowded House - Time On Earth
12. Rogue Wave - Asleep At Heaven's Gate
11. New Pornographers - Challengers
10. Fountains of Wayne - Traffic & Weather
9. Mitch Easter - Dynamico
8. The Shins - Wincing The Night Away
7. Future Clouds & Radar
6. Bruce Springsteen - Magic
5. Field Music - Tones Of Town
4. Radiohead - In Rainbows
3. Ted Leo/Pharmacists - Living With The Living
2. Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
1. The National - Boxer

Five 2007 Reissues:
1. Robyn Hitchcock - I Wanna Go Backwards
2. Moby Grape - Listen My Friends!
3. Judee Sill - Live in London
4. Sandy Denny - BBC Sessions 1971-1973
5. Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Close but No Biscuit:
Arcade Fire - Neon Bible
Cindy Lee Berryhill - Beloved Stranger
   (CLB's first album in 12 years, and I really wanted to like it).

Caribou - Andorra
Panda Bear - Person Pitch
I've come to view Beach Boys comparisons as red flags. These albums are on lots of best of year lists, and they both have a BW "vibe", but I don't hear any "songs".

Happy 2008, everyone!