Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Four Thousand Flashdiscs

Regular readers of this blog probably know that I've been engaged in a daily blogging competition with Flasshe. We've both posted every day since October 30th of last year, so today marks six months straight of daily postings by the both of us. I'm sure our mutual friends have already started taking bets about which one of us will crumble first. Not me.

To honor this occasion, today's entry will be an analysis of the contents of Flasshe's CD collection. He has more than four thousand CDs (4088 entries according to that list), most of which date from the mid-90s. Flasshe's favorite year was 1996 (with 306 discs purchased and/or released in that year) and his least favorite were the years before 1974 (when BOC's Secret Treaties launched music as we know it).

This plot of his CDs by year of release looks like a normal distribution centered around the mid-90s (click to enlarge).

Here are some other notable things about Flasshe's CD collection.

Total Discs = 4,205
Total Artists = 1,689
Total Tracks = 17,191
Artists with only one disc = 912
Favorite Year = 1996 (306 titles purchased)
Favorite Month = June (384 titles purchased)
Oldest CD: Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (1965)
Newest CD: Many released in 2007
Biggest Purchase Date: 08/29/1998 (19 cds purchased)

Top Five Formats
CD (3997 titles)
DVD-Audio (28 titles)
Mini CD (23 titles)
SACD (14 titles)
DualDisc (10 titles)

Top Ten Artists:
Bill Nelson (34 titles)
Blue Öyster Cult (32 titles)
Mike Oldfield (29 titles)
The Cure (29 titles)
The Church (28 titles)
Simple Minds (28 titles)
Julian Cope (23 titles)
The Moody Blues (23 titles)
The Stranglers (22 titles)
XTC (21 titles)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A quarter century of nickel-dime people

Happy Lee Elia Day Everyone!

Elia's legendary tirade in the Cubs clubhouse was 25 years ago today. Here's the transcript, with all 44(!) expletives excised. It reads funnier that way.
[Expletive] those [Expletive] fans who come out here and say they're Cub fans that are supposed to be behind you rippin' every [Expletive] thing you do. I'll tell you one [Expletive] thing, I hope we get [Expletive] hotter than [Expletive], just to stuff it up them 3,000 [Expletive] people that show up every [Expletive] day, because if they're the real Chicago [Expletive] fans, they can kiss my [Expletive] ass right downtown and PRINT IT.

They're really, really behind you around here... my [Expletive] ass. What the [Expletive] am I supposed to do, go out there and let my [Expletive] players get destroyed every day and be quiet about it? For the [Expletive] nickel-dime people who turn up? The [Expletive] don't even work. That's why they're out at the [Expletive] game. They oughta go out and get a [Expletive] job and find out what it's like to go out and earn a [Expletive] living. Eighty-five percent of the [Expletive] world is working. The other fifteen percent come out here. A [Expletive] playground for the [Expletive]. Rip them [Expletive]. Rip them [Expletive] [Expletive] like the [Expletive] players. we got guys bustin' their [Expletive] [Expletive], and them [Expletive] people boo. And that's the Cubs? My players get around here. I haven't seen it this [Expletive] year.

I still don't know what "They can kiss my ass right downtown.. AND PRINT IT!" means, but it's one of my favorite statements ever. And you can take that downtown and print it! And if anyone ever run into Tommy Lasorda, be sure to ask him what his opinion of Kingman's performance is.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Stuffed Logic

From the baking instructions for Papa Murphy's Stuffed Crust Pizza.
If you are not going to bake the pizza within 1 hour, it should be refrigerated. Remove pizza from refrigerator at least one hour prior to baking.

If we follow these instructions, and refrigerate our pizza if we are not going to bake it within one hour, but remove it from the refrigerator at least one hour prior to baking, we will never be able to bake our pizza!

It is not possible to leave a stuffed pizza out of the fridge for at least one hour while simultaneously baking it within one hour.

Papa Murphy's instructions create a chronological contradiction.
Reductio ad absurdum, QED.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kiss Me Kate

No time for a full post today, but Kate Pierson of the B-52s(*) is 60 years old today!
Happy Birthday Kate! You'd be old enough to be someone's grandma (if "your people" were allowed to have grandkids).

The new B-52s(*) album is pretty good, and silences people who thought that Imperial Teen were too old to play that kind of music last year. The B-52s(*) are now a whole generation (and a year) older than Imperial Teen were last year, and they're still playing that kind of music!

(*) - The correct name for the band has long been "The B-52's," but in 2008 they dropped the apostrophe, with their official website, and Funplex album and single covers reading "The B-52s." However, the file tags on the digital releases of both of these retain the apostrophe. Both spellings can now be considered correct, even though it wrecks havoc on digital libraries everywhere!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wake up, it's a Chelsea morning

In honor of Chelsea's 2-1 victory over Man United today (pulling the Blues level with the Red Devils on points and keeping their title hopes alive), here's a young Joni Mitchell live at the BBC in 19 and 69.

Joni wrote the song about the Chelsea in Manhattan, not the one in London, but they're both working class neighborhoods that have been gentrified into Yuppievilles. The Chelsea neighborhood of London reminds me a lot of downtown Palo Alto, since they both have more coffee bars per square mile than anyplace else on the planet. Plus Chelsea's home stadium (Stamford Bridge) is just one letter removed from Stanford Stadium, where the Blues played an exhibition match last year. West London and Palo Alto, CA should be sister cities!

According to wikipedia, Bill and Hillary Clinton named their daughter Chelsea after Judy Collins' version of this song (isn't that like naming your daughter after Suzanne Vega's version of a Grateful Dead song?).

Chelsea Clinton now lives in Chelsea, so she lives in the area that inspired the song that inspired the version for which she was named. Where she probably gets ridiculed by other Chelseas named after Joni Mitchell's or Judy Dyble and Fairport Convention's version of "Chelsea Morning". I don't know how she deals with all of that, on top of being the daughter of a President and a Senator who's (surprisingly still) running for President.

At least she can feel superior to Chelseas named after Neil Diamond's version of the song!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring Mix Meme

Another one of those music memes making the rounds on LiveJournal and the rest of the blogosphere.

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now, shaping your Spring. Post these instructions in along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to.

Only seven songs? Over the last few weeks, I've migrated my Friday music posts from posting songs to sharing sites to posting songs to muxtape, where you're allowed up to 12 tracks, but I've settled on ten tracks as the ideal length. So I'm listing ten songs. Ten songs at three minutes each is about a half hour or one side of a Certron C60.

So here are ten songs chosen from the M section of my library. Some of them are old songs from the 60s, some are new songs from this year, and some are newer versions of older songs, but they're all very good. I don't like songs that aren't very good.

1. The Magnetic Fields - California Girls (from Distortion) The new MFs album is kind of a mixed bag for me (I concur with the assessment that "a little distortion goes a long way"), but this song shines through the mush.

2. Manfred Mann - My Little Red Book(from The Best of Manfred Mann)
Just the next song that grabbed my fancy in alphabetical order.

3. Marillion - Lavender (from Misplaced Childhood) Today is Fish's 50th birthday. If "Musical Box" by Genesis were condensed down to two minutes and 27 seconds, the results would be "Lavender".

4. Mas Rapido! - Christopher Robin's Dead (from Parasol sampler) Some of us may remember Mas Rapido! by their earlier names Toothpaste 2000 or Cowboy & Spin Girl. If they keep changing the band name every few albums they might come up with a good one.

5. The Meadows - Forever California (from First Nervous Breakdown) Something I downloaded on a whim from emusic that I really like. Very laid back and folky pop, not exactly earth shattering, but perfect for sunny Spring days.

6. Mr. D - New Day (from Wings & Wheels) I checked this out a while ago on a recommendation from the fine folks at 125 records. Sue and Joe have their own muxtapes. Joe's tape has another Mr. D tune from the same album.

7. The Monkees - Mary, Mary (from More Of The Monkees) Mike Nesmith wrote this song before he joined the Monkees and it was released by Paul Butterfield before they recorded it. Apparently covering a song written by a Monkee hurt Butterfield's blues cred. People were a lot stupider back in the 60s.

8. The Mood Six - I Wanna Destroy You
(from Songs From The Lost Boutique)
I don't know a whole lot about the Mood Six. According to their bio, they were part of the short-lived UK psychedelic revival that swept London's West End in the early 80's, were often compared to Squeeze, R.E.M. and The dB's. That was pretty much all it took for me to download this whole album from emusic. This is a cover of a Soft Boys song, and they also covered Todd Rundgren's "I Saw The Light" and the Groovies' "Shake Some Action". My new favorite obscure band.

9. The Moody Blues - The Story In Your Eyes
(from Every Good Boy Deserves Favour)
One of the Moody Blues six good songs? The Loud Family used to cover this one.

10. The Moore Brothers - Sorting Books
(from Now Is The Time For Love)
Two voices and one guitar. This song slays me every time I hear it.

I don't like to do the "tagging" thing, but any readers are encouraged to share songs that they're currently into, either in the comments or their own blogs. There's no need to mux them up or link to songs or videos, just listing them is fine.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Big Hurt Baseball is back in the Bay Area

The Oakland Athletics signed Frank Thomas off waivers today, so the Big Hurt is back in Oakland where he tore up the league (39 home runs and 114 RBIs) and led the A's to the playoffs a couple of years ago. The A's picked Thomas up for a bargain after a few injury-plagued seasons with the White Sox, then he signed with Toronto as a free agent after his monster year in 2006.

Thomas had another good year with the Blue Jays in 2007, but after a slow start they released him on Sunday. Toronto is still holding the bag for most of his salary, so the A's can take a flier on him for a pro-rated league minimum. Has any team ever acquired the same Hall of Fame player at a bargain price, twice in two years?

This also hints that the A's are aiming to win this year, since teams in rebuilding mode won't sign a 40 year old designated hitter with his own video game (Big Hurt Baseball -- buy it now for Super NES and MS/DOS -- works with Windows 95!).

Even if Thomas is only a shadow of his former Big Hurtness, his presence is exactly what the A's need. Even though they're 13-9 so far this year, they've hit just nine home runs and need someone who can bring some power to the table. I was at the game on Sunday against the Royals, and they scored seven runs with one extra-base hit.

Thomas was in the Oakland lineup today, and didn't do a whole lot (0-3 with 2 walks and a run scored) but the A's still beat up on the Twins 11-2. And Donnie Murphy hit two home runs today, so now the A's have eleven for the year!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Numbers don't lie, except when they do

According to political pundits, Hillary Clinton needed a decisive double-digit win in yesterday's Pennsylvania primary to stay in the race. And Today, many media outlets (like NPR) are touting her "double digit" margin of victory
Winning the largest state left on the calendar — by a double digit margin — gave the Clinton campaign at least two more weeks' lease on life and legitimacy.
But was it a double digit margin? In another story, NPR clarifies that Clinton's victory in PA was actually just 9.2%. Here are the total votes from the Pennsylvania Secretary of State (with 99.51% of districts reporting).

Sen Clinton 1,238,232 votes (54.57%)
Sen Obama 1,030,703 votes (45.43%)

So Hillary's actual winning margin of 207,529 votes was just 9.15%. The "double digit" margin is derived by rounding Clinton's percentage up to 55% and Obama's down to 45%.

As more decimal points get added to their percentages, her lead gets smaller and smaller, from 10% to 9.2% to 9.15% to 9.147%. That's just a non-decisive "single digit" margin of victory, unless you count the digits to the right of the decimal point.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pennsylvania Six-Five Thousand

If today's Pennsylvania primary has taught me anything (I've been trying not to pay attention, but the six week lead time after the last primary has made it tough), it's that baby boomers consider anyone younger than them to be "young". When I was 30, young was "under 30". Then a few years later it was "under 35". Then it was "under 40", and now it's "under 45". My generation be "young" until all the baby boomers die and we're the oldest people on the planet.

In this primary, it seems like us "younger voters" under 45 were the ones for Barack and the "older voters" were the ones for Clinton. So Pennsylvania (a state full of old white people) is a state tailor-made for Hillary. Even though she won the popular vote by 9 or 10 points (55-45 at last count), she only picked up a net gain of six delegates out of the 140 or so that she needs for the nomination.

So in the end, all this Pennsylvania hoopla was much ado about nothing and Hillary is still toast. But it still makes me proud to have Bill Clinton write me off as wide-eyed and underinformed "young voters". Does this mean I can still eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast?

That's right grandad! We're in our early 40s, and we've got something to say. And that's "don't trust anyone over 50 -- especially Clinton and McCain"!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Top Thirty Three and a Thirds

Every few months the publishers of the 33 1/3 books about albums publish the top and bottom selling titles.

Here are their top ten sellers from the first part of 2008.

1. Neutral Milk Hotel
2. The Kinks
3. The Beatles
4. The Smiths
5. The Rolling Stones
6. Joy Division
7. Velvet Underground
8. Led Zeppelin
9. Radiohead
10. Pink Floyd

Kim Cooper's NMH book is a little minutiae-heavy, but worth reading if you like In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, so I'm not surprised that it's doing so well. Andy Miller's Village Green Preservation Society book is one of the best music books I've ever read. There aren't enough books about the Kinks.

It also helps to have a book by someone famous. The next book in the series is John Darnielle's on Black Sabbath's Masters Of Reality. I don't know a whole lot about that album, and wouldn't give that book a second look if it was by John Q. Nobody, but I'd be interested in reading John Darnielle's take on just about anything.

Also, FWIW, here's their bottom ten 33 1/3 sellers. I'd be a little embarrassed if I was the author of these, but anyone who writes a book about Throbbing Gristle probably knows what they're getting into.

46. Joni Mitchell
47. Belle & Sebastian
48. Stevie Wonder
49. PJ Harvey
50. Nick Drake
51. Tom Waits
52. Guns N Roses
53. U2
54. A Tribe Called Quest
55. Throbbing Gristle

There was a poll at the site/blog to guess how well Carl Wilson's book on Celine Dion would do. It ended the quarter at #32, above John Dougan's excellent book on The Who Sell Out among others. I'm not sure about that one. Even if you're being detached and/or ironic, there really isn't a whole lot to write about a Celine Dion album.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Goan Pork Vindaloo

It's been a while since I posted a recipe, so here's my recipe for an authentic Goan Pork Vindaloo. A vindaloo is a popular Indian dish, that comes from the Portugese "vinho de alho" (garlic wine) and was introduced to Goa by the Portugese.

Because they were colonized by the Portugese, the population of Goa is largely Roman Catholic, and it's one of the few places in India where pork is widely used. Any meat could be a vindaloo, but pork is the traditional choice. Most recipes call for shoulder or butt, but I used boneless pork loin. Here's how to prepare.

Goan Pork Vindaloo

1-1.5 lbs. pork loin
2 medium onions
2 tbs fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 red chiles, chopped
1/2 cup vinegar (red wine or apple cider)
3 tbsp curry powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5 black peppercorns
3 cloves
2 cups water

Mix the ginger, garlic, chiles, and spices (salt, pepper, brown sugar, curry, cloves, and cinnamon) into the vinegar to make the vindaloo paste. Cut the pork into cubes and marinate in the paste for at least two hours.

Finely chop the onions and fry until soft. Remove the pork from the vindaloo paste and fry until brown on all sides. Add the marinade and water, bring to a boil, and simmer on low for 1-2 hours. Or even better, simmer all day in a crockpot set to low.

Serve with white rice (preferably basmati). The combination of sweet and sour and spicy is really tasty, with a slow burn that can turn potent if you eat it too quickly. It matches well with cheap Chilean Merlot from Trader Joe's, which provides three continents in one meal!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Double nickels on the dime

The winning pitcher in last night's A's game was Chad Gaudin, so they've won ten games this year with ten different winning pitchers. The 2008 Athletics are now tied for an obscure Major League record with the 1973 Cubs and 1992 Angels.

The A's will break the record if their next win is by Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke, Andrew Brown, Kirk Saarloos, or Huston Street. This isn't as big as their 20-game winning streak in 2002, but it shows that their pitching staff has a lot of depth. It probably doesn't bode well for their long-term success this year -- the 1973 Cubs and 1992 Angels both finished in fifth place. I don't think the A's will be that bad this year, and they won't finish fifth because there are only four teams in the AL West, but they don't have any dominant hitters or pitchers, so I'm not sure how they've been able to do so well.

Meanwhile their former shortstop just became two years older overnight. If he keeps this up, by the end of the baseball season, he'll be older than John McCain.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A forty year odessey

Tomorrow marks the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest sound recordings ever.

The Zombies' album Odessey & Oracle came out the same month as Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the title was misspelled because the graphic designer didn't spellcheck the cover art. The Zombies had already split up before O&O came out, and the album was dead and buried on both sides of the Atlantic before "Time Of The Season" became a surprise smash hit in the U.S. in 1969.

After the Zombies turned down offers to reform and tour the U.S. after "Time Of The Season" hit, some promoters assembled bands of bogus Zombies that toured the country to cash in on the song's success. Even though "Time Of the Season" stayed in heavy rotation on oldies radio, its original album was out of print and nearly impossible to find before it was reissued on CD (by Rhino) in 1988.

From my observations, it seems like most Odessey obsessives are people like me who were too young to pick up on the album when it came out. When I saw a Rod Argent & Colin Blunstone reunion show at SF's Great American Music Hall, Argent was astounded to be playing for an audience of young fans who knew all the words to songs that were written before most of them were born. (At one point, Rod asked "Are you all here for someone else?"). When they first reformed, Rod and Colin played mostly the hits (including Argent songs) with two or three Odessey & Oracle tunes, but for their 40th Anniversary tour they're playing the entire album in sequence.

I was going to mark the anniversary by assembling a mixtape of covers of songs from Odessey & Oracle, and found multiple covers of "Care Of Cell 44" and "This Will Be Our Year", but not many covers of the other songs.

Here are the results. Eight songs with three covers of "Care Of Cell 44" (by Elliott Smith, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, and the Grey Race), three covers of "This Will Be Our Year" (by the Beautiful South, Pablo, and Chris von Sneidern), a Zombies demo of "This Will Be Our Year", and R. Stevie's (actually not that great) cover of "Time Of The Season".

Once find the Pop Llama Zombies tribute and Loser's Lounge comp in my stack of "various artists" discs, I can augment this with the Posies cover of "Brief Candles", the Zumpano (Carl Newman's pre-NPs band) cover of "Changes", and TMBG's cover of "Butcher's Tale".

Are there any other notable covers of Odessey & Oracle songs?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nine For Nine

The nine Oakland A's victories so far this year (they're currently 9-7 for the year and trailing 6-1 against the Mariners in the 6th inning) have been by nine different pitchers (Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, Dana Eveland, Alan Embree, Fernando Hernandez, Joey Devine, Joe Blanton, Lenny DiNardo, and Greg Smith).

If the A's next win is by someone other than these nine guys, they'll tie the ML record of 10 with two teams: the 1973 Chicago Cubs (Bob Locker, Jack Aker, Rick Reuschel, Bill Bonham, Fergie Jenkins, Ray Burris, Burt Hooton, Bill Virdon, Larry Gura, Milt Pappas) and the 1992 California Angels (Don Robinson, Mark Langston, Jim Abbott, Joe Grahe, Chuck Crim, Scott Lewis, Steve Frey, Julio Valera, Scott Bailes, Chuck Finley ).

A's pitchers who don't have a win yet are Santiago Casilla, Keith Foulke, Huston Street, Chad Gaudin, and Kirk Saarlos (who's currently on the mound). and If they come back tonight, the winner will surely come from that pool of five.

The A's have just given up two more runs, so they're now down 8-1, and I'm turning the TV channel back to the Sharks game. They're up 2-1 in the third period, and tied 2-2 in the series against Calgary. I'll be back after the hockey game is over.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Two Four Two

According to this article, the ideal length for a pop song is 2:42.

The author cites this 2:42 song as his exhibit A, and these three Sgt. Pepper songs as exhibits B through D.
Let’s look at Sgt. Pepper. “Lovely Rita” is two minutes, 42 seconds. It delivers that psychedelic vibe and a coda but then gets the hell out of your life.

Compare that to “With a Little Help From My Friends.” It’s a mere two seconds longer but feels like it drags on for hours. Maybe it’s Ringo, maybe it’s the tedious melody—or maybe it’s the two goddamn seconds.

Then over here we have “Good Morning Good Morning,” rightfully discarded by the masses as a throwaway. Why? Two minutes, 41 seconds. Hey, Beatles, maybe next time think about tacking on an extra second to give a song the grandeur and majesty it deserves.

And since we're in the second quarter of 2008, the article includes a muxtape of 2:42 songs.

Here are some other 2:42 songs that I have on my iTunes.

Cheap Trick - He's A Whore
The Feelies - Let's Go
Fountains Of Wayne - Leave The Biker
Guided By Voices - Echoes Myron
Half Man Half Biscuit - Twenty Four Hour Garage People
The Loud Family - Screwed Over By Stylish Introverts
Love - Can't Explain
The Mamas & The Papas - California Dreamin'
New Pornographers - Streets Of Fire
Tom Petty - Breakdown + Don't Do Me Like That
R.E.M. - Get Up
The Rolling Stones - As Tears Go By
The Rutles - Cheese & Onions
The Smiths - Shelia Take A Bow
Teenage Fanclub - About You + Mellow Doubt

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A change of scenery

To prepare for my possible re-entry to the job market in at the end of this year, I've been building up my professional network on linkedin (search for me by first and last name and add me as a contact if you're linkedin) and discovered that one of my fellow co-workers had relocated to Auckland NZ a few months ago. How dare she do that? Moving to New Zealand was my dream!

I spent a few of my formative years outside the USA, and still haven't lost my taste for the expat life, so this caused me to start contemplating international cities that I would consider relocating to. Here are five cities in alphabetical order.

1. Auckland - basically anywhere in New Zealand's North or South Island would be a great place to live, and I'd prefer Christchurch or Dunedin, but Auckland is the big city with more employment opportunities. The latest batch of Conchords inspired Kiwiphilia in the U.S. just confirms that NZ is a very cool country.

2. Barcelona - I've only been to Barcelona once, but was really taken by it. It's a place I would love to live. Between watching Whit Stillman's movie and the Barça matches on GolTV, I've found one of my new favorite cities.

3. London - I spent part of one summer (1985) in London on a "work/study visa", but there wasn't a lot of "work" because it was the height of Thatcherism so I had to fall back on the "study" part. I love the place, but it's so big and foreboding. One of my friends (who most of you know, but she doesn't read my blog so I can talk about her behind her back) moved here last year, and seems to like it. It seems like everything is twice as expensive as it is in the USA, but you don't get twice the pay for working here. Funny that.

4. Perth, WA - I spent a month in Perth on a work/study holiday after graduating from college (1987), but the "working" part also never materialized here. It's my favorite city in Australia, closer to Singapore than it is to Sydney, with lots of good Asian/Italian restaurants and a good music scene (at least in the late 80s).

5. Singapore - One of my favorite cities. I spent a few years there during high school (and my parents lived there through the 80s which allowed me to spend summers in London and Perth) and have been back a few times since. It's as much like home as any other city except San Francisco. Great culture and great food, but not without its little quirks.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Monday, back from the dead

Last week on a music mailing list that I'm on, someone posted this year's Bumbershoot lineup which includes the reunited Stone Temple Pilots.

This news prompted one listmember to respond with
"Oooh, Stone Temple Pilots! How could I pass that up?". And someone else to agree "I hear ya. An oozing syphlitic sore. How could I pass that up?"

I think both authors were being sarcastic. I won't get into the total lameness of sarcasm in written form (basically, it doesn't work!) but I really don't understand the universal disdain for Stone Temple Pilots. They weren't that original or groundbreaking, but there were tons of bands from that era that sucked a lot harder than STP did. And some of their songs (like this one) are downright power-poppy.

The first time I heard this song ("Days Of The Week"), I thought it was from some cool 21st century buzz-band like the Strokes. Nope, turns out it was Stone Temple Pilots. As in elegant bachelors, foxy to me, etc.. I don't care. "Days Of The Week" still rocks. Look me in the eye and explain to me why that song doesn't rock!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fillmore Eye

I caught Nick Lowe and Robyn Hitchcock last night at the Fillmore. I thought it had been a while since I saw a concert at the Fillmore, but according to the archives, I saw Big Star there last October. There are a lot of things I like about the Fillmore (good acoustics and sight lines, shows that start on time, free apples and concert posters) and only a couple of things I don't like about (it's hard to get to and their strongarm security doesn't allow cameras or recording devices). I would have loved to record the show, but I was risking life and limb just taking that low-res cell phone picture up there.

I was wondering what the Lowe/Hitchcock double bill would entail. From Paula's review of their NYC show a few nights earlier, I knew that they were both playing solo/acoustic. It's unfortunate that Robyn's Venus 3 are busy with their other band, because some of them (okay, one of them) moonlight in The Lowe Beats, and I think a Robyn/Venus3 + Nick/Lowe Beats double bill would be very cool.

Anyway, they both played solo/acoustic, and were not joined by Elvis Costello on the encore like they were in NYC, but it was a fabulous show nonetheless. Robyn played his self-described "San Francisco set" which included eight songs from Eye (written and recorded in SF) plus "One Long Pair Of Eyes" and "A Man's Got To Know His Limitations, Briggs!". I was glad that he played "Clean Steve", since it mentions both my name and the headliner's name. He also played "Cynthia Mask", "Raining Twilight Coast", "Beautiful Girl", "Aquarium", "Queen Elvis", all great songs from the under-appreciated Eye (recently reissued by Yep Roc).

Yep Roc also reissued Nick Lowe's Jesus Of Cool earlier this year, so I was hoping he'd pull out some of those songs for his set. He did play one of them ("Heart Of The City") for the second encore, but his set was mostly culled from his recent albums and one brand new song ("I Read A Lot"), before ending with his crowd-pleasing triptych of "Cruel To Be Kind", "I Knew The Bride", and "Peace, Love, and Understanding". Robyn Hitchcock joined Nick for the encore of Johnny Kidd's "Hungry For Love", the Beatles "If I Fell", and one more song, then he was called back for the grand finale of "Heart Of The City".

Strangely enough, even though the place was mostly full, I didn't notice any friends or even nodding acquaintances in the crowd. The main reason I don't go out more is that almost everyone I know hates live music, so I usually end up going to concert alone and leaving alone and not talking to anyone while I'm there. This isn't much fun, except for great shows like this one, where the thrill of the experience makes up for not knowing anyone there.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Enablin' A's

Both Oakland A's pitchers that I've posted about here over the last two weeks (Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer) were put on the 15-day DL this week, leaving two holes in the starting rotation. Out of fears that my words are causing these guys to go on the shelf, I'm not going to write about anymore starting pitchers for awhile. It's just Joe Blanton and a bunch of no names anyway.

A bunch of no names who are apparently getting the job done. In the post-game show before the 8-game road trip to Toronto and Cleveland, Bob Geren said their goal was to get a split. They probably need to revise their expectations now that they've won the first four in a row. The first two games against the Blue Jays were won by Fernando Hernandez and Joey Devine, two rookies that I'd never heard of before they entered the game. And they've been scoring seven runs a game with a similar lineup of unknown players.

After one week, the Oakland Athletics are 7-4, and in first place in the AL West. When you enter a baseball season with low expectations, like A's fans did, you don't know how to respond when they start winning. It's like finding a ten dollar bill in your pocket.

Across the bay, even the Giants have started winning a bit, even though they lost a wild one today. I didn't watch the game, but am intrigued by this description of Rick Ankiel's 8th inning home run. "R. Ankiel homered to catcher". "Homered to Catcher"? Is this Little League? There's no mention in the recap of Ankiel hitting a LLHR, so I think they mean "homered to center".

Friday, April 11, 2008

Between the Bitrates

Earlier this week I mentioned that emusic's rundown of the early Rolling Stones catalog gave short shrift to a couple of my favorite Stones albums, Between The Buttons and Their Satanic Majesties Request.

To my ears, the 1967 Buttons-Majesties period is the most interesting period of Stones music by far, but emusic lists these albums (along with the Flowers compilation) are listed under "The Stones Get Stoned" and described as the druggy middle period between their energetic early years and their later years as the World's Greatest Rock And Roll Band.

When I was first getting into the (early) Stones, I used the first edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide as my guide, and was curious why Between The Buttons and Satanic Majesties only merited three stars when all every other Stones albums were four or five stars. Buttons is every bit as strong, song for song, as its predecessor Aftermath, but somehow the latter album is a "classic" and the former is an "ambitious failure". I think Buttons is a close cousin to the Kinks' Face To Face and definitely the Stones most "British" album.

The Stones released Between The Buttons in early 1967 concurrently with a single ("Let's Spend The Night Together"/"Ruby Tuesday") that was included on the US version of the album but not on the UK version, which has two tracks that aren't on the US version ("Backstreet Girl" and "Please Go Home"). Instead of releasing the entire UK album with the single as bonus tracks, ABKCO reissued the US and UK albums as separate CDs and emusic has them as separate albums. All twelve of the tracks on the UK album and both sides of the single are worthwhile, but nobody really needs two near identical albums. In these downloady times, I can compile my own Superbuttons.

The RS Record Guide was vicious in its criticism Satanic Majesties. This is Dave Marsh's review of the album in full.
Satanic Majesties is a bad idea gone wrong. The idea of making a truly druggy answer to the cherubic joyousness of Sgt. Pepper was silly enough. Doing so by fuzzing up some pretty good songs with tape loops and early synthesizer experiments is truly unforgivable

When I finally heard Satanic Majesties after reading this review, I was expecting some really weird druggy downer, but it's really pretty good. There are a few mis-steps (I could go the rest of my life without hearing "Sing This All Together (see what happens)") but the "tape loops and synthesizer experiments" like "2000 Light Years From Home" and "She's A Rainbow" are some of the best songs the Stones have ever created. Plus there's "Citadel", "2000 Man", Bill Wyman's "In Another Land". This has long been regarded as the Stones "worst" classic period album (which it's not) but critical opinions have changed over the years with bands like Brian Jonestown Massacre basing entire career trying to capture its "vibe".

Satanic Majesties had the same track listing on both sides of the Atlantic, but it was preceded by another classic single ("Dandelion"/"We Love You") that was not included on the album. If the album would have been resequenced with some of the more excessive bits excised and replaced by the single, the Stones could have created one of the coolest psychedelic albums ever.

I've assembled another muxtape of the best bits of Satanic Majesties along with a few tracks from Between The Buttons. They've added "buy this from Amazon" links to everything (and amazon does a la carte mp3s now), but subscribers can also download them from emusic.

Rolling Stones 1967

(from Between the Buttons)
1. Yesterday's Papers
2. Who's Been Sleeping Here
3. Something Happened To Me Yesterday

(from Their Satanic Majesties Request)
4. Sing This All Together
5. 2000 Light Years From Home
6. In Another Land
7. Citadel
8. She's A Rainbow

(from September 1967 single)
9. Dandelion
10. We Love You

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The wearing of the green

Hopped up by my success at picking the final four in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, I've moved on to picking the next Spring sporting tradition, the 2008 Masters.

My brother and I made our ten picks each for who's going to win last night, and here they are.

I like my picks over his, especially since the "alternating Tiger" pick is mine this year. In a few days, we'll see who's picks reign supreme!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Radio Free Tibet

Today's Olympic Torch relay through San Francisco was shortened from a 6 mile run along the waterfront to a 3 mile run further inland, to help prevent possible clashes between pro-Beijing supporters and pro-Tibet protesters. This made the protest kind of a dud, and the most interesting aspect was how it was reported by the Chinese press, with just the facts about the torch and no mention of protesters. It's like the sign at Tiananmen Square in that Simpson's episode: "At this spot in June 1989.. nothing happened"

And to protest China's crackdown on Tibet, Axl Rose should hold off releasing GnR's Chinese Democracy until China actually is a democracy. "Chinese democracy first, album second!"

The Chinese government might even soften their stance if they knew there was free Dr. Pepper at stake!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Emusic's Newest Hitmakers

Last week, emusic listed the "Wentworth Primary Players" in their upcoming releases for 4/3 (Wentworth Primary was the school where Mick met Keith).

Last Thursday (4/3) emusic added all 23 Rolling Stones ABKCO titles from 1963-1970. This is big news for emusic!

These 23 albums are made up of 10 compilations, 2 live albums, and just 8 "real" albums (some in US and UK versions). Most younger fans know the early Stones only by their hit singles, and there are some gems buried in the deep album cuts, but also some duds, so it lends itself to song-by-song cherry picking.

My downloads refreshed yesterday, and I've been picking cherries from the early Stones for the last couple days. Emusic's own list of Stones essentials is a pretty good guidelines, but they give pretty short shrift to a couple of my favorite Rolling Stones albums. I'll post more about those albums later.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Rock Chalk Jayhawks

Congratulations to the Kansas Jayhawks for winning their first NCAA Basketball Championship in 20 years. They were nine points down to Memphis with two minutes remaining, went on a 9-0 run to take it to overtime, and won going away, 75-68 in OT.

NCAA basketball finals are usually not competitive games, but this was close all the way through to the end. Neither team (Kansas or Memphis) had a lead of more than ten points for the entire game, and it went back and forth for all 45 minutes.

After picking all four final four teams correctly, I picked both semifinal games wrong (I had UCLA vs. UNC in the finals), but ended up getting just one of them wrong since I somehow picked Kansas over North Carolina in the ESPN poll.  This elevated my final bracket in the 88th percentile in the ESPN tournament challenge, probably the best I've ever picked. The secret is to pick all the favorites whenever possible. Unfortunately, I still didn't win our NCAA basketball pool, so the drinks are on .. someone else.

My Picks
Final Four: North Carolina, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA
Finals: Kansas, UCLA
Champion: UCLA

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Aloha Skybust

If I'm adding days correctly, today marks my 160th consecutive day of daily blogging. The streak started on October 30th with this post about my trip to Ohio on Skybus Airlines.

Could this weekend's news that Skybus has shut down be my clue that I need to take a few days off? Skybus is the third airline to cease operations this week, after ATA and Aloha. All three airlines cited the slowing economy and rising fuel costs in their decisions to shut down. Friday I filled out a BART rider survey that offered participants a free trip to Hawaii "courtesy of Aloha Airlines". I wonder what will become of that?

I had a good experience on Skybus in October, both my flights left and arrived on time, and their staff were helpful and friendly. My one negative about the airline is that I didn't like their nickel-and-diming. $2.50 for soft drinks, $2.50 for each checked bag, $2.50 for premium boarding, $2.50 to print your boarding pass on your own printer. My $75 flight ticket each way actually ended up being about $100 each way with all their service charges. It's like flying via Ticketmaster.

Yesterday I bought a ticket to the May 31st R.E.M. show (they're touring with The National who made one of my favorite albums last year, and Modest Mouse, of whom I have no strong opinion pro or con) at the Greek Theatre,  and the $58 tickets became $72.50 after the $10.50 "convenience charge", $2.50 "handling charge", and a $1.50 "mailing charge".  That's a 25% markup for doing absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, I only go to one "big" show a year that requires interacting with Ticketmafia.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Duke's Genesis... and Exodus

Oakland A's pitcher Justin "Duke" Duchscherer started his first game in five years last night, which was the genesis for this entry on Catfish Stew.
I'm sure Duke will be a Man of our Times, and put to rest any thoughts that the plan to make him a starter was just some sort of Misunderstanding. But let's hope Duke isn't Alone Tonight as the only A's player who does anything well. Please Don't Ask where the A's offense has been; they've been missing somewhere Behind the Lines. They need to Turn It On Again, and keep going forward, not get stuck in some offensive Cul-De-Sac that goes nowhere. Otherwise, Duke's Travels will just end up forgotten in a Heathaze of Athletics losses. Here's hoping Duke's End is more uplifting than that.
The A's won last night, and Duke pitched well for five innings before leaving in the top of the sixth with a strained bicep. It was just like the title of Phil's second solo album, and just a minor setback if you take it at face value, but seriously I think Duke needs at least one more night off before he can turn it on again.

Friday, April 4, 2008

MLK XL Muxtape

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed forty years ago today in Memphis, and I'm marking the occasion by making a muxtape for him. That might be more suitable gift for that cute girl in your 3rd period Geometry class who you're too shy to talk to than it is for a slain civil rights leader with his own holiday, but I think there's a mix tape for every occasion.

Muxtape is an online mixmaking service that launched a couple of weeks ago, and all the kool kids are talking about it. It lets you upload up to a dozen mp3s, sequence them, and share the results with your friends. I'm not sure how legal the whole thing is, but people can only play the tracks (not download them), which probably provides a save harbor. But if Rosa Parks wouldn't go to the back of the bus in 1953 and those college students in Greensboro wouldn't leave the Woolworths lunch counter in 1960, I'm sure not going to worry about if something is "legal" or not. Legal schmegal! Segregation used to be "legal" (yes, I realize that that's a silly analogy!)

If you don't have any problems with "unauthorized sharing" the results are here. And if you do, then you can still click there, but I won't give you a link. You're twelve tracks per muxtape, but I only uploaded ten tracks, and here they are.

(that's "XL" as in "40 in Roman numerals", not "Extra Large")

1. MLK - U2

Knock knock.. Who's there? Orange.. Orange who?
Orange you glad I didn't start this mix with
"Pride (in the name of Love)"?

2. Sword Swallower - The Loud Family

Today is Scott Miller's birthday as well as Dr. King's deathday, and this song even mentions MLK, probably because Scott needed something to rhyme with "Paris in the Spring".

3. Shed a Little Light - James Taylor

JT wrote this tribute to MLK in the early 90s, with hopes that all men and women
living on the earth are bound together in their desire to see the world become a place in which our children can grow free and strong. Rockabye sweet baby James.

4. Abraham, Martin & John - Marvin Gaye

Most people know "AM&J" from Dion's hit version, but it was covered by lots of other artists in the post MLK/RFK era, and Marvin's version is one of the best. This song was recorded in early 1970 and paved the way for What's Going On.

5. They Killed Him - Bob Dylan

I thought this song was one of the few good things about Dylan's Knocked Out Loaded album, only to discover that Bob didn't actually write it. It was by Kris Kristofferson. "There was a man named Mahatma Gandhi. A man named Martin Luther King". Gandhi and King are tied together so much in song that I hope they're good buddies in their afterlives, despite their differing views of what that entails.

6. Eyes On The Prize - Bruce Springsteen

From the Seeger Sessions album that no one liked. This song was a cornerstone of the civil rights movement, and the title was later used for the PBS documentary. My favorite part of the documentary was when Jim Lawson (one of the 1960 Greensboro lunch counter activists) talked about one of his civil rights workshops when someone asked him what they would have ordered if they had been served at the Woolworths, and Lawson replied that he had his "eyes on the pies".

7. A Change Is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke

I've noticed that this track list is a little.. white for a Martin Luther King mix, so I've dipped into my small well of black artists. In High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (through his narrator Rob Gordon) said that you shouldn't put "black music" and "white music" on the same mix. In this age when a multiracial man is on the verge of becoming president (and he will, as long as he's judged on the content of his character and not what his former pastor said five years ago) I scoff at arbitrary designations between "white music" and "black music". You're not being racially transcendent, Mr. Hornby.

8. He Was A Friend Of Mine - The Byrds

I know this song is about JFK not MLK "He died in Dallas town. From a sixth floor window a gunner shot him down", but it's actually a traditional folk song about no one specifically, which means that it can be about anyone. "He was in Memphis town. From across the street a gunner shot him down". There you go. Anyway I probably should have included "Chimes of Freedom"

9. I Have A Dream - ABBA

When MLK gave one of the greatest speeches of the Twentieth century in the March on Washington, I'm not sure he intended for the term "I Have a Dream" to be appropriated fifteen years later by a Swedish supergroup who needed something to put on the flipside of "Take a Chance On Me", but they did it anyway and here it is. Despite the title, this song has nothing to do with Dr. Martin Luther King.

10. I Had A Dream - The Long Ryders

This song may have something to do with MLK, but probably doesn't. It relates to the previous song by what mix-makers call a "segue" (not to be confused with a segway) where the present tense in song #9 transitions to the past tense in track #10. I had a dream last night (one song ago), but I don't have a dream anymore. That was last night. This song has a very cool video by the way.

I might mess around with this muxtape thing a bit more, until the fad fades away or it gets shut down by The Man. Their interface is a marvel of web simplicity. If they wanted to model the full cassette, they should just have the standard controls (play, rewind, fast forward, stop) without any random track access. So if you want to hear track #5, you need to fast forward until the counter (which has nothing to do with time, it's just a number) falls somewhere in the middle. And after a few plays it could add a screechy "old-tape" sound to the playback.

"An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law"
-- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Virgin quakes and aeroplanes

Despite my unavowed soccer fandom, I've had trouble getting into the MLS, partly because the caliber of competition just isn't as good as the European leagues, but mostly because we haven't had a local side to follow here in the SF Bay Area for the last couple of years.

Until now. Version 2.0 of the San Jose Earthquakes are playing their first match ever against Beckham and the LA Galaxy. There was a MLS team called the Earthquakes who played in San Jose from 1995-2005, but the coach and players left to Houston and became the Houston Dynamo when San Jose wouldn't build them a stadium, and now there's a new MLS expansion team called the Earthquakes in one of those Cleveland Browns - Baltimore Ravens deals.

This year's Quakes enter the league with the records and history of the former San Jose Earthquakes. They're an "expansion team" with two MLS championships from the early 2000s, but from the looks of tonight's game, they aren't a very good team in 2008. They're currently down 2-0 to the Galaxy (who besides Beckham and Landon Donovan, are not very good), and haven't mounted much of a challenge. And the caliber of play in the MLS is also not that good. If the M in MLS stands for "major", they should put that letter in finger-quotes ("M"LS).

I'll still make an effort to follow the Quakes this year, and might even go see a game in person. They're owned by Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff and are playing some of their marquee matches (like those Beckham/Galaxy games) at the Coliseum. There's even a joint A's/Quakes mini ticket plan that I'm thinking of springing for. The Earthquakes regular non-marquee matches are going to be played at SCU's Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, kind of a long haul for me, so my best chance is to see one of their games in Oakland.

If they're splitting matches between Oakland and Santa Clara, shouldn't they be soething like the "Earthquakes of the San Andreas, Calaveras, and Hayward faults" instead of just the "San Jose" Earthquakes? I think so.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Accelerate to make it go

I picked up the R.E.M.'s Accelerate yesterday night, and like it a lot after two and a half listens (okay, two and 5/11ths listens).   This should have been the post-Bill followup to New Adventures in Hi-Fi.  It's not really fair to compare an album I've been listening to for 24 hours to albums I've been listening to for 24 years, but if I were to redo my R.E.M. ranking now, I'd put Accelerate in the top ten, just below New Adventures and bumping down Up.  Maybe that entire Pat McCarthy era was just a ten year diversion for the guys in R.E.M?.

This album really does bring The Rock. I prefer the acoustic video version of "Living Well Is The Best Revenge" to the recorded version, and some of Stipe's lyrics are less than stellar, but everything else about this album is a return to old school R.E.M.

When I was buying the album last night at Rasputin Music, I was reminded of the quote from the New York Times article I linked to over the weekend by the program director at SF's Live 105 that most of their listeners consider R.E.M. "their dad's band" because the young kid behind the counter called me "pops" as I was walking out of Rasputin with my copy of Accelerate. Don't call me "pops", sonny! Back in my day we had respect for our elders! Just tell me where I can get some Andy Williams on those newfangled "Compact Disks", you little whippersnapper!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I was fairly confident that Barry Bonds would have a job somewhere in baseball by the beginning of April, and today there's news that he's on the verge of resigning with the Giants for another one year deal. Apparently the "new era" hasn't been working out that well? Or is Bonds signing with the Twins? It seems like there's been a lot of movement on the Barry Bonds front today for some reason or other?

Probably the most intriguing Barry scenario has him heading to Japan to chase Sadaharu Oh's all-time professional home run record. Given their general chillyness toward gaijin players chasing Japanese baseball records (Tuffy Rhodes was walked every time up after he tied Oh's single season Japanese HR record in 2001), Barry Bonds would probably have a 1.000 OBP in Japan. He would also have a 1.000 OPS, no official at-bats, and 593 intentional walks every season, clogging up the bases like no one's business. And if Japan doesn't work out for Barry, there's always the Long Beach Armada.

Here are my fearless baseball predictions for 2008

AL East: Red Sox, Blue Jays, Yankees, Orioles, Rays
AL Central: Tigers, Indians, Twins, Royals, White Sox
AL West: Angels, A's, Mariners, Rangers
AL Wild Card: Oakland (hope baby!)
ALCS: Detroit over Boston

NL East: Mets, Phillies, Braves, Nats, Marlins
NL Central: Brewers, Cubs, Cards, Astros, Reds, Pirates
NL West: D-Backs, Padres, Rockies, Dodgers, Giants
NL Wild Card: Phillies
NLCS: D-Backs over Mets

World Series: Tigers over D-Backs

If I was a total A's believer, I'd probably pick them to win the division! The AL West is pretty weak, and there will probably only be a dozen game difference between first and last. The Yankees won't make the playoffs for the first time in a hundred years. Why does the NL Central have six teams? Why does the AL West only have four? I've never been more confident of any pick than I am of the SF Giants finishing in last place this year. They are a really crummy team.