Saturday, May 31, 2008

Triple Play!

Someone I know (my brother) had an extra ticket to last night's Giants game againt the Padres, so I decided to go, even though I'm not much of a Giants fan, and I'm still recovering from my trip so my schedule isn't back to normal yet.

Jon Miller always says everytime you head to the ballpark, you're liable to see something you've never seen before. Last night in the top of the 8th with Keichii Yabu Padres runners on first and second, we saw this.

An around the horn 5-4-3 triple play! The Giants ended up losing 7-3 in 13 innings, and I didn't stay to the bitter end, but I witnessed my first triple play ever, at any level of baseball. And that's what keeps you coming back!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Garage '66

1966 Plymouth Babararacucudada

After throwing together a muxtape of some of Scott Miller's favorite songs of 1966 the other day, I've decided to update my own muxtape of 1966 songs. Scott describes "Wild Thing" as "the first and best garage rock tune", so I decided to focus on garage rock (which was called "punk" before punk became something else a decade later). Here is a mix of a dozen proto-punk Nuggets or Pebbles from 1966.

Garage '66
1. "All Tomorrow's Parties (single mix)" - The Velvet Underground
They don't have garages in Manhattan, so the Velvets were more like a "loft band". This was a pre-release single for the Velvet Underground & Nico album.

2. "Train Kept a Rollin'" - Brave New World
I have this on a Mojo compilation called Instant Garage. BNW were from the Northwest, and this raved up Yardbirds track sounds like a rolling train!

3. "Misty Lane" - The Chocolate Watchband
The Watchband were one third of the South Bay garage trinity (with the Count Five and the Syndicate of Sound). This was their small regional hit that should have been a huge national hit.

4. "Devil With A Blue Dress On" - Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels
I had to include the "Detroit Wheels" on a "garage rock" mix. This was a huge national hit, a medley with "Good Golly Miss Molly" that made it to the top five.

5. "Psychotic Reaction" - The Count Five
Another third of the South Bay garage trinity. This should have followed the Chocolate Watchband track, but I wanted to have the Count Five as track #5.

6. "Too Much To Dream" - The Electric Prunes
I've muxtaped this one before. And will do so again.

7. "Seven and Seven Is" - Love
Like having the Count Five at #5, I had to have "Seven and Seven Is" at #7. The b-side of this single was "No. Fourteen", helping to teach the kids arithmetic.

8. "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" - The Kinks
This song, one of the four or five best Kinks songs ever, was the b-side to "Sunny Afternoon", and one of the staples of teenage garage bands of the era.

9. "Talk Talk" - The Music Machine
Everything that's great about "sixties punk" distilled down to two minutes (1:56).

10. "Little Black Egg" - The Nightcrawlers
Another holdover from my last muxtape.

11. "Pushin' Too Hard" - The Seeds
I think this song may contain the best guitar solo ever. Yes, better than "Louie, Louie".

12. "Gloria" - The Shadows of Knight
This was one of the anthems of my college (in Peoria, IL) where we used to sing the song as "P-E-O-R-I-A".

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mes que una camisa

The U.S. dollar is historically weak against the pound and the Euro, which makes it tough for American tourists in Europe. Other than food, drink, lodging, and transport, I tried to keep my expenses to a minimum. The only items I came home with that I didn't leave home with were a couple of books I bought in London and a FC Barcelona soccer jersey from the club store at Camp Nou Stadium.

One problem with buying European soccer memorabilia, like NASCAR merchandise, is that almost all the clubs have a shirt sponsor, so you're paying money to turn yourself into a walking billboard. The nice thing about buying a Barça jersey is they're adorned with a UNICEF logo paid by the team to benefit children in "the developing world", so you're turning yourself into a walking billboard for a worthy cause.

The jersey I got was from the clearance rack, featuring the name and number of a player who's set to retire (#16 for Brazilian fullback Sylvinho) so I didn't contribute many Euros to UNICEF, but can still feel that I'm helping children in the developing world when I wear the shirt. It may even keep trick-or-treaters from asking me for spare change if I wear it on Halloween, since I gave at the office!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Where were you in 1966?

There's a new variation of "ask Scott" on the Loud Family site called "Music—What Happened?" where Scott selects and describes songs from a requested year between 1957-2006 that would constitute his time-capsule CD.

The first year in the series is 1966 and I was commissioned (and by "commissioned" I mean "asked") to put together a muxtape of some of the tracks. Scott's 1966 time capsule CD has 22 tracks, ten more than muxtape allows, so my list excised the better-known B-bands (like the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Bob Dylan, and the Bowling Stones) and focused on the lesser-known tracks that Scott selected. Here are the results.

Music What Happened? - 1966
1. "Batman Theme" - Neal Hefti
2. "Solitary Man" - Neil Diamond
3. "Big Fat Silver Aeroplane" - Roy Harper
4. "Shapes Of Things" - The Yardbirds
5. "For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her" - Simon & Garfunkel
6. "Summer In The City" - The Lovin' Spoonful
7. "Remember You" - The Zombies
8. "Georgy Girl" - The Seekers
9. "Walk Away Renee" - The Left Banke
10. "Making Time" - The Creation
11. "Season Of The Witch" - Donovan
12. "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone" - The Monkees

I think 1966 may have been the best year, not just for pop music, but for pop culture in general. The list of the top 100 hits of the year shows a few duds (like "Ballad Of The Green Berets"as the top song of the year?) but at least 70-75% of the songs are stone cold classics that still sound as great 42 years later.

On the TV, 1966 was the debut of "Batman", "Star Trek", "The Monkees", "Mission Impossible" and "How The Grinch Stole Christmas". In sports, 1966 was the year of the first Super Bowl, the year Texas Western upset Kentucky in the NCAA finals, and the year Frank Robinson won the triple crown for the Orioles, (who swept the Dodgers in the Series). At the movies, 1966 was "Farenheit 451", "Fantastic Voyage", and lots of other movies that don't start with F, but I don't know much about movies.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fotos y Recuerdos

I've uploaded a batch of photos from my trip to my flickr page where interested parties can view them. Unfortunately I'm not much of a photographer even with the best equipment, and didn't borrow my brother's higher end digital camera for this trip, so I was stuck with my own cheapie camera.

Also, I forgot to bring my camera lots of places where I should have, so I didn't get that many photos this time. I forgot to take my camera for my first day driving through France, and in Barcelona, I took the camera on my tour of Camp Nou stadium and Las Ramblas, but forgot to bring it the following day when I rented a bike and rode up the beach. I didn't want to lug the camera on my bike, which was probably for the best, because it would have been a bit awkward to be riding through acres of beaches full of topless sunbathers while carrying a camera!

Things I missed while I was gone: The A's swept the Red Sox this weekend, including a one-hitter by Justin Duchscherer on Sunday. And Hillary Clinton didn't get eliminated from the Democratic race, but did invoke RFK in '68 (again) to explain why she's still in the race. Plus I missed one week and one day of work, but I can't really say I missed that, Bob. I missed a lot of meetings, but there were still more meetings to attend when I headed back to work today.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Home again

I made it back home today after today's ten hour "white-eye" from London to SFO, which combined with the one hour train rides to and from each airport makes for a really long day. On a long haul flight from East to West, the plane never leaves daylight which makes it hard to get sleep. If you're going the other way across the country or the ocean, there's a definite darkness, which makes it easier to sleep. If you're going the other way, it seems like you're perpetually in the middle of the afternoon.

I didn't get one wink of sleep on the plane, but I made the most of the Virgin Atlantic in-flight entertainment (watching three movies and two TV serieses) and finished reading Nick Hornby's Slam, which is supposed to be a "young adult" novel, but I liked it a lot more than The Long Way Down. Which I liked a whole lot more than How To Be Good, but both of which I liked less than Hornby's previous novels.

For my last night in London, I went to see Adem Ihan at the Union Chapel in Islington, just up the road from Emirates Stadium where Nick Hornby's favorite team Arsenal play their home games. This show was suggested by a London friend whose tastes in music deviate quite a bit from my own, but she offered to pick up a ticket for me if I was interested, so I decided to give it a go. Union Chapel is an operational church with wonderful acoustics, and a amazing venue for live music.

I'm still not sold enough on Adem (who performs under his first name only) to pick up one of his CDs, but the show was worth the tube ride to Islington. I saw as many shows in 10 days in Europe as I've seen in the last four months in San Francisco. The combination of early start times and easy access makes it a lot easier for to go out than it is when I'm at home.

If shows here started at a reasonable hour and were more accessible by public transport, I'd see many more Bay Area shows than I do now.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Look that up in your Frank and Walters

To answer Sue's question from the last entry, I wasn't able to watch the Eurovision finals last night, because I'm staying at the super frugal easyHotel in South Kensington where you can get a cozy (i.e. really small!) room with a flat screen for about £30 a night, but a remote for the TV costs £5 more per night. I had to read on the internet that the Russian entry ended up winning (Eurovision is so rigged in the favour of Eastern Europe, so even the UK betting shops weren't taking odds on it!), and decided to hit the town, since there are many better things to do in London than watch the telly.

For my night on the town, I went to see the Frank and Walters (who I saw last October in Dublin) at the Luminaire (where I saw School of Language and The Week That Was last Friday). The F&W are an Irish Britpop (Celtpop?) band from Cork, Ireland who have been dubbed "the happiest band in the world". Lead vocalist Paul Linehan formed the band with his brother Niall in the early 90s (which probably gave their roadie Noel Gallagher the idea to start a band with his brother.. make of that what you will) and they've been legends of sorts ever since.

The gig I saw in Dublin was on a Wednesday night at a student union but this was Saturday night at a pub on Kilburn High Road so it was a much more raucus affair. I've downloaded most of the F&W albums from emusic, but there is still a lot of their catalog that's unknown to me, but the people in the audience knew all the words to all the songs and kept the chant "we are, we are, we are we are we are the Frank and Walters!" going between songs. The band has a distinct sound that's sort of like the Smiths meet the Pogues, and play a lot of unique cover tunes in their own style. Last night it was "Pop Muzik" and "Funky Cold Medina". You haven't lived a full life until you've seen a crowd of drunken paddys rapping along to Tone Loc!

This is my last night in London, and then back home tomorrow. It's raining right now, but hopefully it will clear up later so I can play outside. Otherwise it's a day of visiting museums. There are a bunch of cool and free museums in London, but I think they mostly exist so tourists will have something to do on a rainy day. I've visited London on enough rainy days that I've managed to see most of the museums: The British Museum, The Victoria & Albert, the National History. The only one remaining is the Science Museum, so I think that's on the docket if the weather doesn't clear up!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Gracias por no fumar

If there's a downside to being in Spain, it's that it is probably the last country in the world to realize that smoking is a Bad Thing. The UK is almost completely smoke free now, with no smoking allowed in indoor places and cigarettes being taxed higher and higher, and despite the stereotype, France doesn't have a lot of smoking anymore, but almost everyone in Barcelona smokes.

There are all these lovely outdoor cafes and beer gardens, but they're constantly thick with cigarette smoke all the time. Restaurants have separate "fumar" and "no fumar" sections, but it doesn't do a whole lot of good if everyone in the "fumar" section is puffing away. I've been conditioned not to be able to eat if there are people smoking in the vicinity, and Barcelona has been a bit tough for that. Strangely enough, the best place to find a smoke free meal is the touristy Las Ramblas area. In a few more years, I think smoking may be a thing of the past, but there are still a few countries like Spain where it's as popular as ever.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Me gusta cafe con leche!

One thing the Spanish and French definitely have on the English is the ability to make a decent cup of coffee. French coffee is pretty good, but the coffee in Barcelona rules! This is my second full day here, and there are real cafes (not McStarbucks) every couple of blocks where you can get a cup of strong coffee with steamed milk (cafe con leche) for 1 Euro or less.

And most internet cafes are actually cafes, so you can have your cup of cafe con leche and one hour on the internet for €2. I´m not usually one for drinking coffee in the middle of the afternoon, but I´m going to try to drink as much coffee as I can while I´m in Barcelona.

I rented a bike today and rode down the shore to the 1992 Olympic village here in Barcelona. It costs a lot for a city to hold an Olympic games and usually doesn´t do much for the city, and in Barcelona they built a whole area for the athletes that was turned into a beach and marina after the games. Essentially they did a bunch of urban renewal that was funded by the IOC, which is something I can definitely get behind.

I have one more day here before heading to London on Sunday then back home on Monday to end my quick one week vacation. I´ve only missed two days of blogging, and don´t see myself missing many more as long as I keep finding internet cafes with nice strong cafe con leche!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Viva La Barca!

Because I was en route from France to Spain yesterday, I also ended up not posting on Wednesday. That´s two days out of three after 200 days in a row. I hope I don´t get too used to not posting again. I had free wifi in my hotel room last night, but didn´t try to blog, even though I did write a comment to the last entry.

Now I´m back in a big city with internet cafes on every corner, so I´m ready to keep posting for the next few days. I´ve always wanted to go back to Barcelona, and thought this trip would be a good time to squeeze it in. I´m staying just up the boulevard from Camp Nou Stadium (where Barcelona FC plays) and went on a stadium tour this afternoon. It´s one of the largest (and nicest) stadia in the world, with more than 90,000 seats and all the modern conveniences.

There´s a museum and gift shop next to the stadium, so it´s a common stop on the tourist trail, and it was one of the things I wanted to see when I was here. Barca´s motto is ¨mes que un club¨ (more than a club) because they´re a symbol of Catalan nationalism and one of the most socially responsible (ie ¨PC¨) soccer clubs in the world. There´s a strong bond between club and country in Barcelona.

One thing everyone knows about Spain is that people eat dinner really late. It´s 8pm local time, and most restaurants aren´t even open for dinner yet, which is why I´m killing a half hour in an internet cafe. Standard dinner hours are 10pm - 2am, which doesn´t work that well when the Metro stops running at midnight. It runs until 2 on weekends (unlike Bart), so I can plan accordingly tomorrow by sleeping in, taking an afternoon siesta, and hitting the town at 10pm. I thought only young kids did this, but in Spain, even old folks (my age and older) stay out late!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finally missed a day!

After six and a half months of daily postings, I finally missed a day yesterday. I made it from London to France, but was not able to log on until today. France is one hour ahead of the UK, and nine hours ahead of the US West Coast, so I could have technically posted early this morning without "missing a day", but didn't think about that until it was too late.

I have never visited France (besides Paris) before, and the rural part of the country is absolutely gorgeous. The people are really nice as well, always trying to engage me in conversation, even though my French begins and ends with "bon jour" and "sil vous plait", so I don't have a clue what they're talking about!

Driving is fairly easy too. They drive on the right (correct) side of the road and there's almost no traffic, even in the big cities. Plus they have free wi-fi at all McDonalds, even without purchasing "Le Grand Mac"!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why do you smile when you think about Earl's Court

I'm sitting in an internet cafe across from the Earl's Court tube station, and it looks like we're going to have a rare sunny day here in London. Sunny days in London are like sunny days in San Francisco, because you don't get many of them but the ones you do get make it all worthwhile.

This is my last day in the UK before hopping across the short pond to Lyon tomorrow and driving my rental car to Sivignon. This is the first time I've ever driven a car outside of North America (and I only say "North America" instead of "the USA" because I've driven to Vancouver twice), so it should be interesting. This also might mark my last day of consecutive posting, unless I can manage to squeeze in a post.

One of the best things about England is all the varieties of crisps (potato chips to us yanks) that you can get. My favorite so far is Thai Sweet Chile Potato Crisps. Why aren't these available in the USA? One of the worst things is that the Brits still don't know how to make a decent cup of coffee, and a tall coffee costs £2.40 at Starbucks. I've discovered that the best and cheapest coffee in London comes from either McDonald's or Burger King, which is kind of sad.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Language of London

For my first night in London, I went to see School of Language at the Luminaire on Kilburn High Road. One good thing about shows in London is that they're set up for people to take the tube, so most of the shows wrap start early and wrap up before midnight. Ideal for old folks and jet-lagged travelers, especially old travelers. I'd never been to Kilburn High Road before (mostly know it from Ian Dury's pre-Blockheads band Kilburn and the High Roads), but it's a pretty interesting part of Northwest London. The Luminaire used to be the Mean Fiddler, and is a nice venue.

School of Language is the current project of David Brewis (formerly of Field Music) , and I'd already seen them back in March at the Hemlock Tavern in San Francisco, but this show at the Luminaire was billed as "Field Music presents School of Language and The Week That Was" (TWTW is David's brother Peter Brewis's new band), so this was both halves of Field Music on the same bill. And David played drums The Week That Was and Peter played bass for School of Language so it was like different permutations of the same musicians. I think they retired the name Field Music rather than the band itself. The Week That Was essentially was Field Music!

With all that Field Music vibes going on, they still didn't play any Field songs, and SoL played the same set they played in SF, but it was a nice night out, and it wrapped up by 10:30, so I was able to take the tube back to my place and get to sleep at a reasonable hour. Yay London live music!

Friday, May 16, 2008

First London

I just arrived in London and took the tube from Heathrow to Earl's Court, where I'm composing this message. I'd never flown Virgin Atlantic economy class before. It's not that good, but I did manage to get a few hours of sleep on the flight.

I'm here through the weekend, then head to France on Monday. More later.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I see London, I see France,..

This next week will probably be where flasshe finally outlasts me in our consecutive days of blogging contest. I'm heading off for a one week sojourn to Europe (England, France, Spain), and don't have any multi-part guides to Dutch prog-rock bands from the 1970s ready to post, so I'll need to keep posting in regular time to keep my streak alive.

There are tons of internet cafes in London and Barcelona, so I can probably keep blogging most days next week, but I'm also spending a few days in Sivignon, France visiting friends who live in the middle of nowhere with dial-up internet (combien de primitif!), so I doubt I'll be able to post every day.

There are a lot of important events going on while I'm away. There's the FA Cup Final this Saturday in London (My legal betting money's on Pompey over Cardiff, but I'm cheering for the Welsh team), the Champions League final in Moscow on Wednesday (with two English clubs, another clash between the reds and the blues), and the Eurovision finals in Belgrade next Saturday! By this time next weekend, I could be watching the next Bucks Fizz!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's been ten years since the final episode of "Seinfeld", which means it's also ten years since I became a homeowner. I remember watching the "Seinfeld" finale ten years ago, on my first night staying in my new condo. I had to watch it over the air with an antenna, because my cable hadn't been installed yet. I still remember the show ending with this song.

Just to make everyone feel older, all the members of the class of 1998 who had that song as the theme to their high school proms are now celebrating their ten year reunions, so many of them have kids and mortgages and stuff. I hope they all remembered to wear sunscreen like that guy told them to.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Snappy answers to stupid interview questions

My current job is starting to show signs of being in jeopardy, so I've started looking into other opportunities to keep myself employed. One problem with looking for a job is having to deal with the same stupid interview questions, time and time again.

Here are some of the answers I'm trying to bite my lip to not blurt out when these kind of questions are asked, with a nod to the great Al Jaffe.

Tell me about yourself.
I started out as a sperm that won the race. Things started to go downhill after that!

What in particular interested you about our company?
Mostly, your ad on [job site] with a vacancy that matched my skills and qualifications.

If you were an animal, which one would you be
A human being animal. Can't you tell?

What are your weaknesses?
I've got so many weaknesses..  fast cars, fast women, cold beer, .. the list goes on!

What would your past managers say about you?
Nothing, if they value their ability to walk on two legs!

Where do you see yourself in five years?
I'm going to retire in three years, so in five years, I see myself two years into retirement.  If my (internet cafe/brewpub/business TBD) in Batu Ferringhi isn't self sustaining by then, I guess I'll need to go out and find another real job!

Does anyone else have any favorite job interview questions?

My new favorite workplace quote, suitable for any occasion where someone asks you to do something for them. I think I might have invented this quote, because I can't find it on the google.
Unfortunately, I'm not in a position to care about that anymore

Monday, May 12, 2008

Someone's gonna make you pay your fare

"Roger Waters doing Dark Side of the Moon would be like Ringo performing Sgt. Pepper's" -- Ben Gibbard, Death Cab For Cutie

Ben Gibbard probably didn't do very well on the analogies part of his SAT test. Ringo did not write anything on Sgt. Pepper's, so Roger doing DSOTM is more like Paul McCartney doing Sgt. Pepper's.  Roger Waters wrote all the lyrics and most of the music for Dark Side Of The Moon, so he has as much right to perform the album as anyone, without any guff from young whippersnappers like Ben Gibbard!.  After watching the Death Cab documentary Drive Well, Sleep Carefully, I think DCFC may be the dullest band in the history of music, at least personality-wise.

Anyway, the Death Cabbers have a new album called Narrow Stairs out tomorrow, featuring the Pink Floyd-length single "I Will Possess Your Heart". I usually run hot and cold on DCFC, but I really like this song, and there aren't many eight minute songs I like these days.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Viva Fulhamerica!

Last October while I was visiting London, I saw Fulham FC host Portsmouth in my first-ever English Premier League match. Fulham are one of the EPL minnows, constantly overshadowed by the more elite teams, and usually struggling to stay up, but since I attended that game at Craven Cottage, I've sort of adapted Fulham FC as "my club" (supplanting Chelsea, who play just up the road from Craven Cottage, and are actually "good"!).

Fulham has five American players (which is more than half of the nine or ten Yanks in the entire EPL), so they've been nicknamed "Fulhamerica" by the English sports press.  A few weeks ago, Fulham were in bad shape, in 19th place out of 20 teams, safely in "the drop zone" and ready to be relegated. But in the last month, they'd reeled off three victories in a row and could seal their safety with a win away today at the same Portsmouth team I saw them play at home back in October.  This is also the same Portsmouth who were preparing for the FA Cup Final next week against Cardiff City, and are safely settled in the middle of the EPL table, so they weren't really playing for anything today against Fulham.

Fulham ended up beating Portsmouth 1-0, which kept them up in the Premier League next season and ended up sending Reading and Birmingham City down instead (along with Derby County who had clinched relegatin long ago).  At the top end of the table, Manchester United beat Wigan 2-0 to clinch their second straight EPL title over Chelsea (who drew 1-1 with Bolton), but that's not as important as Fulham staying up!

Way back at the start of the Premier League season, I made my predictions for the EPL this year, which were pretty close. I picked Chelsea to win the league title over ManU (close but no trophy) and picked Derby, Birmingham, and Sunderland or Wigan for relegation (two out of three).  Not bad for someone who didn't know the first thing about this stuff just a few years ago!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Head Like A Hole

Side by side headlines in yesterday's SF Examiner

HRC is running for Russian PM too?  She must really want to lead the whole world! This reminded me of the little contretemps between Putin and Clinton a few months ago (back when Hillary was the Democratic frontrunner) when she said Vladamir Putin "had no soul" because he was a former KGB agent.  When Putin was asked about the comment, he replied "At a minimum, a head of state should have a head".

Snaap!  Maybe the U.S. voters could set up some kind of a trade with the Russians?  Hillary Clinton straight up for Vladamir Putin.  Maybe even GWB as a politician to be named later?  

The most disturbing part of Hillary Clinton still claiming to "have a shot" at the Democratic nomination was this quote she made while campaigning in West Virginia "I still think it's early..I remember very well what happened in the California primary in 1968, after Senator Robert Kennedy won that primary".

Using RFK in 1968 as a precedent for your path to the nomination is a sure sign that you need to give up, and just go away!

Friday, May 9, 2008

A thousand guitars of cassette music

Yet another reason that muxtape is one of the coolest inventions ever is that the mixes are playable on iPhone and iTouch. The regular playback mechanism uses an embedded flash player, so I've never tried to play a mix on my iPod Touch, but this blog entry said that it worked, so I tried it today.

And muxtape plays pretty well. When you click on a song on an iPhone or (iPod touch), Mobile Safari plays it like a normal mp3 file. Each song is loaded individually, so you can't play a whole mix from start to finish, just each track one at a time, but it's still pretty cool. And the simple interface and big font makes everything fairly straightforward.

Another feature that works on my iPod touch now is scrobbling tracks via After I bought my new Touch a couple of months ago, it wasn't able to scrobble the plays to, so there's a drop in my total tracks played that should be picking up now that iPod plays are being scrobbled again.

I've been trying to update the tracks on my muxtape every Friday, and this week is brought to you by the letter N. Two weeks ago it was the letter M, so maybe I'll be able to work through the second half of the alphabet over the rest of 2008. I'm using iTunes default alphabetization, with individual artists by first name.

Today's mix is called "I Hear the Cassette Music" after a line in Nick Lowe's "Heart Of The City". According to various HOTC lyrics listed on the internet, the line might be "I hear the crash of music", but there isn't any cr sound so I'm standing by my version.

I Hear The Cassette Music of a thousand guitars

1. Nada Surf - I Like What You Say
2. Neil Innes - What Noise Annoys A Noisy Oyster
3. Neil Young - Cinnamon Girl
4. The Nerk Twins - What Does It Take?
5. Neutral Milk Hotel - King Of Carrot Flowers (Pt.1)
6. The Nerves - Hanging On The Telephone
7. Niagara - On This Side Of The River
8. Nick Lowe - Heart Of The City
9. The Nightcrawlers - Little Black Egg
10. Nothing Painted Blue - Rock And Roll Friend
11. NRBQ - Ridin' In My Car

odd notes:
1. The Nada Surf song is from their latest album Lucky and was included as a token recent song.
3. "Cinnamon Girl" is a holdover from last week's three minute tape. The Bye Bye Blackbirds have been covering it recently as well as others from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.
7. The Niagara song was included because I've been spending the last few weeks singing its refrain "I'm so messed up over you" without remembering what song it was from (don't you hate when that happens!) until yesterday.
8. Speaking of Nick Lowe cassettes, I'm not sure what Nick Lowe cassette Clean Steve could have played on the road. If it was three years after 1974 (when the narrator lent Clean Steve a pound) it would have been 1977, when Nick didn't have any material released on cassette. Maybe it was demos for The Jesus Of Cool that weren't released until 1978?
9. When people ask what the best song about a little black egg with little white specks found in a tree just the other day containing the word "goldurn", there's really only one possible answer!
10. "Rock and Roll Friend" is a cover of a Go-Betweens song (b-side of "Streets of Your Town") written by their "lesser half" Robert Forster.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Church of Wilson

It has to be challenging to work someplace where you're only considered successful if you're the top organization in your field, and being the second or third or fourth best organization is considered a failure.

Following the third consecutive year of the San Jose Sharks getting eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Bay Area fans and media have started calling for Sharks coach Ron Wilson to be replaced. Apparently the team needs a new boss to drive them to "the next level". I'm not buying it.

Ron Wilson has lead the Sharks to three consecutive playoff appearances, and serious Cup contention every one of his five years on the job (besides that strike year). I don't think they would do that much better with another coach running the team. If every NHL coach who didn't win the Stanley Cup was fired, there would be 29 coaching vacancies every year.

If they would have been swept by Dallas this year (like they were by Detroit last year), I could see the argument that Ron Wilson can't motivate his teams for big series, but they came back from 3-0 down to win two games in a row and take a third to four overtimes before being eliminated by the Stars, so I think Ron deserves another chance.

The Sharks always seem right on the verge of breaking through, so a Stanley Cup is bound to happen one of these years. And Ron Wilson deserves to be behind the bench when it finally does.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Out Of Gas

I thought I should forward this while it's still timely.  

Dear Sir

First we must solicit your confidence in this issue. This is by virtue as being utterly confidential and "top secret".

We are SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON, the wife of the former United States head of state, PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON, and also SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, friend and associate of current head of state PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH. We got your contact through business inquiries as we were searching for contacts of a citizen who can help save our and our family's political careers since our country has been frustrating us.

We are top officials of the United States Senate Government who are interested in importation of oil into our country with funds that are presently trapped in the FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION TRUST FUND dedicated to improving transportation. We wish to send this money to overseas accounts in the MIDDLE EAST but cannot due to restrictions in Congress Transportation Equity Act requiring that this money must be spent to build roads, bridges and high speed trains.

If you accept we will deliver to your a sum of 30 DOLLARS in the summer 2008 in form of a "GAS TAX HOLIDAY". You will then deliver this money to accounts of our friends in Middle East by taking it to your nearby gasoline station where they have information to forward the money. Please supply your bank account, social security number, address and your vote in DEMOCRATIC PRIMARIES AND NOVEMBER GENERAL ELECTION.

But bear in mind that this transaction requires absolute confidentiality. Do not visit WWW.GASTAXSCAM.COM where there is information about dangers of our proposal and a petition to stop us from this diversion of funds.


Awaiting your rapid response

Yours truly


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just like Spring rain

Today marks two years since we lost Grant McLennan, and two weeks since the release of Robert Forster's latest solo album The Evangelist.

The album has three songs co-written McLennan before he died and instrumental backing by Go-Betweens bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson, so it's like tribute tribute to Grant McLennan by his former bandmates. Here's Forster's description of the album in his own words.
It's 10 songs long and is my first solo album in 11 years. In May 2006 Grant McLennan, my song writing partner died, bringing to an end The Go-Betweens. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to make another record but this summer it just materialized. It's a direct record. I've written seven of the songs, and three are co-written with Grant. Adele and Glenn from The Go-Betweens are with me. It's not Oceans Apart 2 - it's something else, but with trails going into the past and I'm proud of it.

Robert Christgau said in his NPR review of The Evangelist that "The impolite truth is that Robert Forster was The Go-Between's lesser half", but the actual impolite truth is that Robert Christgau doesn't know what the hell he's talking about (and doesn't know proper apostrophe usage either -- "Go Between's" wtf?). The Go-Betweens were very much an equal partnership. Robert was darker and more cerebral Lennon to Grant's poppier and more conventional McCartney, but there was no greater or lesser half.

I agree that Forster and McLennan were stronger as partners than by themselves, so one fun exercise for fans is to assemble their 90's solo albums into pseudo Go-Betweens' albums. Last year Beggars Banquet assembled a two-disc compilation called Intermission with the best of Forster's and McLennan's solo material (one disc for Grant and one disc for Robert). If you listen to both discs on shuffle play, you can almost pretend that you're listening to a long lost Go-Betweens album.

Despite the obvious Grant McLennan influence (both in scope and in sound) The Evangelist sounds very much like a Robert Forster solo album. It's still a major bummer that we won't have any more Go-Betweens albums, but I hope this is only the first of many more Robert Forster albums! Maybe Robert was the lesser half of the Go-Betweens, but he's the only half we've got.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Pork Chile Verde

Today is Cinco de Mayo, so I prepared my traditional pork chile verde. I think chile verde might be nature's most perfect food (with the possible exception of pork vindaloo, which was the dish I made with the other half of this pork loin). Both dishes are astonishingly easy to make in a slow cooker, and very yummy to eat when you get home.

Pork Chile Verde
2lbs Pork Loin (cubed)
1 bunch cilantro
2 onions
3-4 cloves garlic
5-6 tomatillos
5-6 green chiles
(any combination of Anaheim, Jalapeno, Poblano, Serrano)
1 cup chicken broth
12 oz. beer (Dos Equis Amber)

Chop the pork into one inch cubes then brown in a pan in batches. Meanwhile roast the tomatillos and "large" chiles (Poblano or Anaheim) in a cookie sheet on the top shelf of an oven preheated to 450 degrees. Remove the skin from the chiles then blast in a food processor or blender with some of the broth until slightly chunky. Seed and chop the smaller chiles (jalapeno or serrano) and add to the tomatillo mixture with some cilantro (if you like cilantro, and who doesn't?).

After the pork is finished browning, toss the onions and garlic in the pan and slowly brown. Add the onions and garlic to a crockpot with the meat and tomatillo mixture, add the beer and the rest of the broth and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Serve with corn tortillas and garnish with sour cream, cheese, and lime. There's no need for salsa because the chile verde is spicy enough by itself. The sour cream and cheese helps to cut the heat.

Not surprisingly, chile verde goes really well with beer and I'm mixing it with Dos Equis Amber. You can usually tell which holiday is coming up by which brand of beer is on sale at BevMo. Tsingtao means Chinese New Year is coming up, Guinness means St. Patrick's Day is coming up, and Dos Equis and/or Corona means Cinco de Mayo is coming up.

I usually only buy Dos Equis Amber once a year (when it's on sale the week before Cinco de Mayo), but it's pretty good, both as a base for chile verde and to drink by itself.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

54.2 percent baseball

The A's had a promotion where plaza level tickets for today's game against the Rangers would be reduced by one dollar for every hit the team got against the Angels on Thursday. After they ended that game with 20 hits (winning 15-8), the $24 tickets were on sale for $4 each, and I managed to grab a couple before they were all sold out.

Nothing makes a baseball game more exciting that sitting among a bunch of people who paid just four bucks to get in, since everyone who was in the plaza level was there because they managed to buy tickets during the 30 minutes after the Anaheim game when they were available. Everyone arrived early and stayed to the end of the game, and were rewarded with an exciting one, with a game winning home run by Jack Cust (as we approach the first anniversary of Custy At The Bat)

I still don't know what to make of A's team. They were tied for first place at the end of April, and are currently one game behind the Angels at 19-14. If the season ended today, they'd be the AL Wild Card team, even though the A's don't look anything like a playoff team. They just look like a .500 team that happens to be playing at a .542 clip. Their motto this year is "One Hundred Percent Baseball", and they're more exciting than they've been in a long time, even though they don't seem as talented as they were a few years ago. It's better for a team to be overachieving and undertalented than the other way around!

Meanwhile, the Sharks are heading to double overtime with Dallas, and are on the verge of tying up their semifinal series with the Stars after being down 3 games to none. Only three teams in NHL history have rallied from 0-3 series deficits, but this year looks to be San Jose's turn. If the Sharks end up winning tonight, they should be a lock for game seven on Tuesday. Anyway, the fifth period awaits!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Beneath the hawthorn on the green

I've been trying to keep things fresh by modifying my blog description each month. My description for the month of May ("just a Spring clean for the May queen") comes from the lyrics to this British Invasion-era obscurity that was later ripped off by some unscrupulous copycats from the early 70s, who tried to pass it off as their own song.

My two favorite lines in the song are "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now. It's just a Spring clean for the May queen".

What, exactly, does that mean? That's the part with the (alleged) satanic backmasking, so maybe Page and Plant were pledging allegiance to Aleister Crowley and Anton LeVay through coded messages that were only meaningful when played backwards? Sometime words have two meanings, and sometimes they have no meaning at all. It really makes me wonder.
"Stairway To Heaven" is proof that words don't have to mean anything to be meaningful. I mean, what's this: "If there's a bustle in your hedgerow don't be alarmed now"? If I found anything bustling in my hedgerow I'd get out my shotgun!
-- Chuck Eddy

Friday, May 2, 2008

Three Minute Heroes

I've decided to keep updating my muxtape each week with whatever theme tackles my fancy.

This week is dedicated to the three minute pop song.

Here are ten songs from my collection that are exactly 3:00 long, which for some reason that adds up to a total time of 29:59, so there's a missing second somewhere!

Ten Three Minute Songs (10 songs, 29:59?)
  1. The Dukes Of Stratosphear - Vanishing Girl (3:00)
  2. The Electric Prunes - Too Much To Dream (3:00)
  3. Fountains of Wayne - Hackensack (3:00)
  4. Game Theory - I Turned Her Away (3:00)
  5. Let's Active - Blue Line (3:00)
  6. The Magnetic Fields - California Girls (3:00)
  7. The Move - I Can Hear the Grass Grow (3:00)
  8. Neil Young - Cinnamon Girl (3:00)
  9. Robyn Hitchcock - The Man Who Invented Himself (3:00)
  10. Tracey Ullman - They Don't Know (3:00)

The Magnetic Fields track is a stay-on from last week, but the others are freshly added. There's another 3:00 song on Distortion ("Too Drunk To Dream", which I thought would fit with the Electric Prunes track), but that would have required removing one track and adding another one, and "California Girls" fits the mix's pseudo-theme (songs by, about, and for girls) better.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mission Accomplished V

On the fifth anniversary of "Mission Accomplished", George W. Bush is now the most unpopular president in American history.

28% of the American public approve of how Bush his handling his job as president and 71% disapprove (with 1% still undecided?). 28% is not the lowest approval rating a president has ever had, but no U.S. president has ever had a disapproval rating over 70%. Back on Mission Accomplished Day (five flippidy-flopping years ago), Bush's approval rating was where his disapproval rating is now.

"I’m thrilled to be anywhere with high ratings these days"
- GWB on Deal Or No Deal

A graph of Bush's approval ratings over the last five years looks just like a graph of the U.S. Dollar vs. the Euro over the same period.

On the bright side, it's now just 264 days until the end of an error.