Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Turn your house into a home

The new Bye Bye Blackbirds album Houses & Homes is now out.

The CD is available from the label and fine retailers (both online ones like Amazon and insound as well as B&M ones like Amoeba) and the songs is also available digitally from iTunes and Emusic.  Nine songs that help deliver the promises of their Honeymoon EP.

Pick it up in real or virtual form and turn your house into a home.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The world is collapsing

When U.S. markets are so volatile that the Dow can drop 777 points today (the largest point drop ever) when Congress votes down a $700B bailout, I'm wondering how much they would be helped in the long run by passing the bailout. It seems like something is obviously broken, and the government is trying to put a Band-aid on a cancerous tumor.

I've been following the bailout debates for the last week, and am still not sure what to think. On the surface, it seems like a bad deal for taxpayers to bail out Wall Street, and the best argument for it that Congress and the Bush administration can come up with is "I know this deal stinks, but the survival of the economy depends on passing it!".

After today, it's clear that something needs to be done, but I'm not sure what that something is. A part of me was glad that Congressional Republicans opposed it (the Democrats voted 60-40 for it while two thirds of the Republicans opposed it), partly because their party will be blamed for the collapse and partly because this was a bad idea and I'm glad someone opposed it.

On a solipsistic level, this issue doesn't affect me that much. I have a fixed mortgage with one of the banks that failed recently, but it was gobbled up by another bank, so I still have the same mortgage. My 401(k) has lost about 10-15% over the last month, but those are paper losses on income that I've never "seen", except in my quarterly statements. About the only thing that we on Main Street can take is to keep our own personal finances are in order. For us, "no credit" means live within your means, limit your debt as much as possible, and don't risk any more money than you can safely lose on investments.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

2008 Baseball Postview

Besides one more Tigers - White Sox game to determine who wins the AL Central (the Twins currently hold a one game lead on Chicago with one makeup game remaining), the 2008 baseball season is in the books. After the Brewers beat the Cubs 3-1 and the Mets lost to the Marlins 4-2 (in their final game at Shea Stadium), Milwaukee clinched the NL wild-card and the Mets clinched their second straight heartbreaking elimination on the last day of the season.

The Mets should outfit their new stadium with a retractable roof that collapses every September (ba-dump-bump...rimshot!).  

Here are the first round playoff matchups

AL: Angels vs. Red Sox, Rays vs. White Sox or Twins
NL: Cubs vs. Dodgers, Phillies vs. Brewers

For the World Series, I like either a LA freeway series or a 1906 Chicagoland derby rematch, and the AL looks to be a lot stronger than the NL, so whoever wins that league will win the series.

Here are the 2008 winners in each individual category.

Offensive Leaders:

BA: AL-Joe Mauer, MIN (.330) NL-Chipper Jones, ATL (.364)
HR: AL-Miguel Cabrera, DET (37) NL-Ryan Howard, PHI (48)
RBI: AL-Josh Hamilton, TEX (130) NL-Ryan Howard, PHI (146)
SB: AL-Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS (50) NL-Willy Taveras, COL (68)
OPS: AL-Milton Bradley, TEX (1.006) NL-Albert Pujols, STL (1.012)

Pitching Leaders:

Wins: AL-Cliff Lee, CLE (22) NL-Brandon Webb, ARI (22)
Strikeouts: AL-A.J. Burnett, TOR (231) NL-Tim Lincecum, SF (252)
ERA: AL-Cliff Lee, CLE (2.54) NL-Johan Santana, NYM (2.53)
Saves: AL-Francisco Rodriguez, LAA (62) NL-Jose Valverde, HOU (43)
WHIP: AL-Roy Halladay, TOR (1.05) NL-Cole Hamels, PHI (1.08)

Here in the Bay Area, the A's won 75 games (one less than they won in 2007 with one less game played) and the Giants won 70 games (one less than they won in 2007). There were some high points for both teams, like pitchers Joey Devine and Brad Ziegler for the A's and Tim Lincecum for the Giants (who led the NL in strikeouts and should by a Cy Young contender), but on the whole, 2008 was a fairly forgetful season that I've even forgotten about in the time it took to write this blog entry.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pins and Needles

A picture from last night's Presidential debate. One of the candidates is wearing something the other one isn't. Can you see what that is?

The debate itself was actually pretty good, centered on issues like foreign policy and the economy, with no BS about lipstick or flag pins. I've been in the tank for Obama since he announced his candidacy last year, so it's hard for me to objectively judge who "won", but I thought it was about a tie. Both Obama and McCain were able to say what they needed to say, but wasn't able to catch the other guy off guard.

For Presidential candidates, the debates are like interviews for jobseekers. You've already passed the first round (getting your party's nomination), and the debate is a chance to make your case with the people. And both these guys have been making their case with the people for the last 18 months, so they're pretty good at it.

The closest thing to a gaffe was Obama hitting McCain about his statement last week that he "wouldn't necessarily meet" with the Prime Minister of Spain.  That's Spain, our NATO ally with beautiful beaches, beautiful women, rioja wines, and La Liga football.  One of the countries I'm seriously considering moving to if John McCain wins this election.

The exchange went like this (video)

Obama: He even said the other day that he would not meet potentially with the prime minister of Spain, because he wasn't sure whether they were aligned with us. I mean, Spain! Spain is a NATO ally!
McCain: (under his breath) horsesh-- (or something similar)

I heard that with my own ears, even when I played it back. And Atlantic blogger Andrew Sullivan heard the same thing (update: or maybe not?).  I wondered if McCain was saying "horseshit" to the fact that he said he wouldn't meet with PM Zapatero (he did), or to Obama's statement that Spain is a NATO ally (they are), but my take home point from last night's debate is that John McCain is an angry man who, when confronted about something he said just last week, mutters a curse word into a live mic in front of 100 million people.  

Friday, September 26, 2008

Back To Guyville

I was going to post last week about Scott Miller's 1993 installment on "Music—What Happened?", particularly his assessment that Liz Phair's Exile In Guyville "was certainly the album of the decade" in the 90s. Scott didn't do an entry this week, so 1993 is still his latest one, and still timely.

In my opinion EIG (not to be confused with AIG, which I bought last week along with every other US taxpayer) is almost certainly not the album of the decade. I bought it shortly after it came out (based on the overwhelming acclaim) and liked it well enough, but it didn't change my life (ala the Shins).

I've been revisiting the album this year, and it would probably be somewhere in my 1993 top five, if I limited my top five to albums by female artists. Not as good PJ Harvey's Rid Of Me or Aimee Mann's Whatever, and about equal to Bjork's Debut or Sheryl Crow's first album. Probably the best of the three good Liz Phair albums before the turn of the century, but not noticeably better than it's successor Whipsmart. But (back to Scott Miller) only half as good as Plants and Birds and Rocks and Things.. how can Scott call something the "album of the decade" when he made at least three better albums in the same decade?

Anyway, here's a nine track mix of some of Scott's faves from 1993. It was a really strong year for music, the year when "Alternative" became "Mainstream".

Music: What Happened? - 1993
  1. "All Apologies" - Nirvana
  2. "Cherub Rock" - Smashing Pumpkins
  3. "Cannonball" - Breeders
  4. "I Heard Ramona Sing" - Frank Black
  5. "Metal Mickey" - Suede
  6. "Radio" - Teenage Fanclub
  7. "Sister Havana" - Urge Overkill
  8. "Definite Door" - The Posies
  9. "Stratford-On-Guy" - Liz Phair

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Autumn Night On The Green

The first big rock concert I ever attended was Cheap Trick, Journey, and Black Sabbath (Dio version) at a Day On The Green show at the Oakland Coliseum in the summer of 1980.

Last night I went to see two of those bands (Cheap Trick and Journey) with Heart at the Chronicle Sleep Train Concord Pavilion in what might be the last big rock concert I ever see. I just don't have much interest in those kind of shows anymore, but I had to attend this one to provide a 28 year closure to my big concert going experience.

First, the place was packed. I work about five miles down Ygnacio Valley Road from the Pavilion, and with all the concert/commute traffic, those five miles took more than an hour. They have free parking, but with all the traffic, I decided to ditch my car at a shopping center and walk the last mile to the venue.

I arrived at 7:15pm, a few songs into Cheap Trick's set. They were on first (still opening for Journey after 28 years!) and the combination of twilight and a late arriving crowd made it a rough go for them. They still have all four original members (Robin, Rick, Tom, and Bun E.) just like they did back in 1980, and played many of the same tunes they did then. The only "modern" song they included was "The Flame", and even that's 20 years old now.

After that came Heart. I've never been a huge fan, but they put on a good show, which was split between their good (70s) and their bad (80s) eras. The best songs were all the early ones ("Barracuda", "Crazy On You", "Magic Man") and the worst ones were all their versions of "The Flame" ("What About Love", "Alone", etc.). They also covered "Going To California" and "Love Reign O'er Me", showcasing Nancy's high-end Daltrey/Plant vocals (I think it was Nancy -- she's the smaller/blonder Wilson sister, right).

Speaking of high-end vocals, Steve Perry's lead vocals in Journey were one of my least favorite things in the entire world, and their current lead singer Arnel Pineta is the American Idol version of Steve Perry. I didn't have very high hopes for their performance, and was just going to hang around for that song about the lights going down in the city and the sun shining on the bay before skipping out to get a head start on the traffic.

I tried to come to the Journey set with open arms, even though they might be my least favorite band ever. Overwrought singing, screechy guitar solos, and amazingly trite lyrics. Take the chorus of "Any Way You Want It" ("Any way you want it / That's the way you need it / Any way you want it"). WTF does that mean??

Anyway, I did make it all the way to "Lights" (a dozen songs or so) before the show and I took our separate ways. That wheel in the sky keeps on turnin' and I don't know where I'll be tomorrow, but after three decades, I think I'm done with stadium/arena/shed concerts.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Tag Team back again

The last time the Yankees didn't make the playoffs was the year that the Phillies rocked this song to the World Series.

The Phils have also overtaken the Mets this year, so my trip to the NYC area next week may be uninterrupted by postseason baseball of any kind. The Mets still lead the (also fading) Brewers in the NL wild card race, but just by one game, so they're ready for another late season collapse.

The NY Post could save a lot of time by keeping this cover on file for the end of every baseball season.

As one famous Mets fan said last year, "Ya gotta bereave".

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I see a red state and I want to paint it blue

Even though lots of news sources are calling this Presidential election "too close to call" since the national polls are within a few percentage points, the reality is that John McCain is electorally Up Against It. There are five or six battleground states that he needs to win (OH, FL, VA, CO, NM, NV) in order to win, and Obama only needs to win one or two (if "one" isn't OH or FL or VA) to prevail.

One of those unlikely swing states is Nevada, which has always been safely Republican before this election. My state, California, is safely Democratic, so a lot of California Democrats have been heading East to help the effort in Nevada. My parents live just across the border from Reno, so I volunteered to help the effort, and am traveling to Nevada for the third weekend in October, just before the election to do .. something or other. I'm not very good at "canvassing", since I don't like talking to people, but I can sit at a table outside the Home Depot and register new voters.

Nevada is a big state, but most of the population is in two counties, Cook (Las Vegas) and Washoe (Reno/Sparks). Las Vegas (home to Senate majority leader Harry Reid) leans Dem and Washoe is Nevada's battleground county, with both candidates neck and neck and about 10% undecided. Whoever wins Washoe county will probably win Nevada.

Nevada just has five electoral votes, which probably won't influence the election one way or another, but you never know. If our Virginian and Ohioan and Coloradoan comrades don't succeed, Nevada is our last line of defense against Republican tyranny!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Genius is Pain

I downloaded iTunes 8 over the weekend, with its much publicized Genius feature that creates "perfect" playlists based on a single song and suggests similar songs from the iTunes Store.

According to Apple propaganda "Genius playlists help you discover songs in your library you never knew you had". If you can discover songs in your library that you never knew you had, you have too many songs in your library!

I found Genius playlists more painful than perfect. It chokes on songs by artists that aren't available on iTunes (like the Beatles) which reminded me of this John Lennon spoof from National Lampoon's Radio Dinner, "Magical Misery Tour" (NSFW)

Every word of this track is taken from John Lennon's 1970 interviews with Rolling Stone, so its even funnier for anyone who's read the interviews.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The best cup money can rent

The Ryder Cup is one of those sporting competitions (like the Stanley Cup) that sounds like it has a corporate sponsor even though it doesn't. The biennial golf matches between the U.S.A. and Europe doesn't have a sponsor, and doesn't have any prize money, but still tends to be one of the best competitions there is.

Most golf tournaments are individual competitions, where every player plays for him or herself, and the winner is the player with the fewest strokes, but the Ryder Cup is a team event where the winning team is the one with the most points, which are won in each match between players. This provides a team dynamic in an individual sport.

The Ryder Cup matches also alternate between Europe and the U.S.A. which should create an alternate home field advantage for each side, but going into this year's Cup at Valhalla in Louisville, the Europeans had won four in a row and six of the last seven. And with the best golfer in the world on the sidelines, the Europeans looked like a lock to win another one.

On paper, the Europeans looked like a prohibitive favorite, with two of the top players in the world (Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia), but even without Tiger, the Americans ended up rolling the Europeans 16.5 - 11.5. I think it might have been because of Tiger's absence, because without their stud, the other American players tried to pick it up a notch, which is a recipe for winning.

The Ryder Cup atmosphere is unlike anything else in sports, with partisan cheering for one of the sides (depending on which side of the Atlantic the Cup is on), but rendered with the respect and etiquette of the game of golf. So everyone sits quietly while Garcia lines up his six-footer for par, but erupts in chants of "U.S.A! U.S.A.!" after he misses it. It's like (American or International) football fandom at a golf event.

In the end, the Americans prevailed this time, but need to defend in a couple of years playing on the road at Celtic Manor in Newport, Wales. The Ryder Cup really is the best cup that money can rent.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bad timing

John McCain, outlining his healthcare plan
Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition, as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation.
As Regis used to say on that game show, "Is that your final answer?".  

I'm sorry, candidate McCain, but "provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based regulation, as we have done over the last decade in banking." is WRONG! You should have phoned a friend!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Quivers down me backbone

I'm going to interrupt Pink Floyd week for International Talk Like A Pirate Day and celebrate one of the best rock 'n roll songs ever, "Shakin' All Over", originally recorded in 1960 by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, and covered later by every garage band on every continent.

I can't find any youtube of Kidd & the Pirates performing it (just a clip of the record playing), but here's a 1961 copycat performance by Vince Taylor and the Playboys.

"Shakin All Over" didn't find it's way across the Atlantic until Chad Allen & The Expressions, a bunch of hosers from Winnepeg, covered it in 1965. They wanted to cash in on the British Invasion, so they printed the words "Guess Who?" on the cover of the record, and when the song became a hit, everyone thought the Guess Who was the name of the band. And now you know the rest of the story.

The song also made it's way down under in 1965 via this cover by Normie Rowe which was the top selling Australian single of the 1960s.

"Shakin' All Over" was also famously covered by The Who (on Live At Leeds) as well as everyone from Suzi Quatro to Cliff Richard to Rick Springfield (but not Shakin' Stevens, amazing as that may seem!)

Here are Ireland's Horslips, performing "Shakin' All Over" with strings! And here's a live version (audio only) by Alex Harvey and Cheap Trick. So many versions, so little time!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stolen moments floating softly on the air

Today's Rick Wright subject heading comes from "Burning Bridges" off Obscured By Clouds. I keep trying to ignore the news but these Google alerts keep pulling me back!

Here's how some 133t hax0r cracked Sarah Palin's yahoo account.
The hacker guessed that Alaska's governor had met her husband in high school, and knew Palin's date of birth and home Zip code. Using those details, the hacker tricked Yahoo Inc.'s service into assigning a new password for Palin's e-mail account..
Someone was able to compromise Palin's yahoo mail account by knowing her date of birth and Zip code (information found easily on the internet) and where she met her husband (information easy to guess). That barely even qualifies as hacking -- it's like breaking into someone's luggage when they set their combination to 12345.

All the more reason to pick more "obscure" security questions for online accounts, espcially when you're conducting state government business on your Yahoo account.
The break-in of Palin's private account is especially significant because Palin sometimes uses non-government e-mail to conduct state business. Previously disclosed e-mails indicate her administration embraced Yahoo accounts as an alternative to government e-mail, which could possibly be released to the public under Alaska's Open Records Act.
Every company I've ever worked for has guidelines against using personal email accounts for work purposes. Even something as seemingly innocuous as forwarding an Excel spreadsheet to your gmail account so you can work on it at home is frowned upon. I would imagine that governments have even stricter rules about that sort of thing.

It doesn't excuse someone violating a candidate's privacy by hacking into her email account, but it says quite a lot about Palin's judgment and her ethics when she's running a state government from a Yahoo account.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tomorrow brings another day

Today's Floydian post heading comes from Rick Wright's solo contribution to Atom Heart Mother, "Summer '68".

Everyone who said the Oakland Athletics would be lucky to win 70 games this year can suck it, because the A's have been unlucky all year and they just won their 70th game! 2008 has mostly been a lost season for the A's (especially the second half), and my interest in baseball has been waning lately, just like this post on Catfish Stew.
All the players I like are now gone.
Rich Harden was traded. Justin Duchscherer is probably lost for the year. Eric Chavez is out for the season, and may never grace the hot corner again. Frank Thomas is out for the season, and may never play again. Mark Ellis is out for the season, and may never return to Oakland.

Who is left to watch? The Oakland A's have been drained from my soul. I feel empty. What is left to say? Meaningless talking points, nothing more.

But now, this three game winning streak and crossing the 70 win threshold has renewed my interest in the A's for the last two weeks of the baseball season. They were eliminated from the playoffs long ago, but if they win their last eleven games in a row (unlikely), they'll have a winning season! And if they go 6-5 (possible), they'll have a better record than they did in 2007. And they'll probably have a better record than the Giants, even if very few people in the Bay Area even know that baseball is still going on. And the Sacramento Rivercats (Oakland's triple-A affiliate) just won their fourth PCL title and second straight Bricktown Showdown (AAA World Series), which is doubly impressive since the A's suffered so many injuries that all the best Rivercats players are already in the majors.

With the end of the baseball season, it's time for me to assess my preseason picks. Here are the list of current division leaders along with the place I picked them before the season. I would be doing really well... if I were picking in bizarro world!

AL East: Tampa Bay Rays (last place)
AL Central: Chicago White Sox (last place)
AL West: Angels (1st place)

NL East: Phillies (2nd place)
NL Central: Cubs (2nd place)
NL West: Dodgers (4th place)

I had one division right (AL West) and the other two AL divisions as wrong as I could (picking the first place teams to finish last). In the NL the Phillies, Cubs, and Dodgers are in first because of collapses by the Mets, Brewers, and Diamondbacks (who I picked first).

One of the best things about this year's baseball season is that the New York Yankees will not make the postseason for their first time in 15 years. So this Sunday's "last game ever" at Yankee Stadium will be the last game ever at Yankee Stadium! And I picked the Yankees to finish third, so I had them pegged as a non-playoff team before the start of the season.

Even though they lost to the A's yesterday, I like the Angels in the AL playoffs, possibly in a Golden State Freeway series against the Dodgers. That's a World Series matchup that somehow excites me, and I don't like either team that much. A Cubs-White Sox series (1906 rematch) would also be a good one, especially if it gets Cub fans to stop whining about one hundred years without a title.

With all the stuff about hurricanes, the financial crises, and the volatile presidential race, I've decided to boycott the news as much as possible. It's pretty easy to not read the paper and tune out TV/radio news, but hard to look the other way when my iGoogle page shows the Dow dropping another 450 points today. Time to set my "no bad news" filter on in Google News!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Another time, another day

Based on the comments from my last post, I have two Pink Floyd themed subjects in a row, so I've decided to make it three. This is from the refrain of another Rick Wright song ("See-Saw" off Saucerful Of Secrets), one of those fake Syd songs like "Paintbox" and "Remember A Day" that Rick wrote in the post-Barrett Pink Floyd.

The first thing I thought about when I heard about the AIG crisis is that Man United might need to find a new jersey sponsor. This is what the letters "AIG" mean to me.

Man United won't be the first EPL team to lose a sponsor this year. West Ham United played last weekend with empty jerseys after their sponsor (XL) went under and Newcastle's longtime sponsor (Northern Rock) is now under government control.

When everyone talks about the global impact of this financial/mortgage crisis, no one is thinking of the EPL fans around the world who need to keep buying new replica jerseys every time their club gets a new sponsor!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Remember a day before today

Remembering Richard Wright, 1943-2008.

RIP Rick. Enjoy the great gig in the sky.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pigs On The Right Wing

When the history of the 2008 Presidential race is written, Obama's "lipstick on a pig" statement (and the Republican response) will be noted as the point when things turned really nasty. His exact words were "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change. It's still gonna stink. We've had enough of the same old thing."

This was an obvious attempt to deflate McCain's "change" meme, but instead of fighting back with words, the Republicans did a dive in the penalty box and demanded an apology for the "sexist" comment about Sarah Palin being a pig.

When I think about it now, Obama was playing the Republicans by making an innocent remark getting them to take it out of context and demand an apology, then hitting back with a non-apology accusing them of "lies, phony outrage, and Swift-boat politics".

On the next day, Obama green-lighted ads from Democratic 527s, and they immediately came out with a couple of powerful ones -- this one from the Wildlife Defense Fund about how Sarah Palin supports animal cruelty (shooting wolves from low flying planes) and this one from Planned Parenthood about how John McCain supports sexual predators because of this ad that distorted Obama's state bill about teaching elementary school kids about "good and bad touches" and "stranger danger" into "comprehensive sex education for kindergardeners").

And now Karl Rove is waging a Republican war against reality.
This week, non-partisan fact-checking organizations like FactCheck.org have called Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) out for lies in his attack ads against Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). But on Fox News Sunday today, former Bush political adviser Karl Rove dismissed the organizations, claiming that "they’ve got their own biases built in there.You can’t trust the fact-check organizations," said Rove
Stephen Colbert was right. The truth really does have a liberal bias!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Why College Football is better than NFL football


1) Bands. College football has marching bands and mascots and cheerleaders. An announcer will never yell "the band is on the field!" at an NFL game, because the NFL don't have marching bands.

2) More Games. On any given Saturday, there are more than a dozen college games on TV, which gives a fairly high probability to find a good one. There are only four NFL games on any given Sunday, and half of them in the SF Bay Area(the Raider game and the 49er game) are pretty much guaranteed to suck every week.

3) Better Rivalries. Stanford's phone number for ticket sales is 1-800-BEATCAL. Their entire year is based on beating Cal and winning the ax. Last year they finished 4-8, but beat Cal and USC. That was a successful season for them. If they'd finished 10-2 and won the Rose Bowl but lost to Cal and USC, it would've been an unsuccessful season. There's nothing like that in the NFL.

4) Better Overtimes. In college overtimes, both teams get the ball. In the NFL, a team can lose in overtime by just losing the coin toss.

5) No Moving. No matter how long those hippies sat in the trees to delay the construction of the training facility, the Cal Bears could never leave Berkeley, because the University of California will always be in Berkeley.

6) No Trades. Cal fans never have to worry about Jahvid Best being traded to USC for two cornerbacks and a recruit to be named later.

7) No Contracts. Cal fans also don't have to worry about Kevin Riley holding out of training camp because he wants his contract renegotiated.

8) Shorter Season. College Football starts on Labor Day weekend and runs through mid-November. That's football season. Followed by the Bowl Season, that runs from December to January. The NFL season runs through February. February is not football season.

9) No Playoffs. Some critics say college football doesn't have a playoff, but it does. Because the entire season is a playoff. Lose and you're eliminated.  It would be nice to have a single elimination playoff instead of a cluster of bowls, but it makes the regular season more significant. 

10) No Preseason. College football doesn't have Preseason games.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Forster

I went out to see Robert Forster (erstwhile lesser half of the Go-Betweens) the other night at the GAMH. It was one of only four U.S. dates he's playing in support of his latest album The Evangelist, including shows tonight in Pittsburgh and tomorrow in Columbus billed as "Songs of the Velvet Underground", so it was one of only two regular dates on Forster's U.S. tour.

He played a few solo songs, and then a bunch of songs with a backing quartet that included former Go-Betweens Adele Pickvance (bass) and Glenn Thompson (guitar) and a drummer (Matthew Harrison) who looked to be about 16 years old.

They played most of the songs from The Evangelist (but they didn't play my favorite one, "Let Your Light In, Babe") and a few RF solo songs that I didn't recognize, and a whole bunch of Go-Betweens songs. I counted six songs from 16 Lovers Lane (the six that Robert wrote and sang), a few earlier ones ("Draining The Pool", "Spring Rain"), and a handful the last three albums ("Surfing Magazines", "Caroline and I", "Darlinghurst Nights", "Born to a Family"), a good sampling of the Robert Forster half of the Go-Betweens.

They didn't play any VU songs, but ended the night with a cover of "Don't Talk To Strangers" by San Francisco's own Beau Brummelstones. Readers in the vicinity or Pittsburgh PA and Columbus OH should try to catch Robert Forster's "Songs Of The Velvet Underground" tribute tonight at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and tomorrow at the Wexler Center on the campus of the Ohio State University (the same time as the OSU-USC game, but that's going to be a one-sided blowout anyway!).

And readers near NYC should catch Robert at Joe's Pub on Monday (9/15), where he'll hopefully be able to kick Robert Christgau in the butt for calling him the "lesser half" of the Go-Betweens.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The truth is, literally, "out there"

Today is 9/11/08, the seventh anniversary of 9/11/01, and I just finished reading The Great Derangement by Matt Taibbi. In this book, among other things, Taibbi writes a series of essays skewering of the so-called "9/11 truth" movement, all those tin foil hat conspiracy theorists who were convinced that the attacks were an inside job perpetrated by the Bush administration.

It's one thing to suggest that Bush & co. were unprepared for 9/11, another thing to suggest that they used the attacks as a basis for starting an unrelated war in Iraq, and quite another to suggest that they actually planned the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.

Masterminding something like that without leaving any evidence behind would require a ton of coordination and planning that was, quite frankly, beyond the GWB administration. One of my favorite essays from The Great Derangement (reprinted here) imagines how a fictional meeting between George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld would have gone down in the months before 9/11.

Just imagine how this planning session between Bush, Rummy and Cheney must have gone:

BUSH: So, what's the plan again?

CHENEY: Well, we need to invade Iraq and Afghanistan. So what we've decided to do is crash a whole bunch of remote-controlled planes into Wall Street and the Pentagon, say they're real hijacked commercial planes, and blame it on Bin Laden; then we'll just blow up the buildings ourselves to make sure they actually fall down.

RUMSFELD: Right! And we'll make sure that some of the hijackers are agents of Saddam Hussein! That way we'll have no problem getting the public to buy the invasion.

CHENEY: No, Don, we won't.

RUMSFELD: We won't?

CHENEY: No, that's too obvious. We'll make the hijackers al-Qaeda and then just imply a connection to Iraq.

RUMSFELD: But if we're just making up the whole thing, why not just put Saddam's fingerprints on the attack?

CHENEY: (sighing) It just has to be this way, Don. Ups the ante, as it were. This way, we're not insulated if things go wrong in Iraq. Gives us incentive to get the invasion right the first time around.

BUSH: I'm a total idiot who can barely read, so I'll buy that. But I've got a question. Why do we need to crash planes into the Towers at all? Since everyone knows terrorists already tried to blow up that building complex from the ground up once, why don't we just blow it up like we plan to anyway, and blame the bombs on the terrorists?

RUMSFELD: Mr. President, you don't understand. It's much better to sneak into the buildings ourselves in the days before the attacks, plant the bombs, and then make it look like it was exploding planes that brought the buildings down. That way, we involve more people in the plot, stand a much greater chance of being exposed, and needlessly complicate everything!

CHENEY: Of course, just toppling the Twin Towers will never be enough. No one would give us the war mandate we need if we just blow up the Towers. Clearly, we also need to shoot a missile at a small corner of the Pentagon to create a mightily under-publicized additional symbol of international terrorism -- and then, obviously, we need to fake a plane crash in the middle of fucking nowhere somewhere in rural Pennsylvania.

RUMSFELD: Yeah, it goes without saying that the level of public outrage will not be sufficient without that crash in the middle of fucking nowhere.

CHENEY: And the Pentagon crash -- we'll have to do it in broad daylight and say it was a plane, even though it'll really be a cruise missile.

BUSH: Wait, why do we have to use a missile?

CHENEY: Because it's much easier to shoot a missile and say it was a plane. It's not easy to steer a real passenger plane into the Pentagon. Planes are hard to come by.

BUSH: But aren't we using two planes for the Twin Towers?

CHENEY: Mr. President, you're missing the point. With the Pentagon, we use a missile, and say it was a plane.

BUSH: Right, but I'm saying, why don't we just use a plane and say it was a plane? We'll be doing that with the Twin Towers, right?

CHENEY: Right, but in this case, we use a missile. (Throws hands up in frustration) Don, can you help me out here?

RUMSFELD: Mr. President, in Washington, we use a missile because it's sneakier that way. Using an actual plane would be too obvious, even though we'll be doing just that in New York...The other good thing about saying that it was a passenger jet is that that way, we have to invent a few hundred fictional victims and account for a nonexistent missing crew and plane. It's always better when you leave more cover story to invent, more legwork to do, and more possible holes to investigate. Doubt, legwork, and possible exposure -- you can't pull off any good conspiracy without them.

BUSH: You guys are brilliant! Because if there's one thing about Americans -- they won't let a president go to war without a damn good reason. How could we ever get the media, the corporate world, and our military to endorse an invasion of a secular Iraqi state unless we faked an attack against New York at the hands of a bunch of Saudi religious radicals? Why, they'd never buy it.

RUMSFELD: Well, I'm sold on the idea. Let's call the Joint Chiefs, the FAA, the New York and Washington DC fire departments, Rudy Giuliani, all three networks, the families of a thousand fictional airline victims, MI-5, the FBI, FEMA, the NYPD, Larry Eagleburger, Osama bin Laden, Noam Chomsky and the fifty thousand other people we'll need to pull this off. There isn't a moment to lose!

This essay had me LMAO so hard that I MMBS (missed my BART stop).

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Eight Tracks from 1988

For this week's Music: What Happened?, Scott Miller tackles 1988, another one of my favorite Olympic years, and the year of my first Presidential election as a voter.

I voted for this guy, who finished in second place.

Here's a playlist with eight of Scott's selections from 1988. I didn't have many of these songs, but 8tracks.com has a "network" feature where you can load songs from other people's playlists. All but two of these tracks had already been playlisted.

Eight Tracks From 1988

1. "Bone Machine" - The Pixies
2. "Cult of Personality" - Living Colour
3. "Mandinka" - Sinead O'Connor
4. "Life Is Grand" - Camper Van Beethoven
5. "Fast Car" - Tracy Chapman
6. "Teenage Riot" - Sonic Youth
7. "Ana Ng" - They Might Be Giants
8. "Dream World" - Midnight Oil

The selections I have in my library, and would have included if I was home (where I'm not) are "Kidney Bingos", "Charlotte Anne", and "Bad Machinery", which would have replaced tracks 2,3, and 5 above. I would have also included something from these eight albums
  1. The Church - Starfish
  2. The Feelies - Only Life
  3. Game Theory - Two Steps From The Middle Ages
  4. Go Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane
  5. The Lilac Time - The Lilac Time
  6. R.E.M. - Green
  7. Richard Thompson - Amnesia
  8. Traveling Wilburys - Volume 1
1988 was my first year out of college, so I was poor and musically out of touch, and only bought about 15-20 new albums, still more than I'm buying twenty years later.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Autumn winds are blowing out of town

The East Bay Express is reporting that the Oakland Raiders are looking to find a new home after their lease runs out on the Coliseum in 2010.

As an Alameda county taxpayer, I would like to respond to this threat from the Raiders by rearranging these ten words to form a sentence.

ass don't door hit let on out the way your

Monday, September 8, 2008

Google in ten years

Yesterday Flasshe posted a list of all the important things that happened on September 7th. One of the ones that caught my eye was..

1998 - Google is founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two students at Stanford University.

This means that Google has been around for ten years, and has become more or less synonymous with "the internet" and it's own verb. Here's what the site looked like when it launched
(click to enlarge).

There were search engines before Google (altavista, infoseek, webcrawler, lycos?), but they were all slow and unreliable, with different buttons and interfaces that would take forever to return results. Google's front page had one text box and two buttons labeled "Google Search" (which returns results) and "I'm feeling lucky" (which returns the first result), and both buttons generated results almost instantly.

Google's interface was a marvel of simplicity (they still have the same box and two buttons), and their speed and scalability made it exponentially easier to find information on the internet. It became almost everyone's homepage almost immediately, and when stumped for any question about anything, the standard response was "I'll google it" (long before google became a dictionary verb in 2006).

Over the last ten years, they've dropped the exclamation point but kept expanding their brand with lots of services that do pretty much everything related to the internet, including their own web browser, Google Chrome, which launched last week. Not bad for a decade's work.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Eric and Amy sitting in a tree

This Friday, I went to see lovebirds Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby at Thee Parkside. I have a colorful history with these two performers, individually and collectively.

Nov 2001: While vacationing in the UK, I saw Amy open for Eric in Hull. This was the night they first met, and did a duet on "Whole Wide World". It's probably not as historically important as the night John met Yoko, but it's up there.

Aug 2002: Amy Rigby was playing a solo show at Doc's Clock, a dive bar in the Misson district of S.F. Before her set, I introduced myself and mentioned seeing her and Eric in Hull a few months before. The show was sparsely attended, and she started playing covers and new songs, included Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World". She wasn't sure how the lyrics went, so I ended up on the stage, singing the song as a fake-Eric with Amy. So far, in my life, this has been one of the high points. 

Apr 2006: Four years later, with my friends Sue & Joe, I saw Amy Rigby playing a duet with Marti Jones as the Cynical Girls at 12 Galaxies, another Mission dive just up the street from Doc's Clock. The opening act was Wreckless Eric. Amy and Eric were "an item" at this point. During the show, she mentioned singing a duet on "Whole Wide World" with "some guy in the audience" a few years before at Doc's Clock. I waved, because that guy was me. Woohoo me!

Sep 2008: Two nights ago, I saw Amy and Eric as a duet at Thee Parkside, San Francisco's premier dive venue (according to the heading). They have a new album coming out this week (on Eric's longtime label Stiff), and played a bunch of songs from it, along with songs from their individual pasts and a few covers like "You Tore Me Down" (by San Francisco's own Flamin' Groovies!). There was a nice balance of Eric's songs and Amy's songs and their own songs, wrapping it up with "Whole Wide World" and "Take The C.A.S.H.". They were selling the new CD, so I picked it up and mentioned to Eric that I saw them together in November 2001, which turned out to be the night they met.

I also bought the album, which is a little rough and ragged, but pretty good, especially if you think there should be more albums like Colossal Youth by the Young Marble Giants. For whatever reason, I think Wreckless Eric + Amy Rigby sound a lot like Stuart Moxham + Alison Statton.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Lost in Transition

Continuing last week's discussion about the differences between college and pro sports, one major one is that struggling professional teams have "rebuilding", while struggling college teams have "transition years".

The Washington State Cougars are in a transition year, and just had their palouses handed to them by the Cal Bears 66-3. Cal looked really dominant, but it's hard to tell because WSU is in such shambles.  

Next week the Cal Bears play Maryland, who lost to Middle Tennessee St. today, so that should be another cakewalk for Cal. After the elusive "Bye", comes another patsy (Colorado State) followed by their first test against Arizona State on October 4th.

For those readers who've registered complaints that they don't want me blogging about college football, but at least I'm not talking about She Who Shall Remain Nameless (the Republican VP nominee from Alaska). People may ridicule the right wing talking point that living a few hundred miles from an uninhabited section of Russia gives her "foreign policy experience", but did you know that she also studied in Moscow

Friday, September 5, 2008

Friday Feelies

Sorry about the three youtube posts in a row, but no time for anything else. I picked up the reissue of this album the other day, and found this vintage live performance of "Away" today.

I saw them back-to-back nights on this Only Life tour, delivering the same energetic set to 1500 people on a Saturday night at the Fillmore in S.F. and 15 people on a Sunday night at the Cotati Cabaret. One of the best live bands I've ever seen, even with those five minute "tuning breaks" they used to have between songs. Hopefully this reunion will make it to the West Coast.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Take two cue Howard

Even when the football game is over and the A's are losing 9-1 (to the frickin' Royals!), it's still not a good idea to start watching the Republican convention unless you want to turn into Howard Beale.

Bad baseball and Republican speeches makes me as mad as he..
a community organizer scorned!

I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say: "I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The greatest couplet in the entire history of the pop lyric

Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians on the Old Grey Whistle Test, 1985

I watched this OGWT performance as it happened, and it was my first exposure to RH. My first thought was "I know this is the 80s, but there aren't many people who would go on TV with a polka dot shirt and a plaid sportcoat!". My second thought was "He's pretty good, he sounds like Syd Barrett". My third thought was (singing along) "All aboard, Brenda's Iron Sledge. Please don't call me Reg! It's not my name..not yet!".

I've been enjoying the Egyptians' Luminous Groove box that I picked up over the weekend, especially the outtakes disc and the live disc (since I never picked up Gotta Let This Hen Out on CD). The Egyptians were a really good live band! These albums are also available individually on emusic.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One Arctic Circle

Doesn't this look like the cast of a new Fall dramedy on the CW?

I'm imagining something like Seventh Heaven meets The Brady Bunch about an Alaskan Governor who's suddenly vaulted into the national spotlight when she's selected to be the Presidential running mate for a maverick Senator from Arizona.

It would be a show with a long series of Very special episodes about Important Issues like drug addiction, guns and violence, pre-marital sex, environmentalism and teenage pregnancy. A new issue every week, happily resolved at the end of the show.

But after eight Very special episodes, they just can't compete with the hard-hitting CBS drama Chicago Hope so the network decides that Eight Is Enough, and cancels the series in early November, just in time for the Fall sweeps.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Beware the savage jaw

For this week's installment of Music: What Happened, Scott Miller tackles 1984, one of my favorite musical years (at least among those I experienced firsthand). I uploaded a ten track playlist on 8tracks.com(*) to play along at home.

Beware The Savage Jaw (Of 1984)
1. "Seven Seas" - Echo and the Bunnymen
2. "Fell From the Sun" - Clay Allison
3. "Seven Chinese Brothers" - R.E.M.
4. "Something Came Over Me" - Chris Stamey
5. "Darby Hall" - The dB's
6. "The Hero Takes a Fall" - Bangles
7. "This Could Be the Day" - Robyn Hitchcock
8. "Grey Scale" - Let's Active
9. "Boys Of Summer - Don Henley
10. "Answering Machine" - The Replacements

(*)-The service is called 8tracks.com, but eight tracks is just the minimum number per mix. You can choose as many as you want, so long as there's no more than two by the same artist.  

Scott's selections are really strong, with a couple of exceptions ("Do They Know It's Christmas?" -- seriously, wtf. -- and I like Christmas music!)  and would make a great mix-disc.  I like that he chose B-sides (now non-LP bonus tracks) by Let's Active and the dB's, and non-hits like "The Beautiful Ones" (one of the only songs off Purple Rain that wasn't a hit).   I don't have that on CD/mp3, so I couldn't include it, and I don't have "Reel Around The Fountain" either.  My digital titles for Prince and the Smiths don't have much beyond their obvious singles compilations, but if they did, this playlist would include both of those tracks.