Friday, October 31, 2008

Under the Milky Ways and Musketeers

There was a big bowl of mini-Mars Halloween candy treats at our front desk today. All the Twix,M&M's, and Snickers bars were gone before lunchtime, but most of the Milky Ways and 3 Musketeers are still unclaimed at the end of the day.

Does anyone like 3 Musketeers and Milky Ways? They're like the unwanted stepchildren of the Mars empire. Twix bars have that cookie crunch, Snickers have peanuts, and Mars bars have almonds, but Milky Ways and 3 Muskys are just big blobs of nougat and caramel that stick to your teeth. They're what's left over after you've already eaten all the good stuff from your Mars fun size variety pack.

In other Halloween news, it looks like today's Family Circus violates this year's "no Sarah Palin costumes allowed" rule by having Dolly dressed up as you-know-who. Someone in our building today was dressed like Ashley Todd . Hey, last week called -- they want their Halloween costume back!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Grace Of My Heart

Happy Birthday to Grace Slick, who turns 69 today. She's just ten years younger than Dick Clark, who looked like a narc introducing the Jefferson Airplane on American Bandstand 41 years ago.

I learned a few months ago (via 2fs) that Grace Slick did the "Jazzy Spies" bits on Sesame Street.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Owner of two Lonelyhearts

One of my recent emusic downloads that I've been enjoying is Disaster Footage At Night by the Lonelyhearts. This week I saw that they put out an EP earlier this year, so I decided to check that out as well.

When I sampled a few tracks from that EP, Born In The Dark, they sounded quite a bit different than the album, less indie-rock and more straight country. After checking it out online, I discovered that there was a very good reason for this. The EP is by a different band. Disaster Footage is by the Lonelyhearts, and Born In The Dark is by the Lonely Hearts. Two different bands with a common emusic entry.

IMDB also shows two different movies called Lonely Hearts and another film called Lonelyhearts. I haven't seen any of them, but these Lonelyhearts (the ones who just released Disaster Footage At Night) are really good.

Kudos to my fellow daily blogger Flasshe for completing one straight year of daily blogging. I've only missed three days in the last year (363 days out of 366), but some days I just post a youtube video or a four word entry like I did yesterday. He's been posting quality new content, with Pet Peeves and Scary Search Terms, every day since October 30th of last year. Hats off -- let's see if you can manage not blogging tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday PALINdrome

                            Wasilla's all I saw!

Monday, October 27, 2008

All That Jazz

It seems like I'm spending one blog entry each week talking about the latest installment of Scott Miller's "Music - What Happened?".

This week he tackles 1959, which was kind of a transition year for rock 'n pop music, but one of the best years ever for jazz music. Probably the best. What can you say about a year that included these five albums (all selected by Scott this week)?

  1. Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
  2. John Coltrane - Giant Steps
  3. Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz To Come
  4. Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um
  5. Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out

Kind Of Blue is among the handful of records that should be owned by everyone with the slightest interest in music. The band (Davis, Coltrane, Evans, Adderly) has some of the best players ever at their respective instruments, who were all on top of their game during the sessions. A few months later, John Coltrane made his first album as a bandleader with Giant Steps, almost as impressive an achievement as Kind Of Blue. I still don't "get" Ornette Coleman, but he's one of the true innovators of our time, and he's still alive! Mingus is another musician I'm still learning to appreciate, but Ah Um has some of the best bass playing ever.

Dave Brubeck's Time Out was one of the dozen or so records that my parents owned when I was a kid, so I grew up listening to it, and reading the liner notes long before I knew what the 9/8 in "Blue Rondo ala Turk" and the 5/4 in "Take Five" actually meant. I think Time Out was the one record that all the kool kids owned back then, even the ones who didn't like jazz. It was the Tapestry or Rumours of 1959! And fifty years later, the first side of Time Out("Blue Rondo", "Take Five", and "Strange Meadow Lark") still radiates the essence of cool, especially if you spin it at 45rpm.

Even after a lifetime of listening, I still don't know a whole lot about jazz, so whenever I listen to it, I always feel like Elvis's character in the cocktail party scene from Jailhouse Rock.

First Guest: I think Stubby’s gone overboard with those altered chords.
Second Guest: I agree. Brubeck and Desmond have gone just as far with dissonance as I care to go.
Third Guest: Someday they’ll make the cycle and get back to pure old Dixieland. I say modality is just a passing phase in jazz music. What do you think,Mr Everett?
Vince (Elvis): Lady, I don't know what the hell you talkin’ about!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The history book on the shelf repeats itself again

John McCain was on "Meet The Press" this morning, live from Waterloo ( as in Iowa). He's a big Abba fan, so I'm sure he's aiming for a repeat of Eurovision in 1974 instead of Napoleon in 1815.

On the other side of the race, here's Joe Biden having to correct some crazy TV host in Florida concerned that "Barack Obama will turn America into a Socialist country, much like Sweden"(?) Why is Florida still allowed to be a state? I think Bugs Bunny had the right idea!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

World Series game three

It's on! First pitch at 10:07pm EDT.

I'm visiting my parents in East California this weekend. Tried to go see Obama's in Reno this morning, but traffic and security didn't cooperate. There were about 15 thousand people at the UNR baseball stadium (capacity under five thousand), so it would have been one of those "blessed are the cheesemakers"-type events anyway.

On the bright side, the swing state of Nevada seems to be swinging toward enlightenment in the last ten days of this election cycle.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Live Disappointment

The Onion A.V. Club asks "What was your most disappointing concert experience?".

I've had a few of them. They asked for "most disappointing" concert experiences instead of "worst" concert experiences, so I'm trying to limit it to artists I made a special effort to see, instead of sucky local bands I've seen in opening slots.

Here are five of disappointing concert experiences. Many of these are critical sacred cows, and the last one is by one of my favorite bands ever, but disappointment mostly comes from lofty expectations.

The Pixies at the SJSU Student Union in 1989 (Dolittle tour). I was looking forward to seeing them, but they were horrible..Imagine four people playing at the same time without a sense of rhythm, harmony, or unity. Apparently they were a phenomenal live band, so maybe I just caught them on a bad night. Bob Mould opened, with Chris Stamey on guitar and Anton Fier on drums, and blew the Pixies off the stage.

Sonic Youth. Pretty much every time I ever saw them, but two shows that stand out were opening for Neil Young at the Cow Palace in 1991, and opening for R.E.M. at Shoreline in 1995. At that show, they played a batch of songs from an upcoming, as yet unreleased album (Washing Machine) including that 20-minute "Diamond Sea" song, during which people threw stuff at the stage to urge them to stop playing. At the Cow Palace show, the Neil Young's fans started heckling them and giving them the finger, which made Thurston louder and angrier until everyone mellowed out from all the second-hand pot smoke in the air.

My Bloody Valentine at the Kennel Club in1991. This was right before Loveless came out. I was there to see the openers Yo La Tengo, in one of their first shows with James McNew. I made it through three songs of MBV before running to the exit screeching. I'm going to have to trade in the coolness points I earned for seeing My Bloody Valentine live, but they were a giant wall of loud cacophony, and it hurt my eardrums to listen to them.

Liz Phair at the Great American Music Hall in 1993 (Guyville tour). Another case where I liked the album a lot, and checked out the show even though the skinny was that she wasn't very good live. Liz was worse than "not very good"-- she couldn't sing and play guitar at the same time, had absolutely no stage presence, and only played for 40 minutes. I taped the show, and it didn't even fill one side of a 90 minute tape.

The final Loud Family show at Spaceland in LA (May 2000). This was the last LF show ever, playing middle-slot at Spaceland, and they didn't even get to do a full set. They were fine, but all the bad things that have happened in the last eight years (9/11, George Bush's "election", the Iraq War, George Bush's "re-election", Hurricane Katrina, the global financial crisis) can be traced back to this show. We're living in a backward century now because the Loud Family split up after this show at Spaceland, and it didn't have to be that way.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


David Sedaris on undecided voters..
To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?”

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.

The most interesting thing about the glut of national polls (for me) is to watch the "undecided" number trickle down as the election gets closer, and X+Y slowly approaches 100. In the Presidential race, the "undecided" number is around 3 to 4%, so there are still people in this election asking how the chicken is cooked.

But not many. The "win percentage" chart on now looks like a giant blue pie with a tiny sliver of red, and the tiny sliver of red goes all to 270 in the "Electoral vote distribution".   The seal is definitely meeting the deal in the 2008 Presidential race. 

Now I'm more concerned about 538's polling for California's Prop 8, which looks like a Jesus-fish, with the "yes" votes catching up in recent polls. Granting gays the right to marry and then revoking it is probably the cruelest thing California could ever do. If basic civil rights can be denied by a popular vote, it's probably better to never grant them in the first place. The undecideds are still at 8 to 10%, so there are still a lot of CA voters asking how the chicken is cooked.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Amoebasaurus Rex

Last Saturday, I went to see the Bye Bye Blackbirds in-store performance at Berkeley's Amoeba Music, the only show they've done so far to support their new album Houses & Homes.

This was the first time I'd seen a show at the Berkeley Amoeba, and it's a pretty good space to see a band. The stage is set up in the side space where the "non-rock" (folk, jazz, classical) CDs are, so it's kind of intimate and easy to see the band, but a good place to watch a show. The BBBs played a few songs from their album, and a few covers (Everlys, Byrds, Vulgar Boatmen) and rocked the room.

While I was there, I picked up a CD copy of their new album. This was only my third trip to the Berkeley Amoeba this year (I haven't been to the S.F. Amoeba at all), so it was kind of exciting to visit a real record store! I wanted to support the band and the store, so I payed full new price ($12.99) for a CD of H&H, even though I'd already downloaded the album from emusic. This gave me the credits of the album, to learn that Billy wrote "Leave a Light On" even though Bradley sings it, and Bradley wrote "Shed the Skin" even though Ian sings it.

I also know which songs feature Bill Swan and which ones feature Gil Ray, so the next time I see Gil I can say "great maracas on 'Original Lights', dude!" Plus there's the benefit of hearing the album in all it's audio glory, without any lossy mp3 compression!

The days of record stores are probably numbered, but I hope they stay around, because there's still benefit to having a physical CD purchased from a local store. For one thing, you can't see the Bye Bye Blackbirds playing on your iPod!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Barbara Lee continues to speak for me

I got this email from Obama For America today.
Dear Steven,

You can change politics in this country at every level -- up and down the ballot.

Our records show that you live in California's 9th district.

There's a candidate in California who's working to bring the change this country needs, and that candidate is Barbara Lee. Get involved and help bring change now.

  Congresswoman Barbara Lee for Congress: 
  Visit the website

Don't wait until Election Day to support Congresswoman Lee. Get involved today to make sure California has a strong representative to take our country in a new direction.


Obama for America

It's impressive that the Obama campaign knows that I'm in the 9th district, because congressional borders are kind of flaky around here. I used to be in the 13th district (Pete Stark's district), but got moved to the 9th before the 2002 election after Barbara gave her principled opposition against the AUMF in the 437-1 vote.

I voted for her then and voted for her in this Election, but Barbara Lee doesn't need my help to get re-elected. I live in one of the most Democratic districts in the country, where John Kerry won 85% of the vote in the 2004 election, and Barack Obama will probably win 90% of the vote in this election. And Barbara Lee will win 80% of the vote and get re-elected to another term. Like she always does.

One reason I chose to register as an Independent instead of a Democrat is that kept getting called about canvassing for Pete Stark or Barbara Lee when there wasn't any point because they might as well unopposed. My state senator, Alberto Torrico, is the Majority Leader and also isn't in any danger, so it's hard for me to be politically engaged at a local or state level with the same candidates continuing to win overwhelmingly. 

If the Obama campaign is sending this to everyone on their list, it should open up a lot of down-ballot races in other parts of the country. I'm especially interested in my parents district (CA-04) where Democratic challenger Charlie Brown (a good man) is running neck and neck against Republican Tom McClintock (a bad man). I wish I could convert my vote to a district like that where it might matter.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rockin' in the Free World

Scott Miller takes on the final year of the fabulous 80s in this week's "Music: What Happened?", and ends up calling this song "one of the hundred best songs from the rock era." I agree.

I've never seen this video before, but it's a "radio edit" of the song that replaces "shag it" with "wag it"(?) Scott's mention of "the earth quaking" reminds me that we just passed the 19th anniversary of Loma Prieta. For Bay Area old-timers, that earthquake is our "We Will Never Forget".

Nearly all of Scott's 1989 selections are top notch, and I was trying to upload an audio playlist to, but they're rejecting my uploads. If I were able to upload, here are the ten songs I'd choose from his list as my 1989 ten at ten (to honor the departing Dave Morey). Maybe tomorrow.

"I Wanna Be Adored" - The Stone Roses
"Good Thing" - Fine Young Cannibals
"This Woman's Work" - Kate Bush
"Last Of the Famous International Playboys" - Morrissey
"Veronica" - Elvis Costello
"Rockin' In the Free World" - Neil Young
"Roam" - The B-52's
"The Mayor of Simpleton" - XTC
"Debaser" - Pixies
"Free World" - Kirsty MacColl

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Phillie Ray Series

Available about two seconds after Tampa Bay clinched the pennant.

After the Tampa Bay Rays blew a seven-run lead in the last three innings of the fifth game of the ALCS to give the Red Sox new life, I figured their achy breaky hearts were on the way to being broken. Boston has a history of coming back from the brink of elimination to win league series, coming back from 3-0 against the Yankees in 2004 and 3-1 against the Indians last year, so after they came back in that game, I figured they were home free after that.

The Sox held off the Rays for one more game, but lost tonight, so the 2008 World Series will feature the Tampa Bay Rays against the Philadelphia Phillies. I don't know who had that matchup before the season started! None of ESPN's so-called "baseball experts" picked the Phillies to make the World Series in their postseason picks, and only two people picked the Rays. These are two teams that weren't expected to be there, even when they both made the playoffs.

Unlike last year, I can't think of any Dr. Suess stories about Phillies and Rays, and right now can't even come up with a decent pun. Something like Phillie Ray Series = Billy Ray Cyrus, which wouldn't even pass muster at the New York Post!

As far as picks, I like Tampa Bay in a four game sweep, and think the National League should be reclassified as a minor league. With my picking prowess, this means bet the farm on the Phillies!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Say It Loud

Today I learned that Bob Beamon's 29'2" long jump (a World record that stood for 23 years) was the same day that U.S. sprinters John Carlos and Tommie Smith were suspended for giving their Black Power salute on the medal stand after finishing 1-2 in the 200 meter dash. Both events happened on October 18, 1968. Forty years ago today.

So I thought this would be a good time to break out this performance of the Godfather of Soul with his bad self in front of a 90% white audience on "Playboy After Dark".

Friday, October 17, 2008

Friday Faces

I borrowed Ogdens Nut Gone Flake from the library this week, because keeps recommending the Small Faces to me, and I only knew a couple of songs by them ("Itchykoo Park" and "Song of a Baker"). The latter song is the centerpiece of Ogdens, which has to be one of the strangest hit albums ever! I thought the Small Faces were more of an R&B/soul band, but most of the album is made up of a psychedelic fairytale about someone called Happiness Stan, that I looked up on wikipedia to see what it was about. After reading this, I'm even more confused!
When Happiness Stan looks up in the sky and sees only half the moon, he sets out on a quest to search for the missing half. Along the way he saves a fly from starvation, and in gratitude the insect tells him of someone who can answer his question and also tell him the philosophy of life itself. With his magic power Stan intones, "If all the flies were one fly, what a great enormous fly-follolloper that would bold," and the fly grows to gigantic proportions. Seated on the giant fly's back Stan takes a psychedelic journey to the cave of Mad John the hermit, who explains that the moon's disappearance is only temporary, and demonstrates by pointing out that Stan has spent so long on his quest that the moon is now full again. He then sings Stan a cheerful song about the meaning of life

Parts of Ogdens remind me a lot of the Dukes of Stratosphear, and was probably the main inspiration for Sir John Johns and the guys. Like the Dukes, the Small Faces never performed most of these songs live, but The Playbox Theatre in Warwick, England will be performing a theatrical version of "Ogdens Nut Gone Flake" in November, with music by the Small Fakers (a Small Faces tribute band). Here's the first part of "Happiness Stan" as performed (and mimed) in colour on Colour Me Pop in the summer of 1968.

The rest of the program is here, here, and here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Return of the angry left

I didn't watch last night's Presidential debate, because I've already voted, so this election has already happened as far as I'm concerned! I watched the Phillies - Dodgers LCS game instead, but switched to the debate between innings, and noticed that Barack Obama and John McCain were both writing notes with their left hand.

No matter who wins this election, it will finally mark the end of the failed right-handed policies of George W. Bush! Bush's dad is left-handed, so is Bill Clinton, and so was Ronald Reagan, so the U.S. went through a twenty year run of left-handed Presidents before the current right-handed one.

The next President will definitely be a lefty, and may also be the first African American President, so here's a famous left-handed African American singing a shout out to Joe the Plumber, Joe Sixpack, and all the other Joes from the last couple of Presidential debates.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Twenty years ago

It would be fitting payback if the Dodgers were eliminated from the postseason twenty years after this. Throw him the fastball, Eck!

Last night, TBS ran an "alternate reality" of this play where Gibson flied out to Canseco to end the game. A's win 4-3! I've been having trouble getting into this year's LCS games, because I'm cheering against the Dodgers and the Red Sox, but think that would be the best World Series matchup (Manny, Nomar, and Lowe going back to Boston).

I'm cheering for the Rays because of the Cinderella story and cheering for the Phillies because they aren't the Dodgers, but there isn't a lot of excitement in a Tampa-Philly World Series. The only sports history I can drum up between those cities was the 2003 NFC Championship, where the Tampa Bay Bucs beat the Eagles 27-10 on their way to taking it all the way to the top.

This year, I think the Phillies will beat the Dodgers in five, but the Tampa Bay Rays will take it all the way to October. And John Darnielle will love you like he used to, because he's given up on waiting for the Cubs to win it all!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

2000s Man

Scott Miller tackles the year 2000 in this week's "Music - What Happened?" and says that the decade of the 2000s was "a little better than the 90s and not quite as good as the 70s", while saying earlier that the 90s were better than the 80s, so he puts it pretty high up as far as decades go.

I don't know if I'd agree with that, because there haven't been as many landmark albums (IMO) as previous decades, but I've definitely been exposed to more music in the 2000s. Mostly because this has been the decade of the mp3. Napster launched in 1999, but didn't take off until early 2000, and introduced the opportunity to find any song you wanted at the click of a mouse.

Free flowing Napster died off about a year later, but it's still possible to find an mp3 of almost any song you want if you know where to look. This has made it a lot tougher to make money in the music business, but has kept a level playing field for everyone.

There are only fifteen months remaining in the 2000s, and I still can't come up with a comprehensive list of albums of the decades. Here are some of my top artists from this decade who weren't around in previous decades.

The Decemberists
The Hold Steady
Ted Leo/Pharmacists
New Pornographers
Pernice Brothers
The Shins

I was trying to think of artists who've released at least four albums in this decade. The Pernice Brothers' first record was in the 1990s, but the others were all new in the 2000s. They've all put out three or four solid albums between 2001 and 2008, but most of their music evokes previous decades. These are all indie-level bands, and even though a couple have graduated major labels, they're successful enough to not have to keep their day jobs, but aren't getting to live like rock stars.

On the next level, I can't think of any artists who've managed to launch a superstar level career in this decade and sustain it. The closest I can think of is Radiohead, who started in the 90s and have managed to stay important. Most of the bands who play big arenas an amphitheatres are older ones, because there isn't anything in place to develop artists these days. On the other side of the success scale, there are fewer bands touring and fewer albums selling, so fans need to make an effort to find new music.

What I'm trying to say is that this has been a pretty good decade for music in general, but it's hard to compare it to previous ones. No decade will ever be as fruitful as the three years between 1966 and 1968 or (insert favorite three year period in the 70s or 80s), but I'm still proud of my planet!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Rocking The Vote

I received my California ballot over the weekend and dropped it in the mailbox today. The state was supposed to start mailing them out in early October, so I was starting to worry that I didn't get my ballot until the 11th. I've been looking forward to voting in this election, and have been checking the mailbox every day this month.

I've been registered as permanent vote-by-mail (PVBM) for the last three presidential elections, and was absentee before that, so I don't know if I've ever voted at a polling place. Just fill out the ballot and mail it in. It's also possible to check at the local ROV to see if/when my ballot is "counted".

California probably isn't going to be electorally significant in this year's Presidential election (55 EVs in the bag for Obama), but there are a few important state issues on the ballot, particularly Prop 8 (aka Prop-Hate, the anti-gay initiative). I voted No on every other State proposition just to ensure I didn't accidentally vote Yes on Prop 8!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Twenty Five Years

I attended my 25th high school reunion this weekend, which means I've been out of high school for an entire quarter century (class of 1983)!  By some strange coincidence, my high school in Singapore chose to have its 25th reunion in San Francisco, and about 25 of my classmates (out of a graduating class of 150) made the trip.   I live just across the bay, so it wasn't a very long trip for me, but some folks came from as far away as Australia.

Going to an American school overseas is a lot like attending school in a small town, and we have a really tight class that's had reunions every five years since 1983.  It seems like everyone in my class but me has gone on to get married and have kids and lead responsible lives, while I'm still living like a 40-year old college student, but we're all still in high school when we get together! On Friday night, we went to see an 80s cover band at some bar in North Beach, and I can at least take solace in knowing a lot more about bands and songs from the 1980s that my classmates do.

Since I was S.F. local, people were asking me about places to go and this restaurant or that bar, but I don't get out to the city very much, and almost never venture into the touristy Chinatown/Nob Hill/North Beach/Wharf area, so I was like a tourist in my own town.   I even went to see the Fleet Week performance by the Blue Angels, which I hadn't ever seen before.  Airshows are a lot like fireworks, because I'd never make an effort to see them, but think they're really cool while they're going on!      

Relatedly, I succumbed to peer pressure and finally joined facebook, so if any facebookers want to "friend" me, you know where to find me. Hopefully it's better than myspace!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

And U can go there 2

More lazy weekend youtube blogging. Here's some long-forgotten Irish boy band, showing off their dance moves on TV back in 1982.

This single ("A Celebration") and its B-side ("Party Girl") are now out as extra tracks on the two-disc reissue of October. It came out a few months after the October album, and then deleted almost immediately. The b-side appeared on Under A Blood Red Sky('83 live album), but this A-side has been buried in sands of unavailability for the past 25 years.

They're finally putting our 25th anniversary reissue of Blood Red Sky along with Live At Red Rocks on DVD (but not BRD, the preferred by most Coloradoans).  I'm surprised that hasn't been released on DVD yet, and also surprised that they're clinging to the paltry eight-track version of Blood Red Sky instead of issuing an CD version of the entire Red Rocks show, like Cheap Trick did with Live At Budakan.

Friday, October 10, 2008

It's just a story

Am I the only person who reads something like this?
In the latest instance of inflammatory outbursts at McCain-Palin rallies, a crowd member screamed "treason!" during an event on Tuesday after Sarah Palin accused Barack Obama of criticizing U.S. troops.
..and immediately thinks about the Teardrop Explodes.

Another good one from 1981.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

One of the things waiting in my mailbox when I returned from my trip this week was a copy of Let Them Eat Cake, the latest CD by the band Garfields Birthday, sent as a gift from the fine folks at 125 Records. Thanks to everyone for the cool gift!

The disc was mailed from Pink Hedgehog Records, so I thought it might be a new Anton album, but he wouldn't risk losing a sale by sending me a free disc. I don't usually get a whole lot of gift CDs in the mail, so I thought I should write about this one.

I don't think Garfields Birthday (no apostrophe) has anything to do with that  cat from the comics (I prefer garfield minus garfield), but their myspace motto is "indie pop for lost romantic souls" with a list of influences straight from my library: The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Teenage Fanclub, Neil Young, Big Star, and XTC. Right down my cup of tea, as they say.

The band members up of brothers Simon and Shane Felton (who play guitar and bass and sing), James Laming (who also sings and guitars), and drummer Adrian Payne (who drums). Their songs are two to three minute pop nuggets (written and sung mostly by Simon) that go down as easily as birthday cake with extra frosting.

The whole Garfields Birthday album is streamable at their myspace page, and there are also a handful of mp3s at PH's label site.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Good Night John-Boy.

Nate Silver of was on the Colbert report last night, and showed that his projections (from his site that touts "electoral projections done right") gave Obama an 89.5% chance to win the election. That was before last night's Presidential debate, so his odds are up to 90.5% today. So I'm going out on a ledge, and calling the election for him right now!

One of the post-debate pundits described Obama having a "one touchdown lead at the start of the fourth quarter", but a seven-point lead in national polls is more like a three touchdown lead. Fivethirtyeight currently shows Obama with a five percent lead in popular vote, but the statewide distribution of that lead translates to 150 electoral vote lead. Obama's tied or ahead in every battleground state, and if these polls and projections are accurate (no reason to think they aren't), there's nothing he can do to lose that three touchdown lead in the next four weeks.

That's President "That One" to you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

'81 Love Affair

Scott Miller explores music from 1981 in this week's "Music - What Happened?" entry, and calls it "a terrible music year" and "the first salvos of eighties annoyance". 1981 wasn't a great musical year by any means, but I'm not sure I agree with that dire assessment.

1981 was a tale of two different half years for me. My family moved across the globe in the middle of the year (from the suburban SF Bay Area to Singapore), so I experienced half a year of American culture and half a year of international culture. My musical tastes were also fairly mainstream (suburban rock and oldies), so I wasn't aware of Mission of Burma or Black Flag and many of the other artists on Scott's list, but could easily come up with a playlist of twenty decent songs from 1981 (with youtube links).

1981 - New York To East California
  1. Almost Saturday Night - Dave Edmunds
  2. The Breakup Song - Greg Kihn Band
  3. Burnin' For You - Blue Oyster Cult
  4. Centerfold - J. Geils Band
  5. Don't You Want Me - The Human League
  6. Every Little Thing She Does - The Police
  7. For Those About To Rock - AC/DC
  8. Ghost Town - The Specials
  9. Hang Fire - The Rolling Stones
  10. In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
  11. Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield
  12. Kids in America - Kim Wilde
  13. Limelight - Rush
  14. Man On The Corner - Genesis
  15. Our Lips Are Sealed - The Go Go's
  16. Precious To Me - Phil Seymour
  17. Rock This Town - Stray Cats
  18. '65 Love Affair - Paul Davis
  19. Talk Of The Town - The Pretenders
  20. The Waiting - Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
  21. You Better You Bet - The Who
These were all "hits" of some kind, as well as songs that I was actually listening to in 1981, and most of them hold up well 27 years later. I think 1981 was a pretty good musical year.

Monday, October 6, 2008

stock photo

Just back from a trip to New York and New Jersey, where I had a lot of fun visiting the East Coast and catching up with friends. Yesterday, I experienced the thrill of winning a free game of mini-golf and the agony of crashing some poor kid's rental bicycle during my last thirty minutes in Ocean City, NJ.

Today, I had a few hours in NYC before heading to JFK airport, so I visited Ground Zero and the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. This was my first trip to New York since 9/11, and that big hole in the skyline where the twin towers used to stand is still devastating. The markets were getting hammered when I dropped by the NYSE (down 400 points), and there were some dazed investors on the Street, but the outside of the NYSE building didn't look any different than usual.

The best part about the subway to JFK airport, is that it's the A train to Far Rockaway, all the way from Duke Ellington to the Ramones in one $2 subway journey!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Here it is tomorrow

I have limited internet access this weekend, so I probably won't be posting until Monday. Meanwhile here's a video of Game Theory at Maxwell's in Hoboken, NJ, Halloween 1986.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Joe Chimay

Last night I wanted to find some libations to go with watching baseball and vice presidential debates, but I didn't have a bottle opener or a corkscrew and my hotel room didn't have a fridge, so my options were basically beer in a can or a bottle wine with a screwtop. The store also had bottles of Belgian beer (Chimay) with a corkscrew, so I picked up one of their Abbey ales that was supposed to be served "at cellar temperatures" (45-50 degrees F). And it had an easy open champagne-style cork, so it didn't require a bottle opener.

The opportunity to pay ten dollars for a bottle of beer doesn't present itself often to me, so I got the bottle and took it back to my room. Even though it costs almost as much as I usually pay for a 12-pack, the Chimay was smooth and rich and quite satisfying, even being drunk from those small plastic cups they provide at chain hotels. One 750ml bottle lasted for three hours, because this ale is designed to be sipped like liquor instead of chugged like Bud Lite.

As far as the ballgames, I caught the end of the Rays-White Sox game (which was pretty good), the entire Phillies-Brewers game (which wasn't that good), and most of the Cubs-Dodgers game (which was even worse). National league baseball is so boring. Luckily I was able to flip between the games and the debate.

As far as the VP debate, I thought Palin did okay. She came across like a playlist of Republican talking points set on "shuffle", but that probably played to the Republican base ("tax and spend, cut and run, hockey mom, Joe Sixpack" = she's just like us!). It was obvious that Biden was playing defense, and trying to outline the differences between Obama and McCain, and succeeded well at that, but didn't get Palin to say anything too incriminating. She was mostly held back by the Republican policies she was forced to depend, while Biden had the issues on his side. All in all, it wasn't a real game-changer in the presidential race, but that probably favors the party that's already leading in the polls with just one more month until Election Day.

I can't deal with Sarah Palin's speaking voice (fingernails on a chalkboard), so I kept muting my TV while she was speaking and letting the closed caption write out the words for me. Right wing talking points seem a little more palatable when you don't hear them spoken out loud in a grating church-lady voice!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Big time losers and small time vices

Is everyone ready for tonight's VP debate? According to Andrew Halco, who ran against Sarah Palin for Alaska governor back in 2006, she's a really master debater who knows how to work a room.
I’ve debated Governor Palin more than two dozen times. And she’s a master, not of facts, figures, or insightful policy recommendations, but at the fine art of the nonanswer, the glittering generality. Against such charms there is little Senator Biden, or anyone, can do.

Senator Biden doesn't suffer fools easily (see "noun-verb-911") so he might have his hands full debating someone like Palin, who has no expectations and very little to lose. She might catch Joe off guard by throwing a few non-sequitors and might set him off "Governor Palin, that is the biggest load of bull--malarkey that I've ever heard!". His best bet is to just debate the Republican brand without even listening to what Palin says. It should be interesting, or maybe not?

At least there's playoff baseball on another channel!